Too Much Warning?

There's a nagging, dangerous perception that big, Oklahoma-size tornadoes can't hit the Twin Cities. Although rare, violent, long-track tornadoes are possible, especially in May.

On May 6, 1965 a swarm of 6 major tornadoes, 4 of them EF-4 super-twisters, hit the metro area. Fridley experienced 2 EF-4's, just 85 minutes apart. WCCO-AM saved countless lives with their coverage, but 13 people died, 683 were injured. These were the last EF-4's to strike the metro.

Now comes new research suggesting that longer lead times, 30 or 40 minutes, compared to a national average of 13 minutes, may lead to poor, even reckless decisions; people try to drive away from the approaching instead of sheltering in place, which greatly increases the risk. You don't want to be sitting in a car or truck when a tornado crosses the interstate. Bad idea.

Live TV video of an approaching tornado gets people moving MUCH faster than hearing a tornado warning. Seeing is believing. And motorcycle helmets may offer the best protection from head and neck injuries. Details on my blog below.

Nothing violent in sight, just a gray Saturday with a warming trend later this week. 60s return tomorrow; 70s by next weekend as a ridge of warm high pressure stretches north across the Plains. I could see 80 degrees in about a week.

A growl of thunder is possible Tuesday, again Friday but nothing severe is brewing just yet. Give it a couple of weeks.


May 6, 1965 Super-Outbreak In The Twin Cities. The local Twin Cities National Weather Service has a link to a page with more details of the remarkable tornado outbreak of 1965. There hasn't been anything like it since, which has created a misleading sense of apathy among some local residents. "Big tornadoes can't hit here - it's too urban, too built-up". That's simply not the case. A large tornado has warm, moist inflow from a 20 mile radius. A few parking lots and high-rise buildings won't slow it down. Here's an excerpt from a good NWS summary: "The worst tornadoes in Twin Cities history occurred in 1965, with five tornadoes sweeping across the western and northern portions of the 7-county region, and a sixth tornado just outside the metropolitan area. Four tornadoes were rated F4, one was an F3, and the other produced F2 damage. Thirteen people were killed and 683 injured. Many more would have been killed had it not been for the warnings of the U.S. Weather Bureau, local officials, and the outstanding communications by local radio and television stations. Many credit the announcers of WCCO-AM with saving countless lives. It was also the first time in Twin Cities history that civil defense sirens were used for severe weather..."
 
Photo credit above: "An areal view of the destruction along Louisa Drive in Mounds View." Picture courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society, Photograph Collection.

This Week's Chilly, Snowy Relapse. Mark Seeley has more details on the cold snap earlier in the week. Flurries brushed the Twin Cities metro; but a plowable amount of flurries piled up over the Minnesota Arrowhead. Here's an excerpt from his latest report at Minnesota WeatherTalk: "Many places around the state reported at least a trace of snow on April 21st (Tuesday) and 22nd (Wednesday), and some places reported measurable amounts.  The following were new daily record snowfalls amounts for April 21st:

4.0" at Isabella
1.5" at Embarrass, Kabetogama, and Ely

In addition Orr reported 3.0", Tower 2.0", and International Falls 1.9" but these were not new record totals for the date.  Following the snow, the low temperature plunged to just 10°F at both Fosston and Embarrass, the coldest reading in the nation for April 23rd..." (Boundary Waters webcam courtesy of U.S. Forest Service).


Spring Regains Its Bounce. After a brief temperature relapse earlier this week, complete with obligatory snowflakes, milder air returns to Minnesota next week with highs in the 60s. European guidance suggests 70s, even 80s by next weekend. The best chance of a few showers and T-showers: Tuesday, again Friday of next week. Source: Weatherspark.


How Warm Weather Influences our Mood. Yes, warm fronts can be good for your state of mind; breaking news from the University of Duh. There's even science to back up (the obvious!) Here's an excerpt of a good summary at Huffington Post: "...The gold standard on this subject is a 2004 University of Michigan study that found people who spent at least 30 minutes outside in pleasant weather -- either by taking a trip to warmer climates in the winter months or by taking advantage of a newly warm spring day in the park -- had happier moods. And in corroborating research, a 2014 UM study found that being outside could lead to a better mindset and reduced stress..."


How Alabama Made Tornado Helmets a Standard for Protection. My first choice is a form-fitted concrete-reinforced, form-fitted body cast that's bolted to the floor. My second choice would be a helmet, for a variety of good reasons. AL.com is doing some terrific reporting on what is considered state of the art; here's an excerpt: "...Earlier, AL.com, using the analysis of the UAB Injury Control Research Center that the best helmets for protection would be those that offer head, neck and face protection, listed the top helmets for protection:

1)    An American Motorcycle Association-approved helmet with a full face shield providing head and neck protection is the top helmet and is easily accessible. But a good motorcycle helmet can cost many hundreds of dollars.

2) Football helmet. A football helmet is designed to protect the head and face, including the sides of the head. It should be one approved for full contact. A good football helmet can cost more than $200..."

Photo credit above: "Motorcycle helmets with face guards offer best protection like this one. Mike Culberson credits this helmet with preventing injury, if not saving his life, when his home roof collapsed during tornado in Fultondale, Ala., on April 27, 2011." (Special/Michael Culberson).


Special Report: Are Tornado Sirens Outdated Technology? The short answer is yes. Here's a snippet from a story at wsaw.com: "...And the Langlade County Emergency Manager, Brad Henricks agrees. Because he said tornado sirens are not as reliable as you may think. “To mention if you can even hear it at 2 a.m. in the morning when severe weather approaches. Second problem, the sirens don't tell you exactly what the threat is, there are better ways to get informed,” said Henricks. He said a new technology called a “Wireless Alert System” on your cell phone could be even more effective. That system sends important messages through your cell phone. It's geographic specific. So if you are from Las Vegas visiting Wisconsin and if the activity is in range of your phone, you'll get a text message..."


What If April 9th Tornado Had Taken A Different Path? Large cities have been particularly lucky when it comes to direct strikes from major tornadoes. So argues the author of this good post at Northern Illinois University Newsroom: "...And had it been closer to Chicago, the number of homes and people affected would have been immense. People have a false sense that tornadoes only happen in rural settings, but nothing could be further from truth,” he added. As evidence, he points to Minneapolis, Atlanta, Springfield, Mass., Huntsville, Ala. and Raleigh, N.C. Just within the last decade, tornadoes have struck downtown areas in those cities. In Illinois, the 1967 Oak Lawn tornado and the 1990 Plainfield tornado are reminders that the Chicago metropolitan region is not immune to tornado threats..."

Photo courtesy NIU meteorology professor Walker Ashley.


Radar Upgrade Has "Changed The Way We Do Business" At Weather Service. Al.com has an interesting article focusing on the advantages of dual-polarization Doppler radar, and for the first time, the ability to see debris lofted into the air by large tornadoes. Here's an excerpt: "...Dual-pol radar can help meteorologists better identify when a tornado has touched down. It's even more useful at night, when storm spotting becomes next to impossible. "It can tell us when a tornado is on the ground and that debris is being cast high into the air," said Jeffrey Medlin, the meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service office in Mobile. "We have several different data sets we can look at within the dual pol and see that..."

Image credit above: "Dual-polarization radar enables meteorologists to see when a tornado is on the ground and debris is being thrown into the air. It's working much better than many anticipated." (National Weather Service).


U.S. Maps Pinpoint Earthquakes Linked To Quest for Oil and Gas. The New York Times reports; here's the intro: "The United States Geological Survey on Thursday released its first comprehensive assessment of the link between thousands of earthquakes and oil and gas operations, identifying and mapping 17 regions where quakes have occurred. The report was the agency’s broadest statement yet on a danger that has grown along with the nation’s energy production. By far the hardest-hit state, the report said, is Oklahoma, where earthquakes are hundreds of times more common than they were until a few years ago because of the disposal of wastewater left over from extracting fuels and from drilling wells by injecting water into the earth..."

Map credit above: "The maps below show where there has been seismic activity, caused mostly by oil and gas operations. Northern Oklahoma and southern Kansas have been especially hard hit, with an exponential growth in the number of human-caused earthquakes." Source: U.S. Geological Survey.


Artificial Photosynthesis Breakthrough Turns CO2 Emissions Into Plastics and Biofuels. Ultimately innovation, not regulation, will take the edge of climate volatility. Here's another shining example, courtesy of Gizmag: "Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley have created a hybrid system of bacteria and semiconducting nanowires that mimics photosynthesis. According to the researchers, their versatile, high-yield system can take water, sunlight and carbon dioxide and turn them into the building blocks of biodegradable plastics, pharmaceutical drugs and even biofuel..." (File image credit: NASA).


What You Need To Know Before Investing In Solar Stocks. The Motley Fool has some advice; here's an excerpt: "There may not be an industry with greater potential for growth today than the solar industry. It's a $120 billion industry today that's upending an electricity industry that will be worth $4 trillion annually by 2035 -- and it could go on to upend transportation fuel as well. That's incredible growth potential for a solar industry that has already grown 30% compounded annually over the last 20 years...."

Photo credit above: "Entire communities are going solar, changing the energy landscape." Source: SolarCity.


Scientists Find Missing Link in Yellowstone Plumbing: This Giant Volcano Is Very Much Alive. To paraphrase George Carlin, don't sweat the thundershowers. And forget warming, if this baby goes of we're talking nuclear winter for an extended stretch. Pray we don't start issuing updates on Yellowstone anytime soon. Here's a clip from The Washington Post: "Yellowstone National Park is the home of one of the world's largest volcanoes, one that is quiescent for the moment but is capable of erupting with catastrophic violence at a scale never before witnessed by human beings. In a big eruption, Yellowstone would eject 1,000 times as much material as the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. This would be a disaster felt on a global scale, which is why scientists are looking at this thing closely..."

Photo credit above: "The gorgeous colors of Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic hot spring are among the national park’s myriad hydrothermal features created by the Yellowstone supervolcano. A new University of Utah study reports discovery of a huge magma reservoir beneath Yellowstone’s previously known magma chamber." (“Windows into the Earth,” Robert B. Smith and Lee J. Siegel).


The Army Is Testing Handheld Ray Guns. What was once science fiction is now scientific reality. Pretty amazing, and this new breakthrough makes your Taser look like a toy. Here's an excerpt from DefenseOne: "...The military, too, has been experimenting with so-called energy weapons for decades, including lasers. “Most of these are vehicle-towed and require a huge power system,” Burke noted. “The antennas are sometimes seven feet.” The Burke Pulser, meanwhile, fits onto an M4 rifle like a standard suppressor. Burke estimates that the cost to mass-produce them would be less than $1,000 each. What do you do with an energy gun? You don’t shoot people. The gun is intended for use against electronics, potentially giving dismounted soldiers an edge against the ever-wider range electronic and cyber threats that they might face on patrol..."

Photo credit above:  U.S. Army photo by Army Staff Sgt. Scott Griffin


Mission Possible. Can a 64-year-old guy with heart disease, emphysema (COPD), and missing half a lung, succeed at twelve of the most iconic climbs in America?  "Phil Huston climbed mountains, rock cliffs and ice walls in 5 countries. He climbed Mount Rainier 12 times; the last ascent just 3 months after losing half of his lung to cancer. “The Climb for Clear Lungs Adventure” proves that even the worst health crises can be overcome. Let’s show how strong older athletes really are!  35 days. 12 climbs. 7 destinations. 18,000 vertical feet. Goal: Promoting screening for millions with undiagnosed lung diseases."

Clear Lungs Adventure: Sunday, 4/26 at 3:30, Room 104 Hanson Hall, University of MN, West Bank.

* If you've smoked at least 100 cigarettes over the course of your life you are at increased risk of COPD. Phil is a dear friend of mine (we worked together at WLOL-FM). He isn't letting COPD slow him down, but his mission is to raise awareness among the general population. Many people have COPD and they don't even realize it yet. Take the screening test from the COPD Foundation; it takes a minute or two.


China Says Please Stop Hiring Funeral Strippers. My new favorite headline of the week, and potential proof that we may be, in fact, living in the End Times. Here's an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal: "In China, friends and family of the deceased may have to do without a special form of funereal entertainment: strippers. According to a statement from the Ministry of Culture on Thursday, the government plans to work closely with the police to eliminate such performances, which are held with the goal of drawing more mourners..."


52 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities Friday.

62 F. average high on April 24.

45 F. high on April 24, 2014.

.34" rain fell yesterday at MSP International Airport.

April 25, 1996: Heavy snow over northern Minnesota. 10 inches of snow at Baudette. The International Falls airport closed for only the second time in history.


TODAY: Clouds give way to partly sunny skies, cool breeze. Winds: E 10-20. High: 55

SATURDAY NIGHT: Clouds linger. Low: 39

SUNDAY: Partly sunny, a nicer day. High: near 60

MONDAY: Intervals of sun, lukewarm breeze. Wake-up: 42. High: 66

TUESDAY: Unsettled, passing T-shower. Wake-up: 48. High: 63

WEDNESDAY: Mix of clouds and sunshine. Wake-up: 50. High: 62

THURSDAY: Some sun, almost feels like spring. Wake-up: 48. High: 68

FRIDAY: Humid, risk of a few T-storms. Wake-up: 52. High: 69

* 70s are possible next weekend, even a shot at 80F. on Sunday, May 3.


Climate Stories...

Warming Hiatus Will Not Stop Long-Term Global Climate Change. Factoring additional heat going into the oceans there hasn't been a true hiatus in warming; here's a clip from Sydney Morning Herald: "A recent hiatus in global temperature rises will not temper the ultimate impact of climate change by the end of the century, research by Australian climate scientists has found. In a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Thursday, the researchers compared different climate models – complex computer simulations used by scientists to project the impact of rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gas – that showed a decade-long hiatus in surface temperature rises since 1995 to those that did not..."


Thawing Permafrost: A Slow, Giant Carbon Release. InsideClimate News takes a look at what may wind up being the biggest climate tipping point: "...Kevin Schaefer, a permafrost scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder and an author of the article, calls the thawing of the permafrost a "true climatic tipping point." Scientists are still trying to pinpoint when it will happen, but Schaefer said that a likely point is around the middle of this century, when the Arctic changes from a carbon sink to a carbon source. When that happens, it will trigger a centuries-long, unstoppable feedback system, in which warming will release carbon, which will trigger more warming, which will release more carbon..."


Bob Inglis: Show Courage on Climate Change. Yes, finding ways to grow the economy and put more people to work, tapping more energy without relying on fossil fuels is America's Energy Moonshot for the 21st century. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from former South Carolina (Republican) Congressman Bob Inglis at GreenvilleOnline: "America has an exceptional opportunity to prove that accountable free enterprise can solve climate change. The Great Recession dealt a blow to our confidence, but we’re coming back. If we boldly end all subsidies for all fuels and attach all costs to all fuels, liberty and transparent markets will spark consumer-driven innovation. In order for America to lead on climate change, the unconvinced need to be persuaded that achievable solutions can be found that fit with their values. Climate doomsayers have incanted a future full of fear. Climate naysayers have counseled a clutch of the fuels that have worked for us in the past..." (File photo above: Richard Shiro, AP).


Will Drought And Climate Change Kill the Winter Olympics? Vice Sports has a fascinating story about shifting patterns and which cities have the consistently cold winter weather and moisture to be able to support an Olympic bid; here's an excerpt: "...Even beyond 2022, the Winter Olympics appears to be in peril. As temperatures continue to rise as a result of climate change, the minimum temperature benchmark of 32F will be harder to meet. The table (above) lists the current daily minimum and maximum temperatures in February at all the previous host cities' alpine venues since Nagano, Japan, in 1998..."


Exclusive: Obama Tells Us What's To Come on Climate, Drought. National Geographic has the article; here's an excerpt that caught my eye: "...The president is more opaque, however, when asked directly about whether Americans should expect to sacrifice everyday activities that consume fossil fuels and water. Instead, he points to how far the country has come in recent decades, and to how much progress is under way. “In just 40 years, we’ve cut air pollution by nearly 70 percent while the economy has tripled,” he says. “By the middle of the next decade, our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas.” He adds that reducing climate-altering gases “represents one of the greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century...”


What Do Volcanic Eruptions Mean For The Climate? Carbon Brief does a good job summarizing the potential impact of the new volcano roaring to life in Chile; here's an excerpt: "...Volcanic eruptions can affect climate in  two main ways. First, they release the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, contributing to warming of the atmosphere. But the effect is very small. Emissions from volcanoes since 1750 are  thought to be at least 100 times smaller than those from fossil fuel burning. Second, sulphur dioxide contained in the ash cloud can produce a cooling effect, explains Prof Jim McQuaid, professor of atmospheric composition at the University of Leeds..."

Photo credit above: Calbuco volcano eruption. Credit: Philip Oyarzo Calisto


Changes in Water Vapor and Clouds are Amplifying Global Warming. The Guardian has the story - here's a snippet: "... If the cooling effect gets smaller, it means the Earth will warm more than expected. If the cooling effect of clouds gets bigger, it means the Earth will warm less than expected.
What the present paper shows is that future changes to clouds will cause slightly more warming. Scientists describe clouds as a “positive feedback” on global warming. This finding is consistent with the work of Dr. Andrew Dessler. He had published work here and here showing changes in clouds are making the Earth warm more than otherwise expected
..."

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