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Commentary produced April 4, 2014

  • Perhaps a singular event
  • Heavy snow up north on April 1st
  • Widespread snow over April 3-4
  • Projected Ice-Out Dates
  • Classes Without Quizzes
  • Weekly weather potpourri
  • MPR listener question
  • Almanac for April 4th
  • Past weather
  • Outlook

 Perhaps a singular event

Can a tornado, thunder-snow, and a blizzard converge on the same geography on the same day? Yes, apparently.

Earlier this week on March 31st a strong winter storm crossed the Dakotas and Minnesota bringing a variety of weather. Ahead of the storm temperatures in southwestern Minnesota soared into the upper 50s F (61 F at Marshall), then high winds, rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow brought blizzard warnings to many western counties, including Yellow Medicine and Lac Qui Parle. At 4:10 pm a Yellow Medicine County Sheriff confirmed a tornado touched down near St Leo causing damage to some nearby farm buildings. This tornado was rare in historical terms, just the 21st such storm reported in the month of March during the modern era (post 1950), but it was remarkably rare and perhaps the only case in state history where a tornado was confirmed in a county with an active blizzard warning! The real blizzard conditions that day ended up further north in the Red River Valley which reported its 11th blizzard of the 2013-2014 season, accompanied by thundersnow. The last March tornado reported in Minnesota was during the unusually warm spring of 2012 on March 19 near Elysian (Le Sueur County).

Heavy snow up north on April 1st

The storm system on March 31-April 1 this week brought heavy snow to many northern parts of the state. New record daily amounts were observed at a number of locations including Warroad (11"), Grand Forks, ND (11.5"), Argyle (15.5"), Hallock (14.0"), Bemidji (12"), Wannaska (13"), Crookston (13"), Red Lake Falls (8"), Warren (18"), Thief River Falls (18"). Winds peaked at 35 to 40 mph causing a great deal of blowing and drifting snow which closed many roads and highways in North Dakota and northern Minnesota as well. A few observers reported over an inch of precipitation in the snow that fell.

Widespread snow over April 3-4

A large winter storm system passed across the state from the southwestern corner northeast through Duluth-Superior over April 3-4 bringing snowfall amounts ranging from 2 to 12 inches. The snow snarled Friday morning traffic patterns and produced a number of accidents. Several roads and highways were closed for a time. The moisture content of the snow ranged from 0.50 to 1.00 inches in many places and was certainly welcome in the drier counties of southwestern Minnesota. You can read more comprehensive descriptions of the storm at the NOAA-National Weather Service web site or the Updraft Blog on the MPR web site written by Craig Edwards....those links are...

It is hard to believe that the Twins host their first home game of the MLB baseball season at Target Field this coming Monday. But it is supposed to be in the 50s F by then.

Projected Ice-Out Dates

The Minnesota State Climatology Office posted a summary of the climatology of ice-out dates for area lakes on our web site this week. Based on current and forecasted conditions lake ice will persist beyond the normal dates of loss this spring. It is difficult to project how delayed beyond the median dates for ice-out this may be. Ice thickness has been unusually large this winter. A recent report from Rainy Lake showed 55 inches of ice thickness, a number larger than any observed in many decades there. You can read more about lake ice-out dates at....

Classes Without Quizzes

The annual University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences Classes Without Quizzes will take place at the Continuing Education Center on the St Paul Campus this Saturday (April 5th) from 8:00 am to 12:30 pm. Dr. Ted Labuza from the Department of Food Science will provide the keynote on "Making Sense of Food Labels." This will be followed by several concurrent sessions on a variety of topics including: Moose in Minnesota; Minnesota's Changing Economy; Extending the Commercial Strawberry Season; Renewable Energy and others. I will be presenting a session on Severe Weather Trends in Minnesota. This is an excellent program and value for the money, just $35. Register by calling 612-624-0822 or just show up on Saturday morning.

Weekly weather potpourri

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week urged European leaders to advance a legally binding climate change treaty for implementation next year (2015) in order to set an example to the rest of the world. He thinks that most of the nations in the European Union are ready to do so.

Earlier this week the IPCC released the latest segment of its 5th Assessment Report (AR5) titled "Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability." This report provides a comprehensive look at impacts of climate change already occurring and an assessment of climate adaptation practices that need to be made to become more resilient to climate change and to mitigate risk. You can read the whole report at...

The UK Met Office was forecasting high air pollution levels across portions of south England, East Anglia, and the Midlands on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Thick layers of dust were seen in some parts of the country. The high level of pollution was blamed on a static air mass with light winds and convergence of local emissions with pollution blown in from the European continent, and dust blown in from the Sahara. With a weather system coming in from the North Atlantic air quality was expected to improve this weekend. You can read more about this episode of foul air at the BBC web site......

 MPR listener question

"How common is April snowfall in Minnesota"

Answer: Depends on where you are. For the Twin Cities measurable snowfall in April is three years out of every four, and a daily snowfall of 4 inches or greater occurs about once every four years. A similar frequency of measurable April snowfall occurs at Rochester, except they measure a daily amount of 4 inches or greater about once every 5 years.

Up north the frequencies are higher. At International Falls over 9 out of every 10 Aprils deliver measurable snowfall, and 1 in 3 bring a daily snowfall of at least 4 inches or greater. Similar frequencies of April snowfall show up in the climate history of Duluth. Remember that last April was the snowiest month in the history of Duluth with 50.8 inches of snowfall, with over half the days of the month bringing snowfall, and seven days bringing 4 inches or greater.

Twin Cities Almanac for April 4th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 49 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 31 degrees F (plus or minus 8 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP local records for April 4th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 81 degrees F in 1921; lowest daily maximum temperature of 25 degrees F in 1874; lowest daily minimum temperature is 5 degrees F in 1995; highest daily minimum temperature of 62 F in 1921; record precipitation of 0.77 inches in 1932; and a record 7.2 inches of snow fell on this date in 1957. Maximum snow depth on this date was 9 inches in 1975.

Average dew point for April 4th is 26 degrees F, with a maximum of 65 degrees F in 1929 and a minimum of -9 degrees F in 1995.

All-time state records for April 4th

The state record high temperature for this date is 89 degrees F at Tracy (Lyon County) in 1929. The state record low temperature for this date is -17 degrees F at Tower (St Louis County) in 1975. State record precipitation for this date is 2.57 inches at Hokah (Houston County) in 1981; and state record snowfall for this date is 18.0 inches also at Meadowlands (St Louis County) in 1968.

Past weather futures

Strong winds associated with thunderstorms brought a great deal of structural damage to the communities of Elk River and Anoka on April 4, 1928. In addition many telephone and telegraph poles were blown down, disrupting communications for several days.

April 4, 1929 was the warmest in state history with over 20 communities reporting daytime high temperatures in the 80s F. By the second week of the month daytime temperatures had fallen off into the 30s and 40s.

A big winter storm crossed the state over April 3-4, 1945. Several observers reported over 10 inches of new snowfall including Wells, Jordan, Albert Lea, Austin, Grand Meadow, Rochester, and Winona.

April 4, 1975 was the coldest in state history with over 40 communities reporting morning low temperatures that were below 0 degrees F. As far south as Springfield it was -1 degrees F. Temperatures remained cold the rest of the month making April of 1975 the 6th coldest in state history.

A strong winter storm brought rain, sleet, hail, and snow to many parts of Minnesota over April 3-4, 1981. Golf ball size hail was reported from several southern cities and wind gusts up to 60 mph were observed in the southeastern portions of the state. A number of observers reported over 2 inches of precipitation, and up to 8 inches of snow fell in central Minnesota.


Cooler than normal temperatures to start the weekend with increasing clouds on Sunday and Monday and a chance for rain or snow mostly in the north. Temperatures warm to above normal levels by mid week with much more sunshine.

Further information

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