Considering Alternatives, A Fairly Quiet Pattern

“The only thing you sometimes have control over is perspective. You don’t have control over your situation. But you have a choice about how you view it” quipped Chris Pine. True.

While we track fleeting showers and worry (out loud) about a deepening dry spell, try to remember that
things could be far worse. The Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii is throwing ash 30,000 feet into the atmosphere. A problem for locals – and possibly trans-Pacific airline flights.

And weather models are (fairly consistently) bringing a potential tropical storm into Florida around May 26. Notice you don’t hear much from friends living in Florida this time of year? Puzzling.

A fizzling front drops most of the rain on the Dakotas and western Minnesota, but a few showers are possible by Saturday. We should dry out later in the day Sunday, with a streak of 70s and low 80s next week.

NOAA reports over 53 percent of Minnesota is abnormally dry; over 6% of northern counties are now in a moderate drought.

My lawn is starting to crunch; sprinklers are going full-blast. Yes, we need a little rain right above now.

Dry Spell Deepens. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor 53.46% of Minnesota is abnormally dry  and 6.47% of state is under moderate drought.

Visible Imagery. Thursday’s midday visible (top image) is courtesy of AerisWeather; the true color (bottom image) is from NOAA NESDIS.

Tracking Lightning. We are entering prime time for lightning over the Northern Hemisphere (May and June) and a wild display of cloud to ground lightning was observed over South Dakota Thursday evening along a vigorous frontal boundary. The bulk of moisture (and lightning) with this system is forecast to stay south and west of MSP. Global lightning data set: AerisWeather.

Soggy Near-Miss. NOAA NAM’s 00z run continues a trend – keeping the heaviest rain well south and west of Minnesota, across South Dakota and Nebraska, where some 4-5″ amounts are predicted. The latest run prints out precious little rainfall for the Twin Cities – the best chance of puddles into Sunday morning over far western and northern Minnesota.

Why Are Some Tornadoes Rated With an F, and Others With an EF? in Cedar Rapids, Iowa has a good explainer; here’s a snippet: “…The Fujita Scale, which rates a tornado’s intensity based on the damage it causes, was developed by Dr. Ted Fujita of the University of Chicago, and was introduced in 1971. It went from F0 to F5, the latter being the most intense tornado causing complete destruction. Each rating level had an estimated wind speed range:

F0: 40-72 mph
F1: 73-112 mph
F2: 113-157 mph
F3: 158-206 mph
F4: 207-260 mph
F5: 261-318 mph

Since then, engineers and meteorologists have done much more research on tornadoes and the damage they cause. Better knowledge since then led to the Enhanced Fujita Scale, enacted in 2007. It accounts for more types of damage, including the type of structure and how well it was built, to give a more accurate representation of how strong a tornado really was…”

File image: FEMA.

America is Not Ready For This (Again). Any lessons learned from Harvey, Irma and Maria? Here’s a clip from The New Republic: “…He says residents are more motivated to prepare their households for this hurricane season, but suggested the state could be doing more to prepare for the new normal: stronger, more frequent hurricanes. “There’s a longer range issue of how are we going to deal with all these areas that are prone to storm surge,” he said. “There’s a question of whether there should even be neighborhoods and local communities in some of these low-lying areas.” Instead of seriously grappling with those questions, however, most destroyed buildings in those places were rebuilt. And last week, The Tampa Bay Times reported that the Florida legislature “failed to pass many of the bills they identified as essential” to lessening the damage from future storms. No bill was passed to address Florida’s decrepit sewage systems, which saw mass overflows after Hurricane Irma’s flooding—but a bill was passed to allow companies to dump treated sewage into drinking water sources…”

Photo credit: NOAA.

Will El Nino Emerge by Next Winter? We’re due for the weather pendulum to swing in the other direction; details via Reuters: “The El Niño weather pattern, associated with warmer and wetter weather than usual that may give rise to damaging conditions, could emerge by the 2018-19 Northern Hemisphere winter, with neutral conditions expected to prevail through November this year, a U.S. government weather forecaster said on Thursday. The last El Niño, a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific that typically occurs every few years, was linked to crop damage, fires and flash floods in 2016. The possibility of a transition to El Niño weather-pattern is nearing 50 percent by the 2018-19 Northern Hemisphere winter, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) said in its monthly forecast...”
Graphic credit: Columbia University.

* Check out some amazing video of one of the German tornadoes here.

Mysterious Rise in Banned Ozone-Destroying Chemical Shocks Scientists. Time to spend more time in the basement, according to new research summarized at The Guardian: “A sharp and mysterious rise in emissions of a key ozone-destroying chemical has been detected by scientists, despite its production being banned around the world. Unless the culprit is found and stopped, the recovery of the ozone layer, which protects life on Earth from damaging UV radiation, could be delayed by a decade. The source of the new emissions has been tracked to east Asia, but finding a more precise location requires further investigation. CFC chemicals were used in making foams for furniture and buildings, in aerosols and as refrigerants. But they were banned under the global Montreal protocol after the discovery of the ozone hole over Antarctica in the 1980s. Since 2007, there has been essentially zero reported production of CFC-11, the second most damaging of all CFCs...”

We Made Plastic. We Depend On It. Now We’re Drowing In It. Check out a harrowing story at National Geographic: “…Because plastic wasn’t invented until the late 19th century, and production really only took off around 1950, we have a mere 9.2 billion tons of the stuff to deal with. Of that, more than 6.9 billion tons have become waste. And of that waste, a staggering 6.3 billion tons never made it to a recycling bin—a figure that stunned the scientists who crunched the numbers in 2017. No one knows how much unrecycled plastic waste ends up in the ocean, Earth’s last sink. In 2015, Jenna Jambeck, a University of Georgia engineering professor, caught everyone’s attention with a rough estimate: between 5.3 million and 14 million tons each year just from coastal regions. Most of it isn’t thrown off ships, she and her colleagues say, but is dumped carelessly on land or in rivers, mostly in Asia. It’s then blown or washed into the sea…”

Photo credit: “Just after dawn in Kalyan, on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, trash pickers looking for plastics begin their daily rounds at the dump, joined by a flock of birds. In the distance, garbage trucks rolling in from the megacity traverse a garbage valley. The woman carrying the red cloth lives at the landfill.” Photo” Randy Olson.

Humans Are Causing Massive Changes in the Location of Water Around the World, NASA Says. The Washington Post has the story: “A 14-year NASA mission has confirmed that a massive redistribution of freshwater is occurring across Earth, with middle-latitude belts drying and the tropics and higher latitudes gaining water supplies. The results, which are probably a combination of the effects of climate change, vast human withdrawals of groundwater and simple natural changes, could have profound consequences if they continue, pointing to a situation in which some highly populous regions could struggle to find enough water in the future. “To me, the fact that we can see this very strong fingerprint of human activities on the global water redistribution, should be a cause for alarm,” said Jay Famiglietti, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and one of the authors of a study published in Nature on Wednesday…”

Map credit: NASA, after Rodell et al., 2018.

Two-Thirds of World Population Will Live in Cities by 2015: UN Study. CNN breaks down the trends: “The coming decades will see the growth of colossal megacities as the world’s population increasingly moves into urban environments, a new United Nations report predicts. Today, 55% of the world’s population is urban, a figure which is expected to grow to 68% by 2050, with the addition of 2.5 billion new city residents, according to projections by the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. By 2030, there will be 43 megacities around the world with populations of over 10 million, up from 33 similarly sized urban centers today and just 10 in 1990...”

The Growing Partisan Divide on the Environment. Here’s an excerpt of a new report from Niskanen Center: “In a new report published today by the Niskanen Center, political scientist David Karol analyzes how environmental issues have become increasingly partisan in American politics, and explores what might shift the debate on environmental issues—and climate specifically—into more productive territory. There are lessons here for anyone looking to affect climate policy on the right side of the aisle. Before we can think about how to shift the lines of partisan battle, it is helpful to understand how the lines were drawn in the first place. Using scorecards from the League of Conservation Voters, Karol shows the stark difference between the mid-20th century (when modern environmentalism entered politics) and today. Forty-eight years ago…”

Image: Yale Climate Connections.

America’s Clean Power Map: Solar on Coasts, Wind Rules Heartland. Bloomberg published an interesting map; here’s an excerpt: “Companies that sign long-term contracts to buy clean energy in the U.S. generally look to the heartland for wind power and to coastal states for solar. Wind blows best in places like Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa, and that’s where information technology giants like Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Inc. secure most of their power-purchase agreements for wind. California and, more recently, North Carolina, are among the top sources of solar...”

Flip Around the Channels. In This Town the News is Often The Same. Here’s a clip from a Washington Post story: “The TV news has a familiar feel to it here in west-central Pennsylvania. News stories broadcast on WJAC, the NBC affiliate in town, have appeared on nearby station WATM, the ABC affiliate. And many of those stories are broadcast on WWCP, the Fox station here, as well. Not just the same topics — identical stories, reported by the same reporter or anchor, and repeated, almost verbatim at times, by the other stations. Recently, for example, both WATM and WWCP aired during their morning newscasts the same report about a Vietnam Veterans Day ceremony. Anchors at both stations used the virtually the same language to set up the story...”

What is Innovation in Local TV News? Andrew Heyward’s New Mission Is to Find Out. Here are a couple of excerpts from an interesting interview at Nieman Journalism Lab: “…Social media is a major priority. My sense is that up to now, social media has been more of a promotional platform, a way to link back to TV, a way to link back to video segments that are kind of posted over to social. They’re using social media creatively for three things: story generation or finding stories, covering stories, and also for presenting stories for distribution. There’s a lot of room there for growth…Alongside what I’ll call traditional linear TV — the 5, 6, and 11 p.m. newscasts we have now — there’s going to be some sort of social- and mobile-based video journalism generated by these same stations. That is all still emerging. It’s a great question, because I don’t think we’re suddenly going to come up with some great gimmick and millennials are going to flock to their TV to watch traditional newscasts...”

Why Are the NBA’s Best Players Getting Better Younger? YouTube. My oldest son continuously reminds me to “look it up on YouTube”. The answers to all existential questions are apparently on YouTube. The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating story: “…They were born with advantages that weren’t available to older players and had access to more information than anyone before them in the history of basketball. Justin Tatum, a high-school basketball coach, could tell his son to watch clips with three words: “YouTube this guy.” Which sounds totally normal until you remember it wasn’t possible until very recently. NBA players who grew up watching Michael Jordan couldn’t even watch clips of Michael Jordan. LeBron James didn’t have YouTube. He’s been in the league for longer than YouTube has been a company. But today’s young players have spent their entire lives watching basketball on demand. The extraordinary amount of knowledge at their disposal is one of the reasons they’re entering the league with polished skills and making their influence felt immediately. YouTube allowed Kristaps Porzingis to admire Kevin Durant all the way from Latvia, Joel Embiid to emulate Hakeem Olajuwon and Tatum to geek out about Bryant…”

The 9.9 Percent is the New American Aristocracy. Food for thought from The Atlantic: “…The meritocratic class has mastered the old trick of consolidating wealth and passing privilege along at the expense of other people’s children. We are not innocent bystanders to the growing concentration of wealth in our time. We are the principal accomplices in a process that is slowly strangling the economy, destabilizing American politics, and eroding democracy. Our delusions of merit now prevent us from recognizing the nature of the problem that our emergence as a class represents. We tend to think that the victims of our success are just the people excluded from the club. But history shows quite clearly that, in the kind of game we’re playing, everybody loses badly in the end…”

Image credit: Craig Cutler.

How Baby Boomers Broke America. Check out a must-read post from Steve Brill at “Lately, most Americans, regardless of their political leanings, have been asking themselves some version of the same question: How did we get here? How did the world’s greatest democracy and economy become a land of crumbling roads, galloping income inequality, bitter polarization and dysfunctional government? As I tried to find the answer over the past two years, I discovered a recurring irony. About five decades ago, the core values that make America great began to bring America down. The First Amendment became a tool for the wealthy to put a thumb on the scales of democracy. America’s rightly celebrated dedication to due process was used as an instrument to block government from enforcing job-safety rules, holding corporate criminals accountable and otherwise protecting the unprotected. Election reforms meant to enhance democracy wound up undercutting democracy…”

Image credit: Ross MacDonald for TIME.

Computers Crack the Code of Pop-Song Success. It Helps to be “Happy” and “Female”. In my heart of hearts I’m a happy female. Here’s an excerpt of a fascinating post at The L.A. Times: “If you find it hard to predict which songs are destined for pop-chart success and which will flop, try asking a computer. After analyzing the attributes of more than half a million songs released over a period of 30 years, a computer algorithm was able to sort the successful songs from also-rans with an accuracy of up to 86%. A team of mathematicians from UC Irvine described how — and why — it accomplished this feat in a study published in Wednesday’s edition of the journal Royal Society Open Science. “There is something magical about music,” wrote the team, which was led by students Myra Interiano, Kamyar Kazemi and Lijia Wang. “Scientists have been trying to disentangle the magic and explain what it is that makes us love some music, hate other music and just listen to music...”

Photo credit: Postcard West.

Twin Cities No Longer Healthiest Metro Area in the USA. Bring Me The News explains: “…The Twin Cities was the healthiest metro area in 2017, but now Minneapolis and St. Paul are treated as separate cities. As a result, Minneapolis is now the 2nd fittest city in America, behind Arlington, Virginia. Still, 2nd is pretty damn good and when you consider that St. Paul is in 8th, it paints a picture of relative health for the Twin Cities. The index ranks America’s largest cities using 33 health behaviors, chronic disease levels and local fitness infrastructure. The Twin Cities scored well in most areas, while St. Paul ranked the highest in the nation for having the most baseball/softball diamonds per capita…”

Top-Rated Vacation Destinations in North America. We are number 10! Star Tribune reports: “Expedia is out with its second annual list of the 50 top-rated places to visit in North America, and Minneapolis came in 10th ahead of the likes of Bar Harbor, Maine, and Key West and Sanibel in Florida. “Up two slots this year, Minneapolis … continues to gain popularity,” Expedia noted in its online compilation, which it based on examining reviews posted on its site for more than 4,600 cities. Leading the way on the list was Wailea, Hawaii, as it did for Expedia last year. Just last fall, the Wall Street Journal declared Minneapolis as one of the hottest travel destinations for the coming year — and the only one among the 10 in the United States…”

* The Expedia story is here.

Minnesota is Surrounded by 15 of the 20 Drunkest Cities in America. I had no idea, but Bring Me The News has a head-shaking post: “In search of the 20 drunkest cities in America, 24/7 Wall Street took data from 381 metro areas and produced a top 20 list that features 10 cities in Wisconsin, three in Iowa, two in North Dakota and just one in Minnesota. The list is so heavily populated by Minnesota’s direct neighbors that we bolded the four cities that aren’t bordering or in Minnesota. The number to the right of each city is the percentage of adults who drink to excess. (7 of the Top cities are in Wisconsin, btw)…

  1. Green Bay, WI – 26.5%
  2. Eau Claire, WI – 26.2%
  3. Appleton, WI – 26.2%
  4. Madison, WI – 25.9%
  5. Fargo, ND – 25.2%
  6. Oshkosh, WI – 24.5%

Fire Officials Say Suspicious Package Found Near State Capitol Was Weather Balloon. Better call out the Swat Team. The NWS once offered a $1.00 “reward” if you returned these to be used again – no idea  if that’s still case. WSB-TV in Atlanta has the harrowing tale: “Atlanta Fire and police are investigating a suspicious package at a church near the State Capitol. Fire officials told Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston the suspicious package was a weather balloon that fell from the sky. Authorities told Channel 2 Action News that Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Southwest and Washington Street Southwest is closed due to the investigation. The package is near a church in the area. Channel 2 Action News learned from authorities that the substance is not hazardous…” (nice to see our old pal Dave Huddleston!)

Connecting the Dots. I routinely talk to groups about my entreprenurial hits and misses, and the threats (and opportunities) posed by a rapidly-changing climate. If you’re interested in getting on the list and securing specific dates for the fall or winter drop me a request here.

85 F. high in the Twin Cities on Thursday.

70 F. average high on May 17.

72 F. high on May 17, 2017.

May 18, 1980: Mt. St. Helens erupts. The smoke plume eventually rises to 80,000 feet, circling the earth in 19 days. Brilliant sunsets due to the smoke are seen over Minnesota for days afterward.

May 18, 1933: Tornadoes hit McLeod and Mower counties.

FRIDAY: Warm sunshine. Winds: S 10-15. High: 82

FRIDAY NIGHT: Chance of a T-storm, especially north/west of MSP. Low: 61

SATURDAY: More clouds, a few T-showers possible. Winds: N 5-10. High: 74

SUNDAY: Cooler with lingering showers. Winds: NE 7-12. Wake-up: 51. High: 68

MONDAY: Plenty of sun, light breeze. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 50. High: 75

TUESDAY: Fading sun, T-shower chance late. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 55. High: 78

WEDNESDAY: Few showers and T-storms nearby. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 60. High: near 80

THURSDAY: Unsettled, pop-up T-showers possible. Winds: E 7-12. Wake-up: 61. High: 79

Climate Stories…

Trump’s NASA Chief: “I Fully Know and Believe the Climate is Changing”. No kidding. Here’s a clip from The Atlantic: “The new administrator of NASA held a town hall Thursday at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Jim Bridenstine is about four weeks into the job, and his path here was mired in controversy. After a few opening remarks, he started taking some questions. The first was about what Bridenstine thinks makes him qualified to be the head of NASA. The second was, as the moderator put it, “one more easy one—because it’s about climate change.” Bridenstine laughed. So did many in the room. It was an uncomfortable question. Bridenstine, as a Republican in Congress, has a record of denying that humans are responsible for causing climate change. For Democrats and liberals, Bridenstine’s view on this and other issues—particularly on same-sex marriage and transgender rights—made him a contentious pick to lead NASA, an agency that supports climate-change research and very publicly agrees with the majority of climate scientists who say that humans are the primary cause of the planet’s rising temperatures…”

Image credit: NASA.

Your Dinner Might Be Swimming North Thanks to Climate Change, Rutgers Study Says. has the story: “Climate change is making oceans warmer and the fish are taking flight. And that could have a big impact on New Jersey’s $7.9 billion fishing industry according to a new Rutgers-led study published Wednesday. Aquatic life has a narrow tolerance for temperature range, so as the water heats up species populations are shifting northward to find suitable habitat according to Malin Pinksy, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor in Rutgers’ Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources. By 2100, the Atlantic’s temperature off the Jersey Shore could rise to levels currently seen in Virginia…”

Photo credit: “In this Star-Ledger file photo, people fish off the Ocean Explorer party boat.” (Patti Sapone | The Star-Ledger)

The Way Scientists Define Climate Goals Has Given the World a False Sense of Hope. Quartz has the post; here’s an excerpt: “…Countries are becoming more ambitious about climate goals: Some are planning to ban the use of petroleum-powered cars, while others are aiming to hit zero emissions within decades in all sectors, including transportation, power, and industry. All this would make it seem we’re on track. But we are not. In 2017, the world set a new record high for greenhouse-gas emissions. What can we do to turn the tide? In two separate analyses published this week in Nature Geoscience, Glen Peters and Oliver Geden, researchers at the Center for International Climate Research and the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, respectively, argue the solution is to completely rethink the way we set the policies designed to push us towards climate goals…”

Photo credit: “Renewable energy alone wouldn’t help us hit our climate goals in time.” (Reuters/Nick Oxford).

Most Americans Say Climate Change Affects Their Local Community, Including Two-Thirds Living Near Coast. Pew Research Center has the story: “Roughly six-in-ten Americans (59%) say climate change is currently affecting their local community either a great deal or some, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Some 31% of Americans say the effects of climate change are affecting them personally, while 28% say climate change is affecting their local community but its effects are not impacting them in a personal way. As is the case on many climate change questions, perceptions of whether and how much climate change is affecting local communities are closely tied with political party affiliation…”

NASA Completes Survey Flights to Map Arctic Ice. Here’s an excerpt of a post from NASA: “Operation IceBridge, NASA’s longest-running airborne mission to monitor polar ice change, concluded this year’s springtime survey of Arctic sea and land ice on May 2. The flights, which began on March 22, covered the western basin of the Arctic Ocean and Greenland’s fastest-changing glaciers.“This campaign achieved most of our primary objectives in surveying the state of Arctic ice,” said IceBridge’s acting project scientist Joe MacGregor. “We’ve now flown many of these missions ten years in a row, a period that has included continued rapid change in both Arctic glaciers and sea ice.” The image above was taken during a research flight carried out on April 21 near Vestfjord Glacier in Scoresby Sund, along the eastern coast of Greenland...”

Photo credit: “A large iceberg floating among sea ice floes, as seen during an operation IceBridge survey flight on April 21, 2018.” Credit: NASA/Linette Boisvert.