Minnesota’s Northern Lights

Every so often, Minnesota’s night sky is painted green by the Aurora Borealis, better known as the”northern lights”.

While the lights are usually associated with places much farther north than Minnesota, Auroras can be spotted year-round from areas with dark skies. The lights can be seen from most places in the state, provided you are away from large population centers. Light pollution–the ambient light given off by lights from cities–makes the night sky much harder to observe and often hides the green bands and spires from the naked eye. To see the lights for yourself, it’s best to find a spot far away from large towns and cities. (You can find a good, dark place with minimal light pollution using this handy map!)

Auroras-1

It’s not always enough to be in the right place if you want to see the Aurora Borealis, however. You’ll also want to check the forecasts: not just the normal weather predictions, but also space weather. That’s right: space weather! Plan to be outside and facing north on a clear and cloudless night sometime after the sun has set. Then, check the space weather forecast using the NOAA’s space weather prediction center, which lists forecasts for the probability of a visible Aurora.

Like weather forecasts, space weather predictions are not always correct. Sometimes you just won’t see anything, even from the right place on a clear night with lots of solar activity. But don’t get discouraged! Peak Aurora activity runs from October to April and continues year-round to give you plenty of chances to spot one of Minnesota’s natural wonders.

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Frozen Lake Fun

Fun doesn’t stop on Minnesota’s lakes when it gets too cold for swimming. When a solid layer of ice has formed over the water, Minnesotans find other ways to enjoy life in the “Land of 10,000  Lakes”.

ice fishing

Ice Fishing

Fishing doesn’t stop when summer comes to an end. Instead, once the ice becomes thick enough to safely walk (and drive!) on, many anglers from across Minnesota take up ice fishing. Instead of casting bait out on a fishing rod from a boat or on the shoreline, ice fishers drill holes in the lake’s solid surface and drop their fishing lines through the opening. Some prefer to sit out in the open, while others drag small huts onto the ice and relax in the warmth of the shelter. Find out more about ice fishing in Minnesota at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ website, here!

The Polar Plunge

While ice fishing safely is all about staying out of the freezing water, some of the more daring Minnesota residents take part in one of the many “Polar Plunge” cold-water dunking events. The concept is simple but extreme: a hole is cut in the ice of a lake, and then people jump into the freezing water for a few seconds. It sounds crazy, but the events have drawn as many as 15,000 participants across over 20 official events each winter. It can be very dangerous if attempted alone, but organizers behind the Minnesota Polar Plunge ensure that every precaution is taken for the safety of the plungers with on-site medical personnel and warm tents set up nearby to warm up the freezing daredevils. Most importantly, the Polar Plunge is a major fundraising organization for the Special Olympics. As of January 20th 2016, nearly $2,000,000 have been raised by participants and donors for the Polar Plunge. That, and there are still another 13 plunges scheduled across the state this season! To find out more or to join, visit the Minnesota Polar Plunge website here.

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St. Paul’s Winter Carnival

Saint Paul, and Minnesota in general, is known for its harsh winters: but that doesn’t mean that the residents of the Twin Cities are resigned to a glum season of joyless cold!

Saint_paul_mn.jpg

Each year St. Paul residents celebrate the Winter Carnival to make the most of the region’s chilly reputation. Find out more on the Winter Carnival’s website here!

 

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Winter Tip for Warming Up Your Car

As the weather starts to drop this weekend, Sarah wants to know: How long should you let your car warm up in the winter?cold cars

Mechanics say anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes is ideal. Letting your car idle for 15 minutes or more is just wasting gas.

Car guy Gordy Leach has a trick during extremely cold days: After your car is warmed up, put it in reverse or drive, and then keep your foot on the brake for 20 seconds before moving. This helps the transmission warm up too and cuts down on wear and tear.


This article is an excerpt from an article that was posted on CBS Minnesota‘s website by John Lauritsen. It can be read in its entirety here.

 

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Holiday Feel-Good Story

Minnesota may be known for its cold temperatures and snowy weather during the holiday season, but the generosity of some in Rosemount, MN will warm the hearts of many.

On November 28, a couple left a record-setting donation of $500,000 in the kettle of a Salvation Army bell ringer!

Read the full story here:

http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/3894409-record-500000-gift-rosemount-kettle-stuns-salvation-army

 

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Saving Energy This Winter: 5 Tips

Retain heat this winter with these 5 fast tips

Saving Energy in Winter

Improve your home’s heat retention! (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Saving energy –and especially, saving money—is a priority for most homeowners during the winter months. Every time the furnace starts humming, we get an audible reminder that a little more of the paycheck just went up in flames to keep the frigid outdoor temperatures at bay.

Because so much of the year is spent in uncomfortably cool temperature ranges, Minnesotan homeowners have more time to reap the benefits of efficient heat retention strategies. Fortunately, you won’t have to break the bank or spend all your weekends updating your house. Here are five tips that will keep your home warm this winter for less:

1. Update Door Weatherstripping

This is a fast, inexpensive way to stop heat from escaping your house, and for keeping heat out in the warmer months, too. Weatherstripping is the soft, spongey bumper that runs along the threshold of exterior doors and windows. It forms a seal between the closed window or door and the threshold’s trim. The rubber-like material can break down, crack, or come loose from the threshold over time, which lets warm air out and cold air in. Replacing weatherstripping is simple: just pull off the old, and stick on the new! You can find replacement strips at a hardware or home improvement store.

2. Seal up the Fireplace

If you aren’t using your fireplace, seal it up!
A traditional wood-burning fireplace is a heat drain when not in use. If you can’t sit near the fireplace in winter without throwing on a sweater, you’re losing heat up your chimney! While closing the damper (also called a “flue”) is a good start, but the thin metal plates don’t provide very much protection from the cold. You can buy purpose-built inflatable chimney plug balloons online and at various retailers for added protection. If you’d rather make something yourself, you can make a cover for the inside of your fireplace from rigid foam insulation board. With some careful measuring and cutting, the foam has just enough flex around the edges to make wedging it above the fireplace and below the damper an easy 5-minute job.

3. Take advantage of Sunlight

Sunlight is one of the most obvious yet overlooked heat sources for homes in the winter. It’s so efficient, that the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN uses sunlight alone to maintain its balmy 70-degree temperature, even in the subzero Minnesota winter. That’s right, America’s largest indoor mall has no centralized heating: just a lot of windows facing the sun! http://www.mallofamerica.com/about/moa/green-initiatives

4. Use your Ceiling Fans

We usually associate ceiling fans with keeping us cool, but they are also useful in the winter months, too. Hot air that might otherwise be trapped near the ceiling can be pushed back down where it’s useful: around you!

5. Let your Vents Breathe

When possible, move your furniture away from air vents. If you have any vents that are obstructed by furniture, shut them off so that the air passes to the next available vent. Otherwise, you’re just paying to heat the pocket of air underneath the couch, which isn’t saving energy!

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5 Most Scenic Walking Trails In Minnesota « CBS Minnesota

In Minnesota, escape from urban hustle and bustle is just minutes away. With so many parks and hiking and biking trails, it’s easy to retreat momentarily to the great outdoors. There’s nothing like a good hike through these parks and along these trails.

Source: 5 Most Scenic Walking Trails In Minnesota « CBS Minnesota

Fitz Loven Park

7877 Ridge Road
Lake Shore, MN 56468
(218) 825-0410
www.visitbrainerd.com
Fitz Loven Park is always open for outdoor activities: hiking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Both wilderness and a man-made nature sanctuary, the park has hiking trails, a picnic pavilion, a playground and restrooms. The park is named after the late Fritz Loven, a Minnesotan who developed the 80-acre property he once owned.Visitors can stroll through a canopy of balsam, conifers, Norway pines, fir and black and white spruce trees. The hiking trail surrounds a small trout pond. Camping isn’t allowed. But if you want to go trout fishing, contact the City of Lake Shore first.

Afton State Park
6959 Peller Avenue S.
Hastings, MN 55033
(651) 436-5391
www.dnr.state.mn.us
Afton State Park takes its name from Afton Water, a poem the 18th-century Scottish poet Robert Burns composed. Full of surrounding bluffs and deep secluded ravines, hikers can explore the Saint Croix River and rolling prairies. Trails along the Saint Croix are lush with basswoods and silver maples. Hikers can capture the beauty of the river as they go, or take a break to soak their feet and take in the nature and beautiful scenery around them. The main attractions are a beach for warm weather swimming, bird watching and plenty of prairies and trees.

Minnehaha Trail
4801 S. Minnehaha Park Drive
Minneapolis, MN 55417
(612) 230-6400
www.traillink.com
Wherever your dog likes to roam, that’s where you should go. The Minnehaha trail follows the course of the Mississippi River through a rich corridor of wooded and open areas. For something more venturesome, hike along the bike trail towards Minnehaha Creek near Minneapolis, a canoeing paradise. You can travel Minnehaha Creek by trail or canoe to Lake Harriet.
Minnesota Valley State Trail
19825 Park Blvd.
Jordan, MN 55352
(651) 259-5774
www.dnr.state.mn.us
The Minnesota State Trail is part of the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area. Minutes from Twin Cities, this multi-use state trail has a diverse landscape of wetlands, savanna oak bluffs and floodplain forests. Extending roughly from Shakopee to Belle Plaine through Chaska, the trail leads to the Mississippi River. As you go, be sure to keep an eye out for the varied birds and wildlife that inhabit the area.

Cut Foot Sioux Trail
1037 Division St.
Deer River, MN 56636
(218) 246-3474
www.alltrails.com
This trail is wonderful for bird watching and wildlife observation. Operated by the USDA Forest Service, Cut Foot Sioux Trail runs through the Chippewa National Forest. Although lush with foliage and flush with greenery during the warm months, the trail does not lead to any water source, so hikers should be sure to bring their own canteens. The trail has a vigorous 18-mile loop that horseback riders also use. If you want a break from hiking and need a drink of water, retreat back to Deer River.
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