All Weather News

Aurora, “Skypunches” (and a long-range weather expert predicts a very snow winter for Midwest, Great Lakes & Northeast)

9 Oct 2012, 5:10 am


Shift In The Pattern? The 12z ECMWF brings an area of low pressure northward across the Great Plains, pulling Gulf moisture into the Upper Midwest by Saturday. The map above is valid 1 pm Saturday, hinting at steady rain. Sunday should be the drier, brighter day of the weekend.

Fearless Felix Supersonic Free-Fall. Have you been keeping up with Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking free-fall attempt? It’s this morning, weather permitting, and you can see it live on the Red Bull Stratos web site. A swan dive from 120,000 feet? We wish him well and God speed. Supersonic God speed. Wow.

* the Vancouver Sun has more details on the highest, fastest free-fall in history here.

Aurora Watch. Things are heating up on the sun (sorry), with more CME’s bombarding Earth’s magnetic field. That could and should translate into a higher probability of seeing the Northern Lights in the coming days and weeks – one of the benefits of living at this lofty latitude. The photo above was taken in Bayfield, Wisconsin by Migizi Gichigumi: “Northern Lights turned on!..even with the clouds and moonlight it was an awesome display of Auroras:) Bayfield,Wisconsin (Lake Superior) 10/8/12.”

* NASA has more on the enhanced aurora potential here.


Awe-Inspiring. Check out this remarkable photo from Norway, courtesy of “On Oct 7th, Frank Olsen went to the beach outside Sortland, Norway to photograph the colors of aurora borealis in the sky. He also found some strange colors at his feet. The beach was aglow with bioluminescent dinoflagellates…”I was photographing the auroras when the Noctilucales washed up on the beach,” says Olsen. “The moonlight was a nice bonus.”

“Ask Paul”. Weather-related Q&A:


Here is a question that I have, that you may or may not want to share with the public.

It seems to me that EL Nino is struggling to  gain  a foot hold , so it looks like that signal may turn out to be a very weak to neutral ENSO for this winter season.  What has gotten my attention is the signal that we are seeing in the north central Pacific ocean..  The waters were warming in that area causing a cold pool of water to set up near the coast of North America..  Now it looks like the Sea surface temps in the central northern Pacific are starting to cool, could that bing  in warmer waters  just of the coast of the NW USA.?  In other words I am talking about the PDO…..I think it could be the major driver for our winter forecast.”


Randy Peterson

* heavily retouched photo (what WAS that roadkill on my head?) courtesy of KARE-11 and

Temperature Roller Coaster. The maps above (NOAA NCEP) are an ensemble of computer models, hinting at mild weather next week, but a potentially chilly end to October and a cold start to November. I passed your question along to Larry Cosgrove, who specializes in long-range weather prediction for utilities and other companies that want a jump on the 2-5 month outlook. He publishes a newsletter (WEATHERAmerica) – you can see his latest thoughts on the implications of a weak El Nino here. Here is what Larry has to say about Minnesota’s upcoming winter:

Larry: “I will have the finished winter forecast out around October 18th. Looking for a tepid Modoki El Nino, trending back to a neutral ENSO in February. Deep cold pool near and below Aleutians, warm SST intrusion along immediate West Coast and just below Greenland are pushing me toward a warm West, cold Central, changeable to mild East alignment. Should be a good winter for the (Twin) Cities.”

* I nudged Larry (gently) about what he meant by a “good winter” for the cities:

Larry: “If I am reading the pattern evolution correctly (and after last winter, who knows LOL), the basic storm track would be from the western Gulf of Mexico up along the western slopes of the Appalachian Mountains into Quebec. That isn’t a great snow path for the Cities, but with a closed 500 mb low nearby you might pull off one or two synoptic scale blizzards and plenty of frontogenetic stuff spoking around the upper level cyclones. So at this point I would go with 80-90″ in MSP…with most occurring late November through January, and a mild February as the +ENSO wanes.”

Paul: Holy Batman! 80-90″? Larry does a great job, and part of me hopes he’s right. I’d be thrilled with 100″ snow and 20-30 F all winter. If only. At this point I wouldn’t rule anything out, but I’ll wash and wax Dave Dahl’s car if we get 90″ of snow. Based on a (weak) El Nino nudging the storm track over the southern USA and a pervasive drought that doesn’t show any immediate signs of letting go, I’m leaning toward 40-45″ for the winter. Better than last winter, but not as snowy as 2010-2011. Stay tuned. I’ll stock up on some high-quality automotive wax, just in case.



I thought Paul would like a copy of the photo below for his column. Later.

Terry Guy

Beam Me Up Scotty. One of the (many) great things about weather is that I’m continually a). humbled, and b). amazed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like the photo that Terry passed on. What is a “sky punch”? Here’s an explanation from Dr. David Whitehouse at The BBC, at

Strictly speaking there is no scientific term for the apparition, and what exactly it is has been the subject of much meteorological speculation. One hypothesis is that the hole is made by falling ice-crystals that could have come from the exhaust of a passing aircraft. It is possible the air was at just the right temperature and with just the right moisture content so that the falling crystals could absorb water from the air and grow. The moisture removed from the air could have increased the evaporation of the cloud’s water droplets, which then disappeared to produce the dramatic hole. The wispy clouds seen below the hole may be heavier ice-crystals that have fallen from the hole, evaporating (the correct term is subliming) before they reach the ground. It’s called a fallstreak hole.”


Hi Paul,

Attached are a couple of pictures from my Jet demo flight this past weekend. The Eclipse Jet is part of a new line of small jet aircraft called Very Light Jets (V.L.J’s). The Eclipse Jet has a cruise speed of just over 400 mph, but can take off and land at under 100 mph. The relatively slow take off and landing speed makes it possible for someone like me (with very little flying experience) to actually fly a jet. It also makes it possible to takeoff and land at smaller regional airports like the one in Blaine (where these photos were taken) or even smaller. This jet also uses the latest in airframe, engine, and avionics technology to make it the most efficient, easy to fly, and safest jet available. The Eclipse has a max seating capacity of 6 people (including the pilot).  Most other VLJ’s that I am aware of only have 4 seats.”

Jay Gustafson – Director of IT

Media Logic Group

Jay – I’m slobbering all of my laptop, and for good reason. That’s one beautiful aircraft. At close to $2.5 million I wouldn’t exactly call it affordable, but the capabilities seem to rival jets 2-5 times more expensive. Very impressive, and made in America! More information on the Eclipse 550 here. Corporate jet? Keep dreaming…

How Big Data Can Make Us Happier And Healthier. Here’s a story that caught my eye, a snippet from an article at Mashable Tech: “Big data is getting personal. People around the globe are monitoring everything from their health, sleep patterns, sex and even toilet habits with articulate detail, aided by mobile technology. Whether users track behavior actively by entering data or passively via sensors and apps, the quantified self (QS) movement has grown to become a global phenomenon, where impassioned users seek context from their big data identities. Moreover, with services like Saga and Open, users can combine multiple streams of data to create insights that inspire broader behavior change than by analyzing a single trait. This reflects a mixed approach design (MAD) research methodology that purposely blends quantitative and qualitative factors in a framework where numbers are driven by nuance. The science of happiness, for example, is now a serious study for business, as organizations combine insights of the head and heart to create environments where workers feel their efforts foster meaningful change…”

Steve Jobs’ Most Disruptive Trait: His Obsession With The Customer’s Experience. Yes, he could be a jerk at times, but I think this story nails what made Steve Jobs singularly unique, and truly visionary: his total focus on streamlining and simplifying how we deal with tech. Here’s an excerpt: “You have to wonder whether all of the tech bloggers who gush sentimental tributes to Steve Jobs would have actually liked the man. Numerous accounts paint a picture of a person who – in addition to his obvious charm, wicked intelligence, and inspired creativity – could be extremely rude, manipulative, and hot-tempered. It’s easy to laugh these traits off when you’re reading about them in a biography, but if these sappy fanboys had actually spent time with Jobs, would they still offer such moving words?


“Stress Paul” – Rubber Stress Reliever. Yes, that’s a very nice likeness. In fact I often curl up into the fetal position, watching the Vikings every Sunday (in my purple Spandex outfit). “Don’t get stressed – take it out on Paul!” Amen brother. Details from “Need some stress relief? Look no further than the Stress Paul – Rubber Stress Reliever. Paul will help you get rid of that stress. He’s only to happy to take some squeezing and abuse for your state of mind. This squeezy stress reliever is made of soft rubber and measures 2.4 b 1.4 by 3.2 inches. It will give you something to do that will relieve your stress. Whenever you need him grab him and squeeze. Don’t worry, he can take it. He just curls up into a ball so you can do your thing. Only $11.44 from”

Winter Hassle Factor

I’ve been babbling about the Hassle Factor since the 80s, when I loitered in KARE-11’s backyard. It’s an attempt to predict rush hour conditions, based on snow, ice, wind chill, etc.

The question keeps bubbling to the surface: “what’s the Winter Hassle Factor”? Colder with some snow. I know it’s vague, but I stand by that prediction. Snow lovers may be happy to hear from Larry Cosgrove, an old college buddy, who now specializes in long-range weather for utilities. He’s predicting the main storm track from the western Gulf to the Appalachians, but overall a “good winter” for snow lovers. How good?

“At this point I would go with 80 to 90 inches in MSP, with most occurring late November through January and a mild February as the +ENSO wanes” Cosgrove e-mailed me yesterday.

Yikes! Average is 55 inches. I’ll be amazed (and greatful) if we pick up 45 inches this winter, based on our ongoing drought. Time will tell. Details of Larry’s prediction above in the “Ask Paul” section.

The maps are looking a little more encouraging for moisture. Sprinkles (even a few flurries tonight) give way to dry weather into Friday. Significant rain is expected Saturday, the most since mid-August.

Heavy jackets this week; 60s return next week.

No “sticking snow” shaping up the next 2 weeks.


* photo above courtesy of


Climate Stories…


Many laws protecting environmental quality have promoted liberty by securing property against the destructive trespass of pollution.” – Ronald Reagan

Don’t Forget The “Global” In Global Climate Change. Here’s a snippet of a timely story at Scientific American: “…This approach allows for flexibility in letting each country craft a solution tailored to their individual economies and politics. Imposing limits on greenhouse gas emissions for each country on a strict timeframe might make us sleep better at night, but it as the high likelihood of gridlock and failure. And also, because it is flexible, goals can be updated as countries emerge from developing status, or other unforeseen circumstances. It’s keeping the rest of the global community, where each country has its own funky domestic policies and politics and development goals, in mind with our goals for prosperity and development. Mitt Romney essentially articulated this point when he answered the question on climate change.”

Underestimating The Dangers Of Peak Oil And Climate Change. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard news of “peak oil”, with all the euphoria surrounding “fracking” and at least a century’s supply of (American) natural gas. So this story at The Christian Science Monitor caught my eye; here’s an excerpt: “Many people dismiss the risks associated with oil depletion and climate change–even many who accept the two issues as problems. They judge those risks to be small or at least manageable. Since no one can know the future, we cannot be sure whether they are right or wrong. But even if they are right, should we be so sanguine? As we examine this question, keep in mind that we are talking about probabilities and the level of risk, not absolute knowledge which none of us can have about the future….In a nutshell, we believe that because a certain event has reliably repeated itself in the past or because certain conditions have prevailed for a long time, we can always expect more of the same in the future. If that were true, there would come a point in our lives when we would never be surprised. But as it turns out, humans are continually surprised, which shows you that the problem of induction lives on.” Photo above: Clean Technica.

What Kind Of Energy Journalism Do We Need? Here’s an excerpt of a story at Climate Progress: “What I’d like to see in all these varieties of energy journalism is a little bit more systems thinking, a greater sense of context. Humanity’s relationship with energy is changing in fundamental ways and lots of the familiar frames for energy coverage no longer make much sense, or at least are woefully inadequate. Here are the three great energy challenges of the 21st century:

1). Maintain safe and reliable energy supply to developed countries, where demand is leveling off and infrastructure is aging.”



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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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