Skip to main content

March is the most erratic month for weather

 March is the most erratic month for weather:

March 10th certainly proved to bring almost every type of weather to Minnesota: strong winds, hail, sleet, rain, snow, thunderstorms, and a tornado watch among others. Within the state climate network 64 daily high maximum temperature records were set or tied that day. Then when the storm moved across the state 7 new daily snowfall records were set, including 11 inches at Gunflint Lake in Cook County. New daily dew point records in the mid 40s F were set as well. The Minnesota State Climatology Office has written up a thorough summary of the weather brought by this storm on March 10th, including the 1.5 to 2.5 inch diameter hail.

It is not unusual to have very erratic weather behavior in the month of March across Minnesota. In March of 1843 there were 19 subzero temperature days and hardly any temperatures above freezing. The monthly mean temperature was 27 degrees F cooler than normal, coldest month of March by far. Conversely in 2012 there were multiple days with high temperatures in the 80s F, including St Patrick’s Day and the monthly average temperature was 14 degrees F above normal.

Daily temperature extremes for March have ranged from 88 degrees F (Montevideo on March 23, 1910) to -50 degrees F (Pokegama Dam on March 2, 1897). Observed daily snowfall has been as high as 28.5 inches (at Karlstad on March 5, 1966), and monthly snowfall totals have been as high as 66.4 inches at Collegeville in 1965. Conversely in March of 1895 eight climate stations in western and northern Minnesota reported no precipitation at all, zero.

March 29, 1998 brought one of the worst ever tornado outbreaks to Minnesota, across the southern part of the state. The National Weather Service confirmed that 14 tornadoes across eight counties between 3:30 pm and 7:00 pm. One tornado was on the ground for 67 miles.

Perhaps the most unusual weather episode in Minnesota history was on March 31, 2014 when southwestern Minnesota was under a blizzard warning and a tornado warning at the same time. Residents of Lac Qui Parle, Lyon, and Yellow Medicine Counties had to be on their toes that day.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

The BBC this week features a special report on the recent climate extremes in California that have affected their water supply and their risk of wildfires. For more western states amplified climate variations associated with climate change have brought many challenges to resource management.

MPR listener question:

We were grateful that no tornadoes materialized from the storm system on March 10th. But, we wondered what has been the earliest date in March that a tornado was confirmed in Minnesota?


March 6, 2017 brought three tornadoes to Minnesota affecting portions of Faribault, Freeborn, and Sherburne Counties. There were some buildings damaged, some power lines knocked down and some trees uprooted, but no fatalities were reported.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 14th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 40 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 24 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 14th:

MSP records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 73 degrees F in 2012; lowest daily maximum temperature of 8 degrees F in 1906; lowest daily minimum temperature of -10 degrees F in 1897; highest daily minimum temperature of 48 degrees F in 2016; record precipitation of 0.81 inches in 1989. Record snowfall is 7.2 inches also in 1989.

Average dew point for March 14th is 21°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 57°F in 1990; and the minimum dew point on this date is -16 degrees F in 1960.

All-time state records for March 14th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 74 degrees F at Rochester (Olmsted County) in 2012. The state record low temperature for this date is -40 degrees F at Detroit Lakes (Becker County) in 1897. The state record precipitation for this date is 2.50 inches at New York Mills (Otter Tail County) in 2013. Record snowfall is 18.0 inches at Grand Marais (Cook County) in 1917.

Past Weather Features:

March 14, 1897 was the coldest in state history with most parts of the state reporting morning low temperatures from -10 degrees F to -30 degrees F. The daytime high temperature at Bemidji only reached -13 degrees F.

March 14, 2012 was the warmest in history with most areas of the state reporting afternoon temperatures in the 60s and 70s F.


The coming week will start wet for most of the southern half of Minnesota with rain and snow on Monday. Then drier for the rest of the week with a warming trend as temperatures move towards above normal values.

Print Friendly and PDF