Slow Meltdown – A Wednesday Brush with Slush

With apologies to Bill Shakespeare, now is the (spring) of our discontent. We’ve gone from the merely dreadful to the meteorologically-ridiculous. Snowiest April (26 inches and counting), and the 10th snowiest winter on record (78.2″ and counting). And counting. The slow-motion weekend snow machine was the 12th biggest snowstorm on record at MSP; the biggest since 17.1 inches fell in December of 2010.

A far cry from last winter, when a meager 32 inches disappointed snow lovers. Are you happy now? I prefer my snow in mid-February vs. mid-April, but we are not in control, much as we think we are.

Travel conditions continue to improve today, with highs near 40F under a pleading sun. Wednesday’s system looks to pass south of the metro, with the best chance of a few slushy inches over far southern Minnesota, where a Winter Storm Watch is posted.

Models hint at low 50s over the weekend; the more snow we melt the more the sun’s energy can go into heating up the air. Now there’s a concept. 60F by late April? Let’s ring the church bells!

Yes, Minnesota springs are an acquired taste.

Son of Superstorm. This storm reminded just a little bit of the Halloween Superstorm of 1991, which dumped close to 30″ on the MSP metro. That storm stalled altogether over Lake Superior, prolonging the heavy snow. The weekend storm didn’t stall, but it moved very slowly; a long-duration 3-day storm event, fueled with significant April moisture flowing out of the Gulf of Mexico. Map: NOAA.

12th Biggest MSP Snowfall Since 1891. The Minnesota DNR puts our weekend dumping into perspective: “The April 13-16, 2018 blizzard was the largest Twin Cities April single snowfall on record and the 12th largest snowfall in the Twin Cities from 1891-2018. (Above) we have listed the 20 largest continuous snowfall events on record in the Twin Cities, using data back to 1891. Many of these storms were multi-day affairs. Some, like the Armistice Day Storm  and the 1991 Halloween Blizzard , were produced by massive and intense areas of low pressure and were accompanied by howling and even damaging winds. Others, like the March 8-9, 1999 surprise , had a softer touch. But many of these storms live in some sort of infamy, like the blizzard of December 10-11, 2010 , which will be remembered by many as the third and final “domebuster” snowstorm, resulting in significant damage to the roof of the former Metrodome . We will update this list as new snowstorms replace older ones…”

Updated Winter Misery Index. We are now a “moderate” winter, according to The Minnesota DNR: “The Winter Misery Index is now up to 111 points. The April 13-16 Blizzard added 24 points to the total…The Winter Misery Index (WMI) is an attempt to weigh the relative severity of winter when compared with winters of the past. The WMI assigns single points for daily counts of maximum temperatures 10 degrees F or colder, and daily minimums of 0 degrees F or colder. If the minimum temperature drops to -20 degrees or colder greater, eight points are attributed to that day. Snowfall totals of one inch or greater in a day receive one point. Four-inch snowfalls generate four points for the day, an eight-inch snowfall receives a whopping 16 points. To quantify the duration of winter, one point is tallied for every day with a snow depth of 12 inches or greater. All current measurements are at the Twin Cities International Airport…”

Brush With Slush. Wednesday’s system is forecast to track south of the Twin Cities, producing potentially plowable amounts over far southern counties, but an inch or two in the metro. NOAA’s 3 KM NAM did a pretty good job with last weekend’s dumping; let’s see how well it does this time. Map:

Please God. Not sure whether this is a prediction, or a prayer, but ECMWF is (consistently) predicting 60s next week. By then we should have lost most of our (a few giant piles will linger a couple of weeks) but once we melt most of the snow the sun’s energy can go into heating up the air. Yes please. Twin Cities numbers: WeatherBell.

More Snowfall Records, More Recently. Yes, it may be a trend – for a variety of reasons: 1-2F warming means 4-8% more water vapor, and arctic amplification (rapid warming of the arctic) may be slowing jet stream winds, resulting in a wavier pattern, one more prone to slowing weather systems and storms that get “stuck” for extended periods of time. Climate Central reports: “…Nationwide, more than 40 percent of counties have had their biggest 2-day snow totals since 1980. Our analysis excluded counties where the 2-day snowfall record was less than 3 inches. So even if the average amount of snow at the local level may be trending down, the snow that falls may come in larger batches. This is notable in the northeastern cities, where the biggest storms are usually nor’easters, which tap into the Atlantic Ocean for moisture. As the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang has pointed out:

  • Seven of Washington, D.C.’s top 10 snowstorms since 1889 have occurred since 1979.
  • All five of Philadelphia’s highest snowfalls have occurred since 1983. Its top three have happened since 1996.
  • In New York City, seven of the nine biggest snows have occurred since 1996. Three of the top five have come in the past decade.
  • Eight of Boston’s top 10 snowstorms have come since 1978. Half have occurred since 2003...”

Storms are Getting Stronger. There’s more water vapor in the air, more fuel for storms, yearround. Here’s an excerpt from NASA’s Earth Observatory that caught my eye: “…William Lau, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, concluded in a 2012 paper that rainfall totals from tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic have risen at a rate of 24 percent per decade since 1988. The increase in precipitation doesn’t just apply to rain. NOAA scientists have examined 120 years of data and found that there were twice as many extreme regional snowstorms between 1961 and 2010 as there were from 1900 to 1960…”

10 Weather Facts Every Layperson Should Know, From a Layperson. Capital Weather Gang has a pretty good list; here’s an excerpt: “...Blaming the weatherperson for a botched forecast is like blaming an odds maker when your team loses. Predicting weather isn’t an exact science, and when you utter, “but it was supposed to rain today,” you’re basically saying “I don’t know what the word ‘prediction’ means.” There’s no “supposed to” in weather. It’s all about probability, and chaos plays a large role in what kind of weather occurs…”

This Radio Hacker Could Hijack Emergency Sirens to Play Any Sound. Speaking of hacker in unlikely places. A story at made me do a double-take: “…Now, after two-and-a-half years of patiently recording and reverse-engineering those weekly radio communications, Seeber has indeed found that he or anyone with a laptop and a $35 radio could not only trigger those sirens, as unknown hackers did in Dallas last year. They could also make them play any audio they choose: false warnings of incoming tsunamis or missile strikes, dangerous or mass-panic-inducing instructions, 3 am serenades of death metal or Tony Bennett. And he has found the same hackable siren systems not only in San Francisco but in two other cities, as well as hints they may be installed in many more. “If you wanted to send out your own music or your own alert, you could broadcast it across entire cities,” Seeber says. “You could do it with something as cheap and easy as a handheld radio you can buy from Amazon…”

Paul Douglas Talks Conservative Values and Climate Change in PBS’ NOVA Special. My thanks to Rachel Chazin at Star Tribune for the mention: “How does a self-described conservative meteorologist with Christian values interpret climate change? An upcoming “NOVA” special on PBS will feature longtime Twin Cities weatherman Paul Douglas and highlight his shift from skeptic to believer. “We’ve always had crazy weather, but in recent decades the extremes have been trending even more extreme,” Douglas said. “It was the increasingly erratic, jaw-dropping weather that tipped me off that climate change had gone from theory to reality.” Douglas, whose weather reports appear in the Star Tribune, said he grew up watching the popular prime-time science series, so “it was a thrill” to be able to work with “NOVA”…”

* The NOVA special airs Wednesday from 7-9 PM on TPT2.

The Race to Find the Next Pandemic – Before It Finds Us. has the story; here’s a clip: “…Solving that microbial mystery is an accomplishment, but its origins should make us nervous. This pig virus, since dubbed swine acute diarrhea syndrome coronavirus, is just one example of the viral threats that develop where humans bump up against the fringes of the nonhuman world—along roads that have been paved into forest, or farms that have pushed out from existing cities. Understanding those intersections is a critical part of defending against new human viruses. We need more surveillance, and much more robust defenses, all along that border. “Globally we let viruses emerge and trickle through our net quite often,” says Peter Daszak, parasitologist and the president of EcoHealth Alliance. “That needs to stop. We need to start taking these things seriously…”

World’s First Electrified Road Opens in Sweden. This is pretty cool, but it made me wonder if America will, in fact, lead the inevitable clean-energy revolution. Here’s an excerpt at Yale E360: “The world’s first electrified road — which charges the batteries of electric cars and trucks as they drive over it — has opened near Stockholm, Sweden. The road stretches 1.2 miles and is part of a government-led plan to electrify nearly 12,500 miles of streets and highways across the country, The Guardian reported. The road charges vehicles through an embedded electric rail. To use the road, an electric car or truck needs to install a moveable arm on its undercarriage that connects with the rail and charges the vehicle’s battery while driving over it. The system costs $1.2 million per kilometer, making it 50 times cheaper than building an urban tram line…”

Photo credit: “Workers install Sweden’s electric road, located outside Stockholm.eRoadArlanda

Tech Upheaval Means a “Massacre of the Dilberts”. Automation, outsourcing, robotics, AI – we are still in the early stages of what may be the most disruptive period in history for American workers. Here’s a clip at Bloomberg Markets: “…He said there are a lot of “routine cognitive jobs,” at risk, in what he termed a “massacre of the Dilberts” — a reference to the satirical American comic strip about office workers. Technology and the fourth industrial revolution are having untold impact, he said, and it’s going to take huge efforts to make sure workers ultimately benefit. The effect of automation is just one part of the change and examples of the seismic shift can be seen in finance, where many “unglamorous” data entry jobs have already been transformed. Drawing examples from his own experience, he said the disruption to the labor force will be intense and could last for some time…”

Image credit:

Neflix Sees Itself as the “Anti-Apple”. has another interesting story: “…The Netflix culture of information sharing builds a sense of responsibility among employees, Hastings said. “We’re like the anti-Apple. They compartmentalize, we do the opposite. Everyone gets all the information.” He added: “I find out about big decisions made all the time that I had nothing to do with.” That’s why Hastings promotes courage as a fundamental value at the company. “We want people to speak the truth, and we say, ‘To disagree silently is disloyal.’” He added, “It’s not ok to let a decision go through without saying your piece. We’re very focused on trying to get to good decisions with a good debate…”

Photo credit: “Founder and CEO of Netflix Reed Hastings compares social media to television, which was viewed in the 1960s as “a vast wasteland” sure to rot the minds of humanity. “It turns out everybody was fine.” Manu Fernandez/AP

It Costs $7.3 Million to Keep Facebook’s Zuckerberg Safe. Quartz has details: “Over the last year, it got a lot more expensive to make sure Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stayed safe. According to a regulatory filing for the US. Securities and Exchange Commission, the powerful tech chief’s security expenses surged to $7.3 million in 2017, from $4.9 million the previous year. The Facebook board’s compensation committee authorized Zuckerberg’s security program because it said it had to “address safety concerns due to specific threats to his safety arising directly as a result of his position as our founder, Chairman, and CEO” and that the jump in costs “are appropriate and necessary.” Among the expenses are the purchase, installation, and maintenance for Zuckerberg’s personal residences, which include properties in San Francisco and Palo Alto. It also includes his personal usage of private aircraft...”

Photo credit: “Security issues“. (Reuters/Leah Millis)

The World’s Ultimate Bucket List. After bouts of intense shoveling I found trolling this site to be a badly-needed escape. Here’s an excerpt from FlightNetwork: “Welcome to the world’s best Bucket List ever assembled – a diverse collection of hidden gem locations and exhilarating activities from every stunning corner of our planet. To create the World’s Ultimate Bucket List for 2018, Flight Network has consulted 800+ of the world’s leading travel journalists, agencies, bloggers, and editors- the people who do this for a living- to gain insight from their opinions and expertise. By consulting the world’s top travel professionals, Flight Network has produced the most reliable and precise bucket list for the modern era  — meant to captivate and inspire travellers all over the world. But don’t just take our word for it — dive into this list yourself. Pack your bags and book a flight to the wonders of an African safari, the gorgeous purple night skies of the Sahara, ancient ruins infused with power, and crystallized waters begging you to dive in…”

11″ snow on the ground at MSP International Airport.

36 F. maximum temperature Monday in the Twin Cities.

58 F. average high on April 16.

66 F. high on April 16, 2017.

April 17, 1965: The Mississippi River at St. Paul has a record crest, 4 feet above the previous record. High water records would be set all the way down to Missouri in later days.

TUESDAY: Partly sunny, dry. Winds: NE 5-10. High: near 40

TUESDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase. Low: 29

WEDNESDAY Slushy snow. Heavier amounts south of MSP. Winds: NE 10-15. High: 37

THURSDAY: Intervals of sun, milder. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 28. High: 44

FRIDAY: Partly sunny, vague hints of spring. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 32. High: 47

SATURDAY: Blue sky, feeling better about April. Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 33. High: near 50

SUNDAY: Some sun, a few chirping birds. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 36. High: 55

MONDAY: Lose a layer or two. Much better. Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 39. High: 57

Climate Stories….

Shell Joins Exxon in the Climate Change Spotlight. Here’s an excerpt from The Houston Chronicle: “Royal Dutch Shell, one the world’s biggest oil companies, recognized that burning fossil fuels was raising global temperatures as early as the 1980s, but continued to produce and sell oil, gas and petroleum products, according to documents obtained and released by a European news site.Shell, which has its North American headquarters in Houston and employs about 12,000 here, joins Exxon Mobil as a target of intensifying questions about what oil companies knew about the role of fossil fuels in climate change and when they knew it. Exxon, headquartered in Irving, has received the brunt of the scrutiny in recent years, also facing accusations — which the company denies — that it knew about the climate repercussions of its business in the 1980s, but hid the evidence…”

Photo credit: “Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden speaks at the CERAWeek conference at the Hilton Americas, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Houston.” ( Karen Warren / Houston Chronicle )

Exxon Knew: Headlines and links via Climate Nexus: “Exxon must turn over climate change documents, Mass. court rule (USA Today), Massachusetts top court rules against Exxon in climate change probe (Reuters), Top Massachusetts court rules against Exxon in climate case (The Hill), Massachusetts’ Top Court Refuses to Block Exxon Climate Fraud Investigation (InsideClimate News), Court rules Exxon must provide documents in climate probe (AP), Exxon Loses Again in Court Attempt to Dodge Climate Change Probe.” (Bloomberg).

The Courts are Deciding Who’s to Blame for Climate Change. The Guardian has the story: “There are numerous ongoing legal challenges in an effort to determine who’s responsible for climate change. Exxon is under investigation by state attorneys general, cities are suing oil companies over sea level rise costs, and Our Children’s Trust is suing the federal government for failing to protect their generation from climate change. At the heart of these legal challenges lies the question – who bears culpability for climate change and liability for its costs and consequences?…”

Photo credit: “An ice sculpture fashioned by protesters, to demonstrate their view of how the company’s policies are affecting the environment, slowly melts outside an Exxon Mobil shareholders meeting in Dallas in 2006.” Photograph: LM Otero/AP

“It’s the Gulf Stream Stupid.” Scientists Warn Tipping Point is Near. Here’s a clip from an explainer at CleanTechnica: “…Climate scientists this week have issued a similar warning. While the world is absorbed in high dramas about trade wars, Syrian chemical attacks, whether Germany can extend the lifetime of diesel-powered cars, or the latest tweet from the White House, we are missing the implications of what is happening in the Atlantic Ocean. The Gulf Stream — known officially as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation or AMOC for short — is slowing down. In fact, it is at its lowest level in the past 1,600 years according to the data those scientists have available to them. The Gulf Stream pumps billions of gallons of warm water northward from the equator along the east coast of the United States before turning east toward Europe. Take away that heat and Europe becomes up to 10ºC cooler in winter, parts of Africa become more arid, and sea level rise along the eastern seaboard of the United States…”

Image credit: Icelandic Mountain Guides

An Antiscience Political Climate is Driving Scientists to Run for Office. Science News reports: “The upwelling of science activism witnessed in last year’s March for Science led many to predict that a flood of scientists might leave the lab for the legislature. Now, on the eve of the second March for Science, a survey of the field suggests that’s the case. As many as 450 scientists-turned-politicians are throwing their hats into state, local, and federal campaigns, according to 314 Action. The advocacy group (named for the first three digits of pi) encourages and supports people with science and technology backgrounds interested in running for office...”

Photo credit: “Hundreds of scientists have moved beyond marching and are now hoping to storm Washington (and beyond) as politicians.” Amaury Laporte/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Senator Rubio, Florida Needs You to Combat Coastal Threat of Sea Level Rise. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Sun Sentinel: “…Both science and current experience show us that rising seas are clearly a threat for Florida, the nation and other critical parts of the world. The threat will only grow unless we respond and hopefully join the global response. Unfortunately Director Mike Pompeo has been a public denier of climate change and of the threats it is bringing. This is an opportunity for Senator Rubio, on behalf of the people of Florida, to help the secretary revise his views and to help us begin to protect Florida’s future, and in so doing help ensure our national security in a rapidly changing world. As you represent the State of Florida, we need you to be our true representative at this critical juncture and make certain that our next secretary of state understands the challenge ahead.”

Image credit: NASA.