100 Percent Chance of a Spring Equinox Today

So how is your NCAA Tournament bracket working out? Mine is a 3-alarm dumpster fire. Not sure whether to shred my brackets or fold it into a paper airplane and fly it out the nearest window. As Yogi Berra famously quipped “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Amen brother.

At precisely 11:15am the sun’s direct rays will fall on the equator, kicking off the Spring Equinox. The sun is as high in the sky as it was on September 20, 2017, when the mercury reached a balmy 75F at MSP. Why are we 40F colder today, with an identical sun angle? Blame all the snow and ice out there – which acts like a brake on area thermometers, cooling the air from below.

A stormy twist of air aloft sparks a few inches of snow for western Minnesota today. The MSP metro may pick up a slushy coating tonight, but our slow motion meltdown continues this week with highs mostly in the 40s. A cold rain late Friday may mix with wet snow Saturday as temperatures fall into the 30s. No steamy warm fronts are imminent, I fear.

It’s true, Minnesotans definitely earn their springs.

Image credit: New Hampshire Public Radio.

Nuisance Snowfall. The best chance of a couple inches of slush will come southwest of MSP later today and tonight. Metro amounts will probably range from a slushy coating to an inch, with the best chance of a little accumulation tonight. 12km NAM guidance: NOAA and pivotalweather.com.

Back to the 40s. Temperatures run fairly close to average looking out 1-2 weeks with highs mostly in the 40s. The only exception is next weekend as daytime highs hold in the 30s. Saturday rain may end as a period of snow. Twin Cities ECMWF numbers: WeatherBell.

Slow Moderation Early April. GFS guidance looking out  2 weeks suggests a storm lifting across the Midwest, much of the USA enjoying a relatively mild, Pacific flow. The maps are slowly (finally) starting to look more like spring.

First 50F of 2018 in the Twin Cities on Saturday. It came about 12 days later than average, according to NOAA records.

Consecutive Days Below 50F at MSP. We went 102 days without seeing a 50-degree high, but that’s nothing like 1874, when the Twin Cities went 170 days between 50-degree readings. As recently as 2001 MSP went 149 days between 50s. Data: NOAA and Minnesota Climatology Working Group.

La Nina Forecast to Fade During Spring. A cool phase of Pacific Ocean water was probably one of many factors keeping the northern tier of the USA colder than average in recent months. That signal is forecast to fade, according to NOAA’s Climate.gov: “La Niña is loosening its grip on the tropics. Sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific remain cooler than average, but the typical La Niña wind and rainfall anomalies have faded. Conditions are likely (55% chance) to return to neutral by the March-May season. The next update will be on April 12.”

HURRICANES: Headlines and links courtesy of Climate Nexus: “As Harvey raged, their homes were swamped on purpose–six months later, they face a terrible choice (New York Times $), storm-prone states are relaxing building codes instead of making them tougher (Bloomberg), the last of Puerto Rico’s shelters have officially closed.” (Earther)

File image of 2016 Hurricane Matthew: University of Wisconsin SSEC.

What is a PDS Tornado Watch? Late yesterday NOAA SPC issued the first moderate threat of the season, and that was quickly followed by the issuance of a PDS Tornado Watch. Here’s an excerpt of a good explanation from Forbes: “…Watches are common. PDS watches are rare. The expert forecasters in charge of issuing these watches don’t have a set criteria to add this kind of wording to a tornado watch or severe thunderstorm watch. The issuance of one of these watches “is subjective with no hard criteria,” according to the Storm Prediction Center. Unfortunately, these forecasts don’t bust very often. When there’s a PDS watch, you know that someone somewhere is about to see some of the most dangerous weather nature can produce. A PDS Tornado Watch is issued when multiple strong, long-track tornadoes are expected to develop in or around the watch area. Some of the worst tornadoes in American history developed within watches with this enhanced wording attached to them…”

The Message Could be Better. The words forecasters choose mayy be just as important as timely, accurate warnings, according to a post at WIBC.com in Indianapolis: “…McLain spoke about the importance of research into how the National Weather Service communicates warnings to people, and how changes in wording could help. “I think we need to try to get in their shoes, understand their lives and their livelihoods and the kinds of vulnerabilities they experience.” She said her research shows that people who die in tornadoes are disproportionately poor. The year 2011 was one of the deadliest in decades. She said that people who live in manufactured housing, or trailers, are more vulnerable for several reasons...”

File image: 2011 in Concord, Alabama. National Weather Service.

Why 2 Tornadoes 70 Years Ago This Week Are the Most Important in U.S. History. The Weather Channel explains: “…Before then, public tornado alerts were banned for fear of causing unneeded panic. When analyzing surface and upper-air data from other outbreaks, Fawbush and Miller noticed large-scale weather patterns common to each event. A few days later, on the morning of March 25, the pair noticed that a similar weather pattern was setting up that day and concluded that a tornado threat existed again in central Oklahoma that afternoon. Then it was a question of confidence. After consulting Fred Borum, commanding general of the Oklahoma City Air Material Area, a forecast for “heavy thunderstorms between 5 and 6 p.m.” was issued for the base. “You are about to set a precedent,” Gen. Borum told the men...”

File photo credit: “A large airplane destroyed by the second Tinker Air Force Base tornado on March 25, 1948, just five days after the first. This tornado was preceded by the first tornado warning ever issued.” (NOAA Photo Library)

How the Mighty Mississippi Became a Flooding Nightmare for Millions. The Washington Post reports: “...In the past seven years, the Mississippi River Valley has been hit with 100-, 200- and 500-year floods — ones that had a 1 percent or less chance of happening in each timespan — that caused damages of more than $50 billion. Disasters along the river “have become persistent and systemic,” noted a group representing 75 cities from 10 states in a report last year. The White House response sketched out in Trump’s infrastructure plan is inadequate, said the group, the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative. It actually makes it harder to fund new flood protections by slashing the federal government’s project cost-sharing from the current 50 to 80 percent down to 20 percent, said Colin Wellenkamp, the group’s executive director. So for every $1 in federal funds, local and state governments would need to chip in $4…”

After the Storm. Many people wrote checks, which is terrific, but I have even more respect and admiration for people who were able to put their lives on hold and head down to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to help out after Hurricane Irma and Maria. Popular Mechanics has their amazing story: “When hurricanes Irma and Maria destroyed hundreds of homes and displaced thousands of people in the U.S. Virgin Islands last fall, some people sent money and supplies. A smaller group showed up. They left their lives and families, dealt with occasional awkwardness and tetanus shots, to see what they could do to help. This is their story...”

Photo credit: Drew Alston.

It’s Not Your Imagination: Allergy Season Gets Worse Every Year. As things continue to warm up more of us will be sneezing and wheezing much of the year, reports Vox: “You may have heard that last year’s allergy season was the worst ever. So was the year before. Allergy season has become so predictably terrible that late-night comedians have taken to venting about warnings of the “pollen tsunami” ad “pollen vortex” or a “perfect storm for allergies.” But it turns out there is truth behind the bombast. Pollen allergy seasons truly are getting worse, and global warming is a major factor. For one, there’s evidence that the number of people with allergies is increasing, and with changes in average temperatures, pollen seasons are also getting longer, as you can see here in this map of the growth in ragweed’s pollen season…”
Map credit: “Changes in the ragweed pollen season between 1995 and 2015.” Environmental Protection Agency

RENEWABLES: From Climate Nexus: “Solar power capacity in Texas expected to double, making life tougher for power companies (Houston Chronicle), Minnesota company to build wind farm in central Montana (AP), solar project targets struggling households (Detroit News), nearly 1,000 solar panels installed on Winnebago reservation (Lincoln Journal-Star), global energy giants forced to adapt to rise of renewables (The Guardian), solar-panel makers have just hours left to avoid Trump’s tariffs (Bloomberg), Lynn Jurich’s company has become a giant in the residential solar industry (LA Times $), the biggest solar parks in the world are now being built in India.” (LA Times $)
File image: TechCrunch.

Can You 3-D Print a Car? And keep the cost under 10K? One company seems to think so, according to South China Morning Post: “X Electrical Vehicle, from Italy, says it is edging closer to mass production in China of its low-speed 3D-printed cars, which could now be hitting the streets by the second quarter of 2019…The company claims it is the world’s first mass-produced 3D-printed electric vehicle, and that it has received 7,000 orders from companies including postal service providers. Nearly all its visible parts are 3D-printed except for its windows, tyres and chassis. 3D printing is a manufacturing process where materials are joined or solidified under computer control to create three-dimensional objects…”

In Virginia, Black Clergy Lead Charge Against Fossil Fuel Lobby: From Climate Nexus: “Black communities in Virginia, led in large part by faith leaders, are galvanizing against fossil fuel lobby messaging specifically targeted to them, according to a new report from Grist. A Koch-funded gospel concert to surreptitiously promote oil and gas held in Richmond in 2016 generated significant backlash in the community, activists say–and encouraged many community members and faith leaders to reconsider how the fossil fuel industry targets and exploits black Americans. “God didn’t put me on this earth to pimp death for profit,” Rev. Paul Wilson, who took up arms against environmental racism after the concert and was recently arrested protesting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, told Grist. “That’s what the Kochs and these energy folks are doing to my people now. It’s up to us in the church to stop it.” (Grist)

Does Tech Need Silicon Valley? It turns out that many start-ups are flourishing the Midwest, a trend that may accelerate as costs continue to escalate in Silicon Valley. Here’s a clip from an interesting read at California Sunday Magazine: “… Poring over the available data, Case discovered that plenty of Midwestern and Southwestern cities were leveraging tax incentives to stanch local brain drain, and a few, such as Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, were cultivating their own robust startup scenes. The talent wasn’t all on the coasts. Nor, for that matter, were the jobs. Metro areas like Detroit and Atlanta were adding jobs in tech services and software at surprisingly steady rates. But the requisite venture capital, that ultimate driver of any startup economy, was missing. The vast majority — 80 percent — of VC investment goes to the coasts, Case pointed out, referring to a report from the Martin Prosperity Institute in Toronto. The other states have to fight for the scraps. “It was pretty clear there was a problem here and an opportunity...”

Photo credit: “The new office space of Memory Ventures, a photo-digitization startup. The founder, Anderson Schoenrock, moved to Indianapolis from Los Angeles.”

New IBM Report Predicts 5 New Technologies That Will Change the World in the Next 5 Years. Here’s a clip from a story at BGR.com: “…AI-powered robot microscopes — networked in the cloud and deployed worldwide — will be robust enough to monitor in real time the health of water sources like oceans around the globe. Though artificial intelligence systems are only as good as the data they’re trained on, we’ll see an explosion in “biased” AI. Quantum computing is going mainstream. In five years’ time, it will be a critical piece, for example, of a computer engineering degree. It will move beyond the research lab and new categories of professionals, developers and students will emerge. So-called lattice cryptography will be used to fight cyberattackers. That cryptography method, according to IBM, is built on an underlying architecture “that hides data inside complex algebraic structures called lattices…”

File image credit: Future of Life Institute.

Here’s How Cycling Can Slow Down the Aging Process. Bicycling Magazine has the story: “…They found that while cycling didn’t protect against every single measure of immune-system decline, the cyclists had white blood cell levels comparable to those of the younger control group—meaning that their immune systems were acting “younger.” These studies are only two of many that demonstrate how physical activity like cycling can slow the aging process. One 2017 study found that high-intensity interval cycling increased mitochondrial capacity—a big deal when it comes to aging, as the decline of these organelles leads to the onset of age-related disease. Another study from last year found that regular vigorous exercise protected telomere length. Shortened telomeres are what cause cell death—i.e., aging—and those who exercised saved themselves up to nine years of cellular deterioration.”

File image: Harvard School of Public Health.

What Kills Americans? Heart disease and cancer, by a country mile. Morbidly fascinating; here’s an excerpt of a breakdown of the raw data from Our World in Data: “What do people in the United States die from? In the chart below we see its breakdown of deaths in 2016. Compared with the global data, a larger share of deaths is caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) — accounting for almost 90 percent of mortality — and much lower occurrence of preventable deaths such as diarrheal disease, undernutrition, and neonatal deaths. This is a common pattern across high-income countries: prosperity, high living standards, good healthcare systems (although there are large inequalities in healthcare access in the US when compared with other rich countries) have seen a successful decline in largely preventable mortality risks. The majority of deaths in high-income countries therefore relate to to so-called ‘lifestyle diseases’, including NCDs, kidney, liver, and digestive diseases, or those which typically occur in older age (such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias)…”

Homer Simpson Pulled Over in Southern England. Doh! Here’s an excerpt from Hollywood Reporter: “Police in southern England had an interesting run-in recently with a member of the Simpsons family — kind of.  An unidentified driver gave officers a driver’s license that not only had information for Homer Simpson on it, it also had a picture of the classic Fox cartoon character. The driver’s car was seized and he was reported for driving with no insurance and driving without a proper license,” police tweeted, along with a picture of the fake ID. Needless to say, social media users had a ball with the incident…”

Trace of snow on the ground Monday in the Twin Cities.

45 F. maximum temperature yesterday at MSP International Airport.

43 F. average high on March 19.

55 F. high on March 19, 2017.

March 20, 1991: An early season tornado hits Faribault county from Bricelyn to Wells.

TUESDAY: Light snow and flurries MSP. Slushy southwest/west of MSP.  Winds: E 5-10. High: 35

TUESDAY NIGHT: Light snow tapers, slushy coating to 1″ in and around metro. Low: 24

WEDNESDAY: More clouds than sun, a dry day. Winds: E 3-8. High: 41

THURSDAY: Partly sunny, almost springy. Winds: E 10-15. Wake-up: 25. High: 46

FRIDAY: Clouds increase, rain showers late. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 30. High: 48

SATURDAY: Rain may mix with wet snow. Winds: E 10-20. Wake-up 37. High: 41

SUNDAY: Mostly cloudy with showers. Winds: E 10-15. Wake-up: 34. High: 43

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, drying out a bit. Winds: SE 7-12. Wake-up: 31. High: 42

Climate Stories…

Billion-Dollar Polar Engineering “Needed to Slow Melting Glaciers.” The Guardian explains: “…Scientists have outlined plans to build a series of mammoth engineering projects in Greenland and Antarctica to help slow down the disintegration of the planet’s main glaciers. The controversial proposals include underwater walls, artificial islands and huge pumping stations that would channel cold water into the bases of glaciers to stop them from melting and sliding into the sea. The researchers say the work – costing tens of billions of dollars a time – is urgently needed to prevent polar glaciers melting and raising sea levels. That would lead to major inundations of low-lying, densely populated areas, such as parts of Bangladesh, Japan and the Netherlands…”

Photo credit: “The Jakobshavn fjord in western Greenland. One proposal is to build a 100-metre high wall across the fjord’s entrance.” Photograph: Bob Strong/REUTERS.

Want to Stop Climate Change? Take ‘Em to Court! An article at Bloomberg View explains the strategy: “…Energy experts predict that we’ll go on using fossil fuels for decades, with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels more than doubling compared with pre-industrial times. In 50 years or so, we should expect a rash of effects: falling productivity in fisheries and farming, rising sea levels, and drought-driven migrations fueling political instability. It’s easy to see how this can be construed as a crime against children. So three years ago a group of them, along with Our Children’s Trust and the youth-centered environmental group Earth Guardians, sued the U.S. government. They argued that its energy policies violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, while also failing to protect essential public resources. They have a plausible case: In earlier proceedings, the U.S. District Court in Oregon ruled that the due process clause of the Constitution guarantees citizens an “unenumerated fundamental right” to “a climate system capable of sustaining human life...”

File image: Evan Vucci, AP.

When Congress Finally Takes Action on Climate Change, This Senator Will Deserve a Lot of the Credit. Here’s a clip from a story at Mashable: “The fact that stands out for me, here at number 200, is the persistent failure of Congress to even take up the issue of climate change,” Whitehouse said. “One party won’t even talk about it!  One party is gagging America’s scientists and civil servants, and striking even the term ‘climate change’ off government websites…”

Image credit: “Senator Sheldon Whitehouse refuses to let his colleagues forget about climate change. He’s given 200 speeches, and counting.” Image: Mashable/Vicky Leta.

Climate Scientist Battles “Trickle-Down Ignorance”. The Mercury News reports on Ben Santer’s ongoing efforts to set the record straight: “… If you were to go to a medical doctor and ask for a diagnosis, wouldn’t you want them to talk about what he or she found? Not tiptoeing around, but giving you the facts and honest science?” His doubled-down and fact-checked scientific conclusion: The planet is indeed warming — and unless we do something, will continue to warm. “These were testable claims,” Santer said. “It seemed necessary to do the science to determine whether the claims had merits or not. That’s what scientists do.” Now he’s moving on to his next big project: Are humans changing the seasonal cycles? Are both summer and winter warming? If so, the implications are profound. Problem-solving is a skill acquired over a lifetime for Santer, who lives in San Ramon…”

Photo credit: “Ben Santer, a climate researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory poses for a photograph at the laboratory in Livermore, Calif., on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018.” (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

Climate Change Affecting Taste and Cost of Beer. No, not the beer! WQAD.com explains: “On St. Patrick’s Day, many celebrate with good music, food, and drinks. According to research by one investment firm, March 17 ranks fourth behind New Year’s Eve, Independence Day, and Christmas Day in the amount of daily alcoholic drinks consumed in the U.S. As the world’s climate warms, an interesting effect is happening on beer’s core ingredients: hops, water, and barley. Hops are affected by heat and drought, and with 99 percent of U.S. hops grown in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho (with over 70 percent grown in Washington alone), the drier climate developing in the West will impact production…”

None Like it Hot: Warmer Winters Worry Arctic Scientists. Here’s an excerpt from a Reuters story: “…The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the planet, something Norway’s Svalbard archipelago – where Longyearbyen is located – is seeing firsthand, said Kim Holmen, international director of the state-funded Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI). “It has been 86 consecutive months where every month has been above normal (temperatures),” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in his office at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS). “This type of weather was highly unusual,” the scientist said, gesturing at the rain lashing his office window. “Now we have it every winter and several times a winter.” Svalbard’s winter temperatures have increased by 2 to 2.3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 4.1 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade since 1979, said Ketil Isaksen, Oslo-based senior scientist for the Norwegian Meteorological Institute (MET Norway)…”

File image: Reuters.

Natural Disasters Are Costing Farming Billions of Dollars a Year. Here’s the intro to a story at Bloomberg Markets: “Natural disasters from droughts to floods are costing farmers in poorer countries billions of dollars a year in lost crops and livestock, and it’s getting worse thanks to climate change. Agricultural losses from weather events in developing nations totaled $96 billion in a decade through 2015, with Asia accounting for half the amount, according to the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization. In addition to climate issues, sectors from forestry to aquaculture face risks from problems such as market volatility, diseases and conflicts, the FAO said in a report. “This has become the ‘new normal,’ and the impact of climate change will further exacerbate these threats and challenges,” FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said in a statement. Natural disasters have become more frequent and intense since the 1980s, presenting challenges for about 2.5 billion people who depend on agriculture, the FAO said…”