Good thing I’m not running for a popularity contest anytime soon. Repeat after me, “he’s only the messenger. He’s only the messenger.” An unpopular messenger charged with the (brutal) responsibility of sharing a lousy weekend forecast. Truth be told I have mixed feelings: with drought conditions expanding across Minnesota I’m happy to see a shot at some steadier, heavier rains for much of the state, not the erratic, hit-or-miss showers that have, well, mostly missed in recent weeks.
On the other hand I know the grief I’m going to get when I wander out the door Saturday, in the rain, temperatures hovering in the 50s. Dads glaring at me, mom’s smiling through gritted teeth, teenagers waving, some with all their fingers visible. And that’s just from family and friends. I shudder to think what strangers will be thinking. I get it: we hunker down from October through April, we suffer, we whine, we make excuses for why we stay here when other (weaker) snowbirds have already evacuated to a southern zip code. “Hey, how’s the weather up north?” they cackle into the phone, knowing that you’re being tortured by the wind chill, paralyzed with fear about the next bout of ice, snow or arctic concoction aimed at the Land of 10,000 Weather Disasters. We tolerate all this — grudgingly — knowing that soon our prayers will be answered. Our numb bodies will soon thaw under a lukewarm sun, hot sun underfoot, gazing out at a setting sun shimmering over a perfect Minnesota lake, serenaded by a loon down the way. Kids laughing, the sound of splashing (and various cold beverages being opened). The drone of a fishing boat trolling in the distance, a neighbor mowing his lawn, his face sporting a big angelic glow.
Fast forward to early June, 2009. Here we are, a mere 17 days from the Summer Solstice, the sun (allegedly) as high in the sky as it ever gets. We should be sweating it out by now, dodging severe thunderstorms and beachball-size hail. Instead what do we get? Frost over the northern half of Minnesota a few nights ago. The weekend looks wet, and cool, and windy. By Monday of next week it may even be chilly enough for a few snow flurries over the Red River Valley! God help us all. I can already see the headlines if it does snow up in Crookston or Grand Forks. It will reinforce every stereotype you’ve heard about Minnesota. “Why do people live up there?”
Look, I still think global warming is real, the globe is slowly warming, but that warming isn’t spread evenly across the planet. We’re seeing more extremes than ever. The warms are getting warmer, the colds are getting colder — we’re seeing more (wild) swings of the weather pendulum than ever, more extreme precipitation events (a 33% increase in heavy rain events in Minnesota since 1947). Frankly, I’m at a loss. I’m seeing things i never thought I would see — nothing seems to make sense anymore. The usual, predictable rythm of Minnesota weather has come unglued. We swerve from flood to drought, we grab jackets when we should be stripping down to shorts. Up is down and left is right. Not sure we can pin this on a weak El Nino brewing in the Pacific, either. This defies all logic. Yes, weather is (by nature) extreme, variable and ever-changing. But even the possibility of flurries in mid June? That’s just crazy-talk, a bad science fiction movie come to life. I hope I’m wrong about this next cold front. When was the last time we had a real COLD front in mid June, anyway? I know there is a historic precedent. In fact July is the only month it hasn’t snowed somewhere in the great state of Minnesota. You’ve heard that old adage, “may you live in interesting times.” Yes, we are living through interesting (weather) times all right. I love Minnesota for many reasons, not the least of which is the changes, the variability — it’s pretty tough to get bored predicting Minnesota’s manic weather. But THIS is crazy! I rest my case. If this keeps up I’m going to need therapy. We all will, come to think of it.
At least the sun shines today, and much of Friday, temperatures not too far off the mark. I don’t think we’ll see any showers on Friday (moisture sliding off to our north and south); the front once again leap-frogging over us. But the weekend is a different story. A massive atmospheric tug-of-war will play out directly over our heads, a western storm pumping southern warmth north, gliding up and over a persistent dome of cool air over Minnesota and Wisconsin. The result: periods of rain, even a stray thundershower, although it may be a bit too cool for any thunder and lightning. Temperatures hold in the 60s south and 50s north Saturday and Sunday (yes, pack a jacket while you’re at it).
It’s too early to speculate about rainfall amounts, but I’m hopeful that it may be enough to actually show up in local rain gauges, maybe a quarter inch southern counties, over half an inch possible north of St. Cloud and Mille Lacs. It’s the best chance of widespread rain we’ve had in weeks. I know the timing is lousy. If it’s any consolation (doubtful) I was planning to head up to my cabin on Pelican this weekend too. Now I’m not so sure. Maybe I’ll take in a movie, clean out the garage (bad idea), rearrange my sock drawer, stuff I was doing back in March. I’m just as ready as everyone else to savor a classic Minnesota weekend, but it’s not to be. Maybe next weekend. Don’t give up hope — not yet.
This map tells the tale: look at how little rain has fallen across Minnesota since April 1. Only 20-40% of our normal allotment of rain has been observed over a huge swath of central Minnesota. Far southeastern counties are in better shape, as is the northern third of the state, but there’s no question the last 2 months have been alarmingly dry for farmers and gardeners over most of the state. The first chance of more widespread rain comes this upcoming weekend.
• Wildfire risk for much of east central and central Minnesota rated as “high” or “very high”, according to MN DNR.
• High pressure directly overhead treats us to sunshine and temperatures close to normal for early June today.
• Less sun Friday as a cool front arrives, showers over far northern Minnesota, probably not reaching St. Cloud or the Twin Cities.
• Western storm increases the chance of steadier rain Saturday and Sunday…at least a few hours of rain each day. Temperatures run 15-20 degrees below normal, 50s north, 60s possible south. The fish may be biting bigtime (falling barometer) but it won’t be very pleasant out on your favorite lake.
• A new word for June: COLD. A surge of colder air behind the weekend storm keeps temperatures in the 40s (north) on Monday, 50s central, near 60 far southern counties.
• 1 in 3 chance of an isolated snow flurry mixing with rain showers over the Red River Valley by Monday night.
• First CHANCE of 80 degrees? Probably not before June 16-17.