Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Geo-engineering solution to tackle global warming?

Weather Headlines

* Winds gust close to 40 mph late Tuesday as a cold front whips across the state.

* Trees down in Olmsted county, near Rochester, winds gust to 59 mph at Stewartville. Reports of a tornado in Winnebago, WI, close to Green Bay.

* Winds ease up (a little) today, but a puddle of cold air aloft sparks more scrappy clouds, PM showers and sprinkles possible.

* Potential for 1" rain Thursday and Friday (mixed with wet snow over the MN Arrowhead - potential for a few inches of slush north/west of Duluth!)

* Light jacket weather hangs on through the weekend - highs in the 40s by Friday?

* Drier weather returns for the weekend, some sun Saturday and Sunday, stray PM shower risk each day, but MOST of the weekend should be dry (cool 50s Saturday, near 60 Sunday).

* Cooler, stormier pattern hangs on through next week: another surge of rain possible next Monday-Tuesday.

* Too cool for anything severe through most of next week.

* Icelandic volcano erupts again - more flight delays/cancellations (especially into Ireland and the British Isles).

* Oil spill saga continues - tracking the spill interactively.

Wild Winds. At 7:53 the NWS reported a wind gust to 38 mph. To put that into perspective tropical storm force begins at 39 mph. Granted, it was only a gust, but winds blew as hard as 60 mph in the Rochester area, strong enough to bring down tree limbs and cause some minor damage. An impressive cool frontal passage.

"Honey, come home right now - I think the boat is sinking!" That's the phone call I got yesterday around 5 pm, my wife was absolutely frantic. "The platform on the back of the boat is rocking up and down, there are WHITECAPS on the lake - get home now!!" Turns out there was some damage to the boat, the result of 40 mph wind gusts, and a boat that was improperly tied off. Duh. That old adage is true: a boat is a hole in the water that you pour money into." Oh well, live and learn.

Fleeting Warmth. The warmest temperatures usually occur 50-100 miles east of a cold front - that was the case yesterday; the mercury reached 76 at St. Cloud, 79 in the Twin Cities, and a balmy 80 in Rochester, 81 at Austin and Albert Lea. So much for shirtsleeves and shorts - time to dig out the jackets again.

Why was it so dang-blasted windy yesterday? A sharp temperature contrast - it's a law of physics: the greater the variation in temperatures across a region - the stronger the winds have to blow to keep the atmosphere in a state of equilibrium. At the same time it was close to 80 in the Twin Cities temperatures were falling through the 40s over far western Minnesota, a 30-40 degree temperature extreme from east to west, over the span of 125 miles, give or take.

Thanks for the physics lesson Paul. But tell me, will it rain? Yes - eventually. A slight chance of a PM shower or sprinkle later today (thanks to a steep lapse rate, temperatures falling off faster than usual with altitude). This instability will result in lot's of low, scrappy clouds by midday and afternoon, a few passing showers and sprinkles can't be ruled out (better chance as you go north), but MOST of today will be dry, winds blowing from the west, still gusting up to 30 mph. by afternoon.

Wetter Pattern. The storm track IS shifting north, gradually, and Minnesota is seeing more frequent and heavy rains as this transition takes place. The models print out potentially significant rain Thursday-Friday, again late Sunday into Tuesday morning.

Trending Wetter. Models are fairly consistent with the next storm moving in Thursday and Friday, potential for nearly 1" of rain late in the week (although I suspect it will wind up being less...that's been the trend for the last few months). Another surge of rain, maybe another inch, is possible early next week. Good news for the flowers poking up in your garden!

Tuesday's cool front will stall, a wave of low pressure rippling eastward along this frontal boundary will kick up some steadier rain Thursday/Friday (we will be on the cool, stable, northern side of the front - any severe storms should pass well south, over Iowa and Missouri). The models are not to be trusted - ever (!) - but the NAM is hinting at an inch of rain by Friday night. Translation: maybe a quarter to half an inch of rain (if we're lucky) by the end of the week. With any luck watering will be optional this weekend.

So-So Weekend. The bulk of the rain should slide off to our east by Saturday morning, a drying, cooling northwest wind kicking in over the weekend. The best chance of seeing the sun: morning hours both days. Enough cold air (aloft) and residual moisture may spark patchy PM clouds, even a stray shower. That said, MOST of the weekend should be dry, temperatures about 10 degrees cooler than average.

Please Don't Say It Out Loud. The s-word? Now that it's early May....are you kidding me? Sadly, I am not. The GFS is hinting at enough cold air aloft for a period of wet snow over the MN Arrowhead, I wouldn't be surprised to hear reports of a couple inches of slush near Hibbing, Ely and Babbit by Friday night. No snow expected in St. Cloud or the Twin Cities. You can exhale now.

Speaking of the weekend here's the scoop: cooler than last weekend (highs mostly in the 50s). Less wind than last weekend as a weak bubble of high pressure drifts over Minnesota. Again, the vast majority of the weekend should be dry, just a fleeting shower Saturday PM and again Sunday PM. If you have outdoor plans don't panic (well, panic a little), but right now I'm cautiously optimistic that the weather will hold, but if you have something going on between 3 and 7 pm both days have a plan B, just in case the sky opens up for 15-30 minutes. The good news? The atmosphere should be too cool, stable and dry for anything severe to bubble up. Heavier, steadier rain may arrive Sunday night and Monday, another statewide dousing - great news for farmers and anyone with a lawn or garden.

Irony 401. I had to read this article twice (just to comprehend the words on the page). Turns out (according to ABC News) the feds gave Transocean's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig a prize for safety in 2009. Apparently employees did a hip-hop dance number underscoring their dedication to safety and the environment. O.K. I am at a loss for words on this one...

Loop Current. The same current of unusually warm air that can fuel hurricanes (as they pass over warm eddies of water in the Gulf of Mexico) may eventually push the oil around the southern tip of Florida, where it may become swept up in the Gulf Stream. The bottom line: depending on how long this environmental catastrophe lingers, oil could seep into the Atlantic Ocean, threatening multiple counties in the weeks and months to come. We simply have no idea how this will ultimately play out. Read about the loop current here.

Icelandic Volcano - Part II. After a relatively quiet couple of weeks the volcano in Iceland is sputtering back to life, more ash being swept downwind, more flight delays in the U.K. The last eruption lasted the better part of 3 months - once again, we have no idea how long this natural disaster will linger. Check out a spectacular YouTube video here.

Volcanic Ash - The Perfect Gift. Forget pet rocks, now you can plunk down your hard-earned cash on volcanic ash that has been bubbling out of Iceland's superheated interior. Interested? Click here to place your order.

Fooling Mother Nature? Some engineers and scientists are giving serious thought to tinkering with the atmosphere, trying to mitigate the impact of global warming. The theory: if you drop the appropriate chemicals from airplanes (or low-orbiting satellites?) you could reverse the warming effect. Sounds interesting on paper - the reality of actually trying this is a chilling thought. Call me crazy, but the specter of dumping (additional) chemicals into the atmosphere sounds to me like the Mother Of Bad Ideas. Should geo-engineering be used to address global warming? An article in the Christian Science Monitor is here.

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

Today: Sunny start, then mostly cloudy, windy and cool with a passing PM shower or sprinkle. Winds: W 15-30. High: 57

Wednesday night: Gradual clearing, chilly. Low: 43

Thursday: Cloudy with rain developing. High: 56

Friday: Unseasonably cool with periods of rain (mixing with snow over the MN Arrowhead). High: near 50

Saturday: Peeks of sun, light winds, slight chance of a brief PM shower/sprinkle. High: 57

Sunday: Fading sun as clouds increase - more rain possible by Sunday night. High: 61

Monday: More rain, possibly heavy. High: 59

Tuesday: Rain tapers to showers. High: 61

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