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Cool temperatures and a boost in rainfall

Cool temperatures and a boost in rainfall:

For some parts of Minnesota the month of May has brought significant rainfall, the most of any month so far in 2015 for many climate stations.  A list of those climate reporting stations clearly benefiting from the wetter trend of weather in May so far includes:
Itasca State Park 2.23", Moorhead 3.57", Park Rapids 2.63", Cass Lake 3.26", Thorhult 2.67", Pokegama Dam 2.58", Grand Portage 3.12", Montevideo 3.18", Browns Valley 2.91", Dawson 2.54", Madison 2.98", New York Mills 2.81", Wheaton 2.78", Elk River 2.77", Kimball 2.91", Melrose 2.45", Pipestone 3.22", Minnesota 2.76", Albert Lea 2.18", Austin 2.69", Grand Meadow 2.75", Chatfield 3.23", and Rochester 3.10". All of these values are above normal for the first half of May. As a result of this wet start to the month of May, the area of severe drought in the northwestern part of the state shrunk by about 6-7 percent in size, as reported by the Minnesota State Climatology Office.

Persistent clouds and northerly winds brought some cool temperatures and even snow to parts of northern Minnesota on Monday and Tuesday (May 11-12) this week.  Two Harbors tied a daily record cold maximum temperature on May 11th with an afternoon reading of only 38 F.  A number of other observers set or tied records for cold daytime high temperatures on May 11th and 12th as well, including: 39F at Crookston (tied 1946 for May 11th), 42F at Littlefork (May 11th), 39F at Crane Lake and Silver Bay (May 11th), 42F at Cass Lake (May 12th), and 37F at Wolf Ridge (May 12th),    Many other observers reported daytime high temperatures in the low to mid 40s F.  In addition Littlefork reported 0.3 inches of snow, while Orr reported 0.5 inches on May 11th.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

Greenwood Lake in northern Cook County was the last Minnesota lake body to lose ice cover this spring, with an ice-out date of May 7th.  This was 17 days earlier than ice-out last year which was a record late date of May 24th. 

NOAA released an El Nino Forecast Update this week which revealed a 90 percent chance that the current episode will continue throughout the northern hemisphere summer, and an 80 percent chance it will persist to the end of the year.

Typhoon Dolphin was tracking a path towards the island of Guam in the Western Pacific Ocean this week.  It was expected to strengthen through the coming weekend with wind speeds over 120 mph and gusts as strong as 150 mph, producing sea wave heights of 35-40 feet.  It will remain primarily out to sea before weakening by the middle of next week.

NOAA climate scientists feature this week a detailed article about the lack of snow cover in the Southern Sierra Nevada Range of California and its implications for diminished water supplies this year for that state.  April snowpack was only 3% of normal in this mountain range, indicating a dire shortage of meltwater available for the coming growing season in California.  You can read more about this in the news section of the web site

Australian Bureau of Meteorology reported this week that 80 percent of Queensland in now in drought status, the highest percent of the landscape in drought in the history of that Australian state.  Further it is expected that the drought may persist with the formation of a stronger El Nino episode later this year.

MPR Listener Question:

We just moved to Minnesota recently from South Carolina and heard that northern Minnesota was getting snow on Monday of this week.  Snow in May is a bit of a shock to us.  How late in the spring does it snow in Minnesota?


Snow in the month of May is unusual for the southern part of the state, but more common in northern Minnesota.  It snowed 15.4 inches at Dodge Center in southeastern Minnesota on May 2nd just two years ago (2013), and it has snowed 4.6 inches as late as May 31st at Virginia, MN on the Iron Range.  Believe it or not the latest measurable snow was 1.5 inches on June 4, 1935 at Mizpah (Koochiching County).  Further it snowed a trace amount at Duluth on August 31, 1949, so the only month without a report of snow in Minnesota is the month of July!

Twin Cities Almanac for May 15th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 68 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 48 degrees F (plus or minus 8 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for May 15th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 94 degrees F in 2001; lowest daily maximum temperature of 39 degrees F in 1907: lowest daily minimum temperature is 31 degrees F in 1907 and 1980; highest daily minimum temperature of 70 F in 2001; record precipitation of 1.95 inches 1911; and record snowfall is 0.8 inches in 1907.

Average dew point for May 15th is 42 degrees F, with a maximum of 70 degrees F in 1998 and a minimum of 20 degrees F in 2011.

All-time state records for May 15th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 103 degrees F at Winnebago (Faribault County) in 2013. The state record low temperature for this date is 16 degrees F at St Vincent (Kittson County) in 1888.  State record precipitation for this date is 4.20 inches at New London (Kandiyohi County) in 1911; and the state record snowfall for this date is 8.0 inches at Mount Iron (St Louis County) in 1907.  

Past weather features:

May of 1888 was one of the coldest in state history, as many observers reported multiple days of frost throughout the first 20 days.  On May 15th widespread frosts occurred with Duluth reporting 29 degrees F, Argyle 18 degrees F, and St Vincent just 16 degrees F.

May 14-15, 1907 brought significant snowfall to many parts of the state.  Pine River, Leech Lake, Pokegama Dam, and Lake Winnie reported 6 inches of new snow, while Luverne in the southwest corner of the state reported 1.5 inches.  The snow was short-lived as temperatures jumped into the 60s and 70s F on May 16th.

May 15-16, 1969 brought heavy thunderstorms to the northern and central counties of the state.  Most regions received over 2 inches, while a number of places including Red Lake, Waskish, Hoyt Lakes, Artichoke Lake, and Benson reported over 3 inches with some flash flooding occurring in those communities. 

Over 40 Minnesota climate stations reported frost on the morning of May 15, 2000.  Frost was observed as far south as Preston (Fillmore County), and Tower reported a record setting morning low of 17 degrees F.

May 15-16, 2001 brought a dramatic mid-May warm spell to Minnesota with over 70 climate observers reporting afternoon high temperatures of 90 degrees F or higher.  The day also brought high dew points, and the temperature never dropped below 73F at Winona, setting a warm overnight low temperature record as well.

May 14-15, 2013 brought a dramatic warm-up to Minnesota with over 100 communities reporting a temperature of 90 degrees F or higher.  This was a bit of a shock because May of 2013 was overall a colder than normal month.


National Weather Service Chanhassen, MN Weather Story Graphic

Warmer than normal temperatures and more humidity over the weekend with chances for showers and thunderstorms each day, some could be severe.  The weather will be much cooler and windier next Monday with perhaps lingering showers in the morning.   Cooler than normal temperatures with dry weather for next Tuesday through Friday.  More information at


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