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Pondering the senior bowling tour

I am happy to be back from a whirlwind visit to Chicago (to see one of my dearest friends on the planet get remarried). I spent 3 years in Chicago back in the mid 90s, when, in (20-20) hindsight a long, 3-day weekend would have been long enough.

I am happy to be back from a whirlwind visit to Chicago (to see one of my dearest friends on the planet get remarried). I spent 3 years in Chicago back in the mid 90s, when, in (20-20) hindsight a long, 3-day weekend would have been long enough.

Live and learn. Chicago is a great (big) city, but the pace is twice as fast as Minnesota, everything seems to cost twice as much, and I always feel claustrophobic when I’m down there. This morning I opened up the window shades in my hotel room and stared up at a big hill with a rag-tag golf course on top. Nice, huh? Yep, until you realize that the entire hill is one great big landfill. Those guys up there are putting on 300 foot high piles of trash.

I had to repeat my favorite line at the wedding when locals gave me a hard time about Minnesota weather. “Hold on, as if Chicago is some sort of rare, tropical treat!” I corrected. The coldest I’ve ever been (in my life) was walking down Michigan Avenue in January with a 30 mph wind roaring off Lake Michigan, cutting through my 4 layers of clothes like I was a lazy nudist. The tears (of pain) rolling down my cheeks instantly froze as I struggled to remain upright. A high relative humidity means your clothing is always damp, allowing the cold in much faster than in multiple layers of clothing remain dry. Yes, Chicago is DEFINITELY cloudier than Minnesota is – proximity to Lake Michigan the culprit. Same goes for Detroit, Cleveland, South Bend, Toledo, Buffalo. Yes, the reality: Minnesota is sunnier, and although we are maybe 3-6 degrees colder than Chicago from December through March, a lower relative humidity means that it actually tends to FEEL WARMER here than it does in the Windy City.

Just when I had them marginally depressed about their high relative humidity/cloud cover situation I finished them off. “In Minnesota everyone has their own lake,” I nodded, turning to my wife and 2 boys for validation. “It’s true, Laurie confirmed – if not a lake then at least a wetland, creek, river or pond. Everyone is entitled to their own body of water.” That’ll teach them to give me a hard time about Minnesota weather.

Then the discussion turned to bowling. In a random act of desperation (and boredom) my wife and youngest son went bowling Saturday night. I somehow managed to bowl 4 strikes/row, turning in a 184, my all-time high score. Brett cheerfully suggested I consider trying out for the Senior Bowling Tour. “You could throw in a little weather when it’s your turn, Dad. Don’t rule anything out.”

Why did I reproduce?

This summer those cocky Chicagoans may just have a point about our goofy weather. July was 3.2 degrees cooler than average in the Twin Cities. We should have seen 5.6 days of 90-degree heat. Let’s round that statistic up to nearly 6 days/July with 90s. This year? None. Zip. Nadda – Nyet. Nichts. Nope. It was one of the coolest July’s ever recorded for Chicago as well, an average monthly temperature of 69.5 degrees and just like us – no 90s!

Enhanced IR Satellite Image from 11:30 pm last night. The coldest (thickest) clouds show up as yellow and orange, highlighting the areas seeing the heaviest rains and greatest potential for hail and severe weather.

Estimate Rainfall Amounts from last night’s strong/severe storms. The key is on the left (click the image to bring it full screen to make it easier to read). Amounts ranged from .25 to .75″, with a few spots picking up close to 1″. Considering June was over 2″ drier than average, and many towns are running a 4-6″ rainfall deficit since early June, 2009, and a 15-17″ rainfall deficit since June 1, 2008 – let’s cheer on the showers and storms until further notice, ok?

Sunday Night Fireworks

Unless you were in a coma last night chances are you made a note of the strong T-storms that rumbled across southern Minnesota, carpet-bombing the central and southern suburbs of the Twin Cities with hail and high water. Rainfall amounts averaged under .25″ for most neighborhoods, with reports of 1/2 to nearly 3″ hail. In Bird Island 2.75″ diameter (roughly baseball size) covered the ground! A funnel cloud was spotted over Norwood/Young America, a rope-like funnel that never touched down. Considering we’re still suffering from severe drought conditions we won’t gripe about the storms, even on a Sunday evening. Were you outside at all Sunday evening? Did you see the sun go down, when it got roughed up by some very ominous looking clouds lining the western horizon? Not a whisper of wind, nothing stirring – you could tell the airmass overhead was ripe for fireworks, and Mother Nature did not disappoint.

NEXRAD Doppler “VIL” Display from last night’s severe storms. VIL stands for vertically integrated liquid, which is a fancy way of describing the amount of hail suspended in a column of air overhead, in this case getting recycled through violent updrafts and downdrafts within severe T-storms rumbling across the southern metro. Most towns/suburbs picked up hail anywhere from pea to golf ball size in diameter. Remember, the larger the hailstone, oftentimes the greater the potential for tornadoes. It’s uncanny, but it tends to work, well, most of the time.

Doppler Radar Mosaic, showing the strong/severe thunderstorms around midnight last night. One cluster of severe storms stretched from the southern suburbs of MSP southward down I-35 to near Faribault, a second north/east of Eau Claire, forming on the boundary separating 70s to the south from mid 50s over northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. The College of DuPage does an outstanding job with their web site. To see high-resolution cloud and radar imagery for the entire USA click here. This one is definitely bookmark-worthy.

Experimental “NowCasting” Tool. This site shows the probability of various amounts of rainfall over a short period of time. It’s worth taking a quick look at if you have a golf game, relatives stopping by to play in the lake, or maybe a field to harvest? To see the latest data for yourself, click here. Choose “North Central Region and the amount of rain you’re betting on, a lousy .01″ rain, or something significant, like a cool 1 or 2” of rain in the coming hours? Place your bets.

Under the heading “better late than never” the atmosphere over North America will finally…FINALLY….shift gears with the chilliest air lifting into far northeastern Canada, allowing jet stream winds aloft to become more west to southwesterly howling overhead. This, in turn, will pump some 80s back into town – I would not be surprised to see a few 90-degree days during the second week of August. That’s right, just about the time many of us are writing off summer, that’s when Mother Nature will go all hot & sweaty on us.

We sample 80s today, a wind shift to the west/northwest bringing down humidity levels a bit, shoving the strongest T-storms into Wisconsin. A stray shower can’t be ruled out tonight, especially over central Minnesota, but no widespread/torrential rains are brewing. A weak ridge of high pressure keeps most of Minnesota dry this week, the heaviest showers/storms nudged just to our south/west most of the week, highs pretty close to average for early August. But by the weekend a real warm front (more like a HOT FRONT!) will surge northward across the state, igniting a few scattered T-storms, and by Sunday and Monday of next week we may be flirting with 90.

No, don’t go writing the Fickle, Stunted “Summer” of ’09 off just yet. Based on the maps I’m looking at that would be perilously premature.

CPC (Climate Prediction Center) 6-10 Day Outlook for August 8-12, showing warmer than average temperatures expected over the eastern 2/3rds of America, a welcome cooling trend for the sizzling western states. All I can say is….we are long overdue for a spell of real summer heat.