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Cloudy, Wet May Allows Ground Water Recovery

May and Spring 2013 Saint Cloud Weather Summaries

After a long winter with prolonged snow cover, the spring warm-up would have been too slow for nearly anyone. However, May weather in Minnesota frustrated all residents with spring fever, but was a huge boon to those worried about ground water shortages during the growing season.

Cloudy, Cool May

There were a remarkable number of cloudy days in May (11 in St. Cloud), even compared to last May (only 3 despite second wettest May on record). While minutes of sunshine aren't kept in St. Cloud, the agricultural station at the University of Minnesota-St. Paul campus recorded the third lowest total of May solar radiation in the May 1-29 period since 1963. If anything, St. Cloudy would have probably been cloudier, based on the overall weather pattern that kept warm fronts to the south of Minnesota, so that rain, showers, and leftover clouds from thunderstorms further to the south produced the mainly cloudy days.

The effect of the cloudiness was seen on the average St. Cloud Regional Airport May temperature that was 54.4°F, 2.1°F colder than average. The persistent clouds kept heat in at night, so the average low temperature was within a degree of average (43.7°F, 0.5°F below average). However, the persistent clouds cut into the daytime sunshine, so the average high temperature was 65.1°F, 3.7°F colder than average.

Spring Ties for 5th Coolest

That coolness is May, combined with the prolonged snow cover and record April snowfall earlier in the spring, produced the fifth coldest spring in St. Cloud records. The average spring (March 1-May 31) temperature tied 1943 at 37.5°F, 6.0°F colder than average. It was 0.1°F milder than the most recent cool spring in 2002. Again, the cool high temperatures pulled the average way down. The average high for the spring was 47.2°F, 7.5°F colder than average and the second coldest spring high in St. Cloud records. The coldest average spring temperature was set in 1950 (44.3°F). The average low temperatures were still chilly (27.7°F, 4.5°F colder than average), but that only ranked as the 10th coldest.

Both March (23rd coolest; 7.1°F below average) and April (2nd coldest; 8.3°F below average) were further from normal than May.

There were a total of 60 days during the spring with a low of freezing or colder, which tied 1955-1956 for the third most. The highest total was 65 days in 1906-1907 and the most recent higher total was 64 days in 1995-1996. For the entire cold season (July 2012-June 2013), there were 191 days with a low of freezing or colder, tying 1989-1990 for 10th place.

May marked the fourth straight month in which the average temperature was cooler than normal. The last time St. Cloud had four straight months of cooler than average temperatures was May-August of 2009. This is mainly because it has been so persistent warm recently. Before February, St. Cloud had only one month with cooler than average temperatures in the previous 20 months dating back to June 2011.

First 50's, 60's, 70's Near Record for Lateness, After Setting Early Records in 2012

What made this particular spring more frustrating was the recent memory of the easiest cold season and spring in St. Cloud records. The spring of 2011-2012 had the warmest average temperature on record and the fewest days with lows colder than freezing (151). You can see this in the difference in the first occurrence of fairly warm spring temperatures in the table below. The first 50-, 60-, and 70-degree highs of the season were among the 6 earliest times last year, but the first 50- and 60-degree highs set records for the latest occurrence and the first 70-degree high was still in the latest quarter of years in St. Cloud records:

St. Cloud Spring Threshold 2012 Date 2012 Rank 2013 Date 2013 Rank Average (1896-2013)
First 50-degree high January 5 Earliest April 26 Latest March 16
First 60-degree high March 11 6th earliest April 26 Tied with 1947 and 1965 for latest April 4
First 70-degree high March 14 3rd earliest April 27 24th latest April 17
First 80-degree high May 2 50th earliest May 14 36th latest May 4
Last 32-degree low April 23 Earliest 10% May 13 Latest 50% May 18
Last 28-degree low April 20 Earliest 20% May 12 Latest 20% April 30

But 100-Degree Heat on May 14

On the other hand, this May did come with three days of summerlike heat, including a record high of 95 degrees on May 14. Statewide, temperatures broke 100-degrees at several reporting stations, including 103 at both Sherburne in Martin County and Winnebago in Faribault County. Albert Lea, Amboy, and St. James hit 102 each and Fairmont, New Ulm, and Owatonna each made it to 100. One of these temperatures will be certified as a new May 14 Minnesota state record. The old record was 99 degrees at Milan (1932 and 2001) and Redwood Falls (1932). Note, however, that Grand Marais didn't warm up much, with a high of 58 degrees, reached at midnight.

On the average, St. Cloud has a May high of at least 90 degrees about every other year. Since 1998, there have been 17 May 90-degree highs over the 15 year span, including a 94 degree high on May 18, 2012. It was not the earliest 95 degree temperature in St. Cloud records. While it has never been warmer than 95 degrees through the first 14 days of May (temperature did hit 95 on May 12, 1900), the record for the earliest 95 degree high is April 21, 1980, when the high was 96 degrees.

The other unusual part of the May 14 warmth was the extreme range. Temperatures jumped 53 degrees from a low of 42 degrees to that high of 95. This is only the 29th time the high and low have been at least 50 degrees apart. The last time was on May 5, 2004 (high: 87; low 29). To get such warm highs this early in the season in Minnesota, we usually need a very strong west to southwest wind, bringing in air that has been heated by its trip down the east slopes of the Rockies.We did have plenty of wind (average of 13 MPH with the top St. Cloud wind gust being 43 MPH, recorded at 5:52 PM).

The cold temperatures and the late snow cover combined to produce one of the latest ice outs on record for many Minnesota lakes. To add insult to injury, two of the most popular fishing weekends: the opener and Memorial Day weekend were especially cloudy and chilly.

Wet May Caps Wet and White Spring, But Not As Wet as 2012

To add to the misery, all of those clouds produced plenty of rainfall. There was measurable rain on 15 of the 31 May days in St. Cloud, including 6 straight days between May 17 and May 22. That didn't come close to the longest streaks of measurable rain days. The record for consecutive rainy days is 12 days, set in late May and early June 1991. There have been 37 streaks of at least 7 days, with the most recent one in March 27 through April 3 of 2007. The total rainfall during this May's period was 3.78 inches, more than the rainfall total for the two longest streaks on record.

That streak account for more than three-quarters of the monthly rainfall. The May total was 4.98 inches, 2.03 inches above normal. That total was still nearly 4 inches short of last May's rain total (8.76 inches, 2nd wettest). The rain added to a moist spring, fueled by both rain and snow. The total precipitation for the spring (March 1-May 31) was 10.51 inches, 3.44 inches above average, and the 13th highest spring precipitation in St. Cloud records.

We did manage to stay snow-free in St. Cloud in May, but not by much. There was no measurable snowfall at the St. Cloud Airport, although I saw a few May 1 flakes. Despite that, a record snowy April and the 9th snowiest March helped to produce the second whitest spring in St. Cloud records. The total of 41.0 inches in March through May ranked only behind the spring of 1965 (57.8 inches, 51.7 of which fell in March 1965) and made up the majority of the 78.5 inches (4th snowiest cold season) that fell in the cold season of 2012-2013

It was a close call for a snowless March as southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin got clobbered by a rare early May snowstorm. This storm dumped over a foot of snow in several areas of southeastern Minnesota and produced 15.6 inches of snow at Dodge Center, breaking the state record for May 24-hour snowfall.

However, the combination of the spring rains and the snow melt, which did actually seep into the ground, has dramatically eased the dry conditions that have plagued Minnesota since last May. The 12-week loop of the US Drought Monitor shows that nearly all of the state has had the dryness eased out of the severe and even moderate drought designations. In fact, southeastern Minnesota is experiencing one of the wettest springs on record. The drought relief has also spread across the Colorado Rockies and more of the eastern half of Nebraska through Texas. The lingering effects of last summer and fall's extreme drought are now confined to the High Plains from western Nebraska to Texas and the Southern Rockies.

On the other hand, the continued cloudy and wet May has delayed planting and early season grain progress, according to the May 28 Minnesota Weekly Crop Report. The effect of the rain has helped the soil moisture with 96% of surface moisture and 81% of sub-surface moisture rated as adequate or surplus. In contrast, the final Crop Report in 2012 showed 67% of topsoil and 88% of sub-surface soil as being short or very short of moisture.

Unfortunately, all of the May precipitation has come with several outbreaks of severe weather. The worst damage was produced by the May 20 tornado that moved through the southern suburbs of Oklahoma City. However, severe weather has been quite limited so far in Minnesota, thanks to the cooler than average weather. One of the few instances of severe weather has been large hail in southeastern Minnesota and the Twin Cities in the past week.

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





May 2013 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-2013
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