Monday, November 16, 2009

Welcome to "Octember"!

The calendar on the wall is whispering November, but the atmosphere is SHOUTING October. Temperatures for the first 16 days of November are running 9 to 9.5 degrees warmer than average, making this the warmest November since modern-day NWS records were first started in 1891. The third coolest October is being followed by a record-smashing (mild) November - makes perfect sense to me. El Nino kicking in? Not sure if we can attribute this warm spell to warm water collecting off the coast of South America - it's certainly possible. The pattern is what meteorologists refer to as "modified Pacific", a regime more typical for late September than the third week of November. Keep in mind we should have picked up 4-5" of snow so far this month. Lakes and ponds should be freezing up - wind chills should be dipping into the teens. So much for "should".

A Free Show. Yes, we're talking my favorite kind of shower, a celestial sight rarely seen east of the Mississippi, where hills, haze, high rise buildings and light pollution usually get in the way. In case you weren't awake (and outside, away from light pollution) this morning at 3 am, the "Leonid Meteor Shower" is underway - planet Earth hurtling through a trail of cosmic dust leftover from comet Tempel Tuttle. As many as 20-30 lucky shooting stars (meteors) were visible last night - under ideal conditions. High clouds may dim the show a bit tonight, but it's still worth a look. Historically it's one of the more spectacular meteor showers of the entire year.

What happened to "normal"? Based on data from the National Weather Service and the MN State Climatology Office on any given year there is a 17% chance of at least 1" of snow on the ground on November 17, a 2% risk of 5" of snowcover. The probability of at least 1" of snow rises to 52% by Thanksgiving Day, a better than 50/50 chance of a "white Thanksgiving." Not this year, not here - not going to happen.

Snow on the ground: a rare commodity. You have to look long and hard to find any snow on the ground right now, a slushy coating over the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, otherwise bare ground for the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes - highly unusual for the 17th day of November.

If you were confined to your cubicle or office yesterday you'll get another chance to soak up some brilliant sunshine again today with highs near 50, a good 10-15 degrees warmer than average. Factor in a light breeze and you'll swear it's October 17! I know, I keep rubbing my eyes, wondering about this wondrous atmospheric time warm we've fallen into. Whatever the trigger, milder-than-normal weather will linger into at least the first half of next week. I still don't see any major storms (of any flavor) between now and Thanksgiving indigestion and family small-talk. It will cool down by the end of next week, the atmosphere aloft cold enough aloft for a little snow by the end of next week. But the pattern won't favor major storms over the nation's midsection for at least the next 2 weeks - big storms are lashing the Pacific Northwest - models print out a soaking (rain) storm for New England around Thanksgiving Day, but we may just dodge a bullet here in Minnesota.

Where's the Snow? This is the latest snowfall outlook through midnight on Friday. The only predicted snow is a small region in northeastern Kansas; the same storm may spread drizzle and very light rain into town Wednesday night and Thursday.

An "occluded" storm over Missouri (responsible for some 6-8" snowfall amounts over northeastern Kansas) will weaken as it pinwheels north, pushing clouds into the state on Wednesday, the atmosphere may saturate enough for a little drizzle or very light rain from Wednesday night into Thursday. We dry out a bit Friday before clouds thicken up on Saturday, another period of drizzle or light rain expected from late Saturday into Sunday. We dry out (and sunny up!) early next week, temperatures falling off slightly, back to "average" in time for heading over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving. Right now it looks like highs in the 30s (to near 40 over southern Minnesota) for turkey-time and crazed, foaming-at-the-mouth shopping sprees next Friday, the mythical, to be avoided-at-all-cost "Black Friday." Where's a good blizzard when you need one?

Preliminary Thanksgiving Outlook. The long-range GFS model prints out a major storm for New England on Thanksgiving Day, the atmosphere probably warm enough for mostly rain for cities from New York to Boston and Albany. The storm may impact flights into and out of major cities in the northeast the end of next week - stay tuned for more details.

Paul's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Bright sun, still spectacular - more like mid October. Winds: E 5-10. High: near 50

Tonight: Partly cloudy, slight chance of spying a shooting star or two. Low: 27

Wednesday: Clouds increase and thicken - a little light rain or drizzle possible late. High: 45

Thursday: A period of light rain or drizzle. High: 46

Friday: Drying out, peeks of sun. High: 47

Saturday: A mix of clouds and sun, unseasonably mild. High: 51

Sunday: Gray and damp with light rain or drizzle. High: 47

Monday: Gradual clearing, breezy and cooler. High: 43

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