Paul Douglas is a nationally respected meteorologist with 33 years of television and radio experience. A serial entrepreneur, Douglas is Senior Meteorologist for WeatherNation TV, a new, national 24/7 weather channel with studios in Denver and Minneapolis. Founder of Media Logic Group, Douglas and a team of meteorologists provide weather services for media at Broadcast Weather, and high-tech alerting and briefing services for companies via Alerts Broadcaster. His speaking engagements take him around the Midwest with a message of continuous experimentation and reinvention, no matter what business you’re in. He is the public face of “SAVE”, Suicide Awareness, Voices of Education, based in Bloomington. | Send Paul a question.

Weather Amnesia - Growing Thunder Risk over the Weekend

Posted by: Paul Douglas Updated: May 29, 2014 - 11:36 PM

Weather Amnesia

A friend of mine at the office explained a recent epiphany. "I rode my bike to work - blue sky, gentle breezes, chirping birds - for a few precious minutes I almost forgot about our nasty winter" he sighed.

One female friend compared the last 6 months to the meteorological equivalent of childbirth. That may be a stretch, but I get her point.

Our on-again, off-again spring has given way to a fast-forward summer, with all the 'fixins.

Mid-80s will lure you outside again today; no chance of red blobs showing up on Doppler. Take advantage of a quiet sky because a stalled frontal zone will spark a sloppy parade of showers and heavier T-storms from Saturday afternoon into Tuesday of next week. NOAA models predict some 2-3 inch rainfall amounts by the middle of next week; heaviest amounts over central and northern Minnesota, where many waterlogged farmers are already hurting from incessant rains and muddy fields.

A brewing El Nino favors a wetter, slightly cooler summer for Minnesota and most of the Upper Midwest; we'll see if that semi-educated guess pans out.

Hurricane season kicks off Sunday, and the GFS model still tries to bring a tropical system into Florida late next week.

No storms with names for Minnesota.


.96" of rain forecast from Saturday afternoon into early Monday at KMSP. (NAM model).


30 Day Rainfall Departures. Much of the Twin Cities metro has seen 1-2" more rain than average since late April, a band of +4-5" departures from near Little Falls to Sandstone and much of western Wisconsin. While farms over far southwest and north central Minnesota are running a 2" rainfall deficit over the last 30 days.


Fickle (Torrential) Rains. Rainfall deviations are as much as 5-8" above average (for just the last 30 days!) from near Houston to New Orleans, Mobile and the Florida Panhandle, the I-95 corridor from Washington D.C. to New York has picked up as much as 3-6" more than than average since April 29. Source: NOAA.


84 Hour Future Radar. Data from NOAA's NAM model and HAMweather shows a cool front stalling over the Upper Midwest over the weekend, acting as a focal point for scattered showers and heavy T-storms. Meanwhile a persistent cyclonic circulation keeps torrential rains over the Lower Mississippi Valley; a storm off the east coast keeping New England in a cool northerly flow through the period.


More Gulley-Washers. NOAA's 7-Day rainfall guidance shows as much as 2-4" of rain from the Dakotas into northern and central Minnesota and Wisconsin; more heavy T-storms from the central Plains into the Lower Mississippi Valley, where some 5-8" amounts are possible. While the southwest remains bone-dry.


Lightning Risk. It may seem counterintuitive, but the threat of being struck by lightning is greatest prior to, and just after heavy rain associated with thunderstorms. All thunderstorms, by definition, produce potentially deadly cloud to ground lightning, and many people are struck immediately before, and after the storm hits. Just because it's not raining doesn't mean the threat is low - lightning can travel up to 10 miles from the parent thunderhead. Here's an excerpt of a good explanation from NOAA: "In the first graph, the threat of lightning increases as a thunderstorm approaches, reaches a peak when the storm is overhead, and then gradually diminishes as the storm moves away. At the same time, it’s people’s behavior that determines the risk of a fatal lightning strike. While some people move inside at the first signs of a thunderstorm, many people wait far too long to get to a safe place. Some wait until the thunderstorm is overhead and it starts to rain. Others, due to poor planning, are caught outside and can’t get to a safe place. Although most people got inside, some put themselves at risk by touching items that could become electrified by a nearby lightning strike. Finally, many people go outside too soon after the storm has seemingly passed, often only waiting for the rain to become lighter or end. It is all of these  unsafe behaviors that put people at risk when thunderstorm are in the area..."


Effective Tornado-Proof Houses and Rooms: Can They Be Built? Given enough steel-reinforced concrete it's possible to make any building more tornado-resilient, although tornado-proof may be wishful thinking. But can reinforced "safe rooms" be added which will withstand most tornadoes? Here's an excerpt of a story at The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang: "...By the way, it bears repeating (from the earlier post) that even the relatively small expense of a safe room might seem unnecessary to some, as statistics have shown that even in tornado alley, the chances of a particular home being struck by a tornado during its rated life span of 50 years is only about 1%. On the other hand, keep in mind that if you are in that 1%, the destructive force of a 150 mph wind is not 3 times that of a 50 mph wind—it’s more like 9 times! And in case you’re wondering, the Texas Tech Wind Science and Engineering Research Center has grave misgivings about remote underground shelters—even though they’re in considerable use–because people tend to wait until the last possible minute before taking refuge, thereby subjecting themselves to flying debris, etc.)..."

File photo: Andrew Graettinger, University of Alabama.


Tornado Titillation or Public Service? So is airing tornado footage, after the fact, a good idea? Does it tempt others, without training or experience, to rush headlong into supercells with iPhones held high, tempting fate in the process? There's anecdotal evidence that streaming LIVE tornado footage from webcam, spotters or chasers confirms the fact that there's a life-threatening storm moving in, prompting people to take action and head for the basement or another shelter. I asked Severe Studios founder Kory Hartman for his thoughts in the wake of the (reckless) tornado footage from Watford City, North Dakota: "El Reno killed some of the best and most knowledgeable chasers of all time. If that somehow inspires people to grab a Camaro and a camcorder and go flying after storms at 90mph with no experience, then God help them." He added "live video is very valuable as the "social science" confirmation that a tornado is heading toward a person's house. The video of chasers getting hit by tornadoes should be a "caution" to people. After El Reno, most of my chasers have learned to leave earlier, have more escape routes, stay to the south/southeast of the storm, take others with for navigation, etc."

* image above is a Doppler radar velocity field showing the enormous EF-5 tornado that hit El Reno, Oklahoma on May 31, 2013, killing at least one amateur storm chaser and 3 tornado research veterans, including Tim Samaras. The red dots are locations of storm spotters relative to the tornado vortex.


Hurricane Forecasters: Unpredictable Paths to Fame. Here's an excerpt from AP and The Houston Chronicle: "We see them on TV, braving tornadoes and hurricanes and flooding. Delivering the weather has put a whole new group of celebrities on the national radar: meteorologists. But what path did they take to become so well known? For some, it was a childhood obsession with storms; for others, it was a fortuitous but unpredictable turn of events With the Atlantic hurricane season opening Sunday, here are three of the nation's most well-known meteorologists and how they reached the top of their field..."

File photo above: Andy Newman/AP. "In this Aug. 31, 2006 file photo, National Hurricane Center director Max Mayfield briefs a Charleston, S.C., television audience on the progress of Tropical Storm Ernesto, at the hurricane center in Miami. Delivering the weather has put a whole new group of celebrities on the national radar: meteorologists. Mayfield, the retired director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, became an accidental TV personality following Hurricane Katrina in 2005."


Researchers Turn To Drones To Gather Hurricane Information. Because drones can capture real-time data that Hurricane Hunter aircraft can't. Here's an excerpt of a great article from AP and Longview's News-Journal: "...Hurricane hunter aircraft typically don’t fly below 5,000 feet and can’t descend below 1,500 feet, and real-time radar doesn’t provide information about the thermodynamics at work inside a storm’s cloudy core. Canisters stuffed with electronics dropped from the planes transmit data about a storm’s pressure, temperature, winds and moisture as they fall to the ocean, but they remain airborne for only a few minutes. The kind of drone that Cione plans to launch from the hurricane hunters will spend hours descending slowly, cruising on the air currents spinning through a storm, possibly even orbiting a hurricane’s eyewall..."


125 Years After Johnstown: Facts About The Flood. Here's a snippet of an interesting piece from AP and seattlepi.com: " A privately owned dam collapsed in western Pennsylvania 125 years ago on May 31, 1889, unleashing a flood that killed 2,209 people. The terrible stories from the Johnstown Flood of 1889 are still part of lore because of the gruesome nature of many of the deaths and the key role it played in the rise of the American Red Cross. Here's some of what's known about the flood, one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history..."

File photo credit: "In this 1889 file photograph, people stand atop houses among ruins after disastrous flooding in Johnstown, Pa. Facts, figures and anecdotes about the Johnstown flood in Pennsylvania, which killed 2,209 people 125 years ago, gave the Red Cross its first international response effort and helped set a precedent for American liability law." Photo: Uncredited, AP.


Mobile Is Eating Global Attention: 10 Graphs on the State of the Internet. Here's an interesting article at The Atlantic that shows how advertising has yet to catch up with the fastest-growing form of media consumption: mobile devices. An excerpt: "...Eyes move faster than ads. It was true for TV: In 1941, when the first television ads appeared with local baseball games, radio and print dominated the media advertising market. Now it's true for mobile, which is practically a glass appendage attached to working Americans and commands more attention than radio and print combined, even though it only commands 1/20th of US ad spending. Google and Facebook own the future of mobile advertising, for now. But the present of mobile monetization isn't ads. It's apps..."


Skype Translator Means Never Having To Learn Another Language Again. This is pretty cool, I have to admit. Details via Huffington Post: "Language barriers are about to be broken way down. Microsoft showed off its Skype Translator feature at the inaugural Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, on Tuesday. Skype Translator allows users speak to into the video chatting service in their language of choice. The words are then translated into the recipient's preferred language. The system will hear users' words and do its best to translate them in real time. The display will show a text translation of what was just spoken in case the automated voice isn't able to handle a pronunciation or moves too fast..."


GF7 Car Design Could Legally Hit 550 MPH - In The Sky. I've been a little disappointed with the 21st century. Internet speeds are faster and I can do some pretty cool things on my smart phone, but where are the computerized butlers and flying cars? We may be one step closer to the flying car fantasy, according to Gizmag: "Greg Brown and Dave Fawcett are working on an design that they hope will yield something we've spent decades waiting for – a flying jet-propelled car. A sleek cross between a business jet with a luxury automobile, the GF7 drives on electric motors while on the ground, then can extend wings and use a 3,500-lb thrust jet engine to fly to 38,000 ft (12,000 m) and speeds of 550 mph (885 km/h). The (obvious) catch: if this ambitious project does get of the ground, it won't come cheap..."

Someone's not getting a refund from the IRS:


84 F. high in the Twin Cities Thursday.
 
73 F. average high on May 29.
 
76 F. high on May 29, 2013.
 
May 29 in Minnesota Weather History. Source: Twin Cities NWS.

1998: Devastating line of storms hits east central Minnesota. 100 mph winds in Scott and Dakota County. Over 500 homes damaged in Washington County. 15,000 trees lost in the Twin City metro area. 500,000 without power in Minneapolis.

1985: Tornado hits Lakefield. The Twin Cities report 67 mph winds.


TODAY: Warm sunshine, dry. Winds: SE 10-15 Dew point: 60. High: 86

FRIDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy and humid. Low: 67

SATURDAY: Muggy, PM T-storms likely. Winds: S 15. High: 84

SUNDAY: Front stalls, more T-storms. Dew point: 65. Wake-up: 68. High: 83

MONDAY: Rain & T-storms, locally heavy rain. Wake-up: 67. High: 81

TUESDAY: Showers taper, turning cooler. Wake-up: 64. High: 77

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, drying out. Wake-up: 60. High: 78

THURSDAY: Intervals of sticky sun. Wake-up: 59. High: near 80


Climate Stories...

IPCC Co-Chairman Says Scientists Being Intimidated By Climate Change Deniers. The Irish Times has the story - here's the introduction: "Global warming deniers have been involved in a “concerted campaign to isolate individual scientists and destroy them,” according to one of the co-chairmen of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Prof Thomas Stocker, Swiss-born co-chairman of the panel’s working group on the scientific basis for climate change, said the campaign to undermine its fifth assessment report was led by “people and organisations with vested interests”...


Obama Raises Stakes Against GOP Skeptics. A "creeping national security crisis?" National Journal has the story - here's a clip: "President Obama's foreign policy speech to West Point graduates Wednesday leveled a serious charge against Republicans who deny human-induced climate change: You're threatening national security. Check out the progression of the few climate sentences in Obama's wide-ranging remarks. He starts by telling the grads that battling global warming requires global cooperation. Then he says climate change is "a creeping national security crisis that will help shape your time in uniform, as we're called on to respond to refugee flows, natural disasters, and conflicts over water and food..."


The Coming Political Explosion Over Climate Change. Here's an excerpt from an analysis at The Washington Post: "...This is also the latest sign climate change could actually become something of an issue in this year’s campaigns, something environmentalists have long hoped for. Obviously climate change will not be a central issue in Senate races. But the topic will probably get more attention than usual. In part, that’s because more GOP candidates appear to have dabbled in climate skepticism. Among them: Tillis, Terri Land in Michigan, Cory Gardner in Colorado, and Joni Ernst in Iowa..."

Image above: Clean Technica.


New Video: Neil deGrasse Tyson Destroys Climate Deniers. If you haven't checked out "Cosmos" yet on National Geographic you should, especially this upcoming Monday. Here's a link to a video preview and story from Mother Jones science writer Chris Mooney: "...Courtesy of National Geographic, above is a clip from the new episode, which should have climate deniers fulminating. In it, host Neil deGrasse Tyson uses the analogy of walking a dog on the beach to helpfully explain the difference between climate and weather (pay attention, Donald Trump) and to outline why, no matter how cold you were in January, that's no argument against global warming. We've seen the rest of the episode already, and won't spill the beans. But suffice it to say that it contains some powerful refutations of a number of other global warming denier talking points, as well as some ingenious sequences that explain the planetary-scale significance of climate change..."

* "Keep your eye on the man, not the dog". deGrasse's Cosmos YouTube clip describing the difference between weather and climate is a brilliant.


WSJ's Shameful Climate Denial: The Scientific Consensus is not a Myth. Here's an excerpt from Salon: "Climate change is a tricky subject to talk about: It’s a large, complex scientific issue that’s both difficult to grasp in full and extremely important for the public to understand. In our shorthand for making sense of it, one statistic is often thrown about: 97 percent of scientists agree that man-made climate change is happening. Yet a big, impressive-looking Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal asserts the number is a “myth.” WSJ’s claim is wrong, of course, but where its authors fail to debunk a popular meme, they also manage to make a much more insidious, and radical, argument..."

Image credit above: "Rupert Murdoch." (Credit: Reuters/David Gray/Volodymyr Goinyk via Shutterstock/Salon).


An Animated Map Of The Last 160 Years Of Carbon Emissions Worldwide. Thanks to Slate and io9.com for making this available; here's a clip: "Just how does the carbon dioxide pollution of today compare with that of the past? Not very well, as this animated map of where and when carbon emissions have increased across the globe since 1850 reveals. The map is the work of Slate's Eric Holthaus and Chris Kirk, who used the recent update to the World Resources Institute's data on carbon emissions to put it together..."


Carbon Dioxide Passes Global 400 ppm Milestone. Climate Central has an update; here's the introduction: "...A new carbon dioxide milestone has been reached according to the World Meteorological Agency. Average carbon dioxide measurements at all monitoring stations in the northern hemisphere were above 400 parts per million for the month of April, the first time that’s been recorded in human history. Previous reports from the Mauna Loa Observatory, the longest continually running CO2 monitoring site in the world, showed that the average CO2 concentration for April was above 400 ppm. On Monday, the WMO reported that the 11 other northern hemisphere monitoring stations that continuously monitor CO2 also surpassed the 400 ppm mark for the month..."

Graphic credit above: "The location and April average CO2 levels measured at 12 World Meteorological Organization monitoring stations around the globe." Data: World Meteorological Organization.


Obama To Offer Rules To Sharply Curb Power Plants' Carbon Emissions. The New York Times has an update; here's the introduction: "President Obama will use his executive authority to propose a global warming regulation that would cut carbon pollution from the nation’s coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent and pave the way for the creation of state cap-and-trade programs without having to go through a reluctant Congress, according to people familiar with the rule. The proposed regulation, written by the Environmental Protection Agency and set to be unveiled Monday by Mr. Obama at the White House, would be the strongest action ever taken by an American president to tackle climate change and could become one of the defining elements of Mr. Obama’s legacy..."


Climate Change a Top Priority, Says ExxonMobil CEO. I had to pick myself up off the floor after reading this one. The CEO of ExxonMobile acknowledging man-made climate change? I want to give anyone the benefit of a doubt, and the ability to change their mind based on data and facts on the ground. Will technological innovation save us from ourselves? Here's an excerpt from Natural Gas Intelligence: "...He (ExxonMobile CEO Rex Tillerson) asked shareholders to "rightfully acknowledge" that climate change "is the most complex area of scientific and social conversation anyone's having today. It is extremely complex. And it is one that's not going to be a ready set of solutions that are going to fit the world's peoples because the world's peoples all have varying needs in this stage of their development, which is why it makes it so complex. "We do support and engage in, and will continue to engage in, active dialogue." Among other things, ExxonMobil scientists have continued to be actively engaged with the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said Tillerson..."


Beetles and Climate Change Helped Create This Huge Wildfire in Alaska. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus explains at Slate; here's a clip: "...This particular fire has grown so large as a result of “years of spruce bark beetle infestation,” he told me. The bugs have killed and weakened countless trees in this area, creating more kindling. That’s forced fire command agencies to take a step back and essentially let the fire burn, for safety reasons: “You can’t put people into an area where a bunch of trees have died and fallen.” The U.S. Forest Service predicts that “the greatest risk to spruce forests over the next 30 years will be in Alaska,” as spruce beetles expand their attack on trees..."

File photo above: "Trees turning red in forests that have been attacked by the mountain pine beetles in Montana, July 7, 2011. Some scientists are increasingly worried that as the warming accelerates, trees themselves could become climate change victims on a massive scale." (Josh Haner/The New York Times).


Government's Weather Forecasters Shouldn't Discuss Climate Change, Says Environment Canada. Here's an excerpt of an interesting post from Mike De Souza: "Weather forecasters at Environment Canada aren’t supposed to discuss climate change in public, says a Canadian government spokesman. Environment Canada made the comments in response to emailed questions about its communications policy. The department defended its policy by suggesting that Environment Canada meteorologists – among the most widely-quoted group of government experts in media reports and broadcasts – weren’t qualified to answer questions about climate change. “Environment Canada scientists speak to their area of expertise,” said spokesman Mark Johnson in an email..."

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