Friday, October 1, 2010

Frost Advisory (And The Wettest September On Record)

Frost Advisory. The NWS has issued a frost advisory for most of central and southern MN tonight. If you live outside the 494/694 beltway you may want to consider covering up your plants or bringing them indoors (if that's an option). Frost is likely for towns more than 15-20 miles away from downtown Mpls. and St. Paul.
Historic Flooding. The east coast is still reeling from a 2-day drenching that inundated many towns with as much as 8-12" of rain. In the last 5 days the town of Wilmington, North Carolina has been swamped with over 22" of rain. The tropical remains of Tropical Storm Nicole combined with a "conveyor belt" of moisture direct from the Caribbean - a steady spigot of excessive moisture surging northward, rising up and over cooler air draped over New England, resulting in 3 to 6 month's worth of rain in some communities. More on the epic flooding in the Philadelphia area here.

Swamped. "Hurricane Floyd (1999) was supposed to be a 1-in-100 year flood. 11 years later we have another major flood," one resident of Windsor, North Carolina said yesterday. 175 people out of town of 2,000 residents have been evacuated from their homes, due to rising floodwaters. More from CNN/WRAL-TV here.

Hail No. An Account Of The World's Biggest, Deadliest Hailstorms. I know - not the kind of picture you want to wake up to on a blustery Saturday morning in early October. Did I mention the hail season in Minnesota is pretty much over now? This amazing article tells the tale of a group of people traveling through a valley around 850 A.D. - every last one of them killed by "blows to the head and shoulders caused by blunt, round objects the size of cricket balls." Every last one of them perished from the freak hailstorm. Their harrowing tale is related, along with the last hail-related fatality in the USA: a man struck by softball size hail (hitting the ground at roughly 100 mph.) in Fort Worth, Texas back in 2000.

Plan To Use Submarines To Subdue Hurricanes/Typhoons. Just when you think you're seen everything, along comes this article, which highlights a Japanese company's ambitious plans to use a fleet of 20 submarines, each submerged to a depth of 30 meters - capable of pumping cooler water to the ocean surface above. The plan: lower the water temperature in the path of an oncoming hurricane. Since hurricane's get their energy from warm ocean water, the plan is to lower the intensity of a hurricane (called typhoons in the western Pacific) by dredging up an "arc of cooler water" in the path of the storm. There are a lot of these "geoengineering" stories floating around out there - this is one of the crazier plans I've uncovered - but hey, worth a shot?

The Soggy September Statistics. Data provided by the DNR and the Minnesota State Climatology Office. We set a new record for September moisture, breaking the old record of 6.2" in 1900. This comes on the heels of a summer that averaged 2-4" wetter than normal. Click here for more details.

* According to Professor Mark Seeley at the U. of Minnesota September was the wettest on record for Minnesota (average of 6.46" of rain). Many towns in southern Minnesota exceed 10" of rain for the month. Check out his weekly Minnesota WeatherTalk blog here.

* Mississippi River at St. Paul reaches it's all-time high flow rate in Autumn on September 30: 77,400 cfs.

* So far in 2010 Marshall has picked up nearly 36" of rain! Pipestone: 36.25". Windom: 35.15"

* September temperatures average 2-4 F. cooler than average across much of the state. Twin Cities September temperature: .8 F cooler than normal.

A State of Extremes. September rainfall was 6-10" above average along the I-90 corridor in southern Minnesota, but from Duluth to the North Shore of Lake Superior rainfall was about 1" below average. A 10" contrast from north to south, in the span of 200+ miles. Amazing.

Minor Clipping. The mercury reached 70 in the Twin Cities Friday ahead of an Alberta Clipper. The warmth was fleeting, confined to the southern third of Minnesota - a high of only 63 at St. Cloud and 58 up at Duluth. By the way, last year the high on October 1 was only 51 in the Twin Cities. The heaviest showers stayed just north and east of St. Cloud and MSP (only a trace of rain, enough to dampen up a few sidewalks and driveways), but .13" fell on Duluth.

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

Today: A mix of clouds and sun, breezy and cool. Winds: N 10-15. High: 55

Saturday night: Clearing and chilly - chance of a late-night frost in the outlying suburbs. Low: 37

Sunday: Bright sun, a few degrees milder, the nicer day of the weekend. Winds: S 10-15. High: 61

Monday: Blue sky, getting better in a hurry. High: 65

Tuesday: Sunny - still spectacular! High: 68

Wednesday: Brilliant sunshine, lukewarm breeze - impossible to stay indoors. High: 73

Thursday: Sick of this yet? Me neither. Still sunny, still beautiful. High: 72

Friday: Wrapping up what may be the nicest week of autumn in Minnesota. Lingering sunshine. High: 69

Now THIS is what October is supposed to feel like. Grab a sweatshirt or light jacket before heading out the door today, temperatures will run a good 10-15 degrees cooler than average for October 2 - it will FEEL more like mid or even late October out there, afternoon temperatures stumped in the 50s, the wind making it feel like its in the 40s. But the sun should be bobbing in and out of a rag-tag collection of scrappy cumulus clouds. Skies clear tonight as the center of high pressure drifts overhead. The lighter the winds the greater the probability of a frost across much of the state by Sunday morning. The only exception: the downtowns and close-in suburbs, where some of that "urban heat island" effect will keep temperatures in the mid to upper 30s. On a clear, calm night in autumn the downtowns can be as much as 10-15 degrees warmer than the outlying suburbs, in fact the growing season in Minneapolis and St. Paul is a full 2 weeks longer than it is in Andover, Medina, Lakeville, Stillwater and Cottage Grove. Good news for farmers downtown. Bottom line: if you live within the 494/694 beltway you will probably be frost-free tomorrow morning (and stay frost-free through mid October, the way the maps are looking right now).

Last October saw a quick descent into wintry - we picked up .3" snow on October 10, 2009, with another 2.5" on the 12th (with a high of 36). Yet less than a week later the mercury peaked at 63. Such are the extremes of a typical Minnesota October. But gazing at the latest model runs I see a fairly benign October, 2010 - at least looking out into the third week of October. Next week looks dry - a streak of sunny (gorgeous) days with highs in the 60s and 70s - I could see some mid 70s by Wednesday and Thursday of next week, another distractingly nice stretch of A+ weather. In fact the GFS is hinting at abnormally mild weather (a few more 70s) spilling over into the second full week of October, unusually mild and rather dry through the 15th, give or take. Those same models are hinting at a colder front arriving the third week of October, with highs dropping into the 40s and low 50s - frost/freezing temperatures almost CERTAIN between the 17th and 25th - when reality will take over.

Enjoy the extended weather honeymoon!

NOAA Provides Easy Access To Historical Atlantic Hurricane Tracks. Bored? Fascinated with Atlantic Hurricanes? Want to pin down the absolute WORST place to buy oceanfront property? Then you'll be amazed and amused with this NOAA web site, which displays 150 years of hurricane tracks, on a county by county basis. What's amazing to me, looking at the data, is that there haven't been more direct strikes on the USA. The vast majority of hurricanes have remained offshore, veering out to sea before strafing America. That's certainly been the story this year, although it's ironic that a meager Tropical Storm (Nicole) has dumped a hurricane's worth of rain on much of the eastern seaboard in the last 3 days.

Electrifying Facts. There are an estimated 16 million individual T-storms around the planet every year. The current in a bolt of lightning can be as high as 30,000 amperes. That compares with ordinary household voltage of 200 amps. The Empire State Building in New York City is hit (on average) about 100 times/year. Florida is still the Lightning Capital of the USA - Minnesota has seen only 3 lightning-related fatalities since 2000 (compared to 70 in Florida). More lightning facts than you'll know what to do with here.

Amazing Time Lapse. Check out this incredible (Vimeo) time lapse over San Francisco. "The Unseen Sea" was shot by Simon Christen, and it's one of the best online video clips I've ever seen.

The Challenge Of Storing Energy On A Large Scale. Forget "plastics", the place to consider investing is electrical storage systems - supercharged batteries that can store intermittent power stored up by solar and wind power. This is a huge technogical challenge: if wind turbines and solar panels are ever going to make a material difference in America's energy equation, technology is required that efficiently traps and stores the electricity generated, making it available when and where it's needed the most. More on some promising new inventions (and incentives being provided by the Department of Energy) in this New York Times article.

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