Storm-Free Outlook: Hints of Spring Next Week

Just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean Mother Nature isn't out to get you. Surviving a Minnesota winter is not a spectator sport. There are rules: avoid hitting other moving vehicles. Try not to fall on the ice. Go easy on shoveling to lower the risk of heart attack. Good grief. We should all get Olympic medals for outlasting Old Man Winter.

Flooding remains an issue over southern Minnesota, but larger rivers probably won't crest until the first or second week of April. Short term there's some good news: no storms of any flavor next week, and nighttime lows dip below 32F the next 7 nights, slowing down the rate of snow melt. That said, with comparisons to 2001 and 1965, people living near rivers should pay attention and have a plan.

A dry weekend gives way to flurries or sprinkles Tuesday, and then it warms up nicely, in spite of dirty snow piles on the ground. Models suggest a few 50s late next week.

With recent rains the snow is going fast. Snow cover at MSP dropped from 17 inches Monday to 4 inches yesterday.

We're turning a (big) corner. 

Photo: Bryan Hansel Photography.

Going Fast. From 17" down to 4" of snow depth (MSP International Airport) in 4 days? It shows you what 40s and heavy rain can do to snowpack. Graphic: Praedictix.

Not Buying It. At least not yet. With all the snow still on the ground upper 50s next weekend is rather unlikely. If there's bright sun, no fog or stratus and a stiff breeze we could see low to mid 50s, which is still 10-15F above average. ECMWF: WeatherBell.

Road Closures Due To Flooding. Minnesota 511 has updates on highways impacted by rising water.

Latest Flood Warnings. The local Twin Cities National Weather Service has a running list of warnings here.

Map credit: AerisWeather and Praedictix.

Mild Finish to March. We got off to a cold start - it only makes sense that we'll probably end the month of March on a warmer than average note. Right now I don't see any big storms capable of pulling significant moisture from the Gulf of Mexico into Minnesota - at least through the end of March. Early April is still a question mark.

Praedictix Briefing: Issued Friday, March 15th, 2019:

  • Even though the rain has stopped in the central United States, major to historic river flooding will continue into the weekend on numerous rivers due to snowmelt, ice jams, and additional water running into mainstream rivers from tributaries, especially in parts of Nebraska and Iowa.
  • Some of this flooding could threaten dams and levees across the region. For example, a Flash Flood Emergency was issued late Friday morning for the Valley, NE, area due to a levee on the Union Dike failing.
  • The Omaha World-Herald has a page updating with the latest information across the area.

Ongoing River Flooding This Morning. Numerous rivers continue to be in major or historic flood stage this morning across parts of the central United States. The Spencer Dam along the Niobrara River was compromised on Thursday, and it was warned Thursday Night that the Ericson Dam had been close to failure. Meanwhile, a Flash Flood Emergency was issued in the Valley, NE, area this morning due to a levee on the Union Dike failing. According to the Omaha World-Herald, residents in Valley were evacuating before 10:40 AM and the National Weather Service office in Valley (covering the Omaha area) was shutting down power and evacuating. Here’s the text of that warning from the National Weather Service:

Here’s a link to an interactive map of current river levels across the region:

Travel Impacts. This flooding is impacting roads across the region, including parts of I-29 in the Omaha area. Here are links to local DOT agencies for the latest road information:

River Flooding To Continue This Weekend. Major river flooding is expected to continue across the central part of the nation over the next several days as river levels continue to rise in some locations. The map above shows the highest level that each river gauge (expected to be in a flood stage) is forecast to reach.

Platte River Near Leshara, NE.  The Platte River near Leshara has already climbed above their previous record height and has even climbed higher than the forecast issued for the river site earlier today. Flooding will continue over the next few days. If the river were to reach 14ft, homes along the Skunk River would flood according to the National Weather Service.

Elkhorn River At Waterloo, NE. As of late this morning, the Elkhorn River at Waterloo had climbed to around 22.7ft, far surpassing the previous record for the river. It is expected to crest around 24ft this evening.

Missouri River At Omaha, NE. The Missouri River at Omaha will rise into Moderate Flood Stage later today, cresting at 33.9ft Sunday evening. The river will slowly fall back below flood stage by the end of next week. Here are some flood impacts at several different river levels (courtesy of the National Weather Service):

  • 40ft - At this level the water nears the top of the federal levee.
  • 36ft - Water reaches the bottom of flood wall just north of Interstate 480. Low lying roads are also affected just east of Riverfront Drive north of the pedestrian bridge.
  • 32ft - Interstate 680 West between the Mormon bridge and Interstate 29 begins to flood. Also, Interstate 29 between Crescent and Council Bluffs begins to flood.
  • 29ft - At this level water nears the base of the Council Bluffs levee. Significant lowland flooding occurs in NP Dodge Park, Freedom Park, Tom Hanafan Park, Fontenelle Forest and Haworth Park.
  • 28ft - At this level most of the flood gates for the city of Council Bluffs are closed.
  • 27ft - NP Dodge Park, Freedom Park, Tom Hanafan Park and Fontenelle Forest begin to flood.

Des Moines River At Des Moines, IA. The Des Moines River at Des Moines will crest around 29.2ft later today, a little below major flood stage (30ft). However, the river is expected to remain in moderate flood stage through most of next week. Here are some flood impacts at several different river levels (courtesy of the National Weather Service):

  • 30ft - Water from the Des Moines River causes backwater impacts along portions of Fourmile Creek in the Vandalia Road and South Pleasant Hill Boulevard areas
  • 28.7ft - Simon Estes Amphitheater is inundated up to intersection of the arcing sidewalks.
  • 28.5ft - Hartford Avenue is closed from Southeast 22nd Street to Southeast 30th Court.
  • 26.3ft - Water covers Arthur Street east of Carlisle.
  • 25.7ft - Water surrounds the base of Simon Estes Amphitheater.
  • 24ft - The bike trail is closed east of Water Street. Portions of other bike trails are also affected.

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix

River Gauges. Click here for a map of National Weather Service interactive flood gauge reports and river level forecasts from around the USA.

How the 2019 Polar Vortex Helped Long-Term Renewable Energy Integration in the Midwest. Great Plains Institute has the post; here's an excerpt: "...For wind turbines, extreme cold can mean that the oil in the gearboxes can start to solidify. There are preventative measures project developers can take to mitigate this risk, like installing cold weather packages that enable the turbines to continue operating down to a crisp -30°C. As shown in figure 1 below, temperatures in the region got well below the -30°C threshold and, as a result, some wind generators shut down until temperatures increased. MISO and wind owners both use weather data to develop forecasts of wind generation. MISO uses the data as one of many inputs into its day-ahead market process to make sure enough generation capacity will be online the next day to maintain reliability on the grid. Yet, MISO did not have complete information on the temperature-related technical operating limitations of the wind turbines, and, as a result, they were not baked into the wind generation forecast..."

Piling Up: How China's Ban on Importing Waste Has Stalled Global Recycling. Yale Environment 360 has an update: "...In the year since, China’s plastics imports have plummeted by 99 percent, leading to a major global shift in where and how materials tossed in the recycling bin are being processed. While the glut of plastics is the main concern, China’s imports of mixed paper have also dropped by a third. Recycled aluminum and glass are less affected by the ban. Globally more plastics are now ending up in landfills, incinerators, or likely littering the environment as rising costs to haul away recyclable materials increasingly render the practice unprofitable. In England, more than half-a-million more tons of plastics and other household garbage were burned last year. Australia’s recycling industry is facing a crisis as the country struggles to handle the 1.3 million-ton stockpile of recyclable waste it had previously shipped to China..."

File image: Robert Galbraith, Reuters.

Tesla Launches the Model Y. Quartz has an overview on the smaller, more affordable (electric) SUV: "...The invite-only crowd seemed slightly more subdued than at previous car launches, but cheered Musk as he ran through the Model Y’s features. The SUV is expected to have a 230-mile range (extendable up to 300 miles), a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 3.5 seconds, and an option for seven seats. Like the Model 3 (with which it shares 75% of its parts and a chassis), the SUV comes with a panoramic glass roof and Autopilot features. Tesla aims to start selling a $60,000 performance version next fall, followed by a $39,000 model in 2021. You can pre-order the Model Y..."

Image credit: Tesla.

James Bond to Drive Electric Aston Martin in Next Film. Thomson Reuters Foundation has the story: "Famous for his high-speed car chases, James Bond is hardly an obvious tree hugger. But the world's best known spy has apparently gone green, with British media reporting on Thursday that he is switching to an electric Aston Martin. The suave secret agent, played by Daniel Craig, will be taking to the wheel of the luxury car company's new 250,000 British pound ($330,000) Rapide E, its first electric car, in the 25th Bond movie, the reports said. Aston Martin confirmed it was manufacturing a limited edition of 155 models of the car, but refused to say whether '007' would be driving one in the film due out next year. Britain's Sun newspaper reported that the decision was spearheaded by the film's director Cary Joji Fukunaga, quoting an insider who described him as a "total tree-hugger". "Everybody is afraid of Bond getting labelled 'too PC' (politically correct), but they all felt the time was right to put him in a zero emission vehicle," the insider was quoted as saying..."

Image credit:

Facebook's About Face. A story at Fortune provides some much-needed perspective on data privacy and where things seem to be heading: "...The talking points amount to Zuckerberg’s apology tour for all the damage Facebook has wrought. On the way to building an empire worth half-a-trillion dollars, he and his company have connected friends old and new, sure, but they have also inadvertently found themselves in the middle of controversies from hate speech to data breaches. Zuckerberg wants to show that he gets it. Facebook, he says, “is moving from a reactive model of how we’re handling this stuff to one where we are building systems to get out ahead.” A month later it becomes apparent that Zuckerberg has been rehearsing his lines, the tech-mogul equivalent of a comedian trying out material at open-mic night. In a much-heralded post on Facebook in early March, Zuckerberg announced his company would build new privacy-friendly messaging products..."

Does It Matter Where You Go To College? Some Context For the Admissions Scandal. Some interesting perspective from NPR: "...Low-income students who do manage to get into top colleges graduate at high rates and do nearly as well financially as their silver-spoon peers. But the colleges that most excel in promoting social mobility, according to an analysis by economist Raj Chetty, aren't the Ivies — they are excellent, open-access public institutions and community colleges with large numbers of working-class students, like the City University of New York. All else being equal, highly selective colleges do seem to confer an income premium over nonselective colleges. But an individual's choice of major, such as engineering, is a far more powerful factor in her eventual earnings than her choice of college. If you have more specific dreams, the Ivy League holds a near monopoly over the Supreme Court..."

Image credit: Rob Dobi/For NPR.

The Biggest Test You Should Prep For Isn't the SAT. My sister sent me this story and it's too good not to share, courtesy of acuMOM: "...If you have a child who is not a ‘good test taker’, please remember all the other things they are. And then remind them. Repeatedly. Some of our kids have been taking tests and seeing scores that chip away at their psyches for years. Don’t let that happen. People who don’t do well on standardized tests have non-standardized minds not sub-standard ones. And non-standardized minds are often the ones that create ideas and change the world. Know one who lives and learns with dyslexia/dysgraphia? Show them this list: Spielberg, Picasso, Lennon, Kennedy, Washington, Da Vinci, Disney, Einstein. And in honor of National Women’s Day show them this less commonly known list too: Erin Brockovich, Cher, Agatha Christie, Octavia Spencer, Jennifer Aniston, Ann Bancroft (arctic explorer), Jessica Watson (youngest to sail solo around the world), Florence Welch (of Florence + the Machine), Prof. Elizabeth Blackburn (Nobel prize winner) and then tell them chances are they’re going to be famous..."

What is the "Pan Am Experience"? I remember when flying was sort of glamorous, but you have to go WAY back in time. Ah, the nostalgia....Here's an excerpt from CNN Travel: "It's a Saturday in the outskirts of Los Angeles, and about 50 people are ready to board an airplane for a colorful and memorable journey back to the 1970s. Compared to most international flights, this one is short -- only four hours. And though the flight will transport everyone on the passenger list to another place and time, it logs a whopping total of zero air miles, as it never actually leaves the ground. Welcome to the wild and wonderful world of the Pan Am Experience. One-part re-enactment, one-part dinner theater and one-part memorabilia overload, the attraction mixes top-quality food with elaborate detail to recreate what it was like to fly a Boeing 747 with one of the world's most beloved airlines long before its bankruptcy and dissolution in 1991..."

Middle Finger Protected by Constitution. Well that's a relief. AP News explains: "When it comes to the middle finger, police might need a thicker skin. A federal appeals court says a Michigan woman’s constitutional rights were violated when she was handed a speeding ticket after giving the finger to a suburban Detroit officer in 2017. The decision means a lawsuit by Debra Cruise-Gulyas can proceed. In a 3-0 decision Wednesday, the court said Taylor Officer Matthew Minard “should have known better,” even if the driver was rude. Minard stopped Cruise-Gulyas and wrote her a ticket for a lesser violation. But when that stop was over, Cruise-Gulyas raised her middle finger..."

The Official Breakfast Cereal Power Rankings: Part 1. Please don't take away my cereal. This ranking is obviously subjective, but it's a good place to start. Do you agree with the L.A. Times: "...What better way to plow through existential angst than with a cold, crunchy bowl of breakfast cereal? A perfect snack day or night, cereal has played an oversized role in my life above almost any other food item. I am, therefore, thrilled to present to you the highly scientific, unimpeachable and 100% correct L.A. Times Breakfast Cereal Power Rankings. These rankings deal solely with cereals on the sweet side of the spectrum, as comparing Lucky Charms to, say, Fiber One wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. Non-sweet cereals will be judged in a future ranking..."

Image credit: "Breakfast cereals, ranked." (Lucas Kwan Peterson / Stephen Lurvey).

The Glories of Minnesota Hockey Hair. Even The New Yorker is paying attention now: "In 2013, BuzzFeed published a list of “38 Things Minnesotans Are Too Nice to Brag About.” No. 1 was Bob Dylan. No. 2 was “the hockey haircut,” by which the author meant, basically, the mullet, although the page embedded a video of boys at the annual state high-school tournament in which the narrator identified additional styles, such as “the cotton candy,” “the tsunami,” and the “portobella” (a mushroom cut). The main ingredient in hockey hair is volume. Games at the Minnesota state tournament, which rivals Texas football and Indiana hoops in terms of regional fervor, begin with player introductions that have evolved into one of the most endearing rituals in American sports..."

Illustration credit: Gabriel Alcala.

35 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

41 F. average high on March 15.

39 F. high on March 15, 2018.

March 16, 1930: The temperature at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport tops out at a record 71 degrees.

SATURDAY: Partly sunny, brisk. Winds: W/SW 5-10. High: 33

ST. PATTY'S DAY: Mix of clouds and sunshine. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 22. High: 37

MONDAY: Sunny and pleasant. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 26. High: near 40

TUESDAY: Weak clipper: sprinkles/flurries. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 28. High: 41

WEDNESDAY: Peeks of sun, trending milder. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 29. High: 45

THURSDAY: Partly sunny, feels like spring. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 30. High: near 50

FRIDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, time to exhale. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 33. High: 52

Climate Stories....

Kids Aren't Gonna Take It: Headlines and links via Climate Nexus: "Students in more than 100 countries around the world are missing school today to protest inaction on climate change. Inspired by Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, whose regular strikes earned her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination this week, young people at more than 1,600 events worldwide are taking part in the coordinated Youth Strike 4 Climate effort. In the United States, thousands of students in 136 cities and towns are expected to participate today, including many in deep-red and fossil-fuel-dependent states. "It is very important that strikes and marches take place in fossil-fuel producing areas of the country, like Oklahoma," high school student Luke Kerr, who plans to protest today in Oklahoma City, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "We are showing the rest of the country that we can fight for climate." (Live: CNN, The Guardian. US: Time, Mother Jones, NBCNew Republic, Reuters,Thomson Reuters Foundation. Int’l: AP, Reuters, BBC, Buzzfeed. Commentary: The Guardian, Greta Thunberg, Anna Taylor and others op-ed, BBC, various interviews, CNN, various interviews, Grist, various interviews, Washington Post, Per Adman and Katrin Uba analysis $, New York Times, Zayne Cowie video op-ed $)

French Government Sued For Inadequate Climate Action. Climate Liability News has an explainer: "Four environmental organizations filed suit against the French government for failing to live up to its commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement and other national and international agreements. The suit, which was filed in the Administrative Court of Paris on Thursday, alleges that France has violated its duty by failing to taking action to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius. The organizations—Oxfam, Greenpeace, Fondation Nicolas Hulot pour la Nature et l’Homme and Notre Affair à Tous—also say the French government has repeatedly postponed implementing policies to curb emissions, as required by its national climate policy,  and has failed to respect international commitments..."

Big Oil Must Choose: Bad Guys or Good Guys on Climate Change? Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from the Editorial Board at The Houston Chronicle: "...The White House has withdrawn from the Paris Accord, rolled back the Clean Power Plan and appointed bad-faith climate change deniers to a federal climate panel. The United States needs to claim this leadership mantle, not only for the sake of saving the planet, but also to ensure that we remain the best place in the world for the energy industry. Oil and gas executives get this. Talk to the experts who have descended upon Houston for the annual CERAWeek energy conference, named for consulting firm Cambridge Energy Research Associates, and they’ll tell you the truth: Global warming is real, man-made emissions are a key cause, it is a threat to humanity and the U.S. government has to step up for the future of our children and grandchildren..."

File image: Business Green.

Sharp Rise in Arctic Temperatures Now Inevitable - U.N. The Guardian has a summary: "Sharp and potentially devastating temperature rises of 3C to 5C in the Arctic are now inevitable even if the world succeeds in cutting greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris agreement, research has found. Winter temperatures at the north pole are likely to rise by at least 3C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century, and there could be further rises to between 5C and 9C above the recent average for the region, according to the UN. Such changes would result in rapidly melting ice and permafrost, leading to sea level rises and potentially to even more destructive levels of warming. Scientists fear Arctic heating could trigger a climate “tipping point” as melting permafrost releases the powerful greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, which in turn could create a runaway warming effect..."

File image: NSIDC.

Arctic Now 'Locked In' For Serious Warming: Climate Nexus has links and headlines: "Arctic temperatures are now "locked in" for increased wintertime warming, with winter temperatures set to rise 3-5 degrees C by 2050 even if the world meets the goals set out in the Paris Agreement, a new UN Environment report says. The region's thawing rapidly thawing permafrost also poses a major risk, and the report warns that the release of some of the 1.5 trillion tons of carbon dioxide contained in the region's permafrost could trigger a feedback loop that would also undermine efforts to keep global temperature rise under 2 degrees C. "What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic," Joyce Msuya, the acting executive director of UN Environment, told the UN Environment Assembly gathered in Nairobi Wednesday. "We have the science. Now more urgent climate action is needed to steer away from tipping points that could be even worse for our planet than we first thought." (The Guardian, The Hill, Grist)

File photo: Bob Strong, Reuters.

"Our Future Is What We Are Fighting For". Why are some younger people going on strike today? Here's an excerpt from a Washington Post story: "In rain and snow and summer heat, every Friday for the past 29 weeks, a 16-year-old Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg has skipped school to protest outside her nation’s parliament building. Her aim: to demand aggressive action against climate change. Thunberg’s “school strikes for climate” movement has inspired youths in Belgium, the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia to follow her lead. On Friday, her reach will extend much farther. Students in nearly 100 countries around the world have pledged to join her protest, including in the United States. “Young people realize the urgency,” said Isra Hirsi, a 16-year-old from Minneapolis who is co-organizing the U.S. climate strikes with New Yorker Alexandria Villasenor, 13, and Coloradan Haven Coleman, 12. “We know whatever happens with climate change will affect us the most...”

KIDS: Students across the world are protesting on Friday. Why? (New York Times $, CNN), Preston's lonely climate change warrior (BBC), teenage climate activist nominated for Nobel Peace Prize (AP)

Big Business Spent $1.4 Billion on PR, Advertising Over the Last Decade. Who is spending the most money on PR and lobbying: fossil fuels or clean energy? Not even close, according to data revealed at Huffington Post: "...The data provide a “tiny peephole into the massive influence-peddling industry that hovers over Washington, D.C., and indeed the whole country,” Kert Davies, director of the Climate Investigations Center, told HuffPost. “And the oil industry,” he said via email, “leads the pack by a mile.” While corporate lobbying gets a lot of attention, it is on these other influence services that business and energy trade groups often spend the big bucks. Annual tax filings compiled by CIC show that the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association of the oil and natural gas industry that has worked for decades to sow doubt about the realities of climate change, spent an astonishing $663 million on PR and advertising, about 48 percent of the total, over the 10-year period. The figure dwarfs the combined $98.4 million that renewable energy trade groups, including the American Wind Energy Association and the Solar Energy Industry Association, spent during the same period..."

Is Nuclear Part of a Solution to Climate Change? Newer forms of nuclear are smaller, cheaper and less prone to terrorism. We need to rethink nuclear and find ways to make it viable as we dial down carbon. Here's a word of warning in a post at The Houston Chronicle: "...Stripped of subsidies, the cost of nuclear power is higher than that for solar and wind power to generate electricity. When the hidden costs are included, there is no contest. Nuclear power may appear to be clean. We see no equivalent to black-lung disease among coal miners, no mercury accumulations in fishes downwind and no carbon dioxide emissions that change our climate globally. But when there is a problem with nuclear power, it is sure to be large, persistent and biocidal for the persistence of life on Earth.bAccidents always happen; we cannot afford an accident with nuclear power."

File photo credit: "This March 30, 1979, file photo shows an aerial view of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pa. Exelon Corp., the owner of Three Mile Island, site of the United States' worst commercial nuclear power accident, said Monday, May 29, 2017 it will shut down the plant in 2019 without a financial rescue from Pennsylvania." (AP Photo/Barry Thumma, File).

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Rumors Are True: A Risk of Spring This Year