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Record snows continue in March

Record snows continue in March

Following a snowy first week of the month for many, some observers reported significant additional snowfall on March 10th and 11th this week. In some cases new record daily amounts were observed. For example on March 10th (Sunday) new record daily values for snowfall included: Cass Lake 6.0 inches, Wright 5.9 inches, Lake Winnibigoshish Dam 5.1 inches, Grand Marais 5.0 inches, Wheaton 4.3 inches, Tower 4.1 inches, Grand Portage and Ottertail 4.0 inches. Then on Monday, March 11th persistent snow showers over southeastern Minnesota counties brought some record-setting daily amounts there, including: 9.0 inches at Spring Valley, 8.5 inches at Harmony, 8.4 inches at Preston, 8.20 inches at Lanesboro, 7.2 inches at Dodge Center, 6.3 inches at Theilman, 6.1 inches at Wabasha, and 6.0 inches at Albert Lea. Yet more snow, from 2 to 4 inches in central and northern counties, fell early Thursday morning (March 14) as another Alberta Clipper crossed the state.

Following a snowy month of February for most Minnesota observers, the first half of March has already produced well-above normal snowfall in many areas. Some locations already at 15 inches or greater for the month include: Duluth, Cass Lake, Chisholm, Orr, Pine River Dam, Blue Earth, Faribault, Harmony, Preston, Rochester, and Lake City. Ostrander (Fillmore County) reports 24.0 inches and Grand Meadow (Mower County) reports 20.3 inches to lead the state in March snowfall.

March has also been following the trend of February bringing us mostly colder than normal daily temperatures. In fact on March 8th (last Friday) two observers reported record low temperatures for the date, -13 degrees F at Wright (Carlton County) and -9 degrees F at Grand Meadow (Mower County). It appears that this St Patrick's Day (Sun) will be about 50-60 degrees F colder than last years.

New tool for gardeners and farmers

Greg Spoden, Minnesota State Climatologist has provided a new web-based climate tool to examine the probability of critical threshold temperatures (frost/freeze values among them) for any location in Minnesota during critical times of the spring and fall seasons. This tool allows anyone to examine location specific probabilities for the occurrence of various plant-sensitive low temperatures ranging from 36 degrees F down to 16 degrees F. The frame of reference for the data is 1981-2010, then new climate normals period used by the NOAA National Weather Service. An example using Chaska, MN shows that the date of April 28 is the 50 percent probability for a reading of 32 degrees F, while as late as May 11 still brings a 10 percent probability of 32 degrees F (frost) to that area. Similar dates for St Cloud are May 10th and May 29th. You can examine the data at our web site by going to the spring freeze/frost dates in the latest developments section.

An invitation

For those who might be interested I will share my observations on what will become of Minnesota agriculture in a rapidly changing climate at the next Café Scientifique, Mar. 19 (Tue), 7 p.m., Bryant Lake Bowl, Minneapolis. Cost: $5–$12. The Bell Museum's monthly Café Scientifique series provides a happy hour program for adults that brings research from the U of M into Twin Cities bars and restaurants. For more information, you can google Bell Museum Cafe Scientifique.

Weekly Weather potpourri

The United Kingdom Meteorological Service released its quarterly Wind Review last week for Europe. It is tabular and graphical summary of wind measurements across the region that are relied upon for the assessment of wind power generated by wind turbines. The recent analysis showed that the Pamplona region of Spain recorded average wind speeds in 2012 that were more than 20 percent above normal. You can read more about this report here.

A winter storm brought some record cold temperatures and plenty of snow to parts of France, Belgium, and Germany on Tuesday (March 12) this week. Some observers reported up to 8 inches of new snow with single digit temperatures. The snow combined with wind to produce low visibility and some road closures and traffic jams. The Frankfort airport endured many flight delays and some cancellations.

NOAA's Climate Monitoring Feature this month describes the importance of winter snow cover for water supplies in the western states. This informative video production, hosted by Deke Arndt, is available for viewing on the NOAA web site.

A paper released recently in Geophysical Research Letters documents the accelerated loss of glacial ice from Arctic Canada. Scientists from the Netherlands, Clark University (MA), and Colorado collaborated to evaluate imagery from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellite system. Their analysis shows that from 2004 to 2011 the loss of glacial ice in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago was 580 gigatons. Continued warming of the Arctic could raise the annual loss of glacial ice to 144 gigatons per year, an alarming pace. You can read more here.

MPR listener question

Answer: For the Twin Cities the latest date on the spring calendar when the minimum temperature has fallen below zero F is March 31, 1969 when the morning low was -1 degrees F (BTW the temperature warmed up to a high of 30 degrees F that day). On a statewide basis the latest spring date with a temperature reading below 0 degrees F was April 28, 1892 when St Vincent (Kittson County) reported a low of -2 degrees F. Incidentally Embarrass, MN has reported a low of -17 degrees F three time so far this month, most recently on Wednesday (March 13) this week.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 15th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 36 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 20 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 15th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 69 degrees F in 1927; lowest daily maximum temperature of 8 degrees F in 1900; lowest daily minimum temperature of -7 F in 1897; highest daily minimum temperature of 42 F in 1927 and 2012; and record precipitation of 0.85 inches in 1945; Record snowfall is 5.0 inches in 1899.

Average dew point for March 15th is 20 degrees F, with a maximum of 52 degrees F in 2003 and a minimum of -11 degrees F in 1979.

All-time state records for March 15th

The state record high temperature for this date is 80 degrees F at Waseca (Waseca County) in 1927. The state record low temperature for this date is -49 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1897. State record precipitation for this date is 3.22 inches at Brimson (St Louis County) in 1971; and the state record snowfall for this date is 21.0 inches at Isabella (Lake County) also in 1971.

Past Weather Features:

On March 15, 1897, was the coldest in Minnesota history. Many observers reported minimum temperatures of -30 degrees F or colder. Detroit Lakes in Becker County reported a morning low of -43 degrees F, frightfully for any winter day. But by the next afternoon (March 16) the temperature was 45 degrees F, a rise of 88 degrees F in one and a half days! Typical March in Minnesota!

On March 15, 1941, one of the most sudden and severe blizzards in modern times struck North Dakota and Minnesota. The storm hit on a Saturday night while many were traveling, and thus claimed 71 lives (32 in Minnesota). Winds gusts were of hurricane force (74 mph or greater) were reported from several northern MN observers. Though snowfall amounts were generally modest, snow drifts twelve feet high were reported in some areas. Crookston caught the most snow recording 12 inches. The temperature dropped 18 degrees in 5 minutes when the storm hit the Duluth harbor. In the aftermath of this blizzard (and that of the Armistice Day Blizzard the previous November), the National Weather Service Office in Chicago relinquished forecast jurisdiction
to the Minneapolis Office.

March 17, 2012 brought the warmest St Patrick's Day in state history. Over two dozen communities reported daytime high temperatures of 80 degrees F or higher, topped by 83 degrees F at St James. It was 79 degrees F as far north as Orr Minnesota. Between March 10th and March 22nd, International Falls set eleven new daily high temperature records. Last March (2012) overall was the warmest in state history as well.


Continued cooler than normal into the weekend. Mostly cloudy late Sunday with a chance for snow by late evening. Snow and mixed precipitation on Monday, then cooler yet on Tuesday and Wednesday. Generally dry next week with a modest warming trend on Thursday and Friday.
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