In Search of Rush Hour

Pick your poison: winter or road repair? I would wager a stale bagel that more Minnesotans are complaining about traffic conditions than the weather these days.

A recent Google Traffic map looked like something scribbled by a troubled child with a red crayon.

Wait, did I miss the announcement? Has someone from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's staff seized control of MnDOT? "Let's choke off most north-south freeways in the metro and see what happens!"

(Insert evil laughter here).

No, the roads don't repair themselves, and every time I fly east to visit family I give thanks for the generally excellent state of Minnesota's highway system. That didn't happen by accident. That said I did want to thank the construction-scheduling gurus for making the weather forecasters look good. That's pretty hard to pull off.

At least rain won't add to any traffic torment anytime soon. In fact the holiday weekend outlook looks a little better. After a flawless sky today into much of Saturday clouds increase Sunday afternoon; the best chance of showers Sunday night with a stray T-storm bubbling up Monday. ECMWF guidance suggests most of the weekend will be dry & lukewarm with enough peeks of sun for a respectable sunburn. Not bad for a holiday.

Remember to slow down in construction zones, and please avoid the urge to drive from north to south. 

Holiday Weekend Mixed Bag of Weather. Saturday still appears to be the nicest, sunniest (driest) day of the Memorial Day weekend with highs topping 70F. A shower is possible Sunday, best chance at night, with a stray T-shower or two on Memorial Day - a better chance of T-storms next Tuesday and Wednesday. Temperatures run close to average through the period. Source: Weatherspark.

Soggy Spell First Half of Next Week. GFS guidance shows a plume of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico sparking numerous showers and T-storms from Texas to Minnesota and Wisconsin from Monday into Wednesday of next week, maybe some 2-4" rainfall amounts fro the Plains into the Midwest. Source: AerisWeather.

May's Torrential Rainstorms Super-Charged by Strengthening Climate Patterns. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, and El Nino may be spiking heavy rain events with a much more active southerly branch of the jet stream. Here's an excerpt from The Capital Weather Gang: "...Taken as a whole, these events appear to have at least two things in common — a burgeoning El Niño in the equatorial Pacific, and a well-documented upward trend in extreme rainfall events. Though the pattern tends to be more obvious in the winter months, El Niño’s very warm sea surface temperatures in the tropics tend to fuel a wetter than normal pattern across the West and the South. At the very least, last week’s Southwest storm looks to have been enhanced by El Niño, which, according to recent model forecasts, is shaping up to be an intense one..."

Graphic credit above: "Extreme one-day precipitation events have been on the rise since the mid-20th century." (NOAA)

Past 12 Months Tied for Warmest on Record. I'm sure it's just another coincidence. Here's a link and story excerpt from Climate Central: "...April capped a 12-month period that tied the warmest such stretch on record, according to data released Tuesday. That period, going back to May 2014, tied the previous record holder, the 12 months from April 2014 to March 2015. Of the 10 warmest 12-month periods on record, nine occurred in the past two years, most of them in back-to-back stretches. The clustering of such warm periods is a marker of how much global temperatures have risen thanks to the human-driven buildup of heat-trapping gases in the Earth’s atmosphere..." (image credit above: NOAA)

80% of Sunscreens Don't Really Work Or Have "Worrisome" Ingredients: Report. Check out this article from TIME before you slather on sunscreen; here's an excerpt: "...The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its 2015 sunscreen guide on Tuesday, which reviewed more than 1,700 SPF products like sunscreens, lip balms and moisturizers. The researchers discovered that 80% of the products offer “inferior sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients like oxybenzone and vitamin A,” they say. Oxybenzone is a chemical that can disrupt the hormone system, and some evidence suggests—though not definitively—that adding vitamin A to the skin could heighten sun sensitivity..."

1-Minute Satellite Updates on GOES-14. This is pretty amazing, an entirely new level of resolution and latency with satellite imagery. Here's an excerpt from CIMSS Satellite Blog: "GOES-14 is producing imagery at 1-minute intervals as part of Super-Rapid Scan Operations for GOES-R (SRSO-R). Sectors that are scanned change each day and are determined by likely weather events. The animation above, in the southwest corner of the Monday May 18 sector shows strong convection over northern Louisiana. (A similar animation in mp4 format is available here (YouTube)) A benefit of 1-minute imagery is that it can capture the entire lifecycle of overshooting tops, cloud-top features that typically form and decay in less than 10 minutes..."

Infoporn: When Is The Next Major Hurricane Going To Hit? We haven't seen a major hurricane drought this long since the 1860s, according to a fascinating story at WIRED; here's an excerpt: "...This is weird. A study published last week in Geophysical Research Letters looked at just how rare a hurricane drought like this is, analyzing weather records back to 1851. Turns out it’s the longest stretch without a major hurricane ever. The last time the US came close to it was all the way back in the 1860s, when the coast went 8 years dry..."

Remarkable Weather Graphics. I give credit where credit is due, and I have to say I'm very impressed with the new graphics being used as explainers on The Weather Channel. Check out Jim Cantore's excellent visualization of tornadogenesis - rumor is this is WSI's new "Reality" graphics package. All I can say is well done: "Did you miss it? Jim Cantore gave this incredible step-by-step look inside a tornado this morning on AMHQ with Sam Champion."

Why You Should Never Use Your Own Vehicle to Chase Tornadic Storms: Exhibit A. Because the same supercells that spawn tornadoes often have extreme updrafts capable of baseball or softball size hail. Check out this YouTube video from Midwest Storm Chasers and Researchers: "Video from our chase May 17th in southwest Oklahoma - starting with some massive softball hail falling at our location several miles away from the main hail core of the supercell. We attempted to escape before the windshield broke out but no such luck. This was the first time in the 7 years I've been chasing that I've lost a window from anything storm chasing related..."

Hacking The Brain. Will we be able to take pills to make ourselves smarter in the near future? I sure hope so. Here's an excerpt from a vaguely terrifying piece at The Atlantic: "...But this dream has a dark side: The possibility of a dystopia where an individual’s fate is determined wholly by his or her access to cognition-enhancing technology. Where some ultra-elites are allowed to push the limits of human intelligence, while the less fortunate lose any chance of upward mobility. Where some Big Brother–like figure could gain control of our minds and decide how well we function..."

* Potential for river flooding on the Mississippi near Fort Ripley into the holiday weekend. Details from NOAA.

62 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities Wednesday.

71 F. average high on May 20.

78 F. high on May 20, 2014.

May 20, 1892: Very late season snowfall over central Minnesota. Maple Plain received 4 inches of snow, with 3 inches falling in Minneapolis. This is the latest significant snow on record for the Twin Cities, and one of the latest widespread snowfalls in Minnesota.

May 20, 1876: Tornado struck near Ft. Ripley.

TODAY: Sunny and beautiful. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 70

THURSDAY NIGHT: Clear and pleasant. Low: 50

FRIDAY: Blue sky, perfect. Leave work early. High: 72

SATURDAY: Plenty of sun, still nice. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 55. High: 71

SUNDAY: Fading sun, nighttime showers. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 56. High: 72

MEMORIAL DAY: Intervals of sun, stray T-shower. Wake-up: 57. High: 71

TUESDAY: Better chance of T-showers. Wake-up: 59. High: 75

WEDNESDAY: Some sticky sun, isolated storm. Wake-up: 60. High: 78

Climate Stories....

Obama: Climate Change Poses Risk to U.S. Military, National Security. Reuters has the article; here's a clip: "...The Pentagon is assessing the vulnerability to climate change of its 7,000 bases, installations and facilities, many of which are on the coast, the White House said. Obama is set to highlight damage to the navy and air bases at Norfolk, Virginia, from increasing floods, to Alaskan facilities built on thawing permafrost, and to military training areas in western states from wildfires. "Climate change poses a threat to the readiness of our forces," he is expected to say..." (File photo: AP).

House Republicans Slash NASA's Earth-Science Budget. Here's the introduction to a story at the National Journal: "House Republicans unveiled the details of a spending bill on Tuesday that would cut the amount of money NASA spends on earth science and climate-change research.  The push arrives on the heels of a concerted effort by congressional Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz, a 2016 presidential hopeful, to steer NASA away from the study of climate change and towards space exploration. It takes place against the backdrop a broader GOP effort to sink President Obama's ambitious agenda to tackle rising greenhouse gases and stave off the worst impacts of global warming..." (Image above: NASA).

Investors With $25 Trillion Detail Opportunity in Climate Change. It's a threat, and an opportunity to retool, reinvent and build more resilience into everything we do. Here's an excerpt from Bloomberg Business: "...As more than 1,000 executives gather in Paris to discuss their response to climate change, a group of investors managing $25 trillion opened a web portal detailing the action being taken to cut pollution. Four investor groups representing 265 institutions worldwide joined the United Nations Environment Program in opening a web portal that will show which projects gained finance to rein in global warming. The move reflects a shift in the business community toward embracing the inevitability of stricter regulations on fossil fuels and more incentives for cleaner forms of energy..."

The "Shocking" Cost of Letting Companies Pollute for Free. Here's an excerpt of an Eric Roston column at Bloomberg Business: "...In that context, letting companies pollute for free, when that pollution carries a real social cost, can be thought of as a subsidy. That's how researchers at the International Monetary Fund describe energy subsidies in a sobering new paper that puts a comprehensive price tag on global aid to the energy industry. The price tag, which IMF officials describe as "shocking," is a big one: This year, the report estimates, fossil fuels are being subsidized to the tune of $5.3 trillion, or 6.5 percent of global gross domestic product..." (Image credit: EPA).

Obama Drills a Hole In His Climate Policy. If you're confused and disappointed about President Obama giving a green light to Shell to drill in the Arctic you're not alone. Here's a snippet of a column at The Washington Post: "...Since some oil has to stay where it is, why not attack the supply side of the equation by firmly deciding to keep drilling rigs out of the Arctic Ocean? The environmental risk alone would justify saying no to Shell’s plans; a big spill would be a disaster. But even if Arctic oil can be exploited without mishap, we’re talking about billions of gallons of oil being added to a market that is presently glutted. It doesn’t matter whether that oil is eventually burned in New York or New Delhi, in Los Angeles or Lagos. If we don’t take a stand in the Arctic, then where? And if not now, when?"

Photo credit above: "The Polar Pioneer drilling rig sits docked at the Port of Seattle, Monday, May 18, 2015, in Seattle. Demonstrators opposed to Arctic oil drilling rallied near the rig Monday, showing opposition to a lease agreement between Royal Dutch Shell and the Port to allow the Polar Pioneer and other drilling equipment to be based in Seattle." (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren).

Americans Like To Have 6 Times More Very Hot Days by 2100: Study. Reuters has a summary of recent research; here's the intro: "Americans are likely to have six times more days above 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) by 2100, partly because of climate change, scientists said on Monday, with heat already linked to hundreds of deaths a year in the United States. By the late 21st century, exposure to sweltering heat would leap to between 10 and 14 billion "person days" a year, a team led by Bryan Jones of the Baruch College School of Public Affairs in New York wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change..."

* the full report at Nature Climate Change is here.

Chemo For The Planet. With nations collectively sitting on their hands, energy demand continuing to grow and little chance of a price on carbon in the near future will we be relegated to cooling things down with geoengineering, injecting man-made chemicals into the stratosphere? Again I ask the rhetorical question: what can possibly go wrong? Here's an excerpt of a New York Times column that's worth a look: "... Fossil fuels remain the world’s default energy source, and — despite the impressive growth of global solar capacity over the last decade — that’s likely to be the case for decades to come. A carbon tax on the worst emitters has gotten nowhere. So maybe we need to start thinking about coming at the climate-change problem from a different direction. Instead of hoping that humans will start reducing their carbon use, maybe it’s time to at least consider using technology to keep climate change at bay..."

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Spotty Puddles for Memorial Day Weekend Plans

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Weather Perfection Today. Holiday Weekend: Storm Potential Increases Over Time