Saturday, May 19, 2012

90+ Today, Cool, Showery Sunday (how tornado-wise are you? Take the quiz)

93 F. record high in the Twin Cities Friday, breaking the old record of 91, set in 1911.
70 F. average high for May 18.
73 F. high temperature on May 18, 2011.
16% relative humidity yesterday at 5 pm. The low dew points/humidity levels made the 90-degree heat tolerable.

94 F. high at St. Cloud Friday, tying the all-time record.
94 F. high reported at Brainerd.
91 F. at Eau Claire, tying the record set in 1998.
87 F. high at Duluth yesterday, breaking the old record of 85 in 1998.

1.75" diameter hail reported at Sauk Centre (Stearns County) at 11:24 Friday night.
78 mph wind gust repored at Milaca (Mille Lacs County) at 5:19 pm yesterday. More damage reports from NOAA here.

.81" rain predicted tonight and Sunday in the Twin Cities (NAM model).
Today: nicer/warmer outdoor day; highs near 90 with some sun.
Severe storm can't be ruled out by late afternoon or evening.

Saturday Severe Risk. A few severe storms are possible from Oklahoma City and Wichita north to Omaha and Albert Lea, Minnesota later today - people living near the "slight risk" area should stay alert for possible watches and warnings. Map courtesy of NOAA's SPC.

Free severe storm/emergency text messages coming for your smart phone. Details from NOAA and CTIA below.

Shifting Gears (Noisily). The transition from spring to a more summerlike pattern sparked another rash of severe storms; 775 separate reports of severe weather (tornadoes, straight-line winds, hail and flooding) since May 12. Data from NOAA, an interactive map from Ham Weather (one of my companies) is here.

A Week's Worth of Records. Over 1,000 daily records were set last week; extreme heat out west, record 24 hour rainfall amounts (green dots) for much of the east. Click here to see an interactive map from Ham Weather.

Solar Eclipse This Weekend. No, it will not be visible in Minnesota or anywhere in the Upper Midwest. has more details; here's an excerpt: "...An animated eclipse map prepared by Larry Koehn of shows the best times to look. In the United States, the eclipse begins at 5:30 pm PDT and lasts for two hours. Around 6:30 pm PDT, the afternoon sun will become a luminous ring in places such as Medford, Oregon; Chico, California; Reno, Nevada; St. George, Utah; Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Lubbock, Texas. Outside the narrow center line, the eclipse will be partial. Observers almost everywhere west of the Mississippi will see a crescent-shaped sun as the Moon passes by off-center."

Major Severe Storm Events (And Tornado Tracks): 1980-2006. I thought this was interesting. Major tornadoes (EF-2 or stronger) are plotted in red, wind gusts over 70 mph (blue dots) and large hail, 2" in diameter or bigger in green, courtesy of NOAA's SPC.

Are You "Tornado-Wise"? I wrote down these questions for TPT "Almanac" Friday evening, trying to stump Cathy Wurzer and Erik Eskola. A few of the questions have multiple correct answers. See how well you do (answers below question #8) 2010 Albert Lea tornadoes courtesy of WeatherNation TV meteorologist Aaron Shaffer.

1). The “urban heat island” protects the Twin Cities metro from the most violent tornadoes?
A). True.
B). False

2). Riding out a tornado in your basement? The safest place statistically is:
A). Southwest corner
B). Under the stairs.
C). Huddled next to a window.

3). No basement? Which would be the best room to seek protection from a tornado?
A). Kitchen.
B). Attic.
C). Bathroom.
D). Interior closet.

4). Which of the following will wake you up at 3 am if a tornado is moving into your county?
A). Sirens.
B). TV
C). NOAA Weather Radio.
D). Mother In Law.

5). There is a local “Tornado Alley” in the Twin Cities that runs from Lake Minnetonka across the north metro, true or false?

6). Which of the following are “tornado tip-offs”?
A). Large hail.
B). Wall cloud.
C). Green/yellow sky.
D). Flooding rains.

7). Out of 100 thunderstorms, how many will, on average, go on to spawn a tornado?
A). 50.
B). 10
C). 1

8). There is solid evidence that climate change is producing larger, violent tornadoes? True or false?

"Tornado-Wise" Answer Key:

1). Answer: (B). False. Large tornadoes are not deterred by slightly warmer, drier conditions over the metro area.
2). Answer: (B). Debris sometimes falls into the southwest corner. The safest spot is under the stairs, under a heavy table or workbench, if available.
3). Answer: (C) (D). The smaller the room, the better. The more walls between you and the tornado, the better.
4). Answer: (C). NOAA Weather Radio is the only device that will set off an alarm, 24/7, when your county is threatened.
5). Answer: False. In the last 40-50 years more tornadoes have been observed across north/west suburbs, but a longer look back at tornado data shows no preference as to where tornadoes touch down.
6). Answer: (A)(B)(C). A green/yellow sky may be the result of large hail suspended overhead. The larger the hail the stronger the T-storm updraft, the greater the potential to spin up a tornado.
7). Answer: (C). On average 10% of T-storms are severe, less than 1% will ever spin up a twister.
8). Answer: False. We’re seeing more small tornadoes, but there is no solid link between a warmer, wetter atmosphere and large EF-3+ tornadoes.

"Tornado-Wise" Quiz on TPT Almanac. Friday evening I checked in for my monthly appearance on Channel 2's "Amanac" program. Rather than sit there and pontificate about tornadoes, I had an idea: turn tornado facts & figures into a contest, of sorts, between anchors Cathy Wurzer and Erik Eskola. They both did very well (it was a tie at the end), and they genuinely impressed me with their knowledge of tornado safety. Click here to see the segment.

6 or more right? Congratulations, you are tornado-wise.

3-5 correct? Tornado-savvy, on the right track.

Fewer than 2 right? Are you visiting from Manhattan...or Fiji? Welcome to Minnesota - not exactly Tornado Alley, but definitely "Tornado Cul-desac". In 2010 Minnesota experienced 145 tornadoes, most in the USA that year.

Ground Zero Of A Tornado Strike. Click here to see some amazing footage from St. John's Hospital, taken at the height of the EF-5 tornado that leveled much of Joplin on May 22, 2011: "Security camera footage of the emergency waiting room inside of St. John's Mercy Hospital on May 22, 2011. Footage courtesy of Mercy Hospital Joplin."

Top 10 Deadliest Texas Tornadoes. Data courtesy of the Amarillo, Texas office of The National Weather Service.

Wireless Emergency Alerts On Your Wireless Device. Shortly, you'll be able to sign up for (free) alerts on your cell phone, courtesy of NOAA. More details: "The wireless industry, the FCC, and FEMA will roll out the WEA's (Weather Emergency Alerts) system nationwide this year. The NWS will start utilizing this by pushing extreme weather warnings over the system in June 2012. Tornado warnings, flash flood warnings and several other high-end warnings will go directly to wireless users in an affected county automatically if their device is compatible."

* More information from CTIA:

"Mobile users will not be charged for receiving these text-like alerts and are automatically enrolled to receive them.  

There are three different kinds of alerts:
  1. Presidential Alerts – Alerts issued by the President or a designee;
  2. Imminent Threat Alerts – Alerts that include severe man-made or natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc., where an imminent threat to life or property exists; and
  3. AMBER Alerts – Alerts that meet the U.S. Department of Justice’s criteria to help law enforcement search for and locate an abducted child.
While these alerts will appear on a person’s mobile device similar to a text message, Wireless Emergency Alerts are not text messages. Instead, Wireless Emergency Alerts use a different kind of technology to ensure they are delivered immediately and are not subjected to potential congestion (or delays) on wireless networks."

Wireless Emergency Alerts Information
WEA Main Page
Sprint Nextel Corporation:
Wireless Emergency Alerts Information
T-Mobile USA:
Wireless Emergency Alerts Information
U.S. Cellular:
Wireless Emergency Alerts | U.S. Cellular
Verizon Wireless:
Wireless Emergency Alerts Information

Today: (Much) Better/Warmer Outdoor Day. Depending on which model you believe (or not) highs reach either the upper 80s or the mid-90s today before a cool frontal passage tonight. The RAP high resolution model seems to suggest 94 out there later today. After yesterday I wouldn't rule that out - i think we'll reach 90 by mid afternoon; if the sun stays out much of the day mid-90s is certainly possible.

Sloppy Sunday Blues. Most of the rain will come from this afternoon into Sunday, as a wave of low pressure ripples north along a slowly moving cool front approaching from the Dakotas. The stormy ripple will slow the front, keeping us in the "warm sector" again much fo today - the warmest readings over eastern Minnesota and Wisconsin. The best chance of 1"+ rain comes north and west of the Twin Cities; heaviest rains (and storms) come tonight, with showers spilling over into much of Sunday as winds turn around to the northwest, temperatures falling into the 60s. Foul.

Western Wildfires: Colorado Declares Emergency In Hewlett Blaze. Fire season is starting early this year, an unusual number of large blazes for May. At this rate it's going to be a long, hot, fiery summer for much of the western half of the USA. The L.A. Times has a harrowing story; here's an excerpt: "The Hewlett fire in Colorado has grown to 7,673 acres, prompting officials Friday to declare an emergency. In an executive order, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper declared the emergency because of the fire in Larimer County. The move makes $3 million in state emergency funds available for firefighting. “The Hewlett Fire’s proximity to numerous homes and property poses an imminent danger to life and property and, therefore, constitutes a disaster for the purposes of the act,” according to the executive order."

Photo credit: "The Hewlett fire burns to the edge of Seaman Reservoir in Poudre Canyon near Ft. Collins, Colo., on Thursday. Hundreds of firefighters worked to combat the growing blaze. (R.J. Sangosti / The Denver Post / May 18, 2012)."

"Gladiator Blaze" Update. This is one of the larger, more stubborn wildfires being reported in Arizona. Details from "The Gladiator Fire was reported on Sunday, May 13, at 11:00 am near community of Crown King. The human caused fire which originated from a structure fire on private property has now moved onto the Prescott National Forest. Joe Reinarz's Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team assumed management of the Gladiator Fire on the evening of Monday, May 14, 2012."

Memorial Weekend Preview. If you believe the European ECMWF model, much of the Upper Midwest (including Minnesota) may be experiencing 90s next weekend - a taste of mid-summer. I wouldn't bet the farm on that extended outlook just yet, but maybe we'll make up for this weekend's puddles (and Sunday jackets). Maps above for the Memorial Weekend Temperatures and Precpitation courtesy of Planalytics.

Very Extended Outlook. It looks like a very long, hot summer for the southern half of the USA, a strong bias toward (much) warmer than normal temperatures from June through August for much of the Southwest. Map courtesy of NOAA's CPC (Climate Prediction Center) and Ham Weather.

Pennsylvania Passes Flooding Law. I found this interesting: "Pennsylvania passed a law that if someone drives around a flood barricade, the fine is $250. If the driver’s car stalls and emergency responders are needed, the fine is no more than $500 and the driver’s license will be suspended for no more than 90 days. The law passed with an unanimous vote of 197- 0. The bill can be seen in the link below."

Ford C-MAX Hybrid Undercuts The Toyota Prius. Here's an interesting development for anyone in the market for a hybrid, courtesy of "Ford has announced the pricing for its 2013 C-MAX hybrid, a crossover that has the look of a small minivan without the sliding doors. The American automaker says the base price of US$25,995 will undercut the Toyota Prius v wagon by $500...."C-Max Hybrid offers better fuel economy, performance, technology and functionality than Prius v – and C-MAX Hybrid customers will pay less at the dealership and at the pump," said Ken Czubay, Ford's VP of U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service in a statement."
Renewable Power For Apple. Here's a snippet of a story from The San Francisco Chronicle: "Apple, criticized by Greenpeace International over its energy consumption, said its 500,000-square-foot data center in Maiden, N.C., will be powered entirely by renewable sources by the end of the year. The move, announced Thursday on Apple's website, follows a week of protests at the company's headquarters in Cupertino. Greenpeace demonstrators criticized the world's largest technology company for using too much coal to power the data center. Apple reiterated its plan to generate 60 percent of the Maiden plant's power itself, through a large deployment of fuel cells and a 100-acre solar farm located next to the data center."

"Wavegarden" Takes Surfing Inland. I may break my neck, but I need one of these. has the story; here's an excerpt: "Imagine you're hundreds of miles from the sea - you climb over a grassy hill and come upon a lake with perfect surf just waiting for you and your board. Spanish engineering firm Instant Sport is setting about making this scenario a reality with its custom-built Wavegarden. While artificial waves are far from new, engineer Josema Odriozola and sports economist Karin Frisch claim that their brainchild can bring an ocean-like break to land-locked surfers, body boarders and kayakers alike using less energy than any other existing wave generator to date."

Twitter Is Tracking You Online To Suggest Who To Follow. It gets back to my theory: if the product or service is "free" YOU are the product. That said, I still love Twitter - one of the best tools I've found for breaking news and drilling down into stories that interest you. Details from Huffington Post: "In the interest of helping you figure out who to follow, Twitter is following you. Twitter announced Thursday that it will use information it collects about users' browsing habits across all sites with Twitter "share" buttons to recommend accounts to follow. By tracking individuals during their visits to websites in what the social media site calls the "Twitter ecosystem" (which includes any page with an embedded Twitter widget), Twitter can monitor what stories or topics each user visits most, and use that data to suggest accounts that match their interests." Graphic above:

The Secret Mad Men Behind Facebook's Ads. Here's an excerpt from an interesting article at "Who bought those $3.2 billion worth of ads on Facebook in 2011? One of Facebook’s advertising agencies identified hundreds of companies."

The Man from Mad Men
"Simon Mansell of TGB Advertising  gave an up-close view of who spends what on Facebook. TGB is one of the social media company’s advertising agencies. TGB has over 100 “big” Facebook customers, each of whom spend over a $1 million a year on Facebook ads. TGB handles the advertising campaign, which includes developing the campaign and buying space on Facebook’s website."

Finnish Micro-House Is Small Enough To Build Without A Permit. Because I've always wanted to live in a treehouse. has more information: "Designer Robin Falck has created his very own micro home that is small enough to be built without a permit in Finland. According to Finnish regulations, you can bypass the permit process if the structure is smaller than 96 or 128 square feet (depending on where you build). With the help of a couple of local architects, Falck was able to make his original designs a reality and the result is this simple and stylish rural retreat."

Yes, It's "Hot Enough" For Me. Nothing like easing into a mini-heatwave. 95 Redwood Falls, 94 St. Cloud, a record-smashing 93 in the Twin Cities - first 90s coming more than 2 weeks earlier than last year. With any sun out there today we could easily top 90 again today.

"Just Another Saturday." Thanks to Pete Kreshitour for passing this one along. Where do I sign up for this again?

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

TODAY: Hot sun morning and midday, T-storms possible by late afternoon/evening. Gusty. Winds: S 15-30. High: 88-90

SATURDAY NIGHT: A few T-storms. Low: 61

SUNDAY: Damp and cooler with periods of rain, possible thunder. Winds: W/SW 10. High: 69

MONDAY: Right on cue, blue sky returns. Low: 52. High: 75

TUESDAY: Sunny and warmer. Perfect. Low: 59. High: 79

WEDNESDAY: Warm sun, nighttime T-storm? Low: 60. High: 82

THURSDAY: Wet start, slow PM clearing. Low: 61. High: 76

FRIDAY: Warm sunshine returns. Low: 62. High: 84

* 90s possible next weekend with sunshine, possibly one of the hotter Memorial Day weekends we've experienced in recent years.

Are You Tornado-Wise?

I spend about 3-5 hours a day updating the Star Tribune weather blog. It's a labor of love, a way to brief myself about weather and climate, posting stories that make me do a double-take.

Today's entry tests your tornado knowledge. Take 5 minutes and take the online quiz. 8 questions. Some of the answers may surprise you (especially the "local tornado alley" challenge, and whether there's a firm link between climate change and tornado intensity).

After you read the morning paper get outside ASAP. The best weather comes today, through midday, a gusty south wind boosting the mercury near 90 F. by mid-afternoon. Today still looks like the better day for the lake or deck, but strong T-storms arrive by the dinner hour.

A wave of low pressure rippling north, along a slow-moving cool front, will prolong showery rains into much of Sunday - the heaviest, steadiest rain over central and northern Minnesota. Don't despair: models are hinting at sunny 90s next weekend.

From shorts today to light jackets Sunday; temperatures falling into the 60s.

OK, I'm no movie critic, but tomorrow might be a perfect day to see "The Avengers". Go for IMAX. Those goofy 3-D glasses are a trip.

"The Avengers". No, I don't get a spiff from the movie studio. I saw this with my youngest son last weekend - it was a blast, and I would highly recommend spending a few extra bucks and seeing this in 3-D IMAX. It's worth every last penny. You don't watch it - you live it. Great action, an actual plot, and plenty of self-deprecating humor, which I appreciated. Movie poster courtesy of Wikipedia.

Climate Stories...

Plenty Less Fish In The Sea: Dramatic Pictures Show How Ocean Life Is Dying. Have you read about "dead zones" in the world's oceans? A combination of increasing acidity and run-off pollution creating zones where nothing but jellyfish roam - scary stuff. Here's a snippet of an article at The Mirror: "Imagine a sea full of slime, where only jellyfish flourish – and fish have been slaughtered in their millions by stinging tentacles. Imagine oceans full of “dead zones” where nothing lives, the water poisoned by fertilisers and human sewage. Imagine seas so acidic the water damages seashells – and oceans so over-fished that many of the species we take for granted no longer exist. This apocalyptic vision is only 40 to 50 years away, according to The Ocean of Life, a new book by marine biologist Professor Callum Roberts. And in some of our seas it is already a reality."

Photo credit above: Newsweek.

Don't Dismiss Geo-Engineering: We May Need It Some Day. Here's an excerpt of a very interesting article from The Guardian: "Opponents of geoengineering will no doubt seize upon this week's cancellation of the fieldwork element of the Spice project as a significant victory in their campaign to outlaw research in this area. There are important lessons to draw from the problems encountered by the project, which planned to investigate the feasibility of spraying particles into the stratosphere to mitigate global warming. But a hastily imposed moratorium on geoengineering research is not one of them. As the Royal Society argued in its influential 2009 report, more research is needed if we are to assess the feasibility, risks and uncertainties of different geoengineering options. This research needs to be carried out in a safe, transparent and socially responsible way. But without more knowledge of what might be involved, the dilemmas of geoengineering will remain impossible to debate and resolve."

Photo credit above: "The Spice project planned to spray particles into the stratosphere, creating clouds to mitigate global warming. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian."

Battle Of The Climate Change Billboards Rages On. An update from MNN, Mother Nature Network: "Only in America. Two weeks after the Heartland Institute erected billboards equating belief in global warming with extremists like the Unabomber, two climate activism groups have returned fire. Al Gore's Climate Reality Project will soon erect a set of billboards in Chicago that ask "Who to believe on climate — Heartland?... or EVERY National Scientific Academy in the world?" Another group called Forecast the Facts was also planning a set of billboards that would have attacked specific corporate donors to the Heartland Institute. A mockup shown by the New York Times displays the Pfizer logo and the headline "We still support Climate Deniers. Do you?" Pfizer donated $130,000 to the anti-climate think tank in 2010."

Climate Research Has A Ring Of Truth. The story from Australia's The Age; here's a small clip: "VISITING the giant kauri trees of Northland, on New Zealand's north-west coast, is like stepping back in time. Ancient conifer pines that over centuries have escaped damage from fire and forestry, the surviving kauris are up to 50 metres tall and five metres across - as wide as a 12-seater mini-bus is long. Scientists estimate some have survived for two millennia and consider them the southern hemisphere's answer to California's redwoods, the world's biggest trees. Like the redwoods, age has transformed the kauris into a time capsule. Their tree rings - inner markings that reveal growth patterns through centuries - carry precise insights into changes in the world's climate conditions stretching back long before the advent of modern scientific measurement."

The Effects Of Global Warming Being Felt In The U.S. I was a little surprised (pleasantly so) to see this post at "Turning a blind eye to the realities of global warming is a dangerous game. Scientists predict that sea levels will rise anywhere from 7 inches to 78 inches in the next 100 years (depending, in part, on how much we do to curb global warming pollution), which means that in a few generations, nearly five million people who currently live within 4 feet of high tide could be in the same boat as the residents of Norfolk. New research shows that global warming will double the chance of a hundred-year flood occurring in many locations within the next 18 years. In some areas, the chance is tripled."

Tahoe Nugget: Climate Change And Snowpack Depletion. Here's a clip from a story at "Warnings about regional climate change were kicked up a notch earlier this month with the recently released report by Robert Shibatani, a Sacramento-based hydrologist who is also CEO of The Shibatani Group Inc. This new analysis offers dire predictions for the Sierra snowpack based on projected warming temperatures in California. The report, “Accelerated Climate Change: How a Shifting Flow Regime is Redefining Water Governance in California” focuses on the challenge of managing the Golden State’s water resources as snowmelt and river flow patterns are altered in forced global warming conditions."

Vermont Fracking Ban: Green Mountain State Is First In U.S. To Restrict Gas Drilling Technique. Details from The Huffington Post: "MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on Wednesday signed into law the nation's first ban on a hotly debated natural gas drilling technique that involves blasting chemical-laced water deep into the ground. The Democrat, surrounded at a Statehouse ceremony by environmentalists and Twinfield Union School students who pushed for the ban, said the law may help Vermont set an example for other states. The ban may be largely symbolic, though, because there is believed to be little to no natural gas or oil beneath the surface in Vermont."

Graphic credit above:

U.N. Talks Take First Steps On 2015 Climate Deal. Here's an excerpt from an article at "Meeting in Bonn, the 195 parties to the (UNFCCC) began wrangling over how to work towards the target enshrined at their landmark conference in Durban, South Africa, last December. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane of South Africa, who presided over the maiden session, urged countries as they embarked on the long road to set aside "old and unhelpful negotiating practices," a reference to the bickering that typically dogs . "Time is limited and we need to take very seriously the desperate calls of some of our brethren, especially the small ," she said, referring to low-lying nations threatened by rising seas."

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