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Commentary produced January 3, 2014

  • December 2013 was climate near historic for northern communities
  • Cold start to 2014
  • Weekly weather potpourri
  • MPR listener questions
  • Almanac for January 3rd
  • Past weather
  • Outlook

December 2013 near historic for far north

In assessing the climate for December 2013 it should be said that from the standpoint of cold temperatures the month was quite historic for many northern Minnesota communities, especially due to the Arctic cold that prevailed over the last few days of the month. Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states thirteen times during the month, the highest frequency among all 48 states. Many northern observers saw overnight temperatures drop below -30 degrees F on several occasions. The mean monthly temperature for December from several communities ranked among the coldest Decembers ever. A sample listing includes:

-4.1 F at International Falls, 2nd coldest all-time
4.6 F at Duluth, 8th coldest all-time
0.1 F at Crookston, 3rd coldest all-time
-3.1 F at Roseau, 3rd coldest all-time
0.3 F at Park Rapids, 3rd coldest all-time
-4.4 F at Embarrass, 2nd coldest all-time
-4.1 F at Baudette, coldest all-time
-3.7 F at Warroad, coldest all-time
-2.9 F at Babbitt, coldest all-time
-2.8 F at Gunflint Lake, coldest all-time

In addition, some communities reported an exceptionally snowy month of December. For Two Harbors it was the snowiest December ever with 55.2 inches, while Duluth reported its 3rd snowiest with 39.9 inches, and International Falls its 4th snowiest with 26.4 inches. Wolf Ridge along the north shore of Lake Superior in Lake County reported its 2nd snowiest December with 46.3 inches.

Cold start to 2014

Continuing the trend from late December, New Years Day brought record cold to many Minnesota communities for the start of 2014. In fact Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states on the first two days of 2014. International Falls began New Years morning with a new record low of -39 degrees F, while Babbitt reported a record low of -41 degrees F and Embarrass a record low of -43 degrees F. Then on Thursday, January 2, 2014 yet more new low temperature records were reported including -42 degrees F at International Falls, -47 degrees F at Embarrass and Babbitt, -44 degrees F at Crane Lake, -43 degrees F at Brimson, and -40 degrees F at Isabella, Kabetogama, and Bigfork. Though not record-setting many other observers throughout northern and central Minnesota reported -30 degrees F or colder on January 2nd.

The reading of -47 degrees F at Embarrass and Babbitt is the coldest temperature anywhere in Minnesota since January 15, 2009 when Babbitt reported -48 degrees F. Minnesota has not seen temperatures of -50 degrees F or colder since January 17, 2005 when a few climate stations reported -50 degrees F or colder (-54 F at Embarrass back then). The National Weather Service is calling for near historic cold temperatures to prevail across Minnesota over Sunday through Tuesday (Jan 5-7) before temperatures moderate near normal late next week.

On New Years Eve NOAA's Climate Prediction Center revised the outlook for the month of January 2014 calling for the entire Great Lakes Region, including Minnesota, to see cooler than normal temperatures for the month. Thus, a continuation of the weather pattern that has prevailed in December is expected for most sections of the state.

Weekly weather potpourri

Tropical Cyclone Bejisa was spinning in the Southern Indian Ocean this week off the eastern coast of Madagascar. Its winds were up to 120 mph producing sea waves of 30-35 feet. It was bringing damaging winds, heavy rains, and high seas to France's La Reunion Island, where there were widespread power outages, uprooted trees, and damaged homes. Bejisa was expected to dissipate at sea by early next week and not be a threat to Madagascar.

The NOAA National Weather Service in California recently released a report on the drought year of 2013. It was the driest year of record for many California locations including Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles, and Yosemite. Furthermore it appears that the dry pattern that dominated in 2013 will carry on through at least early 2014. You can find more information on the dryness of the California climate at NWS-Hanford web site

A paper published in the journal Nature this week estimates that global temperatures will change by 2100 by 3 to 5 degrees C based on better resolution of rising temperature effects on the Earth's cloud systems. Better model resolution and prediction of cloud systems has previously been an obstacle to improving global climate models. You can read more about this paper at...

MPR listener question

"Since last month brought the coldest December since 2000, as well as one of my highest home heating bills, I wondered how often is December the coldest month of the winter season in the Twin Cities area? I will bet it is not very often."

Answer: Examining the climate record of the Twin Cities over the past 142 years it appears that in only 24 winters (17 percent of the time) was December the coldest month. So you are right. The majority of the time January is the coldest month.

Twin Cities Almanac for January 3rd

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 21 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 4 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP local records for January 3rd

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 46 degrees F in 1880; lowest daily maximum temperature of -12 degrees F in 1919; lowest daily minimum temperature is -26 degrees F in 1887; highest daily minimum temperature of 33 F in 1992; record precipitation of 0.76 inches in 1906; and a record 9.0 inches of snow fell on this date in 1906. Maximum snow depth on this date was 19 inches in both 1969 and 1970.

Average dew point for January 3rd is 6 degrees F, with a maximum of 34 degrees F in 2006 and a minimum of -42 degrees F in 1919.

All-time state records for January 3rd

The state record high temperature for this date is 53 degrees F at Canby (Yellow Medicine County) in 1998. The state record low temperature for this date is -54 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1904. State record precipitation for this date is 1.90 inches at St Cloud (Stearns County) in 1897; and state record snowfall for this date is 15.5 inches at Willmar (Kandiyohi County) in 1943.

Past weather features

January 3, 1912 was the coldest ever statewide, with temperatures as cold as -27 degrees F at St Charles. At least ten northern Minnesota communities reported a temperature of -40 degrees F or colder, and the daytime high at Long Prairie was only -19 degrees F, marking one of their coldest days in history. The Cold Wave dominated Minnesota over the first two weeks of January 1912 keeping temperatures consistently below 0 degrees F in many places.

The first three days of the New Year in 1943 brought heavy, persistent snowfall to many parts of the state. Western and central Minnesota observers reported 10 to 18 inches of snowfall to begin the year.
January 3, 1998 was perhaps the warmest in state history as most central and southern Minnesota communities enjoyed daytime temperatures in the 40s F. In western Minnesota residents of Pipestone and Canby watched the thermometer climb into the 50s F. Temperatures plummeted into the single digits and teens again by the 4th of the month.

Word of the Week: Z-R relationships

This is a term used in radar meteorology and refers to the empirical relationship between the power of the reflected signal from a radar (Z), in units of dBZ (decibels relative to Z, droplet volume and droplet size), and rainfall rate at the ground (R); many relationships exist, depending on the degree of convection, presence of ice and assumed rain drop distribution. Basically this is how meteorologists can in the absence of rain gage reports, estimate rainfall amounts from accumulated radar returns.


Blizzard and windchill warnings may still be in effect for parts of the state on Saturday as an Arctic air mass moves down from the north bringing falling temperatures. Very cold temperatures and dangerous windchills will prevail on Sunday and Monday as well. Some moderation in temperature toward normal seasonal values may occur by next Thursday and Friday. The week ahead looks mostly dry.

Further information

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