How frequent are January thaws? Light wintry mix possible Thursday morning

Historical January thaw frequency varies across Minnesota

Warm sunset on January 11 at the Weather Lab
Warm sunset on Tuesday at the Weather Lab in the southwest Twin Cities.
Paul Huttner | MPR News

It’s amazing how good 38 degrees feels after another subzero run. That’s where the thermometer at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport topped out Tuesday afternoon. It’s the warmest day since we topped out at 43 degrees on Christmas Eve.

Our January thaw continues across southern Minnesota Wednesday.

Forecast high temperatures Wednesday
Forecast high temperatures Wednesday.
NOAA

January thaw frequency

How frequent are January thaws across Minnesota?

Using the loose definition of two straight days at or above the thawing point, January thaws are nearly an annual event for the Twin Cities (92 percent) and southern Minnesota. But it’s a 50/50 occurrence in places like International Falls along the Canadian border.

Here are some historical January thaw probabilities around Minnesota from Mark Seeley via the Minnesota DNR Climate Working Group.

  • Rochester: 95 percent

  • Fairmont: 93 percent

  • Twin Cities: 92 percent

  • Pipestone: 92 percent

  • St. Cloud: 87 percent

  • Morris: 80 percent

  • Crookston: 62 percent

  • Duluth: 60 percent

  • International Falls: 50 percent

Looking back to 1891 in the Twin Cities, there have been only three years when the thermometer did not reach 32 degrees at least once in January. The years that did not have a high temperature of 32 or greater in January in the Twin Cities are: 1912, 1978 and 1979.

But what about a January thaw? A January thaw is loosely defined as having TWO daytime highs greater than 32 degrees in the month of January. Using this definition, there was not a "January Thaw" in the Twin Cities in 2009. The last time the Twin Cities failed to have a "January Thaw" (Based on two or more days with daytime highs greater than 32 degrees F) was in 1982.

Wintry mix Thursday morning?

We could get a few light snow showers into Wednesday, but the better chance for an icy mix arrives Wednesday night into Thursday morning. NOAA’s NAM 3 km resolution model paints the precipitation zone across northern and central Minnesota into the Twin Cities overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning.

Be aware Thursday morning’s rush hour could be slick in spots And refreeze is always a possibility overnight during our thaws.

NOAA NAM 3 km model
NOAA NAM 3 km model midnight to 9 a.m. Thursday.
NOAA via tropical tidbits

Snow chance Friday

I posted more extensively on Friday’s snow system earlier today. The latest model runs Tuesday afternoon still suggests a westward shift in the storm track. That would place the heaviest snow in western and southwest Minnesota. Here’s NOAA’s Tuesday afternoon 18Z GFS model run.

NOAA GFS model Friday
NOAA GFS model midnight to 6 pm Friday.
NOAA via tropical tidbits

Stay tuned.

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