~75% of Minnesota in Severe Drought; Wildfire smoke lingers through Saturday (air quality alert in effect) A few showers/t-storms possible late Friday night-Saturday, otherwise mainly dry into early next week

An Air Quality Alert is in effect until 3 PM Friday for pretty much all of Minnesota as wildfire smoke continues to impact the state which is leading to unhealthy air quality conditions.

Smoke has been reducing visibilities across the Northland today – Visibility reports as of 5 PM Thursday, July 29, 2021

Brainerd, MN: 1.5 miles

Bigfork, MN: 2.5 miles

Grand Rapids, MN: 3 miles

Chisholm-Hibbing Airport: 4 miles

Longville, MN: 4 miles

Aitkin, MN: 4 miles

Walker, MN: 5 miles

Moose Lake, MN: 5 miles

Duluth Airport: 6 miles

Solon Springs, WI: 7 miles

Air quality as of 4 PM Thursday, July 29, 2021 was in the very unhealthy category in northwest and western Minnesota (purple colors) with AQI values of 201-300 or higher.

Moderate to unhealthy AQI continued across most of northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin as of late Thursday afternoon, although conditions have improved a bit especially over the Arrowhead of Minnesota.

A look at the 18z HRRR model smoke forecast through 1 PM Saturday shows wildfire smoke (dense at times) continuing to impact much of the upper Midwest. The darker red and purple colors on the loop below represents thick smoke aloft, and some of this smoke like we saw today will likely mix down to the surface from time to time at least through Saturday.

Forest fires continue to burn across Ontario Canada, with thick smoke from those fires pouring south into the upper Midwest today. Note: There are also numerous fires burning over parts of Manitoba and British Columbia.

Orange=Active fires

Yellow=New fires

Thick wildfire smoke has been impacting much of the upper Midwest today (magenta outlined area on map), but there is an area of less smoke (green area on map) which has been moving slowly southeast across northeastern Minnesota this afternoon.

Goes-16 visible satellite loop from Thursday, July 29, 2021.

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Watch the explosion of severe thunderstorms Wednesday evening across Wisconsin, incredible stuff! Basically went from nothing to severe thunderstorms within a half hour’s time Wednesday evening, just after 7 PM.

Satellite loop from Wednesday, July 29, 2021 (7 PM to 12:58 AM)

Numerous severe weather reports with those storms Wednesday evening into Thursday morning, but fortunately for most of the Northland those storms developed a little further south than expected, only impacting far southeast portions of the area, from Burnett County, east to Sawyer County in northwest Wisconsin.

Local Storm Reports from Wednesday, July 29, 2021

Source: https://www.weather.gov/dlh/

  • 8:48 PM: Hail 1.00 inch (quarter size) Remer, MN (Cass County)
  • 8:25 PM: Hail 1.00 inch (quarter size) Federal Dam, MN (Cass County)
  • 7:45 PM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. 6 NW Shell Lake, WI (Washburn County) Several 8 inch popil and maple trees snapped off at a farm, some in sheltered locations.
  • 10:30 AM: Hail 0.50 inch. Squaw Lake, MN (Itasca County)
  • 10:23 AM: Hail 1.00 inch (quarter size) 4 SW Inger, MN (Itasca County)
  • 10:16 AM: Hail 0.50 inch. 2 W Spring Lake, MN (Itasca County)
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Rainfall totals/departure from normal for July 2021 (thru the 29th)

Duluth, MN: 2.74″; -0.96″ below normal

Ashland, WI: 1.80″; -1.86″ below normal

Brainerd, MN: 1.65″; -2.50″ below normal

Hibbing, MN: 1.62″; -2.04″ below normal

International Falls, MN: 1.20″; -2.58″ below normal

Note: Duluth is running -3.56″ below normal in precipitation since June 1st, and -4.31″ below normal since January 1st, and if you go back to last year, Duluth is running -14.23″ below normal in precipitation.

Drought conditions continue to worsen across Minnesota and North Dakota this week, while drought conditions improved slightly in Wisconsin.

Latest Drought Monitor as of July 27, 2021

  • 22% of Minnesota is in D3 or Extreme Drought (red); this is up from 18% last week.
  • 75% of Minnesota is in D2 or Severe Drought (orange); this is up from 71% last week.
  • 97% of Minnesota is in D1 or Moderate Drought (light orange); this is down from 98% last week.
  • 100% of Minnesota is Abnormally Dry; this is unchanged from last week.
  • 2% of Wisconsin is in D2 or Severe Drought (orange); this is unchanged from last week.
  • 27% of Wisconsin is in D1 or Moderate Drought (light orange); this is down from 28% last week.
  • 46% of Wisconsin is Abnormally Dry (yellow); this is down from 52% last week.
  • 10% of North Dakota is in D4 or Exceptional Drought (dark red); this is up from 8% last week.
  • 52% of North Dakota is in D3 or Extreme Drought (red); this is up from 48% last week.
  • 97% of North Dakota is in D2 or Severe Drought (orange); this is up from 96% last week.
  • 100% of North Dakota is in Moderate Drought and is Abnormally Dry.
  • 3% of the Midwest is in D3 or Extreme Drought (red); this is unchanged from last week.
  • 16% of the Midwest is in D2 or Severe Drought (orange); this is up from 15% last week.
  • 27% of the Midwest is in D1 or Moderate Drought (light orange); this is unchanged from last week.
  • 34% of the Midwest is Abnormally Dry; this is down from 35% last week.

Even with recent rains, soil moisture is still very dry across much of Minnesota, with 0-100cm soil moisture percentiles of <2 to 5% in the dark red and red colors.

USDA Topsoil Moisture map as of July 25, 2021

Red=Very Dry

Yellow=Dry

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Near to slightly warmer than normal temps are expected in the Northland on Friday with highs in the upper 70s to middle 80s, but if wildfire smoke is too thick, then we could see temps a couple degrees cooler.

We could see a few showers or thunderstorms across far northern Minnesota late Friday afternoon or Friday night – See radar forecast below.

18z NAM 3km model simulated radar forecast valid 7 AM to Midnight Friday.

Average temperatures/departure from normal for July 2021

Brainerd, MN: 72.0 F; +2.2 degrees above normal

International Falls, MN: 68.8 F; +4.1 degrees above normal

Duluth, MN: 68.2 F; +1.2 degrees above normal

Ashland, WI: 66.4 F; -0.1 degrees below normal

Hibbing, MN: 65.5 F; +1.9 degrees above normal

Average temps this month have ranged from above normal across the north, to below normal farther to the south.

Not a bad temperature forecast for Duluth through August 8th, with highs near to slightly warmer than average, but no extreme heat (90+ temps)

Normal highs in Duluth from July 30th to August 8th range from 77 to 78 degrees, with normal lows of 56 to 57 degrees.

Tim

Strong to Severe Thunderstorms still expected late this afternoon/evening over parts of the Northland – Updated 3 PM 7/28/2021

Conditions are still coming together for the potential of a higher end severe weather event from late this afternoon into this evening, primarily over far eastern Minnesota into parts of northwest Wisconsin. Primary severe weather hazards include large hail of golf ball to baseball size (1.75″ to 2.75″ in diameter) Damaging wind gusts of 65-85 mph and a risk for isolated tornadoes. I think the orange outlined area on the map below is where the greatest potential for severe weather will be in the Northland until around 9 PM tonight, that’s not to say a few severe storms won’t occur farther north and west, but the greatest chances based on what I’m seeing this afternoon would be in that orange outlined area.

Note: Scattered showers and thunderstorms and a risk for severe weather continues in Duluth and Superior until around 8 PM this evening.

Goes-16 visible satellite loop from Wednesday, July 28, 2021.

Storm Prediction Center Severe Weather Outlook as of 3 PM Wednesday.

18z NAM 3km model simulated radar forecast through Midnight tonight.

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There’s an impressive temperature gradient in place today, with temperatures this afternoon ranging from 95 to 105 degrees from west-central and southern Minnesota, west into South Dakota, while 70s and 80s were common farther north in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin.

Lots of moisture in place for storms today with dew points in the mid 60s to upper 70s across the upper Midwest.

Also have a lot of warm air aloft, or a cap with 700mb temps of +14C pushing ENE out of southwest Minnesota this afternoon…Often times will see storms or clusters of storms develop while they move from NW-SE on the edge of this cap, or on the N/E side of said cap (black outlined area)

It’s taking a bit longer for the higher instability to work its way into eastern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin this afternoon, this is due in part to lingering cloud cover and scattered convection which has lingered into early this afternoon, but there is still a pool of very unstable air lurking to our SW as of 3 PM today, and at least some of this will push into the aforementioned areas through 5-6 PM today.

Plenty of wind shear for storms to tap into today with 50-60 knots of surface to 6km shear in place.

Storm relative helicity values of 100 m2/s2 to 200 m2/s2 over central Minnesota this afternoon will also move farther east through this evening, this combined with around 20-25 knots of surface to 1km shear could lead to an isolated tornado risk across parts of northwest Wisconsin and possibly into far eastern Minnesota from ~5 PM to 8 PM this evening.

Tim

Strong to Severe Thunderstorms likely over parts of the Northland today (Wednesday) Updated outlook

Conditions appear to be coming together for a higher end severe weather day across the Northland, but especially from far eastern Minnesota into northwest Wisconsin. Stay Weather Aware today! Note: Multiple rounds of storms could impact some parts of the Northland through this evening.

Severe thunderstorms capable of producing widespread damaging wind gusts, very large hail and possible tornadoes are expected late this afternoon and this evening across far east-central Minnesota into much of Wisconsin.

There is a Moderate Risk (4/5) for severe thunderstorms (red area) for today over far southeast portions of the Northland, generally along and east of a line from Pine City to Hinckley, and south of a line from around Solon Springs to Hayward to Winter. Note: Moderate risks aren’t issued very often in the Northland.

An enhanced (orange) and slight (yellow) risk for severe thunderstorms covers areas farther north and northwest of the Moderate risk area, while a marginal risk (dark green) covers far northern Minnesota into portions of the Arrowhead.

Timing: Scattered showers and thunderstorms could begin in the Northland this morning, but chances for strong to severe storms are greatest from this afternoon through this evening (~2 PM to 9 PM) Storms are expected to move southeastward through the area.

Note: The severe weather outlook from the Storm Prediction Center is updated a few times a day, with the next update coming by 8 this morning, and another one around 11:30 this morning, so will see if any changes are made to their outlook at those times.

Today’s severe weather risk is maxed out in the MODERATE category, or a 4 out of 5. A pretty good chance for severe weather.

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06z NAM 3km model simulated radar forecast valid from 7 AM to midnight Wednesday.

06z HRRR model simulated radar forecast valid from 7 AM to midnight Wednesday.

Tim

Strong to Severe Thunderstorms possible in parts of the Northland Wednesday

Another round of scattered strong to severe thunderstorms is possible across northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin from Wednesday afternoon into Wednesday evening. The greatest chance for severe weather (Enhanced risk, orange area on map) stretches from eastern Minnesota into much of west-central Wisconsin, or roughly along and south of a line from Moose Lake to Solon Springs to Hayward.

Primary severe weather threats on Wednesday include

Large hail to 2 inches in diameter (Golf Ball to Hen Egg size)

Damaging Winds to 75 mph

A tornado or two possible in the enhanced risk area

Stay Weather Aware on Wednesday

Setup for Wednesday, July 28, 2021 is pretty similar to Monday’s setup, but Wednesday’s setup has a bit more instability to work with, but whether or not that leads to a bigger severe weather event or not remains to be seen.

An area of low pressure (red L on map) initially over eastern North Dakota Wednesday morning moves SE during the day while a frontal boundary (more or less a stationary front) across central Minnesota moves S-SE later in the day. Should get enough forcing near the low and frontal boundary for thunderstorm development on Wednesday.

Instability looks impressive on model guidance, with potential for CAPE to reach into the 2000-4000 J/kg range across western-southern portions of the Northland, but a lot of the CAPE this far north may remain elevated and not so much surface-based as it looks like our area won’t get into the warm sector of this system, with that said there still will be plenty of fuel for severe storms and possible elevated supercells (large hail/damaging wind threat) in parts of our area on Wednesday.

Strong winds aloft combined with strong wind shear (speed and directional) SW winds at 850mb/NW winds at 500mb could lead to a few rotating supercell thunderstorms over eastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin later Wednesday afternoon, this along with steep mid level lapse rates could increase the risk for large hail in the aforementioned areas.

Note: If surface-based instability does make it this far north, then we could see a tornado threat materialize late Wednesday afternoon-early evening with good shear in place…SE winds near the surface, SW at 850mb, NW at 500mb. This threat would be greatest over far southern portions of the Northland, around Hinckley and Pine City, east toward Siren and Spooner.

18z HRRR model updraft helicity forecast for Wednesday is showing some high values (orange, red, purple colors) for potential rotating supercell thunderstorms.

A very muggy air mass with dew points of 65 to 75+ degrees covered a large portion of the upper Midwest today while less humid conditions were found across northern Minnesota.

Wednesday looks muggy across most of the Northland with dew points in the 60s and lower 70s, but a drier air mass returns starting on Thursday.

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Looks like will have quite a thermal gradient on Wednesday, with a hot air mass to our SW, 925mb temps of +30 to as warm as +40C, while cooler air will be found over the Arrowhead — Scattered storm clusters could ride the edge of this temperature gradient on Wednesday (yellow outlined area) as they move southeast on the edge of the hottest temperatures.

100 or near 100 degree temperatures are possible on Wednesday over parts of west-central and southern Minnesota, while temps as hot as 105 degrees are possible over eastern South Dakota.

Note: 17 days so far this month at or above 80 in Duluth, normal in July is 11 days at or above 80. Record is 25 days at or above 80 set in July of 2012.

More or less a Ring of Fire pattern right now where intense heat is located farther to our SW, while disturbances and frontal boundaries move up and over where an upper level ridge is located (blue H on map) Storm clusters tend to track on the N/E side of the most intense heat. This pattern breaks down after Wednesday.

Goes-16 water vapor loop from Tuesday, July 26, 2021.

A look at two computer model simulated radar forecasts for Wednesday (7 AM to Midnight)

Both models do show a few rounds of showers and thunderstorms impacting a large portion of the Northland Wednesday.

18z NAM 3km

18z HRRR

Anywhere from 0.10 to 0.75″ of rain is possible in the Northland on Wednesday, with higher amounts >1″ likely if you get a thunderstorm or a few thunderstorms.

Precipitation stats for Duluth, Minnesota – As I’ve alluded to numerous times, it’s going to take time to erase our precipitation deficit/drought not only in Duluth, but elsewhere in the Northland.

Month to date rainfall total: 2.68″ (-0.81″ below normal)

Rainfall since June 1: 4.47″ (-3.41″ below normal)

Precipitation since January 1, 2021: 13.04″ (-4.16″ below normal)

More Storm Reports from July 26-27, 2021

Source: https://www.weather.gov/dlh/

  • 1:40 AM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. Radisson, WI (Sawyer County) Multiple pine trees uprooted.
  • 12:06 AM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. Port Wing, WI (Bayfield County) Multiple trees reported down in Port Wing.
  • 10:57 PM: Hail 1.75 inch (Golf Ball size) 5 SE Superior, WI (Douglas County)
  • 9:03 PM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. Gordon, WI (Douglas County) Downed tree in Gordon.
  • 8:26 PM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. Superior, WI (Douglas County) Trees down around Superior.
  • 7:05 PM: Hail 1.75 inch (Golf Ball size) 3 E La Prairie, MN (Itasca County)
  • 6:50 PM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. Deer River, MN (Itasca County) A few trees were reported down in Deer River.
  • 6:17 PM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. 1 SSE Jessie Lake, MN (Itasca County) Damage along the shore of Jessie Lake. A dock was overturned along with a boat lift. The pontoon boat on the lift was also overturned.
  • 6:12 PM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. Side Lake, MN (St. Louis County) Tree and dock damage around Side Lake.
  • 6:00 PM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. Wirt, MN (Itasca County) Snapped power pole in Wirt.

Tim

July 26-27, 2021 Severe Weather Recap

Additional Storm Reports from July 26-27, 2021

Source: https://www.weather.gov/dlh/

  • 5:33 AM: Hail 0.50 inch. 1 W Webb Lake, WI (Burnett County)
  • 1:31 AM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. 6 N Winter, WI (Sawyer County) A few smaller trees down and the top of a bigger tree down due to damaging winds.
  • 1:09 AM: Hail 1.50 inch (Ping Pong Ball size) Hayward, WI (Sawyer County)
  • 12:45 AM: Hail 0.50 inch. 2 WSW Namekagon, WI (Bayfield County)
  • 12:34 AM: Hail 0.50 inch. 3 WNW Clam Lake, WI (Bayfield County)
  • 12:10 AM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. 4 NW Namekagon, WI (Bayfield County) Trees down on powerlines causing power outage.
  • 12:00 AM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. 3 WNW Namekagon, WI (Bayfield County) 8 inch tree down.
  • 11:55 PM: Hail 1.00 inch (Quarter size) 4 NW Namekagon, WI (Bayfield County)
  • 11:38 PM: Hail 1.00 inch (Quarter size) Maple, WI (Douglas County)
  • 11:30 PM: Hail 1.00 inch (Quarter size) Brule, WI (Douglas County)
  • 11:20 PM: Hail 3.00 inch (Tea Cup size) 2 ESE Poplar, WI (Douglas County)
  • 11:10 PM: Hail 1.50 inch (Ping Pong Ball size) 3 NNW Poplar, WI (Douglas County)
  • 11:00 PM: Hail 2.00 inch (Hen Egg size) Superior, WI (Douglas County)
  • 11:00 PM: Hail 3.00 inch (Tea Cup size) 1 ESE Poplar, WI (Douglas County)
  • 11:00 PM: Hail 2.50 inch (Tennis Ball size) 1 WSW Maple, WI (Douglas County)
  • 10:03 PM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. Mercer, WI (Iron County) Multiple trees down in town of Mercer.
  • 9:53 PM: Thunderstorm Wind Gust 47 mph. 3 SW Ashland, WI (Ashland County)
  • 9:45 PM: Thunderstorm Wind Gust 48 mph. 2 ENE Hayward, WI (Sawyer County)
  • 9:12 PM: Hail 1.00 inch (Quarter size) 4 SE Silica, MN or 12 S Hibbing, MN (St. Louis County)
  • 9:03 PM: Marine Thunderstorm Wind 48 mph. 5 ENE Washburn, WI
  • 8:10 PM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. 2 WSW Lester Park, MN (St. Louis County) Large portion of a 50-60 foot tree broke off, taking out power line.
  • 7:40 PM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. Jacobson, MN (Aitkin County) Trees down in Jacobson.
  • 7:36 PM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. 1 SSE Two Harbors, MN (Lake County) Top part of a healthy pine tree knocked over, puncturing garage roof.
  • 7:13 PM: Hail 1.00 inch (Quarter size) 3 S Bovey, MN (Itasca County)
  • 7:00 PM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. 1 WNW Zim, MN (St. Louis County) 16 inch tree uprooted.
  • 6:50 PM: Thunderstorm Wind Damage. 3 NW Skibo, MN (St. Louis County) Tree down in Bassett Township.
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A look at all the warnings the Duluth NWS issued from July 26 to July 27, 2021, and hail tracks.

Zoomed in view of the Twin Ports showing the storm reports from Monday.

Zoomed out view showing storm reports from July 26-27, 2021.

We don’t see supercell thunderstorms too often around here, especially closer to Lake Superior, but Monday was an exception as we saw three supercells in a broken line move southeast out of Itasca and west-central St. Louis Counties.

An impressive looking radar image from Monday evening as a supercell was moving into Duluth.

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Central and southern portions of the Northland picked up some decent rainfall on Monday, while far northern Minnesota and the Arrowhead saw little to no rain.

Rainfall Totals from July 26 to July 27, 2021

Source: https://mesowest.utah.edu/

  • Hayward, WI: 2.76″
  • Clam Lake, WI: 2.27″
  • Solon Springs, WI: 1.30″
  • Glidden, WI: 1.23″
  • Washburn, WI: 1.21″
  • Saginaw, MN: 1.15″
  • Duluth Airport: 1.05″
  • Eveleth-Virginia, MN: 0.99″
  • Ashland, WI: 0.85″
  • Cass Lake, MN: 0.85″
  • Barnes, WI: 0.84″
  • Skibo, MN: 0.83″
  • Hinckley, MN: 0.74″
  • Two Harbors, MN: 0.74″
  • Superior Airport: 0.68″
  • Chisholm-Hibbing Airport: 0.35″
  • Bigfork, MN: 0.28″
  • Cloquet, MN: 0.23″
  • Minong, WI: 0.21″
  • Isabella, MN: 0.09″
  • Orr, MN: 0.09″
  • Littlefork, MN: 0.07″
  • Ely, MN: 0.04″
  • Grand Marais, MN: 0.03″
  • Grand Rapids, MN: 0.03″
  • Hill City, MN: 0.02″

Note: Rainfall total of 1.05″ at the Duluth Airport on July 26, 2021 was the greatest calendar day rainfall total in Duluth since June 20, 2021 when 1.06″ of rain fell.

*Duluth Airport picked up 2.39″ of rain over the last 4 days (July 23-26, 2021) Normal rainfall during that period is 0.44″. Our rainfall total in the last 4 days was 543% of normal in Duluth, or in other words well above average!

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Power Outage Maps as of 12:17 PM Tuesday, July 27, 2021

MN Power: 9 outages affecting ~40 customers.

Note: At the height of last night’s storms, MN Power reported ~13,000 customers were without power.

Lake Country Power: 94 outages affecting ~970 members.

Tim