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Preliminary climate summary for January 2012

Preliminary climate summary for January 2012

A very warm January prevailed across Minnesota. Many observers report mean monthly temperatures that are 7 to 9 degrees F warmer than average. Both Fargo-Moorhead and International Falls report their 5th warmest January in history, while on a statewide basis January 2012 appears to rank as the 7th warmest historically. Three new state record high temperatures were set for the month (on the 4th, 54 F at Marshall; on the 5th, 63 F at Marshall and Canby; and on the 10th, 59 F at Marshall). MSP International Airport reported only three mornings with below zero F temperatures, well below the average of eleven. The monthly temperature extremes were 63 degrees F at Marshall and Canby on the 5th, and -30 degrees F at Brimson (St Louis County) on the 20th. January was the 4th consecutive month with significantly above normal temperatures across the state, making the October (2011) through January (2012) period one of the warmest in state history. One final note on temperature: despite the dominance of warm temperatures, Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states on four dates during the month.

It was also generally a drier than normal month, though some observers reported significant snowfall, and the largest monthly total for the winter so far. Some of those with significant January snowfall included: 14.9 inches at Orr; 14.1 inches at Kabetogama; 12.7 inches at Lanesboro; 11.4 inches at Grand Meadow; and 10.3 inches at Gunflint Lake. The last weekend of the month may bring additional snows to these areas as well.

Over January 9-10 strong winds were reported around the state with the advance of an arctic high pressure system. Many reported wind gusts from 40 to 50 mph.

Soil frost depths increased during January, starting out at just a few inches below the soil surface and dropping to as deep as 20 to 30 inches in places where there is little snow cover.

Minneapolis Climate Action Planning

On February 1, at 5:30 pm the City of Minneapolis is hosting a meeting to discuss climate change and human health impacts at the Minneapolis Central Library. This is part of the process for the city to develop a detailed climate action plan as it considers its future. The meeting is open to the public, and if you wish to attend you can find out more here.

I will be a speaker at this meeting, along with Kristin Raab from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Weekly Weather Potpourri

This weekend, over January 28-29, the Mall of America is hosting "Government on Display." Your National Weather Service and North-Central River Forecast Center staff will be present with interactive displays of some of the data and tools they use to make forecasts. If you are in the vicinity, please drop by and visit as they will be in the Rotunda area.

After three consecutive years of serious spring snow melt flooding along the Red River in northwestern Minnesota, it was a relief to hear from the National Weather Service this week that there is little or not threat of major spring snow melt flooding along the basin this year. Precipitation patterns for the past six months have shown large deficits in most areas along the Red River Basin and this dryness is expected to persist. Very little snow cover has been realized so far this winter along the Red River and its tributaries as well. There is still a 30-50 percent chance of minor flooding along some points depending on the amount of late winter and early spring precipitation.

The NOAA Storm Prediction Center reported that January 22nd was the busiest severe weather day of the new year. There were 37 reports of tornadoes (significant ones in Alabama), 32 reports of large hail, and 128 reports of strong winds, mostly across the southeastern states.

Two tropical cyclones were churning in the southern hemisphere this week. Off the northwest coast of Australia Cyclone Iggy was increasing in strength with wind gusts over 80 mph and sea waves of 23 feet (as of Jan 27). It was expected to reach peak strength by the 31st of January, bringing heavy rains to northwestern Australia. Between Mozambique and Madagascar Cyclone Funso was bringing seas heights of 30 feet with wind gusts up to 150 mph. It was expected to dissipate by the 30th of January.

MPR listener question

What are your thoughts on the new Plant Hardiness Zones released earlier this week by the USDA and showing that a wider array of plants may now be adapted to the Twin Cities area (zone 4b) and southern Minnesota counties (zone 5a)?

Answer: I am not an expert in plants, but from a climate perspective there has been a change in Minnesota's temperature patterns, especially in winter. In many locations the average winter minimum temperatures are higher now than they once were. The downtown areas have not seen -25 degrees F since February of 1996, while Rosemount reported temperatures that cold in 2009, and Chaska reported such temperatures in 2011. Zone 4b designates an area suitable for plants that can withstand winter temperatures down to -25 degrees F, while zone 5a designates an area for plant materials that can tolerate down to -20 degrees F. Because of micro-climate effects (slopes, soils, lakes, and urban heat islands) it is difficult to generalize about plant hardiness zones. In the Twin Cities Metro Area, we see that winter minimum temperatures colder than -25 degrees F occur with widespread variation. Some areas record such temperatures every 4-5 years while others may go 7-10 years.

Almanac for January 27th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 20 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 2 degrees F (plus or minus 15 degrees standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for January 27th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 47 degrees F in 1934; lowest daily maximum temperature of -10 degrees F in 1917; lowest daily minimum temperature of -23 degrees F in 1950; highest daily minimum temperature of 34 degrees F in 1944; record precipitation of 0.42 inches in 1916; record snowfall is a 3.8 inches in 1916.

Average dew point for January 27th is 1 degree F, with a maximum of 35 degrees F in 1944 and a minimum of -32 degrees F in 1966.

All-time state records for January 27th

Scanning the state climatic data base: the all-time high for this date is 61 degrees F at Winnebago (Faribault County), Worthington (Nobles County), and Lakefield (Jackson County) in 2002. The all-time record low for this date is a very cold -54 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1904. The all-time record precipitation amount for this date is 1.80 inches at Harmony (Fillmore County) in 1944. State record snowfall for this date is 18.0 inches at Hokah (Houston County) in 1996.

Past Weather Features:

Following a fresh snowfall on January 25 and 26 in 1915, Wednesday the 27th brought record cold temperatures to many areas. At least seven communities saw the alcohol thermometer drop to -40 degrees F or colder. The daytime high only reached -19 degrees F at Bagley and Fosston.

A soaking rainfall was welcome across southwestern Minnesota over January 27-28, 1944.
 It broke a 75-80 day drought when very little precipitation had occurred. Amounts of 1.00 to 1.55 inches were recorded along a stretch from Tracy to Canby.

January 25-27, 1996 brought heavy snow to southern Minnesota communities, during what was already a very snowy winter. Many observers reported at least a new foot of snow, while Preston, Winona, and La Crescent reported over 17 inches.

January 27, 2002 brought a sunny and warm day to southern Minnesota communities. Over two dozen weather observers reported daytime highs of 50 degrees F or higher, and a number of places reached 60 degrees F. There was little snow left on the ground after such a warm up.


Chance of light snow with cooler temperatures over the weekend. Precipitation may be mixed in places with freezing drizzle possible in the northeast. Then, a warming trend begins on Monday and runs through next week as temperatures will average well above normal. Another chance for snow by Wednesday.
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