Monday, March 29, 2010

We seem to have skipped a month

Weather Headlines

* Warmer in Minnesota Tuesday than portions of northern Florida.

* Jacksonville, Florida: 97 days in a row cooler than 80 F, 4th longest stretch on record.

* Near 70 today, low to mid 70s possible by Wednesday & Thursday.

* Brushfire risk escalates through midweek as bright sun, coupled with wind gusts to 30 mph and low relative humidity - creates ripe conditions for fires to spread rapidly. Burning restrictions now in effect across much of Minnesota.

* GFS weather model hinting at over .50" of rain from Friday into Saturday, another .50" rain possible Tuesday of next week - a wetter, stormier (cooler) pattern appears imminent.

* Late-week cooling trend, but no arctic air is in sight. Odds of accumulating snow and unusually cold weather are dropping off rapidly with each passing day.

Ice Out Imminent? Unusually warm weather coupled with high winds may break up the ice on 'Tonka and White Bear Lake in the next 1-3 days. According to the DNR the average date of ice-out on Lake Minnetonka is April 13. The earliest: March 11, 1878. Latest: May 8, 1856. Years of data: 132.

Mille Lacs: Average: April 24. Earliest: April 2, 2000

Gull Lake: Average: April 21. Earliest: April 2, 2000

Leech Lake: Average: April 27, Earliest: April 9, 1945

Lake of the Woods: Average: April 29. Earliest: April 8, 2000

Monday Highs. And so it begins, slowly but surely. High temperatures reached 59 in the Twin Cities, 61 at St. Cloud, Pine River and Brainerd, but 63 at Alexandria and 66 at Redwood Falls.

I hope you don't plan on getting much work done today. Spring fever will reach epidemic proportions today, Wednesday and Thursday, temperatures soaring some 20-25 degrees above normal for late March. Expect blue sky, a touch of May, gusty south winds reaching 20-30 mph at times. An outdoor lunch sounds like a pretty good idea, although your sandwich may become airborne if you're not careful, a little grit in your eye, as those warm winds whip up from the south. That said, it will be pretty hard to find much to complain about for the next 48-72 hours.

Mayday Mayday!! Check out the agreement in the computer models over the next few days (low 70s Wednesday, even some mid to upper 70s by Thursday - depending on how quickly and thickly the clouds stream in from the Dakotas). We cool back down to light-jacket levels by the end of the week as a slow-moving cool front sails across the state.

Looking back I'm wondering (out loud) what the heck happened to March? No snow, no real wind chill to speak of, 16 nights above freezing, 4 nights above 40 (!) We're going on close to 2 1/2 weeks without a drop of rain, moderate drought conditions reported over the far northern suburbs of the Twin Cities. In short, there has been precious little "weather" to point to, gossip about, or lead area newscasts - with the exception of last week's flood updates, which (mercifully) were not nearly as bad as initially predicted. Our lack of rain, coupled with a string of sub-freezing nights, helped to slow the rate of melting snow across southwestern Minnesota, allowing us to all avoid worst-case scenarios on most area rivers.

Plan B on Saturday? A slow-moving frontal boundary arrives with a chance (and opportunity) for rain showers, even a few isolated claps of thunder, from Friday into a portion of Saturday. It's still unclear how rapidly we'll dry out Saturday - Sunday still looks like the sunnier, drier, milder day of the weekend, highs recovering to or just above 60.

Drying Out. According to the DNR no campfires are now permitted from Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls north to the Bemidji and Leech Lake area, as well as Duluth and suburbs. The entire state is drying out rapidly. Sun + gusty winds + low humidity = accelerating fire risk. Be careful out there!

Bahama Tornado? Now I've seen everything. Not only was Broward county hit by a couple of tornadoes Monday, the same violent frontal boundary whipped up a few isolated tornadoes over the Bahamas, with reports of injuries and possible deaths. I can't EVER remember seeing a report of a tornado in the Bahamas - ever.

Fading El Nino. According to NOAA climatologists El Nino seems to finally be weakening, equatorial Pacific ocean water is cooling down. That SHOULD result in a return to more typical weather downwind over the USA, meaning a rapid northward shift in the storm track. A wetter pattern arrives in a few days, .50 to 1" of rain possible between Friday and Tuesday of next week. Click here for a more detailed story focusing on the adventures of El Nino.

Dark Sky Preserve. I'm an amateur astronomer (still teach astronomy merit badge for the Boy Scouts - on a dare). I'm fascinated by space, by how little we really know about the cosmos. An expanding metro area has made it tougher to admire the heavens overhead, even on a clear night. Dave Dempsey from Conservation Minnesota wrote a thoughtful article about how we can preserve the opportunity - the right (?) to see the nighttime sky as it was meant to be seen. Click here to read his story. Pass the telescope (or binoculars) please.

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

Today: Plenty of sun, windy and mild. Winds: S 15-30. High: near 70

Tonight: Mostly clear, unusually mild for late March. Low: 54

Wednesday: Blue sky much of the day - feels like May! High: 74

Thursday: Partly sunny (clouds increase by late PM). High: 75

Friday: Cooler, cloudier - chance of a few showers. High: 58

Saturday: Unsettled, a few lingering showers/sprinkles. High: 59

Sunday: Nicer day of the weekend - sun returns. High: 64

Monday: Sun gives way to increasing clouds - rain possible by Monday night and Tuesday. High: 63

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