Conservation Minnesota

Supercells, Haboobs (and a potential soaking tonight)

74 F. high in the Twin Cities yesterday.

66 F. average high for May 4.

66 F. high temperature a year ago, May 4, 2011.

.17″ rain fell on the Twin Cities Friday.

9 tornado touchdowns between Worthington and Kiester, Minnesota yesterday – all from the same “supercell”.

Today: nicer, drier day of the weekend with some sun, highs from 65-70 with an east wind, 10-20 mph.


.62″ of rain predicted for MSP by Sunday morning (NAM model). Most of that rain is forecast to come tonight.

2-4″ band of rain possible over parts of central Minnesota tonight and early Sunday (00z NAM).


“Supercell.” Wow. I wish I could be articulate, but when I saw Paul Zunkel’s photo taken near Fairmont late Friday I almost fell off my sofa. Well done – a perfect example of a rotating “supercell” thunderstorm. This is the same cell that dropped as many as 9 tornado touchdowns (from the same parent thunderhead) all the way from Worthington to near Kiester.


Iowa “Haboob”. I know – kind of a funny word; something you might expect to see in Phoenix or Las Vegas – an advancing wall of dust and dirt, whipped up by an advancing gust-front in Iowa. I don’t think this was a “gustnado”, but rather the symptom of a wall of wind picking up dirt/topsoil into a swirling, seething cloud that totally enveloped this town. Sheric Hull captured this footage on the campus of Northwestern College. The (remarkable) YouTube clip is here. Details: “This is a gustnado(short for gust front tornado) that formed in Orange City, IA on the Northwestern College campus. A gustnado is similar to a tornado in the fact that it rotates, but it’s direction is horizontal rather than a vertical like an actual tornado.” (video clip rated PG for salty language – if I saw this thing approaching my neighborhood I might be using the same words. Sorry mom).

* here is a good overview on haboobs from Wikipedia.

Wisconsin Fishing Opener. It won’t rain the entire time, but a few showers and T-storms are likely east of the St. Croix, especially late tonight and Sunday. Today should be the drier day of the weekend across Wisconsin, highs in the 60s to near 70, an east/northeast breeze at 10-20 with a falling barometer. The best chance of heavy rain? Sunday, especially afternoon hours. Click here to type in a town and get a personalized forecast from Ham Weather.

A Wild Friday Across Far Southern Minnesota. I counted anywhere from 5-6 separate tornado touchdowns from the same long-lasting, rotating “supercell” thunderstorm that swept right down I-90, including a touchdown near Worthington. Click here for an interactive storm reports map from Ham Weather.


Damage Reports. We were relatively lucky yesterday. Damage from a series of tornado touchdowns was relatively minor; downed trees and powerlines, some roof damage reported. A complete up-to-date list of damage is here, courtesy of NOAA.


Ballfield – or Lake? Thanks to Chris Blumberg, who sent in this photo of a flooded softball field in the Owatonna area Friday evening. Some of these storms may have packed 2-3″ rains.


Doppler Radar Estimates. Here are some of the amounts (from the Twin Cities NWS Doppler), showing 2″ rain near Montevideo, Owatonna and Windom, a few isolated pockets of 3″ rains near Saint James.



Pick A Model, Any Model. As usual, weather models are all over the map when it comes to predicted rainfall amounts. The 00z NAM prints out a narrow band of 2-4″ for parts of central Minnesota tonight and early Sunday. We’ll see – at this point nothing would surprise me. Thanks Ryan. And Twitter.

Saturday Severe Threat. A lingering frontal boundary will provide enough low-level convergence for more strong/severe storms later today from Pierre, South Dakota into southwestern Minnesota and much of Iowa. Map courtesy of SPC and Ham Weather.


Iowa Twisters. Over the last 48 hours Iowa has been hit much harder by tornadoes than southern Minnesota.

Photo credit above: “Lightning strikes in the distance as volunteers (on right) help rescue more than a thousand turkeys from a destroyed barn on the property of a farmer who did not wish to be identified east of Wayland, Iowa Thursday, May 3, 2012 after a suspected tornado went through the area. Wayland Police Chief Ron Roth said he saw a tornado around nine o’clock Thursday night heading for the small town. (AP Photo/The Gazette-KCRG,Brian Ray).”

A New Low For Climate Deniers. Comparing climate scientists and reporters to “mass murderers and madmen”? Details below.


The area of climate change has a dramatic impact on national security,” Panetta said. “Rising sea levels, severe droughts, the melting of the polar caps, the more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.” – excerpt from a statement by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in “The Hill”; details below.

Fishing Forecast. Ham Weather (one of my companies) has personalized information available – free to consumers. Click here to type in the town you’re interested in. Information above for Hayward, Wisconsin. Good luck out there!

Wet Start To May For Some. Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Mark Seeley’s WeatherTalk blog for May 4: “Strong thunderstorms crossed the state overnight from May 1st to 2nd producing numerous reports of heavy rainfall, hail, strong winds, and even tornadoes. NOAA Storm Prediction Center received reports of brief tornado touchdowns in Pope and Stearns Counties between 9:00 and 10:00 pm Tuesday night. No serious damage reports from tornadoes were evident. There were numerous reports of strong winds and large hail (1-2 inches in diameter) from many western and southern counties. Sauk Rapids reported wind gusts to 64 mph while Wabasha reported winds up to 74 mph. Many observers reported rainfall from 0.75 inches to 1.50 inches, and some reported new record rainfall amounts for May 2nd. Among the new record amounts were 2.20 inches at St Francis; 2.10 inches at Elk River; 2.05 inches at Rush City, Slayton, and Windom; and 1.63 inches at Rice. The campus of St Cloud State University reported a rainfall of 3.11 inches.”

End To The Drought In Sight? The map above shows a long-term rainfall deficit of 1.5 to near 7″ across Minnesota – this is how much additional rain we need to end the drought. As much as 1-2″ of rain may fall over the weekend, putting a big dent in our drought – if these trends continue much of Minnesota may be drought-free within a couple of weeks. But we need another 3-5″+ to start start raising lake water levels significantly.

Timing The Rain. I think much of today will be dry, with a mix of clouds and sun, highs holding in the upper 60s to near 70 (near the Iowa border), a stiff east breeze at 10-20 mph. The best chance of showers and a few heavy thunderstorms should come tonight into early Sunday. Models are divergent in their solutions, but I’m leaning closer to .5″, with some 1-2″ amounts south of the Minnesota River.

“The Puddles Page”. Looking for rainfall information? The Minnesota Climatology Working Group has put together a terrific resource to get close to real-time rainfall data, in tabular or map form. You can access information for the metro, the state, or the entire nation, on a state-by-state basis. Well done.


Severe Flash Flooding In Flint, Michigan. The same “supercell” that spawned tornado warnings across central Michigan dumped excessive rainfall amounts on Flint. Details from AP’s YouTube page: “An overnight storm dumped nearly half a foot of rain on the Flint area and drenched other parts of Michigan, killing power to neighborhoods, stranding cars on roadways and forcing the boat evacuation of some residents.”

Water Water Everywhere. Britons Baffled By Simultaneous Drought And Flood. Here’s an excerpt of an AP story at The Washington Post: “LONDON — Sodden fields. Deep puddles. Flash floods. This is what drought looks like in Britain. Last month, water authorities banned 20 million U.K. homeowners from using hoses to water their lawns or wash their cars, saying two exceptionally dry winters had plunged much of Britain into drought. Since then, the rain has hardly let up. Official figures show that April was both cooler than average and the wettest in a century, leaving a trail of flooded properties, canceled events and grumpy residents. But officials insist the drought and the watering ban remain — to the bafflement of many Britons.”


Miraculous Tornado Before/After Photos. I’m always amazed by the resilience of Americans, willing to rebuild, start over, after a devastating tornado.

Upper left photo credit: “This photo combo shows a view of Main Street in Greensburg, Kan., a few days after the town was leveled by a tornado on May 4, 2007, top, and what it looks like on May 1, 2012, bottom. (AP Photo/The Wichita Eagle, Travis Heying).”

Upper right photo credit: “This photo combo shows an area of Greensburg, Kan., a few days after the town was leveled by a May 4, 2007 tornado, top, and what it looks like on May 1, 2012, bottom. (AP Photo/The Wichita Eagle, Travis Heying).”

Worst. Airline. Ever. Again. I’m feeling even better about flying Delta these days. Here’s a snippet of an article at portfolio.com: “A Seat 2B column on the dreadful state of United Airlines in 2008 cribbed a line from The Simpsons for its headline: “Worst. Airline. Ever.” Four years later, there’s ample reason to revive the line and dub the United Airlines of 2012 “Worst. Airline. Ever. Again.” Two years to the day after it announced its merger with Continental Airlines, United is lagging its competitors among the legacy carriers by most any financial measure or service metric. The airline’s fractured employee groups are unhappy, and C-suite executives are bolting. Many of its best and most profitable customers are in open revolt, and average travelers are filling United’s Facebook page with tales of woe. The airline’s management seems alternately clueless and arrogant and unwilling or unable to fix what’s gone awry.”

Inside The First Production-Ready Electric Airplane. Here’s an interesting article at popsci.com: “Engineers have historically faced two obstacles when designing electric aircraft. Batteries that run the electric motors have been too heavy and not energy-dense enough to provide sufficient power. And the consequences of failure were too high: Running out of power would all but assure a crash landing. But in the past several years, says Paul Peterson, the founder and CEO of the Portland, Oregon, aeronautics company Volta Volare, off-the-shelf electric-car batteries and motors have become light, powerful and efficient enough to make electric—or at least hybrid—flight viable. This spring, Volta Volare will begin testing its four-passenger GT4. Constructed around a standard airframe, the plane runs on a hybrid powertrain similar to the one in the Chevrolet Volt, with batteries plus a backup gasoline engine.”

Photo credit above: “Volta Volare GT4 Daniel Schumpert and Jason Briney.”

Flow Concept Turns Wind Into Light With Novel Bamboo Turbine. The rate of innovation on clean-energy options continues to amaze me. Here’s an excerpt from gizmag.com: “Grid-powered street lighting is something that many of us take for granted, but there are parts of the world where electricity is a scarce resource and when the sun goes down, local pedestrian traffic in areas where public lighting is not abundant can all-but cease due to safety concerns. In searching for an inexpensive off-grid solution for places like the Colombian city of Cartagena, designer Alberto Vasquez looked to the wind for help. His Flow concept makes use of readily-available bamboo for the construction of a vertical wind turbine in a similar vein to the Power Flowers concept, but with LED light modules at the end of each blade. As the wind catches the blades, the LEDs light up the walkway beneath.”

Beatings will continue until morale improves.” – anonymous

Blue Sky – Expanding Puddles. The sun was out much of the day over eastern Minnesota and Wisconsin; a line of heavy to severe thunderstorms rumbling across southern Minnesota during the afternoon, dropping a few tornadoes from near Worthington to Kiester. Highs ranged from 68 at St. Cloud to 74 in the Twin Cities, 76 at Eau Claire.


The Joys Of Summer. WeatherNation TV meteorologist Todd Nelson sent me this photo of stop-and-go traffic on I94, at 9:45 pm Friday evening. Isn’t it fun driving up to the cabin? Don’t answer…

Paul’s Conservation Minnesota Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:


TODAY: Partly sunny with a cool breeze. Winds: E 10-20. High: 68 (70+ over far southern Minnesota)

SATURDAY NIGHT: Heavy showers, possible thunderstorms. Minor flooding can’t be ruled out, especially over central Minnesota. Low: 55

SUNDAY: Soaking rain, few T-storms early. Skies may brighten later in the day. Winds: E/SE 10-20. High: 65

MONDAY: You guessed it: Clearing skies – a dry, pleasant day. Low: 52. High: near 70

TUESDAY: Increasing clouds, PM showers. A cool day. Low: 47. High: near 60

WEDNESDAY: More sun, less wind, a much nicer day to be outside. Low: 44. High: 64

THURSDAY: Plenty of sun, very springy. Best day of the week? Low: 48. High: 70

FRIDAY: More clouds, stray T-shower possible. Low: 54. High: 69

“We Need The Rain!”
“Weather is a great metaphor for life – sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and there’s nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella” wrote Terri Guillemets. Amen.
It’s hard keeping farmers and outdoor enthusiasts happy, simultaneously. Yes, we need the rain, in fact 1-2″ of rain may go a long way toward easing Minnesota’s drought. Lake water levels are still low; another 3-5″ of rain necessary to avoid propeller dings and extra sections of dock this summer.
Timing convective, showery rain is a fool’s errand. A stalled front keeps us unsettled all weekend; the best chance of soaking rains and embedded T-storms comes tonight and Sunday as a wave of low pressure ripples east, along a volatile warm front. Severe storms may flare up over far southern Minnesota, but most of us will see an old fashioned soaker; the steady (heavy) rain we need to keep lawns and gardens green.
Today will probably be the drier day, temperatures holding in the 60s with a stiff east breeze and a partly sunny sky.
Have a Plan B (indoors) tonight & Sunday morning. A falling barometer leads to good fishing conditions for Wisconsin’s Opener. Next weekend in Minnesota? Highs near 70; not quite as soggy. It may even feel like spring.
The system of nature, of which man is a part, tends to be self-balancing, self-adjusting, self-cleansing. Not so with technology.” – E.F. Schumacher, “Small is Beautiful” (1973)

Climate Stories…

The Right And The Climate: A New Low. Just when you thought climate-denier tactics couldn’t get any lower. The Heartland “Heartless” Institute just installed a couple of interesting billboards that redefine depravity. The web site “Global Warming, Man or Myth” has details: “In some ways, this is an almost perfect illustration of what has happened to the “right.” A refusal to acknowledge scientific reality; and a brutalist style of public propaganda that focuses entirely on guilt by the most extreme association. Here’s how the Heartland Institute describes this new campaign: The billboard series features Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber; Charles Manson, a mass murderer; and Fidel Castro, a tyrant. Other global warming alarmists who may appear on future billboards include Osama bin Laden and James J. Lee (who took hostages inside the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in 2010). These rogues and villains were chosen because they made public statements about how man-made global warming is a crisis and how mankind must take immediate and drastic actions to stop it.”

Here’s a post at esquire.com: “This is not the “mainstream.” Both sides do not do this. There is no “other side” to this argument. The people responsible for this billboard deserve to be shunned by decent society — Astronauts? Really? Come on. — until one of them tries to sell me an apple from atop a steam grate outside the Daley Center. How’s about, maybe, the billboard company looks at what they’re being asked to put up and rips up the check, saying, “Sorry, fellas. We don’t do business with angry lunatics”? I weep for my country when I remember that God gets pissed.”

* Another perspective on this new and baffling tactic from Heartland here and here. The Daily Beast has reaction here. Comparing climate science believers and reporters to mass murderers and madmen? Joe Romm at ThinkProgress has his take here. Surreal, but something tells me this tactic will backfire badly on this Chicago-based “think tank”.

** By late Friday Heartland had agreed to turn off the offensive (Unabomber) digital billboard in the Chicago area. Details from The New York Times.

An Open Letter To The Heartland Institute From Bill McKibbon. The entire post on 350.org:

Dear Mr. Bast-

Earlier today you and the companies that support you announced a set of billboards in Chicago suggesting that serial killers were pretty much the only people who feared climate change.
I’d like to thank you for doing that. The billboards are ugly, but they convey with graphic intensity the desperation of those who have fought on the side of the fossil fuel companies for a quarter century. As you know, the polling data in fact indicates that growing majorities of Americans are deeply concerned about climate change, and eager to see our political leaders address it. And the demand for action is at least as strong in the rest of the world.

I know you’d like your opponents to be murderers and crazed fanatics—that would make your job easier. But as it happens, this weekend will see more than a thousand events in most countries of the planet, arranged by entirely ordinary people who have already felt the sting of climate change. You can watch the pictures at 350.org—we’ll be blogging them as fast as we can. What you’ll see are people of every race and creed, united in the hope that the floods and droughts we’ve already suffered will be enough to sway the hearts and minds of our leaders.

Leading GOPer Chastises Right Wing Group For Comparing Climate Change Believers To Mass Murderers. Here’s an excerpt of a story at The Washington Post: “As you may have heard, the Heartland Institute, a right-wing anti-climate-science think tank, has launched a billboard campaign that’s getting widely pilloried on the Web — it compares people who accept climate science as legitimate to Osama Bin Laden, Charles Manson, and the Unabomber. Now the Heartland Institute has suffered its first major defection in the way of GOP public officials: GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, a leading climate “skeptic,” will be pulling out of an upcoming conference sponsored by the group where he was supposed to speak, his spokesperson confirms to me.”

Panetta Warns Climate Change Having “Dramatic Impact” On National Security. Here’s an excerpt from “The Hill“….”But the Pentagon’s adoption of environmentally sensitive practices was driven more by the department’s dire fiscal situation than politics, Panetta said on Tuesday. DOD spent roughly $15 billion to fuel its fighters, tanks and ships in 2012, the Defense chief said. The Pentagon spends $50 million on fuel each month to keep combat operations in Afghanistan going, Panetta added. As oil prices continue to skyrocket, the department “now [faces] a shortfall exceeding $3 billion of higher-than-expected fuel costs this year,” according to Panetta. In order to dig its way out of that financial hole, DOD has no choice but to look to alternative fuel technologies. Pentagon officials plan to invest more than $1 billion into developing those technologies in fiscal 2013, he said.”

Connecting The Dots Between Climate Change And Extreme Weather. Here’s a snippet of a recent post from Dr. Jeff Masters in his excellent Wunderblog: “Connecting the dots between human-caused climate change and extreme weather events is fraught with difficulty and uncertainty. One the one hand, the underlying physics is clear–the huge amounts of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide humans have pumped into the atmosphere must be already causing significant changes to the weather. But the weather has huge natural variations on its own, without climate change. So, communicators of the links between climate change and extreme weather need to emphasize how climate change shifts the odds. We’ve loaded the dice towards some types of extreme weather events, by heating the atmosphere to add more heat and moisture. This can bring more extreme weather events like heat waves, heavy downpours, and intense droughts. What’s more, the added heat and moisture can change atmospheric circulation patterns, causing meanders in the jet stream capable of bringing longer-lasting periods of extreme weather. As I wrote in my post this January, Where is the climate headed?” Photo credit: “Restless Skies”.

Climate Change Is Real And Here: What You Can Do NOW To Protect Your Building. An interesting post from Habitat: “Based on the model of probability used by New York City’s task force on climate change, extreme precipitation is expected, and in a greater frequency, intensity and duration in coming decades. Greater downpours will put considerable strain on the combined sewage outflow system of the city. Condos and co-ops can do their part to mitigate this by installing green roofs. These structures can absorb and capture the excess rainfall during intense precipitation events, helping to forestall sewage overflows. Additionally, rainfall can be captured and re-appropriated for use in building systems or, in some cases, toilet flushing. Doing this not only saves on water, it also hygienically preserves quality, since the increased flooding makes the water grid susceptible to dirt.”

Is Climate Change Real? For The Thousandth Time – Yes. Here’s an excerpt from a story at KQED: “From PBS NewsHour yesterday, a story about the difficulties teachers confront when discussing climate science in the face of both skeptical parents and hostile state laws. From the report: CHERYL MANNING, high school science teacher: They hear it on the news. They see it in the newspaper. They hear their parents talking about it. There are people who say that climate — the climate may be changing, but it’s not our fault, or the climate isn’t changing at all; this is a natural cycle. There are all sorts of things that the kids hear. They want clarification.”

Photo credit above: “In January of this year, snow was still sparse at high elevations in the Sierra Nevada. (Molly Samuel/Climate Watch).”

Correcting Science Myths: “There Is No Consensus On Climate Change”. Here’s a post that often comes up from perpetual climate-deniers: “There is no consensus The Petition Project features over 31,000 scientists signing the petition stating “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide will, in the forseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere …”. (Petition Project)

Skeptical Science’s response: “97% of climate experts agree humans are causing global warming. Science achieves a consensus when scientists stop arguing. When a question is first asked – like ‘what would happen if we put a load more CO2 in the atmosphere?’ – there may be many hypotheses about cause and effect. Over a period of time, each idea is tested and retested – the processes of the scientific method – because all scientists know that reputation and kudos go to those who find the right answer (and everyone else becomes an irrelevant footnote in the history of science). Nearly all hypotheses will fall by the wayside during this testing period, because only one is going to answer the question properly, without leaving all kinds of odd dangling bits that don’t quite add up. Bad theories are usually rather untidy. But the testing period must come to an end. Gradually, the focus of investigation narrows down to those avenues that continue to make sense, that still add up, and quite often a good theory will reveal additional answers, or make powerful predictions, that add substance to the theory. When Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev constructed his periodic table of elements, not only did he fit all known elements successfully, he predicted that elements we didn’t even know about would turn up later on – and they did!

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About Paul Douglas

Paul Douglas
Paul Douglas is a meteorologist, author, entrepreneur, and software expert in Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota. He is a nationally recognized meteorologist with over 30 years of broadcast television and radio experience.
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