Severe Risk Far Southern Minnesota Later Today

Unless you’re living in a cave (congratulations!) you’ll probably agree that winter lingered longer than absolutely necessary – and summer is in no particular hurry this year.

We topped 80F yesterday, for the first time in 2019; about 17 days later than the 30-year average. One benefit of our recent cool streak: Minnesota has been tornado-free in 2019. That may change later today as conditions are ripe for severe storms over far southern Minnesota; close to the Iowa line. Expect watches and warnings later today and a few strong T-storms may drift into the metro area.

According to NOAA CPC, soil moisture in southern Minnesota is in the 99th percentile, meaning it’s about as wet as it ever gets. Which means Mother Nature is about to add insult to injury. Models predict an inch of rain by Saturday morning and a total of 2-3″ by Sunday night. After a fleeting break Monday, another storm pinwheels into town, dumping another inch or 2 by the middle of next week.

Sorry Oklahoma. “The rain on the Plains falls mainly on Minnesota.”

Excessive Rainfall Potential. According to NOAA WPC there is a slight potential for flash flooding from southeastern South Dakota, southern Minnesota, southwest Wisconsin and northern Iowa today. T-storms forecast to bubble up along a west-east frontal boundary may focus intense rains on the same counties, resulting in flash flooding problems.

Rainfall by Saturday Evening. NAM guidance from NOAA suggests 1-2″ of rain by Saturday evening for much of southern Minnesota. Map credit: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

ECMWF Rainfall Forecast by Thursday Morning. Keep in mind these are total amounts between now and next Thursday, from 2 separate storms; the first today into Sunday – another heavy rain event possible next Tuesday. The European model prints out some 3-4″ totals by Thursday, nearly a month’s worth of rain. Map: WeatherBell.

99th Percentile. Soil moisture over southern Minnesota is in the 99th percentile, pushing back spring planting by a couple of weeks (corn) according to USDA. I fear conditions may get worse before improving in June. Data: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Think Twice Before Showering or Washing Dishes During a Thunderstorm. A post at The Today Show caught my eye – I would not want to be touching electronics or plumbing during an electrical storm: “Don’t shower during a thunderstorm or you could get struck by lightning.”It’s one of those old wives’ tales that most people have heard a zillion times throughout their lives. But it couldn’t possibly be true … or could it? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the “old wives” were onto something: It really is dangerous to shower while there’s a storm brewing outside — and there’s an entire laundry list of other activities you should avoid, too. “If your house is struck, lightning tends to go through either the wires or the plumbing, so that means anything that’s plugged into the wall or connected to an outside wire could become energized … Any plumbing in your house is vulnerable to a lightning strike,” said John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist at the National Weather Service/NOAA…”

File image: Florida Tech.

Hurricane Hunters: The Plane and the Pilot. There are some interesting (and new) nuggets in an article at in Charleston: “...A recent upgrade to these planes added new wings and engines- but kept those propellors. That was a calculated choice not to switch to jet engines, as these turboprop engines are much better in a hurricane environment. The wet & windy hurricane environment also requires changes to a normal flight plan. These planes fly at or below 10,000 feet (compared to the “safe cruising altitude of 30,000 feet” of commercial aircraft). This is to make sure that loads of water on the aircraft doesn’t freeze at higher altitudes as anti-ice precautions can only go so far. Missions take between 8-10 hours with a big chunk of that time spent in transit to the storm. But once they get to the most intense part of the hurricane, the eye wall, “there’s only one way through. So as we go through that eye wall we’re looking at the radar, looking at the gradients to try to find the safest spot we can go through and we’re heading right through it...”

File image of P3 Orion “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft courtesy of NOAA.

Tornado Myths. Thanks to for sharing a few popular tornado myths in a recent post:

  • Opening windows will equalize pressure and protect your house. No, this will just delay you from getting to shelter and increase your risk, especially to flying glass.
  • A particular corner of the basement is safest. No, if your house shifts and the walls cave in, being in a corner or near an outer wall could be dangerous.
  • Tornadoes will avoid a lake, river, a certain valley or a mountain. Nope.
  • Parking under an Interstate overpass is the safest place to ride out a tornado. No! Seek shelter in a permanent building…

File image: Office of Homeland Security.

April Tornado Count Highest Since 2011, Costing Billions. Property Casualty 360 has details: “April experienced an unofficial total of at least 250 tornado touchdowns, making it the highest level of tornado activity in the U.S. since April 2011. This record number of tornado events in one month contributed to a costly thunderstorm loss bill of several billion dollars…”

Photo credit: “Roman Brown, left and Sam Crawford, right move part of a wall out of their way Sunday, April 14, 2019, as they help a friend look for their medicine in their destroyed home along Seely Drive outside of Hamilton, Miss. after a tornado touched down Saturday night, April, 13, 2019.” (AP Photo/Jim Lytle).

Tornado Warnings Don’t Adequately Prepare Mobile Home Residents. Eos has an interesting read: “Mobile homes are death traps in a tornado. And yet new research shows that residents across the southeastern United States, where mobile homes make up nearly 20% of the housing stock, don’t have the information or resources they need to safely respond to a twister. More than half of mobile home residents don’t know the best place to take shelter. Many don’t have a community shelter to get to. And mobile home residents don’t perceive tornadoes as any worse a threat than their neighbors in permanent homes, despite data indicating that nationwide, they are nearly twice as likely to die in a tornado. “We know a lot about how corporations can protect their reputations, but we know comparably a lot less about how governments can help protect the public during extreme events,” says Brooke Liu, a risk communications researcher at the University of Maryland in College Park…”

Photo credit: “A tornado in Berrien County, Ga., damaged this mobile home on 22 January 2017.” Credit: National Weather Service.

What Agents Need to Know About Coastal Flood Risks and Solutions. Boston Agent Magazine has flood details I was not aware of: “…A FEMA study last year shows that 41 million Americans are at risk of flooding, more than three times the current estimate. The effects of recent hurricanes, such as Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, only shine a brighter light on weather-related issues for residents in coastal communities. In fact, about one in 10 homes had flood insurance in counties hit by Hurricane Florence and FEMA grants only cover $33,000 in damages from flooding under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Today, FEMA is looking to reform the NFIP with the intent to better reflect a coastal property’s flood risk. The way flood insurance premiums are structured now under the NFIP is based on a Flood Insurance Rate Map Zone and Base Flood Elevation...”

Will 5G Mess With Weather Satellites? The FCC doesn’t seem to care all that much, according to a post at Ars Technica: “A US Navy memo warns that 5G mobile networks are likely to interfere with weather satellites, and senators are urging the Federal Communications Commission to avoid issuing new spectrum licenses to wireless carriers until changes are made to prevent harms to weather forecasting. The FCC has already begun an auction of 24GHz spectrum that would be used in 5G networks. But Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) today wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asking him to avoid issuing licenses to winning bidders “until the FCC approves the passive band protection limits that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) determine are necessary to protect critical satellite‐based measurements of atmospheric water vapor needed to forecast the weather...”

Image credit: NOAA.

Say What? I asked a friend to explain how 5G could possibly interfere with weather satellites and here is his explanation:

The FCC is looking at opening up the bandwidth just above 23.8 GHz for the 5G network. The satellites have very sensitive recievers that measure the 23.8 GHz energy radiated from the earth. H2O absorbs 23.8 GHz energy because it’s a resonant frequency of the molecule. (One of the resonances) This lets them measure the density of water vapor in the air. They use narrow beam antennas to actually scan during the orbit that gives them a radio picture of the water vapor in any given area.” – Tom Ring.

Plastic Production Ain’t So Good: Climate Nexus reports: “Plastic production is causing millions of tons of CO2 to be released into the air each year and could become a major driver of climate change, according to new research. A report released Wednesday by the Center for International Environmental Law estimates that the yearly emissions caused by plastic production—including transportation, manufacturing, and incineration—are roughly equivalent to the yearly emissions of 189 coal plants. Emissions could rise to the equivalent of more than 600 coal plants by 2050 if current trends continue—up to 13 percent of the world’s carbon budget. “We need to cut emissions by 45 percent by 2030,” Carroll Muffett, president of CIEL, told Nexus Media News. “Plastics are poised to do almost exactly the opposite.” (Nexus Media News, The Guardian, Houston Chronicle).

File image: Carlos Jasso, Reuters.

Air and Water Quality Rankings. Wait, New Jersey has better air quality than Minnesota? Sorry, but having spent a lot of time in New Jersey I’m having a tough time wrapping my brain around that. US News has details: “The quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink are critical aspects of leading a healthy, productive life. Global citizens view climate change as the world’s biggest threat, and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency has said that the threats posed by poor drinking water systems are even more immediate. Two measures of air and water quality – the number of days with an air quality index above a healthy threshold and the number of violation points against drinking water systems in each state – account for half of the weight in the Best States for natural environment ranking. Rhode Island ranks first in the nation for air and water quality, as well as in the overall natural environment category. Kentucky places second in this subcategory, followed by Mississippi, Oregon and New Jersey…”

Solar Plants Cheaper Than Natural Gas “Just About Everywhere” by 2023: WoodMac. Greentech Media has the story: “Solar will soon be able to out-compete gas-fired plants around the world on a levelized cost basis*. That doesn’t mean it will be any easier to make a living in the solar business. “By 2023, we think solar’s going to be cheaper than gas almost everywhere around the world,” Tom Heggarty, senior solar analyst for Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, said Tuesday at GTM Solar Summit in Phoenix. New combined-cycle gas plants remain competitive with new utility solar in many big markets today, from China to the U.K. to South Korea. But that will no longer be the case by the early 2020s, as equipment costs continue to fall and competitive auctions proliferate, Heggarty said...”
Photo credit: “Dawn of an era.”

Driverless Electric Truck Starts Deliveries on Swedish Public Road. And so it begins. Here’s a clip from Reuters Technology News: “Resembling the helmet of a Star Wars stormtrooper, a driverless electric truck began daily freight deliveries on a public road in Sweden on Wednesday, in what developer Einride and logistics customer DB Schenker described as a world first…Einride’s T-Pod is 26 tonnes when full and does not have a driver cabin, which it estimates reduces road freight operating costs by around 60 percent versus a diesel truck with a driver…”

Lenovo Shows of Foldable-Display Laptop. Not sure how I feel about this….yet, but if smart phones can fold up why not laptop displays? Here’s an excerpt from “…During the Lenovo Accelerate conference today in Orlando, Florida, the company gave attendees an early look at its upcoming foldable-display laptop. The still-to-be-named product will be a part of Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 line of laptops, and the company says it envisions this as a clear laptop replacement, not a supplemental device. The foldable PC has a 13.3-inch diagonal display, with a 4 by 3 aspect ratio, when it’s in full-screen mode. When it’s folded, it turns into a 9.6-inch display. Like Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, it has an OLED display with a polymer screen. Unlike Samsung’s foldable, this one will be made by LG Display...”
Image credit: Lenovo.

Drinking 2 Cups of Coffee a Day Can Help You Live Longer. The Independent has the miraculous news: “Drinking as little as two cups of coffee a day can increase your life expectancy by up to two years, according to researchers. The research, published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, was conducted by analysing previous studies on the benefits of drinking coffee. By looking at 40 studies including 3,852,651 subjects and 450,256 causes of death, researchers found that drinking coffee had an inverse association with all-cause mortality – “irrespective of age, overweight status, alcohol drinking, smoking status, and caffeine content of coffee”…”

Minnesota: 3rd Least Sexy Accent in the USA? Are you kidding me? At least we beat out New Jersey and Long Island, although I still disagree with results at “Whether the voice of Pauly D does it for you or you’re more of a Mark Wahlberg fan, it’s true to say that some accents are saucier than others. America is uniquely diverse when it comes to dialects, with the country’s vast history of immigrants influencing how people talk from coast to coast. Following on from sample survey results of our 1.5million social audience, we have the official ranking of the sexiest – and least sexy – accents in the USA. Consider yourself very lucky if your accent is among the Top 10…”
File photo: Star Tribune.

Uber Launches Quiet Driver Mode. Techcrunch has the specifics: “Tired of chatty drivers? Uber is finally giving users its most requested feature: an in-app way to ask for minimal conversation during your ride. The “Quiet Mode” feature is free and will be available to everyone in the U.S. tomorrow, but only on Uber Black and Uber Black SUV premium rides. Users can select “Quiet preferred,” “happy to chat” or leave the setting at “No preference.” The desire for silence might convince more riders to pay for Uber’s more expensive vehicle types so they can work, nap, take a call or just relax in the car…”

Billboard Worker Falls From Billboard Promoting Personal Injury Lawyers. What a great country we live in. The New York Post has details: “He knows who to call if he wants to sue. A billboard worker wound up in the hospital Tuesday morning when he tumbled off a rooftop sign in Brooklyn that happened to be touting the famed personal injury law firm Cellino & Barnes, family and officials said. David Fricker, 49, was working on the billboard around 10:28 a.m. near the corner of Church and Flatbush Avenues when he plunged 10 feet to a rooftop below, his step-son and FDNY officials said. Fricker is now recovering in Kings County Hospital with a fractured back and a concussion, according to his step son and wife — who are now demanding answers from his employer, Lamar Advertising, on how their loved one fell. “Rest assured I will find out because I want to know what happened and they’re not answering our questions,” Fricker’s stepson James Sanabria, 36, told The Post Tuesday…”
Photo credit: “A Cellino & Barnes billboard in 2017.” Dan Cappellazzo

82 F. high in the Twin Cities on Thursday.

69 F. average high on May 16.

87 F. high on May 16, 2018.

May 17, 1915: Old man winter’s last hurrah dumps 5 inches of snow along the western shore of Lake Superior.

FRIDAY: Clouds increase. Strong T-storms possible late. Winds: E 10-20. High: 66

FRIDAY NIGHT: Showers and T-storms, locally heavy rain and small hail. Low: 49

SATURDAY: Rain, heavy at times. Winds: E 10-20. High: 54

SUNDAY: More rain, sweatshirt weather returns. Winds: NE 10-20. Wake-up: 46. High: 49

MONDAY: A little fleeting sunshine. Winds: N 7-12. Wake-up: 42. High: 62

TUESDAY: More heavy rain, risk of thunder. Winds: E 15-25. Wake-up: 48. High: 58

WEDNESDAY: Showers taper, drying out again. Winds: W 10-20. Wake-up: 47. High: 66

THURSDAY: Milder with some sun. Late T-storms? Winds: E 8-13. Wake-up: 50. High: near 70

Climate Stories….

Louisiana Unveils Ambitious Plan to Deal with Climate Change, Coastal Flooding. Bloomberg has the story and effective infographics: “…Louisiana is losing almost a football field’s worth of land every hour, driven by a combination of rising seas and the nature of its soil, which is subsiding at a fast rate. In the face of repeated hurricanes and flooding, some of the state’s coastal towns saw more than half of their residents leave between the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census. In an attempt to handle the flow of people, the report looks at six parishes around the end of the Mississippi, and projects the future flood risk in each part of those parishes. It includes a long list of policies, including a temporary buyout program for high-risk areas to provide both “an incentive and the assistance many people need to move away.” “It doesn’t mean moving 200 miles from the coast,” said Pat Forbes, executive director of Louisiana’s Office of Community Development, which produced the report. “It means moving to a safer place. Part of this is getting people out of the most dangerous areas…”

“Extraordinary Thinning” of Ice Sheets Revealed Deep Inside Antarctica. The Guardian has the story: “Ice losses are rapidly spreading deep into the interior of the Antarctic, new analysis of satellite data shows. The warming of the Southern Ocean is resulting in glaciers sliding into the sea increasingly rapidly, with ice now being lost five times faster than in the 1990s. The West Antarctic ice sheet was stable in 1992 but up to a quarter of its expanse is now thinning. More than 100 metres of ice thickness has been lost in the worst-hit places. A complete loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet would drive global sea levels up by about five metres, drowning coastal cities around the world…”

Climate Change Investing Moves Beyond the Big Oil Companies. CBS News explains: “…Companies are facing increased environmental justice demands from consumers. But increasingly, environmentally minded shareholders are also targeting corporations. They’re going after consumer businesses, internet companies and others that don’t first come to mind as big polluters, pressing them to disclose their vulnerability to climate change—and improve on their plans. Every year shareholders try to place proposals on the agenda for their companies’ annual meetings. Five years ago, only 33% of all proposals related to climate change were aimed at companies outside the energy and utility industries. So far this year, 60% of such proposals are targeted at companies outside energy and utilities, according to ISS Analytics...”

In Flood-Hit Midwest, Mayors See Climate Change as a Subject Best Avoided. Because I’m pretty sure the problem will go away if we ignore it. Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times: “…We know there’s something going on, so how do we come together and deal with that?” said Mr. Klipsch, a two-term mayor who said taking a stance on climate change could be “divisive.” “Let’s not try to label it. Let’s not try to politicize it. It’s just a matter of something is changing.” Across the Midwest this spring, floods have submerged farms and stores, split open levees and, in some places, left people stranded for days or weeks. The disasters have renewed national attention on how climate change can exacerbate flooding and how cities can prepare for a future with more extreme weather. But in some of the hardest-hit areas, where bolstering flood protection and helping the displaced are popular bipartisan causes, there is little appetite for bringing climate change — and the political baggage it carries — into the discussion…”

Photo credit: Mayor Frank Klipsch said that taking a stance on climate change could be “divisive. Credit: Daniel Acker for The New York Times.

#ExxonKnew This, Too: Headlines and links courtesy of Climate Nexus: “Nearly 40 years ago, ExxonMobil’s scientists predicted a frightening emissions milestone reached this month, documents show. Scientists said that data taken from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii last week showed carbon dioxide levels surpassing 415 parts per million–the highest level in 800,000 years. Internal documents from 1982 obtained by InsideClimate News in 2015 as part of its investigation into Exxon’s scientific research shows that company scientists projected CO2 levels would reach between 400 to 420 ppm by 2020. “Some scientists suggest there could be considerable adverse impact including the flooding of some coastal land masses as a result of a rise in sea level due to melting of the Antarctic ice sheet” as a result of high emissions, the scientists wrote. Despite the research, InsideClimate News’s investigation showed, the company pivoted to encourage climate denial and bury the science around climate.” (Gizmodo, ThinkProgress. Commentary: Rolling Stone, Jeff Goodell column).

Photo credit: Matt Brown. AP.

84 Degrees Near the Arctic Ocean as CO2 Hits Highest Level in Human History. Jason Samenow reports for Capital Weather Gang: “Over the weekend, the climate system sounded simultaneous alarms. Near the entrance to the Arctic Ocean in northwest Russia, the temperature surged to 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 Celsius). Meanwhile, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eclipsed 415 parts per million for the first time in human history. By themselves, these are just data points. But taken together with so many indicators of an altered atmosphere and rising temperatures, they blend into the unmistakable portrait of human-induced climate change. Saturday’s steamy 84-degree reading was posted in Arkhangelsk, Russia, where the average high temperature is around 54 this time of year. The city of 350,000 people sits next to the White Sea, which feeds into the Arctic Ocean’s Barents Sea…”

Image credit: “Carbon dioxide levels from approximately 1750 to present.” (Scripps Institute of Oceanography).

415: The Most Dangerous Number. Jeff Goodell reports for Rolling Stone; here’s a clip: “…Despite the decline in the cost of solar power, despite all the climate marches in the streets, despite the wildfires and melting glaciers and increasing summer heat, it is very obvious that, by the only metric that really matters, we have done less than zero to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The second thing you notice is that not only is the curve continuing to rise, but it is rising faster than ever before. Among other things, the Keeling curve is a perfect record of Homosapiens’ self-destructive impulse. We have known for precisely 61 years now that burning fossil fuels is warming the Earth’s atmosphere and putting the stability of our Goldilocks climate – the not-too-warm-not-too-cold world that has allowed humans to thrive over the last 10,000 years – at risk. And we have done nothing about it…”