Remembering Minnesota's "Longest Night"

It's "media-hype", right up until the time it happens. Then it's "Why didn't we know - why weren't we warned?"

There's no reason why a large and violent tornado couldn't hit a large U.S. city. In fact, it's happened multiple times.

An AMS study concluded that a 150 mph+ tornado crossing residential neighborhoods in Chicago could result in 4,500–45,000 deaths, causing substantial damage to over 400,000 homes occupied by over 1,100,000 people.

It's hard to wrap your brain around these numbers. Sunday marks the anniversary of the May 6, 1965 tornado outbreak. Four separate Kansas-size F4 twisters.

Fridley was hit twice. 13 people died, nearly 700 were injured. Yes, big tornadoes can hit the metro area. We've just been very, very lucky.

Soak up another example of weather perfection today: lukewarm sun, minus the humidity and bugs. Instability showers mushroom Saturday afternoon; Sunday still looks like the sunnier, drier day. Frost-free the next 2 weeks, metro highs reach 60s & 70s.

NOAA reports that April was 3rd sunniest on record! Almost makes up for waist-deep drifts. 

Fire Weather Watch. A combination of gusty northwest winds (20-30 mph) and relative humidity levels under 25% this afternoon will create ripe conditions for any brush fires that develop to spread rapidly. Map: NOAA and AerisWeather.

84-Hour QPF. The 00z run of NOAA's 12km NAM shows the streak of heavy rainn from northeast Iowa and southeastern Minnesota into Wisconsin, while most of the state sees only spotty, light showery rain the next few days. Map credit:

Frost-Free. If you're feeling brave and daring you may want to go ahead and plant annuals sooner, rather than later. I still don't see any frosty fronts invading into mid-May, with nighttime lows consistently in the 40s and low 50s - daytime highs 60s and 70s. You know, like it is in "spring"? ECMWF: WeatherBell.

Hot Streak Eastern Half of USA by Mid-May. GFS guidance is fairly consistent, building a sprawling, almost July-like ridge of (hot) high pressure for the eastern half of America, while cool, showery weather persists 2 weeks out over the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies. This may be a ripe set-up for strong to severe storms over Minnesota within 2 weeks.

Third Sunniest April on Record at MSP. In spite of the raging blizzards (26.1" snow last month) we had that going for us, according to the Minnesota DNR.

Drone Interference Forces Helicopter Landing Near Little Falls. This happened last Saturday, according to Bring Me The News: "A privately-operated drone forced a helicopter to stop fighting a wildfire in Minnesota this past weekend. The Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) confirmed to BMTN that there was a "drone incursion" that forced the helicopter to land four miles northeast of Little Falls around 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The drone was spotted by the pilot as he dropped liquid on the blaze below, at one point hovering above the helicopter. The pilot safely landed while the drone, which was possibly taking images of the fire, was cleared from air space. It resumed its fire suppression measures a short time later..."

File image credit: Don McCullough, Flickr

Remembering the May 6, 1965 Deadly Tornado Swarm. Four Kansas-size F4 tornadoes in the immediate metro area? Yes - it can happen here, because it did happen here. The Star Tribune has details: "...Thirteen people died and nearly 700 were injured. Among the dead were 4-month-old Helene Hawley and 64-year-old Annie Demery (a grandmother to 17) — both from Fridley. The suburb just north of Minneapolis was in the vortex, with one in four houses hit — 1,100 were damaged and 425 destroyed. The city suffered nearly $15 million in losses — including $5 million to school buildings — more than $100 million in today’s dollars. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” Vice President Hubert Humphrey said in Fridley after a tour. “The damage I’ve seen is comparable to a war....”

How Tornadoes Are Formed. ABC News has a story and a very good video explainer: "...Wind shear is the different in wind speed and direction between the different levels of the atmosphere. While a jet stream is moving from west to east with cold, dry air at high speeds in the upper level of the atmosphere, warm and moist air is flowing up from the Gulf of Mexico, moving south to north at slower speeds closer to the surface. This is the difference in wind speed and direction with height that create the wind shear. How does wind shear help form tornadoes? Wind shear can create a horizontal rotating column of air - known as a vortex - in the atmosphere. When wind shear is present during a severe thunderstorm a tornado can form. But first, a severe thunderstorm has to form.

"Tornado-Resilient" Homes Qualify for Insurance Discounts. in Tulsa explains: "Some Oklahoma insurance companies now offer discounts to homeowners with "Tornado-resilient" or "Fortified" homes. The new incentives go into effect this week and some people could save up to 40 percent on their homeowner’s insurance. The insurance discounts are thanks to House Bill 1720 that passed last year.  That bill requires insurance companies to pass savings on to the consumer if their home meets specified construction standards. These kinds of homes don't look any different on the outside, but it's what's on the inside that gives them their name. When severe weather hits in Oklahoma, the property damage can be extensive. John Madden is a Tulsa builder who offers fortified homes..."

Hunting Tornadoes From the Sky: Inside NOAA's "Flying Laboratory". CBS News has the fascinating story: "Scientists hope flying near tornadoes will help predict when and where the storms will strike on the ground. For the scientists who study severe weather at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the basic advantage is: the closer you can get to a storm, the better data you can collect from it. That applies to hurricanes and, as CBS News' Mark Strassmann saw on a recent flight, tornadoes too. A research plane – about the size of a 737 – heads straight toward what most pilots do anything to avoid: dangerous, even deadly weather. Ian Sears is a meteorologist aboard NOAA's P3 research plane, nicknamed "Kermit." It usually hunts hurricanes over the Atlantic, but this time the target is tornadoes over Louisiana..."

There is No Such Thing as "Heat Lightning". NOAA explains: "The term heat lightning is commonly used to describe lightning from a distant thunderstorm just too far away to see the actual cloud-to-ground flash or to hear the accompanying thunder. While many people incorrectly think that heat lightning is a specific type of lightning, it is simply the light produced by a distant thunderstorm. Often, mountains, hills, trees or just the curvature of the earth prevent the observer from seeing the actual lightning flash. Instead, the faint flash seen by the observer is light being reflected off higher-level clouds. Also, the sound of thunder can only be heard for about 10 miles from a flash..."

9 Facts About the Weather Radars That Work Day and Night to Keep Us Safe. Dennis Mercereau at Forbes has a timely post: "...There are 160 NEXRAD sites across the United States and its territories. 122 of those radar sites are operated by NOAA itself, while the rest are operated on military bases by the Department of Defense or near airports by the Federal Aviation Administration. Meteorologists also have access to smaller TDWR (Terminal Doppler Weather Radar) sites located at many major airports across the country to help air traffic controllers direct approaching and departing airplanes around dangerous storms. They’re Getting Old. The United States used to have quite a few more radar sites than we have now. Earlier iterations of the network used less powerful, less effective radar technology that required more sites to cover such a large country..."

Map credit: NOAA.

Insect-Born Diseases Have Tripled. Here's why. tracks some worrisome trends: "...Since 2004, the number of people who get diseases transmitted by mosquito, tick, and flea bites has more than tripled, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday. Between 2004 and 2016, about 643,000 cases of 16 insect-borne illnesses were reported to the CDC—27,000 a year in 2004 (the year in which the agency began requiring more detailed reporting), rising to 96,000 by 2016. At least nine such diseases have also been discovered or introduced into the US in that same timeframe. Most of them are found in ticks. Many of them are potentially life-threatening. What’s to blame for the surge in reported cases? Warmer weather for one thing, said the agency’s director of vector-borne diseases, Lyle Petersen, during a media briefing..."

Sunscreen Chemicals Are Destroying Coral Reefs and Now Hawaii is Banning Them. Buzzfeed News has the story: "Hawaii is set to become the first state in the US to ban the sale of sunscreen chemicals that are toxic to coral reefs and marine life. A bill to ban the sale of sunscreens containing two types of chemicals toxic to the ocean was passed by the Hawaii state legislature Tuesday and will now go to the governor's office for his signature. If signed, the ban would start in 2021. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are destroying the oceans around the world, according to scientists whose research has shown that the chemicals break down coral by leaching it of nutrients and disrupt the development of fish and marine life, like sea urchins and algae. About 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion ends up in coral reefs around the world each year, according to a study published in 2015 in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. The highest concentrations of sunscreen were found in tourist-filled beaches, like many in Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands..."

File image: FiveThirtyEight.

National Support for Clean Energy Grows. Here's an excerpt from republicEn: "New polling commissioned by the Conservative Energy Network (CEN) shows more than 85 percent of voters find it is important for elected officials to share their views on energy, and 75 percent said they would likely oppose a candidate who does not support development and use of clean energy sources (including 64 percent of base Republicans). "Clean energy is not just about powering homes, cars, and buildings – more and more, it's also about powering our state and local economies," Mark Pischea, president of CEN, said, pointing out that conservative voters "recognize our nation's inevitable transition to clean energy, and want conservative policymakers to play a greater role in the development of policies that facilitate that transition..."

Now Available in the Oil Patch: Wind and Solar College Degrees. has details: "...Across the U.S., universities that have long offered degrees related to the fossil-fuels industry are starting to offer degrees and concentrations in wind and solar technologies. Companies such as Tesla Inc. TSLA -8.41% are seeking recruits with specialized skills in renewable energy, even as some oil-and-natural-gas companies pull back on hiring graduates in fields such as geology as they automate more tasks. Majoring in green energy poses risks: The jobs usually don’t pay as well as starting positions with oil-and-gas companies, and it remains a small, albeit growing, industry. Curricula vary, but the programs tend to be interdisciplinary, focusing on giving students technical know-how—such as how to design a wind turbine—in addition to learning about fast-changing government policies..."

Car Makers Step Back From Cars. Say what? The Wall Street Journal explains: "American auto makers are embarking on a historic shift away from passenger cars, as more-profitable sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks continue to expand their share of the market. Long thought to be necessary for combating Japanese rivals and catering to budget-minded or young customers, small cars have fallen out of favor amid low gasoline prices and efficiency improvements in SUVs. Now, large sedans also are on the chopping block. General Motors Co. GM -2.29% will end production of the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact as early as this year, according to people familiar with the matter. GM is also considering discontinuing the Chevy Impala big sedan in the next few years, these people said, a decision that would kill a 61-year-old car model..."

Photo credit: "The assembly line at the GM Orion Assembly plant in Orion Township, Mich., with Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano vehicles." Photo: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press.

Why Does the Star Tribune Outperform the Pack of Metros? An Update. Here's an excerpt of an interesting story at Poynter: "Two years ago I chronicled how the Star Tribune of Minneapolis had become a widely celebrated fast horse in the slow field of metropolitan newspapers. An enlightened billionaire owner, a talented publisher and  a news-hungry civically attuned audience all have helped the Strib weather the continuing woes of sinking print advertising revenues and digital disruption. Even more important, a stream of innovative projects, well executed, have generated enough revenue to keep whole a well-staffed newsroom with 245 editors and reporters..."

Mark Zuckerberg Doesn't Understand Journalism. Or maybe he does, and he just doesn't care. Here's an excerpt from The Atlantic: "...Zuckerberg runs a media company that distributes news, but doesn’t have a proper newsroom. He runs a media company that has—with Google’s help—dominated the vast majority of digital ad dollars and eviscerated the journalism industry’s business model, all while preaching about the importance of journalism. He runs a media company that, he says, believes deeply in the need to sustain independent journalism, but won’t pay publishers to license journalistic content. And he runs a media company that has decided to show its users less news from professional outlets—it’s really not what people want to see, he says—in favor of more individual opinions..."

Photo credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP.

The Dangers of "Hyper-Automation".'re telling me I 'gotta chance? Turns out human beings are still (much) better at most things than robots, as reported by Quartz: "...Automation simply can’t deal with the complexity, inconsistencies, variation and ‘things gone wrong’ that humans can,” and “can create quality problems further down the line,” they say. The Bernstein analysts deduce that Tesla’s troubles are because of the complexity of automating final assembly, where the car is put together. This is something that’s been tried before by other manufacturers—such as Fiat, Volkswagen, and GM—and they have all failed..."

Photo credit: "A machine builds a machine." (Reuters/Joseph White)

Why Capitalism Is Obsolete. I'm not convinced of this, not yet. Capitalism is far from perfect, but it still beats the other alternatives. I still that believe market economies can generate the solutions we need. With the right leadership. Here's an excerpt from Eudaimonia & Co: "...The great challenges of the future — we’ll come to precisely what those are in a moment — aren’t like those of the past. They are more complex, demanding, constrained, risky, and, perhaps most crucially of all, they are more risky. The world’s future depends on getting them right. The stakes are infinitely higher. If we get them wrong, we perish — whether through war, extinction, self-destruction, folly, thirst, famine. If we get them right — then and only then do we go on.Capitalism can’t process, manage, compute, respond to any of that. The complexity, scale, scope, and risk of today’s problems has become so great and grave that it is light-years beyond capitalism’s feeble capabilities to handle..."

Why Are Men So (Bad) at Friendship? Ezra Klein explains at Quartzy: "American men’s hidden crisis, Slate tells us, is that they need more friends. At the same time, society tells men that friendship is girly—and men respond by not having friends. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that loneliness, not obesity or smoking, is the biggest threat to men’s health, per the Boston Globe. But what is it that stops men from making and maintaining long-term friendships? Especially when women are more likely to juggle full-time jobs, childcare, housework, emotional labor, and everything in between?...A 2006 analysis of two decades of survey data on social isolation, published in the American Sociological Review, found that adult, white, heterosexual men have the fewest friends of all people in America..."

File photo: Juan Carlos Ulate, Reuters.

Robots Invade the Smithsonian Museums. CNN reports: "Ashley Meadows has a tough job. As the gallery guide coordinator at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC, she tries to get people to talk about modern and contemporary art. Consider the look of panic on people's faces when they're urged to express an opinion about a Jackson Pollock painting. "It's hard to start a conversation with a stranger," Meadows, 33, said. But these days she has an ally in her efforts: a small humanoid robot named Pepper. The human-shaped robot stands four feet tall on one tapered leg, a shiny white body and big puppy dog-like eyes..."

Stephen Hawking's Final Theory Has Been Published. He was operating on an entirely different intellectual plane. I dare you to read it. Big Think has an overview: "...The local laws of physics and chemistry can differ from one pocket universe to another, which together would form a multiverse. But I have never been a fan of the multiverse. If the scale of different universes in the multiverse is large or infinite the theory can't be tested." If you’d like to take a stab at reading and beginning to comprehend it, have a go at this abstract version. Or the full one is also online. And after trying hard to understand all of this, I think I’m going to pop a strong ibuprofen..."

The Perils of Linguistic Diplomacy. Who are we to judge? The Washington Post reports: "One simple word, and — as usual — the Internet exploded. On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron was nearing the end of a news conference during his state visit to Australia, where he spoke next to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Turning to his host, the 40-year-old French president — a former investment banker who prides himself on his ability to speak English fluently — said a few more words en anglais to thank the Turnbulls for their hospitality. “I want to thank you for your welcome, thank you and your delicious wife for your warm welcome,” Macron said..."

Image credit: "In Sydney, French President Emmanuel Macron thanked Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his “delicious wife” Lucy for a “warm welcome."

75 F. maximum temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.

66 F. average high on May 3.

66 F. high on May 3, 2017.

May 4, 1926: Morris goes from winter to summer temperatures in one day. The morning low was 32, followed by a high of 89.

FRIDAY: Stunningly sunny & mild. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 77

FRIDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear. Low: 52

SATURDAY: Some AM sun, few PM showers pop up. Winds: SW 8-13. High: 74

SUNDAY: Sunnier, drier day of the weekend. Winds: NE 7-12. Wake-up: 50. High: 69

MONDAY: Plenty of sunshine, pleasant. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 48. High: 73

TUESDAY: Showers arrive, few T-storms. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 53. High: near 70

WEDNESDAY: Showers linger, cooler. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 55. High: 66

THURSDAY: Drying out, sunny and pleasant again. Winds: N 7-12. Wake-up: 52. High: 69

Climate Stories...

Powerful Investors Push Big Companies to Plan for Climate Change. Here's a clip from a Scientific American recap: "...The coming weeks are dubbed “proxy season” by corporate governance experts. Most publicly traded companies hold annual meetings in which shareholders, via nonbinding resolutions, signal their approval or dislike of proposed company policies. This year initiatives on climate change are among the most popular ballot items: Of the more than 420 shareholder resolutions initially proposed, about 20 percent focused on climate, tied for the largest of any proposal category, according to a report by the group Proxy Impact. Some resolutions ask companies to adopt greenhouse gas emission targets whereas others ask for reports on ways businesses could be affected by the Paris climate agreement’s global temperature goals..."

Fewer GOP Voters Worried About Climate Change Since Irma and Harvey. Morning Consult has the story: "About eight months after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma swept through the Gulf Coast and the southeastern United States, fewer Republican voters are concerned about climate change, according to a recent Morning Consult/Politico poll. In an April 26-May 1 survey of 1,991 registered voters, 47 percent of registered GOP voters said they are somewhat or very concerned about the issue of climate change and its effect on the environment, down from 57 percent in a Sept. 7-11 poll, which was conducted as Hurricane Irma was hitting the Caribbean and Florida. Both polls have a margin of error of 2 percentage points..."

September 5 file image of Hurricane Irma courtesy of NOAA and AerisWeather.

Graphic via Jean-Pascal Ypersele, lead author &

Climate Change and Vulnerable Communities - Let's Talk About This Hot Mess. The 1% will be just fine; it's the poorest communities that will be hit hardest by a warmer, more volatile climate. In fact it's already happening. Here's an excerpt from ProPublica: "...As a reporter at ProPublica, my focus is on environmental justice, how low-income, underserved and disenfranchised people have been forced to bear an unequal burden of pollution. That’s the same focus I’m bringing as one of the hosts of “Hot Mess” — a PBS Digital Studios YouTube series about the complexities of climate change. People are the most complex variables in the climate change equation. And my first episode, out today, focuses on the nexus of climate change and environmental justice — and how we need to do a better job connecting the two. As the effects of climate change intensify, so too will the stark differences in consequences experienced by the privileged and the disadvantaged. So as we see more intense storms and extreme temperatures, it’s important to examine the systemic and structural deficiencies that exacerbate inequity..."

Icebergs Could Float to the Rescue of Cape Town Water Crisis.  Say what? Thomson Reuters has the story: "Marine salvage experts are floating a plan to tug icebergs from Antarctica to South Africa's drought-hit Cape Town to help solve the region's worst water shortage in a century. Salvage master Nick Sloane told Reuters he was looking for government and private investors for a scheme to guide huge chunks of ice across the ocean, chop them into a slury and melt them down into millions of litres of drinking water. "We want to show that if there is no other source to solve the water crisis, we have another idea no one else has thought of yet," said Sloane, who led the refloating of the capsized Italian passenger liner Costa Concordia in 2014. South Africa has declared a national disaster over the drought that hit its southern and western regions after 2015 and 2016 turned into two of the driest years on record..."

Photo credit: "An iceberg floats in Andvord Bay, Antarctica, February 14, 2018." REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini/File Photo

Alarming New Report Analyzes the Increasing Frequency of Extreme Heat Days. Here's the intro to a story at ThinkProgress: "It’s not your imagination: Hot summer days really are getting hotter. In fact, the majority of Americans now face extreme summer heat much more frequently than in previous decades, according to a new analysis and map released Tuesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The study, which compared historical temperature data to present temperature data, found that nearly 210 million Americans — two-thirds of the U.S. population — live in counties that see more than nine extreme heat summer days annually, a marked increase from half a century ago..."

Image credit: "A local temperature sign reads 120-degrees in Phoenix, AZ." (CREDIT: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin).

Map credit above:

In Cities vs. Fossil Fuels, Exxon's Allies Want the Accusers Investigated. InsideClimate News has the story: "The elbowing for advantage between ExxonMobil and the California cities and counties suing the oil giant for billions of dollars in climate change damages has spread to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Exxon alleged in a Texas court earlier this year that in selling municipal bonds, the local governments may have withheld critical information from buyers about their vulnerability to sea level rise. That would cast a poor light on the cities' claims that Exxon knew about climate risks but ignored them in its own financial disclosures. Now two industry-friendly groups are turning the tables and asking the SEC to investigate the cities and counties for possible fraud..."

Photo credit: "San Mateo County and other coastal California counties and cities are suing fossil fuel companies over their role in climate change, particularly sea level rise." Credit: Philar/CC-BY-SA-2.0.

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