Sunday, October 21, 2012

30 Degree Temperature Tumble by Late Week (will Hurricane "Sandy" threaten east coast of USA?)

71 F. at 4:40 pm Sunday afternoon. Did you notice your neighbors in a zombie-like trance, raking the same section of leaves for 6 hours without a break? Not bad at all for late October. And no, of course it can't linger (beyond Wednesday).

55 F. average high for October 21.

.27" rain predicted for the metro area by Thursday morning (00z NAM model).

35-42 F. highs return by next weekend. Enjoy 3 more days of 60s and low 70s!

Lukewarm Into Midweek. Expect 60s into midweek, even a shot at low 70s Wednesday. Not bad considering the sun is as high in the sky as it was the third week of February. Soak it up, because it'll feel like November by the weekend.

East Coast Tropical Storm or Hurricane? It sounds unlikely, yes, but during the last 2 years I've seen many things I never thought I'd see on a weather map. It's still early, but an "October Surprise" may be brewing for D.C, Philadelphia, and New York by next Sunday. Details below.

Deer-Hunting Opener Outlook? No, it won't be this mild the first weekend of November, in fact there's a good chance highs will be in the 30s and low 40s with a chance of snow flurries and snow showers, maybe a dusting or coating of slush up north for tracking. Details below.

"...Their paper, “The Republicans Should Pray for Rain: Weather, Turnout, and Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections” confirmed the conventional wisdom that weather does affect voter turnout, bad weather benefits Republicans and most interestingly, two presidential elections in the last 60 years may have had different results had the weather been different..." - excerpt from a story focused on the impact of weather on presidential elections over the years, details and links below. Image above:

The Human Touch

We're good at communicating, but really connecting? For all the e-mails, tweets, texts and tags, there's still no substitute for face to face.

I see it every day. We launched a high-tech alerting system for companies, but the most popular feature? Meteorological briefings. Simple phone calls. Talking to a human being!

It's in our DNA to prefer face-to-face interaction, hand shakes, looking people in the eye. Few deals are ever closed via Skype.

Then again, it's a good thing meteorologists hide behind the glass of your plasma TV, so we can't hear what you REALLY think of the weather.

Few complaints thru midweek; highs in the 60s - 70s possible Wednesday.

Drought is overshadowing everything now. Storms appear on computer maps, only to disappear, like meteorological mirages, days later. Light rain falls today; a T-shower Wednesday giving way to steadier rain Wednesday night into Thursday, but once again the heaviest amounts stay west of MSP.
And then it cools down, rather dramatically. Highs hold near 40 next weekend - blue sky here, but heavy snow bands setting up over the Great Lakes.

October surprise? Many of our weather models are hinting that a hurricane or tropical storm may hit the east coast next weekend. Huh? Details below.

In Constant Digital Contact, We Feel "Alone Together". Following up on my brief thoughts above, I wanted to include this thoughtful article from NPR, which shows the disconnect that digital communication can have on all of us; here's an excerpt: "...When Turkle asked teens and adults why they preferred text messaging over face-to-face conversation, they responded that when you're face to face, "you can't control what you are going to say, and you don't know how long it's going to take or where it could go." But Turkle believes that these perceived weaknesses of conversation are actually conversation's strengths. Face-to-face interaction teaches "skills of negotiation, of reading each other's emotion, of having to face the complexity of confrontation, dealing with complex emotion," Turkle says. She thinks people who feel they are too busy to have conversations in person are not making the important emotional connections they otherwise would. All this leads to Turkle's theory that it is possible to be in constant digital communication and yet still feel very much alone..."

A 7 Month Boating Season. Where Am I Living Again? Is this really Minnesota? Impossible. There were (a few) boats in the water the very end of March, and there were boats on the lake yesterday. I counted (on my fingers, just to be accurate and thorough) 7 months of boating in 2012. Like you might expect to find in Washington D.C. or maybe Memphis. How is that possible?

Less Water - More Shoreline. On 'Tonka water levels are down about 2 feet, but more than 3 feet lower than last summer. Normally the water is lapping near the top of the rocks in the upper left. Not this autumn...

72 Hour Precipitation. WSI's high-resolution RPM model hints at some .25 to .50" rainfall amounts for southeastern Minnesota by Wednesday morning, some 1-2" amounts from Rockford to Chicago and Detroil, with soaking rains for Cuba and the Bahamas as a potential tropical storm forms in the Caribbean.

A Wetter Week. Not sure if it's real or yet another meteorological mirage. Models print out about .20 to .25" rain later today and tonight, a break on Tuesday, then a few T-showers late Wednesday, followed by heavier, steadier rain Thursday as much colder air arrives. Graph: Iowa State.

Thursday Slush Up North? It's getting closer. The GFS prints out an inch of slush from Brainerd to Hibbing Thursday as a cold rain (possibly) ends as a little wet snow. Over a foot of snow is predicted for the mountains of Colorado, with some plowable amounts into western Nebraska. Not sure I'm ready for this...
Temperature Tumble. We should see 60s the next 3 days, into Wednesday. If skies brighten 70 isn't out of the question from MSP to the Iowa border Tuesday and Wednesday. And then it cools off rather dramatically, highs forecast to be near 40 by the weekend.
Something For The Entire Family. The ECMWF solution (above) shows light rain, fog and drizzle today, a chance of thunder Wednesday afternoon, a cold rain Thursday (possibly the most rain all week), followed by an outbreak of heavy jackets by the weekend, with highs holding in the 30s to near 40.
One More Tropical Storm or Hurricane in the Atlantic?
Tropical Depression. The Sunday evening infrared satellite image from the Naval Research Lab shows an area of heavy showers and T-storms pushing across Cuba into the Bahamas. According to NHC there is a 70% probability this disturbance will strengthen to tropical storm status. Lovely.
Worst Case Scenario. The 186 hour ECMWF model brings a tropical storm or possible hurricane into the Chesapeake Bay Sunday or Sunday night, with torrential rains inland, turning to heavy wet snow over the Great Lakes. Far-fetched? Let's hope so. Not buying it yet, but in the spirit of full disclosure...
GFDL Solution. The high-resolution hurricane model from NOAA NHC (one of many) shows a hurricane south of Bermuda by Friday evening. The GFS solution tries to sweep it out to sea, but ECMWF and a few other models absorb "Sandy" into a deep area of low pressure approaching the east coast, nudging it inland by next weekend. It's still too early to tell with any level of confidence.
Canadian Solution. The GEMS model shows a (very intense) hurricane off the Carolina coast by 7 am Saturday morning. Let's hope this solution doesn't verify either. Why do I sense a long week on the way?
NOGAPS Model. Just to show you how frustrating long-range forecasting can be (especially hurricane tracks) here is the Navy's NOGAPS solution, valid Saturday at 1 pm, showing a tropical storm or minimal hurricane pushing into south Florida. Place your bets!

October Hurricane Climatology. The potential track of “Sandy” is fairly typical for late October. The map above shows the most likely tracks for October storms, from the Gulf and Caribbean into the Carolinas before turning out to sea.

  A Seasonably Cool Deer Hunting Firearms Opener. The GFS model data (below) hints at 40s up north, maybe 50 in the metro the first weekend of November, at or just a few degrees cooler than normal. Right now I can't promise fresh snow up north for tracking. Nothing new there...

Rolling Dice. Please don't put much stock in the 16-day GFS numbers. I'm including them here to pass the time, a pleasant (?) diversion or distraction from having to do real work. Yes, it'll change over time as new (higher resolution) data arrives. But right now the Halloween forecast calls for upper 40s to near 50 (probaby dry). Weather for the Deer Hunting Opener the first weekend of November looks comparable, mid 40s to low 50s. Right now the GFS does not print out major storms (of any flavor) from late October into the first week of November.

Elusive El Nino Challenges NOAA's 2012 U.S. Winter Outlook. The on-again, off-again El Nino warming of Pacific Ocean water is looking shaky, the odds now close to 50/50, basically a coin-flip. So NOAA has tweaked the winter outlook from December thru February - here's an excerpt of a longer explanation: "The western half of the continental U.S. and central and northern Alaska could be in for a warmer-than-average winter, while most of Florida might be colder-than-normal December through February, according to NOAA’s annual Winter Outlook announced today from the agency’s new Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in College Park, Md. Forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center say a wavering El Niño, expected to have developed by now, makes this year’s winter outlook less certain than previous years. 

“This is one of the most challenging outlooks we’ve produced in recent years because El Niño decided not to show up as expected,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “In fact, it stalled out last month, leaving neutral conditions in place in the tropical Pacific.” When El Niño is present, warmer ocean water in the equatorial Pacific shifts the patterns of tropical rainfall that in turn influence the strength and position of the jetstream and storms over the Pacific Ocean and United States. This climate pattern gives seasonal forecasters confidence in how the U.S. winter will unfold. An El Niño watch remains in effect because there’s still a window for it to emerge..."

Meteorological Mirage or Reality: Heading Into a Stormier Pattern? When the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation), a measure of the capacity for the atmosphere to become stuck in a blocking pattern, goes negative, odds of significant storms tend to rise, especially east of the Mississippi. A strongly negative signal in late October and early November may signal a better chance of Gulf moisture reaching Minnesota. I hope it's not wishful thinking.

In Spite of Severe 2011, No Evidence That Tornadoes Are Getting Worse. There's an uptick in small, brief tornadoes, possibly due to better detection (Doppler) and more spotters out in the field looking for them, but according to this USA Today article, there is no evidence that major/severe tornadoes are on the rise, nationwide.

Why Republicans Should "Pray For Rain". Here is the summary of a 2005 paper (pdf here); political science researchers conclude: "The relationship between bad weather and lower levels of voter turnout is widely espoused by media, political practitioners, and, perhaps, even political scientists. Yet, there is virtually no solid empirical evidence linking weather to voter participation. This paper provides an extensive test of the claim.We examine the effect of weather on voter turnout in 14 U.S. presidential elections. Using GIS interpolations, we employ meteorological data drawn from over 22,000 U.S. weather stations to provide election day estimates of rain and snow for each U.S. county. We find that, when compared to normal conditions, rain significantly reduces voter participation by a rate of just less than 1% per inch, while an inch of snowfall decreases turnout by almost .5%. Poor weather is also shown to benefit the Republican party’s vote share. Indeed, the weather may have contributed to two Electoral College outcomes, the 1960 and 2000 presidential elections."

Could A Hurricane Ever Strike Southern California? With warming oceans the idea isn't as far-fetched as it might sound at first blush. Tropical storms have struck San Diego and L.A. before, a long time ago, so the odds aren't zero, but California residents probably shouldn't lose much sleep over this. Here's an excerpt of a NASA JPL story: "There's an old adage (with several variations) that California has four seasons: earthquake, fire, flood and drought. While Californians happily cede the title of Hurricane Capital of America to U.S. East and Gulf coasters, every once in a while, Mother Nature sends a reminder to Southern Californians that they are not completely immune to the whims of tropical cyclones. Typically, this takes the form of rainfall from the remnants of a tropical cyclone in the eastern Pacific, as happened recently when the remnants of Hurricane John brought rain and thunderstorms to parts of Southern California. But could a hurricane ever make landfall in Southern California? The answer, as it turns out, is yes, and no. While there has never been a documented case of a hurricane making landfall in California, the Golden State has had its share of run-ins and close calls with tropical cyclones. In fact, California has been affected by at least a few tropical cyclones in every decade since 1900. Over that timeframe, three of those storms brought gale-force winds to California: an unnamed California tropical storm in 1939, Kathleen in 1976 and Nora in 1997. But the primary threat from California tropical cyclones isn't winds or storm surge. It's rainfall -- sometimes torrential -- which has led to flooding, damage and, occasionally, casualties..."

Image credit above: "In September 1997, powerful Hurricane Linda, shown in this NASA rendering created with data from the NOAA GOES-9 satellite, was briefly forecast to strike Southern California, most likely as a tropical storm, as shown in the inset forecast track from the Naval Research Laboratory’s Marine Meteorology Division. The storm eventually turned westward away from land, but still brought rainfall to parts of Southern California and high surf." Image credit: NASA/NOAA/NRL

TV Viewers "Left In The Dark" About Flood Of Political Ads. As one political scientist explained to me "other countries give candidates free airtime. But not the USA, where stations and networks that take advantage of (free) spectrum, spectrum that belongs to everyone, and is licensed to broadcasters with the charge that they "serve the public interest", CHARGE politicians for the priviledge of reaching viewers over our nation's airwaves. The result is a money-treadmill that would make the Founding Fathers turn over in their graves. Candidates spend much of their time, not legislating, but raising money to fund negative attack-ads on television. The entire system is out of whack."

Maybe so. Here's an excerpt from Free Press: "On Monday, Free Press released Left in the Dark, an analysis of political advertising and local news coverage in five cities — Charlotte, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Milwaukee and Tampa — where ad spending has skyrocketed this year. With fewer than 45 days left until Election Day, Americans across the country are facing an unprecedented increase in political advertising on local stations. Media analysts project that $3.3 billion — money that pads the bank accounts of station owners — will be spent on television ads by Nov. 6. Left in the Dark investigates whether stations airing political ads are balancing out their often deceptive messages with local coverage of the role this money is playing in the 2012 elections..."

* cartoon: Richmond Times Dispatch.

"The Lost Wheels" on TPT Almanac. If you missed the live show Friday evening on KTCA, Channel 2, you can watch the replay here. I babbled on about the drought, but the highlight of the show (for dear old dad) was seeing my oldest son play lead guitar for an up and coming Twin Cities band. Am I a little biased? Yep, but I know good music when I hear it. You can hear some of the tracks on their new CD, "Chipper" at their home page. Hey, I'm hoping Walt supports me in my old age. Stranger things have happened...

Sublime. No, it doesn't get any better than this in late October, at least not in Minnesota. It was an atmospheric daydream come to life, blue sky, light breezes, low humidity, and temperatures 15 degrees warmer than average. Highs ranged from 48 at Grand Marais to 65 St. Cloud, 71 Twin Cities and 72 at Rochester.
Long Shadows. 71 F. on October 21? Impressive when you consider that yesterday the sun was as high in the sky as it was on February 21. Note to self: I really should rake those leaves...

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

TODAY: Dry start - clouds increase. A little light rain by afternoon. Winds: East 8-13. High: 62

MONDAY NIGHT: A period of light rain, patchy fog. Low: 55

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy, still mild - passing shower north. High: 67

WEDNESDAY: Bright sun, late-day thunder? Mild. Low: 58. High: 72

THURSDAY: Heavier rain possible, cold wind. Low: 50. High: 53

FRIDAY: Partly sunny and brisk. Low: 34. High: 48

SATURDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, chilly. Low: 32. HIgh: 43

SUNDAY: Blue sky - heavy jackets. Low: 28. High: 42

Climate Stories...

Targeting Solar Geoengineering To Minimize Risk And Inequality. Science Codex has the story; here's the introduction: "By tailoring geoengineering efforts by region and by need, a new model promises to maximize the effectiveness of solar radiation management while mitigating its potential side effects and risks. Developed by a team of leading researchers, the study was published in the November issue of Nature Climate Change. Solar geoengineering, the goal of which is to offset the global warming caused by greenhouse gases, involves reflecting sunlight back into space. By increasing the concentrations of aerosols in the stratosphere or by creating low-altitude marine clouds, the as-yet hypothetical solar geoengineering projects would scatter incoming solar heat away from the Earth's surface. Critics of geoengineering have long warned that such a global intervention would have unequal effects around the world and could result in unforeseen consequences. They argue that the potential gains may not be worth the risk..."

The Print Media And Climate Change. Here's the conclusion to a post from Doug Craig at's "Climate of Change": "...Back in 2000, McCright and Dunlap examined "what they termed a 'conservative countermovement' to undermine climate change policy, (as) they explored its organization within right-wing think tanks, (and looked) first at its claims-making activities and then its organization and tactics. They highlighted the way such groups draw on scientific 'experts' linked to fossil fuel industries and concluded that 'our nation's failure to enact a significant climate policy is heavily influenced by the success of the conservative movement in challenging the legitimacy of global warming as a social problem.'" We have no intention of solving the climate crisis. Neither presidential candidate has uttered a word related to the topic in the two debates. And even more telling, the American media establishment is perfectly content to avoid the topic entirely. We know the laws of physics require that the climate continue to warm in response to our cataclysmic production of emissions, but the laws of politics and media require that we pretend this is not happening."

One Mother's Reaction To The Climate Science: "I'm As Angry As Hell And High Water". Think Progress has the story; here's an excerpt: "Over here at Moms Clean Air Force, I’ve been–I’ll admit it–profoundly depressed that the candidates have blown their chance to talk about the most important issue facing our planet. Climate Change. Two debates down. A moderator who says “Whoops! Ran out of time to ask about climate. So sorry!” Well, I’m sorry too. And I’m angry. Angry as hell and high water. Two debates about “domestic policy” and not one word has been uttered about the chaotic domestic weather we’ve been enduring. Not one word about our unreliable climate. Not one word about the pain and suffering visited upon millions of Americans because of runaway greenhouse gas pollution. Not one word about the ugly legacy we will leave our children...."

Eyes On The Earth. NASA has impressive on-line tools to be able visualize Earth's morphing climate, including real-time global tracking of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide (showing huge plumes of pollutants sweeping across China into the Pacific). The map above shows global temperatures from Friday. By downloading a JAVA applet you can manipulate all these data sets in 3-D. Very cool.

Why The Chill On Climate Change? Here's an excerpt of a thoughtful (on the money) Op-Ed at The Washington Post: "...Why does it matter that nobody is talking about climate change? Because if you accept that climate scientists are right about the warming of the atmosphere — as Obama does, and Romney basically seems to as well — then you understand that some big decisions will have to be made. You also understand that while there are some measures the United States could take unilaterally, carbon dioxide can never be controlled without the cooperation of other big emitters such as China, India and Brazil. You understand that this is an issue with complicated implications for global prosperity and security. A presidential campaign offers an opportunity to educate and engage the American people in the decisions that climate change will force us to make. Unfortunately, Obama and Romney have chosen to see this more as an opportunity to pretend that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an approaching train."

Climate Change: Journalism's Never-Ending Fight For Facts. Here's an excerpt of a story at The Guardian's Environment Blog: "The debate about climate change is dogged – possibly even defined – by its interminable, intractable tug of war over the "facts". A hand grenade is lobbed into no-man's land triggering a volley of return fire. But, when the dust settles, can anyone truly claim to have advanced their position? Of course, the art of "manufacturing doubt" has long been in the playbook of those hoping or needing to divert attention away from evidence. We saw it a generation ago with smoking, just as we see it today with climate change. But knowing how this blatant tactic is deployed doesn't make it any easier to nullify or deter. Compounding the problem is the speed at which "facts" can now spread unchallenged across the internet. Rebutting or contextualising inaccuracies takes expertise and, above all, time and energy..." Graphic above: NOAA NCDC.

The Sad History Of Climate Policy, According to David Brooks. Here's a clip from an important Ezra Klein Op-Ed at The Washington Post's Wonkblog: "...So, to summarize: Addressing climate change by pricing carbon — an idea Brooks supported then and supports now — was a bipartisan project in 2003. It became a partisan project because Al Gore thought it was important enough to make a documentary about. Republicans began opposing efforts to price carbon, in part because they hate Al Gore. That left funding renewables research as the only avenue for those worried about climate change. Funding renewables research means funding some projects that won’t work out, and some that might make Al Gore rich. This led to bad publicity that tarnished the whole program.  The passivity of Brooks’s conclusion is astonishing. This isn’t a story of overreach, misjudgements, and disappointment. It’s a story of Republicans putting raw partisanship and a dislike for Al Gore in front of the planet’s best interests. It’s a story, though Brooks doesn’t mention this, of conservatives building an alternative reality in which the science is unsettled, and no one really knows whether the planet is warming and, even if it is, whether humans have anything to do with it. It’s a story of Democrats being forced into a second and third-best policies that Republicans then use to press their political advantage..."

Photo credit: "Sorry, planet. You never should have let Al Gore make that documentary." (Joel Boh — Reuters)

* the David Brooks Op-Ed at The New York Times is here. Subscription may be required.

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