Monday, February 15, 2010

Winter on (temporary) hold

I'm bored, but that's good news for your travel & commuting plans. We're temporarily stuck in a meteorological no-man's land: significant storms sliding off well south of Minnesota (an El Nino signal?) The "polar vortex", a counterclockwise-swirling pool of harsh, arctic air, has become dislodged about 1,000 miles south from its normal location, stalling out of Quebec and Ontario. Little chunks of numbing air will break off from the Mother Lode, keeping our temperatures at, or just below, average through much of next week. That will mean highs mostly in the 20s, nights dipping into single digits - nothing subzero shaping up, nothing that will create a traffic-jam of weather-related horror stories at the drinking fountain, no white-knuckle commutes anytime soon. The bottom line: perfect weather to play in the snow, all 14-18" of snow on the ground - even more south/west of the Minnesota River and along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

Anonymous (vaguely troubling) photo from out east in the DC area, where nearly 40" fell just last week. Yes, the natives are getting restless alright.

A week's worth of precipitation. El Nino favors wetter, cooler weather for the southern US, drier weather for the northern tier states. 2-6" worth of precipitation has fallen from Texas into the Florida panhandle

Seasonal snowfall so far at MSP: 39.9" (1.6" above average). Last year as of Feb. 15: 30.1"

15" on the ground at MSP International as of Feb. 15.

Latest MN Snow Cover. Thanks to the DNR for the information - 18-24" south/west of I-94, with as much as 30-40" along the North Shore. Better than average for a (recent) Minnesota winter.

Heating Degree Days since July 1, 2009: 5,142. Translation: so far this winter season we've spent roughly 9% LESS heating our homes/businesses than normal. Yes, I was a little surprised by that statistic too.

The weather has NOT been cooperating with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Sunday's high was 54, close to 50 on Monday with more rain, in fact it's rained every day since the start of the games. A powerful Pacific storm has been pumping unusually mild air into British Columbia in recent days, producing rain at sea-level, a mix of rain and snow on the higher slopes. It's been a huge challenge: keeping the snow and ice in good shape for all the events. Skies clear Tuesday with dry weather the rest of the week, but temperatures still mild, mostly 40s. A lack of rain should slow down the snow-melt and give Olympic officials a fighting chance to keep snow and ice on the slopes

Is it me or are the Olympic sports becoming a bit more bizarre? Yesterday I was glued to the TV set, watching snowboarders flying down what looked like a giant luge track. And what's with the skiers with high-powered rifles? I mean - when does that really come in handy? Ever?

I have a few suggestions for Olympic officials, stuff I've been mulling over for 20+ years now, stuff that might just make the Olympics even better. I haven't gotten a call back, but I haven't given up hope just yet.

1). In every Olympic event have one normal, average human being participate with the professional athletes, just to put things into perspective. We all need more perspective in our lives. This would underscore how amazing these men and women really are.

1a). Hypothetical: if you got on the ice and just skated in simple circles (maybe waving to the crowd while staggering around), would they give you a sympathy vote of at least 1.0? Not sure.

2). I'd like to see some new events show up at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

* Speed-Skating/Texting. Athletes would not only get points for speed getting to the finish line but accuracy in their texts (to each other?) Yes, that would make it even better.

* Downhill Buffet Rally. Not sure about this one, picturing people clutching remote controls sprawled on sofas with little skis attached, extra points to contestants who finish all the appetizers before reaching the bottom of the hill.

* Grand Finale Snowball Battle. Why all the pomp and circumstance with the fancy outfits and pointless waving to the crowd? Go back to basics: every man (and woman) athlete for themselves: extra points for accuracy, points deducted for ice-balls. What a way to end: a flurry of thousands of snowballs, lit up with fireworks and the roar of the crowd! Fade to black.

Paul's Conservation Minnesota Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Plenty of sun, cool breeze. Winds: NW 10-15. High: near 30

Tonight: Partly cloudy and chilly. Low: 12

Wednesday: Mix of clouds and sun. High: 27

Thursday: Intervals of sun, more clouds. Low: 8 High: 28

Friday: Mostly cloudy. Low: 12 High: 25

Saturday: Some sun, seasonably cold. Low: 11 High: 24

Sunday: Patchy clouds, few flurries. High: 23

Monday: Still unsettled, more flurries, maybe a dusting. High: 26

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