January 2010 Newsletter

The next SKYWARN meeting is 16-Feb @ 7:00 PM, the third Tuesday of the month.

The January meeting reviewed the list of activities published in the December Newsletter and Validated that it is a good list. There were a couple of items that people already volunteered for:

  • Call out records -- Mike Conrad
  • Spotter tools -- Marv Newkirk and Brian D.
  • Process documentation -- Drew
  • Misc record keeping -- Drew

There was some interest in the Finances. A couple of people were thinking of people that might be a good fit for that, but weren't willing to volunteer them without checking. Additional discussion on a couple of items will be included at the February meeting.

CERT Annual Meeting
SKYWARN volunteers are invited to attend the CERT Annual Meeting on 07-Jan at the Community Center on the Fairgrounds. The event begins at 6PM with a presentation on identity theft by Darrell Hildebrandt from the Rochester Police Department. After the presentation, there will be a short business meeting, some volunteer recognition, and refreshments. When out spotting, it is possible that SKYWARN volunteers amy be the first on the scene of an injury or other dangerous situation. This is a good opportunity to network with other volunteer groups in Steele County. RSVP to Shirley Woodfill at or 451-8685.

SKYWARN Training
Mower County announced SKYWARN training on 23-Mar in Austin. The class will be held at the Crain Community Chapel at 6:30pm.

What Happened to El Niño? From Weather Talk
This winter season was supposed to be driven by the El Niño effect, bringing warmer winter temperatures to his area. We've certainly had our share of cold combined with the 08-Dec blizzard. So waht happened? There are many factors that drive our annual climate, and El Niño is just one part of the puzzle. The El Nino component is based on historical correlation with approximately 23 episodes. The effect of warm waters of the Pacific Ocean can be affected by artic cold, jet stream and the sunspot cycle. Just like trying to predict the daily weather, there are too many variables to be taken into account reliably.

It looks like 2009 it appears that the statewide mean temperature value will end up in the statistical norm over the past 100+ years. The statewide value of precipitation also falls in the middle of the data.

Lake-Effect or Lake-Enhanced Snow? From USA Today
The difference between lake-effect and lake-enhanced is whether or not there is a storm system that would produce snow with or without the lakes being there. A low-pressure area might drag a cold front through a region, producing snow for much of the region, with or without the presence of the lakes. If there is additional warmth (lift) and moisture provided by lakes, snowfall could be “enhanced” for locations downwind of the lakes. Those areas would receive more snowfall than they would without the lakes being there. When there isn’t a large storm system moving through the area, a weather pattern might send cold air over relatively warm lakes. If there is relatively little wind shear, snow may result downwind of a lake. In a true lake-effect situation, only areas that are downwind of the lake would see snowfall.

Jet Stream Direction From USA Today
The general west-to-east flow of the many jet streams is related to the Earth's rotation. The very basic idea is that air at the equator has more momentum than air at higher latitudes. Air at the equator is moving eastward at more than 1,000 miles per hour. Air at 30°N traces out a smaller circle during the 24 hours of the day so its speed is less than 1,000 mph. Similarly for air at 60°N. Because air moving toward the poles is carrying more eastward momentum, it results in west-to-east jet streams.

In the Northern Hemisphere the wind starts blowing from south to north (poleward). The Coriolis effect turns it to the right, making it flow from west to east. South of the equator, the wind begins blowing from north toward the south (again poleward). Here the Coriolis effect turns it to its left. The result is also a west-to-east jet stream in the Southern Hemisphere. Additional understanding can be gained at this NWS webpage.

Climate Warming From Multiple Sources
Research continues to show rising temperatures. Daily record highs are being set twice as often as record lows. Over the past decade, the continental USA posted 291,237 record high temperatures, and 142,420 record setting low temperatures. The number of record highs were more prominent in the western and eastern states than in the midwest.

On a related note, changes in the amount of sea ice has been confusing. The summer of 2009 had more sea ice than in 2007 or 2008. Scientists also note drastic changes iover the past five years ago, with ice melting faster than anticipated. Some of the effects of the ice loss include changes in wind patterns and less snow in North America.

NWS History From Minnesota WeatherTalk
Weather observations made in this country prior to 1870 were not part of any standardized networks. The earliest weather records in the United States are from individual diaries, with the earliest known weather diary dating back to 1644. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson were a few of the early American weather observers who kept diaries. The first attempt at an organized network was in 1814 when the government issued an order for the U.S. Army medical corps to collect weather data at forts and barracks around the country. In 1847 the Smithsonian Institution began a limited network of weather observations as well. But an attempt at a coordinated national network, including all of the states, was not tried until 1870 when the U.S. Army Signal Corps began a program which evolved into the National Weather Service.

Term For The Month From Minnesota WeatherTalk
Ice Shove
Ice shoves are the slabs of ice pushed upon a shoreline as a result of thermal expansion of lake, sea, or river ice cover, or as a result of strong winds. These sometimes large flat slabs of ice, called pans, may pile up along the shore into odd shaped mounds and towers. Ice shoves become more evident along the shorelines of larger lakes in Minnesota during late winter and early spring as the temperatures warm up and winds tend to increase in strength. One example is this picture by the Corps of Engineers.

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Steele County SKYWARN
Owatonna, MN