The centerpiece of the Super Bowl experience in Minneapolis is the Birkie Bridge. But how did the bridge make it from Hayward to Minneapolis for a football game? We talked to City of Lakes Loppet director John Munger to find out. Find the podcast here, and get out and ski Nicollet if you’re in town!
There are several long-range forecast models, and none of them are particularly accurate. However, last year’s CFS weekly climate model, for better or for worse, nailed the forecast at this juncture four weeks before the race (our first disconcerting post was on Feb 2 but the models showed sustained warmth on Jan 29). So we’re four weeks out from the race (actually a bit less) and the models look one whole heck of a lot better. At this lead time a year ago, here’s what the models looked like:
That brown was not good at all. The Birkie was in the middle of a continent-wide high temperature anomaly which would up with temperatures in the 50s for several days, melting down the Birkie’s base and scuttling the race (yeah, I know we all remember that too well). And it would only get worse.
This year? It’s better. The ugly browns are mostly gone from the eastern two-thirds of the country, with greens and blues in their place. Greens and blues are colder than normal, and colder than normal doesn’t melt snow.
Now it’s not all perfect. The base is rather thin and there doesn’t seem to be any big snow on the horizon. I’d feel much better looking at these maps if the ridge (warmth) out west was muted a bit—that can slide around—and if there was a foot more snow on the ground. But where we are sitting right now looks a whole heck of a lot better than last year. Things can, and will, change, but if the next week holds serve, we will probably won’t be talking cancelation.
It’s been a rollercoaster year so far in Birkie-land. Snow and cold, then some warmth, and the just missing out on a jackpot of a storm (12″ of dense snow down in the Cities, but only 3″ on the Birkie Trail, although at least it puts some fresh snow down on the Birkie Bridge at the Superbowl, and provide for a pretty good Loppet course, too).
We’re more than a month out from the race, and things look, well, okay. The big issue is that the last few days have shown a big warm-up on the model (the US model, anyway) for the week before the Birkie, after a cold snap to start off February. We saw this last year, although the model didn’t really catch on to reality until the end of the month, and we’re far enough out that there’s very little skill to the model (i.e. there’s a lot of variability in the actual result) and we’re looking at big picture trends. Plus, there’s a big difference between 34˚ and 54˚, but both are above normal.
Heck, a lot of this comes down to things like the MJO, which is a climatic phenomenon in the Indian Ocean which affects weather in North America (yes, really). But forecasting using the MJO, and even the ENSO (El Niño / La Niña) months out doesn’t give you exact conditions for the Birkie, but some long range trends. So we’ll keep an eye on conditions, but there’s really no telling right now how it will affect the race itself.