Last Weekend of Winter...
It's been fairly quiet across much of the state over the last several days and Saturday was just about as nice as any St. Patrick's Day can be here in Minnesota. However, who could forget the 80F record high temperature on St. Patrick's Day in 2012? Yea, that was nice! 2012 was an exceptional spring that came VERY early, almost too early that year. This year, spring seems to be coming at a pretty normal rate. We still have snow on the and there is still a lot of ice on area lakes.
2017 Ice Out Dates
Take a look at ice out dates across the state from last year. Note the darker red markers, which indicated that ice out occurred on many lakes in central and southern MN before March 18th! As of March 17th, we have no ice outs anywhere across the state this year. 

Spring is Just Around The Corner!
"On Tuesday, at 11:15:21 a.m. CDT, the winter season will officially come to an end in the Northern Hemisphere. How can we be so sure? At that moment, the sun will arrive at one of two positions where its rays will shine directly down on the equator. Indeed, if you were standing on the equator at a point just to the west of the Itapará River of the Roraima State in northern Brazil, the sun would appear directly overhead, even as we in the Northern Hemisphere make the transition from winter to spring. At that time, the sun will also be shining equally on both halves of the Earth. Spring at last! Many look upon the arrival of spring as an end to cold — and, in northern climes — snowy weather. That, of course, is simply not true. In some years, unseasonably cold temperatures and accumulating snows can linger well into April, just as warm weather sometimes hangs on well into October."
Signs of Spring
For me, spring officially arrives when I hear the first call of the Red-winged Blackbird! It is probably one of my favorite springtime birds, not sure why, but I do! Thanks to Journey North, there are a number of different spring things that are being tracked. From Red-winged Blackbirds to Robins to Loons and even Hummingbirds! Here is a map of Red-winged Blackbird first sightings and note that there have already been a few sightings through the first half of March around the Twin Cities and in southeastern MN!
Spring Phenology in the Twin Cities
"One of the first signs of spring have arrived in 2018. The songs of the first red-winged blackbirds of the season were heard in north Maplewood on Thursday, March 8, six days earlier than the median date of March 14. There is still plenty of reminders that winter is still here. At the same time the red wing blackbird call was heard, 14 inches of snow was on the ground and morning temperatures were around 10 degrees. Phenology which is derived from the Greek word phaino meaning to show or appear, is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events that are influenced by environmental changes, especially seasonal variations in temperature and precipitation driven by weather and climate. The USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN)  collects phenological data from across the United States. Also track the progress of The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds  as they migrate north. According to the National Phenology Network spring is about a week ahead of average for 2018 so far. Here is some recent spring phenology for a site in Maplewood just north of St. Paul."

Spring Leaf Index

According to the USA National Phenology Network, the spring leaf index shows spring creeping north. The red colors indicate that spring leaves have been emerging earlier than normal, while the blue indicates that spring leaves have emerged later than normal. It was a later than normal start to the season across the Gulf Coast States, but across the Mid-Atlantic and Ohio Valley, things are off to an earlier start. Keep in mind that the average bloom date for lilacs in the Twin Cities is around May 10th, so we still have a ways to go, but we're not that far away!

Starting Your Garden Indoors
Local gardeners are well on their way to starting their 2018 garden! As you can see from the image below, a number of different flowers and vegetables can already be planted INDOORS. Earlier this week, I planted 108 different seeds from peppers to flowers. Looks like we have a couple of weeks yet before tomato seeds can be planted! Such a fun time of the year!! Grow baby grow!!
Snow Depth
Here's the latest modeled snow depth across the state, which shows the snowpack dwindling from where we were 3 weeks ago when nearly 10" of snow was on the ground in the Twin Cities on February 25th. As of Saturday, March 17th, the MSP Airport still had 2" of snow on the ground in the morning.


Snow Melt Ahead

The extended forecast through the end of March suggests high temperatures bouncing around the 30s and 40s. The GEFS seems to be a little more aggressive with mid to upper 40s during the last full week of March, while the ECMWF remains cooler with highs in the 30s to 40s this week and next week. The good news is that average highs and lows are going up and the avearge high by the end of the month in the Twin Cities is 49F!

Weather Outlook Ahead
Sunday will be another quiet day across the Upper Midwest, but as we head into the week ahead, we may be looking at a little rain and snow. Here's the weather outlook from Monday into Tuesday night, which shows a fairly weak system scooting across the region, which could bring some minor slushy accumulations to parts of Minnesota.
Rain/Snow Next Weekend?
The weather could stay active into the end of next week as another, larger, storm system could develop. Although it is still several days away, we could be looking and more rain and snow. Stay tuned...

Great Lakes Ice Coverage

According to NOAA's GLERL, the Great Lakes were 23.5% covered in ice as of March 16th. Interestingly only 14.4% of the Great Lakes were covered at this time last year.
Lake Superior Ice Coverage
Here's a look at the ice coverage across Lake Superior and as of March 16th, NOAA's GLERL, said that 42.9% of Lake Superior was covered. Interestingly, at last time last year only 11.1% of the lake was covered in ice! Quite a difference from this year to last.   
Visible Satellite
The visible satellite from Friday, March 16th revealed a wintry landscape across the Great Lakes Region and Upper Mississippi Valley. Much of the white you see is snow on the ground, while big chunks of ice can still be seen floating around the Great Lakes and some of the lakes in Minnesota, including Mille Lacs, Leech and Upper/Lower Red Lake.
Snow Depth 2018
The snow depth map across the country for March 17th suggests that 34.8% of the country is covered in snow, mainly across the northern half of the nation. At this time last year, 22.7% of the nation was covered in snow. As of March 17th, the Twin Cities officially had 2" of snow on the ground at the MSP Airport, but at this time last year, there was juat a trace of snow on the ground. Note also that last year at this time, the Sierra Nevada Range in California had a significantly greater snow pack than what is there now.
Snow Depth 2017
At this time last year, 22.7% of the nation was covered in snow.  

2018 Tornadoes So Far...

According to NOAA's SPC, there have been 71 preliminary tornaoes so far this year (March 16th), which is more than what we had at this time in the last couple of years. Interestingly, there were 482 tornadoes at this time in 2008; that year ended with 2,194 tornadoes, which is nearly 800 more than the short-term 2005-2015 average. 

Average Tornadoes in March By State
Here's the average number of tornadoes during the month of March by state. Texas sees the most with 11, but interestingly, Minnesota averages 1 tornado in March!

Major River Flooding

According to NOAA, there were 69 river gauges in flood stage as of Saturday, 6 of which where at Major flood stage! Interestingly, 2 of those are in North Dakota near Devils Lake.

MAJOR Flooding Forecast along Mississippi River at Baton Rouge, LA
Take a look at the river gauge along the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge, LA. It entered MAJOR flood stage earlier this month and may not go below major flood stage until late next weekend! This flooding is the result of very heavy rainfall that happened during the 2nd half of February across the Mississippi and Ohio River Valley areas. It finally looks like the flood waters will recede a bit as we get closer to April.
"Cool satellite image shows rising Mississippi River pouring sediment into the Gulf of Mexico"
"Fresh water from the Ohio River Valley is flooding into the Mississippi River, causing it to rise and pick up speed. A new image taken by a National Aeronautics and Space Administration research satellite shows a fan of sediment leaving the bird's foot delta as a result of the increased flow. The plume extends 10 to 20 miles offshore, said Alex Kolker, an associate professor with Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. Bent by a southeast wind, the plume curls in on itself.  "It's cool to be able to have the wealth of data that we have in near real time," Kolker said of the image. Louisiana State University's Earthscan Lab compiles satellite images of the state almost every day. Before the Mississippi River was leveed off, flood waters from the river carried sediment into the marsh, rebuilding and stabilizing land along the coast. The state's coastal master plan calls for two river diversions in Plaquemines Parish to reconnect the river with the degrading marsh."
"Deadline to remove fish houses approaching"
"The deadline for anglers to remove fish houses from lakes in Minnesota is approaching quickly, according to the Department of Natural Resources.  Removal dates are determined by an east-west line formed by U.S. Highway 10, east along Highway 34 to Minnesota Highway 200, east along Highway 200 to U.S. Highway 2, and east along Highway 2 to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. The removal deadline south of that line is the end of the day Monday, March 5. The deadline north of that line is the end of the day Monday, March 19. “With the recent snow and a forecast that calls for warmer weather, travel conditions on lakes may be difficult,” said DNR Conservation Officer Brent Grewe, who patrols the Minnetonka area. “But anglers are responsible for removing their shelters by the deadline, so they should plan ahead and make sure they’re able to do so.” Fish house owners also should be cognizant of taking trash off the lake – whether it’s theirs or was left by someone else. “Minnesota’s lakes are among the best in the nation and it’s up to each one of us to do our part to keep them clean,” said Col. Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR Enforcement Division."


"Minnesota Sees Deadliest Winter In Years"

"Minnesota has already had five ice-related deaths this winter. The state typically averages three during the whole season. Minnesota is on track to have one of its deadliest winters in years. Five people have died this season after falling through ice. The state typically averages three ice-related deaths over the course of the entire winter. The 2015-2016 winter had zero ice-related deaths, while the 2016-2017 winter had two. The last time Minnesota saw ice-related deaths in the double digits was in the 2002-2003 winter, when the state had 10 fatalities. The most recent death this year happened in northern Minnesota where a women drowned after riding an ATV on Rice Lake. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Hannah Mishler has already responded to multiple ice rescue calls. "Ice, especially snow covered ice, is extremely deceptive. You can't see dangerous cracks or the thickness of the ice under the snow," Mishler said in a statement."

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