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May Climate Summary

May Climate Summary:

The May climate summary shows a cooler and wetter than normal pattern prevailed. The wetter than normal pattern follows the recent trend for May, as 6 of the last 7 Mays have been wetter than normal on a statewide basis. The cooler than normal temperatures in May also follows recent trend, as 4 of the last 5 Mays were cooler than normal, but more significantly the cooler temperatures in May for many areas of Minnesota broke a streak of 20 consecutive months with above normal temperatures, a streak that was unprecedented in state history. The cooler temperature pattern was strongly affected by the absence of sunny days. For many parts of the state nearly 75 percent of all days were mostly cloudy or cloudy, and some observers reported only 5 sunny days.

Most observers reported a mean monthly temperature that ranged from 1 to 4 degrees F cooler than normal. Extremes for the month ranged from 90°F at Waseca on the 14th to 21°F at Brimson (St Louis County) on the 7th. Within the Minnesota climate network, few high maximum daily temperature records were set, but 83 cold (low) maximum daily temperature records were set or tied, thanks to persistent cloudiness and northerly winds, especially prevalent on the 1st of the month, and then again over the 20th to the 22nd. Very few daily low temperature records were set or tied.

Most climate observers reported a wetter than normal month, but not all. Many stations in northwestern and north-central Minnesota reported less than two inches of precipitation, well below normal for the month of May. The wettest area of the state was in the southeast where many observers reported 5 to 8 inches of precipitation, marking one of the 20 wettest months of May in history there. Hokah with 8.03 inches of precipitation recorded their 2nd wettest May in history, while La Crescent with 7.76 inches recorded its 6th wettest May. Within the climate station network 44 daily rainfall records were set or tied during the month, including 3.43 inches at Elgin (Wabasha County) on the 16th.

Numerous thunderstorms brought not only heavy rainfalls, but strong winds and hail. Over May 16 and 17 tornadoes were reported in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. On the 16th there were six tornado reports from Wisconsin, the worst one being an EF-3 (wind up to 140 mph) which remained on the ground for 83 miles causing 1 fatality, 25 injuries, and widespread damage to properties, especially around Chetek (Barron County), WI. On May 17th brief tornado touchdowns were reported from Wabasha County in Minnesota near Plainview and Elgin. Little damage was noted. More information on these storms can be found at the Minnesota State Climatology Office web site.

A Big Step Backward on Climate Change:

The withdrawing of the USA from the Paris Climate Accord announced by President Trump this week was a profound sign of disrespect for scientists and citizens who see climate change as a critical issue of our time based on evidence and knowledge gained over the past three decades. In addition this action as voiced at the press conference exhibited a complete distrust in the sincerity of other nation's leaders who were accused by President Trump of only favoring the Paris Accord in order to gain economic advantage relative to the USA. A sad day indeed. I am certain that science-based evidence, new knowledge and innovation, along with a shared stewardship posture towards our planet will prevail in the end, but it will obviously take longer for this to play out.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) also reacted to President Trump's pull-out from the Paris Climate Accord. You can read their response and reiterated support of climate science online. It represents the view of many professional science societies.

NOAA highlighted the use of its Climate Extremes Index (CEI) in a release this week. The CEI offers a way to view the aberrations of climate on a state by state basis. It is interesting to note that MN and WI experienced the highest CEI during 2016. You can examine such patterns month by month or year by year using this tool.

This week NOAA published an interesting interview with Dr. Libby Barnes of Colorado State University. She studies the atmospheric rivers of water vapor that provide the mid-latitudes with so much precipitation. She finds that what happens in the tropical latitudes affects the precipitation patterns in the mid-latitudes to a greater extent than once thought.

The UK Met Office reports that this spring (March-May) has been one of the warmest and sunniest in history across England. The overall temperature for the three months ranked as 2nd warmest, while the frequency of sunny days ranked among the ten highest. It was also a dry spring across England, with many areas receiving from 50 to 70 percent of normal precipitation.

A recent paper by Finkel and Katz of Washington University in St Louis published in the International Journal of Climatology carefully documents the disparity in record daily low temperatures and record daily high temperatures brought about by climate change. By far the largest change in the 48 contiguous states is a dramatic drop in record-setting low temperatures, which occur at a much diminished frequency. Their study also points out the relatively smaller change in temperature records that is occurring in the southeastern states compared to the frequency of record-setting temperatures elsewhere around the country.

MPR listener question:

Now that the 2016-2017 snow season is over in Minnesota, can you tell us who had the most and who had the least?


Final reports are still coming into the Minnesota State Climatology Office. From the completed observation forms so far the snowiest places in the state were Isabella (Lake County) and Kabetogama (St Louis County) with 102 inches from October of 2016 to May of 2017. This is roughly 40 inches above normal for those locations. On the lowest end of the spectrum, New Ulm reported just 22 inches, about 17 inches less than normal. Below are listed some seasonal snowfalls and departures for other climate stations in the state.

International Falls 70.4 inches, -0.6 inches
Duluth 73.2 inches, -12.9 inches
St Cloud 31.9 inches, -14.2 inches
Rochester 52.7 inches, +0.8 inches
MSP 32.0 inches, -22.4 inches

Twin Cities Almanac for June 2nd:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 74 degrees F (plus or minus 9 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 54 degrees F (plus or minus 7 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for June 2nd:

MSP records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 93 degrees F in 1940; lowest daily maximum temperature of 44 degrees F in 1945; lowest daily minimum temperature of 35 degrees F in 1946; highest daily minimum temperature of 70 F in 1923; record precipitation of 2.00 inches in 1897. No snowfall has occurred on this date.

Average dew point for June 2nd is 48°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 73°F in 1944; and the minimum dew point on this date is 22°F in 1994.

All-time state records for June 2nd:

The all-time state high temperature for today's date is 105 degrees F at Fairmont (Martin County) in 1934; the all-time state low for today's date is 20 degrees F at Ely (St Louis County) in 1947. The all-time state record precipitation for this date is 7.02 inches at Wheaton (Traverse County) in 2007. The all-time state record snowfall for this date is 5.0 inches at Virginia (St Louis County) in 1945.

Past Weather Features:

Strong thunderstorms brought heavy rains to portions of southern Minnesota over June 2-3, 1899. Many observers reported 2-4 inches, and a number of farm fields were flooded. These storms kicked-off the wettest month of June in the 19th Century for Minnesota.

June 2, 1910 brought frost to many areas of northern and western Minnesota. Over 20 climate stations reported morning lows below the freezing mark (32°F), and seven stations saw minimum temperatures fall into the 20s F.

The warmest June 2nd in state history was in 1934. Over 30 climate stations reported afternoon highs of 90 degrees F or greater, and 7 communities saw the mercury rise to 110°F or greater. The overnight low at Morris was a balmy 71 degrees F.

June of 1945 began very wet and cold. Many areas received 2 or more inches of rain over June 1-2, and on the backside of the storm system temperatures were cold enough to deliver measurable snowfall to much of northeastern Minnesota where 1 to 5 inches of snow fell, making for very sloppy driving conditions.

Strong thunderstorms brought heavy rains to portions of western and central Minnesota over June 1-3, 2007. Many climate stations reported 2-4 inches of rain, while Wheaton (Traverse County) reported a record 7.02 inches.


The weekend will start out quite warm with temperatures that are above normal on Saturday and Sunday. Monday through Wednesday will bring closer to normal temperatures. It will be generally dry and sunny most of next week with temperatures a few degrees warmer than normal. There will be a chance for showers and thunderstorms by Thursday.
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