Thanksgiving Day Climatology

Turkey Race - 1955
Turkey Race - 1955
Courtesy: Minnesota Historical Society

 

Thanksgiving Day occurs during the transition between autumn and winter, so its weather can be anything from balmy to brutal. So what's the weather usually like?

The "normal" high temperature on Thanksgiving Day, based on 1991-2020 averages, is 32 F in Duluth, 29 F in International Falls, 38 F in Rochester, 34 F at St. Cloud, and 38 F in the Twin Cities. Normal low temperatures are in the teens F across most of Minnesota. Temperatures have been as high as the 60s F in southern Minnesota (and the upper 40s F in northern and northeastern Minnesota), and have been deeply subzero in some years. In 1985, the temperature fell to -34 F at Argyle and -32 F at International Falls, ahead of a huge winter storm taking aim at the region.

Although the Thanksgiving holiday travel period (often considered Wednesday through Sunday) has boasted some legendary winter storms, the snowfall statistics for Thanksgiving itself are not outstanding. The highest Thanksgiving snow on record in Duluth is 8.1 inches, with five inches in the Twin Cities, and 3.7 inches at Rochester.

In the Twin Cities, mild Thanksgiving conditions, with temperatures in the 50s F, have only occurred eleven times in 150 years, or about once every 13 years or so. The most recent very warm Thanksgiving was November 22, 2012, when the temperature hit 60 F, two degrees short of the record high of 62 F observed in 1914 and 1922. Very cold conditions struck most recently in 2014, when the low temperature was -4 F in the Twin Cities, with -20s F in northern Minnesota. Below-zero lows have occurred ten times in the past 148 years.

Historically, about one in three Thanksgivings have at least one inch of snow on the ground in the Twin Cities, and the deepest snow cover measured was 10 inches in both1921 and 1983. By contrast, International Falls has at least an inch of snow cover on Thanksgiving in about seven out of 10 years, with a high of 17 inches in 1955, and 15 inches measured on Thanksgiving as recently as 2010.

It occasionally rains on Thanksgiving Day as well. In 1896, a two-day event in the Twin Cities doused Thanksgiving travelers with nearly three inches of rain.

The following table summarizes Thanksgiving Day for the Twin Cities, from 1872 to 2021.

Thanksgiving Day climatology for the Twin Cities, 1872-2021
Year	Month	Day	High	Low	precip	snow	snow depth
1872	11	28	-1	-13	0.00	M	M
1873	11	27	21	2	0.00	M	M
1874	11	26	31	9	.14	M	M
1875	11	25	33	26	0.00	M	M
1876	11	30	15	1	0.00	M	M
1877	11	24	43	33	0.00	M	M
1878	11	28	42	21	0.00	M	M
1879	11	27	34	29	0.01	M	M
1880	11	25	13	-18	0.00	M	M
1881	11	24	22	2	0.00	M	M
1882	11	30	32	17	0.00	M	M
1883	11	29	38	18	0.00	M	M
1884	11	27	20	14	0.01	T	M
1885	11	25	42	19	T	0.0	M
1886	11	25	15	8	T	T	M
1887	11	24	29	24	0.14	1.4	M
1888	11	29	33	29	T	T	M
1889	11	28	20	11	.01	.1	M
1890	11	27	37	22	0.00	0.0	M
1891	11	26	26	13	T	T	M
1892	11	24	26	6	0.00	0.0	M
1893	11	30	12	-8	0.07	0.8	M
1894	11	29	30	12	0.00	0.0	M
1895	11	28	37	27	T	0.0	M
1896	11	26	49	30	1.76	0.0	M
1897	11	25	31	22	0.05	0.7	M
1898	11	24	12	-7	0.00	0.0	M
1899	11	30	41	32	0.01	0.0	0
1900	11	29	35	15	0.00	0.0	2
1901	11	28	48	23	0.00	0.0	0
1902	11	27	34	19	T	T	T
1903	11	26	18	0	0.00	0.0	T
1904	11	24	38	32	0.00	0.0	0
1905	11	30	16	-8	0.00	0.0	5
1906	11	29	39	26	0.04	T	0
1907	11	28	35	23	0.00	0.0	0
1908	11	26	36	26	T	T	T
1909	11	25	39	34	0.00	0.0	T
1910	11	24	46	29	0.00	0.0	0
1911	11	30	37	20	0.00	0.0	4
1912	11	28	42	16	0.00	0.0	T
1913	11	27	43	37	0.01	0.0	0
1914	11	26	62	31	0.00	0.0	0
1915	11	25	45	34	0.00	0.0	T
1916	11	30	42	24	0.00	0.0	0
1917	11	29	36	27	T	0.0	T
1918	11	28	37	28	T	0.5	1
1919	11	27	13	5	0.05	1.2	2
1920	11	25	32	30	T	T	T
1921	11	24	24	17	0.00	T	10
1922	11	30	62	24	0.44	0.0	0
1923	11	29	46	29	0.00	0.0	0
1924	11	27	28	17	0.01	0.1	T
1925	11	26	39	16	0.00	0.0	0
1926	11	25	36	27	0.08	0.0	1
1927	11	24	40	26	0.00	0.0	1
1928	11	29	30	22	T	T	0
1929	11	28	12	-4	T	T	T
1930	11	27	7	-3	T	T	3
1931	11	26	31	17	0.02	0.0	0
1932	11	24	50	21	0.00	0.0	0
1933	11	30	47	28	0.00	0.0	0
1934	11	29	32	28	0.00	0.0	0
1935	11	28	19	8	0.04	0.6	1
1936	11	26	19	16	T	1.5	1
1937	11	25	43	35	T	0.0	0
1938	11	24	19	7	T	T	0
1939*	11	30	60	24	0.00	0.0	0
1940	11	21	34	28	0.28	T	T
1941	11	20	34	24	T	T	0
1942	11	26	22	12	T	0.2	1
1943	11	25	36	28	T	0.0	0
1944	11	23	35	31	0.02	0.2	0
1945	11	22	21	14	0.06	1.2	1
1946	11	28	38	17	0.00	0.0	0
1947	11	27	20	5	0.03	1.2	7
1948	11	25	39	32	0.05	0.4	0
1949	11	24	27	23	T	T	1
1950	11	23	16	-5	0.02	0.2	2
1951	11	22	24	11	0.00	0.0	0
1952	11	27	14	4	T	T	9
1953	11	26	31	20	T	T	0
1954	11	25	30	23	0.00	0.0	0
1955	11	24	31	7	0.00	0.0	1
1956	11	22	17	8	0.00	0.0	3
1957	11	28	29	21	T	0.0	1
1958	11	27	18	2	T	T	0
1959	11	26	26	11	0.00	0.0	0
1960	11	24	45	28	0.00	0.0	0
1961	11	23	39	24	T	T	0
1962	11	22	33	20	T	0.0	0
1963	11	28	48	28	T	T	0
1964	11	26	23	7	T	T	1
1965	11	25	37	28	0.01	T	0
1966	11	24	42	32	0.06	0.0	0
1967	11	23	39	16	T	T	0
1968	11	28	35	20	0.00	0.0	0
1969	11	27	26	17	0.00	T	0
1970	11	26	32	12	0.31	5.0	1
1971	11	25	33	30	0.22	2.6	3
1972	11	23	38	16	0.00	0.0	0
1973	11	22	45	27	0.00	0.0	0
1974	11	28	27	15	T	T	0
1975	11	27	28	12	0.00	0.0	4
1976	11	25	42	29	0.09	0.7	0
1977	11	24	16	6	0.13	1.7	3
1978	11	23	28	24	0.05	0.9	8
1979	11	22	35	33	0.16	1.5	2
1980	11	27	40	22	0.00	0.0	0
1981	11	26	37	31	0.16	0.9	3
1982	11	25	36	19	T	T	0
1983	11	24	25	14	T	T	10
1984	11	22	40	21	0.00	0.0	0
1985	11	28	11	-8	0.08	2.2	5
1986	11	27	47	24	0.00	0.0	0
1987	11	26	32	26	0.00	T	0
1988	11	24	52	35	0.00	0.0	0
1989	11	23	18	2	0.01	0.1	5
1990	11	22	50	27	0.00	0.0	0
1991	11	28	23	10	0.00	0.0	6
1992	11	26	34	22	T	T	0
1993	11	25	33	20	0.45	4.3	2
1994	11	24	48	28	0.00	0.0	0
1995	11	23	20	9	0.00	0.0	0
1996	11	28	31	17	0.00	0.0	9
1997	11	27	45	29	0.00	0.0	1
1998	11	26	58	28	0.00	0.0	0
1999	11	25	47	30	0.00	0.0	0
2000	11	23	29	16	0.00	0.0	1
2001	11	22	55	36	0.00	0.0	0
2002	11	28	45	19	0.00	0.0	0
2003	11	27	33	24	0.04	0.0	4
2004	11	25	34	22	T	T	T
2005	11	24	21	11	0.00	0.0	0
2006	11	23	54	29	0.00	0.0	0
2007	11	22	29	16	T	0.2	T
2008	11	27	42	22	0.00	0.0	0
2009	11	26	36	27	0.00	0.0	0
2010	11	25	27	6	T	T	1
2011	11	24	59	36	0.00	0.0	0
2012	11	22	60	24	0.02	0.1	0
2013	11	28	29	15	0.00	0.0	0
2014    11      27      10      -4      0.02    0.3     2
2015    11      26      40      24      0.12    1.3     0
2016    11      24      37      34      0.04    T       2
2017    11      23      49      23      0.00    0.0     0
2018    11      22      37      27      0.00    0.0     0
2019    11      28      28      22      0.00    0.0     7
2020    11      26      36      28      0.00    0.0     0
2021    11      25      26      14      T       T       0

Note: Thanksgiving dates prior to 1942 often were determined at the state level and did not conform to the current federal policy of observing the holiday on the fourth Thursday in November. In 1939, Minnesota's Republican governor, Harold Stassen, did not follow Democrat president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s proclamation to hold Thanksgiving on the third Thursday in November, and that year Minnesota celebrated Thanksgiving on November 30. The governor seemed to have a change of heart for the next two years and went with Roosevelt’s recommendation and had Thanksgiving on November 21 in 1940 and November 20 in 1941.

The U.S. Congress in 1941 established the current law, stating that Thanksgiving would occur annually on the fourth Thursday of November.

 

Last modified: November 22, 2022

 

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