Climate Change in Central Minnesota


I woke to a major thunderstorm this morning. It is the end of August.

Growing up in central Minnesota, you become accustomed to general weather patterns. Sure, some winters are colder than others; some summers are hotter or rainier than others; and weather is not climate. However, this past 10 years, we are increasingly seeing the effects of a warmer climate on our local weather.

Thunderstorms and tornadoes are primarily spring and early summer phenomena (as are mosquitoes, which, when swarming, can feel like a weather phenomenon). The vast majority of rainstorms are not torrential. By August, the rains have calmed and lawn mowing can easily wait 2-3 weeks because the grass is drying out.

Leaves start turning at the end of September and into October. There’s usually a decent amount of snow in Minnesota, starting in November and lasting until February/March (also called “Farch”), with a large, wet blizzard occurring around the time of the boys’ high school basketball tournament. It can be bitterly cold anywhere between December and February (January is one looooong month – it’s where the term “cabin fever” comes from).

These are the general seasons I remember prior to about 10 years ago. That has changed. The weather patterns that have developed are alarming because of how quickly they’ve become the new normal. Last winter had very little snow or cold. It didn’t actually feel like winter because being outside was so comfortable. (You know you’re a true Minnesotan when you look forward to a proper, cold and snowy winter that forces you to stay indoors.)

We are now experiencing rainy seasons wherein many of the storms dump torrential rains on us. This summer, we’ve seen this type of rain all summer, with flash flood warnings and swollen rivers happening much later in the season than is typical. These rains are damaging. Where I work, the riverbank is severely eroding due to the amount of water.

The good side to all this rain, particularly when it is interspersed with hot temps and high humidity, as has happened this summer, is that our vegetation is growing madly, creating lush greens all the way into August. Central Minnesota has shifted from Zone 3 to Zone 4 in the gardening world. I’ve never seen lilies in our yard grow as tall as they did this summer.

The changes I’ve witnessed in our local weather have me concerned about how the rise in global temperatures will affect our weather within the next 10 years.

How about you? What has the weather been like where you live? Have you seen dramatic changes within the past decade? If so, what is different?