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Lack of Sunshine Documented

Lack of Sunshine Documented:

Over the past week I have heard many people talking about the lack of sunshine. Indeed 22 days this month in the Twin Cities have brought mostly cloudy skies or completely cloudy conditions. And this followed nine consecutive days of cloudiness to conclude December in most places. The National Weather Service observations also show that fog or haze have plagued the Twin Cities on more than half of the days this month.

Further according to measurements of solar radiation from the University of Minnesota St Paul Climate Observatory the solar radiation received so far this January is the lowest amount in the records for the month which started back in 1963, worse than the very dim Januarys of 1969, 1980, 1998, and 1999. There have been 9 consecutive cloudy days in the Twin Cities, Rochester, and other cities.

The cloudiness has helped to keep the month of January warmer than normal. As is more commonly the case much warmer nights, and marginally warmer days. For example, in the Twin Cities daytime high temperatures have been averaging 3°F above normal, while nighttime lows have been averaging 6°F above normal.

You can read more about this gloomy January from the Minnesota State Climatology Office.

Obviously, many people have complained of Seasonal Affected Disorder, while many others are tired of the rutted roads and persistent slippery conditions, especially on north-facing roads and sidewalks.
Fortunately, it appears as though we will get some sunshine for this coming weekend under partly cloudy skies, at least some welcome relief.

Preliminary Climate Summary for January 2020:

Yet another warmer and wetter than normal month for Minnesota. The average monthly temperature for January 2020 ranged from 4 to 7°F above normal across the state. The range of extreme temperatures was 54°F at Rushford (Fillmore County) on the 4th, to -40°F at Baudette (Lake of the Woods County) on the 11th. There were no new daily maximum temperature records set across the state. Within the climate station network, eleven locations reported tying or setting at least one warm daily minimum temperature record during the month. Minnesota reported the lowest temperature in the 48 contiguous states six times during the month.

Precipitation was slightly above normal for January at most locations across the state. Wettest areas were northeastern and south-central counties. A few places in the northeast like Isabellla, Grand Marais, and Two Harbors reported over 2 inches of precipitation for the month. Some portions of western Minnesota were drier than normal. Within the climate station network, there were some daily precipitation and snowfall records set during January, including 7 inches of snowfall at Cotton (St Louis County) on the 18th and 1.10 inches of melted snow at Two Harbors on the same date. For January snowfall, Grand Marais led the state with over 31 inches during the month. Many other northern locations reported over 20 inches, while most climate stations reported between 6-12 inches.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

There is an interesting article this week from the US Climate Resilience Toolkit about how decreasing Arctic Sea Ice is allowing for more potential shipping routes across the Arctic Ocean during the late summer season. Beside shipping vessels even tourism vessels are considering new routes.

The United KingdomMeteorological Office release a report earlier this month confirming that 2019 concluded the warmest decade globally in climate records dating back to 1850. Further 2019 was the 2nd warmest globally, trailing only 2016 when an El Nino Episode was in play.

NOAA's Storm Prediction Center estimated 1,520 tornadoes occurred in the U.S. in 2019, an active year. Two states reported a record number of tornadoes: In Oklahoma, 149 tornadoes were documented in 2019, topping the previous record of 145 tornadoes from 1999. Mississippi also tallied a record annual count of 115 tornadoes in 2019. According to the Weather Underground Utah, Alaska, New Hampshire, and Hawaii were tornado-free in 2019.

Weather in Miami, FL for the Super Bowl on Sunday appears to be dry and comfortable with temperatures in the 60s F. There will be rain on Saturday, so the field may still be wet. Winds are expected to be moderate from the northwest.

MPR listener question:

Last winter only a small fraction of our snowfall came in the November through January period, then we got over 59 more inches from February to April. How often does the second half of the snow season bring more snow than the first half?


From the Twin Cities climate record back to 1885, the second half of the snow season (represented by February through April) brought more snowfall than the first half (November through January) only about 40 percent of the time (55 winters). So it really is not that uncommon. So far for the winter of 2019-2020 MSP has reported 34.8 inches of snowfall, so it is certainly conceivable that we get see more than that the second half of the snow season.
Twin Cities Almanac for January 31st:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 25 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 31st:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 46 degrees F in 2009: lowest daily maximum temperature of -9 degrees F in 1887; lowest daily minimum temperature is -27 degrees F in 1887; highest daily minimum temperature of 34 degrees F in 1993; record precipitation of 1.16 inches in 1881; and record snowfall of 6.2 inches also in 1908.

Average dew point for January 31st is 4 degrees F, with a maximum of 39 degrees F in 1973 and a minimum of -37 degrees F in 1962.

All-time state records for January 31st:

The state record high temperature for this date is 57 degrees F at Springfield (Brown County County) in 1989. The state record low temperature for this date is -55 degrees F at Embarrass (St Louis County) in 1996. State record precipitation for this date is 1.70 inches at Glenwood (Pope County) in 1986; and record snowfall of 14.8 inches at Burlington (Becker County) in 1858.

Past Weather Features:

Warmest January 31st was in 1989 when most climate stations in the state reported daytime highs in the 40s F. Many southern and western Minnesota communities saw the afternoon temperature rise into the 50sF and people were seen taking their lunch outside. The low temperature never dropped below 37°F at the University of Minnesota St Paul Campus.

On January 31st last year (2019) most citizens were staying indoors as morning temperatures ranged from -20°F to -50°F in most places and even afternoon highs were subzero. Detroit Lakes reported an afternoon high of -23°F. Wind Chill values ranged from -40°F to -60°F, and many schools were closed.


Cloudiness will continue on Saturday but with warmer temperatures. Some periods of sunshine will occur on Sunday with even warmer temperatures, in many areas ranging from 35°F to 45°F. Continued mild on Monday, but with a chance for flurries by Monday night. Temperatures will fall back to near normal for Tuesday and Wednesday, then warm again by Thursday with a chance for flurries.

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Bret Ethier said…
I recall the 47 day stretch being caused by a classic temperature inversion in the Duluth Bowl.
What year was the record, 47 days, for consecutive days without sun in Duluth, MN? 1979? 1980? 1981?
I know it happened because I was there. I cannot find a record of it, however, and my younger fellow employees are staring at me in disbelief. Well, they do that every day. Bret Ethier.