HydroClim Minnesota for Early May 2024

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: May 3, 2024

What happened in April 2024:

  • April 2024 was a generally warm and damp month for much of Minnesota, with a few areas of the state falling just short of normal especially in the north central and southeast parts of the state. The wettest locations were in central and southwest Minnesota where some places were two to three inches above normal. The highest precipitation total found so far by an observer from the National Weather Service was at Lakefield in southwest Minnesota with 6.19 inches, or 3.16 inches above normal. One of the drier locations was at Hastings Dam in Dakota County with 2.55 inches of precipitation or .55 inches below normal. The preliminary statewide average was 4.19 inches or 1.28 inches above normal. 
    [see: April 2024 Precipitation Total Map  | April 2024 Precipitation Departure Map  | April 2024 Climate Summary Table  |  April 2024 Percent of Normal Precipitation Map]
  • An early spring storm brought some heavy, wet snow and strong winds to southeast Minnesota on April 2-3. The La Crosse National Weather Service saw 14 inches of snow from this event, while the La Crosse Airport, about five miles and 600 feet lower only saw an inch-and-a-half of snow. Just a trace of snow fell in the Twin Cities. 
    [see: Early Spring Snow Storm Of April 2-3, 2024]
  • While April was very active-weather-wise, and had multiple days of strong, gusty winds across the state, the severe storms stayed to the south of Minnesota. Some of the events were close to the southern Border of Minnesota though like the tornado outbreak of April 16, which saw around a dozen tornadoes in Iowa. There was a much larger tornado outbreak in Iowa and Nebraska on April 25-28. 
    [see: Tornado outbreak sequence of April 25-28, 2024]
  • April 2024 was the first April since 2017 where the average statewide temperature was well above normal. Overall, the average statewide temperature for April finished 2.4 degrees above normal. The warmest temperature found so far was 90 degrees at Granite Falls on April 13, and the coldest temperature found so far was 5 degrees on April 1 at both Baudette in north central Minnesota and near Tower in northeast Minnesota. 
    [see: April 2024 Climate Summary Table  |  2024 April Departure from Normal Temperature Map

Where we stand now:

  • Seasonal precipitation totals so far (April 1 through April 30) ranked well above the historical median over all but the southeast and north central parts of the state. Parts of Swift and Chippewa County ranked in the 98th percentile for the period. Precipitation is below the median especially over far northcentral Minnesota. 
    [see: Seasonal Precipitation, Percent Normal and Ranking Maps]
  • The final snow depth map of the season was produced on April 11, as the meager state's snowpack faded away in the highlands above Superior. International Falls had its last measurable snow on the ground on April 5. [see: Snow Depth Maps]
  • The wet April was a continuation of a stormy March and there was improvement in the drought situation in the central and south, less so in the northwest and north central that largely missed the storm track. On the map released on May 2, 42% of the state was free of any drought designation. 23% of the state was Abnormally Dry, 26% of the state was in Moderate Drought conditions, 10% of the state was in Severe Drought conditions. 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]
  • With the active weather pattern, stream flows are trending higher. The U.S. Geological Survey reports that stream discharge values are generally much above normal over southwest and south central Minnesota. In fact, the Minnesota River at Morton reached minor flood stage for the beginning of May. Southeast Minnesota has above normal stream flows and in general, central and northern Minnesota has normal to above normal stream flows… Even the headwaters of the Mississippi have normal stream flow measurements from Bemidji to the Twin Cities. 
    [see:USGS Stream Flow Conditions]
  • Water levels on most Minnesota lakes vary depending on lake and location in the state. Mille Lacs was at 11.07 ft, about three tenths of a foot below the median. The official lake ice out for Mille Lacs was March 16, but there was some lingering ice in the southeast part of the lake after that. The median lake ice out date for Mille Lacs is April 25. On May 3, the lake level of Minnetonka was at 929.6 feet, .43 feet higher than this time last year. On May 1, Greys Bay Dam was opened for the first time since it was closed on July 21, 2022 and there was 115cfs flowing out of the dam on May2. White Bear Lake was at 922.36 feet, about a half-foot lower than this time last year. Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake are showing recovery were both in the median band for early May. Lake Superior was forecast to be at 601.44 feet on May 3, about a foot lower than this time last year. 602.46 feet on May 5, an increase of eight inches from a month ago and eleven inches from last May. Lake Superior is forecast to rise three inches by June 3, 2024. 
    [see: Mille Lacs Lake Water Level  |   Lake Minnetonka Water Level  |  White Bear Lake Water Level  |  Lake of the Woods Control Board Basin Data  |  Corps of Engineers Great Lakes Water Levels]
  • As of April 28, 30 percent of the corn was planted, about a week ahead of last year and five days ahead of the 5 year average. The Agricultural Statistics Service reported on April 28 that topsoil moisture supplies across Minnesota are 5 percent Very Short, 22 percent Short, 65 percent Adequate, and 6 percent Surplus. [see: Agricultural Statistics Service Crop Progress and Condition]
  • Spring 2024 was a fairly active fire season,. The situation has improved with the recent rainfall and cooler temperatures. The potential for wildfires on May 8, rated by DNR Forestry as ranging from Low over much of Minnesota to Moderate over much of West central and parts of northwest Minnesota. 
    [see: Fire Danger Rating Map]
  • ILake ice out began in earnest at the end of February to the beginning of March. The first lake to lose its ice in the state was Lake Okamanpeedan in Martin County on the Iowa border on February 22. Some lakes set new record dates for early lake ice out. There are only four lakes in the state with records back to 1878. Two of these were broken. Clear Lake in Waseca County has records back to 1874, and 2024 set a new record ice out. The old record was March 6, 1878 and that record was broken this year with the new record of March 1. Osakis set a new early ice out record of March 8, which broke the very old record of March 13, 1878. While not as long of a record as some lakes, White Bear Lake set a new lake ice out record of March 8,breaking the old record of March 19, 2012.In general, in March, lake ice out was about a month ahead of the long-term averages. Cooler weather for the last week of March and the first week of April put a break on lake ice out and progress slowed throughout April. The final lakes to lose their ice were Greenwood Lake on April 27, which is 11 days earlier than the median and Lake of the Woods on April 28, which was only about five days earlier than the median date. 
    [see: 2024 Lake Ice-Out Dates  |  DNR Conservation Officer Reports]

Future prospects:

  • The May precipitation outlook shows that there will be a tilt toward wetter than normal conditions across the state. May precipitation normals range from just over two inches in northwest Minnesota to just less than four inches in southeastern counties. The historical probability of measurable precipitation for any given day in May ranges from 25 percent in the northwest to near 40 percent in the southeast. 
    [see: Climate Prediction Center 30-day Outlook  |  May Precipitation Normal Map]
  • The May temperature outlook has equal chances for above, normal and below normal temperatures. Normal May high temperatures are in the low to mid-60s early in the month, rising to the low to mid-70s at month's end. Normal May low temperatures are in the mid-30s to near 40 to start the month, and climb to the mid-40s to low 50s as the month ends. 
    [see: Climate Prediction Center 30-day Outlook  | May Temperature Normal Map]
  • The 90-day temperature outlook for May through July indicates equal chances of below-normal, near-normal, or above-normal conditions across the western part of the state and a slight tendency for above normal temperature conditions over the eastern part of the state. Precipitation is a three-sided coin toss of below, normal or above normal precipitation. 
    [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:

The first red-winged blackbird (with its song) arrived in Maplewood on March 4, the earliest arrival since 2000 when the song was also first noted on March 4. This is ten days earlier than the median date of March 14. Early May saw a rapid greening up with the copious rain.

[see: Signs of Spring: Phenology ]

Upcoming dates of note:

  • May 16: National Weather Service releases 30/90 day temperature and precipitation outlooks


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Pete BoulayDNR Climatologist

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