Sunday, March 31, 2013

Numbing Twins Opener (50F returns later this week)


42 F. high in the Twin Cities Sunday.
49 F. average high for March 31.
50 F. high on March 31, 2012.

Trace of snow left on the ground in the Twin Cities (MSP International Airport).

18-24 F. wind chills expected for today's Twins Home Opener

50F highs return Wednesday into Friday.

Rain possible by late Friday into Saturday.

April Fool

In an effort to cut down on cold-related injuries in the field the Twins will use a Wiffle Ball for today's chilly game at Target Field. Bundle up - a cruel breeze will make it feel like 15-20F by the 8th inning.

In other news NOAA will be naming tornadoes after American Presidents in 2013. "Our goal is to make warnings more memorable and authoritative", an unnamed official remarked. How odd.

Look at the bright side: this will probably be the last significant blast of numbing air. Famous last words. Today will be the most uncomfortable day; winds ease Tuesday and daytime highs rebound to 50F the latter half of this week as The Big Melt resumes.

It's a volatile pattern, making the 7-Day Outlook more tenuous than ever. I don't see any 60s, but a cold rain is likely late Friday into Saturday, again on Monday. Remember, the larger the north-south contrast in temperature the greater the odds of Pacific storms strengthening east of the Rockies, pushing Gulf moisture into Minnesota.

The latest 30-year averages show 2 inches of slushy snow during a typical April - it usually melts within 24 hours. By April 30 the average high is a balmy, hope-inspiring 65F.

And that's no joke.

Gloves: On The Field And Off. Heading to Target Field for the Twins Home Opener? Pack your warmest clothes, because models show air temperatures in the upper 20s and low 30s, with a wind chill hovering from 18-25F. More like a Gophers game in mid-December. At least the sun will be out much of the afternoon, which should help (a little).

Warming Trend. Today will be as chilly as it's going to get (hopefully until October or early November). Highs nudge 50F by Wednesday; temperatures near or even a few degrees above normal into next week. Right now ECMWF data suggests Saturday will be the wettest day in sight (.67" rain predicted late Friday into Saturday).

Warm Enough For Rain. ECMWF model data valid Saturday evening shows a storm sliding just south of Minnesota, throwing a shield of light to moderate rain across Iowa into southern Minnesota. Right now Saturday appears to be the wetter day of the weekend.

Pattern Shift? The AO (Arctic Oscillation) has been strongly negative since mid-February, meaning light steering winds over North America, allowing unusually cold air to plunge south into the USA. A phase-shift to a strongly positive phase of the AO suggests stronger west to east jet stream winds, hinting at a warming trend as winds aloft blow from the Pacific (and hopefully the Gulf of Mexico). Graphic: NOAA.

From 2012 To 2013 March Blows Hot, Then Cold. Climate Central has a good explanation of how the weather over the USA can be so radically different from year to year; here's a snippet: "...Think of the Arctic as the Northern Hemisphere’s refrigerator. The blocked weather pattern, which some scientists think may be tied to the rapid warming of the Arctic and the subsequent loss of sea ice cover - has opened the refrigerator door, causing cold air to spill out of the freezer that is the Far North and help develop winter storms in the northern mid-latitudes. One such storm occupied much of the Northern Atlantic on Thursday, stretching from just south of Greenland all the way east to Ireland and Spain. The cold weather this month has been in stark contrast to last March, when an unprecedentedly long-lasting and intense early spring heat wave sent temperatures soaring into the 80s all the way to the U.S. border with Canada.

The interactive graphic above shows a comparison between the temperature departures from average during March of 2013 (through March 28) and March 2012.

What Keeps River Forecasters Up At Night? Although snow is going fast in and around the Twin Cities metro, there's still closer to a foot on the ground just north/west of St. Cloud, closer to 20-30" snow from Morris and Alexandria to Detroit Lakes, Bemidji and much of the northwestern third of Minnesota, according to NOAA calculations.

Snow Water Equivalent. What's important isn't how many inches of snow is left up north, but the SWE, or snow water equivalent - how much water is locked up in that snowpack. As much as 4-8" of water is in the snow west of Brainerd and Wadena. A worst case scenario for river flooding would be a temperatures spike into the 50s and 60s, coupled with significant rain. That scenario may be shaping up in 6-10 days - something we'll need to keep a very close eye on.

Flood Potential Grows. As much as 5-8" water in the snowpack over much of the Red River Valley, coupled with lingering chill (and little melting in recent weeks) has increased the potential for major flooding, especially on the Red River from Montevideo to Fargo and Crookston. Details from NOAA: "Areas of concern that have an increased risk over the historical flood history include: 

·         Minnesota River at Montevideo (Much above normal – now an 86% chance to see minor flood stage of 14 ft.) 
·         Long Prairie River at Long Prairie (Above normal now has a >95% chance to see minor flood stage of 6.0 ft.)
·         Mississippi River at Aitken (above normal ~ 85% chance to see minor flood stage of 12ft)
·         Mississippi River at St Cloud (above normal now has a 52% chance to see minor flood stage of 9.0 ft.)

"The threat for ice jams is increasing. This is especially of concern for the upper Mississippi River (Anoka and upstream) and on the Minnesota River. Information that would be very helpful to know include location of the jam (more prone locations include river bends and bridges), tupe of ice (solid sheets or "chunks"), length of the jam and is water rapdily rising behind the jam."

Palm Sunday: A Retrospective Of One Of Michiana's Worst Disasters. WSBT-TV has the story (and remarkable videos). Here's an excerpt: "It's considered one of the worst disasters in our area's history, killing around 50 people in Elkhart County and injuring many others. This retrospective by WSBT-TV, which originally aired in 1995, chronicles the events of Palm Sunday, April 11, 1965 through original broadcasts and survivor interviews."

Hurricane Center Again Breaks Accuracy Records. NHC did a good job last year, overall. Heres' a good recap from SunSentinel: "Once again, the National Hurricane Center again broke forecast track accuracy records during the tumultuous 2012 storm season. While issuing 444 advisories for the likes of Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy, the center set track prediction records for every forecast period except for the longest one, which predicts what a storm will do over the next five days. Here are the average errors:

For the 12-hour period: 28 miles, down from 32 miles last year.
For the 24-hour period: 45 miles, down from 50 miles..."

Are Agriculture's Most Popular Insecticides Killing Our Bees? NPR has the story - here's the intro: "Environmentalists and beekeepers are calling on the government to ban some of the country's most widely used insect-killing chemicals. The pesticides, called neonicotinoids, became popular among farmers during the 1990s. They're used to coat the seeds of many agricultural crops, including the biggest crop of all: corn. Neonics, as they're called, protect those crops from insect pests. But they may also be killing bees. Christian Krupke, a professor of entomology at Purdue University in Indiana, is among the scientists whose research has alarmed beekeepers. Last month, I caught up with Krupke at a DoubleTree Hotel in Bloomington, Ill., where he was giving a talk to several hundred farmers and the agricultural consultants who advise them about seeds, fertilizer and pesticides. The meeting was organized by GrowMark, a farm supply company..."

Photo credit above: "Workers clear honey from dead beehives at a bee farm east of Merced, California." Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP.

Sugar Industry's Secret Documents Echo Tobacco Tactics. Here's a snippet of a remarkable story from Canada's CBC Network: "...As Couzens sorted through the documents, the full extent of that campaign to forge public opinion emerged. The documents describe industry lobby efforts to sponsor scientific research, silence media reports critical of sugar, and block dietary guidelines to limit sugar consumption. The Sugar Association's president reported to the Board of Director's meeting in October, 1976 that, "in confronting our critics we try never to lose sight of the fact that no confirmed scientific evidence links sugar to the death-dealing diseases. This crucial point is the life blood of the association..."

15 Happiest And Saddest U.S. Cities Based On Tweets. Not sure if it's scientifically possible to deduce who is happy vs. sad from tweets, but I found it vaguely interesting that the happiest people tend to live in the western half of the USA (with the exception of Green Bay). ThingLink has the infographic.

One More Canadian Smack. I know - this is getting old. Today should be the most uncomfortable day with highs within a few degrees of freezing, a wind chill in the teens and 20s. Sunday saw the arrival of this chill wind, daytime highs ranging from 27 at International Falls to 35 St. Cloud and 42 in the Twin Cities.

TODAY: Partly sunny, windy and cold. Feels like 15-20. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 34

MONDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear and nippy. Low: 18

TUESDAY: Bright sun, winds ease a bit. High: 39

WEDNESDAY: Fading sun, milder breeze. Wake-up: 25. High: 46

THURSDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, milder. Wake-up: 33. High: 51

FRIDAY: Clouds increase, showers late. Wake-up: 32. High: near 50

SATURDAY: Chance of rain (especially south). Wake-up: 37. High: 44

SUNDAY: Drier day - intervals of sun. Wake-up: 33. High: 48

Climate Stories...

Doubling Down On Our Faustian Bargain. NASA's Dr. James Hansen has the story at Huffington Post; here's an excerpt: "...Reduction of the net human-made climate forcing by aerosols has been described as a "Faustian bargain," because the aerosols constitute deleterious particulate air pollution. Reduction of the net climate forcing by half will continue only if we allow air pollution to build up to greater and greater amounts. More likely, humanity will demand and achieve a reduction of particulate air pollution, whereupon, because the CO2 from fossil fuel burning remains in the surface climate system for millennia, the "devil's payment" will be extracted from humanity via increased global warming..."

Graphic credit above: "Annual increase of CO2 at Mauna Loa. The 12-month running mean reduces the double noise in the 12-month change. Blue asterisks show the end-of-year 12-month change often reported in the media."

Scientists: Wooded Areas In The Arctic To Increase By Up To 50% Over Next Decades. BNOnews has the article; here's an excerpt: "New models predict drastically greener Arctic in coming decades Boom in trees, shrubs expected to lead to net increase in climate warming. New research predicts that rising temperatures will lead to a massive "greening," or increase in plant cover, in the Arctic. In a paper published on March 31 in Nature Climate Change, scientists reveal new models projecting that wooded areas in the Arctic could increase by as much as 50 percent over the next few decades. The researchers also show that this dramatic greening will accelerate climate warming at a rate greater than previously expected. "Such widespread redistribution of Arctic vegetation would have impacts that reverberate through the global ecosystem," said Richard Pearson, lead author on the paper and a research scientist at the American Museum of Natural History's Center for Biodiversity and Conservation..."

Climate Change Is The Risk That Increases All Others. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from the CEO of Skoll Global Threats Fund at The Wall Street Journal: "Climate change is the greatest risk we face. It's the great exacerbater. It exacerbates the risk of pandemics. It exacerbates the risks of water. It exacerbates the risk of conflict. Take a look at South Asia, where China owns the ice, India owns the water and has 21 dams, and Pakistan and Bangladesh are out of luck. Pakistan's entire food production is dependent on two other nuclear-armed countries..."

James Inhofe "Proud" To Be A Target In Climate Change Documentary. Huffington Post has the story; here's an excerpt: "Sen. James Inhofe is taking criticism of his climate change denial as a compliment. The Oklahoma Republican is one of the central targets in the newly released climate change documentary "Greedy Lying Bastards," which examines attempts by the fossil fuel industry to thwart emissions standards and mispresent the facts in the face of changing global climate conditions. The film airs Friday at a special screening in Tulsa, Okla. "I was not surprised to see myself front and center on the promotional material for this climate change movie," he told the Tulsa World, "and quite frankly, I'm proud of it." Inhofe has long called climate change a "hoax," insisting "we're in a cold spell" when it snows, despite the body of scientific evidence showing that humans contribute to global warming..." (Photo: AP).

Q&A: Europe's Freezing Easter, Global Warming And Melting Arctic Ice. The Washington Post does a good job explaining how record melting of Arctic ice last year may be displacing unusually cold air south, creating colder than average conditions across much of North America, Europe and Asia. Here's an excerpt: "...Global warming is melting the ice cap over the Arctic Ocean. Last September, it reached its lowest extent on record. Climate models show that the loss of sea ice — which acts as a lid on the ocean, preventing it from giving off heat — triggers feedback mechanisms that shake up the climate system further. A series of studies in recent years have shown that one such effect could be changes in atmospheric circulation, resulting in more frequent cold snaps in Europe.

Q: How would melting Arctic ice lead to cold snaps?

A: The theory is the loss of sea ice means more heat is released from the open ocean, warming the layer of polar air over the water. That reduces the temperature and air pressure differentials with more southern latitudes, increasing the likelihood of a negative state in the atmospheric circulation..."

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