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Showery up north

* Best chance of rain/thunder this afternoon: south of the MN River.

* A chance of 1-3 hours of late-day rain over the northern third of Minnesota this weekend.

* Sunday: warmer day, shot at 80 if the sun stays out much of the day (likely over central and southern Minnesota).

* String of 80s next week? It should start to feel a bit more like summer, beginning on Sunday.

* Persistent wind flow out of Canada will probably mean a cooler, drier June than normal across most of Minnesota. Nagging drought over southeastern and east central counties may spread across the rest of central and southern Minnesota by late June, unless the pattern breaks.

(Update: 12:30 pm. Doppler radar shows a cluster of moderate/heavy showers and possible embedded thundershowers moving from west to east across far southern Minnesota. Most of the rain should stay south of the MN River, a few showers grazing the southern suburbs of the Twin Cities this afternoon. Another band of instability showers/T-showers may approach from northern MN later this afternoon).

Here’s a little trivia that may leave you gagging on your corn flakes. On Wednesday it was 85 in Anchorage, about 15 degrees warmer than we were. Alaska is experiencing unusual, near-recordwarmth, while the jet stream is temporarily “locked” in a pattern that brings cooler, drier air across Canada into Minnesota and Wisconsin. Will this mean light jackets and disgrunted natives all summer long? Place your bets. My take: we will see a condensed, somewhat abbreviated summer, but with drought a constant concern across much of the state, fewer 90 degree days than average (we should see about 13 if this is a “normal” summer) and less severe weather than usual.

I’m happy to be home, still winded from a 36 hour journey to Philadelphia to learn about about video-on-demand and cable systems of the future. One of my businesses is creating technology so, some day, you won’t have to sit through a Cialis ad you don’t want to see. Why on earth is advertising one-size-fits-all? I grew up 70 miles due west of Philadelphia, in Lancaster county. No, I’m not Amish, but I grew up smack dab in the middle of Amish country, typical subdivision plopped in the middle of rich, black soil in the heart of Amish Country. It’s two different worlds, really, not much intermingling. They keep to themselves (we are the “English” and generally not to be trusted). I don’t blame them. They really are an amazing people with priorities in the right order: family comes first, up at sunrise, in bed just after sunset, totally self-sufficient – living off the grid. If there was a national emergency they wouldn’t even know it or be impacted at all – no TV, radio, no electricity to speak of. Their farm machinery can be motorized, but it has special wheels so farmers won’t be tempted to drive them on the highways. They’re a generous people who get confused when you talk about insurance. There is no need for insurance – if someone’s barn is hit by lightning and burns down all the neighbors get together and rebuild the barn, on the spot. It’s like living in a parallel universe. The only time I interacted with them was when I was working at a sub & pizza joint. A group of Amish boys buried a ’57 Chevy under hay bales and drove it around every weekend – they’d stop in (reeking of beer) and order up a few pizzas to go, always friendly and polite.

So where is this (rant) going? My point, if there is one, is that when I return to my boyhood home it no longer feels like “home”. I love going back, but Philly seemed vaguely foreign to me. It’s human nature to compare and contrast, and the longer you live in Minnesota the more spoiled you become in so many ways, without even realizing it (until you travel elsewhere and start to miss the pace, the lakes, the friendly nature of Minnesotans, the space!) Yes, I feel claustrophic every time I venture east of Chicago. And the weather? Fuggetaboutit! First of all, it’s hard to even SEE the weather out east, with all the haze, pollution, hills and powerlines. You just don’t have the sweeping panoramas that you have here in the Land of 10,000 Weather Extremes. I swear, some days you can almost see tomorrow’s weather on the horizon. When I’m east I feel like I’m watching the weather (through a portal). When I come back home, after giving thanks for a great airport, I head outside and realize I’m LIVING the weather. No, weather in Minnesota is by no means a spectator sport. We’ve all been drafted, the Great Meteorological Experiment always has room for new players! Welcome to the ultimate atmospheric petri dish. The truth: most people living in the east couldn’t even find Minnesota on a map. They think “cold” and “distant” and frankly, most have no idea what’s really out here. And I’m not about to tell them. If it was 15 degrees warmer in the winter – consistently – we’d be “L.A. with lakes”. No thanks. Our extreme weather is an insurance policy, limiting the number of people who will ever settle here. Our numbing winters serve a purpose, keeping our population growth tolerable and reasonable.

There’s one more thing: when I go east I’m back in the Land of Weather Wimps. 20s (above zero) is considered an arctic front. 4″ of snow is a catastrophe that shuts schools down for days. Don’t let anyone living in Atlanta give you a hard time about our winters, either. There are skyways in Atlanta, because of the heat and humidity! Some days in Washington D.C. it’s so oppressively muggy that you can’t breathe. As much as we complain about the weather (in between bouts of paranoid pride) we don’t have to track hurricanes, swamplike humidity levels for week after week, and wicked bouts of ozone pollution (smog) that can turn a blue sky bright orange. Sounds like Paul has drunk the Chamber of Commerce Kool Aid. Maybe so, but overall, I have yet to find a better place to live, raise a family, and have a front row seat at Mother Nature’s ongoing performance (more like a spectacle). It’s hard to be bored in Minnesota if you love the weather, that’s for sure.

Thursday was a fine, pleasant late spring day, temperatures a few degrees cooler than average, but who’s counting? It was lukewarm and the sun was shining much of the day. Not too many complaints overall. It’s quite comfortable here at ground-level, but temperatures drop off faster than usual as you rise up through the atmosphere (so try not to rise up through the atmosphere!) This “instability” will leave the sky overhead a bit irritable and uneasy through the weekend. Mornings will be sunny and fine, clouds starting to build around midday, and a few cumulus congestus clouds (looking like big, white, billowing towers) may leak a little rain late each afternoon, especially over the northern third of Minnesota. If you want to play it safe plan your dash to the pool or outing on the lake between 9 am and 2 pm and you’ll probably be “safe” (not soaked to the bone). After about 3 pm all bets are off, but even up north, from Cross Lake to Alexandria, we’re talking maybe 1-2 hours of showers (and assorted thunderclaps) around the dinner hour.

If the sun stays out long enough (likely) then we should reach 80 on Sunday, with a string of highs at or just above 80 scheduled for next week. Yesterday I got prematurely excited: the GFS model was hinting at 90s, even 100 degrees the last week of June. The latest run has popped my hot-front-bubble, the really inflamed air stays to our south (as it has for week after week since mid May) and we’ll be lucky to see low 80s the next few days. Yes, THAT’S why the lake water up north is going to be cooler than it should be the latter half of June. The pattern has been very persistent, jet stream winds blowing in from Calgary (instead of Denver or Tulsa), thus our lack of 90s and severe thunderstorms. There’s absolutely no way to determine if this is a June fluke, or whether we’ll be destined to track September-like cool fronts all summer long. At some point these warm fronts WILL reach Minnesota and we will be treated to the hot, hazy, lazy days of summer. I just don’t see it looking out 10-15 days or so.

In summary: not very summery until the latter half of next week, when daytime highs will rise consistently above the 80-degree mark. If you plan your weekend adventures for morning and midday hours you should be ok. All in all I give the weekend weather a B- up north (because of late-day showers) and a B+ in central and southern counties, where the sun will be out most of the day Saturday and Sunday.

I can’t get enough of this stuff – check out the latest simulation of Earth, and which countries are in daylight vs. darkness. For the very latest full screen graphic click here.

Interested in star-gazing? Astronomy is huge in Minnesota, and nights should be clear to partly cloudy the next couple of nights, Canadian air resulting in less haze and humidity than usual this time of year. This handy graphic shows, hour by hour, the expected quantity and thickness of the clouds for Minnesota. It’s not perfect, but it’s another potentially useful tool if you want to gaze up at the Big Dipper or check out some lucky shooting stars after dark. To get the very latest prediction click here (and don’t forget to hit refresh on your browser).

Weather Headlines

* 71 in St. Cloud Thursday, 73 in the Twin Cities, about 6-8 degrees cooler than average.

* Lingering instability kicks off a few late-day showers today, Saturday, even Sunday.

* Best chance of 1-3 hours of late-day rain comes over the northern third of Minnesota over the weekend.

* Sunday: warmer day, shot at 80 if the sun stays out much of the day (likely over central and southern Minnesota).

* String of 80s next week? It should start to feel a bit more like summer, beginning on Sunday.

* Persistent wind flow out of Canada will probably mean a cooler, drier June than normal across most of Minnesota. Nagging drought over southeastern and east central counties may spread across the rest of central and southern Minnesota by late June, unless the pattern breaks.

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