Posts Tagged weather

Algae World News: Red snow melts glaciers

Just in time for our first snow in Minnesota when we eagerly bring out our cross-country skis and sleds—both self-propelled and motorized, comes this news of a melt-inducing microbe.  I’ve seen and tasted the resulting “watermelon snow” up in the Rockies.  It seemed harmless enough—a natural frozen novelty.  But a simple comparative experiment by Alaskan researchers showed a 17% increase in melting where the snow became darkened by the algae stain.  On the positive side it will be watermelon snow-cones all around.

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Arctic vortex delivers an impressive “Cold Force” for mid-December

20-below-dec-18As you can see, I awoke this morning to an outside temperature of minus 20.2 degrees F, which comes to precisely minus 29.00000 on the Celsius scale according to this metric converter.  When I opened the window, the air provided an impressive slap to my face—no need for coffee to provide an eye-opener.  However, I had to quickly shut out the cold before it gave me a brain freeze.

The iconic fellow pictured on my La Crosse Technology Wireless Weather Station, whom I generally find very indicative on temperature, did not get dressed warmly enough today. He needs a mask to avoid a frostbitten nose and frozen ears.  When the Arctic express whistles down into our mid-Continent winter wasteland, I fall back on the Anderson Cold Scale, which came up just shy of Freezing Force 6 in the predawn hour.  That tells me to don 6 layers before venturing out for my morning walk.  I start with Long Johns.  If this is your first winter up north and you need a warm undergarment, check out this traditional one from the Gentleman’s Emporium — fire engine red with rear fireman’s flap.

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Models responsible for whacky weather

Watching Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen sashay across the Olympic stadium in Rio reminded me that, while these fashion plates are really dishy to view, they can be very dippy when it comes to forecasting.  Every time one of our local weather gurus says that their models are disagreeing, I wonder why they would ask someone like Gisele.  What does she and her like know about meteorology?

There really is a connection of fashion and statistical models—the random walk.  However, this movement would be more like that of a drunken man than a fashionably-calculated stroll down the catwalk.  For example, see this video by an MIT professor showing 7 willy-nilly paths from a single point.

Anyways, I am wandering all over the place with this blog.  Mainly I wanted to draw your attention to the Monte Carlo method for forecasting.  I used this for my MBA thesis in 1980, burning up many minutes of very expensive main-frame computer time in the late ‘70s.  What got me going on this whole Monte Carlo meander is this article from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.  Check out how the European models did better than the Americans on predicting the path of Hurricane Sandy.  Evidently the Euros are on to something as detailed in this Scientific American report at the end of last year’s hurricane season.

I have a random thought for improving the American models—ask Cindy Crawford.  She graduated as valedictorian of her high school in Illinois and earned a scholarship for chemical engineering at Northwestern University.  Cindy has all the talents to create a convergence of fashion and statistical models.  That would be really sweet.

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New Summer Glory Index provides proof positive of great weather

Minnesotans love to point out what a pain in the posterior (PIP) it is to endure the climate from November through March.  Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) State Climatology Office (SCO) quantifies the suffering with this Winter Misery Index (WMI).  As you can see by their chart, last year’s WMI ranked highly for PIP.

I actually like the cold (good for ice skating!) and snow (great for cross-country skiing).  Therefore I agree with the DNR suggesting the WMI be renamed WFI, that is, Winter Fun Index.  However, even I must admit to favoring spring, summer and fall over the winter.

It’s been especially nice here for the past few months—only a few really hot days.  This is confirmed by the MN DNR climatology wonks who concocted this Summer Glory Index (SGI).  They figure the sweet spot (“full credit”) is high and low temperatures of 73-79 F and 57-64, respectively, with less than 60 F dew point and at most 0.01 inches of rain.  By these measures we Twin Citians are enjoying a mostly glorious summer.

Looking back some years on the chart a few summers fall into the “wretched” category, primarily due to extreme heat.  I recall many a summer night lying awake in my upper bunk on the second floor of our home in St. Paul with the window pulled down and begging for the least bit of breeze.  That really was wretched.  Thank goodness for air conditioning now being so ubiquitous in buildings and vehicles!

Baby Laine relaxing in the glorious summer of 2015Check out my granddaughter Laine enjoying our great outdoors.  Glory be! : )

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Oh, snow–but it was ice out

Walking the dog to the park on a decent day yesterday (today being terribly cold and rainy) I came across this remnant of the mountain of snow piled up in the cul de sac.  Yuk!  On the other hand, many of the area’s lakes enjoyed ice-out this week.   Nearby White Bear Lake was declared open on  Wednesday morning  (it’s a bit of a judgement call, evidently).   According to records that go back 86 years this year’s ice-out fell nine days later than the median date but well ahead of the record of May 4, 1950.  

I am looking forward to the dirty-snow-out coming soon.  Then I feel it really will be Spring.
Dirty snow pile
P.S. I noticed the postal-deliverer wearing the USPS summer-shorts uniform, so that’s a good sign. : )

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White squirrel on fresh snow

On my triple-long commute into town this morning I enjoyed my scenic route along County Road B2 in Roseville. One may as well make a savory slurpee out of the snowstorm as sit in traffic stewing.  This route paralleled the gob-stomped Highway 36 so moving along the stopped traffic made this bypass all the more satisfying.  I happily paid heed to the calming advice of the mellifluous public radio announcer that “you will get to where you going in due time.”

While admiring the flakes falling on the white-bedecked urban forest I was startled by a clump of snow scurrying down a tree trunk and then disappearing when it hit the deck.  It was an albino* squirrel who managed to survive standing out all summer amongst all the greenery.  Cool!

You really can see a lot just by looking—to paraphrase Yogi Berra.

*Not being close enough to look it in the eye, I cannot be sure it wasn’t a plain old white squirrel (black eyed) but from the map posted at this website , my guess is it’s an albino.  If so, that’s very rare—only 1 out of 100,000 squirrels exhibit this trait, according to my research.

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Holing up on a frozen Minnesota lake

The March issue of Minnesota Business magazine, a valuable source of information and insight for growing companies,* provided a fascinating statistic, hard to believe really: 25,000—the number of ice fishing holes drilled last month for an ice-fishing contest on Gull Lake.  Minnesota-based StikeMaster Corporation provided the augers.  See their video for a demonstration.

Meanwhile (reported on page 44), elsewhere on Gull Lake (far from the 25,000 holes, I hope), Grand View Lodge offered the ideal meeting place for getting away from the office.  See this report from our local CBS television affiliate—you will be amazed.

Sadly it seems that spring is nearly sprung so we must now endure 6 months of warm weather before the fun can begin again.

*Full disclosure: My daughter Emily is Graphic Designer for the production of this publication by Tiger Oak Media of Minneapolis.

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Why you should be very leery of forecasts

Check out this blog by statistician William Briggs that gives the heads up on how  Hurricane Predictors Admit They Can’t Predict Hurricanes.  Years ago as a chemical engineer working on process development I would be encouraged by plant personnel to crank old data through a regression analysis to model the operation, thus avoiding any work on their part to run designed experiments.  The joke was that we got very good at predicting what would happen last month.

In this case the issue is hurricanes.  As Briggs explains, the top experts can fit past data very well (r = 0.79 for 50-year period the last half of 20th century).  He refers to this as a ‘hindcast’.  But, as the hurricane forecasters themselves admit, these models predict so poorly (r = 0.04) that you may as well just use an average — what I call the ‘mean’ model as a double meaning (ha ha) because it is so disappointing for the analyst.

What it boils down to is that any forecasts on hurricanes this early before the coming season will really just be a lot of hot air, despite impressive statistics from models fit to prior years.  The same goes for long-term outlooks on other natural phenomena.


How hot? 103 under our shade tree!

According to my morning newspaper (St. Paul Pioneer Press), yesterday’s record temperature made it hotter hereabouts than a billy goat in a pepper patch, or the devil’s underwear (I hope he is not a tweeter like that New York Congressman), or two bears fighting in a forest fire (down in Arizona, I suppose).  Even so, a vestige of the once 60-foot high pile of snow dump in downtown St. Paul remained intact.  Perhaps it will disappear today.  I hope so, because it will be back in the 60’s by Friday – colder than a basement toilet seat as Minnesotans like to say.



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Winter not loosening its icy grip on Spring

I woke up to snow yesterday morning. It couldn’t quite cover the greening grass underneath, nor did it seem to discourage the budding bushes. Today the snow has disappeared and the near 40 degree F temperature seems mild with the power of April’s sun and the abatement of fierce northern winds. However, our Canadian neighbors are not faring quite as well, as evidenced by this very cool (literally and figuratively) photo from my sister – a resident of Calgary. Notice how the snow fingers feature icy nails — chilling!

When will Winter finally loosen up and let Spring spring free, eh? Maybe May…

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