Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Spring Fever Alert Next 5 Days - The New Minnesota Winter

42 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday.
38 F. average high on March 9.
57 F. high on March 9, 2015.
Trace of rain fell yesterday (drizzle).

March 10, 2012: The record high of 66 degrees at the Twin Cities is the first of 8 record highs in a 10-day span.
March 10, 1948: Bitterly cold conditions, especially for March, occur in Minnesota. A low of -44 is reported at Itasca.

Springy Next 7 Days - One More Slushy Smack?

I apologize. I may have inadvertently angered the weather gods with my "winter is over" comment the other day. It's the kind of black and white statement that invites atmospheric retribution.

We just enjoyed/endured the 8th warmest meteorological winter on record in the Twin Cities. Open water in December. 10 subzero nights (typical for Kansas City). One real "storm" on Groundhog Day. 70F on Tuesday was the 3rd earliest on record at MSP.

The same El Nino signal pounding California and flooding some parishes in Louisiana with a tropical storm's worth of rain keeps us mild the next 7 days. 60F is possible Friday and Saturday before light showers arrive on Sunday. Models spin up a more impressive storm next Wednesday; probably warm enough aloft for heavy rain (and strong winds) but I can't rule out a little slush or a light mix late next week as temperatures cool off.

NOAA's GFS model hints at a few stronger/colder slaps of Canadian air within 1-2 weeks but the ECMWF model keeps the coldest air to our north.

Spring break is coming early this year - but hold off on gardening a little while longer.

I Smell a Comp Day. I fear a widespread and devastating case of spring-fever-flu on Friday. Models hint at low 60s with sunshine and a southerly breeze; perfectly normal for the second week of April. I suspect it will be contagious and both test scores and job productivity will suffer tomorrow. Please be careful out there. Model guidance: NOAA and AerisWeather.

3 PM Friday. Here is why I'm concerned, widespread 60s, even a chance of 70F over western and southwestern Minnesota Friday afternoon. NAM guidance hints at 63 F in the metro - just mild enough to break out into a spring-fever-sweat. Source: AerisWeather.

Growing Shower Chance This Weekend. Saturday will start out promising but a surge of moisture from the south increases the potential for showers late Saturday into Sunday. The GFS solution (above) brings another slug of southern moisture into Minnesota and Wisconsin late Tuesday into Wednesday  of next week, precipitation falling as mostly rain (with a few notable exceptions north/west of the Twin Cities).

Correction. I get nervous when it gets (and stays) too warm, too fast. It usually means the atmosphere is temporarily out of alignment, and a rude surprise may be lurking around the corner. No arctic air brewing, but by late next week daytime highs may be holding in the 20s (north) and 30s (south) with a few nights  in the teens. Yes, it's too early to plan annuals.

10-Day Accumulated Snowfall Potential. NOAA's GFS is (consistently) changing rain over to snow over central and northern Minnesota by Thursday of next week, and a few slushy inches can't be ruled out, especially north/west of St. Cloud. It's early for specifics, but I'm keeping my driveway stakes in a couple more weeks, just in case. And pulling them out (now) just invites disaster. Loop: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Slow Moderation Last Week of March. After a downward dip in 1 week long-range 500 mb wind forecasts (GFS) suggest a cold, stormy (snowy) trough of low pressure, possibly a cut-off low, centered over the Great Lakes; ridging over the Rockies and Great Plains pushing slightly milder, Pacific-modified air back into Minnesota. The sun angle is too high for it to stay cold for long.

Early Geese Migration Might Mean Early Spring. Really - you think? More symptoms of a fast-forward spring at Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, South Dakota: "Their name is deceiving, but snow geese are actually harbingers of spring, according to USD biology professor David Swanson. And they are coming early this year. Snow goose migration typically occurs from mid-March to early April, Swanson said, but this year flocks showed up on Feb. 19. "Really, I think it's just a response to the immediate weather conditions," Swanson said. The geese winter in the southern states, and as it warms up, they tend to move north until they hit snow or ice..."

Flash Flood Emergencies in Louisiana Parishes as Rising Waters Force Evacuations. The Weather Channel has a video and update: "From the Gulf Coast all the way up into southern Illinois, a days-long rain and storm event is underway, spelling major concerns about severe flooding that may affect millions. Two deaths have been confirmed from flooding brought by this storm system. The storms will persist on Wednesday, with the heaviest rainfall expected to hammer eastern Texas, western Louisiana and much of Arkansas. Flash flood emergencies were declared for parts of Bossier, Caddo, Webster, DeSoto and Red River parishes due to widespread flooding. In Bossier Parish, shocking images of nearly submerged homes surfaced Tuesday morning..."

* More details on Louisiana's Flood Emergencies (one step up from a Flood Warning - meaning imminent threat to life and property) from CNN.

El Nino and Extreme Weather Will Be a Theme in 2016. So says meteorologist Eric Holthaus at Slate; here's an excerpt of a recent post: "...Over the past month or two, the ocean temperature in the tropical Pacific has started to decline, but that doesn’t mean El Niño’s effects are waning. In fact, due to an atmospheric lag, extreme weather will likely keep getting worse for several more months. Though El Niño is typically the most powerful player among the world’s constantly feuding meteorological morphologies, it takes months for its burst of heat to filter around the globe from the tropical Pacific. Ocean temperatures in the El Niño regions of the Pacific usually peak in November or December, but globally-averaged temperatures don’t typically peak until between February and July of the following year..."

Animation credit: NOAA CPC.

America's Year Without a Winter: The 2015-2016 Season Was The Warmest on Record. Here's a story excerpt from Jason Samenow at Capital Weather Gang: "...The lack of winter extended into the Last Frontier. Alaska logged its second warmest winter on record, almost 11 degrees above average. At the end of February, Anchorage had no snow on the ground for the first time on record during the month. An index that rates the severity of winter at 52 locations across the Lower 48 found only three where winter conditions were classified harsher than “average.” Most places earned a mild-moderate winter rating. Several were record mild..."

Map credit: "Winter severity classification, March 7, 2016." (Midwestern Regional Climate Center)

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 Niño 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..."

It's Official: This Was America's Warmest Winter on Record. More perspective from Eric Holthaus at Slate; here's a clip: "...NOAA blames the recent warm weather on a record-strength El Niño “and other climate patterns,” most notably, global warming. As a whole, this winter in the lower 48 was about 4.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century average: a sharp contrast to the previous back-to-back frigid polar vortex winters, especially in the Northeast. But that doesn’t mean there was a lack of wintry weather: New York City, for example, had one of its warmest and snowiest winters on record, an odd combination to say the least..."

Graphic credit above: "Winters are warming, and this was the warmest one yet." NOAA.

This 23-Second Video Shows Old Arctic Sea Ice's Demise. Thickness matters at the top of the world, it turns out. Here's a video link and story excerpt from Climate Central: "...Warming air and water has eroded away much of the Arctic’s oldest ice, leaving behind brittle young ice that melts faster. In 1985, ice older than 4 years comprised 20 percent of all Arctic ice pack. By 2015, it was just 3 percent. That puts the oldest sea ice on the brink of extinction. In comparison, young ice used to be about half of all Arctic ice pack in 1985. Now it’s about 70 percent. You might think younger sounds better, but you would be sadly mistaken. That’s because older sea ice is stronger and less prone to melt than its younger counterpart. The transition from old to young is in part why summer melt seasons have become more and more dramatic in the Arctic..."

Extreme Weather Disasters Since 2010. A short window of data, but an interesting overview of state and national trends in recent years, courtesy of Environment America: "Every year, weather-related disasters injure or kill hundreds of Americans and cause billions of dollars in damage. Many of the risks posed by extreme weather will likely increase in a warming world. Scientists have already noted increases in extreme precipitation and heat waves as global warming raises temperatures and exacerbates weather extremes. The stories shared on the map show how global warming is affecting our lives as individuals. The negative impacts of global warming are felt differently by different people, depending their age, health and circumstances. For some, record heat can be life-threatening, while large snow storms can leave others trapped inside..."

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.

When It Rains, It Increasingly Pours, Scientists Say. Real-world observations are falling in line with model projections: wet areas are (as a rule) getting wetter, dry areas trending drier over time. Here's an excerpt fromm Bloomberg Business: "...The overall rain and snowfall average is increasing only moderately. But observations since 1951 show that the wettest days every year have increased their intensity by 1 percent to 2 percent per decade, according to a study published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change. The heavy precipitation is increasing over both wet and dry land areas, a surprising conclusion drawn from the research. A mantra among climate scientists for years has held that, as humanity continues to pump out carbon pollution, regions with lots of rainfall will receive more, and relatively arid places will get even less. That’s a global projection, however, and most of the globe's surface consists of ocean. More recently, scientists have wondered if that will hold true over land as well..."

Hotter Planet Spells Harder Rains to Come. More perspective on the study highlighted above; 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).

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.

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).

The "Sistine Chapel" of Skateboarding? Why not. Here's an excerpt of a wild photo-essay at Slate: "...Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel transformed the former Santa Barbara Church in Llanera, Spain, into La Iglesia Skate, with contemporary geometric graphics and painted figures in a psychedelic palette that are in stark contrast with the church’s ecclesiastical bones. The artist painted the church, originally built in 1912 before it fell out of use at the end of the Spanish Civil War, during a week in late November, and it opened to the public in December..."

Photo credit above: "Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel transformed the disused church of Santa Barbara in Llanera, Asturias, into La Iglesia Skate, a temple of skateboarding." Elchino Pomares.

Don't Mess With Ostriches. Some things you just have to see to believe. Who knew ostriches could run this fast? Remember that the next time you pass one on a bike. Here's an amazing video clip from The Telegraph: "Headcam footage shows an ostrich running at a terrifying 50km/h after a group of cyclists in South Africa."

TODAY: Partly sunny, pleasant. Winds: NW 5-10. High: 52

THURSDAY NIGHT: Clear to partly cloudy. Low: 35

FRIDAY: Sunny, breezy and mild. Winds: S 10-20. High: 63

SATURDAY: Fading sun, late-day showers possible. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 46. High: 63

SATURDAY NIGHT: A few showers likely. Low: 48

SUNDAY: Unsettled, a few rain showers linger. Winds: SE 10-15. High: 59

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, stray shower possible. Wake-up: 46. High: 56

TUESDAY: Peeks of sun, still mild. Wake-up: 47. High: near 60

WEDNESDAY: Windy, heavier rain possible. Winds: E 15-25. Wake-up: 48. High: 55

Climate Stories....

Highest Ever Annual Rise in Carbon Dioxide Levels Reached. New Scientist has an update; here's the  intro: "It is not just temperature records that are falling. The average carbon dioxide level recorded at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, during February 2016 was 404.02 parts per million – 3.76 ppm higher than the average for February 2015, according to preliminary figures. That is the biggest ever increase over a 12-month period. The previous 12-month record at Mauna Loa was 3.70 ppm, from September 1997 to September 1998..."

Photo credit above: "Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii." NOAA.

The New Minnesota Winter. Thanks to KARE-11 and "Breaking The News" (new 6:30 PM show) for trying to connect the dots and put our abbreviated winter into larger context. Here's a video link and story excerpt: "...Douglas said warming trends will put stress on agriculture, wetlands, lakes, invasive species, and pest control, but to him, it’s more motivation, especially looking toward the next generation, to make sure the region’s subzero history finds an above average solution. “For many Minnesotans, we are losing something that’s intrinsic, part of our heritage and history and that is deeply troubling,” said Douglas. “But, I'm still optimistic, I think it's our kids that will clean up our parents’ messes.

Can Christianity Make the U.S. Care About Climate Change? It's probably necessary to engage both the mind and the heart; appealing to Creation Care and stewardship. Here's a clip from Newsweek: "...Momentum for this moral approach to climate action reached new heights when Pope Francis made environmentalism a pillar of his papacy. The effort began with his choice of namesake—Saint Francis of Assisi, who is considered the unofficial patron saint of ecology—and reached a crescendo this past summer with the release of a nearly 200-page encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.” In it, the pontiff argues that we need to accept climate change as real and recognize that if we don’t do anything about it, it will soon cause devastation to the poor and disadvantaged across the world. Speaking from the South Lawn of the White House this fall, Francis issued a call to action: “Climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to our future generation. I would like all men and women of goodwill in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world...”

Darkening Greenland Ice Sheet Melts Faster. Here's an excerpt from Climate Home: "Greenland is getting darker. Climatology’s great white hope, the biggest block of ice in the northern hemisphere, is losing its reflectivity. According to new research, the island’s dusty snows are absorbing ever more solar radiation, which is likely to accelerate the rate at which the icecap melts. The Greenland icecap covers 1.7 million square kilometres and contains enough ice to raise sea levels by seven metres. Right now, the rate of melting is on the increase, and meltwater flowing off the icecap could be raising sea levels by 0.6mm a year..."

Photo credit above: "Greenland’s white ice sheet is not as pristine as it looks." (Pic: NASA/Flickr).

Climate Scientists Step Up Search for "Holy Grail" of Million-Year-Old Ice. The Guardian has a story focused on getting an even longer ice core record; here's a clip: "Somewhere deep below the ice in Antarctica lies a time capsule. It’s the holy grail of climate science and promises to reveal the past and future of Earth’s atmosphere. And right now, scientists are meeting in Hobart to work out a plan to dig it up. The time capsule is ice that froze 1.5m years ago, capturing tiny bubbles of air, bringing a sample of the ancient atmosphere through time to the present day. There are already dozens of ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland. They are tubes of ice, sometimes several kilometres long, drilled from the ice sheet, which reveal a timeline of what the atmosphere was like over hundreds of millennia..."

Photo credit above: "Scientists are meeting in Hobart to work out a plan to find million-year-old ice in Antarctica." Photograph: Sam Crimmin.

Americans, Canadians Differ In Concern About Climate Change. The changes are taking place even faster at northern latitudes. Here's an excerpt from Pew Research Center: "...Canadians are more concerned than their American counterparts on a number of key issues related to climate change. For example, in Pew Research Center’s spring 2015 survey of 40 nations, 84% of Canadians supported an international agreement to limit their country’s greenhouse gas emissions, compared with 69% of Americans. This agreement was subsequently adopted at the Paris COP21 conference, but whether the United States will enact such an accord remains in question..."

Global Food Production Threatens to Overwhelm Efforts to Combat Climate Change. Here's the intro to an explainer at The Conversation: "Each year our terrestrial biosphere absorbs about a quarter of all the carbon dioxide emissions that humans produce. This a very good thing; it helps to moderate the warming produced by human activities such as burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests. But in a paper published in Nature today, we show that emissions from other human activities, particularly food production, are overwhelming this cooling effect. This is a worrying trend, at a time when CO₂ emissions from fossil fuels are slowing down, and is clearly not consistent with efforts to stabilise global warming well below 2℃ as agreed at the Paris climate conference..."

Image credit: "Rice cultivation is one of the ways food production pumps methane into the atmosphere." travel photography/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Plan For Climate Change and "Avoid Future Grief" Lawmakers Told. Here's an excerpt from Lincoln Journal Star: "Nebraska's devastating 2012 drought sapped Art Tanderup's Neligh-area farm, knocking his dryland corn yields to less than one-tenth of what they were last year. Scientists predict similar events will not only happen more frequently in coming decades, but could even become routine. "The data is pretty discouraging, especially for our children and grandchildren," Tanderup said. Man-made or not, climate change will threaten Nebraskans' lives and livelihoods this century, a host of witnesses told a panel of state lawmakers Tuesday..."

Jay Faison Seeks Partisan Path to Republican Support for Clean Energy. Here's the intro to a story at Charlotte Business Journal: "Charlotte entrepreneur Jay Faison says he has raised $2 million for what he intends to make a $5 million SuperPAC to push Republicans to support clean energy issues in Congressional campaigns across the country. Faison says the political action committee, ClearPath Action, has made no contributions to any campaigns as yet. But he expects to announce contributions soon..."

Photo credit above: "Charlotte entrepreneur Jay Faison and his ClearPath Foundation plan a series of online ads to draw a sharp partisan line on conservative clean energy solutions for Republicans." John Downey.

Mogul Opens Wallet to Lure Republicans to Embrace Clean Energy. More perspective on Jay Faison's ClearPath Foundation initiative at Bloomberg Politics: "Entrepreneur-turned-activist Jay Faison says Republicans’ political survival depends on embracing clean energy -- whether a candidate believes in climate change or not -- and he’s backing that up with tens of millions of dollars. "Our mission is to make conservative clean energy a priority for the GOP," Faison told reporters Tuesday in Washington, where he is opening a new office for his environmental foundation ClearPath. "It may take some time, but absolutely, we can do it. It’s critical for the longevity of the Republican party..."

Climate Super PAC Wants You To Choose Which Candidate It Will Back. Here's an update from Huffington Post: "Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are still locked in a heated battle for the Democratic presidential nomination. Which will get the backing of -- and maybe a boost from -- a political action committee specifically focused on climate change? Climate Hawks Vote, a super PAC created to mobilize voters and money behind candidates who push to address climate change, is holding its own primary contest to determine which Democrat it will endorse in the primary, if any..."

Photo credit: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press. "Which one would do more to fight climate change?"

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:
Are America's Cities Prepared for the Drought, Heat and Floods of Climate Change? 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..."

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