A Confusing Time of The Year to Get Dressed

"It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade" wrote Charles Dickens in 'Great Expectations'.

March is winter's "EVERYTHING MUST GO!" sale. Everything is half off. Cold fronts are half as cold and last half as long as they do in January. It can snow hard, and then it's gone, in half the time. Winter is in retreat.

My plodding preamble is a disclaimer, a chance for me to cover my, uh, Doppler. Because we will see a couple more arctic swipes as early as next weekend. A few days in the 20s and 30s and nights near 0F? I wouldn't rule it out.

But the big weather story is a return of April: highs may top 60F Sunday, again Monday with a chance of T-storms. Keep in mind today's average high is 35. Wait, what is average anymore?

With recent spasms of severe weather (tornadoes as far north as Massachusetts) I suspect our 6 year tornado drought is over. 2017 should be the most severe year since 2011.

In the meantime you'll need umbrellas, sunglasses, ice scrapers, parkas & shorts. Yep, that covers it.

One Big Cold Brownie. Which really isn't the worst thing you can call something, right? It's brown out there, from the metro into central, western and southwestern Minnesota - still 1-2 feet on the ground over the Minnesota Arrowhead. Map: Minnesota DNR.

Cue the Next West Coast Storm. Just like clockwork, here we go again. A shield of heavy precipitation pushes into the Pacific Northwest, dragging another atmospheric river of moisture into California over the weekend. A little lake-effect snow falls downwind of the Great Lakes; heavy showers and T-storms breaking out by Monday as far north as Minnesota and Wisconsin. NAM guidance: Tropicaltidbits.com.

February Weather Recap. Here's an except from HydroClim Minnesota, courtesy of the Minnesota DNR: "Average monthly temperatures for February were well above historical averages at all Minnesota reporting stations. It was Minnesota's tenth consecutive month of above-normal monthly temperatures, and for the Twin Cities, the eighteenth month in a row of above normal temperatures. Extremes for February ranged from a high of 67 degrees F at Redwood Falls Airport (Redwood County) on the 17th, to a low of -24 degrees F at Hallock (Kittson County) on the 8th. Temperatures soared into the 50s and 60s across Minnesota on February 17-22, breaking temperature records for the date. February 2016 wound up in the top ten warmest Februaries on record are various locations in the state. February 2017 ranked the 3rd warmest in St. Cloud, the 7th warmest in the Twin Cities. Duluth was the 9th warmest and International Falls was the 11th warmest.  The preliminary statewide average temperature for February was nine degrees above normal..."

What's Dangerous About an Early Spring. The growing season is getting longer, but the average date of the last frost isn't moving in some cases, so the potential for frost-related damage increases with our new super-sized summer seasons. Here's an excerpt from a story at The Atlantic: "...Often when people talk about climate change, they talk about how the world will change in the future. But an early spring is happening now. The same study that revealed how national parks are facing seasonal shift included a special warning for park rangers: “Managers who have worked in these parks for the past one to three decades are already working under anomalous conditions.” But that warning applies many of us: The springs of the past 30 years have been “anomalous.” The national parks are not the only thing that have already changed. The natural calendar that guides all of our lives has already changed, too."

Photo credit: Student Conservation Association.

18 Straight Warm Months. The Minnesota DNR puts our warm streak into perspective: "Minnesota is in the grips of a historic warm streak, now standing at 18 months in many locations, including the Twin Cities. February 2017 started off relatively tame, with the usual flip-flopping between warm and cold conditions for the first nine days. The 10th, however, kicked off a 2-week spell of significantly warm weather, including a six-day run between the 17th and 22nd that broke numerous records. In the Twin Cities, daily temperatures were above averages on 23 of 28 days, and the average monthly temperature has now been above the 1981-2010 normal for 18 months in a row. As a month, February 2017 was among the warmest on record across the state. It ranked in the top-10 at Duluth, the Twin Cities, Rochester, and St. Cloud--where it was 3rd warmest since 1895. The Twin Cities have not recorded average monthly temperatures that were below 1981-2010 normals since August 2015. This is the longest above-average monthly temperature streak of any kind on record in the Twin Cities, though it is worth noting that the "normals" refresh every 10 years, and procedures for calculating them have changed over time. As of this writing, only five months out of the last 33 (back to June 2014) have been below normal in the Twin Cities. The second longest streak on record was 16 months, from June 2011 through September 12..."

Early Bird Special: Spring Pops Up Super-Early in Much of U.S. Here's an update from AP: "Spring has sprung early — potentially record early — in much of the United States, bringing celebrations of shorts weather mixed with unease about a climate gone askew. Crocuses, tulips and other plants are popping up earlier than usual from Arizona to New Jersey and down to Florida. Washington is dotted with premature pink blossoming trees. Grackles, red-winged blackbirds and woodpeckers are just plain early birds this year. The unseasonably warm weather has the natural world getting ahead of — even defying — the calendar, scientists said Tuesday. In cities like Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio, spring has arrived about a month earlier than the 30-year average...."

More Snow Fell on Mauna Kea (Hawaii) Wednesday Night Than Chicago and Denver Have Seen All Year. Good grief. Here's an excerpt from Hawaii News Now: "More than 8 inches of snow fell atop Hawaii's tallest peak during an overnight blizzard on Tuesday, outpacing the amount that has dropped on some of America's most winter-ready cities during the first two months of 2017. Data from the National Weather Service shows -- somehow -- that there was no snow accumulation in the city of Chicago in either January or February. It was the first time no snow was recorded over that two-month stretch in the 146 years the agency has been keeping snowfall records.  Since the measurements are taken at 6 a.m., the Chicago Tribune says, it's possible that small amounts of snow may have fallen during the day and melted before being recorded. But warm temperatures in the Windy City during 2017 continue to melt Chicago's record books.   Meanwhile, a Blizzard Warning was in effect Tuesday for Hawaii Island's Mauna Kea, and so much snow fell that the road to the mountain's summit had to be closed to the public..."

Warm Days in February Might Be Here to Stay. Not every February, but most Februarys. Here's a snippet from a Boston Globe article: "...All this unusual weather begs the question: Is this climate change? The answer is: Sort of. No one single event is climate change, but the odds of these occurrences can increase as a result of it. It’s like loading the dice. As the climate continues to change, our weather will throw us more surprises. No one can say if another February warmth outbreak is going to occur in 2018 or 2019, but we do know the odds of such winter warm spells are going to continue to grow. The climate models forecast more extreme swings in our weather within the general warming pattern. It’s really no surprise that we are seeing all-time monthly records for February or severe weather. Since February temperatures are on the rise and have been for over a hundred years, it stands to reason that recordbreaking warm days are in our future..."

Graphic credit: NOAA. "Snow cover across North America has been diminishing during March and April for the past 30 years."

Official: California Faces $50 Billion Price Tag for Flood Control. ABC News has the story and video: "California faces an estimated $50 billion price tag for roads, dams and other infrastructure threatened by floods such as the one that severely damaged Oroville Dam last month, the state's natural resources secretary said Wednesday. Nearly 200,000 people living near the country's tallest dam were evacuated three weeks ago amid fears of a catastrophic flood after heavy rains tore away a chunk of concrete from the main spillway, leaving it severely damaged. Swollen rivers, troubled levees and crumbling roads are causing havoc statewide as California copes with what is likely its wettest year ever, California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird said. Severe winter storms have brought torrential rain and significant snow after five years of drought. Damage to California's highways is estimated at nearly $600 million. More than 14,000 people in San Jose were forced to evacuate last month and floods shut down a portion of a major freeway..."

Humans Are Responsible for 84 Percent of Wildfires in the U.S. Atlas Obscura has details: "In the past decades, the number of wildfires in the U.S. has spiraled upwards, as has the cost of fighting them: In recent years, by the end of the fire season, the Forest Service has usually exhausted its budget. According to a new paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one factor contributing to the increasing impact of wildfire is how often humans ignite them.  The team of researchers found that, from 1992 to 2012, people were responsible for starting 84 percent of wildfires and that, in most of the U.S., it’s more common from humans to start wildfires than for lightning to ignite them, as they report in the new paper..."

Map credit: "This map shows where human-ignited wildfires dominate." Balch, et al. “Human-started wildfires expand the fire niche across the United States.” PNAS, 2017. DOI:10.1073

Highest Recorded Temperatures in Antarctica Announced and They May Surprise You. A couple years ago 60s were reported (above zero) on the coldest continent on Earth (by far). Here's an excerpt from Dr. Marshall Shepherd at Forbes: "...WMO announced in a press release,

The highest temperature for the “Antarctic region” (defined by the WMO and the United Nations as all land and ice south of 60-deg S) of 67.6 F  (19.8 C) , which was observed on Jan. 30, 1982 at Signy Research Station, Borge Bay on Signy Island. The highest temperature for the Antarctic Continent, defined as the main continental landmass and adjoining islands, is the temperature extreme of  63.5 F  (17.5 C) recorded on Mar. 24, 2015 at the Argentine Research Base Esperanza located near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The highest temperature for the Antarctic Plateau (at or above 2,500 meters, or 8,200 feet) was 19.4 F (-7 C) made on Dec. 28, 1989 at an automatic weather station site D-80 located inland of the Adelie Coast.

These records are quite impressive when you consider that average yearly temperature ranges from about about 14 F on the coasts to -76 F at the highest points in the interior..."
File photo: Pauline Askin, Reuters.

Thank You Ulysses S. Grant. Philly.com explains why meteorologists and U.S. consumers are better off because he was president: "In standard historical rankings of U.S. presidents, Ulysses S. Grant typically is right down there with James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, and Warren Harding. But in 1870, Grant secured a place in the pantheon of U.S. weather history by signing a bill that created a national weather service. The rest is ... well, you know the rest. We tend to take for granted that measurements are taken constantly at stations throughout the country to gather raw material for numerical forecast models, not to mention telling people what the hay is going on outside..."

Minnesota Bipartisan Effort Would Double Renewables Mandate to 50% by 2030. Here's an excerpt of a good summary from Utility Dive: "...Minnesota is currently aiming for 25% renewable power by 2030, a goal the state appears on track to hit. So, the thinking goes, raising the standard should renew efforts in the state, boosting the economy. The state passed its Next Generation Energy Act a decade ago, resulting in 21% renewable power today. "If we redouble our efforts, and raise Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard to 50 percent by 2030, we will improve air quality, continue to drive down the cost of renewable energy, and generate thousands of new energy jobs," Smith said in a statement..."

A Texas Tornado for America's Power Players. Cleaner, cheaper renewable power is disrupting America's energy business - here's an excerpt from Bloomberg Gadfly: "...Renewable energy has a particularly pernicious effect on wholesale power prices because of the way they are set. As you might expect, the last source of generation to be switched on in order to meet demand is the most expensive one. Back in the day, this so-called "merit order" generally ran like this: nuclear first, then coal, then maybe some natural gas, and finally, if there was a sudden surge of demand, a "peaker-plant" burning gas or even oil. Renewables mess with this because, once built, their fuel is generally free. So, as long as the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, they will run first, displacing higher-cost sources of power. This tends to depress the whole market, as that last kilowatt-hour of supply needed to meet demand comes from a lower-cost source (this is also why cheap natural gas has savaged demand for coal)..."

Graphic credit: "Note: Share of electricity output by major energy source, trailing 12-month averages."

Republican Issa Joins Bipartisan House Caucus on Climate Change. My hunch: this is a big deal, a possible inflection point within the GOP. Time will tell. Here's an excerpt from Reuters: "U.S. Republican Representative Darrell Issa of California has joined the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers dedicated to fighting climate change, spokesmen for the group and Issa said on Wednesday. The group, founded a year ago by Florida lawmakers looking to slow the effects of global warming, like coastal flooding, now has 13 Republicans and 13 Democrats. It is committed to keeping an even number of members of both parties. The group hopes to become a counter-balance to President Donald Trump's new administration, which includes several doubters of the science of climate change..."

Photo credit: "U.S. Republican Representative Darrell Issa enters Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 14, 2016." REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Conversion to Natural Gas Brings New Life to Aging Coal Plants. Midwest Energy News reports: "It used to be that a train of coal arrived every day at the Joliet coal plant 40 miles southwest of Chicago. Forty-seven conveyor belts fed the coal into units on either side of the Des Plaines River. And workers busily transferred the coal from the train and maintained the system. Today there are no more coal trains. But Joliet is not among the scores of coal plants that have closed in recent years. Instead, it burns natural gas. A number of coal plants nationwide have converted to natural gas, a move that uses much of the same infrastructure but involves different economics, less pollution and fewer workers..."

10 Breakthrough Technologies: 2017. From self-driving trucks to facial recognition for secure financial transactions, MIT Technology Review has stories of up and coming technologies: "...Facial recognition has existed for decades, but only now is it accurate enough to be used in secure financial transactions. The new versions use deep learning, an artificial-intelligence technique that is especially effective for image recognition because it makes a computer zero in on the facial features that will most reliably identify a person (see “10 Breakthrough Technologies 2013: Deep Learning”).  “The face recognition market is huge,” says Shiliang Zhang, an assistant professor at Peking University who specializes in machine learning and image processing. Zhang heads a lab not far from the offices of Face++. When I arrived, his students were working away furiously in a dozen or so cubicles. “In China security is very important, and we also have lots of people,” he says. “Lots of companies are working on it...”

How the Baby Boomers Destroyed Everything. A little harsh perhaps? Then again it's always tough looking in the mirror. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Boston Globe: "...My indictment of boomers may seem overbroad, but the thesis is quite specific: the unusual prevalence of sociopathy in an unusually large generation. How does that disorder manifest? Improvidence is reflected in low levels of savings and high levels of bankruptcy. Deceit shows up as a distaste for facts, a subject on display in everything from Enron’s quarterly reports to daily press briefings. Interpersonal failures and unbridled hostility appeared in unusually high levels of divorce and crime from the 1970s to early 1990s. These problems expressed themselves at generationally unique levels in boomers, to a greater extent than in boomers’ parents or children at comparable ages...."

Illustration credit: Gary Clement for The Boston Globe.

The Experimental Zoo Where Parrots Rollerskated and Chickens Played Baseball. One of my favorite headlines - ever. Check out this article at Atlas Obscura to marvel at what a Minnesota woman created in Arkansas: "Tourists sailing down the highways toward Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1955 would have been filled with gleeful anticipation. Numerous resorts and roadside offerings were on offer to sate their recreational lust: They could drop into the Arkansas Alligator Farm and mingle with the toothsome reptiles, ooh and awe at celebrity likenesses at the Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum, or delight in the animated miniatures of Tiny Town. Or they could go to the newly opened I.Q. Zoo and watch Casey the chicken play baseball, a duck play the drums, and a rabbit dunk a basketball, to name just a few oddities. I.Q. Zoo was the brainchild of a psychologist couple, Marian and Keller Breland, who not too long before had been working alongside the famous psychologist B.F. Skinner to train pigeons to pilot the first “smart bombs” for the United States government..."

Image credit: "Rufus the Raccoon scores a basket" vintage postcard." Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers collection/Public Domain

The International Society for Men Who Love Being Boring. Yes, this resonated, although there's nothing fundamentally dull about Doppler repair, if you must know. If you need to feel a little better about yourself check out the story at Narratively: "...One guy joined and he had really racy-looking cars,” Carlson says. “I said, ‘Those cars—they are really bright red; they are not dull at all.’ He said, ‘Yeah, but here’s my collection of hubcaps.’ ” The hubcap collection meant he was “in” (although even things like colorful socks can be considered a bit too thrilling for the club). Members’ interests include collecting airsickness bags, appreciating apostrophes and sitting on benches. On the Dull Men’s Facebook group, which has more than 500 members, a man from Cincinnati, Ohio recently posted a photo of his feet with the caption, “The glorious feeling of new socks!” Another member from Edinburgh, Scotland shared a black-and-white image of a tall steel electric line tower. “I love them,” he wrote, “Who is with me?..."

Photo credit: "Still image from “Born to Be Mild," directed by Andy Oxley, via MEL Magazine.

31 F. high temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.

35 F. average high.

32 F. maximum temperature on March 2, 2016.

March 3, 1977: A snowstorm results in over 400 school closings in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

TODAY: Cool sun giving way to increasing clouds, breezy. Winds: S 8-13. High: 33

FRIDAY NIGHT: Patchy clouds, chance of a few flurries. Low: 26

SATURDAY: Partly sunny and milder. Winds: SE 10-15. High: 48

SUNDAY: Cue April. Intervals of mild sunshine. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 38. High: 61

MONDAY: New word: "humid". Risk of T-shower? Winds: S 15-30. Wake-up: 49. High: 65

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy, chilly again. Winds: W 15-25. Wake-up: 33. High: 40

WEDNESDAY: More sun, winds gradually ease. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 22. High: 41

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy, trending milder. Winds: SE 7-12. Wake-up: 31. High: 54

Climate Stories....

Impact of Climate Change on This Year's Early Spring? Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "Spring is arriving ever earlier in the northern hemisphere. One sedge species in Greenland is springing to growth 26 days earlier than it did a decade ago. And in the US, spring arrived 22 days early this year in Washington DC. The evidence comes from those silent witnesses, the natural things that respond to climate signals. The relatively new science of phenology – the calendar record of first bud, first flower, first nesting behaviour and first migrant arrivals – has over the last three decades repeatedly confirmed meteorological fears of global warming as a consequence of the combustion of fossil fuels. Researchers say the evidence from the plant world is consistent with the instrumental record: 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded, and it was the third record-breaking year in succession. Sixteen of the hottest years ever recorded have happened in the 21st century..."

Photo credit: "Arctic cotton grass grows on Greenland’s seashore. Sedge is almost four weeks ahead of its timetable 10 years ago." Photograph: Pearl Bucknall/Alamy

Sydney's Swelter Has a Climate Change Link, Scientists Say. Here's an excerpt from a summary of new research at The New York Times: "...Her analysis, conducted with a loose-knit group of researchers called World Weather Attribution, was made public on Thursday. Their conclusion was that climate change made maximum temperatures like those seen in January and February at least 10 times more likely than a century ago, before significant greenhouse gas emissions from human activity started warming the planet. Looked at another way, that means that the kind of soaring temperatures expected to occur in New South Wales once every 500 years on average now may occur once every 50 years. What is more, the researchers found that if climate change continued unabated, such maximum temperatures may occur on average every five years..."

Photo credit: "A wildfire in New South Wales in February. Australia has been hit by brutal heat waves in the last two months." Credit NSW Rural Fire Service, via Associated Press.

Yale Climate Opinion Maps. A majority of Americans acknowledge the climate is changing; a smaller percentage link warming to human activities, as reported by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication: "This version of the Yale Climate Opinion Maps is based on data through the year 2016. Public opinion about global warming is an important influence on decision making about policies to reduce global warming or prepare for the impacts, but American opinions vary widely depending on where people live. So why would we rely on just one national number to understand public responses to climate change at the state and local levels? Public opinion polling is generally done at the national level, because local level polling is very costly and time intensive. Our team of scientists, however, has developed a geographic and statistical model to downscale national public opinion results to the state, congressional district, and county levels. We can now estimate public opinion across the country and a rich picture of the diversity of Americans’ beliefs, attitudes, and policy support is revealed. For instance, nationally, 70% of Americans think global warming is happening..."

Massive Permafrost Thaw Documented in Canada, Portends Huge Carbon Release. Details via InsideClimate News: "Huge slabs of Arctic permafrost in northwest Canada are slumping and disintegrating, sending large amounts of carbon-rich mud and silt into streams and rivers. A new study that analyzed nearly a half-million square miles in northwest Canada found that this permafrost decay is affecting 52,000 square miles of that vast stretch of earth—an expanse the size of Alabama. According to researchers with the Northwest Territories Geological Survey, the permafrost collapse is intensifying and causing landslides into rivers and lakes that can choke off life downstream, all the way to where the rivers discharge into the Pacific Ocean..."

File photo credit: "Melting permafrost is altering the landscape in northern Canada on a grand scale." Credit: Wikimedia.

The Scientific Community is Facing an Existential Crisis. New Republic explains why: "...Most scientists are uncomfortable talking politics because their work needs to be perceived as objective rather than partisan. But ever since America elected a president who’s made scientifically inaccurate statements on everything from vaccines to climate change, more and more scientists are stepping into the spotlight to stand up for their profession. That includes Holt, who announced Wednesday that AAAS would partner with the March for Science, an Earth Day rally with the primary goal of preserving and promoting evidence-based policymaking. In a conversation with the New Republic, Holt—who is also a former U.S. Congressman—talked about the unprecedented level of political anxiety among American scientists, and how those scientists should navigate these murky waters..."

"Shell Knew": Oil Giant's 1991 Film Warned of Climate Change Danger. Details, and a link to a 2:40 video overview, courtesy of The Guardian: "The oil giant Shell issued a stark warning of the catastrophic risks of climate change more than a quarter of century ago in a prescient 1991 film that has been rediscovered. However, since then the company has invested heavily in highly polluting oil reserves and helped lobby against climate action, leading to accusations that Shell knew the grave risks of global warming but did not act accordingly. Shell’s 28-minute film, called Climate of Concern, was made for public viewing, particularly in schools and universities. It warned of extreme weather, floods, famines and climate refugees as fossil fuel burning warmed the world. The serious warning was “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists in their report to the United Nations at the end of 1990”, the film noted..."

Image credit: What Shell knew about climate change in 1991

"A Sense of Despair" : The Mental Health Cost of Unchecked Climate Change. CBS News reports; here are 2 excerpts from an eye-opening story: "...Climate change is taking an obvious physical toll on earth: from depleted farmland to the rise of toxic pollution to the degradation of long-stable ecosystems to the disappearance of biodiversity and endangered species. But looking beyond the physical, experts are also trying to sound the alarm about the quieter, more insidious effects of climate change: namely, that global warming is threatening the emotional health of humans worldwide. “We see a sense of despair that sets in as inevitably Mother Nature, who we think of as our nurturing force, tells us we’re not going to be able to survive the conditions she’s set for us,” Dr. Lise Van Susteran, a practicing psychiatrist and expert on the dangers of climate change on mental health, told CBS News...The researchers found that just one standard-deviation shift in heat or rainfall increases the risk of a riot, civil war or ethnic conflict by an average of about 14 percent. A similarly sized uptick in heat or rain triggers a 4 percent increase in person-on-person violence like rape, murder and assault..."

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8th Warmest Meteorological Winter - 18 Months in a Row Above Average - 60F by Sunday?

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Easing Into Spring, But Don't Get Too Comfortable - Big Budget Cuts Proposed for NOAA