WeatherNation Blog

Earthquake Impacts Japan, Two Midwest Snow Storms

Early Morning Earthquake

Reports came in early this morning of an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 287 off the coast from Toyko. A frightening situation unfolded as the tsunami alarm was sounded for the coastal areas since these were the same areas that were struck by the massive and devastating tsunami of 2011. Fortunately the largest waves were only up to 3 feet high with a minimal of mount of damage reported.

From the Washington Post: “NHK, the national public broadcaster, reported at least 10 injuries, and social media users snapped pictures of fallen grocery store shelves. But the damage didn’t begin to compare to that of March 11, 2011, when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake led to a deadly tsunami with 40-foot waves and a series of meltdowns at a nuclear plant. In this case, the earthquake hit at 5:18 p.m. local time, roughly 180 miles off Japan’s Pacific coast. Two aftershocks, 6.2- and 5.5-magnitude quakes, followed within 30 minutes”

Map from the USGS

From the USGS: “The plate boundary region surrounding the December 7, 2012 earthquake hosts moderate to large earthquakes fairly regularly – 12 events of M7 or larger have occurred within 250 km of this earthquake over the past 40 years. These historic events include the M9.0 Tohoku earthquake of March 11, 2011, which ruptured a large portion of the subduction zone plate interface to the west of the December 7th event, and which spawned a major tsunami that caused significant devastation along the Honshu coast. A series of aftershocks of that 2011 megathrust event also occurred to the east of the plate boundary within the Pacific plate, including a M 7.6 normal faulting earthquake 60 km to the northeast of the December 7 2012 event.”

Debris From 2011 Tsunami

From the AP: In this photo provided by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, a worker removes barnacles and other marine life from the bottom of a large blue plastic bin in Honolulu on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012.

Debris from the tsunami that occurred over a year ago continues to impact Hawaii.

Map shows the time that the debris is projected to arrive in the various locations. The orange shaded areas indicate where the debris will be in year 2 (which is where we are currently). By year 4 (yellow lines) the debris could be curved back around and head back towards across the Pacific.

From MSNBC: “The Japanese government has estimated that the tsunami swept about 5 million tons of wreckage out to sea. Seventy percent of this debris is believed to have sunk offshore, but no one knows how much of the remaining 1.5 million tons are still floating in the Pacific Ocean.”

The Japanese government announced last week that they want to help with the clean up efforts.

From Hawaii News Now: “Japan is providing $5 million to the U.S. to help with collection and disposal of marine debris from its 2011 tsunami disaster. The Foreign Ministry announced the donation to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Friday.”

Midwest Snow Storm

So far the season has been nearly snow-less but that is all changing this week.  Not one but two storms will be impacting the region this weekend. The first system will bring a few inches to South Dakota and South Central Minnesota.

The second and potentially more powerful significant round will come at the end of the weekend.

Potential snow total accumulations at the end weekend:

Stay tuned for more details!

Gretchen Mishek



Snow Over Upper Midwest This Weekend

Breaking News?



What has happened to us? When I arrived back in 1983 a forecast of 6 inches of snow was “no big deal”. Yes, there will be school tomorrow. I bragged out loud about Minnesota’s state of the art snow removal. During the 90′s three inches of snow was a lead story. Really? When did we become Atlanta? Now a lousy inch leads the news. “Uh oh, I smell a tough commute”.



As old fashioned winters & big snows become the equivalent of an albino squirrel – each feeble burst of snow takes on new urgency. At this rate we’ll become Washington D.C., where the mention of “flurries” causes a run on grocery stores.



Someone call MnDOT, FEMA and The National Guard: a coating of slush is possible tonight; a mix of rain and wet snow may drop 1-3″ of oatmeal-like slush on Minnesota Saturday night. Looking out 2 weeks – any snow will come in dribs and drabs.



Bitter air is building over Alaska and the Yukon. Maybe we’ll get smacked before Christmas. Yes, we are due.



No moisture is bad news. Minnesota Climate Chief Greg Spoden: “Without abundant spring rains a number of critical drought issues involving public water supply, agriculture, horticulture, and tourism will rapidly emerge in the spring”.



There’s your breaking news.




How much snow? Welcome to the world of dueling models. Which one to believe, and when? Great question. We look for continuity, some agreement from model to model, and run to run. Are they converging on one solution? If so our confidence level goes up. A quick half inch or inch of slushy snow is possible tonight, a better chance of a couple inches of slushy snow Saturday night and early Sunday; more north metro, less south metro.



WSI RPM Model. Here is one of the more reliable models we use; WSI’s exclusive 12 km. RPM model. The latest guidance shows some 2-4″ amounts in the metro area, most of that coming Saturday night and early Sunday. Temperatures may be just above freezing Saturday night (lowest few hundred feet of the atmosphere), which should mean a wet, slushy snow, possibly even a period of sleet, which would keep inch amounts down somewhat. That said, my confidence level is increasing that we may actually wake up to a coating of white Sunday morning. I know. Shocking.



NAM Model. Another fairly reliable model: NOAA’s NAM, which shows less snow than the RPM. I’m not discounting this, considering we’re in a drought. My expectations (rain, ice and snow) are unusually low, due to the dry rut we’re stuck in. Sadly, the drought is another factor to weigh. There’s little doubt that snowfall amounts will be higher north/west of the MSP metro Saturday night into early Sunday.

Record Snow Drought For Chicago? WGN-TV weather legend Tom Skilling reports that, as of Sunday, Chicago will have gone 280 days without measurable snow, an all-time record for the Windy City.


Growing Concern About Minnesota’s Drought. Here’s an excerpt from a recent update from Greg Spoden, Minnesota State Climatologist:

- Across Minnesota, snow cover is sparse to nonexistent. At all locations, the present snow depth is below the historical median.



- Stream discharge values are very low at a number of Minnesota reporting locations. At many sites, stream flow ranks below the 10th percentile when compared with historical data for this time of year.


- Soil moisture measurements made during November at University of Minnesota Research and Outreach Centers indicate extraordinarily dry conditions in the soil profile. Ample early-spring rains are critically needed to replenish soil moisture reserves before the commencement of the 2013 growing season.



- It is reasonable to assume that the present drought status will remain relatively unchanged throughout the winter. The historical average precipitation over the next three months is a meager two and one-half inches and the topsoil will soon be sealed by frost. Without abundant spring rains, a number of critical drought issues involving public water supply, agriculture, horticulture, and tourism will rapidly emerge in the spring.

“Bleak Forecast”. The recent interview I gave to Jim Poyser at NUVO in Indianapolis is being picked up by other publications, including Utah’s City Weekly. Yes, my dermatologist is calling 911 right now. I’ve never had Doppler on my face, even worse than egg on my face? Here’s an excerpt: ”…I’m not saying we don’t take advantage of our natural resources. The message I’m trying to get out is that by fixating exclusively on fossil fuels, not only are we endangering future generations, we are endangering our competitiveness downt he road. Because there is no debate about climate change in Europe or China. They are moving forward with clean alternatives to creating energy. If we totally focus on mining and drilling and extracting ever last bit of carbon at the exclusion of solar and wind and geothermal and battery technology and everything else that’s out there, we are going to be crippled as a country, competitively…”



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Welcome to the WeatherNation blog. Every day I sift through hundreds of stories, maps, graphics and meteorological web sites, trying to capture some of the most interesting weather nuggets, the stories behind the forecast. I’ll link to stories and share some of the web sites I use. I’m still passionate about the weather, have been ever since Tropical Storm Agnes flooded my home in Lancaster, PA in 1972. I’ve started 5 weather-related companies. “EarthWatch” created the world’s first 3-D weather graphics for TV stations – Steven Spielberg used our software in “Jurassic Park” and “Twister”. My last company, “Digital Cyclone”, personalized weather for cell phones. “My-Cast” was launched in 2001 and is still going strong on iPhone, Android and Blackberry. I sold DCI to Garmin in 2007 so I could focus on my latest venture: WeatherNation. I also write a daily weather column for The Star Tribune And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather