One too many extremes

(Update: 11:30 am, Friday. Doppler has never looked so good. A massive MCS, a meso-convective system, is pushing east across the state, soaking the southern third or so of Minnesota, including the Twin Cities. Nothing severe, just a rare moderate to heavy soaking, with some 1-2″ rainfall amounts. Keep in mind we’re down 7-8″ since early June and 17″ since June of 2008 but this will certainly help, it’s a big step in the right direction).

Remember: we’re still in a slight severe risk for later today. The sun should break through by mid afternoon – our soaking/cooling rain may have diminished the instability and subsequent severe risk later, but we still can’t rule out hail, even an isolated tornado, later today and early tonight.


Doppler Radar Rainfall Estimates. The heaviest (1-2″) amounts are lining up from Olivia and Willmar east to the Twin Cities metro. St. Cloud is missing out on the heaviest rains with this system, the computer models actually did a pretty good job last night highlight the southern quarter of MN as ripe for heavy rains/storms.

Weekend Weather Headlines:

Extreme Drought conditions now showing up north/east of St. Paul. Northern Washington, eastern Anoka and southern Chisago counties are hardest hit right now.

Temperature extremes on tap this weekend: highs in the 60s over northern Minnesota to mid/upper 90s near the Iowa border, where a 75 degree dew point could make it FEEL like 105-110 F. O.K. What’s a 40-45 degree temperature spread among friends? And that’s just across one state!

Rarely is the forecast black or white. It’s usually some nebulous, hard-to-define shade of gray. Nothing more frustrating, maddening….than being on the EDGE of a front, teeter-tottering between two massive extremes, a mere 50 miles away from 95 (or 70!) That will pretty much be the story this weekend. Welcome to “A Tale of Two Seasons, Part 8.” We grit our teeth much of July, standing outside in the 70s, 60s and 50s, checking our watches (as if THAT might somehow get Mother Nature off the dime!) A couple nights ago Embarrass, Minnesota weighed in with the chilliest morning temperature in the Lower 48, a brisk, eye-opening 36 degree low – in early August! I don’t know about you, but frankly I’ve had just about enough “character-building” weather. I’m ready for a period of uncannily boring, unusually average and mundane weather normalcy to float above my yard for a month or so. I would WELCOME the opportunity to get bored by Minnesota’s weather! I know, not going to happen.

One silver lining: a sharp contrast in temperature above our heads may positively impact the moderate/severe drought gripping central Minnesota. Unless you’re in the propeller-repair business chances are you’re not thrilled about the lack of rain this year. Lake water levels are down a cool 1-2 feet on Lake Minnetonka, 4 feet on Prior Lake, as much as 3-5 feet on White Bear Lake! Farmer are starting to feel the effects of a 5-7″ rainfall deficit since June 1, 2009, but a 15-17″ rainfall deficit since June 1, 2008! That won’t go away anytime soon.

So no, I have no plans on whining, whimpering or apologizing for rain in the forecast this weekend. Here’s what we know (or think we know).

Weather Headlines

1). Fickle Rains. The best chance of heavy/strong/severe showers & T-storms will come over southern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities metro area, where the latest (NAM) model prints out nearly 1.5″ of rain. The northern half of Minnesota, north of St. Cloud and Lake Mille Lacs, will see precious little rain over the weekend, while some counties near the Iowa border could easily pick up 1-3″ of rain, even hail and high winds from isolated severe thunderstorms.

2). Timing? Best chance of showers/storms in this warm frontal pattern tend to come during the early morning/breakfast hour and again late afternoon and evening. I don’t envision any all-day rains for the southern third of Minnesota, just a couple of hours of rain possible today, again Saturday night.

3). Wettest Day? Probably today. Have a Plan B. But right now it appears the heaviest, most widespread showers/T-storms will stay south of St. Cloud. The Twin Cities metro area stands a much better chance of 1-2″ rains today and tonight. The best window for heavy rain/storms: morning/midday hours today.

4). Highest Probability of Hail & High Water (severe storms)? Today. SPC has most of central/southern MN in a “slight risk”. Looking more carefully at the probabilities [see below] it appears that the greatest risk of large hail and isolated tornadoes will come over far southeastern MN, including the immediate Twin Cities metro area.

SPC Day 1 (Today) Probability of Severe Weather. According to severe storm specialists monitoring conditions 24/7 from their weather lab in Norman, OK there is roughly a 30% chance of severe weather within 25 miles of any location in southeastern Minnesota.

5). Sweatshirt…..or inappropriate Speedo? While campers in northern Minnesota spoon (to conserve body heat) with lows dipping into the 40s tonight, residents of far southern Minnesota will be sweating out – highs well in the 90s Saturday and possibly Sunday as well. With dew points reaching the mid 70s I still wouldn’t be surprised to see a Heat Index of 105-110 near the Iowa border late Saturday. We’ll see, but the worst of the swamplike, blast-furnace heat should slide off just to our south.

6). Now it’s “Extreme Drought” We’ve gone from “severe” to “extreme” drought conditions north/east of St. Paul. Northern Washington, eastern Anoka and southern Chisago counties are hardest hit right now.

7). Crazy Temperature extremes on tap this weekend: highs in the 60s over northern Minnesota to mid/upper 90s near the Iowa border, where a 75 degree dew point could make it FEEL like 105-110 F. O.K. What’s a 40-45 degree temperature spread among friends? And that’s just across one state!


Percentage of Minnesota suffering from dry weather. Nearly 46% of the state is too dry, moderate drought impacting 17% of Minnesota, severe drought 3.4% and (new this week) extreme drought just under 1% of the state.

Timeline of a Deepening Drought. This chart shows the evolution of the drought over time, conditions worsening significantly since April and May (the latest conditions are on the far right side of the graph).



Heat Advisories may have to be issued for far southern Minnesota, from Mankato to Albert Lea and Austin, where it may FEEL like 105 in the shade by Saturday afternoon. Gulp.

GFS Temperature Prediction for 7 pm Saturday. 90s are likely over far southern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities. Latest guidance is hinting at 100 degrees near Austin, Albert Lea, even Rochester. meanwhile temperatures hold in the 80s for St. Cloud, 70s over the northern quarter of Minnesota.

Predicted Heat Index for Sunday. Check out the huge expanse of America in the brown/purple shading, where the heat index is forecast to be 100-110. Yes, we’re getting a break over the northern tier states of the USA, but the brunt of America is not quite so lucky.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Wendy Woods on 08/07/2009 - 01:36 pm.

    Paul,

    Just want to say I am reading your column religiously every day. I am a weather geek – you were my favorite weatherman when you were on tv. But now that you are not, I like you even more, with your candor and command of English prose (I was an English major and appreciate good writing). Thanks for being human and sharing with us not only your amazingly accurate forecasts but your opinions, thoughts, and even general tirades that are as refreshing as this summer has been (to me it’s been “just right.”)
    Wendy

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