Weather update: An unseasonably warm week is coming and snow is in the forecast
Paul Hutner: Hello. Thanks, Cathy. It’s good to talk to you. And yes, this season. Beautiful paint of white in the north. 2 inches in Ely Lake, 4 inches (inaudible) in the lake, and 5 inches a little northeast of Grand Marais.
Kathy Wurzer: Really? Yes.
Paul Hutner: Yes.
Kathy Wurzer: This is obviously not surprising, given that November is a very variable month.
Paul Huttner: It is. And, you know, it’s interesting because I was looking at winter snowfall trends, right, because we’re getting into the season. Although there is no real snow in the forecast for the next few days here. But the 30-year averages, you realize that. The Weather Service changes and updates its averages every 10 years.
Average snowfall in the Twin Cities decreased from 54.4 inches to 51.2 inches. This represents an average decline of about 3 inches per year in this last set of 30-year averages. It is interesting to note that we get an average of 6.8 inches of snow in the Twin Cities in November. But even this is down by 2.5 in the latest set of averages.
And December is the snowiest month of the year, Cathy, with an average of 11.4 inches now. January is number two with 11, February with 9.5. It was March if you remember that day. But snow patterns change enough every 10 years or so that those months can change quite a bit.
Kathy Wurzer: I’m going to assume that there are some climate signals, climate change signals.
Paul Huttner: There is. And I think the biggest one is that we get warmer air in the winter seasons, right? So until November, earlier than March in general. That means more rain, I think, as we get into November and March. So precipitation does fall, but it falls more as rain rather than snow.
Kathy Wurzer: Let’s talk about the forecast this week. It seems to be somewhat seasonal. I’m curious about next week.
Paul Hutner: Yes. Well, this week looks seasonal. We have a bit of a cold front now blowing into northwest Minnesota. We’re 46 in the Twin Cities today. We’ll get to about 50 or so.
But then we get kind of cold as we head into tomorrow. Still 49.42 on Friday. The weekend looks pretty decent. Partly cloudy 46 Saturday, 55 Sunday. And this is the beginning of the warming trend that you mentioned, Cathy.
This is interesting because the upper air pattern looks very inflated for next week, so to speak. A large dome of warm high pressure over the central part of the United States. Minnesota would be right at the center of that. We will see several days of southwesterly winds, and some sunshine. It will be unexpected in November.
Highs next week appear to be in the 50s to 60s in the Twin Cities and southern Minnesota. The European model will come out at 63 degrees next Wednesday, Cathy. That’s 10 to 20 degrees warmer than average. Keep in mind that our average high in the Twin Cities for the middle of next week is now 48 degrees. So this would be very unusual.
Kathy Wurzer: Well, I was going to say I don’t mind the warmth, but it feels kind of weird. It’s weird.
Paul Huttner: It’s weird. People have different reactions to this. Obviously some people want the warm air to stick around. But we notice that these changes continue to happen and eat away at our winters in Minnesota, which is part of our identity here.
Kathy Wurzer: Yeah, no kidding. So let me ask you something completely different here about weather forecasting, and the economic value of weather forecasting. I’m curious to know how these so-called operational weather forecasts might affect the US economy?
Paul Huttner: Yeah, it’s really cool. I got my start at the end of this business. I used to work for an operational meteorology company and we had clients like gas utilities and electric utilities, right? They have to estimate their energy load each day because it costs them money to buy that energy.
So when the temperature changes, when the weather changes, we all use a different amount of energy. This adds up to millions of dollars very quickly, Cathy. Major Fortune 500 companies also employ airline meteorologists who save millions on efficiently guiding their planes to supermarkets.
You think about the world’s targets, and their supply chains. Even the city plows that plow the streets. Running these shifts and processes can save you a lot of money. The bottom line is that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says accurate weather forecasting saves the U.S. economy about $30 billion annually. So only 4% of meteorologists work in radio or TV, Cathy. The other 96% do something else. And so I always like to say think about your light switch when you turn it on, there might be a little meteorologist in there somewhere.
Kathy Wurzer: I didn’t know you worked at an operational forecasting company.
Paul Hutner: I did. It was called “Weather Drive” in the Chicago area. And we had clients. Commonwealth Edison, a large electric company. I used to make predictions about a nuclear plant there that was going to be used for evacuations, and it was eight miles from my house. So my heart was in those predictions for sure.
Kathy Wurzer: Wow. Before you go, of course, Claycast. What are you going to talk about?
Paul Hutner: Yes. The State of Minnesota is developing a Center for Sustainable Aviation Fuels. They call it SAF, the Minnesota Regulatory Economic Development Partnership. They will try to expand this production to MSP Airport. So we will talk to them and see what they are planning and how it can be done. And what is SAF anyway?
Kathy Wurzer: The things you’re involved in. Very interesting.
Paul Huttner: It’s a crowded world.
Kathy Wurzer: It is. Well, have a nice day, thanks.
Paul Hutner: Thanks. You too, Cathy.
KATHY WURZER: That’s Paul Hutner, NPR’s chief meteorologist. By the way, you can listen to Mr. Huttner and Tom Crann Monday through Friday, All Things Considered, right here on NPR News. And check out the Updraft blog on NPRNews.org