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Snowy start to March

Snowy start to March

It appears that March will continue a wetter than normal pattern for the year across much of the state. A slow moving low pressure system brought considerable snowfall to many areas of the state over March 4-5 this week. Many observers reported a storm total of 5-10 inches. Orr reported 10.1 inches and Faribault reported 11 inches. In addition a number of observers reported water contents of the new snow to be over half an inch, including 0.68 inches at St Cloud, 0.73 inches at MSP, and 0.94 inches at Waseca.

Those reporting new record daily snowfall amounts for March 4th included: 6.0 inches at Crookston and 4.0 inches at Redwood Falls.

Among those reporting new record daily snowfalls for March 5th were: 9 inches at Cambridge and Hastings, 8.5 inches at Mora and Milaca, 8 inches at Thorhult, 7.6 inches at Duluth, 7.1 inches at Theilman, and 7 inches at Bemidji and Harmony. Among those reporting new record daily precipitation amounts for March 5th (liquid water content of the snow) were: Pokegama Dam with 0.56 inches, Jordan with 0.48 inches, and Dodge Center with 0.46 inches. The area of the state covered by a snow depth of 2 feet or more expanded with this storm, as did the overall water content of the snow pack. Some locations are well ahead of normal on their winter season snowfall totals to date, including Forest Lake, Crookston, Kimball, Itasca, and Breckenridge with 50-55 inches; Bemidji, Hibbing, Cass Lake, and Grand Rapids with 55-60 inches; and International Falls, Isabella, and Chisholm with 70-77 inches.

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

Score card for USA climate records in the past 12 months

The NOAA National Climatic Data Center reported the following new daily record values in the USA for the past 12 months (March 6, 2012 to March 5, 2013), an extraordinary year for record setting:

32,398 new daily maximum temperature records
32,753 new daily warm minimum temperature records
10,525 new daily cold maximum temperature records
6,757 new daily minimum temperature records
28,398 new daily precipitation records
5,979 new daily snowfall records

Obviously the warm signal of climate is dominant in these statistics, with over 65,000 new daily warm temperature records (both max and min) set across the USA in the past 12 months.

An Invitation

The 2013 Minnesota Environmental Congress hosted by the Environmental Quality Board will take place Friday, March 15 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm at the Ramada Inn in Bloomington, MN. Its purpose is to engage citizens to discuss and prioritize the state's environmental challenges in the context of meeting our energy and water needs, while preserving and improving environmental quality. I will be participating in a panel discussion during the morning session.

Weekly Weather potpourri

On Thursday (March 7) this week the National Weather Service Office in Grand Forks issued an updated spring flood outlook for the Red River Basin. The risk of spring snow melt flooding has increased in the basin with the addition of snow and water in the snow pack. There is an increased risk of moderate to major flooding beyond the simple historical risk, especially in the upper reaches of the Red River Basin, Breckenridge to Moorhead. You can read more detail about this on their web site.

The Community, Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is sponsoring a March Madness Contest to see which state can recruit the most new daily weather observer volunteers this month to join the network. Currently North Carolina leads among all the states. If you would like to keep track of the contest, or more importantly if you would like to become a weather observer volunteer you can go to either of the following web sites:

A Tropical Cyclone Sandra formed off the northwest coast of Australia this week east of Willis Island. It was expected to strengthen but remain primarily out to seas producing winds up to 120 mph and sea waves over 20 feet. The cyclone is expected to persist into next week. Another Tropical Cyclone was expected to form over the weekend in the Southern Indian Ocean south of Diego Garcia.

Brad Rippey of the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board offered the following synopsis of highlights from the US Drought situation report this week:

- Overall U.S. drought coverage decreased to 53.34% of the contiguous U.S., down 0.83% from last week. This is down 7.75% from the beginning of the year and down 12.11% from the record-high coverage of 65.45% on September 25, 2012. Most of the nation’s remaining drought areas did not receive appreciable precipitation during the most recent drought-monitoring period. However, some additional improvement was noted in the Southeast (e.g. Georgia), while late-season snow provided some drought relief in the central Corn Belt.
-The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category – D4, or exceptional drought – was unchanged at 5.45%. D4 coverage has ranged from 5 to 7% for 30 consecutive weeks.
-Hay in drought (55%) was down a percentage point from a week ago. Cattle in drought (66%) and winter wheat in drought (58%) were unchanged from last week.

A paper by researchers at Oregon State University and Harvard University appears this week in the journal Science and sheds some light on the temporal context for the remarkable warming of planet Earth that has occurred over the past 100 years. It appears that at the present pace of change the planet will soon be warmer than at anytime in the past 11,300 years, known as the Holocene. This is the first paper to set such a historical context for the degree of warming we are measuring. You can read more about the results here.

MPR listener question

I am writing to ask you to settle a family bet. My wife, son, and I have been talking about this winter in the Twin Cities and how unusual it is to see February be the snowiest month. My son's view is that December is nearly always the snowiest month, my wife thinks January is more often the snowiest, while I remember March typically delivering the most snow. Based on the Twin Cities records can you tell us who is correct?

Answer: We have a 129 years of snowfall measurements in the Twin Cities, back to 1884. Here is the break down of the snowiest month for each winter:
November 13 times
December 29 times
January 34 times
February 18 times
March 31 times
April 4 times

So, it appears your wife is correct in her view of our historical snow seasons.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 8th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 34 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 17 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 8th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 69 degrees F in 2000; lowest daily maximum temperature of 10 degrees F in 1932; lowest daily minimum temperature of -8 F in 1877; highest daily minimum temperature of 47 F in 1878; and record precipitation of 0.94 inches in 1999; Record snowfall is 12.5 inches also in 1999.

Average dew point for March 8th is 15 degrees F, with a maximum of 57 degrees F in 2000 and a minimum of -17 degrees F in 1967.

All-time state records for March 8th

The state record high temperature for this date is 84 degrees F at Amboy (Blue Earth County) in 2000. The state record low temperature for this date is -38 degrees F at McIntosh (Polk County) in 1908. State record precipitation for this date is 2.22 inches at Breckenridge (Wilkin County) in 1878; and the state record snowfall for this date is 14.5 inches at Spring Grove (Houston County) in 1961.

Past Weather Features:

March 8-10, 1892 brought a blizzard to northeastern Minnesota. Duluth and areas along the north shore saw over a foot of snow with blinding winds, and huge snow drifts. Dangerous windchill conditions prevailed as well as the temperature dropped over 40 degrees F in a short period of time.

Arctic cold prevailed in northern parts of the state over March 8-9, 1908. Over a dozen communities saw the thermometer drop below -20 degrees F. Fortunately it was a short-lived spell and temperatures to the more seasonable 40s F by March 11th.

Another Arctic cold snap gripped the state over March 7-8, 1943. At least two dozen cities saw overnight lows drop into the -20s F. Temperatures remained colder than normal the rest of the month leading to a very backward spring season.

March 8-9, 1961 brought a heavy snow storm to southeastern Minnesota counties. Observers there reported 10 to 20 inches of snow with poor visibility and huge drifts. This mid-week storm closed roads and schools for up to two days.

During a four-day warm spell (March 6-9) in 2000 Minnesota reported the hottest March 8th in state history. Over 60 communities reported daytime highs of 70 degrees F or higher, and several observers recorded highs of 80 degrees F. A strong cold front on March 10th brought snow and a dramatic drop in temperatures which fell off into the teens and twenties F.


Mixed precipitation on Saturday (rain, freezing rain possible, sleet, and snow), cooler temperatures on Sunday. More sun next week with temperatures slowly climbing back to normal and a generally dry pattern in place.
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