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Paul Douglas on Weather

Monday Meteorological Madness (2 waves of hailstorms approaching from the northeast)

Pushing the Weather

It's human nature. We plan out our summers, scheduling outdoor events with grim determination, praying for divine intervention. "I'm going to get this in even if it kills me!" Careful what you wish for.

In recent days Minnesotans have been struck by lightning; some of these injuries were avoidable.

Although we can't eliminate risk altogether there are steps you can take to reduce the threat of being struck. When you hear the first growl of thunder head indoors; any building or even a vehicle offers solid protection.

Lightning is lazy; it takes the easiest path from cloud to the ground. Which means you don't want to be the tallest thing in the area. Avoid lakes, fields, golf courses, swimming pools and loitering near tall trees. If you want to live a long life don't push the weather.

We salvage a rare dry, thunder-free Tuesday with 70s, a fresh breeze and less humidity. Considering we could be broiling in the 90s there's nothing wrong with this forecast: highs in the 70s and low 80s ; not a hot front in sight.

My nervous twitch is back. 4th of July - what can possibly go wrong? No promises but it still looks good: partly sunny, low 80s, probably dry.

I am cautiously optimistic.


* File photo above courtesy of Bob Israel at RJI Photography.


Serious "Hailers". The photos above showed the size of the hail that hit the northwest metro. Sheena Nelson snapped the upper left photo in Rogers. Her brother, Aaron Weidner in Otsego took the photo of quarter size hail in the upper right. There were some reports of 2"+ diameter hail in some suburbs. Details below.


Mixed Up Storms. 90 to 95% of the time "weather" approaches from the southwest, west or northwest. Yesterday steering currents aloft were blowing from the north-northeast, circulating around a cold upper level low over Wisconsin. As a result hail-producing storms moved in from the NNE, catching many people off-guard. At 8:47 PM NWS Doppler radar shows reports of 1-2" diameter hail and a vivid outflow boundary, a miniature cool front sparked by rain and hail-cooled air, pushing westward out ahead of the severe cells.


Rough Monday. Here is a preliminary (chronological) list of severe weather reports in the metro area. Click here for a long list of hail reports, most in the 1-2" diameter range, but some as big as 2.5" (golfball size).


Thunder and Smoke. You can clearly see the veil of smoke surging southward into the Dakotas and Minnesota yesterday, and the strong to severe T-storms approaching from Duluth and Spooner, intensifying as they passed over the relatively warm Twin Cities metro. A cold pool aloft meant that the freezing level was much lower than usual, closer to the ground, allowing more (big) hailstones to survive the trip to the surface. Afternoon visible loop: NOAA and AerisWeather.


Severe Storm Streaks. NWS Doppler radar from the Twin Cities (Chanhassen to be exact) shows estimated rainfall totals; in excess of 1-2" from the east metro into much of western Wisconsin.


A Ration of Dry Weather? European guidance shows dry weather today and Wednesday, with a few showers and T-showers returning late Thursday before drying out again Friday and Saturday. That's right, the 4th of July still looks pretty good with sunshine and highs near 80F, maybe low 80s. Sunday doesn't look nearly as special, meteorologically - an approaching front sparking numerous showers and T-storms.


Smoky Sunset. Yes, that's the sun up there, although it was hard to find yesterday amidst the towering thunderheads and thick smoke plumes. What a crazy Monday.


Smoke From Alaska and Canada Fires Dives into Continental USA. Yes, that was smoke dimming the sun yesterday, from fires thousands of miles upwind. Details from NOAA: "The InciWeb Incident Information System is following 18 fires in Alaska that are contributing, along with 49 uncontrolled fires under surveillance by the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System, to vast areas of visible smoke throughout Canadian provinces and stretching into northern U.S. states. This image from the Suomi NPP satellite's VIIRS instrument was taken from NOAA View on June 28, 2015. The smoke from these fires can also be seen in NOAA View as Aerosol Optical Thickness, a measure of how aerosols, such as smoke from wildfires, scatter and absorb sunlight." (Image: NOAA/NASA).


Hundreds of Fires Underway. Data from Natural Resources Canada shows the extent of fires stretching from Quebec to Alaska; an unusually high concentration of western Canada and Alaska, the result of unusual levels of heat (and little rain) in recent weeks.


A Smoky Forecast. It's a little early in the summer to be tracking 5,000 mile long smoke plumes, but that's exactly what's on display from NOAA's Hazard Mapping System.


Is Major League Baseball Taking Storms Seriously Enough. Probably not. Meteorologist Craig Edwards is the former MIC (Meteorologist in Charge) of the Twin Cities National Weather Service. He attends every Twins home game, making sure they get the weather call right, protecting fans and players from lightning, hail and damaging winds. But other stadiums? I would be surprised if they take the same precautions. It was a close call in St. Louis Sunday night. Here's an excerpt of a Jason Samenow story at The Capital Weather Gang: "...If a tornado warning is issued when fans are in the stadium, does each park have a plan to quickly evacuate the stands and adequately shelter fans? Can it get fans underground or inside interior rooms (like bathrooms)? In other words, does every tornado-vulnerable stadium have tornado shelters that are well-labeled (like some airports do, like Denver)? MLB has a responsibility to have very good, thoughtful answers to these questions in the vital interest of its fans safety."

* I addressed this threat (to major sporting events) in The Huffington Post in April of 2012.


Strong El Nino Expected To Linger Into Winter of 2015-2016. Will we enjoy another relatively mild winter? All El Nino events are different, but the majority of these warm phases in the Pacific do correlate with slightly warmer winters for Minnesota, the Dakotas and Pacific Northwest. According to NOAA there's a 90% chance the current (strong) El Nino will linger into autumn; an 85% chance it will carry over into next winter.


Wettest June and 4th Wettest Month On Recorded For Illinois. As wet as it's been across Minnesota and Wisconsin it's been even wetter across Illinois. Here's an excerpt from the Illinois State Climatologist: "The statewide average for June is now 8.97 inches. That is based on rainfall data collected around the state through yesterday. I’m sure we will see that number move up as we include last night’s rainfall. Right now June 2015 is the fourth wettest month on record for Illinois. If you look at the top 5 wettest months in Illinois history (below), all the other wet months were in the fall..."


Lightning Deaths So Far In 2015. Here's an NOAA update on lightning fatalities so far this; a majority of deaths from people near trees, on rooftops or boats. You don't want to be near tall objects and you certainly want to avoid open areas like fields, lakes, fields or golf courses, where you may be the tallest thing in the area. The best advice: when you hear the first growl of thunder (or see storms approaching on a Doppler app on your phone) head inside - a building or even a vehicle offers sufficient protection from lightning.


Over 300 Wildfires Are Burning In Alaska Right Now. That's An Even Bigger Problem Than It Sounds. Here's an excerpt of a Chris Mooney update at The Washington Post: "Following on a record hot May in which much snow cover melted off early, Alaska saw no less than 152 fires erupt over the weekend of June 21-22. The numbers have only grown further since then, and stood at 319 active fires Sunday, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, with more than a million acres burned in June alone. “Given the high number of fires and the personnel assigned to those fires, the state’s firefighting resources are becoming very limited, forcing fire managers to prioritize resources,” noted the state’s Department of Natural Resources Tuesday..."

* Here is a link to a video explainer focused on the research highlighted above at YouTube.


Isolating The Underlying Causes of Extreme Weather. Here's a shocker: it's related to continued warming of the planet; we're putting more energy into the climate system and then acting surprised and indignant when the weather bites back. Here's an excerpt summarizing new research at Stanford University: "...Worldwide news reports of extreme weather events – oppressive heat, parching droughts, destructive storms – are increasingly common. A new study co-authored by Stanford and Princeton University researchers finds that trends in atmospheric circulation patterns can partially explain Earth’s increasingly severe weather. While scientists had previously surmised that the link existed, robust empirical evidence was lacking. The study finds that overall increases in hot extremes and decreases in cold extremes in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes are driven by a combination of changes in the amount of heat and moisture in the atmosphere as well as changes in atmospheric circulation patterns. Changes in the heat and moisture content of the climate system – called “thermodynamics” – can account for the majority of the observed changes in extreme temperature..."


Hurricane Planes Get Overhaul As NOAA Eyes Next Generation. Just like the military expect an accelerated transition to drones in the years ahead. Here's an excerpt of a story from Tampa Tribune at TBO.com: "Miss Piggy is flying again. But even as the lumbering P-3 Orion aircraft takes part in its first mission since getting two new engines in a life-extending overhaul, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is looking for the next generation of hurricane hunting aircraft. Miss Piggy and NOAA’s other Orion, named Kermit, are stationed at MacDill Air Force Base. Each plane was put into service during the mid-70s and has flown more than 10,000 hours, into more than 80 hurricanes. They are long, grueling missions, often subjecting the crew to zero gravity as the aircraft lurch up and down in buffeting winds. With the pounding they’ve taken, the planes need the $42 million refurbishing to stay on the job during the June through November hurricane season and beyond..."

File photo above: Chris Urso, staff.


Pakistan Heat Wave Kills Over 1,000, Sparks Anger. The death toll is now over 1,200 and rising - here's the intro to a story at VOA, Voice of America: "Extreme heat in southern Pakistan has killed more than 1,000 people and the death toll is growing. On Saturday, as the temperature reached 45 degrees Celsius in Karachi, many Pakistanis blamed the government and utility companies for what they've called a woefully inadequate response. "More than 1,000 people have died in this city due to heat, scarcity of water, power outages," said Abdullah Hussain Haroon, a social activist and former ambassador to the United Nations..."


The Underfunded, Disorganized Plan To Save Earth From The Next Giant Asteroid. OK. I officially have enough to worry about now - no wonder I wander the land in a perpetual state of paranoia. Here's an excerpt from Motherboard: "...After this arguably close brush with total annihilation, Congress asked NASA to prepare a report on the threat posed by asteroids. The 1992 document, "The Spaceguard Survey: Report of the NASA International Near-Earth-Object Detection Workshop," was, suffice it to say, rather bleak. If a large NEO were to hit Earth, the report said, its denizens could look forward to acid rain, firestorms, and an impact winter induced by dust being thrown miles into the stratosphere. In the initial moments following impact, the impact site—which is generally 10 to 15 times the size of the asteroid—would be vaporized..."


83 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday.

83 F. average high on June 29.

85 F. high on June 29, 2014.

June 29, 1982: Frost hits St. Louis County. Kulger Township falls to 27 degrees and Meadowlands bottoms out at 32.

June 29, 1871: Large hail fell in Meeker County. Some of the stones were 6 inches in circumference. Many windows were broken on the north sides of houses.

June 29, 1863: Note written on 1863 meteorological form at Ft. Ripley: Drought is very severe. The grass upon the prairie is nearly or quite dried up. The Mississippi River at this point is lower than was ever known before. The amount of moisture which fell during the last 6 months ending June 30, 1863 was 4.27 inches.


TODAY: Partly sunny, comfortable. Winds: N 10. High: 78

TUESDAY NIGHT: Clear and comfortable. Low: 59

WEDNESDAY: Intervals of sun, probably dry in the MSP area. High: 77

THURSDAY: Fading sun, few T-storms late? Wake-up: 61. High: 81

FRIDAY: T-storms taper, slowly drying out. Wake-up: 63. High: 79

SATURDAY: A pleasant 4th of July? Warm sunshine. Wake-up: 64. High: 83

SUNDAY: Sunny start, severe PM T-storms? Wake-up: 68. High: 84

MONDAY: Comfortable again, blue sky returns. Wake-up: 65. High: 81

* photo credit above: NOAA.


Climate Stories...

Supreme Court Blocks Obama's Limits on Power Plants. The New York Times reports; here's the introduction: "The Supreme Court on Monday blocked one of the Obama administration’s most ambitious environmental initiatives, one meant to limit emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants. Industry groups and some 20 states challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to regulate the emissions, saying the agency had failed to take into account the punishing costs its regulations would impose..."


Pope's Activism Sets Stage For Awkward Visit To Capitol Hill. The Hill has the story; here's the introduction: "Congressional Republicans say they are ready to welcome Pope Francis to Capitol Hill this fall — even if he uses part of his speech to challenge them on issues like climate change or income inequality. Francis’s climate change encyclical last week was just the latest example of his willingness to wade into contentious political debates, often with positions that seem to fall on the liberal side of the spectrum. The pope’s nods to progressive politics have put some Republicans in an awkward spot. While many are Catholic and conservative, they are loath to be seen as criticizing the head of the church..."


Will Catholic Republicans Side With The Pope on Climate Change? Here's a snippet from a story at The Washington Post: "... Are Catholics likely to change their views on climate change in order to align with Pope Francis? For some hints, it may be helpful to look at the shift in how Catholics viewed the death penalty following the Catholic Church’s involvement more than two decades ago. There is evidence that links an uptick in Catholics opposing capital punishment after Pope John Paul II issued an encyclical that discouraged the use of the death penalty in 1995. One study found that support for the death penalty had been higher among Catholics than non-Catholics in the 1970’s; by 2004 the opposite was true..."

File photo: Luca Zennaro, AP.


Redford: Time To Step Up Game on Climate Change. Here's an excerpt of a Robert Redford Op-Ed at CNN.com: "...As Pope Francis has told us, we have a moral obligation to be responsible stewards of the earth and all it supports. That means protecting future generations from the dangers of climate change.  I know the fossil fuel industry and its political cronies are saying the Pope's no expert on science. Please. The science speaks for itself. We know what's happening to the planet. The question is, what are we going to do about it? The Pope's an expert on belief and conscience. It's time to stand up for what we believe. The fact is climate change is a moral imperative..."


National Parks at Risk from Climate Change and Rising Seas. To the tune of an estimated $40 billion, according to a press release from Interior Department; here's the intro: "In advance of the two-year anniversary of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today released a report revealing that national park infrastructure and historic and cultural resources totalling more than $40 billion are at high risk of damage from sea-level rise caused by climate change. The report was conducted by scientists from the National Park Service and Western Carolina University and is based on an examination of 40 parks – about one-third of those considered threatened by sea-level rise – and the survey is on-going..."


Dalai Lama On Need To Speak Out on Climate Change. Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "...He praised the pope’s recent encyclical on climate change, which warned of the unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, adding that it was the duty of people to “say more – we have to make more of an effort, including demonstrations”. The Dalai Lama, who will turn 80 next Monday, called for more pressure to be put on international governments to stop the burning of fossil fuels and mass deforestation and invest more in green energy sources..."

Severe Thunderstorm Watch Until 8 PM - Includes Twin Cities Metro

Severe Thunderstorm Watch. By now you realize that a watch means "watch out", be prepared for severe storms. Warnings are issued when severe eather is reported or imminent. Conditions are ripe for hail and strong straight-line winds; we can't rule out an isolated tornado either. The watch is in effect until 8 PM. Details from NOAA SPC:

 URGENT - IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH NUMBER 370 NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK 155 PM CDT MON JUN 29 2015 THE NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER HAS ISSUED A * SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH FOR PORTIONS OF CENTRAL AND SOUTHEAST MINNESOTA WESTERN AND CENTRAL WISCONSIN * EFFECTIVE THIS MONDAY AFTERNOON AND EVENING FROM 155 PM UNTIL 800 PM CDT. * PRIMARY THREATS INCLUDE... SCATTERED LARGE HAIL EVENTS TO 1.5 INCHES IN DIAMETER POSSIBLE ISOLATED DAMAGING WIND GUSTS TO 70 MPH POSSIBLE SUMMARY...THUNDERSTORMS ARE INCREASING IN COVERAGE OVER PARTS OF CENTRAL MN INTO NORTHERN WI. THESE STORMS WILL INTENSIFY AND TRACK SOUTHWARD ACROSS THE WATCH AREA THIS AFTERNOON...WITH A RISK OF DAMAGING WINDS AND HAIL. THE SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH AREA IS APPROXIMATELY ALONG AND 75 STATUTE MILES NORTH AND SOUTH OF A LINE FROM 45 MILES WEST NORTHWEST OF MANKATO MINNESOTA TO 25 MILES EAST OF MOSINEE WISCONSIN. FOR A COMPLETE DEPICTION OF THE WATCH SEE THE ASSOCIATED WATCH OUTLINE UPDATE (WOUS64 KWNS WOU0). PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS... REMEMBER...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH MEANS CONDITIONS ARE FAVORABLE FOR SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS IN AND CLOSE TO THE WATCH AREA. PERSONS IN THESE AREAS SHOULD BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THREATENING WEATHER CONDITIONS AND LISTEN FOR LATER STATEMENTS AND POSSIBLE WARNINGS. SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS CAN AND OCCASIONALLY DO PRODUCE TORNADOES. AVIATION...A FEW SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS WITH HAIL SURFACE AND ALOFT TO 1.5 INCHES. EXTREME TURBULENCE AND SURFACE WIND GUSTS TO 60 KNOTS. A FEW CUMULONIMBI WITH MAXIMUM TOPS TO 500. MEAN STORM MOTION VECTOR 32030.