Finally, The Atmosphere is Shifting Gears

Here in the Land of 10,000 Weather Gripes I'm always amazed how quickly the pattern can change. In a meteorological blink of an eye we will turn the page from winter to spring. We go from expansive snow drifts and perpetual ice, to rain and pond-size puddles.

I'd bet a stale State Fair corn dog we've seen the last subzero low of winter in the Twin Cities. Take it to the bank. Or not.

We'll see a few more slushy snowfalls, but with a sun angle similar to late September, it'll be hard keeping snow on the highways until further notice.

Light rain and drizzle streaks in by afternoon, with the heaviest rain falling Wednesday. Models hint at an inch of rain for MSP, but ECMWF (European guidance) prints out 2-3 inch rainfall amounts for west central
Minnesota by late week. The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Watch for much of central and southern Minnesota into Thursday, mainly for street and urban flooding.

Stating the obvious: with temperatures in the 40s snow melt will be rapid, resulting in street and urban flooding. Some small streams may also experience rapid rises in the coming days. Any major river flooding should be delayed until early or mid April.

Please stay alert and stay tuned. 

Why Did the Mississippi River Flood of 1965 Occur? The La Crosse office of the National Weather Service did a very good job explaining why 1965 set all-time records for flooding across the Upper Midwest: "...March of 1965 was one of the coldest Marches ever recorded in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Minnesota had an average temperature of 14.8 degrees. This was 11.2 degrees colder than the 1901-2000 average of 26.0 degrees.  It was their second coldest March. Only 1899 was colder with an average temperature of 13.3 degrees.  Wisconsin had an average temperature of 21.4 degrees.  This was 7.5 degrees colder than the 1901-2000 average of 28.9 degrees.  This was the fifth coldest March of the 20th century and sixth coldest March ever recorded (these records date back to 1895).  These colder than average temperature prevented the gradual melting and runoff of the snowpack...."

Street Flooding Potential. With 1-1.5" of rain expected Tuesday into Thursday rapid snow melt and run off into streets will be problematic, with a significant threat of street flooding in the days to come. The local National Weather Service has a Situation Report on the flooding potential here.

"Above to Much Above Normal" Risk of Spring River Flooding. Those words courtesy of NOAA's North Central River Forecast Center. More details: "Overall, the flood risk for this drainage area remains above to much above normal. Above normal precipitation and below normal temperatures have continued since our last Spring Flood Outlook. Precipitation in February was as much as 3 to 4 times the usual amount for Minnesota and Wisconsin, and 2 to 3 times from Iowa into Illinois and Indiana. Record snowfall was recorded for many stations in Minnesota and Wisconsin, with above normal levels elsewhere across the basin. Current snow cover is highest across Minnesota and Wisconsin with depth of 1 to 2 feet common. Further south, snow continues to be more widespread than in a typical year, with at least some snow cover seen all the way down into central Missouri and southern Illinois. Water equivalent in that snow cover is as much as 3 to 5 inches for much of Minnesota, and into central Wisconsin. Snow water of 6 to 8 inches is seen across northern Minnesota and into northern Wisconsin, with even higher amounts in the Arrowhead. Further south, snow water from 1 to 3 inches is on the ground for much of Iowa into southern Wisconsin, with less than an inch south of a line from Des Moines to Milwaukee. The soil moisture ranking from the Climate Prediction Center continues to show above normal conditions across the area. Streamflow is normal to above normal, and there are still some rivers that have ice activity causing some jamming and flooding. Frost Depth is 2 to 3 feet across parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, but diminishes further to the south. Depth from Iowa into southern Wisconsin ranges from 6 to 18 inches, with depth less than a foot from Missouri up into southern Michigan. Taking all of these factors into account, the flood potential for the Upper Mississippi River basin continues to be above to well above normal this spring..."

Map above courtesy of NOAA.

ECMWF Rainfall Prediction. The "Euro" (not infallible, but often the best available model) prints out less than an inch of rain for the MSP metro by Friday morning, but over 2" of liquid water falling on west central Minnesota. Map: WeatherBell.

NOAA NAM Guidance. NOAA's model is wetter, with closer to 1.4" for the immediate Twin Cities, and over 2" in a few spots between now and Friday. Let's hope this version of reality doesn't materialize. Map:

NOAA Rainfall Predictions. NOAA's various models (GFS and NAM) are converging on more than an inch of rain falling by Thursday afternoon in the Twin Cities. Graphic: Iowa State.

Nice To Be Above Average. With highs nudging 40F later today temperatures may rise above average for the first time in months. Data above courtesy of NOAA, map via AerisWeather and Praedictix.

50s Late Next Week? Even with snow on the ground (we won't lose it that fast) ECMWF is predicting low to mid 50s by the end of next week, which would accelerate snow melt and take the river flood threat up a few more notches. One of the big questions: after this week's rain, will we see several more large rain storms by the end of March into early April, which would add insult to injury. Graphic: WeatherBell.

March: Cold Start - Mild Finish. Models (including NOAA's GFS wind forecast at 500mb) are consistently bringing a milder, Pacific-moderated flow back into Minnesota the latter half of the month - which should mean consistent 40s and even a few 50s.

April Preview. The forecast from NOAA's CFSv2 (above) shows warmer than normal temperatures predicted from Montana into the northern half of Minnesota next month. Considering the persistence of the recent cold spell, we are (statistically) long overdue for a correction. That said, with river flooding in mind, I'm hoping for feeble warm fronts into mid-April. Map: WeatherBell.

Praedictix Briefing: Issued Monday, March 11th, 2019:

  • A strong, slow-moving storm system is expected across the mid-section of the nation by the middle of the week, producing a plethora of weather concerns from the upper Midwest to Texas.
  • Heavy snow and blizzard conditions will be possible in parts of the High Plains and the northern upper Midwest, particularly Wednesday into Thursday. Snow totals of 6-12” or more will be possible (especially across parts of western Nebraska and western South Dakota), and wind gusts of up to 60-65 mph could cause blizzard conditions. This will cause rough travel across the region.
  • High wind gusts will also be possible across parts of the southern Plains, from Kansas into Texas Wednesday and Thursday, with gusts up to 65 mph possible. High Wind Watches are in place.
  • This system will also bring the potential of heavy rain (1-2”+) from the central Plains to the upper Midwest. This heavy rain could lead to flooding with ongoing snow melt and frozen ground and/or snow cover in place across some of the areas expected to see some of the heaviest rain.

Winter Storm Overview. A strong, slow-moving area of low pressure will move into the central United States during the middle of the week, bringing numerous weather concerns to the region. We’ll start off on the cold side of the system, where heavy snow is expected to fall from northeastern Colorado into northern Minnesota. A band of at least 6-12” of snow is possible across this region, with isolated higher amounts, particularly Wednesday into Thursday. Wind gusts up to 65 mph will also be possible with this system as the snow is falling, leading to the potential of blizzard/whiteout conditions.

Winter Storm Watches. Due to the potential of heavy snow and blizzard conditions across parts of the High Plains later this week, Winter Storm Watches have been issued from South Dakota to Colorado, including the following locations:

  • Rapid City, SD: From late Tuesday night through Thursday afternoon for 6-12” of snow and strong wind gusts up to 60 mph creating blizzard to near-blizzard conditions.
  • Cheyenne, WY and Sidney, NE: From late Tuesday night through Thursday afternoon for 6-12” of snow and strong wind gusts up to 60 mph creating blizzard conditions.
  • Valentine, NE: From Wednesday morning through Thursday for 7-15” of snow, up to two-tenths of an inch of ice, and blizzard conditions due to wind gusts up to 55 mph.
  • Wray, CO: From Wednesday afternoon through late Wednesday night for 3-6” of snow and blizzard conditions due to wind gusts up to 65 mph.

Strong Winds In The Southern Plains. Strong winds will be possible even outside of areas that see snow later this week as wind gusts up to 65 mph are possible Wednesday into Thursday across parts of the Southern Plains. Due to this threat, High Wind Watches have already been issued from Kansas into northern Texas, including Wichita (KS), Oklahoma City (OK), and Amarillo and Wichita Falls (TX).

Heavy Rain Threat. This system will also produce a heavy rain and flood threat across parts of the central and northern Plains. A widespread 1-2” of rain is expected to fall across this region from Tuesday into Thursday, with some of the heaviest expected to fall Tuesday night into Wednesday night. This rain will be falling in some areas on top of frozen ground and/or in areas with snow cover still in place, meaning a lot of this rain will directly run off into rivers and streams. With snow melt already ongoing, at least some minor river flooding as well as urban flooding may be possible. This could also cause some ice jams on rivers across the region.

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix

Alabama's Deadly Tornado Ripped Through Homes - and Exposed Vulnerabilities. Here's a clip from The Washington Post: "...Bobby Kilgore, a police captain in nearby Opelika, said officials are grappling with how to get weather-weary citizens to seek shelter when a watch is issued even if experience has taught them that there is a very low chance of being hit. “Once the siren goes off, it is already too late,” he said. It can be very dangerous to travel to a public shelter in the few minutes before a tornado hits. “You don’t want people getting in their car and driving,” van de Lindt said. Lee County has been aggressive in pushing out information via social media, weather radios and television, Myers said. But the fact that the storm came on a Sunday probably hampered preparedness, with people’s routines and communications different than during the week..."

What California Has Been 'Living Through': Headlines and links via Climate Nexus: "California had its worst year for wildfires on record after more than 1.8 million acres burned last year, according to a new federal report. 2018's destructive fires surpassed the state's previous record by about half a million acres burned, the report from the the National Interagency Coordination Center said, and 21 percent of land burned last year across the United States was in California. The 1.8 million figure is "the highest in the recorded history of California," California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesperson Scott McLean told the LA Times. "...It’s a surprise it’s that amount, but in a sense because of what I’ve seen over the last year, no it’s not. It’s what we’ve been living through." (LA Times $, The Hill, NBC, Desert Sun)

File image: Sandy Huffaker, Reuters.

Why Hasn't Minnesota Ever Produced a U.S. President? The Star Tribune has a good read: "...Hubert Humphrey’s defeat in ’68 represents the state’s closest attempt at the Oval Office. (Though born in South Dakota, Humphrey is as Minnesotan as they come.) Walter Mondale, the state’s only other major party nominee, overwhelmingly lost in 1984 to Ronald Reagan. Could it be some sort of Minnesota curse, similar to that of a certain purple and gold football team? Minnesota Historical Society curator Sondra Reierson says probably not. “With Humphrey, Vietnam was really the end of him. With Mondale, Reagan was just a more attractive candidate overall. It really does come to the individual specifics of each race,” she said. “I’m not sure if the individual states are really the deciding factor...”

5 Reasons Why the U.S. Should Stay On Daylight Saving Time Permanently. Here's the intro to a piece at Quartz: "In my research on daylight saving time, I have found that Americans don’t like it when Congress messes with their clocks. In an effort to avoid the biannual clock switch in spring and fall, some well-intended critics of DST have made the mistake of suggesting that the abolition of DST—and a return to permanent standard time—would benefit society. In other words, the US would never “spring forward” or “fall back.” They are wrong. DST saves lives and energy and prevents crime. Not surprisingly, then, politicians in Washington, California and Florida are now proposing to move to DST year-round..."

Springing Forward to Daylight Saving Time is Obsolete, Confusing and Unhealthy, Critics Say. The Washington Post weighs in: "...If the Sunshine Protection Act became law, it would essentially end daylight saving time by making it the new, permanent, immutable standard time. (Just to be clear: Astronomically, nothing is new under the sun. The sun will remain a star, radiating light, and Earth will continue to orbit the sun while spinning on an axis. The amount of sunshine will remain the same.) There are two issues here. One is whether changing the clock is inherently a bad idea, because of sleep disruption, negative health effects and the general confusion generated by a jumpy time system. The other issue is whether we need to favor the evening over the morning when trying to distribute our sunlight — not just during spring and summer and early fall but throughout the year..."

Michigan Man Receives Congratulatory Telegram 50 Years Later. AP has the curious story: "A man who graduated from the University of Michigan in 1969 has finally received a congratulatory telegram from family friends that was sent more than 50 years ago. Robert Fink received the Western Union telegram this year. Western Union ended its telegram business in 2006. The Washington Post first reported on the telegram finally being delivered to Fink. The telegram originally arrived in 1969 at an Ann Arbor apartment Fink shared with three classmates a day after he had left to attend graduate school in New York..."

Photo credit: "In a Friday, March 1 2019 photo, Robert Fink holds up a telegram from a family friend congratulating him on his 1969 graduation from the University of Michigan at his home in Huntington Woods, Mich. The telegram, delivered to his apartment the day after he moved away from Ann Arbor, was recovered 50 years later by an employee of a downtown Ann Arbor company in a filing cabinet bought from the University of Michigan." (Jacob Hamilton/Ann Arbor News via AP)

17" of snow on the ground in the Twin Cities.

32 F. high on Monday at MSP.

39 F. average high on March 11.

36 F. high on March 11, 2018.

March 12, 2009: The record low temperature for Minnesota for the month of March is set at -35. St. Cloud also sets a new daily record low of -15, breaking the previous record of -12 that was set in 1956. The high temperature in St. Cloud was also only 11 degrees on this date, which also set a new record for the low maxium temperature. This broke the previous record low maxium temperature of 12 degrees that was set in 1896.

March 12, 1990: The temperature at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport hits a record-setting 69 degrees.

TUESDAY: Cloudy. PM rain, drizzle. Winds: S 10-20. High: 41

WEDNESDAY: Heavy rain. Risk of street flooding. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 36. High: 45

THURSDAY: Showers linger. Wet snow west of MSP. Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 40. High: 48

FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy, cooler breeze. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 28. High: 37

SATURDAY: Intervals of sun, probably dry. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 22. High: near 40

SUNDAY: Plenty of sunshine, milder. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 27. High: 44

MONDAY: More vague hints of spring. Winds: W 7-12. Wake-up: 28. High: 45

Climate Stories....

The Climate Election. It won't be too difficult for climate to get more coverage in 2020 than it did in 2016, according to Axios: "There wasn't a single question about global warming in the 2016 presidential debates. In 2020, it might be the dominant one. 

The big picture: Climate change is on everyone's minds in a way that it wasn't in 2016. The worst thing to be as a Democratic presidential candidate, according to some youth environmental activists, is a "climate delayer" — someone who doesn't recognize the urgency in addressing climate change.

That's why the 2020 Democrats are under so much pressure to make climate a dominant issue and to embrace the Green New Deal. It's also why the Democratic nominee will be sure to force the issue against President Trump, who's still denying the growing evidence of a warming planet.

Even Gov. Jay Inslee, who's running for president as the climate candidate, doesn't get a pass. Thirteen activists are suing Inslee and the state of Washington for "causing and contributing to climate change" by "promoting and implementing a fossil-fuel based energy and transportation system," said Andrea Rodgers, a lead lawyer on the case..."

Illustration credit: Rebecca Zisser/Axios.

Republicans Who Believe in Climate Change Seek Alternative to Green New Deal. A story at NBC News caught my eye: "...But polling shows the Republican Party's aversion to acknowledging climate change is increasingly falling out of favor. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on March 4 showed that 63 percent of adults felt that the GOP's positions on climate change were outside the mainstream, compared to 54 percent who said so when asked in October 2015. On fiscal issues, immigration and abortion — three other issues that adults were asked about in both the polls — the difference between 2015 and 2019 was negligible or nonexistent. "I think they've got to look at where the young people are, where the suburban people are, much more pro anti-climate change measures than Republican leadership and stuff," Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., told NBC News. "And at some point, they're going to realize that if you can't reach enough people, you can't win. That's a math issue..."

Photo credit: "Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., hold a news conference this month on their Green New Deal environmental proposal."Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file.

It's 2050 and This Is How We Stopped Climate Change. Bold prediction or fantasy? NPR takes us along for the ride: "...Some of my guides see "electric highways" with wires overhead, and trucks tapping into the electric power in those wires the same way trains do. Others see trucks running on hydrogen fuel; we make that hydrogen using solar or hydro power. It appears that aircraft still are burning jet fuel. When you buy a plane ticket, you're also paying to cancel out that flight's carbon emissions, capturing an equivalent amount of CO2 from the air. This makes air travel expensive. Fortunately, we now have much faster trains. Teleconferencing helps, too. Sally Benson is absolutely convinced about one thing. The hardest part of this journey wasn't finding technical solutions. They all existed, even back in 2019. The hardest part was navigating the social disruption. "The transformations were so profound that it really needed to be a collective effort," she says..."

How Broadcast TV Networks Covered Climate Change in 2018. Media Matters has a rather sobering report: "...Key findings:

  • There was a 45 percent drop in climate change coverage on the broadcast networks’ nightly news and Sunday morning political shows from 2017 to 2018 -- from a total of 260 minutes in 2017 down to just 142 minutes in 2018.
  • Nearly a third of the time that the networks spent covering climate change in 2018, or 46 minutes, came from a single episode of NBC's Meet the Press on December 30 that was dedicated to discussion of climate change.
  • NBC was the only network that aired more minutes of climate coverage in 2018 than in 2017 -- an increase of 23 percent. CBS' time spent on climate coverage fell 56 percent from 2017 to 2018, Fox News Sunday's fell by 75 percent, and ABC's fell by 81 percent..."

Graphic credit: Melissa Joskow / Media Matters.

Commentary: Merchants of Doubt Stoke Climate Change "Debate". My friend, Tim Reckmeyer, weights in at "...Straw-man arguments ignore strong evidence, focus on weak evidence and ignore complexity. Temperature variations from year to year and place to place are used to undermine anthropogenic global warming. However, the record-setting cold on March 3 in the Twin Cities doesn’t disprove it any more than eating a meal disproves that global hunger has been eradicated. Climate scientists look at long-term global temperature trends — 30 years or more. However, merchants of doubt will cherry-pick data from shorter time periods to claim that there hasn’t been any global warming. Their fictional story gets picked up by pundits, politicians and our neighbors as proof that global warming is a hoax. The reality is since the 1920s, you can choose any 30-year span and show global temperature trends with significant warming, according to the federal assessment..."

File image: Matt Brown.

Norway Moves Away From Oil: Links via Climate Nexus: "Norway's $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund should dump billions of dollars' worth of oil and gas investments, the country's finance ministry recommended Friday. The country's fund, the largest of its kind in the world, will shed nearly $8 billion in investments from 134 oil-and-gas exploration companies like Chesapeake Energy and Marathon Oil, but will retain stocks in oil majors, including Exxon and Shell, that have small investments in renewable energy. The move "does send a clear signal that companies betting on the expansion of their oil and gas businesses present an unacceptable risk, not only to the climate but also to investors," Greenpeace UK's Charlie Kronick told The Guardian. "While BP and Shell are excluded from the current divestment proposal, they must now recognise that if they continue to spend billions chasing new fossil fuels, they are doomed." (New York Times $, The Guardian, AP, WSJ $, Bloomberg, Axios, FT $)

The Other Kind of Climate Denialism. Because incessant gloom and doom and terror causes people to shut down. Here's a clip from a story that resonated at The New Yorker: "...Fraser wants people to feel not alarmed but activated, and he takes a relentlessly positive, solutions-oriented attitude. “We got trains all the way across America in a few years, and people on the moon in a few years,” he said. And ideas for climate moonshots abound: negative-carbon-emission plants are prohibitively expensive, but they do exist; some advocate for reviving nuclear power; proponents of a Green New Deal call for ending fossil-fuel extraction and subsidies, and radically expanding public transportation. In Silicon Valley, ideas are emerging that rely less on politics than on technology, like flooding some deserts to grow carbon-sucking algae beds, or using electrochemistry to get rocks to absorb carbon from the air. Fraser believes that the most productive way to communicate about environmental problems is to emphasize the positive solutions that exist. “What we need to promote is hope,” he said. “The first step to a healthy response is feeling that the problem is solvable...”

Capitalism vs. Climate Change: The Case of GlassPoint Solar. A very interesting new way to leverage solar power, highlighted in a post at Forbes: "...However, there is another solar technology that is more direct and powerful: Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). CSP arrays do not absorb light but reflect it, concentrating a sliver of the sun’s energy onto a single focal point. A pipe placed at that focal point contains some material which heats up as the reflected light hits it. That heat energy can either be stored for later (in which case, molten salt is the material of choice) or can be used to do work (in which case, the pipe is filled with water that turns to steam). GlassPoint Solar has spent the past several years developing a unique approach to CSP that generates steam for oil companies engaged in Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) – the process of forcing heavy oil out of difficult-to-extract formations..."

Image credit: "Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Installation, situated in Nevada, uses its CSP array to heat molten salt flowing in the tower at the center of the array. Heat energy is stored in the molten salt and can be used to power steam generators." Wikipedia.

This Fire-Resistant Home is the Next Line of Defense Against Climate Change. Everything we do will have to become more climate-resilient. CNBC has the story: "It is impossible to build a fully fireproof home, but researchers are now focused on making homes at least fire resistant. They have to, because climate change is increasing the intensity of wildfires around the world, putting billions of dollars’ worth of real estate literally in the line of fire. Wildfires destroyed more U.S. homes and buildings last year than at any other point in recorded history, and the eight most destructive years for wildfires ever have been in the last 13 years. “There is no reason to think they are going to get better,” said Roy Wright, CEO of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. “You look at this kind of impact — the variations in the climate we have had, we are far more susceptible to the size and intensity of fires...”

It Really Shouldn't Be Raining on the Greenland Ice Sheet in Winter. That's a fair assumption, yes. A story at Quartz explains what's causing concern among scientists: "...Rapidly warming winters have brought about a bizarre phenomenon: Rain. On Greenland. In winter. Rain, quite simply, melts ice. In a paper published Thursday (March 7), researchers at Germany’s GEOMAR Centre for Ocean Research and the Columbia University Earth Institute compiled satellite data and on-the-ground observations to learn that Greenland ice melt triggered by winter rain tripled between 1979 and 2012. Melt from rainfall during summer doubled in that time frame. Researchers believe the Greenland ice sheet is losing around 270 billion tons of ice per year, a rate of loss likely greater than it has seen in 8,000 years or more..."

Photo credit: "Ice melt from winter rainfall in Greenland tripled from 1979 to 2012." Kevin Krajick/Earth Institute.

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Paul Douglas: What's shaping the potential for river flooding