Another Snowy Relapse – Warmer Days Ahead

There’s a reason I’m not invited to many parties. I don’t want to talk about the weather, either. A grinding winter gave way to a tormented spring. A stripe of heavy snow fell overnight from central Minnesota to the Duluth area, where it looks like mid-February this morning. If snow boarding on Mother’s Day isn’t your cup
of tea – no worries – snow will melt rapidly, greening up lawns in the process.

Old Man Winter is hanging on by his fingertips; a poignant reminder to wait until after Memorial Day to plant those tender annuals.

Skies clear later today, with a dry Friday and Saturday morning in the metro. If you’re heading out for the Fishing Opener showers (rain, thank God) push into western Minnesota Saturday morning, reaching the MSP metro during the afternoon hours. A few instability showers linger Sunday, then the stage is set for a
rerun of spring next week with 60s; even a few 70s the weekend of May 18-19. We’re due for a real warm front.

Bummed about May snow? 3 inches of snow fell on the Twin Cities in May of 1946. Yikes.

Latest Snowfall Reports. Check out the National Weather Service site for the latest gawk-worthy amounts.

How did the models do? Below is the 12z Wednesday ECMWF prediction of snowfall:

And here is the 00z Thursday NOAA NAM prediction for snow:
P.S. I’m pretty pissed that I have to show you this on the 9th day of May. Mother Nature is seriously messed up.

A Grudging Warming Trend. It’s like a meteorological mirage – the promise of hot days appearing on the horizon, only to disappear as you approach. We’ll see 60s and a few 70s next week and the following week, but no 80s – no sweat-worthy weather brewing until late May at the earliest.

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.

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)

The New York Times has a comprehensive look at the report here.

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)

File image: Xcel Energy.

“A Significant Day for Aviation”: Quantas Launches Zero-Garbage Flight. The Sydney Morning Herald has the story: “Qantas has trialled the world’s first flight ever to produce no landfill waste as the airline embarks on a mission to cut out the use of 100 million plastic items from its planes by next year. Andrew David, CEO of Qantas’ domestic arm, said the flight from Sydney to Adelaide on Wednesday represented a “significant day” for aviation. The airline currently produces the equivalent of “80 fully-laden Boeing 747 jumbos” per year in waste across its Qantas and Jetstar operations…On Wednesday’s flight to Adelaide, customers found meal containers made out of biodegradable packaging made from sugar cane, cutlery made from crop starch and paper cups…”

“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…”

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 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.

1.2″ rain in the Twin Cities yesterday as of 7 pm.

55 F. high temperature at MSP on Wednesday.

67 F. average high on May 8.

72 F. high on May 8, 2018.

May 9, 1966: Minnesota experiences a widespread hard freeze, with temperatures in the teens as far south as Caledonia.

THURSDAY: Wet start, slow clearing. Winds: N 15-25. High: near 50

FRIDAY: Partly sunny and pleasant. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 37. High: 61

FISHING OPENER: Early sun, PM showers, thunder. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 48. High: 64

MOTHER’S DAY: Cooler with a passing shower or 2. Winds: N 8-13. Wake-up: 50. High: 57

MONDAY: Plenty of sun, turning milder. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 47. High: 66

TUESDAY: Clipper sparks showers, T-storms. Winds: SW 10-20. Wake-up: 53. High: 71

WEDNESDAY: Plenty of sun, drying out. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 49. High: 65

Climate Stories….

In a Warming World, Evidence of a Human “Fingerprint” on Drought. The New York Times explains: “Human activity was changing the Earth’s drought and rainfall patterns as far back as the early 20th century, new research shows. Drying in many regions, the researchers suggested, will get worse, with sobering implications for feeding the planet’s billions of people. The new paper tracks long-term patterns of moisture levels in soil across regions of the world, including North America, Central America, Eurasia and the Mediterranean. The researchers found a “fingerprint” of human effects from producing greenhouse gases, as distinct from natural variability, as far back as 1900…”

Photo credit: “Lake Powell, which provides water for Nevada, Arizona and California, in 2015. The land on the right is submerged when the lake is full; drought and withdrawals have lowered the water level significantly.” Credit: Rick Wilking/Reuters.

More Warm Spring Days (1970 – 2018). Climate Central connects the dots and examines the trends: “...Climate Central assessed the last half-century’s warm-up by plotting the annual number of spring days with above-normal temperatures. Of the 242 cities analyzed, 97% recorded an increase in warm spring days since 1970. There was an average increase of 10 warm spring days in that span — that’s a week and a half. Seven cities now experience more than a month of additional warm days, led by Tucson, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. All seven of those cities are in the Southwest, where spring is the fastest-warming season. The extra heat accelerates the evaporation that can lead to drought and stressed water supplies, affecting agriculture and energy systems as well as cities and towns. Nationwide impacts of warm springs include longer pollen and pest seasons. As the spring and fall have brought more warm days, the growing season (and therefore allergy season) has lengthened by two weeks on average…”

Melting Permafrost Damaging Equipment Needed by Scientists to Measure Rate of Melting. 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.