A Tenuous Long-Range Prediction
"Predictions are hard, especially about the future" Yogi Berra said. One of my favorite quotes. We fixate on the future, instead of learning lessons from the past.
This may come back to bite me, but here's my take, based on the models and current trends: The coldest temperatures of the winter, a winter that has been "average" and not all that rough, is behind us. Minnesota will experience an earlier spring than recent years. We may even be wandering around in shorts by Memorial Day.
One huge wildcard is spring river flooding. Severity will depend on how much snow and rain falls in March and April, but the ground is soaked, and the potential for problems is high, especially Red River Valley.
Temperatures trend above average the next 2 weeks, in spite of a cold front the middle of next week (not as nippy as we just experienced.) ECMWF hints at 40F the weekend of February 22-23. No travel problems this weekend, but a quick inch or two may fall on Monday.
March will bring slush, rain, mud, maybe a rumble of thunder. Take it to the bank.
March temperature anomaly forecast above courtesy of NOAA CFSv2 and WeatherBell.
Above Average Again. The next 3 days should see temperatures some 5-10F above average, after our recent (brief) outbreak of numbing air. A colder front arrives by the middle of next week, but not as cold as what we just enjoyed. Maps above: Praedictix and AerisWeather.
Clipped by Cold. Polar air is forecast to remain generally north of Minnesota into early March. Subzero lows are still possible in March, but with a higher sun angle, longer daylight and shrinking snow cover across North America it gets harder to pull off. I suspect the coldest days and nights of winter are behind us now.
January 2020 was Earth's Hottest January On Record. NOAA has details: "In the span of 141 years of climate records, there has never been a warmer January than last month, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. What’s more, the temperature departure from average was the highest monthly departure ever recorded without an El Niño present in the tropical Pacific Ocean. January 2020 marked the 44th consecutive January and the 421st consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th-century average..."
Billion Dollar Disasters in the US. Here's an excerpt from an update at Climate Central: "...Of the four decades since NOAA data began, the 2010s accounted for nearly half the total number of disasters and cost, even after adjusting for inflation. The 2010s had 119 billion-dollar disasters (double the previous decade), with total costs exceeding $800 billion. Many individual states show similar trends. Compared to the three previous decades, the 2010s had the most billion-dollar disasters in 34 of 52 states and territories (65%). States in the central U.S. had the largest recent spike—compared to any other decade, the 2010s had 33 more disasters in Texas, 23 more in Illinois, and 22 more in Missouri..."
Has the Wooden Skyscraper Revolution Finally Arrived? CNN Style has a fascinating article; here's an excerpt: "...Advocates for mass timber claim that, compared to existing alternatives, these towers are quicker to construct, stronger and, perhaps most surprisingly, safer in the event of a fire. It may, however, be their green credentials that explain wood's rising popularity in recent years. The construction and operation of buildings accounts for 40% of the world's energy consumption, and approximately one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. But while concrete emits a huge amount of carbon, trees instead absorb it throughout their lifetime. If those trees are then turned into mass timber, that carbon is "locked in," or sequestered, rather than returned to the atmosphere when the tree dies. Studies suggest that 1 cubic meter of wood can store more than a ton of carbon dioxide..."
Image credit: "A digital rendering of PLP Architecture's bold proposal for a 984-foot-tall tower in the heart of London." Credit: PLP Architecture.
Secret to Living to be 112 Years Old? ABC News has the story; here are a few excerpts that caught my eye: "...Japanese resident Chitetsu Watanabe was presented with an official certificate and plaque from the Guinness World Records on Wednesday. Watanabe, who has been alive for 112 years and 344 days as of Feb. 12, told GWR how he has stayed alive for so long. "Not to get angry and keep a smile on your face," the world record holder said. The world's oldest living man ran a large farm with his son that grew an array of fruits and vegetables from potatoes to plums. He was active on the farm until age 104. While not as active as he once was, Watanabe still takes part in daily exercise, origami, calligraphy and math exercises..."
Perfect Gift for Your Valentine. You can't make this stuff up. Mediaite reports: "Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer will record you a Valentine’s Day message for your loved one on Cameo for just $199 this month. “Hey guys, it’s Sean Spicer with an amazing deal. This month, for the entire month of February, my videos that normally cost $400– over 50 percent off,” announced Spicer in an Instagram video, Tuesday. “$199 is going to give you the best Valentine’s Day gift ever. What way to say, ‘I love you, I’m thinking of you,’ this Valentine’s Day than a video from me?” Cameo has become a popular platform for former Trump administration officials to make money by selling custom videos of themselves..."
SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, milder.Winds: NW 10-15. High: 34
SUNDAY: Partly sunny and cooler. Winds: E 5-10. Wake-up: 14. High: 28
MONDAY: Couple of inches of slushy snow? Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 18. High: 35
TUESDAY: Cloudy with a cold wind. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 14. High: 19
WEDNESDAY: Chilled sunshine. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: -3. High: 11
THURSDAY: Cold start, clouds increase. Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 0. High: 21
FRIDAY: Sunny peeks, feels like March. Winds: W 7-12. Wake-up: 17. High: 36
A Group of Big Businesses is Backing a Carbon Tax. Could It Be a Solution to Climate Change? TIME.com has the story; here's an excerpt: "...The thinking behind the plan is straight forward. Economists have long argued that a carbon tax, which makes companies pay for what they pollute and gives them an incentive to stem carbon emissions, is the most efficient way to reduce such emissions. But carbon tax proposals have been met with opposition in the past from across the political spectrum, including from some Democrats, in large part because they increase energy costs. The CLC proposal would give the money collected by the tax back to taxpayers in the form of a quarterly dividend, an effort to make it more politically palatable..."
Having Fewer Kids Will Not Save the Climate. Vox.com has the Op-Ed: "... Media reports have trumpeted the takeaway that if you want to fight climate change, having fewer children is far and away the best thing you can do. But that’s just not true, according to a new report by Founders Pledge, an organization that guides entrepreneurs committed to donating a portion of their proceeds to effective charities. The problem with most studies on the climate impact of various lifestyle decisions is that they don’t account for likely changes in government policy in the future. But climate policy will almost certainly get much stricter over the course of our children’s and grandchildren’s lifetimes, the Founders Pledge researchers say..."
Climate Change is Scary, but Here Are Five Reasons for Hope. USA TODAY does a good job of summarizing some encouraging trends: "...Is all lost? I think not, for five reasons:
1. The global economy is growing faster than emissions. That means energy efficiency is increasing without an erosion in economic growth.
2. Energy efficiency is moving from the margins toward a new normal in the products we use — think how commonplace LED light bulbs are today.
3. The price of solar and wind power has plunged, and there’s good reason to expect the cost of energy storage, key to an electric power grid reliant on renewable energy, to decline as well..."
File image: NASA ISS.
Caribbean-Like Lagoons Give Homebuyers Beach Benefits Without the Risks. CNBC.com highlights a growing trend: "...And there is a benefit when it comes to the risks of climate change. “The thing with the real beaches is, you got to pay flood insurance. I don’t have to pay flood insurance in the middle of Florida here, so it’s a lot cheaper,” said Svoboda. The lagoon water level can actually be lowered in advance of a storm, so there is little chance of overflow. Crystal Lagoons has had little push-back from communities, although it has had to go through the rigorous regulatory processes. “We’ve had to work with the regulators here in Florida, but generally being sustainable, providing almost drinking-water-clean standard of water, compared to anything out there, I mean you look at a golf course, we’re using 30 times less water than a traditional golf course,” said Cherasia..."
Pollution’s Deadly Travels: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: "Half of the premature deaths from poor air quality in the United States are caused by pollution crossing state borders, new research shows. A study published Wednesday in Nature measures pollution from several sources, including power generation, cars, ships, trains, planes, and buildings, and their impact on health in the US between 2005 and 2018. The research shows that low-population-density states like Wyoming and North Dakota are “net exporters” of deadly pollution, while eastern states like New York are “net importers” – 60 percent of premature deaths in New York related to bad air were caused by out-of-state emissions. “Pollution is even less local than we thought,” co-author Steven Barrett told Reuters." (New York Times $, CNN, Reuters, USA Today, Bloomberg, Boston Globe $, Scientific American)
Inside Australia's Climate Emergency: the New Fire Zone. Check out an amazing multimedia experience (make sure your sound is turned up) and you'll have a better understanding of the horror Australians have endured in recent months, courtesy of The Guardian: "...Firefighters use the forest fire danger index to tell them how bad conditions are. The index combines the key ingredients that influence a bushfire – temperature, wind speed, humidity and the dryness of the “fuel”, including grasses and fallen wood from trees. Human-caused climate change has pushed the index higher in recent decades. The trends show not only that conditions are becoming more dangerous, but that the fire season is starting earlier..."
There Are Rivers in the Sky, Drenching the U.S. Because of Climate Change. Bloomberg has the story: "Climate change is spurring a new, deep dive into a complex, little-studied weather system blamed for creating billions of dollars in flood damage across the western U.S. Atmospheric rivers are narrow ribbons of concentrated moisture that originate in the Pacific and can flow thousands of miles before dropping rain and snow on land. Scientists are ramping up their research into the systems this winter fearful that warmer temperatures tied to climate change will boost the moisture they carry, supercharging them moving forward. “Hurricane hunter” planes are set to fly at least 12 missions directly into the systems, double last year’s number, to gather a wide range of meteorological data..."
Image credit: "" Source: NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory.
BP Sets Ambition for Net Zero by 2050. Not exactly sure how a fossil fuel company can pull this off, but I'm hoping they can. Here's an excerpt from BP's website: "BP today set a new ambition to become a net zero company by 2050 or sooner, and to help the world get to net zero. The ambition is supported by ten aims:
1. Net zero across BP’s operations on an absolute basis by 2050 or sooner.
2. Net zero on carbon in BP’s oil and gas production on an absolute basis by 2050 or sooner.
3. 50% cut in the carbon intensity of products BP sells by 2050 or sooner.
4. Install methane measurement at all BP’s major oil and gas processing sites by 2023 and reduce methane intensity of operations by 50%.
5. Increase the proportion of investment into non-oil and gas businesses over time..."
BP’s Big Promise: Climate Nexus has links and headlines: "Oil giant BP said Wednesday that it plans to go carbon neutral by 2050, outpacing its competitors Shell, Total and Equinor, who have all pledged to halve emissions by that date. BP said it will zero out emissions from both its operations as well as the oil and gas it sells, but that it will not stop extracting fossil fuels entirely. The company’s announcement was light on specifics, and CEO Bernard Looney said BP would provide more details in September. “Unless BP commits clearly to stop searching for more oil and gas, and to keep their existing reserves in the ground, we shouldn’t take a word of their PR spin seriously,” 350.org campaigner Ellen Gibson told the New York Times." (New York Times $, Washington Post $, WSJ $, The Verge, Buzzfeed, Bloomberg, The Guardian, E&E $. Commentary: Reuters, Jason Bordoff op-ed, Bloomberg, Liam Denning op-ed)
Carbon Capture Wins Fans Among Oil Giants. Wall Street Journal (paywall) reports: "Can new technology suck carbon dioxide, a prevalent greenhouse gas, out of the air—economically? More companies are betting that it can, as governments adopt ambitious carbon-emissions targets and investors grow increasingly concerned about the risks of climate change. Carbon-capture techniques have existed for decades. But it’s incredibly expensive—not to mention energy intensive—to remove the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere on a large enough scale to make a significant dent. Now, Exxon Mobil Corp., Microsoft Corp. and others are focused on reducing the cost and the amount of energy required to capture carbon dioxide. Some companies are using giant fans to suck up air, then separating the carbon dioxide chemically..."