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Extension > Mark Seeley's WeatherTalk > January 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cold week with some records broken

Cold week with some records broken

This week's weather pattern brought the coldest temperatures in years to many parts of Minnesota, and coldest in the 48 contiguous states on some dates. There were many reports of lows ranging from -30 degrees F to -40 degrees F across the northern counties, with windchills ranging from -35 to -50 degrees F at times. The coldest temperature was -42 degrees F at Embarrass on January 24th (Thu) and the coldest windchill was -54 degrees F at Grand Marais Airport on January 21st (Monday).
 
Some new station record lows were set on selected dates, including:
January 22 (Tuesday): Record low of -34 degrees F at Brimson, Gunflint Lake, Isabella; Record low of -38 degrees F tied at Babbitt (with 1922)
In addition the high temperature of -18 degrees F at Gunflint Lake on Tuesday was the 2nd coldest for the date of all-time, and 3rd coldest high temperature ever measured at that station.
January 24 (Thursday): Record low of -35 degrees F at Gunflint Lake, Isabella, and Kabetogama; Record low of -34 degrees F at Kettle Falls; Record low of -37 degrees F at Orr; Record low of -40 degrees F at Babbitt; and record low of -42 degrees F at Embarrass. Many other observers came close to record lows for the date on Thursday as well, but no reports were anywhere close to the state record of -57 degrees F at Pokegama Dam in 1904.

Absence of snow, frost goes deeper

A relative absence of snowfall has been prevalent in most Minnesota counties this month. Many observers are reporting just 1 to 3 inches for the month so far. In many parts of the state snow cover is non-existent or less than 1 inch. Only a few observers like Roseau, Crookston, Warroad, Kettle Falls, Wolfe Ridge, and International Falls have received 8-15 inches of snowfall for the month so far.

The absence of deep snow cover exposed the soil to the Arctic-like cold blast this week. As a result frost depths increased significantly, in some cases going from 4-6 inch depth down to 16 to 20 inches in depth. Actual soil temperatures plummeted as well, dropping into the low to mid 20s F at the 4 inch depth, and into the single digits and low teens F at the shallower 2 inch depth. These low soil temperatures can damage plants, and is one of the reasons so many gardeners use mulch or straw (insulation) to cover the soil in the winter. In agricultural pasture lands and alfalfa fields such low temperatures pose a risk of winter injury.

Weekly Weather potpourri


Cyclone Garry was spinning in the Southern Pacific Ocean just east of Pago Pago and west of Bora Bora. It generated wind gusts over 105 mph and sea wave heights greater than 20 feet. Garry was expected to move southeast and not present a threat to any islands over the weekend, dissipating by early next week near 30 degrees south latitude in the open ocean.

More snow and rain visited the United Kingdom this week, as January continued to be a cool and stormy winter month. More precipitation is expected over the weekend and may pose the threat of flooding in some areas. In Scotland and northern England up to 4 more inches of snowfall was forecast. It is also expected to be windy, but temperatures will warm closer to seasonal averages.

Reuters reported this week that federal crop insurance payments to farmers in the USA will likely establish a new record in 2012, perhaps topping $20 billion. This was not entirely unexpected with over 63 percent of the country in drought during the growing season. Illinois and Iowa topped the list for federal crop insurance payments, mostly based on corn. You can read more about this report here.

Weekly highlights on USA drought from Brad Rippey in the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board Office include:
-Overall U.S. drought coverage decreased to 57.64% of the contiguous U.S., down 1.23% from last week and down 5.01% in the last eight weeks. Last week’s decrease came on the strength of additional heavy precipitation (rain and snow) in the lower Midwest and the Southeast­excluding the southern Atlantic region.
-The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category – D4, or exceptional drought – was nearly steady at 6.36%. D4 coverage has ranged from 5 to 7% for 24 consecutive weeks (August 14 – January 22).
-The percent of hay in drought (59%) and cattle in drought (68%) fell two percentage points from a week ago. Winter wheat in drought (59%) was down a point. The last time “hay in drought” was less than 60% was July 3, 2012.
-For the 29th consecutive week (July 10, 2012 – January 22, 2013), drought encompassed more than two-thirds of the domestic cattle inventory.

MPR listener question

Our friend Paul Douglas asked if records showed that extreme cold (-40 F or colder) was visiting the state with less frequency in recent years. This is his perception and that of many others, but what do the data show?

Answer: I examined the climate records of 8 northern Minnesota climate stations that showed some frequency in their history of reporting -40 degrees F or colder. I then compared the relative frequency of such temperature measurements over the period from 1951 to 1980 against the more recent period of 1981-2010. The results showed the following shift in frequency:
Location 1951-1980 1981-2010 (percent change)
Baudette 31 days 12 days (-61 percent)
Roseau 24 days 15 days (-38 percent)
International Falls 21 days 16 days (-24 percent)
Big Falls 34 days 22 days (-35 percent)
Itasca State Park 17 days 11 days (-35 percent) No reading of -40 F since 1997
Warroad 16 days 10 days (-63 percent)
Thorhult 31 days 23 days (-26 percent)
Waskish 12 days 15 days (+25 percent)

Thus 7 of the 8 climate stations show a significant drop in the frequency of -40 F or colder. Concerning this change in frequency of such temperatures and its potential impact on Minnesota, Dr. Lee Frelich, University of Minnesota Forest Ecologist comments: "An invasive species from Asia, the emerald ash borer, has killed tens of millions of ash trees in Michigan, Ohio, and southern Ontario, and is also likely to be killed by -40 temperatures (or perhaps even -30). It arrived a few years ago in the Twin Cities, where its probably not cold enough in winter these days to kill the insect. Whether it will be able to kill millions of ash trees in the ash swamps of northern Minnesota could depend on winter minimum temperatures and a warmer climate in the future."

Twin Cities Almanac for January 25th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 20 degrees F (plus or minus 15 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 4 degrees F (plus or minus 15 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for January 25th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 58 degrees F in 1944; lowest daily maximum temperature of -16 degrees F in 1904; lowest daily minimum temperature of -31 F in 1904; highest daily minimum temperature of 42 F in 1944; and record precipitation of 0.50 inches in 1950; Record snowfall is 7.5 inches in 1950.

Average dew point for January 25th is 5 degrees F, with a maximum of 48 degrees F in 1944 and a minimum of -35 degrees F in 1972.

All-time state records for January 25th

The state record high temperature for this date is 67 degrees F at Springfield (Brown County) in 1981. The state record low temperature for this date is -55 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1904. State record precipitation for this date is 2.65 inches at Theilman (Wabasha County) in 1967; and the state record snowfall for this date is 16.5 inches at Isabella (Lake County) in 1982.

Past Weather Features:

Nearly 241 years ago on January 27, 1772, the famous "Washington and Jefferson Snowstorm" occurred. So named because an account of this appears in both gentlemen's diaries, a total snowfall ranging from 30 to 36 inches was reported at both Washington's home in Mt Vernon and at Jefferson's home at Monticello. Colonists were unable to travel around Virginia for two weeks because of the depth of snow and the colonial postal service did not resume for five weeks. To this day these figures, though unofficial, remain the highest snowfall amounts reported in those areas from a single storm. An interesting footnote to this storm concerning Jefferson's life: Jefferson and his 22 year-old bride Martha had just been married at her family plantation (The Forest) near Williamsburg on New Year's Day. It was a cold and snowy January throughout the colonies and they travelled the 130 miles to Monticello (near Charlottesville) very slowly, arriving just ahead of this famous storm which caused them to be homebound for two weeks. Nine months later, their first child, daughter Martha, was born in September.

January 23-27, 1897 brought an Arctic Cold Outbreak to northern Minnesota. Temperatures plummeted to into the -30s and -40s F across northern counties. Morning lows ranged from -38 F to -49 F at Pokegama Dam, while on January 25th the mercury rose no higher than -28 degrees F at Ada (Norman County).

January 24-25, 1967 brought a strong winter storm to many parts of Minnesota with a mixture of rain sleet and snow. Many areas received over an inch of precipitation and some reported over 2 inches. Where precipitation froze, roads became icy as well.

January 25, 1981 was the warmest in state history, with most observers reporting record-setting high temperatures. Even the Red River Valley reported highs in the 50s F. At least a dozen communities saw an afternoon temperature reach into the 60s F. There was little or no snow cover under bright, sunny skies.

January 23-27, 1996 brought another Arctic Cold Outbreak to Minnesota, in some cases breaking cold temperature records that had been set back in 1897. Many communities reported lows of -40 degrees F or colder, and some were colder than -50 degrees F. Abundant snow cover, high pressure, and clear skies contributed to the extreme cold.

Outlook

Warming trend begins over the weekend, bringing with it a chance for mixed precipitation, perhaps snow, freezing rain and drizzle. Temperatures will moderate into the 20s to lower 30s F by Sunday. There will be a continued chance for snow and rain on Monday and Tuesday, and some areas may see more freezing rain. The weather pattern will get colder and drier by the middle of next week.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Absence of Below Zero F High Temperatures

Absence of Below Zero F High Temperatures

For Twin Cities residents we may be seeing a remarkable record weather streak come to an end by Martin Luther King Day (Monday, Jan 21st). The Twin Cities have not reported a daytime high temperature below 0 F since January 15, 2009 (high of -6 F). By Monday, this streak will be 1466 days long, the longest such streak in the Twin Cities climate record back to 1873. In addition the National Weather Service reports a remarkable absence of below 0 F minimum temperatures for the Twin Cities in recent winters as well, with only 3 such days last winter, and 1 so far this winter. This trend, but to a lesser extent is obvious in the recent data for International Falls as well. There the average number of days when the high temperature remains below 0 F is about 10 per winter. Over the past three winters it has just been 3 days. In addition, overnight minimum temperatures at International Falls fall below 0 F slightly 60-61 days per winter on average. Last winter brought only 35 such days, and there have been only 26 such days so far this winter, well below average.

You can read more about these temperature streaks and trends at the National Weather Service web site.

A measure of persistence in recent January warmth

In addition to the absence of below 0 F January cold, it is noteworthy to examine the signals of persistent warmth in the recent climate data for the month. Over the past 15 winters the mean value of January temperature on a statewide basis has been below normal in only three years (2004, 2009, and 2011). The other twelve have all been warmer than normal, and four have ranked among the 12 warmest months of January in state history (2001, 2002, 2006, 2012). In addition over 62 percent of all daily measures of temperature in January have been above normal values. These are measures of persistence. Some individual days have been 25 F or more above normal, such as last January 10 (2012) when the Twin Cities reported a high of 52 degrees F and a low of 27 degrees F. As Paul Huttner has shared on his Updraft blog, the signal of warmth in the winter months has been very pronounced in recent years.

New Seasonal Climate Outlooks

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) released new seasonal climate outlooks this week. For the period from February through April the outlook calls for cooler than normal temperatures across parts of northwestern MN and North Dakota, equal chances for temperatures to be above or below normal elsewhere in the state. For precipitation the outlook favors above normal moisture for the Great Lakes region. Given the extent and magnitude of drought that is still gripping the state, the precipitation outlook is certainly heartening. In fact the CPC Drought Outlook favors improvement over the entire state by April 30th, and suggests a wetter than normal precipitation pattern may be in play across the western Great Lakes through May. You can read more of their analysis on the web site.

Weekly Weather potpourri

This week the U.S. Global Change Research Program released a draft of the comprehensive National Climate Assessment Report describing analysis of regional climate trends, impacts on infrastructure and possible future climate scenarios. This report makes for some interesting reading with contributions from over 60 people. You can find out more about it here.

It is over 1100 pages in length, so it might be wise to read it on line.
The USGS released a report this week on the devastating floods in northeastern Minnesota last June (2012). The report states that 13 USGS streamgages recorded the all-time peak gage heights following this storm. In some cases these peak flows were estimated to be 1 in 500 year floods, while in others they were estimated to be 1 in 100 year floods. Flood maps and profiles of damage and inundation were created for this report. You can view the report at the USGS web site.

The USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board briefing this week on drought (offered by Brad Rippey) reported the following highlights:
-Overall U.S. drought coverage decreased to 58.87% of the contiguous U.S., down 1.39% from last week. The decreased drought coverage came on the strength of heavy rain from the southern Plains the Mid-South and Southeast­excluding the southern Atlantic region.
- The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category (D4), or exceptional drought, fell more than one-third of a percentage point to 6.31%.
- The percent of hay in drought (61%), cattle in drought (70%), and winter wheat in drought (60%) fell two percentage points from a week ago.
- For the 28th consecutive week (July 10, 2012 ­ January 15, 2013), drought encompassed more than two-thirds of the domestic cattle inventory and at least 60% of the domestic hay acreage.

NASA is conducting a "Let It Snow" photo contest. They are soliciting digit photos of winter scenes from around the country. NASA's Precipitation Measurement Mission is sponsoring the contest and it is open for submissions through February 4, 2013. You can read more about it here.

Persistent smog and foul air continues to plague large parts of China this week. In Beijing hospitals reported up to a 30 percent increase in patients with respiratory problems. Low visibility and foul air has been persistent day after day due to inversion layers associated with high pressure across that country. It has been called one of the worst cases of air pollution in recent years. You can read more about it here.

On Friday parts of Western England and South Wales were being hit by a strong winter storm, depositing 4 to 8 inches of snow in many places. The UK Met Office was issuing many weather warnings and even a blizzard warning for parts of Wales. Bitterly cold weather is expected to prevail there through the weekend.

A paper published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences documents a sharp decline in the health of much of the Amazon Forest of South America where a mega-drought has persisted since 2005. NASA scientists and others have analyzed QuikScat satellite data and other data sets to determine the deficiencies in rainfall there, along with soil moisture declines. The imagery clearly shows impacts on forest canopy densities and health. You can read more about this study here.

MPR listener question

Has Minnesota ever seen 70 degrees F in the month of January?

Answer: No, but it has come close to that. On January 24, 1981 Montevideo on the upper reaches of the Minnesota River valley reported a high of 69 degrees F, truly remarkable for what is historically the coldest week of the year. This temperature is approximately 45 degrees F above normal!

Twin Cities Almanac for January 18th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 25 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 11 degrees F (plus or minus 15 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for January 18th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 48 degrees F in 1880 and 1891; lowest daily maximum temperature of -16 degrees F in 1994; lowest daily minimum temperature of -36 F in 1887; highest daily minimum temperature of 33 F in 1880 and 1944; and record precipitation of 0.31 inches in 1895; Record snowfall is 3.1 inches in 1895.

Average dew point for January 18th is 7 degrees F, with a maximum of 39 degrees F in 1973 and a minimum of -40 degrees F in 1967.

All-time state records for January 18th

The state record high temperature for this date is 57 degrees F at Caledonia (Houston County) in 1996. The state record low temperature for this date is -48 degrees F at Cotton (St Louis County) in 1967. State record precipitation for this date is 3.10 inches at Stewart (McLeod County) in 1996; and the state record snowfall for this date is 18.0 inches at Sibley (Sibley County) in 1866.

Past Weather Features:

January 18-19, 1919 brought unusual mid-winter warmth to the southern counties of Minnesota. Many communities reported consecutive days in the 40s F. Both Luverne and Fairmont reported temperatures in the 50s F. There was little snow that month and lots of January sunshine.

January 18, 1944 also brought unusual warmth. Many communities reported temperatures in the 40s F under sunny skies. Zumbrota, Windom, Elk River, and Madison all saw afternoon temperatures in the 50s F with moderate southerly winds. January of 1944 was the 2nd warmest in state history.
With abundant snow cover, January 18, 1950 brought arctic cold to many areas as temperatures plunged to -30 F or colder in many areas. At least 7 Minnesota communities started the day at -40 degrees F or colder.

The coldest January 18th in state history occurred in 1967 as an Arctic high pressure system settled over the state bringing a temperature drop of over 50 degrees F in 24 hours. Temperatures fell to -40 degrees F or colder in 20 communities, and as far south as Theilman (Wabasha County) the temperature plummeted to -44 degrees F.

Perhaps the worst winter storm on January 18th occurred in 1996. It started late in the day on the 17th with strong winds up to 45 mph and mixed precipitation (rain, sleet, and snow). Freezing rain and severe icing occurred in some southwestern counties. Snowfall amounts ranged from 5 to 15 inches across western counties and large drifts were reported. Many roads were closed and the Governor order most schools closed as well. Dangerous windchills ranging from -30 to -60 degrees F followed the storm. Approximately 200 cars were abandoned on Interstate 90 and a water main broke in Marshall causing some local flooding.

Outlook

 Weather transition day on Saturday. Starting relatively mild in most places then getting windy, with falling temperatures and some flurries. Chance for dangerous windchill values later in the day and Saturday night, ranging from -25 to -35 F. Much colder on Sunday with highs ranging from below 0 F to the single digits above 0 F. Colder yet on Monday (MLK Day0 with highs mostly below 0 F and lows from the minus teens to -30 F. Warming trend starts on Tuesday and continues through next week with temperatures slowly climbing back towards normal and mostly dry weather.

 

Friday, January 11, 2013

2012 Warmest year on record

2012 Warmest year on record

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced this week that 2012 was the warmest year on record (back to 1895) for the contiguous 48 states. Not only that, but it broke the previous record warmest year (1998) by a full degree F. You can read more here.

In addition according to the state by state reports Minnesota recorded the 3rd warmest year in history, Wisconsin and Iowa 2nd warmest, and Nebraska and South Dakota warmest ever. According to NOAA 443 climate states in the 48 contiguous states saw their warmest year in history during 2012. With respect to moisture Minnesota was no where near record-setting even though much of the state was in drought to end the year. To the west Nebraska and Wyoming reported their driest year in history, while Iowa reported its 11th driest year. In contrast the state of Washington reported its 5th wettest year in history.

Record warm January 10th for northern communities

A relatively strong warm front past over the region on Thursday, January 10th bringing a strong surge of mild air. Clouds associated with the warm front held temperatures in check for many southern areas of Minnesota, but northern communities enjoyed plenty of sunshine and saw afternoon temperature values soar to new record levels for the date. Among those setting records were:
52 degrees F at Waskish 50 degrees F at Kelliher and Littlefork
48 degrees F at International Falls, Crane Lake, Cass Lake, Baudette, and Itasca State Park (tied record from 1928)
46 degrees F at Bemidji and Fosston
45 degrees F at Warroad, Ely and Orr

Some of these communities had just set new record highs last year (2012) on January 10th. The warm front brought an unusual mid-January rainfall with amounts ranging from a few hundredths to a quarter of an inch.

Weekly Weather potpourri

Earlier this week NOAA released a technical report outlying historical climate trends and future climate scenarios by region around the USA. The future climate scenarios take two paths depending on future emission scenarios. The goal is to provide plausible future environmental conditions for policy makers to consider in planning for climate adaptation and looking at mitigation strategies by region and stated. You can read more about this report here.

The National Weather Service reported that some areas of east-central Texas received 2 to 4 inches of much needed rainfall on Wednesday of this week. Further some areas have received up to six inches for the month so far, helping to alleviate the drought there. Forecasts favor continued above normal rainfall across areas of Texas through the third week of the month.

Portions of central Australia have been suffering through a terrible heat wave this week. Sydney reported daytime highs up to 108 degrees F, while in Leonora in Western Australia the thermometer hit 120 degrees F on the 9th. Fortunately temperatures in the Melbourne area are supposed to cool off into the 70s and 80s F next week as the Australian Open Tennis Tournament gets underway.

Tropical Cyclone Narelle was spinning off the northwest coast of Australia this week. Winds were gusting to over 110 mph producing sea waves of 35-40 feet. It was expected to strengthen even further and bring heavy rain and high seas to the west coast of Australia over the weekend before dissipating.

Brad Rippey from the USDA World Outlook Board provided a drought update this week that included the following statements:
-Overall U.S. drought coverage decreased to 60.26% of the contiguous U.S., down more than three-quarters (0.83%) of a percentage point from last week. The decreased drought coverage came on the strength of additional rain across the South.
-The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category – D4, or exceptional drought – fell very slightly to 6.70%.
-The percent of hay in drought (63%) and cattle in drought (72%) fell one percentage point from a week ago.
-Winter wheat in drought (62%) remained unchanged from New Year’s Day.
-For the 27th consecutive week (July 10, 2012 – January 8, 2013), drought encompassed more than two-thirds of the domestic cattle inventory and at least 60% of the domestic hay acreage.

MPR listener questions

It seems quite unusual to get rain in January. How often does this happen in the Twin Cities?

Answer: Perhaps more often than you think. In the past 20 years there have been eight Januarys that have produced at least one day with only liquid precipitation (rain) and no sleet, snow, or freezing rain. In 1997 and 2006 there were two rain events in January. So an estimate is that about 40 percent of the time we see a rain event in January for the Twin Cities.

How are temperature averages calculated by the National Weather Service?

Answer: Daily temperature averages are computed by adding the high (max) and low (min), then dividing by two. Monthly averages are computed by summing all of the daily maximum temperatures, dividing by the number of days in the month; doing similar to the daily minimum temperatures; then adding together those monthly average values of maximum and minimum temperature and dividing by two. State average monthly and annual temperatures are computed by averaging all of the mean values from the observing stations within a Climate Division (a multi-county area), then taking a weighted average (based on landscape area) of the climate division mean values.

Twin Cities Almanac for January 11th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 25 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 11 degrees F (plus or minus 15 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for January 11th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 44 degrees F in 1986; lowest daily maximum temperature of -19 degrees F in 1912; lowest daily minimum temperature of -31 F in 1977; highest daily minimum temperature of 32 F in 1928; and record precipitation of 0.47 inches in 1930; Record snowfall is 6.0 inches in 1905.

Average dew point for January 11th is 5 degrees F, with a maximum of 36 degrees F in 1980 and a minimum of -38 degrees F in 1977.

All-time state records for January 11th

The state record high temperature for this date is 56 degrees F at Madison (Lac Qui Parle County) in 1958 and at Canby (Yellow Medicine County) in 1990. The state record low temperature for this date is an arctic-like -53 degrees F at St Vincent (Kittson County) in 1888. State record precipitation for this date is 2.70 inches at Beaver Bay (Lake County) in 1866; and the state record snowfall for this date is 24.0 inches at Riverton (Crow Wing County) in 1975.

Past Weather Features:

Arctic cold gripped the state on January 11, 1888 as St Vincent reported -53 degrees F, Moorhead reported -44 degrees F, and Morris reported -31 degrees F. St Paul Signal Corps Office reported -28 degrees F that morning and in Rochester it was -26 degrees F.

Another arctic cold wave engulfed Minnesota over January 10-12 with over 20 communities reporting temperatures of -40 degrees F or colder. There was little moderation in temperature until the last week of the month as January of 1912 proved to be the coldest in state history.

January 8-11, 1958 brought a prolonged thaw period to western portions of the state as at least ten Minnesota communities reported record high temperatures in the 50s F. It was one of Minnesota's warmest Januarys.

January 10-12, 1975 brought one of the state's worst ever blizzards, called the "Storm of the Century" by the National Weather Service. Winds of 30-50 mph blew snow into huge drifts, with damaging wind gusts up to 80 mph. Snow drifts over 20 feet blocked roads and highways. Passengers (168 people) were trapped for hours on a stalled train near Willmar and there were 35 storm-related deaths. Many areas reported over a foot of snow, while Alexandria, Riverton, Melrose, Kettle Falls, Remer, Hibbing, and Springfield reported over 20 inches.

Another mild spell of January weather prevailed over the 8th through the 11th in 1990 as a dozen western and central Minnesota communities saw daytime highs reach the 50s F. Mild temperature prevailed most of the month, which was the 3rd warmest January in state history.

Outlook

Much colder over the weekend, and windier too. There will be a chance for scattered snow with generally cooler than normal temperatures through the middle of next week.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Comments on 2012 Climate Summaries

Comments on 2012 Climate Summaries

As many people already know, 2012 was one of the warmest years in history for Minnesota and much of the USA. It tied 1931 for warmest year in the Twin Cities record, and it was clearly the warmest year in history for Rochester. Also, Winnipeg, Canada reported its 5th warmest year since 1873. The signal of warmth was evident in the monthly climate statistics through October as the first 10 months of 2012 were the warmest ever statewide in Minnesota.

You can read more about the temperature rankings for 2012 at our web site.

About 80 percent of all climate observers in the state reported below normal precipitation for 2012. The dominant pattern in the state was one of drought. For many areas 70 percent of the total precipitation for the year fell in the first 6 months, as drought gripped much of the state by late summer and carried on into fall and winter. In the late fall and early winter there were some reports of shallow wells going dry in some northern counties, another consequence of the drought. Thanks to severe thunderstorms and flash flooding over June 19-20, some northeastern communities reported record-setting rainfall values for the month of June: 13.93 inches at Floodwood, 13.86 inches at Two Harbors, 13.03 inches at Wright, 12.64 inches at Cloquet, and 10.03 inches at Duluth. This produced above normal annual precipitation for some climate stations in the northeast, including Cloquet (40.33 inches), Floodwood (38.31 inches), Duluth (33.18 inches), and Two Harbors (36.11 inches).

Many citizens have asked me about the wind patterns for 2012. For example was it a windier than average year? Looking at both the mean daily values of wind speed, along with the maximum gusts I find that only in January and March of 2012 did the average wind speed exceed the historical average. All the remaining months show average wind speeds that are less than the long term values. These statistics hide the fact that there were some extremely windy days. In the Twin Cities for example there were 25 days in 2012 when the maximum wind gusts exceeded 40 mph. In fact during the stormy month of May, this happened on six days, with a maximum gust of 58 mph on the 19th.

The January Thaw - A common feature of southern Minnesota

Most residents of the Twin Cities area consider the January thaw to be a given each year. They know it will come, just not precisely when. This time around it looks like next Monday through Thursday (Jan 7-10) may bring a thaw period.

Indeed for many central and southern Minnesota locations a January thaw is quite common. The definition of a January thaw is variable. Some consider it to be any single day with a temperature above 32 degrees F. But consequences associated with a January thaw, like loss of snow cover, melting and drying of street surfaces and sidewalks, softening of lake ice, etc are generally not realized unless temperatures rise above the freezing mark for two or more days. Using this as a sorting criteria we can look at the historical frequency of such temperatures for various locations in Minnesota. These frequencies of January thaws (listed below) indeed show great reliability in most of southern Minnesota, and even parts of central Minnesota, but more like a 50/50 probability in the northern sections of the state.

Historical frequency of January thaws at various locations since 1948
(here defined as two or more days with daytime temperatures greater than 32 F)

Twin Cities 92 percent Rochester 95 percent Pipestone 92 percent
Fairmont 93 percent St Cloud 87 percent Morris 80 percent
Crookston 62 percent Duluth 60 percent International Falls 50 percent

It is interesting to note that the three consecutive years of 1977, 1978, and 1979 brought no January thaw to most of Minnesota. All three were dominated by abundant January snow cover and are ranked among the top 15 coldest in state history. The most recent years without a January thaw in most places were 2009 and 2011.

Retirement of Byron Paulson

Congratulations and best wishes to Byron Paulson, who retired this week. He was a long-time forecaster with the National Weather Service in the Twin Cities (35 years). A dedicated public servant, expert on fire weather, and a good friend, Byron will be missed by many of us. He was especially valued as an "incident meteorologist" deployed to serve fire fighters with specialized forecasts during major outbreaks in our region, including the Cavity Lake fire (2006), Ham Lake fire (2007) and Pagami Creek fire (2011). I consider myself lucky to have known and worked with him. You can see a picture and read more about him here.

Weekly Weather potpourri

Tropical Cyclone Dumile was spinning in the Southern Indian Ocean east of Madagascar this week. It was slowly moving to the south with winds of 85-95 mph that were producing sea waves of 30 to 35 feet. Heavy rains and high winds were forecast for La Reunion Island. Earlier in the week Tropical Cyclone Freda had brought heavy rains (10-12 inches) to parts of the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia in the Southern Pacific Ocean. But it had died off by mid-week.
The United Kingdom Meteorological Office reported this week that based on preliminary data 2012 was the 2nd wettest in history for that country (trailing only 2000). Their annual nationwide summaries date back to 1910. Many areas of the country reported over 50 inches of precipitation during 2012. You can read more about this here.

For those interested in the climatology of college football bowl games, the Southeast Regional Climate Center has published the climate records for most of the bowl games. You can read more about this here.

NOAA announced a correlation in independent paleoclimatic data (corals, lake sediments, and ice cores) with observer network measurements of climate change over the period from 1880-1995. Further both sources of data confirm an acceleration in temperature trends since 1980. You can read more in the NOAA press release.

MPR listener question

Has there ever been a January without snowfall in the Twin Cities?

Answer: No. The closest we came to no snow in January was a long time ago, 1892 and 1898. In January 1892 it snowed measurably only twice, 0.4" on the 7th and 0.2" on the 16th. In 1898, it only snowed measurably on three dates, 0.1" on the 11th, 0.4" on the 18th, and 0.1" on the 24th.

Twin Cities Almanac for January 4th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 25 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 11 degrees F (plus or minus 15 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for January 4th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 41 degrees F in 1898 and 2007; lowest daily maximum temperature of -14 degrees F in 1884; lowest daily minimum temperature of -32 F in 1884; highest daily minimum temperature of 33 F in 2007; and record precipitation of 0.57 inches in 1997; Record snowfall is 3.2 inches in 1910.

Average dew point for January 4th is 5 degrees F, with a maximum of 37 degrees F in 1946 and a minimum of -39 degrees F in 1924.

All-time state records for January 4th

The state record high temperature for this date is 50 degrees F at Worthington (Nobles County) in 1930. The state record low temperature for this date is -48 degrees F at Breese (Marshall County) and Leech Lake (Cass County) in 1896 and at Red Lake (Beltrami County) in 1968. State record precipitation for this date is 2.90 inches at Coleraine (Itasca County) in 1949; and the state record snowfall for this date is 24.0 inches at Wheaton (Traverse County) in 1997.

Past Weather Features:

1884 brought perhaps the coldest first week of January in history for the Twin Cities. Here are the readings from the Signal Corps Office in downtown St Paul for the first full week of the month:
DATE PRECIP MAX MIN
Jan 1, .01 12 -14
Jan 2, 0 -1 -22
Jan 3, 0 -15 -33
Jan 4, 0 -26 -33
Jan 5, 0 -11 -30
Jan 6, 0 -9 -30
Jan 7, 0 -3 -28
The -26 F maximum temperature on January 4th was the coldest ever measured on that date. St Vincent (Kittson County) reported consecutive nights of -41 degrees F. Interestingly enough by January 12th daytime temperatures were in the 40s F in 1884.

January of 1886 was the wettest in history for the community of Winona with 5.60 inches of precipitation. During the first week 2.85 inches fell as a mixture of snow and rain. This record was broken in 1998 when Winona recorded 6.73 inches of precipitation in January, one of the largest amounts for the month in state history.

Arctic air dominated the state over January 3-5 of 1896 bringing extreme and record-setting cold temperatures to many communities. At least a dozen cities reported temperatures of -30 degrees F or colder and for some the daytime high temperature remained -20 degrees F or colder.

January 4-5, 1949 brought a strong winter storm to Minnesota with a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow. Many communities reported 1-2 inches of precipitation. Coleraine in Itasca County reported 4.30 inches of precipitation over the two days, a phenomenal amount for the month of January. Most of it was rain as they only received 3.5 inches of snow with temperatures in the mid 30s F.

January 4, 1971 brought a winter storm to southern Minnesota where snowfall amounts ranged from 9 to 16 inches. Some roads were closed in southern counties.

January 3-4, 1981 brought arctic cold to northern counties as six communities reported lows of -40 degrees F or colder. Tower reported a low of -44 degrees F and a high of -9 degrees F on the 4th.

January 4-5, 1997 brought a strong winter storm to central and northern Minnesota, with 10 to 20 inches of snow and strong winds. Wheaton in west central Minnesota reported 2 feet of snow with winds gusting to over 40 mph. Snow drifts of 5-7 feet blocked many roads. I94 was closed down from Sauk Center to the North Dakota border. Many rural buildings were damaged by the high winds and heavy snow loads on roofs.

Outlook

Near normal temperatures over the weekend with a chance for scattered flurries, then warmer next week and mostly dry until Thursday and Friday which will bring a chance for snow.
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