Climate Changes in Minnesota

two children cross country skiing

Minnesota's climate already is changing rapidly and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Temperatures are increasing -- especially in winter -- and larger, more frequent extreme precipitation events are occurring.

Substantial warming during winter and at night, increased precipitation, and heavier downpours already have affected our natural resources, and how we interact with and use them. The decades ahead will bring even warmer winters and nights, and even larger rainfalls, along with the likelihood of increased summer heat and the potential for longer dry spells.

Minnesota Keeps Getting Warmer and Wetter

water filling a rain gauge

Minnesota has warmed by 2.9F between 1895 and 2017, while getting an average of 3.4 inches wetter. While Minnesota has gotten warmer and wetter since 1895, the most dramatic changes have come in the past several decades. Compared to 20th century averages, all but two years since 1970 have been some combination of warm and wet, and each of the top-10 combined warmest and wettest years on record occurred between 1998 and 2017. Although climate conditions will vary from year to year, these increases are expected to continue through the 21st century.

More "A+" Rains

flooding water in a soybean field

Heavy rains are now more common in Minnesota and more intense than at any time on record. Long-term observation sites have seen dramatic increases in 1-inch rains, 3-inch rains, and the size of the heaviest rainfall of the year. Since 2000, Minnesota has seen a significant uptick in devastating, large-area extreme rainstorms as well. Rains that historically would have been in the 98th percentile annually (the largest 2%) have become more common. Climate projections indicate these big rains will continue increasing into the future.

Cold Weather Warming

Most of Minnesota’s observed warming has been when it’s coolest. Since 1970, winter has warmed 13 times faster than summer, and nights have warmed 55% faster than days. The frequencies of -35F readings in northern Minnesota and -25F readings in the south have fallen by up to 90%. We don’t get as cold as we once did, and even though Minnesota always will see periodic severe cold spells, the long-term decline in cold extremes is all but guaranteed to continue.

Minnesota Average Winter Daily Minimum Temperatures
(December through February, 1896-2018)

flooding water in a soybean field

Resources