Spring in Minnesota Is An Acquired Taste

One obvious benefit to living in Minnesota? If anyone has a weather story – odds are you can top them. “Remember that year we were ice fishing in early June?” Cue a look of horror. “Oh yeah, I can distinctly remember a little windchill during the 4th of July parade!” You can’t be serious. “Wait, wasn’t that the summer we had a snowball battle up in the BWCA around Labor Day?”

Minnesota. Land of 10,000 Weather Atrocities.

Snow shuts off quickly this morning, but northwest winds howling on the backside of the storm will top 35 mph, creating white-out conditions north of Princeton and St.Cloud. I expect to see some 10-inch snowfall totals from Brainerd to Duluth.

Easter Sunday brings wake-up temperatures in single digits north and teens in the MSP metro; a few degrees away from all-time record lows. Should make for some abbreviated Easter egg hunts.

Southern Minnesota stands a good chance of a slushy mix Monday into Tuesday, and next week feels like early March. Models hint at 60s by mid-April. Oh PLEASE let the GFS model verify.

PS: Minnesota doesn’t experience hurricanes.

Tight Gradient Over the Metro. Once again we go from a coating to plowable amounts of snow (far north metro) over the span of 40-50 miles. NOAA has more details on the storm here.

Snow Band Shifts South. Although the axis of heaviest snow stayed north of MSP; plowable amounts pushed farther south than earlier runs were suggesting, bringing a few inches of snow into the northern suburbs. A high sun angle will turn most metro roads wet by late morning or midday, but heavier snow amounts over central Minnesota will take longer to melt.

February in April. Sunrise wind chills in single digits in the metro; subzero up north? With clear skies and fresh snow temperatures will fall further/faster than they would otherwise. If it’s any consolation the risk of severe thunderstorms is small.

Record Territory. Wake-up temperatures on Easter Sunday will be close to records for much of the area; the best chance from St. Cloud and Brainerd to Duluth, where fresh snow could mean temperatures a few degrees colder than they would be otherwise. Something to look forward to!

Moderating Temperatures by Mid-April. Because, frankly, the mercury has nowhere to go but up. That said, no sweaty weather is in sight, but 50s for highs would be nice.

A Persistent Cold Signal Into April. Alaska and much of the Arctic is forecast to be much warmer than average next month, with a persistent lobe of chilly air over southern Canada and the Upper Midwest. Confidence levels are low with this solution, but the persistence of the cold signal has been impressive east of the Rockies over the northern tier of the USA – this is certainly plausible, even with La Nina expected to weaken. April temperature anomalies: NOAA CFSv2 and WeatherBell.

What The Heck is an “Ice Pancake”? I had no idea, but the U.K. Met Office set me straight: “Ice pancakes are a phenomenon where discs of ice anywhere from 20 – 200 cm wide are formed creating a unique spectacle. Ice pancakes are relatively rare phenomenon that tend to occur in very cold oceans and lakes. They are most frequently seen in the Baltic Sea and around Antarctica but also form relatively frequently on the Great Lakes of the United States and Canada. They require some rather specific conditions in order to form and can form in one of two distinct ways. In oceans, seas and lakes the discs are created when waves cause forming pieces of ice to knock against each other rounding their edges as they freeze and grow.  Small rims are created on the edges as the knocking causes splashing water to freeze and join the rim…”

China’s Failing Satellite is Just One Example or a Massive Space Debris Problem. The Washington Post has details: “…The European Space Agency estimates that there are now more than 170 million pieces of space debris in circulation, though only 29,000 of those are larger than about four inches. While the smaller space debris objects may not pose a threat to Earth because they would disintegrate before reaching the surface, “any of these objects can cause harm to an operational spacecraft. For example, a collision with a (four-inch) object would entail a catastrophic fragmentation of a typical satellite,” according to the European Space Agency. Smaller pieces could still destroy spacecraft systems or penetrate shields, possibly making bigger satellites such as Tiangong-1 unresponsive and turning them into massive pieces of debris themselves...”

Image credit: “This computer graphic shows objects in low Earth orbit being tracked.” (NASA

Federal Report: High-Tide Flooding Could Happen “Every Other Day” by Late Century. Jason Samenow reports for Capital Weather Gang: “High-tide flooding, which can wash water over roads and inundate homes and businesses, is an event that happens once in a great while in coastal areas. But its frequency has rapidly increased in recent years because of sea-level rise. Not just during storms but increasingly on sunny days, too. Years ago, the late Margaret Davidson, a coastal programs director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, warned it wouldn’t be long until such flooding became routine. “Today’s flood will become tomorrow’s high tide,” she said. A new NOAA report has published startling new projections that affirm Davidson’s warning. By 2100, the report says, “high tide flooding will occur ‘every other day’ (182 days/year) or more often” even under an “intermediate low scenario” in coastal areas along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico…”

Photo credit: “High-tide flooding in Washington on March 27.” (Angela Pan/Flickr)

Perpetual Coastal Flood Advisory. NOAA’s 56-page report is here.

NASA Modeling Real-Time Risk of Landslides. NASA explains: “For the first time, scientists can look at landslide threats anywhere around the world in near real-time, thanks to satellite data and a new model developed by NASA. The model, developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, estimates potential landslide activity triggered by rainfall. Rainfall is the most widespread trigger of landslides around the world. If conditions beneath Earth’s surface are already unstable, heavy rains act as the last straw that causes mud, rocks or debris — or all combined — to move rapidly down mountains and hillsides…”

Animation credit: “This animation shows the potential landslide activity by month averaged over the last 15 years as evaluated by NASA’s Landslide Hazard Assessment model for Situational Awareness model. Here, you can see landslide trends across the world.” Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center / Scientific Visualization Studio.

Tumbling Cost For Wind, Solar, Batteries Are Squeezing Fossil Fuels. Bloomberg New Energy Finance has a summary; here’s an excerpt: “…In dispatchable power – the ability to respond to grid requests to ramp electricity generation up or down at any time of day – the challenge to new coal and gas is coming from the pairing of battery storage with wind and solar, enabling the latter two ‘variable’ sources to smooth output, and if necessary, shift the timing of supply. In flexibility – the ability to switch on and off in response to grid electricity shortfalls and surpluses over periods of hours – stand-alone batteries are increasingly cost-effective and are starting to compete on price with open-cycle gas plants, and with other options such as pumped hydro…”

Stunning Drops in Solar, Wind Costs Mean Economic Case for Coal, Gas is “Crumbling”. ThinkProgress has more perspective: “Prices for solar, wind, and battery storage are dropping so rapidly that renewables are increasingly squeezing out all forms of fossil fuel power, including natural gas. The cost of new solar plants dropped 20 percent over the past 12 months, while onshore wind prices dropped 12 percent, according to the latest Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report. Since 2010, the prices for lithium-ion batteries — crucial to energy storage — have plummeted a stunning 79 percent. “The economic case for building new coal and gas capacity is crumbling,” as BNEF’s chief of energy economics, Elena Giannakopoulou, told Bloomberg…”

Image credit: “Lithium-ion battery prices have plummeted since 2010 and are projected to keep dropping.”

U.S. Utilities Look to Electric Cars as Their Savoir Amid Decline in Demand. NPR reports: “The U.S. electricity sector is eyeing the developing electric car market as a remedy for an unprecedented decline in demand for electricity. After decades of rising electricity demand, experts say the utility industry grossly underestimated the impact of cheap renewable energy and the surge of natural gas production. For the first time ever, the Tennessee Valley Authority is projecting a 13 percent drop in demand across the region it serves in seven states, which is the first persistent decline in the federally owned agency’s 85-year history. Electric vehicles (EVs) only make up 1 percent of the U.S. car market, but utility companies are taking advantage of their growing popularity by investing in charging infrastructure and partnering with carmakers to offer rebates, says Quartz reporter Michael J. Coren. A report by the Rocky Mountain Institute, a non-profit clean energy research group, projects there could be almost 2.9 million electric cars on the road in the next five years...”

Electric Vehicles Are Now the Equivalent of Driving an 80 MPG Car. Of course this varies around the USA,  from utility to utility. Here’s an excerpt from Fast Company: “…David Reichmuth, an engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, analyzed climate change emissions of EVs versus gasoline-powered cars using 2017 figures from the E.P.A. On average, though figures vary widely across the U.S., an EV now gets has the equivalent emissions of a gas car that gets 80 miles to the gallon (which is to say, basically no car on the market). In some states, the equivalent MPGs of EVs are higher than that. In the Pacific Northwest, where most power comes from hydro, EVs get the equivalent of 96 MPGs. In California, which has plenty of solar, the equivalent is 109 MPG. Even older EVs are getting cleaner because their power is getting cleaner…”

Photo credit: Inside EVs.

EPA Distributes Denier Talking Points: From Climate Nexus: “An internal memo distributed to EPA staffers this week included talking points on how to downplay the links between human activity and climate change, the Huffington Post reported Wednesday. An email obtained by HuffPo and sent to regional communications staff under the subject line “Consistent Messages on Climate Adaptation” states that despite “extensive research and a host of published reports on climate change, clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it.” Another point says that “the ability to measure with precision the degree and extent” of the impact of human activity on the climate, as well as how to mitigate this impact, “are subject to continuing debate and dialogue.” The email’s language echoes denier talking points routinely used by EPA chief Scott Pruitt that directly contradict international and national scientific consensus.” (Huffington Post, Washington Post $, Axios, ThinkProgress, Mashable, Vice, NY Mag, Splinter)

Are You Ready? Here is All the Data Facebook and Google Have On You. Take a deep breath, and then dig into this story at The Guardian: “Google knows everything you’ve ever searched – and deleted. Google stores search history across all your devices. That can mean that, even if you delete your search history and phone history on one device, it may still have data saved from other devices. Click on this link to see your own data: myactivity.google.com/myactivity

Google has an advertisement profile of you. Google creates an advertisement profile based on your information, including your location, gender, age, hobbies, career, interests, relationship status, possible weight (need to lose 10lb in one day?) and income. Click on this link to see your own data: google.com/settings/ads/

Image credit: “A slice of the data that Facebook keeps on the author: ‘This information has millions of nefarious uses.’ Photograph: Dylan Curran.

Mark Zuckerberg is Losing Friends in Silicon Valley. Quartz explains: “…In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, tech titans like Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook have taken shots at Zuckerberg and his social media empire. The tight-knit tech industry’s willingness to openly criticize Zuckerberg marks a turning point in Silicon Valley culture, according to Leslie Berlin, author of Troublemakers: Silicon Valley’s Coming of Age. “Until very recently, it was taken as a given that tech equaled progress and tech equaled good and tech equaled economic strength,” Berlin told the New York Times. Now, the idea that tech can do no wrong seems to be changing—at least when it comes to Facebook. Here are a few of the voices within the Valley that have spoken out against Zuckerberg, Facebook, and Zuckerberg’s stewardship of Facebook in recent days…”

Photo credit: “Finding some new friends.” (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson).

What Are Screens Doing to our Eyes – And Our Ability to See? Squint as you check out a story at WIRED.com: “The eyes are unwell. Their childhood suppleness is lost. The lenses, as we log hours on this earth, thicken, stiffen, even calcify. The eyes are no longer windows on souls. They’re closer to teeth. To see if your own eyes are hardening, look no further than your phone, which should require no exertion; you’re probably already there. Keep peering at your screen, reading and staring, snubbing life’s third dimension and natural hues. The first sign of the eyes’ becoming teeth is the squinting at phones. Next comes the reflexive extending of the arm, the impulse to resize letters into the preschool range. And at last the buying of drugstore readers...”

The Most Important Self-Driving Car Announcement Yet. “Grandpa, tell me again about when you used to drive yourself around!” Here’s an excerpt from an eye-opening post at The Atlantic: “…Right now, maybe 10,000 or 20,000 people have ever ridden in a self-driving car, in any context. Far fewer have been in a vehicle that is truly absent a driver. Up to a million people could have that experience every day in 2020. 2020 is not some distant number. It’s hardly even a projection. By laying out this time line yesterday, Waymo is telling the world: Get ready, this is really happening. This is autonomous driving at scale, and not in five years or 10 years or 50 years, but in two years or less. When Waymo starts to hit the big numbers, it will be a watershed moment not just for self-driving cars but for artificial intelligence in general. If people suddenly have thousands of robots driving among them, what else will they become comfortable—or uncomfortable—with robots doing?…”

Photo credit: “The announced Jaguar I-PACE, outfitted with self-driving technology by Waymo.”

The Origin of all 30 MLB Team Names. In case you missed this from Mental Floss: “…Minneapolis and St. Paul, which are separated by the Mississippi River and collectively known as the Twin Cities, argued for years over where an expansion team in Minnesota, should one arrive, would call home. When the Washington Senators moved to Minneapolis in 1961, club officials settled on Twins as the team nickname and unveiled an emblem showing two baseball players with hands clasped in front of a huge baseball...”

Last Blue Moon In Over 2 Years. Big Think has the story: “…If you take a look up at the early morning sky on Saturday, March 31, you will see the last blue moon for the next two and a half years. It peaks at 08:37 a.m. Eastern time in the U.S. A blue moon as it’s defined today is the second full moon in a given month…It’ll be your last chance to see one until Halloween 2020 when the next blue moon happens—and what a great day of the year for that to occur!...”

Photo credit: “The moon is seen behind trees as the early morning sunlight breaks through leaves in Victoria Park in Bath, England.”

Super-Sized Spring Break. I have a hunch our late spring has something to do with this. Here’s an excerpt from bringmethenews.com: “Leaving the Land of 10,000 Frozen Lakes is a rite of passage for Minnesotans at spring break, and people were flocking out of here for warmer weather in record masses last week.  Last Thursday was the third busiest day ever, and last Friday was the second busiest day in the history of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, an airport spokesperson tells BMTN.  The busiest day in MSP history was the day after Super Bowl 52, when just under 61,000 people went through screening on Feb. 5, 2018.  Overall, four of the top five busy days at MSP have come since the Super Bowl, and three of them this month alone...”

43 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

49 F. average high on March 30.

50 F. high on March 30, 2017.

March 31, 1896: A strong snowstorm dumps 13.5 inches of snow at Maple Plain. Vivid lightning is also in the storm with 10-12 flashes per minute. Visibility was down to less than one block. The high temperature was 57 at Maple Plain the day before.

March 31, 1843: The low temperature at Ft. Snelling plummets to -11.

SATURDAY: Snow quickly tapers. Coating – 2″ south metro early with 2-4″ possible some northern suburbs. Gusty and cold with some PM clearing. Winds: NW 20-35. High: 32 (falling into the 20s)

SATURDAY NIGHT: Clear, near-record cold. Low: 15

EASTER SUNDAY: Cold start, bright sun – less wind. Winds: W 8-13. High: 33

MONDAY: Light slushy mix – couple inches possible. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 23. High: 38

TUESDAY: Light snow tapers to flurries. Winds: N 10-15. Wake-up: 28. High: 35

WEDNESDAY: Blue sky, chilly for early April. Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 17. High: 31

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy and brisk. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 22. High: 34

FRIDAY: Sunny, but 15-20F colder than average. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 17. High: 32

Climate Stories…

The Sahara is Growing, Thanks in Part to Climate Change. The Washington Post has the story: “Earth’s largest hot desert, the Sahara, is getting bigger, a new study finds. It is advancing south into more tropical terrain in Sudan and Chad, turning green vegetation dry and soil once used for farming into barren ground in areas that can least afford to lose it. Yet it is not just the spread of the Sahara that is frightening, the researchers say. It’s the timing: It is happening during the African summer, when there is usually more rain. But the precipitation has dried up, allowing the boundaries of the desert to expand…The study was published Thursday in the Journal of Climate. The authors said that although their research focused only on the Sahara, it suggests that climate changes also could be causing other hot deserts to expand — with potentially harsh economic and human consequences…”

Image credit: NASA.

Rep. Keith Ellison Demands FEMA Explain Why It Cut Climate Change from Strategic Plan. Here’s an excerpt from Huffington Post: “…It is puzzling to understand how FEMA could meet the emerging challenges of 21st century disasters while ignoring the mounting evidence of the link between climate change and weather events,” Rep. Ellison continued. “Last year’s Climate Science Special Report, part of the National Climate Assessment, found that natural disasters intensified by global warming will become more frequent and problematic as temperatures rise.” 2017 was the costliest, most damaging year on record for weather and climate-related disasters in the U.S., with a total bill of $306 billion. That figure is expected to rise as the climate shifts further. FEMA defended its decision to exclude climate change from the planning document earlier this month, emphasizing it’s focused more on the effects of storms than their causes...”

Judge: Exxon’s Claims “Implausible”: From Climate Nexus: “ExxonMobil cannot stop investigations into whether or not the oil giant misled the public on climate change, a federal judge ruled Thursday. US District Judge Valerie Caproni dismissed a 2016 lawsuit brought by Exxon in two different state courts alleging New York and Massachusetts officials were pursuing fraud charges in bad faith and with political motivation. In a strongly-worded opinion, Caproni wrote that Exxon’s claims were based on “extremely thin allegations and speculative inferences,” and that the lawsuit ran “roughshod over the adage that the best defense is a good offense.” (AP, Reuters, New York Times $, Wall Street Journal $, Bloomberg, CNN Money, Climate Liability News, Houston Chronicle, The Hill, InsideClimate News).

File image: Reuters.

We Need Stories of Dystopia Without Apocalypse. Because faced with apocalypse most people simply shut down down. Here’s an excerpt from Electric Literature: “…Researchers found that respondents interpreted “future” to mean only about fifteen years from now — and that the imagination “goes dark” fifteen to twenty years into the future. Most relevant for climate change, “individuals’ ability to imagine the future decreases as the time frame increases.” Human difficulty in imagining the future may help explain our inattention to the long-term consequences of climate change. Individual storms and “natural disasters” receive our immediate attention given their spectacular — and newsworthy — nature. But threats that ocean levels will rise in thirty or fifty or a hundred years or that temperatures will be dramatically higher by the next century just aren’t within our temporal grasp…”

How Climate Change is Posing a Serious Threat to the NHL. A post at Complex.com caught my eye: “Climate change stands to threaten more than just the polar bears (duh). Apart from threatening our very existence on Earth, rising temperatures are also taking their toll on some professional sports and, more specifically, the NHL. The league is committed to a green future, and on Wednesday, it released its second sustainability report. Back in 2008, the league partnered with the National Resources Defense Council to create a pro-environment initiative, and ever since then, the league has been committed to doing its part to help the planet. It seems to recognize the impact climate change could have on hockey’s future. “Hockey was born on frozen ponds,” the league said in its most recent report. “Climate change is impacting access to our sport outdoors…”

NHL Green. Check out what the National Hockey League is doing about sustainability: “Hockey means more than just excitement and exercise – it means an opportunity to build character, learn positive values, and connect families and communities. That’s why we’re committed to protecting the places we play hockey for future generations. We’re using innovative technologies to transform our business, and inspiring our communities and partners to lower emissions, conserve water, reduce waste and more. When your sport is so much more than a game, you have to play it forward…”

On Climate Science, Auto Makers Say April Fool’s. Here’s a snippet of an Op-Ed at NJ.com: “…Car salesmen get the bad rap, but the slickest spiel these days is coming from car makers – who preach social responsibility on climate change for good publicity, while simultaneously trashing the same science to argue against pollution limits. Manufacturers tout the importance of fighting global warming, with ads like Toyota’s during the winter Olympics, featuring crying, melting ice sculpture athletes and a tender voiceover assuring us its green cars “help keep our winters, winter.” But Toyota didn’t shed a tear when the lobbying group that represents it and other carmakers, like Ford and General Motors, argued to federal regulators last month that climate science is not to be trusted, and dirty soot from tailpipes is actually not that bad for our health. Maybe their best mascot really is a melting athlete…”

A Major Oil Company Just Agreed in Court That Humans Cause Climate Change. It Sets a New Precedent. Here’s an excerpt from a story at Vox: “…The plaintiffs, the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, brought three world-renowned climate scientists to the tutorial. The defendants — BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, and ConocoPhillips — sent one lawyer, from Chevron. And when it was his turn to present, the Chevron attorney agreed that human activity is changing the climate and that it warrants action. This is a seismic shift from years past, when “uncertainties” about climate change were the party line for oil companies. Humanity’s role in rising temperatures has now been established in court, and future legal wrangling will have to build on this foundation. But both sides agreeing to the fundamental mechanisms behind climate change now will give way to the thornier legal debate of establishing blame...”

File image: Eric Gay,  AP.