Sunday, May 8, 2011

Scattered T-storms (taste of summer tomorrow & Wednesday)

* .28" rain fell in St. Cloud on Sunday.

* strong T-storms possible today, very small chance of a few isolated severe storms.

* highs may approach 80 in St. Cloud Tuesday, again Wednesday.

* soggy week: stalled front may spark heavier/steadier rain Thursday, showers spill over into Friday, possibly early Saturday.

* Sunday should be the nicer day of the weekend: sunshine, highs in the 60s.

* 14average number of "tornado days" in Minnesota. That means an average of 14 days with tornadoes somewhere in Minnesota.

* worst flooding in Memphis since 1937.

* Mississippi River now 3 miles wide in the Memphis area (see story below).

Lightning Strikes. Data from Vaisala is delayed by 20 minutes for this free version - hit refresh on this URL to get the latest map. The gray lightning bolts are the most recent strikes. More from Vaisala:
"Vaisala Lightning Explorer displays recent lightning activity across the entire continental U.S. The lightning data displayed is 20 minutes delayed and updated every 20 minutes. Get the latest map available by clicking "Refresh" under the map. The map shows a 2-hour time period with lightning data color coded in 20-minute increments. Vaisala Lightning Explorer uses lightning data from Vaisala's U.S. NLDN, the most reliable lightning detection system in the U.S. The U.S. NLDN constantly detects lightning discharges anywhere in the continental U.S. Each symbol on the map represents one recorded lightning event."

Tuesday Severe Threat. SPC has much of central and northern Minnesota in a "slight risk" of severe storms Tuesday. I have a hunch we may see our first tornado watch of the season within 48 hours.

Increasingly Ripe For Severe. The 00z Monday NAM guidance shows significant "cape" late Tuesday, a measure of instability. In addition, "helicity" values (a measure of wind shear aloft) is forecast to be high (286), meaning that conditions for a few, isolated "supercell" T-storms may be present late Tuesday, and to a lesser degree, late Wednesday as well. The NAM hints at a potential for nearly 2" hail, if "supercells" are able to break through the cap (a layer of warm, stable air aloft).

Tuesday Outbreak? The EHI, or Energy Helicity Index (a measure of instability and wind shear combined) is very high over southeastern Minnesota by Tuesday evening - we may have many of the ingredients necessary for the first significant severe outbreak of the spring season across portions of Minnesota and southtwestern Wisconsin. Map courtesy of

Louisiana Braces. Here's a map showing predicted areas of inundation along the Mississippi River across Louisiana.

Sunday Flood Updates: River Now 3 Miles Across In Memphis. has the story: "At a late Sunday afternoon press briefing, Col. Vernon Reichling of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the Mississippi River in Memphis, usually a half-mile wide, now measures 3 miles across. Reichling said he expected the river to crest Tuesday at 48 feet, just below the record set in 1937 of 48.7 feet; it is the first time the Mississippi River has exceeded even 41 feet since that record 1937 flood. As he stood on a bluff at Confederate Park downtown overlooking the swollen river, Reichling said even with flooding this prodigious, the controls implemented to prevent widespread catastrophe up and down the river system have worked according to plan. Reichling said there remains 2 to 3 feet of clearance on floodwalls on the Memphis side of the river and another 9 to 10 feet on the Arkansas side, in West Memphis. Reichling emphasized he is less concerned about major flooding-related problems Downtown -- where people are flocking to observe and document the historic rise -- than with the possibilities of tributaries like the Wolf and Loosahatchie beginning to rise again in the 10 days to two weeks or so it may take for the crest to subside." (photo above courtesy of Reuters).

Record Crests. Click here to see the latest flood forecasts from the Memphis office of the National Weather Service.

Close To An All-Time Record In Memphis. A crest of 48 feet is predicted by Monday night - just a few inches shy of the all-time (historic) crest in 1937.

River Flooding Begins To "Wrap Arms" Around Memphis. The Mississippi River is forecast to crest around 48 feet on Tuesday, just inches below the all-time record. Here's an update from Reuters: "Memphis area residents were warned on Saturday that the Mississippi River was gradually starting to "wrap its arms" around the city and rise to record levels as flooding moves south. "It's a pretty day here, and people get a false sense of security," said Steve Shular, public affairs officer for the Shelby County Office of Preparedness. "The mighty Mississippi is starting to wrap its arms around us here in Memphis." Nearly 3,000 properties are expected to be threatened. Rising water flooded 25 mobile homes in north Memphis Saturday morning. There were 367 people in shelters in Shelby County Saturday. "Our community is facing what could be a large-scale disaster," said Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr., in a statement. Water has covered Riverside Drive and is creeping up Beale Street, although below the level of businesses and residences. Most of downtown Memphis is on a bluff, so landmarks like historic Sun Studio, where music legends Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash got their starts, were not seeing flooding. Tour guide Jake Fly said people north and south of the city are "really feeling it."

* More updates at

Mississippi River Flooding Headed To Drought Areas. Accu Weather has a story that highlights a great paradox: the worst flooding since 1937 is moving into Louisiana, suffering through one of the worst droughts in a century. Once again the Army Corp of Engineers may blow up some levees, guiding muddy water into "floodways", hoping to ease pressure on the overall levee system and protect New Orleand downstream. Ironically, if the levees in Louisiana are topped (or blown up by dynamite) the worst drought in 100 years may give way to the most extensive flooding in over a century for some of these parishes. Talk about crazy extremes. "As oddly as it sounds, places next in line for historic flooding along the lower Mississippi River are currently in the midst of a long-term drought. Last Thursday, the United States Drought Monitor reported abnormally dry to drought conditions along the Mississippi River in southern Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. The drought has even reached extreme levels from southeast of Baton Rouge to New Orleans. Since the start of April, New Orleans has only received six percent of the 6.15 inches of rain that typically falls. Yet, the city is preparing for the Mississippi River to rise to 19.5 feet on Monday, May 23. Levees protect the city up to a stage of 20 feet. The day before, National Weather Service hydrologists expect the river to crest at a record 47.5 feet in Baton Rouge. Baton Rouge averages nearly seven inches of rain from April 1 to May 8. Only 1.27 inches has fallen this year. The rainfall deficit for the same time frame is 3.65 inches at Natchez, Miss., where residents are bracing for the river to reach 64.0 feet on May 21. The Mississippi River has never even topped the 60-foot mark at Natchez in recorded history."

30-Day Rainfall Amounts. According to NOAA Doppler radar estimates much of the Middle Mississippi River Valley has seen over 20" of rain in the last month. That's 4-6 times the usual amount of rain. Factor in melting snow over northern tier states and you have all the ingredients necessary for historic flooding. See the latest information here.

Nation Comes To The Rescue. An update on recovery efforts across Alabama from "TUSCALOOSA | Jacey Corley knows what it is like to survive a deadly tornado. The Troy University sophomore was a student at Enterprise High School when a storm killed eight students in 2007. As she left the McAbee Center for 15th Street in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, the devastation and outpouring of support reminded her of the storms in her hometown, she said. And volunteering is a chance to give back. “It's a lot of flashbacks, to be completely honest,” Corley said. “It reminds me of how everyone came to help out. No matter where the disaster is, people from all over will come out to support you. I feel like now I'm on the other side.” Corley came to Tuscaloosa with fellow Troy University students Telvin McAlpine and Kayla Rogers to work this weekend, joining a flood of support from as far away as Colorado. More than 1,500 volunteers had checked in before 10 a.m. at the McAbee Center, where registration computers lined one wall and new recruits were instructed on the volunteer process."

Tornado Relief: Help Us Help Storm Victims. Here's a poignant editorial in the "If you lived here on Oct. 4, 1995, you don’t have to think too hard to recall an iconic moment following Hurricane Opal’s landfall. Mine is not that The News Herald, for the first time, was unable to go to press. It’s not the water washing across Beach Drive, Front Beach Road being torn in two or the sounds of The News Herald’s roof shifting over our frightened heads in the 140 mph winds. My most treasured memory came the day after the storm, when the county was without power and at the paper we stood outside to get out of the stifling stillness of the airless newsroom, wondering what had happened to our homes and community. From across the street came a couple, asking if we were hungry. They had a grill of some sort, the details escape me, and they began frying eggs for us. We had never met them before and they certainly had lost more than we had in the storm, but here they were cooking eggs for strangers. I thought of that in the aftermath of the vicious tornadoes two weeks ago that killed hundreds of people in Alabama, devastation and loss of life much greater than what we faced in 1995, and wondered how they will survive. And it occurred to me they’ll survive just like Bay Countians did after Opal, and like all humans do after any tragedy: one step at a time, one day at a time and with a lot of help from those fortunate enough to have escaped the weather’s fury."

Huntsville NWS Meteorologist In Charge Describes Scene In The Office During Record Tornado Outbreak: Some amazing details from the Huntsville Times and "HUNTSVILLE, Alabama. On April 27, an unprecedented natural disaster unfolded before us as well over a dozen tornadoes raked the area. Not since 1925 has the loss of life been so great in a single day by tornadoes. In a blink of an eye, well-constructed homes were turned to rubble, trees were stripped of their bark, and churches and businesses were taken to the ground. The National Weather Service has a mandate to protect "life and property," and we have worked diligently to do so for over a century. Technology has increased greatly in recent decades with Doppler radar technology allowing forecasters to view the wind flow and rotation within storms, high-resolution satellite imagery that shows fronts and other features critical to tornado development, and computer models that better predict the evolution of weather in the upcoming days. In the days preceding what is now referred to as the Super Outbreak, meteorologists became increasingly concerned about this being the "big one". Conditions, including intense wind shear, an unstable air mass, a surge of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and a powerful storm system were coming together to produce an explosive environment for supercell thunderstorms. Supercell thunderstorms are the genesis for long-lived, devastating tornadoes. A review of the forecasts, discussions and posts on social media in the days before the 27th reveal many forecasters comparing the setup to the outbreaks of Nov. 15, 1989, or "Anderson Hills '95." Sadly, even those dire predictions were well below reality. In fact, this event will go down as the most tragic tornado outbreak in modern times and will likely be the benchmark upon which all future research is constructed."

Historic Hailstorm. MAY 8TH, 1981-The Dallas/Fort Worth area experienced its worst hailstorm of record as baseball to grapefruit size hail, accompanied by 100 mph winds, caused nearly 200 million dollars damage. Hail accumulated eight inches deep at Cedar Hill TX. Trivia courtesy of

Is It Wrong To Celebrate Bin Laden's Death? Finally, justice for all those "enhanced pat-downs" at MSP International Airport by the TSA. This is all getting a little ridiculous: I don't think it was so much "celebrating a death" as it was a triumphant victory of good vs. evil, a symbolic end to a reign of terror and the murderous ideology that Bin Laden represents. What were the options, negotiate with a mass-murderer? UBL was plotting more attacks; taking him out may ultimately save untold lives in the years to come - too early to know. Quoting Mark Twain, "I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure." NPR (unnecessarily) tackles the question in this article: "Impromptu celebrations erupted near the White House in Washington and ground zero in New York when news of Osama bin Laden's death was reported and tweeted. Laura Cunningham, a 22-year-old Manhattan reveler — gripping a Budweiser in her hand and sitting atop the shoulders of a friend — was part of the crowd at ground zero in the wee hours Monday. As people around her chanted "U-S-A," Cunningham was struck by the emotional response. She told New York Observer: "It's weird to celebrate someone's death. It's not exactly what we're here to celebrate, but it's wonderful that people are happy." Those mixed feelings get at the heart of the moral ambivalence of the moment: Of course there is relief that an evil mastermind cannot commit acts of terror in the future. But is it ever a good idea — from a spiritual or philosophical standpoint — to celebrate with beer and good cheer over the death of anyone, even a widely acknowledged monster? 

Not 'Our Finest Moment'

The Roman Catholic Church responded to the news of bin Laden's death with this statement: "Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace." "I think that's on the mark," says Mike Hayes, a campus minister at the University at Buffalo. "As a Catholic Christian, I cannot celebrate the death of anyone, especially when it is done violently. Naturally, my human nature fights against that idealism, especially when I think of those who I lost personally that day and all those who lost their life on 11 September."

There's No Data Sheriff On The Wild Web. Every time you enter your credit card number on the Internet you have to think long and hard about where those numbers may ultimately wind up. Encryption? Might help, but (increasingly) there are no guarantees, as reported by the New York Times: "A company suffers a catastrophic attack on its servers. Gone are names, e-mail addresses, home phone numbers, passwords, credit card numbers. Everything ends up in the hands of hackers. What federal law covers such a breach of consumers’ privacy? None. This lack of federal oversight has incensed privacy advocates for years. But the last several months have been an online consumer’s worst nightmare. About two weeks ago, hackers dived into Sony’s PlayStation 3 game system, resulting in the loss of up to 77 million customers’ personal and private information and over 12 million credit and debit card numbers. Epsilon, an e-mail marketing company, lost millions of customers’ e-mail addresses to hackers in early April; Apple, Google and Microsoft have all been quietly collecting location data about mobile customers without their knowledge. And last year, AT&T was attacked through a bug in its iPad software, resulting in the loss of 100,000 customer e-mail addresses. Each company was blamed for failing to properly protect consumer information. But for redress, consumers must rely on states, and serious punishment or fines rarely happen. “There needs to be new legislation and new laws need to be adopted” to protect the public, said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who has been pressing Sony to answer questions about its data breach and what the company did to avoid it. “Companies need to be held accountable and need to pay significantly when private and confidential information is imperiled.”

Can Google Stay On Top? Salon has the story: "Google's unofficial motto is "Don't be evil" -- but can a company of such mythic proportions possibly keep its soul? That's the challenge now facing Google, which has transformed from a jumbled office over a bike shop in California to a behemoth that not only dominates the search engine field but also has a major presence in mobile phones, email, personal data collection and advertising among other fields. Can a company that rakes in several billion dollars annually and holds the key to almost all of the questions on the planet really resist growing a God complex? We all use Google -- but can we trust it? To answer that question, Steven Levy turned to the people inside the company itself. As a journalist for Wired and Newsweek, Levy has been covering Google since 1999, and his book "In the Plex" offers a rare glimpse inside Googleplex headquarters, bringing to life the creative minds and quirky personalities of not only founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page but also the employees at one of the world's most sought-after workplaces -- the Googlers, as they're called. Eating at campus restaurants and sitting in on executive meetings, Levy narrates the history of a company that has managed to assimilate itself into the lives and language of Internet users across the globe. Levy explains the company’s baffling ability to make money on a free product, and its attempts to scan every book ever made and enter the social media world. But the biggest challenge may simply be keeping the goodwill users have always felt toward it. As the company gets bigger, it becomes harder to convince users that it's not actually, perhaps, a tiny bit evil after all."

The Class That Built Apps, And Fortunes. No longer is launching a successful company so much about how much money you can raise, but how fast you can scale a company, give services away, gather millions of users - and then (later), try to figure out a business model to monetize all those new users, as reported by the New York Times: "Start-ups once required a lot of money, time and people. But over the past decade, free, open-source software and “cloud” services have brought costs down, while ad networks help bring in revenue quickly. The app phenomenon has accentuated the trend and helped unleash what some call a new wave of technology innovation — and what others call a bubble. Early on, the Facebook Class became a microcosm of Silicon Valley. Working in teams of three, the 75 students created apps that collectively had 16 million users in just 10 weeks. Many of those apps were sort of silly: Mr. De Lombaert’s, for example, allowed users to send “hotness” points to Facebook friends. Yet during the term, the apps, free for users, generated roughly $1 million in advertising revenue. Such successes helped inspire entrepreneurs to ditch business plans and work on apps. Not all succeeded, but those that did helped to fuel the expansion of Facebook, which now has nearly 700 million users."

The "Floating Porsche" - Just How Much Does This Guy Love His Car? Here's an example of the lengths some people will go to when rising floodwaters threaten their most cherished possesions, in this case a very nice Porsche 911, as reported by Porsche Purist: "Ever since the pictures of the “floating Porsche” were first published on the web, speculation has run rampant about the person or people behind what is now legend and the outcome of this obviously beloved machine. had a chance to speak with the car’s owner earlier today and here’s what we learned. You can hear it in his voice as he assures me my call is welcome and not too early, “this is a fine time to talk, we’re still fighting the flood and trying to get ready for Derby in the same breath.” By “Derby” he means the Kentucky Derby and he and his wife (along with many others in the area) are preparing for it in earnest, flood waters be damned. When you live in a flood zone, along a river, you prepare for certain contingencies, “It was a crazy spring, we normally have a flood after the snow melts up in the West Virginia mountains and Appalachia and all that. We got through that one. I had the Porsches out in the garage and lo-and-behold we came with another big storm that was unexpected.” Unexpected is right. NOAA or what you might know as “The National Weather Service” predicted the river would crest at a height of 24 feet. Very high water indeed, but nothing the area hadn’t seen before. Well, with four days of continuous rain, NOAA was forced to adjust their calculation and do so in a big way. They now calculated the river to crest at 34 feet; a full 9 feet higher then what was planned for. “That change in calculation was announced and boy everyone was scrambling. Everyone along the river was scrambling to find new ways to take care of their property and that’s when my buddy Smokey came in,” said Musselman."

Partly-Soggy Sunday. Yes, that 2-3 hour splat of rain came at precisely the wrong time: early/mid afternoon. Just enough to put a damper on outdoor activities. The sun came out by late afternoon, tugging the mercury to 62 at St. Cloud, 65 in the Twin Cities, 69 at Rochester and Hibbing. Alexandria saw nearly a third of an inch of rain on Sunday.

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

TODAY: Windy & damp. A few showers, possible thunderstorms. Winds: E 15-25. High: 65

MONDAY NIGHT: Humid with a few more T-storms, some heavy. Low: 59

TUESDAY: Taste of July. Stray T-storms, mainly northern MN. High: 77

WEDNESDAY: Intervals of sun, warm and sticky -  isolated T-storms. Low: 61. High: near 80

THURSDAY: Front stalls, heavier rain possible, much cooler. Low: 53. High: 61

FRIDAY: Windy & cooler. PM showers sprout. Low: 43. High: 57

SATURDAY: Cool, damp Fishing Opener. AM showers - skies brighten later in the day. Low: 42. High: 59

SUNDAYBlue sky returns. Nicer day of the weekend. Low: 44. High: 65

Weather Wonders

"Dry areas will get drier, floods will increase, hurricanes may become more intense, and the Arctic will continue to warm up, with unpredictable consequences." Climate scientists have been warning of this for 30 years. Turn on CNN or Fox News and you'll hear a litany of weather disasters; a 24/7 Book of Revelations - dazed anchors asking "what does it mean?" The April 27-28 tornado outbreak was unprecedented, the Mississippi Flood is now entering Louisiana, suffering through the worst drought in over a century. Swedish researchers tell us the last 5 years have been the warmest ever observed in the Arctic, since measurements were first taken in 1880. But let's wait for more "evidence".

A vigorous warm frontal passage sparks a windy, showery Monday; showers and strong T-storms possible anytime, anywhere. 70s, even a few 80s surge into southern Minnesota tomorrow & Wednesday, with enough warm, dry air aloft to "cap" the atmosphere, lowering the severe threat.

This week's storm will stall, with potentially heavy rain Thursday - "wrap-around" showers linger into midday Saturday. Expect a cool, damp, showery Fishing Opener. High pressure treats us to a rerun of mild sun by Sunday.

U.N. Report: Renewable Energy Costs To Drop, Use To Grow Substantially By 2030, But... Here's an update from "If you haven’t heard the news, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is about to release a groundbreaking 900-page Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation that compares 164 different renewable energy scenarios (due out May 9th). It is “the most comprehensive analysis ever of trends and perspectives for renewable energy.”
The main, overall findings, leaked to Reuters, are:
  1. costs are predicted to fall considerably in the coming years due to technological advances and
  2. solar, wind, and other renewable energy options will surge in use and account for a much larger percentage of the energy pie.
“The projected expansion is likely to continue even without new measures to promote a shift from fossil fuels as part of a U.N.-led fight against climate change,” the IPCC draft report said. This is really nothing new for CleanTechnica readers, I presume, since we cover reports that come to such findings repeatedly on here. I almost skipped covering this for that reason. However, this really is an unprecedented, comprehensive analysis of the various studies out there on this matter, so I figured I couldn’t pass it up."

Book Fest Exposes Climate Change Deniers And A World Without Fish. If you're interested in the subject of climate change, I can't recommend "Merchants of Doubt" enough, writeen by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. An overview (and a look at additional titles) from "On the "Inconvenient Truths" panel, historian Naomi Oreskes, co-author of Merchants of Doubt, out in paperback this month, revealed the political connections of a group of influential scientists who have intentionally misled the public about the facts on global warming to advance a political agenda that's funded by industry. The well-documented book, co-written with science writer Erik Conway, affiliated with CalTech, follows the group's campaigns from DDT and acid rain to the hole in the ozone and climate change. Oreskes, a professor of history and science studies at UC/San Diego, calls out Robert Jastrow, Frederick Seitz and S. Fred Singer of the Marshall Institute for denying scientific research without any evidence from their own studies. These are the same people who said cigarettes were 'safe,' while partnered with tobacco and chemical corporations.The book also questions journalists who repeat the unproven claims without looking at the credibility of their sources."

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