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Preliminary Climate Summary for March

Preliminary Climate Summary for March:

What a month! Completely different weather patterns prevailed for the first half versus the second half of the month. Warm and dry the first half, followed by cool and wet the second half. Overall, most climate stations will report a mean monthly temperature that ranges from 2°F to 5°F above normal. Extremes for the month were 78°F at Theilman (Wabasha County) on the 4th to -20°F at Baudette (Lake of the Woods County) on March 1st (the coldest day of the month).

During the first half of the month temperatures average 10°F to 14°F above normal, while 196 daily maximum temperature records were set or tied, along with 34 warm daily minimum temperature records within the state climate network. Many climate stations reported daytime highs from the upper 50s to low 70s F and there were reports of many ice-out dates on area lakes. Conversely, during the second half of March temperatures averaged 5°F to 8°F colder than normal, though no new daily cold temperature records were set.

Moisture-wise, the first half of March was very dry, with many climate stations reporting zero precipitation and drought worsening in the state. The second half of the month brought measurable precipitation on several days, especially with back-to-back winter storms during March 21-27. Except for portions of northwestern and north-central Minnesota, most climate stations will report monthly precipitation between 1.50 and 2.50 inches. A few places will report over 3 inches. For monthly total snowfall most observers report between 6 inches and 16 inches. High end amounts include nearly 25 inches at New Hope (Hennepin County) and 23 inches near Two Harbors, while low end amounts include just 1.4 inches at Lake Bronson (Kittson County) and 3.3 inches at Georgetown (Clay County). During the wet second half of the month 56 daily snowfall records were set or tied within the state climate network, while 36 daily precipitation (liquid) records were reported.

Winds were stronger than normal during March, with many climate stations reporting wind gusts of 30 mph or greater on 14 days or more. Some examples include:

MSP and Rochester 17 days
Moorhead and Duluth 15 days
Brainerd 14 days

Undoubtedly the most significant weather event of the month was the slow-moving, large, and complex winter storm system of March 24-27. This storm brought snow, rain, freezing rain, and sleet over 3 plus days, causing numerous flight delays and traffic accidents. One of the unusual characteristics of the storm was the sequence of light rain, followed by snow, followed by heavy snow, followed by heavier rains, followed by sleet, followed by lighter but persistent snowfall. Each day of the storm produced wind gusts of 30 mph or greater. MSP reported a new daily record snowfall amount on the 24th with 8.2 inches, and then the next day, March 25th, a new daily record precipitation amount (mostly rainfall) of 0.78 inches. Many climate observers reported 7 to 14 inches of snowfall from this storm, which produced a liquid equivalent precipitation from 1.50 to 2.50 inches.

The DNR-State Climatology Office features a comprehensive look at this long-duration winter storm, with the snowfall and rainfall amounts fully documented.

This was much needed over most of the Minnesota landscape, helping to alleviate the drought condition, especially in the southern half of the state. Areas of Moderate to Severe Drought which were nearly 75 percent in the state last week were reduced to just 43 percent this week. The only major agricultural area of the state that missed out on this significant storm was the Red River Valley in northwestern Minnesota.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

This week the Weather Underground web site offers a look at weather prospects for the total eclipse of the sun on April 8th. They examine both the historical and some of the expected sky conditions across the country for that date. It is interesting to note that although the path of totality for this eclipse appears to be relatively narrow, there is expected to be up to 60 to 80 percent coverage across Minnesota. Providing partial path viewing.

This week’s AGU-EOS Bulletin also features a comprehensive look at the scientific perspectives on solar eclipses. Three total solar eclipses have occurred since 2017, and this one on April 8th will undoubtedly be the most widely viewed and documented.

The United Kingdom Meteorological Office reviewed weather and climate reports from the World Meteorological Organization in 2023 to expand on the most significant climate anomalies during the year and found five features:

Warmest year on record globally since 1850
Record loss of Antarctic sea-ice
Record widespread ocean heat content
Record pace of glacial retreat, especially in western North America and Europe

You can find more at the UK Met Office web site.

MPR listener question:

I live on Walker Lake in Otter Tail County, land of 1,048 lakes. The ice was completely gone off the lake on Sunday, March 17th. The earliest I have ever seen ice off conditions. A week later on March 24, 2024, the lake was completely frozen over again. My question is, has that ever happened anywhere in the State of Minnesota?


The DNR-State Climatology Office does not have a long-term record for your Walker Lake, but they do for nearby Otter Tail Lake and other surrounding lakes. Lake ice-out criteria vary from lake to lake, but the historical records show that ice-out has occurred in some years on some lakes and is then followed by a cold spell of weather which re-freezes the lake (1910, 1938, 1945, 1973, and 2000 are some example years). However, the refreezing is short-lived and does not really alter the declared ice-out date which relates to the end of a prolonged period of seasonal ice cover.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 29th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 48 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 30 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 29th:

MSP records for this date: highest daily maximum temperature of 83 degrees F in 1986; lowest daily maximum temperature of 13 degrees F in 1969; lowest daily minimum temperature of -5 degrees F in 1969; highest daily minimum temperature of 57 degrees F in 1910, and record precipitation of 0.79 inches in 1998. There was a record 11.0 inches of snowfall in 1924.

Average dew point for March 29th is 25°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 56°F in 1910; and the minimum dew point on this date is -13 degrees F in 1969.

All-time state records for March 29th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 83 degrees F at Winona (Winona County) in 1910, Walker (Cass County) in 1946, the Twin Cities area in 1986, and Milan (Chippewa County) in 2021. The state record low temperature for this date is -23 degrees F at Itasca State Park (Clearwater County) in 1921. The state record precipitation for this date is 2.88 inches at Lake City (Wabasha County) in 1998. The state snowfall record is 17.5 inches at Maple Plaine (Hennepin County) in 1924.

Past Weather:

Perhaps the coldest March 29 in state history occurred in 1969 when nearly all climate stations reported subzero low temperatures in the morning. Temperatures ranged from -2°F at Austin (Mower County) to -21°F at Ada (Norman County). The afternoon high temperature at Morris (Stevens County) only reached 1°F.

The warmest March 29 in state history was in 1986 when many high temperature records were set. Much of the state saw afternoon highs reach the 70s F, while at least 15 counties reported a temperature of 80°F or greater.

The greatest March tornado outbreak in Minnesota history took place on March 29 of 1998. Fourteen tornadoes were reported, with two fatalities confirmed. Most of the tornadoes tracked from southwestern Minnesota toward the Wisconsin boarder. One of the largest tornadoes (up to 1.25 miles in diameter) was rated EF-4 and had a path length of 67 miles. The communities of Comfrey and St Peter were hit especially hard with lots of damage. More historical detail about these storms is available from the DNR-State Climatology Office.


The weekend will start with near normal temperatures most places and a slight chance for snow in northern counties. Warming temperatures on Sunday with an increasing chance for rain/snow showers late in the day and continuing into Monday mostly in the southern half of the state. Then mostly dry and sunny for the balance of next week with temperatures warming to above normal values.
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