Saturday, April 3, 2010

An Easter To Remember

We salvaged a pretty nice Saturday - and a much-better-than-average Easter Sunday is shaping up for most of Minnesota, ample sun, a pleasant breeze, and temperatures surging into the 60s by afternoon, a good 10-15 degrees above average. Not bad, considering we could be ankle-deep in slush right about now, battling wind chill and muddling around in heavy jackets and coats.

I spent most of the day yesterday at WeatherNation (a couple of big projects conspiring to make sure I don't enjoy a true "holiday"). Timing. No complaints, but it's amazing how small businesses mutate, spiral into new trajectories that you couldn't even dream of when you wrote up your business plan. Every business I've ever started (I'm on # 4, 5 and 6) has gone down an initial path I predicted, only to take wild zigs and zags in completely new directions (that couldn't have been predicted months in advance). The only advantage a small company has is creativity, innovation, and speed to market - responding to the marketplace and making a mid-course correction to take advantage of a new (and unforeseen) opportunity. I'm not complaining - just musing, dazed and amazed. In the end it all comes down to people, the smart people you surround yourself with to turn a vision into a reality. Surround yourself with people smarter than you are (in my case that isn't too hard to pull off) and great things can happen. The most important attribute in the success vs. failure of a start-up? Flexibility, being able to turn on a dime. End of sermon. Sorry for the digression, but a tip of the hat to any of you in the midst of trying to get a business off the ground. I'm detecting some confidence returning to the market, people are a lot more optimistic about the business world than they were even 3 months ago. Hopefully that bodes well for all of us.

Record Warmth. Check out the number of record highs from the Upper Midwest into New England since Friday. Click here to see an interactive map, where you can display data for each city that experienced a record of some sort. This is from Ham Weather, a division of WeatherNation.

Digging out of a Hole. Precipitation for the Twin Cities was 4-6" less than average for the entire year - the driest weather over east central and southeastern MN, a dry pocket up on the Iron Range, while precip. was well above average across much of the Red River Valley. Click here to see a yearly summary of rainfall amounts (and departure from normal), provided by the MN State Climatology Office.

Saturday I transformed into a hopeless iGeek, waiting for the UPS guy to show up with my iPad(s). No, I wouldn't dream of showing up at the house with only one iPad - my wife is just as big an Apple fan-boy (fan-girl?) as I am, even more so. Initial impressions? This will change the way people consume information. Yes, it's a big iPhone, and yes, you are limited to the iTunes ecosystem. But you can't really grasp the power of this new - thing/gadget/toy/productivity tool until you hold one, and start to play with it. No, it won't change the world, but it may change the way you think about content. The ability to personalize streams of content for every person has profound implications. Were our own program directors, with a DVR we can see shows on our schedules, our terms. We're our own news directors - filtering the streams of information we want to see at any given time. My kids laugh when I ask if they saw a story on the 10 pm news. Sure, we'll still gather around the TV set for Vikings games and last episodes of "Lost", but we're already leading solitary lives when it comes to digesting news and entertainment. Do you multi-task in front of the TV, fire up your laptop, text or tweet while you're watching your favorite show(s) - with only one eye on the TV? Do you get itchy and irritable if you're not the one holding the TV remote? We're all multi-taskers now, a new generation of people who have trouble focusing on ONLY ONE THING. Maybe it's my ADD, but now - if someone talks for more than 15 seconds, my mind wanders off and I want to check my e-mail, texts & tweets. Not good, I know, but it seems that we're all expected to do more - with less. Remember when faxes were a big deal? That seems like ancient history. Just trying to keep up with all the new ways to communicate is a full-time gig. The Information Superhighway has morphed into the Information Treadmill.

I hope I'm not jumping the gun - I spent part of my Saturday afternoon cleaning out my closets, dragging coats to the basement, carefully arranging my short-sleeve shirts, taking the flannel to the attic, all the while muttering a silent prayer that I wasn't doing too much too fast. Time will tell, but gazing at the 15-Day GFS trend I don't see any a). accumulating snow, or b). arctic relapses. We cool off - slightly - by midweek with highs in the 50s, still above average. But 60s return by next weekend, a string of 60-degree days through mid April. With each passing day the odds of a REAL cold front drop off precipitously. Are we out of the woods yet? Theoretically yes - I BELIEVE we won't see any more accumulating snow this season. Can I guarantee it? No, but my hunch, my strong gut feeling (nausea?) is that we've seen the last of the snow. That's remarkable, considering the last day with accumulating snow was Feb. 23 (a whopping tenth of an inch). Last year? The last day with accumulating snow didn't arrive until April 5 (.9")

Another Dud? Computer models are contradictory about the potential for rain Monday - Tuesday. The trend is toward less rain with each passing computer model, but the NAM model is still holding firm, hinting at over a half inch of rain. I doubt it. The tendency is recent weeks has been for the models to wildly over-predict rainfall amounts, only to have the actual storms fizzle when they reach Minnesota.

Encouraging Trends. So far, nationwide, 78 tornadoes have touched down since January 1, well below the average of 253 tornadoes that should have been observed from coast to coast. Only 1 fatality so far in 2010. Last year 21 people lost their lives in tornadoes, in 2008 a total of 126 people died in tornadoes - a staggering death toll. On average the annual tornado death toll is closer to 76. Hopefully this will be a quiet year - too early to know, but we're getting off to an encouraging start to the year.

Daily Almanac. Check out this site to see a daily update of major weather stories for a given day. Pretty handy for weather trivia at your next (dull) party. Think of the weather nuggets you'll be able to share!

Before Picture. Here is the first televised satellite image from April 1, 1960. Grainy, black and white, it still caused a sensation when people saw weather patterns from high above the earth for the first time. That was 50 years ago, but perhaps no other technology has had a greater impact on weather forecasting (and tracking) than weather satellites. Up until that time meteorologists had to rely on SHIP REPORTS to estimate the location of hurricanes. Not a great system, huh? Tiros-1 created a revolution, and it's been a steep learning curve ever since. For more on the first weather satellite check out this great overview from NOAA.

After Picture. Check out yesterday's high-res, 250 meter image from NASA's low-orbiting Modis "Terra" satellite. You can see amazing details, like the fact that the ice really is off Lake Minnetonka. Individual cumulus clouds show up from the satellite, orbiting a little more than 200 miles above the earth. The satellites used in daily TV weathercasts are "geosynchronous", in orbit 22,300 miles above the equator, zipping along at over 16,000 mph, moving at the same speed the earth is turning far below, so they appear to hover over the same location, enabling us to "loop" multiple images to show weather systems moving over time. The latest Modis image can be found here.

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

Today: Damp start, isolated shower possible early, then partly sunny with a mild breeze. Winds: W 10-20. High: 65

Tonight: Partly cloudy, mild for earl April. Low: 40

Monday: Clouds increase, chance of showers by afternoon. High: 63

Tuesday: More showers (heaviest rains probably pass south of Minnesota). High: 58

Wednesday: Damp start, then sunshine returns. High: near 60

Thursday: Plenty of sunshine, still mild. High: 61

Friday: Partly sunny skies, not bad at all for early April. High: 60

Saturday: Mostly cloudy - probably dry. High: 62

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