Not only will today be the warmest day of the year so far, we already had our first hail of the season (pea-sized here in town, a few in the 0.50 inch to 0.88 inch range in Marathon City – about nickel to quarter sized). In past years, any hail over 0.75 inches could have prompted a severe thunderstorm warning, but this year the criteria has been raised to 1.0 inch. Based on the extremely small sample size of “the storm this morning” it seems the criteria change has worked out well. Even though there was one report of hail over 0.75 inches, there wasn’t a need for a severe thunderstorm warning. So far I have not heard of any wind damage or other ill effects around the area – just hail reports. One of our photographers shot some video of the hail this morning in Wausau. Take a look on the homepage in the video player section.
The super-duper best thing about the thunderstorms is that we received some beneficial rain. Here in Wausau it was 0.35 inches. Judging by radar, it looks like a portion of northeastern Marathon county ended up with over a half inch, possibly as high as 1.0 inch. More rain is likely late this afternoon through Saturday morning and again from Sunday afternoon through midday Monday. Amounts could range from 1 to 2 inches. Rainfall in this range would bring us up to, or above normal for the month of April. Yay!
The downside is that we could have a bit of severe weather. Check the latest SPC convective outlook here. For late this afternoon through early evening (about 3pm to 9pm), it doesn’t look like all the severe weather parameters are coming together for a big event (widespread wind damage, hail, and tornadoes) but there is enough wind shear to generate a couple of super cells. StormTrak 9 meteorologists will be watching the situation closely. You can also follow along with iTrak interactive radar. Check it out here on our website. Also notice we have a new place where you can submit weather/storm photos. It is called reportstorms.com. If you upload a picture of storm damage, hail, or thunderclouds, we will be able to use them on TV to keep other viewers abreast the situation in Northcentral Wisconsin.
So there could be a couple of severe thunderstorms this late today. The next slight chance will be Sunday night into Monday morning. The SPC does not show a severe risk in our area as of yet but the latest computer models are indicating a shift that could bring slightly warmer temps during that time frame. By Tuesday dry weather will return and it should remain dry through most of Thursday.
I have so much AGW news that it is making my head spin but with all the interesting weather this week, school talks, and the snowmelt contest going on, I haven’t had enough time to organize it into a coherent blog entry. It will probably end up being a multi-part blog coming up during quiet time period of weather. Some good environmental news along with some bad.
Instead, how about a little update on one of my other favvorite topics: Space exploration. The Mars Rovers are gradually showing signs of wear from the rugged conditions that exist on the red planet. Spirit has recently had some computer problems. First it mysteriously rebooted its computer, then it developed amnesia. Controllers are trying to figure out what is causing this but are not having much luck so far. I figure this is to be expected. After 5 years on the planet, things are bound to start failing. What I think would be interesting is if they shut down one of the rovers before it suffered complete breakdown. Drive it to a sunny protected spot and put it in preservation mode. Maybe only waking up once a year to report that it was still alive. If it lasted a few more years, then maybe humans would be able to visit (or “rescue”) it during a future spaceflight to Mars. I know, kind-of a strange and far-out idea, just thought it would be cool.
WhiteKnightTwo of Virgin Galactic’s space fleet is continuing its testing. The only problem so far was a small problem with high winds during a landing this week. Apparently, somehow, the tail was dented by the rudders or the ground when it was landing. A tiny moment of distress in an otherwise smooth operation thus far.
I have some other interesting space news but again I am running out of time today (more next week) so I will leave you with a gallery of Hubble’s “greatest hits”. I know many of you have seen some of these before but the pics are so amazing and beautiful, I never tire of them. I suspect that for all who would like to travel to the stars someday, the images are enticing. The best part, NASA images are copyright free. Use them as you like. They make great desktop wallpaper.
Lastly, do forget to get your snowmelt contest entry in this weekend or early next week. The deadline is April 30th. I see hundreds of you have already entered. You could win a $250 gift card from the R-stores of Northcentral Wisconsin.
Have a nice day! Meteorologist Justin Loew.