Cool and Wet Pattern – Premature to Panic

“Autumn… the year’s last, loveliest smile” wrote William Cullen Bryant.

In theory, I agree. My son and his wife got married on Gull Lake in late October, because they love fall in Minnesota.

The trees sport psychedelic colors, Hail Mary football passes show up on Doppler, and neighbors wander the streets in inappropriate Halloween costumes. What’s not to like?

Tuesday was damp and dreary, but we’ll see a few more 70s in October. Don’t write lukewarm off just yet. This morning is a blunt reminder that the sun is as high in the sky as it was in mid-March, but the mercury hits 60F later on, with puddles of blue sky overhead.

The next reinforcing shot of Canadian air is brewing. A shower is possible Thursday, likely on Friday, when it may be just cold enough up north for a few lonely flurries.

We salvage some cool sunshine on Saturday, but showers streak in Sunday, with a few more episodes of rain next week.

On average MSP sees its first 32F low on October 10. Based on model guidance I expect a metro frost sometime between October 6-10 this year. Give or take a month.


First Freeze. Roughly the northern half of Minnesota may experience a few hours below freezing Friday night, but the immediate MSP metro area should remain largely frost-free, due in part to the urban heat island.


First Flakes. Deep breaths. Flurries are possible over far northern Minnesota, but ground temperatures are still relatively mild and any snow that does fall (Friday) will probably melt on contact. The map above is from ECMWF, showing 240-hour accumulated snow. I haven’t had the opportunity to show accumulated snowfall maps since, what, mid-April? Not. Ready. Map credit: Weatherbell.





Battered But Not Broke: Rural Janesville Man Knocked Down by Tornado Loses House. The Mankato Free Press has the story: “Andrew Storjohann doesn’t remember the tornado obliterating the garage in which he was standing. He recalls the basketball hoop and then a few tree branches falling down as a storm moved in Thursday evening while he watched from the garage of his rural Janesville home. His next flash of memory was lying on the ground and looking up at the sky. His memory gets foggy again as he apparently realized he had just been struck by a tornado and called for help. Storjohann’s home on 405th Avenue northwest of Janesville was destroyed by what the National Weather Service has confirmed was an EF1 tornado…”

Photo credit: “The tornado tore the roof off of Andrew Storjohann’s home and most of his belongings were destroyed or damaged either by the tornado or the rain.” Photo by Pat Christman. The Free Press.


10 Tornado Touch-Downs Last Thursday? Here’s the latest summary of (confirmed) tornado touchdowns in southern Minnesota last Thursday, courtesy of the Twin Cities National Weather Service.



A Broad View of Flooding in the Carolinas. Check out the before/after images from NASA’s Earth Observatory: “The National Weather Service office in Raleigh offered a preliminary estimate that nearly 8 trillion gallons of rain fell on North Carolina from Sept 13 to 17, 2018. That led to catastrophic flooding across many parts of the state. Before and after Hurricane Florence swept through the Carolinas, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite observed several residential areas and major rivers. The image pair above shows the Trent River on July 14, 2017, and September 19, 2018. These false-color images use a combination of visible and infrared light (OLI bands 6-5-4) to make it easier to distinguish between flood waters and land…”

Image credit: Left image from July 14, 2017. Right image from September 19, 2018. Courtesy of NASA.


HURRICANE FLORENCE: Links via Climate Nexus: “Study: Sea level rise boosted Hurricane Florence’s coastal flooding (Axios), Hurricane Florence hit 10 days ago, and still hundreds of roads remain closed, thousands evacuated (USA Today), storms fester in the Atlantic — including remnants of Hurricane Florence (Washington Post $), Hurricane Florence aftermath sees North Carolina residents stepping up, helping out neighbors (Fox News), she gave medicine to pets she rescued from Hurricane Florence–she was arrested for it (Washington Post $), Hurricane Florence is about to flood Georgetown, South Carolina–they don’t know how bad it will be (CNN), Florence could trigger ‘record’ flooding in South Carolina; thousands urged to evacuate (Fox News), Carolina residents prepare to evacuate as rivers rise (PBS NewsHour), risk tracker RMS predicts up to $5 billion in insured losses from Hurricane Florence (CNBC), will storm force a hog waste reckoning in NC? (E&E $), how 3.4 million chickens drowned in Hurricane Florence.” (Vox)

September 13 image above: NOAA and AerisWeather.


Hurricane Florence Reveals Flaw with Saffir-Simpson Scale. The scale takes wind speed into account, but not speed of the storm or the potential for devastating inland flooding. Here’s a clip from The Washington Post: “…The central problem with the Saffir-Simpson scale is that — as its full name clearly states — it measures only wind. It doesn’t capture such threats as coastal storm surge and heavy rainfall or say anything about the size of a hurricane. “It’s almost as if they need to come up with a new code system. Category 1 hurricane and category ‘something’ for the rainfall,” said Corinne Cutler Corr, a resident of New Bern who chose not to evacuate. She and her husband, a contractor, live on relatively high ground and thought they could help their neighbors who were riding it out. The National Weather Service labored in advance of Florence to warn residents about the likelihood of record rainfall, catastrophic flooding and a potentially lethal storm surge, said Bill Lapenta, director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction. But Florence will spur discussion in the scientific community about how to describe hurricane threats in the future, he predicted...”

Image credit from September 14: NOAA.


Scientists Say Hurricane Rating System Fails to Convey Danger of Deadly Rain. A story at CBS News provides more perspective and clarity on the call for a revised rating system for hurricanes: “…People like Mills can be lulled into thinking a hurricane is less dangerous when the rating of a storm is reduced. But those ratings are based on wind strength, not rainfall or storm surge — and water is responsible for 90 percent of storm deaths. Several meteorologists and disaster experts said something needs to change with the rating system, the 47-year-old Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, to reflect the real risks in hurricanes. They point to Florence, last year’s Hurricane Harvey, 2012’s Sandy and 2008’s Ike as storms where the official Saffir-Simpson category didn’t quite convey the danger because of its emphasis on wind. “The concept of saying ‘downgraded’ or ‘weakened’ should be forever banished,” said University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd. “With Florence, I felt it was more dangerous after it was lowered to Category 2...”


Carolinians Are Under Water. What’s Your Flood Risk? Many people don’t even realize they live in a flood zone, according to a story at Emergency Management: “…One of the key issues is the lack of knowledge of the risk. “Everyone lives in a flood zone and with flooding being the most common natural disaster in the U.S., it is critical that property owners understand their level of risk,” said Patty Latshaw, senior vice president of compliance and principal NFIP flood coordinator at Wright Flood. With NFIP nearly $20 billion in debt and $16 billion having been forgiven last year, many say the program needs to be reformed for viability. The NRDC advocates for improving the knowledge that homebuyers and renters have about their flood risks. “It’s a big problem,” Scata said. “There’s just not enough information out there to help people who face these risks, especially when you’re moving into a new area, you should be fully informed about the flooding risk and a lot of this can be directly influenced by the NFIP…”

Photo credit: “Floodwaters inundate homes after Florence struck the Carolinas, Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, in Conway, S.C.” AP/Sean Rayford.



Power Outages During a Hurricane Can Be Deadly. Solar Can Fix That. Mother Jones has an interesting angle; here’s a clip: “…The upside of solar is that it easily lends itself to decentralized power and micro-grids that could maintain the power for more people in the wake of a disaster. Solar is “an easy distributed resource and obviously a clean one,” Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment Director Kevin Jones says. But the downside is that on its own it doesn’t lead to a more resilient a power grid, unless it is combined with advanced battery technology that allows people to disconnect from the grid to become self-reliant. Consider those fire stations: For a microgrid, panels on the roof had to be hooked up to long-lasting storage options. The combination of battery storage and solar could mean that “you have additional resilience when the grid goes down,” Jones notes…”

Photo credit: Jim Wyss/TNS via ZUMA.


How Dutch Stormwater Management Could Have Mitigated Damage from Hurricane Florence. CBS News 60 Minutes had an eye-opening report on how the Netherlands has gone of the offensive; no major floods in that country (most of which is below sea level) since 1953. Here’s an excerpt: “…

Bill Whitaker: But how do you go about preventing a disaster like Katrina, Harvey, Sandy? It– it just doesn’t seem possible.

Henk Ovink: We can’t prevent them from happening. But the impact that is caused by these disasters, we can decrease by preparing ourselves. I think the catastrophes we see in the world are all man-made. The storms are perhaps man-caused and you can debate that. But the catastrophes because of the storms? Uh. Those are man-made.

It’s a radical statement. We went with him to the Netherlands to learn what shaped his thinking: it’s water. Water is everywhere in this country known for its charming canals, picturesque dikes and windmills. But they’re not just quaint tourist attractions. For centuries the canals and dikes have held back water, the windmills pump it away. Ovink took us up in a helicopter so we could see it from above...”

Photo credit: “Manmade dunes protect the town of Katwijk from the sea, underneath the dunes is a large parking garage.”


Professor Helps Develop Fire-Weather Tool. I thought this was pretty cool. Details via St. Cloud State University: “A tool that could improve forecasting of wildland fires has been protoyped by a St. Cloud State professor, in concert with the U.S. Forest Service. Alan Srock, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Hydrologic Sciences, is the lead author of the Hot-Dry-Windy Index (HDW), which could help fire managers anticipate days when weather conditions would have the greatest potential to make wildfire erratic or especially dangerous. “We’re still rolling this out. It’s still preliminary,” said Srock. “But, we’ve got some folks that are out in the field, using HDW and learning about it, and we’re responding to their needs.” Srock is a meteorologist by training. He holds a master’s degree and doctorate from University at Albany, State University of New York.  The HDW is based on atmospheric variables that affect wildland fire: temperature, moisture and wind...”


Hotel Workers Fret Over a New Rival: Alexa at the Front Desk. Robotics, automation and computerization are in the process of disrupting the hotel industry (along with Airbnb.com). Here’s a clip from The New York Times: “…You are not going to stop technology,” said Unite Here’s president, D. Taylor. “The question is whether workers will be partners in its deployment or bystanders that get run over by it.” Unlike manufacturing workers, whose jobs have been lost to automation since as far back as the 1950s, workers in the low-wage portion of the service sector had remained until now largely shielded from job-killing technologies. Many earned too little to justify large capital costs to replace them. A typical hotel or motel desk clerk earns just over $12 an hour, according to government data; a concierge just over $13.50. And many of the tasks they perform seemed too challenging to automate. Technology is changing this calculus...”


59 F. maximum temperature in the Twin Cities Tuesday.

68 F. average high on September 25.

71 F. high on September 25, 2017.

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.




WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny. Better. Winds: W 10-15. High: near 60

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase. Low: 52

THURSDAY: More clouds, risk of a shower. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 61

FRIDAY: Cooler with showery rains. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 44. High: 53

SATURDAY: Intervals of sun, nicer day of weekend. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 37. High: 55

SUNDAY: Cloud-cluttered. More showers. Winds: E 10-15. Wake-up: 44. HIgh: 57

MONDAY: Period of steadier rain possible. Winds: E 10-15. Wake-up: 49. High: 56

TUESDAY: Some sun, few showers may arrive late. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 48. High: near 60


Climate Stories…

Conservative Principals Are Not Incompatible with Climate Concerns. Amen. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at TheHill: “…The same challenges that caused conservatives to raise their noses to clean energy can now be applauded as prime examples of what conservatives like to see in the economy: breakthrough innovations, market-driven competition, and consumer choice. Obvious economic benefits aside, renewable energy is also able to offer a unique approach to energy independence, and maybe more importantly, national security. Indeed, the green energy we see today is in no way the same technologies we saw break into the scene 20 years ago. Self-sufficiency is one of many things to highlight about renewables, which should be of particular interest to the right. In few other sectors do we have the opportunity to pursue American independence the way we do through a diverse and reliable energy portfolio…”


Meet the “Climate Refugees” Who Already Had To Leave Their Homes. The Guardian reports; here’s an excerpt: “…A lot of younger people have moved away as you can’t put every house on 15ft stilts. You couldn’t get the school bus down the flooded road. [The tribe] made the decision to relocate and managed to get a grant from the federal government in 2016 to start that process. We looked through sites and we now have somewhere about 30 miles away – construction will begin be sometime at the end of next year for 150 lots. It’s very slow. It’s been frustrating and also scary because of the risk of hurricanes. The plan is to rebuild the community, make it what it was. There are still some people who are not ready to move, especially older people, and you have to be respectful of people’s wishes. My grandma is 92 and she’s never lived anywhere else but the island – for her to move to a new community is a big ask. We are called climate refugees, but I hate that term. “Refugee” suggests something with no clear plan or action but we have a clear plan and are doing this as a unified tribe…”

Photo credit: “Scenes from the disappearing bayou in Isle de Jean Charles, where the tribe has been awarded $52m to resettle on higher ground.” Photograph: Charlie Varley for the Guardian.


As Oil Companies Pledge Action on Methane, Melting Arctic is Spewing Emissions: Climate Nexus has the headlines and links: “In the wake of the Trump administration’s dual moves to roll back restrictions on methane emissions in fossil fuel production this month, a coalition of oil companies, including ExxonMobil and Chevron, are pledging efforts to reduce methane emissions from natural gas extraction. The pledges would amount to a more than 20 percent reduction in emissions by 2025. The move may be too little, too late for polluters: the Washington Post published a report Monday on methane lakes in Alaska, where concentrations of the gas, caused by swiftly-melting permafrost, are bubbling to the surface of the water. Research shows that methane releases from these lakes could help double the amount of methane in the atmosphere by the end of the century, and scientists worry some of these lakes demonstrate deep geologic thawing of previously-uncovered fossil fuels.” (Coalition cuts: WSJ $, Reuters, Houston Chronicle $, Axios. Lakes: Washington Post $. Commentary: Houston Chronicle, Chris Tomlinson column $)

Image credit: Environmental Defense Fund.


I Tested Out the Ridiculous Fashion Climate Change Will Force On Us. Staying cool (and waterproof) may become more of a challenge, according to a post at Vice: “…Fortunately, for all our faults, mankind’s adaptivity remains one of our greatest attributes. If there’s no way to unfuck this climate situation, we’ll undoubtedly find ways to carry on in spite of it. While the greatest minds on the planet toil away fighting climate change and mitigating its worst effects, ordinary people will have more mundane concerns. That brings me to my latest project: How do you stay cool when the world around you is getting incredibly hot? On a particularly toasty weekend in LA, I tested out a variety of heat-beating techniques and products. Whether traditional, novel, simple, high-tech, free, or prohibitively expensive, I pseudo-scientifically analyzed how they’d fare at keeping things chill once we’re all living in a Mad Max dystopia…”

Photo credit: Erik Abriss.


National Parks Bearing Brunt of Climate Change, Scientists Find. Here’s an excerpt from a new study highlighted at The San Francisco Chronicle: “…A study released Monday finds that the country’s national parks, which were designed to set aside and protect the most pristine and coveted spots in the United States, are being hit disproportionately by climate change. Temperatures across 417 sites managed by the National Park Service, from the Florida Everglades to Yellowstone to Alaska’s Mount Denali, have increased at twice the rate as the rest of the country, the study finds. The parks also have experienced greater declines in rainfall. Such hotter, drier conditions are expected to persist in many of the parks, probably magnifying the harm that’s already begun to afflict mountains, forests and the coast as well as the plants and animals that live there. The Trump administration’s unraveling of global warming policies and the National Park Service’s backsliding on climate programs under President Trump stand only to exacerbate the risk...”



Climate Change is Real. Welcome to the New Normal. The Washington Post reports: “…The most ambitious attempt to quantify the link between climate and weather — a blue-chip international consortium called World Weather Attribution — has not yet made an attempt to estimate any possible effect that global warming may have had on Florence or Mangkhut. But another group of researchers, the Climate Extremes Modeling Group at the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, estimated Sept. 12 that Florence would produce 50 percent more rainfall than if human-induced global warming had not occurred…”

Photo credit: “Hurricane Florence is one of many signs of climate change, and those who deny it are complicit in the destruction, meteorologist Eric Holthaus says.