Friday, April 27, 2012

Cold Rain, Partly-Springy Sunday (70s return next week)

56 F. high in the Twin Cities Friday.
63 F. average high for April 27 at KMSP.
44 F. high temperature on April 27, 2011
11.8 mph: average wind speed Friday.
28 mph wind gust: peak wind in the metro area yesterday.
+3.6 F. April temperatures are running 3.6 F. warmer than average in the Twin Cities.

Wet snow may mix in with the rain from time to time this morning, but odds of slushy lawns has dropped.
8.5" snow fell on the Twin Cities on April 27, 1907. The locals were not amused.

Today: Marchlike. Middle of Next Week: Hints of June. Shorts or heavy jackets? Good question. Keep your closet stocked with both. Temperatures don't climb out of the 40s today, Sunday looks tolerable with highs near 60 under a partly sunny sky. Highs may climb well into the 70s Tuesday into Friday; 80 not out of the question the middle of next week.

Yes, Next Week's Warming Is Real. If there was any doubt (from suspicious U.S. weather models) the European ECMWF model shows highs in the 70s Tuesday through Thursday, the best chance of showers and T-storms (21 mm, to be precise) Tuesday and Wednesday.

Sliding Into A Stormier, Wetter Pattern? We have a lot of ground to make up, but the maps and models are encouraging. Very warm (80-degree) air will lurk just to our south much of next week, setting up an east-west frontal boundary that may focus waves of showers and T-storms, some strong, even severe by Wednesday. Rainfall today will probably be under .5".

On The Edge (Of Significant Rain). The heaviest rain today will fall south/west of the Twin Cities, some .5 to 1" amounts possible over southern and western Minnesota. Amounts may vary greatly from north to south across the metro - very little rain predicted far north metro, closer to .5 to .75" rain southern suburbs.

325 people died from tornadoes between April 25-27, 2011 across the Deep South, 142 of those fatalities in Alabama alone. Hardest hit: Alabama, which saw more tornadoes (and tornado deaths) than any nation in the USA last year. 2011 saw the highest tornado death toll since 1925, in spite of Doppler radar, continuous coverage on local radio and TV and 3 days warning. More details from the Birmingham, Alabama office of The National Weather Service below.

4% increase in water cycle over the last 50 years, the result of a 1 F. rise in temperature, worldwide (twice the rate predicted by computer simulations).

" implies that the water cycle could quicken by as much as 20 percent later in this century as the planet warms, potentially leading to more droughts and floods." - from a New York Times story, details below.

"The stronger water cycle will mean stronger rains and intensified droughts over the oceans. And what holds at sea also extends over land, because the oceans cover 71 percent of the globe, hold 97 percent of the world's water, and have already sucked up 90 percent of the extra heat trapped by humanity's greenhouse gas pollution. The increase in warm water vapor as the globe heats will fuel more violent storms, whereas droughts in places like Australia, stuck in the middle of oceanic regions dominated by evaporation, will only grow more severe." - from an article at Scientific American; details and links below.

April: Windiest Month Of The Year. I was not aware of this fact; more incentive to read Dr. Mark Seeley's excellent weekly WeatherTalk blog; here's an excerpt from this week's installment: "April also lived us to its reputation as the windiest month of the year, with many days bringing wind gusts of 30 mph or greater. Both Moorhead and Rochester saw 15 days with wind gusts of 30 mph or greater. The Twin Cities had two days when winds peaked over 40 mph, while Rochester had seven such days, including 51 mph on the 15th. In addition to the wind, April brought some thunderstorms, hail, and even tornado reports. Tornadoes were reported in McLeod and Lyon Counties on April 15th, and then on April 21st, between 5:30 pm and 9:40 pm tornadoes were reported from Clay, Wilkin, Otter Tail, Chippewa, Redwood, Douglas, and Swift Counties. Some agricultural structures were damaged by these tornadoes, but overall they were short-lived and did not inflict widespread damage."

April 25-27, 2011: Alabama's Deadliest Tornado Outbreak. The Birmingham, Alabama office of The National Weather Service has a good overview of the surreal outbreak of EF-3 to EF-5 strength tornadoes that roared across Alabama over 3 days, including the monster that hit Tuscaloosa: "April of 2011 will live in the memory of central Alabamians forever. Two major tornado outbreaks. Three different days with tornadoes. Three significant straight-line wind events. Over 2,000 people injured. 142 killed (just in Alabama). Billions of dollars in damage. The NWS in Birmingham is taking a look back at that incredible month, starting with the two major tornado outbreaks."

Rain-Wrapped Tornado Over Kansas. Here's a photo of a tornado completely wrapped in rain, which can make it very difficult to distinguish a tornado circulation from a rain shaft. Photo courtesy of WeatherNation TV: "Check out this footage of the tornado spotted in Cloud County, KS tonight from storm chaser Brandon Ivey. Severe storms are still possible tonight, but the tornado threat appears to be diminishing for the Central Plains."

Tornado Safety Tips From FEMA. The folks at FEMA have some very useful information, and a few good tip-offs that a thunderstorm may be especially severe, capable of spinning up nature's deadliest wind:
  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
    • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

How To Tell When Your Wife Is Really, Really Upset. A photo essay below.

"Ask Paul". Weather-related Q&A:

"A flash flood of hail? Is this for real?"

Jeff Jorgensen

Jeff - thanks for the clip; this is one of the most amazing flash flood/hail events I've ever seen. This particular "supercell" thunderstorm in south Texas dropped as much as 3-4 FEET of marble and golfball-size hail, as well as torrential rains, which swept the hail downstream - a raging torrent of icy rain, which sparked ground fog (differential in temperature, hail/ice cooling the warm air from below). It must have been a surreal sight. More details via YouTube: "Storm Chaser Doug Black hits the road during the hail storm in the Texas Panhandle with Storm Search 7 Chief Meteorologist Steve Kersh, and managed to capture mounds of hail piling up 2 to 4 feet and running in rivers near the Potter/Moore county line." (the video clip has seen over 670,000 views - a pretty good indicator that this is an extraordinary event).

Rare Late-Night Southeast Colorado Tornadoes. Here's a summary of the recent outbreak in southeastern Colorado during the early morning hours on April 27, courtesy of the Pueblo office of The National Weather Service: "A team of meteorologists from the National Weather Service in Pueblo is in Southeast Colorado conducting a storm damage survey.  Preliminary findings indicate 5 tornadoes touched down, with 2 occurring in Prowers County, 2 in Kiowa County and one in Bent county.  The tornado which touched down to the southwest of Lamar has been preliminarily rated as an EF2.  Another tornado that touched down to the east of Lamar appears to have produced EF1 to low end EF2 damage.  The tornado which touched down near Chivington has been preliminarily rated as an EF1, and the 4th tornado produced low end EF2 damage to the Northeast of Chivington.   The 5th damage track was located a couple miles to the west and north of Wiley and a preliminary EF rating is still being determined.   Damage surveys are still underway at this point and information will be updated here as soon as it becomes available."

"Safe Rooms" Booming In Tornado-Prone Areas. Don't have a basement? You can reinforce an interior closet to withstand a major tornado strike, for less $$ than you might think. Check out this video clip, courtesy of AP and YouTube: "Many people simply had nowhere to hide last year when killer tornadoes bore down on places like Smithville, Miss., Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Joplin, Mo. Thousands across Tornado Alley are making sure they'll be ready the next time. (April 27)."

Hurricane Season Expected To Be Less Active Than 2011. Details from "While precipitation in the region has been mild in terms of rain this season, the East Coast is likely to see a change in that pattern over the summer as hurricane season arrives — though it is predicted to be a less active year than 2011. According to information released by, a big storm bringing heavy, flooding rain to the coast is possible sometime this season, though where it could strike land is dependent on where the storm actually forms. There are 12 named tropical storms for the 2012 season, five named hurricanes and two major hurricanes forecast. That's fewer than 2011 saw, though meteorologists warn it only takes one major hit from a storm to have a devastating impact and wipe away the false sense of security, or "hurricane amnesia," for places that have not had a direct hit in years."

Warnings Of Flash Floods As Britain Set For "Real Soaking". Details from the U.K. Independent: "Parts of Britain might be in the middle of a drought, but some areas of England and Wales are braced for the possibility of flash floods this weekend as the deluge continues at the end of a week of heavy rain. Warnings of localised flooding have been issued in parts of the South West, South East and Midlands, as well as East of England and Wales for Sunday as the wet weather moves across the country. The flood warnings follow the wettest week in Wales and England since December."

Rough Landing. In case you missed this video clip - it's worth a look. I have new respect for professional pilots. Landing in a cross-wind is one of the more challenging requirements for safe air travel, definitely non-trivial on a (wild and windy) day like this. Here is the YouTube video: "High winds in Bilbao, Spain, made normally routine landings and takeoffs treacherous. Check out this for some shaky footage! Four flights were diverted from the airport due to the weather."

Expedition 30 Landing. It's still a bit surreal seeing American astronauts on Russian Soyuz spacecraft - but at least they got home safely. Details via NASA and Flickr: "The Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank, and Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin in a remote area outside of the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, on Friday, April 27, 2012. NASA Astronaut Burbank, Russian Cosmonauts Shkaplerov and Ivanishin are returning from more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 29 and 30 crews. Photo Credit: (NASA/Carla Cioffi)."

Photo Of The Day: Yosemite In All Its Glory. Check out this Friday photo from Yosemite National Park, via Facebook: "A little bit of sun and a little bit of rain have caused the river to rise and the waterfalls to grow! Also, the dogwood are beginning to bloom in Yosemite Valley ( While there is still not yet an opening date for the Tioga Road, it is opening for bicycles on Saturday, and the Glacier Point Road is already open."

Friday Pics. Thanks to Tracy Corris, who sent in a photo from Santa Monica, California (upper left - obviously). Joan Kruhoeffer sent me the photo of mamma duck and her babies from Manheim, Pennsylvania. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to send in photos, YouTube clips, tweets and FB posts.

Honda Develops Technology Designed To Prevent Traffic Jams. Commuter "intelligence"? Sounds like a good idea to me. I'd even spend a few bucks/month to avoid standstills on I-394 or I-494. Details from "While modern in car satnav systems can draw on real-time traffic congestion data and suggest alternative routes for drivers to avoid high traffic areas, Honda has taken a different approach to try and minimize the potential for traffic jams. The company has developed new technology designed to detect whether a person’s driving is likely to create traffic jams and encourage them to drive in such a way as to keep traffic flowing." (check out the photo above carefully. Who is this woman, and why is she reading a book, while on the phone, in stop-and-go traffic? Be afraid...

Woman Goes On "Sunlight Diet", Unsurprisingly Dies Of Starvation. No, it's not funny - but it shows how gullible people can be in looking for a magic cure or elixer. In news of the weird, here's a baffling story from geekosystem: "People will do almost anything to lose weight, although admittedly, things like the Twinkie diet don’t sound that bad. A sunshine diet, on the other hand, sounds absolutely horrible, but that’s not going to keep some people from trying it. Then again, when was the last time you saw a fat plant, right? Taking that last bit into consideration, a woman from Switzerland decided to give this diet a shot. Did she lose weight? Definitely. Is she still, you know, alive to enjoy her svelte new physique? Unsurprisingly, no."

World's Smallest Electric Car? Check out this story at the U.K. Daily Mail; here's an excerpt: "Fed up of cramming into the lift at work in the morning? Soon you'll be able to drive into it instead - because the world's smallest eco car is about to go on sale and it's tiny enough to fit into office elevators. The 'Volpe' is just one-meter wide, 1.5 meters tall, weights just 350kg and can squeeze into the smallest of gaps, which means the commute to work can continue right up to the office, where the car can be charged at your desk." (Is it me or does this thing look like something out of the Pixar movie "Cars"?)

"Powerpot" Generates Electricity From Your Campfire. So many gadgets (er...productivity tools) little time. Details from "It used to be that you didn't need a lot of electricity when you went camping; now nobody goes anywhere without their phone or GPS unit. But how do you keep them charged? The PowerPot is a very clever solution to the problem; it has a thermoelectric power source built into a cooking pot so that generates electricity from the heat of cooking. It uses the Peltier effect, familiar in solid state coolers; here it runs in reverse, converting heat into electricity. There wasn't much use for such a small amount of electricity until recently, when LEDs and microelectronics made 5 watts useful."

Test Drive: Ford Focus Electric. Is it worth 39K? has more details on the upcoming, gas-optional version of the Ford Focus; here's an excerpt: "...Kuehn made it pretty clear that Ford is looking to compete more aggressively with the Nissan Leaf with this iteration, which the automaker claims can go from no juice to fully charged in half the time (around 4 hours) - using of Ford's 240-volt charging station that costs an additional US$1,500 - while also getting a better single-charge range of about 76 miles (122 km). At the core of the electric Focus, is a pair of 600 pound (272 kg) liquid-cooled lithium-ion 23 kilowatt hour batteries. Fortunately, there's an app for managing them. MyFord Mobile features prominently in Ford's pitch for its electric vehicle with an app to help plan trips, manage charging and locate charging stations along the way."

Teachable Moment. One of my good friends, a TV meteorologist in Philadelphia, Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz recently had a very close call. I'm glad he's doing ok after a double bypass procedure - and WCAU-TV had the presence of mind to turn his ordeal into a special report, trying to help other "walking timebombs" get help before a potential heart attack. has the details: "WCAU chief meteorologist Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz is resting in a Philadelphia hospital after undergoing double bypass heart surgery this morning. “Glenn is recuperating well and is in good spirits,” WCAU news director Chris Blackman said. “He feels fortunate that he recognized the signs of potential trouble. We’re all keeping him in our thoughts and wish him a speedy recovery.” As Schwartz spends the next several weeks recuperating, the NBC station plans to run a series of special segments about heart health."

"Brydge" Aims To Turn Apple iPad Into Macbook Air. For the many iPad enthusiasts out there, here's an excerpt from "Brydge is a keyboard cover for the iPad that attempts to turn the Apple tablet into something very close in style and weight, if not grunt, to the MacBook Air. Currently a Kickstarter project, Brydge aims to join the growing number of accessories tailored for those who produce as well as consume content on their iPad."

How To Tell Your Wife Is....Um...Ticked Off. A friend sent me a few photos that underscore the downside of cheating. Yeah, don't even think about it - not worth it.

Cloud-Cluttered Friday. At least it didn't rain (much), a few sprinkles in the air by evening, but most of the rain evaporated before reaching ground-level. Under a pasty-gray sky highs ranged from 44 at Grand Marais to 50 Alexandria, 55 St. Cloud, 56 Twin Cities and 57 at Redwood Falls.

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

TODAY: A cold rain (possibly mixing with a few wet snowflakes AM hours). No accumulation. Foul. Winds: E 10-20. High: 44

SATURDAY NIGHT: Showers taper - still cool and damp. Low: 37

SUNDAY: Some sun, much better. Winds: SE 10. High: near 60

MONDAY: Intervals of sun, milder - feels like spring again. Low: 45. High: 66

TUESDAY: Lukewarm. Few T-storms likely. Low: 52. High: 73

WEDNESDAY: Warm, unsettled. More T-storms expected - some may be heavy. Low: 58. High: 76 (80 possible south of the MSP metro).

THURSDAY: Warm sun, T-storms northern MN. Low: 57. High: 73

FRIDAY: Humid, risk of a shower, thunder. Low: 54. High: near 70

Go Ahead and Exhale

"Snow on April 28? After the warmest March in Minnesota history? You 'gotta be kidding me!" Deep breaths. This morning may test your meteorological sense of humor; character-building weather indeed. Models are hinting at a enough warm air in the lowest mile of the atmosphere for mainly rain, a cold rain at that. A few wet snowflakes may mix in - but I don't expect any accumulation. Whew. The sun is as high in the sky as it was in mid-August; even if it did snow it wouldn't stick around for long. Enough of the sun's invisible infrared radiation will penetrate thick, stubborn clouds to keep roads wet, even with temperatures close to freezing around daybreak.

We shouldn't be too shocked. The rolling 30-year average shows an average of 3 inches of snow in April. This is the last time I hope to use the s-word until October, OK?

A raw, rainy Saturday gives way to a 60-degree Sunday; a string of 70s next week. Tropical, 80-degree air over Iowa will set up a frontal boundary almost directly overhead, sparking a few waves of heavy showers and T-storms Tuesday into Thursday. More beneficial rains are likely. I'm feeling a little bit better about our long-term drought.

Yes, we still have Crazy Weather Boasting Rights for the USA: slush on a Saturday, temperatures near 80F. a mere 4 days later?

Lately the (warm weather) switch either is "on" or "off"!

Climate Stories....

Global Warming Makes It Rain More, Except Where It Makes It Drier. New research suggests that the water cycle is intensifying the rate of evaporation, sparking heavier rains, accelerating the drying out regions that are dry to begin with. Here's an excerpt from an important story at The Atlantic Wire: "The news from a new study on the earth's rainfall isn't the fact that global warming is making it rain more in wet areas and less in dry ones, it's how much scientists had previously underestimated that trend: By half. The finding, published in the latest issue of Science but available without a subscription in Scientific American, means global warming's impact on the earth's water cycle is a lot more pronounced than we'd thought. In short, as research leader Paul Durack, of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told Science, "wet regions will get wetter and dry regions drier."

Photo credit above: Reuters.

Where It Rains It Will Pour, Otherwise Tough Luck. More on the new findings about the acceleration and amplification of the water cycle at Scientific American: "Warmer air allows for more water vapor. So scientists have long predicted that global warming will result in a more intense water cycle—the process by which water evaporates from the oceans, travels through the atmosphere and then falls as rain. Now new measurements of the ocean's salinity prove that prediction—and suggest that global warming strengthens the water cycle even more than anticipated. "What we found is that regions that are salty in the main are becoming saltier" and areas that boast more rainfall are getting fresher, explains oceanographer Paul Durack of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who led the research to be published in Science on April 27. "It's another independent estimate of how the climate is changing as we pump out CO2."

Photo credit above: "READING THE OCEAN: Around 3,500 robotic buoys have been deployed throughout the world's oceans, delivering unprecedented data on temperature, salinity and other measures. Image: CSIRO: Alicia Navidad."

Changing Ocean Chemistry. As much as 90% of the warming witnessed in the last 30-50 years may be absorbed by the world's oceans, impacting salinity (salt) levels around the planet. Another perspective on changes in the water cycle at Climate Central.

Map credit above: "Surface salinity changes for 1950 to 2000. Red indicates regions becoming saltier, and blue regions becoming fresher. Credit: Paul Durack." Map courtesy of Climate Central.

Study Indicates A Greater Threat Of Severe Weather. The New York Times has more: "New research suggests that global warming is causing the cycle of evaporation and rainfall over the oceans to intensify more than scientists had expected, an ominous finding that may indicate a higher potential for extreme weather in coming decades.  By measuring changes in salinity on the ocean’s surface, the researchers inferred that the water cycle had accelerated by about 4 percent over the last half century. That does not sound particularly large, but it is twice the figure generated from computerized analyses of the climate. If the estimate holds up, it implies that the water cycle could quicken by as much as 20 percent later in this century as the planet warms, potentially leading to more droughts and floods."

Photo credit: Wichita office of The National Weather Service.

Climate Change Isn't A Plot, It's Science. Here's an excerpt of a story at The Sydney Morning Herald: "My erstwhile travelling companion Nick Minchin argues the view in Fairfax Media today that while we can all agree on clean energy, debate on the science of climate change should continue. He states that "neither Anna, nor those whom Anna took me to meet, could convince me that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are driving dangerous global warming". With due respect to Nick, this refusal to change his mind wasn't for lack of trying – or for lack of evidence. There are two pieces of clear, empirical evidence showing that human emissions of carbon pollution are responsible for the 40 per cent increase in CO2 since pre-industrial levels."

EPA Chief Says Administration Plans Further Steps To Combat Climate Change. Details from The Boston Globe: "Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson says the Obama administration plans to take further action to combat climate change. She said the administration plans to further exploit natural gas while also investing in renewable energy, has provided the necessary permits to facilitate offshore wind projects, and lauded Massachusetts for taking a leading role in trying to reduce the dangerous greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. “This administration hasn’t backed away from the need to address climate change, carbon pollution, and other forms of pollution, even as we’ve been growing our economy and trying to add jobs,” she said."

Video credit above: "EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says the American public supports her agency's mission. (David Abel/Globe Staff)."

Colbert Blasts Study Blaming Immigrants For Global Warming. Seriously? Some of these headlines feel like they belong in The Onion. Details from The Huffington Post: "Stephen Colbert may not believe in global warming, but a new argument is slowly opening his eyes: That the cause of global warming is actually immigration. A new ad running on news channels including MSNBC makes the claim that the real cause of climate change is citizens coming to America from other countries. But Stephen sees this new theory as something that can heal the divide between the right and left. "Saving the planet by demonizing immigrants gives liberals and conservatives something they can do together," he said." (photo courtesy of Comedy Central).

The Electric Car Market Expands. Here's an excerpt of a story at "....However, it appears that these two companies aren't the only ones trying to get in on the electric car market; it was recently reported that Hyundai Heavy and Magna-E Car Systems have come together under an agreement to develop next-gen lithium ion batteries. Their goals reach far and wide, as Hyundai hopes to have 30% of the electric car market in Europe and North America at some point or another. With this many car-makers trying to make their way into the electric car industry, this is the perfect time to invest in electric vehicles. As more and more automobile companies try to enter this arena of electricity, more and more competition will arise between car-makers, leading to better vehicles as time goes on. Essentially, investing in electric vehicles now would be perfect because they're share of the automobile world is about to grow exponentially."

"Warming Holes" Delayed Global Warming in Some Regions US Regions
. has the details: "Certain areas of the United States were spared the effects of climate change thanks to the presence of tiny particles in the atmosphere, suggests new research from climate scientists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Lead author Eric Leibensperger, a graduate student in applied physics at SEAS at the time of the study, and principal investigator Daniel Jacob, a professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering at SEAS and a professor of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard, used a 50 year model to study the effect of particulate pollution on regions in the eastern US, the school said in a Thursday press release."

Will The Stars Align For Small Nuclear Reactors? Details from The New York Times: "A company that wants to build a new kind of nuclear reactor, one small enough that it could be delivered by truck, has found a potential customer. The Westinghouse Electric Company has lined up Ameren, a St. Louis-based electric company, as a partner for its small modular reactor project. Getting a strong indication of commercial interest is critical because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can review only a few of the many proposed reactor designs and gives priority in the licensing process to those with a stronger chance of getting built."

Rain Quicker To Arrive And Dry Up During Global Warming. Some of the consequences of a warmer atmosphere increasing the rainfall/evaporation cycle, the water cycle, as described in Live Science: "Global warming is revving up the planet's cycle of evaporation and precipitation, making wet places even wetter and dry places dryer, a new study suggests. A team of researchers found the intensity of the water cycle increased roughly 4 percent over the last half of the 20th century by examining changes in the ocean's salt content. This means more movement of water between the locations where it's stored, such as the atmosphere, oceans and lakes. Their results indicate that as a result, salty places are becoming saltier due to more evaporation, while fresh places are becoming fresher due to more precipitation."

Photo credit above: "The bottles lining this depth profiler deploy at different depths to study changes in temperature and salinity in the ocean. Credit: CSIRO."

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