52 F. maximum temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.
61 F. average high on October 10.
74 F. Twin Cities high on October 10, 2016.

October 11, 1909: A snowstorm hits the state, along with temperatures dropping to 7 degrees over northern MN.

Why Choose a Career in Weather? It’s Complicated

If it weren’t for weather merit badge and a tropical storm named Agnes, which flooded my home in 1972, I might have a real job.

Most meteorologists were traumatized by a major storm at a tender age: a hurricane, flood, tornado or blizzard, something traumatizing and life-changing. A career in meteorology is lifelong therapy, as we tee up questions with no good answers. How could this happen? Why wasn’t the forecast better?
Today I’m involved with two weather companies attempting to make forecasts more accurate for consumers and businesses. Because roughly a third of America’s GDP is now “weather-sensitive”. This year variability in weather will impacted US GDP to the tune of $879 billion. With better forecasts companies can optimize operations, save money – and keep staff safer.
No complaints today with fading sun and a shot at 60F. The arrival of a cooler front squeezes out weekend showers, with highs stuck in the 50s. Now that most of the state has experienced the first frost we can reference “Indian Summer”. Models hint at a streak of 60s, even 70-degree highs, next week.

Photo credit above: NOAA and Pixabay.

Heaviest Rains Stay Southeast of Minnesota Into Friday Night. The map above shows total rainfall between now and 1am Saturday morning; a 2″+ bulls-eye over southern Wisconsin and southern Michigan, but dry for much of western Minnesota and the Dakotas. NAM guidance: NOAA and Tropicaltidbits.com.

Fairly Comfortable Into Next Week. Considering we could be scraping snow off our driveways I won’t complain about a preponderance of 60s into next week; maybe even a day or two above 70F late next week. If you avoided a frost Tuesday morning chances are you’re stay frost-free for the next 1-2 weeks. Twin Cities  ECMWF guidance above: WeatherBell.

California Increased Wildfire Risk. Some perspective from Climate Signals: “...Extreme heat and years of ongoing drought are both linked to climate change and are increasing wildfire risk throughout California by contributing to the frequency and severity of wildfires in recent decades. Ten of California’s 20 largest wildfires on record have all burned in the last 10 years, while pine beetles, heat and California’s five-year drought have caused 66 million trees to die in the state’s Sierra Nevada forests since 2010. A formal modeling analysis has identified the fingerprint of global warming in California’s wildfires, reporting that  “an increase in fire risk in California is attributable to human-induced climate change…”

Tuesday Morning Frost. The downtowns and (very) close-in suburbs may have escaped a frost Tuesday morning, but much of the expanded metro did experience the first 32F or colder morning of the season. Maps courtesy of Praedictix.

Median Date of First 32F Temperature? The Minnesota State Climatology Office at the MN DNR has the answers: as early as November 25 in Cambridge, as late as October 8 at MSP International Airport.

The Meteorologist’s Lament. Weather forecasts are better than ever, but the public doesn’t seem to realize it,  according to meteorologist Mike Smith reporting at Slate: “…For meteorologists like me, this is frustrating. Our increasingly accurate forecasts save untold numbers of lives. For instance, the death rate from tornadoes has been cut by more than 95 percent since the 1930s, the last decade when there was no tornado warning system of any kind. In the 1970s and ’80s, thunderstorm-related downbursts—violent downrushing air that spreads out when it reaches the ground, creating wind shear—were the No. 1 cause of airliner crashes. Thanks to the work of weather scientists, the last wind shear-related airline crash was in 1994. It’s easy to overlook these major advances because when meteorology is successful, nothing happens. Planes don’t crash. People don’t die, or at least they die in far smaller numbers than before the storm warning system existed. It’s a bit like national security—stopping a terrorist attack before it happens doesn’t make for as good a news story…”

15 Separate Billion-Dollar Disasters So Far in 2017. Harvey, Irma and Maria were all billion-dollar disasters; it remains to be seen if Category 1 Nate produced a billion dollars of damage for the Gulf Coast last weekend. Details via NOAA NCEI: “In short, tropical cyclones are the most costly of the weather and climate disasters. Since 1980, the U.S. has sustained at least 218 weather and climate disasters where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including Consumer Price Index adjustment to 2017). The total cost of these 218 events exceeds $1.2 trillion. However, this total does not include the costs for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which are substantial and are still being assessed. Not including hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, 35 tropical cyclones have caused at least $583.5 billion in total damages—with an average of $16.7 billion per event. Accounting for just under a fifth (17 percent) of the total number of events, tropical cyclones have caused almost half (47 percent) of the total damages attributed to billion-dollar weather and climate disasters since 1980. These numbers will dramatically rise once the 2017 hurricanes costs are included

Map credit: NOAA NCDC.

“Darwin Award”: These Hurricane Chasers Are Being Ridiculed for Decisions During Nate. Public service or dangerous stunt? Here’s an excerpt from Capital Weather Gang: “…The work that I do here is a public service,” Timmer told The Washington Post via email, “and like first responders who place themselves in harm’s way, we do go into dangerous situations but as top professionals do so in intelligent and cautious ways so that people understand the dangers and when told to evacuate they will do so.” Theiss takes a similar approach to chasing storms. “This is no different than a war photographer going to war or an astronaut going to space in the name of science.” Theiss told The Post. The only difference, he says, is that he’s “going to war with nature...”

“One of the Worst I’ve Seen”. Hurricane Chaser Documents Maria’s Punishing Attack on Puerto Rico. Here’s an excerpt of an interview at Capital Weather Gang: “…My barometer bottomed out at 929 millibars a little before dawn as destructive winds were raking Palmas Del Mar. The air pressure was rising when morning light came — a sign the hurricane was moving away — and I expected the winds would start to lessen. But instead they got worse. The trees lining the street waved in this crazy, wild way. Then this wall of wind and rain swallowed everything up. The view off the balcony turned pure white — you couldn’t see anything. The buildings across the street, the trees, everything just disappeared into this roaring white energy. We were in the violent inner core of a high-end Category 4 hurricane...”

U.S. Numerical Weather Is Still Behind and Not Catching Up: What is Wrong and How Can It Be Fixed? Cliff Mass has an interesting post; here’s a clip: “…The reason for U.S. lagging performance? A dysfunctional, disorganized, and fragmented organizational structure for U.S. operational numerical weather prediction and associated research that makes it impossible for NOAA’s weather prediction to be world class. Things won’t get better until that structure is replaced with an intelligently designed, rational organizational structure, that effectively uses both governmental and non-governmental resources to give Americans state-of-science weather forecasts. Ever since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, where the European Center model did far better in predicting landfall than the U.S. GFS model, there has been a national recognition that U.S. numerical weather prediction, the foundation of all U.S. weather forecasting, had fallen behind.  Story after story have appeared in the national media.  Congressional committees held hearings. And Congress, wishing to address resource issues, provided substantial funding in what is known as the “Sandy Supplement.”  Six years before, after the devastating landfall of Hurricane Katrina, Congress had provide similarly large amounts to improve hurricane forecasting and warnings, creating the HFIP program (Hurricane Forecasting Improvement Project)...”
ECMWF (European) model ensemble for Hurricane Nate: Weathernerds.org.

How Clouds Got Their Names. Brain Pickings has a link to a fascinating explainer: “…Since our words give shape to our thoughts, it wasn’t until a young amateur meteorologist named and classified the clouds in 1803 that we began to read the skies and glean meaning from their feathery motions. In this animated primer from TED-Ed, Richard Hamblyn, author of The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies (public library) — the same scintillating book that traced how Goethe shaped the destiny of clouds — tells the story of how the clouds got their names, forever changing our understanding of that most inescapable earthly companion, the weather…”

I’ve Looked at Clouds From Both Sides Now. Are you a member of the Cloud Appreciation Society? A story at The Washington Post explains how clouds shape our moods and cognition: “…Psychologically speaking, clouds also have both positive and negative impact. Overcast weather turns us inward and helps us focus, the experts say. Sunny weather, by contrast, slows cognition. Researchers in Australia tested their theory with an experiment several years ago. They showed — for the first time in a real-life setting — weather-induced moods can significantly affect memory. On rainy, cloudy days, which caused a gloomy mood, the ability to recall objects was three times greater than on sunny days, despite all the positive vibes they triggered…The group, of course, has nothing good to say about lovers of cloudlessness — including beachgoers, most prominently. They call the worship of monotonous cloudlessness “blue sky thinking.” Pretor-Pinney rejects such a limited view of the heavens. “Cloudspotting is a conscious invitation to daydream, a sensitivity to your surroundings,” he said. “It’s a kind of sky geekiness, which is beautiful.”

File photo: NOAA.

There’s a New Type of Northern Lights, Scientists Call it “Steve”. Gomn.com has the details: “Space.com says Steve isn’t actually new. People previously just referred to the phenomenon as “proton arcs.” Now that it (kind of) has a name, scientists will be looking to find exactly what it’s all about. Then it might get an official name. Although it probably couldn’t beat Steve. MLive.com says NASA scientists have recently turned Steve into an acronym: Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement. Now it’s not quite so random…”

Photo credit: Space.com. “Photographer Dave Markel caught this view of a strange aurora-like feature that appears in the skies of northern Canada. Based on data from European Space Agency’s Swarm satellites, it appears to be a 16-mile-wide (25 km) ribbon of flowing gas in an area whose temperature is 5,500 degrees Fahrenheit (3,000 degrees Celsius) higher than the surroundings; the gas flows at 3.5 miles per second (6 km/s) compared to a speed of 33 feet/second (10 m/s) on either side of the ribbon. They’re calling the feature “Steve. Credit: Dave Markel Photography.

Mapped: How the US Generates Electricity. Carbon Brief has a fascinating infographic that highlights the most pervasive source of electricity for the grid from coast to coast. Check it out; here’s a clip: “…Supplying electricity to a nation’s homes, business and industry is an almost uniquely challenging enterprise. For now, electrical energy is either expensive or inconvenient to store, meaning supply and demand must be balanced in real time. It is also easier to generate power close to home than to transport it over long distances. The way electricity is generated fundamentally depends on the fuels and technologies available. The march of progress means this mix is changing – but natural resources and geographies are fixed. Moreover, US states have broad powers to influence the electricity systems within their borders. Putting the US electricity system on a map offers visual confirmation of how important these factors are. Why is solar so prevalent in North Carolina, for example? Or coal in West Virginia?...”

Map credit: “Imagery provided by services from the Global Imagery Browse Services (GIBS), operated by the NASA/GSFC/Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) with funding provided by NASA/HQ.”

Don’t Market EVs as “Green”. Promote something a granola-munching hippy might drive? Not so much, according to the author of a story at Inside EVs: “…Faster, cooler, smarter, more fun to drive… and good for the environment. Electric vehicles (EVs) are all that and more. That’s why I’m calling for an immediate ban on “green” stereotypes from all EV marketing efforts. No more talking flowers, dancing animals or smiling trees—ever. Why? Because EVs don’t need to win the hearts of environmentalists. They had them at hello. The hearts they have to win are those who don’t believe EVs are the future. But alas, the writing is on the wall. More and more manufacturers are committed to producing all-electric vehicles, including big players like GM, Porsche, BMW and Jaguar. If great marketing helps build an emotional connection between your target consumer and your product/service, then these manufacturers must court self-proclaimed “car buffs”—like me. It’s actually quite simple. You go after what drives people to have a passion for cars and driving…”

Maybe It’s Time to Cede US Freeways to Driverless Cars. An article at WIRED.com caught my eye: “…Autonomous vehicles are truly on the way, but until they complete their conquest, they’ll have to share the road with awful human drivers. People are unpredictable. They don’t always follow the rules. They get distracted, brake late and hard, and make aggressive lane changes. They’ve already proved a menace to the robots: A quick check of records from the California DMV shows humans have a nasty habit of rear-ending driverless cars stopped at red lights or stop signs.The solution? Keep ’em separate. Give each class of car its own lanes, or even entire roads. That’s the thrust of a white paper proposal that imagines an “autonomous vehicle corridor” replacing the I-5 freeway between Seattle and Vancouver. In other words, that entire stretch of critical roadway linking two major cities across an international border would be given over to driverless cars by 2040, with no old-fashioned, human piloted, cars allowed...”

Image credit: Madrona Venture Group.

Cars Are Safer Than Ever – But Traffic Deaths Are Climbing. WIRED.com has the surprising details: “…Researchers have long known that driving deaths rise and dive with the economy and income growth. People with jobs have more reason to be on the road than the unemployed. But this increase can’t be pinned on the fact of more driving, the stats indicate. Even adjusted for miles traveled, fatalities have ticked up by 2.6 percent over 2015. You can still blame the economy, because people aren’t just driving more. They’re driving differently. Better economic condition give them the flexibility to drive for social reasons. There might be more bar visits (and drinking) and trips along unfamiliar roads (with extra time spent looking at a map on a phone). The DOT numbers seem to confirm that drivers involved in traffic deaths were doing different things behind the wheel last year. The feds say the number people who died while not wearing seat belts climbed 4.6 percent, and that drunk driving fatalities rose 1.7 percent...”

China Charges Toward Electric-Car Supremacy. The Wall Street Journal explains: “Watch out Detroit: A Chinese electric car revolution is on the way. China is placing big bets on a plan to reshape the global auto industry by replacing gas-guzzling cars on its streets with new-energy vehicles. Ahead of Donald Trump’s trip to China in November, the White House is focused on holding back Chinese exports in traditional industries like steel and aluminum. But that’s a sideshow. A titanic struggle is under way to control the industries of the future from robotics to medical equipment and artificial intelligence. In new-energy vehicles, China is firmly in the driving seat...”
Image credit: WSJ. “China is the world’s largest market for electric vehicles, thanks largely to a relentless program of subsidies and incentives.” Photo/Video: Eva Tam/The Wall Street ​Journal​

There’s Enough Wind Energy Over the Oceans to Power Human Civilization. A story at The Washington Post made me do a double-take: “New research published on Monday finds there is so much wind energy potential over oceans that it could theoretically be used to generate “civilization scale power” — assuming, that is, that we are willing to cover enormous stretches of the sea with turbines, and can come up with ways to install and maintain them in often extreme ocean environments. It’s very unlikely that we would ever build out open ocean turbines on anything like that scale — indeed, doing so could even alter the planet’s climate, the research finds. But the more modest message is that wind energy over the open oceans has large potential — reinforcing the idea that floating wind farms, over very deep waters, could be the next major step for wind energy technology…”

Photo credit: “An offshore wind farm stands in the water near the Danish island of Samso, May 19, 2008.” REUTERS/Bob Strong.

Nobel Prizes Are Great, but College Football is Why American Universities Dominate the World. Quartz connects the dots: “…The connection between brawny linemen and brainy physicists may seem remote, but it’s really not. In order to support a large number of high-powered professors, US universities need to attract a huge number of tuition-paying students, and they need to turn those students into loyal lifelong donors. In order to draw state appropriations, they also need to extend their reach beyond their own alumni by attracting the political support of citizens in the immediate community and in the state at large. And they need to do so within an extremely competitive higher education market consisting of nearly 5,000 degree-granting institutions…”
Photo credit: Gophersports.com.

No, You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Turns out the Rolling Stones lyrics have a creation story in lovely Excelsior, Minnesota, as reported by swnewsmedia.com: “…According to local lore, Jimmy ordered a cherry Coke and saw Mick Jagger. In later interviews, Jimmy said he introduced himself to the musician and Jagger called him Mr. Jimmy. When Jimmy’s drink came, it was a regular Coke instead of the cherry he wanted. He pointed it out to Jagger, but added “You can’t always get what you want.” Whether Jimmy actually had anything to do with the song that came out several years later is an issue that’s long been debated. A lot of people believe that the Mr. Jimmy mentioned in the song refers to Rolling Stones producer Jimmy Miller. During the Tapping History presentation, the audience will hear from a woman who was a waitress that day at Bacon, who remembers serving Jimmy a regular Coke because they were out of cherry syrup and hearing him say the famous line...”

That Halloween Costume May Give You Head Lice. Other than that, go for it! Huffington Post reports: “…Doctors usually see a jump in head lice this time of year. Although many people associate it with the start of the school year, the real cause may be even scarier: Halloween costumes. Cherie Sexton, a nurse practitioner in Oregon, Ohio, says trying on Halloween costumes is a real bugaboo. “We have a lot of people going into stores right now, trying on masks, trying on costumes and trying on wigs,” Sexton told Toledo station WTOL-TV. “And a lot of people don’t give much thought to the fact that several people could’ve tried it on before them.” Sexton’s solutions might strike some as nitpicking: 

  • Never try on a mask in a store without wearing a bathing cap over your hair...”

America’s Ode to the Toilet Seat. After reading this blurb at Atlas Obscura I have a strange desire to check this out. I may even bring a newspaper along to pass the time: “…As visitors look through the two-room garage, Smith is quick to point out toilet seats that are the most special to him. His walking stick will direct you to the seat with a piece of debris from the exploded Challenger shuttle. He’ll point out the toilet seat that came from the private plane of Aristotle Onassis, several seats that serve as a hub for geocachers, and a toilet seat from Saddam Hussein’s palace sent to him by a member of the armed forces. His mind is still sharp. He can tell you the story behind every one of his seats, which he will do if you get him going. With his advanced age and his body growing weary, he wants to sell the collection. But he won’t just let it go to anybody…”
Photo credit: “Barney Smith with his toilet seat art in San Antonio.” Dan Leeth/ Alamy.

Ikea Just Launched a Pet Furniture Collection. This is why North Korea hates us. Bored Panda explains: “IKEA is well known for stocking everything you could possibly need to make a house a home (plus plenty of things that you don’t need, yet somehow still end up buying). One thing they’ve always lacked however is a collection of furniture specifically designed for pets, but IKEA aims to change all of that with its new range called Lurvig. What’s a lurvig? It’s the Swedish word for “hairy” (obviously) and the range includes everything from dog beds and couch covers to cat tunnels and scratching posts...”

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.” – Helen Keller

TODAY: Partly sunny skies. Winds: SE 7-12. High: near 60

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: More clouds,  risk of a shower or sprinkle. Low: 52

THURSDAY: Patchy clouds, breezy and milder. Winds: S 10-15. High: 65

FRIDAY: Clouds increase, slight PM shower risk. Winds: NE 5-10.  Wake-up: 52. High: 62

SATURDAY: Another round of mostly PM showers – windy and cool. Winds: NE 7-12. Wake-up: 45. High: 57

SUNDAY: Showers taper, chilling breeze. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 44. High: 54

MONDAY: Sunny and milder again. Winds: W 7-12. Wake-up: 40. High: 60

TUESDAY: Sunny and very pleasant. Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 47. High: 66

Climate Stories…

Scientists Say Cost of Capturing CO2 Declining. The Associated Press reports: “Technology now in limited use removes about 90 percent of carbon dioxide from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants, but energy experts say cost remains the chief obstacle to bringing the “clean coal” touted by President Donald Trump into the mainstream. They cite recent advances in applying the longstanding technology, despite some earlier setbacks, but say the U.S. power sector needs bigger tax credits or other incentives to close the cost gap for using them….The U.S. has successfully cut other smokestack pollutants, including sulfur, nitrogen and mercury. But carbon dioxide is a bigger challenge because there is so much of it. Coal- and gas-fired electrical generators produce about 30 percent of CO2 from human activity. Other industries like cement, steel and fertilizer manufacturing add another 20 to 25 percent. Farming and vehicles are also major contributors…”

Knocking at our Door: Climate Change and Conflict. Minnpost explains the shifts in rainfall, drought and sea level rise impacting local populations and migration patterns: “…Looking beyond Syria, we see the challenges caused by climate change in many places: rising sea levels in Bangladesh, drought in Somalia, and flooding in Pakistan. It is a tragedy when we view these events as a “problem over there,” effectively disregarding their significance. As individuals and entire groups are displaced by these environmental disasters, the risk of conflict increases around the world. It is even more tragic, however, and one of our greatest threats, when climate change is viewed as a hoax or when the underlying scientific evidence is argued as fake. Climate change is a reality, it is a global phenomenon, and the consequences are knocking at our door: witness Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. While there certainly are stark differences between Texas and Syria, each new environmental catastrophe brings the risk of social unrest and conflict closer to our door.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed. “The Syrian conflict can be viewed, in part, as a product of climate change.”

The Most Powerful Evidence Climate Scientists Have of Global Warming. InsideClimate News has the details: “…More than 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed into the oceans that cover two-thirds of the planet’s surface. Their temperature is rising, too, and it tells a story of how humans are changing the planet. This accrued heat is “really the memory of past climate change,” said Kevin Trenberth, the head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and co-author of a new paper on ocean warming. It’s not just the amount of warming that is significant—it’s also the pace. The rate at which the oceans are heating up has nearly doubled since 1992, and that heat is reaching ever deeper waters, according to a recent study. At the same time, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been rising…”
Graphic: Paul Horn, InsideClimate News.

Climate Change and Harvey. Here’s an excerpt from a story at The Battalion, from Texas A&M: “When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in August, the country watched as the storm dumped more than 60 inches of rain throughout South Texas. Now, experts like Andrew Dessler, atmospheric sciences professor at Texas A&M, are saying that climate change played a role in the size and intensity of Hurricane Harvey. According to Dessler, climate change doesn’t create storms, but it does strengthen preexisting storms. “The occurrence of a storm itself is largely [due to] chance and other environmental factors like El Niños and internal variability,” Dessler said. “The way humans have affected it is they have made the impacts of the storms a little bit worse.” Dessler said as humans continue to warm the ocean and climate, storm conditions intensify…”