Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chilly - Dry Week For Minnesota (major storm brewing for east coast)

60 F. high in the Twin Cities Saturday. Average high for October 15 is 59.

No rain expected this week, temperatures forecast to run 3-5 degrees cooler than average.

Frost possible by Wednesday morning, even in the close-in suburbs of the Twin Cities. I suspect the immediate downtowns will remain frost-free for the next 7-10 days.

Major storm brewing for the east coast, potential for heavy rain, even a rare October severe storm outbreak by Wednesday and Thursday.

Soggy East - Dry West. A very stormy pattern is shaping up for the eastern USA, heaviest rains predicted for south Florida (5"+ rains) and portions of New England, where some 2-3" rains are likely. 5-day rainfall map above courtesy of NOAA.

Antarctic Ozone Hole Now As Big As North America. CBS News and LiveScience have the details: "The ozone hole above the Antarctic has reached its maximum extent for the year, revealing a gouge in the protective atmospheric layer that rivals the size of North America, scientists have announced. Spanning about 9.7 million square miles (25 million square kilometers), the ozone hole over the South Pole reached its maximum annual size on Sept. 14, 2011, coming in as the fifth largest on record. The largest Antarctic ozone hole ever recorded occurred in 2006, at a size of 10.6 million square miles (27.5 million square km), a size documented by NASA's Earth-observing Aura satellite. The Antarctic ozone hole was first discovered in the late 1970s by the first satellite mission that could measure ozone, a spacecraft called POES and run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The hole has continued to grow steadily during the 1980s and 90s, though since early 2000 the growth reportedly leveled off. Even so scientists have seen large variability in its size from year to year."

Close Call For Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. has more details on Hurricane Jova, which hit the west coast of Mexico last week: "This week, Hurricane Jova hit the Pacific coast of Mexico, causing property damage in the order of 50 million. Flooding and mudslides caused the majority of the damage. Thousands evacuated their homes, and the storm is blamed for at least five deaths. Speeding toward land with 100 mph winds, Jova hit the coast just west of the port of Manzanillo. A mudslide and a collapsing home were responsible for four of the deaths in this week’s storm. Flood waters claimed the life of a woman who was trapped in her car. The hurricane passed within 15 miles of Puerto Vallarta, a internationally-renowned beach resort. Fortunately, the resort was on the weaker side of the hurricane and residents only experienced strong winds and rain. Jova’s strength waned as it passed over Mexico late this week. In a typical hurricane season, the eastern Pacific experiences nine hurricanes. Jova was the ninth hurricane of the 2011 season."

Neighborhood Damaged By Hurricane Irene Now Trashed By Tornado. WTVR-TV in Richmond has the details: "NEW KENT COUNTY, VA (WTVR) - Neighbors living in the Woodhaven Shores subdivision of New Kent County, Virginia are cleaning up the mess left behind by a Thursday afternoon tornado. This same neighborhood suffered extensive damage following Hurricane Irene in August. "We all expected this can happen at any time,” said Erik Lindstrom.  “But to get hit like twice in a row.  It's a real shock. "  Thursday's tornado uprooted trees, knocked tree branches on homes and knocked power lines to the ground. [PHOTOS: Tornadoes hit Central Virginia] "There's nothing you can do about it.  It's a force of nature.  There's really no way to prevent it,” said Matt Segreto."

No Aid For Town Rocked By Earthquake, Hurricane And Tornado. More on the little Virginia town of Louisa, which has experienced a disaster trifecta this year. has the head-shaking details: "Residents of this rural community just outside Richmond know they may be lucky, seeing as how no one died in the earthquake, hurricane and tornado that have hit back-to-back-to-back in the past few months. That doesn't mean they aren't bitter: "Louisa cares: Because the feds don't," read Friday's headline atop the local newspaper. The federal government has refused to help foot the $18 million tab for the damage from the disaster trifecta, most of which was caused by the earthquake, leaving people to host fundraisers and help out neighbors because few homes and businesses had insurance. But they say they can't do it alone. Many look at how bad things could have been and note no one was killed in any of the disasters that began when the 5.8-magnitude earthquake began in Louisa County on Aug. 23 and rumbled all along the East Coast. The hurricane and tornado were far less destructive — the former bringing mostly heavy rain and wind gusts, the latter damaging only a plantation home dating to the 18th century. Still, they hope they're in the clear for a while."

Drought Expected To Bring More Dust Storms To Texas. The Texas Tribune has the story: "Despite last weekend's rains, the Texas drought lingers -- and experts say the number of irritating and dangerous dust storms could increase across the state, especially in West Texas and the Panhandle. A dust storm rolled in from the north and filled the skies above Jones AT&T Stadium with a beige haze during a Texas Tech football game last month in Lubbock. "Normally, this just doesn't happen during a football game," said Ted Zobeck, a research soil scientist for the USDA's Agricultural Research Service. "Crops are usually covering the ground, preventing mass amounts of particles from blowing. But that's not the case in this drought." As of today, a map from The National Drought Mitigation Center showed that 73 percent of Texas is in the worst drought stage. More than 90 percent is in the extreme drought stage. "There are three things you need to cause a dust storm: wind, loose soil and a lack of vegetation," said Nolan Clark, a former lab director at the Agricultural Research Service in Bushland. "And when you don't have enough water to grow vegetation, there's nothing stopping those loose particles from blowing around. We are going to have a very dirty winter."

Flood Barriers Ringing Bangkok's Outskirts Will Determine Thai Capital's Fate. The monsoon flooding gripping much of southern Asia is historic - impacting as many as 8 to 10 million residents of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The Washington Post has more on an urgent struggle to protect the capital of Thailand: "RANGSIT, Thailand — Beside a wall of white sandbags that has become a front line in Thailand’s battle to prevent an epic season of monsoon floods from reaching Bangkok, needlefish swim through knee-high water inside Sawat Taengon’s home. On one side, a cloudy brown river pours through a canal diverting water around the Thai capital, just to the south. On the other side, homes just like his are unscathed. Whether floodwaters breach fortified barriers like these this weekend will decide whether Bangkok will be swamped or spared."

Thai Floods: Eyewitness Accounts. The BBC has more on the record flooding that has inundated much of Thailand: Canals have been drained to allow for excessive water flow and sandbags have been piled up around the city. Nicola Gurney is an English teacher in Nakhon Sawan, a city that has been badly affected by the floods.

"The situation in Nakhon Sawan is really bad. "The city is under several metres of water and people are saying that the levels won't go down for another month. "Every school, college, orphanage, temple or stadium that is still on dry land is being used to house the homeless while we wait for the water to recede. "Initially it looked as though we would escape the worst of the flooding as the city has flood defences but there was an accident. A boat ran up against the flood walls allowing the water to come into the city. Soon the levels were over two metres. "I'm staying in the temple where I teach English to novice monks. There are 1300 of us here and many of the evacuees have lost everything. "Most of our friends have lost their homes. The hospitals have had to be evacuated."

Wave Heights. The map above is courtesy of NOAA, valid 8 pm on Saturday. The NWS has issued a Storm Warning for Lake Superior. Winds are expected to gust up to 51 knots (60 MPH). Maximum wave heights of up to 39 feet are expected with this storm.

1,805 tornadoes in 2011 nationwide.
More tornadoes in North Carolina (107) than Texas (105) this year. Source: SPC. More details below.

A Very Soggy Year In The Big Apple. The latest New York City data from NOAA:



Warmest First 2 Weeks Of October. Here are some impressive statistics about our early October warmth, courtesy of Mark Seeley in his blog, Minnesota Weathertalk: "Many Minnesota weather observers have reported the warmest first two weeks of October, averaging from 12 to 14 degrees F warmer than normal. For nearly all communities in the state October temperatures have been the warmest since either 1963 or 1938. Though temperatures are expected to decline over the next several days, another warming trend is forecast for later next week. "

Strongest Storms/Winds of 2011. Dr. Mark Seeley has a very good summary of Minnesota's severe weather season, with input from Todd Krause at the local National Weather Service office in Chanhassen: "31 tornadoes in MN during 2011, strongest were two EF-2 storms (111-135 mph winds), one in Houston County on May 22 and one July 1st near Tyler in Lincoln County. (map above courtesy of SPC; tornado reports in red).

Largest hail reported in the state: 2.75" diameter (baseball size) in Houston County on April 10th; 3.2" diameter in Mille Lacs County on May 10th; 4.25" diameter (softball size) in Meeker County, 4" diameter in Pine County, 3.5" diameter in Benton County, 3" diameter in Stearns County, and 2.75" (baseball size) in Renville, Wright, and Sherburne Counties all on July 1st.

Most significant wind storms: July 1st in Redwood County several people reported wind damages associated with 100 mph winds; also on July 1st stations in Yellow Medicine and Renville Counties reported 70-90 mph winds; August 1st weather stations in Pope County reported winds up to 120 mph which knocked down transmission towers near Glenwood; September 1st in Kittson County a wind of 121 mph was measured; 80 mph wind in Roseau County on July 4th and near Sauk Center on July 10th; Kittson, Roseau, and Marshall Counties reported winds of 85-95 mph on July 20th; Polk County reported winds up to 90 mph on July 24th; and Big Stone County reported winds up to 95 mph on July 26th."

2011 Tornado Count. As of October 14: 1,805 (preliminary) tornadoes from coast to coast, touch downs in ever state except for Utah, Idaho, Vermont and New Hampshire. Data courtesy of NOAA's SPC.  A few state tornado counts for '11:

Alabama: 166 (most in the USA)
Mississippi: 155
North Carolina: 107
Texas: 105
Iowa: 68
Wisconsin: 49
Minnesota: 31

Tornado And Severe Weather Lash Washington D.C. Metro Area. NBC Washington has the details: "The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down near the interstate highway in Northern Virginia. People stuck in traffic on the highway used their cell phones to take pictures and video of the twister, which crossed over I-95 near Quantico around 5:30 p.m. Darlene Brock, who sent in video of the storm, said it only took a few seconds for the funnel cloud to form. Severe weather struck around the Washington region Thursday evening. Some of the worst storm damage is in Vienna.  The strong winds knocked over trees and power lines along Hunter Mill Road and Wickens Road."

Entire State Of Louisiana Designated USDA Disaster Area. Delta Farm Press has the details: "The USDA has designated the entire state of Louisiana, which includes 64 parishes, as natural disaster areas due the combined effects of severe storms, tornadoes, severe spring flooding, Tropical Storm Lee, widespread drought and excessive heat that began in January and continues.

“Louisiana producers can continue to count on USDA to provide emergency assistance during difficult times,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “America’s farmers and rural communities are vitally important to our nation’s economy, producing the food, feed, fiber and fuel that continue to help us grow and out-compete the rest of the world. President Obama and I arecommitted to using the resources at our disposal to reduce the impact of Tropical Storm Lee and other disasters affecting Louisiana producers and help to get those affected back on their feet.” 

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous."

Small Villages Devastated By "Jova". The Category 2 hurricane that struck the Pacific coast of Mexico on Wednesday didn't hit any heavily populated areas, but as CNN reports - coastal damage was extensive: "Hurricane Jova was not as damaging as other storms have been, but for small Mexican villages, it was hardly benign. Mexican villages who were in Jova's path face a prolonged recovery from the heavy rains and flooding that affected them this week. The city of Manzanillo on Mexico's Pacific coast bore the brunt of Jova. It was especially hit hard by the fierce rains of the storm. By Friday, the cleanup process was underway and many of the rivers that flooded were receding, but smaller villages are not faring as well. In the village of Chavarin, on the outskirts of Manzanillo, floodwaters still inundated farmland, homes, roads and highways."

Bangkok Digs In As Floods, High Tides Merge. An area roughly the size of Spain is under water across southern Asia, from Thailand and Laos to Vietnam and Cambodia. CNN has more details: "Thailand's devastating floodwaters are draining southward towards Bangkok Friday, and residents have been told to prepare for the worst when the spring high tide and a huge volume of water flowing down the Chao Phraya River merge over the next couple of days. Workers in the city are rushing to shore up barriers and warnings have been posted for the northern suburbs. "Between seven and eight billion cubic meters of water a day is being released from the Bhumibol Dam in the north of the country, which is heavily affecting provinces like Nahkon Sawan and Ayutthaya," government official Wim Rungwattanajinda told CNN. "From that, about one to 1.2 billion cubic meters of water is reaching Bangkok every day." So far, 283 people have been killed and two people are missing in Thailand, according to the government website Some 61 of the country's 76 provinces have so far been affected, impacting more than eight million people. More than 500,000 square kilometers -- an area the size of Spain -- are affected by the floods in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, according to CNN meteorologist Jenny Harrison."

Amazing Light Show. Photojournalist Jeff Gammons has captured some of the most incredible still images and time lapse loops of lightning I've ever seen in my 35 year career. You can see more at his site, "A few weeks ago I posted that I was out during the pre-dawn hours on the hunt for lightning over the ocean for a timelapse video sequence project. This was one of the shots I was looking for all summer to complete my storm season here in Florida, but the last few attempts failed with the storms weakening or moving too far offshore closer to the northwest Bahamas."

iPhone 4S: First In Line At New York Apple Store Turns Down $1500 Offer. Say what? Now that's love. has the details: "We visited Apple’s flagship store in New York from 7 to 9 p.m. ET Thursday, where roughly 25 people were in line for the iPhone 4S. The device goes on sale Friday at 8 a.m. local time. Spirits were high despite the drizzle. Passersby frequently stopped to question those at the front of the line — and, in one case, to donate an umbrella. But no one’s spirits were higher than Jessica Mellow of Harlem, 26, and her friend Kennen Thompson, 21, who hold the first two places in line. The two, adorned in bright orange swag from their sponsor Gazelle, have endured a variety of weather since arriving at the store 17 days ago, using donated trash bags to stay dry and slipping into Zipcars parked across the street to nab a few hours of sleep. They’ve been recording their experiences — including the death of Steve Jobs, and subsequent media flurry around the flagship store — on Twitter and"

Respectable Saturday. O.K. It wasn't perfect (clouds did increase by late afternoon, especially south/west of the Twin Cities). But the sun was out much of the day, enough blue sky for 57 at St. Cloud, 60 in the Twin Cities and 61 at Redwood Falls - pretty close to average, in spite of a stiff northwest wind gusting to 30 mph at times.

Full-Latitude Trough. The 500 mb forecast maps look VERY impressive for a major storm from the Great Lakes to the east coast Wednesday and Thursday. That may translate into heavy rain, even a rare severe weather outbreak for the eastern seaboard, with a potential for wet snow mixing in from the Appalachians into the highest elevations of New England by the end of the week.

Halloween Preview. Talk about going out on a limb. The 500 mb map above (18,000 feet) is valid at 1 pm on Sunday, October 30, showing a dry west/southwest wind flow for the Plains, unusually mld weather as far north as Des Moines and Chicago. That should translate into 60s, even some 70s from the central Plains into the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes.  The GFS prints out a major storm for the southeastern USA. Too early to tell if that's real, or just noise.

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

TODAYPartly sunny, blustery and cooler. Winds: NW 15-30. High: 56

SUNDAY NIGHTClear to partly cloudy - chilly. Low: 39

MONDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, windy and cool. High: 55

TUESDAY: More clouds, few sprinkles. Flurry north. Low: 36. High: 49

WEDNESDAY: Frosty start? Sunny, less wind. Low: 32. High: near 50

THURSDAY: Blue sky, a bit milder. Low: 34. High: 55

FRIDAY: Fading sun, breezy, seasonable temperatures. Low: 42. High: 57

SATURDAYClouds increase, stray shower? Low: 42. High: 55

"Disaster Trifecta"

You think you're having a bad year? Give thanks you don't live in Louisa, Virginia. A 5.8 magnitude quake strikes on August 23, then Hurricane Irene hits 4 days later. The same town is picking up the pieces after a tornado outbreak last Thursday. "What's next and how much more does the good Lord think we can take?" one resident asked. The eye-opening AP article is on my blog.
Minnesota got off relatively easy: 31 tornadoes (down from 145 last year - most in the USA). Iowa saw 68 tornadoes, but Alabama saw the most in 2011: 166.

Our claim to fame: 103 hours with an extreme dew point over 75 F. According to Pete Boulay at the State Climate Office the first 13 days of October were the warmest since 1879 in the metro area. After a summer of nearly perfect soil moisture for Minnesota farmers a drought is deepening, especially over far southern Minnesota. If we don't get a few big rain storms soon (before the ground freezes solid in mid November) farmers may be impacted next spring.

The pattern favors big storms on the east coast; but a persistent west/northwest steering wind aloft keeps us cool and quiet through Halloween.

I'm not complaining. Payback arrives next month.

Cameras Get To The Root Of Global Warming. There's a Minnesota angle here - using sophisticated micro-cameras to track subtle changes in Minnesota's bogs. has the story: "Ultimately, the minirhizotrons will be placed in a black spruce bog in Minnesota, the site for a multiyear experiment called SPRUCE (Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Climatic and Environmental Change). There, large, modified open-top chambers will allow researchers to manipulate air and soil temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide and evaluate the response of the ecosystem. One of the reasons scientists are interested in high-carbon environments like the Minnesota bog is because they cover only 3% of global land surface but store nearly one-third of terrestrial carbon. If the planet continues to warm, researchers hypothesize that bogs will dry out and the following microbial decomposition of organic matter could lead to a massive release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, resulting in more warming."

NASA Continues Survey Of Antarctica's Changing Ice To Assess Global Warming. The International Business Times has the story: "Scientists with NASA's Operation IceBridge are set to embark on its third year of aerial surveys of Antarctica's changing ice cover. Researchers are flying a suite of scientific instruments on two planes from a base of operation in Punta Arenas, Chile. The two planes are a DC-8 operated by NASA and a Gulfstream V (G-V) operated by the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The DC-8, which completed its first science flight Oct 12, will fly through mid-November, with the G-V flying through early November.  98 per cent of the continent is covered in ice, and scientists say monitoring the changes to the ice is vital to track the impact of global warming."

Columbus Blamed For "Little Ice Age". OK, this headline may not be as crazy as it sounds at first blush. Science News has the story: "MINNEAPOLIS — By sailing to the New World, Christopher Columbus and the other explorers who followed may have set off a chain of events that cooled Europe’s climate for centuries The European conquest of the Americas decimated the people living there, leaving large areas of cleared land untended. Trees that filled in this territory pulled billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, diminishing the heat-trapping capacity of the atmosphere and cooling climate, says Richard Nevle, a geochemist at Stanford University......Tying together many different lines of evidence, Nevle estimated how much carbon all those new trees would have consumed. He says it was enough to account for most or all of the sudden drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide recorded in Antarctic ice during the 16th and 17th centuries. This depletion of a key greenhouse gas, in turn, may have kicked off Europe’s so-called Little Ice Age, centuries of cooler temperatures that followed the Middle Ages."

The Pine Beetle Blight And The Loss Of North America's Forests: The Link To Global Warming. Here's a good explainer about why millions of acres of trees are dead or dying from the Rockies to western Canada into much of Alaska, courtesy of "It may seem like the news has lately portrayed one major culprit of destroying forests: fires.  But a less obvious and just as dangerous offender is the pine beetle. Long a pest to forests, the beetles inhabit trees and kill them in the end.  But cold temperatures have always kept these insects at bay for enough of the year that the forests would have time to re-grow and continue to prosper.  Now with global temperatures warming up the forests aren’t experiencing these cold temperatures and thus the pine beetle is surviving at a time when its population typically dies.  This has resulted in what is thought to be the largest forest insect blight in North America. Losses in the millions of acres are occurring across parts of the west in what is looking more and more like a pine beetle epidemic. The mountain pine beetle is found in the forests of western North America.  They are spread between the forests of New Mexico up into the forests of British Columbia.  Typically the pine beetle inhabits old and diseased trees which helps make way for more of the younger trees in a forest.  The beetles lay their eggs under the bark of the tree and inject a fungus into the tree which prevents the tree from fighting off the beetles with tree pitch flow."

Communicating The Science Of Climate Change. From the paper (pdf): "It is urgent that climate scientists improve the ways the convey their findings to a poorly informed and often indifferent public. A worthy read, courtesy of

Arguing With Your Crazy Uncle About Climate Change. Here's an interesting article about how the effort to discredit climate science is part of a larger narrative, a turning away from science -  from "Forget “left-versus-right.” Or even arguments over taxes. The centerpiece of our current Phase Three of the American Civil War is the all-out campaign to discredit science. Elsewhere I show that the War on Science is part of a much wider effort to destroy public trust in every “smartypants caste” — from school teachers, journalists, medical doctors and attorneys to professors, civil servants and skilled labor. (Name a center of intellect that’s exempt!) But nowhere is it more relentless than by savaging the one group in society that’s unarguably among the smartest and best educated. It’s having the intended effects. Chew on this. Thirty years ago, in the era of Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley, 40% of U.S. scientists were Republicans. Today that fraction has plummeted to around 6%. Can you blame them? Why is this happening? I go into it elsewhere – the underlying motive for a campaign that will leave only one elite standing. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that everybody has this thing backward. Scientists are not being undermined in order to argue against Human Generated Climate Change (HGCC). Rather, the whole HGCC imbroglio serves as a central rallying point in the campaign against science."
Being A Little "Al Gore" Might Win Votes. The story from Discovery News: "Showing a green mind-set on global warming may help politicians gain votes, according to one Stanford University analysis. The experiments look at how voters perceive policy makers' stances on anthropogenic, or man-made, climate change. The results haven't undergone the peer-review process, but will be presented at a non-profit seminar later this week. In one set-up, researchers surveyed approximately 1,000 people from Maine, Massachusetts and Florida last July, asking them whether they would vote for a hypothetical candidate running for a Senate seat based on the politician's climate change policies. The team wanted to see whether a candidate prioritizing climate change, disagreeing with it, or having no opinion affected voting behavior from Democrat, Republican and Independent respondents. After looking at the results of the phone interviews, the research team found that respondents were more likely to vote for candidates with a green approach on climate change than those who did not believe action was needed. Around 65 percent of respondents said they would vote for the candidate who "was silent" on climate change while 77 percent said they would vote for the candidate with a green position on the issue. This compares with roughly 48 percent of people who reported voting for a candidate with a non-green position on global warming."

Adapting To Climate Change? Here's an e-mail response from Dr. Tenney Naumer, a climate scientist based in Brazil.

"This entire discussion misses the point that for severe climate change for many regions there is no such thing as adaptation.

Adaptation implies that you stick around and find a solution to what is hitting you. You know, like building dykes, finding alternative sources of water, making buildings stronger so that they can withstand increasingly severe storms, etc.

How do you adapt to a good portion of Florida being under water and most of the underground water being ruined by salt infiltration?

There is no adaptation. You lost.

Let's suppose a good portion of Texas becomes a dustbowl -- nothing can be grown on it. The dust storms and winds are so bad that solar and wind power plants become useless.

Another fail -- you lost again.

What about northern Canada? The melt will be so severe that the permafrost becomes perma-mush and nothing can be transported in or out by road. Pipelines sink into the mush and break.

Major fail -- you lost again.

Let's suppose that the warming becomes so severe in the Arctic that Greenland's ice sheet loses so much of its mass due to melting that the thermohaline circulation goes wacky for a decade causing major disturbances to agriculture, leading to a 50% loss in global food production.

Do you adapt to that? Nope.

Let's suppose that the Midwest goes through a severe drought, then a 500-year flood, then a drought, then another 500-year flood, then another drought....

Can farmers adapt to that? Just ask one."

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