Sunday, December 28, 2014

Beige Christmas Beyond, Vortexish Chill Looming?

Now that our white Christmas drama is over, weather eyes scanned the horizon for true winter chill. According to most weather prognosticators, January seemed destined to live up to its bitter billing -- at least for the beginning.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What Color Will Christmas Be?

Concern over whether a white Christmas was in store for the Twin Cities was becoming a topic of greater and greater interest among the local folk. We won't say obsessed, but you get the idea. We sat down with Tom Novak (@NovakWeather) and Patrick Hammer to discuss possibilities in this video.

For those new to the Minnesota Forecaster (and if so, where've been?), you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Backwards December?

After an unusually cold November, weather eyes in Minnesota turned to maps suggesting a much warmer than average December was on the horizon. Indeed there was a collective sense that a major pattern shift was ongoing, with your intrepid blog author and former Minnesotan looking out at big puddles in Northern California.

Might there be any possibility that December will clock in warmer than November? Several years ago when a summery March took over the country, April was actually colder than March in Minnesota. So a seasonal reversal would not be unprecedented.

As always, time will tell. Use this space to comment on warm air that's coming (or not) and any snow (or rain!) that may be coming.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

First Arctic Siege Nears End, Winter Storm on the Horizon?

With the season's first, most premature cold spell nearing expiration, Upper Midwest weather eyes turned to the possibility of a storm for early next week. Use this space to track your thoughts on what might be spinning up.

Here's what the NWS had to say in their 10:25 a.m. update this Wednesday morning:


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Snowy Monday: How Much Will It Be?

As of Sunday morning, there was virtual certainty among all forecasters that an appreciable snowfall was on the way for Monday. Exactly how much, however, remained in question.

The National Weather Service seemed among the most bullish on a heavy duty snowstorm, predicting "around 10 inches" in their morning briefing. KSTP was the most conservative, predicting "just" 2-4 inches of snow for MSP (airport).

Here's a new video we produced with Patrick Hammer and Tom Novak (@NovakWeather) detailing what they see coming. Follow us on @MNForecaster on Twitter for updates.

One last note. WCCO continues to show model depictions that they're quick to qualify. In the 10 a.m. newscast, the forecaster showed a map depicting 18-24" for the Twin Cities but hastened to add, "We don't think that much snow will fall, though." In a visual medium where people may well be watching with the sound turned down, we think it's irresponsible (and lazy) for WCCO to continue to take this approach.


Fox 9


Weather Channel
WCCO showing a model they don't believe in (18-24")

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Curtain is Closing (on >50 that is)

It seems a distinct possibility that the 50s have run their course in the Twin Cities and much of Minnesota. It's anyone's guess when we'll again see the likes of Tuesday's 53 degrees.

Forecasters were predicting an increasingly colder pattern with several chances of early November snow. Some speculated that accumulating snow might fall early next week; others were less bullish on the possibility.

Fox 9 Website

The Weather Channel

Star Tribune

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"S" Word Makes Annual Debut (Kinda Early)

If winter's not your thing (in which case what the heck are you living in Minnesota for?), you're probably quaking in your boots. If you're a winter lover, your day is drawing near, possibly much sooner than you dreamed possible.

Several weather outlets are introducing the possibility of a little snow Friday night into Saturday morning. An arresting thought to be sure. Seems like it's almost time to cue up one of our favorite songs.

Here are a few graphics that capture the potentially wintry weather headed our way just days into the official beginning of meteorologic fall.

NWS Forecast

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Goodbye Summer

Yowser, summer left town with all the urgency of Kevin Love. Indeed, it's not a pretty picture for summer lovers. The abrupt change prognosticated by local forecasters has arrived and it looks like the cool weather is here for a while (dare we say for about eight months?).

From Paul Douglas's weather blog:
Today redefines the meaning of foul with a slow, rainy AM commute. A cold north wind kicks in behind the storm, gusting to 30 mph as temperatures sink thru the 50s. A second shot of moisture arrives Friday; the atmosphere aloft ALMOST chilly enough for a rain-snow mix Friday night. Frost outside the metro early Saturday gives way to 60s and 70s next week.

Still, it could be worse. Here's how forecasters from Calgary characterized the incoming weather change -- gotta love their sense of humor!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Earthquakes 101

The "South Napa" Earthquake, as it's now being called, provided quite the educational opportunity for Bay Area natives. Just as Minnesotans are conversive in dewpoints and can recall the years and locations of tornado outbreaks, Californians can name notable earthquakes and speak with considerable facility about the types of plate shifting causing the various types of earthquakes. It may not be the kind of weather that fascinates four-season-loving Minnesotans, but it's still pretty interesting stuff.

(Former Minnesotan experiences first earthquake.)

Here are some random pictures from local weather segments and other media communications in the days immediately following the South Napa Earthquake.

The UC Berkeley early warning project provided a 10-second quake warning and was close in magnitude prediction.

The inevitable comparisons began immediately.

An explanation of the different types of quakes.

California version of a winter survival kit.

Aftershocks -- the rest of the story.

An aftershock forecast of sorts.
The wind down.

US Geological Survey does a great job capturing data. This is the report we submitted.

Dire warnings for next time.....

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Many readers know that I've moved to the Bay Area. Here's my account of last night's earthquake, the Bay Area's largest since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

The moment I’d long been looking forward to occurred last night at 3:20 a.m. Here’s what I did (and didn’t) experience:

I’d been having a lousy, restless night of sleep. I’d taken a Benadryl so I was in a fog, but it obviously hadn’t knocked me out enough so that I was sleeping soundly.

At the fateful moment, I’d been concluding a short visit to the bathroom. As I finished up I heard a series of popping noises. The suddenness and general sound vaguely reminded me of a summer storm where hail commences abruptly, creating popping noises on all that it contacts. But knowing that such monster hail wouldn’t be possible here, my mind raced for other explanations. Could it be kids in the neighborhood up to pranks in the middle of the night?

Soon, I was pretty certain the sound was from the cords from blinds striking either the blinds or windows. This seemed a reasonable explanation because it’s often windy here and we frequently have the windows open to let the ocean-cooled air rush in.

But then I realized there was absolutely no wind and the night was otherwise calm. The fast-developing mystery was moving into high gear. “What the hell is that?” I blurted to Rachel, whom I expected would still be sound asleep.

“I think we’re having an earthquake,” said the seismic-experienced, California native. “Really?” I said. “Yes, I can feel the rolling. It feels like we're on a boat in the ocean.”

By then, of course, it was essentially over. And my immediate response – yea I’m a sicko – was anger that I didn’t fully experience this other worldly event. Rachel theorized that the lightheadedness I felt, which I blamed on sleep deprivation and the woozy effects produced by Benadryl, was because I was standing while the house was shaking.

I opened up my iPad in search of reports that would confirm that yes, I really just experienced an earthquake. At first, there were no reports. Then, finally, this tweet:

So there it was. After nearly five months in California, I experienced my first earthquake (just one week after seeing my first grass fire). I regret that I didn’t feel the rolling motion in bed, see the blinds moving (since it was dark), or have the presence (and clarity) of mind to know and embrace what was happening, but at least I was here when it happened. Still, learning that it was the biggest Bay Area quake in 25 years and figuring that another shaking of this size is unlikely to occur any time soon, I was disappointed. I felt like a storm chaser who, while observing the tornado, took the wrong road and didn’t get the best possible view.

Amazingly enough, there was not a picture out of place nor any other physical evidence of what, evidently, was a most significant shaking. In fact, Rachel’s sister, who was staying with us, said it was the worst quake she’d ever felt.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Summer (and Rain) on the Wane

The rain spigot appears to be turning off as the Twin Cities moves well into August. When will it rain again? Will severe storms threaten again this year? Is...ahem... snow far off?

NWS graphic illustrating the waning of the rain.

Sunset on Lake Minnetonka - August 6

Signs of fall on a tree near Lake Calhoun - August 8

Thursday, June 26, 2014

More Rain and Severe Storms This Weekend?

The National Weather Service discussion from Wednesday evening suggests an "interesting" weekend weatherwise as more rain and potential severe weather is in the forecast.

The primary concern in the longer term continues to be the potential for shra/tsra and locally heavy rainfall from late Thursday night through Sunday as warmth/moisture surge back into the region. In addition to potentially heavy rainfall... Ingredients also look like they will fall into place for some possibility of severe weather Saturday and perhaps more-so on Sunday across the area.

As always, time will tell.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

As Minnesota Gets Waterlogged, California's "Rim Fire" Remembered

For those waterlogged in Minnesota, here's something that might make you feel a little better.

Driving east along California Highway 120 on the way to Yosemite National Park, the picturesque California countryside suddenly turned eerie. To my Minnesota eyes, accustomed to the sight of damage caused by Dutch elm disease, I wondered if the increasingly number of brown pine trees in our midst was caused by pests run amuck. It was only upon returning from Yosemite that we learned we'd travelled through a small slice of devastation from last summer’s Rim Fire, California’s third largest wildfire.

Seven months after the fire was officially contained on Oct. 24, 2013, the scars from the disaster are still fresh. Stacks of cut wood remain along Highway 120, which itself was saved from damage by backfires set by firefighters.

To a former Minnesotan, the vast brown, burnt and bare landscape is an alarming sight. To a native Californian, it’s a reminder that fires are an integral part of the forest’s cycle of life.

Still, this fire was noteworthy. It burned 400 square miles and cost more than $127 million to suppress. Sadly, it was started a by hunter’s illegal fire that went out of control.

The following pictures were taken on May 31, 2014 at the Stanislaus National Forest’s Rim of the World vista point:

Monday, May 5, 2014

Winter Dead: Severe Time in the Cities?

It finally seems safe to declare winter dead. Just as last year, it seemed to last forever, defying an ever-increasing direct sun angle. With warm weather finally easing its way this far north, the threat of more than garden variety storms seems possible later this week — or "feisty" weather as our local NWS office calls it.

For the storm-chaser inclined who lack the opportunity or resources to head out in search of nature's violence, one option is to check out ZoomRadar/Severe Studios, which has an interactive map of storm chasers streaming live video from their dashboard cameras. In theory, you can recline in your favorite chair watching the Twins while virtually being in the car with the storm chaser of your choice by watching your computer or favorite mobile device. A cool concept, and one that may just come into play later this week. Also, for those of you are weather bloggers, it's something you can easily incorporate (for free) on your sites.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Final Later Winter/Early Spring Curve?

The winter that never quits seems to pose one last possible spoiler to those wishing for sustained warm weather (or just sustained non-winter weather!). Snow advisories now dance around the northeastern Twin Cities metro and the National Weather Service forecasts 1-3" for the central core of the area. What will happen and what's the latest model data suggest? Share your thoughts here on what almost has to be the last possibility of snow this season (famous last words).

Monday, March 31, 2014

Late Week Snow in the Cards?

While your proud host is in transit from Minnesota to California, we had a chance to talk with Tom Novak about the prospects for snow late this week. Even this far out, Tom has the Twin Cities in a high risk for a significant winter storm.

Use this space to share your thoughts on the possibility of a late-week storm.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Snow. Again. And Why Not, It's Only Mid-March.

As of Monday evening, the stage seemed set for another bout of winter weather according to virtually all local weather outlets. There were moderate variations in the predictions but all weather gurus agreed amounts would be higher in the northwest Twin Cities and lower in the southeast Twin Cities. Here's a recap as of late Monday evening.

WCCO: 1-3" SE, 3-6" NW -- (3" for the core metro)
KSTP: 3-6"(4.5" for core metro)
KMSP: 3-5" (4")
KARE: 2-5" (3.5")
NWS: 3-5" (4")
Star Tribune: 3-5" (4")
MPR: 3-7" (5")
Accuweather: 2-4" (3")
Weather Channel: 2-4" (3")
Novak Weather: 4-8" (6")

A reminder that you can track with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

And Seemingly Out of the Blue May Come More White

Wednesday's sunset after another melty day.
Our last blog entry created some buzz about the value of mid- to long-range forecasts. We all want to know if winter is effectively over or if more snow and cold lurks. Many weather outlets -- both television and the major Twin Cities blogs -- mentioned just yesterday (and even this morning) that conditions were not ripe for significant snows over the next several weeks (though many did include caveats about March snowstorms often popping up out of nowhere).

Commenter Disco, a frequent contributor to the blog, mentioned that statistician Nate Silver's book, The Signal and the Noise, details how forecasts nine days out and more are actually less accurate than if climatological norms were predicted. We researched this concept and found a great description here. It's worth the read, as is Nate Silver's book, and will leave you wondering why anyone bothers trying to forecast beyond nine days -- at least given the current state of the science of meteorology.

And... drum roll... as if on cue, mother nature appears to be trying to teach a lesson to those who would make general statements about weather beyond a week out. The latest weather models are suggesting that "a storm to watch" will head into the Midwest by around Tuesday of next week. Here's Tom Novak's first take on the scenario.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sub-Zero Cold Wanes, What's Next on the Weather Horizon?

After a barrage of brutal cold fronts bludgeoned the fine state of Minnesota, it now appears the sub-zero weather is done and a warm up of some magnitude is on the way. Use this space to share thoughts on upcoming warmth and any possible snow (or rain) storms that may be on the horizon.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

More Cold... and a Little More Snow

Graphic depicting volume of sub-zero cold.
The brutal cold is here for the long haul according to Tom Novak of NovakWeather. We spoke with Tom this evening to learn more about the cold that's in store as well some snow that appears headed our way for Friday.

And how cold has it been? I thought the graphic to the right was particularly instructive, showing a total of almost 20 full days of sub-zero weather. It would appear we're headed to challenge the largest number of sub-zero hours at MSP airport since 1946.

Twitter links: NovakWeather, Minnesota Forecaster.

Facebook links: NovakWeather, Minnesota Forecaster.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

And Then It Was Back to the Never-Ending Cold.....

Sunset on Saturday upon landing at MSP.
After a snowy week (during which your blog host was in California), it seems it's back to the same old super cold. Use this space to discuss your weather thoughts as we approach the final week of meteorological winter (like that's gonna put an end to winter around here).

Thursday, February 13, 2014

As Sub-Zero Subsides, Will "Warmth" Herald More Snow?

The god-awful stretch of 500-degree below weather seems nearly gone. But several local meteorologists are seeing hints of a more active, snowier pattern ahead. While your proud website host is off to California in search of greener pastures, use this space to discuss upcoming snow possibilities.

Two of our favorite meteorologists look ahead at possible snow.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Late-Strengthening Storm Expected to Bring Solid Rush Hour Snow

Late changes to what was initially expected to be a light snowfall Wednesday night/Thursday morning have created the prospects for a pretty solid snowfall packed into a few hours that just happen to coincide with the morning rush hour.

Here were the forecasts we accumulated late Wednesday evening from various weather outlets (amounts in parentheses represent the middle value in the range, which we assume would correspond to the central urban core and probably the airport):

WCCO: 2-4 (3)
KSTP: 4-6 (5)
FOX: 3-5 (4)
KARE: 1-4 (2.5)
NWS: 2-5 (3.5)
MPR: 3-6 (4.5)
Star Trib: 2-5 (3.5)
Weather Channel: "About one inch" per and actual Weather Channel
Accuweather: 1-2"
WeatherBug: "Around 5 inches"

Astute observers will note that this forecast is typical of so many: among the local television outlets, KARE is on the conservative low end and KSTP is on the aggressive high end.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Clipper Mutant Expected to Bring Snow Late Wednesday Night

It's not a Panhandle Hooker but it's not a standard issue Alberta Clipper, either. As Tom Novak tells us in this video, the next episode of snow is essentially coming in straight from the west. The result, however, is expected to be similar to past events -- a quick punch of snow that's forecast to accumulate to 2-4."

Thursday, January 23, 2014

"Dumbbell" Weather Pattern to Threaten Minnesota on Sunday

According to Tom Novak from Novak Weather, a menacing winter dish is about to be cooked up by mother nature. Tom details a "dumbbell" weather pattern which he thinks will cause blizzard conditions in a wide swath of Minnesota real estate beginning Sunday. Here's our latest video.

The dumbbell formation in the upper right (in white).

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Grading Jan. 13-14 Storm (and what was Chris Shaffer thinking?)

It’s been a while since we’ve graded forecasters. In truth that’s because there hasn’t been much interesting weather (i.e., snowstorms) and because there’s been little forecaster variance. This time, however, we feel compelled to highlight the particularly poor forecast by WCCO’s Chris Shaffer.

Here’s an excerpt from Shaffer’s forecast on the 6 p.m. news last night on WCCO. He said that “most of us will see less than an inch.” He went against all others and consistent model data. It seems he looked at one rogue model solution and ran with it. With the 4.4” of snow that fell, we think that most viewers would call this a poor forecast.

Chris Shaffer forecast from 6 p.m. WCCO newscast.

While a bad forecast is one thing, coming out 24 hours later and implying it was just what you expected is harder to swallow. Here’s a video capture from a segment of his 6 p.m. weathercast from Tuesday night. There’s the clear implication that the storm was what he expected (“just a little snow) yet he actually brings forth reported totals that are in excess of the totals he’s trying to validate. And how can he continue to call this “not much snow” when it caused snow emergencies in both major metropolitan cities? The fact is that we received one of the biggest snowfalls of the season with 4.4” and much of the metro received 3-5”. That’s a solid snowstorm in most peoples’ books.

Not surprisingly, we have to give Chris Shaffer’s forecast an F. Here are our grades for the efforts of other local forecasters:

WCCO: F. A poor forecast and an even poorer follow-up self assessment.
KSTP: B. More aggressive than most with a 2-4” forecast, but not aggressive enough. Also emphasized 2-3" with "spots seeing 4".
KMSP: C. Too conservative at 1-3 inches.
KARE: C. Same as KMSP
NWS: B+. They were consistent in forecasting 2-4” and, appropriately, issued an advisory.
Strib: C. Todd Nelson’s 1-3” forecast was too conservative.
MPR: C. While noting forecast volatility, was too conservative at 1-3”
Novak Weather: A. Refer to this video (beginning at 11:45).