Friday, January 15, 2010

Mourning Haiti's Loss

"Sometimes, the earth is cruel.

That is ultimately the fundamental lesson here, as children wail, families sleep out of doors, and the dead lie unclaimed in the rubble that once was Port-au-Prince.

Sometimes the rains fall and will not stop. Sometimes the skies turn barren and will not rain. Sometimes the seas rise and smack the shoreline like a fist. Sometimes the wind bullies the land. And sometimes, the land rattles and heaves and splits itself in two.

Sometimes, the earth is cruel.

And always, when it is, we do the same thing. We dig ourselves out. We weep and mourn, we recover and memorialize the dead, we rebuild our homes. And we go on. This is the price of being human. And also,

arguably, the noblest expression.

Sometimes, the earth is cruel, and you have no choice but to accept that as part of the bargain called life. And when it is your turn to deal with it, you do.

But what if it's always your turn?"

A reporter by the name of Leonard Pitts, at the Miami Herald newspaper, wrote this in yesterday's edition - his powerful story is here. Heart-wrenching and horrifying, the news coming out of Haiti seems otherworldly - how can this be happening in the 21st century? I like to believe I'm up on science, but I have to admit to being totally ignorant of the earthquake threat for parts of the Caribbean, who knew a 7.0 earthquake on the Richter Scale was even possible? Our hearts go out to the victims and the survivors and their families. Consider making a donation to the Red Cross. Click here to see more information on how you can help. It's one of the few things I did on Friday that made me feel good. I hope you'll help out - the need down there is overwhelming.

I don't need continuous weather-drama in my life to be a happy meteorologist. It's true that a big, impending storm makes us feel a little more important, but I'm happy to be bored in mid January, relieved that Old Man Winter is cutting us a 7-10 day break. I still believe the absolute WORST OF WINTER is in our rear view mirror. The nasty, barricade-inside-your-family-room, don't-want-to-climb-out-of-bed COLD is probably behind us. We'll see 10-20 more subzero nights, fairly confident about that. But the potential for sustained, sub-freezing and sub-zero weather will drop off in February - I'm going out on a limb here, hope I'm right. We'll see. Soak up the peace and quiet, the utter lack of windchill-babble on the TV & radio, the (vaguely eerie) lack of watches, warnings and advisories, the dire lack of "breaking weather-news" - because the atmosphere is about to shift gears again. My hunch is that the last 7-10 days of January will be much more active, much stormier, with enough warm, moist air bubbling northward from the Gulf of Mexico for a conglomeration of rain, ice and snow.

Dry, storm-free weather lingers through Tuesday, temperatures well above average (today may be the mildest day, enough mild air mixing down from 3,000 to 5,000 feet - where temperatures have been in the 40s and 50s - to pull the mercury above freezing). A few optimistic bank thermometers may register mid to upper 30s today & Sunday, not bad considering we still have a cool 10" of snow on the ground. The National Weather Service has a great description of the cooling effect of snow cover (see below). Recently the coolest temperatures have been over southwestern Minnesota, still buried under 20-30" of snow. It's actually been considerably milder across northern Minnesota, where (ironically) there is less snow on the ground, anywhere from 4-10". The exception: 12-25" along Lake Superior's North Shore, enhanced/spiked by lake effect snows. The inversion overhead has been persistent, trapping clouds, fog (ice fog), even flurries and a little spotty freezing drizzle). The sun is still too weak, too low in the sky, to break through that inversion and mix mild air down to the surface - that's why temperatures in recent days have been a few degrees cooler than we thought they'd be. No excuses: inversions are tough to predict, especially when they'll break.

Latest Snow Cover. The most snow: southwestern Minnesota, where many towns still have 20-30" on the ground. With the exception of the North Shore and Arrowhead snowfall amounts actually decrease the farther north you travel across Minnesota. Sort of an upside-down map. For more details click here.

Our weather menu gets a lot more interesting next week. Within 48-72 hours you'll be hearing about major storms slamming into California, capable of flooding rains, mudslides, even heavy, wet snow falling on the higher terrain just outside San Francisco and Los Angeles. These powerful Pacific storms will track well south, pushing heavy rain and high winds into northern Mexico (!) before turning northeastward across the Plains. The first weak impulse of moisture and energy may spark a period of drizzle/freezing drizzle by the middle of next week - the lowest mile of the atmosphere probably mild enough for a little rain, rain which may freeze on contact with cold surfaces, trees, powerlines, maybe even some secondary roads. With highs well up in the 20s to near 30 I expect most freeways and state highways to just be wet/slushy, but side streets could (in theory) be a mess by next Wednesday and Thursday.

A little Weekend Excitement? The GFS computer has been very consistent run after run, bringing a major storm northward across the Plains, pushing rain/ice into Minnesota late next Saturday/Saturday night (Jan. 23) followed by a changeover to potentially heavy wet snow Sunday (Jan. 24) with light snow possibly lingering into Monday, the 25th. It's still much too early to even issue a WAG estimate on amounts - but this could certainly be "plowable." Yes, the last week of January looks VERY STORMY!

Weather models are still hinting at a much more significant storm pushing northward the weekend of January 23-24. It's still too far out to try to get specific, but this second storm looks more impressive, laden with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico - I could envision a mix of snow/ice/rain next Sunday changing over to heavy wet snow late Sunday (Jan. 24) into Monday (Jan. 25).

Who Knew? Earthquakes in Oklahoma? Yesterday a 3.8 quake rattled Oklahoma City. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a little better about our arctic fronts, more grateful than ever that there are no active faults running under Minnesota. The USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) has an impressive web site with up-to-date earthquake information here.

Paul's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Patchy clouds/ice fog possible early, then partly sunny and unseasonably mild. Winds: SW 5-10. High: 32

Tonight: More clouds, more patchy fog. Low: 21

Sunday: Mix of clouds and sun, feel more like late February. Perfect weather for a Vikings victory. High: 34

Monday: Plenty of blue sky, a few degrees cooler. High: 31

Tuesday: Some sun, still quiet, storm-free. High: 28

Wednesday: Cloudy, chance of drizzle or freezing drizzle. High: 29

Thursday: Gray, damp with a little drizzle possible. High: near 30

Friday: Brief break, intervals of sun. High: 31

Saturday (Jan. 23): Gray, period of rain/ice possible late. High: 34

Sunday (Jan 24): Mixed precipitation changing over to snow, potentially heavy at times. High: 31

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