March 16, 1930: The temperature at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport tops out at a record 71 degrees.
The Definition of Raw – Plowable Snow Up North
I have a sudden, inexplicable urge to ski Duluth. The same storm responsible for windswept rain in the Twin Cities will mix with a fresh surge of Canadian air to whip up some 4-8 inch snow totals for the North Shore. Winter’s last gasp? Perhaps, but snow in March is hardly newsworthy at this latitude.
At least on paper March is still the 3rd snowiest month of the year, according to NOAA, just behind January and December, in that order. On this date in 1917 the metro area was pasted with 9 inches of fresh snow.
But this year the warm signal has been too strong and too persistent. El Nino accounts for some of the additional warmth, but warming of the arctic is off the scale. There just isn’t as much bitter air for Canada to export to the USA.
A cold rain tapers to showers today as winds gust to 40 mph. A terrible hair day for all. A little slush can’t be ruled out on metro lawns, but by the time surface temperatures fall below 32F (Friday morning) moisture will be long gone.
Except in Duluth. If you want to slip and slide in a fresh March snow drive 1-3 hours due north.
* First 15 days of March were 12.6 F. warmer than average in the Twin Cities.
Retrograding Storm. Another wave of moisture approaches from the north today as a vertical storm temporarily stalls over the Great Lakes. The atmosphere will be marginally warm enough for rain showers in the metro, but all that blue north of MSP is wet, slushy (accumulating) snow. 84-hour precipitation type: NOAA NAM and AerisWeather.
Probably Plowable. Both 12 KM and 4 KM NAM model solutions show a cool half foot of snow for Duluth and much of the Northland, as well as far northern Wisconsin. A coating of slush can’t be ruled out from Alexandria to St. Cloud and the Twin Cities late tonight and Thursday morning, but daytime highs consistently above 32F should melt any snow fairly rapidly in the metro area.
Winter’s Last Stand? It’s Minnesota – it can snow in May, so I’m not going out on that limb just yet, but our internal model ensembles show 4″ of snow in Bemidji by 11 PM tonight. Source: Aeris Enterprise.
Cool Correction. Not exactly arctic, but closer to average for the third week of March, with predicted highs in the upper 30s and low 40s into the first half of next week. Flurries linger into Friday, possibly Saturday – right now Sunday looks like the sunnier, slightly milder day of the weekend. 50s may return by the end of next week. Source: WeatherSpark.
Late March: Slightly Above Average. Predicted 500 mb winds (GFS) show a zonal flow blowing over northern tier states with chilly air lurking over much of Canada. I don’t see any more 60s or 70s looking out 3 weeks or so; a string of 40s, maybe a few days in the 50s into early April.
Over a Dozen Major Flash Floods in the Last 12 Months in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas. Here’s an excerpt from The Weather Channel that helped to frame the recent (historic) flooding. The term “historical flooding” is rapidly losing all context”, it seems: “…The historic March 2016 rain and flooding is putting an exclamation point on what’s been an exceptionally wet last 12 months over a swath of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri, featuring over a dozen significant flood events. The 12-month period ending March 9, 2016 was the record wettest March 10 to March 9 period in at least four major observing sites with at least 60 years of historical data, including…As you can see, some locations have picked up over two feet more precipitation than average over the past 12 months...”
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.
Giant Metaphor Crashes Through the Ice in Canada’s North. You can’t make this stuff up. Here’s the intro to a story at Cantech Letter: “An 80-thousand pound metaphor crashed through the ice in the Northwest Territories Saturday in the form of an off-white Western Star fuel tanker. The CBC reports that the tanker was carrying heating fuel to Deline, a town of about 500 near the Great Bear Lake. The accident happened just three days after the territory’s transportation department raised the allowable weight on the Great Bear Ice Crossing from 10,000 kilograms to 40,000...”
Photo credit above: “Walter Michot.
Sea Level Rise is Predictable. It Will Be Anything from Bad to Awful. WIRED has more perspective and context; here’s a clip: “…The results were pretty drastic. A three foot rise in sea level affects 4.2 million people, while a six foot rise would affect 13.1 million. This is several times higher than previous estimates. Example a study published in Global Environmental Change in 2013 put 1.8 to 7.4 million people at risk from rising seas. Which is worrying, until you stop and consider San Francisco. If the city’s action plan for sea level rise works perfectly, higher tides will not force anyone to move (higher rent, on the other hand…). Same for other places preparing for coastal inundation. Heck, ocean front real estate could take a hit from studies like this—sea level rise cannot displace people who never moved to the coast in the first place...”
Catching Storm Runoff Could Ease Droughts, But It’s No Quick Fix. KQED has a story with implications that go beyond California’s drought; here’s the intro: “Stormwater is starting to get some serious attention in California, as the state’s drought enters a fifth year. Thanks in part to El Niño, rain has been surging through downspouts and gutters lately. And a lot of it: one storm in Los Angeles County, packing one inch of rainfall, means 10 billion gallons of water. The Oakland-based Pacific Institute estimates that rainfall captured in the San Francisco Bay Area and metro Southern California could, in a strong year, provide enough water to supply the entire city of Los Angeles…”
Photo credit: “Storm runoff cascades into the street in Glen Ellen.” (Craig Miller/KQED).
Top 5 Tornado Myths. Meteorologist Matt Holiner at Fox19 in Cincinnati has some very good reminders as we head into prime time tornado season. You can rate a tornado just by looking at it? “…I blame the movie Twister for this one. Throughout the movie, they constantly look at tornadoes and say, “That’s a F-3,” or “There’s a F-5 heading our way!” This is all wrong. The width of a tornado gives a general idea of the intensity, but there are plenty of examples of relatively skinny tornadoes that had higher winds than wider ones. It is nearly impossible to measure the wind speed of a tornado as they are happening as the instruments would likely be destroyed. Instead, the wind speed within tornadoes is estimated based on the damage they leave behind. The method that is used to do this is the Enhanced Fujita or EF Scale. The evaluation of the damage can’t occur until after the tornado has passed, which is why the official rating of a tornado is usually not announced by the National Weather Service until the day after the storm...”
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...”
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In fact, Winkler traces the salute to more recent artistic depictions of ancient Romans, beginning with Jacques-Louis David’s 1784 painting, The Oath of the Horatii. According to Winkler, the painting, which depicts three brothers saluting their father and pledging to protect Rome, “provided the starting point for an arresting gesture that progressed from oath-taking to what will become known as the Roman salute.” Other neoclassical artists began to depict similar poses, and the myth was perpetuated through the early 20th century as it spread throughout depictions of ancient Roman society, including an early 20th century stage production of Ben-Hur. The myth was so widespread that it is believed to be behind the adoption of the official Olympic salute, which stopped being used after the rise of Nazism…”
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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…”
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Apple did win one small victory, though. Judges ruled that, in one particular iteration of the Windows-HP desktop, the trash can looked a little too much like Apple’s. “Like the garbage icons in the Macintosh and Lisa, the Waste Basket icon in NewWave… is depicted as an outdoor alley-style cylindrical garbage can with a lid and a handle on the top,” the judges wrote. The same was true of NewWave’s folder icons. Of all the supposed similarities, the trash alone was a bridge too far...”
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TODAY: Blustery. Rain slowly tapers. Winds: NW 20-40+ High: 44
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Light showers mixed with a little snow. Low: 34
THURSDAY: Light rain/snow mix. A little slush Thursday night? Winds: NW 10-20. High: 38
FRIDAY: Slick spots early? Chilly, few leftover flurries. Wake-up: 30. High: 39
SATURDAY: Nagging clouds and flurries. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 28. High: 39
SUNDAY: Partly sunny, feels better out there. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 25. High: 42
MONDAY: Fading sun, breezy and milder. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 31. High: 44
TUESDAY: Patchy clouds, risk of a rain shower or two. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 33. High: 46
Yes, Scientists Can Link Extreme Weather Events to Climate Change. Here’s a summary of new research at ThinkProgress: “When asked about a particular weather event’s link to climate change, scientists are typically cautious to make definitive statements — especially in the immediate aftermath, before they’ve had the chance to study the event. But according to a new study, it’s getting easier for scientists to make the link between climate change and some forms of extreme weather. The study, published Friday by the National Academies Press, found that scientific advances over the past several years have helped scientists link increases in frequency and intensity of temperature and precipitation-related events like droughts and heat waves to climate change...”
Photo credit: AP Photo/Eric Risberg.
Florida Republicans Demand Climate Change Solutions. Here’s an excerpt from Scientific American: “…As primary voters in Florida go to the polls today, scientists, business leaders and political figures all say they’ve seen a shift this election cycle. Figuring out how to adapt to the economic realities of 6 to 10 inches of sea-level rise over 1992 levels in the next 15 years has become a bipartisan issue in much of Florida, particularly in places most vulnerable to rising seas. “Some people see sea-level rise as something that is coming up in the next 50 years,” Regalado said. “But in Miami, people know about flooding. People understand flooding, and people understand the consequences of sea-level rise and the need to do something...”
Graphic credit: “Polling conducted over the past five years shows a growing acceptance of climate change in Florida, where scientists say rising sea levels from ice melting in the Arctic already are stressing the state’s stormwater systems.” Data courtesy of the University of Texas Energy Poll.
Global Warming Masked by Aerosols: Study. Cosmos Magazine has a summary of recent research; here’s the intro: “There was a silver lining to the sulfur pollution in our atmosphere late last century – it offset some of the warming effects of greenhouse gases. And now we’re cleaning up our act, the Arctic has suffered. Amy Middleton reports. High levels of aerosols, spewed from coal- and gas-powered power plants, cooled our atmosphere, masking up to a third of global warming caused by greenhouse gases last century. And when Europe cleaned up its sulfur emissions, it inadvertantly gave Arctic warming a boost. A study led by geoscientist Trude Storelvmo at Yale University and published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience bypassed climate modelling and instead observed temperature, greenhouse gas levels and surface radiation from 1,300 surface sites from across the globe from 1964 and 2010...”
Local View: Global Warming May Bring Some Cold Weather. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Duluth News Tribune: “…For now, it seems reasonable to believe that the extent of sea ice coupled with temperature amplification in the Arctic may influence our weather, even if determining the cause of a particular weather event is not possible. According to climatologist Mike Halpert of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, “Explaining why something happened is almost as hard as predicting it.” But regardless of their cause, kinks in the jet stream that allow cold Arctic air to spill to lower latitudes could remain common even as the planet as a whole heats up.”
Climate Change and Conservative Brain Death. Here’s a clip from an analysis at New York Magazine: “…Even allowing generously for hyperbole, Rubio’s description is as delusional as right-wing predictions of hyperinflation and Greek-style collapse during Obama’s first term. Literally nothing of the sort has taken place. Energy prices have been completely stable. That is because the green-technology subsidies in the stimulus, combined with a wave of tough regulations on the production and use of carbon, have driven a wave of green-technology innovation. Major new clean-energy technologies — wind, solar, batteries, LEDs — have plummeted in cost. All of these innovations have allowed the economy to decarbonize quickly without imposing noticeable costs on consumers. The coal industry is in a state of collapse…”
Graphic credit: U.S. Department of Energy.
Economists Are Out of Touch With Climate Change. The Age has an Op-Ed that resonates- here’s a clip: “…The disconnect between economics and natural science is certainly part of the problem. Economists are notoriously unwilling to cite research in other social science fields, and this insularity – sometimes called siloing – probably leads them to ignore the natural sciences as well. But many economic phenomena are critically dependent on natural phenomena, so neglecting science can make economic models spit out ludicrous results. Economic models, like any other, are subject to the problem of rubbish in, rubbish out...”
Record-Shattering February Warmth Bakes Alaska, Arctic 18F Above Normal. Here’s an excerpt from ThinkProgress: “…The speed up of human-caused global warming, while long predicted, is extremely worrisome, particularly given where it is warming the most — the Arctic and permafrost regions of North America. For instance, recent research finds that rapid Arctic warming, driven in part by sea ice loss, is already worsening extreme weather. Also, the permafrost contains twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, and as it defrosts, it releases that carbon in the form of either CO2 or methane (CH4), which is 84 more times more potent at trapping heat than CO2 over a 20-year period. Thus accelerated warming of the Arctic leads to accelerated global warming which leads to even more warming of the Arctic and so on…”
Graphic credit: “Global mean surface temperature (anomaly from 1951-1980 mean). NASA data (h/t Tamino). Red dot is February.”
Meltdown Earth: The Shocking Reality of Climate Change Kicks In – But Who is Listening? Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Conversation: “…We are currently swamping the Earth’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases. 2015 saw the largest annual increase in carbon dioxide since records began – far higher than the Earth has experienced for hundreds of thousands of years. More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means higher temperatures. There is already one positive feedback loop in operation; the extra warming from our emissions is increasing the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere, which further increases temperatures. Fortunately, this is not a very strong feedback loop. Unfortunately, there seem to be other, much more powerful ones lurking in the event of further warming. Tipping points such as the thaw of permafrost and release of the very powerful greenhouse gas methane in large quantities would drive world temperatures well beyond the 2℃ threshold...”
The Coming Reckoning on Climate Change: Column. Here’s a snippet of an Op-Ed at USA TODAY: “...If any issue is as morally fraught today as slavery and colonialism were in the 19th century, it is climate change. Scientists have been warning for more than three decades that continued release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere will lead to catastrophic changes in the earth’s climate and ecosystems. Yet humans are now releasing about twice as much carbon from fossil fuels as in 1980. Betting against the predictions of climate scientists essentially amounts to betting against the laws of physics. As the atmosphere becomes more opaque to the infrared radiation given off by the earth’s surface, the planet inevitably will warm. Sure, a small group of contrarian scientists thinks that some sort of countervailing mechanism will offset the warming. But they have little or no evidence to support their convictions...”
File photo: Scott Ackerman Photography.
5 Ways Climate Change Directly Affects You. Here’s a clip from Odyssey: “…Heat waves can cause dehydration and heat stroke. According to the EPA, they are the most common cause of weather-related death. A heat wave in India last summer claimed over 2,330 lives. According to EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database, that heat wave was the world’s fifth deadliest in history. In fact, the top five deadliest heat waves in world history all happened after 1998. It is easy to think, “How will this affect me? Can’t I just go inside or drink some water?” Sure, going inside may provide temporary sanctuary from the heat, but it comes at another cost; rising temperatures mean more air conditioning, and more air conditioning means more air pollution from power plants. Additionally, urban areas are usually hotter than their rural counterparts…”
The Dangers of Climate Change Denial. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Orlando’s SunSentinel: “Here in Florida, we’re experiencing the impacts of climate change first hand. Sea level rise has caused flooding in Miami to be a regular occurrence. Hurricanes are more frequent and severe. In the past five years, Florida has seen five natural disasters that qualified for disaster declaration by the Federal Emergency Management Administration. And yet, Senator Marco Rubio claims “the climate has always changed.” A recent analysis from the Center for American Progress Action Fund showed that more than 202 million – or 63 percent – of all Americans are represented in Congress by someone who denies the science behind climate change. This stands in stark contrast to poll after poll showing that more than 67 percent of all Americans support taking action to address climate change…”
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…”
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