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Near-Blizzard Conditions Possible Far Northwestern Minnesota Thursday

3 Oct 2012, 4:57 am

10.4″ snow predicted for Grand Forks, North Dakota Thursday. Data: 18z NAM model using Cobb Method. No, I don’t want to believe it either. Details, and a forecast snowfall map that’ll get snowmobilers excited below.

Rain Changing To (Heavy) Snow Up North. The NAM model shows a cold rain changing over to snow, heavy at times, over the Red River Valley Thursday, gradually tapering to flurries on Friday. Near-blizzard conditions are possible north of Grand Forks late Thursday into Friday morning. Animation: NOAA.

We believe that there will be an El Niño, but the strength of it is debatable, and it may be a fairly weak one,” said Huug van den Dool, a meteorologist at the federal government’s Climate Prediction Center.” – from a New York Times article, details and links below. Image above: NOAA.

$1.2 trillion. A recent study estimated that climate change is already costing the world over a trillion dollars a year, reducing the world’s GDP by 1.6% a year.

“Athena, Brutus and Ceasar”. Proposed names for first 3 major blizzards of 2012-2013 winter season. The Weather Channel will begin naming blizzards this winter, according to a USA Today article. The Detroit Free Press has another angle here. Photo credit above: “Several decades after hurricanes first got formal names, some blizzards in the U.S. this winter will get their own names.” AP Photo.

Plowable Snow For Red River Valley? The 84-hour NAM model prints out a few inches of slushy snow for Hallock and Roseau, possibly even enough to shovel and plow over far northwestern Minnesota by Thursday night. The bulk of the wet snow comes during the day Thursday. International Falls may pick up an inch or two, but the latest Cobb calculations show 10.4″ for Grand Forks. A cool 10-14″ may pile up over far northwestern MN.  Insert long, drawn-out gasp here.

First Wintry Sneeze. A sharp contrast in temperature will spin up the first (major) winter storm of autumn over the Red River Valley, a tight pressure gradient (sharp contrast in atmospheric pressure) whipping up 30-45 mph winds by Thursday night. I could envision white-out conditions near Roseau and Hallock, possibly Thief River Falls, with a couple inches from Bemidji to International Falls. Within 24-36 hours far northwestern Minnesota may resemble something out of early January. Elsewhere dry weather prevails, spotty showers over New England, thunder for Florida, dry weather out west, and a November-like airmass pushing southward out of Canada into the Northern Rockies and Northern Plains. 84-hour NAM loop: NOAA.

Experts See Signs Of El Nino, But A Weak One. As I mentioned a few weeks ago in the weather column and blog, recent El Nino’s have focused on the Mid Pacific, not the waters of the Eastern Pacific. This trend, in turn, has had little impact on Minnesota’s weather, with a wet bias for the Pacific Northwest and the Southeastern USA. Right now the smart money is on a wetter winter for the south, possibly the east coast, but the possible impact on the Upper Midwest is very much up in the air. Here’s an excerpt of a New York Times article: “…But after seeing signals for months that a moderate Niño might be arriving right about now, the more likely case appears to be an episode that is weak indeed: probably short, and hardly nasty or brutish. Scientists who predict the weather months in advance pay close attention to back-and-forth swings in what they call El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, which includes the mirror-image oceanic cooling called La Niña that probably made the past year’s drought worse. And recently they have been peering at their computer models from the edge of their seats, eager to detect the latest change.”

Pray For Rain. Here are some interesting facts and statistics, related to the drought’s impact on the U.S. economy, from National Journal: “…A brutally persistent drought across the Midwest is exacting a toll on U.S. growth, the Commerce Department confirmed on Thursday. The department revised its estimate of second-quarter growth for this year down to 1.3 percent from 1.7 percent. Half the drop came from plunging farm inventories due to crop loss. You don’t need to parse those stats to see drought effects across the economy now. You just need to shop for groceries. Prices are rising for grains and grain-fed livestock; last month’s producer-price index showed a whopping 23 percent jump in the price of eggs. The longer those effects persist, the worse the outlook for the U.S. economy.”

Photo credit above: AP Photo/Danny Johnston. “In this Aug. 16, 2012, file photo, dust is blown from behind a combine harvesting corn in a field near Coy, Ark.”

5-Day Rainfall Prediction. Heavy showers and T-storms are likely over Florida, rain slowly tapering across New England. Some of the 1″+ precipitation predicted for northern Minnesota will fall as heavy wet snow Thursday. Yep, it’s time. Map: NOAA HPC.

NOAA Moves GOES-14 Farther East As Possible Replacement For GOES-13. Out of the blue, GOES-13 went wonky a few weeks ago, leaving forecasters partially blind to spot developments over the central and eastern Atlantic. NOAA reports on how a replacement/back-up satellite, GOES-14, is being rushed into position to take over for GOES-13; here’s an excerpt: “Engineers began moving NOAA’s GOES-14 weather satellite farther east, to possibly replace the GOES-13 spacecraft. During the last week of September, the spacecraft, experienced technical problems with two key instruments critical for weather forecasting. When the sounder and imager instruments on GOES-13, which had been NOAA’s geostationary operational environmental satellite over the U.S. East Coast, were turned off September 23, the agency immediately configured GOES-15, the West Coast satellite, to provide additional coverage of the eastern United States and part of the Atlantic Ocean. Within a few hours, NOAA then activated its on-orbit spare satellite, GOES-14, for full service. Also, NOAA used data from the METEOSAT-9 satellite of its European partner, EUMETSAT.”

Full Earth Disk. NOAA has the latest image available from GOES-14 available here.

New Hurricane Chief Offers 5 Lessons From This Season. A lot of people underestimated Isaac – no question. Here’s an excerpt of a timely article at “Despite early and frequent warnings, the strength and breadth of a tropical storm’s fury often shocks residents, as evidenced last month when Hurricane Isaac dumped as much as 17 inches of rain over western Palm Beach County before hitting Louisiana. Rick Knabb, new director of the National Hurricane Center, hopes to change that by spelling out the dangers in simpler terms and with more detailed graphics. Eventually, the agency will be issuing new products and services, if only on an experimental basis. “Our top priority is to make sure people understand the various hazards that hurricanes and tropical storms pose — and what their particularly vulnerability is,” he said.” Image: NASA MODIS.

Warmer Oceans: Hurricanes Can Spin Up Faster. Here’s a clip from Earth Guage, part of the National Environmental Education Foundation: “…How quickly a hurricane converts the heat energy at the surface of the ocean into energy of motion in the form of winds plays a major role in determining how fast winds will be when the hurricane makes landfall. As Earth’s oceans have warmed, this time has been reduced. This trend has been particularly pronounced in the North Atlantic basin, which has been the fastest warming ocean basin since the mid-1980s, when satellites began systematically monitoring hurricanes. The time it takes storms in the North Atlantic to accelerate from a 74 mile per hour Category 1 storm to a Category 3 storm with 138 mile per hour winds has been reduced by 20 hours. ” Image: NASA.

Found: “Species” New Clouds. “Undulatus Asperatus”, if anyone asks. Chances are they won’t, but just in case, you’ll be ready, because you frequent this weather blog. Details from “…Undulatus asperatus will become the first new cloud type to be found since Cirrus intortus in 1951. “Observing the cloud is important to document the effects of global warming in the sky. Cloud can give you an answer about the temperature and climate change in the coming years,” said Pretor-Pinney. Nowadays, more and more people are interested in watching the clouds. As an illustration, CAS members numbered 30,903 people. Next year, the CAS will launch cloud observations app that allows users to share photographs and location of the cloud. Upload the user can be used for research activities.”

Photo credit above: “Clouds over Pocahontas, Missouri in “asperatus” or “undulatus asperatus” formation.” Courtesy of Wikipedia.

How Is Ocean Salinity Measured? Much of the observed warming in recent decades is going into the world’s oceans, which are now more acidic than they were 40-50 years ago. This has implications for coral reefs and marine life. NASA’s Earth Observatory has an interesting (detailed) explanation of how ocean salinity is measured; here’s an excerpt: “Salinity is a difficult variable to measure properly. It is determined by measuring the ability of seawater to conduct electricity. Though this sounds simple in principle, in practice, the measurement of salinity requires exacting standards of quality. The relevant variations in SPURS are one part in ten thousand (for comparison, a pinch of salt in a gallon of water changes its salinity by about 2 parts in ten thousand). Our instruments can measure salinity differences down to a few parts in a million.”

We have a mobile theme going today….

Will Mobile’s Massive Growth Ever Equal Real Revenue? Here’s are a couple of excerpts from an eye-opening article at AdAge: “…If publishers once lamented that offline dollars turned into “digital dimes” as content and audiences moved to the web, here’s what might be keeping them up at night: Digital dimes are turning into mobile pennies. The effective cost per thousand impressions on the desktop web is about $3.50, according to data crunched by Mary Meeker, partner at Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. On the mobile internet? A whopping 75¢…The ad experience on mobile phones is challenging for a number of reasons. The smaller screen sizes make most ads unattractive, privacy settings restrict targeting and short user sessions make providing more than one ad in front of a user nearly impossible.”

Behind The Surge In Mobile News Users. Here’s a clip from an interesting article at Media Life Magazine: “…We also know from our research that news is a social activity. People get news in part, often in significant part, because they enjoy talking about the world around them with family and friends. I think when that happens, and people have a smartphone or tablet in their hands, they go deeper. Questions come up. They answer them, whether it is video of what a politician did, or some stats about the game, or reading a story about the day’s events. It is right at hand. What is so interesting is that the more devices people have, the more they are simply adding this consumption to their days. They spend nearly equal amount of time on their desktops getting news as their tablets. And if they own a smartphone, that time is nearly equal. And if they get a print newspaper or magazine, that time is roughly equal as well. More devices, more platforms, simply equates to more consumption.”

What Mobile Means For Journalism. In an era of Twitter-fed, instant gratification news nuggets, how does journalism stay relevant in a mobile world? Personalized. Customized. Convenient. Here’s an excerpt of a thought-provoking article at Forbes: “Journalism in the digital era requires disruptive business models. Dispensing with satellite transmission and truck delivery in favor of wi-fi on planes may be part of it. So is finding a scalable model for publishing quality content that satisfies the voracious appetite of digital news consumers. Then you have to match the cost of producing it with what marketers are willing to pay. Most traditional media companies still struggle with century-old, bureaucratic editorial processes better suited for older technology. Many romantically cling to high-cost newsrooms built for a different economic and advertising climates.”

What To Expect From The iPad Mini. Details from “A smaller iPad is coming. For the first time since the iconic tablet’s launch in 2010, Apple is giving the product line an expansion. According to Fortune, we even know the date that Apple will send out its invitations: October 10.”

* has more on the swirling iPad Mini rumors here.

Red-Light Cameras Help Cash-Strapped Cities. Have you gotten a ticket from one of these automated cameras? They’re turning into a lucrative source of new funding for cities from coast to coast, as reported by; here’s an excerpt: “…As cash-strapped municipalities grapple with reduced budgets, more local governments are turning to unmanned cameras to help patrol traffic. In addition to American Traffic Solutions, competitors include Redflex Traffic Systems and Jenoptik. While the cameras are intended to enforce traffic safety, it’s no secret local governments are also looking to reduce operating costs with the cameras, said James Tuton, co-founder and chief executive of American Traffic Solutions. The cameras and subsequent traffic tickets help reduce violations. “Ninety percent of all people who get tickets don’t get another one. People don’t run red lights when they know there is a red-light camera,” Tuton said. The new technology also pulls in revenue from traffic fines—without having to pay for an officer’s salary or benefits.” File photo: Wikipedia.

Would You Live In A “Micro-Home”? Tiny homes and apartments are all the rage in some major urban areas. Why pay for space you rarely use? Is it a trend or a fad? Here’s an excerpt of an article at “…Micro-dwellings often seem a mixed salad, combining sweet and bitter together with the odd flavors of exotic dressings. Micro-dwellings offer the potential for large, overcrowded cities to bring people closer to their jobs, reduce the cost of providing infrastructural support to previously undeveloped areas, and curbing energy usage. However, these potential benefits come with a sociological price tag. There is little question that the ambiance of a neighborhood, or that of a building, is likely to change drastically if the population density increases by a factor of three to five times.” Photo:

The Power of Free Speech. I snapped this photo at the “Newseum” in Washington D.C. Monday. The next time you get to our nation’s capitol check out this (remarkable) museum focused on news-gathering over the ages. It’s right on the Mall, close to the U.S. Capitol.

Woman Scares Off Bear By Shouting. Heck, I’d run away too if I heard this. Details (and a compelling, cover-your-ears video clip) from Huffington Post; here’s an excerpt: “Don’t mess with Nishanto Grillo. This gutsy woman went toe-to-toe with an unwelcome visitor — a massive black bear — and sent the critter on its way with a series of highly annoyed shouts to leave her property. This isn’t the first time the Grillos have had a burly bear visit their home. A YouTube user named Nayana Grillo, who posted the video above on YouTube, has six other videos of a bear hanging out on the family’s deck, much to Nishanto’s chagrin.”

Fire and Ice

Your begonias are nervous. Only the immediate close-in suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul have avoided a frost. Thank the “urban heat island”. Asphalt absorbs the sun’s radiation and re-radiates that warmth at night, keeping temperatures consistently 3-8 F. warmer. In fact the growing season in the downtowns is at least 2 weeks longer than the surrounding suburbs. Good news for farmers in St. Paul

The rumors are true: after peaking in the upper 70s today a series of clippers will sneeze chilly air south of the border. A frost or freeze is likely this weekend, and this time Edina, Crystal & Maplewood will wake up to 32 F. or colder. The median date of the first 32-degree temperature at MSP is October 4, so we’re right on schedule.

Far northwestern Minnesota may pick up a plowable snow Thursday, and models are hinting at a few early flakes in the metro Saturday. I doubt anything will stick on your lawn. Last year the first flurries arrived November 9; 3 weeks later than usual. We’ll see more 60s & 70s by mid-October.

“Brutus, the blizzard?” This winter The Weather Channel will begin naming U.S. blizzards. I can’t wait. No, you can’t make this stuff up.


Climate Stories…


At The Debate: Listen For The Climate Science. President Obama acknowledges that climate science is real, but offers no coherent vision of how we can come up with a business-friendly, economy-jolting strategy to begin dealing with the problem, while Governor Romney takes an even more cautious approach. He’s not denying the science, but basically saying any solutions are too expensive. I’ll fall off my couch if the subject comes up tonight. Here’s an excerpt from Huffington Post: “When the candidates face off in Wednesday’s debate, every word they utter will be scrutinized for gaffe-ability, flip-floppiness, and sound-bite-ification. But when it comes to climate change, it’s what they aren’t saying that deserves our undivided attention. Even with the urgent reality of global warming rapidly outpacing scientific predictions, both candidates have been disturbingly silent about the two central facts of this immediate, massive, and unprecedented problem.

FACT 1: Climate change is already wreaking havoc in the U.S.
In the past four years, Americans have been struck by a barrage of climate-fueled disasters. From record heat waves to increasingly powerful storms, harvest-destroying droughts to unprecedented flooding, the impacts of climate change are now squarely being felt within our borders. But neither candidate has “connected the dots” in clear, straightforward language.”

Thousands Make Last Plea To Include Climate Change In Presidential Debate. Details from The Hartford Guardian.

* make your voice heard at

Scientists predicted that if you kept pouring billions of tons of heat trapping gases into the atmosphere, we  see more extreme temperatures, bigger deluges, worse droughts and ice melting everywhere. And  you don’t have to be a scientist to know that these things have all come true. Now  scientists are warning if we don’t act quickly to reduce  carbon pollution, we face  even more extreme consequences….”

Joseph Romm

Senior Fellow

Center for American Progress


Climate Change Could Delay Fall Foliage Colors (Video). We may be witnessing this trend across the Upper Midwest. Here’s an excerpt from a recent story (and video) from Scientific American: “Trees use a combination of cues to determine when to drop their leaves, but the two primary signals are the length of daylight, and temperature. Sunlight is the major factor; as trees sense fewer hours of light, they curtail photosynthesis in their leaves. Green chlorophyll fades, and colors emerge. Climate change has no effect on day length, but it does on temperature. If autumn days are warm, trees tend to delay the color change, and if autumn days are cool, they tend to hasten the pace. If global temperatures generally rise, you may need to take that walk a few days later. Indeed, Massachusetts officials have determined that the average peak color change has shifted about three days later over recent decades.” Photo: WNTV meteorologist Aaron Shaffer.

Military Seeks To End “The Burden” And Create Opportunities. The U.S. Navy is leading the charge, tapping biofuels to try and become less dependent on Mideast oil. Here’s an excerpt of a story at “Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, USN (ret’d) opens The Burden’s trailer with these words: “Oil, natural gas, coal have been very good for the United States …” Key to his words: “have been”. Rich natural resources have been key to America’s emergence, over the centuries, into a global powerhouse. Combined with (regulated) capitalism enabling best practices (mainly) to come to top, freedom of speech within a democratic society, and an open embrace of people from around the world, America’s rich fossil fuel resources were critical for U.S. development: from the coal powering Civil War railroads and steamships, to America’s oil fueling the Allies in World War II, to the natural gas fueling chemical industry advances, fossil fuels had a serious role in making America great.”

Half Of Great Barrier Reef Lost In Past 3 Decades. has the story; here’s a snippet: “Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is a glittering gem — the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem — chock-full of diverse marine life. But new research shows it is also in steep decline, with half of the reef vanishing in the past 27 years.  Katharina Fabricius, a coral reef ecologist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science and study co-author, told LiveScience that she has been diving and working on the reef since 1988 — and has watched the decline.”

Photo credit above: “Horseshoe reef before crown-of-thorns invasion.” Credit: AIMS Long-term Monitoring Team.

FEMA Must Require States To Plan For Climate Change’s Water-Related Impacts. The most valuable natural resource of the 21st century won’t be oil or natural gas. Water. Here’s a clip of a story from NRDC, the Natural Resources Defense Council: “And these impacts aren’t going to affect just a couple of states. As a recent NRDC study shows, a third of all counties in the continental U.S. will face high risks of water shortages and drought by mid-century as a result of global warming. It’s critically important that states plan ahead for these impacts. Natural disasters may not be entirely avoidable, but smart planning can save both money and lives by making sure that communities are prepared. The federal government has found that every dollar it spends on hazard mitigation (in other words, preparation and planning) provides the nation with about four dollars in future benefits.”

Changing California Climate A Threat To Crops. Much of America’s food is grown in California’s Central Valley, so even a slight temperature spike could make a difference. Here’s a clip from “Farmers have always been gamblers, long accustomed to betting on the probabilities of the weather. But for the Napa Valley, where temperatures have been ideal for the wine industry, shifts in the Earth’s climate could be a game-changer. “They’re used to rolling the dice every year,” said Stuart Weiss, a conservation biologist and chief scientist at the Creekside Center for Earth Observation in Menlo Park, which assists growers and municipalities dealing with the disruptions caused by the changing climate. “Now, though, climate change is stacking the dice.” During the next 30 years, Weiss estimates, the temperature in the Napa Valley will rise by 1.8 degrees – a significant shift for a wine industry whose product can be affected by the smallest of temperature changes.”

Photo credit above: “Cherry blossoms at Lodi Farming’s orchard show stress because they have not experienced enough “chill hours.” Photo: Serene Fang, California Watch / SF

Global Warming Links Democrats, Independents, Isolating Romney. Here’s an excerpt from Bloomberg BusinessWeek: “Democrats and independent voters overwhelmingly accept the scientific evidence that human activity is warming the earth’s temperature, while almost two out of three Republicans don’t. Among likely voters, 78 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents believe humans are warming the earth, according to a Bloomberg National Poll. That finding is consistent with other polls that show undecided voters, and majorities in contested states such as Ohio and Virginia are in line with President Barack Obama and most Democratic candidates in wanting to address the issue.”

Think Climate Change Isn’t Your Problem? It Will Be When You Can’t Eat. Alarmist? Maybe for the USA (although drought-stricken farmers might tell you something similar), but for much of the world, where annual harvests are not taken for granted, there is growing concern about how a trend toward more extreme heat, drought (and infrequent, but intense rainfall) will feed the world’s growing population. Here’s an excerpt from The Daily Maverick: “Climate change is ravaging the world’s nutritional supplies, and in the very near future we’ll be looking at astronomical prices for staple foods. Which will lead to starvation, conflict, and hugely increased competition for resources. Can we really afford to let that happen? I recently attended a briefing session of the High Level Panel on the post-2015 discussion in New York. If I had to measure the urgency of these discussions against the crisis the world faces, I would be tempted to jump off a precipice without a parachute.  Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace, quoted Einstein in that meeting, saying: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” That is precisely what global leaders entrusted with the stewardship of the world are doing. Their lives revolve around glittering banquets and long and dreary conferences, where they listen to each other in endless process-driven negotiations – so far from the reality of the day-to-day hardships of more than half of humanity.”

USA Drought Pushing Up Global Food Prices. Everything is interconnected. Extreme heat and drought in the USA this past summer is having a domino effect on corn and wheat prices worldwide, making it impossible for many countries to afford the basics. Here’s an excerpt from a post at “As to the substance of the video and the linkage between food prices and instability, see this New England Complex Systems Institute discussion. This summer’s droughts in the American Midwest have pushed corn and wheat prices above their previous highs in 2011 and out of the reach of the world’s poorest, threatening to trigger a new wave of global unrest — perhaps even a second Arab Spring. NECSI has shown that surges in unrest coincided with food price peaks in 2007-01 and 2010-11 [7]. During much of August and September, the price of wheat exceeded the high of $8.94 of February 2011, by which time the events of Arab Spring were underway.



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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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