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News and Information

Minnesota WeatherTalk Newsletter for Friday, April 17, 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, April 17, 2009


-Jet Streaming Podcast
-The Weather Vein Project
-Time to plant
-Dryness, fire danger, and ice-out
-Weekly weather/climate potpourri
-MPR listener question
-Almanac for April 17th
-Past weather features
-Red Flag Warning

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

This week, our weather gaze turns to the topics of agriculture and fire weather. Brad Carlson Extension Educator in Rice County shares his thoughts on spring planting and trends in Minnesota agricultural practices. In addition, Jean Bergerson with the Interagency Fire Center in Grand Rapids, MN talks about what's behind the increased fire risk this spring, especially in east-central and southern sections of Minnesota.

In addition, we share another web site of the week (, and a jargon term used by the Weather Service in issuing fire weather forecasts.

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

Topic: Project Weather Vein and the Annicha Arts

Annicha Arts of the Twin Cities ( has initiated The Weather Vein project with a grant from the Jerome Foundation. This is a study and artistic presentation of weather memories and images as we migrate to a warmer world. The project includes a blog (, various education workshops, a performance at the Pillsbury Playhouse (June 5-7, 2009), and an installation at the Weisman Art Museum (July, 2009). You can find out more about it at....

Topic: Time to Plant

Minnesota farmers got busy this week with planting of small grains (wheat, barley, oats) and corn. Soils in the southern two thirds of the state are frost free, and daytime soil temperatures have climbed into the 50s F. These temperatures are suitable for crop germination. Some areas need rain where top soils have dried out considerably over the last two weeks. Many area farmers are putting in long days to get seed in the ground before expected weekend rains. Even northern Minnesota counties reported their first 60 F temperatures since the early days of November last year.

Topic: Dryness has increased fire danger, ice cover disappearing from area lakes

The Minnesota DNR has imposed burning restrictions this week for a number of counties, including Anoka, Chisago, Isanti, Washington, Wright, and Sherburne. In fact much of central and southeastern Minnesota is in a High to Very High fire danger rating, see

Precipitation totals since April 2nd have been very low with a number of observers reporting just a quarter inch or less. In addition, sunny days have prevailed, and low relative humidity has amplified the drying out of the landscape. As a result, secondary flood crests along the Red River were lower than estimated last week.

According to solar radiation measurements made on the University of Minnesota St Paul Campus, the period from April 6-15 was the sunniest such period in measurement history (back to 1963). This pattern in solar radiation data is evident in the percent possible sunshine measurements made by the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. Over the same period of time their measurement shows that over 82 percent of possible sunshine has occurred.

Portions of eastern and southeastern Minnesota are reported to be in either moderate drought (D1 category) or severe drought (D2 category) this week according to the US Drought Monitor. A grass fire broke out along Highway 169 near Shakopee on Wednesday afternoon, and over 30 other fires of various sizes have been reported during this week as well.

Most lakes in the southern half of Minnesota have lost their ice cover. Ice went out on Lake Minnetonka on April 13th which corresponds to the historical average date, while ice remains on Mille Lacs in the central part of the state. Some far northern Minnesota lakes will not be ice-free until May. You can track Minnesota ice out dates by going to the web at...

Topic: Weekly Weather/Climate Related Potpourri:

The NOAA Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma showed that 43 tornado reports were filed on April 9th across the southeastern states, while on April 10th another 65 tornado reports were filed. These were by far the highest frequency of daily reports for the year so far. Especially hard hit were the states of Tennessee and Arkansas. After a relatively quiet start to the year (54 tornado reports in January and February combined) SPC shows 123 tornado reports in March and 152 so far in April nationwide.

The United Kingdom Meteorological Office announced this week a new Education Section on their web site that is designed to teach children and teens about weather and climate change. There are also resources for classroom teachers to use. For younger children they can meet the "Weather Explorer" or play games and do simple experiments; teens can delve into case studies of severe weather impacts; and teachers can make use of worksheets and presentations. You can find more at.....

Tropical Cyclone Bijli formed this week in the Bay of Bengal of the Indian Ocean. Modest in strength it is expected to travel NE and make landfall along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border before dissipating on Sunday. Maximum winds are forecast to be 70-80 mph and sea wave heights may range from 15 to 20 ft. Heaviest rain bands may pass over Chittagong, Bangladesh.

MPR listener question: I heard Craig Edwards say it was desert-like air over the state on Tuesday, April 14th with afternoon relative humidity ranging from 10-15 percent in parts of Minnesota. How often is the air that dry?

Answer: Not very often, perhaps once per year. It is rare for relative humidity to fall below 20 percent in Minnesota. The months when this occurs most frequently are April, early May, or October, especially when vegetation is not fully growing and respiring water vapor into the air. Some of the afternoon readings in Minnesota for this past Tuesday, April 14th show that we were drier than Tucson, Arizona.....

3:00 pm to 4:00 pm readings for Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Montevideo, MN temperature 64 F, dewpoint 7 F, Relative Humidity 10%
Faribault, MN temperature 64 F, dewpoint 1 F, Relative Humidity 8%
Rochester, MN temperature 63 F, dewpoint 11 F, Relative Humidity 13%
Twin Cities,MN temperature 64 F, dewpoint 10 F, Relative Humidity 12%
Tucson, AZ temperature 81 F, dewpoint 27 F, Relative Humidity 14%

Similar conditions prevailed at all of the above locations on Wednesday, April 15th as well. The Twin Cities reported an afternoon relative humidity of 12%, Faribault reported 9%, Rochester reported 13%, and Montevideo reported just 5%. Tucson, AZ reported 15% RH values on Wednesday.

April 14th was also the first day this month that the Chanhassen National Weather Service Office reported 100 percent of possible sunshine. Wednesday's report included 95 percent possible sunshine.

Almanac for April 17th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 58 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 38 degrees F (plus or minus 8 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP local Records for April 17th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 85 degrees F in 1985; lowest daily maximum temperature of 33 degrees F in 1953; lowest daily minimum temperature of 10 degrees F in 1875: highest daily minimum temperature of 61 F in 1976. Record precipitation for this date is 1.44 inches in 1975. Record snowfall is 2.7 inches in 1939 and a record snow depth of 5 inches in 1961 and 1983.

Average dew point for April 17th is 32 degrees F, with a maximum of 62 degrees F in 1915 and a minimum of 4 degrees F in 1953.

All-time state records for April 17th:

The all-time state record high temperature for this date is 91 degrees F at Tracy (Lyon County) in 1914. The all-time state record low temperature for this date is -5 degrees F at Gunflint Lake (Cook County) in 1983. The all-time state record precipitation for this date is 4.00 inches at Belle Plaine (Scott County) in 1894. State record snowfall for this date is 13.0 inches at Detroit Lakes (Becker County) in 1945.

Past Weather Features:

On April 17, 1894 starting about 10 am it started to rain in Belle Plaine, MN. By 8 pm it had rained 4 inches in that Scott County town. A second storm the next day, April 15th brought another 3.50 inches for a two day total of 7.50 inches. Over the same period Dawson, MN received 4.70 inches of rainfall. Heavy rains in April of 1894 were common throughout the state and that ended up being the 4th wettest April in Minnesota history. Belle Plaine received a monthly total of 11.20 inches, while Dawson received 11.09 inches. These totals represent the largest total quantity of April precipitation ever measured in the state.

April 16-17, 1945 brought a strong winter storm to western and northwestern sections of Minnesota. It started on the evening of the 16th with winds gusting from 30 to 40 mph and heavy snow accumulation. Pelcan Rapids in Otter Tail County picked up 18 inches of snow, while Detroit Lakes in Becker County received 15 inches. Wadena and Elbow Lake where the storm brought mixed precipitation, both rain and snow, reported a snowfall of 8 inches. Fortunately warm, spring-like temperatures followed the storm and most of the snow was melted by the 19th.

Words of the Week: Red Flag Warning

This is a term used by fire-weather forecasters to call public attention to weather situations that may result in extreme burning conditions. It is issued when it is an on-going event or the fire weather forecaster has a high confidence that Red Flag criteria will occur within 24 hours. Red Flag criteria occurs whenever an area has been in a dry spell for several days or longer, especially if before spring green-up or after fall color, and the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) is high to extreme, and the following forecast weather parameters are forecasted to be met:
1) a sustained wind average 15 mph or greater
2) relative humidity less than or equal to 25 percent and
3) a temperature of greater than 75 degrees F.
In some states, dry lightning and unstable air are criteria. A Fire Weather Watch may be issued prior to the Red Flag Warning.


Mostly cloudy and cooler over the weekend with a chance of showers, especially in southern and eastern sections of the state. Chance of showers continues into Monday. Cooler weather will prevail until Wednesday when a warming trend starts and there will be increasing chances for precipitation by the end of next week.
Further Information:

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