Record: 4 years of above zero highs at MSP; But models cranking out -20F next week

1,461 consecutive days (4 years) with high temperatures of 0°F or greater at MSP

January 15th, 2009 last time MSP high temp was below zero (-6F)

22.5 days below zero at MSP in an “average” winter

2008-2009 last time MSP exceed that number with 34 sub-zero days

Siberian Express? Models more confident on significant arctic outbreak next week

-20F European model cranking out -20F at MSP next Tuesday morning

-25F latest GFS runs cranking out -25F next Tuesday morning

Coldest air in 4 years next week? Last time MSP hit -20F was January 16th, 2009 (-22F)

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A glassy frozen Lake Harriet Monday

Image: Tate Weston

1461 days and counting: Record string of above zero highs at MSP

We can all feel and sense our winters are getting milder in Minnesota. Today the Twin Cities NWS confirmed that with a number.

4 years.

Or, 1461 days…take your pick.

That’s how long it’s been since we’ve felt a sub-zero high temperature at MSP Airport. Where we’re you on January 15th, 2009 when the mercury failed to climb above -6F?

The details from the Twin Cities NWS.

Streak With Highs of 0°F or Above to Reach 4 Years at MSP

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 will mark the 1,461st consecutive day (4 years) with high temperatures of 0°F or greater at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. The last time the high failed to reach at least zero was on January 15, 2009 when the high was only -6°F.

Below is a rundown of the top 10 streaks with high temperatures remaining at or above 0°F at MSP.

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Not only have highs remained at or above zero since 2009, but lows have also struggled to fall below zero in recent years. The 30-year annual average (1981-2010) for number of days with lows below zero is 22.5.

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The trend fits and supports the overall pattern of warming in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. The biggest “warming signal” remains in winter… at night. Translation? It’s a lot tougher to fall below zero as our climate changes in Minnesota. It just happens less frequently.

Why should we care? I mean…sub-zero temps are a bad thing right?

Well yes…and no.

Of course it helps with heating bills and overall winter comfort. The flip side is that a week or two during winter of sub zero temps…and temps consistently reaching -20F in winter is remarkably effective at killing insects and pests like deer ticks and pine beetles that can decimate our wildlife and forests. In the absence of extreme cold, our trees are more vulnerable to invasive pests that can survive our winters, and significantly alter our pine forests, deer and Moose populations.

It is what it is.

Siberian Express ahead: “Train 1048” to bring sub-zero stretch next week?

The 4 year string of above zero daytime highs may finally come to an end in the metro next week.

Both of the main “medium range” models we look at a week or two out…the GFS & ECMWF (European) models are growing more confident about a significant sub-zero streak starting Sunday night.

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Image: NOAA via Iowa State University

The Arctic Outbreak begins Sunday, peaks Tuesday morning and begins to ease Thursday of next week in the current model scenario.

By Monday morning, the GFS model brings a “1048 millibar” high pressure center south into the Dakotas. In this scenario, the core of the coldest air mass…the bitter sub-zero air… will drive down over Minnesota and eastward into the Great Lakes.

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Image: NOAA GFS model for Monday morning

These winter arctic air masses bring high central pressures. 1048 is a very respectable central pressure for an arctic high in winter. We’ll be feeling the effects of “Train 1048” in Minnesota next week.

Bitterly cold northwest winds will also generate some prolific Lake Effect snows on the lee side of the Great Lakes next week.

The GFS forecasts temps falling below zero on arcitc northwest winds by Sunday…and peaking at -25F Tuesday morning and staying below zero until Thursday. That’s about 4-5 days below zero folks.

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Image: NOAA via

The European model is a little more conservative…but still plenty cold. The Euro forecast the peak of the cold Tuesday morning at -20F (-29C) with daytime highs below zero Tuesday & Wednesday of next week.

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Image: Norwegian Met Institute

Norhtern Minnesota? I could easily see a few nights of -30F and colder up north next week.

The latest trends of -20F on the European Model give me increasing confidence that next week’s cold wave could be the real deal.

One of the more interesting talks I caught at last week’s AMS conference was from Cliff Mass, a Professor at the University of Washington. I talked with Cliff after his presentation, and he is a big proponent of upgrading NOAA’s GFS models and computing power. The ECMWF (European) Model has literally 100-times the supercomputing power of NOAA’s GFS model, and is consistently more accurate.

When the Euro grabs onto a long range trend…it’s usually right.

Either way you slice it, the bitterly cold arctic air I’ve been watching for two weeks now appears to be coming south next week.

Coldest week of winter? Probably.

This one will get your attention folks. This looks to be one of the few serious, life threatening arctic outbreaks we’ve seen in recent years in the metro.

Prepare accordingly!


  • Mike Henderson

    Are you sure about that stretch since 2009? On January 21, 2011, it was -26 degrees F in Waconia about 4:00 am as I drove to the hospital for my son’s birth. I recall that it never rose anywhere near zero that day.

  • Paul Huttner

    Hi Mike:

    Twin Cities NWS climate data shows a low of -1F at MSP and a high of +22F on Jan 21, 2011.

    It’s possible some low lying spots around Waconia were in the -20s that AM…but likely the temps did rise above zero that day.

    Keep in mind “official” temps are taken at 5foot above ground…and your car thermometer may have been reading low…in a low spot where cold air collects.