March 2008 Newsletter

The next SKYWARN meeting is 18-Mar @ 7:00 PM, the third Tuesday of the month. The March meeting will include a walk thru of a deployment and may include a CityWatch test during the meeting.

NOAA Weather Radio
In a joint community effort, Steele County SKYWARN and OSCAR will participate in a NOAA weather radio promotion. On 08-Mar-2008, HY-Vee in Owatonna will sell NOAA weather radios at a discount. Members of OSCAR and SKYWARN will provide assistance to individuals to program the radios. Look for promotion details in the HY-Vee circular at that time. Also check the Weather Radio Promotion page for information on participating in this event. Many thanks to Deuel NSL for developing the idea and working all of the details to make it a success. Contact Deuel NSL if you are willing to spend an hour participating in this event.

SKYWARN Training
Don't forget to get your training for 2008 on Thursday, 13-Mar. Spotters should have refresher training at least every two years. The 2008 workshop is held at the Owatonna Fire Station, 107 W. Main Street, and begins at 7:00PM. Karen Trammell KD5PTI from the NWS at Chanhassen will provide an interesting and entertaining class. Anyone with an interest in weather and storm spotting is invited.

The Calendar page is updated with known regional listings. Classes can also be searched at Minneapolis NWS and Metro SKYWARN.

MN SKYWARN Workshop From MN SKYWARN Workshop
Join storm spotters from across the state for the 3rd annual Minnesota Skywarn Workshop on 03-Apr. The full-day severe weather conference in St. Paul is designed to train you in spotting techniques, equip you with information about the latest in weather technology. You will also be able to connect with other Skywarn communities from across the state. The pre-workshop registration fee is $10. On-site registration will not be available.

February Meeting Notes
Approximately 12 people attended the 19-Feb meeting. Topics that were discussed include:

  • Discussed the Wx Radio Day at HyVee (above).
  • Reminded everyone to particiate in SKYWARN training (above).
  • The phone system at the EOC was upgraded and there are new phone numbers for the Weather Center.
  • Mike Johnson informed us that we will be receiving two additional computers from the LEC after they complete their CAD training.
  • SKYWARN apparel available at Court Sports.

Work continues on updating the Weather Center:

  • Bill S donated a couple of rugs for the room. These will help attenuate the noise in the room.
  • Tim V is acquiring some wood products to finish a work surface and shelving for one of the dungeons.
  • Tom NUW acquired several office chairs to use at the consoles.
  • A couple more amateur radios will be installed.
Conatct Tom NUW if you have an interest in helping finish out the room.

Arkansas Tornado
The nation has had a surprising number of early tornadoes this year. A former Owatonna resident, Fred KCUOX, passed along this picture he took of a tornado near his Arkansas home.

Icebox of the Nation From Minnesota WeatherTalk
The U.S. Patent Office last week granted International Falls the federal trademark to calls itself the "Icebox of the Nation." Since that time International Falls has reported the lowest temperature in the 48 contiguous states twice, including -40 degrees F last Monday morning (Feb 11).

Poor Snow Predictions From Minnesota WeatherTalk
A question was to Minnesota WeatherTalk as to why the NWS seems to have been so far off in their recent predictions of snow events. The answer:

"Snow is perhaps the most difficult element to forecast. Years ago the National Weather Service made no attempt to forecast amounts, just whether snow would occur or not. The Quantified Precipitation Forecast model provides estimates of the liquid water, but not directly snowfall. Many various ingredients methods are used to estimate snowfall amounts, but there are several elements that are relatively uncertain. Stability, mixing ratios, temperature-related ice crystal structure, speed and areal extent of the cloud system, and a number of other features can be problematic. Government forecasters are evaluated for accuracy, more often based on temperature and precipitation, rather than their performance in forecasting snow. Occasionally the National Weather Service may release forecasting accuracy statistics, and in recent years they have shown improvement. I don't know if media meteorologists are routinely evaluated for their accuracy."

Groundhog Day From Cosmic Log
Groundhogs had their day in the sun on 02-Feb. Punxsutawney Phil, Grady, Jimmy, Sir Walter Wally and other furry rodents across the country were dragged out to judge whether there will be six more weeks of wintry weather. Groundhog Day appears to be a blend of several weather-related folktales beginning with 02-Feb being the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. As with most folk lore, the groundhog predictions are shaky. For hibernators like groundhogs, they're on a biological clock that tells them when to hibernate in the fall and when to finish in the spring, regardless of external conditions. They do arouse periodically throughout the winter while they're underground, but there are no external signals. The arousal periods come more frequently as spring approaches - but sunshine and shadows have nothing directly to do with it, since the animal doesn't leave its burrow.

ThreadEx Climate Extremes From Minnesota WeatherTalk
ThreadEx is a NOAA data base project that tracks our climate extremes. The project merges some of the older 20th and 19th Century Signal Corps data sets and other pioneer era data with the National Weather Service data sets. The combined data sets depict long-term climate extremes at a number of locations in the USA. The result has been an adjustment in some of the all-time extreme values for some Minnesota locations. As an example, the following all-time minimum temperature extremes now apply for these locations....

Location Previous Minimum
Temperature (Date)
New Minimum
Temperature (Date)
Twin Cities-34 degrees F (Jan 1970)-41 degrees F (1/21/1888)
Fargo-Moorhead-39 degrees F (Feb 1996)-48 degrees F (1/8/1887)
La Crosse-La Crescent-37 degrees F (Jan 1951)-43 degrees F (1/18/1873)
Rochester-35 degrees F (Feb 1996)-42 degrees F (1/7/1887)
Duluth-39 degrees F (Jan 1972, Feb 1996)-41 degrees F (1/2/1885)
International Falls-46 degrees F (Jan 1968)-55 degrees F (1/6/1909)

Radiosondes From NOAA
Upper level air observations are accomplished with radiosondes. The radiosonde is an expendable instrument package suspended helium filled balloon, about 6 feet in diameter. with a rate of climb o 1,000 feet per minute, data on temperature, humidity and pressure are transmitted back to ground. Information on wind speed and direction aloft is accomplished by tracking the flight. After traveling over 115,000 feet up and 125 miles from the release point, the ballooon bursts and a parachute brings the equipment back to earth. Unfortunately, only 20% of the nearly 75,000 radiosones release by the National Weather Service (NWS) are recovered. More information is available on the Upper-air Observations Program at NOAA.

Remote Controlled Aircraft From Weather Underground
NOAA approved a research program to use Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for several purposes. One of the roles will be to fly into the core of a hurricane. The lower altitudes are an essential part of the atmosphere to sample in order to learn more about how hurricanes intensify. The UAV is beneficial because the lower altitudes are a very dangerous place to fly a crewed aircraft in. One of the aircraft successfully flew into the core of Hurricane Noel in November, 2007. More information is available on the project is available at NOAA

NASA Studies From Minnesota WeatherTalk
NASA fund is funding a new study of agriculture in the midwest. Scientists at South Dakota State University are coordinating a climate modeling study to determine how a conversion of land from corn and soybean production to grasses in order to accommodate the development of a biofuels industry will alter weather patterns across the region.

Another study this week released by NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center found that rain storms over the southeastern USA peak in intensity, longevity and areal extent during mid-week when air pollution is at a maximum. This weekly storm trend analysis also showed lesser storm prevailed over the weekends when the air pollution load was at a minimum.

Tornado Path From NASA
A series tornadoes swept through Wisconsin on 07-Jun-2007. This interesting picture shows the path of one tornado near the Menominee Indian Reservation taken taken by Landsat 7 about a week later. The wide, bare swath of destruction from the tornado is very evident here, where trees were torn down by winds, leaves stripped from their branches, or where agricultural fields outside the Reservation were flattened.

Thunderstorm Path From USA Today
Thunderstorms generally move from the southwest toward the northeast. Their motion comes from steering winds located between 10,000 to 20,000 feet above the surface. Many supercell thunderstorms and squall lines that form in the central USA are the result of surface winds that flow from the south and stronger steering winds that are from the southwest. Thunderstorms will develop in warm, humid air ahead of a cold front moving from west to east. While the favorable area for thunderstorm development moves from west to east as the system evolves, the individual thunderstorms will move from southwest to northeast due to the steering winds.

Observing Clouds From NASA
Clouds are made of small droplets of water or bits of ice that are spread out from each other. Rain falls when the drops get too big and heavy to stay in the cloud. There are three main kinds of clouds:

  • Cirrus (meaning "curl") clouds are very high, wispy clouds made of ice. Even in the summer, cirrus clouds are made of ice because it is cold high above Earth.
  • Cumulus (meaning "heap") clouds are the large clouds that sometimes look like huge puffs of cotton. Sometimes these clouds look like animals or familiar things. Sometimes cumulus clouds get dark gray and rain or hail falls and produce lightning and thunder. They are then called cumulonimbus clouds. Nimbus always tells us that a cloud brings rain.
  • Stratus (meaning "stretched out") clouds are made up of low layers of clouds that usually cover the whole sky and blot out the sun. These clouds bring gray days. When rain falls from them, they are called nimbostratus clouds.

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Steele County SKYWARN
Owatonna, MN