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Some autumn dryness showing up

Some Autumn Dryness Showing Up:

September was the warmest in history on a statewide basis, surpassing September of 1931. The MN-State Climatology Office offers a summary of the month o their web site.

But the second half of the month also brought drier than normal weather to many parts of the state and this has been further amplified by a dry start to October.  Some areas of west-central, northwestern, and southeastern Minnesota have reported less than a quarter of an inch of rain over the past 15 days.  As a result the DNR reports a moderate fire danger in some areas.  On the other hand weather has generally been good for harvesting the corn crop which is expected to be a record across the state.  Good field drying conditions have been a benefit in reducing drying costs before storage.

Anniversary of the Great Fires of 1871:

The Great Lakes States suffered perhaps their worst ever fire season in the fall of 1871.  The summer had been a very dry one, although this does not show up in the long-term Twin Cities record.  The U.S. Army Signal Corps had only initiated a network of precipitation observations across the region beginning in 1870 and reports were very sparse.  The Pioneer Press reported on the very low stage of the Mississippi River, the St Croix River, and the Red River of the North.  The Mississippi River running through the Twin Cities was reportedly at its lowest stage in seven years. This suggests that the surrounding landscape was indeed very dry. Farm reports spoke of parched fields and large cracks in the soil.  The Smithsonian observer at New Ulm reported just 9.82 inches of rainfall over the May through September period, only 58 percent of the modern normal there, and still the record driest ever for that location in Minnesota.

Fires began in western Minnesota, from Breckenridge south to the Iowa border during the month of September.  By October, the Pioneer Press was reporting smoky air, clouds of dust, fires lighting up the western horizon, obscured sunlight, and cinders in the air.  The prairie fires peaked on October 8th in a very destructive manner.  Fires destroyed farm fields, buildings and homes in the New Ulm area. Elsewhere at the same time, even greater destruction occurred:  a fire broke out near Peshtigo, WI destroying the town in less than one hour and claiming 1200 lives in Door and Kewaunee Counties while scorching 1.2 million acres; the Great Chicago Fire began on the evening of the 8th of October in a stable behind the O'Leary home and was not completely extinguished until October 10th by which time it had destroyed over 17,000 buildings and killed over 200 people*; numerous fires also broke out in Michigan and burned over 2 million acres, mostly forested lands, killing 200 people.  Snow and rain during the remainder of October helped to bring an end to this terrible fire season.

Interesting narratives about these fires can be found on the National Weather Service-Green Bay Office web site.
*Footnote: the Chicago weather office of the Army Signal Corps was destroyed in this fire, along with all the early climatological data records. They had reportedly only recorded 1 inch of rainfall from July to October.

A Fond Farewell and Best Wishes to Craig Edwards:

Craig Edwards, Regional Manager of the National Weather Service Forecast Office in the Twin Cities from 1992 to 2006, MPR meteorologist, and chief meteorologist for the Minnesota Twins Target Field home games retired at the end of last month.  I understand he got to throw out the first pitch for the last Twins home game.  He was dedicated to his profession, widely respected, and a highly valued colleague.  Cathy Wurzer, Paul Huttner, and I also greatly appreciated his sense of humor.  We want to wish Craig and his wife Sue all the best as they move to their new home in Ft Myers, FL.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

Over October 2-4 portions of South Carolina were hit with record-setting rainfalls that produced widespread flooding.  The National Weather Service in Columbia, SC reported that a number of weather observers recorded over 20 inches of rainfall in the three day period, topped by an observer in Charleston who measured 23.61 inches. 

The NOAA web site offers an interesting article this week on teaching climate literacy, with some practical tips on relating climate principles to real world experiences and problems.

Deke Arndt of NOAA offers an explanation of El Nino Effects in an interesting article using a bartender analogy.  

NOAA also announced this week that it will release its first comprehensive winter season outlook next Thursday, October 15th.

A recent paper from scientists at UC-Berkeley featured on Science Daily this week suggests that the mass extinction of dinosaurs and other species 66 million years ago was the result of both an asteroid impact and an increase in volcanic activity across India that was induced by the impact of the asteroid.  Both actions together produced the widespread extinction of species.  

MPR Listener Question:

We are enjoying an extended gardening season in the Twin Cities with no threat of frost on the horizon yet.  Which areas of the state have already seen a killing frost this autumn?


Most northern areas of the state have seen overnight low temperatures drop into the 20s F: Some examples include 28F at Hallock, 20F at International Falls and Embarrass, and 24F at Orr.  Temperatures in the 20s F across central Minnesota have been all but absent, although a few places have touched the freezing mark including Browns Valley and St Cloud which have reported 31F.  Across the southern counties frost has been absent so far this fall except for a couple of isolated locations like Preston and Theilman which briefly touched 30F on October 2nd.  BTW temperature forecasts continue to favor above normal temperatures for Minnesota for the rest of October.  It may be a rare year for some observers who will not see a killing frost until November.  That has happened a few times in the past. 

Twin Cities Almanac for October 9th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 61 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 42 degrees F (plus or minus 8 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for October 9th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 86 degrees F in 1938; lowest daily maximum temperature of 38 degrees F in 1906, 1925, and 1985: lowest daily minimum temperature is 22 degrees F in 1895; highest daily minimum temperature of 67 F in 1879; record precipitation of 1.82 inches 1904; and record snowfall of 0.5 inches in 1925.

Average dew point for October 9th is 40 degrees F, with a maximum of 68 degrees F in 1973 and a minimum of 16 degrees F in 1932.

All-Time State Records for October 9th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 92 degrees F at Redwood Falls (Redwood County) in 2010. The state record low temperature for this date is 10 degrees F at Roseau (Roseau County) in 1897 and at Embarrass (St Louis County) in 2000.  State record precipitation for this date is 4.44 inches at Grand Rapids (Itasca County) in 1973; and record snowfall is 7.5 inches at Slayton (Murray County) in 1970.

Past Weather Features:

Morning temperatures dropped into the teens and 20s F on October 9th in both 1872 and 1897.  It happened again in 1932.  As recently as 2000, morning lows dropped into the teens F as far south as St Peter, MN bringing an abrupt end to the gardening season.

A very unusual and damaging snow storm occurred over October 8-10, 1970 across portions of southwestern Minnesota.  A band of 6 to 8 inches of snowfall occurred from Slayton (Murray County) to Hendricks (Lincoln County) and another band of snow fell from Otter Tail County into Clearwater County.  Many trees were damaged by the weight of the snow and some roads were closed for a period of time in these areas of the state.

The wettest October 9th in state history occurred in 1973.  A slow moving storm system passed across the state over October 9-10 depositing several inches of rain in many counties, especially in north-central Minnesota.  Walker, Park Rapids, and Grand Rapids reported over 6 inches of rain producing basement flooding in many homes.  In Blooming Prairie a tornado touched down damaging two farms and overturning some trailers.

October 9, 2010 was the warmest in state history.  Bright sunshine and southerly winds prevailed, pushing afternoon temperatures into the 80s F in most regions of the state, including northern communities like Blackduck and Waskish.  In the south Redwood Falls, Winnebago, and Blue Earth reached the 90s F.


Unseasonably warm over the weekend with highs in the 70s and 80s F.  Increasing winds and especially strong on Sunday.  Cooler Monday and Tuesday, but still above normal temperatures for much of next week.  Generally a dry pattern as well.

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