Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Million dollar rain

There’s been a terrible mistake. I fell asleep Friday night and slept right through the summer, awaking in early October. Rip Van Douglas.

There’s been a terrible mistake. I fell asleep Friday night and slept right through the summer, awaking in early October. Rip Van Douglas. There is no other plausible explanation. Yesterday, reaching into the closet for a heavy jacket before braving a cold, wind-whipped rain, it all felt a little surreal. What happened? I should be wandering around the neighborhood in shorts, black socks and sandals, terrifying the neighbors. I SHOULD have a hint of sunburn on the tip of my nose. I SHOULD be hearing the familiar taunts of “hey Paul, hot ‘nuf ‘fer ‘ya? HaHaHa!” I miss that (never thought I’d say that in public). Back in Meteorology 001, the introductory course, they teach us a). days of the week, b). which finger to point to the weather map with, and c). summer follows spring – it tends to get warmer as we approach the Summer Solstice. Perhaps I should go back and have a chat with some of my college professors, because something just isn’t right.

Yesterday was baffling. YES, we need the rain. The timing stinks, but on some level it was nice to see a long-lasting, soaking rain. Only .10″ of rain fell on St. Cloud, on the northern fringe of the precipitation band, but .66″ fell on the Twin Cities, with .59″ in Rochester, where they set a record for the coolest high temperature ever recorded on June 6 (55 F.) The mercury eaked out a “high” of only 52 in the Twin Cities and St. Cloud, well below the average high of 77 for this date. Keep in mind the average low for June 6 is 55 degrees. There were reports of up to 3″ of snow in the Black Hills of South Dakota, enough to shovel and plow! It felt like early April or the first week of October out there, a good day for running errands, power-shopping or daydreaming of warm, hazy, lazy days to come. And they will come. If it’s any consolation last year we had rotten luck in June, just about every weekend was rained out.

75 hour rainfall prediction for the upper Midwest from Much of Minnesota is predicted to pick up an additional 1-2″ of rain from late Sunday night through midday Monday. Note the graphic in the upper right: a couple inches of SNOW is predicted for western counties of North Dakota through the period. Click on the graphic to bring it full-screen.

I felt bad for graduating seniors and all those washed-out grad parties scheduled for Saturday. Today will be drier, but still mostly-gray, drab, cool and damp, with a misty drizzle and temperatures holding in the 50s most of the day. Yesterday’s rain helped the drought situation, but by conservative estimates it will take anywhere from another 1-2.5″ of rain to pull us out of our deepening dry rut. We may be in luck. Computer models eject the main Rocky Mountain storm out onto the high Plains tomorrow, pushing another surge of rapidly rising air back into Minnesota. Rain will start up again later tonight, falling heavily around the breakfast hour Monday (expect a long, white-knuckle commute filled with ominous traffic reports). Guidance prints out another 1.3″ of rain for the Twin Cities, with as much as 1.6″ for the St. Cloud area. The map below (courtesy of shows most of Minnesota picking up anywhere from 1 to 2″ of rain, with the heaviest amounts falling on central and northern counties. The rain should cut off by midday Monday, and then we slowly dry out. The sun stages a cameo appearance Tuesday, with generally dry weather from Tuesday into Thursday, when temperatures should finally reach the 70s again. Another (weaker) frontal passage may squeeze out more showers and T-showers Friday into early Saturday, but skies should clear by midday Saturday, with ample sun (and highs in the mid to upper 70s) next Saturday and Sunday. Yes, next weekend WILL be better than what we’re experiencing right now, which won’t be too tough to pull off. In a few weeks, when we’re sweating through a spell of 80s and 90s with dew points topping 70 and severe thunderstorms prowling the state we’ll look back to this spell of free air conditioning….and shudder. This too shall pass.

Saturday’s high temperatures around the USA. Click on the graphic to bring it full-screen. Image courtesy of Plymouth State Weather Center, a great source of current/predicted weather maps.

So who – or what – do we blame for this spell of unseasonably, UNREASONABLY cool weather? Is there an atmospheric smoking gun, or do we just chalk this up to random atmospheric variability? Probably the latter. The jet stream has more of a northwesterly component than we should be seeing in early June, when winds aloft historically howl from the southwest. Could it be a symptom of what’s happening on the sun (fewest sunspots since 1928?) Possibly. The graphic below shows a mild El Nino (warming) of equatorial Pacific Ocean water developing. If this trend continues and strengthens, with sea surface temperatures 2-4 degrees F warmer than average (a strong El Nino) then, statistically, that would tend to favor a milder autumn and winter for the northern 2/3rd’s of America, with wetter, cooler weather for much of the south. I’m not yet ready to crawl out onto that shaky limb, but I don’t think we can point to anomalies in the Pacific for a clue as to why we’re walking the streets in jackets during the first week of June. By the way, CPC, the Climate Prediction Center, is predicting a cooler than normal June for Minnesota and the Dakotas, which seems like a pretty good bet, based on how the pattern is setting up. Next week will be 5-10 degrees below average in the temperature department, but by the weekend we should be clawing back up to “normal”, whatever that is.

Latest sea surface temperatures, showing a mild El Nino event brewing in the Pacific. To check on the latest status click here for NOAA’s El Nino Page.

Weather Headlines

* 52 degree high at St. Cloud and the Twin Cities Saturday. Average high is 77, average low is 55 for June 6.

* Yesterday MAY have been the coolest June 6 since 1891 for much of central and southern Minnesota. Rochester’s 55 degree high broke a record for the coolest high temperature for June 6.

* Just drizzle today, but clouds linger, temperatures hold in the 50s most of the day.

* More rain arrives tonight and lingers Monday morning, another 1 to 1.5″ of rain possible.

* Slower commute likely tomorrow morning with standing water on the roads – leave extra time.

* Basically dry from Tuesday through Thursday with slowly mellowing temperatures, 70s return by Thursday.

* More showers/thunder possible Friday into early Saturday.

* Early word on next weekend: BETTER! Ample sun from midday Sun through much of Sunday with highs in the mid to upper 70s, closer to average.