Conservation Minnesota

80s Return on Friday – Massive Wildfire Forces Evacuation of 80,000+ in Alberta

73 F. high temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.
66 F. average high on May 3.
83 F. high on May 3, 2015.

May 4, 1926: Morris goes from winter to summer temperatures in one day. The morning low was 32, followed by a high of 89.

Question: Will Spring “Stick” This Time Around?

People never ask me about the Twins, foreign policy or existential truth. But they’re not shy about quizzing me about the state of the atmosphere.

Here are but a handful of the questions I’ve received recently. “Paul, are we done with snow?” What snow? We picked up 36.7 inches last winter. Average is 54.4 inches. Flurries could still brush the Minnesota Arrowhead – but accumulating snow is behind us now.

I pray.

“Paul, is it safe to plant annuals?” Yes it is. GFS guidance hints at upper 30s by late next week but the odds of a widespread metro frost are less than 1 in 10. The old adage “wait until after Mother’s Day to plant tender plants” rings true this year.

We cool off into the low 60s today with a stiff north breeze, but 70s return Thursday – low 80s will spark an outbreak of shorts and T-shirts Friday. A taste of sultry summer days to come.

A stray T-shower may bubble up late Friday ahead of a cooler front, but skies clear during the day Saturday; Sunday brings peeks of sun and highs near 70.

Enjoy the dry spell; cooler, showery weather returns for much of next week.


All of Fort McMurray Ordered to Flee Wildfire in the Largest Fire Evacuation in Alberta’s History. 80,000 people impacted? The Edmonton Journal has more details: “Fort McMurray’s more than 80,000 residents have been ordered to flee the oilsands city after a massive wildfire, fuelled by soaring temperatures and tinder-dry forest, broached the city limits. At 6:20 p.m., a mandatory evacuation order was issued for the entire city, with residents advised to head north to Noralta Lodge and wait for further instructions. Word came down later that Noralta Lodge was full and evacuees were being sent further north to other work camps. The wildfire burning in the city limits has forced the largest fire evacuation in Alberta’s history. It’s expected to get worse Wednesday, when winds are forecast to switch direction and increase in intensity, at speeds of 25 to 50 kilometres per hour...”


Glimpse of Summer Heat. All the models show low to mid 80s by mid-afternoon Friday. Dew points should be in the mid-50s to near 60F, noticeable humidity levels but hardly uncomfortable, at least not yet. Graphic: NOAA and AerisWeather.


10-Day Rainfall Outlook. Here is GFS guidance from NOAA, printing out a 4″ rainfall bullseye near Omaha by Friday of next week; 1″ rainfall amounts predicted for much of Minnesota next week.

Sliding Back into Puddles Next Week. Enjoy the dry spell, because ECMWF and NOAA models pull Gulf moisture north next week in multiple waves – by the weekend after next some 1-2″ rainfall amounts can’t be ruled out.


Nearly 200 People Have Been Killed by Flooding in the U.S. During The Last 16 Months. Weather Underground has an interesting post; here’s the intro: “Flooding has proved to be extremely deadly in the United States in the last 16 months. Nearly 200 people, including 14 in Texas last month alone, have lost their lives since January 2015. NOAA says that in 2015 176 people were killed by flooding in 26 states. So far in 2016 there have been 19 flood-related deaths in four states. That’s a total of 195 fatalities from January 2015-April 2016. For comparison, the 30-year average (1986-2015) number of flood deaths for a 16-month period is 108. There are typically about 81 flood deaths a year, making it, on average, the the second most deadly weather-related event behind extreme heat...”

Map credit above: “Flood deaths by state, January 2015 – April 2016.” Please note that this data is preliminary.”



Weather Keeps Killing, But Experts Say Deaths Preventable. Here’s a clip from a USA TODAY article: “…Floods, rip currents, lightning and heat kill hundreds of people each year, but experts say almost every one of those deaths is preventable. Heat is the nation’s biggest killer, striking down about 130 people each year, according to data from the National Weather Service. Rip currents sweep about 100 people out to sea annually and floods take another 100 people, the data shows. Lightning strikes kill about 25 people a year. Data from the Centers for Disease Control, which uses broader criteria for calculating cause of death, says the numbers are even worse, attributing several hundred deaths to heat and cold…”


Crude Oil is Flooding Texas Rivers. Here’s the intro to a story at Grist: “Dramatic, deadly flooding is the new normal for parts of Texas and Louisiana this past year. This weekend, a single flash flood killed six people. But the damage often doesn’t end when the skies are finally clear. In Texas — a state dotted with oil wells — extreme flooding can also mean contaminated water. According to El Paso Times, chemicals and oil from overfilled wells and fracking sites have flushed into majors rivers. Texas officials have reportedly taken dozens of images of waterways polluted with crude oil and fracking chemicals, which show the “sheens and plumes spreading from tipped tanks and flooded production sites.” Affected waterways include the Sabine River on the Texas-Louisiana border, which flooded in March, and the Trinity, Red, and Colorado rivers, which flooded last year…”

Photo credit above: “Flooding in Brookshire, Texas, U.S. April 20, 2016.” Handout via REUTERS TPX IMAGES.


Hurricane Project Put on Back Burner After Decade With No Storms. What can possibly go wrong? A sense of hurricane-apathy is growing, especially in Florida, where the last Category 3 strike was 2005. Here’s an excerpt of a post at mypalmbeachpost.com: “A landmark hurricane research project that improved forecasts by 20 percent in five years is facing more budget cuts as the federal government seeks to “slow the development” of the program after a decade with no major hurricane landfalls. In its fiscal year 2017 budget request, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said it plans to reduce its investment in the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project, which was launched in response to the record storm seasons of 2004 and 2005...”

Early May Tends to be Feast or Famine for Tornadoes. U.S. Tornadoes has some interesting nuggets and statistics; here’s an excerpt: “…tornado climatology is an interesting thing to look at but sometimes averages can be misleading, as tornadoes do tend to come in bunches. It is not until late May and early June that consistent and often day-to-day tornado activity becomes common around the entire country. By June, the potential for a major outbreak starts to decline as the jet stream slows and becomes less variable. However, the frequency of tornado days make this a prime choice for storm chasers who are looking to play the odds for chase prospects. This also serves as a reminder not to let your guard down after the peak of outbreak season passes, especially in the northern tier of the U.S...”


Does Your Family Have a Tornado Safety Plan? Everyone should have a plan ready to go. Here’s an excerpt from KCAU: “…Do you have a tornado safety kit? The Frosts’ do now! After we found a safe underground, interior room away from windows in their basement, the Frosts’ and I got a bin together with supplies to stay in that safe room. Non perishable food items, water, and a first aid kit were at the top of the list, along with a flashlight and batteries. The kids also picked a few of their favorite board games and books so that they would have something to do in a prolonged event. Jennifer thought it was a great idea to help the kids stay calm in an emergency situation too…. the exact purpose of our practice drill...”



Earth’s New Lightning Capital in the World: 233 Flashes Per Square Kilometer A Year. Move over Congo, we have a new, electrifying winner, according to NASA and a story at Space Coast Daily: “Earth has a new lightning capital, according to a recent study using observations from the Lightning Imaging Sensor onboard NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission. Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela earned the top spot receiving an average rate of about 233 flashes per square kilometer per year, according to the study.Researchers had previously identified Africa’s Congo Basin as the location of maximum lightning activity…”

Image credit above: “Earth has a new lightning capital, according to a recent study using observations from the Lightning Imaging Sensor onboard NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission.” (NASA Image).


Researchers Find Tsunamis on the Great Lakes. My first reaction was….huh? Check out this story at mlive.com; here’s an excerpt: “New research has found the Great Lakes may have a type of tsunami after all. They are not tsunamis caused by earthquakes. These tsunamis are caused by organized areas of thunderstorms. The type of tsunami is called a meteotsunami, meaning a tsunami caused by meteorological conditions. While the waves are not as big as ocean tsunamis caused by earthquakes, researchers have found an instance when the tsunami on a Great Lake was nine feet high…”

Image credit above: “Radar on May 31, 1998. This line of storms generated a meteotsunami at White Lake Harbor, south of Ludington, MI.” (NOAA).


More Evidence That Melting Arctic Ice Drives Widespread Changes in Northern Hemisphere Weather Patterns. Here’s a clip from an interesting story at Summit Couny Citizen’s Voice: “…The study, published in the International Journal of Climatology, looked at large-scale weather patterns over Greenland going back to 1851 using a measure called the Greenland Blocking Index, which marks the how strong the high pressure systems are, how long they last and how often they occur. Hanna said the research team found that high pressure blocking systems have become more common over Greenland since the 1980s in all seasons, which relates to a significantly strong warming of the Greenland and wider Arctic region compared with the rest of the world. The pattern has become more common in the summer, as a northward-meandering branch of the jet stream enables warmer air to move north into the region more often in recent years…” (Image credit: meteorologist Joe Cioffi).


Take A Deep Dive – Visually and Scientifically – Into Spectacular Aurora. Discover Magazine has the story, and links to an amazing video that gives an amazing sense of what it must be like to be gazing down on the planet. It’s transcendent. Here’s a clip: “The video is in ultra-high definition 4K. Even if you don’t have a UHD monitor, it’s still a stunner. In addition to numerous auroras, you can see the bright crackling of lightning at night; the orange glow of towns and cities helping to sketch out maps of the landscape below; and stars, constellations and galaxies turning in the heavens above. Most spectacular are the curtains of auroral light. If they seem akin to the glow of neon lighting, that’s no coincidence. The same basic physical process are at work…”


Biggest Wealth Fund Pushes for Climate Disclosure at Exxon. Here’s the intro to an explanation at Bloomberg: “Norway’s $870 billion sovereign wealth fund will back proposals to force Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., two of the biggest oil companies, to assess how climate-change policies can affect their business. The fund, the largest of its kind, will vote in favor of shareholder proposals to introduce climate reporting at both companies’ annual general meeting on May 25, Norges Bank Investment Management, said in two separate statements. NBIM owned 0.78 percent of Exxon and 0.85 percent of Chevron at the end of 2015, according to its website…”


Buffet vs. Musk: The Clash of Old and New Energy Titans. Here’s an excerpt of a fascinating read at the Las Vegas Sun: “…As regulated monopolies with guaranteed returns and virtually no competition, they were lucrative buys. “It’s a way to stay rich,” Buffett once said of utilities. But times were changing. Over the next several years, another billionaire was threatening that long-held assumption. Musk, the chairman of SolarCity and CEO of Tesla Motors, had entered the energy game, challenging NV Energy’s position as the primary energy player in the state. The two had collided head-on in a battle over the future of electric power ­— how it’s generated and distributed, who controls it and how much it costs consumers. The two capitalists could hardly be more different…”


Solar Energy Will Thrive. The New York Times has an Op-Ed that resonated – here’s an excerpt: “…The growth of solar energy will be driven by three factors. First and most important, costs are falling sharply. Solar module costs have fallen roughly 80 percent since 2007 and are projected to keep falling. Already, solar power is cheaper than the competition in many sunny places. Solar power’s competitive strength will continue to grow in the years ahead. Second, governments around the world strongly support solar power due its many social benefits. Solar power produces neither local air pollutants nor heat-trapping gases. In many places it is ideally suited for extending electricity to those who now lack it…”

File photo credit: Michael Nagle, Bloomberg.



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.


The Lazy Way to an Awesome Life: 3 Secrets Backed by Research. I read it on the internet –  so it must be true. Here’s an excerpt at bakadesuyo.com: “…tons of research (and common sense) shows that the people around you influence your behavior. In fact, they influence it a lot more than you might think and probably more than you’re comfortable with admitting. But here’s the really crazy part: not only do your friends affect your behavior, so do their friends. And their friends’ friends. Here’s Nicholas:

Across many different kinds of behavior: voting, cooperation, smoking, weight loss and weight gain, happiness, cooperative behavior, public health behaviors, we and others have been able to show that people are very meaningfully affected by the behaviors of other people to whom they’re connected…”


The United Arab Emirates Wants To Build a Full-Size Artificial Mountain to Encourage Rainfall. Now here’s an infrastructure project. Here’s an excerpt of an eye-popping proposal at Yahoo News: “The United Arab Emirates is used to building landmasses were there were none before, but creating a mountain from scratch is a whole new level. Nonetheless, the UAE is considering precisely that kind of construction. With hopes that it will encourage raincloud development in a country mostly covered in desert, the UAE is looking to build a full-sized artificial mountain. Desert flatlands make it difficult for air to get the upward climb required to collect into rain clouds, but creating a mountain could help bring a certain amount of rain to the otherwise arid region…”



TODAY: Sunny, comfortable breeze. Winds: N 10-15. High: 63

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Clear and cool. Low: 44

THURSDAY: Sunny – serious case of spring fever returns. Winds: SW 8-13. High: 74

FRIDAY: Hazy sun, almost hot, late-day T-shower? Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 54. High: 82

SATURDAY: AM shower possible, then gradual clearing. Winds: N 10-20. Wake-up: 56. High: 67

SUNDAY: Partly sunny, fine spring day. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 44. High: near 70

MONDAY: More clouds, chance of showers. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 44. High: 66

TUESDAY: More showers, possible thunder. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 53. High: 63


Climate Stories…

Resettling the First American “Climate Refugees”. Here’s an excerpt from an analysis by The New York Times: “…In January, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced grants totaling $1 billion in 13 states to help communities adapt to climate change, by building stronger levees, dams and drainage systems. One of those grants, $48 million for Isle de Jean Charles, is something new: the first allocation of federal tax dollars to move an entire community struggling with the impacts of climate change. The divisions the effort has exposed and the logistical and moral dilemmas it has presented point up in microcosm the massive problems the world could face in the coming decades as it confronts a new category of displaced people who have become known as climate refugees…”
Image credit above: “Isle de Jean Charles in southeastern Louisiana. A $48 million federal grant has been allocated to resettle its residents because of flooding.Credit Josh Haner/The New York Times.

April Joins Parade of Record Global Temperatures, Making It 12 Months in a Row. Here’s a clip at The Sydney Morning Herald: “…The largest departures from the norm, though, have been occurring at the poles, especially in the north. Parts of Greenland were 8 degrees warmer than average in April, sparking early-season melting of the giant ice sheets so rapid it prompted scientists to check their instruments weren’t broken. Unusual heat over the northern winter meant the Arctic Sea ice extent began at a record low level. With less to start with and warmer seas, the area covered by sea ice is retreating, setting new records every day last month, according to US PhD student, Zack Labe...”


Editorial: A Climate Plan for Conservatives. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at TheLedger.com: “Our planet is now setting records for setting records about the heat. Earth has set monthly heat records for 11 months in a row, a record in itself, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced last week. As global warming causes such changes, researchers told the Associated Press that they’re worried the public is become desensitized to the drumbeat of broken records. The same could be said for other worrisome trends involving climate change…”

Jimmy Kimmel Tears Into Sarah Palin’s “Offensive and Dangerous” Climate Change Denial. Here’s a link to the video and story at The Daily Beast: “…We’ve had 15 of the 16 hottest years ever since 2001. That’s not an opinion. It’s a fact,” he added to applause from his audience. “For some reason whether or not humans are contributing to this has become a left versus right issue. The politicians debate it. Our scientists don’t. A huge majority of climate scientists say climate change is happening. They say we’re causing it and we need to do something about it before it has a terrible effect on all of us. There’s no debate about the greenhouse effect, just like there’s no debate about gravity. It someone throws a piano off the roof, I don’t care what Sarah Palin tells you, get out of the way. It’s coming down on your head…”


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: NCA2014.globalchange.gov


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)…”
* More details on the new research here.

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About Paul Douglas

Paul Douglas
Paul Douglas is a meteorologist, author, entrepreneur, and software expert in Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota. He is a nationally recognized meteorologist with over 30 years of broadcast television and radio experience.
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