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Significant Tornado Outbreak Later Today (river flooding increases – plowable snow Twin Cities)

18 Apr 2013, 5:31 am
Winter’s Last Gasp?



“You’re in the dog house, Paul” a friend told me yesterday. No, I’m several levels below the dog house. “Forget the robins – I just saw the first real sign of spring, street sweepers!” he gushed.


Uh oh. More shoveling before we get to street sweeping.



The rumors are true: heavy, slushy snow is shaping up from later today into Friday morning. I’m thinking 3-5 inches; maybe 5-8″ northern and western suburbs. Please avoid the northern & western suburbs. A band of 6-10″ may fall from St. Cloud to Duluth.



Storm warnings are posted; a sloppy mix changing to mostly snow; heaviest tonight.



Before you let out a primal scream: long range guidance shows 50F by the end of next week. 60s and even a few 70s may be roughly 2 weeks away. Not a moment too soon. Maybe this is the Old Man Winter’s last sucker punch.



The sun is as high in the sky as it was in late August. At some point (soon) we HAVE to warm up. The sun peeks out Saturday; temperatures aloft warm enough for rain Sunday.



It could be worse: Pete Boulay at the Climate Office says the latest 3″ snow in the metro was May 20, 1892. Yep, that was a tough year to be a weather guy, even worse than 2013: “The Year Spring Forgot”.



Winter Storm Warning. A warning means a significant storm is imminent – on the way. Here’s the latest from the Twin Cities National Weather Service:









Snow-Weary. For the record: I’m just as sick and tired of showing this graphic as you must be by now. Models seem to be converging on 3-6″ amounts, with more possible northern and western suburbs. Plowable tonight and early Friday. With any luck that’s the last time I have to say “plowable” for 7 months.

How Much? Here’s the 00z WSI 12 km. RPM model, hinting at some 3-6″ amounts across the Twin Cities metro, closer to 10-12″ for Duluth. That’s quite enough, thank you. Worst case: 5-8″ far northern and western suburbs by Friday morning.

Another March-Like Storm. These full-latitude storms move slowly, tapping copious moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. The greater the temperature contrast from north to south, the greater the potential for powerful jet stream winds to spin up a major storm (and a significant tornado threat in the warm sector). NAM model: NOAA.

Significant Tornado Outbreak? There should be sufficient low-level moisture, instability (CAPE) and wind shear for potentially large, violent, long-track tornadoes later today. SPC has elevated the risk to moderate from Chicago and South Bend to St. Louis and Memphis. It looks like a busy, and potentially violent afternoon and evening over the Mississippi River Valley. Map: SPC and Ham Weather.



Minnesota Tornado Drill Later Today. In spite of the snowy mix, the test of the sirens will go on today, and I suspect the timing is good, because I’m anticipating a severe May, statewide, as warm, moisture-laden air finally surges north (in a very unstable, sheared environment – ripe for supercells). We’ll see, but I suspect local TV meteorologists will be very busy in May and June. Here’s more information on today’s drill from Todd Krause at the local Twin Cities NWS:

Minnesota Schedule for Thursday, April 18, 2013:

1:00 p.m. Test watch.  Offices will issue this via Special Weather Statement.  SPC is not issuing a test watch due to the severe threat tomorrow.
1:45 p.m.  Test Tornado Warning (TOR) issued by all six weather offices that serve Minnesota. Weather Radios will activate with the real TOR code.
2:00 p.m.  Test Severe Weather Statement (SVS) issued by all six weather offices to announce the end of the test warning. No alarm on weather radio.
6:55 pm.  Test Tornado warning (TOR) issued by all six weather offices that serve Minnesota. Weather Radios will activate with the real TOR code.
7:10 pm.  Test Severe Weather Statement (SVS) issued by all six weather offices to announce the end of the test warning. No alarm on weather radio.



* Due to a risk of severe storms over Wisconsin later today the drill has been delayed until Friday. Details:

Wisconsin Schedule for Friday, April 19, 2013:

1:00 p.m. Test watch.  The test “Watch County Notification” (WCN) with the list of counties will be issued by all five weather offices that serve Wisconsin.  SPC will also issue a test WOU.  Weather Radios will activate with the real TOA code.
1:45 p.m.  Test Tornado Warning (TOR) issued by all weather offices that serve Wisconsin. Weather Radios will activate with the real TOR code.
2:00 p.m.  Test Severe Weather Statement (SVS) issued to announce the end of the test warning. No alarm on weather radio.




High-Tech Clear Channel Billboards Will Deliver Tornado Warnings. Here’s a press release from Dan Luna, Meteorologist In Charge of the Twin Cities National Weather Service, that caught my eye yesterday:


Today I had the pleasure of participating in a press release with Hennepin and Ramsey County EM’s, Hennepin County Board Chair, MN State Highway patrol, and the President of Clear Channel Outdoor Communications. “Tornado warnings on ClearChannel Signs Debut During Severe Weather Awareness Week”

The EMs in Ramsey and Hennepin Counties partnered with Clear Channel to display our tornado warnings on electronic billboards, assuming the warning polygon falls in the siren zones. In other words, if we issue a tor for western Hennepin (not Minneapolis) the billboards in Minneapolis will display their typical advertising. if the polygon/siren zone falls within downtown Minneapolis, the warnings will displace the advertisement. There are 47 billboards that can display the warning, most in the west and south areas of Hennepin County.




In addition, Hennepin County has 6 other electronic signs with will display similar information. 


Future endeavors include the MNDOT signs on the freeway system, and electronic signs on Lake Minnetonka warning of not only “No Wake” zones, but severe weather too. The Hennepin County EM and I have been working on this for the last several months. Hennepin County purchased about 13 weather sensors recently and we should get that data in the near future. Wright County is looking at purchasing a few sensors as well.




Attached (photo above) is a photo of our Hennepin County EM (Eric Waage) at this mornings press release, with “test” Tornado Warning on 3 different billboards in downtown Minneapolis.”



* This is a promising development. As I’ve been saying for years, the more sources of critical, time-sensitive information, especially tornado warnings, the greater the odds you’ll get the potentially life-saving nugget of information in time to do something about it. That means NOAA Weather Radio, local TV and radio, sirens, apps on smart phones, Internet e-mail alerts, and now “smart billboards”.


East Coast Rebuilding, But Vulnerable To Future Sandy’s. Here’s a clip from Live Science: “In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, local governments are rethinking how to best protect the U.S. coastline from storms and flooding, which appear likely to exert a larger toll as the result of sea level rise and climate change. The coast is now much less protected for the next storm, because Sandy’s storm surge and winds destroyed dunes, flood walls and other barriers, said Joe Vietri, director of coastal and storm risk management for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, at a news conference here today (April 17)…”

Photo credit above: “Coastal damage caused by Hurricane Sandy“. U.S. Geological Society.

Weather Training Organization In Jeopardy After Weather Service Cuts. Details from The Capital Weather Gang; here’s an excerpt: “The nation’s leading online training program for meteorologists is pleading for a cash infusion from users in the wake of government spending cuts that threaten its survival. The program, known as COMET, provides online training courses to more than 275,000 meteorologists, pilots, emergency managers, other professionals, and students according to its parent organization, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), COMET’s director, Dr. Rich Jeffries, said the program has a $2 million deficit due to the recent cuts, which have come primarily from NOAA’s National Weather Service but also from Department of Defense and overseas partners. The National Weather Service, COMET’s main funder, has been forced to reduce spending due to its own budget woes.  Yesterday, it announced a plan to furlough employees for 4 days as a cost savings measure…”

“Miracle Of The Robins”. After the tragedy in Boston, and the drip-drip of less than pleasant weather news in recent weeks, it was a nice change of pace to get this YouTube video, showing an estimated 100 robins descending on one yard, according to Patricia Keiper: “I have 100% proof that spring is here. How does a hundred American Robins in one place grab you? LOL. They appeared in my backyard courtyard on Tax Day.” Patricia, I hope it’s a good omen of warm fronts to come…



Celestial Magic. I’ve seen a lot of great photos (and I want to thank everyone who has taken the time and effort to forward me a photo or video – I take nothing for granted). But this one took my breath away, courtesy of Steve Burns, who captured the Northern Lights and the Milky Way up at Voyageur National Park last weekend. He earned this photo, camping out in subzero weather to get the money shot: “This was taken about 3 am on Sunday morning as the galactic center of the Milky Way was rising to the east and the aurora was dancing to the north. It’s a 180-degree stitch of 7 vertical captures from northwest to southeast. The light pollution at the very left is International Falls and on the far right is Ely. The aurora is a little over-exposed, but I wanted 30 second exposures for each shot to maintain consistency and really bring out the stars and foreground.” Mission accomplished Steve. Great work.


Environmental Commission Hosting Climate Change Discussion Thursday Night. I’m looking forward to spending some time in Edina, joined by Fresh Energy Scientist J. Drake Hamilton (who will talk about solutions, and ways to save money by shrinking your carbon footprint. Details from Edina Patch: “Local Meteorologist Paul Douglas will be on hand Thursday night, April 18, as Edina’s Energy & Environment Commission hosts a discussion about climate change at Edina High School. The event is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., with a resource fair outside of EHS’ Fick Auditorium. Following that, a presentation titled “What’s Up with the Weather?” will run from 7-8:30 p.m. Douglas and J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director for Fresh Energy, will lead the discussion, explaining what normal weather patterns are and what science is currently indicating. “Attendees will walk away with a broader understanding of what science is telling us about climate change and what they can do to help reduce their carbon footprint,” said City of Edina Environmental Engineer Ross Bintner. “There are many things we can do that can help make a difference…”

Hawaiian Shirt Friday. Hey, it isn’t every day you get to give a speech wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Last Friday I gave a presentation on disruption, reinvention, and my crazy business experience over the years at Century College in White Bear Lake. To warm things up attendees were encouraged to wear (bad) shirts. Hey, it helped. Thanks to the amazing support staff and students at Century – I appreciate your hospitality!

“If You’re Afraid Of Failing…You Won’t Get Very Far” The immortal words of Apple Founder Steve Jobs. Some words of wisdom for all of us in this classic video clip courtesy of Business Insider: ” This YouTube video of Steve Jobs is making the rounds again and for good reason. It’s less than two minutes long and it encapsulates one of the best bits of advice Steve Jobs ever offered on how to succeed. In it, he tells of the story of being a 12-year-old kid who picked up the phone and called legendary tech founder Bill Hewlett to ask him for spare parts. Hewlett wound up giving him a job and that’s where Jobs became friends with Woz and the inklings of Apple were born. It’s from an interview Jobs did in 1994.”

What Will The World Look Like In 50 Years? It’s a tough question to answer. We all hope that things will be better for our kids and grandkids. Sustainable growth, ways to grow the economy and empower (and feed) people worldwide, while respecting the environment. Tapping neural networks and crowd-sourcing to tackle emerging problems. It’s in our DNA to focus on today, what’s in front of us – we have a much harder time reimagining the future. Here’s a video clip from that may just get the gears cranking: Editor’s note: This is an update from Ashoka at the Skoll World Forum.  This post was originally found on Forbes and was written by Felicity McLean, the communications manager at Ashoka UKIn our world of both exponential growth and accelerating innovation, systems of repetition are “doomed to collapse.” We need to make radical changes to the frameworks in which we operate. The world is now an interconnected neural network, where problems are considered shared and where solutions are crowdsourced—we’re no longer living in silos. This power of connection has begun—and will continue—to reveal what we are capable of. We must work together to redefine what “growth” and “development” really mean…”



Wow Lense For iPhone Puts More Lenses Within Easy Reach. Attention iPhone fans – here’s a gadget that may sharpen up your next photos, courtesy of “The iPhone comes with a competent camera out of the box, but it could be better. We’ve seen a set of the third-party lenses called the iPhone Lens Dial that provides all kinds of creativity options for photographers, but it’s a little on the large side, and probably not something you would want to have on your phone all the time. The WoW Lens features a similar design, but it’s quite a bit smaller and much more likely to remain on the iPhone even when not in use…”


In Beijing Housing Is So Expensive That Migrant Workers Are Living In Bomb Shelters. Here’s an excerpt of an eye-opening story at Quartz: “The numbers are undeniably mind-boggling: An estimated two million people in Beijing are said to be living below the earth’s surface, in thousands of 100-square-foot spaces located just one or two stories below street level. These figures have been making headlines (and trending upwards) for a couple of years now. Assuming they’re accurate, that would mean 10 percent of the city’s 20 million people sleep in windowless, subterranean residences. That they are there speaks to the crushingly expensive housing market in China’s bulging top-tier cities. The makeshift conversion of approximately 20,000 antiquated bomb shelters and basements across Beijing has also no doubt led to a rise in dangerous living conditions: it’s common to find multiple people sharing these small emergency shelters made only slightly more hospitable with space heaters and hot plates…”

Photo credit above: “As many as 2 million people live underground in Beijing.” AP Photo/Andy Wong.

Climate Stories….

The “Hockey Stick” Slaps Back. Here’s an excerpt of a very informative post summarizing recent papers and trends from “…STILL not convinced? Then we will go even further back in time, to the EPICA-1 ice cores in Antarctica (Siegenthaler et al., 2005), which drilled back over 680,000 years into the past. This core recovered air samples from trapped gas bubbles that gives us an isotopic and carbon dioxide record through the past 6 or 7 glacial-interglacial cycles (each lasting about 110,000 years, and due to the Milankovitch orbital eccentricity cycle that has been well known for decades). As these records show, at no time during any of the previous interglacial cycles did the atmospheric carbon dioxide level exceed 300 ppm, even at the warmest part—yet our planet is well above 350 ppm today, and shooting rapidly to 400 ppm in a few years and possibly to 600 ppm before the end of the century. THAT is not natural “climate variability” by any stretch of the imagination!…”

Global Warming Affects Seasonal Rainfall Patterns. Here’s the intro to a review of a recent research paper at “Two mechanisms have been found to complement each other and together shape the spatial distribution of seasonal rainfall in the tropics, according to the study by a group of Chinese and Hawaii scientists published in the 14 April 2013 online issue of Nature Geoscience. The one mechanism, called “wet-gets-wetter”, predicts that rainfall should increase in regions that already have much rain, with a tendency for dry regions to get dryer. The second mechanism, called the “warmer-gets-wetter”, predicts rainfall should increase in regions where sea surface temperature rises above the tropical average warming…”

Clean Energy Progress Too Slow To Limit Global Warming, Warns IEA. The Guardian has details: “The development of low-carbon energy is progressing too slowly to limit global warming, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Wednesday. With power generation still dominated by coal and governments failing to increase investment in clean energy, top climate scientists have said that the target of keeping the global temperature rise to less than 2C this century is slipping out of reach. “The drive to clean up the world’s energy system has stalled,” said Maria van der Hoeven, the IEA’s executive director, at the launch of the agency’s report on clean energy progress…”

Photo credit above: “The development of low-carbon energy is progressing too slowly to limit global warming, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.” Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Liberal Senator To Activists: Make Climate Change Like Immigration, Gay Rights. Here’s an excerpt of a story at The Hill: “…I think there is a shift at the state level,” he said, noting participation of some GOP governors in climate initiatives and that governors also “see the value of green energy in their states.” “I think there is a latent movement within the Republican power structure,” Whiethouse said. “The real question is, if you are concerned about the future of the Republican Party, do you want to have the image of that party, as this generation grows up, to be that they were the party that stopped and opposed action on what likely will be the most important issue in these kids’ lives, and did so on the basis of a lot of propaganda and lies from the polluting industry. That is a narrative that can’t be good for the party,” Whitehouse said…”

EarthTalk: 4-Step Plan For U.S. To Ease Global Warming. Here’s an excerpt from the NRDC and WestportNews: “…Step 1 is to cut global warming pollution via “strong legislation that caps carbon emissions and makes polluters pay for the global warming gases they produce.” Step 2 involves investing more in green jobs and clean energy. Producing more fuel efficient cars constitutes Step 3. Creating green homes and buildings is Step 4. Step 5: Build more sustainable communities and transportation networks. Individuals need to play a role, too, by altering our behaviors to reduce our individual carbon footprints. NRDC has several suggestions along these lines as well. Walking, biking or using public transit instead of driving is one. If you must drive, make sure for best gas mileage that your car is tuned and your tires are properly inflated. If in need of a new car, look into a hybrid or electric that consumes less or no gasoline…”

Photo credit above: “Building sustainable transportation systems that would reduce scenes like traffic-clogged I-95, is one of the steps to reducing the greenhouse gases that are fueling global warming.” Photo: Keelin Daly

“Climate Has Always Changed”. That’s a true statement, but now, for the first time, man is impacting, in a significant way, the chemistry of the atmosphere, by burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Here is a good response to the “hey, climate has always changed!” meme, from veteran Denver TV meteorologist Mike Nelson, at The Yale Forum On Climate Change And The Media: “…It is absolutely true that the Earth’s climate has cycled through great changes over the course of our geologic history. These changes are obvious in the fossil record — my home town area of Denver was once under a great shallow ocean. These changes result from a variety of causes, from volcanoes to continental drift to the shift in Earth’s orbit on its journey around the Sun, to changes in the output of energy from the Sun. One of the key components to our Ice Ages has been what are called Milankovitch Cycles. These long-term changes in the shape of our orbit and the shift in the tilt of the Earth work like the complex gears of a clock, gradually switching our planet from Ice Age to warmer periods and back again. The Milankovitch Cycles are well documented and have been a primary driver of our changing climate for hundreds of thousands to millions of years. Now, for the first time in the Earth’s history, there is evidence that these gears may be impacted by changes in the atmospheric chemistry — changes that are being caused by human activity…”

U.S. Needs A Better Disaster Plan. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Los Angeles Times that resonated: “…Natural disasters have become increasingly costly to the United States, both in terms of the toll they take on American communities and in the direct costs of mounting a federal response. The federal government spent about $150 billion on relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina, and has so far committed about $60 billion for Superstorm Sandy. The best estimate going forward is that the federal government will spend in the neighborhood of $50 billion a year (in constant dollars) on natural disasters, up from less than $10 billion a decade ago. What accounts for this increase? In the words of environmental geographer Gilbert White, “Floods are acts of God, but flood losses are largely acts of man.” Although climate change may be making the occurrence of major storms and floods more frequent, poor planning and bad development decisions are making disasters more expensive…”



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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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