Saturday, August 14, 2010

First Puff of Autumn

* Today: 5-10 degrees cooler than average, winds gust to 30 mph at times.

* Jackets up north the next 2 nights? Lows dip into the 40s in some towns.

* No severe weather in sight. Really.

Ready For Your Close-Up
. The midday Saturday "MODIS" satellite image from NASA's Aqua satellite showed Lake Mille Lacs, Minnetonka, and the urban areas stretching from the Twin Cities to St. Cloud (250 meter resolution). For the latest satellite image click here.

Summer Rainfall So Far. The map shows departure from normal, most of southern MN has picked up 1.5 times the normal amount of rain since June 1, more than TWICE as much rain as normal for Iowa and a big swath of Wisconsin. Drought has been limited to the MN Arrowhead - soil moisture in great shape across most of our fair state.

Raining Cats, Dogs & Canaries. The severe storms that swept across the state last Friday dropped some impressive rainfall amounts (and spectacular lightning displays) dumped as much as 3-4" rain in a band from Alexandria to Willmar to the southern suburbs of the Twin Cities. 4.16" rain was reported at Wabasha, 4.05" reported at Zumbrota, about 5 week's worth of rain falling in a few hours. More statistics on last Friday's flooding rains here - click here to see a full-screen version of the rainfall map above.

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

Today: Windy and comfortably cool. Morning sun giving way to patchy PM clouds, even a few sprinkles up north. Winds: W/NW 15-30. High: 76

Tonight: Gradual clearing, still breezy. Sweatshirt weather up north. Low: 57

Monday: Plenty of sun, still windy and cool. High: 76

Tuesday: Sun giving way to increasing clouds, slight chance of a late-day shower. High: 78

Wednesday: Warmer, more humid - a few T-storms in the area. High: 82

Thursday: Shower, then gradual clearing. High: near 80

Friday: Mix of clouds and sun, mild. High: 79

Saturday: Partly cloudy, a bit warmer, more lake-worthy. High: 83

Commercials on the tube for the Minnesota State Fair....the Vikes playing preseason ball, back to school sales in full swing (I just got my first Christmas catalog in the mail - good grief). I guess summer really is winding down. How did that happen? Blink, sneeze, turn away for a moment, and you miss a Minnesota summer altogether. Not fair. Just think, if it was in the 80s year-round MSP would have a population of 10 million - we'd be L.A. with lakes. You're rationalizing Paul. The cold weather keeps most mere mortals away, which, in the grand scheme of things, is probably a good thing.

Mother Nature is delivering a physics lesson of sorts: the greater the contrast in temperature, the stronger the winds need to blow to keep the atmosphere in a state of equilibrium. Yes, the first real puff of Autumn is swirling south of the border, 90s replaced by 60s and 70s, HALF as much water in the air as dew points drop into the 50s (even some 40s up north). It's a little early digging out the jackets and sweatshirts, but later today, with a stiff wind and a fair amount of instability cloud cover up north by afternoon - it will border on "cool" out there - no question. There's a new word in our meteorological vocabulary: "cool". I remember it, but only vaguely.

Saturday was a fine day, in spite of some pop-up clouds and late-day showers - the atmosphere a bit too cool, dry and stable for anything severe (thank God). Saturday evening's windblown showers marked the leading edge of a cooler front, one that will keep temperatures 5-10 degrees cooler than average today. The best chance of spying the sun: morning and midday, but chilly air drifting 3-5 miles overhead will spark a fair amount of PM cloudiness, keeping temperatures in the 60s over far northern Minnesota. Throw in a west/northwest wind gusting to 20-30 mph and you may notice a faint whiff of windchill out there, for the first time in nearly 3 months. I prefer to think of this as "comfortably cool", a definite taste of mid September.

SAVE Golf Tournament. Fresh air lingers Monday (good news for the SAVE Golf Tournament to raise money for an amazing local organization that helps people who are suffering from depression, as well as families devastated by suicide, including a 24 hour suicide hotline). The trends are alarming, and with so many people looking for work in this lousy economy, the pressure, the stress is off the scale for many individuals. The good news: more than 97% of people suffering from depression (which is a chemical imbalance, much like diabetes) can be successfully treated by medication and counseling, or a combination of both. There is no stigma - all of us go through low cycles where we need help. It's not something you can just "snap out of" - it's a disease, and some people seem to be more susceptible to depression than others. The bottom line: there are professionals out there who can help if you're suffering from depression or having suicidal thoughts. For more information on SAVE (based in Bloomington, but with a national outreach), click here. For more on Monday's Golf Tournament at the incredible TPC course in Blaine - the only private PGA course in the cities - click here. My thanks to good friend Bill Popp, who is founder and CEO of, one of the Twin Cities' premiere communications companies, specializing in high-speed internet and phone systems for businesses - thanks to his generosity we're celebrating our 6th annual tournament. We'd love to see you up there on Monday (even if you don't want to golf you can come for dinner, a silent and live auction - it's a great group of volunteers and participants - there is a 99% probability you'll have a great time!)

Trust me, I'm a weatherman

Comfortable weather lingers through the first half of the week, a northward surge of warmer air setting off a few stray T-storms Wednesday, followed by a clearing trend Thursday as another Canadian high pressure bubble pushes south of the border. I think we'll warm up in time for next weekend - back into the low 80s by Saturday. Don't write summer off, not by a long-shot, but the first true signs of autumn are starting to appear on the weather maps. Hey, we may go an entire week without severe storm watches and warnings. That would be nice.

Star Tribune Sunday (Print) Weather Column

The power of the wind

Sometimes the answer is right in front of us (or blowing through our hair). The wind blows consistently in Minnesota, as it does across much of the Great Plains, described as the "Saudi Arabia of wind." We rank 4th in the USA for wind-powered electricity, behind Texas, California and Iowa. Today less than 2% of our electricity comes from wind (and solar), but we're on an aggressive path to receive as much as 25% of our energy via wind-power by 2025.

I'm trying to put my money where my mouth is - starting up a new tech company called "Smart Energy", which takes an innovative approach to tracking and predicting wind speeds. If we can make Minnesota's 60 wind farms more profitable and take much of the mystery & risk out of wind-power, then hopefully new investments will flow into wind

energy, and we can wean ourselves off foreign crude faster.

A stiff wind blows from the west/northwest today, from Manitoba - no dew point, sirens or booming thunderstorms, just 70s, fresh air & a bit of a chop on your favorite lake as winds gust to 25. Most of the storms (and beastly heat) will be suppressed south of Minnesota this week, a string of mostly-dry, comfortable days. No sweat!

More on wind power in Minnesota here.

Symptoms Of A Warming Atmosphere. The Summer of '10 is trending warmer than average, no question. Based on cooling degree data from the NWS we've spent close to 30% more money cooling our homes and businesses than average. Warmer air can hold more water vapor, and the State Climatology Office confirms an average "precipitable water" value (the total amount of water overhead) .30" wetter than average, maxing out at 2.26" on July 4 (typical for New Orleans, but unusual to get values this high so far north).

It's Not The Heat. Continuing a trend we've seen in recent decades, summers aren't appreciably hotter (at least not in Minnesota) but we are seeing more days with tropical, 70-degree dew points. So far since June 1 MSP has experienced 12 days with a dew point of 70 or higher, a total of 107 hours > 70 F. dew point - an average dew point of 60 a full 4 degrees F. higher than usual. No, it's not your imagination - the summers ARE becoming more humid over time. Click here to see more details on summer dew point from the MN State Climate Office.

Brimming With Water. Is your lake water level running higher than recent years? I wouldn't be one bit surprised. Recent thunderstorms have increased not only lake water levels but the amount of water flowing in Minnesota's streams and rivers - click here to see for yourself, data courtesy of the USGS.

Pakistan is Drowning. I heard a staggering statistic: 20% of Pakistan is under water - an area larger than the state of Colorado. Much-needed aid, food, temporary housing can't reach the hardest hit areas of northwestern Pakistan because torrential rains continue to fall. More on the growing disaster here.

20 Million Homeless. The numbers are almost incomprehensible - an estimated 20 million people forced from their homes by the worst flooding in Pakistan's history. The Indus River is reportedly 15 miles wide in some areas, 25 times wider than normal during monsoon season. The story is here.

* So Far 2010 Is The World's Hottest Year On Record, According To NOAA. 2010 temperatures worldwide are running 1.2 F. warmer than the 20th century average, according to NOAA. Globally March, April, May and June were the warmest months ever recorded, July the 2nd warmest. More from the Washington Post here.

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