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 7, 2017
What happened in March 2017:
- March monthly precipitation totals were well below historical averages across the western one-half of Minnesota. March precipitation totals were around one inch below normal in many southwest and west central locales. Precipitation was also well below normal in east central Minnesota with many places about three quarters of an inch short of normal. Northeast Minnesota had average to slightly above average and southeast Minnesota was the wettest area of the state with on average about a third of an inch above normal.
[see: March 2017 Precipitation Total Map | March 2017 Precipitation Departure Map | March 2017 Climate Summary Table | March 2017 Percent of Normal Precipitation Map]
- The Earliest Tornadoes on Record for Minnesota happened on March 6th. In all three tornadoes touched down damaging trees and homes near Elk Lake in Sherburne County and damage to agriculture structures in Clarks Grove in Freeborn County. Some brief heavy rains also accompanied these storms as they raced northeast.
[see: Earliest Minnesota Tornadoes on Record]
- Average monthly temperatures for March finished near historical averages at nearly all Minnesota reporting stations. Monthly temperatures ranged from three degrees below normal to three degrees above normal. The statewide average was very close to normal. It was the 19th month in a row for above normal temperatures in the Twin Cities. Extremes for March ranged from a high of 74 degrees F at Grantie Falls and Redwood Falls Airport on the 6th, to a low of -20 degrees F at Embarrass on March 3 and 4 and on the 10th at Camp Norris.
[see: March 2017 Climate Summary Table | 2017 March Departure from Normal Temperature Map | Twin Cities Warm Streak]
Where we stand now:
- Significant Snow Depth was rather scarce for many locations in Minnesota for March. By the first week of April, the snow pack was confined to the Lake Superior Highlands. The hasty exit of the snow pack eased the fears of spring flooding across the state, but brought an abrupt end to winter recreation.
[see: MNDNR April Snow Depth Maps | NWS Snow Depth Estimation Map | Midwest Regional Climate Center Snow Depth Map]
- The U. S. Drought Monitor map released on April 4 shows no areas in Minnesota in a dryness category. 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 are near historical medians along the Minnesota River, and the Red River and many of its tributaries The exceptions are locations in far northwest Minnesota where streamflows are above normal. Elsewhere in Minnesota, stream flow values are above historical medians for the date in northern Minnesota and in far southeast Minnesota.
[see: USGS Stream Flow Conditions]
- In their first report of the 2017 growing season, the Agricultural Statistics Service reported that topsoil moisture across Minnesota was 0 percent Very Short, 2 percent Short, 75 percent Adequate, and 23 percent Surplus.
[see: Agricultural Statistics Service Crop Progress and Condition]
- The potential for wildfires is currently rated by DNR Forestry as High across central and parts of northeast Minnesota with Moderate potential in the northwest. Wildfire potential is rated as Low elsewhere. Historically, 80 percent of all wildfires in Minnesota occur during April and May.
[see: Fire Danger Rating Map]
- The frost has left the soil in most Minnesota locales. Some frozen soil remains in far northern counties.
[see: Corps of Engineers Snow, Ice, Frost Data | National Weather Service Frost Depth Data | MnDOT Road Frost Depths]
- Most lakes in the southern two-thirds Minnesota are free of ice. Mild conditions returned at the end of March and beginning of April and has accelerated lake ice out. It has been another early season for lake ice out. Lakes are losing their ice from about two weeks earlier than historical averages, but are generally later than 2016 by a few days to a week.
[see: 2017 Lake Ice-Out Dates | DNR Conservation Officer Reports]
- The April precipitation outlook leans towards above normal precipitation across northern and central 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.
[see: Climate Prediction Center 30-day Outlook | April Precipitation Normal Map]
- The April temperature outlook tilts towards above-normal conditions across all but the northwestern part of Minnesota, with equal chances of below-normal, near-normal, or above-normal conditions there. 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.
[see: Climate Prediction Center 30-day Outlook | April Temperature Normal Map]
- The 90-day precipitation outlook for April through June indicates above-normal conditions for all but the far southeastern corner of Minnesota. The April through June temperature projection favors above-normal conditions across the southeast and far northeast and equal chances for above, below and normal conditions elsewhere.
[see: Climate Prediction Center 90-day Outlook]
- 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. The present threat of impactful spring flooding is low across much of Minnesota. There is moderate flooding at one location, on the Red River at Pembina. The lack of snow and cold, along with an early melt helped ease the risk of flooding. .
[see: National Weather Service - North Central River Forecast Center]
From the author:
- Spring 2017 began at a rapid pace in Minnesota. The first week of March was four to six degrees above normal and, with the already thinning ice across southern Minnesota, many lakes lost their ice at the end of the first week of March. Winter made a bit of a comeback with below normal temperatures from March 9th to the 16th. In a rare occurrence, many lakes that were thawed in southern Minnesota refroze. Warmer conditions returned for the last week of March and the progress of Spring resumed.
With the snow-free landscape and the above normal temperatures, soil temperatures have been on the rise across the state. Six inch soil temperatures are generally in the middle to upper 40's in the south and central and the upper 30's to low 40's in the northwest. [see: Minnesota Department Of Agriculture - 6 Inch Soil Temperature Network]
Upcoming dates of note:
- April 20: National Weather Service releases 30/90 day temperature and precipitation outlooks
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Pete Boulay MNDNR Climatologist