HydroClim Minnesota for Early January 2019

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 10, 2019

What happened in December 2018:

  • December was generally above normal for precipitation in the state, with a single event on December 26-28 making up the bulk of the monthly precipitation. In general, precipitation totals were about a half inch above normal, with the wettest locations in southern Minnesota and along the north shore as well. Harmony finished 1.68 inches above normal for a December total of 2.94 inches. The preliminary precipitation total for Harmony is 60.21 inches, which if verified, would the highest annual precipitation total for Minnesota on record.
    [see: December 2018 Preliminary Precipitation Total Map  | December 2018 Precipitation Departure Map  | December 2018 Climate Summary Table  |  December 2018 Percent of Normal Precipitation Map]
  • December 2018 had two winter storm episodes of note for the month:
  • A winter storm brought heavy snow to southern Minnesota on December 1. For about an hour in the afternoon, the snow was quite intense in the Twin Cities, producing a quick 2 inches and causing very slippery conditions, The snowfall was more substantial to the south with the heaviest snow falling from Highway 14 south to the Iowa border. The snow gradually tapered off in the early morning hours of December 2. The highest snowfall total reported was at St. James with 12 inches. Mankato saw 8 inches and the Rochester International Airport reported 7.1 inches.
    [see: Snowstorm: December 1-2, 2018]
  • After a predominantly mild and uneventful December, a major winter storm brought heavy snow, rain, and wind to Minnesota between December 26th and 28th. The result was 36 hours of precipitation, with heavy snow in the northern half of the state, rain in the far south and southeast, and a mix of snow and rain in between those areas. The highest snowfall total found was 24 inches near Finland in Lake County.
    [see: Winter Storm, December 26-28, 2018]
  • After two months of below normal temperatures, December 2018 was well above normal with a preliminary 5.6 degree temperature departure. The Twin Cities finished 6.1 degrees above normal, with four days in the 40s in the middle of the month. The balmy temperatures eroded the snowpack across the state, especially in the central and south. The coldest temperature found in the state was -31 at Cotton in northeast Minnesota on the 29th and the warmest temperature found was 51 degrees at Brown’s Valley on the 16th.
    [see: December 2018 Climate Summary Table  |  2018 December Departure from Normal Temperature Map]

Where we stand now:

Future prospects:

  • The January precipitation outlook notes a tendency for below-normal conditions in southern Minnesota, with equal chances over the central and north. 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).
    [see: Climate Prediction Center 30-day Outlook  | January Precipitation Normal Map]
  • The January temperature outlook has a fairly strong tendency for above 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.
    [see: Climate Prediction Center 30-day Outlook  | January Temperature Normal Map]
  • The 90-day precipitation outlook for January through March indicates equal chances for above, below and normal conditions across all of Minnesota. The January through March temperature projection indicates a tendency towards above-normal temperatures, especially in the northeast.
    [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.
    [see: National Weather Service - North Central River Forecast Center]

From the author:

  • Season snowfall for the 2018-19 winter is from four to ten inches short in the north, and seven to 14 inches short in the south. It is interesting to note that last snow season (17-18) there was less snowfall through January 9.

Upcoming dates of note:

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


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Pete Boulay, DNR Climatologist

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