Monday, November 7, 2011

Very Close Call (8" for Rochester, little or no snow for immediate MSP metro)

50 F. high in the Twin Cities on Monday.
55 F. high in Rochester yesterday.
0" no accumulation expected in the Twin Cities tonight into Wednesday, storm tracks far enough east.
5-8" snow possible in Rochester by midday Wednesday. Winter Storm Watch posted for southeastern MN (includes southeastern suburbs).

10.4" snow predicted for Eau Claire, WI by midday tomorrow (NAM model using "Cobb Method").

November 6: average date of the first coating (1/10th") snow in the Twin Cities.
November 18: average date of the first 1" snowfall in the Twin Cities.
December 20: average date of the first 4" snowfall in the Twin Cities. Source: MN State Climatology Office.

May 2: last trace of snow flurries in the Twin Cities.

7th busiest season for named storms in the Atlantic/Caribbean since 1851. Now comes "Sean"? Details below.

Photo Of The Day: Way Too Close For Comfort. Veteran storm chaser Reed Timmer captured this image of a monster tornado near Tipton, Oklahoma Monday afternoon - what appeared to be an EF-2 or EF-3 tornado less than 300 yards up the road. Remarkable.

Oklahoma Battered By Tornadoes, Hail. Here's the latest from the L.A. Times: "Some residents two miles south of Tipton, Okla., were trapped after their house was damaged by the storms, but they were eventually rescued and were not injured, Tillman County emergency management director Jeffrey Rector told the Associated Press. At about 3 p.m. Central time Monday, storm spotters reported a large tornado south of Tipton, about 130 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, headed toward Snyder. The same tornado apparently touched down in Tillman County, destroying a structure and damaging at least three others, according to KOCO-TV. The tornado weakened before striking Snyder, but additional tornadoes associated with the same storm system have also touched down in the area, the station reported."

First Winter Storm Watch.  A Winter Storm Watch means that conditions are ripe for as much as 6" of snow Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. If the storm is inevitable the watch will be upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning. If you're traveling south/southeast/east - away from MSP Tuesday night into the first half of Wednesday, prepare for wintry travel conditions. I-94 and I-35 may stay mostly wet and slushy, but secondary roads and bridges may become icy and snow-covered. The latest watches and warnings are here.

P-P-Plowable? This is why meteorologists have migraines and gray, rapidly thinning hair (from pulling it out of our heads with both hands). It still looks like the Twin Cities metro area will be right on the edge of any accumulating snow. The best chance of a coating to an inch or 2": the southern and eastern suburbs of St. Paul. As much as 6" of slushy snow may pile up over southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin tonight into Wednesday morning, potentially enough to shovel and plow. Here we go....

Sharp Cut-Off. Am I nervous? You bet. Models are hinting at 6-10" snow from Albert Lea to Rochester, with less than 1" for the southern suburbs of the Twin Cities. A slight jog to the north/west could push heavier snow amounts into the immediate Twin Cities, but the odds of this happening are small, less than 1 in 4.

Rochester: Instant Winter. While Twin Cities commuters breathe one big collective sigh of relief (and snow lovers whine), folks in Rochester, Minnesota may get more snow than they bargained for. The latest NAM model prints out .82". A 10:1 ratio seems reasonable, meaning a good chance of 8" snow. Now the ground is relatively mild, some of that snow will melt on contact, but I could still envision a big pile of white by midday Wednesday. The heaviest snows are forecast to come tomorrow morning around breakfast.

Tropical Storm "Sean"? According to NHC there is a 70% probability an area of disturbed weather off the southeast coast will strengthen to tropical storm status in the next 48 hours. Thankfully, steering winds should nudge "Sean" away from the east coast of the USA.

Projected Track. All the models whisk "Sean" to the north/northeast - it may threaten the Canadian Maritimes by Thursday with coastal beach erosion and tropical storm force gusts.

2011 Hurricane Season Costliest, Deadliest In Three Years. The story from USA Today: "This year is the USA's costliest and deadliest for hurricanes since 2008. Two of the 17 storms that formed in the Atlantic - Irene and Lee - caused most of the damage. Hurricane Irene killed 45 people and caused at least $7 billion in damage, the National Climatic Data Center reports, making Irene the USA's most lethal and financially damaging hurricane since Ike in 2008. Torrential rains from Irene led to catastrophic flooding in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. This season was also the seventh-busiest for named storms since record-keeping began in 1851. According to meteorologist Jeff Masters of private meteorology firm the Weather Underground, 2005 had the most storms, followed by 1933, 1995, 1887, 2010 and 1969."

Floods Show What Lies Ahead For Sinking Bangkok. Development and aggressive pumping of underground aquifers has caused the city of Bangkok to sink in the last 30 years (much like New Orleans). Discovery News focuses in on how the current flooding (worst in at least 50 years) may be a preview of coming attractions for Thailand's capital city: "A Thai resident walks by a flooded monastery November 6, 2011 in Bangkok, Thailand. Over seven major industrial parks in Bangkok and thousands of factories have been closed in the central Thai province of Ayutthaya and Nonthaburi with millions of tons of rice damaged. Thailand is experiencing the worst flooding in over 50 years which has affected more than nine million people."

Looks And Feels Like November. Welcome to the Dark Days - now that we're back to standard time it seems like it gets dark a couple hours after lunchtime. At least it's light when we stumble out of bed now. Under a mostly-blue sky the mercury reached 43 at Alexandria Monday, 47 St. Cloud, 50 in the Twin Cities and 55 at Rochester, where accumulating snow is still possible - as much as 6-8".

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

TUESDAY: Winter Storm Watch southeastern MN and much of Wisconsin. Any sun gives way to increasing clouds. Winds: NE 10-15. High: 42

TUESDAY NIGHT: Cloudy, dry in the metro - heavy wet snow possible far southeastern MN and western WI. Low: 32

WEDNESDAY: Heavy snow over southeastern MN and Wisconsin (4-6"+) Clouds giving way to gradual clearing in the metro area. High: 44

THURSDAY: Partly sunny, breezy and cold. Low: 28. High: 42

FRIDAY: Patchy clouds, seasonably cool. Low: 29. High: 48

SATURDAY: Clipper, light mix far north? Low: 31. High: near 50

SUNDAY: Increasing clouds. Stiff breeze, a bit milder. Low: 34. High: 52

MONDAY: More clouds than sun. Low: 33. High: 49

Slushy Possibilities

"Hey Paul, what's the weather?" Let me check the Amish Doppler (window). The truth: with a keen knowledge of clouds, a barometer on the wall and current wind direction, anyone can make a fairly accurate 6-12 hour forecast. Anything beyond that requires weather models. Back in the '70s there was but one model (the LFM, or Limited Fine Mesh). Now there are scores of weather models, each with unique physics. Some work better than others in specific scenarios. This is the black art of weather forecasting today - knowing what weather model to believe, and why.

Which brings me to today's challenge: will accumulating snow reach the MSP metro? It'll be very close; maybe 1-2" southern/eastern suburbs (Red Wing, possibly Hastings and Stillwater), but closer to 5-8+" down in Rochester. OK, I'm wide awake now.

This does NOT look like Snowmageddon, but don't be surprised if you wake up to the first slush of the winter season tomorrow. 

I'm pulling my punch, not banging the heavy snow gong too hard, because the normally reliable ECMWF model keeps the heaviest rain and snow to our east. 

Yep, it was easier in '78, when there was only 1 weather model. Now we're drowning in data! Might want to get the snow tires on, just in case.

Arctic Permafrost: Climate Wild Card. Here's a vaguely terrifying excerpt of a story from Time: "On the basics, the science of climate change is pretty straightforward. Carbon dioxide released into the air—whether through the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation or other natural causes—adds to the greenhouse effect, which traps more solar energy in the atmosphere and warms the planet. But just how this will happen—how fast and exactly how the planet and the climate will respond to more carbon and more warming—gets very complicated very quickly. There are wild cards in the climate system, some of which—if they flip the wrong way—could vastly accelerate global warming well beyond anything most climate models predict. One of those wild cards is the 1,672 billion tonnes of carbon equivalent trapped in the form of methane in the Arctic permafrost, the soils kept frozen by the far North's extreme temperatures. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas—it has 20 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide—and the total amount of carbon equivalent in the Arctic permafrost is 250 times greater than annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. As the Arctic warms—which it's doing rather rapidly—there's a risk that the permafrost could become less than permanent, releasing some of that trapped methane into the air, which would then accelerate warming, leading to more Arctic melt, more methane on and so on. Climate scientists call this a "feedback loop"—and if it happens soon, you could just call us screwed."

Global Warming Threatens Forests In U.S. West. Here's a good summary from "Global warming and other factors are causing large movements of tree species across the U.S. West, researchers say. With climate change, insect attack, diseases and fire, several tree species are expected to decline and possibly die out in regions where they have lived for centuries while others move in and replace them, researchers at Oregon State University said. Some of the once-common species, such as the lodgepole pine, may be replaced by other trees, perhaps a range expansion of ponderosa pine or Douglas fir, reported. Other areas may see a complete shift out of forest into grass savannah or sagebrush desert, researchers said."

Entergy CEO Steps Up Demand That The Industry Deal With Global Warming. has the story of an energy company CEO who is is acknowledging the need to price carbon: "J. Wayne Leonard, the chief executive of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., has upped the ante on his demand that the federal government and his fellow major industry executives deal with global warming, abandoning support for a national carbon emissions "cap and trade" program in favor of a per-ton fee on carbon emissions. The carbon fee would be levied on all carbon emissions to provide a financial incentive to reduce emissions, with money from the fee used to reduce the national deficit and help low-income families, Leonard said. Some of the money from the fee would be funneled into support for research and development of carbon reduction technology and alternative energy."
Climate Change Affecting Oceans Faster, Study. Australia's ABC Network has the story: "Climate change is having a more pronounced effect on animals and plants in the world's oceans than scientists had previously anticipated, a new analysis shows. Scientists had expected that the effect of climate change would be slower in the oceans than on land, due to the amount of energy it takes to heat such large bodies of water. But after studying the changes in temperature on land and in the oceans over 50 years, researchers led by Michael Burrows from the Scottish Marine Science Institute say this isn't the case. Their calculations of the velocity of climate change and shifts in seasonal timing between 1960 and 2009 appear in today's issue of the journal Science ."

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