Sunday, May 31, 2009

Growing Drought

(Update: 5:25 pm) Doppler radar shows a few very light showers/sprinkles near St. Cloud (the air so dry much of this isn't even reaching the ground, it's evaporating first). A line of more formidable/heavy showers and embedded T-storms is showing up near Brainerd and Aitkin, capable of 1/2" hail and wind gusts over 50 mph. The Brainerd Lakes area is already seeing some rough showers/storms, and although the brunt of this heavy weather will pass off north and east of St. Cloud and the Twin Cities, we can't rule out a heavier shower or T-storm here after 7 pm or so. We'll take the rain - much of central MN is too dry, and the Twin Cities metro area is now in a SEVERE drought.

Unless we get significant rain later today (doubtful, I think we'll see just enough to settle the dust) this will wind up being the third driest May on record for much of Minnesota, the driest since 1934. That's right: Dustbowl Days Dry. Does this mean a rerun of the mid 30s, when toxic clouds of boiling dust roamed the high plains, blotting out the sun, scraping millions of tons of precious topsoil off fields and depositing it hundreds of miles downwind? Of course not. We're still relatively early in the summer season, but I don't see any large-scale shift in the pattern until after June 7-8, at the earliest. Our relatively cool spell will linger most of next week, highs ranging from 60s (north) to 70s (south), chilly enough for jackets and sweatshirts up at the cabin for the first weekend in June. What's up with that? Some are blaming the lack of sunspot activity on the sun; the most quiet period for sunspots and solar flares since the 1920s. That could be creating a cool bias across much of North America, but scientists aren't exactly sure.

Latest severe weather outlook from SPC, slight risk for all of central and southern MN, including the Twin Cities. They calculate a 30% probability of severe weather (58 mph+ winds or hail larger than 1" in diameter) within 25 miles of any point within the shaded area. Bottom line: it's ripe for a few isolated severe cells later today, but low dew points, a lack of humid, muggy air, should prevent a widespread severe storm outbreak. That said, stay alert and keep an eye out for a few fleeting rough storms later today, best chance after about 4 or 5 pm. Storms should fire up over western Minnesota by early afternoon, then track east, intensifying as they approach St. Cloud and the Twin Cities.

Weather Headlines for the Twin Cities

* Near 80 later today with warm winds (blowing from the southwest at 15-30 mph.)

* Slight chance of strong/severe storms later today, best chance after 3 pm.

* Any rainfall should be light and spotty, probably less than .05" in most neighborhoods.

* Wind shift to the north/northwest pulls cooler air into town Monday, 15 degrees cooler under a blue sky.

* Dry weather prevails most of next week, temperatures average 5 degrees or more below normal.

* Light jacket weather next weekend? Long-range guidance hinting at conditions more typical of early May than early June. Frost risk up in the Boundary Waters?

* Some early signs of real (80-degree) warmth returning the second week of June.

* Much of Minnesota on-track to experience the driest May since 1934, third driest on record.

* Moderate drought lingers over much of southeastern MN, drought becomes severe over east metro of the Twin Cities - dry conditions spread west to St. Cloud, Willmar area in the last week.

Paul's Outlook

Today: Hazy sun, windy and warm. Risk of an afternoon shower or T-storm. A few isolated storms may turn severe later today. Winds: SW 15-30+ High: 83

Tonight: Evening shower or storm, then drying out late. Low: 55

Monday: Sunny and refreshingly cool. High: 71

Tuesday: Plenty of sun, still dry (and cooler than average). High: 68

Wednesday: Mix of clouds and sun, a bit milder. High: 71

Thursday: Partly cloudy, closer to "average". High: 75

Friday: A passing shower or thundershower, breezy and cooler. High: 66

Saturday: Bright sun much of the day, but cool. High: 66 (holding in the 50s far north).

Sunday: Still dry, plenty of sun on tap. High: 69

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