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Commentary produced May 16, 2014


  • Rain followed by frost
  • New Seasonal Climate Outlook
  • May sunshine
  • Weekly weather potpourri
  • MPR listener question
  • Almanac for May 16th
  • Past weather 
  • Outlook

 Rain followed by frost

The latter part of the weekend and early part of the week brought significant rainfalls to many parts of the state, putting a halt to farm field work. Some observers reported record-setting rainfalls on May 12th, including: 2.08 inches at Hastings; 1.55 inches at Winnebago; 1.42 inches at Waseca; 1.40 inches at Springfield; 1.13 inches at Marshall; and 1.02 inches at Windom. It has been so rainy in some parts of the state that a few observers have already reported well over a full May's worth of rain, including Floodwood with 4.27 inches and Hibbing with 4.01 inches.

Following the rain, skies cleared, humidity dropped, and the nights got very cool, bringing frosts to many areas of the state. In southwestern Minnesota, Windom and Pipestone both reported just 32 degrees on Thursday morning (May 15th), while in west-central Minnesota Browns Valley reported a new record low for May 15th of just 30 degrees F. Further north in the Red River Valley low temperatures at St Vincent and Hallock were 27 degrees F and 28 degrees F, respectively on Thursday. Friday morning brought more widespread frosts, and some new record daily low temperatures, including 25 degrees F at Crane Lake, 27 degrees F at Kabetogama, and 27 degrees F at Worthington.


New seasonal climate outlook

On Thursday, May 15th the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) issued a new seasonal outlook for the nation covering the period from June through August. For the Western Great Lakes and High Plains Regions (including Minnesota) the outlook favors cooler than normal temperature conditions. The outlook stipulates equal chances for above or below normal precipitation over this time period. With the month of May trending cooler than normal, Minnesota is in a period of 7 consecutive months with cooler than normal average monthly temperatures.


May sunshine

Given the very slow onset of spring this year, and only 3 sunny days in the month of May so far, I thought it would be good to remind you of the power of the spring sun, so well depicted in this Robert Louis Stevenson poem:

Great is the sun, and wide he goes,
Through empty heaven without repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays.
Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true.
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.

Weekly weather potpourri

The IPCC has posted an excellent explanation of climate change detection techniques used to quantify both natural and human-induced climate change with respect to temperature. You can view this online at

Scientists from the University of Reading published a recent article in Environmental Research Letters which documents a relationships between the solar wind fluctuations from the sun and lightning strikes on Earth. The scientists found that when the speed and intensity of the solar wind striking the Earth's atmosphere increasing, so does the rate of lightning strikes. You can read more about this study at....

NOAA scientists published a paper in the journal Nature this week that documents a poleward migration in the maximum intensity of tropical cyclones, most notably in the Pacific Ocean and the Southern Indian Ocean. This study suggests that some regions closer to the equator may experience less risk of tropical cyclones, while coastal regions and infrastructure located at higher latitude positions may experience more risk. You can read more about this study at...

The National Wildlife Federation released a new report titled "Climate-Smart Conservation: Putting Adaptation Principles into Practice." It is a very interesting and comprehensive report. The report was a joint effort with the National Park Service, US Forest Service, US Fisheries and Wildlife Service, NOAA, USGS, and EPA. You can find the report at...

MPR listener question

"Here in Grand Rapids, MN the month of May is averaging colder than normal, same as the previous 7 months (back to October of 2013). So this will be 8 consecutive months with colder than average monthly temperatures. Is this close to a record string of colder than normal months?"

Answer: No it is not a record, but you are in rare statistical territory. Using the statewide climate data base and reference to the 20th Century monthly normal temperatures for Minnesota, there have only been 8 cases when the number of consecutive cooler than normal months was 7 or greater. The only persistence of cooler than normal months lasting longer than the present streak (8 months) were: December 1949 to August 1950 (9 months); November 1978 to August 1979 (10 months); and November 1903 to October 1904 (12 months).

Twin Cities Almanac for May 16th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 69 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 48 degrees F (plus or minus 8 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP local records for May 16th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 94 degrees F in 1934; lowest daily maximum temperature of 48 degrees F in 1950 and 1968; lowest daily minimum temperature is 31 degrees F in 1890 and 1929; highest daily minimum temperature of 68 F in 1962; record precipitation of 1.10 inches in 1905; and a record 0.1 inches of snow fell on this date in 1929.

Average dew point for May 16th is 42 degrees F, with a maximum of 71 degrees F in 1962 and a minimum of 16 degrees F in 1973.

All-time state records for May 16th

The state record high temperature for this date is 100 degrees F at at several locations, including Milan (Chippewa County) and Beardsley (Big Stone County) in 1934. The state record low temperature for this date is 12 degrees F at Meadowlands (St Louis County) in 1929. State record precipitation for this date is 5.00 inches at St Cloud (Stearns County) in 1894; and state record snowfall for this date is 2.5 inches at Mahoning Mine (St Louis County) in 1932.

Past weather features

May 15-16, 1929 brought a statewide cold snap to Minnesota with widespread frosts. Fortunately many crops had only recently been planed so they were not exposed to frost damage. Overnight temperatures fell into the teens and twenties nearly everywhere. It was just 26 degrees F as far south as Waseca and Pipestone, while in the north Grand Rapids fell to 14 degrees F.

It is not surprising that the hottest May 16th in state history is from 1934. Over 40 Minnesota communities reported daytime highs in the 90s F and several reached 100 degrees F. May of 1934 was the 2nd hottest in state history overall, as many observers reported several 90 F days during the month.

A winter type storm brought snow to northern Minnesota over May 16-17, 1950. Among the observers reporting measurable snowfall, Hibbing, Duluth, Virginia, and Pokegama Dam.

May 15-16, 1969 heavy thunderstorms brought heavy rains to the central and northern counties of the state. Many observers reported 2-3 inches and some roads were flooded and close for a time. The heavy rains significantly delayed small grain planting in the Red River Valley.


Mostly sunny over the weekend with warmer temperatures (at least closer to normal). Increasing cloudiness on Monday and Tuesday with a chance for showers and thunderstorms. Warmer and drier on Wednesday and Thursday as temperatures approach normal for this time of year.

Further information

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