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Commentary produced January 31, 2014

  • Snow Trouble on the 30th
  • Preliminary climate summary for January 2014
  • Weekly weather potpourri
  • MPR listener questions
  • Almanac for January 31st
  • Labrador Keratopathy
  • Past weather
  • Outlook

Snow Trouble on January 30th

A winter storm brought 1 to 6 inches of snowfall to many portions of east-central MN and west-central WI on Thursday, January 30th, causing a great deal of traffic accidents and very slow commuting. At one time snowfall rates were measured at 2 inches per hour. Some observers reported record amounts of snowfall for the date including 6.4 inches at MSP, 6.2 inches at Red Wing, 5.5 inches at Northfield, and 4.5 inches at Hastings. Fortunately by 2:00 pm the snow had stopped and skies began to clear, but snow emergencies were declared in the Twin Cities.

Preliminary climate summary for January, 2014

January 2014 will be remembered as cold and snowy in most places. Climate observers reported mean monthly temperatures that ranged from 7 to 10 degrees F colder than normal, ranking among the 4-5 coldest Januarys of the past 35 years. Extreme values of temperature for the month ranged from -47 degrees F at Babbitt on the 3rd to 44 degrees F at several locations on the 13th. At least a dozen observers reported a monthly minimum temperature value of -40 degrees F or colder, while Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the nation on 19 days during the month, more than any other state. The month was made colder by the wind, as there were numerous days when the National Weather Service had to issue Windchill Advisories or Warnings. Winds gusted to 30 mph or higher on 11 days. Some of the windchill readings compiled by Pete Boulay of the State Climatology Office included:

-63 degrees F at Grand Marais Airport on the 6th (-48 F in the Twin Cities)
-50 degrees F at Duluth on the 7th
-51 degrees F at Park Rapids on the 23rd (-37 F in the Twin Cities)
-53 degrees F at Grand Marais Airport on the 27th (-39 F in the Twin Cities)
-52 degrees F at Fosston on the 28th

According to the State Climatology Office the median number of days each winter when the windchill warning criteria (-35 F or colder) is reached is three times. The National Weather Service had to issue four windchill warnings for the Twin Cities so far this winter.

Snowfall for the month of January was normal to above normal in most areas of the state. Those observing stations reporting 20 or more inches included Tofte, Isabella, MSP, and Red Wing. A characteristic of January 2014 was the frequency of measurable snowfalls. MSP reported 13 days with measurable snowfall, while International Falls reported 17 days with measurable snowfall.

Weekly weather potpourri

The United Kingdom Meteorological Office reports this week a record wet January for portions of southeastern and central England. Rainfall totals have been over twice normal in many areas and up to over 7 inches in places. Portions of Wales have seen their wettest January since 1995 with up to 9 inches of rainfall. More information can be found at...

Tropical Cyclone Dylan passed over Queensland, Australia this week bringing strong winds and heavy rainfall. Dylan delivered up to 18 inches of rainfall over the community of Mackay causing much localized flooding and a good deal of coastal erosion in some places.

The University of Waterloo in Canada released a new study last week analyzing changing climate and its impact on the ability to host the Winter Olympics. The study found that a number of cities previously used and suited for hosting the Winter Games will no longer be eligible to host these events because of their changing climate character later this century. You can read more about this paper at...

MPR listener question

"My son says we'll have 20 nights this month with below 0 F temperatures in the Twin Cities and that this is well above average. I disagree. It used to be this way all of the time. What is the historic average number of nights with below 0 F temperatures in the Twin Cities?"

Answer: Give your son credit, he is correct. The historical average for nights below 0 F during January in the Twin Cities is 12 (based on 145 years of climate data). If you are of an older generation you are probably remembering Januarys like 1950, 1963, 1966, 1977, and 1982 when we saw well over 20 nights fall below 0 F.

Twin Cities Almanac for January 31st

The average MSP high temperature for January 31 is 22 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees standard deviation), while the average low is 4 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees standard deviation).
MSP weather records for January 31st include: highest daily maximum temperature of 46 degrees F in 2009; lowest daily maximum temperature of -9 degree F in 1887; lowest daily minimum temperature of -27 degree F in 1887; highest daily minimum temperature of 34 degrees F in 1993; record rainfall of 1.16 inches in 1881; and record snowfall of 6.2 inches in 1908. Maximum snow depth has been 23 inches in 1969.

Average dew point for this date is 4 degrees F, with a maximum of 35 degrees F in 1989 and a minimum of -33 degrees F in 1985.

All-time state records for January 31st

Scanning the state climatic data base: the all-time high for this date is 57 degrees F at Springfield (Brown County) and Lamberton (Redwood County) in 1989; the all-time low is -55 degrees F at Embarrass and Tower (St Louis County) in 1996; record precipitation is 1.70 inches at Glenwood (Pope County) in 1986; and record snowfall is 14.8 inches at Burlington Township (Becker County) in 1858.

Word of the Week: Labrador Keratopathy

Sometimes referred to as a type of snow blindness, Labrador keratopathy is a degeneration in the cornea of the eye caused by exposure to excessive UVB radiation. A number of years ago Canadian doctors found a relatively high incidence of this problem in Labrador, specifically in people who live around 55 to 56 degrees north latitude. This portion of NE Canada has a longer lasting and a more extensive season of snow cover than other countries at a similar latitude (the United Kingdom for example). Residents in this part of Canada are exposed to relatively higher amounts of UVB radiation as a result of reflectance off the snow cover. At lower latitudes, snow cover is not as long-lasting, while at higher latitudes the reduced day length and excessively cold temperatures keep residents indoors more of the time and limit their exposure to UVB radiation.

Past weather features

A blizzard brought several inches of snowfall and strong winds to northwestern Minnesota over January 30-31, 1893. The temperature at Park Rapids dropped from 15 degrees F to -41 degrees F overnight, and over four consecutive nights minimum temperatures were -30 degrees F or colder.
The warmest end of January occurred in 1989 when over the 30th and 31st most climate stations reported daytime highs in the 40s under sunny skies. Over 25 communities in western and southern Minnesota saw afternoon temperatures climb into the 50s F.

By far the coldest end of January in state history occurred in 1996 as Arctic high pressure visited the state. Following a moderate to heavy snowfall over the 28th and 29th temperatures began to plummet statewide, with numerous locations falling to -30 degrees F or colder. On the 31st several observers reported morning lows of -40 degrees F or colder, and Fosston reported a high temperature that afternoon of only -23 degrees F. Two days later the statewide low temperature record of -60 degrees F was set at Tower, MN.


Continued colder than normal temperatures into the weekend with a chance for snow on Saturday in eastern sections. Another chance for snow next Tuesday as well. The first two weeks of February a pattern of colder than normal temperatures and less chances for snowfall should prevail.

Further information

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