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2012 Warmest year on record

2012 Warmest year on record

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced this week that 2012 was the warmest year on record (back to 1895) for the contiguous 48 states. Not only that, but it broke the previous record warmest year (1998) by a full degree F. You can read more here.

In addition according to the state by state reports Minnesota recorded the 3rd warmest year in history, Wisconsin and Iowa 2nd warmest, and Nebraska and South Dakota warmest ever. According to NOAA 443 climate states in the 48 contiguous states saw their warmest year in history during 2012. With respect to moisture Minnesota was no where near record-setting even though much of the state was in drought to end the year. To the west Nebraska and Wyoming reported their driest year in history, while Iowa reported its 11th driest year. In contrast the state of Washington reported its 5th wettest year in history.

Record warm January 10th for northern communities

A relatively strong warm front past over the region on Thursday, January 10th bringing a strong surge of mild air. Clouds associated with the warm front held temperatures in check for many southern areas of Minnesota, but northern communities enjoyed plenty of sunshine and saw afternoon temperature values soar to new record levels for the date. Among those setting records were:
52 degrees F at Waskish 50 degrees F at Kelliher and Littlefork
48 degrees F at International Falls, Crane Lake, Cass Lake, Baudette, and Itasca State Park (tied record from 1928)
46 degrees F at Bemidji and Fosston
45 degrees F at Warroad, Ely and Orr

Some of these communities had just set new record highs last year (2012) on January 10th. The warm front brought an unusual mid-January rainfall with amounts ranging from a few hundredths to a quarter of an inch.

Weekly Weather potpourri

Earlier this week NOAA released a technical report outlying historical climate trends and future climate scenarios by region around the USA. The future climate scenarios take two paths depending on future emission scenarios. The goal is to provide plausible future environmental conditions for policy makers to consider in planning for climate adaptation and looking at mitigation strategies by region and stated. You can read more about this report here.

The National Weather Service reported that some areas of east-central Texas received 2 to 4 inches of much needed rainfall on Wednesday of this week. Further some areas have received up to six inches for the month so far, helping to alleviate the drought there. Forecasts favor continued above normal rainfall across areas of Texas through the third week of the month.

Portions of central Australia have been suffering through a terrible heat wave this week. Sydney reported daytime highs up to 108 degrees F, while in Leonora in Western Australia the thermometer hit 120 degrees F on the 9th. Fortunately temperatures in the Melbourne area are supposed to cool off into the 70s and 80s F next week as the Australian Open Tennis Tournament gets underway.

Tropical Cyclone Narelle was spinning off the northwest coast of Australia this week. Winds were gusting to over 110 mph producing sea waves of 35-40 feet. It was expected to strengthen even further and bring heavy rain and high seas to the west coast of Australia over the weekend before dissipating.

Brad Rippey from the USDA World Outlook Board provided a drought update this week that included the following statements:
-Overall U.S. drought coverage decreased to 60.26% of the contiguous U.S., down more than three-quarters (0.83%) of a percentage point from last week. The decreased drought coverage came on the strength of additional rain across the South.
-The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category – D4, or exceptional drought – fell very slightly to 6.70%.
-The percent of hay in drought (63%) and cattle in drought (72%) fell one percentage point from a week ago.
-Winter wheat in drought (62%) remained unchanged from New Year’s Day.
-For the 27th consecutive week (July 10, 2012 – January 8, 2013), drought encompassed more than two-thirds of the domestic cattle inventory and at least 60% of the domestic hay acreage.

MPR listener questions

It seems quite unusual to get rain in January. How often does this happen in the Twin Cities?

Answer: Perhaps more often than you think. In the past 20 years there have been eight Januarys that have produced at least one day with only liquid precipitation (rain) and no sleet, snow, or freezing rain. In 1997 and 2006 there were two rain events in January. So an estimate is that about 40 percent of the time we see a rain event in January for the Twin Cities.

How are temperature averages calculated by the National Weather Service?

Answer: Daily temperature averages are computed by adding the high (max) and low (min), then dividing by two. Monthly averages are computed by summing all of the daily maximum temperatures, dividing by the number of days in the month; doing similar to the daily minimum temperatures; then adding together those monthly average values of maximum and minimum temperature and dividing by two. State average monthly and annual temperatures are computed by averaging all of the mean values from the observing stations within a Climate Division (a multi-county area), then taking a weighted average (based on landscape area) of the climate division mean values.

Twin Cities Almanac for January 11th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 25 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 11 degrees F (plus or minus 15 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for January 11th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 44 degrees F in 1986; lowest daily maximum temperature of -19 degrees F in 1912; lowest daily minimum temperature of -31 F in 1977; highest daily minimum temperature of 32 F in 1928; and record precipitation of 0.47 inches in 1930; Record snowfall is 6.0 inches in 1905.

Average dew point for January 11th is 5 degrees F, with a maximum of 36 degrees F in 1980 and a minimum of -38 degrees F in 1977.

All-time state records for January 11th

The state record high temperature for this date is 56 degrees F at Madison (Lac Qui Parle County) in 1958 and at Canby (Yellow Medicine County) in 1990. The state record low temperature for this date is an arctic-like -53 degrees F at St Vincent (Kittson County) in 1888. State record precipitation for this date is 2.70 inches at Beaver Bay (Lake County) in 1866; and the state record snowfall for this date is 24.0 inches at Riverton (Crow Wing County) in 1975.

Past Weather Features:

Arctic cold gripped the state on January 11, 1888 as St Vincent reported -53 degrees F, Moorhead reported -44 degrees F, and Morris reported -31 degrees F. St Paul Signal Corps Office reported -28 degrees F that morning and in Rochester it was -26 degrees F.

Another arctic cold wave engulfed Minnesota over January 10-12 with over 20 communities reporting temperatures of -40 degrees F or colder. There was little moderation in temperature until the last week of the month as January of 1912 proved to be the coldest in state history.

January 8-11, 1958 brought a prolonged thaw period to western portions of the state as at least ten Minnesota communities reported record high temperatures in the 50s F. It was one of Minnesota's warmest Januarys.

January 10-12, 1975 brought one of the state's worst ever blizzards, called the "Storm of the Century" by the National Weather Service. Winds of 30-50 mph blew snow into huge drifts, with damaging wind gusts up to 80 mph. Snow drifts over 20 feet blocked roads and highways. Passengers (168 people) were trapped for hours on a stalled train near Willmar and there were 35 storm-related deaths. Many areas reported over a foot of snow, while Alexandria, Riverton, Melrose, Kettle Falls, Remer, Hibbing, and Springfield reported over 20 inches.

Another mild spell of January weather prevailed over the 8th through the 11th in 1990 as a dozen western and central Minnesota communities saw daytime highs reach the 50s F. Mild temperature prevailed most of the month, which was the 3rd warmest January in state history.


Much colder over the weekend, and windier too. There will be a chance for scattered snow with generally cooler than normal temperatures through the middle of next week.
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