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Time for Farmers and Gardeners

Time for Farmers and Gardeners:

As the soil has warmed up, and fields have dried out, many Minnesota farmers are just starting to take equipment out into the fields to prepare for planting, one of the latest planting seasons in state history. The latest planting season in my memory as Extension Climatologist was 1979, when half of the state’s corn acreage (about 7 million acres) did not get planted until May 21st, and half of the soybean crop until May 27th. That made for a late and wet fall harvest season in 1979 because farmers had to wait for the corn crop to mature. Perhaps modern corn hybrids dry down faster than the old ones, but it still makes farmers antsy to be planting so late. I suspect farmers will be working 20 hour days until they get their crops in the ground.

Gardeners who are eager to get going should probably begin to remove mulch, fertilize, plant seeds, and transplant those seedlings that were started indoors. There is little threat of frost on the horizon, especially across southern Minnesota counties. In fact the month of May is more likely to turn out warmer than normal, as opposed to last month. Soil temperatures are no longer an impediment to planting.

Who Would Have Thought?

With one of the top 5 coldest Aprils in state history, who would have guessed the last day of the month would bring such remarkable temperatures (12 to 15 degrees F above normal). Over 50 climate stations reported an afternoon high temperature of 80 degrees F or greater, topped by 85 degrees F at Marshall. The Twin Cities hit 84 degrees F, a temperature only seen in April about once in every five years!

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

Today, May 4th is National Weather Observers Day. Hats off and thanks to all the thousands of citizens who voluntarily record the daily weather for the NOAA-National Weather Service, State Climatology Office, and other monitoring agencies throughout the USA. In Minnesota we are blessed to have well over 1500 such volunteers.

East-central and north-central counties of Minnesota remain in a high fire danger category. With no major rain storms expected over the next several days, there is likely to be a high fire danger through the weekend. Some afternoon relative humidity readings will hover in the range of only 15 to 20 percent.

Earlier this week, the Yale Climate Connection pointed out a very interesting essay published by Rosemary Randall, titled the “The id and the eco.” This article deals with not only the cognitive side of the climate change issue, but the emotional side and how it stands in the way of having open dialogue among our communities.

The United Kingdom Meteorological Office features an interesting article about Hay Fever this week, debunking the myth that it can spread from person to person. Given that the pollen season is upon us here in Minnesota, it might be worth a read.

MPR listener question:

I am a resident of Lake City, MN. I noticed that ice-out on Lake Pepin did not occur this year until April 20th, but that was not a record for lateness. According to the DNR, ice out on Lake Pepin in 1843 was not until May 20th. Still this year seems unusually late for ice-out down here. How does it rank historically?


The April 20th date for ice-out on Lake Pepin ranks as the 6th latest in history, tied with 1869, 1875, 1885, and 1899. It was the latest ice out date since 1904 (April 21). As you know, ice-out is an important date for barge traffic to resume on the Mississippi River.

Twin Cities Almanac for May 4th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 66 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 45 degrees F (plus or minus 9 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for May 4th:

MSP records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 91 degrees F in 1952; lowest daily maximum temperature of 36 degree F in 1944; lowest daily minimum temperature of 22 degrees F in 1967; highest daily minimum temperature of 65 degrees F in 1934; record precipitation of 1.01 inches in 1959. Record snowfall on this date is 2.0 inches in 1890.

Average dew point for May 4th is 40°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 73°F in 1912; and the minimum dew point on this date is 13°F in 1957.

All-time state records for May 4th:

The all-time state high temperature for today's date is 96 degrees F at Montevideo (Chippewa County) and Wheaton (Traverse County) in 1949; the all-time state low for today's date is 8 degrees F at Cloquet (Carlton County) in 1911. The all-time state record precipitation for this date is 4.00 inches at Blanchard (Morrison County) in 1949. Record snowfall is 5.0 inches at Mankato (Blue Earth County) in 1890.

Past Weather Features:

An unusual storm brought 2-4 inches of snowfall across the state over May 4-5, 1890. Though short-lived, cool temperatures following the storm kept farmers from planting for over two weeks.

The two warmest May 4ths in state history were in 1949 and 1952. Scores of communities reported afternoon high temperatures in the 90s F, and as is common for that time of year, the fire danger was high in western Minnesota counties with very low relative humidity as well.

May 4, 1974 brought a hard freeze to much of northern and western Minnesota. Morning lows fell into the 20s F at more than 40 climate stations and it was just 12 degrees F at Tower (St Louis County). Many gardeners complained of plants being damaged by the freeze, but most plants recovered.


Weekend will start out warmer than normal, with a chance for widely scattered showers or thunderstorms late in the day on Saturday. Then, a cool down on Sunday with temperatures closer to normal for this time of year. Generally dry until Tuesday and Wednesday when there will be a widespread chance for showers and thunderstorms, followed by a sunny period towards the end of next week.

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