Posted at 8:51 AM on August 20, 2012
by Paul Huttner
A 9-year-old Iron River, Wis. boy was killed by lightning near Duluth on Saturday.
1st (and hopefully last) lightning fatality in Minnesota in 2012
23 lightning fatalities in the USA so far in 2012 (Source: NOAA)
54 lightning deaths on average each year in the USA (10 year average)
386,079 cloud to ground lightning strikes per year on average in Minnesota
Lightning tragedy captured on time lapse video:
The storm that killed 9-year-old Luke Voigt of Iron River, Wis. on Duluth's Park Point Saturday blew up fast.
The storm intensified rapidly just after 5 p.m. as Daniel Thralow shot a time lapse video from Skyline Parkway above the Duluth harbor.
Watch as the storm produces multiple cloud to ground lightning strikes over Lake Superior near Park Point.
Daniel describes the sequence of events from his vantage point above Duluth.
This storm produced lightning that struck (or hit near) a 26 foot sailboat, 6 people were injured. And tragically, a nine year old boy died. There are five visible lightning strikes in this video. They occur at 5:19 PM, 5:25 PM, 5:30 PM, 5:37 PM and 5:38 PM. The strongest and most likely fatal strike seems to have been the one that occurred at 5:30 PM. That strike occurs at 0:33 to 0:34 in this video. Coast guard rescue boats are seen leaving the harbor at 5:40 PM..
One thing that surprised me was how far the bolt traveled horizontally. The NOAA.gov website states that a lightning flash can travel horizontally many miles away from the thunderstorm and then strike the ground or water. The strike at 5:30 PM, in this video, seems to have traveled about 2 or 3 miles horizontally
Lightning: An underrated killer
I can't imagine the grief the Voigt family is feeling after the unfortunate incident.
Lightning is often an underrated severe weather killer. You don't need a hurricane, tornado or even severe thunderstorm to produce a lightning strike. Even garden variety thunderstorms produce numerous, potentially deadly cloud to ground flashes.
Ron Holle is considered the world's leading lightning researcher. I know Ron, and have interviewed him many times at the world headquarters of Vaisala Inc. in Tucson. Vaisala is the home of the National Lightning Detection Network... the hub for an amazing network of sensors that pinpoints cloud to ground lightning flashes (to within a few feet) in real time across the USA.
Lighting strikes the ground 386,079 times on average in Minnesota each year. A high percentage of lightning fatalities and injuries occur outdoors on water, or while people seek shelter under trees. (Remember Hazeltine in 1991?)
Here's a look at the (still to be updated) 2012 lightning fatalities from NOAA.
Ron has described to me visual observations of lightning travelling sideways and striking ground over 30 miles away from storms. That's one reason it's so important to stay indoors when lightning storms are nearby, even if you can't see the storm.
Looking at the flash density map for lightning in the USA, you can see Minnesota is on the northern edge of the higher density of lighting flash activity.
About 5 people are injured for every fatality from lightning strikes. Here's the latest from NOAA on stats and keeping safe from lightning.
It's been a wild weather year in Duluth in 2012. First the flood, then the unique waterspout/tornado on August 9th, which was only the second tornado, recorded inside the Duluth city limits. Now, tragically, lightning has struck Duluth again both literally and figuratively.
Posted at 6:30 PM on August 20, 2012
by Paul Huttner
Filed under: Hurricanes
79 degrees high temp at MSP Airport Monday (at 2:59pm)
-1.6 degrees temps at MSP Airport vs. average this month
May 2011 - last cooler than average month in Minnesota
Growing Florida & RNC threat? Still too early to say, but worth watching next 7 days
Hurricane Isaac? Growing chance of a new Hurricane in the Atlantic next 72 hours
500+ miles - average model track error on hurricanes 7 days out
Does the weather get any better than Monday in Minnesota?
In my experience as a forecaster, a sun soaked sky and temps in the upper 70s make for what many consider to be "perfect weather." San Diego with lakes? Why not? Minnesota with lakes is plenty good enough for me.
Our winning streak of low humidity and warm temps will run through Wednesday. Summer warmth builds Tuesday & Wednesday as 80 returns.
Let's face it; it just doesn't get any better than this in Minnesota.
State Fair 2012: Big Smiles, full bellies & umbrellas?
I only wish the Fair started Monday....3 days of "perfect weather" with low humidity, no rain and comfy temps might have made for record crowds.
Right now the first weekend of the Fair looks fairly good, but potentially a little wet at times.
The latest GFS runs (still) suggest a slow moving low pressure system that could bring scattered showers & T-Storms Thursday (possibly favoring Thursday night) into Friday morning.
Low #1 slides east for a nicer Friday, then a second wave brings the threat of more scattered rain Saturday & Sunday.
Temps look a bit warmer than I thought last week...with highs in the 80s Thursday through Saturday.
Eyeing "Isaac?" Potential Hurricane "Isaac" threat to SE USA & RNC next week?
This falls under the category of "way too early to say for sure" with any meteorological credibility.
Keep in mind that average model errors for hurricane tracks are 500+ miles 7 days out.
That said, there is a growing trend in the forecast models that suggest we may see "Hurricane Isaac" forming n the next 3 days, and that the system may pose a threat to the southeast USA by next week.
A couple of the models (including the GFS) suggest a hurricane near or over Florida by next Monday-Tuesday.
With average track errors of 500+ miles 7 days out, "Isaac" could end up anywhere from the Gulf of Mexico to the Carolina's next week.
WxUnderground hurricane expert Jeff Masters elaborates.
This storm is a long-range threat to the U.S., as historically, 16% of storms in 94L's location have gone on to hit the U.S., with North Carolina the preferred target (10% chance.) A trough of low pressure capable of pulling 94L to the north enters Western Canada Thursday night, and the exact timing and amplitude of this trough will determine the ultimate landfall location of 94L.
The long range 7 - 14 day runs of the GFS model over the past three day have all predicted an eventual landfall for 94L in the U.S., though these long-range runs are notoriously unreliable. The predicted landfall locations have ranged from New England to Texas--which isn't much help. The past three runs beginning on Sunday afternoon have all taken 94L over Florida during the August 27 - 29 time frame, which I'm sure is making organizers of the Republican National Convention uncomfortable, since the convention is in Tampa August 27 - 30. However, 94L could miss Florida completely, as the average error in model forecasts going out 7 days is in excess of 500 miles.
We can't rule out a North Carolina landfall, but the pattern we've seen so far this year is for landfalls in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, so a more southwards path for 94L into the Yucatan is definitely a possibility. Also, we have that huge drought region in the Midwest, which tends to create its own high pressure bubble, which reduces the odds of storms making the turn and hitting the Central or Western Gulf Coast. If 94L makes it to the Western Caribbean, I see the two most likely options as a landfall in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula (and then westwards into Mexico south of the Texas border), or recurvature into the Florida Gulf Coast.
The RNC kicks off next Monday in Tampa. No doubt they'll be keeping a close eye on what could be Hurricane Isaac.
GFS Model upgrades:
File this under "not a moment too soon."
NOAA's NCEP has recently made some upgrades to the Global Forecast System models. (GFS)
The GFS is NOAA's primary "medium range" forecast model that goes out to 16 days.
Here are the (welcome) details from NOAA:
Significant Improvement Ahead for Weather and Climate Forecast Accuracy
The National Centers for Environmental Prediction - a division of NOAA's National Weather Service - recently upgraded the operational Global Forecast System, which is run four times per day and produces forecasts up to 16 days in advance. The GFS is the backbone of the National Weather Service's global weather and climate forecasting capability.
On May 22, the upgrade provided a new method for assimilating the billions of pieces of atmospheric data collected daily from Earth observations and satellites. These data are used to describe the current state of the atmosphere, the important first step to running any weather forecast model.
During extensive preoperational testing, the new system produced more accurate forecasts out to 16 days. It also improved hurricane track forecast accuracy, general global weather predictions, and forecasts of stratospheric ozone, which affects the amount of skin‐damaging radiation that hits Earth's surface and also affects climate.
The new hybrid system is the result of an intensive, three‐year collaboration between scientists at NCEP, the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL), NASA and the University of Oklahoma. Further system improvements will be developed over the next few years through continued collaboration between NCEP and ESRL, the University of Maryland and the University of Oklahoma.
The GFS and the European Model are the primary "competitors" in medium range forecast that extend out 1-2 weeks. I've worked with the Euro model since the 1990s during my days at WGN-TV with Tom Skilling, We both agree the Euro has some advantages in certain seasonal situations over the GFS.
Let's hope the GFS upgrades will be as good as advertised.