Minnesota State Fair Weather Quiz 2022

A crowd listens to people with microphones outside.
MPR News host Cathy Wurzer speaks with expert Mark Seeley during the live weather quiz at the Minnesota State Fair on Thursday, Sept. 25, 2022.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

It’s time once again to test how much you know about Minnesota weather and climate.

Cathy Wurzer and Mark Seeley presented the annual Minnesota State Fair Weather Quiz Event live at the fair and on air Thursday. Listen to the recording above and play along or test your knowledge in our digital version below!

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Audio transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] CATHY WURZER: We are live at the Minnesota State Fair for Minnesota Now.

[APPLAUSE]

Oh, I'm so happy to be here. Happy to see all. We began a yearly tradition of live broadcasting from our booth at the corner of Judson and Nelson here at the State Fair in 1991. In 1996, someone had the bright idea to put Gary Eichten and weather guy Dr. Mark Seeley together here at the MPR booth and to try to stump Mark. Fairgoers and listeners loved it. Well, we are here 26 years later for the State Fair Weather Quiz. 26 years.

[APPLAUSE]

I'm Cathy Wurzer, the host of Minnesota Now, along with the legendary Dr. Mark Seeley.

[CHEERS]

MARK SEELEY: Thank you. Thanks, Cathy. It is a pleasure to be back. And believe me, over that 26 years, I've taken plenty of grief for how hard I make the quiz.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, yeah, you're tough.

MARK SEELEY: But now it's-- I want to assure everybody here, it's multiple choice. You get to make your best guess. And just for playing, just for playing, you're going to get a prize.

CATHY WURZER: I love that. I love that. So there's nothing but upside here.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: OK. Now of course, you all know that Mark has been with me on Morning Edition for, what, more than 20 years. The two of us have been together for more than 20. And you, for decades, have been Minnesota's beloved climatologist and meteorologist and professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota. Really. You are. You are beloved.

MARK SEELEY: I retired in 2018, but I continue to write the Minnesota Weather Talk Blog weekly. I don't know how many of you read that. And on the extension website--

CATHY WURZER: There's a fan over there.

MARK SEELEY: --work with the Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership Program, which is an extremely important entity at the University of Minnesota that does state-wide collaboration on adaptation, education, and strategies. Because it's such an important issue.

CATHY WURZER: I know it.

MARK SEELEY: And then write a column for the Farmer Magazine. Those of you that read the Minnesota Farmer Magazine.

CATHY WURZER: Did you say you retired when?

MARK SEELEY: I retired in 2018. I no longer owe the dean 50 hours a week. That's off the table.

CATHY WURZER: Got it. OK.

MARK SEELEY: But anyway, no, I'm a believer, like so many of my University of Minnesota colleagues, once an educator, always an educator. It gets in your blood, so anyway. I want to thank everybody for turning out today. I was a little nervous like you. It's been three years--

CATHY WURZER: I know.

MARK SEELEY: --since we've been live. And I was a little nervous. But it looks like we've got a great turnout. We've got a bunch of enthusiastic people here. I do want to make two quick comments. One is I want to thank John Linc Stine from the Freshwater society. John, it's wonderful that you continue to donate the Weather Guide Calendar, which makes a wonderful prize for this program. Thank you very much. Right over at the KARE 11 if you want to pick one up while you're here at the fair.

The other's more of an announcement that I'm nervous, as a friend of Cathy's for 20 some years, I'm nervous that this won't be as public as it should be. There's an event next month. That's not a weather event, but it's one all of you should be aware of. This woman here is being inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

[APPLAUSE]

CATHY WURZER: Thank you. That's very kind.

MARK SEELEY: Everywhere I go in the state to speak, people still ask me to say hello because they've been listening to you and relying on you on Morning Edition and now, Minnesota Now--

CATHY WURZER: That's very kind.

MARK SEELEY: --so often.

CATHY WURZER: I'm just the last woman standing. That's what the thing is. Though, I appreciate that. Thank you very much. So we have a weather quiz and we have prizes. So are you ready for this? OK, so here's the deal. When you're here at the fair, if you have a question for Mark Seeley, raise your hand. And Gretchen and Ellen have the mics, they will run to you. And they're our mic runners and will get you on the air to ask your question to Mark. And then Mark is going to ask you a question. And there are prizes to be held. Even if you miss the question, we will give you a prize, OK?

So can we start? Are we ready? All right, here we go. I'm going to throw to first question your way, is that OK? All right. Because that way, you can just start thinking of your questions, all right? Minnesota made weather history on July 18, 1986, and it involves some daredevil flying by a helicopter pilot and a news photographer. What happened?

MARK SEELEY: The first ever close-up tornado footage from a helicopter. And it made-- oh god, did it make headlines.

CATHY WURZER: It did.

MARK SEELEY: Now of course, at the time, many of us were watching that and questioning the sanity of the people in the helicopter.

CATHY WURZER: Mad Max Messmer.

MARK SEELEY: That's right.

CATHY WURZER: Yes.

MARK SEELEY: That's right.

CATHY WURZER: Max really is a great--

MARK SEELEY: But that was a first-- that was not only-- I think, Cathy, that was not only a first type of a footage aerial footage in Minnesota of a live tornado, I think it might have been a first nationwide.

CATHY WURZER: It was. It was. And by the way, Tom Empey was the photographer who shot that.

MARK SEELEY: Right.

CATHY WURZER: And they were actually up in the air for KARE 11 doing something completely different, and they saw the tornado form over Fridley, I believe.

MARK SEELEY: That's right. That was unbelievable.

CATHY WURZER: We were in the newsroom and we were watching this live, and we just couldn't believe we were seeing that.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: Well, shoot, you knew about that. Well, there you go. OK. All right, now who has a question to stump Dr. Mark Seeley? Raise your hand. There you go. We have a gentleman in the red t-shirt, and Ellen is running over there with the microphone.

ELLEN: Give me your name and where you're from.

CATHY WURZER: Sir, your question, please.

RICHARD STRONG: Oh, I'm Richard Strang from St. Paul. And my question for you, Dr. Seeley, is, where did the largest raindrop ever noted in Minnesota fall?

MARK SEELEY: You've got me on that one. The largest-- I would guess somewhere in Southern Minnesota, but I don't really know. Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: Where was it? Wait a minute now, where was it?

RICHARD STRONG: Nor do I.

CATHY WURZER: Oh.

[LAUGHTER]

For your effort, kind sir, you have a character and a Minnesota Now keychain.

MARK SEELEY: There you go. There you go. Can I ask you a question? All right.

RICHARD STRONG: If you dare.

MARK SEELEY: All right, here we go.

CATHY WURZER: This is difficult.

MARK SEELEY: By the way, most of these questions, just for those of you that might be contemplating where they come, so some of these are current from the last year what's happened in Minnesota. Some of them are Minnesota history, and some of them are a little bit more about climate change and its impacts on this wonderful state that we live in. This question goes like this. Following last year's drought, and you all probably remember last year's drought, much of Northern Minnesota has been above normal or seen above normal precipitation prevail so far this year.

Which of these northern climate stations have reported their wettest first half of the year in history for January through June of this year, 2022? A is Tower, Minnesota, B is International Falls, and C is Grand Portage.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, multiple choice, too.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, multiple choice.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, thank goodness on that.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: You want me to repeat that for you?

RICHARD STRONG: No, I think I know. I have an answer.

MARK SEELEY: OK.

RICHARD STRONG: International Falls.

MARK SEELEY: Yes, International Falls.

CATHY WURZER: Great job.

MARK SEELEY: Actually, if truth be told, all of those and a number of other places along the northern tier near the Canadian border are still, as we speak today on August 25th, on a record pace to maybe have their wettest year in history up there.

CATHY WURZER: Wow.

MARK SEELEY: Thank you.

CATHY WURZER: Well done, sir. Well done.

[APPLAUSE]

We have another question. Gretchen has a mic. Gentleman over with a lovely hat on.

SPEAKER 1: Want to know, what is the worst weather day at the Minnesota State Fair since you've been broadcasting, and what has been the best outside of today?

CATHY WURZER: The worst and the best.

MARK SEELEY: Oh, boy.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, I know the worst, that's for sure.

MARK SEELEY: The worst you and I are probably remembering was that 20-- was it 2017 or 2018 that we had the rain?

CATHY WURZER: Oh, I was thinking of something different.

MARK SEELEY: Oh.

CATHY WURZER: Well, 2017 we had this deluge.

MARK SEELEY: We were fighting rain and with all the electronics, and it was not a nice day at all.

CATHY WURZER: I was hoping my life insurance was paid up.

MARK SEELEY: And that lingered much longer than what was originally-- the forecast from the National Weather Service over our lifetime has improved so much that now they give hour by hour. I'm sure you know that. But I had checked the hour by hour before we went on the air, and it was supposed to be one of those short-lived events that lasted six hours.

CATHY WURZER: Yeah, no, wasn't good.

MARK SEELEY: So it wasn't any fun at all.

CATHY WURZER: No, that was very wet.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: Yeah.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: So unattractive. Good question. Now the best weather day.

MARK SEELEY: Boy. Today.

CATHY WURZER: I think today's nice.

MARK SEELEY: I mean, I think today's going to be a grand day weather-wise.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, yeah.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: It's a little cloudy right now, but the clouds will lift. We'll see some sunshine. It'll be lovely. So Mark, what question-- would you like to take a shot at a question from Mark Seeley?

SPEAKER 1: Sure.

CATHY WURZER: OK.

MARK SEELEY: All right. This one's related to the current year. How many official climate stations in Minnesota have measured at least one 100 degree day so far this year? The choices are nine climate stations, B, 17 climate stations, or C, 32 climate stations.

SPEAKER 1: I'll go for B, the middle.

MARK SEELEY: It's actually 32. We've had 32 different places in the state measure 100 degrees or higher so far this year, which has been quite some time, Cathy, since we've had that.

CATHY WURZER: But it was a good guess, and you get a weather calendar because you-- yes, see? There you go.

MARK SEELEY: Thank you.

CATHY WURZER: Thank you so much. Thank you so much. OK, so in case you're just tuning in, we are clearly not in studio. We're at the Minnesota State Fair for the first time in several years, at least here with our show. So this is grand. It's great to see people here at the State Fair. We are in the midst of the State Fair Weather Quiz with Dr. Mark Seeley, who you hear on Morning Edition every Friday on MPR News. And we have a wonderful crowd.

So we are taking your questions for Dr. Seeley. And I believe, Ellen, you have one.

MICHAEL: Hi, I'm Michael from Elk River.

CATHY WURZER: Hi, Michael.

MICHAEL: And it's a historical question. What's the origination of the phrase, raining like cats and dogs?

MARK SEELEY: Oh my. I couldn't give you the year or the location, but I do know the analogy, which is the noise. Because when cats and dogs fight, they can make a heck of a lot of noise. And I've had this experience as an extension educator a number of times where I've been out on the farm, and maybe I've been talking to farmers inside a metal roofed building or an old barn. And all of a sudden, one of our classic Minnesota thunderstorms breaks out.

And you literally can't-- you can't hear anything over it. It's just unbelievable the amount of noise it can make. And so I think that's the analogy being evoked by that. And that goes back centuries. But I couldn't give you the geography or the year that that first came into place.

CATHY WURZER: Well, you tap-danced nicely around that. That was excellent. Do you happen to know the actual answer?

MICHAEL: No, I don't, but it sounds very reasonable.

CATHY WURZER: I suppose reasonable. Very nice. Now, would you like a question? Can we-- all right.

MARK SEELEY: OK.

CATHY WURZER: Dr. Seeley.

MARK SEELEY: History. Here's another history one for you.

MICHAEL: I can handle that, maybe.

MARK SEELEY: OK. And Cathy and I've talked about this. I looked this up from our Morning Edition chats, and we've talked about this at least three times in the 22 years we've been talking.

CATHY WURZER: Great. I could hardly wait to hear this.

MARK SEELEY: OK. What is the greatest amount of rainfall that has fallen on our Minnesota 4th of July anywhere in the state of Minnesota? And I want you to think about this, because we've been talking about this intense rainfall for quite some time. A is 4.97 inches, B is 6.32 inches, or C is 9.78 inches.

MICHAEL: I think I recall the 9.7 inches.

MARK SEELEY: You're right.

CATHY WURZER: Very good.

MARK SEELEY: That was at the-- Off Jordan Farm in Mylon in Chippewa County, Western Minnesota, July 4th, 1995, and absolutely ruined the July 4th celebration for those people in Mylon. That's equivalent to what we've been reading, Cathy, by the way, the headlines we've been reading this summer--

CATHY WURZER: Yes.

MARK SEELEY: --about what's happened in St. Louis, about what's happened in Kentucky, about what's happened in Dallas Fort Worth, and places like that. That nearly 10 inches that happened in Mylon in 1995, that was roughly an equivalent thunderstorm to what they've experienced.

CATHY WURZER: So you get a weather calendar, sir, and the brand new Minnesota Now keychain. I know. It's pretty amazing here. So Mylon, Minnesota, is like a map dot, as you know. It's a small town.

MARK SEELEY: Right, right.

CATHY WURZER: Morning Edition, I remember we went out there to do a live broadcast.

MARK SEELEY: Right.

CATHY WURZER: And we picked Mylon. My bosses at the time said, A, where is Mylon? B, why Myon?

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: And we had a contest. Where should Morning Edition go? Mylon won the contest.

MARK SEELEY: Wow. That's wonderful.

CATHY WURZER: Yes, the whole town showed up. There was maybe 25 people. It was really small. But it was really fun. We had a great time. So we are in the midst of the State Fair Weather Quiz. Gretchen, you have another individual over there with a question for Dr. Seeley. Go ahead.

RENEE: Hello, I'm Renee from Savage. And is it just me, or is it windier now than it was 20 years ago?

CATHY WURZER: It is windy.

MARK SEELEY: It is. In fact, this has come up on Morning Edition a few times this year already. We have looked at that. I've looked at it, but Dr. Kenny Blumenfeld at the State Climate Office has looked at it in more detail. The year to date, so January to today's date, is the windiest segment of time in over 40 years. Now the reason I can't say it's the windiest segment of time in over 100 years is, quite frankly, a measurement problem. Because our anemometry, the device we use to measure wind, we don't have the network or the accuracy going back 100 years. So it's just that we can't make the comparison.

But you're quite right. And this is a worrisome trend, Cathy. It is.

CATHY WURZER: Well, it's annoying.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, because we've had so many damaging winds this year.

CATHY WURZER: Yes.

MARK SEELEY: It's just off the charts. And somebody I'm sure this year-- not by me, because I'm too old-- but I'm sure this year is going to be studied like the Dickens by atmospheric scientists to try to decipher what has made this year so windy.

CATHY WURZER: I mean, you're right about the winds being destructive, which is horrible.

MARK SEELEY: Right, right.

CATHY WURZER: I mean, when I say it's annoying, there's this constant barrage of 20, 25, 30 mile an hour winds, and you're like, wow, what the heck is going on with this?

MARK SEELEY: Right.

CATHY WURZER: Is that a signature of climate change?

MARK SEELEY: It remains to be seen.

CATHY WURZER: OK.

MARK SEELEY: But I'm sure it's being studied.

CATHY WURZER: OK.

MARK SEELEY: And I wouldn't be surprised if it is symptomatic for our latitudes. Because the pressure change, which is the response of-- that's why we have wind, is because we have areas of low pressure and areas of high pressure that are trying to equalize. And a lot of the climate change literature says that those are intensifying and becoming more frequent. So those would be drivers. Those would logically be drivers of the higher wind speed.

CATHY WURZER: That's a good question, by the way. And you've got a weather calendar for that. Yay. There you go. And now, would you be so kind as to-- can we try to stump you?

RENEE: Sure.

CATHY WURZER: OK. Here's a question.

MARK SEELEY: OK, let's see. I'll give you another historical one, if you like. August 1st of this year, and Cathy reported on this, was the 15th anniversary of the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis. August 19th of this month was also the 15th anniversary of the single greatest 24-hour rainstorm in state history that delivered 15.1 inches in 24 hours. Which part of the state geography did this affect? A, Southwestern Minnesota, B, Southeastern Minnesota, or C, Northeastern Minnesota.

CATHY WURZER: So this was 15 years ago.

MARK SEELEY: 15 years ago.

CATHY WURZER: OK.

RENEE: I'm going to say Northeast.

MARK SEELEY: I think that's a solid guess, especially because of the influence of Lake Superior. But it actually occurred in Southeastern Minnesota in Hokah, down in Houston County. We talked about this, it nearly washed away the city of Rushford, Minnesota.

CATHY WURZER: It was horrible.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: But that was a good guess, because I think Duluth with that amazing storm that they had. And I remember going in to work the morning of the storm, it was still-- obviously we didn't quite know what was going on. And remember the picture of the little seal that had been washed out of the Lake Superior Zoo? And that's when I saw that seal on Superior Street, I thought, oh my gosh, this is one heck of a story. So I would have guessed the same thing, Northeastern Minnesota. But you're right about Hokah.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, yeah.

CATHY WURZER: Thank you for participating. Nice work. Give her a round of applause.

[APPLAUSE]

It is fun to be with you on stage, because I learn so much from you as you explain things. So about the wind and how that happens. And yeah, I appreciate that. Thank you very much.

MARK SEELEY: Good. That's very kind.

CATHY WURZER: OK, where is Ellen? There she is. We have another question from our audience member. Go ahead.

MINDY: Hi, I'm Mindy from Hastings.

CATHY WURZER: Hi.

MINDY: I am wondering if you can explain to me how dew point works. Because when I hear the weather report and they tell me what the dew point is, I don't know if that is going to be comfortable or not comfortable. I don't know what the numbers mean.

CATHY WURZER: Ooh. Actually, thank you.

MARK SEELEY: That's a very good question. We've had that come up numerous times. I have a personal preference for dew point over relative humidity, and that's because of some studies that have been done by biometeorologists that study the human body and meteorology. And so our physiology, our heart rate, our respiration, our perspiration, our body responds to the environment around us is almost more directly responsive to dew point than humidity. Because as the dew point gets above 60, we start to get a little bit uncomfortable.

CATHY WURZER: Yeah.

MARK SEELEY: As it gets above 70, we get really uncomfortable. And as it gets above 80, it's almost intolerable. It's almost like being in the sauna at the gym. And that is related to the actual number of water vapor molecules in a cubic meter of air. So it's more of a direct measure of how much water vapor is really in the air. And that's pretty much universal.

Now there is an acclimation. If you live in Florida long enough, you get used to 70 degree dew points, OK?

CATHY WURZER: Wow.

MARK SEELEY: OK, but if you live in Brainerd, Minnesota, and you get a summer day with a 70 degree dew point, it feels like you're in the sauna at the gym. Because your body just can't acclimate that fast. And so it's a real measure-- the fundamental piece, to answer your question, is it's a real measure of the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere around us.

CATHY WURZER: And are you OK when we get on the air and say it's maybe a 64 degree dew point and it's sticky out there? Does that help you?

MINDY: Yes, yes.

CATHY WURZER: OK.

MINDY: Thank you.

CATHY WURZER: Just got thumbs up. OK, are you ready for a question?

MINDY: Yeah, let's go.

CATHY WURZER: OK. She's buckled in, she's ready to go. Go ahead.

MARK SEELEY: OK. We've had a lot of interesting weather so far this year.

CATHY WURZER: You think?

MARK SEELEY: A footprint of the ongoing climate change symptoms in Minnesota is the increased frequency of extreme events. Which month this year produced 45 tornado reports, 338 reports of large hail, one-inch diameter or greater, and 339 reports of damaging winds? Your choices are A, April, B, May, or C, June.

CATHY WURZER: Ooh.

SPEAKER 2: Is it May?

CATHY WURZER: April, May, or June.

MINDY: Let's go with May.

MARK SEELEY: Absolutely correct.

CATHY WURZER: Yes.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: Yes, good job.

MARK SEELEY: Very good.

CATHY WURZER: Very good.

MARK SEELEY: In fact, that was the singular most severe weather reports for any month on the Minnesota calendar since the 1970s. So it's been a while since we've had that many severe weather reports in one month.

CATHY WURZER: And May seemed early--

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: --to me.

MARK SEELEY: It did.

CATHY WURZER: It really did.

MARK SEELEY: It did. And the insurance industry got completely inundated with hail claims on both vehicles and homes. And just thousands upon thousands of insurance claims.

CATHY WURZER: Hey, we're live at the Minnesota State Fair here this afternoon. A lot of people are going by and waving and saying hi. We've got a great audience here at the Minnesota Public Radio Booth at the corner of Judson and Nelson. It looks fantastic. You can clap for yourself, absolutely. I'm Cathy Wurzer along with Dr. Mark Seeley, and it's the State Fair Weather Quiz.

And we have fairgoers with their hands up, and we have a lot of questions for Mark as we're trying to stump the weather guy. So far, we're doing a pretty good job.

MARK SEELEY: Pretty good job.

CATHY WURZER: Pretty good job.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, yeah.

CATHY WURZER: Let's see. Gretchen.

MIKE LEWIS: Hi. I'm Mike Lewis, currently of St. Paul. And we've met before. But my question is on climate. Climate normals are based on 30-year past-- average of past 30 years. Basically with a trend of warming, the average is shown at the 15-year mark about. Is that accurate to portray today's climate by the past 15 years? And follow-up there, calculated every 10 years, are we just whistling past the graveyard by updating those with the temperature trend?

CATHY WURZER: An educated question there.

MARK SEELEY: Yes.

CATHY WURZER: Yes. Thank you.

MARK SEELEY: More of a statistical nature. First off, the inherent variability of the climate system is geographic based. So if you're mid-continent, like we are here in Minnesota and like so many other places around the world, you have tremendously high variability in terms of what's measured-- day to day, month to month, et cetera. If you're more towards the tropics or you're more of a coastal kind of a climate that's moderated by a water body, the variability is dampened. It's not as great.

That dictates how accurate the statistics can be in defining a mean value or a trend associated with the mean value. And so the World Meteorological Organization has tried to find-- by filtering all of that noise, they've tried to find a standard that would be universally applicable. And that 30-year or three-decade standard has been in play for a long period of time. There's been debate about changing it, just as you point out, because there are some geographic climates that you can distinctly show a trend with 15 days. I mean, 15 years.

You could recalculate, for example, monthly and annual normals. But I don't know whether they're going to get around to that or not, to be honest. I do know that that question you ask comes up from time to time at these national and international meetings, where we do debate standards. But I don't know that that's going to happen in our lifetime. I think we're going to be stuck with 30-year normals for a while. Unfortunately, that's just the nature.

Now, another good point to bring up, since you brought up 30-year normals, is the following. And you've heard me talk about this on Morning Edition, too. 30-year normals buffer or dampen the extent of climate change. Because every complete decade, we're redefining what's average for a specific location. We're redefining it. So we're raising the mean value. And then we forget about everything that's happened before that.

So if we go back 100 years and we see, for example, in Minnesota that some Northern Minnesota climate stations have changed by, say, seven degrees, that gets dampened off if we just look and call what the most recent 30-year normal averages are. And so it buffers the true impact of what climate change is doing across multiple lifetimes. The extent of climate change in Northern Minnesota, and we've talked about this and I know Paul Huttner has, too, is just dramatic. It's almost off the charts when you look at it more in the 100-year time frame rather than the 30-year time frame.

CATHY WURZER: Nice explanation, by the way. Thank you.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, yeah.

CATHY WURZER: Do you have a question for the gentleman?

MARK SEELEY: Sure. Let's look at-- oh, here's one. Again, pretty much a standard climate history question. Based on all our statewide measurements of climate over the last 100 years or so, what is the cloudiest month of the year in Minnesota? A, March, B, November, or C, June.

CATHY WURZER: Ooh, that's a good one.

MIKE LEWIS: I would say March.

CATHY WURZER: Is that your final answer?

[LAUGHS]

MIKE LEWIS: I'm a retired meteorologist, and I got to go with the spring. And I was born in March, so I'll either embarrass myself, or--

MARK SEELEY: It's actually November.

CATHY WURZER: It's November.

MARK SEELEY: November is the standard. In fact, it's off the charts.

CATHY WURZER: It is a gloomy month.

MARK SEELEY: --how gloomy. And in fact, for those of you that suffer from this or know people who do, November is often the onset month for the start of those that suffer from the lack of sunshine.

CATHY WURZER: Seasonal affective disorder.

MARK SEELEY: Seasonal affective disorder. It usually initiates every season long about the month of--

CATHY WURZER: So we had a ringer in the audience here with the meteorologist.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, yeah.

CATHY WURZER: But that was a fine question that you asked the good doctor. Thank you.

MIKE LEWIS: I actually had graduated from Northern Illinois University in '73 in meteorology. So I saw your name on a fundraising letter. Your--

MARK SEELEY: Oh, yeah.

MIKE LEWIS: --graduate school--

MARK SEELEY: I was there just a little bit after you, right. Yeah, right.

CATHY WURZER: Thank you, sir. Appreciate that. Thank you. Really some good, good question.

MARK SEELEY: Oh, yeah.

CATHY WURZER: I have another question for you. Me.

MARK SEELEY: Oh, OK.

CATHY WURZER: When was the last time the temperature hit 90 at the Minnesota State Fair?

MARK SEELEY: Oh, mercy. You've got me. You've got me.

CATHY WURZER: Really?

MARK SEELEY: No, I'd just be taking a wild guess.

CATHY WURZER: Well just get-- oh, you want me to give you multiple choice?

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, give me a multiple choice.

CATHY WURZER: All right, fine. 1973, 1986, or 2013.

MARK SEELEY: 2013.

CATHY WURZER: I should, of course, just taken my win when I got it, but I didn't. You're right, 2013 was the last time the temperature hit 90 at the State Fair.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: All right, thank you. All right, we have another-- let me see, where am I? There is my producer Ellen with somebody else. Go ahead, sir. You're on.

WAYNE: Hi, this is Wayne from Maple Plain. Mark, in your book, The Minnesota Weather Almanac, there's a picture of a locomotive in Canby, Minnesota. I believe the year was 1880. And the snow was up almost to the top of the locomotive.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

WAYNE: I'm wondering how much of that-- if you know how much of that snow fell in one storm.

MARK SEELEY: Well, that relates to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Winter of 1880, 1881. The first blizzard-- October 15, 16, of 1880-- affected the southwest part of Minnesota, the northeastern part of Nebraska, southeastern part of South Dakota, and the northwestern part of Iowa. Back in that era, that predates the existence of the Weather Bureau, which came into play in 1890.

The old Signal Corps measurements would suggest that the single greatest snowfall of the winter of 1880, 1881, was probably that October blizzard. And again, from diaries and observer notes and things like that, we have very few official measurements. But I think somewhere between two and three feet of snow fell. And then the winds made it drift, so it closed the railroad lines. That's where that picture comes from. Because it closed some of the railroad lines back then, and then they were closed for weeks while they cleared.

Because obviously, in those years, they didn't have the snow clearing equipment that we have now. In fact, I think there's a notation associated with that picture from the Minnesota Historical Society that a lot of the clearing of the railroad tracks because of blizzards in those days was hand-cleared with shovels, for crying out loud.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, yikes.

MARK SEELEY: So it must have taken crews a long, long time. But that's where that picture came from. And it was the initial blizzard of October 15, 16 of 1880 that dumped the biggest load of snow. And then the reason Laura Ingalls Wilder called that whole story she wrote The Longest Winter is since then, we've learned that you could count on one hand the number of winter snow seasons in our region that start in mid-October. That's an extreme rarity. So that storm was really unusual.

CATHY WURZER: Encyclopedic knowledge you have.

MARK SEELEY: Oh.

CATHY WURZER: I mean, just he comes up with that, oh, sure, that's the storm of 18-- whatever. And I'm like, wow, what the heck? Good one. I like that, by the way. It was an interesting story. Would you like a question, sir? Sure. It's going to be really easy. Go ahead.

MARK SEELEY: Here we go. Since 1991, there have been 29 Minnesota communities that have reported 50/50-- 5-0-- inches of precipitation in one year. But before 1991, how many Minnesota climate stations reported 50 or more inches of annual precipitation? A, nine, B, five, or C, two.

CATHY WURZER: I said it was going to be easy for this poor gentleman. What the heck? That's a hard question.

WAYNE: A, nine.

MARK SEELEY: It's actually only two. Now, the reason I put that question on there is that's a symptom of what we're changing to. OK. The climate is changing, and so the frequency as we measure around the state of getting 50 inches, which is more like what they get in the Southeastern states, the frequency of getting 50 inches of annual precipitation is increasing in the state of Minnesota.

CATHY WURZER: Such a concern. Was Beaver Bay one of the two places?

MARK SEELEY: It was.

CATHY WURZER: Yes.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: OK.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, you're right.

CATHY WURZER: Don't know why I remember that.

MARK SEELEY: Near a geography you're quite familiar with.

CATHY WURZER: That is true, the North Shore of Lake Superior.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, yeah.

CATHY WURZER: Well done. Thank you, sir. We appreciate it with--

MARK SEELEY: Thank you.

CATHY WURZER: The climate-- the weather calendar that we are handing out today, along with the Minnesota Now keychain, which I'm super excited about. Say, by the way, this is Minnesota Now on MPR News. If you are listening on air and online, of course we're at the State Fair with this amazing crowd, which is so much fun to see actual faces. It's really terrific.

Let me see, our producer Gretchen's here. We have someone in the front row. Hello.

DAVE: Hi, my name is Dave.

CATHY WURZER: Hi, Dave.

DAVE: Say, in the last 20 years, they've developed a lot of wind power in Southwest Minnesota. And I've seen it. And I wonder what factors make it so good for wind--

CATHY WURZER: Ooh, good question.

DAVE: --power.

MARK SEELEY: That's a good question. Southwestern Minnesota is the proper mix of geography and topography. You've got the plains states merging from the West, Nebraska out of the Nebraska plains, out of the South Dakota plains. You got the Buffalo Ridge. So you're starting to get some topography in terms of the landscape in Minnesota. And there's a convergence there where low pressures can accelerate and develop a little bit stronger wind.

And Don Baker, God bless him, the man who hired me to come to Minnesota many years ago and mentored me, he's the founder of the Climate Program at the University of Minnesota. Don Baker, God bless him, way back in the 1980s for the state did a study of where in the state geography it would be best to deploy wind turbines for the generation of wind energy. And it was Don Baker's study that actually targeted Southwestern Minnesota way back when as the prime area.

And years after that, that was one of those studies where you don't realize the impact of the study until many years later. And then then-governor Al Quie gave Dr. Baker a Governor's Award for doing that pioneering work so that we could understand about where to deploy some renewable energy in our own state geography that had a high probability of working.

CATHY WURZER: I bet at the time, I bet people probably laughed at Dr. Baker.

MARK SEELEY: Well, he was such a dignified person. He was hard to laugh at.

CATHY WURZER: I bet that's right.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, yeah. In fact, I have to truth-- I don't know how many in this audience remember Don Baker. Don Baker was probably one of the single most respected faculty members that the St. Paul campus has ever seen. He was just a fantastic person. He was really great.

CATHY WURZER: I learned something new by listening to you. I did not know that that was the background of that area of the state when it comes to wind power. Would you like a question? All right. You are brave. Here we go.

MARK SEELEY: Let's see.

CATHY WURZER: Give him an easy one.

MARK SEELEY: Oh, here's one about everyday observations. When the weather report that we hear on the radio or we see on TV or from the Weather Service refers to a chaotic sky, what types of clouds might you see in the sky? A, layered clouds-- stratus, for example. B, vertical clouds-- cumulus or cumulonimbus, for example. Or C, both.

DAVE: Oh, a trick question.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, yeah.

DAVE: I was going to go with the vertical.

MARK SEELEY: Chaotic.

CATHY WURZER: I've never used the chaotic in any weather forecast I have ever done in my career.

MARK SEELEY: I got to start using that more--

CATHY WURZER: Chaotic clouds. I love that.

DAVE: It has to be both.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, you're right. It's the most mixed sky you can see. It's not used very often. The months that we have at the most in Minnesota, chaotic skies, are most common in March in November. So if you're ever going to see a description of that, it's likely to be-- because that's when we have the--

CATHY WURZER: I'm there. I'm there for chaotic skies now. You watch. You listen. I'm going to use chaotic skies.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: Yeah.

MARK SEELEY: I know we sometimes have chaotic moments on Morning Edition.

CATHY WURZER: Yes, we do.

MARK SEELEY: But this is a different--

CATHY WURZER: Congratulations. Nice work. And I'm glad you got the new keychain. I like that a lot. Very good. We have, by the way-- normally, I should say this. We usually have John Wanamaker with the news, but we're going to wait until John gets up to the top of the hour. OK, so John is just standing by in the studio. We're just going to blow by the news and keep going here with the weather quiz.

Where is Ellen? There's my producer Ellen with somebody way in the back. Hello.

ADDIE: I'm Addie from Zumbro Falls.

CATHY WURZER: Hi. Nice to have you here.

MARK SEELEY: Nice spot. I like Zumbro Falls.

CATHY WURZER: Beautiful spot, yes. What's your question for Dr. Seeley?

ADDIE: What's the worst tornado in Minnesota history?

CATHY WURZER: Ooh. Wow.

MARK SEELEY: That's a good one. And the most lethal tornado in Minnesota history was the tornado in Sauk Rapids in April of 1886. And it killed, I think, 70 some people.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, goodness.

MARK SEELEY: The tragedy of that tornado-- and I write about this in the book, Minnesota Weather Almanac-- that has a tragedy that affected Central Minnesota. Because at the time, Sauk Rapids and St. Cloud were competing as a Central Minnesota commerce hub. That was pioneer days. But an area where the railroads and the boats and the wagons and stuff and commerce was building in those areas.

But because Sauk Rapids was destroyed by that tornado and it took so long to rebuild Sauk Rapids, the commerce hub switched solely to St. Cloud. The other sad story that we've talked about on Morning Edition, but it's been some time, is there was a wedding party. There was a wedding being held on the Mississippi River when that tornado struck. And unfortunately, it killed many members of that wedding party.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, goodness. So are you talking about-- so in terms of loss of life, that would have been the worst.

MARK SEELEY: That would have been the worst.

CATHY WURZER: But where does the St. Peter Comfrey tornado come into?

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, probably destruction-wise, the 1998, March 1998 episode in Southern Minnesota that affected St. Peter and Comfrey and that area, one of which the tornadoes was on the ground for 67 miles.

CATHY WURZER: I couldn't believe it.

MARK SEELEY: That probably inflicted-- I'm not sure that I can say unequivocally the most damage ever, but certainly it was terrible, terrible, terrible damage by that outbreak of March tornadoes in 1998. Because the forecasting was so good associated with that episode by our National Weather Service, the loss of life was minimized given the severity of that outbreak.

CATHY WURZER: A fine question that you ask. That's very good. Now we're going to ask you one, is that OK?

ADDIE: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: OK. Go ahead.

MARK SEELEY: Speaking of tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service, they've documented 60 tornadoes so far this year in our state. What is the record annual number of tornadoes in Minnesota? A, 80, B, 99, or C 113.

ADDIE: 113.

MARK SEELEY: You're right. Back in 2010.

CATHY WURZER: All right.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: Nice.

[APPLAUSE]

Excellent job.

MARK SEELEY: Very good. We got some smart, smart, smart people.

CATHY WURZER: They're MPR listeners, what can I say?

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: Yeah. Good work, by the way. Say, in case you are listening on the radio and wondering why are people screaming in the background, just so you might want to know that, we have a brand new-- I think this is pretty new. There's a ride right in front of us here by the porkchop on a stick stand. And that is something that you will not see me on. They're whipping people around very fast, and it's a very high ride. This is why people are screaming in the background.

So just in case you're listening. It's nothing Mark is doing. It's strictly the ride that is--

MARK SEELEY: I don't think I can even look at that very long.

CATHY WURZER: I can't even look at it. It would be something I just can't deal with. OK, where is my next question? There we are. Gretchen, the producer. Yes.

ANN LEWIS: Hi. Ann Lewis, Minneapolis.

CATHY WURZER: Hi, Ann.

ANN LEWIS: I am wondering, in Minnesota, what is the-- what will we see in the next years that will be the worst effects of climate change?

CATHY WURZER: Ooh. What will be the worst effects of climate change?

MARK SEELEY: In the next year?

CATHY WURZER: In the next--

ANN LEWIS: In the next period of years. Five years.

CATHY WURZER: Five, 10 years.

MARK SEELEY: OK, given that I have no tools at my disposal to look at anything numerically, this is pure speculation based on my understanding of the trends. I think we have yet to see in our lifetime two things that might happen yet while we're still on Minnesota here living. We may surpass the terrible heat wave of July 19th, 2011, which produced record-setting heat index values all over the state, including 134 degrees at Moorhead.

CATHY WURZER: I completely forgot about that.

MARK SEELEY: We may see that surpassed. We'll see it surpassed because of what we've observed already this year, which is these high dew points. So someday, we're going to get a summer day that comes along with 100 degree temperature, but unfortunately, it's going to be coupled with an 80 degree dew point and will obliterate those records. The other record is what we just talked about earlier in this weather quiz broadcast, which was the 15.1 inches at Hokah back in 2007. I think that that record is yet to be broken in our lifetime as well. That we may see a flash flood sometime, Cathy, in the coming years that surpasses that as a new total for a 24-hour period.

CATHY WURZER: That is scary.

MARK SEELEY: That's frightening, because our abilities to cope with those kinds of extremes are limited. I mean, we can only do so much to cope with those kind of extremes. But again, that's just my-- that's not numerically based with any tools.

CATHY WURZER: But an educated guess.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, that's just my guess. Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: How about a question?

ANN LEWIS: Sure.

MARK SEELEY: How about your question? OK, let's see. Which of these climate-related features in Minnesota is a signal of climate change here? A, longer growing seasons, B, heavier rainfalls, or C, warmer nights.

ANN LEWIS: Well, warmer nights seems to be the most-- affect us the most, I believe.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah. Actually, all of those are symptomatic of climate-- they're all symptomatic of climate change. They've all been researched like the Dickens. And we know for a fact they're driven by climate change. And so all of those elements are affecting us in the state of Minnesota as we speak.

And they're not slowing down. That's the other thing everybody should be wary of, is our pace of change decade by decade is not slowing down.

CATHY WURZER: So, but good guess. Thank you. You get a calendar and a keychain. Thanks for playing the State Fair Weather Quiz here on MPR News. Wow. Have I not stumped you yet? I have not stumped you yet.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, you did with the State Fair.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, but I messed it up, though.

MARK SEELEY: I lucky-guessed. I lucky-guessed on your multiple choice.

CATHY WURZER: I have one more for you, but I'm going to wait.

MARK SEELEY: Oh, OK.

CATHY WURZER: Let me see. Where is my other-- there we go, way over here. Hello. Sir, how are you?

LEE: Hello. My name is Lee. I'm from Drummond, Wisconsin.

CATHY WURZER: Drummond, Wisconsin. Welcome to Minnesota.

LEE: Thank you.

CATHY WURZER: Yes.

LEE: And what I'm wondering is, can you provide a simple, easy-to-understand explanation of wet bulb temperature measurement? And can you also tell us what is the wet bulb temperature at which humans can no longer survive?

CATHY WURZER: This is a man who knows his weather terminology.

MARK SEELEY: I do not know the latter. I would just be taking a wild guess. I have no idea what our tolerance for wet bulb temperature. The wet bulb temperature psychometrically is derived from putting a wick on the end of a thermometer and wetting it and then ventilating it. Sometimes you whirl it, sometimes you have an automated system that passes-- that has an electronic fan that blows air across it. And you compare the depression on the thermometer by evaporative cooling of the water in the wick.

CATHY WURZER: What are you trying to do with that?

MARK SEELEY: And you compare that to the other thermometer. So you see how much evaporative cooling can diminish the thermometer reading on the wick thermometer. And that's called the wet bulb. The wet bulb is a little bit more closely related to, for example, how our bodies feel, OK. Because--

CATHY WURZER: OK.

MARK SEELEY: --if you're like me, on certain conditions, you'll be sweating like crazy. And the evaporative cooling does have an effect on your body.

CATHY WURZER: Absolutely.

MARK SEELEY: It helps lower the temperature, but only so much. So sometimes the depression is one or two degrees, sometimes it's striking. Sometimes it's many degrees. But it depends on what the atmospheric water vapor content of the atmosphere around you is.

CATHY WURZER: Now I'm, of course, dying to know, do you know the answer to the second part of the question?

LEE: I think I read it somewhere, perhaps in The Economist Magazine, but I can't remember what it was, which is why I asked you.

MARK SEELEY: I think they've done studies in the Middle East, for example, where they have this health issue when the wet bulb gets too high. And I think somewhere north of-- our maximum tolerance is somewhere north of 120, but I don't know what it is. And I don't know how long we can last when it's that extreme. But anyway. So stumped again.

CATHY WURZER: But yeah, we're doing actually pretty well on that, too.

MARK SEELEY: Well.

CATHY WURZER: You're half and half. We should have a scoreboard here, is what we should have. Now can I give the gentleman a question?

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: Are you ready? What year was the hottest on record for the Minnesota State Fair? 1931, 1952, 1978, or 2011. 1931.

LEE: I mean, I presume I have to guess the most recent years, because of climate change, so I'm going to--

CATHY WURZER: Or not. Or not.

[LAUGHTER]

Now, when you listen to Dr. Seeley, he is-- he talks at length--

MARK SEELEY: I--

CATHY WURZER: --do you not, about the 19-- one of those years.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

LEE: I missed the beginning of the program.

CATHY WURZER: OK. That's OK.

LEE: I'll guess the second one. What did you say, '78?

CATHY WURZER: I said 1931, 1952, 1978, or 2011.

LEE: I'll guess '78.

CATHY WURZER: It was actually 1931.

LEE: OK.

CATHY WURZER: It was really hot in 1931. And the average high here on the fairgrounds was 92.6 degrees. So that would have been a little icky, to say the least. But you get a weather calendar and a keychain for playing the game. So thank you.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah

CATHY WURZER: That was not a bad question Thank you very much. Yeah, see, I did my homework. We have, what, how many-- two minutes. We have time for super quick. Where is Gretchen? All right. Yes, hello.

ERIN: Hi, my name is Erin from St. Paul. And my question is actually related to the one that you just had. What is the coldest minimum temperature ever recorded at the Minnesota State Fair?

CATHY WURZER: Ooh, the coldest minimum. Go for it.

MARK SEELEY: Oh boy. Well, in recent years, it was 36 degrees, Labor Day of 1974. But in 1898, I think it got colder than that. And I'm trying to remember. I think it got to 33.

CATHY WURZER: (VOCALIZING)

MARK SEELEY: 33, yeah.

CATHY WURZER: 33?

MARK SEELEY: Yeah, 33. Is that your guess? OK. Did he get it right?

ERIN: It was actually 33 in 1890.

MARK SEELEY: Oh, 1890. Oh, OK.

CATHY WURZER: Well that was pretty good, then. Oh, that was pretty good. OK.

MARK SEELEY: Yeah.

CATHY WURZER: We have I think, what, two minutes left. Question for our fairgoer.

MARK SEELEY: Real quick.

CATHY WURZER: Something simple.

MARK SEELEY: OK, according to our Minnesota State Climatology Office, what was the largest single day snowfall total in the state last winter season?

CATHY WURZER: OK, that's--

MARK SEELEY: A, 21 inches, B, 18 inches, or C, 15 inches.

ERIN: 18.

MARK SEELEY: It was 21 inches. And here's something you can share with your neighbors, because this is very unusual. Remember, this is anywhere in the state, OK?

CATHY WURZER: OK.

MARK SEELEY: East St. Paul on December 10th.

CATHY WURZER: There you go.

MARK SEELEY: There you go.

CATHY WURZER: We've got 30 seconds left. I want to thank you, by the way. Thank you so much for all your great questions. Mark Seeley you're going to be with me again here at the State Fair tomorrow for Almanac on Twin Cities Public Television. We're going to do a live Almanac show. And then Morning Edition tomorrow. It was fun.

MARK SEELEY: Oh, yeah.

CATHY WURZER: You did a great job.

MARK SEELEY: OK.

CATHY WURZER: Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Mark Seeley.

MARK SEELEY: Thank you very much. Thank you.

CATHY WURZER: State Fair Weather Quiz here at the MPR booth, corner of Judson and Nelson. It's been great fun. This has been Minnesota Now on MPR News.

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