Spring Fever Watch Issued for Wednesday

On paper, snow should melt from the top down. Turns out it melts from the bottom up. The sun’s warmth heats the (darker) ground, which melts snow at ground level.

As our thaw accelerates this week, more of the sun’s energy will go into warming up the air, instead of melting snow. The result should be 50s today and a very good chance of low 60s Wednesday – almost 20F
warmer than average. If you don’t have The Fever yet, give it about 24-36 hours.

Cooler air leaks southward for Thursday’s Twins Opener, sparking more clouds. A stray shower or sprinkle can’t be ruled out, but most of the afternoon should be cloudy and dry at Target field, with temperatures hovering around 50F. A couple notches better than last year, when the first-pitch temperature was a crisp 38F.

Readers are asking if winter is really over? Sort of. Expect a few final tantrums of slush in coming weeks. On Friday a rain-snow mix may drop a couple inches of slush on far southern Minnesota. Don’t worry. It’ll melt.

With any luck, we won’t enjoy a mid-April blizzard this year. 

Flood Warnings. The Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service has the latest Flood Warnings here. Maps above courtesy of AerisWeather and Praedictix.

Mildest Surge Since Last October? The ECMWF, as well as NOAA models, are fairly consistent, showing low to mid 60s on Wednesday. With a stiff southwest breeze, some sunshine, and very little snow cover left near MSP International it’s entirely possible. The last time we saw 60s was October 22, 2018 when the mercury hit 61F at MSP. ECMWF: WeatherBell.

Cue Debbie Downer. ECMWF hints at a couple inches of wet, sloppy snow Friday night over far southern Minnesota, maybe a coating in the metro after dark. Whatever falls should melt by late morning Saturday. No, really. Map: WeatherBell.

Second Week of April: Mostly 50s. I see no signs (yet) of an imminent relapse of numbing air. We’ll see a few more dying spasms of cold, but we seem to have turned the corner into a more springlike pattern. Imagine that.

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…”

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 Amazon.com. Simply put, everything that can be digitized will be digitized...”

Rick Steves Wants To Set You Free. The art of traveling exposes you to other cultures, other ways of living, that ultimately modify and moderate your own perspectives and prejudices? The New York Times has a post worth reading: “…And yet: Rick Steves desperately wants you to leave America. The tiniest exposure to the outside world, he believes, will change your entire life. Travel, Steves likes to say, “wallops your ethnocentricity” and “carbonates your experience” and “rearranges your cultural furniture.” Like sealed windows on a hot day, a nation’s borders can be stultifying. Steves wants to crack them open, to let humanity’s breezes circulate. The more rootedly American you are, the more Rick Steves wants this for you. If you have never had a passport, if you are afraid of the world, if your family would prefer to vacation exclusively at Walt Disney World, if you worry that foreigners are rude and predatory and prone to violence or at least that their food will give you diarrhea, then Steves wants you — especially you — to go to Europe. Then he wants you to go beyond...”

Photo credit: “Rick Steves seems miraculously untouched by the need to look cool, which of course makes him sneakily cool.” Photo illustration by Zachary Scott for The New York Times.

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…”

Spaceflight is Activating Herpes in Astronauts. Go into space – get herpes! CNN.com explains: “The longer astronauts spend in space, the more likely they are to have viruses like herpes, chickenpox and shingles reactivate, according to new NASA research. The reason may be the same for viral reactivation on Earth: stress. Samples of blood, urine and saliva were collected from astronauts before, during and after short space shuttle flights and long-term International Space Station missions. Herpes viruses reactivated in more than half of the astronauts. The study published last week in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. “To date, 47 out of 89 (53%) astronauts on short space shuttle flights, and 14 out of 23 (61%) on longer ISS missions shed herpes viruses in their saliva or urine samples,” said lead study author Satish K. Mehta at Johnson Space Center…”

Image credit: Astronaut Scott Kelly, NASA ISS.

47 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

46 F. average high on March 25.

43 F. high on March 25, 2018.

March 26, 2012: This is the record early ice-out date on Mille Lacs Lake.

March 26, 2007: Temperature records are shattered across much of central and southern Minnesota and west central Wisconsin. The following records were set: 69 at Alexandria, 75 at Mankato, 77 at Little Falls, 79 at St. Cloud, 81 at Minneapolis-St. Paul and Eau Claire, 82 at Redwood Falls, and 83 at Springfield.

TUESDAY: Patchy clouds, milder. Winds: S 10-15. High: 52

WEDNESDAY: Touch of late April. Mild sunshine. Winds: SW 15-25. Wake-up: 41. High: 62

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy, isolated shower. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 44. High: near 50 (falling)

FRIDAY: Rain-snow mix southern Minnesota. Winds: N 8-13. Wake-up: 36. High: 42

SATURDAY: Drying out. More clouds than sun. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 28. High: 41

SUNDAY: Partly sunny, a bit milder. Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 20. High: 46

MONDAY: Patchy clouds, near normal temps. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 27. High: 49

Climate Stories….

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.

America Cares About Climate Change Again. If only. Here’s the intro to a pst at The Atlantic: “Suddenly, climate change is a high-profile national issue again. It’s not just the Green New Deal. Around the country, the loose alliance of politicians, activists, and organizations concerned about climate change is mobilizing. They are deploying a new set of strategies aimed at changing the minds—or at least the behaviors—of a large swath of Americans, including utility managers, school principals, political donors, and rank-and-file voters. They make a ragtag group: United by little more than common concern, they don’t agree on an ideal federal policy or even how to talk about the problem. They do not always coordinate or communicate with one another…”

Photo credit: “Jay Inslee’s long-shot, climate-focused presidential campaign is only one of several new campaigns, run by Democrats across the ideological spectrum.” Lindsey Wasson / Reuters.

The Lovable Carbon Tax. Put a signal in the market and let companies come up with carbon-free solutions? Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Forbes: “…But at one point a strange hush and murmuring of agreement came over the group. We all agreed on one thing, one tax that would make the world better: a carbon tax. Right now. Last month, more than 3,500 economists—a record number—signed an open letter calling for a carbon tax to fight climate change. Several of the economists at the meeting told me something to the effect of, “I never signed a letter before but I signed this one.” Signers included 27 Nobel Prize winners, the four living former chairs of the Federal Reserve (from Janet Yellen to Alan Greenspan), and all but one of the former heads of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, Republicans and Democrats alike. (Note: I signed it too!) Many economists distrust government action and prefer markets to work out problems, so the breadth of agreement on the use of a carbon tax to address climate change is striking and rare...”

We Will Miss the Warm Winters. Retirees Are Fleeing Florida as Climate Change Threatens Their Financial Future. CNN Money has a story I wasn’t quite expecting (yet); here’s an excerpt: “Florida, with its plentiful beaches, warm weather, and lack of a state-income tax, is the most popular destination for older adults in the U.S. But some who have lived in the Sunshine State for years are moving in the opposite direction. As damaging storms and other effects of climate change have hit Florida particularly hard in the past few years, some older adults living there have become concerned about their safety and their ability to enjoy retirement. So they’re fleeing this otherwise balmy state. About 52,630 people ages 65 and over left Florida in 2017, versus 48,174 in 2016 and 43,356 in 2012, according to Jon Rork, professor of Economics at Reed College in Portland, Oregan, who studies retirement migration…”

File image: NASA.

Tourists are Flocking to Locations Threatened by Climate Change. That Only Makes Things Worse. Vox explains: “...Today, the net effect of human traffic and its hand in climate change have done possibly irreparable damage to the landmark. When confronted with direct contact from humans or reef-damaging sunscreen chemicals, corals experience stress, leading to coral bleaching. And this isn’t the only issue; the carbon footprint involved in travel also has a deleterious effect on the reef. The cloud of destruction that looms over the Keys hovers over many tourist destinations affected by climate change: the Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos, Montana’s National Glacier Park. And in recent years, these sites’ anticipated disappearance has been a large part of their draw. Labeled “last-chance tourism,” this is the practice of visiting a location before it vanishes or is irreparably changed…”

File image: Jacob Frank, National Park Service.