Friday, August 20, 2010

A Welcome Rerun of July !

Slight Shrinkage. Now there's no cause for panic (yet) but there is cold, hard evidence that the moon is shrinking, ever so slightly. Cooling of the lunar interior has resulted in contraction, roughly 100 meters from the center of the moon to the lunar surface. So if it looks a little smaller in the nighttime sky you'll be able to sound like Cliff on Cheers and bore friends or family to tears with moon-trivia. Come to think of it - let's just keep this between us.

Staggering Images. The flooding in Pakistan is so extensive and overwhelming it's hard for any photos to capture the sheer scope of the disaster. These photos put the historic flood into context; a fifth of the nation still underwater, millions of Pakistanis forced from their homes.

* Flood Disaster May Require Largest Aid Effort in Modern History. "A natural calamity of unprecedented proportions," is how the flooding disaster in Pakistan is being described. An estimated 800,000 to 900,000 homes have been destroyed, or rendered unlivable. At least 4.6 million people have been left homeless in 2 provinces - the concern is that shortages of clean water and food may lead to rioting, even civil war. CNN reports an estimated 3.5 million kids are at risk of disease and malnutrition. The New York Times has more details here.

* Ottumwa, Iowa reported 2.98" in 35 minutes Friday. Doppler estimates showed 6.2" rain just north of town! It's been a summer of tropical downpours, but I've never seen rainfall rates this extreme in the Upper Midwest.

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

Today: Plenty of sun, a beautiful summer day! Winds: N/NE 8-13. High: 87

Saturday night: Mostly clear and dry. Low: 67

Sunday: More like mid-July. Hot sun, a bit more wind (and humidity). Winds: SE 10-20. High: 90

Monday: Sun fades, PM T-storms rumble in. High: 88

Tuesday: Damp start, then clearing - sunshine by afternoon. High: 81

Wednesday: Mostly sunny, light winds. High: 79

Thursday: Blue sky, still beautiful (low humidity). High: 81

Friday: Hazy sun, warming up a bit. High: 83

We made it - it's Saturday, and there's a high probability we will NOT have to duck & cover later today - no severe weather for at least the next 48 hours. We get a well-timed break. Just when you think you've seen everything Mother Nature has to throw at you - along comes the Wild, Wacky (extra-severe) Summer of '10. It's been a real head-scratcher alright; I've spent too much of the summer slumped over a hot Doppler - baffled by our spectacle of Congo-like weather. Sticky sun - flood - sun - tornado - sun - hail - sun - sirens. The only thing missing is a plague of locust on the radar screen (and I expect that any day now).

Yes, Minnesota meteorologists are at a rare (and welcome) loss for words.

Let me try to step back and provide a few (Powerpoint-worthy) bullet points about the summer so far, try to put things into a little perspective.

Summer '10 Recap:

* Warmer & wetter, statewide (15-20" rain, that's 50% more than average for much of the state).

* Drought conditions ease across most of Minnesota (moderate to severe drought conditions linger over parts of the Minnesota Arrowhead).

* Average dew point: + 4 F. for the summer. Yes, we've had an unusual number of 70-degree dew point days, it has been more humid than "average."

* Warmer summer: based on cooling degree data from the NWS we've all spent roughly 38% more money than usual cooling our homes and businesses.

* Record summer for severe weather and tornadoes?

* Old record for most number of tornadoes in a single summer: 74 (2001)

* Preliminary tornado count for 2010 in Minnesota: 123 (!) Yes, we still lead the nation.

* 40+ tornadoes in a single day (June 17, the day Wadena was hit by an EF-4 tornado). This breaks the old, single-day record of 25 tornadoes (1993).

* Total number of severe storm reports statewide: 691 as of 10 pm Friday night (includes 123 tornado reports, 210 reports of large hail and 358 straight-line wind reports). Incredible.

- Professor Mark Seeley from the University of Minnesota has an excellent recap of the summer season in Minnesota in his weekly "WeatherTalk" update here.

T-storms downed large trees in the Cambridge - North Branch area of the far north metro early Friday morning - more severe storms flared up across Wisconsin. More damage reports from the NWS here. The good news: the wild weather has pushed east, a weak bubble of high pressure building into Minnesota, insuring plenty of warm sunshine this weekend.

Models are hinting at a very slight chance of an ISOLATED shower or T-shower north of the Twin Cities, maybe 20-30 minutes of rain across parts of central/northern Minnesota. That said the vast majority of Saturday should be dry, and warm enough for the lake or pool, highs well up into the 80s. Expect a light north/northeast breeze at 8-13 mph this afternoon - winds shift around to the southeast Sunday at 10-20 (no blobs on Doppler expected Sunday) - highs topping 90 across much of central and southern Minnesota, like something out of mid July.

Good timing.

Forget warm, it will border on hot by Sunday afternoon as winds increase from the southeast. 90-degree warmth is possible Sunday and Monday, before the next eastbound cool front sparks yet another outbreak of T-storms Monday, followed by a fresh outbreak of Canadian air conditioning Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a slow warming trend the latter half of next week, back into the low 80s by next Friday.

Rumor has it the Minnesota State Fair kicks off next Thursday. How did THAT happen?

Aurora From Space. Storms on the sun August 13 triggered a spectacular display of the Aurora Borealis, the "Northern Lights", as seen from the ISS, the International Space Station. Read more at

Milder Autumn for Minnesota. CPC, the Climate Prediction Center is predicting a warmer than average September, October and November for the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and New England. See more long-range predictions (at your own peril) here.

Friday MCS. The swarm of strong/severe storms that swept across Minnesota late Thursday night/Friday morning dumped out over 3" of rain west of Glenwood, but the heaviest amounts were recorded east of Brainerd, from near Crosby to Sandstone and Moose Lake (where flash flood watches had to be issued.

90 Day Precipitation. This map shows the departure from normal, everything shaded in green or blue is wetter than average. Dry pockets show up in the immediate Twin Cities metro area, and across the MN Arrowhead, otherwise soil moisture is in pretty good shape across most of Minnesota. Click here to see an interactive precipitation map for the USA (you can zoom in on Minnesota and call a wide range of rainfall maps).

Almost Drought-Free. The Summer of '10 brought a gradual easing of drought conditions across most of Minnesota. The only exception: the MN Arrowhead, where moderate to severe drought conditions linger. Click here to see the latest Drought Monitor data for Minnesota, data courtesy of the MN State Climatology Office.

Indonesia's Coral Reefs Dying At An Alarming Rate. Water temperatures off the tip of Sumatra reached an amazing 93 F. in May, 7 degrees warmer than long-term averages. Unusually warm ocean water is killing off nearby coral reefs at an alarming rate, the latest in this article in USA Today. Unusually warm water is impacting not only Indonesia, but Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, pushing north toward Taiwan and the Philippines.

NASA Scientists Discover Oscillating Patterns in Clouds. What do clouds have in common with chirping crickets and fireflies? Yeah - I just love a weather-riddle on a Saturday morning. NOAA has an interesting article on how clouds respond to signals from other clouds, nearby. I was a bit baffled by this one - just goes to show you how little we really understand about weather to this day. You can't help but be humbled studying meteorology and attempting to predict the weather.

Moscow: Before & After. July in Moscow was the warmest month ever recorded in roughly 130 years of record-keeping. Anthony Watts has a great post, attributing much of the record warmth to a "blocking high pressure system" vs. climate change. Again, attributing any one weather event to climate change is problematic - the question is whether climate change, specifically a slow increase in global background temperatures, are providing a riper environment for more frequent and extreme weather events, including record heat, drought, fires and floods. July heat in Russia, according to Watts, "was four times greater than the expected variability of July historical fluctuations about their long-term climatology." Got it?

* Rainfall Expected to Cool Russia. The worst of the heat is over for Russia - a cooler front has dropped temperatures 20-30 degrees in recent days, but hundreds of wildfires continue to burn outside of Moscow. The latest from the BBC is here.

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