Sunday, January 31, 2010

1-2" of Minnesota Powder

Update. Monday, 1 pm. Light snow continues to fall from a weak clipper-like system racing across Minnesota. I still think we're on track to pick up 1-2" of light, fluffy, powdery snow by the evening hours. As expected the PM rush is going to be a bit of a mess, perhaps double the normal commute times (the salt/sand mix used by MnDOT doesn't work nearly as well when temperatures are in the teens). Give yourself extra time to get around town today. Less than 1" is likely to our north, from Little Falls to the Lake Mille Lacs area, to the far northern suburbs of the Twin Cities. Some 2-4" amounts are possible from Willmar to the southern 'burbs of the Twin Cities, but most of us should wind up with 1-2" of new fluff. Hardly a snowy catastrophe, but the timing couldn't have been much worse.

Yesterday I did a little recreational dog-sledding on a frozen lake nearby. Ice-fishing, snowmobiles, ATV's, a little chili and cheese out on the tundra - celebrating the 1st Annual WeatherNation Winter Bash. Some of our on-air meteorologists are from Florida, and they had this deer-in-the-headlights expression, slipping & sliding around on over 2 feet of solid ice, loving every slippery moment. This is the secret to not only surviving, but ENJOYING a Minnesota winter. Shake off the initial urge to hibernate, curl up in the fetal position until the mercury strikes 50 - go out and grab Old Man Winter by the collar and shake him around a little. Nothing better to chase away the midwinter blues and lift yourself out of an arctic funk that playing in the snow - it brings out the 10-year old in all of us. Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to the day when I can step outside without looking like the Michelin Man, wrapped in multiple layers of cotton and wool. That day is approaching faster than you might think. 20s are likely later this week, possibly some low 30s by the weekend. With the warming trend will come a growing chance of wintry precipitation, as early as this afternoon and evening, when we get grazed by an Alberta Clipper capable of a quick inch or two of ill-timed snow. Yes, you should get off to work, school or the store this morning with very few weather-induced headaches, but the PM commute may be a longer ordeal, a parade of brake-lights barely visible through waves of light to moderate snow.

No, we probably won't see this much snow later today. It should be considerably less, more like 1", more south of town, less to the north. That's more than fell during all of January, btw.

A thoroughly forgettable January. What a strange month: -15 F (air temperature!) the morning of Jan. 2, 11 nights below zero, and then a welcome mid-month thaw (7 days above freezing from the 16th to the 23rd) and a very significant RAIN event on the 23rd, followed by a numbing end to the month. The upshot: the entire (wacky) month averaged close to normal, at least as of Jan. 30 - and we only saw a pitiful 3.1" of snow during what is - historically - the snowiest month of the year. By comparison Washington D.C. picked up 7.4" of snow in January, Memphis, Tennessee saw 1.4", St. Cloud saw a paltry .9". Let me get this straight: Memphis saw more January snow than St. Cloud? Strange but true...

When it's this cold it doesn't take much upward motion throughout the atmosphere for a quick, inconvenient inch of Minnesota powder. As if often the case, it's not just the amount of snow - it's the timing. The salt/sand mix put down on our highways by MnDOT works much better at 25-30 F than it does with temperatures in the teens, so expect some very slippery spots out there. The obvious problem: even a little snow will cover up the 1/2 to 1" of ice lurking out there. Leave extra time to get home, the combination of 1-2" of snow (more south, less north) + temperatures in the mid teens + extra rush hour traffic = a possible 4 on the dreaded Hassle Factor (which goes from 1 to 5, with 1 being smooth sailing and 5 equating to a parking lot with all the engines running). You've been warned.

Another fickle clipper. I hate these meteorological concoctions - they are notoriously fickle, even harder to predict with any precision than (wetter/warmer) storms approaching from Texas or Missouri. A slight zig or zag to the storm track, even 50 miles, can make the difference between flurries - and 5" of flurries. But the trends seem undeniable: more snow south/west of the Minnesota River - far less snow north of St. Cloud and the Twin Cities. The farther south/west you drive today - away from town - the heavier the snow and worse the PM travel conditions. Right now I'm thinking about 1/2 to 1 1/2" from St. Cloud - down Interstate 94 - to the Twin Cities.

A warm oasis. You don't see this very often. The 6-10 Day Extended Outlook from CPC, the Climate Prediction Center, is predicting warmer than normal temperatures for the Upper Midwest, temperatures trending cooler over just about the entire rest of America. Thank you El Nino! For more climate information as far out as 90 days into the future click here.

Light snow tapers off a bit on Tuesday - travel conditions improve by Wednesday and Thursday before the next wave of moisture surges northward from the Gulf of Mexico late in the week. The models are still a bit contradictory and nebulous, but I could easily see a couple inches of additional snow from Friday into Saturday - the lowest mile of the atmosphere < style="font-weight: bold;">

Paul's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Mostly cloudy, best chance of light snow afternoon/evening hours, from 1/2 to 1 1/2" possible. Far south metro may pick up 1-3" of snow by tonight. Roads will be slippery later today. Winds: East 5-10. High: 12

Tonight: Light snow tapers to flurries - icy roads. Low: 3

Tuesday: Lingering clouds and flurries, another dusting/coating. High: 15

Wednesday: More clouds than sun, a bit milder. High: 23

Thursday: Patchy clouds, relatively good travel conditions. High: 24

Friday: Another period of light snow, around 1" possible. High: 26

Saturday: More light snow/flurries, an inch or two can't be ruled out. High: 28

Sunday: Flurries taper, better travel weather. High: near 30

Monday: Turning windy/colder with passing flurries. High: 28 (falling through the 20s).

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