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Quiet & Comfortable (more on a 1-in-100 year flood for Duluth and The Northland)

  • Blog Post by: Paul Douglas
  • June 21, 2012 - 11:51 AM

Sweet Relief. Puddle-free, siren-free - fresh, Canadian air is pushing south of the border, dew points dropping into the 50s, meaning almost half as much water in the air than earlier this week. A few instability clouds/showers are popping over the Minnesota Arrowhead; but no more monsoon rains are in sight. 11:30 am visible loop courtesy of WeatherTap.

 

83 F. high in the Twin Cities yesterday at 12:50 am (afternoon temperatures fell through the 70s).

80 F. average high for June 20.

77 F. high temperature on June 20, 2011.

.07" rain fell at KMSP Wednesday.

0" predicted rain through Saturday night (00z NAM model).

 

98 F. high at New York and Newark, New Jersey Wednesday - new records for June 20.

95 F. high at Burlington, Vermont, another record high.

9.93" rain reported at Two Harbors yesterday.

2/3rds of the Duluth Zoo was underwater for a time yesterday.

 

Climate change. Did a warmer, wetter atmosphere contribute to record flooding in Duluth? 3"+ downpours have doubled since 1961 - details below. Photo: Duluth News Tribune.

"A threshold may already have been crossed, so that major floods in the Midwest perhaps now should no longer be considered purely natural disasters but instead mixed natural/unnatural disasters." - details below.

"Our new reality: a warmer, wetter atmosphere is flavoring all weather now, a faint hum of atmospheric-muzak that makes droughts longer, heat waves more intense, and rainfall more extreme than it was for your parents and grandparents."

 

Historic Duluth And Northland Flooding: June 19-20, 2012. The Duluth office of The National Weather Service has a good meteorological explanation of what happened leading up to what may go down in the record books as the worst flash flooding in Duluth history; here's an excerpt:

"Three day rainfall amounts of 8 to 10 inches were common across the Minnesota Arrowhead and northwestern Wisconsin from June 17th through June 19th. The heavy rain took its toll on the road infrastructure and caused rivers and streams to flood.

A cold front approached Minnesota from the High Plains on Sunday, June 17th and this front set off numerous thunderstorms through the evening. Duluth NWS received nearly an inch of rain (0.71”). The rains that fell on Sunday had indundated the soil, and created more saturated conditions than normal, which primed the Duluth area for runoff in the extreme rain event that we received. On Tuesday, June 19th another front slowly approached northeastern Minnesota. This front continually formed thunderstorms that developed over east central Minnesota and tracked northeast into the Duluth area, the north shore of Lake Superior and into northwestern Wisconsin. The official rainfall in Duluth on the 19th was 4.14 inches up until 1 am. The thunderstorms finally ended when a strong cold front moved through Wednesday afternoon. The rainfall on the 20th was 3.10”. Total rainfall for the large rainfall event was 7.24”.

Numerous roads were washed out from the deluge of rain from Carlton County through the Duluth metro area and into Douglas County and Bayfield County in Wisconsin.

A state of emergency was declared in Duluth, Hermantown and Superior, WI."

 

How Much Rain Fell. Thanks to the Duluth office of the NWS for posting this map, available here.

 

Staggering Amounts Of Water. Two Harbors picked up nearly 10" of rain, 8.38" in downtown Duluth. Graphic courtesy of the DLH National Weather Service.

 

Road Closures. The Minnesota Department of Transportation has real-time information about flood-related road closures. Getting around The Northland is not going to be easy anytime soon - many roads require significant repair to support traffic.

 

Flash Flood Warning. Even though the rain is over, the flood threat is not. Warnings remain in effect for the Duluth area; here's the latest from The National Weather Service:

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
FLASH FLOOD WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DULUTH MN
1026 AM CDT WED JUN 20 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN DULUTH MN HAS ISSUED A

* FLASH FLOOD WARNING FOR...
  NORTHEASTERN CARLTON COUNTY IN NORTHEAST MINNESOTA...
  NORTHWESTERN DOUGLAS COUNTY IN NORTHWEST WISCONSIN...
  SOUTH CENTRAL ST. LOUIS COUNTY IN NORTHEAST MINNESOTA...

* UNTIL 1030 PM CDT WEDNESDAY

* AT 1026 AM CDT...LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS REPORTED FLASH    
  FLOODING ACROSS THE WARNED AREA. THERE HAVE BEEN EVACUATIONS IN    
  THE FOND DU LAC AND THOMPSON NEIGHBORHOODS...AS WELL AS SPAFFORD   
  TRAILER PARK IN CLOQUET.

* SOME LOCATIONS THAT WILL EXPERIENCE FLOODING INCLUDE...CARLTON...
  CLOQUET...ESKO...FOND DU LAC...NEW DULUTH...OLIVER...PROCTOR...
  SCANLON AND THOMSON.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

ADDITIONAL RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF 1 TO 3 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE IN THE
WARNED AREA.

FLOOD WATERS ARE MOVING DOWN THE FROM THE HEADWATERS OF THE CLOQUET
RIVER DUE TO EXCESSIVE RAINFALL FLOWING THROUGH THE ISLAND LAKE
RESERVOIR. THAT FLOW WILL CAUSE SIGNIFICANT RISES DOWNSTREAM ALONG
THE SAINT LOUIS RIVER...AND WILL LIKELY CAUSE FLOODING FOR ADJACENT
AREAS ALONG THE SAINT LOUIS RIVER...INCLUDING CLOQUET...AS WELL AS
THE THOMPSON AND FOND DU LAC NEIGHBORHOODS.

 

Flooding Drowns Zoo Animals In Duluth, Minnesota. Here's an excerpt of a story at msnbc.com: "Several animals at the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, Minn., drowned overnight when torrential rain caused flooding across the city, swamping roads and sending sewage spilling outside overflow tanks. "We have 11 confirmed dead animals, most of them barnyard animals," zoo marketing director Holly Henry told msnbc.com. "Two thirds of the zoo is under water." All but one of the zoo's barnyard animals died, zoo spokeswoman Keely Johnson said in a statement earlier. That included the zoo's donkey, goats and sheep."

Photo credit above: Andrew Krueger  /  The Duluth News-Tribune via AP. "A car is stuck in a sinkhole as floodwaters rush down a street in Duluth, Minn., early Wednesday."

* more on the sad story from the Duluth Zoo from dl-online.com.

 

What The...? Duluth motorists were met with some surreal sights at the height of flash flooding Wednesday morning. Feisty The Seal was just fine, but other zoo animals didn't fare nearly as well. Photo credit here.

Duluth Zoo's Barnyard Ravaged; Escaped Seal Captured. The Star Tribune has more information about a heroic effort to rescue as many zoo animals as possible.

 

Dual-Pol Doppler. The Duluth office of the NWS just turned on the new hardware/software upgrade to their Doppler - the Dual Polarization Doppler can do an even better job refining raindrop sizes, increasing our ability to estimate rainfall amounts. The rainfall estimates (above) show a wide swath of 8-10" radar estimates.

 

Doppler Radar Rainfall Estimates. This is data from the Duluth National Weather Service Doppler, showing a huge area of 4-6" rainfall amounts from near Brainerd and Crosslake to Grand Rapids, Duluth and the Iron Range - nearly 3 month's worth of rain falling in less than 24 hours.

 

Was Climate Change A Factor? Probably. No, you can't prove that any one storm or extreme event was triggered by climate change, but the question is somewhat academic. You may not like it, but the atmosphere floating overhead is warmer than it was 40 years ago. We can debate how much is a "natural cycle" vs. how much is the result of greenhouse gases, but there's no denying that it's getting warmer out there. Basic physics: a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor. Our new reality: a warmer, wetter atmosphere is flavoring all weather now, a faint hum of atmospheric-muzak that makes droughts longer, heat waves more intense, and rainfall more extreme than it was for your parents and grandparents. Alarmist? We'll see. Just connecting the dots. 3"+ downpours have doubled since 1961 over the Upper Midwest. Here's an excerpt of the full story from planetark.org: "...He pointed to global studies projecting more extreme precipitation and floods as a result of climate change, which is a product of increased emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is emitted by natural and human sources, notably the burning of fossil fuels. "A threshold may already have been crossed, so that major floods in the Midwest perhaps now should no longer be considered purely natural disasters but instead mixed natural/unnatural disasters," Saunders said. "And if emissions keep going up, the forecast is for more extreme storms in the region."

 

Photo Of The Day: Lightning At Lake Winnebago (Neenah, Wisconsin). Thanks to Brad Birkholz for an amazing photo of the storm moving in.

 

Like Something Out Of The Book Of Revelations. Check out this time lapse (I hope) photo taken in Minneapolis on June 19, courtesy of Eric Jaakkola. Amazing.

 

Record Heat On First Day Of Summer. Here is a short list of some of the scores of record highs set on Wednesday, courtesy of NOAA. "Here is a list of the record highs set or tied today. There will likely be even more tomorrow. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid prolonged work in the sun or poorly ventilated areas."

 

New England Heat Wave. The National Weather Service has posted a graphic, showing the last time the mercury surged past 95 F. in Boston, Providence, Windsor Locks and Worcester. Source: NOAA/Facebook.

 

 

Heat: America's #1 Weather Killer. It may be counterintuitive, but extreme heat/humidity claims more lives, on average, than tornadoes, hurricanes, even floods. Map above courtesy of NOAA.

 

Tropical Depression. Could this swirl of clouds entering the Gulf of Mexico become "Debby". According to NHC there is now a 30% probability of strengthening into a tropical cyclone within the next 48 hours - up from a 10% probability Tuesday evening. In spite of considerable wind shear, water temperatures in the Gulf are trending warmer than average, so further strengthening is a distinct possibility. More from NHC:

A SHARP TROUGH OF LOW PRESSURE OVER THE SOUTHEASTERN GULF OF MEXICO
IS PRODUCING A LARGE AREA OF CLOUDINESS...SHOWERS...AND
THUNDERSTORMS THAT EXTEND FROM THE NORTHWESTERN CARIBBEAN SEA
ACROSS CUBA TO THE BAHAMAS AND FLORIDA.  STRONG UPPER-LEVEL WINDS
OVER THE GULF OF MEXICO ARE EXPECTED TO GRADUALLY DIMINISH...AND
SOME SLOW DEVELOPMENT IS POSSIBLE AS THE DISTURBANCE MOVES SLOWLY
NORTHWESTWARD TOWARD THE CENTRAL GULF OF MEXICO OVER THE NEXT
COUPLE OF DAYS.  THIS SYSTEM HAS A MEDIUM CHANCE...30 PERCENT...OF
BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.  HEAVY RAINS
AND LOCALIZED FLOODING ARE POSSIBLE ACROSS WESTERN CUBA...SOUTHERN
FLORIDA...THE CENTRAL BAHAMAS...AND THE YUCATAN PENINSULA THROUGH
FRIDAY.

 

5-Day Rainfall Prediction. NOAA HPC's 5-day prediction calls for 8-10" rains near Naples and Ft. Myers (from a tropical depression that may strengthen into Tropical Storm Debby in the coming days). The Pacific Northwest will pick up over 1" of rain, so will major northeastern cities, breaking the heat wave by the weekend.

 

Weather Hazards. NOAA is predicting excessive heat for much of America's heartland, an "enhanced" risk of wildfires from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City, flooding rains for much of Florida.

 

"driSuit" Case Keeps Your iPhone "dri" Under Water. Hey, I don't write these headlines, but this one did catch my eye, because I absolutely need to be checking my latest FB posts when I'm swimming in the lake. Details from gizmag.com: "People just love their iPhones ... sometimes to the point where they don’t want to stop using them when they enter the water. That’s why the driSuit Endurance was invented. It’s a water- and shockproof case for the iPhone 4 and 4S, that allows users to still take advantage of all of the phone’s touchscreen controls – even when underwater."

 

App Of The Day. Here is a free app, called "State of the Air", available on iTunes, that measures current air quality, and the forecast for ozone, particulant pollution and other things you probably don't want to be breathing into your lungs, courtesy of the American Lung Association.

 

Apple TV: To Infinity And Beyond. Yes, we're still dealing with rumors, but something (big) is cooking out in Cupertino. Can Apple can do for television what it did for music and cell phones? Stay tuned. Here's a portion of an article at Seeking Alpha: "Rumors have been swirling about a much anticipated Apple TV (AAPL) for several months, recently being semi-confirmed by Foxconn's investment in Sharp. If the Apple TV turns out to be anything close to what the experts are predicting, it has the potential to permanently change the TV industry. Here's a look at both the positive and negative aspects of a potential Apple TV, and what could make the it such a disruptive product:

Pros

Possibility Of A La Carte Content

This is exactly what the cable industry is most afraid of. Current leaders of the TV industry such as Comcast (CMSCA) and Dish Network (DISH) provide channel packages with a very standardized form, leaving very little room for individual preference or customization. The possibility of Apple being able to provide channels in an a la carte manner would be far more cost efficient for consumers, who could only choose to subscribe to the channels they prefer."

* image above courtesy of smokingapples.com, which has another article about a potential Apple iTV.

 

Leaked: XBox 720 Slated For 2013 Release. Gamers may have a passing interest in this gizmag.com post; here's an excerpt: "Rumors about a possible next-gen Xbox have been swirling for quite awhile now, dropping minor details like Blu-Ray support and major details like software that prevents used games from playing. But those were tiny pebbles compared to the avalanche of possible features that were recently revealed when a 56-page document purportedly leaked from Microsoft showed up online."

 

Graphic above courtesy of GraphJam.

 

Mom Really Shouldn't Use A Digital Camera.

 

Wednesday Numbers. A threatening sky hovered overhead much of the day, but the heaviest T-storms swept across central and northern Minnesota, the cool front weakening as it drifted across the metro area. Highs ranged from 70 at Alexandria to 76 St. Cloud, 83 in the Twin Cities (shortly after midnight). Over 1" of rain soaked Eau Claire and Alexandria.

 

"We are consumed by that we are nourished by." - William Shakespeare

 

Double Rainbow. Thanks to WeatherNation TV meteorologist Bryan Karrick for sharing this photo from Cologne.

 

Paul's Star Tribune Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:


TODAY. Sweet relief. Partly sunny, breezy and pleasant. Dew point: 56. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 77

 

THURSDAY NIGHT: Clear to partly cloudy. Low: 60

 

FRIDAY: More sun, still comfortable. Winds:NW 10-15. High: 81

 

FRIDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase, slight chance of thunder by daybreak. Low: 62

 

SATURDAY: More clouds. Isolated T-shower possible. Dew point: 63. Winds: S 10-15. High: near 80

 

SUNDAY: Sunnier, nicer day of the weekend. Dew point: 58. Winds: NE 10+. Low: 64. High: 83

 

MONDAY: Sunny and beautiful (naturally). Low: 63. High: 81

 

TUESDAY: Intervals of sun, lukewarm. Low: 62. High: 82

 

WEDNESDAY: Hazy sun, warming up again. Low: 66. High: 86

 

 

An Unholy Weather Lotto

Why are we so mesmerized by the weather? The technology? The uncertainty? Weather is democratic; we're all at the mercy of the elements. Almost every day brings news of another weather disaster. Will my neighborhood be next?

"We never see tornadoes or floods!"

Until you do.

Residents of Duluth are mopping up from what may have been a 1-in-100 year flood. 8-10" rain in the North Woods? Sinkholes, mudslides, roads washed away? Wednesday's flood may exceed the previous high-water mark set in 1972.

This is why climate science matters. A warmer, wetter sky is stacking the deck in favor of more extreme rainfall events. Research shows 3" downpours across the Upper Midwest have doubled since 1961. Weather on steroids.

What happened? A "train-echo" effect set up. Much like the cars in a train pass over the same section of track, T-storms kept redeveloping over the same counties, unleashing a summer's worth of rain in 24 hours. Tropical floods in Duluth - who's next? I wish I knew. Every day Mother Nature spins the wheel - all you can do is hope and pray your number doesn't come up. Melodramatic? Tell that to folks up in Duluth, still wondering what just happened.

Canadian air arrives today - we catch a break. A fine Friday leads to T-showers Saturday - Sunday still looks like the sunnier, drier day.

Sunny & quiet next week? Yes. Siren-free. Life vests and hip boots optional.

 

Climate Stories...

 

The Battle Over Climate Science. I know Michael Mann. He's a fellow Penn State graduate, and one of the world's leading climate scientists. I've gotten my fair share of insults, flame-mail and angry e-mails by just reporting the state of climate science - but nothing like what Micheal Mann has endured; nothing short of a global campaign of harrassment and intimidation. He's a scientist - he didn't sign up for this, but in spite of death threats and unimaginable, vitriolic attacks Mann continues to publish and speak out on what he believes will be one of the most important stories of our age. Popular Science has an impressive article that summarizes what the most ardent climate denialists will do to try and shut up the most prolific researchers in this field. Sad that it's gotten to this point. Here's an excerpt: "....“Weird” is perhaps the mildest way to describe the growing number of threats and acts of intimidation that climate scientists face. A climate modeler at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory answered a late-night knock to find a dead rat on his doorstep and a yellow Hummer speeding away. An MIT hurricane researcher found his inbox flooded daily for two weeks last January with hate mail and threats directed at him and his wife. And in Australia last year, officials relocated several climatologists to a secure facility after climate-change skeptics unleashed a barrage of vandalism, noose brandishing and threats of sexual attacks on the scientists’ children. Those crude acts of harassment often come alongside more-sophisticated legal and political attacks. Organizations routinely file nuisance lawsuits and onerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to disrupt the work of climate scientists."

Photo credit above: "Heating Up." Daniel Schumpert and Jason Briney

 

Connecting The Dots: How Climate Change Is Fueling Western Wildfires. It's not your imagination - western fires are increasing in frequency and intensity over time, and a warming (drying) climate, warmer winters, and more pests are all conspiring to increase the odds of massive fires. Think Progress has a story, originally run at The National Wildlife Federation; here's an excerpt: "Western wildfires are dominating headlines in June – but the media coverage focuses only on effects while ignoring a major cause. We hear about an increase in the number and intensity of wildfires. And separately, we hear about ongoing global warming, like how May was the 2nd-hottest on record globally behind only May 2010. Why aren’t those dots being connected? There’s compelling evidence that talking about western wildfires without mentioning climate change is like talking about lung cancer without mentioning cigarettes. I want to walk you through what’s happening out west right now, what the latest science tells us about why it’s happening, how it’s affecting people and wildlife in the region, and what we can do about it."

 

On Eve Of Rio Summit, Americans See Environment Deteriorating. The story from The Washington Post; here's an excerpt: "On the eve of a major gathering to discuss the state of the planet, a Washington Post poll shows that most Americans think the world’s natural environment has deteriorated over the past decade, and more than six in 10 say humans are making the problem worse. Leaders from more than 130 nations will meet in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday for the high-level session of the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as the Rio+20 Earth Summit. The meeting, which happens once a decade, aims to identify how to achieve economic growth without depleting the planet’s natural resources."

Photo credit above: "Agentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, second from left, gestures after arriving late to Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, second right, during the group photo at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 20, 2012. Bottom row from left: Benin's President Boni Yayi, Agentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, France's President Francois Hollande, Sha Zukang, Secretary-General of the Rio+20, and UN General Assembly Nassir Abdulaziz Al Nasser, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)."

 

How Cities Are Leading The Way In Climate Change Fight. The story is in greenbiz.com; here's an excerpt: "When it comes to solving climate change challenges, city mayors aren't waiting around. On the eve of this week's Rio+20 event, a group of mayors around the globe announced they have taken steps to slash emissions of greenhouse gases by 248 million metric tons in 2020, and by more than 1 billion tons by 2030. The C40 Leadership Group, which includes 59 cities producing about 14 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions, have undertaken nearly 5,000 climate-related actions since the network first formed in 2005."

 

What Does Climate Change Mean For Water In The Colorado River Basin? Here's an excerpt of an interesting story at National Geographic. Clean water, not oil will quickly become the most precious natural resource on the planet. Here's an excerpt: "Secretary of State Hilary Clinton recently celebrated the work of an Israeli scientist whose innovations in water conservation have been applied throughout the Middle East, noting “the importance of getting the most out of every drop of water. In many regions of the world, water is either too scarce or too unpredictable to sustain an American style of agriculture.” But it’s not clear that the American Southwest can sustain an American style of agriculture, or for that matter an American style of lawn. Nearly every climate change model puts a red bulls-eye on the Colorado River Basin, suggesting profound temperature increases over the coming decades."

Photo credit above: "Sunset over the Rockies, which are soon to get hotter and drier." Credit: Rocket Scientist X, Flickr Creative Commons

 

Kaiser Permanente Links Climate Change To Health Care. Here's a snippet of a story at Huffington Post: "Kaiser Permanente (KP), one of the largest health care providers in America, has a clear mission: improve health. In a surprising and welcome twist, KP is publicly recognizing that climate change threatens that mission. This health care leader is showing how an authentic, mission-driven connection to global issues can drive change. The topic of climate change has become so politicized, it's rare to hear company representatives and CEOs admit that they're taking a course of action specifically in response to a climate-related threat. But that's starting to change, even in sectors you might not think have a direct stake in climate change."

 

A Good Summary of "Global Weirdness" From Climate Central. The meteorologists and climate scientists at Climate Central have just published their first book, and it's worth a look. It summarizes some of the jaw-dropping things I've been seeing on the weather map in recent years. No,  you're not imagining it - our weather is morphing into Weather 2.0: warmer, stormier, more extreme rainfall events, intense heat, drier droughts, more wildfires, increasing stress on water resources - the list goes on. More from Climate Central: "There’s always a sense of uncertainty in publishing a book. You think you did a good job, and your editor presumably does, too — but that doesn’t always guarantee that the rest of the world will end up agreeing. We’re about to find out: Climate Central’s first book project officially hits the stores on July 24. It’s titled Global Weirdness: Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas and the Weather of the Future, published by Pantheon, and it’s an attempt answer the challenge Thomas Friedman issued in the New York Times back in 2010: “In my view,” he wrote, “the climate-science community should convene its top experts — from places like NASA, America’s national laboratories, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, the California Institute of Technology and the U.K. Met Office Hadley Centre — and produce a simple 50-page report. They could call it “What We Know,” summarizing everything we already know about climate change in language that a sixth-grader could understand, with unimpeachable peer-reviewed footnotes.”

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