Thursday, March 24, 2016

Cold Rain on Saturday - Hansen Study: A "Global Climate Emergency"?

47 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.
45 F. average high on March 24.
38 F. high on March 24, 2015.

3" snow on the ground at 7 PM Thursday evening at MSP International  Airport.
March 25, 2007: Record warmth stretches from southern Minnesota to western Wisconsin with 72 at Owatonna, 77 at Menomonie, WI, and 80 at Eau Claire, WI.
March 25, 1981: An F2 tornado hits Morrison county and does $25,000 worth of damage.

Saturday Showers - Spring Returns Next Week

All weather, like politics, is local. "Paul, don't give me a snowfall range. Tell me precisely how many inches of slush will fall in MY YARD!" I hear you.

On Wednesday, had I predicted 0-12" of snow for the metro area, the nice men in white lab coats would have whisked me away to the Weather Sanitarium. I would have been forcibly medicated. But that's exactly what happened: not a flake in Maple Grove, 1-3" for the downtowns and close-in suburbs, but a whopping FOOT of slush in Savage and Rosemount.

Meteorologists forecast the big picture, the macro view, but weather is inherently micro: neighborhood-level. When you're on the edge of a snowstorm the gradient, the variations, can be extreme. New GPS-specific smartphone apps are a step in the right direction catching these wild variations in snow and rain.

The atmosphere should be warm enough aloft for rain showers tonight into Saturday; 50s will feel good next week.

NOAA's GFS model hints at teens within 7-8 days, then 70s to near 80F in about 2 weeks. Serious weather whiplash.

Nothing beats spring on the prairie huh?

Snow Cover from Space. The evening high-resolution visible satellite image shows snow on the ground south of MSP, the Minnesota River clearly visible. With a sun angle as high in the sky as it was in mid-September the snow will melt rapidly. Map: Aeris Maps Platform (AMP).

Tight Gradient. It was a close call for the Twin Cities; the southern suburbs saw plowable amounts of snow, hardly a flake north and west of Minneapolis and St. Paul - no fun being on the edge of a major winter storm. Some 15-16" amounts were reported near Rochester with white-out conditions extending into Wisconsin. Map: NOAA.

Snow Depth Thursday Morning. Check out the new stripe of heavy snow stretching from Denver into northern Iowa, southern Minnesota and Wisconsin. Winter may be wounded, but it's not dead yet. Map: NOAA.

More Slush. This time the best chance will be from near Detroit Lakes to Walker, Duluth and the North Shore, where a couple sloppy inches of snow may accumulate by Saturday afternoon. The atmosphere should be mild enough aloft for rain from Alexandria and St. Cloud to the Twin Cities. 12 KM NAM accumulated snowfall potential: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Nuisance Snow. Our internal model ensemble spits out a  whopping 1.3" of snow for Nisswa by Sunday at 5 PM, although most of that should come Saturday morning.

A Lawn-Greening Rain? 4 KM NAM guidance prints  out over .5" of precipitation for much of central and eastern Minnesota; falling as a cold rain south of Lake Mille Lacs. Have a Plan B (indoors) for Saturday.

Soggy Saturday Blues. Models are still all over the map, a precipitation spread of .36" to .78" (GFS ensemble) for the Twin Cities by Sunday morning. At this rate I expect daffodil sightings within a week or so. Source: NOAA and Aeris Enterprise.

Another Wintry Spasm? Not buying this (yet) but GFS guidance shows another temperature tumble in a week, morning temperatures in the teens in the Twin Cities by Saturday, April 2. Spring is a cruel season...

Mellowing Out Second Week of April. The very same GFS model shows 500 mb winds blowing from the Bay Area by April 7, with a probably rerun of 50s, maybe a couple days above 60F by the second week of April. Keep a jacket handy, but I wouldn't rule out shorts within 2 weeks.

How a Monster El Nino Transforms the World's Weather. WXshift has a good overview of El Nino's domino effect on the world's weather patterns; here's the intro: "From crippling drought in southern Africa to a record number of February tornadoes in the U.S. Southeast, an exceptionally strong El Niño has been making headlines around the globe as it tampers with the world’s weather. While the event has begun its slow decline, those wide-ranging impacts will continue to be felt for weeks and months to come — good news for those in California, who need El Niño-fueled rains, but bad news for the many areas, like Indonesia, which is suffering from deep drought, food and water shortages, and wildfires. Already this year, El Niño-related weather has cost billions of dollars in damage and left some 100 million people facing food and water shortages..."

Early Spring Impacts Humans and Other Living Things. Here's a clip from a story by WBUR in Boston: "...Think about pollen…you end up with allergies earlier than ever,” Weltzin said. “Ticks, mosquitoes are important parts of the system, but they might be out three weeks early.” The ultimate question, Weltzin says, is how humans, plants and animals adjust to the reality of an earlier spring and a warmer climate. “That’s the million dollar question,” Weltzin said. “Do we start agricultural production earlier, do we change how we set up for fire years, how do we change different kinds of crops to adjust for drought? How are we thinking about human allergies and responses to disease?

Winter Precipitation: More Rain, Less Snow. Climate Central takes a look a larger trends - here's an excerpt: "...Even in a warming world, snow will fall. However, the amount of snow and when it falls will likely change as greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere. We examined cold season precipitation at stations across the country, specifically looking at how much snow is falling compared to rain. Our analysis is consistent with earlier EPA findings. The Northwest and the Upper Midwest are the climate regions seeing the largest decreases in precipitation falling as snow over the past 66 years..."

New Research Links Radar Data to Tornado Intensity. This makes sense intuitively: the higher debris is lofted into the atmosphere, the more extreme the tornado circulation. Meteorologist Tyler Jankoski filed a good story at NBC Connecticut; here's a clip: "...Researchers at the National Weather Service in Jackson, Mississippi have found a strong correlation between the height of tornado debris signatures and the approximate strength of tornadoes. Tornadoes are classified as weak (EF0 and EF1), strong (EF2 and EF3) or violent (EF4 and EF5). Many studies have at least noted the potential for a relationship between TDS height and tornado strength, including Schultz et al. in 2012 and Bodine et al. in 2013. Most recently in 2015, Chad Entremont and Daniel Lamb analyzed every TDS starting back in 2010, when dual polarization upgrades on the U.S. radar network started..."

Blue Sky and White Clouds Can Mask Tornado Danger. Environmentalresearchweb has a look at a recent study focused on identifying specific cloud formations as precursors to tornadoes; here's a clip: "...Tornado watches tend to cover an area of around 65,000 square kilometres (about half the size of Iowa), so there is a strong probability that you won't encounter a tornado even when a tornado watch has been issued for your area. But if there is one waiting in the wings there won't be much time to take shelter, so learning to read the skies for yourself can be a life-saving skill. Barry Dewitt from Carnegie Mellon University, US, and his colleagues wanted to see how well laypeople could judge whether a tornado was imminent by looking at cloud formations. They asked 400 volunteers to assess 50 pictures of different kinds of sky, ranging from clear blue to a Wizard of Oz-type tornado. The participants judged whether each photo was taken when a "tornado watch" was in place. Next they looked at pairs of pictures and said which photo appeared more tornadic..."

Photo credit above: "Some of the cloud photographs shown to study participants. (A) A supercell thunderstorm with a "cauliflower-like", hard-textured appearance. (B) A wall cloud. (C) A shelf cloud. (D) Blue skies, with a few cirrus clouds. (E) and (F) Tornadoes, with their funnel clouds clearly visible. Photos courtesy of NOAA ((A), (C), (E), (F)), Roger Edwards ((D)), and Marko Korošec (B)." Image credit ERL.

Scientists Crown the Lightning Capital of the World. And here I thought it was Africa's Congo - here's an excerpt from CityLab: "Astraphobes who dive under their beds at the first rumblings of a storm should stay away from Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo, as it’s just been verified as the most lightning-cursed place on the planet. Researchers from Brazil’s Universidade de São Paulo, NASA, and elsewhere poured through 16 years of space observations to give this honorific to what some call South America’s biggest lake (technically, it’s more of a bay or lagoon). Thunderstorms occur an average of 297 nights a year, triggered by a “deep nocturnal convection driven by locally forced convergent flow,” according to a study in this month’s Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society..."

Photo credit above: "Lightning crackles over Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela in this long-exposure shot from 2014." (Jorge Silva/Reuters).

When San Diego Hired a Rainmake a Century Ago, It Poured. Coincidence or Divine Intervention? Here's a clip from JSTOR: "As California endures its worst drought in 1,200 years, residents of the Golden State are turning to extreme—and desperate—measures to quench their collective thirst. Sun-baked farmers are hiring “water witches” to divine underground water sources with forked branches, while a company called Rain on Request has pledged to end the drought by building electrical towers that would induce rainfall by ionizing the atmosphere. When California found itself in a similar parched position exactly 100 years ago, the city of San Diego did something that seems even more bizarre—it hired a rainmaker. The thing is, it might have worked. After Charles Mallory Hatfield began his work to wring water from the skies, San Diego experienced its wettest period in recorded history. So was the rain an act of God or an act of Hatfield?..."

The Great Unsettling.  The Washington Post has a 4-part series investigating a simple question: why are we so angry? Here's the intro: "So much anger out there in America. Anger at Wall Street. Anger at Muslims. Anger at trade deals. Anger at Washington. Anger at police shootings of young black men. Anger at President Obama. Anger at Republican obstructionists. Anger about political correctness. Anger about the role of big money in campaigns. Anger about the poisoned water of Flint, Mich. Anger about deportations. Anger about undocumented immigrants. Anger about a career that didn’t go as expected. Anger about a lost way of life. Mob anger at groups of protesters in their midst. Specific anger and undefined anger and even anger about anger..."

Bezos Prime. Adam Lashinsky has a revealing article about Amazon's Jeff Bezos at Fortune. The reincarnation of Steve Jobs? Here's an excerpt: "...He’s got every reason to cha-cha. More has gone right for Bezos lately than perhaps at any other time during his two-decade run in the public eye. His company is expanding internationally and spreading its hydra-headed product and service offerings in unexpected new directions. Bezos, too, is evolving. Always a fierce competitor and stern taskmaster, he has begun to show another side. With the Post, he’s taken a seat at the civic-leadership table. And with his various projects Bezos is also becoming known as a visionary on topics beyond dreaming up new ways to gut the profit margins of Amazon’s many foes..." (Photograph by Wesley Mann).

A Brief History of Rock Stars Destroying Guitars. Atlas Obscura fills us in on why guitar-smashing has been elevated to an art-form: "...The story of guitar damage, of course, starts with Pete Townshend, The Who's world-smashing guitarist. The first time he broke a guitar on stage, it was basically an accident—working on a stage with a low ceiling, he cracked the headstock on his Rickenbacker, then decided to follow through with the destruction. But the crowd's response to his guitar-smashing capabilities led him to eventually start cracking six-strings at almost every show. According to an analysis by, Townshend broke more than 35 guitars in 1967 alone. (In case Bryan Adams is reading this, one other factoid: During the summer of '69, Pete broke just three guitars.)..."

Photo credit above: "A damaged guitar." (Photo: Jmann7702/Public Domain)

Why We Ignore The Litany of Deadly Side Effects in TV Ads for Drugs. If you watch the network news it's almost all drug ads. They all sound tempting, but which body parts will fall off when I swallow that pill? Here's an excerpt from Alternet and Salon: "Who doesn’t laugh at drug commercials with their before-and-after scenes of life-changing improvements accompanied by numerous terrifying side effects? But these drug ads continue because they work. Beyond the overt manipulations, there are more covert ones—including techniques that diminish the impact of the required warning section. Former advertising executive Jerry Mander observed that his ex-colleagues in advertising don’t care if you think their commercial is ridiculous or even false, because the image of the product goes into your head anyway, and your insides will always carry this “neuronal billboard"..." (Image:

Remembering The Great Boston Molasses Flood. Atlas Obscura has the obscure but fascinating story; here's an excerpt: "...As the wave and debris crashed down Commercial Street, buildings were smashed to bits. Some were picked up by their foundations and floated away in the tide of molasses. Electrical poles keeled over, exposing live wires. A steel elevated train support beam was torn to smithereens. The elevated train just barely missed being knocked off the tracks, and only through the quick work of the driver was the next train warned that there was no longer a track to run on. Molasses covered everything. According to a Boston Post article, “Horses died like so many flies on sticky fly paper.” It wasn’t just horses. The Great Boston Molasses Flood killed 21 people..."

TODAY: Sunny start, clouds increase PM hours. Winds: S 10-20. High: 45

FRIDAY NIGHT: Rain showers likely. Low: 35

SATURDAY: Sloppy and raw, rain showers likely. Winds: N 8-13. High: 42

SUNDAY: Brighter, drier day of the weekend. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 29. High: 47

MONDAY: Sunny intervals, feels like spring again. Winds: SE 7-12. Wake-up: 33. High: 52

TUESDAY: Mix of clouds & sun, slightly feverish. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 37. High: 57

WEDNESDAY: Showers, possible T-storms. Winds: S 15-25. Wake-up: 44. High: 56

THURSDAY: Damp start, then slow clearing. Winds: N 8-13. Wake-up: 41. High: near 50

Climate Stories...

Leading Climate Scientists: "We Have a Global Emergency", Must Slash CO2 ASAP. All those predictions James Hansen made back in the 80s have come true; if anything he was conservative, so it might be reckless to ignore his latest findings - and predictions. Here's an excerpt from ThinkProgress: "...The study is significant not just because it is peer-reviewed, but because the collective knowledge about climate science in general and glaciology in particular among the co-authors is quite impressive. Besides sea level rise, rapid glacial ice melt has many potentially disastrous consequences, including a slowdown and eventual shutdown of the key North Atlantic Ocean circulation and, relatedly, an increase in super-extreme weather. Indeed, that slowdown appears to have begun, and, equally worrisome, it appears to be supercharging both precipitation, storm surge, and superstorms along the U.S. East Coast (like Sandy and Jonas), as explained here..." (Map credit: Climate Central).

James Hansen's Apocalyptic Sea Level Study Lands to Mixed Reviews. Climate Home has the update.

96% of American Meteorological Society Members Think Climate Change is Happening, Says New Report. Dr. Marshall Shepherd has details at Forbes; here's a clip: "...The new survey conducted for the AMS by Dr. Ed Maibach (George Mason University) and colleagues clarified several questions. Preliminary results are now available. Key results from the report summary: Nearly all AMS members (96%) think climate change -as defined by AMS-is happening with almost 89% stating that they are either “extremely” or “very sure” it is happening. Only 1% think climate change is not happening. A large majority of AMS members indicated that human activity is causing at least a portion of  the changes in the climate over the past 50 years (see summary for details)….Conversely, 5% think the climate is caused largely or entirely by natural events, 6% say they don’t know…."

The Arctic Is Thawing Much Faster Than Expected, Scientists Warn. Chris Mooney reports at The Washington Post: "Amid blowout warm temperatures in the Arctic this year, two new studies have amplified concerns about one of the wild cards of a warming planet — how quickly warming Arctic soils could become major contributors of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, causing still greater warming. In a major international study published last week in Nature Geoscience, a team of researchers from regions ranging from Alaska to Russia report that permafrost is thawing faster than expected — even in some of the very coldest areas..." (Map credit: Climate Reanalyzer).

When Will The World Really Be 2 Degrees Hotter Than It Used To Be? Meteorologist Eric Holthaus has the story at FiveThirtyEight; here's an excerpt: "Climate data is a fussy thing, with a bunch of different organizations measuring data against a bunch of different baselines. But all of them agree on one thing: Last month, the Earth endured a heat wave that has had no equal in the hundred-plus years humans have been keeping close track of our home planet’s climate. Take data from NASA, which showed that February was (by far) the most unusually warm month since it began keeping records: 1.35 degrees Celsius above the 1951-80 global temperature average and, depending on how you do the math, as much as 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels..."

Defense Department Redefines Climate Change. Here's a clip from The New York Times: "...Specifically, the department anticipates “increased need for air, sea and land capabilities and capacity in the Arctic region,” and “damage from thawing permafrost and sea ice in Alaska and the Arctic region,” Mr. Osial wrote. Some additional risks they associate with climate change portend a grim future. Those risks include “disruption to and competition for reliable energy and fresh water supplies” and “changed disease vector distribution, increasing the complexity and cost of ongoing disease-management efforts,” among others, he added..."

U.S. Faces Rising Tide of Climate Refugees. It's already started: coastal Alaska and Louisiana, and the pace of resettlement inland will increase in the years to come as seas continue to rise. Here's an excerpt at Climate Home: "A study of US counties vulnerable to sea level rise warns that if the coasts are not protected, the movement of people could match the scale of the 20th-century “Great Migration” of African-Americans from the south to the northern states. Altogether, the new research concludes, more than 13 million people could be affected by a sea level rise of 1.8 metres. This is the high end of climate science projections for sea level rise, but even at the low end a rise of 0.9 metres will put more than 4 million people at risk. And another study of vulnerability worldwide suggests that, everywhere, the chance of being affected by sea level rise has been underestimated. What matters in such calculations are the concentrations of population in the coastal zones..."

Photo credit above: "Sgt. Lee Savoy from the, Lousiana National Guard evacuates a child from the flood waters caused by Hurricane Isaac in 2012." (Pic: US Army/Flickr)

SEC Orders Exxon Mobile Shareholder Vote on Climate Change. The New York Times has the latest; here's a snippet: "The Securities and Exchange Commission has told Exxon Mobil it must include a resolution on its annual shareholder proxy that, if approved, would force the company to outline for investors how its profitability may be affected by climate change and the legislation that aims to combat it. The decision was a defeat for the energy giant, which had fought against it. The proposal was introduced in December, after the Paris accord on climate change, by a coalition of investors led by New York State’s comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, who is the trustee of New York State Common Retirement Fund, and the Church of England..."

The Downside of Warming Winters. Fewer subzero nights is a pleasant silver lining (for most people). But early springs may come with consequences as well. Here's a clip from ThinkProgress: "...A warming climate will likely lead to more early springs and “false’’ springs, the latter prompted by unusual temperature spikes followed by cold snaps. “In some regions, living things get fooled into think spring has arrived, trees sprout, eggs hatch, etc., only to suffer another winter-like cold outbreak, potentially damaging or killing the ‘fooled’ organisms,’’ Mann said. In one study, for example, a false spring in 2012 caused $500 million in damages to fruit and vegetables in Michigan. And in the Washington, D.C. region, where cherry blossoms are an annual tourist draw, a predicted drop to freezing temperatures and snow this weekend — soon after an exceptionally early burst of warm temperatures — threatens the vulnerable blossoms as they enter a delicate growth stage..."

Photo credit: AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty. "In this Jan. 5, 2012 file photo, man-made snow coats a ski run next to barren ground under a chairlift at Shawnee Peak ski area in Bridgton, Maine."

Warmer Winter Brings Forest-Threatening Beetles North. Here's a snippet from The New York Times: "...The beetles, which can kill thousands of trees in epidemic attacks, had never been found beyond the pitch pine forests of the American South, because the winters were too cold. But they have migrated to New Jersey, where they have destroyed more than 30,000 acres of forest since 2002. And the warmer winters have now beckoned them to New England. Alarmed scientists first discovered the beetles last year along a front stretching more than 200 miles, from central Long Island to Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, a region long thought to be far too frigid for these tiny beetles, barely different in size and color from a chocolate sprinkle..."

Photo credit above: "Tunnels created by adult and larval southern pine beetles in a Norway spruce tree in Hamden, Conn. Researchers fear an invasion of New England forests by the beetles." Credit Claire Rutledge.

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