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Warm temperatures continue, drought worsens

Warm temperatures continue, drought worsens:

Since last Friday, March 8th, fifteen more record daily high temperature records have been set in the Minnesota climate station network. Most of these occurred over March 10 and 11. Some of these included 75°F at Milan (Chippewa County), 74°F at Rochester (Olmsted County), and 73°F at Redwood Falls (Redwood County). The Twin Cities also set a record high on March 11 with a reading of 68°F.

Through the first half of March, there have been 115 record high daily temperature records set or tied in the state. Average temperatures for the month so far are running 11°F to 15°F above normal. Even with some cooler than normal temperature expected over the next 10 days, March is highly likely to end up as another warmer than normal month.

An interesting note about drought: By the end of a record-setting wet month of December, 2023 the area of Minnesota designated to be in Moderate Drought or worse was about 40 percent, but so far the first few months of 2024 have been dry enough that the area of the state currently in Moderate Drought or worse is nearly 75 percent. Most areas of the state have received little precipitation this month so far, with only a few places reporting over a quarter of an inch. This is undoubtedly a worrisome trend as lake levels are down, watershed flow volumes are down, soil moisture is down, and fire danger is up. However, it is yet early enough in the spring, that a turn to a wetter weather pattern could be highly beneficial before the spring planting season begins.

Anniversary of remarkable temperature change....

On this date in 1897, Detroit Lakes in Becker County reported a morning low of -43 degrees F, but by the next afternoon, less than 36 hours later, on March 16 the temperature was 45 degrees F, a rise of 88 degrees F! Typical March in Minnesota!

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

This week the BBC reported on “Zombie fires” which continue to burn throughout Canada even during the winter with heavy snow cover and subzero temperatures. These fires are hidden, burning dry materials under the snow and dead surface vegetation. They can smolder over the winter and then turn into major fires during the spring and summer. There are perhaps 150 “Zombie fires” currently burning in Canada, and many are being extinguished before the start of spring.

After digesting and analyzing all of the climate data for December though February, NOAA scientists announced last week the across the USA it was the warmest meteorological winter in 129 years. Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin each had their warmest winter on record. Twenty-six additional states saw their top-10 warmest winters on record.

Dr. Anthony Hanson with the University of Minnesota Extension has evaluated this winter weather in the context of the impacts on major insect species that affect agriculture. He writes an interesting analysis that is worth reading. For example, the winter mortality on soybean aphid is likely to be quite low this year, and therefore soybean growers may wish to plant more aphid resistant varieties as they consider planting options this spring. He shares many other perspectives on corn rootworm, alfalfa weevil, potato leafhopper and other species to be on the watch for this coming season. His blog can be found under Minnesota Crop News.

MPR listener question:

Here in Long Prairie (Todd County) we have had no measurable precipitation through the first have of the month! Have we ever had no precipitation at all in the month of March?


Yes, only one time. There was no measurable precipitation in Todd County during March of 1895. You are not alone in this designation. In March of 1895 observers in New London (Kandiyohi County), Beardsley (Big Stone County), and Alexandria (Douglas County) also reported no precipitation. There have also been other years when March brought no precipitation to some other parts of the state.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 15th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 41 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 25 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 15th:

MSP records for this date: highest daily maximum temperature of 70 degrees F in 2015; lowest daily maximum temperature of 8 degrees F in 1900; lowest daily minimum temperature of -7 degrees F in 1897; highest daily minimum temperature of 45 degrees F in 2016, and record precipitation of 0.85 inches in 1945. There was a record 5.0 inches of snowfall in 1899.

Average dew point for March 15th is 20°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 52°F in 2003; and the minimum dew point on this date is -11 degrees F in 1979.

All-time state records for March 15th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 80 degrees F at Waseca (Waseca County) in 1927. The state record low temperature for this date is -49 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1897. The state record precipitation for this date is 2.93 inches at Isabella (Lake County) in 1971. The state snowfall record is 21.0 inches at Isabella (Lake County) also in 1971.

Past Weather:

The coldest March 15 in state history was in 1897. Virtually all areas of the state recorded subzero temperatures with many areas reporting morning lows of -30°F or colder. With abundant snow on the ground, the daytime high temperature at Crookston only reached -4°F.

On this date in 1941, one of the most sudden and severe blizzards in modern times struck North Dakota and Minnesota. The storm hit on a Saturday night while many were traveling, and thus claimed 71 lives. Winds gusts were of hurricane force. Grand Forks reported a gust of 85 mph, Fargo a gust of 74 mph, and Duluth a gust of 75 mph. Though snowfall amounts were generally modest, wind-driven snow drifts twelve feet high were reported in north central Minnesota. Crookston in Polk County of the Red River Valley caught the most snow recording 12 inches. The associated cold front moved very rapidly, averaging 30 mph as it crossed Minnesota in just seven hours. The temperature dropped 18 degrees in 5 minutes when the storm hit the Duluth harbor. In the aftermath of this blizzard (and that of the Armistice Day Blizzard the previous November), the National Weather Service Office in Chicago relinquished forecast jurisdiction to the Minneapolis Office.

March 15 of 2012 was the warmest in history, with 15 counties reporting afternoon temperatures of 70°F or greater. It was 66°F as far north as Gunflint Lake.


Cooler and breezy over the weekend, as we embark on a downward trend in temperatures that is likely to bring some below normal values for the first time this month. There will be a chance for snow showers in the far north on Saturday and again Monday. Elsewhere it will be mostly a cool and dry week coming up.
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