Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Storm Fizzles (coating today, couple inches possible early Saturday)

55.8" snow so far this winter in St. Cloud.

4.6" snowfall in March.
9" snow on the ground as of Tuesday evening.
36 F. high on Tuesday (4 degrees above average for March 8).
Coating expected today in the St. Cloud metro area today.
1-2" more snow possible Friday night and Saturday morning.
1-2" possible Sunday night.
40s possible next week in St. Cloud, even a slight chance of seeing the first 50 F. of the year.

* What happened? The storm we've been tracking for well over a week ultimately tracked 75-100 miles farther south and east, taking the heaviest snow bands into southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin. The models have been all over the map with this storm track - frustrating for meteorologists trying to get a handle on this scenario, and equally frustrating for consumers who just want to know "when will it snow, and how much?"

Snow Water Equivalent. This is the top weather story - not the 1-2" of slush expected to fall today. According to NOAA's National Snow Analysis, there is 3-6" of liquid water in the snow across most of southwestern and western Minnesota, with pockets of 6-10" amounts. That is more than I can remember seeing (at this time of year) going back at least 15 years. This, coupled with saturated soil, and the (growing) potential for a rapid warming trend - coupled with rain, may result in very rapid snow melt and runoff in the weeks ahead. April will be a very tough month for river flooding - I still believe it may be worse than 1997 for some towns on the Mississippi, Minnesota and Red Rivers. The latest flood forecast from the local NWS office is here.

More Nuisance Than Plowable. An inch or two is possible today in the Twin Cities (just a coating in St. Cloud), the brunt of the heaviest snow veering off well south and east of MSP (6" or more possible over northeastern Iowa and southwestern Wisconsin). The farther south and east you drive down Highway 61, the greater the odds of a few inches of slushy accumulation.

Dribs and Drabs. No mega-storms, just three separate (relatively minor) snow events, a coating of slushy today, another couple of slushy inches early Saturday, yet another chance of a minor snowfall late Sunday night and early Monday.

New Colors On The Weather Map. The white (snow is fading fast), the purple (icy mix) and green (rain) dominating Tuesday's night's surface map. The center of low pressure over Missouri is forecast to track toward Rockford and Madison, too far south/east for significant snow in the Twin Cities. We'll just get a glancing blow of slush. Click here to see the latest high-resolution surface map (red dots indicate IFR conditions, visibilities low enough to interfere with air travel).

Taste of April? The GFS model is pretty consistent pulling unusually mild air into Minnesota by the end of next week, a few days in the 40s, even a shot at 50 by next Thursday and Friday, March 17 and 18. Heavy snow cover will limit how high the mercury can soar, but I suspect we'll see our first taste of spring fever in a little over a week. We're due.

Dan Rather: Inside Mark Cuban's Guilded Cage. Whatever happened to Dan Rather? He's at HDNet, a relatively small, subscription-based cable channel. It doesn't have the reach of CBS, but Rather has a free hand to do whatever stories interest him. More from Mother Jones: "DAN RATHER IS EBULLIENT, more so than usual, as we hurtle north from San Diego in a rented Chevy SUV. The former CBS News anchorman is recounting a story he'd reported in 2007 about problems with electronic voting machines. "We found out that these wonderful, electronic, technological marvels were manufactured in what amounted to a sweatshop in the Philippines—the Philippines, exclamation point!" he says, in that ascending tone so familiar to generations of Americans. "The equipment wouldn't fit in its boxes, so the workers, two of them, had to put their feet on the thing and shove it into the box. They've got to get it in there, it's got to ship, and so they've got four feet in there pushing this thing." He lets out a laugh. "In some cases, the company's explanation of why these things are good fell into the category of 'If bullshit were music, these guys would be a full symphony orchestra.'" The recollection has gotten Rather, who is clad in his familiar anchorman's attire, visibly fired up. He phones his executive producer back in New York, saying he wants to revisit the story. He then cranes around to the backseat and asks his young assistant to track down the author of a recent book on voting machines. As we come to a stop on a hilltop overlooking the city, Rather flips open his notebook, glances over his questions, and swings himself out of the car, ready for his interview."

Fareed Zakaria GPS. Not sure if you watch Sunday morning television, but if you're not watching (or DVR'ing) Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN you're missing some extraordinary television. I still love CBS Sunday Morning, but with the Facebook Revolution underway in the Mideast, rumors of "peak oil" swirling the markets, the (increasingly dire) budget deficits, there has never been a greater need for a diet of reliable, non-partisan information. Real "news". I'm really impressed with this guy, definitely one of the more cerebral, thoughtful guys on television at the moment. Check out his show on CNN Sunday morning at 9 am, again at noon. Trust me, it will be time well spent, and you'll turn off the TV with a new appreciation of what's happening around the planet. You might also want to check out "Global Public Square", a collaboration with CNN and Time Magazine, for additional insight.

Happiest In Hawaii: Aloha State Tops Well-Being List.  I suspect this survey was conducted in August, and not January. Just a hunch. An article worth celebrating from Yahoo and LiveScience: "Sun and waves might be good for the soul, according to a new national survey naming Hawaii as tops in well-being among U.S. states — but the sunshine doesn't necessarily elbow out Northern Lights and snow, as Alaska also made the top 10 happiest states list. The 2010 telephone survey was conducted by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31. Results showed the South may need some smile help, with 10 southern states falling into the lower range of the list. Many western states, however, shined in well-being, with five of the top 10 located in that region of the country. [Related: Happiest States Revealed by New Research] The survey — which included a random sample of 352,840 adults ages 18 and older living in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia — looked at six categories of well-being. These categories included life evaluation (self-evaluation about your present life situation and anticipated one in five years); emotional health; work environment (such as job satisfaction); physical health; healthy behavior; and basic access (access to health care, a doctor, a safe place to exercise and walk, as well as community satisfaction)."

The top 10 states and their average well-being scores (out of a possible 100 points):
1.     Hawaii: 71.0
2.     Wyoming: 69.2
3.     North Dakota: 68.4
4.     Alaska: 68.3
5.     Colorado: 68.0
6.     Minnesota: 68.0 (really a tie for #5).

Nation Savoring Every Moment of Glorious Late-February/Early-March Weather. As reported in The Onion: "Saying there are only a few days left to relish the steel-gray skies, dirt-caked melting snow, and still-freezing temperatures, citizens across the country are reportedly taking the time to savor every last moment of 2011's late-February, early-March days. "It's my favorite time of year," said 42-year-old Cleveland resident Meredith Polonsky, adding that she loves stepping outside and smelling the thawing dog (poop) nobody bothered to pick up during the winter, as well as going to the park, avoiding all the places where the ground is too wet, and going home early because the high winds make her eyes hurt. "Also, I love that the days are getting longer, but still aren't long enough to actually do anything. It's really magical." According to a CNN/New York Times†poll, a majority of Americans are hoping for just one more night where a slushy, rain-snow mix forces them to stay inside and watch another Milwaukee Bucks–Indiana Pacers regular season basketball game."

Above Average. 39 F. felt pretty amazing yesterday (especially when the sun peeked through). Not bad. Just imagine how good 50 may feel by the end of next week? Highs ranged from 31 at Alexandria to 36 at St. Cloud, to 38 in St. Paul, where the Boy's Hockey Tournament kicks off at the Xcel Energy Center today. Talk about a storm-magnet.

Paul's SC Times Outlook for St. Cloud and all of central Minnesota:

TODAY: Light snow and flurries today, a dusting or coating possible - no major problems on the highways.  Winds: N 10-20. High: 31

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Light snow tapers to flurries, little or no additional accumulation. Low: 19

THURSDAY: Sun comes out, slush melts. High: 32

FRIDAY: Late (rain) showers possible, changing to wet snow Friday night. High: 36

SATURDAY: A couple of slushy inches of snow possible early, tapers to flurries. Windy. High: 30

SATURDAY NIGHT: Clearing (don't forget to "spring forward" 1 hour before going to bed - daylight saving time arrives). Low: 14

SUNDAY: Fading sun, a dry sky. High: 31

MONDAY: Early flurries, then clearing. Low: 20. High: 34

TUESDAY: PM rain/snow showers possible. Low: 27. High: 39

* A string of 40s are possible the latter half of next week, even a shot at 50 by next Thursday and Friday.

First 50 Next Week?

Welcome to Slushyopolis. The Twin Sloppies. Spring at this latitude is always 2 steps forward, 1 step back; a difficult process. The "snow event" (hesitate calling it a storm) we've been tracking for 9 days passes south/east of town today, just brushing us with a coating or dusting of slush in St. Cloud, maybe 1-2" in the Twin Cities. Getting to the Boy's Hockey Tournament will be slow, but this should not be a big deal. Another 1-2" may fall early Saturday; models hinting at a potentially major storm Thursday of next week (too early to even speculate).

Chirping birds, gurgling drain-spouts - you can see evidence of that higher sun angle, and by the 3rd week of March you should be able to FEEL it! The GFS model is hinting at a few 50s as early as late next week, through the weekend of March 19-20. We'll see, but I finally see some real signs of hope in the extended weathher models.

The combination of a rapid thaw and a few significant storms has forecasters increasingly paranoid about a record flood season. April may bring back memories of '97, possibly even '65.

According to Greg Spoden at the MN Climate Office, 10 of the last 15 La Nina winters have dumped over 20" snow on the Twin Cities in March. Odds favor a (very) wet/snowy month, but at least it will feel like spring in roughly 2 weeks.

Remember that today as you putter through a little slush in the coming days.

Science-Free Congress? Here's a timely Op-Ed in Politico: "To our dismay, and the nation’s detriment, self-described climate change deniers – strongly supported by fossil-fuel interests — continue to mislead Congress and the public. In late January, we joined 14 other leading scientists in writing a letter to every member of Congress, asking our elected representatives to separate science from policy. We called attention to the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change, urging Congress to “address the challenge of climate change, and lead the national response…” We want Congress to understand that, with each passing day, the problem worsens. Our letter was certainly not the first plea to Congress to address climate change, and it won’t be the last. An open letter just last May from 255 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences urged similar actions. But the race to run away from the problem is nothing short of staggering. Nothing exemplifies this more than a bill by House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), to overturn the scientific finding by the Environmental Protection Agency that greenhouse gases are harmful to human health. We are saddened and disturbed that Upton is apparently planning to hold a vote in committee very soon to overturn a science-based determination absent any scientific justification for doing so."

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