Monday, November 1, 2010

Using Whales and Owl Barf To Track Climate Change

* Dry, pleasant Election Day with morning sun giving way to increasing PM clouds as a weak Alberta Clipper approaches - a few sprinkles possible tonight.

* Storm-free through the weekend. Heavy jackets return by Thursday - Friday with a noticeable cool-down.

* Dry for the Deer Hunting Opener next weekend, temperatures near normal (no snow on the ground anywhere in the state).

* Turning sharply colder after November 16?

Election Day 2010. No worries about the weather today, no good meteorological excuse not to hit the polls and do your civic duty. Maybe it will make all those horrific TV commercials come to an end. A sunny start gives way to increasing clouds this afternoon, a south breeze at 10-15, highs in the mid 50s. Those clouds thicken up tonight - a passing sprinkle can't be ruled out. Better than average for Election Day.

Ahhh, The Memories. Were you living here 19 years ago? If so you probably have some (VERY) vivid memories of the "Halloween Superstorm" of 1991. 28.4" of snow in 3 days, closer to 40" in Duluth (with some 5-10 foot drifts). What happened? The "Perfect Storm" (forever immortalized in Sebastian Junger's book) stalled off the coast of New England, which caused a Minnesota storm to stall over Lake Superior, prolonging the snow for an extra 36 hours. Suddenly a prediction of 6-8" turned into 10-18", which then became 18-22", and not even THAT was high enough. The storm broke a slew of records (see below). Odds are we'll never see a storm quite that intense in our lifetime. Uh oh. I shouldn't have put that in print. My bad.

Record-Smashing. Check out the Twin Cities records that were broken 19 years ago (we still had nearly 2 feet of snow on the ground on Election Day, 1991). After the snow it got COLD. In fact we experienced the earliest subzero autumn low below zero (-3 the morning of November 4). Yes, winter came VERY early that year. More memories here.

Halloween Superstorm Snowfall Amounts. A cool 2 feet of snow buried most of the Twin Cities, closer to 16" in St. Cloud - but 30-40" amounts were common in the Duluth area, snowfall enhanced by prolonged lake effect off Lake Superior.

Halloween Treat. GOES-13 picked up a rising moon above the Pacific Northwest on October 31. Coincidence?

Deer Hunt - 1933. Remember when it (always) snowed for the Deer Hunting Opener? I don't either. No snow for tracking this year - just sunshine (especially on Saturday) with highs ranging from the low 40s north to the low 50s south. That's about 5-10 degrees warmer than average. The Minnesota State Climatology Office has a run-down of previous openers, along with the last 10 Deer Hunting Opener weather rundowns for International Falls, St. Cloud and Rochester. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota State Historical Society.

Mellow Monday. Not a bad way to start a new work-week. Under a mostly-blue sky afternoon highs ranged from 47 at Grand Marais to 52 in the Twin Cities, 53 in St. Cloud and 54 at Redwood Falls.

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

TUESDAY: Sunny start, some PM clouds. Dry Election Day. Winds: S 10-15. High: 57

TUESDAY NIGHT: Patchy clouds, passing sprinkle possible. Low: 38

WEDNESDAY: Plenty of sun, still quiet, a few degrees warmer than average. High: 55

THURSDAY: "Clipper Exhaust." Blustery & cooler, stiff wind with a mix of clouds and sun. High: 44

FRIDAY: Bright sunshine, heavy jackets - winds ease up a bit. High: 43

SATURDAY: Blue sky, probably the nicer day of the weekend. High: 51

SUNDAY: Sun fades, clouds increase by afternoon. High: 52

MONDAY: Some sun, feels like late October. High: near 50

Good day to vote!

All things considered Mother Nature will smile down on Election Day 2010. A few talking heads on cable will over-analyze the weather & its impact on the polls, maybe link upsets to an intensifying La Nina? But the sky floating above most of America will be a meteorological afterthought.

Nothing like 1991, when shell-shocked residents of the Twin Cities were still clawing out from under 28.3" snow with some 5-10 foot drifts left over from the Halloween Superstorm.
Another quiet week is shaping up (no record low atmospheric pressures or near-hurricane force wind gusts). Highs reach a few degrees above average under a blue sky, 60 possible far southern counties. Not bad for the 2nd day of November.

A clipper pushes cooler air into Minnesota the latter half of the week, heavy jackets returning by Thursday. We warm back up to 50 by the weekend - I don't see heavy rain (or frozen-flavored precipitation) through mid November. Yes, it's too quiet here in the "Land of All or Nothing."

No snow on the ground for Saturday's Deer Hunting Opener. In 2003 St Cloud picked up 4" snow, with 7" at International Falls. La Nina may yet smack us with a cold, snowy winter, but so far so good.

Whales Help Measure Global Warming. Scientists are putting special temperature sensors on Arctic whales (which can make deep dives) - giving them a 3-D temperature analysis of the oceans in the North Atlantic. A fascinating article on just how they accomplish this feat is here.

Using Ancient Owl Barf To Measure Climate Change. The scientists that aren't trying to attach thermometers to Arctic whales are flocking to Utah, where they're carefully studying ancient owl "pellets", regurgitated food that dates back 13,000 years. What a treat. By analyzing these pellets (of dried, petrified owl barf) they can deduce the diets of these owls - giving them a pretty good idea of what grew in Utah dating back many thousands of years. A glamorous job, huh? The complete story is here.

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