Precious Little Weather-Boredom in Minnesota

Some days I wonder if Minnesotans aren’t afflicted with a wicked case of “thaasophobia”, which is fear of being bored. Think about it. We enjoy complaining about the weather. Other days we brag about Minnesota’s super-sized fronts and storms.

It’s a defense mechanism. By fixating on Minnesota’s manic meteorology we a) avoid politics and b) follow in the fierce footsteps of Paul Bunyan. We are a race of Weather Superheroes. There’s a (bad) Marvel movie in here somewhere.

November got off to a numbing start (11.6F colder than average at MSP) but temperatures consistently rise above freezing for the next 2 weeks. After single digits and teens I’m always amazed and amused by how good 40s can feel.

Big sloppy storms detour south/east of Minnesota. A Sunday clipper drags a light rain-snow mix into town; more slush possible next Thursday.

Models hint at a bigger storm around Thanksgiving, which wouldn’t surprise me at all. Until then your weather tales won’t be all that interesting.

I’m fine with that.

Sunday Slush? ECMWF is hinting at a coating of slush for the northeastern half of Minnesota Sunday morning and midday, with an inch or 2 possible from the Minnesota Arrowhead into central Wisconsin. Air temperatures should be close to freezing – many freeways will probably be wet much of the day Sunday. Map: WeatherBell.

ENSO-Neutral Conditions Favored Into Spring. No El Nino to save us this winter. Here’s an update from NOAA NCEP: “...The majority of models in the IRI/CPC plume (Fig. 6) continue to favor ENSO-neutral (Nino-3.4 indexbetween -0.5C and +0.5C) through the Northern Hemisphere spring. Many dynamical forecast models, including the NCEP CFSv2, suggest Nino-3.4 SST index values will remain near +0.5C during November before decreasing toward zero. Forecasters believe this recent warmth reflects sub-seasonal variability and is not indicative of an evolution toward El Nino. The chances for El Nino are predicted to be near 25% during the winter and spring…”

IBM Launches New Weather Model. Does ECMWF (European model) have a worthy new competitor? Here’s a clip from “In a potentially historic marriage of supercomputing and big data, IBM goes live Thursday with a global weather model that it says can provide far more accurate forecasts for the entire world. Called GRAF — Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting — the new model offers high resolution weather forecasts globally with a detail for areas as small as 2 miles wide, compared with 6 to 9 miles for weather models covering parts of the world outside such advanced regions as Europe, the U.S. and Japan. IBM says its new supercomputer, DYEUS, built just to run the model, will issue 12 trillion pieces of weather data every day and process forecasts every hour, while many global weather models update only every six to 12 hours...”

Who Is Winning the Thermostat War? has an interesting story; here’s an excerpt: “According to a 2015 paper, temperatures in office buildings appear to be based on the heat needs of a 40-year-old, 154-pound man. That gender bias actually has an effect on worker productivity. Prior studies have shown that women perform at higher levels on mental tasks when they are warmer, while men tend to function better at a cooler temperature. One study tested verbal and math skills of Berlin college students and found that increasing the temperature from the 60s to the 70s Fahrenheit improved female math scores by 15%. Men’s scores dropped by 3% with the same temperature variation. Clothing didn’t explain the differences — both sexes wore T-shirts and shorts during the exams…”

Tips for Winterizing Your Car. The Washington Post has some timely advice: “…Ensure your tires are properly inflated. Low tire pressure affects braking distances and makes a car harder to steer, and the wild temperature swings we see in the winter can wreak havoc on our tires. According to Tom Williams, Discount Tire’s senior vice president of customer experience, for every 10 degrees the temperature drops, tires lose one pound of pressure per square inch. During a cold snap, your vehicle’s tire pressure-monitoring system light could start flashing on your dash. Head to your local tire store or, if you are a DIYer, consider buying a portable electric air pump from an auto-supply or home-improvement store. You can find your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure on a placard on the driver-side doorjamb…”

It’s Freezing, You Guys: Climate Nexus has links and headlines: “Temperatures plunged rapidly across the United States this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday. A dip in the jet stream is bringing Arctic air to states across the country, with snow falling in the Midwest and Northeast and parts of the South under freeze watches. “Many of the unprecedented weather extremes we’ve seen in recent years have been extreme summer events—heat waves, wildfires, et cetera—but we’re also seeing increases in extremes during the fall and winter and spring…there is a signature of human-caused climate change,” scientist Michael Mann said in a video on this fall’s extremes from Climate Signals. “The unusual warming of the Arctic appears to be influencing the behavior of the northern hemisphere jet stream in a way that gives us those large undulations where you see big peaks and troughs in the jet stream.” (New York Times $, CNN, Washington Post $. Video: Climate Signals. Background: Climate Signals)

Worst Venice Flooding in 50 Years. Daily Beast has the story: “The worst flooding to hit Venice in over 50 years is a direct result of climate change, the city’s mayor has said. Severe flooding has left much of the iconic Italian city submerged, with the waters peaking at 1.87 meters—the worst since a catastrophic flood reached 1.94m in 1966. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro tweeted that the floods will leave a “permanent mark,” adding: “Now the government must listen… These are the effects of climate change… the costs will be high.” Shocking pictures showed famous tourist sites completely flooded, including St. Mark’s Square and St Mark’s Basilica, which was flooded for only the sixth time in 1,200 years. Two people died on the island of Pellestrina—one man was electrocuted as he started a pump in his home and a second person was found dead elsewhere…”
Photo credit: Reuters / Manuel Silvestri.

Workshop Calls for More Investment in Flash Flood Guidance Systems. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has details: “Flash floods cause more than 5,000 deaths worldwide annually, exceeding any other weather-related event. As the global population increases, especially in urban areas, and societies continue to encroach upon floodplains, the need for flash flood early warning systems becomes more paramount. In response to this need, the World Meteorological Organization, the U.S. National Weather Service, the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, and the Hydrologic Research Center formed a partnership in 2007 to develop and implement an early warning flash flood forecasting system (Flash Flood Guidance System – FFGS) for global application. By 2019, over 3 billion people in 67 countries are being provided early warnings of potential flash flooding through their National Meteorological and Hydrological Services working in concert with their National Disaster Management Agencies…”
File image: NOAA.

Firestorms and Flaming Tornadoes: How Brushfires Create Their Own Ferocious Weather Systems. has an interesting post; here’s a clip: “...In the case of a pyrocumulonimbus, these downbursts have the added effect of bringing dry air down to the surface beneath the fire. The swirling winds can also carry embers over huge distances. Ember attack has been identified as the main cause of property loss in bushfires, and the unpredictable downbursts make it impossible to determine which direction the wind will blow across the ground. The wind direction may suddenly change, catching people off guard. Firestorms also produce dry lightning, potentially sparking new fires, which may then merge or coalesce into a larger flaming zone. In rare cases, a firestorm can even morph into a “fire tornado.” This is formed from the rotating winds in the convective column of a pyrocumulonimbus. They are attached to the firestorm and can therefore lift off the ground…”
Photo credit: “A firestorm on Mirror Plateaun Yellowstone Park, 1988.” Credit: Jim Peaco/US National Park Service.

AP: At Least 1,680 Dams Across the U.S. Post Potential Risk. Associated Press explains: “A more than two-year investigation by The Associated Press has found scores of dams nationwide in even worse condition, and in equally dangerous locations. They loom over homes, businesses, highways or entire communities that could face life-threatening floods if the dams don’t hold. A review of federal data and reports obtained under state open records laws identified 1,688 high-hazard dams rated in poor or unsatisfactory condition as of last year in 44 states and Puerto Rico. The actual number is almost certainly higher: Some states declined to provide condition ratings for their dams, claiming exemptions to public record requests. Others simply haven’t rated all their dams due to lack of funding, staffing or authority to do so...”

File photo: “This photo provided by the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources shows the Spencer Dam near Spencer, Neb., in March 2019, after the dam failed during a flood.” (Nebraska Department of Natural Resources via AP).

State Finds 56% of Minnesota’s Lakes and Streams are “Impaired”. A troubling new report highlighted at Star Tribune: “More than half of Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams — including a popular stretch of the St. Croix River near the Twin Cities — fail to meet water-quality standards for protecting aquatic life and human health and are classified as “impaired.” The St. Croix is one of 581 new waterways added to the state’s impaired waters list for 2020, due for release Wednesday by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). With the new list, the state has finished a 10-year sampling effort and now has a complete inventory of contaminated waters, a tool that can be used to track future progress in reducing water pollution…”

Photo credit: David Joles – Star Tribune. “A boat cruising the St. Croix River is seen from the St. Croix River bridge in Stillwater in 2018.”

Freaked Out by Superbugs. The Washington Post has the troubling news: “Drug-resistant germs sicken about 3 million people every year in the United States and kill about 35,000, representing a much larger public health threat than previously understood, according to a long-awaited report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new estimates show that, on average, someone in the United States gets an antibiotic-resistant infection every 11 seconds, and every 15 minutes, someone dies. Bacteria, fungi and other germs that have developed a resistance to antibiotics and other drugs pose one of the gravest public health challenges and a baffling problem for modern medicine…”

Image credit: “Drug-resistant gonorrhea infections have surged. The CDC ranks these bacteria among its top five “urgent” threats.” (iStock)

How America Ends. The Atlantic addresses the tectonic demographic shift underway; here’s an excerpt: “…Within the living memory of most Americans, a majority of the country’s residents were white Christians. That is no longer the case, and voters are not insensate to the change—nearly a third of conservatives say they face “a lot” of discrimination for their beliefs, as do more than half of white evangelicals. But more epochal than the change that has already happened is the change that is yet to come: Sometime in the next quarter century or so, depending on immigration rates and the vagaries of ethnic and racial identification, nonwhites will become a majority in the U.S. For some Americans, that change will be cause for celebration; for others, it may pass unnoticed...”

Talking Dog. Big Think had a post that blew me away. Stella appears to have a better vocabulary than I do: “A speech language pathologist (SLP) has taught her puppy Stella to use 29 words. Stella “speaks” by stepping on large buttons programmed with recordings of words. The dog expresses her desires, comments on household events, and offers opinions. SLP Christina Hunger remarked: “If Jake and I were distracted, Stella began saying ‘play’ repeatedly until we threw her toy or engaged in tug of war. Stella would walk to her water bowl, notice it was empty and say ‘water.’ If we had finished dinner and didn’t mention going for a walk yet, Stella would say ‘walk’ multiple times while staring at us. If her toy was stuck under the couch, she would say ‘help’ and stand right where she needed Jake or I to look. When our friends were putting their jackets on or were standing by the door, she would say ‘bye’ to them. Jake and I were simply amazed.”

Image credit: Hunger4Words.

32 F. high on Thursday in the Twin Cities.

42 F. average high on November 14.

43 F. maximum temperature on November 14, 2018.

November 15, 1976: So far this year there were over three thousand forest fires in Minnesota.

FRIDAY: Blue sky, light winds. Winds: NE 3-8. High: 39

SATURDAY: Clouds increase, stiff breeze. Winds: S 10-25. Wake-up: 29. High: 42

SUNDAY: Light rain-snow mix. Clouds linger. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 33. High: 38

MONDAY: More clouds than sun, dry. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 28. High: 37

TUESDAY: Still gray, good travel weather. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 30. High: 41

WEDNESDAY: Mostly cloudy and quiet. Winds: E 7-12. Wake-up: 31. High: 39

THURSDAY: Chance of wet snow or a mix. Winds: N 10-20. Wake-up: 28. High: 36

Climate Stories….

New Crop of Pests Invades. If you missed it, Jennifer Bjorhus’s story at Star Tribune, deserves a read. Here’s an excerpt: “…The spotted wing drosophila is just one of several destructive invasive insects, weeds and diseases moving in on Minnesota as climate change brings warming winters, longer growing seasons and increased rainfall. To the general public, these invasive insects may be most obvious in their destruction of trees: Eastern larch beetles have decimated stands of tamaracks, and the emerald ash borer has ravaged city canopies. But the damage to agriculture could turn out to be just as serious. The drosophila cost growers $2.4 million in crop losses and spraying costs in just one year and quickly forced some Minnesota fruit orchards out of business, according to a recent study. Some produce operations might be forced to install elaborate netting and other costly techniques to protect their crops. And farmers are on alert for another invader, the brown marmorated stink bug, which caused “catastrophic damage” to the produce harvest in several mid-Atlantic states in 2010, according to the University of Massachusetts Amherst...”

Photo credit: “Ryan Femling of Afton Apple Orchard is battling the spotted wing drosophila, an invasive fruit fly that destroys his raspberry crop.” Photo by Mark Vancleave • Star Tribune.

How to Cut U.S. Carbon Pollution by Nearly 40% in 10 Years. The Atlantic has the story; here’s a clip: “…The research is promising. Last week, a study from economists at Columbia University found that the tax plan with the most support in Congress would slash American carbon pollution by almost 40 percent within a decade. It would outperform any Obama-era climate policy and go well beyond the United States’ 2015 commitment under the Paris Agreement. There’s only one hitch: the politics. There is a popular, revenue-neutral carbon-tax bill in Congress, but it is only “bipartisan” on a technicality. Dozens of Democrats support the plan. Its sole GOP backer is planning to leave politics…”

Photo credit: Jonathan Ernst / Reuters.

How Climate Change Will Change Kids’ Reality: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Babies born today will face unprecedented health risks and life-long health consequences from rising temperatures, according to new research published Wednesday from The Lancet. The 2019 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, a comprehensive yearly analysis tracking the impact of climate change on human health across 41 indicators, finds that under a business-as-usual scenario, a child born today will face a world on average 4˚C warmer by their 71st birthday. They will face life-altering consequences including food shortages, spread of disease, lack of safe drinking water, increasingly deadly fires and floods, and increasing numbers of days across expanding regions where temperatures and air pollution make it unsafe to go outside. “Without immediate action from all countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions, gains in well being and life expectancy will be compromised, and climate change will come to define the health of an entire generation,” Lancet executive director Nick Watts told CNBC.” (AP, New York Times $, USA TodayThe Guardian, Vox, Wired, NPR, CNN, CBS, Reuters, Gizmodo, Fast Company, CNBC)

Flood, Fire and Plague: Climate Change Blamed for Disasters. Reuters connects the dots: “…In China, health officials have reported a rare outbreak of pneumonic plague after two cases were confirmed this week in Beijing. The two were infected in the province of Inner Mongolia, where rodent populations have expanded dramatically after persistent droughts, worsened by climate change, state media said. An area the size of the Netherlands was hit by a “rat plague” last summer. The wider implications for health are sobering. The Lancet medical journal published a study this week saying climate change was already harming people’s health by increasing the number of extreme weather events and exacerbating air pollution. A warmer world brings risks of food shortages, infectious diseases, floods and extreme heat…”

File image: NOAA.

If The US Military is Facing Up to the Climate Crisis, Shouldn’t We All? Here’s a snippet of an Op-Ed at The Guardian: “…Equally worrisome, in the generals’ view, is the likelihood that climate change will cause grave harm to the homeland. The nation’s East and Gulf Coasts are highly exposed to powerful hurricanes while its West and Southwest are vulnerable to prolonged droughts and forest fires. To make matters worse, scientists fear that extreme events of this sort will increasingly occur in clusters, with one disaster following immediately after another—much as Hurricanes Irma and Maria followed Harvey in August-September 2017. For the US military, the prospect of an increasing frequency of storm clusters is deeply troubling, as the armed forces will repeatedly be called upon to assist local authorities in providing relief services, diverting them from other core responsibilities...”

Photo credit: “The storms that devastated much of the southeast in 2017 also battered numerous bases, resulting in the mandatory evacuation of most personnel.” Photograph: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters.

Google’s Employees Demand Climate Action. Details via TheHill: “If more than 1,000 Google employees get their way the tech company will have zero carbon emissions by 2030 and adopt an aggressive climate action plan. The tech workers have all signed a public letter addressed to Google’s chief financial officer, Ruth Porat. The letter contained a variety of requests including the cancellation of the company’s contracts with the fossil fuel industry and cessation of any donations to climate change deniers. Further demands touched on themes that weren’t climate related, such as, “zero collaboration with entities enabling the incarceration, surveillance, displacement or oppression of refugees or frontline communities...”

Image credit: Scott Kelly, ISS – NASA.

Climate Change Lawsuits Are Not Going Away. Vox reports: “…These cases are part of a rising tide of litigation instigated by young people, local governments, cities, and states seeking to hold private companies and governments accountable for contributing to climate change, misleading the public about it, and profiting from it. Once viewed as a longshot tactic for spurring action on climate change, several of these lawsuits have overcome attempts to dismiss them. However, many remain in uncharted legal territory that are applying existing laws in new ways. And some courts, including the Supreme Court, have voiced their skepticism about the merits of these cases. At stake is billions of dollars in liabilities for fossil fuel companies and legal precedents that could burst the dam and pave the way for even more lawsuits. So it’s worth paying attention to how these climate lawsuits are proceeding. Here are some of the bigger recent developments...”

Can Batteries Help Power Our Climate Solutions? Here’s an excerpt from Climate Central that caught my eye: “…Just as the cost of solar and wind energy has dropped in recent years, the price of battery energy storage is also declining—with a 76% drop in U.S. prices since 2012. While prices of battery-plus-solar technologies are not yet cheaper than other generation technologies, it is worth considering the present value they may add in mitigating financial losses from grid outages. It’s not just homes and businesses that batteries can power, but electric vehicles, too. Batteries supplied by low-carbon electricity sources have the potential to significantly decrease the 29% of US carbon dioxide emissions produced by the transportation sector. Work is ongoing to make battery technology safer, more powerful and more accessible, bringing a carbon-free energy system ever closer to reality…”