Friday, May 2, 2014

Fire & Ice - Most Great Lakes Ice in April since 1973

Getting Better

So it's come to this. Yesterday, when the sun finally came out in all its glory, the meteorologists I work with crept up to the Amish Doppler (window) and began clapping. Kind of sad. Moss is now forming on my north side. Daffodils coming up in the yard are doing the backstroke, but my rice paddies are coming along nicely.

Nearly 10 inches of precipitation has fallen on MSP since January 1, 3.63 inches wetter than average. With any luck a deepening drought spreading from California to the Plains won't creep back up to our latitude.

I still see a cool bias into much of May; the core of the jet stream still 200-400 miles farther south than usual for this time of year. But we're stumbling in the right direction.

Showers sprout near Duluth later today, but much of Minnesota salvages some sun with highs near 60F. A few light showers may brush far southern Minnesota Sunday morning - heavier T-storms are brewing for the middle of next week. A few could even be severe as temperatures rise above 70F.
In today's weather blog below: CO2 levels hit a new record, the most Great Lakes ice in April since 1973 and Minnesota ice-out dates are running 8 days later than average. Never a dull moment.

Stumbling Into Spring. Expect mid to upper 50s today, but a warming trend arrives next week. Not exactly a hot front, but a spike of warmth Wednesday may spark a few strong to potentially severe thunderstorms nearby. Steadier rain gives way to clearing next Friday; ECMWF guidance suggesting more low 70s next weekend. Graphic: Weatherspark.

Weekend Showers. The best chance of a few instability showers today will come north and east of Duluth. A second (weak) system spreads a few light showers into southwestern Minnesota Sunday; rain will probably pass south and west of MSP with some high and mid level clouds nearby. 4 KM WRF data: NOAA and WeatherBell.

Drying Out. After this week's stalled storm and record rains from Pensacola to Tampa northward to Philadelphia and Long Island much of America dries out this weekend. Next week's northward shift of the jet stream may spark a wave of heavy showers and T-storms from the Dakotas to the Great Lakes by midweek.

Extended Outlook: East Coast Heats Up - Cool Bias Rockies to Upper Midwest. After warming into the 60s next week, even 70s by Wednesday, temperatures cool off a bit between May 8-12 from Denver to the Twin Cities and Green Bay as the jet stream continues to bulge southward, pulling cooler air out of Canada. Map: NOAA and HAMweather.

April Weather Highlights and Low-Lights. Here's an excerpt from Dr. Mark Seeley's always-illuminating WeatherTalk newsletter: "...Cooler and wetter than normal describes the month of April in Minnesota for a second consecutive year. April of 2014 was the 6th consecutive month with cooler than normal mean monthly temperatures reported. Most observers reported mean values for April temperature that were from 4 to 6 degrees F cooler than normal. Extremes for the month ranged from 82 degrees F at Madison (Lac Qui Parle County) on April 9th to -11 degrees F at Hallock (Kittson County) on April 2nd. Only 9 days during the month brought above normal temperatures. Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the nation on four dates during the month..."

April Climate Recap. Here are a few highlights from the most recent HydroClim Minnesota Update from the Minnesota DNR:
  • April precipitation totals were variable across Minnesota, ranging from less than two inches in southwest and north central Minnesota counties, to over six inches in east central, south central and southeast Minnesota locales. In the wetter areas, monthly precipitation totals approached or exceeded all-time record highs for the month of April.
  • Average monthly temperatures for April in Minnesota were below historical averages. It was the sixth consecutive month of below-average temperatures.
  • The U. S. Drought Monitor places portions of southwest Minnesota in the Moderate Drought category.
  • Stream discharge values are high to very high at most Minnesota monitoring locations. Minor flooding is occurring in some areas. Moderate flooding is underway or projected at a few locales along the Red River of the North.
  • Most lakes in the northern one-quarter of Minnesota remain ice covered. This spring, lake ice out dates are approximately eight days later than historical median ice out dates, but 10 days earlier than in 2013

Speaking of ice....

Wall of Ice Damages Homes, Threatens Resort Near Mille Lacs. It's deja vu all over again. Here's a clip from an article and video at The Star Tribune: "Driven by high winds, ice from Lake Mille Lacs has gone on a rampage in recent days, bursting into homes, tearing up the shoreline, blocking roads and forming massive mounds in yards. The problems are mostly in the Garrison, Minn., area on the western shore of the lake, which has taken the brunt of the east winds accompanying recent rains. Last year, it was the southeast corner of the lake, near Isle and Wahkon..."

Photo credit above: "Ice swept and damaged Randy Dykhoff's property along the shore north of Garrison, MN Thursday, May 1, 2014. Dykhoff, of Mound, was notified by the Sheriff's office of the damage that had occurred last Sunday. He said he carried several wheel barrow loads of ice through his kitchen. He has owned the property since 1997 and It was the first time he has experienced this." Photo: Elizabeth Flores.

Winter Won't Let Go: Great Lakes Still On Ice. The most April ice since 1973? Climate Central has an update; here's an excerpt: "April has come and gone but a record amount of ice still remains on the Great Lakes. This April was the lakes’ iciest on record after a near-record winter, and the season has been notable for how early ice formed and how long it’s lingered. At the close of April, nearly a quarter of the five Great Lakes — the largest group of lakes on Earth — still have ice on them and ice is likely to linger for weeks to come according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. That makes the month far and away the iciest April since recordkeeping began in 1973..."

Image credit: Climate Central and Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Alabama Tornado Outbreak 2014 By The Numbers: 20 Tornadoes, 153 Miles of Damage. Meteorologist Paul Gattis has a good update on the extent of damage at; here's a clip: "It wasn’t the tornado outbreak of April 27, 2011. In fact, it wasn’t even close. But the storms that swept across Alabama on Monday and into early Tuesday morning was the most significant outbreak since that historic day three years ago. According to storm surveys from the National Weather Service, 20 tornadoes touched down across central and northern Alabama – including two that touched down just north of the Alabama-Tennessee state line in Lincoln County, Tenn..."

Image credit above: "Sky View HSV used a quadcopter to capture footage from storm-ravaged areas in the Bay Hill Marina, Coxey community and along 7 Mile Post Road in Limestone County Wednesday, April 30, 2014." (Contributed by Sky View HSV).

Tornadoes Carve Scars Into The Earth That Are Visible From Space. The EF-4 that hit Vilonia and Mayflower was a monster; winds may have peaked close to 200 mph. The length, width and ferocity of the tornado becomes apparent when you can see the debris field from space. The Vane and Newsweek report; here's an excerpt: "Almost three dozen people were killed in the latest tornado outbreak that tore through the Deep South this week. The outbreak included several "long-track" tornadoes, which can drag across the landscape for tens and sometimes hundreds of miles, leaving behind scars on the earth's surface that can be seen from space. Gawker's The Vane blog created gifs out of satellite images that clearly show the scars, eerie reminders of the scale of the havok the tornadoes wreaked. These scars tend to dissapear in several months as vegetation regrows, though they linger for longer in more populated regions, according to The Vane..."

Image above: The Vane.

Mamma Mia! Another Tornado Video from Italy. More tornadoes in unlikely places. Mike Smith Enterprises Blog has the video clip.

Tornadoes Most Likely To Occur During Multi-Day Spans. That was certainly the case this past week, and it's something I see all the time. Red Orbit has an interesting article; here's a clip: "...In a report published by the journal Monthly Weather Review - Jeff Trapp, a planetary sciences professor at Purdue, said a bout of 20 or greater reported tornadoes had a 74 percent chance of occurring throughout a period of tornado activity sustained for three or more days. Throughout those exact same periods, a tornado with an intensity that scored 3 or higher out of 5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale had a 60 percent chance of hitting, the report added..."

In a report published by the journal Monthly Weather ReviewJeff Trapp, a planetary sciences professor at Purdue, said a bout of 20 or greater reported tornadoes had a 74 percent chance of occurring throughout a period of tornado activity sustained for three or more days. Throughout those exact same periods, a tornado with an intensity that scored 3 or higher out of 5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale had a 60 percent chance of hitting, the report added.
“Two extreme tornado events last year led to 32 deaths, injured more than 377 and cost $2 billion in damage and inspired this study,” Trapp said in recent statement. “Unfortunately, the devastating tornadoes these past few days, tragically, seem to be bearing out the results.”

No Drought Relief In Sight For Desiccated West. Climate Central has more on a deepening drought that's spreading from California into the Plains; here's an excerpt: "...The driest places today are the places that have been dry for 2 or 3 years or longer: California, northwest Nevada and the southern Great Plains of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, northeast New Mexico and along the Colorado-Kansas border. In other words, drought is bringing the dust back to the Dust Bowl territory of the 1930s..."

Image credit above: U.S. Drought Portal.

What Parts Of The Country Get The Worst Weather Predictions? One year probably doesn't "prove" anything, statistically, but every meteorologist truly does believe that their market, their city, is the hardest to predict the weather for. A friend forwarded this story along to me, courtesy of ForecastAdvisor, The Vane at Gawker. Here's a clip: "...The easiest variable to predict was precipitation, with an average of 82.1 percent accuracy. This is largely because precipitation is simplified to a "yes/no" proposition—predicting clear skies every day would net you 70 percent accuracy in many parts of the country—but also because rain and snow are also fairly predictable across large swathes of the U.S. It rarely rains in the southwest, and the outlets had the most difficulty along the Gulf Coast (where intense thunderstorms are hit-or-miss most of the year) and especially around the eastern Great Lakes, where a large portion of the yearly precipitation falls in the form of lake-effect snow..."

A Time-Lapse Of All The Earthquakes From This Record-Breaking April. I'm not a seismologist, and I don't play one on TV, but I seem to recall that tremors often come in waves, in swarms. Here's an excerpt of an interesting story at Gizmodo: "...According to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) which issues alerts for tsunamis, April was a very busy month for the earth's crust. Of course there are earthquakes every hour of every day, but the world usually only seens one or two earthquakes per month that are 6.5 magnitude or higher. This April there were 13, including five that were higher than 7.8, prompting tsunami warnings. "Easily a record for this institution," reports PTWC..."

Sooo...Our Nuclear Missiles Are Run By Computers That Still Use 8-Inch Floppy Disks? This story gave me a warm and fuzzy. But are we communicating between silos with CB radio? CBS News and Huffington Post Tech have the video and story; here's an excerpt: "Contrary to what cartoons may have you believe, there’s no giant red button that detonates America’s land-based nuclear missiles. They’re actually operated by -- wait for it -- old-school computers that run 8-inch floppy disks. On a recent tour of one of the nation’s Air Force nuclear missile facilities in Wyoming, Leslie Stahl of CBS' "60 Minutes" made the surprising discovery about the archaic state of technology inside the facilities. Dana Meyers, a 23-year-old missileer working at the facility, told Stahl of the floppy disks: "I had never seen one of these until I got down in missiles..."

Twitter Is Not Dying. As a retort to a recent article at The Atlantic, Slate makes the case that Twitter is a different creature altogether, and should be judged accordingly. Here's an excerpt: "...But Wall Street—along with everyone else who’s down on Twitter because it has “a growth problem”—is making a mistake by comparing it to Facebook. Twitter is not a social network. Not primarily, anyway. It’s better described as a social media platform, with the emphasis on “media platform.” And media platforms should not be judged by the same metrics as social networks..."

Tweet above: @TheEllenShow.

Former FCC Head Michael Power Talks Future Of Cable. Listen to an interesting perspective on bundling, ala carte options and network neutrality at; here's a clip: "Big cable companies continue to just get bigger. In response to Comcast and Time Warner's merger earlier this year, AT&T and DirecTV are thinking of doing the same. Which got former FCC chairman Michael Powell thinking: Why are all these mergers happening? "One of the things I think is a serious issue is that the economy has been strained," he said. "I think the model has to find a way to find more affordable, more accessible packages, given the strains of the economy..."

New Smart Bike Offers Turn By Turn Navigation. Soon your bicycle will be smarter than you are. Sorry, that sounded harsh, but amazing new tech is showing up (everywhere). Gizmag reports: "...Vanhawks is hoping to get enough Valours on the road to form a mesh network of users. Through this online community, users will be able to tap into data on potholes, closed roads, blocked lanes collected by other Valours to choose safer and smarter routes. In addition, if one's Valour is stolen and another user happens to pass it by, a notification is sent via the application to alert the original owner of its whereabouts...."

Teenager Takes His Great-Grandmother To The Prom. Here's an excerpt of a heart-warming story, courtesy of FOX News: "A few months back, Delores received a telephone call from her great-grandson. Austin is 19-years-old, a senior at Parkway High School in Rockford, Ohio. And he had a very important question for his “Granny DD.” “I asked her if she would be my prom date,” Austin told me. “How cool would it be to take my great-grandmother to prom?

Lost In Translation: A "Poo Poo Smoothie"? It's not as bad as it sounds at first blush, reports The Wall Street Journal; here's a clip: "It takes a taste test to know that Burger King’s latest drink is nothing like what it sounds like. Recently, the global food chain (motto: Taste is King) began marketing a new drink to Chinese consumers called the “PooPoo Smoothie.” The name is meant to be playful, as the smoothie is actually mango-flavored. When the Wall Street Journal went to try the drink at a branch on Shanghai’s Yuyuan Road, a server behind the counter explained that the drink’s name sounds phonetically similar to the Mandarin term for bubbles, or paopao..."

Photo credit above: Laurie Burkitt/The Wall Street Journal.

Climate Stories....

High Carbon Dioxide Levels Set a Record. SFGate has an update; here's a clip: "...The instruments that have been measuring carbon dioxide for more than 50 years showed that for the entire month of April, levels of the gas exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time, said Pieter Tans, a climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency who monitors the instrument record. The precise average for the entire month was 401.25 parts per million as of Tuesday, he said, and that level had only reached the crucial 400 threshold for the first time during a single day a year ago before dipping slightly..."

Feds: Wildfire Season Is Expected To Go Way Over Budget, And Climate Change Is To Blame. It's going to be a long, potentially record-setting fire season for much of the western USA, especially California. Here's an excerpt of a story at Salon: "...With climate change contributing to longer and more intense wildfire seasons, the dangers and costs of fighting those fires increase substantially,” Rhea said. The report notes that fire seasons have gotten 60-80 days longer over the last three decades, and that annual acreages burned have more than doubled. One way or another, the fires are going to be fought — it’s not really a problem anyone’s able to ignore. But the agencies are pushing for a change to the way we fund their efforts: bipartisan legislation recently introduced in Congress, and backed by Obama, would treat the worst wildfires as natural disasters, like hurricanes, qualifying them for special relief funds not subject to budget caps."

Photo credit above: "This Aug. 16, 2013 file photo shows helicopters battling the 64,000 acre Beaver Creek Fire north of Hailey, Idaho." (AP Photo/Times-News, Ashley Smith, File).

This Year's Wildfires Could Incinerate The Nation's Fire Budget. Here's a clip from The Center for Investigative Reporting: "...The upcoming wildfire season could cost $400 million more to fight than the Forest Service and Interior Department have in their available budgets, according to a report those agencies released today. The forecast estimates that the Forest Service and Interior will need to spend a combined total of about $1.8 billion fighting wildfires this year (though the actual amount could be significantly higher or lower), while only $1.4 billion is available for that activity..." (File image: EPA).

As Wildfire Fear Rises, U.S. Tanker Fleet Incomplete. The Washington Post reports.

How To Convince Conservative Christians That Global Warming Is Real. Mother Jones has the story of Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a conservative, right-leaning, Evangelical Christian. Who also happens to be one of the world's leading climate scientists. Here's an excerpt: "...Why is Hayhoe in the spotlight? Simply put, millions of Americans are evangelical Christians, and their belief in the science of global warming is well below the national average. And if anyone has a chance of reaching this vast and important audience, Hayhoe does. "I feel like the conservative community, the evangelical community, and many other Christian communities, I feel like we have been lied to," explains Hayhoe on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast. "We have been given information about climate change that is not true. We have been told that it is incompatible with our values, whereas in fact it's entirely compatible with conservative and with Christian values..."

Image credit: Katharine Hayhoe.

Why Doesn't Anyone Know How To Talk About Global Warming? Smithsonian Magazine poses the question; here's the introduction to their story: "When launched last month, the site's editor-in-chief, Ezra Klein, had a sobering message for us all: more information doesn't lead to better understanding. Looking at research conducted by a Yale law professor, Klein argued that when we believe in something, we filter information in a way that affirms our already-held beliefs. "More information...doesn't help skeptics discover the best evidence," he wrote. "Instead, it sends them searching for evidence that seems to prove them right..." (Image above: NASA).

Solar Comes of Age. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from Mark Andrew at The Star Tribune: "...Solar energy enjoyed a surge last year never before seen. 2013 global installations was over a third of all solar installed before it; in the U.S. new solar spiked to 10 gigawatts, an increase of over one-third in a single year. That translates to something like 1.6 million American households being powered by solar today. I was astonished to learn that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission recently granted approval of 150MW of new electrical capacity by choosing a solar project over natural gas based largely on economics. "This is the first time solar has competed favorably with coal or natural gas in a head-to-head economic competition and won", said Michael Krause, a national authority on clean energy and green roofs and Founder of the Minneapolis-based Green Institute. "Solar is coming into its own as a key source of our state's energy portfolio"... (File image above: Wikipedia).