Duluth “iced in”; Spring pattern in sight; 50F in 2 weeks?

Land Ho?

Ahoy there Mateys!

Could our long voyage in winter seas be coming to an end soon?

I may have just sighted the Land of Spring on the horizon.

The latest GFS runs suggest a significant pattern shift that could begin to feed milder air into Minnesota starting late next week. It won’t be 80F on St. Patty’s Day this year, but it should feel a whole lot milder by then.

The GFS is cranking out 52F for MSP 2 weeks from today.

I’d like to see a couple more days worth of runs, but the GFS model seems to have locked onto a trend that bears watching.

In this version of Updraft we talk about our stronger March sun, and how it will inevitably lead to a pattern change that may already be showing up on the weather maps.

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39.6 degrees above the horizon – sun angle at noon today over MSP

3.5 times more incoming solar radiation vs. late December

Lake Superior mostly open water, but Ice cover near Duluth

Check out today’s webcam image from the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center.

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Image: LSMMA web cam

Ice now covers most of the bay near Duluth, and the shipping canal is filled with ice cover. Meanwhile today’s visible satellite image shows most of Lake Superior is still open water.

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Image: College of DuPage

The open lake is a far cry from 4 years ago this week, when thick ice covered most of Lake Superior.

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Image: NOAA

Here’s the write up from the Marquette, MI NWS from March 3, 2009.

Due to the recent cold spell and below normal temperatures for much of the winter of 2008-2009, ice covers nearly all of Lake Superior. Only small areas of open water remain. This image was taken on Tuesday, March 3rd. If arctic air does not return in the next couple of weeks, it is likely that this will be the day of maximum ice cover on Lake Superior for this winter as warmer weather and periods of stronger winds through the end of this week will cause open water areas to expand.

One of the surprising things about Lake Superior ice cover is that it usually peaks in early March, as opposed to the coldest days of winter in January. It takes a long time to freeze up the big lake.

Forecast: Increasingly sunny

Our days are slowly getting brighter.

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That’s an especially good thing in March, when our higher sun angle really starts to kick in. The sun is 39.6 degrees above the horizon at noon today. In just 2 weeks, it hits 45 degrees…and climbs to the peak of 68.5 degrees by the summer solstice on June 20th.

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The sun is as high in the sky at noon today as it is on October 5th. We’re now getting 3.5 times more incoming solar energy as we saw in December, and soon our atmosphere begins to respond for the warmer.

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Spring Sighting: Pattern change ahead

It’s early and I want to see another 1-2 days of model runs to confirm, but the latest model trends strongly suggest a turn for the milder starting next week.

According to the GFS model, we could be basking in 50+ degree temps 2 weeks from today.

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A milder Pacific air flow and more “amplified ridging” appear to be ahead by late next week. That should turn our winds into the south…and bring milder air and probably some more moisture north….as rain.

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We should hit the low 40s as soon as Friday & Saturday of this week. The bigger push of mild air moves in late next week into the following weekend, when temps may “soar” into the upper 40s.

Two weeks from today the GFS is cranking out 52F? It’s early, and that may be optimistic with this much snow cover…but there are a couple of rain systems in the cards that could help accelerate our snow melt in the next 2 weeks. Nothing wipes out spring snow cover faster than a good soaking rain.

Saturday Slop Fest?

The first system may bring over .50″ rainfall Saturday. The system could begin as a wintery mix late Friday night into Saturday AM, but models are trending milder with this system…suggesting more rain than snow.

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Image: Iowa State University

Arctic Oscillation: Trending Positive?

One of the keys we look for monger range pattern changes 2-3 weeks out is the trending phase of the Arctic Oscillation. (AO)

When the AO is in the “negative” phase…we get cold and snowy in Minnesota. When the AO goes “positive” we tend to warm up.

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As you can see below, the latest trends suggest a shift to a more positive AO phase in about 1-2 weeks. That supports the notion of a warm up.

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I don’t think we’ll launch into the “May-like” March we saw last year, but it looks like the Spring of 2013 may finally be ready to arrive.

Stay tuned.


  • Chris B. Critter

    There was plenty of evidence of the stronger solar radiation on my asphalt driveway yesterday. About 1/2 hour after I cleared it, the remaining snow was melting, and by sunset, it was nearly dry. I did not use any salt or other melting substance on my driveway; it was purely mechanical removal.

  • Fr. Paul Kammen

    Thanks, Paul for that ray of hope. I really needed that. I looked at the climate data prediction forecast earlier, saw a dark blue dot over Minnesota indicating high confidence of below average temps, and this after yesterday got me pretty, well, blue. Here’s hoping we can begin the moderation a bit into the second half of March.

  • Colin

    Love the blog and the good news on spring!

    Would you please qualify the statement: “3.5 times more incoming solar radiation vs. late December”? sloppy locution?