Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tracking Holiday Weekend Shower Risk - Why Homeowners Insurance Rates Have Spiked

69 F. maximum temperature yesterday in St. Cloud.
71 F. average high on May 25.
75 F. high on May 25, 2016.

May 26, 1929: A tornado rakes Freeborn County and causes 10,000 dollars of damage to farms.



This Is Why Homeowners Insurance Rates Have Risen

I should have gone into sump pump repair. Or invented a hail-proof film for vehicles and rooftop shingles. We will have to bake resilience into everything we do, as super-sized storms become more frequent.
Rain is falling harder during the spring months, but only 10,700 of Minnesota's 1 million homes have purchased flood insurance. Large hail appears to be on the increase, based on data from Dr. Mark Seeley.
At a recent talk Mark Kulda, VP of Insurance Federation of Minnesota, reported that average homeowner premiums in Minnesota rose from $368 in 1998 to $1140 in 2012; a 310% spike in just 14 years. Some of that increase is the result of more frequent hail and flash flood events.
Minnesota isn't alone: 8 of America's 10 costliest hailstorms have occurred since 2000. Fluke or trend?
The holiday weekend may feel more like late September than May. A growl of thunder is possible later today. Saturday looks like the best day for the lake, with sun and low 70s. A nagging storm aloft sparks showers both Sunday and Monday; the coolest day of the holiday.
Weekend weather? A solid B- or C+ taking into account a cooler breeze and more numerous showers Sunday and Memorial Day. We've seen worse.


Minnesota Storm Trends. The PPT slides above are from a recent presentation in Plymouth, courtesy of Mark Kulda, VP of Insurance Federation of Minnesota.

Damaging Hail Trends. Now this is for baseball size hail in Minnesota (2.75" in diameter). Nature never moves in a straight line but the frequency of baseball size hail has increases from 3-5/year to closer to 10-15/year. Data: Dr. Mark Seeley, Minnesota Climate Office.

May 8 Denver Hailstorm Was Colorado's Costliest On Record. The Denver Post has details on the very costly hailstorm earlier this month: "...At $1.4 billion, the storm will surpass the $1.1 billion in damage claims, adjusted for inflation, that a storm on July 11, 1990, generated and the $845.5 million in claims tied to a storm on July 20, 2009. It will also be three times more expensive than the state’s most damaging wildfire, which destroyed 346 homes in the Waldo Canyon area of Colorado Springs in June 2012 and generated $453.7 million in payouts at the time. “The enormous size of the hail hitting densely populated areas of the Denver metro (area) during rush hour has contributed to the magnitude of damage caused by this storm,” Walker said..."

Above-Normal Hurricane Season Is Most Likely This Year. A weak or non-existent El Nino is a big factor in the prediction of a busier-than-average hurricane season, according to NOAA: "For the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30, forecasters predict a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season. "As a Florida resident, I am particularly proud of the important work NOAA does in weather forecasting and hurricane prediction," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. "These forecasts are important for both public safety and business planning, and are a crucial function of the federal government." Forecasters predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). An average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes..."


NOAA's Newest Geostationary Satellite Will Be Positioned as GOES-East This Fall. Details via NOAA: "GOES-16, the most advanced weather satellite NOAA has ever developed, will be moved to the GOES-East position at 75 degrees west longitude, once it is declared operational in November. Top officials from NOAA announced the long-awaited decision at today’s 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook news conference in College Park, Maryland..."


Memorial Weekend Weather. The best weather this weekend? Western USA and the Gulf Coast. A few showers and T-storms push across the Upper Midwest into the Ohio Valley by Sunday; a push of cooler air whipping up showers on Memorial Day from the Dakotas into Minnesota and Wisconsin. 84-Hour NAM guidance: NOAA and Tropicaltidbits.com.

Looks Like a Holiday. After 70s today and Saturday a northwest wind kicks in, a storm in the upper atmosphere increasing the risk of (mainly PM) showers Sunday and Memorial Day. Monday will be the coolest day of the holiday weekend. Twin Cities ECMWF outlook: WeatherBell.

Summer In No Great Hurry for Northern USA. June kicks off on a warm note over the western USA and much of the south, but a droopy jet stream brings frequent pulses of cooler air into the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes, meaning showery rains and temperatures trending a few degrees cooler than average.

73% of Sunscreens Don't Actually Work. A story at Newsweek made me do a double-take: "...This week, the Environmental Working Group released its 11th annual sunscreen guide to make selecting protection far less stressful. The EWG, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization that monitors the safety of consumer products and lobbies for stricter regulations, reviewed formulations of more than 880 beach and sport sunscreens, 480 moisturizers and 120 lip products with sun protection factor, or SPF. And they made a surprising and disappointing discovery. Based on a review of disclosed ingredients on product labels, they found that 73 percent of sunscreens don’t actually work..."





May 16 Wisconsin Tornado Upgraded to EF-3, On Ground for 83 Miles. This was a Kansas-size tornado in the North Woods of Wisconsin; details via NOAA: "A powerful thunderstorm tracked across northwest Wisconsin during the early evening of 5/16/2017. The storm produced a strong, 83 mile long track tornado which affected 4 counties. The tornado first developed over southeastern Polk County, east of Clear Lake, then tracked mostly eastward across southern Barron and southern Rusk counties, to the southwest part of Price County.  One hard hit area occurred just north of Chetek, WI where high-end EF2 damage was found. The greatest damage that was observed occurred north of the Village of Conrath, Rusk County. A family home was completely collapsed down to the foundation and was rated EF-3 (145 mph). The remainder of the tornadoes path ranged from EF0 to EF1 with mainly tree damage, and mostly minor structural damage. This is one of the longest track tornadoes ever to have occurred in Wisconsin since official National Weather Service records which began in 1950."




Climatological Risk of Wildfires. Some may be surprised to hear that NOAA SPC does more than track severe weather and issue storm watches. They also outline areas of the USA susceptible to wildfires. Here's a link to historical wildfire data, by date.


Huge Landslide Buries More of Scenic California Highway. Huffington Post as the details: "A massive landslide covered a section of California’s famous Highway 1 last weekend that’s been beset by falling rocks and debris this year. Video footage released by the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department on Monday shows a 35-40 layer of dirt and rock atop a 1/3-mile stretch of the roadway in Big Sur. “Mother nature hard at work,” said a tweet from Caltrans, the state’s transportation department. Images recorded from the sheriff’s department’s plane shows that the debris reshaped the shore beneath the highway..."


A Chinese Company Is Offering Free Training for US Coal Miners to Become Wind Farmers. Innovate, reinvent, or fade away. Quartz has the encouraging story: "If you want to truly understand what’s happening in the energy industry, the best thing to do is to travel deep into the heart of American coal country, to Carbon County, Wyoming (yes, that’s a real place). The state produces most coal in the US, and Carbon County has long been known (and was named) for its extensive coal deposits. But the state’s mines have been shuttering over the past few years, causing hundreds of people to lose their jobs in 2016 alone. Now, these coal miners are finding hope, offered from an unlikely place: a Chinese wind-turbine maker wants to retrain these American workers to become wind-farm technicians. It’s the perfect metaphor for the massive shift happening in the global energy markets..."

Photo credit: "Mix and match." (EPA/Julian Stratenschulte).

Hit Hard by Coal's Decline, Eastern Kentucky Turns to Drones, Tomatoes, Solar Energy. Here's a clip from The Wall Street Journal: "With coal production on the decline, one energy company is pursuing a project that might seem heretical in this eastern Kentucky mining region: a solar-energy farm. Berkeley Energy Group and a subsidiary of the French renewable-energy company EDF Energies Nouvelles aim to begin building a $100 million facility on a reclaimed strip mine next year. As the state’s largest solar complex, it would produce as much as 100 megawatts of electricity. To fill an estimated 100 jobs that would be created, the partners would give priority to unemployed coal miners. The project would “put miners back to work and diversify our holdings and diversify the region,” said Ryan Johns, project development executive at Berkeley Energy. “It’s kind of a new frontier for our area...”

Photo credit: "Hazard, one of eastern Kentucky's principal coal towns, is now home to a program in the local community college that trains laid-off miners to work as linemen in the electric industry." Andrew Spear for The Wall Street Journal.

Climate-Friendly Car Guide. Interested in lowering your CO2 emissions and saving money, but debating between electric or a hybrid? Climate Central has a unique guide that walks you through the process of deciding which option makes the best sense on a state by state basis: "How climate friendly electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars are depends on where you charge them. In states where electricity generation relies heavily on fossil fuels, like coal and natural gas, powering electric cars can be more emissions intensive than conventional gas-powered cars. On the other hand, states with large proportions of hydropower, renewables and nuclear power provide a low-emissions power grid for electric cars. The Climate-Friendly Car Guide allows you to compare specific 2017 model-year cars effectively by using your state’s most recent electricity grid..."

Forget Plastics - Think Asteroids. A new report from Goldman Sachs suggests mining of metals on asteroids may be a trillion-dollar industry. Quartz has details in an infographic.

Singapore "Vending Machine" Dispenses Ferraris, Lamborghinis. Taking wretched excess to a whole new level, here's a report from Reuters: "Forget about soft drinks and potato chips - a "vending machine" in Singapore is offering up luxury vehicles, including Bentleys, Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Used car seller Autobahn Motors opened a futuristic 15-story showroom in December, with vehicles on display in 60 slots, billing it as the "world's largest luxury car vending machine". Customers on the ground floor choose from a touchscreen display which car they wish to see. The car arrives within one to two minutes thanks to an advanced system that manages vehicle retrieval, the company says..."

Photo credit: "An exotic used car dealership designed to resemble a vending machine in Singapore May 15, 2017. The dealership houses up to 60 exotic cars in a 15 story building which uses a fish-bone type lift system to deliver cars to clients within minutes." Reuters/Thomas White.

Take a Load Off. The Robots That Fold Laundry Are Coming. Well that's a relief. Here's a clip from The New York Times: "Cars can now drive themselves. Cellphones talk to us. How long will it be until the dreams of every college student and overworked parent come true - and  laundry can fold itself? At least two companies are promising to bring laundry-folding robots for the home to market by the end of 2017. Known as Laundroid and FoldiMate, both machines work by analyzing each garment they take in, figuring out its ideal folding shape and delivering a drawer-ready stack of smoothly folded clothes..."

Photo credit: "Shin Sakane standing next to a mock-up of the Laundroid, his laundry-folding robot, it Tokyo." Ko Sasaki for The New York Times.

Fireplace of States. How cool is this? Atlas Obscura tells us about a fireplace like no other in Bemidji, Minnesota: "It was the 1920s, the heyday of lake-side dance pavilions, when Harry E. Roese–resort owner and manager of the Bemidji District State Employment office–decided to build a one-of-a-kind fireplace for his hometown. It started with him collecting rocks in the area of Lake Bemidji, but his idea soon expanded: what if he could get donations from every county in the state? And every state in the union? And every province in Canada? The result was the ambitious Fireplace of States, built with a collection of rocks and stones from all over Minnesota, the United States, and most of the provinces of the neighbor to the north..."

Photo credit: "The Fireplace of States now at the Bemidji Tourist Information Center." Courtesy of Bemidji Pioneer.



TODAY: Mild sun, late thunder possible. Winds: S 5-10. High: 75

FRIDAY NIGHT: Spotty shower or two. Low: 54

SATURDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, best day of the holiday weekend? Winds: W 7-12. High: 72

SUNDAY: More clouds. Better chance of pop-up PM showers. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 55. High: 69

MEMORIAL DAY: Cooler, cloudier. Showery rain likely. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 50. High: 61 (50s most of the day).

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy, PM sprinkle. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 49. High: near 60

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, more promising. Winds: W 7-12. Wake-up: 48. High: near 70

THURSDAY: Plenty of sun, feels more like June. Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 52. High: 78


Climate Stories...

"Put Up or Shut Up". WRAL's Greg Fishel Goes Off on Climate Change Deniers. Greg is Chief Meteorologist at WRAL, and my oldest friend (we were resident weather-nerds in our high school and went on to attend Penn State at roughly the same time). Greg is brilliant and a terrific communicator, and he doesn't suffer fools gladly. Here's an excerpt from News & Observer: "Popular local weatherman Greg Fishel had strong words for climate change deniers on his Facebook page on Sunday. Fishel, chief meteorologist at WRAL, went off on people who question the science behind climate change, telling them to “put up or shut up.” The post had earned more than 3,500 reactions by Monday afternoon. “You know everybody reaches their breaking point and quite frankly I have reached mine with the folks who post all over the internet about the scientific fallacies of man induced climate change,” Fishel wrote. “All of them are guest bloggers or essayists. None of this stuff has ever been published in a peer reviewed atmospheric science or climate journal. But we live in an age today where higher education and research are no longer respected. Heck, think of all the money my parents wasted on my education when I could have waited for the age of twitter and Facebook and declared myself as an expert in the field of my choice...”

Climate Change May Force Millions of Americans to Move Inland. We already have climate refugees in coastal Louisiana and Alaska - this may be the tip of the (melting) iceberg, according to research highlighted at HuffPost: "...Using migration data from the Internal Revenue Service and climate migration models, Hauer concluded that a 6-foot increase in sea levels would cause every U.S. state to experience climate-related migration by 2100. Scientists are predicting a 6-foot global sea-level rise by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions are left unchecked. In a study last year, Hauer had estimated that a 6-foot rise in regional sea levels would put 13 million people in more than 300 U.S. coastal counties at risk.  The new report, published in the journal Nature, finds that nine states could see population declines as rising waters force people to flee. Florida would be worst off with millions of people leaving the state. Other states would be taking in climate migrants. Texas could absorb as many as 2.5 million internal migrants..."
Photo credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters. "Rising sea levels could threaten the homes of millions of people in coastal states around the nation by 2100. Remember how neighborhoods were still flooded two weeks after Hurricane Katrina went though New Orleans?"

Infectious Disease Collides With Changing Climate. Keep an eye on the yellow fever outbreak in Brazil and a possible link with "weather whiplash". Milwaukee's Journal-Sentinel reports: "...The current outbreak is the nation’s worst on record; yellow fever deaths in the first four months of 2017 already exceeded all those from 1989 through 2008. At the epicenter of this epidemic is a group of states that had just recovered from their worst droughts in 80 years. This intersection of drought and disease raises a complex and troubling question for scientists: Is our changing climate contributing to flare-ups of infectious diseases? “Yes, this is a factor that is present in our modeling,” says M├írcia Chame, a researcher who has been examining the outbreak for the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro. But climate alone cannot account for Brazil’s latest bout with yellow fever, according to Chame, coordinator of the foundation’s biodiversity research unit..."

Photo credit: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Scientists Really Aren't the Best Champions of Climate Science. Food for thought from Vox: "...The repeated failures of the scientific community to get the world to act on climate change are often chalked up to framing problems: If only the data were presented in a way that people understood, people would feel a sense of urgency and demand action. But reframing the argument isn’t a magic fix: Regardless of the topic, people actively seek out ways to reinforce what they already believe. The message matters, but it’s often the messenger that matters more..."

Why Science Denial Isn't Necessarily Ideological. Annie Murphy Paul has an intriguing article at The Washington Post: "...The problem is that our intuitive theories are, scientifically speaking, often wrong. We suspect that we came down with the sniffles because we were drenched by a cold rain. We surmise that the weather is hotter in the summer because the Earth is closer to the sun. We embrace intuitive theories because, in Shtulman’s words, “we are built to perceive the environment in ways that are useful for daily living, but these ways do not map onto the true workings of nature.” Many of our intuitive theories are formed early in life, before formal science instruction takes place. And because all children encounter the same physical world, interpreted through the use of the same limited biological equipment, they tend to formulate similar ideas about how that world works (creating a shared social reality that further entrenches intuitive theories)..."

Scientists Just Published an Entire Study Refuting Scott Pruitt on Climate Change. The Washington Post reports: "In a sign of growing tensions between scientists and the Trump administration, researchers published a scientific paper Wednesday that was conceived and written as an explicit refutation to an assertion by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt about climate change. The study, in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, sets up a direct test of a claim by Pruitt, made in written Senate comments following his confirmation hearing, that “over the past two decades satellite data indicates there has been a leveling off of warming.” After reviewing temperature trends contained in three satellite data sets going back to 1979, the paper concludes that the data sets show a global warming trend — and that Pruitt was incorrect..."

Image credit: Nature.com.

Trump Administration Sued Over Climate Change "Censorship". Climate Home reports: "The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against four US federal agencies over what it called “censorship” of climate change information. Filed at a district court in Washington DC, the legal challenge targets the Environmental Protection Agency and Departments of Interior, State and Energy. It concerns the removal of information on climate science and policy from government websites and public communications since the advent of Donald Trump’s presidency..."

Image credit: "A search for climate change information on the EPA website redirects to this holding page."


Pope Lends Weight to G-7 Push to Bind Trump to Climate Deal. Bloomberg reports: "Pope Francis joined an international chorus urging Donald Trump to meet U.S. commitments on climate change in talks at the Vatican Wednesday. Francis gave the U.S. president a copy of his 2015 encyclical calling for urgent, drastic cuts in fossil-fuel emissions after a half-hour meeting in his private study. Francis’s choice of gift suggests he is adding his voice to those pressing Trump not to renege on the Paris accord, which is the cornerstone of global efforts to limit climate change. The Vatican said in a statement that the talks focused on international affairs and the promotion of peace, with particular emphasis on health care, education and immigration..."

Mapping 50 Years of Melting Ice in Glacier National Park. The New York Times tackles the trends and uses infographics to tell the story: "Glacier National Park is losing its glaciers. The flowing sheets of ice scattered throughout the Montana park shrank by more than a third between 1966 and 2015, according to new data from the United States Geological Survey and Portland State University. Using aerial and satellite imagery, researchers traced the footprints of 39 named glaciers in the park and surrounding national forest. They found that 10 had lost more than half their area over 50 years..."


Warming Has Increased U.S. Growing Season by 13 Frost-Free Days. The Independent has details: "The number of frost-free days in the northern United States has increased by more than 13 days in the past 100 years, according to new research. The other main areas of the mainland US also saw significant increases in the number of days without frost, essentially the growing season – 10.7 days in the west, 8.6 in a central region and 7.7 days in the south. Global warming was one of the reasons for the trend, but the researchers also found changes to local cloud cover and atmospheric circulation patterns played a part..."

File photo: iStock.

Why Some Republicans Are Warming to Climate Action. If markets can provide solutions, not government, then (many) in the GOP may be onboard, according to Christian Science Monitor: "...Having those costs reflected in the price of gas and electricity would hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their environmental impact, the theory goes. The higher price, in turn, would incentivize innovation in renewables and encourage consumers to power their lives in climate-friendly ways – all while keeping government intervention at a minimum. “We’re already paying the full cost of coal-fire electricity,” Inglis says. “It’s in the healthcare system. It’s in the climate damages [they cause].  So go ahead and put that on your meter and let’s see how wind and solar do then.” More than pushing a particular solution, however, Inglis aims to mobilize conservatives into joining the discourse instead of just going on the defensive against what he calls the environmental left – thus helping to sever the ties between climate action and political identity..."

Eating on the Brink: How Food Could Prevent a Climate Disaster. Civil Eats helps us connect the dots between diet, agriculture and AGW: "...What we eat is responsible for a whopping one-third of all atmospheric warming today. Global meat and dairy production together accounts for roughly 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, making the livestock industry worse for the climate than every one of the world’s planes, trains, and cars combined. At the meetings, Christine Figueres, who led the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, reminded us that climate stability requires limiting warming to under 1.5 degrees Celsius. To do that, we need to start reversing current emissions trajectory, start a downward turn, by 2020. Yes, 2020. That means engaging every sector, food included..."

Half the Global Population Could Face 'Unknown' Climates by Mid-Century. Here's a clip from EcoWatch: "Billions of people across the world could see climates they've never experienced before by the middle of the century, a new study said. Using a measure of climate "familiarity," the researchers showed that the tropics in particular are likely to experience conditions that are virtually unheard of for the region in the present climate. But keeping global temperatures rise below 2°C above pre-industrial levels could help keep the climate "familiar" within this century, the researchers said. That means people alive today could see the benefits of mitigation within their lifetimes..."

Photo credit: "Hurricane Sandy floods a street in Lindenhurst, Long Isoland." Jason DeCrow/CC by SA/2.5"

Scientists Planting 400 Acres of Minnesota Pines to Survive Climate Change. Will our grandchildren and great grandchildren have the same up north experience with pine trees, loons and eagles? The jury is still out, but I wouldn't take anything for granted. Star Tribune reports: "...This summer they’re embarking on a project to plant 400 acres with cold-loving evergreens like jack pine and tamarack in carefully selected “conifer strongholds” — places that they predict will stay cooler or wetter or have better soil, increasing the chances that a few of each species will survive for the next generation as Minnesota grows warmer. “We are trying to get us in better shape for the centuries to come,” said Meredith Cornett, a forest scientist with the Nature Conservancy in Minnesota who is heading up the project. The aim is to preserve northern forest species — not just the trees but also the mosaic of plants and animals that rely on them — to maintain biodiversity. Both will be exceedingly difficult thanks to a double whammy of the region’s past and it’s future..."
Photo credit: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune. "The forest north of Park Rapids, Minnesota, is a mix of aspen, birch and conifers."

Significant Global Climate Events in April. Here's an excerpt from NOAA: "For the third consecutive month, the monthly temperature and year to date ranked second warmest in the 138-year record. At the poles, sea ice extents were at or near record low levels. The average global temperature for April 2017 was 1.62 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 56.7 degrees, according to the analysis by scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. This was the second highest for April in the 1880-2017 record, behind last year by 0.31 degrees..."

See the Fortune 500 Companies Doing the Most to Stop Climate Change. An article at Fortune caught my eye: "President Trump has made it clear that boosting business is his priority, not combating climate change. In March Trump signed an executive order to undo Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and he’s vowed to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. But the biggest companies in the U.S. continue to embrace clean energy policies. So says a new report by Calvert Research, CDP, Ceres, and World Wildlife Fund called “Power Forward 3.0.” The study found that 240 companies in the 2016 Fortune 500 had climate-related goals, up from 215 a few years ago. Here, the 2015 CO2-equivalent savings of the 56 companies in the Fortune 100 that reported results in 2016..."
Graphic credit: Nicolas Rapp.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Holiday Weekend Weather Preview - Late Day Shower Risk

61 F. maximum temperature in St. Cloud yesterday.
71 F. average high on May 24.
80 F. high in the cities on May 24, 2016.

May 25, 2008: An EF-3 tornado strikes Hugo, MN. 1 fatality and 9 injuries are reported.


Holiday Weekend? Keep Weather Expectations Low

The National Weather Service has upgraded the intensity of the tornado that ripped across northern Wisconsin on May 16, destroying a mobile home park near Chetek. It was an EF-3, with winds up to 145 mph. On the ground for 83 miles it was one of the longest-track tornadoes on record in Wisconsin's historical record, which goes back to 1950.
The vast majority of tornadoes close to home are small and brief, but every now and then we see a Texas-size twister. On May 25, 2008 an EF-3 tornado hit Hugo, Minnesota, with one fatality and 8 injuries.
One silver lining to our recent cool snap: fewer severe thunderstorms than usual, to date. That may change in early June. Long-range models still hint at 80s and steamy dew points within about 2 weeks.
The Memorial Weekend forecast won't win any awards, but we've seen worse. A few instability pop-up showers are likely, especially late afternoon hours every day. Monday looks like the coolest, wettest day. Much of Saturday and Sunday will be partly sunny with 70s. A little cool for the lake, but a solid B on our heavily-biased, erroneously lop-sided weather-grading scale.

Check out a video of yesterday's weather column, courtesy of TruScribe. Text to video has amazing potential, and digital storytelling options continue to advance at a remarkable pace. My thanks to friend and TruScribe CEO Odeh A. Muhawesh for passing this along. Very cool.

May 16 Wisconsin Tornado Upgraded to EF-3, On Ground for 83 Miles. This was a Kansas-size tornado in the North Woods of Wisconsin; details via NOAA: "A powerful thunderstorm tracked across northwest Wisconsin during the early evening of 5/16/2017. The storm produced a strong, 83 mile long track tornado which affected 4 counties. The tornado first developed over southeastern Polk County, east of Clear Lake, then tracked mostly eastward across southern Barron and southern Rusk counties, to the southwest part of Price County.  One hard hit area occurred just north of Chetek, WI where high-end EF2 damage was found. The greatest damage that was observed occurred north of the Village of Conrath, Rusk County. A family home was completely collapsed down to the foundation and was rated EF-3 (145 mph). The remainder of the tornadoes path ranged from EF0 to EF1 with mainly tree damage, and mostly minor structural damage. This is one of the longest track tornadoes ever to have occurred in Wisconsin since official National Weather Service records which began in 1950."



Lukewarm Weekend - Cooler on Memorial Day. Not exactly stinking-hot, but low 70s will feel OK Friday into Sunday before a northwest wind kicks in, cooling us down again by Monday - probably the worst outdoor day of the holiday weekend. ECMWF forecast for the Twin Cities: WeatherBell.

Foul Weather Lingers Eastern Half of USA. A slow-moving storm grinds up the Mid Atlantic coast into New England with pockets of heavy rain likely. Another system pushes heavy showers and T-storms across the Ohio Valley by Sunday. Meanwhile the western USA, southwest and Gulf Coast enjoys relatively dry, quiet weather. 84-hour Future Radar: NOAA's 12 km NAM and Tropicaltidbits.com.

In Search of Summer. Hard to believe that meteorological summer kicks off in 1 week, with a cool, wet bias for much of the eastern USA. A storm pushing up the East Coast may create coastal flooding from Norfolk to Annapolis and metro New York City. Meanwhile, a windy fetch across Lake Michigan carves out some 5-8 foot waves, creating a risk of beach flooding and erosion in the Chicago area. Map: Aeris AMP.

Make. It. Stop. Many Americans living east of the Mississippi will be shaking their fists at the sky in the coming days; the pattern stuck in something resembling mid-April, not late May. Somme 2-4" rains are possible from the Hill Country of Texas to the Ohio Valley and New England. Meanwhile the west coast enjoys an extended streak of (well-earned) sunshine and warmth.


Huge Landslide Buries More of Scenic California Highway. Huffington Post as the details: "A massive landslide covered a section of California’s famous Highway 1 last weekend that’s been beset by falling rocks and debris this year. Video footage released by the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department on Monday shows a 35-40 layer of dirt and rock atop a 1/3-mile stretch of the roadway in Big Sur. “Mother nature hard at work,” said a tweet from Caltrans, the state’s transportation department. Images recorded from the sheriff’s department’s plane shows that the debris reshaped the shore beneath the highway..."

73% of Sunscreens Don't Actually Work. A story at Newsweek made me do a double-take: "...This week, the Environmental Working Group released its 11th annual sunscreen guide to make selecting protection far less stressful. The EWG, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization that monitors the safety of consumer products and lobbies for stricter regulations, reviewed formulations of more than 880 beach and sport sunscreens, 480 moisturizers and 120 lip products with sun protection factor, or SPF. And they made a surprising and disappointing discovery. Based on a review of disclosed ingredients on product labels, they found that 73 percent of sunscreens don’t actually work..."

Climatological Risk of Wildfires. Some may be surprised to hear that NOAA SPC does more than track severe weather and issue storm watches. They also outline areas of the USA susceptible to wildfires. Here's a link to historical wildfire data, by date.

Forecasters Agree: This Summer to be "Substantially Cooler" Than Last Summer in D.C. My hunch: temperatures at or slightly below average during meteorological summer for Minnesota and Wisconsin, based on how the pattern seems to be shaping up. Here's an excerpt from Capital Weather Gang: "...Comparing forecasts for this summer versus last summer, it’s substantially cooler,” said Stephen Baxter, lead author of the National Weather Service’s summer outlook. But, even if it not as hot as last summer, it’s still predicted to be plenty toasty — which is the emerging new normal. If it weren’t for climate change, the National Weather Service might be predicting a cooler than normal summer in Washington. Baxter said its prediction for a somewhat warmer than normal summer  was made largely on the basis that summer temperatures are trending hotter in recent decades. “It’s a fairly overwhelming signal,” he said. The rising temperatures serve as “the backdrop” for the Weather Service’s warm summer forecast not just in Washington but for much of the East Coast, the South and the West..."

Map credit: "National Weather Service summer temperature outlook." (Climate.gov).

May 8 Denver Hailstorm Was Colorado's Costliest On Record. The Denver Post has details on the very costly hailstorm earlier this month: "...At $1.4 billion, the storm will surpass the $1.1 billion in damage claims, adjusted for inflation, that a storm on July 11, 1990, generated and the $845.5 million in claims tied to a storm on July 20, 2009. It will also be three times more expensive than the state’s most damaging wildfire, which destroyed 346 homes in the Waldo Canyon area of Colorado Springs in June 2012 and generated $453.7 million in payouts at the time. “The enormous size of the hail hitting densely populated areas of the Denver metro (area) during rush hour has contributed to the magnitude of damage caused by this storm,” Walker said..."

Thunderstorm Asthma Presents New Risks. I honestly don't remember hearing about this 5, 10, 20 years ago. Not sure why it seems to be getting worse now, but WGAL-TV has details on this baffling phenomenon: "A phenomenon caused by thunderstorms has killed people in several countries, and it has nothing to do with lightning. Thunderstorm asthma is caused by dynamic airflow during strong storms, experts say. Violent winds sweep up allergens, such as pollen, creating tinier particles. While larger pollen grains are usually filtered by hairs in the nose, the smaller pollen fragments can pass through and enter the lungs, triggering asthma attacks, sometimes in people who have never suffered from asthma before. Thunderstorm asthma typically happens when a storm hits while pollen levels are excessively high, experts say..."

Tornado Test: Meet TWIRL and the Tools of Tornado Research. Why do some supercells go on to spawn EF-4 killers, while nearly identical thunderstorms do not? That goes to the heart of "TWIRL" research, as described by KHQA.com: "...The US sees hundreds of rotating storms called supercells every year. It’s these storms that can lead to tornadoes. But a strong storm does not always cause a strong tornado. “We need to understand why the most threatening looking supercells don’t make tornadoes, and why even more of those threatening looking supercells make weak tornadoes, insignificant tornadoes," said meteorologist and tornado researcher Joshua Wurman, who is president of CSWR. "A lot of tornadoes really aren’t damaging or life threatening. But a few of these supercells do have that potential to make damaging, large tornadoes that can destroy homes and can hurt and kill people...”

Image credit: "The Doppler on Wheels (DOW) scans a severe thunderstorm in eastern Colorado while a Scout vehicle equipped with tornado pods waits instruction."



Joplin's Recovery By The Numbers. In the movie "Twister" there is a reference to an F-5 tornado being "the finger of God".  Exhibit A: Joplin, Missouri. Here's an excerpt from Missourian: "Six years after an EF5 tornado caused $2.8 billion worth of damage, the city of Joplin continues its steady recovery. The costliest tornado in U.S. history killed 161 people and injured more than one thousand on May 22, 2011. Much has changed since that day, which forced the city to restart. One of the significant impacts tornadoes have is on the the people of the cities it destroys. Joplin was no different, and its population suffered a dramatic drop because of the tornado. While it’s difficult to estimate exactly how many residents left the city in the immediate aftermath of the storm, the city underwent a dramatic downsize. Between 2011 and 2012, the city’s population fell 1.8 percent to 50,244, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau..."

Photo credit: Kristan Lieb - Missourian File Photo. "An area of the city of Joplin lies in shambles on May 24, 2011, after an EF5 tornado flattened a mile-long swath of Joplin and killed 161 people two days earlier."

The Day a Geomagnetic Storm Almost Started World War III. Dr. Marshall Shepherd explains how the world dodged a bullet in a piece at Forbes: "...NORAD’s Solar Forecast Center in Colorado Springs issued a warning, that a significant worldwide geomagnetic storm would occur within the next 36-48 hour. It seems that this alert was passed to the highest levels of government, but not to local commands. May 23, the geostorm disrupted the radars at all three stations of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System, located in Cape Cod Air Force Station  (Massachusetts), Beale Air Force Base (California) and Clear Air Force Station  (Alaska). Local commanders of the airfields, considering a possible Soviet attack, ordered nuclear weapons ready to launch. As all stations were being jammed at the same time and during daylight, researchers at NORAD realized that not Soviets, but the sun was interfering with the radar stations. Information made it to commanders in time to stop the airplanes, but the military realized, even more, the importance to monitor space weather..."

Graphic credit: "Artist's rendition of Earth's magnetosphere." Source Wikipedia, image in public domain.

"Gas Apocalypse' Looms Amid Power Plant Construction Boom. Bloomberg has the details: "The glut of cheap natural gas from a single, gigantic, shale basin that straddles the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Midwest has sparked a massive construction boom of power plants. Dozens have been built in the past two years alone. There’s just one problem: There isn’t nearly enough electricity demand to support all the new capacity. And as wholesale electricity prices plunge, industry experts are anticipating a fire sale of scores of plants in the region. Many, in fact, have already been sold along the PJM Interconnection LLC grid, the nation’s largest, encompassing 13 states from Virginia to Illinois. “Everything in fossil fuels is for sale,” said Ted Brandt, chief executive officer at Marathon Capital LLC, a mergers-and-acquisitions adviser in Chicago. “People are bleeding...”


How to Sell Solar Power To Your Neighbors. NexusMedia has details on a new renewable energy-sharing program spinning up in Brooklyn: "...Admittedly, from the grid’s point of view, this is bad for business. LO3 is allowing customers to circumvent the grid and buy electricity directly from each other. But Kessler said the grid can use the digital meter to their advantage. For example, in the middle of the day, when demand for power peaks, grid operators typically turn to small, expensive and heavily polluting gas-fired power plants. Using the TransActive Grid meter, the grid could instead pay homeowners to shut off their lights, TVs or their appliances. Or, the grid could buy back electricity generated by rooftop solar panels or stored in electric cars. This would reduce transmission costs..."
Image credit: "Typically, consumers by electricity from a centralized utility. LO3 Energy is making it possible for them to buy power directly from their neighbors." Source: Nexus Media/Freepik.


Hit Hard by Coal's Decline, Eastern Kentucky Turns to Drones, Tomatoes, Solar Energy. Here's a clip from The Wall Street Journal: "With coal production on the decline, one energy company is pursuing a project that might seem heretical in this eastern Kentucky mining region: a solar-energy farm. Berkeley Energy Group and a subsidiary of the French renewable-energy company EDF Energies Nouvelles aim to begin building a $100 million facility on a reclaimed strip mine next year. As the state’s largest solar complex, it would produce as much as 100 megawatts of electricity. To fill an estimated 100 jobs that would be created, the partners would give priority to unemployed coal miners. The project would “put miners back to work and diversify our holdings and diversify the region,” said Ryan Johns, project development executive at Berkeley Energy. “It’s kind of a new frontier for our area...”

Photo credit: "Hazard, one of eastern Kentucky's principal coal towns, is now home to a program in the local community college that trains laid-off miners to work as linemen in the electric industry." Andrew Spear for The Wall Street Journal.

Large or Small, Cities' 100% Renewable Energy Pledges Are More Than Symbolic. Why are people going green? Concern over climate change may be part of the incentive but in the end it's about saving money and become more independent and self-reliant. Here's an excerpt from Southeast Energy News: "It goes without saying that Atlanta, Georgia and Abita Springs, Louisiana are dramatically different places. As of this month, however, the two have something in common: they are some of the first Southeastern cities to commit to 100 percent renewable energy. Atlanta has a Democratic mayor and a fairly progressive city council; Abita Springs leans older and more conservative with a Republican mayor. But for both places, the decision was more about economic development than climate change. And in order for these goals to be more than symbolic, utilities and cities must change how they run – especially in a place as large as Atlanta..."

Photo credit: Abita Springs, Louisiana.

Climate-Friendly Car Guide. Interested in lowering your CO2 emissions and saving money, but debating between electric or a hybrid? Climate Central has a unique guide that walks you through the process of deciding which option makes the best sense on a state by state basis: "How climate friendly electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars are depends on where you charge them. In states where electricity generation relies heavily on fossil fuels, like coal and natural gas, powering electric cars can be more emissions intensive than conventional gas-powered cars. On the other hand, states with large proportions of hydropower, renewables and nuclear power provide a low-emissions power grid for electric cars. The Climate-Friendly Car Guide allows you to compare specific 2017 model-year cars effectively by using your state’s most recent electricity grid..."

AI (Artificial Intelligence) Predicts Next U.S. Recession To Start in 2019. Now here's a forecast, brought to you by Seeking Alpha: "March 2019 is the current target date for the next US recession, says a machine learning "forecasting engine" developed by San Diego-based Intensity Corporation. Intensity boasts a number of very large tech firms as clients - Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), IBM Corp. (NYSE:IBM), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and others - and is itself comprised by a team of data scientists, statisticians, and econometrically minded PhDs..."

Forget Plastics - Think Asteroids. A new report from Goldman Sachs suggests mining of metals on asteroids may be a trillion-dollar industry. Quartz has details in an infographic.

Supersize My Hamburger Please. The world's largest (commercially available) hamburger? Atlas Obscura explains where to track it down. Bring some friends: "...This massive meaty creation, aptly named the “Absolutely Ridiculous Burger,” holds the Guinness record for the world’s largest commercially sold hamburger, and it can be all yours for just $399. The typical Absolutely Ridiculous Burger weighs in at 150 pounds, with the official record-setter massing in at an even more whopping 338.6 pounds, double the weight of an average-sized human. The burger is so big that it takes 22 hours to make, three people to flip it over, and 100 pounds of excess grease to perfect. It’s so colossal that on an episode of Man Vs. Food, a team of 41 people couldn’t conquer the thing in a whole two hours of time..."

Image credit: Guinness World Records.

Singapore "Vending Machine" Dispenses Ferraris, Lamborghinis. Taking wretched excess to a whole new level, here's a report from Reuters: "Forget about soft drinks and potato chips - a "vending machine" in Singapore is offering up luxury vehicles, including Bentleys, Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Used car seller Autobahn Motors opened a futuristic 15-story showroom in December, with vehicles on display in 60 slots, billing it as the "world's largest luxury car vending machine". Customers on the ground floor choose from a touchscreen display which car they wish to see. The car arrives within one to two minutes thanks to an advanced system that manages vehicle retrieval, the company says..."

Photo credit: "An exotic used car dealership designed to resemble a vending machine in Singapore May 15, 2017. The dealership houses up to 60 exotic cars in a 15 story building which uses a fish-bone type lift system to deliver cars to clients within minutes." Reuters/Thomas White.


TODAY: Some AM sun, shower late. Winds: SE 8-13. High: near 70

THURSDAY NIGHT: A shower or sprinkle. Low: 56

FRIDAY: Peeks of sun, stray shower or thundershower. Winds: W 7-12. High: 73

SATURDAY: Partly sunny, pop-up shower late? Winds: W 10-15. Wake-up: 57. High: 76

SUNDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, lukewarm. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 56. High: 72

MEMORIAL DAY: Mostly cloudy, cooler - few showers. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 53. High: 63

TUESDAY: More clouds than sun, still brisk. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 50. High: 59

WEDNESDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, where's spring? Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 47. High: 63


Climate Stories...


Pope Lends Weight to G-7 Push to Bind Trump to Climate Deal. Bloomberg reports: "Pope Francis joined an international chorus urging Donald Trump to meet U.S. commitments on climate change in talks at the Vatican Wednesday. Francis gave the U.S. president a copy of his 2015 encyclical calling for urgent, drastic cuts in fossil-fuel emissions after a half-hour meeting in his private study. Francis’s choice of gift suggests he is adding his voice to those pressing Trump not to renege on the Paris accord, which is the cornerstone of global efforts to limit climate change. The Vatican said in a statement that the talks focused on international affairs and the promotion of peace, with particular emphasis on health care, education and immigration..."

Mapping 50 Years of Melting Ice in Glacier National Park. The New York Times tackles the trends and uses infographics to tell the story: "Glacier National Park is losing its glaciers. The flowing sheets of ice scattered throughout the Montana park shrank by more than a third between 1966 and 2015, according to new data from the United States Geological Survey and Portland State University. Using aerial and satellite imagery, researchers traced the footprints of 39 named glaciers in the park and surrounding national forest. They found that 10 had lost more than half their area over 50 years..."


Warming Has Increased U.S. Growing Season by 13 Frost-Free Days. The Independent has details: "The number of frost-free days in the northern United States has increased by more than 13 days in the past 100 years, according to new research. The other main areas of the mainland US also saw significant increases in the number of days without frost, essentially the growing season – 10.7 days in the west, 8.6 in a central region and 7.7 days in the south. Global warming was one of the reasons for the trend, but the researchers also found changes to local cloud cover and atmospheric circulation patterns played a part..."

File photo: iStock.

Why Some Republicans Are Warming to Climate Action. If markets can provide solutions, not government, then (many) in the GOP may be onboard, according to Christian Science Monitor: "...Having those costs reflected in the price of gas and electricity would hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their environmental impact, the theory goes. The higher price, in turn, would incentivize innovation in renewables and encourage consumers to power their lives in climate-friendly ways – all while keeping government intervention at a minimum. “We’re already paying the full cost of coal-fire electricity,” Inglis says. “It’s in the healthcare system. It’s in the climate damages [they cause].  So go ahead and put that on your meter and let’s see how wind and solar do then.” More than pushing a particular solution, however, Inglis aims to mobilize conservatives into joining the discourse instead of just going on the defensive against what he calls the environmental left – thus helping to sever the ties between climate action and political identity..."

Eating on the Brink: How Food Could Prevent a Climate Disaster. Civil Eats helps us connect the dots between diet, agriculture and AGW: "...What we eat is responsible for a whopping one-third of all atmospheric warming today. Global meat and dairy production together accounts for roughly 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, making the livestock industry worse for the climate than every one of the world’s planes, trains, and cars combined. At the meetings, Christine Figueres, who led the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, reminded us that climate stability requires limiting warming to under 1.5 degrees Celsius. To do that, we need to start reversing current emissions trajectory, start a downward turn, by 2020. Yes, 2020. That means engaging every sector, food included..."

Half the Global Population Could Face 'Unknown' Climates by Mid-Century. Here's a clip from EcoWatch: "Billions of people across the world could see climates they've never experienced before by the middle of the century, a new study said. Using a measure of climate "familiarity," the researchers showed that the tropics in particular are likely to experience conditions that are virtually unheard of for the region in the present climate. But keeping global temperatures rise below 2°C above pre-industrial levels could help keep the climate "familiar" within this century, the researchers said. That means people alive today could see the benefits of mitigation within their lifetimes..."

Photo credit: "Hurricane Sandy floods a street in Lindenhurst, Long Isoland." Jason DeCrow/CC by SA/2.5"

Scientists Planting 400 Acres of Minnesota Pines to Survive Climate Change. Will our grandchildren and great grandchildren have the same up north experience with pine trees, loons and eagles? The jury is still out, but I wouldn't take anything for granted. Star Tribune reports: "...This summer they’re embarking on a project to plant 400 acres with cold-loving evergreens like jack pine and tamarack in carefully selected “conifer strongholds” — places that they predict will stay cooler or wetter or have better soil, increasing the chances that a few of each species will survive for the next generation as Minnesota grows warmer. “We are trying to get us in better shape for the centuries to come,” said Meredith Cornett, a forest scientist with the Nature Conservancy in Minnesota who is heading up the project. The aim is to preserve northern forest species — not just the trees but also the mosaic of plants and animals that rely on them — to maintain biodiversity. Both will be exceedingly difficult thanks to a double whammy of the region’s past and it’s future..."
Photo credit: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune. "The forest north of Park Rapids, Minnesota, is a mix of aspen, birch and conifers."

Significant Global Climate Events in April. Here's an excerpt from NOAA: "For the third consecutive month, the monthly temperature and year to date ranked second warmest in the 138-year record. At the poles, sea ice extents were at or near record low levels. The average global temperature for April 2017 was 1.62 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 56.7 degrees, according to the analysis by scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. This was the second highest for April in the 1880-2017 record, behind last year by 0.31 degrees..."

See the Fortune 500 Companies Doing the Most to Stop Climate Change. An article at Fortune caught my eye: "President Trump has made it clear that boosting business is his priority, not combating climate change. In March Trump signed an executive order to undo Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and he’s vowed to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. But the biggest companies in the U.S. continue to embrace clean energy policies. So says a new report by Calvert Research, CDP, Ceres, and World Wildlife Fund called “Power Forward 3.0.” The study found that 240 companies in the 2016 Fortune 500 had climate-related goals, up from 215 a few years ago. Here, the 2015 CO2-equivalent savings of the 56 companies in the Fortune 100 that reported results in 2016..."
Graphic credit: Nicolas Rapp.

"Put Up or Shut Up". WRAL's Greg Fishel Goes Off on Climate Change Deniers. Greg is Chief Meteorologist at WRAL, and my oldest friend (we were resident weather-nerds in our high school and went on to attend Penn State at roughly the same time). Greg is brilliant and a terrific communicator, and he doesn't suffer fools gladly. Here's an excerpt from News & Observer: "Popular local weatherman Greg Fishel had strong words for climate change deniers on his Facebook page on Sunday. Fishel, chief meteorologist at WRAL, went off on people who question the science behind climate change, telling them to “put up or shut up.” The post had earned more than 3,500 reactions by Monday afternoon. “You know everybody reaches their breaking point and quite frankly I have reached mine with the folks who post all over the internet about the scientific fallacies of man induced climate change,” Fishel wrote. “All of them are guest bloggers or essayists. None of this stuff has ever been published in a peer reviewed atmospheric science or climate journal. But we live in an age today where higher education and research are no longer respected. Heck, think of all the money my parents wasted on my education when I could have waited for the age of twitter and Facebook and declared myself as an expert in the field of my choice...”






NATO Lawmakers Warn Climate Change May Worsen Middle East Security Risks. Reuters has the story: "Climate change will worsen food and water shortages in the Middle East and north Africa, and risk triggering more conflict and mass migration, with serious implications for the wider world, lawmakers from NATO's Parliamentary Assembly said Monday. "The long-term prospects for food and water security in the MENA region are dire," said Osman Askin Bak, a member of the Turkish Parliament who will present the draft report on Saturday at the Parliamentary Assembly - a gathering of senior parliamentarians from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 28 member states.  "Climate change will worsen the region's outlook," he added..." (File image: NASA MODIS).


Why Scientific Consensus is Worth Taking Seriously. Here's a clip from Bloomberg View: "Following the pack is not part of the scientific method. The point is to follow the evidence. And that leaves room for ambiguity in interpreting the survey results showing that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is real and that human-generated greenhouse gases are a major cause. The National Academy of Sciences, American Physical Society, American Chemical Society and other relevant scientific organizations all agree, too. For some, this consensus proves that climate change is real and that humans must take immediate action against it. But others, citing history, say the consensus view has been wrong before. Why should we believe it now? For example, scientists once believe the earth was headed into an ice age. So why should we trust them when they say the globe is warming?..."