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Commentary produced May 9, 2014

  • Anniversary of Extension
  • Thunderstorms and hail
  • Overnight heat burst
  • Fishing Opener
  • Weekly weather potpourri
  • MPR listener question
  • Almanac for May 9th
  • Past weather 
  • Outlook

100th Anniversary of the USDA Cooperative Extension System 

On May 8, 1914 the Smith-Lever Act was signed creating the USDA National Cooperative Extension System to provide the public with research-based knowledge and tools to improve their lives and livelihoods. This was administered through the land-grant university system in cooperation with counties. Thus the birth of the outreach arm of the University of Minnesota which I work for. Something to celebrate and acknowledge as for over 100 years Extension has improved the lives of Minnesota citizens.

 Thunderstorms and hail

Wednesday and Thursday (May 7-8) brought significant thunderstorms to the state. There were over 50 reports of hail from 20 different counties in Minnesota. Hail over 2 inches in diameter was reported from portions of Stevens, Big Stone, and Dakota Counties, and hail damage to cars was reported from the Duluth area. Some peak wind gusts over 50 mph were reported, and wind damage was evident in a number of communities, including Waseca, Wanamingo, Lonsdale, and Lakeville. Tornadoes were reported near St James, Lake Crystal, and Gaylord, mostly striking the rural landscape, so inflicting little damage. The relatively fast moving thunderstorms left many areas with a quarter to a half inch of rainfall. A number of observers reported over 1 inch including Hewitt (Todd County), Pennock (Kandiyohi County), Ogilvie (Kanabec County), Milaca (Mille Lacs County), Floodwood (St Louis County), Sandy Lake (Aitkin County), Royalton (Morrison County), New Ulm (Brown County), Rush City (Chisago County), Spring Grove (Houston County), Glencoe (McLeod County), and St Cloud (Stearns County). The largest amount of rainfall reported was from Princeton (Sherburne County) with 3.10 inches on the 7th.

Overnight heat burst

Decaying thunderstorms over northern Iowa and southern Minnesota during the overnight hours of May 8th produced a significant "heat burst" at some reporting stations. A "heat burst' is produced by descending unsaturated (dry) air aloft as clouds from the thunderstorms decay and lift. As the unsaturated air descends pressure increases, temperature increases (by compression), and dewpoints collapse, producing a very warm downburst of wind. Though somewhat rare in occurrence some "heat bursts" have produced significant rises in temperature in just minutes. Such was the case between 1:00 am and 3:00 am Thursday, May 8th at Clear Lake, IA, Mason City, IA, Albert Lee, MN, and Hollandale, MN. The temperature rose dramatically, with a rise in wind speed, and a drop in dewpoints. The overnight temperature spiked at 76 degrees F at Clear Lake, 79 degrees F at Mason City, 77 degrees F at Hollandale, and 82 degrees F at Albert Lea. At Albert Lea between 1:00 and 2:00 am the temperature rose from 66 degrees F to 82 degrees F, the dewpoint dropped from 57 degrees F to 37 degrees F (a drop of 83 percent RH to 26 percent RH), and winds increased from 8 mph to 25 mph. It also is extremely rare that the high temperature for the day would occur at 2:00AM!

Fishing opener

The Minnesota State Climatology Office has posted an interesting narrative about the weather history of the Fishing Opener in our state. For example, those who choose to fish the waters in or near Voyageurs National Park have seen temperature extremes range from 88 degrees F in 1977 to 24 degrees F as recently as 2004. Dense fog occurs about one year in every ten for the Fishing Opener. You can read more at

Greg Spoden, Minnesota State Climatologist notes that of 122 Minnesota lakes with lake ice-out history, the composite statistics show that this year (2014) average ice out dates are up to 10 days earlier than last year (2013 was one of the latest of all-time), but approximately 8 days later than median ice-out dates. Some far northern lakes still have ice cover this year. For the 2014 Fishing Opener it looks like the morning will start out in the mid 30s to mid 40s F and climb into the 60s F by afternoon on Saturday. There will be an increasing chance for rain showers by mid to late afternoon and into Saturday evening, with somewhat cooler temperatures on Sunday.

Weekly weather potpourri

The Office of National Climate Assessment Program issued their latest full report on Climate Change earlier this week. It is officially cited as Melillo, Jerry M., Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and Gary W. Yohe, Eds., 2014: Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, 841 pp. doi:10.7930/J0Z31WJ2.

It covers all regions of the country as well as all sectors of our natural resources and economy that are being affected by climate change. You can find the report at...

It is an 840 page report, too voluminous for most of us, but has very relevant chapters on agriculture, energy, transportation, and other economic sectors, as well as a good narrative on the Midwest landscape including Minnesota. I encourage everyone to read at least a few chapters of this important document. Portions of the report summary, including sections related to specifically to Minnesota and an FAQ chapter can be found posted on our web site at....

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack offered comments this week on implementation of the new Farm Bill, signed into law on February 7, 2014. He noted that implementation of the new program, especially provisions for the use of risk management tools, were making good progress. You can read more of his comments at....

The United Kingdom Meteorological Office announced this week a new partnership with Public Health England and the University of Exeter to look at policy changes and mitigation steps associated with climate change impacts to public health. They will conduct research to improve resilience of health care infrastructure, study how urban planning might be improved, and assess the ecology of infectious diseases. You can read more about this new partnership at...

The UCAR COMET program released a new online educational module this week on "Weather Observing Fundamentals." For those educators and organizations that work with volunteer observers this resource has some valuable recommendations and lessons. You can access this through the MetEd section of the UCAR web site, and use the lesson plan if you sign up as a MetEd user......

Recent research finds that the Emerald Ash Borer was in the USA many years before it was first detected by in 2002. A paper by researchers at Michigan State University published in the journal Diversity and Distributions documents the presence of this insect in southern Michigan in the early 1990s. It probably arrived by wood crating materials or wooden pallets that came from shipments of goods from Asia. You can read more about this paper at...

MPR listener question

"When is the peak hail season in Minnesota?"

Answer: Recent studies by NOAA's Severe Storms Lab in Oklahoma show the peak of the hail season in Minnesota centers on June 1st. So a few weeks either side of that date encompass a high population of the historical hail storms.

Twin Cities Almanac for May 9th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 65 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 45 degrees F (plus or minus 8 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP local records for May 9th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 91 degrees F in 1887 and 1987; lowest daily maximum temperature of 40 degrees F in 1924; lowest daily minimum temperature is 27 degrees F in 1966; highest daily minimum temperature of 69 F in 1896; record precipitation of 1.14 inches in 1918; and a record 0.4 inches of snow fell on this date in 1924.

Average dew point for May 9th is 39 degrees F, with a maximum of 66 degrees F in 1985 and a minimum of 10 degrees F in 1966.

All-time state records for May 9th

The state record high temperature for this date is 99 degrees F at Milan (Chippewa County) in 1928. The state record low temperature for this date is 9 degrees F at Isabella (Lake County) in 1966. State record precipitation for this date is 3.22 inches at St Cloud (Stearns County) in 1979; and state record snowfall for this date is 4.0 inches at Leech Lake in 1902, at Farmington in 1924, and at Maple Plain and New Ulm in 1938. 

Past weather features

Snowfall dominated the weather scene in Minnesota over May 6-10, 1924. With temperatures steadily in the 30s and 40s F it snowed almost everyday. Little field work could be done as fields remained too wet and cold during the week. Snowfall totals ranged from 4 to 9 inches in many places.

May 8-10, 1928 brought a spring Heat Wave to Minnesota with dozens of record-setting high temperatures. Over 20 communities reported daytime highs of 90 degrees F or greater, setting many records for heat that still stand today.

By far the coldest May 9th of all-time occurred in 1966. A cold front on May 8th ushered in very cold polar air across Minnesota. Nearly all observers reported frost on the morning of May 9th, with many reports of low temperatures in the teens and twenties F. Temperatures fell into the teens F as far south as Preston and Caledonia.

Strong thunderstorms brought large hail and heavy rains to Wright, Mille Lacs, Kanabec, Isanti, and Brown Counties over May 9-10, 1979. Rainfall totals ranging from 3-8 inches caused flooding on the Rum River and washed out or flooded a number of roads.


Mostly dry to start Saturday, with near normal temperatures. A chance for showers and thunderstorms later in the day. Cooler on Sunday, with an increasing chance for showers toward evening. Chance for showers and thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday as well, with cooler than normal temperatures. Drier weather towards the end of next week.

Further information

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