Terrible Tornadoes Possible 8 Months a Year

Tuesday’s tornado outbreak near Eau Claire, Wisconsin was a blunt reminder that violent winds can spin up 8 months out of the year. I’m relieved repairs were completed on the Twin Cities Doppler, which tracked an area of violent rotation moving into Elk Mound and Wheaton.

Seeing tornadoes at night in the rain is difficult, but being able to get a 3-D thumbprint of the wind field inside a severe thunderstorm provides meteorologists with invaluable data. Doppler radar from NOAA has saved countless American lives since the mid-90s.

If anyone asks, tornadoes have been spotted in Minnesota from March 6 to November 16.

Our atmosphere is too cool and stable for anything severe, but more showers arrive tonight and early Friday. Saturday still appears to be the drier day of the weekend, with the next surge of warm air sparking showers and T-storms Sunday.

80s on Monday (with a severe storm risk) give rise to a big cool-down in a week with highs in the 50s, frost up north? Time to dig out your favorite sweatshirt.

Not. Ready.


Tornado statistics above courtesy of the Minnesota DNR.


Several Injured from Western Wisconsin EF-3 Tornado. The tornado that struck after dark Tuesday night was estimated to be an EF-3, with winds of 136-165 mph. Details via WSAW.com: “The Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department states multiple injuries occurred Tuesday night due to a tornado. The first involved a semi driver on Highway 29 in the town of Wheaton. Witness video showed several semis overturned. Another person was injured when a mobile home was overturned. And several people who rely on electric medical devices needed assistance due to power outages. First responders from Chippewa Fire District and mutual aid departments spent the evening check on residents and clearing roads. The National Weather Service in the Twin Cities reports a tornado Tuesday in the town of Wheaton is an EF-3. The sheriff’s department said homes along 26th Street south of Highway 29 were significantly damaged. Storage buildings, outbuildings and barns are also damaged…”

Photo credit: “Chippewa Falls tornado.” Sept. 25, 2019 (WEAU)


Strongest September Tornado in Wisconsin Since 2002. WQOW.com has the details.



7-Day Rainfall Potential. Although heaviest rains will pass south of Minnesota a few additional inches of rain is expected by the middle of next week. Map: Twin Cities National Weather Service.


Shorts and Sweatshirts – Together. ECMWF guidance shows a temperature spike next Monday (when T-storms may be severe) – marking the leading edge of an autumnal airmass with 50-degree highs the latter half of next week. Graphic: WeatherBell.

A Drier, Cooler Second Week of October. Confidence levels are fairly low with a 500mb GFS 2-week outlook, but October will almost certainly start out cooler than average. Maybe we’ll get a break from the parade of storms too.

Slow-Moving Atlantic Storms Like Imelda and Dorian Are Growing More Common. Dr. Jeff Masters reports for Weather Underground Category 6; here’s an excerpt: “...Imelda, Dorian, Florence, Harvey, and Idai are examples of storms we have been seeing more often in recent decades: ones that move more slowly over land, resulting in increased flooding and damage. The forward speed of tropical cyclones (which includes all hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions) has decreased globally by about 10% since 1949, according to a 2018 paper in the journal Nature by NOAA hurricane scientist Dr. Jim Kossin. As a result of their slower forward motion, these storms are now more likely to drop heavier rains, increasing their flood risk. Most significantly, the study reported a 20% slow-down in storm translation speed over land for Atlantic storms, a 30% slow-down over land for Northwest Pacific storms, and a 19% slow-down over land for storms affecting the Australia region. (See my June 2018 post, Observed Slowdown in Tropical Cyclone Motion May Portend More Harvey-Like Rainstorms.)...”

September 1 visible image: AerisWeather and Praedictix.


Houston Cleans Up After Imelda’s Devastating Rains: Climate Nexus has links and headlines: “Authorities confirmed a fifth death this weekend linked to devastating rainfall from Tropical Storm Imelda as the Houston area struggles to recover from last week’s intense flooding. Around 60 residents were rescued by boat Friday after the storm dropped as much as 43 inches of rain in some areas. Cleanup crews are still surveying damages in the area to determine if the county is eligible for FEMA funds to mitigate the impacts. Extreme rainfall is a classic signature of climate change: the number of record-breaking rainfall events globally has significantly increased in recent decades, and the fingerprint of global warming is documented in this pattern.” (AP, Houston Chronicle $, LA Times $, Texas Tribune, Fox News. Background: Climate Signals)

Photo: Fox Business. “People wait outside of their stranded vehicles along Interstate 10 westbound at T.C Jester, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The freeway was closed because of high water east bound on the freeway.” (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)


Imelda, Florence, Harvey: Bigger Rains and Bigger Floods. The National Resources Defense Council has a timely post; here’s a clip: “…In addition, the costs of recovery are not just borne by flood survivors but extend to taxpayers, too. Before Imelda struck, Texas had suffered 52 flood-related major disaster declarations since 1978. In just the last 20 years, Texas received over $5.5 billion dollars in Public Assistance Grants to assist in recovery—$2.2 billion of which has been spent to rebuild and repair public infrastructure, which is likely to increase as FEMA continues to provide money for Hurricane Harvey recovery.  And that’s just Texas. Nationwide, the federal government has distributed $89 billion in Public Assistance Grants in response to flood-related disasters. The nation’s ability to prepare for and adapt to such disasters must change...”


New Satellite May Make Flood Prediction Easier. We’re going to need better detection tools as the frequency and intensity of flooding continues to increase. Here’s a clip from a press release at Ohio State: “A satellite on schedule to launch in 2021 could offer a more comprehensive look at flooding in vulnerable, under-studied parts of the world, including much of Africa, South America and Indonesia, a new study has found. The study, published last month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that the satellite also will likely improve flood modeling around the world, even in areas that are already studied extensively, especially in the United States and Canada. That could mean more accurate flood plain maps and better predictions about which areas are likely to flood after snowmelt, hurricanes, ice jam breakup and others…”

Photo credit: “A volunteer looks for the owner of a dog he rescued from the rising waters of Hurricane Dorian, on a flooded road near the Causarina bridge in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. The storm’s punishing winds and muddy brown floodwaters devastated thousands of homes, crippled hospitals and trapped people in attics.” (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)


World’s Forests Are Burning – Damage Goes Far Beyond Amazon. Here’s a clip from Fortune: “From the Amazon to central Africa, forests are burning. In late August, for example, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research said that the number of fires in the country—largely set by humans—had jumped 84% this year over the same period in 2018. The amount of Amazon forest cover lost in Brazil in that span spiked 39%. Last year, according to Global Forest Watch, the tropics overall lost some 8.9 million acres of primary rain forest—an area equal to the size of Belgium. But not just rain forests are aflame: Greenpeace estimates that massive blazes in Siberia this year have released more than 166 metric tons of CO2, nearly equal to the annual emissions of 36 million cars…”


The Problem With Switching to Electric Cars. There is no panacea, but going on a carbon diet will require new ways to think about both transportation and development, argues a piece at CityLab: “…Electric vehicles could have an important role to play in this transition. While Minneapolis famously undid its restrictive single-family zoning laws in a bid to boost residential density, it is also teaming up with St. Paul to launch the first municipally owned electric car-sharing system in the Twin Cities, one designed to complement transit and lure commuters out of their cars. “We really think car-sharing will shed single-occupant, self-owned cars and postpone the buying of an individual vehicle,” says Will Schroeer, the executive director of East Metro Strong, a transit advocacy group in the Twin Cities. “One shared vehicle takes about eight to 11 private cars off the road...”

Photo credit: “Electric vehicles remains a tiny sliver of the overal U.S. vehicle fleet. But even mass EV adoption is no magic fix for transportation-related carbon emissions.Richard Vogel/AP.


Tesla May Soon Have a Battery That Can Last a Million Miles. A story at WIRED.com almost made me fall off the couch: “Last April, Elon Musk promised that Tesla would soon be able to power its electric cars for more than 1 million miles over the course of their lifespan. At the time, the claim seemed a bit much. That’s more than double the mileage Tesla owners can expect to get out of their car’s current battery packs, which are already well beyond the operational range of most other EV batteries. It just didn’t seem real—except now it appears that it is. Earlier this month, a group of battery researchers at Dalhousie University, which has an exclusive agreement with Tesla, published a paper in The Journal of the Electrochemical Society describing a lithium-ion battery that “should be able to power an electric vehicle for over 1 million miles” while losing less than 10 percent of its energy capacity during its lifetime…”

Photo credit: Wade Vandervort/AP.


Buttigieg Is Right: College Football is “Problematic”. So says the author of a post at New York Magazine’s Intelligencer. Do you agree? Here’s an excerpt: “...College football is a sport that brings in more than a billion dollars a year and one that is under increased public pressure to bring at least some of that money closer to the players who are putting their minds and bodies on the line for free each week. So far, that money is just going to the middle-aged, mostly white men ordering them around: Clemson itself has three assistants who make more than $1 million a year. In a sign of just how imbalanced this has become, for the first time, in 2018, college athletic spending for coaches outpaced spending on scholarships. It is the sort of factoid that gives up the game…”


Score One for the Walruses. Business Insider reports: “In a kind of odd man-versus-nature moment, a Russian navy boat was attacked and sunk by a walrus during an expedition in the Arctic, the Barents Observer reported Monday.  The Altai, a tugboat of the Russian navy’s Northern Fleet, sailed to the Franz Josef Land archipelago in the Arctic carrying researchers from the Russian Geographical Society.  “The polar latitudes are fraught with many dangers,” the research group posted in a recent press update…”

Photo credit: “The Altai sitting offshore as a landing craft appears to move in. Russian Ministry of Defense.


Apple Watch Can Save Your Life. The Seattle Times has a story that has me reconsidering wearing a smart watch: “Bob Burdett was on his bike just before noon on Sept. 15, heading to meet his son for an afternoon of mountain biking at Riverside State Park. He was several miles from his South Hill home and was going to be early for his 12:30 p.m. rendezvous with his son. As he coasted to the bottom of Doomsday Hill, Burdett, 62, approached a turn at a little more than 20 mph. His bike veered right. His body flew left. Then his helmeted head hit the ground so hard it knocked him unconscious — hard enough for his Apple Watch to feel it. “A hit that hard could have killed me if I weren’t wearing it,” Burdett said…”

Photo credit: “Bob Burdett, right, holds up his Apple Watch, now scratched and damaged from a devastating bicycle crash on Spokane’s Doomsday Hill. As he lay bleeding and unconscious from a head wound on Sunday, Sept. 15, the watch automatically called his son, Gabe, left, and emergency services, based on the watch sensing a hard crash.” (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review).


71 F. maximum temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.

68 F. average high on September 25.

59 F. high on September 25, 2018.

September 26, 1980: Cold morning lows are recorded, with 20 degrees at Tower and 16 at Embarrass.

September 26, 1942: 1.8 inches of snow falls in St. Cloud.



THURSDAY: Fading sun. Rain Thursday night. Winds: SW 10-15. High: 67

FRIDAY: Morning puddles, then partial clearing. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 58. High: 68

SATURDAY: Mix of clouds and sunshine, cool. Winds: E 7-12. Wake-up: 47. High: 62

SUNDAY: Damp, showers and T-storms likely. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 49. High: 67

MONDAY: Warm and sticky, a few rough T-storms? Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 63. High: 81

TUESDAY: Showery rains, cooling off. Winds: N 7-12. Wake-up: 59. High: 71

WEDNESDAY: Period of heavier rain possible. Winds: E 10-20. Wake-up: 52. High: 56


Climate Stories….

Extreme Sea Level Events “Will Hit Once a Year by 2050”. The Guardian highlights new projections; here’s a snippet: “Extreme sea level events that used to occur once a century will strike every year on many coasts by 2050, no matter whether climate heating emissions are curbed or not, according to a landmark report by the world’s scientists. The stark assessment of the climate crisis in the world’s oceans and ice caps concludes that many serious impacts are already inevitable, from more intense storms to melting permafrost and dwindling marine life. But far worse impacts will hit without urgent action to cut fossil fuel emissions, including eventual sea level rise of more than 4 metres in the worst case, an outcome that would redraw the map of the world and harm billions of people…”

Photo credit: “A child walks through floodwaters near a pier in California. The climate crisis can expose millions to flooding.” Photograph: Ana Venegas/AP.


New U.N. Climate Report: Earth’s Oceans Are In “Big Trouble”. Daily Beast has a recap; here’s an excerpt: “A new climate report by the United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns of “severe damage” to the world’s oceans and icy regions. The 42-page summary published Wednesday morning says Earth’s oceans are under such severe strain from climate change that everything from seafood harvests to the well-being of hundreds of millions of people along the coasts will soon be in jeopardy. Rising temperatures are to blame for a drop in fish population and an increase in acidity levels threaten marine ecosystems. The rising temps also contribute to ice melt, meaning oceans have risen about 16 centimeters since the beginning of the 20th century—more than double the rate of the previous 100 years. The warmer oceans will continue to fuel harsher tropical storms and floods, which poses the greatest threat to coastal populations...”


New U.N. Climate Report: Massive Change Already Here For World’s Oceans and Frozen Regions. The Washington Post has more perspective: “Climate change is already having staggering effects on oceans and ice-filled regions that encompass 80 percent of the Earth, and future damage from rising seas and melting glaciers is now all but certain, according to a sobering new report from the United Nations. The warming climate is already killing coral reefs, supercharging monster storms, and fueling deadly marine heat waves and record losses of sea ice. And Wednesday’s report on the world’s oceans, glaciers, polar regions and ice sheets finds that such effects foreshadow a more catastrophic future as long as greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked. Given current emissions levels, a number of serious effects are essentially unavoidable, says the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)…”

Photo credit: “Lightning is seen over the Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 4 as Hurricane Dorian approaches Carolina Beach, N.C.” (Elijah Nouvelage for The Washington Post).


‘How Dare You?’: Climate Nexus has headlines and URLs: “Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg made an impassioned speech at the UN Monday where she raged at world leaders for not doing enough on climate change. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction,” Thunberg said with tears in her eyes. “And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?” Thunberg and 15 other young people from 12 different nations filed a joint complaint Monday alleging that Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey have failed to uphold their commitments under the treaty Convention on the Rights of the Child by not acting on climate change. Thunberg’s speech came at the start of the UN’s Climate Action Summit Monday, which wrapped with mixed results: 77 countries committed to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and 70 countries announced they would strengthen their climate targets, but major powers like the United States, China, and India failed to make significant new commitments.” (Speech: Buzzfeed, The Nation, NPRWashington Post $, The Guardian, WSJ $, ReutersAxios, LA Times $. Complaint: CNN, Reuters. UN roundup: New York Times $, APWashington Post $, BBC, Reuters, InsideClimate NewsAxios, Vox)


Why Greta Makes Adults Uncomfortable. Analysis from The Atlantic: “…And when Thunberg talks about this, especially in private, she sounds a lot like … a teenager. “We are not the ones who are responsible for this, but we are the ones who have to live with these consequences, and that is so incredibly unfair,” she said at one point. And this is the way to understand Thunberg that paints her as neither a saint nor a demon but that still captures her appeal. Thunberg epitomizes, in a person, the unique moral position of being a teenager. She can see the world through an “adult” moral lens, and so she knows that the world is a heartbreakingly flawed place. But unlike an actual adult, she bears almost no conscious blame for this dismal state. Thunberg seems to gesture at this when referring to herself as a “child,” which she does often in speeches…”

Photo credit:Greta Thunberg delivers remarks at the UN Climate Summit.” Carlo Allegri / Reuters.


Teen Girls Are Leading Climate Strikes and Changing the Face of Environmentalism. The Washington Post has an explainer: “Something different is happening here,” the University of Maryland sociologist said. “We have a new wave of contention in society that’s being led by women. … And the youth climate movement is leading this generational shift.” In a survey of more than 100 U.S. organizers of the climate strike and nearly 200 participants in the Washington event, Fisher found that 68 percent of organizers and 58 percent of participants identified as female. People of color made up at least 33 percent of the protesters in Washington — a proportion that almost matches the racial demographics of the United States…”

Photo credit: “About 100 students from Blair High and Northwood Middle schools rallied outside the Silver Spring Metro station in Maryland on Friday to kick off the climate strike.” (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post).


Scared Central Banks Face Up to Threats from Climate Change. Bloomberg explains: “…Then there’s the risk of economic shocks caused by effects of extreme weather, whether in the direct damage they cause or their impacts on production. Climate change also threatens increased migration prompted by rising sea levels, droughts and land degradation — a phenomenon that JPMorgan Chase & Co warns could lead to “brain drain” and hurt developing economies. Mortgages for homes built on flood-prone lands, or bonds for companies reliant on fossil fuel-intensive business, could pose a threat if their riskiness isn’t quantified and mitigated. And insurance, a crucial node of the finance system, might find its viability undermined by climate change…”


Tracking Warming Oceans. Climate Central looks at where additional greenhouse gas warming is going: “In recent decades, more than 90% of the excess heat and 25% of human-caused CO2 emissions have gone into the ocean. This has limited the severity of global warming on land, but with major consequences that affect humans and ecosystems alike. The warming waters are devastating coral reefs, and leading to oxygen depletion with dead zones that inhibit marine life. Dissolved CO2 also leads to an increase in ocean acidity, which has surged by 30% over the past 250 years—with significant impacts on many species. And rising sea levels are already an urgent concern, flooding coastal communities around the world. Drastically cutting our greenhouse gas emissions—as emphasized in last year’s IPCC report—would lessen these impacts…”



In South Florida, Signs of the Climate Refugee Crisis To Come. Huffington Post reports; here’s an excerpt: “…Dorian came to break up families,” Lewis said. “My mom, this is her first grandchild. We’re supposed to be together. She’s supposed to be there helping me … It’s like we got to go and fight for our life now.” Dorian was a slow-motion train wreck that human-caused climate change supercharged. Above-average ocean temperatures fueled the storm as it crept through the Bahamas at a sluggish 1 mph. And like hurricanes Harvey and Florence, Dorian offers a glimpse at the future of hurricanes in a rapidly warming world. Research shows there’s been a marked slowdown in the speed of hurricanes over both water and land, which increases the risk of heavy rain, flooding and storm surge...”

Photo credit: “A boy dribbles a ball through debris caused by Hurricane Dorian in Freeport, Grand Bahama Sept. 21, 2019.” .