Monday, May 6, 2013

Welcome Rains for California - Cut-Off Low Sparks Flooding Southeast USA (anniversary of Twin Cities' worst tornado outbreak)


Finally. I can walk down the street without small children cowering in fear. Their parents are waving again (with all their fingers). I've been here since 1983 - this is the latest I can remember spring green-up. I'll never take GREEN for granted again.

Speaking of weather whiplash: last year set a record for the earliest ice-out on record for many Minnesota lakes; this year will be one of the latest. Lakes are still ice-covered from Mille Lacs, Gull & Whitefish on north to the Canadian border. Ice-out may be 2-5 days later than 1996; most central Minnesota lakes opening up by Saturday, but northern lakes? Keep your boating expectations low.
I wish I could write you a prescription & send you home early today: blue sky, light winds, no humidity or bugs. As good as it gets.

A cold swirl in the atmosphere pushes showers & T-storms into town tomorrow; dew points and wind shear values not high enough for a widespread severe outbreak.

A vigorous cold front arrives with showers by Friday night. Saturday looks brisk with 50s and jackets, but no accumulating snow! Mother's Day looks better; more sun & less wind - highs close to 60F. We may top 80 early next week.

More whiplash.

A Race Against Time. Cue the scary opening music: duh duh....duh. Will there be ice on northern Minnesota lakes for the Fishing Opener? Probably, although it may be off just in time at Mille Lacs, possibly Gull and Pelican. The midday Monday 1,000 meter NASA "Terra" satellite image shows ice-free lakes south of a line from Little Falls to Hinckley. But as you can see Mille Lacs, the Whitefish Chain and Leech are still covered in ice. Mild weather today and midweek rain will help to accelerate ice-out, but I have my doubts Park Rapids lakes will be ice-free in time for Gov. Dayton's big visit. At this rate he may have to drop by the local Coborn's and pick up some nice walleye filets. Can you say "improvise"?

Midweek Puddle Potential. The 00z NAM prints out .31" (all rain!) with showers spilling over into Thursday morning. Friday looks dry, only a fleeting light shower or two Friday night - probably not enough rain to seriously interfere with fishing.

Stuck Storms and Lazy Fronts. The ultra-slow-moving cut-off low grinding up the East Coast is acting as an atmospheric road block, slowing down the next upper level disturbance for the Upper Midwest. Showers and a few T-storms are likely here Wednesday into Thursday morning, then drier by late week, in spite of a cold frontal passage Friday night. Any weekend chill should be fleeting, a quick warming trend starts up again on Mother's Day. NAM model data: NOAA.

Visions Of A (Real) Spring. Today should be the mildest day into at least Sunday; low to mid 70s likely under a partly sunny sky. Wednesday still appears to be the wettest day, showery, convective rains: showers and a few heavier T-storms possible. After a wet start skies brighten Thursday, another shower Friday night as colder air approaches. Highs hold in the 50s Saturday (maybe some 40s far north - pack a sturdy jacket), but a quick temperature rebound is likely early next week.

Why I'm Going Warmer Monday - Tuesday. Even the normally trusty ECMWF (European) has been more erratic than usual as of late, as the atmosphere makes up its mind whether it wants to stay in winter-mode or graduate to spring. But we've had a few runs/row now pulling very warm air across the Rockies and Plains into Minnesota early next week. If this forecast verifies we'll see highs at or above 80F the first half of next week.

Minnesota's Deadliest Tornadoes. The Twin Cities National Weather Service has a comprehensive summary of the May 6, 1965 tornado outbreak with spun up F-4 tornadoes in the immediate metro. Fridley was hit the hardest (by two separate F-4 twisters; winds approaching 200 mph). Here's an excerpt: "The worst tornadoes in Twin Cities history occurred in 1965, with five tornadoes sweeping across the western and northern portions of the 7-county region, and a sixth tornado just outside the metropolitan area. Four tornadoes were rated F4, one was an F3, and the other produced F2 damage. Thirteen people were killed and 683 injured. Many more would have been killed had it not been for the warnings of the U.S. Weather Bureau, local officials, and the outstanding communications by local radio and television stations. Many credit the announcers of WCCO-AM with saving countless lives. It was also the first time in Twin Cities history that civil defense sirens were used for severe weather...."

Image credit upper left: "A photo taken by Minnetonka resident H. B. Milligan of a tornado crossing to the west of the junction of Hwy 7 and 101 on May 6, 1965. It is believed that this was the tornado that touched down in Chanhassen at 6:27 p.m. and dissipated in Deephaven at 6:43 pm. The photo was published in July 1965 by the Minneapolis Tribune as part of the "Photos of the Week" feature, and photographers received a $5 award."

Image credit upper right: "Radar footage from 1965 was recently discovered, and the 35mm film was converted to digital format, although there was no method available to us other than a somewhat crude technique.  So we present them "as is," with little indication of how distant the storm was from the radar, or without any map backgrounds.  It will take quite some time, but we hope some day to assign high resolution map backgrounds and possibly filter the radar echoes to highlight the most important storms.  This will allow us to study the event in greater detail and learn important lessons from this historic tornado outbreak. The clock uses 24 hour timing, and is in Central Standard Time.  For example, 1800 would be 6:00 p.m. CST, and 2100 would be 9:00 p.m. CST."

The Cut-Off Low That Has Much Of America In A Weather Rut. The same slow-motion storm that dumped historic amounts of snow on southeastern Minnesota, western Wisconsin and parts of Iowa is now soaking much of the Southeast and Mid Atlantic Region. In recent days weather systems have stalled, cut off from the main belt of westerly jet stream winds. More details in today's edition of Climate Matters: "It's been incredibly wet in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic. Rainfall records are breaking from Key West to Atlanta and Charlotte. For folks in the moisture starved Southwest, raindrops today have been a welcome sight. Meteorologist Paul Douglas explains what he calls continued weather whiplash."

California Girds For Severe Fire Season As Dry Land Burns. California experienced the 4th driest winter rainfall season on record, which doesn't bode well for the fire season to come (which usually peaks in late summer and autumn). Bloomberg has the story; here's an excerpt: "Californians are preparing for a prolonged season of wildfires after an unusually dry winter that left millions of acres of scrub brush in the most populous U.S. state primed to burn. The tinder-box conditions have sparked more than 840 wildfires since January, about 320 more than the five-year average, according to the state Forestry and Fire Protection Department, known as Cal Fire. A fast-moving fire in Ventura County over the weekend charred an area the size of San Francisco, forced the evacuation of a college with 4,900 students and threatened 4,000 homes northwest of Los Angeles..."

Photo credit above: "A crew of firefighters climb through a burned area looking for hot spots in Hidden Valley, California, on Saturday, May 4, 2013. Rising humidity and cooling temperatures have slowed the massive fire on its third day." (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times/MCT

More Hurricanes For Hawaii? Warmer water and a shift in weather patterns may increase overall risk for Hawaii, according to this story at Science Codex; here's an excerpt: "News of a hurricane threat sends our hearts racing, glues us to the Internet for updates, and makes us rush to the store to stock up on staples. Hawaii, fortunately, has been largely free from these violent storms in the recent past, only two having made landfall in more than 30 years. Now a study headed by a team of scientists at the International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, shows that Hawaii could see a two-to-three-fold increase in tropical cyclones by the last quarter of this century. The study, which appears in the May 5, 2013, online issue of Nature Climate Change, though, leaves open the question, how worried Island residents should get. "Computer models run with global warming scenarios generally project a decrease in tropical cyclones worldwide. This, though, may not be what will happen with local communities," says lead author Hiroyuki Murakami..."

Image credit above: "Hurricane Flossie is approaching the Big Island of Hawaii in August 2007." (Photo Credit: NASA)

These Four Sisters Were Photographed Every Year For 36 Years. What a wonderful idea - this story from resonated with me; here's an excerpt: "The year was 1975 when Nicolas Nixon, a professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art originally photographed his wife Bebe and her 3 sisters. They were so impressed with the result, they collectively decided to make it a yearly event, the annual family photo. 36 years later, the sisters and Nicolas had all kept their promise, resulting in these 36 beautiful and candid photographs..."

Experience: "I Was Swallowed By A Hippo". A headline you don't see very often, if ever - details from The Guardian: "The hippo who tried to kill me wasn't a stranger – he and I had met before a number of times. I was 27 and owned a business taking clients down the Zambezi river near Victoria Falls. I'd been working this stretch of river for years, and the grouchy old two-ton bull had carried out the occasional half-hearted attack. I'd learned to avoid him. Hippos are territorial and I knew where he was most likely to be at any given time. That day I'd taken clients out with three apprentice guides – Mike, Ben and Evans – all in kayaks. We were near the end of the tour, the light was softening and we were taking in the tranquillity. The solid whack I felt behind me took me by surprise..."

17 Astrophotographs That Will Take You On A Time Warp Through Space. Astronomy buffs should enjoy this photo essay, courtesy of "The stars are out in full force tonight. Previously, we've featured the amazing star trail photography of Lincoln Harrison, an astrophotographer extraordinaire, based out of Victoria, Australia. We humans have always had a fascination with the stars and sky above us, but Lincoln's work takes this to a whole new extreme. Our galaxy reflects light on our universe's past. And his exposures are so long and detailed, if you stare at them for awhile you'll feel like you've started warping through space and time as if you just embarked on some type of epic Star Trek mission!"

A Snowman's Rapid Demise. Thanks to Andrew and Jill Dahl (hey, any relation to...never mind) for sending in these before and after photos from southeastern Minnesota. The photo upper left was taken Thursday, May 2. The photo on the right was taken just 96 hours later. This has to be some sort of record for the fastest snowman meltdown on record.

Climate Stories....

With Carbon Dioxide Approaching A New High, Scientists Sound The Alarm. 400 ppm. Here's an excerpt from The International Herald Tribune: "For the first time in human history, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will surpass 400 parts per million, according Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which has been measuring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii since 1958. “The 400-ppm threshold is a sobering milestone, and should serve as a wake-up call for all of us to support clean energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it’s too late for our children and grandchildren,” said Tim Lueker of the Scripps Institution in a statement. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is closely linked to global warming. The more carbon dioxide, the higher global average temperatures have climbed, according to climate science. (This graphic shows how global temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have been linked in the past 400,000 years)..."

Arctic Melting Rapidly: Action Needed Now. If you haven't seen the documentary "Chasing Ice" - and you still have an open mind about climate change, spend the time, make the effort to see this film. It may change the way you feel about this subject. Some people still don't trust climate scientists. Hopefully they'll believe their own eyes. Here's an excerpt from a Huffington Post story: "The Arctic sea ice is melting at a phenomenal rate and the London-based Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG) is calling for governments to put two and two together, and pull out all stops to save the Arctic sea ice or humankind will face starvation in the ensuing years ahead. This week, the White House will hear evidence from Australian scientist, Carlos Duarte, that the Arctic sea ice is on such a downward spiral that we may see a dramatic decline of sea ice over the next two years. Evidence was given to the UK government last year from British scientists, Peter Wadhams and John Nissen, that we could see minimal sea ice by September 2015, simply extrapolating the sea ice volume trend. Evidence from recent satellite images suggests that a record melt is in progress this year. The plight of the Arctic was highlighted to British MPs and the Met Office in a recent showing of the film "Chasing Ice" at the House of Commons, London. The Arctic has recently become an issue in the European Parliament..."

Suit Claiming Hurricane Katrina Related To Global Warming Goes Before Appeals Court. Think Philip Morris (time 10,000). Nothing diminishes shareholder confidence in fossil fuel companies faster than class action lawsuits. Can the plaintiffs prove that higher greenhouse gas levels (and warmer water in the Gulf of Mexico) fueled Katrina's explosive intensification into a Category 4-5 storm in the Gulf of Mexico? Keep an eye on this one and more to come; details from The Louisiana Record: "The U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is set to issue its second opinion in a drawn out climate change case that pits landowners against energy companies. The suit, which accuses a number of companies of contributing to global warming through greenhouse gas emissions, was originally filed in a Mississippi district court in 2005 just 22 days after Hurricane Katrina hit. In the original filing, 14 plaintiffs sued eight named oil companies, 100 unnamed oil and refining companies and 31 coal companies. Through the course of the litigation, electric utilities and chemical companies have been added as defendants. The plaintiffs claim that there is a causal relationship between the emissions, which increased the ferocity of Hurricane Katrina, and the resulting destruction of their property. Multiple defendants in the suit moved for a dismissal, alleging that the plaintiffs lacked standing and that their claims presented nonjusticiable political questions..."

Bob Ingliss Going The Distance On Carbon Emissions Tax. Bob Ingliss is a notable Republican, which makes his initiative significant. He proposes putting a price on greenhouse gas pollution, but in a way that is revenue neutral; a way that stimulates the economy without growing the size of government. Here's an excerpt from Politico: "Former Rep. Bob Inglis knows that his devotion to a carbon tax might have cost him his job. But the South Carolina Republican has no regrets as he dedicates his post-congressional career as well to the battle to persuade fellow conservatives to embrace a revenue-neutral carbon tax. “And really, I am the worst commercial for this, because I got my head blown off trying to do it,” he told POLITICO, sitting at a coffee shop a short walk from the Capitol. But he added, “Losing an election is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Losing your soul is considerably worse.” The controversial tax proposal has long won the backing of many economists, who say it is the simplest and purest means of reducing emissions blamed for contributing to climate change. And while it has also won tentative backing from oil giants like Shell and ExxonMobil, it’s been pilloried by many oil-state politicians and conservatives, who say it would raise energy costs and hurt fossil fuel industries..."