Skip to main content

Preliminary Climate Summary for December 2021

Preliminary Climate Summary for December 2021:

Warm and wet are the two appropriate descriptors for December. Average temperatures around the state ranged from 2 to 4 degrees F warmer than normal. Overall, this December was not among the warmest 20 in history, but it was among the warmest 30. Extremes in the state ranged from 66°F at Caledonia (Houston County) on the 16th (a new statewide record high for the date) to -35°F at Warren (Marshall County) on the 29th. Score of new daily maximum temperature records were reported from the Minnesota climate network on December 1, 2, and again on December 15, 16.

December of 2021 was the 2nd wettest in state history on a statewide basis, trailing only 1968. The statewide average precipitation was just under 2 inches. At least 15 long term climate stations in the state reported their wettest December in history, including Hastings Dam which reported 4.40 inches of precipitation and Hibbing which reported 3.01 inches. Hasting Dam, Two Harbors 7NW, and Cambridge climate stations all reported over 4 inches for the month, while Redwood Falls only reported 0.17 inches for the month. Scores of new daily precipitation records, mostly between 1 and 2 inches, were set on December 11, 15, and 16.

In terms of snowfall, Two Harbors 7NW and Grand Marais 4.4W both reported over 40 inches for the month. Among other long term climate stations in the state reported their snowiest ever month of December were Brainerd (35.0 inches), Otter Tail (36.5 inches), and Brimson (33.2 inches). Over 50 climate station s reported 20 inches or more, with the largest doses of snowfall coming on December 6 and December 11.

By far the most significant weather event of the month was the unusual storm of December 15-16 across the southern half of the state. This storm brought record high temperatures, dew points, and precipitation to many areas, but it also brought the first ever confirmed tornadoes to Minnesota during the month of December. The National Weather Service verified 20 tornadoes touched down in southeastern Minnesota during the evening of December 15th. These tornadoes occurred in Winona, Steele, Wabasha, Goodhue, Freeborn, Fillmore, Houston, and Mower Counties. The storm was so unusual it will likely be studied for years. A synopsis is available from the Minnesota State Climatology Office web site.

Preliminary Yearly Climate Summary for Minnesota 2021:

The year 2021 will go down as the 5th warmest year in state history. On a statewide basis only one month was cooler than normal. February was 7 to 9°F below normal. In contrast June was 5°F warmer than normal, making it the 3rd warmest June in state history.

Precipitation was less than normal in 2021, but only the 31st driest year in state history. May, June, and July were all drier than normal, putting most of the state landscape into drought. Statewide average precipitation for 2021 was under 24 inches, marking the driest full year since 2006.

Overall, the year 2021 will be remembered for widespread summer drought, the June Heat Wave, the two-week Arctic Cold Wave of February, the record number of air quality alerts during the summer (mostly due to smoke from wildfires in the west and in Canada), and the tornadoes in December. You can read more about the weather and climate headlines of 2021 at the Minnesota State Climatology Office web site.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

Temperatures on Kodiak Island, Alaska this week have been averaging 15-30 degrees F above normal, including a reading of 67°F on December 26th, which is the highest reading ever in Alaska for the month of December. This remarkable for a geographic location with only about six hours of daylight. CNN reported on this highly unusual weather episode.

This week’s AGU-EOS Bulletin features a summary article associated with the 6th IPCC climate Assessment released earlier this year. The article is built around five graphics that illustrate the dire need to accelerate both adaptation and mitigation activities in the face of climate change. It is definitely worth a read.

The BBC revisits some of the most remarkable weather disasters of 2021, many of which are associated with climate change. From a cost perspective in terms of insured loss as well as damage and loss of infrastructure, 2021 was the worst year in recorded history.

MPR listener question:

What is the all-time December monthly snowfall total in Minnesota and where is it?


In December 2013 the observers are Two Harbors (Lake County), Minnesota reported over 55 inches of snowfall. This is the state record, although I was told an observer near Grand Marais this year has measured over 50 inches of snowfall, but that is unveriftied.

Twin Cities Almanac for December 31st:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 25 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 31st:

MSP records for this date: highest daily maximum temperature of 50 degrees F in 1904; lowest daily maximum temperature of -12 degrees F in 1968; lowest daily minimum temperature of -24 degrees F in 1973; highest daily minimum temperature of 34 degrees F in 1904; record precipitation of 0.98 inches in 2006. Record snowfall is 7.2 inches also in 1977.

Average dew point for December 31st is 9°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 43°F in 1965; and the minimum dew point on this date is -34 degrees F in 1967.

All-time state records for December 31st:

The state record high temperature for this date is 58 degrees F at Winona (Winona County) in 1965. The state record low temperature for this date is -57 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1898. The state record precipitation for this date is 1.50 inches at Grand Meadow (Mower County) in 1887. Record snowfall is 18.4 inches at Two Harbors (Lake County) in 1996.

Past Weather Features:

A slow-moving winter storm brought a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow to portions of Minnesota over December 30, 1887 to January 1, 1888. Many Minnesota communities reported 3 to 6 inches of snowfall, while others in southern counties reported 1 to 1.5 inches of precipitation, much of it falling as rain.

Arctic Cold gripped the state for New Year’s Eve in 1898 as 50 climate stations reported morning lows of -20°F or colder. Pokegama Dam reported -57°F while Leech Lake reported -51°F. The daytime high temperature at Brainerd only reached -14°F.

New Year’s Eve was almost balmy in 1965 across southeastern Minnesota as Winona, Caledonia, Preston, Theilman, Austin, and Grand Meadow all reported afternoon temperatures in the 50s F. Little snow was on the ground.


Very cold weekend coming up with widespread subzero temperatures and dangerous Wind Chill values in many areas. Some moderation in temperature on Monday and Tuesday with temperatures climbing closer to the freezing mark (32°F). Then, cooler and drier than normal for the remainder of the week with more subzero overnight lows.

Print Friendly and PDF