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Extension > Mark Seeley's WeatherTalk > March 2017

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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