Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Winter Flashback - 50s Return by the Weekend - Another "Mild" Winter for Minnesota Overall

2.3" snow fell at St. Cloud on Tuesday.
38 F. high yesterday in St. Cloud.
32 F. average high for February 28.
40 F. high temperature in the STC metro area on February 28, 2016.
March 1, 1966: The Blizzard of '66 hits Minnesota and lasts 4 days. Aitkin received 23 inches of snow. The snow depth at International Falls reached a record 37 inches by the end of the storm.



Red Winged Blackbirds Return 2 Weeks Early!

"No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn" wrote Hal Borland. The coldest 90 days of the year, on average, are behind us now. Meteorological spring starts today, which seems like cheating, after the relatively easy winter we just muddled through.

According to the Minnesota DNR's "Winter Misery Index" and the Midwestern Regional Climate Center, Minnesota - and the eastern 2/3rd of the USA - just enjoyed a "mild" winter. No kidding.

"I saw my first Red Winged Blackbird at Bredeson Park in Edina this morning. That's the earlier ever!" Jack Falker e-mailed me yesterday. "Just watch the birds because they know what's happening instinctively, as opposed to a lot of clueless humans" Jack added.

A quick burst of slush early today (1-2" for many spots - more over western Wisconsin) gives way to flurries by afternoon with highs in the 30s; average for March 1. A few chilly days on tap, then 50s by next Sunday. ECMWF (European) model data hints at 60F late next week.

Wet snow can't be ruled out next Monday, but anything that falls should melt quickly. Lawns are greening up but March is capable of rude, slushy surprises.

Stupid fake spring.

March: In Like a White Leopard. We should wake up to a couple inches of slushy snow - enough to make it look like winter for a time today. Old Man Winter is toying with us - temperatures may be close to 60F by Sunday. Map above: Twin Cities National Weather Service.

Nuisance to Plowable. 12 KM NAM guidance suggests the best chance of a few inches of snow (enough to shovel and plow) comes from the east side of St. Paul  to Eau Claire and Green Bay today, along the northern edge of the same storm that sparked tornadoes late Tuesday from Illinois to Arkansas. Snowfall potential: NOAA and Tropicaltidbits.com.

Midwestern Regional Climate Center: "Mild Winter" for Much of the USA. The MRCC has an "Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index", which agrees with the Minnesota DNR's "Winter Misery Index". It wasn't much of a winter. Details: "Winter seasons have significant societal impacts across all sectors ranging from direct human health and mortality to commerce, transportation, and education. The question “How severe was this winter?” does not have a simple answer. At the very least, the severity of a winter is related to the intensity and persistence of cold weather, the frequency and amount of snow, and the amount and persistence of snow on the ground. The Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index (AWSSI) was developed to objectively quantify and describe the relative severity of the winter season."

Australian Bureau of Meteorology Issues "El Nino Watch". It's baaack. Here are the details: "The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) remains neutral. However, recent changes in both the tropical Pacific Ocean and atmosphere, and climate model outlooks surveyed by the Bureau, suggest the likelihood of El Niño forming in 2017 has risen. As a result, the Bureau's ENSO Outlook status has been upgraded to El Niño WATCH, meaning the likelihood of El Niño forming in 2017 is approximately 50%. All atmospheric and oceanic indicators of ENSO are currently within neutral thresholds. However, sea surface temperatures have been increasing in the eastern Pacific Ocean and are now warmer than average for the first time since June 2016, while the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) has been trending downwards..."

Not Much Misery in February. No surprise - we didn't add any points to the Winter Misery Index this month. That's how mild (and snow-free) it's been. Details via the Minnesota DNR: "...As of February 27, 2017 the WMI for the 2016-17 winter is at 48 points: 23 points for cold, 25 points for snow. This is enough for this winter to be in the "mild" category. Seven more points are needed for this winter to be categorized as "moderate." February 2017 is poised to have no Winter Misery Index points. The only other time there has been no WMI points in February was 1964. There's been only .3 (three tenths) of an inch of snow for February 2017 and if no more snow falls by the end of the month, this would tie the least snowiest February on record. February 1894 also had only .3 (three tenths) of an inch of snow. There has also been no minimum temperature of zero or colder in February 2017 as well..."


Chicago is 1 Day Away From Breaking a Weather Streak That's Lasted 146 Years. No kidding - yesterday the concern wasn't snow and ice, but severe storms and even isolated tornadoes nearby. ScienceAlert has the details: "...But this year, Chicago has gone the entirety of January and February without any snow on the ground - and isn't expected to before the month closes Tuesday night. According to the local National Weather Service Station, that's a first in the city's 146-year record. Of course, the unusually warm weather hasn't been concentrated in Chicago. NOAA hasn't yet released its official report on the month's weather (usually the third coldest, after January and December), but much of the East Coast and Midwest has experienced unusual or record-breaking warmth..."

No Snow Chicago: Windy City Having Non-White Winter for First Time in Nearly 150 Years. The Windy City may have to change it's name - NBC Chicago has details on the winter that wasn't: "Not just because the president of the United States mentions the city every day or because the beloved Cubs won the world series last fall but — for the first time in 146 years — Chicago is going through a snow drought with not a flake at all in the months of January and February It's especially notable in a city known for its brutal winters. Chicago averages over 40 inches of snow per winter and the city always preps and for months revving up "a fleet" of snow plows and salt trucks to service over "280 snow routes," according to the city's website. So the last two months have thrown Windy City residents for a loop, with temperatures hitting spring-like highs — without a lick of snow..."

Photo credit: "People at the Chicago Zoo on Feb. 19, 2017." Jim Schulz via Chicago Zoological Society.

60 on Sunday? It's not out of the question - if the sun stays out most of the afternoon. Today looks like winter, but there should be a spring in your step by the weekend, and much of next week as temperatures run 10 F. above average. ECMWF data for MSP: WeatherBell.

Beware the Ides of March. Don't underestimate March - even though I don't see any huge snow-makers on the horizon, it can still snow hard this month. The beauty of a March snowfall? It's gone within a day or two; the sun is just too high in the sky for snow cover to linger for long. A fairly mild zonal flow continues into mid-March, cold and stormy weather most likely for the Pacific Northwest and New England.





March Comes In Like an Iguana East of the Mississippi. OK. the whole lamb/lion thing just didn't work - I had to come up with a warm weather animal. And who doesn't love iguanas? Temperatures on Wednesday are forecast to be 20F above average (again) across much of the eastern USA - more records will fall.

Map credit: Climate Reanalyzer.

More of the Same For Most of USA. NOAA CPC is out with a revised outlook for March temperatures, and much of the nation is expected to trend warmer than average, with the greatest potential for warm anomalies over the southern Plains. Only the Pacific Northwest is forecast to be colder than average.



Spring in February: Why Was This Winter so Warm? UMN Experts Weigh In. Many people want a simple, TV-soundbite answer, when the reality is more complex. But CO2 at 408 ppm may be a big factor in the ongoing warming trend. Here's an excerpt from Minnesota Daily: "Though February has been a record-breaking warm month for Minnesota, experts say the temperatures can’t be solely attributed to climate change. Minnesota is leading the continental United States in how quickly it’s warming. But experts say warm temperatures this winter can be attributed to a couple main factors. Historically, there have been random bursts of warm weather during Minnesota winters. But climate change has amplified these occasional spikes, including this year’s, said Kenny Blumenfeld, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources climatologist. “There have been previous warm streaks in February but because of a long-term warming trend, this year had a little extra oomph,” Blumenfeld said. This long-term warming trend has sped up during the past 50 years, which Blumenfeld attributes to greenhouse gases being unable to escape in the atmosphere..."

Life-Saving Tornado Technology Getting Stuck in Congress. Today's Doppler radars take several minutes at multiple scan levels to stitch together a 3-D composite of the atmosphere, allowing meteorologists to see areas of violent rotation. "Phased-array" radars create an instantaneous, 3-D snapshot of what's happening. KTUL.com in Tulsa, Oklahoma has a timely story; here's an excerpt: "...There’s new technology at the National Severe Storms Lab in Norman that has shown the ability to allow extra minutes of lead time. Precious minutes that could be part of the solution. It’s something we’ve never seen before. Tornadoes on radar in their earliest stages of formation. “Phased array radars have been around for a long time,” says Kurt Hondl, a researcher at N.O.A.A. “Primarily for use by the military, the simplest way to think about it are your ears as a phased array system. If you close your eyes and somebody walks around the room, you can still tell where the voice is coming from.” “It would be lifesaving,” Weir says. “It would be immensely valuable, especially with the schools that lost so many children here...”


Phased-Array Radar Could Improve Tornado Prediction Times. IEEE Spectrum has a good backgrounder piece on the benefits of phased-array; the U.S. Navy has been using it to track missiles - it only makes sense to see a trickle-down from military to the consumer sector: "...A phased-array radar can capture the scene much more quickly. This type of radar system features a fixed, flat antenna composed of thousands of transceiver elements sending and receiving pulses at the same time. The relative delays between the pulses shape the direction of the beam radiating from the array. This electronically steered beam can scan the whole sky in less than a minute. Forecasters would also be able to instantly redirect it to focus on specific areas. "It gives forecasters information almost like a movie, as opposed to taking snapshots of the atmosphere," says Doug Forsyth, who leads radar research at the NSSL. U.S. Navy ships have used phased-array radars for decades to detect missile threats. In fact, since 2003, the NSSL has been testing an antenna donated by the Navy. A group of National Weather Service forecasters are invited to participate in the trials, which include yearly mock tests on real tornado data..."

Photo credit: Mobile, phased-array Doppler radar scanning a supercell in Kansas during VORTEX-2 on June 9, 2009. Coutesy: University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Is February Washington D.C.'s New May? Freak Thunderstorms Pound Area for Second Straight Year. Ian Livingston at Capital Weather Gang explains: "...While the tornado-producer was the strongest storm, the area was peppered by several other severe storms. The Weather Service logged 19 reports of large hail within 100 miles of D.C. A hail event of this magnitude during February has never been previously observed around Washington. It occurred at least four weeks earlier than anything of similar intensity dating back to the 1950s. Its rarity stems from the near-record warm air that was in place — some 25 degrees above normal. In addition to the tornado, hail and damaging winds across our region, this system brought two rare February tornadoes to Pennsylvania, and the first tornado on record in the month of February to Massachusetts. Before this storm, New England had witnessed only two other tornadoes across all winter months in its historical records..."

Image credit: "Three-dimensional view of supercell updrafts on a storm which would soon after produce a tornado near La Plata."

Don Paul: "Twister" and the State of Tornado Chasing. A friend in Buffalo, meteorologist Don Paul, wrote a good article for The Buffalo News; here's an excerpt: "...In this next year, it’s remote data from space which may well be the most important new tool for researchers. The GOES-R satellite, still in test mode, has the ability to do rapid scan extremely high resolution images of a focused small area every 30 seconds. Such imagery can’t see everything inside storm cells and supercells, but the change in cloud top configuration, cloud top temperature, visible gust fronts out ahead of the storm, and the satellite’s superior lightning detection will provide far more rapid data on changes in storm development than can be supplied by the network of NWS Dopplers, which take about six minutes to complete a complete set of scans of many different altitudes within a storm to determine a more complete picture of its structure. As I’ve written, the U.S. still lags in our global weather models in many respects compared to the European Center and the British Met Office. When it comes to the study of severe local convection, though, we are unquestionably the world leader. We have to be. Our tornado frequency, due to our geography, is incomparably higher than that of any other continent..."


Have We Underestimated the West's Super-Floods? This winter is redefining wet for California and the entire west coast of the USA, but it pales in comparison to previous deluges. Here's an excerpt from High Country News: "...In California, too, super-floods may be more common than previously thought. United States Geological Survey hydrologist Michael Dettinger and UC Berkeley paleoclimatologist B. Lynn Ingram have studied the paleo-flood record across a broad swath of California and discovered that such floods happen at least every 200 years, and maybe more frequently. The last one was in 1862. Thousands of people died, towns were submerged and the state’s economy was devastated, yet it was nowhere near the worst: One flood in the 1600s was at least twice as big..."

Photo credit: "The damaged Oroville Dam spillway flows out of Lake Oroville at 100,000 cubic feet per second (cfs)." Dale Kolke / California Department of Water Resources.
Dale Kolke / California Department of Water Resources


Smaller Storms, Over Time Can Cost More Than Extreme Infrequent Events. Details via AGU, American Geophysical Union: "Global climate change is being felt in many coastal communities of the United States, not always in the form of big weather disasters but as a drip, drip, drip of nuisance flooding. According to researchers at the University of California, Irvine, rising sea levels will cause these smaller events to become increasingly frequent in the future, and the cumulative effect will become comparable to extreme events such as Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy. “Catastrophic storms get a lot of media attention and are studied, but we wanted to know more about the non-extreme events,” said Amir AghaKouchak, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California Irvine (UCI) and co-author of a new study on cumulative hazards in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union..."

Photo credit: FEMA. "The effects of climate change are being felt now in American cities. With the steady rise in sea level over the past few decades, events such as an especially strong tide can result in flooding in coastal regions, a new study finds."

Humans Are Igniting the Vast Majority of Wildfires in the U.S. Pacific Standard has the results of new research: "...Looking at 1.5 million records of wildfires with a known cause that took place between 1992 and 2012, the researchers found that humans started 84 percent of the fires over the 20-year period and tripled the length of the fire season. Lightning-ignited fires were most likely during the summer months, and during the spring, winter, and fall, human-induced blazes were 35 times more likely than lightning-started ones. People started plenty of summertime blazes as well; in fact, more human-ignited fires were started on July 4th than any other day of the year. But the outsize role people play in sparking wildfires doesn’t preclude climate change from blame..."

A Part-Time National Weather Service? If there's even an inkling of truth to this post it spells trouble, not just for National Weather Service employees, but for American consumers. Because severe weather outbreaks aren't "part-time",wild weather often strikes during the overnight hours, and there's no way to adequately replace the local institutional memory and forecast skill of local WFOs with a few larger, regional (hub) offices. Let's hope this turns out to be a false alarm. But just in case - you might want to pick up the phone and call your state and national representatives. We need to be reinvesting in our National Weather Service, not looking for areas to cut. Here's an excerpt from The National Weather Service Employees Organization: "On the same day that National Weather Service Director Dr. Uccellini tells employees, “part timing of the offices is off the table,” presentation slides showing distinct plans to part time offices are distributed at NCEPs annual planning meeting. NWSEO has obtained a 37 slide PowerPoint presentation made to NCEP managers on February 14, 2017 at NCEP’s Annual Operating Plan meeting. The presentation was made by the Director of the Office of Programming and Planning for Service Delivery, who is tasked with execution of the Evolve NWS plans. Only the first 22 slides were presented at the meeting. Slides 23-37, which were distributed but not shown, highlight plans to reduce staff and part time offices. 

According to this PowerPoint, developed and partially presented by the NWS’s Project Management Office, only 37 of the 116 WFOs in the continental U.S. will be operating 24/7/365 by FY 19. Also on February 14, the same date as the NCEP annual meeting, NWS Director Dr. Uccellini assured employees, “the part timing of the offices is off the table” at a Fireside Chat webinar with the Cheyenne, Wyoming and Shreveport, Louisiana Weather Forecast Offices. This follows his statements at the January 2017 AMS meeting in Seattle, Washington that there will be no “part timing of Forecast Offices....”

The Powerpoint in question is here.

This Real-Time Pollution Map Will Enlighten You On Your City's Air Quality. Yahoo News has the story: "...The map delivers real-time information on air pollution along with hourly forecasts and helpful weather-related health and fitness recommendations. Its data is drawn from "official air quality sensors" placed across cities that monitor airborne particles and combined with information on wind, weather and traffic conditions. By simply searching a location, users will be shown a color-coded map of the pollution level in the surrounding area. They'll also receive useful information such as carbon monoxide and ozone levels, weather forecast updates, and heath, sports and child care-related suggestions..."

A Texas Energy Company Offers a Glimpse of What Carbon Capture Could Look Like. Can it be done cost-efficiently? Here's an excerpt from TexasMonthly: "...Charles McConnell, who served as Assistant Secretary of Energy from 2011 to 2013 and is now executive director of Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative, sees carbon capture units like Petra Nova as the single best way for the world to meet the ambitious targets for CO2 emissions set by the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement. “I think if we have any shot at all of reaching the climate change targets by 2050, it’s through carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration,” he said. “If we don’t do it, we ain’t going to get there—there’s just not enough impact from the other things [like transitioning to renewable energy sources] that can get this done. It’s got to be all of the above, we have to have a comprehensive approach, but we need to embrace this technology...”

Photo credit: "NRG Energy's Petra Nova carbon capture unit in Fort Bend County, Texas."
Photograph courtesy NRG Energy

Trump Order Will Aim To Roll Back a Clean Water Rule. Is this to protect farmers and fossil fuel interests at the expense of consumers, or does agriculture and industry have a legitimate gripe?  The New York Times reports: "President Trump is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday aimed at rolling back one of former President Barack Obama’s major environmental regulations, a clean water rule known as Waters of the United States. But on its own, Mr. Trump’s order will have almost no legal effect on the sweeping rule, which was imposed in 2015, according to two people familiar with the White House plans. An advance copy of the order was viewed by The New York Times on Monday. The order will essentially give Mr. Trump a megaphone to direct his new Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, to begin the lengthy and complicated legal process required to rewrite the rule — a process that could take longer than Mr. Trump’s first term, legal experts said..."
Photo credit: "A commercial fisherman crosses the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The clean water rule, called Waters of the United States, authorizes the federal government to limit pollution." Credit Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.


Trump to Put Obama Water Pollution Rule on Chopping Block. A case of over-regulation; federal over-reach? Here's more perspective from Bloomberg: "...In imposing the Waters of the U.S. rule, the Obama administration’s EPA aimed to resolve decades of uncertainty over what waterways were subject to federal regulation and oversight. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court fractured over the question of whether strictly navigable waters are subject to the Clean Water Act, or if the jurisdiction goes further. Developers said later guidance from the EPA only injected more confusion into permitting processes. Obama’s Waters of the U.S. rule was opposed by dozens of states and an assortment of business and agriculture groups, which complained it did nothing to clear up the murkiness and took an overly expansive view of the law..."

Buying an Electric Vehicle? A Growing List of States Will Charge You Extra Yearly Fees. Vox has an update: "...At the end of 2015, the Department of Energy identified nine states that levy extra yearly fees on purchasers of EVs. Since then, Michigan added a fee, so the number now stands at 10. As the Sierra Club reports, “since the start of 2017, six states (Indiana, South Carolina, Kansas, Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Montana) have introduced legislation that would require EV owners to pay a fee of up to $180 a year...”

Image credit: EV fees. (Car & Driver)

Former Trump Aid Says Renewable Energy May Be Cut. TIME.com has more details: "A former top aide on energy issues for President Trump's transition speculated that the Administration will cut research funding for wind and solar power and redirect money to fossil fuels. Energy lobbyist Mike McKenna, who headed Trump's Department of Energy transition team until late November, told the West Virginia Coal Association that current funding allocations favoring renewable energy would likely be changed. "The young people have a word for it, it's not sustainable," he said, alluding to the agency that crafts the President's budget. "If DOE doesn’t take care of that on it’s own accord, the Office of Management and Budget almost certainly will..." (File photo: Joe McNally, NatGeo).

The Mobile Solar Boom is Just Beginning. Solar can pull people out of energy poverty faster/cheaper/cleaner. A principal in the company Lumos explains at TheHill: "...Lumos brings affordable, accessible, and reliable solar energy to off-grid homes. By partnering with mobile operators, Lumos allows customers to pay for their electricity with existing mobile phone accounts. I believe that this is the solution for the billion people who are living with a mobile phone and without reliable electricity. For only 50 US cents a day, customers can power lights, a fan, a tv, mobile chargers, and small appliances all at the same time. For decades, these off-grid communities have been underserved. With Lumos and mobile operators working together, students are able to do homework at night, entrepreneurs can keep stores open after dark, health clinics and religious centers can further their mission, and billions of people are able to connect to one another with cellphones they previously couldn’t reliably charge..."

No, Cell Phones Don't Cause Cancer. Probably. There is risk every time you fall out of bed in the morning, but is using a smart phone an acceptible risk? WIRED reports: "...A lot of people were really concerned when they heard the United Nations cancer agency has declared that cellphones might cause cancer,” says Brawley. “But when you realize that lipstick, pickles, and styrofoam are on that list, it puts it into a different perspective.” None of those things are necessarily super high-risk—the IPRC designation just leaves open the possibility that some carcinogenicity exists. In other words, a dearth of data means that no one would conclude right now that that cellphones cause cancer. “I think it’s an unsettled question, it’s a legitimate question,” Brawley says. “I believe the answer is no.” After all, he notes, brain tumor rates haven’t increased over the last 40 years. “However, none of us can tell you what the 30 or 40 year experience of people using cellphones will be,” he adds, “because we haven’t had cellphones that long...”

SpaceX Plans to Send 2 Tourists Around Moon in 2018. Serenaded by Pink Floyd as they travel around the dark side of the moon? Sign me up (and have someone else pay for it). The New York Times reports: "SpaceX, the ambitious rocket company headed by Elon Musk, wants to send a couple of tourists around the moon and back to Earth before the end of next year. If they manage that feat, the passengers would be the first humans to venture that far into space in more than 40 years. Mr. Musk made the announcement on Monday in a telephone news conference. He said two private individuals approached the company to see if SpaceX would be willing to send them on a weeklong cruise, which would fly past the surface of the moon — but not land — and continue outward before gravity turned the spacecraft around and brought it back to Earth for a landing..."
Image credit: "A rendering of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket that may be used to launch two people on a journey around the moon." Credit SpaceX.

Minnesota: 3rd Best State in the USA? I beg to differ, but U.S. News has Massachusetts and New Hampshire ahead of the Land of 10,000 Lakes: "...In addition to its harsh winters, the state is known for its many bodies of water, which eventually flow into the Hudson Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The headwaters of the Mississippi River start in northern Lake Itasca, where loons serenade at sunset. The Dakota fittingly named the land “Minisota,” meaning sky-tinted water. The state’s nickname as the Land of 10,000 Lakes is an understatement – the state actually boasts 11,842. Minnesota’s population is expected to reach 6 million by 2032. The state’s demographics will likely shift over the next couple of decades, moving toward an older and more diverse population. Minnesota’s 65 and older population, demographers say, will outnumber people 17 and younger for the first time in 2035. Additionally, Minnesota’s nonwhite and/or Latino population is expected to rise to 25 percent, up 11 percent from 2005..."

Check Out a Chocolate Museum in Barcelona, Spain. No, you can't taste the displays. Atlas Obscura has the sweet details: "Five hundred years ago, chocolate in the form of cocoa beans first came ashore in Europe. Coming into port in Spain, Hernan Cortes and his conquistadors brought the spiced treat with them after pillaging the Mayan and Aztec empires of Central America, where cocoa beans had been used to create chocolate variants for over 3,000 years. In honor of this trans-Atlantic transfer, the Barcelona Confectionary Guild has set up the Chocolate Museum to tell the story of chocolate and its modernization. Although the history section of the museum is in no way perfect, visitors get a general trajectory of chocolate’s evolution, moving from bitter water, to the stunningly detailed sculptures that fill the museum. By using the statues to visibly depict the modern use of chocolate innovation, the arc of the history of chocolate feels fairly complete..."

TODAY: Slushy start, snow tapers to flurries. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 33
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Leftover clouds, chilly. Low: 20

THURSDAY: More clouds than sun, cold wind. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 29

FRIDAY: Partly sunny, less wind. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 10. High: 35

SATURDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, milder. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 26. High: near 50

SUNDAY: Intervals of sun, early spring fever. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 37. High: 56

MONDAY: Mild start. Then blustery, colder. Chance of PM snow. Winds: NW 15-30+ Wake-up: 41. High: 45 (falling quickly)

TUESDAY: Sun returns, winds die down. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 28. High: 41

Climate Stories....

"Shell Knew": Oil Giant's 1991 Film Warned of Climate Change Danger. Details, and a link to a 2:40 video overview, courtesy of The Guardian: "The oil giant Shell issued a stark warning of the catastrophic risks of climate change more than a quarter of century ago in a prescient 1991 film that has been rediscovered. However, since then the company has invested heavily in highly polluting oil reserves and helped lobby against climate action, leading to accusations that Shell knew the grave risks of global warming but did not act accordingly. Shell’s 28-minute film, called Climate of Concern, was made for public viewing, particularly in schools and universities. It warned of extreme weather, floods, famines and climate refugees as fossil fuel burning warmed the world. The serious warning was “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists in their report to the United Nations at the end of 1990”, the film noted..."

Image credit: What Shell knew about climate change in 1991

"A Sense of Despair" : The Mental Health Cost of Unchecked Climate Change. CBS News reports; here are 2 excerpts from an eye-opening story: "...Climate change is taking an obvious physical toll on earth: from depleted farmland to the rise of toxic pollution to the degradation of long-stable ecosystems to the disappearance of biodiversity and endangered species. But looking beyond the physical, experts are also trying to sound the alarm about the quieter, more insidious effects of climate change: namely, that global warming is threatening the emotional health of humans worldwide. “We see a sense of despair that sets in as inevitably Mother Nature, who we think of as our nurturing force, tells us we’re not going to be able to survive the conditions she’s set for us,” Dr. Lise Van Susteran, a practicing psychiatrist and expert on the dangers of climate change on mental health, told CBS News...The researchers found that just one standard-deviation shift in heat or rainfall increases the risk of a riot, civil war or ethnic conflict by an average of about 14 percent. A similarly sized uptick in heat or rain triggers a 4 percent increase in person-on-person violence like rape, murder and assault..."


6 Words That Could Go Extinct Because of Climate Change. Outside Magazine reports: Lift Line. Noun: The queue of skiers and snowboarders waiting to board a chairlift for a ride up the mountain at a winter resort. This winter, ski resorts have seen record-breaking storms and crowds. So climate threats must be a Cascadian hoax, right? No. Though colder and warmer winters are determined mainly by fickle jet streams, global warming has contributed to an increased number of “End of Days” storms over the past half-century. The average global temperature has risen 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880: warmer weather means more moisture in the air, which means more intense precipitation events. At lower elevations, another two-degree temperature increase has the potential to turn all that fresh powder into floods and landslides. And you may have noticed this winter that the season is getting shorter. While there might be a few epic days in the middle of winter, there’s less time on either end of winter..."

Photo credit: "Many glacier tips are attached to an unmoving sliver of ice called an "icefoot." Photo: Oskari Porkka/iStock.

With Climate Change California is Likely to See More Extreme Flooding. NPR has the story; here's a clip that caught my eye: "...But this shouldn't be a surprise, says Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University. "It's actually exactly what has been predicted by scientists for at least 30 years," he says. He says California is likely to see more extreme flooding with climate change. And the reason is pretty simple. If it's warmer, storms produce more rain instead of snow. But that's not what California's water system was built to do when it was designed a century ago. It was built, in large part, around the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. The state's flood system can handle that slow melt, but not a huge amount of rain all at once, Diffenbaugh says..." (File image credit: ESA).


What is Wrong With a Carbon Tax? The author of a Scientific American Op-Ed (who happens to be an economist) argues for a cap and dividend approach, instead of tax and dividend: "...The upshot is that a carbon tax is not only a nonstarter in terms of good political optics, but also in terms of good economics, ethics and science. That said, while the CLC should ditch the tax, the public dividend component of their plan is worth keeping. As they convincingly argue, the dividend is a brilliant way to overcome political resistance to a carbon fee by giving every American with a social security number an immediate economic stake in the program. For example, the CLC estimates that at their suggested $40/ton level, “a family of four would receive approximately $2000 in carbon dividend payments in their first year.” As with social security, payouts would go to rich and poor alike, thus generating sufficient popularity to protect the program against shifting political winds..." (File image: Star Tribune)

American Kids Are About to Get Even Dumber When It Comes to Climate Science. When facts become option and science ranks right up there with opinion. Here's an excerpt of a post at Fusion and Motherboard: "...Science defenders like the NCSE say science denial has three pillars: That the science is uncertain; that its acceptance would have bad moral and social consequences; and that it's only fair to present all sides. All three are at work in the latest efforts to attack state and federal education standards on science education, Branch said. According to a survey published last year, this strategy is already making headway. The survey, in the journal Science, found that three-fourths of science teachers spend time on climate change instruction. But of those teachers, 30% tell their students that it is "likely due to natural causes," while another 31% teach that the science is unsettled. Yet 97% of scientists who actively study Earth's climate say it is changing because of human activity..." (Image credit: Shutterstock).

Scientists Are At The Vatican Discussing How To Save the Planet. It Could Get Depressing. Here's a clip from a summary at Fusion: "...With a net of 250,000 extra people added every day now, the challenges for maintaining any reasonable level of biological diversity into the next century continue to mount. “In about 1970 we were using about 70% of the Earth’s sustainable capacity, and now that we are using about 156%,” state the conference organizers. “Nevertheless there are 800 million people chronically malnourished and 100 million on the verge of starvation at any one time.” Some of the biggest challenges to biodiversity are land clearing for agriculture and urban development; invasive species; unsustainable consumption of plant and animal species; and global climate change..."

How a Capitalist Should Tackle Climate Change. Ted Halstead has an Op-Ed at Fortune: "...In The Conservative Case For Carbon Dividends, my co-authors James Baker, George Shultz, Henry Paulson, Martin Feldstein, Gregory Mankiw, Tom Stephenson, Rob Walton and I propose a distinctly capitalist solution to climate change. Capitalism is a wonderful system, even though – like many operating systems – it suffers from an occasional bug. The most significant is that market prices fail to take social and environmental costs into account, which explains why greenhouse gas emissions have reached dangerous levels. The obvious remedy is taxing pollution. Indeed, our solution boils down to getting the price signals right, and the government out of the way.Our statement should put to rest several myths that impede a more ambitious and coherent American climate response. First, it shows that Democrats have no monopoly of concern about protecting our climate. Contrary to the easy characterization of Republicans as climate deniers, many Republican leaders take seriously the risk of climate change, and a good number are looking for the right opportunity to orchestrate a collective climate jailbreak..."

To Get Ahead, Corporate America Must Account for Climate Change. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at TheHill: "...Thinking ahead is a competitive advantage — companies that adapt to changing markets will survive and prosper. Of course, many of America’s top companies have global reach, producing and selling around the world. A U.S. presidential administration that ignores climate change will be a short-term blip. I recommend corporate America mostly ignore that blip and continue to develop low-carbon technologies and production processes. They will be competitive in the emerging clean energy market that is taking hold globally. Eventually, American companies will prosper domestically when science-based evidence undergirds policy initiatives again. For the U.S. to be a haven for forward-looking companies, it needs to lead on climate change, not deny that it is happening..."



South Florida Continues Prep for Sea Level Rise. Here's the intro to a story at SunSentinel: "South Florida is taking more steps to protect against climate change and the rising seas that already are spilling over into neighborhoods. This month, Broward County ordered that new flood maps be drawn using predictions of higher waters, the latest in a series of steps taken from Palm Beach County to the Keys. Fort Lauderdale raised the required height of sea walls and the elevation of home sites; Delray Beach added valves to keep salt water out of the city drainage system; Broward County put a financing program in place for homeowners who want to tap solar energy. That doesn’t mean Florida is all ready and set for the ill effects of rising global temperatures. A nationally recognized advocacy group that rated states on preparedness gave Florida a C- ..."

Photo credit: "Flooding from seasonal king tides has worsened in Fort Lauderdale as a result of sea-level rise." (Joe Cavaretta/Sun-Sentinel)

For Some Arctic Plants, Spring Arrives Almost a Month Earlier. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "Every spring, Arctic plants rely on cues from the environment — like warmer weather, longer days and shrinking ice sheets — to tell them when they should awaken from winter’s slumber. But as the climate warms, these plants are getting mixed signals about when to rouse. In a new paper published in Biology Letters, researchers detail findings from a 12-year study of when plant species in the low Arctic region of Greenland first bud in the spring. Timing varied from plant to plant, but one speedy sedge species — a flowering, grasslike herb — stirred a full 26 days earlier than it did a decade ago. The change corresponds to nearly an entire growing season, and breaks the record for the greatest shift in spring-bloom timing that the scientists have observed in the Arctic..." (File photo credit: Arctic Journal).

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