Thursday, August 26, 2010

"A Crack At The Top Of The World"

The Crack In The Top Of The World: Yes, Global Warming Is Real - And Deeply Worrying. The U.K. Daily Mail Science Editor Michael Hanlon has been something of a climate skeptic in recent years - until he went to Greenland for a first-hand look at the rapid changes taking place: meltwater rivers at the center of the ice sheet, not confined to the edges of the ice, as was the case in previous decades. He witnessed massive lakes drain - in a matter of minutes - into vast, deep shafts called "moulins." The growing fear is all this melt-water reaching bedrock below is lubricating the remaining ice sheet suspended 1-2 miles over Greenland, accelerating the movement of glacial ice into the surrounding Atlantic. His first-hand, eyewitness report is exhaustive and more than a bit troubling - he's done a 180 in his thinking, and believes that Greenland is the "smoking gun" that proves something is going on. Quoting Hanlon: "So has this remarkable week changed my mind? I still believe climate change has probably been exaggerated, but after coming here it is impossible to maintain that nothing is going on."

Melting. Temperatures have increased over the arctic due to dramatic recent decline in sea ice cover.

El Ninos Getting Stronger. Recent data suggests the intensity of El Nino (warming) events in the central Pacific have doubled since 1982. There has been a recent shift in the area of greatest warming, from the eastern Pacific to more central waters - researchers theorize that climate change may be responsible for this zone of perpetually warm water migrating into the central Pacific - which has profound implications for the weather models that help meteorologists predict weather. The link between what's happening in the Pacific and the evolution of airmasses and weather systems hundreds, even thousands of miles downwind is one of the greatest challenges facing oceanographers and meteorologists - a shift in El Nino would, in the words of researchers, "throw a monkey wrench into long-range weather forecasting, which is largely based on our understanding of El Nino's in the latter half of the 20th century. More on this NOAA/NASA study here.

Perfect Thursday. Yesterday was the pinnacle of meteorological perfection. I can't imagine a nicer day, weatherwise. Highs ranged from a brisk 62 at Grand Marais to 77 in St. Cloud, 79 in the Twin Cities, a balmy 81 at Redwood Falls. At the risk of sounding like a bad beer commercial, it just doesn't get any better than this.
Paul's Conservation MN Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota

Today: Sunny, windy and warm. Winds: S 15-30. High: 85

Friday night: Clear and mild. Low: 64

Saturday: Hazy sun, still windy - a bit stickier. Winds: S 15-30. High: 87

Saturday night: Still clear and warm (and quiet). Low: 67

Sunday: Partly sunny, muggy - a few T-storms may brush far western MN late. Winds: S 15-25. High: near 90

Monday: Unsettled with increasing clouds, showers & T-storms by PM. High: 85

Tuesday: Lingering showers, a few rumbles of thunder possible. High: near 80

Wednesday: Showers taper, turning breezy and cooler with clearing late. High: 78

Thursday: Plenty of sun, lower humidity levels - very nice. High: 77

Labor Day Weekend Preview

Saturday (Sept. 4). Some sun early, then increasing clouds, PM showers likely. High: near 80

Sunday (Sept. 5). Mostly cloudy with showers likely, thunder possible. High: 81

Monday (Labor Day) Partial clearing, breezy and cooler (possibly the best day of the holiday). High: 76

I'm happy to report a total lack of "weather" out there for the foreseeable future. By my rough (back-of-the-envelope) calculations we've had 2 to 3 times more severe weather this summer than usual, a veritable swarm of tornadoes, hailstorms and violent wind events, almost biblical flooding just to our south across Iowa. This may turn into the longest stretch of dry, pleasant weather we've enjoyed all summer season. We were long overdue for a break. Welcome to the nicest week of summer, good timing, considering the State Fair is now in full-swing (as well as the Renaissance Festival outside Shakopee). If you're looking for something to do this weekend, and the State Fair puts the fear of God into you (or you're trying not to put on 5 pounds in a single day) consider the Renaissance Festival. Hundreds of locals get into the action - it's all a bit surreal (and a lot of fun).

Welcome back to July - hope you didn't retire the summer-ware just yet. Shorts and t-shirts will get the job done from this afternoon into Sunday, daytime highs statewide running 5-10 degrees above average. That means highs in the mid 80s today & Saturday, upper 80s to near 90 on Sunday (with a dew point approaching 70). Yep, you will want to be loitering near a lake or swimming pool this weekend, shades of mid July.

One downside: the wind. A strong contrast in barometric pressure will whip up gusty winds, blowing from the south, sustained at 10-20 with (afternoon) gusts as high as 30, even 35 mph. Plan on considerable chop, even a few whitecaps on your lake. At least there won't be any storms to scare you off the water - the only exception Sunday afternoon/evening over far western MN, where a few T-storms can't be ruled out.

A slow-moving cool frontal passage keeps us showery (with a few embedded T-storms) from Monday into Wednesday of next week. A few Monday storms could turn severe, but I think any severe risk will diminish by Tuesday and Wednesday. Skies begin to clear next Wednesday with comfortable sunshine returning next Thursday & Friday, highs holding in the 70s - dew points in the 40s and 50s making it feel a lot more comfortable out there.

Murphy's Second Law: "storms, given a choice, prefer to come on holiday weekends." Which leads to Murphy's little-known corollary: "the amount of precipitation is directly proportional to the number of planned outdoor activities." The reason I bring this up? Labor Day Weekend doesn't look so good right now. True, the forecast may improve with time, as new model data arrives. The storm COULD track farther south. But right now there's a fairly good chance of rain from next Saturday afternoon (Sept. 4) through Sunday (Sept. 5th). Not a steady, all-day rain, but a few hours of showers both days. The long-range GFS model is hinting at a clearing trend by Labor Day, Monday the 6th, so we may be able to salvage some of the holiday. I hope the outlook improves over time - but we've had a pretty good run of sunny, pleasant weekends in recent weeks. We're due for a sloppy weekend, and I fear it may be our destiny on Labor Day Weekend. Hey, I hope I'm wrong.

Close Encounter With Earl? It's still early, but at least one model (GFS) brings soon-to-be Hurricane Earl within a few hundred miles of coastal New England by next Saturday, September 4. Keep this in mind in your Labor Day travels take you to New York, Providence or the Boston area.

Earl's Track. Here is the NHC short-term prediction for Earl - on a track which may bring it much closer to the east coast of the USA than Danielle. For the latest from NHC click here.

It could be worse: the GFS model brings Hurricane Earl precariously close to the coast of New England on Labor Day weekend, potentially passing within a few hundred miles of Cape Cod in about 8 days, give or take. That's way out on the horizon, but it's been too quiet in the tropics - we're due for a few hurricane encounters - and we may be faced with a very close call roughly a week from now. Stay tuned.

"Danielle." Danielle's eyewall is looking considerably more impressive in the last 12 hours. Forecast to become a "major" category 3 hurricane - all the models re-curve Danielle to the north and then the northeast, staying out the Atlantic, a risk to shipping, but not to the USA. More on Danielle from the U. of Wisconsin here.

Hurricane Danielle's Projected Path. Prevailing jet stream steering winds will shove Danielle well out to sea. Map courtesy of Ham Weather.

Storm Damage Reports. Did you have any damage at your place this summer? At last report there have been an incredible 693 separate severe storm reports - just in Minnesota - so far in 2010. If you need to file a damage claim you may want an official National Weather Service damage report to back you up. Data goes up to May 31, 2010. Use this handy tool, courtesy of NCDC, the National Climatic Data Center.

Flooding In Pakistan Spreads South. Close to a million people have been driven from their homes in recent days. Pakistan's army and marine corp has been called into action in the rescue and clean-up efforts; the United Nations estimates that 3.5 million people in Pakistan are relying on contaminated water for drinking, bathing and washing, conditions at refugee camps described as "dire." The New York Times has the complete story here.

Climate@Home. NASA will soon be calling on people (and their personal PC's and Macs) to help determine the accuracy of a computer model that scientists use to predict climate change. Volunteers will be able to download the program to run (in the background) whenever their computers are turned on - but not being used to their full capacity. As such, NASA will be creating a "virtual supercomputing network" that spreads the chore of calculations and model-crunching across thousands of computers worldwide. saving energy, reducing the carbon footprint of running these calculations. The goal: fewer supercomputers - tap the computing horsepower of thousands, or even tens of thousands of smaller computers, all working together to calculate future climate conditions. Pretty amazing. More details here.
Devices That Help Plug Electrical Leaks. We've all heard about "vampire devices" that suck up electricity, even when (seemingly) turned off. "Smart" power strips can now turn off your DVD player or DVR (automatically) when you turn off your TV. Now there's a new appliance that can help you determine just how much power is really getting sucked up by all your various toys and gadgets - more details on the "Conserve Insight" from Belkin here.

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