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The frequency of strong winds and cooler than normal temperatures

The frequency of strong winds and cooler than normal temperatures:

Many MPR listeners have remarked about how windy this year has been so far, as well as how slow the onset of Spring has been. I examined the details in a historical context.

At many climate stations around the state the first four months of the year (Jan-Apr) have brought daily wind gusts of 30 mph or greater on over 60 percent of all days. This is a remarkable deviation from past climate behavior when roughly 1 in 4 days (25 percent frequency) would bring wind gusts of 30 mph or greater. Granted there has been a change in the cycle of anemometry measurements (higher frequency of measurements), but I don’t think that entirely accounts for the uptick in frequency of strong wind gusts. Some climate stations have already reported 1 or 2 days in May with wind gusts of 30 mph or greater. I suspect this feature of our climate will be studied much more intentionally in the near term to look for linages to climate change.

Regarding the slow onset of Spring across Minnesota, much of it has to do with the dominance of cooler than normal temperatures, lack of sunshine, and frequency snows or rains. For much of the state the January through April period climate measurements show that nearly two-thirds of all days brought cooler than normal temperatures. The January through April statewide mean temperature was slightly over 18°F, ranking as the 18th coldest since 1895. In addition, many climate stations reported some form of precipitation (snow or rain) on over half of the days, an unusual persistence of wetness. The statewide average precipitation for January through April was 6.65 inches, ranking as the 10 wettest such period since 1895. The four-month period was also marked by higher-than-normal incidence of many portions of the state. Pete Boulay of the Minnesota State Climatology Office showed earlier this week that solar radiation measured at the University of Minnesota Climate Observatory for the month of April was the lowest on record (back to 1963).

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

A paper published in the Annual Reviews of Environment and Resources documents the decline in many global bird populations. Habitat loss, climate change and over exploitation are factors that have driven this decline. The authors suggest more coordinated and amplified conservation efforts are needed to sustain biodiversity and populations of various bird species.

This week’s AGU EOS Bulletin features an article about the carbon cycle in the oceans, and especially what we don’t know about it. There is hope that the oceans may be able to sequester more carbon than once thought. Some studies have found that phytoplankton may become more efficient (at storing carbon) as the ocean warms…….that a new, widely distributed ocean microbe species also has the potential to sequester carbon.”

MPR listener question:

We farm down in Olmsted County, mostly corn, soybeans, and some alfalfa. We are hoping to get a lot of planting done in the coming weeks. Can you tell us how many frosts have occurred historically in May, and what the latest date is for Olmsted County?


For Olmsted County the average May brings at least one night of frost based on data back to 1886. In recent decades there have been many frost-free months of May as well. In fact, there have been 18 frost-free Mays over the past 30 years. The most ever frosty mornings during May occurred in 1929 when Olmsted County reported 9 mornings with frost.

The latest May frost I can find is May 30, 1930 when the low temperature went down to 31°F.  I might add that it is extremely rare to have frost in Olmsted County after the end of May. However, it has happened three times in 135 years of record-keeping:

June 9, 1937 31°F
June 4, 1945 32°F
June 21, 1992 32°F.

The outlook for the remainder of this May now favors generally warmer than normal temperatures for your area.

Twin Cities Almanac for May 6th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 66 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 46 degrees F (plus or minus 8 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for May 6th:

MSP records for this date: highest daily maximum temperature of 92 degrees F in 2016; lowest daily maximum temperature of 35 degrees F in 1931; lowest daily minimum temperature of 25 degrees F in 1989; highest daily minimum temperature of 67 degrees F in 1896; record precipitation of 1.51 inches in 1939. Record snowfall is 0.3 inches in 1885.

Average dew point for May 6th is 37°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 66°F in 1965; and the minimum dew point on this date is 14 degrees F in 1989.

All-time state records for May 6th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 98 degrees F at Grand Meadow (Mower County) in 1934. The state record low temperature for this date is 12 degrees F at Alborn (St Louis County) in 1944. The state record precipitation for this date is 3.78 inches at Lake Wilson (Murray County) in 2012. Record snowfall is 10.0 inches at Roseau (Roseau County) in 1938.

.Past Weather Features:

May 6, 1934 was the warmest in state history with 20 Minnesota Counties reporting afternoon temperatures of 90°F or greater. It was 89°F at Two Harbors on Lake Superior. At Albert Lea the overnight temperature never dropped below 66°F.

An unusual winterlike storm brought snow to many northeastern Minnesota communities on May 6, 1938. Many northern Minnesota climate observers reported 3 to 6 inches of snowfall, while much of the rest of the state reported 1 to 2 inches of rain. Roseau reported a record 10 inches of snow.

May 6, 1944 brought frost to every corner of the state. Morning lows ranged from the teens to the twenties F in most places. It was 29°F at Faribault. The frost did little damage to crops as farmers were experiencing a very late planting season, and little seed was in the ground.


Warm and breezy on Saturday with increasing cloudiness later in the day. Chance for showers and thunderstorms Saturday night and into Sunday. Warmer yet on Monday with a chance for showers and thunderstorms, some of which could be severe. Significant warming for Tuesday through Thursday next week with 80°F afternoon highs becoming more widespread. Chance for showers and thunderstorms nearly every day next week.

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