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2020 Minnesota Climate-Weather Review


I will not be heard on MPR’s Morning Edition news program again until January 8, 2021 because the format for that news program will be different for both Christmas Day and New Years Day. However, I will be posting Minnesota WeatherTalk Blog over the holiday season.

2020 Minnesota Climate Weather Review:

As we wrap up the year 2020 it might be useful to review the episodes and events that the atmosphere produced across our state the past 12 months.

Even without the final statistics for December, we can say that in general it was a warmer and drier than normal year for Minnesota. December may end up among the 5 or 6 warmest in history and may be among the 10 driest in history on a statewide basis. The statewide average precipitation for this month so far is only 0.03 inches.

From a temperature standpoint three months of 2020 were colder than normal, two months were very close to normal, and 7 months were warmer than normal. Overall, the year 2020 will probably rank among the 15 warmest years in state history (back to 1895). Extremes for the year were 102 degrees F at Granite Falls on June 7th and -40 degrees F at Cotton and Isabella on February 20th.

Total precipitation for the year was generally slightly below normal. On a statewide basis six months wetter than normal and six months drier than normal. The wettest month was July and the driest month was December. The range in total precipitation for the year was just over 40 inches at Owatonna and New Ulm, to less than 16 inches at Browns Valley. The year will end with about 25 percent of the state in moderate drought and with very little snow cover.

Some of the more impactful weather from 2020 is currently described on the Minnesota State Climatology Office Facebook Page where you can vote for the top weather stories of the year.

This narrative includes:

Descriptions of the April ice and snowstorms, including one on Easter Sunday (April 12th)

An EF-4 (winds greater than 165 mph) tornado that traveled across Otter Tail County on July 8th causing some damage to rural buildings and killing one person. The first tornado of this strength since the year 2010.

There were two summer days that brought widespread large hail: July11th brought golf ball to tennis ball sized hail to portions of western and southwester Minnesota where corn, soybean, and sugar beet crops were damaged; and August 9-10 brought golf ball to tennis ball sized hail to portions of the Twin Cities area where numerous hail insurance claims were filed on cars and homes (roofs).

July 25-26 brought a rare “mega-rain” event to portions of south-central Minnesota where over 1000 square miles of landscape received 6 or more inches of rainfall, topped by 11.50 inches at Winthrop (Sibley County). Some roads and highways were closed for a time.

Not one but two record-setting snowstorms in October, one on the 20th and another on the 22nd. Many areas reported 6-9 inches of snowfall. Pine River (Cass County) ended up with over 18 inches for the month.

November was the 5th warmest in state history and the first time Minnesota has recorded three days with 80°F temperatures during the month.

Depending on the weather for the remainder of December, this may be one of the driest in state history.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center released a new 90-day outlook this week which calls for equal chances for above or below normal temperatures across Minnesota during the January-March period, and generally wetter than normal conditions across the state as well. So snow lovers may see better conditions prevail during the second half of winter.

While we have seen a dominance of warmer than normal weather this month, portions of Manitoba, Canada were being invaded by Artic air. Churchill reported temperatures in the minus 20s F, with wind chill values ranging from -44 to -51 F. There were also blizzard warnings released by Environment Canada.

After lashing Fiji with wind gusts up to 170 mph a somewhat diminished Tropical Cyclone Yasa was churning in the South Pacific Ocean southwest of Pago Pago. It was still producing wind gust up to 90 mph and sea wave heights of 20-25 feet. It is expected to remain mainly over the sea but may bring heavy rainfall to Tonga by Sunday. The Washington Post reported on this storm, as well as the BBC.

December 16-17 this week brought a huge winter storm to the northeastern USA affecting 14 states with significant snowfall and wind. Many places in New York state reported over 20 inches of snowfall, and some reported over 30 inches. There were numerous road and highway closures. The National Weather Service Office in Albany, NY provides a nice summary.

MPR listener question:

From Tom Hoverstad at the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca, MN: “We just recorded our 33rd (now 35) consecutive day without measurable precipitation. Our records show we have not seen a dry spell like this in more than 50 years. What is the all-time state record for consecutive days without any measurable precipitation?


The longest period without measurable precipitation anywhere in the state occurred from November 9, 1943 to January 26, 1944, a period of 79 days when Marshall, Beardsley, Dawson, and Canby reported no precipitation. Definitely a brown Christmas and New Years for them back then.

Twin Cities Almanac for December 18th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 26 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 11 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for December 18th:

MSP records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 55 degrees F in 1923; lowest daily maximum temperature of -11 degrees F in 1983; lowest daily minimum temperature of -24 degrees F in 1983; highest daily minimum temperature of 36 degrees F in 1877; record precipitation of 0.28 inches in 1939. Record snowfall is 6.5 inches also in 2000.

Average dew point for December 18th is 9°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 43°F in 2002; and the minimum dew point on this date is -26 degrees F in 1983.

All-time state records for December 18th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 69 degrees F at Lynd (Lyon County) in 1908. The state record low temperature for this date is -52 degrees F at Mora (Kanabec County) in 1983. The state record precipitation for this date is 1.70 inches at Montevideo (Chippewa County) in 1977. Record snowfall is 8.7 inches at Two Harbors (Lake County) in 1998.

Past Weather Features:

December 18, 1923 was exceptionally warm with most areas of the state seeing temperatures in the mid 50s to low 60s F by the middle of the afternoon. The temperature never dropped below freezing at Two Harbors.

A winter storm delivered a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow to the state over December 17-18, 1977. Many areas received over an inch of precipitation, while in northwestern counties 3-5 inches of snowfall was reported.

December 18, 1983 was the coldest in state history as every climate station in the state reported subzero temperatures ranging from the minus twenties to -52 degrees F at Mora. The daytime maximum temperature at International Falls only reached -20°F. December of 1983 was the coldest of the 20th Century.


Mostly sunny skies over the weekend with temperatures remaining warmer than normal across most of the state. Late Sunday there will be a chance for some snow showers. Monday will even bring some temperatures in the 40s F for portions of western and southern Minnesota. There will be a sharp cool down by Wednesday and Thursday of next week, with a chance for snow on Wednesday. But by next weekend it will be close to normal or even warmer than normal again.

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