Why Minnesota Springs Are An Acquired Taste

They say lightning never strikes the same place twice? They would be wrong. My blood pressure is just now receding after the 15.7 inches of snow that plastered the MSP metro April 13-15, 2018. "A fluke, an cosmic aberration - at least THAT won't happen again anytime soon!" I may or may not have been quoted as saying. "The odds are slim to nil!" Excuse me while I walk that one back.

A long duration snow event is brewing from Wednesday into Friday, mixed with ice at times, but the lowest 1-2 miles of the atmosphere should be cold enough for snow and sleet. By the time snow tapers on Friday a foot of heavy, wet, cement-like slush may be lurking in your yard. Thursday should be the worst travel day, with low visibility as snow mixes with ice. Have a Plan B.

Here's the thing: with a high April sun angle any snow that falls will melt rapidly. Believe it or not, most of it will be gone by early next week. Which means another surge of water into our streams & rivers.

We're not out of the woods yet in terms of flooding. Check in for frequent updates on the snow, and potential impact on Minnesota's tributaries. 

Watches and Warnings. The National Weather Service has already issued a Blizzard Warning for much of west central and southwestern Minnesota from 7 pm Wednesday to 7 am Friday for 12-20" snow and winds gusting up to 50 mph. A Winter Storm Watch is posted for the immediate Twin Cities. Map: AerisWeather.

Historic April Snowstorms. Here's an excerpt from a timely post at The Minnesota DNR: "...One of the worst late season blizzards in Upper Midwest history brought a record 15 inches of snow to the St. Paul area on 20-21 April 1893. Headlines in the 20 April edition of the St. Paul Dispatch told winter weary St. Paul residents that "Old Boreas Favors Us: Just One More Blizzard to Add to His Generous Gifts of Winter: Snow Covers Entire Northwest To A Depth Varying From Six Inches To Two Feet." On 21 April, the second day of the historic blizzard, another set of headlines proclaimed "Swirling Snow: Serious Floods Are Feared: Railroad Traffic On Some Lines Suspended". The blizzard which struck much of Minnesota, Iowa and sections of northern Missouri was part of an intense storm system which formed "below Kansas" and which brought severe weather, including tornadoes, to large portions of the central United States from 19-22 April 1893. In Minnesota, Bird Island reported a "three day blizzard" with 15 inches of snow; St. Cloud reported 30 inches of snow (probably referring to drift depths, not to average snow depth); Faribault reported a "blinding wind and snow storm"; Northfield reported "two feet of snow on the level"; Park Rapids reported 20 inches of snow; and several carloads of cattle were reported to have perished when a train become stalled near Granite Falls..."

European Model. ECMWF guidance from the 00z Tuesday run printed out about 8-14" for the immediate metro, with some 20"+ amounts for far southwestern Minnesota, with a sharp drop-off in amounts north of a line from Alexandria to Walker to Cloquet. Map: WeatherBell.

GFS Guidance. NOAA's Global Forecast System model prints out roughly 14" of snow for the metro by Friday evening, and that may verify if everything goes just right (or wrong) but I still think a considerable amount of sleet at the height of the storm Thursday may keep amounts a bit lower than that. Map: pivotalweather.com.

06Z NAM Run. Heaviest amounts are predicted for central and far west central Minnesota, with 10-12" for the immediate metro.

Additional Variables: High Winds and Flooding Potential After the Storm. Everyone is fixated on snowfall totals, but wind may be a big consideration with sustained winds Thursday in the 30-40 mph, close to blizzard criteria. And a rapid snow melt over the weekend and early next week will flush more water into area tributaries, raising the risk of a second crest on some rivers. Check out the forecast discussion from the Twin Cities National Weather Service Monday afternoon; I included an excerpt above.

Praedictix Briefing: Issued Monday, April 8th, 2019:

  • A strong April storm is expected to push into the central United States during the midweek timeframe, bringing the potential of heavy snow and high winds to the Plains and Upper Midwest.
  • While there is still some uncertainty in the track of the system as is still offshore the western United States, confidence is increasing in a swath of heavy snow somewhere across the Upper Midwest, with some areas potentially picking up over a foot of snow by the end of the week.
  • Very strong winds are also expected to blow this snow around, causing low visibilities and blizzard/whiteout conditions.
  • Impacts from this system – especially where the heaviest snow falls – will include:
    • Difficult to impossible travel conditions due to the heavy snow (potentially falling at 1-2” per hour rates at the height of the storm) and blowing/drifting snow.
    • Power outages due to the wet, heavy snow as well as high winds bringing down power lines and tree branches.
  • Winter Storm Watches have been issued from Utah to southwestern Minnesota ahead of this system, with additional watches expected to be issued eastward along the track of the system later today.

April Blizzard In The Upper Midwest This Week. A strong April storm is expected to develop across the Plains as we head into the middle of the week, aided by energy pushing into the west coast tonight into Tuesday. As this system forms and pushes east and northeast through the end of the week, a band of very heavy snow is expected to form north and northwest of the low from Wyoming to parts of the upper Midwest. At times, snow within this band is expected to fall at a rate of 1-2” per hour, especially Wednesday Night into Thursday across the upper Midwest. Strong winds are also expected to form across the central United States, which will help to cause whiteout and blizzard conditions.

Winter Storm Watches. Due to this upcoming winter storm/blizzard across the Northern Plains, Winter Storm Watches have been issued this morning from Utah to southwestern Minnesota. These watches will likely be expanded eastward later today. Areas under watches this morning include:

  • Casper, WY: From Wednesday morning through Wednesday evening with 6-10” of snow and wind gusts to 40 mph.
  • Rapid City, SD: From Wednesday morning through Thursday afternoon for the potential of blizzard conditions with 6-15” of snow and wind gusts to 45 mph.
  • Pierre, SD: From Wednesday afternoon through late Thursday night for the potential of blizzard conditions with 6-15” of snow and wind gusts to 40 mph.
  • Aberdeen, SD: From Wednesday afternoon through Friday morning for the potential of blizzard conditions with 8-18” of snow and wind gusts to 45 mph.
  • Valentine, NE: From Wednesday afternoon through late Thursday night for 7-16” of snow, a light glaze of ice, and wind gusts as high as 45 mph Wednesday night and Thursday.
  • Willmar, MN: From Wednesday evening through Friday afternoon for the potential of blizzard conditions with at least 8” of snow and wind gusts to 40 mph.

Heavy Snow Potential. While there remains uncertainty with this system in regards to the eventual track of the storm as well as where the rain/snow line sets up across parts of the upper Midwest, there will be the potential of heavy snow on the order of at least a half a foot to a foot across parts of the region where a majority of the precipitation falls as snow. This snow will be a heavy, wet snow, which will make it harder for those shoveling to easily remove if it is allowed to accumulate. This snow will also be capable of causing power outages, especially with the strong winds expected to accompany the storm.

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix.

The Deadly Cost of Failing Infrastructure in Historic Midwest Floods. A post at TheHill focused on the limits of flooding infrastructure in a warmer, wetter world: "...But that this level of flooding happened in the first place has once again revealed an enduring fragility of America’s inferastructure and our inability to prepare for or potentially avoid large-scale disasters. A confluence of factors contributed to the massive flooding, including greatly increased precipitation, questionable water management decisions and massive run-offs from melting snow. But the fact remains that ineffective levee systems consisting mainly of makeshift mud and soil barriers and at least one frangible dam in Nebraska left the region entirely vulnerable to the catastrophic consequences of this disaster. The failure of the Spencer dam in Northeast Nebraska is telling. Built in 1927, there have been many warning signs that the dam would not hold up under certain conditions..."

Severe Storm Alerts and Warnings. This is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Minnesota, and here are a few tips from The Minnesota Department of Public Safety: "We are fortunate to live in an age and country where our technology can now communicate with us almost anywhere and give us advanced warnings of impending hazards or other important information.  Knowing where and how you can receive the warnings and what to do when you get them can mean the difference between life and death.  The information on these pages is designed to provide some background on how citizens, business and communities can be sure they receive critical warnings, what they mean and how to react.

  • Personal Weather Alerts - Learn how and where to subscribe and receive immediate personal weather alerts on your communications devices and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on your cell phone.
  • Siren Activation Information - Learn how sirens are activated and why. 
  • Types of Warnings - Know the difference between a watch and a warning."

How Meteorologists Compare To Other Professions That Predict the Future. Financial analysts and professional pollsters...if only. Thank you Marshall Shepherd for a great post at Forbes; here's an excerpt: "...A study out of Hamilton College analyzed the accuracy of political pundits. In their analysis of 26 political experts, they considered over 472 predictions made over a 16-month period on Sunday talk shows. The results, summarized in a press release, confirmed that

only nine of the prognosticators they studied could predict more accurately than a coin flip. Two were significantly less accurate, and the remaining 14 were not statistically any better or worse than a coin flip.

Meteorologists are able to predict, with up to 90% or more accuracy within 2 to 5 days, how a complex fluid on a rotating planet with oceans, mountains, and varying heat distributions changes. Kudos colleagues..."

File image: NOAA.

Why and How Capitalism Needs To Be Reformed. Ray Dalio makes a convincing case in Economic Principals that capitalism itself is in need of disruption; here's an excerpt: "...There has been little or no real income growth for most people for decades. As shown in the chart below on the left, prime-age workers in the bottom 60% have had no real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) income growth since 1980. That was at a time when incomes for the top 10% have doubled and those of the top 1% have tripled.i As shown in the chart to the right, the percentage of children who grow up to earn more than their parents has fallen from 90% in 1970 to 50% today. That’s for the population as a whole. For most of those in the lower 60%, the prospects are worse..."

YouTube Executives Ignored Warnings, Let Toxic Videos Run Rampant. Because it's all about the algorithm, stupid. Check out an expose at Bloomberg; here's a clip: "...And YouTube is, a year later, even more associated with the darker parts of the web. The conundrum isn’t just that videos questioning the moon landing or the efficacy of vaccines are on YouTube. The massive “library,” generated by users with little editorial oversight, is bound to have untrue nonsense. Instead, YouTube’s problem is that it allows the nonsense to flourish. And, in some cases, through its powerful artificial intelligence system, it even provides the fuel that lets it spread. Wojcicki and her deputies know this. In recent years, scores of people inside YouTube and Google, its owner, raised concerns about the mass of false, incendiary and toxic content that the world’s largest video site surfaced and spread..."

Illustration credit: Graham Roumieu.

AI Can Predict When Someone Will Die With Unsettling Accuracy. Would you even want to know? NBC News has the post; here's a clip: "...Scientists recently trained an AI system to evaluate a decade of general health data submitted by more than half a million people in the United Kingdom. Then, they tasked the AI with predicting if individuals were at risk of dying prematurely — in other words, sooner than the average life expectancy — from chronic disease, they reported in a new study. The predictions of early death that were made by AI algorithms were "significantly more accurate" than predictions delivered by a model that did not use machine learning, lead study author Dr. Stephen Weng, an assistant professor of epidemiology and data science at the University of Nottingham (UN) in the U.K., said in a statement..."

Image credit: Cray.

70 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

54 F. average high on April 8.

32 F. high on April 8, 2018.

April 9, 1931: Severe dust storms are reported in St. Paul.

TUESDAY: Partly sunny, breezy. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 52

WEDNESDAY: Winter Storm Watch. Light mix, slushy lawns late. Winds: E 10-20. Wake-up: 34. High: 39

THURSDAY: Winter Storm Watch. Snow and sleet, heavy at times. Treacherous travel. Winds: NE 5-30. Wake-up: 31. High: 35

FRIDAY: Snow slowly tapers. 10"+ snow totals. Winds: N 10-20. Wake-up: 29. High: 37

SATURDAY: Partly sunny, rapid melting. Winds: W 7-12. Wake-up: 27. High: 46

SUNDAY: Patchy fog, then some sun. Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 30. High: 47

MONDAY: Mild sunshine. Snow mostly-melted. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 37. High: 55

Climate Stories....

Midwestern Mayors Speak Out as Climate Impacts Hit: Climate Nexus has an overview of a story at Rolling Stone that attempts to connect the dots: "Midwestern towns hard-hit by last month's devastating floods are buckling their seatbelts for more damage as their mayors sound the alarm on climate change and crumbling infrastructure, Rolling Stone reports. A group from the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, a collection of 88 mayors from 10 states along the Mississippi, traveled to DC last month to ask lawmakers for nearly $8 billion in infrastructure funding and "didn't hold back" on the devastating impacts of climate change during those meetings. "Before I came into office 15 years ago, I was told not to worry about flooding because there had been a 100-year flood and a 500-year flood. I didn’t have to worry, they said, it wasn’t going to happen again," Clarksville, Missouri mayor Jo Anne Smiley told Rolling Stone. "Since that time we’ve had something nearly every year and sometimes twice in one year."

Dumping Capitalism Won't Save the Planet. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed that caught my eye at Bloomberg Opinion: "It has become fashionable on social media and in certain publications to argue that capitalism is killing the planet. Even renowned investor Jeremy Grantham, hardly a radical, made that assertion last year. The basic idea is that the profit motive drives the private sector to spew carbon into the air with reckless abandon. Though many economists and some climate activists believe that the problem is best addressed by modifying market incentives with a carbon tax, many activists believe that the problem can’t be addressed without rebuilding the economy along centrally planned lines. The climate threat is certainly dire, and carbon taxes are unlikely to be enough to solve the problem. But eco-socialism is probably not going to be an effective method of addressing that threat. Dismantling an entire economic system is never easy, and probably would touch off armed conflict and major political upheaval..."

Image credit: NASA.

Climate Change Group Scrapped by Trump Reassembles to Issue Warning. The Guardian reports: "A US government climate change advisory group scrapped by Donald Trump has reassembled independently to call for better adaptation to the floods, wildfires and other threats that increasingly loom over American communities. The Trump administration disbanded the 15-person Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment in August 2017. The group, formed under Barack Obama’s presidency, provided guidance to the government based on the National Climate Assessment, a major compendium of climate science released every four years. Documents released under freedom of information laws subsequently showed the Trump administration was concerned about the ideological makeup of the panel. “It only has one member from industry, and the process to gain more balance would take a couple of years to accomplish,” wrote George Kelly, then the deputy chief of staff at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in a June 2017 email..."

Photo credit: Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, Reuters.

Investing Prophet Jeremy Grantham Takes Aim at Climate Change. And he's putting his money where his mouth is, according to a story at Bloomberg: "...He gives a talk titled “Race of Our Lives”—the one between the Earth’s rapidly warming temperature and the human beings coming up with ways to fight and adapt to climate change. Green technologies, like batteries and solar and wind power, are improving far faster than many realize, he says. Decarbonizing the economy will be an investing bonanza for those who know it’s coming—“the biggest reshuffling of the economy since the Industrial Revolution.” Despite these gains, people are losing the race: Climate change is also accelerating, with consequences so dire that they’re almost impossible to imagine. Grantham says he’ll devote 98 percent of his net worth, or about $1 billion, to help humans win the race..."

Climate Change Linked to More Seasonal Allergies in the U.S., Study Says. CBS Baltimore connects the dots and confirms the trends: "Climate change may be the cause of more spring allergies reported across the U.S., a new study shows. According to researchers at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, human-induced climate change is changing when plants bloom and when spring begins. Ultimately, it’s leading to more seasonal allergies. The study, which was based on more than 300,000 responses between 2012 and 2103, show that hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis increases when the spring blooms. “We found that areas where the onset of spring was earlier than normal had 14% higher prevalence of hay fever,” said Associate Professor Amir Sapkota in the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health. “Surprisingly, we also found similar risk in areas where the onset of spring was much later than what is typical for that geographic location...”

Heaven or High Water. Good time to buy a place in Miami Beach? Read this post at Popula first; here's an excerpt: "Sunny day flooding” is flooding where water comes right up from the ground, hence the name, and yes, it can certainly rain during sunny day flooding, and yes, that makes it worse. Sunny day flooding happens in many parts of Miami, but it is especially bad in Sunset Harbour, the low-lying area on Miami Beach’s west side. The sea level in Miami has risen ten inches since 1900; in the 2000 years prior, it did not really change. The consensus among informed observers is that the sea will rise in Miami Beach somewhere between 13 and 34 inches by 2050. By 2100, it is extremely likely to be closer to six feet, which means, unless you own a yacht and a helicopter, sayonara. Sunset Harbour is expected to fare slightly worse, and to do so more quickly..."

Photo credit: Sarah Miller.

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Weather blog: Potential for 6- to 12-plus inches of snow, up to 50 mph wind gusts.

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Paul Douglas: Wintry mix drops 3-8 inches in metro by Friday, with blizzard warning to west