Saturday, September 18, 2010

New York Tornadoes, Twins Fever (and this is what GW looks like)

This Is What Global Warming Looks Like. "We have to believe what we are witnessing with our own eyes - floods, fires, melting ice and feverish heat: from smoke-choked Moscow to water-soaked Pakistan, to soaring temperatures in the USA and a deteriorating landscape in the High Arctic, our planet seems to be having a breakdown. It's not just a portent of things to come, but real signs of very troubling climate change already underway." So says NRDC in a compelling video, the National Resources Defense Counsel. Scientists there, and all around the world, are compiling more evidence of what the White House would now like us to refer to as "Global Climate Disruption".

Meanwhile Global Warming Continued Last Month. What I found interesting about this post was some solid information about what's happening in the stratosphere - the atmosphere immediately above the troposphere, where all "weather" takes place (and all the heat-trapping greenhouse gases have been accumulating for a few hundred years). If the sun really were the main culprit in the observed low-level warming we're seeing worldwide, the stratosphere would be warming as much as the troposphere, where the "heat-trapping blanket" of CO2 resides - and yet there has been significant cooling in the stratosphere in recent years, while temperatures closer to the ground have spiked. Some interesting statistics in Doug Craig's blog here.

Amazingly Good Luck. Not only have the Twins been on a roll, the weather at Target Field has been unusually well-behaved ever since late May. According to Craig Edwards, who is the former head of the local National Weather Service, now keeping an eye on weather for every local home game at Target Field, scanning Doppler radar, helping Target Field officials make the go/no-go decision (and make sure fans, players and staff are always safe). Only 2 games were postponed because of rain this season, both back in May. Since then players & fans have dodged a little hail, lightning and occasional bursts of rain, but things have pretty much worked out. Edwards, a good friend of mine, mentioned that the MN State Climate Office had predicted as many as 7-8 games might be rained out at Target Field, so the fact that we've had only 2 postponements is nothing short of a minor meteorological miracle. He also hinted that we shouldn't be surprised if post-season play-off games are played with air temperatures in the 30s (the Colorado Rockies played a post-season game with air temperatures in the 30s and a wind chill considerably lower than that). According to Edwards, "pressure has been there. Our goal is to minimize the anxiety of fans and players over anticipated weather. Keep the weather under wraps until it becomes an issue. There have been times watching the radar, hoping storms would split the metro, which they did on a couple of occasions. On the last home stand we had a renegade T-storm move directly east from Wayzata with a direct hit on Target Field at 6:10 pm. The field was covered at 6:05 pm and we received .11" of rain and small hail. The tarp was removed at 6:30 and we were ready for an on-time start at 7:10 pm."

Kevin Smith, Executive Director of Public Relations for the Twins was kind enough to answer a few weather related questions and point out a few nuggets I found interesting. Here you go:

* A May 7 game vs. the Orioles was postponed due to cold, windy, miserable weather.

* May 25 a game vs. the Yankees was called in the 5th inning due to rain.

* According to Smith "teams can cancel/and-or postpone games PRIOR to their start based on a wide range of criteria - mostly common sense based on current weather conditions, whether those conditions would likely get worse at or near game-time, safety of the players on the field IF we would start a game, fan comfort, etc."

* "Once the managers exchange line-up cards at home plate before the game, the decision to play, delay, postpone or continue to play is at the discretion of the umpire crew. This is where it's nice to be the only team in MLB to have an on-site meteorologist (Craig Edwards) for every game to help with face-to-face discussions and professional insight, in-stadium."

* "For the last series of the regular season, the decision to postpone or cancel a game rests with the umpires, and not the teams. This continues throughout the post-season."

* "There is no temperature threshold by which a game is postponed, hot or cold."

* "Probably the weirdest weather-related story happened here on July 17. It was a Saturday 6:10 pm start. It was Carl Pavano vs. Mark Buerhle of the White Sox. Both pitchers work pretty fast - which was a good thing. We were watching the radar and the models and we knew we had about 2 hours or less before the skies would open up with heavy rain. We hoped we could get enough innings in to make it an official game, because when the storm hit it would be a long delay. Well, Pavano pitched a complete game, allowing 7 hits and 2 runs in the remarkable time of 1 hour and 52 minutes. Twins win 3-2. As players were high-fiving on the field the torrential rain started as fans darted for the exits. Timing is everything!"

Mother Nature must be a Twins fan.

New York Tornadoes Caught on Tape. A tornado in the New York City area would be strange enough, but TWO tornadoes, in New York, in mid September? Very strange. The New York Times has a summary of Thursday's severe squall line, described by one eyewitness as "a tremendous wind." Check out this security camera footage, which recorded the arrival of the rains (and high winds). Based on evidence of rotation in the damage path, the thinking now is a minimum of 2 tornadoes from Thursday's outbreak.

Aftermath in Brooklyn.

Yes, Tornadoes Can Hit Major Cities. New data suggests 2 tornadoes touched down late Thursday, the first touched down near Park Slope in Brooklyn, half a mile wide, on the ground for about 2 miles. A second tornado dropped down on Flushing, Queens, roughly 100 yards wide, on the ground for nearly 4 miles. Over 1,000 trees (many of them over a century old) were toppled by winds that may have easily topped 100 mph. MSNBC has more here.
Thousands of Trees Killed By New York Tornadoes. It was a freakish storm: most of Manhattan and Bronx escaped unscathed with only light storm damage, but TORNADOES in Brooklyn and Queens? Several thousand of the estimated 5 million trees in the New York City area were toppled by the winds - more here.

Winds strong enough to flip semi's, 18-wheelers, on the Gowanus Expressway!

View of the Park Slope Tornado: From a Stalled Car. Somehow this guy kept his video camera rolling as the storm swirled across Brooklyn. In retrospect it may have been smarter to duck into a nearby shop or store - the only confirmed victim was killed in her vehicle as a tree came smashing down. Some impressive video here.

Igor Threatens Bermuda. The international airport in Bermuda is closed today and tomorrow, people left on the island will have no choice but to ride out Hurricane Igor, which was showing some signs of weakening late Saturday, still a dangerous category 1- 2 storm with sustained winds around 100 mph. More on Igor from NASA's Earth Observatory site.

Big Difference. A frontal boundary kept far southern Minnesota socked in with clouds and a few sprinkles much of the day (the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities and St. Cloud salvaged a much nicer day than Mankato, Rochester and the southern suburbs of MSP. The farther north you were, the nicer and sunnier the conditions. The same should hold true on Sunday. NASA "Terra" satellite image taken around midday on Saturday.

So-So Saturday. Clouds lingered over the southern third of Minnesota much of Saturday, keeping temperatures 10 degrees cooler than average. Most of the state was dry, only a trace of sprinkles in the Twin Cities at MSP International. 01" at Eden Prairie and Alexandria.

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

Today: More clouds than sun - dry and cool. Partly sunny (and nicer) up north. Winds: East 7-12. High: 62

Sunday night: Clouds increase. Low: 55

Monday: More clouds than sun - isolated shower or T-shower can't be ruled out (a bit milder). More wind (SE 15-25). High: 73

Tuesday: Scattered showers, possible T-storm through midday. They slow drying during the PM hours. High: 69

Wednesday: Plenty of sunshine, a fine fall day. High: 67

Thursday; Soggy with another period of rain likely. High: near 70

Friday: Becoming partly sunny, drying out. High: 71

Saturday: Probably the nicer day. Sunny start, then increasing clouds, few late-day showers? High: 69

Sunday: More clouds, better chance of periods of rain. High: 66

Saturday didn't win any awards for beauty and splendor, at least not across far southern Minnesota, but most of central and northern Minnesota enjoyed classic (beautiful) fall weather with ample sunshine, light winds and low humidity - temperatures 10 degrees cooler than average. Today will be partly sunny, once again the farther north you go the bluer the sky should be, the thickest, most persistent clouds lingering over southern MN, near a stalled front over Iowa.

The latest models keep the sky over Minnesota mostly-dry through most of Monday, although the chance of a stray shower (even a T-storm) will increase during the day tomorrow as winds increase from the southeast, and the front draped over Iowa begins to push north. The best chance of showers and storms: late Monday into Tuesday morning, another chance of rain by Thursday. Looking for dry days this week? Other than today Wednesday and Friday may be your best bets. I'm afraid to put too much confidence into the long-range models (which aren't nearly as reliable during spring and fall, when weather systems move with higher velocity) but right now Saturday appears to be the better (drier) day with fading sun and a shower risk by late afternoon. A week from today rain may be steadier and more widespread.

The calendar says mid September, but the atmosphere draped over North America looks more like late September, even the first few days of October. Atmospheric payback for a warmer summer? Perhaps. Evidence of a brewing La Nina cooling of Pacific ocean water? Maybe. Proving cause and effect with day-to-day weather is problematic, a little like trying to catch the breeze in a paper cup (which I don't advise, by the way).

According to Professor Mark Seeley in his weekly WeatherTalk blog Embarrass, Minnesota has seen 6 mornings with lows in the 20s so far in September. Forget frost, much of far northern Minnesota has already seen a hard freeze - a couple of weeks ahead of schedule.

Enjoy a partly sunny/mostly cloud, mostly-agreeable Sunday. Far from perfect - but we've seen worse. Much worse.

Bermuda Braces. If Igor does make a direct hit on Bermuda it will be the first major hurricane to strike since Fabian in 2003 (which left 4 people dead). More on the preparations for Hurricane Igor from USA Today here.

Direct Strike? The bad news: this may be the first direct hurricane strike on Bermuda in 7 years. The good news: Igor continues to weaken - it may hit the island as a category 1 storm, with sustained winds of 85-100 mph and a storm surge of 5-10 feet - still dangerous, but not nearly as extreme as 2 days ago, when Igor was still a category 4 hurricane. Graphics courtesy of NHC and Ham Weather.

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