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A Reluctant Spring (freak May snow potential later this week)

28 Apr 2013, 5:52 am
“High Amplitude”



Like a pack of cigarettes most 7-Day Outlooks should come with a warning label. Or at least a Confidence Level. Forecast accuracy drops off over time; from 88% for tomorrow to 60% by Day 6.


Some patterns are more volatile than others. When computer models disagree (wildly) confidence goes down and we should share this uncertainty. Then again, slapping more numbers on a page might make it even harder to remember the forecast.



My confidence level is high we’ll see mid-70s and evening thunder today, with a stalled storm pumping heavy rain into town the latter half of the week. My confidence level is low trying to predict if it will snow here on Thursday.



What a spring. The jet stream is bucking and looping like a wild beast – more energy and high-speed dips & bulges; ultimately pumping Gulf moisture northward. In the meteorological blink of an eye we’ve gone from drought to flood in the Mississippi Valley. Fargo expects a flood crest Wednesday; 2-3 feet below 2009’s record.



Enjoy today’s warmth, evening thunder another signal the atmosphere is shifting gears.



A “cut-off” low stalls over the Plains, keeping us cool & wet Wednesday into next weekend.



It may even snow again. Memorable spring, huh?



Maximum 24 Hour May Snowfalls in the Twin Cities:


3″ May 1, 1935


2.8″ May 11, 1946



* source: Minnesota Climate Office





Sloppy Holding Pattern. A surge of Canadian air stalls over the Central Plains by midweek, a giant, spinning top of low pressure near Kansas City; counterclockwise winds pumping a steady stream of moisture up the Mississippi River Valley into Minnesota – compounding flooding problems. ECMWF model map  valid Thursday evening courtesy of WSI.



A Censor-Worthy Weather Map. The GFS prints out a bulls-eye of plowable snowfall amounts by midday Thursday from western Iowa into southeastern and east central Minnesota. I expect this axis to shift back and forth, and hopefully shrink in the coming days, but in the spirit of full disclosure, against my better instincts, I feel compelled to share this nasty map with you (with apologies). Again, I’m just the messenger.


Spring Snaps Back. The same GFS model shows 70s returning by May 6 or 7 to the upper Midwest, even some 80s during the second week of May. The sun is too high in the sky for any slush-storms to linger for long.

Tracking The Rising Red River. Click here to see a live webcam from Fargo, courtesy of the City of Fargo. USGS has a webcam in the Grand Forks area available here.

Latest Flood Conditions. NOAA has a slick interface that allows you to see, at a glance, which streams and rivers are near or above flood stage – click on the individual marker and you get details; a prediction of when the river will crest, and how high.

Effects Of Midwest Flooding Will Be Felt For Months. NBC News has a good overview of the problems, including a wild swing from not enough water in the Mississippi River a couple months ago to severe flooding in recent days; here’s an excerpt: “…To the north, a damaged lock may keep a stretch of the Illinois River closed to commercial shipping traffic for weeks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. Flooding has halted the transport of corn and soybean barges at certain terminals on the river, Reuters reports. The disruptions could cause significant disruptions in the flow of grain and corn in the second-highest soybean producing state. Reuters reports almost 60 percent of U.S. grain exports are transported on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Grain prices at export terminals at the Gulf of Mexico climbed this week to the highest level in at least a month due to the disruptions…”

Photo credit: Seth Perlman / AP. “Steve Peters uses a make shift bridge to access dry land in Peoria Heights, Ill. The Illinois River crested at 29.35 feet, eclipsing a 70-year record in Peoria.”

Up To 375 Flood Gauges To Turn Off Because Of Fund Cuts. Doyle Rice from USA Today has a head-shaking story, another victim of “The Sequester”. Coming at a good time huh? Here’s an excerpt: “Just in time for the spring flood season, the federal sequester is threatening to shut off funding for hundreds of stream gauges used by the U.S. Geological Survey to predict and monitor flood levels across the country. “The USGS will discontinue operation of up to 375 stream gauges nationwide due to budget cuts as a result of sequestration,” the USGS notes on its website. Additional stream gauges may be affected if USGS partners at state and local agencies reduce their funding support...”

Serious Hailer. Thanks to Lance West in Edmonds, Oklahoma for sharing this photo of 1-2 FOOT drifts of hail Friday evening – amazing image courtesy of WeatherNation TV.

NOAA’s National Weather Service Completes Doppler Radar Upgrades. New “dual-pol” Doppler upgrades do a better job calculating precipitation types and rainfall and snowfall amounts – so sensitive they can even detect the debris signature from a tornado on the ground. More details from NOAA: “This week, the National Weather Service completed the dual-polarization technology update in Brownsville, Texas – concluding the 122 NWS radar site upgrades throughout the country. This new advanced technology is helping federal weather forecasters more accurately track, assess and warn the public of approaching high-impact weather. Dual-polarization is the most significant enhancement made to the nation’s federal weather radar system since Doppler technology was first installed in the early 1990s. Dual-pol radar sends and receives both horizontal and vertical pulses, which produces a much more informative picture of the size and shape of the objects in the sky. This provides meteorologists the ability to distinguish between rain, snow, hail and non-weather items like wildfire smoke plumes, birds and insects. Conventional Doppler radar only has a one-dimensional view making it difficult to tell the type of precipitation or object in the sky…”

In Pictures: Top 10 Greenest Buildings In the U.S. Here’s a clip from an interesting story at “The American Institute of Architects announced its top ten green buildings in the US for 2013 on Monday (Earth Day, uncoincidentally). It’s a diverse list, containing a cheese factory, senior citizens’ apartments, school buildings, and a smattering of LEED certificates. There’s only one net zero building on the list, though it’s worth remembering that it’s much easier to build a net zero home than it is a net zero office or factory. Step inside for a short profile of each of the buildings, or head straight to the gallery for the architectural eye candy...”

Photo credit: “A New Norris House: perhaps the most modest building in the AIA’s top ten ” (Photo: Ken McCown).

Least Stressful States In The USA? Minnesota didn’t make the Top 10 Stressful states, and it didn’t make the Bottom 10 (most stressful states). Want less stress? Move to Iowa. Hawaii I get, but Iowa? Here’s an excerpt from an article at

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hawaii residents remained the least likely in the U.S. to say they felt stressed on any given day in 2012, at 32.1%. West Virginia residents, on average, were the most likely to report feeling stress, at 47.1%.

Five Least Stressed States Five Most Stressed States



Climate Stories…

The Oddly Tepid Political Fight Over Global Warming. Here’s an excerpt from a story at The Atlantic Wire: “Yesterday afternoon, a panel of experts was convened by a House subcommittee to discuss taking action on climate change. Earlier, the heavy machinery that was once Barack Obama’s campaign team, Organizing For America, began a new push to hold politicians to task for having not yet done anything on the issue. The odds are good that you didn’t know that either of these things happened. The urgency with which scientists and the environmental community looks at global warming has still not been translated to Capitol Hill — or to the rest of America. The House hearing, led by Republican Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah, was never likely to create a massive shift in the politics of the climate. Stewart has long denied a strong human role in warming, writing an opinion piece for the Salt Lake Tribune earlier this month in which he claims that “the science regarding climate change is anything but settled.” (Scientists disagree.) Stewart’s essay did have one positive outcome: the Tribune was also the only media outlet to cover yesterday’s hearing…”

Image above: AP.

On Climate, GOP Turns From Concern To Denial. Here’s a clip from an Op-Ed at The Houston Chronicle: “…How did the conservative movement travel so far, so fast? How did a party that prided itself on reason become a hotbed of scientific denial? The transformation has paralyzed U.S. policymaking and squandered decades that could have been spent weaning the world from fossil fuels. Twenty-three years after Thatcher urged action, the United States has no policy on climate change, even as its effects are evident and the window for action is closing. In 1997, “There was no difference between the way Democrats and Republicans across America viewed the issue,” said Ed Maibach, executive director of George Mason University‘s Center for Climate Change Communication, a research center. Two out of three Democrats and two out of three Republicans believed that climate change was both real and serious. “Somewhere along the way, conservatism became, ‘I’ve got a God-given right to drive my SUV wherever I want to go, and we’ll send somebody else’s kids to the Middle East to fight for it,” said former South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis, a Republican who lost his 2010 primary election over global warming and now runs the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, where he is pushing for a price on carbon pollution…”

The Drought-Stricken Midwest’s Floods: Is This What Climate Change Looks Like? Here’san excerpt from a story at The Atlantic Wire: “…In other words, a warmer atmosphere from climate change likely yields greater extremes in weather. This syncs with the draft report issued by the government’s National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee last year. That report predicted the following for the Midwest: “longer growing seasons and rising carbon dioxide levels will increase yields of some crops, though those benefits will be increasingly offset by the occurrence of extreme events such as heat waves, droughts, and floods.” That prediction was meant to be borne out over the next several decades. What it predicted, though, has already been seen over the course of six months…” (photo: AP).

As CO2 Concentrations Near Ominous Benchmark, Daily Updates Begin. Scientific American has the story – here’s an excerpt: “…Scientist Ralph Keeling wants this generation to remember when atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide reached 400 parts per million, because of humans. “I hope that many people out there in the decades to come will say, ‘Gosh, I will remember when it crossed 400,'” he said. That’s why Keeling and his employer, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, have launched a website that will provide daily updates on atmospheric CO2 concentrations, measured at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory…”

Graphic credit above: 398.36 ppm. The very latest CO2 concentrations can be found at The Keeling Curve web site, operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

CO2 On Trial: If Things Had Worked Out Better. Here’s an excerpt of an important article, an explanation of how climate science has been turned into a perverse mock “trial”. Michael Tobis argues that we need to grow up, and recognize our limits in this story at “…The fact is that we are entering an age of new and unprecedented limits. We can still have a happy future, human achievement and human dignity can continue its broad historical progress, and we can still have a lot of fun. But we have to recognize new limitations. The emergence of limits is unfortunate. It’s costly. It’s ill-timed. But preserving a stable environment is an ethical responsibility like none that has preceded it. We need people to understand not only that CO2 is a global problem, but that it’s just the first in a series, as we make the transition from an open frontier world to spaceship earth. As a brand of soap, this is a hard sell. We have to sell the idea of a widespread set of changes in behavior, a new set of ethical constraints, and a substantial increase in the complexity and scale of governance. There are serious risks and costs involved, but avoiding this responsibility will yield something much worse…”

Global Warming Accelerated Last 15 Years. Here’s an excerpt from Doug Craig’s terrific Climate of Change blog at “…And a new study of ocean warming published last month in Geophysical Research Letters by Balmaseda, Trenberth, and Källén reached several conclusions:

• Completely contrary to the popular contrarian myth, global warming has accelerated, with more overall global warming in the past 15 years than the prior 15 years. This is because about 90% of overall global warming goes into heating the oceans, and the oceans have been warming dramatically.

• As suspected, much of the ‘missing heat’ Kevin Trenberth previously talked about has been found in the deep oceans. Consistent with the results of Nuccitelli et al. (2012), this study finds that 30% of the ocean warming over the past decade has occurred in the deeper oceans below 700 meters, which they note is unprecedented over at least the past half century…”

Obama Campaign Launches Campaign To Shame Climate Skeptics In Congress. Here’s the intro from a story at The Guardian: “The campaign group formed to support Barack Obama‘s political agenda has launched an initiative to shame members of Congress who deny the science behind climate change. In an email to supporters on Thursday, Organizing for Action said it was time to call out members of Congress who deny the existence of climate change, saying they had blocked efforts to avoid its most catastrophic consequences. The email linked to a video mocking Republicans who reject the science on climate change. “Right now, way too many lawmakers in Washington flat-out refuse to face the facts when it comes to climate change,” Jon Carson, executive director of Organizing for Action wrote in the email. “We’re never going to make real progress on this issue unless members of Congress get serious…”

Photo credit above: “The campaign suggests climate change has emerged as a serious issue for Obama to pursue in his second term.” Photograph: Gideon Mendel/Corbis.



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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

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