Monday, September 27, 2010

Time To Unplug The Doppler

Magnificent Sight. This is the scene up the Grand Portage area - a smorgasbord of colors as fall color peaks along Lake Superior's North Shore. The Minnesota DNR has an album you can explore, showing highlights of Minnesota's spectacular fall foliage. Yes, this would truly be a good time to Explore Minnesota!

Burst of Color. Thanks to Tricia Frostad, who lives in Chanhassen, for reminding us how spectacular northern Minnesota can be in late September. This photo was taken Sunday near Pelican Lake, close to Orr, Minnesota.

September Rainfall in the Twin Cities:

Normal: 2.40"

Actual: 5.51" (it has rained on 14 of the last 28 days in the Twin Cities).

Nearing Peak Color. According to the MN DNR fall color is peaking up north in the coming days - next weekend will probably be the best weekend of Autumn to make a road trip, colors peaking in the immediate Twin Cities sometime between October 3 and October, more like mid October south and east, down Highway 61 along the Mississippi. More details from the DNR here.

One Soggy Week. I counted at least 68 towns in Minnesota that have set 24-hour rainfall records in the last week, including Winnebego, MN, where 6.3" fell last Thursday. This map shows one week's worth of records (highs, lows, rainfall amounts). For an interactive map from Ham Weather that shows all the details click here.

Cresting Rivers. The hydrologists, the river forecasters at the local National Weather Service office in Chanhassen, are keeping a very close eye on Minnesota's streams and rivers. The greatest concern is the Cottonwood River in New Ulm, and along the Minnesota River from St. Peter to Henderson and Jordan - as well as a few locations along the Mississippi River. Click here to see the latest (interactive) forecasts.

Flood Update. Dozens of communites from central Wisconsin to southern Minnesota were hit especially hard by last week's extreme rainfall amounts. Dikes gave way on the Wisconsin River in Portage, Wisconsin, just 40 miles north of Madison - scores of families had to evacuate their homes. AP has a good summary of the weather-related headaches and heartaches here.

Flash Floods. Monday was an odd day, torrential rains along the east coast of the USA, flooding rains - even a few isolated tornadoes racing northward across Virginia and Maryland - in late September?

Holding Their Breath. People living alongside the Minnesota River have every reason to be nervous, after last week's 6-10" rains over southern Minnesota. That muddy water is now coursing down the MN River - which is expected to crest about a foot and a half below record flood stage between Wednesday and Thursday evening.
Plagues of Locust. Australia is grappling with the worst infestation of locust in 75 years, recent weather conditions ideal for the almost exponential spread of these pests (drought, followed by recent rains and bright sunshine). A one kilometer wide swarm of locust can chomp through 10 TONS of crops, a third of their combined body weight, in a single day! More on the growing locust-related headaches down under here.

Record Heat in L.A. Monday the official high in Los Angeles was a hair-curling, eye-watering 113 F, the hottest temperature ever recorded in the City of Angels. The previous record: 112 F on June 26, 1990. What's especially odd about this is the fact that the all-time record came in autumn, after an unusually cool, gray summer in Los Angeles. More on L.A.'s freakish heat "storm" here.

Monday Memories. In spite of a weak cool frontal passage the atmosphere floating overhead yesterday was "well-mixed", allowing air from 6,000 to 8,000 feet above the ground to reach the ground, boosting the mercury to 74 in St. Cloud, 75 in the Twin Cities and a balmy 78 at Redwood Falls, 8-10 degrees warmer than average for September 27.

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

Today: Bright sun, breezy and a bit cooler. Winds: N 8-13. High: 64

Tuesday night: Clear and cool. Low: 51

Wednesday: Partly sunny and milder - slight chance of a shower over northern and central MN. High: 71

Thursday: Breezy and cooler again with plenty of sunshine. High: 67

Friday: Blue sky - still extraordinary. High: 65

Saturday: High pressure overhead - sunny with light winds. High: 62

Sunday: Sunny and milder - another perfect fall day. High: near 70

Monday: More of the same - lot's of sunshine, pleasantly mild. High: 73

I am at a rare (and welcome) loss for words. Monday was spectacular, in spite of some patchy clouds from a weak frontal passage (which actually kicked up a few T-storms over the MN Arrowhead). A transfusion of slightly cooler, drier air will surge into Minnesota today on northerly breezes, highs about 5-7 degrees cooler than yesterday, but I expect few complaints.

That will be the weather story looking out through most of next week, possibly through the second week of October - unusually dry, quiet and lukewarm. A "split flow" in the jet stream will cause storms to detour well south (and north) of Minnesota, keeping us in a miraculously quiet, storm-free oasis of high pressure. Every now and then a gently-used frontal boundary will come limping through town, but moisture will be very limited over the next 2 weeks, and I still don't see any significant rain looking out through October 14, give or take.

This is coming at a very good time for weather-weary farmers, many still staring out their windows at standing water in their fields. They desparately need a spell of unusually dry weather, and right on cue: here it is. If you need an extended stretch of sunshiny days for construction, yard-work, closing up the cabin (too early), taking out the dock, winterizing your yard (too early) or getting out into your waterlogged fields, you're in luck!

A weak clipper-like system may spark a stray shower or two over the northern third of Minnesota tomorrow - this wind shift line will probably come through dry in the Twin Cities, only a very slight chance of a 20 minute shower or T-shower from St. Cloud to Brainerd and Duluth. We warm up into the low 70s tomorrow, cool down in the low/mid 60s Thursday and Friday - a little frost up north Saturday morning may give way to 70+ F. again by Sunday and Monday of next week. More like San Diego or Palm Springs than a classic early October in MInnesota.

Not complaining one bit - not sure if this is payback for an unusually wet and stormy September (and a wild summer for that matter) or a prequel to a wild and stormy late Autumn; whatever the meteorological trigger I'm giving thanks for 2 of the nicest weeks you'll ever find at this latitude in late September and the first HALF of October.

Time to unplug the Doppler. That doesn't happen very often.

Nicole? Check out the swirl of low pressure west of Florida by Sunday evening. NHC forecasters in Miami are keeping an eye on an area of disturbed, thundery weather south of Cuba. it's forecast to drift north, and possibly strengthen over warm tropical waters later this week. It's still too early to know if there is a real tropical storm/hurricane risk in the Gulf of Mexico or Florida. So far this year the USA has been extraordinarily lucky - 13 named storms and no direct hits.

Unusually Powerful Jet Stream. The GOES-11 weather satellite (which has sensors sensitive enough to derive wind speed/direction) showed winds as high as 216 knots (248 mph!) yesterday over the Pacific. All this potential energy may spin up a series of unusually powerful, almost November-like storms in the weeks ahead - but any major storms are forecast to detour well south of Minnesota through mid October. More from the University of Wisconsin here.

Tropical Storm Matthew Strengthens Off The Coast Of Nicaragua. The 13th named storm of the season, Matthew, is swirling off the coast of Nicaragua - it may strengthen into a minimal hurricane as early as today. Much of Central America has been inundated by unusually heavy rains during the summer season - Nicaragua has already lowered estimates of its coffee crop - you may be digging a little deeper into your pocket at the friendly local Caribou Coffee hangout within a few weeks. Uh oh.

Fire Threat. In all at least 22 regions of Russia endured record wildfires during the intensely hot and dry summer of 2010. NASA scientists can track these fires in realtime. Surprisingly a small number of these brushfires are sparked by natural causes, like cloud to ground lightning strikes. An estimated 90% of these "biomass burnings" (burning of living or dead plant materials) are man-made. A warmer world will increase evaporation (and the frequency/intensity of extreme rainfall amounts) but this heightened evaporation will dry out much of the planet, creating ripe conditions for wildfires to develop and spread. More from NASA on a growing fire threat here.

NOAA, Coast Guard Hunt for Alaskan Methane, Carbon Dioxide Sources. NOAA is teaming up with the Coast Guard to fly specially-equipped aircraft above the skies of Alaska, sniffing out greenhouse gases. Billions of tons of carbon are buried in the frozen permafrost of the Arctic region - which is now warming rapidly, releasing methane, 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Which greenhouse gas releases are natural vs man-made? The NOAA flights hope to shed more light on what's happening WAY up north. More on the experiments now underway here.

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