Vague Hints of Spring
Spring is coming. How do I know? The Auto Show kicks off this weekend. I'm getting stacks of swimsuit catalogs in the mail. And yesterday, in spite of 28F, roads became wet - evidence of a higher sun angle. Oh, and it may rain here Saturday, so get out and play in that new snow ASAP.
Daffodils won't be poking up in your yard anytime soon. I've gone on record predicting a cooler than normal March; nothing like 2012. That may bode well for our drought, but I suspect a very active severe storm season this year: more hail, high winds & tornadoes, as the jet stream sets up farther south. I hope I'm wrong on that call.
I have family in Washington D.C. My brother in law describes our nation's capitol as "a perfect combination of northern charm and southern efficiency." A forecast of flurries can spark panic. A few inches of slush often triggers a stampede for groceries. A foot of heavy, wet, concrete-like snow may shut down D.C.'s suburbs today. New York and much of New England may see similar amounts, thanks to a coastal storm tapping a fresh jolt of Atlantic moisture.
That's one of many reasons I love Minnesota. 6-10" snow? No big deal. We groan (or cheer), but we don't make excuses. Life goes on.
MINNESOTA CITY 11.7"
LAKE CITY 1 SE 11.5"
SPRING VALLEY 3 E 10.6"
RED WING 9.4"
SQUAW LAKE 9.0"
FOUNTAIN 2 W 8.5"
KIMBALL 3 N 8.0"
ROCHESTER 3 NE 7.5"
ST JAMES 7.5"
MINNEAPOLIS 2 NE 7.1"
Heaviest snowfall ever recorded
• Portland, Maine (31.9”, February 8–9)
• Concord, New Hampshire (24.0”, February 8–9)
• Wichita, Kansas (14.2”, February 20–21)
• Amarillo, Texas (19.0”, February 25)
• Boston, Massachusetts (24.9”, February 9)
Photo credit above: "David Tripp digs out his car in Portland, Maine, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, after it was partially buried by drifting snow in a blizzard dumped that a record 31.9 inches of snow on the city." (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Latest Briefing from our Alerts Broadcaster Division:
* Potential for heavy wet snow has increased a few more notches in Washington D.C. - 6-12" of sloppy wet snow possible, with well over a foot for the northern/western suburbs of D.C. Considering that 1-3" is a tragedy in D.C. this amount of snow should create something close to total paralysis in our nation's capitol, land and air (I expect all 3 D.C. airports to be closed to air travel much of Wednesday). Moderate to high risk of power outages.
* Risk of heavy wet snow has increased in New York City. A plowable snowfall is likely, starting late Wednesday afternoon and continuing into Thursday. Some rain may mix in, but some 5-9" amounts are possible in Midtown, with over a foot for suburbs.
* Boston will see significant snow, with a huge variation from Boston Harbor to the western suburbs, but some 6-12" amounts are possible by Friday morning. Winds will blow from the north/northeast, preventing warmer air off the Atlantic from turning the storm to rain.
...WIDESPREAD MINOR TO LOCALIZED MODERATE COASTAL FLOODING DURING WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON AND THURSDAY MORNING HIGH TIDE CYCLES... SOUTHERN WESTCHESTER-BRONX-NORTHEASTERN SUFFOLK-NORTHERN QUEENS- NORTHERN NASSAU- ...COASTAL FLOOD WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 3 PM TO 8 PM EST WEDNESDAY... ...COASTAL FLOOD WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT THURSDAY MORNING... * LOCATIONS...ALONG FAR WESTERN LONG ISLAND SOUND AND PECONIC AND GARDINERS BAYS. * TIDAL DEPARTURES...BETWEEN 3 TO 4 FT ABOVE ASTRONOMICAL TIDES WEDNESDAY EVENING...AND 2.5 TO 3.5 FT THURSDAY MORNING. * BEACH EROSION...BREAKING WAVES OF 2 TO 5 FT ACROSS WESTERN LONG ISLAND SOUND AND 4 TO 8 FT ACROSS THE TWIN FORKS OF LONG ISLAND WILL LOCALLY ENHANCE INUNDATION. * TIMING...MINOR TO MODERATE COASTAL FLOODING IS EXPECTED DURING THE TIMES OF HIGH TIDE WEDNESDAY EVENING AND THURSDAY MORNING. * IMPACTS...WIDESPREAD MINOR TO LOCALLY MODERATE FLOODING OF VULNERABLE SHORE ROADS AND/OR BASEMENTS DUE TO HEIGHT OF STORM TIDE AND WAVE ACTION. SOME ROAD CLOSURES MAY BE NEEDED. ISOLATED STRUCTURAL DAMAGE MAY BE OBSERVED.Summary: Snow is already piling up in Washington D.C., and conditions will become increasingly treacherous Wednesday PM and Wednesday night across the New York City area as a classic Nor'easter hugs the coast. Heavy wet snow overspreads Boston late Wednesday night into Thursday. This will be a plowable storm for much of the New York City area, potentially crippling for the northern/western suburbs of Washington D.C. and the far western suburbs of Boston, possibly Providence as well. Expect major disruptions to air and land travel, with a moderate risk of power outages, due to high water content in the snow. Although not as severe as the blizzard that struck in early February this will be the biggest storm in Washington in 3 years, and one of the 3-4 biggest snowfalls of the last 5 years from the suburbs of New York to Boston.
Photo credit above: "A man pushes a snowblower around a giant pile of snow left by road crews in the Country Club Plaza shopping district of Kansas City, Mo., Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. For the second time in a week, a major winter storm paralyzed parts of the nation's midsection Tuesday, dumping a fresh layer of heavy, wet snow atop cities still choked with piles from the previous system and making travel perilous from the Oklahoma panhandle to the Great Lakes. The weight of the snow strained power lines and cut electricity to more than 100,000 homes and businesses. At least three deaths were blamed on the blizzard." (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Image Credit: Photos.com
Has the definition of drought changed? I grew up during the Great Depression and drought mean farmers getting NO CROPS at all. How can this now be called a drought when the farmers continue to reap the biggest crops in the history of this country? As I peer out the windows of the senior's bus I see small ponds along the roadside as we travel to Willmar. When one can see ponds, how can this be called drought? When I grew up they could plant tomatoes in lake bottoms (eg. West Norway Lake in Kandiyohi county); there are pictures to prove that statement. Now that was drought - when the lakes dried up! What has happened to the above definition? Could you address this in your column? Thanks.
(Name Withheld By Request)
Great question, and I realize there's a disconnect when you look out at all that (new) snow in your yard, scratching your head, wondering how most of the state can be in severe/extreme drought? Frost levels are still 20-40 inches deep, which means melting snow will run off and not be able to soak into topsoil, where it's needed. I teed up your question with Greg Spoden, State Climatologist for Minnesota. Here is his response:
The reader raises a fair point. Modern drought monitoring attempts to describe the continuum between the extraordinary conditions he observed during the 1930s drought and no drought at all. The most widely used tool for doing so is the U.S. Drought Monitor, a multi-agency effort to detect and identify the nation's drought areas and assign those areas an intensity level. This effort requires a blend of science and subjectivity. Drought intensity categories are determined by the relative rarity of the climate anomaly (precipitation/temperature departures from average, length of the dry spell, etc), and the observed drought impacts. Some of those impacts are offered here.
Greg Spoden, State Climatologist
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources - Division of Ecological and Water Resources
University of Minnesota - St. Paul Campus.
Thanks Greg - appreciate the additional information and perspective on the drought.
* photo above courtesy of Jennifer McDonough, who measured 7" on Cedar Lake, near New Prague.
Photo credit above: "An iceberg in or just outside the Ilulissat fjord, which likely calved from Jakobshavn Isbrae, the fastest glacier in western Greenland, in May 2012. Polar ice sheets are now melting three times faster than in the 1990s." Ian Joughin/AP
Photo credit above: "A study published on Jan. 6 in Nature Climate Change estimates more melting of the Freenland and Antarctica's ice sheets than previously thought, which would raise sea levels and have "profound consequences for humankind." Photographer: Alexandre Trouvilliez/CNRS/ice2sea
Graphic credit above: "The first column is existing, planned and announced oil sands projects; the orange bars are oil sands production in the IEA future scenarios. Production is assumed to be 80% of capacity, following the IEA methods."