Minnesota’s ‘Weather Whiplash’ 2013; Pattern change and January Thaw in sight?

Happy New Weather Year 2014!

Another year of Minnesota weather is in the books; 2013 spawned ferocious late winter and record spring snows. In May, the Ice-nami swept ashore on Lake Mille Lacs.

Then, the jet stream flipped to a warm and dry summer pattern that quickly spawned a “flash drought” that dried up fields, lawns and rivers. Finally, a December deep freeze descended on the now Frozen Tundra.

It’s almost as if 2013 just couldn’t make up it’s mind as to what kind of weather whiplash to bring to Minnesota.

So what kind of weather lies ahead as we roll into 2014?

Will our Jekyll and Hyde weather pattern continue, flipping from one extreme to the next? Will a potentially developing El Nino shift weather patterns in the second half of winter and spring, bringing milder weather and giving us the spring we missed in 2013?

Will 2014 bring more than the 15 tornadoes observed in Minnesota in 2013, the lowest tornado tally in 23 years since 1990?

My weather “spidey senses” say yes on all three counts.

Oh, and did I mention the jet stream is showing signs of a major pattern change that could break the back of our extended cold wave and bring significantly milder temps, even a potential thaw to Minnesota in about 10 days?

Buckle up, 2014 may be another year of weather whiplash for Minnesota and the world.

Image: Sydney Harbor rings in the New Year in 2007. Image: Rob Chandler via Wikipedia Commons.

Top Weather Stories of 2013

Minnesota’s weather showed two distinct character traits in 2013. Persistent cold and snow marked the first half of the year. Warm dry weather took hold in July and lasted into the fall.

Overall, it was a cool year for Minnesota. In fact, Minnesota and the Upper Midwest was one of the few cool regions on earth in 2013. Through November it is the 4th warmest year on record globally.

Image: NOAA
  • -0.9F temps vs. average in the Twin Cities in 2013
  • -2.2F Temps vs. average in International Falls in 2013
  • 32.77 inches total precip at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in 2013 (+2.19″ vs. average)

Overall Minnesota’s temperatures ran about 1 degree cooler than average in the south, and 2 degrees colder than average in the north in 2013.

Hail and wind damage swath from Aug. 6 storm. Image: Twin Cities National Weather Service

Minnesota’s Top Weather Stories of 2013

There was plenty of weather to keep a guy busy in the Huttner Weather lab this year. One of my most vivid weather memories of 2013? Getting knocked off the air during live severe weather coverage for MPR News during the National Night Out downbursts and hailstorms that tore across Minnesota and up dozens of trees in Deephaven.

Trees down in Deephaven on Aug. 6 during National Night Out.Image: Paul Huttner/MPR News

Here’s a great look at the top weather stories of 2013 from the Minnesota Climatology Working Group as voted by the Twin Cities weather community.

Top Five Weather Events of 2013 in Minnesota

Here are candidates for the top five weather events of 2013 from the Minnesota State Climatology Office. Do you agree? If you disagree with this list, please visit us on Facebook and post your top five weather events for Minnesota. There was no runaway favorite this year for the top weather event of 2013 for Minnesota. Cold and snowy won out over summertime storminess in people’s memories for 2013. Votes were tallied from a sample of weather enthusiasts in Minnesota. Below are the top five.

#5 Southwest Minnesota Ice Storm of April 9-10

Devastating ice storm over Worthington and Luverne in Southwest Minnesota, freezing rain coated wires and tree branches up to 8 tenths of an inch thick. The City of Worthington declared a state of emergency and clean up took two and a half months. This storm caused 71 million dollars in damage.

#4 Lack of Tornadoes in 2013

While 2013 had its share of severe storms, tornadic activity in Minnesota was minimal. Only 15 tornadoes were reported in Minnesota in 2013, the lowest total since 1990. Not only was the tornado count low in Minnesota, it was also the lowest in years across the Nation.

#3 High Wind and Heavy Rain Event of June 21, 2013

The most damaging severe storm to hit the Twin Cities in 2013 was the high wind and heavy rain event of June 21. A complex of severe thunderstorms swept across the Twin Cities on Friday, June 21st in the evening and in their wake left half a million Xcel Energy customers without power. Wet soil from previously heavy rains allowed trees to be uprooted easily. Flash flooding also occurred with the heavy rainfall. A State Climatology Office Facebook user posted a video of the June 21 storm at Lake Calhoun.

#2 2013 Cold Spring/Late Ice Out

This was a very close to being #1. The effect of the cold Spring 2013 was an even bigger shocker because of the record early warm spring just a year before. Mille Lacs went from setting a record early ice out in 2012 on March 26 to setting the record latest ice out in 2013 on May 16. The late spring caused delayed planting of crops and gardens.

#1 Historic May 1-3 Snow

This snowstorm just clipped the Twin Cities. A westward shift of just 50 miles of the storm track and the Twin Cities Airport would have had a new May record snowstorm. It was a different story over southeast Minnesota where Rochester measured 14.5 inches of snow, which was all melted by the 6th of May. The 24 hour statewide daily snowfall record was broken with 15.4 inches at Dodge Center, the previous record was 12 inches set in May 8, 1938 in Windom (Cottonwood County) and May 3, 1954 near Leonard (Clearwater County). Officially, at the Twin Cities International Airport there was only a half inch of snow measured.

Here’s a great look at the top 5 weather events nationwide from the always excellent Capital Weather Gang.

The #1 weather event in 2013? The devastating Moore, Okla., tornado on May 20.

Pattern Change Ahead? Pacific flow may blow in January Thaw in about 10 days

Don’t bet the farm on this just yet, but the longer range forecast models are hinting at a potential major shift in the jet stream pattern in about 10 days.

The persistent Polar Vortex that has been spinning over Hudson Bay and dealing Minnesota steady doses of arctic air may be about to retreat. That could open the door for a milder ‘zonal’ (west to east) Pacific flow. Upper winds blowing from Seattle instead of the Yukon could mean much milder temps after about Jan. 9-10.

Image: NOAA

That may lead to a break in the persistent arctic air masses over Minnesota. Long range data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Global Forecast System  is suggesting at least a few days of temps in the upper 20s and even 30s. Note the sharp reduction in sub-zero nights in the extended forecast.

Image: NOAA GFS via IPS Meteostar

I’d like to see a few more days of model consistency before I sign off on the warming trend but it looks encouraging as of now. Stay tuned.

All the best to you for a happy healthy and prosperous New Year in 2014 from the MPR Weather Lab!