Sunday, February 28, 2010

Why I'm not in meteorology

Here in Minnesota we have enjoyed a couple weeks of no major storms. No slow commutes because of slick roads. A very quiet weather pattern indeed. One word sums it up best: peaceful. Mike Fairbourne on WCCO-TV had another term - "boring". This is one of the reasons why I did not go into meteorology. Sitting in front of a computer and staring at blank forecast models with not a cloud in the sky does not interest me much. I would rather be outside enjoying the sunshine and warmth. It was a beautiful weekend to be out and taking part in winter activities with the snowpack we have left. Looking ahead in the next two weeks, we could be losing much much of our snow with above freezing temperatures as well as a possible rain storm moving in at the end of the weekend that lingers into Monday.

As the map above indicates, we have a shot of daytime temperatures hitting 40 degrees early next week as a low pressure system moves towards us, drawing in warm air from the Gulf. We will likely have out first big rain storm of the meterological spring. For those, like myself, yearning for spring's arrival, this is one sign that we are just about there! Enjoy this week. It will certainly be one of the nicest stretches we had all year so far.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Quiet weather week ahead

This week's weather appears to be quiet as we head into March and the unofficial start to severe weather season (March 1st).

According to the latest QPF from the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, east central Minnesota will pick up about .1" of liquid which equates roughly to an inch of snow for Tuesday. The morning and afternoon drive may be a bit slow, but the snowfall shouldn't cause a major hassle.

High temperatures should stay above single digits for the rest of the week, but above freezing temps many not be too far away. Perhaps as early as the conclusion to the first week of March?

Spring is knocking at the doorstep. It will be here soon enough, and it won't be too long before we are sitting at the beach, enjoying the sunshine! Ah, yes...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Spring Flooding

The big weather story today is the updated flood outlooks for the rivers that flow throughout Minnesota from the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. The real concern is the Red River that separates Minnesota and the Dakotas. As with past years, the Fargo and Grand Forks areas see the biggest blunt of the flooding. Flooding is a regular occurrence in this part of the country, but the severity varies every year due to differences in snow melt rates and the total snow depth.

According to the NWS, there is about a 75-80 % chance of major flooding along the Red River at East Grand Forks:

Focus your attention on the CS - the black line with triangles. CS is the estimate based on current conditions, whereas HS uses historical data to plot estimates.

Major flooding in Fargo is pretty much a guarantee sadly for area residents:

Closer to home, the NWS in Chanhassen has provided updated information on the flood outlook in the Twin Cities. If you live along one of the large rivers, you may want to take note at the likelihood of at least moderate to major flooding expected in most areas.

The flooding probabilties will likely change as we get closer to the Spring thaw. After reading the information above you may be in a state of panic, but remember that temperatures and amount of precipitation and type (rain will cause a fast snow melt) will have a big influence on flooding. In the southwest corner of Minnesota, we have 15-20 inches of snow on the ground.

If this area receives significantly more snow this winter, we could be dealing with a serious issue when this snow melt travels upstream. As spring arrives, the southern part of the state warms up faster than the rest of the state, so this could dictate an earlier flooding event. It's been a rather odd Minnesota winter in that the southern part of the state has more snow than the north.

Temperatures are predicted to remain at around normal for the next month for most of the region with some above average temperatures around Lake Superior.

This is definitely good news as we will see normal melt going into March. Above average temps would be a receipe for disaster considering this area will likely see more snow before the winter ends.

GFS forecast models are hinting at 2-4 inches of snow for the southeast part of Minnesota during the next five days, but fortunately it's away from areas that don't need the snow:

The next flood outlook will be issued at the beginning of March. This will be one for sure to watch, especially for interests along the Mississippi, Minnesota, and Red Rivers.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why in the heck am I doing this?

Welcome all to my new storm chasing blog! I will be using this blog to document my storm chase stories as well as sharing photos and/or videos from my adventures in the field. This blog will also be used occasionally to discuss major upcoming weather events and phenomenon.

My passion for weather started as a young child. I was always fascinated with the power of storms as they moved through the neighborhood I grew up in. If I wanted to see if storms were moving in, the TV was always tuned to the local weather channel showing radar images. The first big storm I remember is the Superstorm of 1987 that moved through the Twin Cities area. My hometown of Eden Prairie experienced about 9 inches of rain the night of July 23rd. Other areas dealt with tornadoes, high winds, and funnel clouds. Before the storm hit, I was out with family watching my dad play a softball game at Dred Scott Field in Bloomington. Once the sirens hit and the sky turned green, everyone rushed for their vehicles in the parking lot. A lot of the roads were not passable for days.

So why do I storm chase? As I finished college and began living on my own, I developed a strong interest watching storms from my car in 2007. Eventually this evolved into taking spotting courses to further my understanding of storm development and knowing what the tale-tale signs are of a potential tornado dropping from the sky and assist with advanced warning. In 2009, I took my first training class and became a trained spotter for the National Weather Service using the eSpotter program. With advances in technology, including wireless internet access, radar applications (such as GRLevel3), and GPS tracking, being able to storm watch from a mobile location became so much easier as these became invaluable tools for tracking storms. Spotter Network allows me to place real time reports from my exact location with just the click of a mouse. In 2010, I will be adding ham radio to my arsenal as a backup means of communication to my cell phone for calling in life-threatening weather situations, and becoming affiliated with the Metro Skywarn program. Stay tuned for what could be an active 2010!