Skip to main content

Records were made to be broken, but this is ridiculous!

Records were made to be broken, but this is ridiculous!

March of 2012 is delivering once in a lifetime temperature records. It has surpassed June of 1933, July of 1936, and February of 1981 in the total number of warmest maximum and minimum daily temperature records set. At last count (as of March 23), the Twin Cities have seen 17 new daily record temperature values (both max and min) so far this month. Rochester and International Falls have seen 16 new record temperatures so far this month, while St Cloud reports 14 new temperature records. Even Duluth, which has a climate that is highly regulated by Lake Superior, has reported 10 new temperature records so far this month. You can keep up to date with these records here.

Imbedded in these record-setting reports are even more profound significant features: earliest ever 80 degrees F at MSP (80 F) and Rochester (81 F) on March 17th; highest March temperature ever reported from International Falls (79 F on March 18th)and Kabetogama (77 F on March 20); highest minimum temperatures ever reported in March from nearly all climate stations in the state (with overnight lows in the 50s and 60s F); and highest dewpoints ever measured in March (many in the 60s F). Concerning the high dewpoints for March, the National Weather Service also reported a record-setting value of precipitable water measured by the Chanhassen radiosonde on Monday evening this week with a value of 1.27 inches in the column of atmosphere. This was just ahead of the significant rainfall event that night. More information can be found here.

In addition at least 8 statewide high temperature records for March have been tied or broken this month. These include:
66 F at Amboy, MSP, and Milan on the 10th
68 F at Marshall on the 11th
74 F at Rochester on the 14th
82 F at Redwood Falls on the 16th
82 F at Madison on the 17th
84 F at Canby on the 18th (tied state record)
84 F at Madison on the 19th
80 F at Redwood Falls on the 20th

Many locations, including the Twin Cities are on a pace to set a new record for the warmest month of March in history, surpassing the record warm March of 1910. International Falls which had never seen 70 degrees F in March before has reported 5 days with 70 F or higher this month. La Crosse, WI has reported 9 consecutive days with high temperatures of 70 degrees F or greater, a new record for March.

Early phenology and early tornado

Many of our weather observers have remarked about unusual spring phenology observations: insects (mosquitos, Asian beetles); butterflies; bud swelling, flowering, and leaf out; crops breaking dormancy (alfalfa fields); early spring wheat planting; and of course early ice-out dates on lakes. Green Lake in Kandiyohi County saw its earliest loss of ice on March 20, while White Bear Lake saw its earliest on March 19. Out west, Lake Minnewaska in Pope County saw its earliest ice-out date on March 21st.

The NOAA National Weather Service reported that an EF-0 (winds 65-85 mph) touched down in northern Waseca County on Monday evening, March 19th. It was on the ground for about 7 miles between 6:25 and 6:35 pm and damaged some buildings. This was the 2nd earliest tornado reported in Minnesota history, just a day later than the one that struck north of Fairmont (near Truman) on March 18, 1968. You can read more here.

BTW Severe Weather Awareness Week in Minnesota does not occur until the 3rd week of April this year.

Did you know?

Greg Spoden of the DNR-State Climatology Office shared the following bit of climate history. For the Twin Cities climate record (1871-present) the year with the fewest number of rainy days (days with measurable precipitation of 0.01 inches or greater) was 1910 with only 74 rainy days (roughly 20 percent of all days). That year the total precipitation was just 11.54 inches and 1910 also brought the warmest ever March to the Twin Cities.

Conversely, in 1977 and 1991 there were 145 rainy days in the Twin Cities (nearly 40 percent of all days). Total annual precipitation in 1991 was 36.69 inches, while it was 34.88 inches in 1877, both considerably above the modern normal of 30.61 inches. Interestingly enough, during the wettest year in Twin Cities history, 1911 with 40.15 inches, there were 127 rainy days reported.

An Invitation

For those interested in learning and wanting to visit the University of Minnesota, there is a golden opportunity this month. The College of Agricultural, Food, and Natural Resource Sciences is hosting the annual event "Classes Without Quizzes" on Saturday, March 31st from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm on the St Paul Campus. I will be speaking about evidence for climate change and its consequences in Minnesota, but there will be many other fine speakers and interesting topics presented as well, including a talk on grapes and the wine industry, the new plant hardiness zones, invasive species, and other great topics.

Weekly Weather Potpourri

March 21-22 brought a heavy spring snow storm to parts of Oregon. Eugene reported a record 7.5 inches of snow, with a record cold high temperature of 36 degrees F on the 21st. At higher elevations in the Cascades observers reported over 30 inches of snow. Mt Hood Meadow reported 33 inches. Some power outages resulted from the heavy snow. March temperatures have been averaging colder than normal for much of the Pacific northwest.

Earlier this week the United Kingdom Meteorological Office announced a new updated global temperature dataset (HadCRUT4 ) that is more comprehensive than those previously used. It includes some surface observations from polar regions and from some oceans. This will be used to further study global patterns and change in temperature.

March 23 is World Meteorological Day in recognition of the formation of the World Meteorological Organization under the United Nations on March 23, 1950. The WMO has 189 member nations and helps coordinate the worldwide data gathering and distribution, as well as setting standards for observational and measurement practices. You can read more here.

MPR listener question

With the March 19th tornado report from Waseca County being the 2nd earliest in history, were environmental conditions similar on March 18, 1968 when a tornado struck near Truman in northern Martin County near the border with Watonwan County.

Answer: Somewhat similar conditions prevailed for both. Conditions Monday evening, March 19th in Waseca were near summer-like with a temperature in the low 70s F and dewpoints over 60 degrees F (plenty of low level moisture). Winds were blowing from the SE in the 20 to 30 mph range. On March 18, 1968 temperatures were in the mid 60s F, with dewpoints in the 50s F and strong winds of 30-40 mph. The tornado struck near Truman close to 5:30 pm, but was only on the ground for 4 miles. It damaged some farm buildings (winds were estimated at 113-157 mph, about F-2 scale). Fortunately both were short-lived tornadoes.

MPR listener question

Do southerly winds bring warm weather, or does warm weather bring southerly winds?

Answer: For the most part at our latitude and position on the North American Continent, southerly winds bring warm weather. Meteorologists call this warm air advection. Winds blowing from the south usually bring warmer air to our latitudes. These winds may be generated by the approach of a low pressure system to our southwest, or by the retreat of a high pressure system to our east. Often times southerly winds also bring higher dewpoints (humidity) as moisture released from the Gulf of Mexico can migrate north over the southern and central plains states all the way to Minnesota if the winds are persistent and strong enough.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 23rd

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 44 degrees F (plus or minus 13 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 23rd

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 83 degrees F in 1910; lowest daily maximum temperature of 10 degrees F in 1965; lowest daily minimum temperature of -4 F in 1965; highest daily minimum temperature of 48 F in 1910 and 1920; record precipitation of 1.18 inches in 1966; and record snowfall of 11.6 inches also in 1966. Snow depth was 22 inches on this date in 1951.
Average dew point for March 23rd is 24 degrees F, with a maximum of 54 degrees F in 1945 and a minimum of -21 degrees F in 1974.

All-time state records for March 23rd

The state record high temperature for this date is 88 degrees F at Montevideo (Chippewa County)in 1910; the state record low temperature for this date is -37 degrees F at Baudette (Lake of the Woods County) in 1965. State record precipitation for this date is 3.87 inches at Isabella (Lake County) in 1979; and state record snowfall for this date is 18.0 inches at Montgomery (Le Sueur County) in 1966.

Past Weather Features:

March 23, 1843 at Old Ft Snelling began with a morning reading of -15 degrees F on the Fort thermometer. That especially cold month brought 22 days with below 0 F temperature readings, and a monthly high temperature of only 27 degrees F. The monthly mean temperature was 3.9 degrees F, about 42 degrees F colder than the present month of March!

March 23, 1910 was the warmest March day in history. Over 40 communities saw afternoon temperatures climb into the 80s F, topped by 88 degrees F at Montevideo. As far north as Roseau and Warroad it was in the low 80s F, their warmest ever March temperatures. That year, the early spring warmth was a precursor to an intense summer drought.

March 23, 1965 brought record cold temperatures, following a fresh deposit of snow. Ten northern Minnesota communities reported temperatures of -30 degrees F or colder. Hallock in the Red River Valley only warmed up to a high of 3 degrees F that day.

March 22-23, 1966 saw a major winter storm deposit heavy snowfall across the southern and central Minnesota landscape. Bricelyn and Grand Meadow reported a foot of snow, while Mankato reported 13 inches, and Farmington measured 15 inches. Hastings reported 14 inches, Rosemount 14 inches, and the Twin Cities 13.6 inches. Many schools were closed and there were several travel delays.


Warm Saturday under cloudy skies, with a slight chances for showers in the north. Cooler on Sunday, but still warmer than normal. Continued cloudiness early next week and a chance for showers and thunderstorms late Monday through Wednesday. Breezy as well. Then cooler for Thursday and Friday.
Print Friendly and PDF