Fake Spring: Cold, Slushy Correction On The Way

What keeps me up at night? A Cat 5 hurricane hitting Miami. An EF-4 tornado striking Chicago at rush hour. A melting polar ice cap tipping point. Artificial intelligence making my job redundant.

Getting a diploma or even a college degree - and then thinking you're set for life, has gone the way of 8-track tapes, bell bottom jeans and the Bee Gees. By some estimates today's graduates will have 2-4 different CAREERS and 1-2 dozen jobs.

With automation, robotics and artificial intelligence rendering many jobs obsolete, how do we empower a nimble work force to retrain for new jobs that don't even exist yet? Digital disruption is speeding up - we need smart policies that put people first.

Winds may gust past 50 mph today - minor tree damage and power outages are possible as Canadian air returns. A series of Alberta Clippers arrive Saturday into Monday, capable of slushing up yards. But in March a high sun angle will quickly melt snow , unlike January.

Hope you didn't pack away your coat yet: temperatures may not top 30 F. this weekend. 'Siri' on my iPhone just warned me.

Uh oh.

Here is what Doppler Radar was showing - and I was tweeting out Monday afternoon and evening:

Timeline From Monday Night's Posible Tornado. No official confirmation yet from the local Chanhassen office of the National Weather Service, but with reports of "housing pieces wrapped around trees" I strongly suspect a tornado in the Zimmerman area. There was a deep layer of strong rotation. We may not know if it was tornadic vs. straight-line winds until the sun comes up Tuesday and NWS officials can inspect the storm damage.

Monday Severe Storm Reports. As of 10:30 pm last night there were 23 preliminary tornado reports from Iowa to Kansas. I still strongly suspect the storm that hit Zimmerman was a tornado - we'll have a better sense from the local NWS teams later today. Map credit: NOAA SPC.

New Record For Earliest Minnesota Tornado? Probably. The previous record is March 18, 1968 in Watonwan County. Nobody was hurt.

Wild Winds. Models show a tight pressure gradient as we transition from late April and early May back to mid-February in the coming days, turning on sustained winds of 20-40 mph today, with gusts over 50 mph. 10-meter NAM wind forecast: NOAA and Tropicaltidbits.com.

Reality Readjustment. Yes, it's perfectly normal to wear a parka over your shorts. By Friday you'll be scratching your head, wondering if it's really the second week of March. Any discomfort will be relatively brief with 40s returning next week. ECMWF numbers for MSP: WeatherBell.

Volatile Pattern. We never just ease into spring. Winter departs kicking and screaming, but this year the transition to warmer, wetter weather, coupled with significant wind shear from a very active and persistent subtropical jet, may spark a disproportionate amount of severe weather. Everything I see suggests the most active and potentially destructive spring for severe storms and tornadoes since 2011-2012.

84-Hour Snowfall Potential. The coveted Golden Snow Shovel Award goes to Boise and possibly Jackson Hole, where another 1-2 feet of snow may pile up by Friday morning, according to 12 KM NAM guidance. A candy-coating of accumulation is likely from the Dakotas into northern Minnesota and northern New England.

Winter is Not Coming. We Need Winter. There will be occasional "polar vortex" winters, but they will probably be the exception, not the rule, as the atmosphere continues to warm. Here's an excerpt from ThinkProgress: "...In nature, timing is everything. In a spring, flowers lend their nectar to bees, and bees pollinate those flowers. When flowers bloom too soon, however, they risk losing their petals and nectar before bees show up. Fewer bees mean less pollination, and so forth. But if both species resurface at the onset of spring, why would they fall out of sync? The answer is that they respond to different cues. Some plants, like Washington’s cherry trees, bloom after experiencing several warms days in a row. Others respond to sunlight, blossoming only after days grow longer. Pollinators — such as birds, bees, bats, and butterflies—have evolved to take advantage of these subtle, seasonal cues. In a normal year, these cues more or less line up as anticipated, leading the birds and the bees to discharge their vernal duties at roughly the appropriate time. But climate change is blurring the line between winter and spring — a phenomenon scientists call season creep — and many species of both flora and fauna are struggling to adapt..." File photo: A flower withers in a late-season frost." CREDIT: USDA

Early Spring Warmth Wreaks Havoc on Plants, Allergies, Bugs. USA TODAY talks about the implications of another early spring for much of the USA: "...In Memphis, many of the city's trees and plants are about a month ahead of schedule, Rick Pudwell, director of horticulture at Memphis Botanic Garden, said recently. And in New Jersey, the recent warmth has caused tree and shrub buds to start swelling early. However, any extended cold could still affect early-spring flowering trees, said Bill Zipse, regional forester for the state forest service. Changes in the timing of spring can affect human health, bringing early-season disease-carriers such as ticks and mosquitoes, and an earlier, longer and more vigorous pollen season, the National Phenology Network warned. While a longer growing season can result in increased yields for some crops, it is risky because of the higher likelihood of plant damage caused by late frosts or summer drought..."

Buyer Beware. I have my bootleg copy of the 2017 Farmer's Almanac, which I consult for articles and trivia, but as a long-range weather predictor? Not so much. The image in the upper left shows the official forecast for meteorological winter; upper right shows actual temperature departure from normal this past winter: warmer than average east of the Rockies, but colder for the Pacific Northwest, where it was supposed to be "Mild and Stormy". They got the stormy part right.

Flood Claims Cost the U.S. Billions, but Congress Can Fix That. Isn't doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results the definition of insanity? TheHill has a must-read story; here's are a couple of snippets: "Major flood events are becoming the new normal. In 2016, there were four inland floods causing at least $1 billion in damages each, double the average number of nontropical storm-related floods since 1980. While the headlines around these events focus, understandably, on property damage and the impact on individuals and families, a big piece of the story — the escalating cost to the federal government — is often left untold...That means that some 15,000 homes and businesses in the U.S. are flooded so often, or so severely, that the ensuing repairs cost more than the property is worth. In Alabama, for example, a home valued at $153,000 has cost the NFIP $2.3 million in claims payments. Similarly, a Mississippi home valued at $69,900 has flooded 34 times in 32 years, costing the program $663,000. This imposes tremendous costs on taxpayers and the federal government, and the problem is only expected to get worse..." (File image: USGS).

First Images from GOES-16 Lightning Mapper. Dan Satterfield shares the good news for meteorologists and consumers at AGU Blogosphere: "The Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) is working. This instrument will likely be a revolutionary advance in severe storm forecasting and warnings and can measure the total lightning in storms. Current lightning data sees cloud to ground strokes, but these coordinate poorly with severe weather. Research shows that total lightning does correlate well with severe weather and can significantly increase lead times and it will likely reduce false alarms as well. I was involved in a NOAA experiment using total lightning data, and I think it will be a real game changer..."

GOES-16: 100x Increase in Data. Check out this backgrounder on the new (amazing) GOES-16 satellite from UCAR: "...But the advantages of GOES-16 also create new challenges. The satellite has three times as many spectral channels as its predecessors, each with four times more resolution. It can scan the entire Western Hemisphere every 15 minutes and simultaneously generate images of severe weather every 30-60 seconds. All this data will amount to about 1 terabyte per day, more than 100 times the amount of data produced by an existing GOES satellite. And even more data can be expected when NOAA launches additional advanced GOES satellites in coming years..."

NOAA Cuts Could Stymie Research, Put Lives at Risk. Climate Central takes a deep dive into proposed cuts at NOAA: "...The OAR and satellite divisions are critical for maintaining and advancing forecasting and modeling capabilities in both the weather and climate spheres, experts said, and any cuts will curtail those capabilities well into the future. Polar orbiting satellites, which aide in longer-term forecasting, are already facing problematic gaps, as funding shortfalls and planning delays have resulted in a delay in the launch of replacement satellites. The Government Accountability Office included the polar satellite program and a potential coverage gap on its 2017 high risk list due to the challenges it already faces. The new budget zeroes out funding for the Polar Follow On program, which is developing the next polar satellites. Modeling capabilities could also be impacted. For several years, some meteorologists and climate researchers have remarked that the U.S. is already behind European weather and climate modelling efforts, run by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, which is investing more than $50 million in a new building to house a new, next-generation supercomputer..."

Weather Service: Perryville (Missouri) Tornado Was Rare EF-4. FOX2now.com has details on an especially violent, long-lasting tornado: "The National Weather Service has reclassified a tornado that killed one person and destroyed dozens of homes in the Perryville area as an EF-4 twister. The weather service’s preliminary finding classified Tuesday night’s tornado as an EF-3. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (http://bit.ly/2mnK8KG ) the new information was released Saturday by the Perryville Police Department, which was briefed by the weather service Friday. Meteorologist Rick Shankland says the tornado carried winds up to 180 mph. Shankland told police the tornado was six-tenths of a mile wide and traveled 50.4 miles, the longest track in 25 years..."

Photo credit: "Perryville tornado damage in a neighborhood near Moore Drive off Hwy 61." (Source: Katie Kormann).

The High Toll of Costly Water: Who Will Pay for America's Quiet Water Crisis? Here's a clip from an eye-opening article at Fusion: "...Mack, along with research assistant Sarah Wrase, determined that if water rates increase at projected amounts over the next five years, the percentage of households that can’t pay their water bills could triple from 11.9% to more than a third. Nearly 14 million households nationwide already struggle to afford water services. An additional 27.18 million—or 8.5% of the country’s population—could soon face the same challenges. “I don’t think we think about this, about what it would mean to not have running water,” Mack told Fusion. Of course, some Americans have experienced it. Water affordability is becoming an increasingly critical issue in cities across the country, including Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle, and Detroit. In Philadelphia, an estimated four out of 10 water accounts are past due. Atlanta and Seattle have some of the highest water rates in the country..." (Image credit: NOAA).

Exposure to Pollution Kills Millions of Children, WHO Report Finds. Here's a summary from The Washington Post: "Exposure to polluted environments is associated with more than one in four deaths among children younger than 5, according to two World Health Organization reports published Monday. Worldwide, 1.7 million children's deaths are attributable to environmental hazards, such as exposure to contaminated water, indoor and outdoor pollution, and other unsanitary conditions, the reports found. Weaker immune systems make children's health more vulnerable to harmful effects of polluted environments, the report says..."

Photo credit: "Indian pedestrians cover their faces amid heavy dust and smog in New Delhi." (Harish Tyagi/European Pressphoto Agency)

Coal Industry Casts Itself as a Clean Energy Player. The New York Times has the story; here's a clip: "...Seeking to shore up their struggling industry, the coal producers are voicing greater concern about greenhouse gas emissions. Their goal is to frame a new image for coal as a contributor, not an obstacle, to a clean-energy future — an image intended to foster their legislative agenda. Executives of the three companies — Cloud Peak Energy, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal — are going so far as to make common cause with some of their harshest critics, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Clean Air Task Force. Together, they are lobbying for a tax bill to expand government subsidies to reduce the environmental impact of coal burning. The technology they are promoting is carbon capture and sequestration — an expensive and, up to now, unwieldy method of trapping carbon dioxide emitted from coal-fired power plants before the gas can blanket the atmosphere and warm the planet..."

Photo credit: "Carbon capture equipment at NRG’s power generating station southwest of Houston." Michael Stravato for The New York Times.

Wind Power: A New Cash Crop for Minnesota Farmers. Here's an excerpt of an update from Wind On The Wires: "...Rural communities have much to gain from welcoming a wind project into their community.  Wind development projects inject millions of dollars into the local economy.  This happens in a few ways.  First, developers strive to buy local goods and services whenever possible.  They use local restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, hardware stores, service stations, building and construction supply companies, print shops, and other services as much as possible. This gives a real boost to local businesses.  After construction, good-paying permanent jobs remain for service technicians and administrative personnel. Second, wind energy has become a new “cash crop” for many farmers and ranchers. U.S. wind farms now pay an estimated $245 million a year to farming families.  At the end of 2015, AWEA reported that 70 percent of that revenue goes to landowners who live in counties with below average incomes, providing a welcome source of new income..."

The Politics of Renewables and Trump. Here's an excerpt from Axios that made me do a double-take: "Trump has criticized wind-power, cast doubts on solar power's cost effectiveness, and promised on the campaign trail he would bring back coal jobs. But Trump is unlikely to touch the tax credits that subsidize investments and production in solar and wind power. Here's why that makes sense: States politically important to Trump support renewables jobs: Republican states that led to Trump's 2016 win support hundreds of thousands of jobs in the renewable energy industry, and for the most part, states that Trump narrowly won have a higher percentage of energy jobs that are renewable-energy jobs than safe Republican states. (And generally among Democratic states, the higher the percentage of energy jobs that are renewable energy jobs, the stronger the margins for Democratic candidates...)"

America Doesn't Have to Choose Between the Economy and the Climate. Here's an excerpt of an encouraging report at World Resources Institute: "...Beyond economic growth, climate action can also have positive impacts on employment. Solar and wind are among the most dynamic industries in the nation. In 2016, the solar industry created one out of every 50 new jobs in the United States. Wind turbine technicians are expected to be the fastest-growing occupation over the next 10 years. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are already 374,000 American jobs in solar energy, 102,000 in wind energy and more than 2.2 million related to energy efficiency. For comparison, 160,000 Americans work in coal. The solar and wind jobs are spread out from coast to coast, including concentrations in the Midwest and Southwest..."

65 F. high temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.

36 F. average high on March 6.

60 F. high temperature on March 6, 2016.

March 7, 1987: A heat wave across Minnesota brings the earliest 70 degree readings on record to the Twin Cities. The record high for the day was 73, breaking the old record by 13 degrees. Shorts were common and people were turning over dirt in their gardens for planting.

March 7, 1950: A snow and ice storm hits Minnesota. The heaviest ice was in northwest and west central Minnesota, especially in Norman County near Twin Valley. 52 electrical poles were down in this area with ice up to 1 ½ inches on wires. All communication lines out of Fargo were out with wind gusts estimated up to 60 mph. In order to provide temporary long distance service to and from isolated communities, short wave radio equipment was used to bridge the gaps. In Pipestone, several plate glass windows were blown in. During the snowstorm that followed later in the day, a Northwest Airlines plane crashed into three homes in Minneapolis killing all 13 on the plane and two on the ground. The left wing of the plane struck a flagpole at Ft. Snelling National Cemetery as it circled to land.

Canada's Homegrown Snowmobile Lunatic. Kids, please don't try this at home - this guy is a trained professional. Details via Jalopnik: "Canada’s Larry Enticer has an old Yamaha snowmobile, a glorious mullet, a denim wardrobe that would make even Jay Leno blush....Behold, all that is Canada. Watch this highlight reel of Enticer’s stunts, and you, too, will feel as if you just shot mushed-up Timbits directly into your veins...."

TODAY: High Wind Watch. More clouds than sun. Winds gust past 50 mph. Winds: W 25-55. High: 47

TUESDAY NIGHT: Blustery - wailing winds top 45 mph. Low: 26

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny and colder, still gusty. Winds: NW 20-35. High: 35

THURSDAY: Intervals of sun, still chilly. Winds: N 7-12. Wake-up: 23. High: 36

FRIDAY: Cold breeze - peeks of sun. Winds: NE 7-12. Wake-up: 17. High: 29

SATURDAY: Clipper: slushy snowfall risk. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 19. High: near 30

SUNDAY: More light snow or flurries. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 22. High: 32

MONDAY: Another clipper. More slush? Winds: E 8-13. Wake-up: 24. High: 31

Map credit above: Twin Cities National Weather Service.

Climate Stories....

Arctic Ice Continues Its Astonishing Streak of Lows. What is going on in the Arctic? Here's an excerpt of an update from Climate Central: "Here’s your monthly reminder: something just isn’t right in the Arctic. February continued a string of record or near-record monthly sea ice lows. Warm weather ensured Arctic sea ice hit its lowest extent ever recorded for February. Sea ice covered 5.51 million square miles, which is 455,600 square miles below average or a chunk of missing sea ice four times the size of Italy. That just isn’t normal. Parts of the region averaged up to 9°F above normal, according to new data released by the National Snow and Ice Data Center. In what’s been a recurring theme this winter in the Arctic, incursion after incursion of warm air has kept the region astonishingly mild for this time of year. That’s slowed sea ice growth to a crawl and even reversed it at times, resulting in the run of monthly lows..."

Graphic credit: "February sea ice has declined since the start of satellite observations, hitting a record low in 2017." Credit: NSIDC

Jobs Take Center Stage of Climate Change Debate in Trump Era. Here's an excerpt from Bloomberg: "...Many Republicans, including the president, have been unmoved by environmental or scientific arguments that federal policies should support clean energy as a way to combat global warming. They may be swayed by the 360,000 jobs provided by wind and solar in the U.S. last year, business executives and environmentalists said Friday at a climate-change conference in Chicago. Economics have long been at the center of arguments supporting wind and solar power. But as President Donald Trump pushes to boost fossil fuel production and cede U.S. leadership on fighting climate change, clean energy advocates are talking about employment more than ever. “There is nothing that matters more to politicians than jobs and ribbon cuttings,’’ Bob Keefe, executive director of the non-profit group Environmental Entrepreneurs, said during a speech at the event. “They need to hear from business people that this is driving growth...’’

Inside the Quest to Monitor Countries' CO2 Emissions. From commercial aircraft to satellites, we need cost-effective ways to measure greenhouse gas emissions.  Here's a clip from Scientific American: "...While some space satellites can measure greenhouse gas emissions, they are expensive, depend on computer models and “have all kinds of biases” that make it difficult to reach the precision needed to accurately measure man-made emissions, explained NOAA’s Tans. NASA has recently selected a more sophisticated satellite for a launch in 2022, however, that offers some hope. It is called the Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory (GeoCARB), and would hover 22,000 miles in space, rotating with a constant view of most of the Americas. It comes with a bargain basement price (for a satellite) of $166 million over the next five years, partly because it will hitchhike a ride into space sitting in an unused area of a payload carrying a commercial communications satellite..."

Image credit: "This is an artist’s concept of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory. The mission, scheduled to launch in early 2009, will be the first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide." Credit: NASA, JPL

100 Years Ago Alexander Graham Bell Warned Us About the "Greenhouse Effect". Here's a clip from ThinkProgress: "In a 1917 paper, Alexander Graham Bell wrote that the unrestricted burning of fossil fuels “would have a sort of greenhouse effect.” The man who invented the telephone four decades earlier added, “the net result is the greenhouse becomes a sort of hot-house.” Bell was also concerned about the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels — “What shall we do when we have no more coal and oil?” So in a 1917 article for National Geographic Magazine, he urged the development of renewable ethanol fuel from agricultural waste, corn stalks, and saw-mill dust.” As one biographer wrote, Bell would “also explore ideas in energy conservation” and “solar heating...”

Photo credit: "Alexander Graham Bell at the opening of the long-distance line from New York to Chicago." CREDIT: Library of Congress, text by Patrick Smith, ThinkProgress.

4 Ways Climate Change is Messing with our Brains. Here's an excerpt from a story at Grist: "...But those brutal conditions also affect our mental health, changing how we think and act. Mental health professionals are paying attention to the link between climate change and emotional health — and health insurance companies are, too. Here are some of the impacts they’re concerned about. (Hat tip: CBS.)

  1. Disasters like floods, tornadoes, and drought have been found to trigger PTSD, anxiety, depression, and drug abuse.
  2. Slight increases in heat or rainfall have been found to raise the risk of riots and civil wars, as well as crimes like rape and murder.
  3. Babies in the womb who are exposed to urban air pollutants from fossil fuels are more likely to develop anxiety or depression later in life.
  4. Many people now experience “climate anxiety” — feeling depressed and overwhelmed by you-know-what — and support groups have emerged to help them..."

File photo credit: Shutterstock

Latest in Climate Change Debate: Cost-Benefit Analysis. A domestic or global cost of carbon? Here's an excerpt of a post at The Houston Chronicle: "...The Obama administration calculated a carbon cost for the entire planet, not just the United States, said Ted Gayer, director of economic studies at the nonpartisan think tank Brookings Institution. But that approach only makes sense if one was considering a global regulation, one that all the countries in the world would follow, Gayer testified at the hearing. "Absent such an approach… a global measure deviates from standard practice," he said. "The global measure is 4 to 14 times greater than the estimated domestic measure." Republicans have taken issue with other assumptions in the Obama administration's calculations. For example, why didn't the old administration factor in potential increases in crop yields from higher carbon dioxide levels - something many scientists believe could be happening already? Where people come down on these questions seems to largely depend on their views on climate change..."

Public Criticized DNR, Scott Walker Over Climate Change Scrub. Maybe if we ignore it - it'll go away. Here's an update from Wisconsin State Journal: "Hundreds of phone calls and emails voicing shock, outrage and ridicule flooded state Department of Natural Resources offices in December after top managers deleted language from the DNR website that had described the urgency of addressing human activity that has accelerated climate change. Some DNR employees handling the public reaction expressed frustration as managers waited days before telling them how to respond, and then provided a script that treated the altered web pages as a routine update. Documents released to the Wisconsin State Journal under the state open records law show how the DNR tried to manage the outpouring that was unleashed after a blogger discovered the rewritten climate change pages around Christmas and the word spread through other news outlets..."

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Confirmed: Earliest Minnesota Tornadoes on Record - Record Early Ice Out Lake Calhoun - Fleeting February Flashback by Friday