Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spring Fever Alert (60s today, near 70 Sunday with T-storms)

63 F. high on Thursday. Average high is 51 F.

+15 F. Sunday temperatures are expected to average 10-20 degrees above normal.

65 F. predicted high later today, 15 degrees above average.

Twins Fans can expect a partly sunny sky, southeast breeze - odds favor dry weather for the Home Opener vs. the A's.

50s expected Saturday as a warm front stalls nearby, keeping us mostly cloudy and damp. If the sun comes out we should see 60s, but right now I'm pessimistic about that scenario.

Upper 60s possible Sunday. Those temperatures are typical for mid May.
80+ F. from Albert Lea to Rochester by Sunday? If the sun is out for even a couple of hours 80s are possible south/east of MSP.

Slight Severe Risk. SPC has southeastern Minnesota in a "slight risk" of isolated severe storms. The best chance of hail and potentially damaging winds will come from late Saturday into Sunday. St. Cloud will be on the fringe of any strong/severe storms - a greater risk closer to the Twin Cities Sunday.

Saturday: frontal boundary may get "stuck" over central/southern Minnesota with low clouds and a cool east wind. My hunch (based on the latest NAM model) is that highs may hold in the 50s in the metro area, 60s possible south of the Minnesota River. A shower is possible, but much of the day will be dry with a little drizzle.

Sunday: warmer, wetter day of the weekend with higher humidity levels (dew points rising above 60), muggy and unsettled with more numerous showers/T-storms, a few may turn severe later in the day.

Muggy Sunday? In a little over 2 weeks we will have gone from neighbors whining about 4-8" of slush to neighbors complaining about the 'dang dew point. Models are hinting at dew points above 64 by Sunday evening at 7 pm - moisture levels you'd expect to see in June. This surge of moisture may set the stage for an outbreak of strong to severe storms, best chance PM hours on Sunday.

Fargo Time-Lapse. Check out the rising Red River near Fargo, courtesy of the USGS and the City of Fargo. The timeline goes up to April 7.

Weekend Crest. According to NOAA river forecasters the Red River in Fargo is predicted to crest sometime this weekend at 39.5 feet, a little more than a foot below the all-time record crest set in March, 2009. A close call indeed.

Turn Around, Don't Drown! Tacky, but memorable, right? Only extreme heat claims more lives in the USA than flooding. More important factoids from NOAA: "Did you know fast moving water just above your ankles can knock you off your feet? Most people do not! That’s why each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded. You will not know the depth of the water nor will you know the condition of the road under the water. Whether you are driving or walking, if you come to a flooded road, Turn Around Don't Drown!"

Flash Flood Details. An average of 140 Americans lose their lives to flooding every year. Only 6" of rapidly moving water can knock you off your feet, just 2 feet of water can turn your vehicle into a boat. This is where people get into trouble - they underestimate the depth of water on the highway (easy to do at night) and before they know it their vehicle is floating downstream! NOAA has more facts about flash flooding here.

I (Almost) Miss The Slush. O.K. Not really, but it would be nice to go a few weeks in-between the snow advisories and winter storms watches and having to babble about hail, high water and isolated tornadoes. Here's a good summary from the local NWS office.

Isolated Severe Storms? SPC has the southeastern quarter of Minnesota (including the Twin Cities) in a slight risk of severe storms from Saturday morning through Sunday morning. I do expect some watches and warnings to be issued, the threat increases the farther south/east you travel away from MSP.

Salvaging Part Of Our Saturday? Warm frontal boundaries tend to be most "active" during the nighttime hours. Much of Saturday may be dry, partly sunny, increasingly humid with highs possibly topping 70, before a round of T-storms arrives Saturday night. We may dry out (temporarily) Sunday morning before another round of heavy/severe storms arrives Sunday afternoon into Sunday evening. Timing is tricky, confidence level is low, but right now I believe Sunday will be the wetter (noisier) day of the weekend.

Projected Rainfall Amounts. The NAM model keeps the heaviest rain bands just north/west of the Twin Cities over the weekend, over 1" near Alexandria, some .50 to .75" amounts possible from St. Cloud into the north metro, with lesser amounts predicted for the south metro. Rain with convective weather (T-storms) tends to be very fickle - not placing a lot of stock in this rainfall prediction. Southern Minnesota may see the heaviest amounts from scattered storms.

Ripe For Severe Storms. With the warmth and escalating humidity levels will come a growing chance of T-storms, a few may be strong to severe, especially from Iowa into Illinois and southern Wisconsin. According to an analyst at Accu Weather: "In what is likely to produce hundreds of severe weather incidents ranging from large hail to tornadoes, there will again be major risks to lives and property in over a dozen states. People are going to want to take this severe weather outbreak very seriously."

Severe Sunday? Many of the ingredients are converging for a major outbreak just south/east of MSP Saturday night into Sunday: abundant low-level moisture (dew points topping 60), strong instability (lifted indices in the -4 to -8 range) and strong wind shear (winds changing speed/direction with altitude). The result may be a few isolated "supercell" storms capable of large hail - the greatest risk of tornadoes from Iowa and Illinois into southern Wisconsin. More from Henry Margusity at Accu Weather: "I outlined an area of TS5 storms and tornadoes in the Midwest for Sunday. It looks like all the parameters come together in that area for a major severe weather event. Temperatures will be in the 70s and 80s, with dew points in the 60s. Cape values are high, and shear very high."

Severe Sunday? "Cape" is a measure of instability. Values Sunday evening are forecast to exceed 2,000, which is relatively high (for early April). With sufficient instability, low-level moisture and wind shear (along with a vigorous frontal boundary nearby) conditions may be ripe for a severe storm outbreak - best chance south/east of the Twin Cities Sunday PM hours.

Ripe For Watches/Warnings? The European ECMWF solution predicts an intense area of low pressure near Sioux Falls, South Dakota Sunday morning, a warm front draped over southern Minnesota. South of this boundary 80s are likely over Iowa, possible far southeastern Minnesota. I still think we'll see 70s here in the metro area. The more sun (and higher the mercury rises) the greater the potential for a severe storm outbreak later in the day.

Review Of April 4-5 Severe Storm Outbreak. NOAA has a good recap of the atmospheric tantrum earlier this week; Monday brought nearly 1,300 separate severe weather reports, one of the biggest 24 hour storm totals since the "Super Outbreak" of 1974, which happened 37 years earlier, to the day, ironically enough. Yes, it's going to be a long spring: "The widespread severe weather episode at the beginning of the week of April 3, 2011, resulted in over 1000 individual reports of thunderstorm wind gusts that either produced damage, or were of such magnitude that the observed wind speed was capable of producing damage. One definition the National Weather Service (NWS) uses to categorize a severe thunderstorm is: any thunderstorm producing a wind gust equal to or greater than 50 knots (58 mph), or observed wind damage resulting from estimated wind speeds equal to or greater than 50 knots (58 mph). A truly remarkable number of wind events did occur in this recent event. In fact, while the number of wind reports across a 24 hour period remain preliminary and will need to be further reviewed by NWS meteorologists in the affected areas, it is likely that in the final analysis, the wind reports numbers alone will far exceed any other severe weather outbreak in the official records of the NWS. However, using wind reports alone can be misleading when attempting to put an event such as this into some meteorological and historical perspective.

I've Never Seen This Before. An entire state covered in warnings? That was the case from Alabama to Georgia and South Carolina, and a significant percentage of every state from Arkansas and Mississippi to Virginia - a few warnings as close to us as central Wisconsin. Data courtesy of NOAA.

Impact On The National Weather Service? I don't pretend to know how or even if National Weather Service operations might be impacted if the federal government does in fact shut down - I've been assured that any budget impasse would not affect the issuance of day to day forecasts or warnings. Time will tell.

Hikers Discover Tornado Damage In Smokies. Countering the (myth) that tornadoes can't cross big hills, check out this story from WATE-TV: "TOWNSEND (WATE) - Hikers discovered tornado damage in the Great Smoky Mountains that may have happened the same night as a tornado devastated areas of Blount County and Greenback. It appears a weak EF-1 tornado touched down about 10 miles southwest of Townsend on March 23, according to Tim Troutman. He's the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service. Troutman says the storm that hit Blount County may have lifted and touched down again in the mountains."

Tornado or Gustnado? Jon Davies has a look at the severe storm of April 3 near Perry, Kansas. Was it a true tornado, or a "gustnado", formed along the periphery of a powerful outflow boundary? And do you care at this point? Only the most true-blued weather geeks may be interested, but I thought I'd include this post (for educational purposes): "My analysis (previous blog post) of the setting for Sunday's "gustnado" on 4/3/11 near Perry KS stirred up different reactions and opinions as to whether Sunday's vortex actually was a "tornado" or not. Nature certainly defies categories made by man, and there are definite gray areas in classifying tornadoes and small-scale atmospheric vortices. Sunday's "gustnado" was not associated with a mesoscyclone. But a "landspout" (a non-supercell _tornado_ according to the AMS glossary) isn't associated with a mesocyclone, either, and is considered a tornado because the vortex (along a nearly stationary or slow-moving boundary) extends well up into the cloud of the parent thunderstorm, with dust typically extending in a vertical column all the way to cloud base, often under a condensation funnel aloft. Gustnadoes always occur along thunderstorm gust fronts and are more shallow; the AMS glossary definition also categorizes them as "weak" and "short-lived".

Weakening La Nina. A strong cooling of equatorial Pacific water was at least partially responsible for the 84.7" of snow this past winter season. According to NOAA La Nina is (finally) weakening. Hallelujah. "La Niña weakened for the third consecutive month, as reflected by increasing surface and subsurface ocean temperatures across the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Nearly all of the ENSO models predict La Niña to continue weakening in the coming months, and the majority of models indicate a return to ENSO-neutral by May-June-July 2011 (three month average in the Niño-3.4 index between –0.5oC and +0.5oC. While there is confidence in ENSO-neutral conditions by June 2011, the forecasts for the late summer and beyond remain highly uncertain."

Perspective. There are a lot of things we DON'T have to worry about here in Minnesota: earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, hurricanes and sandstorms. Check out this YouTube clip of a massive sandstorm that swept across the deserts of Kuwait in late March. It lasted over an hour, visibilities dropped to zero in choking dust/sand; the act of breathing became nearly impossible out in the open. The photographer who shot the video adds: "We were fine inside the car especially that we had the closed circuit A/C, no external air. Could you imagine that we picked up a guy who was walking before the storm hits, and when it did he lost his way and he could not see a thing. he was in the storm for an hour or so, he only saw the lights and flashers of our car and he ran toward us. he freaked us out when he hit the glass of the car, cuz we could not see him coming and we were driving sooooo slow."

Before & After. The top photo is the first, grainy, black and white image from the world's first weather satellite, Tiros-1, launched by the National Weather Service on April 1, 1960. The bottom image is from NASA's low-orbitting "Terra" satellite with 250 meter resolution. The detail is remarkable - showing ice already off most lakes in the south metro, just starting to come off on Lake Minnetonka, roughly 2 weeks later than 2010.

How To Recognize A Minnesotan On The Beach. What I'd give for a tan line right about now. I know - bad for the skin. But still....

Feeling Feverish. A few weeks ago we were talking about a "chance of 60s" for the second week of April, but I didn't think it would get quite this warm - this fast. Yesterday the mercury peaked at 63 in St. Cloud and 64 in the Twin Cities.

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

TODAY: Spring Fever Alert. Partly sunny and mild (probably dry for the Twins Home Opener). Winds: SE 10. High: 65

FRIDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy, relatively mild. Low: 49

SATURDAY: Warm front stalls nearby. Mostly cloudy and damp with a little drizzle. High: 55 (60s likely over southern Minnesota).

SATURDAY NIGHT: Growing chance of a shower, maybe a few heavy T-storms over southern MN. Low: 50

SUNDAY: May-like. Becoming warm and muggy with showers, even a few severe T-storms? High: 68

MONDAY: Windy, turning cooler with showers - tapering later in the day. Low: 48. High: 56 (falling during the day)

TUESDAY: Sunny start, increasing clouds - rain possible late Tuesday. Low: 42. High: 57

WEDNESDAY: Showers taper, patchy clouds. Low: 40. High: 55

THURSDAY: Some sun, probably dry. Low: 38. High: 57

Play Ball!
Mother Nature must be a Twins fan. Considering we could be knee-deep in slush and cowering beneath heavy parkas, mid 60s (with peeks of sun) on April 8 is downright reasonable. A few ambitious fans may even show up in shorts. Who would have predicted THAT a month ago?

With a surge of warmth (and humidity) will come a growing thunder threat this weekend, the best chance of 70-degree warmth (and rumbles of thunder) coming Sunday. According to National Weather Service records the average date of the first "severe weather day" is April 12. Although the best chance of hail and damaging winds will probably set up south/east of the Twin Cities, a few rough storms can't be ruled out late Saturday into Sunday. A vigorous storm tracks close to MSP by Sunday, yanking a plume of moisture direct from the Gulf of Mexico. From 40s at Duluth to near 80 in Rochester, a huge temperature contrast may set the stage for T-storms; a few could pack hail and .5"+ rainfall amounts. The impact on flooding? "At this point additional rain forecast Sunday will not add to the crest, only delay the rivers/streams from falling," NWS chief Dan Luna explained. 

The soil is frozen & saturated; more run-off likely. 

Check the blog for updates, peel off a few layers & say hello to spring!

Today's Weather Affects Attitudes On Global Warming. Maybe we're hard-wired to look out the window and make assumptions for the planet. "It's snowing - so the entire world must be cold!" Absurd? Absolutely, but you'd be amazed how many bright, otherwise logical adults are swayed by what's happening outside their windows. You've heard it before: weather is CNN, climate is the History Channel. Weather is "will I need shorts or a heavy jacket today?" Climate is the ratio of shorts to jackets in your closet. Here's an article from Live Science: "Whether people accept manmade global warming as real may depend on the weather outside that particular day, a new study finds. Social scientists have been puzzled over the disconnect between solid evidence showing that humans are causing the planet to warm and public acceptance of these findings, which seems to waver. (Poll: Are Humans Causing Global Warming?] The study results suggest that because global warming and climate are complex and long-term trends, people may be more likely to grasp onto a simpler, more easily accessible explanation — the weather. "Global warming is so complex, it appears some people are ready to be persuaded by whether their own day is warmer or cooler than usual, rather than think about whether the entire world is becoming warmer or cooler," Ye Li, a postdoctoral researcher at the Columbia Business School's Center for Decision Sciences, said in a statement. "It is striking that society has spent so much money, time and effort educating people about this issue, yet people are still so easily influenced."

Sequestering Smokestack Carbon Into Cash. I've been saying for some time there's green to be made by going green. Our slow transition to a more energy-efficient economy (waking up to the fact that we ship $550 billion/year to countries that don't like us very much to keep our oil addiction alive) is going to present some incredible opportunities for entrepreneurs considering new business models. Here's an example, as reported by "Last week, Texas-based Skyonic Corporation was granted a U.S. patent on its SkyMine technology, which is said to remove CO2 from smoke stack emissions by mineralizing it into sodium bicarbonate. That bicarbonate (also known as baking soda) can then be sold for use in glass manufacturing, algae biofuel production, and other areas. Skyonic claims that not only will its process remove carbon and other harmful substances from flue gases, but also that companies using SkyMine will financially profit from the sale of bicarbonates. Skyonic is somewhat secretive about how its process works, but states that it combines gas handling, absorption and electrochemical production. Facilities utilizing it can choose to remove anywhere from 10 to 99 percent of the carbon in their emissions, due to the fact that different plant designs may require different carbon removal configurations. The process is also said to remove sulfur, nitrogen and heavy metals such as mercury, which means that plants will be able to save money by doing away with existing scrubbers and other filtration equipment. Besides sodium bicarbonate, SkyMine can also reportedly produce marketable hydrochloric acid, bleach, chlorine, and hydrogen. We’re told that companies using the system can expect to see a return on their investment in as little as three years."

Tennessee House OK's Bill Shielding Teachers Who Doubt Evolution, Global Warming. A recent article from the "NASHVILLE — The House voted 70-23 today for a bill backers say shields teachers from being disciplined if they discuss alternatives to evolution and global warming theories with students. The debate ranged over the scientific method, “intellectual bullies,” hair spray and “Inherit the Wind,” a 1960 movie about the 1925 Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tenn. Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, said the bill’s intent is to promote “critical thinking” in science classrooms. Critics contend it’s a shield to allow the teaching of evolution alternatives such as intelligent design and creationism. Bill supporter Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, said that “since the late ‘50s, early ‘60s when we let the intellectual bullies hijack our education system, we’ve been on a slippery slope.” “This is a common-sense bill,” Floyd said. “Thank you for bringing this bill to protect our teachers from the other intellectual bullies.”

Intellectual bullies? A long time ago, during a saner period of our history, we called these people "scientists".

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