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Temperature Records Set and New Seasonal Climate Outlook

Temperature Records Set March 13-16:

A displacement of the polar jet stream north into Canada brought very warm air to Minnesota last weekend.  Scores of warm temperature records were set around the state over March 13-16, including 60 new daily high maximum temperature records, and 35 new daily high minimum temperature records.  A sampling of these new records includes:

March 13th: New daytime high maximum temperature record of 68F at Worthington; 67F at Browns Valley and Marshall; 65F at Wheaton; and 61F at Brainerd and Pine River Dam.
March 14th: New record high maximum temperature record of 67F at Caledonia; and 63F at Park Rapids.
March 15th: New record high maximum temperature record of 77F at Milan; 73F at Park Rapids; 72F at Artichoke Lake; 70F at MSP; 69F at Grand Rapids; and 68F at Bigfork; along with new record high minimum temperature record of 45F at Milan and Marshall, and 43F at Artichoke Lake and Park Rapids.
March 16th: New record maximum temperature record of 78F at Browns Valley; 76F at Madison and Marshall; 74F at Montevideo, Pipestone, and Wheaton; and 71F at Cass Lake and Morris;  along with new record high minimum temperature of 51F at Marshall; 47F at Pipestone and Montevideo; and 46F at Worthington.

These unusually high temperatures drove the frost out of the soil to a depth of 10-12 inches, though there is still some frost below that depth.  See graphic for Waseca ROC.
Losing the frost in the soil this early in March will allow the soil to absorb more precipitation when it comes later in the month (expected late this weekend and next week).
All of the record-setting temperatures ended by St Patrick's Day (March 17th) as temperatures fell back closer to normal for this time of year.  After setting a record high temperature earlier in the week, Bigfork reported snow on Thursday (March 19th).  In fact Thursday brought light snowfall to a number of locations in central and northeastern Minnesota, mostly less than 1 inch.  Cloquet reported 1.5 inches as did a few other locations.

New Seasonal Climate Outlook:

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center released a new seasonal climate outlook on Thursday, March 19th.  For the Western Great Lakes Region, including Minnesota it calls for a warmer and drier than normal April-June period. This outlooks diminishes any possible threat of spring flooding on Minnesota rivers, but it also exacerbates an already exceptionally dry year so far, with over 88 percent of the state landscape in moderate drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.    The NOAA Spring Outlook narrative on the web is available for your viewing and reading.

However before we get to pessimistic about moisture for this spring and summer, let's look at history's lesson.  Of the 25 years that brought the driest first three months (Jan-Mar) in Minnesota, fully half of them produced a wetter than  normal April through June period, and another 7 produced normal rainfall for the April through June period.   So 68 percent of the time the state was saved from early spring drought by adequate rainfall over the late spring and early summer.  Only roughly 30 percent of the time did early spring drought persist into the summer months, and the most recent case for this was way back in 1987.  

Release of the Second Edition ofMinnesota Weather Almanac: 

MinnesotaHistorical Society Press has released the Second Edition of the "Minnesota Weather Almanac." 
It is also available from, as well as Barnes and Noble (  I will be appearing at Macawber's Books in the St Anthony Park Neighborhood of St Paul on the evening of April 2, 2015 at 7:00pm to talk about it and share some stories.  If you can come, please do.  If not there will be other bookstore events later in the year.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

At 5:45pm CDT today (March 20) the Vernal Equinox will occur, with the sun positioned vertically over the equator on it's way north into the Northern Hemisphere.  Hooray! 

Tropical Cyclone Pam was especially powerful and destructive when it passed over the island nation of Vanuatu on March 13-14 damaging or destroying 90 percent of the structures there.  It brought high seas, heavy rainfall, and destructive winds (155 mph and greater).  A full description of the storm can be found at the web site of The Atlantic.   In addition, Dr. Dr. Kerry Emanuel of MIT, one of the nation's leading experts on tropical storms wrote an article for the RealClimate web site that dissects the relationship between tropical storms of this magnitude and global climate change.

Tropical Cyclone Nathan was expected to bring high seas, strong winds, and heavy rainfall to parts of northern Queensland and the Northern Territory in Australia this weekend. Flooding due to storm surge and flash flooding from heavy rains were expected in some areas.                                                                          

President Obama signed an Executive Order on Thursday, March 19, 2015 to reduce the federal governments carbon emissions over the next 10 years by 40 percent, while simultaneously increasing the federal government usage of electricity generated by renewable sources by 30 percent.  This was welcome news for many environmental groups in the nation.

Scientists from the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC) published a recent paper about increases in heavy rainfall events across Europe. They analyzed data from the CMIP5 climate model and did comparisons to trends depicted in the measured data from 1997-2005.  They suggest that heavier precipitation events over the Euro-Mediterranean countries will continue to increase in frequency. 

NASA announced it will host an online briefing about teaching Climate Change Impactson the Great Plains as part of its outreach education efforts.  This will be available on line at 4:30pm CT on March 26th and will feature Kristen Poppleton from the Steger Foundation who is one of the presenters.  

MPR Listener Question: 

In Redwood Falls this week we saw the temperature drop from 64F at 3:00 pm on Monday afternoon (March 16) to a low of 23 degrees F by 7:30 am Tuesday morning (March 17).  This was one of the largest overnight drops in temperature (41 degrees F) tha I can remember for the month of March.  Do you know what the record drop in temperature for the month of March might be in Minnesota? 


 I am not sure, but I know of at least one case that probably comes close to a state record.  On March 19, 1939 the observer at Bemidji, MN reported a daytime high of 42 degrees F and a low of -32 degrees F for a daily range of 74 degrees F.  There is no way you can dress properly unless you wear many layers.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 20th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 41 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 23 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 20th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 66 degrees F in 1938; lowest daily maximum temperature of 12 degrees F in 1951; lowest daily minimum temperature is -9 degrees F in 1965; highest daily minimum temperature of 57 F in 2012; record precipitation of 0.86 inches 1921; and record snowfall is 3.8 inches in 1901.

Average dew point for March 20th is 22 degrees F, with a maximum of 59 degrees F in 2012 and a minimum of -12 degrees F in 1965.

All-time state records for March 20th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 80 degrees F at Cannon Falls (Goodhue County), Redwood Falls (Redwood County), St James (Watonwan County), and Theilman (Wabasha County) in 2012. The state record low temperature for this date is -37 degrees F at Ft Ripley (Morrison County) in 1872 and again at Bigfork (Itasca County) in 1965.  State record precipitation for this date is 2.12 inches at Browns Valley (Traverse County) in 1982; and the state record snowfall for this date is 15.0 inches at Browns Valley (Traverse County) in 1982.   

Past Weather Features:

The cold, snowy March of 1965 delivered an exceptionally cold vernal equinox (March 20) with statewide sub-zero temperature readings.  As far south as Preston it was -20 degrees F, while up north at least a dozen observers reported morning lows of -30 degrees F or colder.  The daytime high at Roseau was only 7 F with 15 inches of snow cover.

A late winter storm brought heavy snow to western and southern counties in Minnesota over March 19-20, 1970.  Southwestern areas received 10 to 12 inches of snow causing some school closings and temporary road closures.

Again over March 19-20, 1982 a late season winter storm brought heavy snow, this time to western counties where observers reported 8 to 15 inches.  The storm brought freezing rain to southern counties and some lightning strikes which produced local power outages.  There were also numerous accidents on state highways.

The warmest March 20th in state history occurred in 2012 when more than 120 Minnesota observers reported a daytime high of 70 degrees F or higher.  It was 77 degrees F at Warroad on the shores of Lake of the Woods, while St James, Cannon Falls, Theilman, and Redwood Falls all reached 80 degrees F.  


Near normal to slightly cooler than normal temperatures heading into the weekend and next week.  A chance for snow, rain, and mixed precipitation Sunday night into Monday, and again late Tuesday into Wednesday.  These systems will bring the most precipitation for the month and some areas may get up to an inch.

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