Local Forecast

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 3:31 AM
Prepared by Bob Weisman
Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Saint Cloud State University
Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department
Saint Cloud and Vicinity Forecast


January Thaw Through Much of This Week

Ice and Snow (Twin Cities and SE) Still Slickens Roads for Morning Commute

Central Minnesota is in the process of barely missing a storm system. The storm, which was the same one that pounded the west with rain and snow last week, and produced the major ice storm in the Southern and Central Plains over the weekend, produced some light mixed precipitation over southern Minnesota yesterday afternoon and some snow across southeastern Minnesota and the Twin Cities overnight. There was between a tenth and a quarter inch of ice in the Twin Cities, Hastings, Northfield, and Prior Lake yesterday afternoon into the evening. That precipitation has turned over to snow and is in the process of winding down in the Twin Cities (see NWS Upper Mississippi Valley radar loop). Roads are really slippery and there have been an unusually high number of accidents in the Twin Cities during the late evening into the early morning hours (see MnDOT Minnesota road reports). Roads are also icy in southeastern Minnesota with some roads leading down the Mississippi River Bluffs at times becoming too treacherous to travel. The precipitation will taper off towards morning, but there will be icy conditions for the morning commute. And, any untreated surfaces (sidewalks, driveways) will be very slippery.

Milder, But Cloudy and Moist Weather Ahead

This morning's infrared satellite loop shows a welcome change in flow pattern across North America. Storm systems are pushing from the eastern Pacific into British Columbia, then are continuing eastward into Alberta and Saskatchewan (see infrared satellite loop from College of DuPage Satellite and Radar Menu). That's a big change from the northwest to southeast flow last week that allowed temperatures to get as cold as -42 in Cotton last Friday. This flow will bottle up the fresh supply of arctic air in Alaska (temperatures in the -30s and -40s on the NWS WPC Latest North American zoom-in surface map) and keep our air flowing down the eastern slopes of the Rockies, the source of milder air this time of year. Right now, storms are grazing the Pacific Northwest, which has left a strong, but relatively dry system pinwheeling around Baja California (see water vapor loop from from College of DuPage Satellite and Radar Menu). Later in the week, Pacific systems will resume their push into the West Coast, this time giving southern California a shot at the rainfall that has eased the drought in northern and central California this fall and winter.

Such a southern storm track would keep Minnesota out of the main storm path. Right now, it appears the only chance of precipitation this week will be Saturday as we stay, at best, along the extreme northern fringe of any storms pushing across the Plains.

So, the main question for this week is how warm. We still have a good 6-7 inches of snow on the ground in central Minnesota with more to the north and west. That snow pack means tough warming since the bright white reflects a lot of the sun's warmth out to space. Also, when our temperatures get close to freezing, some of the heat that would go to warm the ground is used to melt the snow instead. So, highs will likely be limited to the 30's.

The light winds and near freezing temperatures are likely to trap some moisture near the ground, so we will have a lot of low clouds hanging around for much of this week. With the leftover clouds from the storm system that just missed us, these low clouds (see Colorado State RAMDIS Western US Fog/Reflectivity Product) will hang around through at least early afternoon. Today's highs are likely the temperatures right now in the upper 20's with readings drifting back into the middle 20's as the day goes on (see UCAR Minnesota surface chart).

The light winds expected most of this week means that low clouds and fog, especially at night, will remain a problem for much of the week. So, highs won't get very far above freezing. However, low temperatures will likely stay in the upper 20's to near freezing overnight, giving us some areas of fog. We will also have a shot at some record warm low temperatures.

Air Pollution Advisory Twin Cities (and Central Minnesota) With Potential to Continue Much of This Week

Unfortunately, the relatively stale winds will trap more than just moisture near the ground. Particulates, small specks of dirt, have pushed the Air Quality Index (see Minnesota Pollution Control Agency hourly air quality map) into the moderate category across most of Minnesota. The reading is at the high end of the moderate range (80s) in Brainerd, St. Cloud and in the 70s in the Twin Cities. Given that the main source of these particles in Minnesota is vehicle traffic, the MPCA expects the levels to increase during the rush hours, possibly climbing above 100 this afternoon. So, there is an air quality advisory for the Twin Cities from now through midnight tonight. Even though central Minnesota isn't in the advisory, the high levels of particulates already seen means that many in our area who are sensitive to the pollution (seniors, kids, people with a history of heart or breathing problems) could have problems during much of this week. Those with sinus problems will also have trouble due to the lingering moist air expected this week.

I don't see a real change in the weather pattern into early next week. So, if you feel up to it, enjoy the milder (but often gloomy) weather this week.

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Confidence Level: "The Rabbits Will Sniff At My Feet While I'm Forecasting"

Tuesday 1/17/2017: Cloudy through the morning with perhaps some spotty freezing drizzle. Maybe some sunny breaks in the afternoon. Seasonably cold. Temperatures holding between 22 and 26. Winds: W 5 MPH. Chance of measurable precipitation: 20%.

Tuesday Night: Clearing with diminishing wind and colder. Low: between 5 and 10. Winds: SW 5 MPH. Chance of measurable snowfall: 10%.

Wednesday 1/18/2017: Sunny, light winds, and a shade milder. High: between 25 and 30 Winds: W 5-10 MPH. Chance of measurable snowfall: 10%.

Wednesday Night: Partly clear, light winds, and not quite as cold. Low: between 15 and 20. Winds: SW 5 MPH. Chance of measurable snowfall: 10%.

Thursday 1/19/2017: Cloudy, light winds, and milder. High: between 30 and 34. Winds: SW 5 MPH. Chance of measurable snowfall: 10%.

Confidence Level: "The Rabbits Will Want Petting with One Hand, While I'm Typing the Forecast"

Thursday Night: Cloudy, breezy, and milder. Maybe some fog. Temperatures holding between 30 and 35. (record warm low: 32 set in 1900) Winds: SE 5-10 MPH. Chance of measurable precipitation: 10%.

Friday 1/20/2017: Cloudy with perhaps some morning fog. Continued mild. High: between 32 and 36. Winds: SE 5-10 MPH. Chance of measurable precipitation: 10%.

Friday Night: Cloudy with a chance of light rain or mixed precipitation. Low: between 30 and 33. (record warm low: 34 set in 1934) Winds: SE 5 MPH. Chance of measurable precipitation: 10%.

Saturday 1/21/2017: Mixed clouds and sun and continued mild. Maybe a chance of a late rain shower. High: between 32 and 36. Winds: SE 5-15 MPH. Chance of measurable precipitation: 30%.

Confidence Level: "The Rabbits Forecast That Most Precipitation Will Be in the Form of Lettuce"

Extended: Cloudy and continued mild Sunday.

Forecast Confidence (10 - "Know what gas will cost next week, Bob?"; 0 - "Been a victim of road rage lately, Bob?"): 7 Thursday through Saturday, 6 Saturday night and Sunday, 4 Sunday night and Monday.

Yesterday's High: 28F; Overnight Low (through 3 AM): 21F
St. Cloud Airport Precipitation (through 3 AM Tuesday): None; SCSU Precipitation (through 3 AM Tuesday): None

Normal Temperatures for January 17 - High: 21F; Low: 1F
Next Update: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 8:00 AM (or as needed)

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Let me know what you think about this forecast and discussion by emailing SCSU meteorology professor Bob Weisman. Please note that I make the forecast, not the weather!

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