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Extension > Mark Seeley's WeatherTalk > March 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015

March closing out with some moisture


Some moisture to close out March:


This week brought arguably the wettest spell of the year to some Minnesota counties with four consecutive days of measurable precipitation. Some areas benefited from over half an inch of moisture, most of which went into the soil. A few spots like Owatonna, Grand Meadow, Lanesboro, Rochester, Spring Valley, and Zumbrota received over an inch of precipitation. Much of it fell in the form of snow, sometimes mixed with rain. Some observers reported a total of 8-12 inches of snowfall during the week, but much of it melted as daytime temperatures reached the upper 30s to low 40s F.

In fact some observers also reported new daily record snowfalls for March 23rd, including: Bird Island with 6.1"; Redwood Falls with 5.0"; Waseca with 7.5"; Caledonia with 6.7": Spring Valley with 8.5": Theilman with 8.9"; Zumbrota with 10.0", and on March 24th Rochester reported a new record snowfall of 2.6 inches.

Though these moisture values did little to alleviate moderate drought across the state they did signal a change towards wetter weather. Good chances for precipitation prevail for the last few days of March, and further the models used by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) now indicate that April will start out wetter than normal, at least through the first 10 days.

Preliminary climate summary for March:


It appears that March will wrap up bringing higher temperatures and more moisture the last few days of the month. Most observers will report a mean monthly temperature from 4 to 7 degrees F warmer than normal (mean values), and total precipitation that is less than normal. Extremes for the month were 78F at Browns Valley on the 15th and -40F at Cotton on the 5th, with the highest monthly precipitation value of close to 2 inches at Lanesboro. Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the nation only twice during the month, with -40F at Cotton on the 5th and 3F at Warroad on the 22nd.

Second Edition of Minnesota Weather Almanac:


Minnesota Historical Society Press has released the Second Edition of the Minnesota Weather Almanac. It is now available online there to order.

It is also available from Amazon.com, as well as Barnes and Noble (bn.com). I will be appearing at Micawber's Books in the St Anthony Park Neighborhood of St Paul on the evening of April 2, 2015 at 7:00pm to talk about it and share some stories. If you can come to this event please add a comment below the Minnesota WeatherTalk blog page. If not able to come, there will be other bookstore events later in the year.

I will also be on TPT's Almanac Program (Channel 2, Fridays at 7pm) tonight to talk about Minnesota weather history and stories from the book.


Weekly Weather Potpourri:


NOAA released a helpful guide for gardeners to use this spring which is a map depicting the new climate normals. Plant Hardiness Zones have clearly shifted geographically with the changing climate and NOAA scientists explain this in some detail at the climate.gov web site in an article titled "Planting your spring garden? Consider climate's 'new normals.'"

NOAA also released a New Wind Climatology for the USA derived from the records from 1950 to 2014. It is available to view and read using mean monthly values of wind speed and wind speed anomaly (deviation from average), so you can find out which months have been unusually windy or calm.


photo courtesy ABC news
The NOAA Storm Prediction Center had a busy day on Wednesday, March 25th with reports of 8 tornadoes across the states of Oklahoma and Arkansas. There was extensive damage to a mobile home park in Oklahoma, along with one death. This was the first significant outbreak of tornadoes for the month


The White House has joined the Community Collaborative, Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) with the deployment of a rain gage in the White House Kitchen Garden. Reports from there will become part of the national network. Nolan Doesken, State Climatologist from Colorado and originator of this national network was there to celebrate this past week.

MPR Listener Question: 


It seems like we have had a lot of windy days this month with many strong gusts. Is this true?

Answer:


Indeed although mean winds speed for the month has not sharply deviated from average we have recorded 9 days so far with a peak wind gust of 30 mph or greater in the Twin Cities, including a 42 mph gust on March 25th. Fargo, ND has seen 12 such days this month with wind gusts up to 48 mph, while Redwood Falls has recorded 11 such day, with 3 days of wind gusts over 40 mph.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 27th:


The average MSP high temperature for this date is 44 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 26 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 27th:


MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 75 degrees F in 1946; lowest daily maximum temperature of 24 degrees F in 1899 and 1965: lowest daily minimum temperature is 5 degrees F in 1921; highest daily minimum temperature of 57 F in 1910; record precipitation of 1.52 inches 1998; and record snowfall is 5.6 inches in 1965.

Average dew point for March 27th is 27 degrees F, with a maximum of 58 degrees F in 1989 and a minimum of -1 degrees F in 1934.
All-Time State Records for March 27th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 88 degrees F at Winona (Winona County) in 2007. The state record low temperature for this date is -29 degrees F at Red Lake Falls (Red Lake County) in 1955. State record precipitation for this date is 2.75 inches at Two Harbors (Lake County) in 1975; and the state record snowfall for this date is 15.0 inches at Virginia (St Louis County) in 1975.

Past Weather Features:


Winter still held Minnesota in its grip on March 27, 1913 when many northern and central climate stations reported morning low temperatures that were sub-zero F. Bagley near Itasca State Park started the morning at -28F but warmed up during the day to 25F.

Back to back heavy snow storms hit the state the last week of March in 1975. Over March 26-28 many observers reported over 10 inches of snowfall with heavy moisture content.

The warmest March 27th in state history occurred in 2007 with 75 climate observers reporting afternoon temperatures of 70F or higher and at least two dozen cities reaching highs in the 80s F. The warmth ended with a cold front and rain storm dropping the temperatures by 20-30 degrees F on the 28th.

Outlook:

Temperatures will moderate and warm up over the weekend and into next week. There will be increasing chances for mixed precipitation late Saturday and into Sunday. Mild temperatures Monday and Tuesday, then another chance for precipitation Wednesday with cooler temperatures ushered in on Thursday.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Temperature Records Set and New Seasonal Climate Outlook

Temperature Records Set March 13-16:

A displacement of the polar jet stream north into Canada brought very warm air to Minnesota last weekend. Scores of warm temperature records were set around the state over March 13-16, including 60 new daily high maximum temperature records, and 35 new daily high minimum temperature records. A sampling of these new records includes:

March 13th: New daytime high maximum temperature record of 68F at Worthington; 67F at Browns Valley and Marshall; 65F at Wheaton; and 61F at Brainerd and Pine River Dam.
March 14th: New record high maximum temperature record of 67F at Caledonia; and 63F at Park Rapids.
March 15th: New record high maximum temperature record of 77F at Milan; 73F at Park Rapids; 72F at Artichoke Lake; 70F at MSP; 69F at Grand Rapids; and 68F at Bigfork; along with new record high minimum temperature record of 45F at Milan and Marshall, and 43F at Artichoke Lake and Park Rapids.
March 16th: New record maximum temperature record of 78F at Browns Valley; 76F at Madison and Marshall; 74F at Montevideo, Pipestone, and Wheaton; and 71F at Cass Lake and Morris; along with new record high minimum temperature of 51F at Marshall; 47F at Pipestone and Montevideo; and 46F at Worthington.

These unusually high temperatures drove the frost out of the soil to a depth of 10-12 inches, though there is still some frost below that depth. See graphic for Waseca ROC.




Losing the frost in the soil this early in March will allow the soil to absorb more precipitation when it comes later in the month (expected late this weekend and next week).
All of the record-setting temperatures ended by St Patrick's Day (March 17th) as temperatures fell back closer to normal for this time of year. After setting a record high temperature earlier in the week, Bigfork reported snow on Thursday (March 19th). In fact Thursday brought light snowfall to a number of locations in central and northeastern Minnesota, mostly less than 1 inch. Cloquet reported 1.5 inches as did a few other locations.

New Seasonal Climate Outlook:

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center released a new seasonal climate outlook on Thursday, March 19th. For the Western Great Lakes Region, including Minnesota it calls for a warmer and drier than normal April-June period. This outlooks diminishes any possible threat of spring flooding on Minnesota rivers, but it also exacerbates an already exceptionally dry year so far, with over 88 percent of the state landscape in moderate drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The NOAA Spring Outlook narrative on the web is available for your viewing and reading.

However before we get to pessimistic about moisture for this spring and summer, let's look at history's lesson. Of the 25 years that brought the driest first three months (Jan-Mar) in Minnesota, fully half of them produced a wetter than normal April through June period, and another 7 produced normal rainfall for the April through June period. So 68 percent of the time the state was saved from early spring drought by adequate rainfall over the late spring and early summer. Only roughly 30 percent of the time did early spring drought persist into the summer months, and the most recent case for this was way back in 1987. 
 

Release of the Second Edition of Minnesota Weather Almanac:

Minnesota Historical Society Press has released the Second Edition of the Minnesota Weather Almanac. It is also available from Amazon.com, as well as Barnes and Noble. I will be appearing at Micawber's Books in the St Anthony Park Neighborhood of St Paul on the evening of April 2, 2015 at 7:00pm to talk about it and share some stories. If you can come, please do. If not there will be other bookstore events later in the year.


Weekly Weather Potpourri:

At 5:45pm CDT today (March 20) the Vernal Equinox will occur, with the sun positioned vertically over the equator on it's way north into the Northern Hemisphere. Hooray!

Tropical Cyclone Pam was especially powerful and destructive when it passed over the island nation of Vanuatu on March 13-14 damaging or destroying 90 percent of the structures there. It brought high seas, heavy rainfall, and destructive winds (155 mph and greater). A full description of the storm can be found at the web site of The Atlantic. In addition, Dr. Dr. Kerry Emanuel of MIT, one of the nation's leading experts on tropical storms wrote an article for the RealClimate website that dissects the relationship between tropical storms of this magnitude and global climate change.

Tropical Cyclone Nathan was expected to bring high seas, strong winds, and heavy rainfall to parts of northern Queensland and the Northern Territory in Australia this weekend. Flooding due to storm surge and flash flooding from heavy rains were expected in some areas.

President Obama signed an Executive Order on Thursday, March 19, 2015 to reduce the federal governments carbon emissions over the next 10 years by 40 percent, while simultaneously increasing the federal government usage of electricity generated by renewable sources by 30 percent. This was welcome news for many environmental groups in the nation.

Scientists from the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC) published a recent paper about increases in heavy rainfall events across Europe. They analyzed data from the CMIP5 climate model and did comparisons to trends depicted in the measured data from 1997-2005. They suggest that heavier precipitation events over the Euro-Mediterranean countries will continue to increase in frequency.

NASA announced it will host an online briefing about teaching Climate Change Impacts on the Great Plains as part of its outreach education efforts. This will be available on line at 4:30pm CT on March 26th and will feature Kristen Poppleton from the Steger Foundation who is one of the presenters.
MPR Listener Question: 

In Redwood Falls this week we saw the temperature drop from 64F at 3:00 pm on Monday afternoon (March 16) to a low of 23 degrees F by 7:30 am Tuesday morning (March 17). This was one of the largest overnight drops in temperature (41 degrees F) that I can remember for the month of March. Do you know what the record drop in temperature for the month of March might be in Minnesota?
Answer:

I am not sure, but I know of at least one case that probably comes close to a state record. On March 19, 1939 the observer at Bemidji, MN reported a daytime high of 42 degrees F and a low of -32 degrees F for a daily range of 74 degrees F. There is no way you can dress properly unless you wear many layers.


Twin Cities Almanac for March 20th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 41 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 23 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 20th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 66 degrees F in 1938; lowest daily maximum temperature of 12 degrees F in 1951; lowest daily minimum temperature is -9 degrees F in 1965; highest daily minimum temperature of 57 F in 2012; record precipitation of 0.86 inches 1921; and record snowfall is 3.8 inches in 1901.

Average dew point for March 20th is 22 degrees F, with a maximum of 59 degrees F in 2012 and a minimum of -12 degrees F in 1965.

All-time state records for March 20th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 80 degrees F at Cannon Falls (Goodhue County), Redwood Falls (Redwood County), St James (Watonwan County), and Theilman (Wabasha County) in 2012. The state record low temperature for this date is -37 degrees F at Ft Ripley (Morrison County) in 1872 and again at Bigfork (Itasca County) in 1965. State record precipitation for this date is 2.12 inches at Browns Valley (Traverse County) in 1982; and the state record snowfall for this date is 15.0 inches at Browns Valley (Traverse County) in 1982.


Past Weather Features:

The cold, snowy March of 1965 delivered an exceptionally cold vernal equinox (March 20) with statewide sub-zero temperature readings. As far south as Preston it was -20 degrees F, while up north at least a dozen observers reported morning lows of -30 degrees F or colder. The daytime high at Roseau was only 7 F with 15 inches of snow cover.

A late winter storm brought heavy snow to western and southern counties in Minnesota over March 19-20, 1970. Southwestern areas received 10 to 12 inches of snow causing some school closings and temporary road closures.

Again over March 19-20, 1982 a late season winter storm brought heavy snow, this time to western counties where observers reported 8 to 15 inches. The storm brought freezing rain to southern counties and some lightning strikes which produced local power outages. There were also numerous accidents on state highways.

The warmest March 20th in state history occurred in 2012 when more than 120 Minnesota observers reported a daytime high of 70 degrees F or higher. It was 77 degrees F at Warroad on the shores of Lake of the Woods, while St James, Cannon Falls, Theilman, and Redwood Falls all reached 80 degrees F. 
 

Outlook:


Near normal to slightly cooler than normal temperatures heading into the weekend and next week. A chance for snow, rain, and mixed precipitation Sunday night into Monday, and again late Tuesday into Wednesday. These systems will bring the most precipitation for the month and some areas may get up to an inch.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Record Warmth This Week

Record Warmth This Week:


Hard to believe that the temperature was -40 F at Cotton, MN last week.  Monday, March 10th brought record warm temperatures to many parts of the state.  Bright sunny skies, the absence of snow cover, and south winds produced record afternoon high temperatures motivating many people to take a walk or afternoon bike ride.  Some of those record high temperatures included:
69 F at Amboy;
67F at New Ulm;
66 F in the Twin Cities (tied the record from 2012), Luverne, Waseca, Tracy, and Windom;
65F at Marshall;
63F at Pipestone, Theilman, and Worthington (tied the record from 1900);
61F at St Cloud, Aitkin, and Moose Lake;
59F at Madison;
58F at Grand Forks, ND, Duluth, Fargo (tied 1911), Browns Valley, and Grand Portage;
57F at Cloquet and Ada;
56F at Wheaton and Brainerd (tied 1977)



The unusual warmth persisted, keeping overnight temperatures in the 30s F which melted snow cover, and began to thaw the soils.  Yet more record high temperatures were reached on Thursday, March 12th, including:
70 °F at Luverne
68 °F at Windom
67 °F at Browns Valley and Lamberton
66 °F at Redwood Falls (tied 1910)
56 °F at International Falls
77 °F at Sioux Falls, SD
63 °F at Fargo, ND


Many soils in southern and western counties have lost frost down to 6-8 inches, while there is still a deeper layer of frost that will take more time to thaw out. 

Farmers Thinking of Planting Season:


The onset of spring-like weather has many Minnesota farmers thinking about field work.  The U2U (Useful to Usable) Extension specialists in the Midwest have updated their quarterly newsletter with many tips for farmers to consider in planting and fertilizing this year's crop. An array of information  and resources can be found at the U2U Web Site.  More specifically a tool to assess corn planting and development can be found there as well.

Loss of Arctic Sea Ice:


The National Snow and Ice Data Center recently showed the downward trend in Arctic Sea ice which has prevailed throughout the winter of 2014-2015.  The overall extent of sea ice going into the month of March was at a record low, as shown in their graphic.


time series


Weekly Weather Potpourri:


NOAA scientists produced a recent discussion related to the question, "are record snowstorms proof that global warming isn't happening?"  Their answer is emphatically NO!  They offer a full explanation for this on their web site along with a variety of other climate perspectives via Climate.Govhttp://climate.gov/.


Also available from NOAA this week is an interesting article written by Dr. Dennis Hartmann of the University of Washington Department of Atmospheric Sciences.  He writes about the linkage between climate patterns in the Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and the recent weather patterns across North America, most notably the past two winters. One of his conclusions is...."while we are fairly sure that tropical SSTs are the apparent cause of the unusual nature of our past couple of winters, we do not know for sure whether this is just part of the natural variability of climate, or whether climate change is favoring the positive phase of the North Pacific Mode of SST variability."


Four Tropical Cyclones were being tracked in the Pacific Ocean this week.  The most powerful storm was named Pam was north of the islands of New Caledonia producing wind speeds up to 160 mph and sea wave heights of 45-50 feet.  It was expected to bring damaging winds, high seas, and heavy rains to these islands this weekend before dissipating at sea north of Auckland, New Zealand early next week.  A flood watch was in effect along the coastal regions of northeastern Queensland in Australia due to the presence of Tropical Storm Nathan.  Thankfully it was expected to move east out to sea over the weekend.  On the western coast of Australia, near Learmonth Tropical Storm Olwyn was bringing heavy rains and strong winds.  It was expected to move towards Perth over the weekend.  And a 4th weather system, Tropical Storm Bavi was in the North Pacific Ocean gaining strength and moving towards Guam.  It was expected to remain modest in scale, but bring significant rains to Guam early next week.


http://www.usno.navy.mil/NOOC/nmfc-ph/RSS/jtwc/satshots/17P_131132sair.jpg  


The EPA has released a new climate adaptation tool kit module called "Flood Resilience: A Basic Guide for Water and Wastewater Utilities."  It is available online and may be of interest to a number of communities in Minnesota. 


The United Kingdom Meteorological Office announced this week a new forecasting service for the construction industries.  This site specific weather information comes in two forms: located-based monthly planning averages; and location-based monthly downtime summaries.  It is expected to be a popular service as the spring-time construction season gets underway.

In Earth and Space Science News this week (EOS) is an excellent discussion about high latitude volcanic eruptions and their impact on climate anomalies.  Their signal is clearly detectable. 
  

MPR Listener Question:


How often are the winds calm in Minnesota? 

Answer:


When wind speed is less than 1 mph the observation is noted as "calm."  In the absence of an anemometer, some observations of wind are recorded based on the Beaufort wind scale.  On the Beaufort wind scale, when smoke is observed to rise vertically or the sea surface or lake surface is mirror-like, the wind is recorded as "calm."

The frequency of calm conditions varies significantly around the state.  For the Twin Cities the local climate records from the MSP airport show that a calm wind condition is reported only about 1.4 percent of the time, or about 123 hours per year.  The month of highest frequency is July, when nearly 2.4 percent of the time a calm wind condition is reported.  The month with the lowest frequency is January with 0.8 percent occurrence of calms.  For the current month March, the frequency of calm is only about 1.2 percent of the time.  In terms of the daily pattern of wind speed, calms are reported most frequently between 11 pm and 5 am, especially in the summer months of July and August.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 13th:


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 21 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 13th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 67 degrees F in 2012; lowest daily maximum temperature of 12 degrees F in 1906, 1920, and 1932; lowest daily minimum temperature is -9 degrees F in 1895; highest daily minimum temperature of 46 F in 1995; record precipitation of 0.78 inches 2006; and record snowfall is 9.9 inches in 2006.

Average dew point for March 13th is 22 degrees F, with a maximum of 54 degrees F in 1995 and a minimum of -11 degrees F in 1960.

All-Time State Records for March 13th:


The state record high temperature for this date is 77 degrees F at Mankato (Blue Earth County) in 1990. The state record low temperature for this date is -36 degrees F at Campbell (Wilkin County) in 1896 and at Embarrass (St Louis County) in 2009.  State record precipitation for this date is 1.85 inches at Winona (Winona County) in 1997; and the state record snowfall for this date is 18.0 inches at Duluth in 1917 and at Cloquet (Carlton County) in 1940.

Past Weather Features:


A significant winter storm visited the state over March 12-13, 1940 bringing rain, sleet, and snow.  Schools were closed as were many highways.  Air traffic and streetcar service were disrupted in the Twin Cities.  Many observers reported over a foot of snow, while Collegeville, Windom, and Minnesota City received over 20 inches.

March 12-13, 1990 brought an early taste of spring to Minnesota as afternoon temperatures soared into the 60s and 70s F.  it was 61 °F as far north as Detroit Lakes, while in the south and west at least a dozen cities reported temperatures of 70 °F or higher.

March 12-13, 2006 brought a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow to southeastern Minnesota.  There was even some thunder as well.  Observers in the southeastern cities reported total snowfall amounts ranging from 13 to 21 inches.  Children were given a "snow day" off school on Monday, March 13th.


March 13, 2009 may have been the coldest in state history.  as 14 climate stations in the state reported morning minimum temperatures of -25 °F or colder.  With two feet of snow on the ground the daytime temperature rose no higher than 9 °F at Red Lake Falls.

Outlook:

A mostly sunny weekend with temperatures continuing to be 15-20 degrees F warmer than normal through Monday.  Cooler by next Tuesday and Wednesday with temperatures falling back to near normal.  Generally dry throughout the period.

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