Tuesday - March 11, 2008 05:05 PM
Spring is finally here--after months of nearly-continuous days below freezing, the temperature shot up to 50 degrees today. Thank the intense sunlight (we're now getting as much sun each day as we did at the end of September) and favorable westerly winds.
To be precise, our home weather station recorded a high of 49.7, which while it isn't precisely 50, it is close enough if you round to the nearest degree. Hence the asterisk.
When it's 50 outside and bright sunshine, the house stays at a comfortable temperature all by itself: I let the stove go out, despite the fact that I'm home this afternoon (with a cold). I can practically see the snow disappearing before my eyes, and the highs are forecast to stay above 40 for pretty much the rest of the week. By this weekend, the snow cover which has persisted since early December may be completely gone.
I love all the seasons in Minnesota, but Spring is easily my favorite, followed closely by Fall. I love those moments when we pass through Perfect while going from one extreme to the other.
Posted at 05:05 PM | Permalink |
Sunday - February 03, 2008 11:29 AM
2007-2008 is the first Real Winter(tm) we've gotten in the Frozen North in a few years. A reasonable amount of snow, subzero temperatures, the whole nine yards.
Plus a new feature this year: the Temperature Roller Coaster. Most years, when we go into the deep freeze, we get a week or maybe ten days of consistently subzero temperatures, barely struggling into positive territory in the mid-afternoon if at all. This time around, we're getting short little bursts of bitterly cold temperature, followed by a warmup a day or two later, and then another plunge a few days to a week or two after that.
This week was especially remarkable, as shown in the graph:
Over a 36-hour period, we went from +45 degrees to -15 degrees, a 60-degree swing. In the temperature plot you can almost see the exact minute the arctic cold front passed our house.
The weather service likes to measure these things in nice 24-hour chunks, and on that basis this was apparently the biggest drop in decades. It was a little surreal to be walking around outside with no jacket on Monday, then all bundled up and worried about the car starting on Tuesday.
Welcome to Minnesota.
This week, they're forecasting a snowstorm on Monday, and more moderate temperatures (nothing below zero). We're past the midpoint of winter, there's noticeably more daylight now than back in late December, and it will get harder and harder for those arctic airmasses to compete against the warmer air coming from the Gulf of Mexico.
We've also now completely consumed the five cords or so of firewood I'd stockpiled in the garage, so I'm now starting to move wood in from the outside piles. The wood in the garage lasted until February, almost exactly as long as I'd predicted. The supply is looking good, though I'm spending a fair amount of time picking through the piles to find the best wood to burn while it's still relatively cold out. The lighter wood (mostly cottonwood) is best for burning in the spring, when we don't need to keep the stove going all the time. It just burns too fast for the middle of winter. The biggest problem is that I've still got something like eight cords of cottonwood, most of it in large unsplit pieces. That's almost half a season's worth of wood, which is good, but there's so much of it that I'll be spending a lot of time splitting, stacking, and moving it.
On the other hand, it was all free. Beggars can't be choosers.
Posted at 11:29 AM | Permalink |
Wednesday - December 26, 2007 12:38 PM
I've had some annoyances with the old software I was using to upload the current weather to Weather Underground, so I've switched to a different software package and a new weather page right here on the blog.
The current weather at the Frozen North is here. The page will update every five minutes, and I'm going to add some history graphs when I get the chance. One benefit of the new page is that I can now display the temperature and humidity inside the house, which Weather Underground wouldn't support.
I'm still trying to find a fix for one significant bug, that the USB driver for the interface to the weather station crashes with some regularity. The symptom on the weather page is that the current conditions are all blank, and fixing it requires either unplugging the USB cord to the weather station, or rebooting the computer.
For now, I've got the computer set to reboot overnight, but I'd really like to find a more permanent fix. If anyone knows about fixing a flaky Silicon Labs USB driver on Mac OS X, let me know. I've already done the obvious stuff like making sure I have the most current drivers, and I'm not the only person to report the problem.
Posted at 12:38 PM | Permalink |
Saturday - September 22, 2007 03:08 PM
Those reading this in a web browser (as opposed to in an RSS reader) will notice a cool new feature in the left hand column: a real-time display of the current weather conditions at Frozen North HQ.
There's also a page with more detailed weather conditions.
This is data uploaded in real time from my new home weather station, with the display provided courtesy of Weather Underground.
So if you ever want to know just how frozen it is at the Frozen North, now you know.
Posted at 03:08 PM | Permalink |
Saturday - September 22, 2007 02:57 PM
Posted at 02:57 PM | Permalink |
Sunday - September 02, 2007 02:39 PM
I freely admit to being a weather geek. Six years ago, on a whim, I purchased an Oregon Scientific home weather station and installed it on my roof. This is a set of three wireless sensors (temperature/humidity, rain gauge, and anemometer [aka wind measuring gizmo]). The outside sensors transmit their measurements to an indoor base station where you can view the current conditions on a backlit LCD screen.
Aside from enabling meteorological geeking out ("Wow, I can't believe the dewpoint hit 78 degrees!"), this is largely useless. But it's cool, and I've really enjoyed having it. After some time, She Who Puts Up With Me grudgingly admitted that it's nice to be able to tell just how hot/cold/humid/windy/wet it is without having to go outside.
Unfortunately, the Oregon Scientific weather station was pretty much a piece of junk. The weatherproof seals on the solar-powered transmitters weren't, and the anemometer failed completely within a few months of the time I installed it. The anemometer was never very accurate to begin with, thanks to my poor siting and installation, so I didn't mind too much.
A few weeks ago, the rain gauge failed, leaving just the temperature/humidity sensor. It was time to get a new weather station.
This time, I did some research. Knowing that I actually use the weather station on a daily basis, it was worth spending the time and money to get a good quality replacement and installing it properly.
I settled on the Davis Vantage Pro2 wireless weather station. It's more expensive than the Oregon Scientific model, but boasts a number of advantages: a higher quality sensor suite, all the sensors integrated into a single unit, a more precise rain gauge (measuring in increments of 0.01", rather than 1mm), better console displays, and--perhaps most importantly--consistently raving comments online about the company's support for its products.
I mounted the old sensor suite on a TV antenna pole on the roof above our great room (see photo). There were a number of problems with this mounting: the anemometer was actually below the highest point on our roof, leading to errors with the wind speed and direction; the pole was not exactly vertical, so the rain gauge was probably slightly off; the temperature sensor was unshielded, and (despite my best efforts) was in the sun in the early mornings and late evenings. I also don't like climbing on the roof, so maintenance was a chore and rarely happened.
It made things worse that the Oregon Scientific setup had three separate sensors, which meant a lot of complexity in trying to get all three onto the same pole. In retrospect it might have made more sense to locate each sensor in a different place around the house, but I didn't think of that at the time.
In contrast, the new Davis unit has all the sensors in a single package (though the anemometer can be mounted separately), which makes it easy to attach to a pole. Rather than a rooftop mount, I decided to put the sensors on a 30-foot pole attached to the side of the house, with the base of the pole on a balcony. This is high enough to get the sensors several feet above the highest point on the roof.
My first attempt at mounting the sensors was with 1.25" galvanized pipe. This turned out to be much too heavy: close to 100 lbs of pole for a six pound package at the top. It was so heavy that we couldn't easily raise it within the limited confines of the balcony.
The next attempt was with PVC pipe, but while the PVC was much lighter (only a few pounds for the whole 30'), it was much too flexible: the pipe would bend completely double rather than lift the six pound sensor package off the ground. Even stabilized with guy wires, the pipe would likely buckle under any sort of load.
I considered going with a larger size PVC pipe (maybe 4" PVC for all but the top foot or so), but in the end, I settled on 1 3/8" fence pole. This is the stuff which is used for the horizontal rail on chain link fence, and it's relatively stiff (being made of galvanized steel), but not nearly as heavy as the pressure pipe. Even better, the sections slip together rather than being screwed or glued, meaning that the pole could be assembled as it went up rather than put together on the ground and hoisted in one piece.
I raised the pole by starting with the top section in a nearly vertical position, resting against a stepladder. I slid it up high enough to slip the next section in at the bottom (keep in mind I was on a balcony, so I only had to raise it a couple feet above the balcony floor to get the next section of pole on the bottom), then repeated until the pole was completely assembled and leaning against the roof of the house with the base sitting on the balcony.
Then, with She Who Puts Up With Me hanging onto a guy wire to keep it from toppling backwards, I gingerly raised the pole to vertical, slipped the base into a socket screwed to the balcony deck, and clamped it to the side of the house. The guy wires were anchored to the side of the house to keep the pole from swaying too much even in strong winds.
No going on the roof required.
So far the Davis weather station has been head and shoulders above the old Oregon Scientific model. In addition to the basic weather displays, it can graph any piece of data over the past 24 hours, 24 days, 24 months, or 24 years. The rain gauge is much faster and more accurate than the old one, and the console will display cute messages during certain conditions (for example, "It's raining cats and dogs!" during heavy rain).
There's also a set of diagnostic screens available, which are useful for troubleshooting the wireless connection (the Oregon Scientific weather station lacked any diagnostics at all), and a nice storm total feature in the rain gauge which tracks the cumulative rainfall for any rain event. I only have a couple of minor quibbles: the console won't calculate the indoor dewpoint (which is sometimes nice to know), and leaving the backlight on for too long will raise the reported indoor temperature since the indoor sensor is located inside the console (one nice feature of the Oregon Scientific unit was the remote sensor for indoor temperature, so I could place that where it was most useful).
I've ordered the hardware and software for capturing the data on my home computer, which will increase the geek-out factor even more.
So color me a satisfied customer. This is one of the better toys out there.
Posted at 02:39 PM | Permalink |
Saturday - December 30, 2006 07:45 PM
December 30th, and it's 40 degrees out and raining.
This isn't the Frozen North any more. This is, I dunno, the Unfrozen North. The weather is more like what we'd expect to see in March than the end of December.
As nice as it is for our heating bills, this unusual weather could cause some problems. Lakes, for example, probably aren't safe to be on right now, but you still see the usual set of diehards setting up their ice fishing houses. I wouldn't be surprised if some plants respond to the warm weather by trying to push up new shoots. They'll be in a bad way if (as is inevitable) we see a deep-freeze cold snap before spring.
Normally at this time of year we're entering the coldest part of winter. Instead, it's been highs above freezing for weeks on end.
(Meanwhile, Denver, hundreds of miles south of us, has gotten several feet of snow. The same storms have been bringing us--you guessed it--rain.)
Is this a sign of global warming? I don't know, but it's surely not what I expected from Minnesota.
Posted at 07:45 PM | Permalink |
Sunday - December 03, 2006 10:26 AM
We almost made it to December without turning on the furnace in our house. But on November 30th, the seasons finally caught up with us, and we have been having consistent lows in the singe digits and highs below freezing since.
That's more than our wood stove can keep up with, unless someone was here to keep it running full-blast 24/7. Thanks, but I'm not going to get up in the middle of the night to stoke the fire.
We're managing to keep quite comfortable with relatively minimal furnace use. I've been keeping the stove running as long as as hot as practical, and also turning up the heat in our TV room, which also keeps the kitchen warm. We close the doors to the kitchen, and have a warm haven in those two rooms. That's practical in our house because the TV room was an addition on to the house and has a separate furnace.
Keeping those two rooms warm means running the furnace a whole lot less than keeping the whole house warm, and enough heat leaks into the main house to let the wood heat eventually catch up during the daytime.
Posted at 10:26 AM | Permalink |
Thursday - November 23, 2006 08:27 AM
We've had a remarkable run of mild weather for the past couple weeks: highs in the 50's, lows just below freezing, and no precipitation. That's 15-20 degrees warmer than normal for this time of year, and we're enjoying it.
The lack of rain, though, is a problem. The pond behind our house hit the "gosh, the pond is low" level a couple weeks ago, and we're now approaching "I sure hope we get some rain soon." The pond is a hydrological dead end, as there's no outlfow. Water collects in rainstorms, and gradually soaks into the ground below. That means that the water level can vary a lot depending on the rainfall we get, and one good soaker of a storm could refill it back to almost-normal levels.
That said, there's no significant precipitation anywhere in the forecast (just a slight chance of drizzle this weekend). I don't know how deep the pond is, but that may be a question we'll be contemplating soon.
The positive side of this warm spell is that it looks very likely that I'll achieve my goal of not turning on the furnace in our house before December. So far we've been on 100% wood heat, and quite cozy.
Posted at 08:27 AM | Permalink |
Wednesday - October 11, 2006 02:18 PM
For all the build-up, all we got was a little wind, a bit of rain, and a lot of cold.
C'mon, guys, all I want is three or four feet of the white stuff. Is that too much to ask?
Posted at 02:18 PM | Permalink |
Tuesday - October 10, 2006 10:46 AM
Winter is arriving in force this week. Today will be a nice autumn day--highs in the 50's and sunny--but tonight the weather gets, um, interesting.
Showers overnight with a low in the mid-30's. Tomorrow will have snow and a high in the mid-30's, and the forecast calls for three nights in a row of below-freezing temperatures.
Average for this time of year is lows in the mid-40's and highs in the mid-60's, so its going to be about 20 degrees colder than usual.
Needless to say, I'm expecting to run the wood stove pretty much flat out for the next couple days.
I've been firing up the stove occasionally for about a month now, depending on the weather, and burned about a half-cord of the lower-grade firewood (cottonwood, pine, and some old and party rotten buckthorn a neighbor brought over). Fall and spring is a good time to use up this wood, since even though it doesn't burn very long, it does light easily and burn hot.
Strangely enough, I actually have quite a bit more firewood right now than I had a month ago. Not only do I have about two cords of elm I picked up from the diseased tree over the past month, I've also had neighbors dropping wood in my driveway. Some of it is quite green (including a freshly cut down cottonwood tree), but even the green stuff will be a nice jump-start on stockpiling wood for the next winter. The elm, though, is already drying nicely, and is high-quality firewood. It'll be usable this season if I need it, though I expect I'll have enough with wood cut this past spring.
Posted at 10:46 AM | Permalink |
Friday - September 08, 2006 09:06 PM
Tonight the northern third of Minnesota is likely to see the first frost for the season. In the Twin Cities we'll get down to the mid 40's. It isn't forecast to get back up to 70 until at least Tuesday....fall is definitely coming.
This first frost is one to two weeks earlier than normal this year. The northern part of the state, on average, gets its first frost around the third week of September, and the twin cities area usually gets frost right around the end of the month.
In Minneapolis we don't have frost in our immediate forecast....yet. But it will be chilly enough tonight to close all the windows and fire up the wood stove "for real" for the first time this season. We might not actually need the stove, but it won't hurt to take the chill off.
Posted at 09:06 PM | Permalink |
Monday - July 31, 2006 07:25 PM
It's official: this has been the hottest weather in the Twin Cities in 11 years. We topped a hundred degrees today, and with the dewpoint in the 70's, it has been miserable. Worse, we've had a full week of this weather, and as the house heats up day after day it gets harder to keep it cool.
I've been trying to minimize our cooling costs by running the air conditioning as little as possible during the day, and turning it off when nobody's home. I've found, though, that the A/C needs to run a minimum number of hours each day just to remove the excess humidity--even if the temperature is comfortable, the moisture may not be.
The contrary is true, too. The temperature may be warm, but if the humidity is low enough we can tolerate it. In practice, that means I've been gradually setting the thermostat warmer and warmer throughout the heat wave, since the humidity drops faster than the temperature. At the beginning of the heat wave, I set it to 72 degrees overnight when the house was 78 in the afternoon when we got home from work.
Tonight, when we got home, the house was 87 degrees with a dewpoint of 66. I set the thermostat to 80, figuring that by the time the air is cooled to that point, the dewpoint will be down to 50 or so, and it will be reasonably comfortable.
What I really want is a thermostat which can be set for dewpoint instead of temperature. In the summer, keeping the dewpoint below 55 degrees is more important for comfort than keeping the temperature below 80.
The good news is that tonight should be the last night of the heat wave. The weather forecast calls for a low of 75 tonight and a 50% chance of thunderstorms, and a high of only 81 for tomorrow. After that, it's highs in the low 80's as far out as the forecast goes. As soon as the rain blows through, we'll be turning off the A/C, opening all the windows, and taking advantage of those wonderful nighttime temperatures in the low 60's. As heat-soaked as the house is, it might take a day or two to really cool off, but it will all be free, courtesy of Mother Nature.
Considering that the average hottest week of the summer is in mid-July, it is quite possible that we might not see 90 degrees again this year. On that happy note, I'll add that we're only six weeks or so away from the time to fire up the wood stove to stave off the chill of early autumn.
Posted at 07:25 PM | Permalink |
Saturday - July 15, 2006 10:37 AM
Last summer was unusually comfortable, with only a short, mild bout of hot weather. Not so this year. This week alone will have more 90-degree days than all of last summer, and the forecast for today calls for a high of 99 degrees. I guess they just couldn't bring themselves to forecast the magic 100.
Combine the hot weather with a month of almost no rain, plus gusty winds, and you have a recipe for wildfire. Wildfire isn't as much of a problem in Minnesota as it is in, say, Wyoming or California, but it does happen. The northern two-thirds of the state is listed as "very high" fire danger for today, and a "red flag" warning is posted for the northwest part of the state. A "red flag" warning means that critical wildfire conditions are expected. Frankly, I wouldn't be too surprised to see some of the (non-sprinkled) lawns in our neighborhood go up in smoke this week. Lawns are just that dry.
Meanwhile, the issue in our household is how to stay cool without breaking the bank, and without being too environmentally unfriendly. During the workweek it's easy: we just turn the air conditioning off during the day when nobody's home.
A few years ago we installed insulated glass windows in our house, which have made a big difference in the cooling costs, since we have a lot of big South-facing windows. Even on the hottest days, the house takes a long time to heat up unless we do something dumb (like bake cookies). So I've been following the strategy of turning the thermostat down to 72 degrees overnight (cooling the house when it's easier because there's no sunlight and the outside air is cooler), and then turning the air conditioning up to 78 or 80 during the daytime (today I might let it get even warmer, since even at 85 degrees it will still feel cool inside). If we're not home, we turn the air conditioning off completely.
With this plan, the air conditioning usually doesn't click on at all until very late in the afternoon, after 5 PM, and after the peak of the air conditioning day has passed. So we aren't contributing to overloading the electric grid by trying to cool the house at the same time everyone else is doing the same, and the air conditioner isn't trying to work uphill against the hottest of the afternoon heat.
Sadly, nobody has invented a wood-fired air conditioner yet.
Posted at 10:37 AM | Permalink |
Tuesday - July 11, 2006 09:33 PM
Last summer was nice and cool. We saved a ton on air conditioning.
Not this summer. This week alone is forecast to have more 90-degree days than all of last summer put together.
Combine that with the utter lack of rain since the beginning of June, and things are getting more than a little parched here in the Frozen North.
This weekend, the forecast is for highs pushing 100. We're thinking about trying to escape the heat by heading up to Grand Marais, on the North Shore of Lake Superior. The weather there is supposed to be highs in the 70's, considerably more tolerable.
Posted at 09:33 PM | Permalink |
Thursday - April 13, 2006 04:42 PM
With a high in the 80's today and creeping humidity, I think it is fair to say that Spring has arrived in the Frozen North. Since I've been remiss in my blogging duties lately (and I took the afternoon off because of a really annoying cold), here's a quick update on Spring:
Crocuses. We have crocuses. I planted about a hundred of 'em in one of our flower beds last fall, and they're all blooming at once. For some reason, the critters aren't eating them this year as they often do. Maybe that's because I planted them among daffodils (which give bunnies and deer bad tummyaches. Everybody together now: awwwwwww), or maybe we just don't have as many rabbits this spring as usual.
Speaking of bulbs, the daffodils are starting to bloom. I planted about 300 of those last fall, and the first are just opening today. In a few days it will be an explosion of yellow.
Recall that last fall I transplanted four sugar maple seedlings (of various sizes) from our place in Northern Minnesota. Two of the four have extremely fat buds right now and there's no doubt they'll leaf out soon. One of the four (the smallest) got severely nibbled, and doesn't have any buds left at all. That one probably won't make it. The fourth seems to be OK, just a bit behind the other two. The lesson: when transplanting sugar maples, go for size. Six- to eight-foot seedlings seem to do just fine, even if I have to leave some of the roots behind.
Costco had blueberry plants a few days ago. Bought eight, and some fencing to keep the deer out. We have a very sunny spot near the pond with very sandy, rich soil. I think it will be perfect. Anyway, they're doing fine so far.
I finally got all the firewood from last fall split, stacked, and off the lawn. There's currently about four cords remaining, nearly all of it green cottonwood. Two cords are stacked in the garage, one in the house near the stove, and one outside. By fall the stuff should be dry and reasonable to burn. I also suspect I'll use up the stuff inside before the season really ends--it just takes one good cold snap and/or some recreational fires. I'm already prowling for more wood for next year.
Also on the subject of firewood, I'm cutting down some big boxelders in our backyard. Boxelders are ubiquitous around here, but as trees go they're nothing special. The ones I'm removing are shading some maples, and I'd much rather have the maples. I should get a few cords of firewood out of that project.
Posted at 04:42 PM | Permalink |
Sunday - March 12, 2006 08:01 AM
This winter has been one of the mildest ever in the Twin Cities. That's actually nice timing, given that the winter started with historically high prices for natural gas, which is what most people in the midwest use for heat.
But it looks like we're finally going to get a taste of the white stuff. After frustrating snow lovers all season by sending every storm just to the north or south of us, today we're right in the bull's-eye. The forecast for tonight is calling for 6-10 inches of snow in a 100-mile wide band centered on a line from Redwood Falls (about 100 miles WSW of Minneapolis) to minneapolis.
I may finally get a chance to use that brand-new snowshovel I bought back in December, and which has sat untouched and pristine in our garage ever since.
Posted at 08:01 AM | Permalink |
Friday - January 27, 2006 09:14 PM
Make a note of this: Spring arrived in Minneapolis on January 27th, 2006.
The meteorologists will claim that spring doesn't arrive until the end of March; and most years we don't actually see it until April sometime. But today it was unmistakable.
It wasn't just the warm weather (upper 40's for a high) and the fact that there's a 70% chance of rain tomorrow, nor the rapidly disappearing snow. It was the fact that all five senses positively screamed SPRING every time I went outside. The warmth and humidity of the air on my skin. The thawing ground squishing under my feet. The distinctive odor of melting mud.
It is supposed to cool down a little more next week, but only down into the 30's. That's still unseasonably warm for this time of year. In fact, we have had an unbroken sting of unseasonably warm days since before Christmas, with no sign of it letting up.
This may go down as the year without a winter in Minnesota.
Posted at 09:14 PM | Permalink |
Wednesday - December 14, 2005 08:45 PM
Thanks to the storm this week, our entire house is under water, about six inches of it. Worse, it might not go away until March or April. And our insurance isn't likely to do anything about it!
Fortunately, it isn't liquid, but the frozen fluffy stuff. So as long as the furnace works, we're perfectly content to live a few months "under water."
This was the first significant snowstorm of the season, and even though it was only about six inches, it was really heavy stuff. A heart-attack snow, so-named because of all the heart attacks it creates when Grandpa decides to shovel the driveway by hand instead of hiring the neighbor kid to do it with a snowblower.
I think I'm one of the last two or three people in the entire state who clears his driveway by hand (that is, with a shovel). We had a service for a number of years, when I was traveling all the time, and later I tried using a snowblower for one season. The snowblower just wasn't worth it. It was loud, stinky (two-cycle engine), hard to get started, and not even all that much faster than the shovel.
Our driveway isn't that large. So every time it snows, I have the chance to get a nice workout--I worked up a good sweat tonight--and listen to all the neighbors curse as the gloppy wet snow clogs their discharge chutes.
Posted at 08:45 PM | Permalink |
Monday - December 05, 2005 11:11 PM
We went from abnormally warm to abnormally cold in the blink of an eye. Tonight's forecast low in Minneapolis is -8...weather more typical of the deepest cold snaps of the season than early December.
Also, our wood stove installation has been delayed--again!--until the very end of December. It seems that now that we have snow and ice, the installers who had been scheduled for Friday can't do it any more. They don't have the proper equipment to be working on an icy roof. December 29th is the earliest date we can get someone who does have the proper equipment.
That means that by the time we have our wood heat, nearly half the heating season will be gone.
All this is made more aggravating by the fact that it could have been installed last Monday, if the company hadn't screwed up. Instead, we get delay after delay.
Posted at 11:11 PM | Permalink |