Friday, March 9, 2012

March 10: Skipping Right To May? (was climate change a factor in March 2 tornado outbreak? Maybe not)

Daylight Saving Time. Don't forget to set your clocks ahead one hour before turning in tonight. Yes, we lose a precious hour of sleep, but now it'll stay light up until at least 7:30 pm or so. While you're at it...

Check Your Batteries. I know it's cliche, but you never know when the Boy Scout motto of "Be Prepared" will save your life. This is a good opportunity to check the batteries in your smoke and CO detectors.

Like Turning On A Light Switch. So much for easing into spring this year. From wind chills in the upper teens and low 20s on Friday to a high near 60 today; 70 looks even more likely by Friday of next week. A 35 degree temperature bump in one week? Welcome to Minnesota. Graphic courtesy of Iowa State University.

The ECMWF Was Right. O.K. We haven't hit 70...yet, but it's looking more probable that we'll at least come close by the end of next week - typical weather for mid-May. A few days ago the European ECMWF was hinting at 70. I shared this in the blog, and a few people thought I had gone mad (quite plausible). But with no snow left on the ground the sun's radiation can go into heating up the air instead of melting snow. If you don't have spring fever will. Shortly.

"There is a study coming out every week showing changes are occurring," said Jake Weltzin, the executive director of the USA National Phenology Network and an ecologist with U.S. Geological Survey, which recruits volunteers to monitor seasonal changes in plants and animals." - from a Huffington Post story, details below.

32 separate billion-dollar weather disasters, worldwide, in 2011. Source: Jeff Masters and Weather Underground.

West Liberty, Kentucky: Before And After An EF-3 Tornado. One of the more remarkable articles (and series of photos) I've seen on the March 2 tornado outbreak is in today's weather blog. Photos above courtesy of Daniel Dix.

"The patient's running a slight fever: rash-like temperature spikes and violent tornado-sneezes are are symptoms, perhaps, of a larger condition? We'll see." - from my column, details below.

"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported in early December that 2011 had been either a remarkably dry or excessively wet year for 56% of the country."
"Last November nearly four in ten people interviewed by pollsters from Yale University said they had experienced climate change firsthand; possibly a sign, says Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, that the public has begun to see global warming as a problem here and now—not one awaiting action by future generations." “The most important thing for people to understand is that the planet has only warmed a little over 1 degree Fahrenheit in recent years,” Romm says. “We are on a path to warm five to 10 times that much this century. So if people think we’ve seen extreme weather, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” - information and quotes above courtesy of

West Liberty, Kentucky - Seconds Before An EF-3 Tornado. This is some of the most incredible imagery I've ever seen of an oncoming tornado. More details from the DDwx iBlog: "A startling image that made the rounds on the internet showing the EF-3 tornado ready to hit and destroy much of the small community of West Liberty, KY has a story to it. The photographer, Kent Nickell, a respected optometrist with an office in the downtown district of the town, took not one but three incredible images of the tornado that was bearing down on them at moments before 6pm Friday, March 2, 2012. I met Mr Nickell as I was walking the streets to the immediate west of Main Street marveling at the damage and some pretty crazy scenes of homes destroyed, two by fours firmly driven into the ground, foundations caved in on basements, and other impressive feats of the power of the tornado. He was checking on his father and brother’s homes which were heavily damaged. We got to talking and he mentioned he had a picture of the tornado as it was coming over the ridge that was clearly visible in front of us; of course that piqued my attention."

Photo credit above: Kent Nickell.

Latest Count: 159. I keep waiting for SPC and local NWS offices to start adjusting that number downward. 159 separate tornadoes on Friday, March 2? It seems incredible to me. I thought that many of these had to be the same tornado, simply seen from different vantage-points. If this number holds (doubtful) it would set a new 24-hour record for tornadoes. The previous record: 148 tornadoes during the April 3-4, 1974 Super Outbreak. Amazing.

 2005. The last time Earth experienced as strong a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection), or solar flare, was 2005. Details from the Christian Science Monitor below. Image above: NASA.

Warmest March 6 Across Minnesota In 12 Years. Dr. Mark Seely has more details in his always-informative Minnesota WeatherTalk blog. Here's an excerpt: "March 6th was the warmest statewide in 12 years. Many observers reported daytime temperatures 20 to 30 degrees above normal. Several locations reached the 50s and 60s F. Among the warmest spots in the state were: 68 F at Minneota; 67 F at Preston; 66 F at Winona; 65 F at Albert Lea; 64 F at Auston, Caledonia, and La Crescent; 63 F at Rochester, Amboy, Winnebago, and Fairmont; 62 F at Pipestone; and 60 F at MSP. Kabetogama set a new record high with 51 degrees F, while La Crescent also set a record high with 64 degrees F. It was probably the 2nd warmest March 6th in history behind 2000 when a number of observers report 70 degrees F and higher. In addition the warm, moist southerly winds brought near record setting dewpoint for the Twin Cities. The dewpoint reached 42 degrees F on March 6th and reached 45 degrees F on March 7th."

Photo credit above: "Warning signs at Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota, Feb. 16, 2012. The nation's unusually warm winter is causing officials in Lake Minnetonka, and other spots nationwide to cancel programs and impose bans on ice fishing. (Allen Brisson-Smith/The New York Times)."

Spring Weather: Winter Ending Early For Many Plants And Animals. The story at Huffington Post: "New York: A tiny, cloverlike plant with heart-shaped leaflets caught Steve Brill's attention as he scanned the ground of a Brooklyn park. "We have really messed up our climate if this plant, which dies in November, is alive now," Brill announced as he introduced the plant, yellow wood sorrel, to the group following him. Brill leads foraging tours for edible plants in the New York area, and his first tour of the 2012 season, in Prospect Park, yielded some surprises brought by the unusually mild winter. The lemony-flavored sorrel, for instance, had shown up at least a month earlier than normal. Sunday (March 4) marked the first tour of his 30th season. Brill said he has noticed a gradual shift in the annual cycle over the years, with many plants showing up about three weeks earlier than they once did, and then lasting much longer. This year is unprecedented -- some plants never even died off for the winter, he said."

Photo credit above: "The first edible plant to turn up on a foraging tour in early March was a surprise. Poor man's pepper doesn't typically show up this early in the year. Tour guide Steve Brill has seen the start of spring creep up by roughly three weeks in his 30 years leading tours in the New York area. Photo: Wynne Parry."

Going...Going...Soon To Be Gone. Get out this weekend if you have any hopes of hitting the trails; still plenty of snow over parts of northern Minnesota, especially the Arrowhead and North Shore, anywhere from 16-30" in a few spots. But there's precious little snow south of the Twin Cities. Data from NOAA.

Tournament Puddles? Not very dramatic, but your Monday morning commute may be slowed by rain. Models show anywhere from .15 to .35" of rain showers. The best chance of puddles: Monday morning - drying out later in the day.

Monday Blahs. The WRF forecast valid 12z Monday morning shows a storm centered over Minnesota, the rain-snow line pushed into southern Canada. A band of showery rains should stretch from the Twin Cities to Chicago and Detroit. Another (stronger) area of low pressure will lash Seattle and Portland with windswept rain.

Solar Storm Could Become Severe "Bell Ringer" Within Next 24 Hours. The Christian Science Monitor has more details and an explanatory video. Here's an excerpt: "So far, the solar storm buffeting Earth is weaker than experts had forecast. But the intensity could grow quickly, perhaps becoming severe, during the next 24 hours if the remainder of the storm strikes the Earth’s magnetic envelope in a particular way, as scientists say it might. Under those conditions, the storm could pose a more serious threat to power grids, satellites, airliners, and radio communications. This solar geomagnetic storm – called a coronal mass ejection (CME) by scientists – is the strongest to hit Earth since 2005." Photo: NASA/AP.

App Of The Week: iMapWeather Radio. When people ask me what apps I have on my iPhone I tell them 1). RadarScope, 2). My-Cast Weather Radar and 3). iMapWeather Radio. The iMapWeather Radio app knows your GPS location (or favorite locations) and alerts you with a visual and audible alert if a warning polygon is issued for your position. It's a powerful app, and well worth the $9.99 one-time charge. More details from the iTunes Store: "With iMap Weather Radio you will receive critical alerts via voice and push notification regarding life-threatening weather events. Your iPhone will “wake up” with alerts and also track your location to warn you wherever you go. Listen to local weather forecasts while you are on the move. Enjoy the power of a NOAA Weather Radio, with all the convenience and precision of a smart phone."

Weather Update: More Women Delivering South Florida Weather Forecasts In The Morning. Here's a story from the Orlando Sun Sentinel: "Today's forecast calls for heat and humidity, but look closer, there's another weather trend developing: the rise of morning women meteorologists. Of the six network-affiliated, English- and Spanish-language TV stations in the Fort Lauderdale-Miami market, five feature women meteorologists who design and deliver weather forecasts from predawn through noon in the country's 16th largest market. WPLG-Ch. 10 has the lone male on the morning weather shift: Scott Padgett. Although men still hold the key evening weather slots, the local morning dominance of female meteorologists reflects a steady increase in the number of women studying atmospheric sciences nationally."

Photo credit above: "Denise Isaac, from left, WSCV-Ch.51; Paola Elorza, Univision 23; Lissette Gonzalez; WFOR-Ch.4; Scott Padgett, WPLG-Ch. 10; Julie Durda, WSVN-Ch.7. (Jim Rassol, Sun Sentinel)."

"Dark Sky". Here is another app that deserves a second look, an app that predicts rainfall amounts based on your current GPS location, funded (in part) by Kickstarter. Here are the details: "Dark Sky is an app we’re building for iOS that predicts the weather using a different technique than the other guys. It uses your precise location to figure out exactly when it’s going to precipitate in the immediate future. (Above) you’ll find our Kickstarter video, which is currently the best explanation of what does Dark Sky will be."

Hawaii Soaking. Check out some of these rainfall amounts, courtesy of NOAA and Earth Networks. To see the latest Doppler Radar animation for Hawaii, click here - data courtesy of the National Weather Service.

LOCATION                                      AMOUNT

/HNIH1/ HANALEI                                35.97
/WNHH1/ PH WAINIHA                             35.03
/WLLH1/ MOUNT WAIALEALE RAINGAGE               27.94
/WLDH1/ WAILUA DITCH - USGS                    25.28
/KPIH1/ KAPAHI                                 21.80
/KLOH1/ KILOHANA RG - USGS                     17.49
/WUHH1/ WAILUA UH EXP STN                      17.34
/LIHH1/ LIHUE VRTY STA                         15.48
/ANHH1/ ANAHOLA NO.2                           13.39
/HLI  / LIHUE AIRPORT                          12.99
/MLDH1/ MOLOAA DAIRY                           12.85
/OMAH1/ OMAO                                    5.45
/WLGH1/ WAIALAE RG - USGS                       5.37
/KOKH1/ KOKEE                                   5.13
/KHEH1/ KALAHEO                                 4.77
/MCRH1/ MOHIHI CROSSING - USGS                  4.50
/WKRH1/ WAIAKOALI - USGS                        4.39

Feds Warn That Tornado Charity Scams Are Swirling Around. It's sad that there are always people willing to capitalize on the misery of others. has the story: "The United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) just posted a very timely and helpful press release: Justice Department Officials Raise Awareness of Disaster Fraud Hotline (March 8, 2012), and I urge you to take careful note of its warnings and suggestions. As the release’s title indicates, no sooner has our nation been devastated by recent tornado activity than the fraudsters have emerged from the woodwork with little to distinguish themselves from cockroaches.  You may recall that last summer I published: FBI Issues Warnings About Hurricane Irene Charity Scams (“Street Sweeper”, August 27,2011) to get the word out concerning the bogus charities that were popping up following Hurricane Irene."

Paul's Links. Favorite, bookmark-worthy web links:

1). NOAA Experimental Watches/Warnings. Here's another way to visualize rough weather around the USA, on a Google-map. More details from NOAA:

  • This is a experimental non-operational test of proposed watch, warning and advisory displays from the National Weather Service.

  • Please read the official Product Description Document (PDD) for information regarding this experimental product.

  • This experimental page is a possible candidate to replace the hazards map on

  • Public comments and suggestions about this page are encouraged.

  • Visit our tutorial to learn more about this new display.

  • 2). Midwestern Winter Road Conditions. Come to think of it - we may not be needing this anytime soon. Then again, accumulating snow is possible into late April. Thanks to the University of Wisconsin meteorology department (one of the best in the USA) for sharing this link.

    3). NOAA Graphics. This is why so many private weather companies are upset with NOAA - they do a very good job creating the kinds of maps that private industry was generating (for a fee) for so many years. I don't happen to share that sentiment - I believe there are always (new/innovative) ways to add value and go beyond what NOAA is doing, but  you have to give them credit. There is a wealth of free text and graphical data available to American consumers. This display allows you to click on a specific region, or drill down to state-level, and see predicted values of various weather parameters.

    Tracking Japan's Tsunami Debris. PBS has a fascinating article explaining how technology is helping to keep tabs on the massive amount of debris (from last year's devastating Japan earthquake and tsunami) across the Pacific: "Although a year has passed since Japan's tsunami sucked tons of wood, nets and other debris into the Pacific Ocean, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continues to track the rubble and urges others to do so to help focus cleanup efforts. The total amount of debris is unknown -- the Japanese government is fine-tuning its estimate of the amount that was generated and sank initially, said Ruth Yender, NOAA's Japan tsunami marine debris coordinator. And immediately after the event, satellite imagery showed large swaths of floating junk, which dispersed a few months later."

    $1 Billion Of TSA Nude Body Scanners Made Worthless By Blog - How Anyone Can Get Anything Past The Scanners. I thought long and hard about including this in my daily blog. Do I really want to reveal any secrets to various, assorted bad guys, and then I realized that it's already "out there". This was from an e-mail I received from an aviation web site that featured it as its top headline, so I'm not divulging any state secrets that aren't already circulating around the 'net. My hope is that TSA plugs up any chinks in the armor, and quickly. More details (and a video) from the web site, TSA Out Of Our Pants (yes, really): "This video is here to demonstrate that the TSA’s insistence that the nude body scanner program is effective and necessary is nothing but a fraud, just like their claims that the program is safe (radiation what?) and non-invasive (nude pictures who?). The scanners are now effectively worthless, as anyone can beat them with virtually no effort. The TSA has been provided this video in advance of it being made public to give them an opportunity to turn off the scanners and revert to the metal detectors. I personally believe they now have no choice but to turn them off. Please share this video with your family, friends, and most importantly, elected officials in federal government. Make sure they understand that your vote is contingent on them fixing the abuse that 200,000 passengers face from the TSA on a daily basis."

    A Leap Into History From 23 Miles Up. A parachute jump from an altitude of 120,000 feet above the Earth? I have nightmares that start out something like that. USA Today has the full story: "It's a bird, it's a plane, it's … Felix Baumgartner? Remember that name, folks. The 42-year-old Austrian sky-adventurer is looking to write his name into a very small record book this summer when he plops himself into a capsule attached to a helium balloon, ascends to 120,000 feet and … jumps. The goal of the Red Bull Stratos project, which is being underwritten by the Austrian energy-drink behemoth, is to test the protective limits of spacesuit technology, not to mention Baumgartner's nerve."

    Photo credit above: Luke Aikins, Red Bull.

    The Biggest Mistake People Made About The iPad. Gizmodo has the details: "The original iPad certainly had its detractors. But for all the myriad complaints about that big ol' bezel, the lack of cameras, the name, and so on, there was one refrain that echoed loudest among the haters: It's just a big iPhone. You know what? They were wrong. We all were. As Farhad Manjoo points out in Slate, the iPad isn't an iPhone at all. It's an iPod. And more than anything, that's why it's been so successful."

    Virality Uber Alles: What The Fetishization Of Social Media Is Costing All Of Us. Arianna Huffington has an interesting post in the web site that bears her name, The Huffington Post: "Going viral has gone viral. Social media have become the obsession of the media. It's all about social now: What are the latest social tools? How can a company increase its social reach? Are reporters devoting enough time to social? Less discussed -- or not at all -- is the value of the thing going viral. Doesn't matter -- as long as it's social. And viral! The media world's fetishization of social media has reached idol-worshipping proportions. Media conference agendas are filled with panels devoted to social media and how to use social tools to amplify coverage, but you rarely see one discussing what that coverage should actually be about. As Wadah Khanfar, former Director General of Al Jazeera, told our editors when he visited our newsroom last week, "The lack of contextualization and prioritization in the U.S. media makes it harder to know what the most important story is at any given time." Image above:

    How NOT To Hunt. Please don't try this at home. Hot tub + beer + rifle with scope = bad idea.

    "Canadian Kiss". I have no other information on this photo. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. Feeling better about living in the good 'ol, Moose-Kiss-Optional USA.

    Suddenly Spring

    I went to bed in March - woke up in late April. A week from now it will feel like the second week of May. Like turning on a light switch. The winter that wasn't..isn't. As I traipse around my cabin, ankle-deep in mashed-potato-slush, I keep wondering if the weather's trying to tell us something? The patient's running a slight fever: rash-like temperature spikes and violent tornado-sneezes are are symptoms, perhaps, of a larger condition. We'll see.

    Expect a 25 degree temperature jump today; 60 in the shade by late afternoon?

    If you don't have a premature case of spring fever yet, give it a few hours. With the exception of Monday (due to rain) daytime highs reach, or exceed 60 into next week.

    A few readers (rightfully) thought I had lost my mind by hinting at 70. The European (ECMWF) model was first to point out the spike, and it's still showing highs near 70 next Friday & Saturday, St. Patty's Day. This year's Tournament Storm may be accompanied by thunder and lightning.

    This is weather, not climate, but a bit unsettling nonetheless. I feel an odd mix of euphoria and dread. Readings 30 degrees above average?

    Green lawns & thunder for premature leprechauns? It could happen.

    Photo credit above: "At the St. Patrick's Day Parade,Raina Belleau,18, plays the bagpipes before the parade. She has been playing for four years and used to play with the Minnesota Police Pipe Band. Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatar, Star Tribune. File photo from 2007."

    "Economic advance is not the same thing as human progress." - John Clapham, "A Concise Economic History of Britain, 1957.

    Climate Stories...

    Controversy Over Possible Link Between Climate Change And (Apparent) Spike In Tornadoes?found this entry interesting, from tornado research veteran and prolific storm chaser Chuck Doswell. He believes the atmosphere is, in fact, warming, but doesn't see a direct link between a warmer, wetter atmosphere and tornadogenesis. Here is an excerpt of his post at Chuck's Chatter: "Amidst all the swirling controversy regarding anthropogenic global warming (AGW), a subplot has arisen that involves me rather more directly than most of the science regarding global climate change.  In particular, some climate scientists (among them is Dr. Kevin Trenberth) have been making what I believe to be highly speculative claims about the climatology of severe weather in a world affected by AGW.  The essence of the situation is that Trenberth has been claiming in various media that there will be more tornadoes in an AGW-influenced future, and that the "tornado season" will start earlier and be more violent than ever. In my studies of severe convection and tornadoes, I have not been willing to make any statement regarding the potential impact of AGW on the occurrence frequency of tornadoes.  Why so cautious?"

    Photo credit above: "Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, center, helps with post-tornado cleanup, Friday, March 9, 2012, in Moscow, Ohio. About 35 Bengals office personnel and a few players volunteered to help at the town that was heavily damaged last Friday by a tornado. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)."

    "Chasing Ice" Catches Up To Earth's Changing Climate. Here's a story from Lis Cohen at Climate Central: "It’s probably hard to imagine all of Manhattan tumbling into the Hudson River and washing away in less than five minutes, but that’s the equivalent of what you’ll see in the film “Chasing Ice,” as a city’s worth of towering icebergs collapse violently into the ocean — and that’s just one of countless spectacular images that flash across the screen in this astonishing documentary by director and cinematographer Jeff Orlowski, which premiered at Sundance in January and is opening at SXSW this week. The film is a documentary about a documentarian — a scientist-turned photographer named James Balog, whose obsession with images of ice has gotten him into the pages of The New Yorker and National Geographic. Despite his training as a geographer and geomorphologist, Balog was stunned to see how fast some of the glaciers that he shot were receding in the face of global warming. So he decided to create a long-term photography project he called the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), which he hoped would merge art and science into a compelling story in pictures about what humans are doing to the climate."

    Photo credit above: "A layer of cryoconite, dust which absorbs solar radiation, melting the snow, at the bottom of a Greenland Ice Sheet channel, July 2009. Credit: James Balog/Extreme Ice Survey. "

    Inhofe: God Says Global Warming Is A Hoax. Not sure what to say to this. The article from Think Progress: "In a radio interview with Voice of Christian Youth America, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) argued that his belief that global warming is a hoax is biblically inspired. Promoting his book The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, Inhofe told interviewer Vic Eliason on Wednesday that only God can change the climate, and the idea that manmade pollution could affect the seasons is “arrogance“: "Well actually the Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that “as long as the earth remains there will be springtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.” My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous."

    * Apparently Senator Inhofe is as effective at cherry-picking scripture as he is cherry-picking science....

    "Man has been appointed as a steward for the management of God's property, and ultimately he will give account for his stewardship." - Luke

    How Do You Teach Your Kids About Climate Change? Mother Jones has a few ideas (and a compelling video): "One of the more unsettling items from the recent leak of an internal fundraising document from the conservative Heartland Institute think tank was a plan laying out how K-12 schools could adopt "educational materials" criticizing the notion of man-made global warming. According to the document, "principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective." Here at the Climate Desk, it got us thinking: how do our readers engage with kids about climate change, not just in the classroom, but also at home? We put out a call, and here's what we heard back."

    Photo credit above: Flickr / Pink Sherbet Photography.

    Entire Nation Of Kiribati Could One Day Move To Fiji To Escape Climate Change. The Washington Post has the story: "Fearing that climate change could wipe out their entire Pacific archipelago, the leaders of Kiribati are considering an unusual backup plan: moving the populace to Fiji. Kiribati President Anote Tong told The Associated Press on Friday that his Cabinet this week endorsed a plan to buy nearly 6,000 acres on Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu. He said the fertile land, being sold by a church group for about $9.6 million, could be insurance for Kiribati’s entire population of 103,000, though he hopes it will never be necessary for everyone to leave." Photo: Washington Post.

    Concern Over Greenland Warming. The story from The Oman Observer: "The Greenland ice sheet is more sensitive to global warming than thought, for just a relatively small — but very long term — temperature rise would melt it completely, according to a study published. Previous research has suggested it would need warming of at least 3.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, in a range of 1.9-5.1 C, to totally melt the ice sheet. But new estimates, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, put the threshold at 1.6 C, in a range of 0.8-3.2 C, although this would have to be sustained for tens of thousands of years. Greenland is second to Antarctica as the biggest source of locked-up water on land. If it melted completely, this would drive up sea levels by 7.2 metres, swamping deltas and low-lying islands."

    Green And Wasteful: The High Cost Of Clean Energy. I don't agree with all the points in this article, but in the spirit of presenting different viewpoints, here is a recent article from The Fiscal Times: "When it comes to investing in clean energy, the federal government is all over the case.  Eleven government departments and agencies operate a total of 94 programs to encourage clean energy projects and research in private sector buildings, a recent Government Accountability Office report revealed. Talk about government overlap: The Department of Energy runs six separate programs to research ways to make commercial and residential programs more energy-efficient, while the Defense Department operates its own program called the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program to research and develop military-related environmentally-friendly technologies.  In all, 83 of these programs target energy conservation in some way, 60 focus on indoor air quality, and 51 encourage water conservation." Photo: REUTERS/Jim Young.