Skip to main content

Blizzard in Northwestern Minnesota

Blizzard in Northwestern Minnesota:

December 6-7 brought heavy snow, serious wind chills, and blizzard conditions to portions of northwestern Minnesota. Wind chills plummeted into the -20 to -30 degrees F range, and visibilities were less than 1/4 miles in places. Climate observers across northern Minnesota reported from 6 to 13 inches of new snow in total. On a daily basis some climate observers reported new daily record snowfalls as well, including:

For December 6th:
Argyle (Marshall County) 9.1"
Red Lake Falls (Red Lake County) 4.5"

For December 7th:
International Falls (Koochiching County) 4.8"
Argyle (Marshall County) 3.3"
Isabella (Lake County) 4.0"
Ada (Norman County) 8.5"

Following the storm, a polar air mass spread across the state bringing drier air and causing overnight low temperatures to plummet into the teens and even single digits F. Worthington (Nobles County) in southwestern Minnesota saw the temperature fall from 43°F to just 7°F in a span of about 18 hours. Similarly, earlier in the week Marshall (Lyon County) in southwestern Minnesota reported 43°F, about 16°F above normal, then by Friday morning the low was -1°F, about 10°F cooler than normal. These low temperatures have accelerated soil freezing, and lake ice formation.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

NOAA offered an article this week to describe the attributes, images, and measurements that will be important enhancements with the recent launch of the GOES-R satellite to monitor the Western Hemisphere. More comprehensive lightning detection and a higher frequency of imager turn-around times will be very helpful.

University of Alaska-Fairbanks operates a coastal ice observatory at Barrow, Alaska. From their web site you can monitor ice conditions, examine radar data, look at local forecast data, and observe changes in sea level elevation.

A recent paper from scientists at the Hadley Center in the United Kingdom shows that regional precipitation changes associated with 1-2°C warming of the planet would be distinctly different than those associated with a 2-4°F warming. This suggests that direction and amplitude of precipitation change on a regional basis cannot simply be extrapolated from increasing global temperature values. You can read more in Nature Communications.

Recent research from the University of Texas shows that incorporating the snow data derived from NASA satellites into the seasonal climate outlook models enhances the accuracy of the model temperature outlooks by 5 to 25 percent. This couple of data sources may lead to improvements in the NOAA seasonal outlook models.

MPR listener question:

I heard you mention that Waseca has reported the wettest year in state history in 2016 with over 54 inches already. But the year has been wet for nearly all of the state too. What other climate stations are reporting their wettest year?


Good question. Even with the month of December incomplete, the following stations have reported their wettest year in history (through Dec 8th):
Hawley (Clay County) 32.29"
Eveleth (St Louis County) 35.94"
Bird Island (Renville County) 39.96"
Aitkin (Aitkin County) 40.21"
Brainerd (Crow Wing County) 38.44"
Univ of Minnesota St Paul Campus (Ramsey County) 39.87"
Redwood Falls (Redwood County) 42.88"
Amboy (Blue Earth County) 45.42"
Faribault (Rice County) 45.43"
Owatonna (Steele County) 48.10"
St James (Watonwan County) 51.18"
Waseca (Waseca County) 54.42" (new state record)
Austin (Mower County) 46.87"
Harmony (Fillmore County) 49.36"

Several other climate stations are very near to setting a record for wettest year as well and may achieve this before the end of December.

Twin Cities Almanac for December 9th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 29 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 14 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for December 9th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 58 degrees F in 1939; lowest daily maximum temperature of -5 degrees F in 1977; lowest daily minimum temperature is -27 degrees F in 1876; highest daily minimum temperature of 40 degrees F in 1899; record precipitation of 1.19 inches in 1899; and a record snowfall of 10.5 inches in 2012.

Average dew point for December 9th is 11 degrees F, with a maximum of 36 degrees F in 2004 and a minimum of -25 degrees F in 1977

All-time state records for December 9th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 74 degrees F at Wheaton (Traverse County) in 1939. The state record low temperature for this date is -39 degrees F at Warroad (Roseau County) in 1909. State record precipitation for this date is 1.31 inches in downtown Minneapolis in 1899; and record snowfall is 17.0 inches at St Francis (Anoka County) in 2012.

Past Weather Features:

A winter storm brought fresh snow and very cold temperatures to the state in 1876. With a fresh cover of snow the temperature fell to -30°F at Duluth and -27°F in the Twin Cities on December 9th. Temperatures warmed into the upper 30s F by the 11th.

Another significant storm brought lots of snow and cold the first week of December in 1909. This produced the coldest December 9th in state history as subzero temperatures were reported statewide. In the north several climate stations reported -30°F or colder, while in southern Minnesota Winnebago never saw the temperature rise above -7°F during the day, and at Hallock in the north the daytime high only reached -15°F/

A strong warm front brought a rare heavy December rainfall to the state over December 9-10, 1899. Many climate observers reported over an inch of rain, and some even reported hearing claps of thunder. Rainfall was reported as far north as Tower.

High pressure and plenty of sunshine dominated the first ten days of December 1939. This produced the warmest December 9th in history, as with absence of any snow cover temperatures soared into the 60s F at 25 Minnesota climate stations. Even in the northernmost areas of the state temperatures climbed into the 50s F.

A large winter storm blanketed the state with heavy snow over December 9-1, 1961. Most observers reported 4-10 inches, but in central Minnesota counties over a foot of snow fell and some roads were closed for a time.

Another major winter storm brought heavy snow and even blizzard conditions to the state over December 8-9, 2012. Portions of central Minnesota reported 15-17 inches of snow. The Twin Cities reported 10.5 inches of snow. Because of the high water content of the snow and alternating freezing and thawing cycles secondary roads developed washboard ice conditions which made driving very bumpy.


Cold and snowy weekend coming up, especially for central and southern counties, where snow accumulations could be several inches over late Saturday and early Sunday. A chance for more snow on Monday night. Temperatures will remain colder than normal next week with even some subzero readings probable in southern Minnesota counties.

Print Friendly and PDF