A Warm, Dry, Snowless, and Somewhat Cloudy January 2024

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January 2024 average daily temperature departure from 1991-2020 normals at the Twin Cities International Airport (red and blue bars), along with daily high and low temperatures (dots, corresponding to the right-vertical axis). Credit: Minnesota DNR State Climatology Office


The strange and winterless winter continued into January of 2024, which started warm, ended even warmer, and had a middle 10-day period with the only winter-like weather since December 1st. It was dry, and nearly snowless in many areas, although our brief, wintry interlude did bring a couple snowfall events to parts of the state. January was also the least-sunny on record, with less solar radiation observed in St. Paul than any winter since 1963.

The warmth at the beginning of the month was a subdued extension of the extreme warmth that had dominated December. But the first third or so of January was just mild; it was not spectacularly warm. A series of cold fronts and low-pressure systems brought much colder air into Minnesota. Snow had fallen across the far south, and that's where some of the coldest air set up, both in absolute terms, and especially compared to "normal." During the middle of the month, many areas stayed below zero for days; this is not unusual at all for January, but was unusual for this winter, which had lacked anything resembling cold weather up to this point.

The cold air lasted until the 21st or so, and the final nine or 10 days of the month were very warm, with another heat wave overspreading the state on the 31st. During the final days of January, stations across the state experienced daily low temperatures that were well above the average high temperatures for the date.

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January average solar radiation at the U of M St. Paul Campus Climate Observatory
Credit: Minnesota DNR State Climatology Office


For all but the far southwest and southeast, snowfall was well below normal, so that by the first of February, about 70% of the state had bare ground, with a dwindling snowpack over the north and extreme southwest.

Clouds and fog dominated the month. Even during the cold mid-January interlude, often a bright and sunny experience, the clouds persisted, as strong winds continued a feed of low and mid-level moisture into the region. When it wasn't cold, the mild and warm weather produced bouts of heavy fog and very low clouds also, as the melting snow and wet ground saturated the air above it. Bright sunshine did emerge during the final days of January, with many Minnesotans noting and appreciating vibrant sunsets and sunrises, but it was too little too late: January 2024 finished as the least-brilliant January on record at St. Paul, with less solar radiation (sunlight) than any other January since 1963. 


February 2, 2024


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