35 F. high in the Twin Cities Thursday.
32 F. average high on February 25.
16 F. high on February 25, 2015.

February 26, 1996: A bolt of lightning from a snowstorm causes an explosion at a fireworks storage site in Milaca. One employee was injured and several homes in the area were damaged. An eight foot crater was all that remained where the storage site had been.
February 26, 1971: Extremely low pressure moves across Minnesota. The Twin Cities had a barometer reading of 28.77 inches and Duluth beat that with 28.75. Freezing rain and snow hit northern Minnesota, dumping up to 18 inches of snow in some areas. Areas around Virginia, MN were without power for 5 days.
February 26, 1896: A balmy high of 60 degrees is reported at Maple Plain. The warm weather hampered the annual ice cutting on Lake Independence to store for summer use.

Here’s a New One: Spring Fever in February?

May you live in interesting times. A year ago who could have predicted that oil would drop to $27/barrel – or Donald Trump would be on top of the GOP ticket? Predicting the future is hard work.

Just when you think it can’t get any weirder…it does. We’ve enjoyed a pretty tame winter, all things considered. A couple of minor cold smacks, one authentic “snowstorm”. Remember those? And we’ve

gotten the better end of El Nino. Kansas-size tornadoes have terrorized the Gulf Coast and Florida; damaging twisters as far north as Pennsylvania Wednesday. Odd for February.

More evidence of a jumbo El Nino. This warm bias pushes the mercury to 40F today. Mid-50s are likely Saturday (the all-time record at MSP is 54F). Grilling weather in late February? Why not.

Don’t take the fishing boat out of cold storage just yet. A light mix is expected Sunday; NOAA models hinting at snow next Tuesday, but the ECMWF (European) isn’t buying it yet. I see a few days in the 20s the middle of next week.

An early spring? Probably. Earlier warmth and more severe T-storms than we’ve seen in recent years.

3 PM Temperatures on Saturday. The map above wouldn’t look out of place on April 3, but February 27? A bit unusual, but not unprecedented. NAM guidance from NOAA shows temperatures in the low to mid 50s in the metro; an outside shot at 60F near Mankato. Source: AerisWeather.

Coldest Air Stays North. Minor pulses of chilly air drain southward, but the core of the coldest Canadian air pushes across central Canada and Hudson Bay into eastern provinces; a mild Pacific signal continuing to dominate the weather over the western two-thirds of America.

Vague Hints of Spring. It’s not spring, not yet, but European guidance confirms a glimpse of lukewarm days to come on Saturday; another surge of 40s arriving Monday before cooling into the 20s by the middle of next week. This may come as a shock but no big storms are brewing, just a light mix Sunday. Source: WeatherSpark.

Storm Track Shifts South and East. More whispers of El Nino, which tends to energize the southern branch of the jet stream,  detouring the biggest, wettest (most severe) storms south and east of Minnesota. GFS guidance shows significant snow late next week from Indianapolis and Cleveland into much of New England.

Cooler Next Week, Then Warming Again. GFS model guidance shows a rerun of 40s, possible 50-degree warmth returning after March 9. Circle your calendar. I don’t see a headline-leading storm (of any flavor) into the middle of March.

Modified Zonal Flow. GFS guidance shows unusually cold weather pushing into eastern Canada, brushing the Great Lakes and New England two weeks from now, a relatively mild Pacific flow for much of the USA.

Unusually Severe February Tornado Outbreak Strikes Gulf Coast States. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus has the story at Slate; here’s an excerpt that caught my eye: “…At several points throughout the evening, multiple tornadoes were ongoing simultaneously and several areas were especially hard hit between New Orleans and Pensacola, Florida, where the National Weather Service had issued a “particularly dangerous situation” tornado watch. Buoyed by a strong jet stream linked to the record-strength El Niño, and slightly warmer than average Gulf of Mexico waters for this time of year, the storm packed an unnaturally springtime punch, producing a month’s worth of tornadoes in a few hours. On Tuesday morning, before the storms began, the National Weather Service estimated a near-record level tornado risk for the date, about 50 times higher than the historical average for late February...”

Photo credit above: “Wreckage covers the grounds of a mobile home park on Wednesday in Convent, Louisiana, a day after it was hit by a tornado.” Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness/Handout via Reuters.

The Tornado Formula. Why is the USA the tornado capital of the planet? It’s complicated. Here’s an excerpt of a good explainer at The Atlantic: “…The U.S. gets so many tornadoes because, in large part, the presence of the Rocky Mountains and the Gulf of Mexico,” Harold Brooks, a scientist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory, told me in an email. Those features create the conditions for the three key ingredients necessary for the kind of severe thunderstorm that can produce tornadoes:
1. Warm, moist air at low levels
2. Cool, dry air aloft
3. Horizontal winds that increase with height from the ground-up—and change direction, so that they blow from the equator at low levels, and from the west aloft.
The United States sees all three of those ingredients…”
Photo credit above: “A mile-wide tornado is seen near El Reno, Oklahoma in May 2013.” Richard Rowe / Reuters.

Follow The Trends. Meteorologists call this “continuity”, which is slang for “go with the flow” as your best, first guiess moving forward in time. A turbocharged El Nino signal continues to overwhelm other factors. Arctic temperatures are running 7-15F warmer than average, and NOAA’s CFSv2 (Climate Forecast System) model predicts temperature anomalies of +8F across Minnesota, even warmer over central and western Canada. Feeling a little better about my guess-cast of an early spring. Map: WeatherBell.

As The Arctic Roads, Alaska Bakes In One of Its Warmest Winters Ever. The warming up north is nothing short of extraordinary; here’s an excerpt from Jason Samenow at Capital Weather Gang: “This winter’s shocking warmth in the Arctic, some seven degrees above average, has oozed into the Alaska which is experiencing one of its mildest recorded winters. So far this winter, Alaska’s temperature has averaged about 10 degrees above normal, ranking third warmest in records that date back to 1925. Unusually warm temperatures and a profound lack of snow are affecting areas all over the state. The index which ranks the severity of winter shows Anchorage is having one of its gentlest winters on record…”

* 2-meter temperature anomaly (F) courtesy of WeatherBell.

Study: Within 80 Years, 80% of Wetlands Could Just Be Wet. Implications for Minnesota’s wetlands? Here’s a snippet from a recap of new research at Fusion: “Wetlands cover nearly 300,000 square miles of the globe, an area about the size of Texas and West Virginia combined. A new study has shown that primarily due to sea level rise, this cover could be reduced by as much as four-fifths by 2100, putting it more on par with New York in size. By using new models to determine the impact of climate change on wetlands across the planet, researchers from the U.K. and Germany were able to determine that even with a low estimate of sea level rise by 2100, about 11 inches, much of the world’s wetlands will find themselves vulnerable to destruction…” (Image credit: AP).

Not Just a Western Problem, Drought Threatens Forests Across U.S. Here’s an excerpt from a story at CSMonitor.com: “…While eastern forests have not experienced the types of changes seen in western forests in recent decades, they too are vulnerable to drought and could experience significant changes with increased severity, frequency, or duration in drought,” scientists from 14 institutions, including Duke University, US Department of Agriculture and US Geological Survey, wrote in a paper published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Global Change Biology. The climate is changing too quickly for trees to adapt to the dry conditions, scientists say…”

Photo credit above: “Many tree species may not be able to expand into more favorable habitats fast enough.” Courtesy of USGS

To Prevent Another Dust Bowl, The U.S. Must Sow The Right Seeds. LiveScience and Yahoo Finance have an interesting story – here’s a link and excerpt: “…Climate is more important than geography when predicting how well seeds will grow and establish themselves. Seeds don’t care where their parents lived if the temperature suits them and if they get the right amount of sunshine and precipitation. 

  • Timing of seed planting makes a big difference. Year to year, even week to week, variation in weather patterns can affect the restoration success of a burned site.
  • The method of planting matters. Blowing seeds from a plane may be a fast way to cover a lot of territory, but it’s not that effective. The seeds, dropped from large drums attached to the planes, scatter in the wind, sparsely covering the ground below. Their contact with the earth is also less secure than for seeds planted in furrows by a tractor. As a result, many of the seeds fail to establish themselves, and those few individuals that do will not compete as well in nature as will the densely planted seeds...”

Photo credit: PBS.

National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Water, Security and Conflict. Violence Over Water in 2015. Is there a connection to what’s happening in Syria and Libya? Here’s an excerpt from Pacific Institute that raised a few eyebrows: “…Over the past century there has been an increase in the number of reported conflicts over water resources. Part of this increase is certainly due to better reporting in recent years, but growing populations, rising demands for water in water-scarce regions, and weak governance structures and institutions for reducing conflicts at the local and regional level may also be contributing to an increase. In the coming years, far more effort is need to both understand the nature of these risks and to develop diplomatic, economic, and institutional tools for reducing conflicts over water resources. The Pacific Institute will continue to be the leading source for collecting and analyzing information on these challenges...”

Chart credit: “Water conflict chronology events per year, 1930 to 2015.” From the Pacific Institute.

Quit Apologizing! World Needs Fossil Fuels, Saudis Tell Oilmen. Here’s an excerpt from Bloomberg Business: “In addition to telling oil producers to cut costs or get out of the market, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister delivered another unpalatable message this week: the green movement can’t be ignored. Ali al-Naimi, whose nation is the biggest exporter of crude, said that the industry for too long “has been portrayed as the dark side” of energy by environmentalists seeking to curb global warming. He urged executives, who often try to sidestep the debate on climate change, to promote technologies that will rein in emissions — alongside the idea that fossil fuels are needed to sustain economic growth…”

EPA’s McCarthy: “The Clean Energy Train Has Left The Station”. Fuel Fix has the story – here’s the intro: “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy warned the world’s energy leaders Wednesday they would need to adapt, shifting away from fossil fuels towards cleaner burning sources like wind and solar power. “The clean energy train has left the station, folks,” McCarthy said at the IHS Energy CERAWeek conference in Houston. “We are really hitting the ground running in 2016. The energy market is shifting and we anticipate taking meaningful climate action.” In December close to 200 countries, including the United States, agreed to begin taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions towards keeping the earth’s temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius…”

Image credit above: “Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks during the Opening Plenary during the third day of IHS CERAWeek at the Hilton Americas Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016.” (Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle).

Let’s Keep Moving Minnesota’s Clean-Energy Vision Forward. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at MinnPost from arctic explorer (and dear friend) Will Steger and KentraRoedl: “…We envision a goal of zero emissions and 100 percent clean energy in Minnesota by 2050, a goal that echoes the call from the youth who gathered in Paris to demand a strong climate agreement that safeguarded their future. We know what’s at stake. We’ve seen climate change alter the Arctic as well as our winters here in Minnesota. The recent news of 2015’s record-setting heat is a sobering reminder that climate change is not slowing down. We need to chart a path to a clean-energy future that is faster than the path to climate catastrophe. We don’t have time for pauses or delay. The good news is, the clean-energy industry is not pausing either. In Minnesota, solar jobs have increased 131 percent since 2013, according to the newly released Solar Jobs Census, and the industry expects another 20 percent increase this year…”

Photo credit above: CC/Flickr/Sebastian Celis. “We envision farmers putting up wind turbines and solar panels among their cornfields as new and profitable crops to harvest.”

Electric Cars “Will Be Cheaper Than Conventional Vehicles by 2022.” Far fewer moving parts, things that can go wrong or need maintenance, as battery prices go down and range goes up there may be a perfect storm within 5-10 years? Here’s a clip from The Guardian: “Electric cars will be cheaper to own than conventional cars by 2022, according to a new report. The plummeting cost of batteries is key in leading to the tipping point, which would kickstart a mass market for electric vehicles, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) analysts predict. The large-scale roll-out of electric vehicles (EVs) is seen as vital in both cutting the carbon emissions that drive climate change and in dealing with urban air pollution, which leads to many premature deaths every year...”

America’s Massive New Transportation Infrastructure System is Hiding in Plain Sight. Atlas Obscura details the national network of superchargers installed by Tesla: “…Three year ago, Tesla had only a handful of Superchargers in place; today there are more than 270. Rival car companies are spooling out their own networks of fast-charging stations, too. By the end of the year, Tesla promises, its drivers will be able to use the Supercharger network to drive through every state in the continental U.S. In March, Tesla has promised to unveil its Model 3, which, at $35,000, will be the first Tesla that’s not ridiculously expensive. But perhaps more importantly, because of Tesla’s charger network, it’ll be the first one that will require no compromise from owners on how far their car might take them…”

Map credit: Tesla Motors.

Report Suggests Minnesota Aim Beyond Clean Power Plan Target. Here’s an excerpt at Midwest Energy News: “Minnesota is well positioned to meet the requirements the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and could go much further with higher renewable energy and energy efficiency goals. That’s according to a new report on Minnesota released today from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which has begun publishing analyses of the plan’s impact on each state. “The model shows us Minnesota is a leader on clean energy and efficiency and that puts it in a great spot for meeting Clean Power Plan requirements – and potentially go further than what the plan requires in terms of carbon initiatives,” said Sam Gomberg, lead Midwest analyst for the UCS’s Climate and Energy Program…”

Is Google’s New Two-Legged Robot the Soldier of the Future? Here’s an excerpt from Newsweek: “Boston Dynamics, Google’s robotics subsidiary, has unveiled the latest version of its Atlas humanoid robot—giving a glimpse of what future soldiers might look like. The Atlas robot is demonstrated in a video showing its ability to navigate rough terrain, pick up objects and self-right itself when pushed to the ground. At 5 feet 9 inches and weighing 180 pounds, Atlas is similar in size and proportion to a human and follows on from previous bi-pedal versions of the robot…”


TODAY: Blue sky, very nice. Winds: SW 8-13. High: 41

FRIDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy, mild for late February. It is still February right? Low: 33

SATURDAY: Blue sky with record warmth, typical for early April. Winds: SW 10-20. High: 54

SUNDAY: Cooling off, light mix possible. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 36. High: near 40 (falling)

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, still above average. Wake-up: 29. High: 44

TUESDAY: Colder, slight chance of snow. Wake-up: 22. High: 29

WEDNESDAY: Chilled sunshine, jacket-worthy again. Wake-up: 16. High: 28

THURSDAY: Chance of a little wet snow. Wake-up: 23. High: 33

Climate Stories….

EPA Draft Says Oil and Gas Methane Emissions are 27% Higher Than Earlier Estimates. Here’s an excerpt from EDF, The Environmental Defense Fund: “Methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are significantly higher than previous official estimates, according to draft revisions of the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions inventory released Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency. At 9.3 million metric tons, revised estimates of 2013 emissions are 27% percent higher than the previous tally. Over a 20-year timeframe, those emissions have the same climate impact as over 200 coal-fired power plants. The lost gas is worth $1.4 billion at 2015 prices…”

James Hansen on Ice Sheets – 2016. Check out the latest video at Climate Denial Crock of the Week. Hansen has been called an alarmist, but his predictions have been remarkably precient, and accurate: “...I finally caught up with James Hansen at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in December, and he gave a terrific interview, touching on many key topics. Here, he gives a brief synopsis of one of the most important points in his most recent paper. Hansen’s concerns, if borne out, would mean substantially higher sea level rises than most other researchers predict – but one hesitates to bet against someone with his track record…”

Lord Stern Warns Economic Models are Underestimating Climate Risks and Clean Tech Opportunities. Business Green has the story; here’s the intro: “The economic models currently used to calculate the risks and costs associated with climate change adaptation and mitigation are “grossly misleading”, Lord Stern has said. Writing in an article published today in the journal Nature, the Grantham Institute chair and former Treasury advisor urged researchers to help policymakers by better modelling both the risks climate change presents to future generations and the vast potential of clean technologies…”

Consumerism Plays a Huge Role in Climate Change. No sacrifices necessary; just smarter, cleaner choices, rewarding companies that offer low-carbon options. Here’s an excerpt from Grist: “…A new study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology shows that the stuff we consume — from food to knick-knacks — is responsible for up to 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and between 50 and 80 percent of total land, material, and water use. So, you know, get that Amazon trigger finger ready, because you’re gonna want to do some comfort shopping after this. “We all like to put the blame on someone else, the government, or businesses. … But between 60-80 percent of the impacts on the planet come from household consumption…” (Image credit: Realsociology).

Top Scientists Insist Global Warming Really Did Slow Down in the 2000s. Here’s an excerpt of a Chris Mooney story at The Washington Post: “…The authors also argue that a large body of research into the causes of the apparent slowdown — which tended to target natural fluctuations, and especially the behavior of the Pacific Ocean — represents valuable work that advances our understanding of “a basic science question that has been studied for at least twenty years: what are the signatures of (and the interactions between) internal decadal variability and the responses to external forcings, such as increasing GHGs or aerosols from volcanic eruptions?” To be sure, the researchers behind the current paper absolutely do not think that global warming is over or anything of the sort — rather, the argument is that there was a real slowdown that’s scientifically interesting, even if it was brief and is now probably over…” (Image credit: Steve Burns).

What Is The “Pause” in Global Warming? Greg Laden takes a look at scienceblogs.com: “…When climate science contrarians refer to a “pause” or “hiatus” in global warming, they usually mean that the process of warming of the Earth’s surface caused by the human release of greenhouse gas is not a thing. They are usually implying, or overtly claiming, that the link between CO2 and other greenhouse gas pollutants and surface warming was never there to begin with, and previous warming, warming before “the pause,” was natural variation. Many even go so far as to claim that the Earth’s surface temperature will go down to levels seen decades ago. “The Pause” is not, in their minds, a slowdown in the rate of warming. It is a disconnect, either there all along or produced somehow recently, between the physics of the greenhouse effect and reality…”

Earth’s Warming is 50x Faster Than When It Comes Out Of An Ice Age. We’ve already committed to a sea level rise of 5.5 feet, based on the (additional) greenhouse gases we’ve already pumped into the atmosphere? The rate of warming is one (of many) factors that concern scientists; here’s an excerpt from The Guardian: “Recently, The Guardian reported on a significant new study published in Nature Climate Change, finding that even if we meet our carbon reduction targets and stay below the 2°C global warming threshold, sea level rise will eventually inundate many major coastal cities around the world.

20% of the world’s population will eventually have to migrate away from coasts swamped by rising oceans. Cities including New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Calcutta, Jakarta and Shanghai would all be submerged.

The authors looked at past climate change events and model simulations of the future…”

Photo credit above: “A parking lot full of yellow cabs is flooded as a result of Superstorm Sandy in Hoboken, NJ. So far we’re already committed to about 1.7 meters (5.5 feet) of eventual sea level rise.” Photograph: Charles Sykes/AP.

This Louisiana Tribe is Now America’s First Climate Refugees. Andrew Freedman has  a post at Mashable; here’s his intro: “The first climate refugees in America speak French, and live on a dwindling sliver of land that is rapidly disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico. Residing on the Louisiana Bayou about 50 miles south of New Orleans, the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians have seen 98% of their traditional lands disappear since 1955 due to the combination of sea level rise, land sinking, oil and gas development, and the related decline in sediment deposition from the Mississippi River...”

Photo credit above: “Edison Dardar, an American Indian, tosses a cast net for shrimp in Isle de Jean Charles, La., Friday, Sept. 23, 2011.” Image: Gerald Herbert/AP.

* More perspective and analysis on the forced migration due to rising seas and submerged wetlands along Louisiana’s coastline from WDSU.

The Link Between Zika and Climate Change. Analysis and perspective via The Atlantic; here’s a clip: “…And like other viruses spread by mosquitos and ticks, Zika could soon enjoy a greater reach, thanks to climate change. Last year, a team of researchers mapped the global distribution of Aedes mosquitos to better understand the global human-health risk, noting that the mosquitos are more widely distributed than ever before. In 2005, Paul Epstein of Harvard Medical School published an influential paper on climate change and human health, outlining mosquitoes’ sensitivity to temperature changes…”

Photo credit above: “Miriam Araujo holds her son Lucas, who was born with microcephaly, in Sao Jose dos Cordeiros, Brazil.” Ricardo Moraes / Reuters.

Fiji’s Climate Story is Bigger Than Winston. The recent Category 5 cyclone (same as a hurricane) is one of many symptoms of a rapidly changing climate; here’s an excerpt from Pacific Standard: “…Winston’s trail of destruction is another painful reminder that many of the world’s smallest countries are among those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Rising sea levels caused by global warming have already begun displacing coastal villagers in Fiji, and scientists predict that low-lying island nations like Kiribati could be entirely underwater by century’s end. Meanwhile, the oft-repeated prediction that climate change will lead to increasingly severe tropical storms appears to be coming true. With sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, and gusts surpassing 200 miles per hour, Cyclone Winston became the strongest storm ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere…”