It’s February, and if you’ve followed this blog in the past, you know that means that it’s time for Weather Speculation! As usual, we look at weather models and make wild guesses about the weather, although they are at least slightly educated guesses. There’s only 19 days until race day, so we can basically pinpoint to within a degree what the temperature will be when your wave hits the course in Cable. (Note: this is a lie.) Join in!
With an early race this year and snow on the ground, we just need to worry about a warm-up. As you heard on the BirkieGuide Podcast (Wait, you didn’t listen to the Podcast? What is wrong with you! Go, go download it and listen to it now!) there is a thin-but-solid base on the whole of the trail, that could be skied well tomorrow but is susceptible to melting and could use some more snow.
So basically we need one of two things to happen. Either a) it needs to stay below freezing for the next 19 days or b) it needs to snow. If both happen, all the better. Let’s see where we stand with the long-range forecasts:
a) Cold. So far, it’s been a warm winter east of the Rockies. The City of Lakes Loppet may be salvaged by a last-minute snowstorm after warm air melted a five inch base to a thin covering of slush and ice. January has been only a couple degrees above normal, but with wild temperature swings and a late-month thaw. That has passed, and the next few days look colder. Not cold, mind you. But colder. And colder is good enough in Northern Wisconsin in February. (There’s newly-available “NowData” from the NWS for Spooner dating back to 1895. That may be downloaded.) As for the weather, the current models are not showing any major warmups in the next two weeks. In the third week things get a bit dicier with warmer air dumping over the Rockies, but it looks to stay at bay until it gets warm in earnest in March. So this is qualified good news.
b) Snow. Of course, a couple of feet of snow would help out as well. A couple of feet we may not see, but the storm which has pushed north 50 miles in the last couple of days in to the Twin Cities is similarly pushing towards Hayward. It may drop  4–8 inches of snow on the Birkie Trail (with higher amounts at the south end, which if you listened to the podcast you would now is where it’s most needed, and the totals keep going up; the trend is your friend) this week, which would make everyone breathe easier. Not a blockbuster, but not nothing. Beyond that there are no huge blizzards on the horizon, but an inch here and there. Time will tell.
As for race-day weather, it is foolish to try to predict specific days more than a week out (and certainly not three), so I am not going to. Yet. It will be between -20 and 50 at race start. And most likely in the teens.