All Weather News

Midwest Cooldown and the Autumnal Equinox

21 Sep 2012, 6:12 am


Autumnal Equinox. Fall officially kicks off Saturday morning, when the sun’s direct rays will fall on the equator. Although we’ve been enjoying “meteorological autumn” since September 1. Why? Historically, the 90 warmest days of the year come from June 1 thru August 31. So as far as the atmosphere is concerned, we’ve been experiencing fall for nearly 3 weeks now. How much daylight has been lost since the first day of summer? Here are some stats from Wolfram Alpha. Graphic above from, which has more details on the Autumnal Equinox.


Twin Cities lost 3 1/2 hours of daylight

NYC lost 3 hours and 3 min

Seattle lost 3 hours and 50 min

Miami lost 98 minutes

Louisville lost 1 hour and 52 minutes

Phoenix lost 2 hours and 16 min

Houston lost 1 hour and 57 minutes

…The sea ice is declining much faster than had been predicted in the last big United Nations report on the state of the climate, published in 2007. The most sophisticated computer analyses for that report suggested that the ice would not disappear before the middle of this century, if then. Now, some scientists think the Arctic Ocean could be largely free of summer ice as soon as 2020…” – from a New York Times article. NASA’s James Hansen is calling this a planetary emergency. Alarmist? We’ll see.

Photo credit above: “The east coast of Greenland, where the melting ice sheets meets the sea, on July 23, 2012. The apparent low point for 2012 was reached Sunday, when sea ice covered 24 percent of the surface of the Arctic Ocean, down from the previous low of 29 percent set in 2007.” (Andrew Testa/The New York Times)

We are now in uncharted territory,” said NSIDC Director Mark Serreze. “While we’ve long known that as the planet warms up, changes would be seen first and be most pronounced in the Arctic, few of us were prepared for how rapidly the changes would actually occur.” – from a Jeff Masters post at Weather Underground.


Arctic Cyclone Breaks Up Sea Ice. Here’s an amazing time-lapse YouTube visualization, showing the impact of severe storms on the remaining Arctic ice, courtesy of NASA: “Watch how the winds of a large Arctic cyclone broke up the thinning sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean in early August 2012. The storm likely contributed to the ice cap’s shrinking to the smallest recorded extent in the past three decades.”


Drought Outlook. NOAA forecasters are predicting Minnesota’s drought to persist, or even intensify in the weeks ahead (something I happen to agree with looking at the latest maps and trends). Some improvement is forecast over the Midwest and Mississippi River Valley. Source: NOAA.


Jumbo Clipper. A surge of chilly, Canadian air will whip up a swirl of showers from Minnesota into the Great Lakes, reaching the east coast by Saturday. High pressure pushes across the Midwest Sunday, clearing skies from west to east over the northern tier states. With the exception of T-showers over south Florida the vast majority of America stays dry into Monday.

Fall Harvest. Thanks to WeatherNation TV meteorologist Todd Nelson for sending in these photos from near St. Michael.


Flaming Fall Foliage. Here’s a photo from Buena Vista Ski Resort near Bemidji via FB: “The Fall Color Covered Wagon Rides are this weekend!–Saturday 22nd 11am-3pm & Sunday 23rd 1pm-3pm at the Buena Vista Village. Hope to see you all out there!! ~The colors are BEAUTIFUL!!

Why Are Fall Colors Peaking Faster In The MSP Metro? Check out the latest fall color map above from the MN DNR. Peak color is in…the metro area? What on Earth could be doing this? I asked Lee Frelich that question and here is his response:

“Yes, that is odd.

Right now I think drought stress is driving early fall color in much of the state. Usually urban heat islands delay fall color due to warmer nighttime temps. However, in a drought situation, the warmer temperatures of the heat island could have an opposite effect by causing even more evaporation and water stress for trees. The extremely early spring could have an impact, since the urban heat island made that even earlier in the Metro than surrounding areas.

I have seen a lot of maples and lindens in areas without irrigation that have lost most of their leaves, whereas they are still retaining green leaves in areas that are watered. Oaks have no changed color, whether in areas with or without irrigation. That leads me to wonder if certain species like the maples are used in the DNR assessment of color – I am not sure how they make the maps. One thing is certain, however, namely that oaks will be a lot more successful at dealing with longer growing seasons and droughts in a future warmer climate than maples and lindens. This spring and summer show that very clearly.


Lee E. Frelich

Director, The University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology

Minnesota Flood Relief Efforts Reaching Out To Victims. The Duluth News Tribune has the story; here’s an excerpt: “Minnesota officials on Wednesday announced new efforts to get financial help to people who suffered flood damage in June — including disaster relief coordinators now calling victims. The new effort called “Flood Homes with Hope” aims to connect flood victims with already available resources to help them rebuild and repair sooner. The progrom offers a case manager for each resident or business that needs help, said Minnesota Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon. The effort includes the United Ways of Greater Duluth, Carlton County and Douglas County, Ecolibrium3, One Roof Housing, the Salvation Army, Lutheran Social Service, Carlton County, St. Louis County and other groups.”

Songbirds On Doppler? Here’s a fascinating FB post from the Dodge City, Kansas office of The National Weather Service: “This is a rather fascinating radar mosaic from late this evening. A cold front was pushing south without much in the way of precipitation (except across the Great Lakes Region). What is with all the blue and green circles north of the cold front? This is the songbird migration south! Migration season is well underway now, and many songbirds are taking advantage of the north wind behind the front. Notice the lack of blue and green “rings” of echo around the radar sites south of the front…yet a flurry of them north of the front. This is a telltale indication of the songbird migration (among other migratory birds/insects) underway!

Ending Its Summer Melt, Arctic Sea Ice Sets A New Low That Leads To Warnings. Here’s a thorough (and vaguely troubling) update from Justin Gillis at The New York Times: “The drastic melting of Arctic sea ice has finally ended for the year, scientists announced Wednesday, but not before demolishing the previous record — and setting off new warnings about the rapid pace of change in the region. The apparent low point for 2012 was reached Sunday, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which said that sea ice that day covered about 1.32 million square miles, or 24 percent, of the surface of the Arctic Ocean. The previous low, set in 2007, was 29 percent.”

Graphic credit above: “This image made available by NASA shows the amount of summer sea ice in the Arctic on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012, at center in white, and the 1979 to 2000 average extent for the day shown, with the yellow line. Scientists say sea ice in the Arctic shrank to an all-time low of 1.32 million square miles on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012, smashing old records for the critical climate indicator. That’s 18 percent smaller than the previous record set in 2007. Records go back to 1979 based on satellite tracking.” (AP Photo/U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center)

Earth’s Attic Is On Fire: Arctic Sea Ice Bottoms Out At A New Record Low. Dr. Jeff Masters from Weather Underground has a good post about the unsettling things taking place at the top of the world. Here’s an excerpt of a must-read article: “The extraordinary decline in Arctic sea ice during 2012 is finally over. Sea ice extent bottomed out on September 16, announced scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) on Wednesday. The sea ice extent fell to 3.41 million square kilometers, breaking the previous all-time low set in 2007 by 18%–despite the fact that this year’s weather was cloudier and cooler than in 2007. Nearly half (49%) of the icecap was gone during this year’s minimum, compared to the average minimum for the years 1979 – 2000. This is an area approximately 43% of the size of the Contiguous United States. And, for the fifth consecutive year–and fifth time in recorded history–ice-free navigation was possible in the Arctic along the coast of Canada (the Northwest Passage), and along the coast of Russia (the Northeast Passage or Northern Sea Route.)

Graphic credit above: “Arctic sea ice reached its minimum on September 16, 2012, and was at its lowest extent since satellite records began in 1979.” Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Weather Underground.

“Ask Paul.” Weather-related Q&A:

I am not particularly skeptical of Climate Change, and it is clear to me observationally (I am a 50+-year-old Minnesota native) that Fall and Spring are definitely encroaching on ‘traditional’ Winter in this area.  I also accept the validity of your posts, and articles from other sources, that Arctic ice is shrinking at a record pace.  At the same time, I have seen other articles and posts that Antarctic ice is increasing at a record pace.  Those posts and articles are, however, much less numerous or prominent which leads some to conclude that the emphasis on the amount of ice at one pole as opposed to the other pole is more evidence of the existence of a vast, media-driven Global Warming/Climate Change Alarmist conspiracy.

I ain’t exactly buying that, but am curious if:  (1) you are aware of the assertions that Antarctic ice has increased and continues to increase to record levels; (2) whether you agree that the evidence supports that assertion; and (3) whether or how that increase affects your concern that the decrease in Arctic ice may well be a troubling sign of Climate Change.  And, in any event, don’t you think it would be worthwhile to acknowledge and attempt to account for the Antarctic ice evidence when discussing the issue?  It might (yes, I am an eternal optimist) at least make certain folks (including intelligent, thoughtful folks) a bit less skeptical of the media ‘narrative’ on the issue and a bit less convinced that they are not being presented with a fairly balanced picture on the issue—and I don’t mean balance for balance sake, i.e., that the media has to present the ‘other side’ and give it equal time regardless of whether that side has any credibility.

NOTE:  I suppose it would be easy to say that divergent Arctic and Antarctic ice records are both evidence of climate change, since both support (or at least don’t contradict) a conclusion (or hypothesis, anyway) that the climate is different now than it was when the records were begun and is getting more and more different—although,  at least geologically, it looks like a damn small sample size to me.  But I still think it is important to squarely address the issue so that the ‘other’ side can’t credibly claim that supportive evidence is being cherry-picked and utilized, while arguably contrary evidence is being ignored since it doesn’t fit the narrative.

Anyway, I enjoy the blog.  Full disclosure:  I also enjoy Dan B. on KFAN, but do agree that his weather terrorist assertions about you have gotten stale and (at least based on my reading of your blog) haven’t been accurate for some time—if they ever were.”


Tom V. from Plymouth

Tom – I’m aware of the “Antarctica is gaining snow/ice” meme and there’s some truth to this. I try very hard not to cherry-pick data to support my “view”. The science is the science. The data is the data. Let’s lose the spin. Let the chips fall where they will, based on facts on the ground, not ideology or politics. Check out my blog post from Thursday for more details on Arctic ice loss vs. Antarctic snow/ice gain. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I trust Phd. climate scientists, who are acknowledging a (slight) increase in snow and ice over Antarctica, but the increase is minor, and some of the increase in Antarctic snowfall may be linked to a 4-5% spike in water vapor, due to a warming atmosphere over (warmer) oceans. I don’t think anyone is denying the fact that seasonal snow/ice over Antarctic is increasing slightly, but I see no scientific evidence that this slight uptick is somehow “balancing” the record, historic ice loss over the Arctic. Check out this LiveScience article that talks about the profound differences between what’s happening at both poles. I don’t think LiiveScience leans left or right – they seem dedicated to sound science.

For the record, it appears Arctic ice loss is 18% lower than the previous record low, set in 2007.

Perspective. This site (authored by a climate scientist, not a blogger) puts what’s happening into Antarctica into perspective from a long-term, historical standpoint. Here’s an excerpt: “It might look like 2012 just barely broke the all-time record, but actually it did not. It just barely missed…This year’s peak is certainly above average. But it’s nowhere near “astounding.” In fact, if it weren’t in red color, or if you’re color-blind, you could have trouble picking out which line is 2012 even in this expanded view.

I’m fond of emphasizing trends rather than individual events (climate over weather and all that). For that purpose, one strategy is to study sea ice anomaly. Doing so removes the annual, seasonal cycle from the data. Here’s the sea ice extent anomaly data, for the Antarctic (in blue) and the Arctic (in red), which reveals that both have shown an overall trend, in opposite directions:”


As for the “weather terrorist” crack, I find it all a bit amusing. Name-calling is pervasive these days, and it’s all just kind of sad. I have zero time and respect for people who resort to tactics like this to make a point, or build themselves up by ripping other people down. And frankly, I’ve been called much worse – by my wife of 28 years. The people who rant and rave about meteorologists hyping the weather for TV ratings (or readers) miss the point: the weather is becoming more extreme. Two out of three Americans interviewed in 2011 were personally impacted by severe weather.

It’s weather-hype until it hits your neighborhood. Ask people in St. Peter, Wadena, Granite Falls, Siren or Joplin, Missouri if the meteorologists were crying wolf. I’d rather err on the side of caution – than apologize for missing a tornado or a major winter storm. New technologies are emerging that will alert only the people in the direct path of a tornado. No need to interrupt your favorite show – your smart phone or tablet (or vehicle’s dashboard) will beep, and you’ll get hyper-local warning information. Far fewer people will be needlessly bothered with alerts.

During the (real) winter of 2010-2011 there was a specific December storm that comes to mind. I predicted 12-20″ of snow for the metro and a few local radio “personalities” thought I had lost my mind. The forecast verified, by the way, but I guess that wasn’t newsworthy. Unlike others in town, I admit when I’m wrong, and try to explain why the forecast busted. Some of the most consistent hype and chest-beating comes from local talk shows on AM and FM. Thank God for Sirius Satellite Radio, The Current, Spotify, Rhapsody, Stitcher and other streaming technologies that widen the listening options when you’re stuck on I-494.

WGN-TV’s Tom Skilling Signs 10 Year Contract Renewal. He’s worth every penny, in my humble opinion. TVspy has details.

“Sun Dog”. Here’s a great example of mock suns, called “sun dogs” , an example of parhelia, optical effects triggered by white sunlight being refracted (bent) by billions of tiny, prism-like hexagonal ice crystals, which can produce two brightly colored splotches of rainbow-like light on either side of the sun. They are seen close to sunrise or sunset, never at midday when the sun is high the sky. Thanks to Sheena Nelson in St. Michael for passing this along.

ABC’s Robin Roberts Receives Bone Marrow Transplant. has the details; here’s an excerpt: ““Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts is getting a bone marrow transplant from her sister, WWL morning anchor Sally-Ann Roberts, today. Sally-Ann has been in New York this week with a third Roberts sister, Dorothy, to be with Robin, who suffers from a rare blood disorder as a result of her treatment for breast cancer in 2007. Sally-Ann posted an update on her Facebook page this morning: “September 20th is a new date to mark on the Roberts family calendar. This is Robin’s birthday! This morning Dorothy and I will witness Robin get stem cells that once lived inside me to move to their new residence. They’re moving on up!

Saturday: First Day Of Autumn (And So Much More). To be fair, “meteorological autumn” really began back on September 1. If you look at what is (historically) the warmest 90 days of the year, summer really runs from about June 1 to September 1. So we’ve been enjoying autumn now for nearly 3 weeks. But did you realize that Saturday is also: “International Day of Peace”, “American Busines Women’s Day”, “Car Free Day”, “Dear Diary Day”, ” Elephant Appreciation Day”, “Hobbit Day”, “Ice Cream Cone Day”, “International Day of Radiant Peace”, “National Centenarian’s Day”, “National White Chocolate Day”, “AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day”, and last, but not least “Fish Amnesty Day”. Who knew? Check out this site for a few laughs and giggles.

“Washit” Cleans You And Your Clothes Simultaneously. Say what? has the details: “Water is a precious resource and in places like Australia and the U.K., the onset of summer coincides with restrictions on water use – hosepipes for watering gardens are banned, and showers are recommended over baths. But even taking a shower uses a fair amount of water, which all ends up down the drain. The same goes for doing laundry. If only there was a way to combine the two into one unified unit.”

“In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.” – Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, quoted in a David Gee article about authenticity that deserves a read.



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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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