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Betting on a warm, quiet, drama-free week

So much data, so little wisdom. Is it just me or are you gagging on information, but finding it harder than ever to determine what it really means, where is the analysis, perspective, the background I need to make sense of all this craziness? Growing up, a child of the 70s, none of us could have anticipated the Internet Age, with it’s seemingly infinite choices, information-on-demand, Google and Wikipedia, and a million other useful digital destinations at the tip of our fingers. Today it seems we’re drowning in a roiling, raging sea of links, blogs, YouTube video clips, overwhelmed with texting, e-mail, voice mail, snail mail, increasingly paranoid about whether we’re Twittering appropriately or updating our Facebook often enough. All this while playing News Director. Now WE get to choose what our news stream looks like, when and where we consume the information we think we care about.

In 1974 it was a lot tougher trying to solve the weather riddle. We could watch the local TV weather report, sure, and there were maybe 3-4 reliable sources of forecasts on the radio. That, and a weather map in the newspaper. To see the raw weather maps I would drive 20 miles to a local community college for a look at the LFM, the Limited Fine Mesh computer model, the one and ONLY computer model we had to base our forecasts on. Today there are scores of weather models; some work better than others in certain scenarios. The truth remains: the most accurate weather forecasts over time, rely on a mix of man and machine. Computer models are great, but meteorologists still have to step in and decipher the raw computer output, and try to determine when the computer is full of bunk and better ignored.

Today forecast accuracy improves roughly 1%/year, the 3-5 forecast accuracy is as good as the 48 hour forecast was in 1975. The amount of warning for an average tornado has more than doubled since then, from 6 to nearly 15 minutes. Now weather satellites document and scrutinize every hurricane wobble – giving coastal residents an average of 2-4 DAYS to get to higher ground. I’d like to believe that our technology has improved to the point where the Armistice Day Blizzard would not claim 80 Minnesota lives ever again; next time we’d KNOW that temperatures would fall from the 60s into the teens in a matter of hours.

Today’s would-be meteorologist, weather-enthusiast, geek, fanatic (!) has a staggering wealth of data to choose from. Everyone has become their own armchair meteorologist, right? Everyone has a pretty good basic concept of radar and what a satellite image is. Farmer and pilots have always been skilled weather prognosticators, but I acknowledge that ALL Minnesotans are, by nature – by necessity – weatherwise beyond their years. We live an age of INSTANT-ON. Tell me NOW. Don’t make me wait! That’s why newspapers and magazines are folding and local TV stations are gutting shows and firing staff – far fewer people are watching the news; people are getting news on their own schedule, tailored for what they care about. “I don’t need no ‘stinkin News Director telling me what’s leading the news – I will decide what leads MY news!

It’s all about technology, taking advantage of this always-on, interactive, personalized platform. It’s no longer a SPEECH. No, now it’s a CONVERSATION. People, all of us, want to be a part of the process, we want our voice to be heard. Don’t ram stuff down our throats – talk TO us, talk WITH us, not AT US! That’s the refrain, and now the democratization of information with Apple Apps, e-mails bringing my favorite topics to me 24/7, podcasts that automatically update while I’m sleeping, favorite bookmarks from sources I trust. It’s funny, TV stations are rerunning their news on their web sites, even specific stories, allowing people to comment. Two to three years from now that’s going to be so outdated, a relic of the 90s. It reminds me a little of the late 1940s, when TV was overtaking radio as the #1 source of entertainment and information. At first clueless TV executives slapped favorite radio shows onto TV and patted themselves on the back. Then, a few years later, some brainiac had an idea. “Hey, let’s take full advantage of this new medium and create shows with MOVING PICTURES as well as audio!” Fast forward to Archie Bunker and Simon Cowell.

I don’t pretend to have the answers, but we are all in a very difficult, transformational period, where one era is ending, a new one beginning, and the transition from one to the other is hardly seamless and without pain. It’s been wrenching. But something better is coming, a new always-on, interactive, personalized system that will allow you to watch whatever you want to see, on any device you want to watch it – hopefully with only the commercial messages you want to see, stuff that you’re potentially interested in. Everything will be On-Demand, tailored for you. Instead of warning 80 counties in Minnesota of a tornado, just the handful of neighborhoods actually in the path will see an (optional) message warning them of a twister.

The idea of everyone watching the same thing, at the same time, is on it’s last legs. With the exception of sporting events, Olympics, Superbowls, etc everyone will have their own personal streams, always updating, always customized, taking full advantage of high-speed Internet spectrum. I honestly believe that’s where we’re going. Later this year Apple will release a new tablet that will be another big step on the way to personalized news/advertising. It’s going to be a wild ride, no question. We’re placing some big bets with WeatherNation and Singular Logic (our attempt to reinvent advertising by allowing YOU to choose the categories of ads you’re willing to watch to keep content free). You shouldn’t have to watch Cialis ads unless you WANT to, unless you NEED to. The age of One-Size-Fits-All is so 1983. It’s about to get very, very interesting out there…

I have to laugh. Rupert Murdoch honestly believes he can charge consumers to read his newspapers, and he’s trying to get other newspaper publishers to do the same thing: set up pay walls around his news stories currently sloshing around the Internet. Call me crazy, but I think it’s a little like trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube. Good luck with that. I’m betting (along with some very smart people I’m working with) that the vast majority of Americans and people worldwide will NOT want to pay for news/information, no matter how good it is, now that they’ve been getting it for free for so long. I think there’s a much better chance of paying for all this news, entertainment and information by personalizing the news and the commercial messages to reflect each consumer. No more one-size-fits-all. Time will tell, but that old adage, “may you live in interesting times” rings true. Does it ever. Remember, this recession/media implosion is a threat, and an opportunity.

Hurricane Bill, during headier times last week, when the storm was a “category 3” affair with sustained winds near 135 mph. Notice the fact that even last week, when the storm was “healthier”, the cloud bands around the calm eye are not perfectly symmetric – they’re skewed to the east/right side of the storm, the result of considerable wind shear aloft, which may be another sign of El Nino, a warming of Pacific Ocean water now well underway. That would tend to mean a reduced hurricane risk for the USA in the weeks ahead. Hurricane season peaks on September 11, by the way. That’s the date a hurricane is most likely to strike the east coast of the U.S.
Minnesota State Data. Click here to go right to this NWS site, which is a great place to find specific climate data, warning information, or future forecast specifics, for any corner of the state!

Hope you soaked up a wondrous Sunday; the mercury peaked at 78 in St. Cloud, but I saw 81 at Redwood Falls, Benson and Faribault, 84 at Canby. Today should be a few degrees warmer as a south/southwest wind continues to blow

El Uh Oh. The equatorial Pacific is warming – what can POSSIBLY go wrong? This is the latest sea surface temperature graphic, showing water temperatures as much as 2-4 degrees (F) warmer than average off the coast of Central America and Ecuador. Approximately 2 out of 3 El Nino patterns result in a “split flow” later in the winter, one that whips up more storms from southern California across the southern USA, but a milder, more westerly wind flow for much of the nation. Based on El Nino alone I’d be tempted to predict a milder upcoming winter.

But it’s not that simple. The sun is still (amazingly) quiet – no sunspots – and for some reason that seems to coincide with temporary temperature dips here on Planet Earth. The fact that there’s no end to this quiet solar cycle would push me in the direction of an average, or colder than average winter. Bottom line: too early. To be fair to you (and myself) more data has to arrive. It’s like judging a play from the first two acts.


Weather Headlines

Can I lose the sweatshirt? Yes. A dry, seasonably warm week is on tap, the result of west to southwest jet stream steering winds 4-6 miles overhead. Daytime highs should flirt with 80 just about every day this week. Not too shabby considering the average high right now is 79.

Will I have to water the lawn? Yes. Probably. There is a slight chance of a passing shower or T-shower late Monday night or Tuesday morning ahead of a weak cool front. That’s pretty much it for the entire week!

Weather Drama? No. This week should be tornado-free, no torrential rains, no wailing sirens, no red-faced meteorologists (“how – exactly – do you miss a tornado RIGHT OVER DOWNTOWN MINNEAPOLIS?”)

Weekend Prognosis: Bet on Saturday. There should be enough sun for upper 70s to near 80. Clouds thicken Sunday with a growing chance of showers/storms.

A Fair Start? Yes, the weather will be fine for Day 1 of the fair on Thursday. Expect generous sunshine with a high around 80, dew points in the low to mid 50s will make it feel very comfortable!
Is it safe to look out into next week yet? Probably not, but here goes: cooler the first half of next week, highs in the 70s, even some 60s up north, but warming back up into the 80s, maybe even 90 degrees by Labor Day weekend, the first weekend of September.

Paul’s Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Warm sunshine, windy, very nice – distractingly nice. Winds: South 15-30, gusty. High: 83

Tonight: Clouds increase, chance of a shower or T-shower towards daybreak. Low: 62

Tuesday: Sun reappears, a few degrees cooler (with less wind). High: 79

Wednesday: Mostly sunny and pleasant. High: 81

Thursday: (Day 1 of the MN State Fair). Plenty of sun, warmer than average. High: 83

Friday: Partly cloudy, a bit more haze and humidity. High: near 80

Saturday: Probably the nicer day of the weekend, mix of clouds and sun, dry. High: 79

Sunday: Unsettled, more clouds, few showers, possible thunder. High: 76

Monday: Breezy and noticeably cooler with a leftover shower possible. High: 73

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