Monday, April 4, 2016

More March than April - Moral Action in a Changing Climate This Evening in Mahtomedi

42 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.
52 F. average high on April 3.
52 F. high on April 3, 2015.

April 5, 1999: Heavy snow falls over the Arrowhead, with 11 inches at Two Harbors.
April 5, 1929: A tornado cuts a path from Lake Minnetonka through North Minneapolis and leaves six dead.

Severe Weather Awareness In Your Vehicle

The average lead time for tornadoes has risen from 4 minutes to 13 minutes in the last 30 years. It's getting harder, with a straight face, to say "there was no warning!" But challenges remain.

A December 26, 2015 EF-4 tornado in Garland, Texas, near Dallas, claimed 9 lives; many swept off freeways as a tornado churned through the suburbs after dark. Impossible to see, illuminated by flashes of lightning, it represents a worst-case scenario. How do you adequately warn people in their cars? New digital billboards provide some level of warning. Another solution may be GPS-specific alerts on smartphones. Situational awareness is critical - knowing when there's a tornado watch in the area.

The atmosphere overhead will be too cool for anything severe into most of next week. The next storm pushes showers into town today and Wednesday; up north it may be cold enough for a couple inches of slush north of Duluth.

Spring stages a valiant comeback next weekend (50s likely - showers arrive on Sunday). Models suggest more sustained warmth by the 3rd week of April.

Yes, spring is fickle at this latitude.

* Garland, Texas tornado aftermath photo above courtesy of

Man Recalls Terrifying Tornado That Took His Wife's Life. This is the most terrifying and disturbing video I've ever seen of a direct hit from an (EF-4) tornado in Fairdale, Illinois on April 9, 2015. Here's an excerpt from ABC News: "Cell phone video captured a terrifying tornado that swept through an elderly man's home last year, killing his beloved wife of nearly 25 years. On April 9, 2015, Clem Schultz was at his home in Fairdale, Illinois, with his wife, Geraldine, known as Geri. "We just finished supper," Schultz, 85, told ABC News. "My wife called me in the kitchen. She said, 'Look out the window.' And sure enough I looked out -- we see this big, ugly tornado coming." "It looked like it was going to miss us," he said. Geri stayed in the kitchen while he went upstairs to get some lanterns. As the loud tornado loomed, Schultz decided to start recording cell phone video..." (more details on this wedge tornado from the Chicago National Weather Service).

Talking About The Weather - and 2016 Outlook. I'm looking forward to chatting up the weather with Vineeta Sawkar at The Star Tribune in downtown Minneapolis on April 13. Will El Nino flip-flop into a La Nina pattern? What are the implications for spring severe weather and possible drought later this year? This is Vineeta's final appearance at The Star Tribune. I hope you can come out, wish her well (and win a new umbrella?) What a deal. More details on the April 13 event here.

A Chilly Week. Highs hold in the 40s most of this week, bottoming out Saturday morning in the 20s before recovering next weekend. Payback for 9F warmer than average last month. Source: Aeris Enterprise.

Sloppy Into Thursday. Showery rains are likely today into Thursday; the 00z NAM model predicting .31" of (liquid) precipitation in the metro by Thursday as a series of weak clippers push across Minnesota.

Marching Backwards. Internal models sent out analert for 1.5" of slushy snow at Nisswa by Thursday evening at 6 pm.

Slush Potential Up North. 12 KM NAM guidance continues to hint at plowable 4-6" amounts for portions of the North Shore, maybe 2-3" of slush on lawns and fields in the Duluth area; even a coating for some metro lawns by Thursday night. Source: Aeris Weather.

Slow Mellowing Trend 3rd Week of April. After a nearly 2 week relapse temperatures begin to recover within 2 weeks as a moderate, Pacific flow returns with more persistent 50s, even a few days in the 60s.

Will La Nina Affect the 2016 Presidential Election? It's a generalization, but La Nina cool phases in the Pacific tend to favor drought and more numerous hurricanes. Dr. Mashall Shepherd takes a look at Forbes; here's an excerpt: "...Given the timing of a possible La NiƱa onset, it is not unreasonable to ask the question, “Could it affect the upcoming U.S. Presidential election in November?” This question is not as far fetched as you may think. Published research from the University of Georgia found that Hurricane Sandy may have affected voter turnout in some Northeast states. Previous studies have also indicated that extreme temperatures, rainfall or snowfall can suppress turnout among sporadic or less-intense voters, which often tend to vote Democrat. While some studies suggest adverse weather conditions favor Republicans, other studies  have also contradicted this premise. It is clear that weather does have some effect..."

More Frequent Extreme Precipitation Ahead for Western North America. Expect "atmospheric rivers" to enter the weather lexicon the way "polar vortex" did 2 years ago - here's the intro to a story at "It may sound like a routine forecast, but it's not. Results from a careful modeling study conducted by researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that western North America and Canada can expect a 28 percent increase in the number of extreme precipitation days, thanks to global climate warming. In addition, wintertime storm systems that often carry those extreme rainy days will hit the coast 35 percent more often in the future. The primary mechanism for these numbers is atmospheric rivers, narrow bands of tropical moisture streaming each winter season toward the U.S. west coast...."

Image credit above: "Pictured is the annual number of atmospheric river-related, extreme precipitation days overlaid a modeling output of atmospheric rivers. The shading indicates +/- one standard deviation of the  natural variability. The black and blue lines mark observations."

Saudi Arabia Prepares for Post-Oil Era. Here's a snippet of a story I never expected to read at Bloomberg: "Saudi Arabia is getting ready for the twilight of the oil age by creating the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund for the kingdom’s most prized assets. Over a five-hour conversation, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman laid out his vision for the Public Investment Fund, which will eventually control more than $2 trillion and help wean the kingdom off oil. As part of that strategy, the prince said Saudi will sell shares in Aramco’s parent company and transform the oil giant into an industrial conglomerate..."

A Renewable Energy Boom. A clean energy revolution is coming, faster than most people expected. Here's a snippet of an Op-Ed at The New York Times: "...Last year, for the first time, renewables accounted for a majority of new electricity-generating capacity added around the world, according to a recent United Nations report. More than half the $286 billion invested in wind, solar and other renewables occurred in emerging markets like China, India and Brazil — also for the first time. Excluding large hydroelectric plants, 10.3 percent of all electricity generated globally in 2015 came from renewables, roughly double the amount in 2007, according to the report. The average global cost of generating electricity from solar panels fell 61 percent between 2009 and 2015 and 14 percent for land-based wind turbines..."

ExxonMobil Is Increasingly Being Singled Out for Its Role in Climate Change Deceit. Here's the intro to an update at VICE News: "The US oil major ExxonMobil once faced just two state attorneys general who were investigating whether or not the company lied about climate change. But, the number of top prosecutors questioning the company grew to seventeen this week, just as another major philanthropic organization said it would divest from ExxonMobil. The New York Attorney General's office launched in November an investigation into whether ExxonMobil is guilty of making false or misleading statements to investors about climate change and its potential impact on the company's bottomline..."

Photo credit above: Gene J. Puskar/AP.

Tesla Model 3 Is Already World's Most Popular Electric Car. Newsweek has the latest numbers; here's an excerpt: "Tesla founder Elon Musk has revealed the firm’s much-anticipated Model 3 electric car has received 276,000 pre-orders worth almost $10 billion in just two days. At $35,000, the Model 3 is Tesla’s first vehicle to eschew a high-end price tag and aim squarely at mass-market adoption. The similarly priced Nissan Leaf electric car has sold more than any other pure-electric vehicle, passing the 200,000 unit milestone in December 2015..."

The Electric Car Revolution Is Now Scheduled for 2022. Six years away? Our grandkids won't think twice about driving EV. Gas-powered vehicles that are more expensive to produce and maintain may become the rough equivalent of rotary phones. Here's the intro to a story at "The long-awaited, oft-delayed electric car revolution is now scheduled for 2022. That’s according to a report from research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which posits that in just six years, the biggest obstacle to the sale of EVs—they cost too much—will be obliterated and cars that run on electricity will cost less than those that run on dead dinosaurs. “By 2022,” the report says, “the unsubsidized total cost of ownership of BEVs [battery electric vehicles] will fall below that of an internal combustion engine vehicle..."

File photo credit: Carolyn Kaster, AP.

Tesla, Elon Musk and Climate Change. Sorry - I can't help liking/respecting this guy. Here's an excerpt from an analysis at Slate: "...Will electric cars save the world? Not alone, they won’t. But moving to solar, wind, and nuclear power (as well as other carbon-neutral sources) to feed our energy-hungry machinery could very well be what we need to keep our planet from becoming an alien world. Musk recognizes that as well and has for some time now.* Tesla’s plan all along was to build high-end cars to finance the research needed to make the tech cheaper for mass market purposes, so eventually the market would support millions of all-electric vehicles, not thousands. The Tesla house battery, Solar City, even SpaceX—all of Musk’s projects have their eye on a future where we can put King Coal where he belongs, where he started: buried in the ground..."

Image credit above: "Musk stands in front of a chart showing the global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels (in ppm) over the past few hundred thousand years. Note the recent trend." Tesla, from the video.

The Invisible Catastrophe. The New York Times puts the recent Porter Ranch methane leak into perspective; here's an excerpt that caught my eye: "...In a paper published in the February issue of Science, Conley and his co-­authors estimate that 97,100 metric tons of methane escaped the Aliso Canyon well in total. Over a 20-year period, methane is estimated to have a warming effect on earth’s atmosphere 84 times that of carbon dioxide. By that metric, the Aliso Canyon leak produced the same amount of global warming as 1,735,404 cars in a full year..."

Image credit above: "A view of the neighborhood, Aliso Canyon and the methane wells (on the ridge)." Credit Ewan Telford for The New York Times.

TODAY: Light mix changes to showers - fairly unpleasant. Winds: SE 15-25. High: 47

TUESDAY NIGHT: More rain showers. Low: 37

WEDNESDAY: Lingering showers, still raw. Winds: NW 15-25. High: 46

THURSDAY: What spring? Flurries & sprinkles. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 34. High: 43

FRIDAY: Jacket-worthy, few flakes in the air. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 29. High: near 40

SATURDAY: Sunnier, drier day of the weekend. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 30. High: 52

SUNDAY: Growing chance of rain showers. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 44. High: 55

MONDAY: Partial clearing, a bit cooler. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 37. High: 47

Climate Stories....

Moral Solutions in a Changing Climate with Meteorologist Paul Douglas. I'm looking forward to this evening's presentation at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Mahtomedia. Here's an excerpt of a preview from The Stillwater Gazette: "...In his presentation, Douglas will also make the case that it’s imperative to act. “This is a moral issue,” he said. “Because the countries least responsible will bear the brunt of rising seas, spreading drought and climate refugees. Because someday your grand kids will ask, ‘What did you know … when … and what did you do to help?’” Citing Luke 16:2, Douglas asserts that future generations will hold those alive today responsible for today’s decisions, and he says people must act now to reduce reliance on carbon-based fuels and invest in carbon-clean alternatives..."

Climate Catastrophe, Coming Even Sooner? I realize (many) people shut down and tune out when they hear a story like this. "There's nothing we can do - so why do anything?" The reality is that there may still be time to avoid a worst-case scenario of Antarctic and Greenland ice melt, but the clock is ticking, and has been for the last few hundred years as greenhouse gases have ramped up in the atmosphere. Here's an excerpt of an Elizabeth Kolbert story at The New Yorker: "...The latest example comes from a study published Wednesday, in the journal Nature. “Antarctic Model Raises Prospect of Unstoppable Ice Collapse,” ran the headline in the news story that accompanied it. The new paper, coauthored by Rob DeConto, of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and David Pollard, of Pennsylvania State University, arose out of frustration. The two researchers had spent years working on a computer model that did not seem to capture rises in sea level that were already known to have taken place. Before the last ice age, about a hundred and twenty thousand years ago, for instance, sea levels were at least twenty feet higher than they are now. But DeConto and Pollard found that unless they programmed the model with temperatures that were unrealistically high for that period it could not account for such levels..."

Photo credit above: "New research indicates that, due to global warming, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) may be headed for an unavoidable and disastrous collapse, triggering a rapid rise in sea levels." Credit Photograph by Natacha Pisarenko/AP.

Climate Change Will Wipe $2.5 Trillion Off Global Financial Assets: Study. Here's a clip from The Guardian: "Climate change could cut the value of the world’s financial assets by $2.5tn (£1.7tn), according to the first estimate from economic modelling. In the worst case scenarios, often used by regulators to check the financial health of companies and economies, the losses could soar to $24tn, or 17% of the world’s assets, and wreck the global economy..."

Image credit above: "The economic impact of climate change could play havoc with the world economy, according to an LSE study." Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

How To Fight Climate Change? Put a Price on Pollution. We've done it before - it works. British Columbia has had a revenue-neutral tax on carbon since 2008 and the Canadian province is booming, economically. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Star Tribune: "...The risks of climate change may be uncertain, but actuaries price risk for insurance companies — an approach that could be adopted for gauging the cost-benefit calculation on limiting CO2 emissions. “Cap and trade” is an antipollution strategy that already has worked. In the days when Congress actually passed legislation, a law set limits on sulfur dioxide emissions that created the bane of “acid rain” in the 1970s. Result: A cap-and-trade program that reduced that pollutant by 85 percent. It cost about $3 billion but yielded benefits of $167 billion to $427 billion — effectively relegating “acid rain” to the dustbin of history. Economists making the dollars-and-cents case for action on climate change already often find themselves outside their comfort zone..."

Graphic credit: Star Tribune.

Northern Hemisphere Snowcover is Decreasing. No, you're not imagining it. Here's an excerpt from a post at WXshift: "Since satellites started collecting data in the early 1970s, there has been a trend toward less summer snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere. While most people might think of the summer as beach time, snow still covers a wide swath of land in the northern stretches of the globe. But over the past 50 years, that snow cover has been receding from a peak of 10.28 million square miles set in 1979 to a record low 3.69 million square miles set in 2013. Spring snow cover is also on the decline and this reduced snow cover is consistent with rising temperatures driving increased snowmelt..."

We've Been Getting These Key Details About Greenland's Melting All Wrong. It's not just surface temperature increases and carbon soot accelerating melting of ice; it's also surrounding water. The Washington Post reports; here's an excerpt: "...It’s also believed that warm ocean water can help destabilize glaciers from the bottom up, melting the ice where it’s grounded to the seafloor and eventually causing large chunks to break away. Truffer pointed out that it’s “only in the last 10-plus years that people really started realizing how much of a role melting by ocean water played.” So scientists are still getting a handle on the kinds of information we need to really understand the process. And one under-studied part of the picture is underwater topography..."

Even in a Warming World, It Will Still Snow Somewhere. God help us if it stops snowing during the winter, but snowfall patterns are becoming more sparse and erratic - continuous snow on the ground from October to March is no longer a given, even in Minnesota. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "...Adam H. Sobel, a climate scientist at Columbia University who wrote a recent book on Hurricane Sandy and extreme weather, reminds people to make sure to differentiate between weather and climate. If you really want to know what is going on with climate change, he said, look at the long-term averages over large areas. Do not be fooled by short-term weather fluctuations, or by distractions like snowballs..."

Photo credit above: "If you really want to know what is going on with climate change, climate scientists urge looking at long-term averages over large areas. A snow storm on Capitol Hill does not mean climate change is not happening." Credit Drew Angerer for The New York Times.

The Southwest May Have Entered a "Drier Climate State". Here's a good summary of new research findings, courtesy of WXshift: "The Southwest is already the most arid part of the U.S. Now new research indicates it’s becoming even more dry as wet weather patterns, quite literally, dry up. The change could herald a pattern shift and raises the specter of megadrought in the region. “We see a very intense trend in the Southwest,” Andreas Prein, a postdoctoral researcher at the National Corporation for Atmospheric Research, said. “The Southwest might already have drifted into a drier climate state...”

There's a Reason Why Some Birds Don't Seem to Fly South for Winter Anymore, Scientists Say. The Washington Post has a summary of new research confirming the obvious: "...Thursday’s study supports previous research commissioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that said warming temperatures are altering the habitat ranges of birds in every state, so much so that the mascot of Baltimore’s baseball team — the oriole — might no longer inhabit the Baltimore-Washington region 30 years from now. The same is true for eagles. As the area warms and dries, they would have to find other habitats, possibly fight other species for a place there, and quickly adapt or possibly perish, a study published two years ago by the National Audubon Society says. Of 588 species studied, about 125 were expected to be pushed from half their range and likely decline..."

Photo credit above: "The American robin, a familiar species across much of the continental United States, has declined in some southern states, such as Mississippi and Louisiana, but increased in north-central states, such as the Dakotas." (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

Climate Model Predicts West Antarctica Ice Sheet Could Melt Rapidly. In case you missed the Justin Gillis story at The New York Times; here's a clip: "For half a century, climate scientists have seen the West Antarctic ice sheet, a remnant of the last ice age, as a sword of Damocles hanging over human civilization. The great ice sheet, larger than Mexico, is thought to be potentially vulnerable to disintegration from a relatively small amount of global warming, and capable of raising the sea level by 12 feet or more should it break up. But researchers long assumed the worst effects would take hundreds — if not thousands — of years to occur. Now, new research suggests the disaster scenario could play out much sooner..."

Photo credit above: "A view from a NASA airplane of large icebergs that have broken from the calving side of Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica in November 2014. A disaster scenario of West Antarctic ice sheet disintegration could occur much sooner than previously thought, new research suggests." Credit Jim Yungel/NASA.

With Climate Change, U.S. States Routinely Achieving New Levels of Extreme Warmth. Jason Samenow has the story at Capital Weather Gang; here's a snippet: "In globe’s warmed climate today, U.S. states are setting new records for extreme warmth with regularity while record cold is almost impossible to come by. The huge disparity between record warmth and cold across the United States is the screaming message portrayed in a slide showing state climate records. It was posted to social media Wednesday by Deke Arndt, chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration..."

Map credit above: "Climate warming in U.S. from 1991-2012 compared to 1901-1960 average." (National Climate Assessment, 2014).

Its Hazy, But China's Carbon Emissions May Have Peaked. Here's a clip from a story at The New York Times: "...Now, some researchers examining recent data from the slowing Chinese economy are asking whether emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, are already falling in China — more than a decade earlier than expected. If so, there could be important consequences. China’s success could energize worldwide efforts to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or two degrees Celsius, above preindustrial levels, considered a difficult mission but critical for forestalling catastrophic environmental changes..."

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