Tuesday, March 8, 2016

More Symptoms of a Warming Planet: Record 70F Tuesday - Typical for May 18

70 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday, breaking the old record high of 69 F. in 2000.
37 F. average high on March 8.
48 F. high on March 8, 2015.

March 9, 1918: A snowstorm hits Minnesota and dumps nearly 11 inches at the Twin Cities.

Early Spring Break: More "All or Nothing" Winters?

Love it or hate it, Minnesota's fast-forward spring continues to turn heads. "Is this due to a jumbo El Nino, or something more?"

As one climate scientist explained: El Nino is the equivalent of climbing up a flight of steps, then standing on your tip-toes. If you ignore the stairs you're missing the bigger picture.

Looking at broader trends Minnesota's winters will continue to trend milder over time. Not ever winter, but most.

Two years ago we still had 15 inches of snow on the ground. 2012 saw 80-degree heat in mid-March. Flowers were blooming; boats in the water by April 1. Our rush into spring won't be quite that abrupt and jaw-dropping, but this looks a lot more like 2012 than 2014. Pack away the parkas, keep a jacket handy.

Cooler Canadian air dribbles south today; highs near 50F - still 10F warmer than average. Another pulse of Pacific air warms us up to 60F Friday before a swirl of southern moisture pushes showers into town late Saturday into Monday.

I can't quite believe I'm saying this - in March - in Minnesota - but it should be cold enough for snow in 8 days.

* According to the Twin Cities office of the National Weather service the Twin Cities experienced the 8th warmest meteorological winter in 144 years of record-keeping; 7th warmest for St. Cloud - 6th warmest at International Falls.

Warm Weather Stats. The Twin Cities reached 70 degrees Tuesday afternoon. The average high for March 8 is 37 F. This is a new  record for the Twin Cities (previous record was 69 F. in 2000). It's the 3rd earliest 70-degree temperature on record for MSP. The last 70-degree day in the metro was November 3, 2015. That's 126 days since the last 70, the second shortest gap on record, according to NOAA. The record is 113 days, from 11/3/1999-3/5/2000.

April-Like Into Next Tuesday. We cool off today (low to mid 40s - still well above average for March 9) before warming up again later in the week; a good chance of 60 degrees by Friday. Showery rains are likely Saturday night into Monday morning (if you want to sneak outside this weekend get out first thing Saturday). Temperatures blip up  again early next week before a gradual slide the latter half of next week.

There's (Still) No Place for Complacency. After luxuriating in the 50s and 60s for the next week temperature fall off; GFS guidance shows a wake-up temperature of 18F one week from Saturday. Don't pack away the jackets just yet. Graphic: Aeris Enterprise.

Significant Rain Event Late Next Week? It's still early, but models suggest a serious slug of southern moisture next Wednesday into Friday; mostly rain, but possibly ending as a period of slushy snow. Did you really think I'd go the rest of March without uttering the s-word?

Lower Mississippi River Valley Flood Potential. The animation above shows accumulated rainfall amounts looking out 10 days; some extreme 10-15"+ totals predicted near Little Rock and Memphis - this first wave of moisture brushing Minnesota with showery rains by Sunday and early Monday. GFS guidance: NOAA  and AerisWeather.

Slushy Encounter Late Next Week? Confidence levels are (very) low this far out, but NOAA's GFS model suggests rain ending as a slushy inch or so of snow by Thursday of next week, maybe a few inches for far northern Minnesota. The thing about snow in March: a high sun angle usually means most of whatever falls melts within 36 hours.

Slow Temperature Recovery by Late March. There's still a formidable blob of cold air just to our north in 2 weeks; a few waves of chilly air may still break off and sail south, but a mostly-zonal flow returns within 2 weeks; implying highs in the 40s, closer to average for this time of year. Source: GrADS:COLA/IGES.

Warmest Winter on Record for the USA. Following the warmest year on record (2015), which broke the previous record for warmth (2014), when there was no El Nino to blame - or thank. It must be another coincidence. Here's an excerpt from NOAA NCDC: "The strong El NiƱo that was present in the Equatorial Pacific interacted with other climate patterns to influence U.S. weather conditions during winter and February. The December-February average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 36.8°F, 4.6°F above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record of 36.5°F set in 1999/2000. The exceptionally warm December boosted the contiguous U.S. winter temperature. The February temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 39.5°F, 5.7°F above the 20th century average, ranking as the seventh warmest on record and warmest since 2000..."

Houston's Perfect Storm. How much risk are you willing to live with? At some point the law of averages catches up with you, whether you live in Houston, New Orleans, Miami or New York City. Here's the intro to a story at The Atlantic: "It is not if, but when Houston’s perfect storm will hit. They called Ike “the monster hurricane.” Hundreds of miles wide. Winds at more than 100 miles per hour. And—deadliest of all—the power to push a massive wall of water into the upper Texas coast, killing thousands and shutting down a major international port and industrial hub..."

Photo credit above: "A resident removes a sign from the coast as Hurricane Ike approaches in Galveston, Texas in September 2008." Carlos Barria / Reuters.

Are 500 Years of Shipwrecks The Key to Forecasting Hurricanes? If only it were that simple. Here's an excerpt of an interesting perspective at CSMonitor.com: "Shipwrecks in the Caribbean have been used as an indication of hurricane activity, finds new research that could shed light on the relationship of global warming and these storms. The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, considered records of Spanish shipwrecks in the region and correlated those with tree-ring records. The results found a staggering drop in hurricane activity of 75 percent in the years 1645-1715, coinciding with lower sunspot activity and cooler temperatures on Earth, providing important insights for future weather forecasts..."

For Weather Forecasting, Precise Observations Matter More Than Butterflies. Here's a clip from an interesting read at EurekaAlert: "...It's not necessary to create a dense network of observing stations to measure the atmosphere at finer and finer scales, Durran said. Instead of sweating the small stuff, he says, scientists need to improve the way they assimilate, or input, existing observations of the atmosphere on horizontal scales between 100 and 300 miles (160 to 480 km) in order to start local-area forecasts with the best possible description of the air circulating..."

Photo credit above: "Photo of a thunderstorm in Owens Valley, California. The butterflies superimposed on this photo would not matter for the forecast." Credit: Dale Durran/University of Washington.

5 Underrated Tornado Chasing Areas. Minnesota made the list, especially southwestern counties, according to a post at U.S. Tornadoes; here's an excerpt: "...This region lies near the northern edge of tornado alley, and recent violent tornado events in the area include Bowdle (2010) and Alpena (2014). Don’t expect to chase up here early in the season, but if you can have patience and wait until late May and June, this is definitely a great spot to chase. The road network is about as good as it gets across the central U.S., and because it is relatively far removed from the southern Plains, where most chasers live, chaser convergence is often not as big of a problem as in Kansas or Oklahoma. Don’t overlook northwestern Iowa or southwestern Minnesota either. The favorable road network remains intact. Climatologically, tornado activity is common here into July, which can certainly extend the season..."

Alaska's Winter is So Warm, the Iditarod is Importing Snow and Shortening Its Start. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "...When this year’s iteration of the Iditarod starts Saturday, the ceremonial route will be much shorter than normal — just three miles — because of a lack of snow. Alaska’s winter has been so mild that even that abbreviated route will have to be lined with imported powder. “It’s a rare occasion that there isn’t enough snow in Anchorage,” said Tim Sullivan, spokesman for the Alaska Railroad, which delivered seven cars full of snow to Anchorage for the event on Thursday morning..."

Hotter Planet Spells Harder Rains to Come. Here's a link to new research and a story excerpt at Climate Home: "Severe rainfall has increased throughout the world’s wettest and driest regions and is set to intensify this century, new research suggests.  Since 1950, daily extremes have risen 1-2% a decade, a study published in journal Nature said on Monday. That trend is expected to last until at least 2100, prompting emergency planners to take precautions against flash flooding. Dry regions such as Saharan Africa, the Arabian Peninsula or Australia, whose parched soil poorly absorbs excess water, would be most vulnerable..." (Image credit: Pixabay).

Is Nuclear Power Our Energy Future, Or In a Death Spiral? Can clean renewables (only) scale rapidly enough to avert a worst-case scenario as we dial down fossil fuels? Here's an excerpt of a story at Climate Central: "...I think we definitely need it in the battle against climate change. This is broadly recognized,” says Jacopo Buongiorno, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Because now there is such an overwhelming concern about climate change, it’s like a tide that lifts all boats. Anything that is perceived as clean is going up. I think it is absolutely necessary.” That type of take on nuclear isn’t particularly hard to find, but neither is this one: “I don’t think nuclear power is a necessary component at all,” says M. V. Ramana, a research scholar at Princeton’s Nuclear Futures Lab. “Nuclear power as a share of electricity generation is only likely to decline in the foreseeable future..."

Photo credit above: "Active cooling towers of the Byron Nuclear Generating Station outside of Chicago." Credit: Michael Kappel/flickr

Bad News: Low-Carbon Air Travel Isn't Very Likely. Is there a technological magic bullet? Here's an excerpt from Grist: "...Fortunately, there’s a groundbreaking techno-fix just around the corner, waiting to usher in the clean airplane of the future, right? Wrong. According to these researchers, that airplane is a false hope that we’ve been clinging to for more than 20 years, and here’s how they found out: First, the team compiled a list of 20 efficiency-boosting technologies hyped by the aviation industry between 1994 and 2013. These potential game-changers broke down into three broad categories: alternative fuels like hydrogen, algae, and this stuff that you’ve probably never heard of; new engines that could, for example, run on sunlight or electricity; and “airframe” improvements that would make planes lighter and more aerodynamic..." (Photo: Shutterstock).

Within a Decade Electric Vehicles Could Be Cheaper Than Gasoline Vehicles. Then, Watch Out. David Roberts has the analysis at Vox; here's an excerpt that caught my eye: "...Right now, electric cars are still in the putter-along phase, as costs continue falling toward the sweet spot. How fast are costs falling? BNEF did a bottom-up analysis of four variables: "regulatory support for EVs; the cost of battery packs; the total cost of ownership of EVs relative to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles; and EV consumer technology adoption forecasts." Long story short, here's what they found: Assuming oil prices rise slowly back to $70 a barrel between now and 2040 (more on that later), battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will become cheaper than ICE vehicles, in terms of total cost of ownership, around 2022..."

Image credit above: Blackrock

How Conservative Policy Can Harness Clean Energy. Here's an excerpt of an effective, thought-provoking Op-Ed at The Star Tribune: "...Top-down management, mandates and subsidies are just wildly inefficient at achieving our policy goals. From the “moral equivalent of war” to innumerable climate-change conferences, a crisis mentality goes off in search of once-and-for-all, single-shot solutions. This is not how progress works. Technological change moves incrementally, ideas coming together and begetting other ideas, one the byproduct of another, each causing improvement over time. That progress is happening in renewables now. Renewables will expand for another reason: They offer people freedom from the current centralized system of power generation. Utilities aren’t creatures of the free market, but a response of government to old cost models that created natural monopolies. Government regulators thought there could be only one electricity provider and needed to keep it whole..." (Image credit: Chris Van Es; NewsArt).

What It's Like to Live on a Cruise Ship for 8 Years. As long as it doesn't have Wi-Fi. Disconnecting for 8 years sounds good. No bills either. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "...That decision took quite a bit of soul searching. I worried about distancing myself from friends and family. But as I thought about it, I realized that my children were grown and doing their own thing. Nothing was holding me back. Here I am today, nearly eight years later, turning 88 in May, sailing to Sydney. I’ve been on this 12-year-old vessel longer than almost all of its 655 crew members. At the captain’s cocktail parties, I’m often honored as the passenger with the greatest number of Crystal cruises (400 altogether, including 15 world cruises)..."

Minneapolis: Itchless Underwear Capital of the Free World. Who knew? Atlas Obscura tells you more than you ever wanted to know; here's a clip: "...The story of how this thrusting Midwestern city came to achieve this legendary status is a tale of liberation, and extremely peculiar names. It begins with Egbert Egberts, whose 1832 invention of a powered knitting machine to make socks in Cohoes, New York, suddenly brought mass-produced underwear to the reach of the general populace. The story is next taken up by Amelia Jenks Bloomer, a temperance campaigner and leading light in the Victorian rational dress movement which sought to rid women of the panoply of torture devices that were then known as lady’s undergarments such as tight bodices, whale-bone corsets and bustles..."

Photo credit above: "Women exercising in bloomers, c. 1914." (Photo: Cornell University Library/Public Domain)

TODAY: Peeks of sun, cooler. Winds: NW 5-10. High: near 50

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 36

THURSDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, still quiet. Winds: NW 7-12. High: 51

FRIDAY: Sunny and April-like again. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 34. High: near 60

SATURDAY: Fading sun, showers at night. Winds: SE 7-12. Wake-up: 43. High: 55

SUNDAY: Drippy, showers likely. Winds: E 10-15. Wake-up: 47. High: 56

MONDAY: Showers taper, slow PM clearing. Wake-up: 45. High: 54

TUESDAY: Partly sunny, mild breeze. Wake-up: 44. High: 58

Climate Stories....
Human Influence on Climate Dates Back to the 1930s, New Research Finds. Here's a story link and excerpt from AGU, The American Geophysical Union: "Humans have triggered the last 16 record-breaking hot years experienced on Earth (up to 2014), with our impact on the global climate going as far back as 1937, a new study finds. The study suggests that without human-induced climate change, recent hot summers and years would not have occurred. The researchers also found that this effect has been masked until recently in many areas of the world by the wide use of industrial aerosols, which have a cooling effect on temperatures. “Everywhere we look, the climate change signal for extreme heat events is becoming stronger,” said Andrew King, a climate extremes research fellow at the University of Melbourne, Australia and lead author of the study. “Recent record-breaking hot years globally were so much outside natural variability that they were almost impossible without global warming...”
The Pentagon Just Added "Climate Change" to it's Official Dictionary. Mother Jones has more details: "The Department of Defense has long acknowledged the threat to global and national security posed by climate change. But last week, the DoD officially included "climate change" in its official glossary for the first time. The addition was first noticed by the Federation of American Scientists. Here's what the DoD settled on for its definition in the most recent Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms: "Variations in average weather conditions that persist over multiple decades or longer that encompass increases and decreases in temperature, shifts in precipitation, and changing risk of certain types of severe weather events..."

Infrastructure is, by design, largely unnoticed until it breaks and service fails. It's the water supply, the gas lines, bridges and dams, phone lines and cell towers, roads and culverts, train lines and railways, and the electric grid; all of the complex systems that keep our society and economy running.
Engineers typically design systems to withstand reasonable worst-case conditions based on historical records; for example, an engineer builds a bridge strong enough to withstand floods based on historical rainfall and flooding. But what happens when the worst case is no longer bad enough?
"If we don't adapt the systems, they will break," said Duane Verner, an urban planner who works with Clifford.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-03-america-cities-drought-climate.html#jCp
Are America's Cities Prepared for the Drought, Heat and Floods of Climate Change? Phys.org has the story; here's an excerpt: "...Infrastructure is, by design, largely unnoticed until it breaks and service fails. It's the water supply, the gas lines, bridges and dams, phone lines and cell towers, roads and culverts, train lines and railways, and the electric grid; all of the complex systems that keep our society and economy running. Engineers typically design systems to withstand reasonable worst-case conditions based on historical records; for example, an engineer builds a bridge strong enough to withstand floods based on historical rainfall and flooding. But what happens when the worst case is no longer bad enough?..."

What's The Answer to Climate Change? The Atlantic takes a look at common questions and proposed solutions. No silver bullet (yet) but still plenty of silver buckshot. The situation isn't hopeless - and we're not helpless: "...As the climate warms, should we find aims other than constant growth in order to sustain a healthy society and livable planet? What kind of society and democratic government will be best positioned to handle resource scarcity and the sequential emergencies associated with the now-inevitable consequences of climate change? How can we bring about that society? What kind of global governance will be needed? And most important of all: Can the world both manage climate change and avoid its worst cataclysms, like hideous famines, mass migrations, surveillance-powered authoritarians, and World War III?"

Image credit: Momatiuk - Eastcott / Corbis / Zak Bickel / Kara Gordon / The Atlantic.

Can Sports Environmentalists Aid in the Fight Against Climate Change? The concept may not be as radical as it sounds; here's an excerpt from Pacific Standard: "...But the climax of Hershkowitz's spiel is even more Earth-shattering: The sports industry, he claims, is the environmental messiah we've been waiting for. Exuding TV-friendly, tree-hugger-with-a-tough-sounding-Brooklyn-accent charm, Hershkowitz points out that only 16 percent of Americans "follow science very closely in the news," while 71 percent follow sports. It's not angry environmentalists who are going to change our habit of junking up the biosphere, he insists, much less scientists and politicians; it's athletes and entertainers who are in a position to set such cultural trends..."

Infrastructure is, by design, largely unnoticed until it breaks and service fails. It's the water supply, the gas lines, bridges and dams, phone lines and cell towers, roads and culverts, train lines and railways, and the electric grid; all of the complex systems that keep our society and economy running.
Engineers typically design systems to withstand reasonable worst-case conditions based on historical records; for example, an engineer builds a bridge strong enough to withstand floods based on historical rainfall and flooding. But what happens when the worst case is no longer bad enough?
"If we don't adapt the systems, they will break," said Duane Verner, an urban planner who works with Clifford.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-03-america-cities-drought-climate.html#jCp

Study: African Crops Threatened by Climate Change. Here's an excerpt from Voice of America: "Climate change is threatening some of Africa's most important crops, including corn, beans and bananas, and scientists warn that the agriculture system there needs some adjustments, and fast. The problem is, as climate change has a greater impact on the continent's crops, some areas currently growing staple crops won't be able to support them. The study was done by the University of Leeds and was released in Nature Climate Change..."

Photo credit above: "A Zimbabwean subsistence farmer holds a stunted maize cob in his field outside Harare, Jan. 20, 2016." Reuters.

More Extreme Precipitation in the World's Dry and Wet Regions. The paper referenced above is available at Nature Climate Change - here's an excerpt of the abstract: "...Climate projections for the rest of the century show continued intensification of daily precipitation extremes. Increases in total and extreme precipitation in dry regions are linearly related to the model-specific global temperature change, so that the spread in projected global warming partly explains the spread in precipitation intensification in these regions by the late twenty-first century. This intensification has implications for the risk of flooding as the climate warms, particularly for the worlds dry regions."

Wanna See What Happens When You Rely on the Fossil Fuel Sector and Slash Taxes? Check Out Louisiana. Ironic, since the first climate refugees in the lower 48 were from coastal Louisiana, now forced to move farther inland. Here's an excerpt at Grist: "The state of Louisiana has fallen on hard times, and its situation offers some hard lessons. First, don’t let a right-wing ideologue cut your budget to the bone. Second, don’t hang your whole economy on fossil fuel extraction. The Washington Post reports on the state’s budget crisis: Already, the state of Louisiana had gutted university spending and depleted its rainy-day funds. It had cut 30,000 employees and furloughed others. It had slashed the number of child services staffers…"

Photo credit above: "Former Gov. Bobby Jindal drove Louisiana off a fiscal cliff." REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

More Than Half of Ted Cruz's Super PAC Money Comes From Fossil Fuel Sources. But I'm sure there's no connection to his persistent climate-science-denial, right? Here's a clip from ThinkProgress: "Fossil fuel interests have funneled more than $100 million into the Republican presidential campaign, according to analysis of Federal Election Committee data compiled by Greenpeace. That total means that about one in every three dollars given to Republican candidates came from someone with financial ties to the fossil fuel industry, and, according to the Guardian, represents “an unprecedented investment by the oil and gas industry in the party’s future.” Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), the Republican perhaps most poised to steal the nomination away from current front-runner Donald Trump, received more than $25 million from fossil fuel interests. The majority of the funds in his super PACs — 57 percent — came from backers attached to the oil and gas industry..."

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" - Upton Sinclair.

Ted Cruz's Favorite Argument About Climate Change Just Got Weaker. Chris Mooney reports at The Washington Post: "...Based on records from satellites, there has been “no significant warming whatsoever for the last 18 years,” Cruz asserted in New Hampshire in January. That’s just one of many times he has made this claim or something close to it, which turns on looking at a particular record of the Earth’s climate — satellite readings of the atmosphere’s temperature — rather than others (such as the surface thermometer measurements that NASA and NOAA just used to declare 2015 the hottest year ever recorded). But lately, it looks like the satellites may be getting less friendly to Cruz and his argument. Two prominent satellite datasets — one from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the other from Remote Sensing Systems in Santa Rosa, Calif. — both show that February of 2016 was the hottest month ever recorded in the lower troposphere, a  layer of the atmosphere stretching from the surface to about 6 miles in the air..."

Florida Mayors Press Presidential Debate Moderators for Climate Airtime. Considering the fact (not theory) that rising sea levels are already an existential threat that would seem like a good idea; here's an excerpt at Reuters: "Mayors of 21 cities in Florida on Friday called on the moderators of next week's presidential debates in Miami to ask candidates how they would deal with rising sea levels caused by climate change, a concern of the state's coastal communities. "It would be unconscionable for these issues of grave concern for the people of Florida to not be addressed in the upcoming debate you will be hosting in the state," the mayors wrote in an letter to CNN, The Washington Post, Univision and the other media outlets hosting the Democratic and Republican debates on March 9 and March 10 in Miami..."

Photo credit above: "Republican U.S. presidential candidates (L-R) Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich pose together at the start of the U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate in Detroit, Michigan, March 3, 2016." Reuters/Jim Young.

How Broadcast Networks Covered Climate Change in 2015. Media Matters has an overview; here's an excerpt: "ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox collectively spent five percent less time covering climate change in 2015, even though there were more newsworthy climate-related events than ever before, including the EPA finalizing the Clean Power Plan, Pope Francis issuing a climate change encyclical, President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, and 195 countries around the world reaching a historic climate agreement in Paris. The decline was primarily driven by ABC, whose climate coverage dropped by 59 percent; the only network to dramatically increase its climate coverage was Fox, but that increase largely consisted of criticism of efforts to address climate change. When the networks did discuss climate change, they rarely addressed its impacts on national security, the economy, or public health, yet most still found time to provide a forum for climate science denial. On a more positive note, CBS and NBC -- and PBS, which was assessed separately -- aired many segments that explored the state of scientific research or detailed how climate change is affecting extreme weather, plants, and wildlife..."

During the Most Important Year for Climate News, TV Coverage Fell. Following up on the Media Matters report here's an excerpt of a story at The Guardian: "...Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) reacted to the Media Matters report:

As the co-founder of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, I read Media Matters’ new study and it’s a wake up call to the news networks. The most important long term global and national issue shouldn’t be getting short-thrift. People need more information, not less.
These findings may help explain why Americans aren’t concerned about climate change. We rely on the media to inform the public, and on the most important issue of our time, the US broadcast news media are failing to adequately inform Americans. As Rep. Israel notes, they’re moving in the wrong direction and need to do much better."

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