Winter: Not a Threat – An Opportunity.

Some in our midst liken a Minnesota winter to a cold, snowy, near-death experience. I see it as an opportunity to try on more clothes. Some dread slushy commutes. I look forward to a break from bugs, weeding and wheezing allergies.

I gently remind next of kin that we don’t experience earthquakes, massive wildfires or Texas-size storms with names. Cold fronts? Yeah, but at least our homes are still standing.

Then again, I may be rationalizing.

After a fairly pleasant Saturday a wintry swipe arrives next week, preceded by what may be some accumulating snow Tuesday into Wednesday. It’s still much too early to toss around amounts, but depending on the final storm track, a few inches of slush can’t be ruled out, especially south and east of MSP.

For the record, I’m putting in my driveway stakes, and we’ve already put up our Christmas tree. When in

Halloween temperatures hold in the 30s with a scary windchill, but NOAA’s GFS model brings a few 60s back into town in 2 weeks. Be still my heart.

Taste of Late November. 30s next week? Temperatures will run 15-20F colder than average across Minnesota with a potential for wintry weather, especially Tuesday. Graphic: WeatherBell.

7 Things Your TV Meteorologist Wants to Tell You, But Can’t. Dennis Mersereau says all those things I wish I could have said at “…It’s frustrating to miss your favorite TV show because someone 25 miles away is getting a severe thunderstorm. But cutting into regular programming to cover a tornado warning is a public service required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). A network’s FCC broadcast license comes with the requirement that the station’s broadcast serves the public interest; during a tornado, that public interest is very much keeping those in harm’s way aware of what’s on the horizon. Broadcast meteorologists get flooded with hate mail and even death threats when they have to interrupt a popular show for severe weather coverage. These stations can’t divide their feed to show coverage only to people in harm’s way — over-the-air broadcasts don’t work like that.  It should go without saying, but keeping people safe from a tornado is more important than catching an episode that will appear online 12 hours later...”

Winter Weather Outlook From NOAA. Confidence levels are never high this far out. Just once I’d love to experience an “average” winter. Here’s a clip from NOAA: “Warmer-than-average temperatures are forecast for much of the U.S. this winter according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Although below-average temperatures are not favored, cold weather is anticipated and some areas could still experience a colder-than-average winter. Wetter-than-average weather is most likely across the Northern Tier of the U.S. during winter, which extends from December through February. While the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate pattern often influences the winter, neutral conditions are in place this year and expected to persist into the spring. In the absence of El Nino or La Nina, long-term trends become a key predictor for the outlook, while other climate patterns, such as the Madden-Julian Oscillation and Arctic Oscillation (AO), will likely play a larger role in determining winter weather…”

Unprecedented Wet Fall May Increase Spring Flooding Risk in 2020. I know it’s early to be talking about this, but NOAA’s Central Region is already concerned about waterlogged soil increasing the potential for severe river flooding and late planting in 2020. Click here for more details.

On Track for Wettest Year on Record. Check out the actual precipitation amounts (above) and departures from normal (below). More than 21″ wetter than average in Rochester? That’s absurd. Maps courtesy of Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Is It Time to Scrap the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Rating Scale? Here’s a clip from a story I wrote for Medium: “…Hurricane experts are divided. Dr. Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, says two camps are emerging among hurricane experts, those who wish to modify the Saffir-Simpson scale, and those who want to scrap it and start over. Emanuel is in the second camp. He believes we should rate the threat, not the storm. Specifically, he envisions a new rating system that emphasizes threats to a specific location, as opposed to the current Saffir-Simpson scale, which is specific to the storm itself. “Most loss of life and damage in hurricanes is caused by water, not wind. In failing to rate the water damage, the Saffir Simpson scale is deeply deficient and should be discarded.” Emanuel envisions a better way to gauge risk, one that is location dependent. “Rather than rating the storm we should rate the total threat to specific places using, for example, a simple color-coded system, supplemented by concise, thoughtfully composed descriptions of the threat.” he said in a recent interview...”

The Antarctic Ozone Hole is the Smallest Since It Was Discovered. And it may have more to do with unusually warm weather than banning the chemicals that destroy stratospheric ozone, according to a post at “…This is only the third time in 40 years when warm temperatures caused by weather systems have actually helped limit the ozone hole, NASA said in a statement. This also occurred in 1988 and 2002. But the scientists say there is no connection they’ve identified to link the patterns with climate change. “It’s a rare event that we’re still trying to understand,” said Susan Strahan, an atmospheric scientist with Universities Space Research Association, who works at NASA Goddard. “If the warming hadn’t happened, we’d likely be looking at a much more typical ozone hole...”
Image credit: NASA.

Are Solar-Powered Airships the Future of Cargo Delivery? And why not? A story at Big Think got me…thinking: “…The aluminum framed airship will be powered by a pair of solar-powered engines and two conventional jet engines. Because airships rely on jet stream winds to propel them toward their destinations, they offer an advantage over cargo ships in efficiency and carbon emissions. Unlike the airships of the past, such as the infamous Hindenberg, which crashed in a disastrous burst of flames, Varialift’s airship will not be filled with hydrogen. It will use helium gas to lift off, which is a great deal safer. The airship takes off and lands vertically, more like a hot-air balloon than an airplane, which means that it doesn’t really require a special airway or crew…”

Image credit: “The French company Flying Whales aims to deliver cargo to remote areas via airships by 2023.” Photo courtesy of Flying Whales.

The Power of Trees to Fight Floodwaters. Climate Central reports: “…By absorbing rainwater, reducing erosion, and creating more permeable soils, trees save nearly 400 billion gallons of stormwater runoff in the contiental U.S. each year. That’s enough to cover the state of Rhode Island in more than a foot of water!  Stormwater avoided totals are highest in certain urban areas that are prone to high runoff rates. Harris, Texas (home to Houston) leads the Forest Service’s county data, followed by Middlesex, Mass. (near Boston), Allegheny, Penn. (home to Pittsburgh), and Cook, Ill. (home to Chicago). Results are similar when aggregated by media market, with New York, Atlanta, and Boston ranking highest. Trees also avoid more stormwater in rainier regions, from the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Northwest…”

A Real-Life Invisibility Cloak Designed for the Military? The stuff of science fiction is rapidly becoming science-fact. Futurism explains: “Canada’s Hyperstealth Biotechnology already manufactures camouflage uniforms for militaries across the globe. But now, the company has patented a new “Quantum Stealth” material that disguises a military’s soldiers — or even its tanks, aircraft, and ships — by making anything behind it seem invisible. Earlier in October, Hyperstealth filed a patent for the material, which doesn’t require a power source and is both paper-thin and inexpensive — all traits that could make it appealing for use on the battlefield. According to a press release, it works by bending the light around a target to make it seemingly disappear. This light can be in the visible spectrum, or it can be ultraviolet, infrared, or shortwave infrared light, making the material what Hyperstealth calls a “broadband invisibility cloak...”

Image credit: Hyperstealth.

The Phone Call Isn’t Dead, It’s Evolving. The Wall Street Journal (paywall) explains: “…Talking was the most popular way to communicate via cellphone in the fall of 2012, with 94% of survey respondents having done so in the prior week, according to consumer-research firm MRI-Simmons. By the spring of 2019, talking had fallen to least popular, behind texting, emailing, posting to social media and using chat apps, with just 45% reporting doing it in the prior week. In other words, less than half had used their phone for an actual phone call. Multiple people I interviewed said when the phone rings unexpectedly, they assume someone has died. But some app developers and investors think voice communication over the phone isn’t the problem, just the act of making a phone call itself…”

Spotify Saved the Music Industry. Now What? Fortune has a smart piece, here’s a clip: “…Spotify’s overall prospects are so robust, according to BCG, that it ranks No. 5 on this year’s Fortune Future 50 list of the companies best positioned to generate long-term growth. But there’s no guarantee that Spotify will hold its position at the top of the charts. Encouraged by streaming audio’s growth, tech giants Apple and Amazon have entered the fray. Each has extraordinarily deep pockets—not to mention a home court advantage as the makers of the iPhones and Echo devices on which so many listeners access their music. Meanwhile, the maturation of major streaming music markets such as the U.S. and the U.K. has Spotify and its rivals chasing emerging opportunities in Brazil, Mexico, India, and “late adopter” nations like Germany and Japan…”

Inside Apple’s High-Flying Bid to Become a Streaming Giant. (paywall) takes us behind the scenes: “…On September 10, Tim Cook once again took the stage at the Steve Jobs Theater for Apple’s annual iPhone event. Gone was the pageantry, and the secrecy, around TV+, and in its place came a giddy, you-asked-for-it forthrightness. And this time, gamesmanship: The platform would launch November 1 (11 days before Disney); it would cost $4.99 a month (less than any other major streaming service). If you bought an iOS device, Mac, or Apple TV, you’d get a year of the service for free. “All of these incredible shows for the price of a single. Movie. Rental,” breathed Cook, in the reverential tone of someone who can’t quite wrap their mind around the enormity of what they’re saying. “Our mission,” he said, “is to bring you the best original stories from the most creative minds in television and film. Truly, stories to believe in. Stories with purpose...”

Image credit: “Wrenn Schmidt, Cass Bugge, Jodi Balfour, and Nate Corddry in a scene from For All Mankind.” Courtesy of Apple.

Pizza Hut is Reinventing the Pizza Box. The Washington Post reports on a new (better?) way to transport pizza pies; here are a couple of excerpts: “The round shape means there’s less waste (i.e., it’s better for the environment), and it’s made of sustainably harvested plant fiber. It’s industrially compostable. Less material also means it takes up less space on the shelves of Pizza Hut locations — and in your fridge…Burquier described the box as the result of a two-year development process along with Zume, the Silicon Valley start-up company whose pizza-delivery innovations include robots assembling the pies and trucks that bake your pizza en route to your home to cut down on what’s known in the industry as “dwell time.” Zume first introduced a round pizza box, which it called the Pizza Pod, in 2017. And Apple has a patented circular pizza box that it uses for the pizzas served in its campus cafeterias...”

Photo credit: Emily Heil/The Washington Post.

He Grew at 910-Pound Pumpkin and Then Used It as a Boat. Because why not. has details: “Instead of making a giant jack o’lantern or a massive pie that could feed the whole town, a farmer in Tennessee took his 910-pound pumpkin out for a spin in his pond. It’s been Justin Ownby’s dream to grow a giant pumpkin. And for the past four years, he has been trying to reach his goal of growing a 1,000 pound pumpkin, his wife, Christin, told CNN… Justin hollowed out the pumpkin to harvest the seeds and then decided to have some fun with the kids, Christin said. On Monday night, he plunged the pumpkin in the pond on the family’s property, climbed inside and with an oar in hand he started paddling around. Christin recorded his adventure and posted it on Facebook. At one point, Justin even tried standing up in the pumpkin before tipping over into the water…”

Starbucks Has New Phantom Frappuccino That is All-Black and Covered with Slime. Mental Floss has the terrifying details: “Starbucks is about to release a beverage that looks suspiciously like something Hocus Pocus’s Sanderson sisters might brew in their human-sized cauldron. If the Tie-Dye Frappuccino was Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, the Phantom Frappuccino is absolutely the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s a sinister-looking mixture of black sludge and green slime, and it seems about as edible as an oil spill… It’s a welcome break for anybody who started sipping pumpkin spice lattes way back in August and is already experiencing burnout. Unfortunately for Americans, this ghoulish drink is only available in Europe; Starbucks is launching it on October 26 for five days only...”

Photo credit: Starbucks EMEA.

46 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday.

55 F. average high on October 23.

59 F. maximum temperature on October 23, 2018.

October 24, 1922: A powerful low pressure system over Minnesota brings 55 mph winds to Collegeville.

THURSDAY: Peeks of sun, a dry sky. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 44

FRIDAY: More sun, feels like October again. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 30. High: 51

SATURDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, not bad. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 40. High: 56

SUNDAY: Cloudy with a cooler breeze. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 39. High: 45

MONDAY: Intervals of cool sunshine. Winds: W 7-12. Wake-up: 29. High: 41

TUESDAY: Mix turns to wet snow. Sloppy accumulation? Winds: NE 10-15. Wake-up: 31. High: 36

WEDNESDAY: Early slush? Flurries taper by PM. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 27. High: 33

Climate Stories….

ExxonMobil’s Climate-Change Accounting Goes on Trial. Wait, two sets of books? Here’s an excerpt from CBS News: “…Starting in 2010, Exxon began telling the public that it had assigned a price to carbon internally to model how government regulation would affect its business. However, it used two sets of figures: A high number that it presented to investors and a lower number in internal documents. Effectively, it was telling investors that its business decisions had fully considered the effects of future government regulations, when they had not. The company made a number of oil-intensive investments, such as extraction in the Alberta, Canada, tar sands, that would have been dramatically less profitable if calculated with a high cost of carbon. Its dual sets of numbers also had the effect of discouraging investments in clean energy internally, because they appeared less profitable when the cost of carbon was low than when it was high…”

“Big Oil’s Response to Climate Change Straight Out of Big Tobacco Playbook”. MarketWatch has the story: “As ExxonMobil heads to court this week for a New York lawsuit accusing it of misleading investors about climate change, a team of researchers at George Mason, Harvard and Bristol universities tracked evidence of a decades-long campaign of alleged deception at the oil giant that the scientists say has confused the American public. Their report issued Monday draws parallels between the campaigns launched by tobacco companies to delay dangerous health findings from smoking to the fossil-fuel industry’s go-slow response to climate change.The authors highlighted the tactics used by the campaigns, “including trotting out fake experts, promoting conspiracy theories and cherry-picking evidence....”

The Most Important Thing You Can Do to Fight Climate Change: Talk About It. Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, climate scientist (and devout Christian) has an excellent TED Talk: “How do you talk to someone who doesn’t believe in climate change? Not by rehashing the same data and facts we’ve been discussing for years, says climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe. In this inspiring, pragmatic talk, Hayhoe shows how the key to having a real discussion is to connect over shared values like family, community and religion — and to prompt people to realize that they already care about a changing climate. “We can’t give in to despair,” she says. “We have to go out and look for the hope we need to inspire us to act — and that hope begins with a conversation, today.

The Impossible Fight to Save Jakarta, the Sinking Megacity. WIRED UK has a preview of what other coastal cities can expect in the coming years: “…Jakarta, a megacity of 30 million people, is sinking. In places along the coastline the ground has subsided by four metres over the last few decades, meaning that the concrete barricades are the only thing preventing whole communities from being engulfed by the sea. Although many coastal cities, from New York to Shanghai, have been forced by the threat of climate change to build high walls to protect themselves, there are few places in the world as vulnerable as Jakarta, where a decades-old problem of land subsidence has intersected with sea level rise caused by global warming, creating an existential threat to the city...”

Facing Unbearable Heat, Qatar Has Begun to Air Condition the Outdoors. A headline I didn’t think I’d see, courtesy of The Washington Post and SFGate: “…While climate change inflicts suffering in the world’s poorest places from Somalia to Syria, from Guatemala to Bangladesh,in rich places such as the United States, Europe and Qatar global warming poses an engineering problem, not an existential one. And it can be addressed, at least temporarily, with gobs of money and a little technology. To survive the summer heat, Qatar not only air-conditions its soccer stadiums, but also the outdoors – in markets, along sidewalks, even at outdoor malls so people can window shop with a cool breeze. “If you turn off air conditioners, it will be unbearable. You cannot function effectively,” says Yousef al-Horr, founder of the Gulf Organization for Research and Development. Yet outdoor air conditioning is part of a vicious cycle. Carbon emissions create global warming, which creates the desire for air conditioning, which creates the need for burning fuels that emit more carbon dioxide...”

File image: Wikipedia.

Why Some Adults React Badly to Young Climate Strikers. Plenty of work for psychologists with this one, according to The Conversation: “…When people attack Thunberg for not showing emotion or for showing too much of it, perhaps there’s an inkling that the severity of the climate crisis demands a great deal of painful and complicated emotions, and they’d rather not think of them. Generally, the size of the defence mirrors the size of the fear. It may be reasonable to assume many of the people who attack Thunberg and the school strikers are terrified. It’s much easier to attack others than to look at ourselves, reflect on our own feelings and start to deal with them, like grown ups…”

The Trait That Makes us Hesitate on Climate Change. Here’s the intro to an Op-Ed from Bloomberg News, at Star Tribune: “Even people who say they believe in climate change may be in denial — the same kind of denial that allows us to ignore our own mortality. This tendency to turn away from disturbing facts manifests itself not in what people say but what they do. In one recent study, for example, many people in hurricane-prone regions failed to take basic precautions to protect their homes, whether or not they recognized that climate change was putting them in increased danger. Denial of that sort might be embedded in our DNA. Some scientists think it’s the primary trait that distinguishes humans from other animals. We know we are going to die, so we develop beliefs in an afterlife, or we just don’t think about it at all. And in a similar way, we don’t dwell on the fact that human activity has changed the atmosphere, and that conditions could get very bad in the near future...”