Thursday, September 2, 2010

October Smack (and mostly-good news for your weekend plans)

Fall Smack. Summer is nowhere to be found on the weather map today, at least across the Upper Midwest. Canada is leaking the coolest airmass in over 3 months south of the border, temperatures stuck in the 50s & 60s, with a gusty northwest wind (30 mph) brewing up a little early-September wind chill. Ugh. Have no fear - it can't stay this cool for long. 70s return by Sunday - long-range models hinting at a run of 80s returning the second and third week of September. Don't pack away the shorts just yet.

Surf's Up. Check out the predicted wind gusts for 11 pm tonight off the coast of Massachusetts. 106 knots at Nantucket, roughly 121.9 mph. Hurricane warnings are posted for Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard - mandatory evacuations underway. Even though the core of Earl's strongest winds (and highest waves) will pass 75-150 miles to their south/east the potential for beach erosion, coastal flooding and moderate wind damage is significant. More on the threat to coastal Massachusetts here.

Tracking Earl. Ah, September - my favorite month for gawking at network television. An army of reporters standing out on the beach, commenting (breathlessly) on gusty winds and raging surf. I wonder if these reporters get overtime (or hardship pay) for standing, ankle-deep, in the sand dune? Makes for good TV, huh? To check out real-time conditions at Kill Devil Hills, on North Carolina's Outer Banks, click here. Hundreds of thousands of residents and vacationers have already evacuated - more on that in this story from WRAL-TV.

Superstorm. Thursday morning Hurricane Earl strengthened to a rare category 4 storm, the strongest Atlantic hurricane in 3 years. With a central pressure of 27.50" of mercury Alex was whipping up sustained winds of 145 mph, with gusts as high as 170. By afternoon drier air was being sucked into its circulation - that, and a track over slightly cooler ocean water and stronger winds aloft caused the storm to weaken to category 2 status by evening.

Latest Track Projections. Had Earl tracked 100-200 miles farther west it would have hit nearly every major city on the east coast. The predicted track will keep the worst of Hurricane Earl out to sea, but hurricane-force gusts are still possible in coastal Massachusetts - Earl may still be a marginal hurricane when it slams into the Canadian Maritimes over the weekend. One model brings the soggy remains into Spain by the end of next week!

Kentucky Farmer's Corn Pops In The Fields! I had to include this story from WKYT-TV. Yes, Louisville just experienced the hottest year in the city's history, over 2 months of 90-degree heat. But corn popping spontaneously in the fields? Now I've heard it all....

Unsettled Thursday. We got off to a wet, thundery start (somehow I slept through those T-storms late Wednesday night, first time that's happened). There were some reports of wind damage from this swarm of storms, nearly 2" of rain at St. Cloud, officially .74" in the Twin Cities, over an inch at Redwood Falls and Alexandria - highs mostly in the 70s.

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

Today: Welcome to early October! Mostly cloudy, gusty and unseasonably cool - a few sprinkles possible, more numerous showers over northeastern MN. Winds: NW 20-35 (!) High: 64 (readings won't get out of the 50s up north).

Friday night: Lingering clouds, partial clearing late - still windy. Low: 48

Saturday: Coolest day of the weekend. Partly sunny, still windy and cool. Winds: NW 10-20+ High: 69

Saturday night: Clear and chilly for early September. A light frost possible over far northern MN. Low: 49

Sunday: Nicest day? Plenty of sun, low humidity, less wind. Winds: E 8-13. High: 75

Labor Day: Mildest, potentially wettest day. More clouds than sun, a few showers/T-showers possibly by afternoon. Winds: SE 10-20. High: 76

Tuesday: A shower possible early, then clearing, turning cooler. High: 74

Wednesday: Lot's of sun, cool and comfortable. High: 73

Thursday: Sun fading behind increasing clouds - rain arrives late. High: 72

With parts of Massachusetts facing the very real risk of 80-100 mph wind gusts and 4-8 foot wave chewing away at the Outer Banks of North Carolina - it's hard to get too indignant about a cool front sweeping across Minnesota - a subtle (yet blunt) reminder that today the sun will be as high in the sky as it was back in early April. Nights are more than 2 hours longer than they were back in late June - Canada is catching a cold, and some of that rapidly cooling air is surging south of the border - today will be 10-15 degrees cooler than "average", highs holding in the 50s north, low to mid 60s over the southern half of Minnesota. Throw in a northwest wind gusting to 35 mph. and you have all the ingredients for an outbreak of light jackets and sweatshirts. Yes, it's time to raid the closet and dig out your favorite jacket. You'll need it for the next couple of evenings. Clouds will linger most of today, moisture wrapping all the way around this latest storm sparking a few light showers and windblown sprinkles, especially over northeastern Minnesota. The best chance of a few hours of rain today: Duluth and Grand Rapids, although sprinkles can't be ruled out from St. Cloud into the Twin Cities. It will look and feel more like early October out there today.

Temperature Roller Coaster. We'll have our ups and downs in the temperature department over the next few days, a 35 degree jump from Sunday morning to Sunday afternoon. Only in Minnesota can you be wearing shorts (under your jacket).

Skies clear Saturday, and winds subside a bit. With a fresh burst of dry, Canadian air floating overhead most of the ingredients for an early-season frost may be present over parts of far northern Minnesota Sunday morning. That's right: from International Falls to the Iron Range, including the Twin Towns of Cold: Embarrass and Tower, there may be a dusting of frost in some of the coldest nooks and crannies by Sunday morning.

No need for panic - you'll get plenty of use out your shorts, t-shirts and sandals in the coming weeks, in fact the long-range GFS model is hinting at a run of 80s returning to Minnesota by the second and third week of September. Strap yourself in - September can be a real roller-coaster ride in the temperature department. We may even see another 90-degree high before the flurries sweep in come October - you WILL get more mileage out of your air conditioner in the weeks ahead. But for the next 24-48 hours some old-fashioned air conditioning will have us all breathing easy.

Labor Day Weekend Weather Highlights:

Saturday: coolest day, still windy with a mix of clouds and sun. Highs range from upper 50s (north) to mid 60s (south). Winds: northwest 10-20, a few higher gusts during the afternoon.

Sunday: nicest day. Blue sky, less wind - still dry thanks to a weak ridge of high pressure overhead. Highs range from the upper 60s (northern lakes) to the mid 70s ('Tonka and the St. Croix River Valley). Winds: east 8-13. (least wind of the weekend).

Labor Day: cloudiest, mildest day. Chance of showers increases as the day goes on, even an isolated T-shower possible (mainly southern MN). Much of the day should still be dry, but 1-3 hours of rain can't be ruled out - best chance PM hours. Highs range from the low 70s north to near 80 far south - just about everyone holding in the 70s. Winds; SE 10-20.

A few showers and isolated T-showers are possible Monday PM into early Tuesday, followed by another cool frontal passage - comfortable weather shaping up for the middle of next week. The next chance of rain (and T-storms) : late Thursday into Saturday of next week. It's a little early to speculate - but right now Sunday (September 12) looks like the sunnier, nicer day of the following weekend. We WILL see more 80s - no question in my mind. Another 90? Possible, but doubtful. I think it's safe to say the worst of the withering heat and debilitating dew points are behind us now. Although a few more severe storms are possible in September I think it's safe to say that the worst of the severe storm/tornado/hail season is in our rear-view mirror as well. Maybe that's wishful thinking...

Muddling Through a 3 Month Flood. You have to feel very sorry for residents of Ottumwa, Iowa, where floodwaters just don't want to recede. The Des Moines River has been out of its banks since June - Iowa is grappling with some of the worst flooding in the state's history. The story is here.

Newest "GOES" Satellite Ready For Action. From NASA & NOAA comes word that the third and final GOES weather satellite is ready for operational use. It's been undergoing a series of tests for 5 months, it will now be available for immediate use should one of the existing "geosynchronous" weather satellites 22,300 miles above the equator stops operating. Right now the USA relies on two GOES satellites: GOES 13 parked over the east coast, GOES 11 centered over the western USA. The story is here.

NASA's Global Hawk Drone Aircraft Flies Over "Frank" On The GRIP Hurricane Mission. From NASA comes a story about an unmanned aircraft first deployed to fly over Hurricane Frank in the Pacific (at an altitude of 60,000 feet). The goal: take photos and probe the remains of a hurricane with airborne-based radar and profilers, trying to get a thumbprint of the storm - and understand why some hurricanes intensify, while others weaken rapidly.

6 Global Warming Skeptics Who Changed Their Minds. Bjorn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" - who argued in 2001 that global warming was "no big deal" has changed his mind, now advocating a tax on carbon emissions. But he's not the only one. The story is here.

Disasters Show "Screaming" Need For Action - Climate Chief. Is the rash of recent weather disasters around the world a coincidence, or part of a larger pattern? The story is here.

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