Posted at 8:27 AM on October 4, 2011
by Paul Huttner
Red Flag Warning: Issued for southwest Minnesota through Wednesday
Say what? What the heck is a "Red Flag Warning" anyway? More common in the west, Red Flag Warnings are not issued often in Minnesota.
NWS issues them for a combination of high winds (sustained over 15mph) low humidity (under 20%) and warm temps (over 75 degrees). Open buring is not permitted, and farmes and others are urged to watch for sparks that can start fires in tinder dry brush.
Red Flag Warning
URGENT - FIRE WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TWIN CITIES/CHANHASSEN MN
121 AM CDT TUE OCT 4 2011
...STRONG SOUTHERLY WINDS AND LOW HUMIDITY DURING THE AFTERNOON
HOURS TODAY AND WEDNESDAY...
.A RED FLAG WARNING CONTINUES FOR PORTIONS OF WEST CENTRAL AND
SOUTH CENTRAL MINNESOTA FROM NOON TODAY UNTIL 7 PM ON WEDNESDAY.
THE WARNING IS ALONG AND WEST OF A LINE FROM ALEXANDRIA TO
FAIRMONT. THE RED FLAG CONDITIONS WILL OCCUR MAINLY DURING THE
AFTERNOON AND EARLY EVENING HOURS TODAY AND WEDNESDAY. GUSTY
SOUTHERLY WINDS OF 20 TO 30 MPH WILL OCCUR ACROSS THE WARNING AREA
DURING THE AFTERNOON AND EARLY EVENING HOURS TODAY AND WEDNESDAY
ALONG WITH HUMIDITY VALUES LOWERING TO 20 PERCENT OR LESS.
GRASSES..BRUSH AND CROPS ARE DRY IN THESE AREAS AND FIRES COULD
SPREAD QUICKLY UNDER THESE CONDITIONS.
DOUGLAS-STEVENS-POPE-LAC QUI PARLE-SWIFT-CHIPPEWA-KANDIYOHI-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...ALEXANDRIA...MORRIS...GLENWOOD...
OLIVIA...REDWOOD FALLS...NEW ULM...ST. JAMES...FAIRMONT
121 AM CDT TUE OCT 4 2011
...RED FLAG WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 7 PM CDT
WEDNESDAY FOR WIND AND LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY FOR PORTIONS OF WEST
CENTRAL THROUGH SOUTH CENTRAL MINNESOTA...
A RED FLAG WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 7 PM CDT
* AFFECTED AREA...WEST CENTRAL AND SOUTH CENTRAL MINNESOTA ALONG
AND WEST OF A LINE FROM ALEXANDRIA TO FAIRMONT.
* WINDS...SOUTH 10 TO 20 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 30 MPH.
* RELATIVE HUMIDITY...NEAR OR BELOW 20 PERCENT.
* IMPACTS...FIRES COULD BECOME DANGEROUS AND FAST MOVING IN A
SHORT PERIOD OF TIME DUE TO THE GUSTY WINDS AND LOW HUMIDITY.
A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS
ARE EITHER OCCURRING NOW...OR WILL SHORTLY. A COMBINATION OF
STRONG WINDS...LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY...AND WARM TEMPERATURES WILL
CREATE EXPLOSIVE FIRE GROWTH POTENTIAL.
Summer "heat" hangs on this week:
The warm, dry, stable ridge of high pressure stays parked over Minnesota this week.
Look for highs into the low to mid 80s in much of southern and western Minnesota to hold through Thursday and into Friday.
Record highs possible?
We may flirt with a few record high temps this week in Minnesota and the metro.
Here are the record highs this week at MSP Airport:
Tuesday 89 degrees (1922)
Wednesday 87 degrees (1879)
Thursday 87 degrees (2007)
Friday 85 degrees (2003)
I would say right now Friday may have the best chance of tying or exceeding record highs in the metro this week, but considering the average high is 63 degrees, we're living in (warm) rarified air in Minnesota these days.
USA 2011: Crazy Summer of weather records
According to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, the summer of 2011 in the USA set the most high temperature records of any summer in over a decade.
Some incredible numbers:
26,500 new record warm temperatures in the USA this summer
3,500 new record lows
Texas: Hottest summer of any state on record since 1895-hotter than Dust Bowl years
Oklahoma was second, aslo smashing Dust Bowl Era records
Texas set 4,000 high temperature record in August alone...that's about as many records as an average summer in the entire USA!
85 degree high at MSP Tuesday
64 average high for October 4th
+21 degrees vs. average
4 degrees shy of record high of 89 Tuesday
This is October? The temps map Tuesday PM looks more like July.
It appears temps will peak Wednesday between 85 and 88 degrees, with 90 not out of the question in southern Minnesota. The record high of 87 Wednesday in the metro is within reach!
Fire Weather: What does it mean?
We don't see many "Red Flag" and "Fire Weather" warnings in Minnesota, but they seem to be more common lately. Here are some terms and definitions courtesy of your local NWS.
The Disappearing Forest; A climate change accelerator?
An interesting story form the New York Times. As massive forest fires sweep across the USA from Arizona to Texas and Minnesota, are those disappearing forests increasing the probability of more rapid climate warming?
"WISE RIVER, Mont. -- The trees spanning many of the mountainsides of western Montana glow an earthy red, like a broadleaf forest at the beginning of autumn.
But these trees are not supposed to turn red. They are evergreens, falling victim to beetles that used to be controlled in part by bitterly cold winters. As the climate warms, scientists say, that control is no longer happening.
Across millions of acres, the pines of the northern and central Rockies are dying, just one among many types of forests that are showing signs of distress these days.
From the mountainous Southwest deep into Texas, wildfires raced across parched landscapes this summer, burning millions more acres. In Colorado, at least 15 percent of that state's spectacular aspen forests have gone into decline because of a lack of water.
The devastation extends worldwide. The great euphorbia trees of southern Africa are succumbing to heat and water stress. So are the Atlas cedars of northern Algeria. Fires fed by hot, dry weather are killing enormous stretches of Siberian forest. Eucalyptus trees are succumbing on a large scale to a heat blast in Australia, and the Amazon recently suffered two "once a century" droughts just five years apart, killing many large trees.
Experts are scrambling to understand the situation, and to predict how serious it may become."
"Scientists have figured out -- with the precise numbers deduced only recently -- that forests have been absorbing more than a quarter of the carbon dioxide that people are putting into the air by burning fossil fuels and other activities. It is an amount so large that trees are effectively absorbing the emissions from all the world's cars and trucks.
Without that disposal service, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be rising faster. The gas traps heat from the sun, and human emissions are causing the planet to warm."
I watched over a million acres of prime pine forest burn in Arizona during my 9 years there as Chief Meteorologist at the ABC station in Tucson. Now we are seeing massive blazes in Texas and yes, Minnesota. At some point the evidence seems to support the idea that we are witnessing the effects of climate change right before our eyes, in our lifetime, right here in Minnesota.