MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The past few snowless, warm winters could be the beginning of a long cycle of milder winters in Minnesota, similar to an era in the 1920s when a stretch of warm winters lasted into the next decade, a meteorologist said.
Bruce Watson, a consulting meteorologist from Roseville who calls the recent late winters "bizarre," said those warm winters of the '20s that stretched into the '30s led to a pattern of alternate warm and cold winters.
The lack of snow in Minnesota has already forced cancelation of some well-known events, including this weekend's fourth annual Sno Jam snowmobile festival at Canterbury Park. The weather has been too warm to make snow, and there isn't enough natural snow nearby to haul in, according to the Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association. They hope to reschedule the charity event later this winter.
Next month's annual St. Cloud Winterfest also has been canceled.
During last year's St. Paul Winter Carnival, machine-made snow was hauled from Buck Hill to Como Park for the snow slide and other activities. Melting ice sculptures were judged almost as soon as they were carved. Record crowds lined the streets during the Grande Day Parade, when the temperature reached 51 degrees.
"One committee's nightmare was another committee's blessing," said festival director Theresa Fetsch.
The 2003 carnival will take place Jan. 25-Feb.2, as scheduled, although some events might be adapted because of weather.
In 1999, after years of unreliable January snow, the organizers of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in northern Minnesota decided to move the annual race to the end of February. Last year, even that wasn't late enough; poor snow conditions postponed the race until March.
Response from the mushers was so favorable that this year the race is scheduled for March 2. Seven years of weather data supported the decision to move the race to what's become the snowiest week of the year, said race coordinator Alex Angelos.
The American Birkebeiner Cross Country Ski Marathon in Hayward and Cable, Wis., also has faced warm weather challenges in recent years, but planners are holding fast to their late February race schedule.
In 1996, the race was run, but slowly, in 51-degree weather. In 1998, it became a foot and roller-ski race because of little snow; in 2000, it was canceled because of high temperatures and rain; and in 2001, it was in doubt until race day, when rain turned into 6 inches of new snow.
Although 10,000 skiers are expected for the event's 30th anniversary Feb. 22, trail groomers are still waiting for the first heavy snowfall.
Dan Newbauer, outdoor education supervisor at Richardson Nature Center in Bloomington, has had to change programs because of a lack of snow. While the milder weather may mean no snow for tracking, it also means there are plenty of birds and animals to see, he said.
Raccoons, opossums and chipmunks -- animals that usually have holed up or hibernated by now -- are still active, he said. The lack of snow, and a fair amount of open water, has kept many birds from migrating.
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