Unreasonably cool

Doubt that we live in the Super Bowl of Weather? This is why we have boasting rights for North America, why strangers flinch when you tell them where you live….because of nights like this. Here we are, less than 3 weeks from the Summer Solstice, when the sun is (allegedly) as high in the sky as it ever gets, and there’s frost in the forecast just north of St. Cloud, from Little Falls, Camp Ripley and Brainerd east to Garrison, Mille Lacs and the far northern suburbs of the Twin Cities. The Frost Advisory is in effect for roughly the northern half of Minnesota, a Freeze Warning is posted for the MN Arrowhead, from Grand Rapids to Hibbing, Duluth and the North Shore, a “freeze” defined as 3 hours or more colder than 28 F, cold enough to kill off most new plant life.

Here’s another vaguely terrifying nugget of information: over the next few days it will be as much as 10 degrees warmer in Fairbanks, Alaska than it will be here at home. Let that sink in a little….

…FROST POSSIBLE TONIGHT ACROSS MUCH OF NORTHERN INTO CENTRAL MINNESOTA INTO WESTERN WISCONSIN…

.A LARGE AREA OF COOL AND DRY HIGH PRESSURE WILL SETTLE INTO CENTRAL MINNESOTA OVERNIGHT. AS WINDS DECREASE THIS EVENING TEMPERATURES WILL TUMBLE QUICKLY. AREAS OF FROST ARE LIKELY FROM THE STAPLES AREA THEN THROUGH LITTLE FALLS…MILACA AND MORA LATE TONIGHT AS TEMPERATURES DIP INTO THE MID 30S. PATCHY FROST IS POSSIBLE AROUND ALEXANDRIA AND MORRIS AS WELL AS IN THE WESTERN WISCONSIN REGION AROUND AMERY…RICE LAKE AND LADYSMITH.

TODD-MORRISON-MILLE LACS-KANABEC- INCLUDING THE CITIES OF…LONG PRAIRIE…LITTLE FALLS… PRINCETON…MORA 151 PM CDT TUE JUN 2 2009

…FROST ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 2 AM TO 7 AM CDT WEDNESDAY…

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN TWIN CITIES/CHANHASSEN HAS ISSUED A FROST ADVISORY…WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 2 AM TO 7 AM CDT WEDNESDAY.

A LARGE AREA OF COOL AND DRY HIGH PRESSURE WILL SETTLE INTO CENTRAL MINNESOTA OVERNIGHT. AS WINDS DECREASE THIS EVENING TEMPERATURES WILL TUMBLE QUICKLY. AREAS OF FROST ARE LIKELY FROM THE STAPLES AND LONG PRAIRIE AREAS THEN THROUGH LITTLE FALLS…MILACA AND MORA LATE TONIGHT AS TEMPERATURE DIP INTO THE MID 30S.

Was it an omen? Yesterday at 9:28 am the local National Weather Service issued “Blizzard Safety Tips” on the public service wire. I kid you not. It was obviously some sort of computer glitch (Y2K?) but it really set me back. Do they know something the rest of us don’t? Because if we have a blizzard in June, no matter how much I love Minnesota, I may have to rethink this whole weather-thing. Quick, click here to see this odd (prophetic?) glitch for yourself before someone at the NWS has it removed! Scroll down. Prepare to be SHOCKED!

Why do I think this won’t come as a shock? From time to time the weather becomes “locked” into a persistent pattern (especially when the Pacific Ocean is unusually warm or cool, an El Nino or La Nina event). Whether it’s the NAO, the North Atlantic Oscillation (sounds painful) or just random chance, prevailing jet stream winds will blow out of Canada through at least the first half of next week, keeping our temperatures a good 5-10 degrees cooler than average. No more 80s anytime soon (and most Minnesotans are probably just fine with that!) The bad news: you may need a wet suit if you’re hoping to take a dip in that northern lake over the weekend – air temperatures may not climb out of the 50s, and (stating the obvious) it’s going to take quite a bit longer for your favorite body of water to warm to a point where it’s tolerable to swim, water ski or do a little wake boarding. According to the CPC, the Climate Prediction Center, odds favor cooler than normal weather from the west coast across roughly the northern third of Minnesota through most of June. Air conditioning optional until further notice. The bad news? This spell of unusually weather, more typical of early May than early June, will keep the most active frontal boundaries (think thunder-magnets) well south of Minnesota much of this month, and my hunch, my semi-educated GUESS, is that the Drought of ’09 will get worse before it gets better, hopefully later in the summer.

Another potentially silver lining to a cool June: a significantly lower threat of severe weather. June is not only our wettest month (we SHOULD pick up nearly 4″ of rain) but it’s also Minnesota’s most severe month, when hailstorms and tornadoes tend to peak. With dew points in the 30s and 40s much of the month there just won’t be enough fuel/moisture to spawn severe, rotating “supercell” thunderstorms capable of damaging winds and severe updrafts known as tornadoes. O.K. I’m grasping at meteorological straws here – the drought is already severe from the eastern suburbs of the Twin Cities into much of northwestern Wisconsin, and I fully expect drought conditions to spread south and west, toward St. Cloud, Willmar and Makato in the coming weeks. I hope I’m wrong, but I think there’s a better than 50/50 chance the drought will expand.

I won’t pretend to be an aviation expert but I feel compelled to at least offer my two cents about what may have brought down the Air France flight from Brazil to France a couple of nights ago – what a horrific tragedy. There has been some speculation about lightning strikes, and that has put the fear of God into some folks, including my dear wife of 25 years. Planes are designed to withstand multiple lightning strikes, during a typical year there are scores of lightning strikes reported with no adverse effects. I also read a few reports about thunderstorms playing a role, and although that’s theoretically possible, trans-Atlantic flights are routinely at 35,000 to 40,000 feet, above most of the “weather” below, including thunderstorms. Unsually severe storms can sometimes reach altitudes of 50,000 to 60,000 feet, and if a jet flew into a severe thunderstorm it’s possible that severe turbulence (violent updrafts/downdrafts) could result in a total loss of control. But it should be stated clearly: pilots go out of their way to avoid flying INTO thunderstorms, for obvious reasons. There is usually a way to fly around T-storm cells, even if there’s an apparent line of heavy weather in the path.

Another theory: turbulence of the clear-air variety. We’ve all been on flights when we’ve encountered pockets of turbulence, where the plane loses or gains altitude rapidly and sometimes violently (it’s no fun watching the wings “flap”, but again, modern aircraft are designed to withstand even severe turbulence). Could a combination of factors be to blame: an electrical malfunction (one that impacted the redundant back-up systems) – temporarily blinding the pilot, who then unknowingly flew directly into a severe thunderstorm? I guess so, but I want to try and reassure any unsteady frequent fliers who are worried about weather and air safety. Turbulence is the atmospheric equivalent of a “pothole in the air”. You don’t scream or panic every time you get bounced around driving into one of Minnesota’s legendary road-craters, right? So it goes with turbulence: it’s uncomfortable and unnerving, but in the vast majority of cases: not dangerous to the integrity of the plane and its ability to remain in the air.

Before your next flight check in on this web site to see the latest forecast of turbulence for the USA. There’s no way to tell precisely where you’ll encounter turbulence (it’s a little like trying to predict when and where you’re next going to hiccup). All meteorologists can do is predict, in broad brush-strokes, where conditions aloft are ripe for turbulence, near the core of a fast-flowing jet stream, especially as it crosses the Rockies, or in the vicinity of an active frontal boundary with T-storms sprouting up nearby. For the very latest turbulence outlook click here.

O.K Back to Minnesota weather. Today will be cooler than Monday by a few degrees, but the sun should be out. Remember how high in the sky the sun is now at midday, less than 3 weeks away from the Summer Solstice. That high sun angle means unprotected skin can become sunburned in 30 minutes, so consider a little sunscreen if you plan on spending any amount of time outdoors. Some otherwise logical, intelligent friends of mine think TEMPERATURE has something to do with the potential to burn, but that’s not the case. Even on a day with high clouds and cool 60s you can become lobster-red if you’re not careful. I’m starting to sound like my mother. Sorry about that.

A dying cool front arrives today with patchy clouds, we can’t rule out a stray 5 minute shower or sprinkle, but the atmosphere is very dry – any light rain should evaporate before reaching the ground. A cool north wind, gusting to 20 mph. at times, will keep temperatures stuck in the 60s across most of Minnesota. A weak bubble of Canadian high pressure passes directly overhead Wednesday, meaning less wind and bright sun. On the backside of that fair-weather-maker winds become a bit more southerly by Thursday, luring the mercury back into the low and mid 70s. It will feel like early June again by Thursday afternoon.

Saturday still appears to be the nicer, sunnier, drier day of the weekend, but plan on COOL. Highs will hold in the 60s locally, with readings in the 50s up north from the Brainerd Lakes to the Detroit Lakes area – not a great day to loiter on the lake (but the fish may be biting bigtime, especially Sunday morning!) Check out the (GFS) model prediction for the dinner hours Sunday evening….the steadiest rain/showers forecast to be over the northern half of Minnesota.

Get this, an even COOLER cool front sweeps south behind Sunday’s storm, and next Monday may feel more like late April, with 50s over the northern half of Minnesota, temperatures struggling into the low 60s over southern counties with an outbreak of jackets statewide. What gives? Does this mean the entire summer will be dry and unreasonably cool? No, not necessarily. Remember last year? Almost every weekend in June was a wash-out – true summer heat didn’t really stick around until July. Looks like a possible rerun of last year. I’ll keep scanning the maps, and give the Doppler a swift kick. Maybe the long-range outlook will get a little more tolerable as the week goes on. One can always hope.

Weather Headlines

• 72 degree high in St. Cloud on Monday, 74 in the Twin Cities, Redwood Falls picks up .12″ of rain.

• Patchy clouds, 1 in 8 chance of a light shower or sprinkle by midday/afternoon, but today’s cool front should come through dry across most of Minnesota. After-school activities are NOT in danger.

• Bright sun, less wind on Wednesday as high pressure settles overhead.

• Thursday: milder, back into the 70s, closer to “average”.

• 1 in 4 chance of a shower Friday as the next cool front arrives.

• Saturday: nicer, sunnier day of the weekend, shower (opportunity) increases on Sunday, best chance of a few hours of rain over the northern half of Minnesota Sunday afternoon.

• Cool weekend on tap: 50s north (for highs!) Southern MN towns should see 60s.

• Turning even COOLER early next week, more like late April than early June by Monday. Keep the jackets handy.

• Next chance of 80 degrees? Friday, June 12. Good grief.


Weather Stats for May 2009:
 
North America:
Mean Temperature:  (60.72F) 17th warmest in 50 years. Warmest May since 2007, but only the 5th warmest in 8 years (2001).
 
Precipitation:  9th wettest May in 50 years, wettest since 2004, 4th wettest since 1990.

U.S:
Mean Temperature:  (64.74F) 10th warmest in 50 years. Warmest May since 2007, but only the 5th warmest in 8 years (2001).
 
Precipitation:  7th wettest May in 50 years, wettest since 2003, 3rd wettest since 1990.

Bakersfield, CA:  (76.46F) 4th warmest May in 50 years.  Warmest since May 2001 and 3rd warmest since May 1992 (17 years).

Reno, NV:  (65.02F) 2nd warmest May in 50 years lagging only May  2001.

Houston, TX:  (78.14) 7th warmest May in 50 years.  Warmest since May 2003 and 4th warmest since May 1996 (13 years).

Raleigh-Durham, NC:  (70.80F) 5th warmest May in 50 years.  Warmest since 2004 and 3rd warmest since 1991 (18 years).

Orlando, FL  (14.56 inches) Wettest May ever shattering the record of 10.36 inches set back in 1976.

Little Rock, AR  (13.05 inches) Wettest May ever besting the record of 12.74 inches set back in 1968.

Baltimore-Washington:  (8.42 inches) 2nd wettest May in 50 years lagging only May 1989.

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