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Weather and Climate Memories of 2016

Weather and Climate Memories of 2016:

A Synopsis and Some Headlines:

-Another warm winter prevailed early in the year, with a somewhat rare climate feature of having February as the snowiest month.
-Warmth brought loss of soil frost the second week of March, along with early ice-out dates to area lakes. Swan Lake (Nicolett County) on March 13th, Starr Lake (Meeker County) on March 14th, and Lake Minnewaska (Pope County) on March 21st were among the ones reporting earliest ever loss of ice.
-Minnesota reported 37 tornadoes in 2016, the first on May 25th in Pope County, and the last on September 9th in Beltrami County. The majority were short-lived and EF-0 rated ( winds 65-85 mph), and there were four storms rated EF-2 (winds 111-135 mph).
-Early planting for Minnesota farmers, followed by a generally favorable growing season with mostly excellent crop yields around the state.
-2016 was the first year ever to bring two mega-rain events (1000 square miles covered by 6 inches or greater) to the state: one in east-central counties over July 11-12; and one in west-central counties August 10-11. Widespread flash flooding resulted.
-Latest ever autumn killing frost in the Twin Cities on November 18th
-Tied for warmest ever autumn season (September-November) on a statewide basis with 1963.
-Overall on a statewide basis 2016 delivered the 3rd warmest year in history to Minnesota (only 1987 and 2012 were warmer) and the 2nd wettest year (only 1977 was wetter).

Some Details of Climate Behavior in 2016:

Within the Minnesota Cooperative Observer Climate Network (currently includes about 200 observers with historical climate measurements) the following table shows the number of times daily record values were tied or broken during each month of 2016:
January: Highest Maximum Daily Temp: 9 Lowest Maximum Daily Temp: 15 Highest Minimum Daily Temp: 48 Lowest Minimum Daily Temp: 1 Highest Daily Precip: 31
February: Highest Maximum Daily Temp: 70 Lowest Maximum Daily Temp: 14 Highest Minimum Daily Temp: 71 Lowest Minimum Daily Temp: 3 Highest Daily Precip: 46
March: Highest Maximum Daily Temp: 149 Lowest Maximum Daily Temp: 1 Highest Minimum Daily Temp: 187 Lowest Minimum Daily Temp: 0 Highest Daily Precip: 66
April: Highest Maximum Daily Temp: 21 Lowest Maximum Daily Temp: 20 Highest Minimum Daily Temp: 38 Lowest Minimum Daily Temp: 27 Highest Daily Precip: 31
May: Highest Maximum Daily Temp: 70 Lowest Maximum Daily Temp: 27 Highest Minimum Daily Temp: 13 Lowest Minimum Daily Temp: 37 Highest Daily Precip: 25
June: Highest Maximum Daily Temp: 26 Lowest Maximum Daily Temp: 7 Highest Minimum Daily Temp: 26 Lowest Minimum Daily Temp: 4 Highest Daily Precip: 38
July: Highest Maximum Daily Temp: 13 Lowest Maximum Daily Temp: 14 Highest Minimum Daily Temp: 50 Lowest Minimum Daily Temp: 12 Highest Daily Precip: 93
August: Highest Maximum Daily Temp: 4 Lowest Maximum Daily Temp: 4 Highest Minimum Daily Temp: 18 Lowest Minimum Daily Temp: 2 Highest Daily Precip: 108
September: Highest Maximum Daily Temp: 5 Lowest Maximum Daily Temp: 0 Highest Minimum Daily Temp: 60 Lowest Minimum Daily Temp: 0 Highest Daily Precip: 96
October: Highest Maximum Daily Temp: 19 Lowest Maximum Daily Temp: 0 Highest Minimum Daily Temp: 27 Lowest Minimum Daily Temp: 0 Highest Daily Precip: 59
November: Highest Maximum Daily Temp: 182 Lowest Maximum Daily Temp: 0 Highest Minimum Daily Temp: 106 Lowest Minimum Daily Temp: 0 Highest Daily Precip: 53
December: Highest Maximum Daily Temp: 8 Lowest Maximum Daily Temp: 14 Highest Minimum Daily Temp: 15 Lowest Minimum Daily Temp: 34 Highest Daily Precip: 79

Total daily record climate values tied or set within the observer network in Minnesota during 2016:
Highest Maximum Daily Temp: 576 Lowest Maximum Daily Temp: 116 Highest Minimum Daily Temp: 639 Lowest Daily Minimum Temp: 120 Highest Daily Precip: 725.

For combination of warmth and wetness, 2016 was unrivaled in the Minnesota climate records. Several climate stations reported their warmest year in history including:
Ada (Norman County), Argyle (Marshall County), Detroit Lakes (Becker County), Itasca State Park (Clearwater County), Red Lake Falls (Red Lake County), Baudette (Lake of the Woods County), Brimson (St Louis County), Browns Valley (Traverse County), Rothsay (Wilkin County), Cloquet (Carlton County), Milaca (Mille Lacs County), St James (Watonwan County), St Peter (Nicollet County), Theilman (Wabasha County), and Zumbrota (Goodhue County). Among larger cities it ranked as a warm year as well: 3rd warmest at Rochester, International Falls, and the Twin Cities; 4th warmest at St Cloud; and 5th warmest at Duluth.

Several climate stations also reported their wettest year of record in 2016, including: Hawley (Clay County) with 32.92", Eveleth (St Louis County) with 36.56", Wolf Ridge (Lake County) with 39.47", Aitkin (Aitkin County) with 40.21", Brainerd (Crow Wind County) with 39.77", MSP with 40.32", University of Minnesota St Paul Campus (Ramsey County) with 41.67", Redwood Falls (Redwood Falls) with 44.12", Amboy (Blue Earth County) with 46.86", Faribault (Rice County) with 46.39", Owatonna (Steele County) with 48.40", St James (Watonwan County) with 52.55", Waseca (Waseca County) with 56.24" (a new state record), Austin (Mower County) with 48.35", Harmony (Fillmore County) with 49.36", and Theilman (Wabasha County) with 48.33".

More details about the major weather events during the year 2016 can be found at the DNR-State Climatology Office web site.

Retirement Salutations in 2016:

For myself and all of those involved in Minnesota weather and climate matters we saw two very important colleagues walk into retirement during 2016. Greg Spoden, DNR State Climatologist was a trusted and professional colleague in the DNR for well over 30 years. He contributed many of the display and analysis tools that we still use today. Jean Spohr of the University of Minnesota West-Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris kept us informed of the daily weather data there for well over 30 years. She was always helpful and meticulous looking after one of the oldest continuous climate records in Minnesota (dating back to 1885. We will miss them both and wish them well.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

NOAA's Tom Di Liberto features a nice article about lake effect snowfall at the web site this week. There have been a number of lake effect snowfalls this month around the Great Lakes Region, dropping from 2 to 3 feet of snow in many places. Most of the Great Lakes Region has little or no ice cover yet this season.

The AGU published an interesting article this week about using 40-years of Landsat images to examine changes in the Greenland ice sheet. Much of the analysis shows accelerated loss due to increasing temperatures.

The UK Met Office projects that 2017 will be another warmer than normal year globally, but not record-setting like 2015 and 2016 were. On balance 2017 is expected to follow trend line projections of warmth in the Earth climate system.

University of California-San Diego scientists have developed new controls for instrumented balloons that can fly in Hurricanes and survive long enough to transmit their data back so that meteorologists can use the in situ measurements to update their forecasts. This special technology may be most cost-effectively applied during the next hurricane season.

MPR listener question:

The thunder and rain on Christmas Day this year was highly unusual. How many locations in Minnesota reported record rainfall or precipitation for the date?


According to NOAA-National Weather Service reports 10 communities received record-setting rainfall on Christmas Day. They were: Glenwood (0.40"), Milan (0.50"), Redwood Falls (0.50"), Hibbing (0.52"), Alexandria (0.62"), Artichoke Lake (0.65"), St Cloud (0.74"), Grand Rapids (0.77"), and Moose Lake (0.92"). The Twin Cities (MSP Airport) reported 0.97 inches, the 2nd highest amount ever received on Christmas Day behind 1.35 inches in 1982.

Twin Cities Almanac for December 30th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 24 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 9 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for December 30th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 51 degrees F in 2004; lowest daily maximum temperature of -6 degrees F in 1976; lowest daily minimum temperature is -20 degrees F in 1973; highest daily minimum temperature of 34 degrees F in 2006; record precipitation of 0.39 inches in 1884; and a record snowfall of 4.0 inches in 1906.

Average dew point for December 30th is 10 degrees F, with a maximum of 46 degrees F in 2004 and a minimum of -32 degrees F in 1976.

All-time state records for December 30th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 59 degrees F at Canby (Yellow Medicine County) in 1999. The state record low temperature for this date is -47 degrees F at Warroad (Roseau County) in 1910. State record precipitation for this date is 2.00 inches at Pigeon River (Cook County) in 1936; and record snowfall is 14.2 inches at Mankato (Blue Earth County) in 1887.

Past Weather Features:

A winter storm dominated the New Years in 1887. It started on December 30th and went through January 1, 1888 bringing several inches of snow to southern Minnesota. Some observers reported over a foot, with temperatures that plummeted to subzero readings afterward.

An Arctic air mass settled over northern Minnesota on December 30, 1910. Many northern communities saw temperatures fall into the minus 30s F. It was colder than -40°F at Warroad, Roseau, and Little Fork.

A series of winter storms brought a mixture of precipitation over 8 consecutive days to end the year 1936. Over the December 24-31 period many climate observers reported from 6 to 17 inches of snowfall and winds caused 4-5 foot drifts.

Another slow moving winter storm brought a very wet ending to the year 1972. Over December 29-31 many climate observers reported from 8 to 20 inches of snowfall, and some New Years events were cancelled because travel was so difficult across northern Minnesota.

Arctic air again dominated Minnesota on December 30, 1990 with subzero readings all over the state. In the north it was as cold as -40°F (at Fosston, Cass Lake, and Thorhult), while in the south it was as cold as -22°F at Lake Wilson (Murray County).

By far the warmest December 30th in state history occurred in 1999. Many communities saw record-setting afternoon temperatures in the 50s F.


Warmer than normal temperatures over the weekend under partly cloudy skies. Some snow flurries in northern counties Saturday. Increasing cloudiness with a chance of snow on Monday, especially in southern counties. Continued chance for snow Tuesday, then cooler than normal temperatures for the balance of next week, but generally dry weather.

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