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New Seasonal Outlook from NOAA-Climate Prediction Center

New Seasonal Outlook from NOAA-Climate Prediction Center

The NOAA-CPC released new seasonal climate outlooks on Thursday this week, covering the period from November through January. Their forecast tools are still giving no strong evidence for above or below normal categories of temperature or precipitation to dominate in Minnesota. Some of their models favor an above normal temperature pattern in parts of southern Minnesota over the calendar period, but not elsewhere in the state. Thus it appears that the models are very uncertain on what type of winter weather pattern we may have. They also released a drought outlook for the period through January 31st and although their models see continued alleviation of drought due to above normal precipitation in October, they also favor persistence of drought in some areas of Minnesota through January.

A missed forecast

Last Friday I spoke on Morning Edition with Cathy Wurzer about the prospect for widespread frost that would end the agricultural growing season for Waseca and other places by October 16-17 of this week. I was informed by several listeners that this turned out to be incorrect, as frost occurred earlier in many places, notably over October 13-14 (Sunday-Monday). Indeed places like Waseca, Zumbrota, Preston, Theilman, Windom, Willmar, Browns Valley, and Montevideo did get a season ending frost over those dates. Since Monday, numerous other locations have reported frosts this week, but there are still a few agricultural counties where it has not yet occurred. However, widespread frost is likely for this weekend and will probably affect all of the state. The coldest temperature observed so far this month has been 24 degrees F at Embarrass and at International Falls.

Wet October, getting wetter

After a relative dry start to the month, this October is turning into a wetter than normal month with over two weeks yet to go. Significant rainfall totals this week in combination with those that fell earlier in the month have added up to over a month's worth at several locations. Normal October precipitation values (1981-2010) generally range from 2.0 to 2.5 inches, but many observers are already reporting over 4 inches, including Moorhead, Fergus Falls, Pelican Rapids, Melrose, Willmar, Cloquet, Isle, Moose Lake, Zumbrota, and Austin. Some observers have already had over twice normal monthly precipitation including Browns Valley (5.23"), Onamia (5.46"), Caledonia (5.55"), Chatfield (6.10"), Preston (6.73"), and Grand Meadow (7.08"). 2013 is the 4th wettest October in history (back to 1887) at Grand Meadow already.

Comments on the Kuehnast Lecture, October 17th

Dr. Piers Sellers, former Space Shuttle astronaut for NASA and now Deputy-Director of the Goddard Space Flight Center gave a terrific presentation for the 21st Annual Kuehnast Endowment Lecture at the University of Minnesota on October 17th this week. A veteran of three Space Shuttle Missions and numerous space walks, he provided a perspective of planet Earth that few can voice. He talked about how the sixteen Earth System satellites of NASA have greatly amplified our knowledge of both climate behavior and trends over the last several decades, providing us with improved understanding of climate change and its impact on the land and oceans. He also pointed out that all but two of the Earth System satellites are now working beyond the scope of their designed longevity in space and are in urgent need of replacement. His presentation was recorded and will soon be posted on our web site.

Weekly Weather potpourri

A study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by Princeton University scientists documents that since the mid 20th Century the plants in Earth's abundant ecosystems have absorbed 186-192 billion tones of carbon, significantly constraining the levels of carbon in the atmosphere and their effect on global temperature. This study is acknowledged to be the first to estimate the extent to which plants have prevented even more climate change from occurring. You can read about this paper online.

In the Western Pacific Super Typhoon Francisco was growing in strength over the open ocean waters southeast of Japan. Winds were already measured at over 130 mph and were expected to increase to over 140 mph, producing sea waves of 40-50 feet. This typhoon may impact parts of southern Japan by the middle of next week, but hopefully in a weakened state. Earlier in this week Typhoon Wipha brought strong winds, heavy rains, and landslides to parts of Japan, closing roads, damaging buildings, and killing at least 18 people.
The Bureau of Meteorology reports that numerous wild fires have broken out in New South Wales (earlier than normal on the calendar), notably outside Sidney as a result of a prolonged dry, warm weather pattern. Some weather observers in New South Wales reported their hottest winter on record (June-August), followed by their warmest September in history, and only about half of normal precipitation during this period. Recent daytime temperatures have peaked between 95-99 degrees F before the bush fires started. A recent cool spell with diminished winds have helped firefighters there gain more control over the situation.

Highlights from the weekly drought update from the Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, NE include:
-After a wet week across much of the central and eastern United States, drought receded to its smallest spatial extent since May 2012 on the Oct. 15 U.S. Drought Monitor. Drought in the western states was mostly unchanged.
-The weekly drought map shows just 36.71 percent of the contiguous United States in moderate drought or worse, compared with 38.59 percent a week earlier. The last time drought coverage was this low was May 29, 2012, at 37.37 percent.
-Drought eased incrementally across the Midwest, Great Plains and South, including parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. Colorado and Wyoming also had areas of improvement.
-The area of Minnesota's landscape in moderate to severe drought declined from 38 percent last week to just 28 percent this week.

MPR listener question

The recent blizzard in western South Dakota made me wonder if anyone in Minnesota has ever reported over a foot of snow during early October?

Answer: Officially, October 18 is the earliest date in Minnesota history for any observation of a foot or more of snowfall. This occurred at Baudette, MN on October 18, 1916 when they reported 16 inches of snow. Actually that year a winter storm brought 10-20 inches of snowfall to several northern Minnesota locations. Few official measurements were noted from the famous October 16-18, 1880 blizzard which started the Laura Ingalls Wilder "Long Winter" and shut down southwestern Minnesota. It was noted by some pioneer families at the time that snow piled into 20 foot drifts, isolating many settlers and closing down the railroads for days.

Twin Cities Almanac for October 18th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 58 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 40 degrees F (plus or minus 8 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for October 11th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 87 degrees F in 1950; lowest daily maximum temperature of 30 degrees F in 1930; lowest daily minimum temperature is 18 degrees F in 1972; highest daily minimum temperature of 61 F in 1950; and record precipitation of 1.05 inches in 1979; and a record 1.3 inches of snow fell on this date in 1976.
Average dew point for October 11th is 37 degrees F, with a maximum of 65 degrees F in 1971 and a minimum of 9 degrees F in 1972.

All-time state records for October 11th

The state record high temperature for this date is 87 degrees F at MSP, St Peter, Chaska, and Farmington in 1950. The state record low temperature for this date is 5 degrees F at Crookston (Polk County) in 1992. State record precipitation for this date is 3.25 inches at Deep Portage (Cass County) in 1994; and state record snowfall for this date is 16.0 inches at Baudette (Lake of the Woods County) in 1916.

Past Weather Features:

An early winter storm brought rain and snow to the state over October 16-18, 1873. Observers reported 1 to 3 inches of rainfall, some mixed with snowfall and low temperatures in the 20s F. This storm was a precursor to even more snowfall later that month as temperatures fell into the single digits and teens F.  In back to back years, 1916 and 1917, October 18-19 brought heavy snows to northern Minnesota communities and blizzard conditions in some places. Many observers reported 10-20 inches of snowfall from these storms bringing an early start to winter.  October 17-19, 1950 brought a return of summer to much of Minnesota. At least 25 communities saw the thermometer reach into the 80s F under bright sunny skies. Only in far northern Minnesota did the temperatures remain in the 50s and 60s F. Bitter cold gripped the state on October 18, 1992. Low temperatures in the teens F were reported as far south as Rochester (17 F). In northern communities lows dropped into the single digits F and high temperatures could only climb into the 30s F, reaching just 32 degrees F at Crookston. Temperature rebounded into the 60s and 70s F the last week of October.

Words of the Week: Ice Plow

Before refrigeration, in the Pioneer settlement era and even the early 20th Century, ice plows were used to cut grooves in the ice over rivers, lakes, and ponds. These were sharp-bladed plows pulled by teams of horses that cut checker-board patterns across the ice. The ice blocks were sawed out, then floated to shore and taken by wagons or sleds to ice houses and caves. The abundance and longevity of refrigeration was clearly linked to the severity of Minnesota winters.


A significantly cooler period coming up with below normal temperatures over the weekend and into next week. After a partly sunny sky on Saturday, clouds will dominate the skies, with occasional rain and even mixed in with snow in some places. Widespread frosts will also occur over the next week. A warm up is not seen until next weekend.
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