Sunday, June 1, 2014

Slow Motion Weather Pattern: Flooding Rains Next 24 Hours

86 F. high in the Twin Cities Saturday.
74 F. average high on May 31.
79 F. high on May 31, 2013.

.05" rain fell as of 7 PM Saturday at MSP International Airport.

May 31 in Minnesota Weather History. Source: Twin Cities NWS.

1993: St. Cloud reported its latest ever freezing temperature.
1897: Cold night in Tower. The temperature drops to 18.

Super Soakers

I'm thoroughly enjoying the Mosquito Olympics, now playing out in my buggy backyard (available on ESPN7). If the rains keep up I'm going to need a low-flying helicopter to cut my lawn.
Welcome to monsoon season in Minnesota. Rainfall for the last 30 days is already 3-8 inches above average for portions of central Minnesota, and the rains just keep on coming. Once again, for the umpteenth time in recent memory, weather systems are stalling, and when weather gets stuck you need to pay close attention.

A stalled frontal boundary snaking across Minnesota will ignite more heavy T-storms again today; heaviest rains on the cooler north/west side of the front - but the MSP metro may see tropical downpours capable of 1-2 inches, enough for standing water and garage-worthy grad parties.
Have a Plan B and hope for the best.

A ripple of low pressure keeps gulley-washers in the forecast into Monday but Wednesday's storm may steer showers and storms south of the metro. We slowly warm late next week with spotty weekend T-storms. Right on cue.

I'm still betting on a wetter than average summer, statewide, but El Nino may keep us warmer and drier the latter half of 2014.

Keep the faith.

4.43" Sauk Centre
2.6" Breezy Point, on Pelican Lake
* Click here for rainfall and flash flood details, courtesy of NOAA.
* more Minnesota rainfall amounts from CoCoRaHS.

Storm Rainfall. Check out some of the rainfall amounts from near Sauk Centre to Little Falls and Brainerd; Doppler radar estimates of 4-8" in less than 24 hours. To put that into perspective that's 1-2 month's worth of rain since Friday morning. Some of the northern and western suburbs of the Twin Cities picked up 2-3" of rain.

Flash Flood Watch. NOAA has issued a flood watch for much of Minnesota, including the Twin Cities, St. Cloud, Brainerd and Duluth. Saturated soil means any additional heavy rain will almost immediately run off into streets and streams. June is the wettest month of the year for Minnesota, on average. No kidding. Details from the Twin Ciites National Weather Service:








Rising Minnehaha Creek Leads to Flood Warnings. KARE-11 has an update on the ongoing flood potential on Lake Minnetonka, which empties into Minnehaha Creek: "...Currently, Lake Minnetonka's water level is 930.21 feet. The MCWD is discharging water from the Gray's Bay Dam into Minnehaha Creek. Due to high lake levels, water is also flowing over the emergency spillway north of the dam, which has an elevation of 930 feet. As a result of heavy rains this spring, the lake level has been at or above 930 since May 9 and there is no additional capacity in the lake or Minnehaha Creek for more rainfall, increasing the likelihood for flooding in some areas..." (photo: Matt Passolt).

Lingering Flash Flood Potential. NOAA's RAP model thru 4 PM Sunday shows more showers and heavy T-storms flaring up along a stalled frontal boundary. Based on this guidance I could see the Flash Flood Watch extended into late Sunday or early Monday. Future Radar:

84-Hour Future Radar. NOAA's 12 km NAM model finally dries us out during the day Monday as winds swing around to the west and heavy T-storms pinwheel into the Great Lakes. A dry Tuesday gives way to another risk of showers and thundershowers Wednesday, with the greatest potential for heavy rain south of the Twin Cities.

Protecting Your Home From Disasters. Here's a clip from a timely story at The Wall Street Journal: "Many homeowners are flirting with disaster - and they may not even know it. Natural catastrophes and severe weather events that cause major damage are occurring more frequently and inflicting more costly harm. Insurers have responded by putting stricter limits on their liability for losses, forcing homeowners to take on a greater share of the risk. The result is a growing financial incentive to prepare wisely..."

Photo credit above: "Residents of Joplin, Mo, survey the damage after a tornado hit the city in May 2011." Associated Press.

Reflecting Back on Historic (El Reno) May 31, 2013 Tornado. KOCO-TV has a good recap of a massive EF-5 that struck outside Oklahoma City; here's a clip: "...The tornado also had smaller tornadoes within the larger circulation. These are called sub-vortices. Thanks to the help of research meteorologist Gabe Garfield, we know that one of the more intense sub-vortices moved on the ground at 180 mph. It was also stationary at times. The Doppler On Wheels (DOW) measured a 255 mph wind gust in one of the smaller tornadoes just south of I-40. There were also satellite tornadoes, or tornadoes that occur outside of the main circulation. The main gigantic tornado also spawned a tornado with clockwise winds. Most tornadoes have counter-clockwise winds..."

Late Start to Planting Season. Here's a clip from the latest installment of Dr. Mark Seeley's WeatherTalk Newsletter: "...There were numerous reports of hail during the month, and two tornadoes were reported on May 8th, near St James and Madelia. Straight line wind damage occurred near Waseca, Montgomery, and Red Wing damaging buildings, trees, and powerlines. This cool, wet spring produced a late planting season for farmers, but nearly all of the state corn acreage was planted by May 30, and over half of the soybean acreage was planted as well. Southern Minnesota farmers began harvesting alfalfa the last week of the month. Moderate drought remained in the extreme southwestern counties of the state..."

Dust Storm Kills 12 in New Delhi. The Times of India reports.

How To Read The Mind of a Wildfire. An article at The Atlantic has some details about how tree rings and computer models are being tapped to gain a greater understanding of wildfires; here's a clip: "...When fires do burn, they're more destructive, often killing the big trees along with the small. “What's being released in a fire is the accumulated capital stored up through years of photosynthesis,” Falk says. “You're not destroying the carbon, hydrogen, or oxygen molecules. They're just being liberated.” And on a tremendous scale: even a relatively small fire of a couple hundred acres can pump out energy equivalent to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and can push a mushroom cloud of hot air, ash, and soot miles into the sky..."

Animation credit above: "A FIRETEC animation of a 1996 blaze in Malibu." (

The Wealthy, English-Speaking Country Starbucks Can't Conquer. Here's a snippet of a fascinating business case study at Quartz: "...The Seattle-based chain also has a large and growing presence in international markets: Seoul has more Starbucks locations than New York City does, and Canada has more stores on a per capita basis than anywhere else in the world. There is, however, a wealthy international market where the coffee chain has struggled: Australia. That might seem surprising, given it is one of the world’s wealthiest countries and is also completely obsessed with coffee..."

Virgin Spaceflights Cleared For Take-Off. Will my 250k get me peanuts and a drink? That, and a sturdy barf bag? The FAA cleared the way for low-orbit trips later this year, as reported by CNN Money: "...Virgin Galactic has been gearing up to offer space flight services for the general public and has said it wants to start offering flights by the end of 2014. Branson and his family will be on Virgin's first space flight. Virgin Galactic said it has accepted more than $70 million in deposits from about 580 individuals. That's about 10% more than the total number of people who have ever gone to space..."

* more fascinating details on Virgin Galactic's upcoming "flights" at The Houston Chronicle.

TODAY: Tropical humidity. More showers and T-storms. Downpours likely with localized flooding problems. Dew point: 68. Winds: S 10. High: 81
SUNDAY NIGHT: A few more showers, possible thunder. Low: 67
MONDAY: Early thunder? Showers slowly taper. High: near 80
TUESDAY: Peeks of sun, drying breeze. Dew point: 55. Wake-up: 61. High: 76
WEDNESDAY: Showers and T-Showers brush far southern MN. Sun central/north. Wake-up: 57. High: 77
THURSDAY: Warm sun much of the day. Dew point: 60. Wake-up: 58 High: 78
FRIDAY: Hazy sun, pop-up T-storms possible. Wake-up: 60. High: 81
SATURDAY: Sticky sun, storms up north. DP: 64. Wake-up: 62. High: 83

Climate Stories...

Climate Change Meets Kitchen Table As Issue Gets Personal. Will curbing emissions from coal-fired plants be a net positive or negative, when it comes to everything from energy bills to human health? Here's an excerpt of a post at Bloomberg Businessweek: "The White House, as it prepares to announce new limits on carbon emissions, is working to transform the debate from distant threats to more immediate issues. President Barack Obama wants to shift the conversation from polar bears and melting glaciers to droughts in Iowa and more childhood asthma across the nation. Opponents are also making the issue personal. They’re homing in on the rules’ potential kitchen-table impact, raising the prospect of higher utility bills and job losses. They expect those arguments to resonate with voters as the country is still recovering from the worst recession in seven decades..."

Global Warming and the Vulnerability of Greenland's Ice Sheet. Climate models have consistently underestimated the rate of ice melt in Greenland (and the Arctic). Here's an excerpt of a story at The Guardian: "...This work is important because in the past decade or so, it has been found that Greenland is losing ice, lots of ice, to the world’s oceans. As a consequence, Greenland is one of the significant contributors to sea level rise. The level our oceans will rise to in the next decades and centuries depends strongly on how fast the Greenland ice sheet will melt. This study is novel because of the way it combined measurements with mass-conservation calculations. The method allowed far better resolution of the thickness of Greenland glaciers and the shape of the valleys beneath the glaciers. The shape and depth of these valleys is important for moderating the speed of ice flow to the oceans. In fact, in the paper, authors state, “the overall state of mass balance of the ice sheet is affected by considerable uncertainties in bed topography and ice thickness...”

GOP Science Deniers Threaten National Security. Not my headline, but from a marine veteran who is hot under the collar. Here's a snippet of his Op-Ed at Marketwatch: "...The Republican Party is now officially on record as the party of climate-science denialism. These research programs, ongoing and widely used by the Pentagon in strategic national defense planning for many years, could, if the Senate agrees, become illegal to use. Yes, this Marine veteran is mad as hell. GOP science deniers have “crossed the line,” they’re now messing with national security. America is now under attack from an enemy within, irrational science denialism, a toxic mind-set, a spreading, self-destructive mental virus. Yes, this is a “War on America.” The military has been using climate-science research for decades. This vote is self-destructive. These research studies are essential in our national defense..."

Obama Is Planning His Biggest Climate Policy Yet - And He Doesn't Need Congress. Vox has more details on the upcoming rule changes regarding coal-fired energy; here's an excerpt: "...Early reporting suggests that the EPA will set overall emissions limits for each individual state. Power companies in those states will have a variety of options for getting below that limit — using more efficient technology, boosting their use of solar or wind or nuclear, or even joining regional cap-and-trade systems that require companies to pay to emit carbon-dioxide. Early reports suggest that US coal plants could ultimately have to reduce their emissions around 20 percent (though we still don't know the baseline — more on that below). Those coal plants, in turn, are responsible for about 28.7 percent of all US carbon-dioxide emissions.."

Graphic credit: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

How Obama's Power Plant Emission Rules Will Work. More details, and a Q and A, from The Washington Post; here's a clip: "Obama says the rules are essential to curb the heat-trapping greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Critics contend the rules will kill jobs, drive up electricity prices and shutter plants across the country. Environmentalists and industry advocates alike are eagerly awaiting the specifics, which the Environmental Protection Agency will make public for the first time on Monday and Obama will champion from the White House..." (File photo above: Matt Brown, AP).

The All of the Above Energy Strategy as a Path to Sustainable Economic Growth. More details and light reading in this 43 page PDF from The White House.

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