Easing into Autumn, will La Niña deliver a ‘real’ winter this year?

Those who moved to Minnesota this year would be forgiven for thinking all the weather hype about our frigid climate seems a bit overblown. October marks the 13th straight month of warmer than average temperatures in the Twin Cities and most of Minnesota.

The latest NOAA data puts the odds at 70 percent for a weak La Niña event in the tropical Pacific this winter. Historically that favors a colder than average winter. But Minnesota winters are fighting bigger overall trends. Minnesota is the fastest warming state in winter as our climate shifts.

This winter could be a battle between a fledgling La Niña event, and longer term background hum of milder winters with climate change.

Stay tuned.

  • +4.7 degrees – temps at MSP Airport vs average so far this October
  • 13th straight warmer than average month at MSP
  • 7 days above 70 degrees this month at MSP
  • 57 degrees – average high now in the Twin Cities
  • 190 days and counting –  length of 2016 growing season at MSP

Warm October

It’s been a theme over the past year. Temps are running about 5 degrees warmer than average again this month across parts of the Upper Midwest. Minnesota is riding the western edge of the October warmth. Here’s the latest October temperature map from the Midwest Regional Climate Center.

Midwest Regional Climate Center

Cooler breezes

It won’t be enough to put October into the cooler than average column by month’s end, but cooler breezes filter south over the next 48 hours as a cool front slides south. Yet another warm front pushes east from the Dakotas by Friday.


Metro frost potential

As the center of high pressure settles in over Minnesota, we have another shot at metro frost both Thursday and Friday morning. Temps probably hover just above freezing once again in the inner metro I-494/694 loop, but it’s going to be close.


Another nice weekend

Southerly breezes boost temps once again this weekend. It should be a spectacular weekend, highs pushing 60 from the metro southwest with blazing fall color.


Welcome dry spell

Some models suggest lower 60s this weekend in the metro. The longer range forecast models keep us dry until next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Custom Weather

Highs in the lower 50s for Halloween? Seems reasonable to me at this early juncture.

European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts

U.S. still lags in weather modeling

It always amazes me when people ask me what the ‘European model’  is saying at social events or in the grocery store check out line. As meteorologists, we’ve done a great job at educating a nation of weather geeks about our craft. That’s a good thing. Greater understanding of our profession creates more savvy weather end users.

I have discussed the state of global weather modeling many times on the air at MPR. It won’t surprise many of you that the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) still leads NOAA overall in weather forecast modeling capability.

I have interviewed University of Washington meteorologist Cliff Mass on multiple occasions about the state of weather modeling. Cliff is one of the leading proponents of improving U.S. weather forecast modeling capability.

Here’s a great read from the New York Times on why the U.S. still lags in the weather forecast model wars.

At 11 o’clock on the night of Sept. 29, the National Hurricane Center in Miami posted an updated prediction for Hurricane Matthew. Using the latest data from a reconnaissance aircraft, the center’s computerized models led meteorologists there to conclude, in a post on the center’s website, that “only a slight strengthening is forecast during the next 12 to 24 hours.” Their prediction proved to be astonishingly amiss: The following day, Matthew exploded from a Category 1 into a Category 5 hurricane, with winds gusting to 160 miles per hour, strong enough to flatten even the sturdiest homes.

This was hardly the first time that United States government forecasters significantly underestimated a storm’s potential. Last year, 24 hours before Patricia reached Mexico’s Pacific Coast, it unexpectedly mushroomed from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane, its winds topping 215 miles per hour. Luckily, Patricia — officially the strongest hurricane on record in the Western Hemisphere — made landfall over a sparsely populated region. Matthew behaved similarly, its intensification also unforeseen and sudden, occurring just two days before it overwhelmed Haiti. Residents there had little time to flee, and the death toll exceeded 1,000. (More than 30 died in the United States.) The failure to make timely, accurate predictions about these storms would have had far deadlier consequences had they made landfall near a major metropolitan area. In South Florida, for example — where the initial forecasts for a storm of modest size would not have prompted hurricane-weary residents to evacuate — Matthew’s rapid increase in power could have pinned down more than six million people in the region.

It’s a situation that deeply troubles Cliff Mass, a meteorologist and professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington. As he does after every major weather event, Mass deconstructed the bungled predictions for Matthew and Patricia on his popular website, “Cliff Mass Weather Blog,” which he started in 2008. He called Patricia a “poster child, perhaps the worst case in a while, of a major problem for meteorologists,” and in response to Matthew he posted a graph that showed how the National Hurricane Center’s computer-forecasting model at one point was off by more than 325 nautical miles in predicting the storm’s westward course.

European Centre for Medium Range Forecasting