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Friday, March 31, 2017

Preliminary Climate Summary for March 2017

Preliminary Climate Summary for March 2017:

Most climate observers reported mean monthly temperature values near normal, or 1 to 2 degrees F warmer than normal for the month. For MSP Airport it was the 19 consecutive month with above normal temperature. For most climate stations over half the days of the month were warmer than normal. Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the nation on four dates during the month:
-20°F at Embarrass on the 3rd
3°F at Warroad and Flag Island on the 8th
-4°F at Embarrass on the 9th
-11°F at Crane Lake on the 14th
Extreme values of temperature for the month ranged from 74°F at Redwood Falls on the 6th to -21°F at Cotton (St Louis County) on the 4th. At least 20 different communities reached a temperature of 70 degrees F or higher during the month. Though very few new daily temperature records were set during March, Redwood Falls set a record daily high on the 6th with a reading of 74°F, while Winnebago reported a new daily record low temperature of -2°F on the 16th.

Except for southeastern and northeastern locations, most observers around the state reported below normal precipitation during the month of March. Over 20 new daily precipitation records were set, mostly in northeastern and southeastern counties. The wettest part of the state was in the southeast where many climate stations reported over 2 inches of precipitation for the month. Some of the driest areas were in the west where many communities reported less than a third of an inch. A number of southern Minnesota climate stations reported over 10 inches of snow for the month, mostly as a result of the winter storm on March 12-13. Twenty climate stations across southern Minnesota reported new daily snowfall records from that storm.

Many areas of the state lost soil frost during the month, and a number of area lakes lost their ice. The warming trend that ended the month appears to be in place through much of the first half of April as well.

The wind storm of March 7-8 produced some damage to structures in different communities. Starbuck, Fairmont, and MSP Airport reported wind gusts over 60 mph from that storm.

Perhaps the most unusual weather event came on March 6 when three tornadoes occurred, the earliest date in history for this type of storm. Two tornadoes were reported in southern counties (Freeborn and Faribault) and one in central Minnesota (Sherburne County). All three tornadoes were rated EF-1 (86-110 mph) by the National Weather Service. Damages to homes and agricultural structures were reported from these storms. A more detailed report can be found from the Minnesota State Climatology Office.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

NOAA's Tom Di Liberto provides an analysis of the March wildfires in western Oklahoma, north Texas, and southwestern Kansas. The dry winter season in those states elevated the risk for such fires. According to the USA Drought Monitor portions of those states have been in severe to extreme drought at times this winter.

An official version of the NOAA Spring Climate Outlook is given in detail this week at the NOAA Climate.Gov web site. They provide some reasoning for regional disparities, but the Great Lakes Region is favored by warmer and wetter conditions, following historical trends.

Dr. Christie Manning of Macalester College in St Paul collaborated with psychologist Susan Clayton of the College of Wooster and others to provide an analysis of climate change impacts on mental health. Their report, called Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance was released by the American Psychological Association recently and provides a fascinating and comprehensive examination of both the direct and indirect effects that climate change is having on mental health, especially on those people impacted by extreme weather and climate events.

Yet another study recently conducted in Vietnam (Umea Universitet) documents an increase in the hospital admissions associated with people suffering symptoms of mental illness provoked by Heat Waves, especially those that persist for several days (7 or more). There were also significant correlations of Heat Waves with age, gender, and those living in more rural landscapes.

In this week's AGU EOS newsletter Dork Sahagian of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lehigh University provides some background and information to share with others about the science of climate change and why it should not be denied. It makes for an interesting read.

MPR listener question

Has Mother Nature ever pulled a fast one and produced a blizzard on April Fools' Day?


Actually, there have been two historical blizzards on April Fool's Day, separated in time by over 100 years. The first one occurred back in 1896. The storm actually started with thunder, lightning, rain, and hail on the 31st of March, but then later in the day it turned into wind driven snow with little or no visibility, lasting through the night and into April 1st. Many western and central Minnesota communities reported 12 to 20 inches of snowfall, while St Cloud reported an incredible 32 inches of snow, one of the heaviest amounts in their history. The second blizzard was mostly in west-central and northeastern Minnesota and occurred over March 31 to April 1 in 2009. It closed sections of Interstate 94 and Minnesota Highway 2 for a time. Some areas received over 20 inches of snow, topped by 24 inches at Breckenridge and 27 inches at Campbell. Not a nice way to start April.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 31st:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 49 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 30 degrees F (plus or minus 9 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 31st:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 82 degrees F in 1986; lowest daily maximum temperature of 23 degrees F in 1924 and 1936; lowest daily minimum temperature is -1 degrees F in 1969; highest daily minimum temperature of 52 degrees F in 1999; record precipitation of 1.25 inches in 1985; and a record snowfall of 14.7 inches also in 1985.

Average dew point for March 31st is 28°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 56°F in 1986; and the minimum dew point on this date is -6°F in 1969.

All-time state records for March 31st:

The state record high temperature for this date is 84 degrees F at New Ulm (Brown County) in 1968 and at St James (Watonwan County) in 1986. The state record low temperature for this date is -32 degrees F at Tower (St Louis County) in 1975. State record precipitation for this date is 3.00 inches at New London (Kandiyohi County) in 1896; and record snowfall is 20.0 inches at St Cloud (Sherburne County) in 1896.

Past Weather Features:

A large scale winter storm crossed the state over March 31 to April 1 in 1896 with a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow with some thunder and lightning. Many climate stations reported over 8 inches of snow and over 2 inches of total precipitation. Across western and central counties, blizzard conditions prevailed overnight on the 31st and into April 1st with snow drifts as high as ten feet.

A winter storm brought snow and cold temperatures to close the month of March in 1923. Following widespread snow on March 30th temperatures plummeted to subzero values around the state on the 31st with readings ranging from -20°F to -30°F in the north, and a minimum of -1°F at Farmington (Dakota County). The Cold Wave was short-lived as temperatures rebounded into the 30s and 40s F on April 1st.

The warmest March 31st on a statewide basis was in 1986 when over 20 communities reported an afternoon high of 80°F or greater. It was 70 degrees F as far north as the Iron Range in the northeast.


Temperatures warmer than normal into the weekend, with a chance for scattered rain showers on Sunday. Then, continued warmer than normal temperatures through most of next week with another chance for rain later on Tuesday and into Wednesday.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A few comments about wind

A few comments about wind:

March has been a windy month so far with average daily wind speed over 12 mph, and 9 days with peak wind gust over 30 mph. This continues a trend of windy weather which began the last week of January.

The peak wind gust from MSP airport of 60 mph on the morning of March 8th was just the 5th time in the past 20 years that peak wind gusts in the Twin Cities have hit 60 mph or greater. The other years were 1998 (May), 2007 (Aug), 2008 (June), and 2010 (Oct).

Historical trends in wind speed are difficult to study. There is great geographic disparity across the state. In western Minnesota, as well as the Twin Cities Metro Area wind speeds have been greater than normal more frequently in the months of February, April, and November. over the past two decades. Conversely, over the same time period, wind speeds have generally been less than normal more frequently during the months of May and October.

Perhaps a trend busting month of March:

The persistent climate trends of warmer and wetter than normal across Minnesota may be interrupted this month, as March is leaning towards cooler and drier than normal. With several days left in the month, we could still turn out warmer and wetter.

But so far here are some of the numbers:
Most climate observers report a mean monthly temperature that ranges from 1 to 3 degrees F cooler than normal.
Most climate observers report a monthly total precipitation that ranges from 0.25 to 0.75 inches less than normal.
Twenty climate stations have reported new daily record cold maximum temperatures this month.
Six climate stations have reported new daily record low minimum temperatures this month.
Minnesota has reported the coldest temperature in the nation on six dates this month.
And incidentally, associated with the cold temperature records, eighteen new daily snowfall records were wet during the winter storm over March 12-13.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

NOAA scientists reported this week that the Arctic Sea Ice extent this winter (usual time of maximum ice coverage) was the lowest since record keeping began in 1979. In addition, they announced that the extent of Antarctic Sea Ice, which normally reaches its minimum this time of year was reported to be the all-time lowest. These reports certainly fit well with the trends measured in recent years.

Another NOAA article this weeks describes how the Winter Season Outlook performed across the nation. There were some geographic regions where it was mostly accurate. However, in Minnesota and the Western Great Lakes region is was far from accurate. The NOAA-CPC outlook for a colder than normal winter was dead wrong. We had a warmer than normal winter. The outlook for a marginally wet winter was almost correct. We had a wholly wetter than normal winter across most of the state.

EOS provided an analysis of the proposed Trump federal budget for 2018 in the context of impacts on the scientific community. It is not a pretty picture, especially for those working in climate science and environmental regulation.

The World Meteorological Organization has released a new, digitized version of its "International Cloud Atlas," the global reference book for meteorologists and skywatchers alike. First published in the 19th Century, this is the first update for the atlas since 1987 and the first version to be fully web-based.

A recent study from Montana State University shows that climate change may be having an effect on the maple syrup industry. Warmer temperatures are leading to earlier dates for tapping trees and may be contributing to the quantity and quality of sap harvested as well. Early research suggests that the higher quality light colored sap may show up in less abundance as a result of warmer temperatures which favor the darker quality sap.

MPR listener question:

This month we have seen some lakes in and around the Twin Cities Greater Metro Area thaw out and be declared ice-free only to refreeze later in the month. Has there ever been another year where this has happened?


Yes, but it is a rare occurrence. Perhaps every 20-30 years lake ice-out is reported, but then a refreezing of the lake occurs. One documented examples which Greg Spoden and Pete Boulay of the MN State Climatology Office have written about is Lake Shetek in southwestern Minnesota (Murray County). In 1997 it was ice-free on April 6th, then refroze on April 10th, and was ice-free again on April 19th. The DNR uses the second ice-out date for long-term record keeping.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 24th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 45 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 27 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 24th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 76 degrees F in 1939; lowest daily maximum temperature of 14 degrees F in 1923; lowest daily minimum temperature is -8 degrees F in 1965; highest daily minimum temperature of 52 degrees F in 1945; record precipitation of 1.06 inches in 1949; and a record snowfall of 6.8 inches in 1996.

Average dew point for March 24th is 22°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 60°F in 1945; and the minimum dew point on this date is -21°F in 1974.

All-time state records for March 24th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 86 degrees F at New Ulm (Brown County) in 1910. The state record low temperature for this date is -41 degrees F at Thorhult (Beltrami County) in 1974. State record precipitation for this date is 2.50 inches at Waseca (Waseca County) in 1966; and record snowfall is 15.0 inches at Bird Island (Renville County) in 1937.

Past Weather Features:

March 24, 1910 was the warmest in history across the state. Twenty-two Minnesota communities reported afternoon high temperatures of 75 degrees F or greater, and two were above 85 degrees F. As far north as Warroad it was 75°F with no snow cover.

March 23-25, 1937 brought a big snow storm to portions of central and southern Minnesota. Snowfall totals ranged from 8 to 19 inches, with snow drifts up to 6 feet high. Some roads were closed in central counties where some vehicles were abandoned on the roads.

A memorable High School Tournament Season Blizzard occurred over March 23-25, 1966. Many communities reported 9 to 18 inches of snowfall and a number of daily records were set. Southern communities like Austin reported thunder and lightning, and up to an inch of ice accumulated on power lines and trees causing outages in several areas. Scores of businesses and schools were closed, including the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus for the first time due to weather.

March 24, 1974 brought record cold to many parts of northern Minnesota. A dozen communities reported a morning low of -30 degrees F or colder, and the temperature never rose higher than -8°F at both Hallock and Thief River Falls.

A winter storm brought a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow across the state over March 24-25, 1996. Up to 7 inches of snow with winds of 40-50 mph caused blizzard conditions and road closures in Traverse and Big Stone Counties. Elsewhere many observers reported from 1 to 2 inches of precipitation.


Sunny in the north, mostly cloudy elsewhere over the weekend with temperatures above normal and a chance for a scattered shower or two in southern counties. Warmer for Monday through Wednesday next week, with a chance for showers again by Thursday.




Friday, March 3, 2017

Brief Assessment of Meteorological Winter (Dec-Feb)

Brief assessment of Meteorological Winter (Dec-Feb):

The 6th warmest February in state history concluded earlier this week, along with the end of Meteorological Winter (in the northern hemisphere December through February). The Meteorological Winter definitely followed the climatic trends of recent decades by being both warmer and wetter than normal.

It was the 10th warmest Meteorological Winter in state history back to 1895, and the 15th warmer than normal one of the last 20 years on a statewide basis. Over the 90-day season approximately 700 daily temperature records were set within the state's climate observation networks, including 286 new daily high maximum temperatures and 414 new daily high minimum temperatures. During the Meteorological Winter Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states only 9 times, a small number when compared to history. In December it happened 3 days, in January 4 days, and in February just 2 days.

On a monthly basis here is a summary of the daily temperature records set within MN observation networks:
December: 8 high daily maximum temperatures; 22 daily high minimum temperatures
January: 39 high daily maximum temperatures; 278 daily high minimum temperatures
February: 239 high daily maximum temperatures: 114 daily high minimum temperatures

Extreme values of temperature for the Meteorological Winter were 67°F at Redwood Falls Airport on February 17th (a statewide record for the date), and -46°F at Cotton (St Louis County) on January 14th (coldest in the nation on that date).

The Meteorological Winter was also the 7th wettest in state history, with northeastern, south-central, and southeastern counties averaging well over 4 inches over the 90 days. Within the state climate observation network 200 new daily precipitation records were reported. In southeastern Minnesota Lake City, Wabasha, and Minnesota City reported their wettest Meteorological Winter in history with totals of around 7 inches. An unusual character of this winter was that many Minnesota observers reported more rainfall events than snowfall events, especially in southern counties. In addition there was more than the usual amount of ice, which produced hundreds of accidents.

Most observers reported less than normal snowfall, except for far northern sections of the state. Isabella (Lake County) with 70.5 inches, Kabetogama (St Louis County) with 70.2 inches, and Ely (St Louis County) with 61.6 inches are all well above normal in terms of snowfall for the season

Weather Potpourri:

NOAA News provides a good summary of the "Late Winter Heat Wave" that affected the nation during February. Many states, including Minnesota recorded some all-time high temperatures on selected dates during the month.

A Tropical Cyclone was forming just northeast of Madagascar in the Southern Indian Ocean this week. It was expected to gain strength and more towards Madagascar later into the weekend. You can follow updates at the Joint Typhoon Warning Center Web site.

The United Kingdom Met Office release a summary of their recent Meteorological Winter (Dec-Feb). Generally it was warmer and drier than normal across the United Kingdom. Met Office climatologist say that Scotland reported its 4th warmest winter, Northern Ireland its 5th warmest winter and England its 9th warmest winter. It was also exceptionally dry in Northern Ireland where they reported just 66 percent of normal precipitation.

The World Meteorological Organization announced earlier this week that several all-time high temperature records have been reported from Antarctica and verified, some occurring in recent years. These temperatures have ranged from the upper 60s F to the teens F, depending on location.

MPR listener question:

I have heard you say that because our climate in Minnesota is so variable we hardly ever report a daily maximum or minimum temperature that is exactly average for the date. It is always either warmer or colder than "normal." What is the exact frequency for measuring an average value of temperature on any given date?


Indeed, because our temperatures are so variable, hitting the exact average is difficult. For example, the average maximum temperature on February 4th in the Twin Cities is 26°F plus or minus a standard deviation of 15°F. Since 1873, a period of 145 years, a measured maximum temperature of 26°F has only occurred 4 times (1924, 1929, 1945, and 1951). So we have actually reported a value of maximum temperature on February 4th that is exactly equal to the average only 3 percent of the time. Conversely, when the standard deviation (variability) is lower in the summer, we still hardly ever measure the exact average. For example, the average maximum temperature on July 31 in the Twin Cities is 83°F plus or minus a standard deviation of only 6°F. Since 1873, a period of 145 years, a measured maximum temperature of 83°F has only occurred 11 times, most recently in 2013. That is a frequency of measuring the exact average only 8 percent of the time in July.

So the reality is that regardless of the time of year the daily temperature measurements are not "average" over 90 percent of the time!

MPR listener question:

From Jeff Vetsch at the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca, “we did not measure a low temperature of 0 degrees F during the entire month of February 2017. How often does this happen?


Not often. Since 1914, this has happened in only three other years: 1992, 1999, and 2000. It might be expected to happen more often in the future, as temperatures are warming more significantly during the winter months than during other seasons of the year.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 3rd:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 35 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 19 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 3rd:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 65 degrees F in 1905; lowest daily maximum temperature of 6 degrees F in 1873; lowest daily minimum temperature is -13 degrees F in 1873; highest daily minimum temperature of 38 degrees F in 1983; record precipitation of 1.19 inches in 1970; and a record snowfall of 12.6 inches in 1985.

Average dew point for March 3rd is 16°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 52°F in 1983; and the minimum dew point on this date is -20°F in 2002.

All-time state records for March 3rd:

The state record high temperature for this date is 71 degrees F at Milan (Chippewa County) in 1905. The state record low temperature for this date is -44 degrees F at Embarrass (St Louis County) in 2014. State record precipitation for this date is 3.06 inches at Benson (Swift County) in 1985; and record snowfall is 18.7 inches also at Benton (Swift County) in 1985.

Past Weather Features:

Very cold start to March in 1843 at Fort Snelling with early morning temperature readings ranging from -16°F to -20°F each day. It was the start of the coldest March in history during which 21 mornings started out below zero F.

Very bitter start to the month of March occurred in 1873 as exemplified in these temperature readings from around the state: St Paul high temperature 6°F and low temperature -13°F; New Ulm high temperature 12°F, low temperature -11°F; and Fort Ripley high temperature 8°F, low temperature -35°F. In all cases there was over a foot of snow on the ground.

By far the warmest March 3rd in state history was in 1905. Over 30 cities reported daytime highs in the 60s F. It reached 60°F at Moorhead and 70°F at Beardsley, Winnebago, and St Peter.

Over March 3-4, 1985 a large winter storm brought mixed precipitation, strong winds, and blizzard conditions to the state. Freezing rain, sleet, and glaze, accompanied by occasional thunder closed roads in SE Minnesota counties. The rest of the state was subject to very high winds, heavy snow accumulation and blizzard conditions. Winds gusted to 68 mph at Rochester, 71 mph at the Duluth Airport, and even 90 mph on the Duluth lift bridge. Zero visibility and drifts 6 feet high or greater closed I-94 between Minneapolis and Alexandria. Many businesses and schools were closed. Total snowfall accumulations were quite large and record-setting for some communities. Amounts included 16.7 inches at MSP Airport, 18 inches at Duluth Harbor, 20 inches at Two Harbors, 22 inches at Canby and Morris, and 24 inches at Brainerd and Benson. Two deaths were reported from hypothermia, as a result of people leaving stranded vehicles on the highway.


Much warmer over the weekend under partly cloudy skies and with south winds. Temperatures will climb into the 40s, 50s, and 60s F. There will be increasing clouds on Monday with a chance for rain showers, and perhaps even thunder in some areas. Cooler and drier for much of next week, but temperatures will remain near normal or slightly above normal.
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