Not a bad way to start May

So long, April. There are few places on Earth where, in the course of one month, it’s possible to experience blizzards, tornadoes, floods, lightning, brushfires and 90s, all in the span of 31 days. April is somehow able to cram four seasons into one month.

May is a little more predictable, generally blizzard-free. Spring greenery and more frequent showers mean a lowered brushfire risk. But the threat of severe storms and isolated tornadoes will increase as the month wears on, as humidity levels increase, southerly winds blowing in moist, muggy air from the Gulf of Mexico. The problem: the upper atmosphere is still quite chilly, suffering a wintry hangover of sorts. Throw in strong jet stream winds howling overhead and you’re left with conditions which can, on rare occasions, turn innocent thunderstorms, into raging, spinning “supercells” capable of grapefruit size hail and nature’s deadliest wind: the tornado. We’ll probably have our first tornado watch of the season within 2-3 weeks, and in all probability the first tornado touchdown of the year somewhere in Minnesota.

Our current weather pattern is pretty benign, downright reasonable if you ask me. Temperatures will average a couple degrees below normal into the weekend, a lingering whirlpool of cold air aloft keeping clouds and a few isolated, late-day “instability” showers and sprinkles in the forecast for northern Minnesota late Friday and again late Saturday. The best chance of a 15 minute shower will come to our north, closer to Aitkin, Brainerd and Bemidji — but it shouldn’t ruin your outdoor plans. Sunday still appears to be the sunnier, nicer day with highs well up into the 60s.

Next week looks a bit more active with frequent rounds of showers and possible thunder (not sure we’ll have enough moisture or wind shear to get anything severe). Highs should be well into the 60s to near 70 a few days next week (no cold fronts, no heavy jacket weather — nothing controversial shaping up, I’m happy to report).

With everything else in the news: swine flu, bankruptcies, questionable economic news — I’m relieved that at least the weather is somewhat predicable (and reasonable). Thank God for small favors.

Weather Headlines

• “Dead clouds” linger over most of central and northern Minnesota: residual moisture from Wednesday rain trapped near the ground by a stubborn inversion (temperatures warming with altitude). The result: persistent stratus and stratocumulus clouds capable of a sprinkle/spritz.

• Mix of clouds and sun again Friday: highs near 60.

• Isolated instability sprinkle/light shower possible well north of the Twin Cities (Brainerd Lake area) late Friday, again Saturday

• Nice weekend shaping up: Sunday looks like the nicer day with more sun and highs in the mid 60s, near 70 south/west of the Minnesota River.

• Great start to May: basically dry and seasonably mild into at least Tuesday of next week.

• Growing shower/T-storm chance late Wednesday/Thursday of next week.

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