Winter strikes back; coldest Thanksgiving in 25 years?

Welcome back the the Weather Midway we call Minnesota.

Roller Coaster
Wikipedia Commons

No tickets needed here. Just step right up for a free ride on Minnesota's famed Weather Roller Coaster; renowned to the the biggest in the nation.

Buckle up tightly as we ride sharp snow dissolving temperature rises, then hang on tightly or throw your hands in the air and scream at will as temperatures crash downhill abruptly.

Wild weekend temperature ride

Was our weekend weather a dream?

I can't recall seeing snow melt as rapidly as it did Saturday evening. One minute I looked at a still white lawn, the next, bare grass had returned.

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Bare grass at Carver park in Victoria Sunday. Paul Huttner/MPR News

The stealthy warm front -- the combination of high humidity, southwest breezes and rapidly rising temps -- acted like a wet Chinook and ate away at 2 inches of snow in a hurry. So nice to see an icy that was dangerous underfoot driveway turn into black asphalt once again.

Here's a closer look at the sharp temperature rise of 48 degrees from Friday morning low of 3 degrees to Sunday's 51 degrees at 4:25 a.m.  Temps crash again as the cold front blasts through late Sunday.

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Sugary metro coating today; heavier snow east

It's as if somebody spilled sugar on the streets outside the Weather Lab this morning. A candy coating of snow graces the metro today.

More significant accumulation of 3 to 5 inches falls east of the St. Croix River along Interstate 94, where winter weather advisories and are in effect. As much as 6-plus inches may fall along I-94 in Wisconsin near Tomah and The Dells.

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Push-pull weather pattern

Get used to big and potentially rapid temperature swings. Minnesota is in what old school meteorologists call a "push-pull" weather pattern.

Strong low pressure systems zipping along a fast moving jet stream overhead push cold Canadian air down on gusty northwest winds like today. Then a much milder air mass is pulled north again as the next low pressure wave approaches a few days later.

Our current scenario features the big temp crash on gusty northwest winds behind a strong storm over Lake Michigan. The next clipper rides in Wednesday with a shot of light snow. Recent track trends suggest a more southerly track, and that may place the heavier band of 2  to 4  inch snows across northern Iowa and southern Minnesota south of the metro.

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Coldest Thanksgiving in 25 years?

Wednesday's clipper drags down another shot of unnecessarily cold Canadian air. Temps hover in the teens for Thanksgiving Day. A Black Friday warm front should pull 30s back into southern Minnesota on milder southerly breezes.

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If  Thursday's high stays nudges 18 degrees, it will tie the coldest Thanksgiving Day in the metro in 25 years. Yes beverages and leftovers will be fine, maybe even frozen, on the porch this year.

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Minnesota Climate Working Group

Here's a closer look at Thanksgiving Day climatology for the Twin Cities from the Minnesota Climate Working Group.

Because Thanksgiving Day occurs at the transition period between autumn and winter, Thanksgiving weather can be balmy to brutal. A typical Thanksgiving Day in the Twin Cities has high temperatures in the 30's and at least a bit of filtered sunshine.

Having a mild day in the 50's on Thanksgiving Day is relatively rare, looking at the historical record back to 1872. A maximum of 50 or more has happened only eleven times in 141 years, or about once every 14 years or so.

The warmest Thanksgiving Day is a tie of 62 degrees set in 1914 and 1922. The mildest recent Thanksgiving Day is 60 degrees which occurred on November 22, 2012. This tied 1939 as the third warmest Thanksgiving back to 1872 for the Twin Cities.

On the other side of the spectrum it is common to have a high temperature below 32. This was the case most recently in 2013 when the high struggled to reach 29. The average Thanksgiving Day temperature is right around freezing. What about extremely cold Thanksgivings?

Looking at the past 141 years, it is a little more likely to have a minimum at or below zero on Thanksgiving Day, as it is to have a maximum of 50 or above. Below-zero lows have occurred nine times in the past 141 years. The coldest Thanksgiving Day minimum temperature was 18 degrees below zero on November 25, 1880.

The coldest high temperature was one below zero on November 28, 1872. The last time it was below zero on the morning of Thanksgiving was in 1985, with eight below zero.

Stay warm Minnesota.

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