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Record-setting December continues

Record-setting December continues:

The December climate pattern across Minnesota is tracking much like November did, warm and wetter, only even more amplified.  Average temperature for the month is ranging from 14 to 18 degrees F warmer than normal, and many new warm minimum temperature records have been set such as the low of 38F at MSP and 40F at Rochester on December 13th.  On December 14 the temperature never dropped lower than 44F at Caledonia.  A high degree of cloudiness has accompanied this warm temperature pattern, fueled by a great deal of water vapor in the air.  MSP also set a new high dew point record on December 13th with a reading of 38F. Daily cloud cover has average over 80 percent for the month so far, so little sunshine has made it through.

December 13-14 brought some record setting rains to many parts of the state.  On December 13th some of those reporting new record daily rainfall amounts included:  1.10" at Caledonia: 0.80" at La Crescent; and 0.50" at Harmony (tied 1991). On December 14th record-setting precipitation amounts were even more widespread, including: 1.47" at Austin; 1.44" at Caledonia; 1.57" at Harmony; 1.65" at La Crescent; 1.92" at Preston; 1.24" at Bricelyn and Wells; and 1.16" at Zumbrota. Further to the east in Wisconsin December 13-14 brought over 3 inches to La Crosse and Sparta, and further south Maxwell and Tripoli Iowa reported over 4 inches.

La Crescent, MN is on pace to record its warmest (+17°F above normal) and wettest (+2.36”above normal)) December in history and many other southeastern Minnesota climate stations are close to doing this as well.   

Comments on the role of the arts in climate change messaging:

One of Minnesota's premier arts programs, COMPAS, asked me to write a blog this week about the value of the arts in our community infrastructure, especially in regards to stimulating creative thinking.  I have been a donor to COMPAS for some years and my daughter Emma works for them.  I was happy to comply to their request and I shared a perspective on the role of creativity, not only in the arts, but in communicating science as well.  If you want to take a look you can go to the COMPAS web site.

Third Annual Climate Adaptation Conference: 

Registration is now open for the 3rd Annual Minnesota Climate Adaptation Conference on January 28, 2016 at the Hilton DoubleTree in north Minneapolis.  This conference is designed for local officials, planners, engineers, natural resource practitioners and others who want to learn more about adaptation strategies that have worked or are being tested in various sectors, tribal communities, energy, local foods, emergency management, communication and water resources.  At the conference we will also hear from several major corporations about how they are addressing climate adaptation and listen to a mayors panel at lunch where they will discuss city approaches to climate adaptation. 

For the second year, Climate Adaptation Awards will be presented to recognize achievements in leadership, education, research, policies, or practices that improve resilience and advance climate adaptation in Minnesota. 

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

NOAA released a report card this week on the 2015 Arctic Climate.  It contains both a narrative about the continuing decline of Arctic sea ice and the record setting temperatures that occurred there, along with many visuals of the landscape and graphics illustrating the climate trends.

NOAA-Climate Prediction Center released new seasonal outlooks this week.  For the months of January through March the climate pattern across Minnesota and virtually all of the Great Lakes states is expected to be warmer than normal and drier than normal. Further, this pattern is expected to prevail through the spring season as well.

For snow lovers, Dr. Kenny Blumenfeld of the DNR-State Climatology Office has released a climatology of snow cover in the Twin Cities for the period from 1900-2015.  It is interesting to view the average seasonal pattern in snow cover (from 1" to 18").

A paper published this week in Geophysical Research Letters and announced at the AGU meetings documents the rising temperature trends in 235 monitored lakes.  Dr. Jay Austin of UMD is one of the co-authors.  The study found that the average rate of warming is 0.61F per decade, a warming rate that is greater than that observed in the atmosphere or the oceans.  Some of the fastest warming is occurring in the Great Lakes.   Science Daily features a write-up on this paper.

Also reported from the AGU meeting this week out of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks is a study which documents an increased rate in the loss of permafrost from the north slope areas of Alaska. Among those agencies monitoring the loss of permafrost in Alaska is the National Park system which manages very large amounts of the landscape there. 

USDA released a new report this week that garnered a lot of attention.  It is titled "Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System."   It makes for some interesting reading.

MPR Listener Question:

Has there ever been a winter in Twin Cities weather history, when the cities lakes never froze?


No, I cannot find a year when Twin Cities lakes never froze.  Perhaps the shortest duration of lake ice occurred in the winter of 1877-1878 when some Twin Cities lakes did not freeze until the end of November, then thawed out during mid December, and refroze until March 11th.  They were only ice covered for less than 3 months, and the ice thickness was thin all winter.  There were only four sub-zero F nights that winter, and very few single digit temperatures as well.

MPR Listener Question:

It seems this month has been exceptionally gloomy, with nearly constant cloudy skies.  Is this an accurate perception?


Indeed, yes it has.  For the first half of December comparing measurements of daily solar radiation in the Twin Cities using the St Paul Campus climate observatory shows the 2nd least amount of sunshine over the entire record period from 1962-2015.  The only similar period that had less solar radiation was the first half of December in 1991 (the year of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines).    The data show that last December was quite gloomy during the first half of the month as well.

Twin Cities Almanac for December 18th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 26 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 11 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for December 18th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 55 degrees F in 1923; lowest daily maximum temperature of -11 degrees F in 1983: lowest daily minimum temperature is -24 degrees F in 1983; highest daily minimum temperature of 36 F in 1877; record precipitation of 0.28 inches 1939; and record snowfall of 5.3 inches also in 2000.

Average dew point for December 18th is 9 degrees F, with a maximum of 43 degrees F in 2002 and a minimum of -26 degrees F in 1983.

All-time state records for December 18th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 63 degrees F at Canby (Yellow Medicine County) in 1923.  The state record low temperature for this date is -52 degrees F at Mora (Kanabec County) in 1983.  State record precipitation for this date is 1.70 inches at Montevideo (Chippewa County) in 1977; and record snowfall is 8.7 inches at Two Harbors (Lake County) in 1998.

Past Weather Features:

By far the warmest December 18th in state history occurred in 1923.  Bright sunshine, southerly winds, and absence of snow cover allowed afternoon temperatures to reach into the 50s F at over 30 locations in the state and as far north as Fosston.  In southern and western sections of the state temperatures topped out in the 60s F.  Temperatures remained mild the rest of the month.

December 17-18, 1977 brought a major winter storm to Minnesota, though the precipitation mostly fell as wind driven rain. Many southern and western counties received over 1 inch.  It was overall a very wet December and a very wet year in 1977.

Very cold temperatures on December 18, 1983 started the coldest week before Christmas in Twin Cities history.  The morning low started at -24F and only warmed to -11F during the day.  During the week long Arctic Outbreak temperatures dropped to -40F or colder in 35 communities across the state, and on December 23rd the afternoon temperature at Alexandria rose no higher than -24F, while the Twin Cities recorded a high of -17F.

December 17-18, 1996 brought a winter storm across the state which deposited several inches of snow, especially in Red River Valley locations where 6-8 inches was common.  Snowfall was abundant in December that year, with many observers reporting over 20 inches for the month.


Sunny with cooler than normal temperatures (rare this month) on Saturday, then increasing cloudiness with warmer temperatures on Sunday, and a chance for light precipitation.  Generally warmer than normal much of next week with chances for mixed precipitation Tuesday through Thursday.  Relatively mild on Christmas Day and continuing through the New Year's period.
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Sean Sergio said…
Was doing a research project for weather patterns in Thunder Bay (not far from Minnesota) your info helped me a bunch. Thanks buddy