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Extension > Mark Seeley's WeatherTalk > Climate Trivia or Climate Change?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Climate Trivia or Climate Change?

Climate Trivia or Climate Change?

According to Pete Boulay of the Minnesota State Climatology Office for many southern climate stations in Minnesota, including the Twin Cities and Rochester this year produced a climate anomaly worth noting. For the first time in history the average temperature for March (2012) was warmer than the average temperature for October (2012). This is a statistical singularity, but with changes in the extent of polar ice, and changing upper air patterns over North America perhaps this will happen again.

October Climate Summary

Most Minnesota observers reported mean October temperatures that were 1 to 2 degrees F cooler than normal, breaking a long string of months with above normal temperatures. Extremes for the month ranged from 87 degrees F at Wheaton on the 1st to just 8 degrees F at Babbitt on the 31st.

Precipitation for October was generally less than normal, except for some northern and southeastern counties where surplus precipitation was reported, mostly thanks to storms over the 4th and 5th and over the 24th and 25th. Those reporting surplus October precipitation included: 4.37 inches at Waskish, 4.35 inches at Hallock, 4.21 inches at Grand Portage, 3.63 inches at Argyle, 3.50 inches at Grand Marais, 3.92 inches at Lanesboro, 3.82 inches at La Crescent, 3.76 inches at Spring Grove, and 3.69 inches at Caledonia. Some record setting snowfall amounts occurred during the storm of October 4th. Those reporting significant snowfall in October included: 14 inches at Badger (Roseau County), 8.5 inches at Camp Norris, 8 inches at Angus, 7.1 inches at Orr, 7 inches at Roseau, 6 inches at Babbitt and Karlstad, and 5.8 inches at Cass Lake and Cook.

Despite the good news that some Minnesota observers reported above normal October precipitation, drought kept its grip on much of the state during the month. Some observers reported less than one inch for the month, and most places across the middle of the state as well as the southwest and south-central counties were well below normal values. The dry October followed an unusually dry September as well, resulting in the 3rd driest September-October combination in history on a statewide basis, trailing only 1952 and 1976. As we end October well over 40 percent of the state's landscape remains in severe to extreme drought condition according to the USA Drought Monitor.

Super Storm Sandy's Aftermath

Sandy proved to be one of the largest hurricane born storms to ever affect the eastern USA. It was well forecasted by the NOAA National Weather Service, at least partially due to more frequent instrumented balloon launches (6 hourly radiosondes) which provide valuable data updates for their forecast models. In terms of overall economic consequence estimated from insured losses, commerce disruption, and damage to infrastructure it may rival or surpass 2005's Hurricane Katrina (estimated loss of $146 billion in 2012 dollars). Most damages were from winds and floods (both storm surge and heavy rains).

Wind gusts of 50 to 80 mph were reported along the eastern coast, with a maximum of 90 mph hat Islip, NY. Rainfall amounts were commonly 4 to 10 inches, with some higher amounts (record-setting in most cases), including 10.20 inches at Georgetown, DE, 11.91 inches at Wildwood Crest, NJ, and 12.55 inches at Easton, MD. In higher elevations 20 to 30 inches of snowfall was reported from portions of WV, VA, MD, NC, and TN (36" at Snowshoe, WV). Power outages affected nearly 8 million citizens, while hundreds of roads were closed along with bridges and tunnels. At least 88 deaths in the US states have been blamed on Sandy.

Jeff Masters and Christopher Burt of the Weather Underground also reported that Sandy brought new barometric low pressure records to many cities, including:
28.00 inches at Atlantic City, NJ
28.23 inches at Philadelphia, PA
28.31 inches at Trenton, NJ
28.46 inches at Harrisburg, PA
28.49 inches at Baltimore, MD

More about Superstorm Sandy can be found on Paul Huttner's Updraft blog.

Catch the 20th Anniversary Kuehnast Program

If you want to become more educated about climate science and climate change, please plan to attend the 20th Anniversary Kuehnast Program, "a mini-climate school" which will be held at the University of Minnesota St Paul Campus Student Center Theater on Thursday, November 8th, from 1:00pm to 5:00 pm. It is free and open to the public. We have three outstanding speakers lined up: David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada (Ottawa) will present “Canada: No Longer the Cold, White North”; Sue Grimmond, from King’s College (London, UK) will present “Current Advances in Monitoring and Modeling Urban Climates”; and Harold Brooks, research meteorologist at the NOAA National Severe Storms Lab in Oklahoma will present “Severe Thunderstorms and Climate Change.” Following the program we will go to the Bell Museum on the Minneapolis campus for the opening of the Smithsonian Exhibit on soils, called "Dig It." You can read more about the November 8th program here.

Weekly Weather potpourri

Highlights from the summary statements of Brad Rippey, USDA World Food and Outlook Board meteorologist this week concerning the USA Drought:

-About sixty percent (60.16%) of contiguous U.S. remains in drought, although this week’s value is down 1.63 percentage points from last week and down more than five points from the September 25 peak of 65.45%. Drought-easing or drought-eradicating rainfall has recently been heaviest in the Great Lakes region, the eastern Corn Belt, and ­ of course ­ in the Mid-Atlantic States associated with Hurricane Sandy.
-Hay in drought dipped to 62%, down two percentage points from a week ago and down seven points from the September 25 peak.
-Cattle in drought also fell two percentage points to 69%, and is down seven points from September 25.
-Winter wheat in drought decreased for the sixth consecutive week, although drought still covers nearly two-thirds (65%) of the production area. In some of the hardest-hit drought areas, winter wheat has been very slow to emerge this fall ­ and the crop is running out of time before cold weather permanently arrives.
-Over the next week, a fairly benign weather pattern can be expected across much of the U.S. Cool weather may limit further winter wheat development in the Great Lakes region and parts of the East, but late-season warmth will dominate primary production areas of the Plains and Northwest. Despite the Plains’ warmth, soil moisture shortages will continue to hamper wheat emergence and growth across the northwestern half of the High Plains.
-Computer simulations are suggesting the possibility of a strong storm system (a nor’easter) developing near the Mid-Atlantic or New England coast around the middle of next week. Atlantic beaches and coastal areas hammered by Hurricane Sandy will be especially vulnerable to additional damage if such as storm forms.

Across North America this week Eureka, Canada reported -27 degrees F while Death Valley, CA reported 89 degrees F.

A study released this week from the University of Maryland documents the potential infrastructure impact of sea level rise over the next 50 years in the Washington D.C. area. Many historical buildings, along with museums and government buildings will be threatened by this change. You can read more about this study here.

Two Mississippi State University economists discussed the potential financial impacts of Super Storm Sandy this week. They expect at least a $60 billion economic loss would result from disrupted work time, reduced tax revenues, and loss of commerce. You can read more of their comments here.

MPR listener question

My husband and I listen to you and Cathy every Friday from our home in Minnetonka. We are running behind schedule on our fall chores, and still need to plant bulbs in the garden. Can you tell me what the soil temperatures are now and when you think they will freeze?

Answer: Thanks for listening. Soil temperatures a few inches below the surface have tailed off into the upper 30s to low 40s F. So, there is still plenty of time to rake, dig, plant bulbs, and apply mulch or straw. Normally our soils in the Twin Cities area do not freeze up until the first of December or so. With somewhat milder weather expected through mid-November I think soil temperatures will moderate in the 30s and 40s F for a while.

Twin Cities Almanac for November 2nd

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 49 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 32 degrees F (plus or minus 9 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for November 2nd

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 72 degrees F in 1978; lowest daily maximum temperature of 16 degrees F in 1951; lowest daily minimum temperature of 9 F in 1951; highest daily minimum temperature of 57 F in 1938; and record precipitation of 0.72 inches in 1901; Record snowfall is 5.3 inches in 1992.

Average dew point for November 2nd is 32 degrees F, with a maximum of 61 degrees F in 1987 and a minimum of -5 degrees F in 1951.

All-time state records for November 2nd

The state record high temperature for this date is 80 degrees F at Canby (Yellow Medicine County) in 1965. The state record low temperature for this date is -11 degrees F at Moose Lake (Carlton County) in 1951. State record precipitation for this date is 2.76 inches at Maple Plain (Hennepin County) in 1961; and the state record snowfall for this date is 24.0 inches at Two Harbors (Lake County) in 1991.

Past Weather Features:

November 1st is a significant date in America's weather history. On that date in 1870 systematic weather observations were taken at 24 sites across the nation, all of which were operated by observers in the U.S. Army's Signal Corps. Their observations were telegraphed to Headquarters in Washington, DC so that a national weather map could be drawn. These observations made on that morning were the first large-scale, synchronous (or synoptic) observations taken across the nation by the predecessor of the current National Weather Service. Seven days later, the mapped analysis of the weather caused the Signal Corps to issue its first winter storm warning to the public on Nov 8, 1870 for the Great Lakes Region.

November 1-2, 1935 brought extreme cold to northern Minnesota with many observers reporting lows below zero F, and single digit low temperatures were reported in the lower Red River Valley. Moorhead reached a high of only 16 degrees F on the 2nd. The remainder of the month was very cold as well.

Another extreme cold period came over November 2-3, 1951 as over 35 Minnesota communities saw the thermometer drop below 0 degrees F. It was -1 degrees F at St Cloud on November 2nd, the earliest below zero temperature ever reported in the fall season there.

A strong winter storm brought a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow to the state over November 2-3, 1961. Gaylord, Maple Plain, St James, Windom, and Young America all reported over 2 inches of precipitation (a whole month's worth in 2 days), while up north at Thorhult the observer recorded 6 inches of snowfall.

November 2, 1965 seemed a bit like summer as over 40 Minnesota communities reported daytime highs in the 70s F. It was short-lived, as daytime temperatures fell off into the 40s F by November 4th.

November 2-4, 1978 was possibly the mildest ever spell of early November weather with over 60 communities reporting temperatures in the 70s F. Golf courses opened and did a good business. It was a last gasp of Indian Summer as the second half of the month was dominated by heavy snow and cold temperatures.

Many snowfall and cold temperature records were set around the state over November 1-3, 1991 during the famous Halloween Blizzard. Several observers reported 15-30 inches of snowfall and many below 0 F overnight temperature readings. In fact that was the snowiest November in history for observers at Duluth, Two Harbors, and Bruno where over 50 inches of snow was recorded.

On November 1, 2000, at about 5:30 pm a tornado touched down near Prinsburg in Kandiyohi County. It traveled across a rural landscape for about half a mile, with a funnel diameter of about 30 yards. Unfortunately it destroyed a storage shed, tipped another shed on its side, and ripped off a portion of the roof on a third building of a family farm. Fortunately there were no injuries. This rare November event represents one of only a few tornadoes that have been recorded this month in Minnesota history. The historical probability of a November tornado in Minnesota is less than 0.3 percent.

Outlook

Mostly cloudy Saturday with a slight chance of snow in the north, continued cooler than normal temperatures. Chance of light rain or snow Saturday night and early Sunday. Getting warmer on Monday and Tuesday with a chance for mixed precipitation. Warmer yet deeper into next week with a chance for another more significant storm near the end of the week.

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