Paul Douglas

What a Strange Winter It Has Been

On paper our winter has been been “average” in terms of snowfall and temperatures in the metro. It sure hasn’t seemed average to me. Record snows in October, green lawns in December, a fairly balmy January, followed by a frigid February.

Lumpy – all or nothing.

Dr. Ken Blumenfeld, Senior Climatologist at the Minnesota State Climate Office, was on WCCO Radio with Jordana Green and me Tuesday. He said some things that got my attention. In spite of a polar February, the period November thru March will be one of the 20 warmest on record. The new 1991-2020 data set shows February – April trending a little cooler, but still significantly warmer than the 20th century average. And if we get more snow in April this will be one of the longest snow seasons on record, he said. Old Man Winter is drunk.

The more snow melts the milder it gets, with 50s into the weekend.

A southern storm may spread a mix of rain and snow into town the middle of next week.

I’m leaving my driveway stakes in until further notice. Stupid lumpy winters.

Dwindling Snow Cover. I find it (a little) odd that MSP had more snow on the ground yesterday than Duluth did, with heaviest amounts over the Arrowhead, North Shore and southern third of Minnesota. I’m struck by the lack of snow cover over the Red River Valley. Good for spring flood risk – but not good for beet farmers worried about spring moisture.

A Rerun of Spring Fever. After a few cold, snowy days the pattern is about to reverse, with a streak of 50-degree highs for much of Minnesota from Friday into Monday of next week. The chance of a cold rain increases late Tuesday into Wednesday, and some early models hint at slush the middle of next week. Too early for details.

ECMWF Temperatures for MSP
GFS Temperatures for MSP

Trending Well Above Average. After a shot at 60F Sunday (inclined to go closer to ECMWF numbers above) temperatures cool off next week, but overall the mercury should stay above average through the end of March.

Pacific Bias Hangs On. It’s deja vu all over again looking at the 2-week GFS upper air forecast. Confidence levels are (always) low this far out, but any Canadian affairs will be brief – if this solution comes close to verifying April may start out on a relatively mild note.


Lingering La Nina. Cool phases in the Pacific Ocean correlate with more intense severe storm outbreaks and tornadoes across the southern USA. Some are comparing the current La Nina influence to 2011, which was a record year for deadly tornadoes across the south.

Praedictix Briefing: Issued Wednesday, March 17th, 2021:

Severe Weather Ongoing This Morning. In what is expected to be a very busy day weatherwise across the southern United States, we are already tracking severe storms across the region this morning. Three severe weather watches are already in place this morning, with:

  • A Severe Thunderstorm Watch in place for southeastern Kansas, southwestern Missouri, and northeastern Oklahoma through 8 AM. Threats include hail up to 2” in diameter, 70 mph winds, and a tornado or two.
  • A Severe Thunderstorm Watch in place for southwestern Arkansas, northwestern Louisiana, southeastern Oklahoma, and northeastern Texas through 10 AM. Threats include winds to 70 mph, hail to 1.5” in diameter, and a tornado or two.
  • A Tornado Watch in place for southeastern Arkansas, northern Mississippi, and southwestern Tennessee through 1 PM. Threats include a few tornadoes (some potentially intense), hail to 2” in diameter, and winds to 70 mph.

Already this morning wind gusts to 73 mph (near Lawrence, TX) and hail to 2” in diameter (Brownwood, TX) has been reported.

Rounds Of Severe Weather Expected Today. A regional outbreak of severe weather will continue across portions of the Deep South today, with more than one round of severe weather possible from this afternoon into the overnight hours across portions of Mississippi and Alabama. Storms throughout the day will be capable of strong tornadoes (particularly in the afternoon and overnight hours), very large hail, and damaging winds. While supercell individual storms will have the highest chance of producing strong, long-track tornadoes, the final line of storms tonight could still produce embedded tornadoes. This is likely to be a dangerous day and night across the Deep South.

HIGH Severe Threat. Due to the likelihood of a major severe weather outbreak across the Deep South today, a rare HIGH risk of severe weather (level 5 of 5) is in place across portions of northeastern Louisiana, southeastern Arkansas, central/northern Mississippi, and western Alabama. Cities in the HIGH Risk include Jackson, Greenville, Tupelo, Vicksburg, and Clinton (MS). Surrounding that, a MODERATE Risk of severe weather (level 4 of 5) is in place from Arkansas and Louisiana eastward into Alabama, including Memphis (TN), Birmingham, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa (AL), Little Rock (AR), and Alexandria (LA). As mentioned above, several strong tornadoes, very large hail, and damaging winds are possible, particularly from the afternoon to the overnight hours. Meanwhile, the overall severe threat through early tomorrow morning extends from Kansas to Texas eastward to Georgia.

The last time a HIGH Risk was issued was back on May 20, 2019, across portions of Oklahoma and Texas producing 39 tornadoes. The last time a HIGH Risk was issued in March was March 2, 2012, with an outbreak of tornadoes in the Ohio Valley.


Greatest Threat: Strong Tornadoes. Forecast models are showing that strong, long-track tornadoes will be possible across the lower Mississippi Valley and Southeast today into tonight, particularly across the HIGH risk area and the “significant” hatched area. The atmospheric profiles will allow the tornado threat to continue through the overnight hours across the region.

Large Hail Threat. Storms will also contain a hail risk across the region today and tonight. In particular, individual storms will be capable of very large hail (2”+ in diameter), especially in the “significant” hatched area in the graphic above.

Damaging Wind Threat. An intense damaging wind threat is expected with severe storms across the region, with hurricane-force (74+ mph) wind gusts possible in the strongest storms through early Thursday morning.

Thursday MODERATE Severe Threat. Storms will continue to move eastward into Thursday, producing severe weather across portions of the Southeast in the morning before more storms pop into the afternoon. Thursday will be another day with widespread and potential substantial severe weather, with a MODERATE risk of severe weather (level 4 of 5) from central Georgia to eastern North Carolina, including Charlotte, Raleigh, Fayetteville, and Wilmington (NC), Columbia and Charleston (SC), and Savannah (GA). The greatest risks will be strong tornadoes and widespread damaging winds, but large hail is also expected.

Blizzard Concerns. On the cold side of this system, heavy snow will fall today across portions of the central High Plains and Oklahoma/Texas Panhandles. This, in combination with strong winds (gusts of 50-60+ mph), will cause blizzard and near whiteout conditions, causing rough travel conditions. According to NWS Amarillo at 6:55 AM, zero visibility was reported on Highway 136 north of Amarillo.

Blizzard Warnings. Blizzard Warnings have been issued across portions of Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas for today, due once again to the snow and strong winds. Up to a half foot of snow is possible today in some areas. Some locations under alerts include:

  • Trinidad, CO: A Winter Storm Warning through Noon today for up to an additional 2” of snow and wind gusts to 35 mph.
  • Dodge City, KS: Both a Winter Weather Advisory and High Wind Warning is in place through 7 PM tonight for 1-2” of snow and wind gusts to 60 mph.
  • Amarillo, TX and Guymon, OK: A Blizzard Warning is in place through 7 PM tonight for blizzard conditions with 2-5” of snow and wind gusts to 60 mph.

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix

A pickup truck sits covered in snow in downtown Cheyenne, Wyo., on Monday.
Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP.

Wyoming Got Buried Beneath a Record Blizzard, Trapping Meteorologists In Their Office for 5 Days. Hope someone there had a subscription to Netflix. Capital Weather Gang has the harrowing tale: “…A good amount of us have been here since Saturday morning,” said Matthew Brothers, a meteorologist at the Cheyenne office, reached via phone early Wednesday. “We are in the process of packing up right now and getting out now that the road got cleared late last night.” Six meteorologists have been snowed in at the office since the weekend, working in 12-hour shifts round-the-clock. Though Wyoming is accustomed to heavy snowfalls, this event, which featured blizzard conditions, was nonetheless rare. Some places were even forced to break out large rotary-style snowplows…”


WMO Retires Tropical Cyclone Names and Ends Use of Greek Alphabet. Greeks will not be happy to the latest news coming out of the World Meteorological Agency: “The World Meteorological Organization’s Hurricane Committee has retired Dorian (2019) and Laura, Eta and Iota (2020) from the rotating lists of Atlantic tropical cyclone names because of the death and destruction they caused. It also decided that the Greek alphabet will not be used in future because it creates a distraction from the communication of hazard and storm warnings and is potentially confusing…”


10 Hazard Alerts You Might Not Know About. And not want to know about, I suspect. Capital Weather Gang runs down a few alerts that might fill you with dread, including Radiological Hazard Warnings: “…While neither a natural hazard nor issued by the Weather Service, the radiological hazard warning is transmitted by the Weather Service. Moreover, the Weather Service’s forecasts of wind conditions, which affect how such substances are dispersed through the air, may be instrumental in determining when and where to issue it. It’s exactly what it sounds like — “a warning of the loss, discovery, or release of a radiological hazard,” writes the Weather Service. The agency goes on to list examples of what could trigger its issuance, including “the theft of a radioactive isotope … the discovery of radioactive materials, a transportation accident which may involve nuclear weapons,” etc...”

It’s not a TV, it’s a monitor!
Paul Douglas

From Remote Work to Hybrid Work: The Tech You’ll Need to Link Home and Office. Joanna Stern writes for The Wall Street Journal (paywall); here’s an excerpt: “…Welcome to the exciting new world of hybrid work. “Somewhere in the vicinity of 60% of the workforce are choosing the hybrid option,” said Gartner analyst Suzanne Adnams, “which means their ideal is working at home and coming into the office three days a week.” If I had a dollar for every time I heard “two to three days at the office” while reporting this column, a socially distanced steak dinner would be on me. What isn’t as clear? Where you’ll go once you get to the office. That depends on your employer. Here are three possible options…”

File Image
Wikipedia, Joel Garlich-Miller, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Walrus Spotted in Ireland for First Time After Falling Asleep on Iceberg. I mean, who among us hasn’t done something similar? Mental Floss has details: “Residents of the island nation of Ireland are familiar with marine life, but they’re not used to seeing anything like the creature that recently paid a visit to their home. As reports, locals recently spotted a walrus off Valentia Island, marking the first walrus sighting ever recorded in the country. Alan Houlihan and his 5-year-old daughter Muireann were the first people to notice something large swimming off Glanleam Beach in Kerry on the morning of March 14. When the animal hauled itself onto the rocks, they saw that it was a walrus…”


Can Bird Poop Damage Cars? One of the most important questions of our time (short answer is yes), and once again Mental Floss has answers: “…When a bird drops its payload on the surface of your vehicle and is allowed to remain there, it will begin to burn through the clear coat, wax, and paint, eventually making an etching as deep as a piece of notebook paper. The bird has essentially left a corrosive material on the car. Worse, a warm day will expedite the damage. That’s because the sun will cause paint to expand, making it more susceptible to the poop’s acidic profile. If the conditions are just right, bird poop can leave a permanent mark in minutes…”

43 F. high in the Twin Cities on Wednesday.

42 F. average high on March 17.

44 F. high on March 17, 2020.

March 18, 1968: No one was hurt when an early season tornado touches down in Watonwan County.

NOAA Satellites, Twitter

THURSDAY: Partly sunny, breezy. Winds: NE 10-15. High: 47

FRIDAY: Blue sky, pleasant. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 28. High: near 50

SATURDAY: Sunny, breezy and milder. Winds: S 15-25. Wake-up: 34. High: 57

SUNDAY: Mild sun, late-day shower risk. Winds: SW 15-25. Wake-up: 45. High: near 60

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, a bit cooler. Winds: NE 10-15. Wake-up: 40. High: 54

TUESDAY: Growing chance of rain. Winds: E 10-20. Wake-up: 42. High: 47

WEDNESDAY: Rain may mix with snow. Winds: NE 10-20. Wake-up: 35. High: 39

Climate Stories…

Global mean surface temperatures from Berkeley Earth (black dots) and modeled influence of different radiative forcings (colored lines), as well as the combination of all forcings (grey line) for the period from 1850 to 2017. See methods at the end of the article for details.Carbon Brief

Analysis: Why Scientists Think 100% of Global Warming is Due to Humans. A post from Dr. Zeke Hausfather at Carbon Brief caught my eye: “The extent of the human contribution to modern global warming is a hotly debated topic in political circles, particularly in the US. During a recent congressional hearing, Rick Perry, the US energy secretary, remarked that “to stand up and say that 100% of global warming is because of human activity, I think on its face, is just indefensible”. However, the science on the human contribution to modern warming is quite clear. Humans emissions and activities have caused around 100% of the warming observed since 1950, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) fifth assessment report. Here Carbon Brief examines how each of the major factors affecting the Earth’s climate would influence temperatures in isolation – and how their combined effects almost perfectly predict long-term changes in the global temperature…”

SEC Inches Closer to New Climate Disclosure Regulations. Axios explains the implications: “The Securities and Exchange Commission is formally asking for input about how companies should disclose climate-related risks in filings with the regulators.

Why it matters: It’s the latest sign the commission is moving toward the creation of requirements that go beyond efforts to breathe life into existing 2010 guidance to companies.

How it works: The document asks for information in areas like what kinds of risks can be quantified and measured; what types of emissions metrics companies should provide; whether to have different reporting standards for different industries and more...”

The sediment diversion project would infuse the highlighted portion of the map with fresh sediment.Restore the Mississippi River Delta.

“There’s No Alternative”: Louisiana’s Ambitious Plan to Stay Above Water. Grist has the post; here’s the intro: “Louisiana has never been hard to pinpoint on a map — it’s the only state in the U.S. that looks like a giant boot. At least it did, before the ocean swallowed the carbon emissions belched out by industrializing nations and began to swell. Now, the boot is losing a football field of land every hour to the rising tide. In order to save the state from sea-level rise, the Louisiana state government is embarking on a series of years-long, multi-billion dollar projects to slow the rate of land loss. This month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal civil works and military engineering agency, greenlighted the first of those large projects. The money to fund it is coming from an unlikely place: BP, the multinational oil corporation...”

Enviros Launch Campaign To Fund Climate Action With Infrastructure Bill: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Environmental groups are launching a $10 million push for Congress to make climate change central to infrastructure legislation. “The Great American Build” campaign, a joint effort of Climate Power, the League of Conservation Voters and Potential Energy Coalition, will pressure lawmakers to include funding for climate action as part of the emerging infrastructure package. “Americans elected pro-climate majorities in Congress, and they expect big things on the issues that drove them to the polls — including clean energy and climate change,” Lori Lodes, executive director of Climate Power, told NBC.” (NBC, The Hill, E&E $)

Avon, N.C., faces a crisis: The main road into town risks being destroyed by the sea.New York Times

Tiny Town, Big Decision: What Are We Willing to Pay to Fight the Rising Sea? Here’s an excerpt from a story at The New York Times (paywall): “…The risk to tiny Avon from climate change is particularly dire — it is, after all, located on a mere sandbar of an island chain, in a relentlessly rising Atlantic. But people in the town are facing a question that is starting to echo along the American coastline as seas rise and storms intensify. What price can be put on saving a town, a neighborhood, a home where generations have built their lives? Communities large and small are reaching for different answers. Officials in Miami, Tampa, Houston, San Francisco and elsewhere have borrowed money, raised taxes or increased water bills to help pay for efforts to shield their homes, schools and roads...”

Annual PM2.5 Exposure in 2020IQAir,

Pandemic Lockdowns Improved Air Quality in 84% of Countries Worldwide, Report Finds. summarizes the finding: “Coronavirus lockdowns led to air quality improvements in most countries, but the level of pollutants will likely rise as governments lift restrictions and economies swing back into gear, according to a new report. IQAir’s 2020 World Air Quality Report said human-related emissions from industry and transport fell during lockdowns, and 65% of global cities analyzed experienced better air quality in 2020 compared to 2019. Some 84% of nations polled reported air quality improvements overall. “The connection between Covid-19 and air pollution has shone new light on the latter, especially as many locations have observed visibly cleaner air — revealing that air quality improvements are possible with urgent, collective action,” the report said...”

Satellite Images Show Air Pollution Returning to Pre-Pandemic Levels as Restrictions Loosen. I guess you could see that coming. has an update.

NOAA, Twitter

Climate Change Causing Mental Health Crisis: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Climate change, and the lack of aggressive action to limit the heating of the planet, is causing mental health crises in the U.S. and around the world, the Arizona Republic reports. Stress related to climate change affects close to half (47%) of Americans 18 to 34, and 57% of teenagers. The detrimental mental health impacts can be related to acute events, such as a hurricane, as well as what mental health professionals call “anticipatory grief” for the damaged world children will inherit. Research has linked climate change to increased rates of suicide and depression in Inuit communities in the Arctic, and widespread existential anxiety in Maldivian children. “We can learn a bit from the literature on environmental disasters, where we see there are clear linkages with PTSD and other traumatic responses,” Sabrina Helm, who grew up “mortally afraid of nuclear disasters” as a child in Cold War Germany, told The Republic. “I was convinced when I was 15 that I would probably not reach adulthood. It was constantly in the news. It was so threatening. It’s exactly what we see now with climate change.” (Arizona Republic)

Colorado Department of Agriculture

Wary US Farmers Weigh Up Joining Joe Biden’s Climate Fight. Thomson Reuters Foundation has a worthwhile post; here’s an excerpt: “…Agricultural production accounts for approximately 10% of climate-changing emissions in the United States – and those will need to fall if the nation is to meet its pledge of net-zero emissions by 2050. Vilsack plans to give farmers incentives to make the cuts using subsidies from the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), a $30-billion-a-year fund that President Trump tapped into to support farmers hit by trade wars he launched. Reductions could come from changes like farming more efficiently, using more renewable energy and better protecting soils so they store more carbon. But Biden’s team will need to persuade farmers, most of whom do not support him politically, of the benefits of making the shifts…”