Weather Oddities: Fire Risk and River Flooding

Only in Minnesota can you be ankle-deep in mud, with dust blowing in your face. The weather can turn on you – in a hurry. It’s a bit of a disconnect to be tracking river flooding, while central and northwestern Minnesota are experiencing a very high fire danger, according to the Minnesota DNR.

Bright sunshine and gusty winds have rapidly depleted soil moisture. Until we green up with a few soaking rains the fire danger will remain high, even in the Twin Cities metro.

A postcard-perfect weekend is brewing; Sunday the milder day with a stiff south breeze and highs near 70.

T-storms may fire up Sunday night into Monday morning, and if the sun breaks through Monday afternoon the mercury may hit 80F in the MSP metro. I hope I remember how to sweat.

A sloppy front gets pushed to the south of Minnesota late Tuesday, but returns north with steadier, heavier rain possible Wednesday PM into Thursday. I expect lawns to be neon-green within a week or so.

No frost is in sight for the immediate metro; mainly 60s next week, as the timid, reluctant spring of ’18 continues to slowly build.

Fire Danger Rating. The risk of brushfire is very high over central and northwestern Minnesota, according to the MN DNR.

Significant Rain Next Week? NOAA’s ensemble models print out 1.5 to 2″ of rain across Iowa over the next week, with over 1″ of rain for central and southern Minnesota, which certainly seems plausible. A little rain and lawns will green up almost overnight.

Mostly Springy. No snow in the forecast! That’s a good start. In fact daytime highs are forecast by ECMWF to be close to average the next 2 weeks, with a summery spike on Monday when the mercury may push well into the 70s to near 80F (depending on how much sun we see in the afternoon). Source: WeatherBell.

Latest Flood Forecasts. For crest forecasts from the National Weather Service for specific towns across the state click here.

Ominous Views of Japan’s New Seawalls. How do you make a coastal town tsunami-proof? Is it even possible? dives in: “…The most controversial of these tsunami prevention measures was the construction of hundreds of miles of concrete seawalls and breakers along the most vulnerable stretches of the coast. So far, Japan has spent approximately $12 billion building towering concrete walls, some as high as 41 feet. Tokyo-born photographer Tadashi Ono, who now lives in Paris, traveled to Japan’s northeast coast after the 2011 tsunami to document the destruction, and recently returned to see how the impacted areas have changed…”

Photo credit: “Following the 2011 tsunami the Japanese government began building seawalls like thos one in Ofunato Bay, Iwate prefecture.” Photographer: Tadashi Ono.

China Installs Nearly 10 Gigawatts of Solar in Q1, Up 22% Details from CleanTechnica: “China’s National Energy Administration announced on Tuesday that the country installed an impressive 9.65 gigawatts (GW) of new solar PV capacity in the first quarter of 2018, up 22% on the same period a year earlier and up on analysts’ projections. At a press conference held on Tuesday, China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) published new data revealing the country’s solar PV performance for the first quarter. The data comes to us courtesy of Asia Europe Clean Energy (Solar) Advisory, (AECEA), based in Beijing, which covers the Chinese solar industry closer than many non-Chinese analysts are capable of doing...”

BMW’s New Electric iX3 SUV Looks Shockingly Normal. has more details: “…BMW says the iX3 will carry its fifth generation electric drive system, with the electric motor (good for 200kW or 270 hp), power electronics, and transmission made into one drive component. It’s promising a range of around 250 miles from a 70-kWh battery, which puts it right in the middle of the EV pack (ahead of Maybach, behind Tesla). The vehicle will come ready for 150kW fast chargers—not many of those have been built yet, but they’re promised soon, and will allow an 80 percent charge in under 30 minutes. And while it’s technically a concept, its lack of zany features and close resemblance to a production-ready car means it’s almost certainly headed for the mass market in the next few years…”

Image credit: “After the ultra-funky i3 and i8, the German automaker is bringing its batteries into the mainstream with the iX3 SUV.” BMW Group.

In an Era of Changing Work, How Will Your Job Define Who You Are? How We Get to Next from Medium has a thoughtful post: “…Some argue that while many newer tech companies are creating new jobs, they aren’t “real jobs”—the kind that come with good benefits and predictable hours. This was far from the only kind of work in the 20th century, but it was what work in places like Port Talbot looked like—and even if you didn’t have a good job in a company town, it was what you might aspire to. The disappearance of that way of work is a major source anxiety around the world—and it’s not immediately clear how some of the new work identities, like those forming around the gig economy, can offer an easy replacement. A future of fractious, uncertain employment isn’t just an issue confined to Europe and the U.S.: lower-income countries in Africa, Asia, and South America are also experiencing a similar shift...”

Deadliest Creature on the Planet? No, it’s not sharks or bears or even people. It’s mosquitoes. The New York Times has a sobering multi-media explanation.

Cable-TV’s Cord-Cutting Woes Grow, Highlighting Divergence with Netflix. The Wall Street Journal reports on trends; here’s an excerpt: “…Investors are growing concerned about such services stealing away market share, said Guggenheim Securities analyst Michael Morris, leading some to sell out of slow-growth traditional cable and telecom and buy into tech stocks. “Companies like Amazon and Netflix are delivering game-changing convenience at incredibly efficient prices,” Mr. Morris said. “As an investor, you say, ‘I don’t know how this plays out, but I do know it is very difficult to compete if my competitor is undercutting me on the pricing side.’ ” The upheaval in the pay-TV economy is stark. From the beginning of 2015 through the end of last year, nine million Americans have either cut the cord or chosen not to buy a traditional cable package when moving into new households, according to estimates from MoffettNathanson...”

Thanks to Streaming, Recording Industry Revenues Are Back Up to Pre-Internet Levels, but Musicians are Poorer Than Ever. has an explanation: “…Since the rise of streaming services, recording artists have complained bitterly about the pittances they receive in royalties, while the streaming services countered that they were sending billions to the labels, who were pocketing all the money without passing it on to the talent. Last year, the record industry gained an extra $1.4 billion in new revenues, mostly from streaming, restoring its overall revenues to pre-internet levels, when the labels had grown accustomed to reselling the same music every couple of years in new formats (vinyl, 8-track, cassette, CD). Overall, streaming services remit $7.4 billion to rightsholders. But musicians’ median income continues to fall, and it’s not hard to understand why: it just takes a basic grasp of supply and demand...”

Facial Recognition May Be Coming to a Body Camera Near You. The Washington Post explains: “The country’s biggest seller of police body cameras on Thursday convened a corporate board devoted to the ethics and expansion of artificial intelligence, a major new step toward offering controversial facial-recognition technology to police forces nationwide. Axon, the maker of Taser electroshock weapons and the wearable body cameras now used by most major American city police departments, has voiced interest in pursuing face recognition for its body-worn cameras. The technology could allow officers to scan and recognize the faces of potentially everyone they see while on patrol. A growing number of surveillance firms and tech start-ups are racing to integrate face recognition and other AI capabilities into real-time video…”

Photo credit: “An Axon police body camera, as seen during a company-sponsored conference at the California Highway Patrol in 2015.” (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Should Quantum Anomalies Make Us Rethink Reality? Short answer, yes. Because we don’t (yet) know what we don’t know. Reality takes on new meaning as our tools improve, our powers of observation, and theories of how the universe really operates – like peeling away the layers of an infinite onion. Here’s a clip from Scientific American: “…Hence, because we perceive and experiment on things and events partly defined by an implicit paradigm, these things and events tend to confirm, by construction, the paradigm. No wonder then that we are so confident today that nature consists of arrangements of matter/energy outside and independent of mind. Yet, as Kuhn pointed out, when enough “anomalies”—empirically undeniable observations that cannot be accommodated by the reigning belief system—accumulate over time and reach critical mass, paradigms change. We may be close to one such a defining moment today, as an increasing body of evidence from quantum mechanics (QM) renders the current paradigm untenable…”

Image credit here.

7 Bizarre Conspiracy Theories That Are Actually True. Yes, cloud seeding can be effective in highly localized areas, but creating a storm, steering a hurricane or spinning up a hurricane? Not ‘gonna happen anytime soon. Big Think reports on one of the theories with a morsel of truth: “…We don’t know how much of this it cares to do but we know that the government can, to some extent, influence the weather. During the Vietnam War, the CIA would seed the clouds in monsoon season to make it rain even more. The goal of this tactic, which was in use between 1967 and 1972, was to wash out roadways and provoke bad landslides that would prevent the North Vietnamese troops from moving their weapons and provisions, says this CIA blog which reports: “It involved the age-old technique of cloud seeding to make it rain more, used to this day by governments and farmers throughout the world in an attempt to alleviate droughts. While the effectiveness of cloud seeding is still debated, it typically involves an airplane flying through a cloud and releasing small particulates that give water vapor something to cling to so it can condense and become rain. This is exactly what the CIA did in Operation Popeye during the monsoon season in Southeast Asia over the Ho Chi Minh Trail for a little over five years between 1967 and 1972. The goal was to wash out roadways and cause disruptive landslides on the route the NVA was using to move weapons and other provisions...”

Wikipedia more on Operation Popeye here.

Why Trump is Winning and the Press is Losing. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Review of Books: “There is alive in the land an organized campaign to discredit the American press. This campaign is succeeding. Its roots are long. For decades, the Republican coalition has tried to hang together by hating on elites who claim to know things, like: “What is art?” Or: “What should college students be taught?” Or: “What counts as news?” The media wing of this history extends back to Barry Goldwater’s campaign in 1964. It passes through Spiro Agnew’s speeches for Richard Nixon in 1969, and winds forward to our own time through William Rusher’s 1988 book, The Coming Battle for the Media, the growth of conservative talk radio in the 1990s, and the spectacular success of the Fox News Channel, which found a lucrative business model in resentment news, culture war, and the battle cry of liberal bias...”

Open, Closed and Privacy. A post at Stratechery by Ben Thompson caught my eye: “...I remember Andy’s second point: he argued that if Google did not act, we faced a draconian future, a future where one man, one company, one device, one carrier, would be our only choice. That’s a future we don’t want! So if you believe in openness, if you believe in choice, if you believe in innovation from everyone, then welcome to Android. Gundotra repeated the word “open” like a mantra, appealing to the sensibilities of not just people in technology but also its critics, opposed to so-called “walled gardens”; the two primary offenders were deemed to be Apple and Facebook. This is what made Google’s low-key announcement of its latest plans for messaging on Android phones — an exclusive with The Verge about what it calls Chat — so striking: the company is introducing an open alternative to products like iMessage and WhatsApp, but only as a last resort, and the effort is being pilloried by critics to boot…”

North Korean Leader May Travel With a Personal Toilet. I found this nugget (sorry) at The Washington Post: “…North Korean leader’s motorcade will pull up in front of Panmungak, the main building on the North Korean side of the Joint Security Area, where the armistice ending the war was signed in 1953. The 34-year-old DPRK leader will walk to the military demarcation line, represented at this spot by a concrete curb, where South Korean President Moon Jae-in will be waiting for him.  There is one special arrangement being made for Kim — and his bodily functions. “Rather than using a public restroom, the leader of North Korea has a personal toilet that follows him around when he travels,” said Lee Yun-keol, who worked in a North Korean Guard Command unit before coming to South Korea in 2005. “The leader’s excretions contain information about his health status so they can’t be left behind,” Lee said…”

Image credit: “South Korea revealed the main meeting room where the leaders of the Koreas will meet on the South Korean side of the DMZ for the April 27 inter-Korea summit.

NHL Demands Bruins Star Brad Marchand Stop Licking Players. A headline I was hoping to never see at ESPN, which has the details: “The National Hockey League would prefer if Boston Bruins star Brad Marchand refrained from licking, nuzzling or cuddling his opponents. In Game 1 of the Bruins’ first-round series victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, Marchand made highlight reels when he appeared to lick the face of Leafs forward Leo Komarov. Or at the very least, nuzzled him. It wasn’t the first showing of affection Marchand had bestowed upon Komarov, having delivered a kiss to his cheek earlier in the season. “I thought he wanted to cuddle. I just wanted to get close to him,” said Marchand, who wasn’t penalized on the play. “He keeps trying to get close to me. I don’t know if he’s got a thing for me or what. He’s cute...”

Photo credit: Fluto Shinzawa The Athletic.

SATURDAY: Bright sunshine, less wind. Winds: NE 5-10. High: 58

SATURDAY NIGHT: Clear and cool. Low: 37

SUNDAY: Blue sky, lukewarm breezy by afternoon. Winds: S 10-20. High: 68

MONDAY: T-storms possible, sticky PM sunshine. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 56. High: 79

TUESDAY: Stray shower, then partial clearing. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 59. High: 72

WEDNESDAY: Cooler, more showers arrive PM hours. Winds: N 10-15. Wake-up: 52. High: 61

THURSDAY: Steadier rain tapers late in the day. Winds: N 10-15. Wake-up: 48. High: 58

FRIDAY: Better. Becoming partly sunny. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 43. High: 63

Climate Stories…

Hiroshima, Kyoto and the Bombs of Climate Change. Bill McKibbon files a story for The New Yorker; here’s an excerpt: “…Still, global warming doesn’t haunt even the uncorrupted imagination in quite the same way as the bomb, perhaps because it unfolds more slowly. On a geologic time scale, a day and a century are roughly the same unit, but for the purposes of a news cycle, the difference is crucial. Every single day, climate change is the most important thing happening on the planet—there’s nothing even remotely close. But, on any single day, there’s always something more dramatic, more urgent. It feels as if we have time to deal with global warming, whereas deportations or assault rifles or lunatics in white vans mowing down women must be dealt with now. (In fact, climate change is the one problem that the planet has ever faced that comes with an absolute time limit; past a certain point, it won’t be a problem anymore, because it won’t have a solution.) And the fact that it’s happening everywhere, which should mean that it engages us more deeply, seems in some ways to do just the opposite…”

The Dangerous Belief That Extreme Technology Will Fix Climate Change. Here’s a snippet from Huffington Post: “…I think it’s bad news how cheap this is,” Smith told a small group last month in a conference room at Harvard’s Center for the Environment. For that kind of money, Smith argued, it’s possible that any rogue nation, organization or individual could start experimenting with the climate. The impacts of geoengineering on the global scale are unknown, in part because no massive geoengineering project has been undertaken ― apart from human-induced climate change. But models are potentially troubling. Some suggest geoengineering will disrupt rainfall worldwide and damage the earth’s protective ozone layer. A Rutgers University study published in January suggested that suddenly stopping a large geoengineering project, once it has started, could lead to rapid warming, pushing species into extinction and accelerating climate change…”

Image credit: NASA/Reuters. “Some scientists have proposed dumping gas in the earth’s skies to cool its temperature.”

Confessions of a Former Carbon Tax Skeptic. Washington Examiner has an Op-Ed that’s worth a read: “Hi, my name is Josiah, and I am a conservative who supports a revenue-neutral carbon tax. To many people, especially those on the Right, that may seem like an odd combination. In fact, some people might assume that if I’m for a carbon tax, I can’t really be a conservative. Or maybe I’ve sold out my principles because environmental leftists drove a dump truck full of money to my house. I can understand the skepticism (although, sadly, my bank account doesn’t bear out the dump truck theory). I used to be a carbon tax skeptic myself. Over time, however, I found that the arguments I deployed against a carbon tax were chipped away until they felt more like excuses…”

Study: Republicans Can Be More Persuasive When Correcting Climate Change Misinformation. Michigan Radio has the story – here’s a clip: “…Salil Benegal is an assistant professor of political science at DePauw University in Indiana. He and his colleague Lyle Scruggs studied what happened when they gave people articles with incorrect information on climate change, and then also gave different groups of those people the correct information that was attributed to a Democrat, a Republican, or a scientist. “We found that the corrections coming from Republicans were most persuasive in getting Republican respondents and independent respondents to report greater agreement that there’s a scientific consensus on climate change, that climate change is affected by human activity and that it’s a serious issue,” he says…”

Image credit: Yale

“We’re Now Racing Primarily On Man-Made Snow”: Headlines and links via Climate Nexus: “Five Winter Olympians traveled to Capitol Hill earlier this week to educate lawmakers on the impacts of climate change on winter sports. The group of American athletes explained during the event hosted by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Susan Collins (R-ME) that global temperature rise is forcing more and more competitions to use exclusively man-made snow, and expressed their worry for future generations. “I’m really worried about the future of our sport,” cross country skiing gold medalist Jessie Diggins told lawmakers. “When winters warm up and continue to do so, our sport is going to disappear. It’s heartbreaking.” (CBS, ThinkProgress, Nexus Media News, Minneapolis Star Tribune. Commentary: The Hill, Mark Reynolds and Mario Molina op-ed)

Image credit: Alta Ski Area.

Florida and Texas are Expected to Take the Biggest Economic Hit from Climate Change. Marketwatch has the post; here’s the intro: “Florida and Texas are the two states expected to suffer the greatest economic damage from climate change, according to a new study from Science magazine. The study used a model that aimed to calculate the future impact on each state’s gross domestic product (GDP) from events including hurricanes, storm surges, changes in agricultural yields, changing electricity demands, changes in mortality rates, changes to the labor supply, rising sea levels and rising crime rates. Researchers calculated that Florida will lose $100.9 billion from GDP due to climate change, while Texas will lose $100.7 billion. California comes in third place at an expected impact of $59.6 billion…”

Fund Managers Expect Climate Risks to Hit Oil Firm Valuations. Here’s a clip from a story at Reuters: “A survey of 30 fund managers with collectively more than 13 trillion pounds ($18 trillion) in assets under management shows that 89 percent think climate change risks will impact oil company valuations “significantly” in the next five years. This is represents a doubling on last year of fund managers who saw climate risks impacting oil firms in five years. The annual survey was carried out by the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association and the Climate Change Collaboration. 62 percent see peak oil demand impacting valuations in five years and peak gas demand impacting valuations in 10 years…”

File image: Rebecca Zisser, Axios.