Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chilly Today (Indian Summer from September 26 - October 7)

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

TODAY: Mostly cloudy, cool wind. winds: NW 10-15 High: 55

THURSDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 43

FRIDAY: Intervals of sun, light winds - a nicer day. High: 63

SATURDAYMix of clouds and sun. Winds: SE 10 Low: 46. High: 66

SUNDAYPartly sunny and milder. Low: 48. High: 69

MONDAY: More sun, hard to concentrate. Low: 51. High: 71

TUESDAY: Indian Summer, take the day off! Low: 53. High: 74

WEDNESDAY: Spectacular weather holding pattern. Sunny and pleasant. Low: 55. High: 73

No rain in the forecast from Friday through the end of next week.

70s likely from next Tuesday through the first week of October.

* The Pagami Creek Fire (BWCA of Minnesota) is now 30% contained. The size decreased to 93,669 acres because of more accurate GPS mapping on the northwest side. Of the total acreage, 9,274 acres are outside the wilderness. Between two tenths to one half of an inch of rain fell on the fire yesterday. Eleven canoes were airlifted into Insula Lake on the eastern side of the fire for incoming crews. Photo courtesy of Tim Gellenbeck.

"Vertically-Stacked Low Pressure System". Say what? "Cut-off low" is easier to say, but it's the same thing. As storms mature they slow down, even stall out - instead of lagging the surface low, cold air swirling directly above the area of low pressure. Once these spinning puddles of unusually cold air break off from the main jet stream they can be very persistent, lingering for 3-6 days at times. More from the local NWS office: "This system is referred to vertically stacked because the center of the low pressure system at the surface coincides with the center of the low pressure system at various pressure levels through the depth of the troposphere.  Typically, a vertically stacked low is either a mature system, or has already begun decaying.  Strengthening low pressure systems are often tilted vertically, so the low at the surface will not coincide with the low in the upper troposphere in that case."

Weekend "Cut-Off Low". A nagging storm in the upper atmosphere will keep patchy clouds, even a few PM instability showers close to home Saturday and Sunday, the best chance of showers over Wisconsin and southeastern MN. The sun should be out from the Red River Valley into the Dakotas. In general the weather gets sunnier/milder the farther north/west  you travel across Minnesota this upcoming weekend.

Next Wednesday: Retreating Low, Increasingly Mild. Next week the holding pattern finally breaks down, the storm in the upper atmosphere pushes east, leaving us increasingly sunny and increasingly warm. Odds favor 70-degree sunshine from the middle of next week through much of the first week of October, even a few days with highs near 80.

(NWS) According to climate records, State College, PA has already doubled the amount of rain it got last year.


Precip last year total: 28.09 in
This year since Jan 1: 57.22 in
In the month of September:13.83 in

Farmer's Almanac Outlook: "Wet and Wild Winter". Yes, I have my bootleg copy of the Farmer's Almanac - a curiosity of sorts. I want to know what the winter will be like as much as everyone else. The crystal ball is murky alright....La Nina (slight cooling of equatorial Pacific ocean water) SHOULD mean a bias toward colder weather for the northern tier states, although the forecast thru December from CPC calls for a slight trend toward milder than average weather. We'll see. I don't think we'll see nearly as much snow as last winter (86.6" was dumped on the Twin Cities - third snowiest on record). I suspect it won't be an "easy winter", but my gut (nausea?) is that it won't be as harsh as last winter. More from the Farmer's Almanac: "For the winter of 2011–12, the Farmers’ Almanac is forecasting “clime and punishment,” a season of unusually cold and stormy weather. For some parts of the country, that means a frigid climate; while for others, it will mean lots of rain and snow. The upcoming winter looks to be cold to very cold for the Northern Plains, parts of the Northern Rockies, and the western Great Lakes. In contrast, above-normal temperatures are expected across most of the southern and eastern U.S. Near-normal temperatures are expected in the Midwest and Far West, and in southern

Florida. A very active storm track will bring much heavier-than-normal precipitation from the Southern Plains through Tennessee into Ohio, the Great Lakes, and the Northeast. Because of above normal temperatures, much of the precipitation will likely be rain or mixed precipitation, although, during February, some potent East Coast storms could leave heavy snow, albeit of a wet and slushy consistency. An active Pacific Storm track will guide storm systems into the Pacific Northwest, giving it a wetter-than-normal winter. Drier-than-normal weather will occur in the Southwest and Southeast corners of the nation

Ophelia's Track. Tropical Storm Ophelia (which was packing 60 mph winds last night) may strengthen to hurricane status in the coming days - most models have the storm making a turn to the northwest, then the north, by early next week. Odds are it'll miss the east coast of the USA, but truth be told: it's still too early to know with any certainty.

Stormy Summer Had Everything From Deluges To Drought. What a summer. A 7 month flood on the Missouri River, an EF-5 tornado in Joplin, Missouri, a 1-in-1,000 year flood in Nashville. Extreme heat...and drought, followed by wildfires from Oregon and Minnesota to Texas. Our Amazing Planet has more details: "Monster snowstorms were the big news of winter. The spring brought a deadly, record-setting tornado season and epic flooding. Not to be outdone, summer saw plenty of extreme weather of its own: hurricanes, heat waves, drought and wildfires. With La Niña's return, the fall could be wild as well. Before the start of autumn this Friday (Sept. 23), here's a look back at the harsh summer that was.


When Hurricane Irene made landfall on North Carolina's Outer Banks, it became the first hurricane to hit the United States in nearly three years. An active hurricane season has slowed down in recent days, but more storms are forecast for the late season in fall. So far there have been 14 named storms (which include tropical storms as well as hurricanes),three hurricanes and two major hurricanes (Irene and Katia). Predictions had called for this season to be a doozy, with 14 to 19 named storms, seven to 10 hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). Irene came dangerously close to dealing a serious blow to New York City. It devastated New Jersey, upstate New York and Vermont with severe flooding. The storm became 2011's 10th billion-dollar weather disaster." (map above courtesy of NOAA).

NASA's TRMM Satellite Sees Typhoon Roke Intensify Rapidly Before Landfall In Japan. The low-orbiting NASA satellite has a 3-D radar capability that allows it to analyze volumetric water content within hurricanes from space - pretty amazing. Here's an update from NASA: "The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite captured rainfall and cloud data from Typhoon Roke as it rapidly intensified before making landfall in Japan earlier today. Typhoon Roke followed a looping path for five days while maintaining tropical-storm strength prior to intensifying to typhoon-strength at 12 UTC (8 a.m. EDT) on September 19, 2011. When the TRMM satellite flew over Typhoon Roke, it was in the process of rapidly intensifying from a Category 1 to 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale (that measures hurricane/typhoon intensity). Owen Kelley of the TRMM team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. created a large-scale image that provides context for 3-D radar data by showing the three-day surface rainfall accumulation along the track of the storm. The image also showed significant rainfall accumulation (over 200 mm or ~8 inches) over the Japanese Island of Kyushu to the north of Typhoon Roke."

Photo credit above: "This large-scale image provides context for the 3D radar data (in gray) by showing the three-day surface rainfall accumulation (rainbow colors) along the track of the storm (gray line). Also shown is the significant rainfall accumulation (over 200 mm or ~8 inches) over the Japanese Island of Kyushu to the north of Typhoon Roke. Credit: NASA/TRMM/Owen Kelley "

* Tropical Storm Roke is just off Japan’s North East Coast as of noon New York time (Wednesday) with winds of about 80 miles an hour. Roke made landfall today with sustained winds of about 100 miles an hour.. equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane. Good news from Fukushima.. home of the damaged nuclear plant from the March Earthquake and Tsunami.  The area got several inches of rain but was spared damaging winds. Forecasters say Roke could bring rains to British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest next week. - source: Business Week.

Typhoons, Cyclones and Hurricanes: What's the Difference? Different names for the same weather phenomena. Typhoons for the western Pacific, Hurricanes for the eastern Pacific and Atlantic, Cyclones in the Indian Ocean ("Willy Willy's" off the coast of Australia). The International Business Times has more details: "Typhoon Roke is currently pounding central Japan, causing massive blackouts, flooding and at least three deaths. Roke is the second typhoon to hit Japan this month, coming only three weeks after Typhoon Talas struck the west side of the island nation, killing more than 60 people. These types of large storms are seasonal, running almost exclusively between the spring and the new year. So far, there have been a number of major storms across the world, including Hurricane Irene, which slammed the Caribbean and traveled up the East Coast of the United States. So what exactly is the difference between a typhoon, a cyclone and a hurricane? Technically, all three are categorized under the umbrella-term "Tropical Cyclone." But just as a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square -- the distinction between these three types of storms vary in the details. The difference lies not in any meteorological difference, but in the geographical difference. (Contrary to popular belief, the designation has nothing to do with a storm's rotation. Clockwise or counter-clockwise, it doesn't matter.)"

Catastrophic Joplin Tornado Offers Lessons On Storm Warnings. Are Americans suffering from "siren fatigue"? Too many warnings, too many sirens - "they're crying wolf again!" That's what many in Joplin thought, moments before the town of 50,000 was leveled by a catastrophic, EF-5 tornado. Our Amazing Planet has more on the Joplin tornado, and the limits of technology in keeping people safe during severe storm season: "Tornado sirens blare quite often in Joplin, Mo., and many people didn't take immediate action this year when the siren sounded before a massive tornado devastated the town. "Most people ask 'How serious is a siren warning?'" said Richard Wagenmaker, meteorologist-in-charge of the Detroit Weather Forecast Office, who led an assessment of the response to the tornado that includes recommendations on how to improve warning systems to better help people judge the level of danger they might be in. The Joplin tornado struck on Sunday, May 22, as an EF-5, the strongest rating on the tornado damage scale. The twister killed 159 people, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), making it the seventh deadliest in U.S. history and the deadliest in at least 60 years. It also injured more than 1,000. To help avoid similar disasters in the future, NOAA's service assessment released today (Sept. 20) has made suggestions to be evaluated and will help guide towns around the country on the best practices for tornado warnings." (photo above courtesy of NOAA).

After Flood, Pennsylvania Town Laments Lack of Levee. USA Today reports on a growing controversy in a small Pennsylvania town: some locals didn't want a protective levee, because it interfered with their view of the river. Here's an excerpt: "WEST PITTSTON, Pa. (AP) – Shoveling river mud from what remains of his dry-cleaning business, Chris Economopolous had some choice words for opponents of an unsightly and ultimately never-built levee system along the Susquehanna River that might have saved his town from catastrophic flooding this month. "What do they want to look at?" said Economopolous, who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of equipment to the flood. "There's no view. This is one of the most polluted rivers in the country." In West Pittston, population 4,868, residents blame wealthy riverfront citizens who two decades ago didn't want a dike spoiling their view of the Susquehanna. A piece of graffiti spray-painted on the exterior of a damaged building captures the sentiment of many flood victims: "Levee or view?" The truth about West Pittston's failure to support a $25 million levee system a generation ago turns out to be a little more complicated. While many people in town did oppose a levee when it was discussed — among them occupants of the stately riverfront Victorians that line the borough's nicest street, Susquehanna Avenue — it was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that made the ultimate decision to leave the borough unprotected."

Cloud-Cluttered. A slow-moving storm in the upper atmosphere (unusually cold air aloft) kept Minnesota gray, windy and showery Wednesday. Rainfall amounts ranged from .03" at Rochester to .34" at Grand Marais. HIghs were stuck in the 50s, but the Twin Cities managed to sneak up to 61 F.

"Siren Fatigue"

A new NOAA study suggests that many residents of Joplin, Missouri ignored the sirens on May 22. The EF-5 tornado was "rain-wrapped", so big it didn't resemble a conventional funnel. 162 residents died in less than 15 minutes, many of these deaths ultimately preventable. How can the system be improved? So many (rotation-based) tornado warnings are issued that many people tune out. They believe NOAA and local media are "crying wolf" or "just covering their butts." One suggestion: when a tornado is actually on the ground it's no longer a tornado warning but a "TORNADO EMERGENCY".

Don't rely on the emergency outdoor sirens. Tap smartphone apps, NOAA weather radio, TV, web, radio and e-mail; the more "safety nets" the better.

A storm stalled over the Great Lakes, "cut off" from the main jet stream, keeps a pinwheel of clouds and sprinkles spinning above our heads today. A ridge of high pressure builds in over the weekend, promising more sun and highs in the 60s. In fact, a run of 70s arrives next week, a few 80s the 1st week of October.

Our autumns have been trending longer/milder since about 1990. I suspect October will be a terrific month. The winter outlook? "Changeable". Take it to the bank.

Bill Clinton: GOP Climate Skeptics Make America Look Like "A Joke". The story from CBS News: "Former president Bill Clinton on Tuesday lambasted the field of Republican presidential contenders for their resistance to climate change science - and argued that their skepticism on the topic was making America look like "a joke." The former president, speaking at an event kicking off the Clinton Global Initiative's seventh annual conference in New York City, urged Americans to force the collective acknowledgment of climate change among conservative politicians. "If you're an American, the best thing you can do is to make it politically unacceptable for people to engage in denial" about climate change, said Clinton, according to Politico. Calling the lack of attention to the issue "really tragic," Mr. Clinton said that Americans could help push change by refusing to vote for climate change skeptics. "I mean, it makes us - we look like a joke, right? You can't win the nomination of one of the major parties in the country if you admit that the scientists are right? That disqualifies you from doing it? You could really help us there," Clinton said."

Fighting Climate Change Is Not About Environmentalism. Here's an interesting post from The Atlantic: "I've been kicking around an idea recently that crystallized in the form of a short "Room for Debate" op-ed on green jobs that I wrote for The New York Times yesterday. Here's the relevant snip: "The president should remind people that stopping global warming isn't about nature or "saving the planet." Some set of plants and animals will survive. Human infrastructure is what's in danger. We've built cities predicated on one climate and now those places have a new one. Climactic chaos is expensive." The nugget of the argument here is the framing fighting climate change as a way to help nature is flawed. Even in a really clear example of climate-induced ecological change -- the loss of many species in the forests Thoreau explored near Walden Pond -- other species are doing just fine. We're changing the ecosystem, but life isn't leaving the forest. We're applying a very certain kind of filter on the forest (specifically, which plants can change their flowering time quickly) but life there survives because ecosystems, even those stressed by rising temperatures, are resilient. Human-built environments, on the other hand, are very efficient and very brittle. They function best in a very narrow set of temperature and precipitation conditions. Witness what happens when it snows in Portland or it gets very hot in a cold place or it rains somewhere where it's always dry. A people as rich as Americans can deal with any climate, but only if we put the right infrastructure in place. People in Buffalo have snow plows. People in Phoenix have air conditioners."

Climate Change Blowing In Stronger Winds, CSIRO Study Finds. Here's the story from The Australian: "WIND speeds in Australia have increased by about 14 per cent over the past two decades, but you may not have noticed because the speed of the air just above the ground has actually slowed down. CSIRO scientists analysing data collected since 1975 at numerous wind stations around the country found the average speed measured 10m above the ground had increased by about 0.7 per cent per year, whereas that measured 2m above the ground had slowed by about 0.4 per cent per year over the same period. Moreover, they found that the weakest winds had increased in speed but the fastest and strongest winds increased more slowly by comparison -- good news for wind-farm developers but potentially bad news for farmers. Alberto Troccoli, head of the CSIRO's Weather and Energy Research Unit, said the difference between the measure at 2m and 10m was due to the lower stations being shielded by obstacles such as trees and buildings, and that the higher station provided the more accurate measure."

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