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Commentary produced March 28, 2014

  • Preliminary March climate summary
  • Cold climate anomaly for Dec-Mar
  • Weekly weather potpourri
  • MPR listener question
  • Almanac for March 28th
  • Past weather
  • Outlook

Preliminary March climate summary

With just four days left in March it is possible to make some general remarks about the weather this month. Cold and dry are the most appropriate words for many areas of the state. Average monthly temperatures are ranging from 7 to 11 degrees F colder than normal. For many observers this March has been among the coldest ten in history including Rochester (8th), St Cloud (10th), and Duluth (5th). For MSP it may rank as 12th coldest in history (back to 1871). The extremes of temperature for the month ranged from 60 degrees F at Browns Valley on the 13th (may be exceeded yet by afternoon temperatures this coming Sunday, March 30), to -44 degrees F at Embarrass on March 3rd (which was a new state record for the date). The cold temperature pattern in March helped to drive the frost layer in the ground to extraordinary depth and contributed to widespread freezing up of residential water utility lines. On a statewide basis March was the 5th consecutive month with colder than normal average temperatures.

Most observers reported a drier than normal month, although precipitation through the coming weekend may bring these values closer to average for March (Thursday, March 27 delivered 2 to 6 inches of snow across much of central Minnesota). Kabetogama, Sandstone and La Crescent all reported over 1.5 inches of precipitation for the month. The majority of observers reported less than 10 inches of snowfall for the month. A few who received more than 15 inches included Austin, Babbitt, Orr, Dawson, International Falls, and Isabella. Kabetogama and Duluth were the only stations to report over 20 inches.

Cold climate anomaly for December through March  

This has been without question a tough winter season, for many the coldest since that of 1978-1979, and for some the coldest since 1935-1936. Persistent cold has been the theme rather than individual record-setting cold days (there have been a few). Average temperatures for the December through March period in Minnesota have been roughly two standard deviations colder than normal and fall in the coldest 5 or 6 winters in history for most locations. It is a remarkable deviation from the trend of mild winters over the past three decades. Five consecutive months have delivered colder normal mean monthly temperature values to the state and since December 1st 71 to 75 percent of all daily observations have shown cooler than normal temperatures, a significant statistical measure of the persistence of cold.

Since December 1, 2013 Minnesota has reported the coldest temperature in the nation (excluding interior Alaska) 56 times. The specific dates and numbers are given in the listing below:

Dec 10 -33 F Crane Lake and INL
Dec 11 -31 F Fosston and Orr
Dec 12 -32 F INL
Dec 13 -26 F Kabetogama
Dec 15 -32 F INL
Dec 16 -29 F Crane Lake
Dec 18 -20 F Embarrass
Dec 19 -16 F Kabetogama
Dec 24 -34 F INL
Dec 26 -28 F Embarrass
Dec 29 -33 F Warroad
Dec 30 -40 F Embarrass
Dec 31 -43 F Embarrass
Jan 1 -43 F Embarrass
Jan 2 -47 F Babbitt and Embarrass
Jan 3 -36 F Embarrass
Jan 5 -40 F Babbitt and Embarrass
Jan 6 -37 F Babbitt
Jan 7 -35 F Brimson and Embarrass
Jan 8 -35 F Crane Lake
Jan 9 -35 F Brimson
Jan 14 -17 F Embarrass
Jan 15 -24 F Crane Lake and Embarrass
Jan 17 -24 F Fosston
Jan 18 -22 F Embarrass
Jan 20 -17 F Grand Marais
Jan 21 -37 F Embarrass
Jan 23 -39 F Embarrass
Jan 27 -31 F Brimson
Jan 28 -35 F Longville
Jan 29 -26 F Crane Lake
Jan 31 -30 F Babbitt and Embarrass
Feb 2 -38 F Embarrass
Feb 4 -29 F Brimson
Feb 8 -32 F Babbitt and Embarrass
Feb 9 -27 F Crane Lake
Feb 10 -30 F Embarrass
Feb 11 -36 F Embarrass
Feb 14 -27 F Babbitt and Crane Lake
Feb 16 -31 F Embarrass
Feb 22 -9 F Fosston
Feb 23 -8 F Fergus Falls and Fosston
Feb 25 -27 F Longville and Fosston
Feb 27 -36 F Crane Lake, Kabetogama, and INL
Mar 2 -44 F Embarrass
Mar 3 -40 F Embarrass
Mar 5 -31 F Babbitt
Mar 8 -19 F International Falls (INL)
Mar 12 -15 F Crane Lake
Mar 15 -15 F Crane Lake
Mar 16 -27 F Crane Lake, Babbitt, and Embarrass
Mar 20 0 F Flag Island
Mar 22 -11 F International Falls and Waskish
Mar 23 -26 F Crane Lake and International Falls
Mar 24 -27 F Embarrass
Mar 28 -8 F Crane Lake

In addition, another measure of persistent cold is that Embarrass has reported a low temperature of -30 F or colder 37 times this winter (a state record) and a reading of -40 F or colder has been reported ten times.

Snow cover has been generally heavier and more persistent this winter in the eastern portion of the state. Snow depths have exceeded 40 inches at some spots in the northeast, where some seasonal snowfalls totals have been over 100 inches.

For many Minnesota citizens this will be a memorably cold and long winter, perhaps so rare that it will not be repeated in their lifetime.

Weekly weather potpourri

A team of Midwestern universities have pulled together a new web site to furnish climate data, data tools, and assessments useful to agricultural producers. The new web site is designated "U2U" (useful to usable) and can be found at...

As we approach the start of the 2014 growing season it may be a good time to browse and get familiar with the data and products at this web site. There are tools to help with nitrogen fertilizer management and irrigation scheduling among others.
NOAA offers a short retrospective on the famous Alaska earthquake of March 27, 1964, one of the most powerful to every hit North America. With a magnitude of 9.2 the quake generated a huge tsunamis which devastated many coastal communities and contributed to the $1 billion in damages. After this event the US government established a National Tsunami Warning Center. You can read more about this at....

There was much discussion this week in the social media about the sculpture in Berlin titled "Politician discussing global warming." It depicts a number of people in flood waters up to their necks talking about global warming. The piece of art was done by Spanish street artist Isaac Cordal and you can view it and read more about it at...

The NOAA-Storm Prediction Center sees a more active spring weather pattern coming up as we enter the month of April. Despite a relative quiet year so far with respect to severe convective weather, SPC filed 8 tornado reports from MO and IA on March 27th, along with 58 reports of large hail. A more active pattern across the Midwest is seen for next week.

MPR listener question

"Here in Carlton County, I've recorded 91 days at or below 0F this winter season. I'm wondering if there are any records of MN stations or observers with more than 100 days of sub-zero lows in a winter season."

Answer: You have raised a good point and I can find no record of 100 days or more of sub-zero temperature readings in any given winter for anywhere in the state. In fact, those winters which have produced 90 or more days are rare indeed. Embarrass and Tower, locations in Minnesota noted for cold temperatures report 97 days and 96 days, respectively of sub-zero readings this winter. Historically some of the coldest winters have produced similar numbers, including 97 days of sub-zero F readings at Fort Ripley in the winter of 1874-1875 and at St Vincent in the winter of 1887-1888. Bigfork reported 95 days of sub-zero temperatures in the winter of 1964-1965, and St Vincent reported 95 days of such readings in the winter of 1886-1887. Tower also reported 91 such days in the winter season of 1897-1898. With some additional cold temperature days ahead into early April, Embarrass or Tower may report 100 or more sub-zero low temperature readings this winter season. We'll see and report it if they do.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 28th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 45 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 28 degrees F (plus or minus 9 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP local records for March 28th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 78 degrees F in 1946; lowest daily maximum temperature of 21 degrees F in 1899; lowest daily minimum temperature is -1 degrees F in 1923; highest daily minimum temperature of 51 F in 1946; record precipitation of 1.08 inches in 1896; and a record 6.5 inches of snow fell on this date in 1894. Maximum snow depth on this date was 22 inches in 1965.
Average dew point for March 28th is 28 degrees F, with a maximum of 57 degrees F in 2004 and a minimum of -9 degrees F in 1923.


All-time state records for March 28th

The state record high temperature for this date is 84 degrees F at Bemidji (Beltrami County) in 1946. The state record low temperature for this date is -30 degrees F at Roseau (Roseau County) in 1923 and at Roseau (Roseau County) in 1975. State record precipitation for this date is 2.60 inches at Canby (Yellow Medicine County) in 1924; and state record snowfall for this date is 13.0 inches also at Canby (Yellow Medicine County) in 1924.

Past weather features

Although the official Twin Cities climate record does not include measurements made from old Fort Snelling an argument can be made that March 28, 1843 was the coldest in state history. The low temperature at Fort Snelling in the morning was -4 degrees F and the afternoon high only climbed to 18 degrees F, giving a mean daily temperature value of 7 degrees F. This is roughly 32 degrees F colder than the modern average temperature for the date.

March 27-29, 1924 brought a strong winter storm to the state with rain, sleet, and snow. The brunt of the storm hit central Minnesota counties bringing 10 to 20 inches of snowfall. Canby and Maple Plain reported over 20 inches. Many schools were closed on Friday, March 28th giving the children a long 3-day weekend.

March 28, 1946 was the warmest of record on a statewide basis. Nearly every spot in the state except Grand Marais saw the thermometer climb to 70 degrees F or higher. Over two dozen Minnesota communities reported record-setting daily highs in the 80s F and farmers were seen working fields up for spring planting.


Generally warmer than normal temperatures over the weekend, with highs reaching into the 50s F on Sunday in many places. Increasing clouds and wind Sunday night with a chance for mixed precipitation on Monday. Some areas may get significant snowfall. Cooler on Tuesday and Wednesday with another storm system crossing the state on Thursday of next week, bringing a mixture of precipitation as well.

Further information

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