Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pleasantly Mild...Frost Next Tuesday (perils of "tornado fatigue")

64 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.

51 F. average high for April 3.
56 F. high temperature a year ago, on April 3, 2011.
.46" rain fell Monday night - reports of pea to marble-size hail southern/eastern suburbs of the Twin Cities.
March 9last time the mercury dipped below freezing in the Twin Cities (15 F.).
April 10good chance of a frost for the suburbs next Tuesday morning.

+1.7 F. The March average temperature in the Twin Cities was nearly 2 F. warmer than the average temperature for April.

35 to 1. March record highs outpaced March record lows by a mind-numbing ratio of 35 to 1 across North America.

More On Dallas Tornado Outbreak. Obviously the swarm of significant tornadoes in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex was THE big story yesterday. What I found fascinating, and vaguely terrifying, is how quickly we went from Severe Storm Watch to Tornado Watch to (large) tornadoes on the ground, all in the span of about 90 minutes, give or take. More from The Huffington Post: "DALLAS (AP) — Tornadoes and violent storms raked through the Dallas area Tuesday, crumbling the wing of a nursing home, peeling roofs from dozens of homes and spiraling big-rig trailers into the air like footballs. More than a dozen injuries were reported. Overturned cars left streets unnavigable and flattened trucks clogged highway shoulders. Preliminary estimates were that six to 12 tornadoes had touched down in North Texas, senior National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Martello said. But firm numbers would only come after survey teams checked damage Wednesday, he said."

Forney, Texas Tornado. The YouTube clip is here. To his credit, the photographer stayed inside (reflections of lights on the windows), but he was perilously close to that window, which could have easily shattered if a piece of debris had come flying through - I guess the twister was far enough away, but that's a little close for comfort: "Large tornado as seen from the lobby of Steve Silver Company."

Texas Tornadoes: 2 Different Perspectives. YouTube clip on the left: "Jeffery Haas was driving in Kennedale, Texas, south of Fort Worth, when he recorded video of an apparent tornado." Freeze-frame of YouTube clip on right: "Tornadoes tore through the Dallas area on Tuesday, tearing roofs off homes, tossing trucks into the air and leaving flattened tractor trailers strewn along highways and parking lots." Courtesy: AP and WFAA-TV in Dallas.

Photo Of The Day. Here's an amazing shot of a rotating, "supercell" thunderstorm, from CAVU Photography in Abilene, Texas.

Warm Weather Records Smashed, More Than 90 Cities With Warmest March On Record. The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang has a great summary of our supernaturally-warm March:
Minneapolis, Minnesota: The March average temperature was 15.5 degrees above normal and 1.7 degrees above the April normal. It had its earliest 80 degree temperature on record and the most 70 degree days on record for the month. (Sources: Updraft - Minnesota Public Radio and Paul Douglas)
Chicago, Illinois: Its record warm March (by 15.6 degrees) would have been the 7th warmest April on record (Source: Capital Climate). It tied or broke record high temperatures on 9 straight days.
Des Moines, Iowa: From the National Weather Service - Last month was by far the warmest March on record. The average temperature of 55.7 bested the old record of 51.5 (set in 1910) by fully 4.2 degrees. This is the widest margin by which a monthly temperature record has ever been broken at Des Moines."

Map credit above: "Temperatures compared to normal across the Lower 48 states during March, 2012. (Great Plains Regional Climate Center). Courtesy: Washington Post."

March Heat Wave Reason For Panic Buying? Here's an excerpt of a story at The Huffington Post: "When the tiniest bit of snow hits Washington, DC, area grocery stores can suddenly find their shelves (especially milk... ) depleted with the hordes of panic buyers terrified of being caught without the liquid for their morning cereal. Amid March Madness, with "mind-boggling" high temperature records outpacing low temperature records more about 35 to 1 in North America (with many 'low temperatures' exceeding the previous high temperature records -- note, over time, these should roughly balance out... but, with a warming climate, they're not), one has to wonder when people might start hoarding agricultural products damaged by this climate change driven global weirding."

2011 vs. 2012: "Staggering" March Statistics. The cutting-edge weather analytics firm, Planalytics, has some remarkable numbers about March, 2012. Odds are we'll never experience another March quite this extraordinary:

"Over 7,500 daily high temperature records were set, making this the warmest March in over 50 years across North America, and one of the warmest ever recorded.  Precipitation was the least since 2005, although severe weather was abundant. In the U.S., March 2012 was the warmest in over 50 years and driest since 2009, although wetter than normal. Canada experienced its 4th warmest March in 50 years and was driest since 2006. 

Significant Weather Events:
  • In the U.S., all 5 weeks of the month were warmer than last year and warmer than normal. In Canada, all weeks of the month trended warmer than last year.
  • More than 7,500 daily record high temperatures were set this month in the U.S., with over 500 locations setting all-time record highs for the month of March.
  • Many markets in the Great Lakes set daily records with up to +40F above normal temperatures, and shattered records by +20F. Chicago set high temperature records for 9 straight days. Both Chicago and Minneapolis hit 80F earlier in the calendar year than Las Vegas.
  • During the first week of the month, the U.S. recorded the largest outbreak of tornados ever in the month of March with over 150 reports, including devastating storms in Kentucky and Illinois.

Quiet, Seasonably Mild Week. No more 70s and 80s in sight for a few week - we'll just have to be content with temperatures a mere 10 degrees above average. Highs reach the upper 50s and low 60s into Sunday, then cool down early next week - the best chance of frost for the suburbs Tuesday morning.

Keep Your Light Jacket Handy. I wouldn't exactly call this a cold front, but the second week of April will bring a few days with highs in the 50s, nighttime lows dipping to frosty levels - the best chance of frost next Tuesday morning. I don't think we'll see a widespread freeze in the metro, but some sprouting blooms may freeze their buds off next Tuesday.

Weather An Early Bonus For The Bait Business. Details from The Des Moines Register: "Hendrix said the bait business normally doesn’t pick up like this until late April. “The business today makes you believe that we’re into late May, early June,” he said. “It’s just phenomenal.” Des Moines’ Sunday high of 86 was just shy of a record. Most of northwestern Iowa was in the low 90s, with Sioux City peaking at 93."

Photo credit above: Justin Hayworth/The Register

Great Lakes Icecover Down 71% Since 1973. Here's an excerpt from another amazing post from Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground: "Ice cover on North America's Great Lakes--Superior, Michigan, Huron, Ontario, and Erie--has declined 71% since 1973, says a new study published in the Journal of Climate by researchers at NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. The biggest loser of ice during the 1973 - 2010 time period was Lake Ontario, which saw an 88% decline in ice cover. During the same time period, Superior lost 79% of its ice, Michigan lost 77%, Huron lost 62%, and Erie lost 50%. The loss of ice is due to warming of the lake waters."

Photo credit above: "A tale of two winters: Lake Superior was choked with ice at the end of the winter of 2008 - 2009 (top), but was virtually ice-free at the end of the winter of 2011 - 2012 (bottom.) Image credit: NASA."

No Warm Weather Records Here. Thanks to Matt Herrmann from Denver for sharing these with us. In his words: "I was getting sunburned last Sunday...80s with sunshine..now getting frostbite with slush and 40s!". Yep, the weather in the Mile High City is pretty crazy.

New Mexico Slush. From the Albuquerque, New Mexico office of the National Weather Service: "Heavy wet snow at NWS office this morning. 1.1″ so far mostly on grassy surfaces. A record high of 81 was recorded on April 3rd. Spring in the high desert!"

New 1981-2010 Data Set From NCDC. Some developers spent an awful lot of time and thought getting this right - now you can navigate to any station in the USA and call up a plethora of statistics for the new, rolling, 30-year averages. Click here to dive in. Mapping and data courtesy of NOAA's NCDC. Amazing.

Harsh Storm Warnings Should Help. This story picks up on the test (in 5 cities) to use more urgent wording in tornado warnings - to try to encourage people suffering from "tornado fatigue" to do the right thing. The Dekalk County (Illinois) Times-Journal has a timely Op-Ed: "As Hurricane Katrina took aim at the Gulf Coast, the National Weather Service issued a frightening warning about what was about to hit the New Orleans area. In the special bulletin on the morning before landfall, the “urgent” message noted that after the storm, most of the area would be uninhabitable for weeks and predicted that wood-framed low-rise apartments would be destroyed. Power outages would last for weeks. Warnings like that will be issued for tornadoes in the coming months in Missouri and Kansas as part of a pilot program."

Lighthouse Project - On Average A Major Hurricane Hits Naples (Florida) Every 18 Years. Here's an excerpt of a fascinating story in The Naple Daily News: "They’ve caused millions of dollars in damage, knocked out power, disrupted communication, left thousands homeless and destroyed the Naples Pier time and time again. From Donna to Wilma — and numerous earlier storms — hurricanes have had a profound effect on Southwest Florida’s residents and its history. Last year marked six years since Wilma — the longest the U.S. has gone without a major hurricane since the start of record-keeping in 1851."

Photo credit: "Francisco Bernal sits in front of what used to be his home inside the Pink Citrus Mobile Home Park on Sunday afternoon. Bernal is one of about 500 people in the park, located on Pine Island, Fla., whose home was damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Charley on Friday. As of Sunday the residents of Pine Island hadn't received help from any government agency."

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

"How many inches fell at the Minneapolis airport on April 3nd? (Storm started around midnight on April 2nd)

Lori Underwood, Ameriprise Financial

Lori- it was .46" of rain at MSP Interntional Airport; St. Paul picked up a third of an inch. Our drought continues to deepen. Given a choice between drought or tornadoes it would be a tough call. A statewide drought would be far more expensive, impacting all of us - a wet/severe spring/summer would affect a far smaller percentage of Minnesota.

PAL-V Flying Car Makes Successful First Test Flight. Can you imagine flying over the mess on 494 or the Crosstown Expressway? A flying car was one of those things I thought we'd all have by now. Gizmag.com has the story: "With the PAL-V last appearing on our pages way back in 2004, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is just another flying car concept that never made it off the ground. But Dutch company PAL-V Europe NV has been busy in the past seven years having finalized the design concept in 2008 and testing a driving prototype in 2009. Now the flying-driving prototype has been put through its paces with video of the PAL-V’s recent successful maiden flight now released."

Bloomberg And Reuters: The Future Of News. Adweek.com has an interesting story about how these 2 (impressive) news organizations are challenging the New York Times of the world. Here's an excerpt: "There’s no mistaking where Andy Lack feels Bloomberg LP is positioned versus its competitors. “We may be the last man standing,” says Lack, who oversees the news organization’s multimedia operations. A veteran of network television, Lack sits in his small office in Bloomberg’s gleaming New York headquarters, which is stocked with signs of the company’s largesse: expensive artwork, oversized fish tanks, a state-of-the-art TV studio. “Most of the other news organizations I’ve worked at are fighting the delusion factor,” says the former news executive for both CBS and NBC. “There’s enormous pressure of economics on journalism. It’s an expensive, tough game to be in.”

California Lawsuit Could Become A Problem For TV News Outlets. This story caught my eye - as reported by TVNewser.com: "A lawsuit filed against CNN from the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness will be moving to trial, and the result could have a serious impact with how TV news outlets present their content online. In a nutshell, GLAD is arguing that CNN is discriminating against deaf people by not offering closed-captioned versions of its videos on CNN.com. CNN argues that the First Amendment protects its right to present content as it sees fit, and that closed captioning software may mistranslate or produce results not up to its editorial standards."

iPhone Camera Helps Save Baby Trapped In Well (Video). Now your iPhone can even save lives! Is there anything it can't do? O.K. Other than make calls in dead-zones, but that's another post. Mashable.com has the details: "Firefighters in China rescued a two-year-old baby trapped in a well with the help of an unusual tool: the AppleiPhone. Rescuers were called to the scene after passers-by heard the baby’s cries from the depths of the 40-foot-deep well in a village outside of Mengzi City, China, according to The Telegraph. The rescue team tried lifting the trapped toddler with their standard equipment, but the child kept slipping out of their adult-sized harnesses."

NASA's Perpetual Ocean Animation Turns Ocean Currents Into Art. This is pretty cool - you quickly realize the same designs keep showing up in nature, at a micro and macro scale. Gizmag.com has more details: "NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is an unlikely entrant in the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival. Its “Perpetual World” animation may have failed to appeal to the judging committee of the 2011 edition of the competition, but it sure succeeded in catching our eye. The jaw-dropping animation visualizes the flow of surface ocean currents around the world. The raw data regarding the currents from June 2005 through to December 2007 has been turned into a work of art reminiscent of van Gogh."

Photo credit above: "NASA's stunning Perpetual Ocean animation visualizes ocean currents (Image: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)."

Penguin Poo From Space. Finally - a satellite image I can relate to. Neatorama.com has the stinky details: "Hey, humans. Yes, you. Get your act together. You’ve been outdone by penguins of all creatures. NASA’s Landsat 7 satellite spotted the fecal evidence of a penguin colony on Antarctica from space. And what have you done with your life lately? Show some ambition."

Gray Start - Fine Finish. It was nice hearing "rain" falling on the rooftop Monday night, about a half an inch for the immediate metro, but over 1" at Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Tuesday highs ranged from 62 at Alexandria to 64 St. Cloud and the Twin Cities, 66 at Redwood Falls.

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

TODAY: Bright sun, cool breeze. Winds: E/NE 8-13. Low: 39. High: 61

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Clear and chilly. Frost possible over central/northern Minnesota. Low: 39 (downtowns)

THURSDAY: Partly to mostly sunny. Quiet weather spell. Low: 40. High: 59

FRIDAY: Blue sky, milder breeze. Still dry. Low: 39. High: 63

SATURDAY: Passing shower. Most of day dry. Low: 45. High: near 60

SUNDAY: Clearing, breezy, turning cooler. Low: 38. High: 57

MONDAY: Frost north/central, plenty of cool sun. Low: 36. High: near 50

TUESDAY: Metro frost likely. Bright sun. Low: 31. High: 52


"Tornado Fatigue"

Last year, in spite of Doppler radar, timely National Weather Service warnings, and sometimes pleading TV meteorologists providing continuous coverage, 550 Americans lost their lives to tornadoes.A national tragedy. How could this happen?

It may be a fluke or a trend in the making, but more (large, violent, long-lasting) tornadoes are touching down east of the Mississippi. "Dixie Alley" has become a target; last year Alabama saw far more tornadoes than Texas.

That's a problem. Eastern tornadoes are harder to track (haze, hills, highways not conducive to chasing), and because of bedrock many people don't have basements.

Doppler can detect spinning T-storms; but we still can't tell if a rotating "supercell" will go on to spark a relatively minor EF-1 tornado, or an EF-4 monster. Knowing the surrounding environment helps - but if the NWS downplays rotation and a huge, half-mile-wide tornado results, that's a problem. A big problem.  Vigorous rotations means warnings are issued, but the false alarm rate is still over 70 percent. "Why are you interrupting "Dancing With The Stars!" A sense of apathy ensues. "Why are you crying wolf?" So when The Big One does form, people hesitate - they wait for multiple confirmations before running to the basement. Truth: we're not as good as we think we are.

A quiet week gives way to Saturday showers. Your begonias are in grave peril. Frost is very possible early next week. That old adage "wait 'til Mother's Day" is true.

Public Doctrine Lawsuit Asks For Protection Of Atmosphere As A Public Resource. Here's an eye-opening story from Mother Nature Network and The Huffington Post: "If you enjoy public beaches, state parks or fishing piers, you can thank the sixth-century Roman emperor Justinian. He's credited with introducing the public trust doctrine, a legal concept that forbids private ownership of certain natural resources, instead preserving them for public use. This idea has spread worldwide since then, protecting everything from beaches and streams to oyster beds and fish stocks. It was an early tenet of English common law, later encoded in the Magna Carta, and also has a long history in U.S. courts, dating back to at least 1842's Martin v. Waddell. During a 1983 case about water use at California's Mono Lake, the U.S. Supreme Court specifically quoted this section of Roman law to explain public trust:
"By the law of nature these things are common to mankind: the air, running water, the sea and consequently the shores of the sea." -- Justinian Code of Rome, c. 534."

Matternhorn Disintegrating In The Face Of Global Warming. An excerpt from a story in the U.K. Independent: "With its four steep faces reflecting the compass points, the mighty Matterhorn has proven an irresistible and often deadly challenge to mountaineers. But now, the mountain – one of Europe's tallest and most celebrated peaks – is falling to bits due to climate change, according to a new scientific report. As with other Alpine mountains, experts have already documented the retreat of the peak's glaciers and the thinning of its permafrost in the wake of rising temperatures. But scientists now say they have evidence that these rising temperatures are also prompting the physical disintegration of the mountain itself."

30 Year Old Global Temperature Predictions Close To Spot On. An excerpt of a story from The Register: "In the ongoing debate over climate change, it's at times a good idea to check in with historial predictions made by climate modelers and see how well they have been able to predict global warming – which is exactly what a pair of researchers at the Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut (KNMI) have done. Geert Jan van Oldenborgh and Rein Haarsma "stumbled across" – their words – a paper in the August 28, 1981 issue of Science, written by a septet of climate modelers, which modeled a number of scenarios that projected global mean temperatures up to the year 2100. The lead author of that paper, "Climate Impact of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide", was the now-famed and/or now-reviled James Hansen, currently working at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)."

Climate Change Isn't Liberal Or Conservative. It's Reality. Boingboing.com takes up my recent story/Op-Ed, encouraging other moderates to speak up about climate change, and not viewing this as (only) a gloom & doom story, but the biggest entreprenurial opportunity of the 21st century: "Paul Douglas is a Minneapolis/St.Paul meteorologist. Meteorologists don't study the same things as climate scientists—remember, weather and climate are different things—but Douglas is a meteorologist who has taken the time to look at research published by climate scientists and listen to their expertise. Combined with the patterns he's seen in weather, that information has led Douglas to accept that climate change is real, and that it's something we need to be addressing. Paul Douglas is also a conservative. In a recent guest blog post on Climate Progress, he explains why climate isn't (or, anyway, shouldn't be) a matter of political identity."

Climate Change: SLC Right To Urge Federal Action. Here's an Op-Ed from The Salt Lake Tribune: "Climate change should be a matter of science, not politics. But only changes in public policy, which is often determined by political ideology, can reduce the human-caused warming that is threatening ecosystems around the globe. In the end, governments, large and small, will be forced to confront the vast upheavals that climate change can bring if we don’t act now to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. That’s why it’s important that Salt Lake City is supporting a growing movement among cities to urge President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency to invoke the Clean Air Act to place limits on carbon emissions."

Architects Float Answers To Rising Seas Around The World. The story from USA Today: "A floating mosque and golf course for the submerging Maldives islands. Amphibious homes in the Netherlands lifted to safety as waters surge beneath them. A hospital perched on 400 stilts to protect patients from Thailand's devastating floods and the encroaching sea. Around the world, architects and city planners are exploring ways mankind and water may be able to coexist as oceans rise and other phenomenon induced by climate change, including extreme, erratic floods, threaten land-rooted living. With the Dutch at the helm, projects in the cutting-edge field of aqua-architecture are already in place, including a maritime housing estate, floating prison and greenhouses in the Netherlands."

Photo credit above: Margriet Faber/AP.

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