Panic Optional: Forecasting First Flakes on Friday

Yesterday people were huddled together, talking in hushed tones, glancing up furtively at a black and blue sky. Nuclear fallout? Yellowstone Super Volcano about to erupt? Aliens landing in Blaine?

Imagine my surprise when I discovered the real reason for trepidation: they were chatting up the first snow of the season. Really? If we lived in Los Angeles or Honolulu I could understand a level of angst, but Minnesota? Say it isn't so, Flo!

National Weather Service data shows the average date of the first coating (tenth of an inch) is November 2 in the Twin Cities. Most autumns we don't see plowable snows capable of really gumming up our commutes until late November.

A little wet snow may slush up lawns & fields Friday, but ground temperatures are still warm. Much of that snow will melt on contact, and air temperatures should stay above 32F, meaning wet roads around the metro area. Deep breaths.

ECMWF guidance hints at showers and low 40s on Halloween. October 31, 1991 was a fluke - the last time the Twin Cities saw measurable snow on Halloween was 1995. Ah, the memories.

First Flakes. The Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service helpfully reminds all of us that the first coating (1/10th of an inch) of snow falls, on average, on November 2.

40s on Halloween? Long-range ECMWF (European) guidance shows 50s Wednesday and Thursday (which now qualifies as a "warm front") followed by colder air late in the week - a streak of 40s next week. Twin Cities numbers: WeatherBell.

Snowfall Potential on Friday. European model guidance shows the best chance of a little slush over far northern and western Minnesota. Whatever does fall should melt fairly quickly with air temperatures above 32F and relatively mild ground temperatures. ECMWF model: WeatherBell.

GFS Solution. Here is NOAA's GFS solution for accumulated snowfall, valid 12z Saturday morning. Not buying it (yet), but if the GFS verifies a slushy inch or two may accumulate in the MSP metro area, with potentially plowable amounts over northern Wisconsin and the U.P. of Michigan. Map:

Halloween Climatology in the Twin Cities. The last time we had measurable snow on Halloween? 1995. In spite of 1991, the risk of significant snow on October 31 is fairly slim, according to the Minnesota DNR: "...In spite of the 1991 Halloween Blizzard, measurable snow on Halloween is about as rare as getting a full sized candy bar in your trick or treat bag. Since 1872 there's been enough snow to measure only six times: .6 in 1884, .2 in 1885, 1.4 in 1932, .4 in 1954, .5 in 1995 and of course 8.2 inches with the Halloween Blizzard of 1991. Thus there has been measurable snow on only 4% of the days..."

2017 Could Tie Record for Billion-Dollar Disasters in a Year. Here's Why. A story at USA TODAY caught my eye: "And the year's not over yet. This year's devastating hurricane season is largely to blame. Hurricane Harvey will likely end up topping all of this year's disasters with an estimated price tag of $190 billion. The official death toll, now at 48, in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria could rise into the hundreds, according to a report Wednesday from Vox. Hurricane Irma ravaged the Caribbean island of Dominica as Category 5 monster, destroying most of the island's structures and leaving the infrastructure in ruins. It then took aim on the U.S. Virgin Islands and eventually the U.S. mainland. It was also was a Category 5 storm for longer than all other Atlantic hurricanes on record except Ivan in 2004..."

It's Time to Ditch the Concept of 100-Year Floods. An article at FiveThirtyEight is a worthy read: "...That’s no surprise to experts, who say the concept of the “100-year flood” is one of the most misunderstood terms in disaster preparedness. In the wake of catastrophic flooding on the Texas coast, the media has been working hard to explain the term, turning out dozens of articles explaining that a “100-year flood” is not a flood that you should expect to happen only once every 100 years. Instead, it refers to a flood that has a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year. Over the course of a 30-year mortgage, a house in a 100-year floodplain has a 26 percent chance of being inundated at least once.1 Stories that emphasize this fact are “doing the Lord’s work,” said Wesley Highfield, professor of marine sciences at Texas A&M University at Galveston. But there are still more holy offices to perform..."

File photo: Reuters, TPX Images.

The Boomtown That Shouldn't Exist. POLITICO Magazine takes a look at the growth of Cape Coral, Florida: "...The thing is, the hucksters were right, and so were the suckers. Cape Coral is now the largest city in America’s fastest-growing metropolitan area. Its population has soared from fewer than 200 when the Rasos arrived to 180,000 today. Its low-lying swamps have been drained, thanks to an astonishing 400 miles of canals—the most of any city on earth—that serve not only as the city’s stormwater management system but also its defining real estate amenity. Those ditches were an ecological disaster, ravaging wetlands, estuaries and aquifers. Cape Coral was a planning disaster, too, designed without water or sewer pipes, shops or offices, or almost anything but pre-platted residential lots. But people flocked here anyway. The title of a memoir by a Gulf American secretary captured the essence of Cape Coral: Lies That Came True..."

The Only California County That Sent a Warning to Residents' Cellphones Has No Reported Fatalities. Coincidence? Here's a clip from The Washington Post: "...Five years after it was launched by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the use of the nation’s alert system remains uneven. And despite a campaign by FEMA to encourage local governments to participate, most U.S. counties could not order an alert today if they faced an emergency. More than 65 percent of the nation’s 3,500 counties do not have agreements in place with FEMA to send alerts through the Wireless Emergency Alert system, as it is known, the agency said. The alerts are sent to all phones in the targeted area, often accompanied by a vibration and a unique sound that FEMA says is “designed to get your attention.” The majority of alerts sent over the system since 2012 — more than 25,000 — have been related to flash floods, tornadoes and other weather events, FEMA records show..."

Image credit: "Sue Fellbaum returns to her home of 28 years that has been burned to the ground by the wildfires in Santa Rosa, Calif." (Whitney Shefte, Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post).

* More on weather alerts issued during the recent California wildfires from HuffPost.

Is Weather Control a Dream or Nightmare? Science News for Students separates out the science from the conspiracy theories: "...There’s a lot of natural variability,” explains Jeffrey French. He’s an atmospheric scientist at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. In time, money for cloud-seeding research dwindled. More effort was put into improving weather prediction. Weather modification did not, however, disappear. More than 50 nations now have cloud-seeding programs, according to the World Meteorological Organization. China, for instance, set off hundreds of rockets to seed clouds in 2008. Its goal was to ensure clear skies for the opening ceremonies of the summer Olympics in Beijing. There also are dozens of private weather-modification companies. And many other companies pay for cloud seeding. What they achieve, today, is much more subtle than the grand visions that had once been proposed..."

Image credit: "Weather control is the stuff of science fiction, but scientists have made it at least a little bit real. Whether people should be controlling their weather, though, is another matter." Nastco/iStockphoto.

Pollution's Annual Price Tag? 4.6 Trillion and 9 Million Dead. Air pollution claims more lives than water pollution, especially in developing countries, including India and China. Bloomberg reports: "...Pollution in all its forms killed 9 million people in 2015 and, by one measure, led to economic damage of $4.6 trillion, according to a new estimate by researchers who hope to put the health costs of toxic air, water and soil higher on the global agenda. In less-developed nations, pollution-linked illness and death drag down productivity, reducing economic output by 1 percent to 2 percent annually, according to the tally by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, published Thursday by the U.K. medical journal. The report is intended to illuminate the hidden health and economic consequences of harmful substances introduced into the environment by human activity. Diseases caused by pollution account for about one in six deaths worldwide..."

* Access to the paper referenced above is available at The Lancet.

Solar Costs Set to Fall Further: From Climate Nexus Hot News: The already-plummeting costs of installing solar power could fall an additional 60 percent over the next decade, the head of the International Renewable Energy Association said Monday. IRENA director general Adnan Amin told Reuters that the organization expects an additional 80 to 90 GW of solar capacity will be added worldwide each year for the next five to six years, and that improvements in technology, including batteries, will help drive down costs. Earlier this month, a new solar project in Saudi Arabia set a record for the lowest bid prices ever recorded for solar energy at 1.79 cents/kWh. A report from the International Energy Organization earlier this month hailed a "new era" for solar, naming it the fastest-growing source of new energy in 2016. (Irena: Reuters, PV Magazine. Saudi Arabia: Bloomberg. IEA: ReutersCNBCThe GuardianBloombergMashable. Commentary: ThinkProgress, Joe Romm column)

For Clean Energy Jobs, Sky's the Limit. The Star Tribune reports: "...Osborn’s job, wind technician, is the fastest growing occupation in the nation. As utilities rapidly increase the amount of power they get from wind farms, workers willing and able to climb hundreds of feet to keep turbines running smoothly are in high demand. Students in wind power training programs in Minnesota are getting jobs as soon as they graduate or even before. “I do what pays the bills, and I looked at what was happening and will be happening for the next 30 years, and wind maintenance seemed win-win,” said Osborn, who works for Vestas, a global wind energy giant. As wind and solar energy have grown, they’ve created a tide of jobs nationwide in fields from construction to manufacturing. Renewable energy jobs, most of which are in wind and solar, grew by 16 percent to around 6,200 in Minnesota from 2015 to 2016, according to a recent study by Clean Energy Economy Minnesota, an industry-led nonprofit..."

Future of Tech and Media: Waging a War For People's Time. Welcome to the "attention economy". Here's an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal: "...The most fertile ground is the digital voice assistant found in smart speakers and smartphones. Between Amazon’s Alexa, Alphabet’s Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri, the internet giants are rushing to make more advanced products that could prove crucial to controlling consumers’ searches, their homes and habits, and even how they buy products. Sales of smart speakers, though, will likely peak in 2019, Mr. Wolf said, as the voice interface breaks free of the devices. “The real war is about who gets to win the digital assistant and the voice interface,” Mr. Wolf said. “It’s an existential threat to each of the major technology companies...”

Tech Addiction is More of a Problem Than People Realize. Arianna Huffington explains in a story at "We are at an inflection point in our relationship with technology. Technology allows us to do amazing things that have immeasurably improved our lives. But at the same time, it’s accelerated the pace of our lives beyond our ability to keep up. And it’s getting worse. We’re being controlled by something we should be controlling. And it’s consuming our attention and crippling our ability to focus, think, be present, and truly connect with ourselves and the world around us. The numbers only confirm what we all know to be true — we’re addicted. A 2015 Bank of America report found that over 70 percent of Americans sleep next to or with their phone. This addiction comes at a cost. A Pew study from the same year found that 89 percent of phone owners said they’d used their phones in their last social gathering, and 82 percent felt that when they do this it damages the interaction..." (File image: LinkedIn).

Over 40% of Tech Workers Worried About Losing Their Jobs to Ageism. has the details: "More than 40 percent of tech workers polled are worried they will lose their jobs because of ageism, a new study from job listing site Indeed, with almost 20 percent saying they worry “all the time” about becoming too old for their jobs. Indeed polled 1,000 tech workers in September 2017 for its study, which found that 46 percent of the tech sector is comprised of millennials, with a much smaller minority of 26 percent made up of baby boomers and Gen Xers. The average tech worker polled had been in tech for 15 years and 9 months, with 36 percent saying the average age at their company is between 31 to 35..."

The Art of Forming an Informed Opinion. A short article at Farnam Street caught my eye: "...People who can't change their minds never move forward. Worse still, they see themselves as heroes. And I mean “heroes” in the Hollywood sense. They hold opinions that have been proven wrong over and over again. And they pay a dear price. They stop getting promoted. Their work colleagues avoid them. Their friends call less often. Their disagreeable dispositions mean that people don't want them around. They are prisoners of their beliefs. They want everyone to see that they're right. If they persist long enough, the only people they have in their circles are people who have the same (incorrect) worldview. If you insist on having an opinion, carry a mental scorecard. Start it with 50/50 on all subjects and adjust it based on outcomes..."

61 F. high in the Twin Cities on Monday.

55 F. average high on October 24.

56 F. high on October 24, 2016.

October 24, 1922: A powerful low pressure system over Minnesota brings 55 mph winds to Collegeville.

TODAY: Partly sunny. Wind Advisory. Winds: NW 25-45. High: 48

TUESDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear and cool. Low: 37

WEDNESDAY: Peeks of sun, less wind. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 56

THURSDAY: Clouds and winds increase. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 43. High: 55

FRIDAY: Sloppy mix. Slushy lawns possible. Wet roads. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 34. High: 41

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, still chilly.  Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 29. High: near 40

SUNDAY: More clouds than sun - brisk. Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 27. High: 45

MONDAY: Partly sunny, seasonably cool. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 31. High: 48

Climate Stories...

On Climate Issues, House GOP Warms Gradually. Here's an excerpt from Roll Call: "When a Republican congressman in July tried to strip the 2018 defense spending bill of its requirement to plan for global warming and rising sea level threats, a group of House GOP lawmakers joined Democrats to kill the effort. It was a rare win in the fight to slow climate change, in a Congress where the Republican majority consistently votes against climate action. Almost every Republican who crossed the aisle that day belongs to the growing House Climate Solutions Caucus. All but one caucus member voted against the amendment, which was proposed by GOP Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. “The Perry amendment was really the first test” that called on the group to vote as a bloc, said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican who co-founded the caucus. “There will be more tests in the future...”

Photo credit: "Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo has joined 20 Republican colleagues on a resolution that calls conservation a “conservative principle.” (Bill Clark/Roll Call File Photo).

Sea Level Rise Could Flood 1.9 Million U.S. Homes by 2100. Yale E360 reports: "An estimated 1.9 million U.S. homes could be flooded by 2100 if seas rise 6 feet in response to climate change, according to a new analysis by the real estate company Zillow. The affected properties are valued at $916 billion dollars and represent 1.8 percent of the country’s housing stock. The report, published last week, finds that without climate resiliency measures such as sea walls, the majority of flooded homes will be moderate- or lower-priced properties. High-end real estate accounts for 39 percent of at-risk houses. “While the damage caused by recent hurricanes is a devastating reminder of how quickly the weather can undo people’s lives and destroy their homes, the potential for damage from a slower-moving phenomenon could be even more destructive,” the report says..."

An Evangelical Christian Took Her Climate Change Message to the Heart of Conservative Iowa. Here's a clip from a story at The Des Moines Register: "...She began to see the connection to her faith. The church helps poor people with missions around the world, and climate change affects the poor more than most, she discovered. She read the Bible and kept coming back to Genesis 2:15, which says that God put man on the Earth to work it and care for it. The Hebrew word “shamar” stuck with her — it means "to protect." She went back to Sioux Center inflamed with passion. “I had to do this,” she said. Mouw changed her major to environmental science, despite her parent’s initial objections. She began a campus organization called Eco Defenders, which pushed for recycling bins on campus. It wasn’t super popular at first, she said, but it eventually increased recycling by 50 percent. A national organization took notice. “She had all this new information rocking her worldview, and we gave her ways to practice these new passions,” said Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, national organizer for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. “A lot of what we are trying to do is push back against the idea that evangelicals are all politically conservative and that political conservatives don’t care about the climate. Both are untrue...”

Photo credit: "Lindsay Mouw, 23, of Sioux Center has taken her message of acting against global climate change to fellow church members and the conservative northwest Iowa community." Mike Kilen.

Global Warming Could Make This Lurking Climate Threat Even Worse. Forbes explains: "...Like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide (yes, the same stuff as laughing gas) traps heat in Earth’s atmosphere. Although it’s thought to account for only about 6% of the greenhouse effect today, it is about 300 times worse for the climate than CO2. One major source is runoff from farms and fields. Bacteria breaking down nitrogen compounds from manure and synthetic fertilizers generate nitrous oxide as a waste product. Climate scientists and policy makers have tried to include nitrous oxide in their models of climate change. But until now we haven’t had a good idea about whether nitrous oxide emissions will get worse or better as global temperatures increase..."

File photo: iStock.

EPA Blocks Scientists From Speaking on Science: From Climate Nexus: The EPA has barred three scientists from appearing at a conference to talk climate change, the New York Times reported Sunday. An EPA spokesperson confirmed that no agency scientists would speak publicly today in Providence at the State of Narragansett Bay and Its Watershed program and would not elaborate on the agency's reasoning behind the decision. The silenced scientists had contributed substantially to a 400-page report on the state of the bay, scheduled to be discussed today, which finds that climate change is altering the bay's health. The EPA helps to fund the program putting on the conference in Providence, but Scott Pruitt's proposed budget would cut funding for the Rhode Island program and other estuary funding nationwide. (Scientists: New York Times $, Washington Post $, ReutersThe Hill, AP. Conference: Providence Journal)

More Hurricanes to Hit Western Europe Due to Global Warming. Here's an abstract of a 2013 paper at Geophysical Research Letters: "We use a very high resolution global climate model (~25 km grid size) with prescribed sea surface temperatures to show that greenhouse warming enhances the occurrence of hurricane-force (> 32.6 m s–1) storms over western Europe during early autumn (August–October), the majority of which originate as a tropical cyclone. The rise in Atlantic tropical sea surface temperatures extends eastward the breeding ground of tropical cyclones, yielding more frequent and intense hurricanes following pathways directed toward Europe. En route they transform into extratropical depressions and reintensify after merging with the midlatitude baroclinic unstable flow. Our model simulations clearly show that future tropical cyclones are more prone to hit western Europe, and do so earlier in the season, thereby increasing the frequency and impact of hurricane force winds..."

Stanford Climate Scientist Addresses Misconceptions About Climate Change. People can adapt to the averages; it's the extremes that tend to wreak havoc. Here's an excerpt of a story from Stanford News that made me do a double-take: "..."People tend to ask, 'When will the average conditions cross a threshold that results in climate change?' But that's not really relevant. People and ecosystems can adapt to the average conditions, but where things fall apart is in the extremes. We experience damages from climate mainly at the extremes, and it's the extremes that can result in disasters. "Farmers might have enough rain on average to grow corn in Illinois. But in a drought, as in 2012, yields get whacked. Corn yields decline rapidly when temperatures rise above 29 C (84 F). If temperatures are above that 29 C threshold once every 200 years, it may not be a big problem. But if it is every five years, farmers start seeing impacts on yield and, if the high temperatures occur too frequently, on the viability of corn farming in that area. "We're already seeing evidence of climate-change impacts in the increased frequency of extreme events..."

Photo credit: "Poorly developed cornstalks show the effects of prolonged hot, dry weather. Extreme temperatures year after year have an impact on the viability of corn farming in an area, Stanford scientist Chris Field says." Earl D. Walker / Shutterstock

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