Looks Like a Holiday
First let me compliment you on your lawn! Never greener. Flowers are popping up nicely, water in our lakes, farmers breathing a big sigh of relief as the drought eases statewide. No drought in the metro; we’ve gone from 67 percent of Minnesota in severe/extreme drought back in early April to 7 percent of the state now. So we have something to show for our lousy spring, right?
The holiday forecast?
How ’bout that new Vikings stadium!
I’m stalling because I’m not thrilled with the forecast either.
“Paul, can’t one of your new companies make it stop raining on the weekends?” someone asked me yesterday. Any weather modification company would have one mad scientist, and 50 lawyers to handle all the lawsuits. Because you truly can’t please all the people all the time.
Today is the coolest day; highs stuck in the upper 50s and low 60, more clouds than sun with a passing shower, especially over far southern Minnesota. A heavier T-shower is possible Sunday, again Monday, but the latest model runs don’t look quite as wet from the MSP metro on north, keeping the heaviest storms over far southern counties. There may be a few sunny breaks, especially up north, but I can’t promise beauty and splendor – a bit cool for the lake, not that lake water temperatures are even close to swimmable. We finally mellow to 70F Memorial Day (cue a brass band and chorus line); peeks of sun with another T-storm for good measure.
80s return midweek; a stormy, potentially severe pattern the next 2 weeks. Everything is being delayed by a good month – I expect May weather to finally arrive in June, and something tells me we’ll be spending some quality time in our basements. Severe season is just starting.
Spotty Wetness. A shoving match between hot, sticky air to our south and cool, Canadian air draining south of the border will whip up plenty of clouds over the weekend, the best chance of showers and heavier T-showers south and west of the Twin Cities. No steady, all-day rains, but a passing shower is possible. By Tuesday and Wednesday the warm front lifts north, allowing temperatures to reach the 80s. NAM model: NOAA.
Historical Memorial Day Holiday Weekend Weather In The Twin Cities. Information courtesy of the Minnesota Climatology Working Group: “Beginning in the late-1860′s, Memorial Day was traditionally observed on May 30 (at least in northern states). The congressionally-mandated Memorial Day holiday weekend (last Monday in May) commenced in 1971. The investigation was limited to the period of time since the formal designation of the Memorial Day holiday weekend (42 years of data, 1971-2012). Memorial Day can occur as early as May 25 and as late as May 31. Given the fact that the dates of the holiday weekend float about, don’t put too much stock in the climatological significance of the statistics offered below. However, the numbers are fun to mull over. It appears that Memorial Day is often the nicest day of the weekend.”
Wet May. No, this won’t come as a shock, but we are muddling through yet another cool, wet month. Dr. Mark Seeley has some interesting details in this week’s edition of WeatherTalk; here’s an excerpt: ”…The month of May has brought measurable rainfall on many days. Of the first 24 days of the month many observers report rainfall on 15 or 16 days, a very high frequency. Accumulated rainfall for the month is already record-setting at many southern Minnesota locations, with a week to go in the month. Some of those already reporting record rainfall amounts for the month include:
12.13 inches at Grand Meadow, 9.16 inches at Spring Valley, 9.03 inches at Austin, and 8.63 inches at Rochester. The all-time maximum rainfall for the month of May in Minnesota is 15.79 inches at St Francis (Anoka County) in 2012. If Grand Meadow (Mower County) has a wet last week of May, they may threaten that state record this month. For southeastern Minnesota counties May of 2013 already ranks as the 5th wettest May in history, averaging nearly 7 inches of rainfall. This number is likely to increase over the next week before the month concludes next Friday...”
Lifecycle Of A Weather Monster. Here is some of the most remarkable raw tornado footage I’ve ever seen,courtesy of Justin Cox and Chance Coldiron. This is not for broadcast video; details on their intercept with the Moore EF-5 via YouTube: “Raw footage of Fast Unit 70′s (Chance Coldiron & Justin Cox) coverage of the Moore tornado that was used by KOCO5 during the event on May 20th, 2013. We watched as the tornado formed in front of us and rapidly intensified then moved across highway 37 in Newcastle, OK. Then the tornado continued to intensify as it tracked across the Canadian River and the interstate 44 bridge. The monster tornado was filmed from close range off the I-44 bridge north of Newcastle as it was headed for Moore.”
Lessons Learned. It was a long week chained to the Doppler radar. In light of the destruction in Moore, failure of GOES-13, and some troubling trends in the Arctic I recorded this YouTube clip, courtesy of WeatherNation TV: “This is your chance to get inside the mind of Meteorologist Paul Douglas. What is he thinking about this week? Tornado safety, a satellite going dark and Arctic evacuations.”
Racing The Clock And A Storm: A Way Of Life In Tornado Alley. Here’s a clip from a New York Times article on how Oklahomans deal with tornado season, an amazing, minute-by-minute account of the minutes leading up to Moore’s EF-5: ”…In this breeding ground of Oklahoma tornadoes, people prepare for the season with the care that the defensive coordinator for their Sooners prepares for the inevitable autumn. They develop family plans, hang on the words of meteorologists, and, in places like Moore, become accustomed to the Saturday noontime testing of emergency sirens. At the same time there exists disbelief that the devastation visited upon neighbors could ever happen to them or, that is, could ever happen to them again. Amid all the siren tests and awareness and false alarms, the warning can still be a half-hour, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. This means you must stop what you are doing, shake off the disbelief, track down loved ones and find shelter, all in the time it takes to watch a few rounds of “Jeopardy!”…
Photo credit above: ”A handout photo of a tornado in Newcastle, Okla., before it reached Moore, about 10 miles away, on May 20, 2013. With authorities saying they have likely recovered all the bodies to be found beneath the rubble left by the Category 5 tornado, the focus turned to the long and expensive path of recovering from one of the most catastrophic storms in Oklahoma’s history.” (Nick Rutledge via The New York Times).
5 Myths About Tornadoes. Meteorologist Mike Smith makes some very good points in this story at The Washington Post; here’s an excerpt that caught my attention: “…But many misconceptions persist — misconceptions that can encourage bad policy and put lives at risk. I’d like to dispel some of the myths.
1. Meteorologists aren’t any good at forecasting these storms.
How does 99.3 percent sound? In 2011, 553 people lost their lives in tornadoes. For all but four of those victims (99.3 percent), both a tornado watch and a tornado warning were in effect before the storm arrived. Modern tornado warnings are Nobel Prize-worthy endeavors that combine weather science, social science and technology. As recently as 1990, people in the path of a tornado were lucky to get five minutes’ warning. Now, thanks to advances in radar, computer simulations and research on how tornadoes develop, the average “lead time” is 12 minutes — and more than 15 minutes for major tornadoes. The city of Moore had a stunning 36 minutes of warning…”
Moore Tornado Track Superimposed Over MSP Metro. A track from Edina to Maplewood? That’s what residents of Oklahoma’s southern suburbs, centered on Moore, enduring Monday afternoon, with patches of EF4 to EF5 damage (highlighted in red). Thanks to WeatherNation TV meteorologist D.J. Kayser for putting this story into local perspective. This is the kind of worst-case scenario that keeps me up at night. God-willing this will never happen, but we need to prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. An EF-4 can’t hit the metro? Tell that to residents of Fridley.
Moore, Oklahoma: Before And After The Tornado. This ESRI URL shows the implications of an EF-5 tornado, with devasting detail that I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Unimaginable. “Ryan Steele hugs his girlfriend Lauren Troxell in what is left of the home he shared with his parents after it was destroyed by a tornado in Moore, Okla., Thursday. May 23, 2013. Troxell is from Tulsa and Steele was getting ready to move to Tulsa.” (AP Photo/Tulsa World, Mike Simons)
Weather Service Systems Crumbling As Severe Weather Escalates. Failing weather satellites, NWS web sites going down in the south, the Chicago office of the NWS unable to issue severe storm warnings – what is going on? Here’s an excerpt from The Washington Post’s meteorologist Jason Samenow at The Capital Weather Gang: ”As painfully obvious from the recent events in Oklahoma, tornado season is in full gear. Meanwhile, hurricane season is a week away. Yet budget woes and multiple system failures at the National Weather Service in the past week, not to mention staffing shortages, are raising concerns that its ability to warn the public of hazardous weather could crack at any time. In the past 5 days alone, a telecommunications outage near Chicago made it difficult for NWS forecasters to issue warnings, a major weather satellite failed, the website for the entire NWS Southern Region went down, and a NWS official in tornado alley declined to launch a weather balloon citing budget concerns. These problems are symptomatic of insufficient funding and dated infrastructure, advocates for more generous NWS budgets say. What follows is an overview of the problems NWS has encountered, just since Sunday…”
The timing of these technical malfunctions and NOAA budget challenges and proposed furloughs is unfortunate…
Tornadoes Were Just The Beginning. This Hurricane Season Is Going To Be Stormy. Here’s an excerpt from Time Magazine: ”…Altogether NOAA predicts a 70% likelihood that 13 to 20 named storms—which have winds that sustain at 39 mph or higher—will occur, of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds higher than 74 mph). Of those three to six may become major hurricanes, which means Category 3 to 5, with winds above 11 mph. That’s all well above the average for an Atlantic hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 to the end of November. Why will this summer potentially be so stormy? For one, an atmospheric climate pattern, including a strong African monsoon, that’s been ongoing since 1995 will help supercharge the atmosphere for tropical storms. Warmer-than-average water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea will lead to more of the wet, hot air that provides the fuel for hurricanes. And there is no El Nino—the alternating climate pattern that means unusually warm sea temperatures—which would usually suppress the formation of hurricanes…”
Photo credit above: “Lightning in the sky over debris from the tornado that devastated Moore, Okla., Thursday, May 23, 2013.” (AP Photo/Tulsa World, Mike Simons)
NOAA Predicts Active 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season. We’re in an ENSO-neutral period right now, no La Nina cooling or El Nino warming. El Nino also tends to turn on stronger winds in the tropics, which can deter tropical storm formation. It may be another very active season – here are a few excerpts from NOAA: “For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher)….
Three climate factors that strongly control Atlantic hurricane activity are expected to come together to produce an active or extremely active 2013 hurricane season. These are:
- A continuation of the atmospheric climate pattern, which includes a strong west African monsoon, that is responsible for the ongoing era of high activity for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995;
- Warmer-than-average water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea; and
- El Niño is not expected to develop and suppress hurricane formation…”
Hurricane Outlook: Another Busy Atlantic Season. There’s some good information and statistics in this AP article, courtesy of boston.com: “…This year, all the factors that go into hurricane forecasts are pointing to an active season, or an extremely active one, said lead forecaster Gerry Bell of the Climate Prediction Center. Those factors include: warmer than average ocean waters that provide fuel for storms, a multi-decade pattern of increased hurricane activity, the lack of an El Nino warming of the central Pacific Ocean, and an active pattern of storm systems coming off west Africa. The Atlantic hurricane season goes through cycles of high and low activity about every 25 to 40 years based on large scale climatic patterns in the atmosphere. A high activity period started around 1995, Sullivan said…”
As Need For New Flood Maps Rises, Congress And Obama Cut Funding. Here’s an excerpt from OPB News: ”…Congress has cut funding for updating flood maps by more than half since 2010, from $221 million down to $100 million this year. And the president’s latest budget request would slash funding for mapping even further to $84 million — a drop of 62 percent over the last four years. In a little-noticed written response to questions from a congressional hearing, FEMA estimated the cuts would delay its map program by three to five years. The program “will continue to make progress, but more homeowners will rely on flood hazard maps that are not current,” FEMA wrote“…
GOES-14 Starts Service As GOES-East. NOAA is using a spare satellite to try to make up for the GOES-13 outage; here’s an update from The University of Wisconsin CIMSS Satellite Blog: “At 1000 UTC (Thursday), GOES-14 imagery started flowing to AWIPS as the GOES-East satellite. Work continues on evaluating the status of GOES-13. GOES-14 remains at 105.5 West, and GVAR data are being broadcast directly from GOES-14. Updates on GOES-13 — and all satellites — can be found here.”
John McCain: Cable TV, The Right Way. The Television Consumer Freedom Act? Here is a clip of an Op-Ed from Senator John McCain at The Los Angeles Times that caught my eye: ”…The numbers are striking. According to the Federal Communications Commission, the price for basic cable has grown by an average of 6.1% a year over the last 16 years — three times the rate of inflation and far outpacing the average American’s paycheck. Cable bills are projected to continue rising to an average of $200 a month by 2020. The 82% of American households that subscribe to cable or satellite television are stuck paying escalating prices for “bundled” packages of more than 100 channels, despite the fact that the average viewer tunes in to only about 18 of them. Reinforcing this fundamental unfairness is a federal regulatory and legal framework that tilts in favor of cable companies and television programmers at the expense of consumers…” (photo credit: readwrite.com).
From Here You Can See Everything. Enjoy binge TV viewing? Hooked on Netflix? So am I. Maybe that’s not such a good thing, long term, as argued in this thought-provoking piece at themorningnews.org; here’s an excerpt: ”…I always binge on media when I’m in America. But this time it feels different. Media feels encroaching, circling, kind of predatory. It feels like it’s bingeing back. The basic currency of consumer media companies—Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, NBC, Fox News, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.—is hours of attention, our attention. They want our eyeballs focused on their content as often as possible and for as many hours as possible, mostly to sell bits of those hours to advertisers or to pitch our enjoyment to investors. And they’re getting better at it, this catch-the-eyeball game. Consider Netflix. These days, when one episode of The West Wing ends, with its irresistible moralistic tingle, I don’t even have to click a button to watch the next one. The freshly rolling credits migrate to the top-left corner of the browser tab, and below to the right a box with a new episode appears, queued up and just itching to be watched. Fifteen seconds later the new episode starts playing, before the credits on the current episode even finish. They rolled out this handy feature—they call it Post-Play—last August. Now all I have to do is nothing and moralistic tingle keeps coming….” (photo credit: wired.com).
The Suicide Epidemic. I’ve lost too many friends and family members to suicide. As a society we don’t stigmatize people with diabetes, and yet another chemical imbalance, depression, is often brushed under the carpet. No, we can’t possibly admit to that, as if it’s a character flaw or genetic defect. But it’s not. Depression is treatable, with medication and therapy everyone can be helped. We have to keep pounding home that message, to our friends, colleagues and family members, and if you suspect someone is in a dark place, don’t ignore it – do something about it. Help them find the help they need. Read this article at The Daily Beast and then do something positive, like supporting SAVE (Suicide Awareness, Voices of Education), based in Bloomington with an international outreach. Their director (and a good friend of mine) Dr. Dan Reidenberg, has testified before Congress. SAVE has an amazing staff and volunteers working 24/7 to avoid senseless, horrific tragedies. Consider attending their annual Fashion Show to raise more funds to help more people in need – next Thursday, May 30, in Minneapolis. Details are here. I feel strongly about SAVE and it’s mission – I hope to see you there.
A Mission On Climate Change. Here’s a portion of an Op-Ed at The Washington Post: ”…Only someone who was ignorant of basic science — or deliberately being obtuse — could write a sentence like this one: “Contrary to the claims of those who want to strictly regulate carbon dioxide emissions and increase the cost of energy for all Americans, there is a great amount of uncertainty associated with climate science.” Oh, wait, that’s a quote from an op-ed in The Washington Post by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Yes, this is the officially designated science expert in the House of Representatives. See what I mean about Obama likely having to go it alone? For the record, and for the umpteenth time, there is no “great amount of uncertainty” about whether the planet is warming or why. A new study looked at nearly 12,000 recently published papers by climate scientists and found that, of those taking a position on the question, 97 percent agreed that humans are causing atmospheric warming by burning fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases…”
Photo credit above: Brad Birkholz.
Climate Change And Wildfire – Research Examines Relationship. PlanetSave has the story; here’s an excerpt: ”Changes in the climate are intimately connected with wildfires, both causing them and being being caused by them. Recent research has estimated that wildfires will increase by around 50% across most of the US, and by as much as 100% in the West, by 2050, as a result of climate change. And with this increase in the frequency/extent of wildfires, greenhouse gas emissions will rise too…”
Photo credit above: “Wild Fire via Flick CC.”
Floating Research Station In Need Of Evacuation. A friend forwarded me this article late last night – a Russian research facility near the North Pole being evacuated due to unstable ice. In May? More evidence of profound changes at the top of the world. Here’s an excerpt from The Barents Observer: “The scientific research station was placed on the ice floe in October 2012 and was planned to stay there until September. Now the floe has already started to break apart and the crew has to be evacuated as soon as possible. Russia’s Minister of Nature Resources and Ecology Sergey Donskoy has ordered that a plan for evacuation should be ready within three days, the Ministry’s web site reads. “A collapse of the station’s ice floe poses a threat to its continued work, the lives of the crew, the environment close to the Canadian Economic Zone and to equipment and supplies”, a note from the minister reads…”
Photo credit above: “Some 16 scientists have spent the winter on the floating research station North Pole-40.” (Photo: AARI)
The Odds Of Disaster: An Economist’s Warning On Global Warming. Here’s an excerpt of a Paul Solman interview with economist Martin Weitzman at The PBS NewsHour: ”…Once it is in the atmosphere, CO2 remains there for a very long time. Even if CO2 emissions were cut to zero at some point in the future (a very drastic assumption), about 70 percent of CO2 concentrations over the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm would remain in the atmosphere for the following one hundred years, while about 40 percent would remain in the atmosphere for the following one thousand years. This, along with the possibility of bad outcomes, is the argument for keeping CO2 concentrations from reaching very high levels. Most people do not realize how difficult it is to stabilize CO2 concentrations. It is not nearly enough to stabilize CO2 emissions, which would cause CO2 concentrations to keep on increasing at the same rate as before. (This is because changes in concentrations are proportional to emissions.) The problem is that if you want to stabilize CO2 concentrations, you have to make drastic cuts in CO2 emissions. This is no easy feat. Yet, unless it is done, we are liable to reach very high levels of CO2 concentrations. Global warming skeptics would dispute or minimize the link between CO2 concentrations and temperature increases. Here is yet another uncertainty — are they or the mainstream climate scientists more right than wrong? But can we afford the luxury of assuming that a small minority of climate skeptics are more correct than the vast majority of mainstream climate scientists? What is the probability of that?…”
Photo credit above: “No one can say with any assurance what the dollar value of damages would be from the highly uncertain climate changes that might accompany a planet earth that is steadily warming.: PBS NewsHour.
Has Global Warming Stalled? Noted climate scientist Kevin Trenberth has some answers in a post at The Royal Meteorological Society; here’s an excerpt: ”Has global warming stalled? This question is increasingly being asked because of impressions about local weather being cool and wet, or because of impressions that the global mean temperature is not increasing at its earlier rate or the long-term rate expected from climate model projections. The answer depends a lot on what one means by “global warming”. For some it is equated to the “global mean temperature”. That quantity keeps going up but also has ups and downs from year to year. More on that shortly. Why should it go up? Well, because the planet is warming from human activities. With increasing carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, there is an imbalance in energy flows in and out of the top-of-atmosphere: the greenhouse gases increasingly trap more radiation and hence create warming. “Warming” really means heating, and so it can be manifested in many ways. Rising surface temperatures are just one manifestation. Melting Arctic sea ice is another. So is melting of glaciers and other land ice that contribute to rising sea levels. Increasing the water cycle and invigorating storms is yet another. However, most (over 90%) of the energy imbalance goes into the ocean, and several analyses have now shown this…”
* Trenberth’s article at The Conversation, with additional graphics and imagery, is here.
Hot In My Backyard. This compilation of radio reports is worth a listen; here’s an overview of the series from This American Life: “After years of being stuck, the national conversation on climate change finally started to shift — just a little — last year, the hottest year on record in the U.S., with Hurricane Sandy flooding the New York subway, drought devastating Midwest farms, and California and Colorado on fire. Lots of people were wondering if global warming had finally arrived, here at home. This week, stories about this new reality….”
Heat-Related Deaths May Increase With Climate Change. Here’s an excerpt of a story from LiveScience and Fox News: “Heat-related deaths in New York City’s borough of Manhattan may rise about 20 percent over the next decade, according to a new study. Researchers at Columbia University in New York analyzed the relationship between daily temperatures and temperature-related deaths across all seasons between 1982 and 1999 in Manhattan, which comprises the most densely populated county in the United States. The findings were published online May 19 in the journal Nature Climate Change…”
Tornadoes And Global Warming: Is There A Connection? Here’s a good summary of the uncertainty involved in connecting the dots with climate change and tornadoes from National Geographic: “…Linking any particular weather event to climate change is always tricky, because weather is inherently random. But weather patterns can speak to a warming planet. Scientists can detect that extreme rain events, for instance, are already happening more often than they used to, and that a warmer atmosphere with more water vapor in it is making such events more likely. Tornadoes are different. Global warming may well end up making them more frequent or intense, as our intuition would tell us. But it might also actually suppress them—the science just isn’t clear yet. Neither is the historical record…”
Photo credit above: “Scientists can’t say yet whether global warming will increase tornadoes.” Photograph by Carsten Peter, National Geographic
Making Sense Of The Moore Tornado In A Climate Context. Climate Central meteorologist Andrew Freedman does a good job connecting the dots; here’s an excerpt: ”…Tornado data does not reveal any clear trends in tornado occurrence or deaths that would suggest a clear tie to global warming, at least not yet. A recent paper published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society found that the occurrence of EF-1 and stronger tornadoes on the Enhanced Fujita Scale has shown no trend since 1954, which was the first year of near real-time data collection. Instead, an increase in tornado counts of EF-0 or stronger tornadoes has been attributed to an uptick in observations of very weak tornadoes. The Enhanced Fujita Scale measures tornado strength based on the extent and type of damage that they cause (no surface weather station has ever survived a direct tornado strike to take wind measurements from inside a twister)…”
Graphic credit above: “Probability of severe thunderstorms within 25 miles of a location as averaged from 1982-2011. This shows the highest odds of severe weather on Monday were in Oklahoma.” Credit: Storm Prediction Center. ___________________________________________________
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 startribune.com/weather And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather