Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mid-80s on April 1. From Heat, Fire and Drought to Slush Next Week?

84 F. high in the Twin Cities yesterday, a new record high for April 1.
82 F. old record high (1882).
50 F. average high on April 1.
37 F. high on April 1, 2014.

Dueling Models

"But who wants to be foretold the weather? It is bad enough when it comes, without our having the misery of knowing about it beforehand" mused Jerome K. Jerome. Amen brother. Keeping tabs on Mother Nature is a blessing and a curse, depending on the day.

Computers, satellites and Doppler radar have resulted in fewer unpleasant surprises, fewer deaths, in spite of an uptick in extreme weather. But many days the 7-Day Outlook remains a mystery. We're drowning in data, adrift in a sea of dueling weather models, hundreds of them. What to believe, and when?

Exhibit A: the normally reliable ECMWF (European) model suggests chilly 30s and 40s next week with a couple inches of slushy snow close to home. Say what? Shades of early March. But NOAA's GFS is 5 to 15 degrees milder; highs closer to 50F.

There's little doubt you'll need a light jacket or sweatshirt by the weekend; a chilled Canadian breeze beating spring fever into submission until mid-April, when 60s should return. A cold rain Monday & Tuesday may mix with snow, especially north of MSP.

With Minnesota in moderate drought we'll take moisture any way we can get it. We need 2-6 inches of rain to get back up to "normal".

* .25 degree GFS guidance from NOAA, showing predicted snowfall amounts through April 9.

A Welcome Sight. Severe storm warnings were issued for the southwest suburbs Wednesday evening, but the line of storms came through with little damage and hail under 1/2" in diameter. That was quite a lightning display too, with rainfall amounts anywhere from .10 to .50". Now that we got some badly needed rain watch how fast it greens up out there.

No More One-Size-Fits-All-Weather-Warnings. Everyone sees something different, based on their GPS location. Screen shot courtesy of HAMweather.

Significant Fire Risk. Last night's rain helped to lower the brushfire threat, but until we get more significant rain and spring green-up the risk of fire will be very high. Although not as wild and windy as yesterday winds today will still gust over 30 mph at times as cooler air pushes back into Minnesota.

Cooling Down; March Relapse Next Week. I'm still not convinced daytime highs will be in the mid-30s early next week; I think that's too cool - but I could see a cold rain Monday ending as a rain-snow mix or even a period of wet snow Tuesday, especially north and west of MSP. Temperatures recover by the end of next week, but don't pack away the jackets just yet. Graphic: Weatherspark.

At Least 9 Dead As Fatal Storms Hit Germany and Austria. BBC has more information; here's an excerpt: "Seven people were killed in Germany, including two men whose car was hit by a tree. German media reports that there have been dozens of injuries from flying branches. In Austria, a man fell from a ladder and suffered fatal head injuries while securing an awning over his patio. Forecasters said that on Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze, winds of more than 190km/h (118 mph) were recorded..."

Photo credit above: "A driver was badly injured when his car was hit by a falling tree in Birmingham." PA.

California Imposed Unprecedented Statewide Water Restrictions. It's not looking good for California, where a 3-year drought shows signs of intensifying. Here's the latest from NBC News: "In a historic move, California is ordering water use to be slashed by 25 percent across the state to deal with a drought that just won't quit. With more than 98 percent of the state suffering from a drought that has stretched into its fourth year, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order from the mostly snow-bare Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada mountains -- an area that would usually have snow pack more than 66 inches deep at this time of year..."

California Farmers Near "Survival Mode" As Drought Drags On. NBC News has the video and story details; here's a snippet: "...Economists and researchers so far haven't hit the panic button, and aren't forecasting a widespread spike in consumer food prices. That's in part because of crop diversity. If there's a significant drop in California-grown rice for example, rice farmers in the South might shift some production to fill the gap. But everyone knows mountain snowpack levels are low, and many farmers are already hunkering down for another year of water cutbacks. Vast tracts of farmland have been fallowed, which basically means idling cropland to accumulate moisture. Some communities have been short on drinking water..." (File photo: AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File).

March: Quietest Month for Tornadoes Since 1969. 10 tornadoes - for the entire month of March? What is going on? Here's an excerpt from a recap at The Capital Weather Gang: "With a preliminary count of just 10 tornadoes, March will likely end up being the quietest such month for severe weather since 1969, and at least the quietest March in the 21st century thus far. While that record easily stands on its own, the month of March was really just a continuation of extremely low severe weather activity so far in 2015. Interestingly, it’s the third March in a row of below-average tornado activity..."

Graphic credit above: "Tornadoes so far this year are shown in red. Average tornado numbers are shown in grey." (NOAA)

Lasers Map The Earth That Moved in Colorado's Epic Floods. All or nothing, mega-drought or biblical flooding. This is what climate volatility/disruption looks like. Here's an excerpt from an eye-opening look at Boulder's 2013 flash flooding at WIRED: "...By combining the typical rate of weathering with the total volume of material the storm flushed away, the Andersons calculated that the storm had flushed out about 400 years worth of material from the mountains—unheard of for the Rockies, and a clear indicator of this one-time event’s impact. “This amount of erosion in this amount of time wasn’t on people’s radars simply because it hadn’t been observed,” says Scott Anderson..."

Image credit above: "The leftmost map shows a valley before the storm, and the middle is after. The right map shows the elevation change between the two other maps, with blue indicating loss of sediment, and red showing deposition." Scott Anderson.

How To See Disaster Coming. Are natural disasters truly unpredictable or is their method to the (apparent) madness...and randomness? Here's an excerpt of a very interesting article at Pacific Standard Magazine: "...Forecasting catastrophe is hot stuff these days, but it remains a tricky business. In order to make accurate predictions about some of the world's most complex systems, including earthquakes, financial markets, and even our brains, researchers need accurate models. Yet many current models make the unrealistic assumption that the world is deterministic; that is, that the future is perfectly predicable based on its present state. In reality, the world is usually a little bit random—what scientists call stochastic.."

Massachusetts Seeks Disaster Aid For Snow. AP and The Denver Post have the details; here's the introduction: "Massachusetts will seek a federal disaster declaration for the record-setting snowstorms that wreaked havoc on the state and piled up what state officials estimate to be $400 million in snow removal costs and other damage, Gov. Charlie Baker's administration said Tuesday. Baker planned to send a letter to President Barack Obama by the end of the week asking for the disaster declaration for 10 counties, an area encompassing about 250 cities and towns, a spokesman told The Associated Press..."

Photo credit: Michael Dwyer, AP.

Hurricane Scholar Klotzbach Hints At Below Average Hurricane Season. My confidence in long-range hurricane prediction is remarkably low, but on paper, with a strengthening El Nino and a stronger southerly branch to the jet stream, a less active hurricane season in 2015 seems like a smart bet. Then again, all it takes is one. Here's an excerpt from "A hint that this year’s hurricane season will be below average came Tuesday from Phil Klotzbach, half of the well-known Colorado State University prognostication team. “it’s looking like it’s going to be a pretty boring year for us,” Klotzbach said at a session at the National Hurricane Conference, meeting this week in Austin, Texas. The team issues its official forecast April 9..."

Surprising Research About Weather And Your Mood. Here's a snippet from a story at About Health: "...The commonly held belief that sunny bright days and pleasant weather generally makes people happier was not supported by this research. It was determined that temperature, wind and level of sunlight had a significant effect on negative mood. Sunlight also seemed to have an effect on participants' energy level. The authors speculated that sunlight's effects on tiredness may have something to do with Vitamin D3, which is indicated in the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved with mood and level of energy..."

Seattle's Bullitt Center May Be The Greenest Commercial Building in America. The Los Angeles Times reports; here's an excerpt: "...Among the building's highlights are 14,303 square feet of solar panels that extend beyond the roofline. There also is an automated window system that is controlled by a computer, which is fed information from a weather system on the roof. When the weather is warm, the windows automatically open at night to cool the building when the sun is down. Window coverings on the building's exterior are raised and lowered to keep glare off tenants' computer screens..."

Photo credit above: "Solar panels on the roof of the Bullitt Center office building." (Steve Ringman / Seattle Times).

U.N.: New Renewables Broke Through 100GW Barrier in 2014. BBC News has the details - here's a link and story excerpt: "New renewable generating capacity broke the 100GW barrier in 2014, equivalent to the entire fleet of nuclear power plants in the US, a UN report shows. Global investment in renewable energy during 2014 increased by 17% from 2013 levels to US$270bn (£183bn). Investors have been attracted by the increasing cost effectiveness and low risk of the solar and wind sectors..."

Investments in Renewables Herald "Paradigm Shift". Thanks to Moore's Law, accelerating innovation and steep price drops, even without subsidies solar and wind can hold their own against dirty fossil fuels. Here's an excerpt from Climate Central: "Amid rising concern about the role of fossil fuels in climate change, there was an unprecedented boom in renewables across the globe in 2014, suggesting that countries are already shifting toward more low-carbon energy as the cost to build solar and wind farms falls quickly. That’s one of the conclusions of a United Nations and Bloomberg New Energy Finance report published Tuesday showing that global renewable energy investments in 2014 totaled $270 billion, an increase of 17 percent over the previous year..."
Photo credit above: "A solar power generating station in the Ukraine." Credit: Activ Solar/flickr.

One Million Green Jobs Projected by 2030 in China, EU and U.S. - Experts. Reuters has the article; here's the introduction: "Nearly one million new "green jobs" are expected to be created in China, the United States and the European Union by 2030 if the regions stick to their current pledges to curb global warming, scientists said on Tuesday.  The three regions combined produce more than half the world's greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), so their policies are crucial for shaping a new global climate agreement to be finalised at a U.N. conference in Paris in December..."

Why You Really Should Be Afraid Of The Zombie Apocalypse. Apathy, or a sense of inevitability, whether it's climate change, radicalism (or zombies) isn't a good thing, argues the author of this story at MotherBoard; here's a clip: "...For a global community now facing more and more of those extreme circumstances—climate change, epidemics, war—that’s a problem. The media critic Douglas Rushkoff worries that zombie logic restricts our solutions-oriented thinking. “It seems as if people would rather imagine the zombie apocalypse” than their future, he told Yahoo News. It is a product of what he calls “present shock,” and he fears it makes us more likely to embrace the precept that collapse is inevitable, and less likely to participate in civic engagement or projects that might improve our communities in the long term..."

Zoology: Here Be Dragons. Apparently a warming atmosphere and oceans breed conditions that are much more favorable for the formation of dragons, according to a new and controversial paper at Nature. Just what I want to hear on the 1st day of April. Wait, was this a cruel April Fools' Day joke? Not funny, you know how much I hate dragons: "Emerging evidence indicates that dragons can no longer be dismissed as creatures of legend and fantasy, and that anthropogenic effects on the world's climate may inadvertently be paving the way for the resurgence of these beasts."

Image credit above: "The relative frequency of 'dragons' in fictional literature (thick red line), as determined as a unigram probability4, with two historical reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere temperature (decadal smoothing) shown in blue5 and purple6. Global temperatures have been measured since 1855 (thick black line5). Temperature anomalies represent deviations from the 1961–90 reference period. The rising incidence of dragons in the literature correlates with rising temperatures, and suggests that these fire-breathing lizards are being sighted more frequently. As a result, the large-scale 'Third Stir' is deemed to be imminent."

Google's April Fools' Day Joke. Type in and suddenly everything is backwards.

* More April Fools' Day pranks, courtesy of BuzzFeed.

Media Mischief On April Fools' Day. No, you can't believe everything you read or hear, especially on April 1. NPR explains; here's an excerpt: "...In recent years, the Internet has become an incubator for hatching April Fools' high jinks. The Huffington Post, which chronicled some prominent pranks of 2014, also participated in the shenanigans with a fake story about parenting. Even NPR has gotten in on the act multiple times. In 2014, for instance, we April Fooled Facebook habitues by posting this headline: "Why Doesn't America Read Anymore?" Those who clicked on the headline on Facebook were whisked to an NPR page that explained the inside joke: Sometimes people who comment on articles have not read them..."

Photo credit above: "Doctored newspaper photo of a submarine in the Tar River, April 1, 1961. The Daily Reflector of Greenville N.C." Joyner Library at East Carolina University.

5 April Fools' Day Pranks That Backfired Disastrously. A volcano near Boston? Vox takes a look at some of the more amazing (baffling) jokes that landed flat, and got people fired as a result; here's an excerpt: "...A volcano in Massachusetts sounds absurd. But the public was willing to panic at the thought, and it cost a producer his job. As the Christian Science Monitor reported, on April 1, 1980, WNAC-TV in Boston aired a bulletin saying that the Great Blue Hill in Milton, Massachusetts, had become volcanic. It's hard to believe anyone ever took the gag seriously, considering the small size of the hill and the fact that the report was illustrated with stock footage from the recent explosion of Mount St. Helens in Washington..."

Photo credit above: "Great Blue Hill, ready to blow?" (James L. Woodward at Wikimedia Commons)

TODAY: Partly sunny, windy & pleasant. Winds: W 15-30. High: 62
THURSDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy and cooler. Low: 31
FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy and chilly. High: 46
SATURDAY: Patchy clouds, drier day of weekend. Wake-up: 35. High: 51
SUNDAY: Early showers, unsettled. Wake-up: 33. High: 45
MONDAY: Steadier, heavier rain possible. Wake-up: 32. High: 46
TUESDAY: More rain, slushy mix north? Wake-up: 37. High: 43
WEDNESDAY: Peeks of sun, still cooler than average. Wake-up: 32. High: 45

Climate Stories....

Global Warming and Drought Are Turning The Golden State Brown. California is already teetering on the precipice of a water emergency - no idea what will happen later this year as temperatures (and fire risk) peak. Here's an excerpt from a story at The Guardian: "There’s a rapidly growing body of scientific research finding that California is in the midst of its worst drought in over a millennium, global warming has made the drought worse, and decades-long mega-droughts could become the norm in the state later this century. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) by scientists at Stanford University adds to this bleak picture for the Golden State..."

Photo credit above: "Irrigation water runs along a dried-up ditch between rice farms in Richvale, California." Photograph: Jae C. Hong/AP.

California Drought Is Worsened By Global Warming, Scientists Say. The New York Times connects the dots; here's an excerpt: "...The drought is made of two components: not enough rain and too much heat,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton. “The rain deficit isn’t clearly connected to climate change, but the planetary warming has made it more likely that the weather would be hotter in California.” Warmer temperatures worsen drought by causing more evaporation from reservoirs, rivers and soil. Scientists say that the warming trend makes it highly likely that California and other parts of the Western United States will see more severe droughts in the future..."

Image credit above: "California is experiencing the worst drought in its history, and the effects are being felt nationwide." By Carrie Halperin, Sean Patrick Farrell and Caitlin Prentke on Publish Date April 1, 2015. Photo by Monica Almeida/The New York Times.

Obama Administration Launches Sales Pitch on Climate Pledge. National Journal has the story - here's the introduction: "Now that the U.S. has officially affirmed its international pledge to combat climate change by slashing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 percent by 2025, the White House is looking to the next step— getting everyone else on board. While the pledge itself is about domestic emissions, U.S. officials know that a global deal is toothless without other governments on board, and so the rhetoric has turned abroad..." (File photo: Matt Brown, AP).

U.S. Has Bold Plan to Stall Climate Change. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from former U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson at "...The United States has made clear that it is ready to step up to the plate on climate change. The U.S. administration on Tuesday unveiled details about its proposal to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. This common-sense and achievable plan to decarbonize the U.S. economy will result in significant cost savings from cleaner technologies and create more American energy jobs to power our homes and businesses..."

Obama Offers Major Blueprint on Climate Change. The New York Times reports; here's the introduction: "The White House on Tuesday morning unveiled President Obama’s blueprint for cutting United States greenhouse gas pollution by nearly a third over the next decade. Mr. Obama’s plan, part of a formal submission to the United Nations ahead of efforts to forge a climate change accord in Paris in December, detailed the United States side of an ambitious joint climate change pledge the president made in November in Beijing with the Chinese president Xi Jinping..."

Florida's Climate Denial Could Cause Catastrophic Recession. The same people who fear Big Government getting bigger may be the first ones with their hands out, asking FEMA for help after the next inevitable mega-storm. Here's an excerpt from ThinkProgress that caught my eye: "...But the joke is on all of us: Florida has led the way in all but ignoring the growing twin threats created by human-caused climate change — sea level rise and superstorm surge — thereby creating a trillion-dollar real-estate bubble in coastal property. When the next superstorm like Katrina or Sandy makes its target Florida and bursts that bubble, the state can declare bankruptcy. So too could some insurance companies. But taxpayers — you and I — will get the several hundred billion dollar bailout bill..."

Photo credit above: "Miami streets see heavy flooding from rain in September 2014. Some neighborhoods flood regularly during deluges or extreme high tides." CREDIT: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky.

Forget "Bans" On Talking About Climate. These Florida Republicans Are Too Busy Protecting Their Coasts. Not all Republicans deny the science. Here's the intro to a story at The Washington Post: "Patty Asseff, a longtime realtor and a Republican, drives through town in her jet black Tesla. Asseff, who has sold so many homes here, speaks with passion about two related matters — clean energy, and making Hollywood homes more resilient, not just against hurricane threats but against periodic flooding that  seems to be worsening as sea levels rise..."

Photo credit above: "Hollywood, Fla., Commissioner Patty Asseff." (Angel Valentin for The Washington Post)

Natural Variability Could Slow The Pace of Arctic Summer Sea Ice Loss, Study Says. Carbon Brief has the story - here's an excerpt and link: "Natural fluctuations in the oceans and atmosphere are currently conspiring to amplify the impact of manmade global warming on summer Arctic sea ice, according to a new paper. Were these different cycles to weaken or reverse, they could instead dampen the warming effect in the Arctic, and slow the rate of Arctic sea ice loss, the author says..."

Graphic credit above: "Average September Arctic sea ice extent from full satellite record (1979-2014), Source: NSIDC.


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