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Baffling Weather Pattern: Low Tornado Count, Record Coming For Latest (first) Hurricane?

A Baffling Pattern



My official winter prediction is out: “colder with some snow.” 100% confidence – take it to the bank.


Note to self: when in doubt be vague.



We’re in an ENSO-neutral state in the Pacific, but I’m seeing a slight trend toward a mild El Nino warming phase, which may favor a (slightly) warmer winter for the Upper Midwest. The 6-month outlook is a curiosity – just tell me it’s going to rain, Paul.



T-storms may brush much of Minnesota Monday as overheated air pushes north, but it won’t be the sustained soaking we need. If the sun is out for a few hours we may see mid-90s tomorrow, with a dew point near 70F. Another “heat day” for area schools?



Extreme heat in recent weeks has accelerated evaporation of water from lakes & fields, accelerating drought. The 3rd week of September brings a better chance of rain. Fingers crossed.



Only 725 tornadoes have touched down on the USA in 2013; 9 in Minnesota (all EF-0). Only 17 years since 1953 have seen fewer tornadoes thru August. We may set a new record for the latest (first) hurricane on record in the Atlantic.



It’s too early for complacency. In 2001 the first hurricane formed on Sept. 10. There were 9 hurricanes later that season.



* 500 mb forecast winds aloft, valid 12z this morning, courtesy of UCAR.



Cooler Sunday – Monday Heat Spike. NAM guidance shows temperatures at least 10F cooler today than Saturday, in fact highs hold in the 70s up north. By Monday a storm tracking over northern Minnesota will yank super-heated air north – a possibility of mid-90s by late Monday afternoon, even some upper 90s south/west of MSP. Model data above: Ham Weather.


Rainfall Departure From Normal: June 26 – September 3. The greatest rainfall deficit is showing up over far southeastern Minnesota, over 8″ below normal from near Lake City to Winona. Much of southwest and central Minnesota is running a 6-7″ rainfall shortage since late June, only far northern counties above average in the rainfall department. Source: MN DNR and the Minnesota Climatology Working Group.


Summer Hangs Tough. Dry, desert air is pushing across the Plains into the Upper Midwest by Monday, sparking a few showers and T-storms from the Dakotas into the Great Lakes. Monsoon T-storms flare up over the southwestern USA, while another cool front pushes into New England – fairly dry weather over much of the South. 84-hour NAM: NOAA.

September Starts Cool And Dry. Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Mark Seeley’s latest edition of WeatherTalk: “…Rainfall deficits continue to mount in many parts of the state. The U.S. Drought Monitor now shows that over 53 percent of the state landscape is in moderate to severe drought. Severe drought is now designated for parts of Stearns, Sherburne, Benton, Wright, Meeker, and Kandiyohi Counties in central Minnesota. These counties and others had been drought-free since mid-May. Volume flow on many Minnesota watersheds is down as well, in some cases well below average for this time of year. Unfortunately the outlook favors warm and dry weather through the third week of September for most of the state….”

Warm Weather Keeps Pools Open Longer, But Hits Farms With Extreme Drought. Here’s a clip from a story at The Star Tribune: …“It’s a bit disconcerting,” said University of Minnesota Extension climatologist Mark Seeley. “That’s pushing them right back into the predicament they were in last year.” In fact, last year’s drought that hit Minnesota from midsummer into early winter was among the worst in state history. In April 2012, nearly 98 percent of the state was in some kind of drought condition A wet later part of winter and spring alleviated that, but now drought has returned after a streak of little rainfall and lingering heat. Since July, Seeley said, rainfall for central Minnesota is 5 to 7 inches short of average, stressing crops. “They’ve been sucking the water out of soil,” he said…”

“Ask Paul”. Weather-related questions, comments (and threats):

Hi Paul,
“Is it a fact or a myth that a tornado will skip over a body of water? Someone told me that they were out in a boat and weren’t worried about a tornado warning because they’d be safe on water. I’m not sure that’s a good idea! Thank you!”
Nancy Hartman, Burnsville

Nancy – your gut is correct. A lake, river (or valley) won’t deter a tornado, especially a large tornado. A tornado is a process, not an object; the larger dynamics and wind inflow into a severe thunderstorm drive the intensification or weakening of a funnel, not the surface the vortex passes over. I’ve seen numerous instances of a tornado passing over water, transitioning to a waterspout, then back to tornado as it passes over land again. Another important point: severe thunderstorms capable of tornadoes usually produce intense lightning; another reason you don’t want to be on a lake (or beach). Thanks for a great question/observation.

“Is there a weather club/group in the Twin Cities? I did a Google search and couldn’t find one. This would allow my friend and family a reprieve as well as enabling me to chat with other weather geeks. Thanks so much!
Kae Evensen

Kae- A good place to start is the Twin Cities Chapter of the American Meteorological Society, which has frequent meetings with interesting topics/guest speakers and a chance to network with local weather enthusiasts and meteorologists. Good luck!

Extreme Weather Snoozer: No Hurricanes, And Low Tornado Numbers In 2013. Here’s an excerpt of a good overview of the (miraculously quiet) tornado and hurricane season of 2013 from Capital Weather Gang meteorologist Jason Samenow: “…Going back further, a small group of years have been quieter. “There have been 17 years since 1953 with fewer tornadoes through August than what we’ve seen reported in 2013,” SPC’s warning coordination meteorologist Greg Carbin says. “I think it is fair to say that 2013 is in the least active 25% of all years in the last 62 years.” Of course, the year is far from over...”

Image credit above: “Black line is 2013 tornado report tally year to date. Other lines represent other years and 2005-2012 average.” (NOAA SPC)

Nearing Record For Latest (First) Hurricane In The Atlantic. Yes, this season may wind up being a dud for hurricanes, but I’m not sure I’d take that bet, not yet. In today’s Climate Matters we look at previous quiet starts to a handful of hurricane seasons that wound up being VERY active: “Since record keeping began, the latest the first hurricane has formed in the Atlantic is September 11th. We’re only a few days away from breaking that record. But just because we haven’t seen a hurricane yet, doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. WeatherNation Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas shows us how the seasons with late hurricane starts panned out.”

Long Overdue For A (Major) Hurricane. It’s been 8 years since America has been struck by a Category 3 or stronger hurricane (Wilma in 2005). If we go 4 more days without a hurricane we’ll set a new record (for latest-first hurricane in the Atlantic basin). But it’s still early to call the hurricane season a bust. Gustav formed on September 11, 2002, followed by 3 more hurricanes. Erin didn’t form until September 9, 2001. It was one of 9 hurricanes that year, 4 of them major Category 3 storms. Graphics: WeatherNation TV.



1984. Diana didn’t become a hurricane (first of the season) until September 10th. That season tropical storms were observed in the Atlantic basin as late as Christmas Eve. Source: NHC and WeatherNation TV.




2001. Hurricane Erin didn’t form until September 9, 2001. That season went on to produce 9 hurricanes in the Atlantic, including 4 Category 3+ storms.




2002. The first hurricane of the season in 2002 was “Gustav” on September 11. A total of 8 tropical storms and hurricanes formed between September 11 – 30, 2002. Like flipping on a switch. My point? It’s still a bit early to let our guard down – premature for complacency in Hurricane Alley.


Lackluster Hurricane Season Could Still Rev Up. Yes, it’s amazingly quiet in the tropics, but history teaches us that it would probably be premature to let our guard down just yet. Here’s a clip from a story at Live Science: “…The lack of hurricanes can be blamed on westerly winds, Weber said. So far this summer, there have been strong winds blowing from west to east across the Atlantic, which have systematically destroyed developing storms and prevented them from strengthening and growing into well-organized hurricanes, Weber said. Hurricanes are fueled by the transfer of heat from the ocean to the upper atmosphere, but they depend on a relatively symmetrical, rotating system to get going. They form best in calm conditions, with warm surface temperatures, Weber added. A second, lesser factor: Dry air and dust have also been blowing westward from North Africa’s Sahel region, hampering development of early season hurricanes that often form near the Cape Verde Islands in the eastern Atlantic, Weber said...” (File photo of “Katia” courtesy of NASA).

Shelf Cloud. Thanks to Dixie Imholt for passing this one along: “This was taken from the South Shore of Madeline Island overlooking Long Island, where we have a summer home. I grew up in southern Florida and so have seen lots of spectacular cloud formations, but this was very unique. It was like a giant claw that just moved across the lake. The storm approaching us was not nearly as bad on our side of the island (as foreboding as it looked) but we are on the lee side of the island. The north side of theisland folks said it was like a hurricane.”

Yosemite Fire, Now California’s 3rd Largest, To Intensify – Officials. Here’s an update on the Yosemite Rim Fire from Reuters: “A wildfire that has consumed parts of Yosemite National Park and charred an area greater than the city of Dallas, Texas, is expected to intensify on Friday and is now California’s third largest wildfire on record, fire managers said. The 20-day Rim Fire, named for the popular Rim of the World looking, is expected to burn another two weeks, they added. The blaze has blackened about 246,350 acres (99,694 hectares), or 385 square miles, of timber and chaparral in the rugged northern California forests since it broke out on Aug. 17. Fanned by wind in hot and dry weather, the fire has grown by almost 10,000 acres since Thursday, although it has stayed mostly within containment lines that firefighters have drawn around 80 percent of the blaze’s permimeter...”

Photo credit above: “In this photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service, Crews clear California Highway 120 of debris, as crews continue to fight the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park in California Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. The massive wildfire is now 80 percent contained according to a state fire spokesman. The Rim Fire’s southeast flank in Yosemite National Park is expected to remain active where unburned fuels remain between containment lines and the fire.” (AP Photo/U.S. Forest Service, Mike McMillan).

Cardiovascular Risk Factors Predominant During Cold Winter Months. Maybe I should have saved this for January, but maybe there’s still time for you to shack up with your good buddy down in Scottsdale or Sarasota for a few well-timed months. Here’s an excerpt from redOrbit: “A new multinational study has linked cardiovascular risk factors to cold weather. Based on cross-sectional data from 10 studies over seven countries, researchers found such risk factors occur more in the winter than in the summer. “Deaths from cardiovascular disease are higher in winter and lower in summer. We decided to conduct a large scale study to see whether cardiovascular risk factors have a seasonal pattern which could explain the seasonality in deaths,” said Dr. Pedro Marques-Vidal of Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Lausanne (IUMSP)…”

9 Questions About Syria You Were Too Embarrassed To Ask. A bleak topic? Absolutely, but I think I have a better understanding of just how hopeless the situation really is after reading this Max Fisher article at The Washington Post.

USAA Admits That Some “Totaled” Cars Were Sold. So that’s why I got such a deal on my newest purchase! I was told the car was “extra-clean”, but little did I know… Here’s more from “USAA officials now admit that some vehicles it branded as total losses after being damaged by Hurricane Sandy’s floodwaters later were resold and put back on the road. The San Antonio-based insurer totaled some 4,000 customer vehicles damaged during last year’s storm in the Northeast. USAA earmarked 174 of those vehicles to be sold for parts only because they had no titles. But USAA later found some buyers who bought them at auto auctions fraudulently obtained clean titles with the intention of putting them on the road again….”

Photo credit above: AP. “This file photo shows thousands of cars that were damaged in Superstorm Sandy and stored on the runways at Calverton Executive Airpark in Calverton, N.Y. USAA totaled some 4,000 customer vehicles that had been damaged, but officials for the San Antonio-based insurer now admit that some vehicles that had been totaled instead were resold and put back on the road. USAA had earmarked 174 vehicles to be sold for parts only, but has found that some were fraudulently given clean titles.”

The 147 Companies That Control Everything. Here’s an excerpt from a story at Forbes: “Three systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have taken a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide and analyzed all 43,060 transnational corporations and share ownerships linking them. They built a model of who owns what and what their revenues are and mapped the whole edifice of economic power. They discovered that global corporate control has a distinct bow-tie shape, with a dominant core of 147 firms radiating out from the middle. Each of these 147 own interlocking stakes of one another and together they control 40% of the wealth in the network…”

Graphic credit above: “Visualizing the “super entity.” Courtesy: New Scientist.

Visual Mental Health Break. Check out this remarkable video from Gizmodo: “When was the last time you spent your afternoon in a field watching the clouds pass? Your answer is about to be, “why just now, thank you” after viewing Suishu Ikeda’s mesmerizing time-lapses of Japan’s summer skies.”

These Really Exist: Giant Concrete Arrows That Point Your Way Across America. My father forwarded this to me, a fascinating tale from Conde Nast Travelers; here’s a snippet: “…On August 20, 1920, the United States opened its first coast-to-coast airmail delivery route, just 60 years after the Pony Express closed up shop. There were no good aviation charts in those days, so pilots had to eyeball their way across the country using landmarks. This meant that flying in bad weather was difficult, and night flying was just about impossible. The Postal Service solved the problem with the world’s first ground-based civilian navigation system: a series of lit beacons that would extend from New York to San Francisco. Every ten miles, pilots would pass a bright yellow concrete arrow…”

Why Do Our Best Ideas Come To Us In The Shower? Hmmm. Bathroom shower? Rain shower? Bridal shower? I’m so confused, but Mental Floss takes us the heart of the matter: “…Research shows you’re more likely to have a creative epiphany when you’re doing something monotonous, like fishing, exercising, or showering. Since these routines don’t require much thought, you flip to autopilot. This frees up your unconscious to work on something else. Your mind goes wandering, leaving your brain to quietly play a no-holds-barred game of free association. This kind of daydreaming relaxes the prefrontal cortex—the brain’s command center for decisions, goals, and behavior. It also switches on the rest of your brain’s “default mode network” (DMN) clearing the pathways that connect different regions of your noggin. With your cortex loosened up and your DMN switched on, you can make new, creative connections that your conscious mind would have dismissed...

Betty White, “Breaking Bad” Earn Guiness World Records Titles. Here’s an excerpt from NBC’s The Today Show: “Betty White has had a career for the record books, and finally, it’s getting officially acknowledged: The 2014 edition of the “Guinness World Records” book will now list the 91-year-old comedian and actress as the record-holder for Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female)….White was in good company among other record holders from the world of pop culture this year; AMC’s “Breaking Bad” will be listed in the new “Guinness” as the Highest-Rated TV Series, thanks to a metascore of 99 out of 100 on…”

* Photo above courtesy of Gary Teske.

Climate Stories…

“I fear that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”Albert Einstein



Most Island Nations Have Yet To Come To Grips With The Possibilities Of Relocation. Greenwire has the story at; here’s an excerpt: “….Climate change and the response to climate change is not something that you do this and not the other,” Tong said this week. “We in Kiribati are acknowledging the reality that our land area will be reduced. … The question is, then, what do we do? Do we hang onto it? It is our national strategy to consider both.” Grappling with the possibility that rising sea levels might force island dwellers off their land is one of the biggest and most existential threats Pacific countries face from climate change. Yet leaders meeting here for the 44th Pacific Island Forum say the topic remains so uncomfortable that finding a common message about climate-induced migration is nearly impossible…”

Global Warming Has Increased Risk Of Record Heat, Scientists Say. has the story – here’s a clip: “…In the north central and northeastern United States, extreme weather is more than 4 times as likely to occur than it was in the pre-industrial era, according to a new study by Noah Diffenbaugh, a Stanford associate professor of Environmental Earth System Science, and Martin Scherer, a research assistant in the department….

* USA Today takes a look at how frequency of extreme heat and coastal flooding have changed in recent decades.

Global Warming Update: Record Heat Is 4 Times More Likely Now Than In Pre-Industrial Times. A slightly different angle on the same story from Popular Science: “Here’s your latest global warming update: It’s still happening. Intense heat is now four times more likely to strike in the U.S. than it was in pre-industrial times, according to a new study from Stanford University researchers. July 2012 was the hottest month on record in the lower 48 states, and the summer brought the “most severe and extensive drought in at least 25 years,” according to the USDA. And it seems summers like last year’s are going to become more commonplace, with 2012-esque temps becoming more likely, specifically in the north-central and northeastern United States. This study follows on the heels of a recently leaked draft of an Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change report, which noted that scientists believe we are experiencing more heat waves because of climate change–which yes, we’re still sure humans are causing….” (File photo: NOAA).

Ice Melting Faster In Greenland, Antarctica In U.N. Leak. The IPCC is about to release another climate update; Bloomberg Businessweek is running a story with an alleged leak from this upcoming report; here’s a clip: “Ice in Antarctica and Greenland is disappearing faster and may drive sea levels higher than predicted this century, according to leaked United Nations documents. Greenland’s ice added six times more to sea levels in the decade through 2011 than in the previous 10 years, according to a draft of the UN’s most comprehensive study on climate change. Antarctica had a fivefold increase, and the UN is raising its forecast for how much the two ice sheets will add to Earth’s oceans by 2100. The changes in the planet’s coldest areas are a “very good indicator” of a warming planet, according to Walt Meier, a research scientist with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration…”



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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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