Spring Fever; From drought to flood in 3 months; South metro now “drought free”

Finally, Spring

Today is one of those days we wait for all winter in Minnesota.

A frosty morning fades rapidly under strong April sunshine. By late afternoon, a southerly breeze builds. Something feels different about this wind. By afternoon, the chill of the past 5 months eases. You can almost taste the scent of distant budding plants blowing in on the Iowa breeze.

In this Updraft we look ahead to the big warm up on the way. We’ll also look at how a major change in our weather pattern over the past 3 months has catapulted Minnesota from drought to flood.

Now, where are those golf clubs?

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Good News: Drought shows remarkable improvement in Minnesota

This is the good side of our Clipper parade of the past 3 months.

The drought has taken a major hit in Minnesota and the Mississippi River Valley. Gone are the worries from last fall about the worst drought since the 1950s. Entire states along the Mississippi & Ohio River valleys have soaked up drought busting rain and snow this winter and spring.

Southeast Minnesota and even the southern metro to Dakota and Scott counties are now “drought free” as of this morning’s updated U.S. Drought Monitor.

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It’s a good news story…nothing short of a minor meteorological miracle in the past 3 months.

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White leg alert: Warmest temps in 6 months ahead

Prepare for some slightly disturbing sights this weekend as your pasty, cargo short clad neighbors emerge after 6 months in storage.

All indications are our incoming mild southerly flow will push temps to 70F in the Twin Cities this weekend. If that happens, it will be the first time we’ve managed to hit 70F since October 21st…just over 6 months ago.

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The temperature run up kicks into high gear Friday with what looks like the 1st 60F in 5 months in the metro. The metro should enjoy 5 straight days in the 60s & 70s.

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Thunder Ahead?

A strong cold front looms by next Tuesday, and that could trigger a shot of rain and potentially strong thunderstorms. The first significant severe weather of the season next Tuesday? It’s a possibility.

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I’m a little concerned about the possibility of downpours on the Red River Watershed next Monday & Tuesday. An inch of rain could add a foot to the updated flood forecast on the Red next week.

Behind the front, there are signs of a significant cool down later next week…so enjoy the 70s while they’re here. While I’m thrilled at the prospect for warmth this weekend, I’m just not ready to say yet that we’re out of the woods on cool wet days just yet this unforgiving spring.

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From drought to flood in 3 months:

This is why it’s just not credible to make sweeping predictions about what the next big weather story will be 6 months down the road.

Last fall many were warning that the big weather story of Spring 2013 would be drought. Shortly after that, a persistent jet stream pattern began to send a series of storms into the Southern Plains. That pattern gradually and methodically worked north up the Mississippi River Valley this winter and spring.

Now the Mississippi, which was closed to barge traffic in some sections due to low water last fall, is in flood.

That’s a remarkable transition. And it’s one that seems to be more common… the weather pendulum swinging from one extreme to the next.

Climate Central documents the extreme swings in Upper Mississippi runoff in the past 6 months.


Not only is the Midwest being pounded with heavy rain, late-season snow, and snowmelt, it is a stark contrast to the extreme drought that hit the region last summer. The graph below shows how huge this swing is. Over eight months, runoff in the Upper Mississippi River Basin has jumped from way below average to extremely high – including near record levels in some locations. In August 2012, drought had left runoff in the bottom 10 percent. It was dry, even for the summer. Now, water levels are in the top 95 percent. Obviously April numbers are not final yet, but many locations have already broken their record rainfall for the month.

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We still have some catching up to do with the “soils drought” in Minnesota. But things are looking much better than they did last fall.

Dodging a bullet for Red River flood prospects?

The NWS North Central River Forecast Center in Chanhassen released a slightly optimistic updated flood forecast for the coming crest on the Red River and tributaries.

Thirsty soils soaking up some water from melting snow pack, and a timely window of dry weather may be good news for avoiding a possible “flood of record” on the Red this year.

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Issued: 1213 PM CDT WED APR 24 2013

THE FLOOD WARNING CONTINUES FOR THE RED RIVER AT FARGO.

* FROM LATE TONIGHT UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.

* AT 11:15 AM WEDNESDAY THE STAGE WAS 17.3 FEET.

* MAJOR FLOOD STAGE IS 30.0 FEET.

* FORECAST…RISE ABOVE FLOOD STAGE BY THURSDAY MORNING AND CONTINUE TO RISE TO NEAR 37.0 FEET BY WEDNESDAY MID-MORNING. ADDITIONAL RISES ARE POSSIBLE THEREAFTER.

* CREST IS EXPECTED LATE NEXT WEEK BETWEEN 38 AND 40 FEET AND IS CURRENTLY BEYOND THE 7-DAY FORECAST WINDOW.

* SOILS ARE NEARLY SATURATED ACROSS PORTIONS OF THE SOUTHERN BASIN.

* RAPID WARM-UP FRIDAY INTO THE WEEKEND WILL RESULT IN SIGNIFICANT SNOWMELT RUNOFF AND RAPID RISES IN RIVER LEVELS.

* A STRONG LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM MAY RESULT IN PERIODS OF HEAVY RAIN NEXT TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY.

* THE BOTTOM CREST RANGE OF 38 FT TAKES INTO ACCOUNT LITTLE OR NO ADDITIONAL PRECIPITATION…SOIL INFILTRATION…AND THE OFFSET IN

TIMING BETWEEN THE RED RIVER AND WILD RICE RIVER CRESTS.

* THE TOP CREST RANGE OF 40 FT TAKES INTO ACCOUNT THE POSSIBILITY OF LOCALIZED THUNDERSTORMS AND A 1-2 INCH RAINFALL NEXT TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY.

* IMPACT STATEMENT(S) – AT 36.3 FEET, FARGO…CLEARANCE HEIGHT OF 1ST AVENUE BRIDGE.

My MPR colleague Dan Gunderson has more from the banks of the Red River in Fargo/Moorhead.


MOORHEAD, Minn. — The National Weather Service has revised its flood forecast for the Red River at Fargo-Moorhead, saying the river will likely crest at 38 feet to 40 feet if the region remains free of heavy rain.

Meterologist Greg Gust says the river could rise to 40 feet if the southern portion of the Red River Valley receives a 1 inch or 2 inch rainfall.

“Just recognize what’s been going on around the central and northern plains these last couple of weeks,” Gust said. “Every three or four days there’s something big moving across. One of them is bound to come up here eventually.”

Gust said there is still uncertainty about how much water will be absorbed by soil.

“If you get heavy rain Tuesday and Wednesday that means that water will head to the river as the crest is coming toward Fargo and therefore push that crest up another foot or more,” Gust said.

The weather service predicts the river level will rise by about 20 feet over the next week.

A more optimistic forecast on the Red, and a big warm up this weekend? Could be the best of both worlds.

USA 2013: Coolest start in 20 years?

Here’s a story that won’t surprise you.

By some measure in the USA this is the coolest spring in 20 years, at least if you’re counting the ratio of record highs vs. record lows.

Climate Central passed along this tidbit Tuesday.


We all know it’s been a cold spring, so this week we are focusing on temperatures – record daytime highs compared to overnight lows to be exact. This is the first time in 20 years (since 1993) that we have actually seen more record lows than record highs in a calendar year. So far in 2013, that ratio of highs to lows is 1:1.2 (a.k.a 5:6).

The records ratio is one of the strongest signals of climate change. As the globe slowly warms, record heat is regularly outpacing record cold and record highs are outnumbering record lows. That has happened nearly every year for the past two decades. During 2012, which is the hottest year on record in the U.S., the ratio of highs to lows was 5:1. This implies that the Earth is not balancing out and that temperatures are on the rise.

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To some this will not fit with the overall “narrative” of viewing every season and weather event through the lens of climate change.

Keep one thing in mind though. The USA has been the “coolest place on earth” so far in 2013. The majority of the rest of the globe is running hotter than average. So far it’s the 8th warmest year on record globally Jan-Mar.

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Just because what you see out your window looks cold…remember you can’t see the entire planet from your living room window. NASA/NOAA & international satellites and observing platforms can.

Enjoy the warm up!

Paul Huttner

  • Fr. Paul Kammen

    Hi Paul,

    Thank you for the update. Must say the “significant” cool down later next week is a downer, but please tell me this will be rain and not the other form of liquid. If I see a white lawn or a sudden winter storm warning again I’m a bit concerned about mob violence. In all seriousness though I do see the climate prediction center has us “near normal” for May 2 – 8, as of today, so hopefully we don’t fall below the low 50s. Rain is not fun but at least it moves through. Snow in May after this April and after a couple of warm days, please no.

    Take care,

    Fr. P

  • Israel

    I’ve been reading this blog for about a year and a half, now I know what PH stands for in each ending of you’re blogs……. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)