Saturday, September 22, 2012

First Frost (this month: top 5 driest Septembers on record)

60 F. high Saturday at 3:35 pm.

69 F. average high for September 22.

57 F. high on September 22, 2011.

Freeze Warning posted early this morning. The last time the mercury dipped below 32: April 11 (27 F at MSP).

1/10th of an inch of snow fell at Duluth Friday evening, the earliest measurable snowfall in 17 years. Source: NOAA. File photo credit here.

+2.9 F. The first 21 days of September are running nearly 3 F. warmer than average.

"...According to a poll conducted by researchers at Yale University’s Project on Climate Change Communication, four out of five Americans reported personally experiencing one or more types of extreme weather or a natural disaster in 2011, while more than a third were personally harmed either a great deal or a moderate amount by one or more of these events." - from an article at Health News Digest; story and links below.

"Medical mistakes kill enough people each week to fill four jumbo jets." - from a jaw-dropping story at the Wall Street Journal; links below.

Freeze Warning. The Freeze Watch has been upgraded to a Freeze Warning, which includes the immediate metro. Although the downtowns may avoid a frost/freeze, the suburbs probably won't. It's coming about 1-2 weeks ahead of schedule, if you're keeping track. The median date of the first 32 F. low at MSP is October 4. Details from NOAA:





Coldest Since April 11. The last time the metro saw 32 F. or colder? April 11 of this year, when we woke up to 27 F. It's been (well) above freezing ever since.

Spectacular Aurora. Check out this YouTube clip of a stunning display of the Northern Lights over Wick, Scotland, courtesy of "spider72wtf".

Weather Whiplash. I found it vaguely interesting that only one model is predicting a frost this morning; the vast majority show lows in the 33-40 range. But with clear skies, light winds and a dry, Canadian airmass, conditions seem ripe for frost, especially for outlying suburbs. By Monday afternoon temperatures may be 40 degrees milder. Graph: Iowa State.

More Freeze Than Frost. A Freeze is defined as 3 hours or more colder than 28, cold enough to kill off just about all plant life for the season. We may have those conditions 15-20 miles outside of the downtowns this morning. A freeze is likely from St. Cloud and Willmar to Mankato and Stillwater. The urban heat island may protect the downtowns and a few of the close-in suburbs from a widespread frost, but it's going to be close. Forecast temperatures courtesy of NOAA.

A Quiet Spell. A beautiful stretch of weather is on tap this week, highs mostly in the 60s, but 70s are likely Monday, again next weekend, the ECMWF (European) hinting at 80 by Monday of next week. A little rain is possible a week from today, but not the soaking we need.

Down To A Trickle. This is, or was, the Raccoon River at Booneville, Iowa - just southwest of Des Moines. There used to be a river there. Thanks to Sandi Smith for sending this to WeatherNation TV meteorologist Bryan Karrick.
Drought Timeline. NOAA's U.S. Drought Monitor shows the gradual progression and intensification of the drought covering much of the USA in this animation. The statistics are interesting: 70% of the lower 48 states are now described as "abnormall dry", moderate drought impacting 54% of the USA (up from 24% at the start of the water year). Severe drought is impacting over a third of America, up from 15.8% at the start of 2012.

Fire Danger. According to the Minnesota DNR the fire risk has been upgraded to "very high" over the Red River Valley. A high risk exists for most of central and southern Minnesota.

Autumn Forecast: You Might Not Need Heavy Coats For A While. Call me a contrarian. The venerable Farmer's Almanac is predicting "warmer and drier" for Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. So is CPC, the Climate Prediction Center. Based on recent trends and a brewing El Nino that forecast makes sense, logically. But the atmosphere hasn't been behaving logically in recent years - I'm pretty sure we'll have a colder winter than last, but not as severe or snowy as 2010-2011. At this point even an "average winter" would feel like the real thing. Here's an excerpt of a story at The Star Tribune: "A warmer-than-normal autumn is likely for Minnesota, and may be followed by another mild winter, a meteorologist from the National Climate Prediction Center said Thursday. The agency released its latest three-month outlook, and seasonal forecaster Huug van den Dool said the warm regime that's been so pronounced across the hemisphere this year is likely to continue through October, November and December in Minnesota and across the United States. January through August of this year was the warmest such period on record for both the Twin Cities and Minnesota. As for winter, "I wouldn't go as far as saying it will be as extreme as last year, but chances are it will be above normal," he said in a telephone conference with reporters. "That's the long-term trend." Photo above: AP.

3 Month Guess (Outlook). CPC, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, is forecasting a milder-than-average October thru December for a huge chunk of the USA, drier than average for the Pacific Northwest, wetter across the Gulf coast and southeastern USA (which correlates with an El Nino warming over the central Pacific). Again, buyer beware. Odds favor a mild bias into at least the first half of winter, based on the trends of recent winters, but I sure wouldn't bet the farm on this. Call me perpetually paranoid, but what's happening in the Arctic (record melting) may have some blow-back across the lower 48. Hope I'm wrong.

Looking Ahead. Everyone wants to know what the winter will be like. Me too. Can you tell me where the NASDAQ will be in mid-February? Interest rates in early March? Looking at recent trends this winter should be milder than average, especially factoring in a mild to moderate El Nino warming, but that warming is taking place in the central Pacific, and in previous El Nino's like this the biggest impacts were over the Pacific Northwest and the southeastern USA, with little impact (cold or warm) on Minnesota and the Midwest. As I've been mentioning ad nauseum for days now, the Arctic is a huge wildcard. Record warming has created a semi-permanent bubble of warm high pressure at the top of the world, which may displace the cold "polar vortex" farther south, meaning more bitter swipes extending southward into the USA. The truth: models have some skill out to 15-20 days. Beyond that, forget about it. We can use ocean temperatures as cues, but there is still no reliable way to connect the dots and make a winter prediction with high confidence. Here is Mark Seeley's take in the latest installment of WeatherTalk: "On Thursday of this week the NOAA Climate Prediction Center issued new seasonal climate outlooks. The temperature outlook for Minnesota favors above normal values over the October-December period. Actually this trend is seen for about 75 percent of the USA based on dynamical models and past trends. Little emphasis is placed on El Nino at the moment because it remains in a neutral state. The precipitation outlooks shows equal chances for above or below normal values over the October-December period across most of the USA except the southeastern and mid-Atlantic states which are expected to see above normal values."

Floods Bring Evacuations In Alaska Town. The New York Times has the story; here's an excerpt: "ANCHORAGE (AP) — Residents of the Alaska tourist town of Talkeetna have been asked to leave because of the threat of flooding from the rain-swollen Talkeetna River....Gov. Sean Parnell toured the area around Talkeetna by helicopter on Friday and landed to talk to some of the residents who fled their homes. The governor declared a state disaster for the areas hit by the flooding. Talkeetna, about 75 miles north of Anchorage, is the last stop for climbers heading to Mount McKinley. It also has an eclectic population and has long been purported to be the inspiration for the Alaska town in the 1990s television series “Northern Exposure.”

Video credit above: Here's an excerpt from a YouTube clip of significant flooding in Alaska: "View Aerials of a few flood damaged areas as the Assistant Borough Manager talks about what he saw while surveying the flood damaged areas from helicopter."

With Extreme Weather Will Insurers Come To The Rescue? Here's an excerpt of a timely story from meteorologist Andrew Freedman at Climate Central: "Following a damaging episode of extreme weather, communities turn to insurance companies to help them rebuild, but with costly extreme weather and climate events on the rise as the climate continues to warm, insurers may stop coming to the rescue, a new report warns. The report from Ceres, a nonprofit group that advocates for sustainable business practices, calls attention to the threat that extreme weather events pose to the sustainability of the insurance industry, which has been hit hard by record-breaking extreme weather in recent years, on top of lower profits due to other reasons."

Wildland Fires In Idaho. NASA has the details: "One of the Expedition 33 crew members aboard the International Space Station, flying at an altitude of approximately 260 statute miles, recorded this nadir scene of the Mustang Complex wildland fires in Idaho. Close to 300,000 acres have been burned by the Mustang fires and hundreds of people have been forced to flee the area."

"Ask Paul". Weather-related questions, comments (and reader explanations!)

Paul - 

I believe the DNR image of fall colors that you are seeing is a victim of too little data points. I'm not 100% certain, but I believe the map only uses the foliage reports out of the state parks. If you look at the state parks that are used across the metro areas, you can see that Ft. Snelling is the only park showing 50-75% color (and the only park within the metro area). Minnesota Valley State Park is showing 25-50%, Afton is showing 10-25%, and Lake Maria is also showing 10-25% color. The result is a bulls-eye of 'color' over the Twin Cities. Similar to what happens when an erroneous temperature observation is indicated on a contoured map. 

Given so few data points and the likelihood of data smoothing issues, I'd be hesitant to make assumptions on the metrowide color being higher than most. I certainly haven't seen 50% color. 

Jon Dejong

Like An Explosion At A Crayola Crayon Factory. Check out the scenery up at Lutsen: "The view from Moose Mountain. It's a great time to ride the Mountain Tram and enjoy the spectacular foliage!"

Category 5 Hurricane Simulator Will Blow You Away, Literally. I need one of these for my garage. has the remarkable details: "After living in New Orleans for a number of years of my life, I can speak from experience that hurricanes can be serious business. So the more we can learn about how hurricanes and tropical storms work, the more prepared that we can be for disaster, and the more lives and property can be spared from nature’s fury. In the interest of learning more about these storms, one university has built the world’s only category 5 hurricane simulator."

NASA Scientists Used Unmanned Aircraft To Spy On Hurricanes. Drone technology is here (to stay). Expect to see one over I-94 providing real-time traffic reports within a couple of years. Why not? Wired Magazine has the story; here's an excerpt: "Hurricane researchers are gathering unprecedented data this month by using two NASA Global Hawk unmanned aircraft. The airplanes were originally developed for the military, but have been modified to aid in atmospheric research. One of the Global Hawks was flown to its new base at NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility on Virginia’s Atlantic coast earlier this month and has already flown several missions over developing tropical storms giving atmospheric scientists the ability to watch and measure storms for up to three times as long as they could with manned aircraft, including NASA’s modified U-2 spyplane. The second Global Hawk is set to depart the Dryden Flight Research Center in California and join its hangar mate in the next week or so." Photo credit above: NASA.

$20,000 Give To Girl For By AT&T For Creating Anti-Texting While Driving App. Coming to an smartphone near you soon; iPhone Informer has more details: "$20,000 has been given to a young girl by AT&T for creating an anti-texting while driving app. An 11-year old was awarded the prize money as part of a hackathon last month. She created a concept mobile app that aims to raise awareness for the “It Can Wait” campaign (via iDB) The app is entitled Rode Dog and allows users to be placed into “packs,” “with members of the pack able to check whether others are texting whilst driving. If they are, remote users can set off an alarm – a dog barking, oddly enough – in order to tell the offending texter to stop.”

How To Stop Hospitals From Killing Us. If you read one article today make it this one. I know I'll be asking tougher questions the next time I check into a hospital for a procedure. The statistics are harrowing. Here's an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal story (subscription may be required for online access): "When there is a plane crash in the U.S., even a minor one, it makes headlines. There is a thorough federal investigation, and the tragedy often yields important lessons for the aviation industry. Pilots and airlines thus learn how to do their jobs more safely. The world of American medicine is far deadlier: Medical mistakes kill enough people each week to fill four jumbo jets. But these mistakes go largely unnoticed by the world at large, and the medical community rarely learns from them. The same preventable mistakes are made over and over again, and patients are left in the dark about which hospitals have significantly better (or worse) safety records than their peers."

Flat Earth Society. Hey, I'm keeping an open mind. All those (millions) of images from satellites could have been faked, along with the moon landings, for that matter. Here's an excerpt of an FAQ from "

"Q: "Why do you believe the earth is flat?" 

A: It looks that way up close. In our local reference frame, it appears to take a flat shape, ignoring obvious hills and valleys. In addition, Samuel Rowbotham et al. performed a variety of experiments over a period of several years that show it must be flat. They are all explained in his book, which is linked at the top of this article."

Art In The Era Of The Internet. I found this clip at Brain Pickings interesting: "Over the past few months, the fine folks at PBS Arts have been exploring various facets of creative culture — including typography, product design, generative art, papercraft, and more — and their evolution in the digital age as part of the ongoing Off Book series. The latest installment explores art in the era of the Internet, and features Kickstarter founder Yancey Strickler, Creative Commons mastermind Lawrence Lessig, and my dear friend Julia Kaganskiy, editor of Creators Project, along with her colleague and creative director Ciel Hunter."

The Sites We Love Right Now. How many of the web sites in the "Top 50" do you use on a routine basis? Here's the run-down, according to Time Magazine Tech: "Just a guess: You’re probably already aware that Google, Amazon and Twitter are worth checking out. So as usual, most of the sites on our 50 Best Websites list aren’t yet household names. They’re ones we TIME editors find to be useful, entertaining, innovative or just plain addictive — and, in some cases, all of the above. Read on, and we’ll tell you about our favorites in 10 categories. Then let us know about yours in the comments."

iPhone 5 vs. Galaxy S III. It's getting nasty out there - have you seen the recent Samsung commercials poking fun at Apple's new iPhone? The knives are coming out - and I was interested to see what the tech-heads at had to say in a head-to-head comparison. Here is an excerpt of their review: "...In 2012, however, the biggest tech rivalry is the match between the two biggest players in mobile: Apple and Samsung. This one has gotten nasty, extending into international courts. Things only get more interesting with the release of Apple's iPhone 5 this week. A great product is much more than the sum of its parts, but – even in this post-PC era – specs can matter. If one phone has a quad-core chip with 2GB of RAM, and another a single-core CPU with 128MB of RAM, the first one will be much faster. Likewise, a display with 320 pixels per inch (ppi) will look much sharper than one with 163ppi. You'd be foolish to worship at the altar of specs, but technical details can still shed some light on the subject."

"Fox And Friends" Corrects Claim About Obama's Pirate Meeting (Well Sort Of). Journalism guru Jim Romenesko has the (crazy details). No, you can't make this stuff up. “Fox and Friends” on Thursday used the Obama and pirate shot on the right to show that the president is more interested in meeting with a pirate than in conducting foreign policy. The AP’s David Bauder reports: "Over an on-screen graphic that said “Arrrgh You Kidding?”, Fox ran the picture Thursday morning with host Brian Kilmeade saying, “The White House doesn’t have the time to meet with the prime minister of Israel, but this pirate got a sit-down in the Oval Office yesterday.”

First Day of Fall? Yep. It wasn't hard to believe that the sun was as high in the sky as it was on March 22, temperatures in the 50s  most of the afternoon, sneaking up to 60 at MSP. Highs ranged from 51 at Duluth and Hibbing to 58 St. Cloud and 59 at Redwood Falls.

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

TODAY: Frosty start. Bright sun. Not as windy as yesterday. Winds: NW 10. High: 58

SUNDAY NIGHT: Clear, still chilly. Low: 38

MONDAY: Indian Summer! Lukewarm sun. High: 75

TUESDAY: Blue sky, turning a bit cooler. Low: 46. High: 65

WEDNESDAY: Still sunny, light winds. Low: 43. High: 63

THURSDAY: Ditto. Sunshine, milder. Low: 45. High: 66

FRIDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, lukewarm. Low: 50. High: near 70

SATURDAY: Intervals of sun, better day? Low: 54. High: 71

* ECMWF guidance is hinting at a better chance of a shower or T-shower a week from today

** The same guidance is showing a chance of 70s, even a day or two of 80+ highs early next week.

Indian Summer Alert

Sadly, many Minnesota plants froze their buds off last night. Frost came early to many towns and suburbs - the average date of the first 32F at MSP is October 4. We're waking up to the chilliest morning since April 11 (27F).

But look at the bright side: a frost/freeze killed off much of the ragweed. Allergy sufferers will be breathing easier in the weeks to come. And now that we've had a frost - we can (officially) call tomorrow's mid-70s Indian Summer.

Because we want to be official.

It's been a weather-whiplash kind of year. Drought and low lake water levels in April gave way to torrential rains in June with historic floods in Duluth. And then we went over another rainfall cliff. Maybe it's always been this way, but our fast-forward weather pattern has meteorologists shaking their troubled little heads.

Welcome to one of the 5 driest Minnesota Septembers since the late 1800s, and I don't see any significant rain looking out 2 weeks. We are stuck in a dry, dusty rut.

Jackets for church this morning, then shorts Monday as 70s return.

Great weather lingers; long-range guidance hinting at 80F about 8 days from now. Then again 5" rain would qualify as great weather.

Climate Stories...

Climate Change And Extreme Weather. Here's an excerpt of an article at that caught my eye: "...While most scientists don’t dispute the link between global warming and extreme weather, the once skeptical public is now starting to come around—especially following 2011, when floods, droughts, heat waves and tornadoes took a heavy toll on the U.S. According to a poll conducted by researchers at Yale University’s Project on Climate Change Communication, four out of five Americans reported personally experiencing one or more types of extreme weather or a natural disaster in 2011, while more than a third were personally harmed either a great deal or a moderate amount by one or more of these events. And a large majority of Americans believe that global warming made several high profile extreme weather events worse, including record high summer temperatures nationwide, droughts in Texas and Oklahoma, catastrophic Mississippi River flooding, Hurricane Irene and an unusually warm winter."

Time For The GOP To Get Serious About Climate Change, The New National Security Issue. Here's a snippet from an interesting read at The Atlantic: "....This is not a "soft" issue that should be of concern only to environmentalists. Climate change can be destabilizing in international affairs, a fact that the Department of Defense is now trumpeting. As the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Report notes, climate change contributes to food and water scarcity, provoking or exacerbating mass migrations, and amping up conflicts over resources. The report states, "While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world."

Photo credit above: "A badly under-watered Kansas cornfield awaits rain this past August. An end-of-summer wet spell helped nurture soybeans, but came too late for the corn crop -- a development that could raise food prices around the world." (Reuters)

Despite Little Mention Of Climate Change From Candidates, Faith Groups Pledge To Make It A Campaign Issue. Here's an excerpt of a post from Think Progress: "This week, the National Climate Summit 2013 Coalition released a petition calling on both Presidential candidates to address rapidly accelerating climate change. The statement, written and endorsed by over 1300 faith leaders, elected officials, civil rights groups, environmental activists, business representatives, and others, calls on both Presidential candidates to “act in the best interests of this and all future generations of American’s now by publicly acknowledging the climate emergency”; and committing to host a climate summit to craft actions for national solutions within their first 100 days in office."

What Is The True Social Cost Of Carbon? Here's a clip from an interesting article at Living Green Magazine: "...Potential greenhouse gas policy, post-November, remains a murky picture. While candidate Mitt Romney has said he opposes a carbon tax, some of his economic advisers embrace the idea (subscription) as a means to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, especially in tight fiscal times. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein frames the carbon pricing debate as a bargain between Democrats and Republicans, and a Slate piece offers that carbon taxes are good not only for the environment, but also for the treasury. Meanwhile, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross argues in The Atlantic that, given the national-security challenges the issue poses for the U.S., Romney and the Republican party are “ceding important ground by tolerating and encouraging denialism” of climate change. Ralph Nader says Obama and the Democrats are “running away from the issue” of climate change."

Got Science? Not At News Corporation. Here's an excerpt of a story at The Union of Concerned Scientists: " In 2007, News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch claimed coverage of climate change in his media outlets — which include Fox News Channel and the Wall Street Journal opinion pages — would improve over time. Such improvement has not been achieved. A 2012 snapshot analysis shows that recent coverage of climate science in both outlets has been overwhelmingly misleading. The analysis finds that the misleading citations include broad dismissals of human-caused climate change, rejections of climate science as a body of knowledge, and disparaging comments about individual scientists. Furthermore, much of this coverage denigrated climate science by either promoting distrust in scientists and scientific institutions or placing acceptance of climate change in an ideological, rather than fact-based, context."

PBS Ombud: NewsHour Climate Change Report Worth Criticizing. Here's a clip from Media Matters for America: "A PBS NewsHour global warming report that allowed a climate change contrarian to "counterbalance" mainstream scientific opinion is worth criticizing, according to PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler, who said he received hundreds of emails and calls about the program. Getler said he is penning a column on the issue that is likely to be posted late today or Monday, and hinted it will be critical. "There's just a lot of...hundreds of emails about it," Getler said when asked why he is writing about the issue. "Commentary about it all over and it's interesting." Getler declined to offer specific views on the NewsHour report, which aired last Monday. But when asked if he has found elements to criticize, he said: "Oh yeah, of course there's material to be critical about."

Climate Change Could Awaken Canadian Forests: Study. The Toronto Sun has the story; here's a clip: "Ancient forests in Canada's North could one day bloom again, thanks to climate change, a new study has found. Bylot Island in Nunavut is home to a fossilized forest that scientists estimate is between two and three million years old. Once upon a time, the North's cold and barren landscape featured a lush forest of oak, pine, spruce and hickory. If temperatures in the North continue their upward climb, that forest could return within a century, Alexandre Guertin-Pasquier of the University of Montreal says. "According to the data model, climate conditions on Bylot Island will be able to support the kinds of trees we find in the fossilized forest that currently exist there, such as willow, pine and spruce. I've also found evidence of a possible growth of oak and hickory near the study site during this period," Guertin-Pasquier said in a press release."

Photo credit above: "The University of Montreal's Alexandre Guertin-Pasquier at his study site in Nunavut in June 2010." (HANDOUT)

How Green Was My Lawn. What happened to environmentalism? The idealism of the 1960s and 1970s has worn thin. Here is an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The New York Times that caught my eye: "....Today, however, climate change, perhaps the most important environmental issue of our time, rarely polls among voters’ top five concerns. One reason may be that its patently global character has enervated support at environmentalism’s suburban grass roots. But it doesn’t help that blanket condemnation of suburbs as hopelessly dependent on fossil fuels comes all too easily."

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