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News and Information

Minnesota WeatherTalk Newsletter for Friday, January 9, 2009

To: MPR's Morning Edition
From: Mark Seeley, University of Minnesota Extension
Department of Soil, Water, and Climate
Subject: Minnesota WeatherTalk Newsletter for Friday, January 9, 2009


-Jet Streaming Podcast
-Record setting pace of snow at International Falls, MN
-Seasonal snowfall totals mounting up as January starts
-Weekly weather/climate potpourri
-MPR listener question
-Almanac for January 9th
-Past weather features
-Words of the week

Topic: Jet Streaming Podcast this week.....

This week we talk again with Doug Biesecker from the NOAA Space Weather Center in Colorado. Doug talks about why 2008 was such an inactive year for sunspots and what might be the implications for this. He also shares his thoughts about the international cooperation to study space weather. We also talk to David Waskow from Oxfam American. He attended the recent United Nations conference on climate change at Poznan, Poland. David shares his thoughts on what planning and actions we might expect from the Obama Administration on this issue. Paul, Craig and Mark also share another web site of the week.

To listen to the entire Jet Streaming podcast online, please go to....

Topic: International Falls on record setting snow season pace...

Not unexpectedly the new year has started out rather snowy for many, continuing the trend of December. An Alberta Clipper low pressure system brought some significant snowfall across northern Minnesota over the first weekend of the year (Jan 3-4). Finland, MN reported 11 inches of new snow, Little Marais 10 inches, Littlefork and Isabella 9 inches, and Two Harbors 7.7 inches. On January 4th International Falls reported a record 8.4 inches of new snow and also a new daily precipitation record of 0.45 inches. Warroad, Wolf Ridge, and International Falls all picked up 15 inches or more of new snow during the first full week of the year. Speaking of International Falls, they are one of several locations in the state that are on a pace to set a record for most days of observed snowfall, as well as most snowfall for a season. The table below compares the number of days by month when at least a trace of snow was reported at International Falls, comparing this season to their all-time snowiest season of 1995-1996 when they totaled 116 inches. The table below just shows the statistics for September 1 through January 7th over the two seasons.

Current snow season (2008-2009)     Snow season (1995-1996)
Month Days with snow Total (in.) Month Days with snow Total (in.)
Sep 0 0 Sep 2 Trace
Oct 3 0.3 Oct 8 4.7
Nov 21 10.9 Nov 25 16.5
Dec 29 35.9 Dec 28 21.4
Jan 1-7 7 15.8 Jan 1-7 4 0.9
SUM 60 days 62.9 in. 67 days 43.5 in.

We'll see if this record-setting pace is sustained throughout the rest of January, February and March. Additional snow fell overnight on January 8-9, but mostly across southern Minnesota counties where some observers reported up to 4 inches.

Topic: Significant snowfalls reported elsewhere....

The first full week of January added to significant seasonal snowfall totals being reported from weather observers around the state. The seasonal total snowfall now stands at 50.8 inches at Babbitt, 64.3 inches at Two Harbors, 58.1 inches at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning City (near Finland), 47.4 inches at Duluth, 43.2 inches at Breckenridge, 41 inches at Preston. Over at Marquette, MI where lake effect snows have been frequent this winter, they stand at 126.1 inches of snowfall so far. Further the outlook for mid January continues to favor significant snowfall, especially lake effect snows along the Superior shoreline over the 12th and 13th.

The first nine days of January also saw Minnesota report the nation's coldest temperature on 5 different days (excluding Alaska where it was colder than -50 F). Embarrass reported the season's lowest statewide temperature on January 5th with a reading of -36 degrees F, and Orr reported a reading of -30 degrees F on the 9th.

Topic: Weekly Weather/Climate Related Potpourri:

A 64-year old northern Minnesota woman has survived nearly freezing to death. It was reported this week that Janice Goodger suffered a fall near her car on December 27th and could not help herself to shelter. So she lay in the cold for hours before her daughter discovered her and got medical treatment. In the meantime her heart stopped beating and her body temperature fell to just 60 degrees F. Duluth paramedics and fire department crews got her to St Luke's Hospital emergency room in Duluth where they were able to successfully warm her up and restart her heart. She went home days later and is doing fine.

Heavy December rains that saturated area soils combined with melting snow earlier this month to bring flooding to portions of Oregon and Washington. Some mountain roads were closed due to avalanches, while the main highway between Seattle and Portland was closed for a time due to flooding. The flood waters in western Washington state caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents from their homes. Thankfully the weekend was supposed to bring drier conditions.

Southern Australia remained in the grip of a summer heat wave this week. In some areas daytime temperatures have been at 104 degrees F or higher for 11 consecutive days. Some readings as high as 108 degrees F were reported. Numerous weather related wildfires have been reported as well.

MPR listener question: Can you settle an argument between my wife and I? For years I have thought the coldest week of the year on average is the 4th week of January. But she insists it is earlier than that. Is there a definitive answer?

Answer: It depends both on where you look in the state, as well as what time period you evaluate. For some locations the week of the 7th through the 13th of January is the coldest. For others it is as late as the week of the 25th to the 31st. It also depends on what time period you examine. In the modern context since 1972, most observers report that the coldest week of the year falls between the 7th and the 13th. This year, it looks like the coldest week may be next week, the 11th to the 17th.

Almanac for January 9th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 22 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 5 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP local Records for January 9th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 49 degrees F in 2002; lowest daily maximum temperature of -14 degrees F in 1886; lowest daily minimum temperature of -32 degrees F in 1977: highest daily minimum temperature of 34 F in 2002. Record precipitation for this date is 0.31 inches in 1924. Record snowfall is 3.8 inches also in 1924 and a record snow depth of 19 inches in 1969.

Average dew point for January 9th is 3 degrees F, with a maximum of 42 degrees F in 1939 and a minimum of -40 degrees F in 1977.

All-time state records for January 9th:

The all-time state record high temperature for this date is 60 degrees F at Amboy (Blue Earth County) in 2002. The all-time state record low temperature for this date is -49 degrees F at Warroad (Roseau County) in 1930. The all-time state record precipitation for this date is 1.70 inches at Beaver Bay (Lake County) in 1873. State record snowfall for this date is 17.0 inches also at Beaver Bay (Lake County) in 1873.

Past Weather Features:

Saturday and Sunday, January 9-10, 1982 brought perhaps the coldest windchill readings ever reported in Minnesota. Many western locations reported temperatures of -25 to -30 degrees F with winds of 40 mph or greater. This indicates a WC of -70 F or colder, conditions that will freeze exposed skin in less than 5 minutes. In both Norman County and Mower County stranded motorists who could not get help froze to death overnight.

January 8-9 of 2002 and 2003 were astonishingly warm, with temperatures that were 30 to 35 degrees F warmer than normal. In 2002 over two dozen communities reported daytime highs that were over 50 degrees F, while the next year on January 9, 2003 over 60 communities reported daytime highs above 50 degrees F. Locations as far north as Blackduck were over 50 degrees F, and it was reported by the media that some golf courses opened so people could claim they were playing golf in Minnesota during January!

Words of the Week: Katabatic and Anabatic Winds

Katabatic winds (taken from the Greek word katabatikos, meaning to go down) are sometimes called gravity winds, drainage winds, mountain winds, or glacier winds. They result when air flows downward from higher positions in the landscape. The air may be channeled through canyons as it flows to lower elevations. This will tend to accelerate the air flow and produce strong winds. Some regional winds such as the foehn (German and Austrian Alps), Chinook (Rocky Mountains) and Santa Ana (Southern California) are dry, warm katabatic winds. On the other hand, glacier winds which flow downslope as well, are very cold winds, some of which produce the world's worst windchill conditions. An example would be the Cape Denison-Commonwealth Bay region of Antarctica, where winds flowing downward from the interior of the continent to the coast may reach 100 to 200 mph, producing windchill conditions well below -100 degrees F.

Anabatic winds (taken from the Greek word anabatikos, meaning to mount) are ascending or upslope winds, often the result of
heating along valley slopes. These winds are prevalent in many landscapes with pronounced topography, especially during
the daylight hours. Balloonists and pilots of gliders and sailplanes often use these winds to maintain or gain altitude. There is even a type of sailplane called an Anabat.


Near seasonal average temperatures this weekend with a chance for light snow in the north later on Saturday and across the state on Sunday into Monday. Windier on Monday with increasing chances for snow going into Tuesday, then temperatures will drop and remain very cold much of next week with daytime highs remaining below zero F by mid-week.

NOTE: News releases were current as of the date of issue. If you have a question on older releases, use the news release search (upper left-hand column of the News main page) or the main Extension search (upper right of this page) to locate more recent information.


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