Winter on hold

How dry we are. Most of central and southern Minnesota hasn’t seen any measurable precipitation since January 1, the exception far southwestern and southeastern counties, a coating to 1 inch for the Minnesota Arrowhead. Next week appears stormier and wetter statewide. To analyze Minnesota precipitation trends for yourself click here.

* St. Cloud breaks through the 30 degree mark, for the first time since Dec. 26, when the high was 36.

* Twin Cities temperatures running 8.6 degrees F below average so far for January, 2010.

* 2.2″ of snow for the Twin Cities so far the first half of January (we should have picked up closer to 5″ since Jan. 1).

* Nagging inversion (unusually warm air aloft) traps stratus clouds and rare January smog near the ground – air pollution advisory posted for portions of central/southern Minnesota for stagnant, polluted air.

* “No weather” through Tuesday of next week, unusually quiet, storm-free – nothing more than a little ice fog and a few flurries from time to time.

* Potential for an icing event by the middle of next week, maybe a significant snowfall the weekend of Jan. 23-24 (right now Sunday appears to be the snowier day).

* Pattern ripe for VERY significant snow amounts the last week of January. It may be a very snow Winter Carnival 2010. I could see some 1-2 foot amounts for parts of Minnesota during the last 7-9 days of January and the first few days of February. It looks ripe for a snowy DUMPING!

* Coldest start to January for La Crosse, WI since 1979. Temperatures the first 5 days of January average 1.5 F!

Good news on the weather front: you won’t have to worry about any epic storms, at least through the first few days off next week. This is about as quiet (read: boring) as the weather ever gets in January, and I’m not complaining one bit. Old Man Winter is going to take a siesta through at least Tuesday of next week. A bubble of high pressure centered over the Great Lakes will keep us mild, storm-free and dry through the period, with temperatures 10 to 15° above average. Lately we’ve had a strong inversion overhead; temperatures a few thousand feet above the ground in the 40s even some 50s! Cold air sinks, warm air rises, so with warm on top of cold means the atmosphere is very stable, serving up a weather menu for that crud, low stratus clouds and even a rare January air pollution event. An air pollution advisory remains in effect today because the inversion overhead is acting like a lid, trapping crud, low clouds and man-made pollutants near the ground. People who suffer from respiratory problems, heart ailments, even kids & athletes who breath deep and hard in the great outdoors should take it a little easier until the air quality improves sometime next week.

A parade of storms. Check out the latest enhanced, infrared satellite image, showing a series of very strong storms off the California coast. Weather models are suggesting a very stormy spell of weather next week for the west coast, with a potential for flash flooding, mudslides, even some snow for the higher hills outside L.A. as early as Monday of next week. NOAA’s vast menu of weather satellite image can be found here.

Hey is it just me or are there some tentative signs of spring everywhere you turn? The birds are chirping (at least a few brave, potentially dumb birds lingering near my garage). when I leave in the morning – there’s a nice, big smudge of twilight on the western horizon while I drive home around the dinner hour. I’m seeing commercials for the Auto Show, the Boat Show, the Home and Garden Show – even more commercials for fertilizer and seeds so take it for what it is. It’s a start, a reminder that milder days are ahead. In the meantime we’re in the midst of the coldest 2 weeks of winter, on average. Yes, the St. Paul Winter Carnival kicks off next Thursday, marking what is typically the 10 coldest days of the entire year, based on modern-day records dating back to 1891. We will get slapped around by Canada in February and at least a part of March, but the El Nino signal we’ve been expecting to see since last autumn is FINALLY kicking in. That could mean warmer-than-average for the second half of the winter. That, and the Vikes may go to the Superbowl. We can hope – we can dream, but it’s wise to keep one’s expectations in check.

Outlook for noon on Sunday, January 24
. A significant storm of southern origin (loaded with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico) is forecast to track almost due north across the Plains, reaching Minnesota by the 24th, preceded and accompanied by accumulating snow, possibly mixing with ice over eastern counties of Minnesota and much of Wisconsin. Timing and amounts? Way too early to even speculate – just no that the models are fairly consistent showing a major storm the weekend after next. By then we will be long overdue for a little “action”.

No big storms of any flavor are likely through Tuesday of next week, but at some point this copacetic pattern is going to shift and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will surge northward.
This may lead to a period of light icing (freezing drizzle) by Wednesday of next week, but highs in the upper 20s to 30 could keep most major highways just wet/slushy in spots. A second, stronger storm is forecast to arrive the weekend of January 23-24 and there may be enough cold air in place for significant snow, especially Sunday and Monday, January 24 and 25th. That’s purely speculative right (a weather-disclaimer should be required for anything beyond 48 hours, at least in Minnesota) No problems this weekend, a little ice fog every morning, highs reaching the mid 30s across much of Minnesota – perfect weather for a sustained romp in the snow! The following weekend Old Man Winter may reemerge from hibernation, staging a vigorous comeback, a subtle (yet blunt) reminder that this is (historically) the dead of winter. Temperatures literally bottom out between now and about January 25. The REALLY good news: no brittle, hair-freezing, eye-watering Arctic outbreaks are in insight through the end of January. Our midwinter vacation has legs….

Place your bets. Here is the CPC (Climate Prediction Center, division of NOAA) forecast of temperature anomalies through the end of March. Based (mostly) on a lingering El Nino in the Pacific temperatures are predicted to trend well above average, with a predominate flow from the Pacific, rather than the Yukon. We’ve been waiting for this El Nino signal to emerge all winter – maybe we’ll catch a (small) break the latter half of winter.

Paul’s Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: A brighter day. Ice fog possible early, mix of clouds and sun. Winds: W 5-10. High: 32

Tonight: Patchy clouds. Low; 21

Saturday: Partly sunny, nearly 15 degrees above average. High: 33

Sunday: Plenty of sun, still storm-free. High: 32

Monday: Cooler, blue sky overhead. High: 28

Tuesday: Sunshine much of the day, no major worries. High: 27

Wednesday: Cloudy, chance of a little freezing drizzle/icing. High: 26

Thursday: Freezing drizzle possible, patchy clouds and fog. High: 28

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