Instability Thunderstorms Expected Later Today

Like turning on a light switch: instant spring. 3 weeks ago today a full-blown blizzard swept across area. Now there’s green stuff erupting in my yard, an urgent shade of neon-green. The color of hope.

A sun angle similar to the second week of August is heating up the ground and lower atmosphere. But the upper atmosphere is still chilly, suffering from a winter hangover of sorts. Resulting instability can whip up showers and bubbling thunderstorms, in fact the next 8 weeks is peak severe storm season.

A few strong T-storms will mushroom later today, after temperatures languish in the low 80s for a couple hours. Have a Plan B for late afternoon and evening. Sunday will be sunnier and drier, statewide.

Southern Minnesota got a soaking late Thursday, but much of the state is drier than normal, so remind me not to whine about showers in the forecast next Tuesday and Wednesday. A front stalling nearby may spark more puddles next weekend.

Feel free to dig in the dirt: models keep the MSP metro area well above 32F the next 2 weeks. Frost and snow is in our rear-view mirror! Really…


Few Strong T-storms? Conditions are marginal (at best) with little moisture and insufficient shear for a widespread severe outbreak – however – with surface temperatures forecast to reach low 80s there may be enough instability for a few strong storms capable of small hail and gusty winds. 3KM NAM Future Radar product courtesy of pivotalweather.com.


Spring Expected to Retain Its Bounce. That’s just fine with me – no frosty fronts brewing. Maybe we’ll make up for an April nearly 10F colder than average in the metro area. Expect mostly 60s and 70s, but 80s today before the T-storms arrive. ECMWF: WeatherBell.


Storm Potential. Much of the state is trending drier than average, so I’m not going to get too bent out of shape over rain anytime soon, even on a weekend. The 500mb GFS forecast roughly 2 weeks out suggests an active frontal boundary just north and west of Minnesota.


122.4F in Pakistan This Week – Probably a World Record. That’s the air temperature, not the heat index, and it may set a new heat record for the month of April, according to The New York Times.


Remembering the May 6, 1965 Deadly Tornado Swarm. Four Kansas-size F4 tornadoes in the immediate metro area? Yes – it can happen here, because it did happen here. The Star Tribune has details: “…Thirteen people died and nearly 700 were injured. Among the dead were 4-month-old Helene Hawley and 64-year-old Annie Demery (a grandmother to 17) — both from Fridley. The suburb just north of Minneapolis was in the vortex, with one in four houses hit — 1,100 were damaged and 425 destroyed. The city suffered nearly $15 million in losses — including $5 million to school buildings — more than $100 million in today’s dollars. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” Vice President Hubert Humphrey said in Fridley after a tour. “The damage I’ve seen is comparable to a war.…”






How Tornadoes Are Formed. ABC News has a story and a very good video explainer: “…Wind shear is the different in wind speed and direction between the different levels of the atmosphere. While a jet stream is moving from west to east with cold, dry air at high speeds in the upper level of the atmosphere, warm and moist air is flowing up from the Gulf of Mexico, moving south to north at slower speeds closer to the surface. This is the difference in wind speed and direction with height that create the wind shear. How does wind shear help form tornadoes? Wind shear can create a horizontal rotating column of air – known as a vortex – in the atmosphere. When wind shear is present during a severe thunderstorm a tornado can form. But first, a severe thunderstorm has to form.


“Tornado-Resilient” Homes Qualify for Insurance Discounts. KOTV.com in Tulsa explains: “Some Oklahoma insurance companies now offer discounts to homeowners with “Tornado-resilient” or “Fortified” homes. The new incentives go into effect this week and some people could save up to 40 percent on their homeowner’s insurance. The insurance discounts are thanks to House Bill 1720 that passed last year.  That bill requires insurance companies to pass savings on to the consumer if their home meets specified construction standards. These kinds of homes don’t look any different on the outside, but it’s what’s on the inside that gives them their name. When severe weather hits in Oklahoma, the property damage can be extensive. John Madden is a Tulsa builder who offers fortified homes…”



California Burning: Life Among the Wildfires. The frequency and intensity of wildfires in California is forcing many residents to give climate change another look. The Guardian reports: “...It was an experimental prototype course founded on the ideas in George Marshall’s book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change. After spending 15 years studying climate change-denying microcultures, Marshall concluded that facts don’t change people’s minds – only stories do. We’re so motivated by wanting to belong that we’d rather risk the dangers of climate change than the more immediate symbolic death of estrangement from our peers. In order to address climate change in our communities, Marshall suggests, we must appeal to the same desires that religion does: belonging, consolation and redemption…”

Photo credit: “A wildfire near Keenbrook, California in August 2016.” Photograph: Noah Berger/AP


There is No Such Thing as “Heat Lightning”. NOAA explains: “The term heat lightning is commonly used to describe lightning from a distant thunderstorm just too far away to see the actual cloud-to-ground flash or to hear the accompanying thunder. While many people incorrectly think that heat lightning is a specific type of lightning, it is simply the light produced by a distant thunderstorm. Often, mountains, hills, trees or just the curvature of the earth prevent the observer from seeing the actual lightning flash. Instead, the faint flash seen by the observer is light being reflected off higher-level clouds. Also, the sound of thunder can only be heard for about 10 miles from a flash…”


9 Facts About the Weather Radars That Work Day and Night to Keep Us Safe. Dennis Mercereau at Forbes has a timely post: “…There are 160 NEXRAD sites across the United States and its territories. 122 of those radar sites are operated by NOAA itself, while the rest are operated on military bases by the Department of Defense or near airports by the Federal Aviation Administration. Meteorologists also have access to smaller TDWR (Terminal Doppler Weather Radar) sites located at many major airports across the country to help air traffic controllers direct approaching and departing airplanes around dangerous storms. They’re Getting Old. The United States used to have quite a few more radar sites than we have now. Earlier iterations of the network used less powerful, less effective radar technology that required more sites to cover such a large country…”

Map credit: NOAA.


Insect-Born Diseases Have Tripled. Here’s why. WIRED.com tracks some worrisome trends: “...Since 2004, the number of people who get diseases transmitted by mosquito, tick, and flea bites has more than tripled, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday. Between 2004 and 2016, about 643,000 cases of 16 insect-borne illnesses were reported to the CDC—27,000 a year in 2004 (the year in which the agency began requiring more detailed reporting), rising to 96,000 by 2016. At least nine such diseases have also been discovered or introduced into the US in that same timeframe. Most of them are found in ticks. Many of them are potentially life-threatening. What’s to blame for the surge in reported cases? Warmer weather for one thing, said the agency’s director of vector-borne diseases, Lyle Petersen, during a media briefing…”


America’s Renewable Energy Ticks Up. Axios has the latest numbers: The recently updated EIA data, which is the federal government’s official breakdown of U.S. electricity, shows an increasingly diverse mix. That goes counter to warnings by Energy Secretary Rick Perry and other government officials that the grid is too reliant on one type of fuel. By the numbers:

  • Solar went from 0.9% in EIA’s 2016 breakdown to 1.9% in 2017, with 0.6% of that being rooftop solar.
  • Wind’s share went from 5.6% to 6.3%.
  • Hydropower, a renewable energy that doesn’t get as much attention as wind or solar, ticked up from 6.5% to 7.5%...”

Now Available in the Oil Patch: Wind and Solar College Degrees. WSJ.com has details: “…Across the U.S., universities that have long offered degrees related to the fossil-fuels industry are starting to offer degrees and concentrations in wind and solar technologies. Companies such as Tesla Inc. TSLA -8.41% are seeking recruits with specialized skills in renewable energy, even as some oil-and-natural-gas companies pull back on hiring graduates in fields such as geology as they automate more tasks. Majoring in green energy poses risks: The jobs usually don’t pay as well as starting positions with oil-and-gas companies, and it remains a small, albeit growing, industry. Curricula vary, but the programs tend to be interdisciplinary, focusing on giving students technical know-how—such as how to design a wind turbine—in addition to learning about fast-changing government policies…”


Car Makers Step Back From Cars. Say what? The Wall Street Journal explains: “American auto makers are embarking on a historic shift away from passenger cars, as more-profitable sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks continue to expand their share of the market. Long thought to be necessary for combating Japanese rivals and catering to budget-minded or young customers, small cars have fallen out of favor amid low gasoline prices and efficiency improvements in SUVs. Now, large sedans also are on the chopping block. General Motors Co. GM -2.29% will end production of the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact as early as this year, according to people familiar with the matter. GM is also considering discontinuing the Chevy Impala big sedan in the next few years, these people said, a decision that would kill a 61-year-old car model…”

Photo credit: “The assembly line at the GM Orion Assembly plant in Orion Township, Mich., with Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano vehicles.” Photo: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press.


Mark Zuckerberg Doesn’t Understand Journalism. Or maybe he does, and he just doesn’t care. Here’s an excerpt from The Atlantic: “…Zuckerberg runs a media company that distributes news, but doesn’t have a proper newsroom. He runs a media company that has—with Google’s help—dominated the vast majority of digital ad dollars and eviscerated the journalism industry’s business model, all while preaching about the importance of journalism. He runs a media company that, he says, believes deeply in the need to sustain independent journalism, but won’t pay publishers to license journalistic content. And he runs a media company that has decided to show its users less news from professional outlets—it’s really not what people want to see, he says—in favor of more individual opinions…”

Photo credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP.


The Dangers of “Hyper-Automation”. So…you’re telling me I ‘gotta chance? Turns out human beings are still (much) better at most things than robots, as reported by Quartz: “…Automation simply can’t deal with the complexity, inconsistencies, variation and ‘things gone wrong’ that humans can,” and “can create quality problems further down the line,” they say. The Bernstein analysts deduce that Tesla’s troubles are because of the complexity of automating final assembly, where the car is put together. This is something that’s been tried before by other manufacturers—such as Fiat, Volkswagen, and GM—and they have all failed…”

Photo credit: “A machine builds a machine.” (Reuters/Joseph White)


The Perils of Linguistic Diplomacy. Who are we to judge? The Washington Post reports: “One simple word, and — as usual — the Internet exploded. On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron was nearing the end of a news conference during his state visit to Australia, where he spoke next to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Turning to his host, the 40-year-old French president — a former investment banker who prides himself on his ability to speak English fluently — said a few more words en anglais to thank the Turnbulls for their hospitality. “I want to thank you for your welcome, thank you and your delicious wife for your warm welcome,” Macron said…”

Image credit: “In Sydney, French President Emmanuel Macron thanked Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his “delicious wife” Lucy for a “warm welcome.


Sweden Officially Admits that Swedish Meatballs are Actually Turkish. Time.com has the surprising details: “Sweden has admitted that Swedish meatballs — the signature food served in traditional holiday meals and in Ikea cafeterias around the world — are, in fact, Turkish. “Swedish meatballs are actually based on a recipe King Charles XII brought home from Turkey in the early 18th century,” the official Twitter account for Sweden said Saturday…”

File photo credit: “Swedish — or Turkish —meatballs.” Food and Drink—Shutterstock.


The Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky has conjured up the Agave Julep, a carefully curated drink consisting of two ounces of Patrón en Lalique: Serie 2 extra añejo tequila and a half-ounce of Old Rip Van Winkle 25 Year Old bourbon as the base spirits. Add to this 15 muddled leaves of fresh chocolate mint, three drops of chocolate bitters, and three key limes sliced and caramelized with demerara sugar, plus a splash of water. All of this is strategically combined in an elegant gold-hued julep cup filled with crushed ice and garnished with a chocolate mint sprig, an extra slice of caramelized lime, and served with a straw…”


78 F. high temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.

66 F. average high on May 4.

69 F. high on May 4, 2017.

May 5, 1965: At least 7 tornadoes hit southern Minnesota. This outbreak is a preview of what would happen the next day…


SATURDAY: AM sun, PM T-storms. Winds: S 10-15. High: 82

SATURDAY NIGHT: Lingering showers and T-storms. Low: 51

SUNDAY: Bright sunshine with a cooler breeze. Winds: NE 8-13. High: 69

MONDAY: Mellow Monday with lukewarm sun. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 47. High: 72

TUESDAY: Showers, possible thunderstorms. Winds: SE 7-12. Wake-up: 52. High: 68

WEDNESDAY: Soggy sky, showers linger. Winds: N 8-13. Wake-up: 53. High: 63

THURSDAY: A sunny break, showers at night? Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-u: 51. High: 66

FRIDAY: Showers linger, still cool and damp. Winds: E 10-15. Wake-up: 49. High: 62


Climate Stories…

Climate Change Turns Coastal Property into a Junk Bond. Bloomberg reports: “…Most markets don’t depend very much on things that are projected to happen many decades in the future — the Internal Revenue Service counts the useful life of a rental property as only 27.5 years, and the longest-dated U.S. Treasury bonds are only 30 years. Even in the worst-case scenario, sea level rise will be moderate by 2050 — perhaps 1 or 2 feet along most U.S. east coast locations. And there’s a good chance it will be much less. A rise of that magnitude doesn’t sound like a lot. But it would inundate a number of low-lying coastal areas. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s sea level rise viewer app lets you play around with the data and look at maps. Even a moderately bad climate-change scenario could swamp some pieces of coastal real estate within a few decades. But sea level rise isn’t a gradual, steady thing. The ocean is not a still bowl of water, but a roiling mass tossed around by winds and tides…”

File photo: Michael Lopez, Washington Post.


Sea-Level Rise: The Defining Issue of the Century. Here’s an excerpt from The Invading Sea; a collaboration of Florida newspapers: “No graver threat faces the future of South Florida than the accelerating pace of sea-level rise. In the past century, the sea has risen 9 inches inKey West. In the past 23 years, it’s risen 3 inches. By 2060, its predicted to rise another 2 feet, with no sign of slowing down. Think about that. Water levels could easily be 2 feet higher in 40 years. And scientists say thats a conservative estimate. Because of melting ice sheets and how oceans circulate, theres a chance South Florida’s sea level could be 3 feet higher by 2060 and as much as 8 feet by 2100, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It’s not just a matter of how much land we’re going to lose, though the barrier islands and low-lying communities will be largely uninhabitable once the ocean rises by 3 feet. It’s a matter of what can be saved. And elsewhere, how we’re going to manage the retreat…”

File image: NASA.


Actors Were Paid to Support Entergy’s Power Plant at New Orleans City Council Meetings. This takes duplicity and dishonesty to a whole new level. Here’s an excerpt from The Lens: “...They were paid $60 each time they wore the orange shirts to meetings in October and February. Some got $200 for a “speaking role,” which required them to deliver a prewritten speech, according to interviews with the actors and screenshots of Facebook messages provided to The Lens. “They paid us to sit through the meeting and clap every time someone said something against wind and solar power,” said Keith Keough, who heard about the opportunity through a friend. He said he thought he was going to shoot a commercial. “I’m not political,” he said. “I needed the money for a hotel room at that point…”

Photo credit: Michael Stein / The Lens. “It was easy to tell who supported Entergy’s proposed power plant at a public hearing last fall; they were the ones wearing fluorescent orange shirts that read “Clean Energy. Good Jobs. Reliable Power.” Some of those people were paid to show up and support the plant.”


You’re Keeling Me: Headlines and links via Climate Nexus: “Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide reached the highest levels in recorded history last month. On Wednesday, scientists confirmed that readings from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii show an average concentration of carbon dioxide topping 410 parts per million–46 percent higher than concentrations in 1880 at the start of the industrial revolution. “As a scientist, what concerns me the most is not that we have passed yet another round-number threshold but what this continued rise actually means: that we are continuing full speed ahead with an unprecedented experiment with our planet, the only home we have,” Texas Tech’s Katharine Hayhoe said in a statement.” (Washington Post $, Grist, Mashable)

Graphic credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography.


Powerful Investors Push Big Companies to Plan for Climate Change. Here’s a clip from a Scientific American recap: “...The coming weeks are dubbed “proxy season” by corporate governance experts. Most publicly traded companies hold annual meetings in which shareholders, via nonbinding resolutions, signal their approval or dislike of proposed company policies. This year initiatives on climate change are among the most popular ballot items: Of the more than 420 shareholder resolutions initially proposed, about 20 percent focused on climate, tied for the largest of any proposal category, according to a report by the group Proxy Impact. Some resolutions ask companies to adopt greenhouse gas emission targets whereas others ask for reports on ways businesses could be affected by the Paris climate agreement’s global temperature goals…”



Fewer GOP Voters Worried About Climate Change Since Irma and Harvey. Morning Consult has the story: “About eight months after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma swept through the Gulf Coast and the southeastern United States, fewer Republican voters are concerned about climate change, according to a recent Morning Consult/Politico poll. In an April 26-May 1 survey of 1,991 registered voters, 47 percent of registered GOP voters said they are somewhat or very concerned about the issue of climate change and its effect on the environment, down from 57 percent in a Sept. 7-11 poll, which was conducted as Hurricane Irma was hitting the Caribbean and Florida. Both polls have a margin of error of 2 percentage points...”

September 5 file image of Hurricane Irma courtesy of NOAA and AerisWeather.


Graphic via Jean-Pascal Ypersele, lead author &


Climate Change and Vulnerable Communities – Let’s Talk About This Hot Mess. The 1% will be just fine; it’s the poorest communities that will be hit hardest by a warmer, more volatile climate. In fact it’s already happening. Here’s an excerpt from ProPublica: “…As a reporter at ProPublica, my focus is on environmental justice, how low-income, underserved and disenfranchised people have been forced to bear an unequal burden of pollution. That’s the same focus I’m bringing as one of the hosts of “Hot Mess” — a PBS Digital Studios YouTube series about the complexities of climate change. People are the most complex variables in the climate change equation. And my first episode, out today, focuses on the nexus of climate change and environmental justice — and how we need to do a better job connecting the two. As the effects of climate change intensify, so too will the stark differences in consequences experienced by the privileged and the disadvantaged. So as we see more intense storms and extreme temperatures, it’s important to examine the systemic and structural deficiencies that exacerbate inequity...”