Saturday, July 27, 2013

Highly Unusual Cool Intrusion Northern USA (take the WeatherNation TV Weather Quiz)

Fewer Complaints

Lou Holtz once said "“Never tell your problems to anyone...20% don't care and the other 80% are glad you have them.” That stuck with me over the years. Take the weather. Please!

People tell me "It's too hot, too humid, too cold, too wet, too dry, too windy or too sunny!" A long list.

Wake me up when it's just right.

Abe Lincoln nailed it when he too complained about not being able to please all the people all of the time. He got that right.

Four month ago I stood too close to the Doppler and in a feverish rant predicted a cooler, stormier, wetter than average summer. It's sort of working out that way, after all.

Yesterday's highly unusual July cut-off low is pinwheeling east; warming temperatures aloft will mean more stable atmosphere. Plan on pudgy afternoon cumulus, and after a chilly start we mellow above 70F with less wind. Still a little cool for the lake, but a more soothing balm for Minnesotans fretting about summer heat slipping away.

80s return by midweek - but I see a cool bias looking out the next 2 weeks. Is the hottest weather of summer behind us? Probably.

Wednesday and Friday look stormy, but next weekend will be better; highs in the 70s. Fewer jackets, scowls & grumpy weather-complaints, I pray.

If You Don't Laugh You'll Weep. I took one look at this map, screen-captured Saturday afternoon in the Twin Cities, and I wanted to weep, or scream, or hurl. Or all of the above. Hey, it was one ill-timed, nearly historic, Saturday July cold front. Courtesy: WeatherNation TV.

Saturday Highs. The coolest daytime maxes were north/east of the Twin Cities, some mid-50s close to Duluth. Highs were milder farther west, nudging 70 over western counties, farther away from the cut-off low, where the sun was out part of the day. Map: MesoWest.

Coolest Since 1997. Unusual? Yes. Unprecedented? Probably not. According to NOAA records the last time Minneapolis - St. Paul saw July temperatures as cool as 49F. was 1997.

High Amplitude Pattern - 3 Sigma Deviation From Normal. The north-south sweeps of the jet stream are highly unusual for late July, over North America and Europe. According to Steve Scolnik at CapitalClimate: "What is unusual for this time year is the huge amplitude of the upper-level flow; over 3 sigma deviation from normal over North America."

European Heat Wave. Highs are forecast to soar to record levels again toda from Italy and Austria into Germany and Poland, some mid to upper 90s possible as a huge ridge of high pressure expands northward. The same high-amplitude pattern affecting the USA and Canada is also showing up on the other side of the pond. Map:

Mellowing Out. Temperatures struggle to near 70F today with morning sun giving way to a mix of clouds and sun by afternoon, less wind and drama than yesterday. Highs nudge 80F by midweek, the best chance of showers and heavier T-storms Friday. Next weekend? It has to be better/drier/milder. Right? ECMWF forecast hghs above in Celsius.

Late September In Late July. A buckling jet stream pours near-record chill into the USA, some of the coolest July temperatures in a decade from the Upper Midwest to the Great Lakes, the cool front weakening slightly by the time it reaches New England. Dorian has weakened into a tropical wave, but the NAM model shows a potential tropical storm approaching the Bahamas by Wednesday.

How Weather Wise Are You? Below are the questions I tried to stump Eric Eskola and Cathy Wurzer with on last Friday's edition of "Almanac" on TPT2, KTCA-TV, PBS serving the Twin Cities and much of Minnesota and western Wisconsin. There are a few more challenging questions in there - see how well you do (answers at the bottom). Please, no cheating:

1). Doppler radar detects:
a). Tornadoes
b). Rotating thunderstorms
c). Unusually tall basketball players

2). Which is an absolute measure of how much water is in the air?
a). Dew point
b). Relative humidity
c).  Heat index

3). Another name for clouds forming on the ground?
a). Smog
b). Nimbus
C). Fog

4). Solar flares are capable of triggering which of the following?
a). Major storms
b). Power outages
c). Northern Lights

5). To be considered “severe” a thunderstorm needs to produce:
a). baseball-size hail
b). 58 mph winds
c). 75 mph winds

6). Recently a new cloud type was discovered/classified. Its name is:
a). Cumulonimbus Mammatus
b). Undulatus Asperatus
C). Altocumulus Castellatus
* photo above courtesy of Wikipedia.

7). The National Weather Service defines summer warnings using:
a). triangles
b). parallelograms
c). polygons

8). Who got their start as TV weather broadcasters?
a). Diane Sawyer
b). David Letterman
c). Pat Sajak

1). Answer: (b). It's very rare for individual tornadoes to show up on Doppler radar, which does a good job showing the velocity of rotation of the parent severe thunderstorm.
2). Answer: (a). Dew point is an absolute value, unlike relative humidity not dependent on the air temperature.
3). Answer: (c). Yes, fog is a lazy stratus cloud, one that forms on the ground.
4). Answer: (b) (c). Solar flares can disrupt radio communications and GPS, sparking dazzling displays of the Northern Lights. Especially strong X-class solar flares can even bring down portions of the power grid.
5). Answer: (b). To be considered severe a thunderstorm needs to produce 58 mph+ winds and/or 1" diameter (quarter size) hail.
6). Answer: (b).
7). Answer: (c). Local National Weather Service offices no longer issue warnings for entire counties, but portions of counties, using a polygon to define the "high threat area", the actual track of a tornado or severe storm.
8). Answer: (a) (b) (c). Pat Sajak was a Los Angeles weathercaster, David Letterman reported weather in Indianapolis, where he coined the expression "hail the size of canned hams") and yes, Diane Sawyer got her start reporting and pointing at weather maps.

File photo of Diane Sawyer reporting TV weather in Louisville, Kentucky courtesy of

Weather Service Models Running On New, Vastly More Powerful Supercomputers. Meteorologist Jason Samenow at the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang has more information on the supercomputer upgrade; here's an excerpt: "The nation’s major weather forecasting models are now working their magic on a new supercomputing powerhouse. On Thursday, the National Weather Service (NWS) shifted its operational models onto a supercomputer more than double the power of its predecessor, capable of performing 213 trillion calculations per second....The NWS has entered into a bit of an arms race with the European Center for Medium-range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF), which currently runs the more powerful and, overall, more accurate global forecasting model. Following news of NWS’ planned computing upgrades in May, the ECMWF entered into a contract with supercomputer builder Cray to buy two new machines..."

Autumn Outlook. The map above shows predicted temperature anomalies for the globe between August and October, courtesy of EarthNow and the University of Wisconsin: "The data for the global temperature and precipitation outlooks are provided by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). The IRI was established as a cooperative agreement between NOAA’s Climate Program Office and Columbia University. It is part of The Earth Institute, Columbia University. The data for these maps are constructed primarily from several climate models, with some minor tweaks by climatologists."

Short-Term Chill; Longer-Term Warm Bias? In spite of the chill outside your window today some of the longer range models are showing a warm bias for autumn, continuing the recent trend of (milder) falls across Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. In today's edition of Climate Matters we update Dorian, Flossie (which sounds like a bunny rabbit), and the implications of a buckling of the jet stream into a very strange, almost unheard-of July "cut-off" low.

Unusual Tornado On July 22. I thought this was especially interesting, an excerpt of Dr. Mark Seeley's always-excellent WeatherTalk Newsletter: "The NOAA-National Weather Service Grand Forks Office reported on an unusual tornado earlier this week that struck between Mahnomen and Zerkel (Mahnomen County). This storm was unusual in several aspects: firstly it struck between 1:50 AM and 2:30 AM on July 22nd (Monday), a very rare time of day for tornadoes in our region (less than 2 percent of all tornadoes occur at that time of day); second, wind speeds were estimated to range from 110-120 mph (EF-2 strength), unusually strong for an overnight storm; thirdly, the storm path was nearly 18 miles in length (though intermittently on the ground), a relatively long storm path for an overnight storm. Thankfully this tornado did not cause any deaths or injuries, but it did damage a home, a number of farm structures, along with some farm equipment. It also caused a good deal of tree damage, especially around Roy Lake. This was the 6th confirmed tornado of the year so far in Minnesota. You can read more about the 2013 tornado season in Minnesota at the MN State Climatology Office web site.....

Map aboveSPC reports only 6 tornadoes in Minnesota so far in 2013.

20 Gripping Photos Of Extreme Weather. Mashable has the story (and remarkable photos). Here's the intro: "Although her forces are still unmatched be even the most intelligent of man, we've at least been able to document her mood swings. And, perhaps, we even learn a thing or two about how to better understand her next time. We pored over thousands of extreme weather images to find out what Mother Nature had to say..."

Photo credit above: "Aurora Over Alaska: The digitally enhanced photograph taken in January 2005 shows a spectacular aurora borealis above the frozen landscape of Bear Lake, Alaska. The image was voted Wikipedia Commons Picture of the Year for 2006." Image: Joshua Strang, USAF, Wikipedia, caption via NASA.

Thought For The Day...

"So for a few days, our weather is being influenced by “Canadian Air” as meteorologists around here and probably across the country refer to it as. My question is, do Canadian meteorologists refer to air invading from the south as “American Air”?

Roger Kormendy
Prior Lake

Photo credit above here.

Which U.S. City Has The Worst Drivers? O.K. Boston would get my vote, and I've heard some crazy stories from my father about driving in Detroit (at least in a German-built vehicle). The answer didn't surprise me too much, come to think of it. Slate has the cautionary tale - here's an excerpt : "...Still, the Allstate report is both a useful indicator and a good way to winnow down the candidates. We can safely assume that the city with the worst drivers is somewhere in Allstate’s bottom 50. Phoenix, Indianapolis, and Denver, therefore, are off the hook, along with a raft of others. One notable escapee is San Diego, the city with the most drunk driving arrests. Let’s also ignore cities with populations below 150,000, because data on those places is limited. Plus, few people have ever said, “Hayward, California has the worst drivers!” We’ll add Boston back into the mix, based on opinion surveys. (You’re not getting off that easy, Boston.) That leaves 39 candidates..."

Graphic creditAlex Eben Meyer.

"Quickboat" Foldable Boat: From Roof Rack To Water In 60 Seconds. If towing a boat is just too much trouble, now you can unfold one? I'm almost afraid to see what comes next. has the details: "Think it takes more time to build a boat than make a French omelette? Think again. The Quickboat is the first foldable boat we've seen that a team of two can put together in a minute or less. That's insanely fast compared to the build times of other foldable boats we've covered, such as the Transporter (10 minutes) and the Smartkat (20 minutes). In fact, the boat is so easy to construct says Deryck Graham, the Managing Director of Australian company Quickboats, that one person with a beer in hand could assemble the boat in three minutes even with friends around to distract them..."

Climate Stories...

North Pole Lake Found By Environmental Observatory, May Be Evidence Of Global Warming (Photo). International Business Times has the story; here's the intro: "The freezing tundra that was the North Pole is now home to a lake. A picture, obtained by the North Pole Environmental Observatory this week, shows a shocking wide-angled photograph of the location’s newest lake, possible evidence of global warming. According to experts, this isn’t the first or the most severe water mass to appear in the northern hemisphere. “I have seen much more extensive ponding,” principal investigator for the North Pole Environmental Observatory, James Morison, told The Atlantic Wednesday, who said the image is misleading. “Because we use wide-angle lenses, the melt pond looks much bigger than it is,” he said. The lake, which was photographed by the observatory’s weather buoy-attached camera Monday, is reportedly a result of the longtime decline of sea ice in the region due to global warming and the more recent increase in land temperature..."

Photo credit above: " A newly discovered lake in the North Pole was photographed by the North Pole Environmental Observatory Monday."  Facebook

The Truth Behind That $60 Trillion Climate Change Price Tag. A staggering number indeed - alarmist hype, or within the realm of scientific possibilty? Here's a clip from "This week, news broke that if all the methane off the East Siberian seafloor was released, the fallout would cost $60 trillion—a huge, staggering number. For comparison’s sake, the world’s GDP is $70 trillion. The findings assume that 50 gigatons of methane would be released over the course of 10-to-20 years in a warming pulse....Very large numbers make us sit up and take notice, but they’re also hard to grasp. What is climate change currently costing even without that warming pulse? A NRDC report estimates that American taxpayers, through the federal government, paid $100 billion in 2012—more than the cost of education or transportation. (And that doesn’t include what state and local governments, insurers, or private citizens paid.) Mann estimates the global cost at $1.4 trillion per year in coastal damage, droughts, fires, floods and hurricanes..."

Photo credit above: "An iceberg carved from a glacier floats in the Jacobshavn fjord in south-west Greenland." (Photo: Konrad Steffen / Reuters).

Adapt, Move Or Die: The Pressures Of Global Warming. Here's the intro to a story at Australia's The Conversation: "We all know that weather is not the same as climate, but it is surprising how our perceptions of global warming vary according to what we see outside our window. In the UK for example, last year’s washed-out summer took the focus off global climate warming in many people’s minds – maybe the current heatwave will change that. But regardless of what may be happening in our back yards, the long term trend is one of warming – which it has done globally by an average of 0.74C˚ over the past century. As the climate warms up, animals and plants have three main alternatives: they can either move to track the temperature, stay put and adapt to the warming, or die. Responding to variation in climate is not a new phenomenon for species – after all, many species responded to climate warming after the last ice ages..."

Photo credit above: "Don’t want to move home?" MissTessmacher.

Global Warming And The Future Of Storms. The Guardian has the story, co-authored by St. Thomas climate scientist John Abraham. Here's an excerpt: "...I asked Dr. Emanuel to summarize the present understanding of hurricanes, and he responded with the following insights:

• The incidence of high-intensity tropical cyclones (Safir-Simpson categories 3-5) should increase, and the amount of rainfall in these storms should increase, upping the potential for freshwater flooding. These changes will not necessarily occur where tropical cyclones develop and thrive today. "Indeed," wrote Emanuel, "it is likely that there will be decreasing activity in some places, and increasing activity in others; models do not agree on such regional changes."
• Though experts disagree on this point, Emanuel's work suggests that weak events (tropical storms and Cat 1-2 storms) will become more frequent.
• "Very little work has been done on the problem of storm size," wrote Emanuel, "what little research has been done suggests that storm diameters may increase with global temperature. This can have a profound influence on storm surges, which are the biggest killers in tropical cyclone disasters..."

Photo credit: Dr. Kerry Emanuel, MIT.

Desert Storm: Battle Brews Over Obama Renewable Energy Plan. National Geographic Daily News has the story; here's the introduction: "America's deserts are stark, quiet places, where isolation and the elements have long kept development at bay. To outsiders, these arid expanses may not seem like prized land. But they are poised to play a key role—and perhaps, to serve as a battleground—in President Obama's plan to double U.S. electricity from wind, solar, and geothermal sources by 2020. To help ramp up that amount of clean energy, the White House has urged approval of an additional 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy production on public lands. Estimates vary on exactly how many households would be served by the expansion, but the Obama Administration says the 25 utility-scale solar facilities, nine wind farms, and 11 geothermal plants it has approved on federal lands so far will provide enough juice to power 4.4 million homes. One thing is for certain: The new drive for large-scale solar will require land..."

Photo credit above: "Joshua Tree National Park soon will share its California desert skies with a new close neighbor, a huge solar farm. It's part of a big renewable energy drive on public land." Photograph by Bill Hatcher, National Geographic.

Fossil Fuels To Dominate World Energy Use Through 2040. Meteorologist Andrew Freedman has the story at Climate Central; here's an excerpt: "Global energy consumption will grow by 56 percent by 2040 with fossil fuels remaining dominant energy sources. Along with that growth will come increased carbon dioxide emissions and a continued reliance on  coal, oil, and natural gas for transportation and electricity generation, according to a new report published Thursday by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The International Energy Outlook, which is released every two years, shows that strong economic growth in developing countries will be the dominant force driving world energy markets during that period. “Rising prosperity in China and India is a major factor in the outlook for global energy demand. These two countries combined account for half the world’s total increase in energy use through 2040,” said EIA administrator Adam Sieminski in a press release. The EIA is the Department of Energy’s statistical and analytical agency..."

Former CIA Director: Fixing The U.S. Energy Strategy. Here's a clip of an interesting Op-ed at "...The key to reducing the political and economic cloud of questionable fuel-vending nations is to reduce overall demand - and, thus, the market price and profits - for oil. While we can't take millions of conventional-fuel vehicles out of the U.S. fleet overnight, there may be cheap and effective ways to accelerate the use of alternative fuels and increase energy independence. In particular, Woolsey believes in the potential for a market for ethanol and methanol derived from U.S. natural gas. With the current price of natural gas sitting around one-fifth that of oil, developing methanol-based fuels to add them as a choice at the pump could potentially take enough demand away from oil to drive prices down to $60 per barrel or less....

Photo credit: "A drilling rig in North Dakota near the town of Stanley. Fracking is used in this area to tap oil reserves."

Mont St. Michel Becomes An Island For The First Time Since 1879. The story from The Telegraph; here's a clip: "Hundreds of people gathered to watch the event on Wednesday evening, which only lasted about 20 minutes, as the English Channel entirely surrounded the Unesco world heritage site. "For the first time in a long time we will see the sea surround the Mont," Laurent Beauvais, president of the Basse-Normandie region, told Le Figaro. "It's rare and we're here," an unnamed couple told Le Parisienne. "We came at the right time..."

Photo credit above: "Mont Saint-Michel at high tide." Photo: AFP.

Mohave Mirrors: World's Largest Solar Energy Ready To Shine. National Geographic has the story; here's the intro: "More than six years in the making, the Ivanpah plant is now slated to begin generating power before summer's end. It was designed by BrightSource Energy to use more than 170,000 mirrors to focus sunlight onto boilers positioned atop three towers, which reach nearly 500 feet (150 meters) into the dry desert air. The reflected sunlight heats water in the boilers to make steam, which turns turbines to generate electricity—enough to power more than 140,000 homes.."