Blue Sky Weekend – Frost Risk In A Week?

All of us are finding our way in the “new normal” of living through a pandemic. Each of us has a different risk profile. Epidemiologists say most of us will catch the bug over the next 2 years, and most of us will be fine.

Nobody wants to be reckless. Then again, nothing about the human condition is “perfectly safe”. Every day we take calculated risks, employing coping skills, technology and common sense to lower those risks.

According to the National Safety Council the lifetime odds of dying in a fall are 1 in 127. A bee sting? 1 in 63,225. Lightning? 1 in 161,865. I am not for one minute trying to minimize the risk posed by novel coronavirus. But I suspect we will all find (lower risk) ways to hang on and get through this. Take it easy out there.

Today borders on glorious, with lukewarm 70s and blue sky. A cooler Sunday gives way to showery rain Monday and Tuesday, with a few days in the 50s next week. Shorts and jackets in the same closet. An awkward marriage.

Here comes the roller coaster. Models suggest a frost one week from today. Followed by a few 80s by mid-May. Yep, it’s still a good idea not to plant annuals until after Mother’s Day.

Map credit above: Praedictix.

What Are The Odds of Dying From... I know, what a lovely way to start a Saturday, but everywhere you turn there is nagging risk. It’s how we manage these risks that counts. Here’s an excerpt from The National Safety Council: “It might seem a bit morbid, but human nature leads us to contemplate our demise. We sometimes wonder, “What are my odds of dying from..”? Are you more likely to be killed in a car crash or shot to death by an assailant? Is it really that rare to be struck by lightning? Here at the National Safety Council, we get those questions a lot. So, we put together the Odds of Dying chart below. (Here’s another way to look at it.) Keep in mind these odds are statistical averages over the entire U.S. population and do not necessarily reflect the chances of death for a particular person from a particular external cause. Odds of dying are affected by an individual’s activities, occupation, and where he or she lives and drives, among other things...”

Balmy Weekend, Then Cooler Next Week. From 70s and 80s to frost in less than 8 days. Why not. Anything more stable, moderate and predictable would be….San Diego. Map sequence above: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

USDA Update. Here’s an excerpt from this week’s edition of USDA Midwest Climate Hub: “Conditions have taken a fairly remarkable shift across much of the Corn Belt which has allowed planting to move ahead much more quickly than expected. Precipitation has been pretty limited with well-below-average precipitation over the last 30 days (and much longer in some areas – not pictured). The totals for the last 30 dayss have been less than an inch in some areas of the Plains, which is less than half or even 25% of average in places. The mid-month cold still dominates the 30 day temperature averages, with 2-4F below average common around the region.”

Rapid Decrease in Surface Soil Moisture. This is pretty remarkable, considering how saturated soils were in 2019, lasting into the winter months. USDA Midwest Climate Hub has details: “The limited precipitation has allowed the surface soils to dry, despite the colder-than-average temperatures. Winds have also helped the drying process. One soil moisture model from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center shows a 50 mm (about 2 inch) loss of moisture in the last month in part of the region, as well as decent drying elsewhere. This change has dried surface soils sufficiently to allow more widespread planting than was expected eve a few weeks ago. Most of the drying is at the surface. Most soil moisture profiles are still quite full. The drier surface soils are somewhat beneficial in allowing planting and starting to develop root systems, which can reach the soil moisture below.”

Cool Correction, But Hardly Wintry. The definition of a “cold front” has morphed from subzero to 50s (above zero), so I guess that’s progress. Both ECMWF (top) and GFS (bottom) predict cooler than average temperatures next week, followed by some warming as we head into mid-May. Credit: WeatherBell.

Mid-May: Hot Ridge Building Eastern USA. Again, confidence levels are even lower than usual with wild swings in NOAA’s GFS guidance looking 2 weeks out. This solution looks (stinking) hot for much of the south and east, with a cooler trough of low pressure sparking showers and T-storms from the Rockies into the High Plains.

April: Drier Than Average For Most of Minnesota. Rainfall deficits were roughly an inch or so from Duluth and St. Cloud to the Twin Cities and Rochester. It was even drier for southeastern South Dakota and much of Iowa. Map credit: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Tracking Billion Dollar U.S. Weather Disasters By Month. NOAA NCEI presents extreme weather disasters in a new format, providing additional perspective: “…NCEI tracks U.S. weather and climate events that have significant economic and societal impacts and provides quarterly summaries of these events. Since 1980, the United States has sustained 265 weather and climate disasters where the overall damage costs per event reached or exceeded $1 billion (including adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index, as of April 2020). The cumulative cost for these 265 events exceeds $1.775 trillion. A new NCEI tool is designed to help users investigate the climatological (long-term) frequency of these events across the Nation and its regions. The climatology provides visualization tools, such as graphs and figures, for several regions and all U.S. states. This can be a useful way for decision-makers to utilize historical data to understand which types of large events typically occur at what times of year, by region…”

Ouch. Happy not to see much orange showing up in Minnesota, but what is going on over the western High Plains and Rocky Mountains? Map courtesy of climatologist and mapping guru Brian Brettschneider.

USA Has Seen Deadliest Tornado Year In Nearly a Decade. has the post; here’s an excerpt: “…So before the calendar switches to May, the United States has already seen more tornado fatalities than every single year since 2012. That’s why 73 is so significant of a number. The last time this many tornado deaths occurred in a single year was back in the infamous year of 2011; a total of 553 people died from tornadoes that year. Of course, that was the year of the unforgettable tornado outbreak that ravaged Alabama and other southern states in late April. For perspective, the annual average for tornado deaths in the U.S. between 1989 and 2018 was 69. We aren’t even four months into the year and we are above that number. Most of the tornado deaths occurred between April 11 and 22 when a devastating severe outbreak slammed the the South on Easter Sunday into the following Monday morning…”
Graphic credit: “2020 is already the deadliest tornado year since 2011 despite it not even being May yet.” (Source: WSFA 12 News).

Where the Latest COVID-19 Models Think We’re Headed – And Why They Disagree. FiveThirtyEight has an interesting post and additional perspective: “Models predicting the potential spread of the COVID-19 pandemic have become a fixture of American life. Yet each model tells a different story about the devastation to come, making it hard to know which one is “right.” But COVID-19 models aren’t made to be unquestioned oracles. They’re not trying to tell us one precise future, but rather the range of possibilities given the facts on the ground. One of their more sober tasks is predicting the number of Americans who will die due to COVID-19. FiveThirtyEight — with the help of the Reich Lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst — has assembled six models published by infectious disease researchers to illustrate possible trajectories of the pandemic’s death toll…”

Why Do So Many Anchors Sound Alike? A question I’ve wondered about all these years. Mental Floss has a good explainer: “…The more contemporary practice of sounding linguistically neutral is often referred to as having a General American accent—which is a bit misleading, since there’s really not much of an accent at all. Also referred to as Standard American, Broadcast English, or Network English, General American was a term first used in the 1920s and ’30s by linguists who wanted to isolate a more widespread accent than the New England or Southern dialects. The scholar George Philip Krapp used the phrase in his 1925 book The English Language in America; linguist John Kenyon referred to it in his 1930 title American Pronunciation, where he insisted that 90 million Americans spoke General American…”

Trace of rain fell at MSP yesterday.

78 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

65 F. average high on May 1.

46 F. high on May 1, 2019.

May 2, 2013: A historic snowstorm dumps up to 18 inches of snow in southeast Minnesota and west central Wisconsin. Blooming Prairie receives 18 inches from this storm, and Eau Claire gets 9.3 inches.

SATURDAY: Plenty of sun, breezy. Winds: NW 10-20+ High: 73

SUNDAY: Sunny and a little cooler. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 48. High: 68

MONDAY: Sunny start, then PM showers. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 43. High: 59

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy, mainly PM showers. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 44. High: 57

WEDNESDAY: More clouds than sunshine. Winds: N 8-13. Wake-up: 39. High: near 60

THURSDAY: Heavier, steadier rain possible. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 40. High: 57

FRIDAY: Partly sunny, frost risk Saturday AM. Winds: N 10-15. Wake-up: 38. High: 52

Climate Stories…

In Fast-Warming Minnesota, Scientists are Trying to Plant the Forest of the Future. The Washington Post has a powerful story about the changes underway in Minnesota; here’s a clip: “A Washington Post analysis of historical temperature data found that seven counties in Minnesota have warmed more than 2 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century — about twice the global average. Winters here have warmed even faster, with 59 of the state’s counties — about two thirds — eclipsing the 2C threshold during the months of December through February. Minnesota is home to a landscape like none other in the United States. It has the boreal forests to the north, with their stately conifers and the moose and lynx that roam them; temperate forests in the middle, dominated by deciduous trees such as oak and maple; and prairie stretching to the south and west. But rising temperatures are altering those boundaries. Experts in the state have testified about what is in store if temperatures continue to rise: more heat-related deaths, lower crop yields, damaging deluges and floods, a surge in pests, increasing drought and worsening air quality…”

Map credit: NOAA.

Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water Quality Across the Great Lakes. Discover Magazine has a post that’s worth your time; here’s an excerpt: “…The culprit was a combination of high nutrient pollution — nitrogen and phosphorus, which stimulate the growth of algae — from sewage, agriculture and suburban runoff, and high water temperatures linked to climate change. This event showed that even in regions with resources as vast as the Great Lakes, water supplies are vulnerable to these kinds of man-made threats. As Midwesterners working in the fields of urban environmental health and climate and environmental science, we believe more crises like Toledo’s could lie ahead if the region doesn’t address looming threats to drinking water quality…”

Photo credit: “A harmful algae bloom in Lake Erie near Pelee Island, Ohio.” (Credit: T. Archer/NOAA/Flickr)

America’s Northernmost City Just Recorded Its First Record-Low Temperature in 13 Years. Capital Weather Gang has some much-needed perspective: “…Sea ice is perhaps the greatest influencer of the weather in Utqiagvik; the hasty retreat of sea ice and the emergence of exposed ocean waters in recent years have amplified Utqiagvik’s climate-driven warming rate even more. So while Wednesday’s morning low did beat out a previous record by a mere degree, it’s negligible in the face of 112 record high temperatures tied or broken in the time since Utqiagvik’s last record low. “In baseball, you don’t see 112 to 1,” Thoman said. “That’s a blowout.” Utqiagvik is ground zero for climate change in the United States, with the city rapidly warming more than five degrees in the past century…”

Photo credit: “A shot of Utqiagvik on Wednesday.” (University of Alaska Fairbanks)

Meteorologists Say 2020 On Track to be Hottest Year Since Records Began. Where have we heard that before? Oh yeah – just about every year since 2000. I’m sure this must all be a cosmic coincidence. Here’s the intro to a Guardian post: “This year is on course to be the world’s hottest since measurements began, according to meteorologists, who estimate there is a 50% to 75% chance that 2020 will break the record set four years ago. Although the coronavirus lockdown has temporarily cleared the skies, it has done nothing to cool the climate, which needs deeper, longer-term measures, the scientists say. Heat records have been broken from the Antarctic to Greenland since January, which has surprised many scientists because this is not an El Niño year, the phenomenon usually associated with high temperatures. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calculates there is a 75% chance that 2020 will be the hottest year since measurements began…”

Image credit: NASA ISS (International Space Station).