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Commentary produced March 21, 2014

  • Minnesota's reputation for cold continues
  • Significant snow this week
  • Spring climate outlook
  • Weekly weather potpourri
  • MPR listener question
  • Almanac for March 21st
  • Past weather
  • Outlook

Minnesota's reputation for cold continues

Since last Friday Minnesota has reported the coldest temperature in the contiguous states of the USA two more times: -15 degrees F at Crane Lake on Saturday, March 15; and -27 degrees F at Crane Lake, Babbitt, and Embarrass on Sunday, March 16th. In fact, Sunday the 16th brought record daily low temperatures to several northern Minnesota climate observers, including -27 degrees F at Babbitt and Crane Lake, -23 degrees F at International Falls, Ely, and Isabella, -21 degrees F at Orr and Kabetogama, -19 at Grand Portage, and -18 degrees F at Cook. These exceptionally cold temperatures gave way to moderating temperatures on St Patrick's Day.

Significant snow this week

A relatively narrow band of heavy snow crossed the state over March 18 and 19 this week, bringing amounts ranging from 2 to 8 inches across central portions of the state. Some observers reported new record daily amounts, including 9.5 inches at Onamia, 8 inches at Collegeville, Dawson and Little Falls (tied record from 1908); 7.2 inches at Pine City and Madison; 7.0 inches at Benson, 6.2 inches at Milan; 5.0 inches at Marshall and 4.5 inches at Kimball. Some even larger amounts of snow fell in eastern South Dakota and northwestern Wisconsin. Water content of the snow ranged from 0.2 to 0.5 inches.

Then again early Friday morning, March 21st a band of snow crossed northern Minnesota bringing amounts that ranged from 1 to 4 inches. Blizzard warnings were issued for portions of the Red River Valley as strong winds reduced visibility there and caused a good deal of drifting snow. A few places received new record daily amounts of snowfall for March 21st, including 8.6 inches at International Falls and 6.5 inches at Kabetogama.

MSP Airport reported a more modest 2.9 inches of new snow this week, increasing the seasonal total for the Twin Cities to 61.5 inches. For comparison Duluth has now reported a seasonal total snowfall of 91.8 inches.

Spring climate outlook

The NOAA-Climate Prediction Center released a new seasonal outlook on Thursday this week (Mar 20). For the period from April through June the outlook favors cooler than normal temperatures across the northern plains and the Great Lakes region, including Minnesota. This outlook follows the recent trend in our region of cooler than normal temperatures since November of 2013. The outlook for precipitation over the April through June period is uncertain with equal chances for below or above normal values. Wetter than normal conditions are expected to start the month of April and there is a moderate risk of flooding along the Red River between North Dakota and Minnesota. More information can be found at...

Weekly weather potpourri

The current issue of Weatherwise magazine has an interesting article by Ed Darack titled "The 10 Best Places in the World." It provides an evaluation of climates that are most suitable to human habitation. Among those on the list is Lisbon, Portugal and Casablanca, Morocco. San Diego, CA also made the list. Number 1 on the list was Vina del Mar, Chile. You can read the full article at....

The Chinese military ordered the bombing of an ice jam in the Yellow River in Inner Mongolia to alleviate the threat of spring snow melt flooding this week as the river begins its thaw cycle. A 500 km section of the river is plagued with ice jams, but this is something that happens with some regularity in that part of the China.

The Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) features a description of the "Climate Resilience Framework-Training Materials for urban planners and city managers to use in building more local capacity to cope with a changing climate. Case studies and technical papers are available to examine that relate to adaptation strategies related to public health, transportation, water, and even hazard mitigation associated with severe weather events and the aftermath. You can read more about this at.....

Canada's efforts to cope with climate change may be scaled back over the next three years due to budget cuts at Environment Canada. A recent report indicates that Environment Canada's climate change and clean air program budgets may be reduced from about $234 million to $55 million. Number of FTE working within Environment Canada may be scaled back from the current level of 6400 people to less than 5350 people. These cuts could be tempered by extending or altering some temporary programs within the agency, depending on which direction the conservation government chooses to go. You can read more about these proposed cuts at....

MPR listener question

" I understand that March is no longer the snowiest month in Minnesota on average, although there was a time when it was. But isn't the state record for the greatest monthly snowfall still associated with March"

Answer: You are correct. For most of Minnesota January is on average the snowiest month of the year. But the record for the greatest monthly snowfall is from March of 1965 when Collegeville reported an astonishing 66.4 inches, with measurable snowfalls on 16 days that month, including 23.6 inches on the 17th.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 21st

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 41 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 24 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP local records for March 21st

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 76 degrees F in 1938; lowest daily maximum temperature of 13 degrees F in 1965; lowest daily minimum temperature is -8 degrees F in 1965; highest daily minimum temperature of 55 F in 2012; record precipitation of 0.83 inches in 1904; and a record 3.9 inches of snow fell on this date in 2008. Maximum snow depth on this date was 23 inches in 1951.

Average dew point for March 21st is 22 degrees F, with a maximum of 56 degrees F in 2012 and a minimum of -11 degrees F in 1965.

All-time state records for March 21st

The state record high temperature for this date is 81 degrees F at Montevideo (Chippewa County) in 1910. The state record low temperature for this date is -33 degrees F at Cotton (St Louis County) in 1965 and at Roseau (Roseau County) in 1975. State record precipitation for this date is 2.00 inches at Ortonville (Big Stone County) in 1893; and state record snowfall for this date is 10.0 inches at Worthington (Nobles County) in 1932.

Past weather features
March 21, 1910 was the warmest in state history with over 40 communities reporting daytime highs of 70 degrees F or greater. The temperature reached 81 degrees F at Montevideo. In western Minnesota farmers were seen plowing fields and planting small grains.

March 21, 1953 brought an exceptionally early tornado to Minnesota. It formed and touched down about 4:45 pm in central Minnesota moving across portions of Stearns and Benton Counties northwest of St Cloud. It was rated F-2 (winds 113-157 mph) and destroyed a church and a warehouse along its 11 mile path. A child was killed in a laundromat which was struck by the storm, one of the earliest spring tornadoes in state history.

A major winter storm brought heavy snowfall to many parts of the state over March 20-22, 1955. Snowfall amounts ranging from 6 to 9 inches were common across eastern portions of Minnesota. Winds over 30 mph blew the snow into huge drifts in southeastern counties, closing some roads there.
Arctic cold gripped the state over the week of March 19-25, 1965 bringing record-setting low temperatures to nearly all reaches of the state. On March 21st that year record lows were reported from over 70 locations in Minnesota, including readings of -30 degrees F or colder in the northern counties. Winona reported a record low of -1 degrees F. March of 1965 was the second coldest in state history trailing only that of 1899.


Cold weekend coming up with some below zero F readings Saturday night in northern counties. Continued cooler than normal early next week with a chance for rain or snow later on Monday and into early Tuesday. Moderating temperatures by Wednesday, then a warming trend towards next weekend with another chance for precipitation.

Further Information

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