Thursday, March 30, 2017

Feverish Friday. Cloudy with showers late weekend

Sunnier Thursday in Northern Minnesota

Weather conditions across the northern half of the state were quite a bit brighter Thursday afternoon. Take a look at the beautiful webcam from Canal Park in downtown Duluth, MN. 

Visible Satellite on Thursday
While brighter sunshine persisted across the northern half of the state on Thursday, it was cloudy across the southern half of the state. Here's the visible satellite image from Thursday. Note the large lakes of Upper & Lower Red, Leech and Mille Lacs are still bright white, which indicates that they are still ice covered.

2017 Ice Out Dates

According to the MN DNR, several Minnesota lakes have already gone ice out this year, which is well ahead of normal. Thanks to continued above average this winter and early spring, some lakes have even seen an record early ice out this year! The images below are the current 2017 lake ice out dates and the median lake ice out dates.

Solar Wind Storm

If you've keeping up to date with latest northern lights forecasts and were lucky enough to venture out at the right time with the right weather conditions, you may have had a chance to see the illusive northern lights this week! Here's an excerpt from regarding the most recent storm: For the 3rd consecutive day, our planet is inside a stream of fast-moving solar wind flowing from a canyon-shaped hole in the sun's atmosphere. The gaseous material is pressing against Earth's magnetic field with speeds exceeding 600 km/s. Earth's response: A light show around the poles. Last night, Layton Findlater saw the Southern Lights shining through clouds over Invercargill, New Zealand: "Another night of brief but intense auroras," says Findlater. "Hopefully, we can make it three nights running here in the Deep South."

(Image courtesy: Findlater Photography via Spaceweather)


Northern Lights Potential Continues...

Due to an Earth-facing storm on the sun, northern lights have been quite this week! Here's an excerpt from from a few days ago, which detailed why northern lights have been so active this week: POTENT CORONAL HOLE FACES EARTH: A canyon-shaped hole in the sun's atmosphere is facing Earth, and it is spewing a stream of fast-moving solar wind toward our planet.  NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed the giant fissure on March 25th: This is a "coronal hole" (CH) -- a vast region where the sun's magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape.  A gaseous stream flowing from this coronal hole is expected to reach our planet on during the late hours of March 27th and could spark moderately-strong G2-class geomagnetic storms around the poles on March 28th or 29th. We've seen this coronal hole before.  In early March, it lashed Earth's magnetic field with a fast-moving stream that sparked several consecutive days of intense auroras around the poles. The coronal hole is potent because it is spewing solar wind threaded with "negative polarity" magnetic fields. Such fields do a good job connecting to Earth's magnetosphere and energizing geomagnetic storms. Arctic sky watchers should be alert for auroras!


Northern Lights Potential Continues on Friday, March 31st & Saturday, April 1st

According to the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the northern lights potential is HIGH for Friday, March 31st and ACTIVE for Saturday, April 1st! Here's their forecast below:

Friday, March 31st: Auroral activity will be HIGH. Weather permitting, highly active auroral displays will be visible overhead from Inuvik, Yellowknife, Rankin and Igaluit to Juneau, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay and Sept-Iles, and visible low on the horizon from Seattle, Des Moines, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, and Halifax.

Saturday, April 1st: Forecast: Auroral activity will be active. Weather permitting, active auroral displays will be visible overhead from Inuvik, Yellowknife, Rankin and Igaluit to Juneau, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Sept-Iles, and visible low on the horizon from Vancouver, Great Falls, Pierre, Madison, Lansing, Ottawa, Portland and St. Johns.

Active Weather Continues
Weather conditions across the country will remain quite active through the weekend and early next week across the Southern US as Pacific storms continue to slide across the country. These storms have been responsible for fairly impressive precipitation amounts in the Western US, including heavy snow in the higher elevations. As they move into the Plains, they become severe weather makers, which has been an ongoing situation since the beginning of the week. Here's the simulated radar through early next week, which shows additional storm systems pushing across the country with more high elevation snow and strong to severe thunderstorm potential.

Several Weather Threats Ahead 
According to NOAA's SPC, the risk of severe weather continues right through the weekend and potentially into early next week. The images below are the severe threats on Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively. In these particular areas, large hail, damaging winds, isolated tornadoes and locally heavy rainfall will all be possible.

Southern Rainfall Potential
With the threat of strong to severe thunderstorms continuing over the next several days, heavy rainfall will be possible as well. Take a look at the precipitation potential through Tuesday, which suggests some 3" to near 6"+ rainfall tallies across the region, especially along and east of the Mississippi River Valley.

2017 PRELIMINARY Tornado Count
According to NOAA's SPC, the PRELIMINARY tornado count for 2017 is at 410 (thru March 29). Interestingly, this is the highest number of tornado reports (thru March 29th) since 2012 when nearly 500 tornadoes were reported through that time frame. The 2005-2015 average number of tornado reports through March 29th is 214.

Late March Snow in the Northeast

The same storm system responsible for severe weather in the Central US over the past couple of days will be responsible for wintry weather across parts of the Northeast Friday & Saturday. Winter weather headlines have been posted for the potential of 8" to 12" of wet heavy snow that could lead to major travel concerns and even power outages.

Snowfall Potential in the Northeast

Here's the snowfall potential through Saturday, which suggests a fairly decent 4" to 8" swatch across the region with some 8" to 12" amounts across the higher elevations. The late March snow could be very wet and heavy in spots that could lead to some power outages.

Simulated Radar Through

Here's the simulated radar through early Sunday morning, which suggests the heaviest precipitation moving through the region on Friday and Saturday before tapering late Saturday night. While some across the far north and into the high elevations will see snow, others will see a steady rain, which could accumulated to 1" through Saturday.

Winter Weather Concerns in the Western US

Another storm system will push through the Western US through the first half of the weekend with heavy snowfall potential across the higher elevations. The National Weather Service has issued a number of weather headlines through PM Saturday for snowfall potential of up to 12" or more!

Western Snowfall Potential

Here's the snowfall potential through PM Saturday, which shows heavy snowfall tallies across parts of the Intermountain West. Keep in mind that some of the heaviest amounts could top the 12" mark

Precipitation Continues in the Western US This Week

Here's the weather outlook through the middle part of next week, which shows two waves of heavier moisture moving through the region. Note that there will be a mix of rain and mountain snow as these systems push through.


California Snowpack’s Water Content Remains Far above Average

According to the California Department of Water Resources, the California snowpack is running 164% of historical average for March 30th! The average statewide snow water equivalent (SWE) is 45.8" !! WOW, that a lot of water locked up in the snowy mountains! Here's an excerpt from a news release 
SACRAMENTO – With every monthly measurement of the California snowpack this winter, the state’s rebound from the previous five years of drought becomes more evident. Today’s electronic readings from 95 sites in the Sierra Nevada show an average statewide snow water equivalent (SWE) of 45.8 inches, or 164 percent of the historical average for March 30 (27.9 inches).
Today’s manual snow survey by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada found a SWE of 46.1 inches, 183 percent of the late March/early April long-term average at Phillips (25.2 inches). The three previous 2017 surveys at Phillips near the beginning of March, February and January found an SWE of 43.5 inches for March, 28 inches for February and 6 inches for January. SWE is the depth of water that theoretically would result if the entire snowpack melted instantaneously. That measurement is more important than depth in evaluating the status of the snowpack. On average, the snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs as it melts in the spring and early summer. Electronic measurements indicate the water content of the northern Sierra snowpack is 40.8 inches, 147 percent of the multi-decade March 30 average. The central and southern Sierra readings are 50.5 inches (175 percent of average) and 43.9 inches (164 percent of average), respectively. Dr. Michael Anderson, State Climatologist, observed: “Although the record pace of the snowpack accumulation fell off significantly in March, California enters the snowmelt season with a large snowpack that will result in high water in many rivers through the spring." The Phillips snow course, near the intersection of Highway 50 and Sierra-at-Tahoe Road, is one of hundreds surveyed manually throughout the winter. Manual measurements augment the electronic readings from about 100 sensors in the state’s mountains that provide a current snapshot of the water content in the snowpack. Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, conducted DWR’s survey today at Phillips and said of his findings, "The storm track shifted away from California during March, but we still have a very substantial snowpack, particularly in the higher elevations in the central and southern Sierra. This is an extremely good year from the snowpack standpoint,” he said, adding that this year’s snowpack ranks in the upper quarter of historic snowpacks and is providing “great reservoir recovery.” Many Californians continue to experience the effects of drought, and some Central Valley communities still depend on water tanks and bottled water.  Groundwater – the source of at least a third of the supplies Californians use – will take much more than even an historically wet water year to be replenished in many areas.

Precipitation Last 90 Days
Here's an interesting map! The radar estimated precipitation over the last 90 days suggests that nearly 40"+ of liquid precipitation has fallen across parts of the Western US since the end of December 2016! A steady stream of Pacific moisture earlier in the year really helped to boost precipitation values across the region.

Steady Stream of Pacific Moisture

The precipitable water loop from the Eastern Pacific shows plumes of highly concentrated water moving into the West Coast. These streams are and will continue to be responsible for fairly decent amounts of precipitation over the next several days.

Western Precipitation Potential

Here's a look at the precipitation potential through the middle part of week, which shows some of the heaviest precipitation across parts of the Central Rockies, but there also appears to be some additional moisture across parts of the Sierra Nevada Range and along the coast of northern California to Oregon and Washington.


Drought Worsens in the Southeast

According to the US Drought Monitor, drought conditions in the Southeast continue to intensify. While EXTREME drought conditions have decreased from nearly 3% to a little more than 1%, more of the area under abnormally dry conditions going from 70% last week to nearly 85% this week.

Rainfall Potential in the Southeast

The good news is that active weather conditions will help bring the potential of widespread heavy rainfall to the region through early next week. According to the 5 day precipitation forecast, some spots from new New Orleans, LA to the Mid-Atlantic States could see as much as 2" to 4" of rain with isolated spots seeing nearly 5" to 6"+!

Feverish Friday. Cloudy with showers late weekend
By Todd Nelson, filling in for Douglas

Happy last day of March 2017! Are you sad to see it go? It has been in interesting month, no question. From our earliest Minnesota tornado(es) on record (March 6th) to a persistent southerly storm track keeping snowfall amounts down, March 2017 has been a memorable one.
Note that March is typically the 3rd snowiest month for the Twin Cities, which averages a little more than 10 inches. This year, we are running a deficit of nearly 5 inches, bringing our seasonal snowfall deficit to a little more 20 inches. Snow shovels across Central Minnesota were cheated this year, while those in southern Minnesota were put to extra use. Rochester, MN has seen more than 50 inches of snow this season, nearly 5 inches above average.
Average temps in the Twin Cities were running below average through mid March, but have since warmed. It'll be close, but March 2017 will likely end up being the 19th consecutive month with above normal temps! Unreal.
Mild sunshine will brighten spirits Friday. Clouds thicken Saturday and give to showers Sunday.
Extended Forecast:
THURSDAY NIGHT: Mostly cloudy, drying out. Winds: NE 5. Low: 33
FRIDAY: Sun returns! Feels warm again. Winds: NE 5-10. High: 53.
FRIDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy and chilly. Winds: NNE 5. Low: 34.
SATURDAY: Hazy sun. Mild temps. Winds: ESE 5. High: 58.
SUNDAY: Mostly cloudy with scattered showers. Winds: SE 5-15. Wake-up: 40. High: 55.
MONDAY: Soggy start. Clearing through the day, but dry for Twins Home Opener. Winds: NNW 5-10. Wake-up: 41. High: 59
TUESDAY: Clouds thicken late. A few PM showers. Winds: ENE 10-15. Wake-up: 40. High: 58
WEDNESDAY: Breezy. Steady rains across S. MN. Winds: NNE 10-20. Wake-up: 40. High: 52.
THURSDAY: Cooler breeze. Slow clearing. Winds: NNW 10-20. Wake-up: 35. High: 50.
This Day in Weather History
March 31st
1896: A strong snowstorm dumps 13.5 inches of snow at Maple Plain. Vivid lightning is also in the storm with 10-12 flashes per minute. Visibility was down to less than one block. The high temperature was 57 at Maple Plain the day before.
1843: The low temperature at Ft. Snelling plummets to -11.
Average High/Low for Minneapolis
March 31st
Average High: 49F (Record: 82F set in 1986)
Average: Low: 30F (Record: -1F set in 1969)
*Record Snowfall: 14.7" set in 1985
Sunrise Sunset Times For Minneapolis
March 31st
Sunrise: 6:55am
Sunset: 7:40pm
*Daylight Gained Since Yesterday: ~3 minutes & 7 seconds
*Daylight Gained Since Winter Solstice (December 21st): ~4 hours & 1 minute

Moon Phase for March 30th at Midnight
3.2 Days Since New Moon
Weather Outlook For Friday
After a couple of cloudy days across parts of the state, the sun will return Friday, which will help to boost temperatures into the 50s! A lighter breeze may help to keep temperatures down a bit, but with the sun as strong as it is now, it will feel quite warm Friday afternoon!
Weather Outlook For Friday
Winds on Friday will be fairly light across much of the region, but could get up close to 10mph to 15mph across parts of southern Minnesota on Friday afternoon. All and all, Friday will be a very enjoyable day with more sunshine, mild temperatures and a light breeze.
Weather Outlook For Friday
Here's the weather outlook for Friday, which shows mostly dry and mostly sunny weather conditions across the region. There maybe a few more clouds across the extreme southeastern and northwestern part of the state, but Friday looks very quiet. 

Quiet Friday & Saturday, but a Soggy Sunday Ahead

Here's the weather outlook through early Monday morning, which shows pretty quiet weather conditions on Friday and Saturday, but our next storm system rolls in on Sunday. Enjoy the sunshine while you can Friday because clouds will be on the increase on Saturday ahead of scattered showers that will push through on Sunday.

Precipitation Potential

Here's the precipitation potential through early next week, which shows a little light rain across parts of southern Minnesota. Some spots could see up to a couple of tenths of an inch of rain as our next storm system pushes through late weekend.

Extended Temperature Outlook for Minneapolis
Here's the temperature outlook through April 14th, which shows temperatures gradually warming over the next several days with highs sliding into the 50s & 60s as we head into the first couple of weeks of April. Note that the average high temperatures in the Twin Ciites on March 31st is 49F, while the average high on April 14th is 57F!
______________________________________________________________________________8 to 14 Day Temperature Outlook
According to NOAA's CPC, the 8 to 14 day temperature outlook suggests warmer than average temperatures in the Upper Midwest from April 8th - April 12th.

Temperature Outlook
Here's the 8 to 14 day temperature outlook, which takes us into the 2nd week of April. Note that warmer than average temperatures look to develop across much of the nation, while the only cooler than average spot would be found across parts of the Western US.
 National Weather Outlook
Here's the weather outlook through the weekend, which shows active weather conditions continuing across much of the nation. While one storm system moves into the Eastern US with strong to severe storms and snow, another storm system slides out of the Western US. This next storm will go from snow across the higher elevations to more strong to severe storms across the Central US this weekend.

5 Day Precipitation Forecast
According to NOAA's WPC, the 5 day precipitation forecast suggests widespread 2" to 4"+ of precipitation across parts of the Southern and Eastern US with some 1" to 3"+ tallies across parts of the Intermountain West. This certainly has been a very active weather pattern across the country over the last several days and it appears to continue to be active into early April!
Snowfall Potential
Here's the snowfall potential over the next several days, which shows some accumulations across parts of the Northeast and in the Western mountains. Other than that, there doesn't appear to be any major snow events brewing across the Central US anytime soon.

"Climate change's toll on mental health"
"When people think about climate change, they probably think first about its effects on the environment, and possibly on their physical health. But climate change also takes a significant toll on mental health, according to a new report released by the American Psychological Association and ecoAmerica entitled Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance. Climate change-induced severe weather and other natural disasters have the most immediate effects on mental health in the form of the trauma and shock due to personal injuries, loss of a loved one, damage to or loss of personal property or even the loss of livelihood, according to the report. Terror, anger, shock and other intense negative emotions that can dominate people's initial response may eventually subside, only to be replaced by post-traumatic stress disorder."
See more from HERE:
"Study: Climate change is affecting the jet stream so that extreme weather is more likely to persist for longer periods"
"Ever since 2012, scientists have been debating a complex and frankly explosive idea about how a warming planet will alter our weather - one that, if it's correct, would have profound implications across the Northern Hemisphere and especially in its middle latitudes, where hundreds of millions of people live. The idea is that climate change doesn't merely increase the overall likelihood of heat waves, say, or the volume of rainfall - it also changes the flow of weather itself. By altering massive planet-scale air patterns like the jet stream, which flows in waves from west to east in the Northern Hemisphere, a warming planet causes our weather to become more stuck in place. This means that a given weather pattern, whatever it may be, may persist for longer, thus driving extreme droughts, heat waves, downpours and more. This basic idea has sparked half a decade of criticism and debate, and at the cutting edge of research, scientists continue to grapple with it. And now, a new study once again reinforces one of its core aspects."
See more from PostandCourier HERE:
(Visualization of very wavy Northern Hemisphere jet stream. A study shows that the large scale flow of the atmosphere is changing in such a way as to cuase weather to get stuck more often. (NASA))

_________________________________________________________________________"Farming becoming riskier under climate change"
Scientists the world over are working to predict how climate change will affect our planet. It is an extremely complex puzzle with many moving parts, but a few patterns have been consistent, including the prediction that farming as we know it will become more difficult.Scientists the world over are working to predict how climate change will affect our planet. It is an extremely complex puzzle with many moving parts, but a few patterns have been consistent, including the prediction that farming as we know it will become more difficult. Scientists infer the impact on agriculture based on predictions of rainfall, drought intensity, and weather volatility. Until now, however, the average farmer may not have been able to put predictions like these into practice. A new University of Illinois study puts climate change predictions in terms that farmers are used to: field working days. "Everything else flows from field working days," says U of I and USDA Agricultural Research Service ecologist Adam Davis. "If you're not able to work, everything else gets backed up. Workable days will determine the cultivars, the cropping system, and the types of pest management practices you can use. We're simply asking, 'Can you get in to plant your crop?'" In a previous study, the group developed models that reliably translated past climate data into field working days for Illinois. In the new study, they coupled those models with climate change scenarios to forecast field working days into the future."
See more from HERE:
(Credit: Bobby Mikul/public domain via

______________________________________________________________________________"Climate change: China calls US 'selfish' after Trump seeks to bring back coal"
"State-run tabloid says Beijing cannot fill vacuum left by US and urges west to pressure Trump on global warming. Chinese state media has lambasted Donald Trump’s efforts to roll back many Obama-era environmental regulations, with a state-run tabloid saying that: “No matter how hard Beijing tries, it won’t be able to take on all the responsibilities that Washington refuses to take.” In an editorial highly critical of Trump’s retreat on environmental regulation, the Global Times made it clear Beijing was uncomfortable taking over leadership of the fight against climate change and could not fill the vacuum left by the US. “Western opinion should continue to pressure the Trump administration on climate change. Washington’s political selfishness must be discouraged,” the editorial said. “China will remain the world’s biggest developing country for a long time. How can it be expected to sacrifice its own development space for those developed western powerhouses?”"
See more from The Guardian HERE:
(Donald Trump has previously called climate change a hoax created by the Chinese. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images)
______________________________________________________________________________"China's secret plan to crush SpaceX and the US space program"
"China's breakneck economic expansion may be flagging, but the country's ambitions in space show no signs of slowing down. Alongside ongoing efforts to rival NASA by placing robotic landers, and eventually astronauts, on the moon and Mars, China's government is increasingly looking to its burgeoning space sector to rival U.S. companies like Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX, which is targeting March 30 for the latest launch of its Falcon 9 rocket. Though Chinese space authorities have publicly announced the country's ambitions to forge itself into a major space power by the early 2030s, President Xi Jinping's government is also considering ways to direct spending that will push Chinese tech companies toward breakthroughs in downstream technologies like robotics, aerospace, artificial intelligence, big data analytics and other 21st-century technologies. The majority of China's space ambitions remain focused on boosting Chinese prestige at home and abroad. But a push within Xi's government to triple spending on space science as well as the emergence of a small but growing group of privately backed space start-ups suggest that both Chinese industry and government see long-term economic benefits in their investments in space technologies."
See more from CNBC HERE:
(Imaginechina via AP Images -In this TV grab, Chinas latest manned space capsule docked with the lab, the Tiangong-1 in space, 13 June 2013.)
"SpaceX And NASA Find ‘Landing Site’ For 2020 Mars Mission"
"SpaceX finally picked a suitable landing site for its 2020 Mars Mission, after working in cooperation with NASA’s JTL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). The two organizations picked four regions of Mars as potential landing sites. Deuteronilus Mensae, Phlegra Montes, Utopia Planitia, and Arcadia Planitia (the names will be familiar to all Mars trilogy readers) are all placed on the Mars’ northern hemisphere and they all offer suitable conditions such as proximity to Mars’ ice deposits (that will be used as a water source for future astronauts), a good potential for using solar power, and a closeness to scientifically interesting spots. Scientists at JPL and SpaceX used the HiRISE high-definition camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for picking the potential landing spots and after detailed reconnaissance, they determined that only Arcadia Planitia is smooth enough for performing a landing."
See more from mobipicker HERE:
"NASA looking at spaceport in lunar orbit as deep space gateway to Mars"
WASHINGTON – NASA hasn’t officially scrapped its mission to use an asteroid as a stepping stone to Mars but it’s taking steps to chart a new approach that instead would rely on a spaceport circling the moon. Under a program dubbed Deep Space Gateway, agency officials Tuesday said they still plan to use the lunar orbit as a staging platform to build and test the infrastructure and the systems needed to send astronauts to Mars. But instead of breaking off a chunk of asteroid and dragging it to the moon, NASA's new plan calls for building an orbiting spaceport that could have even more uses. The space port, a mini space station in essence, would serve as a gateway for missions both to deep space and the lunar surface. Though not designed for a permanent crew, the spaceport would be equipped with a small habitat for astronauts, docking capability, an airlock, and would be serviced by logistics modules to enable research, according to NASA.
See more from USAToday HERE:
(Picture taken on November 14, 2016 shows the supermoon rising above Cape Town.(Photo: RODGER BOSCH, AFP/Getty Images via USAToday)

_______________________________________________________________________"Trump's NASA budget preserves Mars mission, cuts Earth science, asteroid trip, education"
WASHINGTON — No more mission to bring astronauts to an asteroid, but stable funding for a trip to Mars. A cut in Earth science programs, but support for a mission to study Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. Elimination of education programs, but more resources to improve cybersecurity of the space program. President Trump is proposing a $19.1 billion budget for NASA in 2018 that is about the same as the current year’s $19.3 billion allocation – not bad considering the president is proposing deep cuts in many non-Defense programs. EPA alone would see a 31% reduction. But Trump’s vision for NASA calls for some dramatic shifts from the priorities the space agency pursued under President Obama, according to a broad budget outline the White House released Thursday. Line-item details on the administration’s proposed spending plan for NASA and other executive branch agencies are expected in the coming weeks.
See more from USAToday HERE:
(A handout photo released by the European Space Agency on Feb. 2, 2017, shows a perspective view of the Mars north polar ice cap and its distinctive dark troughs forming a spiral-like pattern.(Photo: European Pressphoto Agency/European Space Agency)

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