Changing Temperature

Our Changing Temperature

Nine of Minnesota's warmest 16 years on record have occurred since 2000.

Minnesota is warming. Average annual temperature has increased nearly 3℉ since the late 1800s, with Minnesota outpacing the average rate of warming globally. The warming has also accelerated in recent years, with the warming rate between 1980 and 2010 greater than between 1950 and 2010. 

Image - total temperature change between 1895 and 2019 in Minnesota. Temperature changes are shown for the average of the entire year (left), the average winter low (center), or the average summer high (right). Note that the northern part of the state and the winters have warmed the most.
Courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Although Minnesota is famous for its frigid winters, winters don't get as cold as they used to: from 1944 to 1993, 44 out of 50 winters in Minnesota registered -40℉ at some point, but from 1995 to 2017, only 13 out of 22 winters reached the same temperature. 

88% of winters between 1944 and 1993 reached -40 degrees Fahrenheit
69% of winters between 1995 and 2017 reached -40 degrees Fahrenheit

In the future, we can expect that winters will continue to warm and the number of days with snow cover will decrease. We can also expect the growing season to continue to lengthen as the spring thaw moves earlier and the first freeze in autumn shifts later in the season. Although there isn't yet discernible evidence that hot days are getting hotter, we can expect days warmer than 90 degrees or even 100 degrees Fahrenheit to become more common.

Graph of hot and wet weather
The ten warmest and wettest years on record have all occurred after 1997.
(Data: MN DNR State Climatology Office)

Consequences

urban heat island

As average air temperatures increase, urban centers will become even hotter because of the urban heat island effect. This can be dangerous to human health.

People in a field

Increasing air temperatures negatively impact the agricultural industry, which depends on regular and predictable weather to grow the food that we rely on.

icicle

Warming winters negatively affect popular winter-time activities and has consequences for water resources, trees, fish, and animals. 

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References & Suggested Reading

Harding, K. J., and P. K. Snyder (2014). Examining future changes in the character of Central U.S. warm-season precipitation using dynamical downscaling, J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 119, doi:10.1002/2014JD022575.

Harding, K. J., and P. K. Snyder (2015). Using dynamical downscaling to examine mechanisms contributing to the intensification of Central U.S. heavy rainfall events, J. Geophys. Res. Atmos., 120, doi:10.1002/2014JD022819.

Liess, S., T.E. Twine, P.K. Snyder, W.D. Hutchison, G. Konar-Steenberg, B.L. Keeler, K.A. Brauman. 2021. High-resolution Climate Projections over Minnesota for the 21st Century. Preprint on https://essoar.org/ DOI 10.1002/essoar.10507340.2

Melillo J., Richmond, T., and Yohe, G., 2014. An assessment from the U.S. Global Change Research Program to inform the public with scientific information and methods regarding climate change.

Midwestern Regional Climate Center, 2021. https://mrcc.illinois.edu/. Accessed Aug 17, 2021

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 2021. "Climate Change and Minnesota". https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/climate/climate_change_info/index.html. Accessed Aug 18, 2021

Pryor, S. C., D. Scavia, C. Downer, M. Gaden, L. Iverson, R. Nordstrom, J. Patz, and G. P. Robertson, 2014: Ch. 18: Midwest. Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, J. M. Melillo, Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and G. W. Yohe, Eds., U.S. Global Change Research Program, 418-440. doi:10.7930/J0J1012N. 

USGCRP, 2018: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II [Reidmiller, D.R., C.W. Avery, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, K.L.M. Lewis, T.K. Maycock, and B.C. Stewart (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, 1515 pp. doi: 10.7930/NCA4.2018.