Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A March to Remember

"Beee-ware the March Tournament Snowstorm!" I must have heard this a few hundred times after I first moved to Minnesota back in '83. "March is a volatile month - floods, tornadoes, a foot of snow isn't out of the question!" That was back when March was still a crazy-month-on-steroids. The first March was a doozy alright: 17.3" of snow fell, with another 9.8" in April. [insert long, drawn-out gasp here] Spring in Minnesota is not for the timid or faint-of-heart, but so far this year we've gotten off exceptionally easy. This is too easy - like we're cheating winter. How did that happen?

Colorado Snow-Bomb! Skiers are ecstatic - commuters are groaning, check out the expected snowfall amounts in Colorado - as much as 10-15" of snow. The thing about a March snow? Most of that will be gone within 2-3 days. The sun angle (as high in the sky as it was in mid September) means that snow can't stick around on the ground for long.

March Extremes. Yesterday Denver saw rain, thunder, lightning, then a changeover to heavy wet snow, accumulating at the rate of 1-2"/hour in some neighborhoods. A total of 10-15" is expected before snow tapers off later today. Hey, that sounds like a classic Minnesota March.

No snow so far in March at MSP. At this rate there's at least a 90% probability that we'll sail through the last week of March snow-free (although a few flakes can't be ruled out Saturday night, especially south of the MN River). That would be the first time since modern-day records were first kept in downtown St. Paul (back in 1884-1885) that we haven't seen measurable snow in March. We came close in 1981, when only 1/10th of an inch of snow, a coating, fell on MSP during the merry month of March. Last year: 1.5", but 2008 brought a soul-crushing 18" - with 20.4" reported by shell-shocked weather observers in March, 2006.

Singing In The Rain. Click here to read a wonderful ode to spring from the BBC. A little out of the ordinary, it's a great story, one I wanted to share.

Here's what's really strange, borderline Twilight-Zone-strange. No snow has been reported in March, not only at MSP, but in Rochester and St. Cloud. Duluth (home to lake effect and chin-high-drifts during a typical March) has seen a TRACE of flurries. Huh? Even International Falls (where they test car batteries, don't-'ya-know) has picked up a paltry, almost laughable 2/10ths of an inch of snow. Meanwhile the snow has just melted in northern Alabama, residents of Denver still shell-shocked about the 4-5" of snow that fell last week. Denver saw 9" last week, today they're going to get streamrolled by another 10-15" of heavy, wet snow!

A 100% Probability of Sand. Check out the "before" and "after" photo in downtown Beijing, China, where officials are warning locals not to go outside unless absolutely necessary. High winds have kicked up dense clouds of sand, visible on weather satellite (below), sweeping across much of Asia toward Japan and Korea! The story and more photos here.

EarthWeek. Check out this site for a good overview of what's happening worldwide, everything from weather extremes to earthquakes, volcanoes, droughts - anything and everything. Where is weather "making news"? This is a good place to start.

California Green-Up. A mild, moist pattern with frequent rains sweeping in from the Pacific has meant an early green-up across California's central valley, as seen from space.

Cue the boos and hisses. An average April brings just over 3" of slushy, wet snow. Of course there is no such thing as an average April. Last year we saw more snow in April than in March (2.5" vs. 1.5") April, 2002 we picked up a cool 20.2" of snow - but April, 2006 saw NO SNOW. Bored? Trying to look busy? Check here to see 125 years worth of snowfall weather records from the MN State Climate Office to see the crazy gyrations from month to month. The variations form month to month, year to year, are simply breathtaking!

The Denver storm passes off to our south today and tomorrow, yet another storm will brush Denver with more wet snow by Saturday (at this rate Coloradans will be escaping to Minnesota to thaw out and feel good about themselves). The weekend storm may brush Iowa with showers, but it now looks like precipitation will pass off well south of Minnesota. I still don't see any meaningful rain (or snow) looking out a week to ten days. Remarkable, this mini-dry rut we're in. If this were to continue for a few weeks it would mean a). a heightened risk of brush fires and b). not enough soil moisture for spring planing. Let's hope the pattern shifts in the next few weeks, but this is one of the most persistent El Nino's I've ever seen, the weather stuck in a rut, the storm track in a very tight groove with precious little variability. Just when you think you've seen everything.

After cooling off (slightly) early next week the GFS warms us up into 60s by next Wednesday and Thursday - 70 is not out of the question. That would be nearly 20 degrees above average for the first week of April. Our unusually mild, dry weather regime hangs on...

My grill has been pretty happy lately. I'm just happy to have rediscovered my grill! The drifts are gone, grilling time has returned (early) to Minnesota. Will it hang on? You sure ask a lot of questions....

Paul's Conservation MN Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota

Today: Bright sun, milder than average. Winds: W/NW 5-10. High: 52

Tonight: Mostly clear and chilly. Low: 32

Thursday: Partly sunny, noticeably cooler (closer to average). High: 46

Friday: Plenty of sun, milder - still dry. High: 51

Saturday: Increasing clouds (precipitation stays south over Iowa). High: 52

Sunday: Becoming partly sunny, odds favor a dry day. High: near 50

Monday: Mix of clouds and sun, still no need for umbrellas. High: 51

Tuesday: Intervals of sun, still quiet for late March. High: 52

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