Thursday, March 3, 2016

Sloppy Mix Today - 60F Possible Next Week - 70F Within 2 Weeks? Warm Bias Continues

35 F. high in the Twin Cities Thursday.
35 F. average high on March 3.
29 F. high on March 3, 2015.

March 4, 1935: An extremely damaging ice storm hits Duluth. At the time it was called 'The worst ice storm in Duluth’s history'. The storm began with freezing rain and wet snow falling at the Duluth Weather Bureau at 7th Ave West and 8th Street at 10pm on March 3rd. The temperature was 26 degrees. By the morning of the 4th, the snow stopped but the freezing rain continued. The lights started going out in Duluth by 6pm on the 4th due to power lines breaking. By the morning of the 5th, Duluth was virtually isolated from the outside world except for shortwave radio. A local ham radio operator sent the Duluth National Weather Service reports: Four streetcars had to be abandoned in the storm, three of them in the western part of the city. A heavy salt mixture and pickaxes were used to try to free the stuck streetcars. A one-mile stretch of telephone poles along Thompson’s Hill was broken off as if they were toothpicks due to the ice.

Sloppy Mix Today. Preview of April Next Week

“Despite the forecast, live like it's spring” wrote Lilly Pulitzer. Actually the forecast does look like spring, a much-advertised "fast-forward" spring. Winter is gasping for (cold) air; by next Tuesday it may feel like early April with 60F and a few grumbles of thunder.

Why so mild so early? Why are tracking rain showers instead of Tournament Snowstorms? Proving cause and effect with the atmosphere is a losing proposition, a little like trying to deconstruct the ingredients in a souffle.

My take? Two main factors: warm whispers of a strong El Nino and a warm/wet MJO (Madden-Julian Oscillation) signal pushing across the Pacific; the icing on the simmering cake of a steadily warming planet. If anyone asks, February was the 6th warmer-than-average month in a row.

Today will be sloppy with with a rain/snow mix; most roads wet after 10 AM. The sun comes out Saturday, 50F Sunday afternoon - the best chance of nudging 60F Tuesday, again next Friday.
Not exactly shorts and T- shirt weather, but I think you can safely retire the parka. You know, the one covered in cobwebs?

* 4 KM NAM Precipitation Type forecast courtesy of NOAA and AerisWeather.

Road Conditions: 7 AM Today. Our internal models show a chance of snow-covered or slushy roads over much of central and western Minnesota this morning with temperatures starting out colder than 32F. There may be some icy patches out there until temperatures rise above 32F (around 10 AM or so).

Road Conditions: 3:30 PM. By mid-afternoon temperatures should be warm enough for a light mix with mainly wet roads around the metro; still potentially slushy as you drive east on I-94 toward Eau Claire and Tomah - and north of Hinckley, toward Duluth. Source: AerisWeather AMP.

Warming Trend. According to European guidance the best chance of 60F comes next Tuesday, again 1 week from today. A sloppy mix today gives way to cool sunshine Saturday; dry weather lingering into Sunday as clouds and winds increase. A few showers (and T-showers) are possible Tuesday, followed by a slight midweek cooling trend before we warm up again. Source: WeatherSpark.

Warm Bias To Hang On. According to GFS ensemble models highs are forecast to top 50F in the Twin Cities 10 of the next 14 days. Welcome to late March and early April. Source: Aeris Enterprise.

70F by mid-Month? No, I don't believe it yet, but in the spirit of full disclosure I'm showing you what the GFS model is predicting for MSP looking out 2 weeks; close to 70F on Thursday, March 17. Even if the model is off by 10 degrees we'll still be 20F warmer than average. Look at the trends, not specific dates.

February Weather Recap. Here's an update from HydroClim Minnesota at the Minnesota DNR: "Average monthly temperatures for February were above historical averages at nearly all Minnesota reporting stations. It was Minnesota's sixth consecutive month of above-normal monthly temperatures. Extremes for February ranged from a high of 65 degrees F at Browns Valley (Traverse County) on the 27th, to a low of -36 degrees F at Embarrass (St. Louis County) on the 14th. Temperatures climbed into the 50s and low 60s across Minnesota on February 27, breaking several maximum temperature records for the date..."

Map credit: Midwest Regional Climate Center.

April Fire Risk? Not just for Minnesota but most of the Midwest and Mid South. Until spring green up and (consistent/heavy) rains conditions may be ripe for brushfires, statewide, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Very Low Risk of Flooding in the Red River Basin This Spring. A lack of snow cover may have something to do with this; here's the latest from NOAA: "The updated Spring Flood Outlook graphics are now available (long-range flood risk graphics). With the lower precipitation this winter and mild conditions expected, the threat for significant flooding on the Red River is low for this spring compared to historical averages. The snowpack and snow water equivalent (SWE) are at 10 to 50 percent of normal in most areas. Snowpack and SWE are 30-70 percent of normal in the Devils Lake Basin.

Bottom Line...
- The threat for significant, impactful, snowmelt flooding is now very low:
   -- Much less than historical risk for Red River Basin locales.
   -- Near historical risk for the Devils Lake Basin.

"The Old Normal is Gone" : February Shatters Global Temperature Records. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus has a summary at Slate; here's the intro: "Our planet’s preliminary February temperature data are in, and it’s now abundantly clear: Global warming is going into overdrive. There are dozens of global temperature datasets, and usually I (and my climate journalist colleagues) wait until the official ones are released about the middle of the following month to announce a record-warm month at the global level. But this month’s data is so extraordinary that there’s no need to wait: February obliterated the all-time global temperature record set just last month..."

Map credit above: "Global temperatures hit a new all-time record high in February, shattering the old record set just last month amid a record-strong El Niño." Ryan Maue/Weatherbell Analytics.

Another Month, Another Troubling Arctic Sea Ice Record. Here's a snippet from Climate Central: "...February saw record low sea ice extent, with ice running a significant 448,000 square miles below average. In essence, a chunk of ice four times the size of Arizona went missing in action from the Arctic. The number would be even more pronounced if not for a small growth spurt in the last week of the month. The culprit? Once again, the Arctic was super warm for this time of year. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) , which released the new data on Wednesday, said that temperatures ranged from 11°-14°F above average in the central Arctic..."

Image credit above: "Daily Arctic sea ice extent comparison between average and the past five years." Credit: NSIDC

Hell and High Water. ProPublic and the Texas Tribune have a remarkable (and visual) story focused on how Houston dodged a bullet with Ike; at some point the law of averages will catch up and a devastating hurricane will push into Galveston and Houston. Is the city ready? Here's an excerpt: "They called Ike “the monster hurricane.” Hundreds of miles wide. Winds at more than 100 mph. 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. That was what scientists, public officials, economists and weather forecasters thought they were dealing with on Sept. 11, 2008, as Hurricane Ike barreled toward Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States and home to its largest refining and petrochemical complex. And so at 8:19 p.m., the National Weather Service issued an unusually dire warning.


Image credit above: "Flood levels in top chart taken at Kemah Boardwalk". | Sources: NOAA/GOES, USGS/NASA Landsat, SSPEED Center at Rice University, University of Texas Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, University of Houston Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Texas A&M Galveston Institute for Sustainable Coastal Communities, Jackson State University/Coastal Hazards Center, Harris County Appraisal District, U.S. Census

Record High Number of Tornadoes Hit Southeast in February. WXshift has more details: "February was an unusually stormy month across the Southeast, with 53 tornadoes touching down across six states — the most for any February since 1950 — destroying homes and businesses and claiming several lives. One factor fueling the spate of storms has been the strong El Niño that is altering weather patterns around the globe. El Niño is defined by an eastward shift of warm ocean waters in the tropical Pacific. That shift alters where heat from those waters is released into the atmosphere, which in turn knocks circulation patterns out of whack, creating a cascade around the planet. Over the U.S., it tends to amp up the subtropical jet stream and shunt it southward over the southern tier of the country. This leads to greater odds for tornadoes right along the Gulf Coast, with the strongest signal in Florida..."

Extreme Tornado Outbreaks Have Become More Common. New research highlighted at The International Research Institute for Climate Policy at Columbia University's Earth Institute made me do a double-take; here's the intro: "Most death and destruction inflicted by tornadoes in North America occurs during outbreaks—large-scale weather events that can last one to three days and span huge regions. The largest outbreak ever recorded happened in 2011. It spawned 363 tornadoes across the United States and Canada, killing more than 350 people and causing $11 billion in damage. Now, a new study shows that the average number of tornadoes in these outbreaks has risen since 1954, and that the chance of extreme outbreaks —tornado factories like the one in 2011—has also increased. The study’s authors said they do not know what is driving the changes. “The science is still open,” said lead author Michael Tippett, a climate and weather researcher at Columbia University’s School of Applied Science and Engineering and Columbia’s Data Science Institute..." (The paper below is available at Nature Communications).

Photo credit above: Meteorologist Aaron Shaffer,

What Does a Warming Arctic Have to do with snow in New England? Plenty. Here's an excerpt of a fascinating story at Alaska Dispatch: "Isotopes in water molecules act like a “chemical fingerprint,” said Jeff Welker, a UAA biology professor involved in the project. Analysis by Welker, UAA postdoctoral fellow Eric Klein and their research partners at the State University of New York and other institutions parsed out the isotopes associated with the Arctic -- considered a cold, dry source of water -- and matched them to the heavy precipitation events at the New Hampshire location. The analysis also tracked increasing incidences of Arctic-marked rain and snowfall over time with reduced Arctic sea ice -- and with polar vortex events like the one that warmed Alaska but chilled the U.S. East Coast in the winter of 2013-14. The chemical evidence backs up the emerging theory that the rapid warming of the Arctic is slowing the jet stream, causing a wavy pattern that brings warm weather to the far north and cold weather to the middle latitudes, Welker and Klein said..."

Photo credit above: "In this Feb. 23, 2015 file photo, a car remains buried in snow along a residential street in South Boston. Boston's 2015 winter was also its snowiest season going back to 1872. Now, researchers have determined that all that snow in the Northeast U.S. may be due in part to warming in the Arctic." Elise Amendola / Associated Press file photo

Why Are So Many People Still Living in Flood-Prone Cities? Easy transportation and trade is one answer, but that comes with a downside as seas continue to rise. Here's a clip from The Conversation: "Over the last 30 years, floods have killed more than 500,000 people globally, and displaced about 650m more. In a recent paper published by the Centre for Economic Performance, we examined why so many people are hit by devastating floods. We looked at 53 large floods, which affected more than 1,800 cities in 40 countries, from 2003 to 2008. Each of these floods displaced at least 100,000 people from their homes. Of course, part of the problem is that many cities were originally built near rivers and coastlines. For a long time, these cities’ residents benefited from lower transport costs, because they were close to ports and the trade which occurred there..."

Photo credit above: johnmcq/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Climate Change in the Levant: Further Evidence Strengthens Case for Role in Syrian Instability. An article at The Center for Climate and Security got my attention; here's the intro: "A new study provides the strongest evidence to date that the drying of the eastern Mediterranean Levant region over recent decades is very likely the result of human influence on the Earth’s climate system. This research uses tree-ring data in the Old World Drought Atlas to better characterize year-to-year and decade-to-decade natural rainfall variability over the greater Mediterranean basin. The authors, led by Ben Cook, a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York City, conclude with high confidence that the recent extended drought in the Levant is well outside the range of natural variability over the last 900 years. The recent drying trend as measured by the tree rings is very much in agreement with not only measurements of rainfall using station data and satellites but also with simulations from global climate models that use the known increases in greenhouse gases during the observed record..."

Image credit: "For January 2012, brown shades show the decrease in water storage from the 2002-2015 average in the Mediterranean region. Units in centimeters. The data is from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, satellites, a joint mission of NASA and the German space agency."

Credit: NASA/ Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio. Details at the American Geophysical Union.

Syria's Drought Has Likely Been Its Worst in 900 Years. Climate Central takes a look at new research trying to put a mega-drought into historical perspective; here's an excerpt: "...Using tree ring data that covered 900 years of drought history, Cook led a team of researchers to look at drought across different regions in the Mediterranean. Dry spells in parts of the western Mediterranean have been severe but still within the range of natural variability over that 900-year span. What stands out is the drought in the eastern Mediterranean, which includes war-torn Syria. Drought has had a firm grip on the region since 1998 and Cook’s findings show that the recent bone-dry spell is likely the driest period on record in 900 years and almost certainly the worst drought in 500 years. In either case, it’s well outside the norm of natural variability indicating that a climate change signal is likely emerging in the region..."

Photo credit: "A Syrian refugee camp in Turkey." Credit: European Parliament.

A Plan In Case Robots Take the Jobs: Give Everyone a Paycheck. Why is there so much unsease and anger out there? Globalization, automation, computerization, jobs being done by robotics that were done by hand 10 years ago. The cycle of disruption is happening faster. Suddenly there's no such thing as a "job for life". Here's a clip from The New York Times: "Let’s say computers come for most of our jobs. This may not seem likely at the moment; computer scientists and economists offer wildly varying ideas for how deeply automation will affect future employment. But for the sake of argument, imagine that within two or three decades we’ll have morphed into the Robotic States of America. In Robot America, most manual laborers will have been replaced by herculean bots. Truck drivers, cabbies, delivery workers and airline pilots will have been superseded by vehicles that do it all. Doctors, lawyers, business executives and even technology columnists for The New York Times will have seen their ranks thinned by charming, attractive, all-knowing algorithms..."

Listen Up Candidates: Science Matters, and Here's Why. Scientific American has a link to a good explainer video: "Because researchers work on solving problems that every politician should care about—including climate risks, clean energy, new materials, emerging diseases and a wide range of technologies that can fuel economic growth—the Science Coalition, a group of universities that lobbies for federal investments in research, is sponsoring an event called Super Science Tuesday. It's a video compilation in which scientists tell the candidates why they need to pay attention..."
Image credit: National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health.

U.S. Solar Energy Production Is Getting a Big Boost This Year. Quartz has details; here's an excerpt: "The US Energy Information Administration is projecting solar will be the country’s fastest-growing source of energy this year, with an additional 9 gigawatts of capacity built. California will set the pace with nearly half of that (3.9 gigawatts)..."

Almost 100 Million Homes May Run Only on Solar by 2020. Bloomberg Business has the story - here's a link and excerpt: "Almost 100 million households worldwide may be powered by solar panels by 2020, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The off-grid solar market has grown to $700 million now from non-existent less than a decade ago, according to a report Thursday from the London-based research company and the World Bank Group’s Lighting Global. They expect that to swell to $3.1 billion by the end of the decade..."

Photo credit above: "Workers secure solar panels to a rooftop in Albuquerque, New Mexico." Photographer: Sergio Flores/Bloomberg.

Future of U.S. Solar Threatened in Nationwide Fight Over Incentives. Reuters has an update; here's an excerpt: "Two sun-drenched U.S. states have lately come to very different conclusions on a controversial solar power incentive essential to the industry's growth. In California, regulators voted in January to preserve so-called net metering, which requires utilities to purchase surplus power generated by customers with rooftop solar panels. But neighboring Nevada scrapped the policy - prompting solar companies to flee the state. The decisions foreshadow an intensifying national debate over public support that the rooftop solar industry says it can't live without..."

Photo credit above: "Solar panels are pictured on the rooftops of residential homes in San Diego, California in this August 21, 2015 handout photo." Reuters/Mike Blake.

Sail (Far) Away: At Sea with America's Largest Floating Gathering of Conspiracy Theorists. Well this sounds like quite a vacation. I'm amazed they don't just float right off the edge of the (flat) Earth. Here's an excerpt at Jezebel: "...Morton is a radio host, among other things. Here he was claimed to be one of the lead organizers of Conspira Sea, the first annual sea cruise for conspiracy theorists. While the ship looped from San Pedro to Cabo San Lucas and back, some 100 of its passengers and I would be focused on uncharted waters, where nothing is as it seems. Before we docked again, two of them would end up following me around the ship, convinced I was a CIA plant..."

Why This German City Has Banned Coffee Pods in Government Buildings. Is there a more sustainable way to brew (great) coffee? NPR has the story; here's a clip: "...Love them or hate them, single-use coffee capsules are a quick way to brew a reasonable cup of coffee, and Germans use roughly 3 billion pods a year. But Hamburg's Department for the Environment and Energy argues that coffee pods cause "unnecessary resource consumption and waste generation," and "often contain polluting aluminum." Coffee pods are just one of a variety of products city employees are no longer allowed to use on office premises..."

Photo credit above: "As part of a wider effort to reduce waste and energy consumption, Hamburg, Germany, has become the world's first city to ban the use of coffee pods in government-run buildings, offices and institutions like schools and universities." sg_harrison/Flickr

How Almost a Year in Space Made Astronaut Scott Kelly More of an Environmentalist. ThinkProgress has an article that got my attention; here's an excerpt that resonated: "... Throughout his stay aboard the ISS, he shared his experience through posts and spectacular photos on social media. And like astronauts before him, Kelly’s unusual perspective of Earth has made him realize how fragile it is — and how important it is to protect it. “The more I look at earth and certain parts of Earth the more I feel more of an environmentalist,” Kelly said in his last press conference from the ISS.
“There are definitely areas where the earth is covered with pollution almost all the time. And it’s not good for any of us. There are weather systems that I’ve seen while I was up here that were places that were unexpected. Storms bigger than we’ve seen in the past. And this is a human effect. You can tell that that is not a naturally occurring phenomenon.”
Image credit above: Scott Kelly @StationCDRKelly /Victoria Fleischer /ThinkProgress.

Best Pictures from #YearInSpace. Check out some amazing photos taken by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly on the International Space Station, courtesty of Flickr.

Harvard Researchers Discovered The One Thing Everyone Needs for Happier, Healthier Lives. It isn't more toys, the answer is (in 20/20 hindsight) simple and obvious. Here's a clip from The Washington Post: "...Those satisfied in their relationships were happier and healthier. It was that simple. “People who are more isolated than they want to be from others find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely,” Waldinger said in his TedTalk. “And good, close relationships seem to buffer us from some of the slings and arrows of getting old...”

TODAY: Rain/snow mix. Wet/slushy roads. Winds: S 10-20. High: 38

FRIDAY NIGHT: Light rain tapers. Low: 30

SATURDAY: Blue sky, light winds. Very nice. Winds: NW 5-10. High: 41

SUNDAY: Partly sunny, windy & milder. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up:  29. High: 51

MONDAY: Clouds increase, late rain shower. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 41. High: 54

TUESDAY: Mild and unsettled, risk of a T-shower. Winds: W 10-20. Wake-up: 48. High: near 60

WEDNESDAY: Sunny spurts, turning cooler. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 33. High: 47

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy, trending milder again. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 34. High: 54

Climate Stories....

Climate Scientists Worry About the Costs of Sea Level Rise. Here's an excerpt of a post at The Guardian from University of St. Thomas climate scientist John Abraham: "...A paper was just published by Drs. Boettle, Rybski and Kropp that dealt with this question. The authors of this study note that if you are concerned about societal and economic costs, the rate of sea rise isn’t the entire story. Much of the damage is caused by extreme events that are superimposed on a rising ocean. Damage is highly nonlinear with sea rise. To explain this, let’s think about flooding. Consider a river that has a dike system capable of confining a rise of water up to six feet. Such a system would have little or no economic/societal damage for “floods” up to six feet, but just one more foot of water rise would put the waters over the dike and could cause significant losses..."

Photo credit above: "The remnants of the Jet Star roller coaster is pictured in the ocean, almost five months after Superstorm Sandy, in Seaside Heights, New Jersey March 21, 2013." Photograph: Lucas Jackson/REUTERS.

How Climate Change May Affect Your Diet. TIME has the story; here's the intro: "Climate change’s effects on global food supply could lead to more than 500,000 deaths by 2050 as people around the world lose access to good nutrition, according to new research. The study, published in the journal The Lancet, builds on previous research that has shown how droughts, floods and other weather events linked to climate change hurt global crop yields. But climate change will lead to a less healthy diet composition in addition to making food less available overall. In fact, people will be twice as likely to die from issues linked to climate-related poor diet than from undernutrition, according to the first-of-its-kind study..."

More details and a link to the new research at The Lancet. Photo credit: Tim McCabe, USDA.

Pending Prosecution of Fossil Fuel Companies Over Climate Denial? Here's an excerpt from Bloomberg BNA: "...I'm confident the U.S. Department of Justice will also do an investigation, and they in fact may be doing one now. In my experience, they typically don't say they're doing investigations. Same with the Securities and Exchange Commission—they may not say they're doing an investigation. If you look at what the fossil fuel companies—and I specifically say companies because now there's evidence that it wasn't just Exxon Mobil who knew about climate change—planned for it and then denied it. Shell also knew about climate change, planned for it and then publicly denied it. That set back the fight against climate change for decades, which is unfortunate because [the necessary action] is not just merely taking carbon, methane and other greenhouse gases out of the air. It's taking it out of the air within a certain amount of time..." (File image: LM Otero, AP).

Justice Department Refers Exxon Investigation Request to FBI. InsideClimate News has more details: "The U.S. Justice Department has forwarded a request from two congressmen seeking a federal probe of ExxonMobil to the FBI's criminal division. U.S. Representatives Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier sought the probe last year to determine whether the oil giant violated federal laws by "failing to disclose truthful information" about climate change. In response, the Justice Department deferred to the FBI, saying it is that agency's responsibility to conduct an initial assessment of facts that prompted the congressmen's request. Such action is considered standard procedure, according to former federal prosecutors who say the response appears ambiguous as to what action may be taken by the FBI..."

Photo credit: "California Rep. Ted Lieu, along with fellow Democrat Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, issued the request that the Justice Department investigate Exxon for its climate research and denial."

Here's What Super Tuesday Voters Think About Climate Change. Mother Jones has a sobering update; here's a clip: "...According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists are 95 percent certain that human activities are responsible for most of the dramatic warming since the 1950s. But according to Yale's estimates, that opinion is shared by less than half of adults in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming. Overall, just 48 percent of adults in the Super Tuesday states accept the scientific consensus..."

Overall, just 48 percent of adults in the Super Tuesday states accept the scientific consensus.
Graphic credit: Yale Program on Climate Change Communication Get the data. Created with Datawrapper.

Canada in 2015: Land of Climate-Change Extremes at Current Emissions Levels. Here's the intro to a story at The Vancouver Sun: "Canada is a land of extremes, from car-freezing cold to crop-searing heat and drenching rains to drought. But you ain't seen nothin' yet. By 2050 — within the life expectancy of most Canadians — scientists say that if current emissions levels remain unchanged, climate change will be well established. It will be warmer: a cross-country summertime average of about two degrees. It will be wetter, mostly, by about five per cent. Those modest figures may sound good to a country that describes summer as four months of poor sledding. And global warming will bring perks, such as the chance to grow different or more abundant crops..."

Photo credit above: "Steam rises as people look out on Lake Ontario in front of the skyline during extreme cold weather in Toronto on Saturday, February 13, 2016. Canada is a land of extremes, from car-freezing cold to crop-searing heat and drenching rains to drought. But you ain't seen nothin' yet. By 2050 within the life expectancy of most Canadians scientists say that if current emissions levels remain unchanged, climate change will be well established." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch.

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