Last 48 hours of the 2012 “warm season”; Why soil drought will persist into Spring 2013

Quick look forecast for the metro:

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March 6th 1st 60F degree temp of 2012 in the metro

November 21st likely the last 60F temp of 2012 in the metro

260 days span of 60F temps in the metro in 2012

186 days span between dates when average high temp is 60F at MSP

30s for highs starting on Black Friday

20s highs and chilling single digit lows possible next week

“Freeze up” soils in Minnesota will freeze up for the winter season next week

Drought will be “locked in” to 96%+ of Minnesota soils until spring 2013

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Source: Twin Cities NWS

Soaking it up while we can:

“It’s been a good summer.”

I can hear the voices of my mom & dad with appreciation…and resignation in the falls of my youth. It seems like that sentence would come out at some point every September.

Lately it’s me that’s been uttering that seasonal Minnesota throwaway line, and usually in October. Now my high school aged son asks me; “Dad, when are we going to get some snow?” A sign of the times? An odd family generational metric on climate change in Minnesota?

In 2012, it seems like we’ve had summer since we hit 80F on St. Patty’s Day. Did we really stand with many of our neighbors in shorts and short sleeves in disbelief celebrating outside at Maynard’s on a rapidly melting Lake Minnetonka?

We’ll all enjoy about 48 hours more of the 2012 “warm season.”

Our frosty & foggy start will give way to temps near 50F this afternoon in the metro, with 40s north. One more surge of 60F+ warmth pushes north tomorrow, before our Thanksgiving Day cold front slams the door shut on fall 2012…this time for good.

It’s going to feel a lot like winter around here by Black Friday…and most of next week we may not climb above freezing.

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Source: ISU

There are some signs of possible snow next Wednesday or Thursday. There are also hints we may warm back into the 40s along about December 1st.

Weather Lab antennae tuned on those two possibilities.

Soils freeze up next week:

With the deep and prolonged cold wave, our still thawed (and bone dry) soils in Minnesota will likely freeze up for the winter season next week.

This means our fall window for soaking, drought easing rains has some and gone without much help from typical fall rain systems.

With nearly 100% of Minnesota now in drought and 43.17% in severe drought, the freeze up will effectively “lock in” the soils drought going into the Spring of 2013.

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Even if we get hammered with snow this winter….frozen soils will be unable to absorb significant moisture until the ground thaws in spring.

Not good news heading into the 2013 growing season.

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Watching the excellent Ken Burns film “The Dust Bowl” on PBS these last nights we are reminded that multi-year droughts can be devastating. It’s hard to visualize a drought so deep and widespread that it triggers large scale migrations from the American Midwest & Central Plains, but it happened in the 1930s.

Watch The Dust Bowl Preview on PBS. See more from The Dust Bowl.

History and climate tells us it can happen again.

As much of the nation’s breadbasket sits in drought this winter, we’re heading into precarious territory in 2013. If we don’t get ample rainfall early next spring, we’re staring at a potentially crippling multi year drought in the heart of the grain belt.


For now the forecast calls for “persistence.”

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At this point we may already be “preloaded” for the 1st “billion dollar weather disaster of 2013.

Let’s hope for a wetter pattern as we head into spring.


  • Disco

    Looking back at the Master Archive for this blog, you’ve called the “last whatever” many times this fall. I wouldn’t call the next 48 hours the last of anything, especially if we don’t get any snow in the near future. There will be a cold snap over the next week, but anything could happen after that. Who would have thought a month ago we’d have 69F and tornadoes in mid-November? No one.

  • Paul Huttner

    If we hit 60F again in 2012 I’ll happily buy you a beer.