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Minnesota Weather for 1844

Minnesota (Fort Snelling) weather for the year 1844

High Waters in Spring, Late and Early Killing Frosts (graphic)

Except for a three-month February to April “respite”, the colder than normal temperature pattern remained firmly entrenched for virtually all of 1844 at Fort Snelling. While the spectacularly anomalous cold terms of the last three years did not materialize, this year’s growing season was probably one of the shortest in Post vicinity history, killing frost episodes experienced in both late-May and mid-September. Annual mean temperature (42 F) was increased 4 F from a year ago, but still tied for second lowest figure in 25 years’ history. Spring was wet, there was a third straight year of unseasonably cool temperatures in May and June, and the three-month period August-October was as cool as any such period in the entire climatic history down to the present. Heavy spring precipitation, both locally and up the river basins brought sustained high river levels during April and early May. Total yearly precipitation, about 30 inches, was the highest yet recorded.

Six Weeks of Cold but a Speedy Spring Breakup – The new year opened under the influence of the slow-moving freezing-rain system that had closed the old. With temperatures hovering night and day around 32 F, 1.00 inches of melted precipitation accumulated through mid-afternoon of the 2nd. Conditions next descended into a steady, if not intense, arctic-dominated pattern for the next six weeks, just one thawing day experienced through the 10th of February, winds, however, mostly light. Coldest morning in January (mean temperature: 9 F) was “only” -18 F, but few afternoons got out of the teens, most of the others confined to single figures or lower. After 11 February, a damp and mild pattern suddenly set in, thawing afternoons to be felt on nearly every remaining day of the month. Several reached the 40’s, a few remaining above 32 F for the entire 24 hours. February finished with a 22 F monthly mean. In great contrast to the amazingly cold March of a year ago, this year’s March (mean temperature: 33 F) returned to the familiar mild/dry mode that had been the trademark pattern here for the last twenty years. Just one night dropped lower than the teens, every one but two of the afternoons reaching at least 32 F. On both the 7th and 10th, the mercury hit 54 F, the Mississippi opposite the Post “nearly clear” of ice on the 18th. Just two precipitation falls occurred over the first 26 days, 0.22 inch of rain and snow mixed on the 7th-8th and ½ inch of snow on the 15th. This being the season’s last snow, the 1843-44 season’s total finished at a light 20-25 inches. Around mid-month, prairie fires began to erupt. Surgeon George Turner noted on the 18th their “burning in every direction”, their evening light “extending nearly to the zenith”, and the “huge piles of clouds forming over the prairies”. First signs of an incipient rainy April, 0.70 inches’ rain fell on the 27th.

Wet Spring with Increased Anomalous Coolness – The Spring of ’44 was much like 1842 and 1843, seasonable to warm weather prevalent in April followed by anomalous coolness over late May and early June. April was very mild, cloudy, and wet, monthly mean temperature (51 F) the highest in 5 years, rainfall (5.16 inches) the greatest amount here locally for an April until 1975. Just two freezing mornings were recorded. Heavy thunderstorms over the first week dropped nearly 3 inches, Lake Pepin passable for boats on the 6th, the “waters of the St. Peter’s and Mississippi … remarkably high” opposite the Post on the 9th. Lake Pepin’s opening and the associated arrival of the first steamboat at St. Paul would always be a significant event, signaling the start of “an active business season” with the outside [St. Paul Pioneer, 1864]. Another 2 1/4 inches fell over the balance of the month, register remarks for the 30th reporting: “waters of the St. Peters & Mississippi have not subsided in the least since the 9th. A warm spell set in over the 9th to 12th, 80 F and 78 F noted for the 10th and 11th, respectively, accompanied by high southerly winds. Most of the month’s other afternoons, however, were only in the 50’s and 60’s. May (mean temperature: 56 F) was only slightly warmer than April. Most days were overcast or considerably cloudy, the average clearness of the sky statistic just 4.0. Gale-force winds were felt over the first two days, those on the 2nd “uproofing [the] public stables”. A modest 0.27 inches’ rain fell during the first week, but greater falls evidently occurring in the upstream reaches of the Mississippi and St. Peter’ kept river stages opposite the Post “…as high as on the 10th of April” on the 8th. Only two afternoon 70’s were registered over the first three weeks, the morning of the 21st bringing a near-record late killing frost, “destroying tender vegetation” (mercury 32 F at sunrise). Some 3.43 inches’ rain drenched the Post over the remaining 10 days. June (mean temperature: 62 F) second coldest thus far in 25 years, had a modest 1.64 inches’ rain. For the third successive year, remarkably cool weather made up the early part, with just two afternoons out of the 60’s over the first twelve days. The 8th’s range was just 48 F to 53 F with a cold light rain falling, the mercury dropping overnight to 41 F. Like ’43, temperatures warmed significantly after mid-month, but this year there were no afternoon readings warmer than 83 F. Roughly half the month’s rain also came over the last week. Further down the Mississippi in the St. Louis vicinity, record flooding took place during June, the high water mark not to be exceeded for many years after.

Exceptionally Cool August & September – The rest of the summer was cool and wet, with especially unseasonable coolness felt after mid-August. July (mean temperature: 70 F), mostly pleasant to cool, had a handful of warm, humid days occurring over the first half, including 90 F on the 11th. That was the only reading so high all summer. Most nights were comfortable, just a few dipping under 60 F, the coolest 55 F. Late June’s closing rainy pattern intensified over the first week, 2.65 inches falling over the first five days, 4.30 inches measured through the 17th. Drier and cooler weather followed, with just 0.50 additional recorded. Afternoon temperatures were confined mostly to the 70’s. August (mean temperature: 65 F) surpassed ’36 as the coolest of the Snelling era to date. Daily temperatures over the first two weeks continued pleasant but cool, varying typically from the 50’s to 60’s in the mornings to the mid-to-upper 70’s in the afternoons. Rains were moderate, 1.56 inches’ recorded over the first fifteen days, but following 2.72 inches in deluges over the 17th-21st, a dry, exceptionally cool spell set in. Daily temperatures for a week straight starting with the 23rd were almost exclusively in the mid-40’s to mid-60’s range, northwesterly winds, occasionally strong, predominating. September (mean temperature: 55 F) was only 1 F warmer than its record-setting namesake of 1841. Seasonable temperatures prevailed over the first week or so, several afternoons in the mid-to-upper 70’s, scattered showers dropping about 1 1/4 inches of rain. A strong cold front with heavy thunderstorms dropping another inch of rain swept through on the 10th, temperatures falling overnight to 33 F by next morning, with “heavy frost … destroying vegetables, plants, flowers, etc.,”. This completed perhaps the shortest growing season in local vicinity history, just 113 days having elapsed since the killing frosts of 21 May. Behind several straight days of mostly south to southeasterly winds, a last taste of warm, humid weather returned over the 14th-16th. Afternoon readings in the low 80’s were registered on the 14th and 15th, overnight readings in the low 60’s, but then a second vigorous cold front moved through, triggering 1.66 inches’ rain and introducing a cold and blustery spell which would carry through month-end. Afternoon temperatures on the 20th-22nd didn’t climb out of the 40’s, the 22nd only 44 F at 3PM with force 4 (25 miles per hour) easterlies. Heavy frost was again noted for the 24th, 25th, and 29th. A .13 inch fall of rain on the 26th brought the final precipitation total for the month to 4.26 inches.

Cool October, Some Early Bitter Weather in November. – Generally colder than normal weather with some early snows and arctic cold comprised autumn and early winter. October (mean temperature: 41 F) tied for second coldest in 25 years; three precipitation-days left 0.97 inches. The first twelve were completely dry, diurnal temperatures typically ranging from the mid-30’s/mid-40’s to mid-50’s/upper-60’s. Resumption of the prairie fire “season” resulted in the sun being “nearly obscured” on the 9th. Heavy frost was also reported on the 11th. Following .27 inches of showers over the 13th and 14th, though, unseasonable coolness set in for five days, daily temperatures typically varying from the 20’s in the mornings to the 30’s/40’s for the afternoons. The 19th was just 31 F at mid-afternoon, accompanied by winter-like 35 mile-per-hour west-northwesterlies. With approach of a powerful low-pressure system, a brief but dramatic warming ensued, gale-force south/southeasterly winds on the 23rd driving the temperature to 66 F by mid-afternoon, readings holding in the 60’s for all of the coming night. Temperatures remained balmy early of the 24th, 64 F read at sunrise and 68 F at 9AM, but not long after, the winds shifted and a steep temperature plunge commenced. By 9PM, the mercury was only 36 F, 0.70 inches’ rain and hail having fallen in the afternoon. The next five days were cold and blustery again, temperatures ranging from the 20’s in the mornings to the upper 20’s/low 30’s for the afternoons. November (mean temperature: 28 F), was only moderately cooler than average, nice Indian Summer weather coming early but bitter arctic weather invading near the close. Measurable precipitation totaled .77 inches. In customary autumnal fashion, temperatures swung back to mild and pleasant levels again over the first week, mid-afternoon readings approached 60 F several times. Prairie fires with their nocturnal “bright lights” were also seen. A late thunderstorm dropped .25 inches of rain on the 2nd. Colder, dismal, and much more wintry weather made up the rest of the month, with just three afternoons as warm as 40 F. Over the 16th-17th, an early heavy snowstorm dropped 4-5 inches, and on the 23rd, an early arctic blast brought a five-day spell of bitter cold and occasionally high winds. At 3PM of the 23rd the mercury was just 10 F with force 6 (45 miles per hour) northwesterlies, the following morning minus 4 at sunrise with force 4 (25 miles per hour) winds from the same direction. Afternoon readings didn’t reach the 20’s again until the 28th. December (mean temperature: 17 F) had moderate cold over the first half but relative mildness over the second. Almost no thawing afternoons occurred over the former with 5-6 inches’ snow left. A number of mornings also dropped to single figures or just below zero; lowest was -8 F. Conditions were generally milder thereafter, warmest of the month coming on New Years’ Eve with 42 F.