Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tornado Alley Shifts North (record 104 twisters for MN in 2010)

* 6 more quiet, dry, storm-free days shaping up for the Twin Cities.

* Today: 5-10 degrees above average, but Thursday will feel like November (wind chill in the 20s).

* Dry weekend, Saturday looks like the sunnier day, 50s return Sunday.

* Rain possible by the middle of next week, maybe ending as a period of wet snow by next Thursday (probably just flurries in the Twin Cities).

* A touch of winter possible by the third week of November. Enjoy the extended weather honeymoon!

"Wilson". Hey, even (extraordinary) dogs love the Twins! Wilson is owned by one of my best friends, Heidi Rusch in Minnetonka. Wilson perks up when Joe Mauer comes up to bat - I swear I saw him using the remote control the last time I stopped by her shop. Heidi is the best hair stylist in the western suburbs, by the way - her web site is here. Now, if she could just turn me into a wild redhead....

Cold Air Is Coming. Yes, we're delaying the inevitable - and  the longer we go without a true, arctic smack, the more intense that cold blast will probably be. Patrick Marsh is a Ph.D. student at the School of Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma. He's keeping an eye on a mass of cold air building over the Gulf of Alaska - a numbing smack that will eventually reach Minnesota, probably within 1-2 weeks. His "ramblings" are here.

Winter Outlook. La Nina, La Schmeena! According to the ECMWF (European) supercomputer model - which many meteorologists believe to be superior to NOAA's long-range outlooks - is predicting a warmer than normal winter for much of the lower 48 states. There is growing evidence that this may be an atypical La Nina (ie. not necessarily colder and snowier across the board). I think we'll see plenty of arctic fronts (nothing new there) but it won't be quite as cold as some forecasters are predicting. Meteorologist Kirk Melhuish in Atlanta has some interesting thoughts about the winter to come here.

Hype Or Destiny? Then again, the good 'ol Farmer's Almanac is predicting "Cold and Very Snowy" for the Upper Midwest this winter. Place your bets...

Tornado Record Blown Away In 2010. I hope you got to read Bill McAuliffe's excellent story in Tuesday's Star Tribune. 104 tornadoes in Minnesota so far in 2010, including 4 monster EF-4's. Minnesota still leads the nation in confirmed tornado touchdowns, which has never happened before. Why? A strong jet stream farther south than usual much of the summer focusing high-velocity winds 3-8 miles above the ground, creating an environment favorable for extreme "wind shear" (changing wind directions/speeds with altitude). That, and dew points considerably higher than normal, reflecting a trend we've seen in recent summers. Yes, Minnesota summers ARE becoming more humid over time, more drippy, borderline-unbearable days with dew points in the 70s - providing more potential fuel for severe thunderstorms. The previous record: 74 tornadoes in 2001. Average? Closer to 25-30/year in Minnesota. A truly remarkable year. You know it's going to be a wild summer when some of America's premiere tornado chasers are in Minnesota, instead of Oklahoma and Kansas!

Preliminary Count. I realize there's a disconnect here. The Star Tribune article references 104 tornadoes, yet the map above shows 145 "tornado reports." The  reason for the discrepency: some of these "reports" were actually the same tornado, viewed from different locations/perspectives. That's why it's taken the local NWS months to go through tornado post-mortems and reports, trying to get to the bottom line: how many separate tornadoes actually touched down on Minnesota? The SPC report is here.

Tornado Warnings Are Too Often Ignored, Researcher Says. This story is a real head-scratcher: only 63% of people surveyed understood that a "warning" is the most urgent National Weather Service statement issued during times of severe weather. Really? They must not have spent any time in Minnesota this past summer.

Minnesota Tornado List. Here is a list of all 104 tornadoes that touched down on Minnesota this year, killing 3, leaving 46 people injured. The tornadoes are listed in chronological order, based on when they were observed. Click here for all the details, courtesy of the Chanhassen National Weather Service.

Significant Weather Events: 
  • All 4 weeks of October trended warmer and drier than last year in the United States.  In Canada all weeks were warmer than last year and all weeks trended drier with the exception of the final week of the month.
  • The Columbus Day weekend ended much warmer than last year and warmer than normal. It was slightly wetter than 2009 but otherwise the 2nd driest since 2000. The warmer and drier conditions led many to be out and about, with outdoor activities and lawn care products benefiting compared to last year.
  • For the Halloween weekend trick-or-treaters were “treated” to pleasant weather with many locations recording near normal temperatures and dry conditions.
  • While there were minimal impacts to the U.S. in regards to the tropical season this October, we still saw a very active month with 5 named storms. Hurricane Otto (week 1), Hurricane Paula (week 2), Hurricane Richard (week 3) and Hurricane Shary and Tomas (week 5) all were named in the month of October. The 2010 tropical season has tallied 19 named storms to date, 9 of which reached hurricane status, which is the most since 2005.
  • Snowfall in the U.S. for the month was down 73% compared to 2009 and down 60% to normal. 
  • Los Angeles was the 14th coldest in 50 years and slightly cooler than 2009.
  • San Francisco was 2nd warmest in 50 years, warmest since 1992.
  • South Central was driest since 1963 (2nd driest in 50 years).
  • Southeast was driest since 2000.
  • West North Central was driest since 2003

Above data and weather headlines courtesy of Planalytics.

Another Deadly Hurricane. Already it's the 3rd most active hurricane season in the Atlantic on record, with 18 named storms. Hurricane Lucia struck Barbados, St. Vincent and St. Lucia with 90-95 mph. winds and a powerful storm surge. At least 14 deaths have been blamed on the hurricane in St. Lucia. According to Jeff Masters and his Wunder Blog Tomas may have been the most destructive hurricane to hit this area since 1955.

Tomas's Track. The last thing residents of Haiti need right now is a hurricane - the island was devastated by a severe earthquaker earlier this year and hundreds of thousands of residents of Port Au Prince are still living in makeshift tent cities. NHC hurricane models bring the core of Tomas (possibly as a Category 2 hurricane) by Saturday morning. With any luck those models will be wrong, and Tomas will miss Haiti altogether. Data courtesy of NHC and Ham Weather.

Interesting Hurricane Factoids. This really has been a remarkable year for hurricanes in the Atlantic: 12 - but not one direct strike on the USA. That has never happened before, at least not in recorded history. A good summary of this unusual year from Adam Lea, at University College London, as posted on Dr. Roger PielkeJr, at the University of Colorado/Boulder.

86 Yard Punt Gets Some Help From The Wind. The highlight of the Washington Warriors high school football game last weekend was an 86 yard punt that you have to see to believe. The winds were howling, and the ball just kept on rolling and rolling and rolling....

Fine Election Day. Sunshine held on most of the day across the state, enough blue sky for 56 in St. Cloud (where a trace of sprinkles fell), 56 in the Twin Cities and 59 at Redwood Falls. These temperatures are 8-10 degrees warmer than average for November 2.

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

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, stiff breeze. NW 15-25 High: 54

THURSDAY: Blustery, feels like November again with a mix of clouds and sun! High: 43 (wind chill dipping into the 20s)

FRIDAY: Cold start, sunny, less with wind. High: 44

SATURDAY: Sunnier day of the weekend, still brisk (winds ease up). High: 49

SUNDAY: Mix of clouds & sun, a bit milder. High: 53

MONDAY: Intervals of sun, still uneventful, a few degrees warmer than average. High: 52

TUESDAY" Some sun, clouds increase - last dry day? High: 51

* A cold rain is possible next Wednesday, slight chance rain may end as a few flurries next Thursday.

A Minor Clipping

It may not be a particularly profound observation, but I've noticed the longer we enjoy dry, quiet (mild) weather, the worse the inevitable storm to come. Case in point: October 2010. We really had 2 Septembers, back to back (and got a little complacent in the process). Then, like a popped balloon, last week's "Landicane" spins up a central pressure of 28.21" over Bigfork, MN, roughly equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane. Think of weather as an elastic balloon. A steady supply of cold fronts & storms leaves a little air out of the balloon. But if the weather is too tranquil for too long the balloon inflates - and eventually pops (resulting in chaos here on the ground).

Speaking of weather-chaos, Hurricane Tomas hit Barbados & St. Lucia hard, possibly the worst hurricane since 1955. We've had 12 hurricanes in the Atlantic this year, the second most on record (topped only by 2005, with 15 hurricanes).

A clipper whips up cool, Canadian exhaust, heavy jackets return tomorrow, but dry weather hangs on through next Tuesday. Low 50s return Sunday & Monday, a cold rain by next Wednesday may end as a few flurries next Thursday. The third week of November will FEEL like November!

More Waterspouts In Unusual Places. On October 24 an unusual phenomenon greeted residents of the Oregon coast - a waterspout (tornado over the water) developed just offshore. An amazing and bizarre sight for coastal Oregon!

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