Conservation Minnesota

Spring Returns Within 1 Week – More Winter Precipitation Falling as Rain vs. Snow

44 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday.
53 F. average high on April 6.
43 F. high on April 6, 2015.

36.2″ of snow so far this winter season at KMSP. That’s 16.5″ below average, to date.

April 7, 1857: A cold snap hits the United States, with snow reported in every state.
April 7: National No Housework Day. Who knew?

Spring Takes a Temporary Time-Out into Saturday

After a climate talk in Mahtomedi Tuesday a woman shared something her 5-year old had said about me. “Why doesn’t the weatherman ever get a time out? All he does is fib!” I’ve been accused of worse.

The accuracy of a 24-hour “Tomorrow” forecast is about 88 percent. It hasn’t improved much in 30 years, in spite of better models and Doppler radar. Sadly consumers remember the 12 percent of the time we blow it. The accuracy of the 7-Day has improved, and we can sometimes detect trends months in advance – but we still have a long way to.

Looking backwards is much easier. NOAA NCDC reports March was the 4th warmest since 1895 in Minnesota. Much of the USA enjoyed one of the warmest Marches on record. NOAA’s CFSv2 climate model predicted that months in advance.

And now comes the inevitable payback; jacket weather spills over into early next week with temperatures 10-15F cooler than average. A ragged sky leaks showers today; an inch or two of slush up north tonight.

Showers Sunday give way to another cool swipe, then temperatures moderate. Expect more 50s, maybe 60F by late next week.


Winter’s Last Swipe? No, I shouldn’t say that out loud, not in a state where (in theory) it can snow hard well into May. We’ll see more cold fronts (no kidding) but looking at long-range models this may be the last opportunity for (plowable) snow for a few months. Parts of the Red River Valley may see a coating, a better chance of a few inches from the North Shore into the U.P. and northern Wisconsin. NAM guidance: NOAA and AerisWeather.


Chilly Into Monday – Then Spring Returns. GFS guidance shows 50s this upcoming Sunday; one more temperature dip early next week before a steady warming trend as a Pacific flow resumes. 60s to near 70F the weekend after next seems realistic. Graphic: Aeris Enterprise.


No Significant Moisture Next 8-9 Days. Models print out light rainfall amounts today (00z NAM shows .05″ at MSP) and then dry weather prevails most of next week; a growing chance of heavier showers and possible T-storms the weekend after next. From slush to thunder in a little over a week? That sounds about right.


Pattern Shift. GFS and ECMWF guidance is fairly consistent bringing a real warm front back into Minnesota by the third week of April; consistent 50s and 60s, with a few days in the 70s likely. The first severe outbreak less than 2 weeks away? I wouldn’t be at all surprised.


Hello Spring. The coldest air finally lifts into Canada within 2 weeks, a modified zonal flow returning for most of the USA with temperatures at or above normal, with the possible exception of New England, where spring may never arrive.



4th Warmest March on Record for Minnesota. NOAA NCDC data was just released, showing the 4th warmest March since 1895 for Minnesota – in the top 2-5 warmest Marches on record for a vast stretch of the USA.

TV Maker Panasonic Says It Has Developed The World’s Best Weather Model. I am suspending my disbelief and skepticism and waiting for real metrics – but if this is true it’s pretty earth-shattering, as reported at Ars Technica: “…Large, multinational electronics company Panasonic now wants to crash the party. In an exclusive interview with Ars, Neil Jacobs, the chief scientist for Panasonic Weather Solutions, said the company has been running its own global model for several years on an 11,000-core supercomputer. And that PWS model, he said, has not only been outperforming the GFS model but has become competitive with the gold-standard ECMWF model. “We started the global model development in 2008 and finally got to the point where we were outperforming ECMWF by late last year,” Jacobs said….”

Photo credit above: “Neil Jacobs, chief atmospheric scientist with Panasonic Weather Solutions, talks about his global weather model.” Panasonic Weather Solutions


Report: Much of the U.S. Seeing More Rain, Less Snow Due to Climate Change. Jason Samenow authors the story at The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang; here’s a clip: “…The report was prepared by Climate Central, the science communication non-profit based in Princeton, N.J. Its analysis of 65 years of data at 2,000 weather stations in 42 states shows a large majority of states are experiencing more rain and less snow. “[The shift towards more rain has] potentially severe consequences in western states where industries and cities depend on snowpack for water, and across the country wherever there is a winter sports economy,” the report’s executive summary said. The report, “Meltdown: Increasing rain as a percentage of total winter precipitation”, found the greatest shifts towards more rain at lower elevations with less of a clear pattern in the high terrain…”

Graphic credit: Climate Central; the full report is available here (PDF).



When the Sun Brings Darkness and Chaos. God help us if and when an X-class EMT solar storm reaches the USA. Odds are we won’t be reading about it on the internet – because the grid will be down. Here’s an excerpt from NPR: “…Once in a while, an instability will cause an explosive release of energy, most of it outside the visible spectrum. Particles are accelerated outwards at near the speed of light. We see a solar flare, with energies reaching some 150 billion megatons of TNT. For comparison, the most powerful H-bomb ever detonated, the Tsar bomba, reached 50 megatons of TNT, about 3,300 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. So, we are talking 3-billion-record-breaking H-bombs blowing up at the same time. And that’s not unusual. Such events happen every few days in the sun — speeding up to three a day during so-called solar maxima, periods of maximum solar activity that happen every 11 years…”

Image credit above: “A single plume of plasma, many times taller than the diameter of Earth, rose up from the Sun, twisted and spun around, while spewing streams of particles for two days — Aug. 17-19, 2015 — before breaking apart.” NASA/GSFC/Solar Dynamics Observatory.



10 Things You Didn’t Know About Tornadoes. Discovery News has an interesting infographic; here’s an excerpt: “The biggest tornado in history was the Hallam, Neb., tornado of May 22, 2004, which had a peak width of nearly 2.5 miles. Above, the wreckage it left behind.” NOAA, via Wikimedia Commons.


What Counties See The Most Tornado Watches? Southern Alabama sees more tornado watches (on average) than Texas and Oklahoma? Here’s an excerpt of an interesting post at The Weather Channel: “…The first map below shows the number of tornado watches issued by county in the United States during the 20-year period 1993-2012. During that time, ten or more tornado watches were issued each year from parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and north Texas to portions of Alabama, west Georgia and the Florida panhandle. Counties near the Gulf Coast typically see the most tornado watches each year. Washington County, Alabama, tops the list with 17 tornado watches annually...” (Map source: NOAA SPC).

Talking About The Weather – and 2016 Outlook. I’m looking forward to chatting up the weather with Vineeta Sawkar at The Star Tribune in downtown Minneapolis on April 13. Will El Nino flip-flop into a La Nina pattern? What are the implications for spring severe weather and possible drought later this year? This is Vineeta’s final appearance at The Star Tribune. I hope you can come out, wish her well (and win a new umbrella?) What a deal. More details on the April 13 event here.


In Cold Weather, NFL Players Have a 2-Fold Greater Risk for Concussions. Medical Daily has a summary of recent research; here’s an excerpt: “Researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital in Canada collected and analyzed data collected for each week over the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 sports seasons for all 32  National Football League (NFL)  teams.  They found that NFL players had a two-fold greater risk of concussions and a 1.5 times higher risk for ankle injuries when they played in colder weather. According to the study, the higher rates of concussions and injuries occurred when during games played in 50 degrees Fahrenheit or colder when compared with games played in temperatures of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit and higher…”

File photo: Pixabay.



Springtime in D.C. Means Mosquitoes – and Zika. There’s a comforting thought; here’s an excerpt from Foreign Policy: “…Recently, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) published a probability map for the potential spread of Zika, based on U.S. rain and mosquito patterns. Not surprisingly, the cities at highest risk were identified as those in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and the Carolinas, where summers are hot, wet, and mosquito-dense. Using the weather-based projections, we (Research Associate Gabriella Meltzer and myself at the Council on Foreign Relations) examined recent histories of mosquito-borne disease, net budgets for insect control, and estimated per capita spending on abatement in each high-risk area...”

What Happens When You Combine Satellite Imagery and Artificial Intelligence. Fortune has an interesting story – here’s a link and excerpt: “…Orbital Insight, another Silicon Valley geospatial data company, tracks national and global trends as well as more esoteric indicators, such as where all the world’s surface water is at any given time, which holds significant interest for scientists and the global insurance industry. Descartes Labs, of Los Alamos, N.M., uses satellite data to predict the yield of U.S. corn harvests, often more accurately than the Department of Agriculture. And where logging companies previously used samples to estimate the number of trees in an area of forest, DigitalGlobe taps its software to count trees, one by one, across millions of acres of forest...” (Image credit: Digital Globe).

Wind and Solar are Crushing Fossil Fuels. Disruption is happening faster than expected and cost trends are driving much of the transformation; here’s an excerpt from Bloomberg: “Wind and solar have grown seemingly unstoppable. While two years of crashing prices for oil, natural gas, and coal triggered dramatic downsizing in those industries, renewables have been thriving. Clean energy investment broke new records in 2015 and is now seeing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels. One reason is that renewable energy is becoming ever cheaper to produce. Recent solar and wind auctions in Mexico and Morocco ended with winning bids from companies that promised to produce electricity at the cheapest rate, from any source, anywhere in the world, said Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board for Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF)...”

Graphic credit above: “Investment in Power Capacity, 2008-2015.” Source: BNEF, UNEP.


When Energy Prices Turn “Negative” – Impact of Renewables on Power Grid in Texas and California. The Dallas Morning News has the story; here’s an excerpt: “A phenomenon in wholesale power markets that forces prices below zero when renewable energy supplies surge is occurring more than ever in markets from California to Texas. Even the Midwest and Northeast aren’t immune. It’s expensive for nuclear plants and coal- and natural gas-fired units to turn on and off. So when output from wind and solar farms jumps and supply exceeds demand, prices have to fall below zero to force some generators offline…”

Photo credit above: Cypress Creek Renewables/AP. “A commercial solar farm has been built on farmland by Cypress Creek Renewables in Catawba County, N.C. The solar industry is courting landowners for energy production.”

Solar and Wind Energy May Be Nice, But How Can We Store It? NPR has the story – here’s a link and excerpt: “…A company called SolarReserve may have found a solution: It built a large solar plant in the Nevada desert that can store heat from the sun and generate electricity for up to 10 hours even after sundown. You can see the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant from miles away. There’s a 640-foot-tall tower surrounded by 10,347 mirrors. The heliostats, as they’re technically called, are arranged in a circle that is 1.75 miles across. They direct heat from the sun to the top of the tower, which glows white-hot…”

Photo credit above: “SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant, located near Tonopah, Nev., features an array of 10,347 mirrors arranged in a circle 1.75 miles across. A 640-foot-tall tower glows when the sun’s energy is concentrated and directed to the top.” SolarReserve.


Solar and Saudi Arabia: Riyadh Bows to the Inevitable. Climate Home has the story: “The opportunity involves solar energy, which is fast heading towards becoming the cheapest unsubsidised form of energy on the planet. Last year, solar power plants cheaper than gas plants were built in Dubai and Colorado. A Saudi company, ACWA Power, built the one in Dubai. We can expect to see more such plants around the world in 2016, and many more beyond. The main reason is the astonishing cost reduction of solar power. Since 2008, the average cost of a solar power plant, be it on the ground or on a roof, has fallen more than 80%…” (Photo credit: Rehan Jamil/Flickr).


Hey Bill Gates, our “Energy Miracles” Are Already Here. Andrew Freedman reports at Mashable – here’s a snippet: “…Citing the plummeting costs of solar power as well as wind energy, Liebreich asked, “How much more miracle-y do you need your miracles to be?” Solar costs have come down by a factor of 150 since 1975, Liebreich said. In terms of the share of power generation, the amount of solar power being generated to power homes and offices has doubled seven times in the past 15 years, while wind power has doubled four times. However, even with such steep rates of increase, both solar and wind are relatively minor players in electricity generation worldwide, compared to natural gas and coal, for example…”


The Car Industry Has Never Witnessed What Tesla Is About To Go Through. The Washington Post has perspective on the potentially transformative shift in the auto industry now underway: “Most of the best selling cars in America, such as the Honda Accord or Nissan Altima, generally hit around 300,000 in sales every year. Tesla saw 276,000 people sign-up to buy its newest all-electric Model 3 sedan — in two days. That massive number, which far exceeded optimistic forecasts, upends traditional thinking about how to sell cars and is expected to spur the auto industry to shift more dramatically to market electric technology to consumers, analysts said…”



TODAY: Showers likely, still fairly raw. Mix possible up north. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 44

THURSDAY NIGHT: Showers mix with a little wet snow. Low: 30

FRIDAY: What April? Feels like low 20s with more clouds than sun, gusty. Winds: NW 15-25. High: 38

SATURDAY: Frosty start. Bright sun, still cool. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 25. High: 42

SUNDAY: Milder, few showers around. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 34. High: 55

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, colder breeze. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 35. High: 43.

TUESDAY: More sun, winds ease up. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 29. High: 44

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, temperatures mellow. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 31. High: 51


Climate Stories….


One Fact About Climate Change That’s Worth Repeating. ThinkProgress has the story; here’s the intro: “The overwhelming majority of climate scientists — over 97 percent — understand that humans are the primary cause of climate change. This is one of the central facts about human-caused climate change that any climate communicator needs to keep repeating, for several reasons. First, it’s true, as Politifact detailed on Monday. The scientific literature is clear on this. Second, the ongoing disinformation campaign funded by the fossil fuel industry (together with false balance by the media) has left the public with the impression that there is considerable scientific debate on a subject where there isn’t…”


NASA Sea Level Change Website Offers Everything You Need to Know About Climate Change. Here’s a clip from Tech Times: “…These and more are the horror stories the human race has to face if climate change should continue in its current rate or worsens over time, forcing many scientists to scramble to come up with more precise estimates on sea levels and global warming rates and mitigate the effects. Currently, the data seem segmented and may not paint a “true global picture.” To address this problem, NASA is stepping in with a new method through the Sea Level Change site, which “keeps track of sea level change and its causes from space.” Using different climate change models and data fed by satellites like Jason-3 in space, NASA can help estimate sea level rises, determine possible causes, and establish relationships of these changes in sea levels with the other alterations of Earth’s topography...”


Climate Change Could Cost the World $2.5 Trillion If Left Unchecked. The Week has details; here’s a link and excerpt: “…”Our work suggests to long-term investors that we would be better off in a low-carbon world,” Professor Simon Dietz, the lead author of the report into the financial implications of climate change, told The Guardian. Using a variety of models and based on pre-existing estimates of global GDP growth under various climate conditions and assumed weather-related consequences, the economists sought to estimate the “value at risk” around the world as a result of climate change. “The study did not try to identify which sectors were most at risk,” reports Reuters. Rather, it sought to estimate the potential value that could be wiped out due to the damage that climate change can wreak, “from the destruction of buildings, bridges or roads by storms or floods, to losses of agricultural productivity and enforced movement of populations…”



One of Our Best Agricultural Weapons Against Climate Change is Sorely Lacking. Modern Farmer has the story – here’s a snippet: “…The idea of cross-breeding with crop wild relatives is not new; for millennia farmers have planted these plants near their own crops in order to promote healthy interchange. But, this study finds, they’re disappearing. Like basically any other wild plant (or animal!), development, deforestation, and various other human-related causes are proving to be huge threats to crop wild relatives. One solution to that would be to save their seeds in the gene banks and seed banks set up for that purpose: If we have the seeds, we have the genetic material, and thus we have the tools. This study, published in the journal, Nature Plants, examined 1,076 crop wild relatives, comprising the wild versions of 81 of the world’s most important crops, including grains, fruits, and vegetables…”

File photo: Andre Penner, AP.


“Gasland” Director’s New Movie Grapples with Climate Change. It’s easy to get depressed, but with a clean energy revolution now well underway I feel more empowered than hopeless (most days). That said, some significant level of adaptation is a foregone conclusion. We’re already adapting to new levels of climate volatility. Here’s an excerpt from Fusion: “…But he ends up taking on an even more profound truth, as he discovers that it is probably too late to even worry about these types of issues. “Overwhelming, overwhelming, overwhelming,” he keeps saying to himself as he encounters one after another of hopelessly monumental environmental quandries. This is the true genesis of the film’s title: At this point, there isn’t much we can do to stop the ravages of climate change. We can only hope to prepare for them.…”



What’s Your Biggest Frustration With How Climate Change is Communicated? Tamino asks the question at Open Mind – here’s an excerpt of one, of many, illuminating answers: “…The first is that climate change risks tend to be communicated in isolation from one another: we get descriptions of species at risk, OR sea level rise, OR drought, OR the ‘equally evil twin’ (per Elizabeth Kolbert) of ocean acidification, et cetera, et cetera. We don’t so often get the notion that it’s all of the above, mutually reinforcing each others’ impacts, and progressively worsening in proportion to how long as we allow something like BAU to continue. Synergy isn’t always our friend…”

White House Says Climate Change Will Damage Public Health. TIME has the article; here’s the introduction: “Climate change will contribute to a wide array of public health issues in the United States in the coming decades, including everything from the spread of vector borne illness to the diminished nutritional content of food, according to a new White House report. The report, the product of a three-year collaboration between a number of federal agencies, suggests that extreme heat alone will drive more than 11,000 additional deaths in the summer of 2030 and 27,000 additional deaths in the summer of 2100, barring an accelerated effort to address climate change...” (File image: Wikipedia).



Which Countries Are Most At Risk of Climate Change and How Can We Help? Here’s the intro to a story at IRIN: “The countries most vulnerable to climate change are among the poorest and least able to respond. How to resolve that dilemma and help these places adapt to a warming world remains among the knottiest problems facing climate financing. The good news is that identifying those most in need – step one – is now a good deal easier thanks to a global league table developed by the University of Notre Dame. The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN) measures a country’s vulnerability in relation to its ability to cope with climate change…”

Evangelical Christians Gather in Charlotte to Pray for Action on Climate Change. The Charlotte Observer reports: “…As Billy Graham himself said, “Why should we be concerned about the environment? It isn’t just because of the dangers we face from pollution, climate change, or other environmental problems – although these are serious. For Christians, the issue is much deeper: We know that God created the world, and it belongs to Him, not us. Because of this, we are only stewards or trustees of God’s creation, and we aren’t to abuse or neglect it.” As evangelicals, we are called to action wherever there is conflict between people and the environment. We recognize that we cannot do this well if we are not committed to tackling climate change at its root causes...”

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article69894937.html#storylink=cpy

Column: A Carbon Tax is a Conservative Answer to Climate Change. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed written by former GOP South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis at The Tampa Bay Times that resonated: “…Too often the question is, “Do you believe in climate change?” What’s there to believe? Climate change is just data. The question is what to do about the data. The question is whether we can rise to full citizenship, full humanity. The question is whether we can own up to full accountability. I believe in that kind of accountability. I believe that we are the stewards of creation and that accountability brings blessings. I believe that accountability drives the free enterprise system to deliver innovation…”

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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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