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Cold Start to 2018

 Cold Start to 2018:

Over the first four days of January most Minnesota climate observers were reporting temperatures that ranged from 15 to 20 degrees F colder than normal, as nearly all parts of the state are seeing overnight temperatures that are subzero. Since December 8, 2017, Minnesota has reported the coldest temperature in the nation on 13 dates with Walker, Kabetogama, Cotton, Camp Norris, and Embarrass all reporting minimum temperatures of -40°F or colder.

In fact over the 11 days since December 25th the Twin Cities temperatures have been subzero on 10 nights, which has only happened one other time in history, December 25, 1886 to January 4, 1887. This is very rare statistically to see cold weather dominate so consistently this time of year.

The Minnesota State Climatology Office has updated the Winter Misery Index for the Twin Cities using the climate data since October of 2017 up through January 5, 2018. The score so far is just 22 points, with 20 points coming from the recent cold spell, and just 2 points for snowfall.

In addition the MN State Climatology Office has recently updated the dates for lake ice-in, much of which has occurred over the past month or so. Most of the 2017 Lake Ice-In dates are prior to December 12, 2017.

December Weather Trivia:

For December 2017 Minnesota recorded a large temperature range. The state high was 64 degrees F at Albert Lea and other places on the 4th, while the state low was -45 degrees F at Embarrass on the 31st. This is a 109 degree temperature range. I can find only one other December in state history with a larger range of temperature. That was in 1898 when the temperature was 54 degrees F at Two Harbors on the 17th and -57 degrees F at Pokegama Dam on the 31st, producing a 111 degree range for the month.

A Look at Minnesota's Coldest Weeks in History:

Last week I remarked about the unusually cold week between Christmas Day and New Year's Eve when the statewide average temperature was -10°F. For the Twin Cities it was the coldest week between the holidays in 132 years and only the 4th time in history that the weekly average temperatures have been subzero. Those years have been 1886 with -4.7°F, 2017 with -3.0°F, 1924 with -1.8°F, and 1880 with -0.6°F. You can read more about these cold holiday periods from the Minnesota State Climatology Office web site.

Many people have asked me to list the coldest weeks in Minnesota history based on statewide average temperature. Bearing in mind that the numbers of climate stations have varied over the years and therefore affects the statewide average, I have come up with a top ten list. Here there are:

1. January 6-12, 1912, -20°F
2. February 6-12, 1899 -19.6°F
3. January 30 - February 5, 1996 -19.0°F
4. January 14-20, 1994 -18.4°F
5. January 15-21, 1888* -17.8°F
6. December 18-24, 1983 -17.1°F
7. February 1-7, 1895 -17.0°F
8. January 20-26, 1936 -16.7°F
9. December 18-24, 1872* -16.5°F
10. January 13-19, 1885* -13.5°F

Please note that the years marked by * indicated an estimated value for the weekly average statewide temperature using relatively sparse data sets.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

A very intense low pressure system, at one time producing a barometric pressure reading of 28.35 inches brought strong winds, high waves, and mixed precipitation to the New England states on Thursday this week. Many roads and schools were closed. There were also widespread power outages and blizzard warnings were issued for parts of MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, and NH. Several reports of over 12 inches of snowfall were received through National Weather Service Forecast Offices.

Elsewhere portions of Western Europe were being battered by winter storm Eleanor on Thursday as well. High winds and heavy precipitation were battering parts of France, Switzerland, and Spain. Power outages were widespread and many airline flights were delayed or cancelled. Ski resorts in the Alps were receiving abundant snowfall.

Over in the Southern Indian Ocean Tropical Cyclone Ava was bringing heavy rains and high winds to eastern parts of Madagascar. The storm was expected to persist into the weekend and early next week bringing several inches of rain (perhaps 8 or more inches) and wind gusts over 90 mph, along with sea waves of over 25 feet.

New research from the University of Utah is showing the air pollution has dramatic effects on Arctic cloud forms, much more so than forest fires Arctic air masses are highly sensitive to particulate matter which tends to get trapped by inversion layers in high latitudes. You can find more details of this research in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters.

MPR listener question:

Here at Embarrass, MN we reported a New Years Eve (2017) minimum temperature of -45°F and a maximum temperature of -15°F, for a daily mean temperature of -30°F. This was our coldest New Years Eve in history back to 1994. How does New Years Eve of 2017 rank in state history in terms of the cold temperature?


Good question. BTW New Years Eve mean temperature of -30°F is no where near your all-time cold mean temperature record of -41°F on February 2, 1996. Based on statewide mean temperature reports for New Years Eve across Minnesota history back to 1895, here are the coldest five:

December 31, 1967 -17.8°F
December 31, 1973 -17.7°F
December 31, 2017 -15.9°F
December 31, 1968 -15.8°F
December 31, 1976 -14.4°F

So on a statewide basis it was the 3rd coldest New Years Eve in history. In addition many very dangerous Wind Chill values were reported that day including: -53°F at Staples; -48°F at Park Rapids; -46°F at Baudette, Wadena, and Warroad; and -45°F at Alexandria, Hibbing, and Roseau.

Twin Cities Almanac for January 5th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 24 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 8 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for January 5th:

MSP records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 47 degrees F in 1885; lowest daily maximum temperature of -14 degree F in 1912; lowest daily minimum temperature of -28 degrees F in 1884, 1912, and 1924; highest daily minimum temperature of 33 degrees F in 1946; record precipitation of 0.63 inches in 1932. Record snowfall on this date is 4.7 inches in 1994.

Average dew point for January 5th is 5°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 39°F in 1915; and the minimum dew point on this date is -38°F in 1924.

All-time state records for January 5th:

The all-time state high temperature for today's date is 62 degrees F at Granite Falls (Chippewa County) in 2012; the all-time state low for today's date is -49 degrees F at International Falls (Koochiching County) in 1896. The all-time state record precipitation for this date is 1.92 inches at Byron (Olmsted County) in 1997. Record snowfall is 23.0 inches at Remer (Cass County) in 1997.

Past Weather Features:

The coldest January 5th in state history was in 1924. Over 50 communities reported a morning low temperature of -30 degrees F or colder, and six climate stations were colder than -40°F. With abundant snow on the ground the temperature at Grand Meadow in southern Minnesota never got higher than -16 degrees F that day.

January 4-5, 1997 brought a significant winter storm to Minnesota. Precipitation was mixed with rain, sleet, and snow. An ice storm caused numerous accidents and power outages in southern counties. Many northwestern counties were under a blizzard warning and several roads were closed. Many climate stations reported 10-20 inches of snowfall, with Pequot Lakes reporting over 23 inches.

By far the warmest January 5th in state history was in 2012. Over 35 Minnesota communities reported an afternoon temperature of 50 degrees F or greater, while Milan and Granite Falls exceeded 60 degrees F. For many climate stations the morning low temperature was in the upper 20s F.


Cloudy skies and a warming trend over the weekend with temperatures climbing to above normal values. There will be chances for snow and snow flurries each day, mostly central and northern areas. Then, another chance for snow by Wednesday and Thursday with temperatures later in the week dropping below normal.

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Anonymous said…
I once read that the average barometric pressure (for our area?) is 29.92. I noticed that we've been above 30 since 12/19. I wonder -- what's the record for number of days above 30?