Thursday, December 31, 2009

Welcome to 2010 ! (where's my flying car?)

Icy Uncertainty. The cool 8-14" of snow last week provided a fresh shellacking of white just in time for Christmas, delighting snow lovers and kids of all ages - truly. But the snow accumulated on area lakes, complicating the ongoing freeze. You see, snow is an insulator, think of it as a down comforter, a featherbed of sorts. That's why Eskimo can insulate their homes (with snow/ice) and keep the temperature fairly comfortable indoors. Last week's snow has slowed the freeze on area lakes - it may still be very premature to attempt to drive a vehicle on your favorite lake. Check with local authorities (see if there is at least 8-12" of sturdy ice, enough to support a car or truck). I'm concerned about the QUALITY of the ice - with the layer of snow there is a potential for real problems, uneven freezing, etc. Be careful out there - err on the side of safety. The ice is generally safe enough for walking/snowmobiles and cross-country skiing, but I wouldn't dream of taking a large vehicle out until/unless I got confirmation that there's 10-12" of GOOD ice. For more information (including trail conditions) from the MN DNR click here.



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 St. Cloud.

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


New Year's Day: Brittle sun - still bitter. High: 4 (mercury stays below zero all day north of Ft. Ripley).

Friday night: coldest night yet, mostly clear and bitter. Low: -14

Saturday: Blue sky - still can't feel my extremities. High: 2

Sunday: Dim sun, high clouds, still much colder than average. Low: -15. High: 5

Monday: Mix of clouds and sun, the cold is getting old. Low: -11 High: 9

Tuesday: Patchy clouds, still storm-free. High: 11

Wednesday: Partly sunny, a little more tolerable. High: 15

Thursday: Light snow, light accumulation possible. High: 19

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Forecast : cheap champagne


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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Numbing New Year

* 20.3" snow so far in December, more than twice our average amount of snow for the month.
* Typical winter: 30 subzero nights in the Twin Cities. We'll enjoy 3-4 nights of negative numbers starting Friday, lasting through Monday of next week. First weekend of 2010 may be one of the 2-3 coldest of the entire winter.
* No significant snow/ice in sight, "nuisance" snowfall of coating to 1/2" powder possible today.


Quality of life. Quality of life. Quality of life. This is the time of year where we come up with a). coping mechanisms and b). unique/creative ways to rationalize WHY WE STAY HERE. The snowbirds have already fled, their self-satisfied e-mails and phone calls from Scottsdale and Naples subtle (yet blunt) reminders that they had the "good sense" to get out of Dodge before the coldest cold fronts of winter blew in on harsh northerly winds. Wimps. It's true that Minnesota winters are cumulative. The longer you've been here, the older you become, the tougher it is to grapple with a classic thumb-numbing, battery-draining Minnesota winter. I do believe that in my head and my heart. Somehow it was easier when I was 24 than it is now (51 and counting). Each year gets a little more challenging, in spite of our attempts to get out and EMBRACE WINTER! I tell all my new WeatherNation hires not to cower in your home or apartment - get outside and ski, downhill or cross-country, try your hand at ice fishing (it's a blast!) My personal, all-time favorite thing to do out in the snow: snowmobiling. I have 2 Polaris sleds and I LOVE getting lost on the trails between Nisswa, Cross Lake and Brainerd. I few times I had to rely on my trusty iPhone to figure out where I was - thank God for GPS (to at least point me in the right direction). Sledding, tobogganing, hockey, ice skating - my Eagle Scout son (Walt) got a badge from the Boy Scouts for camping out in winter weather colder than -50 F (up in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area). Amazing....

Nuisance Snow Potential. Here is the NAM model output for the next 84 hours, hinting at a coating to 1-2" for southeastern Minnesota, little or snow accumulating snow west of a line from Willmar to Brainerd.

Downward Spiral. Here is the GFS Outlook/"meteogram" for St. Cloud, showing temperatures bottoming out this weekend, nighttime lows in the -10 to -15 F range. At least the sun should be out! We're heading into the coldest month of the year, and by Friday that won't be too hard to believe.

As I tell my friends, family (and new hires) if you can plan a sunny, southern getaway from January, maybe another for March, give yourself something warm and toasty to look forward to - that will help get you through these trying, character-building times. Full-spectrum light bulbs that mimic the sun can also help to pull people out of their cold, dark funk. As many as 1 in 10 Minnesotans suffers from SAD, seasonal affective disorder, a lack of sunlight triggers physical/hormonal changes in their bodies that leave them feeling exhausted, depressed, anxious (hungry) and sleepy. Light therapy and medication can work wonders - see your doctor if you think you may have some issues with "SAD". There's no reason why you have to live live like that - there are solutions. Look, the days are getting longer now, in a few weeks the amount of daylight will increase by 2 minutes/day. Within 3 weeks temperatures will "bottom out" here in Minnesota - historically our coldest weather arrives the last 2 weeks of January, on average. That's why the St. Paul Winter Carnival is help during this period, to increase the probability of snow/cold for the outdoor festivities in St. Paul.


Brushed by Snow. The NWS Office in Chanhassen has the right idea: inch or two for southeastern Minnesota, maybe a quick inch for the Twin Cities, probably less than 1/2" fluff for St. Cloud - just enough to ice up a few roads later today.

A burst of light snow is likely today, coming out ahead of the next reinforcing arctic front that will have us all groping for our favorite parkas, dressing in multiple layers through the first weekend of 2010. By New Year's Day highs will hold in single digits, with nighttime lows in the -5 to -15 F range, maybe some -20s up north by the weekend. Big Ouch. Some slight moderation is likely next week, but I have a hunch this may be one of the 2 or 3 coldest airmasses of the entire winter season. A quick inch of snow is possible today, especially southeastern Minnesota and southwest Wisconsin - light, fluffy, powdery snow. Remember, when it's this cold the salt/sand mix used by MnDOT takes much longer to melt snow/ice - there may be some slick spots out there later today. The pattern won't favor significant snow/ice anytime soon - too much cold air suppressing the storm track well south of Minnesota, meaning a parade of piddly clippers, each one capable of a light, powdery accumulation of under an inch or two. There's a little truth to that old saying, "too cold to snow". When it gets this cold (under 10-15 F) the odds of heavy snow diminish; of course it can snow at any temperature below 32 F, below 0 F ice crystals can form spontaneously, falling from a sunny sky!

Nippy New Year's Eve. Here are the predicted lows for Thursday night/Friday morning, dipping below zero statewide, reaching -10 to -15 F over the Red River Valley.

BTW, this has nothing to do with the weather, but since travelers are still a little freaked by the attempted bombing of the Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit Christmas Day, I wanted to make an observation: Tuesday evening my wife and I returned from Amsterdam on NWA Flight 245 - no problems at all, although we got off late because of additional security at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. How can I say this politely? It was the most invasive search I've ever been subject to - ever. Not a mere pat-down, more like a 2 minute GROPE. One that left nothing to the imagination. Amazingly, no passengers seemed to mind (at least that I could see). Everyone was visibly relieved that the security was ratcheted up a few big notches. We're talking El Al levels of security here. There HAVE been some changes since December 25 - you may not notice them much at MSP, but for people flying into the USA from abroad the changes are tangible (and significant). For what it's worth, just one traveler's observation...

Paul's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Mostly cloudy with flurries, a period of light snow capable of an inch or two - few slick spots. Winds: NW 5-10. High: 16

Tonight: Flurries give way to clearing skies - colder. Low: 7

New Year's Eve: More clouds than sun - few passing flakes. High: 14 (low of -4 Friday morning).

New Year's Day: Numbing with some sunshine. High: 6

Saturday: Coldest day in sight. Blue sky - bordering on bitter. Low: -10. High: 3

Sunday: Sun giving way to increasing clouds, still Nanook! High: 7

Monday: Patchy clouds, not quite as cold. High: 14

Tuesday: Flurries possible, closer to "average" for early January. High: 17

Monday, December 28, 2009

Once in a Blue Moon

Hello and happy Tuesday everyone. I have some very important news... we've gained a few minutes of daylight since the shortest day of the year! It wasn't much, but at least we're heading in the right direction. Psychologically, it's a BIG step. we'll likely have to endure some of the coldest air of the season through January and February, but at least the available amount of vitamin D from the sun will be slightly more each day through the next 6 months. If that isn't exciting, then maybe some sunshine and blue skies will help today after quite a few days of clouds and sloppy roadways. I've been going through the blue juice, the wind shield washer fluid, like water. Cold weather ahead will likely turn blacktop roadways a shade of salty white as they freeze up, so getting that much needed car wash won't be a bad idea. We'll likely see mostly dry and cold conditions through the rest of the week after tomorrow's clipper rolls through with a little light snow. I'll have more on that in just a second, but let's take a little intermission and have a little fun... Take a look at the traffic jam in an unlikely place:


These pictures were taken somewhere in Canada on a snowmobile trail. I'm assuming the deer are finding it a little easier to find food with snow not being quite as deep where the sleds are running continuously. Either that or the deer are having their annual family smorgasbord :)


More fun from Duluth, MN. The picture below is from a good friend of mine, Rich Koivisto, who was in downtown Duluth over the weekend and caught this image of a surfer on Lake Superior. Large waves were radical enough for some brave souls that dared to enter the icy waters of the coldest and deepest of all the Great Lakes.


The image below shows the just how cold the waters are near the head of the lake. Check those numbers scattered about - the warmest I see is in the upper 30's. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Either those surfers are die hards or just plain nuts!


Here's another picture from Duluth taken Monday from another good friend of mine, Wanda Brandt, who wakes up to views like this just about every day. Incredible huh?


OK, back to business. It'll be quiet again today, but light snow is expected to be sliding through tomorrow. Light accumulations will be possible, mainly in southeaster MN. Below is the weather map on Wednesday.



Cold Blast for 2010
Behind that light snow potential will be a blast of cold air, just in time for 2010. New Year's Eve will be cold this year, so scoping out that special someone to smooch/keep you warm just after the clock strikes midnight, might not be a bad idea. Note the red colors below, which indicates a sub-zero airmass that'll stick around for the calendar date January 1st, 2010. By the way, we'll also be ringing in the New Year with a full moon, which is the 2nd of the month. That makes it a "Blue Moon" - a very rare occurrence - only happens every 2.72 years, thus the phrase once in a blue moon.


Todd's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Tuesday: Cold start. Mostly sunny, dry and quiet. High: 19

Tuesday Night: Increasing clouds late, not quite as cold. Low: 8

Wednesday: Alberta Clipper rolls in. Clouds increase, flurries and light snow showers. High: 23

New Year's Eve: A few lingering flurries possible early, then turning windy and colder. High: 15

New Year's Eve Night: Mostly cloudy and cold, a stray flurry or two possible. Low: -1

New Year's Day: Bitterly cold sunshine. High: 7

Saturday: More numbing sun. High: 11

Sunday: Sunshine, not as cold. High 15

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009 Winding Down

Hello and happy Monday everyone, hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend. Now that the ham hangover is wearing off and the roads are clearing up, take a look around and you'll see snowbanks full of memories from our latest winter storm that will surely go down in the record books as one of the snowiest Christmas Eve/Day combos in recorded history. Here again are some of the noteworthy storm total snow reports that I came across - thought I'd share them with you one last time in case you missed it... Take a closer look at the Winona, MN stat. Winona is situated in southeastern MN where the rain/snow line was for most of the storm. Instead of seeing heavy snow, Winona had lots of rain... 1.24" of it!




I think the wildest weather was in Duluth, MN where 24.4" of snow fell at the National Weather Service (Over the Hill), but by the lake it was warm enough for mostly rain and slushy snow. The other interesting thing about the Duluth area is that the friction free winds coming across Lake Superior, being funneled into the western tip of the lake, increased to hurricane force and gusted over 50mph creating near 10ft. waves.




Here's a snowfall map from the National Weather Service out of the Twin Cities. It only shows the Twin Cities CWA or country warning area:



With all the snow we picked up in the Twin Cites area on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we were able to crack the top 5 snowiest Christmas Eve/Day Combos. In fact, we managed to take the 3rd spot with 7.2" total inches, beating the previous record of 5.9" in 1950.





New Year's Cool Down

Take a look at the image below. The darker red colors indicate another blast of Arctic air just in time for New Year's. Daytime highs will struggle to get out of the teens with single digit lows below zero likely. It'll feel like Old Man Winter slapped us in the face again - get ready - uffda!




Todd's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Monday: A badly needed ration of sunlight! Some blue sky overhead.Breezy, feeling colder High: 23

Monday Night: Mostly clear and colder than it's been in a while. Low: -3

Tuesday: Mix of clouds and sun, still quiet (and dry). High: 19

Wednesday: Alberta Clipper rolls in. Clouds increase, PM flurries. High: 22

New Year's Eve: Turning windy and colder, a coating of flurries possible. High: 17

New Year's Eve Night: Mostly cloudy and cold. Low: around zero or slightly colder

New Year's Day: Colder with a mix of sun and flakes. High: 9

Saturday: Numbing sun - subzero nighttime low. High: 11

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Winter Wonderland

The coveted golden snow shovel award goes to Pequaywan Lake, 25 miles north/northeast of downtown Duluth, where a whopping 26" of snow fell from the Christmas Storm. 24.4" of snow piled up at the NWS Office in Duluth (up on the hill, where the snow was spiked thanks to a phenomena known as "oragraphic lift", air rising up and over the hills surrounding Duluth produced even more intense pockets of rapidly rising air, resulting in some incredible snowfall reports!) Closer to home 21" fell at Waterville, In Le Seur county. Across central Minnesota 11" piled up at Little Falls and St. Joseph, 10" at the prison in St. Cloud (I wonder who takes those snow measurements?) The Twin Cities metro wound up being closer to the heavier snow bands during the height of the storm Thursday night and early Friday, before a changeover to rain (and a surge of dry air tangled up in the storm's circulation cut off the heaviest snowfall). Prior Lake picked up 14.7", with an impressive 13.7" at Waconia and 12.5" at Andover, in Anoka county. The NWS office in Chanhassen dug out from 11.3", 9.2" of heavy, wet, slushy snow accumulated at MSP International. Storms like this make me wonder if the urban heat island doesn't have an impact, temperatures a few degrees warmer over the downtowns and close-in suburbs may be just enough to turn the snow over to rain faster/sooner. I'm sure there's a research paper there for someone - always fascinated how "micrometeorology" comes into play, local effects, like terrain or the presence/absence of water, even the type of vegetation can make a real difference in rainfall or snowfall amounts. If you've been to San Francisco you know full well about micrometeorology: go a few blocks and it goes from sunny and 62 to foggy and 47. In a city like San Francisco you almost need neighborhood-level weather forecasts (and I think that's what the science of meteorology is coming to, trying to pin down the difference between Minneapolis and St. Paul, trying to determine - 8 hours in advance - if Sauk Rapids or St. Cloud will see hail and torrential rains.

The Christmas Storm of '09. This is just 24 hour snowfall, from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day. What's impressive is how much of America was impacted by accumulating snow - from the Appalachians westward to the Rockies!

A Very White Christmas. By some estimates 2/3rds of America experienced a white Christmas, snow/ice on the ground as far south as Dallas, Texas and the far northern suburbs of Phoenix!

Flurries and light snow will linger off 'n on again today (for the 5th straight day!) as our Christmas Storm pushes into the Great Lakes - little or no additional accumulation is expected. A few quiet days will follow, the first half of this week looks uneventful - great news for travelers. Flurries may return Wednesday into New Year's Eve - any accumulation looks to be in the "nuisance" range, a coating to at most an inch or so up north. One thing looks fairly certain: a series of Alberta Clippers will drag progressively colder air south of the border, a few subzero nighttime lows are possible as we sail into the first weekend of 2010. That thaw I mentioned yesterday for the second week of January. Never mind. The latest run of the GFS keeps us colder than average through the first half of January. El Nino - where did you go? As I mentioned back in September I still have a sick (?) feeling in the pit of my stomach that this winter will be one of the roughly 1 in 3 El Nino winters that winds up average, or even colder than average. There are exceptions to every rule, right?

To quote Vonnegut, "and do it goes"....

Paul's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Sunday: Mostly cloudy, more flurries - little or no accumulation. Winds: NW 10-20 High: 25

Sunday Night: Partial clearing, chilly. Low: 8

Monday: A badly needed ration of sunlight! Some blue sky overhead. High: 24

Tuesday: Mix of clouds and sun, still quiet (and dry). High: 23

Wednesday: Clouds increase, PM flurries. High: 25

New Year's Eve: Turning windy and colder, a coating of flurries possible. High: 19

New Year's Day: Colder with a mix of sun and flakes. High: 15

Saturday: Numbing sun - subzero nighttime low. High: 13

Snowfall reports from the National Weather Service

INCHES  LOCATION                 ST  COUNTY           TIME
------ ----------------------- -- -------------- -------
21.00 WATERVILLE MN LE SUEUR 1040 AM
STORM TOTAL
15.00 OLIVIA MN RENVILLE 0802 AM
THREE INCHES OCCURRED DURING THE PAST TWENTY
FOUR HOURS.
14.70 2 W PRIOR LAKE MN SCOTT 0825 AM
14.50 SACRED HEART MN RENVILLE 1135 AM
STORM TOTAL
14.00 WINTHROP MN SIBLEY 1135 AM
STORM TOTAL
13.70 WACONIA MN CARVER 0716 AM
12.50 ANDOVER MN ANOKA 0802 AM
ONE AND ONE HALF INCHES IS 24 HOUR TOTAL.
12.30 FARIBAULT MN RICE 1129 PM
12.20 LAKEVILLE MN DAKOTA 1055 AM
STORM TOTAL
12.00 MANKATO MN BLUE EARTH 1055 AM
STORM TOTAL
12.00 ROCKFORD MN HENNEPIN 0827 AM
11.90 DONNELLY MN STEVENS 1056 AM
STORM TOTAL SNOWFALL
11.50 CHANHASSEN MN CARVER 0716 AM
11.30 CHANHASSEN MN CARVER 1230 AM
MEASURED AT THE NWS OFFICE.
11.10 RICHFIELD MN HENNEPIN 1030 AM
STORM TOTAL
11.00 ST JOSEPH MN STEARNS 0827 AM
STORM TOTAL
11.00 LITTLE FALLS MN MORRISON 0716 AM
10.60 7 S HILLMAN MN MORRISON 0827 AM
STORM TOTAL
10.00 CARLOS MN DOUGLAS 0827 AM
STORM TOTAL
10.00 ST CLOUD MN STEARNS 1230 AM
MEASURED AT THE MEDIUM SECURITY PRISON.
9.20 MINNEAPOLIS MN HENNEPIN 1230 AM
MEASURED AT THE MINNEAPOLIS INTERNATIONAL
AIRPORT.
7.50 CONNORSVILLE WI DUNN 0827 AM

Friday, December 25, 2009

Digging Out

* Heavy, accumulating snow is over.
* Over 9" at MSP International Airport, but more than 12" reported in Prior Lake, Waconia, Fridley and North St. Paul. Fairmont picks up 16"
* Temperatures fall through the 20s, slush turns to ice.
* No storms for New Year's Eve festivities.
* A couple of subzero nights possible the first few days of 2010.
* Long range computer models hinting at 30s the second week of January.
* Snow amounts for Minnesota: scroll down to the bottom. 22.3" reported in Duluth!

Well, wasn't THAT exciting? My faith is restored, in Santa, and the notion that the Twin Cities winters have not been hopelessly neutered - we can still pick up a foot of snow from time to time. A friendly word to the wise: try to get out and push that slushy, sloppy concoction off your driveway or sidewalk (slowly, carefully - this is VERY heavy, wet snow with a high water content, what some doctors euphemistically call "heart attack snow.") The reason? If you don't get out there fairly soon it may become a cement-like, semi-permanent part of your yard. Temperatures will drop off fairly quickly today as cold, gusty north/northeast winds whip up on the backside of our Christmas Slop-Storm. Much of Minnesota, at least from the Twin Cities north and west to Brainerd, St. Cloud, Willmar and Alexandria, did pick up a cool foot of snow before the storm sucked warmer, drier air into the state Friday afternoon. At one point the storm had what appeared to be an "eye", dry air trapped near the center of this low-pressure "bomb". Of course it wasn't the same phenomena as a true hurricane eye, the physics are radically different, but it points out something I mentioned before the storm struck, something that had me worried all along. Big, mature storms almost always inhale dry, desert air into their circulation - believe me: I have been hosed more times by the "dreaded dry tongue", a sudden surge of low-humidity air capable of cutting off the heavy snow/ice and turning it into drizzle or "snizzle".

"Eye" of the Storm. Friday night's weather map showed the storm's circulation getting tangled up in dry air, warm air wrapping completely around this "occluded" storm, turning snow over to rain over much of Minnesota. A changeover back to snow is likely today, but amounts should be light as moisture from the Gulf of Mexico finally gets cut off.

There was one other big factor that prevented us from seeing 2 feet of snow. The storm pushed into northwestern Iowa, counterclockwise winds yanking relatively mild air into Minnesota, resulting in a changeover from snow to ice and rain, helping to keep ultimate amounts down. A perfect track for ALL SNOW is roughly Des Moines to La Crosse to Eau Claire. Any track west of that (ideal scenario) usually - usually means a changeover to ice and rain, again, keeping amounts down. On Monday and Tuesday we went with 8-12", which turned out to be pretty close to reality for much of the region. In the heat of battle I upped the amounts Christmas Eve to 10-15", a big range, but (as you can see below) the final snowfall amounts were all over the map!

Duluth - a wild & turbulent Christmas Day. This image was taken from a webcam, reports of 50 mph. gusts and some 6-8 foot waves. Check out the water - yikes!

Coming out of the movie "Avatar" Friday evening (yes, it is as good as the critics say it is - try to see it in IMAX, it's worth the extra few bucks, trust me) I was disappointed to see a steady rain falling, knowing that snow lovers would be bumped beyond recognition. We finally get a foot of snow only to have RAIN spoil the fun! It was more of a March snowfall, with a snow/rain ratio closer to 8:1 or even 7:1 (it's usually closer to 10:1, and when the temperature is cold, around 15 F or so, can be as high as 20:1, producing the powdery snow more prone to severe blowing and drifting). So we caught a few breaks with this storm: air temperatures climbed above freezing as far north as Duluth (where 20+" piled up, winds gusted to 50 mph and huge 5-10 foot waves were spotted!) That kept roads, especially interstates and major freeways, more wet/slushy than snow-covered, so it wasn't too bad getting around yesterday. Snow falling at 10-15 F is MUCH tougher to drive on and, ultimately, remove from area highways.

Predicted Weather Map for 6 am Saturday. The unusually powerful storm that did a full loop over Iowa Friday is finally lifting northeast toward the Great Lakes, a counterclockwise wind flow around this "low" sucking colder air into Minnesota today and Sunday.

It's something of a paradox: snow at 32 is far more slippery, liquid water lubricating the snow. Traction is MUCH worse at 30-32 than it is at 10-15 F. And yet snow falling at 10-15 F is much more problematic in many respects - the salt/sand mix used by municipalities is very ineffective when it gets that cold - it just doesn't melt!

A few windblown flakes are possible Saturday as temperatures fall through the 20s. Another coating to 1/2" of so of accumulation is possible, but no substantial accumulation is in sight. The good news: no meaty fronts or ill-timed storms will torment you around New Year's Eve (or Day). A couple subzero nights are possible immediately after the New Year - but no prolonged arctic invasions are setting up just yet. In fact the GFS model is strongly hinting at a thaw the second week of January, a few days in a row in the 30s. I'll believe it when I see it. I keep waiting for El Nino to kick in and save us from an old fashioned Minnesota Winter. Still waiting!

SNOW REPORTS LISTED BY AMOUNT

INCHES LOCATION ST COUNTY TIME
------ ----------------------- -- -------------- -------
16.00 FAIRMONT MN MARTIN 0100 PM
14.20 HAMBURG MN CARVER 0800 AM
13.30 1 ENE MINNESOTA LAKE MN FARIBAULT 0339 PM
13.20 2 W PRIOR LAKE MN SCOTT 0700 AM
13.00 SACRED HEART MN RENVILLE 1110 AM
13.00 WELCOME MN MARTIN 1022 AM
13.00 NORTH ST PAUL MN RAMSEY 0842 AM
13.00 7 SSW LAKEVILLE MN SCOTT 0715 AM
12.50 PRIOR LAKE MN SCOTT 1212 PM
12.50 MORA MN KANABEC 1129 AM
12.50 LESTER PRAIRIE MN MCLEOD 0715 AM
12.50 WACONIA MN CARVER 0350 PM
12.50 3 N KIMBALL MN STEARNS 0243 PM
12.20 WATERTOWN MN CARVER 1100 AM
12.10 1 SSW JORDAN MN SCOTT 0800 AM
12.10 FRIDLEY MN ANOKA 0225 PM
12.00 GLENCOE MN MCLEOD 1209 PM
12.00 WATERVILLE MN LE SUEUR 1107 AM
12.00 BROWNTON MN MCLEOD 1022 AM
12.00 MORGAN MN REDWOOD 0912 AM
12.00 OLIVIA MN RENVILLE 0817 AM
12.00 MANKATO MN BLUE EARTH 0800 AM
11.90 3 WSW PRINCETON MN SHERBURNE 0800 AM
11.60 1 NNE BUFFALO MN WRIGHT 0705 AM
11.50 LAKEVILLE MN DAKOTA 1109 AM
11.50 NEW HOPE MN HENNEPIN 0922 AM
11.50 WINNEBAGO MN FARIBAULT 0800 AM
11.50 1 SSW LONSDALE MN RICE 0800 AM
11.50 3 NW PLYMOUTH MN HENNEPIN 0745 AM
11.50 3 ENE MONTGOMERY MN RICE 0700 AM
11.30 FARIBAULT MN RICE 0927 AM
11.30 ST LOUIS PARK MN HENNEPIN 0829 AM
11.20 2 SSW CAMBRIDGE MN ISANTI 0423 PM
11.00 ISANTI MN ISANTI 1242 PM
11.00 CHANHASSEN NWS MN CARVER 0600 PM
11.00 DARWIN MN MEEKER 1134 AM
11.00 BLOOMINGTON MN HENNEPIN 1109 AM
11.00 SPRINGFIELD MN BROWN 1107 AM
11.00 WINTHROP MN SIBLEY 1022 AM
11.00 15 W SANDSTONE MN KANABEC 1012 AM
11.00 CYRUS MN POPE 0922 AM
11.00 ANNANDALE MN WRIGHT 0912 AM
11.00 2 N NORTH BRANCH MN CHISAGO 0907 AM
11.00 DARWIN MN MEEKER 0826 AM
11.00 ROCKFORD MN HENNEPIN 0800 AM
11.00 MORA MN KANABEC 0800 AM
10.80 WILLMAR MN KANDIYOHI 0800 AM
10.60 2 NE BUFFALO MN WRIGHT 0800 AM
10.50 HAM LAKE MN ANOKA 1049 AM
10.50 1 N ANDOVER MN ANOKA 0800 AM
10.50 LITCHFIELD MN MEEKER 0634 AM
10.40 3 SSE ELMDALE MN MORRISON 0430 PM
10.30 LONG LAKE MN HENNEPIN 0700 AM
10.30 2 N CHASKA MN CARVER 0530 AM
10.20 3 WSW PRINCETON MN SHERBURNE 0830 AM
10.20 4 N ALBANY MN STEARNS 0745 AM
10.10 5 WNW ST CLOUD MN STEARNS 0800 AM
10.10 1 NNW COLD SPRING MN STEARNS 0800 AM
10.10 2 N COON RAPIDS MN ANOKA 0730 AM
10.10 ST PETER MN NICOLLET 0717 AM
10.00 1 WSW NEW BRIGHTON MN RAMSEY 0107 PM
10.00 1 ESE ST JOSEPH MN STEARNS 0105 PM
10.00 BELGRADE MN STEARNS 0833 AM
10.00 FAIRMONT MN MARTIN 0800 AM
10.00 RICE LAKE WI BARRON 0708 AM
10.00 EDINA MN HENNEPIN 0700 PM
10.00 BRUCE WI RUSK 0616 PM
10.00 7 NW ONAMIA MN MILLE LACS 0604 PM
10.00 RICHFIELD MN HENNEPIN 0507 PM
9.90 DASSEL MN MEEKER 0800 AM
9.80 ST CLOUD AIRPORT MN STEARNS 0600 PM
9.80 ST PAUL COMO PARK MN RAMSEY 0842 AM
9.80 RUSH CITY MN CHISAGO 0826 AM
9.80 RICE LAKE WI BARRON 0730 AM
9.80 3 NE RUSH CITY MN CHISAGO 0700 AM
9.70 1 W WOODLAND MN HENNEPIN 0800 AM
9.60 12 NW LADYSMITH WI RUSK 0607 AM
9.50 3 NNW MINNEAPOLIS MN HENNEPIN 0107 PM
9.50 BLOOMINGTON MN HENNEPIN 0826 AM
9.50 5 W ST CLOUD MN STEARNS 0800 AM
9.50 BLUE EARTH MN FARIBAULT 0800 AM
9.50 1 E OWATONNA MN STEELE 0700 AM
9.50 ALBANY MN STEARNS 0515 AM
9.50 GLENWOOD MN POPE 0704 PM
9.40 5 NE FOREST LAKE MN CHISAGO 0800 AM
9.40 1 NNE WOODBURY MN WASHINGTON 0700 AM
9.40 BENSON MN SWIFT 0930 AM
9.30 1 ESE ST JOSEPH MN STEARNS 0912 AM
9.30 2 W FOLEY MN BENTON 0837 AM
9.20 SAUK RAPIDS MN BENTON 1020 AM
9.20 REDWOOD FALLS MN REDWOOD 0800 AM
9.10 DONNELLY MN STEVENS 0912 AM
9.00 8 S HILLMAN MN MORRISON 0504 PM
9.00 ELLENDALE MN STEELE 1057 AM
9.00 OWATONNA MN STEELE 0800 AM
9.00 1 SW MONTEVIDEO MN CHIPPEWA 0800 AM
9.00 MELROSE MN STEARNS 0800 AM
9.00 LITTLE FALLS MN MORRISON 0800 AM
9.00 OAK GROVE MN ANOKA 0645 AM
9.00 MINNEAPOLIS ST PAUL APT MN HENNEPIN 0600 PM
8.90 CHETEK WI BARRON 1200 PM
8.70 LONG PRAIRIE MN TODD 0800 AM
8.70 LITCHFIELD MN MEEKER 0800 AM
8.70 HASTINGS MN DAKOTA 0657 PM
8.60 3 N BOYCEVILLE WI DUNN 0600 AM
8.50 CUMBERLAND WI BARRON 0742 AM
8.20 3 SSW WHITE BEAR LAKE MN RAMSEY 1100 AM
8.20 ST CLOUD SCSU MN STEARNS 0800 AM
8.00 3 NW GILMAN MN BENTON 0944 AM
8.00 1 NW MILAN MN CHIPPEWA 0600 PM
7.90 2 WSW RICE MN STEARNS 0800 AM
7.80 5 NW MINNEAPOLIS MN HENNEPIN 0800 AM
7.60 4 NE WOODBURY MN WASHINGTON 0700 AM
7.50 MENOMONIE WI DUNN 0817 AM
7.50 CLEAR LAKE WI POLK 0800 AM
7.30 RICE MN BENTON 0800 AM
7.20 7 NNW OGILVE MN KANABEC 0609 PM
7.20 BERTHA MN TODD 0249 PM
7.00 ROBERTS WI ST. CROIX 0800 AM
7.00 MILACA MN MILLE LACS 0800 AM
7.00 MURDOCK MN SWIFT 0759 AM
7.00 CONNORSVILLE WI DUNN 0708 AM
6.50 RED WING MN GOODHUE 0912 AM
6.50 ZUMBROTA MN GOODHUE 0800 AM
6.30 2 SW STILLWATER MN WASHINGTON 0800 AM
6.00 CLAYTON WI POLK 0842 AM
6.00 BALDWIN WI ST. CROIX 0800 AM
5.00 BLOOMER WI CHIPPEWA 0800 AM
4.50 ELK MOUND WI DUNN 0800 AM
3.60 EAU CLAIRE WI EAU CLAIRE 0127 AM
2.80 JIM FALLS WI CHIPPEWA 0800 AM
2.60 STANLEY WI CHIPPEWA 0830 AM
Paul's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Light snow and flurries, little or no additional accumulation. Winds: N 10-15. High: 25

Tonight: More flurries. Low: 17

Sunday: Mostly cloudy, a few leftover flakes in the air. High: 24

Monday: Sunshine returns, chilly. High: near 20

Tuesday: Subzero start possible, mix of clouds and sun. High: 18

Wednesday: More clouds, few flurries. High: 22

New Year's Eve: Storm-free. Patchy clouds, passing flurries High: near 20

New Year's Day: Still relatively quiet. Partly sunny, turning colder. High: 18

Christmas Day Update

2 pm Update, Christmas Day

This storm is so big it has an "eye", looks like a land hurricane on Doppler radar! As we suspected a few days ago, the storm is inhaling dry, desert air into its circulation, causing the snow/ice to taper off from the Twin Cities on south/east. A few more inches of heavy, wet snow will pile up in St. Cloud through mid afternoon (where 10" of new snow is already on the ground). The Twin Cities metro area has picked up 9-12" of heavy, wet, gloppy, slushy snow - temperatures just above freezing will help to keep interstates, freeways and main highways wet/slushy through the evening hours....travel conditions should actually improve out there (at least a little bit) through the dinner hour. No more accumulation is expected in the Twin Cities (or anywhere in southeastern MN or western WI) through the evening hours.


As the storm lifts northeastward across Wisconsin later tonight and Saturday the "dry eye" will surge east, and some of those heavier snow bands swirling across western Minnesota and the Dakotas will shift eastward - I could see another 1-3" of accumulating snow late tonight through about midday Saturday.

How much - total? I'm thinking 10-15" for most of the area, the greatest amounts west, ice keeping amounts down a little south/east of town.

To summarize...

* No more accumulating snow this afternoon/evening, just drizzle, temperatures just above freezing.

* 1-3" additional inches snow late tonight and Saturday as the storm lifts into the Great Lakes.

* Challenging travel Saturday, especially secondary roads, Sunday should be a MUCH better travel day statewide.

* This will probably wind up being on the 15 largest snowstorms to ever hit the St. Cloud area since modern-day records were started in 1891.

Another update this evening. Be careful out there - hope you and yours are having a wondrous Christmas Day!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Ultimate Gift for Minnesota Snow-Lovers

* Winter Storm Warnings continue: more moderate/heavy snow today, mixed with ice over southeastern MN and western WI.
* Storm totals of 10-15" for the metro area, some 20" amounts possible central & southwestern MN by the dinner hour Saturday.
* Accumulating snow into Saturday, flurries linger into Sunday.
* Blizzard warnings near the Dakota border and the Duluth area for white-out conditions today.
* If we pick up at least 14.7" of snow this will be the biggest snowstorm since March, 1999, the 11th biggest storm since 1891!
* Turning MUCH colder New Year's Day, subzero weather likely for the first weekend of 2010.


Santa is at a loss for words, overcome with emotion. TMZ.com reports his sleigh got stuck a few times last night, but that may just be rumor and hearsay. What's the one thing money can't buy? A cool foot and a half of fresh snow, just in time for Christmas Day. Forget traffic hassle factors for the time being - you have to admit: it looks incredible out there right now, like a magical, shimmering Norman Rockwell painting come to life. I honestly can't remember the last time we were digging out from over a foot of snow on Christmas Day - lately we've had some winters where locals were hoping and praying for a little snow on December 25, anything to avoid the specter of a "brown Christmas". Roughly 3 out of the last 10 Christmases have been brown, with less than an inch of snow on the ground. Nice to have an old fashioned Christmas, smoke curling out of the chimney, big, fat, snowflakes bouncing off the kitchen window, the dog returning from "doing his business" covered, head to toe, in a fresh, hairy coating of white.

Let it snow, let it snow. Here is the GFS model showing additional snow today, tonight and Saturday. Another half foot (give or take) is expected in the Twin Cities metro by Saturday evening, maybe 8-10" for the St. Cloud area. An additional 15"+ may paralyze far western Minnesota, much of the Dakotas and western Iowa, where blizzard conditions are expected later today and tonight. The farther west you travel, the worse conditions will be. No significant improvement is likely until Sunday.


Yes, our 3-4 day storm is rivaling last weekend's wild snow that gripped Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York. Only last week's storm was over in less than 18 hours. The storm dropping moderate snow (and ice) on our heads is forecast to do one great big loop over Iowa later today, before finally lifting northeastward into Canada by Monday. That loop will prolong the storm an extra day or so, resulting in some very impressive snow amounts, 1 to 2 FEET across much of Minnesota. Some towns in central Minnesota will see nearly half a winter season's worth of snow by the time the flakes stop falling late tomorrow, a few isolated 20-24" amounts are possible from Marshall to Windom, Willmar and Glencoe - that's almost 2 MONTH'S worth of snow falling in 3 days.

A slow-motion storm (with a flaky loop!). A whirlpool of unusually cold air aloft is nearly stationary over the Plains, causing the storm to slow down as it intensifies - and performs a highly unusual LOOP over Iowa later today and tonight, prolonging the snow an extra 12-24 hours!

So that's why this is no garden-variety snowstorm. A few good reasons:

1). Ordinary storms don't linger for 4 days. A series of disturbances hurtling southward out of Canada caused a storm in the Deep South to intensify, each surge of energy making the low pressure system more potent.

2). Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico was able to funnel north, right up the Mississippi Valley. Normally a storm tracking into Iowa would pull enough warm air into Minnesota for a changeover to ice and rain - that may still happen south/east of the Twin Cities today, keeping amounts down in Rochester, Winona and Eau Claire, WI. Temperatures throughout the lowest mile of the atmosphere stayed just below freezing, keeping precipitation falling as mostly snow across most of the state.

3). During the 1991 Halloween Blizzard weather systems were locked in a blocking pattern, a stalled storm off the coast of Cape Cod caused another deep area of low pressure to become marooned over Lake Superior, producing a 3-day snow event that - to this day - is unrivaled. I don't think we'll ever see 28.4" of snow over 3 days, at least not in our lifetime. Think of this storm as the "little sister" of the Halloween Superstorm. Same overall concept, just enough differences to mean total snow of 12-15" instead of 28.4".


Paul's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Winter Storm Warning. Snow, windier with treacherous travel, getting worse the farther west you travel, toward the Dakota line (where Blizzard Warnings are posted). Some ice may mix in with the snow, especially eastern suburbs of St. Paul into western WI. Winds: NE 15-25+ High: 32

Tonight: Winter Storm Warning. More snow, heavy at times. Low: 24

Saturday: Snow gradually tapers off as the day goes on. Total accumulations of 12-15" expected across much of central MN. A few towns in the far western and southwestern metro may pick up 20". Winds: N 10-20. High: 26 (falling steadily during the day).

Sunday: Lingering clouds and flurries. High: 25

Monday: Intervals of sun, seasonably cool. High: 24

Tuesday: Mix of clouds and sun, chilly. High: near 22

Wednesday: Clouds increase, flurries/light snow possible late. High: 25

New Year's Eve: Flurries taper, turning windy and much colder. High: 15 (falling rapidly)

A stretch of subzero weather seems likely the end of next week and the first weekend of next year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A cool foot or more likely

"Twin Cities snowstorms are a little like the Vikings. They get our hopes up so high, only to be ultimately disappointed in the end."

- Amy Carlson-Gustafson, St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter re-tweet)

"When I was a kid the snow would come up to my waist. Come to think of it I was only 2 feet tall at the time...."

- anonymous

Welcome to the snowiest Christmas Eve on record for the Twin Cities! Today's 24 hour snowfall record: 2.8" set in 1916. We will almost certainly shatter that record, possibly by 9 or 10 am this morning! More Christmas Eve/Day weather trivia from the local NWS right here.

364 days out of the year we can be defensive, skeptical - cynical. It's sad that the world has forced those defense mechanisms on us just to get by, just to endure, day to day. It wasn't always that way. But at Christmas we try to pick it up a notch, set aside our petty issues and unite with family and friends, celebrating an extraordinary birth and the Ultimate Gift by sharing gifts with the people we care about. It's a wonderful tradition, one that has stood the test of time, well at least the last 2,000 years or so. At Christmas all of us get our childhood back, we can be big kids again. Just like my undying belief in Santa - I WANT TO BELIEVE that we can still get clobbered with an old fashioned, shovel-bending, tire-spinning snowstorm. You know, a butt-kicking, interstate-snarling storm that brings back glowing memories of childhood sledding, snowball fights, snow days, snow forts, hockey out on the freshly shoveled pond, the way winter was meant to be....

A funnel for Gulf of Mexico moisture. The classic "Texas Hooker" snowstorm shows signs of hooking northwestward and stalling (temporarily) over Iowa for 36 hours, prolonging the snow, before weakening and lifting into Canada by Sunday. During the 1991 Halloween Superstorm a powerful storm stalled out over Lake Superior for the better part of 48 hours, also prolonging the snow, resulting in 28.4" of snow over a 3-day period. We won't see that much snow, but much of Minnesota will be blanketed under a 1 to 1.5 foot snowfall, with closer to 2 feet near Duluth and the North Shore.

Whispers of '91. In the case of the Halloween Superstorm of 1991 a powerful storm stalled over Lake Superior, responding to a similar superstorm which had stalled off the coast of New England, the "perfect storm" highlighted in Sebastian Junger's book. These 2 equally potent blizzards stalled simultaneously, prolonging heavy precipitation and high winds. The pattern is somewhat similar this time around, but hardly identical (no megastorm downstream, lurking off the east coast). Even though the storm will slow to a creep over Iowa Christmas Day, the pattern is "progressive" - we don't expect a 3-day holding pattern capable of squeezing out 20"+ of snow. That said, 10-15" will be quite enough across most of the state!


Although this won't be a rerun of the 1991 Halloween "Superstorm" the next 48 hours will bring back slushy, crunchy, snow-splattered memories of storms gone by. Today may wind up being the snowiest Christmas Eve on record, and before the flakes stop falling sometime late Saturday a cool 12-16" of snow will cake most of central Minnesota, including St. Cloud. The Twin Cities metro may see a little ice mixing in, temperatures at ground-level close to freezing later today and Friday, but even there a healthy 10-14" of snow may pile up.

Unlike the storm that hit a couple weeks ago, brushing southeastern counties with blizzard conditions, this will be a heavy, wet snowfall, a "heart attack snow." I'm not a physician, nor do I play one on TV, but I would remind your spouse, significant other, parents or stray uncles NOT to be heroes out there in the coming days. The water content in the snow will be very high, the snow spiked with a little freezing drizzle at times, making it VERY HEAVY. Be careful out there, take your sweet old time getting that cement-like snow off your driveway or sidewalk. No rush!

Potential Whiteout Conditions. Blizzard Warnings for the Duluth area and Lake Superior's North Shore. With a lack of friction winds flowing across Lake Superior may approach blizzard criteria (sustained at 35 mph), so the NWS has issued Blizzard Warnings for the Duluth area. Lake effect may spike an already potent storm system, resulting in some 2 foot plus snowfall amounts by Saturday.

A few "Snowpocalypse" Storm Headlines:

* I see 3-4 separate "waves" of snow surging into central Minnesota by Saturday. One pushed into town overnight, you're waking up to the aftermath. Another heavier band of snow arrives this evening and lingers overnight, a third surge rotates around a slow-moving storm Friday night and early Saturday - each surge capable of 3-4" of additional snow.

* Daytime temperatures Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be close to 30 F, meaning interstates and even some major state highways may just be wet/slushy, while most secondary roads will be snow covered.

* This will NOT be a blizzard. Sustained winds should stay under 20-25 mph, visibilities around 1/4 to 1/2 mile. Since it's heavy, wet snow it won't be prone to as much blowing and drifting.

* Traction will still be tough, keep in mind that traction on snow is much worse at 30-32 F than it is at 15-20 F. It's a little counter-intuitive, I know. The reason: there's a little liquid water in the snow when the temperature is 30-32 F, lubricating the snow, making it slipperier. Again, take it very easy out there through Saturday morning.

* Travel conditions won't improve significantly until Saturday afternoon when light snow finally tapers to flurries. Sunday will be the better day to get around this weekend, whether it's returning "handsome" Christmas sweaters or trying to get the heck home!

* How much? I'm thinking 7" by dinnertime today, 10" by dinner on Christmas Day and a total of 10-14" by lunchtime Saturday. There could still be a band of 20" close to home, the best chance probably near Duluth, where lake effect may enhance the snow that falls.

* If we pick up more than 14.7" of snow this will the 11th biggest snowfall in modern-day records. For a list of the Top 11 Snowstorms for MSP click here. This may be the most snow since March 8-9, 1999, when 16" of snow fell on the Twin Cities.

* Temperatures tumble around the middle of next week: highs in teens, nighttime lows at or below zero around New Year's Eve. The Canadian Slap won't linger for long, no sustained bouts of subzero cold are in sight.

* The long-range (GFS) computer model is hinting at a few inches of snow around Jan. 5-6, 2010. Twenty-ten. Kind of rolls of the tongue, huh? How on earth did it get to be 20-ten? Good grief. I'm feeling ancient.

* The same model is hinting at a blizzard for coastal New England by Saturday, January 2. Boston may get clobbered (although it's still very early).

Honoring those who serve the USA. The weather map shows relatively cool & quiet conditions from Baghdad to Kabul. The latest satellite image showing a cold front pushing across the eastern Mediterranean, a lack of major storms from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Our thoughts, hopes and prayers go out to our sons, daughters, fathers and mothers serving overseas - I can't even begin to imagine how tough it must be to be away from loved ones during the Christmas holiday season. Not only half a world away, but perpetually in harm's way, unable to ever really let your guard down. In honor of these brave Americans I want to offer up my gratitude for their service, and a little Christmas Day Outlook for the Middle East. It's the least we can do as we honor their commitment and bravery.

Baghdad, Iraq

Christmas Eve: Mild sun, quite pleasant. High: 73

Tonight: Partly cloudy, comfortably cool. Low: 51

Christmas Day: Lot's of sun, a bit cooler. High: 69


Kabul, Afghanistan

Christmas Eve: Partly sunny and cool. High: 52

Tonight: Patchy clouds, some frost likely. Low: 32

Christmas Day: Mix of clouds and sun. High: near 50

(rain possible by Sunday, highs in the mid 40s)



Paul's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Winter Storm Warning. Snow, moderate to heavy at times. A little freezing drizzle may mix in, especially south/east of St. Paul. Winds: NE 10-20. High: near 30

Tonight: Snow, mixing with ice at times. Low: 27

Christmas Day: Heavy wet snow, more wind, treacherous travel conditions with ice mixing in from time to time. 8-10" on the ground by Friday evening. Winds: N/NE 15-25. High: near 32

Saturday: Snow gradually tapers to flurries. Snow totals of 10-14" expected by midday Saturday. High: 26

Sunday: Much better travel day. Intervals of sunshine, few leftover flakes. High: 23

Monday: More sun, seasonably chilly. High: 23

Tuesday: Mix of clouds and sun - quiet. High: 25

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Very White Christmas

No worries about a brown Christmas this year. Santa will not need to ditch the sleigh and squeeze into the cherry-red Escalade. There will be PLENTY of fresh snow this year, in fact, we're on target to set a few records for the most snow observed in a 24 hour period, especially on Christmas Eve. Yes, Snowmageddon Central is open for business, lot's of excitement, angst, and a fair amount of outright confusion. The timing is fortuitous - fresh snow for Christmas brings out the inner child in all of us; and unfortunate: last-minute travel to see friends/relatives will be more of a hassle than usual, by an order of magnitude. A few meteorological observations:

1). No widespread travel headaches today before 10 pm. Get your errands done TODAY!

2). A surge of wet snow approaching from the south arrives tonight, after midnight snow may accumulate at the rate of 1"/hour.

3). Still sticking with a forecast for a "snow sandwich." Expect 4-5" by 7 am Christmas Eve, perhaps as much as 8-10" by Thursday night, just in time for Christmas Eve church services. From the Twin Cities on south/east there may be enough warm air aloft for a period of ice on Christmas Day, sleet and freezing rain, which will keep amounts down a bit, and possible compress the snow that does fall on Christmas Eve. The storm stalls (temporarily) over Iowa, before pushing off to the northeast late Friday and Saturday, winds swing back around to the north, meaning a changeover back to mostly (light) snow late Friday into midday Saturday, with a potential for another 1-3", maybe more.



4). How much? Definitely plowable for the metro area, where I expect a cool 8-12" before snow mixes with an icy concoction on Friday. Temperatures will be close to freezing from MSP south to Rochester and east to Eau Claire and Tomah, WI, meaning most interstates will probably be wet/slushy, but secondary roads will be snow covered.

5). Just 50-150 miles north and west of MSP precipitation should fall as MOSTLY SNOW. There may not be a changeover to an icy mix. Models still print out close to 2" of liquid precipitation, which translates into 18-22" of snow. I could see a potentially crippling snowstorm from Windom and Willmar to St. Cloud, Brainerd to Duluth, some 15-20" amounts are very plausible. The farther north/west you travel, away from MSP, the more snow you'll see. The farther south/east you drive, toward Wisconsin and Iowa, the faster you'll run into an icy mix, even some rain by Christmas Day as warmer air wraps into the storm circulation.

6). Snow gradually tapers off Saturday PM hours - Sunday should be MUCH BETTER to get to the store (to return those handsome sweaters) or make the drive back home. Saturday may still be rough on the highways, especially if you're driving west on I-94 or I-90 west of Albert Lea. Sunday looks like the safer travel bet.

The Right Idea. I still think the projected amounts are a bit high for the western metro of the Twin Cities, but the overall outlook is valid. Expect lesser amounts of snow over eastern Iowa, southeastern MN and much of Wisconsin, where a changeover to sleet and freezing rain is likely by Christmas Day. Still leaning toward an 8-12" range for much of the metro, less far eastern metro, but as much as 15" for the far western suburbs, like Delano, Monticello and St. Micheal. The St. Cloud area could easily pick up some 15-20" amounts from this storm - there any changeover to ice is iffy at best.

Snowmageddon! Scenario # 2, less likely, but still possible. If (and it's a huge if) the snow does not change over to an icy mix, this forecast could verify. Look at the massive area forecast to see more than 18-20" of snow, stretching from Nebraska and eastern South Dakota into most of Minnesota. This scenario is still possible, but I'd put the odds at 1 in 3. Snow lovers: don't give up on this best-case-scenario just yet!

Hey, this is exciting! A real storm! Something to point to on my magic green chroma key at WeatherNation! I have to admit to simple, petty jealousy last Saturday when the Mid Atlantic states were getting blasted with heavy snow. I know that's bordering on pathetic, but Washington D.C. with more snow than the Twin Cities? That's just so wrong on so many levels. With this storm we have a chance to right the wrong, to catch up in the snow department, to regain our weather-boasting-rights for North America.



Chaos Theory. What I'd give for a black and white weather scenario. The forecast is almost always some nebulous, hard-to-fathom shade of gray. Keep in mind that every storm is different, unique, with its own characteristics and idiosyncrasies. The upcoming Christmas Storm may be similar to a storm years ago, but no two weather systems are ever identical. There is always some new wildcard in the data, something that may turn 20" of predicted snow into 6". Like the stock market: untold billions of variables and factors, a handful of which may be hyper-critical, far more important that the rest.

There are 2 reasons why I'm not (presently) predicting 18-20" snow for the Twin Cities metro:

1). Storm track too close to MSP. The farther west a storm tracks (or "hooks"), the greater the potential for a counterclockwise circulation to pull warmer air into Minnesota from the south and east. The "ideal storm track for snow" runs from Des Moines to about Eau Claire, a track that keeps most of the warm air well east of MSP. Check out the projected storm track below, and you'll see evidence of that northwestward hook, which may be just enough to pull a thin layer of air > 32F into southeastern and east central Minnesota Christmas Day. The models are hinting at a snowy/icy mix Friday - if this verifies it would keep amounts down, a bit. Instead of 20" we may have to be content with 8 or 10", still a very respectable pile.

Classic "Texas Hooker". Note how the storm appears to be tracking toward the northwest by Christmas Day? That zig to the west may be just enough to pull slightly warmer air into Minnesota, enough warm air aloft for a changeover to a snow/ice mix Christmas Day, keeping amounts down (a bit) from the Twin Cities into Wisconsin, southeastward to Rochester & Winona.

2). "Dreaded Dry Tongue." Big storms sweeping in from the south are not only laden with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, but energized with dry air sweeping in from the desert southwest. This dry air has a tendency to wrap around a storm's circulation, approaching from the south or southwest, often cutting down on the most intense precipitation, turning moderate snow into moderate drizzle in the snap of a finger. Very frustrating for meteorologists, but this dry tongue (sounds like something from a bad deli) can make a huge difference in final snow totals. There is some evidence that dry air will wrap into our Christmas Storm, also serving to keep amounts down (a bit) from the cities on south and east.

That said: this is still going to be a very respectable pile. Just 50 miles west of MSP there may be some 15-18" amounts. This could be another scenario where the far northern/western suburbs see twice as much snow as Cottage Grove, Eagan and Stillwater. My favorite college professor would admonish us for trying to predict inch amounts more than 24 hours before the onset of snow. "Americans are preoccupied with inches!" he'd shout, literally getting red in the face. "Too often we don't have the technology to predict snow right down to the inch. Don't even try!" He was the one who dreamt up the "nuisance-plowable-crippling" scale for rating snowstorms. On this scale most of the metro area will see plowable amounts, but parts of central, western and northern MN could see a crippling snowfall, over 20" with some 3-5 foot drifts kicking in by Saturday.

Batten down the hatches. Here we go!

One Tough 'Vette. Looking forward to getting out and plowing some driveways later this week! If you see me, feel free to wave (preferably with all five fingers!)

Paul's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Cloudy, chilly, damp (but dry). Last good travel day in sight. Winds: East 5-10. High: 25

Wednesday night: Winter Storm Warning. Snow developing (heaviest after midnight). 4" possible by Thursday morning. Low: 21

Christmas Eve: Winter Storm Warning. Snow, heavy at times. High: 27

Christmas Day: Winter Storm Warning. Snow mixes with sleet, possibly even a little freezing rain. Glaze ice possible on bridges and secondary roads. Hazardous travel. High: near 30

Saturday: Snow gradually tapers to flurries. Total snowfall amounts of 8-12" possible, less east of St. Paul, some 15" amounts possible far western suburbs of Minneapolis. Some blowing/drifting. High: 24 (falling)

Sunday: Much better travel day. Intervals of sun possible. High: 22

Monday: More clouds than sun, seasonably chilly. High: 23

Tuesday: Mix of clouds and sun, quiet. High: 25