Conservation Minnesota

Warm Sunshine, Then a Soggy Week. Supernaturally Late Start to Severe Storm Season

79 F. high in the Twin Cities Saturday.
71 F. average high on May 21.
74 F. high on May 21, 2015.

May 22, 2011: A strong EF-1 tornado with wind speeds up to 110 mph strikes north Minneapolis, causing extensive tree and structural damage. The tornado touched down in St. Louis Park and moved through north Minneapolis, lasting 14.25 miles before dissipating in Blaine after causing minor damage to the Anoka County Airport. The tornado reached a peak width of 1/2 mile.
May 22, 2001: Record cold high temperatures are set in over 30 cities in Minnesota, including a chilly 47 in the Twin Cities and 39 at Grand Rapids and Pine River. Half of an inch of snow falls at International Falls.
May 22, 1925: Temperatures take a nosedive from 100 to 32 degrees in 36 hours at New Ulm and Tracy.

Severe Clear, But There’s No Place for Complacency

What happened to a “robust severe weather season”? Coming out of the last jumbo El Nino in 1998 Minnesota was wracked with tornadoes and large hail. So far this year: 1 severe storm warning for the south metro.

Data suggests this is the second latest year on record with so few severe thunderstorm warnings in the Twin Cities. Not as quiet as 1997, when the first warnings weren’t issued until June, but amazing nonetheless.

Careful not to let your guard down. Dr. Kenny Blumenfeld at the State Climatology Office tells me that in spite of a record-late start, 1997 brought an exceptionally-destructive severe outbreak in July; a dozen tornadoes, some significant, along with record rains. “It stayed pretty active for the rest of the summer” Blumenfeld added.

We all know it can change in the blink of an eye.

A lake-worth Sunday treats us to 80F with smoky sun (Canadian wildfires). Thundershowers arrive Monday, potentially heavy rain Wednesday with T-storms popping up for the holiday weekend. Next weekend looks warm/sticky with rumbles of thunder and highs near 80F. Could be worse.



No Place for Complacency. Here’s an excerpt of an e-mail Dr. Kenny Blumenfeld sent me late last week, outlining a supernaturally quiet severe weather season, to date, in and around the Twin Cities – and the potential peril of letting our guard down: “The other night I stumbled upon something that may interest you: the MPX CWA has had one severe thunderstorm warning so far this year, which makes it the second latest we’ve been with so few severe thunderstorm warnings (note: not tornado warnings) since 1986. The first one in 1997 wasn’t issued until June! Lest we make too much of this, it’s worth noting that despite its lateness, 1997 produced an exceptionally destructive severe weather and rainfall event on July from central MN into the Metro on July 1. That system produced over a dozen tornadoes, many of which were significant, and extreme straight-line winds, along with 100-year/1-hour rainfalls. It stayed pretty active for the rest of the summer, and we had a killer tornado near Onamia on Sep 18th. But, perhaps this is an interesting stat nonetheless...”

– Dr. Kenny Blumenfeld, Senior Climatologist, State Climatology Office, Minnesota DNR.


2016 Tornado Count. A tip of the hat to Bill Steffen at WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan for some tornado-perspective: “The states that have had the most tornadoes this year are Texas (big state), Oklahoma, Mississippi and Alabama.  Michigan has had one small tornado this year, which went through the town of Edwardsburg in Cass Co. back on March 24th.  That twister was on the ground for 1.4 miles, was up to 150 yards wide and had peak winds of 75 mph…” (Map credit: ustornadoes.com).





A Few 80s Brewing. I still think we’ll top 80F today, again Tuesday and possibly Thursday, based on ECMWF guidance. Predicted “Euro” highs and lows courtesy of WeatherBell.


Winds Increase. Expect 15-20 mph winds by this afternoon with higher gusts. Yesterday I received a text notification from our internal model ensemble, showing a 30 mph sustained wind threshold may be reached by mid-afternoon on Monday. Graphic: Aeris Enterprise Mobile.


70s on Memorial Day. Chances are it won’t be stinking hot – no snow in the holiday forecast either. Most models suggest 70s with an outside chance of 80F a week from Monday. Temperature trend: Aeris Enterprise.


Sliding Back Into a Wetter Pattern. Our internal models suggest a chance of some 1″ rains in the Twin Cities metro by Tuesday afternoon.


Looks Like a Holiday. The map above shows (GFS) 10-day accumulated rainfall predictions; some 3″+ amounts close to the MSP metro area by Tuesday morning, May 31. The pattern will be ripe for waves of heavy thunderstorms into next week. Loop: AerisWeather.

A Few Episodes of Heavy Rain. NOAA’s models show the best windows for heavy rain and T-storms late Monday into midday Tuesday, again next Sunday and Monday, with some 3″+ rainfall amounts predicted by GFS and NDFD guidance by Tuesday of next week.


Widespread Frosts May 14-18. Dr. Mark Seeley reports spotty frost-related damage across the state; here’s an excerpt of his latest installment of Minnesota WeatherTalk: “A persistent dry high pressure system brought repeated frosts to many parts of Minnesota over the period May 14-18 this week. Many farmers have assessed the damage to crops, but in most cases corn was not significantly damaged because it was early enough in the growth cycle that the growing point was below the soil service. There was some damage to early planted soybean fields, but that represents a relatively small percentage of the acreage. Elsewhere some spotty damage to apple trees, grape vines, and fruit were reported. In fact those 5 days also produced over 30 new daily record low temperature values across the observational climate networks in the state…”


Summer Scorcher? Forecasts Call For a Hot One. A story at USA TODAY caught my eye; here’s a link and story excerpt: “Hot weather lovers, your time is coming. Most of the nation should see a warmer-than-average summer, according to a forecast released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That jibes with other forecasts released earlier this month by private forecasters such as the Weather Channel and AccuWeather. Both the East and West Coasts are expected to see the most extreme heat, NOAA said. The one area that might be near average is the central Plains…”

Map credit: Probability of warmer than average temperatures, June thru August, courtesy of NOAA Climate Prediction Center and AerisWeather.


Searing Heat Waves Detailed in Study of Future Climate. Here’s a clip from a story at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR): “…Besides finding that today’s 20-year heat waves could become annual occurrences across more than half of the world’s land areas by 2075, the study also concluded that heat waves with a 1-in-20 chance of occurring during a future year will be much more extreme than heat waves with the same probability of occurring today. For example, if emissions remain unabated, a heat wave with a 1-in-20 chance of occurring in 2050 would be at least 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter for 60 percent of the world’s land areas. For 10 percent of land areas, a 20-year heat wave in 2050 would be at least 5 degrees C (9 degrees F) hotter. A few degrees may not seem like much on a mild day, but during extreme heat events, they can mean the difference between life and death for vulnerable populations, Wehner said…”

Graphic credit: “For large portions of the world’s land surface, future heat waves with a 1-in-20 chance of occurring in any given year are projected to become more extreme than heat waves with the same chance of occurring today. Stringent efforts to mitigate human-produced carbon emissions would reduce the amount of land area at risk for these intense heat waves—defined as three days of exceptionally hot temperature.”


India Just Recorded Its Hottest Temperature On Record: 123.8 Fahrenheit. Andrew Freedman reports on staggering heat gripping India at Mashable: “India just set a new national record heat benchmark when the small city of Phalodi, in northwest India, recorded a high temperature of a whopping 51 degrees Celsius, or 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit, on May 19. The data, recorded by the India Meteorological Department (IMD), shows that the high temperature eclipsed the previous national high temperature of 50.6 degrees Celsius, which was set way back in 1886. The all-time record comes during a stifling heat wave that has enveloped much of the country following a series of deadly heat waves earlier this spring that struck India, Thailand, Cambodia and other parts of Southeast Asia…”

Map credit: “Misery Index showing temperatures plus dewpoint levels across India on May 19, 2016.” Image: Earth Simulator.

* The BBC has more details on record heat in India here.


Pray for Shade: Heat Wave Sets a Record in India. The New York Times provides more perspective: “People weren’t frying eggs on the sidewalks in Phalodi during India’s hottest day ever — in fact, it was so hot that many did not venture out at all. Heat is a familiar part of life in Phalodi, in the deserts of Rajasthan, so residents were following a familiar drill even before temperatures soared to 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday: When the heat comes, stay indoors, chug buttermilk and, if you must go out, cover your head and pray for shade. It is a drill that may prove ever more necessary if temperatures continue to rise…”


2015: Record Year for (Major) Hurricanes in the Northern Hemisphere. NASA’s Earth Observatory has the details: “…Thirty major hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones occurred in the northern hemisphere in 2015; the previous record was 23 (set in 2004). Twenty-five of those storms reached category 4 or 5, well beyond the previous record of 18. The maps above and below are based on data from Unisys Weather, which compiles information from the U.S. National Weather Service and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. The maps show the tracks and intensity of all tropical cyclones in 2015; first globally, then in the eastern and western Pacific basins...”




Remarkable Tornado Footage. Here’s a link and story excerpt from For The Win: “In this terrifying footage captured on May 9th, a tornado rips through the towns of Katie and Wynnewood, Oklahoma…”

Since Joplin Tornado, Dozens of Safe Rooms Built in Area Schools, Communities. A story at KSMU Radio made me do a double-take, highlighting some of the lesson’s of Joplin’s EF-5 tornado: “…For the schools without, the procedure during a severe weather event is to move students to interior rooms, rather than the old method of seeking shelter in the hallways. “After looking at Joplin, some of the places that were the least damaged were inside classrooms or in closets or those bathrooms or something like that,” Rantz says. “There’s still damage but they were more intact, and the hallways were actually some of the most dangerous spots…”



5 Surprising Ways Natural Disasters Can Hurt Your Finances. The old Boy Scout motto applies: “Be Prepared”. Here’s an excerpt of a story with some very good advice from U.S. News: “…If you’ve lost – or can’t easily access – vital paperwork, from social security cards and birth certificates to insurance information, you could experience delays in getting your insurance claims processed, government financial assistance and more. That’s why it’s important to know where your documents are. If you live in an area prone to natural disasters, consider making copies of your most important documents and storing them electronically, says Chloe Demrovsky, executive director at Disaster Recovery Institute International, a nonprofit specializing in business continuity and health and disaster emergency management...”

File photo credit: Reuters, TPX Images.


When Severe Weather Strikes, Where Can You Find Shelter When You’re On The Road. Here’s an excerpt of an interesting story and good advice (for everyone) at Land Line Magazine, catering to long-distance truckers: “…The rule is  pretty simple: Inside beats outside. Below ground beats above ground. First floor beats upper floors.  If you can get out of your vehicle, and into a building, preferably below ground, that’s what you should do,” said Keith Stammer, the longtime emergency management director of Joplin, Mo., and no stranger to the devastation that can be wrought by a massive tornado…”

Photo credit: Overdrive Magazine.

“The rule is pretty simple: Inside beats outside. Below ground beats above ground. First floor beats upper floors. If you can get out of your vehicle, and into a building, preferably below ground, that’s what you should do,” said Keith Stammer, the longtime emergency management director of Joplin, Mo., and no stranger to the devastation that can be wrought by a massive tornado.

If no shelter is available, every emergency official interviewed said being outside of the vehicle in a low-lying area was still safer than staying in the cab of the truck, although they cautioned to make sure that the low-lying area wasn’t an immediate risk for flash flooding.
– See more at: http://www.landlinemag.com/Story.aspx?StoryID=31201#.Vz-awr4fgkc


Watch Buoys Dance With The Flow in This Ocean Current Visualization. Here’s an excerpt from Atlas Obscura: “…The visualization, which was a finalist in the American Association of the Advancement of Science’s Data Stories competition, used data the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration collected from more than 17,000 free-floating buoys released over 35 years—the buoys are represented by the white fluttering dots. NASA visualization scientist, Greg Shirah, points out how the buoys form different patterns. Some follow vessels and ships in straight lines and others scatter in the direction of the current. However, the dots eventually get caught in five distinct trash vortexes…”


Solar Power Is Already Saving Lives in the U.S. Here’s How. Here’s an excerpt of an explainer from Dave Roberts at Vox: “…It’s worth keeping in mind that the somewhat clinical phrase “domestic air quality benefits” is another way of describing fewer kids having asthma attacks, fewer adults missing workdays, and fewer people dying of respiratory and circulatory ailments. It’s also worth keeping in mind that none of these social benefits are priced into the cost of solar; it is not compensated for its “positive externalities.” If it were, it would knock almost 5 cents a kilowatt-hour off the price, which would mean the Sunshot cost target was already achieved…” (Graphic credit: Department of Energy).


The New York Times of the Future is Beginning to Take Shape. How can legacy media continue to add value, carve out differentiated content that can be sustainable over time? Poynter takes a look: “An ambitious effort to overhaul The New York Times is beginning to come into focus. In a memo sent to staffers Friday, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet outlined several steps in a project, announced in February, to remake the newsroom in a bid for “journalistic dominance.” Among them:

  • A shift away from commodity coverage. “The digital news marketplace nudges us away from covering incremental developments — readers can find those anywhere in a seemingly endless online landscape. Instead, it favors hard-hitting ‘only-in-The New York Times’ coverage: authoritative journalism and information readers can use to navigate their lives…”

Photo credit: Wilson Rivera via Flickr.



Weathering the Storm of Change. These are especially unsettling, disruptive times due to a convergence of factors. I had a chance to talk about my personal experiences with 4 weather-technology companies and offered up a little advice to the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission’s Small Business Appreciation Lunch at the Alexandria Technical and Community College last Tuesday. Here’s an excerpt from the Alexandria Echo Press: “During his presentation, Douglas shared tips for businesses and entrepreneurs:

• Ask yourself: Is your business storm proof? Try to anticipate change and plan for it.
• Timing is everything. Being too early is just as bad as being too late.
• Embrace mistakes. Learn from them. One of his favorite quotes: “Be wrong as fast as you can.”
• Don’t be afraid to explore new ideas, daydream and re-imagine…”



TODAY: Warm sun, breezy. Winds: S 10-20. High: 82

SUNDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy and mild. Low: 63

MONDAY: Humid, few showers, T-shower possible. Winds: S 10-20. High: 78

TUESDAY: Some sticky sun, isolated thunderstorm. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 62. High: 82

WEDNESDAY: Heavier rain, few strong T-storms? Winds: E 10-15. Wake-up: 64. High: 72

THURSDAY: Drying out a little, peeks of murky sun. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 60. High: 76

FRIDAY: Sunny start, strong T-storms possible late. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 62. High: 79

SATURDAY: Unsettled, nagging thunder risk. Wake-up: 63. Winds: SW 8-13. High: near 80


Climate Stories…

Secretary Gates: National  Security Implications of Climate Change “Very Real”. The Center for Climate and Security has highlights of the interview with Secretary Gates; here’s the intro: “Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (serving as Secretary of Defense under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama) recently sat down for an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation. Host John Dickerson asked Secretary Gates about his views on the national security implications of climate change. The interview is transcribed below, but in short, Secretary Gates noted that climate change does have serious consequences for national security. Gates also noted that ranking risks is not an appropriate way to look at the security landscape…”


Group of House Republicans Assail Climate Fraud Investigations. No company has a First Ammendment right to deceive or defraud their investors – that is what is under investigation. InsideClimate News has the details; here’s an excerpt: “…The irony of this letter is breathtaking, as its signatories appear to be part of a multi-pronged media campaign funded by the fossil fuel industry aimed at suppressing the free exchange of ideas among scientists, academics, and responsible law enforcement. New York will continue to work with and collaborate with its colleagues across the country, and those with expertise in this area, to protect its citizens from fraud,” said Soufer. Ever since Smith gained control of the committee in 2013, its most conservative faction has aggressively questioned climate science and funding, including charging the scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of misrepresenting climate data…”




Carbon Dioxide’s 400 ppm Milestone Shows Humans are Rewriting the Planet’s History. Here’s an excerpt of a post at The Guardian: “…So when was the last time the planet had CO2 levels like this, and what sort of a world was it? Dr David Etheridge, a principal research scientist at Australia’s CSIRO, told me: “We know [levels of CO2 in the atmosphere] from the air extracted directly from ice cores and we can go back to about 800,000 years ago. It is inconceivable that there would be any lasting concentration of CO2 much above about 300 parts per million in that record.” He says analysis of sea sediments can push our estimates of historic CO2 levels back even further – to about two million years. Those records also show today’s levels of CO2 are higher…” (Graphic credit: NASA).

Far From Turning a Corner,  Global CO2 Emissions Still Accelerating. InsideClimate News has an update: “The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not just rising, it’s accelerating, and another potent greenhouse gas, methane showed a big spike last year, according to the latest annual greenhouse gas index released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. CO2 emissions totaled between 35 and 40 billion tons in 2015, according to several agencies. Some of that is absorbed by forests and oceans, but those natural systems are being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new CO2. As a result, the inventory shows, the average global concentration increased to 399 parts per million in 2015, a record jump of almost 3 ppm from the year before…”
Graphic credit: “The greenhouse gas inventory shows an accelerated rise in concentrations in recent years.” Credit: NOAA.

Study: Most Fossil Fuels Unburnable Without Carbon Capture. Here’s the intro to a story at Carbon Brief: “The majority of fossil fuel reserves are unburnable if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, but carbon capture and storage (CCS) could “unlock” greater use, a new study concludes. The white paper, from Imperial’s Sustainable Gas Institute, challenges previous findings that CCS makes little difference to the quantity of fossil fuels that can be burned, within a 2C carbon budget...”
Photo credit: Kris Krug, DeSmogBlog.

Climate Signals. Check out the beta of the new Climate Signals web site, where you can plug in specific key words or your zip code to get highly-relevant articles and updates related to climate change.



Researchers Help Miami Community Plan For Sea Rise, Climate Change. Here’s an excerpt from The Miami Herald: “…In a recent op-ed, Merleaux wrote about the project and explained environmental problems facing Miami, South Florida and the world. According to her findings, “scientists predict between 4-6 feet of sea level rise here by the end of the century. These changes will require people to make some very difficult decisions as they prioritize how to invest and what to protect.” Although she has only lived in Miami for six years, the mother of two said she is concerned for her family, neighborhood and the global community...”

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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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