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Spring moisture update

Spring Moisture Update:

Recent rains this month have been significant for some areas of the state, most notably east-central, south-central, and southeastern counties, where amounts exceeded one inch in some communities.  Where are the wettest spots?  In southeastern Minnesota, the cities of Austin, Preston, and Caledonia have reported over 4 inches of precipitation for the month.  Many areas of western Minnesota continue to see moisture deficiencies that date back to last autumn.  A mapped depiction  of this pattern can be found at the MN State Climatology Office web site.

Over 92 percent of the state remains in moderate drought (according to the US Drought Monitor) and recent estimates and measurements of soil moisture values show that many of the state's agricultural soils are in need of more water storage before the 2015 growing season begins.  Recent measurements from Lamberton show slightly less than 5.50 inches of stored soil moisture in the top 5ft of soil, somewhat near normal for this time of year.  But these measurements show that the vast majority of available store moisture is in the layer from 3-5 ft below the surface.  The top 2 feet are quite dry.  Recent measurements at Waseca show store soil water content of 7.5 inches in the top 5 ft of soil, about 3 inches below normal for this time of year.  And similar to Lamberton, most of this water is available below the top 2 feet.  In a wider geographic view the Midwest Climate Center estimates that stored soil moisture values in the top 6 ft of soil across the southern half of Minnesota are ranging from 1 to 4 inches less than normal for this time of year (mid-April):

Certainly most crop producers in the state as they begin spring tillage and planting are hoping for some significant rainfall yet this month to bring soil moisture storage closer to average as the 2015 crop season begins.  With the strong winds earlier this week soil was blowing around significantly in the Red River Valley area and many farmers stopped their field work so the loosened soil would not blow so much.

Warm Temperatures:

Strong southerly winds brought very mild temperatures to the regions over several days this week.  In some cases new daily maximum temperature records were set.  Some of these records included:

On April 12th; 78F at Ada, 77F at St Cloud, 76F at Hibbing, and 75F at Alexandria.
On April 13th: 77F at Aitkin, 76F at Brainerd, and 74F at Tower.
On April 15th: 81F at Wheaton, 80F at Browns Valley and Breckenridge.

Though not record-setting, many climate observers have reported daytime highs in the 70s F all week.  Some have reported seven days in the 70s F already this month.

New Seasonal Climate Outlook:

Not much newsworthy in this week's release by the NOAA-Climate Prediction Center of the new seasonal climate outlooks.  For the first half of the growing season, May through July, there are equal chances for above or below normal temperatures to prevail across Minnesota.  The outlook for moisture is also for equal chances of above or below normal values except for northeastern sections of the state which are expected to be dry. 

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

Jason Samenow, weather editor for the Washington Post newspaper reported in an article this week that there has been a shift in the opinion poll of broadcast meteorologists relative to the issue of climate change.  According to a recent survey more than 90 percent of broadcast meteorologists agree that climate change is happening, and 74 percent believe that human activity is at least half responsible.  This is up by roughly 10 percent over what a survey showed just 4 years ago.

The NOAA Monthly Climate Update released this week noted a pronounced disparity in USA temperature conditions during the first 3-months of 1015 (Jan-Mar): seven western states, including California and Arizona, reported the warmest January-March in history, while two eastern states, New York and Vermont reported the coldest January-March in history.  This is somewhat of a rare occurrence to have extremes of temperature represented on the west and east coasts. 

A paper published this week in Nature Geoscience reveals that large-scale westerly wind bursts in the Tropical Pacific Ocean have a strong influence on El Nino events, and also characterizes three varieties or "flavors" of El Nino.  The researchers hope that new knowledge about detecting and measuring these wind bursts may help in the forecasting of El Nino events.

Beijing, China reported its worst sandstorm in over ten years this week, as strong northwest winds from Mongolia blew persistently on Wednesday across the region.  "Day was turned into shadowy night" according to the Beijing press and air quality was made very poor by the dust and sand content of the air.

MPR Listener Question:

I saw great clouds of soil blowing around Minnesota Highway 9 between Barnesville and Crookston in the Red River Valley on Wednesday this week (April 15).  What were the peak wind speeds that day and how strong does the wind need to blow for soils to move around?


Indeed, I was in that area of the state this week as well and saw the clouds of soil blowing around.  Peak wind speeds on April 15th included the following:  40 mph at Moorhead and Thief River Falls; 45 mph at Crookston; 50 mph at Donaldson; and 62 mph at Hallock.  Without the protection of crop residues or vegetation small soil particles often begin to move around when wind speeds exceed 23 mph.  Larger particles move around when wind exceeds 35 mph.

Twin Cities Almanac for April 17th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 58°F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 38°F (plus or minus 8 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for April 17th:
MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 85 degrees F in 1985; lowest daily maximum temperature of 33 degrees F in 1953: lowest daily minimum temperature is 10 degrees F in 1875; highest daily minimum temperature of 61 F in 1976; record precipitation of 1.44 inches 1975; and record snowfall is 2.7 inches in 1939.

Average dew point for April 17th is 32 degrees F, with a maximum of 62 degrees F in 1977 and a minimum of 4 degrees F in 1989.

All-time State Records for April 17th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 91 degrees F at Tracy (Lyon County) in 1914. The state record low temperature for this date is -5 degrees F at Gunflint Lake (Cook County) in 1983.  State record precipitation for this date is 4.00 inches at Belle Plaine (Scott County) in 1894; and the state record snowfall for this date is 13.0 inches at Detroit Lakes (Becker County) in 1945. 

Past Weather Features:

A winter storm brought widespread snow, sleet, and high winds to Minnesota over April 16-18, 1939.  Many areas received 3 to 7 inches of snowfall, with Bird Island reporting a foot of snow.  The high winds brought caused power outages in a number of southern Minnesota communities.

Another winter storm passed across the state over April 16-17, 1945 bringing high winds, rain, and heavy snow.  Park Rapids, Bemidji, and Detroit Lakes reported 10 to 15 inches of snowfall and roads in those areas were closed for a time due to large snow drifts.

April 17, 1983 clearly seemed more like winter than spring.  Morning low temperatures were in the single digits in many communities, including just 5 degrees F at Moose Lake and Winton.  Gunflint Lake and Tower reported sub-zero temperatures with readings of -5F and -2F, respectively.

1987 brought perhaps the warmest ever April 15th on a statewide basis, as nearly every observer in the state reported a daytime high of 70°F or higher, with 80°F readings as far north as Cotton, Leech Lake, and Detroit Lakes.  At Moose Lake the temperature rose from a morning low of 29°F to an afternoon high of 84°F.

April 15-17, 2003 brought heavy rains and hail to many parts of the state.  Tyler, Vesta, and St Cloud received over 3 inches of rain, while Pipestone and Tracy reported over 4 inches of rainfall with some street and ditch flooding.


Continued warmer than normal temperatures on Saturday with increasing cloudiness and a chance for showers later in the day, especially western and southern sections of the state.  Cooler and breezy on Sunday with a chance for showers.  Cooler yet on Monday with a chance for showers and perhaps snow flurries diminishing by Tuesday morning.   Continued cooler than normal temperatures mid-week and towards next weekend. 



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