Growing Concern About a Deepening Dry Spell

According to NOAA, April was the 400th consecutive month of warmer-than-average global temperatures. Call me crazy, but that's a pretty big coincidence. The last time the planet had a cooler-than-average month was December, 1984. President Reagan was in charge, Dynasty was the top TV show and Madonna's "Like a Virgin" topped the Billboard charts.

Rainfall across much of central and northern Minnesota is 25-60 percent below average for the growing season; about 1-2 inches less than normal. The pattern may shift on a dime with frequent rains as we sail into June, but right now I'm a bit more concerned about creeping drought than flooding.

Exhibit A: today's front is fizzling. We may squeak out showers tonight into Sunday, but once again the heaviest rains pass south of the Twin Cities.

Next week looks sticky and stagnant with a few stray, garden-variety thundershowers popping up, but not the soaking, widespread rain much of the state needs right now.

Models are fairly consistent, bringing a depression or possible tropical storm into Florida late next week. "Alberto" anyone? 

Photo credit: Nick Peters Photography in Belle Plain, Minnesota.

Deja Vu - All Over Again. Stop me if you've heard this before: the heaviest rains are forecast to track south of MSP; under a tenth of an inch of rain (last night) but any showers over the weekend should be spotty and light - the real rain staying over Iowa. 00z NAM 12km accumulated rainfall:

Cut-Off Low Potential. NOAA's GFS global model spins up a nearly-stationary closed low over the Midwest by early June. If this forecast verifies cooler, showery weather would result, with above average temperatures on either coast.

Dry Spell Deepens. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor 53.46% of Minnesota is abnormally dry  and 6.47% of state is under moderate drought. Bring Me The News reports: "...Drought conditions are the result of "increasingly dry conditions over the past 60 to 90 days," says the USDA's Eric Luebehusen. Central and northern Minnesota are running 25-60 percent below normal precipitation for this time of year, which the Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service says is about 1-2 inches of rain below normal..."

Meanwhile, Flash Flood Risk Lingers for Mid Atlantic. As much as 4" of additional rain is possible from D.C. to Philadelphia by Saturday evening. NOAA data displayed via Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Hurricane Season Starts June 1 - But Could Fire Up Early. Tropical meteorology expert Brian McNoldy explains a nagging tropical risk for next weekend at Capital Weather Gang: "The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1, but we’re seeing signs it might start earlier than that. Forecast models have consistently been hinting at some sort of tropical development in the western Caribbean next week. Just what exactly comes out of it is nebulous, but it could impact Florida next Friday or Saturday. After that, it would probably track north and bring a deluge to the Eastern Seaboard. If something does manage to form, the first name on this year’s list is Alberto. Coincidentally, the last time Alberto appeared on the list was 2012, and it formed on May 19..."

Graphic credit: "Forecast winds and pressure from the GFS model for next weekend. Don’t pay too much attention to where this system is — it will surely change over the next week." (

Why Are Some Tornadoes Rated With an F, and Others With an EF? in Cedar Rapids, Iowa has a good explainer; here's a snippet: "...The Fujita Scale, which rates a tornado’s intensity based on the damage it causes, was developed by Dr. Ted Fujita of the University of Chicago, and was introduced in 1971. It went from F0 to F5, the latter being the most intense tornado causing complete destruction. Each rating level had an estimated wind speed range:

F0: 40-72 mph
F1: 73-112 mph
F2: 113-157 mph
F3: 158-206 mph
F4: 207-260 mph
F5: 261-318 mph

Since then, engineers and meteorologists have done much more research on tornadoes and the damage they cause. Better knowledge since then led to the Enhanced Fujita Scale, enacted in 2007. It accounts for more types of damage, including the type of structure and how well it was built, to give a more accurate representation of how strong a tornado really was..."

File image: FEMA.

Tornado Tally in the Twin Cities. Yes, tornadoes can and do hit the Twin Cities metro area. Here's a good summary of recent tornado touchdowns from "...The new scale resembles the original with tornado grades from EF0 to EF5, but it slightly re-categorizes tornadoes reflecting the latest knowledge of damage caused by different wind speeds. Situated on the northern edge of the so-called "tornado alley," the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area experiences periodic twisters. Between 1950 and 2016, Minnesota saw 1,835 tornadoes; more than 30 touched down in Hennepin County, home to the Twin Cities..."

Image credit: North Minneapolis tornado track on May 22, 2011 courtesy of Geo-Located Minneapolis.

As Cities Sprawl, More Texans Are Exposed to Tornadoes. What was farmland 10-30 years ago has transformed into subdivisions and neighborhoods, increasing the probability of tornado-related damage, according to The Texas Tribune: "...Texas' population has grown faster than any other large state's this decade. It’s been the nation’s growth center and has shown no signs of slowing down, according to Steve Murdock, former director of the U.S. Census Bureau. For Fox, this means the tornadoes that he’s spent his whole career tracking can destroy more lives than ever before. Some suburbs around Dallas and Fort Worth have doubled in size over the past 20 years. Others have tripled. To accommodate additional residents, new housing developments and businesses have sprung up in multiple cities. As a result, the recipe for disaster that Fox fears has already begun, as tornadoes have struck densely populated communities that simply didn’t exist a few years before..."

Photo credit: "Duncan Winters, 10, walks through the remains of his grandmother's home during the cleanup effort in Forney on April 4, 2012. Thousands of residents were without power and hundreds of flights canceled as authorities surveyed the damage a day after up to a dozen tornadoes struck the densely populated Dallas-Fort Worth area." REUTERS/Tim Sharp.

For Emergencies, Hope Isn't a Plan. Some very good advice from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety; here's an excerpt of a post: "None of us can see the future, so it’s impossible to know if and when an emergency will occur. But simply hoping a disaster won’t happen won’t help you survive and recover when it does. Hope is good, but it’s not a plan. So when something happens like the April 26 fire at the Husky Refinery in Superior, Wisconsin, you need to be ready. There are two refineries in the Twin Cities area—one in St. Paul Park, and another on the border of Rosemount and Inver Grove Heights. Minnesota is also home to two nuclear generating plants as well as many other types of facilities that use hazardous materials. So if you live near one, you need to have an emergency plan. The people of Superior didn’t know when they left for school and work that morning that they would have to evacuate their homes before the end of the day. But it’s safe to say that those who had emergency kits packed, a family emergency communications plan in place, and who knew where to take temporary shelter had an easier time of it. Put simply, you can’t make those kinds of decisions when you have minutes to evacuate your home..."


Mysterious Rise in Banned Ozone-Destroying Chemical Shocks Scientists. Time to spend more time in the basement, according to new research summarized at The Guardian: "A sharp and mysterious rise in emissions of a key ozone-destroying chemical has been detected by scientists, despite its production being banned around the world. Unless the culprit is found and stopped, the recovery of the ozone layer, which protects life on Earth from damaging UV radiation, could be delayed by a decade. The source of the new emissions has been tracked to east Asia, but finding a more precise location requires further investigation. CFC chemicals were used in making foams for furniture and buildings, in aerosols and as refrigerants. But they were banned under the global Montreal protocol after the discovery of the ozone hole over Antarctica in the 1980s. Since 2007, there has been essentially zero reported production of CFC-11, the second most damaging of all CFCs..."

We Made Plastic. We Depend On It. Now We're Drowing In It. Check out a harrowing story at National Geographic: "...Because plastic wasn’t invented until the late 19th century, and production really only took off around 1950, we have a mere 9.2 billion tons of the stuff to deal with. Of that, more than 6.9 billion tons have become waste. And of that waste, a staggering 6.3 billion tons never made it to a recycling bin—a figure that stunned the scientists who crunched the numbers in 2017. No one knows how much unrecycled plastic waste ends up in the ocean, Earth’s last sink. In 2015, Jenna Jambeck, a University of Georgia engineering professor, caught everyone’s attention with a rough estimate: between 5.3 million and 14 million tons each year just from coastal regions. Most of it isn’t thrown off ships, she and her colleagues say, but is dumped carelessly on land or in rivers, mostly in Asia. It’s then blown or washed into the sea..."

Photo credit: "Just after dawn in Kalyan, on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, trash pickers looking for plastics begin their daily rounds at the dump, joined by a flock of birds. In the distance, garbage trucks rolling in from the megacity traverse a garbage valley. The woman carrying the red cloth lives at the landfill." Photo" Randy Olson.

Two-Thirds of World Population Will Live in Cities by 2015: UN Study. CNN breaks down the trends: "The coming decades will see the growth of colossal megacities as the world's population increasingly moves into urban environments, a new United Nations report predicts. Today, 55% of the world's population is urban, a figure which is expected to grow to 68% by 2050, with the addition of 2.5 billion new city residents, according to projections by the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. By 2030, there will be 43 megacities around the world with populations of over 10 million, up from 33 similarly sized urban centers today and just 10 in 1990..."

The Growing Partisan Divide on the Environment. Here's an excerpt of a new report from Niskanen Center: "In a new report published today by the Niskanen Center, political scientist David Karol analyzes how environmental issues have become increasingly partisan in American politics, and explores what might shift the debate on environmental issuesand climate specifically—into more productive territory. There are lessons here for anyone looking to affect climate policy on the right side of the aisle. Before we can think about how to shift the lines of partisan battle, it is helpful to understand how the lines were drawn in the first place. Using scorecards from the League of Conservation Voters, Karol shows the stark difference between the mid-20th century (when modern environmentalism entered politics) and today. Forty-eight years ago..."

Image: Yale Climate Connections.

The 9.9 Percent is the New American Aristocracy. Food for thought from The Atlantic: "...The meritocratic class has mastered the old trick of consolidating wealth and passing privilege along at the expense of other people’s children. We are not innocent bystanders to the growing concentration of wealth in our time. We are the principal accomplices in a process that is slowly strangling the economy, destabilizing American politics, and eroding democracy. Our delusions of merit now prevent us from recognizing the nature of the problem that our emergence as a class represents. We tend to think that the victims of our success are just the people excluded from the club. But history shows quite clearly that, in the kind of game we’re playing, everybody loses badly in the end..."

Image credit: Craig Cutler.

How Baby Boomers Broke America. Check out a must-read post from Steve Brill at "Lately, most Americans, regardless of their political leanings, have been asking themselves some version of the same question: How did we get here? How did the world’s greatest democracy and economy become a land of crumbling roads, galloping income inequality, bitter polarization and dysfunctional government? As I tried to find the answer over the past two years, I discovered a recurring irony. About five decades ago, the core values that make America great began to bring America down. The First Amendment became a tool for the wealthy to put a thumb on the scales of democracy. America’s rightly celebrated dedication to due process was used as an instrument to block government from enforcing job-safety rules, holding corporate criminals accountable and otherwise protecting the unprotected. Election reforms meant to enhance democracy wound up undercutting democracy..."

Image credit: Ross MacDonald for TIME.

A Safer Way to Watch "13 Reasons Why"? If you have a family member who plans on watching the Netflix series you may want to check out this primer from first: "Following the Netflix release of 13 Reasons Why in 2017, many mental health, suicide prevention, and education experts from around the world expressed a common concern about the series’ graphic content and portrayal of difficult issues facing youth. Resources and tools to address these concerns were quickly and widely disseminated in an effort to help parents, educators, clinical professionals and other adults engage in conversations with youth about the themes found in the show. In advance of the release of season 2, SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) brought together a group of 75 leading experts in mental health, suicide prevention and education as well as healthcare professionals (see full list below) to develop tools to help encourage positive responses to the series..."

Computers Crack the Code of Pop-Song Success. It Helps to be "Happy" and "Female". In my heart of hearts I'm a happy female. Here's an excerpt of a fascinating post at The L.A. Times: "If you find it hard to predict which songs are destined for pop-chart success and which will flop, try asking a computer. After analyzing the attributes of more than half a million songs released over a period of 30 years, a computer algorithm was able to sort the successful songs from also-rans with an accuracy of up to 86%. A team of mathematicians from UC Irvine described how — and why — it accomplished this feat in a study published in Wednesday's edition of the journal Royal Society Open Science. "There is something magical about music," wrote the team, which was led by students Myra Interiano, Kamyar Kazemi and Lijia Wang. "Scientists have been trying to disentangle the magic and explain what it is that makes us love some music, hate other music and just listen to music..."

Photo credit: Postcard West.

Top-Rated Vacation Destinations in North America. We are number 10! Star Tribune reports: "Expedia is out with its second annual list of the 50 top-rated places to visit in North America, and Minneapolis came in 10th ahead of the likes of Bar Harbor, Maine, and Key West and Sanibel in Florida. “Up two slots this year, Minneapolis ... continues to gain popularity,” Expedia noted in its online compilation, which it based on examining reviews posted on its site for more than 4,600 cities. Leading the way on the list was Wailea, Hawaii, as it did for Expedia last year. Just last fall, the Wall Street Journal declared Minneapolis as one of the hottest travel destinations for the coming year — and the only one among the 10 in the United States..."

* The Expedia story is here.

Minnesota is Surrounded by 15 of the 20 Drunkest Cities in America. I had no idea, but Bring Me The News has a head-shaking post: "In search of the 20 drunkest cities in America, 24/7 Wall Street took data from 381 metro areas and produced a top 20 list that features 10 cities in Wisconsin, three in Iowa, two in North Dakota and just one in Minnesota. The list is so heavily populated by Minnesota's direct neighbors that we bolded the four cities that aren't bordering or in Minnesota. The number to the right of each city is the percentage of adults who drink to excess. (7 of the Top cities are in Wisconsin, btw)...

  1. Green Bay, WI - 26.5%
  2. Eau Claire, WI - 26.2%
  3. Appleton, WI - 26.2%
  4. Madison, WI - 25.9%
  5. Fargo, ND - 25.2%
  6. Oshkosh, WI - 24.5%

14 Secrets of Costco Employees. In case you wanted to know, Mental Floss has the details: "...Working there is better than going to the gym. Turns out that navigating a warehouse full of goods stacked to the ceiling is kind of like getting an all-day gym pass. “I walk about five to eight miles a day on average, and that's all within the confines of the store,” says Rachael, a Costco employee in Colorado. “When you see pallets stacked with 50-pound bags of flour or sugar or dog food or cat litter, a lot of that stuff had to be stacked by hand by employees before the store opens. Ditto for those giant stacks of shoes and bottles of salsa or five-gallon jugs of cooking oil. It's a lot of hard work...”

Connecting the Dots. I routinely talk to groups about my entreprenurial hits and misses, and the threats (and opportunities) posed by a rapidly-changing climate. If you're interested in getting on the list and securing specific dates for the fall or winter drop me a request here.

84 F. high in the Twin Cities on Friday.

70 F. average high on May 18.

56 F. high on May 18, 2017.

May 19, 1975: Strong winds cause over 2 million dollars of damage across Fridley, Mounds View and New Brighton.

SATURDAY: Cloudier, cooler. Slight shower risk. Winds: N 8-13. High: near 70

SATURDAY NIGHT: Best chance of showers south of MSP. Low: 52

SUNDAY: Showers far south, some sun up north. Winds: NE 8-13. High: 68

MONDAY: Partly sunny and comfortable. Winds: E 5-10. Wake-up: 49. High: 66

TUESDAY: Plenty of sun, warmer. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 53. High: 77

WEDNESDAY: Murky sun, chance of a T-shower. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 60. High: near 80

THURSDAY: Warm & sticky, few T-storms nearby. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 64. High: 81

FRIDAY: Humid with a better chance of T-storms. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 63. High: 79

Climate Stories...

Earth Just Experienced 400th Straight Warmer-Than-Normal Month. USA TODAY explains: "It was December 1984, and President Reagan had just been elected to his second term, Dynasty was the top show on TV and Madonna's Like a Virgin topped the musical charts. It was also the last time the Earth had a cooler-than-average month. Last month marked the planet's 400th consecutive month with above-average temperatures, federal scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday. The cause for the streak? Unquestionably, it’s climate change, caused by humanity's burning of fossil fuels.  "We live in and share a world that is unequivocally, appreciably and consequentially warmer than just a few decades ago, and our world continues to warm," said NOAA climate scientist Deke Arndt. "Speeding by a '400' sign only underscores that, but it does not prove anything new..."

April Global Temperature Anomaly map above: NASA GISTEMP.

That NASA Climate Science Program Trump Axed? House Lawmakers Just Voted to Restore It. Details via Science AAAS: "A U.S. House of Representatives spending panel voted today to restore a small NASA climate research program that President Donald Trump’s administration had quietly axed. (Click here to read our earlier coverage.) The House appropriations panel that oversees NASA unanimously approved an amendment to a 2019 spending bill that orders the space agency to set aside $10 million within its earth science budget for a “climate monitoring system” that studies “biogeochemical processes to better understand the major factors driving short and long term climate change.” That sounds almost identical to the work that NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) was doing before the Trump administration targeted the program, which was getting about $10 million annually, for elimination this year..."

Photo credit: "Representative John Culberson (R–TX, center) with NASA officials in 2015." NASA SMAP/T. Wynne.

Can the San Francisco Bay be Saved From the Sea? Here's an excerpt from The Atlantic: "...It’s totally freaky to see that with just two feet you have lost two airports. Pretty soon all of the approaches to all of the bridges are gone, most of Highway 101 and Route 37, and healthy chunks of the 80,” Schwartzenberg says. The few current pockets of affordability—Alviso, Redwood City, Fremont, Richmond, and East Palo Alto—are all underwater, as are portions of Oakland, Marin County, and downtown San Francisco. What we think of as the coastline is a blur. Looking over the map, I wonder whether the Fisher Bay Observatory is designed to get visitors not just to think about sea-level rise but to begin to imagine the unthinkable: the unsettling of the American shore..."

Carbon Capture, the Vacuum Cleaner the Climate Needs. A story at Bloomberg caught my eye: "...We’ve already put 45 percent more carbon dioxide into the air than there was before industrialization. Every day, another 100 million metric tons of it goes up. Reducing those emissions to zero -- if that can even be done -- would not be enough to meet the 1.5 degree goal. (We’re up about 1 degree Celsius already.) By one estimate, between now and 2100, we’d need to remove more than 800 gigatons of CO2, the equivalent of 20 years of emissions at current rates. What does carbon removal mean? It comes in two main flavors: carbon capture and storage (CCS), and carbon dioxide removal (CDR). Capture-and-storage has gotten most of the attention so far, largely because it’s been promoted by the coal industry as the thing that will solve its emissions problems..."

Photo credit: "In the North Sea, removing the gas, storing the carbon." Photographer: Heidi Wideroe.

Trump's NASA Chief: "I Fully Know and Believe the Climate is Changing". No kidding. Here's a clip from The Atlantic: "The new administrator of NASA held a town hall Thursday at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Jim Bridenstine is about four weeks into the job, and his path here was mired in controversy. After a few opening remarks, he started taking some questions. The first was about what Bridenstine thinks makes him qualified to be the head of NASA. The second was, as the moderator put it, “one more easy one—because it’s about climate change.” Bridenstine laughed. So did many in the room. It was an uncomfortable question. Bridenstine, as a Republican in Congress, has a record of denying that humans are responsible for causing climate change. For Democrats and liberals, Bridenstine’s view on this and other issues—particularly on same-sex marriage and transgender rights—made him a contentious pick to lead NASA, an agency that supports climate-change research and very publicly agrees with the majority of climate scientists who say that humans are the primary cause of the planet’s rising temperatures..."

Image credit: NASA.

Is The New NASA Chief No Longer a Denier? More perspective from Climate Nexus: "Newly-appointed NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine indicated Thursday that he accepts mainstream climate science--a pivot from his track record of denial during his tenure in Congress. "I fully believe and know that the climate is changing. I also know that we humans beings are contributing to it in a major way," Bridenstine said in response to an audience question at a NASA town hall, going on to describe how carbon dioxide is warming the planet. The comments mark the former Oklahoma representative as one of the only Trump appointees to come close to affirming the mainstream scientific consensus on climate change. Bridenstine's views Thursday are in stark contrast to his former stated views: he claimed in 2013 that temperatures stopped rising in the early 2000s, and waffled when asked if humans were the primary cause of climate change during his confirmation hearing last November." (The Atlantic, AxiosEarther, Wired, The Hill, Newsweek)

Your Dinner Might Be Swimming North Thanks to Climate Change, Rutgers Study Says. has the story: "Climate change is making oceans warmer and the fish are taking flight. And that could have a big impact on New Jersey's $7.9 billion fishing industry according to a new Rutgers-led study published Wednesday. Aquatic life has a narrow tolerance for temperature range, so as the water heats up species populations are shifting northward to find suitable habitat according to Malin Pinksy, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor in Rutgers' Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources. By 2100, the Atlantic's temperature off the Jersey Shore could rise to levels currently seen in Virginia..."

Photo credit: "In this Star-Ledger file photo, people fish off the Ocean Explorer party boat." (Patti Sapone | The Star-Ledger)

The Way Scientists Define Climate Goals Has Given the World a False Sense of Hope. Quartz has the post; here's an excerpt: "...Countries are becoming more ambitious about climate goals: Some are planning to ban the use of petroleum-powered cars, while others are aiming to hit zero emissions within decades in all sectors, including transportation, power, and industry. All this would make it seem we’re on track. But we are not. In 2017, the world set a new record high for greenhouse-gas emissions. What can we do to turn the tide? In two separate analyses published this week in Nature Geoscience, Glen Peters and Oliver Geden, researchers at the Center for International Climate Research and the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, respectively, argue the solution is to completely rethink the way we set the policies designed to push us towards climate goals..."

Photo credit: "Renewable energy alone wouldn't help us hit our climate goals in time." (Reuters/Nick Oxford).

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