Saturday, May 23, 2009

A better than average Memorial Day Weekend

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, Sunday and Memorial Day. The Internet is all about experimentation, right? So here goes...

(Saturday may wind up being the sunniest day of the weekend, except for far southern MN, where clouds and showers linger during the AM hours. 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).

Saturday Weather: morning showers far south early in the day, from Worthington to Albert Lea and La Crosse. Elsewhere plan on plenty of sun, a north wind at 5-15, with a slowly rising barometer and highs ranging from the low 60s (northern lakes) to low 70s (Twin Cities). For much of Minnesota Saturday should be the coolest day, with the lowest humidity levels. Saturday night will border on cold up north - I would not be shocked to hear of FROST from Mille Lacs north to the Whitefish Chain. Yes, pack a hefty jacket if you're going to be out after sunset Saturday evening, it will cool down in a hurry.

Winds: North: 5-15, unlimited visibility, rising barometer.

(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 the alternatives...."

Happy Memorial Day!

Paul's Outlook

Today: Increasingly sunny and pleasant. Winds: N 5-15. High: near 70

Tonight: Mostly clear and chilly. Low: 46 (frost possible northern lakes area).

Sunday: Plenty of sun, a bit milder. Winds: E 5-10. High: 73

Sunday night: Slight risk of a T-storm, mainly far western Minnesota, near the Dakota line. Low: 54

Memorial Day: Intervals of hazy sun, more humid. A threat of a PM shower/T-storm, but most of the day still looks dry. High: 79

Tuesday: Still sticky, unsettled, scattered T-storms in the area. High: 73

Wednesday: More clouds than sun, another shower or two. High: 72

Thursday: Clouds linger, a few hours of showers still possible, possible thunder. High: 73

Friday: Sunny, warmer. High: 77

Saturday (May 30) Good chance of showers, few T-storms. High: 75

Sunday: Probably the nicer day. Lot's of sun, pleasantly mild. High: 73

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