Friday Thaw; Window rattling Arctic front Saturday; NWS new “warning” language?

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36F high temp at MSP Airport at 12:12pm Wednesday

7F low at MSP so far Thursday

Arctic sideswipe – brief glancing blow of arctic air today

Friday thaw milder Pacific air returns briefly Friday as temps crack the thawing point

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Siberian Express rolls across Minnesota Saturday as temps plunge toward zero and northwest winds gust over 30 mph

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Life on the temperature roller coaster:

We’re getting used to this in Minnesota these days. Rising temps before sunrise? Falling temps during the “warmest” part of the afternoon? It’s what meteorologists call “advection.”

As Arctic and Pacific air masses battle for control of Minnesota through Saturday, expect more unusual temp swings at odd times of day.

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Thursday will feel like Old Man Winter. Friday may tease “hints of March” by late afternoon. Saturday will leave no doubt that it is still mid-January.

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Arctic Invasion: Still on track

Okay, so it won’t get that cold in Minnesota next week…but you have to appreciate the youthful sense of fun when temps drop at UAF.

We shouldn’t be surprised that a sub-zero arctic outbreak is on the way to Minnesota in mid-January. What’s surprising is that we have avoided a sub-zero daytime high at MSP Airport for a record 4 year stretch.

It’s going to get very cold starting on Saturday night…and lasting into most of next week. The only question appears to be…how cold?

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Image: NOAA GFS MOS output via SUNY-Albany

The magnitude of arctic outbreaks is often hard to gauge before the fact. Models generally have trouble with precision on extreme events…those that stray far from “climatology.”

Arctic air is sometimes underestimated…and usually reluctant to leave as fast as the models would like once the heavy, dense arctic air is in place.

The lack of deep snow cover across Minnesota is one factor working against prolonged, extreme cold.

The Twin Cities Urban Heat Island…with MSP Airport on the southern end of a light northwest flow on cold nights…is effective at keeping temps in the central urban core and MSP Airport as much as 10 to 15 degrees warmer than the outlying suburbs/exurbs like Lakeville and Glencoe.

-10F at MSP Airport? -15F? We’ll probably bottom out somewhere in between those two numbers Monday or Tuesday morning.

It’s increasingly rare for us to hit -20F in the inner metro core. The last time we saw -20F was 4 years ago in 2009 on January 16th when the mercury plunged to a respectable -22F.

As of now…I don’t think we’ll get that cold this time.

Cue applause.

Word games – NWS looking at options for more effectively communicating weather warnings

It was riveting to sit at the Hurricane Sandy Town Hall and listen to National Hurricane Center Rick Knabb and Weather Channel Hurricane Specialist Bryan Norcross talk about “messaging” with Hurricane Sandy.


As the ferocious and devastating hurricane approached the Jersey Coast, NHC was wrestling with a decision. Do we drop “Hurricane Warnings” as Sandy hits shore and become “post tropical?”

There are debates about what kind of storm Sandy was “meteorologically speaking” as she slammed into New York and New Jersey. But there is no questions that the effects were those of a hurricane.

I’ve gone on record as saying that after an excellent, life saving forecast and warning scenario in the days leading up to Sandy, I think NHC dropped the ball on communication and messaging by dropping “hurricane warnings” as Sandy roared ashore.

Everyone knows what a “hurricane warning” means. Few have ever heard of a “post tropical cyclone.”

It sounds like a broken beach amusement park ride…and certainly doesn’t convey an immediate sense of urgency… or the imminent emergency conditions Sandy was about to unleash on the most densely populated coastline in the USA.

I was encouraged to hear at the meeting that NHC has a proposal that will allow them to retain “hurricane warnings” for future storms as they come ashore…even if they are in transition to “post tropical” or “hybrid” systems.

Now NWS is looking at “simplifying” terminology for all weather warnings, and Minnesota is in the Guinea Pig zone for this test.

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My initial read?

The term “Warning” has credibility and conveys a sense of action, and should be retained.

I’ll need some time to take a look at the rest of the proposals here. But I thought this would be a great opportunity for you as astute Updraft readers to take a look at the proposed changes here and give your opinion to NWS.

What do you think?



  • Chad

    Warning wording should focus on forecasted effects instead of what type of system it is. Different designations (“winter storm watch” vs “winter weather advisory” or “hurricane” vs “tropical storm”) may be useful for meteorologists from an academic perspective, but are irrelevant for the public. Communicating towards the public should be focused on explaining forecasted effects and potential dangers. It looks like the proposed changes are a good step in that direction.

  • Disco

    I have to agree with Chad. Aren’t there at least four separate advisories for winter weather systems? You could add Blizzard Warning to the list.

    Frankly I think they’re splitting hairs on the differences between some of them. The word “warning” carries more weight during the summer months.

    The new wording makes the advisory more specific to what is predicted to happen, especially for winter storm watch/warning.

  • Melissa

    I think the new statements are too vague to be taken seriously. If I hear ‘winter storm warning’ I know I am being told conditions will be dangerous, period. If I am told ‘potential for heavy snowfall’ i think of those calm lovely days when big flakes flutter down gently and pile up on fence posts. I do not think of altering travel plans or making sure I have a way to heat my house if the power goes out.

    I do not support the ‘dumbing down’ of this language and have submitted my feedback via the NOAA website. No matter what your opinion, I encourage others to submit their feedback so the NWS can make an educated decision on this one!

  • Craig

    I agree with Melissa and have also left feedback for the NWS. Really, I like the current system, and don’t think it is all that hard to understand.

    Rather than spending time and resources on coming up with new phrases to say the same thing, would it be a better use of resources to educate the public on the differences between watches, warnings, and advisories?