Skip to main content

Rare colder than normal temperatures return

Rare colder than normal temperatures return:

Thursday, January 11th, brought many smiles and lifted spirits because it was the sunniest day since December 29th for many areas of the state. Through the first 10 days of January temperatures have been well above normal (warmest start to the month since 2007), but cloudiness has dominated the weather scene in Minnesota for the month so far, with most of the significant weather systems delivering precipitation remaining south of the state. The exception was the snowstorm that plagued portions of southwestern and southeastern Minnesota over January 7-9. Many observers in these areas of the state reported 4 to 7 inches of snowfall. Portions of Rock County reported over 11 inches of snowfall. The DNR State Climatology Office reported more details on the snowfall this week at their web site.

January 11 brought more significant snowfalls to the north shore, especially from Two Harbors to Finland and Lutsen. Snowfall amounts ranged from 6 inches to 14 inches. Yet more snowfall is expected there throughout the weekend.

Snow cover around the state ranges mostly between 1 inch and 4 inches, but this will enhance the cold temperatures projected for the coming weekend and early next week. Subzero morning lows may range from -5°F to -15°F, with Wind Chill conditions in the minus twenties and minus thirties at times. This forecasted colder than normal period, periods lasting 10 days (through January 20) will be the longest for most parts of Minnesota since last April. The last week of January is expected to see a return of above normal temperatures.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

This week at the NOAA web site is a review of the 28 weather and climate disasters that caused close to $93 billion in damages and loss. There is also an examination of the disturbing trend in such events.

Jonathan Erdman of the Weather Underground writes this week that at least two of the NFL Wild Card Football Playoff games may be significantly affected by the weather this weekend. The Miami Dolphins play the Kansas City Chiefs Saturday night in KC and will be playing in singled digits temperatures with subzero Wind Chill conditions. In these conditions is can be difficult to hold onto the ball. Then Sunday afternoon the Pittsburgh Steelers will be at the Buffalo Bills Highmark stadium where there may be some heavy snow showers and Wind Chill conditions near zero. So both cold and visibility may be issues for that football game.

This week the journal Nature features a fascinating article about the decline in average winter snowpack across the Northern Hemisphere that has been provoked by climate change. The analysis shows that much of the southwestern and northeastern USA landscape has seen sharp declines.

MPR listener question:

You mentioned on the TPT Almanac program last week, that the upward trend in December mean temperature (statewide) was remarkable. What do the trends in mean temperature look like for other months of the year?


According to the NOAA Climate Data Center, Minnesota average monthly temperatures show the following trends over the most recent century (100 years of data):

January +4.1°F
February +4.4°F
March 4.0°F
April +0.4°F
May +1.6°F
June +2.1°F
July +1.1°F
August +1.4°F
September +2.0°F
October +1.0°F
November +2.7°F
December +3.8°F

Clearly for Minnesota the months of December, January, February, and March have warmed the most. This is also true for many mid-latitude landscapes in the Northern Hemisphere, including Europe and Asia.

Twin Cities Almanac for January 12th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 23 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 9 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for January 12th:

MSP records for this date: highest daily maximum temperature of 48 degrees F in 1987; lowest daily maximum temperature of -13 degrees F in 1912; lowest daily minimum temperature of -31 degrees F in 1912; highest daily minimum temperature of 36 degrees F in 1928; record precipitation of 0.70 inches in 1935. There was a record 8.7 inches of snowfall in 2000.

Average dew point for January 12th is 6°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 39°F in 1932; and the minimum dew point on this date is -38 degrees F in 1977.

All-time state records for January 12th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 58 degrees F at Wheaton (Traverse County) and Browns Valley (Traverse County) in 1987. The state record low temperature for this date is -53 degrees F at Pine River Dam (Crow Wing County) in 1912. The state record precipitation for this date is 2.50 inches at St James (Watonwan County) in 1988. The state snowfall record is 15.1 inches also at Cloquet (Carlton County) in 1972.

Past Weather:

The January 10-12 period is bookmarked in the Minnesota history documents as an anniversary for two of the worst blizzards to ever hit the state, those of 1888 and 1975. The storm of January 12, 1888 is well documented in David Laskin's book "The Children's Blizzard." Over 200 people, mostly children, lost their lives in that storm which mostly affected SE South Dakota, SW Minnesota, NE Nebraska, and NW Iowa. The storm rolled in during during the afternoon of what otherwise had been a relatively mild day with temperatures in the mid-30s F. Suddenly,

the winds became strong, snowfall was intense and visibility was dramatically reduced. Children were dismissed from school early, but many never made it home. Temperatures as cold as -37 degrees F were measured the next morning as snow drifts from 10-12 ft dotted the landscape. The timing, sudden onset, dangerous wind chill conditions, and lack of visibility all contributed to this lethal blizzard.

January 10-12, 1975 is remembered by many Minnesotans as the "Storm of the Century." The storm was well forecasted by the National Weather Service, but it was so mighty that it literally shut down the state. Hurricane-like low pressure (only 28.40 inches at Grand Portage) brought wind gusts of 50 to 80 mph in many places. Several counties received over 20 inches of snowfall from this storm. Roads and airports were closed, and 168 passengers were stranded on a stalled train near Willmar, as wind chill conditions were too dangerous for them to walk and seek other shelter. The storm brought 35 deaths, while the American Red Cross provided food and shelter to over 17,000 stranded motorists.

By far the coldest January 12th in state history was in 1912 when morning low temperatures ranged from -20°F to -50°F across Minnesota. At least 40 climate stations reported morning lows of -40°F or colder. The afternoon high temperature at Campbell (Wilkin County) only managed to reach -27°F.

The warmest January 12th was in 1987. Most climate stations reported afternoon temperatures in the 40s F with little or no snow on the ground. Twenty Minnesota counties reported a high temperature of 50°F or greater.


Patchy blowing snow on Saturday and Sunday with dangerous Wind Chill conditions in some places. In northeastern Minnesota, significant snowfalls (several inches) will continue throughout the weekend and on Monday. Many areas will see subzero overnight lows and even subzero high temperatures. Monday through Wednesday will continue cold and breezy, with some moderation in temperature towards the end of next week.

Print Friendly and PDF