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Moderate metro drought

Weather Headlines

• High of 63 on Tuesday, only 66 in the Twin Cities: temperatures about 5-10 degrees cooler than average for May 26.

• In spite of Tuesday’s cooler front May temperatures still about 2-3 degrees above normal.

• Lingering moisture in the lowest few thousand feet of the atmosphere will mean a gray start, sprinkles and a light shower can’t be ruled out, especially south of the Minnesota River during the morning – skies brighten by afternoon with a chance of spying the setting sun this evening.

• Dry, pleasantly mild Thursday, highs well into the 70s.

• Slight shower risk Friday, especially early in the day.

• Turning noticeably cooler by Saturday as chilly air leaks southward out of Canada. Pack a jacket if you’re heading north to the cabin this upcoming weekend, lows dip into the 40s.

• Weekend showers possible: timing still up in the air. Sunday looks like the wetter day right now … one thing seems fairly certain: it WON’T be as nice as last weekend.

As of May 17 roughly 7″ of Minnesota was experiencing moderate drought conditions, a major improvement from last October, when nearly 40% of the state was much too dry. The greatest areas of concern are from the Twin Cities metro area on south towards Rochester, Lake City and Winona. In recent weeks the most significant rains (and scattered T-storms) have swept across northern and central counties, largely bypassing southeastern Minnesota. Rainfall deficits of 2-3″ for May are quite common in the moderate drought region. If this area picks up significant rain in the next few weeks farmer should still be able to salvage a good crop later this year. It’s still a little too early to panic. Elsewhere, from Willmar and St. Cloud north to Little Falls on west to the Dakota line soil moisture is adequate, and if we avoid significant hail (most likely in June) much of Minnesota may be on track for a bumper crop.

Paul’s Column

Yes, it’s mostly-gray and threatening-looking out there, but at least we’re not stuck on the same white-knuckle E-Ticket Weather Ride we were thrown around on last week. You remember, right? Hard to forget. From Sunday wind chill to 90s to blowing dust and tropical storm force winds, all in the span of about 4 days. Crazy extremes across the great state of Minnesota. And then — almost magically — skies cleared and Mother Nature bowed her head in respect for the Memorial Day weekend: 3 nearly perfect days in a row. Weather that would make the local Chamber of Commerce proud, right on cue. Arguably we enjoyed some of the nicest weather in the nation; in spite of chilly lake water up north, and the expected parking lot of tail lights on I-94 the smiles were bigger (on a holiday) than I could ever remember.

Yes, the weather is bland, the sky overhead the color of chalk, but at least you won’t have to worry about a sizzling sunburn — or heat exhaustion — or wasting money on air conditioning. A lingering pool of moist, unstable air hovering overhead may spark a sprinkle or two this morning, but drier air over the Dakotas will poke a few holes in this stubborn deck of stratus, the sun may become visible later today, and there’s at least a 40% probability of seeing a sunset shortly after 8:30 this evening. Tomorrow promises to be a dazzling reincarnation of spring in all its glory: enough sun for highs in the upper 70s to near 80. Throw in low humidity and a light breeze and you have all the ingredients for a longer-than-normal (outdoor) lunch. You have roughly 24 hours to come up with a believable excuse. The boss won’t mind. Trust me, I’m a weatherman.

A cooler front pokes south late in the week — computer models hinting at a few showers early Friday, followed by a chilly north wind which will blow through much of Saturday, stunting back yard thermometers at least 10 degrees below average. That should translate into low to mid 60s from St. Cloud southeast to the Twin Cities, and “highs” only in the 50s north of Mille Lacs and Little Falls. Definitely pack a jacket if you’re going north over the weekend. The pace of weather changes is picking up, and a faster-moving pattern will mean rapid changes to the sky over the weekend. It’s still a little early (confidence in the weekend forecast is not as high as I’d like, computer models are a bit contradictory, and that doesn’t increase our comfort level). If I had to bet I’d predict Saturday as the drier day, with a better chance of rain, or rain showers, spreading from west to east across the state on Sunday. But the timing, amounts, potential for thunder, it’s all still pretty nebulous. Another computer run comes out by late morning — I’ll post an afternoon update with the latest weekend weather details, hopefully the computers will agree and the weekend forecast will crystallize somewhat. Sadly, the weather forecast is rarely black or white. It’s almost always some nebulous, indistinguishable shade of bright gray. We’ll give it our best shot. Enjoy a humdrum Wednesday (remember the bucks you’re saving on air conditioning right now) and stay tuned for updates.

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