Best-Case Scenario for Snow Melt Next 2 Weeks?

Estimated damage from flooding across Nebraska and Iowa is already running into the billions of dollars – hundreds of miles of levees will have to be replaced. It would not be unreasonable to look at what’s happening to our south, and expect something similar in Minnesota in the weeks ahead. Although it’s wildly premature to let our guard down, there is a growing possibility that much of Minnesota may dodge a muddy bullet.

I’ve talked to climate experts, all amazed by how much of the Upper Midwest saw February snow totals 3-5 times normal over such a large area. Then came the “bomb cyclone” and heavy rain, leading to disastrous conditions along the Missouri River.

Big storms should pass south of Minnesota into the first week of April, creating a near- perfect snow melt scenario the next 1-2 weeks. There are signs a wetter pattern may return by the second week of April, so we’re not out of the woods by any means, especially Red River Valley.

In the meantime we should sample 60s today, for the first time since October 22, 2018. Aaahhh… 

Current flood stages and forecasts courtesy of the North Central River Forecast Center of the National Weather Service. Latest updates are here.

Feeling Feverish. Maps above courtesy of Praedictix and AerisWeather.

384-Hour Guess-Cast. This is 16-day total precipitation via NOAA’s GFS model; showing heaviest predicted amounts over far southern Minnesota and Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa. I’m showing this to get a sense of trends looking out beyond next week; GFS data hinting that we may be heading into a wetter pattern by the second week of April. Precipitation outlook through April 11:

On Track For a Real April? After a concentrated 2 month walloping of cold and snow, could we actually salvage a real spring in Minnesota? Long-range guidance hints at temperatures at or just above average into the second week of April with a growing chance of showery rains, even the first T-storms of the season.

Record Flood Concerns Gradually Giving Way in Minnesota. Although it would be wildly premature to let your guard down just yet. Here’s an excerpt from The Star Tribune: “…Pete Boulay, assistant state climatologist for the Department of Natural Resources, said the mild weather has done a good job of “eroding the snowpack” across central and southern Minnesota. “Obviously, it’s encouraging to see highs above freezing and lows below freezing” in the forecast for the next week, Boulay added. But he noted that a substantial amount of water remains in the snowpack across the Red River Valley. Amanda Lee, a NWS hydrologist and meteorologist covering the Red River Valley from the Grand Forks office, said Monday that the rivers in the region are still largely frozen, though water was starting to move a bit at the juncture of the Bois de Sioux and Otter Tail rivers, which forms the Red River of the North, and in west-central Minnesota…”

Photo credit: Carlos Gonzalez – Star Tribune. “Downtown St. Paul is reflected in the water flooding Harriet Island Regional Park on Monday afternoon.”

Flood Damages Now Estimated at $3 Billion. Hoosier Ag Today has an update: “Damages from flooding in the Midwest are now estimated to top $3 billion, with threats of more flooding on the horizon. President Donald Trump has approved federal disaster declarations for counties in Iowa and Nebraska. Iowa officials say agriculture losses are at least $214 million. The Missouri River flooding will continue as an above normal snowpack in the North begins to melt and move downstream. Forecasters warn the flooding could continue through May…”

Midwest Floods: Ruptured Levees Could Cost Billions to Repair. A story at CBS News caught my eye: “…Twelve levees have already been breached, others have been “overtopped.” And still others are in danger. “The public needs to remain vigilant.”  “The whole thing is trashed,” said Pat Sheldon, who is president of a regional “levee district” that extends from Iowa to the Missouri border. He predicted that doing a “total rebuild” of his levee system alone could cost “several billion dollars.”  There are nearly 100,000 miles of levees across the country, protecting almost 150 million people, and when they fail, it can be disastrous. Others who’ve witnessed the misfortune of a levee rupturing weren’t so lucky. The biggest tragedy occurred in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when a dike that was supposed to protect the city gave way and 1,300 people died…”

River Flooding Perspective. Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Mark Seeley’s Minnesota WeatherTalk post: “…These conditions are similar to those faced in the flood years of 1952, 1965, 1997, 2001, and 2011 on many of these watersheds. Yet, two factors that play an important role in determining the peak flood level are only going to play out over the next 2-3 weeks. These are the pace and persistence of a spring thaw with temperatures that remain above freezing; and the amount of precipitation that falls during the snowmelt time period. In this context, an expected intermittent thaw with temperatures rising above freezing during the day, but dropping below freezing at night will help mitigate the flood threat. Countering that however, there is an chance for above normal precipitation to prevail over the southern half of Minnesota during the next two weeks, so this may increase the volume of flow on some rivers...”

What Makes People Heed a Weather Warning – Or Not? NPR delves into the murky topic of human nature. Fight or flight applies to storm warnings as well: “…So people wait until things get quite close until they make those calls. For tornadoes, they typically wait until they’re under a warning and then there’s just a couple of minutes. Then all they can really do is shelter in place. So people are basically saying, “I get that my region is vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean it’ll come near my house.” And they’re waiting to see how close it will get before they start to act? Yes, that’s right. People are doing what we call “confirming the threat.” And they do this, from what I’ve found, on a continuous basis. They’ll be watching, and maybe they’ll go get their children. But they won’t necessarily take shelter until things get a little bit closer...”

Illustration credit: Christina Chung for NPR.

Have We Reached the Coal Cost Crossover? Here’s an interesting blurb from Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology: “America has officially entered the “coal cost crossover” – where existing coal is increasingly more expensive than cleaner alternatives.  Today, local wind and solar could replace approximately 74 percent of the U.S. coal fleet at an immediate savings to customers. By 2025, this number grows to 86 percent of the coal fleet. This analysis complements existing research into the costs of clean energy undercutting coal costs, by focusing on which coal plants could be replaced locally (within 35 miles of the existing coal plant) at a saving. It suggests local decision-makers should consider plans for a smooth shut-down of these old plants—assessing their options for reliable replacement of that electricity, as well as financial options for communities dependent on those plants…”

Coal Plants Are ‘Zombies’: Climate Nexus has links and headlines: “Nearly three-quarters of the nation’s coal plants cost more to operate today than it would cost to entirely replace them with new renewable energy projects, new research shows. A report from think tank Energy Innovation released Monday finds that 74 percent of current US coal capacity costs more than wind and solar, and the number is expected to rise to 86 percent by 2025. A third of plants currently operating in the US cost 25 percent more to operate than new renewables. “US coal plants are in more danger than ever before,” Energy Innovation electricity policy director Mike O’Boyle told CNN Business. “Nearly three-quarters of US coal plants are already ‘zombie coal,’ or the walking dead.” (CNN, The Guardian, InsideClimate News, Gizmodo, E&E, Fast Company, ThinkProgress, US Energy News)

Owning a Car Will Soon Be as Quaint as Owning a Horse. Not sure I believe this or even want to believe this, but it could be a case of willful denial. Quartz has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…Many people feel this kind of bond with their cars. They represent so many major life moments (prom!) and individual tropes (freedom!) that it is difficult to imagine giving them up. But it will be easier than you’d think for a number of reasons that are increasing in speed and velocity, if you will excuse the pun. Consider how swiftly people moved from physical maps to map apps, from snail mail to email, from prime time TV to watching on demand. What had been long-help practices were quickly replaced by digital tools that made things easier, more convenient and simply better. Some of the shifts have been slower to develop, but then accelerated quickly, like what is now occurring in retail with online shopping and quick delivery pioneered by Simply put, everything that can be digitized will be digitized...”

Spam Has Taken Over Our Phones. Will We Ever Want To Answer Them Again? No kidding. The Washington Post reports on a troubling trend: “…Spam bots nest in call centers on every continent, spewing out phone calls by the millions, saturating the communication networks. Spam and scams swarm through our phones like Hitchcock’s birds down the living-room chimney. There is no escape. More than 10 billion robo-calls have been placed so far in 2019, by call-blocking company YouMail’s estimate — almost double the same period a year before. Another report by First Orion, the call-blocking and caller-ID tech company, estimates that nearly half of all cellphone calls will be scams at some point this year…”

Graphic credit: “Ever get a phone call from a number that looks suspiciously like your own? This video explains them, and what you should do about them.” (Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post

The Culprit of Increased Depression Among Teens? Smartphones, New Research Suggests. Here’s a snippet from new research highlighted at Big Think: “…Increases were most stark among women. Though the trend affected white Americans most, increased distress was observed across racial and ethnic groups. Mood disorders were worst in individuals in the highest income bracket. Interestingly, given the timeline of the results, the researchers are confident that neither economic conditions or drug or alcohol use (rates have remained steady or are falling, depending on cohort) are to blame. They also feel that neither self-reporting or opioid usages is behind this uptick. Willingness to admit emotional problems couldn’t account for all of the observed trends; opioid addiction predominantly affected particular cohorts. There are two trends that do appear to be causing this problem, however…”

Science Confirms: Dark Chocolate is Good For You. CookingLight has the delicious details: “Good news, chocolate lovers: Your favorite sweet treat may actually be good for you. So start sprinkling cacao nibs on your yogurt and sipping on dark chocolate smoothies, because new research shows chocolate could be beneficial to your health. Researchers from Loma Linda University presented two studies at the Experimental Biology 2018this link opens in a new tab conference. According to the press releasethis link opens in a new tab, the studies found that dark chocolate can reduce inflammation and stress, while also improving memory, immunity, and mood….”

Study Finds Women Sleep Better Next to Dogs Than Humans. Oh great. has the excruciating details: “Women, if you want to catch better zzz’s, you should trade in your partner for your dog. That may sound extreme, but consider this: A new study published in the journal Anthrozoös found that a woman’s quality of shut-eye improves when she sleeps in bed next to her canine rather than her human partner. Researchers from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, surveyed more than 960 women. They discovered that women are less likely to have their sleep disrupted by dogs than humans. Of the participants, 55 percent shared a bed with canines, while 57 percent cuddled up next to a human partner. The researchers wrote in the study, “Compared with human bed partners, dogs who slept in the owner’s bed were perceived to disturb sleep less and were associated with stronger feelings of comfort and security...”

51 F. maximum temperature at MSP International Airport Tuesday.

47 F. average high on March 26.

40 F. average high on March 26.

March 27, 1946: A record high of 78 is set at Redwood Falls.

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, windy and mild. Winds: S 15-30. High: 64

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy & cooler, passing sprinkle. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 41. High: near 50

FRIDAY: Intervals of sun, cool breeze. Winds: N 7-12. Wake-up: 33. High: 46

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, gusty and cool. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 26. High: near 40

SUNDAY: More sun, less wind. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 24. High: 48

MONDAY: More clouds than sunshine. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 31. HIgh: 47

TUESDAY: Passing shower, then clearing. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 33. High: near 50

Climate Stories….

Global Carbon Emissions Hit Record High in 2018: IEA. Reuters has the sobering news: “Global energy-related carbon emissions rose to a record high last year as energy demand and coal use increased, mainly in Asia, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday. Energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7 percent to 33.1 billion tonnes from the previous year, the highest rate of growth since 2013, with the power sector accounting for almost two-thirds of this growth, according to IEA estimates. The United States’ CO2 emissions grew by 3.1 percent in 2018, reversing a decline a year earlier, while China’s emissions rose by 2.5 percent and India’s by 4.5 percent…”

Wall Street is Masking the True Cost of Climate Change for Coastal Homes. Bloomberg Businessweek has the story; here’s a clip: “…People are moving into harm’s way, and there are multiple threats associated with living near the coast,” he says, “but there’s been a tremendous abundance of capital that has become available to insure property risks.” The investment capital that has gone into insurers and reinsurers has increased competition in the industry and held premiums down. That, in turn, has artificially suppressed the cost of coastal homeownership. “The consumer got the benefit of the disconnect between the flood of available capital that came into the reinsurance market and the voices of scientists indicating higher client risk,” says Rollins. Simultaneously, “the national flood insurance program is artificially subsidized due to a lot of political pressure,” says Howard Mills, the global insurance regulatory leader at Deloitte. “Currently, people who live in areas of the country that will never, ever flood are subsidizing those who live in risky areas…”

Green New Deal: Where the 2020 Presidential Candidates Stand. Here are a few quotes lifted from a story at Axios:

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted “I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal proposal. We must address the existential crisis of planetary climate change.”
  • Sen. Cory Booker likened the GND to fighting Nazis and going to the Moon, reports the Washington Times.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris, via C-SPAN: “We have to have goals. It’s a resolution that requires us to have goals and think about what we can achieve and put metrics on it.”
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted that she is “excited” to back the GND after initially saying she backed the general “idea” of it.
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “I see it as aspirational, I see it as a jump-start. So I would vote yes, but I would also, if it got down to the nitty-gritty of an actual legislation as opposed to, ‘Oh, here are some goals we have,’ that would be different for me,” reports The Hill

Here’s What Warren Buffet Thinks About Climate Change. CNBC has a long and interesting post; here’s an excerpt: “…The issue before the shareholders is not how I feel about whether climate change is real. … I don’t think you and I have any difference in the fact that it’s important that climate change — you know, since it’s something where there is a point of no return — if we are on the course that you think is certain and I think is probable, that it’s a terribly important subject.” For most of his life Buffett has taken a provincial view of investing, focused almost exclusively on the U.S., and in that sense, many of the changes being wrought by climate change around the globe may not directly bear on his holdings. But right now, Buffett’s home state of Nebraska is experiencing record flooding…”

Fed Researcher Warns Climate Change Could Spur Financial Crisis. Bloomberg has the post – here’s an excerpt that caught my eye: “…Climate change is becoming increasingly relevant to central bankers because losses from natural disasters that are magnified by higher temperatures and elevated sea levels could spark a financial crisis, a Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco researcher found. “Climate-related financial risks could affect the economy through elevated credit spreads, greater precautionary saving, and, in the extreme, a financial crisis,’’ Glenn Rudebusch, the San Francisco Fed’s executive vice president for research, wrote in a paper published Monday…”

What Makes a Catastrophic Flood? And is Climate Change Making More of Them? The New York Times provides perspective: “…These places have flooded before, and they will flood again. Still, large amounts of rain can increase the likelihood of flooding, and more heavy precipitation over the long term “is an expected and observed consequence of climate change,” Mr. Arndt wrote in an email. That is primarily because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, and that means more precipitation. Actually saying that climate change had a pronounced effect on a specific flooding event, like the one in the Midwest, would come after a long period of analysis with the tools of attribution science. “There’s going to need to be a lot of homework done between now and when we can give a definitive answer,” Mr. Arndt said during the briefing…”

Photo credit: “Flooding in Hamburg, Iowa, this week.” Credit: Tim Gruber for The New York Times.

Could Climate Change Save the United States’ Nuclear Energy Industry? Here’s an excerpt from Pacific Standard: “…Today there are 98 nuclear reactors in operation across 30 states, with an average age of nearly 40. Despite its advanced age, the average American plant has a generating capacity—a measure of the percentage of time a reactor is producing energy—of more than 90 percent. Plants abroad, meanwhile, have an average generating capacity of around 75 percent, according to Ford. “In terms of the ability to reliably generate electricity and safely generate electricity,” he says, “the U.S. fleet still sets the standard for performance.” “The place that perhaps the U.S. is falling behind in is in the ability to build a new plant at schedule and at a low cost,” Ford says. That can be traced back to 1979, when a partial meltdown occurred at a reactor at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island...”

File image of TMI: Jonathan Ernst, Reuters.

‘Trumpiest Congressman’ Tired of ‘Arguing With Thermometers’: Headlines and links via Climate Nexus: “As the Senate gears up to hold a vote on the Green New Deal legislation this week, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who has been dubbed the “Trumpiest Congressman in Trump’s Washington” and who proposed a bill to abolish the EPA, is circulating an alternative bill to tackle climate change. Gaetz’s five-page “Green Real Deal,” a draft of which was obtained by Politico, endorses “fair and equal access to energy development on federal lands” and offers no concrete timeline to curb carbon emissions, but does highlight the findings of the National Climate Assessment and proposes for the creation of high-wage jobs through alternative energy developments. “I did not get elected to Congress to argue with a thermometer,” Gaetz told Vice in an interview. “…I can tell the earth is warming based on overwhelming scientific evidence and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve released like 300 years of carbon in the last several decades.” (Gaetz: Politico, Earther, Washington Examiner. Commentary: Vice, Matt Gaetz interview)

Check out the interview with Rep. Matt Gaetz and Vice here.

Adapting to Climate Change in Miami. NPR has an interview that made the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Why worry – when there’s so much short-term cash to be made, right? Here’s a clip:

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The city of Miami is struggling to keep up with the rapid changes – higher tides, stronger hurricanes, sunny day flooding. Miami’s residents recently passed a $400 million bond. Half of it will go to climate adaptations. A hundred million has been set aside for affordable housing. Back at his office, I asked Madriz if he and the city are moving fast enough.

Projections are pretty dire for southern Florida. And you’re saying things are going slowly.

MADRIZ: It is definitely a race against time. And I’m not going to say that we have enough because it really – we should have been having this conversation 10 years ago. However, I think we do have an opportunity to be a bit ahead of the curve when it comes to what kinds of policies are implemented…

File image: Miami Dade County.