Stumbling Into Spring - 50s Likely by Sunday

If you're not just a little bit paranoid it could mean you're not paying attention. My driveway stakes are still in the ground, heavy jackets in the closet, trusty snow shovel lurking in the garage, just in case. Old Man Winter is waving the white flag of surrender - but beware of (big) March surprises.

I predict, with unusually high confidence, thoughts will turn to spring in the coming days with a streak of 50s, starting Sunday. 60F isn't out of the question by Tuesday with a few rumbles of thunder. Cue the chirping birds in your yard. No daffodils yet. I don't think we'll see flowers blooming in late March, like we did in 2012, but there's little doubt in my mind that ice will come off area lakes a few weeks earlier than usual.

With puny amounts of snow on the ground and a shallow frost layer the risk of spring flooding is very low.

A warm bias spills into June. Right now I don't see a drought signal until maybe late summer, when El Nino flip-flops into a La Nina cool phase.

Disclaimer: The GFS model prints out a snowstorm in 2 weeks. Who knows, but let's not get cocky. 

Sunday, 3 PM. Today feels like mid-March, tomorrow will feel like late March with highs in the mid-50s, a few 60s over west central Minnesota. 2-meter NAM temperatures: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Warm Blips - Cool Dips. After mellowing early next week temperatures cool off by midweek; another 50-degree blip by Friday. In spite of the occasional puffs of cooler air temperatures continue to trend 10-20F warmer than average looking out the next 10 days. Source: WeatherSpark.

2-Week Temperature Trend. The odds of more subzero air are dropping rapidly with each passing day; a much higher sun angle in March makes it rare for negative numbers - rare, but not impossible. We'll see a few more dips to freezing, but GFS data shows a warm bias lingering into mid-March. Source: Aeris Enterprise.

Trend Wetter in 1-2 Weeks? A couple of sloppy, southern storms may finally push moisture into Minnesota by mid-March; NDFD and GFS ensemble data suggesting over 1" of (liquid) precipitation possible. Odds favor rain over snow, but don't rule out another snow event later this month.

Why is 2016 Smashing Heat Records? How much is El Nino vs. background warming of the atmosphere and oceans? Here's an excerpt of a good explanation at The Guardian: "...The bottom line is that the contributions of the current El Niño and wind patterns to the very warm conditions globally over the last couple of months are relatively small compared to the anthropogenically driven increase in global temperature since pre-industrial times,” he added. Steffen said the definitive assessment of this El Niño and its effect on the world’s temperature would only be possible once the event had run its course (it has now peaked and is expected to end in the second quarter of this year). But he agreed that past El Niño cycles could be an appropriate guide for the order of magnitude of the effect..."

Map credit: Climate Reanalyzer.

College of DuPage Professor's System May Predict Tornadoes Weeks Away. It may be able to predict when conditions are ripe for tornadic supercell storms, but of course not the timing or location of specific tornadoes. I'm skeptical, but intrigued. Here's an excerpt from WLS-TV in Chicago: "Victor Gensini, a meteorology professor at the College of DuPage outside Chicago, found a link between tornado activity in the United States and complicated atmospheric wave patterns that shift every 40 to 60 days. The pattern is dependable enough that last year he used it to predict overall tornado activity in the nation - and was right 10 out of 15 times. Now, Gensini has predicted higher than normal tornado activity from Sunday through March 19. Normally, there are about 14 or 15 tornadoes a week this time of year, but the forecasters predict at least 22, and likely more..." (Image credit:

El Nino's Parade of "Atmospheric River Storms" is Finally Coming to California. Northern California has seen significant rains this winter; far less over SoCal. That will change in the next week or so with some 4-8" amounts possible, especially northern counties. Here's an excerpt at Mashable: "...To get a sense of how much moisture such air currents transport, consider that a strong atmospheric river can carry an amount of atmospheric water vapor about equal to 7.5 to 15 times the average flow of liquid water at the mouth of the Mississippi River, NOAA scientists have found.  To improve their understanding of these phenomena, NOAA and NASA, along with academic research institutions, are flying aircraft and gathering observations on the ground to study the ongoing El Niño and its impacts..." )GFS 10-day accumulated rainfall source: NOAA and AerisWeather).

February: 6th Month in a Row of Warmer Than Average Temperatures. Here's an update from HydroClim Minnesota at the Minnesota DNR: "Average monthly temperatures for February were above historical averages at nearly all Minnesota reporting stations. It was Minnesota's sixth consecutive month of above-normal monthly temperatures. Extremes for February ranged from a high of 65 degrees F at Browns Valley (Traverse County) on the 27th, to a low of -36 degrees F at Embarrass (St. Louis County) on the 14th. Temperatures climbed into the 50s and low 60s across Minnesota on February 27, breaking several maximum temperature records for the date..."

Map credit: Midwest Regional Climate Center.

April Fire Risk? Not just for Minnesota but most of the Midwest and Mid South. Until spring green up and (consistent/heavy) rains conditions may be ripe for brushfires, statewide, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Texas Had Its Most Tornadic Year on Record in 2015. The Weather Channel has details: "A new study has revealed that 2015 was the most tornadic year the state of Texas has seen since meteorologists began keeping records in 1950. A total of 240 tornadoes touched down during the calendar year, topping 1967 and 1995, when 232 twisters were reported, according to the Insurance Council of Texas (ICT). This is only the fourth year since 1950 that the Lone Star State had at least 200 tornadoes in progress..."

Hell and High Water. ProPublic and the Texas Tribune have a remarkable (and visual) story focused on how Houston dodged a bullet with Ike; at some point the law of averages will catch up and a devastating hurricane will push into Galveston and Houston. Is the city ready? Here's an excerpt: "They called Ike “the monster hurricane.” Hundreds of miles wide. Winds at more than 100 mph. And — deadliest of all — the power to push a massive wall of water into the upper Texas coast, killing thousands and shutting down a major international port and industrial hub. That was what scientists, public officials, economists and weather forecasters thought they were dealing with on Sept. 11, 2008, as Hurricane Ike barreled toward Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States and home to its largest refining and petrochemical complex. And so at 8:19 p.m., the National Weather Service issued an unusually dire warning.


Image credit above: "Flood levels in top chart taken at Kemah Boardwalk". | Sources: NOAA/GOES, USGS/NASA Landsat, SSPEED Center at Rice University, University of Texas Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, University of Houston Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Texas A&M Galveston Institute for Sustainable Coastal Communities, Jackson State University/Coastal Hazards Center, Harris County Appraisal District, U.S. Census.

Rising Seas Pull Fort Lauderdale, Florida's Building Boomtown, Toward a Bust. Alarmist hype? If so I have a water-front home in Ft. Lauderdale I'd like to sell you. Here's an excerpt from InsideClimate News: "...But as the coastal city's skyline climbs upward, Fort Lauderdale—nicknamed the Venice of America for its 165 miles of canals—is slowly becoming an edifice of risk as climate change lays siege to its shores. Already, water regularly creeps over sea walls, lapping against foundations every few weeks. When the earth, moon and sun align to drive waters as much as 18 inches above normal, the resulting King Tides inundate whole streets and neighborhoods. The city is racing to put climate resiliency measures in place, but they face a nearly impossible foe. Mayor Seiler and his city typify the imminent risks much of South Florida faces from global warming..."

Record High Number of Tornadoes Hit Southeast in February. WXshift has more details: "February was an unusually stormy month across the Southeast, with 53 tornadoes touching down across six states — the most for any February since 1950 — destroying homes and businesses and claiming several lives. One factor fueling the spate of storms has been the strong El Niño that is altering weather patterns around the globe. El Niño is defined by an eastward shift of warm ocean waters in the tropical Pacific. That shift alters where heat from those waters is released into the atmosphere, which in turn knocks circulation patterns out of whack, creating a cascade around the planet. Over the U.S., it tends to amp up the subtropical jet stream and shunt it southward over the southern tier of the country. This leads to greater odds for tornadoes right along the Gulf Coast, with the strongest signal in Florida..."

Supreme Court Backs EPA This Time, Refuses to Block Controls on Toxic Mercury. Here's the intro to a Washington Post story: "A month after it hobbled the Obama administration’s signature regulation on climate change, the Supreme Court declined Thursday to block a different air-pollution rule that seeks to cut toxic emissions from the nation’s power plants. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. rejected a request to stay the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards rule, adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency three years ago to tighten restrictions on a class of harmful pollutants that are byproducts of burning coal..."

Photo credit above: "The coal-fired Jim Bridger Plant outside Point of the Rocks, Wyo., in 2014." (Jim Urquhart/Reuters).

Five Energy Firms Score Contracts for Twin Cities Government Solar Garden Projects. The Star Tribune reports: "Five energy companies have won contracts to build large, community solar projects to offset a share of the electricity used by 30 Twin Cities public agencies and local governments, including Minneapolis. Under the terms of the deals, released this week, a mix of national and Minnesota-based energy companies — BHE Renewables, SolarStone Partners, SunShare, TruNorth Solar and U.S. Solar Corp. — will finance, construct and operate the separate solar projects, which will be built on private land. It is the first time that government agencies in Minnesota have joined to seek competitive bids for solar — an effort led by the Metropolitan Council, a regional agency that is relying on solar to help power its wastewater treatment plants and transit operations..."

Photo credit above: Innovative Solar Systems. "The firms will build solar projects to offset some electricity used by local governments."

U.S. Agency Reaches Holy Grail of Battery Storage Sought by Elon Musk and Gates. More breakthroughs in clean, renewable, sustainable energy? Count on it, from industry and government research efforts. Here's a clip at The Guardian: "A US government agency says it has attained the “holy grail” of energy – the next-generation system of battery storage, that has has been hotly pursued by the likes of Bill Gates and Elon Musk. Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (Arpa-E) – a branch of the Department of Energy – says it achieved its breakthrough technology in seven years. Ellen Williams, Arpa-E’s director, said: “I think we have reached some holy grails in batteries – just in the sense of demonstrating that we can create a totally new approach to battery technology, make it work, make it commercially viable, and get it out there to let it do its thing...”

Photo credit: "Dr. Ellen Williams (right), Arpa-E director: ‘We want power to be easy.’ Photograph: ARPA-E.

U.S. Energy Storage Market Grew by 243% in 2015, Largest Year on Record. Renewables can be fickle; the sun doesn't always shine, the wind doesn't always blow - how do you even out supply and demand? That's where energy storage comes in; big, next-generation batteries. Greentech Media has details: "The U.S. energy storage market just had both its best quarter and best year of all time. According to the GTM Research/Energy Storage Association’s U.S. Energy Storage Monitor 2015 Year in Review, the U.S. deployed 112 megawatts of energy storage capacity in the fourth quarter of 2015, bringing the annual total to 221 megawatts. This represents 161 megawatt-hours for the year. The 112 megawatts deployed in the fourth quarter 2015 represented more than the total of all storage deployments in 2013 and 2014 combined. Propelled by that historic quarter, the U.S. energy storage market grew 243 percent over 2014’s 65 megawatts (86 megawatt-hours)..."

Almost 100 Million Homes May Run Only on Solar by 2020. Bloomberg Business has the story - here's a link and excerpt: "Almost 100 million households worldwide may be powered by solar panels by 2020, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The off-grid solar market has grown to $700 million now from non-existent less than a decade ago, according to a report Thursday from the London-based research company and the World Bank Group’s Lighting Global. They expect that to swell to $3.1 billion by the end of the decade..."

Photo credit above: "Workers secure solar panels to a rooftop in Albuquerque, New Mexico." Photographer: Sergio Flores/Bloomberg.

Solar Fight Turns to Presidential-Style Bare-Knuckle Campaign Tactics. Fading industries are doing anything to maintain market share; here are a few mind-boggling examples in an Op-Ed at Utility Dive: "It’s the time of the presidential campaign cycle where some of the dirtiest political tricks in the country are covered daily in the news. But this type of campaigning isn’t limited to the presidential race. Some utilities across the country have been using similar tactics for years in their attempts to eliminate rooftop solar competition. A few of their startling tactics: In Arizona, a political group supported by APS ran attack ads in 2013 suggesting that net metering prevents parents from affording toys for their children. Another ad from the same group compared rooftop solar companies to middle-aged men stealing ice cream sprinkles from children..."

B.C. Premier Helps Broker Deal on Carbon "Tax". Canada is beating us to the punch. British Columbia has already priced carbon and their economy is booming. Here's an excerpt from The Vancouver Sun: "With B.C. Premier Christy Clark playing a peacemaker role, Canada’s divided first ministers struck a compromise “Vancouver Accord” on Thursday that is intended to get Canada on the road to sharply reduced carbon emissions by 2030. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his provincial and territorial counterparts agreed to a “suite” of tools, from public transit investment to green technology, aimed at reducing emissions. But their commitment on the biggest ticket item, and by far the most troublesome and divisive matter, was far from clear..."

Photo credit above: "Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses a news conference following the First Ministers Meeting in Vancouver." Photograph by: JONATHAN HAYWARD , The Canadian Press.

A Plan In Case Robots Take the Jobs: Give Everyone a Paycheck. Why is there so much unsease and anger out there? Globalization, automation, computerization, jobs being done by robotics that were done by hand 10 years ago. The cycle of disruption is happening faster. Suddenly there's no such thing as a "job for life". Here's a clip from The New York Times: "Let’s say computers come for most of our jobs. This may not seem likely at the moment; computer scientists and economists offer wildly varying ideas for how deeply automation will affect future employment. But for the sake of argument, imagine that within two or three decades we’ll have morphed into the Robotic States of America. In Robot America, most manual laborers will have been replaced by herculean bots. Truck drivers, cabbies, delivery workers and airline pilots will have been superseded by vehicles that do it all. Doctors, lawyers, business executives and even technology columnists for The New York Times will have seen their ranks thinned by charming, attractive, all-knowing algorithms..."

Sail (Far) Away: At Sea with America's Largest Floating Gathering of Conspiracy Theorists. Well this sounds like quite a vacation. I'm amazed they don't just float right off the edge of the (flat) Earth. Here's an excerpt at Jezebel: "...Morton is a radio host, among other things. Here he was claimed to be one of the lead organizers of Conspira Sea, the first annual sea cruise for conspiracy theorists. While the ship looped from San Pedro to Cabo San Lucas and back, some 100 of its passengers and I would be focused on uncharted waters, where nothing is as it seems. Before we docked again, two of them would end up following me around the ship, convinced I was a CIA plant..."

World's Longest Filibuster Ends After 192 Hours of Orwell and Internet Comments. That's a lot of babbling. Atlas Obscura has details; here's an excerpt: "A legislative filibuster lasting 192 hours, a new world record, has ended in South Korea, likely allowing the passage of a law that opposition leaders said would intrude on individual privacy. The filibuster began over a week ago, on February 23rd, and was led by South Korea’s main opposition party, Minjoo, according to the BBC. One legislator spoke for over 11 hours, while others were seen dozing off during the filibuster, which was intended to last until March 10th, when the legislative term was set to end..."

Photo credit above: "South Korean President Park Geun-hye". (Photo: Jeon Han/CC BY-SA 2.0)

34 F. high temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.

35 F. average high on March 4.

12 F. high on March 4, 2015, after waking up to -2 F.

.4" snow fell yesterday at KMSP.

March 5, 1966: A powerful blizzard finally ends in the Upper Midwest. Some wind gusts from the storm topped 100 mph.

TODAY: Cloudy morning. Becoming partly sunny and pleasant by afternoon. Winds: NW 5-10. High: 40

SATURDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear and cool. Low: 31

SUNDAY: Plenty of sun, feels like spring! Winds: S 15-25. High: 55

MONDAY: Fading sun as clouds increase, nighttime thunder? Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 44. High: 57

TUESDAY: Few showers, possible T-shower. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 48. High: 56

WEDNESDAY: Blue sky, a bit cooler. Winds: NE 7-12. Wake-up: 36. High: 45

THURSDAY: Some sun, stray shower possible. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 30. High: 44

FRIDAY: Sunny peeks, feeling feverish again. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 32. High: 53

Climate Stories....

Our Hemisphere's Temperatures Just Reached a Terrifying Milestone. So says meteorologist Eric Holthaus at Slate; here's a link and excerpt: "Since this post was originally published, the heat wave has continued. As of Thursday morning, it appears that average temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere have breached the 2 degrees Celsius above “normal” mark for the first time in recorded history, and likely the first time since human civilization began thousands of years ago. That mark has long been held (somewhat arbitrarily) as the point above which climate change may begin to become "dangerous" to humanity. It's now arrived—though very briefly—much more quickly than anticipated. This is a milestone moment for our species. Climate change deserves our greatest possible attention..."

Image credit above: "A daily analysis of global temperatures shows that the Northern Hemisphere likely exceeded 2 degree Celsius above "normal" levels on March 3, 2016." Ryan Maue/Weatherbell Analytics.

Revamped Satellite Data Shows No Pause in Global Warming. Here's an excerpt from ABC News: "Climate change doubters may have lost one of their key talking points: a particular satellite temperature dataset that had seemed to show no warming for the past 18 years. The Remote Sensing System temperature data, promoted by many who reject mainstream climate science and especially most recently by Sen. Ted Cruz, now shows a slight warming of about 0.18 degrees Fahrenheit since 1998. Ground temperature measurements, which many scientists call more accurate, all show warming in the past 18 years. "There are people that like to claim there was no warming; they really can't claim that anymore," said Carl Mears, the scientist who runs the Remote Sensing System temperature data tracking..."

Graphic credit: Dr. Roy Spencer.

Oil and Gas Industry Has Pumped Millions into Republican Campaigns. When in doubt (about the source of perpetual denial) follow the money. Here's an excerpt at The Guardian: "Fossil fuel millionaires collectively pumped more than $100m into Republican presidential contenders’ efforts last year – in an unprecedented investment by the oil and gas industry in the party’s future. About one in three dollars donated to Republican hopefuls from mega-rich individuals came from people who owe their fortunes to fossil fuels – and who stand to lose the most in the fight against climate change. The scale of investment by fossil fuel interests in presidential Super Pacs reached about $107m last year – before any votes were cast in the Republican primary season..."

Intense Heatwaves Could Become "Annual Events" by 2075. Climate Home has the analysis; here's the intro: "Heatwaves that used to arrive once every 20 years or so could become annual events by 2075 across almost two-thirds of the planet’s land surface – if humans go on burning ever more fossil fuels and releasing ever more greenhouse gases. Claudia Tebaldi, visiting scientist at the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research, and Michael Wehner, senior staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, report in Climatic Change journal that stringent emissions reductions could reduce the risk of such extreme heat events. But, even so, by 2075, an estimated 18% of the Earth’s surface could still experience those once-rare extreme heat events every year..."

Photo credit above: Frank Neulichedl/Flickr.

Climate Change is a Potent Element in the Deadly Brew of Disaster Risk. The Guardian takes a look at how a warming (more volatile) climate impacts disaster readiness: "...Climate change is an increasingly potent element in the deadly brew of disaster risk. Already, at least 90% of disasters linked to natural hazards are climate related. Last year, thousands of people died from heatwaves in Europe and Asia, and droughts and floods – including those exacerbated by normal climate variability, such as the current strong El Niño phenomenon – are increasing. Rising sea levels and warmer sea-surface temperatures result in greater moisture in the air and contribute to more intense cyclone and typhoon seasons. This was observed last year in the Indian and Pacific Oceans: Mexico was hit by the strongest cyclone ever to make landfall, and Vanuatu and other south Pacific nations were pummelled by a category five storm..."

Why We Need to Stop Fake Claims that Global Warming Paused. Here's an excerpt of an article from climate scientist Michael Mann at New Scientist: "...What the deniers fail to disclose is that there is sufficient variation in the details drawn on by studies of the period – including which version of the temperature record is used and precisely what time intervals are being compared – that different researchers can come to different honestly held conclusions about what the data show. Respectable news outlets have accurately noted that. And there is broad consensus among all the researchers involved on key points. First, there was no pause in global warming. Indeed, I have mocked such a notion as the “faux pause”. There was at most a temporary slowdown. With the record-setting temperatures of the past two years, that slowdown is almost certainly over now..."

Climate Change in the Levant: Further Evidence Strengthens Case for Role in Syrian Instability. An article at The Center for Climate and Security got my attention; here's the intro: "A new study provides the strongest evidence to date that the drying of the eastern Mediterranean Levant region over recent decades is very likely the result of human influence on the Earth’s climate system. This research uses tree-ring data in the Old World Drought Atlas to better characterize year-to-year and decade-to-decade natural rainfall variability over the greater Mediterranean basin. The authors, led by Ben Cook, a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York City, conclude with high confidence that the recent extended drought in the Levant is well outside the range of natural variability over the last 900 years. The recent drying trend as measured by the tree rings is very much in agreement with not only measurements of rainfall using station data and satellites but also with simulations from global climate models that use the known increases in greenhouse gases during the observed record..."

Image credit: "For January 2012, brown shades show the decrease in water storage from the 2002-2015 average in the Mediterranean region. Units in centimeters. The data is from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, satellites, a joint mission of NASA and the German space agency."
Credit: NASA/ Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio. Details at the American Geophysical Union.

Climate Scientists Worry About the Costs of Sea Level Rise. Here's an excerpt of a post at The Guardian from University of St. Thomas climate scientist John Abraham: "...A paper was just published by Drs. Boettle, Rybski and Kropp that dealt with this question. The authors of this study note that if you are concerned about societal and economic costs, the rate of sea rise isn’t the entire story. Much of the damage is caused by extreme events that are superimposed on a rising ocean. Damage is highly nonlinear with sea rise. To explain this, let’s think about flooding. Consider a river that has a dike system capable of confining a rise of water up to six feet. Such a system would have little or no economic/societal damage for “floods” up to six feet, but just one more foot of water rise would put the waters over the dike and could cause significant losses..."

Photo credit above: "The remnants of the Jet Star roller coaster is pictured in the ocean, almost five months after Superstorm Sandy, in Seaside Heights, New Jersey March 21, 2013." Photograph: Lucas Jackson/REUTERS.

How Climate Change May Affect Your Diet. TIME has the story; here's the intro: "Climate change’s effects on global food supply could lead to more than 500,000 deaths by 2050 as people around the world lose access to good nutrition, according to new research. The study, published in the journal The Lancet, builds on previous research that has shown how droughts, floods and other weather events linked to climate change hurt global crop yields. But climate change will lead to a less healthy diet composition in addition to making food less available overall. In fact, people will be twice as likely to die from issues linked to climate-related poor diet than from undernutrition, according to the first-of-its-kind study..."

More details and a link to the new research at The Lancet. Photo credit: Tim McCabe, USDA.

Justice Department Refers Exxon Investigation Request to FBI. InsideClimate News has more details: "The U.S. Justice Department has forwarded a request from two congressmen seeking a federal probe of ExxonMobil to the FBI's criminal division. U.S. Representatives Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier sought the probe last year to determine whether the oil giant violated federal laws by "failing to disclose truthful information" about climate change. In response, the Justice Department deferred to the FBI, saying it is that agency's responsibility to conduct an initial assessment of facts that prompted the congressmen's request. Such action is considered standard procedure, according to former federal prosecutors who say the response appears ambiguous as to what action may be taken by the FBI..."

Photo credit: "California Rep. Ted Lieu, along with fellow Democrat Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, issued the request that the Justice Department investigate Exxon for its climate research and denial."

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Slushy Mix Today - More Glimpses of April Next Week - February was 6th Warmer than Average Month In a Row

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Skipping a Month This Spring - Maps Look Like April - Severe Storm Risk Southwestern Minnesota by Monday Night