For the first time this season the trails have opened. Feels good to ride dirt again! Thunderstorms Sunday, however, signaled change in the weather pattern. Winter makes a comeback Monday as conditions get progressively colder and rain changes to snow. Snow, while not unusual in April, tends to significantly decrease in occurrence this time of year. The Twin Cities typically average 2.4 inches of snow in April. While the metro receives little accumulation, the COGGS trails get 4"-6", a packable fat bike snow.
The snow that falls will not stick around for long. Temperatures stay well above freezing the remainder of the week.
weekend Warrior Weather
A fast west-to-east (zonal) flow develops across the country. This means a rather active weather pattern develops such that every other day or so the area will get precipitation. Rain Wednesday night then again Friday into Saturday may disrupt trail openings this weekend.
End of an Era
For the past four years I've had great fun writing the weather blog for the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists. I will stop contributing to the blog indefinitely as busy life changes have forced me to reevaluate my time. Providing forecasts to the off-road cycling community has been an great honor and I've loved volunteering in this unique way to such a wonderful organization! Thank you for hanging with me all these years!
Once again another month in the books with above normal temperatures. March 2017 has been the 19 consecutive month with a monthly average temperature above normal. The warm trend might continue into spring.
The long range outlook into early April favors above normal temperatures and just slightly above normal precipitation. Meanwhile rain (not snow) returns Sunday and Wednesday.
Early April outlook
Trails are in full-blown thaw mode right now. Even the River Bottoms Trail is too wet, too muddy to ride. Frost is officially out of the ground in many locations so we are well on our way to riding dirt when it dries out. So pavement miles are where it's at right now.
A quarter of an inch of rain may fall Sunday with another round of (lighter) precipitation around the middle of next week.
By this time of the year the sun is getting higher in the sky; setting just north of west these days. The stronger sun means it's harder to get snow to stick. But don't get me wrong! We can still see crazy snow events in April. The greatest snowfall for the month of April was 21.8" in 1983.
Nonetheless, winter may be on its way out. Severe weather, not snow, has been the talk within the weather community. The focus is now on what could be an active severe weather season this year.
The mountain bike trails are thawing fast. Recent frost depth analysis indicates zero frost at many locations. With the rain this weekend the trails will be extra soggy for an extended time.
Heaviest rain and highest totals are expected to stay south of the metro trails. Carver Lake Park and Lebanon Hills may get a healthy half inch but no more. One inch amounts stay closer to the I-90 corridor as a slow moving storm passes from St.Louis to Chicago over the weekend. A lack of deep cold air keeps this as all rain.
A Return of Spring
It may not feel like spring now, but it will come next week. The GFS model hints at 60 degrees Thursday of next week. The off-road trails may be closed for now, but at least conditions warm for a nice road ride!
We may be over the hump of winter. The most recent cold snap may have been the last of winter's grasp for the season. An extended period of warmth continues into early April. In fact, by the first if the month models show 60-degree high temperatures.
While conditions stay fairly dry into early next week, the long-range outlook indicates above normal precipitation for southwest Minnesota. Could be a while before we see full trail openings gain.
The snow came quickly Sunday afternoon, covering our brown ground white for once. A good ol' fashion Alberta Clipper brings a "packable" fat bike snow to the Twin Cities. We enjoy a few days of riding snow as temperature stay below freezing through Wednesday. Trail openings will be temporary, however, as 40s return by Friday.
Clippers are often fast-moving, moisture-deprived storms bringing one to three inches with each hit. This most recent clipper passing south of the state has had a bit more energy and moisture resulting in slightly higher totals. This clipper goes on to join forces with an East Coast low that will bring about blizzard conditions from Philadelphia to Boston by midweek.
We stay in the freezer through at least Wednesday. Below freezing temperatures ensure the snow sticks around for much of this week. Take advantage while you can. Temperatures in the 40s (maybe even 50°) return this weekend.
March is the most changeable month in Minnesota. Not unusual to see temps in the 60s to tornadoes ending in snow all in a 24 hour period. On Monday an EF-1 tornado formed near the town of Zimmerman making it the earliest tornado in Minnesota history. The previous record was a tornado March 18, 1968 north of Truman.
The meteorology community has been buzzing all week with the latest installment of data from the new GOES-R satellite. While still non-operational the higher resolution "satellites will make available 34 meteorological, solar and space weather products" that will immensely improve weather forecasting and warnings. The same line of severe thunderstorms that raced across across Minnesota on Monday extended down across Iowa. The new GOES-R satellite (above) captured the hi-res cloud imagery as severe t-storms developed.
Winter Makes A Comeback
For once, below normal temperatures are anticipated this week. Typical highs for early March are generally in the 40s yet we spend Friday & Saturday in the 20s. For much of this winter we've had the cold spells but a lack of moisture resulting in our snow deficit. This time the cold may be worth is as snow may blanket the ground once again Sunday-Monday.
Probability of measureable snow Sunday-Monday
A robust clipper races through central Minnesota Sunday. Could bring enough snow to pack along the singletrack. What falls won't stick around for long, however. Temperature late next week could return to the 40s. Such is the month of March!
February 2017 was the 3rd warmest since 1895. Last month was also the 18th consecutive month will above normal temperatures. The rest of the nation was unusually warm as well and as a result signs of spring are now showing up earlier than normal. In fact, in parts of the Southeast spring is 20 days ahead of schedule. This estimate is based on early leafing plants and animal migrations.
Spring-like weather returns with temperatures in the 60s by early next week. Snow this season is running 15 inches below normal. Even Seattle has had more snow than Minneapolis last February! While warm enough for rain Monday, the Twin Cities typically average 10.3 inches of snow in March.
The Winter Misery Index (WMI) is an way of gauging the severity of a winter compared to previous ones. The WMI has this winter in the "mild" category. Only three tenths (0.3") of an inch of snow has fallen this February. This ties February 1894 for the least snowiest February on record!
Because of the early onset of warmth, spring is showing up 20 days earlier than normal across the Southeast. This estimate by the National Phenology Network is based on early leafing plants as well as animal migrations.
Chances of light snow continue into Friday, especially across far southern Minnesota. By the weekend mild Pacific air begins to flow over Minnesota with temperatures early next week back 15 to 20 degrees above average.
February snowstorms can be notoriously difficult to predict. Friday's storm was no different. A very tight snowfall gradient made forecasting totals extremely tricky. But the picture became clear, another big snow event would once again track south of the Twin Cities.
The Blizzard Potential Index (BPI) above shows the model runs since Tuesday and how the blizzard potential moved from north to south over time.
With a full-blown blizzard across southern #Minnesota, the metro receives a wide range of totals from no accumulation in Elm Creek to maybe six inches near Lebanon Hills. This kind of forecast makes a meteorologist not sleep at night.
Colder weather follows this storm but nothing arctic in nature. Another storm next week could bring a little more rain to mix along with some snow.
Maybe We're Not Alone
Exciting news from NASA this week! Seven Earth-sized planets have been discovered outside our solar system that orbit around a similar sun. Three of the seven planets are in the "habitable zone".
Had Monday's rain been snow we'd be talking about a six inch snowfall. As luck would have it the atmosphere over Minnesota gets a kick back to winter with a potential "packable" snow Friday. Confidence is building that someone in southern Minnesota will see a blizzard and a cool foot of snow. Some models put that potential right over the metro. Must be payback for the 60s we saw over the weekend.
Model Snow Forecast
Model trends favor heaviest snow across the southeast metro. As is typical for February snowstorms the snowfall gradient will be large. Lower totals are likely the further northwest you go in the metro.
Blizzard Potential Index
Heaviest snow is expected to fall Friday morning with winds over 30 mph. A blizzard is characterized by sustained winds to 35 mph or greater with heavy snow and reduced visibility to less than a quarter of a mile. That criteria may be met early Friday.
Cold air return this weekend and sticks around through the first week of March. This year March comes in like a lion. Will it go out like a lamb?
Summer brings warm afternoons perfect for biking, but the summer heat and humidity can also spark thunderstorms and severe weather. Be prepared for any type of adverse weather headed your way with Aeris Pulse.
NWS Twin Cities Weather Story