Wet Rut: When In Doubt – Predict Rain

Basic physics: when you warm a volume of air, even by a few degrees, it will hold more water vapor – more fuel for storms of all shapes and sizes. A fact: it’s getting wetter out there. That’s not a much-maligned climate model, but measuring rain in a rain gauge.

Today’s online blog has details: the last 12 months have been the wettest across the USA since records were started in 1895. Statewide, Minnesota just experienced the 4th wettest 12-month period, but Wisconsin and Iowa saw the wettest 12 months on record. At 36.22 inches the Twin Cities slogged through the 14th wettest 12-month period. 8 of the 15 wettest years in the metro were observed since 1998.

Dew points are about to jump into the 60s, meaning nearly twice as much water floating overhead by tomorrow. That sets off a swarm of T-storms tonight as we slide into another stormy period. Heavy showers and T-storms are likely from a slow-moving storm Friday into Monday, with another 2-4 inches in rain gauges by the end of next week.

The odds of summer drought? Pretty small.

1895-2018 Twin Cities precipitation graph above: NOAA NCEI.

ECMWF 10 Day Rainfall Outlook. 2-4″ for much of central, southern and western Minnesota by Friday morning of next week? We’ll see if the European model is on track. Parts of eastern South Dakota are forecast to pick up 7-8″ of rain; 2 month’s worth of water. Map: WeatherBell.

Wettest 12 Months in U.S. History. Bob Henson breaks it down at for Category 6 at Weather Underground: “The 12 months ending in April 2019 were the wettest year-long period in U.S. records going back to 1895, according to the monthly U.S. climate summary issued Wednesday by the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. Averaged across the contiguous U.S., the total of 36.20” made the period from May 2018 to April 2019 the first year-long span ever to top 36”. The old record for any 12-month period was 35.78”, from April 2015 to March 2016. Given the fierce drought-related impacts of the 2010s—including multiple deadly wildfire disasters from Tennessee to California—it may seem a bit counterintuitive that the nation has actually been getting wetter overall. Across the contiguous U.S., average yearly precipitation has risen by about 2” over the past century, from around 29” to just over 31”...”

Graphic credit: “Annual precipitation across the contiguous U.S. has increased by about 7% over the past century. Blue bar shows the linear increase since 1895, while the red curve is a smoothed version of the year-to-year numbers in green. When averaged over running four-year periods (not shown), the past four years are the wettest on record for the contiguous U.S.” Image credit: NOAA/NCEI.

4th Wettest on Record for Minnesota. The last 12 months have been the 4th wettest since 1895 for Minnesota, but the wettest on record for Wisconsin and Iowa, according to NOAA NCEI.

14th Wettest for MSP. Looking at the data, 36.22″ of precipitation has fallen on the Twin Cities since May 1, 2018, making in the 14th wettest 12-month period at MSP since 1895. It’s worth noting that 8 of the 15 wettest 12-month periods have been observed since 1998.

Severe Storm Risk. The map above shows the severe weather risk into Tuesday of next week. We’ll be on the cool, stable side of the storm for most of the weekend, with the greatest severe storm risk south of Minnesota. Map credit: NOAA SPC.

Not So Hot. The forecast for the last few days of May shows a cooling trend for the northern tier of the USA with the chilliest weather over New England and the northeastern USA. No prolonged hot spells are shaping up anytime soon.

Impossible Research Produces 400-Year El Nino Record, Revealing Startling Changes. A story at Phys.org caught my eye: “…The 400-year record revealed a clear change in El Niño types, with an increase of Central Pacific El Niño activity in the late 20th Century and suggested future changes to the strength of Eastern Pacific El Niños. “We are seeing more El Niños forming in the central Pacific Ocean in recent decades, which is unusual across the past 400 years,” said lead author Dr. Mandy Freund. “There are even some early hints that the much stronger Eastern Pacific El Niños, like those that occurred in 1997/98 and 2015/16 may be growing in intensity...”
Photo credit: “Researchers dive down to corals to extract coral cores that will give us information about Earth’s past climate.” Credit: Jason Turl.

How Viable Are AOC’s Green New Deal Energy Proposals? Just Ask Europe. Here’s a clip from analysis at Fortune: “…No country on Earth has tried to implement all the Green New Deal ideas at once—it’s a policy smorgasbord heaving with environmental, social and stimulus-related offerings. Critics have painted the resolution as radical, but many of its social elements are so common in Europe they’re almost taken for granted, such as universal healthcare. And two of its energy-related proposals have started to become reality there, too. Europe has, in essence, tested the viability of transitioning to renewable energy and making houses more energy efficient. And the results of those experiments are worth inspecting, particularly when it comes to timing and the question of jobs…”

Technology Could End Humanity – and How to Stop It. A story at WIRED.com is a grimly worthy read: “…But since founding the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford in 2005, Bostrom has been focused on a decidedly more grim field of speculation: existential risks to humanity. In his 2014 book Superintelligence, Bostrom sounded an alarm about the risks of artificial intelligence. His latest paper, The Vulnerable World Hypothesis, widens the lens to look at other ways technology could ultimately devastate civilization, and how humanity might try to avoid that fate. But his vision of a totalitarian future shows why the cure might be worse than the cause...”

For Lower-Paid Workers, the Robot Overlords Have Arrived. If a task can be measured and automated by computers or robots – it will be. The Wall Street Journal (paywall) reports: “It’s time to stop worrying that robots will take our jobs—and start worrying that they will decide who gets jobs. Millions of low-paid workers’ lives are increasingly governed by software and algorithms. This was starkly illustrated by a report last week that Amazon.com tracks the productivity of its employees and regularly fires those who underperform, with little human intervention. “Amazon’s system tracks the rates of each individual associate’s productivity and automatically generates any warnings or terminations regarding quality or productivity without input from supervisors,” a law firm representing Amazon said in a letter to the National Labor Relations Board, as first reported by technology news site The Verge...”

Photo credit: “A worker assembles a box at the Amazon fulfillment center in Baltimore in April.” Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters.

Most of America’s Rural Areas Are Doomed to Decline. I’m not sure I agree with the premise, but some of the trends are worrisome. The Conversation has the post: “…The U.S. has been consistently urbanizing, especially for the past 100 years. Technology advances in manufacturing, agriculture, mining, fishing and forestry accelerated migration from rural to urban areas. Over time, incremental innovations in those original core industries required fewer workers, further boosting migration away from rural areas. Much of the blue-collar and middle-income shares of more rural economies dwindled as a result. Small and medium-sized urban areas – and the rural counties that are linked to them – are left with transportation, public works, housing and commercial bases that they struggle to maintain. Inevitably, blight ensues...”

A New-Look TV Industry Descends on Madison Avenue. Take away sports programming and all of the traditional TV networks are bleeding viewers, according to a story at Wall Street Journal (paywall). Here’s an excerpt: “…The ratings picture for broadcasters doesn’t look pretty. Prime-time viewership for three of the big four networks is down, excluding sports, as consumers flock to Netflix Inc. and other streaming services. Ratings erosion has been exacerbated by cable TV cord-cutting. Despite those challenges, ad spending has been surprisingly resilient. Spending commitments in the spring TV ad season will grow an estimated 2.4% to $21.25 billion this year, according to research firm eMarketer. For 2019 as a whole, networks are expected to collect $67.23 billion from TV ads, a 1.4% decline from 2018, according to estimates from media-buyer Zenith…”

This GenX Mess. Baby Boomers and Millenials are getting most of the exposure, good and bad. The New York Times (paywall) has a quirky look at the “forgotten ones”; here’s a clip: “…Like many things considered “cool,” Gen X is pretty exclusive. You had to be born between 1965 and 1980 to get in to this gloomy, goofy club of forgotten middle children, and only about 65 million of us were. (Both boomers, at 75 million, and millennials, at 83 million, far outnumber us.) The idea behind that “X” was about coming between. Gen X supposedly didn’t know what they were, or what they wanted. All they knew, they were told, was what they didn’t want — marriage, money, success — and then they shrugged and popped a Prozac…”

73 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

69 F. average high on May 14.

75 F. high on May 14, 2018.

May 15, 1998: Damaging tornadoes impact Minnesota. One tornado hits a flea market in Albany, killing one person and injuring 30 others. 102 homes are severely damaged in the northern Twin Cities due to another tornado.

May 15, 1969: Torrential rain occurs in Synnes Township, dumping 8 inches of rain in three hours.

WEDNESDAY: Mild sunshine. Winds: E 5-10. High: 74

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Showers and T-storms developing. Low: 60

THURSDAY: Wet start, then some warm sunshine. Winds: N 8-13. High: 81

FRIDAY: Showers and T-storms develop. Winds: NE 10-20. Wake-up: 55. High: 66

SATURDAY: Periods of rain, heavy at times. Winds: E 10-20. Wake-up: 53. High: 61

SUNDAY: Showers & T-storms, some heavy. Winds: E 10-20. Wake-up: 55. High: 63

MONDAY: Showers taper, clouds linger. Winds: NE 8-13. Wake-up: 52. High: 67

TUESDAY: What else? More showers & T-storms. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 54. High: 77

Climate Stories….

CO2 Hits Levels Not Seen in 3 Million Years. NBC News has details: “In the latest bit of bad news for a planet beset by climate change, the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has climbed to a level last seen more than 3 million years ago — before humans even appeared on the rocky ball we call home. On Saturday, sensors at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii indicated that concentrations of the greenhouse gas — a byproduct of the burning of fossil fuels — had reached 415 parts per million (ppm), meaning that for every 1 million molecules of gas in the atmosphere, 415 were of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide traps heat from the sun, and higher levels are associated with higher global temperatures and other effects of climate change, such as rising seas and unusual weather patterns...”

Republicans Want a Climate Deal, But Please Don’t Call It the Green New Deal. Vice News has an overview; here’s an excerpt: “...A number of Republicans calling for measures to address climate change brush aside such criticisms, claiming they were climate realists even before the damning U.N. report came out because they see its impact at home on coral reefs and fisheries and on tourism. “I think there’s a lot of evidence beyond that report that demonstrates that major habitat loss is a consequence of climate change,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told VICE News while riding an escalator on the Capitol grounds. Gaetz, like Katko, says he’s all in for more nuclear and supports enhancing the nation’s power grid so it can better transmit renewable power...”

Los Angeles Fire Season is Beginning Again. And It Will Never End. David Wallace-Wells reports for Intelligencer: “...Already, the fires are different. Cal Fire used to plan for wind events that could last as long as four days; now it plans, and enlists, for 14. The infernos bellowed by those winds once reached a maximum temperature of 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit, Cal Fire’s Angie Lottes says; now they reach 2,100 degrees, hot enough to turn the silica in the soil into glass. Fires have always created their own weather systems, but now they’re producing not just firestorms but fire tornadoes, in which the heat can be so intense it can pull steel shipping containers right into the furnace of the blaze. Certain systems now project embers as much as a mile forward, each seeking out more brush, more trees, new eaves on old homes, like pyromaniacal sperm seeking out combustible eggs, which lie everywhere. In at least one instance, a fire has projected lightning storms 21 miles ahead — striking in the right place, these ignite yet more fire. “California is built to burn,” the fire historian Stephen Pyne tells me. “It is built to burn explosively...”

Photo credit: “Day two of the Woolsey fire in Malibu last year.” Photo: Stuart Palley.

How Video Games Can Address Climate Change. Here’s an excerpt from Venturebeat: “65% of Americans play video games. So what better way to educate people about an issue like climate change than a video game. That was the thinking behind two recent games — Eco and Jupiter & Mars — that hit the market recently. We had the good fortune of having the leaders of the studios that made those games speak at our GamesBeat Summit 2019 event last month…”

Biden takes heat over climate approach: Headlines and links courtesy of Climate Nexus: “On Friday Reuters reported that 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden is planning a “middle ground” approach to address climate change that will focus on reinstating climate policies passed during Barack Obama’s presidency, while also potentially supporting natural gas and carbon capture and sequestration. Numerous environmental advocates and other Democratic presidential candidates like Jay Inslee were quick to criticize the “middle ground” approach, as did Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who are holding a GND rally today.) One of the sources for the report was Heather Zichal, a former climate advisor to Obama turned natural gas board executive who is now advising Biden, but after the blowback she issued a statement that Reuters “got it wrong.” A spokesperson from the Biden campaign also pushed back, and Biden himself tweeted that he supports taking urgent action.” (Plan: Reuters, New York Times $, Axios, HuffPost, Sludge Reactions: Fox News, The Guardian, Business Insider, Vice, The Hill, Politico Commentary: Washington Post, Philip Bump analysis $, Washington Post, Paul Waldman op-ed $, The Guardian, Bill McKibben op-ed, Fox News, Justin Haskins op-ed)

In a Warming World, Evidence of a Human “Fingerprint” on Drought. The New York Times explains: “Human activity was changing the Earth’s drought and rainfall patterns as far back as the early 20th century, new research shows. Drying in many regions, the researchers suggested, will get worse, with sobering implications for feeding the planet’s billions of people. The new paper tracks long-term patterns of moisture levels in soil across regions of the world, including North America, Central America, Eurasia and the Mediterranean. The researchers found a “fingerprint” of human effects from producing greenhouse gases, as distinct from natural variability, as far back as 1900…”

Photo credit: “Lake Powell, which provides water for Nevada, Arizona and California, in 2015. The land on the right is submerged when the lake is full; drought and withdrawals have lowered the water level significantly.” Credit: Rick Wilking/Reuters.

More Warm Spring Days (1970 – 2018). Climate Central connects the dots and examines the trends: “...Climate Central assessed the last half-century’s warm-up by plotting the annual number of spring days with above-normal temperatures. Of the 242 cities analyzed, 97% recorded an increase in warm spring days since 1970. There was an average increase of 10 warm spring days in that span — that’s a week and a half. Seven cities now experience more than a month of additional warm days, led by Tucson, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. All seven of those cities are in the Southwest, where spring is the fastest-warming season. The extra heat accelerates the evaporation that can lead to drought and stressed water supplies, affecting agriculture and energy systems as well as cities and towns. Nationwide impacts of warm springs include longer pollen and pest seasons. As the spring and fall have brought more warm days, the growing season (and therefore allergy season) has lengthened by two weeks on average…”

Melting Permafrost Damaging Equipment Needed by Scientists to Measure Rate of Melting. CNN.com has an update: “…We now know that ice-rich permafrost covers about 20% of the permafrost region, and in these ecosystems, the permafrost is literally the glue that holds the land together. When it thaws, the land liquefies,” Merritt Turetsky, an ecologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario and the study’s lead researcher, told CNN. “In flat areas, before the permafrost thaws, ecosystems are dry enough to be forested. When the permafrost thaws, all the trees die, topple over, and the whole system flips to a lake. I have been monitoring permafrost temperature in interior Alaska for the past 10 years (outside Fairbanks), and we returned to our field sites only to find all our gauges and equipment totally under water. You can imagine that the electronics did not survive!” Rick Thoman, a climatologist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy, said he’s seen similar changes in his state…”