Distracting Case of Spring Fever Next 48 Hours

Cutting the federal budget is a good idea, but at the expense of public safety? NOAA's budget may be cut by 17 percent, much of that coming from satellite operations. 95 percent of data feeding our weather models comes from satellite data. Junk in - junk out.

Weather-related natural disasters in the U.S. have more than tripled since 1980; $3 trillion dollars in damage the last 37 years.

It's a little like asking doctors to do without CT scans and sophisticated blood tests, then expecting them to make perfect diagnoses.

God-forbid another Sandy or Katrina-size storm hits, killing thousands, and it was because of dumbed-down weather models and inaccurate warnings, emanating from a crippled National Weather Service.

Spring comes sailing into town today as the mercury tops 60 F. Mid-60s and stray thundershowers Monday give way 40s later in the week - even 30s next weekend. The biggest, wettest storms sail south of Minnesota into mid-March.

PS: America sees more severe weather than any country on Earth. We need a state-of-the-art National Weather Service fully up to the challenge.

Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters in 2016. There were 15 altogether, one less than 2012, which had the most billion-dollar disasters on record. Map: NOAA NCDC.

Large Cuts Proposed for U.S. Weather Prediction. Here is an excerpt of a must-read post from Cliff Mass, outlining the implications of proposed NOAA budget cuts: "...The proposed cuts (described here) are huge and would cripple the ability of the National Weather Service to improve the quality of weather predictions provided to the American peopleCuts include:

1.  A half-billion dollar reduction in NOAA's satellite program run by National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS). Weather satellite's provide 95% of the information used to initialize weather prediction models and such a large cut would result in the loss of major satellite observing systems.  Weather prediction skill would decline.

2.  A 26% (126 million) cut in the Office of Atmospheric Research (OAR) OAR is responsible for the development of the next generation of weather prediction models and the technologies underlying U.S. operational weather forecasting.   Such a large cut would greatly undermine current activities to replace the problematic current generation of U.S. global models.  It would undermine the development of new approaches to data assimilation of observational data. And much more..."

Four Ways NOAA Benefits Your Life Today. Dr. Marshall Shepherd takes a look at how NOAA data fuels our everyday lives at Forbes: "...According to figures in the Washington Post, the White House proposal eliminates $513 million, or 22 percent of NOAA's satellite division or National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service. This division also houses critical climate data at the National Center for Environmental Indicators. This data is vital for understanding how our weather and climate are changing. Numerous reports have cautioned about looming gaps in weather satellite coverage as our fleet of low-earth and geosynchronous orbiting satellites age. Weather satellites provide a critical service for the public, the military, industry, and other stakeholders. They are like smoke detectors in our homes. You know they are there but really do not pay them any attention until your house is on fire. For the safety of our families, we replace the batteries when they age. This is pretty simple to do for a smoke detector, but large satellite programs are different. They require sustained and consistent funding for research and development, industry contracts, and support..."

Surprising Facts About NOAA. Roughly a third of America's GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is dependent on the weather: agriculture, retail, energy, transportation, leisure, it's a long list. Here's an excerpt from a post at The Union of Concerned Scientists: "...Anyone who eats seafood benefits from NOAA’s stewardship of sustainable fisheries and healthy ecosystems in ways that support jobs and helps keep our seafood safe. NOAA has improved forecasts for harmful algal blooms. Scientists at the agency and cooperative institutes conduct research and monitoring for changes in fisheries and marine ecosystems from ocean acidification and temperature changes. Businesses, farmers, homeowners and nearly everyone living in the US at some point makes important decisions based on weather forecasts. No matter your source of weather, all forecasts are underpinned by observations and models provided by NOAA through its National Weather Service (NWS) and National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS)..."

Recap of Meteorological Winter in Minnesota. Once again Dr. Mark Seeley helps to put the numbers into perspective at Minnesota WeatherTalk: "The 6th warmest February in state history concluded earlier this week, along with the end of Meteorological Winter (in the northern hemisphere December through February). The Meteorological Winter definitely followed the climatic trends of recent decades by being both warmer and wetter than normal. It was the 10th warmest Meteorological Winter in state history back to 1895, and the 15th warmer than normal one of the last 20 years on a statewide basis. Over the 90-day season approximately 700 daily temperature records were set within the state's climate observation networks, including 286 new daily high maximum temperatures and 414 new daily high minimum temperatures. During the Meteorological Winter Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states only 9 times, a small number when compared to history. In December it happened 3 days, in January 4 days, and in February just 2 days..."

Winter Lingers Out West - April Preview Eastern Half of America. Another day, another storm pushing across the west coast into the intermountain west and Rockies, while a warm, moist fetch from the Gulf of Mexico sparks another outbreak of showers and T-storms from Texas as far north as the Twin Cities and Milwaukee by Monday. Source: Tropicaltidbits.com.

Another Spring Preview - Then Reality Sets In. Low to mid 60s should feel good later today and Monday, as humidity levels rise ahead of a colder front. Temperatures return to average by the end of the week. It's still early retiring your favorite coat or heavy jacket. Twin Cities ECMWF numbers: WeatherBell.

Winter Far From Over in New England. The 2-week GFS jet stream forecast (500 mb, about 18,000 feet) shows a closed low over New England, capable of generating a series of coastal storms capable of accumulating snow. Meanwhile unusually mild weather is forecast west of the Mississippi River.

84-Hour Snowfall Potential. NOAA's NAM computer model pikes up a couple feet of snow from the northern Sierra Nevada into Washington's Cascade range; plowable snows into North Dakota and far northern Minnesota.

The Vast Majority of U.S. Had a Crazy Warm Winter. Here's a clip from a good summary of our "half a winter" at Climate Central: "...Climate Central conducted an analysis of 1,500 weather stations across the U.S. and found that 84 percent had a winter that was warmer than normal, including 47 percent that had a winter among their 10 warmest on record. Not a single station east of the Mississippi was cooler than average. Of the stations in the analysis, 117 had a record warm winter. In comparison, only six stations had their coldest winter on record. The heat spread from coast-to-coast with the Southeast being the hottest of the hot. Miami, Houston and Dallas all set seasonal heat records. Towns in Oklahoma approached 100°F. Chicago was snowless in January and February for the first time in 146 years of records. Massachusetts recorded its first February tornado. Spring arrived up to 28 days early in the Southeast. The National Park Service is forecasting a mid-March cherry blossom peak on the National Mall, which would be the earliest on record..."

The February Heatwave of '17. NOAA's Climate.gov has a recap of the extraordinary warmth a few weeks ago: "...On February 24, all-time February records were smashed across the eastern United States. Boston (73°F) bested its previous February record by three degrees. Binghamton, NY, reached 70°F, setting a new monthly record by four degrees. Columbus, OH, broke its record by one degree when the mercury hit 76°F. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), these records were part of 408 total monthly high temperatures record set across the country in February. Meanwhile, only one cold temperature monthly record was set. The warmth was partly due to southerly winds blowing mild air usually reserved for areas farther south to northern regions. Helping to make that air even warmer than normal were warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures across the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Hot and cold records can happen at any time simply due to natural climate variability, but it’s also the case that average daytime high temperatures in February are rising across the U.S. According to NOAA’s Climate at a Glance analysis tool, the average February maximum temperature in the U.S. rose by 0.3°F per decade from 1895-2016. In the Eastern and Central Regions of the National Weather Service, the trends are 0.3°F and 0.4°F per decade, respectively. "

Coldest Winter in Seattle Since 1985. Curbed Seattle has the statistics: "If your heating bill weren't evidence enough, the National  Weather Service has confirmed it: this winter has been the coldest Seattle has seen in a long time. December 2016 through February 2017 was Seattle's coldest since 1985, with 56 days below normal temperatures according to the NWS Seattle. It's also been a wetter-than-usual several months, with nine inches above normal precipitation since October - although we got more than 13 inches during the same period the year before..."

ECMWF Heading to Italy by 2020? The BBC has an update: "The next-generation supercomputer that will drive Europe’s medium-range weather forecasts looks set to be housed in Bologna, Italy, from 2020. It would succeed the current system based in Reading, UK. Member states of the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) made the indicative decision to relocate the facility on Wednesday. Detailed negotiations will now be held with Italian authorities. The intention is to confirm the choice in June. That is the date of the next full Council meeting of the ECMWF..."

Overuse of Severe Thunderstorm Warnings? Should we tighten up criteria for issuance of severe thunderstorm warnings to make them less common? The Weather Social makes a case: "...So what would happen IF we changed the minimum criteria? How many of these warnings would drop off if we went to 70mph winds and/or 1.5″ hail minimums? The warnings issued are represented by the orange bars. Also note, as I mentioned at the IWT, the actual number of initial warnings issued based on the minimum criteria that then intensified into a 70mph and/or 1.5″ hail tag was pretty small–mostly under 10 per year. We’re talking about 20 to 25 percent of these warnings would have been issued! In other words, even being a bit generous, 60 to 70 percent of the warnings would have been reduced. That’s pretty significant! My thought is that IF we don’t issue so many SVRs, when one is issued, our consumers would pay more attention to what is happening. A topic discussed thoroughly on thewxsocial.com, are people fatigued by the sheer volume of warnings?..."

What Causes Rainbow Colors in Clouds? EarthSky has a good explanation and some wonderful examples of one of my favorite optical illusions: iridescent clouds: "Sky watchers sometimes report seeing rainbow colors within clouds. These colorful clouds are called iridescent clouds. When you see a cloud like this, you know there are especially tiny ice crystals or water droplets in the air. Larger ice crystals produce solar or lunar halos, but tiny ice crystals or water droplets cause light to be diffracted – spread out – creating this rainbow-like effect in the clouds. The phenomenon is called cloud iridescence or irisation. The term comes from Iris, the Greek personification of the rainbow..."

Photo credit: "Bird-shaped iridescent cloud over Mutare, Zimbabwe – February 13, 2017 – from Peter Lowenstein. Seeing shapes in clouds is an example of pareidolia."

Wettest and Driest Months of the Year? Brian Brettschneider does a terrific job visualizing data; here's another example from his prolific blog: "What are the wettest and driest months of the year? Using published normal values, we can answer that question. These maps were generated using the 1981-2010 NCEI climate normals for monthly precipitation within the U.S. In Canada and Mexico (and the rest of the globe [not shown]), the GHCN v.2 monthly precipitation was used. To standardize the months due to differences in the number of days, I used an average daily precipitation value. In a few instances, this will cause discrepancies. For example, if February averages 3.00" of precipitation and March averages 3.10", I show February as having more precipitation – since their per-day value is higher..."

This Sign Need To Be Everywhere. Because people continually decide to take their chances and drive through flooded roads; many don't make it. What can we do to deter them from taking risky weather-bets? Here's an excerpt from The Weather Social: "At thewxsocial.com, we’re frequently examining the struggle of communicating flood dangers. From Houston to Baton Rouge, we have pointed to countless challenges during heavy rain events that strand drivers and claim lives. Melissa Huffman submits several factors that may constrain action to areal and flash flood warnings like lack of familiarity with the flooded area, to being in a warning message restrictive setting like a vehicle. Perhaps it is all just disconnect from messenger to receiver. I have even suggested an alternate framing of the warning message to circumvent the “I can make it” mentality. But now, another city on the Gulf Coast is instituting a simple road sign that could become flood safety’s biggest ally since “turn around don’t drown...”

Photo credit: "Aaron Miller, Director of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness in New Orleans with new road sign to be placed at flood prone underpass, photo via @BillCapo on Twitter."

Carrie Underwood Reveals Home Was Hit by Nashville Tornado. MSN.com has an update: "FOX 17 News in Nashville reports that the storm's 100 mph winds caused damage to trees and power lines — and, indeed, a possible tornado may have touched down. But twisters are nothing new to Underwood, who spent the first two decades of her life in Oklahoma, where tornadoes are a dime a dozen. The state lies in an area along the Great Plains some dub Tornado Alley. In fact, 33-year-old Underwood wrote about a tornado on her 2011 hit single "Blown Away," which finds the song's character wishing for a metaphorical twister to come and wipe away painful childhood memories..."

7-Foot Wall on the Brooklyn Riverfront to Fight Flooding. The New York Times reports: "...Should the forecast call for an unrelenting storm, workers will erect the panels a day before anticipated landfall, creating a 1,100-foot-long barricade — one-fifth of a mile — in four to five hours. If all goes as hoped, Empire Stores, which includes West Elm’s headquarters, will ride out the flood like a tasteful island in a surging sea. Communities across the country are confronting the mounting evidence of climate change and fortifying buildings and infrastructure against rising sea levels and ever-more-intense storms. The New York Times is presenting case studies in resilient design in and around New York City. The series and a glossary are looking at tangible measures being taken to resist floods, surges, high winds and heavy rains..."

Photo credit: "Flooding is a constant threat to Empire Stores, a converted warehouse on the East River in Brooklyn. Elevating the infrastructure was not practical for the historic building, so owners purchased a flood barrier to be erected if inundation threatens." Credit Kevin Hagen for The New York Times.

Why Democrats and Republicans are Both Right on Climate. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from Daniel Kammen at Scientific American: "...Together the CPP and the CDP build a vibrant, intensely job-creating energy sector that would be far larger than either plan accomplishes alone. The CPP does not pit one state against each other, but pushes each state to develop its own carbon reduction plan. Both red and blue states are finding this easier and more profitable than previously imagined. The power sector reduced its carbon emissions 21 percent between 2005-2015, primarily by switching from coal to gas. It is well on the way to complying with the Clean Power Plan. The CPP will accelerate the transition to money-saving energy efficiency, and to a job-rich renewable energy sector. Countries such as China, Bangladesh, Denmark, Germany Kenya, Korea, and Portugal have seen tremendous manufacturing and job growth as they made their electricity sectors more diverse, clean, and job-producing..."

Photo credit: "Coal-fired power plant, Minnesota." Credit: Tony Webster Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Do Environmental Regulations Reduce Employment? Not Really. Here's an excerpt of a post from Dave Roberts at Vox: "...At the most basic level, the story is simple. Market economies tend to grow or contract based on broad macroeconomic factors such as aggregate demand, the rate of inflation, and population growth. As long as demand remains strong, inflation remains low, and the population grows, economic growth generally conntinues and employment rises. If those factors go the other way, growth slows and employment falls. Within this broad framework, regional or sectoral developments (regulations on a particular industry, particular industries growing or declining, population shifts between and among regions) are generally lost in the national noise. If a particular resource declines, the market finds substitutes. If a particular industry declines, other industries grow and absorb the workers..."

Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Solar Now Provides Twice as Many Jobs as the Coal Industry. Here's a link and story excerpt from Co.Exist: "As solar power keeps getting cheaper—and more and more of it is built as a result—the industry is also an increasingly important source of new jobs, adding workers at a rate nearly 17 times faster than the overall economy. Twice as many people now work in solar than in the coal industry, according to a new survey from the nonprofit Solar Foundation. While 40 coal plants were retired in the U.S. in 2016, and no new coal plants were built, the solar industry broke records for new installations, with 14,000 megawatts of new installed power. Many of the jobs came from constructing massive solar plants like the Springbok Solar Farm, which is being built on a site that sprawls over 12 miles in the Mojave Desert..."

Photo credit: Sam Hodgon, Bloomberg.

An Evolutionary Psychologist Explains Why You Will Always Be Haunted by High School. Quartz has the story; here's a clip: "...My research experience as an evolutionary psychologist leads me to believe that many factors interact to make our teenage memories so vivid. But the main driver is the collision between the hardwiring of our brains that took place across several million of years of evolution and the odd social bubble created by high school, which poses an unprecedented social challenge to our prehistoric minds. In other words, the world that we evolved to be successful in (a small, stable group of interrelated people of various ages) is very different from the holding pen full of teenagers brimming with hormones that populate our world during the high school years..."

This Man Planned the Most Efficient U.S. Road Trip of All Time. Travel + Leisure shows us how to do it right: "...Randy Olson, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, mapped out a super-efficient — and super-ambitious — way to see the contiguous United States. He devised his cross-country road trip, combining algorithms and Google Maps, so he could visit 48 capitol buildings. “For this road trip, there is one goal: to take a picture at as many U.S. state capitols as possible,” Olson wrote on his blog. “We will travel only by car, so that rules out Alaska (too far away) and Hawaii (requires a plane flight) and leaves us with the 48 contiguous states (excluding D.C.).” “Whenever possible, we will avoid routes that require us to travel through foreign countries, as entering/leaving the country requires a passport and border control tends to slow things down...”

What Is This? I am not a bird-watcher, but this woodpecker caught my eye yesterday near Breezy Point - it was enormous, with a flaming red hat. Any ideas?

43 F. high in the Twin Cities Saturday.

35 F. average high on March 4.

37 F. high temperature on March 4, 2016.

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

SUNDAY: Mild sun, breezy. Winds: S 10-20. High: 62

SUNDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase, risk of a shower. Low: 53

MONDAY: Humid, risk of a T-shower. Gusty winds. Winds: S 15-35. High: 65

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy, few windswept flakes. Winds: W 15-30. Wake-up: 37. High: 44

WEDNESDAY: More sun, not quite as windy. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 27. High: near 40

THURSDAY: Partly to mostly cloudy, milder. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 26. High: 45

FRIDAY: Mild start, then turning cooler. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 34. High: 46

SATURDAY: Cool sun, wet snow far south? Winds: NE 8-13. Wake-up: 22. High: 34

Climate Stories....

Was Our Snowless January and February a Sign of Climate Change? Here's an excerpt from Chicago  Magazine: "...Just two months of abnormal weather can’t prove anything on their own, the climate experts say. However, the Earth is setting more record-high temperatures than record-low temperatures lately, and that is a sign of global warming. According to Horton, weather variability is natural in Chicago due to its location in the mid-latitudes, “the middle segment of the Earth where the weather is controlled by an oscillating jet stream,” which are slim strips of wind. This means that naturally, Chicago will have more irregularity in weather, as compared to the area near the equator, where temperatures are steady and predictable..."

Photo credit: "Shorts in February—should we be scared?" Photo: Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune.

Antarctic Sea Ice Sets Record Low, Providing Another Mystery for Scientists. Here's an excerpt from InsideClimate News: "...The news came as sea ice around Antarctica is experiencing its lowest extent ever. As of March 1, only 820,000 square miles of the ocean around Antarctica was covered in ice, according to data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. The loss of ice represents an all-time minimum for Antarctic sea ice cover since satellite observations began in 1979. The current decline, however, may not be part of a larger climate change trend. The low point comes less than three years after Antarctic sea ice set a record high in October 2014.  "If you look at the long-term trend, Antarctic sea ice is still increasing slightly, said Son Nghiem, a researcher with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory..."

Graphic: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Striking Photos Show People vs. Climate Change. National Geographic has the photo essay: "An incredibly complex web of cause and effect that’s global in scope, climate change is like light itself: enormously present, yet difficult to directly perceive. It’s just as likely to make its presence known in overly tough goat meat in Kenya as it is in a terrifying “gateway to hell” in Sibera. But where do we, as individuals, come across the effects of climate change? What does it actually look like to us? And what are we doing about it?"

Photo credit: "Spread over 400 acres, Nevada Solar One is a massive project built in the hot, dry desert just south of Las Vegas. The plant uses 760 parabolic trough concentrators with more than 182,000 mirrors that concentrate the sun’s rays onto more than 18,240 receiver tubes. Every year, the projected amount of CO2 emissions this plant avoids putting into the atmosphere is equivalent to taking approximately 20,000 cars off the road. It is a refreshing site to look at—I can't wait to fly a solar-powered aircraft one." Photograph by Jassen T., National Geographic Your Shot.

You Can Care About Climate Change and Still Enjoy Freakishly Warm Winter Days. Food for thought from Jason Samenow at Capital Weather Gang: "...I understand that the concern about climate change is not a single ridiculously warm day but the trend toward many of them. But, of the various consequences of climate change, warm winters days are least deserving of our angst. Warm weather positively influences our mental well-being, the New York Times reported on Feb. 24, a day when the temperature soared to 70 degrees in New York City. On such warm days, it said: “We may be more helpful … We may spend more money … It may elevate our mood … [and] It may put us in the mood for love.” Indeed a study in Nature last April found that “virtually all American are now experiencing the much milder winters they prefer” because of climate change. Climate change is a story of mixed effects. Some are good, and some are bad..."

Photo credit: "Blossoms blooming at Congressional Cemetery. Feb. 25, 2017." (Jim Havard via Flickr)

Impact of Climate Change on This Year's Early Spring? Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "Spring is arriving ever earlier in the northern hemisphere. One sedge species in Greenland is springing to growth 26 days earlier than it did a decade ago. And in the US, spring arrived 22 days early this year in Washington DC. The evidence comes from those silent witnesses, the natural things that respond to climate signals. The relatively new science of phenology – the calendar record of first bud, first flower, first nesting behaviour and first migrant arrivals – has over the last three decades repeatedly confirmed meteorological fears of global warming as a consequence of the combustion of fossil fuels. Researchers say the evidence from the plant world is consistent with the instrumental record: 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded, and it was the third record-breaking year in succession. Sixteen of the hottest years ever recorded have happened in the 21st century..."

Photo credit: "Arctic cotton grass grows on Greenland’s seashore. Sedge is almost four weeks ahead of its timetable 10 years ago." Photograph: Pearl Bucknall/Alamy.

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Easing Into Spring, But Don't Get Too Comfortable - Big Budget Cuts Proposed for NOAA

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Perfectly Average for Late April - Tuesday High Wind Watch: Gusts to 50 mph - Minor Wind Damage Possible