'Never say never' the old adage goes and that so aptly applies to weather and climate extremes these days, especially after living through the record-setting weather roller coaster year we had in 2012.
University of Minnesota climatologist Mark Seeley was the banquet guest speaker at the 110th annual meeting of the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association Tuesday night in Fergus Falls and he recapped the highs and lows of weather last year.
Seeley said in his 35 years in Minnesota, and in his lifetime career as a climatologist, he has never witnessed the weather extremes as those experienced in 2012.
To warm us up to the topic on that frigid night, he shared some Minnesota climate and weather history specific for January 15:
-In 1914, it was 57 degrees on Jan. 15 in Winnebago
-In 1972, temps registered -53 degrees in Moose Lake
-In 1950, 2.43" of rain fell in Littlefork
-In 1982, 20" of snow blanketed Winsted
"These are examples of what the wide ranges we are accustomed to," Seeley said. In short, for folks in his profession and who like a challenge and unpredictable change, Minnesota is a weatherman's paradise.
The year 2012—in Minnesota and across the U.S.—did not disappoint those who take some odd pleasure in climate extremes. It was the warmest year in the continental U.S. Specific to Minnesota, it was a record 83 degrees on St. Patrick's Day in March.
Overall, for Minnesota, 2012 was the third warmest year on record. And moisture levels, overall, were "near normal." Of course, this depends on where you live in the state. Regions, such as southwest Minnesota, ended the year with drought. Some regions had drought AND flooding, such as northeastern Minnesota. Seeley noted that this was the second time in history that Minnesota had simultaneous federal disaster declared counties for drought and flood.
The challenge for 2013 remains to be seen. Most of the state is dealing with the lowest soil moisture values ever, with less than an inch of moisture available in the top five feet of soil. The St. Louis River experienced an all-time high and low river volumetric flow in 2012.
So what does 2013 look like?
Time will tell. Seeley said that predictions indicate that more than 80% of Minnesota will remain in drought into early spring. Soil moisture change is dependent on spring rains. Even so, some areas will remain in drought through planting and into the early growing season.
"2013 will likely be a test of drought-tolerant genetics," Seeley added.
Here's hoping and praying that those spring days of my childhood will appear: Slow-melting snows giving way to mud everywhere. Warming winds to dry up topsoil. And timely showers after seeds are in the ground.