Winter Solstice Wednesday! Epic clouds invade Alabama

21.5 degrees – Sun angle above the southern horizon at noon tomorrow

(Lowest of the year)

11:30pm CST Wednesday Winter solstice occurs

4:32pm sunset at MSP last Friday

4:42pm sunset at MSP on New Year’s Eve

+10 minutes of additional evening daylight by New Year’s Eve

72 days until meteorological spring! (March 1st, 2012)

90 days until astronomical spring (March 19th, 2012 11:14pm)

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Winter Solstice 2011

Check the sun angle at noon today and tomorrow.

As we approach the winter solstice (Wednesday at 11:30pm CDT) we are now at the lowest sun angle of the year in the northern hemisphere. Wednesday also features the shortest daylight of the year.

Want some good news? Daylight starts increasing (ever so slightly) starting on Thursday!

It’s hard to believe, but meteorological spring is just 72 days away on March 1st. Now in Minnesota, that can be the longest 72 days of your life, and early March is usually more like winter than spring.

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Sunset on Lake Minnetonka Monday

Mild for now; Pattern change ahead?

You know it’s been unseasonably mild when we’re still above average after the cold front has passed. Look for temperatures near to slightly above average this week and as we head into Christmas Weekend.

There may be some changes afoot next week and as we glide into 2012.

The upper air pattern shows signs of sending some colder air intrusions south in early January. We may also have a system brush us with a snow chance around December 29th.

It’s too early to identify a discernable trend yet…stay tuned.

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Sunset skater on Tonka Monday

Incredible “Kelvin Wave” clouds in Alabama:

This may be the best example of rare Kelvin-wave type clouds ever captured on film or video. Take a look at the video below.

These epic wave clouds are formed when a faster moving current glides over and interacts with a thicker, denser layer underneath.

Live Science explains these amazing clouds further.

“For a morning, the sky looked like a surfer’s dream: A series of huge breaking waves lined the horizon in Birmingham, Ala., on Friday (Dec. 16), their crests surging forward in slow motion. Amazed Alabamans took photos of the clouds and sent them to their local weather station, wondering, “What are these tsunamis in the sky?”

Experts say the clouds were pristine examples of “Kelvin-Helmholtz waves.” Whether seen in the sky or in the ocean, this type of turbulence always forms when a fast-moving layer of fluid slides on top of a slower, thicker layer, dragging its surface.

Water waves, for example, form when the layer of fluid above them (i.e., the air) is moving faster than the layer of fluid below (i.e., the water). When the difference between the wind and water speed increases to a certain point, the waves “break” — their crests lurch forward — and they take on the telltale Kelvin-Helmholtz shape.

According to Chris Walcek, a meteorologist at the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center at the State University of New York, Albany, fast-moving air high in the sky can drag the top of slow-moving, thick clouds underneath it in much the same way.”

Texas Drought: Half a million trees killed?

Was this a one time deal or did we just witness climate change induced “desertification” of big chunks of Texas last summer? Anywhere from 2 to 10 percent of Texas’ trees may have been lost in last summer’s relentless drought.

“COLLEGE STATION, Texas — A preliminary state estimate says as many as a half-billion trees died this year across Texas from the drought persisting across much of the state.

The Texas Forest Service said in a statement Monday that its foresters estimated that 100 million to 500 million trees died in the 2011 drought.

The forest service preliminary estimates found three areas to be hardest hit.

One, in Sutton, Crockett, Kimble and Pecos counties in West Texas, saw an extensive die-off of Ashe junipers.

Another, in Harris, Montgomery, Grimes, Madison and Leon counties of Southeast Texas, saw a big die-off of loblolly pines.

Meanwhile, Bastrop and Caldwell counties in Central Texas saw big losses of cedars and post oaks”

We can be thankful for every drop of rain we get in Minnesota most of the time!


  • Lars

    Thanks for the great education, Paul. How about adding a year-end quiz on the past year’s weather events? Your posts are fun to read. Yes, the Kelvin-Helmholz clouds remind me that the skies proclaim the work of God’s hands (Psalm 19).

  • David Probst

    I believe Thursday December 22 has less daylight than Wednesday the 21st. The sunrise is a minute later on the 22nd. According to the US Naval Observatory these are the sunrise and sunset times on the 21st:

    The following information is provided for St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota (longitude W93.1, latitude N45.0):


    21 December 2011 Central Standard Time


    Sunrise 7:47 a.m.

    Sunset 4:34 p.m.

    These are the times for the 22nd:

    Sunrise 7:48 a.m.

    Sunset 4:34 p.m.