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Preliminary Climate Summary for March 2017

Preliminary Climate Summary for March 2017:

Most climate observers reported mean monthly temperature values near normal, or 1 to 2 degrees F warmer than normal for the month. For MSP Airport it was the 19 consecutive month with above normal temperature. For most climate stations over half the days of the month were warmer than normal. Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the nation on four dates during the month:
-20°F at Embarrass on the 3rd
3°F at Warroad and Flag Island on the 8th
-4°F at Embarrass on the 9th
-11°F at Crane Lake on the 14th
Extreme values of temperature for the month ranged from 74°F at Redwood Falls on the 6th to -21°F at Cotton (St Louis County) on the 4th. At least 20 different communities reached a temperature of 70 degrees F or higher during the month. Though very few new daily temperature records were set during March, Redwood Falls set a record daily high on the 6th with a reading of 74°F, while Winnebago reported a new daily record low temperature of -2°F on the 16th.

Except for southeastern and northeastern locations, most observers around the state reported below normal precipitation during the month of March. Over 20 new daily precipitation records were set, mostly in northeastern and southeastern counties. The wettest part of the state was in the southeast where many climate stations reported over 2 inches of precipitation for the month. Some of the driest areas were in the west where many communities reported less than a third of an inch. A number of southern Minnesota climate stations reported over 10 inches of snow for the month, mostly as a result of the winter storm on March 12-13. Twenty climate stations across southern Minnesota reported new daily snowfall records from that storm.

Many areas of the state lost soil frost during the month, and a number of area lakes lost their ice. The warming trend that ended the month appears to be in place through much of the first half of April as well.

The wind storm of March 7-8 produced some damage to structures in different communities. Starbuck, Fairmont, and MSP Airport reported wind gusts over 60 mph from that storm.

Perhaps the most unusual weather event came on March 6 when three tornadoes occurred, the earliest date in history for this type of storm. Two tornadoes were reported in southern counties (Freeborn and Faribault) and one in central Minnesota (Sherburne County). All three tornadoes were rated EF-1 (86-110 mph) by the National Weather Service. Damages to homes and agricultural structures were reported from these storms. A more detailed report can be found from the Minnesota State Climatology Office.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

NOAA's Tom Di Liberto provides an analysis of the March wildfires in western Oklahoma, north Texas, and southwestern Kansas. The dry winter season in those states elevated the risk for such fires. According to the USA Drought Monitor portions of those states have been in severe to extreme drought at times this winter.

An official version of the NOAA Spring Climate Outlook is given in detail this week at the NOAA Climate.Gov web site. They provide some reasoning for regional disparities, but the Great Lakes Region is favored by warmer and wetter conditions, following historical trends.

Dr. Christie Manning of Macalester College in St Paul collaborated with psychologist Susan Clayton of the College of Wooster and others to provide an analysis of climate change impacts on mental health. Their report, called Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance was released by the American Psychological Association recently and provides a fascinating and comprehensive examination of both the direct and indirect effects that climate change is having on mental health, especially on those people impacted by extreme weather and climate events.

Yet another study recently conducted in Vietnam (Umea Universitet) documents an increase in the hospital admissions associated with people suffering symptoms of mental illness provoked by Heat Waves, especially those that persist for several days (7 or more). There were also significant correlations of Heat Waves with age, gender, and those living in more rural landscapes.

In this week's AGU EOS newsletter Dork Sahagian of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lehigh University provides some background and information to share with others about the science of climate change and why it should not be denied. It makes for an interesting read.

MPR listener question

Has Mother Nature ever pulled a fast one and produced a blizzard on April Fools' Day?


Actually, there have been two historical blizzards on April Fool's Day, separated in time by over 100 years. The first one occurred back in 1896. The storm actually started with thunder, lightning, rain, and hail on the 31st of March, but then later in the day it turned into wind driven snow with little or no visibility, lasting through the night and into April 1st. Many western and central Minnesota communities reported 12 to 20 inches of snowfall, while St Cloud reported an incredible 32 inches of snow, one of the heaviest amounts in their history. The second blizzard was mostly in west-central and northeastern Minnesota and occurred over March 31 to April 1 in 2009. It closed sections of Interstate 94 and Minnesota Highway 2 for a time. Some areas received over 20 inches of snow, topped by 24 inches at Breckenridge and 27 inches at Campbell. Not a nice way to start April.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 31st:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 49 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 30 degrees F (plus or minus 9 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 31st:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 82 degrees F in 1986; lowest daily maximum temperature of 23 degrees F in 1924 and 1936; lowest daily minimum temperature is -1 degrees F in 1969; highest daily minimum temperature of 52 degrees F in 1999; record precipitation of 1.25 inches in 1985; and a record snowfall of 14.7 inches also in 1985.

Average dew point for March 31st is 28°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 56°F in 1986; and the minimum dew point on this date is -6°F in 1969.

All-time state records for March 31st:

The state record high temperature for this date is 84 degrees F at New Ulm (Brown County) in 1968 and at St James (Watonwan County) in 1986. The state record low temperature for this date is -32 degrees F at Tower (St Louis County) in 1975. State record precipitation for this date is 3.00 inches at New London (Kandiyohi County) in 1896; and record snowfall is 20.0 inches at St Cloud (Sherburne County) in 1896.

Past Weather Features:

A large scale winter storm crossed the state over March 31 to April 1 in 1896 with a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow with some thunder and lightning. Many climate stations reported over 8 inches of snow and over 2 inches of total precipitation. Across western and central counties, blizzard conditions prevailed overnight on the 31st and into April 1st with snow drifts as high as ten feet.

A winter storm brought snow and cold temperatures to close the month of March in 1923. Following widespread snow on March 30th temperatures plummeted to subzero values around the state on the 31st with readings ranging from -20°F to -30°F in the north, and a minimum of -1°F at Farmington (Dakota County). The Cold Wave was short-lived as temperatures rebounded into the 30s and 40s F on April 1st.

The warmest March 31st on a statewide basis was in 1986 when over 20 communities reported an afternoon high of 80°F or greater. It was 70 degrees F as far north as the Iron Range in the northeast.


Temperatures warmer than normal into the weekend, with a chance for scattered rain showers on Sunday. Then, continued warmer than normal temperatures through most of next week with another chance for rain later on Tuesday and into Wednesday.
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