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Roller coaster temperatures with a big snow storm

Roller coaster temperatures with a big snow storm:

The temperature roller coaster pattern continued this week, with many climate stations reporting daily temperatures that ranged from 7 to 13 degrees F warmer than normal (some daytime highs were above the freezing mark), then plummeting to temperatures that were 10 to 20 degrees F colder than normal by Thursday, January 16th. In fact, the reading of -35°F at Fosston (Polk County) on January 16th was the nations lowest temperature reading, the 4th time this month that Minnesota has reported the nation’s lowest temperature. Several places reported minimum temperatures of -20°F or colder on that date, including -26°F at Park Rapids and Staples.

In addition, another episode of dangerous Wind Chill conditions occurred on Thursday the 16th, with many places reporting values of -40°F or colder, including a reading of -45°F at Waskish (Beltrami County). Other dangerous Wind Chill conditions had occurred in places on the 8th and the 11th of this month.

With the season’s largest snow storm upon us, there is an expectation that by midday Saturday most areas of the state will see significant snowfall accumulations, as well as significant drifting of snow because of high winds. Reviewing the snow season so far shows that many areas of the state have already reported over 50 inches, while some in the northeastern counties have reported over 60 inches (Duluth, Isabella). The expected footprint of the present snow storm will be a large one, so that some areas of the state will undoubtedly exceed their average snowfall for the season by the time this storm passes. Both Friday and Saturday are expected to see some blizzard conditions prevail, making travel difficult.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

NOAA scientists released this week a recap of the 2019 global climate pattern. On a worldwide basis 2019 was the 2nd warmest year in the historical record dating back to 1880. The five warmest years in the global record have occurred since 2015, while 9 of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005. The only land area worldwide where temperatures averaged over the year were cooler than average was a small pocket of the northern United States, including portions of Minnesota.

From the BBC WeatherCenter: “Australians are celebrating the arrival of much-needed rain in parts of the nation's bushfire-ravaged south-east. Though more wet weather is needed to end the fires, the rain has brought a welcome reprieve to many areas. Other parts, however, have not been as lucky. Storms have also helped disperse smoke in Melbourne, which has endured hazardous air quality in recent days.”

New research from the University of Colorado (as reported by Science Daily) shows a link between climate change and violent crime. This study is published in Environmental Research Letters. As reported in Science Daily the authors conclude that “we are just beginning to scratch the surface on the myriad ways climate change is impacting people, especially through social systems and health," Karnauskas said. "We could see a future where results like this impact planning and resource allocation among health, law enforcement and criminal justice communities."

AGU-EOS reports this week on new research from the University of British Columbia which states that “climate change could significantly lower the number of skiable days across western North America, forcing some ski resorts to shut down entirely.” Snow seasons have already shown signs of shrinking in duration at some resorts.

MPR listener question:

Is it my imagination or are the number of cloudy days increasing? Have the past few winters been as gloomy and cloudy as I think?


Indeed, based on measures of cloudiness as well as solar radiation (measured amounts of energy from the sun), six of the past eight winter seasons (Dec-Feb) have been gloomy with more than average cloudiness and less than average solar radiation. December of 2019 brought 20 mostly cloudy or fully cloudy days, while January so far has brought 10 mostly cloudy or fully cloudy days. Solar radiation measured at the University of Minnesota St Paul Climate Observatory shows than January is about 16 percent below average through the first two weeks of the month.

Even on an annual basis the measurements of solar energy from the University of Minnesota Climate Observatory on the St Paul Campus show less than normal solar energy for 7 of the most recent 10 years, including all of 2019, coincidentally the wettest year in state history.

Twin Cities Almanac for January 17th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 23 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 7 degrees F (plus or minus 15 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for January 17th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 44 degrees F in 1894: lowest daily maximum temperature of -12 degrees F in 1962; lowest daily minimum temperature is -26 degrees F in 1967; highest daily minimum temperature of 35 degrees F in 1876; record precipitation of 0.90 inches in 1996; and record snowfall of 5.1 inches also in 1932.

Average dew point for January 17th is 5 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 17th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 58 degrees F at Winona (Winona County County) in 1889. The state record low temperature for this date is -54 degrees F at Embarrass (St Louis County) in 2005. State record precipitation for this date is 2.20 inches at Byron (Olmsted County) in 1996; and record snowfall of 15.0 inches at Fort Ripley (Crow Wing County) in 1870.

Past Weather Features:

With little or not snow cover a very warm day prevailed on January 17, 1919 across the state. Most areas of southern and western Minnesota saw afternoon high temperatures reach the 40s F, while Luverne measured a high of 53°F. The morning low temperature was just 32 degrees F at Albert Lea.

January 17, 1982 was the coldest in state history. With abundant snow cover and a polar high pressure system settling over the state low temperature plummeted to the -30s and -40s F in much of central and northern Minnesota. Cook reported -50°F while Tower reported -52°F. The afternoon high temperature at Roseau and Cass Lake only reached -17°F.

January 17-19, 1996 brought heavy snows and even blizzard conditions to some parts of Minnesota. Many areas of the state reported 10-15 inches of snowfall, with Tower and Brimson reporting over 20 inches. In western counties wind gusts up to 60 mph were reported, with dangerous Wind Chill conditions. Many schools and businesses closed. Accumulating ice from freezing rain caused some power outages, and portions of Highway 14 were closed for a time between New Ulm and Sleepy Eye.


Strong winds on Saturday will blow snow around and make visibility difficult in some areas of Minnesota. Snowfall will be tapering off by Saturday afternoon. Driving on Saturday may be difficult because of high winds and blowing snow. Sunday through Tuesday we will see partly to mostly sunny conditions but with colder than normal temperatures prevailing. A moderation in temperature begins the middle of next week as daytime highs return to above normal levels. Much of the week will be dry.

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