HydroClim Minnesota for Early January 2015

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, 2015 (distribution delayed one day)

What happened in December 2014:

  • December precipitation totals were close to historical averages across large portions of Minnesota. In many locales, a significant fraction of the monthly precipitation came in the form of mid-December rain. However, northwest and north central counties missed out on the bulk of these rainfall events and monthly precipitation totals in those areas were about one-half inch short of historical averages.
  • There were no major winter storms in Minnesota during the month of December. The most significant weather feature of the month was the persistent cloud cover. Solar radiation measurements made on the St. Paul Campus of the University of Minnesota indicate that December 2014 was the cloudiest December since measurements began in 1962.
  • Average monthly temperatures for December in Minnesota were above historical averages, ranging from five to seven degrees above normal. The month began, and ended, with below-normal temperatures. However, mid-December temperatures were well above historical averages. Numerous records for all-time maximum overnight temperatures were set during this period. Extremes for December ranged from a high of 56 degrees F at a various southwest Minnesota locales on the 13th, to a low of -22 degrees F at Thief River Falls (Pennington County) on the 29th. The mid-December warm spell was accompanied by extraordinarily moist air (by winter standards). A number of high dew point temperature records were set.

Where we stand now:

  • Snow depths are less than four inches in most Minnesota communities. Little or no snow cover is on the ground across large sections of northwest, west central, and central Minnesota. Snow depths are well below median for the northern two-thirds of Minnesota.
  • The U. S. Drought Monitor, released on December 31, indicated that Abnormally Dry conditions exist over large sections of Minnesota, the result of a dry late summer and autumn. A small area of west central Minnesota is placed in the Moderate Drought category. The 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 24), the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service reported that topsoil moisture across 20 percent of Minnesota's landscape is described as Short or Very Short.
  • Soil frost depth under sod ranges from 4 to 20 inches at Minnesota observing locations.
  • Minnesota lakes and rivers are ice covered. Lake and river ice is never completely safe. Caution is always advised when venturing onto the ice.

Future prospects:

  • The January precipitation outlook offers equal chances of below-normal, near-normal, or above-normal conditions in all Minnesota counties. 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 towards below-normal conditions throughout 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 indicates equal chances of below-normal, near-normal, or above-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.

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Greg Spoden, DNR Climatologist

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