Sunday, May 24, 2009

Amazingly nice for a holiday!

Weather Headlines

* Today: bright sun, light winds, low humidity. North breeze at 6-13 becomes more easterly during the afternoon hours.

* Parts of northern Minnesota waking up to a light frost this morning. Under the center of high pressure, with crystal-clear skies and virtually no wind: conditions ripe for unusually chilly weather.

* Memorial Day: not quite as sunny, more high clouds and haze, a bit more humid. Winds blow from the southeast, a bit stronger, averaging between 10-20 mph.

* There is a 1 in 4 chance of T-storms drifting into central MN by afternoon or evening, but MOST of the storms should remain over far northern and western Minnesota.

* Much better chance of showers and T-storms Tuesday as cool front finally arrives.

* 80 very possible by next Saturday. It's still early, but models hinting at a better chance of a little rain next Sunday.

(This is the WRF/NAM 48 hour forecast, valid around the dinner hour tomorrow. Models are pretty consistent in keeping most of the moisture, the showers and T-storms, north and west of St. Cloud. There's a much better chance of late-day rain in Moorhead, Thief River Falls, even Bemidji than in the Twin Cities area, although it's a little close for comfort. The Brainerd Lakes area will be on the edge of the expected rainfall, a little too close to call. Either way, outdoor plans scheduled during the morning and midday hours should be dry, the best chance of rain over western and northern counties of Minnesota coming after 3-4 pm).

(Remember, the risk of sunburn has nothing to do with temperature, and everything to do with the date and sun angle. The sun is about as high in the sky, and powerful, as it ever gets. Without sunscreen you can become the proud recipient of a painful sunburn within 30 minutes. All it takes is a few blistering sunburns to increase your risk of contracting melanoma, a sometimes fatal form of skin cancer. Treat the sun with the respect it deserves).

Part of the challenge of forecasting the weather is communicating what I think the sky will look like - accurately - to you, the reader, the consumer of weather. We try to choose our words carefully, but there's often confusion. What does "partly cloudy" really mean, anyway? So I'm going to try something a little different today, using photos to help describe what I HOPE the sky will look like today and Memorial Day. The Internet is all about experimentation, right? So here goes...

(Sunday's sky should feature more cirrus clouds, composed of ice crystals suspended about 25,000 feet above the ground. You may notice more jet contrails, which often spread out into a high, cellophane-thin layer of clouds capable of dimming the sun or moon).

Sunday Weather: still nice with ample sun. A chilly start gives way to sunshine and temperatures a few degrees milder than Saturday, afternoon readings in the low 70s (central and south) to the mid 60s (far north). Winds will be light, and Doppler should be free of any showers - it looks like a pretty nice spring day across the great state of Minnesota....few complaints.

Winds: East 6-12, visibility over 20 miles, steady, then falling baromter.

(On Memorial Day this may be the view outside your cabin if you're up in the Detroit Lakes or even the Brainerd Lakes area. The risk of T-storms will be greatest over far western and northern counties of Minnesota, but even there it probably won't be an all-day rain. Have a Plan B, indoors, just in case the sky opens up. If it's any consolation the risk of severe weather looks minimal. But any T-storm, by definition, is potentially deadly. Lightning is lazy: it wants the easiest path from the cloud base to the ground. If you're stuck on a boat, or lounging on the beach, YOU may be the tallest object in the area. Being a human lightning rod is no fun - the first clap of thunder, the first flash of lightning on the horizon, make a bee-line for the relative safety of your cabin).

Memorial Day Weather: clouds slowly increase with a growing chance of showers and storms, especially west of Windom, Fergus Falls, and Thief River Falls by afternoon. The heaviest rain, 2-5 hours worth, should be over far western and northern Minnesota, where some .5"+ rainfall amounts are quite possible. You'll notice higher humidity levels (it may border on sticky), more haze, but a fair amount of sun from St. Cloud south and east toward the Twin Cities, Rochester and Mankato. The farther north/west you go, the better the odds of some rain, especially PM hours.

Winds: Southeast 10-15. Visibiity: under 6 miles in haze, falling barometer. Lightning risk should be greatest over far northern/western lakes - be ready to get off the lake in a hurry the first time you see lightning or hear a rumble of thunder.

A weak trough of low pressure (think of this as an unusually cold wrinkle of air a few miles overhead, resulting in greater instability, especially PM hours) lingers much of next week, sparking a few random showers and storms Tuesday, Wednesday, even Thursday - weather systems in a temporary holding pattern. Long-range guidance is hinting at a few hours of rain next Saturday (May 30) with Sunday possibly being the sunnier day of the weekend. That's way off on the horizon, barely legible on the maps, to be sure. I'm more concerned (freaked out, really) about the short-term forecast. Have fun out there, enjoy one of the nicest Memorial Day Weekends we've enjoyed in recent years. On Monday I hope you'll join me in taking a few minutes to say a silent prayer to the men and women we honor; those who have sacrificed everything so we can enjoy a weekend getaway with our families, in freedom. As I get older I take less and less for granted, not the least of which is the cost of protecting our nation, our way of life. As crazy as that life can be some days I still wouldn't trade it for anything. What's that old saying? "Democracy isn't perfect, but it sure beats all the other alternatives...."

Happy Memorial Day!

Paul's Outlook

Sunday: Plenty of sun, a bit milder. Winds: E 6-13. High: 73

Sunday night: Partly cloudy, not as chilly. Low: 52

Memorial Day: Intervals of hazy sun, more humid. A slight threat of a PM shower/T-storm, but most of the showers/storms should stay north and west of town. High: 77

Tuesday: Still sticky, unsettled, much better chance of T-storms in the area. High: 74

Wednesday: Getting sunnier and milder. High: 73

Thursday: Ample sun, PM showers should stay north/east. High: 77

Friday: Partly cloudy and warm. High: 78

Saturday (May 30) Hazy sun, possibly the nicer day of the weekend. High: 82

Sunday: Better chance of a few showers, possible thunder. High: 77

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