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Whiplash Spring (Monday night slush to 70F by next weekend?)

  • Blog Post by: Paul Douglas
  • April 20, 2013 - 11:21 PM

 

Beyond Cabin Fever

 

Hi. I'll be your weather therapist today. "Dr. Douglas - I can't sleep. I'm anxious, irritable & moody. I dream of glaciers coming down my driveway. I read your 7-Day Outlook and want to hurl. Help me."

Hang on Dear Reader. My forecast of a "light-switch spring" may come true: ankle-deep in slush - with chirping birds & tornado sirens.

We may top 70F next weekend, based on ECMWF guidance. A rain/snow mix tomorrow evening - but temperatures boomerang to near 70F by Saturday afternoon, maybe even a few severe T-storms late Sunday? Something for the entire family. The extremes just keep getting more extreme. How this long overdue temperature spike will impact the 1-3 FEET of snow up north and a potential for major river flooding is unknown, but this can't be good news for the Red River at Fargo.

Historic flooding in Chicago may be an omen of muddy torrents to come. No, the transition to summer will not be painless.

21F low yesterday in the cities; the first record low since 2004 in the metro area. The sun is as high in the sky as it is in late August. You can get a sunburn now shoveling snow. Amazing.

Rain today gives way to a slushy mix Monday night; 1-3" possible south of MSP. A little slush is possible on lawns and fields in the metro Monday night - right now it does NOT look like a rerun of last week.

Some anglers are still ice-fishing up on Pelican Lake. It was such a jarring sight that I had to stop and take pictures. Even the old timers are shaking their heads in wonder.

It almost makes me wonder what's coming next?

 

.25" rain predicted today (NAM model).

Coating - 1" slushy snow possible Monday PM (more south/east of MSP)

60s to near 70F by next weekend? Big changes on the way later this week.

 

Heaps And Piles Of Snow. I'm north of Brainerd, staring out my window at a good 2 to 2.5 feet of snow, with numerous 3 to 4 foot drifts - wondering when on Earth this is going to melt. The heaviest (16-30") amounts are north and west of St. Cloud, as much as 40-50" still on the ground over Lake Superior's North Shore. Two months from the Summer Solstice. Map above: NOAA.

 

Not Again. Today's rain gives way to a cooler front Monday, setting the stage for a wave of low pressure to ripple east - enough chilly air in place for a period of slushy snow by Monday night, mainly south/east of MSP. A close call, and a coating to 1" of slush can't be ruled out on some lawns and fields, greater amounts south/east of the Twin Cities.

 

Light-Switch Spring? My confidence level is low, because models have been so erratic as of late (in response to huge extremes in temperature and moisture). But the ECMWF shows a chilly start to the week giving way to 60s, even a chance of 70s by next weekend. By then most of the snow should be gone, at least in the metro area. Once the snow has melted the sun's energy can go into heating up the air. Yes, a rare care of Spring Fever may be 6-7 days away.

 

Cautious Optimism. The flow has been relentlessly northwest - ever since February. But that may change by the end of the week as the core of chilly air shifts into New England, allowing winds at all levels of the atmosphere to turn to the southwest, tugging mild air north. 60s to near 70 by Saturday? A distinct and growing possibility. ECMWF model map above from WSI valid Saturday evening.

 

Turning A Big Corner. A very strongly negative phase of the AO (Arctic Oscillation) has kept unseasonably cold air stalled over much of Canada and the Upper Mississippi Valley and Northern Plains for much of the last 2-3 months; a pattern which finally shows signs of breaking down in the coming weeks. By early May we should be consistently in the 60s and 70s, according to the GFS. Say a silent prayer or two the models are on the right track.

 

March 2013: Ties For 10th Warmest Worldwide. "Hey Paul, where's your global warming now - it's cold outside!" Yes, I've heard a lot of that in recent weeks. March was cold over many northern tier states, and the unusual chill is spilling over into most of April. But unless you can see the entire globe from your living room window you have to take a wider view of what's going on, and rely on data from NOAA NCDC (National Climatic Data Center); here's an excerpt: "...The globally-averaged temperature across the world's land and ocean surfaces was 0.58°C (1.04°F) above the 20th century average of 12.7°C (54.9°F), tying with 2006 as the 10th warmest March since records began in 1880. Both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres were also 10th warmest for March..."

 

Snowiest Aprils In The Twin Cities? Welcome to the 4th snowiest April on record for the Twin Cities, with 14.1" so far. The graphic above is from the Minnesota State Climate Office. April, 1983 is still the record for snow at MSP, with a whopping 21.8" of snow. More details from the Twin Cities National Weather Service:

 

 

Paul - when was the latest significant snowfall (>3") in the Twin Cities? With the way this winter is going, I feel the need to prepare for the possibility of plowable snow in May. Has that actually happened before?

Fiona Ruthven

Fiona - I found the information at the Minnesota State Climate Office. Fun weather factoids to annoy friends and loved ones:

Latest Snowfalls In The Twin Cities. No, we didn't set a record for the latest 4"+ snow at MSP. That honor goes to April 29, 1984, when 6.6" of snow delighted residents of Minneapolis/St. Paul. We've seen 3" snows as late as May 20 (1892). Rare, but possible. Yikes.

 

Latest 60F In The Twin Cities? Minnesota State Climatologist Greg Spoden provides some details on how unusual our stunted spring really is. Bottom line: there have been only 7 years since the 1870s with a "first 60F" after April 19. Lovely. "The average date of the first 60 degree temperature in the Twin Cities is March 29. I suggest you avoid the word "typically" because the range of dates is so large (February 15, 1921 to April 29, 1874). Here are the only years where the Twin Cities had yet to reach 60 degrees as of today's date (April 19)."

1874 April 29 (latest 60F high on record in the Twin Cities)

1904 April 26

1947 April 26

1951 April 25

1975 April 25

1965 April 21 (year of the EF-4 tornadoes that hit on May 6 in the Twin Cities)

1876 April 20

 

Snowiest April On Record For Duluth. And it was the snowiest February - April period on record for Duluth as well, the 5th snowiest winter season overall. Details from the Duluth office of the National Weather Service.

 

Snowiest Winter Seasons In Duluth. At last report Duluth was (unofficially) up to 121.8", making it the 4th snowiest winter on record. Remarkable.

 

 

Storms Chip Away At Drought In Northern U.S. Last week nearly 20% of Minnesota was in extreme drought. That has fallen to 0% as of this week; severe drought has dropped from 66% to 21% of the state. The trends are encouraging, between heavy rain (and heavy snow). Here's an excerpt from a story at Climate Central: "Two weeks of storms and a slowly melting snowpack in the northern U.S. continued to chip away at the drought gripping the center of the country. But even as the drought has contracted nationwide, parts of the Texas and the Southwest have seen conditions deteriorate, and are likely to face another tough summer of drought. The northern part of the U.S. saw the biggest gains, which was welcome news for a region hit hard by drought for the past year. Drought contracted significantly across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, and Wyoming, as two spring storms dropped heavy precipitation on the region, and the winter’s snowpack began to infiltrate the soil....Areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin that had been under “moderate” drought were downgraded to “abnormally dry....”

* latest U.S. Drought Monitor for Minnesota is here - data from NOAA and USDA.

 

Whiplash Spring. From flood to drought, and back to flood (and record-setting April snows). It's been a volatile month, but Gulf moisture is consistently reaching the Upper Midwest; drought conditions are easing. In today's edition of Climate Matters we take a look at jaw-dropping snowfall amounts, and offer up evidence that the drought's days may be numbered: "Noticeable improvement in the drought conditions this month for several Midwest states including Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. Meteorologist Paul Douglas has the silver lining to what's been a snow and rain filled April."

 

Rains Wash Away U.S. Drought, Shifting Farm Economy's Prospects. Here's a snippet of a Reuters article: "...These rains are really helping bring most areas out of drought status. And the rain encompasses all of the western Corn Belt that was previously dry," said Don Keeney, meteorologist for MDA Weather Services, a widely followed commercial forecasting firm. If the drought is ending, it would represent a sea change for the farm economy, where expectations for another dry summer had been baked in. Continued rainy weather could further delay spring plantings, cause a sharp fall in the price of farm commodities, and lower the cost of everything from hog feed to cereal ingredients. Lower feed prices would help livestock and dairy producers, but soft grain prices could cut into farmers' incomes and perhaps even cause farmland values to retreat from recent record highs..."

* Thursday 24-hour rainfall map from NOAA here.

 

Experimental Long Range Flood Outlook. There's a greater than 50% risk of major flooding on the Red River in the coming weeks. The timing of the crest is still very difficult, ultimately dependent on the rate of warming and any subsequent rain events into early May. Right now NOAA is saying a greater than 50% probability of minor flooding in the St. Cloud area.

 

Flooding Underway Nationwide. USGS and NOAA update a web site that shows the status of flood conditions from coast to coast - big problems from eastern Iowa into southern Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

 

Fargo Flood Potential. This is an experimental long-range prediction for the Red River in Fargo, showing a 99% probability of a crest of at least 38.7 feet, but the ultimate crest could go higher. River hydrologists will be tracking melting snow (and temperature spikes and additional rain) very carefully to try to pin down when, and how high.

 

Serious Weather Whiplash. A 1 in 60 year rainfall event for parts of Iowa and Illinois? Dr. Jeff Masters underscores the crazy swings in moisture the last couple of years: from record flood to record drought, and now back to record, historic floods for parts of the Midwest, Great Lakes, with implications along the Illinois and Mississippi River. Here's an excerpt of his latest Wunderground post: "It seems like just a few months ago barges were scraping bottom on the Mississippi River, and the Army Corps of Engineers was blowing up rocks on the bottom of the river to allow shipping to continue. Wait, it was just a few months ago--less than four months ago! Water levels on the Mississippi River at St. Louis bottomed out at -4.57' on January 1 of 2013, the 9th lowest water level since record keeping began in 1861, and just 1.6' above the all-time low-water record set in 1940 (after the great Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s.) But according to National Weather Service, the exceptional April rains and snows over the Upper Mississippi River watershed will drive the river by Tuesday to a height 45 feet higher than on January 1. The latest forecast calls for the river to hit 39.4' on Tuesday, which would be the 8th greatest flood in history at St. Louis, where flood records date back to 1861. Damaging major flooding is expected along a 250-mile stretch of the Mississippi from Quincy, Illinois to Thebes, Illinois next week...."

Graphic credit above: Wunderground. "The rains that fell in a 24-hour period ending at 7 am EDT Thursday, April 18, 2013 over Northern Illinois were the type of rains one would expect see fall only once every 40 years (yellow colors), according to METSTAT, Inc. (http://www.metstat.com.) METSTAT computed the recurrence interval statistics based on gauge-adjusted radar precipitation and frequency estimates from NOAA Atlas 14 Volume 2, published in 2004 (http://dipper.nws.noaa.gov/hdsc/pfds/.) METSTAT does not supply their precipitation recurrence interval forecasts or premium analysis products for free, but anyone can monitor the real-time analysis (observed) at: http://metstat.com/solutions/extreme-precipitation-index-analysis/"

 

What's Up With All The Robins? I have noticed an unusual number of robins in my yard. Frankly, they look pissed. Naturalist Kirk Mona takes a look at what's going on in this informative story at Minnpost.com; here's an excerpt: "...Here's the scoop. There are several factors at play. First off, we're doubled up on robins. Our summer resident robins mostly move south in the winter in search of food. Robins from further north, and I mean all the way up into Canada, also moved south this winter. Some of them went past the Twin Cities while some of them formed winter flocks and hung out around open water and ornamental fruiting trees. The slow start to spring and continued fowl weather including lots of snow up north has put a halt to migration. Pretty much the entire Mississippi Flyway's worth of robins are backed up in the Twin Cities right now. These are resident birds mixed in with a sizable percentage of all the birds in Canada. Like us, they are simply waiting for the weather to improve. This is about as far north as they dare go at this point...."

 

Ask Paul. Weather-related Q&A:

I really enjoy your blog... I just looked up the record data for this weekend and it looks like there is a good chance we set a daily record low temperature on Saturday. When was the last we had a daily record low temperature in the Twin Cities?

Marc Johnson

Plymouth, MN

 

Thanks Marc - appreciate you checking into the weather blog. You brought up an excellent question, so I checked with my friend and colleague, Pete Boulay, at the State Climate Office. Turns out it's been 9 years since a record nighttime low! Details:

Hi Paul,

We tied a record low on September 15, 2011 of 36 degrees that was also set 2007 and 1964. The last time the Twin Cities broke a record low was August 21, 2004 with 44 degrees. The last time we broke a record low maximum temperature was June 23, 2011 with 63 degrees.

Pete Boulay, Minnesota State Climate Office

* update: the official low at MSP Saturday morning was 21F, breaking the old record, the first record low for the Twin Cities since 2004.

 

Superstorm Sandy Jolted Whole Of America. Here's an excerpt of a remarkable story at Sky News: "Earthquake sensors located as far away as the Pacific Northwest detected the storm's energy as it surged towards the New York metropolitan region last year. The network typically records the sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust, but it can pick up shaking triggered by ocean waves, mine cave-ins and tornadoes. As Sandy lashed at New York City and New Jersey, the force of waves slamming into other waves shook the sea floor, which was recorded by the system of 500 sensors. The energy generated by Sandy was similar to small earthquakes between magnitudes 2 and 3, seismologists at the University of Utah estimated..."

Graphic credit above: "Image courtesy of Keith Koper, University of Utah Seismograph Stations."

 

Breaking News And Social Media: Stop Fighting It. I was getting up to the second breaking news via Twitter Thursday night on the unfolding situation in Boston, when the 24/7 cable news channels were in taped programming. It's a great way to get breaking news - but with speed sometimes come less than optimal accuracy. Here's an excerpt of a post from 10,000 Words at mediabistro.com: "..Of course it's a fallacy to pit journalism and social media against each other. They worth together. Not always well, but if it weren't for both entities, neither one of them would be surviving right now. In the midst of the fight, it's hard to remember that we're in the middle of a watershed moment for both industries. This week, awash with bombings and filibusters, the kinks in the system were brought to center-ring. It's on the slower news days when everything works well. And that's something to remember. Information spreads more quickly than it used to but, as I'm sure or even Boston.com learned this week, that doesn't mean it has to."

 

Fast-Growing U.S. Solar Industry Now Employs Over 119,000 - Lead By California, Arizona And New Jersey. New Jersey? Here's an excerpt of a story at Think Progress: "...Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association explains: Today, solar is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, providing good-paying jobs for more than 119,000 American workers. Over the past five years, the U.S. solar energy industry has experienced sustained growth thanks to rising demand, falling costs and new financing options. Since 2008, the amount of solar powering our homes, businesses and military bases has increased six-fold–from 1,100 megawatts to more than 7,700 megawatts today, which is enough to power more than 1.2 million American homes. Some of this growth is attributed to the fact that the cost of a solar system has dropped by nearly 40 percent over the past two years, making solar more affordable than ever for consumers. If we want to want to create new jobs, foster innovation and ensure prosperity for future generations of Americans, we must expand our commitment to using clean, renewable energy sources in the U.S. and around the world..."

 

Gallows Humor. Yes, even the snowmen (and women) are basking under a rarely visible April sun, trying to get a little tan going. Thanks to Katie Deibele from Excelsior for sharing this.

 

21 F. low Saturday morning, a new record low (first record low for MSP since August, 2004). Old record: 26F in 1888.

42 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

60 F. average high on April 20.

58 F. high on April 20, 2012.

5" snow on the ground at KMSP.

 

Ice Fishing - On April 20. The ice houses are long gone, but anglers were out in full force yesterday. I stopped on 371 north of Brainerd, on Round Lake, and snapped this photo of ice fishing yesterday afternoon. Surreal.

 

TODAY: Early slush, then rain showers. Winds: S 10-15. High: 49

 

SUNDAY NIGHT: Showers taper. Low: 37

 

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy with more rain developing. Rain changes to snow by Monday night; coating to an inch or two of slush possible Monday night - more south/east of MSP.  High: 40

 

TUESDAY: Partial clearing, drying out. Wake-up: 33. High: 44

 

WEDNESDAY: Clouds increase, late shower. Wake-up: 32. High: 46

 

THURSDAY: Sun returns, turning milder. Wake-up: 35. High: 51

 

FRIDAY: Shower, then partly sunny, milder. Wake-up: 39. High: near 60

 

SATURDAY: Some sun, risk of a "warm front". Wake-up: 45. High: 69

  

Climate Stories...

 

Republicans Become More Concerned About Global Warming. Here's an excerpt from a story at Mother Nature Network: "Republicans have become more concerned about climate change in the past couple of years, according to a new Gallup Poll. Self-identified Republicans are less likely than Democrats to say global warming concerns them, but while Democrats' global warming anxiety has remained relatively steady, Republicans' worry is climbing. In 2011, just 30 percent of Republicans said they worried a "great deal" or "fair amount" about climate change. This year, that number reached 40 percent..."

Image credit: "NASA/GSFC/Suomi NPP."

 

Is The Colorado River Damned? Op-Ed. Water, not oil, will become the most precious natural resource later this century. The Southwest is heading into another potentially very dry year - after the 4th driest winter on record for California. Here's an excerpt of an Op Ed at Live Science describing the water challenges for 2013 and beyond: "...The warming, drying climate of the Southwest is hitting the river hard. We now know that drought is likely to be the new normal in the Colorado River basin — scientists tell us that climate change could reduce the amount of water in the Colorado River ecosystem by 9 to 20 percent. Predictions of climate change and water usage draining the famed Lake Mead and Lake Powell dry are a small, but real, part of that picture. This year is proving no exception. Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) now say that the April through July inflow into Lake Powell, the largest reservoir in the Upper Colorado Basin, will be a mere 2.7 million acre-feet — the lowest amount since NOAA began issuing forecasts in 1979. Combined inflows from this year and last year's runoff seasons are likely to be the driest since Lake Powell began filling in behind the Glen Canyon Dam in September 1969..."

Image credit" "The Colorado River from space on March 12, 2013." NASA Earth Observatory.

 

 

Dry Weather Has Firefighters Ready For Battle. The fact that Californians are already complaining about dry weather - in April - is not a good omen for the fire year to come. Details from the Los Angeles Times: "Southern California is marching toward its fourth-driest year since 1877, and that has firefighters increasingly girded for battle. In the hills of Los Angeles County, tests show the brush is drying out at a significantly quicker rate this year because of the lack of rain. In Ventura County, firefighters say the parched conditions feel like what they typically see in June or July. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which handles fire protection for about a third of the state, said it has dealt with 150 more blazes so far this year compared with 2012..."

Photo credit above: "A crew from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation cuts foliage to help contain a wind-driven brush fire that broke out near Fillmore last week, forcing evacuations and threatening homes. Southern California is marching toward its fourth-driest year since 1877, and that has firefighters increasingly girded for battle." (Al Seib, Los Angeles Times / April 9, 2013)

 

 

Carbon Bubble Will Plunge The World Into Another Financial Crisis - Report. The Guardian has the story - here's the intro: "The world could be heading for a major economic crisis as stock markets inflate an investment bubble in fossil fuels to the tune of trillions of dollars, according to leading economists. "The financial crisis has shown what happens when risks accumulate unnoticed," said Lord (Nicholas) Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics. He said the risk was "very big indeed" and that almost all investors and regulators were failing to address it. The so-called "carbon bubble" is the result of an over-valuation of oil, coal and gas reserves held by fossil fuel companies. According to a report published on Friday, at least two-thirds of these reserves will have to remain underground if the world is to meet existing internationally agreed targets to avoid the threshold for "dangerous" climate change. If the agreements hold, these reserves will be in effect unburnable and so worthless – leading to massive market losses. But the stock markets are betting on countries' inaction on climate change..."

* interactive Guardian map above is here.

 

Fossil Fuels And Vested Interests: A Society In Denial. Here's a portion of an Op-Ed at The Guardian: "The report released by Lord Stern and thinktank Carbon Tracker paints a picture of society in denial. It shows we're pumping almost $700bn (£458bn) of hard-earned savings and pensions annually into finding new reserves of fossil fuels, even though it's clear that almost all of those reserves will have to be written off to provide a decent chance of keeping the planet safe. The ever-inflating "carbon bubble" is only part of the bigger picture, because most of the world's fuel – around three-quarters in total and almost all the oil and gas – is owned not by listed companies but by governments. And we don't need only to stop expanding the world's fossil fuel reserves; we also need to get used to the idea that we can't burn most of what we already have..."

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