Can We Please Have a Moratorium on Spring Break Updates?

“The weather is here – wish you were beautiful!” I’m really enjoying the photos my wife is texting from the beach. She’s with girlfriends – it’s thoughtful of her to provide me with hourly weather updates.

“Paul, will it get up to 82F or 85F?” I LOVE IT when people talk about the weather in Mexico, Florida, Arizona and Hawaii! There’s a passive/aggressive sweetness to the updates, too. “The palm trees make a great backdrop for my selfies! But just be glad you’re not down here. It’s too hot, and the humidity is just awful!” Uh huh.

Minnesota had it’s very own one-day spring break yesterday, with low 50s and giant man-eating puddles. We cool off today with a few flurries in the air Friday. Rain may end as an inch or two of slush Friday night before a blustery weekend cold front. Easter Sunday may bring back fond memories of Groundhog Day with highs near 32F and a wind chill in the teens. Time to dig out the fur-lined bonnet. There is hope. NOAA model guidance hints at 60s the second week of April, with strong T-storms.

It was 20 years ago today that St. Peter was hit by an EF-3 tornado.

Image above courtesy of YouTube and Jimmy Buffett. Cue the steel drum.

Snowy Stripe Friday Night. It does seem a bit odd tracking (hefty) clippers on the cusp of April, but then again this is Minnesota, where snow has been (officially) observed in every month of the year except for July. Over 8″ for the Brainerd Lakes and Duluth? We’ll see, but last night’s 00z 12km NAM run kept the heavy stuff north of MSP.

Couple Inches Possible Friday Night. The best chance of 1-3″ will probably come north of the Twin Cities, from St. Cloud to Princeton, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some slushy accumulation in the immediate metro. Keep in mind an average of 2.5″ of snow falls on MSP during an average April, based on the latest 30-year climate record.

A Chilling Easter Sunday. In spite of a bright, pleading sun we may be lucky to hit freezing on Sunday. At least winds will ease a bit, but chances are it will look and feel more like the first few days of March.

Mellowing Out Second Week of April? I want to see a few more runs to see if there’s any continuity to the GFS (wouldn’t that be nice) but the 12z GFS run on Wednesday was hinting at 60s by the second week of April, with potentially heavy rain – even strong to severe T-storms. Will we go from slush to sirens in 36 hours? At this rate nothing would surprise me.

A Risk of Spring. GFS model forecasts for 500mb, roughly 2 weeks out, predict a warm ridge over the central USA, with summerlike heat possible over the central and southern Plains, and possible 60s as far north as Minnesota and Wisconsin. We’ll see – I hope it’s right.

Winter Snowfall To Date. Everything shaded red is 4 feet or more since last September; 10 foot snowfall amounts are common downwind of the great Lakes from near Erie to Rochester and Watertown, New York. Every state, including the Panhandle of Florida, saw some snow accumulation this past winter.

Snow Water Equivalent. There is still 4-6″ of liquid water trapped in the snowpack near Duluth and over the Arrowhead, with 2-4″ over much of central and southwestern Minnesota. Heavy rain coupled with rapid warming coupled with lingering frost in the ground might result in an enhanced river flooding scenario. I don’t see those ingredients converging anytime soon as a cool bias lingers into at least the first week of April. Map credit: NOAA NOHRSC.

Multiple Strands of Evidence – Severe Weather is Increasing, Worldwide. Here’s an excerpt of a post I wrote for one of the companies I’m involved with, AerisWeather: “It’s definitely not your grandfather’s weather anymore. Data suggest an uptick in severe weather, worldwide – symptomatic of a warming atmosphere and warming oceans. It’s basic physics: every 2F of warming means roughly 8 percent more water vapor floating overhead; more fuel to “juice” storms and produce heavier summer rains and winter snows. The result has been a subsequent increase in billion-dollar weather events across the United States since 1980. The United States has experienced 25 separate 500-year floods since 2010, according to NOAA. During Hurricane Harvey, the town of Nederland, Texas received 64.58” of rain. By some accounts, Harvey unleashed a million gallons of water for every man, woman, and child in Texas. But it’s not just warm season rains falling with greater intensity. Blizzards are becoming supersized as well. Data shows extreme regional snowstorms were twice as common from 1961 to 2010 than from 1900 to 1960…”

This Man Risked His Life to Study Tornadoes – Until One Killed Him. Tim Samaras was an amazingly prolific scientist, but he was also a really good guy – the kind of guy you’d want to have a beer with. That’s why the meteorology community is still reeling from his death. Here’s an excerpt from The New York Post: “For centuries, humans were almost completely powerless to predict when and where a tornado might strike. By the late 20th century, researchers were able to probe the outer edges of the violent storm systems but still had no idea what took place inside their core. In a new biography, “The Man Who Caught the Storm: The Life of Legendary Tornado Chaser Tim Samaras” (Simon & Schuster), journalist Brantley Hargrove profiles the self-taught inventor who handed weather scientists one of their most significant breakthroughs — then recreates the epic storm that took his life at 55…”

Photo credit: “Fearless tornado chaser Tim Samaras also was a pioneer in storm research.” Carsten Peter/National Geographic.

Road Trip: On the Trail of a Tornado. Air&Space takes a look at researchers, like Tim Samaras, who are collecting data out in the field to learn more about what makes tornadoes tick: “…Tornadoes here are not like their cousins to the west. They’re more likely to come at night, for one thing. At night, approaching funnel clouds are difficult to spot—a challenge even in daylight, because Alabama is much hillier and more thickly forested than, say, Oklahoma—and people who are at home asleep are less likely to receive and act upon a message to seek shelter, even if a dangerous storm is detected in advance. In the first two years, investigators in the collaborating institutions monitored weather and determined observing periods. Once triggering conditions appeared, the team would scramble to make the 700-mile road trip from Purdue to Huntsville before the storms began. The observing periods generally last only about eight to 12 hours—a narrow window...”

Photo credit: “Purdue storm chaser Andrew Arnold watches a developing supercell in southern Kansas. His 2009 work was part of an earlier VORTEX project, which studied the “tornado alley” storms in the U.S. midwest.” (Ryan McGinnis)

Half of All U.S. Coal Plants Would Lose Money Without Regulation. A story at Bloomberg Markets is worth a read – here’s a story link and excerpt: “It’s long been clear that U.S. coal plants are struggling. A study released Monday shows how much — concluding that barely half earned enough revenue last year to cover their operating expenses. Power grids may face “massive” upheaval as more uneconomic plants close, according to the report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The problem is particularly bad in Florida, Georgia and elsewhere in the Southeast, where the distance from major coal mines drives up prices. The study examined the monthly economic performance of every U.S. coal plant in operation since 2012. Still, many coal plants manage to shield themselves from economics. About 95 percent of those with operating expenses exceeding revenue operate in regions where regulators set rates, the study found…”

Photo credit: “Cooling towers are reflected in a puddle at a coal-fired power plant in West Virginia.” Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg.

How Trump Favored Texas Over Puerto Rico. Politico reports: “…A POLITICO review of public documents, newly obtained FEMA records and interviews with more than 50 people involved with disaster response indicates that the Trump administration — and the president himself — responded far more aggressively to Texas than to Puerto Rico. “We have the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. We go anywhere, anytime we want in the world,” bemoaned retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who led the military’s relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. “And [in Puerto Rico] we didn’t use those assets the way they should have been used.” No two hurricanes are alike, and Harvey and Maria were vastly different storms that struck areas with vastly different financial, geographic and political situations. But a comparison of government statistics relating to the two recovery efforts strongly supports the views of disaster-recovery experts that FEMA and the Trump administration exerted a faster, and initially greater, effort in Texas, even though the damage in Puerto Rico exceeded that in Houston…”

Hurricane Harvey file image courtesy of Marcus Yam, Los Angeles Times.

The Strange Beauty of Sandstorms. The Atlantic has a very cool pictorial spread: “Powerful winds recently drove sand from the Sahara Desert across the Mediterranean Sea into southern Europe and as far as the ski slopes in Sochi, Russia, turning skies red and leaving behind orange-frosted snow. Dust storms range from the size of a tiny dust devil, to a cloud that might cover a continent. In dry regions, strong winds can suddenly create a “haboob,” a rolling wall of sand or dust that rises thousands of feet in the air, blanketing an area ahead of a storm. Some storms can whip particles high into the atmosphere for days, carrying sand across oceans. Gathered here are images from recent years of dust storms, sandstorms, haboobs, and the eerie skies that accompany these phenomena…”

Photo credit: “A dust storm approaches the Inata Gold Mine in Burkina Faso on June 1, 2012.” CC BY-SA Darryl Keith

Oil Giant Goes Big on Solar: Headlines and links via Climate Nexus: “Saudi Arabia and Japanese investment company SoftBank announced plans Tuesday to build the world’s largest solar-power-generation project. The $200 billion project is expected to bring 200MW of solar power online by 2030, with plans to bring 7.2GW online next year. The proposed development is 100 times larger than the next biggest planned project in Australia and, if it goes through, could triple Saudi Arabia’s electricity generation. Saudi leaders and SoftBank executives say the project could produce 100,000 jobs and save $4 billion in generation costs.” (WSJ $, Bloomberg, Reuters, Axios, FT $, AP)

File image credit: Xcel Energy.

Study: Wind and Solar Can Power Most of the United States. University of St. Thomas professor John Abraham writes for The Guardian; here’s a clip: “…Fortunately, these two sources of energy fluctuate in ways that complement each other. For instance, solar power generation is highest in the summer and lowest in the winter. Wind power is greatest in the spring and fall. Wind turbines work at night when solar panels are dormant. So, can these complementing variations help balance out the power that the two technologies can provide? This question was addressed in a very recent paper published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science. The author list included Dr. Ken Caldeira, who is extremely well known for his years of work in environmental science and energy. The authors analyzed 36 years of hourly weather data (1980–2015) in the US. They calculated the available wind and solar power over this time period and also included the electrical demand in the US and its variation throughout the year…”

File image: Shutterstock.

I downloaded 14 Years of my Facebook Data and Here’s What Happened. A story at caught my eye: “…Facebook has an impeccable memory. After downloading my stored data on the site — I’ve been a member since 2004 — I was presented with an enormous amount of personal details that have been collected about me over the years. It had the phone number of my late grandmother who never had a Facebook account, or even an email address. It preserved the conversations I had with an ex– someone with whom I thought I had deleted my digital ties. It even recalled times I was “poked,” a feature I had forgotten about. I also learned that Kate Spade New York and MetLife have me on their advertiser lists. Staring at the data was not only creepy but it drudged up painful memories…”

Why TV Advertising May Be Headed Toward a Cliff. Baclays explains the shift in ad dollars now underway and potential tipping points in the near future: “In 2016, for the first time, digital advertising spend surpassed that of television. The shift was inevitable – the surprise is that it took this long to happen. After all, TV viewership has declined for years, and the internet promises the ability to target consumers on a virtually individual basis. Still, for TV advertising, the levee has mostly held: buoyed by unmatched audience reach and a long-entrenched and relatively simple ad buying process, television can still deliver an audience like no other medium…for now. At some point, the internet will, without qualification, displace TV. And when that happens, there will be little warning...”

The Life Issue. Although it’s still true that there’s a high probability none of us will be able to cheat death, life “hacks” will make it easier to live a longer, high-quality life. has a great issue on this – here’s a link to some of the highlights: “Before we get too far into an entire issue about how science and technology are extending, optimizing, and disrupting every stage of human life, let’s get the bad news out of the way: Despite the efforts of humanity’s greatest minds, we’ve yet to find a way of perpetuating physical vitality or individual consciousness indefinitely. As of this writing, it appears that each of us, sooner or later, will die. It’s the sooner or later, though—the stuff between conception and death—that is a moving target. We’re continuously adapting to technology as technology is adapting to us. Geneticists and biotechnologists are reengineering our bodies. Ubiquitous screens, apps, VR devices, and social media are transforming how we experience the world. We are a species rewritten, so it’s time for us to chronicle how that’s playing out for each generation…”

Starbucks at Yosemite? Say it isn’t so. But according to The Guardian skinny lattes have come to Yosemite: “Starbucks (sans exterior signage) has opened in Yosemite, part of a major remodel inside the 128-year-old national park. The convenient caffeine has spurred controversy. To many, however, the Starbucks represents a trend of encroaching commercialism inside one of the nation’s most beloved natural landmarks. That’s why more than 25,000 people petitioned to stop it from opening last week.  “I understand that they are trying to improve the infrastructure and make it better than it used to be,” Freddy Brewster, a former Yosemite trail guide who started the petition, told the Guardian. “But it is representative of what our culture is becoming...”

Photo credit: “Australian visitor Tom Collin sips a coffee from the new Starbucks at Yosemite, part of a major remodeling effort inside the 128-year-old national park.” Photograph: Gabrielle Canon for the Guardian.

52 F. maximum temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities (second 50-degree day of 2018, so far)

48 F. average high on March 28.

64 F. high on March 28, 2017.

March 29, 1986: Record warmth occurs with July-like temperatures. A monthly record high of 83 occurs at the Twin Cities.

THURSDAY: Partly sunny, cooler. Winds: NW 7-12. High: 42

THURSDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy and chilly. Low: 27

FRIDAY: Light mix. Inch or two of slush Friday night? Winds: NW 8-13. High: 43

SATURDAY: Flurries taper, gusty winds. Winds: NW 15-30. Wake-up: 25. High: 36

EASTER SUNDAY: Chilled sunlight – less wind. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 15. High: 33

MONDAY: Gray, light mix possible. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 23. High: 38

TUESDAY: Another push of unusually chilly air. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 26. High: near 40

WEDNESDAY: Intervals of sun, what April? Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 23. High: 42

Climate Stories…

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.

Greenland is Melting Faster Than at Any Time in the Last 450 Years (At Least). Chris Mooney explains at The Washington Post: “Scientists who crossed western Greenland with a fleet of snowmobiles, pulling up long cylinders of ice at camps a little more than a mile above sea level, have found evidence that the vast sheet of ice is melting faster than at any time in the past 450 years at least — and possibly much longer than that. That’s worrisome, because the snow that has fallen on the island over millennia — now compacted into ice — could raise sea levels by 20 feet if it completely melted. In recent years, as Arctic air and ocean temperatures have risen, Greenland has been losing more ice through melting on its surface and through iceberg breaks at its periphery. It’s currently contributing almost a millimeter annually to the rising of the oceans, more even than Antarctica…”

Photo credit: “Lead scientist Erich Osterberg prepares to drill an ice core during the 2016 Greenland Traverse for Accumulation and Climate Studies. The study was based on refrozen meltwater preserved as ice layers in seven roughly 100-foot-long ice cores collected from the West Greenland ice sheet.” (Forrest McCarthy)

Poll: Millenials Care About Climate Change. Axios has details: “…By the numbers: Here are a few takeaways from the polling conducted for the Alliance, a group pushing for conservatives to embrace a revenue-neutral carbon tax married to repeal of regulations.

  • Slightly over three-fourths of millennials agree that humans should take steps to slow or stop climate change.
  • Majorities of varying degrees of Democrats, independents and Republicans want action (see chart above).
  • 62% of millennials say the climate is changing due to human activity, though under half of the young Republicans polled said this comes closest to their view. (Note: The consensus view among scientists is that human activities are the primary driver of rising temperatures.)…”

Graphic credit: “Echelon Insights focus group conducted in Charlotte, NC, for the Alliance for Market Solutions.” Chart: Axios Visuals

“Extreme” Fossil Fuel Investments Have Surged Under Donald Trump, Report Reveals. Here’s the intro to a story at The Guardian: “Bank holdings in “extreme” fossil fuels skyrocketed globally to $115bn during Donald Trump’s first year as US president, with holdings in tar sands oil more than doubling, a new report has found. A sharp flight from fossil fuels investments after the Paris agreement was reversed last year with a return to energy sources dubbed “extreme” because of their contribution to global emissions. This included an 11% hike in funding for carbon-heavy tar sands, as well as Arctic and ultra-deepwater oil and coal…”

Photo credit: “A Shell tailings pond at a tar sands operation near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.” Photograph: Todd Korol/Reuters.

US Increasingly Split on Climate, Poll Finds: From Climate Nexus: “Independent voters may be tracking towards climate denial as the partisan split on climate grows in the US, according to a new Gallup poll released Wednesday. 45 percent of overall respondents, including seventy percent of Democrats, said they believe that climate change will pose a serious threat during their lifetimes–the highest percentage since Gallup began asking the question–while nearly nine in 10 Democrats now affirm that human activity causes climate change. However, the number of independent voters who link human activity to climate change fell eight percentage points from 2017, while independent voters who think the impacts of climate change have already begun dropped from 67 percent in 2017 to 60 percent in 2018, tracking with an identical drop in GOP voters.” (Washington Post $, Huffington Post, Axios, Business Insider).

Image credit: Yale Climate Connections.

Canada’s Outdoor Rinks Are Melting. So Is a Way of Life. The Boston Globe reports: “…Climate change is warming the Northern Hemisphere rapidly, largely because of the greenhouse gases that humans have put into the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial age. McLeman, with Colin Robertson, both associate professors of geography at Wilfrid Laurier, created Rink Watch, a citizen science project that has enlisted more than 1,500 backyard rink owners like Williams — about 80 percent of them in Canada — to report skating conditions daily. Climate change does not mean the immediate end of cold weather, as recent nor’easters have shown, but it is putting a squeeze on outdoor skating, a deep part of this country’s cultural identity. Irregular freezing weather is not enough for a good outdoor rink; consistency is key...”

Photo credit: “The Williams family’s melting backyard ice rink in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.” Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The New York Times.

Shell – Yes, That Shell – Just Outlined a Radical Scenario For What It Would Take to Halt Climate Change. Here’s an excerpt from The Washington Post: “…The scenario, which finds the world in a net-zero emissions state by 2070, is based on the idea that “a simple extension of current efforts, whether efficiency mandates, modest carbon taxes, or renewable energy supports, is insufficient for the scale of change required,” the oil company document reads. “The relevant transformations in the energy and natural systems require concurrent climate policy action and the deployment of disruptive new technologies at mass scale within government policy environments that strongly incentivize investment and innovation.” The company also cautioned that Sky is only a scenario — a possible future dependent on many assumptions — not a reality that will definitely be realized...”

Teens are Marching for Justice. Next Up, Climate Change. Here’s a clip from a post at Grist: “…Thousands of people marched for gun control this past weekend — a movement energized, organized, and realized by America’s youth. Now, teenagers are taking on the ticking time bomb that disproportionately affects the world’s youngest generations. You know the one. In 2017, high school sophomore Jamie Margolin founded Zero Hour, a youth-led collective that aims to mobilize young voices in the fight against climate change. Since then, Zero Hour has grown into a full-fledged organization raising awareness about the urgency of climate action. The group is planning a march on July 21 in Washington, D.C., building on the Women’s March last January and the People’s Climate March in 2014. The march is using the hashtag #thisiszerohour...”

Who Should Pay for Climate Change? FiveThirtyEight has a good summary of the trial now underway in California: “…That very sea wall is at the heart of the court case — The People of the State of California v. BP P.L.C. et al. — that was the reason for Wednesday’s spectacle. The cities of Oakland and San Francisco are suing the five biggest fossil fuel companies on the planet — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell — for billions of dollars for past damages and to prevent future flooding from sea level rise. Since the companies extracted fuel that altered the planet, the argument goes, they should pay for the consequences. It’s a modern version of “you break it, you buy it.” The oil companies have filed to dismiss the lawsuit on many grounds, including that it’s the government’s job to set and enforce carbon dioxide levels — not theirs…”

Photo credit: “Waves crash against a seawall along the Embarcadero in San Francisco in 2010.” Eric Risberg / AP.

U.S. Forests Caught Up in Climate Change Loop. A story at Futurity explains: “…The researchers based their findings on systematic forest inventories of trees in the eastern US from the 1980s to the 2000s. They looked specifically at forest biomass, tree species composition, and climate variability. The findings show that decades of changes in water deficit have reduced forest biomass, causing an influx of trees that are more tolerant to drought but slower growing. This shift results in significant changes in forest species composition with their accompanying ecological effects and, moreover, affects the capacity of forest biomass (the mass of living trees) to store carbon. Healthy forests play a key role in global ecosystems as they contain much of the terrestrial biodiversity on the planet and act as a net sink for capturing atmospheric carbon…”

Ski Resorts Fight Climate Change with Snow Guns and Buses. explains: “…Mountain snow isn’t just important for shredding; it also provides drinking water for urban dwellers and irrigates farmers’ fields. Those issues are front of mind for many municipalities, but after years of inaction, the ski industry itself is starting to take climate change seriously. Resorts are deploying new snow-making technology to adapt to unpredictable conditions, reducing the energy skiers use to get up the slopes, and even trying to alter customers’ habits. “Our snowpack has decreased, but I don’t think it’s going to disappear,” says Maura Olivos, sustainability coordinator at Utah’s Alta, which opened 80 years ago. In the future, Olivos says skiers might not be floating on as much fluffy pow...”