No Big Storms Helps to Ease Flood Threat

What keeps me up at night? Plenty. The specter of a Category 5 hurricane approaching Houston, Miami (or New York City). Rising sea levels sparking a crash in coastal Florida real estate down the road. And huge, deadly, late night tornadoes.

The EF-3 tornado that ripped across Nashville was a reminder that you can’t have enough sources for severe storm warnings. Smartphones and NOAA Weather Radio can compliment a diet of traditional media sources. A basement or reinforced closet offers the most protection. Have a plan and rehearse it with your

Nothing severe is brewing, and no tournament storms are imminent. Today’s clipper whips up flurries, sprinkles and wind gusts over 40 mph. The atmosphere should be warm enough for rain showers next week, and a lack of big storms (rain or snow) may help to ease the risk of river flooding in the coming weeks.

If you don’t have spring fever yet, you will. I see 50s on Saturday with a good shot at 60s Sunday. That’s typical for late April.

Are you OK with that?

ECMWF Temperature Anomaly Prediction for midday Sunday courtesy of WeatherBell.

Making Snow in a Minnesota March? Star Tribune has the story: “With the winter sports season melting fast, organizers of the World Cup cross-country ski race say they have enough snow stockpiled to keep the course frozen through mid-March. It’s the first race of its kind in the United States in almost 20 years, expected to bring up to 20,000 people to Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis…That’s why the snow guns have been firing all winter. Since November, the Loppet’s trails crew has made about 720,000 cubic feet of snow — with almost 5 million gallons of water — to make sure there is enough on the ground come race day. Most of it is spread out on the course already, groomed in a crisp corduroy pattern...”

Photo credit: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune. “Crews used 12 snow guns to make snow at Minneapolis’ Theodore Wirth Park, where the World Cup cross-country ski race will be held beginning March 14.”

Mellow March. At least so far. And there’s little chance of an abnormally cold slap through the end of next week. Both ECMWF (top) and NOAA’s GFS model (below) continue to show temperatures well above average the next 1-2 weeks. Sunday still looks like the mildest day in sight. Graphics: WeatherBell.

An Early April This Year. Sunday should be worth sticking around for. Map sequence above: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Colder Correction 2-3 Weeks Out. No polar air is imminent. Truth is, it gets harder to pull subzero air into even the northern tier of the USA by late March. A ridge building over Alaska and far western Canada may force a few slaps of numbing air into Minnesota by late March. By then we’ll be overdue for at least a temporary correction.

Nashville Area Tornadoes Were EF-4 Strength. Here’s the intro to an explainer at Tennessean: “The Nashville Weather Service in Nashville says East Nashville and Donelson in Davidson County and  Mt. Juliet in Wilson County saw damage from at least one EF-3 tornado Tuesday morning, based on damage surveyed so far. An EF-3 tornado has winds of 158-206 mph, according to the Enhanced Fujita scale. The tornado hit Mt. Juliet with winds of 155-160 mph. Donelson suffered damage from a 160-165 mph tornado.  “This is just damage observed in these neighborhoods and it might possibly be the same tornado,” the NWS tweeted.  According to NWS Nashville meteorologist Brittney Whitehead, the tornado that hit East Nashville was an EF-3 with winds of 136-140 mph. The tornado that hit the Germantown/North Nashville area appeared to be an EF-2 with winds of 125 mph.  Officials are still determining whether it was one or maybe two long-track tornadoes across Davidson, Wilson and Smith Counties...”

“Like Something Out of the Wizard of Oz”. Daily Beast has a remarkable story of survival: “A couple managed to survive the deadly Tennessee tornado by hiding in their bathtub as the twister lifted their home through the air. Seth Wells and Danielle Theophile, who live in Cookeville, told CBS News about their ordeal. Wells said he was woken up in the early hours of Tuesday by a tornado warning on his phone, then heard the wind roar before he and Danielle ran to the tub. “We were flying in the air, into the trees back there, where once we hit those trees, the house… it just exploded...”

Image credit: CBS News.

Several Children Among 24 Dead in Nashville Tornado. USA TODAY has more perspective: “A preliminary survey indicated the tornado just east of Nashville was an EF-3 on the Fujita Scale, meaning it had winds of about 160 mph. The tornado was the third to tear through downtown Nashville. Twisters ripped through the city in 1933 and 1998, the National Weather Service said. In Putnam County, the number of deaths rose to 16. Three deaths were confirmed in Wilson County, two in Davidson County (where Nashville is) and one in Benton County. Several children were reported among the dead in Putnam County, which includes the town of Cookeville. “This is an absolutely tragic and devastating day for our city and county,” Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton 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.

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...”

How Big Oil and Big Soda Kept the Plastics Crisis a 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…”

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

42 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

35 F. average high on March 4.

9 F. high on March 4, 2019.

March 5, 1966: A powerful blizzard finally ends in the Upper Midwest. Some wind gusts from the storm topped 100 mph.

THURSDAY: Windblown flurry, sprinkle. Winds: NW 20-40. High: 41

FRIDAY: Blue sky, light winds. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 27. High: 43

SATURDAY: Sunny and springy. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 29. High: 56

SUNDAY: Few high clouds, feels like late April. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 44. High: 61

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy and cooler. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 40. High: 47

TUESDAY: Clouds increase, late shower? Winds: N 5-10. Wake-up: 29. High: 41

WEDNESDAY: Unsettled, risk of rain showers. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 33. High: 43

Climate Stories…

Wall Street is Falling Out of Love With a Once-Coveted Fossil Fuel. Bloomberg reports: “For years investors were willing to pay more for shares of natural gas utilities compared to electric ones. That’s no longer the case. In the past few days, electric utility valuations blew past those for gas, a sign that investor confidence in the future of fossil fuels has reached a tipping point. With climate advocates pushing to eliminate natural gas from homes and businesses and lawmakers from New York to California taking a stand against greenhouse gas emissions, pipeline developers are facing an uncertain future. “Right now, anyway you look at it, natural gas is not seen as something that is very friendly,” says Shahriar Pourreza, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities LLC…”

Fossil Fuels More Deadly Than Cigarettes, Malaria, HIV/AIDS: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Breathing polluted air cuts life expectancy across the world more than other risk factors like smoking, violence, HIV/AIDS, and vector-borne diseases like malaria, a new study shows. Research published Monday in the journal Cardiovascular Research compares the loss of life expectancy from exposure to fine particulate matter to other leading causes of death worldwide. The study found that polluted air decreased global life expectancy by an average of nearly three years and led to 8.8 million premature deaths in 2015 – exceeding smoking, one of the leading causes of early mortality, which led to 7.2 million premature deaths in 2015. “We show that about two-thirds of premature deaths are attributable to human-made air pollution, mainly from fossil fuel use,” study author Thomas Münzel told InsideClimate News. “Five and a half million deaths worldwide a year are potentially avoidable.” (InsideClimate News, Vice, The Guardian).

File image: Paul Douglas.

The Corporate Responsibility Facade is Finally Starting to Crumble. Here’s the intro to a post at Quartz at Work: “Big Oil is talking a much better climate-change game these days, publicly committing to an energy transition and the aims of the Paris accords. But there is a yawning gulf between the rhetorical embrace of corporate responsibility and the industry’s arms-length deployment of political financing to maintain commercial advantage. It isn’t just the corporate critics who recognize this. BP itself recently announced plans to withdraw from three trade associations with stated positions deemed inconsistent with the company’s own pledges. Royal Dutch Shell and Total are also reviewing their industry memberships, as are mining majors. The pressure they face to take such steps is real; the industry’s years of reliance on hypocrisy, lobbying, and misleading public relations tactics is eerily reminiscent of the approach taken by tobacco companies…”

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.