Thursday, November 10, 2011

First Flakes of 2011 (more Indian Summer imminent - low 60s Saturday)

39 F. high in the Twin Cities on Thursday, coldest daytime high since March 28, when the high at KMSP was 36 F.

Trace of snow reported Wednesday night at 11 pm, first flurries in the metro since May 2.

61 F. predicted high for Saturday. Last 60+ day of 2011? A distinct possibility.

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

TODAY: Sunny and pleasant. Winds: West 10. HIgh: near 50

FRIDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear and chilly. Low: 33

SATURDAY: Get outside! Blue sky, mild. Another taste of Indian Summer. Winds: S 10-15. High: 61

SATURDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase. Low: 36

SUNDAY: More clouds, passing shower or sprinkle (mixed with wet snow over the MN Arrowhead). High: 47

MONDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, brisk. Low: 30. High: 45

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy, showers south? Low: 31. High: 43

WEDNESDAY: Bright sun, feels like November. Low: 25. High: 42

THURSDAY: Sunny start, clouds increase. Low: 26. High: 41

Wrath of God? On Friday Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin declared a State Of Emergency for 20 counties in Oklahoma that have experienced earthquakes, tornadoes, severe storms and flooding - just since last Saturday. Photo above courtesy of

                    OLD CITY          SNOWFALL(IN)   RECORD/YEAR

WAUSAU                3.2                3.0       1896 & 1948
RHINELANDER           8.9                2.6          1926

Wisconsin Dumping. A band of 6 to 9 inches fell from the Waupaca area to Florence, Wisconsin.  The highest amount measured by an official NWS observer was 9.2 inches near Long Lake in Florence County.

Cool Foot Of Snow. Marquette, Michigan picked up 12.2" of heavy, wet snow on Wednesday. This was the scene outside the National Weather Service office in Marquette.

First Snow: Madison, Wisconsin. Check out this YouTube clip from DeAnne Massey in Madison. I love her description of the snow; she manages to sum up the way I feel about the onset of winter: "Yup, it’s the inevitable winter setting in. Just almost got the garden put to bed in urban Madison, ….and suddenly…. the Wisconsin weather changes……into winter! Oh, we will still have some nice November days…..but for today, it’s all about adjusting to changing conditions. Sometimes I really, really hate change……and other times, it’s exciting and scarily welcome….without necessarily understanding why. Today is a mix of all that!!"

Winter Driving In Minnesota. Here is some timely information from the National Weather Service, part of Winter Hazard Awareness Week in Minnesota.

  • Make sure your vehicle is ready for the season. Throughout the winter, keep your gas tank at least half-full to avoid gas line freeze
  • Carry a winter storm survival kit. The typical kit should include a large coffee can with plastic lid. Inside the can, pack high energy foods, spare batteries for a flashlight, a red bandana or cloth to tie on the antenna, and candles/matches/metal cup to melt snow for drinking water.
  • Other bulky or heavy items which should be in the vehicle include a shovel, jumper cables, a bag of sand or salt for traction, basic tools, blankets or sleeping bags, a tow cable or chain, a flashlight, a first aid kit, and extra clothing
  • Consider keeping a cell phone. If you dial 911 from a cell phone, remember that the dispatcher may not know your location, so you must provide it to them. However, most new cell phones do have GPS capability.
Out on the Road
  • Before increasing your speed, get a feel for the traction. Remember that bridges and overpasses can be more slippery than other parts of the road. Do not brake suddenly. If you have anti-lock brakes, apply steady and firm pressure to the pedal. Do not pump anti-lock brakes
  • If you begin to skid, remain calm. Ease your foot off of the gas and turn the wheel in the direction you want the front of the car to go
  • When driving near snowplows, remember: Stay Back, Stay Alive.  Reduce your speed. Never drive into a snow cloud. An average snowplow weighs 17 times more than an average car. If you are in a collision with a snowplow, you will lose. Be patient; follow eight seconds behind snowplows.

During a Winter Storm
  • Check the latest weather information as you drive
  • If severe winter weather is expected, consider postponing travel
  • Avoid traveling alone during a winter storm
  • Always fill the gas tank before entering open country, even for a short distance
  • Stock your vehicle with a winter storm safety kit
  • If the storm begins to be too much for you to handle, seek refuge
If a Winter Storm Traps You
  • Stay in your vehicle. Do not attempt to walk in a winter storm. You can easily become lost and disoriented in blowing and drifting snow. Staying in your car decreases your risk of frostbite and increases the chance of being rescued. make your vehicle visible to rescuers
  • Beware of carbon monoxide. Run the engine a few minutes every hour, or every half hour in extreme cold. Keep one window slightly open. Make sure that snow does not block the exhaust pipe

Dial 511. The Minnesota Department of Transportation maintains an excellent link that gives you real-time traffic (and construction) information for the metro, and all of greater Minnesota. It might be a good idea to check the site before heading up to the cabin - there's also a version for smartphones.

Survivors Remember 1940 Armistice Day Snowstorm. Here's an excellent story from the Pine City Pioneer, reflecting on a storm that changed the way Minnesotans think about winter storms: "The Armistice Day Blizzard of Nov. 11, 1940 is still a vivid memory for those who lived through it. Throughout Minnesota, 49 people lost their lives in the fierce, sudden storm which dropped 27 inches of snow in some places, and produced winds from 50 to 80 miles per hour. Many current Pine City area residents were children at the time, and shared their memories of the storm with the Pioneer. Those who lived through the storm and have memories to share are invited to the Pine City Elementary Media Center from 3:15-4:30 p.m. on Nov. 11 for a hot drink and a chance to tell their story and hear the stories of others."

"I was living in Belle Plaine, Minn. There was no warning of the impending blizzard. Duck hunters were in their glory to have such a nice day. Cows were still grazing the local pastures."
- Donna Heath

"We got some ducks that day and about 9 a.m. we noticed it getting colder very fast. A strong wind started to blow from the northwest and heavy clouds moved in. We weren't dressed for cold weather so we started home. By the time we started to walk the half-mile to our home a freezing rain froze to our clothes and guns."
- Harold Kick

"The family, all six of us, got into the car and headed for my uncle's. Almost as soon as we left home, the sun went under the clouds, the wind started blowing, and the snow came down. It started so suddenly it took us all by surprise, but my dad kept driving. It got worse and worse."
- Ella Mae (Russell) Caroon

"Two flat bed trucks with crates to hold 500 live turkeys were to pick up our turkeys on Nov. 11. Because of the storm, the trucks never came."
- Stanley Teeman

"I was staying with my grandparents ... when the temperature suddenly dropped, and the snow began to pile up, my parents decided they had better drive the four miles to pick me up. After my father picked me up and we were headed back [home], the car got stuck in a snowdrift about one and a half miles from my grandparents' home. My father ... started to walk back to Norwood, carrying me in his left arm."
- JoAnn Mueller Trampe

* You can read more remarkable stories from Armistice Day survivors in the Pine City Pioneer.

Thanksgiving Preview. The 500mb map above (courtesy of NOAA and NCEP) is valid noon on November 24. It shows a ridge of high pressure over the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, hinting at dry, unusuallymild weather for Chicago, Detroit, Louisville and Atlanta. A cooler front may drop temperatures into the 40s from the Twin Cities to Kansas City and Denver, but right now I don't see a pattern that favors major storms around Thanksgiving - no big dips or kinks in the steering winds aloft capable of spinning up a major storm. Things can change in a hurry - we'll keep an eye on the big picture.

The Edmund Fitzgerald. On this day in 1975, a historic Great Lakes storm sank the American freighter, Edmund Fitzgerald. It was one of the largest ships to sail on the Great Lakes weighing 13, 632 tons and 729 ft long. 29 men died and the incident was immortalized in a song by Gordon Lightfoot. NOAA has been reevaluating the conditions around the storm since 2006.

Originally the forecast for Nov. 9-10 was to be windier than normal, but after the Fitzgerald left port, heading from Superior, WI to Detroit, MI, the forecast was upgraded to a gale warning, then eventually a storm warning. Another ship, the Anderson, joined the Fitz on a similar route, heading to Gary, IN. After the ships parted ways, both captains changed course to head on a northerly track to avoid the storm. The Anderson lost contact with the Fitzgerald around 7:15 pm on November, 10th. It sank with all 29 men on board.

NOAA has a good overview of the meteorological events leading up to the disaster here.
Here is another paper, "Reexamination of the 9-10 November 1975 "Edmund Fitzgerald" Storm Using Today's Technology".

Alaskans Weather Epic Bering Sea Storm. The Anchorage Daily News has the remarkable details: "A giant Bering Sea storm with hurricane-force winds roared up the western Alaska coastline Wednesday, sending waves over storm barriers, knocking out electricity, flooding parts of some villages and leading to evacuations. But as of Wednesday evening, officials had heard no reports of injuries nor massive damage. There were reports of buildings damaged, roads under water and major beach erosion, and authorities emphasized Wednesday night that the worst hadn't necessarily passed, with water still rising in some communities and warnings still in effect through this morning. In Nome, the largest city in the path of the storm, peak water levels arrived at about 6 p.m. and began a slow decline, the National Weather Service said."

More Severe Beach Erosion For Coastal Alaska. Here's an entry from Climate Progress, a repost from Dr. Jeff Masters and his excellent Wunderblog: "A storm surge of 6 feet hit Nome, Alaska this morning, pushed inland by sustained winds that reached 45 mph, gusting to 61 mph. A even higher storm surge is predicted for this evening (Figure 3.) The last time Nome, Alaska saw a storm this strong was November 11 – 12 1974, when the city experienced sustained winds of 46 mph with gusts to 69 mph, a pressure that bottomed out at 969 mb, and a storm surge of 13 feet that pushed beach driftwood above the previous high storm tide mark set in 1913. The center of today’s storm moved ashore over eastern Siberia near 12 UTC with a central pressure of 945 mb. The storm has likely peaked in strength, and will gradually weaken as it moves northeast into the Arctic."

Powerful Storm Pummels Western Alaska. The New York Times (subscription may be required) has details on the most violent storm to hit Alaska since 1974: "A powerful storm with hurricane-force winds slammed into western Alaska on Wednesday, causing power failures in some tiny coastal villages and warnings that the area could suffer major flooding. In a Tuesday forecast, the National Weather Service described the storm as “extremely dangerous and life-threatening” and of “an epic magnitude rarely experienced.” The service said, “All people in the area should take precautions to safeguard their lives and property.” No injuries had been reported by Wednesday afternoon, and some of the worst winds had subsided. But forecasters warned that the storm was still strong and the could cause flooding later as waters surge." (photo courtesy of NOAA).

* Alaska "Snowicane". The Washington Post has more on the unusually severe storm that lashed Alaska. "A storm of historic intensity continues to pound the west coast of Alaska today. Twice the size of Texas, the storm is as deep as a category 3 hurricane. The National Weather Service is calling it a “life-threatening epic storm” due to its dangerous combination of towering waves (observed at 40 feet in the Bering Sea), winds over 100 mph, storm surge flooding, and blinding snow. The storm’s central pressure bottomed out at 943 mb this morning, comparable to the minimum pressure (942 mb) of hurricane Irene, which caused billions in damage along the East Coast in late August. From this point forward, the storm - essentially a snow hurricane (or snowicane) - is forecast to slowly weaken, but will continue battering the region into tonight."

"Beaver-Tail" Tornado Hits Oklahoma. Here's an explanation of the unusual tornado outbreak earlier this week from Our Amazing Planet: "At least one tornado — and most likely many more — ripped through southwest Oklahoma last night (Nov. 7) due to textbook twister weather, just days after the biggest earthquake in the state's history. One twister has been confirmed by the National Weather Service (NWS) in Norman, Okla., and today, their storm damage survey teams will deploy to investigate the tornado tracks. They will most likely confirm other tornadoes and rate their strength. "There were probably quite a few more than one tornado," said Mark Austin, a meteorologist at the NWS office in Norman. Baseball-size hail pounded the state. Wind gusts up to 92 mph were reported. A twister flipped a storm-chaser's car, but he escaped unscathed. Many buildings in Oklahoma are vulnerable to severe weather after a magnitude 5.6 earthquake rocked the state this past weekend. The earthquake was the largest in the state's history, and was bookended by a magnitude 4.7 foreshock and a magnitude 4.7 aftershock, which struck last night."

Photo credit above: "Storm chasers caught up with one tornado during the Oklahoma outbreak.
Credit: Tornadovideosdotnet/YouTube

 Fall Color: New Jersey Style. Thanks to Sing Lin for sharing some terrific photos from New Jersey (it is, after all, the Garden State), and these photos seem to prove it:

"In the second week of November 2011, the nature puts on a stunning and brilliant show of autumn colors in New Jersey, forest lights up with color, the leaves burst into romantic flames of reds, oranges, yellows, gold and blended combinations. It is a magical time of year with fantastic experience in New Jersey. I went out walking on the streets in Holmdel, New Jersey to enjoy the spectacular spectrum of autumn colors play out on nature’s grandest stages. It is nature and landscape photographer’s dream and prompted me to take several pictures along the streets. I have updated my Travelogue web page on “Autumn Foliage in Garden State” by adding several new pictures taken in last couple days in Holmdel.  In the cloud, ready for slide show."

"Don't Sweat The Showers." KJRH's George Flickinger in Tulsa looks amazingly calm, considering a giant wasp got stuck inside one of the TV station's local webcams. Check out the (very funny) video clip here.

Raw Thursday. You just muddled through the coldest day since March 28, when the high was a brisk 36. A trace of flurries fell at St. Cloud and the Twin Cities, highs statewide stuck in the 30s, except for Redwood Falls (41). It was a typical day in late November.

Winter Premonitions

Minnesotans know how to drive in snow. It's not the snow I worry about - it's glaze ice. I've been telling people for years: all snowstorms are not created equal. 1" snow falling at 10 degrees is FAR more icy and dangerous than 6" snow falling at 25 F, when MnDot chemicals can keep highway surfaces wet and slushy. Consider a winter survival kit; keep your gas tank at least 1/2 full to avoid gas line freeze. And keep a respectful distance from plows, which weigh 17 times more than the average vehicle.

It's official: first flurries of the winter season late Wednesday night; 3 weeks later than average.
This is Winter Hazard Awareness Week in Minnesota - check out the blog for some good reminders from the local National Weather Service. Seems odd to be talking winter survival tips when the predicted high for Saturday is 61 F. One more taste of Indian Summer. Get some yard work done, rake those leaves into your neighbor's yard, water shrubs and trees; take full advantage of this lack of "weather".

The next clipper arrives with a rain shower Sunday, a slushy coating over the Arrowhead. You'll need a coat the end of next week, but the GFS is hinting at 50s as late as Nov. 23.

Greenhouse Gas Index Shows Sharp Increase. Details from the Miami Herald: "Greenhouse gases are building at a steep rate in the atmosphere, the nation's top climate agency reported, renewing concern that global warming may be accelerating. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, which indexes the key gases known to trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, rose 1.5 percent from 2009 to 2010, the agency reported. The reported rise came on top of an analysis by the Energy Department last week that said global emissions of carbon dioxide, a key, long-lived greenhouse gas, jumped in 2010 by the biggest increment on record. The figures showed a 6 percent increase from the year before, a steeper rise than worst-case scenarios that were laid out by climate experts four years earlier. The Annual Greenhouse Gas Index number, by contrast, looks small, but has big impact. The index is a measure of the combined heating effect of the top greenhouse gases during their life spans as the gases float around in the atmosphere. The number increased from 1.27 in 2009 to 1.29 in 2010. Since the index started in 1990, which the NOAA team chose as a baseline, the increase has been 29 percent." Photo credit:

Forests Advance With Warming Climate. has the story:  "Evergreen trees at the edge of Alaska's tundra are growing faster, suggesting forests may be reacting and adapting to rapidly warming climate, researchers say. Scientists from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory said while forests elsewhere are thinning from wildfires, insect damage and droughts partially attributed to global warming, some white spruce trees in the far north of Alaska have grown more vigorously in the last hundred years, especially since 1950. "I was expecting to see trees stressed from the warmer temperatures," study lead author Laia Andreu-Hayles said. "What we found was a surprise."

Science Controversies Past And Present. Here's a fascinating paper (pdf) from Steven Sherwood, at the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Australia, that tracks the evolution of scientific skepticism over hundreds of years, paradigm shifts, backlash and politicization of science - a long but worthy read:

1 comment:

  1. Storm and snow damages are really devstating. To see such tornado is a thrilling experience. Such storm damage proves to be quite expensive and takes few days to get life back on track.