<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> November 2004 Saint Cloud Weather Summary
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This Month's Daily Statistics

Saint Cloud Weather Summary for November 2004 and Fall 2004

A Foggy, Cloudy Heat Wave?

    As has been the case for the past two months, November 2004 in Saint Cloud was a mild month. The November 2004 average temperature at the Saint Cloud Regional Airport was 34.6°F, 5.8°F above normal. However, November 2004 only ranks as the 24th warmest out of 124 Novembers in Saint Cloud recorded history. In fact, November 1999 (37.4°F; 5th warmest) and November 2001 (41.8°F; warmest) were considerably warmer than this past month. Both of those years were also warmer in a pleasant way. There were 4 new record warm temperatures set in 2001 and 6 record warm temperatures set in 1999, including highs in the 60's. (November daily records here) Even 1998, with an average high of 33.7°F, produced the warmest Thanksgiving weekend on record with highs in the upper 50's. (Ten warmest/coldest Novembers on record here) November 2004 had many days with above normal warmth, but rarely approached any record high temperatures. The main reason was the cloudy weather that frequently accompanied the warm spells. Both the average high (44.0°F) and the average low temperature (25.2°F) were 5-7°F warmer than normal, but nearly all of the 50+ high temperatures happened in the first 10 days of the month. After that, almost all of the warm days were cloudy, keeping the temperatures mainly in the 40's during the warm spells. (Daily November high/low/precipitation)

     However, the mild November capped off an extremely warm fall (September 1 - November 30). The average 2004 fall temperature was 48.8°F, 5.0°F above normal. The fall of 2004 tied 1899 as the 8th warmest fall in Saint Cloud history and the warmest fall since 1963. This fall did push the fall of 1998 (48.6°F) to 10th place and the fall of 2001 (48.5°F) to 11th place. All three months of fall 2004 had average temperatures well above normal, led by the 9th warmest September on record. (Ten warmest/coldest falls on record here)

     The year 2004 now contains the 8th warmest fall which immediately followed a summer that tied for the 4th coldest. There has never been a year before 2004 that had one of the 10 coldest summers followed by one of the 10 warmest falls. The closest were 1915 (3rd coldest summer followed by the 20th warmest fall) and 1958 (7th coldest summer followed by the 33rd warmest fall). (Ten warmest/coldest summers on record here)

     While November 2004 continued the mild trend of the previous two months, this past month was much drier than normal. Only .54 inch fell at the Saint Cloud Airport, an inch below normal. Despite the cloudiness, there was measurable precipitation during only 5 of the 30 days of the past month. Even through it is normal to have fewer precipitation days in November through March, this was the fewest number of precipitation days since January. This dry November brought the fall precipitation to 9.10 inches, more than 2 inches above normal and the 18th wettest fall in Saint Cloud records.

     The lack of precipitation was also reflected in the snowfall. Only 0.2 inch fell at the official Saint Cloud reporting site, all of which fell on the 27th. At Saint Cloud State University, there were two days with measurable snowfall, 0.1 inch on Thanksgiving afternoon and 0.3 inch last Saturday morning. SCSU also had some freezing rain on the 26th and a few flakes in the air on the morning of November 9th. The normal November snowfall is 8.8 inches. This does not, however, rank as one of the 10 most snowless Novembers since there have been 11 Novembers in which Saint Cloud has picked up either no snow or no accumulation. Obviously, we haven't had our first one inch snowfall yet, but it's not that late yet. The 1951-1980 normal for the first one-inch snowfall is November 21. Since 0.2 inches is also the total snowfall for the fall thus far, fall 2004 has had the 8th lowest snowfall in Saint Cloud records. The normal snowfall through November should be 9.6 inches.

     At this point in the cold season, there are a few pieces of bad information. First of all, is the scant snowfall a sign of another snowless winter like the past several years? There are two problems with this statement. First, a late start to the snow season does not mean a low snowfall year. While the scant Saint Cloud snowfall thus far is the lowest seasonal snowfall total since 1928, that winter of 1928-1929 had a total snowfall was 51.4 inches, a few inches above the normal total of 46.8 inches. Also, contrary to many reports, we've had a streak of mild winters (6 of the past 7 winters), but we have not had below normal snowfall during these years. The historic Saint Cloud snowfall table shows that the seasonal snowfall has been more than 3 inches below normal during only 3 of those 7 past winters. In fact, we have had more than 50 inches of snowfall during 3 of the past 4 winters, including last year. The difference in the recent years is the lack of persistent snow cover. During several recent winters, the longest period of continuous snow cover was 6-8 weeks. Only during the winter of 2001-2002 did Saint Cloud have continuous snow cover from mid-November through early April.

     The other major false story being spread is that our winter weather is predictable. Recent forecasts of winter weather have been poor with several of our mild winters forecast to be colder than normal. There has been a fair amount of attention given to the El Nino event, the existence of warmer than normal water in the Tropical Pacific. When the water temperature is significantly warmer than normal, the basic steering wind patterns often rearrange themselves to create a strong storm track across either the Gulf Coast or from the Southern Rockies into the Great Lakes. Cold air tends to be blocked in central Canada, producing a mild winter in the Northern Plains from Minnesota and the Dakotas into the Canadian Prairie Provinces. However, this year's El Nino is a fairly weak one, so there is a lot of uncertainty how much influence the Tropical Pacific can have over North America.

     The part of the winter forecast that I support is that the steering winds have usually set up in a recurring pattern by this time. Once that dominant pattern has set up, we usually keep it with a few breaks through February. During the past month, a recurring pattern has set up, but one that has a lot of potential variation. The reason for our mild, cloudy, and dry November is that we have been caught between two major branches of steering winds. One has steered strong, slow-moving storms from the Southern Rockies to Oklahoma, then through Missouri and into Michigan or extreme eastern Wisconsin. This storm track has produced major snowfall in the southern and central Rockies (which is badly needed to ensure a good water supply to Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, and other major Southwest US cities), the flooding rains and tornado outbreaks from Texas across the Southeastern US, lots of rain along the East Coast, and some moderate snowfalls, by Minnesota standards in Kansas City, Saint Louis, Nebraska, Missouri, Chicago, and other places to our south. Since this current has mainly kept storms far to the south and east of Minnesota, most of the deep moisture from the Gulf of Mexico has been kept away from Minnesota.

    The second main steering current has meandered from the Canadian West Coast or Alaska either across central Canada or across the Northern Tier of the US east of the Rockies, then pushing back into Ontario and Quebec. When the steering current has moved across Minnesota, we've had some outbreaks of colder air. When the storm track has stayed to our north, the cold air has been blocked and we've had our mild periods. However, most of those mild periods have been cloudy because Minnesota has been in a relatively dead spot between the two main currents. I feel fairly confident that this will be the dominant flow pattern.

       The problem with this pattern is that there are too many possible variations in the double storm track. Some of the time, the coldest air has been blocked. Some of the time, the northern stream has allowed the colder air to drain in. We've missed most of the snowfall because the southern storm track has been off to our south and east. However, by meteorological standards, there have been several near misses in which the area of moderate to heavy snow has been in Wisconsin and Iowa.a near miss by meteorological standards. The forecasts of big Minnesota storms at time were based on the two storm. As I've pointed out in my daily forecasts, this phase-in of the two streams is a relatively rare event. However, it does tend to happen maybe once or twice a month. If we get hit by one of these major storms, the snow cover would have a drastic effect on our temperatures.

       So, while a steering wind pattern has set up, the double steering wind pattern can produce a lot of variation. Right now, I am leaning towards a drier than normal winter in terms of melted precipitation, because moisture supply to Minnesota has been cut off. I would also say that we will probably have another short snow cover year, since snow depth is well below normal through much of southern Canada. However, I won't hazard a guess about the seasonal snowfall. If we don't have much snow cover, it will be hard to keep temperatures below normal, so I'm more confident about a milder than normal winter. However, I would guess that our warm days will tend to be cloudy and foggy rather than sunny and warm.

    So, that's my thinking right now. We'll find out if this forecast ends up in the recycling pile as the winter goes on.

    November 2004 Statistics
Fall (September 1-November 30) 2004 Statistics

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Last updated: 1-December-2003
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