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Mild Monday

Mild Monday

Warm, moist air dominated southern Minnesota on Monday, December 3rd. Many observers reported daytime high temperatures in the 50s and 60s F (in the range of 20 to 30 degrees F above normal). Some observers reported new records for the date, including 63 degrees F at Preston, 62 degrees F at Rochester, Caledonia, Theilman, and Madison (tied record from 1941), 61 degrees F at Marshall, 59 degrees F at Austin, Grand Meadow, and 58 degrees F at Browns Valley. In addition, some observers reported record warm minimum temperatures for the date as well, before a cold front caused temperatures to plummet. Preston after setting a record high of 63 degrees F, fell to a low of only 14 degrees F the next day.

MSP airport reported a noontime dewpoint on December 3rd of 54 degrees F, breaking the record for the date of 52 degrees F set back in 1951. According to the State Climatology Office it was at least the 12th new daily dewpoint record set at MSP this year. Other locations also reported mid-June like dewpoints in the 50s F including 52 degrees F at Mankato, and 55 degrees F at Waseca, Red Wing, and Rochester. By December 4th dewpoints had fallen into the mid-teens F, putting a distinct chill in the air.

Temperature extremes in December

There have been three years when December temperatures have reached 70 degrees F in Minnesota, 1939, 1941, and 1998. The all-time high is 74 degrees F at Wheaton on December 9th of 1939. Canby and Long Prairie reported 72 degrees F and 71 degrees F, on December 3 and 4 of 1941, respectively. Fifty-seven years later Chaska reported 70 degrees F on December 1, 1998, and a few days later Campbell and Redwood Falls reported 70 degrees F on the 6th. In December 1998 a number of citizens were still golfing the first week December, something to brag about.

On the other end of extremes, Pokegama Dam reported -57 degrees F on December 31, 1898, the state record low for the month. As recently as 1993, Tower reported -50 degrees F on December 27th, only two days after Christmas. Last December (2011) many northern Minnesota observers reported only 5 days with below 0 degrees F readings in the morning, while in some southern Minnesota observers reported no days in December with below zero F temperature readings. 2011 brought the 8th warmest December in state history.

Weekly Weather potpourri

Environment Canada released winter season climate outlooks earlier this month covering the December through February period. Their model suggest a warmer than normal winter along the border with the central and eastern USA (including Ontario and Quebec), and a wetter than winter as well, especially in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. You can read more about these outlooks at their web site.

After traveling across the southern parts of the Philippines during the week Typhoon Bopha had weakened to a tropical storm and was expected to dissipate over the South China Sea. On Tuesday and Wednesday (Dec 4-5) Bopha raked the large southern Philippines island of Mindanao with winds of 110 mph, heavy rains and high seas. There were many reports of power outages and washed-out roads. Hundreds of citizens were reported dead or missing and thousands were left homeless due to damages from the storm. NASA's TRMM satellite captured Bopha in 3-D near its peak intensity. You can view images and read about this here.

Another tropical cyclone formed in the Southern Indian Ocean south of Diego Garcia this week. It was expected to strengthen over the weekend.

A report card on Arctic Sea Ice was released by NOAA this week. It provides data and analysis for snow and ice conditions in the high northern latitudes. You can find text and images from this report at the NOAA web site.

Briefing highlight statements from Brad Rippey of the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board for the drought-monitoring period ending 7 am EST on December 4 include:

-There was little change in overall U.S. drought coverage, as improvements in the Far West were offset by some drought expansion in the Southeast. The portion of the contiguous U.S. in drought fell slightly (less than one-third of a percentage point) and currently stands at 62.37%.
-The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category ­ D4, or exceptional drought ­ remained virtually unchanged at 6% (rounded) for the seventeenth consecutive week (August 14 ­ December 4).
-Hay in drought was unchanged at 65%. However, that value is up five points from November 13.
-Cattle in drought was also unchanged at 73%. That value is up four points from November 13.
-Winter wheat in drought was unchanged at 65%, after being as low as 63% in mid-November.
-NOTE: Since the 1950s, there have been only two years when U.S. winter wheat abandonment reached or exceeded one-quarter of the crop: 1988-89 (25% abandonment) and 2001-02 (29%). Current U.S. winter wheat conditions are lower than those observed late in the year in both 1988 and 2001­and for that matter, current conditions are the lowest on record for this time of year (period of record, 1986-2012). The 1988-89 crop was planted during the drought of 1988 and was further harmed by a severe cold wave in February 1989. The 2001-02 crop was adversely affected by a La NiƱa-driven drought.

NOAA released a video update this week concerning the drought impact on agriculture and water resources in the USA as we enter the winter season. Short in length it is still well worth viewing. You can find it under the NOAA ClimateWatch section.

MPR listener question

It seems odd to me that so much of the state is designated to be in severe or extreme drought. I looked up precipitation totals at some locations in the state since January 1st of this year and some are in the surplus:
Chanhassen 31.15 inches, +1.30 inches
Duluth 29.69 inches, +2.07 inches
International Falls 23.96 inches, +0.59 inches
Even MSP airport shows 27.95 inches, only 1.45 inches short of normal
Given these numbers it is hard to understand why so much of the state is in drought.

Answer: Indeed, some observers have reported surplus precipitation for the year. Consider the community of Wright in Carlton County where they have reported 39.01 inches, 9.56 inches above normal. Bear in mind that 20 to 30 percent of the yearly precipitation in some northeastern communities came from one thunderstorm over June 20-21 (leading to the flooding at Duluth, Two Harbors and other communities). Nevertheless, many observers in the state are reporting significant shortages of precipitation in 2012. Some of these include:
Moorhead 16.42 inches, -7.89 inches from normal
Red Lake Falls 14.86 inches, -9.10 inches from normal
Madison (Lac Qui Parle County) 17.14 inches, -7.31 inches from normal
Grand Meadow 24.70 inches, -9.81 inches from normal
Waseca 24.57 inches, -10.01 inches from normal
Albert Lea 22.77 inches, -10.46 inches from normal
Austin 20.64 inches, -12.90 inches from normal

Twin Cities Almanac for December 7th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 29 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 14 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for December 7th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 54 degrees F in 1939; lowest daily maximum temperature of -1 degrees F in 1882; lowest daily minimum temperature of -20 F in 1972; highest daily minimum temperature of 41 F in 1894; and record precipitation of 0.56 inches in 1883; Record snowfall is 6.30 inches in 1927.

Average dew point for December 7th is 14 degrees F, with a maximum of 39 degrees F in 1951 and a minimum of -29 degrees F in 1972.

All-time state records for December 7th

The state record high temperature for this date is 69 degrees F at Grand Marais (Cook County) in 1913. The state record low temperature for this date is -42 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1936 and at Tower (St Louis County) in 1976. State record precipitation for this date is 1.31 inches at Lynd (Lyon County) in 1927; and the state record snowfall for this date is 12.0 inches at Chaska (Carver County) in 1927.

Past Weather Features:

Very warm and sunny weather dominated the state in early December of 1913. Indeed that December was perhaps the sunniest in Minnesota history with 16 perfectly clear days noted during a month that is usually dominated by cloud cover. Many observers reported temperatures that were 15 to 25 degrees F above normal.

December 6-8, 1916 brought a strong winter storm to northern Minnesota. High winds and heavy snow caused large drifts across the landscape. Warroad measured 10 inches of snowfall, Roseau 10.5 inches, and a foot of snow fell at Baudette. It was a precursor to a long, snowy winter (196-1917) in much of the state.

December 6-7, 1927 brought another strong winter storm to parts of Minnesota with a mixture of precipitation. Where snow was the dominant form of precipitation some of the amounts were record-setting, including 19.5 inches at Maple Plain, 14 inches at Chaska, 11.3 inches at St Paul, 10.5 inches at Winona, 10 inches at Canby and Tracy, and 9 inches at Willmar and Campbell. Following the storm temperatures plummeted to below 0 F readings.

Arctic air dominated Minnesota on December 7, 1936 with 25 communities reporting morning lows ranging from -20 to -40 degrees F. The temperature rose no higher than -8 degrees F at Baudette and Virginia that day, and few observers reported readings about 0 degrees F.

December 4-12, 1939 was one of the warmest stretches of winter weather in state history. Over 30 communities reported daytime highs in the 50s F, some even reached the 60s F. An arctic cold front brought temperatures back to below 0 F readings by the 13th, but only temporarily. December 1939 proved to be the warmest in state history.

Probably the coldest December 7th in state history came in 1976. Over 60 communities reported morning lows of -20 to -40 degrees F. The daytime high at Cook, MN only reached -10 degrees F and many record cold values were reported.


Winter storms over the weekend. Scattered snow Friday night into Saturday (perhaps 0.5 to 3 inches), then a more formidable storm Saturday night into Sunday. This second storm may bring amounts ranging from 3 to 7 inches with strong winds. Travel conditions on Sunday may be impacted. Sharply colder Monday and Tuesday, with lows falling into the single digits and below 0 F readings. Warmer on Wednesday with increasing cloudiness and a chance for more precipitation.

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