What the hail’s going on?

Extended 10 day forecast: Cold with hot flashesrelentless winter lingers, teasing minnesotans with scant peaks at spring

Persistent winter. Icy northern lakes. Snow in the end of April. Delayed spring.

However people have chosen to talk about this spring, it has certainly been a freakish one in comparison with recent years.

But one household name in Twin Cities’ weather expertise said Minnesotans have been just plain spoiled the past few years when it comes to springtime temperatures.

“Now that we’re having more of a typical spring, I think Minnesotans are wondering what’s up,” said Paul Douglas, a former WCCO weatherman who’s now starting his own online venture in forecasting, WeatherNation.

This winter might have been more “old fashioned,” he said, likening it to the late ’70s and early ’80s. But spring has the “most volatile weather,” no matter which year, he added.

Spring is projected to continue in a bit of a funk, “mostly because of the persistence of winter, but not so much because of winter being extreme,” Mark Seeley, the University’s extension climatologist, said.

He consults with farmers around the state about soil and the weather, and cited April 2008 as a Minnesota snowfall inch-count record-breaker.

“Our farmers haven’t been this far behind since spring of ’96” in essential crops, like corn and soybeans, where early planting is key, Seeley added.

With this winter ranking 40th coldest of the last 113 years, Seeley said it’s “technically in the cold part of the distribution, but not extreme by any means,” quelling any fears or suspicions as to the sudden and immediate oncoming of global warming.

“Climate change is about looking at a much, much wider temporal context across the decades,” Seeley said.

Although last weekend continued the rollercoaster ride of hots and colds, out of cold chills and straight up to warm thrills, don’t be surprised at another dip in the forecast, and cooler-than-normal temperatures lingering for the next few weeks.

Brisk, Canadian-chilled air could zip back down as soon as Wednesday, forecasters said.

Cold temperatures are reverberating across most of the nation because of a powerful jet stream from Canada that’s been hitting Minnesota and surrounding states with a smack of cold air and smiting any southern upstream of warm air.

“We’ve had winters like this before,” Jim Richardson, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, said. “It’s not like there’s all of a sudden a big change.”

A nasty ‘little girl’

This cold but not freakishly frigid spring is caused by an unpredictable El Niño or La Niña presence that sets the warm or chilly tone for a year.

In El Niño (“Christ child” in Spanish) years, Pacific waters are warmer, creating the potential for mass worldwide destruction in the form of draughts, flooding, fires and mudslides.

But El Niño is actually friendlier to the upper Midwest and East Coast of the United States, where it brings warmer weather inland and a decrease in hurricanes to the coast.

La Niña (“little girl” in Spanish) is a feisty little beast of a weather pattern.

Unfortunately, the mean girl is back this year.

Her cold sea temperatures mean an equally cold, wet winter and spring for Minnesota.

But hope may be on the horizon, said Richardson, who’s expecting a “normal” summer and warmer-than-normal winter coming up, with no spunky Niña in sight for next winter.

Douglas said there’s clear evidence of a strong correlation between La Niña seasons and more severe weather like thunderstorms and tornadoes, which have been relatively light in recent years.

This year, Douglas expects “more severe storms and more beneficial rains for farmers and gardeners.”

But, in the words of Douglas, who’s been in the weather business for more than 30 years, “anything beyond a few days is more of a wing and a prayer than a forecast.”