Numb & number

Snowfall Totals (for a long, long list showing snow amounts for just about every town, suburb and truck stop in Minnesota scroll down).

Northfield: 9.5″

Woodbury: 8.7″

Lake Elmo: 8″

MSP International: 7.4″

Chaska: 5.4″

Chanhassen: 5.1″

After a close encounter with a blizzard I’m afraid to see what’s next on the old weather menu. How ’bout a Big-Gulp serving of fresh-chilled Yukon Surprise (icy pulp included). It was indeed a “plowable” snow for much of the area, 3-4″ across central Minnesota (including St. Cloud), more like 6-10″ in the Twin Cities area, and a whopping 15″+ for southeastern Minnesota, where 3-5 foot drifts were common. Minnesota City gets the coveted Golden Snow Shovel Award. 16.6″ of snow, not counting the drifts. Winona boasted 15.5″, with 10″ at Owatonna and Hastings. The suburbs of Madison, Wisconsin were buried under 15″ of snow, with some unofficial reports of 20″ near the Dells. Throw in 35 mph winds, white-out visibilities and subzero wind chills and you have a fair amount of weather drama (at least for early December). Yes, it feels like late January out there right now, when (historically) temperatures bottom out in Minnesota.

Photo courtesy of KARE-11.

24 Hour Precipitation. This is a Doppler-radar estimate of liquid precipitation that fell during the blizzard. The dark blue-shaded areas (.25 to .50″ rain equivalent) generally picked up 5-10″ of snow. The bright green areas (.5 to 1″) saw 10-15″ snowfall amounts, with 3-5 foot drifts. Yes, the first true snow of the Winter of ’09-’10 was a doozy!

I’m baffled (nothing new, really) but my astonishment is reaching new levels of incredulity. Remember back in September, when life was good, and our weather was extraordinary (I seem to recall 3 stunning, sunny, lukewarm weeks in a row). September felt like August, which made October feel especially cruel & cool (3rd chilliest, and the 2-3″ of snow rubbed salt in our weather-wounds). The locals were pissed! Then came November, remarkably quiet, dry, storm-free, as if our weather had been put on hold. It wound up being the third warmest November in Minnesota history. December brought back memories of October – once again the mercury went off a cliff. And now this latest episode of weather-behaving-badly. A local snowplow operator in Albert Lea interviewed on KARE-11 mentioned that he hasn’t seen a real blizzard like this in nearly 21 years. His story is here.

Rhetorical question: what the heck is going on with our weather? It’s always changing, variable, sometimes severe, but lately, it’s been more unpredictable, off-the-chart bizarre. A symptom of climate change? I don’t pretend to know. Monthly temperature departures (above/below) average have always been in the 2-5 F degree range, but lately they’ve been an order of magnitude more extreme. November was 10-15 degrees warmer than average, which – statistically – is VERY significant. Who knows what the rest of December will bring, but at the rate we’re going, alternating warm/cold every other month I’d bank on a chillier than average December. NOAA continues to insist that January – March should be warmer than average, based on El Nino, but there are two wild cards. 1). Roughly 2 out of 3 El Nino winters wind up being milder than average, so there’s a 1 in 3 chance this could wind up chillier. 2). The sun is still devoid of sunspots. There is a fairly strong correlation between sunspot-free periods and unusually cold weather, especially over North America. That’s why I’m not quite as confident as NOAA that we’ll escape with a milder winter. Odds favor this, yes, but I’m still not totally convinced.

The sun peeks through today, we’ll be lucky to see 10 degrees (above zero!) by mid afternoon. At least the fierce, eye-watering winds will ease up, so will the blowing/drifting. It should be a better travel day (assuming you can get your vehicle started). Winds aloft blow more from the Pacific over the weekend, meaning 20s Saturday, even a shot at FREEZING on Sunday. Only in Minnesota can the locals get (a little) pumped about 32 lousy degrees, but in truth, compared to the burning sting out there right now – Sunday will be a huge step in the right direction. A burst of light snow late Monday accompanies the next cold front, more single digit highs likely by the middle of next week. Long-range GFS guidance is hinting at another shot at freezing the weekend before Christmas, a few inches of snow possible December 22-24 before another arctic slap arrives just in time for Christmas Eve. The mercury may hold in single digits Christmas Day with a wind chill guaranteed to chase all but the hardiest souls indoors. You may be wearing those neatly-hung stockings hanging on the mantle!

One thing seems fairly certain: whatever snow is in your yard right now will still be there Christmas Day. A little snow may melt/evaporate, but we may add to the pile late Monday of next week, and a few days before Christmas. That said, no more big, beefy storms are brewing anytime soon. A fluke or a trend, a freakish December blizzard or an omen of what’s to come.

Place your bets.

Paul’s Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Increasing clouds, still bitter. Winds: W 10-20. High: 8 (wind chill: -10 to -20 most of the day).

Tonight: Partly cloudy, unseasonably cold for mid December. Low: -2

Friday: Partly sunny, a little less wind. High: near 12

Saturday: Some AM sun, clouds increase with late-day flurries. High: 24

Sunday: Mostly cloudy, a few flurries – no significant accumulation. High: 32 (!)

Monday: Cloud increase, a coating of snow possible late with the next arctic front. High: 23

Tuesday: Gusty, turning bitter with some sunshine. High: 8

Wednesday: Icy sun, still numbing. High: 13 (after waking up to -7)

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