Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An October To Remember

Atmospheric poetry

"Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter," wrote Carol Bishop Hips. Poet Nathanial Hawthorne must have had this year in mind when he wrote, "There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October." Amen.


Snow? No. Hail. Check out this incredible (Twitpic) photo of the aftermath of Monday's severe hailstorm that swept across the New York City area - 3-4" of HAIL accumulating on sidewalks and streets - they had to bring out the plows, for hail!

Wild Winds. According to the University of Wisconsin CIMSS Satellite Blog the superstorm currently thrashing the Pacific Northwest produced wind gusts off the Alaskan Panhandle as high as 126 mph! That's right - a boat with wind instruments measured a gust to 126. POES (polar-orbiting) satellite imagery shows the tightly wound area of low pressure - more details on this wild October storm here.

La Nina Winter = Considerable Uncertainty. The waters of the equatorial Pacific are cooling, which often correlates with colder (snowier) winters for much of America east of the Mississippi River. But not every winter. The outlook is more uncertain for La Nina winters that immediately follow El Nino scenarios, like we had much of last winter and spring. The bottom line: even though the Farmer's Almanac is predicting a "harsh, snowier-than-normal" winter from Minnesota to New England - don't bet on it. More on the inherent unpredictability of La Nina events here. Bottom line: the interaction between the atmosphere and the oceans is still largely misunderstood, a nagging mystery for meteorologists and oceanographers attempting to have any skill predicting large-scale weather patterns beyond 2 weeks.

Hurricane Paula Update. "Paula" is an impressive category 2 storm, sustained winds of 100 mph - it may be the smallest hurricane I've ever seen - little more than 75-100 miles wide (a typical hurricane is 300-500 miles wide). The core of the storm is forecast to remain over warm Caribbean water - meaning further strengthening can't be ruled out.

"Paula" : A Mini-Hurricane? Radar out of western Cuba Wednesday afternoon showed the eye of Hurricane Paula coming nito range, a rather disorganized spiral band of heavy showers and T-storms funneling moisture into the warm core of the storm. To see the latest (Cuban) radar loop click here.

Paula's Projected Track. NHC takes Hurricane Paula into the Florida Straights on a track that may bring the core of the storm's 100 mph+ winds very close to the Florida Keys. A Tropical Storm Watch has been posted for the Keys - a few of the models bring Paula very close to Miami within 72 hours. Data courtesy of NHC, mapping from Ham Weather.

Earthquakes In Oklahoma? On Wednesday a magnitude 5.1 quake struck near Norman, Oklahoma - a suburb of Oklahoma City, the second strongest tremor ever reported in the state of Oklahoma. Tuesday Arkansas was hit by a flurry of minor quakes. Very strange. More from the Oklahoman here. At least 2 Oklahomans were injured from the quake, according to USA Today.

Earthquake Caught On Tape. "OUsooner56" got quite a shock while he was recording his video blog Wednesday morning - for 15 seconds the ground shook as a 5.1 quake rattled the suburbs of Oklahoma City. The YouTube clip is here. Me? I would have been under my desk in no time flat.

"Pockets Of Color". Although most of Minnesota is now past-peak, there are still some regions of significant color, mainly from the Twin Cities metro south/east toward Winona and La Crosse. The Rochester area still has an impressive tapestry of color which should linger into the weekend. The latest from the MN DNR here.

From Pete Boulay at the MN State Climatology Office:
"We are now in day 10 of a dry spell. We had a 19 day dry spell ending on March 6, 2010 so we haven't had the driest spell for the year yet. I attached a spreadsheet of past dry spells for the Twin Cities. The longest? 51 days ending on January 1, 1944."

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

Today: Bright sun, lukewarm breeze. Wind: W 10-20. High: near 70

Thursday night: Partly cloudy and chilly. Low: 40

Friday: Plenty of sun, a bit cooler - still very pleasant. High: 61

Saturday: Turning milder with sunshine and a light breeze, the nicer day of the weekend. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 67

Saturday night: Clear to partly cloudy. Low: 44

Sunday: Sunny start, clouds increase later in the day (few showers possible up north by late PM). Winds: E 5-10. High: 63

Monday: Cloudy with a period of rain likely. High: 54

Tuesday: Rain lingers, a cool, foul day. High: 53

Wednesday: Sunshine returns, seasonably cool. High: 58

* GFS computer model hinting at low to mid 60s the following weekend, the weekend of October 23-24.

I feel a little like Steve Martin in one of my favorite movies, "L.A. Story". He plays the role of a weather guy in Los Angeles, which can't be that stressful most of the year. My favorite scene: Martin on a raft in his swimming pool, shouting to his TV News Director boss: "it's the same! The weather is THE SAME!!" Then El Nino strikes, it pours on what was supposed to be a sunny day, and that's when things get interesting. Add L.A. story to your Netflix cue - it really is a charming, heartwarming story.

"It's the same!" One more day of blue skies, light winds and low humidity - a few boxelder bugs tormenting you, but all things considered some of the best weather in North America continues to float over our heads. Welcome to the 19th day in a row without measurable rain in the Twin Cities - officially the longest dry-stretch this year, according to Pete Boulay at the MN State Climate Office. Chances are we'll go 22 days without rain - the first chance of puddles Sunday night and Monday as a more significant surge of Canadian air approaches, a tug-of-war playing out overhead producing a quarter inch or so of rain next Monday and Tuesday. Highs will dip into the low/mid 50s - hardly a cold front, but it will feel more like mid October out there by early next week.

When the weather is this nice for this long I start to get nervous. VERY nervous. Every day I fire up the models, scan the maps, wondering what can possibly go wrong - and what time? So far so good. The GFS model goes out about 16 days, and I still don't see any harsh swipes of arctic air, no wind chill, certainly no accumulating snow looking out through the 28th day of October. We're already 8-9 degrees F. warmer than average statewide for the month of October. At the rate we're going we may very well enjoy one of the sunniest, mildest and driest Octobers on record, certainly in the Top 5. We'll see.

After cooling off early next week temperatures recover next week - computer simulations hinting at more 60s by the weekend of October 23-24, in fact the models keep spiking the temperature up close to 60 through the last week of the month. Not sure I can promise a lukewarm Halloween, but so far so good. Enjoy the siesta, the extended weather honeymoon. Who knows what November will bring...but at least we'll have October.

Nor 'Easter! Computer models spin up a major storm over New England Friday and Saturday, an intrusion of chilly Canadian air (behind a fast-moving Alberta Clipper) combining with warm, tropical air from the Gulf Stream to create a rapid drop in barometric pressure. The resulting partial vacuum will whip up some 30-50 mph winds (Gale watches are posted for coastal New Englad) - beach erosion and coastal flooding is likely from Long Island to Cape Cod. Inland: enough chilly air for heavy wet snow from the Catskills of New York into the Green Mts. of New Hampshire. Skiers are excited - just about everyone else is dreading this major storm, which WILL impact air travel into the northeast by the weekend. More on the impending storm here.


Welcome to the driest spell of weather all year. According to Pete Boulay at the MN Climate Office we had a 19-day spell of dry weather ending March 6. We're up to 19 days with only a trace of sprinkles in the metro, we'll go 22 days before the first chance of rain next Monday & Tuesday. While the northeast gets hammered by a nor'easter (capable of coastal flooding and half a foot of snow for the Catskills of New York) we'll continue to bask under a bright blue sky. Cool, crisp, jacket-worthy mornings, lukewarm afternoons and light winds as high pressure settles overhead. A cooler front sparks rain early next week, but more 60s return for the weekend of Oct. 23-24.

Finally, Hurricane Paula will brush the Florida Keys with high winds. Yes, we see storms in Minnesota. But at least our storms DON'T HAVE NAMES.

Devastation And Recovery At Mt. St. Helens. NASA's Earth Observatory has a very interesting article about the recovery of the ecosystem surrounding Mt. St. Helens, which erupted on May 18, 1980. For the first time scientists were able to document not only the initial damage caused by the cataclysmic volcanic eruption, but the gradual recovery to surrounding plant life as evidenced by a time lapse series of satellite images taken over the last 30 years.

Silicon Valley's Solar Innovators Retool To Catch Up With China. While the USA "debates" the scientific validity of climate change, the rest of the world is moving forward aggressively with renewable sources of energy, including wind, geothermal and solar. There is growing concern in the business world that America is losing its competitive edge, especially in the field of solar panels. The New York Times has an update on where we stand, and how difficult it may be for U.S. entrepreneurs to catch up with Chinese innovators in this article.

A Climate Proposal Beyond Cap And Trade. How can we reduce carbon emissions and encourage alternative energy sources without crippling the economy or imposing a "tax" (which no one wants?) The debate continues, more options in this New York Times article.

Can-Do Entrepreneurs Move Beyond Our Can't-Do Government. The Huffington Post's Arianna Huffington has an editorial about thousands of small-scale entrepreneurs seeming to pull off what the government can't do through "stimulus money" and bailouts. So much for trickle-down theory - seems like most of the jobs and opportunities are coming from small companies making bets about the future, taking risks - growing the economy from the ground up.

If Earth Were Powered By Space. It sounds like science fiction, but then again, 60 years ago flying men to the moon was considered science fiction. Space is an untapped resource, and a potential source of electricity (as crazy as that sounds). Click here for a thought-provoking article.

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