A Windier Than Normal March Across Minnesota
I never fail to marvel at the number of Minnesotans who walk around in shorts when the temperature is below zero. Mostly young people. A silent protest? In Seattle many locals walk around in the rain with no umbrella to shield them. Life goes on, in a steady, wind-whipped drizzle.
Which got me thinking: would I get ANYTHING done if I lived in Florida, Arizona or southern California? Probably not.
According to Mark Seeley March has been unusually windy; an average daily wind speed over 12 mph - 9 days with gusts over 30.
The transition from winter to summer always leaves the atmosphere in a foul, potentially destructive mood. The lower atmosphere is warming due to a higher sun angle, while the upper atmosphere is still cold - suffering from a wintry hangover. The result can and will be severe storms and random tornadoes within a month or two.
Today looks like the drier day of the weekend; more rain showers tonight and Sunday. Highs surge into the 50s next week, and big storms track well south of Minnesota.
Spring is coming, however reluctantly. Kinder, gentler days ahead.
Due for a Rerun of Spring. After a few chilly days temperatures are forecast to mellow next week; a shot at 60F by Tuesday according to the ECMWF. Why do 50s feel so much better in late March and early April than they do in October? MSP meteogram: WeatherBell.
Parade of Storms. I keep waiting for a break in the pattern, the Conga-line of sloppy storms pushing into the west coast, reinvigorated by moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. More heavy rain pushes into Seattle and Portland Sunday before pushing inland, dumping out more heavy snow from the Cascades to the Rockies. Meanwhile we're keeping an eye on a system near the Bahamas which could (in theory) strengthen into a tropical storm in the coming days. 12 KM NAM guidance: NOAA and Tropicaltidbits.com.
Active Pattern Continues. The last thing residents of the Pacific Northwest need right now is more rain, but 7-Day rainfall projections suggest as much as 3-5" of additional water. A series of storms tapping moisture from the (unusually warm) Gulf of Mexico will spawn severe storms and copious rains for the Plains and Mid South into late next week. Map: NOAA.
Tracking Devastating Wildfires. Nearly 1 million acres of land has already been consumed by fire in March alone; hardest hit: Texas and Oklahoma, but wildfires are flaring up as far east as Florida. Map credit: Geomac.gov.
Another Perspective. Recent rains over the southern Plains help the wildfire situation, but cloud to ground lightning strikes with recent T-storms have ignited new blazes. ESRI has an interactive, national map to track the various fires taking place across the USA.
Gizmodo has more details on the fast-moving flames that chased people from their homes and created a massive death toll among cattle in the southern Plains.
A Windy March. The greater the contrast in temperature, the stronger winds have to blow to keep the atmosphere in a state of equilibrium. Dr. Mark Seeley reports on a blustery March at Minnesota WeatherTalk: "March has been a windy month so far with average daily wind speed over 12 mph, and 9 days with peak wind gust over 30 mph. This continues a trend of windy weather which began the last week of January. The peak wind gust from MSP airport of 60 mph on the morning of March 8th was just the 5th time in the past 20 years that peak wind gusts in the Twin Cities have hit 60 mph or greater. The other years were 1998 (May), 2007 (Aug), 2008 (June), and 2010 (Oct). Historical trends in wind speed are difficult to study. There is great geographic disparity across the state. In western Minnesota, as well as the Twin Cities Metro Area wind speeds have been greater than normal more frequently in the months of February, April, and November. over the past two decades. Conversely, over the same time period, wind speeds have generally been less than normal more frequently during the months of May and October..."
3-Month Outlook. NOAA CPC is predicting warmer than average for a big chunk of the USA from April into June. Wetter than normal weather is forecast from the Northern Rockies to the Upper Mississippi Valley and the Gulf Coast.
California's Floods and Droughts Are Just the Beginning. The extended outlook calls for more weather-whiplash, according to an interview at Ars Technica: "...California history has always been one of drought and flood. Ingram told us about the southwestern region's great medieval warming period roughly 800 years ago, which may have caused drought for over a century. People living in the region abandoned their settlements and moved away, while plant life struggled to hold on. In the more recent past, California's central valley became an inland sea after 40 days of rain in 1862. This is the sort of megaflood that is due to happen again, Ingram told us, because they seem to occur roughly every two centuries. Even without humans contributing to rapid climate change, we should be preparing for another flood of this magnitude—but now, with atmospheric rivers becoming more common, they will probably happen more often..." (Image credit: NASA).
VORTEX Southeast: Tornado Study Gears Up For Another Year of Research. Here's an excerpt of a press release from the University of Alabama/Huntsville and WeatherBug: "The mysteries of severe weather in the southeastern U.S. -- and why tornadoes kill and injure more people here than any other part of the country -- will get an in-depth probe this spring, as researchers from 11 research institutions around the country gather at UAH for the second year of a major research campaign. Coordinated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Severe Storms Laboratory and hosted by UAH's Severe Weather Institute, Radar and Lightning Laboratories (SWIRLL), VORTEX Southeast (V-SE) uses mobile and portable research hardware, such as UAH's MAX Doppler radar, to get in front of strong storms to learn more about how these storms develop, how they interact with the local terrain and environment, and why some storms create tornadoes and others do not..."
Image credit: "Erik Rasmussen, VORTEX-SE project manager and NOAA senior research scientist, speaks about the research at Signature Aviation with a NOAA Lockheed WP-3S Orion aircraft in the background. The WP-35, nicknamed Kermit, has been brought to Huntsville to support VORTEX-SE."
Minnesota Tornadoes Since 1950. No need to fear Otter Tail county (73 confirmed tornadoes from 1950 to 2015). The reason there were so many? The size of the county. Then again proximity to chilly Lake Superior water has meant only 2 tornadoes in Cook County during the same period, probably the safest place in the state to ride out tornado season. Graphic: Minnesota DNR.
New Cloud Types Defined by WMO. The UK Met Office has details: "The cloud species Volutus has been officially named as a new species of cloud in the World Meteorological Organization’s Cloud Atlas. The new cloud species name will now be used by meteorologists operationally around the world. As well as a new species, several new ‘special clouds’ and supplementary features of existing cloud types have been officially recognised in the atlas which is the official publication of cloud types. It is used as a reference document by operational meteorologists around the world and is also an important training tool for meteorologists, as well as for those working in aviation and at sea. Special clouds named in the new edition include: Flammagenitus, which are clouds formed as a result of forest fires; and Homogenitus, which denotes man-made or anthropogenic clouds such as those which form over power station cooling towers. An example of a new supplementary feature is Asperitas, which are well defined wave-like structures in the underside of clouds..."
More new entries in the WMO (World Meteorological Organization) Cloud Atlas:
Melting Arctic Worsens Beijing's Pollution Haze, Study Finds. Because everything is interconnected. Here's an excerpt from Climate Home: "The melting of the Arctic Ocean sea ice and the greater falls of snow in Siberia may be responsible for stagnant air conditions that cast a polluting haze over Beijing and the East China plains in January 2013, according to new research. Smoke from power stations, car exhausts and factory chimneys must have contributed. But a month-long episode of severe and choking air pollution that made world headlines now seems to have been made possible by climate changes that shifted China’s winter monsoon, to trap tiny floating particles of soot and dust over the nation’s biggest cities and industrial centers. If so, the haze could get worse, as the Arctic goes on warming and the northern latitudes get the extra burden of snow..."
Photo credit: "Beijing’s air pollution typically intensifies in winter." (Pic: J Aaron Farr/Flickr)
Race Is The Biggest Indicator In The U.S. of Whether You Live Near Toxic Waste. Quartz reports: "Go looking for the local landfill or toxic waste treatment facility in any US county with a mostly white population, and you’ll likely find it in the black or Latino neighborhoods. That’s because in the US, your race is the single biggest factor that determines whether you live near a hazardous waste facility. In 2016, a study published in Environmental Research Letters found “a consistent pattern over a 30-year period of placing hazardous waste facilities in neighborhoods where poor people and people of color live.” “In fact, places that are already disproportionately populated by minorities, and where their numbers are growing, have the best chances of being selected,” Paul Mohai, a professor and the founder of the environmental justice program at the University of Michigan who coauthored the paper, wrote in an email..."
Photo credit: "Not an ideal neighbor." (AP Photo/Gerry Broome).
A Map of Noisy America. Yes, noise pollution is making most of us a little nutty. Here's an excerpt from CityLab: "...Noise is part of the urban contract. If you want all the benefits of living with density, then you’ve got to accept a certain level of baby-screaming, train-screeching, neighbor-humping aural pollution. But a new map from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows that nearly all of the U.S. population—urban, suburban, and rural—risks exposure to potentially harmful levels of vehicular and aviation noise. From the hills of Ventura County, to the streets of Chicago, to the heart of Appalachia, the hum of trucks, cars, and planes meets the ears of 97 percent of Americans, at roughly 35 to 50 decibels. That’s comparable to the noise of a humming refrigerator, according to the BTS..."
Map credit: "If only Eisenhower had known… he would totally have still built these roads." (Bureau of Transportation Statistics).
Solar Employs More People in U.S. Electricity Generation Than Oil, Coal and Gas Combined. Here's a clip from The Center for Climate Protection: "In the United States, more people were employed in solar power last year than in generating electricity through coal, gas and oil energy combined. According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy, solar power employed 43 percent of the Electric Power Generation sector’s workforce in 2016, while fossil fuels combined accounted for just 22 percent. It’s a welcome statistic for those seeking to refute Donald Trump’s assertion that green energy projects are bad news for the American economy. Just under 374,000 people were employed in solar energy, according to the report, while coal, gas and oil power generation combined had a workforce of slightly more than 187,000. The boom in the country’s solar workforce can be attributed to construction work associated with expanding generation capacity. The gulf in employment is growing with net generation from coal falling 53 percent over the last decade. During the same period, electricity generation from natural gas increased 33 percent while solar expanded 5,000 percent..."
There's Almost Zero Rationale for Arctic Oil Exploration, Says Goldman Sachs Analyst. CNBC reports; here's an excerpt: "...Della Vigna sees rapid ongoing progress being made in power generation, where he says wind and solar energy systems in different regions are already perfectly competitive - even without subsidies - and are now taking more than 1 percent market share each year. The Goldman Sachs specialist noted that these sources of renewable energy are clearly winning out against hydrocarbons. He also pointed to the oversupply of gas, a dynamic which he sees persisting for the next 5 – 6 years due to "massive" LNG (liquid natural gas) capacity coming onstream from the U.S. and Australia, as lowering the price of that energy source..." (File photo credit: offshore-technology.com).
Colorado City Commits to 100% Renewable After Natural Gas Drives Up Electricity Costs. ThinkProgress reports: "Working-class homeowners in Pueblo, Colorado have struggled to keep up with their sky-high electric bills. Locals said rampant shutoffs have plunged entire city blocks into darkness and sent power-starved families to motels and homeless shelters. Senior citizens have given up television and unscrewed refrigerator lights in an attempt to save money. And local businesses have grappled with electric bills as high as their rents. Frustrated by bloated power bills and frequent shutoffs, citizens of Pueblo have lobbied the city council to abandon natural gas and switch to more affordable renewable energy. By organizing concerned citizens and packing town halls, Pueblo’s Energy Future managed to push the city council to pass a resolution committing to generate 100 percent of the city’s power from renewables by 2035..."
Photo credit: "Residents of Pueblo protest high electric rates." CREDIT: Pueblo’s Energy Future.
The Hidden Risks of Trump's EPA Cuts: Birth Defects, Bad Air. Bloomberg reports: "President Donald Trump pledged during the 2016 campaign that he would only "leave a little bit" of federal rules that protect human health and the environment. Now about 50 former officials of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are firing back in a lengthy analysis that details, program by program, what amounts to a starvation diet for the EPA. Calling themselves the Environmental Protection Network, they worked through both Republican and Democratic administrations. The group's members are putting aside their differences over policies and programs to stop what they say "appears to be nothing less than a full-throttle attack on the principle underlying all U.S. environmental laws—that protecting the health and environment of all Americans is a national priority..."
Drake Equation Revision Hugely Ups Odds Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life Exists. Maybe so, but where are the aliens. Could it be they've sampled our TV shows and want nothing to do with us? Here's an excerpt from Inverse: "Mankind doesn’t explore space solely in search of extraterrestrials, but we keep our eyes peeled. Still, scientists know that the chances of happening across a fellow traveler in the great beyond are minimal — and they wrap their heads around the infinitesimal odds using the Drake Equation, a seven-variable way of deriving the chance of active civilizations existing beyond Earth. But equations get older and equations get wrong. The Drake Equation, which takes into account various factors like the rate of star formation, the fraction of stars that could form planetary systems, the number habitable planets in those systems, and so on, is now 55 years old. It doesn’t reflect the new information SETI researchers have collected since the 1960s..."
"Sea of Despair" Among White, Working-Class Americans. Industries are being disrupted, jobs automated; companies making do with fewer employees. A Washington Post article claims it's not just blue collar America that's feeling the heat: "Sickness and early death in the white working class could be rooted in poor job prospects for less-educated young people as they first enter the labor market, a situation that compounds over time through family dysfunction, social isolation, addiction, obesity and other pathologies, according to a study published Thursday by two prominent economists. Anne Case and Angus Deaton garnered national headlines in 2015 when they reported that the death rate of midlife non-Hispanic white Americans had risen steadily since 1999 in contrast with the death rates of blacks, Hispanics and Europeans. Their new study extends the data by two years and shows that whatever is driving the mortality spike is not easing up. The two Princeton professors say the trend affects whites of both sexes and is happening nearly everywhere in the country..."
Let Robots Handle Your Emotional Burnout at Work. Then again, maybe robotics and automation will keep us from going crazy? Here's an excerpt of a more hopeful perspective on automation at How We Get To Next: "...Over three decades later, working in a service job still demands the stamina and resilience to handle a barrage of customer complaints—and often even abuse—with a smile. Professions that require emotional labor, which involves inducing or suppressing emotion for the sake of a job, continue to see unprecedented levels of attrition, especially among customer service representatives, flight attendants, doctors, nurses, school teachers, and hotel employees. But as robotics and computing evolve, some researchers foresee a future where technology can relieve the long-held emotional burden of some of these professions. They think we owe it to the service workforce to offer a new frontline of robotic protection. In fact, they think it’s far overdue—but does that actually mean just automating these jobs away?..."
Image credit: Darren Garrett
Amazon, The World's Most Remarkable Firm, is Just Getting Started. Here's a clip from The Economist: "...In e-commerce, the more shoppers Amazon lures, the more retailers and manufacturers want to sell their goods on Amazon. That gives Amazon more cash for new services—such as two-hour shipping and streaming video and music—which entice more shoppers. Similarly, the more customers use AWS, the more Amazon can invest in new services, which attract more customers. A third virtuous circle is starting to whirl around Alexa, the firm’s voice-activated assistant: as developers build services for Alexa, it becomes more useful to consumers, giving developers reason to create yet more services..."
How Aristotle Created the Computer. I had no idea. The Atlantic connects the dots: "THE HISTORY Of computers is often told as a history of objects, from the abacus to the Babbage engine up through the code-breaking machines of World War II. In fact, it is better understood as a history of ideas, mainly ideas that emerged from mathematical logic, an obscure and cult-like discipline that first developed in the 19th century. Mathematical logic was pioneered by philosopher-mathematicians, most notably George Boole and Gottlob Frege, who were themselves inspired by Leibniz’s dream of a universal “concept language,” and the ancient logical system of Aristotle. Mathematical logic was initially considered a hopelessly abstract subject with no conceivable applications. As one computer scientist commented: “If, in 1901, a talented and sympathetic outsider had been called upon to survey the sciences and name the branch which would be least fruitful in [the] century ahead, his choice might well have settled upon mathematical logic.” And yet, it would provide the foundation for a field that would have more impact on the modern world than any other..."
Image credit: Wikimedia / donatas1205 / Billion Photos / vgeny Karandaev / The Atlantic.
The Average Young American Binge-Watches TV for Five Hours Straight. Wave goodbye to linear (appointment) television. Here's an excerpt from Quartz: "Binge-watching has hit critical mass in the US, according to a new study. Nearly three-quarters—73%—of Americans said they binge-watched videos, either on TV or another device, found a survey by Deloitte, including a staggering 90% of US millennials. And 38% of those millennials also said they binge-watched pretty much every week. The firm interviewed more than 2,100 Americans, aged 14 and up, for its 11th annual study on US media consumption. The research was conducted by an independent firm last November..."
Photo credit: "Streaming and mobile video has made it so much easier to binge." (AP/Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Showtime).
“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” - Augustine
45 F. high temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.
45 F. average high on March 24.
47 F. high on March 24, 2016.
March 25, 2007: Record warmth stretches from southern Minnesota to western Wisconsin with 72 at Owatonna, 77 at Menomonie, WI, and 80 at Eau Claire, WI.
March 25, 1981: An F2 tornado hits Morrison county and does $25,000 worth of damage.
TODAY: Mostly cloudy - peeks of sun possible. Winds: NE 10-15. High: 48
SATURDAY NIGHT: Few showers possible. Low: 36
SUNDAY: Cool and damp. Few showers over eastern Minnesota. Winds: NE 7-12. High: 44
MONDAY: More clouds than sun, could we worse. Winds: N 7-12. Wake-up: 37. High: near 50
TUESDAY: More sun, feels like spring again. Winds: NE 7-12. Wake-up: 39. High: 55
WEDNESDAY: Fading sun, late-day shower risk. Winds: SE 7-12. Wake-up: 40. High: 54
THURSDAY: Steadier, heavier rain possible. Winds: NE 10-15. Wake-up: 42. High: 53
FRIDAY: Sun returns, better outdoor day. Winds: N 10-15. Wake-up: 38. High: 55
Climate Change Signal in Great Plains Wildfires? Is the unusual warmth that helped to create conditions favorable for record wildfires over the southern Plains related to background warming, or just a random event? Here's an excerpt from Climate Signals: "...Since the 1970s, large grass and shrubland fires have increased by more than 100,000 acres per decade. The frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Great Plains are increasing as the combination of higher temperatures, untamed underbrush and more extreme drought elevate wildfire risk. Formal attribution work has identified the fingerprint of global warming in the record hot temperatures that swept across the US east of the Rockies in February 2017, as climate change increased the likelihood of such heat by threefold. The heat fueled worsening drought conditions in the Great Plains region, contributing to the extreme fire conditions in early March that precipitated major blazes in Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Texas. One blaze, encompassing Clark and Comanche counties along Kansas' southern border with Oklahoma, is the largest wildfire on record in the state..."
Global Warming is Increasing Rainfall Rates. Here's an excerpt of a story from Dr. John Abraham at the University of St. Thomas, writing for The Guardian: "...In my state, we have had four 1000-year floods since the year 2000! Two years ago, Minneapolis, Minnesota had such flooding that people were literally fishing in the streets as lakes and streams overflowed and fish escaped the banks. No joke, I actually observed fish swimming past me as I waded up a street. This occurrence is being observed elsewhere in my country and around the world. It falls upon city planners and engineers to design infrastructure that is more able to accommodate heavy rains and manage water. This means designing river containment areas or flood plains, reinforcing buildings and houses, and increasing the capacity of storm drainage in urban areas, just to name a few. These modifications present costs but not preparing for increased flooding poses even greater financial and social costs. Moreover, storing water from times when there is too much for the inevitable times when we have too little (drought), results in better water management and multiple benefits..."
Photo credit: "Jared Bakko hauls a boat down a flooded road after taking supplies to his grandmother as the Red River flood waters began to recede just south of Moorhead, Minnesota, USA, 28 March, 2009." EPA/CRAIG LASSIG Photograph: Craig Lassig/EPA.
How Climate Change is Altering Spring. Michigan Radio has the report, confirming what many of us have already observed: "...That “magical spring period” she’s talking about is called the vernal window. It’s basically when the snow melts, the rivers start rushing, the seeds sprout, birds start to sing: all of the classic signs of spring. But Contasta’s new study finds that those very basic, ecological things are changing. In our warmer winters, that vernal window – the spring awakening, basically – happens over a much longer period of time. And things that used to happen back to back, now have a longer lag time in between. “That could be a longer time when, soil is warm, where water could be moving through the soil, and trees are not active,” she says. Which could be bad for the trees, of course..."
Photo credit: "Spring is arriving earlier, and the vernal window is lasting longer." ellenm1 / Flickr, http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM.
How a Libertarian Think Tank is Trying to Correct the "Degenerate" Climate Science Debate. Here's an excerpt from DeSmogBlog: "...We find a lot of degenerate narratives about climate science amongst libertarians and conservatives in D.C.,” said Joseph Majkut, director of climate science at the Niskanen Center. Majkut, a Princeton graduate in atmospheric and ocean sciences, has written a dispassionate paper explaining the common myths held as true by many conservatives. “The climate science debate that you see occurring at fairly high levels of government in the United States is decades behind real climate science,” Majkut told DeSmog. He says with his briefing paper, he wanted to subject some of the common arguments to a “durability test.” “How might a policy maker think about climate science,” he asked. “How might you view the sort of conclusions that you can take from the climate science community — are they durable, what are the common objectives that you cede to them from experts that might lie outside the consensus and might challenge it and how do those objections hold up?” The paper notes the world is warming, global temperature records are reliable, and there has been no compelling evidence offered that the cause of warming is anything other than human activity. While none of this is news to climate scientists, it will be news to many conservatives..."
China Blames Climate Change for Record Sea Levels. Here's an excerpt from Reuters: "Chinese coastal sea levels hit record highs in 2016, driven by climate change as well as El Nino and La Nina events, the country's sea administration said. According to an annual report published on Wednesday by China's State Oceanic Administration, average coastal sea levels in 2016 were up 38 millimeters compared to the previous year, and saw record-breaking highs in the months of April, September, November and December. "Against the background of global climate change, China's coastal air and sea temperatures have soared, coastal air pressure has fallen and sea levels have also soared," it said. It warned that high sea levels would lead to problems like coastal erosion as well as more frequent and severe typhoons..."
The Arctic Just Set a Grim New Record for Low Levels of Sea Ice. Chris Mooney reports at The Washington Post: "Floating sea ice at the top of the world has set another troubling record for its low spatial extent, shattering a record set just two years ago for this key component of the planet’s climate system. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the sheet of Arctic sea ice, which expands and contracts in an annual cycle, probably reached its maximum size this year on March 7, when it spanned 14.42 million square kilometers, or 5.57 million square miles, atop the Arctic ocean. That’s an enormous area, but it’s also the smallest winter maximum extent ever observed in records dating to 1979. A low ice extent at the peak of winter is troubling because from here on out, the ice will continue to shrink all the way into September, exposing ever more of the Arctic ocean to the sun’s warming rays and storing up heat in the system..."
Image credit: "
Accelerating Meltdown. From Climate Nexus: "For the third year running, Arctic sea ice hit a record low for its annual peak extent of winter ice cover, scientists reported Wednesday. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), sea ice cover reached its peak extent on March 7 at 5.57 million square miles – over 470,000 square miles, an area the size of South Africa, smaller than the 1981-2010 long-term average, and 37,000 square miles smaller than the 2015 record. The meager ice cover comes after a disturbingly warm winter in the region, and NSIDC reports temperatures 4.5°F above average from October to February. The ice is "a key part of the Earth's climate system and we're losing it," NSDIC director Mark Serreze told the AP. "We're losing the ice in all seasons now."
Record-Breaking Climate Change Pushes World into "Uncharted Territory". The Guardian reports: "The record-breaking heat that made 2016 the hottest year ever recorded has continued into 2017, pushing the world into “truly uncharted territory”, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. The WMO’s assessment of the climate in 2016, published on Tuesday, reports unprecedented heat across the globe, exceptionally low ice at both poles and surging sea-level rise. Global warming is largely being driven by emissions from human activities, but a strong El Niño – a natural climate cycle – added to the heat in 2016. The El Niño is now waning, but the extremes continue to be seen, with temperature records tumbling in the US in February and polar heatwaves pushing ice cover to new lows..."
* The 28 page WMO (World Meteorological Organization) report on the climate is here.