HydroClim Minnesota for Early January 2017

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 5, 2017

What happened in December 2016:

  • December 2016 monthly precipitation totals finished above average at nearly every Minnesota reporting station. The average departure for the state was .80 or eight-tenths of an inch. The largest precipitation event for the state was on Christmas Day: December 25, where at least a half inch of precipitation fell over the entire state and amounts around an inch in eastern Minnesota. Thunderstorms were embedded with moderate to heavy rain showers during the evening over eastern Minnesota. Ice coated trees and power lines over central and northern Minnesota and caused power outages. One of the harder-hit areas was Walker in Cass County. Some snow fell over the north as well, with the highest amounts over far northwest Minnesota. The preliminary state-averaged December precipitation total was 1.78 inches.
    [see: December 2016 Precipitation Departure Map  |  December 2016 Climate Summary Table  |  December 2016 Percent of Normal Precipitation Map]
  • Three significant rainfall or snowfall events occurred in Minnesota during December 2016 besides the Christmas Day storm. Heavy snowfall was reported on December 10-11 and again December 16-17.
  • Average monthly temperatures for December ranged from two degrees below to two degrees above normal. The preliminary December 2016 statewide average temperature was 16.8 degrees or .4 degrees above normal. Extremes for December ranged from a high of 53 degrees F at St James (Watonwan County) on the 25th, to a low of -38 degrees F at Embarrass (St. Louis County) on the 18th. The cold reading at Embarrass was part of an intense, but brief arctic outbreak on December 18, brought many minimum temperatures ranging from -20 F or -30 F in the state.
    [see: December 2016 Climate Summary Table  |  2016 December Departure from Normal Temperature Map  |  December 18, 2016 Cold Wave]

Where we stand now:

  • Snow depths across Minnesota range from as little as one or two inches in portions of central and southern Minnesota, to over twelve inches in northern Minnesota. Snow depth totals approaching two feet can be found in the far northwestern part of Minnesota, and the higher terrain of Cook County in northeast Minnesota. Snow depths are near, to above, historical medians for the date in the northern one-third of Minnesota. Snow cover is below the historical median for the date in many southern and central Minnesota counties.
    [see: Weekly Snow Depth and Ranking Maps  |  NWS Snow Depth Estimation Map  |  Midwest Regional Climate Center Snow Depth Map]
  • The U. S. Drought Monitor map released on January 3 depicts no drought designation over Minnesota or any counties that border the state. The U.S. Drought Monitor index is a blend of science and subjectivity where drought categories (Moderate, Severe, etc.) are based on several indicators.
    [see: Drought Conditions Overview]
  • The U.S. Geological Survey reports that stream discharge values (where winter measurements are possible) are much above historical medians for the date on most Minnesota rivers. Most rivers and streams are now impacted by ice.
  • In their final report of the 2016 growing season (November 28), the Agricultural Statistics Service reported that topsoil moisture across Minnesota was 0 percent Very Short, 1 percent Short, 75 percent Adequate, and 24 percent Surplus.
  • Soil frost depths under sod are shallow for early January, generally less than 10 inches at most Minnesota observing locations.
  • Minnesota lakes, rivers, and wetland complexes are ice covered. Warm November and December temperatures delayed ice formation. Lake ice formation was about a week later than the median in the south, and about two to three weeks late in the north. Lake and river ice is never completely safe.

Future prospects:

  • The January precipitation outlook offers equal chances of below-normal, near-normal, or above-normal conditions in 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 leans towards equal-chances of above, normal or 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 indicates equal chances for above, normal or below normal conditions across southwest, south central, west central and central Minnesota with a tilt for above normal precipitation in the north and southeast. The January through March temperature projection indicates a tilt towards below-normal temperatures, especially in northern Minnesota.
  • 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.


GovDelivery logo for email updates Subscribe to email announcements of the monthly posting of this product.


Pete Boulay, DNR Climatologist

Back to top