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Floods, ice storms, draughts: The year in review

It was a thoroughly forgettable year, at least weatherwise. An epic flood along the Red River, an historic ice storm for Lake Superior’s North Shore. The drought hung on, resulting in fewer tornadoes (although a couple of minor twisters surprised residents of South Minneapolis and the Lake Minnetonka area!) September was glorious – October was hideous, November was unusually sunny and mild. And then came our December Dumping, the whitest Christmas in decades for most of Minnesota, proving once and for all that our winters haven’t been totally, completely, irreversibly neutered. We have NOT become Kansas City (with lakes).

The Minnesota State Climatology Office has a terrific summary of 2009 (click here for the details). It’s a worthy read. Winter came up short early in the year (10-15″ less snow than usual). Summer wasn’t nearly as hot and humid as everyone expected – no stifling string of 90s and drippy 70-something dewpoints. Many in our midst felt cheated, no breath-TAKING heat to whine about, no nagging neighbors ranting about the humidity. What the….? A majority of Minnesotans in our highly unscientific poll were just fine with the muted, understated, drama-free Summer of ’09, even if it felt a little more like Winnipeg than the Twin Cities.

It has been a remarkable decade of extreme weather, temperatures trending warmer, especially during the winter months, fewer arctic outbreaks in general with fewer hours of subzero weather. Summer humidity levels seemed to be on the increase, more days with dreaded dew points in the 70s and even the 80s! In 2000 the strongest tornado of the decade touched down in Granite Falls, an F-4 swept out of a sickly-yellow sky on July 25, 2000. In all only 4 Minnesotans lost their lives in tornadoes from 2000-2009, compared to 8 tornado-fatalities during the 1990s. For the other 4 Top Minnesota Weather Stories of the Decade click here.

Cool & Clear for the Gophers.

First: an update for Gophers fans: today’s Insight Bowl in Tempe, Arizona (starts at 5 pm central time as far as I can tell on the NFL Network). Our Gophers take on the Cyclones of Iowa State, and the weather in this Phoenix suburb promises to be on the cool side, at least for Phoenix, with temperatures starting out near 60, then falling through the 50s under a clear sky with fairly light winds. Compared to Minnesota the weather will be positively balmy, but expect to see local Arizona fans huddled under blankets and parkas. Good grief.

Subzero Saturday. Check out the predicted temperatures for 6 am Saturday morning, well below zero from the Dakotas into Wisconsin. Good incentive to roll over and sleep in ’til the crack of noon.

Our big story (and none of us should be overly shocked or indignant) – it’s going to get colder. What a shocker! Is that really breaking news? January is (historically) the coldest month of the year for Minnesota. The next 3 weeks are usually the chilliest of the entire year, so I’m not really surprised that we’re about to endure/enjoy 4-5 subzero nights in a row – this will probably be on the 2 or 3 coldest outbreaks of the entire winter. Last week we wrestled with a major snowstorm – no such luck this week. The core of the jet stream, the main superhighway for storms, has been pushed too far south of Minnesota for us to see any significant moisture at this latitude. That will be the story through most of next week: cold, but basically dry. Good news for travelers trying to get home after the holidays. No ugly outbreaks of snow/ice within 400 miles of home through January 10 or so.

An Inevitable Temperature Tumble. The models are in remarkable agreement that the mercury will drop off – reaching subzero levels late tonight across much of Minnesota, staying below zero every night through Monday or Tuesday of next week.

The mercury bottoms out this weekend (failing to rise above zero Saturday and Sunday over the northern half or third of Minnesota) and then recovers – a little – reaching the teens for highs next week. Long-range (GFS) guidance continues to hint at 20s, even a few 30s the second week of January. Yes, we may sample the fabled January Thaw by Jan. 13-15 with highs nipping 32 – serenaded by the sound of dripping icicles. Can spring be far behind?

Are you kidding me? The short answer is – yes.

Sunspots on the increase. NASA reports an increase in sunspots, which may have some impact on our weather in the weeks and months to come. There’s an interesting (but not definitive) correlation between a total lack of sunspots and unusually chilly weather across portions of the Northern Hemisphere). No spots = more arctic air. When sunspots return the weather (often, but not always) tends to thaw out a bit. This could be a factor, one of many, including a moderate El Nino warming of equatorial Pacific ocean water – that may hint at a return of milder, more moderate weather from late January into March. We’ll see.

Paul’s Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: More clouds than sun, windy – getting colder. A few flakes. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 10 (windchill of -10 to -20 most of the day).

New Year’s Eve: Partial clearing, numbing breeze. Low: -5

New Year’s Day: Brittle sun – still bitter. High: 6 (mercury stays below zero all day north of Ft. Ripley and Crosby).

Saturday: Blue sky – still can’t feel my extremities. Low: -11. High: 4

Sunday: Dim sun, high clouds, still much colder than average. Low: -12. High: 7

Monday: Mix of clouds and sun, the cold is getting old. Low: -10 High: 11

Tuesday: Patchy clouds, still storm-free. High: 13

Wednesday: Partly sunny, a little more tolerable. High: 17

Thursday: Light snow, light accumulation possible. High: 20

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by fred webber on 12/31/2009 - 11:57 am.

    Interesting summary. Any chance October’s average temperature was lower than November’s?


  2. Submitted by John Moses on 01/02/2010 - 10:39 am.

    FYI: draught = beer; drought = dry spell. Either the dictionary for 2009/2010 has changed, someone is reminiscing his or her pleasant memories of Oktoberfest, or there was a Great Beer Flood somewhere in the world that didn’t make the news. This admittedly very small error has been preoccupying my thoughts since I saw it yesterday. Before you ask, I have submitted my application to the Spelling Police Training Office and am still weighting for their reply.

  3. Submitted by Maroussia John on 03/19/2010 - 02:31 am.

    It will be great to watch Minnesota Golden Gophers, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.

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