Minnesota's rare October warm spell delights residents, terrifies scientists

Say goodbye to the enemy... for now.
Say goodbye to the enemy... for now.

Minnesota's Indian summer is ending this week. As always, the temperature itself will be a matter of precise measurement, while the meaning of the bizarre warm spell of October 2011 is up for interpretation.

Over the first 10 days of this month, the Twin Cities has experienced a remarkable string of late-year warmth, the likes of which hasn't been seen in nearly 60 years.

Of all the verbs that one uses with the phrase "October weather" in Minnesota -- "suffer," most often, "endure," if possible, and definitely, always, "bemoan" -- it's so rare that the word "enjoy" sneaks its way into our autumn sentences.

Paul Douglas, meteorologist and professional downer, wants to use a different word: Beware.

First, the digits. Minneapolis-St. Paul hit 82 degrees yesterday, making for an eight-day string of 80-plus degree temperatures. That's the first time we've put together a streak like that since 1953, WCCO reports.

That kind of weather gave everyone one last week of unseasonably perfect weather for golfing, or protesting, depending on your personal hobbies and tax bracket. But the warm-wave ends today, or at least it'll begin to end: Thanks to light rain and extensive cloud cover blowing in from the Dakotas, Minnesota likely won't be topping 80 degrees again today, according to the National Weather Service.

It's unclear if the rain itself will actually fall on Minneosta, but right about now we could really use it. Last week, three-quarters of Minnesota -- including the Twin Cities area -- was declared to be "abnormally dry," while huge swaths were labeled as in moderate or severe drought. That ought to break late Tuesday and early Wednesday, the NWS reports, as another light storm system rolls through from the West.

Even with those clouds and showers, the temperature will only edge its way down to the 60s. Besides a terrible delay in the debut of your new fall wardrobe, what does it all mean?

Certain, imminent death, according to Paul Douglas's blog for the Star Tribune. Well, he's using safer words. But essentially, Douglas is putting his money where his meteorology is, and declaring this strangely sweaty October a symptom of global climate change. Writing late last night on his blog, Douglas sounds the alarm bell thusly:

"You can't prove it scientifically, but there's probably a better than 50/50 chance that this incredible warm spell is (in fact) linked with anthropogenic climate change. For the longest time climate scientists were very careful not to link any one storm or unusual weather event to climate change. No more. Their point: background temperatures are rising; there's more water in the air, and that's going to impact day to day weather, make the extremes more frequent. Like it or not, freakish weather is becoming the norm, not the exception."

Douglas goes on to hedge just a bit, conceding that you can't exactly blame yesterday's high temperature on your neighbor's Hummer. But, he writes, this October, when traced back to the historically hot period around here in July, is part of a larger pattern of events that are within our control but beyond our attention span.

Go ahead, bust out your chunky sweater and toss around the football like it's actually autumn. Let's leave a few things for the surviving cockroaches to identify us.

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