Friday, June 4, 2010

Perspective - if the oil spill had struck Minnesota instead of the Gulf of Mexico

Perspective. It's easy to lose track of the size of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, bigger than Lake Erie as of Friday. This site ( brings some perspective to the spill - you can transport the spill over any zip code in the USA. This is when the sheer scope of this ecological disaster starts to sink in, why millions of residents of the Gulf coast are living through a slow-motion nightmare - no idea how much larger the spill will get, no idea where it's heading next. At least with a hurricane everyone realizes it will be bad, but over with within a few days. But oil? It's an open-ended (man-made) disaster with no obvious expiration date.

An Ominous Long-Range Outlook. The open-ended oil spill may not only get swept up into the "Loop Current", but eventually get sucked up into the warm Gulf Stream waters, brushing the southeast coast, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, before being transported into the mid Atlantic. It's not inconceivable that, within a few months, oil could wash up on the other side of the Atlantic. The truth: nobody knows the eventual size/scope of the spill, and how many beaches will be impacted. An eye-opening story that sums up the uncertainty, including long-range forecast computer models that predict where the oil may eventually wind up, is here.

Oil Widget. How many gallons of oil have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. This widget gives up a real-time update of the latest estimates, along with a live feed of the gusher, courtesy of PBS and Big numbers, and they're going in the wrong direction.

Raw Video: Oil Flow Continues In Spite of Cap. The story is here.

* Warmest meteorological spring on record for Duluth, second warmest for International Falls, Twin Cities and Rochester, third warmest spring reported in St. Cloud. Read more details about our remarkable spring, and what is turning into a great year for Minnesota agriculture, in Professor Mark Seeley's weekly weather and climate blog here.

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

Today: Mostly cloudy with showers, even an afternoon T-shower. Winds: W 10-20, gusty by afternoon. High: near 70

Saturday night: Evening shower, then gradual clearing. Low: 55

Sunday: Unsettled, cool and damp with more showers, even a period of steadier rain possible. Winds: NW 15-25. High: near 70 (holding in the 60s much of the day).

Monday: Unsettled with some sun, another shower or two. High: 73

Tuesday: Mix of clouds and sun, isolated shower can't be ruled out. High: 78

Wednesday: More sun, dry statewide. High: 81

Thursday: Sun gives way to increasing clouds, T-storms late. High: 77

Friday: Warmer, more humid with a few T-storms in the area. High: 81

We salvaged a pretty nice Friday, those puddles from a cool half inch of rain Thursday night dried up in a hurry as the sun came out, luring the mercury well into the 70s with a fresh west breeze. The stage is set for a partly-decent weekend, the best weather coming during the morning and midday hours, when the atmosphere is still relatively stable, skies partly to mostly sunny with a light westerly breeze.

By mid/late afternoon the sky overhead will become increasingly unstable, irritable, rising thermals of warm air blossoming into bloated cumulus congestus, even cumulonimbus (thunderheads) capable of a quick 60-90 minute shower or T-storm. I doubt we'll see anything severe (a little too cool at the surface, low-level moisture limited) but with the freezing level closer to the ground I wouldn't be surprised to see a few reports of pea to marble-size hail with a few of the heavier thunderstorms. It may be a bit cool for the lake or pool, afternoon highs (before the showers arrive) in the 60s north to low/mid 70s south.

Saturday Pop-Up Showers. This is the NAM model valid 6 pm Saturday evening, showing accumulated precipitation between noon and 6 pm Saturday. Most of today should be dry and sunny, the best weather during the morning/midday hours, clouds puffing up in the afternoon, leaking a few showers, even a stray T-storm by late afternoon.

Winds may be a factor, blowing from the west today at 10-20 by afternoon, stronger/gustier Sunday, blowing from the northwest at 15-25. Throw in a ragged, showery sky by afternoon and the weather will be anything but ideal for outdoor plans.

Bottom line: get out as early in the day as possible today and tomorrow; all bets are off after 2 or 3 pm each afternoon. The farther north/east you travel across the state, the more widespread the showers/storms will be by afternoon. Southwestern MN will probably see the driest/sunniest weather this weekend, the Minnesota Arrowhead will see the coolest/wettest weather. I wish I had better news - it won't be as spectacular as Memorial Day Weekend was, that seems fairly certain.

Unsettled Sunday. Different day, same story. A stable, blue-sky start gives way to enough PM instability for a few showers, the risk of 1-2 hours of PM rain increasing the farther north/east you travel across the state. NOT an all-day washout, but have a Plan B for a portion of Sunday afternoon/evening.

A stubborn swirl of unusually cold air aloft keeps us showery and unsettled into Tuesday, but a weak bubble of high pressure coaxes sunshine out of our sky by Sunday, probably the first dry day (statewide) in sight. The core of the jet stream is howling directly overhead, meaning frequent changes, a rather unsettled pattern hanging on into next weekend, with another spirited round of showers/storms arriving by late Thursday and Friday of next week. It's too early to drill down into next weekend, but right now I don't see any more sizzling heat or ridiculous humidity levels looking out 7-10 days.

Cyclone Phet Update. Once the second strongest cyclone (same as hurricane) in the Arabian Sea, Phet is weakening rapidly over the country of Oman, producing copious rains and significant flooding. The latest update from the BBC is here.

Climate Stories.

* 2010 on track to become the warmest year, worldwide, on record. The latest story here (Salt Lake Tribune).

(from the article). According to a 2009 study by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS), 85 percent of the ice sheet that covered Kilimanjaro in 1912 has disappeared, and 26 percent of that present in 2000 has melted. The mountain's ice cover shrank about 1 percent a year from 1912 to 1953. But from 1989 to 2007, that rate jumped to 2.5 percent a year. If current conditions persist, the glaciers that have covered Kilimanjaro for centuries will likely disappear within several decades. This satellite photo shows the peak of Kilimanjaro in November of 1990, 10 years before the following photo. Click forward to see what it looked like in December of 2000. The full story is here.

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