Sunday, May 16, 2010

The equivalent of an "Exxon Valdez" every 4-7 days

Wow. Now THAT was a memorable Fishing Opener. Blue sky, light, lukewarm breezes, colleagues returning to work and school with beet-red sunburns. Yes, the only thing I can catch, consistently, when I'm on the water, is a painful burn. Some argued that the weather was, in fact, "too nice". I actually had a few people tell me, "Paul, the bright sun scared away the fish - kept 'em down deep, not enough chop on the lakes Saturday morning." How can the weather possibly be too nice? You just can't win. I hope you soaked up a fine weekend and enjoyed some of the best weather in the nation. After last year's cold, blustery winds and '08's snow flurries and wind chill up north, it was a refreshing change of pace.

Sunday Memories. Yesterday's Almanac tells the tale - a pretty amazing day with enough sun for highs in the 70s (except for people in Grand Marais, where a raw, unforgiving breeze off Lake Superior left shivering, heavy-jacket-clad locals lamenting a high of 49 degrees. Ouch).

Sunday Evening Surface Map. We were lucky, very lucky. Sunday evening's map showed scattered showers and storms stretching from Nebraska to Iowa, Missouri and Illinois, a weak ridge of high pressure straddling Wisconsin and Minnesota, forcing showery rains to detour just to our south. Close call. The very latest weather map is here.

Congratulations Graduates! My oldest son, Walt, 2" taller, deeper voice, considerably smarter, more conservative, passionate and level-headed than his old man, graduated from Penn State Saturday with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Telecommunications, a Minor in Business. I'm very proud of my boy, who, by the way, has absolutely ZERO interest in following in his dad's footsteps with a weather career. He's a gifted musician, plays an incredible lead guitar, has a band (Northern Soul) and hopes to channel some of that creativity into post production, video and editing. My little sister (Joan) is on the far left - my tolerant bride of 26 years, Laurie, by my side. Yes, I look dazed. Happy but dazed. More than anything I felt OLD this past weekend. How on earth did this come to pass? How did I get to be 51? It's all a mystery to me...but I'm giving thanks for good things and family blessings.

"Graduation Day is tough for adults. They go to the ceremony as parents. They come home as contemporaries. After 22 years of child-raising, they are unemployed," quipped Erma Bombeck."

Our lives are (increasingly) non-stop drones of meetings, problem-solving, endless e-mails, phone calls, a blur of day-to-day life, just trying to get through the day to the other side, a few moments where we can relax, unwind, and if we're lucky - reflect. This weekend was a big one for our family, my oldest son, Walt, graduated from Penn State. My "little boy" received a degree in Telecommunications, a minor in Business, a joyous, touching, slightly bittersweet moment for all of us. We mark the passage of time with seminal moments in our lives: weddings, divorces, births and deaths - this was one of those poignant moments in my life where I really stopped and looked back at the 22 years Walt has been around, brightening up our lives. I'm admittedly biased (as any father would be), but the kid has a better voice, a much better sense of humor, and he's far more calm, reserved and thoughtful than his old man. How did that happen? Not sure - but I thank God for the good things in life, the truly eye-opening, awe-inspiring moments in your life when you can look back and feel good about how things turned out. The older I get, the less I take for granted. We spend so much of our days cleaning up messes - it's nice to step back and celebrate the good moments. Congratulations to any recent grads in your house. It's an exultant, mildly terrifying time for everyone involved. Stay optimistic - I know it's trite and cliche, but I've seen it happen too many times in my life for it to be a mere coincidence: if you're a naive optimist there's a better chance good things will unfold, maybe not on your timetable, but if you force yourself to be positive, you'll have a little undefinable edge going through life. "Man plans, God laughs," goes the Yiddish proverb. It's true - but sometimes those unexpected zigs and zags that you couldn't predict in advance take you to a much better place than you could have imagined. Enough Dr. Phil drivel. Sorry. But Walt's graduation really got me thinking, reflecting, and repeating an almost continuous prayer of thanks and gratitude.

"The fireworks begin today. Each diploma is a lighted match. Each one of you is a fuse."

- Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch

Omega Block. The predicted wind flow at 500 mb (roughly 18,000 feet above the ground) by Tuesday evening at 6 pm vaguely resembles the Greek letter omega. O.K. Use your imagination. Storms anchored on each coast, a persistent bubble of high pressure temporarily stalled over the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest. This should result in at least 5-6 dry days in a row, starting today. A stray shower or T-shower may pop later today, mainly over the northern third of Minnesota, but rain will be the exception today statewide. It's early, but Saturday appears to be the drier, nicer, warmer day of the weekend. To see the predicted gyrations of the jet stream click here to be magically transported to the Unisys site - lot's of good stuff here.

Speaking of gratitude - a very good-looking week is brewing for Minnesota, the result of a temporary holding pattern. After squirting windblown rain into the Upper Midwest the first 2 weeks of May, the jet stream, the main highway for storms, will once again retreat to our south this week, battering Denver, Dallas and Atlanta, but dry weather should be the rule here from Tuesday through most of Saturday, at least 5 dry, sun-splashed, warmer-than-average days in a row. If you need dry weather for yard work, field work, construction, painting...ANYTHING, take advantage of this week. At some point that fickle storm track will jump out of it's southerly groove and start flinging wet, potentially violent storms over Minnesota. It's inevitable, a subtle yet blunt reminder than June is our wettest month of the year, on average, with over 4" of rain. Why do so many brides want to get married in June? If you have a wedding do yourself a big favor and "rent the tent." If you don't rent the tent you're just begging for Mother Nature to paint a big bulls-eye on your wedding party. Wedding, graduation party, prom party? Do yourself a favor and don't gamble with the elements. Rent the tent. Consider it wedding insurance.

Multi-Vortex Tornado. One week ago today a devastating family of tornadoes swept across Oklahoma. Check out this video to see a multi-vortex tornado, multiple tornadoes (as many as 5-6) all rotating around a common center. Simply amazing.

European Headaches. The Icelandic volcano is erupting again, wreaking havoc on countries downwind. Click here for a look at stunning YouTube video. Airports in the U.K., Scotland and Ireland are being impacted by the billowing ash cloud - the latest here from

Anatomy of a Disaster. Did you catch the story on 60 Minutes last night? There was a must-see interview with one of the supervisors on the oil rig that exploded, sinking to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, starting a chain-reaction ecological disaster that may go unrivaled in U.S. history. The original estimates of oil released into the Gulf may have been optimistic - some experts now believe the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf is 15 TIMES greater than BP originally thought. It's the rough equivalent to one Exxon Valdez disaster every 4-7 days, which is hard to fathom. The script and video of the interview with 60 Minute's Scott Pelley is here.
Giant plumes of oil, some 10 miles long, have been observed in the Gulf - the story here.

* Tracking the Deepwater Horizon Blowout from space (NASA) here.

* The Gulf of Mexico Spill: An Accident Waiting to Happen. An analysis from Environment 360 here.
Oily Waters Threaten Florida's Shores. Even though oil has yet to reach the west coast of Florida, some oceanographers believe it's only a matter of time before beaches from Clearwater to Sarasota and Naples are impacted - prevailing westerlies and a clockwise flow of water in the Gulf of Mexico, called the "Loop Current" will eventually push the growing oil slick to the south and east. Tourism is already suffering all along the Gulf coast; Florida is already being impacted by tourists reluctant to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for a questionable beach experience. As is usually the case, fear of the unknown trumps reality - but Floridians have good reason to be nervous. Click here to read more.

Climate Stories

Global Warming in Canadian Maritimes Subject of New Film. The impact of climate change is greater the farther north you travel. There is growing concern about rising sea levels in the Canadian Maritimes - click here to read more.

* Challenging the Climate Change Deniers. Scientists are finally entering the debate and defending their work. The story in the Edmonton Journal is here.

* Arctic Explorers Gathering Climate Change Data at the North Pole. The BBC has an in-depth story, examining changes at the top of the world, here.

* A Hole In The Spring Sky. 25 years ago this month researchers discovered an alarming lack of stratospheric ozone above both poles, an "ozone hole." At first the scientists were ostracized, even ridiculed. But the science held up, and by 1996 all the industrialized countries of the world banned harmful chemicals, "CFS's", which were drifting into the upper atmosphere and producing a chain reaction that resulted in ozone depletion. The main difference this time? Money. The impact on energy-related businesses, all the unknowns lurking out there (and a very real possibility that putting a price on carbon may impact the bottom line) has created an atmosphere conducive to doubt, uncertainty and confusion. How sound is the science? Isn't this all one great big conspiracy? A chance for climate scientists to get big government grants? The amount of disinformation out there on the web (and cable TV) is staggering. The truth will come out - in time, as more pieces of the climate puzzle fall into place. Let's hope it happens while there's still time do something about it. An editorial in the New York Times is here.

Predicting How My Wife Will Feel At Any Given Moment in Time. It's a little complicated, still working out the final equation, but I'm making progress. I think.

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

Today: Plenty of sun, late PM T-shower possible far northern MN. Winds: E 8-13. High: 74

Monday night: Mostly clear and cool. Low: 51

Tuesday: Mostly sunny and warmer. High: 76

Wednesday: Generous amounts of sun - still dry. High: 79

Thursday: Mix of clouds and sun, warmer than average. High: 77

Friday: Weather winning streak continues, partly sunny and mild. High: 76

Saturday: Probably the nicer day of the weekend. Fading sun, breezy, dry. High: near 80

Sunday: Humid with a good chance of showers and T-storms, some heavy. High: 75

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