Thursday, April 17, 2014

Instant Spring This Weekend (was latest IPCC climate report watered down for public consumption?)

42 F. high in the Twin Cities Thursday.
59 F. average high on April 17.
42 F. high on April 17, 2013.

60s likely Saturday and Easter Sunday.

Spotty showers, even a T-shower late Saturday.

Dazed & Amazed

There was at least one Minnesotan excited to see snow on Wednesday. My youngest son took a few days off from Navy aviation, got off the plane and promptly tweeted photos of the snow to his friends in Pensacola, Florida. The excitement was palpable. He may have been the ONLY person happy to see big, fat flakes falling in mid-April.

Another head-shaking, jaw-dropping weather moment - a 20 inch variation in snow; from a coating of slush at MSP International to 20 inches at North Branch. Wow.

Any slush in your yard is doomed, considering the sun is as high in the sky as it was on August 24. Spring isn't on a dimmer switch; it's either ON or OFF.

Our temperature roller coaster reverses course, topping 50F today; 60s likely this weekend with a late-day thundershower possible Saturday. As the front stalls a shower may linger on Easter Sunday. At least it'll be a lukewarm rain.

The extended outlook next week calls for bright green: a streak of balmy 60s leading up to heavy showers/storms by Wednesday & Thursday.

According to Rhett Bollinger at yesterday's 31F reading at Target Field made it the coldest Twins game on record. Is snow season over? I think so.

Place your bets.

Coldest Twins Game On Record? According to Rhett Bollinger, Twins beat reporter for, yesterday's midday temperature for the game at Target Field was a crisp 31F, beating the previous cold weather record of 32F, on May 2, 1967 at Met Stadium. May you live in interesting times. Yep.

Snowfall Summary. With any luck (and hours of prayer and meditation) may this be the LAST time I post a snowfall map for the next 6 months. The northern and western suburbs did, in fact, see plowable amounts, the heaviest (15"+) amounts between Isanti and Taylors Falls and Hinckley. Source: National Weather Service.

5th Snowiest Season On Record At Duluth. Here is more information from the Duluth National Weather Service: "As of April 17th, the seasonal snowfall total for Duluth is 125.3 inches which is now the 5th most in recorded history. The following is a list of the top 5 snowiest seasons on record at Duluth.

1. 135.4 inches 1995-1996
2. 131.8 inches 1949-1950
3. 129.4 inches 2012-2013
4. 128.6 inches 1996-1997
5. 125.3 inches 2013-2014

* file photo above courtesy of Brian Peterson at The Star Tribune.

Shifting Gears. The jet stream is finally pushing north, an expanding ridge of high pressure allowing warmer air to reach northern cities again much of next week, sparking a few spirited rounds of showers and T-storms. Meanwhile a disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico will soak the Florida Panhandle and much of the Southeast, with more flash flooding likely. A Pacific storm pushes heavy rain into the Seattle and Portland, but little or no appreciable rain is likely across California. NAM Future Radar: NOAA and HAMweather.

Shifting Gears - Rapidly. I'm continually amazed by how quickly the patterns can shift. Exhibit A: next week, as warm air surges north, sparking waves of heavy showers and T-storms over the Midwest, capable of 1-2" of rain. The heaviest rains over the next week are forecast to soak the Pacific Northwest and parts of the Southeast. 7-Day rainfall guidance through 12z next Thursday courtesy of NOAA.

Will Spring Stick This Time? After a few false starts, our on-again, off-again spring appears to be on again, with temperatures forecast to be above average much of next week, cooling off in about 1 week. No snow in the extended forecast, I'm happy to report. ECMWF guidance shows highs near 70F Easter Sunday, again Monday, with the best chance of (potentially heavy) showers and T-storms Wednesday into early Thursday. Graphic: Weatherspark.

Pollution From Asia Makes Pacific Storms Stronger. It's all about the aerosols, man-made pollutants seeding clouds and ultimately storms hundreds, even thousands of miles downwind. Is Chinese pollution impacting our weather? Here's a clip from National Geographic: "...Whether the weather [in North America] will change in a good direction or bad is hard to say at this time," says Renyi Zhang, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station. Zhang is a co-author, along with several scientists from the U.S. and China, of a study released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. The scientists say pollution from Asia is likely leading to stronger cyclones in the midlatitudes of the Pacific, more precipitation, and a faster movement of heat from the tropics toward the North Pole. As a result of these changes, "it's almost certain that weather in the U.S. is changing," says Zhang..."

Hurricane Survey: Water's The Threat, But Most Still Fear Wind. By emphasizing wind speed vs. predicted storm surge over the years, meteorologists may be at least partly to blame for this misperception. The Palm Beach Post has the story; here's the intro: "Despite all the public education, a staggering 84 percent of people surveyed still believe wind, not water, is the greatest threat to their safey, and base their evacuation decisions on wind speed or a storm's category, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes said this week...."

TSR Lowers 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast, Cites El Nino. Although all El Nino warming phases of ENSO are different, MOST increase winds over the tropics while cooling Caribbean waters slightly, lowering the risk of hurricanes over an "average" year. Here's an excerpt from "...With the update published yesterday, TSR’s Professor Mark Saunders and Dr. Adam Lea have reduced their forecast to 12 named storms, 5 hurricanes and 2 major (Category 3+) hurricanes, which is around 25% below the 1950-2013 norm and 40% below the more recent 2004-2013 norm. The forecasters cite two factors as leading the forecasters to believe that 2014 will be a below-average year for Atlantic hurricane formation..."

California's Wildfire Threat Is So Severe That The Season Started Early. Following a deepening drought and unusual heat during the winter months, 2014 promises to be a very rough year on the wildfire front. Here's an excerpt from Huffington Post: "Don’t let the recent rains and green hillsides fool you -- the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says the fresh growth is only covering up months of dry, dead grass, putting California at risk for one of its most severe fire seasons ever. Warnings issued to homeowners in the state’s most wildfire-prone areas urged them to prepare earlier than ever for the summer fire season in light of California’s historic drought, ABC News 10 reported..."

California Drought To Push Produce Prices Higher. AZCentral has the story; here's an excerpt: "Drought conditions in California's agricultural fields are going to push prices higher for fruits and vegetables, according to a Arizona State University study. The biggest price hikes are likely for lettuce, up 34 percent, and avocados, up 28 percent, according to Professor Timothy Richards of W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU. "You're probably going to see the biggest produce price increases on avocados, berries, broccoli, grapes, lettuce, melons, peppers, tomatoes and packaged salads," Richards said..."

* latest U.S. Drought Monitor for California is here.

Silver Lining. Those piles of April slush lingering in your yard have some benefits: they've delayed allergy season, and moisture is trending above average. NOAA may remove the drought designation for parts of central and southwestern Minnesota in the coming weeks if these (wetter than normal) trends continue.

Encouraging Moisture Trends Midwest, Great Lakes & Ohio Valley. Here is the 90-day departure from normal precipitation composite, courtesy of NOAA. The Plains continue to dry out, along with portions of the Mid South and Southeast, much drier than average, overall, for California.

Despite all the public education, a staggering 84 percent of people surveyed still believe wind, not water,is the greatest threat to their safety, and base their evacuation decisions on wind speed or a storm’s category, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes said this week.
The national Harris Interactive Survey, commissioned by the nonprofit group FLASH, revealed “frightening perceptions,” FLASH said Tuesday in a release.
The survey clashes with the reality that hurricane evacuation zones are based on the threat of water, not wind, and nearly all evacuation orders reflect the threat of inland flooding and storm surge.
- See more at:
MIT Designs A Floating, Tsunami-Proof Nuclear Plant. Well, I guess this makes sense on many levels, but romping on the beach I can't say it would be comforting watching a nuclear power plant bobbing on the horizon. Then again, we're going to need some safe, viable nuclear options to power our economy to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Here's a clip from Engadget: "What's the safest place to put a nuclear reactor? Offshore, apparently. A new power plant design concept from MIT envisions a facility built on floating platforms, moored in deep water several miles off the coast. This, the concept's creators explain, lends it several crucial advantages -- making it virtually immune to earthquakes, tsunamis and meltdowns..."

Amazon And Google Are In An Epic Battle To Dominate The Cloud - And Amazon May Already Have Won. Our companies use Amazon's AWS cloud-based services, but we're taking a hard look at Google as well. Here's a clip from another interesting read at Quartz: "...To understand the scale of the war brewing between them, it helps to understand that what Amazon and Google are really contesting is who gets to eat a bigger portion of the total corporate information-technology pie. All the warehouses of servers that run the whole of the internet, all the software used by companies the world over, and all the other IT services companies hire others to provide, or which they provide internally, will be worth some $1.4 trillion in 2014, according to Gartner Research—some six times Google and Amazon’s combined annual revenue last year..."

Photo credit above: "Let's do this." AP Photo/Rick Bowmer.

The 2,000-Year History of GPS Tracking. Here's an excerpt of a fascinating story (and book review) from Mother Jones: "Boston Globe technology writer Hiawatha Bray recalls the moment that inspired him to write his new book, You Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves. "I got a phone around 2003 or so," he says. "And when you turned the phone on—it was a Verizon dumb phone, it wasn't anything fancy—it said, 'GPS'. And I said, 'GPS? There's GPS in my phone?'" He asked around and discovered that yes, there was GPS in his phone, due to a 1994 FCC ruling. At the time, cellphone usage was increasing rapidly, but 911 and other emergency responders could only accurately track the location of land line callers..."

Image credit above: "Egyptian geographer Claudius Ptolemy and Hiawatha Bray's "You Are Here". .

Proof That Neflix Is Destroying Cable TV. Have you officially "cut the cord" yet? Is Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Roku providing most of the content you watch on a daily basis? Here's a clip from a story at Business Insider: "A new report from consumer data company Experian Marketing Services suggests that online video content services like Netflix are pulling people away from cable television. After surveying more than 24,000 U.S. adults, EMS found that households with a Netflix or Hulu subscription were nearly three times as likely not to have a cable subscription than the average household. In total, 6.5% of Experian's surveyed households did not subscribe to cable in 2013, up from 4.5% in 2010. But cord-cutters became 18.1% of Netflix subscribers, up from 12.7%. Cord-cutters are three times as likely to be Netflix subscribers than the average consumer, in other words..."

Graphic credit: Experian Marketing Services.

GOOD FRIDAY: Fading sun, a bit milder. Winds: SE 10-15. High: 52
FRIDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 38
SATURDAY: Springy with early sun giving way to increasing clouds. PM thundershowers. High: 67
EASTER SUNDAY: Some mild sun, lingering shower or two. Wake-up: 48. High: 68
MONDAY: Partly sunny. Risk of spring fever. Wake-up: 43. High: near 70
TUESDAY: Sunny, breezy, a bit cooler. Wake-up: 41. High: 59
WEDNESDAY: Unsettled. Showers and T-storms likely. Wake-up: 43. High: 57
THURSDAY: Heavy rain tapers to showers. Wake-up: 47. High: 61

Climate Stories....

Weather-Related Blackouts Doubled Since 2003: Report. A ten-fold increase in major power outages between the mid-80s and 2012? Here's the introduction to a disturbing report, summarized at Climate Central: "Climate change is causing an increase in many types of extreme weather. Heat waves are hotter, heavy rain events are heavier, and winter storms have increased in both frequency and intensity. To date, these kinds of severe weather are among the leading causes of large-scale power outages in the United States. Climate change will increase the risk of more violent weather and more frequent damage to our electrical system, affecting hundreds of millions of people, and costing Americans and the economy tens of billions of dollars each year..."

* Climate Central has a detailed 23 page report on power outage trends and the link to increasing outbreaks of severe weather impacting the grid here (PDF).

More, Bigger Wildfires Burning Western U.S. - Study Shows. Here's an excerpt from an interesting story at "...The Number of wildfires over 1,000 acres in size in the region stretching from Nebraska to California increased by a rate of seven fires a year from 1984 to 2011, according to a new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal published by the American Geophysical Union. The total area these fires burned increased at a rate of nearly 90,000 acres a year - an area the size of Las Vegas, according to the study..." (File photo: AP).
The number of wildfires over 1,000 acres in size in the region stretching from Nebraska to California increased by a rate of seven fires a year from 1984 to 2011, according to a new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal published by the American Geophysical Union.
The total area these fires burned increased at a rate of nearly 90,000 acres a year – an area the size of Las Vegas, according to the study. Individually, the largest wildfires grew at a rate of 350 acres a year, the new research says.

Read more at:

U.S. GHG Emissions At Lowest Levels In 20 Years. The trends are encouraging in the USA, but any drop in carbon pollution here has been more than offset by spiking greenhouse gas emissions in China, India and other rapidly developing nations. Here's a clip from Climate Central: "U.S. greenhouse gas emissions declined 3.4 percent in 2012 from 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday. Those emissions are down 10 percent from what they were in 2005, the EPA said, and are at their lowest levels since 1994. Most of the decline came from reductions in energy consumption, increased fuel efficiency of cars and other types of transportation, and a shift to natural gas from coal in fueling power plants, the EPA said in a statement..."

Graphic credit above: "U.S. greenhouse gas emissions per year since 1990, broken down by type of gas." Credit: EPA.

Analysis: How The Media Covered The U.N. Climate Reports In Three Charts. Are we losing interest or avoiding the subject altogether? Here's an excerpt from Media Matters: "...A Media Matters analysis found that the major print and television outlets devoted far less coverage to the most recent installment of the IPCC report than the first two reports by Working Group 1 (WG1) and Working Group 2 (WG2), which outlined the evidence that manmade climate change is happening and having largely negative impacts, respectively. The third report received only about a quarter (28 percent) of the amount of coverage given to the first report..."

U.N. Climate Report Was Censored. Or at least very watered down for public consumption, it seems. This, according to an article at Grist; here's an excerpt: "...And it turns out the summary was watered down — diluted from an acid reflux–inducing stew of unpalatable science into a more appetizing consommé of half-truth. The Sydney Morning Herald has the details: A major climate report presented to the world was censored by the very governments who requested it, frustrating and angering some of its lead authors. … [E]ntire paragraphs, plus graphs showing where carbon emissions have been increasing the fastest, were deleted from the summary during a week’s debate prior to its release. Other sections had their meaning and purpose significantly diluted... (Image credit: Shutterstock).

It's The End Of The World As We Know It...And He Feels Fine. Is it too late to do anything? I sure hope not - it may be a sense of naive optimism, but I suspect we can still avoid a worst-case scenario. Here's an excerpt of a long and sobering story at The New York Times Magazine: "...For Kingsnorth, the notion that technology will stave off the most catastrophic effects of global warming is not just wrong, it’s repellent — a distortion of the proper relationship between humans and the natural world and evidence that in the throes of crisis, many environmentalists have abandoned the principle that “nature has some intrinsic, inherent value beyond the instrumental.” If we lose sight of that ideal in the name of saving civilization, he argues, if we allow ourselves to erect wind farms on every mountain and solar arrays in every desert, we will be accepting a Faustian bargain..."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Coating to 17" - Remarkable Snowfall Extremes Reported across the MSP Metro

37 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday.
58 F. average high on April 16.
47 F. high on April 16, 2013.
Trace of snow at MSP International Airport as of 7 PM Wednesday.
* 17" of snow reported in Nowthen, in Anoka County, as of late last night. Remarkable.

60s possible Saturday, likely Sunday and much of next week.

The Pollen Vortex

Only in Minnesota can you be ankle-deep in slush, in a T-shirt, grilling. This "spring" is taking weather-whiplash to a new & outlandish extreme. I guess it could be worse. Residents of Washington D.C. just went from 80F to flurries, wind chills in the teens, in less than 24 hours.
Much of Minnesota is waking up to snow; the heaviest bands north & west of the immediate Twin Cities, where enough warm air wrapped into the storm for a period of rain, keeping snowfall totals down a bit. But the northern and western suburbs did pick up a plowable snowfall, with some 1 foot plus amounts from Anoka County westward to Rogers and Maple Lake. If you're driving north/west, away from the downtowns this morning, leave plenty of extra time.

Memories of 2013: Duluth picked up 51 inches of snow last April, the snowiest month on record.
In April. Go figure.

One silver lining to our cold bias: no pollen yet. A researcher at the University of Tulsa reports that trees are flowering late this spring, dumping pollen all at once. Details below.

Welcome to a Light-switch Spring. Like flipping on a light, spring arrives this weekend. Expect 60s on Saturday; a few showers likely, even a clap of thunder. Skies dry out a bit Easter Sunday; 70F not out of the question by Monday & Tuesday as thoughts turn to May; cleaning up the yard & dusting off the fishing boat.

I'm ready for a long, sweaty summer.

We're due.

All Or Nothing. I can't remember the last time I saw a snowfall gradient this impressive across the Twin Cities. In the span of 30 miles you go from a slushy coating to nearly a foot. The northern and western suburbs got clobbered by snow Wednesday; an icy mix of rain, freezing rain and sleet kept amounts much lower south of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The latest snowfall reports are here and here. I pray this is the last time I have to include these links until sometime in October or November.

Like Turning On A Lightswitch. ECMWF data is still hinting at 60s this weekend; GFS data from NOAA only keeping us in the 50s. Most days I prefer the European model, and I'm going to roll the dice and (hope) ECMWF is on the right track. There's little doubt that spring will stage a comeback next week. It may be hard to believe, but with a sun angle as high in the sky as it was on August 25 most of the snow in your yard will be gone by Friday evening. Graphic: Weatherspark.

New Concept: "Warmer Than Average". I can't remember the last time I saw a map like this - last autumn perhaps. NOAA CPC is predicting a warm bias from the Rockiest to the Mississippi much of next week. That will mean 60s and 70s over the Upper Mississippi Valley, with a few 80s to near 90F over the central Plains. Map: NOAA and HAMweather.

March Was The Coldest In U.S. Since 2002. Climate Central has all the details; here's a clip: "...For the lower 48 as a whole, this March was the coldest on record since 2002 (though it ranks as only the 43rd coldest in the longer-term records), according to the latest State of the Climate update from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), released Tuesday. The average national temperature for the month was 40.5°F, 1°F below the 20th century average for the month. The Great Lakes and Northeast saw the coolest conditions, and Vermont actually saw its coldest March on record, with temperature 8.9°F below average..." (image credit: NOAA).

From Polar Vortex To Pollen Vortex? 45 million Americans may be doing more spring sneezing and wheezing than usual, no thanks to an abrupt end to the Polar Vortex in the coming weeks. Here's an excerpt of a good explanation from Mother Jones: "...The long winter, the particularly cold weather, it all pushed the pollen season back quite a bit," says Estelle Levetin, the chair of the biology department at the University of Tulsa. Individual flowering trees probably aren't producing more pollen, Levetin says—but they're all dumping their pollen at once, making this allergy season particularly difficult for people who are sensitive to more than one type of pollen..." (Pollen file photo: Wikipedia).

Largest Solar Array For Department of Defense Coming to Arizona Army Base. Take advantage of free energy, especially in sun-drenched Arizona? Seems like a pretty good idea and the Defense Department is testing new ways to keep the lights on. EcoWatch has the story; here's a clip: "A U.S. Army base near the Mexican border will soon be home to the U.S. Department of Defense’s largest solar array on a military installation. The U.S. Army announced Monday that Fort Huachuca, in Southeast Arizona’s Cochise County, on April 25 will break ground on a solar array with panels that collectively will provide one quarter of the base’s electricity needs..."

Photo credit above: "Fort Huachuca in Arizona will soon be home to the U.S. Department of Defense’s largest solar array on a military installation." Photo credit: U.S. Army.

Parrots Name Their Children For Life. Robert Krulwich has the details in this piece that ran on NPR; here's an excerpt: "..."Most people say, 'Well, all those calls are just noise,' " Karl told Virginia Morell, but "I think they're having conversations." Berg has listened to so many parrots in so many nests for so long, he has that weeks after birth, these little birds begin to use very specific peeps to identify themselves to others. Not only that, they learn the peeping "names" of their parents, brothers, sisters, and use them in conversation, as in, "Peep-duh-dee-Peep, is that you?"... (File photo: Wikipedia).

"Climachill" Cools Athletes In Hot Weather. Can I get boxers made out of this material? Inquiring minds want to know. Here's an excerpt from Gizmag: "The sports apparel market has no shortage of solutions for cold weather, with waterproof-breathable materials, advanced natural and synthetic insulations, and battery powered heat among them. But athletes have fewer options in hot, humid weather: take off clothing, get a cold headband/cloth, or stop exercising and find an air conditioner or pool. Adidas offers one more. Its new Climachill fabric combines several cooling elements to keep athletes more comfortable during hot summer sessions..."

Bees On A Plane. A flight from Las Vegas to Duluth had to turn around because of...wait for it...bees? No, truth is stranger than fiction some days. Here's a clip from The Duluth News Tribune: "...Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said the flight crew reported at 5:30 p.m. Duluth time that shortly after takeoff, a swarm of bees was clouding the windshield and bees were being ingested into the plane’s engines. The crew decided to abort the flight, landing safely back in Las Vegas..."

TODAY: Slushy, slippery start. Patchy clouds, still chilly. Winds: NW: 10-15. High: near 40
THURSDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy and cold. Low: 28
FRIDAY: Peeks of sun, feels more like April. High: 52
SATURDAY: Hints of May. PM T-storms? Wake-up: 42. High: 65
EASTER SUNDAY: Damp start. Clouds linger much of the day. Wake-up: 45. High: 62
MONDAY: Partly sunny. Mostly springy. Wake-up: 40. High: 68
TUESDAY: Fading sun, still lukewarm. Wake-up: 44. High: 67
WEDNESDAY: Humid. Showers & T-storms. Wake-up: 48. High: 64

Climate Stories...

The world is losing the equivalent of 50 soccer fields of forest every minute. NYT. Source: Climate Nexus.

U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Dropped 3.4% In 2012. Here's an excerpt from The Los Angeles Times: "Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States dropped by 3.4% in 2012, federal environmental regulators reported Tuesday. The decline over the previous year was driven mostly by power plant operators switching from coal to natural gas, improvements in fuel efficiency for transportation and a warmer winter that cut demand for heating, according to an inventory released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency...."

Study Ties Epic California Drought, "Frigid East" To Manmade Climate Change. ThinkProgress has the details of a new NASA-funded study; here's an excerpt: "...A new study in Geophysical Research Letters (subs. req’d) takes the warming link to the California drought to the next level of understanding. It concludes, “there is a traceable anthropogenic warming footprint in the enormous intensity of the anomalous ridge during winter 2013-14, the associated drought and its intensity.” The NASA-funded study is behind a pay wall, but the brief news release, offers a simple explanation of what is going on. The research provides “evidence connecting the amplified wind patterns, consisting of a strong high pressure in the West and a deep low pressure in the East [labeled a 'dipole'], to global warming.” Researchers have “uncovered evidence that can trace the amplification of the dipole to human influences...”

* Jeff Masters at Weather Underground weighs in on new papers linking the historic California drought and a persistent polar vortex signature this past winter to rapid warming in the northern latitudes. Here's a clip: "...A new study published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, led by Utah State scientist S.-Y. Simon Wang, found that this jet stream pattern was the most extreme on record, and likely could not have grown so extreme without the influence of human-caused global warming. The study concluded, there is a traceable anthropogenic warming footprint in the enormous intensity of the anomalous ridge during winter 2013-14, the associated drought and its intensity..."

* Is climate change impacting the ENSO signal in the Pacific? Here's a technical paper (PDF) with details.

Canada's Climate Warms To Corn As Grain Belt Shifts North. The growing season on the Canadian prairie has lengthened by 2 weeks in the last 50 years; the trends are undeniable. Bloomberg has a story and video explanation; here's a clip: "...This is here to stay,” said Gross, who sells CNH Global NV tractors for Southeastern Farm Equipment Ltd. in nearby Steinbach. His customers are increasingly devoting acreage to corn. “There are a lot of guys who are experimenting with it and looking at it,” he said. Corn is the most common grain in the U.S., with its production historically concentrated in a Midwestern region stretching from the Ohio River valley to Nebraska and trailing off in northern Minnesota. It had been ungrowable in the fertile farmland of Canada’s breadbasket. That is changing as a warming climate, along with the development of faster-maturing seed varieties, turns the table on food cultivation. The Corn Belt is being pushed north of what was imaginable a generation ago..."

January Global Temperature Anomalies. Check out this video clip from NASA, showing a persistent pocket of cold over the eastern USA (thank you Polar Vortex), while most of the rest of the planet was milder than average. That trend lingered into March.

Turning Our Backs To Global Warming. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Virginian-Pilot that caught my eye: "...The problem, as in so many things, is America's paralyzing politics. Since limiting global warming carries its own small cost - one that will affect free-spending energy interests most - partisan opposition to change has been particularly vociferous in America. Global warming has become just another American litmus test, along with health care reform, immigration, abortion, unemployment insurance, pay equity. While the rest of the world is baffled by America's partisan disagreement over a century-old and well-supported scientific theory, it is also frustrated by the lack of leadership from the world's only superpower..."

A Risk Analyst Explains Why Climate Change Risk Misperception Doesn't Necessarily Matter. By the time the symptoms of climate change begin impacting everyone's daily lives will it be too late to do anything about it? That's why climate change has often been described as "the perfect problem". Andrew Revkin takes a look in an interview at his Dot Earth column at The New York Times; here's an excerpt: "...Consider that combating climate change requires nothing less than a radical restructuring of how the world makes and uses energy, and consider the overwhelming level of public concern it would take to impose such sweeping changes on the vested interests profiting by the status quo (and let’s be honest…to impose such changes on a public comfortable with the status quo). We’d have to feel we were at war — bullets-flying, bombs-dropping, buildings-burning and body-bags real, live, NOW “I am in Danger” war — before public concern about climate change would grow strong enough to drive those sorts of actions. The psychology of risk perception warns against the naive hope that we can ever achieve that level of concern with effective communication, but even if it is possible, we are just not going to get there in time, a point made dramatically by the latest IPCC Working Group 3 report..."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April Showers - Of Heavy Snow (plowable potential northern suburbs by tonight)

18 F. low Tuesday morning, tying the all-time record set in 2002, 1935 and 1875.
36 F. high Tuesday afternoon in the Twin Cities.
58 F. average high on April 15. Was it April 15? Really?
40 F. high on April 15, 2013.

Coating - 7" possible today (best chance of plowable amounts far northern suburbs by tonight).

60 F. degrees returns next week, possibly as early as Easter Sunday.

Plowable Just North of MSP?

Our tormented April limps on: brief, wondrous spasms of warmth, interrupted by extended spells of wind chill & fat flakes. By the time mid-April rolls around Minnesotans do NOT want to hear about "shovel-able snows".

With a higher sun angle and temperatures above 32F in the metro most roads should remain wet, in spite of a sloppy mix. We can't rule out a coating of slush in the metro area, especially early this morning, with an inch or two north metro. If you're driving north up I-35 travel conditions should get progressively worse; mainly snow north of Monticello, Princeton and North Branch. Some 3-7+ inch amounts are possible by evening from central Minnesota into northern Wisconsin.

Keep those driveway stakes in a little bit longer.

I expect a "snow sandwich"; precipitation starting as a coating to 1 inch of slush this morning, changing to rain, then back to snow at the tail-end of the storm by this evening. Winds reach 25 mph, creating treacherous travel up north, along with enough snow to build a respectable slush-man from Brainerd and Duluth to Hayward.


Any primal screams today give way to contented sighs next week, with highs in the 60s, possibly as early as Easter Sunday, based on latest ECMWF guidance (below).

Easter egg hunts may be muddy this year; rain is likely Saturday into Easter Sunday. Good news for your greening garden.

Coating - 7", Give or Take. Go on TV and predict a coating to 7" and you'll be heckled. "Could you possibly be any more vague, Paul?" But that's what the latest WRF guidance is suggesting: as much as 3-7" for the north metro to near St. Cloud, but only a coating for the southern suburbs. There may be a very tight gradient in snowfall amounts across the metro area. Expect a cold rain by afternoon, ending as an inch or two of slush south metro; probably enough to shovel, plow (and complain vigorously about) north metro. Source: HopWRF.

On Edge. There's little doubt that the heaviest amounts of snow will fall north of MSP later today and tonight. Today's storm should pull enough warm air aloft for mostly rain midday and afternoon from the Twin Cities on south to the Iowa border, but even in the immediate metro a cold rain probably ends as an inch or two of slush. Northern suburbs may pick up a few inches of slush, with the heaviest amounts far north metro, where some 3-7" amounts can't be ruled out by Thursday morning. More details on the Winter Storm Warning from NOAA.

A Light At The End Of Our Cold, Snowy Tunnel. April is a volatile, fickle month - everything from blizzards and floods to tornadoes. After another winter tantrum later today and tonight skies begin to clear Thursday. ECMWF guidance suggests 60s by Easter Sunday, with a rerun of spring much of next week. That would be nice. Graphic: Weatherspark.

Precipitation Needed To End Drought. Here are the latest numbers from NOAA NCDC; as much as 20" or more of rain necessary to break the drought from California's Central Valley southward to San Diego.

Tornado Season Is Off To A Slow Start, But There's No Predicting What's Next. Matt Lanza has a very good summary of the (relatively) quiet start to tornado season, nationwide, and what may be driving the low numbers. Here's an excerpt from his story at FiveThirtyEight Science: "Tornado season has started quietly this year, continuing a trend that began in 2012. Through March 31, the United States had only 70 reported tornadoes even though the first quarter has averaged more than 170 a year over the last 10 years. April has remained quiet, with 36 preliminary tornado reports as of Sunday. Oklahoma hasn’t seen an intense tornado1 since May 31, the longest such stretch on record. The small tornado seen there on Sunday was the first of any kind since Aug. 7..."

March Was 4th Warmest on Record Globally. Here are a couple of excerpts from a post at Climate Central: "...March 2014 was the fourth-warmest March on record globally, according to recently released NASA data, making it the 349th month — more than 29 years — in which global temperatures were above the historic average...This warm March follows on the heels of the announcements that this winter was the eighth warmest globally and that 2013 was anywhere from the fourth- to the seventh-warmest year on record, depending on which data set is used."

Graphic credit above: "The amounts that temperatures around the world differed from the historic average." Credit: NOAA.

If El Nino Comes This Year, It Could Be A Monster. has the story; here's the introduction: "Attention, weather superfans: El Niño might be coming back. And this time, we could be in for a big one. Official NOAA Climate Prediction Center estimates peg the odds of El Niño’s return at 50 percent, but many climate scientists think that is a lowball estimate. And there are several indications that if it materializes, this year’s El Niño could be massive, a lot like the 1997-98 event that was the strongest on record. “I think there’s no doubt that there’s an El Niño underway,” said climate scientist Kevin Trenberth of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. “The question is whether it’ll be a small or big one...”

A Significant El Nino Brewing? It's still early, but leading indicators suggest a substantial warming of equatorial Pacific Ocean water for the latter half of 2014. Data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology show temperatures nearly 2F warmer than average in the Pacific by autumn: "All international climate models surveyed by the Bureau indicate that SSTs in the equatorial Pacific Ocean will continue to warm during autumn and winter. Almost all models indicate El Niño thresholds will be exceeded during the southern hemisphere winter."

Earth Dodges A Huge Magnetic Bullet. We've seen a number of close calls. If a Category 4-5 X-Class solar flare ever reaches Earth's surface we won't be talking (or communicating) much about weather annoyances. We'll have much bigger problems to contend with, possibly a widespread loss of satellite communication and the power grid. Here's an excerpt from Electronic Products: "I'd say electronic engineers have not been terribly worried about a solar event upsetting their designs. But maybe they should be worried. According to University of California, Berkeley, and Chinese researchers, a rapid succession of coronal mass ejections sent a pulse of magnetized plasma barreling into space and through Earth's orbit on July 23, 2012. Had the eruption come nine days earlier, when the ignition spot was aimed at Earth, it would have potentially wreaked havoc with the electrical grid, disabled satellites and GPS, and disrupted our increasingly electroniclives..." (File photo: NASA).

Asian Air Pollution Strengthens Pacific Storms. Smog spiking storms hundreds, even thousands of miles downwind from the source? Here's an excerpt of a BBC article: "Air pollution in China and other Asian countries is having far-reaching impacts on weather patterns across the Northern Hemisphere, a study suggests. Researchers have found that pollutants are strengthening storms above the Pacific Ocean, which feeds into weather systems in other parts of the world. The effect was most pronounced during the winter..."

Photo credit: Reuters. "A thick haze of pollution envelopes Beijing - but scientists say the toxic air travels much further afield."

Fujitsu 3-D Tsunami Simulator Predicts Watery Disasters As They Unfold. Real-time predictions of tsunami impacts? Here's a clip from "Fujitsu’s collaboration with Touhoku University led to the development of a 3D tsunami simulator for high-precision tsunami forecasting....The 3D tsunami simulator can recreate how a tsunami flows inland in very accurate detail, showing the flow of water as it interacts with the general topography of the area it is going to affect. It can also simulate waves as it breaks and forms, and as it flows through obstacles like urban buildings and local coastal geographic features..."

Tornadoes And Hurricanes And Earthquakes - Oh My! Surviving A Disaster In Your Home. I picked up a few timely tips and valuable suggestions in this Living Green Magazine article from Ross Bishop; here's an excerpt: "...The lesson is, when the infrastructure goes, the one constant is that life can be extremely difficult. And even a little preparation can make a great deal of difference. Electricity is usually the first thing to go, and our lives today are very electric dependent. No electricity means no furnace, no lights, and no computer. It also means that the refrigerator won't run and that you won't be able to recharge your cell phone. Natural gas is more reliable, so you may have the stove for cooking (even if you have to light it by hand), and you may have hot water...."
The lesson is, when the infrastructure goes, the one constant is that life can be extremely difficult. And even a little preparation can make a great deal of difference.
Electricity is usually the first thing to go, and our lives today are very electric dependent. No electricity means no furnace, no lights, and no computer. It also means that the refrigerator won’t run and that you won’t be able to recharge your cell phone.
Natural gas is more reliable, so you may have the stove for cooking (even if you have to light it by hand), and you may have hot water. The furnace however, needs electricity.
A flood, hurricane or earthquake will put your water supply at risk. Even though you may have water, it may not be safe to drink. Depending on where you live, this may not happen very often, but the consequences are dire. You can go without food for a month if pushed, but without water, you’ll die in a matter of days.


Twin Cities Crack The Top 10 Greenest Cities In America. I found this interesting, and couldn't help noticing that St. Paul is slightly ahead of Minneapolis on the list, but nowhere close to Madison and Anchorage. Anchorage? Here's an excerpt from EcoWatch: "When a website creates a list with the title, “Greenest Cities in America,” it’s easy to think you know which ones will be included and why. NerdWallet’s list of that name does contain a couple overlapping municipalities with lists on the top solar cities or the most bike-friendly communities, for example, but it’s mostly comprised of cities that deserve far more recognition for their sustainable, environment-focused efforts. California is typically associated with being green, but not under the definition provided by NerdWallet, an informational finance site..."

Graphic credit above: NerdWallet.

Turns Out, You Can Make Solar Panels Work In Cloudy Cities. Here's another article that made me do a double-take; an excerpt from The Atlantic Cities: "Solar panels have always made sense in cities that get a lot of sun, at least intuitively. But in recent years, scientists have figured out ways to make them more useful for perpetually gloomy cities like London and Seattle. The solution comes down to organic photovoltaics. Unlike traditional solar panels, made of silicon, OPV cells are made of organic semiconductors, which can be 3D-printed or coated over large areas, as seen in the video below...."

What Riding On Airforce One Is Really Like. Here's an excerpt of an interesting behind-the-scenes story from The Washington Post: "...It turns out that riding Air Force One is, in lots of ways, like flying commercial. You need to get there hours early. You send your items through a metal detector and get wanded down. The inside of the cabin is, well, the cabin of a plane, but with some much nicer touches, like real towels and hand lotion in the bathroom..."

Photo credit: "Air Force One." (Katie Zezima)

New Leak Points To Major iPhone 6 Design Overhaul. BGR has the latest on what may be coming next from Apple; here's an excerpt: "...Apple is rumored to launch at least one bigger iPhone model later this year, with various reports suggesting that a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 would hit stores first, at some point in late Q3. An even bigger 5.5-inch iPhone version has also been detailed in many reports, with recent ones implying that certain manufacturing issues may prevent Apple from launching it at the same time with the 4.7-inch iPhone..."

Image Source:

Amphicruiser: Amphibious 4WD Based On Toyota Land Cruiser. And who wouldn't want to be seen in one of these pulling up to Big Island on Lake Minnetonka on a busy Saturday afternoon? Here's a clip from Gizmag: "We wanted it to be as solid on water as the Land Cruiser is on land." That's Dutch Amfibious Transport co-founder Dirk-Jan de Jong talking about his company's heavy duty amphibious 4WD, the Amphibicruiser. Built around a Toyota Land Cruiser engine, it's a fully fledged on and offroad cruiser that can be driven up a river or out to sea with next to no training..."

World's First Cannabis Vending Machine Unveiled In Colorado. The Times of India has the mind-numbing details: "A dispensary in Colorado is making the most of the state's recent legalization of cannabis by introducting the world's first marijuana vending machines. The machine, called ZaZZZ, will work in a similar way to cigarette machines but includes new technology that requires would-be tokers to scan their driving license (or other, similar documentation) before they can access the goods..."

Weather Service: Please Disregard Our Giant Biblical Flood Warning. Yes, even NOAA has occasional issues with their web sites, as described in this clip from Mashable: "NOAA, meet Noah. The website for the National Weather Service (NWS), which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), suffered a major malfunction on Thursday leading to the false appearance of a biblical flood warning spanning from Canada (which the NWS doesn't even have responsibility over) south to Florida, and west to Michigan. The malfunction, which began around midday ET and was fixed by 3:15 pm ET, affected local NWS websites — key conduits for disseminating life-saving watches and warnings..."

TODAY: Rain-snow mix metro; mostly snow central Minnesota, where travel will become treacherous. MSP coating - 2"; 3-7" north. Winds: E 20+ High: near 40
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Wet snow tapers to flurries - a few slick spots, plowable snow up north. Low: 27
THURSDAY: More clouds than sun, chilly. High: 42
FRIDAY: Partly sunny, almost spring. Wake-up: 25. High: 50
SATURDAY: Showers likely, possible thunder. Wake-up: 34. High: 58
EASTER SUNDAY: Milder under mostly cloudy skies. Isolated shower? Wake-up: 40. High: 62
MONDAY: Intervals of sun, getting better out there. Wake-up: 42. High: 64
TUESDAY: Fading sun. Welcome back spring. Wake-up: 45. High: 67

* Total lunar eclipse photo taken early Tuesday morning courtesy of photographer Steve Burns.

Climate Stories....

Tracking Temperature Anomalies Since 1968. A friend shared this site with me yesterday, a fascinating look at national temperature trends over the last 50 years. Check out the Enigma Climate Data Engine for yourself: "Every day, the Global Historical Climatology Network collects temperatures from 90,000 weather stations. Dating back as far as the late 1700's, the records provide an incredible source of insight into our changing climate."

Climate Change Doubling Big Power Outages, Group Says. A story at The Columbus Dispatch caught my eye; here's an excerpt: "...The study from Climate Central says that severe weather caused 80 percent of the major outages from 2003 to 2013. A major outage is defined as one that affects at least 50,000 people or interrupts at least 300 megawatts; 1 megawatt can power about 1,000 homes. “Heat waves are hotter, heavy rain events are heavier, and winter storms have increased in both frequency and intensity,” the report says. “To date, these kinds of severe weather are among the leading causes of large-scale power outages in the United States.” The number of major outages was double that recorded during the prior 10-year period, though the author notes that reporting requirements have changed, which might be driving some of the increase..." (File photo: AP).

Canadian Economy Will Lose Billions To Climate Change: Report. Extreme droughts and floods, similar to what hit Calgary in 2013, may become the norm in the coming decades. Here's a clip from "A new report on the financial implications of climate change notes that while natural catastrophes are estimated to cost Canadians $21-$43 billion per year by 2050, popular economic measures like GDP fail to capture the escalation, discouraging preventative investment. The TD report follows a recent and alarming warning by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that governments are ill-prepared for a warming world. If action is not immediately taken, the UN report projected risks could become unmanageable..."

Photo credit above: "A road crew foreman surveys the washed-out lanes of northbound MacLeod Trail in Calgary, Alta., Monday, June 24, 2013. Heavy rains caused flooding, closed roads, and forced evacuations across Southern Alberta." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh.

Rising Sun. Why don't we hear more about the ongoing solar power revolution in the popular media? Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from Paul Krugman at The New York Times: "...In fact, it’s possible that solar will displace coal even without special incentives. But we can’t count on that. What we do know is that it’s no longer remotely true that we need to keep burning coal to satisfy electricity demand. The way is open to a drastic reduction in emissions, at not very high cost. And that should make us optimistic about the future, right? I mean, all that stands in our way is prejudice, ignorance, and vested interests. Oh, wait..."