The Rumors are True: Spring Fling is Imminent

Cue Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”. It’s time to break out confetti and (cheap) champagne, because after multiple false-starts spring is finally paying a visit to Minnesota.

If you doubt that we live in the Super Bowl of Weather consider this: a blizzard last weekend – 60s this weekend. Mother Nature needs to be sedated.

In Atlanta, Dallas and Little Rock spring is a given; locals tend to take it for granted. Not here. The Midwestern Regional Climate Center counted 130 snowfall records across the Midwest in April. 26.1 inches in the Twin Cities – but 47.1 inches in Kalkaska, Michigan.In April.

Dry weather may spill over into most of next week as a warming ridge of high pressure builds over the central USA; storms sliding south of home until further notice. An August-like sun angle will remove most of the snow in your yard by Sunday, and then the mercury can reach into the 60s. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 70 degrees by the end of next week. Be still my heart.

I am really looking forward to strangers waving at me with all their fingers again. Bring on the warmth!

Yes. ECMWF guidance hints at a pretty good shot at 60 degrees Sunday and Monday; another surge of warmth later next week. I suspect/hope we’re really turning the corner – finally. Source: WeatherBell.

Drought Returns to Huge Swaths of U.S. – Fueling Fears of a Thirsty Future. Here’s an excerpt from The Los Angeles Times: “Texas Less than eight months after Hurricane Harvey pelted the Texas Gulf Coast with torrential rainfall, drought has returned to Texas and other parts of the West, Southwest and Southeast, rekindling old worries for residents who dealt with earlier waves of dry spells and once again forcing state governments to reckon with how to keep the water flowing. Nearly a third of the continental United States was in drought as of April 10, more than three times the coverage of a year ago. And the specter of a drought-ridden summer has focused renewed urgency on state and local conservation efforts, some of which would fundamentally alter Americans’ behavior in how they use water...”

* The latest U.S. Drought Monitor is here.

Wildfires: From Climate Nexus: “A massive wildfire is spiraling out of control in Oklahoma (Earther, Reuters), Southwest fire threat called ‘extreme to historic’ amid brutally hot and dry conditions (Washington Post $), Climate change, wildfire, and the future of forests.” (Outside Magazine)

Decoding the Weather Machine. If you missed the program Wednesday evening you can stream the 2-hour PBS NOVA special here: “Disastrous hurricanes. Widespread droughts and wildfires. Withering heat. Extreme rainfall. It is hard not to conclude that something’s up with the weather, and many scientists agree. It’s the result of the weather machine itself—our climate—changing, becoming hotter and more erratic. In this two-hour documentary, NOVA will cut through the confusion around climate change. Why do scientists overwhelmingly agree that our climate is changing, and that human activity is causing it? How and when will it affect us through the weather we experience? And what will it take to bend the trajectory of planetary warming toward more benign outcomes? Join scientists around the world on a quest to better understand the workings of the weather and climate machine we call Earth, and discover how we can be resilient—even thrive—in the face of enormous change.”

This Towering “Snow Canyon” is Carved Into One of the Snowiest Places on Earth. I felt a little better about nearly 80″ of snow this winter in the Twin Cities after reading this post at Capital Weather Gang: “There’s a mountain in Japan where the snow falls so heavily they don’t even attempt to clear it until spring. As much as 125 feet of snow falls on this mountain each year — around 1,500 inches. It is the snowiest place in Japan, and probably one of the snowiest places on Earth. Tateyama (Mount Tate) is one of Japan’s three holy mountains, located on the west side of the country near the Sea of Japan. It’s a popular destination for hikers in the warm months, and just as popular in late winter after workers carve canyon of snow onto the mountain peak...”

Photo credit: “The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route in Japan opened April 15 and features towering walls made of compacted snow.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is still dealing with last year’s hurricane season—and the 2018 season is less than two months away. The federal agency extended its shelter program another month for survivors of Hurricane Harvey Tuesday, while the Puerto Rican government requested that FEMA extend the Transitional Assistance Program for Hurricane Maria refugees Wednesday. Both these programs help cover the costs of hotels and other temporary housing for individuals and families whose homes were left uninhabitable after these destructive natural disasters…”

Hurricane Harvey file image: AerisWeather and Praedictix.

It’s a Common Myth That Tornadoes Avoid Cities – But It’s Not True. Meteorologist Marshall Shepherd makes the case at Forbes: “…About a decade ago, Dr. Josh Wurman and colleagues published a paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society called “Low-Level Winds in Tornadoes and Potential Catastrophic Tornado Impacts in Urban Areas.” They used wind estimates from Doppler on Wheels mobile radars, census data, and modeling to estimate impacts of tornadoes crossing densely populated cities. Results were startling. For example, they argued that a large, intense tornado moving through parts of Chicago, Illinois could destroy nearly a quarter of a million homes and result in 4500 to 45,000 deaths. They did similar evaluations for Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, New York, and St. Louis. While this results may be exaggerated as noted by some scholars in the literature, I think the point that they convey is real…”

Image credit: FiveThirtyEight.

San Francisco’s Big Seismic Gamble. The New York Times reports: “San Francisco lives with the certainty that the Big One will come. But the city is also putting up taller and taller buildings clustered closer and closer together because of the state’s severe housing shortage.  Now those competing pressures have prompted an anxious rethinking of building regulations. Experts are sending this message: The building code coes not protect cities from earthquakes nearly as much as you might think. It’s been over a century – Wednesday marks the 112th anniversary – since the last devastating earthquake and subsequent inferno razed San Francisco….”

More Than 95% of the World’s Population Breathes Dangerous Air. The Guardian reports: “More than 95% of the world’s population breathe unsafe air and the burden is falling hardest on the poorest communities, with the gap between the most polluted and least polluted countries rising rapidly, a comprehensive study of global air pollution has found. Cities are home to an increasing majority of the world’s people, exposing billions to unsafe air, particularly in developing countries, but in rural areas the risk of indoor air pollution is often caused by burning solid fuels. One in three people worldwide faces the double whammy of unsafe air both indoors and out. The report by the Health Effects Institute used new findings such as satellite data and better monitoring to estimate the numbers of people exposed to air polluted above the levels deemed safe by the World Health Organisation. This exposure has made air pollution the fourth highest cause of death globally, after high blood pressure, diet and smoking, and the greatest environmental health risk…”

Photo credit: Oliver Berg, EPA.

U.S. Wind Energy Now Supplies More Than 30% in Four States. Clean Technica has the story; here’s a clip: “Wind energy is one of the fastest growing forms of electricity generation in the United States, with the largest share renewable electricity generating capacity in the country, and according to new information from the American Wind Energy Association, wind energy now supplies more than 30% of the electricity in four states — Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota…According to this latest report, wind power generated 6.3% of US electricity in 2017. However, wind’s impact can be better seen in its role in states like Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota, where it is generating over 30% of capacity...”

Scientists Inadvertently Create Mutant Plastic-Eating Enzyme. The Daily Beast explains: “An international group of scientists has accidentally created an enzyme that eats plastic, a discovery that is being hailed as a major breakthrough in the fight against pollution. The mutant enzyme stems from the 2016 discovery of a bacterium that had evolved to devour plastic at a waste site in Japan. Scientists from Britain’s University of Portsmouth and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory then altered that enzyme to study its evolution, but they later learned they had actually improved its ability to break down plastic. “Serendipity often plays a significant role in fundamental scientific research and our discovery here is no exception,” Portsmouth biologist John McGeehan said of the finding. Researchers say the enzyme can be further enhanced and used as a new recycling solution. An estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste winds up in the world’s oceans each year, wreaking havoc on the ecosystem…”

Photo credit: Carlos Jasso/Reuters.

More People Have Amazon Prime Than Live in Germany. Quartz reports: “Amazon Prime now has more than 100 million members, CEO Jeff Bezos said April 18 in his annual letter to shareholders. For context, that’s greater than the population of Germany, Vietnam, or Egypt. From the shareholder letter: “13 years post-launch, we have exceeded 100 million paid Prime members globally. In 2017 Amazon shipped more than five billion items with Prime worldwide, and more new members joined Prime than in any previous year – both worldwide and in the U.S. Members in the U.S. now receive unlimited free two-day shipping on over 100 million different items. We expanded Prime to Mexico, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, and introduced Business Prime Shipping in the U.S. and Germany...”

Photo credit: “A good day for Jeff Bezos.” (Reuters/Rick Wilking)

Georgia Teen Makes Her Prom Entrance in a Casket. Yes, she got her point across, according to a story at Yahoo: “…As Clark explained to USA Today, she currently works at a funeral home and plans to be a funeral director once she graduates from Ogeechee Technical College. She chose her unusual ride in part to celebrate her career choice, and in part to warn her fellow classmates against drinking and driving. “I was thinking about my class and how they are going to prom and doing the bad stuff after prom; like having drugs and doing all that,” she said. In light of the current debate over guns in schools, this stunt has angered some people who say a teen in a casket is all too reminiscent of real life…”

Forecast Calls for Severe Tumbleweeds. I’ve never seen this before; a post at explains: “A strong breeze can toss around all sorts of detritus, but for residents of one California community on the edge of the Mojave Desert, where area gusts topped 50 mph Monday, it was tumbleweeds at the whims of the wind. Lots of tumbleweeds. “It looked like a war of tumbleweeds, like we were being invaded,” Victorville resident Bryan Bagwell, 42, tells NPR. He says cleanup in Victorville, about an 85-mile drive from Los Angeles, was continuing Wednesday. Dozens of homes in his neighborhood, which borders an undeveloped tract of desert land, were seemingly swallowed up by mounds of the dry brush. Bagwell says the buildup reached 7 feet high on his own property and that it took a laborer several hours with a pitchfork to move the tumbleweeds to the street for the city to pick up with a front loader…”

Image credit: “A member of the Victorville public works team clears tumbleweeds from homes in Victorville, Calif., on Monday.” James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP.

What Snow? Small Minnesota High School Team Clears Entire Baseball Field. Now that’s the spirit! Bring Me The News Explains: “If last weekend’s blizzard was a curve ball, the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City Falcons knocked it out of the park. ACGC, a small high school located about 90 miles west of Minneapolis, spent Monday’s snow day clearing their baseball field in Atwater.  No exaggeration, their baseball players and coaches, in addition to other volunteers, literally removed 10 inches of snow from the field, not to mention larger drifts created by the blizzard’s fierce winds.  It went from looking looking like a blinding white blanket of heavy, wet snow to what you see in the photo above…Kingery then got the shoveling party started by texting all of the school’s baseball players, inviting anyone interested to come help clear the field. More than 30 people responded with shovels and snowblowers, and they wound up clearing the entire field, a seven-hour task that Kingery described as “daunting…”

5″ snow on the ground Thursday evening at MSP.

53 F. maximum temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.

60 F. average high on April 19.

51 F. high on April  19, 2017.

April 20, 1970: Snow falls across much of Minnesota.

FRIDAY: Sunny and AOK. Winds: SE 3-8. High: 54

FRIDAY NIGHT: Clear and quiet. Low: 35

SATURDAY: Sunny, risk of seeing your lawn. Winds: SE 5-10. High: 56

SUNDAY: Blue sky. All is forgiven. Almost. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 38. High: near 60

MONDAY: Sunny, distractingly nice. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 45. High: 67

TUESDAY: Clouds increase, risk of a shower. Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 47. High: 62

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, a bit cooler. Winds: N 5-10. Wake-up: 41. High: near 60

THURSDAY: Lukewarm sunshine. Feverish again. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 45. High: 68

Climate Stories….

Americans Who Accept Climate Change Outnumber Those Who Don’t by 5 to 1. Yale E360 has the story: “Seventy percent of Americans now accept that climate change is happening, outnumbering those who don’t by a 5 to 1 ratio, according to a new survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. More than half of those surveyed, 58 percent, said they also understand global warming is caused mostly by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels. The share of Americans who think climate change is happening has increased seven percentage points since March 2015. Their certainty has increased 12 percentage points in three years, with 49 percent of the U.S. now “extremely” or “very sure” it is happening, according to the new survey...”

Sea Levels Could be Rising Faster Than Predicted Due to New Source of Antarctic Ice Melting. The Independent has the story; here’s a clip: “...The research was published in the journal Science Advances. It comes shortly after analysis by a team at the University of Leeds found an area of underwater ice the size of Greater London had melted from the bottom of the region’s ice shelves in just five years. Ice shelves currently act as structural support, holding the Antarctic ice sheet in place. Warm waters flowing underneath these shelves will diminish this support as they cause them to decline and fragment. Other studies have demonstrated that the “catastrophic collapse” of areas like the West Antarctic ice sheet have the capacity to raise global sea levels by more than three metres...”

Photo credit: “The Mertz glacier in East Antarctica is one of the many areas that could be melting faster as warm water trapped underneath it accelerates the process.” Alessandro Silvano.

Glacier Loss is Accelerating Because of Global Warming. University of St. Thomas scientist John Abraham reports for The Guardian: “… A paper was just published by the American Geophysical Union that shared research carried out by Dominic Winski and his colleagues. This team of researchers extracted ice cores from the glaciers on Mt. Hunter, in Alaska. The ice cores held snow and ice from as far back as 400 years. The researchers showed that the amount of water melt currently is 60 times greater than it was prior to 1850. They also found that the summertime temperature changes on Mt. Hunter are almost 2°C per century (about 3.5°F). To put this in perspective, the temperatures are rising about twice as fast as global temperatures. The fact that temperatures on these northern mountains is rising faster than the globe as a whole is something predicted by climate models…”

Graphic credit: “Changes to water content of glaciers.” Illustration: World Glacier Monitoring Service.

Pruitt Upgraded to a Larger, Customized SUV with Bullet-Resistant Seat Covers. Here’s an excerpt from The Washington Post: “Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt upgraded his official car last year to a costlier, larger vehicle with bullet-resistant covers over bucket seats, according to federal records and interviews with current and former agency officials. Recent EPA administrators had traveled in a Chevrolet Tahoe, and agency officials had arranged for Pruitt to use the same vehicle when he joined the administration in February last year. But he switched to a larger, newer and more high-end Chevy Suburban in June. One former EPA official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation, said Pruitt remarked that he wanted the larger car because it was similar to ones in which some other Cabinet officials rode. The first year’s lease of the vehicle cost $10,200, according to federal contracting records...”

Photo credit: “Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt faces rising scrutiny over several ethics issues, including his use of taxpayer money.

Great Barrier Reef Feels the Heat: Headlines and links via Climate Nexus: “The Great Barrier Reef will never be the same after an unprecedented heat wave in 2016, according to a new study in Nature. Nearly 30 percent of the reef’s corals perished during the nine-month heat wave, which disproportionately affected different species. Because of the extent of the losses, the researchers believe that it’s likely the “entire ecological identity” of the reef system has changed. Terry Hughes, one of the lead scientists of the study, said that if global warming continues at its current pace, “it’s game over” for the reef.” (News: Washington Post $, CNN, Earther, Carbon Brief, LA Times $, Guardian, New York Times $, BBC, Sydney Morning Herald, Boston Globe $, NPR, Atlantic, Mashable, TIME, Huffington Post. Background: Climate Signals)

Here’s What Happens When You Tell People the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change. Here’s a clip from a post at ThinkProgress: “…The overwhelming majority of climate scientists  — 97 percent   — understand that humans are the primary cause of climate change. Yet, as a new peer-reviewed study in journal Nature Climate Change points out, “only 11 percent of the US public correctly estimate the scientific consensus on climate change as higher than 90 percent.” So what happens when you inform people about the actual consensus on climate science? Researchers in the Nature study did a survey experiment with 6,300 Americans and found exposing the survey respondents to the message about the scientific consensus increases their perception of the scientific norm by 16.2 percentage points on a 100-point scale…”

Image credit: “Scientific consensus results on the question of human-caused global warming.” CREDIT: John Cook.

Consensus on Consensus. The paper referenced above by John Cook is here.

How do Climate Models Work? Carbon Brief has a good explainer; here’s an excerpt: “…A global climate model typically contains enough computer code to fill 18,000 pages of printed text; it will have taken hundreds of scientists many years to build and improve; and it can require a supercomputer the size of a tennis court to run. The models themselves come in different forms – from those that just cover one particular region of the world or part of the climate system, to those that simulate the atmosphere, oceans, ice and land for the whole planet. The output from these models drives forward climate science, helping scientists understand how human activity is affecting the Earth’s climate. These advances have underpinned climate policy decisions on national and international scales for the past five decades...”