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Extension > Mark Seeley's WeatherTalk > March 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013

Preliminary climate summary for March

 Preliminary climate summary for March

Mean temperatures for the month ranged from 5 to 9 degrees F colder than normal for most observers in the state. This was the second consecutive month with below normal mean temperatures. In fact the February-March combined mean temperatures were the coldest since 2001 for most observers. Extremes for the month ranged from -29 degrees F at Embarrass on the 17th (St Patrick's Day) to 54 degrees F at Pipestone on the 28th.

Most observers reported above normal precipitation for the month. Many reported over 2 inches, while some exceeded three inches, including 3.42 inches at Waseca, 3.27 inches at St James, and 3.04 inches at Grand Meadow. Snowfall amounts were above normal as well for most, except in southwestern counties where amounts only ranged from 3 to 7 inches. Some locations reported more than 2 feet of snowfall during the month including 26.0 inches at Ottertail, 25.7 inches at Grand Meadow, 25.5 inches at Cass Lake and Duluth, and 25.1 inches at Chisholm. Maximum snow depth during the month exceeded 30 inches in portions of north-central (International Falls) and northeastern (Isabella) Minnesota. In the north the Kabetogama Lake ice road closed for the season on March 27th due to deep snow and slush conditions.

Cold Twin's Home Opener

According to historical analysis by Pete Boulay of the MN State Climatology Office it appears that the Minnesota Twins may open the season Monday (April 1st) with the coldest temperatures ever for this occasion, highs forecasted to be in the low-30s F. The coldest home opener in franchise history was on April 14, 1962 when the daytime high was 34 degrees F (Twins lost to the Angels 12-5 at the old Met). The Twins are scheduled to open against the Detroit Tigers at 3:10 pm on Monday, April 1st at Target Field with an expected temperature of 32 degrees F, and windchill in the high teens F to low 20s F. Long underwear under the uniform may be the common wardrobe that day. Incidentally the warmest ever home opener? On April 22, 1980, again at the old Met against the Angels the temperature was 90 degrees F (Twins won 8-1). You can read more about the weather for Twin's Home Openers here.

Weekly Weather potpourri

The United Kingdom Meteorological Office reports that this March is the coldest for that country since 1962, about 3 degrees C colder than the long term average. It ranks as the 4th coldest over the country-wide period of record since 1910. They are expecting to see a colder than normal Easter Sunday. You can read more on their web site.

Conversely, the city of Sidney in Australia has just reported the hottest week for this time of year in 44 years. Daytime highs there rose to well over 90 degrees F and averaged near 84 degrees F for the entire week. Further to the south, Melbourne is on track to record their hottest March in history. Fortunately a cooler spell of weather is expected for the Easter weekend.

Highlights for the drought-monitoring period ending 7 am EDT on March 26 from Brad Rippey at the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board include:

- Overall U.S. drought coverage decreased slightly (0.22%) to 51.64% of the contiguous U.S. In addition, drought coverage is down 9.45% from the beginning of 2013 and down 13.81% from the record-high of 65.45% on September 25, 2012.
- The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category – D4, or exceptional drought – decreased nearly one-third of a percentage point (0.30%) to 5.10%. D4 coverage has ranged from 5 to 7% for 33 consecutive weeks (August 14, 2012 – March 26, 2013).
- For the second week in a row, there were no changes in hay in drought (51%), cattle in drought (62%), and winter wheat in drought (56%).

A paper published this week by researchers at North Carolina State University documents that certain scale insects that infest trees were far more abundant in the urban heat island micro-climates of cities. Pest abundance in the urban heat island is thought to be more related to species survivability and resilience than reproductive rates. The paper may provoke more studies of differential species abundance within urban areas as climate continues to change. You can read more here.

Adaptation International is an organization dedicated to helping communities and business operations mitigate their risk and increase their resilience with respect to climate change. They provide technical knowledge and guidance for adaptation strategies for specific situations. They are currently involved in projects for Tucson, AZ and Seattle, WA. You can read more about them here.

USDA survey released this week projected corn planting intentions of 97.3 million acres, most since 1936. In addition the corn stocks report was higher than expected putting downward pressure on corn prices which fell by 46 cents. Projected alleviation of drought conditions across the Midwest this spring may continue to put downward pressure on corn prices, but the situation is acknowledged to be volatile at least through the early spring planting season.

MPR listener question

After reaching 40 degrees F on January 20th this year at Waseca, we have not seen that temperature since. What is the latest calendar date for a 40 degree high in Waseca and other southern MN cities?

Answer: In 1970 Waseca did not see a 40 degrees F air temperature until March 25th. This was true for most of southern Minnesota. BTW in 1843 at Fort Snelling, the temperature reached 42 degrees F on January 20th, then did not reach 40 F again until April 4th.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 29th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 45 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 28 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 29th


MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 83 degrees F in 1986; lowest daily maximum temperature of 13 degrees F in 1969; lowest daily minimum temperature of -5 F in 1969; highest daily minimum temperature of 57 F in 1910; and record precipitation of 0.98 inches in 1998; Record snowfall is 11.0 inches in 1924.

Average dew point for March 29th is 25 degrees F, with a maximum of 56 degrees F in 1910 and a minimum of -13 degrees F in 1969.

All-time state records for March 29th

The state record high temperature for this date is 83 degrees F at numerous locations, including the Twin Cities and Gaylord, MN in 1986. The state record low temperature for this date is -23 degrees F at Itasca State Park (Clearwater County) in 1921. State record precipitation for this date is 2.88 inches at Lake City (Wabasha County) in 1998; and the state record snowfall for this date is 17.5 inches at Maple Plain (Hennepin County) in 1924.

Past Weather Features:

A strong winter storm crossed the state on March 29, 1864 bringing 4 inches of snow to parts of southern Minnesota and 17 inches of snowfall to Beaver Bay along the north shore of Lake Superior.
A large winter storm dominated the state over March 28-30, 1924 and brought one of the heaviest spring snowfalls ever measured. Many communities in central and southern Minnesota received between 10 and 20 inches of snowfall. Canby in western Minnesota reported 22.5 inches, a record there, while Maple Plain in the Twin Cities area reported 21 inches. The streetcar system in the Twin Cities was shut down. The snow was welcome as many areas had been suffering from drought.

A Cold Wave dominated the state over March 28-31, 1969. The coldest March 29th in state history occurred in that year. Virtually every county in the state reported morning lows that were below zero degrees F. Albert Lea was the warm spot with plus 1 F. Morris, MN warmed up to a high of 1 degrees F, 41 degrees F colder than normal for the date and still a record value. Temperatures warmed into the 40s F again by April 2nd.

The warmest March 29th in state history occurred in 1986. Many observers reported daytime highs in the 70s F, and 16 communities saw their thermometers reach 80 degrees F or higher. Cedar located in Anoka County saw the temperature climb from a morning low of 32 degrees F to an afternoon high of 82 degrees F by 4:00 pm. A cool front swept through overnight and dropped temperatures by 25 to 35 degrees F the next day.

The worst March tornado outbreak in Minnesota history occurred on the afternoon of March 29, 1998 when 14 separate tornadoes touched down in southern counties of the state. One tornado, an F-4 (winds 207-260 mph) traveled for 67 miles, leaving a path of destruction. At least nine communities reported significant damages including Comfrey, Nicollet, St Peter, and Le Center. Two deaths and a few dozen injuries were reported with these storms.

Outlook

Lingering rain Saturday morning in eastern Minnesota, but mostly cloudy elsewhere with temperatures in the 30s to low 50s F. Cooler and breezy Easter Sunday with a chance for snow showers in the north. Cooler yet on Monday and Tuesday, then warming on Wednesday and Thursday next week. Remaining mostly dry throughout the period.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Blizzard and more record snows

Blizzard and more record snows

A strong winter storm moved across the state over Sunday night (Mar 17) through midday Tuesday (Mar 19) bringing widespread distribution of snowfall and high winds. Winds were so strong in northwestern and west central counties that blizzard conditions prevailed over March 18th, closing sections of Interstate 94 and Highway 10 for a time. Many places reported winds over 40 mph.

Some observers also reported new record snowfall amounts. On Monday, March 18th new record snowfall amounts were reported from Bemidji (6.0 inches), Rothsay (6.0 inches), Cass Lake (5.5 inches), Pelican Rapids (5.5 inches), Red Lake Falls (5.2 inches) and Collegeville (5.0 inches). Then on Tuesday, March 19th new daily snowfall records were set at Waskish (7.5 inches), Walker (5.0 inches), and Crookston (4.0 inches). The largest storm total values over the three days included 11.0 inches at Isabella, 9.0 inches at Embarrass, 8.5 inches at Kabetogama, 8.0 inches at Babbitt, Bemidji, and Ottertail, and 7.7 inches at International Falls.

The advance of the storm's warm front on Sunday, March 17th brought a 50 degrees F temperature rise at International Falls, from -28 degrees F in the morning to 22 degrees F just before midnight. Conversely, after the passage of the storm temperatures dropped significantly. A record low of -9 degrees F was tied at Thief River Falls on the 19th, while a new record low of 2 degrees F was set at Browns Valley. In addition some observers reported new record cold maximum temperatures for March 19th including 16 degrees F at Madison, 15 degrees F at Browns Valley, 14 degrees F at Artichoke Lake, and just 11 degrees F at Thief River Falls. These cold temperatures combined with higher winds to produce windchills that were well below zero.

You can read more about this storm on our web site.

Further Wednesday (Mar 20) and Thursday (Mar 21) mornings brought continued cold temperatures to many areas of the state. On March 20th a new record low of -4 degrees F was reported at Wheaton, while on March 21st both Wadena and Waskish reported record lows of -17 degrees F. Fortunately a modest warming trend is expected for the coming weekend, but still below normal temperatures for this time of year.

New Seasonal Climate Outlook

he NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) released new seasonal climate outlooks on Thursday of this week. The outlook for April through June favors above normal temperatures in the southern parts of Minnesota and much of the eastern three-quarters of the country. The outlook also favors above normal precipitation for southeastern sections of Minnesota. Further the CPC drought outlook through June 30th favors improvement in the drought situation across the state due to melting snow pack and spring precipitation. You can read descriptions of these outlooks and see the mapped depictions here.

St Patrick's Day Contrast

Our friend Roland Fowler, weather observer at Embarrass, MN reported a significant contrast in St Patrick's Day temperatures for 2012 versus 2013. Last year his thermometer registered a high of 64 degrees F, while this year it was -29 degrees F, a 93 degrees F difference in St Patrick's Days. Whew! International Falls reported a St Patrick's Day record high of 77 degrees F in 2012 and this year they started out St Patrick's Day with a reading of -28 degrees F, a difference of 105 degrees F.

Weekly Weather potpourri

The World Meteorological Organization celebrated World Meteorological Day on March 21st this week. They hosted a Scientific and Technical Forum in Geneva, Switzerland to showcase advances in observation, communication, and forecasting technologies and procedures. You can read more about this at the WMO web site.

On Wednesday this week a severe thunderstorm killed nine people and injured 272 in Dongguan City of south China's Guangdong Province. The strong thunderstorms brought torrential rain, strong winds, and large hail. Winds gusted to over 100 mph causing some structural damage to buildings.

Earlier in the week Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon forecasted a hot year for Texas based on analysis from climate trends and dynamical models that use ocean temperatures. He said these trends are similar to global ones for temperature and as a result he caught a little heat from fellow Texas citizens who deny that climate change is happening. Nielsen-Gammon was appointed as Texas State climatologist under then Governor George W. Bush back in 2000. You can read more about this at the Houston-Chronicle blog.

A paper published by the Niels Bohr Institute recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science finds that climate models show an increase in the strength of inland storm surges by hurricanes if the climate becomes 2 degrees C warmer as projected. Extreme storm surges like those measured during Hurricane Katrina may be up to ten times more frequent according to this analysis. You can read more here.

MPR listener questions

I've noticed that many of the record lows for the last few days were recorded in 1965, the same year we had major flooding on the Upper Mississippi. Does a late thaw correlate with greater flooding?

Answer: Not consistently, but there have certainly been episodes in our history when a late thaw period coupled with deep ground frost and an abundant snow cover have produced major flooding, especially on the Red River watershed. Such was the case in 1882, 1950, 1952, 1965, 1969, 1979, and 1997 when more rapid thaw periods occurred in April and produced a high volume of flow in a short period of time.

I know this has been a colder March than we have been used to. How many Marches have not seen a 50 degree day? It looks like this year may be one!

Answer: For the Twin Cities climate record back to 1873 (140 years) only eleven percent of the time has March not produced a 50 degrees F temperature. So it is indeed unusual. The last two Marches that did not reach 50 F in the Twin Cities area were 2001 and 1979. With the forecast calling for cooler than normal temperatures through the balance of the month we may not see 50 degrees F here until April.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 22nd

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 42 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 24 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 22nd

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 71 degrees F in 1945; lowest daily maximum temperature of 10 degrees F in 1888; lowest daily minimum temperature of -14 F in 1888; highest daily minimum temperature of 56 F in 2012; and record precipitation of 1.40 inches in 1952; Record snowfall is 13.7 inches also in 1952.

Average dew point for March 22nd is 23 degrees F, with a maximum of 60 degrees F in 2012 and a minimum of -10 degrees F in 1974.

All-time state records for March 22nd

The state record high temperature for this date is 81 degrees F at Pipestone (Pipestone County) in 1939. The state record low temperature for this date is -30 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1888. State record precipitation for this date is 3.00 inches at Elk River (Sherburne County) in 1865; and the state record snowfall for this date is 14.6 inches at Fairmont (Martin County) in 1952.

Past Weather Features:

Arguably the coldest March 22nd in state history was in 1888. St Paul reported a morning low of -14 degrees F, while St Vincent in the northern Red River Valley was -29 degrees F. Duluth was -13 degrees F, and as far south as Grand Meadow it was -15 degrees F. At Morris the temperature was -16 degrees F, a record low, and at Pokegama Dam it was -30 degrees F (a statewide record for the date) with a daytime high of -15 degrees F, also a record. Then the last week of the month brought 8 more inches of snowfall. The spring of 1888 was generally cool and wet leading to late planted crops.

The warmest March 22nd in history occurred in 1939 when over 20 Minnesota communities reported daytime highs in the 70s F. The spring warm spell lasted for 5 days allowing farmers to get a great deal of field work done.

March 22-23, 1952 brought a blizzard with heavy snowfall to many areas of Minnesota. Snowfall amounts of 10 to 18 inches were common. Many people were stranded along closed roads and travel was at a standstill for a day or two afterwards. The abundant snow of March that year melted rapidly in April causing spring flooding in many areas.

About 4:30 pm on March 21, 1953 an F-2 tornado (winds 113-157 mph) was on the ground for 11 miles across parts of Stearns and Benton Counties north of St Cloud. It destroyed a church, warehouse and laundromat, killing one and injuring three others. This was one of the earliest spring tornadoes in Minnesota history.

 

Outlook

Somewhat warmer temperatures over the weekend, but still well below normal for this time of year. Slight chance of snow in southern counties on Monday and Tuesday. Mostly dry and gradually warmer next week, with an increasing chance for precipitation towards the end of next week.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Record snows continue in March

Record snows continue in March

Following a snowy first week of the month for many, some observers reported significant additional snowfall on March 10th and 11th this week. In some cases new record daily amounts were observed. For example on March 10th (Sunday) new record daily values for snowfall included: Cass Lake 6.0 inches, Wright 5.9 inches, Lake Winnibigoshish Dam 5.1 inches, Grand Marais 5.0 inches, Wheaton 4.3 inches, Tower 4.1 inches, Grand Portage and Ottertail 4.0 inches. Then on Monday, March 11th persistent snow showers over southeastern Minnesota counties brought some record-setting daily amounts there, including: 9.0 inches at Spring Valley, 8.5 inches at Harmony, 8.4 inches at Preston, 8.20 inches at Lanesboro, 7.2 inches at Dodge Center, 6.3 inches at Theilman, 6.1 inches at Wabasha, and 6.0 inches at Albert Lea. Yet more snow, from 2 to 4 inches in central and northern counties, fell early Thursday morning (March 14) as another Alberta Clipper crossed the state.

Following a snowy month of February for most Minnesota observers, the first half of March has already produced well-above normal snowfall in many areas. Some locations already at 15 inches or greater for the month include: Duluth, Cass Lake, Chisholm, Orr, Pine River Dam, Blue Earth, Faribault, Harmony, Preston, Rochester, and Lake City. Ostrander (Fillmore County) reports 24.0 inches and Grand Meadow (Mower County) reports 20.3 inches to lead the state in March snowfall.

March has also been following the trend of February bringing us mostly colder than normal daily temperatures. In fact on March 8th (last Friday) two observers reported record low temperatures for the date, -13 degrees F at Wright (Carlton County) and -9 degrees F at Grand Meadow (Mower County). It appears that this St Patrick's Day (Sun) will be about 50-60 degrees F colder than last years.

New tool for gardeners and farmers

Greg Spoden, Minnesota State Climatologist has provided a new web-based climate tool to examine the probability of critical threshold temperatures (frost/freeze values among them) for any location in Minnesota during critical times of the spring and fall seasons. This tool allows anyone to examine location specific probabilities for the occurrence of various plant-sensitive low temperatures ranging from 36 degrees F down to 16 degrees F. The frame of reference for the data is 1981-2010, then new climate normals period used by the NOAA National Weather Service. An example using Chaska, MN shows that the date of April 28 is the 50 percent probability for a reading of 32 degrees F, while as late as May 11 still brings a 10 percent probability of 32 degrees F (frost) to that area. Similar dates for St Cloud are May 10th and May 29th. You can examine the data at our web site by going to the spring freeze/frost dates in the latest developments section.

An invitation

For those who might be interested I will share my observations on what will become of Minnesota agriculture in a rapidly changing climate at the next Café Scientifique, Mar. 19 (Tue), 7 p.m., Bryant Lake Bowl, Minneapolis. Cost: $5–$12. The Bell Museum's monthly Café Scientifique series provides a happy hour program for adults that brings research from the U of M into Twin Cities bars and restaurants. For more information, you can google Bell Museum Cafe Scientifique.

Weekly Weather potpourri

The United Kingdom Meteorological Service released its quarterly Wind Review last week for Europe. It is tabular and graphical summary of wind measurements across the region that are relied upon for the assessment of wind power generated by wind turbines. The recent analysis showed that the Pamplona region of Spain recorded average wind speeds in 2012 that were more than 20 percent above normal. You can read more about this report here.

A winter storm brought some record cold temperatures and plenty of snow to parts of France, Belgium, and Germany on Tuesday (March 12) this week. Some observers reported up to 8 inches of new snow with single digit temperatures. The snow combined with wind to produce low visibility and some road closures and traffic jams. The Frankfort airport endured many flight delays and some cancellations.

NOAA's Climate Monitoring Feature this month describes the importance of winter snow cover for water supplies in the western states. This informative video production, hosted by Deke Arndt, is available for viewing on the NOAA web site.

A paper released recently in Geophysical Research Letters documents the accelerated loss of glacial ice from Arctic Canada. Scientists from the Netherlands, Clark University (MA), and Colorado collaborated to evaluate imagery from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellite system. Their analysis shows that from 2004 to 2011 the loss of glacial ice in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago was 580 gigatons. Continued warming of the Arctic could raise the annual loss of glacial ice to 144 gigatons per year, an alarming pace. You can read more here.

MPR listener question

Answer: For the Twin Cities the latest date on the spring calendar when the minimum temperature has fallen below zero F is March 31, 1969 when the morning low was -1 degrees F (BTW the temperature warmed up to a high of 30 degrees F that day). On a statewide basis the latest spring date with a temperature reading below 0 degrees F was April 28, 1892 when St Vincent (Kittson County) reported a low of -2 degrees F. Incidentally Embarrass, MN has reported a low of -17 degrees F three time so far this month, most recently on Wednesday (March 13) this week.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 15th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 36 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 20 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 15th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 69 degrees F in 1927; lowest daily maximum temperature of 8 degrees F in 1900; lowest daily minimum temperature of -7 F in 1897; highest daily minimum temperature of 42 F in 1927 and 2012; and record precipitation of 0.85 inches in 1945; Record snowfall is 5.0 inches in 1899.

Average dew point for March 15th is 20 degrees F, with a maximum of 52 degrees F in 2003 and a minimum of -11 degrees F in 1979.

All-time state records for March 15th

The state record high temperature for this date is 80 degrees F at Waseca (Waseca County) in 1927. The state record low temperature for this date is -49 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1897. State record precipitation for this date is 3.22 inches at Brimson (St Louis County) in 1971; and the state record snowfall for this date is 21.0 inches at Isabella (Lake County) also in 1971.

Past Weather Features:

On March 15, 1897, was the coldest in Minnesota history. Many observers reported minimum temperatures of -30 degrees F or colder. Detroit Lakes in Becker County reported a morning low of -43 degrees F, frightfully for any winter day. But by the next afternoon (March 16) the temperature was 45 degrees F, a rise of 88 degrees F in one and a half days! Typical March in Minnesota!

On March 15, 1941, one of the most sudden and severe blizzards in modern times struck North Dakota and Minnesota. The storm hit on a Saturday night while many were traveling, and thus claimed 71 lives (32 in Minnesota). Winds gusts were of hurricane force (74 mph or greater) were reported from several northern MN observers. Though snowfall amounts were generally modest, snow drifts twelve feet high were reported in some areas. Crookston caught the most snow recording 12 inches. The temperature dropped 18 degrees in 5 minutes when the storm hit the Duluth harbor. In the aftermath of this blizzard (and that of the Armistice Day Blizzard the previous November), the National Weather Service Office in Chicago relinquished forecast jurisdiction
to the Minneapolis Office.

March 17, 2012 brought the warmest St Patrick's Day in state history. Over two dozen communities reported daytime high temperatures of 80 degrees F or higher, topped by 83 degrees F at St James. It was 79 degrees F as far north as Orr Minnesota. Between March 10th and March 22nd, International Falls set eleven new daily high temperature records. Last March (2012) overall was the warmest in state history as well.

Outlook

Continued cooler than normal into the weekend. Mostly cloudy late Sunday with a chance for snow by late evening. Snow and mixed precipitation on Monday, then cooler yet on Tuesday and Wednesday. Generally dry next week with a modest warming trend on Thursday and Friday.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Snowy start to March

Snowy start to March

It appears that March will continue a wetter than normal pattern for the year across much of the state. A slow moving low pressure system brought considerable snowfall to many areas of the state over March 4-5 this week. Many observers reported a storm total of 5-10 inches. Orr reported 10.1 inches and Faribault reported 11 inches. In addition a number of observers reported water contents of the new snow to be over half an inch, including 0.68 inches at St Cloud, 0.73 inches at MSP, and 0.94 inches at Waseca.

Those reporting new record daily snowfall amounts for March 4th included: 6.0 inches at Crookston and 4.0 inches at Redwood Falls.

Among those reporting new record daily snowfalls for March 5th were: 9 inches at Cambridge and Hastings, 8.5 inches at Mora and Milaca, 8 inches at Thorhult, 7.6 inches at Duluth, 7.1 inches at Theilman, and 7 inches at Bemidji and Harmony. Among those reporting new record daily precipitation amounts for March 5th (liquid water content of the snow) were: Pokegama Dam with 0.56 inches, Jordan with 0.48 inches, and Dodge Center with 0.46 inches. The area of the state covered by a snow depth of 2 feet or more expanded with this storm, as did the overall water content of the snow pack. Some locations are well ahead of normal on their winter season snowfall totals to date, including Forest Lake, Crookston, Kimball, Itasca, and Breckenridge with 50-55 inches; Bemidji, Hibbing, Cass Lake, and Grand Rapids with 55-60 inches; and International Falls, Isabella, and Chisholm with 70-77 inches.

You can read more about this March snow storm on our web site.

Score card for USA climate records in the past 12 months

The NOAA National Climatic Data Center reported the following new daily record values in the USA for the past 12 months (March 6, 2012 to March 5, 2013), an extraordinary year for record setting:

32,398 new daily maximum temperature records
32,753 new daily warm minimum temperature records
10,525 new daily cold maximum temperature records
6,757 new daily minimum temperature records
28,398 new daily precipitation records
5,979 new daily snowfall records

Obviously the warm signal of climate is dominant in these statistics, with over 65,000 new daily warm temperature records (both max and min) set across the USA in the past 12 months.

An Invitation

The 2013 Minnesota Environmental Congress hosted by the Environmental Quality Board will take place Friday, March 15 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm at the Ramada Inn in Bloomington, MN. Its purpose is to engage citizens to discuss and prioritize the state's environmental challenges in the context of meeting our energy and water needs, while preserving and improving environmental quality. I will be participating in a panel discussion during the morning session.

Weekly Weather potpourri

On Thursday (March 7) this week the National Weather Service Office in Grand Forks issued an updated spring flood outlook for the Red River Basin. The risk of spring snow melt flooding has increased in the basin with the addition of snow and water in the snow pack. There is an increased risk of moderate to major flooding beyond the simple historical risk, especially in the upper reaches of the Red River Basin, Breckenridge to Moorhead. You can read more detail about this on their web site.

The Community, Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is sponsoring a March Madness Contest to see which state can recruit the most new daily weather observer volunteers this month to join the network. Currently North Carolina leads among all the states. If you would like to keep track of the contest, or more importantly if you would like to become a weather observer volunteer you can go to either of the following web sites:
http://www.cocorahs.org/Content.aspx?page=marchmadness
http://www.cocorahs.org/Content.aspx?page=coord_mn

A Tropical Cyclone Sandra formed off the northwest coast of Australia this week east of Willis Island. It was expected to strengthen but remain primarily out to seas producing winds up to 120 mph and sea waves over 20 feet. The cyclone is expected to persist into next week. Another Tropical Cyclone was expected to form over the weekend in the Southern Indian Ocean south of Diego Garcia.

Brad Rippey of the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board offered the following synopsis of highlights from the US Drought situation report this week:

- Overall U.S. drought coverage decreased to 53.34% of the contiguous U.S., down 0.83% from last week. This is down 7.75% from the beginning of the year and down 12.11% from the record-high coverage of 65.45% on September 25, 2012. Most of the nation’s remaining drought areas did not receive appreciable precipitation during the most recent drought-monitoring period. However, some additional improvement was noted in the Southeast (e.g. Georgia), while late-season snow provided some drought relief in the central Corn Belt.
-The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category – D4, or exceptional drought – was unchanged at 5.45%. D4 coverage has ranged from 5 to 7% for 30 consecutive weeks.
-Hay in drought (55%) was down a percentage point from a week ago. Cattle in drought (66%) and winter wheat in drought (58%) were unchanged from last week.

A paper by researchers at Oregon State University and Harvard University appears this week in the journal Science and sheds some light on the temporal context for the remarkable warming of planet Earth that has occurred over the past 100 years. It appears that at the present pace of change the planet will soon be warmer than at anytime in the past 11,300 years, known as the Holocene. This is the first paper to set such a historical context for the degree of warming we are measuring. You can read more about the results here.

MPR listener question

I am writing to ask you to settle a family bet. My wife, son, and I have been talking about this winter in the Twin Cities and how unusual it is to see February be the snowiest month. My son's view is that December is nearly always the snowiest month, my wife thinks January is more often the snowiest, while I remember March typically delivering the most snow. Based on the Twin Cities records can you tell us who is correct?

Answer: We have a 129 years of snowfall measurements in the Twin Cities, back to 1884. Here is the break down of the snowiest month for each winter:
November 13 times
December 29 times
January 34 times
February 18 times
March 31 times
April 4 times

So, it appears your wife is correct in her view of our historical snow seasons.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 8th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 34 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 17 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 8th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 69 degrees F in 2000; lowest daily maximum temperature of 10 degrees F in 1932; lowest daily minimum temperature of -8 F in 1877; highest daily minimum temperature of 47 F in 1878; and record precipitation of 0.94 inches in 1999; Record snowfall is 12.5 inches also in 1999.

Average dew point for March 8th is 15 degrees F, with a maximum of 57 degrees F in 2000 and a minimum of -17 degrees F in 1967.

All-time state records for March 8th

The state record high temperature for this date is 84 degrees F at Amboy (Blue Earth County) in 2000. The state record low temperature for this date is -38 degrees F at McIntosh (Polk County) in 1908. State record precipitation for this date is 2.22 inches at Breckenridge (Wilkin County) in 1878; and the state record snowfall for this date is 14.5 inches at Spring Grove (Houston County) in 1961.

Past Weather Features:

March 8-10, 1892 brought a blizzard to northeastern Minnesota. Duluth and areas along the north shore saw over a foot of snow with blinding winds, and huge snow drifts. Dangerous windchill conditions prevailed as well as the temperature dropped over 40 degrees F in a short period of time.

Arctic cold prevailed in northern parts of the state over March 8-9, 1908. Over a dozen communities saw the thermometer drop below -20 degrees F. Fortunately it was a short-lived spell and temperatures to the more seasonable 40s F by March 11th.

Another Arctic cold snap gripped the state over March 7-8, 1943. At least two dozen cities saw overnight lows drop into the -20s F. Temperatures remained colder than normal the rest of the month leading to a very backward spring season.

March 8-9, 1961 brought a heavy snow storm to southeastern Minnesota counties. Observers there reported 10 to 20 inches of snow with poor visibility and huge drifts. This mid-week storm closed roads and schools for up to two days.

During a four-day warm spell (March 6-9) in 2000 Minnesota reported the hottest March 8th in state history. Over 60 communities reported daytime highs of 70 degrees F or higher, and several observers recorded highs of 80 degrees F. A strong cold front on March 10th brought snow and a dramatic drop in temperatures which fell off into the teens and twenties F.

Outlook

Mixed precipitation on Saturday (rain, freezing rain possible, sleet, and snow), cooler temperatures on Sunday. More sun next week with temperatures slowly climbing back to normal and a generally dry pattern in place.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Preliminary February Climate Summary

Preliminary February Climate Summary

Most observers in Minnesota reported a mean monthly temperature for February that was 2 to 4 degrees cooler than normal. Since June of 2011 (a 21 month period), February 2013 is only the 2nd month with a statewide average temperature that is cooler than normal (the other was October 2012). Extremes for the month were 45 degrees F at Grand Rapids on the 27th and -39 degrees F at International Falls on the 2nd.

Precipitation was generally abundant during the month of February, except for small portions of southwestern Minnesota. It was the wettest February statewide since 2007. Many observers reported over 2 inches of precipitation, most of which came as snowfall. For some the moisture was record-setting for the month, including 2.45 inches at Breckenridge, 2.49 inches at Benson, and 2.57 inches at Rothsay. For most areas of the state February brought the most snowfall for the winter season as well. Itasca State Park, Breckenridge, Bemidji, Pelican Rapids, Wheaton, and Hermantown reported over 20 inches for the month, while Ottertail, Rothsay, and Battle Lake reported over 25 inches. Some of these values were record-setting snow totals for the month.

For the most part the moisture was welcome. As we concluded the month the US Drought Monitor reduced the total area of the state designated to be in severe to extreme drought from 84 percent to less than 70 percent of the state landscape.

Spring flood outlook update

This week the National Weather Service updated the spring flood outlook for Minnesota rivers. The new outlook call for a near normal risk of spring snow melt flooding on portions of the Upper Minnesota River, as well as the Upper Mississippi River. More abundant snowfalls during February, along with deeper ground frost combined to elevate the risk of spring flooding from a below normal level to a near normal level according to NWS hydrologists. You can read more about the spring flooding outlook and keep up to date here.

Spring flood outlook probabilities for the Red River are also available from the Grand Forks NWS Office. These show a relatively higher risk of flooding on the lower end of the Red River Valley between Wahpeton and Fargo, ND. You can get more details here.

Extreme Minnesota

Next Monday (March 4th) Paul Douglas and I will be discussing our favorite topic (WEATHER) on Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) from 7:00 to 8:00 pm as we show clips from the four documentaries on historical Minnesota weather events produced by Mary Lahammer in recent years. We'll cover historic blizzards, tornadoes, floods, and fires. Please tune for a dose of our interesting weather history.

An Invitation

Dr. Phil Pardey, Professor of Science and Technology Policy in the University of Minnesota Department of Applied Economics and I will present a session on "Climate Change and Global Food Security" at the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Forum on March 9th hosted by Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota. The Forum promotes peacemaking through presentations and dialogues about projects which have been successful in various parts of the world, and strategies used to bring good science and business ethics into practice. You can view the entire Forum program, including a list of speakers, and register to participate at this web site.

The Lion and the Lamb Climatology of March for MSP

March months which have come in "like a lion and out like a lamb" or in "like a lamb and out like a lion" are remembered for both their storminess and temperature deviation. Standard deviations in daily maximum and daily minimum temperature are generally in the 10 to 11 degree F range during March for the Twin Cities. Occasionally daily temperature deviations exceed one standard deviation during the first and last weeks of the month. Using temperature records for the first and last week of March from the Twin Cities (1900-2012) and looking for opposite temperature patterns based on approximately one standard deviation statistically (plus or minus 11 degrees F from normal), the following characteristic years fell out......

"In like a lamb/out like a lion" (March starts mild, finishes cold): 1921, 1923, 1924, 1934, 1937, 1964, and 1966.
"In like a lion/out like a lamb" (March starts cold, finishes mild): 1920, 1925, 1943, 1945, 1955, 1978, 1989, 1995, and 2005.

Temperature records confirm these years, 16 in all, fell into one category or the other. But 16 out of 113 years is only 14 percent of the time when this old saying has been true, at least based on MSP daily temperature standard deviations for March. Looks like this March will begin with near normal temperatures.

Weekly Weather potpourri

A winter storm brought some heavy rains and snow to parts of eastern Spain late this week. Rainfall amounts of 2-4 inches were being reported, along with several inches of snowfall in higher elevations. Strong coastal winds were also observed, with some flood warnings issued through Saturday.

The weekly drought assessment from Brad Rippey of the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board offered the following highlights:
-Overall U.S. drought coverage decreased to 54.17% of the contiguous U.S., down 1.65% from last week. This is down 6.92% from the beginning of the year and down 11.28% from the record-high coverage of 65.45% on September 25, 2012. A pair of late-winter storms produced substantial precipitation, including heavy snow, across the central and southern Plains and the Midwest, and sparked heavy rain in the Southeast.
-The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category – D4, or exceptional drought – also decreased substantially (1.21%) to 5.45%. Nevertheless, D4 coverage has ranged from 5 to 7% for 29 consecutive weeks (August 14, 2012 – February 26, 2013).
-Hay in drought (56%), winter wheat in drought (58%), and cattle in drought (66%) all fell one percentage point from a week ago. For the first time since early-July 2012, drought encompassed less than two-thirds of the domestic cattle inventory.

The Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) web site featured the Climate Adaptation Plans for the State of Minnesota this week. For those interested in reading about the work of CAKE as well as finding examples or cases of climate adaptation I recommend a visit to this web site.

Northern Japan reported an exceptionally snowy February, adding significantly to what was already a record-setting winter. At least 13 communities have reported record-setting snowfall amounts for the winter so far, including the resort community of Sukayu where 16 feet of snow has been measured, creating roadways that are the equivalent of snow canyons. You can read more here.

MPR listener question

We need a lot of precipitation to alleviate our drought. I know that both March of 1951 and 1965 were extremely snowy in Minnesota. But what was the overall wettest March in history from the standpoint of precipitation?

Answer: Indeed both 1951 and 1965 were memorable for heavy snowfalls (many areas received over 40 inches) and in both years precipitation amounts averaged nearly 2.50 inches statewide. But the wettest March in state history was 1977 when the statewide average precipitation was nearly 3 inches, and many places reported over 5 inches (7.25 inches at Madison). That year most of the March precipitation came in the form of rainfalls, even some thunderstorms. A similar situation occurred in 2009 when most of the March precipitation came in the form of rainfalls, and some in thunderstorms. Many observers reported 2.50 to 3.00 inches that month, though not quite as wet as 1977.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 1st

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 32 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 15 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 1st

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 59 degrees F in 1990; lowest daily maximum temperature of 0 degrees F in 1962; lowest daily minimum temperature of -32 F in 1962; highest daily minimum temperature of 38 F in 1878 and 2004; and record precipitation of 1.62 inches in 1965; Record snowfall is 9.0 inches in 2007.

Average dew point for March 1st is 14 degrees F, with a maximum of 43 degrees F in 2004 and a minimum of -34 degrees F in 1962.

All-time state records for March 1st

The state record high temperature for this date is 76 degrees F at Ashby (Grant County) in 1907. The state record low temperature for this date is -47 degrees F at Bigfork (Itasca County) in 1962. State record precipitation for this date is 1.97 inches at Faribault (Rice County) in 1965; and the state record snowfall for this date is 18.8 inches at Collegeville (Stearns County) in 1965.

Past Weather Features:

A fast moving winter storm brought heavy snowfall to many parts of the state on March 1, 1951. Snowfall amounts from 6 to 12 inches were reported across central counties and some schools were closed. It was the start of a very snowy March which delivered 40 or more inches of snowfall to many Minnesota communities, including 40 inches in the Twin Cities.

Far and away the coldest March 1st in state history occurred in 1962. A slow moving Arctic cold front invaded the state overnight on February 27th and dropped temperatures dramatically. Deep snow cover was widespread and overnight lows plummeted to record cold for most observers. Minimum temperatures of -30 degrees F were common, and over a dozen communities reported -40 degrees F or colder. Temperatures rebounded into the 20s and 30s F by March 3rd.

The first four days of March 1965 brought heavy rains in the south, along with ice and sleet, while central and northern counties had heavy snowfalls. Bird Island, Collegeville, Winsted, St Cloud, and Aitkin all reported over 20 inches. In southeastern Minnesota rains caused flooding along the Root and Zumbro Rivers. In central counties hundreds of schools were closed and many cars were abandoned in snow drifts on Highway 10. It was the start of the snowiest March in state history, when Collegeville reported over 66 inches of March snowfall.

Perhaps the warmest March 1st in state history was in 1992 when over two dozen Minnesota communities saw the thermometer climb into the 60s F under bright sunny skies. The warmth did not last as the month brought cold and snow to many areas, including a snow storm on the last day of the month.

Outlook

A cool start to the weekend under mostly sunny skies, then more clouds and warmer on Sunday with a chance for snow later in the day. Widespread snow by Monday with somewhat cooler temperatures. Some snow lingering into Tuesday, then warmer and drier on Wednesday and Thursday.

 

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