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Winter hazard awareness week

I know – I know. It’s hard to get excited about snow, ice, blizzards and dangerous wind chill with temperatures poking well into the 50s to near 60 and talk of Indian Summer in the air.
By Paul Douglas

I know – I know. It’s hard to get excited about snow, ice, blizzards and dangerous wind chill with temperatures poking well into the 50s to near 60 and talk of Indian Summer in the air. The first 11 days of November are running a good 6-8 degrees above average from St. Cloud to the Twin Cities, as much as 10-15 degrees above average across northern Minnesota, where there is NO snow to be found on the ground. That’s a little unusual – by the second week of November there is (usually) a couple inches of snow on the ground over the Minnesota Arrowhead, the BWCA and the International Falls area. A month ago, when it was snowing and everyone was pretty miserable (myself included) I went out on a creaky limb and predicted “more 60s” before winter sets in for good. A number of people laughed (mainly friends and family members) but I stuck to my guns. Why? The atmosphere always strives toward equilibrium. Unusually cold weather is USUALLY followed by a spell of abnormally mild weather. Usually, but not always. The fact that the cold and snow came so early, about 2-4 weeks earlier than normal, was a tip-off that Indian Summer would pop back up again in November. The past 4 days have been a God-send, a kick in the pants, and many people who were moping (and whining) just a few weeks ago have come out of their dark, damp funks and made the most of this unusual spell of late-season warmth. Evidence of El Nino? Probably not. Even though a moderate to strong El Nino is warming Pacific Ocean water, we probably won’t see the full effects of this phenomenon until January and February, which should….SHOULD…trend milder than average from Seattle to the Twin Cities. I’m not fond of long-range (seasonal) forecasts. So much can go wrong. El Nino is only one signal, there may be other factors that are much more difficult to factor into the long-range models, and that’s why I start to (visibly) sweat when the subject turns to “hey Paul, what’s the winter going to be like?” Hmmm. “Colder with some snow. Back to you Bubba.” If only it was that easy…

Records Galore! Check out a week’s worth of weather records across the USA. All those red dots are cities that recorded a record high temperature in the last 7 days, the green dots show record rainfall amounts for a 24 hour period. The most record highs are clustered from New England into the Great Lakes and across the Rockies, where a blizzard struck just 2 weeks ago. To see specific records on a (great) interactive map, click here for more.

The Winter of ’08-09. The National Weather Service created a great map showing snowfall statewide. More than 80″ socked the Moorhead/Detroit Lakes area, as well as much of the Minnesota Arrowhead, but only 40-50″ fell from St. Cloud into most of the Twin Cities, about 5-10″ less than average. What will the upcoming winter bring? Odds (weighted due to El Nino) favor LESS snow than average, but that’s far from a certainty. This is Winter Hazard Awareness Week here in Minnesota. For more facts & figures from NOAA click here for some solid information that may come in very handy in a few weeks.

Snowfall during an “Average Winter”. Normal snowfall for St. Cloud and the Twin Cities is 50-55″, with over 80″ for the Arrowhead. Why do snowfall amounts tend to increase the farther east you travel across Minnesota? One factor is moisture swept off Lake Superior (“lake effect snows”) but moisture from the Gulf of Mexico is more likely to impact the eastern half of Minnesota than the westernmost counties of the state, which tend to be drier, on average. Yes, during a typical winter MSP and STC SHOULD see more snow than Fargo and the Crookston, Roseau area. Strange but true…

Predicted Wave Heights for Thursday. Unless I’m hallucinating (possible) I’m seeing some 14-18′ predictions from coastal Virginia north to New Jersey, the result of the soggy remains of “Ida” interacting with a strong bubble of high pressure draped over eastern Canada. The resulting pressure contrast is whipping up sustained east/northeast winds of 30-50 mph along the east coast, capable of very heavy surf and coastal beach erosion. If you’re flying into an eastern city through Saturday expect rain/wind-related delays.

We salvaged a nicer-than-expected Wednesday (my bad – I thought the clouds would thicken up faster). Interestingly enough, I didn’t hear a peep from anyone. No “Paul, I thought you said it would cloud up today?” I’ve noticed that when the weather turns out NICER than predicted, most people don’t mind. There may be a little good-natured ribbing, but no crimes have been committed. No worries. But when the forecast turns out WORSE than expected, watch out, especially if it’s on a weekend, a holiday, or the Deer Hunting or Fishing Opener. Minnesotans have long memories….and they’re not shy about reminding you that you screwed up, big-time!

O.K. Try again. An approaching cool front will increase our cloudcover today, keeping temperatures a few degrees cooler than yesterday, but still 10-15 degrees above average. Yes, we’re getting spoiled – this recent spell of shirtsleeve/sweatshirt weather is more typical of early October than early November. Think about it: September felt more like August. October was Novemberlike. And now November is feeling more like October (the October we never quite experienced). It’s obvious Mother Nature doesn’t consult a calendar – she makes it up as she goes…

Today will be mostly-gray, little more than some spotty drizzle (especially up north). Steadier light rain is likely Friday, but amounts don’t look terribly impressive, probably under .10″ rain. Yes, it will be warm enough aloft (statewide) for plain-Jane-rain. We dry out and cool off a few degrees Saturday, most of Sunday looks dry with fading sun as our on-again/off-again storm winds up over the Mississippi River Valley. The brunt of the moisture should stay JUST to our south and east early next week, a slow-moving storm brushing far southeastern Minnesota with some light rain. A few light showers may reach the Twin Cities, but St. Cloud, Willmar and Brainerd should stay dry. I still don’t see any arctic air – no significant snow – although the mercury should tumble just in time for Thanksgiving, highs stuck in the 30s (north), maybe some low/mid 40s south, just a few degrees below average, whatever THAT is. No megastorms in time for Thanksgiving travel, but give it a few days. I always get extra-nervous around major holidays. Murphy’s Third Law: storms (given a choice) PREFER to come on holidays. So far so good, but check back next week for a better preview of what the sky overhead may hold for Turkey-time.

GFS Outlook for 6 am, next Tuesday. It’s pretty hard to miss the big “bulls-eye” low pressure system winding up to our south over Missouri. The bulk of the rain will slide off to our south and east, soaking Iowa and Wisconsin. We can’t rule out a little rain over far southeastern MN from late Monday into Tuesday night. Stay tuned (still looks like a rain event, not enough cold air aloft – yet for significant snow).

Paul’s Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Mostly cloudy, windy, still milder than average. Winds: S 15-25. High: 55

Tonight: Cloudy with drizzle, temperatures not falling much. Low: 47

Friday: Gray and damp with periods of light rain/drizzle – nearly steady temperatures. (damp for Friday evening football games). High: 49

Saturday: Becoming partly sunny, breezy and drier. High: 49

Sunday: Sunny start, clouds increasing PM hours. High: near 50

Monday: Cloudy, windy, chance of a little light rain, especially south/east of the Twin Cities. High: 46

Tuesday: Any rain tapers. Breezy and seasonably cool with some PM sun. High: 45

Wednesday: Partly sunny and brisk. High: 45

Thursday: More clouds, chance of drizzle or very light rain. High: 44