Cold and Wet: May 20 - May 26, 2001

(excerpted from May 25, 2001 WeatherTalk)

Topic: Weary of Wetness

Following the wettest April in history, Rochester, MN has reported 13 rainy days so far this month, and most recently six consecutive days. The May total rainfall already exceeds 6 inches there and the total since March 1st of nearly 15 inches is approaching a new record value for spring. Only the spring (March, April and May) of 1888 was wetter (at 15.99 inches) according to the National Weather Service. In fact, for the Twin Cities area six consecutive days of rain this week have tested the patience of gardeners, golfers, and construction workers. Six or more consecutive days of rain during the month of May has only about a 10 percent probability historically, having occurred only 12 times in the past 111 years. 

Topic: The Minnesota Hot/Dry and Cold/Wet Treatment

On Tuesday this week, May 22, Hutchinson, MN reported a record cold maximum temperature of only 48 degrees F, following three days of cloudiness and rain. This occurred exactly one week after the same observer had reported a new all-time state record high temperature for May 15th of 99 degrees F and daytime humidities only in the 20 percent range! Cold and rainy weather was a common theme across the upper midwest this week, with many new records set. Williston, ND reported a new record low for May 23rd with 27 degrees F, while North Platte, NE reported a new record low of 30 degrees F on the same morning. Minnesota was too cloudy to report record low temperatures this week, but many record cold maximum temperature records were broken, especially on Tuesday (May 22nd). The following were all new records:
Twin Cities 47 F, Rochester 47 F, Eau Claire WI, 49 F Baudette 44 F, Park Rapids 43 F 
Bemidji 41 F, Roseau 50 F, Thief River Falls 43 F, Detroit Lakes 43 F, Crookston 45 F 
Flag Island 43 F, Waskish 45 F, Wadena 45 F, Fosston 39 F, Alexandria 46 F, St Cloud 47 F
Albert Lea 48 F, Cambridge 46 F, Faribault 48 F, Little Falls 43 F, Montevideo 54 F (tied record)
New Ulm 52 F (tied record), Staples 41 F, St James 52 F, Willmar 46 F, Brainerd 41 F 
International Falls 41 F, Hibbing 42 F, Eveleth 41 F, Orr 39 F, Bigfork 39 F, Grand Rapids 39 F 
Aitkin 43 F, Pine River 39 F, Moose Lake 45 F, Cloquet 45 F 

Bigfork, Warroad, International Falls, Flag Island, Baudette, and Bemidji all reported snowfall on May 22nd as well. Wednesday, May 23rd also produced more record cold maximum temperatures,though fewer in number than on Tuesday. The following were all new records:
MSP 52 F Eau Claire, WI 53 F, Rochester 46 F, Austin 48 F, Redwood Falls 53 F 
Albert Lea 48 F, LaCrosse, WI 50 F, Sioux City, IA 56 F, Fairmont 48 F, Sioux Falls, SD 50 F Montevideo tied the record cold maximum temperature with 52 F. The string of cold late May days preceding the Memorial Weekend is not unprecedented in the Twin Cities climate record. Similar temperatures averaging just in the 40s F occurred in 1893, 1901, 1917, 1924, and 1963. 

Question from MPR listener: 

Isn't it quite unusual to have so many record-setting high maximum temperatures (May 15th) followed just a week later by so many record-setting low maximum temperatures? Even for Minnesota this seems odd. Answer: Indeed, it is. Examining the Twin Cities climate record back to 1891, I can find only one other case where high and low maximum temperature records occurred within a week of each other. This was in 1931, when the old Twin Cities maximum temperature record for May 15th was set at 91 degrees F (broken just this past May 15th with 94 F), and followed 5 days later by the record lowest maximum temperature for May 20th of 45 degrees F. It is interesting that we have seen the same feature occur this week, only 7 days apart instead of 5 days.

Mark Seeley
Professor and Extension Climatologist
Department of Soil, Water, and Climate
University of Minnesota
St Paul, MN 55108


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Last modified: May 25, 2001