Conservation Minnesota

Record Warmth Saturday Typical for mid-April; Mild Bias Continues Into March

58 F. high in the Twin Cities Saturday, breaking the old record of 54 in 1896.
33 F. average high on February 27.
15 F. high on February 27, 2015, after waking up to -6 F.

February 28, 1981: Ice is out on Lake Minnetonka. Boats are enjoying the early thaw.

Faulty Calendars: We May Skip a Month This Spring

“Spring is when you feel like whistling, even with a shoe full of slush” wrote Doug Larson. Were you whistling yesterday? Near 60F in late February; record-smashing warmth typical of mid-April? It felt great but at the risk of channeling Debby Downer – was I the only one scratching my head? “This isn’t natural.”

El Nino, possibly the biggest on record, has combined with background warming to prime the pump for more frequent and vigorous warm fronts.

Long-range guidance for mid-March looks like something out of mid-April. We could almost skip a month this spring; GFS guidance hinting at 60F and a few random T-showers next week. Huh?
Canada won’t go quietly into the night. Cooler air drains south today, sparking a few light rain showers. Under a sputtering sun highs hold in the 20s by midweek, before 40s return by Saturday.

Is that it for winter? I don’t see any more subzero nights, but a few slushy slop-storms may still surprise us in March. That said, the trends are just as obvious as the new Al Roker tattoo on my forehead: a warm bias continues as far ahead as I can see.


60-ish on February 27. Yes, that’s the average high for April 19. If only our weather was average. Blaine won the coveted Golden Thermometer Award (no cash prizes, sorry) with a high of 63F yesterday. Wow.


Spring Fever in Late February. Under a blue sky with light winds temperatures pushed into the upper 50s and low 60 across central and southern Minnesota. The mercury hit 60F as far north as Superior, Wisconsin on Saturday.



Mid-March or Mid-April? I pulled up this map and immediately thought I dialed in the wrong data. This is the 2-week outlook for 500mb winds from NOAA’s GFS model, showing any vestiges of cold, Canadian air lifting into northern Canada; a mild, springline zonal flow keeping most of the lower 48 states as much as 15-25F  warmer than average.

A Minor Correction – Then Back to Spring. ECMWF (European) guidance suggests highs returning to near 60F within about 8-9 days; the GFS model doesn’t warm us back to 60F until the end of next week. What happened to March? Temperature outlook: NOAA  and Aeris Enterprise.

Token Snowfall Far Northern Minnesota. The arrival of more seasonable air whips up a few inches of snow for far northern Minnesota by Tuesday; possibly plowable near the Canadian border. I don’t see any accumulating snow for the MSP metro into late week. NAM guidance: NOAA and AerisWeather.


New Maps. Our fast-forward springlike pattern inspired me to transition from accumulated snow to accumulated rain; highlighting excessive rains forecast for the west coast, from the Bay Area to Seattle, where some 3-8″ rainfall amounts are possible over the next 10 days. El Nino isn’t done with the USA just  yet.



Deadly Tornadoes Were First Ever in Virginia in February. USA TODAY has the details; here’s the intro: “The tornadoes that killed four people in Virginia on Wednesday were the state’s first deadly February twisters on record. Three people died in the small town of Waverly and a fourth person was killed in Appomattox County, according to local officials. The Appomattox tornado was rated an EF-3, with wind speeds estimated at 136 to 165 mph, the National Weather Service reported Thursday. This made it the strongest February tornado ever recorded in Virginia...”

Photo credit above: “Tornado damage along Richmond Highway in Appomattox County is shown on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016.” (Photo: Jill Nance, AP).


The Tornado Formula. Why is the USA the tornado capital of the planet? It’s complicated. Here’s an excerpt of a good explainer at The Atlantic: “…The U.S. gets so many tornadoes because, in large part, the presence of the Rocky Mountains and the Gulf of Mexico,” Harold Brooks, a scientist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory, told me in an email. Those features create the conditions for the three key ingredients necessary for the kind of severe thunderstorm that can produce tornadoes:
1. Warm, moist air at low levels
2. Cool, dry air aloft
3. Horizontal winds that increase with height from the ground-up—and change direction, so that they blow from the equator at low levels, and from the west aloft.
The United States sees all three of those ingredients…”
Photo credit above: “A mile-wide tornado is seen near El Reno, Oklahoma in May 2013.” Richard Rowe / Reuters.


St. Paul to Bar Itself From Investing in Fossil-Fuel Companies. Here’s an excerpt from twincities.com: “The city of St. Paul won’t be investing in oil companies in the near future. Expressing concern about climate change, the St. Paul City Council voted Wednesday on a resolution barring the city from investing pension funds and other public money directly into fossil-fuel companies. The divestment decision is mostly symbolic, as the city’s public employee pensions are managed by the Minnesota State Board of Investment and not invested by the city itself…” (Photo credit: Dan Anderson at Flickr).

Follow The Leader: How 11 Countries Are Shifting to Renewable Energy. Climate Reality has the story; here’s a clip: “…In 2015, Sweden threw down the gauntlet with an ambitious goal: eliminating fossil fuel usage within its borders, and immediately ramping up investment in solar, wind, energy storage, smart grids, and clean transport. And the best part? The Swedes are challenging everyone else to join them in a race to become the first 100-percent renewable countries. Now that’s a competition where everyone wins…”


What Does Your Energy Utopia Look Like? Fusion, solar (film), new sources we can’t even imagine today? Here’s an excerpt of an interesting story at How We Get To Next: “…What struck me most when going through them to put this closing post together was how different many of those visions are from each other. From the billion-year gaze of Britain’s top fusion scientist, to worries over running out of lithium, to the communities rejecting big energy in favor of something they can own, it’s clear that there are many alternative answers. But many of them are complementary to each other — they work together, offering a bridge from the old to the new. Given the importance that energy plays in modern society, it’s crucial that we get this right. This isn’t a short-term decision — our lives, as well as the lives of our children and their children, depend on it...”

Image credit above: Jonas de Ro // CC BY-SA 3.0



Electric Car Batteries Used To Be Ineffective and Pricy. That Era is Over. Although Moore’s Law doesn’t apply innovation has been steady; resulting in more power and range per dollar. Here’s an excerpt from Slate: “…But the cost of that battery is another story. Thanks to continuous improvement, General Motors last year said the new lithium-ion packs now cost it about $145 per kilowatt-hour—about 70 percent cheaper than they did in 2012. Put another away, the battery pack in the 2017 Volt will cost less than 10 percent more than the one in the 2012 Volt. But it will be more than four times more powerful...”

Photo credit: Carolyn Kaster, AP.


The Bright Future Ahead for Electric Vehicles, in 4 Charts. Here’s a clip from Mother Jones: “Last month, Elon Musk predicted that the electric vehicle industry will “definitely suffer” from low oil prices—a barrel of crude is about $33 today, down from more than $100 a year ago. Why invest in an electric car when gas is so cheap? And sure enough, sales of gas-guzzling SUVs jumped 10 percent in 2015, while electric vehicle sales dipped 4 percent. But don’t expect that trend to last, even if oil prices stay relatively low. A new market forecast from Bloomberg New Energy Finance paints a rosy picture for the future of electric vehicles, rising from about 1 percent of global annual vehicle sales today to 35 percent by 2040—about 41 million cars…”


Is Google’s New Two-Legged Robot the Soldier of the Future? Here’s an excerpt from Newsweek: “Boston Dynamics, Google’s robotics subsidiary, has unveiled the latest version of its Atlas humanoid robot—giving a glimpse of what future soldiers might look like. The Atlas robot is demonstrated in a video showing its ability to navigate rough terrain, pick up objects and self-right itself when pushed to the ground. At 5 feet 9 inches and weighing 180 pounds, Atlas is similar in size and proportion to a human and follows on from previous bi-pedal versions of the robot…”


The Night The Beatles Played to 18 People. Yes, everyone has their share of oh-crap moments. Even members of The Beatles. Here’s an excerpt of an article at Mashable: “…The gig was billed as a battle of the bands between Liverpool’s Beatles and London’s Ivor Jay and the Jaywalkers. The opponents never showed. When the Beatles arrived after being driven nine hours drive from Liverpool by Leach’s friend Terry McCann, their posters were nowhere to be found, and they had to wait to be let into the venue. That night, the Beatles played their usual covers of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis to about 18 very bored people...”

Image credit: Beatles Source.



TODAY: Light PM mix, cooler wind kicking in. Winds: NW 15-25. High: 40 (falling)

SUNDAY NIGHT: Mostly cloudy. Low: 29

MONDAY: Mild start, PM flurries possible. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 40

TUESDAY: Chilled sunshine, jacket-worthy. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 19. High: 27

WEDNESDAY: Clouds increase, late mix? Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 22. High: 36

THURSDAY: Storm tracks south, few flakes here. Winds: NE 8-13. Wake-up: 18. High: 26

FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy, seasonably cool. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 20. High: 35

SATURDAY: Patchy clouds, warming up again. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 24. High: 42


Climate Stories….

Climate Change is Shifting Natural Resources and Wealth Along With It. Here’s the into to a story at Newsweek: “As the planet warms, plants, trees, fish and other natural resources are on the move, shifting toward the poles, in the direction of higher elevations and deeper into the seas, states a paper published February 24 in the journal Nature Climate Change. This natural capital has economic value, especially in developing countries where it accounts for a large share of resources. The team of researchers led by Eli Fenichel, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, say that where the fish migrate, money will follow, but that it’s not as simple as this…”

Photo credit above: “A fisherman’s boat as seen on Bolivia’s dried Poopo lakebed, south of La Paz, last December. A new study argues that as natural resources like fish migrate due to climate change, dramatic changes in global wealth will follow.” David Mercado, Reuters.



Arctic Feedback: Is Rapid Warming Fueling More Dangerous Storms? The jury is still out, the science far from settled, but The Independent has the results of new research attempting to connect the dots; here’s an excerpt: “…Dr Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute in California, said there was a growing body of “pretty scary” evidence that higher temperatures in the Arctic were driving the creation of dangerous storms in parts of the northern hemisphere. According to a graph on the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre’s website, there were 14.2 million km squared of sea ice on 24 February. On an average year over the last three decades, it would take until about 29 April for there to be as little sea ice as temperatures warm in the spring. Since about 10 February, the area covered by sea ice has been noticeably below any of the last 30 years as the Arctic has experienced record-breaking temperatures of about 4C higher than the 1951-1980 average for the region…”

Graphic credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.



Scientists Are More Confident Than Ever in Troubling Sea Level Rise Projections. A confidence level of 95% that seas are rising faster now than anytime in the last 27 centuries? Here’s an excerpt from ThinkProgress: “…That’s not to say the scientific community was unsure sea level rise is happening, and that greenhouse gases are behind it. It means that the certainty surrounding sea level rise projections needed to improve, according to the IPCC. Now, however, two separate studies developed by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, and Rutgers University in the United States, say modeling techniques are agreeing like never before in their conclusions. Most importantly, while the Potsdam study found that sea level rise will likely be as much as 50 inches by the end of the century unless greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly reduced, the Rutgers study found that global sea levels rose faster in the last century than in the last 3,000 years. Both studies were published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…” (Photo credit: AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton).

Rising Tides. USA TODAY has an interactive graphic that shows projected sea level rise based on best estimates; here’s an excerpt: “…One forecast by Climate Central, an independent organization of scientists and journalists, shows sea levels rising by 2 to 7 feet from current levels by 2100. But the water won’t rise to the same level in every part of the USA. Because of “land movement,” such as erosion and sinking, some areas would experience rising sea levels anyway; climate change only compounds that…”

Sources and credits: Climate Central, EPA, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dino Kordopitoulas, Justin Peebles, Frank Pompa and Jim Lenahan, USA TODAY Network.



What’s The Best Way to Cut Your Carbon Emissions? Here’s an excerpt from CityLab: “…If Americans aren’t interested in buying dramatically more efficient vehicles, they could instead try an across-the-board approach, piling up little actions in different sectors. For instance, you could reduce driving by 6 percent, buy a car that’s 22.8 mpg instead of 21.4, replace any remaining incandescent bulbs with LEDS, eat 35 percent less meat, and cut 67 percent of personal food waste. Each of those piecemeal choices makes a 1 percent cut in overall emissions.If you want to do things on several fronts and combine the benefits that way because it’s easier for you, you would have to do a lot of different small things to equal the benefit of a large increase in fuel economy,” Sivak tells CityLab…” (Photo credit: AP / Jae C. Hong).

A Coal Miner’s Daughter and the End of Fossil Fuels. How We Get To Next has another good read; here’s an excerpt: “…The United States generated about 4,093 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2014, 67 percent of which was from fossil fuels. Coal accounted for 39 percent, natural gas for 27 percent, nuclear for 19 percent, hydroelectricity for 6 percent, and other renewables (primarily wind and biomass) for 7 percent. While coal use in the country decreased in 2015 to 34 percent and carbon emissions fell to their lowest annual level since 1995, the world’s biggest single source of climate change still has a sizable chunk of the U.S. energy pie.Unless you live underground, by now you’ve heard the warnings about the dangers of climate change: severe floods, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, unpredictable rainfall, and a serious reduction in crop yield…” Image credit: xpe // CC BY 3.0


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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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