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Good Question: Why All The Record-Breaking Weather?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

— Record snow, record heat, record tornadoes and record low barometric pressure. It’s obvious that 2010 has been an active weather year. So, is there a reason we’re breaking all those records?

You might expect La Nina or El Nino to be blamed, but that’s not how Assistant State Climatologist Pete Boulay explained the records.

“It’s kind of a fluke,” said Boulay. “I haven’t found a link.”

The year of 2010 brought a record number of tornadoes, with a total of 104 (48 on just one day!). In September, there was a record flood stage on the Minnesota River. Seventeen inches of snow is the record for one snowfall in December in the Twin Cities.

“To have that many in one year is unusual,” conceded Boulay, but, “extremes happen every year.”

Part of the reason is the sheer number of records being kept today.

“There are thousands,” he said. Plus, the geographical size of the state, “It’s a big state, so somewhere in the state will have an extreme,” he noted.

Sometimes, we see opposite extremes in the same year. In 1936, January brought a record low of -34 degrees, which has never been broken. In July, of that same year, the Twin Cities burned with record heat, 108 degrees. Drought conditions helped cause the extreme swing, explained Boulay.

And despite today’s media obsession with weather records, the media in the late 1800’s was equally obsessed. The state climatology office’s record books contains clippings from an 1888 Minneapolis Times article, which starts “It’s a new record established in weather annals.”

According to Boulay, more measurements and better technology leads to some new records, especially when we’re looking at tornadoes.

“We do have better ways to detect tornadoes and better spotters,” he said.

But there’s no one reason tying together the tornadoes, floods, and snow.

“That’s what Minnesota is. The center of the continent, we’re the land of extremes,” he said.

WCCO-TV’s Jason DeRusha Reports

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