Celebrating a Welcome Lack of Weather

"Hey Paul, what's the weather?" Changeable. Back to you, Chuck.

For much of the year Minnesota meteorologists are handcuffed to their Dopplers - grimly tracking pulsating red blobs on radar. May can bring tornadoes, floods and hail the size of hens eggs. Frost or 90s - take your pick.

But not this time around. We did our penance in April; the maps look good and springy for the next 2 weeks. High temperatures should range from 60s to 70s; a few degrees above average, for a change. Metro nighttime lows stay above 32 through mid-May, but I'd still play it safe and wait at least 2 weeks to
plant tender annuals.

NOAA reports only minor river flooding on the Minnesota & Mississippi tributaries, but we may have dodged a bullet. Showery rains brush southern Minnesota today; instability showers sprout up Saturday afternoon. Sunday should be drier, statewide. Not a blizzard in sight.

In fact, long-range guidance hints at a hot ridge of high pressure pumping sticky 80s back into town by the 3rd week of May. In a few weeks your neighbors will whine about humidity levels. Wait for it. 


Frost-Free for Metro. If you want to be absolutely safe, wait until after Mother's Day (or at least the Fishing Opener!) but ECMWF guidance shows  lows consistently in the 40s and 50s the next 2 weeks. WeatherBell.


Summer Sizzle. If the GFS forecast roughly 2 weeks from now verifies (big if) expect a run of 80s and 90s for the Plains and Midwest. Like turning on a light-switch.

May 2, 2013 Snowfall Totals. The southern and eastern suburbs of MSP picked up a couple inches, but Rochester got hammered with 15+" of snow. Map below courtesy of the Twin Cities National Weather Service.



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..."



NOAA Budget Cuts Get Chilly Reception in Congress. The American Institute of Physics explains why: "At recent congressional hearings, lawmakers questioned the wisdom of the Trump administration’s proposal to cut the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget by over $1 billion. The fiscal year 2019 budget request for NOAA is $1.35 billion, or 23 percent, below the level recently appropriated for fiscal year 2018. Members on both sides of the aisle expressed concerns to Acting NOAA Administrator Timothy Gallaudet about how such deep budget cuts would impact the agency’s research, forecasting, and observational capabilities. Some, for whom the record destruction from the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was still fresh on their minds, asked Gallaudet to articulate what NOAA needs to effectively prepare for and respond to future hurricanes..."


5 Ways Weather is Pivotal in a Baseball Game. Interesting nuggets in a post at AccuWeather.com: "....Air temperature can change a baseball's trajectory. Imagine watching a baseball game in the middle of April in colder weather and a batter launches a pitch deep towards the fence, only to have it fall into an outfielder’s glove. If the game is played during the summer months, you could see a ball struck similarly, only this time the outfielder positions himself to catch the ball only to drift farther and farther backwards as the ball carries farther than expected. A fly ball out in April could be a home run in August. “For a long fly ball, a ball hit with a sort of home run trajectory, that’s a ball that’s hit at about 100 mph off the bat, maybe at a 30-degree elevation angle,” said Alan Nathan, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Illinois..."


Why Do Some Hurricanes Intensify So Fast? Miami Researchers Find a Key Clue. A story at ArcaMax connects the dots: "...In a paper published in the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, scientists now say a look inside the storm might provide forecasters with valuable warning signs. After examining models from a 2014 hurricane that rapidly intensified, they found that interior thunderstorms were able to overcome the power of upper level winds that held them in place. As the thunderstorms begin swirling around the storm's center, they appeared to increase the storm's circulation, make the hurricane more symmetrical and lessen its tilt, allowing it to spin more furiously. "I'm not trying to downplay the role of shear because it's very important. If you have very large shear, you won't have an (intense) hurricane," said Hua Leighton, the study's lead author and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist at the University of Miami's Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies..."

Hurricane Dennis File Photo: NASA.


"That's Not Fair." Federal Insurance Program Falls Short for Flood Victims. As the frequency and intensity of flooding continues to increase look for more problems and shortfalls at a federal level. CBS News has the story: "A CBS News investigation reveals that a federal fund intended to protect flood victims often benefits private insurance companies instead. The National Flood Insurance Program, run by FEMA, is $25 billion in debt. In some years, up to two-thirds of the money that's supposed to help flood victims goes to private insurance companies and the attorneys they hire to fight flood claims. When record floods hit Louisiana in 2016, 150,000 people had damage to their homes with an estimated cost of $15 billion. Two years later, many homeowners are still struggling to rebuild  –  and fighting the same companies and lawyers that they fund with their premiums and taxpayer dollars, reports "CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor..."


World's Tallest Geyser Keeps Erupting, and Scientists Aren't Sure Why. What can possibly go wrong. Hopefully this has nothing to do with the fact that Yellowstone National Park is perched on a dormant (?) super-volcano. CNN Travel reports: "Yellowstone National Park's Steamboat Geyser just erupted for the third time in two months, and scientists aren't sure why. It doesn't erupt very often, but when it does, it is the tallest active geyser in the world. The Steamboat Geyser -- known to eject a column of water 300 feet in the air -- erupted for the third time April 27.  "It is a spectacular geyser. When it erupts, it generally has very big eruptions," Michael Poland, the US Geological Survey's scientist-in-charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, wrote in an email. According to seismicity data, the recent eruptions have been a little bit smaller than in the past. Even if these latest eruptions are smaller, they are still impressive compared with, say, Old Faithful..."

Photo credit: Peggy L Henderson.


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.


The USA's Long Battle Against Air Pollution Isn't Over Yet, As Air Quality Improvements Are Slowing Down. Here's a clip from a USA TODAY article: "The USA's long battle against air pollution isn't over yet. Following five decades of progress in cleaning up our air, U.S. pollution gains have slowed significantly in recent years, a new study concludes. The surprising result means that it may be more difficult than previously thought for the U.S. to achieve its goal of cleaner air, scientists said. "Although our air is healthier than it used to be in the '80s and '90s, air quality in the U.S. is not progressing as quickly as we thought," said National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Helen Worden, a study co-author. "The gains are starting to slow down..."

File photo: Oliver Berg, EPA.


Air Pollution Slowdown Slows Down: Headlines and links via Climate Nexus: "The United States's progress in reducing air pollution has slowed dramatically in recent years, according to new research. A study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that a slowdown in pollution levels from nitrogen oxide tanked 76 percent between 2011 and 2015--contradicting official EPA estimates showing only a 16 percent slowdown. The study follows last month's annual "State of the Air" report from the American Lung Association, which found that more than 4 in 10 Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone or particulate pollution." (USA Today, AP, Mashable, LA Times $, Bloomberg).

File photo: Climate Reality.


Revolt in West Virginia's Coal Country. Rolling Stone explains: "...Despite America's turn toward natural gas and renewables, 17 percent of U.S. energy still comes from coal, and approximately 12,000 West Virginians work in the industry. Hunks of coal are sold at the airport gift shop in Charleston, and the state's beloved college football team, the West Virginia Mountaineers, touch a piece of coal for good luck before entering their stadium. A popular program called Coal in the Classroom has sent industry representatives into schools to educate "children about the history and importance of coal." "They've fed us this propaganda that coal miners should be enemies with environmental organizers," says Swearengin. "I am a proud coal miner's daughter, but I'm not going to worship that black rock..."


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..."


How Bad is the Labor Shortage? Cities Will Pay You to Move There. The Wall Street Journal reports: "Jobs at the paper mills and safe manufacturers on this stretch of the Great Miami River mostly dried up by the early 2000s, leaving behind closed factories and an abandoned downtown. Today, a spruced-up waterfront, loft apartments and help-wanted signs give the appearance of economic renewal. All that’s missing are workers—and that has prompted a novel experiment. Relocate to Hamilton and the city promises $5,000 to help pay student loans. Pack up for Grant County, Ind., and claim $5,000 toward buying a home. Settle in North Platte, Neb., and the chamber of commerce will hold a ceremony in your honor to present an even bigger check..."

Photo credit: "Chelsea Khabbaz, 30 years old, and her husband, Robert Khabbaz, 27, took advantage of an incentive grant to move to St. Clair County, MIch." Fabrizio Costantini for the Wall Street Journal.


The Dangers of "Hyper-Automation". So...you'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)


Kids Raised on Farms Are Healthier in 2 Important Ways. Yes, it's good to "get dirty" at a very young age, science suggests. Here's a clip from a Gizmodo article that caught my eye: "Scientists have long speculated that the “dirtier” the environment we grow up in—with lots of germs from different people and even animals—the better off our immune system and physical health ultimately will be. A new study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science provides early evidence that a dirty world might even be better for our mental health, too. The hygiene hypothesis, as it’s called, says that our immune system needs to spar with relatively harmless germs and foreign substances (including foods like peanuts) in its earliest years so it can calibrate itself. Without this training, it can become too sensitive and overreact to things it shouldn’t, like house dust and pollen, leading to allergies and asthma. Plenty of research has shown that growing up in a rural environment, or with pets, is associated with lower rates of autoimmune disorders, while rates of allergies and autoimmune disorders have steadily climbed in urban areas..."


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..."


Study: Youth Football is Linked to Earlier Symptoms of Brain Disease. Details via The Daily Beast: "Professional football players who played tackle football when they were children suffered from symptoms of “brain disease, like cognitive impairment and mood swings, earlier in their lives,” Time magazine reported. Dr. Ann McKee, whose work on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) uncovered the health risks that football poses to players, studied 211 brains in an attempt to see if more severe CTE developed in those that started playing the game at a very young age. McKee found that 84 brains from individuals who had participated in tackle football before the age of 12 “had an earlier onset of cognitive, behavior and mood symptoms by an average of 13 years, compared to those who started after age 12...”

Photo credit: REUTERS/AI Project.


Too High, Drunk or Sleepy to Drive? One Day Your Phone Could Know. Frankly, I'm vaguely terrified how much my phone already knows about me. Here's an interesting post at WIRED.com: "... There's no breathalyzer for marijuana, and consumers and cops are years from having a biomarker for how ripped you are, let alone whether you're good to hop behind the wheel of a car. So the police rely on other, observable measurements, like field sobriety tests. What apps like Druid presuppose is that such tests could eventually live on our phones, their microphones and sensors gauging not just whether we're too high to drive, but too drunk, too sleepy, too medicated, too demented, or too otherwise cognitively impaired. The goal, in essence: A universal, phone-based driver fitness test..."


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..."


She's Trying To Be The First Black Woman to Visit Every Country. CNN has the story: "...To date, there are about 150 known people who have been to every country, the majority of whom are white men traveling on European passports -- the ones who have the option to "blend in" in more places. As of April 2018, there were 193 recognized countries in the United Nations, plus two with "non-observer status." Since she began her project in earnest in 2016, Nabongo has been to 109 of them. Her goal is to reach 172 by the end of 2018, and the remaining countries by summer 2019. North Korea and Iran, which often prove challenging for US travelers, are two where she plans to use her Ugandan passport. So far, her passports have stamps from places as far-flung as Nigeria, Cuba, Turkey and Laos..."

File photo: NASA.


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..."


THURSDAY: Sun north, showers metro and south. Winds: E 5-10. High: 71

THURSDAY NIGHT: Showers linger. Low: 51


FRIDAY: Lukewarm sunshine, a fine spring day. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 76

SATURDAY: Some AM sun, few PM showers. Winds: W 10-15. Wake-up: 54. High: 72

SUNDAY: Drier day with plenty of sunshine. Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 52. High: 71

MONDAY: Still very nice with blue sky. Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 50. High: 73

TUESDAY: Mix of clouds and sun. Winds: NE 8-13. Wake-up: 54. High: 74

WEDNESDAY: Risk of a free lawn-watering, more showers. Winds: E 7-12. Wake-up: 55. High: near 70


Climate Stories...

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: NRDC.org.




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.


Former Exxon Executive Calls on Oil Industry to Clean Up Its Climate Act. Here is an excerpt of a post from Bill Hafker, a former Exxon Mobil executive who started at the company in 1980 and retired in 2016 as a senior engineering advisor and environmental global technology sponsor. CNBC.com has more details: "The oil and gas industry and its products account for half of global carbon dioxide emissions. If humanity is to stand any chance of effectively addressing climate change, global oil and gas companies must become a part of the solution. I worked in the industry for 36 years. I believe these companies have the technical skills, the financial scale, and the business savvy to successfully address climate change, if governments and investors step up as well. To make that happen, credible climate planning is needed, now..."


Bill McKibbon: "There's Clearly Money to be Made from Sun and Wind". Here's a clip from an article at The Guardian: "...I’ve been interested to watch the fact that financial types are picking up more quickly what’s happening than political types,” he said. “The solar guys haven’t made their money yet, so they can’t [buy political influence]. But if you’re running a pension fund or you’re running a big investment company, you can’t make any more money out of coal. Its day is done. But there’s clearly money to be made from sun and wind, so that’s where they’re headed...”

File image: Midwest Energy News.


The World's Bleak Climate Situation, in 3 Charts. Vox explains: "Every so often it’s helpful — and by helpful I also mean traumatic, so buyer beware — to pull the lens back and take a look at the big picture on climate change and what’s necessary to avert its worst consequences. In the journal Nature, journalist Jeff Tollefson recently offered that magisterial overview of the climate challenge and the progress that’s been made so far. He finds, as such sweeping looks tend to, that both optimists and pessimists have a case. There is a revolution in clean energy ... but it’s not happening fast enough. I’ve boiled it down to three key graphics, adapted from Tollefson’s piece (which you should read, seriously)..."

Graph credit: Javier Zarracina/Vox.


Boaty McBoatface Leads The Way to Study Glacial Retreat: From Climate Nexus: "An enormous joint US and British expedition to study the implications of glacial retreat in Antarctica launched yesterday out of Cambridge. The 100-scientist project--which will be the the inaugural mission of internet sensation Boaty McBoatface--will focus on the remote and rapidly-downsizing Thwaites glacier, seeking data on how the glacier may retreat in the future. "Basically, this is an urgent research mission to determine just how bad sea level rise in this century could get," Washington Post reporter Chris Mooney elaborated on Twitter. "...We are now probably 3-5 years away from answers to the biggest question about sea level rise." (The Guardian, Washington Post $, BBCMashable).

Global Glacier Trend Graphic: World Glacier Monitoring Service.

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