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Preliminary climate summary for March

March was another warm month with observers reporting mean monthly temperature values that ranged from 5 to 10 degrees F above normal. Extremes daily values for the month ranged from 74°F at Winona on the 9th and at Madison (Lac Qui Parle County) on the 12th, to a frigid -22°F at Seagull Lake (Cook County) on March 1st. Minnesota reported the nation's lowest temperature only twice during the month. On a statewide basis March of 2016 will rank 4th warmest in Minnesota history back to 1895. Further four of the top five warmest months of March in Minnesota have occurred since 2000. The warm temperature pattern removed the frost from most of the state's soils, and accelerated the ice-out dates on area lakes.

Thanks to a wet last week of the month, most observers reported a wetter than normal month of March, except for areas of the northern Red River Valley in northwestern Minnesota which were generally drier than normal. Extreme values for the month ranged from 5.78 inches at Winona Dam to less than half an inch at Browns Valley, Wheaton, Detroit Lakes, and High Landing. A number of locations received over 3 inches of precipitation for the month, and a few climate stations reported over 4 inches. Some observers reported a record wet month of March including: 5.78 inches at Winona Dam (Winona County); 4.52 inches at Minnesota City (Winona County) and Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center (Lake County); 4.20 inches at Moose Lake (Carlton County); and 4.10 inches at Cotton (St Louis County). On a statewide basis it was the 11th wettest March in history.

Monthly snowfall was highly variable around the state, ranging from 1 to 2 inches in west-central counties to 15 inches or more in southeastern and northeastern counties. Isabella in the highlands of Lake County reported the most with 21.5 inches.

Lake ice-out dates continue to be early:

Many lake observers continue to report earlier than normal ice-out dates around the state. In many cases lakes are losing their ice 2 to 3 weeks earlier than average. For example Pearl Lake in Stearns County lost ice on March 15th (reported by Sue Dudding) and this is the earliest of record, while Lake George in Anoka County also lost ice cover on March 15th, a record early date. Average ice-out date on Pearl Lake occurs on April 4th and on Lake George it is April 6th. The Minnesota DNR has more details on this year's ice-out.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

Forty years ago this month marked the downward slide of the Drought Index in Minnesota. March of 1976 was relatively wet in most places around the state with over 2 inches of precipitation a pretty common value. The next 9 months of 1976 were bone dry pushing the Drought Index into the Exceptional Category by the end of the growing season and producing a prolific wild fire season in northern Minnesota. For many places, and especially western Minnesota communities 1976 still represents the worst historical drought in history. Many western Minnesota communities reported less than 10 inches of precipitation for the entire year, including Morris, Glenwood, Milan, Canby, Campbell, Browns Valley, Wheaton, and Rothsay. Ortonville (Big Stone County) reported the lowest annual amount of precipitation in state history with a total of only 6.37 inches.

Researchers from the University of Oklahoma are using powerful computers to resolve forecast models at higher spatial resolutions and in doing so are finding that they can forecast hail storms more accurately. Though their research is still experimental and not operational yet if offers hope that one day the National Weather Service may be able to forecast hail more accurately.

The Alaska Climate Center reported that state had its 2nd warmest winter in history. Over the period from December of 2015 through February of 2016 statewide temperatures averaged 10.6°F warmer than normal. March has continued to be near record warmth as well.

The National Academy of Sciences released a report this week advocating for further research investment in mid and long range environmental forecasting. Improvements in such forecasts are essential to improve our management of natural resources and societal infrastructure such as public health systems and transportation systems.

MPR listener question:

I live in Winona, MN and we have had a very wet month of March. Half the days of the month brought precipitation, either snow or rain, and we ended up with over 5 inches. What is the state record for wettest March? Can't believe it is much greater than what we got!


Though rare a number of climate stations around the state have reported over 5 inches of March precipitation at some time historically. Your record value at Winona for this March is no where near the statewide record value for the month which is 7.89 inches at Pigeon River (Cook County) in 1942. In that year March brought a tremendous quantity of snow to Pigeon River, nearly 34 inches, but much of their monthly precipitation came as all-day rains as well.

Twin Cities Almanac for April 1st:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 50 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 31 degrees F (plus or minus 8 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for April 1st:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 84 degrees F in 2015; lowest daily maximum temperature of 22 degrees F in 1896: lowest daily minimum temperature is 9 degrees F in 1975; highest daily minimum temperature of 51 degrees F in 1999; record precipitation of 0.54 inches 1967; and record snowfall of 4.2 inches in 2002.

Average dew point for April 1st is 27 degrees F, with a maximum of 61 degrees F in 1903 and a minimum of -2 degrees F in 1975.

All-time state records for April 1st:

The state record high temperature for this date is 85 degrees F at Winona (Winona County) in 1986 and at Redwood Falls (Redwood County) and Lamberton (Redwood County) in 2015. The state record low temperature for this date is -21 degrees F at Thorhult (Beltrami County) in 1975. State record precipitation for this date is 2.52 inches at Beaver Bay (Lake County) in 2009; and record snowfall is 18.0 inches at Frazee (Becker County) in 2009.

Past Weather Features:

March 31 to April 1, 1896 brought a strong winter storm to Minnesota. A mixture of precipitation, both rain and snow fell across the state, but a band of heavy snow was reported from Montevideo to Duluth, where many observers reported 1 to 2 feet. Saint Cloud reported a record 32 inches, pretty much shutting down all outdoor activity for several days.

The coldest April 1st in state history occurred in 1975. Snow cover was deep from a long, snowy winter. Many observers reported snow depths of 2-3 feet to start the month, and the observer at Virginia (St Louis County) reported 50 inches of snow on the ground. A cold, Canadian air mass settled over the state and brought sub-zero temperature readings to the northern half of the state. The temperature at Hallock (Kittson County) never rose above 15°F during the day.

A moisture-laden spring storm brought record-setting amounts of precipitation over March 31-April 1 of 1998. This storm system brought rain, sleet, snow, and even thunder to some parts of the state. Red Wing, Jordan, Hastings, and Madison reported over 2 inches of precipitation, while Canby and New London reported over 10 inches of snow.

The long, spring snow melt flood in the Red River Valley in the spring of 2009 was compounded by a strong storm system over March 31-April 1. This storm brought a mixture of rain and snow across the state. Rothsay, Breckenridge, and Ottertail reported over 20 inches of snowfall, while many other observers reported over an inch of liquid precipitation.

Last year (2015) brought the warmest April 1st in state history with over 40 climate observers reporting afternoon highs of 80°F or greater. Granite Falls started the morning at just 40°F but rose to a high of 84°F by mid afternoon.


Cooler than normal and breezy heading into Saturday, with a chance for mixed precipitation early in the day. Much warmer on Sunday with above normal temperatures, then a decline on Monday. Moderating temperatures, either side of normal next week with chances for rain later in the week.
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