Raw and Soggy Weekend – Wet Rut Continues

When in a drought don’t predict rain, the old proverb goes. Right now it seems all I’m doing is predicting rain. NOAA data shows the last 12 months have been the wettest in U.S. history, going back to 1895. In terms of duration of flooding on the Mississippi, this year rivals the Great Flood of 1927 in many locations.

For the record I’m just the messenger. I’m as ready for a long spell of 80s and sticky dew points as you are right about now. That won’t happen anytime soon.

A very slow-moving storm will train a firehose of rain on Minnesota today and Sunday. By late tomorrow I expect 1-2 inches of rain to have fallen, maybe more. After a brief respite Monday another storm dumps another 1-2 inches Tuesday.

Models show Minnesota teeter-tottering on the boundarybbetween warmth and unusual chill, meaning the
storm track will be directly overhead for atbleast the next few weeks.

NOAA says a weak El Nino may increase the odds of a cooler, wetter summernfor the central USA, including Minnesota.

Light a candle. I sure hope those models are dead wrong.

NAM rainfall prediction by Sunday evening (3.9″ for the MSP metro) courtesy of NOAA and pivotalweather.com.

Here are some of the graphics I showed on TPT “Almanac” Friday evening:

A Silver Lining To Our Tepid Spring? No tornadoes reported in Minnesota, at least as of Friday afternoon.

Winter Snowfall. Check out Eau Claire (98.8″), and Duluth at 104.4″. Not to be outdone by Marquette, where a whopping 227.5″ fell last winter. Good grief. Map: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Winter Snowfall Departure From Average. The Twin Cities picked up nearly 28″ more snow than the 30-year average of 54″. Rochester: nearly 35″ more snow than average.

Cool Summer Bias? Confidence levels are low, but a lingering El Nino may increase the odds of a cooler summer for Minnesota and the central USA. My hope is the models are wrong and we’ll all be pleasantly surprised.

Wet Rut To Continue? We’ll see – NOAA guidance shows the best odds of wet weather June, July and August from the central Rockies into the Plains.

Grudging Warm-Up. By late May we should start to warm up again – consistent 70s and a few 80s, but summer heat remains south of Minnesota.

Remembering 2 Year Anniversary of Wisconsin’s Longest-Tracked Tornado. KBJR6.com remembers the Chetek tornado: “…Wisconsin may sit hundreds of miles northeast of Tornado Alley, which is located from Nebraska to Texas, but the state still sees a fair share of tornadoes. Tornadoes that do strike Wisconsin are relatively weak and short-lived, and some have been long-tracked and violent, but on May 16, 2017, one tornado touched down which would eventually make the Wisconsin history books. According to the National Weather Service, the tornado was rated EF-3 on the Fujita scale, with winds up to 140 mph. It touched down around 4:40 p.m. along the Barron/Polk county line just east of Clear Lake. The tornado then tracked east-northeast, crossing Highway 53 between Chetek and Cameron. The storm then continued east-northeast into Rusk county, abruptly moving due east just before reaching the town of Weyerhaeuser. It continued east paralleling Highway 8, eventually destroying a home near the town of Conrath before finally dissipating around 7:15 p.m. in southwestern Price county, west of Ogema…”

Image credit: KARE-11 and WeatherNation.

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.

Flooding in Chicago Is So Bad in Past Decade That Only Place Ravaged by Hurricanes Have Seen More Damage. Say what? As story at Chicago Tribune was an eye-opener; here’s an excerpt: “…Chronic flooding in the Chicago area likely costs billions more than government data indicates, the new report’s authors concluded, noting that damages aren’t assessed unless the president approves a disaster declaration. Researchers are only beginning to understand the cumulative effects of neighborhoods flooding and sewage backing up into basements time and time again. “Hurricanes understandably get all the attention, but try telling that to somebody whose home just flooded for the third time in the past year,” said Sam Brody, one of the report’s authors and a Texas A&M University professor who considers urban flooding a largely overlooked threat to the well-being of millions of Americans. Climate change is making the problem worse…”

Photo credit: “Valdora Winston, 82, checks on the sewer water flooding the basement of her home in Auburn Gresham neighborhood in Chicago on May 9, 2019.” (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune).

Hurricane Hunters: The Plane and the Pilot. There are some interesting (and new) nuggets in an article at counton2.com 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.

Climate Change May Subtly Shift Tornado Alley. It’s all about the position of the dry line (as well as low-level shear). Axios takes a look at the trends: “While scientists prowl the Plains in search of monster storms, others are looking at broader-scale trends that show tantalizing clues about how Tornado Alley may be shifting both geographically and temporally as the climate changes. Why it matters: The U.S. has the greatest number of tornadoes of any nation on Earth, and where they occur affects emergency management preparations, insurance markets and individual decisions on whether to build a storm shelter. If, as global warming continues, Tornado Alley migrates, or outbreaks become more massive, this would shift the risk distribution. Details: According to Harold Brooks, a senior researcher at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Oklahoma, the overall number of tornadoes of EF-1 intensity or greater touching down in the U.S. each year has not changed in a statistically significant way, averaging around 500…”

Map credit: “Adapted from Gensini and Brooks, npj Climate and Atmospheric Science 2018. DOI: 10.1038/s41612-018-0048-2.” Data: NOAA; Map: Harry Stevens/Axios.

Tornado Myths. Thanks to omaha.com 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.

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…”

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…”

SpaceX Has Big Plans with Starlink. Extreme Tech has an update: “SpaceX hoped to have 60 custom communication satellites in orbit today, but instead, it has zero. The private spaceflight company scrubbed the first attempted launch of its Starlink internet satellites on Wednesday this week, and now a second launch has been aborted. It’s not mother nature’s fault, though. SpaceX says the satellites need a software update.  Starlink is Elon Musk’s vision for the future of internet access. The system will eventually include more than 12,000 satellites in varying orbits. The goal is to get low-latency internet access to large swaths of the globe. More than 7,500 of those satellites will be in very-low-earth orbit (VLEO) to reduce latency on the ground...”

Inside the Long War to Protect Plastic. Protect corporate profits at all cost – the environment be damned. Here’s an excerpt from The Center for Public Integrity: “…The plastics industry — from the chemical giants making the building blocks of plastic to companies using the packaging to sell their products — has been waging that war for more than 30 years. It has pumped millions of dollars into pro-plastic marketing, high-profile lawsuits and lobbyists who travel the country promising that recycling, not bans, presents the best way forward. All this despite decades of repeated warnings about weak recycling markets and plastic pollution problems. Today, about a dozen states restrict local governments from regulating plastic items, while only two (with a third pending) have passed statewide plastic-bag bans. And manufacturers are profiting from a plastics boom. According to the research firm the Freedonia Group, by 2025, the plastic packaging market will be worth roughly $365 billion…”
Photo credit: “Youths scavenge for plastic at a garbage-strewn dam in Jakarta, Indonesia. Much of the plastic collected for recycling in the United States has been shipped overseas, adding to waste problems in Asia.” (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana).

Yes, Robots Are Coming For Your Jobs – So You Better Have Skills. Here’s a snippet from an article at The Motley Fool: “…Automation has been replacing manual labor since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. When it became cheaper to haul goods using trains compared to wagons, some wagon-driving teamsters lost their jobs. Forklifts have replaced strong people in countless moving-things-around roles, and self-checkout machines have certainly lessened demand for cashiers. It’s a simple cost-benefit analysis. If a company can afford the upfront investment in machines to do any set of tasks, and the payoff in terms of lower workforce expenses will outweigh the costs, those tasks will become automated. Nobody questions why retailers use a point-of-sale systems to track sales and inventory instead of physical ledger books. Eventually, nobody will question the use of automation in warehouses, or on the shopping floor...”

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 bigseventravel.com: “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…”

The Night the Lights Went Out. What is it like to experience a massive, potentially life-ending stroke? Drew Magary recounts his harrowing experience at Deadspin; here’s a clip: “…I remember hosting the Deadspin Awards in New York the night of Dec. 5 and then heading over to a karaoke bar for a staff after-party, where I ate some pizza, drank a beer, sang one song (Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky,” which would soon prove either fitting or ironic, depending upon your perspective), and that’s it. After that comes a great void. I don’t remember inexplicably collapsing in a hallway, fracturing my skull because I had no way to brace myself for the impact. I don’t remember sitting up after that, my co-workers alarmed at the sight of blood trickling out of the back of my head. I don’t remember puking all over Barry Petchesky’s pants, vomit being one of many fun side effects of your brain exploding, as he held my head upright to keep me from choking on my own barf…”

The Man Who Brewed Beer Inside His Body. Wouldn’t it be great to brew beer right inside your body? Well, actually, no it wouldn’t. Check out the YouTube video from Now I Know.

Taco Bell is Opening a Hotel. Because, why not. CNN explains: “Taco Bell is opening a hotel — sort of — to give it an edge over other fast food chains.  For five nights in August, Taco Bell is taking over a Palm Springs hotel and turning it into The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort in Palm Springs. The Bell will feature new and traditional Taco Bell menu items, a Taco Bell gift shop, Taco Bell nail art and more. Stunts like this one give fast food chains a chance to set themselves apart in a crowded market, where value meals may not be enough. Ideally, they raise brand awareness and create buzz around the brand on social channels...”

69 F. high on Friday in the Twin Cities.

70 F. average high on May 17.

85 F. high on May 17, 2018.

May 18, 1980: Mt. St. Helens erupts. The smoke plume eventually rises to 80,000 feet, circling the earth in 19 days. Brilliant sunsets due to the smoke are seen over Minnesota for days afterward.

May 18, 1933: Tornadoes hit McLeod and Mower counties.

SATURDAY: Rain – heavy at times, few T-storms. Winds: E 15-25. High: 51

SUNDAY: Cold rain, Netflix and chill. Winds: NE 10-20. Wake-up: 44. High: 47

MONDAY: Brief break, peeks of sunlight. Winds: NE 7-12. Wake-up: 41. High: 64

TUESDAY: Windy with more heavy rain. Winds: E 10-20. Wake-up: 49. High: 58

WEDNESDAY: Few lingering showers around town. Winds: SW 10-20. Wake-up: 48. High: 67

THURSDAY: Sunny start, T-storms arrive late. Winds: N 5-10. Wake-up: 50. High: 68

FRIDAY: Scattered showers and T-storms. Winds: N 5-10. Wake-up: 54. High: 71

Climate Stories….

Stay or Go? As Weather Gets Wilder, States Urged to Prepare for Displacement. Thomson Reuters Foundation has the story: “…Figures released by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) in Geneva on Thursday showed disasters had caused an average of 24 million new displacements each year since 2008, more than three times the number for conflict and violence. In a report, the IDMC said extreme weather accounted for more than 87 percent of all disaster displacement, warning the problem was likely to get worse. “The impacts of climate change and the increasing concentration of populations in areas exposed to storms and floods mean that ever more people are at risk of being displaced,” the report noted...”

File photo: “Typhoon Haiyan survivors stand at the entrance of a toppled house that had become a makeshift shelter in Tacloban city in central Philippines December 15, 2013.” REUTERS/Erik De Castro.

How the Mental Health Community is Bracing for the Impact of Climate Change. Eco-anxiety is already on the rise, reports Rolling Stone: “…The fourth federally mandated National Climate Assessment, released in late 2018, lists mental health consequences and stress among the outcomes driven by increased temperatures, extreme weather and sea-level rise. “The last two years, the conversation has shifted toward climate change,” says Reggie Ferreira, editor of the journal Traumatology and director of Tulane University’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy. “We see disaster causing trauma, but climate change is intensifying the disaster. We need to focus on what’s intensifying these disasters and get people prepared.” Mental health professionals have begun to mobilize against the threat. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has a half-dozen climate change–related sessions planned for its 2019 annual meeting…”

File image: AFP.

Why The Guardian is Changing the Language It Uses About the Environment. The Guardian explains: “The Guardian has updated its style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world. Instead of “climate change” the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” is favoured over “global warming”, although the original terms are not banned. “We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue,” said the editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner. “The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.” “Increasingly, climate scientists and organisations from the UN to the Met Office are changing their terminology, and using stronger language to describe the situation we’re in,” she said...”

“Now I Am Speaking to the Whole World.” How Teen Climate Activist Greta Thunberg Got Everyone to Listen. Check out the profile of a remarkably focused and eloquent young woman at TIME; here’s an excerpt: “…Just nine months ago, Thunberg had no such audiences. She was a lone figure sitting outside the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm, carrying a sign emblazoned with Skolstrejk for Klimatet (School Strike for Climate). She was there for a reason that felt primal and personal. While Thunberg was studying climate change in school at the age of 11, she reacted in a surprisingly intense way: she suffered an episode of severe depression. After a time it lifted, only to resurface last spring. “I felt everything was meaningless and there was no point going to school if there was no future,” Thunberg says. But this time, rather than suffer the pain, she decided to push back at its cause, channeling her sadness into action. “I promised myself I was going to do everything I could do to make a difference,” she says…”

Image credit: Hellen van Meene for TIME.

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...”