Monday, March 22, 2010

From floods to drought?

As we come to the end of March, it's been potentially another record breaking month. Amazingly, the Twin Cities has not seen any snow this month. If this trend continues for MSP, it will be the first time in recorded history that no snow has fallen in March. Certainly this has helped with flooding, but now do farmers, and homeowners that appreciate green lawns, need to be concerned with the lack of water in the ground?

It's dry! The northern metro is already experiencing moderate drought conditions. As the spring green-up occurs and dead undergrowth becomes exposed to dry conditions, it could set the stage for wild brush fires. It is possible that somewhere in Minnesota a Red Flag Warning could be issued during a period in April. This warning is issued when there is a sustained wind average of 15 MPH or greater, a relative humidity less than or equal to 25 percent, and a temperature of greater than 75°F. Last spring, a brush fire started by a resident quickly got out of control in Shakopee that burned 100 acres in a four hour period on tax day, April 15th, 2009. The relative humidity was in the 10-15 percent range during the time of the fire. That's a value that exceeds deserts! Be careful with any burning this year. Better advice: Don't do it!

If you like thunderstorms, you may not like this news. With the lack of precip of any kind this month, this hasn't helped with moisture content at the surface to fuel thunderstorms. Moisture is one key component, along with instability, and differential heating to create a lift for the air. Checking the GFS long-range models, no major storm systems are in sight. The Climate Prediction Center is indicating in it's 30-day outlook that most of Minnesota has equal chances of above, below, or normal temperatures and precipitation. Southern Minnesota could be a little bit on the cooler side around Marshall and Worthington. These factors have given me a gut feeling that April will for the most part be dry. Perhaps May will be different. Each month is like it's own chapter in a climatology book.

This week's outlook. The newest late-night GFS forecast runs are hot off the presses, and it appears that the work week will be dry with a healthy dose of sunshine with above average temps in the high 40s and low 50s. On Saturday, a low-pressure system may trigger some snow flurries, or a slushy mix. It will be a close call as the rain/snow line hovers near.

Enjoy the week!


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