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Cold Start to January

Cold start to January:

After a mild December (11th warmest since 1895 on a statewide basis), the other shoe dropped over the first full week of January, with temperatures averaging from 7 to 10 degrees F colder than average through the first seven days of the month, somewhat analogous to the start of January last year.  Brimson (St Louis County) reported the coldest temperature in the nation on January 4th with -28F and on January 5th Togo (Itasca County) reported the coldest in the nation at -29F.  In fact over the first week of the month a few records were set: 
New low temperature records included: -28F at Thief River Falls on January 4th; and -28F at Grand Portage on January 5th
New cold maximum temperature records include: -7F at both Grand Marais and Grand Portage on January 5th; and -8F at Wright (Carlton County) also on January 5th
In addition a new daily precipitation record was set for January 3rd at International Falls with 0.58 inches (associated with 7.8" of snow)

At least 45 Minnesota climate stations reported low temperatures of -20F or colder this week.  The core of the cold air occurred over January 4-5 this week under high pressure.  As a measure of the strength of the air mass, some climate stations reported extremely cold daytime highs.  Temperatures rose no higher than -15F at Isabella and Kabetogama, and no higher than -16F at Sandy Lake Dam and Ely. 

The period of cold temperatures and sparse or shallow snow cover combined to push frost depths deeper into the soil.  Frost depths now vary from 20-30 inches around the state.

Dangerous Wind Chills:

The National Weather Service had to issue a number of Wind Chill Advisories (threshold -25F or colder) and Wind Chill Warnings (-35F or colder) this week for a number of areas around the state.  Wind Chill values ranging from -40F to -50F were reported from northern Minnesota communities (Duluth Weather Service Office), the worst of the winter so far.  Many schools cancelled classes.
The history of the use of "wind chill" dates back to 1939 and Antarctic explorer Paul Siple. 

In the fall of 2001, the U.S. National Weather Service and the Canadian weather replaced the formulas with new ones (one for Fahrenheit temperatures and one for Celsius readings). The new formulas are based on greater scientific knowledge and on experiments that tested how fast the faces of volunteers cooled in a wind tunnel with various combinations of wind and temperature.

The new formula for winds in mph and Fahrenheit temperatures is:

Wind chill temperature = 35.74 + 0.6215T - 35.75V (**0.16) + 0.4275TV(**0.16)

In the formula, V is in the wind speed in statute miles per hour, and T is the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.

Note: In the formula, ** means the following term is an exponent (i.e. 10**(0.5 ) means 10 to the 0.5 power, or the square root of V), - means to subtract, + means to add. A letter next to a number means to multiply that quantity represented by the letter by the number. The standard rules of algebra apply.

The Minnesota DNR-State Climatology Office offers more about the history of Wind Chill in Minnesota. 

Roller Coaster Barometric Pressure:

If rapid changes in air pressure affect you, then Wednesday and Thursday this week you probably felt a bit strange.  On Wednesday the barometric pressure peaked at 11:00 am in the Twin Cities at 31 inches, among the highest values ever measured in January.  Then by 1:30 pm on Thursday (about 26 hours later) it had dropped to 29.64 inches as a deep low pressure system moved across the area bringing high winds and blizzard conditions to southwestern and northwestern Minnesota. Many western Minnesota communities reported wind gusts over 40 mph, while Willmar, Marshall, and Jackson saw wind gusts exceed 50 mph.  A wind gust of 66 mph was reported from Boyd (Lac Qui Parle County).  White-out conditions brought about by blowing snow were reported near Ortonville, Wheaton, Marshall, and Tracy.

Weather potpourri:

Jet Stream January 8

From Andrew Freedman via Facebook:

A jet stream roaring across the North Atlantic at more than 200 miles per hour early Thursday morning nearly succeeded in bringing back supersonic air travel for the New York to London route. Several flights from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport made the trip from there to London's Heathrow Airport (from gate to gate) in about five hours and 20 minutes.
British Airways Flight 114, a Boeing 777-200 jet, took off from JFK at 10:50 p.m. ET, and landed at 9:06 a.m. local time, taking just five hours 16 minutes to make a trip that typically takes more than six hours.

At one point, according to Flight Aware, the jet was traveling at a groundspeed, which is the speed at which the plane is traveling relative to ground level, of 745 miles per hour. For comparison, the speed of sound at sea level is 761 miles per hour.

Earlier this week, NOAA released a written narrative about the Climate of 2014 across the USA.  It is an interesting read.  In summary 2014 was ranked as the 34th warmest across the country, though many Midwestern states reported one of their coldest years.  It was the coldest year in Minnesota since 1996. It was also the 3rd consecutive year with below normal tornado activity across the USA, and the fewest tornadoes since 1982. 

The NOAA-Climate Prediction Center released an El Nino Update this week which reduced the chances that a true El Nino episode will evolve this winter, dropping the chances to 50-60 percent.  Many of the models used now estimate a return to El Nino neutral conditions for much of the year 2015. 

Brad Rippey of USDA included the following remarks in his weekly drought update this week:
The current drought coverage is the nations lowest in more than 3 years, since December 20, 2011. During December, heavy precipitation across the southern and eastern U.S. brought significant reductions in the coverage of abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate to severe drought (D1 and D2).  Improvement was especially dramatic...... with drought coverage dropping from 32 to 10% in Louisiana; 29 to 5% in Mississippi; and 35 to 3% in Alabama. Drought still covers a substantial portion of the southern Plains and the western U.S.  On January 6, the highest level of droughtD4, or exceptional drought was noted in portions of California (32%), Nevada (12%), Oklahoma (6%), and Texas (2%).  California also led the nation with 78% coverage of extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4).  However, California's drought depiction represented an improvement from 5 weeks ago, when 55% of the state was categorized as being in exceptional drought (D4).

A large and strong winter storm plagued the Middle East this week, with plenty of snow, high winds, cold temperatures and large waves along coastal areas. Areas of Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan reported power outages and transportation difficulties.  Refugees from the Syrian conflict living in tents were especially exposed, and waves as large as 13 feet were reported along the Gulf of Suez. 

MPR Listener Question:

I am told that the "Wind Chill Advisory and Windchill Warning" criteria used by the National Weather Service vary around the country.  How different are they for example between Minnesota and Alaska?


Indeed, they are different.  Here in Minnesota a Wind Chill Advisory is issued for expected values of -25F or colder, and a Wind Chill Warning for expected values of -35F or colder.  For the Fairbanks, Alaska office of the National Weather Service a Wind Chill Advisory is issued for expected values of -40F or colder and a Wind Chill Warning is issued for expected values of -60F or colder.  In contrast for Kentucky, Wind Chill Advisories are issued if values are expected to fall below -10F, and Wind Chill Warnings are issued for values expected of -25F or colder.  In Miami, Florida Wind Chill advisories are issued for expected conditions of +35F or colder!

Twin Cities Almanac for January 9th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 22 degrees F (plus or minus 14 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 9th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 49 degrees F in 2002; lowest daily maximum temperature of -14 degrees F in 1886; lowest daily minimum temperature is -32 degrees F in 1977; highest daily minimum temperature of 34 F in 2002; record precipitation of 0.31 inches 1924; and record snowfall is 3.8 inches in 1924.

Average dew point for January 9th is 3 degrees F, with a maximum of 42 degrees F in 1939 and a minimum of -40 degrees F in 1977.

All-time State Records for January 9th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 60 degrees F at Amboy (Blue Earth County) in 2002. The state record low temperature for this date is -49 degrees F at Warroad (Roseau County) in 1930. State record precipitation for this date is 1.70 inches at Beaver Bay (Lake County) in 1873; and the state record snowfall for this date is 17.0 inches at Beaver Bay (Lake County) in 1873.

Past Weather Features:

A strong winter storm brought mixed precipitation to the state over January 9-10, 1939.  Many areas received over half an inch, while New Ulm, Beardsley, Fergus Falls, Wheaton, and Morris received over 1 inch.  Detroit Lakes reported a slushy 6.5 inches of snow.

On January 9, 1960 a snow storm brought several inches of new snow to northeastern Minnesota.  Hoyt Lakes reported 7 inches, while Virginia reported 9 inches.

January 9, 1977 was the coldest in state history.  Over 30 climate stations reported a low temperature of -40F or colder.  As far south as Faribault it was -40F with dangerous wind chill values even colder.  At New London in Kandiyohi County, the temperature never rose above -20F during the day.

January 7-8, 2003 brought two of the mildest January days ever recorded in the state.  Over 75 climate stations reached or surpassed the 50F.  It was that warm as far north as Black Duck and Walker.  Most of the state had little or no snow cover.


Mostly a dry weekend with some sun and moderating temperatures.  Temperatures will begin to warm above normal by the middle of next week under mostly a dry weather regime.  We may even see daytime temperatures in the 30s °F toward the end of next week.

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