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Historical Context for These Warm Temperatures

Historical Context for These Warm Temperatures:

December of 2023 was the warmest in state climate history averaging over 14°F above normal on a statewide basis. Almost all of the days recorded above normal temperatures. This followed a November when over two-thirds of the day were warmer than normal, giving us a mean monthly temperature that was 4.0°F above normal. So, the November/December combination to end the year 2023 was the 2nd warmest in state history, trailing 2001 by a small margin.

Now that the Arctic Cold Wave is behind us, it is estimated that the last ten days of January will average 15-19°F above normal across the state. This will offset the mid-month cold spell and likely give us an average monthly temperature for January that is about 5.5°F to 6.0°F above normal (statewide basis). Such numbers mean that the Dec/Jan combination of this winter will be the warmest in state history, surpassing that of 2011-2012. The combined months of November through January (2023-2024) will be the 2nd warmest in state history, behind only 2001-2002.

One remaining question for meteorologists and climatologists to scratch their heads about is will the meteorological winter (Dec-Feb) set a new statewide record for warm temperatures. The key uncertainty is how temperatures will trend in February. Based on the outlook models, temperatures will trend above normal in February, but by how much. If the statewide February mean temperature is more than 6°F above normal, we may have a shot at setting a record warm meteorological winter.

Since the current El Nino episode is ranked among the strongest recorded, I looked at the previous top 5 wintertime El Nino episodes historically (1983, 1998, 1973, 1931, and 1992). For these five years the average February temperature in Minnesota (statewide) was 10.6°F warmer than normal. In this context, a significantly warmer than normal February seems likely and the medium range forecast models suggest we could see temperatures as much as 15°F warmer than normal for the first two weeks of February.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

A recent study published in Water Resources Research documents the changes in frequency of extreme pluvial events such as droughts and floods and shows a geographic disparity as a result of climate change. Some climate patterns have produced floods and droughts across the same geographic region with a year of each other, marking a very short transition between extremely wet patterns and extremely dry patters. This type of climate behavior is expected to be more prevalent with climate change in some regions of the world.

The BBC reported this week on a study of drought in the Amazon rain forests of South America. The drought of 2023 was arguably the worst ever in that region, and recent research finds that it was driven mostly by the vast deforestation that has occurred there over recent decades combined with climate change trends across the Southern Hemisphere. The article is worth a read.

The Weather Channel features an article about how the weather may affect the AFC Championship football game in Baltimore this Sunday (Ravens vs Chiefs). The weather is expected to be wet and windy, perhaps affecting both the passing and kicking elements of the game. The NFC Championship is California (49ers vs Lions) is expected to see fine weather.

MPR listener question:

We have heard meteorologists talk about warm nights this month in the 20s and 30s F. We wondered if you knew what the record was for the warmest nighttime minimum in the month of January?


The warmest minimum temperature during January for the Twin Cities is 42°F back on January 25 of 1944. That same night the minimum temperature was 49°F at Winona setting a statewide record for high minimum temperature.

Twin Cities Almanac for January 26th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 24 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 8 degrees F (plus or minus 16 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for January 26th:

MSP records for this date: highest daily maximum temperature of 52 degrees F in 1931; lowest daily maximum temperature of -9 degrees F in 1972; lowest daily minimum temperature of -26 degrees F in 1897; highest daily minimum temperature of 35 degrees F in 1911; record precipitation of 0.37 inches in 1910. There was a record 7.4 inches of snowfall in 2004.

Average dew point for January 26th is 1°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 37°F in 1944; and the minimum dew point on this date is -41 degrees F in 1946.

All-time state records for January 26th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 63 degrees F at Winnebago (Faribault County) in 1944. The state record low temperature for this date is -55 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1904. The state record precipitation for this date is 1.00 inches at Grand Marais (Cook County) in 2004. The state snowfall record is 24.0 inches at Tamarac Refuge (Becker County) in 2004.

Words of the Week: Cat Connotations

Most people have heard of the term "raining cats and dogs", which has been in use for centuries, with specific reference to how loud a hard rain can be. But the word cat is also used by meteorologists to describe other features of the weather.

Cat ice (shell ice) is the thin layer of unbroken ice which remains over a pond, lake or stream after the water level drops, leaving a cavity between the water surface below and the ice above. Presumably the connotation is that this ice could only support the weight of a cat.

Cat's Paw is a term used to describe a very local scale light breeze that is just enough to cause irregular patches of ripples on an otherwise glassy water surface. This creates a pattern not unlike a series of cat paw prints.

Cat's Nose is a term used in England and some other countries to describe a cool northwest wind which may have the same effect as being touched on the face or hands by a cold cat's nose.

Past Weather:

Early this week on January 23rd was the 244th anniversary of some of the coldest weather during the Revolutionary War for Independence. A temperature of -16 degrees F below zero was registered in New York City. The New York harbor was frozen over, as were all ports along the east coast as far south as North Carolina. The persistent winter cold produced ice so thick that British soldiers could haul cannons from Manhattan across the ice to Staten Island. In fact, General Washington ordered Major General Stirling to take 3000 revolutionary soldiers across the ice and attack the British on Staten Island, but they had to turn back because of foul (wind and poor visibility) weather. Of course, this type of January was perhaps more typical back then, as the Little Ice Age (an extended period of cold in the northern hemisphere from 1400 to 1850 AD) was in full swing.

Bitter cold gripped the state on January 26 of 1997. All counties reported subzero temperature readings in the morning, mostly ranging from -15°F to -30°F. Many northern communities reported morning lows of -40°F or colder. Tower reported -52°F and Embarrass reported -50°F. The daily maximum temperature at Fosston (Polk County) only reached -15°F.

Spring-like temperatures prevailed across western and southern Minnesota on January 26, 2002. Fifty climate stations representing 45 counties reported an afternoon temperature of 50°F or higher, topped by 62°F at Amboy (Blue Earth County) and 61°F at Windom (Cottonwood County). There was little snow on the ground in these areas of the state.

A winter storm brought heavy snow to parts of the state over January 25-27 of 2004. Snow fell across a wide swath over the state, mostly bringing 8 to 19 inches to many areas. The northeast counties reported 20 to 30 inches of snow


Cloudiness and fog will be decreasing over the weekend and skies will be partly cloudy to mostly sunny with warmer than normal temperatures. Temperatures will warm even more next week with little chance for precipitation as we end January and start February.
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