Forecast Calls for Extended Run of Spring Fever

Fun fact: only in Minnesota is it possible to get a memorable sunburn – while shoveling snow. Our snow shoveling days are behind us now (please God) but last weekend a few people got scorched while clearing FEET of snow off their driveways and sidewalks.

Gingerly, under cover of night, I will quietly remove my driveway stakes this week, because – after numerous false starts – it would appear that spring has finally reached our shores.

A fleeting shower is possible Thursday; otherwise dry weather should linger into next Monday. That’s good news for area rivers, swollen from recent snow melt. Some low-lying roads from Montevideo and Redwood Falls to New Ulm may flood, but a lack of heavy, sustained rainfall may prevent widespread flooding this year.

We cool off a bit today but mild air comes rushing back late week: 60s on Saturday under a blue sky; 70s are possible by Sunday, before a cooler front sputters into town.<p>One benefit of our recent chill: no severe outbreaks. The latest “first severe/tornado warning” for the metro area? May 17, 2013. Feel any better? Me neither.

More Than 40 Reports of “Very High” River Levels Along Minnesota Rivers. Bring Me The News has details: “River flooding in the south-central part of Minnesota has closed a section of road near Hwy. 169 in Henderson, and that appears to only be the beginning as water levels rise along state rivers. According to MnDOT, Hwy. 93 between 308th Lane and Ridge Road in Henderson, Minnesota, has been closed because of flooding from the Rush River. The flooding is in part a result of record snowfall in April and fast melting.  “We do expect that the Minnesota River to sometime later this week potentially impact this same highway, as well as Hwy. 19 east of Henderson and Hwy. 93 heading into Le Sueur,” said Jed Falgren, a maintenance engineer with MnDOT. “We’ll also be looking soon thereafter for flooding potentially impacting roads in the St. Peter area...”

Photo credit: MnDOT District 7, Twitter.

River Flood Warnings. The Twin Cities National Weather Service has issued Flood Warnings for some communities south and west of the Twin Cities, mainly along the Minnesota River. For details click here.

Map credit: AerisWeather.

2018 Ice Out Dates. The Minnesota DNR has a running tally here.

Spurts of Warmth. 70F felt like an epiphany yesterday; it was hard to believe that 8 days earlier we were in the midst of a full-blown blizzard. Talk about weather-whiplash. ECMWF guidance shows temperatures fluctuating either side of 60F over the next 2 weeks. Temperatures Monday may approach 80F. Graphic: WeatherBell.

Winter’s Slow Retreat. That’s the thing about spring: warm air can’t just push cold air out of the way – Canadian air has to retreat on its own. I detect a (slight) cool bias into early May; the pattern not high-amplitude, capable of a rich supply of Gulf moisture (and potentially flooding rains). But spotty showers and T-showers are quite likely as we sail into the second week of June.

Winter Snowfall Departure. Snowfall for much of Minnesota was 1-3 feet above normal for the season. Note the lack of snow across the central and southern Rockies, but generally – it was a good winter for snow lovers living in the northern third of the USA.

Map credit: Greg Carbin, NOAA.

Try Not to Shriek. Brian Brettschneider put together a vaguely terrifying map showing the dates of the latest trace of snow across North America.

What is a Tornado Emergency? AccuWeather has a good explainer; here’s an excerpt: “…However, when a large, destructive tornado is already on the ground for an extended period of time and approaching a populated area, the NWS can issue a tornado emergency. “A tornado emergency means that significant, widespread damage with a high likelihood of numerous fatalities is expected to continue with a strong and violent tornado,” the NWS said. A tornado emergency is a call to action that people need to react to immediately. When one is issued, a confirmed tornado is causing life-threatening conditions and people need to seek shelter if they haven’t already…”

The Little Rock office of the National Weather Service has more information on Tornado Emergencies here.

Latest First Severe/Tornado Warning. At the rate we’re going the Twin Cities National Weather Service may give the previous record, May 17, 2013, a run for the money. That was another late spring with snow well into April.

Map credit: Iowa Environmental Mesonet.

Rising Sea Levels Reshaping Miami’s Housing Market. A story at The Wall Street Journal caught my eye; here’s an excerpt: “…Low-elevation properties are becoming Miami’s laggards, he said. “To see them really separate is pretty shocking, because you can infer that this is a pricing signal from climate change.” Miami is a testing ground for the vulnerability of housing markets in other coastal cities, such as New York and Boston, because its elevation is as little as one foot above sea level and its porous limestone makes it especially vulnerable to rising sea levels. Another new paper, from researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Pennsylvania State University, shows that the trend in Miami is playing out across the country, with homes that are vulnerable to rising sea levels now selling at a 7% discount compared with similar but less-exposed properties. The paper, which is under peer review, shows that the size of the coastal discount has grown over time…”

Map credit above: European Space Agency (satellite image), Miami-Dade County Open Data, researchers at Harvard University.

Miami Housing Market May Soon Be Under Water, Research Says: More perspective from Climate Nexus: “Rising sea levels are already beginning to reshape the real estate market in Miami, a new study shows, with potential implications for other property markets across the country. The research, published Friday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, shows that the prices of single-family homes at lower elevations are rising more slowly than those at higher elevations, suggesting that buyers and sellers are weighing the implications of short-term flooding and long-term coastal change. Evidence that low-level homes are falling behind homes at higher elevations “is pretty shocking,” paper author Jesse Keenan told the Wall Street Journal, “because you can infer that this is a pricing signal from climate change.” (Wall Street Journal $, The Real Deal, Fortune)

Disasters Are Costing Us More. Why Aren’t We Insuring More? Bloomberg takes a look at the trends: “Last year was the second-costliest year for disasters since 1970, according to a new analysis from reinsurance firm Swiss Re AG. Global economic losses from these events reached $337 billion in 2017, behind only 2011’s total losses, and less than 40 percent were insured. A close look at Swiss Re’s data reveals several worrying trends. Losses from natural and man-made disasters are increasing, markets are not getting better at insuring them, and our own choices aren’t helping. First, the natural disaster losses. As I’ve written before, it’s hard not to notice the hurricane and flood years (Katrina in 2005; the Japan earthquake and tsunami and Thailand floods in 2011; Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017)...”

Graphic credit: Swiss Re AG. “Note: “Economic losses” = sum of insured and uninsured losses, in 2017 dollars.”

Will a Huge New Flood Barrier Save Venice? has the article: “…Whatever the date, it still remains unclear whether MOSE will adequately protect the city. And if so, for how long? MOSE operates on the principle of tidal gates. In calm weather, the gates fill with water and sit on the seabed. But when a high tide threatens, the water is pushed out by compressed air that’s pumped in. This allows the gates to surface and prevent the tide from entering the lagoon. When the surge subsides, the gates again fill with water and sink back to the bottom. “The idea is quite old,” said Paola Malanotte-Rizzoli, a physical oceanographer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was among the panel of experts enlisted by the Italian government to come up with a solution. “We have evidence that Venetian engineers drafted mechanical contraptions to hold back the sea as long ago as in the 18th century…”

Photo credit: “Tourists walk on raised platforms above flood waters during a period of seasonal high water and on the first day of Carnival, in Venice, on February 1, 2015.” Reuters/Stefano Rellandini/File.

UK. Sets New Record By Going Without Coal for 55 Hours, Report Says. The longest stretch of coal-free energy since the start of the Industrial Revolution? Here’s a clip from CBS News: “A new record was set this week when power plants in the United Kingdom generated electricity without using coal for a total of 55 hours, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The original record was 40 hours in October. The plants were able to produce more electricity using wind turbines, Bloomberg writes, between 10:25 p.m. Monday local time until 5:10 a.m. Thursday. The U.K. plans to cease coal use in its power plants by 2025 — highlighting the importance it’s putting on renewable energy sources...”

File photo: Matthew Brown, AP.

A Wind Lover’s Dream. All 57,636 U.S. Wind Turbines on One Map. Bloomberg reports: “Wind-turbine geeks prepare to be happy. Thanks to a new online database, details on every one of the 57,636 operating turbines in the U.S. are only a mouse-click away. The project, unveiled Thursday by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Energy, is “more accurate, and updated more often” than any existing turbine data sets and offers valuable details to government agencies, researchers and anyone else with a keen interest in wind power, according to a statement...”

Map credit: “The U.S. Wind Turbine Database.” Source: The U.S. Wind Turbine Database

8 of the 10 Most Polluted Metro Areas in California. We’re talking ozone pollution, specifically.

Can America’s Two Tribes Learn to Live Together? We had author Amy Chua on our WCCO Radio Show a couple weeks ago discussing this – here’s an excerpt from New York Magazine: “…Something like this narrative has been repeated countless times in analyses of the 2016 election, but any recognition that cultural anxiety drove white Trump support is typically taken as proof that these voters were motivated by racism, or “racial resentment,” to use the social-science term of art. From Chua’s perspective, however, they are simply doing what you would expect most groups in most places to do most of the time: hold on to whatever power they have, an impulse that becomes all the more desperate the more tenuous that hold on power becomes. Chua does not intend this as an excuse for white racism, and she is emphatic that ethnonationalism lite is not a viable way forward for an increasingly diverse country — minorities are not going back in the closet, so to speak...”

In China and India, There are 70 Million More Men Than Women. Here are the Consequences. The Washington Post reports on alarming demographic trends: “Nothing like this has happened in human history. A combination of cultural preferences, government decree and modern medical technology in the world’s two largest countries has created a gender imbalance on a continental scale. Men outnumber women by 70 million in China and India. The consequences of having too many men, now coming of age, are far-reaching: Beyond an epidemic of loneliness, the imbalance distorts labor markets, drives up savings rates and drives down consumption, artificially inflates certain property values, and parallels increases in violent crime, trafficking and prostitution. Those consequences are not confined to China and India, but reach deep into their Asian neighbors and distort the economies of Europe and the Americas, as well. Barely recognized, the ramifications of too many men are only starting to come into sight…”

Graphic credit: “The shaded area is the difference between these boys and girls. The number of young boys in India and China has outpaced the number of young girls by millions for at least 20 years.”

Infographic: How Dangerous Is Your Daily Commute? Public transportation is sounding better and better. Big Think explains: “…2016 was the most lethal year since 2007 for American drivers, with nearly 40,000 people losing their lives in accidents. To assess how many of those were commuting-related, Injury Claim Coach tracked fatalities by the times of day in which they occurred. They concluded 24% of them, or 1 in 4, occurred during morning or evening drive times. Taking a train is definitely safer. Or a bus. Evening claimed the lion’s share of deaths: 62%. The most dangerous day is, interestingly, Friday, so celebrating the start of the weekend before arriving home is getting a little ahead of oneself. And September and October are especially deadly months—iffy weather, slippery leaves on the roads?…”

Graphic credit: Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Why Are Tens of Thousands of Americans Still Driving Around with Explosive Devices in their Cars? You might want to triple-check. The Washington Post has a harrowing story: “…Ten years after the biggest safety recall in U.S. history began, Honda says there are more than 60,000 vehicles on the nation’s roads equipped with what experts have called a “ticking time bomb” — defective air bags like the one that killed Brangman. The air bags, which sit about a foot from a driver’s chest, have a 50-50 chance of exploding in a fender bender. They are the most deadly air bags remaining in the recall involving more than 37 million vehicles built by 19 automakers. At least 22 people worldwide have been killed and hundreds more permanently disfigured when the air bags that deployed to protect them instead exploded and sprayed shrapnel...”

Photo credit: “Jewel Brangman was killed by shrapnel from a Takata air bag in this crash in Los Angeles. She was driving the rear vehicle, a Honda Civic.” (Family photo)

Colorado Man Has a Very Tough Time with Wildlife. Newsweek has the story; here are a few clips: “A man who survived a shark attack in Hawaii Thursday has in the past four years also survived being mauled by a bear and bitten by a rattlesnake…McWilliams suffered deep cuts to his legs when attacked by a shark while bodyboarding off Hawaii’s Kauai Thursday…Last July, he told the Star-Advertiser, he received nine staples to the scalp after being attacked by a bear which invaded his campsite near Ward, Colorado…And that attack came only three-and-a-half years after a pygmy rattlesnake bit him as he was out hiking in Utah. Fortunately the bite was not serious, and he was only ill for a few days. He said his parents are grateful he’s still alive.”

71 F. maximum temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities (first 70 of the season).

62 F. average high on April 23.

70 F. high on April 23, 2017.

April 24, 1854: It feels like summertime at Ft. Snelling with temperatures in the 80s.

TUESDAY: Peeks of sun, cooler. Winds: N 10-15. High: near 60

TUESDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 35

WEDNESDAY: Bright sunshine with less wind. Winds: NW 5-10. High: 59

THURSDAY: Patchy clouds, risk of a PM shower. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 42. High: 61

FRIDAY: Sunny and breezy. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 41. High: 64

SATURDAY: Plenty of sunshine, milder. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 46. High: 67

SUNDAY: Sunny. More wind – more warmth. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 50. High: 73

MONDAY: Sticky sun, T-storms late? Winds: S 15-25. Wake-up: 55. High: 78

Climate Stories…

Climate Change is a National Security Threat. The Houston Chronicle has an Op-Ed that’s worth a read: “…In the absence of congressional or presidential leadership on climate, the military has begun its own internal risk assessment around climate change. As one of the world’s largest landowners, the U.S. military owns and operates a massive real estate portfolio — much of which is ill-prepared for the rising seas, extreme heat and uncertainty that climate change portends. More troubling, climate scientists expect it to spread drought, famine and poverty across much of the globe, destabilizing nations and creating new and unmanageable resource conflicts that will further stressing an already over-extended military. Along the nation’s coast, the cost of climate change denialism is placing the vast, productive and vital cluster of shipping lanes, ports, railways and freight movement facilities at tremendous and unnecessary risk…”

What Happened to Winter? Vanishing Ice Convulses Alaskans’ Way of Life. Details via The Guardian: “…But the past winter, following a string of warm years, points to a pace of change not before experienced by this community. The winter was the warmest on record in the Arctic, with sea ice extent hitting record lows in January and February, ending up at the second-smallest seasonal peak in the 39-year satellite record in March. The smallest was in 2017. The Bering Sea, which separates Alaska and Russia, lost a third of its winter ice in just eight February days. Otherworldly temperatures were felt across the region, with the weather station closest to the North Pole spending more than 60 hours above freezing in February, around 25C (45F) warmer than normal, which is equivalent to Washington DC spending a February day at 35C (95F) or Miami baking at 51C (124F). The Arctic was, in spells, warmer than much of Europe…”

Here’s How Fast a Glacier Can Slip Into the Sea Once It’s Destabilized. A story at Quartz explains: “There’s a foreboding climate-change lesson nestled in the Chugach Mountains of southeastern Alaska. Or rather, the lesson is in the 12-plus miles of bare sea and land where a glacier once stood. When a British expedition led by George Vancouver first surveyed it (pdf) in 1794, the Columbia Glacier was a site to behold: It snaked 43 miles (70 km) through the Chugach Mountains before meeting the sea, where it extended to nearly fill the Columbia Bay in the Prince William Sound. And that’s where it stayed, more or less, until the mid-1980s, when its “terminus” (the nose of the glacier) slipped off its “moraine” (an underwater ridge of ice and rock, built by the force of a glacier over time, that holds a glacier in place). That initial slip completely changed the fate of the Columbia Glacier, and it was likely due to climate change…”

Image credit: “The Columbia Glacier in Alaska has retreated 12 miles in 30 years.” (Pictured here in September 2016) (NASA).

Can You Guess What America Will Look Like in 10,000 Years? I only got 6 out of 10 correct. Take the interactive quiz from The New York Times.

The Scientific Importance of Free Speech. A presentation highlighted at Quillette caught my eye; here’s the intro: “A quick Google search suggests that free speech is a regarded as an important virtue for a functional, enlightened society. For example, according to George Orwell: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” Likewise, Ayaan Hirsi Ali remarked: “Free speech is the bedrock of liberty and a free society, and yes, it includes the right to blaspheme and offend.” In a similar vein, Bill Hicks declared: “Freedom of speech means you support the right of people to say exactly those ideas which you do not agree with”. But why do we specifically need free speech in science? Surely we just take measurements and publish our data? No chit chat required. We need free speech in science because science is not really about microscopes, or pipettes, or test tubes, or even Large Hadron Colliders. These are merely tools that help us to accomplish a far greater mission, which is to choose between rival narratives, in the vicious, no-holds-barred battle of ideas that we call “science”…”

She Tried to Report on Climate Change. Sinclair Told Her to Be More “Balanced”. BuzzFeed News has the story: “Sinclair Broadcast Group executives reprimanded and ultimately ousted a local news reporter who refused to seed doubt about man-made climate change and “balance” her stories in a more conservative direction. Her account, detailed in company documents she provided to BuzzFeed News, offers a glimpse at the inner workings of a media giant that has sought to both ingratiate itself to President Donald Trump and cast itself as an apolitical local news provider — a position the documents undermine. In one 2015 instance, the former news director of WSET-TV in Lynchburg, Virginia, Len Stevens, criticized reporter Suri Crowe because she “clearly laid out the argument that human activities cause global warming, but had nothing from the side that questions the science behind such claims and points to more natural causes for such warming…”

The Gospel of Climate Change: Green Pastors Bringing Environmentalism to Evangelicals. NBC News has the story; here’s a clip: “…Surveys show most evangelicals dismiss the issue in one of three ways: A liberal hoax, a hypothesis based on flawed science, or an affront to the concept of human existence based on God’s intelligence design. A 2015 Pew Research Poll, the most recent on the subject, found only 28 percent of white evangelicals believed that the Earth was getting warmer because of human activity — by far the lowest percentage of any religious demographic in the survey. “[Much of the] theology doesn’t work with the whole idea of climate change where humans can actually do some damage to the Earth against God’s plan,” Richard Flory, senior director of research and evaluation at the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, told NBC News…”

Photo credit: “Young Evangelicals for Climate Action supporter Rick Kruis at the People’s Climate March in Washington in April 2017.” Courtesy Rick Kruis / Courtesy Rick Kruis via Young Evangelicals for Climate Action

Climate Lawsuits, Once Limited to the Coasts, Jump Inland. I can almost hear the lawyers smacking their lips. The New York Times reports.

Photo credit: “A rally in Boulder, Colo., where a lawsuit against oil and gas companies was announced Tuesday.” CreditJeremy Papasso/Boulder Daily Camera.