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Heat Goes On, But "Drought" Over

May and Spring 2012 Saint Cloud Weather Summaries

May continued the trend of warm months that began last fall in St. Cloud. However, the six weeks from mid-April through the end of May reversed the dry trend seen in the second half of the growing season.

The total St. Cloud Regional Airport rainfall for May 2012 was 8.76 inches, nearly six inches above the May average of 2.95 inches. This made May 2012 the second wettest May since precipitation records began in 1893. In all of St. Cloud records, there have only been 12 months with more rain. Of those 12, only 3 other months (June 1990: 10.52 inches; June 1983: 9.52 inches; Sept. 1985: 9.48 inches) have had more rain than last month.

The rainfall was both frequent and heavy. There were 13 days with measurable precipitation in May, actually two less than the 15 days recorded last May. However, there were three days (May 1, 6, 27) with at least an inch of rain, tying four previous Mays (1912, 1938, 1965, and 2004) for the most 1-inch rain days. There were 8 days with at least half an inch of rain in May, the most ever recorded in May. The previous May record was 6 days, set in 1908 and tied in 1937 and 2004. In fact, May 2012 was only the fourth month recorded since 1893 to have at least 8 days with half an inch of rain. The record for any month is 9 days, set in September 1999 and tied June 2000. The only other month with 8 days with half an inch was July 1955.

And, after all of that, St. Cloud didn't even get the most rain. On April 1, the St. Cloud Airport picked up that 1.73 inches, but St. Cloud State University ended up with 3.11 inches of rain. On May 6, the St. Cloud area got about an inch and a half of rain, but rainfall totals were 3-4 inches in much of southern Minnesota. Even after all of that rain, the St. Cloud area picked up more than the average rainfall from May 23-28, including Memorial Day weekend. Despite not getting the heaviest rainfall, the St. Cloud area picked up 3.84 inches of rain.

All of that rain came with strong thunderstorms, several of which produced large hail and straight line damaging winds in the area. The May 1 storms produced a tornado near Brooten, several reports of golf-ball sized hail across northern Stearns County, which covered the ground and broke windshields in Albany, and wind gusts to 64 MPH east of Sauk Rapids. The May 18 storms produced damaging hail in Spicer, Sauk Centre and Wadena and some wind damage. Besides the heavy rain over Memorial Day weekend, the St. Cloud Airport had a hurricane force wind gust of 74 MPH on May 27.

The reason for the rainfall turn around: 1) having a lot of warm, steamy air nearly continuously available just to our south and 2) having frequent storm systems moving from the Pacific Northwest into Ontario, pulling slow moving cold fronts across the area. Note that this pattern dumped not only heavy precipitation in a swath from northeastern Nebraska to the Arrowhead, but also featured more than 5 inches of rain in parts of the Pacific Northwest, northeast Montana, Texas, and much of the eastern third of the country. In Iowa and Minnesota, it eliminated the short-term water deficit produced last summer into the fall. The only part of Minnesota still having dry conditions is the northwest, which actually had below normal rainfall in May.

The very wet conditions also came with yet another warm month. The overall May average temperature was 60.3°F, 3.8°F warmer than normal. This ranks as the 17th warmest May since temperature records began in 1881. In recent years, the Mays of 1988 (63.6°F), 1998 (62.1°F), 2007 (61.1°F) were warmer. May 2012 was the 8th consecutive month with a temperature of at least three degrees warmer than average.

This means that St. Cloud did have its warmest spring (March 1-May 31) on record with an average temperature of 50.6°F. This beat the St. Cloud's previous warmest spring (1977) by 0.6°F. It also comes on the heels of the winter season, which tied 2001-2002 as the warmest winter. In fact, the 12-month average temperature from last June through the end of May is 48.0°F, 5.7°F warmer than the June-May average and the warmest in all of St. Cloud records by 1.7°F over 2005-2006. That 48.0°F temperature is also warmer than any calendar year average in St. Cloud, but it can't be directly compared.

The frequent rainfall of May kept high temperatures from getting quite extreme. There were only 7 days with a high of at least 80°F, but 12 days with a high cooler than 70°F. However, the cloudy and often humid nights produced 12 lows of 50°F or warmer. St. Cloud did completely break out in the warm sector of the May 18-20 storm, producing three daily record highs on May 18, including the record-tying 94 degree high.. That temperature would have been warm enough to be the hottest reading of the summer in 2007-2009.

Meanwhile, there were no lows colder than freezing in May 2012, so St. Cloud has set two more records for a mild cold season. There have only been 151 days with a low of freezing or colder, beating the old record of 152 days set in 1899-1900, 1924-1925, and 2009-2010. Still, our last days of sub-freezing temperatures came after the warmth of March, so fruit trees have sustained some damage across the state. There also were only 49 days with a high of freezing or colder, beating the old record of 53 in 1918-1919.

However, it looks like the last frost of the season took place about four weeks early than usual. There has never been a frost in St. Cloud later than June 1, so it should now be safe for all plants.

St. Cloud Threshold 2012 Date Average (1896-2012) Rank
First 50-degree high January 5 March 16 Earliest
First 60-degree high March 11 April 4 6th earliest
First 70-degree high March 14 April 17 3rd earliest
First 80-degree high May 2 May 4 50th earliest
Last 32-degree low April 23 May 18  
Last 28-degree low April 20 April 30  





May 2012 Statistics






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All climate data provided courtesy of NOAA/NWS
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and Minnesota Climatology Working Group, including the Minnesota State Climatologist's Office, University of Minnesota-Saint Paul Campus.

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Last updated: 1-June-2012
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