Saturday, November 19, 2011

Candy-Coating of Snow (gone within 48 hours - 50s by Thanksgiving)

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

TODAY: Bright sun, numbing breeze. Winds: N 5-10. High: 28

SUNDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear and cold. Low: 19

MONDAY: Some sun, snow showers north. High: 37

TUESDAY: More sun, dry statewide. Low: 22. High: 39

WEDNESDAY: Blue sky, good travel weather across the Upper Midwest. Low: 26. High: 44

THANKSGIVING: Partly sunny, unseasonably mild. Low: 34. High: 51

"BLACK FRIDAY":  Cloudy and mild, a little drizzle or light rain possible, especially east of MSP into Wisconsin. Low: 37. High: 53

SATURDAYTurning cooler with clouds, sprinkles or flurries. Low: 35. High: 40

First Snow. Much of Minnesota saw the first accumulating snow of the winter season on Saturday. Amounts generally ranged from 1-3" across most of the Twin Cities metro, closer to 3-6" for St. Cloud, with a narrow band of as much as 11" near Sartell and St. Stephen, in central Minnesota. Details below.

"A new report from the Defense Science Board (PDF) recommends that the U.S. Department of Defense needs to have a much broader understanding of global climate change because it represents a fundamental threat to U.S. and international security." - from a Digital Trends story below about climate change posing a risk to U.S. national security.

"By the end of the century, expect heat waves that occur on average every 20 years now to take place every two years, Field says. Likewise, the number of storms delivering heavy precipitation by century's end is expected to grow. The storms include tropical cyclones as well as winter storms in the northern mid-latitudes." - Christian Science Monitor article on climate change and extreme weather.

Fickle Snow Bands. We knew it would snow, but where (precisely) the heaviest snow band(s) would set up was a mystery. We had a hunch central Minnesota would see the heaviest snowfall amounts, but nobody predicted that a band of moderate snow would STALL over Stearns county, resulting in 11" of snow for St. Stephen and Sartell. Wow. You can see the band (bright green) responsible for the most extreme snowfall amounts. Meanwhile Brainerd picked up less than an inch.

* You can also see the second band of (moderate) snow that set up right over the Twin Cities metro, especially southern suburbs - where it snowed pretty hard for 3-4 hours, just long enough for some 3-3.5" amounts.

Snowfall Reports. On Friday, if I had gone on the air and predicted 1-11" the men with the little white suits would have come into the studio and whisked me away to the Home For Wayward Weathermen. Spending a little time there sounds pretty good, come to think of it. Quite a range. The Golden Snow Shovel Award goes to St. Stephen and Sartell with a whopping 11" of snow. St. Cloud picked up 3.5 to 5.8". The Twin Cities metro area generally saw 1-3", with 3.2" at Woodbury and 4" at North Branch. All in all the forecast worked out pretty well - at least this time around. More totals from the NWS here.

Thanksgiving Preview. The map above is valid noon on Thursday, showing an impressive ridge of high pressure over much of the USA, a dome of warm, dry, sinking air - capable of supporting highs in the 50s, even some 60s from Des Moines and Chicago on south, 70s over the southern Plains states. Stormy weather is likely for California and the Pacific Northwest, a cold wind for New England - but no major storms are brewing east of the Rockies.

5-Day Rainfall Prediction. The latest QPF shows a potential for 3-5" rains for the Mid South, over 2" into Philadelphia and New York City by midweek. Soaking rains are likely for the Pacific Northwest, as much as 4-7" rain, and a few feet of snow for the Cascade and Coastal Range.

Deepening Drought. As much as I'm enjoying the storm-free weather (on some level) we really need some moisture, and soon - before the ground freezes us solid in a couple of weeks. Over 99% of Minnesota is "abnormally dry", over 40% of the state in a moderate drought, 20.75% of Minnesoeta in a severe drought. For much of southern Minnesota this will probably be one of the 3 driest autumns in 141 years of record-keeping. More information from the Drought Monitor here.

Flying Into A Thunderstorm - On Purpose. Popular Mechanics has a fascinating article about how the NSF, National Science Foundation, is planning to fly A-10 "Warthog" airplanes into thunderstorms, to learn more about circulations, wind patterns and extreme turbulence. They won't be serving drinks on these flights:"The U.S. military's veteran A-10 Thunderbolt II is built for battle: a titanium-armored cockpit protects its pilot from explosive projectile hits, and it can carry weapons like a 30-mm nose-mounted cannon to take out enemy tanks. Now the National Science Foundation (NSF) plans to arm a retired Thunderbolt not with bombs, but with scientific instruments, and use it to study the inside of violent thunderstorms—where winds, hail, and lightning would take down lesser planes. The NSF recently awarded a $10.9 million grant to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., a to refurbish a retired Thunderbolt for use as a storm-penetrating research plane, the journal Science reported this week. Stripped of weapons and outfitted with instruments and sensors, the extra-tough A-10 will let researchers study massive, energetic storms from the inside, increasing their understanding of how these damaging storms form and evolve, and helping meteorologists predict when and where they will strike."

NASA's TRMM Satellite Sees Deadly Tornadic Thunderstorms In Southeast U.S. Science Codex has the story: "Tornadoes are expected to accompany severe storms in the springtime in the U.S., but this time of year they also usually happen. When a line of severe thunderstorms associated with a cold front swept through the U.S. southeast on Nov. 16, TRMM collected rainfall data on the dangerous storms from space. NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite flew over the southeastern United States on November 16, 2011 at 2310 UTC (6:10 p.m. EST) when tornadoes were occurring with a line of thunderstorms that stretched from western Florida north through North Carolina. At least six deaths were caused by one of these tornadoes that destroyed three homes near Rock Hill, South Carolina. Typically in the fall, the transition from warm air to cooler air occurs as Canadian cold air moves down into the U.S. The combination of a strong cold front with warm, moist air in its path enables the creation of strong to severe storms at this time of year."

Shooting A Super-Soaker At -45 F. Check out this remarkable YouTube clip. With any luck we won't be testing this out here in Minnesota anytime soon: "Shooting a super soaker filled with warm water in very cold weather. Shot at Fairbanks, Alaska, on the UAF campus."

Instant Winter. The much advertised "storm" came on schedule, and dropped a couple inches of snow on much of the area. Amounts ranged from a tenth of an inch at Duluth and International Falls to 3" at MSP International and 3.7" at St. Cloud.

Looks Like Snow

Nothing like the first snow of winter to bring out the kid in all of us. Funny how it brings out gloating snowbirds too. "84 in Florida!" a friend on Boca Grande e-mailed. Thanks for that update. "At least our storm didn't have a name," I wrote back.

I'm exhausted from staring at Doppler - and pulling clumps of (gray) hair out of my head. Every summer we track fickle T-storms. One town gets soaked, while 5 miles down the road the sun is out and people are asking "where's the rain?" In the winter precipitation isn't convective, or showery, but "stratiform". Everyone sees precipitation, but pockets of concentrated, focused upward motion can lead to intense bands within the larger shield of snow. That happened yesterday - the south metro winding up with considerably more than northern suburbs. This is why "Nowcasting" is so important, making tweaks to the forecast in real time, posting updates on the Star Tribune weather blog.

The sun stays out today; with a slow warming trend this week. The snow will be gone by midweek as highs poke into the 40s. We may reach the 50s on Thanksgiving Day. Big storms? Likely for the east coast, but no weather drama here through the first week of December.

Keeping Our Sense of Humor. Thanks to Tricia Frostad for passing this along - courtesy of

Climate Stories....

A Bad Month For Climate Skeptics. Here's an Op-Ed from The Washington Post: "THE PAST MONTH hasn’t been good for climate-change skeptics. At a congressional hearing Monday, Richard Muller, a former global-warming skeptic at the University of California, Berkeley, told lawmakers that, after a two-year review of historical world temperature data, he has verified the scientific consensus that the earth is warming — by about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 50 years. This is not surprising; as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported last year, the warming of the planet, detected in multiple, independent lines of evidence, is “unequivocal.” Mr. Muller said that exactly how much humans contribute to such warming is difficult to calculate. But, as the Economist pointed out last year, even if the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is off by a factor of five in its reckoning of the climate’s sensitivity to an eventual doubling of the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, that still leaves only a 50 percent chance of relatively minor temperature change. The developed world and large developing nations, meanwhile, continue to pump immense amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. The Energy Department released an analysis this month concluding that global carbon emissions in 2010 increased by the largest amount ever, to a higher level than the IPCC’s worst-case projection."

* The summary IPCC report is here.

Is Climate Change A Threat To U.S. National Security? Here's an excerpt of a story at Digital Trends: "A new report from the Defense Science Board (PDF) recommends that the U.S. Department of Defense needs to have a much broader understanding of global climate change because—get this—it represents a fundamental threat to U.S. and international security. To help the DoD wrap its head around climate change, the report recommends the agency manage a widespread information system for climate change data that gathers intelligence and other climate data from a number of federal agencies and from extra-governmental sources. The idea is to enable the Department of Defense to forecast and, perhaps, mitigate the negative impacts of climate change—and the security threats it represents. The DoD’s climate information system would bring together data from multiple federal sources, including NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the CIA, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Defense, Energy, State, and Agriculture, and meld them together with data from private climate researchers and experts. One goal of the system would be to produce actionable climate forecasts. Basically, the DoD argues that current efforts to monitor climate change are decentralized, non-standardized, and make it very difficult to see a big picture—particularly when considered from the point of view of an agency tasked with protecting U.S. citizens and economic interests around the world."

Weather Disasters Increasing From Climate Change, Says U.N. has the story: "A definitive UN science report released today confirms the link between climate change and extreme weather events, including punishing heat waves, droughts, and torrential rains and resulting floods. The report warns that the U.S. will suffer heat waves, droughts, and more powerful hurricanes like Irene, with vulnerable people and places likely to suffer most from extreme weather, including low-lying island States facing sea level rise and stronger storm surges, and drought-prone countries in Africa. New York released its own climate study this week, predicting that with expected sea level rise and stronger storms, future hurricanes could flood the tunnels into Manhattan within an hour and put one-third of the city underwater, with climate induced impacts beginning  within a decade.  The cost of US weather disasters in 2011 is already  approaching $50 billion, according to the National Climate Data Center. It is now certain that human emissions of greenhouse gases and warming aerosols like black carbon are increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather by putting more heat energy into the climate system."

Climate Change Warning: Brace For Hotter Heat Waves, Stronger Storms. Another perspective from The Christian Science Monitor: "Global warming is increasing the frequency and ferocity of some extreme-weather events, highlighting the need for governments at all levels to reduce vulnerabilities and increase the resilience of their citizens to such events.... In any event, the climate has "profound changes on the way," says Chris Field, director of the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University in California. In managing the risks from disasters, current and future, "one of the key messages from the report is that opportunities need to be taken advantage of at every scale – the local scale, the national scale, and the international scale," said Dr. Field, who cochairs one of two of IPCC working groups that contributed to the report. A briefing about the report was held Friday in Kampala, Uganda, where the two working groups were holding a joint meeting. The challenge in looking for trends in weather extremes is that the extremes still tend to be relatively rare, researchers say."

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