63 F. average high on April 27.
53 F. maximum temperature on April 27, 2016.
April 28, 1994: Heavy snow falls over parts of Minnesota with 7.5 inches at Tower and 4.5 inches in the Twin Cities.
April 28, 1966: A heavy snowstorm leaves 10 inches of snow on the ground across a wide chunk of northern Minnesota.
Stumbling Into Spring - Slushy Lawns on May 1?
The weather never moves in a neat, straight line. At this latitude we rarely "stroll into spring" It's more of a drunken stagger. Two steps forward, one step back.
We pick up an average of 2.4 inches of snow in April, a trace of flakes in May. The last time we picked up more than an inch of snow in May was 1976. The reason I'm telling you this? May 2017 may start out with an inch or two of slushy snow on lawns, fields and dazed robins.
The details are very much up in the air, but there's a potential for a plowable, 3-inch-plus snowfall from Alexandria to Bemidji to Hibbing, based on the latest ECMWF (European) model run. Oh boy.
No big worries today: the sun peeks out with highs topping 50 degrees. Progress. Saturday still looks like the nicer, drier, sunnier day of the weekend with mid 50s.
Models spin up a big, sloppy southern storm Sunday, and a cold rain slowly mixes with wet snow. Monday may illicit a chorus of primal screams. Please resist the urge to dial 911
We are paying a very steep price for lukewarm 60s back in mid-February. Atmospheric payback is a pain.
Historical May Snow Events in the Twin Cities. Yes, it may snow again late Sunday into Monday, May 1. Big gulp. Deep sigh. How unusual? The Minnesota DNR provides perspective: "...The most recent measureable Twin Cities snow event was 0.5 inches on May 3, 2013. About once every 30 years or so, there is a snow event that is enough to cover newly greened lawns and coat budding leaves. The last time there was a snow event in May greater than an inch in the Twin Cities was on May 2, 1976 with 1.2 inches. The most that it has snowed in May in a single event for the Twin Cities is three inches. This has happened on three occasions: May 20, 1892, May 1, 1935 and May 11-12, 1946."
Photo credit: "Snow at Cross Lutheran Church, (Present Day Maplewood) May 12, 1946." Courtesy the Maplewood Area Historical Society.
Don't Plant Annuals Until After Mother's Day. It's tempting to get them in earlier - but don't. Here's the average date of the last freeze (May 1-10 for much of the MSP metro), courtesy of the Midwestern Regional Climate Center.
The Climate Context for Raleigh's Rains and Florida's Fires. Here's perspective from Andrea Thompson at WXshift: "...The number of heavy events has continued to be well above average over the last couple of years, maintaining the upward trend,” Ken Kunkel, a climate scientist with the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies and N.C. State University, said in an email. A Climate Central analysis shows that by mid-century, heavy runoff from rain-driven inland flooding will increase between 20 and 40 percent. Of course, climate change isn’t the only thing that impacts flooding, as the built environment, such as impermeable pavement, exacerbates flooding in urban areas like Raleigh. While this area of North Carolina has seen about 400 percent of what would normally fall over the past two weeks, mostly from this storm, much of Florida has been left thirsting for storms to quench the dry conditions that are helping to fuel wildfires. The blazes have burned the largest area of the state since 2011, some 115,000 acres, and will likely cost millions of dollars in damage and fire fighting costs..."
Named Storms: Forecast (11) - Average (12)
Hurricanes: Forecast (4) - Average (6-7)
Major Hurricanes: Forecast (2) - Average (2)
The reasoning behind the slightly below average hurricane forecast is due to the development of a weak to moderate El Nino likely developing in the Pacific Basin (According to NOAA). When an El Nino develops, wind shear in the middle and upper levels of the atmosphere increases in the Atlantic, which leads to less favorable weather conditions for tropical development there. There is also some assumption by forecasters that water temperatures in the Atlantic will be trending cooler than average this year, which will may also help to keep tropical formation lower..."
Graphic credit: "According to NOAA the U.S. has had about 100 more tornadoes than average so far in 2017, but that doesn't mean the rest of the year will follow the same trend." (NOAA)
Map credit: "Tornado touchdowns in the U.S. from April 25-28, 2011." Map by Katie Wheatley.
The utility of it depends on the context. Hospitals will use it. Forecasters will use it. But the average person? My fear is they will find something else to do. I don’t see anyone sitting in a shelter for an hour. Perhaps we’re thinking about the purpose all wrong though. A one hour heads up may spark awareness and more attention to the 10 minute warning....”
Map credit: "Surface temperatures during winter (Dec – Feb) showed an increasing trend across the Arctic Ocean and most of Canada from 1989 to 2016, but they dropped markedly across most of northern Asia, with minor decreases over the southeast U.S. and northern Europe." Image credit: Courtesy James Screen, adapted from “Far-flung effects of Arctic warming,” Nature Geoscience, published online March 20, 2017.
Republicans and Democrats Agree On One Thing: Solar Panels. Here's a clip from Yale Climate Connections: "In Washington D.C., solar energy is sometimes seen as a political issue. But research suggests constituents – both Democrats and Republicans – feel differently. A solar consulting company called PowerScout pulled the addresses of one-and-a-half million political donors. Then, they used satellite images to identify which of their homes had solar panels. Attila Toth is CEO and Founder of PowerScout. Toth: “Across the twenty states that we looked at, Democratic and Republican party donors installed residential solar systems at very comparable rates...”
Why We Can't Just Leave Environmental Protection to the States. That's the funny thing about pollution - it doesn't respect state boundaries. Here's an excerpt at Grist: "...First, states often don’t enforce the laws within their own borders when the people primarily harmed live downwind or downriver in another state. States don’t want to spend their money or their political capital to benefit other states. The federal government has the responsibility to protect everyone — like the millions of people on the East Coast who suffer the effects from large air polluters in the Midwest. Second, many significant violators are national companies that operate in many states. Individual states can’t effectively take on nationwide operations. Filing cases one state at a time is inefficient and leads to inconsistent results..."
File photo: Gene Daniels, U.S. National Archives.
Graphic credit: Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Flexible Working is Making Us Work Longer. Really? Here's a story at Quartz highlighting new research: "...Contrary to what you might expect, those with more control over their work schedule work more than those with less control. In fact, people have a tendency to work more overtime hours once they are allowed to work flexibly, compared to when they were not. These were the findings of research my colleague Yvonne Lott and I recently carried out, published in the European Sociological Review. We examined data that followed workers across a number of years in Germany to see what happened to the amount of overtime they did once they started having more control over their working hours..."
Meet "Steve", a Mysterious Type of Aurora Spied Over Canada. The Weather Network has the curious details: "The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, is known for putting on a different light show pretty much every time it shows up in the night sky. It's one of the amazing features of this spectacular phenomenon. Sometimes, though, something really different shows up, and it takes the combined efforts of citizen scientists over social media, and scientists with access to specialized satellites in orbit, to figure it out. This is what happened with a special kind of aurora feature, which some have been calling 'Steve'. Here is 'Steve', shown in the image below, as the purple stream stretching across the sky, captured by photographer Dave Markel in 2016..."
TODAY: Some sun, better. Winds: NW 7-12. High: 52
FRIDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy, more frost outlying suburbs. Low: 33
SATURDAY: Clouds increase, get errands done. Nicer day. Winds: NE 8-13. High: 54
SUNDAY: Cold rain, snow mixes in late. Winds: NE 15-25. Wake-up: 38. High: 44
MONDAY: Rain/snow mix slowly tapers. Slushy accumulation? Winds: NE 10-20. Wake-up: 37. High: 41
TUESDAY: Still gray, sprinkles or flurries. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 35. High: 46
WEDNESDAY: More clouds than sun, still cool. Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 39. High: 55
THURSDAY: Unsettled, passing shower or two. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 43. High: 58
Climate Change Altering the Arctic Faster Than Expected. Climate Central has the latest: "Evidence continues to mount that climate change has pushed the Arctic into a new state. Skyrocketing temperatures are altering the essence of the region, melting ice on land and sea, driving more intense wildfires, altering ocean circulation and dissolving permafrost. A new report chronicles all these changes and warns that even if the world manages to keep global warming below the targeted 2°C threshold, some of the shifts could be permanent. Among the most harrowing are the disappearance of sea ice by the 2030s and more land ice melt than previously thought, pushing seas to more extreme heights. The findings, released Monday in the Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA) assessment, come after a winter of extreme discontent for the region. Sea ice receded a bit in November, a rare occurrence, and hit a record-low maximum for the third year in a row. Temperatures averaged 11°F above normal, driven by sustained mild weather that was punctured by periods of almost unheard of heat when temperatures reached up to 50°F above normal..."
Photo credit: "An iceberg collapses, Disko Bay, West Greenland." Credit: Carsten Egevang/arc-pic.com.
Photo credit: "The March for Science in Washington DC. Members of the caucus say their goal is to depoliticize environmental policy in the US." Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA
Worrisome Figures For Canadian Methane. Climate Nexus has a collection of media reports on methane releases to our north: "Methane emissions from the oil and gas industry in Canada could far exceed official estimates, according to two new reports. A new study from the David Suzuki Foundation and St. Francis Xavier University published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics finds methane emissions from industry activity in British Columbia could be 2.5 times higher than previous estimates. Meanwhile, a separate report released from a Canadian nonprofit today estimates that methane emissions in Alberta could be up to 60 percent higher than official figures. The Canadian government announced last week that it would delay planned methane reduction regulations by up to three years, garnering fierce criticism from environmental advocates." (Studies: Toronto Star, Motherboard, Vancouver Sun, Globe and Mail. Regulation delay: CBC, Toronto Star).
Image credit: Environmental Defense Fund.
The Policy Weapon Climate Activists Need. Buy out the fossil fuel companies to keep carbon in the ground? A nice idea, but probably a fairy-tale. Here's a clip from The Nation: "...The most straightforward way to accomplish this is for the government to take direct ownership of fossil-fuel companies. The price tag to purchase outright the top 25 largest US-based publicly traded oil and gas companies, along with most of the remaining publicly traded coal companies, is in the region of $1.15 trillion. That sounds like a lot of money, but spread out over seven years, the cost would be less than $200 billion a year, a far from impossible amount—and less than the annual cost of our string of recent wars. By way of comparison, paying for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will have cost somewhere in the range of $4-7 trillion when future costs for veterans are factored in. Surely, radically reducing the threat of climate catastrophe is a better use of the US government’s financial power than was the disastrous invasion of Iraq..."
Photo credit: " A coal-fired power plant in Holcomb, Kansas, in 2007." (AP Photo / Charlie Riedel).
Image credit: Amber Sullins. Photographer: Ali Withers/Bloomberg.
Graphic credit: "Projections for an extreme sea level scenario for New York City under NOAA's new guidelines."
El Nino and the End of the Global Warming Hiatus. Here's an excerpt from Yale News: "...A new climate model developed by Yale scientists puts the “global warming hiatus” into a broader historical context and offers a new method for predicting global mean temperature. Research by professor Alexey Fedorov and graduate student Shineng Hu indicates that weak El Niño activity from 1998 until 2013, rather than a pause in long-term global warming, was the root cause for slower rates of increased surface temperature. The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, also finds that volcanic activity played only a minor role. “Our main conclusion is that global warming never went away, as one might imply from the term ‘global warming hiatus,’” said Fedorov, who has conducted extensive research on the oceans’ role in climate. “The warming can be masked by inter-annual and decadal natural climate variability, but then it comes back with a vengeance...”
Graphic credit: "Pacific Ocean sea surface height anomalies during the 1997-98 El Nino (left) are compared with 2015 Pacific conditions (right). The 1997 data are from the NASA/CNES Topex/Poseidon mission; the 2015 data are from the NASA/CNES/NOAA/EUMETSAT Jason-2 mission. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)."