Arctic New Year, coldest morning so far, January cold bias

Deep Freeze

It may be warmer in your freezer than your backyard the next couple of mornings as we ring in the New Year.

Most freezers hover between zero and 10 degrees above zero. Your backyard thermometer may say -10 to -15 in and around the Twin Cities metro area Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Up north, it’s another arctic endurance test with more tree-cracking cold with lows between -30 to -40 degrees. Anyone remember those old ‘Die hard’ commercial from the 70’s?

Congratulations International Falls. Your reputation as the ‘cold weather testing capital of the world’ is solid this December.

The perfect recipe for a cold New Year’s cocktail in Minnesota? One shot of Arctic air, a sprig of clear skies, light winds and a fresh splash of ‘highly reflective’ snow cover.

Fun with negative numbers

Tuesday morning may be the coldest of the winter season so far in the metro. Temperatures bottom out between -12 and -15 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, with -20 in some of the colder nooks and crannies around the Twin Cities suburbs.

Image: Twin Cities NWS

Those city numbers pale by comparison up north, where Embarrass logged -40 Monday morning. Lows between -30 and -40 will again be common the next few mornings up north. Fire up the wood stove dude.

Image: NOAA

One more zoom out. It’s interesting to note the northwest upper flow and snow cover are really keeping the coldest core of air over Minnesota, with (relatively) milder not too far south and west. Highs in the 40s to 50 degrees as close as Nebraska and Kansas? How many hours is that by car?

Image: NOAA

Urban Heat Island keeps inner metro core much warmer.

It’s interesting to not that the colder nooks and crannies outside the inner metro core are significantly colder on many winter nights. Here’s a look at two temperatures around the metro early Monday morning that illustrate a 13-degree difference between city and suburbs.

-11F at MSP Airport

-24F at Lakeville Airport

The map shows several sites around the metro at similar latitude in the -20’s Monday morning while much of the inner metro core hovers around -10 degrees, at least 10 degrees ‘warmer.’  This is a clear example of an urban heat island in action.

NWS Mesonet

The stark difference in temps is clear to many astute MPR listeners who live outside the inner metro core. Thanks to MPR weather super-fan Dennis Stephens, who shared these observations this morning.

Good Morning, Paul and Craig-

 I’m a rabid fan of MPR and enjoy your weather reports- I’ve learned a lot. 

Our back yard is part of the basin of ancient Glacial Lake Anoka. We have a digital thermometer set on a garden post at a height of 5 feet. Over the years we’ve used Oregon Scientific and LaCrosse instruments powered by lithium AA cells. Currently, I have a Oregon BARB06HGA instrument, but readings are consistent with other devices. The lowest temperature we have recorded was -40F in February 1996, but that was using a mercury U-tube min/max thermometer. Of course mercury freezes at that temperature, so that’s a conservative number.

 At bedtime last night, the temperature dipped below -21F…some time during the night it reached -23.6F.

We tell friends that our readings are more consistent with St. Cloud or Mora. I suspect there are even colder areas in Ham Lake or East Bethel, but they are probably not reporting either. I just wanted you to know that Lakeville is not the only place with air conditioning.

 Best regards and keep up the good work,

 Dennis Stephens

Thank you Dennis…and stay warm!

Doing the Zero Dance this week

Temperatures will straddle the zero mark all week in the metro. We bottom our well below zero at night and early morning, then struggle to reach zero during the days. The good news? A brief warm front should push temps into the 20s and even low 30s Friday night into early Saturday, before the next arctic front oozes south Saturday afternoon.

Image: Weatherspark

January Outlook: More of the same?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s latest outlook for January shows equal chances for cold or mild January over the Upper Midwest.

Image: NOAA

I have a hunch they may revise that for the colder when the updated outlook is issued Tuesday. Looking at the overall upper air pattern, I see a stable jet stream that favors a cold northwest flow over the Upper Midwest into at least mid-January. The Polar vortex is firmly established over the Hudson Bay region. It will likely keep dealing shots of bitter arctic air south into Minnesota for the next two weeks.

Image: NOAA

The latest 6-10 day outlook from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center keeps us in the deep freeze. You know it’s cold when there’s so much blue you can’t see Minnesota on the map.

Image: NOAA

Here’s a look at the Global Forecast System 16-day temperatures. No sign of a prolonged warm up here as we head into mid-January.

Image: NOAA via IPS Meteostar

The Arctic Oscillation favors the negative phase for the next two weeks. Another data point that usually favors cold for the Upper Midwest.

Image: NOAA

Bottom Line? Expect a cold bias to continue int he first half of January. I still think the developing El Nino may shift jet stream patterns the second half of winter into spring. That could mean increased (prolific?) snow events in late winter, but eventually could also lead to a milder second half of winter than the frigid first half. Right now I’d say there is a good chance that the second half of winter may end up noticeably milder than the first half.

Stay tuned and hang in there!

North Dakota Train derailment explosion plume visible from space?

You have to look closely, but the smoke plume from Monday’s train derailment near Cassleton, N.D., west of Fargo, was visible on the GOES visible 1km resolution shots from space.

Here’s a freeze from Weather Tap showing the small plume and the shadow it casts from the late day sun angle.

Image: NOAA via Weather Tap

Click on the image below for an animated look at the plume as it billows in the afternoon sky.

Image: NOAA via Weather Tap