Monday, April 6, 2015

Cold Rain - Spring Fever Returns This Weekend - Climate Change Signal In Recent Spring Floods?

43 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday.
53 F. average high on April 6.
62 F. high on April 6, 2014.

.18" rain fell at MSP International yesterday as of 7 PM.

April 6, 1964: Snowstorm hits Minnesota with 9 inches at Fosston and 8.7 at Park Rapids.


A Cold Rain

Ice is coming off Minnesota lakes a couple weeks earlier than 2014. Trees are budding, rhubarb poking up through damp soil - the frost nearly gone now. Yes, we are limping into spring and I am VERY happy to be tracking green blobs on Doppler radar.

The weather this week will help you focus on work and errands; no lukewarm fronts luring you outside anytime soon. Up to 6 inches of snow fell on Pine County yesterday, and models are hinting at a risk of slush in the metro Friday morning, mainly lawns and slow-moving robins.

For the most part the lowest mile of the atmosphere should be mild enough for rain spilling out of a curdling sky; heaviest on Thursday, again Sunday. Many towns will pick up half an inch of rain by next Monday, enough to put a modest dent in our nagging drought.

My gut (nausea?) is telling me that 2015 will be warmer and drier than 2014, based on the way patterns are setting up, and an El Nino warm phase of the Pacific that now looks much stronger than what was predicted months ago.

Before long we may be complaining about heat, whining about the humidity, shaking a fist at a dry, dusty sky.

Forgive me while I enjoy a cold rain and rediscover "green".


Monday Morning Slush. It was a relatively narrow band of snow, stretching from near Brainerd and Lake Mille Lacs to Pine County, where as much as 6" of snow piled up, mainly on lawns and fields. About 2" fell in Brainerd. 4-5 days ago both the ECMWF and GFS hinted at some 6" amounts by early Monday - I have to say that they were on the right track. Map: National Weather Service.

Friday Morning Slop-Snow? My confidence level is lower than usual, but NOAA's NAM ensembles print out a little slush east of the Twin Cities Thursday night and Friday as the entire atmosphere cools behind a slow-moving storm. If this solution verifies an inch or two of slush could accumulated from near Spooner to Baldwin, Red Wing and Rochester. Source: HAMweather.

On The Northern Fringe of Significant Moisture. The Twin Cities could still wind up with half an inch or more of water by Monday of next week; NOAA NAM guidance into early Friday shows some 1"+ rainfall amounts over far southeastern Minnesota, closer to 3" possible near Madison and Rockford.

Spring Fever Returns This Weekend. The next few days will be raw, especially Thursday, when the heaviest rain may fall, keeping temperatures in the low to mid 40s. But the sun peeks out Friday afternoon with a growing chance of 60s returning over the weekend; European guidance hinting at potentially heavy T-storms Sunday PM hours.

A Super-Sized El Nino in 2015 After All? Our on-again, off-again El Nino warming of Pacific Ocean water is very much on again as temperature anomalies continue to rise in the central and eastern Pacific. NOAA CPC is predicting overall temperature anomalies of 1.5 to 2C warmer than average by fall and winter, which would tend to imply a milder (drier) winter for Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. In theory. On paper. Your results may vary.

Remembering The Great Midwest Flood of 1993. I have vivid memories sandbagging the Racoon River in Des Moines, marveling at how high the waters were. Here's an excerpt of a quick recap of historic flooding that spring, courtesy of cdapress.com: "...Dozens of major bridges were washed out from late June through early August of 1993. More than 5,000 barges, loaded mostly with grains and soybeans, were stuck on the Mississippi for weeks on end. The river is normally less than a mile wide, but by early July of 1993, it had grown as wide in places as seven miles! In total, according to my weather scrapbooks, more than half of the levees along the Mississippi River and its various tributaries were broken by the surging floodwaters. In St. Paul, Minn., in late June of 1993, the downtown airport virtually "disappeared" under several feet of water. Town after town along the Mississippi River southward past severely flooded St. Louis, Mo., saw their levees break and their houses and crops washed away. The entire town of Valmeyer, Ill., was moved to higher ground some 500 feet above the level of the Mississippi..."

Photo credit above: "US Army Corp of Engineers photo of the Missouri River's damage to US Highway 63, Jefferson City, Missouri, near the Missouri Capitol building during the "Great Flood of 1993". National Guardsmen created sandbag levees in the parking lot, but the building was still several feet above the water line." Courtesy of Wikipedia, which has more information here.

Under Debate: Social Media's Value For Delivering Hurricane News. Can we rely on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for the biggest weather stories? How do we insure that consumers are getting information from trusted, verified sources? Here's an excerpt of a very interesting story at The Palm Beach Post: "Their grandparents learned of hurricanes in the newspaper, their parents on CNN. Today’s young people might get their news from their pals on Facebook. And what about the generation after that? That’s what really scares some weather forecasters and emergency managers. “Twitter can be wrong and we can’t,” Jim Forsyth, news director of San Antonio news radio station WOAI, told a session of this week’s National Hurricane Conference in Austin, Texas..." (Hurricane Irene file image: NASA).

Will Turning Sea Water Into Drinking Water Help Drought-Hit California. Desalination plants are still prohibitively expensive and energy-intensive. But Santa Barbara is dusting off an old initiative to turn sea water into drinking water, a trend which may expand to other coastal cities suffering through prolonged drought. Here's a clip from NPR: "...That briny waste is one of many concerns raised by environmentalists and other critics of desalination plants like this one and others that are being planned and built along the California coast. "The biggest concern about desalination is that it is expensive, it's energy-intensive and it has a lot of side effects — a lot of unintended consequences to marine life both from the intake and the discharge," says Marco Gonzalez, the executive director of the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation. Right now, the sources of electricity available to run desalination plants are not environmentally friendly..."

File photo credit above: "In this March 11, 2015, file photo, a worker climbs stairs among some of the 2,000 pressure vessels used to convert seawater into fresh water through reverse osmosis in the western hemisphere's largest desalination plant in Carlsbad, Calif. The Carlsbad Desalination Project, scheduled to start operations in late 2015, is expected to provide 50 million gallons of fresh drinking water a day." (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File).

Beneath California Crops, Groundwater Crisis Grows. At some point underground aquifers become depleted (or contaminated) and you can't drill any deeper to find fresh water. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "... Farmers are drilling wells at a feverish pace and pumping billions of gallons of water from the ground, depleting a resource that was critically endangered even before the drought, now in its fourth year, began. California has pushed harder than any other state to adapt to a changing climate, but scientists warn that improving its management of precious groundwater supplies will shape whether it can continue to supply more than half the nation’s fruits and vegetables on a hotter planet..."

File photo credit above: "This Jan. 16, 2015 file photo shows pumpjacks operating at the Kern River Oil Field, in Bakersfield, Calif. California’s top regulators on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 acknowledged lax oversight by the state had allowed oil-and-gas industry contamination of protected water aquifers and other threats to public safety, and pledged to intensify protection of water sources and public health." (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth. Here's an excerpt from a story at The New York Times: "...But even California’s biggest advocates are wondering if the severity of this drought, now in its fourth year, is going to force a change in the way the state does business. Can Los Angeles continue to dominate as the country’s capital of entertainment and glamour, and Silicon Valley as the center of high tech, if people are forbidden to take a shower for more than five minutes and water bills become prohibitively expensive? Will tourists worry about coming? Will businesses continue their expansion in places like San Francisco and Venice?..."

Image credit above: "Homes in Rancho Mirage, Calif., in the Coachella Valley. Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered a 25 percent statewide reduction in non-agricultural water use." Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times.

3 Reasons Solar and Wind Energy Will Take Over Our Power Grid Much Sooner Than You Think. Here's a snippet from New York Magazine: "Getting power from the wind and the sun no longer seems like a hippie fantasy: Elon Musk is betting that solar power will be so profitable it will help fund space travel, and big tech companies like Apple and Google are buying in, too. Today most homes and businesses are still powered by fossil fuels, but in just a few decades — maybe even as little as 15 years — most energy could be coming from renewable sources..."

Baseball's Decline in America. But we're not even close to writing off baseball just yet. The Washington Post takes a look at demographic trends with a few sobering infographics. Go Twins! "Baseball’s audience is predominantly white, older and higher-earning. The average age of baseball viewers has been rising."

Semiautonomous Driving Arrives, Feature By Feature. This may be feature-creep with more and more automation with each iteration of a vehicle vs. one giant technological splash, according to a story at The New York Times; here's an excerpt: "...The path to fully autonomous driving will still take years to reach consumers, but car manufacturers demonstrated this week that they are now able to offer buyers several levels of so-called active safety features — in which the car takes over driving in certain instances. And they plan to introduce even more advanced semiautonomous capabilities in the coming months..."

Image credit above: Tesla Motor Company.

Anchorman: "A Dumb Job?" Every business is experiencing disruption, including journalism, and I'm not sure our kid's kids will put anchormen and women on pedestals the way some of us did growing up. I can't say I agree with everything in this article - the very best local anchors (Shelby and Magers come to mind) worked their way up from reporter to anchor. They were journalists first, and news-readers second. They actually earned a position of trust. Many in the print media have been historically quick to bash television news any chance they get, so I take some of this with a grain of envy-saturated salt. Here's an excerpt of an interesting read at New York Magazine: "...For all the histrionics, this incident of media blood sport was much ado about not so much. The network-news anchor as an omnipotent national authority figure is such a hollow anachronism in 21st-century America that almost nothing was at stake. NBC’s train wreck played out as corporate and celebrity farce rather than as a human or cultural tragedy because it doesn’t actually matter who puts on the bespoke suit and reads the news from behind a desk..."


TODAY: Light rain and drizzle. Winds: NE 10-20. High: 42
TUESDAY NIGHT: Drizzle tapers, still chilly. Low: 35
WEDNESDAY: Drier day, skies try to brighten. High: 51
THURSDAY: Another surge of steadier rain. Wake-up: 39. High: 44
FRIDAY: Early slush in a few towns? Then gradual clearing. Wake-up: 34. High: near 50
SATURDAY: Clouds increase, probably dry. Wake-up: 38. High: 56
SUNDAY: Milder with showers, PM thunder? Wake-up: 45. High: near 60
MONDAY: Drier, breezy and cooler. Wake-up: 43. High: 52


Climate Stories....

Wet Basement Last Year? Blame Climate Change. The swings are becoming even more extreme over time, especially precipitation and "whiplash", going from drought to flood, back to drought, much faster than in the past. Here's an excerpt from a story at The Star Tribune: "...Even though this spring has been unusually dry, climatologists say homeowners should get used to volatility — wild swings in weather will be more common as climate change begins working its effects on the atmosphere. “The climate has been changing,” said Peter Snyder, an associate professor of atmospheric science at the University of Minnesota. “It’s pretty clear that we’re seeing more extremes.” While last year’s wet spring doesn’t mean Minnesotans should expect flooded basements every year, Snyder said, his work indicates that intense weather events are becoming increasingly frequent in the Upper Midwest..."

The Incredible Decline of Arctic Sea Ice - Visualized. Here's an excerpt of a Chris Mooney article at The Washington Post: "...The downward trend usually draws the most attention in September, because that’s when overall ice extent reaches its annual low, and the lows have been getting lower and lower. But in a new visualization, the Post’s Kennedy Elliott uses data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center to show that in their records going back to 1979, there’s actually been a plunge, over time, for ice extent for each individual month of the year..."

What Evidence Would Pursuade You That Man-Made Climate Change is Real? Here's an excerpt of a fact-filled, URL-rich essay at Reason.com: "...To restate: The existence of man-made warming does not mandate any particular policies. So back to the headline question: If generally rising temperatures, decreasing diurnal temperature differences, melting glacial and sea ice, smaller snow extent, stronger rainstorms, and warming oceans are not enough to persuade you that man-made climate is occurring, what evidence would be?"

As Young Evangelical, He Finds God's Call in Focus on Climate "Crisis". Here's an excerpt of a story and interview at madison.com: "...I also believe this is an issue we can do something about,” he said. “There are often arguments about whether climate change is manmade or cyclical, which kind of misses the point.” “I believe Christians are called to be conformed to the image of God,” he added, “and throughout the Bible, we see God creating, sustaining, redeeming and delighting in creation. “We as Christians should always be looking for how we can imitate God in all things, particularly how we care for the world around us.”

Photo credit above: Doug Erickson | Wisconsin State Journal. "Riley Balikian, photographed at an entrance to the UW Arboretum, is a member of the national steering committee for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action."

Climate Experts Called In To Save Skiing. I read this curious and vaguely alarming article in the Norwegian press; here's an excerpt from newsinenglish.no: "Norwegian sports officials are applying to host the Nordic Ski World Championships in Trondheim in 2021, even though the prospects for having enough snow are increasingly bleak. They’re seeking help from local climate experts to make sure they’ll be able to carry out the huge international competition, and ensure the future of a sport that in Norway is part of the cultural heritage..."


Record Low Snowpack in Pacific Northwest Could Be "Dress Rehearsal" for Climate Change. PRI, Public Radio International, has the story - here's the intro: "When officials in drought-stricken California found last week that snowpack levels in the Sierra Nevada mountains were at historic lows, they took drastic action, implementing unprecedented water-use restrictions. But record-low snowpacks aren’t just a thing in California. They’re also happening further north. In western Washington, snow levels are more than 90 percent below normal, and statewide the snow level is at 71 percent below where it should be. The situation is even more severe in Oregon, which has received less than a quarter of its normal snowfall..."

Photo credit above: "Scott Pattee, a water supply specialist with the National Resources Conservation Service, checks snow levels at Stevens Pass ski resort in Washington's Cascade Mountains." Credit: Ashley Ahearn/KUOW.

The Whole Globe is Warming - But Look At How Much Of It Is Cause By The Northern Hemisphere. Chris Mooney takes a look at the geopolitical implications of CO2 emissions in a story at The Washington Post; here's an excerpt that caught my eye: "...The Northern Hemisphere, home to almost 90 percent of the world’s population, is where the majority of atmospheric carbon dioxide originates,” writes Elliott. Indeed, of the world’s top ten cumulative greenhouse gas emitters from 1850 to 2011, only two, Brazil and Indonesia, are at least partly situated the southern hemisphere (and each has contributed about 1 percent of the global total). These are not just idle observations — the situation has significant implications for the difficult international politics of climate change..."

Infographic credit above: "Where carbon emissions are greatest". (Kennedy Elliott).

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