Tag Archives: Weather

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Polar Vortex Redux

Image – NOAA Climate Prediction Center

Today’s post comes from Unreliable Journalist Bud Buck.

Meteorologists and paranormalists are watching with great interest as conditions conspire to raise some serious questions about the true nature of the mysterious forces that propel our weather.

Although I have talked to at least two people and maybe three about this topic, no one has yet been able to convince me that there is not something spooky and ominous afoot!

In a bit of timing worthy of a vengeful and nefarious supervillain, the dreaded weather phenomenon known as the Polar Vortex is coming back at exactly the right moment to make Minneapolis’ All-Star summertime a bummertime.

Starting off what is normally one of the warmest weeks of the year, this Monday will see a high temperature of only 65 degrees with 25 mile per hour wind gusts driving a cold rain into the faces of Important Visitors From Afar – those cherished opinion leaders congregating in Minneapolis for Major League Baseball’s annual All Star Game Tuesday night.

Unseasonably cool conditions are also certain to mar the beginning of a seven day stretch that the city’s mayor has identified as Bragging Week.

Coincidence? I put that question to TV meteorologist Gust Hailstone, who said “What are you talking about?”

I proceeded to explain to the clueless Hailstone that some people are saying the Polar Vortex is actually more than a weather system. These individuals believe the Vortex is actually a sentient being – a roiling stew of temperature differentials and moisture, brought into consciousness by the electricity in lightning, and configured just perfectly to have a vendetta against the city of Minneapolis!

“That’s ridiculous,” Hailstone spluttered. “I’ve never heard anybody say that.”

“You’re a liar,” I replied, “because I just said it, and you heard me.”

The real question is – why is the Polar Vortex trying to ruin our reputation by making all of America and the rest of the world see Minneapolis as a place that is too cold to visit, even in the summertime?

I put that question to paranormalist Jade Seance.

“That’s already our reputation,” she said. “Through the thick mists that separate this life from the next one, I can sense that even the dead people shudder when Minneapolis is mentioned.”

The moment she said “Minneapolis,” I felt a deep, clean chill, almost as if a door had been left open, or a ghost had walked through my physical body. I quickly spun around, expecting to see the Vortex standing before me in the form of a living, breathing arch-fiend!

But no! It was an open door. Her receptionist had quit the day before and Seance propped a chair against the entryway so passers-by could see us gathered around the table, holding hands.

“People will pay you good money and put up with a lot of malarkey if you’ll just hold their hand for an hour,” she said. “Some folks are really desperate to make any kind of human contact.”

Still, I had to ask. “What does the Polar Vortex want with us?”

At that very moment, the lights came back on, the wind blew the door shut and Seance said “Time’s up! If you want more answers it will be another hundred dollars.”

Indignant, I marched into the street, found a cop, and complained that I had been bamboozled by a paranormalist. But as soon as the officer found out I was a local person, she detained me on charges of raising the stress level when company’s coming and violating the promotional ethos of Bragging Week.

The Polar Vortex strikes again!

This is Bud Buck!

Naturally, Bud is trying to make this as dramatic as possible so he can draw attention to himself. But I think he imagined this entire episode, or at least embellished it. I’m confident that weather does not have needs or desires when it comes to complimenting or ruining our events.

Or does it?

When has the weather undermined your plans?

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Snow Art

Today’s post was imagined by Barbara in Robbinsdale, with contributions from Clyde, PJ, Jim in Clarks Grove, Linda in St. Paul, Anna and Kelly.

The national news is far too disheartening to face today, so with the help of a baboon platoon we’re going to re-wind to last weekend in southern Minnesota when a Sunday snowstorm temporarily softened the landscape.

A deep coating of fresh snow can transform the harsh, grimy world into a fantasyland. The to-do list is momentarily suspended and plans are re-shaped to account for the scene’s new contours. A second (or third) cup of coffee is poured and we watch as the schedule for the day is re-written by nature.

But eventually duty calls and a path back to reality must be cleared. As BiR wrote:

Husband and I headed out around 3:00 for the “first wave” of shoveling and snowblowing. My first task was to free up some pine branches out front which were dangerously low, so I could then get down the steps to the drive.

The hours and days that follow are all about slogging, shoveling, brushing, and if you try to go anywhere in a car, waiting and muttering. A big snow can quickly come to feel like an annoying burden. A week later when the roadside dirt has accumulated and the rain comes, the beauty of fresh snow may feel like a distant memory.

But in the heart of a major storm that arrives on a day when you can simply watch and appreciate it, there are surprises and blessings all around.

The photos here were all taken last Sunday by Trial Baboon readers. The addition of snow can turn pedestrian scenes into works of art, so take a look at our gallery. Click on any one of the pictures to see an enlarged version, and leave your comment in the box below!

Suggest a title, or describe what might have happened here just after the photo was snapped.

Ask Dr. Babooner

Ann_Landers baboon 2

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I’m a reasonably sane 55 year old man taking early retirement. I want to live a life of convenience so I’ve been looking at online lists of the best places to retire.

Apparently a lot of it has to do with weather.

I confess I haven’t spent much time paying attention to weather because I’ve been focused on making money as a coal mine elevator technician. I know, it’s not one of those jobs you think about very much, but the companies pay big money to get a quick repair and the miners slip me cash on the side to keep the thing broken. It’s win-win! For me, anyway.

Now I’m independently wealthy and could live anywhere I want. One area of concern though – Mother Earth might be trying to kill me as revenge for all my years in the coal industry. Yes, it’s personal. I just don’t want to make it too easy for her.

According to the climate change scientists, sea levels are rising and places that didn’t have a problem with flooding will be battered by an endless string of increasingly violent storms producing surges that may make coastal communities uninhabitable – even the densely populated and resource rich northeastern sections of the United States are at risk as we learned from Superstorm Sandy.

Living on a cliff overlooking the water isn’t any better. In California, we’re learning that Mother Nature can quite casually toss dead whales up on the beach or send so much rain that your house slides down the side of the hill into the ocean!

Then there are earthquakes and tornadoes to contend with. Drought is another thing Mother Earth likes to hurl at people who violate the environment. Yes, I watched that show about the Dust Bowl! I thought Minnesota would be safe and for a while it was looking pretty good. Until today. My neighbor swears this pile of snow is not related to climate change – but I think it’s just another hit attempt – on me!

Dr. Babooner, is any place on Earth safe for someone hiding from the Earth itself?

Sincerely,
I.M. Paranoid

Dear IMP,

This is the most ridiculous question I’ve ever had, and it makes me wonder if your brain was damaged by mine gasses. No, there is no safe place on Earth for a person who does not want to be inconvenienced by the Earth itself. Since you’ve already spent most of your working life underground, perhaps you should plan to live there. My suggestion – dig a deep hole somewhere and climb in. Make sure the drainage and venting are good and you can live out your days looking at pictures of what happens on the tumultuous surface. But remember, once your stay on Earth is through, you’ll be underground for millions of years. Do you really want to get an early start on that?

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Dusty Old Dust

The latest Ken Burns documentary project is about the Dust Bowl in the central plains in the 1930′s.

The four hour series debuted last night and will conclude tonight on PBS stations. Here in the Twin Cities the first two hours debuted at 7 last night and were repeated at 9pm, and on Monday at 1am and 3am. Like the dust storms themselves, the series fills the air and just keeps coming – it completely engulfs you.

I’ve recorded it and plan to watch when there’s sufficient time – probably sometime in 2013. But My understanding is that one of the major points of the series is that the Dust Bowl was an environmental disaster that was largely man-made.

For this project, Burns was fortunate to find dust bowl survivors who could tell their stories in front of the camera. He couldn’t do that with the long-dead eyewitnesses of The Civil War. And for the Dust Bowl he had the advantage of great archival photos and movies from the time, along with a sound track by none other than Woody Guthrie.

Here’s more on the series.

Meanwhile, the Mars Curiosity rover reports “feeling” dust devils pass by as it sits in Gale Crater. Maybe the Martian terrain is an example of what might have happened to Oklahoma if the government hadn’t intervened and the drought hadn’t ended.

Will Curiosity’s next shovel load of soil uncover some Martian troubadour’s ode to the Okies of Gale Crater?

What’s the most severe environmental calamity you’ve witnessed?
(Natural or Man-Made)

Where is Superman?

We all hope the damage to people and property from Hurricane Sandy will be less catastrophic than the advance billing. Daylight today will tell a large part of the story.

photo by Jonathan Wald via twitter

One of the most dramatic storm related developments late yesterday was the partial collapse of a construction crane atop a high rise building just south of Central Park. Footage showed the crane hanging precariously as winds picked up. Authorities evacuated the surrounding area as a precaution, afraid the crane might fall.

This is all we can do. Conditions are too severe to attempt to secure the massive structure. Safely lowering it to the ground in the midst of a hurricane is impossible. Danger is imminent. We are helpless to do anything but watch.

This is exactly the scenario I read about time and again in the comic books of my youth. And always in the next panel, one of the streetbound gawkers would say … “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane …”

Yes, this situation is classic Superman-bait. I daresay if he were real, Clark Kent would not be able to resist this one. The only thing that would make it more attractive to him would be if Lois Lane had climbed up there to take a picture of the calamity, and had somehow managed to get tangled up in a free-swinging cable whipping in the 80 mph wind.

And while we’re looking up for help, how about that Kentucky UFO? Or the very similar-looking cylindrical UFO that supposedly flew into an active volcano?

Could we be having a monster hurricane, Halloween, a global alien invasion AND an election all at once? Not likely in the real world perhaps. But in the comic books this is just an ordinary day.

Why hasn’t Superman appeared?

Car Cover

A freshly assembled and somewhat opportunistic e-mail arrived with the warm spring temperatures and the fresh, healthy weeds sprouting from my lawn.

It’s Spring! And that means it’s time to buy a new car from Wally’s Intimida – Home of the Sherpa!

Hi, Wally here. There’s nothing that’s quite as exciting to me as a new car – especially when it comes from my store and winds up parked in your driveway, or behind your house, or in the case of the Sherpa, around your house, actually STRADDLING the structure!

Yes, that’s right! The Sherpa is the biggest car on the road today – big enough to park over the house so you get the extra measure of protection that only a 100 thousand pound car can give you! And in this time of unpredictable climate change featuring widespread and indiscriminate tornados and tsunamis, that’s an extra measure of comfort you can’t afford to be without!

You may have seen the video of a tornado throwing around tractor-trailers in Dallas. That’s a very bad thing, but no tornado would DARE do that to an Intimida Sherpa. The Sherpa is aggressively massive and distinctly aerodynamic, unlike a semi. A tornado may try to pick it up, but getting a grip on the Sherpa is like trying to grab a wet bar of soap from the shower floor. An incredibly heavy wet bar of soap! And underneath that stubborn soap sits your house, all snug and protected! Isn’t that worth having a few random drops of oil in your roof? Consider it part of the price you pay for peace of mind!

Our parents had dreams for us, and for many those dreams simply won’t come true. What did they want us to have? Good jobs and loving families, of course. But also they wanted us to have nice cars and secure dwellings. Sadly, many people lack even those basics.

Yes, times are still tough, but a fresh wind is blowing. It could be your local tornado. It could be the exhaust from a new Sherpa. Or it could be that people are starting to buy homes and cars again and here at Wally’s Intimida, we don’t want to be left out. That’s why all our Sherpas have to do double duty!

Some have a beautiful dream of a nice little house with a carport. I’m suggesting you make your great big car your houseport! Come on down to Wally’s Intimida today and let’s talk about protecting your abode with a topper from the road – a Sheltering Sherpa from Intimida.

It’s a mighty big, mighty hard-to-pick-up car!

Yours in Security,

Wally

You have to admire the agility of Wally’s pitch, even though pushing the windstorm security aspects of the heavyweight Sherpa on the heels of a major tornado is a bit tacky. Ok, it’s EXTREMELY tacky.

Where do you go when it’s time to take cover?

Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

The last few days have been glorious for the middle of March in a northern climate. I’m absolutely giddy with good feelings about warm sun, comfortable air, moist Earth and the fragrance of growing things that aren’t moldy or cancerous.

But my husband says I should be distressed about this warm spell because it is a sure sign of climate change! “Our planet is dying,” he says, “and you go around grinning like it’s some garden party.”

He tells me to get angry about our addiction to fossil fuels and insists that I should ride my bike to Inver Grove Heights to protest in front of the Koch Brothers refinery because they and their cronies are obstacles to the kind of change we need if we’ll have any hope of saving our planet.

He’s probably right, Dr. Babooner, but on such a beautiful day I just want to put the top down and go for a ride in my convertible. Is that so wrong?

Sincerely,
Guilty About Feeling Fine

I told GAFF that her husband is a fool. You can’t harangue people into feeling differently than they do, especially when it’s about something we take as personally as the weather. Climate change is real, but no Minnesota human can win a popularity contest against a 70 degree day in March. Although he has a point about the driving addiction, she should continue to feel fine. What’s wrong with putting the top down on the convertible and sitting in the driveway with a picnic dinner and a bottle of wine?

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Ask Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

My brother, his wife and their two snotty kids are coming to stay with us for the weekend and maybe longer – refugees from their home in lower Manhattan.

They never miss an opportunity to tell us how wonderful and cosmopolitan it is to live in the heart of one of the world’s biggest cities, about all the restaurants they have down there, the transit, the music, the pulse and the pace and the privileges of having everything close at hand.

Wherever we like to go, they’ve been someplace nicer. Whatever we prefer to eat, they’re used to something better. However we decide to entertain ourselves, they’ve seen, heard or done something more interesting.

But now they and at least 369,999 others have been ordered to evacuate from low-lying areas of New York City. The transit system will shut down, and they’re coming to live with us in New Jersey.

Oh, and by the way, the storm is coming here too.

They say the system is so massive and full of moisture that the greatest danger will be from flooding. And it is possible that the wind will push over trees that can’t stand upright in the sodden ground, taking down power lines and causing widespread blackouts.

What’s worse, all the major league games have been cancelled.

Great. My brother’s family in the house, and we can’t even ignore each other by watching sports on TV. I’ll have to sit there and see their ugly mugs in high-def AND 3-D!

Dr. Babooner, I know I don’t have a choice because they’re family and they’ve been forced out of their home, but how can I survive the triple stresses of these obnoxious visitors, a hurricane AND a blackout?

Storm Victim

First off, Dr. Babooner doesn’t appreciate “ugly mug” references. Take a good look at Dr. Babooner herself! I’ve made my portrait unusually large today to mirror the size and intensity of Hurricane Irene. I believe you can grow to love any face, given time and a positive attitude. And a positive attitude is certainly lacking in this scenario. Storm Victim, you should try to look on the bright side of all the disruption, damage and despair that is about to descend on your extended family. Fallen trees and power outages are permanent memory-makers! Our typical day-to-day dealings quickly fade into the background and are eventually forgotten. Even people who are accustomed to a higher-than-usual lifestyle come to find the luxurious details of their lives rather dreary. By contrast, the weekend you are about to spend, staring at your brother and his family in the dim candlelight as an 80-mile per hour wind tries to tear the roof off your house, is one that you’ll never forget. Enhance the memories by creating keepsakes. Plan an art project everyone can work on – something that involves torn chunks of asphalt shingles, ceiling insulation and wax drippings!

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Not So Long Ago …

… it was the most miserable, relentless winter, ever! Remember that?

Our memories are amazingly short and I suppose it’s a human survival strategy to focus so intently on the conditions that are right in front of us that we assume it has always been, and will always be so. At least it feels that way, and that’s why I am always ready to complain.

Summer 2011 is an endless sauna. I have had it with heat and humidity. Really, it’s exhausting.

Last February, snowstorms were lined up from here to Montana, each waiting for its chance to fill my driveway with another three feet of snow. Just like now – exhausting. I thought I would never feel warm again.

Alas, it all changes and you can be sure that six months from today I’ll use the arrival of yet another cold front to wistfully recall how gorgeous it is to go for a walk on a summer night. At dusk a day in July feels perfectly suited to human habitation. This is how we were meant to live – in shorts and sandals, our hands and heads uncovered, our feet and toes exposed to the fragrant air.

Except on THIS particular July night, I’m closed up inside my air conditioned box, not at all inclined to go out. Instead I’m thinking about how cozy it would feel to be decorating the Christmas tree while alarmist weather-folk warn us to stay off the roads. I’d sip a hot toddy and gaze out the window, safe and warm while a holly jolly snow decorates the yard.

I guess conditions are never quite ideal, except in some far-off, half-recalled, make-believe time.

Perpetual Summer or Endless Winter – which would you choose?

A Splash of Color

While riding my bike yesterday morning on the way to retrieve a car that has been in storage all winter, I was stopped short by a splash of color on a corner lot.

A friendly fellow named Pete was out tending his tulips. He told me in lightly accented English that he was from the Netherlands, and that gardening is something he does as a gift to share with the community, including lucky passers-by like me.

He was examining the beds. Some late-blooming tulips were mixed in with a few of the earlies, which is not a fatal flaw, but it means with a little bit of shuffling bulbs around, things could work better next year. Pete likes everything to be timed properly, just like the producer of a fireworks show wants to create amazing crescendos.

Also, once the petals fall, it’s tough to remember exactly which color is planted where, so it’s smart to take notes and make adjustments.

He showed me his map of the layout. I admire anyone who is a careful planner.

I felt lucky to have the chance to stop for a look at Pete’s garden – now that I’ve got the car back I’m much less likely to happen down a random street. In this case, a random street with an appropriate name – NE Summer St.

The calendar says we’re deep into Spring. Where have you seen the proof?