Monday, May 22, 2017

Memorial Weekend Weather Preview - Downtown Tornadoes - GOP Warming Up to Climate Change?

67 F. high in the Twin Cities on Monday.
71 F. average high on May 22.
84 F. high on May 22, 2016.

May 23, 1914: An early heat wave hits the state, with a high of 103 at Tracy.

Downtown Tornadoes - Real Summer Heat On The Way

I spend a little time every day trying to clear up weather myths and meteorological misunderstandings. People love to explain to me how living in a downtown leaves them immune to tornadoes. Wrong.

Tornadoes feed on warm moist air and twisting winds within a 10-20 mile radius. A few high rise buildings and some concrete won't deter them from forming. Twisters have touched down in major cities from Chicago and Dallas to Salt Lake City. Oklahoma City has been hit over 140 times since 1890.

On May 22, 2011 a powerful tornado with winds up to 110 mph tracked 14 miles into North Minneapolis; the funnel nearly half a mile wide at one point.

Models strongly suggest a summer-like pattern by early June with 80s, high dew points and a wind field more favorable for severe T-storms. We're due.

Instability showers linger today, but our weather improves on Wednesday. Friday looks like the warmest day; the best chance of a shower comes Sunday. Memorial Day may be dry, with some sun and 60s.

May has set two records for daily rainfall at MSP. 4.75" has fallen; twice the normal amount.

Thumbnails above courtesy of the Twin Cities National Weather Service, which has more information on the May 22, 2011 North Minneapolis tornado here.

List of Cities Striking Downtown Areas of Large Cities. has a long list of cities that have been struck: "...It is a common myth that tornadoes do not strike downtown areas. The odds are much lower due to the small areas covered, but paths can go anywhere, including over downtown areas. St. Louis, Missouri has taken a direct hit four times in less than a century.[1] Many of the tornadoes listed were extremely destructive or caused numerous casualties, and the occurrence of a catastrophic event somewhere is inevitable.[2] This list is not exhaustive (listing every single tornado that has struck a downtown area or central business district of any city), as it may never be known if a tornado struck a downtown area, or if it was just a microburst (powerful downward and outward gush of wind, which cause damage from straight-line winds), particularly for older events or from areas with limited information. Downbursts often accompany intense tornadoes, extending damage across a wider area than the tornado path. When a tornado strikes a city, it is occasionally very difficult to determine whether it was a tornadic event at all or if the affected area was indeed the "downtown", "city centre", or "central business district" consisting of very high population density and mid to high-rises, as opposed to other heavily urbanized/built-up parts of the city or suburbs..."

Excessive Rainfall Risk on Tuesday. Slow-moving (training) T-storms may drop enough rain for flash flooding from the Florida Panhandle into the Carolinas today; some 2-4" rains may fall in a short period of time.

Warmer West - Soggy Eastern Half of USA. If you're in search of warm sunshine consider heading west. The best weather in the coming days comes west of the Rockies. A slow-moving area  of low pressure soaks the Gulf Coast before pushing heavy showers and storms across the Carolinas into the Mid Atlantic states. Meanwhile showery rains linger for Minnesota and Wisconsin; stronger T-storms pushing across the Ohio Valley. 84-hour NAM Future Radar product: NOAA and

Trending Cooler Than Average. Admit it, yesterday felt pretty amazing, after a ruinously-wet weekend 60s and sunshine felt like sweet relief. Today looks cloudier and cooler with spits of light rain, but the sun should return Wednesday and Thursday as temperatures mellow. Friday may be the warmest day of the holiday weekend; a weak cool frontal passage over the weekend blowing slightly cooler air back into town by Sunday and Monday. ECMWF numbers for the Twin Cities: WeatherBell.

Limping Into Summer. If the GFS is to be believed (?) a ridge of hot high pressure finally surges across the Plains into the Midwest within 2 weeks, meaning a run of 80s and even some 90s. We'll see, but the USA is due for some good-old-fashioned-stinking-hot weather in the weeks to come.

Sweaty Weather After June 3? Give or take a month, right? Under the heading of be careful what you wish for GFS guidance pulls highs in the 80s within 2 weeks; dew points in the 60s and 70s. Why do I sense a severe weather outbreak within 10-14 days. It's been too quiet in recent weeks.

Did Someone Predict the Recent Wisconsin Tornado? Meteorologists can tell when atmospheric conditions are ripe for tornadic storms, but we still can't pin down where individual thunderstorms will spin up funnels more than 20-30 minutes in advance. Here's an excerpt from "We cannot yet forecast tornado occurrence with any accuracy. One problem is the small size of a tornado, which is a narrow column of strong winds that rotate around a center of low pressure. Over the last 60 years, forecasts of the development of large-scale low-pressure systems, which often organize the ingredients needed to form a tornado, have steadily improved. Because of these advances, meteorologists are better able to predict those conditions a few days in advance, enabling forecasters to identify counties where there is a threat of severe weather sometimes as many as three days in advance. Two days in advance of the recent EF-2 tornado that hit southeastern Polk County, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center’s convective outlook issued a slight-risk for the area..."

Remembering Joplin. The wedge tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011 was a reminder of the limitations of technology. Here are a few of the take-aways from NOAA: "...This was the single deadliest tornado in U.S. history since modern record-keeping began in 1950. Rated EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, this mile-wide tornado was the largest and most powerful type, and it traveled 22 miles on the ground. The report includes a number of key recommendations:
  • Improve warning communications to convey a sense of urgency for extreme events. This will compel people to take immediate life-saving action;
  • Collaborate with partners who communicate weather warnings to develop GPS-based warning communications, including the use of text messaging, smart phone apps, mobile communications technologies, in addition to upgrades to the Emergency Alert System and NOAA Weather Radio;
  • Collaborate more throughout the weather enterprise to ensure that weather warning messages sent via television, radio, NOAA Weather Radio, local warning systems such as sirens – are consistent to reduce confusion and stress the seriousness of the threat; and
  • Continue to increase community preparedness..."
Photo credit: "Image showing damage from the tornado that hit Joplin, Mo., on May 22, 2011." NOAA.

The May 22, 2011 Joplin, Missouri EF-5 Tornado. U.S. Tornadoes has a good recap of an extraordinary tornado: "...St. John’s Hospital was severely damaged — 200 to 300 pound parking stops were lifted and tossed 30 to 60 yards. Large steel reinforced concrete steps outside of a medical art building were shifted a few inches and cracked. Concrete walls toppled and steel support beams from some buildings were curved and twisted. EF-3 to low end EF-5 damage continued to just east of Rangeline Road as the tornado approached the Dusquesne area. At full strength, the tornado crushed homes and swept them from their foundations. Steel reinforced concrete porches and driveways were lifted and tossed. Vehicles were tossed into other homes or in some cases rolled up and crushed completely. This type of damage was found the along the rest of the track to just east of Rangeline Road. Along the track, boards, limbs and twigs were embedded into wood and stucco walls and wooded framed homes were completely disintegrated..."

Image credit: "Radar image showing the tornado as it exits Joplin. A debris ball is present in the top left corner image in pink. Radar image was taken around 7pm ET."

Number of People Affected by Weather-Related Disasters: 1995-2015. Flooding is, by far, the most prevalent meteorological disruptor across the planet.
Image credit: UNISDR / CRED.

Surf's Up. Monstrous 64-Foot Wave Measured in Southern Ocean. USA TODAY has the details: "Surf's up in the Southern Ocean. A massive, 64-foot high wave was measured by an automated buoy about 400 miles south of New Zealand in the Southern Ocean on Saturday, May 20. That's taller than a six-story building. "This is one of the largest waves recorded in the Southern Hemisphere," said oceanographer Tom Durrant of MetOcean Solutions. a private weather firm in New Zealand. "This is the world's southernmost wave buoy moored in the open ocean, and we are excited to put it to the test in large seas," he wrote on the company's blog..."

Get Ready for Peak Oil Demand. A story at The Wall Street Journal captured my attention: "The world’s largest oil companies are girding for the biggest shift in energy consumption since the Industrial Revolution: After decades of growth, global demand for oil is poised to peak and fall in the coming years. New technologies that improve fuel efficiency are starting to push down the amount of gasoline and diesel that’s needed for transportation, and a consensus is growing that fuel demand for passenger cars could fall as carbon rules go into effect, electric vehicles gain traction and the internal combustion engine gets re-engineered to be dramatically more efficient. Western countries’ growth used to move in lockstep with their energy consumption, but that phenomenon is starting to decouple in advanced economies..."

Photo credit: "Some oil companies are talking publicly about peak oil demand and preparing for it by overhauling their long-term investment plans." Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg News

Solar Employs More U.S. Workers Than Apple, Google and Facebook Combined. With a little perspective on renewables and employment here's a clip from ThinkProgress: "...As of 2016, California has just over 100,000 solar jobs — a one-third increase over the previous year. The country added a record 50,000 solar jobs last year. The U.S. solar industry currently has more than 260,000 workers nationwide, according to The Solar Foundation. Their executive director, Andrea Luecke, points out that’s more workers than “Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon combined.” (As a point of clarification, Amazon has added jobs at a torrid pace in the last couple of years, so the 260,000 solar jobs is ‘only’ more than Apple, Google, and Facebook combined.)..."

Photo credit: "A rooftop is covered with solar panels at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, February 2017." CREDIT: AP/Mark Lennihan.

The Way to Power The Next Billion Consumers. Here's a clip from a story at Bloomberg View: "More than a billion people worldwide live without reliable access to electricity. Providing them with power will require hundreds of billions of dollars of investment, vast deployment of technology, and adaptable business and financial market strategies. Much of the job can be done with power generation systems that are not connected to a central grid, and with largely fuel-free technology. That is, the new grids need not be the enormous, centralized kind that exist in the developed world. If power can be generated where it is consumed -- with a solar system connected to home appliances, for example -- it can closely follow electricity demand growth. Where does much of that growth come from? Leisure activity..."

Photo credit: Bloomberg and Azuri Technologies.

First Drive: 2018 Karma Revero. A worthy competitor to Tesla? Here's an excerpt of a review at Automobile Magazine: "...The Revero retains the Karma’s original powertrain, a combination of twin electric motors mated to a 2.0-liter turbo-four that can serve as a parallel power source or range extender. Outputs are the same as well: a combined 403 hp and 981 lb-ft for the motors and 235 hp for the engine (Karma did not specify an engine torque figure). Battery-only range remains at around 50 miles, and charging still takes about 10 hours at 16 amps and six hours at 32 amps, but the car now comes with support for DC quick-charging as well. This can get the batteries back up to 80 percent (40 miles) in 24 minutes. Additionally, the solar roof also now charges the battery, though it can only provide around three miles of extra range over the course of day..."

Will Cable News Punditry Die With Roger Ailes? Here's a story excerpt from The Week: "...Internet killed the cable news star. Today, cable punditry is an exhausted format. Its former stars have fallen. O'Reilly, ousted over sexual harassment allegations, makes do with a podcast. Beck has a website. Olbermann has struggled to squeeze a third act out of literally wrapping himself in the flag of the would-be resistance. Supposedly fresh-faced premium punditocrats like Samantha Bee and John Oliver are really just comedians who preach to small private choirs. Not even ESPN could salvage its flagging fortunes by going political. Not every defeat for cable punditry arose online, but in a police lineup, it is the internet that sticks out, and it is the age of internet punditry that is on us now, for better and for worse..."

How AI Is Changing Your Job Hunt. Here's a snippet of an interesting story at Fortune: "...It isn’t just startups using such software; corporate behemoths are implementing it too. Artificial intelligence has come to hiring.Predictive algorithms and machine learning are fast emerging as tools to identify the best candidates. Companies are using AI to assess human qualities, drawing on research to analyze everything from word choice and microgestures to psycho-emotional traits and the tone of social media posts. The software tends to be used in the earlier part of the process, when companies are narrowing a pool of applicants, rather than in the later stages, when employers place a premium on face-to-face interaction and human judgment..."

Photo credit: Ian Allen.

"Avolatte": Hipster Cafes Serve Lattes in Avocados. It's official, we've run out of good ideas. The Independent explains why anyone would want to drink fancy coffee out of an avocado: "...Just why anyone would want to drink a latte from an avocado over a regular cup is unclear - would the coffee be infused with avocado? How would you hold it without a handle? Is it to save on washing up? What with avocados and latte art both amongst millennials’ favourite Instagram subjects, it’s possible the avolatte could be the next big trend fuelled by the picture-sharing social network..."
Image credit: "The avolatte." / Instagram/

TODAY: Cool and showery. Winds: N 7-12. High: 59

TUESDAY NIGHT: More light showers. Low: 45

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny and pleasant. Winds: NE 7-12. High: 63

THURSDAY: Fading sun, slight T-shower risk late. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 48. High: 73

FRIDAY: Lukewarm sun, stray T-storm. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 55. High: 78

SATURDAY: Partly sunny, not bad for a weekend. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 58. High: 72

SUNDAY: Unsettled, few showers possible. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 53. High: 68

MEMORIAL DAY: Mix of clouds & sunshine, breezy. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 51. High: 67

Climate Stories...

How the GOP is Slowly Going Green.  I may be in a minority, but I happen to agree. Axios has a hopeful story; here's a snippet: "...Since 2010, climate change has been an issue unilaterally pushed by the Democratic Party, but for any climate and energy policy to pass Congress, it must also get support from within the GOP ranks.  The changes among Republicans are small, but represent a sea change from a few years ago when under pressure from conservative interest groups and tea-party activism, most Republicans denied the scientific consensus that human activity is driving up the Earth's temperature. "Tectonic plates beneath the Republican party are not stable," said Jerry Taylor, who in 2014 founded the Niskanen Center, a conservative group that supports a carbon tax to address climate change. "That's not obvious to anyone who is not engaging with Republicans on climate, but it's fairly obvious to us..."

A Conservative Answer on Climate Change. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "...Our conservative plan would attack pollution the way that Milton Friedman, a captain of modern conservatism, told us to attack it years ago: Tax it. A carbon tax would attach the cost of pollution to products so that the marketplace could see and rightly judge all of the costs of those products — the costs that the producer’s marketing department would let us see and the costs that they’d rather secretly slough off to the suckers who have to breathe their soot. If those costs were internalized on a level playing field, unsubsidized clean energy would beat unsubsidized dirty energy. Under this plan, all the carbon tax money would go back to taxpayers through offsetting, dollar-for-dollar cuts to existing taxes or through dividend checks. There would be no growth of government..." (File image: Star Tribune).

Churches Mobilize to Protect the Environment. Here's an excerpt from USA TODAY: "...Whether it’s installing solar panels at their churches, taking part in an Earth Day walk or eschewing disposable dining ware, many religious people — from Catholics to Presbyterians to Buddhists — are getting involved. “From our point of view as a faith community, we certainly see that care for the earth is important equally to care for human beings — that there’s an integral ecology,” said the Rev. Bill Hammer, pastor of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church. Pope Francis brought heightened awareness to the issue of climate change when he issued an encyclical letter in 2015, referring to climate change as “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” The pope also opined, “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness...”

Arctic Security Poses Icy Chess Game with Russia, China. Here's an excerpt from TheHill: "...The promise of resource exploitation has already motivated Russia and, in some instances other countries, to assert greater territorial rights, enhance Arctic military capabilities and make investments to facilitate commercial activity. Unfortunately, the United States has remained a relative bystander to this expanding Arctic activity. With the disappearance of the snow and ice, the region is at risk of veering from its history of cooperation. A Department of Defense report issued in December 2016 predicted that “competition for economic advantage and a desire to exert influence over an area of increasing geostrategic importance could lead to increased tension.” In what may be a prelude, the region is already witnessing increased shows of Russian military might..."

File photo credit: US Army National Guard, Staff Sgt Balinda O 'Neal Dresel.

Climate Change and Farming: Growing Seasons Getting Longer. in Boise, Idaho has the story: "...Williamson points out he's been watching when the bud breaks on the vine in the spring. "It's been coming earlier and the harvest has been able to be stretched later." In fact, according to research by Southern Oregon University, the growing season, the time between the last frost in the spring and the first in the fall, is 13 days longer than it was in the early 20th century. That gives grapes more time to mature and has made Williamson's move to wine less of a financial risk. "I think we are able to ripen and get that high quality more frequently," he says. So further expansion is part of his plan and he's even considering planting grapes that typically are only grown in Mediterranean climates..."

Photo credit: "Warmer temperatures don't always mean doom and gloom when it comes to farming in the Treasure Valley." (Photo: Mike di Donato/KTVB).

Scientists Say the Pace of Sea Level Rise Has Nearly Tripled Since 1990. Chris Mooney reports for The Washington Post: "A new scientific analysis finds that the Earth’s oceans are rising nearly three times as rapidly as they were throughout most of the 20th century, one of the strongest indications yet that a much feared trend of not just sea level rise, but its acceleration, is now underway. “We have a much stronger acceleration in sea level rise than formerly thought,” said Sönke Dangendorf, a researcher with the University of Siegen in Germany who led the study along with scientists at institutions in Spain, France, Norway and the Netherlands. Their paper, just out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, isn’t the first to find that the rate of rising seas is itself increasing — but it finds a bigger rate of increase than in past studies. The new paper concludes that before 1990, oceans were rising at about 1.1 millimeters per year, or just 0.43 inches per decade. From 1993 through 2012, though, it finds that they rose at 3.1 millimeters per year, or 1.22 inches per decade..."

File photo: Skeptical Science.

Those Menacingly High Sea Levels May Come Sooner Than We Think. Is there a tipping point coming? Nature rarely moves in a perfectly straight line. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from the Editorial Board at The Washington Post: "...Two new papers on how meltwater flows on the surface of Antarctica’s vast icy expanse drive this essential point home. There is an astonishing amount of water frozen on top of the southern continent, hemmed in by floating ice shelves abutting the Antarctic land mass. For now, that is: A major ice shelf disintegrated in 2002, and scientists just reported an ominous new crack in another close by. Losing ice shelves encourages the ice further back to melt and drain into the ocean, raising the seas to dangerous levels. A major threat to these ice shelves is meltwater that pools on the surface, widening cracks and encouraging them to break up. Scientists have known about this threat for years, yet they still do not know much about Antarctica’s “plumbing...”

Photo credit: "An aerial view of a massive rift in the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen C ice shelf." (John Sonntag/NASA/Reuters).

Racing to Find Answers in the Ice. The New York Times has done a remarkable job, journalistically and visually, telling the story of what's happening in Antarctica - why not just coastal residents need to pay attention: "...Unraveling the answers, and gaining a better understanding of how Antarctica’s ice has waxed and waned in the past, may offer a rough guide to the changes that human-caused global warming could wreak in the future. Already, scientists know enough to be concerned. About 120,000 years ago, before the last ice age, the planet went through a natural warm period, with temperatures similar to those expected in coming decades. The sea level was 20 to 30 feet higher than it is today, implying that the ice sheets in both Greenland and Antarctica must have partly disintegrated, a warning of what could occur in the relatively near future if the heating of the planet continues unchecked..."

Map credit: "Red areas have lost significant amounts of ice since 2010."

Looming Floods, Threatened Cities. What if all those ("alarmist") scientists who specialize in this stuff turn out to be right? Here's an excerpt of Part 2 of The New York Times series on troubling changes in West Antarctica: "...In 2016, Robert M. DeConto of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and David Pollard of Pennsylvania State University published a study, based on a computer analysis of Antarctica, that raised alarms worldwide. Incorporating recent advances in the understanding of how ice sheets might break apart, they found that both West Antarctica and some vulnerable parts of East Antarctica would go into an unstoppable collapse if the Earth continued to warm at a rapid pace. In their worst-case scenario, the sea level could rise by six feet by the end of this century, and the pace could pick up drastically in the 22nd century. Dr. DeConto and Dr. Pollard do not claim that this is a certainty — they acknowledge that their analysis is still rough — but they argue that the possibility should be taken seriously..."

Climate Change Could Slash Staple Crops. CO2 is plant food? Yes, but too CO2 can ruin the recipe. Climate Central explains: "Climate change, and its impacts on extreme weather and temperature swings, is projected to reduce global production of corn, wheat, rice and soybeans by 23 percent in the 2050s, according to a new analysis. The study, which examined price and production of those four major crops from 1961 to 2013, also warns that by the 2030s output could be cut by 9 percent. The findings come as researchers and world leaders continue to warn that food security will become an increasingly difficult problem to tackle in the face of rising temperatures and weather extremes, combining with increasing populations, and volatile food prices. The negative impacts of climate change to farming were pretty much across the board in the new analysis. There were small production gains projected for Russia, Turkey and Ukraine in the 2030s, but by the 2050s, the models “are negative and more pronounced for all countries,” the researchers wrote in the study published this month in the journal Economics of Disasters and Climate Change..."

Photo credit: Andrew Seaman/flickr

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