January 21: Frigid Morning Low Temperatures (Update: 4 PM)

    

The above pictures are from Babbitt, Minnesota where a frigid morning low temperature of -46 degrees was recorded on January 21, 2011. The pictures were taken by observer Ryan Scharber. The pictures show ice fog, which is usually a shallow fog consisting of suspended ice crystals. Ice fog usually only occurs when temperatures fall below -22 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 Celsius) according to the AMS Glossary.  Normally, fog consists of tiny water droplets, or supercooled water droplets. However, when temperatures are as cold as they were this morning in parts of northern Minnesota, it becomes too cold for liquid water to exist, and small ice crystals can develop if the amount of water vapor in the air is sufficient.

Here is a map of a few notable low temperatures across the area. The contoured shading in the background was created by interpolating the observations using GIS software. Therefore, the contours may not necessarily match individual observations, but the overall trend in temperatures is pretty close. Areas near Lake Superior managed to stay much warmer than outlying areas, and you can even detect a hint of urban heat influences around the Twin Cities.

Fast Facts

  • The lowest temperatures recorded in the NWS Duluth county warning area were -46 degrees at both International Falls, MN (ASOS) and Babbitt, MN (CO-OP).
  • The -46 degree low was tied for the 5th lowest on record at International Falls. Temperature records date back to 1897. The record is -55 degrees which was recorded on January 6, 1909.
  • The -46 degree low was tied for the lowest on record at the International Falls Airport. The official observing station was moved to the airport in 1939. This is tied with the -46 degree reading from January 6, 1968.
  • The -25 degree low at Duluth is tied for the 5th lowest minimum temperature in the last decade (since 2000). The lowest minimum temperature of the 2000s thus far has been -30 on January 29, 2004.
  • The state record low temperature in Minnesota was recorded at Tower, Minnesota on February 2, 1996. The low was -60 degrees. That was also the coldest temperature ever recorded east of the Mississippi River.
  • The state record low temperature in Wisconsin was recorded at Couderay on February 2nd and February 4th of 1996. The temperatures dipped down to -55 degrees both nights.

List Of Coldest Morning Lows

THE FOLLOWING ARE OBSERVED LOW TEMPERATURES THROUGH 900 AM FRIDAY
JANUARY 21 2011. TEMPERATURES ARE IN DEGREES FAHRENHEIT.


TEMP LOCATION ST COUNTY SOURCE
---- ----------------------- -- -------------- -------
-46 INTERNATIONAL FALLS MN KOOCHICHING ASOS
-46 BABBITT MN ST LOUIS COOP
-43 EMBARRASS MN ST LOUIS COOP
-43 BIGFORK MN ITASCA RAWS
-43 ASH LAKE MN ST LOUIS MNDOT
-43 EFFIE MN ITASCA RAWS
-40 LITTLEFORK MN KOOCHICHING COOP
-40 BIRCHDALE MN KOOCHICHING MNDOT

TEMP LOCATION ST COUNTY SOURCE
---- ----------------------- -- -------------- -------
-39 ORR MN ST LOUIS RAWS
-39 MINONG WI WASHBURN RAWS
-38 CASS LAKE MN CASS RAWS
-38 SQUAW LAKE MN ITASCA MNDOT
-38 CUTFOOT MN ITASCA RAWS
-38 BOVEY MN ITASCA PRIVATE
-38 KABETOGAMA MN ST LOUIS COOP
-38 CRANE LAKE MN ST LOUIS AWOS
-37 MARGIE MN KOOCHICHING MNDOT
-37 HILL CITY MN ITASCA RAWS
-37 ELY MN ST LOUIS RAWS
-37 RICE LAKE MN AITKIN RAWS
-36 LONG LAKE MN ITASCA PRIVATE
-36 JACOBSON MN AITKIN MNDOT
-36 BARNES WI BAYFIELD RAWS
-36 COTTON MN ST LOUIS MNDOT
-36 MAKINEN MN ST LOUIS PRIVATE
-36 LONGVILLE MN CASS AWOS
-36 PINE RIVER MN CASS AWOS
-36 SEAGULL LAKE MN COOK RAWS
-36 WRIGHT MN ST LOUIS COOP
-35 LAKE VERMILION MN ST LOUIS PRIVATE
-35 KABETOGAMA MN ST LOUIS RAWS

TEMP LOCATION ST COUNTY SOURCE
---- ----------------------- -- -------------- -------
-34 MCGRATH MN AITKIN MNDOT
-34 ASH RIVER MN ST LOUIS PRIVATE
-34 GUNFLINT LAKE MN COOK COOP
-34 HAYWARD WI SAWYER RAWS
-34 LIND WI BURNETT RAWS
-34 MOOSE LAKE MN CARLTON RAWS
-33 GRAND RAPIDS MN ITASCA AWOS
-33 SAGINAW MN ST LOUIS MNDOT
-33 COHASSET MN ITASCA PRIVATE
-33 MCGREGOR MN AITKIN AWOS
-33 AITKIN MN AITKIN AWOS
-33 HIBBING MN ST LOUIS RAWS
-33 JENKINS MN CROW WING PRIVATE
-33 EMILY MN CROW WING MNDOT
-33 BRAINERD MN CROW WING ASOS
-33 MOOSE LAKE MN CARLTON AWOS
-33 SOUTH RANGE WI DOUGLAS PRIVATE
-32 GRANTSBURG WI BURNETT PRIVATE
-31 SILVER BAY MN LAKE AWOS
-31 TWO HARBORS MN LAKE AWOS
-31 LEADER MN CASS PRIVATE
-31 DEER RIVER MN ITASCA PRIVATE
-31 SIREN WI BURNETT AWOS
-31 GRANTSBURG WI BURNETT WIDOT
-31 HINCKLEY MN PINE PRIVATE
-30 BREEZY POINT MN CROW WING PRIVATE
-30 TUCKER LAKE MN COOK PRIVATE
-30 GLIDDEN WI ASHLAND RAWS
-30 GORDON WI DOUGLAS RAWS

TEMP LOCATION ST COUNTY SOURCE
---- ----------------------- -- -------------- -------
-29 I-35 MILE 198 MN PINE MNDOT
-29 SEELEY WI SAWYER PRIVATE
-29 4W CLAM LAKE WI BAYFIELD PRIVATE
-29 CANOSIA TOWNSHIP MN ST LOUIS PRIVATE
-29 GILBERT MN ST LOUIS PRIVATE
-29 ISABELLA MN LAKE RAWS
-28 10 NE DULUTH MN ST LOUIS SCHOOL
-28 AURORA MN ST LOUIS PRIVATE
-28 NISSWA MN CROW WING PRIVATE
-28 MERRIFIELD MN CROW WING PRIVATE
-27 SPOONER WI WASHBURN SCHOOL
-27 HERMANTOWN MIDDLE SCHOOL MN ST LOUIS SCHOOL
-27 HAUGEN WI WASHBURN WIDOT
-26 DRUMMOND WI BAYFIELD SCHOOL
-26 SUPERIOR WI DOUGLAS AWOS
-26 PHILLIPS WI PRICE AWOS
-25 FERNBERG MN LAKE RAWS
-25 WASHBURN WI BAYFIELD RAWS
-25 PINE CITY MN PINE SCHOOL
-25 DULUTH MN ST LOUIS ASOS
-24 DULUTH THOMPSON HILL MN ST LOUIS MNDOT
-24 I-35 MILE 181 MN PINE MNDOT
-22 HIGH BRIDGE WI ASHLAND PRIVATE
-22 MAPLE WI DOUGLAS PRIVATE
-22 BLATNIK BRIDGE MN ST LOUIS MNDOT
-21 LESTER PARK / DULUTH MN ST LOUIS PRIVATE
-21 SILVER CREEK MN LAKE PRIVATE
-20 CHESTER PARK / DULUTH MN ST LOUIS PRIVATE

Weather Maps

Below are a series of weather maps related to this Arctic outbreak. The image on the left is a surface weather map from 6 AM January 21st that has been analyzed by the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center for fronts and high and low pressures. The Arctic high pressure is clearly centered over parts of the Upper Midwest. The image in the middle shows observations in the middle layers of the atmosphere (500mb) at the same time. The expansive trough over the central and eastern United States reflects a large scale pattern that is conducive to Arctic outbreaks. The image on the right shows observations at the same time from the upper levels of the atmosphere (300mb). The shaded contours are for higher wind speeds and help indicate the jet stream location.

    

Next is the 1km resolution MODIS infrared (IR) satellite image from 2:41 AM CST January 21st. The color scale used is shown in the upper left hand side of the image. Gray colors are generally where the IR temperatures are -30 Celsius or lower. White colors generally indicate -40C or lower, and light blue -45C or lower. Be careful to note that the infrared temperatures that are sampled by satellites are not necessarily equal to the surface air temperatures. These satellite images are intended to show the patterns and trends in the overall temperature distribution. An infrared satellite will sample the temperature of the radiating surface, whether it happens to be clouds or the Earth.

The two images below are the same, but with different color curves. Lake Mille Lacs stands out as a warm spot, while several river valleys feature multiple localized cold spots. The image illustrates the very localized nature of the very coldest spots, and highlights the difficulty of sampling this with the standard observing network.

  



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