Conservation Minnesota

Biggest Storm of March: 1-3" Rain – Flash Flood Risk – Ending as Slush

58 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday.
40 F. average high on March 14.
61 F. high temperature on March 14, 2015.

.01″ rain fell yesterday at KMSP.

Beware the (Rainy) Ides of March: 1-3″ Rain, Ending as Slush

Beware the Ides of March. With a rapidly rising sun angle and huge north-south temperature extremes March can brew up wicked extremes: blizzards, floods, even tornadoes.

Any other March we might be looking at a cool foot of slushy, sloppy snow. Not this year. Temperatures are 15-20 degrees too warm. A rapidly intensifying storm tracking from Wichita to Madison will throw a shield of moderate rain into town today and tonight; the NAM model prints out 1.3″ of precipitation – all rain.

By the time it’s cold enough for snow the moisture will be long gone; maybe a fistful of flurries by Thursday. By late week it should actually feel like March, with upper 30s and low 40s – closer to average for this time of year.

Except “average” keeps changing over time.

Seasonably chilly weather spills into early next week, but long-range GFS guidance pulls a few more 50-degree days into Minnesota the last week of March. Nothing arctic brewing.

Our fast-forward spring means frost is leaving the ground quickly, but rapid run-off may flood a few roads later today. I predict a tricky commute later today.


March 15, 1941: The ‘Ides of March Blizzard’ occurs. Winds reached hurricane force at Twin Cities. 32 people died. Source: Twin Cities National Weather Service.

Stormy Swirl. Future radar shows rain increasing in coverage and intensity today; heaviest rains from late afternoon into tonight. By Wednesday night it will be cold enough aloft for snow, heaviest north of MSP where a couple inches of slush may accumulate. This will be an old-fashioned March rain and wind storm, ending as a coating of slush. NAM guidance: NOAA and AerisWeather.


Flash Flood Risk. Models print out some 1-2″ rainfall amounts, a few locations in central Minnesota may see close to 3″ of precipitation. There’s still frost in the ground, this volume of rain falling in a 24 to 36 hour period won’t be able to soak into topsoil, but run off into streets and streams. I could see some flash flooding for the PM rush today and AM commute Wednesday morning. NAM predicted precipitation totals: NOAA and AerisWeather.


Seriously Wet. I suspect the GFS is inflating amounts (4.45″ of rain?) but at this point I think there’s a better than 50-50 chance of at least 2″ liquid for most towns today and tomorrow. In a different (colder) March we’d be looking at a few feet of heavy, wet snow. Not this year. Model guidance: Aeris Enterprise.


NAM Numbers. Although the vast majority of the (predicted) 2.96″ of liquid precipitation will fall as rain,  1000-850mb temperatures are forecast to be cold enough for snow by Wednesday night and Thursday. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a slushy coating by Thursday morning. Payback for 70F on Saturday.


84-Hour Predicted Snowfall Amounts. Enough snow at the tail-end of this storm to shovel and plow from Bemidji and Walker to Duluth and Sandstone? Plausible, with a slushy inch or two by Wednesday night or Thursday for far northern suburbs. March is a fickle month; the previous graphics Exhibit A.


Windblown. Our internal model ensemble tripped a threshold, suggesting wind gusts exceeding 40 mph in the Twin Cities  by 11 PM tonight. Heavy rain may fall horizontally at times – as close as we’ll ever come to a cold tropical storm.

Winds Peak Tuesday Night and Wednesday Morning. GFS is an outlier with sustained winds  of 38 mph by 4 AM Wednesday, but the trends suggest a window-rattling storm as air accelerates into the center of a rapidly intensifying low pressure system. Graphic: Aeris Enterprise.


Slushy Possibilities. 1-2″ of slushy snow is predicted for the Brainerd Lakes area by Thursday morning at 10 AM.


Mellowing Temperatures by Late March. I still see a roughly one-week temperature relapse (at or just below average) before a zonal wind flow aloft returns by the end of March; more frequent 40s and a few days in the 50s. Source: GrADS:COLA/IGES.



A Swing to La Nina Later in 2016? Not so fast – Miriam O’Brien at HotWhopper sent me this nugget from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology: “Based on the 26 El Niño events since 1900, around 50% have been followed by a neutral year, and 40% have been followed by La Niña. International climate models suggest neutral is most likely for the second half of the year. However, La Niña in 2016 cannot be ruled out, and a repeat El Niño appears unlikely.”

February Breaks Global Temperature Record by “Shocking” Amount. Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian: “…NASA dropped a bombshell of a climate report,” said Jeff Masters and Bob Henson, who analysed the data on the Weather Underground website. “February dispensed with the one-month-old record by a full 0.21C – an extraordinary margin to beat a monthly world temperature record by.” “This result is a true shocker, and yet another reminder of the incessant long-term rise in global temperature resulting from human-produced greenhouse gases,” said Masters and Henson. “We are now hurtling at a frightening pace toward the globally agreed maximum of 2C warming over pre-industrial levels…”

Graphic credit: Guardian graphic | Source: NASA.


February Obliterated Global Heat Records, NASA Confirms. Here’s an excerpt of an Andrew Freedman post at Mashable: “…To put it more plainly, February stands out for its unusual heat more than any other month in the modern climate record. The previous warmest February, according to NASA, was in 1998, which was also a year with an extremely strong El Niño. However, in an important indication of how far human-caused global warming has shifted the baseline state of the planet’s climate, February 2016 came out 0.846 degrees Celsius, or 1.52 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer than February 1998, despite the similar intensity of the El Niño events in both years. In fact, studies indicate that with the highest levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere in all of human history, global average temperatures may now be higher than any time since at least 4,000 years ago…”

Image credit: NASA GISS, Mashable.



Breaking the Ice: Survival Lessons From a Changing Arctic. Audubon has a long and fascinating story focused on changes at the top of the world; here’s a clip: “…Temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as quickly as the global average. Open water has led to greater erosion and bigger storms. Diminished ice may be changing the polar vortex and other large-scale weather patterns. The region is a global bellwether, and while scientists on the Healy were focused on the practicality of operating in the new north, their instruments would also track planetary change. The buoys and gliders thrown overboard by NOAA would take long-term measurements of wind speed, air temperature, humidity, cloud coverage, solar radiation, water temperature, acidity, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and many other environmental conditions—key baseline data with global repercussions from a little-studied part of the Arctic. The chemical sniffers, run by Dr. Jeffrey Welker, a Fulbright U.S. Arctic Chair at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, would sample isotopes from the air, drawing baselines of their own while detecting spikes of carbon dioxide and another important greenhouse gas, methane…”
Photo credit above: “View of US Coast Guard Ship Healy in Beaufort Sea from Aerostat helium balloon. Beaufort Sea, USA, 07.15.2015.”  Photo: Esther Horvath.

Why Your Tweets Could Really Matter During a Natural Disaster. Data-mining social media for specific keywords can assist emergency responders pinpoint areas most threatened by natural disasters; here’s an excerpt from The Washington Post: “…As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast in late 2012, people in its path fired off millions of tweets that included words such as “stay safe,” “no power,” “frankenstorm,” “flooding” and “blackout.” Such a collective blast of social media activity, it turns out, might one day help officials find and assess the most severe damage caused by a natural disaster. In a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances, researchers detailed how 52 million geographically pinpointed tweets they gathered from before, during and after the hurricane offered telling insight into where it ultimately wreaked the most havoc. In essence, the scientists determined that the areas that experienced the most notable spike in Twitter activity were associated with areas where residents filed the most insurance claims and received the most individual assistance from Federal Emergency Management Agency grants…”
Superstorm Sandy file image: NASA.

Record Flooding Swamps Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi. Another 1-in-200 or 1-in-500 year flood in the making? Here’s an excerpt from USA TODAY: “Rivers continued to rise to record levels in parts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday, flooding thousands of homes. Flood warnings were in effect across the region as many rivers remained dangerously high. Emergency officials said more than 4,958 homes in Louisiana were damaged by flooding, according to the Associated Press. At least four deaths have been reported in Louisiana, the AP reported, and the National Guard has rescued nearly 3,300 people…”
Photo credit above: “Homes in Monroe and throughout northeast Louisiana remain underwater due to flooding.” Photo taken March 12, 2016.(Photo: Hannah Baldwin/News-Star.

Nearly 5,000 Homes Flooded During Historic Flood Event. Here’s an excerpt from KSLA News 12 in Shreveport, Louisiana: “The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness has released a statement about this week’s floods across the state of Louisiana.  GOHSEP stated that initial reports from parishes around the state indicate that nearly 5000 homes have received flood damage and thousands of people have been forced from their homes. So far, Governor John Bel Edwards, as well as key cabinet members and FEMA representatives, have toured the damage of many of the hardest hit areas of the state...”

Photo credit above: “This is a road in French Settlement. It’s hard to tell where the line of separation is between it and the Amite River.” Source: Gerron Jordan.



Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership Receiving National Recognition. Kudos to Xcel Energy, CenterPoint Energy and the city of Minneapolis. Here’s an excerpt at Midwest Energy News: “Now into its second year, a unique partnership between the city of Minneapolis and two utilities is receiving national recognition and praise from clean energy advocates. On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the Clean Energy Partnership a Climate Leadership Award in the “Innovative Partnerships” category. That followed a January event at the White House where officials from the city and Xcel Energy were recognized by the Department of Energy for a software program that helps building owners to better understand their energy use. The partnership – the first of its kind in the country – brings together the city of Minneapolis, Xcel and the natural gas company CenterPoint Energy in an effort reduce greenhouse gas emissions through efficiency programs, renewable energy options and other approaches…”


United Airlines is Flying on Biofuels. Here’s Why That’s a Really Big Deal. The Washington Post has details; here’s a clip: “…Friday’s launch will be the first application of that agreement. The flights will use a mixture of 30 percent biofuel and 70 percent traditional fuel, and United says that the biofuel will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 60 percent compared with regular fuel. In general, the idea behind renewable fuels is to use a biological source — for example, plant or animal matter — rather than a geological one, like oil. The Honeywell UOP technology that’s being applied at the AltAir refinery can utilize a range of difference sources, from used cooking oil to algae...”

Photo credit: “A United Airlines passenger airplane passes over Whittier, Calif., on its way to Los Angeles International Airport, Sunday, July 26, 2015.” (AP Photo/Nick Ut)



Governor of Oregon Signs Contentious Anti-Coal Bill. Here’s an excerpt from OregonLive.com: “…Gov. Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 1547 on Tuesday, handing Democrats a coveted political victory that comes despite lingering concerns the legislation might raise costs for utility customers. Brown’s office announced the signature in a statement Thursday. The measure requires Oregon’s two largest utilities, Portland General Electric and Pacific Power, to stop paying for out-of-state coal power by 2030. It also says utilities must serve half their customers’ demand with renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2040…”

Here’s Why Consumers Are Increasingly Turning to Streaming Media Devices to View Content. It’s all about convenience and control, and paying for what you’re actually watching. Here’s a clip from Business Insider: “…As streaming media device uptake rises, stakeholders throughout the larger media ecosystem will need to adapt to consumers’ changing habits. Legacy TV providers will likely need to offer skinny bundles or their own OTT subscriptions to stay relevant, while advertisers will want to capitalize on the opportunities available in targeting streaming viewers using demographic and behavioral data. App developers, platform creators, and game makers will also have a stake in where and how streaming activity develops…”


Trump’s Rebel Yell: How The Tech Revolution Is Setting Up Another Civil War. Disruption is hard, yet inevitable. The challenge is preparing all of us for multiple careers within one lifetime. The quaint notionof one job (for life) has gone the way of the fax machine. My thanks to Newsweek for cheering me up; here are a couple clips from an interesting, if not unsettling story: “A technological revolution killed the Whig Party in 1850. A new one is blasting the GOP into splinters in 2016. Amazingly, none of the presidential candidates talk much about technology, yet our software-eats-the-world whirlwind drives everything that’s cleaving the country and throwing its politics into chaos. The parallels to the dynamics of the 1850s are a little scary. After all, the Whigs’ self-destruction was a prelude to the Civil War...The current rift in America isn’t going to mend if Trump wins, or loses. Look at what’s coming. Autonomous vehicles will eat driving jobs of every kind. Artificial intelligence will eat rules-based white-collar jobs like accounting. Block-chain technology will result in software-based contracts that eliminate the need for mortgage brokers and lots of lawyers. Factory work will be diminished by 3-D printing. The total disruption of the 20th-century way of life is inevitable and far from over…”

File photo credit: “A group of men sit near a railroad junction near City Point, Virginia, circa 1861. The increased access to information and ability to move people and services provided by railroads fundamentally changed the country and its politics; the Whig Party tried to hold on to old ways, but lost supporters to politicians embracing technology.” Andrew J. Russell/Library of Congress.


5 Ways You Can Build a Great Company Culture. An article at Fortune rings true; here’s an excerpt: “…Organizations that manage people well outperform their peers. Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 research has found five keys to success in building a thriving organization today. They are the following: Goals are clear and people are rewarded for results. People want to know what they’re responsible for and how they’re being evaluated. High performing organizations set clear goals, assign responsibility, and define what success looks like. People are rewarded for results, not their position. If a company’s culture rewards success, people will focus on how to get things done and worry less about what to do…”


Russia Recruits Combat Dolphins, Lists Perfect Teeth as Prerequisite. Perhaps the most bizarre headline in recent memory; details via Atlas Obscura: “A government website has revealed that Russia wants five dolphins for military use, further rebuilding a Cold War-era program that saw the U.S. and Russia battle for supremacy in combat sea mammals. Russia is looking for three male and two females, all between three- and five-years-old, with “perfect teeth,” according to The Guardian. The country is willing to pay around $24,000 for the five dolphins, according to a document that appeared on the government site…”

Photo credit above: “An American military dolphin.” (Photo: U.S. Navy/Public Domain)



TODAY: Rain, heavy at times. Clap of thunder? Winds: SE 10-20. High: 57

TUESDAY NIGHT: Very Windy with heavy rain – potential for flooding. Winds: NW 20-45. Low: 39

WEDNESDAY: Rain tapers to showers, gusty and colder. Winds: W 15-30. High: 41

THURSDAY: A little wet snow – slushy coating possible. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 34. High: 38

FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy, jacket-worthy. Winds: N 8-13. Wake-up: 29. High: 39

SATURDAY: Still chilly, sprinkles and flurries. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 28. High: 39

SUNDAY: No sign of spring fever, flurries. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 29. High: near 40

MONDAY: More sun, a bit more mellow. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 30. High: 45


Climate Stories….

Rising Sea Levels May Disrupt Lives of Millions, Study Says. For places like south Florida, coastal Louisiana, Virginia’s Tidewater, even New York City and Boston, a warming (rising) ocean will be more than a minor inconvenience. It already is. Data suggests seas are rising at the fastest rate in 28 centuries. Here’s a summary of new research findings at The New York Times: “Sea-level rise, a problem exacerbated by greenhouse gas emissions, could disrupt the lives of more than 13 million people in the United States, three times more than most current estimates, according to a study published Monday. Rising seas, which already endanger coastal communities through tidal floods and storm surges, could rise three feet or possibly even more over the next century if emissions continue at a high level, threatening many shoreline communities. The study, published in Nature Climate Change, argues that most projections vastly underestimate the number of people at risk because they do not account for population growth. For the study, the authors combined future population estimates with predicted sea-level rise, using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to demonstrate that millions are at risk: 4.2 million if seas rise by three feet; 13.1 million with a six-foot increase, a high-end estimate…”
Photo credit above: “Rodney Clement gingerly stepped from the sidewalk to the street through tidal flooding around his home in Charleston, S.C., last year. Credit Grace Beahm/The Post and Courier, via Associated Press.

Developers Don’t Get It: Climate Change Means We Need to Retreat from the Coast. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Guardian: “…We now know that 13.1 million people are at risk of flooding along the US coast by the end of this century. A new study published in Nature Climate Change further suggests that massive migration will occur unless protective measures are taken. Since sea-level rise will speed up after the end of the century due to increased glacier and ice sheet melting, the flooding we face in this century is just the tip of the iceberg. The problem is particularly severe along our 3,000-mile low-lying sandy barrier island coast extending, with a few breaks, all the way from the South Shore of Long Island to the Mexican border. Along this long barrier island coast, Florida has the longest and most heavily developed shoreline...” (File photo: Marsha Halper, Miami Herald).



The More We Learn About Antarctica’s Past, The Scarier the Present Looks. Chris Mooney has the results of new research at The Washington Post; here’s a snippet: “For the second time in a month, leading scientists have closely tied the ancient history of the vast Antarctic ice sheet to a key planetary parameter that humans are now controlling — the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Last month, new research showed that during the Miocene era, some 14 to 23 million years ago, Antarctica gave up huge volumes of ice, equivalent to tens of meters of sea level rise, when levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are thought to have been around 500 parts per million. We’re at a little over 400 parts per million now…”

Photo credit above: “A zodiac carrying a team of international scientists heads to Chile’s station Bernardo O’Higgins in Antarctica in January 2015.” (Natacha Pisarenko/AP).


Report: Farmers Should Diversify to Adapt for Climate Change. A story at The Flathead Beacon in Kalispell, Montana caught my eye; here’s an excerpt: “…Chris Christiaens, legislative and project specialist for MFU, said there has been a push in the last 18 months to educate producers on the importance of diversifying their crops. Farmers are also trying to get their crops in earlier to take advantage of wet weather in the early spring, but that leaves them open to frost damage. Christiaens said the winter wheat is already out of dormancy with the warm spring so far, but if it turns cold again, a snowstorm could smother the crop. “There’s something certainly different,” Christiaens said. “So we’re saying if you want to stay in business, think about diversifying, think about crops that are more drought resistant...”
Photo credit above: “A wheat field and irrigation equipment near Ronan.” Beacon File photo.

The Coincidences Keep Piling Up. The warmth in February was historic; here’s an excerpt from HotWhopper: “…Last month, February, the global mean surface temperature was a whopping 1.35 °C (2.43 °F) above the 1951-1980 mean. That smashes previous records, and is the hottest February on record by 0.47 °C. The previous hottest February’s were in 1998 at 0.88 °C and 2015 at 0.87 °C. It’s also the highest ever anomaly for any month,with the previous highest anomaly being the previous month, January 2016, when the temperature was 1.14 °C above the 1951-1980 mean. There’ve now been five “hottest months on record” in a row, starting in October last year…”


Scientists Predicted Jump in Temperatures. Is El Nino turbocharing global warming? It turns out Dr. Kevin Trenberth predicted this scenario some time ago; here’s a link to a video interview and reposted story at Climate Denial Crock of the Week: “…Dr. Trenberth spoke about large cycles in the Pacific that are part of natural variability, and how the ocean has tended in recent years to take more heat into greater depths, where it can not show up on surface temperature measurements. Dr. Trenberth further predicted, starting at about 9:00 above, that a new El Nino event, if strong enough, like the one we are seeing now, would jumpstart the kind of warming trend that we saw between the mid-70s and 1998...”


Why Young Americans are Suing Obama Over Climate Change. Here’s an excerpt from Rolling Stone: “…People should be enraged,” says attorney Julia Olson, who argued the plaintiffs’ case Wednesday and spoke to Rolling Stone last week. Olson is executive director of Our Children’s Trust, the Oregon non-profit that’s brought nearly two dozen climate cases around the country using the emerging legal strategy called Atmospheric Trust Litigation. “This is the part of democracy that people don’t see, but when you watch government lawyers, side by side with industry lawyers, stand up in front a judge and say these kids don’t have a right to be protected against catastrophic climate change, and the U.S. Constitution doesn’t protect that right, that’s powerful…”

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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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