Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Winter Fizzle: 50s Today & Friday, Slush Potential Sunday Night?

46 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities Wednesday.
42 F. average high on March 18.
37 F. high on March 18, 2014.
March 19, 1977: The energy emergency finally ends in Minnesota. It was caused by the extended cold.

A Seasonal Celebration

"Except. What is normal at any given time? We change just as the seasons change, and each spring brings new growth. So nothing is ever quite the same” wrote Sherwood Smith.

Kyla at Wells Fargo in Excelsior just reminded me how much she NEEDS the changing seasons. If the weather was the same day after day there would be no need for meteorologists!

I just returned from such a place near San Diego, a lush spit of land called Coronado. Every day was sunny. The big mystery: what time would the fog burn off? Will the mercury hit 80F or 90F?

"I don't think I've used a jacket once since I've been out here, my Navy helicopter pilot-son told me. "But I do miss the seasons. I miss Minnesota." I love the seasons - but I'd love to be bored for a year or two. That would be a welcome sensation.

The current pattern is quite dull for March with a series of scrawny clippers. I still don't see any big, moisture-rich storms pushing across the Plains, capable of heavy rain or snow. A light mix is possible Sunday night; the atmosphere mild enough for rain showers next Tuesday.

No drama. No big warm fronts either. Expect highs mostly in the 40s and 50s, followed by more jacket weather late next week as we make the long, slow turn toward spring.

Accumulating Snow Potential. Frankly I'll be happy when I don't feel the need to show this graphic, as colorful as it may be. A little slushy snow can't be ruled out late Sunday into early Monday, but right now we don't expect anything too horrific for morning rush hour Monday. Montreal may wind up with 10-12" of snow. It can always be worse. GFS guidance (.25 degrees) courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather.

On-Again, Off-Again Spring. This is hardly unusual for March, big swings in temperature. Although I don't see any more 60s or 70s we should top 50F today and Friday before cooling down over the weekend. European guidance brings a little rain/snow mix into Minnesota late Sunday into Monday morning, and I wouldn't be shocked to wake up to some slush Monday. The thing about snow in March: it melts very rapidly, the sun is simply too high in the sky for it to linger in your yard for long. By the middle of next week the lowest mile of the atmosphere is well above 32F with just rain showers; next Wednesday the windiest day in sight with sustained winds close to 20 mph.

Jackets and T-Shirts. By the time we see 50s many people (under the age of 30) are wandering around in shorts and t-shirts. That may be pushing it a bit, but long range guidance from NOAA's GFS model shows highs generally in the 40s and 50s from late March into early April. Big storms? Insert laugh track here.

The Scientific Case for Cold Showers. A fascinating article at Fast Company argues that cold showers increase blood circulation, releases endorphins and can make you a more productive human being - if you can survive it! Here's a clip: "...Cold water has all sorts of tangible health benefits, as long as you can stand it. Katharine Hepburn spent a lifetime preaching its advantages. Similarly, brave oceangoers who partake in polar bear plunges in New Year claim it gives them a shot of adrenaline, leaving them feeling renewed and fresh. (Although doctors warn that drastic temperature shocks can be bad for people with underlying heart conditions.) And Russian Orthodox Christians have been known to go cold-water swimming for religious purposes every January to purify their souls..."

March 18 Was The 90 Year Anniversary Of America's Deadliest Tornado. The famous Tri-State Tornado may have been a family of tornadoes, forming one after another, dropping out of the same massive, supercell thunderstorm. John Belski has a good recap and links to more resources at "The Tri-State tornado first touched down in southeast Missouri then traveled across southern Illinois and did not lift up until it was over southwest Indiana. The twister was on the ground for 295 miles. 695 people died and over 2,000 were injured..."

California Targets Wrong Water-Wasters. Almonds anyone? East Bay Express in the Bay Area takes a look at California's perpetual drought and who is using the most water. You will be as surprised as I was. Here's an excerpt: "As the state's water supply plummets to scary levels, officials are going after people who overwater their lawns. That's a good idea. But they're not the worst culprits.

More bullet points from the article (thanks to Hunter Cutting)

"California's agricultural interests use 80 percent of the available water in the state each year, even though they represent just 2 percent of California's economy."
"California's almond crop now consumes more water than all outdoor watering combined."
"At least 70 percent of the state's almond crop is now exported — much of it to China. In other words, we're essentially exporting our water to China."
"In the past decade, the number of almond orchards in the state has grown by roughly 50 percent — primarily because tree nuts are highly profitable for farmers."

Five Weird Ways Cold Weather Affects Your Psyche. File this under TMI, but a story at Yahoo News made me do a double-take. You've been warned: "...Different types of creativity can emerge when a person feels hot or cold, researchers found. In a series of experiments, researchers found that people who were given a heated therapeutic pad, a hot cup of tea or who were in a warm room were better at creative drawing, categorizing objects and thinking of gift ideas for others. But when they were cold, the participants were better at recognizing metaphors, thinking of new pasta names and planning abstract gift ideas..."

This Thing Called MJO Is Spitting Out Nasty Weather Across the Globe. El Nino, La Nina, Arctic Oscillations and now the MJO - it's a lot ot keep track of. Here's an excerpt from Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance: "...When twin storms form like this, it’s often in response to a strong pulse in the Madden-Julian Oscillation, Masters said. The MJO is a burst of energy that moves through the atmosphere the way a ripple will run through a snapped bed sheet. “This MJO will be one of the four strongest going back to 1974,” Masters said. The same phenomenon will help strengthen a high-pressure ridge near Alaska that will egg on a low-pressure trough across central North America, dumping cold air into the U.S. next week..."

File image credit: UCAR.

The Science of Near-Death Experiences. Can science shed light on what happens when we die? Drug-induced hallucinations or tantalizing glimpses of The Divine? Here's an excerpt of an article at The Atlantic: "...However, Corcoran emphasized, the long-term effects of an NDE are as important an indicator of whether you’ve had one as the experience itself. Many people, she said, don’t realize for years that they’ve had an NDE, and piece it together only after they notice the effects. These include heightened sensitivity to light, sound, and certain chemicals; becoming more caring and generous, sometimes to a fault; having trouble with timekeeping and finances; feeling unconditional love for everyone, which can be taxing on relatives and friends; and having a strange influence on electrical equipment..."

TODAY: Mostly cloudy & breezy. Winds: S 10-15. High: 51
THURSDAY NIGHT: Lingering clouds. Low: 35
FRIDAY: More clouds, few showers north. High: 56
SATURDAY: Partly sunny and cooler. Wake-up: 31. High: 43
SUNDAY: Clouds increase. Light mix late? Wake-up: 26. High: 38
MONDAY: Early slush? Still gray and damp. Wake-up: 29. High: near 40
TUESDAY: Milder breeze, PM rain showers. Wake-up: 31. High: 50
WEDNESDAY: Wet start, partial clearing, cooler. Wake-up: 36. High: 48

Climate Stories...

Republicans Push Climate Change Cuts at CIA, Defense Department. Yes, by all means let's ignore the problem so we can spend 10x or 100x within 5-10 years. That sounds like a good idea. Defense One has the story; here's the intro: "If Republicans get their way, the CIA and the Defense Department could soon have a lot less cash for climate research. The House GOP budget unveiled on Tuesday calls for cuts to CIA and DOD programs devoted to the study of global warming, despite the fact that the military has identified climate change as a major national security threat and a key priority.The Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency, two of the most important agencies in our national security apparatus, currently spend part of their budget studying climate change,” the budget states..."

Image credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen

Republicans Seeks To Push Climate Change Off National Security Agenda. Here's a slightly different perspective on the story referenced above; an excerpt from Mashable: "...The Pentagon produced a climate change “road map" in 2014 that laid out the case for viewing global warming impacts as a threat multiplier and, in some cases, as an immediate threat. The Pentagon is concerned, for example, that sea level rise could flood its largest naval bases, such as the massive installations in Norfolk, Virginia, and make it more challenging to operate in already hot and dry places that could become more expensive to operate in, like the American Southwest..." (File photo: Hassan Ammar, AP).

The Right Warms Up To Climate Change. Here's an excerpt from a story at The Daily Beast: "Their pace is, well, glacial, but conservatives are definitely moving in the direction of endorsing climate change. Just don’t ask them to blame humans yet. Four years ago UC-Berkeley physics professor Richard Muller began releasing the results of a sweeping two-year climate study. It confirmed what the overwhelming majority of other climate studies had also found: that the Earth was warming and humans were almost entirely responsible. But what set Muller’s study apart was that prior to the release of his report, he had been known as a leading climate-change skeptic..."

Photo Illustration by Emil Lendof/The Daily Beast.

Black Pastors Go Green? Church Leaders Team Up To Fight Climate Change. Madame Noire has the article; here's the introduction: "Who wants to praise the Lord while suffocating in greenhouse gases and other pollutants? Not I — and certainly not the nation’s top church leaders. A thousand Black churches across the U.S. are teaming up with the U.S. Green Building Council and Green for All to combat climate change. They call it the “Green the Church” movement. When the Black church has got your back, you’re going places. “No major movement in this nation has been successful without power and leadership of black church,” said Ambrose Carroll, founder of Green The Church..."

What Can a Mom Do When Climate Change Hits Home? Huffington Post has the Op-Ed; here's a snippet: "...But here are a 3 things I know:

1. I want to remain optimistic, but not foolishly so -- for there is a fine line between optimism and wishful thinking, and wishful thinking will not protect our children.
2. I want to allow myself to get skillfully angry -- because the alternative is a quiet despair and inaction, or the kind of talk that tends to get one dismissed as "shrill" or worse..."

Scientist: Earth Has Passed 4 Of The 9 Boundaries for Hospitable Life. The Week takes a look at new research; here's the introduction: "In a paper published in Science, Johan Rockstrom, an Earth resilience strategist, posits that humans have already passed four of the nine limits for hospitable life. By Rockstrom's estimates, we should maintain 90 percent of Earth's biodiversity, but in some parts of the world, biodiversity has dropped to 84 percent. And while Rockstrom believes humans should maintain 75 percent of Earth's original forests, we've only maintained 62 percent. The other two limits Rockstrom believes we've passed are because of humanity's increased use of phosphorus and nitrogen in ecosystems and increased carbon dioxide levels, which have resulted in climate change..."

The Arctic's Climate Change is Messing With Our Weather. Here's something I've been observing - and talking about quite publically for the better part of 15 years. St. Thomas professor and climate scientist John Abraham has the article at The Guardian; here's an excerpt: "...The authors found that the summer zonal winds have weakened. The reason for the weakening is that since the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the planet, the temperature difference between the Arctic and the lower latitudes is getting smaller. It is this temperature difference which maintains the wind speeds. The authors also found that eddy kinetic energy is decreasing. So what does all this mean? Well two things. First, it means that there are either fewer or less intense summer storms or a combination of both. But secondly, it means that weather patterns can get “stuck”..."

Expert: American's Acceptance of Climate Change is Increasing. Here's a snippet of a story from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln: "...The number of Americans who think climate change is not real continues to decline but a well-funded and documented "denial industry" uses strategies similar to those used to try to discredit the link between tobacco and human health in which "doubt was the product," he said. One of the reasons for doubt about global warming is that it is invisible. "Carbon dioxide is pouring out of buildings, tailpipes and people's mouths. We are standing in a volcano of carbon dioxide rising out of the atmosphere," Leiserowitz said. "It is the same in every city but we can't see it so it is out of sight, out of mind..."

Photo credit above: "Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and research scientist in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale, speaks Tuesday, March 10, as part of the Heuermann Lectures in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln." (Craig Chandler/UNL Communications).

Can Science Find Common Ground With Evangelicals. The short answer appears to be yes. Here's an excerpt from Scientific American: "...God created a sustainable world ... but he also told us to take care of it," added Hescox, president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network. Hescox said he often quotes Genesis 2:15, where God orders Adam to "care for" the Garden of Eden. If he's feeling more confrontational, he may point to the Book of Isaiah, which includes the line "the earth is polluted because of its inhabitants, who have transgressed laws [and] violated statutes." "Human beings are accountable for how they care about God's creation. ... To not tend to creation, to not steward it as a shepherd, as a renter, a leaser of the land, is definitively unbiblical, untheological," he said..."

The Melting of Antarctica Was Already Really Bad. It Just Got Worse. Alarmist hype? I sure hope so. Here's an excerpt of a story from Chris Mooney at The Washington Post: "...The findings about East Antarctica emerge from a new paper just out in Nature Geoscience by an international team of scientists representing the United States, Britain, France and Australia. They flew a number of research flights over the Totten Glacier of East Antarctica — the fastest-thinning sector of the world’s largest ice sheet — and took a variety of measurements to try to figure out the reasons behind its retreat. And the news wasn’t good: It appears that Totten, too, is losing ice because warm ocean water is getting underneath it..."

* More perspective on emerging trends in Antarctica from The Sydney Morning Herald.

Arctic Sea Ice Closes In On Record Low For The Winter. Andrew Freedman has an update at Mashable; here's a clip: "In another sign of how swiftly global warming is reshaping the Arctic, it is likely that scientists will declare a record low annual maximum sea ice extent as early as Thursday. This means that the sea ice cover, which has been in a steep decline in recent decades, built up to a record low level this winter. The winter sea ice extent maximum usually occurs in March, but based on a recent decline in sea ice since the start of the month, as well as ocean temperatures in areas that currently lack sea ice cover, scientists are likely to declare that the maximum actually occurred on or about February 25..."

Image credit: "Arctic sea ice extent for 2015 compared to other recent years and the recent average. The likely winter peak indicated with arrow." National Snow and Ice Data Center and Mashable.

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