HydroClim Minnesota for Early January 2014

A monthly electronic newsletter summarizing Minnesota's climate conditions and the resulting impact on water resources. Distributed on the first Thursday of the month.

State Climatology Office - DNR Division of Ecological and Water Resources, St. Paul
distributed: January 2, 2014

What happened in December 2013:

  • December precipitation totals were above historical averages across much of the northern two-thirds of Minnesota. Precipitation totals were near to above average elsewhere in the state. Many northern Minnesota communities reported over two feet of snowfall for the month. Duluth received nearly 40 inches of snow during the month, its third snowiest December on record.

  • The most significant precipitation event of December occurred on December 2 through December 4 when a complex storm system dropped substantial snowfall totals over much of Minnesota. In northeast Minnesota, one to two feet of snow fell, closing schools and creating significant travel hazards. A location north of Two Harbors reported nearly three feet of snow during this event. Daily snowfall total records were set in northern Minnesota over the course of the storm.
  • Average monthly temperatures for December in Minnesota were well below historical averages, finishing 6 to 12 degrees below normal. For some communities, December 2013 ranks among the ten coldest Decembers on record. In a few northern Minnesota locales, the average temperature for the month was below zero. Many low temperature records were set throughout December. Extremes for the month ranged from a high of 48 degrees at Pipestone (Pipestone County) on the 2nd, to a low of -43 degrees at Embarrass (St. Louis County) on the 31st.

Where we stand now:

  • Snow depths exceed 12 inches over most of the northern two-thirds of Minnesota. Snow depths across the southern one-third of the state range from four to eight inches. Snow cover in some areas of northeast Minnesota ranges between 18 and 30 inches in depth. Throughout nearly all of Minnesota, snow depths are above the historical median for the date.
  • The U. S. Drought Monitor, released on January 2, places sections of the southern one-half of Minnesota in the Moderate Drought category. Roughly one-quarter of the state is designated as undergoing Moderate Drought. The U. S. Drought Monitor index is a blend of science and subjectivity where drought categories (Moderate, Severe, etc.) are based on several indicators.
  • In their final report of the season (November 25), the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service reported that topsoil moisture was Adequate across 86% of the state. Subsoil moisture was said to be 23% Very Short or Short. Soil moisture measurements made at two University of Minnesota Research and Outreach Centers in early-November indicated near-average conditions at these southern Minnesota locations. History has shown that soil moisture conditions observed in the late autumn are indicative of conditions to be expected when the soil thaws.

  • Soil frost depth under sod ranges from six inches to two feet at Minnesota observing locations. Early season snow cover remained in place throughout December in many areas, insulating the ground, and inhibiting frost penetration despite recent very cold temperatures.

Future prospects:

  • The January precipitation outlook indicates equal chances of below-normal, near-normal, or above-normal conditions across Minnesota. January precipitation normals range from near one-half inch of liquid equivalent in western Minnesota to just over one inch liquid in eastern sections of the state. The median snow cover at the end of January ranges from near five inches in southwest Minnesota, to over 15 inches on the ground in northeastern Minnesota (greater than 24 inches along the Lake Superior highlands).
  • The January temperature outlook tilts heavily towards below-normal conditions across Minnesota. Historically, January is Minnesota's coldest month. Normal January high temperatures range the low-teens in the north, to near 20 in the south. Normal January lows range from near minus 10 degrees in the far north, to the single digits above zero in southern Minnesota.
  • The 90-day precipitation outlook for January through March offers equal chances of below-normal, near-normal, or above-normal conditions across Minnesota. The January through March temperature projection also calls for equal chances of below-normal, near-normal, or above-normal conditions for many Minnesota locales. However, the long-term temperature outlook for northwest Minnesota leans towards below-normal conditions.
  • The National Weather Service produces long-range probabilistic river stage and discharge outlooks for the Red River, Minnesota River, and Mississippi River basins. These products address both high flow and low flow probabilities.

From the author:

  • Using an informal poll, representatives of Minnesota's weather and climate community selected the top five weather events of 2013. Those polled selected the historic early-May snowstorm in southeast Minnesota as the number one weather story of 2013.

Notes from around the state:

  • None

Upcoming dates of note:

  • January 16: National Weather Service releases 30/90 day temperature and precipitation outlooks

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Greg Spoden, DNR Climatologist

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