Minnesota weather for the year 1853
Drawn Out Winter, Wetter Growing Season (graphic)
Weather conditions in Minnesota Territory turned generally more favorable in 1853, especially with regards to summertime moisture. Annual mean temperature at Snelling (41 F), however, was the second lowest to date, bitter cold prevailing over much of February and March. Mid-spring also exhibited some unseasonably backward weather, snow and frost experienced past mid-May. Yearly precipitation at the Post, about 20 1/2 inches, was second only to last year as the least since 1837, but growing season rains were ample, June recording more than 7 1/2 inches. The Territory was also largely spared from the premature December arctic blasts that had marked each of the last five years.
Cold February and March, Light Winter Snows – After a relatively seasonable January, temperature-wise, February through mid-March resumed the character of late December with frequent bouts of unseasonable cold. Accompanying the cold, however, were only very light snow accumulations, the ’52-’53 winter the eighth “open” one of the last nine. No precipitation of any kind was reported in January at the Post, and just six “slight” falls were noted over February and March combined. January (mean temperature: 13 F), bright and sunny, had more than half its clearness of the sky statistics at the maximum 10 figure. Lowest temperature was a relatively moderate minus 15 F, but most of the afternoons were quite cold, nearly half of them confined to single figures above zero or subzero. Just three days had thawing temperatures. Behind a “strong, warm, south wind”, though, a freak one-day warm wave brought 56 F at 3PM of the 23rd, the mercury, however, descending again to minus 2 by sunrise of the 25th. The temporarily balmy temperatures had a predictable effect on St. Paul’s light “coat of snow”, giving it “the appearance of a ragged sheep”. February (mean temperature: 7 F) started out with an all day thaw, 46 F reached at mid-afternoon of the 1st, but overnight of the 2nd-3rd, an arctic front rushed through, the mercury plunging to -24 F by sunrise, recovering to only -16 F by 3PM. Diurnal ranges on the 4th and 5th were only -22 F to -6 F and -23 F to -12 F, respectively, the 6th registering -8 F at 9AM with a force 6 (45 miles per hour) easterly wind. Another arctic blast brought minus 24 F on the 8th, and the great majority of the month’s remaining sunrise observations temperatures ranged from near zero to around -10 F. On the 26th, thawing temperatures returned for the first time in 25 days, the 27th reaching 45 F at 3PM. March (mean temperature: 22 F), 3rd coldest since ’20, had three slight snows and a single light rain. The first half was frigid again with numerous near or subzero mornings offset by just one day as warm as 32 F. The depth of the cold was reached on the 14th, just a week before the equinox, with -15 F read at sunrise and an incredibly low minus 6 still indicated at 3PM. Conditions were hardly any better next day, -9 F observed at sunrise and -2 at 3PM, the latter accompanied by force 4 (25 mile per hour) northwesterlies. Much warmer but still only seasonable temperatures finally set in on the 16th, 29 F recorded at 3PM, diurnal ranges from this point over the next eleven days generally in the 20’s for the mornings to the 30’s for the afternoons. Spring-like conditions made a sudden appearance over the closing three days with 58 F, 52 F, and 52 F read on the 29th-31st, respectively. The Mississippi and St. Peter’s ice started to run on the 31st.
Another Slow Spring Advance- Similar to last year, spring’s progress was fickle, May, in particular, bringing frost and snow after mid-month. April (mean temperature: 44 F) was clear and dry, the only measurable fall of precipitation coming over the 22nd-23rd with .73 inches’ rain. Afternoon readings over the first eight days reached the mid 50’s to low 60’s five times, the Mississippi clearing of ice on the 4th. But in a cold relapse, morning to afternoon temperature range on the 10th was just 16 F to 26 F, providing an unpleasant welcome to the first steamboat from St. Louis. Another cold air outbreak brought 14 F on the morning of the 13th, the preceding afternoon having been a mild 58 F. Afternoon readings were back in the 50’s and 60’s on each afternoon from the 19th through month-end, the 25th reaching 67 F for month’s highest. May (mean temperature: 53 F), like March, was the third coolest of its name thus far in Snelling history, sporadic cold snaps and frosty nights felt past mid-month. Start of a two-month installment of generous rains, though, 4.08 inches was received on eleven days. The early part was mild, afternoon temperatures climbing to the 70’s on both the 3rd and 4th, “strawberries in flower” on the 5th, and plum trees “in blossom” on the 6th. A cold air surge, however, brought “hail and frost” on the 9th, daily temperature range 36 F to 42 F with force 4 north-northwesterlies. Then, over the 17th-18th, a powerful storm swept through, 1.33 inches’ precipitation dropped, the 18th having “frost and snow” with observed daily temperature range just 33 F to 44 F. Northeasterly winds in the force 4 to force 7 categories prevailed through afternoon. Following the storm’s passage, frost again visited on the 19th and 20th (“no injury to vegetation”), the remaining 11 days, however, much more congenial, several afternoons reaching the upper 70’s to low 80’s.
Wet June, Cool July – Summer provided the adequate to plentiful rains that had marked the Territory’s first three summers, without as much heat and humidity. Generally pleasant in temperature, June (mean temperature: 67 F) had 7.59 inches’ rain on 15 days. The first ten had afternoons mostly in the 70’s, nights in the 50’s, but behind almost continuous southerly winds, warm and muggy conditions next prevailed through the 20th, five afternoons reaching 86 F, seven mornings between 69 F and 76 F. The last ten were like the first ten, daily ranges typically in the 50’s to the 70’s. In a special month-end recap concerning the frequent rains, Surgeon Charles McDougall noted that “in all the thunderstorms coming from the Southwest, the undercurrent of wind came from the E & SE”, the latter referring to the downdraft outflow from the cells. July, relatively cool, had less frequent and intense rains. Average temperature (70 F) was the lowest in five years, seven falls leaving 1.65 inches. Nighttime temperatures were generally warm, in the low-to-mid 60’s, but there were few if any sultry afternoons, just two as warm as 85 F. McDougall noted fog and/or hazy conditions on 15 of the last 18 days. August (mean temperature: 70 F) was warm and rainy over the first half, cool and dry over the second. Afternoon temperatures reached at least the mid-80’s five times over the first twelve days. A tie for the summer’s warmest, 90 F, came on the 8th. Seven rains over the first two weeks dropped nearly 2 inches. The Minnesota Pioneer reported favorable crop reports “from all parts of the Territory” on the 11th. Considerably cooler and drier weather made up the last half, a number of afternoons only in the 60’s, several mornings in the 40’s, including 43 F on the 27th. Only one measurable fall of rain fell over the last eighteen days, .60 inch from a thunderstorm during the last week. The late dry weather was “very favorable for [wheat] harvesting”, most of the grain by month-end “cut and secured without injury”.
Late Killing Frost and Closing of the Rivers – Fall brought delayed killing frost, an almost precipitation-free October, and a late closing of the rivers in December. Relatively warm weather comprised September (mean temperature: 60 F), no killing frost, either at Snelling or in St. Paul, reported. Rain fell on 11 days to a total of 2.11 inches. The first days brought a last taste of mid-summer heat and humidity, 90 F readings occurring on both the 3rd and 4th at the Post, sunrise temperatures on each in the sultry low 70’s. An autumnal turn quickly followed, afternoon temperatures on the 8th, 9th, and 10th each confined to the 50’s, “slight frost on the prairies” noted on the 10th. Warmer weather with frequent light showers then set in for a week starting with the 12th, nights in the mid-50’s to low 60’s, several afternoons in the mid-to-high 70’s. Somewhat cooler temperatures made up the rest of the month, most nights in the 40’s, afternoons ranging from the upper 50’s to low 70’s. October (mean temperature: 45 F) was a month of contrasts, with bright and sunny, mild to warm Indian Summer conditions over the first twenty days, cold and mostly cloudy weather over the balance. A single “unmeasurable” rain on the 22nd comprised the only officially observed Snelling precipitation. Week one had light frost on most mornings, the afternoons generally reaching the 60’s; the season’s first killing frost came on the 10th (mercury 22 F at sunrise). The 14th to 20th was the month’s mildest week, daily temperature ranges typically in the 40’s to 70’s, prairie fires noted along with a “very low and still falling” Mississippi. A much colder turn then ensued, the 22nd confined to the 30’s with west to northwesterly winds at force 5 to 6, the 23rd-25th subfreezing throughout. A chilly + 8 F was recorded on the 26th at sunrise, this an October record-low temperature for the entire Snelling era. Much milder weather closed the final two days, the 30th 58 F and Halloween 54 F in the afternoons. November (mean temperature: 28 F), was milder over the second half than the first. Total precipitation was .56 inch, all of this over the last two weeks. Unseasonable cold returned again for the first nine days, the mercury only 8 F on the morning of the 3rd, just 3 F on the 6th; afternoon temperatures over the 2nd to 8th, inclusive, ranged from 23 F to 30 F. The remainder of the month was more moderate, many afternoon temperatures in the low 40’s, the first measurable rain in 50 days, a .10 inch fall, coming on the evening of the 17th. Warmest temperature of the month (54 F) came on the 28th, but much colder weather with snow made up the final two days, the 30th’s temperature range 8 F to 15 F, ice observed running in the rivers. December (mean temperature: 18 F) was the mildest in seven years with the latest closing of the Mississippi of the last twenty. November’s closing snowstorm carried over until noon of the 1st, total accumulation about five inches; temperatures over the first several days were no warmer than the teens. A warming trend next developed, the 4th through 8th each thawing in the afternoon, the 9th through 15th near or above 32 F almost continuously, night and day. The 9th through 11th were each in the 40’s at 3PM, the month’s maximum (47 F) coming on the 10th. The night of the 17th finally saw the closing of the Mississippi, the Minnesota Pioneer having declared two days earlier that such a delayed closing was “not within the remembrance of the ‘oldest inhabitants’, but a late Spring is predicted as the consequence”. Moderate cold predominated over the remaining days, most afternoons in the teens and low 20’s, nights just below zero or in single figures. The mercury dropped to -16 F on the morning of the 23rd for the month’s coldest, and four inches of snow fell on the 29th.