Skip to main content

A Miraculous Melt

A Miraculous Melt:

Since March 31st most rivers in southern Minnesota have been falling, with peak flow volumes reached during the last week of the month. For many areas this meant not major flooding, only moderate flooding. In the Wahpeton-Breckenridge area the Red River flow has begun a slow decline, but further north through Fargo-Moorhead the Red River is expected to continue to rise and peak near 35 feet by the end of the weekend. This would barely make the top ten flood crests list at Fargo, but it still represents major flood stage for the Red River there.

As the classic Minnesota expression goes “could have been worse.” In fact much worse, but since mid-March we have experienced a miraculous melt period, primarily because of two favorable characteristics of the weather: (1) less than a tenth of an inch of precipitation over the past 20 days; and (2) as many as 18-19 freeze-thaw cycles, allowing melting during the day and refreezing at night, thereby metering out the snowmelt runoff in smaller quantities.

Numerous observers in western and northern Minnesota have reported virtually zero precipitation over the past 20 days, a remarkably well-timed dry period. Furthermore even though we are at a time of year when daytime high temperatures commonly reach into the 50s F, many observers have reported only one or two such days. Despite a warm-up to above normal temperatures for the coming weekend and Monday of next week, the balance of next week shows a cool down, with a continued trend towards below normal rainfall. With such a weather pattern anticipated I would expected some farm fields will be suitable for field work shortly after Easter weekend.

A Salute to Dr. Satish Gupta:

My colleague and friend Dr. Satish Gupta retired recently after 46 years on the University of Minnesota-St Paul Campus, first as a USDA-ARS researcher and then as a faculty member in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate. Dr. Gupta was a diligent and thorough researcher , teacher, and advocate for better soil and water management. Dr. Gupta was a mentor and advisor to many outstanding graduate students, and a widely respected researcher. He will be solely missed, and we wish him all the best in his retirement.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

To the dismay of many scientists, the Trump administration intends to make significant cuts to the budget for NOAA. The budget proposed by the Trump administration would cut NOAA’s budget by 18%. It would target climate and ocean research programs and also slash education initiatives, grants, and other agency programs. You can read more detail from the AGU-EOS.

According to the MinnesotaState Climatology Office HydroClim Newsletter this week ice is coming off medium sized lakes in southern Minnesota near the historical median dates of occurrence, and earlier than last year. In addition the early spring fire danger around the state is low.

NOAA this week features an article about how officials in North Carolina are building more resilience into the infrastructure of the famed Outer Banks area, a geography that is already being impacted by climate change.

MPR listener question:

When do you think that the frost will come out of the soil this month?


Indeed even though there has already been some thawing at the soil surface, most soils are still frozen from 4 to 20 inches deep. But with the above normal temperature throughout the weekend, I think many areas of southern Minnesota may lose their soil frost by next week. In northern areas of the state it may linger deeper into the month of April. Pete Boulay from the MN-State Climatology Office reports this week that ice is starting to come out on many southern Minnesota lakes, very near to the median historical dates.

Twin Cities Almanac for April 5th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 52 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 32 degrees F (plus or minus 8 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for April 5th:

MSP records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 80 degrees F in 1991; lowest daily maximum temperature of 29 degrees F in 1982; lowest daily minimum temperature of 12 degrees F in 1979; highest daily minimum temperature of 60 degrees F in 1921; record precipitation of 0.91 inches in 1999. Record snowfall is 1.5 inches also in 1964.

Average dew point for April 5th is 27°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 60°F in 1929; and the minimum dew point on this date is -2°F in 1979

All-time state records for April 5th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 88 degrees F at Madison (Lac Qui Parle County) in 1991. The state record low temperature for this date is -18 degrees F at Warroad (Roseau County) in 1936 The state record precipitation for this date is 2.95 inches at Pigeon River Bridge (Cook County) in 1933. Record snowfall for this date is 28.0 inches also at Pigeon River Bridge (Cook County) in 1933.

Past Weather Features:

An early April Heat Wave occurred in 1929 making the weather headlines in most area newspapers. Daytime temperatures over April 3-5 soared into the 80s F. Over 40 climate stations reported highs between 80 and 89 degrees F, and some farmers began to till their fields.

April 5, 1936 brought winter weather conditions to Minnesota with many subzero morning low temperatures. Portions of seven northern Minnesota counties reported subzero temperatures with the presence of snow cover. The high temperature at Angus (Polk County) only reached 20 degrees F.

April 4-6, 1997 brought a blizzard and heavy snow to many parts of northwestern Minnesota. From 6 to 14 inches of snow fell over the Red River Valley. The snow was also of a high water content and exacerbated the flood fight to hold back the Red River and other rivers that feed it. During the blizzard visibility was near zero at times.


Warmer than normal temperatures over the weekend, but with increased cloudiness and a chance for showers and thunderstorms. Drier by later on Monday, then cooler than normal temperatures for Tuesday through Thursday next week, with a chance for rain or snow showers on Wednesday. Some areas could see some heavy wet snow.

Print Friendly and PDF