Sunday, September 12, 2010

No Complaints In The Weather Department

* 79 on Sunday, today should be about 5-7 degrees cooler as winds increase from the northwest.

* Few showers likely Tuesday, but the chance of significant rain Wednesday diminishes.

* Early word on next weekend: wet. Good chance of some rain, especially Sunday.

* Hurricane Igor may become a category 5 storm today - Bermuda in its path?

* Link between extreme weather events and climate change? The debate continues.

Almost 3-Dimensional. This "HDR" photo was taken by Russ Beinder using a combination of photos taken on a tripod (each one with a slightly different light setting) - combined into one image using special software. This creates a vibrant, almost 3-D effect for photographic images. See for yourself - all these HDR Flickr images have a sense of depth and saturation - with a little magic thrown in. The photo below of the U.S. Capitol building is another example of what is possible with HDR, courtesy of Toshio Kishiyama.

Now That's Using Your Head! You never know what will fall into your lap (or onto your head). Exhibit A: this poor Canadian meteorologist, who was sitting dutifully on the set, describing video. Cutaway to him pointing to a map. Seconds later the sky comes crashing down on top of him (he was ok - just dazed). A very funny clip.

Cloud-Free Sunday. This (250 meter resolution) "MODIS" satellite image, from the low-orbiting NASA "Terra" satellite, showed Sunday conditions, area lakes clearly showing up, along with the urban sprawl of the Twin Cities. You can see the latest satellite image by clicking here.

Category 5? As of late last night Hurricane Igor had strengthened into a very strong category 4 storm (on a scale from 1 to 5) with sustained winds of 150, gusts to 170, a central pressure of 27.31" of mercury. There's a very good chance Igor may become a rare category 5 storm today. A nearly symmetric shape to the eye and surrounding "eyewall" means little wind shear aloft - ripe conditions for further strengthening today. Imagery courtesy of NASA.

Dodging Another Bullet. All the models turn "Igor" to the north, sparing the east coast of the USA. The jet stream is forecast to dip unusually far south, these strong steering winds aloft helping to nudge this dangerous hurricane to the east, well out to sea. Forecast courtesy of NHC and Ham Weather.

Bad News For Bermuda? The projected path of Igor may take the center of the storm very close to the island of Bermuda. This is the GFS outlook, valid next Sunday morning, showing a "bomb" off the east coast (it may still be category 3-4 strength by the weekend, water temperatures in the Gulf Stream are unusually warm, ranging from 80-84 F). I have a bad feeling about the island of Bermuda, which may find itself in Igor's cross-hairs within 6-7 days.

Superb Sunday. Could it have been any nicer out there? Lukewarm sun, low humidity, unlimited visibility (fewer bugs). I know allergy-sufferers are still, well, suffering - ragweed pollen is still off the scale, but otherwise it's hard to imagine a finer weekend. Sunday's highs ranged from 73 at Alexandria to 77 in St. Cloud, 79 at MSP International but St. Paul and Eden Prairie hit the 80 degree mark. These temperatures are 5-10 degrees warmer than average.


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

Today: Blue sky, very pleasant! Winds: NW 10-15. High: 73

Monday night: Clear to partly cloudy - chilly. Low: 48

Tuesday: Clouds stream in - a few showers likely. High: 66

Wednesday: Patchy clouds, chance of a shower. High: 69

Thursday: Sun much of the day, clouds increase late - more rain possible Thursday night. High: 68

Friday: Damp start, then clearing, getting better in a hurry. High: 67

Saturday: Probably the nicer day of the weekend to be outside. Plenty of sun as Canadian high pressure drifts overhead - light winds. High: near 70

Sunday: Clouds increase and thicken - slight chance of a few light showers. High: 71

Wow. What a weekend, a three-star, blue-ribbon, award-winning, Chamber of Commerce-boasting example of how EXTRAORDINARY September can be in Minnesota. Low humidity, brilliant sunshine, light winds, fewer bugs - no fog (which is no small feat, considering September is - historically - the foggiest month of the year in Minnesota). It was as close to perfect as you'll ever get this time of year - happy the timing worked out and this slice of Heaven happened to fall on a weekend. St. Paul hit 80 yesterday, a good 8 degrees above average, but it felt great out there (without having to recite the daily dew point, while simultaneously wiping the sweat off your brow). Remarkable.

Today will be just as sunny, a gentle northwest breeze and postcard-perfect sky making it tougher than usual focusing on work and school, afternoon highs flirting with 70. Back in early August fronts/storms were spaced about 2-4 days apart (on average), but now that the atmosphere is shifting gears, the boundary between cool, Canadian airmasses and lingering summer warmth blanketing much of the Lower 48 unfolding almost directly over our heads - we're seeing systems spaced about 2-3 days apart. A return northward flow of moisture kicks up more clouds tomorrow, a passing shower or sprinkle possible Tuesday, but the main event, the heaviest/steadiest rains are still on track to arrive Wednesday, when parts of Minnesota may see some .5 to 1" rainfall amounts. Wednesday still looks like the wettest day of the week.

The sun returns Thursday, although a fast-moving, almost clipper-like system may push another band of showers across the state Thursday night, giving rise to a slow clearing trend Friday. I'm a lot more optimistic about next weekend than I was 24 hours ago. The latest run of GFS and the ECMWF (European) weather models show a bubble of high pressure hurtling south of the border Saturday, keeping us sunny and seasonably mild - Saturday in all probability the nicer, sunnier day of the weekend. A southerly flow may shove more cloud cover back into Minnesota next Sunday, a few showers can't be ruled out - but right now it does not look like an all-day soaker shaping up.

We're keeping a wary eye on "Igor", which may become a major category 3 hurricane today. The latest long-range weather models keep Hurricane Igor out at sea; it's forecast to re-curve to the north/northeast, possibly threatening Bermuda, but in all probability steering clear of the east coast of the USA. We've been very lucky in the hurricane department so far this year (a year that was forecast to be a lot busier than usual). We'll see if we can keep dodging bullets - although at some point the law of averages will catch up with us.

2010 Killer Tornadoes. It sounds odd, but there have been as many tornado-related fatalities in Minnesota so far this year (3) as in Oklahoma, the heart of "Tornado Alley." Nationwide: 16 killer tornadoes so far this spring/summer season, with a total of 34 lives lost, which is pretty close to long-term averages.

2010 Tornado Stats. Of the 34 people who lost their lives in tornadoes nationwide, 14 of them were in mobile homes, 5 caught in their vehicles. In a permanent structure, a home, office or store, you have a much better chance of surviving any tornado - especially if you can get away from outer walls & windows, and get below grade (basement) if at all possible to lower the risk of injury from flying debris. More stats from SPC can be found here.

Tornado Trends. A total of 1250 tornadoes have been observed over the USA as of September 8, which is close to the running 5-year averages, to date. More tornado statistics from SPC, the Storm Prediction Center, can be found here.

We Are (Still) # 1! 145 tornado reports to date this year, although it's worth repeating that this is a preliminary number. The final tally will almost certainly be less, probably under 100 separate tornadoes - but we stand a VERY good chance of setting a new record. The old record: 74 individual tornadoes in 2001. Click here to see the (amazing) statistics for yourself. Twice as many tornadoes as Oklahoma? Where are we living again??

To Create Jobs, Nurture Start-ups. O.K. So this story from the N.Y. Times is near and dear to my heart. I don't pretend for a minute to have the answer key, but it seems like common sense that many of the (new) jobs we so desperately need will be coming from entrepreneurs who see an opportunity in the marketplace, and go after it aggressively. That's been pretty tough lately, with banks shrugging and apologizing for not doing what banks should be doing, stuff like "making loans." Yes, banks give money to people who don't need money. Even with the best idea in the world, finding that seed capital, the investment funds necessary to turn an idea into a profitable business, is harder than ever. Unlike infrastructure projects (building roads, bridges, new rail lines, etc) you can't just wave a magic wand and create thousands of new start-up companies. But Congress and the Administration CAN create an environment more favorable to fostering these little kernels of innovation, and through brute force and tenacity hold on long enough to turn the corner and hit black ink. I'm trying to launch 3 separate companies (2 weather-related) but I have never, in my entrepreneurial career, seen such tough conditions as what we've just muddled through since 2008. The best way to describe it is paralysis. Everyone sitting on their hands. Everyone afraid to take risk. I'm holding my breath, hoping we don't slip into a double-dip recession (although I'm convinced economists are even more clueless than meteorologists most days). We'll see - I'm still optimistic for the long haul. No country launches more successful start-ups than the USA - hopefully we won't relinquish that title anytime soon.

Do The Recent Floods Prove That Man-Made Climate Change Is Real? Australians are accustomed to wild swings in weather - but the juxtaposition of historic drought and historic flooding, seemingly side by side, has a lot of people living "down under" scratching their collective heads. As the author says "weather throws the punches, but climate trains the boxer." Another way of saying that human impacts are "loading the dice" in favor of more extreme weather events. The story is here.

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