Monday, May 14, 2012

Comfortable Front Next 36 Hours (more 80s, strong T-storms late week)

85 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday.

69 F. average high for May 14.

52 F. high temperature on May 14, 2012.

95 F. record high for May 14 in the Twin Cities. (1932)

32 F. record low for May 14 at KMSP (1907)

"Don't look for your dreams to come true; look to become true to your dreams." - Michael Beckwith

Late-Week Hot Front? The next 36 hours look quiet (with a slight drop in temperature and humidity levels). A few T-storms accompany the arrival of a warmer front Thursday. Friday and Saturday appear to be the two hottest days: highs may reach the mid-80s. Strong to potentially severe storms are possible late Saturday with rain spilling over into Sunday morning. The ECMWF (European) model prints out 35 mm. of rain next weekend (about 1.37" rain). Click here for a Metric to English calculator. How is it that America is still not on the metric scale?

T-storm Potential. The best chance of storms: Thursday (along the leading edge of warm, sticky air) and Saturday, as a cooler front approaches from the Dakotas. Showers may spill over into Sunday morning. It's still too early to time the weekend front, but odds are it will not be as dry (and stunning) as last weekend.

"Research at Texas Tech University and elsewhere has shown that only masonry or reinforced concrete walls can protect against lethal flying debris that might be encountered during a tornado with wind speeds up to 130 mph." from a Houston Chronicle story below.

"The best guess now is that a worst-case rise of 2 feet is no longer in the cards. The likely increase in sea level by 2100 now stands at 3 feet, with worst-case scenarios going as high as 6 feet. Three feet would threaten many coastal cities around the world with frequent, powerful floods, as the mildest of storms could send water coursing through streets and into buildings. Six feet could make large parts of major cities — Miami, New Orleans, Shanghai, Bangkok and many more — essentially uninhabitable." - from a Climate Central article; details below.

Least Polluted Cities In The U.S. Ranked In State Of The Air 2012. Duluth came in at #19. Way to represent! Here's a story from Huffington Post: "Are you and your neighbors breathing healthy air? American Lung Association has released their State Of The Air 2012 report, detailing cities with the least and most air pollution in America. Each city is ranked by ozone pollution, short-term particle pollution, and year-long particle pollution. Below are the report's "Top 25 Least Polluted Cities By Year-Round Particle Pollution." Although many problem regions still exist, the report shows that all but three of the most ozone-polluted cities improved air quality, and over 50% of the worst smog-makers were having their best year thus far."

Photo credit above: Flickr image courtesy of kla4067

Fun Weather Fact: The windiest place in the world is Port Martin, Antarctica, which has an average wind speed over a year of 64 km/h (40 mph). It experiences gale force 8 winds (39-46 mph) for over a hundred days a year! Credit: Facebook and the Marquette, Michigan office of The National Weather Service.

Must-See Tornado Video. This is definitely worth a couple minutes of your time: "Last week a waterspout came ashore in Grand Isle, Louisiana causing damage.  CAPT. KEITH “HERK” BERGERON captured this amazing video.  It gets extremely intense about 4:35 in. You actually see a house get blown apart.  Thankfully, Capt. Bergeron wasn’t injured getting this footage.  Click here to watch the video. "

  Rare New Mexico Twister. From a relative risk argument, you could make the case that New Mexico is one of the safest states in the USA: no hurricanes or earthquakes, few floods, tornadoes are exceedingly rare (due to drier desert air nearby). But there are exceptions to every rule: "Sunday afternoon a tornado touched down in the mountain village of Magdalena, New Mexico.   Check out this incredible photo from Mark Ronchetti,  Chief Meteorologist KRQE News 13 & KASA Fox 2 Albuquerque shared by the National Weather Service Southern Region HQ on Facebook."

Riding The Whirlwind. Here's an excerpt of a terrific story about the scientific implications of "tornado chasing" at The Christian Science Monitor: "...The people who study them – and whose important work ultimately pays off in ways ranging from improved storm-warning times to better home-building techniques – have their own lexicon. They talk about "wall clouds" and "hook echoes." And because they can learn just so much by peering at a computer monitor, they go out into the field. They go in pursuit. For this week's cover story, veteran Monitor science writer Pete Spotts immersed himself in the highly collaborative culture of responsible funnel hunters, riding with Kiel Ortega from NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla."

Photo credit above: "In this photo from NOAA, what is believed to be a tornado is seen touching down in Grand Isle, La., Wednesday, May 9." Courtesy of Tim Osborn/NOAA/AP

CSI Tornado: Decoding - And Chasing - Supercells With The Experts. The Christian Science Monitor is on a tornadic roll - here's a second excellent story focusing on finding the atmospheric equivalent of a needle in a haystack: zeroing in on the spinning "supercell" thunderstorm capable of spinning up a large, violent tornado: "Forecasters had seen it coming for days – an angry blob of bright pink blossoming on forecast maps over a nearly 175,000-square-mile area of the Great Plains. For only the second time in its history, the National Weather Service held a pre-outbreak press conference Friday, April 13, alerting the region – much as it does for hurricanes ahead of landfall – to brace itself. Conditions were ripe for a significant tornado outbreak."

Photo credit above: "CSI Tornado: Decoding – and chasing – supercells with the experts. This is the weekly cover story of the May 14 issue of The Christian Science MonitorWeekly." Credit: Parrish Velasco/The Dallas Morning News/AP

Building Materials Are Key To Limiting Storm Deaths. Building a truly "tornado-proof" home is cost-prohibitive, but stronger building codes can help to limit damage and reduce the risk of injury and death. Here's an article from The Houston Chronicle: "The images have become all too familiar: houses and communities turned into piles of giant toothpicks by fierce tornadoes. Much of this kind of damage can be prevented by enacting stronger building standards. The first week of March had an unprecedented 440 tornado warnings issued, and severe storms contributed to the deaths of 39 people in five states. A perfect blend of energy and turbulent winds has already made 2012 an especially active, and deadly, year for tornadoes. In early April, tornadoes tore through the Dallas-Fort Worth area and caused as much as $500 million in insured damage, according to the Southwestern Insurance Information Service."

Disaster Safety And "Safe Rooms". Here's some useful information from "It is a myth that nothing can be done to protect you and your family from tornadoes. In fact, a properly built, high-wind, safe room can protect from the most intense tornadoes, hurricanes and similar natural disasters. The truth about safe rooms: Safe rooms can be designed to withstand winds up to 250 miles per hour, offering safe refuge for families in the path of high-wind events. A closet, bathroom, laundry area or storage room can be enhanced to serve as a safe room. Safe rooms designed to meet standards set forth by the National Storm Shelter Association, the International Code Council and FEMA will stand up to the most intense tornadoes and hurricanes."

Extreme-Weather Text Alerts Set To Begin. Details from The Detroit Free Press: "Wireless carriers and the federal government are launching a system to automatically warn people of dangerous weather and other emergencies via a special type of text messaging to cellphones. The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) service, which begins this month, is free, and consumers won't have to sign up. Warnings will be location-based: If you're traveling, you'll get an alert for whatever emergency is happening where you are. "Wireless carriers representing more than 97% of subscribers voluntarily agreed to develop and offer free, geographically targeted wireless emergency alerts," said Amy Storey, spokeswoman for the CTIA— The Wireless Association. AT&T, Cellcom, Cricket, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless are participating."

5 Deadliest Hurricanes Wreaked Havoc. Here's a great hurricane history lesson from "Hurricane season starts June 1 of every year and ends on Nov 30 of every year, with an average of 5.9 hurricanes forming in the Atlantic Ocean each year.Hurricanes that cause extreme destruction are rare, but when they do occur, they can cause significant property damage and/or thousands of fatalities. Below are the five deadliest known Atlantic hurricanes."

Great Hurricane of 1780

"The deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record is the Great Hurricane of 1780. The storm passed through the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean between Oct. 10 and Oct. 16, 1780, killing more than 25,000 people. The hurricane struck Barbados with wind gusts that possibly exceeded 200 mph before it moved past Martinique, Saint Lucia, and Sint Eustatius; thousands of deaths were reported on each island."

Arizona Flames. I suspect it's going to be an extra-long, hot fire season for the southwestern USA. Details: “CROWN KING, Ariz. –  Crews spent the weekend fighting several wildfires, including a 4½ square-mile blaze in northern Arizona that prompted evacuations in a historic mining community.” Read more HERE.

Photo credit above: Marc Allan, AP.

* more on the Arizona wildfires and subsequent evacuations from USA Today.

Photo Of The Day: "CBs". Popular in the aviation community, the expression "CB" is slang for cumulonimbus, or thunderheads. Thanks to Edward Sklar for passing this one along - more at Facebook.

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

Hi Paul,
"I am wondering if you had any thought about the 2012 spring and summer weather predictions-
I am a bit concerned about the lack of precipitation we had since this past summer. Are we looking at more drought?"

Terri R.

Terri - I share your long-term concerns about drought. No question: the 2-5" rain that swamped much of central and southern Minnesota a couple weekends ago took the edge off the drought, but most of Minnesota is still classified as "abnormally dry", a section of south central Minnesota under "moderate drought", according to NOAA's Drought Monitor. We've transitioned into a warmer, stormier pattern, but from now until September precipitation will be convective, showery, hit or miss showers and T-storms where some farms and lawns get soaked, while others a few miles away see little or no rain - not the widespread, steady, sustained "stratiform" rains and snows that fall between October and early April, when just about everyone sees precipitation. It's more gut feel than science, but unless we get sustained rains over the next few weeks (doubtful) I suspect portions of Minnesota will slip back into moderate, even severe drought by mid or late summer.

The Palmer Index (latest map above) shows relief from the drought over central and southern Minnesota, where the heaviest rains fell 7-10 days ago, but Extreme Drought conditions are still reported over far northern Minnesota.

Chinese Space Station Transits The Sun. Here's an excerpt from a story at "Solar photographers have grown accustomed to winged spaceships flying in front of the sun. For years, silhouettes of space shuttles and the International Space Station have flitted across the solar disk, producing photo-opsofrarebeauty. Now China's space station, the Tiangong-1 ("Heavenly Palace 1"), is joining the show. On May 11th, perhaps for the first time, Thierry Legault of Paris, France, caught the newcomer transiting the sun."

Scale Of The Universe. I'm feeling even smaller and more insignificant than usual. Nope, my wife didn't call - I checked out this amazing web site that provides a sense of scale, from the micro to the macro, unlike anything I've ever seen before. Thanks and kudos to Michael and Cary Huang for sharing this at

Redefining Cute. How cool is this, courtesy of Denali National Park and Preserve: "Traffic is picking up on the park road this week. Yield to Denali's newcomers as they learn their way around."

Instant Summer. With bright sun and a stiff south breeze much of the day temperatures took off, reaching 85 in the Twin Cities, 86 at St. Cloud and 87 at Redwood Falls. A cool breeze off Lake Superior kept Grand Marais to a "high" of 65.

"Remember, if you're headed in the wrong direction, God allows U-turns!" - Allison Gappa Bottke

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

TODAY: Sunny, breezy, and cooler. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 77

TUESDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear and comfortable. Low: 50

WEDNESDAY: Sunny with less wind. Beautiful. High: 73

THURSDAY: Sticky, few scattered T-storms possible. Low: 56. High: 79

FRIDAY: Hazy sun, warm breeze. Winds: S 10-20. Low: 61. High: 83

SATURDAY: Hot sun, strong/severe T-storms late. Winds: S 15. Low: 63. High: 85

SUNDAY: Wet start, slow PM clearing. Winds: W 10-20. Low: 60. High: 74

MONDAY: Comfortable sun, less humid. Low: 54. High: 73

Basements & "Safe Rooms"

"I live in the metro area. Tornadoes don't hit here, right?" I still get this question a lot, from otherwise bright, literate people. They believe that a few buildings, or living near a lake, will somehow protect them from a tornado. The reality: a large, violent tornado won't be impacted by the "urban heat island" or a few high-rise apartments.

At the risk of being labeled "alarmist" here's a grim prediction which will probably come true in our lifetime: a major U.S. city or close-in suburb will be hit by a major EF-3 or stronger tornado. 

Hundreds will die, thousands injured. There will be congressional inquiries. "How could this happen? Why weren't we prepared?" It's inevitable.

Every family needs a Tornado Action Plan and a designated spot to ride out a tornado. A basement works best; otherwise consider spending a few thousand dollars to retrofit a closet into a "safe room". KARE 11 takes a look at a worst-case tornado for the metro tonight at 10. I'll be watching.

A puff of cooler air innoculates us from storms today & Wednesday, but a surge of 80s arrives late week. Storms are possible Thursday, maybe a few severe storms late Saturday, after a day of steamy mid-80s.

"Economic advance is not the same thing as human progress." - John Clapham, "A Concise Economic History of Britain"

Climate Stories...

Long-Range Ice Forecast: Things Could Get Very Grim. Maybe I don't want to buy that ocean-front real estate in Naples or Sarasota after all. Here's an excerpt of a story at Climate Central: "During the great Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, which ultimately killed more than 200,000 people, the first breathless news reports announced: “three deaths confirmed in tidal wave.” I’m not making this up. It was pretty idiotic — they knew from eyewitness reports how huge the tsunami was, and everyone knew perfectly well that the death toll would be enormous. What, exactly, was the point of reporting the first three? It was a blatantly meaningless number, presented as though the coiffed CNN anchors were conveying actual information. I sometimes feel the same way when I see projections about sea level rise. The best scientists can tell us today is that the ocean is likely to be 3 feet higher by 2100. That’s likely to be pretty devastating, but it could turn out to be like those first three deaths in 2004."

Photo credit: "Calving front of Equp Sermia glacier, West Greenland." Credit:  Michele Koppes, University of British Columbia.

Global Warming Threatens Pine Forests, Forcing Federal Officials To Shift Strategy. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: " A few modest features distinguish the trunk of the limber pine standing among the trees near abandoned beaver ponds: a white, plastic pouch attached by a removable staple, a numerical metal tag secured with an aluminum nail and a printed warning: “Pouches on trees to repel mountain pine beetles. Pouches contain chemicals. Do Not Touch-Do Not Remove.” The conifer, with its accoutrements, represents a small salvo in the battle against a beetle infestation, fueled partly by warmer temperatures. But it is also a larger symbol of how researchers from the Forest Service — in concert with National Park Service officials and other scientists — are working to steel high-elevation pine forests in the West against the onslaught of climate change."

Photo credit above: "A bag, a beetle and a warming threat to trees: A plastic bag that fights a beetle infestaton on a western conifer is an emblem of how federal researchers are working to steel high-elevation pine forests in the West against the onslaught of climate change."

James Hansen Is Correct About Catastrophic Projections For U.S. Drought If We Don't Act Now. Here's an article from Joe Romm at Think Progress: "The response by NOAA’s Martin Hoerling to James Hansen’s recent op-ed does not reflect the scientific literature. I’m traveling, so let me focus first on Hoerling’s incorrect statements — posted on this blog and DotEarth — about drought. As readers know, the journal Nature asked me to write a Comment piece on the threat posed by drought after they read one of my posts examining the latest science on prolonged drought and “Dust-Bowlification.” The Nature article, which is basically a review of recent drought literature, is here (subs. req’d). Most of the text is here."

"Climate Change Debate Remains Partisan In Face Of Facts". Here's an Op-Ed from The Idaho Statesman.

Saudi Arabia Plans $109 Billion Solar Future. Here's an interesting article from Triple Pundit: "Saudi Arabia will seek investors interested in a $109 billion plan to generate power from solar energy. The ambitious plan calls for a long term goal of generating an entire third of the nation’s electricity from solar power by the year 2032. Saudi Arabia hopes to have upwards of 40,000 megawatts of solar power capacity installed within the next twenty years says a consultant at King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy.  This recent push for solar energy is also a run toward creating a sustainable solar energy sector that will help drive domestic energy. Not only does this mean eventually saving roughly 520,000 barrels of oil per day over the next two decades; it means more governments are starting to take alternatives seriously."

Extreme Heat, Floods Likely As Weather Evolves. Here's a snippet from Australia's "EXTREME weather events in 2009 and March this year provided the people of NSW with an indication of what the state is increasingly likely to face as the climate changes, a report by the federal government's Climate Commission says. The year 2009 was the hottest year on record in NSW and a rise in the number of similar heatwave events is predicted. The number of days reaching more than 35 degrees in Sydney is expected to triple by 2070. Climate change ''cannot be ruled out'' as a factor in recent heavy rainfalls, such as the flash flooding in Sydney on March 8, the wettest March day for more than 25 years, the report says."

Photo credit above: "Changes in Sydney's climate will have far-reaching implications" ... Climate change activist Tim Flannery. Photo: Dean Sewell.

Climate Change Is Here, There, And Everywhere. Here's an entry from Doug Craig at "Once upon a time, I thought the deniers would melt away like ice in the hot sun. I no longer think that. It would appear we are capable of a level of profound denial that I did not think possible. It requires a cooperative media system that ignores two things: scientific fact and physical reality. For example, take Norfolk, Virginia. Thanks to global warming, sea level is rising. And the ocean does not care what politicians think in nearby Washington, D.C. As the glaciers melt and the oceans warm, the volume expands and the ocean levels rise. And every month or so Norfolk floods. Relentlessly."

Climate For Positive Changes Is Cooling. Here's an excerpt of a story from Cambridge University: "As science leaders across the world call on governments to take action to limit global warming and over-population, reporter RACHEL ALLEN asks a Cambridge scientist if it will have any impact. SCIENTISTS from 15 countries are calling for a better political response to making sure there is enough water and energy to feed a world of nine billion people in 30 years. They have issued a series of demands to world leaders on how to tackle Earth’s most pressing problems ahead of a meeting at the G8 summit this week in the US."

Photo credit above: "Food aid is distributed in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010, and inset, Dr David Reiner."

Global Warming Affects Cultivated Cereal Crops. Here's an excerpt from an interesting story from The Jerusalem Post: "Although farmers know better than ever how to grow food, global warming may indirectly affect our diet by diminishing the amount of available nutritients. A 28-year comparative study of wild emmer wheat and wild barley populations has revealed that these progenitors of cultivated wheat and barley, which are the best hope for crop improvement, have been affected by climate changes, which presents a real concern for their being a continued source of crop improvement."

New Diagnostic Tool For Climate Change Research Enables Better Understanding Of Global Patterns. The story from "The development, by researchers from The University of Queensland, University of Canterbury (New Zealand) and Monash University, distinguishes between the causes of in glacial deposits – whether climactic or caused by rock avalanche – allowing for more accurate data to inform climate models. Co-author of the study, UQ Professor James Shulmeister, says the development represents a breakthrough in the way research is approached. He says that while glaciers have been used as an early indicator of the extent and rate of global warming, there was previously an assumption that they always reflected climatic change."

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