Migrating birds are keeping Minnesota radars busy

The weekend ahead brings a mix of warm and wet

Following a couple morning sprinkles Thursday, dry skies prevail through Saturday. That lack of significant rain is making it very obvious that some of our recent radar activity is due to active bird migration.

According to bird experts, the coming weekend should be particularly active for migration. Birds often take off after sunset and migrate nocturnally. Because of the large number of birds starting to move at about the same time, their activity can be enough to produce returns on weather radars. 

To the untrained eye, this may look like precipitation, but the pattern they make (often a “bloom” on the radar) along with the energy of the return can help determine when a return is not caused by precipitation.

weather graphic
Radar analysis to determine non-precipitation
National Weather Service

Here is a look at what all those migrating birds looked like on the radar Wednesday night: 

You can see the contrast versus the actual rain that was moving into northwestern Minnesota at the same time.

(A special thanks to the Duluth National Weather Service for the great radar captures!)

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Thursday’s forecast

A cold front moved through most of the state overnight, and as of 9 a.m. it has already passed through all but the southeastern corner of Minnesota. It will continue to clear south of the state by midday.

A few light rain showers and sprinkles are moving along with the front, with sunshine quickly returning behind it.

Despite that system, morning temperatures were seasonable, with most of Minnesota in the 40s and a few 30s north.

Cooler air behind the front drops northern Minnesota back into the 50s for highs versus Wednesday’s mild 60s and a few 70s. Southern Minnesota keeps highs in the 60s.

weather graphic
Thursday forecast high temperatures
National Weather Service

Skies remain mostly sunny except for places yet to see the front go through.

Winds turn breezier behind the front, so most of Minnesota can expect gusts of 20 mph by the afternoon. 

weather graphic
Thursday afternoon wind forecast
National Weather Service

Extended forecast

Friday is the last day of April, and we end the month on a seasonable note, with 50s north and 60s south and west. Skies stay mostly sunny.

Ahead of another storm system, much warmer air funnels across Minnesota Saturday, putting most of the state 10 to 15 degrees above average, with highs predominantly in the 70s and 80s.

weather graphic
Saturday forecast high temperatures
National Weather Service

By Sunday, that storm brings in widespread cloud cover again, along with chances for showers and storms. 

weather graphic
Forecast precipitation location Sunday evening
Tropical Tidbits

The grayer, wetter weather already cools Minnesota back into the 60s and low 70s Sunday. Then, behind the storm, temperatures tumble even more Monday, putting the state back into the 50s and low 60s. Here are the forecast highs for the Twin Cities showing that drop:

weather graphic
Twin Cities forecast highs through Tuesday
National Weather Service

The forecast Monday and Tuesday is actually closer to average for early May (a couple degrees below average), but it will be a noticeable change from Saturday’s warmth.

Programming note

You can hear my live weather updates on Minnesota Public Radio at 7:49 a.m. Mondays through Fridays.