Situational Awareness: "Doppler In Your Pocket"

We still can't DO anything about the weather but at least we can see those red blobs coming, like never before. Weather information, even Doppler radar, has been democratized - now you can track storms on your TV, your PC, your gaming device and hundreds of weather apps for smartphones, many of them free.

Unless you're wandering the Boundary Waters Canoe Area there is NO reason why you should be surprised by bad weather.

Traditional media (TV, radio and print) can give you context, perspective and analysis no app will ever provide. But when you're on the golf course or sitting at Target Field and you need a nugget of information NOW, there's no substitute to checking Doppler on your phone. Over time you'll save time, money and aggravation -staying safer in the process.

More showers push into Minnesota today; even a few claps of thunder tonight and Saturday. Sunday looks like the sunnier, drier day of the weekend with enough blue sky for low 60s.

More heavy showers and T-storms arrive next Tuesday, but I don't see a big risk of hail or high water anytime soon. Enjoy the quiet.

Saturday Severe Risk. A relatively quiet Friday gives way to a better chance of large hail, damaging winds, even an isolated tornado or two from the Texas Panhandle to Wichita and Kansas City Saturday. Map credit: NOAA SPC.

Relatively Quiet for Mid-April. Showers and embedded thundershowers lift across the Midwest into the Great Lakes, reaching New England late Saturday and Sunday - while the Pacific Northwest gets a brief break from the puddles and snow finally tapers to flurries across the Rockies. Mother Nature is only catching her breath - it still looks like an extra-active and severe spring across much of the USA. 12 KM NAM guidance: NOAA and

Easter Sunday Preview. Much of the southern and eastern USA will look and feel more like mid-May with 70s and 80s. Showery rains are likely across the Plains, but no widespread severe weather outbreaks are imminent. California and the Pacific Northwest will even get a break with some badly needed sunshine! Graphic credit: Praedictix.

A Sticky Spring. As in "sticking around this time". No harsh, slushy relapses are brewing looking out 2 weeks, according to ECMWF (European) ensemble temperature guidance. Saturday still looks like the mildest day with a shot at 70F if the sun breaks through for a few hours. Sunday will be cooler, but probably drier and sunnier. MSP Meteogram: WeatherBell.

2 Week Outlook: Wet West Coast - Chilly Bias for New England. The 500 mb (18,000 foot) winds Thursday evening, April 27, are forecast to be zonal, with troughiness across the Great Lakes and New England suggesting cool, unstable and showery weather; more rain for northern California and the Pacific Northwest with relative warmth from the Rockies and Plains into the southern USA - a pattern that doesn't look as ripe for severe storms.

45 Separate Atmospheric Rivers During Record West Coast Wet Season. And we're not done just yet, looking at the pattern and the maps. Here's an excerpt from the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes: "...There have been 45 total atmospheric rivers that have made landfall over the U.S. West coast from 1 October to 31 March 2017. Of the 45 total ARs, 10 have been Weak, 20 have been Moderate, 12 have been Strong, and 3 have been Extreme (Based on IVT magnitude). 1/3 of the landfalling ARs have been “strong” or “extreme”. The large number of ARs that have made landfall over the U.S. West Coast have produced large amounts of precipitation. The Northern Sierra 8-station index is currently at 83.4 inches, which is just 5.1 inches below the wettest year on record with seven months remaining in the water year. The graphic below, from the California Department of Water Resources, highlights this information..."

From Extreme Drought to Record Rain: Why California's Drought-to-Deluge Cycle is Getting Worse. Exhibit A for "weather whiplash". Here's a clip from The Los Angeles Times: "...The dry periods are drier and the wet periods are wetter,” said Jeffrey Mount, a water expert and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. “That is consistent with what the climate simulations are suggesting would be a consequence for California under a warming planet.” Warming global temperatures can have a profound effect on weather patterns across the planet. Changing the distribution of warmth in the ocean drives changes in the atmosphere, which ultimately decides how much precipitation gets to California, Mount said. Warm weather worsened the most recent five-year drought, which included the driest four-year period on record in terms of statewide precipitation. California’s first-, second- and third-hottest years on record, in terms of statewide average temperatures, were 2014, 2015 and 2016..."

Map credit: "Snow everywhere: Sierra snow totals." (National Weather Service).

California Overcame 1 in 100 Odds to Beat Its Epic DroughtWIRED has the details.

El Nino Threat Looms as Pacific Heats Up. Here's an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal: "An El Niño weather phenomenon will likely occur again this year as the Pacific Ocean heats up, Australia’s weather bureau said Tuesday, bringing potentially bad news for some of the world’s poorest regions. At the start of 2017, forecasters around the world were in general anticipating neutral weather conditions for this year. Now, all models that Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology uses in forecasting the naturally occurring phenomenon indicate an El Niño will form this year or in early 2018. The agency noted that parts of the eastern Pacific Ocean surface are already one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal..."

Sorry, Chicago. Nashville Was the USA's Windiest City in 2016. USA TODAY has details: "The windiest city in the U.S. in 2016 was Nashville, according to a yearly analysis of weather data from CoreLogic, a research and consulting firm. The city came in first among the nation's largest 279 metro areas, CoreLogic said. The ranking takes into account both the number of strong wind events as well as the total force caused by any severe wind gusts of 60 mph or more. Nashville had 21 wind-related events in 2016 and a maximum wind speed of 72 mph. It was followed by Reno, Jackson, Miss., Cincinnati and Columbia, S.C. , as the USA's windiest cities last year, according to CoreLogic. All of the USA's highest wind speeds in 2016 were recorded during Hurricane Matthew's rampage up the East Coast, with the highest being 101 mph, which was recorded at Kennedy Space Center on Oct. 6..."

World Record Wind on April 12, 1934. The record at Mt. Washington held until 1996, when an unmanned weather instrument at Barrow Island, Australia measured a wind gust to 253 mph during Typhoon Olivia. More details from The Mount Washington Observatory: "...As the day wore on, winds grew stronger and stronger. Frequent values of 220 mph were recorded between 12:00 and 1:00 pm, with occasional gusts of 229 mph. Then, at 1:21 pm on April 12, 1934, the extreme value of 231 mph out of the southeast was recorded. This would prove to be the highest natural surface wind velocity ever officially recorded by means of an anemometer, anywhere in the world. "'Will they believe it?' was our first thought. I felt then the full responsibility of that startling measurement. Was my timing correct? Was the method OK? Was the calibration curve right? Was the stopwatch accurate?..."  – Log Book entry, Sal Pagliuca.

Photo credit: "The Mt. Washington Auto Road Stage Office, where the Observatory was first established, with an anemometer mounted on the roof and thermometer housing mounted on the northern exterior wall."

The 50th Anniversary of Chicago's Worst Tornadoes. 10 tornadoes, 3 of them half-mile-wide F4 tornadoes steamrolling across the Chicago metro, leaving 58 people dead and over 1,000 injured? Yes, it can happen. It has happened. Here's an excerpt of a story at Chicago Now: "...The first tornado, better known as the Belvidere tornado, struck approximately at a little before 4 pm where the Chrysler plant near 1-90 witnessed the destruction of over 400 cars. Then, the destruction continued to the town of Belvidere where hundreds of homes were damaged but it was just at the time that school was getting out and buses were being loaded at the high school. Elementary students were already on the buses but over 1,200 high students were dismissed and tried to get back into the building. According to Jim Allsopp, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, twelve buses were rolled over and students were flung like leaves into the field. Thirteen of the 24 fatalities and 300 of the 500 injuries in this tornado occurred at the high school..."

More details on the April 21, 1967 tornado outbreak from the Chicago office of the National Weather Service.

Tornado-Siren False Alarm Shows Radio-Hacking Risk. The Wall Street Journal has more on the recent hacking of the emergency sirens in Dallas: "...A hacker with understanding of radio technology and the right access to low-cost “software-defined radio” equipment could reproduce the Dallas siren attack elsewhere, said Chris Risley, the CEO of Bastille Networks Inc., a San Francisco company that specializes in radio-frequency security. A hacker might, for example, record the tones emitted during routine tests and then replay those tones to activate the system. “It could happen in other cities,” Mr. Risley said. Similar techniques were used as early as in the 1970s, when early hackers applied them to manipulate devices on telephone networks, security experts say..."

Photo credit: "Roof rafters protrude over an upstairs bedroom torn away by a tornado in Garland, Texas, in December 2015. A tornado warning system was hacked in Dallas last week." Photo: Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News/Associated Press.

Great Lakes Water Piped to Southwest "Our Future" Says NASA Scientist. I hope I'm not around for this (inevitable) scuffle over water. Here's an excerpt from Detroit Free Press: "The idea is as old and dusty as the desert Southwest: Pipe abundant Great Lakes water to parched cities out West, such as Phoenix and Las Vegas. The idea's been dismissed for as long as it's been pitched, with adamant opposition from Great Lakes states, whose representatives crafted a pact with Canada just to stop such a thing. But the latest person to see large-scale Great Lakes water diversions as a future likelihood might make some in the Midwest do a double take — the chief water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Jay Famiglietti, a hydrologist and senior water scientist at JPL, raised the possibility in an April 4 interview with, a nonprofit owner and operator of Cleveland public broadcasting stations. Famiglietti was in Ohio to speak as part of a lecture series at Case Western Reserve University..."

Great Lakes file image: NASA.

Cybersecurity Attacks Could Sink a Largely Unprepared Energy Industry. The Advocate explains some of the vulnerabilities in current fossil fuel energy systems: "...Houmb noted that about 75 percent of all breaches are caused by "insiders." The source can be an engineer doing some maintenance work who unknowingly opens a company's network via a virus-compromised computer. A lot of Houmb's work involves training employees on risks, she said.  She recommends that oil and gas companies streamline the amount of data an employee needs to do his job. Ideally, if the system is not performing normally, it should help the worker determine whether there's a software problem, a hardware problem or an attack, Houmb said. Gonzalez said there's so much information in an oil and gas operations that it can be overwhelming — for example, sensors at every level of the process can capture data..."

File image: George Widman, Associated Press.

This Flower-Shaped Solar Panel Can Power Your Entire Home. The cost is about $12,000, but is there an ROI? Here's a clip from Flipboard: "Meet the Smartflower: a portable, adjustable solar power system that uses GPS-based dual axis tracking to follow the path of the sun throughout the day, similar to the way a sunflower adjusts its petals to face the sun. In the morning, the Smartflower automatically unfolds and positions its "petals" at a 90-degree angle, which shifts as the sun moves across the sky. At night, or when high winds make it unsafe to use, the flower will draw its modular panels back into a folded position, according to Curbed. By always maintaining the optimal angle to the sun, the Smartflower is able to generate 40 percent more energy than traditional solar models..."

"Cool Roofs": Beating the Midday Sun With a Slap of White Paint. Guardian Sustainable Business has more details: "...But a building’s rooftop can be used for more than just harvesting the sun’s rays. Indeed, cool roofs aim to do exactly the opposite, reflecting as much of the sun’s energy as possible. A flat roof in the midday sun receives about 1,000 watts of sunlight per square metre. A dark roof will absorb most of this energy, heating the roof and underlying building, as well as the surrounding air. Air conditioners that suck in this hot air can further exacerbate a building’s cooling requirements. “If you have a cool roof, that problem can be eliminated,” says Geoff Smith from the University of Technology Sydney, a specialist in green roofing technologies. The easiest way to reflect the sun’s rays is to paint a roof white – something the Greeks have been doing for centuries. A white roof reflects around 85% of the sunlight that hits it – at least when it’s clean – and heats to just a few degrees warmer than the outside air temperature. A black roof, by contrast, can heat to more than 80C, according to sustainable construction expert Chris Jensen from the University of Melbourne..."

Image credit: Santorini, Greece, has been taking advantage of white paint and cool roofs for thousands of years.

Why Flying in America Keeps Getting More Miserable, Explained. Vox takes a look at how we got to this place: "...Anyone who flies regularly has experienced the endless indignities of modern air travel — the security theater, the cramped seats, the delays, the missed flights, and all the rest. Making it particularly egregious is the reality that the crucial ingredient of consumer choice seems to be missing. Most of us have at one time or another sworn to ourselves that we will “never” again fly on one airline or another, only to discover that there are very few airlines one can switch to and that they all seem dismal in their own way. The airline industry, unfortunately, suffers from some serious business model flaws — most notably very high fixed costs in the form of buying and maintaining aircraft, and the problem that a half-empty flight is almost as expensive to operate as a full one..."

Circular Runways Could Revolutionize How Airplanes Takeoff and Land. Mashable has the slightly-wacky story which made more sense after watching a video at Mashable: "Circular runways are a radical redefinition of airport layout. They're designed to deal with increasing air traffic, allowing for multiple aircraft to takeoff and land simultaneously. They're the brainchild of Henk Hesselink, a researcher at the Netherlands Aerospace Centre, who hopes they can become a reality by 2050..."

Boy (8) Drives Sister (4) to McDonald's For a Cheeseburger, Doesn't Hit Anything On The Way. Will this go on his permanent record? Cut him a break, at least he wasn't texting, according to a recap at SFGate: "...The boy seated his sister in the back of the father's work van before he got behind the wheel. He drove about a mile from his house, through four intersections and over railroad tracks. The trip required several right-hand turns and one left-hand turn. Witnesses in other vehicles spotted the underage driver and called police. They reported he obeyed traffic rules, stopped at red lights, adhered to the speed limit and didn't sideswipe a single garbage can..."

55 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities on Thursday.
57 F. average high on April 13.
71 F. high on April 13, 2016.

April 14, 1983: A 'surprise' snowstorm covers east central Minnesota. The Twin Cities receives 13.6 inches, the all-time record for April. Brilliant blue skies and bright sun appear the next morning.

April 14, 1886: The deadliest tornado in Minnesota's history rips through St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids, leaving 72 people dead. 80 percent of all buildings in Sauk Rapids would be leveled as the tornado's width expanded to 800 yards. As it crossed the Mississippi it knocked down two iron spans of a wagon bridge and local witnesses said the river was 'swept dry' during the tornado crossing. 300,000 dollars damage would occur in Sauk Rapids, only 4,000 dollars of which was insured. The forecast for that day was for local rains and slightly warmer with highs in the 50's.

TODAY: Lot's of clouds. Showers develop by PM hours. Winds: SE 10-15. High: 61

FRIDAY NIGHT: Showers likely, chance of thunderstorms. Low: 57

SATURDAY: Humid with showers, few T-storms. Winds: W 7-12. High: 68

SUNDAY: More sun, nicer of the weekend. PM shower up north. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 48. High: 63

MONDAY: Peeks of sun, fairly pleasant. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 42. High: 57

TUESDAY: Heavy showers and T-storms likely. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 48. High: 62

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, drying out. Winds: N 8-13. Wake-up: 40. High: 56

THURSDAY: More sun, lawns greening up nicely. Winds: E 5-10. Wake-up: 39. High: 59

Climate Stories....

Book Signing Next Saturday. I'm looking forward to spending time at the Ridgehaven Barnes and Noble in Minnetonka next Saturday, April 22, to sign a few books, talk about the weather (and the climate) and anything else that comes up in casual conversation. More details here.

Earth Day in the Age of Trump. Elizabeth Kolbert writes for The New Yorker: "...If you don’t believe in global coöperation because “America comes first,” then you’re faced with a dilemma. You can either come up with an alternative approach—tough to do—or simply pretend that the problem doesn’t exist. “Climate change denial is not incidental to a nationalist, populist agenda,” Erickson argues. “It’s central to it.” She quotes Andrew Norton, the director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, in London, who observes, “Climate change is a highly inconvenient truth for nationalism,” as it “requires collective action between states.” This argument can, and probably should, be taken one step further. The fundamental idea behind the environmental movement—the movement that gave us Earth Day in the first place—is that everything, and therefore everyone, is connected..."

In Generational Shift, College Republicans Poised to Reform Party on Climate Change. There will be a reboot of the GOP - mark my words. Here's an excerpt from Reuters: "...In the U.S. Congress and in U.S. party politics, beliefs about climate change often match party membership: Democrats believe it is a largely man-made problem and something that needs urgent action, while a share of Republicans – including President Donald Trump – have dismissed it as anything from a natural phenomenon to a hoax. But a younger generation of Republicans – those on college campuses today – increasingly say they believe climate change is a human-caused problem, and that Americans have a responsibility to act on it and protect the environment, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation review of college Republican clubs across the United States. That shift appears to be the result of a range of differences, not least that most of the university students will be alive for many decades after current Republican leaders are gone. That period is expected to be a time of worsening climate change impacts, from stronger droughts to sea level rise, unless there is urgent action to address the problem..."

Photo credit: "Harvard University Republican Club members listen to a speaker at a meeting in Harvard Hall, September 6, 2016." Declan Garvey/Harvard Republican Club/Handout via Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Climate Change Upsets Lives Guided by Nature, Native Americans Say. Here's an excerpt from a story at Reuters: "The impacts of climate change stretch from the loss of polar bear habitat to African crop failures to threatening a seasonal festival among Native Americans that they believe is critical to keep the world in balance.  The traditional calendar of the Tohono O'odham nation, whose reservation straddles the U.S.-Mexican border, starts with the summer solstice. The ensuing months follow the pace of nature. "Right now, the seasons are offset because of global warming," Verlon Jose, vice chairman of the nation of 34,000 people, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation during a recent visit to the reservation. "The weather is crazy. So is the calendar," he said..."

Haboob file image: Arizona Department of Public Safety.

How Can Cities Double Down on Fighting Climate Change? The Architects Newspaper has details: "It’s widely accepted that climate change affects us all, and cities in particular. So what are some of the most vulnerable cities doing to adapt to rising seas and extreme weather events? Three experts from three cities—all of whom are current or former government officials—zeroed in on cities’ responses to climate change in their respective regions at a mini Columbia GSAPP conference titled Cities and Climate Action. They were: Jeffrey Hebert, from New Orleans; Adam Freed, from New York; and Rodrigo Rosa of Rio de Janeiro, a visiting scholar at Columbia University and a legislative consultant in the Brazil Federal Senate. Climate change, the experts agreed, is addressed not just through the environment—destructive hurricanes or deadly heat waves—but through a city’s culture, economy, and landscape..."

Photo credit: "How can cities double down on the climate change fight? Three experts share ideas. Pictured here: Even inland cities are vulnerable to the effects of climate change—downtown Nashville is shown here after record flooding in 2010." (Courtesy Kaldari / Wikimedia Commons).

A Trip to the Zoo Can Get People Talking About Climate Change. Framing this in a way that localizes - and empowers people to find solutions for their communities, may be a viable way forward, according to Pacific Standard: "...For example, when creating exhibits or presentations — or simply talking informally with visitors — staff members are encouraged to avoid the term “greenhouse effect” in favor “heat-trapping blanket.” That easy-to-grasp metaphor “is more effective at conveying the effects of heat-trapping gas on the earth’s temperature,” the researchers write. They are also urged to describe the ocean as the heart of the planet’s “circulatory system” — a vivid, body-based way to convey the vital role oceans play in regulating weather patterns. Finally, they are encouraged to emphasize the importance of “community action and cooperation” to solve this global problem. The study featured 1,066 American adults who had visited a zoo, aquarium, or national park in the previous year..."

Photo credit: Jeffery Wright/Flickr.

Climate Change is Ruining Farmers' Lives, But Only a Few Will Admit It. Huffington Post takes a look at shifting patterns: "...Federal research indicates that extreme weather events like droughts and floods can harm crops and reduce yields — in one example, $210 million worth of Michigan cherries were lost due to a premature budding. Warmer weather can also mean more weeds and pests for crops, and more heat stress and disease for livestock. The limited research available on the topic indicates that most farmers agree that climate change is happening. Yet only a few — perhaps about 16 percent, according to one survey of Iowa farmers — seem to believe that human activities are a primary cause of it. They maintain this position even as a growing body of research shows that farming is a leading contributor to climate change and is responsible for as much as one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock are a major source of these emissions, and the use of synthetic fertilizers is another factor..."

Graphic credit: Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project. "An international group of researchers is forecasting that climate change will mean lower farm productivity, increased consumer prices and reduced consumption by the year 2050."

Climate Change a Character in Discovery's "Deadliest Catch". Here's an excerpt of a story at AP: "...It's a big risk for us to discuss climate change because so many people can think that it's a political issue when really it isn't, particularly in the context of the fishing fleet," said R. Decker Watson, Jr., one of the show's executive producers. The waters off Alaska that provide the livelihood for the show's real-life stars warmed by a dramatic 4 degrees in one year. The cold water-loving crab is depleted in the traditional fishing areas, so some of the boats strike out for new territory that is more dangerous because of fiercer storms and is further from rescue workers if something goes wrong, he said. In fact, the new season documents one vessel lost at sea. It was not one of the crews regularly featured in the series, but all of the regulars knew who was involved, he said..."

Build Better Energy Future for Montana. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from a self-described millenial who just met with one of Montana's U.S. Senators about (true) energy independence at Missoulian: "...If Daines cares about jobs, he should work with state leaders to remove barriers to solar energy. Last year, job growth nationwide in the solar industry was 17 times greater than the rest of the economy, but Montana lags far behind other states, ranked 40th in installed capacity. Our leaders should be capitalizing on this growth potential and offering coal communities a pathway to the clean energy economy - not making empty promises to revive a dying industry. The Clean Power Plan would have helped local communities down this path. A bipartisan poll last year showed Montanans overwhelmingly favor more clean energy - especially millennials. My generation sees the absurdity of Daines' "all of the above" energy rhetoric that ignores the need to transition away from fossil fuels. We know not all energy sources are equal: the fossil fuels of the past create carbon pollution that makes us sick and overheats our planet. When we met, Daines said he is concerned about climate change and discusses it often with his kids. If that's true, he must see that "all of the above" is incompatible with the urgency of the climate crisis, which disproportionately impacts my generation - including Daines' children..."

Another Record Low Month for Sea Ice. Here's an excerpt from Climate Central: "Climate change continues its rapid reshaping of the Arctic as yet another month saw sea ice set a record-low mark. March data just released by the National Snow and Ice Data Center marks six months in a row of near-record or record-low sea ice for the region. It’s a story that’s been reported so often recently, it risks feeling almost normal. But make no mistake. There has never been a run like this in nearly 40 years of satellite data. Sea ice was missing from a 452,000-square-mile area it usually covers in March. That’s an area roughly the size of Sweden. Warm weather was yet again a major culprit in the case of the missing ice..."

Image credit: "Arctic sea ice extent is record low for this time of year and has been since October 2016 with the exception of December (which was still the second-lowest extent on record)." Credit: Zack Labe.

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