Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sunday Showers (Heavier Rain by Thursday?)

.17" rain predicted over the next 36 hours (NAM model).
Isolated thundershowers possible, especially morning hours.
Coating of slush possible late tonight, early Monday.
40 mph wind gusts possible Monday as colder air drains south on the backside of today's storm.
Heavy rain possible Thursday PM hours, over half an inch of rain may fall close to home.
Twins Home Opener: probably dry, cloudy and damp with highs in the low 50s Friday afternoon.
Major storm (combination of rain/snow) possible next Sunday/Monday, April 10-11.

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

TODAY: Mild, few showers, possible thunder over southern Minnesota. Winds: S 5-15. High: 55

SUNDAY NIGHT: Showers, turning windy and colder with a few flurries mixing in late. Low: 37

MONDAY: Windblown flakes, wind gusts to 35. High: 43

TUESDAY: Sun returns, much better - more like spring. Low: 30. High: 54

WEDNESDAY: More clouds, passing showers (best chance of rain central/northern MN). Low: 39. High: 56

THURSDAY: Blue sky, hard to concentrate. Low: 39. High: 53

FRIDAY: Clouds increase, late shower? Low: 40. High: 54

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, slight risk of showers. Low: 42. High: 56

* Potential for a major storm next Sunday - Monday (April 10-11), a combination of rain and snow with high winds.

Twins Opener. If you're holding tickets for Friday's game, don't panic (yet). Heavy rain is possible Thursday night, but skies may brighten (and dry out a bit) on Friday. Under a mostly cloudy sky afternoon highs should reach the low 50s, jacket weather - but no sustained, heavy rain is expected right now. Outdoor baseball in April - in Minnesota. What can possibly go wrong?

Xenia Tornado. 25 years ago today a half-mile-wide F-5 tornado, one of 148 twisters in all, roared into this suburb of Cincinnati, leaving 34 local residents dead, more than 1,100 people injured and most of the town destroyed.

Super Outbreak. There has never been a day like April 3, 1974, at least not in recorded history, since at least the mid 1800s. I remember this day vividly, growing up out east (Lancaster, PA), commuting to the local community college to look at the weather maps at Millersville College - knowing in the pit of my gut that this was going to evolve into a weather tragedy on an unprecedented scale. This outbreak was a jolt, a wake-up call for meteorologists, one of the first times weather radar (adapted from military use in WWII) was used to track "hook echoes" and give people more lead-time. Here's a thorough overview from Wikipedia: "The Super Outbreak is the largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period. From April 3 to April 4, 1974, there were 148 tornadoes confirmed in 13 US states, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and New York; and the Canadian province of Ontario. It extensively damaged approximately 900 square miles (1,440 square kilometers) along a total combined path length of 2,600 miles (4,160 km). The Super Outbreak of tornadoes of 3–4 April 1974 remains the most outstanding severe convective weather episode of record in the continental United States. The outbreak far surpassed previous and succeeding events in severity, longevity and extent. Never before had so many violent (F5 and F4) tornadoes been observed in a single weather phenomenon. There were six F5 tornadoes and twenty-four F4 tornadoes. The outbreak began in Morris, Illinois, at around 1:00pm on April 3. As the storm system moved east where daytime heating had made the air more unstable, the tornadoes grew more intense. A tornado that struck near Monticello, Indiana was an F4 and had a path length of 121 miles (193.6 km), the longest path length of any tornado for this outbreak. Nineteen people were killed in this tornado.[3] However, the first F5 tornado of the day struck the city of Xenia, Ohio, at 4:40pm EDT. It killed 34, injured 1,150, completely destroyed about one-fourth of the city, and caused serious damage in another fourth of the city. Six F5s were observed — one each in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, two in Alabama and the final one which crossed through parts of Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. 31 were killed in Brandenburg, Kentucky, and 30 died in Guin, Alabama. One tornado also occurred in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, killing nine and injuring 30 others there, most of them at the former Windsor Curling Club. During the peak of the outbreak, a staggering sixteen tornadoes were on the ground simultaneously. At one point forecasters in Indiana, frustrated because they could not keep up with all of the simultaneous tornado activity, put the entire state of Indiana under a blanket tornado warning. This was the first and only time in U.S. history that an entire state was under a tornado warning. There were 18 hours of continuous tornadic activity. The outbreak finally ended in Caldwell County, NC, at about 7:00am on April 4. A total of 315 to 330 people were killed in 171 tornadoes from April 1 thru April 4 and 5,484 were injured.
* The Super Outbreak occurred at the end of a very strong, nearly record-setting La Niña event. The 1973–74 La Niña was just as strong as the 1998–99 La Niña. Another tornado outbreak, which may be linked to La Niña, was the March 12, 2006 tornado outbreak. Despite the apparent connection between La Niña and two of the largest tornado outbreaks in US history, no definitive linkage exists between La Niña and this outbreak or tornado activity in general."

** More on how the National Weather Service prepared for this historic outbreak from

** We are coming out of a very strong La Nina (cooling phase of the Pacific) - and there is some concern that a similar outbreak may occur this spring, possibly as early as Monday - Tuesday of this week, from the Ohio and Tennessee Valley to the Gulf coast.

Severe Threat. SPC has a slight risk of severe storms as close to us as eastern Iowa today - the threat shifting east as the week goes on.

Storm Chasers Revealed. The Daily Sundial has an expose on storm chasers, the amateurs (and professionals) who make a living trying to intercept tornadic storms, taking photos and video, for commercial sale as well as research purposes. This is different from storm spotters, like SKYWARN volunteers, who are dispatched to predesignated areas to monitor the skies, and call in breaking weather events (via ham radio) to local civil defense and the National Weather Service - critical, time-sensitive information which is used to facilitate warnings. Doppler radar helps to identify the spinning "supercell" storms capable of tornadoes. But we still rely on (volunteer) storm spotters to confirm that rotation on Doppler is actually spawning hail, wall clouds, funnels and tornadoes reaching the ground. It's a critical part of the warning process. Storm chasers do it for the thrill, and potential commercial gain (a good chaser who gets the "money shot" of a tornado in action can easily earn a few thousand dollars in an evening, licensing that video to local TV stations and the Weather Channel). The movie "Twister" is at least partially responsible for the current storm chasing craze - there are thousands of weather enthusiasts who track and chase severe storms; last year it seems most of them were right here in Minnesota (documenting our 113 tornadoes). "We’ve seen them on Discovery and in Hollywood movies like Twister but what are these people attempting to do? Storm chasers, as they have come to be known as, are men and women with a fierce passion and adoration for Mother Nature’s fury. Variations of chasers range from the absolute amateur of everyday people chasing in their own vehicles to government funded research teams comprising of the nation’s top meteorologists. No matter what level they are at, all of them share one common bond: weather. Depending on which level of storm chasing a person is at influences why they are out in the field. Some amateurs chase for a thrill ride and to see how close they can push themselves into the path of a tornado or hurricane. The rest simply watch from a somewhat safe distance and admire that which is not fully understood. Then there are some chasers who use these storms as wonderful photo opportunities for either personal use or selling to businesses. In order to be successful at capturing images such as lightning, you need a basic understanding of thunderstorms. Without it, you could point the camera toward some fractocumulus (scud), created by condensation below a cloud base, expecting to see a tornado form."

A Tale Of Three Seasons. Heavy snow close the Canadian border, thunderstorms from the Upper Midwest into the northeast, a potential (major) severe weather oubreak from the Mississippi River Valley to the Appalachians.

Stormier Pattern. The sun is rising higher into the southern sky, and the storm track (which has been focused on the southern and central USA) will be shifting northward in the coming weeks. Rainfall amounts will be relatively light today and tonight, but heavier rain is predicted for the PM hours on Thursday. Right now it looks like a lull in the stormy pattern for Friday, possibly Saturday, before another, even stronger storm approaches next Sunday and Monday, April 10-11.

Temperature Trends. Temperatures are forecast to track fairly close to normal for the first 2 weeks of April, in spite of a cold spell by Sunday (which could translate into significant snow for parts of Minnesota a week from today). By Wednesday, April 13, daytime highs may be close to 60 F. (the dashed red line is the average high, the dashed blue line shows average lows over the next 2 weeks). Data courtesy of Ham Weather.

HInts of May? I know - I'll believe it when I see it. The GFS has been highly erratic as of late - so I wouldn't put too much stock into this extended outlook. But unusually mild temperatures may surge into Minnesota by mid April. If this forecast verifies there won't be much snow left (anywhere in the state) within 2 weeks.

Plowable Snow Up North? Although the profile of the atmosphere over central and southern Minnesota will be warm enough for mostly-rain, heavy snow is possible north of Bemidji and Grand Rapids, as much as 4-8" of heavy, wet snow.

Latest Watches & Warnings. Duluth is under a Winter Storm Watch, but warnings are posted (meaning snow is imminent) across far northern Minnesota, from Hallock and Roseau to International Falls, Grand Rapids, Hibbing and Grand Marais. The latest NOAA warnings are here.

Flooding On The Sauk River Near St. Cloud. Thanks to St. Cloud State University meteorologist D.J. Kayser for sharing a few photos of the (relatively minor) flooding along the Sauk River at the Knights of Columbus Park, where water is beginning to slowly recede.

Snowcover From Space. NASA's "Terra" satellite has a "false-color" mode that makes it easier to distinguish clouds (showing up as bright white) from snow cover on the ground (aqua color). There is still significant snow from the far north metro into much of central and western Minnesota.

Snow Water Equivalent. Although snow is going fast in the immediate metro area, NOAA estimates as much as 4-6" of liquid water in the remaining snow across western, central and northern Minnesota. Click here to see the latest.

A Week's Worth of Records. It's been a wild week of weather, record (daily) snowfall reports, high winds, large hail in the south and a few tornadoes in Florida (including the Florida Keys). To see an interactive map with details click here, data courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather, a division of Broadcast Weather. Yes, WeatherNation is now Broadcast Weather. Same staff, same content - different name. This will all make sense at some point (soon).

Spider-Web Trees? Historic flooding in Pakistan last year forced spiders into the trees, resulting in a surreal sight across much of the country. More from "The floods in Pakistan devastated not only the human population of that country, but much of its fauna. Many spiders survived only by crowding into trees, producing pictures like those you see above. Duncan Geere of Wired UK explains: With more than a fifth of the country submerged, millions of spiders climbed into trees to escape the rising floodwaters. The water took so long to recede, the trees became covered in a cocoon of spiderwebs. The result is an eerie, alien panorama, with any vegetation covered in a thick mass of webbing. (You can see images from the region in the gallery linked below.) However, the unusual phenomenon may be a blessing in disguise. Britain’s department for international development reports that areas where the spiders have scaled the trees have seen far fewer malaria-spreading mosquitos than might be expected, given the prevalence of stagnant, standing water."

Apple Store Playmobil? has one of the more creative April Fools jokes here (scroll down to the bottom of the page for a creative, laugh-out-loud video clip.

Partly-Springy. We're making progress. Under a bright, blue sky the mercury soared (?) to 54 in the Twin Cities and Rochester, where most of the snow is gone. Lingering snow on the ground kept temperatures in the 40s elsewhere.

Note To Self: stay off the ice!

Dizzying Changes

Only in Minnesota can you be ankle-deep in mud with dust blowing in your face. The weather changes fast up here. Little time to adapt. Friday evening St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman put things into perspective. "What's worse than a zit on a wrinkle? Having a snow emergency AND a flood emergency on the same day!"

Today may start out with scattered thundershowers capable of small hail, 60-degree highs near Rochester - ending with 2-5" snow north of Bemidji by tonight. Yes, something for everyone. It won't rain all day - skies brighten this afternoon with 50s, maybe 60s south.

A wind shift to the northwest will spark windblown flakes Monday, gusts to 40 mph. No, the transition from winter to summer isn't pretty.

A string of 50s return next week, one model (GFS) hinting at highs near 70 in about 11 days. No question we're sliding into a stormier, milder pattern.

Today marks the anniversary of the Tornado Super Outbreak of 1974. A total of 148 tornadoes touched down from Alabama to Michigan, killing 315, injuring 5,000+. It was the worst outbreak of tornadoes in U.S. history. The tragedy showed the life-saving potential of weather radar, which has saved countless lives since.

Scientist: Recent Storms Consistent With Climate Change. A story from California's "SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Global warming could make record-setting snowstorms in some parts of the country more common, but not in the Sierra Nevada, according to scientists with the Union for Concerned Scientists. “Heavy snowstorms are not inconsistent with a warming planet,” said Jeff Masters, director of meteorology for, in a statement from the union. “In fact, as the Earth gets warmer, and more moisture gets absorbed into the atmosphere, we are steadily loading the dice in favor of more extreme storms in all seasons, capable of causing greater impacts on society.” He pointed to record and near-record storms in the Northeast and Midwest during the past two years as examples of what should be expected if Earth's climate continues to warm. But a northward shift of the jet stream, North America's storm engine, could make it less likely for the Sierra Nevada snowpack to benefit from the heavier storms, Masters said. Average snowpack in the Sierra Nevada has decreased by about 10 percent over the past century, according to a report from the California Department of Water Resources. The agency expects the mountain range's snowpack to decrease by 25 to 40 percent by 2050, increasing stress on the state's water system. The downward trend doesn't preclude big winters, just more extreme variations between wet and dry, according to the report. “Average annual precipitation may show little change, but more intense wet and dry periods can be expected — more floods and more droughts,” according to the report."

Green River Touts Efficiency Of New Power Plant. Here's an update from the Star Tribune: "A hundred miles west of Fargo, Great River Energy is wrapping up construction of the first coal-fired power plant a Minnesota utility has built in a generation. The company says its small, 76-megawatt "Spiritwood" plant will be a model of efficiency, unlike older coal-fired plants in which much of the energy goes out the smokestack or is vented as waste heat. That's a big concern of climate scientists, who see coal-fired plants as a leading contributor to global warming and a host of environmental and public health issues. At the new plant, near Jamestown, N.D., a third of the energy that typically is vented as waste heat will provide steam to a nearby Cargill malt plant. And Great River would provide steam to a planned ethanol plant next door."

Science Bites Climate Skeptics In The (Butt) On The House Floor. An article from Grist magazine: "If you’re a climate hawk, or even a climate hobbyist, this graph should look familiar -- it’s the warming trend over the last 100-odd years. Except the guy who busted this out at the House climate science hearing yesterday was brought in by the Republicans to debunk global warming. (The black line is his data.) Haha, whoops! This graph is the result of physicist Richard Muller’s project to get maximally accurate temperature data. Climate change deniers assumed that his skepticism about existing temperature data meant he was on their side (well, that and he’s also been spreading misinformation about the “Climategate” emails). The Kochs were so convinced of this that they donated $150,000 to his lab -- which makes it all the more delightful that Muller is now all “thanks, suckers, here’s the same data everyone else already had.” (Okay, he put it like this: “We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups. … I believe that some of the most worrisome biases are less of a problem than I had previously thought.” But you know what he meant.) Muller was one of the only scientists the Republicans brought in -- among their five experts were an economist, a lawyer, and a professor of marketing. But hey, when there are so few scientists who are actually on your side, you have to go with what you’ve got. And evidently, even that doesn’t always work."

Green:Net 2011: Announcing Gigaom's Ten Big Winners. Here are some new technologies designed to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate climate change, courtesy of "The GigaOM Network is very excited to announce the startups we’ve selected to be the 10 Big Ideas winners for Green:Net 2011. These are companies that are some of the most innovative in the digital energy space, and have novel “Big Ideas” for how to use information technology — from software to the web to computing to mobile networks — to fight climate change. This year, we decided to highlight companies across the board, from a couple of early stage firms, to a few companies that have gained considerable traction in the market place and millions of dollars in funding. The main component of our selection was ideas that spark the imagination (think big), have the potential to be a game-changer, and use IT in a novel way to lead to energy efficiency, the proliferation of clean power or greener transportation. The 10 Big Ideas winners will present their innovations before the audience at Green:Net 2011, on April 21 in San Francisco. Hundreds of companies entered the Green:Net Big Ideas competition, and these 10 winners were selected by a team of GigaOM editors and industry judges.

The 10 winners of Green:Net Big Ideas are:
  • SeaMicro offers a redesigned server optimized for today’s data center workloads, resulting in a system that uses one-quarter the power and space of traditional servers.
  • Power Tagging is a smart grid company that digitally “tags” the power grid to produce energy enabling applications, helping utilities and consumers save money."
Click here to see more details about the 10 winners.

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