Skip to main content

Significant Precipitation at Mid-March

Significant Precipitation at Mid-March

For much of the southern half of Minnesota the most significant precipitation of the month occurred on Thursday (March 19) of this week. Many areas received between a half inch and an inch of rainfall, the most precipitation since the 2nd week of February. Some southern Minnesota climate stations reported over an inch of precipitation from the storm, including 1.65 inches in Albert Lea and 1.15 inches in Waseca. In some areas, winds gusted to over 30 mph as well, and even over 40 mph in western parts of the state later on Thursday night. A few areas reported less than an inch of snow from the storm. By Friday morning the drop in temperatures combined with the high winds produced Wind Chill Values from 0°F to -20°F around the state.

After a very warm start to the month, temperatures have moderated a few degrees either side of normal this week. Still, the continued loss of snow cover has progressed, especially in the southern half of Minnesota. Some citizens in southern Minnesota have taken the opportunity to clean up yards and gardens a bit where the soil frost is gone. Then again, there are areas of northeastern Minnesota where snow depths are still a foot or more for doing some outdoor recreation activities. Ely still reports 20” of snow depth and Wolf Ridge ELC (Lake County) reports 35 inches.

State and National Parks Open for Visiting

A reminder for citizens who are looking for outdoor destinations that preserve the mandate of “social distancing” during this time of the pandemic emergency: Both State and National Parks are open for visitors. You can take time to appreciate nature and get some fresh air. “Now is a great time to get outdoors,” said DNR CommissionerSarah Strommen, in a statement noting that state parks, campgrounds, recreation areas and public lands remain open statewide. “Parks are a great place to do some social distancing and enjoy the health benefits of nature.” But with the advice of state health officials, the DNR is also canceling or postponing a number of public events in an effort to reduce the number of people congregating and hopefully slow the spread of COVID-19. So while state parks are open for visitors, state park visitor centers, contact stations and other buildings are closed. Park admissions can be paid at self-pay stations, and visitors may purchase daily and yearly park passes online. Within the parks, restroom facilities and shower buildings will remain open, and the DNR has pledge increased cleaning.

In addition, CNN reports that Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has directed the National Park Serve to waive entrance fees at all national parks that remain open during the coronavirus pandemic in an effort to aid public social distancing. For our own VoyageursNational Park in northern Minnesota the park remains open to visitors year-round and there is no entrance fee. Citizens are encouraged to get outdoors and experience the park.

New Seasonal Climate Outlooks:

Amid all the news this week, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center released a new spring and summer outlook. For the April through June period Minnesota is expected to see a prevalence of warmer and wetter than normal conditions. For some parts of the state these trends are projected to last until August.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

NOAA reports this week that both the month of February and the 2020 winter season (Dec-Feb) finished as the 2nd warmest on record worldwide, trailing only 2016. Cooler than average temperatures prevailed only in portions of Alaska and Northern Canada and Eastern Russia.

As reported by the Associated Press and MPR News, NOAA’s National Water Center released a spring flood outlook update this week. Many parts of the nation will see a higher than normal flood risk for the spring season. Major to moderate flooding is projected in 23 states, impacting 128 million people. The areas most likely to experience major flooding include parts of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. The potential for major flooding is elevated along the Red River, the James River and parts of the Upper Mississippi River, said Edward Clark, director of NOAA's National Water Center.

MPR listener question:

With the current crisis over the coronavirus outbreak there have been dramatic reductions in emissions from airlines and auto traffic. Do you think this will improve air quality measurably?


It cannot hurt, but I do not know if there will be a measurable effect. According to EPA estimates the transportation industry is now the primary source of carbon dioxide emissions, surpassing power generation since 2017. Many studies have shown that the transportation industry in general contributes a significant fraction of the carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. It is estimated that aircraft currently account for some 11 percent of CO2 emissions from U.S. transportation sources and 3 percent of the United States’ total CO2 emissions. If the decline in motor vehicle and airline traffic persists during this declared pandemic emergency, the reduction in these gases may become measurable in areas that have a history of air pollution monitoring.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 20th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is43 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 26 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 20th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 66 degrees F in 1938: lowest daily maximum temperature of 12 degrees F in 1951; lowest daily minimum temperature is -9 degrees F in 1965; highest daily minimum temperature of 57 degrees F in 2012; record precipitation of 0.86 inches in 1921; and record snowfall of 7.0 inches also in 1886.

Average dew point for March 20th 22 degrees F, with a maximum of 59 degrees F in 2012 and a minimum of -12 degrees F in 1965.

All-time state records for March 20th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 80 degrees F at Cannon Falls (Goodhue County) and several other places in 2012. The state record low temperature for this date is -37 degrees F at Bigfork (Itasca County) in 1965. State record precipitation for this date is 2.12 inches at Browns Valley (Traverse County) in 1982; and record snowfall of 15.0 inches also at Browns Valley (Traverse County) in 1982.

Past Weather Features:

Probably the coldest ever March 20th was in 1965 when subzero temperature readings prevailed across the state. Temperatures in the -20s F were observed as far south as Preston and New Ulm, while many northern areas were in the -30s F. The afternoon temperature at Roseau only managed to reach 7°F, while Rochester rose no higher than 10°F. There was deep snow cover all over the state.

A winter storm brought a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow over March 20-21, 1982. For many areas the storm started out as rain, then turned to sleet and snow, with strong winds. Many areas of the state reported an inch or more of precipitation while communities in west central counties reported 10-15 inches of snowfall.

By far the warmest March 20th in state history was in 2012. Over half of the climate stations in the state reported afternoon highs in the 70s F. Observers in Redwood, Wabasha, and Goodhue Counties reported a high temperature of 80°F and the overnight low only fell to 62°F at La Crescent.


The weekend will start out cooler than normal, but sunny. A bit warmer on Sunday and Monday, but with increasing cloudiness and a chance for light rain or snow on Monday. Then a warming trend for much of next week with temperatures above normal. Chance for rain again by late Tuesday and Wednesday. In fact, it is looking like the balance of March may overall have warmer than normal temperatures prevail across most of the state.

Print Friendly and PDF