Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring Fling Returns to Much of America (rerun of March early next week)


"Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it" Mark Twain mused. Little has changed since 1889. The weather still affects an estimated 30 percent of America's GDP; everything from agricultural yields to transportation, supply chains and tourism.

Why weather? Because I'm not nearly smart enough to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. And there's the intellectual challenge of attempting to predict the weather AND communicate the implications.

That, and some great toys. Um, tech. Soon, Doppler radar on my car dashboard, Google Glass, maybe my molars?

In my 31 years here in Minnesota I've never seen locals so disgusted by winter. None of us will (ever) take spring for granted again. We needed this warm front.

Expect 60s into Saturday with a growing chance of showers. The atmosphere may be just unstable enough for the first thunderclaps of 2014 by Saturday, heralding the arrival of a cooler, March-like airmass the first half of next week. As long as it doesn't snow I'll be able to walk the dog without looking over my shoulder.

Lake ice is thinning, dirty snow piles shrinking. No bugs, ghastly dew points or severe storm warnings to complicate matters. This year we'll ease into spring.

Sunday-Monday Rain Event. It will still be a close call, but latest model runs keep precipitation (mostly rain) south and east of Minnesota, brushing southeastern counties late Sunday into Monday morning, possibly as a mix of rain and wet snow. As much as 3" of liquid precipitation may fall from eastern Iowa into southern Wisconsin. Map: NOAA.

Springy Into Saturday, Followed By A (Brief) Correction. No extended bouts of wind chill, no more mentions of the Polar Vortex (please!) Spring lingers today and Saturday with scattered showers, even a few heavier T-storms Saturday. Winds swing around to the north/northwest by Sunday as temperatures drop 25-30 degrees; heavy jackets return the first few days of next week, but ECMWF guidance shows highs topping 60s again by the end of next week. Graphic: Weatherspark.

Growing Probability Of An El Nino Later in 2014. NOAA NCEP is forecasting a continuation of ENSO-neutral into spring, but a mild to moderate El Nino warming phase has a greater than 50% chance of materializing by summer and fall.

Farmers Switch To Drought-Tolerant Seeds. KETV-TV in Omaha has the story and video; here's an excerpt: "...But a new type of corn seed can handle the heat. Drought-tolerant corn has been studied and tested for a few years but just recently got approval from the Environmental Protection Agency. Mcnamara is planting 2,000 acres of the drought-tolerant corn, and he's selling a lot of it, too. “I don't know one grower that’s been farming for any amount of time that doesn't want more moisture at some point in the growing season,” he said..."

The Future Of "Made In America" Is Tesla, Not Ford. Quartz has the story; here's a clip: "...The giant F150 topped’s American-Made index last year, which measures where parts come from, where the car is assembled, and sales. But that could soon change. According to Morgan Stanley, Tesla vehicles could soon claim the top spot on that list, once the company’s much-vaunted $6-billion gigafactory to produce its own lithium-ion batteries is up and running. By then, more than 90% of the stuff used to build Tesla’s cars might be from America, according to Morgan Stanley, compared to 75% for the F-150..."

Swiss Unveil New Solar Plane For Global Flight. Just when you thought you'd seen everything, along comes this story from AP and ABC News: "The Swiss-made airplane built for the first round-the-world solar flight has wings longer than a Boeing 747 jumbo jet yet weighs only about as much as a large car. The Solar Impulse 2, unveiled to the world Wednesday at Switzerland's Payerne Air Force Base, is a bigger and better version of the single-seater prototype that first took flight five years ago. The original plane demonstrated that a solar-powered plane can fly through the night, hop from Europe to Africa and cross the width of the United States..."

In The End, People May Really Just Want To Date Themselves. We're a society of narcisists? Imagine that. FiveThirtyEight has the head-scratching story; here's an excerpt: "...The data reveals a clear pattern: People are interested in people like themselves. Women on eHarmony favor men who are similar not just in obvious ways — age, attractiveness, education, income — but also in less apparent ones, such as creativity. Even when eHarmony includes a quirky data point — like how many pictures are included in a user’s profile — women are more likely to message men similar to themselves. In fact, of the 102 traits in the data set, there was not one for which women were more likely to contact men with opposite traits..."1

Jar Of French Mountain Air Sells For 512 Pounds In Polluted Beijing. I'm in the wrong business. The Guardian has the details; here's the intro: "Beijing artist Liang Kegang returned from a business trip in southern France with well-rested lungs and a small item of protest against his home city's choking pollution: a glass jar of clean, Provence air. He put it up for auction before a group of about 100 Chinese artists and collectors late last month, and it fetched 5,250 yuan (£512). "Air should be the most valueless commodity, free to breathe for any vagrant or beggar," Liang said in an interview. "This is my way to question China's foul air and express my dissatisfaction..."

Photo credit above: "Beijing artist Liang Kegang poses with the jar of fresh air collected in Provence, France, in an art gallery in Beijing, China. The jar of air has fetched $860." Photograph: Didi Tang/AP.

Climate Stories...

Arctic: 5th Smallest Winter Ice Maximum. Much of the United States and Canada experienced a harsh winter, but arctic temperatures were considerably warmer than average. Here's an excerpt of an update from NOAA: "It’s finally here! Yesterday, scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced the ultimate sign of spring: Arctic sea ice reached its winter peak on March 21, 2014, and the annual melt season is underway. This winter’s maximum sea ice extent in the Arctic was 14.91 million square kilometers (5.76 million square miles), making it the fifth smallest winter maximum since satellite records began in 1979..."

How To Think Like The Dutch In A Post-Sandy World. Here's an excerpt of an interesting story at The New York Times: "In December 2012, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was on vacation in Berlin when he decided to detour to the Netherlands. He wanted to get a firsthand sense of the famed Dutch approach to water management. Hurricane Sandy struck six weeks before, and in the aftermath, President Obama asked him to lead a task force, whose objective was not just to rebuild but also to radically rethink the region’s infrastructure in light of climate change..."
Photo credit above: "Henk Ovink, a Dutch water-management expert, is trying to persuade Americans to approach water the way the Dutch do." Credit Olivia Locher for The New York Times.

Years of Living Dangerously - A Global Warming Blockbuster. Here's an excerpt of a review from St. Thomas climate scientist John Abraham at The Guardian: "...In full disclosure, I am jealous that I did not get a chance to work on this – perhaps the most important climate change multimedia communication endeavor in history. Climate change really is a made-for-TV story. It has all the drama of Hollywood, with real-life villains and heroes thrown in. We scientists struggle everyday to communicate the importance of climate change to the world. It is great to see communication experts come in and accomplish what scientists alone cannot. That's why I'm excited about the biggest climate science communication endeavor in history..."

* You can watch Episode 1 here.

10 Places To Visit Before They're Gone: A Bucket List For A Warming World. Alarmist and premature? I sure hope so. Here's a clip from Grist: "Summer is just around the corner and, after a winter like this one, it’s high time to start making those vacation plans. Of course, our buoyant spirits were somewhat dampened by the latest U.N. climate report. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t real good, well, unless you’re into horrific droughts, monster storms, heat waves, mass extinctions, failing crops, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria, in which case, jackpot!..."