Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dip in Dew Point (feeling better out there by afternoon). Touch of September Later This Week

88 F. high in the Twin Cities Sunday.

72 F. average high for September 2.

82 F. high on September 2, 2011.

Isolated T-shower today (best chance south of the metro, over far southern Minnesota).

2012: warmest year on record, to date, since modern day records started in 1891.

Today's Dew point prediction:

7 am: 64 F. (still sticky)
7 pm: 52 F. (much more comfortable)

Tuesday night: best chance of showers and possible thunder as cooler air finally arrives.
Last Day to eat yourself into a food coma out at the Minnesota State Fair. The only one staying cool yesterday was Princess Kay of the Milky Way in the Dairy Building. It was hot and dusty out at the State Fairgrounds yesterday. Yes, we need rain, preferably at night, preferably tomorrow. There's a very slight chance of thunder today, a better chance closer to the Iowa border. The next chance of (widespread) showers and T-storms comes Tuesday night ahead of a cool front.

We don’t have much skill in forecasting drought development,” he said. One reason for this, scientists say, is that the computer models forecasters use don’t accurately capture the ways that land surface conditions interact with the atmosphere. The models tend to have more skill in predicting drought development or tendency out to a few weeks in advance, but beyond that, they have major limitations." - from a story at Climate Central; details below. Photo: AP.

"Leslie". The latest tropical storm northeast of Puerto Rico is forecast to become a hurricane, possibly threatening Bermuda by the end of the week. Odds favor a turn out to sea, but a few models are pulling Leslie closer to the east coast of the USA. Map: NHC and Ham Weather.

Thank You September. It's been the warmest year on record for much of Minnesota, temperatures 2-5 F. warmer than average. It's also been the warmest 12 months on record. Details below.

September 10. Date when hurricanes are most likely to strike the USA mainland. We are almost halfway thru hurricane season.

Twin Cities: Warmest Year To Date On Record. 2012 is turning out warmer, to date, than 1987 or 2006, the previous records for warmest years. St. Cloud and Eau Claire are also having their warmest year. Details from the Twin Cities NWS.

Meteorological Summer. Temperatures from June 1 thru the end of August ran 3.5 F. warmer than average in the metro, nearly 3" drier than average. Source: Twin Cities NWS.

Growing Fire Danger. The Minnesota DNR is tracking very high fire danger over far northern Minnesota; burning restrictions are in place, statewide. (upper right).

Lack Of Warning On Drought Reflects Forecasting Flaws. There are limits to how well we'll ever be able to predict devastating droughts in advance. It's true that La Nina patterns (Pacific cooling phases) often nudge the jet stream into a pattern that favors drought for the southern USA, but it's a sometimes unreliable signal. More on the limits of drought prediction from Climate Central meteorologist Andrew Freedman: " In May, the U.S. Agriculture Department predicted a record corn yield after farmers planted the largest area of corn and soybeans since 1937. Three months later, after a searing drought engulfed a wide swath of the continental U.S., those crops lie in ruin. Despite all of the resources at forecasters’ disposal, the worst drought to strike the U.S. in nearly 50 years came on largely without warning across the fields of the Midwest and High Plains during late spring and early summer. Between May 1 and July 24, the drought footprint in the lower 48 states expanded from an already high 38 percent to a devastating 64 percent, engulfing more than a dozen states in the process, including nearly the entire corn and soybean growing region. Judging by past droughts, the drought of 2012 will likely cost the U.S. somewhere on the order of tens of billions of dollars."

* the latest U.S. Drought Monitor is here.

Hurricane Isaac Highlights Gaps In Flood Protection, U.S. Senators Say. has the story; here's an excerpt: "A group of high-ranking elected officials and top Army brass Saturday hailed the first major test of the New Orleans metropolitan area's new flood protection system during Hurricane Isaac as a heartening success. But they attached several sobering caveats to their celebratory speeches during an afternoon news conference overlooking the Mississippi River....Even though the officials spoke at length about needed improvements, they also devoted considerable time to praising the metropolitan area's new system, which cost about $14.6 billion. Col. Edward Fleming, commander of the corps' New Orleans district, said "we clearly would have had overtopping of floodwalls" if Hurricane Isaac had hit before the new system was in place. He said storm surge that came up as high as 14 feet on the flood defense system's new 26-foot barrier would have spilled over old barriers."

Photo credit above: U.S. Senator David Vitter, R- La., left, Jefferson Parish President John Young, second left, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Army Corps of Engineers Col. Ed Fleming, right, tour the new levee wall and pumps at the 17th Street Canal in New Orleans on Tuesday."

Hurricane Isaac Storm Surge Reversed Flow Of Mississippi River. Just when you thought you'd read everything about Isaac, along comes this story from The Christian Science Monitor; here's an excerpt: "As hurricane Isaac reached southeastern Louisiana as a Category 1 storm earlier this week, it did something unusual to the Mississippi River: It threw the river into reverse. For nearly 24 hours, according to the US Geological Survey, Isaac's storm surge drove upriver at a pace nearly 50 percent faster than the downstream flow. This backflow produced a crest some 10 feet above the river's prestorm height at Belle Chasse, La., in flood-beleaguered Plaquemines Parish southeast of New Orleans. The surge added eight feet to the river's height at Baton Rouge, father north. Isaac had help. A scorching, rain-starved summer in the middle of the country sent river levels to lows not seen since a similar drought struck the region in 1998, easing the Mississippi's flow."

Photo credit above: "High winds from hurricane Isaac toppled signs and caused flooding and power outages in New Orleans Wednesday." Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor.

We're Almost Over The Hurricane Hump For This Storm Season. The date you probably want to avoid a Caribbean cruise is September 10. That's the day when landfalling hurricanes are most likely to strike the USA. More details from The Houston Chronicle: "When Tropical Storm Leslie developed Thursday, this Atlantic hurricane season jumped ahead of the record-setting 2005 season in its count of named storms. That's because the 12th named storm in 2005, Tropical Storm Lee, didn't form until Aug. 31. But the comparison ends there. Just like Hurricane Isaac was no Katrina, most of this year's other tropical storms and hurricanes have been pale imitations of their 2005 counterparts. That year, in July alone, Category 4 Hurricane Dennis became the strongest hurricane ever in July. A week later, Emily became the first Category 5 hurricane in July."

$2 billion in damage from Hurricane Isaac? Details from Bloomberg Businessweek below.
"...The fact is, many people lack the resources to escape. Having no money, no mode of transportation and no friends or family in safe places means no choice but to weather the storm." - from an NBC News story on why some people won't (or can't) evacuate to a safe spot before a hurricane.

Photo credit above: "A man makes his way down a flooded street in a boat in the aftermath of Isaac Friday, Aug. 31, 2012, in Ironton, La. Isaac is now a tropical depression, with the center on track to cross Arkansas on Friday and southern Missouri on Friday night, spreading rain through the regions." (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Hurricane Isaac May Cost Insurers $2 Billion; AIR Says. Details from Bloomberg Businessweek; here's an excerpt: "Isaac, the storm drenching Arkansas after making landfall in Louisiana as a hurricane, may cost insurers as much as $2 billion in the U.S., risk-modeling firm AIR Worldwide said. The industry’s claims costs, including wind and storm-surge damage to residential, commercial and industrial onshore properties, will be at least $700 million, the Boston-based firm said today in an e-mailed statement. The estimates are a fraction of the $41.1 billion cost for Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 storm that struck Louisiana and caused flooding in New Orleans. Hurricane Irene, which lashed the U.S. East Coast last year, cost $4.3 billion."

Photo credit above: "Two sailboats, the Sweet Dreams, foreground and the Caribe, were swept from their docks by Hurricane Isaac to the parking lot in front and beside Shaggy's at Pass Christian, Mississipi, on Friday, August 31, 2012." (Tim Isbell/Biloxi Sun Herald/MCT)

149 Photos Capture Isaac's Fury. Huffington Post has a good recap, and there's only so much you can convey about a hurricane via text. The photos tell the story in a way no narrative ever will. Many locals, officials and members of the media didn't pay Isaac the respect it was due. Intensity (the "category" of the storm) is important when estimating storm surge coming ashore, but in the end the track and forward speed of the storm is even more important when calculating the duration of the storm surge and total rainfall amounts. Isaac stalled, stuttered and sputtered, hitting Louisiana twice as a Category 1 hurricane, but that big, lazy loop prolonged the extreme rains (and 8-12 foot storm surge), allowing a Category 1 storm to create damage more typically found in a Category 2-3 hurricane. More details: "As Gulf Coast states began to assess the damage from Hurricane Isaac, photos and video started to trickle in of the devastation. Although the death toll has been minimal compared to Hurricane Katrina, fatalities have occurred, and damage was extensive in some regions. Rising floodwaters from Isaac have forced thousands of evacuations, catching many by surprise, reported the Associated Press. Pictures of Isaac's impact reveal residents and homes caught in flood conditions. Up to half of Louisiana was left powerless on Thursday, and hundreds of thousands were in the dark in Mississippi."

Flooding Spreads North. Jalen Brown captured this photo of severe flooding at Pine Bluffs, Arkansas Friday. Pic via Twitter.

Isaac's Leftovers. Moisture leftover from Hurricane Leslie continues to spark flooding rains from the Ohio Valley into the Carolinas and Virginias, a few tornadic storms reported over Mississippi and Alabama Sunday. IR satellite image: Naval Research Lab.

New England Flood Potential. NOAA HPC prints out some 3-5"+ rainfall amounts from New England into New York City and the Delaware Valley, another area of 2-4" rains over the next 5 days across Georgia and Alabama.

Billion Dollar Flood-Protection System Around New Orleans Proves Reliable. It passed the first test, a Category 1 hurricane. Will it withstand a Category 4 or 5? We'll see, but so far so good, as reported by The Washington Post; here's an excerpt: "Seven years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers was desperately trying to plug breaches in the city’s broken and busted levee system. Since those catastrophic days, the Army Corps has worked at breakneck speed — and at a cost of billions of dollars — to install new floodgates, pumps, floodwalls and levees across New Orleans. The work paid off. A day after Isaac hit New Orleans on the seventh anniversary of Katrina, officials said the 130-mile flood protection system did its job."

Photo credit above: Vincent Laforet, Pool, File - Associated Press). "In this Aug. 30, 2005 photo, floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina pour through a levee along Innter Harbor Navigational Canal near downtown New Orleans, LA, a day after Katrina passed through the city."

Hurricanes Don't Scare Natural Gas Anymore. Fracking has changed the equation; gas and oil prices no longer spike (as much) when a hurricane is churning into the Gulf of Mexico, littered with drilling rigs. Marketwatch explains: "Even with much of the Gulf of Mexico’s energy production shut down as Hurricane Isaac approached the region earlier this week, the natural-gas market barely blinked — and that’s exactly what analysts said would happen. “Natural gas did not react like it has in previous storms because, with the rapid development of shale gas over the last several years, the Gulf is increasingly less important to overall gas supply,” said Kim Pacanovsky, managing director and senior research analyst for oil and gas at MLV & Co. in New York. As of Thursday, about 72.5% of the current daily natural-gas production in the Gulf was shut-in because of Isaac, according to U.S. government data. Price action in natural-gas market over the past few days, however, indicates just how little concern the market has for the production disruption."

Storm Psychology: Why Do Some People Stay Behind? Great question, and NBC News does a good job providing credible reasons why many people can't (or won't) evacuate to higher ground in advance of a hurricane. Here's an excerpt: "It’s the question so many of us have while watching news coverage of a hurricane or tropical storm like Isaac: Who are these people who don’t leave home even as an angry storm is advancing – and what are they thinking?! The short answer: For some, the up-and-leaving idea isn’t as easy as it sounds to those of us watching from a safe and dry distance. Actually, a 2009 article published in the journal Psychological Science sought to examine the reasons some people won’t evacuate, despite the urging or even mandates of city and state officials, by asking a group who would know: Hurricane Katrina survivors who weathered the storm at home."

Photo credit above: "Tony Miranda takes a break from clearing out his home after it was flooded by Hurricane Isaac in LaPlace, La., Friday Aug. 31, 2012." (AP Photo/The Advocate. Arthur D. Lauck)

Site Suggestion: American Weather. If you're interested in digging into the meteorology behind "Isaac" check out this web site, American Weather. Estimating hurricane landfall is still as much an art as it is a science - which model do you believe? Do you put your trust in an ensemble of models, a weighted average, or go on a limb with a favorite simulation? If you're a true weather geek (um..enthusiast) you'll like this one. Thanks to Randy Peterson for teeing this one up!

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

I’m a big fan of your blog and MN sunny days. Now the question… I live in Champlin (TC) and I’ve already noticed that a part of my Maple tree is changing colors as well as the Sumacs and Weigelia bushes but at the same time the summer flowers are still going strong, meanwhile, the critters are shedding like crazy and the geese look like they are getting ready to head south… So do you think we’re heading for an early fall colors (since we had such an early Spring) or is all part of my crazy imagination… ???
Sincerely confused,


Marianella - I have never seen any research suggesting that leaves ripening early is in any way a predictive tool for the autumn or winter to come. In reality those yellow sugar maples are probably a reaction, to a lower sun angle coupled with unusually cool nights in mid-August, and most important: a growing drought across southern Minnesota. If it snows in mid-September (highly doubtful) you'll be able to tell me "told you so!"

Hi Paul,

What is your prediction for this winter, 2012-2013?  Warmer, less snow?
Thank you, you are the best!

Cate Murphy

Thanks Cate - you may not feel that way after you get my forecast, more gut feel than anything based on science. Winters have been trending milder, with less snow in recent years. That's hardly breaking news. It seems 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 winters is a "real, butt-kicking Minnesota winter" with significant cold and snow. We're heading into an El Nino, which correlates with milder temperatures and somewhat less snow for northern-tier states. I suspect we'll see more snow than last winter (22 whopping inches in the metro), but less than 2010-2011, when 86" fell. My hunch: 40-50" snow; colder than last winter, but not as severe as two winters ago. Time will tell.

In his weather page in the Star Tribune a couple of weeks ago Paul mentioned 2 weather apps he liked best. One he had done but no longer gets money from, and another one. I wrote them down and have lost the paper. I would appreciate it if you would send me these names.

Sue Stover

Sue - my favorites are My-Cast Weather Radar (which sends out severe weather alerts in addition to Doppler radar and even lightning strike data (for a surcharge). The other is RadarScope, which is still the best Doppler app out there, in my humble opinion. Neither is free, but if you're a weather enthusiast you'll get your money's worth. Full disclosure: My-Cast was my previous company, which we sold to Garmin in 2007. I no longer have any involvement with the company and don't receive any $$ for recommending the app. But it's partially my baby, and I'm happy to see it getting so much national attention. The team at Digital Cyclone has done an amazing job upgrading the app and keeping it current. I would add one more (free) app to the list: "Victory Rides" for Polaris, which is a current client. Again, the app is free - we receive no compensation for the sale of this app on the iTunes store. Good luck!

Summer Flashback. Technically it's meteorological autumn. Historically, the warmest 90 days of the year runs from June 1 to September 1. But Sunday felt like late July, highs in the 80s statewide, even some low 90s over southwestern Minnesota. Highs ranged from 71 at Grand Marais to 87 St. Cloud, 88 Twin Cities and a 92 Redwood Falls.


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

LABOR DAY: Intervals of sun, still humid. Passing shower or T-storm possible, especially south of MSP. Dew point: 64. Winds: SW, becoming NE 5-10. High: 87

MONDAY NIGHT: Partly to mostly cloudy, an isolated shower. Low: 69

TUESDAY: Unsettled and very warm. Best chance of a T-storm Tuesday night. Dew point: 57. High: 89

WEDNESDAY: Early shower, then clearing, breezy and cooler. Dew point: 47. Low: 67. High: 79

THURSDAY: Clouds increase, cooler. Dew point: 53. Low: 58. High: 76

FRIDAY: September-like. Stray shower? Low: 56. High: 72

SATURDAY: Cool sun, fresh breeze. Dew point: 51. Low: 55. High: 73

SUNDAY: Sunny and milder. Low: 56. High: 75

* Long-range model guidance shows 80s returning to Minnesota the week of September 9; I wouldn't be surprised to see a 90-degree high or two.

50 Shades of Baffled

"This drink's on me" the server at the 331 Club in Minnapolis said Saturday. "Just promise me a nice, long Indian Summer." Done.

There is some precedent for saying this. 1). We're sliding into an El Nino warming phase of the Pacific. 2). A warming climate has lengthened our autumns in recent decades. According to Dr. Mark Seeley the last 10 Novembers have been "warm enough to play golf in November", which he called "historically unprecedented". 

If only I could play golf. 

Ice forms on lakes later each year (ask any ice fisherman). Many years we don't have to drag out heavy parkas and gloves until December.

Our winter outlook is an enigma wrapped in a riddle, boxed up in a mystery. Anyone who tells you they have it all figured out is trying to sell you something.

We've salvaged a fairly extraordinary holiday weekend, but a weak frontal boundary may spark a few showers and T-showers today. Best chance? Early morning, again around the dinner hour. I expect enough midday sun for upper 80s.

We cool off this week; it'll feel like September in 3 days. But long range guidance brings another surge of heat into Minnesota next week. A few more 90s in September? 

Count on it.

Climate Stories....

Minnesota Moose Mystery: Is Climate Change Killing This Icon Of The North? This isn't the first I've heard this theory. More details from; here's an excerpt: "It seems like every third business in Northern Minnesota has "moose" in its name, reflecting the importance of the iconic mammal on local culture. But if current trends continue, the word on commercial signage may be the only trace left of the moose population in northern Minnesota. An unexplained population crash in the northwestern corner of the state has led to the near extinction of the moose in that territory. Naturalists fear that moose in the northeastern quadrant are following the same pattern. Finding answers rivals a crime scene investigation, as the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Minnesota moose lovers seek answers that can help put a stop to further moose deaths."

Photo credit above: Colin McMillen/CC BY 2.0

New AMS Statement on Climate Change. Here are more details (and the complete text from AMS) courtesy of The American Geophysical Union Blog: "The AMS has released it’s updated statement on climate change, and as expected, it is considerably more direct than the previous one issued in 2007. This is no surprise since the last 5 years have seen a remarkable increase in understanding, along with 5 more years of observations and measurements. Full disclosure here: I’ve been a proud member of the American Meteorological Society for around 35 years. I also serve on the AMS Committee for Station Science. For someone wanting a non-political look at what we know, I highly recommend reading the statement. It’s well done and to be honest on the conservative side. A good example is the portion that talks about sea level rise of 10-28 inches. If sea level continues to rise only at the rate it is rising now it will exceed 10 inches. The next  IPCC summary of the science will (from everything I’ve read over the past year or so) forecast a likely rise of over a foot by the end of this century. "

Climate Change In The Great Lakes. Here's an interesting infographic from Circle of Blue Waternews.

Is Geoengineering The Answer To Climate Change? Tinkering with the atmosphere - what can possibly go wrong? Here's an excerpt of an interesting article at Smithsonian Magazine: "Climate change used to be thought of as a long-term worry; now, there’s good reason to believe we’re already encountering its effects. As the problem grows more urgent, some say we ought to take a radical approach: Instead of struggling in vain to limit greenhouse gas emissions, we should try to engineer systemsto directly stop the warming of the planet. This approach is known as geoengineering, and it might be the most controversial area in climate science. The term encompasses a wide variety of techniques. One company tried to fertilize the ocean with iron, to encourage the growth of algae to absorb excess carbon dioxide. Other scientists have suggested spraying clouds with seawater to increase their whiteness—and thus reflectivity—reducing warming by bouncing light back out to space. The U.S. government has even considered gigantic, sun-blocking mirrors in outer space as a last-ditch option if climate change hits a tipping point."

Photo credit above: "Geoengineering could replicate the cooling effects of a massive volcanic eruption as a tool to reduce climate change." Photo via Wikimedia Commons

GOP Platform Highlights The Party's Abrupt Shift On Energy, Climate. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "Over the past four years, the Republican Party has undergone a fairly dramatic shift in its approach to energy and environmental issues. Global warming has disappeared entirely from the party’s list of concerns. Clean energy has become an afterthought. Fossil fuels loom larger than ever. And one way to see this shift clearly is to compare the party’s 2008 and 2012 platforms. It may seem difficult to believe now, but back in 2008, the Republican Party’s platform (pdf) had a long and detailed section on “Addressing Climate Change Responsibly.” Here’s how it opened:
"The same human economic activity that has brought freedom and opportunity to billions has also increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. While the scope and longterm consequences of this are the subject of ongoing scientific research, common sense dictates that the United States should take measured and reasonable steps today to reduce any impact on the environment. Those steps, if consistent with our global competitiveness will also be good for our national security, our energy independence, and our economy."
Photo credit above: "No longer a Republican concern." (JOHN MCCONNICO / AP)

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