Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sunny Streak (first frost of autumn by Sunday morning?)

"Chill Out Paul!" O.K. Guilty as charged. Yesterday I whined about the summer fading away - I complained about being in mourning about the passing of the Summer of 2010. I got this response from David Gee (pictured on the water).

"C'mon man, you're jumping the gun. There is another good month of water skiing/wakeboarding ahead of us, depending of course on what those crazy weather guys have in store. I don't have a dry suit, but I'm good to a water temp of about 52 - 54 degrees with a 3mm wetsuit. I attached a pic of my boat and one of me making some turns on Tanager around sunset a couple of weeks ago. The water temps have been holding seady at right around 64 degrees, whic is where Mtka is today...For some reason in early September the water temps dropped fairly quickly from the summer 70s down to that current mark. If that trend had continued at that early September pace my fall season would have been cut shorter than I like. Despite all the rain and fresh surface water though, the local lake temps have been holding steady for several weeks now. That's good news. The water can go 10 degrees lower before our boat gets winterized!"

Wow. I start to complain when the water temperature falls below 75 F. I'm impressed. Now that's a die-hard ski buff. Yep, at this rate David and other hearty Minnesotans will be water-skiing into mid October. A cool front is scheduled for Friday and Saturday (it will feel more like mid/late October out there), but we warm up again next week, a string of 60s, maybe a few more 70s. Nothing resembling a "cold front" is in sight through the third week of October.

Northern Lights Hit 100-Year Low Point. For some reason the Northern Lights, the "Aurora Borealis", has become exceedingly rare in the last 5 years or so, coinciding with a period of unusually quiet, storm-free "weather" on the sun, far fewer solar flares or prominences capable of energizing the Earth's ionosphere and sparking a free show. The official minimum was 2008, but there has been very little activity since then, according to researchers. More from Helsinki here.

Standing Water. As many as 34 counties may be declared disaster areas - eligible for federal aid. The Highway 41 and 101 bridges over the Minnesota River are closed indefinitely, a number of roads around St. Paul have been closed under a local state of emergency - Harriet Island submerged, a crest on the Mississippi in St. Paul expected by Sunday.

Fall Flooding : Fishy and Bizarre Mark Flood Aftermath. Star Tribune reporters Bill McAuliffe and Chris Havens update the flood situation across the metro area and hard-hit counties in southern Minnesota, still recovering from last week's 8-11" rainfall. "To get this amount of rainfall this time of year is extraordinary," says Scott Dummer, a hydrologist (river forecaster) at the National Weather Service. There was so much water in the streets of Northfield that 20 pound carp were seen flopping on the sidewalks! More stories from the flood here.

Flood Warning Update. According to NWS river forecasters the flood conditions on the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers should be similar to the levels reached earlier this spring, "perhaps a little higher towards Hastings." For the latest on the flood warnings from the National Weather Service click here.

Departure From Normal - Last 2 Weeks. Some counties in southern Minnesota have seen 4 to 6 times more rain than normal during the last 14 days. See for yourself here.

Cooling Off - Warming Up Next Week. The models are all in agreement - a series of cooler fronts will puff increasingly chilly air southward out of Canada, Saturday will feel more like late October with highs stuck in the 50s and a brisk northwest wind - bottoming out Sunday morning in the mid 30s in the metro. Some of the colder, outlying suburbs will almost certainly experience the first frost of the season as a bubble of high pressure drifts overhead and winds ease up. From Lakeville to Medina to Ham Lake and Stillwater, the normally colder 'burbs may wake up to a frosting of white Sunday morning - if you have some plants you want to keep around for awhile consider covering them up or bringing them indoors before you turn in Saturday night.

Sunday Frost? Here are the NWS predicted wake-up temperatures for Sunday morning, 32 at St. Cloud, a frosty 31 at Eau Claire, 34 in the Twin Cities, where the "urban heat island" (asphalt/concrete retaining and slowly releasing the sun's heat energy) will keep the close-in suburbs (within the 494-694 loop) mostly frost-free.

Definition of "Perfect"? Could the weather have been any better yesterday? Don't think so. How are you supposed to "work" or "study" when the sky floating overhead is so blue, lukewarm and....memorable? I have a hunch job productivity and test scores suffered on Wednesday. Highs ranged from 71 at Alexandria to 74 in St. Cloud and the Twin Cities, 76 at Redwood Falls.

* On September 29, 1907 a trace of snow flurries dusted up a few lawns in the Twin Cities.

* Chance of a few sprinkles Friday as a colder front arrives - next chance of significant rain? The following Sunday, October 10.

* First frost of the season possible in the outlying suburbs Sunday morning.

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

Today: Bright sun, breezy, a bit cooler than yesterday. Winds: NW 10-15. high: 67

Thursday night: Mostly clear and cool. Low: 47

Friday: Unsettled with mostly cloudy skies, a passing sprinkle, gusty (raw) wind. High:  62 (holding int he 50s most of the day).

Saturday: Chilliest day in sight. Partly sunny and brisk - feels more like late October. High: 57

Sunday: Blue sky, light breeze - a bit milder. High:  61

Monday: Plenty of sunshine, warming up. High: 65

Tuesday: Lot's of sun - beautiful weather statewide. High: 69

Wednesday: Sun fades behind increasing clouds - unseasonably mild. High: near 70

If we could just stuff days like yesterday into a bottle for safekeeping - open it up in a few months to savor (when we'll need it even more). I don't even want to think about wind chill, glare ice and "plowable snows." The sleds out in the shed (Polaris) help me rationalize snow, but it's tougher coming to grips with the intermittent arctic blasts. The only saving grace (which I've told friends and relatives ad nauseum) - our coldest days tend to be sunny. That blue sky does make a HUGE difference much of the winter, compared to cities like Chicago, Cleveland, and Milwaukee, where lake effect keeps it grayer with much higher humidity levels. When you're living in a town that has more moisture in the air the cold CUTS THROUGH YOU, to the point where 20-30 F. is painful. The coldest I've ever been (in my life) is NOT Minnesota, but Chicago, walking down Michigan Avenue, a raw 40 mph wind slapping me in the face, a temperature of 20 (above zero) but a humidity close to 100% made it feel like I was roaming around Antarctica. Unspeakable cold. All that moisture leaves your clothing damp, which conducts the cold far more efficiently - you FEEL the windchill in a way that makes Minnesota seem almost tame by comparison. Something to be said for living upwind of the Great Lakes. It's drier here - sunnier too. For most of us the worst days aren't the sunny (bitter) days, but rather the gray, humid, 30-degree days - the lack of sun seems to be a bigger factor than a lack of degrees most of the winter.

Sorry for going off on a meteorological tangent - just bracing myself (mentally) for what's to come. But the good news: we have plenty of lukewarm days left, more 60s, probably a few more 70s, I wouldn't be shocked to see another 80-degree high in October. I don't see anything that resembles a true COLD FRONT, but you'll probably need to break out the jackets and sweatshirts again by late Friday and Saturday as Canada fires off a warning shot. The sun will be out today, highs about 5-10 degrees cooler than yesterday. A reinforcing cool front surges into town Friday with more clouds, a stiff breeze and a few windblown sprinkles. You'll need a jacket or sweatshirt for Friday evening football games, temperatures falling through the 50s.

Saturday still looks like the coolest day in sight, highs in the 50s, a mix of clouds and sunshine - it will feel more like late October. Frost? A distinct possibility in the outlying suburbs by Sunday morning. The "urban heat island", heat being re-radiated from asphalt and concrete, will keep the immediate metro area a few degrees warmer Saturday night, but 20-40 miles away from the downtowns it will be a different story. The first week of October is pretty typical for a first-frost, at least in the suburbs. The growing season in downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis is 2 weeks longer than the 'burbs - the first 32 in South Minneapolis routinely comes at least a week later than it does in Delano, Andover, Lino Lakes and Lakeville. There's some hot trivia you can use at your next party (if you want to be standing alone, talking to  yourself).

Sunday should be a notch nicer, light southerly winds, afternoon highs topping 60, bright sun (fewer scrappy cumulus clouds) - a fine fall day. Temperatures continue to mellow thorugh next week, and right now it looks dry - the chance of showers next Wednesday has diminished - any significant fronts and storms detouring well south (or north) of Minnesota until further notice. This dry spell is coming at a VERY good time for farmers, still trying to get into their fields after last week's almost biblical deluge. Harvest has been delayed, no question - but it seems like the atmosphere will compensate for last week's flooding by treating us to 2, possibly 3 weeks in a row of dry weather. That's fairly unusual for October.

Sunshine will be the rule through most of next week - little or no rain, only a slight chance of frost Sunday morning, no high winds, severe weather or anything that remotely resembles a "storm" until the second week of October, at the earliest. This is as quiet as it ever gets this time of year. I'm going to kick back and enjoy this unusual (and welcome) lack of "weather".

Lumbering Back From Tornadoes. The New York City area hasn't seen this magnitude of storm damage since Hurricane Gloria in 1985. Two tornadoes and a "macroburst" (a powerful T-storm downdraft reaching the ground and producing severe straight-line winds) damaged hundreds of homes - the clean-up will take weeks, possibly months. The number of trees knocked over by the storm is almost incomprehensible. During a typical year the Parks Department removes about 6,000 tons of tree debris. But in a single week after the tornadoes swept through 1,500 tons of trees were removed in a single week! More on the aftermath in Queens here.

Pakistani Ambassador's Flood Video. It's hard for us to grasp the enormity of the disaster facing Pakistan from weeks of downpours - the monsoon has gone crazy this year, inundating 25% of the nation, displacing millions of families, creating economic and political instability that has a lot of top officials in Washington D.C. very nervous. Click here to see an eye-opening video that documents the travails of Pakistan, and why it will take years for the country to recover from this year's historic flooding.

Ancient Italian Town Has Wind At Its Back. A town with so much potential wind power that it can not only provide its own energy needs, but sell excess electricity to nearby towns? It's happening in Italy, and Wednesday's New York Times had a lengthy article about the economics of wind power.

Professor Says Research Clear On Climate Change. Climate change science is not as unsettled as skeptics imply and doubts about global warming stem more from a fear of regulation than from scientific uncertainty, author and scientist Naomi Oreskes told a Wyoming audience last week. There is still in inherent, underlying fear that tackling climate change will somehow stifle or inhibit civil liberties - some people still equate environmentalism with socialism and Big Government, when in reality some of the best, long-term solutions will come from thousands of new companies trying to create a new, energy-efficient economy from the ground up. More on her presentation here.

Global Ice Viewer. NASA has created an interactive web site that tracks the rate of ice loss from Greenland and the Arctic to Antarctica. Worth a look.

Big Oil Spends Half A Billion Dollars To Oppose Climate Legislation. Half a BILLION dollars spent on lobbying to defeat clean energy and climate change initiatives - in one year? It's a staggering number, but a recent study, going by the title "Dirty Money", confirms this number. The top spenders (not surprisingly) are: ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) (1), ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) (2), Chevron (NYSE: CVX) (3), BP (NYSE: BP) (5), Koch Industries (6), and Shell (NYSE: RDS-A).

Random Photo Of The Day. There is no compelling meteorological reason to be including this photo in today's weather blog. Consider this a cautionary tale - you probably don't want to stand beside an interstate to get that perfect family photo, no matter how perfect the backdrop. Hey, the guy's a Cubs fan - what can possibly go wrong?

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