Friday, April 27, 2012

Cold Rain, Saturday Slush, Springy Sunday (something for everyone, right?)

56 F. high in the Twin Cities Thursday.

63 F. average high for April 26.
57 F. high temperature on April 26, 2011.

.88" rain predicted by Saturday night in the metro area.
Trace of snow (flurries) so far in April in the Twin Cities.
Coating of slushy snow possible in the metro area Saturday morning. Details below.
70s return next Tuesday and Wednesday, a 1 in 3 chance of 80 F. by Wednesday afternoon.
Severe storms possible next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Temperature Roller Coaster. The European ECMWF model hints at highs holding in the upper 30s to near 40 Saturday - I suspect we'll see highs in the 40s, but just barely. And then 3 days later the mercury soars into the 70s, in fact we may see 3-4 days above 70 next week. Don't despair: spring will stage a comeback.

Sliding Into A Wetter Pattern? Models are all predicting more than .5" rain from tonight into Saturday, another slug of significant rain the middle of next week. Again, we need about 3-6" to start replenishing lake water levels. As we transition into a warmer pattern I'm hoping we'll see more frequent storms capable of pulling Gulf moisture north into Minnesota. The trends are encouraging.

Try Not To Throw Your Computer Out The Nearest Window. I was really hoping not to show you this graphic again until...October (?). Models suggest a slushy coating of snow for the MSP metro Saturday morning, maybe an inch on some lawns, fields and dazed robins. 2-3"? Possible, but I think the odds favor less. I sure hope so. You've been warned.

Saturday Slop-Fest?think the NAM may be overdoing the snow for central and southeastern Minnesota, but the last few runs have been fairly consistent. As much as I'd like to overlook the snowy possibilities, it'll be a close call, and I wouldn't be at all shocked to see a few towns from Alexandria to the Twin Cities to Rochester pick up a couple inches of slushy, sloppy snow.

* Even if it snows, chances are it'll melt by midday or afternoon - the sun is simply too high in the sky for snow to linger for lawn.

** Surface temperatures should be in the mid 30s early Saturday morning, so I suspect most roads will remain wet. That said, if it snows hard enough a little slush could build up on secondary roads and bridges, especially outside the metro. It's late April, right? This is the kind of event that tests Minnesota's collective sense of humor.

A "Worthy Rain". Yes, it may be an old-fashioned soaking, anywhere from .5 to 1" of rain for the Twin Cities, the latest NAM hinting at over 1" of rain for the southern suburbs, maybe some 1.5" amounts for far western Minnesota.

18. The Duluth metro area was recently ranked 18th among the "Top 25 Cleanest Cities for Year-round Particle Pollution" in the USA, according to the American Lung Association. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

"Three out of four U.S. voters favor regulating carbon dioxide as a greenhouse-gas pollutant, and a majority think global warming should be a priority for the president and Congress, a survey of American attitudes on climate and energy reported on Thursday." - from a Reuters/Chicago Tribune story; details and links below.

Rare Beast: For Many, March Was Warmer Than April. In Meteorology 1 they teach you the days of the week, which finger to point to the weather map with, and that temperatures warm up as spring wears on. Not any more. No, up is down, left is right, and for much of Minnesota April will wind up cooler than March, more evidence of "global weirding"? Andrew Freedman from Climate Central has more details: "March 2012 is the month that just keeps on giving when it comes to warm temperature records in the United States. Given the widespread, long-lasting and unprecedented heat wave, March came in like a lamb, and went out like . . . a grilled lamb. It was the warmest such month on record in the Lower 48 states, exceeding the average by a whopping 8.6 degrees F. That heat has helped nearly 140 climate reporting stations, including in major cities such as Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee, achieve a rare feat: record a cooler April to date compared to March, according to a Climate Central analysis of temperature data through April 24."

Map credit above: "Locations where average temperatures during April 2012 are likely to be cooler than March was, according to Climate Central research. Click for an interactive version."

Redesigned Preview For Public Comment. Check out NOAA's new look, and comment if you feel the need. Details: "We are pleased to announce that the redesign is now ready for final comment from National Weather Service customers and partners. We welcome comments on the live preview site. They can be provided through May 18 using the link below."

Minnesota Is Still Much Too Dry. Here is why I won't moan and groan about rain, even on a Saturday. According to the latest Drought Monitor most of southern Minnesota is still in a severe drought, the metro is in a moderate drought (Washington County not quite as dry). The drought has eased slightly over the Red River Valley and the northern third of Minnesota. If we don't get a few significant rainstorms in the coming weeks the impact on agriculture and lake water levels by summer may be severe - we are running a 3-7" rainfall deficit since last September.

Photo Of The Day: "Supercell". This is what a tornado-producing thunderstorm looks like, a lowering, rotating wall cloud to the right, the entire, violently rising column of air "sheared" into the wind, literally tilting to the left, evidence of powerfully changing wind speed and direction with altitude, hail swept out ahead of the storm, protecting the warm updraft. This may be the best example of a rotating "supercell" thunderstorm I've ever seen, courtesy of NOAA Skyward spotter Paul Brooks, who writes: "I am From Muscatine, Iowa, and a certified spotter for NOAAand Skywarn.  I evaluated the SPC MesoAnalysis all day yesterday, and noticed that there was an area that was primed for a very isolated, strong storm in the area around the Iowa/Missouri/Illinois borders, and left my place around 4pm and barely made it to my target site of Cantril by 6:30, which was when the storm really started to explosively grow and then rotate.  Thank you for the recognition."

* check out Paul's photo collection (available for purchase or license) here, courtesy of Facebook.

7 Extremely Weird Apps For Your iPhone or Android. If you're looking for the most useless and obscure apps for your smartphone you've come to the right place; details from ReadWriteWeb: "Smartphones and tablets can do some amazing things. You can track your exercise, organize your life, play amazing games and reach any media you would ever want to find. The Apple App Store and Android's Google Play can be home to some odd stuff, too. Really odd stuff."

Apple's iPhone 5 Made Of Metallic Glass And Arrives In October. Rumor and iSpeculation from "Two interesting little rumours about the next generation of Apple‘s iPhone, what we assume will be called the iPhone 5. The first is that it will be made, at least in part, of metallic glass. The second is that it will arrive in October. Let’s deal with the easy one first, the arrival date. Rather than the previously assumed summer launch it will be later. The basic reason is that Qualcomm, makers of some of the necessary chips, cannot ramp up production fast enough, thus the delay. The second is more complicated: metallic glass is an odd material and many will get this wrong. A possibly more accurate description would be glassy metal."

645 Pro Turns Your iPhone Into A Mini-DSLR Camera. Can you tell I have an iPhone? Totally impartial. Yeah, I'm a fanboy. It's amazing what you can squeeze out of a smartphone. The best phone is the one you always have on you, right? Details from Redmond Pie: "While the iPhone 4/4S camera have both managed to displace some of the more popular standalone cameras on sites such as Flickr, many of those with professional photographic nous still don’t view the Apple smartphone’s camera as a serious choice. With good reason, too. Many of the apps make it easy to create and manipulate an image, and as such, the benchmark for what one would consider "good photography" has become somewhat hazy. 645 PRO, an iPhone 4S-specific camera app, tries – and often succeeds – to offer a more feature-rich, professional image-snapping experience."

One Word: Hope. With slushy snow in the Saturday outlook some of my friends and family members are despairing. Even my dog, Leo, is moping around the house. Maybe it's my imagination. Cut down on the meds, Paul. Here's the deal: Sunday will feel like spring, 70s likely by Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm starting to feel more like a psychologist than a meteorologist. Yes, this too shall pass.

Brisk Thursday. At least the sun was out, a fresh breeze, no humidity to speak of - a few degrees cooler than average. Highs ranged from 55 at Eau Claire to 56 in the Twin Cities, 57 St. Cloud and 60 at Redwood Falls.

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

TODAY: Clouds increase. Showers possible by late afternoon. Winds: E 20. High: 55

FRIDAY NIGHT: A cold rain, mixing with wet snow late. Low: 35

SATURDAY: Period of wet snow possible - some slush on lawns and fields. Cold rain. Yuck. Winds: E 15. High: 45

SATURDAY NIGHT: Showers taper late. Low: 39

SUNDAY: Spring returns. Partly sunny and mild. Winds: SE 10. High: 61

MONDAY: Intervals of sun, much better. Low: 46. High: 65

TUESDAY: Balmy. Few T-storms, some severe? Low: 53. High: 74

WEDNESDAY: Warm and humid. More strong/severe T-storms. Low: 57. High: 78

THURSDAY: Partial clearing, slightly cooler. Low: 56. High: 71

Whispering The S-Word

"Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet" wrote Roger Miller. We need the rain, yes. It's the s-n-o-w we can live without.
After an extraordinarily warm March I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. An average April (ha!) brings nearly 3 inches of slush. The beauty of a late-April snow (if I can use those words in the same sentence): whatever falls melts within hours. The sun is simply too high in the sky for slush to linger for long.

A cold rain overspreads central and southern Minnesota tonight, models hinting at enough cold air in the lowest mile of the atmosphere for a period of wet snow Saturday morning. Some models are printing out a few inches of slush for southeastern Minnesota, maybe a coating for the metro early? But with temperatures above 32 F roads will be wet. Saturday will be a good day for spring housecleaning, day-dreaming and Facebooking your weather complaints to friends in warmer climes. Check the blog for snow updates. Yeah, I hope the models are out to lunch too.

Sun returns Sunday with highs topping 60. 70s return early next week, a shot at 80 by Wednesday. We may see enough moisture and instability for a few strong to severe T-storms next Tuesday and Wednesday. Something to look forward to. Let's just get past Saturday

Climate Stories....

U.S. Voters Favor Regulating Carbon Dioxide: Survey. Here's an excerpt from Reuters and The Chicago Tribune: "While Democrats are frequently perceived as being "greener" than Republicans and independents, the survey found sizable majorities of all three groups favored the tax swap and other environmentally friendly policies, said Anthony Leiserowitz of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. For example, the survey found 75 percent of respondents support regulating carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas pollutant, which the Supreme Court ruled legal in 2007 and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has advocated. But looking at the political breakdown on this question, 84 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of independents favor this regulation."

Behind The Present Pause In Global Warming. Jason Samenow from The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang has a very interesting article: "Has global warming stopped since the turn of the millennium? Yes - if you examine the data in a vacuum. But has the warming pressure on the atmosphere from man-made greenhouse gases stopped? No - not at all. A closer look at the data bears that out. It’s easy to glance at a temperature chart of the last 12 years (to the right) and draw the conclusion warming has slowed or stopped. That’s what renowned environmental scientist James Lovelock did and he’s now told MSNBC he’s backed away from his dire concerns about global warming."

Graphic credit above: "The temperature departure from the 1951-1980 average over the last 12 years. Trend is about flat (slightly up). (Data from NASA)."

Ford Brings Contrasts Of Electric And Gas Cars Into Sharper Focus. The L.A. Times reports: "Car shoppers will soon find two Ford Focus sedans sitting side by side when they visit the dealership — one with a gas tank and another with batteries. In a milestone for the auto industry, an automaker will give consumers an option to purchase the same model of a vehicle with either a traditional combustion engine or one powered only by electricity. It will mark the first time that buyers can compare the different powertrains on the same car. An electric Focus, next to the gas version, provides, "more transparency to what it means to pay for an electric vehicle," said Thilo Koslowski, an automotive analyst at research firm Gartner Inc."

Which Electric Car Is Best For You? (Comparison). has a great on-line tool to help you shop for the electric (EV) car that's right for your specific needs: "Waving goodbye to your local gas station used to involve waiting lists, lease-only pilot programs, or dropping six figures on an early adopters' plaything like the Tesla Roadster. These days, just about anyone can walk into a local dealership, plunk down $35,000, and drive away in a car that doesn't have a tailpipe. No, the 2012 Nissan Leaf, 2012 Ford Focus Electric, and 2012 Mitsubishi i-MIEV aren't the first electric cars to hit the market. However, they are in the first batch of fully electric, zero-emissions vehicles that are priced and packaged for mass consumption. Each seats four or five adults comfortably, has space for cargo and groceries, and packs much of the same (if not better) cabin technology and creature comforts as its gasoline-powered stablemates."

What's Nibbling At Antarctic Ice Shelves? Warm Water From Below, Not Hot Air Above, Study Says. Details from AP and The Washington Post: "Antarctica’s massive ice shelves are shrinking because they are being eaten away from below by warm water, a new study finds. That suggests that future sea levels could rise faster than many scientists have been predicting. The western chunk of Antarctica is losing 23 feet of its floating ice sheet each year. Until now, scientists weren’t exactly sure how it was happening and whether or how man-made global warming might be a factor. The answer, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, is that climate change plays an indirect role — but one that has larger repercussions than if Antarctic ice were merely melting from warmer air."

Mr. Obama Needs To Show He's Serious About Climate Change. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Washington Post: "IN AN INTERVIEW that Rolling Stone published Wednesday, President Obama said that he thinks climate change will be a big issue in the coming election and that he will be “very clear” about his “belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way.” That would be a welcome switch. So far, dealing forthrightly with the world’s rising temperatures has been far down the list of priorities in Washington, and the president has shown little willingness to stick his political neck out on the issue. In his first two years, he chose to push through health-care reform and then financial reform instead of energy legislation. Mr. Obama’s attempts to revive the Democrats’ cap-and-trade plan during the 2010 election season quickly led to nothing, as have his more recent but barely discussed proposals to require utilities to generate more power from clean sources."

President Obama And Climate Change (As A Campaign Issue). Here is an excerpt from the recently released interview with The Rolling Stone: "Part of the challenge over these past three years has been that people's number-one priority is finding a job and paying the mortgage and dealing with high gas prices. In that environment, it's been easy for the other side to pour millions of dollars into a campaign to debunk climate-change science. I suspect that over the next six months, this is going to be a debate that will become part of the campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we're going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way. That there's a way to do it that is entirely compatible with strong economic growth and job creation – that taking steps, for example, to retrofit buildings all across America with existing technologies will reduce our power usage by 15 or 20 percent. That's an achievable goal, and we should be getting started now."

Climate Change Obama Can Believe In: Why Global Warming Will Heat Campaign Trail In Coming Months. Here's a snippet of an essay from Shawn Lawrence Otto at Huffington Post: "This means we will be likely to see more efforts like the recent attacks on NASA and the EPA as an agenda of deep environmental deregulation becomes a central campaign battleground. Whether Romney himself will be able to surf that successfully without alienating mainstream voters will be an important question. Recent polls, including ours, show voters are less concerned over the environment than at any time in recent memory, so anti-regulation forces likely see this as an opportunity. But climate is the notable exception, and if the extreme weather of last March and last year are any indication of things to come, global warming is going to be heating the campaign trail even more in the months ahead."

Public Split Over Elimination Of U.S. Energy Subsidies, Poll Finds. Details from The L.A. Times: "The American public is divided about whether to eliminate federal subsidies for any form of energy and is giving less support to nuclear power and U.S. funding of renewable energy, a new poll has found. Fifty-four percent of respondents opposed doing away with subsidies for oil, gas, coal, nuclear or renewable energy, while 47% favored the idea. Support for building more nuclear power plants has fallen dramatically, to 42% from 61% in 2008. The Yale-George Mason University poll being released Thursday found that 76% of Americans support regulating carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas pollutant and that two-thirds believe the U.S. should pursue policies to reduce its carbon footprint."

Photo credit above: "Wind turbines near Mojave, Calif., generate power. (Al Seib, Los Angeles Times / March 22, 2011)."

Interactive: MIT Researchers Map Energy Use And Building Material Intensity Across USA Cities. An interesting article at The Guardian; here's an excerpt: "Urban environment experts from MIT and the Technical University of Lisbon (IST) have produced a richly detailed interactive tool for exploring material and energy use in US cities. The Neighborhood Visualizer was created by David Quinn and Daniel Wiesmann of Urban Metabolism Research, advised by Professor John E Fernandez (MIT) and Professor Paulo Ferrao (IST). It maps population density and per-capita usage of energy and building materials across US cities, with data visualised right down to neighbourhood level. You can find more information about how the tool was built here. Explore the map by typing the name of a city and then zooming in on any local area."

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