Unprecedented climate event unfolding in Minnesota


persistence [per-sis-tuh ns, -zis-] 1. the act or fact of persisting.

There's an old saying in the weather business. "The trend is your friend." When in doubt, the best forecast is often to recognize the momentum of the current weather pattern. Persistence.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

In our current context, persistence has risen to unprecedented new heights in Minnesota. February marks the 18th straight warmer than average month in the Twin Cities. That's never happened before in 143 years of record keeping in the Twin Cities.

Moving target

There's an even bigger story here. Every 10 years NOAA updates the moving 30-year climate averages for the Twin Cities. So not only did we string together 18 straight warmer than average months for the first time on record, we did it against a moving backdrop. That's like running on the moving walkway at MSP Airport.

Kansas City winter

With February temperatures running 10.3 degrees warmer than average, it felt more like Kansas City than Minneapolis last month. Welcome to a Topeka winter.

MSP Feb 2017
MN DNR Climate Working Group.

Here's some more perspective on our unprecedented string of 18 warmer than average months in the Twin Cities from the Minnesota DNR Climate Working Group.

Minnesota is in the grips of a historic warm streak, now standing at 18 months in many locations, including the Twin Cities.

February 2017 started off relatively tame, with the usual flip-flopping between warm and cold conditions for the first nine days. The 10th, however, kicked off a 2-week spell of significantly warm weather, including a six-day run between the 17th and 22nd that broke numerous records. In the Twin Cities, daily temperatures were above averages on 23 of 28 days, and the average monthly temperature has now been above the 1981-2010 normal for 18 months in a row.

As a month, February 2017 was among the warmest on record across the state. It ranked in the top-10 at Duluth, the Twin Cities, Rochester, and St. Cloud--where it was 3rd warmest since 1895.

The Twin Cities have not recorded average monthly temperatures that were below 1981-2010 normals since August 2015. This is the longest above-average monthly temperature streak of any kind on record in the Twin Cities, though it is worth noting that the "normals" refresh every 10 years, and procedures for calculating them have changed over time. As of this writing, only five months out of the last 33 (back to June 2014) have been below normal in the Twin Cities. The second longest streak on record was 16 months, from June 2011 through September 12.

April front

Our next warm front arrives Saturday afternoon. This one will feel more like an April front. 60s return by Sunday. Hyperactive bank thermometers in southern Minnesota could push 70 Sunday or Monday afternoon. Persistence.

Cooler weather returns later next week.

Stay tuned.