Skip to main content

Commentary produced March 14, 2014

  • Passing of Dr. Don Baker
  • North shore snowfall
  • ENSO developing
  • Weekly Weather potpourri
  • MPR listener question
  • Almanac for March 14th
  • Past weather
  • Outlook

Passing of Dr. Don Baker: mentor and friend

Earlier this week Dr. Donald Baker passed away at age 90 having lived a rich and full life in the St Anthony Park neighborhood of St Paul, and as one of the most respected members ever of the University of Minnesota St Paul Campus community. He was a dear friend and mentor to many, including me. There would be no climate science nor would there be a Land and Atmospheric Science Graduate Program at the University of Minnesota but for the life long commitment and good work of Dr. Baker. In addition we would not have the significant state climate data base and knowledge of climate behavior in our state were it not for him.

Dr. Baker joined the university faculty in 1958 after earning all three of his degrees (B.S, M.S. Ph.D.) from the University of Minnesota. He established the St Paul Campus Climate Observatory in 1960 and later that decade helped establish the State Climatology Program. In the 1970s Don recruited me to join the faculty of the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate as Extension Climatologist at least partly because he grew weary of being a one-man climate program on the St Paul Campus. He became a trusted mentor to me, offering both praise and criticism (as needed) until I became a full professor in 1989.

Dr. Baker did the first comprehensive study and review of wind energy potential for the state and for this he was given a Governor's Award for Recognition in Science in 1984 by then Governor Rudy Perpich. I think about this every time I drive by a huge wind turbine in the rural landscape. He also taught Governor Arne Carlson how to make a weather observation on Earth Day of 1992, an era in Don's career when he began to see signs of climate change in his data. Dr. Baker retired from the University of Minnesota in 1994 but he remained active and continued to publish studies up through the year 2002.

As I think about his life I should acknowledge that Dr. Baker was one of my primary role models. We all need role models to help us navigate through the many challenges of our lives. For my professional life, Don was my primary role model. He sought scientific truth rigorously and without compromise, but with a humble attitude. He was always honest and treated everyone fairly. His currency was respect: he expected it from you, but he offered it to everyone he met and with a gentleman's fashionable style (probably a reflection of his dear French wife Jacqueline). Dr. Baker will be remembered for his teaching and for his scientific contributions, but I will forever remember him as my role model.

North shore snowfall on March 12

A very localized snow storm on Wednesday, March 12 brought significant new snow to portions of Carlton and St Louis Counties in northeastern Minnesota. A number of observers reported amounts ranging from 1 to 5 inches. Much of this snow fell on ice from meltwater due to the thawing temperatures of earlier in the week, so roads and highways were slippery during the commuting hours of Wednesday morning. No daily snowfall records were set, but the seasonal accumulations of snowfall for the winter of 2013-2014 in this area of the state are getting to be large numbers. Some of the total snowfalls for the season include 89.5 inches at Duluth, 96 inches at Isabella, 104 inches at Tofte, 106 inches at Two Harbors, 88.5 inches at Babbitt, 87.6 inches at Cook, 84.7 inches at Grand Marais, 80 inches at Grand Portage, 79 inches at Kabetogama, 78.9 inches at Orr, 75.1 inches at Carlton, 71.7 inches at Cloquet, 70 inches at Grand Rapids, and 69 inches at Wright.


ENSO may form in 2014

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center weekly discussion of the El Nino Southern Oscillation this week highlighted an increasing probability for an El Nino episode to form during the summer months. There is slightly greater than a 50 percent probability that this will happen according to the suite of models used by the CPC. This would likely have little influence on summer weather patterns in the Western Great Lakes, but it may have influence over the fall and winter seasons later this year. You can find more discussion on this topic at

Weekly weather potpourri

Tropical Cyclone Lusi was slowly dissipating in the Southern Pacific Ocean south of Fiji this week. Peaks winds of 75-90 mph were producing sea waves between 20 and 25 feet, but the heaviest bands of rain showers were remaining over the oceans and not a threat to any land as this storm continues to die out.

Unusually heavy March snowfalls in the Kashmir Valley of northern India has produced significant avalanches in that region which have disrupted train service, damaged numerous villages and caused a number of deaths. Even where an avalanche did not occur, the heavy, wet snowfall was too much weight for some structures which collapsed. Moderate snowfall was expected there through the weekend.

With a dominance of cold weather this winter throughout much of the eastern half of the country, the NOAA Storm Prediction Center has reported little tornado activity so far in 2014 when compared to historical averages. For the first two and a half months of the year there have been only 49 reports of tornadoes, mostly through Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. February 20, 2014 severe weather produced 34 of the 49 tornado reports for the year, and March has been a quiet month with respect to severe weather so far.

A paper published this week in Environmental Research Letters suggests that climate models are underestimating the emission of atmospheric pollutants from the African continent. Using a compilation of emission data derived from studies in 2005 the researchers estimated the expected pollution emissions in the year 2030 for three scenarios using various policy protocols for future emissions. They found that in the absence of any regulatory measures there may be errors in estimating future climate change over the continent because of underestimating the overall emission of pollutants from countries that compose the continent. You can read more about this at

A recently published study from the University of California-Sand Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography describes the nature of a changing climate in the Amazon, Central America, and Indonesia that will lead to fewer days with rainfall in the future. Some areas will have up to 30 fewer days with rain as the nature and quantity of precipitation change with changing atmospheric patterns. You can read more about this at..

MPR listener question

"When was the last "Minnesota State tournament blizzard" of note?"

Answer: In the context of the State Basketball Tournament season, the most recent "Tournament Snowstorm" was over March 22-23, 2011 when 4 to 7 inches of snow fell in the Twin Cities area. Previous to that storm was the now famous March 17-18, 2005 "Tournament Snowstorm" which brought 4 to 6 inches of snow to the Twin Cities and 10 to 20 inches of snow to southern counties. Historical probability for a significant (4 inches or greater) "Tournament Snowstorm" is about one year in every ten, but there have certainly been some memorable ones which caused disruption, power outages, and travel difficulties. Perhaps two of the most memorable were 1952 (10-15 inches of snow in the Twin Cities), and 1966 (10-14 inches of snowfall in the Twin Cities) when a huge winter storm caused power outages and school closures, including the University of Minnesota. You can read more about the history of "Tournament Snowstorms" at...

Twin Cities Almanac for March 14th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 36 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 20 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation).


MSP local records for March 14th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 73 degrees F in 2012; lowest daily maximum temperature of 8 degrees F in 1906; lowest daily minimum temperature is -10 degrees F in 1897; highest daily minimum temperature of 48 F in 2012; record precipitation of 0.81 inches in 1989; and a record 9.0 inches of snow fell on this date in 2002. Maximum snow depth on this date was 26 inches in 1962.

Average dew point for March 14th is 21 degrees F, with a maximum of 57 degrees F in 1990 and a minimum of -16 degrees F in 1960.

All-time state records for March 14th

The state record high temperature for this date is 74 degrees F at Rochester (Olmsted County) in 2012. The state record low temperature for this date is -40 degrees F at Detroit Lakes (Becker County) in 1897. State record precipitation for this date is 2.20 inches at Fort Ripley (Crow Wind County) in 1852; and state record snowfall for this date is 18.0 inches at Grand Marais (Cook County) in 1917.

Past weather features

A severe blizzard was noted at both Fort Ripley and Fort Snelling over March 14-16, 1855. This storm brought an inch or more of precipitation and several inches of snowfall buried the fort grounds.
March 14-16, 1870 brought a severe blizzard to northern Iowa and southwestern Minnesota, with some observers reporting 16 inches of snowfall and huge drifts. This storm inspired the first use of the term blizzard which appeared in the Estherville, Iowa Vinda\icator Newspaper. The U.S. Army Signal Corps did not adopt the use of this term to describe a storm until 1876.

March 14, 1897 was the coldest in state history with over 30 communities reporting morning low temperatures of -20 degrees F or colder. Some western and northern areas started the day at -30 degrees F or colder and remained below 0 F all day. Bemidji reported a daytime high of only -13 degrees F.

March 13-14, 1917 brought a blizzard and heavy snowfall, especially to eastern sections of Minnesota. Snowfall accumulations ranged from 10 to 20 inches in many places, with Duluth reporting 21 inches. Roads and schools were shut down for a week. This storm followed an exceptionally severe winter, as many seasonal snowfall records were set around the state. Duluth received over 48 inches of snowfall in March of 1917.

March 14, 2012 was the warmest in state history. Over 70 Minnesota communities reported new record daily high temperatures, with several readings of 70 degrees F or higher during a sunny afternoon. March of that year proved to be the warmest in state history with 80 degree F temperatures reported on St Patrick's Day.


Cooler than normal over the weekend, with a chance for snow in the south. Very cold Sunday morning but more sunshine. Temperatures will warm on Monday and Tuesday but there will be an increased chance for snow and mixed showers, especially southern portions of the state. Some snowfall accumulations may be significant. Cooler and drier by Thursday and Friday.

Further information

For older versions of the "Minnesota WeatherTalk" newsletter go to

For access to other information resources go to

NOTE: News releases were current as of the date of issue. If you have a question on older releases, use the news release search (upper left-hand column of the News main page) or the main Extension search (upper right of this page) to locate more recent information.

Print Friendly and PDF