Minnesota has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfb) with warm and icy winters in northern two-thirds of the state. The remaining portion in the south falls under the hot-summer subtype (Köppen Dfa) with hot summers and cold winters. Minnesota lies in the Upper Midwest region of the United States. The state's borders touch Lake Superior in the northeast, Wisconsin in the east, Iowa in the south, South Dakota in the southwest, North Dakota in the west, and the Canadian Provinces of Manitoba and Ontario in the north. The latitudes and proximity to Lake Superior are major factors that influence the climate.
Minnesota, the North Star State, has an average elevation of 370 meters, with the highest point at Eagle Mountain at 701 meters and the lowest at Lake Superior at 183 meters. The diverse geography consists of Lake Superior lowlands, western prairies, northern woods, and deciduous forests of the southeast. The topography includes eastern broadleaf forests and mixed hardwood and coniferous forests in the north. The Land of 10,000 Lakes is also home to the Minnesota River, the Red River, and the Mississippi. Logging and agriculture have cleared many forested areas in the state.
Temperatures drop to extreme levels in Minnesota due to frequent polar air outbreaks in the cold season that occasionally extend to the rest of the year. Regions near Lake Superior tend to be colder in the summer and warmer in the winter than the rest of the state. Summers range from warm to hot, with mercury barely touching 90°F (32.2°C). The peak of July sees temperatures above 90°F (32.2°C) in the south. Winters are cold and snowy in the north, and slightly mild in the south. Temperatures of -30°F (-34.4°C) are typical in the northern counties in the coldest month of January. The spring season is cold to warm, with wet days in the second half. Fall is colorful and cloudy, and transitions from warm to cold conditions gradually.
The average annual rainfall ranges from 19" (482.6mm) in the northwest to 35" (889mm) in the southeast of Minnesota. The growing period lasts from 90 to 160 days, with the wettest period from May to September. Snowfall is highest at 70" (1778mm) in the northern highlands of Lake Superior and decreases to 40" (1016mm) in the south and west. At least one inch of snow covers the northern lands for 140 days annually. Hail is common from May to July, while freezing rain and ice storms are frequent in the southern regions in the winter. Minnesota receives an average of 2200 hours of sunshine annually.
Moorhead recorded the highest ever temperature of 114°F (45.6°C) on July 6, 1936, in Minnesota, while Tower holds the record for the coldest temperature of -60°F (-51.1°C) on February 2, 1996.
The best time to visit Minnesota
The best time to visit Minnesota is from May to September that includes late spring, summer, and early autumn seasons. The Great Lakes bring pleasant temperatures in their vicinity during the summer. The fall season is attractive due to the beautiful foliage, the return of the summer crowds, and mild temperatures. The freeze-free period begins from the second half of May in the south to June in the north. The growing season lasts till mid-September to October, with the most prolonged period of 160 days in the southeast. The numerous lakes and warm temperatures during the summer attract visitors in large numbers. The fishing and hunting seasons are in full swing in August and September.
The worst time to visit Minnesota
The worst time to visit Minnesota is the winter season from December to February, with severe cold amid short days. The northern highlands near Lake Superior, receive vast amounts of snow in the cold season. Blizzards are frequent in the winter, with wind speeds higher than 35 miles per hour and visibility limited to one-fourth of a mile. Snowstorms bring vast amounts of snow and stall everyday life, cause power outages, and extensive property damage. The days are short in the cold season as the sunshine limits to a few hours daily.
Minnesota is vulnerable to thunderstorms, hailstorms, blizzards, derechos, and tornadoes. Thunderstorms bring the most considerable damage to property, and the annual frequency ranges from 30 in the north to 45 in the south. Hailstorms and windstorms occasionally accompany the thunderstorms to inflict substantial damage. Derechos are widespread storms in the presence of straight-line winds that step up to hurricane strength and cause heavy rains and flash floods. Thirty-five tornadoes occur on an average annually, with at least 75% between May and July. Blizzards result in the loss of lives, livestock, and property. The Halloween Blizzard that lasted from October 31 to November 3, 1991, brought 28" (711.2mm) of snow.
Weather in January
January is typically the coldest and snowiest month of the year in Minnesota with frigid temperatures. It is exceedingly challenging to stay outdoors, even for a few minutes without heavy coats, caps, and mittens. The temperatures are severe, often below -10°F (-23.3°C) and plummeting to -30°F (-34.4°C) in the northeast. Saint Paul, the capital in the south, has average temperatures in the 7°F (-13.9°C) to 24°F (-4.4°C) range, while International Falls in the northeast registers frigid temperatures between -7°F (-21.7°C) to 15°F (-9.4°C). Duluth on the Lake Superior coastline records up to 20" (508mm) of snow, while the rest of the state registers 8" (203.2mm) to 15" (381mm). Wind speeds exacerbate the effect of the cold further, and snowstorms deposit massive amounts of snow in the winter. Black ice and slippery roads make driving a challenge with the need for snow tires. Conditions are favorable for skiing, snowmobiling, skating, and ice fishing. New Year's week is icy, and January is the time to avoid a visit to Minnesota.
Weather in February
February is a cold winter month in Minnesota that is severely cold with heavy snowfall. The average high temperatures are below freezing in the 21°F (-6.1°C) to 28°F (-2.2°C) range, while the average low temperatures are in the icy -4°F (-20°C) to 15°F (-9.4°C) zone. The snowfall is substantial even in the relatively mild south, with places like Minneapolis, Rochester, and Faribault registering up to 8" (203.2mm) of snow. The February sun is mild, and the sunlight lasts for a daily 4 hours in the majority of the state. Heavy winter coats are a necessity to move outdoors along with caps that cover the ears entirely. The Arctic air from the north hurts the nose and even the lungs. The soil freezes to a depth of 3 to 4 feet in the south and 5 to 6 feet in the north. Dog sledding is popular at the peak of the snow cover, along with snowmobiling and skiing. Expect the conditions to remain cold in February in Minnesota.
Weather in March
March begins the spring season in Minnesota, with the nights still below freezing temperatures. The rainfall increases slightly, but the snowfall is heavy in the range of 8" (203.2mm) to 10" (254mm) in the state. Drizzles are frequent during the day, and mornings are misty in the forests. The daily sunshine is mild in intensity and lasts for 5 to 6 hours during the early part of spring. The average high temperatures are typically in the mild 34°F (1.1°C) to 45°F (7.2°C) range, while the nights are below freezing between 8°F (-13.3°C) to 26°F (-3.3°C). Gunflint Lake in the northeast is severely cold between 8°F (-13.3°C) to 34°F (1.1°C), while Moorhead in the northwest averages between 19°F (-7.2°C) to 36°F (2.2°C). Chilly winds accompany the frequent cold fronts, especially in the northern highlands. Green shoots occur in patches in many places in the south, but fresh snow keeps the ground partly white. The conditions are decisively cold side and hardly suitable for outdoor activities. Expect a gradual rise in temperatures by the end of March in Minnesota.
Weather in April
April sees the advance of the spring season in Minnesota, with the days warming up considerably. The average high temperatures are in the warm zone of 49°F (9.4°C) to 61°F (16.1°C), and the average low temperatures hover in the cold range of 24°F (-4.4°C) to 37°F (2.8°C). Winona in southern Minnesota is one of the warmest places with temperatures in the 39°F (3.9°C) to 61°F (16.1°C) range. The snowfall is moderate in the northern regions, while the south receives more precipitation than snow. Mixing of different air masses from the north and south leads to unstable weather. The spring sun reaches its moderate intensity with 6 to 7 hours of daily sunshine. Warm clothing makes nights comfortable, while the days are fine in light clothes, with a rain jacket to withstand the moderate precipitation. Freshwater from rain and thawing of snow fills the rivers and lakes. Expect the conditions to improve gradually. April is a shoulder season for budget travelers to visit Minnesota.
Weather in May
May is the peak of the spring in Minnesota with the first really warm days of the season. The bright sunshine lasts for 7 hours during the day, and the nights are mild at the least. A moderate rainfall of 3" (76.2mm) keeps the rain jacket business profitable, particularly in the southern portion of the state. The average high temperatures are in the pleasant 56°F (13.3°C) to 72°F (22.2°C) range, while the nights are above freezing in the 38°F (3.3°C) to 50°F (10°C) zone. Winona in the south registers between 50°F (10°C) to 72°F (22.2°C), while Hibbing in the northeast is between 36°F (2.2°C) to 65°F (18.3°C). May experiences occasional floods with the thawing of the snow and heavy bouts of rain. Polar air frequently invades the north to set aside any ideas of putting back warm jackets in the closet. The pollen is in the air with the blooming of flowers amid hay fever outbreaks. The ground is green after the melting of snow, and the fresh air lightens the spirits. Watch out for thunderstorms and rain in May in Minnesota.
Weather in June
June is warm and bright in the summer of Minnesota, with the average temperatures in the 44°F (6.7°C) to 81°F (27.2°C) range. The southeast is the hottest region, with temperatures rising to 90°F (32.2°C). The sprawling wilderness attracts crowds in search of hiking and camping trips. The waterfalls roar with the addition of several million gallons of freshwater. Much of the water finds its way to many of the lakes and rivers in the state. Much of the snow disappears from the ground, but there is a significant increase in precipitation. June is also the season of thunderstorms and tornadoes, and tourists need to keep an eye on the weather. Flash floods are frequent in the mountains when the rainfall is heavy. The conditions are suitable for biking, fishing, and boating in the numerous lakes, and to explore a large number of state and national parks. Pack a rain jacket to be in charge of the summer in June in Minnesota.
Weather in July
July is usually the hottest month of the year month in Minnesota, with the average high temperatures in the range of 76°F (24.4°C) to 85°F (29.4°C). Wild River State Park in the northeast sees a rise in tourist footfalls with the temperatures in the bright range of 57°F (13.9°C) to 83°F (28.3°C). Temperatures rarely touch 95°F (35°C) in any part of the state during the peak of summer. Warm air from the Gulf of Mexico reaches the southern regions, but Minnesota rarely experiences a heatwave with extreme temperatures. Even though the sunlight lasts for a daily 8 hours, the conditions are warm in the day and cool in the night to attract summer vacationers. The areas along Lake Superior Shore register cooler temperatures than the rest of the state. Camping is popular with many public camping grounds in the vast amount of wilderness. Light clothing is suitable during the day, but a bout of rain may occur suddenly. July is worth a visit to Minnesota when the storms are at bay.
Weather in August
August is a warm and wet summer month in Minnesota with plenty of sunshine. The average high temperatures in the state are in the pleasant range of 70°F (21.1°C) to 80°F (26.7°C), while the nights are comfortable in the 50°F (10°C) to 60°F (15.6°C) zone. The skies are bright except for periods of wet weather, mostly in the southern regions due to thunderstorms and tornadoes. The growing season peaks with the smell of produce in the air. A healthy population of black bears is evident in the wild with the sighting of a few members of the clan during dawn or dusk to scourge for food. The precipitation of 4" (101.6mm) to 5" (127mm) warrants a light rain jacket to keep the dampness at bay. The lakeshores and waters reflect the considerable tourist interest during the bright days of summer. Expect the heat to decrease gradually by the end of the summer. The beautiful weather and the bounty of nature attract crowds in droves to Minnesota in August.
Weather in September
September is a beautiful time to visit Minnesota during the period of the colorful autumn season. The leaves start to change by the third week of September in the north and progress steadily towards the south. The conditions are mild, with the average high temperatures hover in the 42°F (5.6°C) to 70°F (21.1°C) range. The early fall season has cloudy skies, yet the days are long and bright. The moderate precipitation keeps the conditions pleasant as the autumn spreads its wings. The hunting season is at its peak with plenty of deer, moose, geese, pheasant, grouse, and even bears as the primary targets. The Boundary Water Canoe Area extends into Canada and offers plenty of adventure on the water during the calm conditions of autumn. The dispersal of the summer crowds offers plenty of space on the lake waters for those who stay back. Wear a fleece in the evenings to keep the cold at bay in September in Minnesota.
Weather in October
October is the peak of the autumn in Minnesota with brilliant colors and mild to cold weather. The average high temperatures are comfortable in the day in the 50°F (10°C) to 60°F (15.6°C), but the nights are chilly with average low temperatures in the 30°F (-1.1°C) to 40°F (4.4°C) range. In the northwest, the temperatures are in the 32°F (0°C) to 55°F (12.8°C) range in Alexandria, Brainerd, Detroit Lakes, and Warroad. The fall foliage is at its peak as even the broadleafs and hardwoods change colors by the mid of October. The brilliant shades are panoramic in the backdrop of the beautiful hills. The scenic byways and lakes offer the best views of the dazzling scenery through driving, biking, boating, or hiking. The harvest season is on its last legs, and all living creatures are busy accumulating the produce to last for the winter. The breezy fall evenings are cold, while the nights are memorable in the periphery of a campfire. October is the last month before icy conditions invade Minnesota.
Weather in November
November is cold in the last days of the autumn season in Minnesota. The skies are gloomy, and the days are short. The sunshine barely lasts for 4 hours with the invasion of ice and snow on the land. The snowfall registers in the 6" (152.4mm) to 10" (254mm) statewide with snow cover ubiquitous on the ground. The trees show bare limbs as the fall foliage is past its peak by mid-November, and the conditions cool down rapidly. The average high temperatures are in the cold zone of 35°F (1.7°C) to 42°F (5.6°C), while nights drop below freezing to register in the 18°F (-7.8°C) to 29°F (-1.7°C) range. Pipestone in the south registers between 21°F (-6.1°C) to 41°F (5°C), while Grand Rapids in the north is between 20°F (-6.7°C) to 37°F (2.8°C). The evenings are windy and chilly by the second half of November. Watch out for animals, particularly deer and moose crossing the roads. The growing season is over as the soil freezes by late autumn. November ends the tourist season in Minnesota.
Weather in December
December is the beginning of the winter season in Minnesota, with freezing days and frosty nights. The short days barely receive 3 hours of sunlight in its mildest form. The average high temperatures are in the 19°F (-7.2°C) to 30°F (-1.1°C) range, while the average low temperatures are in the cold 0°F (-17.8°C) to 15°F (-9.4°C) zone. Polar air masses regularly invade the land, and the wind howls with an eerie intensity on the prairie. Warroad in the northwest is cold between 2°F (-16.7°C) to 19°F (-7.2°C), while Duluth in the northeast registers between 7°F (-13.9°C) to 22°F (-5.6°C). Snowfall of 8" (203.2mm) to 15" (381mm) occurs for 6 to 8 days in the month. Precipitation is light in the state in winter, including the areas near Lake Superior. The majority of the land is under snow cover as Minnesota winters typically see a white Christmas. The winter wonderland is a blessing for snow lovers, but for the remaining population, December needs warm coats and heaters in Minnesota.