<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> December 2003 Saint Cloud Weather Summary
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This Month's Daily Statistics

Top of Page
(December 2003 Summary)
Jan-Jul Aug-Dec Year NWS Stats

Saint Cloud Weather Summary for December 2003 and Annual Weather Summary for 2003

Another Warm December

     For the sixth time in the past 7 years, December 2003 in Saint Cloud was abnormally mild. The average temperature of 22.4°F was 8.0°F above normal. This made December 2003 the 21st warmest December in the 123 years of Saint Cloud weather records. However, 1997 (24.0°F; 13th), 2001 (23.9°F; 14th), and 2002 (23.2°F; 15th) were all warmer, and 1999 (22.2°F, 22nd) and 1998 (21.0°F; 32nd) were more than 7°F above normal. Still, none of the recent Decembers have been able to crack the 10 warmest Decembers on record, including December 1913, the warmest December on record, with an average temperature of 28.6°F. (10 Warmest/Coldest Decembers)

    In fact, the only December since 1996 that has been colder than normal was December 2000. (historic average temperatures of the past 11 years) With an average temperature of 3.8°F, December 2000 was the third coldest December on record. (10 Warmest/Coldest Decembers).

   There were only two days with a low temperature of zero or colder, which is about normal. However, there were also no high temperatures of 0°F. While a sub-zero high is not a common occurrence, it has now been more than 3 years since the last below zero high, set on December 24, 2000. This is the longest period without a zero degree high in Saint Cloud history. (historic highs <= 0°F) On the other hand, there were two record warm lows set this December (on the 22nd and the 27th) and a record warm average temperature set on the 27th.(December daily records)

     Precipitation-wise, December 2003 was the fourth month out of the past 5 with below normal melted precipitation. Only 0.28 inch fell during the past month at Saint Cloud State University, Saint Cloud's official winter precipitation reporting site. This total was more than half an inch below normal. More on the dry period during the second half of this year can be found in the Annual Weather Summary.

    Despite the meager snow cover, Saint Cloud had near normal snowfall in December 2003. A total snowfall of 7.1 inches was recorded at Saint Cloud State University, which is only 0.4 inch below normal. The snowfall pattern of the past month, a series of small snowfalls, resembled typical January snowfall. However, the generally light snowfall totals were not a result of cold air, which would be usual for January. Instead, Saint Cloud was either on the edge of significant storms or was directly hit by systems that had little moisture in them. There was a new record daily snowfall set on the 16th, mainly because of the old record of 2.0 inches was so low. (December daily records). The most recent snow depth map from the Minnesota State Climatology Office shows little or no snow cover through the southern half of the state. Only northern Minnesota has near normal snow cover for this time of year.

    Any clues for January's weather? Some very cold air has built up in Alaska during the past two weeks in association with a strong high pressure area, now in the Yukon Territory as can be seen on this morning's NWS 6 AM surface map. There is a large area with temperatures in the minus 20's and minus 30's. This air has begun to ooze southeastward. Unlike last year, the latest Air Force US Snow Depth map from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research shows a decent snow cover over the southern Canadian Prairie Provinces, so this cold air won't begin to warm up until it gets here. It still is uncertain whether or not we will be directly hit by the coldest air, but I would expect normal to below normal temperatures to dominate the next week beginning this weekend. Still, it will be very hard to undo a whole month with temperatures 8 degrees above normal. So, the odds of having a warmer than normal winter are very high (Historic sub-zero lows are here)

Top of Page
(December 2003 Summary)
Jan-Jul Aug-Dec Year NWS Stats

    December 2003 Statistics

Temperatures (°F)
December 2003
Normal
December Average High Temperature (°F)
29.4
23.2
December Average Low Temperature (°F)
15.5
5.5
Mean Temperature for December (°F)
22.4*
14.4
*21st mildest December on record
December Extremes
Temperature(°F)
Date
Warmest High Temperature for December 2003 (°F)
43
December 27th
Coldest High Temperature for December 2003 (°F)
10
December 11th
Warmest Low Temperature for December 2003 (°F)
36 (set record;
see below)
December 27th
Coldest Low Temperature for December 2003 (°F)
-5
December 12th
Record Temperatures in December 2003
Temperature(°F)
Date
Old Record
Daily Record Warm Mean Temperature
40°F
December 27th
38°F in 1959
Daily Record Warm Low
29°F (tied record)
December 22nd
Set in 1931, 1956
Daily Record Warm Low
36°F
December 27th
34°F in 1959
Temperature Thresholds
Number of Days
Normal
December 2003 Days with High Temperatures <= 32°F
19
23.5
December 2003 Days with High Temperatures <= 0°F
0
1.0
December 2003 Days with Low Temperatures <= 32°F
30
25.7
December 2003 Days with Low Temperatures <= 0°F
2
1.5
Precipitation (in)
December 2003
Normal
December 2003 Precipitation (in)
0.28
0.83
Precipitation Thresholds
Number of Days
Normal
December 2003 Days with Measurable (>= 0.01 inch) Precipitation
6
6.6
December 2003 Days with >= 0.10 inch Precipitation
0
2.0
December 2003 Days with >= 0.25 inch Precipitation
0
0.7
December 2003 Days with >= 0.50 inch Precipitation
0
0.1
December 2003 Days with >= 1.00 inch Precipitation
0
0.0
December Extremes
Precipitation (in)
Date
Most Daily Precipitation in December 2003
0.09
December 16th
Record Precipitation in December 2003
Precipitation (in)
Date
Old Record
No Precipitation Records Set
Snowfall (in)
December 2003
Normal
December 2003 Snowfall (in)
7.1
7.5
2003-2004 Seasonal Snowfall (1 Oct 2003 - 31 Dec 2003)
20.4
16.3
December Extremes
Snowfall (in)
Date
Most Daily Snowfall in December 2003
2.1
December 16th
(Broke Record; See Below)
Record Snowfall in December 2003
Snowfall (in)
Date
Old Record
Daily Snowfall
2.1
December 16th
2.0 in 1974
 
Top of Page
(December 2003 Summary)
Jan-Jul Aug-Dec Year NWS Stats

Dry Second Half Dominates 2003 Saint Cloud Weather
2003 Annual Saint Cloud Weather Summary

    Precipitation: Despite the 10th highest 24-hour rainfall in Saint Cloud history, Saint Cloud had a dry 2003. The liquid precpitation in Saint Cloud totalled 24.69 inches, more than two and a half inches below normal. However, the rainfall shortage was primarily caused by a prolonged dry spell from mid-July through the end of this year. From July 15 on, Saint Cloud received only 7.72 inches of liquid precipitation, five and a half inches below normal. The August-December precipitation total was only 7.06 inches, tying 1895 as the 13th driest for those five months in Saint Cloud records. While dry spells have happened during parts of the summer and fall recently, the low liquid total for August-December 2003 has been beaten only twice in the past 43 years: in 1976 (2.86 inches; lowest Aug-Dec total) and in 1992 (5.90 inches; 9th lowest). The low rainfall in 1992 was a year-long trend as precipitation only totalled 18.31 inches for the year, the 5th lowest total in the 110 years of Saint Cloud records. (Top 10 Wettest/Driest Years in Saint Cloud history). During the past ten years, 1996 (21.59 inches) and 2000 (21.26 inches) were drier, but had major rainfalls to ease the dry conditions somewhat in November and December. That didn't happen this year so, when the snow melts and the ground thaws, grass and brush fires will likely be a problem during the upcoming spring.

  The intense dry spells actually sandwiched a very wet March through June. January and February completed the 3rd driest winter on Saint Cloud records. (Top 10 Wettest/Driest Winters in Saint Cloud history) The lack of persistent snowfall and snow cover led to large problems in the winter (frost depth penetration up to two feet in spots, destroying septic systems) and the spring (widespread grass fires in early April before the ground thawed sufficiently to allow ground water to the surface).

     However, an abrupt shift in weather pattern led to more than 12 inches of rain between April and June. Over ten inches fell during March through May, making it the 14th wettest spring on record. This included 4.69 inches between 11 PM April 15th and the morning of April 21st. This period alone vaulted April to the 7th rainiest April in Saint Cloud records.(Top 10 Wettest/Driest Aprils in Saint Cloud history). Included during this five-day period was 3.54 inches of rain during April 15-16, the 10th heaviest 24-hour rainfall in Saint Cloud records. Even more rain fell along a line running from Glenwood, Alexandria, and Long Prairie through Little Falls and Lake Mille Lacs. The effect of this heavy rain can still be seen in the last State Climatology Office weekly precipitation map for the growing season. Most of central Minnesota had only 30-50% of normal precipitation except for that swath with bigger deficits in the Brainerd Lakes area and to the south and west of the Twin Cities. The persistent cloud cover associated with the rain kept Saint Cloud rather cool as all but one month in the February-July period had below normal temperatures.

   The dry period began in Saint Cloud on July 15 as scattered outbreaks of thunderstorms began to miss central Minnesota. In August, the lack of rainfall allowed more sunshine, producing an average temperature of 70.6°F, more than three and a half degrees above normal. Ten of the 12 days with a high of at least 90°F were recorded in August and September, including the highest temperature of the year: 96°F on August 21st. The intensity of the dry late summer and autumn ranked as one of the driest similar periods in west central, south central, and southeastern Minnesota, as discussed by the State Climatology Office report on the dry spell. One of the few areas that got relief was northern Minnesota, which was recovering from a two-year drought that began in 2002.

    In 2004, all of Minnesota will start off with below normal or near normal snow cover and very dry conditions. The latest National Drought Monitor report from the National Center for Drought Mitigation shows that southeastern Minnesota from the Twin Cities into Iowa and Wisconsin is ranked in extreme drought. Most of the rest of the state is only ranked in the moderate drought or simply in a dry spell. Except for southeastern Minnesota, we have suffered much worse dry periods in the past, including the three-year drought of 1986-1989 and the entire decade of the 1930's. So, we do need to figure out how to survive such relatively brief dry spells in the future. However, after the snow melts, much of Minnesota will have the threat of grass and brush fires as well as blowing soil potential. There is also the threat of water level problems in northeastern Minnesota and Lake Superior if the snow cover is not sustained.

    Temperatures: On the average, 2003 was a near normal year with an average temperature of 42.7 degrees, nearly one degree above normal. Colder-than-normal weather dominated the wet period of the year from February through mid-July. February included our first low temperature of at least -20°F in nearly 2 full years on the 7th. However, the dry period coincided with warmer-than-normal weather for most of August through December. There were no days with a high of zero or colder during 2003, pushing the longest streak on record beyond three years.The last high of zero or below in Saint Cloud was on December 24, 2000.

    Snowfall: The total snowfall at Saint Cloud State University for the year 2003 was 43.3 inches, about 3 inches less than normal. During the first four months of the year, 23.5 inches fell, accounting for most of the 32.0 inches during the 2002-2003 season. The only recent cold seasons with a lower snowfall total was 1999-2000 (28.1 inches). Before that, the most recent years with such a low seasonal snowfal total was during the drought from spring 1986 through spring 1990. The winters during these years produced only 16.7 inches in 1986-1987, 32.1 inches in 1987-1988, and 32.5 inches in 1989-1990. (Seasonal snowfall from the 1979 through current.) However, snowfall for the first three months of the cold season is running about 4 inches above normal.

    Climate: There has been a fair bit of attention given to this period of abnormal winters in Minnesota. Having the 6th mild December of the past 7 which has ranked in the top 30% of warmest Decembers continues this trend. Much of the attention has been paid to the change in normal values from the entire record to the past 30 years. Comparing the normal snowfalls, there is no question that snowfall is up by about 5 inches in the past 30 years and a lot more snow is falling in November and January than earlier in the records. However, the average snowfall for March is also up. For temperatures, we have the current streak of 5 mild winters during the past 6 years and this December's warmth has put us well on the road to another mild winter. We've had two winters in this streak crack the top 3 warmest winters in Saint Cloud records and two years make the 10 warmest all-time. However, some reports have suggested that there hasn't been a major Minnesota winter storm since the Halloween Blizzard. This statement is both flawed and biased towards the Twin Cities. Recent major winter snowstorms have included:

The second and fourth storms mentioned above played major roles in the river flooding in 1997 and 2001. Also, we just missed:

So, I don't buy the "we don't get big blizzards anymore."

More 2003 statistics from the National Weather Service

Top of Page
(December 2003 Summary)
Jan-Jul Aug-Dec Year NWS Stats

2003 Statistics

Temperatures (°F)
2003
Normal
Average High Temperature (°F)
53.6
52.5
Average Low Temperature (°F)
31.6
31.1
Mean Temperature for 2003 (°F)
42.7
41.8
Liquid Equivalent Precipitation (in)
2003
Normal
2003 Total Precipitation (in)
24.69
27.27
2003 Dry Period Precipitation (July 15-December 31) (in)
7.72
13.22
Snowfall (in)
2003
Normal
2003 Total Snowfall
43.3
46.8
2003 Month-by-Month Summary January-July
Temperature (°F)
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul
Average High Temperature 21.7 22.4 37.5 55.7 67.3 76.3 80.9
Average Low Temperature 3.3 -0.5 16.5 30.0 43.2 53.1 58.3
Mean Temperature 12.5 11.0 27.2 44.3 55.2 64.7 69.6
Departure from Normal +3.8 -5.1 -1.2 +0.7 -1.4 -0.4 -0.2
2003 Warmest High Temperature 96°F on August 24th
2003 Coldest High Temperature 2°F on January 22nd**
2003 Warmest Low Temperature 69°F on July 28th
2003 Coldest Low Temperature -22°F on February 7th*

*First Low <=-20°F since February 21, 2001
**No Low Temperature <= 0°F since December 24, 2000 (longest streak on record)

Record Daily Warm High Temperatures 2     1      
Record Daily Warm Low Temperatures       1   1 (tied)  
Record Daily Warm Mean Temperatures 2   1 (tied) 1      
Record Daily Cold High Temperatures     1 (tied)        
Record Daily Cold Low Temperatures     1        
Record Daily Cold Mean Temperatures 1 (tied)   2        
Days with High Temperatures => 90°F             2
Days with High Temperatures <= 32°F 27 22 10 2      
Days with High Temperatures <= 0°F              
Days with Low Temperatures =>70°F              
Days with Low Temperatures <= 32°F 31 28 22 12 2    
Days with Low Temperatures <= 0°F 16 7          
Days with Low Temperatures <= -20°F   1          
Precipitation (in)
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul
Liquid Precipitation 0.17* 0.39 1.47 4.72$ 3.81 3.63 3.43
Departure from Normal -0.57 -0.20 -0.03 +2.60 +0.84 +0.88 +0.09
Record Daily Precipitation   1 (tied)   2      
Most in 24 hours 3.54 inches on April 15-16%
*9th Driest January on Record
3rd Driest Winter on Record (2002-2003)
$7th Wettest April on Record
%10th highest 24-hour rainfall in Saint Cloud history
14th Wettest Spring on Record (10.01 inches)
Days with Measurable (>= 0.01 inch) Precipitation 7 5 12 6 12 15 11
Days with >= 0.10 inch Precipitation 0 1 2 4 10 8 7
Days with >= 0.25 inch Precipitation 0 1 1 3 6 6 3
Days with >= 0.50 inch Precipitation 0 0 1 3 2 2 3
Days with >= 1.00 inch Precipitation 0 0 0 2 1 0 1
Snowfall (in)
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul
Snowfall 3.1 8.8 9.6 2.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Departure from Normal -7.9 +2.0 +0.4 -0.8 - - -
Record Daily Snowfall   1 1 1      
Most in 24 hours 7.0 on February 3rd
Top of Page
(December 2003 Summary)
Jan-Jul Aug-Dec Year NWS Stats
2003 Month-by-Month Summary August-December
Temperature (°F)
Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec 2003
Average High Temperature 84.1 71.5 59.9 35.9 29.4 53.6
Average Low Temperature 57.1 45.7 36.5 20.2 15.5 31.6
Mean Temperature 70.6 58,6 48.2 28.0 22.4 42.7
Departure from Normal +3.8 +1.2 +2.9 -0.8 +8.0 +0.9
2003 Warmest High Temperature 96°F on August 24th
2003 Coldest High Temperature 2°F on January 22nd**
2003 Warmest Low Temperature 71°F on August 20th
2003 Coldest Low Temperature -22°F on February 7th*
*First Low <=-20°F since February 21, 2001
**No Low Temperature <= 0°F since December 24, 2000 (longest streak on record)
Record Daily Warm High Temperatures 1 (1 tied)   1 (1 tied) 1   6 (2 tied)
Record Daily Warm Low Temperatures     2 (tied) 1 1 (1 tied) 3 (4 tied)
Record Daily Warm Mean Temperatures 2   1 1 1 8 (1 tied)
Record Daily Cold High Temperatures           0 (1 tied)
Record Daily Cold Low Temperatures           1
Record Daily Cold Mean Temperatures           2 (1 tied)
Days with High Temperatures => 90°F 7 3       12 (11.6 Avg)
Days with High Temperatures <= 32°F       11 19 91 (86.7 Avg)
Days with High Temperatures <= 0°F           0 (4.3 Avg)
Days with Low Temperatures =>70°F 2         2 (3.0 Avg)
Days with Low Temperatures <= 32°F   3 10 25 30 163 (170.4 Avg)
Days with Low Temperatures <= 0°F       1 2 26 (42.9 Avg)
Days with Low Temperatures <= -20°F           1 (5.4 Avg)
Precipitation (in)
Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec 2003
Liquid Precipitation 0.69* 3.94 1.10 1.05 0.28 24.69
Departure from Normal -3.24 +1.01 -1.14 -0.49 -0.60 -2.58
Record Daily Precipitation 1         3 broken;1 tied
Most in 24 hours 3.54 inches on April 15-16%
*4th Driest August on Record
*
16th Snowiest November on Record
%10th highest 24-hour rainfall in Saint Cloud history
Days with Measurable (>= 0.01 inch) Precipitation 6 7 8 9 6 104 (97.3 Avg)
Days with >= 0.10 inch Precipitation 1 5 3 4 0 45 (52.9 Avg)
Days with >= 0.25 inch Precipitation 1 3 1 1 0 26 (32.1 Avg)
Days with >= 0.50 inch Precipitation 1 2 0 0 0 14 (16.8 Avg)
Days with >= 1.00 inch Precipitation 0 1 0 0 0 5 (5.5 Avg)
Snowfall (in)
Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec 2003
Snowfall 0.0 0.0 0.1 13.2* 7.1 43.9
Departure from Normal - - -0.7 +4.4 -0.4 -2.9
Record Daily Snowfall     1 (tied) 1 (1 tied) 1 5 broken; 2 tied
Most in 24 hours 7.3 on November 23rd
Top of Page
(December 2003 Summary)
Jan-Jul Aug-Dec Year NWS Stats

 



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Last updated: 7-January-2004
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