Turns Out May Is An Acquired Taste Too

Have we set ourselves up to endure a weather-treadmill of chronic disappointment? Yes, January felt like a lab experiment gone bad. In March we thought “If I can just hang on until May.” And then May arrives, and there’s still slush in the forecast.

A few models print out a stripe of snow from St. Cloud and Mille Lacs to Duluth tonight. I can’t say any of the things racing through my mind right now.

Welcome to the wettest day of the week, with over an inch of rain in the MSP metro; 2 inches for much of southeastern Minnesota. No need to water anytime soon.

Skies clear late Thursday with a mercifully-dry Friday. Saturday’s Fishing Opener starts out dry around sunrise (south breeze, walleye-chop) but showery rain is likely by midday and PM hours. Sunday looks a little drier with a cool northwest wind. At least it won’t snow.

Cool air is forecast to sag unusually far south the next 2 weeks – an amazingly persistent cool signal.

Perhaps I’m rationalizing, but look at all the cash we’re saving on ice cream and air conditioning.

ECMWF Predicted Rainfall by Midday Thursday. Over an inch for the MSP metro area, with a pretty big swath of 2″+ amounts for south central and southeast Minnesota into central and southern Wisconsin? Some spots may pick up close to 2 week’s worth of rain just today and tonight. Map: WeatherBell.

Can We Be Done With This? Again, just the messenger, but the European model prints out a couple inches of slush from near St. Cloud and Little Falls to Mille Lacs and Duluth. March isn’t done with us just yet.

Slow-Motion Warming Trend. Unlike 2018, when we went from a mid-April blizzard to 100F by the end of May, I see no evidence of an Upper Midwest hot front for the next 2 weeks. Summer levels of heat and humidity build across the south and southeast, but a cool bias lingers from the Pacific Northwest into the Upper Midwest.

6 Percent of Corn Crop In The Ground. According to NASS statistics it’s a very slow start getting crops in the ground from the Upper Midwest into the Ohio Valley. Corn planting is running 36% below the running 5-year average in Minnesota.

Flooding Wreaks Havoc Along Mississippi River, a Transit Hub for $1 Billion in Goods. Here’s a snippet from The Washington Post: “...In mid-March, a “bomb cyclone” unleashed heaps of snow and rain over frozen ground, pushing the Missouri River and its tributaries over their banks, which broke dozens of levees, swept away three Nebraska bridges, displaced thousands and left three dead. In recent days, as excessive rain continues, the Mississippi River to the east rose to record heights — at 22.7 feet Thursday in Davenport, beating the previous record set during historic floods in 1993. The St. Louis closure is the most recent curtailment of the mighty 2,320-mile-long river, which begins in the cool springs of Minnesota, ends in the Gulf of Mexico and served as a transit way for more than 1.78 billion in goods last year, including soybeans, corn, crude oil and coal, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Some frozen parts of the river in Minnesota were never opened for spring because of flooding. Locks, devices used for raising and lowering watercraft, on many other stretches in Iowa and Illinois have been shut since March…”

Photo credit: “The US Army Corps of Engineers Service Base in St. Louis on Monday.” (Nick Schnelle/For The Washington Post).

Midwestern Floods Pit Communities Against One Another as Levees Rise Ever Higher. Robbing Peter to pay Paul, it turns out. Here’s a clip from The New York Times: “…But as the high water seems to come more often and at ever higher levels, they say they are frustrated by a sense that levees elsewhere have left Grafton even more exposed. In an arms race of barriers along the Mississippi, they say, places like Grafton are losing. “Every time they build a levee or raise one, it hurts everybody without a levee,” said Peter Allen, an owner of The Loading Dock restaurant in Grafton, which has been closed for much of this spring because of the floods. “Flooding, it’s natural, and the river used to be able to handle it a lot better…”

Photo credit:Grafton, Ill., has no levees to protect against the Mississippi River’s natural sprawl.” Credit: Whitney Curtis for The New York Times.

Night of Terrors. The photo above shows Fridley, after 2 – possibly 3 separate EF-4 tornadoes on May 6, 1965, courtesy of the Anoka County Historical Society. 6 strong tornadoes, 4 of which were rated F4 on the Fujita Scale, devastate parts of east central Minnesota, including parts of the Twin Cities metro area. 14 people are killed, and 683 are injured. 2 of the F4 tornadoes hit Fridley. Source: National Weather Service.

Weather Effects Moods, and Thus, Restaurant Reviews. I had no idea, but new research highlighted at NexusMedia set me straight: “… Research shows that weather does, in fact, shape how we feel and how we see the world. Violence can flare when it’s hot. Cloudy weather can make people feel depressed. But weather also can influence people when they are inside —a 2017 study suggested that couch-bound online shoppers are more inclined to buy when the weather is good. Now, new research suggests that restaurant-goers also may be less than thrilled with their dining experiences when the weather is bad — feelings that have little to do with what’s on the menu. “The reason for bad reviews is not always poor service or food,” said Vanja Bogicevic, co-author of the study and visiting assistant professor of hospitality management at Ohio State University. “Restaurant business reviews can be hurt by unpleasant weather…”

How to Fix Nature and Avoid Human Misery: UN Report. AFP has a summary of a recently-released U.N. report: “…Up to a million of Earth’s estimated eight million species face extinction, many of them within decades, according to a draft version obtained by AFP. All but seven percent of major marine fish stocks are in decline or exploited to the limit of sustainability. At the same time, humanity dumps up to 400 million tonnes of heavy metals, toxic sludge and other waste into oceans and rivers each year. Since 1990, Earth has lost 2.9 million hectares — an area more than eight times the size of Germany or Vietnam — of forests that play a critical role in absorbing record-level CO2 emissions…”

1 Million Extinctions On Horizon: Climate Nexus has more perspective: “Human activity is rapidly and drastically transforming the planet, putting “an unprecedented” 1 million plant and animal species at risk of extinction, says a sweeping new report from the UN. The 1,500-page report, released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services on Monday, paints an “ominous picture” of how humans are destroying biodiversity through climate change, overfishing, pollution, poaching and land use and how humanity is “eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life,” panel chair Robert Watson said in a statement. “Loss of biodiversity is just as important as climate change for the future of mankind,” Watson told reporters Sunday. “The two are highly coupled. You can’t deal with climate change without dealing with biodiversity.” (New York Times $, Washington Post $, AP, NBC, Reuters, BBC, CNN)

USA Becoming More Energy Independent. USA Facts has an encouraging update; here’s a clip: “As of 2017, renewables (solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass) provided 12.8% of the US power supply, an increase from 8.1% of all power generated in 1980. Biomass is the leading renewable energy source, accounting for 5.1% of 2017 power production. Solar power grew by 12 times since 2007, but only generated 0.9% of power in 2017. Nuclear power provided 8.6% of the nation’s power, up from 3.5% in 1980. Meanwhile, fossil fuels supplied 77.7% of American power in 2017, down from 89.4% in 1980. Petroleum continues to be the largest source of energy consumption, with natural gas being a second and rising source…”

Solar Industry’s Sad State of Diversity: Headlines and links courtesy of Climate Nexus: “The US solar industry is overwhelmingly white and male and must adjust its recruiting practices if it wants to see a more inclusive workforce, a new report shows. The Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Solar Industry Diversity Study shows that leadership in the industry is 88 percent white and 80 percent male, while women make up only 26 percent of the workforce–as opposed to 46.9 of the national workforce–and face a 26 percent wage gap. Black workers make up just 7.6 percent of the workforce, as opposed to 12.1 percent nationally. The report comes as six Black workers filed a class-action suit against their former employer Momentum Solar, accusing the managers of the Long Island-based company of fostering a racially hostile environment.” (Report: Axios, US Energy News. Lawsuit: New York Times $, Bloomberg)

“Alexa, Are You Spying On Me?” Uh oh. Careful what you say around the smart speaker, OK? Here’s an excerpt from The Washington Post: “Would you let a stranger eavesdrop in your home and keep the recordings? For most people, the answer is, “Are you crazy?” Yet that’s essentially what Amazon has been doing to millions of us with its assistant Alexa in microphone-equipped Echo speakers. And it’s hardly alone: Bugging our homes is Silicon Valley’s next frontier.  Many smart-speaker owners don’t realize it, but Amazon keeps a copy of everything Alexa records after it hears its name. Apple’s Siri, and until recently Google’s Assistant, by default also keep recordings to help train their artificial intelligences. So come with me on an unwelcome walk down memory lane…”

Smart People Change Their Minds (A Lot). So says the richest man in the world, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Here’s an excerpt from a story at CNBC.com: “...Bezos went on to explain that the smartest people he’s observed were always “revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking,” Fried recalls. In short, smart people (a.k.a. those who are “right a lot”), change their minds — a lot. When asked what trait signified someone who was “wrong a lot” of the time, Fried says Bezos’ answer was “the tendency to be obsessed with details that only support one point of view. If someone can’t climb out of the details, and see the bigger picture from multiple angles, they’re often wrong most of the time...”

Censorship Can’t Be the Only Answer to Disinformation Online. Electronic Frontier Foundation has a timely post: “With measles cases on the rise for the first time in decades and anti-vaccine (or “anti-vax”) memes spreading like wildfire on social media, a number of companies—including Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, and GoFundMe—recently banned anti-vax posts. But censorship cannot be the only answer to disinformation online. The anti-vax trend is a bigger problem than censorship can solve. And when tech companies ban an entire category of content like this, they have a history of overcorrecting and censoring accurate, useful speech—or, even worse, reinforcing misinformation with their policies. That’s why platforms that adopt categorical bans must follow the Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability in Content Moderation to ensure that users are notified when and about why their content has been removed, and that they have the opportunity to appeal…”

For Lower-Paid Workers, the Robot Overlords Have Arrived. If a task can be measured and automated by computers or robots – it will be. The Wall Street Journal (paywall) reports: “It’s time to stop worrying that robots will take our jobs—and start worrying that they will decide who gets jobs. Millions of low-paid workers’ lives are increasingly governed by software and algorithms. This was starkly illustrated by a report last week that Amazon.com tracks the productivity of its employees and regularly fires those who underperform, with little human intervention. “Amazon’s system tracks the rates of each individual associate’s productivity and automatically generates any warnings or terminations regarding quality or productivity without input from supervisors,” a law firm representing Amazon said in a letter to the National Labor Relations Board, as first reported by technology news site The Verge...”

Photo credit: “A worker assembles a box at the Amazon fulfillment center in Baltimore in April.” Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

The Ultimate American Road Trip: Man Completes 3-Year Quest to Visit All 419 National Park Service Sites. The Washington Post has the story: “Mikah Meyer has spent the past three years hiking, rafting, flying in planes, riding on trains, sailing on boats and mostly driving, driving, driving across every corner of America. He has followed the trail of U.S. history from the Revolution to the civil rights movement, from battlefields to presidents’ homes, from forests to canyons, from shore to shore. As of Monday, Meyer has been to all 419 National Park Service sites — becoming, he believes, the first person to ever complete such a feat in one continuous road trip. Meyer’s three-year trip ended Monday morning with a visit to the Lincoln Memorial, his final site. He climbed the steps surrounded by not only friends and family but also by perfect strangers — people who followed Meyer’s epic road trip on Instagram and Facebook and became such fans that they had to come in person to see him finish his journey...”

Photo credit: “Mikah Meyer at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah in May 2017“. (Mikah Meyer).

63 F. maximum temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.

67 F. average high on May 7.

86 F. high on May 7, 2018.

May 8, 1924: A snowstorm brings up to 4 inches to parts of Minnesota. Minneapolis sees a half inch of snow with St. Paul picking up an inch. Up to 50 mph winds accompany the snow.

WEDNESDAY: Windy with heavy rain. Winds: NE 15-25. High: 45

THURSDAY: Showers taper, slow PM clearing. Winds: N 10-20. Wake-up: 38. High: near 50

FRIDAY: Partly sunny and pleasant. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 40. High: 62

FISHING OPENER: Showers likely, walleye chop. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 48. High: 61

SUNDAY: Mostly cloudy, PM shower possible. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 45. High: 58

MONDAY: Milder with an isolated shower. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 48. High: 68

TUESDAY: Mix of clouds and sunshine. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 50. High: 63

Climate Stories….

Melting Permafrost Damaging Equipment Needed by Scientists to Measure Rate of Melting. CNN.com has an update: “…We now know that ice-rich permafrost covers about 20% of the permafrost region, and in these ecosystems, the permafrost is literally the glue that holds the land together. When it thaws, the land liquefies,” Merritt Turetsky, an ecologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario and the study’s lead researcher, told CNN. “In flat areas, before the permafrost thaws, ecosystems are dry enough to be forested. When the permafrost thaws, all the trees die, topple over, and the whole system flips to a lake. I have been monitoring permafrost temperature in interior Alaska for the past 10 years (outside Fairbanks), and we returned to our field sites only to find all our gauges and equipment totally under water. You can imagine that the electronics did not survive!” Rick Thoman, a climatologist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, said he’s seen similar changes in his state…”

Fossil Fuel Subsidies. Here’s a summary of a recent study at The International Monetary Fund: “This paper updates estimates of fossil fuel subsidies, defined as fuel consumption times the gap between existing and efficient prices (i.e., prices warranted by supply costs, environmental costs, and revenue considerations), for 191 countries. Globally, subsidies remained large at $4.7 trillion (6.3 percent of global GDP) in 2015 and are projected at $5.2 trillion (6.5 percent of GDP) in 2017. The largest subsidizers in 2015 were China ($1.4 trillion), United States ($649 billion), Russia ($551 billion), European Union ($289 billion), and India ($209 billion). About three quarters of global subsidies are due to domestic factors—energy pricing reform thus remains largely in countries’ own national interest—while coal and petroleum together account for 85 percent of global subsidies. Efficient fossil fuel pricing in 2015 would have lowered global carbon emissions by 28 percent and fossil fuel air pollution deaths by 46 percent, and increased government revenue by 3.8 percent of GDP.”

War Reporter Covers “The End of Ice”. Here’s an excerpt of an interview at The Intercept: “...We can ignore it or at least pretend to ignore it and not feel like these impacts are directly affecting us. And for a lot of us still living in that bubble, we can still get away with that. I think that’s changing before our very eyes, but I think that really is the root cause of this crisis — is this disconnect. Because if we were living closer to the earth, like indigenous people did for thousands and thousands of years, you’re so finely attuned to the weather. And when the rains come and when the droughts come and being able to read things like that and watching what the animals do and making decisions based on that — you’re going to take a lot better care of the place where you live, if you’re living that much more closely to it. And obviously you’re going to not take as good of care of it if you’re completely disconnected from it…”

The Billionaires’ Guide to Hacking the Planet. A fictional farce? Tell me with a straight face you accurately predicted our current reality 5 years ago. If things get bad extraordinarily rich people may take matters into their own hands. Here’s a scenario from Pacific Standard: “…The IPCC report also seems to have turned up the volume on a related conversation: the possibility of deploying various techno-fixes, termed geoengineering, as a way to slow the warming that our species seems so incapable of managing in simpler ways. This wasn’t front-and-center in the IPCC’s calculus, but buried in the report—more than 300 pages deep, in section, to be precise—is a single, jargon-heavy line that brings us back to our coterie of billionaires on a remote Pacific island: “There is robust evidence but medium agreement for unilateral action potentially becoming a serious SRM governance issue.” SRM refers to “solar radiation management,” the most frequently discussed form of geoengineering, which involves injecting aerosols in the stratosphere to cool the planet—much like major volcanic eruptions do naturally. The other key term here is “unilateral action.” This refers to the possibility that someone might simply take matters into his own hands…”

Illustration credit: Ian Hurley/Pacific Standard.

Only Markets Can Make the Green New Deal Real. How do we turn up the volume of the low-carbon signal already in the markets and move faster? An Op-Ed at The Wall Street Journal over the weekend caught my eye: “The architects of the Green New Deal want to tackle climate change with a World War II-scale mobilization designed to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy in as little as a decade. And they think that the federal government, not markets, should determine how. On Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke unveiled a $5 trillion, 10-year plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions through government dictates such as stiffer fuel-efficiency standards. This urge to stop at nothing to find an effective solution is understandable. How can you put a price tag on the future of the planet? But we can, and we must. Weaning the global economy off fossil fuels is such a monumental undertaking that societies won’t even try it unless the price is bearable…”

Photo credit: “Employees cross a jetty toward the Gallina liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker after docking at the Grain LNG plant on the Isle of Grain, Rochester, U.K., March 4, 2017.” Photo: Jason Alden/Bloomberg News.

Children Change Their Parents’ Minds Over Climate Change. A new study highlighted at Scientific American is interesting: “…The team of social scientists and ecologists from North Carolina State University who authored the report found that children can increase their parents’ level of concern about climate change because, unlike adults, their views on the issue do not generally reflect any entrenched political ideology. Parents also really do care what their children think, even on socially charged issues like climate change or sexual orientation. Postulating that pupils might be ideal influencers, the researchers decided to test how 10-to-14–year-olds’ exposure to climate change coursework might affect, not only the youngsters’ views, but those of their parents. The proposed pass-through effect turned out to be true: teaching a child about the warming climate often raised concerns among parents about the issue...”

Stalled Waves in the Jet Stream Blamed for Last Year’s Extreme Weather Events. Here’s a snippet from an explainer at New Atlas: “…Our study shows that the specific locations and timing of the 2018 summer extremes weren’t random but directly connected to the emergence of a re-occurring pattern in the jet stream that stretches around the entire Northern Hemisphere,” says Kai Kornhuber, lead author of the study. Worryingly, the team says we haven’t seen the last of these extreme events. The stalling wave patterns seem to be getting worse and more common in recent years, and that trend is projected to continue as the climate changes. “[The pattern’s] frequency and duration have in fact increased over the last two decades,” says Dim Coumou, co-author of the study. “In the two decades before 1999, there were no summers that saw a stalling wave pattern lasting for two weeks or more, but since then we have seen already seven such summers…”

File image: NASA.

World’s Largest Ice Shelf “Melting 10 Times Faster Than Previously Thought”. Here’s an excerpt from Sky News: “Scientists claim part of the world’s largest ice shelf, the size of France, is melting 10 times faster than expected because of the sea warming around it. Research suggests the Ross Ice Shelf, a floating slab of Antarctic ice, which is several hundred metres thick, is more vulnerable to global warming than previously thought. Loss of ice shelves removes a barrier to glaciers transporting water to the ocean, allowing sea levels to rise. A four-year study by a team at Cambridge University investigated how the northwest portion of the ice interacted with the ocean beneath it…”

Photo credit: “The Ross Ice Shelf is the size of France.”