HydroClim Minnesota for Early April 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: April 3, 2014

What happened in March 2014:

  • March precipitation totals were near to below historical averages across much of the southern one-half of Minnesota. Monthly precipitation totals were near to above average in the northern one-half of the state as well as a few counties in southwest and southeast Minnesota.

  • Three potent late-winter storms dropped heavy snow on Minnesota during the month of March. The storm on March 31 in northwest Minnesota was accompanied by high winds, leading to dangerous blizzard conditions.
  • Average monthly temperatures for March in Minnesota were well below historical averages, finishing 6 to 10 degrees below normal. It was the fifth consecutive month of below-average temperatures. Average temperatures for December through March ranked among the five or six coldest on record for most locations. Extremes for March ranged from a high of 67 degrees at Redwood Falls on the 31st, to a low of -44 degrees at Embarrass (St. Louis County) on the 3rd. Daily low temperature records were set at numerous locations over the course of the month.

Where we stand now:

  • Snow depths across the northeastern one-half of Minnesota are in excess of eight inches. For portions of far northeast Minnesota, snow depths range from 30 to 40 inches. Current snow depths are well above the historical median for the date in north central and northeast Minnesota.
  • The U. S. Drought Monitor, released on April 3, places sections of the southern one-half of Minnesota in the Moderate Drought category. Roughly 20 percent of the state is designated as undergoing Moderate Drought. The drought areas are the lingering result of late-summer and early-autumn rainfall shortfalls in 2013. 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 summary last season (late November), 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 depths under sod range from 12 to 48 inches at Minnesota observing locations. The depth of frost is highly related to the depth and persistence of the snow cover overlying the soil profile. Soil frost depths under surfaces kept free of snow, such as streets and roads, plunged to six to eight feet at many locations. In locales presently free of snow cover, the soil is beginning to thaw at the surface. Typically the soil will thaw from both top and bottom, leaving a frozen lens around 12 to 18 inches below the surface to thaw last.
  • Minnesota lakes are ice covered. Given present ice conditions and forecasts for continued cool weather, it is highly unlikely that lake ice out dates will be earlier than historical median dates. However, the question of how long ice out will be delayed beyond the historical median dates is impossible to answer at this time.
  • The potential for wildfires is currently rated by DNR Forestry as Low across Minnesota. Historically, 80 percent of all wildfires in Minnesota occur during April and May.

Future prospects:

  • The April precipitation outlook offers equal chances of below-normal, near-normal, or above-normal conditions across Minnesota. April precipitation normals range from one and one-half inch in northwest Minnesota to around three inches in southeast counties. The historical probability of measurable precipitation for any given day in April ranges from 20 percent in the far northwest to 35 percent in the southeast.
  • The April temperature outlook tilts towards below-normal conditions across Minnesota. Normal April high temperatures are in the mid to upper 40s early in the month, rising to the low 60s by month's end. Early April normal low temperatures are near 20 in the north, near 30 in the south. By month's end, low temperatures average in the mid-30s in the north, near 40 in the south.
  • The 90-day precipitation outlook for April through June offers equal chances of below-normal, near-normal, or above-normal conditions across Minnesota. The April through June temperature projection leans towards below-normal conditions in all Minnesota counties.
  • 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. As of this writing, there is a near-normal risk for moderate or higher level spring flooding along the Red River, Minnesota River, and Upper Mississippi River. There is a somewhat elevated risk for moderate spring flooding in the St. Croix River basin.

From the author:

  • none

Upcoming dates of note:

  • April 17: National Weather Service releases 30/90 day temperature and precipitation outlooks

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Greg Spoden, DNR Climatologist

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