May Preview This Weekend - Dangerous Tornado Myths
So far it's the busiest year for tornadoes on record (reliable data goes back to 1950). Yesterday's outbreak was a violent reminder that the current pattern favors frequent outbreaks of large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes. At some point this atmospheric scuffle will migrate north. Peak season for Minnesota is May and June.
Now would be a good time to review a tornado action plan with your kids. The basement, under the stairs, is the safest place, not the southwest corner. Otherwise a small, windowless room on the ground floor, like a closet or bathroom. People have survived EF-5 tornadoes by crawling into their bathtubs.
Do NOT open windows to equalize air pressure. Avoid cars and mobile homes, which can become airborne at wind speeds over 100 mph.
The biggest myth: "tornadoes can't hit cities, or close-in suburbs, or cross rivers and lakes". Not true. Tornadoes pull in moisture and warmth from a 20-mile plus radius - a few high rise buildings or river won't slow it down.
Nothing but severe clear here into Saturday with a warming trend. If the sun stays out most of the day Saturday we should see 70s; average for late May. Model guidance hints at T-storms Sunday, then a cooler push early next week. Too warm for snow, too cool and dry for widespread severe outbreaks.
Compared to much of the USA we're getting off easy right now.
Signs of Spring: Phenology. The Minnesota DNR has a good post highlighting our fast-forward spring: "Spring 2017 began at a rapid pace in Minnesota. The songs of the first red-winged blackbirds of the season were heard in north Maplewood on Sunday, March 5, nine days earlier than the median date of March 14. This is the second earliest the musical birds have returned to the marshes of Maplewood. Winter made a bit of a comeback with below normal temperatures from March 9th to the 16th. In a rare occurrence, many lakes that were thawed in southern Minnesota refroze. In Maplewood, there was only one lake that was out before the cool down and this was tiny Spoon Lake just north of Highway 36. This lake thawed on March 6th, then refroze on March 10 with ice thick enough to support a basketball-sized rock, and lost its ice cover again on the 23rd. Warmer conditions returned for the last week of March and the progress of Spring restarted. The frost left the ground in Maplewood on March 29th. April began with above normal temperatures, but sunny days were still hard to come by. Phenology which is derived from the Greek word phaino meaning to show or appear, is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events that are influenced by environmental changes, especially seasonal variations in temperature and precipitation driven by weather and climate..."
Stormy Bookends. Relatively quiet weather is expected over the central USA today, with storms swirling on both coasts. The same intense area of low pressure that spawned tornadoes over the Deep South will push a pinwheel of heavy rain across the Mid Atlantic into New England today. Farther west enough cold air gets pulled into the circulation for a changeover to heavy wet snow. Meanwhile the next Pacific storm slops ashore, impacting northern California, Oregon and Washington state. 12 KM NAM: Tropicaltidbits.com.
Slushy Aftertaste. Much of today's snow will melt on contact (NAM may be exaggerating amounts - imagine that) but a few inches may pile up near Cleveland, Detroit and upstate New York, where the weather over the next 36 hours will be anything but springy.
Another West Coast Soaker. Over 2" of additional rain is forecast to soak northern California and parts of the Pacific Northwest in the coming days; as much as 2-3 feet of additional snow for the Cascades and Sierra Nevada.
Saturday: Better Day of the Weekend. The rumors are true: a full-blown Spring Fever Warning may be required for Saturday; a good chance we'll enjoy the first 70-degree temperature of the year in the Twin Cities. We cool off early next week before temperatures mellow into the 60s the weekend after next. MSP numbers: WeatherBell.
Warming Trend Continues. Which makes sense, considering the sun is higher in the sky, Canadian snow pack is shrinking rapidly and the core of the jet stream is lifting northward with time. GFS guidance shows a mild flow at 500 mb for most of America 2 weeks out, with the exception of the Pacific Northwest.
How 148 Tornadoes In One Day in 1974 Changed Emergency Preparedness. Smithsonian Magazine provides perspective: "...But two important things happened because of the 1974 outbreak, research meteorologist Howard Brooks told Galvin. “First, the National Weather Service adopted the Fujita Scale. And second, support and money for tornado-intercept operations greatly increased.” The Fujita scale created a standard language for the scientific community to talk about tornadoes, Galvin writes. Intercept operations, which send scientists out to actually chase tornadoes, have allowed them to observe what was happening firsthand, improving future warnings. These innovations, combined with the money and political will to update detection gear, mean that the National Weather Service now has more weather stations and better forecasting technology, he writes. Research, more weather stations, and Doppler radar combined have increased the average tornado warning time from "about zero," as one meteorologist put it, to 12 to 14 minutes. "It doesn't seem like a lot," he told Galvin, "but when you need to take shelter every minute counts..." (Map credit: NOAA).
Senate Passes Comprehensive Bipartisan Bill to Improve Weather Forecasting. An encouraging step in the right direction; details via Jason Samenow at Capital Weather Gang: "After stumbling blocks and delays, sweeping bipartisan legislation to improve weather forecasting has passed the Senate. The 65-page bill, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017, H.R. 353, contains four sections that support research and programs to improve weather forecasting and its communication on short and long time scales. Containing scores of provisions, the bill would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to, for example:
- Establish a program to improve tornado warnings.
- Protect the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Program, whose funding was previously slashed.
- Develop a formal plan for weather research.
- Develop an annual report on the state of its weather models..."
Image credit: Milwaukee office of the National Weather Service.
More Water Flowing in California This Year. Details via Climate Central: "...For only the second time this decade, the last being in 2011, the snowpack at the start of April is above normal, providing a respite from a drought which had been especially bad in California. In the Sierra Nevada, the snowpack was 164 percent of normal at the start of the month. The snow water equivalent, or the amount of liquid water locked away in the snow, was about 46 inches. This year's barrage of western storms and the increase in meltwater has already sped up runoff into California's reservoirs, the majority of which are above their historical averages, although not by much. Only the San Luis Reservoir in central California is within a few percent of capacity, but even so, that reservoir is twice as high as it was at this time last year..."
Graphic credit: "More water is flowing this year in California from frequent storms and melting snowpack." Credit: Climate Central
Zika Poses Even Greater Risk for Birth Defects Than Was Previously Known, CDC Reports. Here's a clip from The Washington Post: "About 1 in 10 pregnant women infected with Zika in the United States last year had a baby or fetus with serious birth defects, according to a study released Tuesday that represents the largest and most comprehensive study of Zika’s consequences for pregnant women. Women infected during the first trimester of pregnancy had an even higher risk of birth defects, about 15 percent, according to the analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These estimates are higher than what U.S. health officials have previously reported and underscore the serious risk for birth defects posed by Zika virus infection during pregnancy. With warm weather, a new mosquito season and summer travel approaching, prevention is crucial to protecting the health of mothers and babies, said Anne Schuchat, the CDC's acting director..." (File image: Climate Nexus).
This Is How The Next World War Starts. Here's an excerpt of a harrowing story at The Huffington Post: "...With these issues in mind, I traveled to Germany this winter to talk with U.S. Air Force General Tod D. Wolters, who commands American and NATO air operations. We sat in his headquarters at Ramstein Air Base, a gleaming, modern complex where officers in the uniforms of various NATO nations bustle efficiently through polished corridors. “The degree of hair-triggeredness is a concern,” said Wolters, a former fighter pilot who encountered Soviet bloc pilots during the Cold War. “The possibility of an intercept gone wrong,” he added, is “on my mind 24/7/365.” Admiral James G. Stavridis, the commander of NATO from 2009 to 2013, is more blunt. The potential for miscalculation “is probably higher than at any other point since the end of the Cold War,” he told me. “We are now at maximum danger...”
Illustrations by Cam Floyd. Animation by Pablo Espinosa.
Walking 10 Minutes a Day Could Change Your Life. Here's a clip from nextavenue: "...Walking is also recommended as a great form of exercise. But there’s a difference between just walking and taking a mindfulness walk. “We often get so caught up in life and in our thoughts that we miss things,” Koerbel says. Our lives are filled with ordinary moments that we don’t pay attention to because we are rushing through them. “Being mindful is about stopping and pausing and taking notice of them,” says Koerbel. Notice, for example, how the air smells or how it feels when it hits your skin. Take a look at the colors around you — in the leaves of the trees, the grass or even the brown spots where the grass isn’t growing. Listen to the birds, the cars passing by, to the sounds of your particular environment..."
Forget Millenials - Meet the Perennials. I have a sudden urge to work the soil, but no, this is something different altogether. Let's avoid putting labels on people, right? Here's an excerpt of a post from Gina Pell at Medium: "...We are ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages. We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk takers who continue to push up against our growing edge and know how to hustle. We comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic. Perennials are also vectors who have a wide appeal and spread ideas and commerce faster than any single generation. Lady Gaga + Tony Bennett, Lena Dunham + Jenni Konner, Beyoncé + Jay-Z, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Fallon, Pharrell Williams, Justin Trudeau, Ellen DeGeneres, Malala, Sheryl Sandberg, Mick Jagger, Michelle Obama, Emma Watson, Elon Musk, Bernie Sanders, Diane Von Furstenberg, Lorne Michaels, Ai Weiwei, John Oliver, Aziz Ansari, the little girl on Stranger Things … #Perennials..."
56 F. Twin Cities high temperature observed yesterday.
52 F. average high on April 5.
37 F. high on April 5, 2016.
April 6, 1991: The second of three consecutive record highs, all above 80 degrees, is set at MSP airport (86 on 4/6/1991).
April 6, 1964: A snowstorm hits Minnesota with 9 inches at Fosston and 8.7 at Park Rapids.
TODAY: Cool sun, breezy. Winds: N 10-15. High: 53
THURSDAY NIGHT: Clear to partly cloudy, frosty suburbs. Low: 33
FRIDAY: Sunny, sneak out of office early. Winds: S 5-10. High: 61
SATURDAY: Lukewarm sun, nicer day of weekend. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 46. High: 73
SUNDAY: More humid, few T-storms in the area. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 57. High: 71
MONDAY: Windy and cooler, passing shower or two. Winds: W 15-25. Wake-up: 49. High: 58
TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy, light jacket worthy. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 37. High: near 50
WEDNESDAY: Sunny start, showers possible late. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 33. High: 54
To Curb Global Warming, Science Fiction May Become Fact. Hey, what can possibly go wrong? Here's a clip from The New York Times: "...That is where engineering comes in. Last month, scholars from the physical and social sciences who are interested in climate change gathered in Washington to discuss approaches like cooling the planet by shooting aerosols into the stratosphere or whitening clouds to reflect sunlight back into space, which may provide indispensable to prevent the disastrous consequences of warming..." (File image: NASA).
Trump Declares End to "War on Coal", but Utilities Aren't Listening. So says a story at Reuters: "...Reuters surveyed 32 utilities with operations in the 26 states that sued former President Barack Obama's administration to block its Clean Power Plan, the main target of Trump's executive order. The bulk of them have no plans to alter their multi-billion dollar, years-long shift away from coal, suggesting demand for the fuel will keep falling despite Trump's efforts. The utilities gave many reasons, mainly economic: Natural gas - coal’s top competitor - is cheap and abundant; solar and wind power costs are falling; state environmental laws remain in place; and Trump's regulatory rollback may not survive legal challenges...I’m not going to build new coal plants in today’s environment," said Ben Fowke, CEO of Xcel Energy, which operates in eight states and uses coal for about 36 percent of its electricity production. "And if I’m not going to build new ones, eventually there won’t be any...."
File photo: Midwest Energy News.
How We Know Today's Climate Change is Not Natural. Here's an excerpt from Earth Institute at Columbia University: "...Climate deniers offer a variety of bases for their skepticism without providing scientific evidence. The most effective thing that the climate denier community has done, however, is to spread the notion of uncertainty about climate change, and use it as an excuse not to take any action. “It’s been a very effective tactic,” said de Menocal, “in part because the scientific community spends a tremendous amount of effort quantifying that uncertainty. And so we make it plain as day that there are things we’re certain about, and things we’re uncertain about. There are places of debate that exist in the community. That’s the scientific process. … The deniers are not selling a new way of looking at the problem, they’re selling doubt, and it’s very easy to manufacture doubt.” “They are in total denial of the evidence that there is,” said Schmidt. “When I challenge them to produce evidence for their attributions, all I get is crickets. There’s no actual quantitative evidence that demonstrates anything. … Show me the data, show me your analysis...”
Photo credit: "Scientists studying glaciers in Glacier National Park." Photo: GlacierNPS
Yes, We Can Do "Sound" Climate Science Even Though It's Projecting the Future. Just as we know winter is colder than fall, we know that rising CO2 and methane will result in warming over time. Here's an excerpt from The Conversation: "...This does not imply that we cannot predict anything, even hundreds of years from now. In much the same way as we can predict the orbits of planets around the sun for millions of years, so climate models tell us that ice will melt in a much warmer world and sea level will rise as a consequence. It takes thousands of years for the Earth to come to a new equilibrium climate even if we stop emitting carbon dioxide, and winter will still be colder than summer even in a much warmer world. The reason we can make such predictions is that the laws of physics 500 years from now are the same as today. With climate models as tools, we can carry out “what-if” experiments. What if the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had not increased due to human activities? What if we keep burning fossil fuels and putting more CO2 into the atmosphere? If the climate changes as projected, then what would the impacts be on agriculture and society? If those things happened, then what strategies might there be for coping with the changes?..."
Climate Change Impacts "Most" Species on Earth, Even Down to their Genome. Here's a clip from a story posted at The Guardian that highlights findings from 3 separate studies: "...Scheffers is the lead author of a landmark Science study from last year that found that current warming (just one degree Celisus) has already left a discernible mark on 77 of 94 different ecological processes, including species’ genetics, seasonal responses, overall distribution, and even morphology – i.e. physical traits including body size and shape. Woodland salamanders are shrinking in the Appalachian Mountains; the long-billed, Arctic-breeding red knot is producing smaller young with less impressive bills leading to survival difficulties. Marmot and martens in the Americas are getting bigger off of longer growing seasons produce more foodstuffs, while the alpine chipmunks of Yellowstone National Park have actually seen the shape of their skulls change due to climate pressure..."
Feeling Helpless About the Future of the Planet? Now There's a 9-Step Program For That. Here's a clip from Fusion: "...The psychological consequences of climate change have been the subject of greater study in recent years, with the Obama White House releasing a report in 2016 that predicted growing numbers of people would experience direct mental-health effects from exposure to weather-related natural disasters as well as indirect stress and anxiety. In March, the American Psychiatric Association approved a policy committing to mitigate the adverse mental-health effects of climate change. In the United States alone “we’ve seen a reflooding of Louisiana, we’ve seen terrible fires in the Southwest, we know there are water wars,” says Lise Van Susteren, a psychiatrist in private practice and a founding member of the Climate Psychiatry Alliance. “Even if you’re lucky enough to be at a distance … boy, is that going to weigh on you heavily. Among the activists, those of us watching, listening, hearing, and sensitive to what’s going on, we’re going to be the tip of the spear...”
Photo credit: Leah Hogsten
We Need to Talk About "Ecoanxiety". Climate Change is Causing PTSD, Anxiety and Depression on a Mass Scale. So says an article at Quartz, and they have new research to back up their claims: "Depression, anxiety, grief, despair, stress—even suicide: The damage of unfolding climate change isn’t only counted in water shortages and wildfires, it’s likely eroding mental health on a mass scale, too, reports the American Psychological Association, the preeminent organization of American mental health professionals. Direct, acute experience with a changing climate—the trauma of losing a home or a loved one to a flood or hurricane, for example—can bring mental health consequences that are sudden and severe. After Hurricane Katrina, for example, suicide and suicidal ideation among residents of areas affected by the disaster more than doubled according to a paper led by Harvard Medical School, while one in six met the criteria for PTSD, according to a Columbia University-led paper. Elevated PTSD levels have also been found among people who live through wildfires and extreme storms, sometimes lasting several years..."
Photo credit: "What we need to talk about when we talk about climate change." (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Then and Now: How Glaciers Around the World Are Melting. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "Over the past decade, scientists and photographers keep returning to the world’s glaciers, watching them shrink with each visit. Now they want others to see how a warming planet is melting masses of ice in a series of before-and-after photos. In the Geological Society of America’s GSA Today journal , a group of ice researchers and a photographer-filmmaker published pictures showing how much five of the world’s glaciers have thinned. “There is something fundamentally compelling about the approach they take. For all our emphasis on models and math, seeing is still believing,” said University of Colorado ice scientist Ted Scambos, who wasn’t part of the team..."
Photo credit: ".
True Conservatives Should Worry About Climate Change. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Charlotte Observer: "...To follow Mr. Loris’ recommendations will push the concentration of carbon dioxide above 400 ppm. We are now aware that these choices have consequences for us, for our children and for generations to come. The moral choice has been different over the last 30 years than it was for our grandparents. Mr. Loris cannot simply argue for a limited set of jobs helped by fossil fuels without also accepting the burden we now understand – such as rising sea levels, abnormal precipitation leading to droughts in some areas and flooding or mudslides in others. It is not a conservative value to ignore our impacts on those around us or on the economic conditions we leave for our kids. Thankfully, there are conservative voices speaking out on this issue. Fifteen House Republicans have joined the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus to hold meaningful discussions on what can be done..."
Photo credit: "Matthew Brown AP.
The Climate Could Hit a State Unseen in 50 Million Years. Climate Central has details: "...Scientists have been able to track the historic changes in carbon dioxide through a number of methods, from air pockets in Antarctic ice cores to sludge on the deep sea floor. The new research compiles 1,500 of these carbon dioxide estimates to create a view that extends 420 million years. The carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere today are ones that likely haven’t been reached in 3 million years. But if human activities keep committing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at current rates, scientists will have to look a lot deeper into the past for a similar period. The closest analog to the mid-century atmosphere we’re creating would be a period roughly 50 million years ago known as the Eocene, a period when the world was completely different than the present due to extreme heat and oceans that covered a wide swath of currently dry land..."
Graphic credit: "Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could reach a level unseen in 50 million years by the 2050s. If they continue rising into the 2200s, they'll create a climate that likely has no precedent in at least 420 million years." Credit: Foster, et al., 2017.