A Solar No-Brainer - Warm Sunshine into Sunday

At a recent talk someone raised their hand with an observation. "Paul, the Creator had the good sense to bury dirty fossil fuels deep underground and put a safe fusion reactor high above our heads. Could he have made it any more obvious?"

Not sure, but the price of solar energy has fallen 80 percent in 8 years. As innovation accelerates at some point it will be so cheap you'd be crazy NOT to consider taking advantage of clean, free energy from the sun.

Minnesota has as much solar potential as Washington D.C. and northern Alabama. I hope to power my Tesla from solar panels on the garage and truly drive for free. Free has a nice ring.

Expect low 70s today; 80F by Sunday as a sticky south wind sets up. ECMWF guidance tries to print out a pop-up shower up north this afternoon, but dry weather prevails into the weekend. Dew points reach the sticky 60s early next week, fueling showers and storms Monday into Wednesday. Slowly but surely we are transitioning into a more summer-like pattern.

No wind chill or hard freezes this weekend. Just a healing, rehabilitating dose of vitamin D, courtesy of the sun. 

Solar Potential Map above courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Warming Trend Continues. I suspect ECMWF guidance may be a couple degrees too cool; highs may nudge 80F by Sunday, with temperatures cooling slightly next week as a few waves of showers and T-storms arrive. Graphic: WeatherBell.

Good Model Agreement. There isn't much variation between various (NOAA) models, showing low to mid 70s the next couple of days, upper 70s by Sunday as southerly winds increase. Source: Aeris Enterprise.

Windiest Days: Sunday and Monday. Winds the next couple of mornings are forecast to be quite light, but a tightening pressure gradient triggers sustained winds of 10-20 mph Sunday, with gusts as high as 25 mph.

Trending Wetter Again Next Week. Most towns around Minnesota should stay dry into Sunday, but the 10-day accumulated rainfall product (GFS) above shows a surge of moisture next week as warm, increasingly humid air approaches, sparking a few episodes of showers and T-storms. Source: AerisWeather.

Significant Rains Next Week? It's early to try and quantify how much rain may fall, but NDFD and GFS models hint at 1.5 to 2" of rain next week; the first surge of moisture arriving Monday, with additional showers and storms as the week goes on.

Almost Summer. Peering out over the horizon, looking out roughly 2 weeks, the main belt of westerlies is still forecast to lift into Canada, allowing summerlike heat and humidity to expand across much of the USA by late May and early June - fairly typical for this time of year. No more teeth-chattering cold fronts brewing.

Earth Has Now Seen an Unprecedented 12 Straight Months of Record Warmth. Andrew Freedman has ann update at Mashable: "Each of the past 12 months has set a record for being the warmest such month in 137 years of record-keeping, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The agency released new data on Wednesday finding that April also was the warmest such month on record for the globe, creating the 12-months of consecutive warmth, which has never happened before since instrumental records began in 1880. According to NOAA, global average surface temperatures during April were 1.10 degrees Celsius, or 1.98 degrees Fahrenheit, above the 20th century average, which was the most unusually mild April on record..."

Image credit: "Year-to-date global average temperatures compared to previous record warm years." Image: NOAA/NCEI.

A 3-D Window Into a Tornado. UCAR has a fascinating story and visualization - here's an excerpt: "...Due to the difficulties of measuring wind speeds in tornadoes, scientists don't have answers to these questions. However, a collaborative project between researchers at the University of Miami and NCAR has been seeking clues with new, highly detailed computer simulations of tornado wind fields. The simulations can be viewed in a series of animations, created by NCAR scientist George Bryan, that provide a 3D window into the evolving wind fields of idealized tornadoes at different rates of rotation..."

Image credit: "This simulation was created by NCAR scientist George Bryan to visualize what goes on inside a tornado. The animation is the "high swirl" version in a series that goes from low, to medium, to high. Click to enlarge." (Courtesy Goerge Bryan, NCAR.

20th Anniversary of "Twister", the Movie. Weather World, a daily TV program produced by Penn State is seen across the state of Pennsylvania. Yesterday they ran a segment on the anniversary of "Twister", including my small role with special effects and my one (amazing!) line in the movie. Sadly, they also made reference to my last royalty check from Warner Brothers. No, the film career is not working out as planned.

Billion Dollar U.S. Weather and Climate Disasters. Here's an excerpt from the National Centers for Environmental Information: "The graphic below helps to visualize how the different types of identified U.S. Billion-dollar disaster events have changed over time. Caution should be used in interpreting any trends based on this graphic for a variety of reasons. For example, inflation has affected our ability to compare costs over time. To reflect this, the graphic also shows events with less than $1 billion in damage at the time of the event, but after adjusting for Consumer Price Index (inflation), now exceed $1 billion in damages. Continued assessment of these data are in process, as there are other factors as well that affect any rate of change interpretation. Comparison of events in most recent years is most reliable..."

No Place for Hurricane-Complacency. Tropical expert Philip Klotzbach points out the link between La Nina cool phases in the Pacific and a greater potential for hurricane development, due to ligher winds over the tropics during La Nina patterns. It's been 11 years since a Category 3+ hurricane has struck Florida; at some point the law of averages catches up with you. Residents of Florida and the Gulf Coast shouldn't let their guard down.

Why The Effects of the 2016 El Nino Trumped Climate Change in the Alberta Wildfires. The Conversation has interesting perspective: "In the wake of the damaging Alberta fires, there has been a lot of attention paid to what role climate change plays in wildfires. Yet 2016 is also a powerful El Niño year, which has created ideal conditions for the extraordinary fires in Alberta. So what climate phenomena could have led to the persistent warm, dry conditions and the extreme fire events? I have analyzed weather trend data and found that higher temperatures and lower precipitation created the conditions for the extensive fires. It is by looking at exactly when those warmer months occur that we can begin to sort out the role of El Niño versus climate change..."

Is USA Falling Behind in Race to Prepare for Electromagnetic Pulse Attacks? Here's the intro to a story at Nextgov.com: "Electromagnetic pulses and violent space weather outbursts might seem like national security threats straight out of science fiction. But the House Homeland Security Committee wants to ensure federal agencies are doing their best to prepare for them. During an Oversight and Management Efficiency subcommittee hearing Tuesday, legislators reviewed the possible ramifications that a man-made EMP weapon, detonated nuclear device or even space weather phenomena could have on the nation’s power grid. While seemingly remote, the threats drew comparisons to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks..."

How Fast is New Orleans Sinking? Faster and Faster, Says New Study. The Christian Science Monitor has the story - here's the intro: "New Orleans is sinking, according to a study using NASA airborne radar. The subsidence, or sinking rates, of the city and surrounding areas is caused by naturally occurring geologic and human-caused processes. According to this latest study, subsidence is happening at higher rates than what previous data has shown using different kinds of radar, which before had been lower resolution and not as spatially extensive. The study took place from June 2009 to July 2012 and was a joint effort by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.; University of California, Los Angeles; and the Center for GeoInformatics at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge..."

Photo credit above: "Caskets float away from a cemetery during flooding in Louisiana." Emily Dalfrey/AP.

The Energy Interstate. Do we have the political will to build the energy equivalent of the U.S. interstate system? Here's a clip from The Atlantic: "...The most recent high-profile paper making this argument was published in January by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Christopher Clack and colleagues built a model to predict the long-term costs of putting all kinds of energy into the electrical system. When they imposed a constraint on their model—it couldn’t use coal—they found that the cheapest option involved a grid of transmission lines that could carry solar and wind energy from almost any part of the country to anywhere else. Other technologies—perhaps Gates’s imagined miracle—would still be required to get rid of carbon-emitting fuels altogether, but the new grid would get us quite far, reducing emissions from power plants by up to 80 percent within 15 years..." (Photo credit: Justin Renteria).

Storing The Sun's Energy Just Got a Whole Lot Cheaper. Joe Romm explains at ThinkProgress: "With prices dropping rapidly for both renewables and battery storage, the economics of decarbonizing the grid are changing faster than most policymakers, journalists, and others realize. So, as part of my ongoing series, “Almost Everything You Know About Climate Change Solutions Is Outdated,” I will highlight individual case studies of this real-time revolution. My Monday post discussed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) report that in the first quarter, the U.S. grid added 18 megawatts of new natural gas generating capacity, but 1,291 MW of new renewables. But one of FERC’s “Electric Generation Highlights” for March deserves special attention as a leading indicator of the revolutionary new economics of solar plus storage.."

Photo credit: S&C Electric Company. "Part of a game-changing 4.2 MW solar + storage system in Minster, Ohio."

Tesla's Labor Controversy Shows That a Green Job Isn't Always a Good Job. Grist reports: "...Lesnik’s accident was a reminder of a very old problem — just because a job is better for the environment, doesn’t make it better for the person who has it. Without strong labor standards, new green jobs can be just as dangerous and exploitative as the old ones they’re meant to replace. Treating workers poorly also risks the political goodwill that has brought the industry so many subsidies and tax breaks over the years..."

Photo credit: Maurizio Pesce

70 F. high temperature at KMSP Wednesday.

70 F. average high on May 18, 2015.

48 F. high in the Twin Cities on May 18, 2015.

May 19, 1975: Strong winds cause over 2 million dollars of damage across Fridley, Mounds View and New Brighton.

TODAY: Partly sunny skies. Winds: S 8-13. High: 72

THURSDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 51

FRIDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, pleasant. Winds: SE 8-13. High: 73

SATURDAY: Sunny and spectacular. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 55. High: 77

SUNDAY: Windy and warm with sunshine. Feels like summer. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 60. High: 80

MONDAY: Passing shower or T-shower. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 62. High: 77

TUESDAY: Some sun, late-day thunder? Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 60. High: 80

WEDNESDAY: More numerous showers, storms. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 61. High: 78

Climate Stories...

Climate Change Puts 1.3 Billion People and $158 Trillion at Risk, World Bank Says. The Guardian reports; here's the intro: "The global community is badly prepared for a rapid increase in climate change-related natural disasters that by 2050 will put 1.3 billion people at risk, according to the World Bank. Urging better planning of cities before it was too late, a report published on Monday from a Bank-run body that focuses on disaster mitigation, said assets worth $158tn – double the total annual output of the global economy – would be in jeopardy by 2050 without preventative action. The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery said total damages from disasters had ballooned in recent decades but warned that worse could be in store as a result of a combination of global warming, an expanding population and the vulnerability of people crammed into slums in low-lying, fast-growing cities that are already overcrowded..."

Rising Seas Levels Made This Republican Mayor a Climate Change Believer. As I tell people, I don't believe the science, I test the science. And every time I test theory with actual observations it confirms that the atmosphere and oceans are warming; the symptoms becoming harder  to dismiss  or deny over time. Here's an excerpt from NPR: "A man moves to a city in Florida and decides he wants to be mayor. He wins the election. He's happy. Then he's told his city is slowly going underwater. Not financially. Literally. James Cason had settled in Coral Gables, a seaside town near Miami, six years ago. He ran for mayor on the Republican ticket and, soon after he won, heard the lecture by scientists about sea level rise and South Florida that left him flabbergasted. "You know, I'd read some articles here and there," he recalls, "but I didn't realize how impactful it would be on the city that I'm now the leader of..."

Photo credit: "The mayor of Coral Gables, Fla., worries that the continued rise in sea levels could sink the property values of waterfront neighborhoods." PictureWendy/Flickr.

Climate Change, Runaway Development Worsen Houston Floods. The tempo and severity of flash flooding and river flooding in Texas is increasing - odds are it's not a coincidence, based on a variety of factors. Here's an excerpt from ABC News: "...Extreme downpours have doubled in frequency over the past three decades, climatologists say, in part because of global warming. The other main culprit is unrestrained development in the only major U.S. city without zoning rules. That combination means more pavement and deeper floodwaters. Critics blame cozy relations between developers and local leaders for inadequate flood-protection measures. An Associated Press analysis of government data found that if Harris County, which includes Houston, were a state it would rank in the top five or six in every category of repeat federal flood losses — defined as any property with two or more losses in a 10-year period amounting to at least $1,000 each..."

File photo above: Texas Monthly. "A person paddles through a flooded neighborhood, Tuesday, April  19, 2016, in Spring Texas. Storms have dumped more than a foot of rain in the Houston area, flooding dozens of neighborhoods." AP Photo - David J. Phillip.

A person paddles through a flooded neighborhood, Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in Spring, Texas. Storms have dumped more than a foot of rain in the Houston area, flooding dozens of neighborhoods.
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip) - See more at: http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-daily-post/houston-sustainable-flood-postmortem/#sthash.pfuPezbK.dpuf
A person paddles through a flooded neighborhood, Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in Spring, Texas. Storms have dumped more than a foot of rain in the Houston area, flooding dozens of neighborhoods.
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip) - See more at: http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-daily-post/houston-sustainable-flood-postmortem/#sthash.pfuPezbK.dpuf

Climate Change Doubters Really Aren't Going to Like This Study. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "Researchers have designed an inventive test suggesting that the arguments commonly used by climate change contrarians don’t add up, not only according to climate scientists (we know what they think already) but also in the view of unbiased experts from other fields. The trick? Disguising the data — and its interpretation — as if it was part of an argument about something else entirely..."

Middle Schoolers Asked Me How To  Stop Using Fossil Fuels. Here's My Response. Here's an excerpt of a Dave Roberts post at Vox: "...The good news is that there are millions of ways for you to chip in and help solve this problem. Because fossil fuels are everywhere, opportunities to reduce fossil fuels are also everywhere. Typically, when young people ask how they can help, adults respond by telling them all the ways they can reduce their own personal use of fossil fuels. You can take the bus more, or carpool, or your family can buy an electric car. You can insulate your house better, or put solar panels on the roof. You can eat more vegetables and less meat. All that stuff is great. Truly. Knock yourself out. The more people see other people doing it, the more they will do it themselves..."

Photo credit: "Youths, trying to fix the mistakes of oldsters." (Joe Brusky/Flickr)

Our Crime Against the Planet, and Ourselves. Here's a snippet of an Op-Ed at The New York Times: "...There are three components to the claim that environmental degradation is a crime against humanity. First, it is an appeal to a universal, common humanity that stretches across space and time, and that is oblivious to geographic and historical differences. Second, the crime in question is an existential one that is committed against the very experience of being human, the human élan. Third, it is a crime that calls the established legal order into question, because everyone, and yet no one specifically, can be held responsible.What is the nature of this crime? The human species is the agent of a terrible injustice being perpetrated against other species, future generations, ecosystems and our fellow human beings..."

File image: NASA.

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Glorious, Sun-Drenched Weekend - But Please Don't Ask About Memorial Day Weekend Weather