Dry Pattern Helping To Lower Flood Threat

Here’s a happy little weather-nugget: 30- year average April snowfall in the Twin Cities is 2.5 inches. Although I don’t see any April blizzards this year, we could still enjoy a few (minor) slush events in the weeks ahead. Then again, the beauty of an April snow: it usually melts within 24 hours. The sun angle is too high to keep snow on the ground for long.

The sun should stay out most of today, with highs near 50F; close to average for early April. A few showers
sprout on Thursday – again Saturday, with more numerous, widespread showers and T-storms likely Sunday. I don’t expect an all-weekend-washout, but plan on a few hours of convective, pop-up showers
each day, with highs topping 60F.

Models cool us off again next week, with daytime highs either side of 50F, as continuous transfusions of
cool, dry, Canadian air force the biggest storms south of Minnesota. Good news for our ongoing flood risk. Models suggest half an inch of rain this weekend, but dry weather lingers from Monday into mid-April.

We may just thread the weather needle.

ECMWF 10-Day Rainfall Prediction. The European model prints out .4 to .7″ of rain for much of Minnesota by April 12 – most of that forecast to fall this upcoming weekend. Map: WeatherBell.

Massive Flood in Minnesota Was “Sitting On Our Doorstep”. Star Tribune outlines the nearly-perfect weather conditions that helped Minnesota avoid Nebraska’s fate: “...We had probably the biggest potential flood sitting on our doorstep,” Craig Schmidt, a senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Chanhassen, said Monday. “If you want to see how bad it could have been, look at Nebraska and Iowa.” The region experienced above-average snowfall, and much of it fell in a six-week period in January and February, Schmidt said. What’s more, the extreme cold in those months meant that every flake stayed. “Not only did we have deep snow, but it was so extensive,” he added. “It covered all of Minnesota, all of Wisconsin. Every river was a potential problem.” The slow and steady March thaw, coupled with an extremely dry stretch of days with little to no precipitation, saved the day, keeping the snow from melting too quickly, overwhelming streams and rivers…”

Photo credit: Brian Peterson • brian.peterson@startribune.com. “People gathered Monday along the Mississippi River in St. Paul to see the pavilion at Harriet Island surrounded by water. The Mississippi River crested just under 20 feet Sunday night.”

Mississippi River Has Crested in St. Paul. River levels are forecast to recede, reaching 15′ next Tuesday, according to National Weather Service hydrologists. Graphic: Praedictix.

Exclusive: More Than 1 Million Acres of Cropland Ravaged by Floods. Here’s an excerpt of a good summary of the scope of extreme flooding from Reuters: “At least 1 million acres (405,000 hectares) of U.S. farmland were flooded after the “bomb cyclone” storm left wide swaths of nine major grain producing states under water this month, satellite data analyzed by Gro Intelligence for Reuters showed. Farms from the Dakotas to Missouri and beyond have been under water for a week or more, possibly impeding planting and damaging soil. The floods, which came just weeks before planting season starts in the Midwest, will likely reduce corn, wheat and soy production this year. “There’s thousands of acres that won’t be able to be planted,” Ryan Sonderup, 36, of Fullerton, Nebraska, who has been farming for 18 years, said in a recent interview…”

File photo credit: “Paddocks at Washington County Fairgrounds are shown underwater due to flooding in Arlington, Nebraska, U.S., March 21, 2019.” REUTERS/Humeyra Pamuk.

“Breaches Everywhere”: Flooding Bursts Midwest Levees, and Tough Questions Follow. Maybe we can’t tame rivers as much as we thought we could. Every technology has it’s limits, as described in this feature story at The New York Times: “The widespread, severe flooding in the Midwest over the last month has exposed the vulnerabilities in a levee system that is now so full of holes that many here ruefully describe it as “Swiss cheese.” With dozens of costly breaks across Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and nearby states, the surging waters have left large areas without even cursory flood protection. “Breaches everywhere: multiple, multiple breaches,” said Tom Bullock, the top elected official in Holt County, Mo., where crews were rushing last week to patch a leaking levee that, if it failed completely, would flood the small town of Fortescue. And with the fear of more floods in the coming years — and perhaps even the coming weeks — many people said living and farming near the water might not be viable much longer without major changes…”

Photo credit: Tim Gruber. “Roger Ideker at the road to his farm in Holt County, Mo. Mr. Ideker was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers that claimed the repeated floods amounted to a seizure of their property.”

Inside the Mind of a Hurricane Chaser. A post at Outside is a worthy read; here’s an excerpt: “…If he’s lucky, he will be able to place himself underneath a huge rotating lathe of air and water driven by the energy from heated oceans, spinning around a single cyclopean eye that can be as small as five miles wide.  He calls it an addiction. “It’s like a hunger for food or sex,” he says. “It’s very innate, it’s hard to verbalize, and it drives you.”  It’s a weird time to love hurricanes. Over the decades that Morgerman has been chasing them, the conversation around these storms has shifted. Scientists say it’s still unclear exactly how our rapidly warming climate is affecting the normal on-again, off-again hurricane cycle. Still, a series of absolutely catastrophic hurricane seasons for the U.S. have changed how we think about these storms—and perhaps about the kind of person who would spend their life chasing them…”

Illustration credit: Dániel Taylor. “Josh Morgerman is addicted to hurricanes.”

April 3 is SafePlaceSelfie Day! A good idea to show off your safe space as we quickly sail into tornado season. Details via NOAA: “If there was one extreme weather preparedness action you want your loved ones to take, what would it be? For many, that one action is to know ahead of time where their safe place is located. On April 3rd, 2019, at 11:11am local time, please join the National Weather Service and its Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors to take a “selfie” and post with the hashtag #SafePlaceSelfie.

Here are some helpful suggestions:

  • Think about the hazards in your area where you would need to know where safe places or evacuation routes are located.
  • Get creative! Storm shelters, safe rooms, and basements are all good safe places from tornadoes and strong winds, but think of other scenarios or hazards that may require other safe places.
  • What other preparedness actions make your safe place even safer? Having a NOAA Weather Radio? Emergency Kit? Family Communications Plan?”

The President’s Proposed Budget Would Fire Hundreds of Meteorologists and Slash Tornado Research. Dennis Mersereau explains in a post at Forbes: “The president’s proposed budget for 2020 makes more than $75,000,000 in cuts to the National Weather Service that, if passed, could adversely affect the agency’s ability to keep the public safe during severe weather. The NWS is a force of nature that works tirelessly behind the scenes to warn every square inch of land in the United States when hazardous weather is on the way. Most Americans hardly realize how much they utilize the agency’s products and services until they’re under threat. The National Weather Service occasionally faces political pressure due to the mistaken belief that private weather companies could pick up the slack of a reduced NWS and provide the same services the federal agency does. Contrary to those assertions, private companies would find themselves lost without the critical services and infrastructure provided by the NWS…”

Photo credit: “Forecasters at the National Weather Service office monitor Hurricane Irma Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, at the hurricane center in Miami.” (AP Photo/Andy Newman) ASSOCIATED PRESS.

The Hidden Air Pollution In Our Homes. I had no idea, but a post at The New Yorker made me long for take-out food. Here’s a snippet: “…When Vance peeled an orange for the cranberry sauce, Arata noted that its fragrance—that is, its monoterpene VOCs—had made the readings on his instrument soar. Abeleira, checking levels of nitric oxide and carbon dioxide during a brief lull before the turkey went in, observed, “They’re orders of magnitude higher than outdoors.” It was the same for fine particulate matter—particles small enough to reach deep inside our lungs. By around eleven o’clock, the fine-particulate concentration had risen to such a level that, if the house were a city, it would have been officially labelled polluted. Concentrations peaked when the stuffing, and, later, the pies, came out of the oven. And, for nearly an hour, fine particulate matter was within the range that the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index defines as “very unhealthy.” If outdoor air reaches these levels, a public alert is triggered, warning that even healthy individuals are at risk of serious damage to the heart and lungs…”

Animation credit: “We spend most of our lives inside, where air quality has received little scrutiny.” Daniel Savage.

Electric Cars Outsell Traditional Cars in Norway. Star Tribune reports: “In a symbolic first, electric cars outsold fossil fuel-powered ones in Norway last month. Christina Bu, the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association’s general secretary, said Monday that 58.4 percent of new cars sold in the country in March were battery-powered, calling it “historically high.” Bu added that electric cars’ share of the market in the first three months of 2019 was 48.4 percent and is expected to hover around 50 percent for the whole year. “Norway shows the whole world that the electric car can replace cars powered by gasoline and diesel and be an important contribution in the fight to reduce C02 emissions,” Bu said in a statement…”

Image credit: Porsche.

UK Pub Chain Bans Smartphones and Tablets from Establishments. The Daily Mail reports: “An established pub chain has banned its punters from using mobile phones and iPads across its 300 outlets in a bid to protect ‘social conversations’. Pub chain Samuel Smith, owned by 73-year-old Humphrey Smith, has enforced the rule across its establishments and insisted that pub-goers will have to leave its premises to take a call. In a memo sent out to his managers, Mr Smith described how the ‘brewery’s policy is not to allow customers mobile phones, laptops or similar inside out pubs’. The notoriously secretive owner of the brewery is also reported to turn up incognito to check up on staff and has long forbidden jukeboxes, slot machines and even televisions at his many establishments…’The brewery’s policy is that out pubs are for social conversation person to person…”

Photo credit: Google Street View. “Pub chain Samuel Smith has banned its punters from using mobile phones and iPads across its 300 establishments.” Pictured: The Fitzroy Tavern Pub.

Are You Ready for the Impossible Whopper? CNN Business has the story – would you try one of these? “Burger King has a plan to bring in new customers and encourage existing ones to buy more often: Vegetarian Whoppers.  The burger chain announced on Monday that it is testing out Impossible Whoppers, made with plant-based patties from Impossible Foods, in 59 locations in and around St. Louis. If all goes well, Burger King will roll out the Impossible Whopper nationally (it’ll cost about a buck more than a regular Whopper). The Impossible Whopper is supposed to taste just like Burger King’s regular Whopper. Unlike veggie burgers, Impossible burger patties are designed to mimic the look and texture of meat when cooked…”

50 F. Twin Cities high on Tuesday.

51 F. average high on April 2.

34 F. high on April 2, 2018.

April 3, 1999: An ice storm hits Duluth and the Arrowhead. An 800 foot television tower in Duluth collapses due to the weight of the ice.

April 3, 1982: A sharp cold front causes the temperature at Lamberton in Redwood County to drop from 78 to 7 degrees. This 71 degree change in 24 hours is the maximum 24-hour temperature change in Minnesota.

April 3, 1837: A snowstorm rages for four days at Ft. Snelling and dumps 9 inches.

WEDNESDAY: Cool blue sky. Winds: NW 7-12. High: 51

THURSDAY: More clouds, few PM showers. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 33. High: 49

FRIDAY: More clouds than sun, a drier day. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 36. High: near 60

SATURDAY: More humid with a passing T-shower. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 47. High: 65

SUNDAY: More numerous showers and T-storms. Winds:W 10-15. Wake-up: 49. High: 63

MONDAY: Partly sunny, drying out. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 44. High: near 60

TUESDAY: More clouds than sun, brisk. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 38. High: 53

Climate Stories….

Wall Street Embraces Weather Risk in New Era of Storms. Super-sized storms, floods, droughts – America’s businesses are, increasingly, factoring new risk into their business models. Bloomberg explains: “…About one-third of the U.S.’s $18 trillion gross national product is generated by industries vulnerable to changes in the weather. There were 14 weather events that caused at least $1 billion in damages in the U.S. last year, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. That’s more than the 6.2 per year average from 1980 to 2018. And the U.S. is just one part of the picture. Globally, 39 weather events caused at least $1 billion in damage, according to Munich Re, a German reinsurance firm. The average worldwide since 2000: 28 a year. Extreme weather hit 62 million people last year alone and forced 2 million to relocate, according to the United Nations weather agency...”

Graphic credit: NOAA National Centers for Environmental InformationNote: Costs are adjusted for inflation.”

Climate, Conflicts Set to Plunge Millions Into Food Crisis. Thomson Reuters Foundation explains the connection between climate volatility, weather disruption and food insecurity; here’s the intro: “Food crises will affect tens of millions of people across the world this year, researchers warned on Tuesday, after war, extreme weather and economic woes in 2018 left more than 113 million in dire need of help. Conflict and insecurity were responsible for the desperate situation faced by 74 million people, or two-thirds of those affected, in 2018, said the the Global Network against Food Crises in its annual report. The Network’s members include the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme, and the European Union. Analysing 53 countries, it uses a five-phase scale with the third level classified as crisis, fourth as emergency and fifth as famine/catastrophe. Luca Russo, FAO’s senior food crises analyst, warned that millions more are now at risk of reaching level three and above…”

Photo credit: “A man carries food aid he received from a local charity during the holy month of Ramadan in Sanaa, Yemen May 31, 2017.” REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah.

Canada is Warming at Twice the Global Rate. CNN.com has the article: “Canada is warming up faster than the rest of the world, according to a report commissioned by the Canadian Environment and Climate Change Department. The report — titled “Canada’s Changing Climate Report” — says, on average, Canada’s climate has been and will continue to warm at double the rate of global warming. The report also says since 1948, when records became available, Canada’s average land temperature increased by 1.7 degrees Celsius (approximately 3 degrees Fahrenheit).Some of the key takeaways from the report included:

  • The observed warming of Canadian temperatures are due to “human influence.”
  • There has been more rain than snowfall in Canada since 1948, a trend that looks to continue over the 21st century...”

Democratic Green New Deal Defectors Chart Their Own Climate Path. Bloomberg reports: “…Casten is a Democratic Green New Deal defector, one of a group of moderates who are rejecting the progressive package that has become a lightning rod for critics and are instead crafting their own climate-change policies. Among the ideas some defectors are considering are measures that would impose a national mandate for the use of cleaner power sources or implementing a carbon tax. Many, such as Virginia freshman Democratic Representative Elaine Luria, defeated Republican incumbents in moderate-to-conservative districts and helped their party win back the House. “The Green New Deal is aspirational,” Luria said. “What we plan to do is offer tangible, achievable things...”

Investors Ramp up Pressure on Exxon over Climate Change. Axios has an update: “Investors on both sides of the Atlantic are pushing ExxonMobil to disclosetargets that would drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris climate agreement.

Driving the news: The New York public pension fund and Church of England’s endowment have filed a resolution for consideration at Exxon’s annual meeting in May calling for the company to disclose such targets. The oil giant has asked the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, which governs the process, to throw it out. A decision is expected imminently.

Why it matters: The investment community is becoming an alternative battleground between publicly traded companies and climate change as U.S. government policy on the matter retreats under President Trump...”

Illustration credit: Rebecca Zisser/Axios.

In Florida, Doctors See Climate Change Hurting Their Most Vulnerable Patients. NPR has details; here’s a clip: “…To survive, Jorge, who requested that his last name not be used for this story to protect his health information, sells fruit on the side of the road. “Rain or shine, cold or heat, I still have to work,” he says. Most days, it’s the heat he struggles with the most, and in recent years, the city has felt hotter than ever. “When you work in the streets,” Jorge says, “you really feel the change.” And it may only be getting worse. The 2018 National Climate Assessment noted that the southeastern United States is already experiencing “more and longer summer heat waves.” By 2050, experts say, rising global temperatures are expected to mean that nearly half the days in the year in Florida will be dangerously hot, when the combination of heat and humidity will make it feel like it’s 105 degrees or more…”

Photo credit: “Jorge lives in a small efficiency near downtown Miami. He sells fruit on the street to make a living, and says he has felt the impacts of increasingly hot summers on his health.” Maria Alejandra Cardona for NPR.

China to Build 6-8 Reactors a Year to Meet 2030 Goals: Exec. Reuters explains how newer, cheaper, safer forms of nuclear energy are part of the new energy mix in China, which is pushing toward less polluting, lower carbon alternatives: “China will be able to build six to eight nuclear reactors a year once the approval process gets back to normal in the near future, the chairman of the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation told Reuters on Monday. “That should be enough to meet our country’s 2030 development plans,” he said on the sidelines of an industry conference. China did not approve any new projects for three years until it gave the nod to two new reactor complexes in southeast China earlier this year…”

File photo: A booth of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is pictured at an expo in Xian, Shaanxi province, China August 19, 2017. Picture taken August 19, 2017.” REUTERS/Stringer

Judge Shuts Down Admin’s Drilling Plans: Climate Nexus reports: “A federal judge has overturned the Trump administration’s order to open the Arctic and Atlantic oceans to offshore drilling, reinstating Obama-era drilling bans that the administration had sought to reverse. US District Court Judge Sharon Gleason said in a ruling late Friday in a suit brought by a coalition of environmental groups against the administration, the state of Alaska and the American Petroleum Institute that Trump’s 2017 executive order overturning the bans “exceeded the president’s authority,” ruling that expanding the drilling area would require an act of Congress. “This is a great victory for the Arctic, its polar bears, other wildlife and communities,” the Center for Biological Diversity attorney Kristen Monsell said in a statement. “It’s absolutely the right outcome under the law and for the sake of our planet.” (AP, Reuters, Washington Post $, WSJ $, The Hill).

File image: NASA.