Monday, April 3, 2017

Geting Better Out There - Serious Case of Spring Fever by Late Week

55 F. maximum temperature yesterday in St. Cloud.
49 F. average high on April 3.
54 F. high temperature on April 3, 2016.

April 4, 1928: Severe thunderstorms rumble through east central Minnesota. 100,000 dollars damage done at Anoka.



Stumbling Into Spring - Flash Flood Awareness

There is a fine line between stubbornness and stupidity as well as intensity and insanity” wrote Brittany Burgunder.

Maybe its in our DNA, but men seem more inclined to take stupid risks. NOAA data since 2010 shows that two thirds of all flooding fatalities were men. More than half of these deaths were related to driving through flooded roads. Apparently men, sitting up high in a pickup truck or SUV, are more inclined to believe they can make it to the other side.

The USA experienced 6 separate thousand-year floods in 2016, costing $17.5 billion and 148 deaths - far more than from tornadoes and hurricanes combined. Twisters and massive storms (with names) get most of the media attention, but flash floods are deadlier overall.

Skies brighten today; highs in the 50s until next weekend, when a stiff southerly breeze lures the mercury well into the 60s to near 70F. If you don't have The Fever yet, you will by Saturday afternoon.

Big, sloppy storms track south of Minnesota until next week, when rain becomes more widespread statewide.

No slush in sight. Don't laugh; a typical April brings 2.4 inches of snow.


Today's Excessive Rainfall Outlook. NOAA WPC has a helpful outlook, highlighting regions of the USA ripe for flash flooding. Today shows an elevated risk for the Florida Panhandle, but we don't expect the extreme rainfall amounts that soaked the Gulf Coast and Mid South in recent days.


No Rest For The Weary. What's impressive is the persistence of a high-frequency storm pattern; areas of low pressure spaced 24-36 hours apart, leaving little time for soil to dry out - ultimately increasing the risk of flooding as heavy rain falls on saturated ground. Today's storm pushes rain across the Northeast with a mix of snow, ice and rain for northern New England. Another storm spins up over the central Plains, pushing a shield of rain changing to snow across the Midwest, Ohio Valley and Great Lakes by Friday. Rain continues to soak the Pacific Northwest; the next chance of heavy rain for California coming Thursday night and Friday. 84-hour NAM Future Radar: NOAA and Tropicaltidbits.com.

Spring Loses Its Bounce. Wednesday's storm will start out as rain across the Midwest, Ohio Valley and Great Lakes, but a changeover to slushy snow is likely as the column of air cools; plowable amounts possible from Madison to Fort Wayne, Detroit and Cleveland by Friday.



Real-Time Lightning. Check out the free display for not only North America, but much of the planet, courtesy of Blitzortung.org, which uses triangulation from ground-based lightning sensors. Pretty cool.

Current Temperatures. This is one of the more aesthetically-pleasing maps I've found on the web displaying current temperatures around the Lower 48, courtesy of the Oklahoma Mesonet. Refresh your browser to get the latest observations.

Spike and Dips. If we lived near a large body of water we'd see fewer wild swings in temperature. Oceans have a moderating influence, putting an atmospheric break on how big the temperature oscillations can be. The biggest extremes take place near the center of continents. No kidding. 60s will feel good next weekend with an outside shot at 70 Saturday afternoon if the sun stays out. A few showers and T-storms blossoming by Sunday may keep us from hitting 70 degrees. MSP outlook from ECMWF: WeatherBell.

2-Week Outlook. The GFS forecast for 500 mb winds roughly 2 weeks out suggests a showery cut-off low pressure system over the Midwest, but relative warmth over the east coast and much of the western USA.

Massive Flooding Hits Columbia. The Washington Post has details: "An avalanche of water from three overflowing rivers swept through a small city in Colombia while people slept, destroying homes, sweeping away cars and killing at least 193 unsuspecting residents. The incident triggered by intense rains happened around midnight in Mocoa, a provincial capital of about 40,000 tucked between mountains near Colombia’s southern border with Ecuador. Muddy water and debris quickly surged through the city’s streets, toppling homes, ripping trees from their roots and carrying them downstream. Many of the residents did not have enough time to climb on top of their roofs or seek refuge on higher ground. According to the Red Cross, 400 people were injured and 220 believed missing..."

Xenia (Ohio) Tornado Anniversary. The Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974 was staggering in scope and intensity; one of the reasons I ultimately became a meteorologist. The Xenia Gazette remembers that terrible day: "The tornado injured 1,150 and destroyed approximately 1,400 buildings — about half of those in Xenia. Nine schools, nine churches and almost 180 businesses were destroyed in the F5 tornado, which claimed more than 30 lives. The twister was part of the the 1974 Super Outbreak, which was the second-largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period, just behind the 2011 Super Outbreak. It was also the most violent tornado outbreak ever recorded, with 30 F4/F5 tornadoes confirmed. From April 3 to April 4, 1974, there were 148 tornadoes confirmed in 13 U.S. states and Ontario, Canada. Tornadoes struck Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and New York. The entire outbreak caused more than $600 million (in 1974 dollars) in damage in the U.S. alone, and extensively damaged approximately 900 square miles along a total combined path length of 2,600 miles according to online reports. At one point, as many as 15 separate tornadoes were ongoing at the same time..."
Photo credit: "Monday was the 43rd anniversary of the 1974 Xenia tornado. The days and months after April 3, 1974, tornado were filled with many scenes like the ones you see here. The tornado injured 1,150 and destroyed some 1,400 buildings — about half of those in Xenia. Nine schools, nine churches and almost 180 businesses were destroyed in the F5 tornado."

Tornado Sirens are "Cold War Technology". Remember that sirens were only meant to be heard outdoors,  not inside homes and businesses. Sirens are part of the warning process, but if you only rely on sirens you're going to get caught with your Doppler down. Here's a clip from News-Gazette: "...While people in the country might not be able to hear the sirens, just about every emergency official interviewed for this story pointed out without prompting that tornado sirens are outdoor warning sirens. "You won't hear them inside your house," Mahomet's Crowley said. "If your windows are closed, you're not going to hear it unless you're right under it." The NWS' Miller said sirens aren't necessarily the best way to learn about a potential tornado. "There's so many ways to get information," he said. "Don't just say, 'I'm not going to go to the basement until the siren goes off.'" He encouraged people to use a weather radio and to monitor social media. Smartphones also now automatically send alerts for tornado and flash flood warnings. "To be honest, it's Cold War technology," Miller said about tornado sirens. "It's an important part of the process, but what people have to understand is, it's not the only part of the process."





Vast, Untapped Potential for Solar Rooftops in the U.S., Says Google. Here's an excerpt of a post at Greentech Media that made me do a double-take: "...Now that Project Sunroof's availability is countrywide, Google’s amassed data has started to reveal some interesting trends and information. For one thing, Google says that 79 percent of the rooftops it’s analyzed are viable for solar, which is good news for rooftop solar providers. That doesn’t mean that 79 percent of rooftops should or will adopt solar, though. Rather, it means that 79 percent technically get enough sun to be able to accommodate solar panels.  That finding is likely a generous interpretation of the data..."

A "Solar Saudi Arabia". No coal, gas or oil? Not to worry in Chile, which is blasted by free solar energy yearround. There may be no country on Earth in a better position to take full advantage of clean, renewable power, argues The Washington Post: "...It is also the world’s best place to produce solar energy, with the most potent sun power on the planet. So powerful, in fact, that something extraordinary happened last year when the Chilean government invited utility companies to bid on public contracts. Solar producers dominated the auction, offering to supply electricity at about half the cost of coal-fired plants. It wasn’t because of a government subsidy for alternative energy. In Chile and a growing list of nations, the price of solar energy has fallen so much that it is increasingly beating out conventional sources of power. Industry experts and government regulators hail this moment as a turning point in the history of human electricity-making. “This is the beginning of a trend that will only accelerate,” said Chilean Energy Minister Andrés Rebolledo. “We’re talking about an infinite fuel source...”


Wind Power Cuts CO2. Here's an excerpt from Climate Central: "We’ve reached the end of the windiest month of the year. But in other months, wind will continue to play an increasingly large role in the U.S. power mix. At the end of last year, wind capacity surpassed hydroelectric capacity for the first time in the U.S. Over the past decade, wind power has exploded in the U.S. Over that time, generating capacity from wind has increased by a factor of seven, surpassing 82,000 megawatts, or enough to power 24 million homes. Wind is most consistent in the Great Plains and on the Front Range of the Rockies. The prevailing west winds come rushing off of the mountains, making the area especially conducive for generating electricity, as higher wind speeds produce disproportionately more power from a wind turbine..."

The Next Million Jobs Will Come From Startups Across America, But Not Without Smarter Public Policy. Here's an excerpt of a post at Forbes that caught my eye: "...The report argues that overly strict rules governing crowdfunding sometimes limit the ability of startups to raise funds on the local level and that changing tax policy to support innovation will make it easier for companies to pour money back into research and development. And improving access to overseas markets and limiting trade barriers will open up new opportunities for startups to grow their businesses and scale. It also suggests increasing investment in entrepreneurial and STEM-related education similar to the curriculum at the Chicago Tech Academy and a growing number of schools across America.  The Technet-published report says Congress needs to tackle immigration reform to make it “easier for immigrant entrepreneurs to build new companies in the United States..."




TODAY: Gray start, then slow clearing. Winds: N 8-13. High: 57

TUESDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 38

WEDNESDAY: More clouds than sun, dry. Winds: N 10-15. High: 54

THURSDAY: Sunshine on the increase, less wind. Winds: N 7-12. Wake-up: 35. high: 55

FRIDAY: Blue sky, milder breeze. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 34. High: near 60

SATURDAY: Lukewarm sunshine feels good. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 43. High: near 70

SUNDAY: Humid, few T-storms pop up. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 52. High: 67

MONDAY: Lingering showers, especially southern Minnesota. Winds: N 8-13. Wake-up: 48. High: 59

* photo credit: Josh Blash

Climate Stories...


The End of Winter May Signal Bigger Changes Ahead for Earth's Climate. An Op-Ed at USA TODAY captures the sense of disbelief that facts, data and evidence have become optional and politicized: "...We have no trouble believing that dinosaurs lived 150 million years ago, but who can even count back that far? We take it on faith that the continents drift around on tectonic plates like ice floes in a slush pond, but the ground feels pretty stable to me. Even though none of us can independently verify any of these things, most of us accept them as facts, not assertions. We recognize them as the settled conclusions of qualified experts who have studied the evidence carefully and ruled out every competing hypothesis. That’s what science does; it extends our reach and allows us to make connections, connect dots, that we couldn’t possibly link on our own. If we accepted only the evidence of our senses, we’d still think that the Earth was flat and the sun and stars revolved around us. When it comes to climate change, however, the Earth is still flat. Scientific facts have somehow become opinions, and carefully researched conclusions are written off as theories or even hoaxes. Climate scientists went to the same schools, earned the same degrees, and follow the same protocols as experts we wouldn’t begin to question on other matters, but millions of us find it easy to say, “I don’t think so....”

Image credit: Jeff Williams, NASA.


Climate Change Doesn't Care Who You Voted For. Here's a clip from Teen Vogue. What, you don't read Teen Vogue? "...Climate change denial has been able to flourish because it papers over a painful reality. It’s hard to reconcile the scope of danger with the sense that there is nothing we can do about it, but political inefficacy is just another myth in need of rejection. We must come together to insist on the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions via federal effort. Each passing day in this DEFCON 1 political climate, it seems less and less possible to bridge the party divide, but we can all be united by the need for clean air, fresh water, and a better world for our children. As it stands, Trump’s climate change policy puts all of those things at risk, and unfortunately floods and droughts don’t give a crap whom you voted for."

The Case for Climate Risk Investing in Trump Era. Here's a clip from The Wall Street Journal: "...According to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance, climate change and carbon emissions was “the most significant overall environmental factor” for socially-minded investors in the U.S., drawing allocation of $2.15 trillion in institutional investor assets in the year ended Dec. 31, 2015. Shareholder proposals focusing on the climate risk are also getting more support, even if none got majority approval over board opposition so far. According to Proxy Monitor, an arm of the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Legal Policy that tracks resolutions filed with Fortune 250 companies, 23 of the total 58 environmental-related proposals as of the end of June, 2016, got 26% of the vote, compared with 16% support in 2015 and 14% in the 2006-2015 period..."

As the Maldives Gains Tourists, It's Losing Its Beaches. The New York Times reports.

Why One Powerful Republican Doubts Trump's Climate Policy. Details via The Atlantic: "...He agrees with Bill Gates that the best solution to climate change is ultimately technological. “We need technology—which thrives in market capitalism, so we need that—but we need the right policies that accommodate whatever emerges as the price winner,” he said. But he also has a distinct view of carbon-dioxide emissions—or at least a view closer to the long-term actuarial analysis of utility companies. Because a future Congress or White House will likely impose a policy like the Clean Power Plan, carbon dioxide is a price risk, he says. If he doesn’t move coal out of the fleet now, Arkansas customers may have to pay more for electricity in the future. “Life is pretty good right now, in utility world,” he said. “Costs as a percentage of personal income are at a multi-decade low, and that’s driven by low [natural] gas prices...”

Photo credit: "President Donald Trump shakes hands with Michael Nelson, a coal miner, early in February." Carlos Barria / Reuters.

Even Fox News Slams EPA Chief's Climate Denial: "All Kinds of Studies Contradict You". Kudos to Chris Wallace for drilling down and challenging the new EPA Administrator, as reported at ThinkProgress: "Even Fox News can’t believe that the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, doesn’t accept the basic scientific finding that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to recent global warming. To promote President Trump’s disastrous plan to gut EPA and U.S. climate action, Pruitt has been pushing his dangerous beliefs on all the major networks. Pruitt may have thought the Murdoch-owned network that has led the way on attacking climate science for two decades would be a friendly audience. He was wrong. Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace thoroughly debunked Pruitt for defending his absurd claim that CO2 is not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see...”

MIT Climate Scientist Responds on Disaster Costs and Climate Change. Here's an excerpt from FiveThirtyEight: "...Looking ahead, I collaborated with Yale economist Robert Mendelsohn and his colleagues in estimating global hurricane damage changes through the year 2100, based on hurricanes “downscaled” from four climate models. We estimate that global hurricane damage will about double owing to demographic trends, and double again because of climate change. These projections are not inconsistent with what we’ve been seeing in hurricane data and in economic damage from hurricanes. Besides this study, there are robust theory and modeling results that show increased risk of hydrological extremes (floods and droughts) and heat-related problems. Some of these predicted trends are beginning to emerge in actuarial data. Governments, markets and ordinary people are beginning to account for the increased risk. Those who wait for actuarial trends to emerge at the 95 percent confidence level before acting do so at their peril." (Hurricane Joaquin file image: NASA).

Climate Change Pushing Floods, Cyclones to New Extremes. As ocean waters continue to warm what will be the impact on cyclone (hurricane) intensity going forward? With Australia's Cyclone Debbie in mind, here's an excerpt of a post at Climate Code Red: "...The frequency of major flood events (defined as events which caused extensive flooding within 50 kilometres of the coast, or inundation that extended 20 kilometres along the coast) along Australia's eastern seaboard has doubled in last 150 years, with climate change one of the possible factors, senior Bureau of Meteorology researchers say. Record-breaking heavy rainfall and a clear upward trend in downpours over the last 30 years fits in with global temperature rise caused by greenhouse gases. Statistical analysis of rainfall data from 1901 to 2010 around the globe, shows that from 1980 to 2010 there were 12% more of these intense events than would be expected in a climate without global warming. Wet regions generally saw a bigger increase in deluges and drier regions a smaller one. In southeast Asia, the observed increase in record-breaking rainfall events is as high as 56%..."

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