Welcome to Studio A of WeatherNation, our main HD weather production set, complete with dueling desks, 65" interactive LCD, traditional Chroma Key (green screen) and energy-efficient LED lighting and neon. 6 HD cameras are mounted and fixed; the meteorologist on-duty prepares and "switches" their own show, starting the video stream, choosing the next camera shot, and one of 8 different weather sources to tell the weather story most appropriately. When we're done we turn around, hit STOP on a small remote control, and then we have precisely 4 seconds before the video fades to black. Once the show is over the HD video is "transcoded" into various video formats, everything from Quicktime to MPEG 2, 4, Flash and various files for cell phones. None of this existed a year ago - we're now working on building out 2 more HD studios, adding more equipment and an amazing new weather graphics system we found in Berlin.
This is all possible because of visionary companies like Conservation Minnesota and their sponsors, who deserve kudos and accolades for taking a calculated risk and investing in the next generation of weather content, combining streaming video with personalized (interactive) mapping, centered on each user's hometown. Using the power of the 'net everyone should be looking at something different, based on where they live, and what they care about. No two personal weather channels should be identical. The next phase of weather will involve not only personal-mapping, but the ability to easily upload weather photos, video and text yourself, to add to the ongoing discussion. A network of real-time weather sensors will allow residents of central Minnesota to see exactly what's going on now, swap information, stories and turn every single weather enthusiast into a weather reporter. That's the goal. We hope you'll stick with us, and better yet, tell a few hundred of your closest friends about the ongoing weather experiment going on at www.mnweathercenter.org. Before too long the notion of waiting up for the 10 pm news (on TV) will seem about as antiquated as CB radio or a landline telephone. Weather is all about instant-gratification and personalization, with the same customized experience available on all platforms: cable, web site and mobile.
I turned 51 yesterday - I think I share a birthday with George Bush (Sr.), Jim Nabors and Joan Steffend, formerly of KARE-11 fame, now a regular on HDTV, among others. All I know is I got my gift. Sometimes God shakes you up to make you realize what's right in front of you, the blessings that are literally staring you in the face. A year ago I was still in a funk, still bummed about the WCCO (debacle) and turning 50 didn't help my moods. But the last year has been a watershed, a chance to reinvent myself one more time and brush off an idea I've been pondering for 28 years, the notion of outsourcing weather from a single location for web, cable TV and broadcasters nationwide. We just added our 7th full-time meteorologist (born in Panama, bilingual, with a wonderful personality). I predict you will enjoy seeing Denise Isaac on the WeatherNation feeds for SC Times, joining Kristin, Todd, Gretchen, Susie, Dan and me. The ability to work with such a fine crew of professionals, people who are friends first and colleagues second, isn't something I take for granted. I've had good luck there: KARE-TV was an amazing ride (hanging out with Paul Magers was something I'll take to my grave. Oh the stories I could tell...). And WCCO-TV was (overall) a fantastic experience. I tell people that Don Shelby is the older brother I never had....and never wanted. The truth: he's one of my best buddies and one of the kindest, most compassionate people I've ever met (underneath that crusty, journalistically-hardened veneer there lurks a real mensch).
Two healthy, smart kids....a wife who's still my best friend after 25 years of marriage, close friends, a great extended family and a 90 second commute (with a Caribou drive-thru on the way?) I'm very lucky, very blessed, and I guess I was meant to take this new path. A few years from now I'll be able to look back and say, "aha, THAT'S why things unfolded the way they did." BTW, for the record, I really bear no ill will toward 'CCO. It's first and foremost a business, and the economics have changed drastically. They had to do what they had to do. I'm still very close to a lot of the people who work in that newsroom, an extraordinary group.
Lately I've been pitching in with KARE-11's new and revamped 24/7 digital weather channel. It's great to be working with Belinda and my other friends at 11 again - it really does feel like coming home. Everyone in the media is doing more with less, it's a tough time for the entire industry, but I'm lucky to have worked with some of the best in the business, in a market that still believes news is more than a daily litany of crimes, accidents (and waterskiing squirrels!)
June temperatures are running more than 7 degrees cooler than normal, but our chilly spell has come with a silver lining of sorts. There hasn't been one tornado touch-down all year in Minnesota. That's pretty amazing, considering it's mid June, and tornado season begins in late March. In fact, according to the folks at the MN State Climatology Office, this is the third latest date we've been tornado-free in Minnesota. The reason: it's been too cool and dry to spin up severe, rotating, "supercell" thunderstorms capable of sustaining intense updrafts for hours. That's all a tornado is, an especially severe updraft, sheltered from rain/hail-cooled air which can choke it off in seconds. The lack of hail has been a God-send for farmers, but Twin Cities TV meteorologists are probably bored to tears, their beloved Dopplers gathering dust. Enjoy the quiet spell - it can't stay this way all summer. At some point it WILL warm up, become muggy, with bouts of booming thunder and occasional blasts of the emergency outdoor sirens.
Nothing severe in this forecast, just a generous dose of sun today and tomorrow, as temperatures return to "average" levels by Sunday afternoon (highs near 80). The only fly in the weather ointment: a chance of a afternoon showers and thundershowers today over roughly the northern half of Minnesota, generally north of a Wheaton to St. Cloud to Princeton line. Even so, most of the day will be dry and lukewarm over central and southern MN, highs in the low to mid 70s. You may get the urge to wiggle into shorts tomorrow, 80 seems like a pretty good bet by mid afternoon. Apply sunscreen liberally: the sunburn potential is off the scale, the sun as high in the sky (and intense) as it ever gets. More good news: you won't have to fiddle with your furnace anytime soon. Temperatures next week hit 80 every day. The best chance of showers/T-storms? Early Tuesday and again Thursday morning. No more frost-inducing cold fronts are in sight - I pray.
Enjoy the weekend warmth, if you're reading this post from Gull Lake or the Whitefish Chain, even Mille Lacs, keep an eye on that irritable sky after 3 or 4 pm and be prepared to move the party indoors. And thank YOU for checking out the weather on mnweathercenter.org. We hope you'll make this a daily habit, and seriously consider telling a few hundred of your closest friends. Support the sponsors who have stepped up and participated in this new weather initiative. Check out my separate blog, ClimateSpot, which features weather and climate stories. Click on the updating maps and videos, long before you get the forecast on local television. Unlike the Weather Channel on cable we're focused on Minnesota weather, and we're (literally) in your back yard.. We're trying to tailor the forecast for local events, and there are plenty of them all summer long. And stay tuned: we're just getting started. Some amazing new innovations are in the development pipeline, my goal is to give you more features, more functionality, more power and choices. For now, enjoy our well-earned and much-deserved mild front!
Here is the latest WRF/NAM computer prediction for 7 pm this evening. Note the scattered showers over roughly the northern half of Minnesota. The models print out a few hundredths of an inch of rain for St. Cloud, but farther north, toward Brainerd, Aitkin, Wadena and Fergus Falls, may see .1 to .2" of PM rain, accompanied by a few random growls of thunder. Yes, there probably will be a few hours of rain up north at the cabin. Some summers you just can't win. At least you won't need a heavy jacket.
* Dry most of today from St. Cloud and the Twin Cities south to the Iowa border. Low to mid 70s by mid afternoon.
* Good chance of showers/storms over northern half of Minnesota this afternoon, few hours of rain, under .25" of rainfall expected. Rain likely over 30-40% of Minnesota, best chance from Alexandria and Brainerd to Bemidji, Grand Rapids and Duluth. Clouds/showers keep highs in the 60s here.
* Sunday: more sun, far fewer late-day showers. Rain affects less than 5% of Minnesota.
* Tomorrow: highs near 80 degrees, close to normal!
* Persistent stretch of typical June-like weather next week, highs at or just above 80 almost every day.
* Best chance of rain next week: Tuesday and Thursday.
* No tornadoes yet in Minnesota; the third latest date for tornado-free weather since 1891.
Today: Sunny morning, clouds increase by early afternoon. Slight chance of a late-afternoon shower or thundershower. More numerous showers/storms up north by afternoon. Winds: West 7-13. High: 76
Tonight: Partly cloudy, showers taper north, patchy fog (where it rained). Low: 56
Sunday: More sun, warmer. An isolated late-day thundershower (most of us won't see rain). Winds: SE 7-13. High: 81
Monday: Plenty of sun, temperatures where they should be. High: 82
Tuesday: Unsettled, chance of showers/storms early. High: 79
Wednesday: Partly cloudy, pleasant. High: 81
Thursday: More clouds, better chance of showers, possible thunder. High: near 80
Friday: Warm and humid with intervals of hazy sun. A few late-day T-storms. High: 84
Saturday (June 20): Mix of clouds & sun, slightly cooler. A few showers far north. High: 79