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The Remarkable Climate of December 2023:

 The Remarkable Climate of December 2023:

December of 2023 will forever standout in Minnesota climate history, even if its’ climate signature is only a precursor for what climate change has in store for us. In both temperature and precipitation measurements this December is a singularity in our state’s climate history.

The average statewide mean temperature for the month will be around 29.5°F, that is well beyond the previous warmest December (24.8°F in 2015). Most climate stations will report a mean monthly temperature that is 10°F to 14°F above normal. Many areas of the state reported several days with 50°F or higher temperatures, and several reported 60°F or greater. The month brought the warmest Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in state history in terms of both maximum and minimum temperatures, as well as record high dew points in the 50s F. Within the statewide climate observing network, there were over 170 daily record high maximum temperature records and over 240 daily high minimum temperature records set. It is with great certainty that scientists can attribute the warm temperature signal of December to a strong El Nino episode, climate change, and the absence of snow cover.

This month was also the wettest December in state history with a statewide average over 2.30 inches (surpassing the statewide average of 2.06 inches in 1968). Most of the precipitation fell as rain, and in many cases heavy rain. Within the statewide climate observing network over 50 daily precipitation (rainfall) records were set, and at least 25 climate stations set a new record for greatest total monthly precipitation for December. Bear in mind that average precipitation for December for most Minnesota communities is less than 1 inch. Most places reported over 2 inches this month, while several reported over 3 inches. Litchfield, Brainerd, and Wheaton reported almost 4 inches.

The combination of warm temperatures and warm rainfalls thawed many soils and allowed for soil moisture recharge, which was needed in many areas following months of drought. There will still be some carryover drought in portions of the state for 2024. The warm month also will mean that the year 2023 is likely to rank among the top 10 warmest in history on a statewide basis.

Weather and Climate Headlines of 2023:

Pete Boulay of the MN State Climatology Office is putting together his annual list of the top weather and climate stories for the year. Please look for this to appear on their web site in the coming days.

Twin Cities Almanac for December 29th:

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 13 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for December 29th:

MSP records for this date: highest daily maximum temperature of 53 degrees F in 1999; lowest daily maximum temperature of -4 degrees F in 1909; lowest daily minimum temperature of -24 degrees F in 1917; highest daily minimum temperature of 34 degrees F in 2006; record precipitation of 0.80 inches in 1972. There was also a record 4.4 inches of snowfall also in 1889.

Average dew point for December 29th is 12°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 40°F in 1936; and the minimum dew point on this date is -24 degrees F in 1976.

All-time state records for December 29th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 61 degrees F at Montevideo (Lac Qui Parle County) in 1999. The state record low temperature for this date is -47 degrees F at Itasca State Park (Clearwater County) in 1917. The state record precipitation for this date is 1.55 inches at Farmington (Dakota County) in 1982. The state snowfall record is 16.0 inches at Farmington (Dakota County) also in 1982.

Past Weather:

The coldest December 29 occurred in 1917. With plenty of snow on the ground an Arctic air mass brought record-setting low temperatures to many areas of the state. Most places reported subzero temperatures, ranging from -20°F to -40°F. The afternoon high at Thief River Falls only reached -19°F.

December 29 in 1999 was the warmest in state history. With little or no snow on the ground, many climate observers reported afternoon temperatures in the 50s F. After a morning low of just 15°F at Montevideo, the temperature rose to 61°F by mid afternoon.


Chance of light snow on Saturday, otherwise dry through the next week. Temperatures will continue to be mostly about normal, but by only 5°F to 10°F degrees, instead of the recording-setting warmth of December.
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