First Freeze of the Season Hitting the Upper Midwest Sep 23, 2012

1/10th of an inch of snow fell at Duluth Friday evening, the earliest measurable snowfall in 17 years. Source: NOAA.

Freeze Warning. The Freeze Watch has been upgraded to a Freeze Warning, which includes the immediate metro. Although the downtowns may avoid a frost/freeze, the suburbs probably won’t. It’s coming about 1-2 weeks ahead of schedule, if you’re keeping track. The median date of the first 32 F. low at MSP is October 4. Details from NOAA:

...FREEZE WARNING TONIGHT INTO SUNDAY MORNING FOR ALL OF CENTRAL
AND SOUTHERN MINNESOTA AND WEST CENTRAL WISCONSIN...

.A FREEZE WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 1 AM TO 8 AM SUNDAY
MORNING FOR ALL OF CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN MINNESOTA AND WEST CENTRAL
WISCONSIN.

LOWS SUNDAY MORNING WILL DROP INTO THE 25 TO 30 DEGREE RANGE OVER
MUCH OF THE AREA...RESULTING IN A HARD FREEZE FOR MANY LOCATIONS.
TEMPERATURES IN THE TWIN CITIES ARE EXPECTED TO BE A LITTLE
WARMER WITH LOWS NEAR 32 DEGREES. REMEMBER...FROST MAY BE
POSSIBLE EVEN IF TEMPERATURES REMAIN A FEW DEGREES ABOVE FREEZING.

THE COLD NIGHT AHEAD IS THE RESULT OF CANADIAN HIGH PRESSURE
MOVING IN. THIS WILL RESULT IN CLEAR SKIES AND NEARLY CALM
WINDS SUNDAY MORNING.

 

Spectacular Aurora. Check out this YouTube clip of a stunning display of the Northern Lights over Wick, Scotland, courtesy of “spider72wtf”.

Down To A Trickle. This is, or was, the Raccoon River at Booneville, Iowa – just southwest of Des Moines. There used to be a river there. Thanks to Sandi Smith for sending this to WeatherNation TV meteorologist Bryan Karrick.

 

Drought Timeline. NOAA’s U.S. Drought Monitor shows the gradual progression and intensification of the drought covering much of the USA in this animation. The statistics are interesting: 70% of the lower 48 states are now described as “abnormall dry”, moderate drought impacting 54% of the USA (up from 24% at the start of the water year). Severe drought is impacting over a third of America, up from 15.8% at the start of 2012.

 

Autumn Forecast: You Might Not Need Heavy Coats For A While. Call me a contrarian. The venerable Farmer’s Almanac is predicting “warmer and drier” for Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. So is CPC, the Climate Prediction Center. Based on recent trends and a brewing El Nino that forecast makes sense, logically. But the atmosphere hasn’t been behaving logically in recent years – I’m pretty sure we’ll have a colder winter than last, but not as severe or snowy as 2010-2011. At this point even an “average winter” would feel like the real thing. Here’s an excerpt of a story at The Star Tribune: “A warmer-than-normal autumn is likely for Minnesota, and may be followed by another mild winter, a meteorologist from the National Climate Prediction Center said Thursday. The agency released its latest three-month outlook, and seasonal forecaster Huug van den Dool said the warm regime that’s been so pronounced across the hemisphere this year is likely to continue through October, November and December in Minnesota and across the United States. January through August of this year was the warmest such period on record for both the Twin Cities and Minnesota. As for winter, “I wouldn’t go as far as saying it will be as extreme as last year, but chances are it will be above normal,” he said in a telephone conference with reporters. “That’s the long-term trend.” Photo above: AP.

3 Month Guess (Outlook). CPC, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, is forecasting a milder-than-average October thru December for a huge chunk of the USA, drier than average for the Pacific Northwest, wetter across the Gulf coast and southeastern USA (which correlates with an El Nino warming over the central Pacific). Again, buyer beware. Odds favor a mild bias into at least the first half of winter, based on the trends of recent winters, but I sure wouldn’t bet the farm on this. Call me perpetually paranoid, but what’s happening in the Arctic (record melting) may have some blow-back across the lower 48. Hope I’m wrong.

Looking Ahead. Everyone wants to know what the winter will be like. Me too. Can you tell me where the NASDAQ will be in mid-February? Interest rates in early March? Looking at recent trends this winter should be milder than average, especially factoring in a mild to moderate El Nino warming, but that warming is taking place in the central Pacific, and in previous El Nino’s like this the biggest impacts were over the Pacific Northwest and the southeastern USA, with little impact (cold or warm) on Minnesota and the Midwest. As I’ve been mentioning ad nauseum for days now, the Arctic is a huge wildcard. Record warming has created a semi-permanent bubble of warm high pressure at the top of the world, which may displace the cold “polar vortex” farther south, meaning more bitter swipes extending southward into the USA. The truth: models have some skill out to 15-20 days. Beyond that, forget about it. We can use ocean temperatures as cues, but there is still no reliable way to connect the dots and make a winter prediction with high confidence. Here is Mark Seeley’s take in the latest installment of WeatherTalk: “On Thursday of this week the NOAA Climate Prediction Center issued new seasonal climate outlooks. The temperature outlook for Minnesota favors above normal values over the October-December period. Actually this trend is seen for about 75 percent of the USA based on dynamical models and past trends. Little emphasis is placed on El Nino at the moment because it remains in a neutral state. The precipitation outlooks shows equal chances for above or below normal values over the October-December period across most of the USA except the southeastern and mid-Atlantic states which are expected to see above normal values.”

Floods Bring Evacuations In Alaska Town. The New York Times has the story; here’s an excerpt: “ANCHORAGE (AP) — Residents of the Alaska tourist town of Talkeetna have been asked to leave because of the threat of flooding from the rain-swollen Talkeetna River….Gov. Sean Parnell toured the area around Talkeetna by helicopter on Friday and landed to talk to some of the residents who fled their homes. The governor declared a state disaster for the areas hit by the flooding. Talkeetna, about 75 miles north of Anchorage, is the last stop for climbers heading to Mount McKinley. It also has an eclectic population and has long been purported to be the inspiration for the Alaska town in the 1990s television series “Northern Exposure.”

Video credit above: Here’s an excerpt from a YouTube clip of significant flooding in Alaska: “View Aerials of a few flood damaged areas as the Assistant Borough Manager talks about what he saw while surveying the flood damaged areas from helicopter.”

With Extreme Weather Will Insurers Come To The Rescue? Here’s an excerpt of a timely story from meteorologist Andrew Freedman at Climate Central: “Following a damaging episode of extreme weather, communities turn to insurance companies to help them rebuild, but with costly extreme weather and climate events on the rise as the climate continues to warm, insurers may stop coming to the rescue, a new report warns. The report from Ceres, a nonprofit group that advocates for sustainable business practices, calls attention to the threat that extreme weather events pose to the sustainability of the insurance industry, which has been hit hard by record-breaking extreme weather in recent years, on top of lower profits due to other reasons.”

Wildland Fires In Idaho. NASA has the details: “One of the Expedition 33 crew members aboard the International Space Station, flying at an altitude of approximately 260 statute miles, recorded this nadir scene of the Mustang Complex wildland fires in Idaho. Close to 300,000 acres have been burned by the Mustang fires and hundreds of people have been forced to flee the area.”

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ABOUT ME

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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 startribune.com/weather And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather

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