Thursday, January 6, 2011

Inch or two Friday (tracking one of the coldest airmasses of winter)

Fargo - The Movie. Is it just me, or does much of Minnesota currently resemble the sweeping opening shot in one of my favorite movies - that opening panorama of snowy, lifeless desolation, like something from the Arctic Region? Hard to believe we'll ever green up again, but we will. Give it about 90 days, give or take.

Weather Headlines:

* Delayed clipper. Peeks of sun today, no major travel complications expected.

* Next clipper arrives Friday with a chance of a coating to 1" of powder.

* Quiet weekend, 5-10 degrees or more colder than average with some sun possible, especially Saturday.

* Storm early next week expected to pass well south of Minnesota, probably storm-free through the end of next week.

* Potential for accumulating snow Saturday (Jan. 15), followed by much colder air the third week of January. Right now it looks like a relatively quick shot of Arctic air - no prolonged subzero weather expected (right now).

Friday Clipper. Models are all printing out some accumulating snow tomorrow. With a snow/rain ratio close to 20/1, it won't take much moisture or upward motion to squeeze out a quick inch or two of fluff. Odds favor slippery roads for at least part of the day Friday.

Coldest Cold Front of the Winter? The GFS model is consistently printing out a very cold spell during the third week of January, especially Jan. 15 - 19. A few days with highs below zero are possible during that period, even in the metro area. Still early - but I have a hunch this will wind up being colder than early December, possibly the coldest of the winter.

Normal January Snowfall. Click here to see National Weather Service data for any month of the year, temperatures, rainfall, snowfall - all based on the rolling 30 year average, data from cooperative observers around the state.

Encouraging Trends. Here is the graphic that will sustain me over the next couple of weeks, as temperatures bottom out. A rising sun won't be able to influence our temperature trends until the last week of January/first week of February, when that higher sun angle will finally trump long nights brewing up cold airmasses over central Canada. Average temperatures rise by more than 10 degrees/month from February into May. Spring is coming - and none of us will EVER take it for granted again. One other interesting fact that jumps out on this graphic: the warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold - our warmest temperatures correlate well with the heaviest rainfall amounts, close to 4" for June, July and August.

One Last Look at 2010. O.K. I want to look ahead, not back, but last year was such an amazing year for Minnesota (and the nation/world) when it comes to extreme weather, I thought it appropriate to take one more (nervous) look back. On June 17, 2010 a total of 48 tornadoes touched down on Minnesota (in a single day!) We saw three EF-4 tornadoes (about as strong as they get), the first EF-4 twisters since 2000. Of course we went on to experience a total of 104 tornadoes last year, most in nation.

Lowest Minnesota Pressure On Record. On October 26, 2010 the central pressure at Bigfork, Minnesota fell to 28.21", setting a new state record. It may have been the lowest pressure ever observed between the Rockies and the Appalacians. Click here to see an excellent recap of Minnesota's Top 10 Weather/Climate Events of 2010, courtesy of the local National Weather Service Office in Chanhassen.

2010: Second Warmest Year On Record. Based on weather data going back to 1895, 2010 was the second warmest year on record across the state of Minnesota, just half an inch less than the all-time record of 33.92" set in 1977.
2010: 9th Warmest Year On Record. Yes, December was cold, no question about  that. In spite of last month's persistent chill the entire year ranked 9th, according to the Minnesota State Climatology Office. I found it interesting that 6 of the 10 warmest years since 1895 have taken place since 1998. Click here to see the raw data.

Earth From The Moon. A photo made famous by the Apollo missions.
You Are Here: Pale Blue Dot. This is what Earth looks like from Saturn (and this is magnified considerably) If this short, profound, 5 minute clip doesn't give you chills, I don't know what will. Sometimes it's good to step back and try to take in the big picture. Astronomery Carl Sagan did just that with this powerful You Tube video.

10 Year Old Discovers Supernova. An amazing story from "A 10-year-old Canadian girl named Kathryn Aurora Gray has discovered an exploding supernova in a galaxy 240 million light-years away. Using photos taken on New Year’s Eve and the day after New Year’s, Gray, whose father is astronomer Paul Gray, identified the supernova by finding a burst of light where there had been no light before, in Galaxy UGC 3378. Gray, who made the discovery under the watch of her father and astronomer David Lane, is the youngest person ever to discover a supernova, according to the Royal Astronomy Society of Canada. [pdf]"

"Bear-Cam". Live video from the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota. The next best thing to being there!

Ted Williams, Homelass Man in Ohio, Gets Job Offer From Cleveland Cavaliers. Some stories do have happy endings. A couple days ago I introduced you to this gentleman, down on his luck, living in the streets of Columbus, Ohio - but with a booming, baritone, commanding voice unlike anything I've ever heard before. From a story at the New York Daily News: "Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert (below) is so struck upon hearing Ted Williams' voice and story that he's offered voiceover work at Quicken Loans Arena to the homeless man."

Real-Life Superheroes Strike Again In Seattle. Just when you think you've seen everything, along comes a story that restores your faith in the human condition. Vigilante justice? Perhaps. From the article at MSN:  "Today, there is a news report of another hero (not pictured above) operating in Seattle. Phoenix Jones, a member of the Rain City Superheroes (no website), recently scared away a would-be car thief. Jones wears a custom suit "including bullet-proof vest and stab plates" and caries a Taser and Mace."

More Birds Falling From The Skies. The Arkansas story from last Sunday (4,000 to 5,000 red-wing blackbirds dying - seemingly instantly and falling from the sky) was troubling enough. Now news of at least 500 more birds dying in Louisiana yesterday. A few more details here. What the heck is going on? No lightning/fog/severe weather in the vicinity. Icing? It just doesn't make any sense...

What The ??? Now there are new reports coming in....dead birds in Kentucky and Maryland. The Baltimore Sun reports millions of dead fish in the Chesapeake Bay. 100 tons of dead sardines, croaker and catfish washing up on the beaches of Brazil. Hundreds of dead snapper fish washing up in New Zealand. This is starting to sound like something out of a Stephen King novel. Are these animal deaths normal, and the media is just more sensitive to what's going on? It's one heckuva coincidence. Some sort of massive reaction to chemicals or toxins? I don't pretend to know - but it is starting to freak me out (a little). More details from Huffington Post here.

NBC Anchor Brian Williams Groped By TSA. No, this has absolutely nothing to do with weather, but I found it profoundly reassuring that TSA policy applies to everyone, even network anchor-stars. He told his tale to David Letterman, video clip courtesy of Politico and Media Bistro.

"Warm Front". After the December we just muddled through, a high of 25 probably qualifies as a "warm front", 3 degrees above normal for a change! Three tenths of an inch of snow fell at MSP, half an inch at St. Cloud, closer to an inch at Duluth and International Falls.

Plenty of Snow. The latest map from shows a cool foot of snow at Brainerd, 10" up at Walker, 14" Garrison and Duluth, with 21" at International Falls and a whopping 33" at the Kabetogama Dam. (click snowcover on the left banner to access this map, updated daily). Great site.

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

TODAY: More clouds than sun, chilly. Winds: NW 7-12. High: 16

THURSDAY NIGHT: Cloudy with flurries or light snow possible late. Low: -1 (rising toward morning).

FRIDAY: Next clipper arrives, coating - 1 " snow possible. High: 17

SATURDAY: Peeks of sun. Can't feel my toes. Low: -4. High: 8

SUNDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, quiet. Low: -7. High: 10

MONDAY: Storm stays south, patchy clouds, chance of flurries or very light snow. High: 14

TUESDAY: When did 18 start to feel OK? More clouds than sun. High: 18

WEDNESDAY: Too quiet, still colder than average. High: 17

Wild Weather Treadmill

According to the world's largest reinsurance company, Munich Re, the number of weather-related disasters worldwide soared last year, "further evidence of advancing climate change." Their words, not mine. Of the 950 natural disasters around the planet, 9/10ths were weather-related events: floods, storms and drought. It was the second highest number since 1980. 295,000 people lost their lives, damage estimated at $130 billion, of which $37 billion was insured.

In addition to a nation-leading 104 tornadoes, Minnesota experienced the lowest pressure on record, 28.21" at Bigfork, on October 26, 2010. In addition it was the 2nd wettest and 9th warmest year on record for Minnesota since 1895; 6 of our 10 warmest years since 1998.

The good news: no commuter-complicating storms are in sight until (maybe) the end of next week, the storm track too fast, and too far north to tap significant moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. The chance of snow early next week has fizzled, the next chance of a candy-coating of snow from a clipper Friday. A quick thaw is possible Saturday (15th), followed by a (mercifully brief) swipe of Arctic air the third week of January. Warmer days ahead.

Paul Douglas Joins Board of Safekey Corporation: Creators of Device to Prevent Impaired Driving and Auto Theft. O.K. A little shameless promotion - but I truly believe in this product, one that makes it virtually impossible to operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol (or pot, or pills) - any kind of impairment. To me this is an ultimate life insurance policy. For a few hundred bucks not only do you get peace of mind (for yourself or someone you care about), but you also have a device that makes it impossible for a thief to steal your vehicle. A lot cheaper than a Lojack system - you basically get 2 products for the price of one. Very cool. More details on my involvement with the Safekey team here.

CES 2011 Predictions: 7 Trends To Watch At The World's Largest Tech Show. If you like tech, you may be interested in this summary of major trends to watch in the year ahead, courtesy of Huffington Post. Prediction #1. Whatever you buy will be obsolete when you take it out of the store....

7 Technologies That Will Rock 2011. Erick Schonfeld from TechCrunch has his own predictions at this link - here's a quick excerpt: "So here we are in a new decade, and the technologies that are now available to us continue to engage (and enthrall) in fascinating ways. The rise and collision of several trends—social, mobile, touch computing, geo, cloud—keep spitting out new products and technologies which keep propelling us forward. Below I highlight seven technologies that are ready to tip into the mainstream 2011."

Client: Vendor Relationship. Anyone who owns a company, large or small, will appreciate this video. "Would you mind if I paid you considerably less than you're asking? C'mon, let's talk about this - be reasonable!"

Scientist Proves Conservatism And Belief In Climate Change Aren't Incompatible. From an L.A. Times article: "MIT professor Kerry Emanuel is among a rare breed of conservative scientists who are sounding the alarm for climate change and criticizing Republicans' "agenda of denial" and "anti-science stance."

Emanuel sees himself as a conservative. He believes marriage is between a man and a woman. He backs a strong military. He almost always votes Republican and admires Ronald Reagan. Emanuel is also a highly regarded professor of atmospheric science at MIT. And based on his work on hurricanes and the research of his peers, Emanuel has concluded that the scientific data show a powerful link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. "There was never a light-bulb moment but a gradual realization based on the evidence," Emanuel said. "I became convinced by the basic physics and by the better and better observation of the climate that it was changing and it was a risk that had to be considered."

* Call me crazy but I really identify with Professor Emanuel. For the record, I too consider myself to be a conservative (I was raised Baptist and Lutheran and have a record of voting Republican, although lately I've been incredibly frustrated with my party, and it's ideologically-driven desire to turn away from the science when the implications are unpleasant or potentially costly for the energy industry). I guess that makes me something of an anomaly. A freak. A Republican who believes climate change is real? Actions have consequences. You can't increase greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere by 37% and not have any consequences. I share Emanuel's concern for the environment and what a large and growing body of scientific evidence is telling us. Science should be a politically-agnostic endeavor, and yet (climate) science has recently seemed to split cleanly among party lines. I'm still hoping this apparent schism corrects itself. Over time truth and reason (however tenuous and changing) should win the day.

Climate Change Clues In Oceans. From a recent article at "An array of underwater cameras, moorings and sensors will be deployed at the Mertz Glacier in east Antarctica this summer for the first time since a major iceberg calving event. In January last year, 78 kilometres of the Mertz Glacier tongue broke off after being hit by another 97 kilometre-long iceberg. A team of nearly 40 Australian and international scientists will depart Hobart today on the Aurora Australis for a month-long voyage to the glacier to measure the impacts of the calving event."

1 comment:

  1. I must say I'm a little disappointed to hear that your politics lean right. I'm a faithful reader of yours, and I was stunned and saddened when you were let go by WCCO. But, I always assumed based on your general levelheadedness towards many issues that you were a tried-and-true Minnesota Democrat. How you can associate yourself with a party that reeks of enormous hypocrisy along with apocalyptic short-sightedness is beyond comprehension. The Republicans have led us down a road of a shrinking middle class, an overly powerful financial oligarchy, and absurd fear-mongering. The Democrats certainly haven't done a good job when given the opportunity to reverse these trends, but at least the core values of their platform (however long ignored) have always been about social and economic justice...not the bottom line of a few big businesses and an evermore exclusive financial sector. The only solution for ANY problem facing the United States presented by Republicans in the past 30 years is tax cuts. Yeah, the free unregulated financial industry cures all ills, doesn't it? Unless, of course, you're aware of economic history from 1929 or, better yet, 2008.