7" snow on the ground as of Friday evening.
1% According to heating degree data kept by the NWS we've spent roughly 1% more than usual heating our homes and businesses since December 1, 2010.
8.9 Magnitude of the massive earthquake that hit Japan early Friday. It's estimated that the tremor was 30 times stronger than the devastating San Francisco quake of 1906, nearly 8,000 times stronger than the quake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand last month.
6 Miles: Distance the tsunami moved inland after coming ashore.
600 mph. Speed of the fastest-moving tsunami waves, propagating away from the epicenter of the earthquake.
1 Resident of Crescent City, California was swept out to sea Friday morning as an 8 foot tsunami swept ashore, damaging dozens of boats in the harbor.
Wild Winds. Friday night's surface map shows a very tight pressure gradient (isobars, lines of constant pressure packed very tightly together around a storm centered over the MN Arrowhead). The result: sustained winds of 20-40 with gusts over 50 mph. I saw a few wind gusts over 70 mph earlier in the day Friday over North Dakota. Map courtesy of Meteostar.
1.Estimates of fall soil moisture recharge up until soil freeze-up going into winter
2.Measurements of frost depth in the soil.
3.Measurements of seasonal snowfall, and snow water content in the snow cover.
4.Forecasts of spring (especially March and April) precipitation.
5.Forecasts of spring thaw period, both intensity and duration.
When all or most of these factors are above historically averaged values, the threat of flooding is high. In the context of the current situation in Minnesota for this winter the only factor that has been below normal is the depth of soil frost, which was less than normal around the state this year. In fact in many places there is little of any soil frost left. But the BIG PLAYERS in the threat of spring flooding this year are (1) saturated soils with little room to hold more water, and (2) abundant seasonal snowfall and snow water content (4-6 inches) that is yet to melt and begin flowing through the state's watersheds. Obviously the biggest uncertainties rest with the final two factors in this conceptual model: Will March and April deliver above or below normal precipitation amounts? Models suggest that precipitation will be above normal for the second half of March. It also looks like March may start to exhibit a warm up as early as next week, but hopefully there will be frequent freeze/thaw cycles to gradually meter out runoff from the snow pack."
Tsunami Speed Comparable To Clip Of Jumbo Jet. CTV Edmonton reports that some of the initial waves propagating away from the quake epicenter moved at speeds of over 600 mph: "The U.S. Geological Survey says the Friday's quake appears to be the most major to strike Japan since officials began keeping records in the late 1800s. The USGS website maintains a list of historic earthquakes, including those recorded in Japan. According to the USGS website, the worst known quake for fatalities in Japan occurred in September 1923, when 143,000 people died in a 7.9-magnitude quake. More than half the homes in the Tokyo-Yokohama area were destroyed in the disaster. The second-most deadly event occurred in June 1896, when an 8.5-magnitude quake struck off the coast of Sanriku and brought on a tsunami that killed more than 27,000 people. Ninety per cent of the world's earthquakes occur in a range of earthquake and volcanic zones known as the Ring of Fire, which stretches around the Pacific Ocean and includes Japan."
Significant Destruction And At Least One Fatality In Crescent City, California, As Tsunami Hits West Coast of USA. Here's an update from the L.A. Times: "Eight-foot waves from the Japan tsunami destroyed much of Crescent City harbor, battered boats, closed the 101 Freeway and left one person missing. KDRV-TV reported that four people were washed out to sea Friday. Three were hurt and one is feared dead. The Associated Press reported that the Coast Guard was searching for a man swept out to sea while taking pictures of the tsunami. Local residents reported that about three dozen boats were "crushed" in the harbor and that surging waters significantly damaged or destroyed most of the docks. ocean water surging up Elk Creek north of the harbor reportedly lapped up to front doors of the community center's cultural center. Officials were warning residents to expect higher surges throughout the day, one resident said by telephone. Officials from the Sheriff's Department and the city could not be reached. Crescent City, near the Oregon border, was the scene of a devastating tsunami in 1964 which killed 11 people and destroyed 289 homes and businesses."
* More quake/tsunami resources from the Washington Post here.
"The first shaking started about 30 minutes ago. It still hasn't stopped. I'm writing this from the Time Out office, a ground floor room at the base of a relatively new building. Across the road there's a tenement block. It's swaying horrifically - so much so, in fact, that it looks like a miniature, as though it's been subjected to tilt shift photo technology. I can't quite compute seeing a building doing that. As I write, I can't get through to anyone. Nothing in the immediate vicinity has collapsed, but we're unable to get direct news from our friends and families - all the phones are down. The streets are full of people. What sound like air raid sirens are going off across the city. A colleague is on a train on the way to Narita Airport. He says it has stopped and that it's swaying in its tracks. The Tokyo folk in my office, born and raised in this city, say they've never felt anything like this before. They're jittery, which just makes me even more jittery. We're getting unconfirmed reports from across the city - burning buildings in Odaiba, tsunamis crashing into Iwate. The only thing that seems to be working is Twitter, which is proving itself to be a doom-ladened rumour mill. 7.9 on the Richter scale, say the reports. Don't suppose that's in Tokyo, though. It's going to have been much worse elsewhere. The aftershocks are almost as strong as the initial quake. This is no Christchurch, but we live with the daily fear here in Tokyo that, any day, it could be. For the moment, we can only hope that nobody is badly hurt."
* I lived through TMI, Three Mile Island. My boyhood home was 23 miles downwind of the crippled nuclear plant in 1979, just outside of Middletown, PA. Our bags were packed, we were prepared to evacuate (both lanes of the PA Turnpike were set to be moving evacuees away from the Harrisburg, PA area. At the time they told us that, if the core does melt down, the area might be uninhabitable for close to a century or longer. Recent estimates suggest that we came within 30 minutes of a hydrogen bubble inside the reactor exploding (like a conventional bomb - not a nuclear explosion). But that would have almost certainly punctured the containment shelter, spewing radioactive steam over thousands of square miles, making a meltdown of the nuclear fuel almost inevitable. It was a very close call - and this disaster is bringing back some very bad memories. At last report a 6 mile perimeter around the nuclear plant has been evacuated as a precautionary measure.
How Quake Prediction Works (Or Not). I saw some televized reports from earthquake survivors who told of a 'few seconds" warning before the ground began to shake. Which brings up a logical question: why can't we predict earthquakes with any level of accuracy? Here's a timely story from MSNBC: "Japan has spent well more than $1 billion on earthquake prediction systems, including a network of more than 1,000 GPS-based sensors scattered around the country — and the payoff came today when Tokyo's residents were given up to a minute's warning that a Big One was on the way. That may not sound like much, but it's enough time for people to switch off their gas lines and get beneath a table or a door frame. "The system functioned well, because warnings were seen on television across the country," Hirohito Naito, a seismic expert at the Japan Meterological Agency, told AFP. The agency is in charge of quake preparedness as well as weather forecasting, and researchers have invested decades of effort into Japan's early-warning system. It's considered a model for the rest of the world, and U.S. researchers are adapting it for a system known as the California Integrated Seismic Network. The system capitalizes on the fact that a seismic event sends out two types of shock waves: primary or P-waves, which move up and down; and secondary or S-waves, which shake from side to side. The P-waves travel faster but are weaker, while the S-waves are slower but do more damage. When Japan's system picks up the P-waves, it calculates how far away the source of the shaking is and issues an alarm while the S-waves are still en route. A warning can be broadcast via TV, radio, cell phones and home alarms less than 10 seconds after the P-waves are detected."
Researchers Show How A Car's Electronics Can Be Taken Over Remotely. Great. I just got over the cold reality that my cell phone is no longer safe from viruses (or marketers). Now comes this story from the New York Times: "Because many of today’s cars contain cellular connections and Bluetooth wireless technology, it is possible for a hacker, working from a remote location, to take control of various features — like the car locks and brakes — as well as to track the vehicle’s location, eavesdrop on its cabin and steal vehicle data, the researchers said. They described a range of potential compromises of car security and safety. “This report explores how hard it is to compromise a car’s computers without having any direct physical access to the car,” said Stefan Savage of the University of California, San Diego, who is one of the leaders of the research effort. Given that the researchers were able to do it, they are now trying to pinpoint just how hard it might be for others, he said."
Paul's Conservation Minnesota Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:
"Present policies, with continued construction of coal-fired power plants without CO2 capture, suggest that decision-makers do not appreciate the gravity of the situation. We must begin to move now toward the era beyond fossil fuels. [...] The most difficult task, phase-out over the next 20-25 years of coal use that does not capture CO2, is Herculean, yet feasible when compared with the efforts that went into World War II. The stakes, for all life on the planet, surpass those of any previous crisis. The greatest danger is continued ignorance and denial, which could make tragic consequences unavoidable."