Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Paging Senator Inhofe (climate scientists are angry - and they have a right to be)

Crummy. Nasty. Hideously raw and inclement. Windblown. Saturated. Gulley-gushing, window-rattling, drainspout-stuffing rains swept across the state Tuesday, over an inch of rain fell across parts of the state (including Redwood Falls and St. Cloud), closer to 2" near Little Falls and the Ft. Ripley area. Great news for farmers, gardeners, anyone with a lawn. The risk of summer drought has dropped significantly in the last week or so - we're not out of the woods, but we've taken a HUGE step in the right direction.

Tuesday Almanac. This is just what the weather-doctor ordered, a long, cool soaking for much of Minnesota, over 1" for St. Cloud and Redwood Falls, about .66" at MSP International in the Twin Cities, only .18" for Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Highs were uniform, in the low to mid 40s, more than 20 degrees cooler than average for May 11.

Doppler Radar Estimates. The presence of hail can contaminate accumulated rain totals over time, but there hasn't been any hail to speak of, much of southern, central and east central MN as been soaked by .5 to 1" of rain, over 1.5" for far southwestern counties, near Pipestone. To see the NWS Doppler estimate for Minnesota click here. (click on MN to zoom in).

Daily Rainfall Records. Here is an interactive map from Ham Weather (a division of WeatherNation) that shows towns around the Upper Midwest that set a 24 hour rainfall record for Tuesday (a whopping 1.8" in Litchfield, breaking the old record of 1.37" on May 11, 1999).

The jet stream is howling overhead, the maps look more like late March than mid May. Already the next storm, centered over Kansas, will spread another smear of moderate rain into Minnesota today, rain - heavy at times - spilling over into part of Thursday as the storm tracks toward Michigan - strafing Iowa, Missouri and Illinois with a few severe T-storms, but we stay on the cool, stable northern side of the storm track. No worries - just a cold rain, maybe another .25 to .75" with over 1" of additional rain for central and northern Minnesota by lunchtime Thursday.

Minnesota Soaking, Part II. A secondary area of low pressure tracks just south of Minnesota over the next 36 hours, another period of steady rain (with any severe storms staying well to our south, over Iowa). This is a multi-million-dollar rain event for Minnesota farmers - it could not have come at a better time, the moderate drought over roughly the eastern third of Minnesota about to become history.

This time - timing is on our side. We're getting the soaking rains and March-like temperatures out of the way midweek, skies clear by Friday and MOST of the weekend, a very important weekend for Minnesota's fishing community, looks dry and mild, with temperatures right where they should be in mid May, highs in the 60s, lows in the low to mid 40s, enough sun for a respectable tan (or burn) both days - only a slight, 1 in 4 chance of a T-storm late Sunday (closer to a 50-60% probability of instability T-storms up north after 3 pm Sunday). All in all, pretty good for a Fishing Opener. God knows we've seen worse in years gone by.

Tuesday Severe Risk. Oklahoma is still cleaning up from nearly 40 tornadoes late Monday, and another round of severe storms is forecast to mushroom from Dallas to Tulsa to Des Moines and Chicago later today, south/east of the storm track. Once again Minnesota will see the rain, without any risk of hail, high winds or tornadoes. It's been a miraculously quiet spring - so far.

Is It Safe Yet? If your flowers survived the freeze last weekend you're probably in pretty good shape to get even more serious planting annuals in your garden. Here are the long term averages, courtesy of the local NWS office in Chanhassen. The average date of the last 32 F. low in the Twin Cities is April 29. The latest: May 24. A little patchy frost is possible over the northern half of Minnesota Friday morning, if skies clear and winds drop off. We're almost out of the woods...

Fishing Opener Outlook. The weather WILL be better by the weekend, although I can't promise a picture-postcard-perfect sky we expect ample sun both days, highs well up into the 60s (even on northern lakes), relatively light winds - dry weather most of the time. More on the Fishing Opener from Conservation MN and Explore Minnesota here.

Brainerd/Alexandria Lakes

6 am noon 4pm 9pm

Saturday: Plenty of mild sun. Winds: S: 8-13 38 57 64 61

Sunday: AM sun, stray PM storm. S: 5-10 42 60 66 60

Safe To Eat? Conservation Minnesota has put together an amazing web site where you can check your favorite lake, see if water conditions are safe for swimming and eating fish. Mercury contamination is a real problem on some of our lakes, a potential health hazard for all of us, especially for children and pregnant women. Do yourself a favor and check this site before eating walleye (or anything) - don't want to be Debby Downer, but you want to have all the information in order to make smart decisions for your family. For example: I had NO idea there were high levels of mercury on White Bear Lake! Data comes from a myriad of sources, including the MN Pollution Control Agency.

Multi-Vortex Tornado. An unbelievable sight, the large, violent, long-lasting tornadoes that ripped across Oklahoma and Kansas late Monday were multi-vortex tornadoes, as many as 4-6 "mini-tornadoes" all rotating around a common center. Click here for an article explaining the phenomenon - very rare, evidence that these were no garden-variety twisters. More on the tornado aftermath here.

Bigger Than Baseballs. The hailstones that fell out of an eerie, green-ish sky in Oklahoma Monday evening were evidence of severe updrafts within nearby thunderheads. I've said this before, but it bears repeating: if you ever experience large hail (anything bigger than ping pong size), watch out. It means you're dealing with an especially severe updraft, air shooting straight up at nearly 100 mph. Any updraft strong enough to suspend golf-ball to baseball size hail is probably strong enough to spin up a tornado.

Volcanic Ash, Part II. The Icelandic volcano is puffing away again, injecting a cloud of smoke and ash 20,000 to 40,000 feet into the atmosphere, the prevailing jet stream winds sweeping the ash towards Spain and Morocco in the coming days. My dad is planning a trip to Munich, Germany for a high school reunion - every day he's been frantically checking the maps to see if his flight will be able to take off on time. Dad - I think you'll be ok, but coming back in a week? Stop into an internet cafe and keep an eye on that ash cloud. 7 airports in Spain have been shut down by the ash - the latest on the implications of the Icelandic volcano here.

Perspective. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is larger than the state of Delaware, roughly 210,000 gallons of (new) oil bubbling up into the Gulf every day. It's hard to put that into perspective until you superimpose the spill on a map. As it stands today the BP oil spill would stretch from near Hibbing to Hayward, Wisconsin. How would the spill look superimposed over Washington D.C., Manhattan or L.A.? More perspective on this expanding ecological disaster here. An amazing NASA time lapse (aerial images from low-orbiting satellites) since late April is here.

Impact. You can read statistics, examine maps of the oil spill, but unless you're physically THERE, smelling oil in the air, seeing the impact on fish, plants and aquatic life, I don't think we can really grasp the enormity of this slow-motion ecological cataclysm. Some heart-breaking photos of the spill from the L.A. Times are here.

Tracking The Spill. ESRI has a real-time, interactive map, pulling in social media to help tell the story. Worth checking out.

Q&A. The EDF, the Environmental Defense Fund, answers common questions about the oil spill, and what it's going to take to get America on-track toward a sustainable energy-future, one that's less dependent on imported or domestic crude, lowering the overall risk of disasters like the one we're tracking in the Gulf.

More Updates. The Office of Response and Restoration (I didn't even know there was such a thing!) has more updates on the Deepwater Horizon spill here.

Loop Current. There is a natural circulation in the Gulf of Mexico, analogous to the circulation in your bathtub when you open the drain. This clockwise circulation of warm water, the "Loop Current", will eventually push the slick to the east, toward the Florida coast, possibly around the southern tip of Florida, threatening the Everglades, even the eastern shoreline of Florida as it gets swept up into the Gulf Stream. Florida officials estimate this may take 10-20 days. Time will tell...

Climate Change Is The True Crisis: an editorial worth reading is here. Academics urge new, radical approaches to climate change - the story is here.

Scientists Team Up Against Climate Change Naysayers. 255 climate scientists have had enough - they recently banded together to make a formal declaration, decrying the "witch-hunt" underway in Washington D.C. right now, fallout from the so-called "ClimateGate" last winter. The science remains convincing and overwhelming. An overview of the story is here, their letter, in its entirety, is here.

Searching for Glaciers. Glacier National Park celebrated its 100 year birthday yesterday, but the gorgeous, 1 million acre preserve is experiencing massive stress: more drought, dying trees, and rapidly melting glaciers. Will glaciers be around in 10 years? Click here to read a story about the troubling, fast-forward changes at the park.

Paging Senator Inhofe. All that chatter about global warming being a big pile of hooey last winter, when Washington D.C. was buried under 69" of snow? Snow in all 50 states in late January? That snow sure melted in a hurry - April snow cover across North America was the smallest on record, by a statistically large margin, the greatest anomaly in 520 months of record-keeping, according to climateprogress.org. The full story is here.

A Moment In Time. Photography buff? Feeling worldly and a bit curious? No? Me neither. But if you're looking to kill a few minutes checking out an amazing glimpse of our planet, check out a special initiative from the New York Times. The challenge: arm thousands of photographers with camera and have them take pictures at exactly the same time. This was the result. Definitely worth checking out.

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

Today: Gray and raw with more rain likely. Winds: NE 10-20. High: 46

Wednesday night: Periods of rain, unusually cold. Low: 40

Thursday: Showers slowly taper, skies brighten late in the day. High: 51

Friday: MUCH better! Plenty of sun - should feel like spring again. High: 66

Saturday: Sun much of the day, lukewarm (falling barometer). Winds: S 8-13. High: 67

Sunday: Partly cloudy, milder, very slight chance of a late-day T-shower (better chance up north). Winds: S 5-10. High: 68

Monday: Mix of clouds and sun, balmy. High: 72

Tuesday: May-like indeed, ample sun, warm. High: 75

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