Monday, May 2, 2016

Intense Case of Spring Fever This Week - Will Middle East & Africa be Unlivable by Mid-Century?

67 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday under a flawless sky.
65 F. average high on May 2.
80 F. high temperature on May 2, 2015.

May 3, 1905: A 'mixed bag of weather' occurs in Minnesota. Western Minnesota is pelted with hail, while snow falls over the Arrowhead.

Enjoying a Supernaturally Quiet Spring - 80 Degrees by Friday

The older I get the less I take for granted. Like a supernaturally quiet spring in Minnesota. Cue the lightning and EF-5 tornado.

Think about it: we could be tracking tornadoes, swollen rivers or even blizzards in early May. On this date just 3 years ago shell-shocked residents of Blooming Prairie, Minnesota were digging out from 18 inches of snow. Meanwhile today's record high at MSP is 93F, set in 1949. It's still amazing (to me) that the same geography can have such wild swings from year to year.

El Nino has faded but its symptoms limp on; the wettest storms tracking south of Minnesota, sparking flooding rains along the Gulf coast.

A couple of tornadoes and funnels were spotted over southern Minnesota on April 24, but there have been no reports of wind damage or large hail. I'm not complaining.

Wisconsin stands the best chance of a late-day shower Tuesday; low 70s before a brief cool-down Wednesday. We warm into the low 80s on Friday before a gradual weekend cooling trend. Heavier, widespread rains are possible early next week.

Until then I'll be twiddling my thumbs, the Doppler unplugged. Which could be interpreted as very good news.

Breaking News: PM Shower Risk/Opportunity. If it rains it may be just enough to settle the dust. NAM's 4 KM (WRF) run shows a line of showers sprouting close to the metro later today, but the heaviest, most widespread rains fall across Wisconsin. 60-hour accumulated rainfall: AerisWeather.

Precious Little Will Get Done on Friday. Temperatures approach or just top 70F today, again Thursday, but Friday looks like the best day to take the shorts and T-shirts for a test-drive. Winds are forecast to swing around to the north Saturday as temperatures fall through the 60s - Sunday looks like the nicer day of the weekend right now. Meteogram: WeatherSpark.

Safe To Plant Annuals? The old adage is "wait until Mother's Day to plant tender vegetables and flowers", which seems like a pretty good rule of thumb to me. GFS guidance hints at mid-30s Thursday morning of next week in the suburbs. I think another light frost is unlikely for the immediate metro, but greater Minnesota? 1 in 3 shot - I wouldn't rule it out entirely. Source: Aeris Enterprise.

June Forecast to Trend (Slightly) Warmer Than Average. The map above is the latest CFSv2 (Climate Forecast System) outlook for June temperature anomalies, courtesy of NOAA CPC. Minnesota temperatures are forecast to run 1-3F warmer than long-term averages, the most extreme temperature anomalies forecast for far northern Canada, continuing a trend we've been tracking for many months. Map: WeatherBell.

IRI ENSO Forecast. Models show a rapid transition from El Nino warm phase to a (weak) La Nina cooling phase in the Pacific in the months to come. Here's an excerpt of an explanation at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society: "...The first plot (above) shows the ensemble mean predictions of each of the individual models, and also the average of the individual model predictions (the NMME). Here, the NMME average is not weighted by the number of ensemble members in the individual models. This plot is intended to provide some idea of the disagreement among the individual models. Corrections for systematic biases are not done. Predictions of ENSO are probabilistic. The ensemble mean prediction it is only a best single guess. On either side of that prediction, there is a substantial uncertainty distribution, or error tolerance..."

The Awe-Inspiring Growth of the U.S. Solar Industry. A few very interesting and encouraging statistical nuggets in a Huffington Post story; here's an excerpt: "...Solar’s costs have come down to the point that we regularly see contracts for utility-scale solar power under 5 cents per kilowatt-hour – making solar, in many cases, a cost-competitive option for utilities. Last year our country added more solar than new natural gas capacity for the first time ever – and you can bet it won’t be the last. In fact, there have been times this year when California, one of the world’s largest economies, has gotten third of its power from the sun. It hasn’t always been sunny on the road to a million solar installations. Although there is sustained double-digit market and job growth, there have also been naysayers, big-moneyed opposition, nasty electoral politics, and stumbles from an industry in its early stages..." (Image credit: Solar City).

Selling Bottled Water That's Better for the Planet. Here's an excerpt of an interesting read at The New York Times: "...As Ms. Jeon sees it, she is making the best of a bad situation. The paper used for her bottles is sourced from trees that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The bottles, which are fully recyclable, are made of 53 percent paper; the rest of the bottle is made of plastic and a small amount of aluminum. Last month, Just Water released a new bottle with the top portion made of plant-based plastic derived from sugar cane. All told, she said, her product is less harmful to the environment and creates fewer carbon emissions than energy-intensive plastic..."

Photo credit above: "Just Water’s bottle is made of 53 percent paper, sourced from trees that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The rest is plant-based plastic, along with a small amount of aluminum." Credit Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times.

A Visual Guide to 11 of the World's Most Baffling Theme Parks. Like Wunderland Kalkar, in Kalkar, Germany, where you can climb to the top of an old nuclear power plant cooling tower for fun, as described at Atlas Obscura: "...Theme: A repurposed nuclear power plant. The giant tower in the middle of this German theme park doesn't just look like a nuclear cooling tower, it used to be one. The park was built on the site of an old nuclear plant in the 1990s. The cooling tower has a swing ride inside of it and a climbing wall built onto the outside..."

Photo credit: "Maybe the only place where climbing to the top of a nuclear silo is recommended." (Photo: Koetjuh/Public Domain).

It's Official: We've Run Out of News. I don't mean to pick on Lester Holt, who I watch nightly on KARE-11. He does a terrific job, in my humble opinion. Then again I'm biased, having worked with Lester in Chicago, where I found him to be a gifted reporter, a tenacious communicator, and a good guy. The kind of guy you'd want to have a beer with. Or maybe a skinny, decaf iced-latte. But really? Zika virus, ISIS, Syrian refugees, Ted Cruz and...too much ice? Yes, the public has a right to know. But Lester, you have our permission to head to the nearest Starbucks and waterboard the executive producer of your nightly newscast with a Venti Iced Caramel Macchiato.

TODAY: Sunny start, PM shower or T-shower possible. Winds: W 15-25. High: 71

TUESDAY NIGHT: Clearing and cooler. Low: 44

WEDNESDAY: Sunny and cooler, fresh breeze. Winds: N 10-20. High: 63

THURSDAY: Plenty of sun, turning milder. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 43. High: near 70

FRIDAY: Weekend starts early. Warm sunshine. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 52. High: 82

SATURDAY: Passing shower, cooler breeze. Winds: N 10-20. Wake-up: 60. High: 69

SUNDAY: More sun, the drier, nicer day of the weekend. Winds: E 7-12. Wake-up: 51. High: near 70

MONDAY: Showers return, chance of thunder.  Wake-up: 53. High: 67

Climate Stories...

Scientists Find More Reasons that Greenland Will Melt Faster. Tipping points and "unknown unknowns". Here's a clip from a Chris Mooney story at The Washington Post: "...The more we learn about this crucial yet inscrutable place, the more worrying it seems. The latest exhibit: New research out of Greenland conducted by Dartmouth earth sciences Ph.D. student Kristin Schild and two university colleagues — work that has just been published in the Annals of Glaciology. The study examined the 5.5-kilometer-wide Rink Glacier of West Greenland, with particular focus on how meltwater on the ice sheet’s surface actually finds its way underneath Rink, pours out in the key undersea area described above and speeds up the glacier’s melt..."

Photo credit above: "Photograph of Torsukatat Avannarleq, a tidewater glacier in West Greenland, with 2 visible sediment plumes at its terminus. These plumes are made up of glacier meltwater that has traveled under the glacier, gathering eroded material, and buoyantly floated to the surface after entering the ocean." This photograph was taken in July 2014 by Adam LeWinter, US Army Corps of Engineers, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory.

Arctic Sea Ice Monitoring Satellites Are Dying: Here's Why You Should Care. Here's an excerpt of an explanation from Dr. Marshall Shepherd at Forbes: "...Sea ice affects the large scale global ocean circulation patterns as well as weather patterns. Professor Tom Mote is a hydroclimatologist and head of the Geography Department at the University of Georgia. He studies Greenland and other cryospheric processes. He says,
The long-term record of sea ice, in particular, is important to our understanding of the Arctic. Reductions in sea ice amplify warming in the Arctic by increasing the absorption of sunlight (i.e., the ice-albedo feedback). Some scientists believe that a warmer Arctic may change the path of the jet stream, altering weather over further south, including the U.S. (See this paper for a summary of the literature).
Climate models have been conservative with sea ice decline. They have underestimated the amount of change in many cases..."

Graphic credit above: "Actual decline vs model projections." Source:

Interior Chief: "We Will Have Climate Refugees". People have already been forced off their land by rising seas in coastal Louisiana and Alaska - this may just be the tip of the (rapidly melting) iceberg. Here's the intro to a story at TheHill: "Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is warning that, regardless of governments’ work to combat climate change, the United States and other countries will have to deal with populations displaced by its effects. “We can stem the increase in temperature. We can stem some of the effects, perhaps, if we act on climate as we are committed to do through the Paris accords,” Jewell said in Ottawa on Thursday, the Canadian Press reports. “But the changes are underway and they are very rapid. We will have climate refugees...” (File photo: Andrew Demp, Yale).

Researchers Aim To Put Carbon Dioxide Back to Work. Will someone figure out cost-effective, scalable carbon sequestration? I wouldn't bet against it. Here's the intro to a story at The New York Times: "Think, for a moment, of carbon dioxide as garbage, a waste product from burning fossil fuels. Like other garbage, almost all of that CO2 is thrown away — into the atmosphere, where it contributes to climate change. A small amount is captured and stored underground to keep it out of the air. But increasingly, scientists are asking, rather than throwing away or storing CO2, how about recycling some of it? At laboratories around the world, researchers are working on ways to do just that. The X Prize Foundation has created an incentive, a $20 million prize for teams that by 2020 come up with technologies to turn CO2 captured from smokestacks of coal- or gas-fired power plants into useful products..."

Impact of Warming on Middle East and Northern Africa Could be Devastating. The Daily Mail has an article highlighting new research and projections that made me do a double-take. Yes, I hope the scientists are wrong. Here's an excerpt: "...Lelieveld and his team concluded that if Earth's temperature were to increase on average only be two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industraial times the temperature in summer in these regions will increase more than twofold. By mid-century,  during the warmest periods, temperatures will not fall below 30 degrees at night, and during daytime they could rise to 46 degrees Celsius  (approximately 114 degrees Fahrenheit). By the end of the century, midday temperatures on hot days could even climb to 50 degrees Celsius (approximately 122 degrees Fahrenheit)..."

What 90,000 Indigenous People Said About Climate Change. Here's a clip from a story at Fusion: "...Overall, about 70% of the participating communities reported observing changes in the timing and nature of seasons, rainfall, and temperature in a manner that affects critical elements of their livelihood such as fishing, hunting, food gathering, and crop growing. The study’s authors note the significance of the “secondary impacts” of climate change, such as the challenge of producing food in a changing environment, calling these impacts “extensive” and threatening to both wild and domesticated plants and animals..."

Why We Fear Spiders More Than Climate Change. Processing future risks is not something we're terribly good at as a species - not yet. Here's an excerpt at Bloomberg View: "...Evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behavior can be understood only by studying our ancient ancestors. Through 99 percent of human history, they lived in small groups of hunter-gatherers, with brains evolved to handle specific tasks, such as recognizing quickly a poisonous reptile or the emotions and intentions betrayed by facial expressions. The kind of rational thinking needed to weigh payoffs far in the future developed only recently, in the last 1 percent of our existence...."

Global Warming and Heat Concerns Rise, Report Suggests. Here's a snippet from Tampa Bay Review: "...The report states that, “Republicans are not a monolithic block of global warming policy opponents, rather, liberal (and) moderate Republicans are often part of the mainstream of public opinion on climate change, while conservative Republicans’ views are often distinctly different than the rest of the American public.” The survey also brought out some dreadful facts. According to one stat, only 16% of the voters are actually aware of Global warming and the increasing heat. On the other hand, 26% of the republicans believe that the climate is changing, but they are not certain of the fact that it is human actions that are contributing to it. The gaps present in the society are quite frightening..." (File photo: Rick Rycroft, AP).

The Secret To Making Conservatives Care About Climate Change. How we frame the challenge is critical: this is not about polar bears; it's about our kids, and their kids. Here's the intro to a story at TakePart: "Environmentalists are, by and large, idiots when it comes to talking with the people who disagree with us. We go on (and on) about fairness, about injustice, about caring. We are outraged. We are gloomy. Everything is going extinct, and it’s because of that company you work for or that hamburger you’re eating. And, sure, everything does seem to be going extinct, and there is plenty of blame to go around. But people just tune us out. Is there a better way? A way that might persuade ranchers to think differently about wolves, for instance? Or that might persuade conservatives to acknowledge the reality of climate change? Is there a way that might intrigue our political counterparts instead of just antagonizing them?..."

This Is The Only Way to Fight Global Climate Change. Fortune has the Op-Ed; here's an excerpt: "...Fourth, start rapidly ramping up investments in the energy infrastructure of the future. It’s poor planning to build more oil and gas pipelines when we clearly can’t be relying on them in 10, 20, or 30 years. Renewable energy infrastructure should be the sole focus for U.S., China, and India going forward and nations should support each other’s efforts, rather than undermining them within the WTO. The price point is behind us on this. There’s no good argument anymore for weak investments or laissez-faire strategies. This is where the economic growth opportunity is and it comes with an immediate health and climate co-benefit..."

Photo credit above: Carlos Barria — Reuters.

Climate Change Litigation: The Children Win in Court. Here is the introduction to an update at Forbes: "Against all odds, the 21 children, ages 8 to 19, who are suing the government to protect the environment against the harm of global warming in their future, have won in court. Again. In a surprise ruling on Friday from the bench in the ongoing climate case brought by these youths against the State of Washington’s Department of Ecology, King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill ordered the Department of Ecology to promulgate a carbon emissions reduction rule by the end of 2016 and make recommendations to the state legislature on science-based greenhouse gas reductions in the 2017 legislative session..."

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