Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A badly-needed February thaw

Yes, it's cold out there, but my (esoteric) question remains: can you really feel the difference between -5 and -15? Not sure. Can you be any number than....numb? I have no idea. Maybe frostbite sets in faster, the slow, insidious drop-off in body temperature (hypothermia) sets in quicker. But I'll be darned if I can tell a difference. A little perspective is in order here: this latest arctic smack will NOT be as memorable as our streak of subzero lows the first week of January. So far we've had 9 subzero nights in the Twin Cities, air temperatures as cold as -15 F.

Slushy February? Check out the raw model output (GFS) for the first 12 days of February. Daytime highs close to freezing, the atmosphere (potentially) warm enough for mostly-rain from Feb. 10-12, when the model prints out over 1" of precipitation.

Things just have an (uncanny) way of evening things out, the high "highs" usually balance out the lowest "lows". We got off to a very cold start, no question - but the middle of January was unusually mild, and you may be surprised to hear that - for the entire month - temperatures are running almost 1.6 degrees F above average across central Minnesota. With the mercury dipping 10-20 degrees below average through Saturday we may wind up with January temperatures (for the entire month) a degree or two below average. Remember, there is no such thing as "average weather", not in Minnesota.

The pattern still isn't ripe for a major storm looking out through the first week of February, although the long-range GFS model is hinting at a mix, possibly even heavy rain, between Feb. 10-12. That's way out on the horizon, confidence levels are low, but I think it's fairly safe to say that you won't do any heavy-duty shoveling anytime soon. A clipper-like system may whip up a light coating of snow next Monday, but here's the big weather story: we end out January on a numbing note, but temperatures should rebound nicely after Feb. 2 or so - I see a string of 20s and 30s from Feb. 2 through the middle of February, and with a rising sun angle and a slowly shrinking snow pack, the odds of long-lasting subzero outbreaks drop off fairly significantly as we go through the month of February. We are by no means out of the woods, but the El Nino (Pacifi signal) is showing up again, it should mean a reasonable first half of February in the temperature department - nothing controversial, nothing that will tempt a primal scream (or call to your favorite travel agent). Oh, are there any travel agents left?

Next nuisance snowfall event? Models are suggesting a coating to an inch or so of snow next Monday as a clipper-like system sweeps across the Upper Midwest. A more significant storm (possibly a mix of snow/sleet/rain) is predicted for Feb. 10-12.

A few interesting weather nuggets (at least I found them interesting):

(SUN PHOTO/Ernie Imhoff/Mount Washington summit, January 1999)

We have a new worldwide wind record. The old record of 231 mph for a wind gust on the top of Mt. Washington, N.H. (highest weather observatory in the U.S.) - set in 1934 during a severe winter storm - has fallen by the wayside. The new record: 254 mph during Cyclone (same as hurricane) Olivia in 1996. Check out the new record right here.

Aunt Edna complaining about her aching knee, insisting a storm is coming? You may want to listen up. The field of "bio-meteorology" is bustling, especially in Europe. Changes in temperature, humidity and pressure CAN have a significant impact on the physical and mental health of many Americans - some of us seem to be more weather-sensitive than others. For an interesting story on weather & health click here.

We are 61st - we are 61st! America leads a lot of important lists, but when it comes to environmental action, we're pretty far down on the list. Iceland is #1, China is a (pathetic) #121st. For the (rather embarrassing) details click here.

Paul's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Windchill advisory this morning for western suburbs (feels like -20 F at times). Partly sunny, cold wind. Winds: West 10-15. High: 6

Tonight: Mostly clear, coldest night this week? Low: -11

Friday: Bright sun, numbing (less wind though). High: 8

Saturday: Mix of clouds and sun, not as arctic. High: 13

Sunday: Clouds increase, flurries late. High: 17

Monday: Period of light snow/flurries, coating to 1" possible. High: near 20

Tuesday: Lingering flurries, closer to average. High: 22

Wednesday: A bit "milder", peeks of sun. High: 27

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