Paul Douglas

More Early Hints of April Coming

March is an atmospheric aberration, a cosmic jumble, an impossible juxtaposition of warm, cold, wet and windy. You can’t jam all 4 seasons into one month? Mother Nature: hold my beer.

Exhibit A: On March 18, 1968 an early-season tornado touched down in Watonwan County. Warmth? Just 10 years ago highs were hitting 80F in the metro – flowers and shrubs were blooming in late March! March can bring legendary tournament snowstorms, raging river flooding, thunder, hail and subzero chill. Something for the entire family. Everything but normalcy.

Which makes this quiet pattern in mid-March so memorable. A cellophane-thin layer of cirrus clouds at 25,000 dimming the sun tip us off to a storm sliding south of Minnesota today. The mercury mellows this weekend with low 50s Saturday and a good shot at 60F Sunday; an April-like blue sky draped overhead. A shower Monday gives way to steadier rain Tuesday. A coating of slush may fall Tuesday night.

Keep those second-hand shoes handy. Mud and sludge season is here!

Going…Going…Going…Bueller… Officially MSP is down to a trace of snow, although there is considerably more over many western and northern suburbs, and the sledding up north should still be OK this weekend. But if you like snow I wouldn’t wait too much longer to get out and play in it.

Friday Future Clouds/Precipitation

Iowa Slush. A southern storm will brush Iowa and the southern half of Wisconsin with a mix of rain and wet snow today, but temperatures should remain above 32F and most roads south/east of MSP will remain wet.

Stick Around for Sunday. Of all the days coming up Sunday gets the nod for the finest weather. We expect blue sky, light winds and afternoon highs in the upper 50s to near 60F, as much as 20F warmer than average for some Minnesota towns. A shower is possible Monday with steadier rain Tuesday, ending as a little slush Tuesday night as temperatures cool back down closer to normal next week.

ECMWF Temperatures for MSP
NOAA GFS Temperatures for MSP

April Fool’s Day Severe Storm Outbreak? If (huge if) the GFS verifies things could be interesting for the Great Plains and Upper Midwest March 31 to April 1. I’m not planning to go tornado-chasing (yet) but I smell a much more active severe/tornado season this year.

Intensifying La Nina Hints at Active Hurricane Season Ahead. The La Nina cool phase was predicted to weaken into “ENSO Neutral” in the months ahead, instead, the cooling trend is accelerating, which could translate into more severe T-storms and tornadoes, as well as lighter winds over the tropics brewing up more favorable conditions for tropical cyclone development by late summer. Here’s an excerpt of a good explainer from “Over the past few weeks, La Niña has grown stronger. This is due to a surge in easternly Trade Winds that blow cool water from the Eastern Pacific to the Western Pacific along the Equator. This reinvigorates the already present La Niña. This is concerning because La Niña’s typically correspond with active hurricane seasons in the Atlantic Ocean. The last two hurricane seasons have featured La Niña and both have been very active in the Atlantic Basin. The hope and expectation were that La Niña would fade before summer, maybe even reversing to El Niño. But that no longer seems probable…”

Satellites captured the tree loss from Hurricane Michael in 2018. This is where fires were burning in 2022.
Forwarn/USDA Forest Service

How a Hurricane Fueled Wildfires in the Florida Panhandle. I was just on the Florida Panhandle and saw this for myself: mile after mile of flattened trees, leftover from Hurricane Michael in 2018. The Apopka Voice connects the voice and explains how that Category 5 storm set the stage for a rash of wildfires taking place in recent weeks: “…March is early for large fires in this part of Florida. We’re not in extreme drought, but the weather has been warm and dry, and this area has a lot of fuel on the ground that can burn. When Hurricane Michael rolled through, it had a catastrophic impact on timber in the region. The hurricane dropped most of the standing trees into a jumbled mess that piled up on the ground. Typically, a forest’s fuel load – the total mass of burnable stuff on a site – is less than 10 tons per acre. After Hurricane Michael, surveys found over 100 tons per acre in parts of the Panhandle. That’s off the charts. Everyone involved saw this storm had tremendous potential to affect wildfire activity for years to come...”

22 Ways Kids Can Help Save the Planet. I’m coming out with a new illustrated book for 8-12+ year olds focused on pollution, climate change and solutions – focusing on young people who are already stepping up to be part of the solution. Here’s an excerpt of the book, courtesy of my local publisher, Beaming Books:

Go solar! Clean, green energy is not a fad or a fluke—it is a trend. Why wouldn’t we try to harvest the free energy hitting our yards and rooftops? Prices are falling rapidly, and many families are already taking advantage of solar power, wind energy, and energy storage. Ask your parents to encourage the utility that provides your electricity to take full advantage of renewable energy sources.

Inspire others! Share your concerns and ideas about how to make things better. Write a blog post, design posters to hang at school, or record a TikTok to get the word out and challenge others to do their part.

Share your concerns. Author C. S. Lewis said it best: “Nothing is really ours until we share it.” Share your concerns, fears, and hopes. Talk it out. Speak up. Raise your voice. If you are worried about climate change, do something and say something. Get your friends and family up to speed. You can do this.

Trace of snow on the ground at MSP International Airport Thursday evening.

48 F. Twin Cities high on Thursday.

42 F. average MSP high on March 17.

43 F. high on March 17, 2021.

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

FRIDAY: Dim sun, cooler. Winds: NE 10-15. High: 45

SATURDAY: Mostly sunny and pleasant. Winds: W 3-8. Wake-up: 29. High: 52

SUNDAY: Sunny. Astonishingly nice. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 28. High: near 60

MONDAY: Clouds increase, PM shower. Winds: E 10-20. Wake-up: 39. High: 56

TUESDAY: Rain. A little slush Tuesday night? Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 40. High: 42

WEDNESDAY: Damp start, cool wind. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 33. High: 41

THURSDAY: Some sun, probably dry. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 28. High: 47

Climate Stories…

Google Maps

Lake Powell Hits Historic Low, Raising Hydropower Concerns. AP News has the story: “A massive reservoir known as a boating mecca dipped below a critical threshold on Tuesday raising new concerns about a source of power that millions of people in the U.S. West rely on for electricity. Lake Powell’s fall to below 3,525 feet (1,075 meters) puts it at its lowest level since the lake filled after the federal government dammed the Colorado River at Glen Canyon more than a half century ago — a record marking yet another sobering realization of the impacts of climate change and megadrought. It comes as hotter temperatures and less precipitation leave a smaller amount flowing through the over-tapped Colorado River. Though water scarcity is hardly new in the region, hydropower concerns at Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona reflect that a future western states assumed was years away is approaching — and fast…”

Lake Powell Drops To Historic Low: Climate Nexus has more perspective, links and headlines: “The climate change-fueled megadrought parching the American West hit another critical milestone on Tuesday: Lake Powell reached its lowest point since the government dammed the Colorado River at Glen Canyon more than half a century ago. Even more ominously, the worst drought since Charlamagne has pushed water levels to just 35 feet above the point at which the hydroelectric dam can no longer produce electricity, which it supplies to 54 Native American tribes and another 5 million customers across the region. If water is withheld to keep levels higher, that could have dramatic consequences for the even larger Lake Mead, which is only 14 feet above a critical water shortage level. The ongoing drought and falling water levels have boosted calls to decommission and “rewild” the Colorado River. Snowmelt from the Rockies is expected to alleviate Lake Powell’s immediate shortage, but hydrology models suggest a 25% chance the lake will be too low to generate electricity as early as 2024. “The continued long-term trend of decline in the reservoir is disturbing,” Tom Buschatzke, director of Arizona Department of Water Resources, told the Arizona Republic.” (The Colorado Sun, AP, Fox13; Decommissioning: Arizona Republic; Climate Signals background: Drought)

Farmers Received Billions in Crop Insurance Payouts Due to Extreme Weather. Here’s the intro to an explainer from “Farmers in the Midwest have received tens of billions of dollars in federal crop insurance payouts since 2001, based on an analysis of federal data. That includes nearly $10 billion to Iowa farmers, $8.5 billion in Illinois and another $5 billion to farmers in Missouri. The analysis from the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization, found that for most Midwestern states, the majority of crop insurance payouts over the past two decades were due to crop damage caused by drought or excess precipitation, conditions exacerbated by climate change. Some environmentalists and farmers say the federal program, which is heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, discourages growers from adapting to climate change and should be redesigned...”

Xcel Energy’s Sherco coal-fired power plant is the largest greenhouse gas emitter in Minnesota.
Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

These are Minnesota’s Top Greenhouse Gas Polluters. Star Tribune has the list and accompanying story; here’s the intro: “One hundred facilities in Minnesota are responsible for a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Who are they? Minnesota’s biggest greenhouse polluters form a cross section of the state’s economy, providing goods and services deeply embedded in our lives. Electricity. Fossil fuels for heating and cars. Steel. Sugar. Trash disposal. Semiconductor chips. Breakfast cereal. Most of Minnesota’s 19 ethanol plants are on the list, as are many compression stations that push natural gas around the state to heat our homes. Let’s look at what exactly is being measured. The shorthand for the greenhouse gases driving climate change is carbon…”

Climate Central

No, Not the Beer. How will a warmer climate, with greater water extremes, impact beer production? Climate Central takes a look: “We’re looking forward to St. Patrick’s Day, while also looking back—at March temperature trends since 1970. 95% of 246 weather stations across the U.S. saw March average temperatures increase from 1970 to 2021—consistent with nationwide spring warming trends. Across all stations, March temperatures increased by 2.4 °F on average since 1970. March warming over this period was highest in Nevada and Arizona cities: Las Vegas (7.1 °F), Tucson (6.3 °F), Reno (6.2 °F), and Phoenix (6.0 °F). Widespread warming is not only an indicator of climate change; it’s also affecting the unofficial drink of St. Patrick’s Day: beer…”

Central Park in April
Paul Douglas

How New York City is Preparing for Expected Rising Sea Levels from Climate Change. ABC News has a summary; here’s a clip: “…Based on historical data, sea levels rose by one foot in the last century. The latest NOAA report reveals the same rate could impact coastal areas around the U.S. in less than three decades…The $1.45 billion project, which began in fall 2020 and is set to be completed by 2025, will create a 2.4-mile “flood protection system” consisting of floodwalls and floodgates, as well as elevate parts of the region by up to 9 feet, to keep the storm surge out of the neighborhood. Sewer infrastructure will also be remodeled and updated to handle more water in coming years. The project estimates more than 110,000 people will be impacted, of which about a quarter live in low-income or public housing…”


NFIP, Still Underwater, Paid Out $2.2 Billion In 2021: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “The National Flood insurance Program paid out nearly $2.2 billion in claims in 2021, E&E reports. The eighth-largest claims year in the program’s 53-year history was driven almost entirely by the $2 billion of insured damages caused by Hurricane Ida in Louisiana, New York, and New Jersey. Numerous climate impacts — including rising sea levels, faster snow and ice melt, and increasing extreme precipitation events, total precipitation, and storm surge — fuel increasing U.S. flooding risks. The funds disbursed by the NFIP only cover a portion of the total damage wrought by flooding. The floods that killed 20 people in Tennessee last August destroyed their home and much of their hometown of Waverly, and unaffordable premiums force families like Gretchen Turner’s into impossible decisions of whether to rebuild their homes or leave. “None of my neighbors had flood insurance. We weren’t in the flood plain. It wasn’t required,” Turner told NPR. “And if we could have gotten it, it was going to be around $600 a month.” Recent efforts to increase flood insurance premiums to more accurately reflect flood risks notwithstanding, the NFIP owes more than more than $20 billion to federal taxpayers for claims payments beyond its premium revenue.” (E&E $; Tenn. Family: NPR; Climate signals background: Flooding, Extreme precipitation increase, Total precipitation increase, Snow and ice melt, Storm surge)