Roller Coaster Start to 2017:
Following the conclusion of a very warm year in Minnesota (2016), January of 2017 began warm and wet. The first few days of the month averaged several degrees warmer than normal.
Temperatures got as warm as 37°F at La Crescent, and 35°F at St James and Two Harbors.
Then a major winter storm crossed the state over January 2-3 bringing a mixture of rain, freezing rain and drizzle, as well as snow, along with high winds. Several observers reported precipitation totals of 0.20 inches to 0.40 inches. Many roads and sidewalks in southern counties were coated in ice, leading to a number of accidents. MNDOT advised no travel on some highways over the night of January 2-3 because of ice-coated roads. You can read more about this challenging weather episode at the DNR State Climatology Office web site:
In the north snow was the dominate form of precipitation as many areas reported 5-10 inches. Warroad received 13 inches, while Kabetogama reported 14.4 inches. For January 3rd some observers reported a new daily record snowfall, including:
9.2" at Kabetogama
8.0" at Argyle and Thief River Falls
6.5" at Orr
6.4" at Tower
6.0" at Cook
5.0" at Embarrass
4.5" at Gunflint Lake
With the fresh snow cover and high pressure settling across the state subzero temperatures were widespread. Some climate stations remained below zero degrees all day on January 4th. By January 5th and 6th many were reported morning low temperatures of -20°F or colder. It was -31°F at Bemidji and Cass Lake, -33F at Thorhult (Beltrami County), -34F at Embarrass (St Louis County)., and -35°F at Cotton (St Louis County). The National Weather Service issued Wind Chill Advisories on four consecutive days, as winds over 30 mph pushed wind chill values from -30 to -40 degrees F. The cold was expected to persist into the beginning of next week.
Weekly Weather Potpourri:
NOAA scientists provide a very good Climate 2016 Year-in-Review at their web site this week. They also describe recent climate trends analysis, examine extremes, and describe the record warm year in Alaska.
NOAA also features an interesting story about how the City of Chicago is preparing for climate change by building resilience into the city infrastructure. This is probably something that most cities should be undertaking.
The BBC reports this week that the Larson Ice Shelf C in Antarctica is on the verge of breaking off into the sea. A rift has developed with dramatic speed during the month of December (summer in that region) and is barely holding the ice shelf to the continent. The resulting iceberg would be about a quarter of the size of Wales and one of the ten largest ever.
The National Park Service issued this week a very interesting report titled "Cultural Resources Climate Change Strategy." It addresses the stewardship of our natural and cultural resources in the context of climate change. You might find it worth reading.
Thrill List Travel put out an interesting article this week to address the question of which of the 50 states has the worst (most miserable) winter? According to the authors they factored in "everything from weather patterns, average temperatures, and how effective and quickly their department of transportation clears highways, to interviews with locals and the historical success rates of their winter-season sports teams." In this system the top five on the list were Minnesota, Michigan, Alaska, North Dakota, and Maine. Purely based on climatology I would not agree with this list, but see what you think.
MPR listener question:
Last autumn on Morning Edition I heard you tell Cathy Wurzer that you expected more snow than normal this winter. Which areas of the state are seeing the most snowfall this winter, and is it above normal?
Most climate stations in southern Minnesota are reporting less than normal seasonal snowfall so far this winter, generally values that are under 20 inches. There are some exceptions, Redwood Falls reports over 27 inches, which is above normal for them. Most of the seasonal surplus of snow has fallen in northern Minnesota, where many climate observers are reporting above normal values. Kabetogama, Orr, and Cook have reported over 60 inches so far. International Falls is also above normal with 44 inches so far. In western counties Argyle (Marshall County) and Ottertail are reporting well over 3-feet of snow so far which is above normal there. The outlook models continue to favor above normal seasonal snowfall for many parts of the state through March.
Twin Cities Almanac for January 6th:
The average MSP high temperature for this date is 23 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 8 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).
MSP Local Records for January 6th:
MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 49 degrees F in 1900; lowest daily maximum temperature of -14 degrees F in 1909; lowest daily minimum temperature is -27 degrees F in 1887 and 1912; highest daily minimum temperature of 37 degrees F in 2012; record precipitation of 0.40 inches in 1967; and a record snowfall of 5.2 inches in 1932.
Average dew point for January 6th is 5 degrees F, with a maximum of 46 degrees F in 2004 and a minimum of -32 degrees F in 1976.
All-time state records for January 6th:
The state record high temperature for this date is 62 degrees F at Marshall (Lyon County) in 2012. The state record low temperature for this date is -55 degrees F at International Falls (Koochiching County) in 1909. State record precipitation for this date is 1.85 inches at Orwell Dam (Otter Tail County) in 1997; and record snowfall is 19.0 inches at Hinckley (Pine County) in 1997.
Past Weather Records:
The coldest January 6th on a statewide basis was in 1912. In every corner of the state temperatures remained below zero F all day long. Morning lows in northern counties ranged from -35°F to -50°F and even the afternoon temperatures at New Ulm and Rochester never rose above -20°F. The temperature in the Twin Cites fell below zero on the 1st of January and did not rise above zero until mid morning of January 13th. Overnight lows of -30 and -31 degrees F were recorded on the 11th and 12th, respectively. The high temperature on January 11th was -19 degrees F. Windchill values on the 5th, the 9th and the 11th were in the -40 to -60 degree F range. Hibernation was the most common activity. This turned out to be the coldest January on record in the Twin Cities as well, with an average temperature of -3 degrees F.
A major winter storm brought a mixture of rain, ice, and snow, even blizzard conditions to the state over January 4-6, 1997. Ice accumulation felled trees and powerlines in southwestern counties. Winds over 40 mph with blizzard conditions closed many roads, including a section of Interstate 94 between Moorhead and Sauk Centre. Many travelers were stranded overnight. In northern communities 10-20 inches of snowfall blew into 15 foot drifts. Wadena reported a record 27 inches of snowfall.
The warmest January 6th in state history was in 2012. Most areas of the state saw temperatures climb into the 40s and dozens of climate stations reported daytime high temperatures in the 50s F. It was 56F as far north as Cass Lake, while Canby, Madison, and Marshall in the west all broke 60°F.
Generally a cold and dry weekend. Increasing cloudiness and warmer on Monday with a chance for snow, especially in southern sections. Continued snow on Tuesday. Snow again Thursday with temperatures returning to near normal levels.