Saturday, April 17, 2010

Climate implications of the Icelandic volcano?

Another day, another serving of weather-bliss, just another day in Meteorological Paradise. But here, in Minnesota? Since when have we been THIS blessed? Makes me wonder (and worry) about what's coming down the line. Maybe it's just a well-honed sense of paranoia. We all know that weather moves in cycles - unusually nice weather is USUALLY followed by unusually lousy weather, the two tend to even out over time - unless there is another mitigating factor, something that can cause the storm track to become temporarily locked. We may STILL be seeing the lingering effects of El Nino, the storm track continues to be stuck to our south and east - Minnesota has been brushed by a few (minor) storms, I hesitate to even call them "storms." This amazingly persistent holding pattern, this blocking pattern in the upper atmosphere, will hang on much of this week, meaning a string of party to mostly sunny, unseasonably mild days through at least Thursday. The latest model run spins up a major storm over the Plains states later this week (Denver may see more heavy, wet snow) but once again Minnesota will probably get sideswiped by this system - not yet sure this will provide the soaking rain so much of the state needs right now.

High pressure sunning itself over the Great Lakes will promise another awe-inspiring day today, bright sun, less wind than yesterday, a shot at 70 by late afternoon. In a word - amazing. If you somehow miss out on the fun today you'll get another chance Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, probably Thursday as well. Unusually quiet for "Severe Weather Awareness Week" in Minnesota. For more details, stuff you might want to consider reviewing with your kids (or significant other) click here for a comprehensive look at severe weather facts from the local National Weather Service Office.

Weekend Storm? I no longer get excited when long-range models print out big stormy bulls-eyes over Minnesota. We'll if the storm actually materializes roughly 6-7 days from now. All this week I'll be watching all the various models, looking for consistency and continuity from one run to the next (4 runs/day). We'll see, but you may need a Plan B (indoors) for at least part of thelan

Ejyafyjallajokull. It's a mouthful, and it translates into "mountain glacier flower". Right. For more information on the volcano on the southern tip of Iceland click here to see NASA's Earth Observatory.




A Surreal Sight. Much like the warm updraft of a thunderstorm, super-heated air rising up from a volcano can reach vertical velocities exceeding 100 mph, a violent upward rush of air capable of sparking not only lightning, but even "ash tornadoes", whirling vorticies of rapidly spinning air.

Apocalypse Now. This photo of the Icelandic volcano stopped me in my tracks. Imagine THIS rising up above your neighborhood! Ash has been reported more than 1,500 miles downwind of Iceland, swept along my powerful jet stream winds. Amazing.

Here's something to ponder (if you're a bit bored, like your's truly). What if the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano was upwind of the USA? We would be the continent that's paralyzed. I'm sure you've been seeing reports on the news: 70% of all flights into and out of Europe airports canceled on Saturday. Supply lines carrying food, ammunition and fuel to our troops in Afghanistan have been impacted. A fine film of ash has settled over the U.K. - authorities are warning people with respiratory problems to either wear a mask or stay indoors until the threat passes. Threat passes? We have NO IDEA how long the volcano will continue to erupt. To make matters worse there's a better than 50-50 chance that the volcano's big brother, "Katla" may also erupt in the coming days. That could turn a geological/meteorological event into a climate story with potentially global consequences....if (and it's a very big if) ash reaches the stratosphere, higher than 50,000 or 60,000 feet into the atmosphere. The ash could literally circle the globe, triggering spectacular sunsets and a (temporary) cooling effect worldwide. That happened after the massive El Chicon eruption in Mexico back in 1980. A lot of if's there, but climatologists are keeping a nervous eye on Iceland.

Don't Sweat the Showers. I'm reminded of the old George Carlin rant. The comedian was impersonating the "hippy-dippy weatherman" and said, "checking radar you can see Soviet SS-20 rockets streaking toward the U.S. - so don't sweat the showers." I'm paraphrasing here. I know - not funny if you're directly downwind of Iceland. I've never quite seen a weather map like this (heaviest concentrations of ash within the red lines, which covers most of Europe).

Dirty Plume. There are 9 Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers around the world, monitoring volcanic activity and the potential impact on aviation, transportation, agriculture and local economies. Click here to go to the home page.

All this technology, brainpower and wealth - and there's not a thing we can do about a volcanic eruption. It is as humbling as it is awe-inspiring.

Tracking the Ash Plume. I stumbled upon this site - the London "Ash Advisory Centre" is providing real-time updates about the movement of the ash cloud spewing from the Icelandic volcano. The impact on aviation is enormous (all it takes is a small amount of ash entering a jet engine to literally fuse onto the steel, causing the engine to seize up and fail, turning an airplane into a giant glider, with potentially tragic implications). Most of the ash has been reported at an altitude of 8,000 feet, most of it should settle to the ground (rain accelerates this process) before it has a chance to circle the globe and reach Minnesota. Track the latest advisory here. Click the top link for the very latest information.

90 Day Temperatures. According to CPC, the Climate Prediction Center, there is a slight bias toward cooler than average weather across the Plains and Upper Midwest. Frankly, these are interesting to look at - but don't bet the farm based on a 3 month outlook.

90 Day Precipitation. Wetter than average conditions expected from Minnesota south to Texas and parts of New England. Again, we'll see. My confidence level is VERY low, but in the spirit of full disclosure I wanted to include this in the blog.

Paul's Conservation MN Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota

Today: Bright sun, light winds - beautiful. Winds: NE 6-12. High: 68

Tonight: Mostly clear, cool. Low: 40

Monday: Plenty of sun, hard to go back to work/school. High: near 70

Tuesday: Partly sunny, breezy. High: 67

Wednesday: More clouds than sun, isolated shower. High: 66

Thursday: Intervals of sun, still unseasonably mild. High: near 70

Friday: Clouds increase, chance of rain by afternoon. High: 68

Saturday: Potential for rain. High: 63

2 comments:

  1. A terrific read as always, Paul!! Great job my friend...

    ReplyDelete