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Commentary produced January 10, 2014

  • Measures of cold
  • Sound from the soil
  • Weekly weather potpourri
  • MPR listener questions
  • Almanac for January 10th
  • Past weather
  • Outlook

Measures of cold

Certainly 2014 has started out cold, not only for us here in Minnesota but for the entire eastern half of the nation as well. New record low temperatures (some in the single digits F) were reported this week in Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, New York, and several other states. Among the consequences water pipes froze, airports were plagued by delays and cancellations, and gardens and crops were damaged.

Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the nation 7 of the first 10 days of January, with lows ranging from -35 degrees F to -47 degrees F. These lowest temperatures in the nation to start the year included:

Jan 1 -43 F at Embarrass
Jan 2 -47 F at Babbitt
Jan 3 -36 F at Embarrass
Jan 5 -40 F at Babbitt and Embarrass
Jan 6 -37 F at Babbitt
Jan 7 -35 F at Brimson
Jan 9 -35 F at Brimson

Further, since December 10, 2013, Minnesota has reported the coldest temperature in the nation 20 times according to NOAA. So far in January 15 Minnesota observers have reported low temperatures of -40 degrees F or colder. Babbitt (-41 degrees F), Embarrass (-43 degrees F), and International Falls (-39 degrees F) all began the New Year with record low temperatures on January 1st. Subsequently more record lows were observed on January 2nd and 3rd as well (-47 degrees F at Babbitt). Then near record windchill conditions prevailed across the state on Sunday (January 5) and Monday (January 6) with values ranging from -50 F to -60 F in many places. Grand Marais reported a windchill reading of -63 degrees F briefly early on January 6th. Governor Dayton cancelled K-12 public schools in the state that day because of the dangerous windchill conditions. Along with dangerous windchill conditions on Sunday, January 5th Roseau reported a high temperature of just -20 degrees F which was a new record cold maximum temperature for the date, and on Monday, January 6th St Cloud reported a high of only -15 degrees F which tied the historical record for the coldest daytime high on that date (from 1912) as well.

Despite the large geographic scale of this Arctic Outbreak of cold and the fact that Minnesota more often than any other state was the coldest place in the USA during the first week of the year, no new state record cold temperatures were observed, as the statewide record low temperature values over the first 9 days of January range from -46 degrees F to -55 degrees F.

On our web site you can read a synopsis of the cold start to January 2014 compiled by Pete Boulay of the Minnesota State Climatology Office by going to.....

Sound from the soil

This week there were reports out of Wisconsin of ice quakes, sometimes known as frost quakes or cryoseisms. They may be quite sudden and loud, a bit like a sonic boom. This effect is produced by saturated soils or pools of water in underlying rocks that freeze due to extremely cold temperatures and the freezing action causes a sudden expansion of the soil and rock, almost like a concussion wave moving through the ground.

Certainly we had a roller coaster ride in temperatures across the region to start January, with a widespread thaw on Saturday (temperatures ranging from mid to upper 30s F in southern MN), followed by an Arctic freeze-up Sunday and Monday (temperatures dropping into the -20 to -40 degrees F range). Soil temperatures, even with snow cover to protect them, fell into the teens F in many areas.

Weekly weather potpourri

Highlights from the weekly drought update given by Brad Rippey of the USDA:

-During the four-week period ending on January, 7, 2014, U.S. drought coverage increased nearly three percentage points to 33.22%. Drought coverage had fallen to annual low of 30.28% on December 10, 2013; that figure represented the smallest drought coverage since December 27, 2011. Most of the recent increase in U.S. drought coverage has been due to a lack of cold-season precipitation in the West. Western drought concerns are most acute in those areas ­including California ­moving deeper into a third consecutive year of drought.

Tropical Cyclone Ian formed in the Western Southern Pacific Ocean this week east of Fiji and south of Pago Pago. It strengthened by mid-week producing winds up to 110 mph and sea wave heights of 20-25 feet. It is expected to move south and stay away from any land areas before dissipating early next week. Tropical Cyclone Colin was also being monitored in the Southern Indian Ocean, but it was expected to remain out to sea and not a threat to land.

While much of the USA shivered this week in the cold, many parts of Brazil were sizzling in the heat. Coastal regions of Brazil saw temperatures climb into the 90s F with very high dewpoints. These conditions caused the Heat Index to rise as high as 120 degrees F placing a great deal of stress on people and animals.

MPR listener question

"Babbitt, MN was reported to be the coldest place in the USA on Monday, January 6th with a reading of -37 degrees F. It was also reported that this temperature was colder than the temperature on planet Mars in recent days. Can this be true?"

Answer: The answer is yes, based on our limited amount of temperature data from Mars. According to the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station aboard NASA's Rover craft Curiosity on the surface of Mars, recent temperatures there have ranged from -20 degrees F of -121 degrees F. Bear in mind that seasonally it is the month of June on Mars with nearly a 12 hour day length where Curiosity is roaming the surface, and that the equator to pole temperature differences can be very large, as well as the day to night range in temperature. If you want to follow Martian weather you can use this web site

Twin Cities Almanac for January 10th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 22 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 5 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP local records for January 10th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 49 degrees F in 1990; lowest daily maximum temperature of -14 degrees F in 1912; lowest daily minimum temperature is -30 degrees F in 1886; highest daily minimum temperature of 33 F in 1928; record precipitation of 1.13 inches in 1975; and a record 4.0 inches of snow fell on this date in 1975 and 1976. Maximum snow depth on this date was 18 inches in both 1969.

Average dew point for January 10th is 3 degrees F, with a maximum of 39 degrees F in 1980 and a minimum of -39 degrees F in 1982.

All-time state records for January 10th

The state record high temperature for this date is 58 degrees F at Madison (Lac Qui Parle County) in 1990. The state record low temperature for this date is -52 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1905. State record precipitation for this date is 2.12 inches at Grand Portage (Cook County) in 1975; and state record snowfall for this date is 15.0 inches at Brainerd (Crow Wing County) in 1983.

Past weather features

The all-time coldest January 10 in state history occurred in 1912. Thirteen Minnesota communities reporting low temperatures of -40 degrees F or colder. Most daytime highs only made it into the negative teens, while Angus (Red River Valley) reported an all time cold maximum temperature of -26 degrees F. It was all part of the great Arctic Outbreak of January 1912 which brought day after day of below zero F temperatures.

One of the worst blizzards of the 20th Century struck Minnesota over January 10-12, 1975. Called at the time "The Storm of the Century" this system brought unusual low pressure (28.55 inches at Duluth) and associated high winds (gusts from 50-80 mph). Across central and northern counties 20 or more inches of snowfall produced drifts up to 20 feet closing many highways. Near Willmar a passenger train was stalled by snow for hours with 168 people on board. There were 35 deaths associated with the storm, but the National Weather Service was praised for its timely forecasts and warnings.

The warmest January 10 in state history occurred in 1990 when most communities saw afternoon temperatures climb into the 40s F and several western and southern communities reached the 50s F. In fact some citizens took their lunch breaks outside that day to enjoy the warm sunshine.


Moderating temperatures over the weekend (20s and 30s F) with a chance for mixed precipitation in places nearly every day. Continued moderation next week as well, with temperatures near seasonal normals and chances for mixed precipitation.

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.
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