Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring On Hold (1-2" slush possible Saturday morning)

47 F. high on Thursday.
54 F. average high on April 14 in St. Cloud.

13 hours, 26 minutes, 21 seconds of daylight on April 14.
+ 4 hours, 40 minutes, 14 seconds of additional daylight at STC since December 21.

1-2" slushy snow possible early Saturday (2-3"+ possible in the suburbs). Whatever falls should melt by late morning.

2/10th's of additional snow and this will become the 4th snowiest winter on record for the Twin Cities.

Only A Test. The sirens sounded Thursday afternoon - a test of the emergency outdoor warning system. Remember, the sirens were never meant for indoor consumption - don't rely on them for tornado warnings. They were created for outdoor use only. This is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Minnesota - to see all the topics covered by the National Weather Service click here.

* Important Note: I've said it before, but it bears repeating: do not rely on (just) the emergency sirens to get tornado warnings. If you do you're putting yourself and your family at heightened risk. The sirens were designed for outdoor use only. They were never meant to be heard indoors. I'm always a little shocked at the number of otherwise rational, logical people who tell me "I go to the basement when I hear the sirens." Bad idea. You should have "multiple safety nets" when it comes to severe weather. That means:


NOAA Weather Radio (still the best, cheapest form of life insurance you'll ever buy. They start at $25-30.

Internet/E-Mail Alerts. There are many free services you can sign up for so you'll get an e-mail if a warning is issued for your specific county.

Smart Phone Apps: on Android and iTunes you can download apps that send out warnings - many are free.

How Much? A changeover from rain to sleet (ice pellets) to snow is still expected late Friday night/Saturday morning. It will be a heavy, wet, slushy snow, and a quick inch or two can't be ruled out, the NAM hinting at some 3"+ amounts for the far western (and eastern) suburbs The NAM model prints out as much as 4-7"+ in a band over northeastern Minnesota, including Duluth and Hibbing. Some 12-15" amounts are possible over the eastern Dakotas, with 4-8" for parts of the Red River Valley. Whatever falls should melt by early afternoon Saturday as skies brighten and temperatures rise into the 40s.

Big Variations. The latest NAM model shows the heaviest amounts of slush possible over parts of central Minnesota , where some 1-3" amounts are possible late tonight into Saturday morning. A narrow band of 3-6" is possible from Alexandria to Wadena and the Leech Lake area.

Slush Potential. There is still more variation than I'd like to see for a potential snow event that is 18-24 hours away (have cutbacks at NOAA already begun?) The range is 1/2" to 4" for the metro - right now I'm leaning toward a sloppy, slushy 1-2" first thing Saturday morning - just enough to gunk up your nice, green lawn with a coating of white for a few hours tomorrow morning. Just enough to remind you that spring is Minnesota is tenuous at best.

Storm Track. The models are all in pretty good agreement about the track of today's storm, still favorable for a changeover from rain to snow. If precipitation were to fall as all-snow we'd wind up with about 3-4" of slush, but I still suspect there will be enough warm air in the lowest mile of the atmosphere for a cold rain during the evening and early nighttime hours.

Shocking Video. The Empire State Building is struck, on average, a few hundred times/year. Here is a You Tube clip showing a recent flurry of strikes.

Earth Had 13th Warmest March On Record. The very latest from NOAA: "The Earth experienced the 13th warmest March since record keeping began in 1880, as the climate phenomenon La Niña continued to be a significant factor. The annual maximum Arctic sea ice extent was reached on March 7 and tied with 2006 as the smallest annual maximum extent since record keeping began in 1979.
  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for March 2011 was the 13th warmest on record at 55.78 F (13.19 C), which is 0.88 F (0.49 C) above the 20th century average of 54.9 F (12.7 C). The margin of error associated with this temperature is +/- 0.13 F (0.07 C).

  • Separately, the global land surface temperature was 1.49 F (0.83 C) above the 20th century average of 40.8 F (5.0 C), and tied for the 12th warmest March on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.15 F (0.27 C).Warmer-than-average conditions occurred across most of Siberia, southwestern Greenland, southern North America, and most of Africa. Cooler-than-average regions included: most of Australia, the western half of Canada, most of Mongolia, China, and southeastern Asia."

Kansas Brushfires Spread A Pall Of Smoke Over Missouri. Look carefully and you can see a blue-gray smear of smoke spreading across Missouri, blown aloft from fires over eastern Kansas. The University of Wisconsin CIMSS Weather Blog has the details: "An AWIPS image of POES AVHRR 3.7 µm shortwave IR data (above) revealed a large number of fire “hot spots” (black to red to yellow pixels) across much of eastern Kansas on 12 April 2011. The majority of these were grassland fires. On the following day (13 April 2011), a well-defined area of dense smoke aloft could be seen stretching from Missouri into southwestern Iowa on a MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel image."

Most Violent States In The USA? This is one Top 10 list we do not want to be on (and I'm happy to report that Minnesota and Wisconsin are NOT on the list). Florida is #4, Louisiana has the unpleasant distinction of being the most violent state in the U.S. And what's going on in North Dakota? More details from Huffington Post: "We've all heard that crime doesn't pay. Peace, it turns, out does. The newest edition of the U.S. Peace Index, developed by the Institute for Economics and Peace, ranks states by level of peacefulness. The index is based on five primary indicators: (1) number of homicides per 100,000 people, (2) number of violent crimes per 100,000 people, (3) number of people in jail per 100,000 people, (4) number of police officers per 100,000 people and (5) general availability of small arms. Combining these figures, the U.S. Peace Index calculates a number summarizing the overall peacefulness of each state, with low numbers being safer. Currently, the national average is 2.056. Since 1995, the U.S. has become 8 percent safe, according to the index. Not all states have improved, though. New York's become 32.3 percent safer since 1991, but other states have actually become more dangerous, like North Dakota (47.7 percent more dangerous) and Tennessee (9.3 percent more dangerous). Generally, Southern states tended to be the least safe, with the region scoring 3.13 on the index, compared with the Northeast, calculated to be the safest region with a score of 1.99.

Believers In "Peak Oil" Preparing For When A Fill-Up Costs $100. Gas is already hovering at $4/gallon; it's not hard to imagine $5/gallon gasoline in the not-too-distant future. Here's an article from Hawaii's "Another energy expert, Fereidun Fesharaki, East-West Center petroleum expert and a senior fellow, predicts $200 barrel gallon oil within five years. At that price you will be paying $6 a gallon at the pump. Fesharaki puts $400 worth of gas in his car every month to power his commute from Mililani. The rational driver should expect to pay between $800 and $1,000 as oil prices continue to rise, he says. In much of Europe, where gas is already more than $6 a gallon, much of the price is taxes. In fact, Fesharaki suggests that one way to trim our oil addiction is to tax it out of us. Somehow I don't see that happening, although taxing us into an "oil scared straight" program does have its local supporters."

Decide For Yourself. Here is a YouTube clip from NASA, which purports to show a HAARP missile being fired at a UFO. If you look carefully you can see an object moving from right to left across the screen. You see a flash (missile fire?) and then the object (whatever it is) reverses direction and flies off into space, defying every known law of physics in the process. I am not a conspiracy theorist - I have no idea if UFO's are real or a figment of our imagination, but this is pretty strange. Here is the description: "You can see the tracer shooting, and the UFO is flying away after the flash."

Antarctic Lake Hides Bizarre Ecosystem. A fascinating article from "In the eerie bluish-purple depths of an Antarctic lake, scientists have discovered otherworldly mounds that tell tales of the planet’s early days. Bacteria slowly built the mounds, known as stromatolites, layer by layer on the lake bottom. The lumps, which look like oversize traffic cones, resemble similar structures that first appeared billions of years ago and remain in fossil form as one of the oldest widespread records of ancient life. The Antarctic discovery could thus help scientists better understand the conditions under which primitive life-forms thrived. “It’s like going back to early Earth,” says Dawn Sumner, a geobiologist at the University of California, Davis. Sumner and her colleagues, led by Dale Andersen of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, describe the discovery in an upcoming issue of Geobiology. “These are just incredibly beautiful microbial landscapes,” she says. Researchers have probed many Antarctic lakes to study the weird and wonderful microbes that live there. Andersen alone has dived into at least eight such lakes. But he says the discovery of the stromatolites rocketed East Antarctica’s Lake Untersee “to the top of my list.”

Upgrade Your Life: Gadgets Under $25. Some interesting (affordable) gadgets for that special techno-geek in your life, courtesy of Yahoo News.

Aerobie Aero Press $21.72
The Aero Press makes great espresso-strength coffee in under a minute! Just pour in hot water and coffee grounds, mix, then press it all through the filter you can vary the strength of your coffee by mixing or pressing it longer. It creates a vacuum seal to really pressure the water through the coffee, so it's a much stronger taste than the traditional French press coffee. Cleanup is also really easy, since the grounds and the filter are compacted into a cookie-like wad, and the Press' parts are all made of dishwasher-safe plastic. A pack of 350 replacement filters sells for just $5.

Oster Electric Wine Bottle Opener $17
Opening a wine bottle is hard work (really?), but the Oster electric wine opener makes it dead simple no twisting required. Place it onto the top of the wine bottle, press a button, and in 10 seconds the cork is extracted; absolutely no human effort required. The Oster Electric Wine Bottle Opener can open 30 bottles on a single charge, and it has a rechargeable battery.

Raw Thursday. Under a mostly-gray sky the mercury only managed to reach 48 in the Twin Cities on Thursday, 8 degrees below average. St. Cloud registered 47, 49 in downtown St. Paul.

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

TODAY: Raw and windy, cold rain develops later in the day. Winds: E 15-30. High: 47

FRIDAY NIGHT: Rain changes to sleet, then wet snow (after midnight). Low: 30

SATURDAY: 1-2" slush early (more possible in the outlying suburbs), then slow clearing. Whatever snow falls should have melted by early or mid afternoon. High: 44

SUNDAY: Sun returns, hello spring! Low: 32. High: near 50

MONDAY: More rain. Wet snow far possible far north. Low: 33. High: 49

TUESDAY: More clouds than sun. Low: 37. High: 52

WEDNESDAY: Intervals of sun, quiet. Low: 39. High: 55

THURSDAY: Growing chance of showers. Low: 40. High: 54

Dueling Models
"My friend wanted to become a meteorologist. Why? He wanted to find a job where he could be wrong every day and still get paid." Great line from the (amazing) movie, "Monsters", which you should Neflix. When did Netflix become a verb? Very funny. Yes, I've heard it a few hundred times.
Weather prediction is an inexact science, unlike economics & politics. For any prediction beyond 24 hours we rely on weather models, scores of them. Some work better in certain scenarios; all have their strengths & weaknesses.

On the Star Tribune weather blog I show all the solutions; it doesn't mean I agree with what they're saying. "Hey Martha, Paul is predicting 42" of snow!" I'm trying to show how we assess the various models to create (and fine-tune) a forecast over time. As new data arrives the forecast invariably changes. Frustrating? Yes. But it's the best we can do with the tools at hand. Today's 5-Day forecast is as accurate as a 3-Day prediction was 30 years ago.

A cold rain later today ends as a couple slushy inches early Saturday. No worries; whatever snow winds up in your yard should melt by late morning. Rain (and 50s) return next week as spring stages a valiant comeback.

No Winners Among Penguins As Antarctic Warms. Scientific American has the latest: "The number of Adelie and chinstrap penguins living on the Antarctic Peninsula has plummeted by more than half during the past 30 years. Scientists once believed that climate change would create a stark contrast between the two species. Ice-loving Adelies, which winter on sea ice, would see their numbers dwindle as their habitat warmed, the thinking went. Ice-avoiding chinstraps, which prefer open water, would thrive. But the new study suggests that picture was only half right. Populations of both penguin species have plummeted in recent years, which the research blames on the loss of the tiny, shrimp-like krill that are a staple food for both birds. The amount of krill near the Antarctic Peninsula has fallen by 38 to 81 percent over the past three decades as the region has warmed. With less food available, fewer young Adelie and chinstrap penguins alike survive to maturity, said the new study's lead author, wildlife biologist Wayne Trivelpiece of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration."

The Climate Show. Gareth Renowden, a climate scientist in New Zealand, hosts a novel show on You Tube called the "Climate Show". A few details from the latest show: "Glenn says he thinks this show’s “a cracker” (but he always says that), and despite the lack of a special star guest — though with the help of assorted luminaries from the Climate Futures Forum (David’s Karoly and Frame, Robert Gifford and Erik Conway –) we cover a huge range of issues, from Jim Hansen’s upcoming visit to NZ, the climate talks in Bangkok and Arctic ice, to why we need to think about our carbon budget, and why a trillion tonnes of the stuff might be a tad too much. John Cook joins us to discuss why there really is a scientific consensus on the reality of climate change and its causes, and in the solutions section we look at new developments in battery technology."

Long-Term Climate Change Link To Earthquakes. When I first heard this I thought "doesn't pass the smell test". How on earth could climate change have anything to do with earthquake frequency? I am not a seismologist, just passing on some research which may or may not have long-term scientific validity. Here is an article from the Sydney Morning Herald: "Long-term climate change could be responsible for moving the Earth's tectonic plates. A team of scientists based in Australia, France and Germany has established a link between monsoons in India over the past 10 million years and the motion of the Indian plate. The scientists have found that, as monsoons in the area increased, the plate moved by almost one centimetre a year. The researchers say it's the first time climate change has been recognised as having the potential to influence the motion of tectonic plates. "It is known that certain geologic events caused by plate motions have the ability to influence climate patterns over a period of a million years," Dr Giampiero Iaffaldano from the Australian National University said in a statement. "Now we know that the opposite holds as well. "Long-term climate change, or the natural changes in climate patterns over millions of years, can modify the motion of plates in a feedback mechanism."

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