Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Weather Winning Streak

Just when you think you've seen just about everything - along comes the Backwards Summer of '09. This is one of many things I love about our fair state: the weather often appears to be the plot of a made-for-TV movie on FOX. Minnesota's weather plot seems truly incredible most years, but look at the bright side: we're never at a loss for words when it comes to chatting about our favorite topic: the weather. Most years Minnesota's warmest weather comes in mid July, about 3 weeks after the summer solstice on June 21, when the sun is highest in the sky. Most years. After muddling through the 7th coolest summer since 1895 summer faded away in July and August, only to stage a comeback in September, a full two and a half months AFTER the summer solstice. I realize this makes no sense whatsoever. The first half of September is the second driest on record (second only to 1998 when NO rain whatsoever fell on the area). The drought is getting worse, and if we don't get a good, old-fashioned soaking in late September/October to recharge soil moisture, farmers may be in a world of hurt come spring planting season '10.

The weather has been extraordinary, no question - this last surge of sunny, warm weather helping to mature the corn crop (which was running a little behind schedule due to our cool summer). We're making up for lost time, and many farmers are faced with potentially record harvests. Moisture was ample over southern Minnesota, and a lack of widespread floods (and hailstorms) was nothing short of an atmospheric blessing from on high. It turns out the drought is worst north/east of St. Paul, from White Bear Lake up to Taylor's Falls. But much of central and east central Minnesota is still running a 12-16" rainfall deficit since early summer of 2008, and we're not going to make up for that shortfall anytime soon. So am I enjoying September? Absolutely. But all these postcard-worthy sunsets and unusually warm, sunny, sweaty September days are coming at a price.

Upcoming Weather Trends

Yesterday's back-door cool front (winds shifted more to the east) coupled with fog lifting into a stagnant stratus layer kept temperatures 5-10 degrees cooler than they would have been otherwise - shows you what a difference cloud cover makes during the summer months. Even though the sun is lower in the sky, temperatures warmed enough to break through the stable "capped" layer and the stubborn clouds thinned out by mid afternoon. We probably won't have any clouds to speak of Thursday, meaning afternoon highs in the low, even the mid 80s, 10-15 degrees above average once again. Highs flirt with 80 again Saturday, even Sunday, before a cooler front arrives with showery rains on Monday.

Next week doesn't look quite as chilly as it a few days ago (highs should be mainly in the 60s, not the 50s) and frost is unlikely, except over roughly the northeastern third of Minnesota the latter half of next week as skies clear and winds finally subside. Yes, next week will be cooler than average, you will get a chance to drag out that favorite jacket most of the week, but expect a nice warming trend as we end the month of September, back into the 70s, even 80, from September 27-30, with shirtsleeve weather spilling over into at least the first week of October. Does this mean anything, an easier winter, less snow, milder temperatures for the long haul? Nope. All it means is that the winter season may SEEM a little shorter; this reflects the trend in recent decades....winter being pushed back later in the year. Flurries show up in October, but it's rare to get snow on the ground much before Thanksgiving, and the really nasty, subzero weather - the stuff that scares visitors to death - usually doesn't show up until after Christmas. We'll see if that trend continues this winter. My outlook? "Colder with some snow."

Yep, I'm hoping to nail that forecast again this winter. Count on it.

Paul's Outlook

Today: Warm sun, stuff/uncomfortable in many school classrooms. Winds: SW 5-10. High: 82

Tonight: Clear and comfortable. Low: 59

Friday: Partly cloudy, slightly cooler (still well above average). High: near 80

Saturday: Sunny and unseasonably warm - again! High: 81

Sunday: Sun fades behind PM clouds, last warm day for some time. High: near 80

Monday: Windy and cooler with showers likely. High: 68

Tuesday: Mix of clouds and sun, isolated PM shower. High: 65

Wednesday: Partly sunny and brisk, feels like typical late September weather. High: 64

Super Typhoon Choi Wan. On Wednesday this impressive hurricane was packing sustained winds of 160 mph with gusts to 180. It's tracking toward Japan, but expected to recurve to the north and then the northeast, passing well east of Tokyo in the coming days, but a little close for comfort. Hurricanes are called typhoons in the western Pacific, cyclones in the Indian Ocean, and sometimes nicknamed Willy Willy's off the coast of Australia. They are all one in the same kind of storm, forming over the oceans, able to convert warm ocean water into wind energy. They are, in a sense, nature's automatic pressure relief valves, transporting extra moisture and heat away from the tropics toward northern latitudes. Many hurricanes and typhoons have been drought-busters in years gone by. Unlike tornadoes, which just scare everyone half to death, hurricanes actually have some benefits in nature.

Track of Choi-Wan. As you can see this dangerous typhoon is forecast to recurve away from the coastline of Japan. For more information on this mega-hurricane click here.

Extended Outlook for September 22 - 26. Get your jackets ready for next week. Frost may form as far south at St. Cloud and the far northern suburbs of the Twin Cities roughly one week from now. But a big warming trend is likely as we end out the month of September with more 70s, even a few more 80s possible.

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