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December Climate Summary

December Climate Summary:

After fluctuating above and below normal for much of the December, temperatures remained well above normal during the last ten days of the month. As a result, most climate stations reported a mean monthly temperature that was from 1 to 4°F above normal, making December only the 3rd month in 2019 with above mean temperature values. Extremes for the month ranged from 51°F at Bemidji (Beltrami County) on the 22nd to -42°F at Isabella (Lake County) on the 18th.

Within the Minnesota climate network there were 26 daily maximum temperature records set or tied; 48 daily high minimum temperature records set or tied; 4 daily low maximum temperature records set or tied; and 15 new daily record low minimum temperature records set or tied. The warmest days statewide were the 8th and the 29th, while the coldest days were the 10th and 11th.

Thanks to the prolonged storminess over the December 28-30 the month ended up much wetter than normal. In fact, for only the second time in history (the other being December of 1968) the statewide average December precipitation exceeded two inches, a fitting end to the wettest year in state history. The wettest area was in the northeast where portions of Carlton, St Louis, and Lake Counties reported over 4 inches of precipitation. One of the driest spots was Madison in Lac Qui Parle County where less than 0.60 inches of precipitation was recorded. Snowfall data show that many areas of the state reported over 15 inches for the month, with observers in Carlton, St Louis, and Lake Counties reporting over 40 inches.

Within the Minnesota climate network, there were 92 new daily precipitation records set or tied; and there were 53 new daily record snowfall amounts set or tied, including a new all-time statewide record snowfall for December 1st at Cloquet (Carlton County) of 18.7 inches. By the end of the month, some areas of northeastern Minnesota reported over 2 feet of snow on the ground. By far the most disruptive weather event of the month was the storm over December 28-30. Widespread freezing rain and ice made for extremely hazardous travel on the morning of the 28th with hundreds of vehicle accidents as well as scores of pedestrian falls. More information on this storm can be found at the Minnesota State Climatology Office web site.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

The Rutgers University Global Snow Laboratory (GSL) provides measurements of snow cover. Now according to the NOAA Climate Program Office you can use the global data sets for both the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere to graph the time course of snow and ice cover at high latitudes. Give it a try.

On the Weather Underground web site, there is an interesting article by Bob Henson about how new research from Switzerland reveals that global climate change can be tracked in the fingerprints of even daily weather, using tools to diagnose anomalies.

The BBC Weather Centre reported this week that Sunndalsora, Norway reported a high temperature of 66 degrees F on January 2, 2020. This is the highest January temperature ever measured in Norway and is over 40°F above normal.

The AGU-EOS bulletin this week contains an article about the rivers of air coming into the USA from the Pacific Ocean and how their characteristics govern the nature of the weather they bring (windy, wet, wet and windy combined, or neutral). It is an interesting read.

MPR listener question:

I heard from a friend that northwest of Duluth they reported over 6 inches of precipitation in December as well as over 33 inches of snowfall. What are the state records for these measurements in December?


I am not sure that I believe that number. There has been no observation historically of precipitation over 5 inches during the month of December in Minnesota. So any precipitation totals over 6 inches last month should be questioned and verified by the Minnesota State Climatology Office. The highest value I can find historically is 4.92 inches at Farmington (Dakota County) in 1982.

The statewide December total snowfall record is 55.2 inches northwest of Two Harbors in 2013. So that is almost a season load of snow in just one month.

Twin Cities Almanac for January 3rd:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 24 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 8 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for January 3rd:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 46 degrees F in 1880: lowest daily maximum temperature of -12 degrees F in 1919; lowest daily minimum temperature is -26 degrees F in 1887; highest daily minimum temperature of 33 degrees F in 1992; record precipitation of 0.76 inches in 1906; and record snowfall of 9.0 inches also in 1906.

Average dew point for January 3rd 6 degrees F, with a maximum of 34 degrees F in 2006 and a minimum of -42 degrees F in 1919.

All-time state records for January 3rd:

The state record high temperature for this date is 53 degrees F at Canby (Yellow Medicine County) in 1998. The state record low temperature for this date is -54 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1904. State record precipitation for this date is 1.90 inches at St Cloud (Sherburne County) in 1897; and record snowfall of 15.5 inches at Willmar (Kandiyohi County) in 1943.

Past Weather Features:

A slow-moving winter storm dropped 12-16 inches of snow across central Minnesota over January 2-3, 1897. Strong winds blew the snow into 5ft drifts.

January 2-5, 1919 brought a severe Cold Wave to Minnesota, with widespread subzero temperatures. Temperatures bottomed out on the 3rd with most areas reporting morning lows from -20°F to -30°F. It was -40°F or colder in portions of Roseau, Polk, and Clearwater Counties. The daytime high temperature at Rochester was just -15°F.

Another slow-moving winter storm brought heavy snow to many parts of central Minnesota over January 3-4, 1943. Many observers reported 8-15 inches and blizzard conditions prevailed in some far western counties.

January 3, 1998 brought an early taste of spring to many parts of the state. Daytime high temperatures reached the 40s F in most places, while portions of Pipestone and Yellow Medicine Counties saw temperatures in the 50s F.


Partly sunny to start out the weekend, with temperatures somewhat closer to normal. Warmer with increasing cloudiness on Sunday, and a chance for snow. Another chance for snow later in the day Monday, with temperature dropping below normal for the beginning and middle of next week.  There will be some moderation in temperatures to above normal values by Friday. No major storms are seen.

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