HydroClim Minnesota - January 2012
A monthly electronic newsletter summarizing Minnesota's climate conditions and the resulting impact on water resources. Distributed on the Wednesday following the first Monday of each month.
State Climatology Office - DNR Division of Ecological and Water Resources, St. Paul
prepared: January 4, 2012
What happened in December 2011:
- December 2011 was yet another dry month across much of Minnesota. In many counties, it was the fifth consecutive month of precipitation shortfalls. Some drought-stricken counties in southern Minnesota received near-normal precipitation in December. However, this welcome precipitation did not by any means mitigate the very large moisture deficits built up during the late summer and autumn.
[see: December 2011 Climate Summary Table]
- Monthly mean temperatures for December 2011 were very warm, topping the historical average by six to twelve degrees across Minnesota. Preliminary data indicate that December 2011 will rank among the warmest Decembers in the historical record. It was the third consecutive month of abnormally warm temperatures. The final quarter of 2011 was the warmest October through December period in 80 years. Extreme temperature values for December ranged from a high of 60 degrees F at Madison (Lac Qui Parle County) and Milan (Chippewa County) on the 19th, to a low of -17 degrees F at Brimson (St. Louis County) and Babbitt (St. Louis County) on the 6th. Maximum temperature records were set at numerous locations on December 18, 24, and 26.
[see: December 2011 Climate Summary Table | Record Warmth - December 26 | Warm December 18]
Where we stand now:
- The U. S. Drought Monitor, released on December 29, depicts every Minnesota county as experiencing some level of drought. Large sections of northern Minnesota are said to be undergoing Severe Drought or Moderate Drought. Stream flow and lake levels in those areas are very low due to the ongoing impact of precipitation deficits accrued during the 2010 growing season and spotty rainfall this past warm season. The Drought Monitor also places much of southern Minnesota in the Severe Drought or Moderate Drought categories. Precipitation totals since late-summer have been far below historical averages across the southern one-third of Minnesota. 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: U.S. Drought Monitor | Dry Late-Summer/Autumn 2011]
- The present snow depth is well below the historical median in nearly every Minnesota county. Northeast Minnesota communities report four to eight inches of snow cover as of this writing. The snow is eight to 12 inches deep in the Lake Superior Highlands of Lake and Cook counties. A narrow stripe of three to six inch snow depths extend from Grand Forks to Bemidji. Elsewhere in Minnesota, snow depths are generally one to three inches, with many locations reporting a snow-free landscape.
[see: NWS Snow Depth Estimation Map | Snow Depth Maps]
- The U.S. Geological Survey reports that stream discharge values (where winter monitoring is possible) are very low in northeast and north central Minnesota watersheds. Stream flow values rank below the 10th percentile for this time of year for a number of rivers in the northern tier of Minnesota counties. Stream flow measurements are also low for a few south central Minnesota watersheds. For the Red River and some of its tributaries, river flow is high when compared with historical data for the date, the lingering impact of a wet autumn 2010 and spring 2011.
[see: USGS Stream flow conditions]
- The Lake Superior water level is near its elevation of a year ago, but down 14 inches from the long-term seasonal average. Water levels on many Minnesota lakes are low when compared with historical averages.
[see: Corps of Engineers Great Lakes Water Levels | White Bear Lake Water Level | Lake of the Woods Control Board Basin Data]
- In their final report of the season (November 7), the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service reported that topsoil moisture was 28% Very Short, 43% Short, 29% Adequate, and 0% Surplus across the state. Dry soils made autumn tillage very difficult in many areas and heightened concerns about the soil moisture profile for next growing season. Late-autumn conditions act as a predictor of the soil moisture situation entering the 2012 growing season.
[see: Agricultural Statistics Service Crop Progress and Condition | U. of M. Southwest Research Center (Lamberton) Soil Moisture | U. of M. Southern Research Center (Waseca) Soil Moisture]
- The soil is frozen four to eight inches deep in southern Minnesota and 12 to 24 inches deep in northern Minnesota.
[see: Corps of Engineers Snow, Ice, Frost Data | MnDOT Road Frost Depths | National Weather Service Frost Depth Data]
- Some Minnesota lakes are only partially ice covered. Open water on Minnesota's lakes in early January is rare. Ice conditions are highly variable. Lake and river ice is NEVER completely safe for walking or driving.
[see: DNR Conservation Officer Reports]
- The potential for wildfires is currently rated by DNR Forestry as Low across Minnesota. It is unusual to discuss wildfire danger in January. However, burning permits are required whenever there is less than 3 inches of continuous snow surrounding the burn area. A snow-sparse winter has produced this scenario in many counties.
[see: Fire Danger Rating Map]
- The January precipitation outlook presents an equal likelihood of below-normal, near-normal, or above-normal conditions across 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 in the Lake Superior highlands).
[see: Climate Prediction Center 30-day Outlook | January Precipitation Normal Map]
- The January temperature outlook tilts towards above-normal conditions, especially in southeast 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 tilts towards above-normal snowfall in northeast Minnesota, with an equal likelihood of below-normal, near-normal, or above-normal conditions elsewhere in the state. The January through March temperature projection demonstrates an equal likelihood of below-normal, near-normal, or above-normal conditions throughout Minnesota.
[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 are part of the National Weather Service's Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (AHPS).
[see: National Weather Service - North Central River Forecast Center]
From the author:
- Without ample, widespread precipitation in the late winter and early spring, Minnesota will face a number of drought-related issues at the beginning of the 2012 growing season. Other than the scarcity of snow cover, Minnesota's drought presently exhibits relatively few observable negative impacts. The drought situation will become rapidly apparent in the spring in the form of deficient soil moisture supplies and low water levels in wetlands, lakes, and rivers.
Notes from around the state:
Upcoming dates of note:
- January 19: National Weather Service releases 30/90 day temperature and precipitation outlooks
- January 25: Annual Interagency Spring Flood Winter Planning Meeting - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Web sites featured in this edition:
- http://climate.umn.edu - Minnesota Climatology Working Group, Minnesota DNR Eco/Water Resources and U of M Dept. of Soil, Water, and Climate
- http://www.drought.unl.edu - National Drought Mitigation Center
- http://www.nohrsc.noaa.gov - National Weather Service, National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center
- http://water.usgs.gov/cgi-bin/dailyMainW?state=mn&map_type=weekd - U.S. Geological Survey
- http://www.lre.usace.army.mil - US Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District
- http://mndnr.gov/waters - Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Ecological and Water Resources
- http://lwcb.ca/ - Lake of the Woods Control Board
- http://www.nass.usda.gov - USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service
- http://swroc.cfans.umn.edu - University of Minnesota, Southwest Research and Outreach Center, Lamberton
- http://sroc.cfans.umn.edu - University of Minnesota, Southern Research and Outreach Center, Waseca
- http://www.mvp-wc.usace.army.mil - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District
- http://www.dot.state.mn.us/materials/index.html - Office of Materials & Road Research, MnDOT
- http://mndnr.gov/enforcement - Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Enforcement
- http://mndnr.gov/forestry - Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry
- http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov - National Weather Service, Climate Prediction Center
- http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ncrfc - National Weather Service, North Central River Forecast Center
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