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Patterns of cold temperatures in January

Patterns of cold temperature in January:

Many citizens have said “enough with the cold already” bring on some thawing temperatures. Well we are in the midst of our 2nd January thaw (bearing in mind the first one was over January 8-11). The first half of the month was dominated by cold temperatures with two-thirds of the days reporting cooler than normal values as well as numerous subzero nights. Overall temperatures during the first two weeks were 4 to 6 degrees cooler than average. Dozens of climate stations have reported -30 degrees F or colder so far this month, while Embarrass, Cotton, Ely, and Walker have reported -40 degrees F or colder. In fact Minnesota has reported the nation’s coldest temperature on seven dates so far this month.

Bear in mind the cold aberration is unusual for us in that since 2002 two-thirds of all Januarys have been warmer than normal across the state, and four among the ten warmest in history. For the Twin Cities the first half of January is the coldest reported since 1999. However no new record cold values were recorded.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

Earlier this week the Minnesota State Climatology Office updated the Winter Misery Index for the Twin Cities. So far it stands at 33 points, a mild class of winter despite the run of cold temperatures. The last winter with a “high” misery index score (207 points) was that of 2013-2014.

NOAA scientists write this week that 2017 was the 3rd warmest year globally going all the way back to 1880. It did not quite equal the record-setting back to back years of 2015-2016. Their analysis goes on to say that it marks the 41st consecutive year that global temperature was above the 20th Century mean value.

Tropical Cyclone Berguitta in the Southern Indian Ocean is expected to pass east of Madagascar this weekend and remain mostly out to sea. That is a good thing as it packs winds close to 80 mph and sea wave heights over 15 feet.

A powerful storm brought strong winds to portions of the United Kingdom on Thursday this week. Wales, the Midlands, and Southwestern England were hit by winds up to 80 mph. Thousands went without power for a time, and rail service was disrupted because of blown down trees.

MPR listener question:

We were having a debate the other day about when the winter average temperatures in Minnesota bottom out historically, and start a consistent climb upward. Some of us thing it is the 3rd week in January, and others thing it doesn’t happen until the 4th week. Can you give us a more precise answer?


These dates vary around the state as far as when the winter temperature “bottoms out.” Based on the date that the average temperature starts to climb using the period from 1981-2010 here are the dates. You can see that some are in the 3rd week of January and others are in the 4th week of the month, but they are all within a week of each other.

MSP January 24
Rochester January 24
Duluth January 22
International Falls January 20
Hallock January 21
Moorhead January 23
Morris January 23
Brainerd January 26

So indications are that based on average temperature, next week is winter’s “turning point” for most of the state- something we can smile about.

Twin Cities Almanac for January 19th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 24 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 7 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for January 19th:

MSP records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 49 degrees F in 1921; lowest daily maximum temperature of -10 degree F in 1943 and 1970; lowest daily minimum temperature of -34 degrees F in 1970; highest daily minimum temperature of 36 degrees F in 1908; record precipitation of 0.57 inches in 1988. Record snowfall on this date is 7.5 inches in 1988.

Average dew point for January 19th is 4°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 39°F in 1921; and the minimum dew point on this date is -41°F in 1985.

All-time state records for January 19thecember 29th:

The all-time state high temperature for today's date is 61 degrees F at Milan (Chippewa County) in 1900; the all-time state low for today's date is -47 degrees F at Bigfork (Itasca County) in 1963. The all-time state record precipitation for this date is 2.03 inches at Lake City (Goodhue County) in 1982. Record snowfall is 18.0 inches also at St James (Watonwan County) in 1988.

Past Weather:

The warmest January 19th in state history occurred in 1900, under bright, sunny skies and with little snow cover. Over 20 Minnesota communities warmed to 50 degrees F or higher by afternoon. A modest southwest wind kept the temperature above 32 degrees overnight at Pipestone, a very rare event during January.

Perhaps the coldest January 19th in state history was in 1994. On that morning 18 climate stations reported a temperature of -40 degrees F or colder. It was -32 degrees F at Rosemount, pretty near the Twin Cities. The afternoon high temperature at Fosston was just -27 degrees F.

A major winter storm brought heavy snowfall to parts of Minnesota over January 18-20, 1988. Across many southern and central counties snow totals ranged from 10 to 18 inches. Many schools were closed or started late, while a number of roads were closed due to large drifts.

On January 19, 2017 we were in the middle of a ten day run of temperatures that ranged from 15 to 25 degrees F warmer than normal. One of the most pronounced January thaws in state history.


Very warm temperatures continue through the weekend. Increasing clouds on Sunday, then a chance for mixed precipitation (rain and snow) later on Sunday and into Monday as a strong low pressure system passes. Snow accumulations will be significant in many places on Monday. Drier and cooler over Tuesday through Thursday next week as temperatures fall back to near normal. Then another chance for snow by Friday.

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