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.
It's a logical, reasonable question. "Paul, will it rain on my yard this evening?" We respond with probabilities and words like "isolated" and "scattered" thundershowers.
"You have Turbo-Doppler! Why can't you tell me if the storms will hit MY HOUSE?"
Welcome to the world of random weather. We can tell when conditions are ripe for storms, but will your neighborhood be the 10 to 20 percent of the state that sees rain?
In spite of 3 KM resolution models that update every hour the state of the art still can't answer that question with a high degree of confidence. A line of storms? That's straightforward. But hit-or-miss, "popcorn" instability showers? Good luck. Radar on a phone is probably your best tool for pinpointing rain chances for your GPS location. Anything else is an exercise in hand-waving.
Today looks quiet: no pulsating red blobs on Doppler. Storms rumble in Thursday with high humidity. Friday will be the better day to graze the healthy food choices at the State Fair, with highs near 90F. I'll be at the Star Tribune booth around midday to hang out with Vineeta Sawkar and babble about the dew point.
Near 90F Sunday, then a breath of fresh, September air next week.
* 3 KM HRRR model from Tuesday courtesy of NOAA and HAMweather.
Future Radar. Here is 60-hour NOAA NAM guidance showing the next wave of warm frontal thunderstorms pushing across southern and central Minnesota late tonight into Thursday morning. A counterclockwise swirl of showers pushes across the Great Lakes, with a possible severe storm outbreak pushing thru the Ohio Valley into the Mid Atlantic states. Monsoon-related T-storms flare up over the Rockies, but no colorful blobs appear over California, where the drought continues to deepen. Loop: HAMweather.
Accumulated Rainfall Potential. NOAA high-res models print out as much as 2-3" rain for the Twin Cities metro by Thursday night as a (hot) front surges north. If skies clear fast enough behind these storms the mercury may hit 90F on Thursday with dew points sweltering close to 70F. The maps look more like late June than late August into Sunday, but much cooler air knocks the mercury into the 60s and 70s much of next week with half as much water vapor in the air by Monday. If you're looking for comfortable weather for the Minnesota State Fair you may want to wait until next week. Guidance: HAMweather.com
El Nino: Fizzle or Sizzle? What happened to the much-anticipated, much-hyped El Nino event of 2014? It's still coming, according to NOAA's climate.gov. Here's an excerpt of a good post and update: "...In summary, we continue to favor the emergence of El Niño in the coming months, with the peak chance of emergence around 65% (i.e. there is a 35% chance of El Niño not occurring). ENSO forecasters do not expect a strong El Niño (we can’t eliminate the chance of one either), but we are not expecting El Niño to “fizzle.” In fact, just in the last week, we have started to see westerly wind anomalies pick up near the Date Line. Literally and figuratively, we may be witnessing the start of ENSO’s second wind."
Graphic credit above: "
If hot thermometers actually exploded like they do in cartoons, there would be a lot of mercury to clean up in California right now. The California heat this year is like nothing ever seen, with records that go back to 1895. The chart below shows average year-to-date temperatures in the state from January through July for each year. The orange line shows the trend rising 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. The sharp spike on the far right of the chart is the unbearable heat of 2014. That’s not just a new record; it’s a chart-busting 1.4 degrees higher than the previous record. It’s an exclamation point at the end of a long declarative sentence..."
Graphic credit above: National Climatic Data Center.
"Severe" Drought Covers Nearly 99.8% of California, Report Says. Here's an excerpt of a Los Angeles Times story, which includes an amazing infographic that shows the evolution of California's drought: "Drought conditions may have leveled off across California, but nearly 100% of the state remains in the third-harshest category for dryness, according to the latest measurements. For the past two weeks, California's drought picture has remained the same, halting a steady march toward worse. But the breather has allowed the state to recover only ever so slightly..."
British Columbia Has Spent More Than 3 Times Its Wildfire Fighting Budget. News1130 in Vancouver has the story; here's the intro: "The province is paying a pretty penny when it comes to fighting forest fires this summer. Around $200 million has been spent in the last few months, blowing past the original budget of around $60 million. And since the season is not over yet, that number is expected to grow. Kevin Skrepnek with the Wildfire Management Branch says when it comes to the size and severity of fires, this year has been the worst we have seen since 2010..."
Photo credit: Wildfire Management Branch.
Cheap Hurricane Hype? Is it just noise - or a signal for something we need to keep an eye on? A tropical wave east of the Lesser Antilles has a 50% probability of strengthening into a tropical system within 5 days, according to NOAA NHC. The forecast for midday Wednesday, August 27, one week from today, shows a tropical storm or hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico on the GFS, but the ECMWF (European) model isn't buying it, not yet. If you live along the Gulf Coast you might want to keep an eye on this. I tend to favor the ECMWF, especially with tropical development, but it would be unwise to ignore the GFS altogether. GFS model: Weather Bell; ECMWF guidance: WSI.
Summer of Research to Improve Hurricane Forecasting. In addition to flying into hurricanes (the USA is still the only nation on Earth that does this on a routine basis) NOAA is using two Global Hawk drones to go where no aircraft can go, providing additional data streams that may help forecasters, especially with intensity. Here's an excerpt from NOAA: "...Such targeted observations help significantly improve forecast models for predicting hurricanes, especially when the data can be gathered on a nearly continuous basis for an extended period in areas not now being observed. This fall, NOAA will join with NASA to launch two 115-foot wingspan Global Hawks. These unmanned aircraft will take off from Wallops Island, Va., on several data-collecting missions during five weeks at the height of Atlantic hurricane season. “With the Global Hawk we can fly farther out over the ocean and get to storms that manned aircraft cannot reach..."
Photo credit: "Releasing dropsonde. The Global Hawk can deploy multiple dropsondes at altitudes up to 65,000 feet to collect measurements of temperature, pressure, relative humidity and wind speed and direction." (NOAA).
Danger: Shifting Tracks. Data shows that hurricanes are reaching peak intensity consistently farther north, another symptom of a warming atmosphere and shifting weather patterns. Here's a clip from MIT Technology Review: "Powerful, destructive tropical cyclones are reaching their peak intensity farther from the equator and closer to the poles, according to a study coauthored by an MIT scientist. The study, published in Nature, shows that over the last 30 years, tropical cyclones—also known as hurricanes or typhoons—have been moving poleward at a rate of about 33 miles per decade in the Northern Hemisphere and 38 miles per decade in the Southern Hemisphere..."
Map credit above: "Tropical storm tracks from 1985 to 2005 reflect the poleward migration of cyclones over the last three decades. Such storms now tend to peak farther away from the equator."
Airborne Phased Array Radar Could Spur a "Quantum Leap" in Hurricane Forecasts. Meteorologists do a good job with track, but predicting intensity changes is more problematic. Will a next-generation doppler system help? Here's an excerpt of a story at The Capital Weather Gang: "Forecasts for the tracks of hurricanes have made huge strides over the past 15 years, improving by over 50 percent. But forecasts for the intensity of hurricanes have lagged, with only modest gains in accuracy seen very recently. A new technology under development at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), known as Airborne Phased Array Radar (APAR), could be a game-changer for improving forecasts for hurricane intensity and other types of severe weather, according to those familiar with the project..." (3-D visualization of Hurricane Katrina: NASA).
Hurricane Camille: What If It Struck New Jersey? As waters continue to warm could more intense hurricanes systematically find their way farther north, threatening larger population center of the Northeast? The idea isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. Here are a few excerpts from an article at Asbury Park Press: "...Camille's surge was about 25 feet high while Sandy's storm tide (storm surge and astronomical tide) was roughly 14 feet at Sandy Hook, according to NOAA. Moreover, Camille's estimated peak winds were more than twice as strong as Sandy's....Experts have told me over the years that a Category 4 storm is the strongest hurricane that could threaten New Jersey because ocean waters aren't as warm off our coast as they are down south. Still, the storm surge from a Category 4 storm would move up to several miles inland in parts of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, according to maps on the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management website..."
Map credit above: ".
Tornado-Proof Shelter for Holdrege Students. Here's an elementary school in Nebraska that is taking the lead in protecting students and staff, an excerpt of an interesting story at KHGI-TV: "...Safety is what parents want and demand when leaving their kids in the hands of teachers. Now those in Holdrege can breathe a sigh of relief as a new storm shelter can withstand 250 mile per hour winds is being built. Todd Hilyard, the superintendent for Holdrege Public Schools looked over the latest plans for the new elementary school. "All of this, both the exterior walls as well as the interior, are masonry block walls with rebar and concrete fill as well as a concrete roof on top of the storm shelter," he said. "I think every superintendent's heart is in the right place and unfortunately these are expensive areas to build..."
Secrets of Iceberg That Sank The Titanic Revealed In New Study. It turns out 1912 may not have been much of an above-average year for big icebergs. Then again, all it takes is one. Here's an excerpt from a story at Huffington Post: "...Aside from reshaping long-held theories about the Titanic tragedy, the new findings -- described in a paper published online in July 2014 edition of the journal Significance -- may hold an important warning for seagoing vessels today. “As use of the Arctic, in particular, increases in the future, with declining summer sea ice the ice hazard will increase in waters not previously used for shipping," the researchers conclude in the paper. "As polar ice sheets are increasingly losing mass as well, iceberg discharge is increasing... and increasing global warming will likely cause this trend to continue."
In Silicon Valley, Mergers Must Meet The Toothbrush Test. I like the sound of this - pay for things you use every day. Here's an excerpt of an interesting article at The New York Times: "When deciding whether Google should spend millions or even billions of dollars in acquiring a new company, its chief executive, Larry Page, asks whether the acquisition passes the toothbrush test: Is it something you will use once or twice a day, and does it make your life better? The esoteric criterion shuns traditional measures of valuing a company like earnings, discounted cash flow or even sales. Instead, Mr. Page is looking for usefulness above profitability, and long-term potential over near-term financial gain..."
Graphic credit above: Liz Grauman/The New York Times.
The NSA Has Nothing on Google. Do you want to see exactly where you were, on any day in the recent past, courtesy of Google Maps? If you are logged into Google, use Google Maps and (obviously) have location services turned on, this should work for you as well. Click on location history at google.com and you can take a virtual walk down memory lane as see every place you've been going back months (years?). The very definition of TMI...
Robin Williams, Connectedness and The Need to End The Stigma Around Mental Illness. Arianna Huffington takes a look at what all of us can learn, and how we can help those struggling with depression, in this article at Huffington Post; here's a clip: "...So while of course each instance of suicide is different, and while the reasons that people choose to take their own life are complex and individual, as we ask "why" about Robin Williams, we should also broaden the question. Why tens of thousands of people? What is happening that so many people make this irrevocable choice? What are we missing in our culture? How can we open up the conversation on this issue to make other choices seem more realistic and appealing?..."
Taku-Tanku Portable Tiny House Can Be Towed With a Bike. This is looking better and better all the time. Can I jam in a big-screen TV and flush toilet? Two words: low maintenance. Here's a clip from a story at Gizmag: "...The Taku-Tanku is aimed at being compact and affordable. Its interior can accommodate two to three people and has a compartment to store some luggage or belongings. It is also equipped with solar-powered LED lights. There are no frills inside, however. The house is simply said to be easy to build with off-the-shelf and re-purposed materials, and able to provide shelter in a variety of landscapes..."
So Bad It's Good. The worst TV commercial ever made? I've actually seen worse, but in a way this campy, off-tune, train-wreck of a :30 spot for a Missouri shopping mall is pure genius. It may be awful, but 1.3 million people have checked it out on YouTube. Who do you think is getting the last laugh?
81 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.
80 F. average high on August 19.
88 F. high on August 19, 2013.
August 19, 1904: Both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul were hit by tornadoes. This was the highest official wind ever recorded in Minnesota over one minute (110 mph in St. Paul).
TODAY: Warm sunshine, still pleasant. Winds: SE 10. High: 84
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Clouds, a few T-storms likely. Low: 70
THURSDAY: Muggy and hot, few T-storms with locally heavy rain. Some PM sun. Dew point: 70. High: near 90
FRIDAY: Drier, still steamy with more sun. Dew point: 67. Wake-up: 69. High: 89
SATURDAY: Sticky sun, PM T-storms. Dew point: 69. Wake-up: 70. High: 87
SUNDAY: Partly sunny. Stinking hot. Wake-up: 68. High: near 90
MONDAY: Blue sky, breathing much easier. Dew point: 53. Wake-up: 63. High: 73
TUESDAY: Sunny start, late showers. Dew point: 49. Wake-up: 57. High: 72
How The World's Biggest PR Firm Helps Promote Climate Change Denial. Here's the intro to an eye-opening story at Motherboard. What a shock, it's all about the money: "When a recent Guardian survey asked top public relations firms if they would refuse to represent organizations that denied climate change, the response was encouraging: ten of the largest said they would. Decidedly less inspiring was the response of the world's single biggest PR company, Edelman, which said it would not rule out helping corporations spread messages of climate change denial. This shouldn't be too surprising, seeing as how it's already doing precisely that. A lot. Edelman helps polluting companies use TV ads, astroturf groups, and slick websites to promote climate change denial around the globe..."
Photo credit above: "CEO Richard Edelman speaking at Davos in 2011." Image: Robert Scoble/Flickr
Did Global Warming Cause "The Great Flood of 2014?" Detroit meteorologist (and friend) Paul Gross provides a thoughtful, scientifically accurate answer to that question at clickondetroit.com; here's an excerpt: "People have been asking me if last week’s historic flood was caused by global warming. The short answer is NO, but read on because this answer requires an explanation. Weather systems develop all the time, and have been doing so for as long as we’ve had weather on this planet. The weather system that developed and dumped a once-every-500-year rain event on metro Detroit last week may have developed anyway. HOWEVER, our warming climate might have made that weather system a heavier rain-producer than it might have been..."
Snow Has Thinned on Arctic Sea Ice. Here are some of the latest findings from The American Geophysical Union: "Scientists have been tracking snow depth on Arctic sea ice for almost a century, using research stations on drifting ice floes and today’s radar-equipped aircraft. Now that people are more concerned than ever about what is happening at the poles, a new study confirms that snow has thinned significantly in the Arctic, particularly on sea ice in western waters near Alaska. The new assessment, accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, a publication of the American Geophysical Union, combines data collected by ice buoys and NASA aircraft with historic data from ice floes staffed by Soviet scientists from the late 1950s through the early 1990s to track changes over decades..."
Photo credit above: "Researcher Melinda Webster uses a probe to measure snow depth and verify airborne data. She is walking on sea ice near Barrow, Alaska in March 2012. Her backpack holds electronics that power the probe and record the data." Chris Linder / Univ. of Washington.
Antarctica Could Raise Sea Level Faster Than Previously Thought. Here's a clip from a story at redorbit.com that caught my eye: "Ice discharge from Antarctica could contribute up to 37 centimeters to the global sea level rise within this century, a new study shows. For the first time, an international team of scientists provide a comprehensive estimate on the full range of Antarctica’s potential contribution to global sea level rise based on physical computer simulations. Led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the study combines a whole set of state-of-the-art climate models and observational data with various ice models. The results reproduce Antarctica’s recent contribution to sea level rise as observed by satellites in the last two decades and show that the ice continent could become the largest contributor to sea level rise much sooner than previously thought..."
File photo credit: Eric Mohl/Special to the Star Tribune. "Stunning views like this one compel people to brave the seas to get to Antarctica."
Meet The Companies That Are Trying To Profit From Global Warming. As I've said (ad nauseum) climate change and climate/water volatility represents a threat, and an opportunity. Many, even most of the solutions will come from the private sector. Here's an excerpt of a story at Vox: "...Greenland has taken advantage of the warming Arctic — which is melting the ice and opening new mining opportunities — to push for independence from Denmark. The government is already anticipating millions of dollars in new tax revenue as oil and gas rush north. Alcoa even has plans for a massive aluminum smelter there — powered by Greenland's rivers of melting ice. Dutch engineers are selling their storied flood-management expertise to countries threatened by sea-level rise. One company, Dutch Docklands, is pitching visions of floating cities to regions that could eventually find themselves underwater..."
Photo credit above: "
where the excess heat is primarily going — the ocean — and the rate at which heat transfers to the deep ocean, as well as other factors that can temporarily offset the influence of heat-trapping gases..."Even as a car slows down to go over a “speed bump,” there is no question the car is still advancing down the road. Similarly, the global average surface temperature trend of late is like a “speed bump” and we would expect the rate of temperature increase to speed up again just as most drivers do after clearing the speed bump. We keep getting questions about this air temperature trend that has more to do with
What I Learned From Debating Science With Trolls. Here's an excerpt of a post at The Conversation, one of many tactics used by denialists; this one focused on perverting Galileo's legacy: "...The Galileo Gambit is a debating technique that perverts this history to defend nonsense. Criticisms by the vast majority of scientists are equated with the opinions of 17th century clergy, while a minority promoting pseudoscience are equated with Galileo. Ironically, the Galileo Gambit is often employed by those who have no scientific expertise and strong ideological reasons for attacking science. And its use isn’t restricted to online debates..."
Graphic credit above: "Wikimedia
Half a Summer
I think I have carpal tunnel syndrome from scratching my head 18 hours a day, my face frozen in a perplexed, puzzled expression. Because the weather draped over North America is still a long way from average.
According to Japan's Meteorological Agency July was the second warmest on record, worldwide. But we've seen huge variations here in the USA, faint whispers of the polar vortex keeping the Upper Midwest and New England cooler than average, while the west continues to fry.
The Twin Cities have only seen two days above 90F. An easy summer, right? Meanwhile Portland, Oregon has endured 12 days of 90s and counting. The same (stuck) ridge of high pressure sparking historic drought in California is sparking record heat out west, and the largest Washington State wildfire on record.
We dry out a bit today and Wednesday before the next round storms rumble in by late week; highs near 90F Friday and Saturday. For Day 1 of the State Fair an early storm Thursday will leave behind dew points near 70F.
Friday looks hot and sweaty; low 90s possible Saturday before a cooler front arrives Sunday. Expect 60s & low 70s by Monday.
I guess we're overdue for a mild case of the Dog Days.
A Tropical Stew With Big Thundery Lumps. The atmosphere over Minnesota was volatile yesterday, dew points in the 60s with a pocket of chilly air overhead creating a very unstable airmass by mid afternoon. Wind shear wasn't sufficient for widespread wind damage or tornadoes, but a few storms sparked quarter-size hail. The 1 KM visible loop during the afternoon shows cumulonimbus sprouting rapidly after 4 PM. Source: NOAA and HAMweather.
Outflow Boundaries. NWS Doppler at 6:47 PM Monday shows the most severe storms sprouting over far southern Minnesota, where a Severe Storm Watch was eventually issued. Look carefully and you can see outflow boundaries, arc-shaped swirls kicked off by rain and hail-cooled air spreading out on the ground, sparking more thunderstorms upwind. Source: GRLevel2.
Dog Days, Then Football Weather. Long range guidance shows highs in the mid 80s to near 90F Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before a vigorous cool frontal passage arrives Saturday night; dew points droppping from low 70s Saturday into the low 40s by Monday. Storms are most likely early Thursday, late Friday and again late Saturday with the frontal passage. European models are hinting at 40s for lows by next Wednesday morning. MSP Meteograph: Weatherspark.
The News Behind The News: Ferguson, Missouri Was Hit By an EF-4 Tornado in 2011. Here's more information on the tornado strike, the biggest in St. Louis County in 44 years, on Palm Sunday, April 22, 2011, from the St. Louis National Weather Service: "Two tornadic supercells crossed the St. Louis County Warning Area during the afternoon and evening hours of Good Friday, April 22 2011. The northern most supercell spawned a EF4 tornado that ripped a 21 mile path of destruction across St. Louis County in Missouri and Madison County in Illinois. Municipalities that were affected include Maryland Heights, Bridgeton, St. Ann, Edmundson, Lambert St. Louis International Airport (City of St. Louis), Berkeley, Ferguson, Pontoon Beach/Granite City. Remarkably, there were no fatalities with this event. This can be attributed to the 34 minutes of tornado warning lead time, wall to wall media coverage, and the actions of those in the direct path of the tornado..." (Photo credit above: Jeff Robinson, AP).
So why mention the EF-4 that caused significant damage in Ferguson 3 years ago? Larry Lazar, a friend and colleague who lives in St. Louis, provided the photos above and some context below: "I'm sure you have all seen and heard the disturbing news from Ferguson, Missouri over the last week or so. Ferguson is a suburb in the northern part of St. Louis (just east of the airport if you have been to St. Louis). What is not making the news is that Ferguson was devastated by a direct hit from a F4 tornado in the spring of 2011....It is likely a stretch to link the civil unrest in Ferguson to the devastation caused by tornadoes 3 years ago. However, when unprecedented weather disasters hit, the most pain and suffering frequently occurs in the those poor neighborhoods that are least equipped to deal with the impacts or the cleanup. Poor communities like Ferguson are often unable to fully recover from weather disasters, which exasperates other issues affecting the community. I participated for one day in a clean-up effort organized by the American Red Cross and took quite a few pictures. Here are a handful..."
July: Second Warmest On Record, Worldwide? Here's a graphic and excerpt of a post at the Japan Meteorological Agency: "The monthly anomaly of the global average surface temperature in July 2014 (i.e. the average of the near-surface air temperature over land and the SST) was +0.28°C above the 1981-2010 average (+0.63°C above the 20th century average), and was the 2nd warmest since 1891. On a longer time scale, global average surface temperatures have risen at a rate of about 0.66°C per century..."
West's Historic Drought Stokes Fears of Water Crisis. Water in underground acquifers only goes so far, as people in California's Central Valley are quickly discovering. Here's a clip from The Washington Post: "...Now, across California’s vital agricultural belt, nervousness over the state’s epic drought has given way to alarm. Streams and lakes have long since shriveled up in many parts of the state, and now the aquifers — always a backup source during the region’s periodic droughts — are being pumped away at rates that scientists say are both historic and unsustainable. One state-owned well near Sacramento registered an astonishing 100-foot drop in three months as the water table, strained by new demand from farmers, homeowners and municipalities, sank to a record low..."
Photo credit: "Brandon Arthur, 10, tries to get out of muddy tailings left by his father Steve Arthur's water well drill site on Juan Carrera's orange grove farm in Terra Bella, Calif., on July 16, 2014. Arthur's crew is drilling a well on Carrera's farm that will provide water for his grove. River water and melted snow have dried up, forcing farmers like Carrera to drill newer and deeper wells to tap shrinking groundwater sources." (Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times/MCT).
87 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday.
80 F. average high on August 18.
83 F. high on August 18, 2013.
August 18 in Minnesota Weather History (source: MPX Twin Cities National Weather Service):
2007: Record 24-hour maximum rainfall of 15.10 inches set in Hokah, MN (Houston County). This 24-hour total contributed to the record monthly maximum rainfall of 23.86 inches that was set in Hokah during August of 2007
1980: Strong winds at Belle Plaine severely damage five planes.
TODAY: Sunny, a bit less humid. Stray PM T-storm. Dew point: 63. Winds: NW 10+ High: 79
TUESDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear and relatively comfortable. Low: 59
WEDNESDAY: Plenty of sun, pleasant. High: 81
THURSDAY: Stormy start for the MN State Fair, sticky PM sun. DP: 70. Wake-up: 66. High: 86
FRIDAY: Steamy sun. Free sauna. Dew point: 71. Wake-up: 67. High: 88
SATURDAY: Still tropical and hot. Numerous T-storms north/west Minnesota. Dew point: 71. Wake-up: 71. High: 91
SUNDAY: More clouds than sun. Leftover shower; turning cooler. Wake-up: 68. High: 76
MONDAY: Fresh air, hints of September. Comfortable sun. DP: 45. Wake-up: 56. High: 72
Recent Arctic Amplification and Extreme Mid-Latitude Weather. This is a trend I've been seeing on the weather maps, especially since 2010 or so; a tendency toward more elongated (amplifed) Rossby waves over the Northern Hemisphere, triggering a subsequent slow-down of weather patterns, more of a potential for weather to get stuck for days or weeks (the polar vortex last winter was in place for the better part of 3 months). Here's an abstract of new research from Jennifer Francis (et all) at Nature Geoscience: "The Arctic region has warmed more than twice as fast as the global average — a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. The rapid Arctic warming has contributed to dramatic melting of Arctic sea ice and spring snow cover, at a pace greater than that simulated by climate models. These profound changes to the Arctic system have coincided with a period of ostensibly more frequent extreme weather events across the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes, including severe winters. The possibility of a link between Arctic change and mid-latitude weather has spurred research activities that reveal three potential dynamical pathways linking Arctic amplification to mid-latitude weather: changes in storm tracks, the jet stream, and planetary waves and their associated energy propagation..."
Real Conservatives are Conservationists. Here's an excerpt of a story that resonated with me from Professor of Geological Sciences (and avowed conservative) Barry Bickmore, at heraldextra.com: "Why is it that some political conservatives have been so obstinate in opposing any government action to address human-caused climate change? The answer is that they aren’t real conservatives. Real conservatives favor working toward a truly free and equitable society by intelligently considering our options and choosing those that will cause the least social upheaval and loss of individual freedom. This minimalist approach to managing change stems from a healthy respect for “the Law of Unintended Consequences.” That is, whenever humans try to fix things, we always fail to account for all the consequences, which are often much worse than we expected. This is why conservatives, such as Edmund Burke, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, and Richard Nixon, have historically also been conservationists..."
Communicating Climate Change - Without The Scary Monsters. Local. Local. Local. Here's a clip from a story at RTCC.org that got my attention: "...Why worry about the potential to break the 2C barrier, when you have to pay the mortgage? Who's buying the next round? Or (and this is tough) convince the kids they've watched too much of Peppa Pig for one day? It's a question exercising Pete Bowyer, who heads up the climate arm of PR firm Havas, charged with promoting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's climate summit. "They say all politics is local - but all communications is local - and that's particularly true of climate change, he tells RTCC..."
Why worry about the potential to break the 2C barrier, when you have to pay the mortgage? Who’s buying the next round? Or (and this is tough) convince the kids they’ve watched too much Peppa Pig for one day?
It’s a question exercising Pete Bowyer, who heads up the climate arm of PR firm Havas, charged with promoting UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s climate summit.
“They say all politics is local – but all communications is local – and that’s particularly true of climate change,” he tells RTCC.- See more at: http://www.rtcc.org/2014/08/15/communicating-climate-change-without-the-scary-monsters/#sthash.RpUPRzgO.dpuf
MIT Study: Climate Talks on Path to Fall Far Short of Goals. Here's an excerpt of an article at InsideClimateNews: "...Facing a deadline to reach a new treaty by the end of next year in Paris, the world's nations seem unwilling to make the kind of pledges that would rein in global warming to safe levels by century's end, the researchers concluded. "Our analysis concludes that these international efforts will indeed bend at the curve of global emissions" of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming greenhouse gases, they said. "However, our results also show that these efforts will not put the globe on a path consistent with commonly stated long-term climate goals..."
Water Scarcity and Climate Change Through 2095. Dry areas are, overall, becoming even drier, and access to fresh water will be a defining theme of the 21st century. Things we often took for granted we won't be taking for granted in the years ahead. Just ask a friend living in California. Here's a clip from phys.org: "...In a first of its kind comprehensive analysis, the researchers, working at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, used a unique modeling capability that links economic, energy, land-use and climate systems to show the effects of global change on water scarcity. When they incorporated water use and availability in this powerful engine and ran scenarios of possible climate mitigation policy targets, they found that without any climate policy to curb emissions, half the world will be living under extreme water scarcity..."
Media Gets It Wrong on Mann Suit. Chilling freedom of speech, or a blatant case of libel? Here's one perspective at Daily Kos: "...As Greg Laden points out, the suit is not about scientific criticism, but rather "a very specific and actionable libelous accusation of professional misconduct." Previous courts agreed that this is a valid case, that Steyn's accusations of fraud and manipulation of data aren't just opinion, but an (incorrect) statement of fact. Saying that a scientist is "the Jerry Sandusky of climate science" is an opinion, and not what Dr. Mann is suing over, even though Fox News suggests it is. Instead, the accusation that he "molested and tortured data" is clearly not an opinion on the man or the issue but a claim that many studies reaffirming Mann's findings have shown to be false..."
Global Warming Rears It's Ugly Head Around the World - In English. Here's an excerpt from a story at The Guardian: "...However, many Republican politicians are currently frozen with fear on the subject of global warming. Specifically, fear of the Tea Party.
In stark contrast to their party’s public stance on Capitol Hill, many Republicans privately acknowledge the scientific consensus that human activity is at least partially responsible for climate change and recognize the need to address the problem ... In Bloomberg BNA interviews with several dozen former senior congressional aides, nongovernmental organizations, lobbyists and others conducted over a period of several months, the sources cited fears of attracting an electoral primary challenger as one of the main reasons many Republicans choose not to speak out.
"I just want to celebrate - another day of living" sang Rare Earth in 1971. The older I get the less I take for granted. Like a wife who hasn't kicked me to the curb in 30 years, great friends, and a father who just turned 84 - still able to travel & recall stories that leave me shaking my head in wonder.
With the daily challenges and setbacks of life it's easy to lose sight of a simple truth: we were all very lucky to have been born in this time and place. Most of the planet would love to have our problems.
America is also home to the most severe weather on Earth. Why? No east-west mountain range like the Alps in Europe - nothing to block the movement of cold and hot; setting up a recipe ripe for meaty, momentous storms.
That temperature tango plays out overhead this week, sparking a Conga Line of storms. The NAM prints out 1-2 inches rain today; 90s and even a few 100-degree highs to our south over Iowa later this week. No blast-furnace heat here, but expect a muggy start to the State Fair with a few thundery lumps, especially Saturday. Canada flushes cooler, drier air south of the border by Sunday with a dew point in the 40s.
I wonder if Canadians complain about "American Air"?
Sunday Soakers. As much as 4-5" of rain was reported near Welch, far southeast metro, triggering flash flooding, even a few roads washed out from the sudden deluge. 1-2" amounts were common over the far southern and southwest suburbs, with 4-5" reported near Montevideo, nearly 4" at Glenwood, from slow-moving thunderstorms. Doppler radar rainfall estimates courtesy of the MPX National Weather Service.
A Volatile Atmosphere. Drier air pushing southward (dew points in the 50s over northern Minnesota) created a sharp frontal boundary Sunday; dew points in the low 70s over much of southern Minnesota - truly tropical air. A cold twist of air aloft helped to ignite thunderstorms, and although they were below severe criteria, relatively slow forward motion created significant rainfall amounts south and west of the Twin Cities. More storms fire along that same boundary again today. Sunday afternoon visible loop: NOAA and HAMweather.
A Fleeting June Flashback. No, this won't be a rerun of June, historically the wettest month on record, statewide, for Minnesota. But slow-moving storms will drop another 1-3" of rain today, with the heaviest amounts south of the Minnesota River. Heavy showers and storms push into the Great Lakes, another swarm spreading from the Ohio Valley and Mid South into the Carolinas. 4 KM NAM accumulated rainfall: NOAA and HAMweather.
A Sticky Week - September Breeze by Sunday? Long-range guidance shows the best chance of showers and T-storms today; again Saturday. Expect a sticky week with dew point consistently in the 60s to near 70 thru Saturday, highs pushing well into the 80s again later in the week (probably warmer than displayed above, especially Thursday and Friday when mid and upper 80s are possible). European guidance suggests a sharp cool frontal passage late Saturday with dew points tumbling into the 40s, even some 30s by Sunday and Monday. Right now Sunday looks like the better/drier/sunnier, more comfortable day to troll the Minnesota State Fair.
An End To The Midsummer Dry Spell over Southern Minnesota? Farmers were beginning to worry a bit, fearing another "flash drought" similar to August of 2013. Sunday's rains helped alleviate some of those fears, and more heavy showers and storms today should put a dent in the recent dry spell. The Minnesota DNR explains that between June 15 and August 12 rainfall amounts over parts of southern MN were 2-5" below average: "...As of August 12, the Drought Monitor shows that a small area of south central Minnesota has been categorized as "Abnormally Dry". So why has the drought been slow to return to Minnesota? There are two main reasons. One is that this summer dry spell came on the heels of the wettest June on record for the state, and secondly it hasn't been too warm. The preliminary statewide average temperature departure for July 2014 was the same as the Twin Cities at 2.3 degrees below normal. August so far has had a pattern of near normal temperatures, with a lack of extreme heat. So far for the Twin Cities, there have only been two days of 90 degrees or more. By this time in 2013 there were nine by August 14..."
U.S. Forest Service Chief Talks Wildfires, Funding. Here's some information I didn't know, an excerpt of a story at The Desert Sun: "...We have 31 uncontained large fires in Idaho, California, Washington, Oregon and Montana. The number of fires compared to the past 10 years is a little bit lower. However, when you look at last year, where we had a very active fire season, we had fewer fires (at) this time than we have today. We're seeing very large fires. Washington is having the largest wildfire in the history of the state. This tracks with what we've been seeing almost every year. There's a new state record. Last year, (it) was California. The year before that it was New Mexico. Arizona two or three years ago set a record..."
File photo above: Reuters.
The Internet's Original Sin. The inventor of (hated) pop-up ads talks about the transition from advertising to surveillance to monetize (free) web use. Or as I remind people if the service is free you're the product. No, the NSA has nothing on Facebook and Google. Here's an excerpt from a fascinating article at The Atlantic: "...The fiasco I want to talk about is the World Wide Web, specifically, the advertising-supported, “free as in beer” constellation of social networks, services, and content that represents so much of the present day web industry. I’ve been thinking of this world, one I’ve worked in for over 20 years, as a fiasco since reading a lecture by Maciej Cegłowski, delivered at the Beyond Tellerrand web design conference. Ceglowski is an important and influential programmer and an enviably talented writer. His talk is a patient explanation of how we've ended up with surveillance as the default, if not sole, internet business model..."
Image credit above: "Hendrik Goltzius' "The Fall of Man" (1616)" (Wikimedia Commons).
81 F. high in the Twin Cities Sunday.
81 F. average high on August 17.
82 F. high on August 17, 2013.
.22" rain fell at MSP International Airport as of 7 PM Sunday.
August 17, 1953: Four heifers near St. Martin were lucky; a tornado picked them up and set them back down again, unharmed.
TODAY: T-storms likely, locally heavy rain. Dew point: 70. Winds: SW 10. High: 81
MONDAY NIGHT: More T-storms, some heavy. Low: 66.
TUESDAY: More clouds than sun. Lingering storms, mainly over Wisconsin. High: 79
WEDNESDAY: Fading sun. Late night storms? Wake-up: 63. High: 81
THURSDAY: Steamy sun, almost hot. Dew point: 67. Wake-up: 66. High: 88
FRIDAY: Sticky sun, isolated storm. Dew point: 68. Wake-up: 69. High: 87
SATURDAY: Drippy humidity levels. More numerous T-storms. Dew point: 70. Wake-up: 70. High: 83
SUNDAY: Better Fair day. Cool sun, fresh breeze. Dew point: 42. Wake-up: 57. High: 73
Why We're Definitely Not Headed For Another Ice Age. In spite of a relatively dormant sun and steadily dropping levels of solar radiation in recent decades another ice age appears unlikely anytime soon, argues the author at Newsweek. Here's an excerpt: "...Climate science is also not that simple. Despite what a layman might intuit, a docile sun does not necessarily mean cold weather. Temperatures can soar in one part of the world even as another shivers, regardless of what is happening on the surface of our closest star, about 150 million kilometres into space. As for global warming, that is another matter entirely. A slight, temporary change in the sun’s activity cannot mitigate many years of suffocating emissions, whatever the deniers would have us believe..."
Photo credit above: " Marcos Brindicci/Reuters.
Stunning Before And After Photos Reveal The Damage We've Done To The Glaciers. It turns out some of the melting would have occurred without human influence, but the burning of fossil fuels has resulted in 69% of the estimated melting since 1991. Here's an excerpt from Salon: "...For the study, which was published Thursday in the journal Science, climate scientists in Austria used climate models and an international inventory of glacial measurements to determine how much of what we’re seeing can be attributed to the burning of fossil fuels, and how much is just natural variation. What they found is that since the mid-19th century, humans have been responsible for about 25 percent of the observed melt. But when you look at what’s happened just during the period from 1991 to 2010, that number jumps up to 69 percent..."
Photo credit above: "
Why Global Warming Leaves Most Of Us Cold. Confirmation bias, resorting to the Internet Echo Chamber and trying to please our peers; all compelling reasons to sit on our hands, in spite of compelling scientific evidence. So argues a story at Canada's Maclean's, a look at how our brains are wired to ignore climate change; here's an excerpt that caught my eye: "...Most importantly, humans have evolved to deal with short-term dangers, where our rational and emotional brains work in tandem. But climate catastrophe is a long way off—in terms of human danger signals—and every specialist Marshall spoke to agreed that we have still not found a way to effectively involve our emotional brains in it. Deniers and believers are fully engaged, but most people are still in wait-and-see mode, with their rational brains aware there is a problem and their emotional brains looking about them to see how to respond. But “both of their brains are sufficiently detached that they do not have to deal with the problem unless actively compelled to do so...”
Climate Change Reflected in Altered Missouri River Flow, USGS Report Says. Here's an excerpt from a story at The Los Angeles Times: "...Climate shifts may be causing the disparate changes in the Missouri River Basin, the USGS report says. The scientists noted that higher stream flow in the Dakotas had occurred even as water use increased. In addition, they said, lower stream flow in some areas could be related in part to groundwater pumping. "Understanding stream flow throughout the watershed can help guide management of these critical water resources," said USGS hydrologist Parker Norton, lead author of the report that focuses on stream flow. The study is part of his doctoral research, which will analyze precipitation patterns, temperatures and their effects..."
Photo credit: "The Missouri River winds through the countryside near Williston, N.D. The river's streamflow has changed significantly over the last 50 years." (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press).
Soaking up Summer
By Todd Nelson
I'm staring cross-eyed at the calendar right now in disbelief that the Fair starts this week... Somebody pinch me! I'm holding on to summer with a firm grip now, but it's slipping fast. I actually heard my first cicada of the year a few days ago and according to legend, the first frost is only 6 weeks away! So I guess I'll mark my calendar for a mid/late September cool snap that'll be nipping the buds off my flowers.
We've actually had a fairly quiet summer. Despite the record rains in June, the severe weather threat and extreme summer heat has been kept to a minimum. According to NOAA, the average (1981-2010) of 90° days is around 11. We've only seen 2 this year! Minnesota has also had 20 tornado reports, which is below the average annual (1991-2010) count of 45.
Big swings in the jet stream have had weather systems stalling across the country this year. The western U.S. has been hot and mostly dry, while the eastern U.S. has been cool and soggy. However, the upper level winds will change later this week bringing with it a surge summery air just in time for the start of the Fair. It looks sweaty next weekend; I guess I'll have to limit my corn dog intake. -Todd Nelson
SATURDAY NIGHT: Lingering shower/storm early. Low: 65.
SUNDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, cooler with another shower or two, mainly in southern MN. High: 77. Winds: ESE 5-10
SUNDAY NIGHT: More clouds, slight chance of an isolated rumble of thunder. Low: 65
MONDAY: Soggier start to the work week. High: 82
TUESDAY: A few afternoon storms bubble up, mainly east. Wake-up: 65. High: 80
WEDNESDAY: Cloudier start, more late day sun. Wake-up: 63. High: 82
THURSDAY: Warm and muggy start to Fair. Wake-up: 66. High: 85.
FRIDAY: Increasing late day thunder chance, mainly western MN. Wake-up: 68. High: 86.
SATURDAY: Sweaty day at the Fair. Spotty PM Storms. Wake-up: 69. High: 86
This Day in Weather History
1946: A tornado kills 11 people in the Mankato area around 6:52PM. A 27 ton road grader was hurled about 100 feet. Another tornado an hour later destroys downtown Wells.
“The cloud dipped down to the ground when it reached the Minnesota valley, just at the place where the tourist camp was. I came in sight of the camp in time to see three cabins go. They just flew into pieces. When I pulled up, some people were lying around. Others were walking around dazed. We put as many injured into the track as we could and I brought them into town.”
Average High/Low for MSP
Average High: 81F (Record: 100F in 1947)
Average Low: 62F (Record: 42F in 1962)
Daylight lost since Summer Solstice (June 21st) ~ 1 hour 38 minutes
Moon Phase for August 17th at Midnight
0.8 Days After Last Quarter
Minneapolis Temp Trend
After a fairly mild Saturday, temperatures will take a bit of a dip Sunday and into early next week. However, there are some indications of a warming trend heading into the end of the week/weekend. If you're planning on heading to the Fair next weekend, it could be quite summery! The less reliable extended forecast is still suggesting a bit of a cool down later in the month.
Check out the precipitation outlook from AM Saturday through PM Monday and note the 'heavier' pockets of rain that pop up over the state through the rest of the weekend (not a washout). Some of the showers and storms that develop yet through the end of the weekend could produce isolated areas of heavy rainfall. However, the best chance of heavier and more widespread rainfall comes in early next week, Monday especially.
Pickle Pack 2014
One of my favorite memories as a young kid was pickle packing day with the family at Grandma's house! It started early in the morning with a trip to the Farmers Market and ended with dozens and dozens of beautiful jars of pickles that we divvied up between the family. As everyone got older and busier, we quit one of my favorite family traditions. A few years ago, I got into canning and brought the tradition back! Yes, it can be a long and tedious job, but in the dead of winter, there's nothing better opening a jar of something you worked hard to preserve from the summer before!
If you're interested, here's my Grandma's recipe that I'm sure you'll enjoy:
After you've sanitized all your jars/lids/etc., pack your pickle jars with fresh dill, garlic and some peppers. In each jar we use:
1 to 2 sprigs of dill at bottom (depending on size)
1 to 2 cloves of garlic at bottom (depending on size)
1 slice of Jalapeno or thai chili at bottom (depending on your heat tolerance, add little to none or more if you'd like)
Start (tightly) packing pickles in your jar and in the middle or near the top add one more sprig of dill, 1 more clove of garlic and perhaps even some additional peppers (if you like them HOT)! According to the Scoville Scale, thai chili peppers are hotter than jalapenos so use caution and don't add if you don't like spicy pickles, but I LOVE the look of the red thai chili after you've canned!
1 quart of white vinegar
3 quarts of water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (kosher/canning) salt
Bring to boil & stir until all salt/sugar has dissolved. Fill your packed jars with brine and leave about 1/2" to 1" head room. In your water bath canner, submerge and process for recommended time (based on your altitude). Then, take out of water bath and set on counter and let the sealing process continue... You should start to hear little 'pings' or 'clicks' as jar/lid seals - this is one of my favorite sounds while canning! Wait about 6 weeks to 2 months and eat away!!
There is a big procedure to canning, so make sure to read more on how to correctly process food safely. HERE is a quick pickle processing link from the Colorado State University:
Enjoy and let me know if you get a chance to try the recipe!
Sunday Weather Outlook
Sunday will definitely be a cooler day across the region, especially near the shores of Lake Superior. The front that sparked spotty showers/storms on Saturday, will drift south and stall from the Dakotas through Iowa and generally keep any lingering showers/storms in that area for Sunday.
Thanks to @Labelldame for this incredible photo near Denver, CO in late July!
2014 Lightning Deaths
According to NOAA, there have been 19 lightning deaths this year (average per year is 51). The state with the most lightning deaths this year is Florida with 6, but Wisconsin has had 3 deaths this year!
The National Weather Service has coined the term: "When thunder roars, go indoors!" Keep in mind that if you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance!
Soggy St. Louis
It was a very wet start to the day in St. Louis on Saturday. The image below from Washington University AM Saturday showed the soggy scene. St. Louis will be an area that could see significant rainfall through early next week.
The impulse of energy responsible for the heavier rain in the midsection of the nation on Saturday, will continue to slowly push into the Ohio Valley on Sunday with additional heavy rainfall potential.
Sunday Thunderstorm Potential
According to NOAA's SPC, there will be an enhanced thunderstorm risk across parts of the Dakotas and also in the middle of the country. Although there doesn't appear to be a widespread severe weather threat on Sunday, a few strong to severe storms could pop up with gusty winds and large hail.
Sunday Rainfall Potential
According to NOAA's HPC, the rainfall potential for Sunday looks quite heavy across parts of the Ohio Valley. Some spots near Cincinnati could see 1" to 2" from AM Sunday to AM Monday
U.S. Tornado Count Through August 15th
According to NOAA's SPC, the PRELIMINARY 2014 U.S. tornado count of 863 is running below the 2005-2013 average of 1,156. 2011 and 2008 were very active years for tornadoes. In fact, at this time during those years, there had been more than 1,700 preliminary tornado reports. 2008 ended up with more than 2,000 preliminary tornado reports for the year.
2014 Tornado Reports
Here's a map of all the PRELIMINARY tornado reports across the country so far this year. April 28th was the most active tornado day this year with 121 reports across the Gulf Coast States where several people lost their lives. 8 different tornadoes during the month of April killed 35 people this year. In 2011, there were 43 different tornadoes that killed more than 300 people in some of the same areas.
Minnesota Tornado Count
According to NOAA's SPC, there have been 20 PRELIMINARY tornado reports this year across the state. Keep in mind that according to NOAA's NCDC, the average number of tornadoes per year in Minnesota (1991-2010) is 45. Through the rest of the year, MN would typically average 6 more tornado reports. June and July are the most active months averaging 18 and 12 tornadoes respectively.
Average Annual Number of Tornadoes
According to NOAA's NCDC, the average annual number of tornadoes (1991-2010) for Minnesota is 45. Nationwide, that number is 1,253 with the greatest number of tornadoes in Texas. Texas, by the way, has seen only 58 tornado reports this year and averages about another 32 reports through the rest of the year, which would still put them below average by nearly half.
Average Number of Severe Weather Days
This is kind of an interesting map. It shows the average number of severe weather days from 2003-2012. Note that some of the most active areas have been in the Southeastern U.S.. Minnesota ranges from a couple of severe weather days per year in the northeastern part of the state to as many as 15 to nearly 20 across the southern half of the state.
Cooler Than Average Temperatures
One reason for the lack of excessive tornadoes this year in the central and eastern part of the country may be due to the fact that there has been a near persistent weather pattern so far in 2014. The image below suggests the temperature anomaly thus far in 2014. The warmer oranges/reds have been quite common due to a near persistent ridge of high pressure in the western U.S. keeping things mostly dry and mostly warm. Meanwhile, the eastern two-thirds of the country has been cooler than normal due to frequent/stationary troughs of low pressure. In 2011, the upper level winds were nearly reversed with a trough of low pressure in the western U.S. with a ridge of high pressure in the eastern U.S.. This helped to allow several storm systems to track from southwest to northeast across the country, especially in the spring. The 2011 weather pattern was more active and thus more conducive for tornadic activity.
This is what the 500mb vorticity map looked like AM Saturday. Note the near similar look the weather pattern now to what we've seen nearly the entire year thus far. When certain weather patterns set up, it tends to be hard to break out of those patterns. Hot/dry weather patterns or cool/rainy weather patterns can lingering for several days/weeks, before something mixes that up.
According to NOAA's CPC, the 8 to 14 day temperature outlook (August 23-29) shows a slight change in what we've been dealing with. Note that chances of cooler than average temperatures will move into the Northwest, while chances of warmer than average conditions move into the eastern two-thirds of the nation. This could potentially be a setup for a little more thunderstorm activity in the central U.S.
According to NOAA's CPC, the 8 to 14 day temperature outlook (August 23-29) suggests chances of above normal precipitation returning to parts of the High Plains/Midwest and Southeastern U.S.
7 Day Rainfall Potential
According to NOAA's HPC, the 7 day rainfall potential suggests a fairly decent swath of moisture from the High Plains to the Ohio Valley from AM Saturday to AM Saturday (next weekend). Some of this heavier rainfall potential could cause some flooding concerns, but for areas that have been dry as of late, some of this moisture could help with the lawns and gardens!
The Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded an Earth directed CME (coronal mass ejection) on Friday, which means that northern latitude sky watchers should be on the lookout for northern lights. The lights may be visible as early as Sunday night through Monday!
"A magnetic filament snaking down the middle of the solar disk erupted during the late hours of Aug. 15th. The eruption split the sun's atmosphere, hurling a CME toward Earth and creating a "canyon of fire," shown here in a movie recorded by the Solar Dynamics Observatory:"
Here's a neat site that I found that has a lot of neat tools to help you identify when the northern lights may be active. www.rossellet.com has put together this Aurora Tracker has a number of great links that can help/teach you a little more about the phenomenon.
Thanks for checking in and have a great rest of your weekend! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @TNelsonWNTV