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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

North Country on pace for warmest Dec-Jan on record

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 1/20/21

REGIONAL— Barring a surprise, it now appears that residents of the North Country will have experienced the warmest December-January period on record, once the full month of weather data is in …

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North Country on pace for warmest Dec-Jan on record

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REGIONAL— Barring a surprise, it now appears that residents of the North Country will have experienced the warmest December-January period on record, once the full month of weather data is in the books in just over a week.
That’s according to state climatologist Pete Boulay, who ran the numbers this week at the request of the Timberjay. Exceptionally mild overnight lows have contributed significantly to the record-setting warmth, according to Boulay, who ran comparisons using weather data from International Falls, which has the longest reporting period of any weather station in the region.
Overnight lows through the period, to date, have averaged 12.3 degrees, which shatters the previous record of 9.7 degrees, set back in the winter of 2005-06. But this season’s high temperatures are also setting a record, at least to date, with an average of 27.5 degrees. That compares to the previous record of 26.3 degrees set back in the winter of 1920-21.
“That’s truly remarkable, actually,” said Boulay.
While the data for January 2021 remains incomplete, Boulay said it’s now unlikely that any cool-down will topple this year’s December-January period as the warmest on record.
Through Jan. 19, the average temperature in International Falls since Dec. 1, has been 19.9 degrees. That’s a whopping 2.6 degrees above the previous record for the period, 17.3 degrees, dating back to the winter of 1913-14. “At this point, it would really have to cool down to drop from first place,” said Boulay.
And while temperatures were running closer to average this week, the extended forecast shows continued above-normal temperatures returning next week. And Boulay said long-term models don’t show any clear signs of a change in the weather, although he said that certainly could still happen. He said the winter of 2018-19 was an example where mild conditions dominated the first half of the winter, only to be replaced with plentiful snow and cold that hung on well into April. Boulay sees less sign of such a dramatic change this winter. “In 2019, we knew by now there was a change coming,” he said. While the long-term models continue to suggest at least a modest cooldown, Boulay said such predictions haven’t come to pass yet this winter. While January in northern Minnesota is typically dominated by frequent intrusions of the polar vortex, the arctic chill has been replaced by mild and moist air masses for weeks. “We really haven’t even had a glancing blow,” said Boulay.
At least for now, the polar air masses have shown up in unusual places this winter. “Places like Spain and Japan are cold right now,” said Boulay. “There is cold air out there, just not here.”
Dry conditions continue
The remarkable lack of snow in recent weeks is only adding to the mild nature of the current winter. So far in January, most parts of the North Country have seen less than two inches of snow, continuing a snow drought that extends back to November. While total snowfall for the season doesn’t rank much below average, nearly half of that snow fell in mid-October and melted during the record heat experienced in early November. That’s left much of the area with less than ten inches of snow on the ground, well below average for this time of the year.

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