Thursday, April 29, 2010

Oil Sprill Crisis in the Gulf of Mexico

Len Meger lives in Eden Prairie - I saw him Wednesday evening and he was beaming, ear to ear. "I've already played more golf this month than I did all last year," he laughed. My vegetable garden is sprouting....lettuce, radishes, it's all coming up, about 3-4 weeks early!"

I put my boat in yesterday, earliest ever - by about 3 weeks. Minnesotans are almost giddy this spring, between outdoor baseball and a REAL spring and jumbo-summer season imminent, we have good reason to be optimistic. It's been a weather day-dream come to life, the kind of weather patterns we all fantasize about in January and February, the stuff of weather legend. According to NASA spring comes 10-14 days earlier now (on average) than it did a generation ago. The growing season is at least 2 weeks longer than it was in the 60s and 70s. Shrinking winters, extended summers - it all has a pretty nice ring. The downside: our shifting seasons increase the potential for perpetual drought, more extreme precipitation events, more head-scratching weather oddities. Stuff is growing here that didn't grow here 30 years ago, entire climate zones have shifted north about 150 miles in less than 25 years. The big question: will wildlife be able to adapt to these rapid changes? I don't pretend to know, but adapting to this brave, new, drier, stormier, warmer world may be non-trivial for many species of plants and animals worldwide. We have entered uncharted waters.

A Dome Over the Twin Cities? Why doesn't it rain (much) here anymore? The latest NAM model prints out some 1 to 1.5" rainfall amounts from Grand Rapids to Brainerd, Alexandria and Worthington, but less than .30" for the immediate Twin Cities metro area. Hard to tell if the models have the right idea, but one thing is certain: there will be some BIG variations in rainfall across the great state of Minnesota today and tonight.

Rough Storms. Warnings were issued for counties south/east of the Twin Cities late Thursday, along the leading edge of a cooler front. A few T-storms are possible Friday, the threat of severe weather shifting east into Wisconsin and eastern Iowa.

Nice to be tracking some actual green blobs on Doppler radar. Lately it seems rain has been the exception, not the rule. It's hard to get too indignant about a weather-winning-streak of sunny days, but April is running 8.2 degrees F. warmer than average. For the last 3+ weeks we've been enjoying weather more typical of early and mid May, as if we've fast-forwarded into spring this year.

Saturday Instability Showers. Saturday may start out partly sunny, but a lingering puddle of unusually cold air aloft will leave the atmosphere over Minnesota unstable, irritable, capable of a few hours of showers, especially north of St. Cloud and Lake Mille Lacs. The farther north you go, the faster clouds will blossom - and leak a few light showers by midday.

A wave of low pressure rippling northward along a (temporarily) stalled cold front will keep showers in the forecast today (NAM model prints out nearly .50" of rain). It won't be an all-day rain, probably a few hours of showers, even a few embedded T-storms, especially southeastern MN. The brunt of the moisture shifts east tonight, paving the way for a drier Saturday, although a few instability pop-up showers are still expected over central and northern MN by midday and afternoon Saturday. Sunday looks drier statewide, probably the nicer, sunnier day of the weekend for lawn mowing, baseball practice, dock repair, bike rides and tinkering in the garden.

Weather Rock. If it's swaying: windy. If it's wet: raining. If it's shaking: earthquake. If you can't see it? Fog (or snow). Yes, I have an impressive collection of weather rocks sent in by viewers over the years. Hey, it works.

Slow Motion Disaster. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is turning into a true ecological cataclysm. The spill is now 5 times larger than previously thought - some environmentalists are whispering the sad and shocking possibility that the oil spreading in the Gulf of Mexico may rival the Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska 20 years ago. The spill is so expansive that its visible from space. The very latest is here.

One Downside of Warming. Over 30% of Minnesota is experiencing moderate drought conditions right now, up from 1.5% just 3 months ago. The driest counties run from the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities to the Minnesota Arrowhead. Dr. Claudia Tibaldi from NCAR predicts more frequent and intense droughts in the years and decades ahead, especially west of the Mississippi River, if climate change theory is valid. If climate scientists are right, much of Minnesota (especially western and southwestern counties) may be in a perpetual state of drought most years, interrupted by fleeting outbreaks of severe weather and intense rains. Time will tell. Click here to see the latest Drought Monitor.

Volcanic Hype? New evidence suggests that European aviation officials may have overreacted in closing all the airports a couple weeks ago. New studies confirm that ash concentrations weren't nearly as high as first feared - it's easy to second-guess after the fact, but everyone wants to err on the side of public safety. All it would have taken is one airplane falling out of the sky, engines seizing up after flying through a cloud of ash, for the public outcry to begin. It was probably a lose-lose scenario for officials scared of the unknown. The U.K's "Daily Mail" newspaper has an eye-opening story here.

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

Today: Mostly cloudy and humid with showers, possible thunder. Winds: E 8-13. High: 68

Friday night: Lingering showers. Low: 49

Saturday: Sunny start, then increasing clouds, chance of a PM shower (especially central and northern MN). Winds: SW 10-20. High: 64

Sunday: More sun, breezy, a better day. High: 63

Monday: Partly sunny and comfortably cool. High: near 60

Tuesday: Unsettled, a few showers. High: 61

Wednesday: Mostly cloudy and unsettled, slight shower risk. High: 60

Thursday: More clouds, better chance of showers. High: 63

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