No more bone-cold winters in Minnesota? Normal temps are rising

Alex Chhith, Star Tribune
·2 min read

Minnesota is a climate change hot spot compared to the rest of the nation.

The state's new "normal" temperature is 41.6 degrees, based on temperatures recorded between 1991 and 2020, according to new numbers issued Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That's 2.3 degrees higher than the first normal determined between 1901 and 1930, which was 39.3 degrees.

The nation's normal temperature increased 1.7 degrees since then.

"We're one of the faster warming parts of the county and continent," said Kenny Blumenfeld, senior climatologist at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Climate change in the state is a direct result of high levels of green house gases emitted into the atmosphere, he said.

The changes in temperature are subtle, but Minnesotans aren't seeing the same bone-cold winter temperatures recorded decades ago.

"The difference is what we used to think of as really cold, that doesn't happen anymore. What we now think about as really cold used to be normal," he said. "The frequency of cold weather is lower."

The average normal low temperature for February is 12.7 degrees. Between 1951-1980 it was recorded at 8.2 degrees. In that same time range for January, the average normal low temperature is 8.8 degrees, up from around zero, according to Blumenfeld.

Mild winters make changes in Minnesota's temperatures more drastic than those in the rest of the country, where it doesn't get as cold. Minnesota's also warming faster because of the state's position in the middle of the continent, far from oceans, which has a modifying effect on rising temperatures.

In particular, climatologists are seeing temperatures increase 40-50% faster in northern Minnesota than in the southern part of the state, according to Blumenfeld.

While much of the warming in southern Minnesota is during the winters, northern Minnesota is warming year round.

The new data does not surprise Blumenfeld or those who study and examine the state's weather and climate. Minnesota's climate has been changing for decades.

"We definitely expected values in Minnesota to increase for temperature and precipitation," Blumenfeld said. "If you're a climatologist, that doesn't really surprise you. What this does is it formalizes the changes we've been seeing and talking about."

He believes Minnesota's climate will continue trending warmer and wetter into the future.

"I would bet the next period which is 2001-2030 will be warmer annually in every (Minnesota weather) station than this period. I would further bet that 2011-2040 would be warmer than the next one (2001-2030)," Blumenfeld said. "It's the way things are going unless something really drastic happens."

Alex Chhith • 612-673-4759