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Preliminary January Climate Summary

Preliminary January Climate Summary:

January will end up among the top 5 to 7 warmest historically on a statewide basis, with over 80 percent of the days bringing warmer than normal temperatures. Among Minnesota long term climate stations, the northern and western areas showed the highest departures in temperature, and therefore warmest historical ranking. For example, International Falls will report the 4th warmest January in history (back to 1895) with an average monthly temperature around 10 degrees F above normal. For the Twin Cities the January mean temperature will rank as the 13th warmest in history (back to 1873) with a monthly mean temperature about 6.5 degrees F above normal. For other locations in Minnesota the ranking of January warmth shows some variation:
Fargo-Moorhead 5th warmest January (back to 1881)
St Cloud 10th warmest January (back to 1893)
Duluth 11th warmest January (back to 1874)
Rochester 15h warmest January (back to 1887)
Milan 6th warmest January (back to 1893)
Baudette 2nd warmest January (back to 1908)
Brainerd 7th warmest January (back to 1887)
Hallock 1st warmest January (back to 1899)
Pipestone 5th warmest January (back to 1877)
Wheaton 1st warmest January (back to 1914)

Extreme values of temperature range from 52°F at Canby, Marshall, Windom, and Lamberton on the 14th to -37°F at Cotton on the 28th. The reading at Cotton (St Louis County) was also the coldest temperature measured in the nation on January 28th. Minnesota also reported the coldest temperature in the nation on three other dates in January 2021:
-20°F at Kabetogama on the 22nd
-27°F at Cotton on the 25th
-35°F at Cotton on the 27th

The reading of 52°F at Marshall on the 14th was among 18 new daily maximum temperature records set during the month. In addition there were over 65 new daily warm minimum temperature records set during the month within the state’s climate network. No new minimum daily temperature records were set.

Moisture wise, January of 2021 was mostly drier than normal, especially in northern counties. Measurable precipitation fell on only 8 days at International Falls, and only 6 days in the Twin Cities. There were 14 new daily precipitation record set within the climate network by the winter storm over January 14-15, and 23 daily snowfall records were set by that storm as well, including 8 inches at Owatonna, MN. In terms of total snowfall for the month most areas received between 4 and 8 inches. A few spots in southern Minnesota received over a foot of snow.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

The Weather Underground reported on the strong and slow moving winter storm that brought heavy rain and snow to California this week over Tuesday through Thursday. Many coastal and valley locations reported several inches of rainfall, with flash flood warnings being issued by the National Weather Service. In the Sierra Nevada mountains several feet of snow fell, closing roads and schools. There was concern in some areas for mudslides where the landscape had been burned off by the wildfires last year.

The BBC Weather Centre reports this week on increasing heat in Australia as summer intensifies and increasing risk of bushfires as well. Temperatures reached 104°F in Sydney earlier this week. Smoke from bushfires already has caused the Bureau of Meteorology to issue some air quality alerts.

Science Daily reported this week that NASA analysis of the global surface temperature data in 2020 shows that the year tied with 2016 as the warmest of record. Further the past seven years have been the warmest seven years on record. A separate, independent analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concluded that 2020 was the second-warmest year in their record, behind 2016. NOAA scientists use much of the same raw temperature data in their analysis but have a different baseline period (1901-2000) and methodology. Unlike NASA, NOAA also does not infer temperatures in polar regions lacking observations, which accounts for much of the difference between NASA and NOAA records.

This week’s AGU EOS Bulletin features an article about how climate change is affecting agriculture in various regions of the world. Small farmers are particularly vulnerable and have few options if they lose productivity on their most arable soils due to drought or flooding. Food insecurity is likely to become more of a problem in some African countries.

MPR listener question:

Wondering if the Twin Cities have ever seen a month of January go by without any subzero temperature readings?


Since 1873 there have been only two years that brought no subzero temperatures to the Twin Cities in January. Those were 1990 and 2006. The average number of subzero daily minimum temperatures during January in the Twin Cities is 11 days, with a maximum number of 26 days in 1977. There have been three years with only one day: 1891, 1931, and 2002.

Twin Cities Almanac for January 29th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 25 degrees F (plus or minus 14 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 29th:

MSP records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 49 degrees F in 1931; lowest daily maximum temperature of -15 degrees F in 1951; lowest daily minimum temperature of -29 degrees F in 1951; highest daily minimum temperature of 34 degrees F in 1906; record precipitation of 0.52 inches in 2001. Record snowfall is 5.3 inches also in 1967.

Average dew point for January 29th is 2°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 36°F in 1983; and the minimum dew point on this date is -38 degrees F in 1966.

All-time state records for January 29th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 60 degrees F at Canby (Yellow Medicine County) in 1931. The state record low temperature for this date is -54 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1899. The state record precipitation for this date is 1.84 inches at Windom (Cottonwood County) in 1909. Record snowfall is 19.0 inches at Lutsen (Cook County) in 1996.

Past Weather Features:

The coldest ever January 29 came in 1899 when every part of Minnesota saw subzero temperatures prevail. Morning lows were in the minus teens in southern Minnesota and minus 40s in the north. There was ample snow cover to keep even the daytime maximum temperatures quite cold, as the afternoon high only reached a temperature of -22°F at Detroit Lakes.

January 29, 1931 was the warmest in state history with many southern and western communities reporting afternoon high temperatures in the 50s F. There was very little snow on the ground.

January 27-29, 1996 brought heavy snow and blizzard conditions to many parts of the state. Many areas reported 8-15 inches of snow with very strong winds and zero visibility. Across southern Minnesota Interstate 90 was closed to traffic as there were over 200 abandoned vehicles.


Chance for freezing drizzle and snow on Saturday, with perhaps some difficult driving conditions in some areas of the state. Snowfall amounts will generally range from 1-3 inches. Temperatures will be mild for this time of year on both Saturday and Sunday. Continuing with milder than normal temperatures next week, with chances for snow later on Wednesday and into Thursday. Then much colder for next weekend.

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