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Blizzard and more record snows

Blizzard and more record snows

A strong winter storm moved across the state over Sunday night (Mar 17) through midday Tuesday (Mar 19) bringing widespread distribution of snowfall and high winds. Winds were so strong in northwestern and west central counties that blizzard conditions prevailed over March 18th, closing sections of Interstate 94 and Highway 10 for a time. Many places reported winds over 40 mph.

Some observers also reported new record snowfall amounts. On Monday, March 18th new record snowfall amounts were reported from Bemidji (6.0 inches), Rothsay (6.0 inches), Cass Lake (5.5 inches), Pelican Rapids (5.5 inches), Red Lake Falls (5.2 inches) and Collegeville (5.0 inches). Then on Tuesday, March 19th new daily snowfall records were set at Waskish (7.5 inches), Walker (5.0 inches), and Crookston (4.0 inches). The largest storm total values over the three days included 11.0 inches at Isabella, 9.0 inches at Embarrass, 8.5 inches at Kabetogama, 8.0 inches at Babbitt, Bemidji, and Ottertail, and 7.7 inches at International Falls.

The advance of the storm's warm front on Sunday, March 17th brought a 50 degrees F temperature rise at International Falls, from -28 degrees F in the morning to 22 degrees F just before midnight. Conversely, after the passage of the storm temperatures dropped significantly. A record low of -9 degrees F was tied at Thief River Falls on the 19th, while a new record low of 2 degrees F was set at Browns Valley. In addition some observers reported new record cold maximum temperatures for March 19th including 16 degrees F at Madison, 15 degrees F at Browns Valley, 14 degrees F at Artichoke Lake, and just 11 degrees F at Thief River Falls. These cold temperatures combined with higher winds to produce windchills that were well below zero.

You can read more about this storm on our web site.

Further Wednesday (Mar 20) and Thursday (Mar 21) mornings brought continued cold temperatures to many areas of the state. On March 20th a new record low of -4 degrees F was reported at Wheaton, while on March 21st both Wadena and Waskish reported record lows of -17 degrees F. Fortunately a modest warming trend is expected for the coming weekend, but still below normal temperatures for this time of year.

New Seasonal Climate Outlook

he NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) released new seasonal climate outlooks on Thursday of this week. The outlook for April through June favors above normal temperatures in the southern parts of Minnesota and much of the eastern three-quarters of the country. The outlook also favors above normal precipitation for southeastern sections of Minnesota. Further the CPC drought outlook through June 30th favors improvement in the drought situation across the state due to melting snow pack and spring precipitation. You can read descriptions of these outlooks and see the mapped depictions here.

St Patrick's Day Contrast

Our friend Roland Fowler, weather observer at Embarrass, MN reported a significant contrast in St Patrick's Day temperatures for 2012 versus 2013. Last year his thermometer registered a high of 64 degrees F, while this year it was -29 degrees F, a 93 degrees F difference in St Patrick's Days. Whew! International Falls reported a St Patrick's Day record high of 77 degrees F in 2012 and this year they started out St Patrick's Day with a reading of -28 degrees F, a difference of 105 degrees F.

Weekly Weather potpourri

The World Meteorological Organization celebrated World Meteorological Day on March 21st this week. They hosted a Scientific and Technical Forum in Geneva, Switzerland to showcase advances in observation, communication, and forecasting technologies and procedures. You can read more about this at the WMO web site.

On Wednesday this week a severe thunderstorm killed nine people and injured 272 in Dongguan City of south China's Guangdong Province. The strong thunderstorms brought torrential rain, strong winds, and large hail. Winds gusted to over 100 mph causing some structural damage to buildings.

Earlier in the week Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon forecasted a hot year for Texas based on analysis from climate trends and dynamical models that use ocean temperatures. He said these trends are similar to global ones for temperature and as a result he caught a little heat from fellow Texas citizens who deny that climate change is happening. Nielsen-Gammon was appointed as Texas State climatologist under then Governor George W. Bush back in 2000. You can read more about this at the Houston-Chronicle blog.

A paper published by the Niels Bohr Institute recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science finds that climate models show an increase in the strength of inland storm surges by hurricanes if the climate becomes 2 degrees C warmer as projected. Extreme storm surges like those measured during Hurricane Katrina may be up to ten times more frequent according to this analysis. You can read more here.

MPR listener questions

I've noticed that many of the record lows for the last few days were recorded in 1965, the same year we had major flooding on the Upper Mississippi. Does a late thaw correlate with greater flooding?

Answer: Not consistently, but there have certainly been episodes in our history when a late thaw period coupled with deep ground frost and an abundant snow cover have produced major flooding, especially on the Red River watershed. Such was the case in 1882, 1950, 1952, 1965, 1969, 1979, and 1997 when more rapid thaw periods occurred in April and produced a high volume of flow in a short period of time.

I know this has been a colder March than we have been used to. How many Marches have not seen a 50 degree day? It looks like this year may be one!

Answer: For the Twin Cities climate record back to 1873 (140 years) only eleven percent of the time has March not produced a 50 degrees F temperature. So it is indeed unusual. The last two Marches that did not reach 50 F in the Twin Cities area were 2001 and 1979. With the forecast calling for cooler than normal temperatures through the balance of the month we may not see 50 degrees F here until April.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 22nd

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 42 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 24 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 22nd

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 71 degrees F in 1945; lowest daily maximum temperature of 10 degrees F in 1888; lowest daily minimum temperature of -14 F in 1888; highest daily minimum temperature of 56 F in 2012; and record precipitation of 1.40 inches in 1952; Record snowfall is 13.7 inches also in 1952.

Average dew point for March 22nd is 23 degrees F, with a maximum of 60 degrees F in 2012 and a minimum of -10 degrees F in 1974.

All-time state records for March 22nd

The state record high temperature for this date is 81 degrees F at Pipestone (Pipestone County) in 1939. The state record low temperature for this date is -30 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1888. State record precipitation for this date is 3.00 inches at Elk River (Sherburne County) in 1865; and the state record snowfall for this date is 14.6 inches at Fairmont (Martin County) in 1952.

Past Weather Features:

Arguably the coldest March 22nd in state history was in 1888. St Paul reported a morning low of -14 degrees F, while St Vincent in the northern Red River Valley was -29 degrees F. Duluth was -13 degrees F, and as far south as Grand Meadow it was -15 degrees F. At Morris the temperature was -16 degrees F, a record low, and at Pokegama Dam it was -30 degrees F (a statewide record for the date) with a daytime high of -15 degrees F, also a record. Then the last week of the month brought 8 more inches of snowfall. The spring of 1888 was generally cool and wet leading to late planted crops.

The warmest March 22nd in history occurred in 1939 when over 20 Minnesota communities reported daytime highs in the 70s F. The spring warm spell lasted for 5 days allowing farmers to get a great deal of field work done.

March 22-23, 1952 brought a blizzard with heavy snowfall to many areas of Minnesota. Snowfall amounts of 10 to 18 inches were common. Many people were stranded along closed roads and travel was at a standstill for a day or two afterwards. The abundant snow of March that year melted rapidly in April causing spring flooding in many areas.

About 4:30 pm on March 21, 1953 an F-2 tornado (winds 113-157 mph) was on the ground for 11 miles across parts of Stearns and Benton Counties north of St Cloud. It destroyed a church, warehouse and laundromat, killing one and injuring three others. This was one of the earliest spring tornadoes in Minnesota history.



Somewhat warmer temperatures over the weekend, but still well below normal for this time of year. Slight chance of snow in southern counties on Monday and Tuesday. Mostly dry and gradually warmer next week, with an increasing chance for precipitation towards the end of next week.
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