When Minnesota Was America’s Tornado Capital

Rare disasters are tough to plan for, especially meteorological “black swan” events. If they happen infrequently amnesia sets in. People forget and move on to the next shiny object.

Traditional Tornado Alley may be shifting south and east over time, with more big tornadoes over the Mid South (not sure if this is a symptom of climate change).

In 2010 Tornado Alley came to Minnesota. That year the Gopher State saw 113 tornadoes, the most in the USA! 48 of those touched down on June 17, 2010, including 3 devastating EF-4s. We don’t live in Tornado Alley, but Tornado Cul de sac? Yep. It’s a good idea to never let your guard down.

After last night’s rumblers, skies clear today and a partly sunny weekend is on tap. Expect blue sky much of the morning and midday hours, but watch for afternoon and evening thundershowers. We are entering a cooler phase through July 4. No more 90s in sight.

On June 19, 1955 hailstones the size of hen’s eggs fell in Roseau County. Ouch.

That’ll put a dimple in your Prius.

June 17, 2010 tornado near Albert Lea, courtesy of meteorologist Aaron Shafer.

Damage and Flooding Reports. No major damage that I could find from last night’s storms, but parts of western and central Minnesota picked up some 2-3″ rainfall amounts. Details from NOAA here.

Slight Cooling Trend Into Next Week. We’ve already picked up five days of 90-degree warmth at MSP (more than all of last summer when we hit 90F only 4 times) so we’re due for a slight correction in the next 1-2 weeks. No cold fronts, it just won’t be as hot, with highs mostly in the 70s and 80s up until the 4th of July. Watch for mostly PM showers and T-storms Saturday and Sunday. Maps above: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Still Trending Warmer Than Average. In spite of a few blips of cooler, Canadian air temperatures trend a few degrees above average into early July. ECMWF (top) and GFS (bottom) courtesy of WeatherBell.

West Sizzles – More Temperature Upper Midwest. If (a big if) GFS verifies Minnesota will be enjoying 80s the first week of July, while much of the Intermountain west and Southwestern USA fries. In fact most of the USA may experience an early summer heat wave in the coming weeks.

Slight Dry Bias So Far in June. Latest data shows a roughly half inch rainfall deficit this month in the Twin Cities, but Brainerd and St. Cloud are considerably drier, while much of Wisconsin shows June rainfall above average, to date. Maps above: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

June 17, 2010: The largest single-day tornado outbreak in Minnesota history occurs with 48 tornadoes across the state. This outbreak would set the stage for a record breaking tornado year in Minnesota that finished with 113 tornadoes, the most of any state in the US that year. There were three EF-4 tornadoes and four EF-3 tornadoes in Minnesota. Four tornado fatalities occurred, which was the highest daily number since July 5, 1978. (source: Twin Cities National Weather Service).

New Jersey Aims To Be ‘The Houston Of American Offshore Wind:’ Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced plans Tuesday to develop a port and staging area to construct wind turbines for installations along the Eastern Seaboard. The project would be the first purpose-built port of its kind, with a budget around $400 million from public and private sources. The site, an artificial island named Artificial Island after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created it around 1900 which is currently home to three nuclear reactors, was picked in part because no bridges lie between it and the open ocean — once assembled, wind turbines are often stood upright and moved into place by ship. The announcement indicates the state is pushing ahead with its plans to develop 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035, despite recent FERC rules that could hamper those plans. “We have a huge opportunity,” said Tim Sullivan, chief executive of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, told the Washington Post. “Somebody’s going to get to be the Houston of American offshore wind.” (Washington Post $, Politico Pro $; FERC rules: Politico Pro $)

Goldman Sees $16 Trillion Opening as Rebewables Pass Oil and Gas. Bloomberg provides details: “Spending on renewable power is set to overtake oil and gas drilling for the first time next year as clean energy affords a $16 trillion investment opportunity through 2030, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Renewables including biofuels will account for about a quarter of all energy spending next year, up from about 15% in 2014, Goldman analysts including Michele Della Vigna said in a June 16 note. This is in part driven by diverging costs of capital, as borrowing rates have risen to as high as 20% for hydrocarbon projects compared with as little as 3% for clean energy...”

The Senate Just Passed an Historic Environmental Bill. Here’s What’s In It. Here’s an excerpt of an interview at PBS News Hour: “…I want to talk about the politics here. One reason also Republicans are supporting this, look at this letter. This is from an environmental — the Evangelical Environmental Network. Judy, 65,000 people who describe themselves as pro-life or anti-abortion Christians signed this letter urging Congress to pass this bill and other environmental bills. Essentially, Judy, there is some fervor on the right from religious groups to say, the environment is a life issue. And that is something that we’re seeing senators listen to. Also, there are some at-risk senators, Cory Gardner in Colorado, also Steve Daines in Montana, for whom this bill will help. And there is more environmental legislation coming up the pike. We will keep an eye on it...”

Image credit above: NASA.

Covid-19 is Bad. But It May Not Be the “Big One”. Really? This is big enough, thank you very much. A post at WIRED.com (paywall), feature Minnesota epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, caught my eye – here’s an excerpt: “…That expectation is leading modelers and planners to a difficult realization. Not only will the US need a high-level effort to figure out what went wrong in its response to the novel coronavirus, it needs to start soon, and not wait for whenever the end of this pandemic might be. Looking back at his 15-year-old prediction, Osterholm said last week that it’s critical to begin the accounting now. “We have to take the information that we get from this pandemic—all aspects of it—and ask ourselves, much like the National Transportation Safety Board takes the black box from a crashed airplane: What can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?” he says. “And part of this needs to occur throughout the duration of this, because we’ll need to pivot quickly based on whatever is going on...”

File image: CDC.

You Too Can Own a Robot Dog. Where’s The Terminator when you need him? AP News has the partly-sinister details: “…You can now buy one of those unnerving animal-like robots you might have seen on YouTube — so long as you don’t plan to use it to harm or intimidate anyone.  Boston Dynamics on Tuesday started selling its four-legged Spot robots online for just under $75,000 each. The agile robots can walk, climb stairs and observe their surroundings with cameras and other sensors. But people who buy them online must agree not to arm them or intentionally use them as weapons, among other conditions…”

File photo credit: “In this May 24, 2018, file photo, a Boston Dynamics SpotMini robot walks through a conference room during a robotics summit in Boston. Boston Dynamics on Tuesday, June 16, 2020 started selling its four-legged Spot robots online for just under $75,000 each. The agile robots can walk, climb stairs and open doors. But people who buy them online must agree not to arm them or intentionally use them as weapons, among other conditions.” (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

1.06″ rain fell at MSP yesterday (as of 7 PM)

86 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

80 F. average high on June 18.

75 F. high on June 18, 2019.

June 19, 2014: Heavy rain leads to widespread flooding in the Twin Cities metro area. Minnehaha Creek has its record crest of 17.64 feet on this date. Eden Prairie records 5.47 inches of rain, while MSP airport receives 4.13 inches, the highest daily total in 5 years.

FRIDAY: Partly sunny, pleasant. Winds: N 7-12. High: 83

SATURDAY: Sunny start, late PM T-storm. Winds: NE 5-10. Wake-up: 64. High: 81

SUNDAY: Some sun, scattered PM T-storms. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 60. High: 83

MONDAY: Unsettled, more showers, T-storms. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 62. High: 79

TUESDAY: More clouds than sun, cooler. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 57. High: 76

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, winds ease. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 58. High: 79

THURSDAY: Plenty of sun, warmer. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 60. High: 84

Climate Stories…

Michigan Dam Break Shows How Climate Change Strains Infrastructure. Yale Climate Connections explains: “…The combination of more frequent and more severe extreme events with aging infrastructure vulnerable to damages from climate change amounts to that “double whammy” … and leads to double jeopardy. “You take, say, a 150-year event, and it suddenly becomes a 50-year event, and that’s sort of what’s happening in many places,” says MIT scientist Kerry Emanuel in this month’s “This is Not Cool” original video by Midland resident Peter Sinclair. Scientist Jennifer Francis of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution points to the atmosphere’s now holding 7% more moisture than it did just five decades ago. That water vapor, or moisture, one result of a warming climate, amounts to latent energy, she says. “So when it does rain, it rains harder.” She points to a “big uptick” in heavy precipitation events in the eastern half of the U.S. “very directly related to climate change...”

High Siberian Temperatures Alarm Scientists: Links and headlines via Climate Nexus: “In Siberia, high temperatures, following an extraordinarily warm winter, are “alarming” and symptomatic of human-caused climate change, scientists say. Russian towns in the Arctic circle, which usually have daytime temperatures around 0°C (32°F) at this time of year with a previous record of 12°C (54°F), hit an astounding 30°C (86°F) on June 9th. Average winter temperatures in Siberia were roughly 6°C (10°F) above average, higher than any year since records began 130 years ago, likely contributing to the permafrost melt partly to blame for a disastrous diesel fuel spill. Warm winter temperatures also led to swarms of Siberian silk moths, whose larvae eat the region’s conifer trees, and zombie fires across the region that smoldered under winter snows and have reignited as temperatures rose. “It is undoubtedly an alarming sign, but not only May was unusually warm in Siberia. The whole of winter and spring had repeated periods of higher-than-average surface air temperatures.” Freja Vamborg, a senior scientist at C3S, told the Guardian.” (The Guardian, Mashable; Climate Signals background: Extreme Heat and Heat Waves)

IEA Outlines $3 Trillion Green Recovery Plan to Help Fix Economy. If we’re rebuilding and focusing on infrastructure, a cleaner, more sustainable path forward makes sense. Here’s an excerpt from CNBC.com: “The International Energy Agency has laid out a $3 trillion green recovery plan, offering governments around the world a “once-in-a-lifetime” roadmap to sustainably rebuild their economies in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The Sustainable Recovery report, published Thursday, is designed to present world leaders with cost-effective measures that could be implemented from 2021 through to 2023. It sets out three main goals: spurring economic growth, creating jobs and building more resilient and cleaner energy systems…”

Image credit: Department of Energy.

Xcel Proposes $3 Billion in Renwable Projects to Bolster Economy Dogged by Pandemic. Star Tribune reports: “Xcel Energy would accelerate nearly $3 billion in spending, particularly on large renewable-energy projects, in response to calls from state utility regulators to jolt Minnesota’s economy from its coronavirus-induced lethargy. Xcel’s proposal Wednesday calls for a new solar plant in Becker that would be at least four times larger than Minnesota’s current largest solar array. Also, Xcel would speed up plans to “repower” four older wind farms with new turbines and other new equipment. “We tried to put together a sizable proposal,” said Christopher Clark, Xcel’s president for Minnesota and the Dakotas. “The wind and solar are really the biggest pieces...”

Photo credit: Brian Peterson/Star Tribune. “The largest of Xcel Energy’s solar projects to date is a plant in North Branch.”

Deadly Heat is Killing Americans. A Decade of Inaction on Climate Puts Lives at Risk. The Guardian describes recent trends in heat-related risk: “…Yearly heat-related deaths have more than doubled in Arizona in the last decade to 283. Across the country, heat caused at least 10,000 deaths between 1999 and 2016 – more than hurricanes, tornadoes or floods in most years. Scientists link the warming planet to a rise in dangerous heat in the US, as well as the spread of infectious diseases and other health conditions. Federal research predicts heatstroke and similar illnesses will claim tens of thousands of American lives each year by the end of the century. Already, higher temperatures pose lethal risks: the five warmest years nationwide have all occurred since 2006. In the last six decades, the number of annual heatwaves in 50 US cities has, on average, tripled. In contrast to a viral pandemic, this is a quiet, insidious threat with no end point…”

Show Your Stripes. Climate Central explains: “Thursday is the third annual #MetsUnite to #ShowYourStripes. Created by climate scientist Ed Hawkins using annual temperature anomalies (the difference from long-term average), this simple blue-to-red visual has inspired communities around the world. Warming stripes have appeared on cars, murals, light shows, Economist magazines, and much more—not to mention their use by hundreds of meteorologists and climate communicators. This year, Climate Central has updated these “stripes” graphics for the U.S. states and 160 of our 244 cities (those with 100+ years of data)–adding a stripe for 2019, the world’s second-hottest year on record. Most places show a clear warming trend, especially in fast-warming areas like the Southwest, Northeast, and Alaska. And while recent temperatures were mixed in the U.S., the world had its warmest May on record—virtually guaranteeing another top-5 year for heat. NOAA and NASA’s global temperature data is in, naming 2019 the 2nd hottest year on Earth since records began and making the 2010s the hottest decade on record...”

Trump’s EPA Balks at a Chance to Save Black Lives from Pollution. Vox connects the dots: “…The current regulatory limits on particulate pollution under the Clean Air Act were set in 2012, based on scientific review concluded in 2010. As subsequent science has revealed, they are inadequate to protect public health. That was the strong and unanimous conclusion of the panel of 19 scientists assembled in 2015 to assess the evidence. Nonetheless, EPA claims the science is not settled and is refusing to tighten the standards, which will mean, on an ongoing basis, well over 10,000 unnecessary deaths in the US every year. The purported rationale, of this and all the administration’s deregulatory efforts, is to reduce costs to industry. But the costs of pollution don’t disappear when they are removed from industry’s books...”

File image: Paul Douglas.