Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Future Temperatures Could Be Too Hot To Survive

Weather Headlines

* 4th warmest April since 1820.

* Bees arriving 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule, due to the recent spell of unusually mild weather - ongoing risk of frost in May has honey harvesters nervous (source: KARE-11).

* Blustery, ragged, almost November-like Wednesday, high of 55 with a trace of rain, peak wind gust at MSP: 45 mph! Gusts over 50 mph at Rochester and Worthington - tropical storm force.

* .50"+ rain expected from tonight into Friday.

* Potential for a "plowable" snowfall up north by Friday, 3-6" possible from Bemidji to Grand Rapids, Leech Lake and Hibbing. Whatever snow falls will be mostly-gone by lunchtime Saturday.

* Mother's Day: nicer day of the weekend with more sun, shot at 60. Light winds - dry for "Race For The Cure" - conditions should be good for the estimated 50,000 people expected to participate (or watch friends/loved ones from the sidelines).

Wisconsin Tornado Footage. WFRV-TV in Green Bay has some pretty amazing photos and video from Tuesday's tornado touchdown near Winnebago, which caused light to moderate damage (no injuries). Click here to see the full video report.

"Your Action News, Turbo-Doppler, First-Alert, Oil-Slickcast." This is what it's come to, at least in the Mobile, Alabama market. Meteorologists are tracking the growing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, giving a blow-by-blow account of a). how big, and b). where it seems to be drifting. Amazing it's come to this.

Curious Moose. No, this has nothing to do with the weather - just one of the many useless photos friends/acquaintances send me during a typical day. Oh, the stuff you can find on the 'net.

Wednesday Almanac. What a lovely day it was, winds gusting from 35-55 mph, whitecaps on the lakes, peeks of sun interrupted by (horizontal) wind-whipped showers and sprinkles. "Highs" ranged from 48 at Alexandria and International Falls to 56 at St. Cloud, 55 in the Twin Cities, and 60 in Rochester. Ugh.

Man, I'm sure glad I got the boat in early this year. The last couple of days have looked like late October on Lake Superior, whitecaps frothing above monster swells, crashing over the dock, the boat bobbing around like a crazed beast. Only the brave and the foolish have been boating in recent days - pass the Dramamine please.

How long will it be before people miss seeing the Twins (in consistent 72-degree warmth) at the Metrodome? No bugs, no wind chill, no hail the size of "canned hams" (with all deference to David Letterman). Yes, it was like watching baseball at a mall, but at least the weather was predictable. I'm seeing my first Twins game at Target Field May 11 - can't wait, by then it may warm up to tolerable levels (although right now the long-range models are hinting at a soaking rain the middle of next week). Just my luck.

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE the idea of outdoor baseball, the perfected, fantasized vision of chirping birds, gentle breezes, kids smiling and laughing as they reach out and try to catch foul balls. The reality usually don't work out quite that way - some screaming 8-year old kid kicking your seat, gastric distress from those jumbo hot dogs you wolfed down (is it true you can get a Manny's steak sandwich at Target Field?) and a cold, cruel wind smacking you square in the forehead. On paper it should be a perfect baseball experience. But then again I'm a weatherguy - I'm accustomed to disappointment.

Outlook: Big Puddles. The models are fairly consistent: .50 to nearly 1" of rain Thursday night into Friday, a break over the weekend, then another storm next week, with a potential for ANOTHER 1-2" of rain. The core of the jet stream, the main storm track, which has been stuck over the southern U.S.A. most of the spring, is finally shifting northward, guiding big, sloppy storms into Minnesota and Wisconsin. 33% of Minnesota is in a moderate drought - but at this rate, not for long.

O.K. We had May in early April - now we're getting late March in early May - makes perfect sense to me. Yesterday's nasty "upper-air disturbance" (unusually cold puddle of air aloft) is pushing east - winds will ease up today with some sun possible during the morning and midday hours. Clouds will stream in by afternoon, the chance of showery rains increasing by this evening, the heaviest rains tonight and Friday (latest NAM model prints out .77" - I'm pretty sure we'll see less than that). A damp start Saturday gives way to gradual clearing, some PM sun (the later in the day you plan your outdoor activities, the better the chance of success - although it may be a bit muddy out there - highs stuck in the 50s). Conditions look better for mom on her big day - Mother's Day is Sunday (note to self - don't forget) and the weather should be partly sunny, mid-afternoon temperatures near 60, winds still relatively light (a LOT less wind than last weekend).

May Snow? Nothing gets Minnesotans grumpier (faster) than a blanket of fresh snow on their green, freshly-mowed lawns. I don't expect any snow in the Twin Cities, a coating/dusting of slush is possible in St. Cloud late Friday or Friday night, maybe an inch or 2" for the Brainerd area, but as much as 3-6" of heavy, wet, slushy snow may pile up from Bemidji to Grand Rapids and the MN Arrowhead by Friday night. The good news: whatever falls will have melted by midday Saturday. The sun is as high in the sky as it was in early August. Yes, it's theoretically possible to get a sunburn while shoveling snow off your driveway (in May). Wonderful.

Snow Bulls-eye. I've circled the part of Minnesota most likely to see some accumulating snow by Friday night, generally north of Little Falls and Crosby, where temperatures in the lowest mile of the atmosphere may be at, or just below 32 F. Feeling lazy? Just wait for the snow to melt on Saturday.

About that drought? I think it's coming to a (rapid) close. Between the rain we get tonight and Friday, and another major storm on tap for the middle of next week (another 1-1.5" rain?) my strong hunch is that moderate drought gripping the northeastern third of Minnesota will pretty much be history by the end of next week - some good news for Minnesota farmers. Remember all that glorious weather we basked in March and April (warmest in modern-day records?) Consider this sloppy, muddy, "puddly" payback.

Slipping Into A Stormy Pattern. The (GFS) outlook for next Tuesday evening at 6 pm shows an area of low pressure east of Denver, moisture from the Gulf of Mexico streaming north, riding up and over a dome of cool air across the Upper Midwest, resulting int enough upward motion for significant rain (maybe mixed with snow over far northern MN?) I wouldn't be surprised to see another 1 to 1.5" of rain by the middle of next week. No need to water the lawn anytime soon.

Nashville Flood. Even country music stars get flooded out. Check out Kenny Chesney, knee-deep in muddy water - he was one of hundreds of thousands of Nashville residents flooded out by recent historic rains (13-18" in the Nashville area in roughly 2 days last weekend). The story is here.

Did Oil Industry Ignore Problems With Equipment Meant To Stop Spills? An interesting story from ABC News. Negligent? Probably. Criminally negligent? We'll see.

BP Caps 1 of 3 Wells, But Oil Flow Won't Be Reduced. Another story worth reading here.

New Technology Generates Database on Spill Damage. The NY Times has an article about how victims of the oil spill are posting e-mails and tweets describing the impact of the recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico. You can see user-generated reports from the scene of the BP oil spill here.

April Warmth. Minnesota experienced the 3rd warmest April since 1895. It was the warmest April on record for Illinois, second warmest for Indiana. El Nino? Climate Change? Normal atmospheric variability? Proving cause and effect is next to impossible; my hunch: a little of all 3.

Climate Stories

Future Temperatures Could Be Too Hot To Survive. A worst-case scenario? Possibly. Researchers have discovered the maximum "wet bulb" temperatures (roughly equivalent to the dew point) that people can survive - a wet bulb temperature of 95 F. for 6 hours or more can prove lethal for the average person. Thankfully those conditions don't exist in many regions of the planet today (the deserts are obviously ridiculously hot, but humidity levels are usually very low). The danger is when you combine desert heat with high humidity levels from bodies of water, conditions which exist in parts of the Middle East, like the U.A.E and Saudi Arabia. Could a warming world result in more scenarios of extreme heat + extreme humidity levels? I didn't think this was theoretically possible until I lived through the Chicago "Heat Storm" of 1995. The high reached 106 F, with a dew point of 81. Nighttime lows didn't go below 83 for two consecutive nights in the inner city. Over 700 Chicagoans died from the relentless heat, which came on suddenly (thus the moniker "heat storm" vs. "heat wave"). A similar heat wave killed an estimated 30,000 Europeans during the summer of 2003, elderly people were hit the hardest. I hope it's a worst case scenario, one that will never come to pass, but there is growing concern that we're loading the atmospheric dice in favor of more heat waves and heat storms. Click here to read the full story from TG Daily.

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

Today: Some sun early, then increasing clouds (less wind than recent days). Winds: E 5-10. High: 58

Thursday night: Rain developing. Low: 45

Friday: Wet & raw with rain likely. High: 49 (snow mixes with wet snow far north, but NOT in the Twin Cities).

Saturday: Wet start, clouds giving way to some sun by late afternoon/evening. High: 57

Sunday (Mother's Day). A mix of clouds and sun, a bit milder. Slight chance of a stray shower by late afternoon. High: 61

Monday: Cloudy - unsettled - a few showers possible. High: 58

Tuesday: Rain likely, potentially heavy. High: 62

Wednesday: More rain, tapering late. High: near 60 (falling into the 50s)

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