Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Light-Switch Spring: 60s Today, 70s Thursday & Friday

49 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.
56 F. average high on April 12.
75 F. high on April 12, 2015.

Trace of rain yesterday at KMSP.
Trace of snow reported.

April 13, 1949: A late-season snowstorm dumps over 9 inches in parts of the Twin Cities metro area.

Tell Me a Story - Spring Back on Fast-Forward!

"The history of storytelling isn't one of simply entertaining the masses but of also advising, instructing, challenging the status quo" wrote Therese Fowler. It's in our collective DNA to respond to stories.

I use Twitter, but context, analysis and perspective will never quite fit into a 140-character tweet. I have yet to meet a Minnesotan who doesn't have a story, anecdote or opinion about the weather.

I look forward to chatting up severe weather with Vineeta Sawker at the Star Tribune, today at noon. Please, only easy questions. I'm serious.

Our temporarily-stunted spring gets a lime-green makeover in the days to come as temperatures push toward 70F. I predict precious little will get done the next 3-4 days. Saturday looks mild and springy; a growing chance of showers Sunday into Tuesday as a storm lifts north across the Plains. A free lawn-watering. Nothing severe, not yet. Give it 2-3 weeks.

Speaking of stories, now is a good time to review a severe storm action plan with your kids. Where would you go, what would you do? If you're prepared you can weather anything.

Hennepin County Apologizes for 6 AM Wake-Up Sirens. There's no tornado, but get your butt out of bed! Just wait until hackers figure out how to do this. Here's a video link and story excerpt at Star Tribune: "Residents across Hennepin County got an early wake up call Tuesday morning when civil defense sirens sounded just after 6 a.m. Sirens sounded all across the state’s most populous county despite there being no emergency or weather issues, said Jon Collins, a county spokesman. “It was a false alarm,” he said. The sheriff’s office, in a statement, said the sirens are tested internally daily — a test that does not sound the sirens. Tuesday there was a “momentary computer hardware malfunction during the daily test,” the statement said. The system has since been repaired and is functioning normally..."

4 PM Thursday. NOAA's 4 KM NAM (technically: NEMS NMMB 4K NAM Conus Nest if anyone asks) predicts low 70s for the metro by mid-afternoon Thursday; a shot at 80F over west central Minnesota. Job productivity and test scores will suffer. Source: AerisWeather.

Friday: Distractingly Nice. If you can't sneak out today or tomorrow Friday should be just as nice, in theory, with low 70s in the Twin Cities metro area. Winds will be gusty, but few will be whining about the weather. Source: Aeris Enterprise.

10-Day Rainfall Prediction. NOAA's GFS model keeps the bulk of the rain to our west across the Dakotas; ECMWF brings a rainy swirl into southern Minnesota Monday and Tuesday. Confidence levels are low, but dry weather should prevail into Saturday, possibly Sunday. There's at least a chance of significant rain early next week.

"Godzilla" El Nino is Dead. And now there's at least a 50% probability of a La Nina cooling phase by late summer or autumn, according to NOAA. Here's the introduction to a story at Capital Weather Gang: "It was going to be an El Niño to end all El Niños. The warmest ocean temperature anomalies on record blossomed in its core, the largest area of exceptionally warm water ever seen in the tropical Pacific. The California drought was death watch — it would bring “one storm after another like a conveyor belt.” It was named Godzilla. And now it’s dead. RIP, Godzilla El Niño. Over the past few weeks, the equatorial Pacific has been cooling..."

Image credit: "Bye-bye, El Niño." (earth.nullschool.net)

More Active Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast for 2016. Based on sliding into a La Nina phase of ENSO, which favors lighter winds over the tropics - increasing the potential for hurricane development in the Caribbean and Atlantic. At some point the "hurricane drought" will come to a crashing end. Here's an excerpt from MSN.com: "Early forecasts from meteorologists suggest the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season will be more active than normal partly because of the expected end of the El Nino weather pattern in the next few months. Weather forecasters have linked the El Nino phenomenon, which is a warming of the water in the central Pacific Ocean, to weak hurricane seasons in the Atlantic. The current El Nino, which started early last year, was the strongest since 1997 and is expected to end in the late spring or early summer, according to the U.S. Climate Prediction Center..." (File image of Hurricane Joaquin: NOAA).

Tree-Shredding, Window-Breaking Hail. Seems relevant during Severe Weather Awareness Week in Minnesota. Check out the video from CBS Dallas' Facebook site: "Incredible Hail Video - So much for a relaxing day off! CBS11 photojournalist Jake Shannon just sent us this video of hail crashing through his living room windows in Wylie..."

The Science Behind Tornadoes. What They Are and How They Form. A tornado isn't so much an object as a "process". Here's some very good advice from Canada's Globalnews.ca: "...And while the public is fascinated with tornadoes, stopping to record one can put you in extreme danger. Even though you might think the tornado is at a safe distance, it’s important to remember that there is no safe distance: the tornado could change direction (it’s often difficult to tell in which direction it’s moving) and the main source of injury and death isn’t the tornado itself, but the debris that can be flung at great distances and at tremendous speeds."

10 Damaging Facts About the Fujita Scale. Tornadoes are rated based on the extent of damage they inflict; here's an excerpt from Mental Floss: "...The Enhanced Fujita Scale is as much about engineering as it is about the weather. Meteorologists teamed up with engineers to figure out just how strong winds have to be to cause certain levels of damage. They use 28 different categories to survey damage to objects ranging from trees and barns to sturdy buildings like schools or prisons. For example, a tornado collapsing the walls at a box store like Walmart would likely make the tornado an EF-3 with winds near 140 mph. If a tornado struck a hospital and deformed the entire structure, the expected wind speeds would be in excess of 200 mph, making the tornado an EF-5..."

Photo credit above: "An F5 tornado approaches Oklahoma City on May 3, 1999." Image credit: NSSL NOAA via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0.

NASA Snaps 3-D Pics of Weather From Space. Here's the intro to an interesting story posted at space.com: "You might assume that all raindrops are the same, but scientists say that's not the case. And they now have the pictures to prove it. Thanks to a research effort by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, researchers have taken the first 3-D snapshots of precipitation - both raindrops and snowflakes - from the vantage point of space. The pictures were taken from the GPM Core Observatory, a satellite launched in 2014 that's a collaboration between the two nations..."

Image credit above: "This image shows how the size and distribution of raindrops varies within a storm.  Blues and greens represent small raindrops that are 0.5-3.0 millimeters in size. Yellows, oranges and reds represent larger raindrops that are 4-6mm in size.  A storm with a higher ratio of yellows, oranges and reds will contain more water than a storm with a higher ratio of blues and greens." Credit: NASA/Goddard.
This image shows how the size and distribution of raindrops varies within a storm. Blues and greens represent small raindrops that are 0.5-3.0 millimeters in size. Yellows, oranges and reds represent larger raindrops that are 4-6mm in size. A storm with a higher ratio of yellows, oranges, and reds will contain more water than a storm with a higher ratio of blues and greens.
Credit: NASA/Goddard - See more at: http://www.space.com/32471-nasa-3d-pics-weather-from-space-gpm.html#sthash.5bk6w3qI.dpuf
You might assume that all raindrops are the same, but scientists say that's not the case. And they now have the pictures to prove it.
Thanks to a research effort by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, researchers have taken the first 3-D snapshots of precipitation — both raindrops and snowflakes — from the vantage point of space.
The pictures were taken from the GPM Core Observatory, a satellite launched in 2014 that's a collaboration between the two nations. GPM's mission is to gain a better understanding of Earth's water and energy cycles and provide better forecasting of extreme events that cause natural disasters.
- See more at: http://www.space.com/32471-nasa-3d-pics-weather-from-space-gpm.html#sthash.5bk6w3qI.dpuf

201 Years Ago This Volcano Caused a Climate Catastrophe. And there hasn't been anything quite on this scale since, explains National Geographic; here's a clip: "On April 10, 1815, Indonesia’s island of Sumbawa became ground zero for the worst volcanic eruption in modern times—and a chilling example of a widespread climate catastrophe. The Tambora event was the largest volcanic eruption in the last millennium. On the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Explosivity Index, Tambora scores a seven out of eight. That’s ten times bigger than the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption and a hundred times more powerful than the 1981 Mount St. Helens blast..."

Image credit above: "This detailed astronaut photograph depicts the summit caldera of the Tambora volcano." Photograph: NASA Earth Observatory.

National Weather Service Will Stop Using All Caps In Its Forecasts. HOORAY! Here's an excerpt from NOAA: "New forecast software is allowing the agency to break out of the days when weather reports were sent by “the wire” over teleprinters, which were basically typewriters hooked up to telephone lines. Teleprinters only allowed the use of upper case letters, and while the hardware and software used for weather forecasting has advanced over the last century, this holdover was carried into modern times since some customers still used the old equipment..."

National Weather Service Forecasts "Will Stop Yelling At You". More perspective at The New York Times.

The Absurd Primacy of the Automobile in American Life. Will our grandkids or great grandkids look back and wonder "what were they thinking?" We'll see. Here's an illuminating excerpt from a story at The Atlantic: "...A big part of why they’ve stuck around is that they are the epitome of convenience. That’s the allure and the promise that’s kept drivers hooked, dating all the way back to the versatile, do-everything Ford Model T. Convenience (some might call it freedom) is not a selling point to be easily dismissed—this trusty conveyance, always there, always ready, on no schedule but its owner’s. Buses can’t do that. Trains can’t do that. Even Uber makes riders wait. But convenience, along with American history, culture, rituals, and man-machine affection, hide the true cost and nature of cars. And what is that nature? Simply this: In almost every way imaginable, the car, as it is deployed and used today, is insane..."

Wind and Solar are Crushing Fossil Fuels. You can thank Moore's Law for that - and the fact that every mature industry gets disrupted. Here's the intro to a story at Bloomberg: "Wind and solar have grown seemingly unstoppable. While two years of crashing prices for oil, natural gas, and coal triggered dramatic downsizing in those industries, renewables have been thriving. Clean energy investment broke new records in 2015 and is now seeing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels. One reason is that renewable energy is becoming ever cheaper to produce..."

Graphic credit above: "Investment in Power Capacity, 2008-2015" Source: BNEF, UNEP.

Researchers Fly Over 8,000 Well Pads and Find Hundreds of Methane Leaks. Over a 20-year time horizon methane has 84 times the warming effect of CO2. Here's an excerpt from PublicSource: "As Pennsylvania’s natural gas production continues to expand, so does the possibility of potentially harmful methane emissions. A new study from scientists in the Environmental Defense Fund’s Oil and Gas program examined the most common sites for methane leaks at oil and gas pads nationwide. A team of researchers partnered with Gas Leaks Inc., a company that uses infrared technology to inspect well pads, to fly a helicopter over thousands of pads in seven regions in the United States. In total, the researchers flew over 8,000 pads in areas saturated by drilling, including North Dakota’s Bakken Shale and the Marcellus Shale in Southwestern Pennsylvania..."

Image credit: WCN 24/7 / Flickr.

Zika "Scarier Than We Initially Thought", U.S. Officials Say. No kidding. Here's the intro to an update at TIME: "The situation surrounding the Zika virus appears more complex and difficult the more experts learn about it, federal health authorities reported on Monday. During a White House press briefing, Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC told reporters, “Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought...”

A Zika Catastrophe Could Rival Hurricane Katrina. Alarmist hype? I sure hope so. Here's an excerpt of a story at The Atlantic: "...Hotez also points to the poorest urban areas of coastal Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Florida as particularly at-risk. “This could be a catastrophe to rival Hurricane Katrina or other recent miseries that disproportionately affect the poor,” he wrote in an essay for The New York Times on Friday. Which means that scientists and doctors shouldn’t be the only officials scrambling to plan for a potential public-health crisis. Because a vaccine for Zika won’t be developed in time for this year’s mosquito season—if ever—Hotez says aggressive mosquito-control and environmental cleanup is urgently needed, especially in poor urban areas..."

Map credit above: "The estimated range for two species of mosquitoes that could spread Zika in the United States." (CDC)

The Rich Live Longer Everywhere. For The Poor, Geography Matters. Here's an excerpt from an eye-opening story at The New York Times: "...The poor in some cities — big ones like New York and Los Angeles, and also quite a few smaller ones like Birmingham, Ala. — live nearly as long as their middle-class neighbors or have seen rising life expectancy in the 21st century. But in some other parts of the country, adults with the lowest incomes die on average as young as people in much poorer nations like Rwanda, and their life spans are getting shorter. In those differences, documented in sweeping new research, lies an optimistic message: The right mix of steps to improve habits and public health could help people live longer, regardless of how much money they make..."

Map credit above: "Life expectancy of 40-year-olds with household incomes below $28,000, adjusted for race".

An Antiquated Business Model. A Horde of Upstart Competitors. Does NPR Have a Future? I sure hope so, but even the Mother Ship of public radio, quality radio, is feeling waves of digital disruption. Here's an excerpt at Slate: "...The debate also raised an even thornier and as-yet-unanswered question: What is the value of NPR’s core journalistic offerings—the brief, sober dispatches that air every day on its flagship shows Morning Edition and All Things Considered—in an age when its terrestrial audience is growing older and younger listeners seem to prefer addictive, irreverent, and entertaining podcasts over the news? The critics say NPR has been standing with its toes in the ocean for too long, curbing its digital ambitions in order to appease legacy radio stations. As its competitors dash into the waves, the question of whether NPR can ever catch up, and what will become of it if it doesn’t, has become increasingly urgent..."

Image credit: Animations by Lisa Larson-Walker. Images via Flickr CC.

Have Fun Trying to Reach the Poles of Inaccessibility. 'Wanna get away? I mean REALLY get away? Then check out this article at Atlas Obscura; here's the intro: "Everyone wants to get away, but how far can you actually get? Geography has the answer in the world’s poles of inaccessibility. These remote points are said to be the hardest points to reach on the globe, based on the fact that they are furthest from a point of access—that is, a coast. There is one on nearly every continent (Europe and Asia are considered together), and even a couple out at sea for those who want to get as far away from land as possible. Here is the location of each major point of inaccessibility on Earth for those looking to truly get out there..."

The Most Out of Touch Places in America. We all live in our bubbles, but who's bubble is biggest? Here's an excerpt of an interesting read at The Washington Post: "...Last week, Murray revealed he calls the “bubbliest” places in America — where children grow up the most isolated from mainstream white culture. Most of the 75 zipcodes that Murray identifies as top incubators of fancy people are located in major cities or wealthy suburbs of major cities. These places tend to have high median incomes and high rates of college attainment. The upper-crustiest place was the Upper East Side. People who grew up there scored a median 12.5 out of 100 on the working-class empathy quiz. Zipcodes in New York, Washington, D.C., and the Bay Area were particularly well-represented on the list..." (File photo: NASA ISS).

Watch This Video of a Dog Flying a Plane. Does this guy know that the FAA has access to the internet? Now I've officially seen everything - here's a clip from one of my favorite sites: Atlas Obscura: "You might be thinking at this very moment that you've reached a certain age and that you've, you know, seen things. Maybe you're also thinking, perhaps a bit smugly, that you've seen everything. The above video is here to prove you wrong. Have you, for example, ever seen a dog fly a small plane in the shape of a figure eight? I'm going to gently propose that you probably haven't..."

TODAY: Partly sunny, balmy. Winds: S 8-13. High: 67

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Clear to partly cloudy. Low: 50

THURSDAY: Blue sky, feels like May. Winds: S 10-20. High: 71

FRIDAY: Gusty with fading sun, punching out early. Winds: S 15-25. Wake-up: 53. High: 72

SATURDAY: Lukewarm sun, the nicer day of the weekend. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 56. High: 72

SUNDAY: Peeks of sun, stray T-shower? Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 55. High: 71

MONDAY: Better chance of showers, T-storms. Winds: E 10-20. Wake-up: 57. High: 68

TUESDAY: Periods of rain, a bit cooler. Winds: E 10-15. Wake-up: 50. High: 59

Climate Stories...

This Is What Climate Change Means for You. Here's an excerpt from Popular Science: "...As climate changes, pests carrying diseases are likely to be on the move, expanding their territory or migrating to more favorable conditions. Lyme disease is already spreading far beyond New England as temperatures in the Midwest become more welcoming for ticks. Pollen and allergens are also likely to increase dramatically if air pollution isn't curbed, and warmer temperatures lead to longer growing seasons for flowering plants like ragweed. With warmer winters, we're all sneezing through longer pollen seasons, and researchers think that hospitalizations due to allergies and asthma could increase by 2030..."

File image of noctilucent clouds: NASA.

NASA: Global Warming Is Now Changing How Earth Wobbles. Nothing to worry about here folks - please move along! Here's an excerpt from AP and Sci-Tech Today: "Global warming is shifting the way the Earth wobbles on its polar axis, a new NASA study finds. Melting ice sheets -- especially in Greenland -- are changing the distribution of weight on Earth. And that has caused both the North Pole and the wobble, which is called polar motion, to change course, according to a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances. Scientists and navigators have been accurately measuring the true pole and polar motion since 1899 and for almost the entire 20th century they migrated a bit toward Canada. But that has changed with this century and now it's moving toward England, said study lead author Surendra Adhikari at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab..."

Wildfires, Once Confined to a Season, Burn Earlier and Longer. Here's a snippet from The New York Times: "...Fires, once largely confined to a single season, have become a constant threat in some places, burning earlier and later in the year, in the United States and abroad. They have ignited in the West during the winter and well into the fall, have arrived earlier than ever in Canada and have burned without interruption in Australia for almost 12 months. A leading culprit is climate change. Drier winters mean less moisture on the land, and warmer springs are pulling the moisture into the air more quickly, turning shrub, brush and grass into kindling. Decades of aggressive policies that called for fires to be put out as quickly as they started have also aggravated the problem. Today’s forests are not just parched; they are overgrown..."

Photo credit above: "A wildfire burned in an area northeast of Phoenix in March. Officials across the country say they are preparing for a difficult fire season this year." Credit Heber-Overgaard Fire District

21 American Kids are Suing the Government For Not Doing Enough about Global Warming. When the lawyers get involved watch out - just ask tobacco industry executives. Andrew Freedman explains at Mashable; here's his intro: "A precedent-setting global warming lawsuit will advance to a District Court judge in Oregon, thanks to 21 young Americans, ages 8 to 19. The unconventional group of plaintiffs want to hold the federal government accountable for failing to act swiftly and effectively to curb the emissions of greenhouse gases causing human-caused global warming.  Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin found that the plaintiff's case is "unprecedented" but that it has merit and should proceed, rather than being tossed out of court like many other climate-related lawsuits have been..."

Photo credit above: "Students from Edison Elementary School joining climate change activists in front of the Wayne Morse Federal Courthouse in Eugene, Oregon on March 9, 2016." Image: Brian Davies/The Register-Guard via AP.

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