“Crop making” rains this week? Strong to severe storms Tuesday; Summer sequel ahead

Million Dollar Rains

MPR newscaster Steven John is a self described “farm boy” from near Almelund, Minn. Don’t feel bad, I know a lot of small places in Minnesota and had to look it up too.

Image: Google maps

The picturesque rural area about 40 miles northeast of the Twin Cities lies between the St. Croix River and Interstate 35, east of North Branch. Like many small out of the way places in Minnesota, the beautiful rolling topography, fields and forests around tiny Almelund is probably as close to God’s Country as you can get.

City and suburban folks like me sometimes toss around the phrase “million dollar rain” to describe timely midsummer soakers that can benefit crops. To Steven and Minnesotans who know what it’s like to depend on Minnesota weather for their livelihood, million dollar rains are the real deal.

That’s why Monday’s widespread soaking rains were so important, and feel so good. Somehow even us suburban folk feel fulfilled knowing that our greener lawn today means a family or business farm 60 miles to the west just may have made their crop for the year. Looking at Monday’s crop report the timing couldn’t have been better.

Today we celebrate a timely, widespread good old fashioned soaking rain.

Tuesday we track another rainmaker, and keep one eye out for the severe weather that may come along for the ride.

Anatomy of a “million dollar rain”

Monday morning’s showers and T-Storms were widespread, and fairly consistent for the often fickle, spotty summertime rains. A wide swath of central and southern Minnesota picked up at least half an inch with many 1-inch rainfall totals. Some lucky lawns and fields in southern Minnesota tailed 2-inch rainfall totals. Since the rain fell in waves over a few hours, much of it was able to soak in efficiently. The doppler “storm total rainfall” mode shows big areas of green (half an inch or more) and numerous yellow streaks (one inch or more).

Storm total rainfall program from NWS doppler radar via Weather Underground.

Some specific rainfall totals include:

MSP Airport .60

Deephaven (west metro) .95

Blaine 1.35

Redwood Falls 1.25

Bird Island 1.98

Albert Lea 2.00

Image: MPR file photo

Minnesota Crop Report: Dry around the edges

This week’s flip to a rainy pattern is extremely well timed. Monday’s Minnesota Crop Report came out before the rains hit, and showed a strong drying trend in topsoil conditions and some gradual decline in crop conditions in Minnesota.

Thirty eight percent of Minnesota topsoil was rated as “short or very short” before the rains hit Monday morning.

More details from the report.

An average of only 0.11 inches of rain was received statewide last week, reducing topsoil and subsoil moisture levels to 38 and 28 percent short to very short, respectively.  The South Central region was the driest region, with no measurable rainfall reported.

 Eighty-four percent of Minnesota’s corn was at or beyond the silking stage, compared to the five year average of 91 percent.  Fourteen percent of corn had reached the milk or beyond stage, over two weeks behind last year.  Corn conditions declined slightly for the second consecutive week, rating at 60 percent good or excellent.

In spite of the recent dryness, you can see that even before Monday’s rain topsoil was in better shape than last year when Minnesota was descending into a deep drought.

Image: National Agricultural Statistics Service Minnesota Field Office

Tuesday: Explosive storm development possible?

Tuesday brings a summery cocktail of mixed sun, sticky dew points in the 60s and a strong cold front cutting in form the northwest. What do you get when you mix up these ingredients? Thunder with a risk for severe storms.

One of the severe weather parameters the old schoolers look at is called the “lifted index.”  Basically it measures the stability of the atmosphere based on how “easy” it is to lift a parcel of air through the lowest several thousand feet. The easier the air rises, the more likely strong or severe T-Storms will develop.

When the lifted index value is below zero, the atmosphere is unstable. Get to -6 or -9 and you are sitting on a potential powder keg.

 

Image: SUNY Albany

Tuesday’s lifted index over southern Minnesota may reach -6 to -9, indicating a highly unstable atmosphere.

Image: NOAA

This “conditional instability” usually requires some kind of “trigger” to set storms off…to get the atmosphere rising. It could be daytime heating, or a cold front. Tuesday we may have both. If we get strong morning and midday sun, storms may develop rapidly — and explosively. The best chance of storms for the metro and southern Minnesota appears to be between 2 to 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center sees the threat and includes most of southern Minnesota in a slight risk Tuesday. Primary threats? Damaging winds and golf ball sized hail.

Image: NOAA SPC

Keep an eye out for possible watches and warnings Tuesday afternoon and evening.

Summer Sequel next week?

The long range pattern looks al ittle more favorable for mor consistent warmth and some humidity as we track toward State Fair time. Look for more 80s next week — and a shot at upper 80s by the time State Fair week rolls around. We may not be done with some moderate heat and humidty just yet.

Image: NOAA via IPS Meteostar

Ice cold lemonade and a corn dog anyone?