Turbo Charged Late Winter Season
Let’s face it, nobody saw this coming last fall.
NOAA and most everyone else recognized the “high degree of difficulty” of this winter forecast last fall.
“This year is totally unique in the 63 years we’ve been keeping statistics on El Niño. Never before has an El Niño event begun to form in July and August, then quit in mid-September.”
-NOAA’s Mike Halpert last fall on the unprecedented onset and demise of El Nino in 2012.
My predictions for a slightly milder than average (+1F to +3F) and significantly snowier (40″ to 50″) meteorological winter (Dec-Feb) in my November 1st Winter Outlook held up well through February.
We finished “meteorological winter” +1F and tallied a respectable 44.8″ of snowfall by March 5th.
Then came “bonus winter” in March and April with temps -5F to -7F, and another 10″+ snowfall to bring our current season snowfall of 56.1″ at MSP Airport.
I did not see this coming last fall.
In the whole range of predictions from a near average winter, to a “drive by” winter, to a colder than average winter….nobody nailed the notion of a protracted winter into spring of 2013. Talk about exposing the limitations of long range forecasting.
So as we all slog through what is hopefully the “last worst” week of “spring in Minnesota” keep one thing in mind. Our weather pattern can, and probably will change for the better… and warmer soon.
Even in a what seems like a series of extremes, nature has a way of balancing things out.
The snow will melt. The lakes will thaw. Birds will sing and flowers will bloom.
Twin Cities: Snowiest April in 11 years
We’ve tallied/shoveled 6.8″ of snowfall so far in April at MSP Airport. It’s been closer to 10″ here in the west metro.
Looking back at MN Climate Working Group data, it looks like this will go down as the snowiest April in 11 years. We logged 20.2″ in April of 2001-’02.
Duluth has picked up an unprecedented record snowfall total of 68.8″ since February. That’s an entire winter’s worth of snowfall…with much of it falling in “meteorological spring.”
Snowiest February – April Period at Duluth
With the 4.1 inches of snow that fell on April 14th, Duluth has broke a record for the snowiest February through April period in recorded history. The snow total from February 1st through April 14th is 68.8 inches. This breaks the old record of 68.5 inches in 1950.
The good news?
All this rain and snow will help to ease drought in Minnesota this spring. The “hydrological” part of our drought is already showing signs of easing…and rivers & lakes will respond positively this spring.
The top few inches of soil in southern Minnesota is soaking up our sloppy rain and snow, but it’s still going to take some serious rains after the full spring thaw to really recharge souls at depth of a few feet…and aquifers down deep.
Another benefit? The extreme cold and snow up north this winter means a good winter for our forests.
I asked Lee Frelich, the Director of UM’s Center for Forest Ecology if our colder weather is a good thing for the forests “up north.”
Yes, deep snow and cold temperatures will give the boreal forest a brief reprieve from the warming temperatures we have had in recent years. Such winters could delay the arrival of insect pests not in Minnesota yet, such as mountain pine beetle coming from the west and Balsam fir wooly adelgid coming from the east. It should also limit the spread of emerald ash borer from southern to northern MN, where hundreds of millions of black ash trees in swamps form an important habitat for wildlife and native plants.
The deep snow will prevent root freezing, which can ironically be very damaging to boreal trees. A few years ago we had some Hobos buried 10 cm in the soil at Seagull Lake (end of the Gunflint Trail) including a very cold winter with temperatures as low as -45 at Seagull Guard Station, but with 20 inches of snow, it stayed about 30 degrees F in the soil all winter. The snow also insures a relatively late spring compared with recent years, with good soil moisture, so we probably won’t see the damage to spruce and other conifers we had from the dry early spring last year.
Unfortunately, -40 is not cold enough to stop red maple from invading the boreal forest in the Boundary Waters. Maples can deep supercool their phloem sap down to about -45 or -48, thereby avoiding freezing injury. So, the replacement of the boreal conifer forest by temperate deciduous forest we have been observing in the last decade will continue.
Something positive in an otherwise dreary spring.
More snow up north:
Check out the snowfall totals from northeast Minnesota Monday courtesy of the Duluth NWS.
PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DULUTH MN
1200 PM CDT MON APR 15 2013
…PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT…
SNOW REPORTS LISTED BY AMOUNT
INCHES LOCATION ST COUNTY TIME
—— ———————– — ————– ——-
9.00 5 N TWO HARBORS MN LAKE 0651 AM
7.60 7 NW TWO HARBORS MN LAKE 0710 AM
7.00 SILVER BAY MN LAKE 0734 AM
7.00 1 NNW GRAND PORTAGE MN COOK 0700 AM
6.00 DIXON LAKE MN ITASCA 0916 AM
6.00 3 ENE HACKENSACK MN CASS 0732 AM
6.00 6 SW TWO HARBORS MN LAKE 0700 AM
6.00 2 ENE HOVLAND MN COOK 0700 AM
5.60 1 SW TOFTE MN COOK 0600 AM
5.50 LUTSEN MN COOK 0722 AM
5.00 TWO HARBORS MN LAKE 0624 AM
5.00 LAKE NICHOLS MN ST. LOUIS 0623 AM
5.00 LARSMONT MN LAKE 0520 AM
4.70 LITTLE MARAIS MN LAKE 0608 AM
4.50 4 E CORNUCOPIA WI BAYFIELD 0710 AM
4.50 1 WSW GRAND MARAIS MN COOK 0700 AM
4.50 12 N GRAND RAPIDS MN ITASCA 0700 AM
4.50 4 W WASHBURN WI BAYFIELD 0624 AM
4.50 KNIFE RIVER MN LAKE 0600 AM
4.50 4 W WASHBURN WI BAYFIELD 0600 AM
Rare Sun Tuesday?
It was nice to see some sunny breaks at the Weather Lab in the west metro Monday evening.
Weather fingers and toes crossed, but it looks like we could see some rare…possibly extended peeks at the sun Tuesday.
Wednesday slop storm ahead:
The next winter in April slop storm rolls in Wednesday.
For the metro a wintry mix will trend to all rain Wednesday, then may end as more wet snow Thursday.
Not far to the north, Minnesotans in Alex, St. Cloud and Duluth among other locations will “enjoy” yet another late season plowable snowfall.
Stay tuned as we fine tune the system Tuesday.