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Remembering 10 Years Ago: Minnesota's Warmest March

Remembering 10 Years Ago: Minnesota's Warmest March:

The first few days of March have brought a mixed temperature pattern across Minnesota: generally colder than normal temperatures in northern parts of the state, and warmer than normal temperatures in southern parts of the state. Already temperatures have varied widely across the state this month with readings of 50°F or greater in Lyon, Watonwan, Redwood, Faribault, and Pipestone Counties on March 1st (57°F at Pipestone), and then readings of -27°F at Embarrass and Brimson on March 3rd. The balance of the month looks like it will bring cooler than normal temperatures until the last week off the month.

It was just 10 years ago (2012), that Minnesota recorded the warmest March in state history with a statewide mean monthly temperature of nearly 42°F, about 14°F above normal. March was one of 9 months in 2012 that was warmer than normal, producing the 2nd warmest year in state history. But it was by far the most record-setting month in terms of climate measurements.

During March of 2012 climate observers in 32 Minnesota counties reported at least one day with afternoon temperatures in the 80s F. Only a few places along the north shore of Lake Superior did not see a daily high temperature reach the 70s F. Within the state climate observation network (about 200 stations) there were 875 daily maximum temperature records set or tied during the month, and 704 daily warm minimum temperature records set or tied. In addition, there were also 7 statewide record maximum daily temperature records set, including 83° on March 17 (St Patrick’s Day) at St James (Watonwan County), and 7 statewide record warm minimum temperature records set, including 65°F at La Crescent (Houston County) on March 19th, the warmest minimum temperature ever recorded anywhere in the state for the month of March.

In the Twin Cities there were 6 daily maximum temperature records set, and 8 daily warm minimum temperature records set. For St Paul’s St Patrick’s Day festivities it was 80°F during the afternoon. The overnight lows on March 18th and 19th were 61°F or 18°F above the average daily high temperature for those dates.

For unusual warmth, there are only two other months in state history that rival March of 2012 (14 degrees above normal in the monthly mean temperature), and those are January of 2006 and February of 1998.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

The AGU-EOS Bulletin this week features an interesting article about UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa that are being threatened by rising sea levels. The latest finding is an example of countries that contribute little to climate change but are suffering disproportionately from its consequences. African countries were responsible for less than 4% of global carbon dioxide emissions in 2020.

ABC News reported this week that portions of Queensland and New South Wales barely coping with the massive flooding of last week, are under the threat of more flooding as the weekend approaches. Some areas may see 5 to 7 inches more rain and evacuations around Sydney are going on to avoid the risks of flood waters. It has been one of the wettest summers in history there.

This week NOAA features an article about how sea level has changed over time. At more than 100 monitored stations along the coastal regions of the USA, encompassing the Gulf States, the Atlantic Seaboard and the Pacific Ocean there has been a net change in sea level of mostly 6 to 8 inches or the past 100 years. On the NOAA interactive web site users can specifically look at different geographic regions for the sea level changes.

MPR listener question: 

With all the subzero temperature readings this winter, we were wondering what is the latest date on the Spring calendar that Minnesota has ever recorded a subzero temperature reading?


Following a late Spring snowfall over April 18-19 in 1918 I found a reading of -1°F at Grand Rapids (Itasca County) on April 23, 1918. This is the latest I could find.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 4th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 36 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 20 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 4th:

MSP records for this date: highest daily maximum temperature of 61 degrees F in 2000; lowest daily maximum temperature of 8 degrees F in 1917; lowest daily minimum temperature of -22 degrees F in 1873; highest daily minimum temperature of 50 degrees F in 1894; record precipitation of 0.80 inches in 1984. Record snowfall is 9.6 inches also in 1984.

Average dew point for March 4th is 14°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 53°F in 1983; and the minimum dew point on this date is -17 degrees F in 1978.

All-time state records for March 4th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 71 degrees F at Montevideo (Lac Qui Parle County) in 1905. The state record low temperature for this date is -43 degrees F at Bagley (Clearwater County) in 1917. The state record precipitation for this date is 3.54 inches at Isabella (Lake County) in 1966. Record snowfall is 26.0 inches at Isabella (Lake County) also in 1966.

Past Weather Features:

A classic winter storm brought a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow to Minnesota over March 3-4 of 1985. Blizzard conditions prevailed across southwestern sections of the state, while elsewhere there was thunder and lightning, along with high winds (over 65 mph gusts in some places). Snowfall was over 20 inches in many central and northern counties, and Interstate 94 was closed for a time near Fergus Falls.

March 4 of 2000 was probably the warmest in state history with nearly the entire state reporting afternoon high temperatures in the 50s and 60s F. The sun was bright, and the southerly winds warm as the temperature at Luverne (Rock County) warmed from a morning low of 22°F to an afternoon high of 70°F.

Just three years ago on March 4 of 2019 an Arctic Air Mass had a grip on Minnesota setting many cold temperature records. There were dozens of daily cold maximum temperature records set, including a high of only -6°F at Waseca; and scores of cold minimum temperature records set, including -28°F at Brainerd.


Mixed precipitation on Saturday, mostly rain in southern Minnesota, snow in northern Minnesota, and perhaps areas of freezing rain in central counties. Messy day and difficult travel conditions in some area. Then drier and cooler on Sunday. Generally cooler than normal next week with a chance for snow again on Wednesday and Thursday.

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