Paul Douglas

Faint, Wondrous Whiffs of Spring

I’m moderately confident that accumulating snow season is over now for most of Minnesota. Yesterday’s flurries were bookends to a long snow season (9.3” back in October) but overall winter snowfall was below average across most of Minnesota.

If anyone asks (I hope not) MSP picked up 48.7”. That’s 3” less than last winter and 5” less than average. In spite of a brutal February, metro residents spent 6 percent LESS heating their homes than normal, and overall it was a little milder than last winter.

Too late for snow blowing, too early for lawn mowing, spring has been frustrating, with flashes of warmth interrupted by a conga-line of cool fronts. Today will tempt you with 60 degrees and dazzling blue sky, but Friday showers announce another ill-timed push of cool air this weekend.

Models still bring a a few 60s into town next week, but the warmest air (80s) stay just to our south, over Iowa. Lucky them.

Happily no blizzards, floods, tornadoes or hail the size of canned hams.

Thanks David Letterman.

ECMWF vs. GFS Accuracy Since 2007. The data is the data.
Graphic courtesy of and meteorologist Ryan Maue.

Will a New GFS Model Upgrade Close the Gap with The European Model? Here’s an excerpt of an article I wrote for “Are you with Team GFS or Team ECMWF, the “European Model”? I hate to pick sides, but as a meteorologist I defer to the weather model that, consistently, is most accurate. Of course I’m rooting for the “American Model”, the GFS or Global Forecast System, to win. But here’s the thing: if you’re sanding a table or building a deck you want to use the best tools at your disposal, right? So it goes with weather forecasting. Meteorologists examine scores of models, looking for consistency, continuity, and trends – ultimately choosing a blend of model solutions that has the highest probability of coming true. Believe it or not, we want to get the forecast right! Like most people I defer to what works, based on personal experience. And in recent years many meteorologists have reached the conclusion that I have over time: ECMWF, The European Model, is consistently more accurate. Not perfect, but stepping back and looking at the big picture…which prediction of future weather is better in most real-world scenarios? ECMWF wins most days...”

Limping Back Into Spring. We should hit or top 60F later today, with a few days in the 60s next week (along with a good chance of a few showers and T-storms) – even steadier/heavier rain by the week.

Early May Looks Active. No sudden rush into summer, a summer that may wind up hotter than average if you believe the long-range climate models from NOAA CPC. But looking out 2 weeks the storm track is forecast to linger over the northern tier of the USA, with frequent storms and (possibly) enough warmth and moisture to fuel strong to severe storms close to home.


Tracking the Trends. NOAA will be shortly releasing (formally) the new 1991-2020 average weather data for the USA. The graphic above shows how much of the USA is trending not only warmer, but wetter over time. The “averages” are reacting to a warming Earth.

Climate Central

American Property Casualty Insurance Association Acknowledges Possible South/East Shift of Tornado Alley. has the story; here’s an excerpt that caught my eye: “…A recent analysis of the 38,000 tornadoes that occurred from 1950 to 2019 found a clear shift from the first half of the 70-year period to the second half. Tornado activity was almost identical in the two 35-year periods, but in the Southeast the number of tornadoes increased by 42 percent and in the Great Plains the number of tornadoes decreased by 20 percent. Severe weather and tornadoes can occur throughout the year, but April, May, and June are typically the peak months in terms of frequency and intensity. In 2020, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and Illinois experienced the greatest number of tornadoes, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

On March 25, 2021, a family of six managed to survive in a closet of this house as it was torn apart by a tornado in Calhoun County Alabama.
National Weather Service Birmingham, Alabama via Facebook.

What’s Up with 2021’s Weather? Good question – some crazy extremes since the beginning of the year. Discover Magazine has a good summary; here’s a clip: “…Mind you, through March, this year hasn’t been particularly nasty on average for the U.S. as a whole. According to NOAA, The U.S. Climate Extremes Index was 16 percent below average. But some regions were hit very hard. For example, there were 284 reports of severe weather across the Southeast during March — 143 percent of the long-term frequency. Perhaps the most extreme event to occur so far this year in the United States happened in mid-February: the headline-making, deadly Arctic outbreak that sent temperatures plunging to historic lows across much of North America. Below zero wind chills, along with ice and snow cover, extended as far south as northeastern Mexico — a region more accustomed to being whipped by tropical cyclones than blasts of polar air. The resulting damages in the United States alone amounted to more than $10 billion, making it the nation’s most costly winter weather disaster on record, according to a recent report by NOAA…”

Chris Vagasky, Twitter

Tracks of all Atlantic named storms that have formed before June 1 in each hurricane season from 2015 through 2020. The black segments of tracks denote when each system was either a remnant low-pressure center or an area of low pressure before becoming a depression or storm.

Atlantic Hurricane Season is 6 Weeks Away, But It Has Started Early 6 Straight Years. has the post; here’s an excerpt: “…Since 2015, at least one named storm has developed before June 1 each hurricane season, some of which have had impacts in the United States and elsewhere in the Atlantic Basin. The National Hurricane Center has not yet adjusted the start of hurricane season earlier to account for these pre-season storms. However, beginning this year, they will begin issuing routine Atlantic tropical weather outlooks on May 15, rather than June 1. Last May, the Carolinas were impacted by a pair of tropical storms late in the month. Tropical Storm Arthur brought soaking rain to far eastern North Carolina as it tracked just off the Southeast coast May 16-19...”

2020 Hurricane Season

Get Ready for Another Active Hurricane Season in the Atlantic, NC State Experts Say. Details via The News & Observer: “…In their annual report released last week, N.C. State researchers say they expect 15 to 18 named storms in the Atlantic basin during the 2021 season, which runs until Nov. 30…There were an average of 11 named storms each year in the Atlantic between 1951 and 2020, according to Lian Xie, professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences at N.C. State. But since 1991, the Atlantic has seen an average 14 named storms per season, according to the NOAA…”

NOAA, Twitter

This video, captured with a research drone deployed by NOAA researchers, shows sweeping tornado damage in remote and heavily-wooded areas.

Using Drones to See Tornado Damage in Remote Areas. Here’s a clip from a story at NOAA and “After deadly tornadoes struck the Southeast in March, NOAA researchers for the first time successfully captured aerial photos and video of storm damage from hard-to-reach locations using remote-controlled, uncrewed aircraft. The new imagery helped the community’s response and recovery efforts and enabled forecasters to more accurately map the paths of destruction from multiple tornadoes. For example, they were able to identify the beginning of an 80-mile tornado track in a remote area with limited road access near a river. Scientists hope images from the research drones will improve our understanding of tornadoes and lead to better forecasts...”

Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Project Tornado: Debunking Storm Siren Myths. has a post with a few good reminders: “…Marks said that while people may first think tornado when hearing a siren, they can be activated for other storm threats. “The outdoor warning siren is designed to notify the public of some type of event that they need to seek shelter for. So, if that happened to be softball sized hail and we thought the outdoor warning siren was an appropriate way to get that message to those that might be in harms way, then I think we’d set the alarms off,” said Marks. The sirens may also sound if there is a hazardous material spill. Marks said that on average, the sirens are only activated two to three times per year outside of scheduled tests, so he encourages people to have other ways to receive weather alerts…”

Paul Douglas

How Green are Electric Vehicles? The New York Times (paywall) has a good explainer; here’s an excerpt: “…One way to compare the climate impacts of different vehicle models is with this interactive online tool by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who tried to incorporate all the relevant factors: the emissions involved in manufacturing the cars and in producing gasoline and diesel fuel, how much gasoline conventional cars burn, and where the electricity to charge electric vehicles comes from. If you assume electric vehicles are drawing their power from the average grid in the United States, which typically includes a mix of fossil fuel and renewable power plants, then they’re almost always much greener than conventional cars. Even though electric vehicles are more emissions-intensive to make because of their batteries, their electric motors are more efficient than traditional internal combustion engines that burn fossil fuels…”

43 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

61 F. average high on April 21.

50 F. MSP high on April 21, 2020.

April 22, 1874: Unseasonably cold air moves into Minnesota. The low is 23 degrees at the Twin Cities.

Daydreaming of Costa Rica…
WCCO Radio Producer David Josephson

THURSDAY: Sunny and pleasant. Winds: SW 10-20. High: 61

FRIDAY: Light showers and sprinkles. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 42. High: 51

SATURDAY: Cool and gray. Some clearing late. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 36. High: 48

SUNDAY: Chilly with a few PM showers. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 31. High: 44

MONDAY: Early rain, then brighter and milder. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 41. High: 64

TUESDAY: Unsettled, more showers in the area. Winds: NE 10-20. Wake-up: 43. High: 60

WEDNESDAY: Periods of rain, a cool wind. Winds: NE 15-25. Wake-up: 41. High: 55

Climate Stories…

Rosenmeier Forum host Mike O’Rourke (top left), meteorologist Paul Douglas and climatologist Mark Seeley take part in a virtual seminar where they discuss the micro and macro implications of climate change in Minnesota.
Screenshot / Gabriel Lagarde

Experts Discuss Local Effects of Climate Change During Rosenmeier Forum. I was so happy to team up with friend and mentor Dr. Mark Seeley for this virtual Town Hall Meeting; here’s an excerpt from a summary at Brainerd Dispatch: “…It’s becoming increasingly difficult to predict how weather patterns will emerge, Douglas noted, while Seeley observed that central Minnesota is experiencing a paradigm shift in terms of what trees, plants and animals thrive here best. The short version? Generally speaking, these organisms typically favored climates that were notably more temperate than Minnesota historically has been. As time goes on, the Upper Midwest’s distinction as “America’s Siberia” is becoming increasingly tenuous. Although, Seeley later noted, while the complexion of Minnesota is changing rapidly, it may yet be a preferable environment to many areas of the south and southwest, where volatile weather patterns and increasingly arid conditions are becoming imminent problems...”

U.S. Navy

Climate Change Creates Migrants. Biden Considers Protections. The Associated Press has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…The idea still faces monumental challenges, including how to define a climate refugee when natural disasters, drought and violence are often intertwined in regions people are fleeing, such as Central America. If the U.S. defined a climate refugee, it could mark a major shift in global refugee policy. Biden has ordered national security adviser Jake Sullivan to see how to identify and resettle people displaced directly or indirectly by climate change. A report is due in August. It makes sense for the United States to lead the way, being a principal producer of greenhouse gases, advocates say...”

Global mean sea level rise data from Church and White 2011 (red), Jevrejeva et al 2014 (yellow), Ray and Douglas 2011 (grey), Hay et al 2015 (light blue) and Dangendorf et al 2019 (dark blue). Satellite altimeter data from 1993 (black) to present is taken from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A correction for global average isostatic rebound of 0.3mm/year is added.
Zeke Hausfather, CarbonBrief

How Climate Change is Accelerating Sea Level Rise. Here’s a clip from an analysis at CarbonBrief: “…Sea levels have risen by between 0.18 and 0.2m (180 to 200mm) since 1900. The newer Hay and Dangendorf datasets tend to show less sea level rise than the earlier Church and White and Jevrejeva datasets. While SLR estimates mostly agree in recent decades, larger divergences are evident before 1980. Rates of change in global sea levels are shown as longer-term 20-year averages because individual years are sensitive to global surface temperatures; El Niño years where temperatures are a bit warmer tend to have more rapid SLR than cooler La Niña years. Recently, there has been some debate around whether the current rate of SLR exceeds that experienced back in the 1940s…”

Worldwide Air Pollution Deaths
World Health Organization

NCAA Wants Its Chapters to Say No to Fossil Fuels. Grist reports: “It would be hard to find a more widely revered civil rights organization than the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, which has campaigned for the “political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons” since its anti-lynching crusades more than a century ago. It’s little wonder, then, that major industrial interests take pains to portray themselves as allies of the group’s work. Fossil fuel companies and utilities, in particular, want you to believe they’re helping people of color. To burnish this image, they may donate money to local NAACP chapters, which exist all over the country and can operate with relative autonomy. But the relationships have sometimes gone further than that…”

Therapists specializing in eco-anxiety say the field is finally adapting to meet a growing need.
Illustration: Benjamin Currie/Earther

Climate Anxiety and PTSD Are On The Rise. Therapists Don’t Always Know How to Cope. The Guardian delves into a rapidly-changing climate and our collective mental health: “…The American Psychiatric Association (APA) recognizes climate change as a growing threat to mental health, but many mental health professionals feel unequipped to handle the growing number of people anxious and grieving over the state of the planet. Therapists in a few sub-specialties, such as eco-therapy, train specifically to integrate environmental awareness into their work with clients. But these therapists make up a small percentage of the field, and the vast majority of people don’t have access to climate-informed therapy. A 2016 study found that more than half of therapists interviewed felt that their training had not adequately prepared them to deal with the mental health impacts of the climate crisis…”

Star Tribune, Twitter

Biden to announce 50% NDC — Reports: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “President Biden will pledge to cut U.S. climate pollution to 50% of 2005 levels by 2030, according to reports. The goal, known as a Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement, would nearly double the cuts targeted by the Obama administration in 2015. The White House said an official decision had not yet been made. “Wow. That’s ambition with a capital A,” Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb told the AP after learning of Biden’s plans. Other groups, including Sunrise Movement, the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth are calling for U.S. climate pollution cuts of 70% by 2030, which they say more accurately reflects America’s cumulative climate pollution. The reports come days before the administration’s virtual gathering of international leaders meant to push other countries to do more and reestablish the U.S. as a credible proponent, if not leader, of international climate action. “The United States must be an undeniable global leader in climate action,″ Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said Tuesday. “We cannot preach temperance from a barstool and not pay our fair share when approximately 40% of all the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is red, white and blue.″ (Washington Post $, AP, Bloomberg $, The Hill, Wall Street Journal $, New York Times $, Politico)

In this April 15, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington. No nation offers asylum or other protections to people displaced because of climate change. Biden’s administration is studying the idea, and climate migration is expected to be discussed at his first climate summit.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

AP Sources: Biden to Pledge Halving Greenhouse Gases by 2030. The Seattle Times has the story: “President Joe Biden will pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at least in half by 2030 as he convenes a virtual climate summit with 40 world leaders, according to three people with knowledge of the White House plans. The 50% target would nearly double the nation’s previous commitment and help the Biden administration prod other countries for ambitious emissions cuts as well. The proposal would require dramatic changes in the power and transportation sectors, including significant increases in renewable energy such as wind and solar power and steep cuts in emissions from fossil fuels such as coal and oil...”

USA Facts
USA Facts

Much of USA Trending Warmer and Wetter. USA Facts has some good infographics that explain the link between warmer air and higher water content capable of initiating heavier rains: “…The average amount of precipitation is growing in Northeast states and along the Mississippi River. California had the greatest average annual precipitation drop over the past century. See more, including how the pandemic affected air quality, where the US ranks worldwide for CO2 emissions, and how National Park visits changed over the past year with this data collection from 1895 to 2020...”


2020: Second Warmest Year on Record, Worldwide. More details from USA Facts: “The average global temperature was 0.98 °C (1.76 °F) above the 20th century average. It was also 0.02 °C (0.04 °F) below 2016, the warmest year on record...”

Photo Illustration by Andrea D’Aquino

The Science of Climate Change Explained: Facts, Evidence and Proof. The New York Times (paywall) has a good overview; here’s an excerpt: “…This warming is unprecedented in recent geologic history. A famous illustration, first published in 1998 and often called the hockey-stick graph, shows how temperatures remained fairly flat for centuries (the shaft of the stick) before turning sharply upward (the blade). It’s based on data from tree rings, ice cores and other natural indicators. And the basic picture, which has withstood decades of scrutiny from climate scientists and contrarians alike, shows that Earth is hotter today than it’s been in at least 1,000 years, and probably much longer. In fact, surface temperatures actually mask the true scale of climate change, because the ocean has absorbed 90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases…”


Severe Weather This Summer Could Cause Another Texas Power Crisis. The Texas Tribune explains the challenges of dealing with temperature (and water) extremes: “…Electricity outages in Texas could occur again this summer — just a few months after the devastating winter storm that left millions of Texans without power for days — if the state experiences a severe heat wave or drought combined with high demand for power, according to recent assessments by the state’s grid operator. Experts and company executives are warning that the power grid that covers most of the state is at risk of another crisis this summer, when demand for electricity typically peaks as homes and businesses crank up air conditioning to ride out the Texas heat. Texas is likely to see a hotter and drier summer than normal this year, according to an April climate outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and 2021 is very likely to rank among the 10 warmest years on record globally...”