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Friday, December 27, 2013

Preliminary climate summary for December 2013

Preliminary climate summary for December 2013

Clearly the coldest month of December statewide since 2000, this month brought average temperatures across the state that were 7 to 13 degrees F colder than normal, with many nights well below 0 degrees F. Some communities will report average monthly temperatures for December that fall within the coldest ten historically. Some of these locations include:

International Falls 3rd coldest
Mankato 4th coldest
Grand Rapids 5th coldest
St Cloud 6th coldest
Duluth 8th coldest
For the Twin Cities, an area greatly affected by the urban heat island, December of 2013 will rank 17th coldest (back to 1871), and for Rochester it will rank 14th coldest. On a statewide basis it appears that December 2013 will be ranked as the 7th coldest in history (back to 1895). Extreme values for the month ranged from 48 degrees F at Pipestone on the 3rd to -35 degrees F at Embarrass and Babbitt on the 24th and at Hibbing on the 8th.

December was also a wet, snowy month. Many northeastern Minnesota communities reported over 2 inches of precipitation, and some reported over 3 inches. Two Harbors recorded its snowiest December in history with nearly 55 inches of snowfall. The observer at Wright (Carlton County) also reported a December record with over 30 inches. Though not record setting many other observers reported well above normal snowfall amounts. Duluth reported over 40 inches, their 3rd snowiest December historically. Snowfall was also persistent in many places. Some observers reported that 20 or more days during the month brought snowfall. By month's end snow depths were well over 15 inches in the northern half of the state.

2013 climate highlights for Minnesota

Besides the exceptionally cold December, other climate aberrations captured our attention in 2013. For southwestern Minnesota residents the memory of the April 9-10 ice storm will remain for the rest of their lives. The ice storm closed roads and took out power to many communities for days. Certainly many Minnesota citizens will also remember the prolonged winter that brought record May snowfall amounts, delayed planting, and record late ice-out dates on many northern lakes. The storm over May 1-3, 2013 brought record-setting snowfall amounts for 1-day, 2-day, and total monthly snowfall amounts (over 17 inches at Dodge Center and Ellendale). Prevented planting claims by many farmers were the largest in several decades, and some corn fields were actually not planted until the last days of May. A complex of thunderstorms brought severe weather over the Summer Solstice weekend (June 21-23) with damaging hail, strong winds, and flooding rains. Thousands of insurance claims were filed as a result of these storms. And lastly 2013 brought a very warm State Fair, overall the 3rd warmest in history. On Tuesday, August 27, Cathy Wurzer, Paul Huttner, and I endured a Heat Index of 112 degrees F to broadcast a show from the MPR stage on the fairgrounds. Many bottles of water and other beverages were consumed that day.

Pete Boulay of the DNR-Minnesota State Climatology Office has posted the top five Minnesota weather/climate stories of the year on our web site. These were voted as the top stories by our community of media, meteorologists, and observers. You can view it here.

Weekly Weather Potpourri

Heavy rains plagued many parts of the United Kingdom this holiday week. At one time there were over 50 flood warnings in effect, especially in southern portions. The weather caused a great deal of travel delays for airports and the highway system. Many communities also suffered through power outages over the holidays. You can read more here.

Scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported earlier this month that satellite measurements from the NASA Aqua satellite and Landsat 8 satellite show that temperatures on the high plateau of Antarctica go well below the coldest temperatures previously measured on Earth. They have measured temperatures there of -134 to -137 degrees F along the highest elevations of the eastern ice divide. You can read more about this here.

Environment Canada reported that Winnipeg set a new record low on December 23rd this month with a reading of -32 degrees F. That city too is reporting one of its coldest Decembers historically.

MPR listener question

With the end of the year upon us, how will 2013 rank statewide for temperature and precipitation?

Answer: 2013 climate data through December 26, 2013 suggest the year will go down as cooler than normal and wetter than normal for most Minnesota observers. The statewide average annual temperature in 2013 will be about 40.3 degrees F, or about 2 degrees F cooler than normal. The statewide total precipitation for 2013 will be about 28.32 inches or about 1.5 inches more than normal. The temperature for 2013 runs counter to the trend which clearly shows mostly warmer than normal years recently. The precipitation value for 2013 supports the trend of recent decades for wetter than normal conditions.

Twin Cities Almanac for December 27th

 The average MSP high temperature for this date is 24 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 8 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation).


MSP Local Records for December 27th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 46 degrees F in 1959; lowest daily maximum temperature of -9 degrees F in 1924; lowest daily minimum temperature is -24 degrees F in 1872 and 1886; highest daily minimum temperature of 38 F in 2003; record precipitation of 0.70 inches in 1959; and a record 6.0 inches of snow fell on this date in 1971.
Average dew point for December 27th is 11 degrees F, with a maximum of 46 degrees F in 1959 and a minimum of -34 degrees F in 1924.

All-time state records for December 27th

The state record high temperature for this date is 54 degrees F at Canby (Yellow Medicine County) in 1994. The state record low temperature for this date is -50 degrees F at Tower (St Louis County) in 1993. State record precipitation for this date is 2.50 inches at Fort Ridgely (Nicollet County) in 1856; and state record snowfall for this date is 18.0 inches at Montgomery (Le Sueur County) in 1968.

Past Weather Features:

A large snow storm on December 27, 1904 brought 6 to 14 inches of snow to many parts of the state. Many residents could not travel for New Years celebrations and trains were seriously delayed.  December 27, 1928 brought a warm respite from winter as many communities saw afternoon temperatures climb into the 40s F. At least 7 western communities reported highs of 50 degrees F or greater under mostly sunny skies. Temperatures remained mild until New Years Eve when the thermometer fell below 0 degrees F again.  December 27, 1933 was one of the coldest in state history with dozens of Minnesota communities reporting lows of -30 degrees F or colder. Several northern observers reported -40 degrees F or colder and it was -30 degrees F as far south as Rochester. Albert Lea reported a high temperature of only -3 degrees F, but it warmed up to 40 degrees F for New Years Eve.


Chance for snow, especially in the north, with strong winds on Saturday, then turning sharply colder on Sunday west to east. Windchill values will be a concern on Saturday night and early Sunday. Bitterly cold Sunday night through Wednesday with some occasional snow flurries. Milder temperatures by next Thursday and Friday but still cooler than normal.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy winter solstice!


The winter solstice will occur Saturday morning (Dec 21), officially, at 11:11 am CST. At that time, the earth's spin axis will be oriented so that the sun appears to be the farthest south in the local sky (midday over the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere). While most of us consider this event to be the start of astronomical winter, the British call this day the "Midwinter Day", as the apparent sun will begin its northward climb again, back toward the equator. For essentially all locations in the Northern Hemisphere, Saturday night will be the longest of the year. On a brighter note, starting Monday the length of darkness will begin to shrink as we head toward the summer solstice on 21 June 2014.

Some reports of heavy snow this month

Snowfall has been both frequent and heavy for many observers in Minnesota this month. Both International Falls and Duluth report snowfall on 12 of the first 20 days. Many northern observers have recorded over 20 inches of December snowfall so far, including International Falls, Cass Lake, Grand Rapids, Leech Lake, Babbitt, Chisholm, Floodwood, Grand Marais, Grand Portage, Bruno, Cloquet, and Wright. Areas around Two Harbors have reported over 40 inches of snowfall. According to the DNR areas along the north shore of Lake Superior are reporting snow depths in excess of two feet.

Spell below 32 degrees F ends in the Twin Cities

The cold and snow dominated Minnesota over the December 4-17 period, producing 13 consecutive days of temperatures below the freezing mark (32 F) in the Twin Cities. Though somewhat troublesome for not melting the snow on our roads and highways this spell of below freezing temperatures was no where near a record for the month of December. In both 1972 and 2000 December brought 26 consecutive days with temperatures below 32 degrees F, while in December of 1983 the thermometer never reached the 32 degrees F mark in the Twin Cities.

Besides prolonged cold temperatures, some nights have brought temperatures of -30 degrees or colder to several communities in the north, including Cass Lake, International Falls, Cook, Babbitt, Hill City, Ely, Floodwood, Gunflint Lake, Hibbing, Orr, Tower, Brimson, and Embarrass. A reading of -38 degrees F at Brimson on the 8th is the coldest for the month so far. Minnesota has seen the coldest temperature in the nation on at least four dates during the month and a number of new daily low temperature records have been set. Some of the more notable ones have been:

-38 degrees F at Brimson on the 8th
-32 degrees F at International Falls on the 15th
-29 degrees F at Cass Lake on the 8th
-27 degrees F at Itasca State Park on the 12th
-19 degrees F at Browns Valley on the 7th
-17 degrees F at Windom on the 12th

In addition on both December 13th and December 15th strong winds combined with the cold temperatures to produce dangerous Windchill values that ranged from -30 to -40 degrees F. And finally, most observers are reporting average monthly temperatures so far that are 6 to 12 degrees colder than normal, marking the coldest December since 2000.

Weekly Weather Potpourri

NOAA features a report on the Arctic weather and climate conditions of 2013 on their web site this week. Continued trends toward a greener and warmer Arctic landscape were in play during 2013. You can read more about this on NOAA's website.

If you like you can also stay on the NOAA web site and read about the climatology associated with a White Christmas. A complete geographical depiction of the chances for a White Christmas are mapped and described there in great detail here.

The United Kingdom Meteorological Office announced this week the results of a new study which shows that in many areas of the globe the frequency of river flooding will increase with climate change. In addition some peak flow volumes may change as well. The study combined the results of both climate models and river flow simulations models for a number of different regions. You can read more about it at  the UK Meteorological Office's website.

Among other the weather stories of 2013 the impact of Super Typhoon Haiyan on the Philippines was voted the top story of the year by the BBC. The Australian Heat Wave and Wildfire season was also voted among the top weather stories of 2013. You can see the BBC program on these storms and others on their website.

Two strong tropical cyclones formed in the Southern Indian Ocean this week. Cyclone Bruce, southeast of Diego Garcia, was producing winds well over 130 mph and sea wave heights of 30-35 feet. It was expected to remain at sea and dissipate by Christmas Day. East of La Reunion Island Cyclone Amara was spinning and producing sea wave heights of 30-35 feet with winds over 120 mph. It too was expected to remain at sea and dissipate by Christmas Day.

This week there was further revelation about the EPA Climate Policy Expert (John Beale) who committed nearly a decade of fraud. He was sentence to 32 months in prison. This is an embarrassing story for the EPA and who it relied on for climate policy advise. You can read more here.

MPR listener question

Last spring when the cold seemed to go forever, it was partly blamed on global warming (climate change) breaking down whatever weather mechanisms hold cold weather to the north. Is that what's going on now? I seem to recall that it also had something to do with changes in the jet stream.

Answer: Indeed, an unusual jet stream pattern prevailed last spring which kept temperatures cooler than normal and brought frequent and heavy precipitation (record-setting in southeastern MN). A somewhat similar pattern prevailed for the first 2.5 weeks this month, but the jet stream has recently flattened out (more west to east orientation), bringing us more moderate temperature conditions. It is an oversimplification to ascribe this jet stream pattern solely to climate change in the Arctic latitudes. It may have something to do with the jet stream configurations we are experiencing, but it is likely more complicated than that involving oscillating behaviors in the pressure patterns and sea surface temperatures of mid to high latitude positions.

Twin Cities Almanac for December 20th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 26 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 10 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for December 20th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 51 degrees F in 1967; lowest daily maximum temperature of -11 degrees F in 1916; lowest daily minimum temperature is -24 degrees F in 1916; highest daily minimum temperature of 39 F in 1923; record precipitation of 0.74 inches in 1902; and a record 4.6 inches of snow fell on this date in 2010.
Average dew point for December 20th is 9 degrees F, with a maximum of 44 degrees F in 1967 and a minimum of -30 degrees F in 1963.

 All-time state records for December 20th

The state record high temperature for this date is 69 degrees F at Faribault (Rice County) in 1923. The state record low temperature for this date is -49 degrees F at Tower (St Louis County) in 1983. State record precipitation for this date is 1.50 inches at Worthington (Nobles County) in 1902; and state record snowfall for this date is 13.0 inches at Le Sueur (Le Sueur County) in 1887.

Past Weather Features:

December 20, 1887 brought heavy snowfall to many parts of Minnesota. In fact it was a very snowy December, with over half the days bringing snowfall. On the 20th many observers in southern Minnesota reported snowfall amounts ranging from 8 to 12 inches.  A strong winter storm brought significant precipitation to most parts of the state over December 20-21, 1902. A mixture of snow, sleet, and rain prevailed. Many observers reported 1 to 1.5 inches of precipitation, setting new daily record amounts.  December of 1923 was one of the warmest in state history. Over the 19th and 20th many Minnesota communities reported daytime temperatures in the 50s and 60s F, especially in southern counties where there was an absence of snow cover. The month was very sunny as well, but turned quite wintry for New Year's Eve.  The coldest December 20 in state history occurred in 1983. Over 60 Minnesota communities reported -30 degrees F or colder, and ten communities were -40 degrees F or colder. Brainerd reported -41 degrees F, while Faribault was -35 degrees F. It was a somewhat windy day as well producing Windchill values of -40 to -50 degrees F. December of 1983 proved to be the coldest of the 20th Century.


Cooler over the weekend with a chance for snow on Sunday. Continued cool with another chance for snow on Tuesday and Wednesday, then cooler and drier towards the end of next week.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Heavy snow opens the month of December

Heavy snow opens the month of December

Most of the state reported measurable snowfall during the first week of December. Monday through Wednesday of this week (Dec 2-4) brought almost continuous snow to many areas of northeastern Minnesota, especially the north shore along Lake Superior. The greatest amount of snowfall reported by a National Weather Service observer came from 7 miles north of Two Harbors where 35.3 inches was recorded. The Duluth Weather Service Office reported a storm total of 23.3 inches, and Duluth public schools were cancelled two consecutive days over the 3rd and 4th. Tofte reported 25 inches and Wolf Ridge reported 20.7 inches for the week. Many other areas of the state accumulated 5 to 10 inches of snowfall this week, while areas of southeastern Minnesota received mostly rain and drizzle.

Several observers reported some new daily snowfall records for dates this week: On December 2nd, Grand Rapids reported a new daily snowfall record of 9.5 inches (and new daily precipitation record of 0.59 inches); on December 3rd new daily snowfall records were reported from Wadena (9.0"), Sandy Lake Dam (7.5"), and Brainerd (5.5", plus record precipitation of 0.60"); on December 4th new daily record snowfall amounts were reported from International Falls (8.5") and St Cloud (5.0" tied 1926); and on December 5th new daily record snowfall amounts were reported from Itasca State Park (5.0") and Grand Portage (8.2").

Following the snowfall an Arctic air mass spilled into the state from the north causing overnight lows to drop below 0 degrees F in many places. Of further note, the National Weather Service forecast models suggest that cold and snowy weather will dominate the state throughout the first three weeks of December. Some of the coldest December temperatures since 2008 are expected around southern portions of the state.

Follow-up on Source Magazine Article

Many WeatherTalk Newsletter readers and others have been asking to read the article about climate change in Minnesota which was published this fall in Source Magazine produced by the University of Minnesota Extension. Indeed climate change is real in our state, and already having measurable consequences. You can read the entire article on-line here.

Weekly Weather potpourri

A significant tropical cyclone was forming in the Bay of Bengal off the southeast coast of India this week. It was expected to bring high winds and heavy rains to portions of the east India coastline.

Highlights from the weekly drought assessment by Brad Rippey at the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board:
-There was negligible change in U.S. drought coverage during the seven-day drought-monitoring period, as tranquil weather prevailed in the wake of a pre-Thanksgiving storm across the South and East.
-Parts of the six-state Southeast region experienced a beneficial boost in soil moisture from the pre-Thanksgiving storm. As a result, Southeastern coverage of abnormal dryness (D0) dipped to 42.99% on December 3, down from 56.87% two weeks ago.
- Since the current drought-monitoring period ended (7 a.m. EST on December 3), a new winter storm has begun to unfold across the U.S. Improvements related to this storm will be reflected in next week’s U.S. Drought Monitor, to be released on December 12.

The NOAA web site offers a brush-up on winter weather advisories, watches, and warnings, including criteria used for such information and some winter driving tips. Given our recent change over to winter it might be worth reviewing for yourself here.

MPR listener question

With an Arctic air mass expected to visit us, our family was wondering what is the coldest ever December temperature in Minnesota? An what about the coldest windchill conditions in December?

Answer: The coldest temperature measured in December is -57 degrees on New Years Eve at Pokegama Dam in 1898. Incidentally the high warmed all the way up to -10 degrees F that day. The worst December windchill conditions were on December 23, 1983 when windchill values in the northern Red River Valley ranged from -55 to -60 degrees F.

Twin Cities Almanac for December 6th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 29 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 14 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for December 6th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 63 degrees F in 1939; lowest daily maximum temperature of -2 degrees F in 1972; lowest daily minimum temperature is -19 degrees F in 1972; highest daily minimum temperature of 37 F in 1951; record precipitation of 0.53 inches in 1935; and a record 4.1 inches of snow fell on this date in 1969.

Average dew point for December 6th is 13 degrees F, with a maximum of 42 degrees F in 1951 and a minimum of -28 degrees F in 1972.

All-time state records for December 6th

The state record high temperature for this date is 73 degrees F at Beardsley (Big Stone County), Marshall, and Milan in 1939. The state record low temperature for this date is -34 degrees F at Ft Ripley (Crow Wing County) in 1873. State record precipitation for this date is 2.00 inches at Worthington (Nobles County) in 1917; and state record snowfall for this date is 23.2 inches at Duluth (St Louis County) in 1950.

Past Weather Features:

A slow moving heavy snow storm brought the state to a standstill over December 5-7, 1950. Many observers reported over a foot of snowfall. Some of the heaviest amounts included 33.1 inches at Duluth, 24.2 inches at Cloquet, 14 inches at Faribault, and 12.7 inches at Rochester. December 6-7, 1972 brought an Arctic air mass which set several low temperature records across the state of Minnesota. Nearly all portions of the state saw the thermometer drop to -20 degrees F or colder, with dangerous windchill conditions. For many communities temperatures never rose above zero F over those two days.  December 6, 1939 was arguably the warmest December day in Minnesota history. Over 40 state weather observers reported high temperatures in the 60s F, with 6 communities exceeding 70 degrees F under bright, sunny skies. The entire month was warm with many days over 50 degrees F. It turned out to be the warmest December in state history.


Sunny and cold on Saturday, then increasing clouds on Sunday with a chance for snow. Continued chance for snow on Monday with cold temperatures. Generally dry and cold next Tuesday and Wednesday, then a warming trend starts on Thursday pulling temperatures back up to the teens and twenties, with a chance for snow towards next weekend.
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