More Gut Feel Than Science: A Hotter, Drier Warm Season in 2020

Scientists are reticent to talk about instinct or “gut feel”, and yet there’s something to be said for pattern recognition and going with your “sixth sense”.

Based on persistence of the current pattern I fully expect an early spring. Maybe not as early as 2012, but much earlier than the last 2 years. My sense is a hotter, drier summer season for Minnesota, which is more prayer than prediction.

2019 was the wettest year on record for Minnesota; a knock- out punch for farmers and weather-sensitive companies. I’d wager a (stale) bagel 2020 will be hotter & drier. We’ll see.

No wintry relapses are shaping up, in fact we warm into the 50s by Saturday. ECMWF is predicting 64F on Sunday, which seems a bit high, considering all the snow still on the ground. Models suggest an almost April-like March for Minnesota and much of the nation.

Monday’s deadly late-night tornado in Nashville was a reminder that twisters can and will hit large urban
areas. High-rise buildings, asphalt and concrete don’t eliminate the risk. More harrowing signs of spring.

Midwest Ag Climate Outlook. USDA has some good perspective on precipitation anomalies across the Midwest. A lack of major rain/snow storms has eased the short-term risk of river flooding a bit, but we’re not nearly out of the woods yet.

Spring Leaf Out Accelerates. Evidence that spring is coming early this year. Here’s an excerpt from the USA Phenology Network: “…Spring leaf out continues to spread up the middle of the country, three weeks earlier than a long-term average (1981-2010) in some locations. Washington, DC and New York City are 24 days early. Philadephia, PA is 16 days early and Little Rock, AR is 9 days early. Spring leaf out has also arrived in parts of the West. Spring leaf out is on time to 2 days late in San Diego, LA, and San Francisco, CA and 10 days early in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA. Parts of northern Texas and Oklahoma are on time to one week late. Spring bloom has also arrived in several Southeast and Southwest states. Spring bloom is between 1 day and 3 weeks early...”

Confidence of 60F Sunday Slowly Growing. Both ECMWF (top) and GFS (bottom) suggest highs near 60F in the metro area Sunday afternoon; 20-30 degrees warmer than average. Graphics: WeatherBell.

Tournament-Storm-Free. It’s still a remarkably quiet pattern for early March, when slushy storms should be lined up over Minnesota thicker than 737s over Midway Airport. Nothing resembling a storm is brewing. Map sequence above: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Mild Trend Continues. Could we see a numbing relapse in late March? Certainly possible, although the odds of subzero weather drop off pretty dramatically late in the month with a higher sun angle. The pattern for the next 2 weeks resembles early April, not early March.

Nashville Tornado Death Toll Rises. NBC News has an update: “…At least 19 people were killed, several others were injured and 50,000 households and businesses were left without power when a tornado struck parts of Nashville and central Tennessee early Tuesday, officials said. The deaths occurred in at least four counties, including Davidson, where Nashville is, and Putnam, Benton and Wilson, according to officials. “We have had loss of life all across this state,” Gov. Bill Lee, who declared a state of emergency, said. Besides those confirmed dead, some people are unaccounted for, he said. “There are folks missing.”…At least 45 buildings collapsed in Nashville, and police said that there were multiple buildings with damage, primarily in the downtown and east precincts. “Emergency responders are working to ensure persons can get out and secure the areas,” police said…”

It’s a Common Myth That Tornadoes Avoid Cities – But It’s Not True. Timely perspective from Dr. Marshall Shepherd at Forbes: “…This myth likely emerged from the fact that tornadoes in major urban areas are relatively rare. Heck, tornadoes themselves are rare in themselves over the course of a given year, but their impact is potentially devastating so they get our attention. The reason they rarely hit a major city is that in the grand scheme of things, urban spaces are relatively small. Roughly 3% of the world’s land surface is urban. The graphic above shows the relative amount of urban land cover in the United States. For illustrative purposes, imagine it was a dartboard. If you are an unskilled dart thrower, how often would you hit a city with a dart in 10 throws? Statistically, you are more likely not too...”

Americans Are Paying $34 Billion Too Much for Houses in Flood Plains. Bloomberg explains: “At least 3.8 million U.S. homes lie in flood plains. Together, they may be overvalued by $34 billion. New research published today in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper shows that markets fail to incorporate risks from flooding and climate-related catastrophes. Losses from extreme weather events are rising, a function mostly of people and wealth becoming more concentrated where they’re most vulnerable. If home prices more accurately reflected risk, the researchers say, there’d most likely be less development in flood plains…”

File image: USGS, United States Geological Survey.

Moscow Crushes Record For Its Warmest Winter as Milestones Are Set Across Europe and North America. Capital Weather Gang puts the winter warmth into perspective: “The meteorological winter of 2019-2020 shattered temperature records in Russia and France, as well as other parts of Europe and the United States. In Moscow, this was the warmest winter in nearly 200 years of record-keeping, and the first winter there to have an average temperature at or above 32 degrees (0 Celsius). The average winter temperature during the months of December, January and February in Moscow was 32.3 degrees (0.2 Celsius), which is 11.3 degrees (6.3 Celsius) above the 1981-2010 average, and shatters the previous record held by the winter of 1960-61 by an astonishing 3.5 degrees (2.8 Celsius), according to Etienne Kapikian of Meteo France, along with the Russian TASS news agency. In Moscow, officials brought in artificial snow for New Year’s celebrations, as both December and January hit monthly temperature records as the city went through a rare snow drought...”

How Big Oil and Big Soda Kept the Plastics Crisisa Secret for Decades. Rolling Stone has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…More than half the plastic now on Earth has been created since 2002, and plastic pollution is on pace to double by 2030. At its root, the global plastics crisis is a product of our addiction to fossil fuels. The private profit and public harm of the oil industry is well understood: Oil is refined and distributed to consumers, who benefit from gasoline’s short, useful lifespan in a combustion engine, leaving behind atmospheric pollution for generations. But this same pattern — and this same tragedy of the commons — is playing out with another gift of the oil-and-gas giants, whose drilling draws up the petroleum precursors for plastics. These are refined in industrial complexes and manufactured into bottles, bags, containers, textiles, and toys for consumers who benefit from their transient use — before throwing them away…”

1″ snow on the ground as of Tuesday evening.

43 F. maximum temperature at MSP yesterday.

35 F. average high on March 3.

0 F. high on March 3, 2019, after waking up to -13 F. in the Twin Cities.

March 4, 1935: An extremely damaging ice storm hits Duluth. At the time it was called ‘The worst ice storm in Duluth’s history’. The storm began with freezing rain and wet snow falling at the Duluth Weather Bureau at 7th Ave West and 8th Street at 10pm on March 3rd. The temperature was 26 degrees. By the morning of the 4th, the snow stopped but the freezing rain continued. The lights started going out in Duluth by 6pm on the 4th due to power lines breaking. By the morning of the 5th, Duluth was virtually isolated from the outside world except for shortwave radio. A local ham radio operator sent the Duluth National Weather Service reports: Four streetcars had to be abandoned in the storm, three of them in the western part of the city. A heavy salt mixture and pickaxes were used to try to free the stuck streetcars. A one-mile stretch of telephone poles along Thompson’s Hill was broken off as if they were toothpicks due to the ice.

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny. Not bad at all. Winds: S 5-10. High: 41

THURSDAY: Early sprinkle. Strong winds. Winds: NW 15-30. Wake-up: 35. High: 42

FRIDAY: Blue sky, winds ease. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 25. High: 44

SATURDAY: Sunny, early taste of April. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 32. High: 56

SUNDAY: Feeling feverish. Fading sun, mild. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 46. High: near 60

MONDAY: Rain may stay south. Mostly cloudy. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 37. High: 53

TUESDAY: Partly sunny and cooler. Winds: N 7-12. Wake-up: 24. High: 42

Climate Stories…

Half the World’s Beaches Could Disappear by the End of the Century, Study Finds. has an overview of recent research: “Climate change poses an existential threat to the world’s sandy beaches, and that as many as half of them could disappear by the end of the century, a new study has found. Even by 2050 some coastlines could be unrecognizable from what we see today, with 14% to 15% facing severe erosion. While the amount of beach lost will vary by location, the study found that many densely populated areas — including those along the US East Coast, South Asia and Central Europe — could see some shorelines retreat inland by nearly 330 feet (100 meters) by 2100. “We considered the threshold of 100 meters because if erosion exceeds 100 meters, then this means that most likely, the beach is going to disappear because most of the world’s beaches are even narrower than 100 meters,” said Michalis Vousdoukas, a coastal oceanographer and scientific officer at the European Commission who was a lead author of the study. “In a way, we consider this to be a conservative assessment…”

Clearwater Beach, Florida file image: Paul Douglas.

Beach Days in Danger: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Climate change could cause half of the world’s sandy beaches to disappear by the end of the century, new research shows. A study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change looks at the impact of sea level rise on sandy beaches, which make up a third of the world’s coastlines, finding that under a worst-case emissions scenario that sees an 8.5 degree C increase by 2100, between 10.6 to 12.2 percent of the world’s beaches would experience severe erosion by 2050, and 37.2 to 50.9 would be destroyed by the end of the century. Cutting emissions in a “moderate” fashion could help prevent around 40 percent of this loss, the study finds.” (Reuters, InsideClimate News, AP, CNN, The Guardian, USA Today, Time, Fox, The Hill)

Plane Contrails Have a Surprising Effect on Global Warming. I did not know this, but a post at (paywall) set me straight: “…New research out of the UK has found two silver linings in the cloudy conundrum. The first is that just 2.2 percent of flights create 80 percent of contrail-related warming. According to a January paper in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the troublemakers are mostly flights that take off in the late afternoon and early evening, whose contrails live mostly during the night—when they still trap some heat but can’t deflect any sunshine (which can balance out their impact). “The effects at night are purely warming,” says Marc Stettler, the lead author on the paper, Mitigating the Climate Forcing of Aircraft Contrails by Small-Scale Diversions and Technology Adoption...”

Climate Change is a Catastrophe. But Is It an “Existential Threat”? The world is warming, not ending (yet). Grist has an interesting take on this question; here’s an excerpt: “…And these different interpretations of what an existential threat is can result in serious miscommunication. For instance, when Sanders used “existential threat” in a Democratic debate last October, “corrected” him in a statement that went viral. “Scientists agree that climate change does pose a threat to humans and ecosystems,” the statement said, “but they do not envision that climate change will obliterate all people on the planet.” This “correction” was widely mocked on Twitter (of all places) for appearing pedantic. “Climate change will only MOSTLY eliminate human life,” one person tweeted. Not so bad after all!...”

File image: NASA.

Climate Change is Threatening Winter Sports’ Very Existence. Here’s an excerpt from a story at CNN and “...Years with below-average snowfall have a crushing impact on local economies. Bad winters can take more than $1 billion out of the US economy and affect more than 17,000 jobs, according to a 2018 study conducted by POW and REI. Since snowfall drives business in mountain towns, it’s no wonder that it’s often referred to as winter’s “white gold.” POW says that nearly 34 million Americans identify as an outdoor enthusiast. If you ski, snowboard, trail run, mountain climb or are a passionate outdoors person, you identify as an outdoor enthusiast…”

Graphic credit: Climate Central.

Climate Change: Australian Summers Now Twice as Long as Winters. BBC News has the story: “The Australia Institute found that summer across most of the country over the past 20 years was about a month longer than in the mid-20th century, while winters had become shorter. Between 2014 and 2018, summers were found to be about 50% longer. The findings followed Australia’s warmest and driest year on record. “Our findings are not a projection of what we may see in the future. Its happening right now,” the Australia Institute’s Richie Merzian said. The country experienced a devastating bushfire season, which killed 33 people and an estimated one billion native animals. While scientists said climate change was not the direct cause of the bushfires, they have long warned that a hotter, drier climate would contribute to Australia’s fires becoming more frequent and more intense…”