Thursday, May 3, 2012

May 4: Severe From Iowa to New York (crazy week of weather records)

Wild Storms. WeatherNation TV's Lori Ryan snapped the photo in the upper left Thursday morning, after the rare morning deluge. Meteorologist Addison Greene captured a great photo of cumulonimbus mammatus (upper right) as the thunderhead anvils swept overhead.

Severe Threat. SPC is predicting a slight risk of severe storms from South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota, across much of Iowa - southeast to Indianapolis and Louisville today (upper left map). The upper right image shows Saturday's severe risk across the Upper Midwest, southeast and parts of central Texas.

Hail And High Water. All those blue dots are severe hail reports from Thursday, according to NOAA. 473 separate severe storm reports for the Upper Midwest yesterday. Map: Ham Weather.

Week's Worth of Storm Reports. According to NOAA: 2,767 severe storm reports from coast to coast since April 26. Only Texas was spared (ironically), with tornado touchdowns (red dots) from California to central Kentucky to Brooten, Minnesota. Map: Ham Weather.

Week's Worth Of Temperature Records. Record chill across the northeast, record heat in the south, record 24-hour rainfall reports (green dots) for much of the Ohio Vallley and Plains, westward to California. Something for the entire family. 2,232 temperature records in 7 days. Map: NOAA and Ham Weather.

An Old Fashioned Soaking? The latest NAM predicts more than 1" for the Twin Cities, but I suspect amounts may go higher than that, as much as 2" for some communities. The best chance of heavy rain: Saturday night into early Sunday.

Cooling Trend. The good news: no more frost in sight looking out 2 weeks, at least not for the metro area. After peaking above 70 today readings drop over the weekend: low to mid 60s for highs Sunday, maybe some 50s up north. Readings early next week will run 5-10 degrees cooler than average for mid-May before recovering to near 70 the latter half of next week.

European Solution: Sunday Soaking. The ECMWF model prints out a few isolated showers and T-showers today, more numerous showers (late) Saturday, with Sunday the wettest day in sight. After a cool Tuesday temperatures recover the latter half of next week.

Meteor Alert. Earth is passing through space junk leftover from Halley's Comet. Details from below.

Legacy Destinations. Now there's a new (and better?) way to explore Minnesota. Details below.

"Here in the United States, 82 percent of Americans say that they've experienced a natural disaster or extreme weather event first-hand." - from a Huffington Post article on climate change and extreme weather below.

Easing Drought. Here is the latest Drought Monitor information for Minnesota, showing a slight improvement, especially over central and northern counties. The area under "severe drought" has dropped from 22% last week to 18% this week - further improvement is likely in the coming days with moderate/heavy rain in the forecast.

Palmer Index. At a glance you can see what areas of America are still running a longterm rainfall deficit. Much of Minnesota needs 2-5" of additional rain to get back up to normal. West Texas, Wyoming and much of the southeast are also suffering from an extended dry spell. Meanwhile much of the Pacific Northwest is running a 2-4" rainfall surplus. Seattle is almost 5" wetter than normal since January 1, over 6" at Portland, Oregon!  Palmer Index courtesy of NOAA.

6-10 Day Temperature Outlook. CPC, the Climate Prediction Center, is predicting a cool bias for much of the eastern two thirds of America through mid-May, considerably warmer than average for the western USA. Map courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather.

La Nina Comes To A Close. Maybe now our weather will become "normal" again? Don't bet on it. Details from NASA's Earth Observatory: "After cooling the eastern tropical Pacific for the second winter in a row—and teaming with other large-scale weather patterns to wreak havoc on North American winter—La Niña ended in April 2012. Researchers from the Climate Prediction Center of the U.S. National Weather Service reported on May 3 that the Pacific has transitioned to “neutral conditions, which are expected to continue through northern summer 2012.” La Niña and El Niño are alternating patterns of ocean and atmospheric circulation that have a distinct impact on weather around the Pacific basin. La Niña brings cooler waters and stronger trade winds to the tropical Pacific, boosting precipitation in western Pacific nations like Australia and Indonesia and drying out southern North America. The pattern can alter the path of the jet stream and other atmospheric phenomena."

Storms In The Gulf Feed Off Warm Gulf Loop Current. Gulf of Mexico water temperatures have been running at least 2 F. warmer than average since February - some meteorologists theorize this may be a factor in the unusually violent (and early) tornadoes across the USA. More from NOAA's Environmental Visualization Laboratory: "The Loop Current, as seen in NOAA's Daily 5 km resolution sea surface temperature product, is providing fuel for convection today west of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. The NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory's Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential map of the Gulf of Mexico shows."

Report Points To Decline In Ability To Monitor The Earth. Here's a clip from a recent New York Times article: "Earth-observing systems operated by the United States have entered a steep decline, imperiling the nation’s monitoring of weather, natural disasters and climate change, a report from the National Research Council warned Wednesday. Long-running and new missions are frequently delayed, lost or canceled because of budget cuts, launching failures, disorganization and changes in mission design and scope, the report said."

Report Warns Of Diminished Tornado Tracking, Hurricane Forecasting, Climate Change Study. Here's an excerpt from The Oshkosh Northwestern: "....The number and capability of weather satellites circling the planet "is beginning a rapid decline" and tight budgets have significantly delayed or eliminated missions to replace them, according to a National Research Council analysis released Wednesday.The number of in-orbit and planned Earth observation missions by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is projected to drop "precipitously" from 23 this year to only six by 2020 based on information provided by both agencies, the report found. As a result, the number of satellites and other instruments monitoring Earth's activity is expected to decline from a peak of about 110 in 2011 to fewer than 30 by the end of the decade."

New Data Shows Hurricane Irene From 2011 Now 6th Costliest Hurricane In U.S. History. Details from "New damage estimates released last month by NOAA now place the damage from 2011's Hurricane Irene at $15.8 billion, making the storm the 6th costliest hurricane and 10th costliest weather-related disaster in U.S. history. Irene hit North Carolina on August 27, 2011, as a Category 1 hurricane with 85 mph winds, and made landfalls the next day in New Jersey and New York City as a tropical storm. Most of the damage from Irene occurred because of the tremendous fresh water flooding the storm's rains brought to much of New England."

A New View Of The Aqueous Globe. Here's an excerpt of an interesting article at The New York Times: “There is a river in the ocean” are the first words in Matthew Fontaine Maury’s pioneering work, “The Physical Geography of the Sea,” first published in 1855. Sailors have always been aware of ocean rivers — currents, that is — but Maury was the first to produce a scientific chart of the major currents. It was based on thousands of observations recorded by seamen and was, in a sense, an expanded version of the Gulf Stream chart printed in 1769 by Benjamin Franklin after consulting a Nantucket skipper. "

Image of the "Perpetual Ocean" above courtesy of NASA Goddard's Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.

When Disaster Strikes, FEMA Turns To....Waffle House. Here's an excerpt of a fascinating blurb at "Waffle House serves hungry customers bacon, eggs and hash browns, but when disaster strikes, the iconic chain serves up valuable intel to the government. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has developed an unofficial, color-coded "Waffle House Index" to help make assessments before sending response teams to areas hit by such natural disasters as tornadoes, floods or hurricanes. “When business like that are closed, that’s a good indication that resources are probably going to be needed for the survivors there in that area,” explained Will Booher of Florida’s  Division of Emergency Management."

Flood Insurance Debate Resumes As Deadline Nears. Here's an excerpt of a story from Reuters and The Chicago Tribune: "(Reuters) - Federal officials are putting fresh pressure on Congress to take action on the National Flood Insurance Program, whose authorization expires at the end of this month, one day before hurricane season begins. The NFIP has been a political football in Washington for years, particularly because of the unsustainable debt load it took on in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There is a broad push to reform the program and put it on a sound financial footing, but competing visions on that reform (including whether to forgive the program's debts) have stalled legislation."
Tulip Tips. Thanks to my friend (and master gardener) Tricia Frostad, for passing these tips along: "After all this rain you may lose a lot of those pretty tulip petals. The ground around them is now littered with what used to make up that beautiful flower. To give the bulbs the best chance of returning next year, cut the stem back so that it does not produce seeds but do not remove the leaves. I know they are not th emost attractive to look at, but those leaves need the sun to create energy through photosynthesis. If you remove the foliage too early, there won't be enough energy stored to feed the bulbs and you'll end up with smaller or fewer blooms. It's best to wait until the leaves are brown and dead-looking, usually about 6 weeks or late June (probably earlier this year). Following this rule will give you the best chance of another great show next spring." Thanks Tricia.
* more tips for tulips from the Quad City Times here.
Meteors From Halley's Comet. Here's an excerpt from "Earth is entering a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, source of the annual eta Aquarid meteor shower. The shower peaks this weekend; the best time to look is during the hours before sunrise on Sunday, May 6th. Because the shower's radiant is located below the celestial equator, southern hemisphere observers are favored, but even northerners should be able to see a few flecks of Halley-dust disintegrating in the atmosphere. Super-bright moonlight will cap the meteor rate at about 30 per hour."

"Ask Paul". Weather-related Q&A:


"My daughter and her family live in a hollow, of sorts, on the Mississippi south of Little Falls. They cannot get a signal for their weather radio. While they will attempt to add an external antenna, I scanned through articles on weather apps for iPhones (which they have). It is not clear to me whether they will wake you up at night with an alarm. I recall you writing about this very recently as I read your blog every day. What is their best bet in the event the external antenna does not work?"


Mary - NOAA Weather Radio is an amazing tool, but there are valleys and hollows where reception is poor. There are a couple of apps that may help, including iMapWeather Radio ($9.99) and My-Cast Weather Radar. My-Cast Weather Radar costs $3.99 (one-time charge) - both apps allow you to set up favorite locations, and then receive visual and audible alerts if a warning is issued for your location. It's not quite as good as NOAA Weather Radio (which lets out an audible shriek if a warning is issued at 3 am) but it's better than nothing. I don't know of any (good) free alerting apps. The reality: it costs $$ for companies to keep servers running to push out these alerts, and advertising just doesn't get the job done, so for a quality solution you're going to spend a few bucks. Better solutions are coming!

* Full disclosure: I don't have any equity/business interest in either company, and no, I don't get a commission for recommending these apps. I just think they're two of the best alerting apps out there on the IOS market today.

Screen Shot From iMapWeather Radio, showing how you can save different locations and set different alerts for each town.


"Storm just ripped through our area of Eagan. We live in a wooded area and behind our house we have at least 10 trees knocked down, including one large oak tree. Is that common to have just an isolated area have trees knocked down in a storm like this? Probably in a 150x200 foot area..."

Tim- it sounds like you may have experienced a rare microburst, a severe thunderstorm downdraft that reached the ground, fanning out into damaging straight-line winds that may have exceeded 60-70 mph. Hard to say; the line that rumbled across the metro Thursday morning became more severe as it pushed into the eastern suburbs. My hunch: microburst. Link and image above courtesy of Wikipedia.

Legacy Destinations. We live in a remarkably diverse state with much to do, much to see. My wife and I try to check out a new town, a new Minnesota destination, every month. There may be a better way to explore Minnesota. Check out the Legacy Destination program at Explore Minnesota: "The passage of the "Legacy Amendment" in 2008 created new funds to develop and support Outdoor Heritage, Clean Water, Parks and Trails, and Arts and Cultural Heritage throughout Minnesota. Legacy Destinations will host a weekend of arts, history and outdoor events and activities during each month May through September. The events celebrate these local resources and organizations to their communities and offer Minnesota residents and visitors an eclectic assortment of fun activities throughout the year. This is a statewide collaborative project between the Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, Conservation Minnesota, Explore Minnesota Tourism and local community partners."

Site Of The Day: "The Cool Hunter". If you haven't investigated this site, it's worth a look. What is The Cool Hunter? "I recently found a cool website called The Cool Hunter. There are so many amazing photos on this site. Everything from travel, architecture, art & design to urban living, gadgets and fashion. I thought I'd share some with you now that I found so enjoy!"

"SAVE" Fashion Show. I've been involved with SAVE (suicide awareness, voices of education) for nearly 10 years, ever since Randi Kaye's father died at his own hands. I saw the impact the suicide had on her. My youngest son lost one of his best friends - it seems like every family has been touched by depression and suicide. Everyone seems to know someone who didn't get the help they needed to avoid an ultimately preventable tragedy. There's something you can do about it - SAVE, based in Bloomington (with a national outreach) has a Fashion Show coming up in Excelsior on June 1. Check out the other SAVE events and fundraisers here - including an annual golf tournament in August. Here are the details on the Fashion Show - hope to see  you there.. I'm a "model" - another sign of the pending Apocalypse.

7th Annual SAVE Fashion Show
Friday, June 1, 2012

6:30pm to 10pm

BayView Center
687 Excelsior Boulevard, Excelsior, MN

General Admission Tickets $40 ($50 at the door)
VIP Seating $100 (will not be available at the door)
VIP Tables of 8 $1,500 (limited tables available)
The 7th Annual SAVE Fashion Show will be held at the beautiful BayView Event Center on Lake Minnetonka in Excelsior and includes fabulous fashions, great food by Wally's Roast Beef and a fantastic silent and live auction.

This years 60's & 70's fashions will be modeled by ICON's Management models and Mark Steine of E SALON and his team of models along with local celebrities. All models will be wearing specially designed clothing by Christopher Straub, Samantha Rei Crossland and others. This will be an amazing show that you don't want to miss!!

Meet "Signal", The Instagram Of Citizen Journalism. Social media is changing...everything, including journalism. Good idea? Here's a snippet of an article explaining this new app from "What do you get when you combine a photo-sharing mobile platform like Instagram with more geo-location awareness and a Reddit-style voting system for stories breaking all over the world? Answer: Signal, the app citizen journalism may well have been been waiting for. The Signal app is currently in private beta launch, and will hit app stores for the iPhone in the next few months. You can sign up to test the app here. Signal is the brainchild of Lebanese entrepreneur Mark Malkoun, who says it will address the fundamental limitations of sharing stories on social media."

Who Will Survive The Social Media Bubble? Is Facebook worth $100 billion, give or take? Will we still all be using FB in 5 years? Remember AOL? Who knows - but Read Write Web has an interesting series about the inevitable social media shake-out: "A New York Times article in Sunday's editions highlighted smaller, niche social networks that gave people more control over their privacy when compared to the giants such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. The article reviewed Path (for sharing with a small group of people), FamilyLeaf (for sharing with family members only) and Pair (for sharing with one other person). These networks, and hundreds of others like them, fill an obvious void that the big three social networks are missing. The question is whether that void is big enough to justify revenues that will allow all of these lesser social networks to survive."

How To Muddy Your Tracks On The Internet. Paranoid about security? You should be. Here's an excerpt of an article at The New York Times: "Legal and technology researchers estimate that it would take about a month for Internet users to read the privacy policies of all the Web sites they visit in a year. So in the interest of time, here is the deal: You know that dream where you suddenly realize you’re stark naked? You’re living it whenever you open your browser.  There are no secrets online. That emotional e-mail you sent to your ex, the illness you searched for in a fit of hypochondria, those hours spent watching kitten videos (you can take that as a euphemism if the kitten fits) — can all be gathered to create a defining profile of you."

"Tree Piece" Helmets: Protective Loggin' For Your Noggin. Headline of the week? If you're looking for a unique helmet look no further than "If you want your product to stand out while also looking classy, warm and organic, there’s one sure-fire way of doing in – make it out of wood. In recent years, we’ve seen things like wooden headphones, MP3 players, and bicycles. Now, sports helmets can be added to that list. Oregon-based woodworker Dan Coyle started making his own wooden-shelled helmets in the late 90s, for his own use while whitewater kayaking. Just in the past few years, however, he got the idea of making them for other people. The result is his current line of Tree Piece Helmets."

"I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no more hurt, but only more love." - Mother Teresa.

Drought-Busting Rains?

Wouldn't it be great if we could time rainy soakings for weekdays, late at night, well away from your commute times? We're working on that technology. Sadly, it'll be a company composed entirely of lawyers. Once you start tinkering with the weather the liability implications are staggering. What if you "seed" clouds and a flood breaks out 100 miles downwind? Not good.

Storms, given a choice, PREFER to come on weekends; Murphy's little-known Second Law. 3 soggy Saturdays in a row? Uh huh.

The volatile warm front that sparked several waves of severe, hail-producing storms sags just south of the MSP metro; today 10 degrees cooler with a few T-showers. A storm rippling along a stagnant east-west frontal boundary throws a shield of heavier, steadier rain into Minnesota late Saturday into Sunday. Some 1-3" rainfall amounts are possible - a few severe storms possible over southwestern Minnesota.

According to NOAA's Palmer Index (details on the blog) much of our fair state is still running a 2-5" rainfall deficit since last autumn. The timing stinks, but our weekend soaking is a meteorological Godsend for farmers.

No more frost in sight - I think you're safe to plant annuals.

Climate Stories...

Panetta: Environment Emerges As National Security Concern. Here's an excerpt from a recent story at the U.S. Department of Defense: "Climate and environmental change are emerging as national security threats that weigh heavily in the Pentagon's new strategy, Defense Secretary Leo E. Panetta told an environmental group last night. "The area of climate change has a dramatic impact on national security," Panetta said here at a reception hosted by the Environmental Defense Fund to honor the Defense Department advancing clean energy initiatives. "Rising sea levels, severe droughts, the melting of the polar ice caps, the more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief," Panetta said."

The "Reasonable Middle" On Climate Change. Is there common ground somewhere between the "warmist/alarmists" and the "deniers"? Dr. Jon Foley from the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment has a pragmatic take on climate change; here is a portion of an interview at “.....Some people underplay the problem; some people overplay the problem; I play it down the center, just the straight facts. I am not on a side. I am in the reasonable middle.” I’d note two things about this message. First, it is true. It is true that climate impacts will be worse than the skeptics say and not as bad as some climate hawks say. It is also true that Foley is honest, non-tribal, and scrupulous about scientific facts when he communicates. Second, this kind of stance, being in the reasonable center, is extremely attractive to a certain (I’ll never forgive myself for using this word) psychographic, folks I somewhat clumsily call “characterological centrists.” People of a certain temperament will naturally drift to a Goldilocks — not too hot, not too cool — position on matters of political import. They want to be seen as credible, independent brokers of truth, not as activists saying whatever it takes to advance one side or the other."

"Connecting The Dots" Between Climate Change And Extreme Weather. Here's an excerpt from a story at The Huffington Post: "Over the last year, millions of people around the world have felt first-hand the impacts of the growing climate crisis. From devastating flooding in Thailand to historic drought in Texas, global warming has moved from an abstraction to a dangerous new reality. Here in the United States, 82 percent of Americans say that they've experienced a natural disaster or extreme weather event first-hand. Yet, despite a few notable exceptions, the mainstream media has failed to connect the dots between this string of extreme weather events and global warming. Instead, coverage of climate change has dropped precipitously. A recent report by Media Matters for America found out that nightly news coverage on the major networks decreased 72 percent between 2009 and 2011. The Sunday shows, traditionally seen as forums for discussing the "important issues" of the day, have all spent more time covering Donald Trump than they have climate change."

Plants Flowering Much Faster As Global Temperatures Rise. Details from The Christian Science Monitor; here's an excerpt: "Plants are flowering faster than scientists predicted in response to climate change, research in the United States showed on Wednesday, which could have devastating knock-on effects for food chains and ecosystems. Global warming is having a significant impact on hundreds of plant and animal species around the world, changing some breeding, migration and feeding patterns, scientists say. Increased carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels can affect how plants produce oxygen, while higher temperatures and variable rainfall patterns can change their behaviour."

Photo credit above: "A butterfly lands on a flowering Confetti Lantan plant in San Antonio, Texas. Scientists have commonly under-predicted the climate change's effects on plants, says new research." AP Photo/Eric Gay.

Much Ado About Nothing. Wind Farms = Global Warming? Here's a snippet of a story from "...So is it a big deal? Zhou doesn't seem to think so. In a Q&A related to the study Zhou said "Overall, the warming effect reported in this study is local and is small compared to the strong background year-to-year land surface temperature changes. Very likely, the wind turbines do not create a net warming of the air and instead only redistribute the air's heat near the surface (the turbine itself does not generate any heat), which is fundamentally different from the large-scale warming effect caused by increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases due to the burning of fossil fuels."

OECD Calls For Policy Reform And Technology To Prevent Impending Water Crisis. An interesting story from; here's an excerpt: "Worldwide population growth and the related rapid increase in urbanization is already posing problems in many areas for the management of that most precious of resources, water. With these problems only set to intensify, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) has released a report outlining the challenges humanity faces to maintain water resources in the face of demographic growth and climate change. Called Meeting the Water Reform Challenge, the report says that urgent reform of water policies is crucial in order to preserve human and environmental health as well as economic growth."

When Global Warming Ate My Life. Here's an interesting story from Huffington Post: "Hell is not a place; it's a time. It starts with the experience of irreversible loss and ends as you learn to live with loss. My hell time began on a summer night in 2009 while wrapping brownies at the kitchen table in our Maine farmhouse. Fifteen years earlier my husband and I gave up fame and fortune to raise our son and daughter on a Maine farm. We wanted them to grow up with the respectful down-to-earth values of our small Maine town. We hoped they would shape deeply lived authentic lives surrounded by natural beauty and bound to the rhythms of the seasons."