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A subzero Saturday across most of Minnesota

Crunchy, squeaky snow. Ice crystals forming (spontaneously) in my nostrils. A little tickle in the bottom of your lungs when you breathe deep. It must be subzero out there right now, negative numbers, a dire dearth of kinetic energy.

* Waking up to the coldest morning of the winter so far, probably one of the 2-3 coldest mornings of the entire winter.

* A subzero Saturday across most of Minnesota, including the Twin Cities.

* Next chance of 1-2″ of Minnesota powder next Tuesday-Wednesday.

* First chance of 20-25 degrees? January 14-17.

Crunchy, squeaky snow. Ice crystals forming (spontaneously) in my nostrils. A little tickle in the bottom of your lungs when you breathe deep. It must be subzero out there right now, negative numbers, a dire dearth of kinetic energy. But look at the bright side: neighbors will not be whining about the humidity today. You won’t be swatting at bugs. The air is fresh, bracing, exhilarating, brisk with a capital B! O.K. I’m grasping at straws here, but so much of a Minnesota winter is psychological. If you tell yourself “this is killing me” you’ll probably slip into a deep, dark funk. If you take it in stride, knowing full well that this pain is only temporary, in 3 short weeks the average temperature starts to rise again, the days are getting longer (hooray!) and the odds of getting mugged are slim to nil. Research bears this out: criminals dislike subzero cold as much as everyone else – the odds of violent crime on a cold winter day are a tiny fraction of what they might be on a warm, muggy, mid-summer day. That, and your garbage doesn’t stink.

Relative Safety. Only Wisconsin and Michigan have seen fewer billion dollar weather disasters than Minnesota since 1980. The odds of extreme storms is 4-5 times greater across much of the south and southeastern USA, according to NCDC.

If any so-called friends call from Scottsdale or Naples later today, hoping to “chat about the weather”, waxing eloquent about the balmy, shirtsleeve weather floating overhead, remind them a). they’re living in a DESERT! or b). Minnesota still sees storms, but at least our storms DON’T HAVE NAMES! Odds are they’ll change the subject. Yes, we get a lot of guff about our extreme weather, but according to the NCDC, the National Climatic Data Center, the Upper Midwest is one of the safest places to live in the entire nation. The southeastern USA has seen nearly 4 times more billion (with a b) dollar weather disasters since 1980. Think about it: half the population of America lives in hurricane alley, within striking distance of screaming Texas-size super-storms. Much of the west is earthquake alley, living precariously close to shifting fault-lines that might slip at any moment, unleashing a horrific earthquake. Los Angeles, San Francisco, even Seattle are all living on borrowed time. The air is cold outside my window, but at least the ground underfoot is firm. Am I rationalizing? Perhaps, but I consider this my annual cold-weather-tax. This is the price we pay for living in the most amazing state in the union. Is there anywhere else you’d really rather be from May through October? Probably not. Take a bow – you still have cold weather boasting rights, at least for the lower 48 states. Only Siberia has greater extremes than Minnesota. And we have better nightlife (and professional football).

Lake Effect Snow. Bitter, subzero air passing over the relatively warm waters of the Great Lakes are resulting in narrow bands of moderate/heavy snow 50-150 miles downwind of Lake Michigan, Erie and Ontario. Some 5-10″ snowfall amounts are possible near South Bend, IN and the suburbs of Cleveland and Buffalo. To see the latest, high-res NOAA radar composite for the USA click here.

The United (Snowy) States of America. At last report at least 1″ of snow was on the ground across 55-60% of America. The latest surge of arctic air may push frosty conditions as far south as the Florida panhandle by the weekend. To get the very latest snow cover reports (and thousands of additional graphics) from Ham Weather (owned by WeatherNation), click here.

STATION                 MAX     MIN     24-HR    SNOW  SNOW
ALEXANDRIA MN ARPT : -3 / -12 / M / M / M
ST CLOUD MN ARPT : 2 / -8 / 0.00 / 0 / 10
MINNEAPOLIS MN ARPT : 6 / 1 / T / T / 9
REDWOOD FALLS MN ARPT : -1 / -10 / M / M / M
DULUTH AIRPORT : 0 / -9 / T / 0.1 / 20
INTERNATIONAL FALLS : -9 / -19 / T / T / 18
HIBBING ARPT : -3 / -11 / 0.00 / M / M
GRAND MARAIS MN : 7 / -4 / 0.00 / M / M
ROCHESTER MN ARPT : 2 / -6 / T / 0.1 / 16

A windchill advisory remains in effect; slap on a few additional layers before wandering outside this morning. The mercury never climbed above zero New Year’s Day across roughly the northern half of Minnesota. We started off cold, and with plenty of snow on the ground statewide and clear skies the mercury was able to tumble to double-digit negative numbers overnight. We’re waking up to the coldest morning of the winter so far, and a low sun angle will limit just how much temperatures can recover today. A subzero Saturday is likely across most of Minnesota, certainly north/west of the Twin Cities. Mercifully the winds are easing, so the wind chill won’t be much lower than the actual air temperature (which will be bad enough). Go ahead, beat your chest, let out a little primal scream. Scare the neighbors. I dare you.

That old tired cliche, “too cold to snow” rings (partially) true in this kind of pattern: when it’s near zero the main storm track is usually suppressed too far south for significant snow here in Minnesota. Of course it can snow at any temperature below 32, but when the mercury is colder than 5-10 F it often means the core of the jet stream is hundreds of miles to our south, making it impossible for substantial moisture from the Gulf of Mexico to reach this latitude. We can still get light accumulations (it doesn’t take much moisture to squeeze out a quick inch or two of powder when it’s this cold). Models are hinting at a light accumulation next Tuesday night into Wednesday, maybe a quick inch or two. After that the next opportunity to freshen up the snow will come a week from Monday, on or around January 11, when a few more inches may pile up. Models are suggesting a temporary reprieve from the coldest winds after Jan. 14-15. We MAY see a day or two above 20 F, but right now I wouldn’t hold my breath. I don’t see anything even remotely resembling a thaw. What the heck happened to El Nino? It shows you the value of these seasonal long-range forecasts. That’s why (frankly) I don’t like to venture beyond 10-14 days, because there are just too many variables involved, too many things that can come back to bite you in the Doppler.

Next Potential for Snow? The GFS model is hinting at a couple inches of powdery snow next Tuesday night and Wednesday, ahead of the next reinforcing jab of arctic air.

The cold will linger, a string of nighttime lows below zero through Tuesday morning of next week, daytime highs reaching 10-15 F early next week before tumbling again the latter half of next week.

A few minor snowfalls are shaping up: next Tuesday-Wednesday, again on Monday, Jan. 11.

Looks like a real January. Call your travel agent (or buy a sun lamp). This doesn’t show any sign of breaking anytime soon.

Free fresh air for everyone!

Paul’s Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Bitter sun, light winds. Winds: N 5-10. High: -3 (wind chill of -10 to -20 by afternoon)

Tonight: Mostly clear, numbing. Low: -16

Sunday: Blue sky, still arctic. High: 4 (above!)

Monday: Some recovery. Dim sun through increasing high clouds. High: 10

Tuesday: Period of light snow or flurries possible. High: 16

Wednesday: Snow tapers to flurries, potential for a couple inches of powdery snow early. High: 13 (falling during the day).

Thursday: Patchy clouds, few flakes. High: 6

Friday: Bright, ineffective sunshine. High: 8