2003 Twin Cities Weather Narration From the State Climatology Office

2003 began with not a single flake of snow on the ground. The lack of snow cover helped an impressive January thaw with record highs on January 7th of 52 degrees and a whopping 54 degrees on January 8th. This was the first time since 1855 that a high of 50 degrees or more was recorded in the Twin Cities during the first half of January. (January 2, 1855 at Ft. Snelling saw a temperature of 56 degrees.) Ironically, the lack of snow cover, coupled with a return of cold temperatures in February, contributed to some deep frost depths not seen in the area since 1991. The maximum frost depth reached at the St. Paul Campus Climate Observatory was 31-32 inches under sod during the second week of March. The total snowfall for the 2002-2003 season was 31.7 inches, or 24.2 inches below normal. The last time snow was this scarce was the winter of 1994-95 when 29.6 inches fell.

With the dry winter behind, spring 2003 saw a return to copious rains. April, May, and June were all wetter than normal with May much above normal. May 2003 was the 13th wettest May on record with 6.14 inches, 2.90 inches above normal. Summer made an early appearance with a record high of 89 degrees on April 14th. In the entire weather record for the Twin Cities it has never been 89 degrees or warmer so early in the year.

There was one outstanding rain event for the Twin Cities in 2003. During the evening of June 24, heavy thunderstorms developed over the western metro and persisted for much of the night. Totals ranged from 3.46 inches at the Twin Cities International Airport to 8.19 inches at Elk River. Many places in the heart of the Twin Cities saw between four to six inches of rain and resulted in numerous reports of street flooding.

The biggest weather story in 2003 for the Twin Cities was the drought during the second half of the year. 2003 will end over six inches below normal and was the driest year since 1988. The 2003 drought began for the Twin Cities on July 15th. August saw the most intense dryness with only 1.12 inches of rain, 2.93 inches below normal. July and August 2003 were the ninth driest July and August together on record with only 3.17 inches. August by itself was the ninth driest and July was the 28th driest.

The dryness persisted into autumn with one good soaking rain in the middle of September. 1.47 inches fell over a two-day period. This was only a brief respite from the drought and September still finished below normal for rainfall. From July 15th to the end of December a little over six inches of precipitation fell. That is less than half of the normal value of 13.81 inches.

With the lack of rain there was also a lack of severe weather. Very few severe thunderstorms struck the Twin Cities in 2003 with only two very weak tornadoes reported in the seven county Twin Cities metropolitan area. One was on July 14th in extreme northern Washington County and September 26th at Blaine in Anoka County. Ramsey County has not seen a tornado report since 1998 and Hennepin County hasnít sighted a tornado since 2000.

Some early season snows gave hope of a more "normal" winter for the Twin Cities. Both November and December had snows measured at Chanhassen that were close to historical averages. December finished out the year on the balmy side with temperatures well above normal. However, nighttime temperatures stayed cool enough for a snow cover to persist most of the month. 2003 as a whole was a dry warm year, with enough variety in the mix to make the climate in the Twin Cities always an interesting experience.

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URL: http://climate.umn.edu/doc/journal/twincities2003.htm
Last modified: December 30, 2003