March 24

Latest on NOAA’s GFS Model Upgrade – Are We Underestimating Tornado Strength?

Maps Look More Like Early April

”It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade” wrote Charles Dickens in Great Expectations.

He had that right.

March is weather lunacy, meteorological madness. Few other months can unleash blizzards, tornadoes, 80s and subzero; all packaged into 31 days of utter uncertainty.

March 2021 is trending 9.1F warmer than average at MSP with 4 inches of snow so far. There is precious little snow on the ground anywhere, which has lowered the risk of spring floods on area rivers. That’s a relief.

Minnesota is still too dry, so I will not whine about our soaking rain – a million dollar rain for farmers and gardeners.

Heavy rain will taper by afternoon with the next chance of rain showers coming Saturday. Sunday should be the sunnier, nicer day for cleaning up the yard.

NOAA’s GFS model hints at a few 60s next week, which may be a bit optimistic, but I hope it verifies.

Pro-tip: don’t retire the heavy jackets just yet.


ECMWF Rainfall Prediction
weatherbell.com
ECMWF Snowfall Prediction
weatherbell.com

Old Fashioned Soaking. It may have complicated your Tuesday evening, but the steady rain is coming at the right time to recharge soil moisture, considering most of Minnesota is abnormally dry. Waves of moderate rain are a good short-term omen for spring planting, but do not eliminate the risk of drought later in 2021. By the way, had precipitation fallen as snow, most of us would be digging out from a foot of slush right about now.


highs-wednesday-3.24-radar

I See a Mild Bias Into Early April. GFS guidance shows a continuation of a (mostly) Pacific flow into the first week of April, suggesting warmer than normal temperatures for most of the USA. Sorry Seattle and Portland – no warm fronts for you anytime soon.


NOAA

NOAA Upgrades Flagship U.S. Global Weather Model. Will we be able to catch up to ECMWF (the “European model”) in overall accuracy. I’m hoping so, but verification data over time will tell the tale. Here’s an explainer from NOAA: “NOAA is upgrading its Global Forecast System (GFS) weather model to boost weather forecasting capabilities across the U.S. These advancements will improve hurricane genesis forecasting, modeling for snowfall location, heavy rainfall forecasts, and overall model performance. For the first time, the GFS will be coupled with a global wave model called WaveWatchIIIoffsite link which will extend current wave forecasts from 10 days out to 16 days and improve the prediction of ocean waves forced by the atmosphere. Coupling the GFS and wave models will streamline the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) production suite by consolidating atmospheric and wave forecast data and distributing them together. The GFS resolution will increase by doubling the number of vertical levels, from 64 to 127. Improvements to atmospheric physics will enhance snow and precipitation forecasting capabilities in this latest upgrade as well…”


NOAA

U.S. Weather Model Upgraded to Better Forecast Extreme Events. I’m looking forward to a new, turbocharged version of NOAA’s GFS model. Phys.org has details: “The National Weather Service has turbocharged its lagging forecast model to better predict extreme weather events such as hurricanes, blizzards and downpours, as well as day-to-day weather. By including much higher layers of the atmosphere, increased factoring of ocean waves and other improvements, the weather service’s update to its Global Forecast System is trying to catch up with a European weather model that many experts consider superior. Tests for the past two years show the upgrade, which kicked in Monday, forecast heavy rains and snowfall 15% better five days out and improved hurricane and tropical storm tracks by more than 10%, better pinpointing storm formation five to seven days in advance…”


U.S. Tornadoes

Damage from a tornado that tore through Plainfield, Ill., on Aug. 28, 1990.
National Weather Service

We Are Underestimating the Power of Tornadoes, Study Shows. Capital Weather Gang has a good summary of an eye-opening new reports: “…The findings suggest that the actual proportion of violent, Plainfield-like twisters is upward of 20 percent. Researchers show that the National Weather Service is underrating tornadoes that move through rural areas, leaving little wreckage behind. The study is part of an ongoing effort to update the tornado rating system. Because tornadoes are so short-lived, it can be difficult to measure wind speed in real time, so the National Weather Service infers wind speed from the damage tornadoes leave in their wake. It then assigns a rating, from 0 to 5, on the Enhanced Fujita scale of tornado intensity. An EF-0 could uproot a sapling. An EF-3 could tear the roof off a sturdy building. An EF-4 or EF-5 such as the Plainfield tornado could rip a house from its foundation. These are classified as “violent” tornadoes...”



New South Wales Rural Fire Service

Life-Threatening Floods Inundating Parts of Australia. CNN.com has an update: “More than 18,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) as heavy rains and major flooding continue to inundate the state, causing some areas to resemble “inland seas.” Rains have been impacting communities since Thursday but flooding intensified over the weekend, with images showing roads, trees and houses completely submerged in floodwaters in some areas. Up to 38 places across the state are regarded as natural disaster areas and 19 evacuation orders have been issued, with potentially more to come, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a news conference Monday…”


BBC News, Twitter

Australia Inundated By Floods, Swarming Spiders: Nexus Media has more perspective on Australian flooding with headlines and links: “Extreme rain in Australia’s New South Wales is causing life-threatening flooding that has so far forced the evacuation of at least 18,000 people. About 10 million people over an area the size of Alaska are at risk for excessive rainfall. The mid-north coast, an area of coastline between Sydney and Byron Bay, has been deluged by 35 inches of water in the past week, in some cases five times the average March rainfall in just four days. Weather patterns shifting the rain inland caused some areas to resemble “inland seas.” Australian PM Scott Morrison said Sydney’s largest dam would overflow for at least a week, inundating populated areas with a deluge of water equivalent to Sydney Harbor. The flooding comes about a year after massive bushfires — which killed hundreds of people and killed or harmed approximately 3 billion animals (not including arachnids and insects) — devastated the same region. “I don’t know any time in state history where we have had these extreme weather conditions in such quick succession in the middle of a pandemic,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters. Rising floodwaters generated Ron Weasley’s and Indiana Jones’s collective nightmares as spiders and snakes swarmed anything (relatively) dry, from trees, to houses, to “your legs … if you’re not careful.” (Extreme rainfall and flooding: BBC, CNN, Washington Post $, 9News, Earther; Record rainfall: The Guardian; Spiders and snakes: The Guardian, CNN, BBC, HuffPost; Climate Signals background: Extreme precipitation, Wildfires)


Oliver Berg, EPA

The 10 U.S. Counties With the Worst Air Pollution. The top spots (nobody wants) go to the Los Angeles area, according to new research highlighted at Newsweek: “…The findings of the Harvard Study were significant and alarming. They found an association between long-term exposure to PM2.5 air pollution and death from COVID-19. The United States adopted the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955, the first federal clean air legislation, several years after 20 people died and more than 7,000 others became sick due to extreme air pollution over Donora, Pennsylvania, in 1948. The Clean Air Act of 1990 in particular regulated the emission of pollutants from industry and motor vehicles. Nevertheless, experts and scientists have worried that over time, low-level exposure to air pollutants could endanger public health—concerns now underscored by the devastation of COVID-19…”


File
Minnesota Power

Inside Clean Energy: Where Can We Put All Those Wind Turbines? Analysis from Inside Climate News: “…A lot is riding on how much development takes place. The researchers show that as wind power increases, electricity prices are likely to decrease because wind is one of the least expensive sources of electricity, even as restrictions on wind power possibly lead to higher prices. There also are regional differences among the scenarios. As restrictions increase, onshore wind farms would be more concentrated in the sparsely populated parts of the Mountain West and Southwest, and less likely to be in the Great Lakes, Southeast and other regions where cities are closer together. This concentration would lead to higher costs per unit of energy because the wind farms would need to deliver their electricity longer distances to get to population centers...”


Climate Stories…

Youth Climate Activists are Back with New, Sharper Demands for Counties and Corporations. Vox.com has the post; here’s an excerpt: “…This protest outside the bank’s Manila offices was one of hundreds held in 68 countries on March 19, organized by Fridays for Future, the youth climate activism movement started by Greta Thunberg, an 18-year-old Swede. This time, kids, teens, and adults showed up on the streets and on screens to call out world powers’ “empty promises” to cut greenhouse gas emissions. In recent months, the activists have persevered through quarantines and Zoom fatigue, and while Friday’s turnout didn’t come close to the 4 million who participated in the massive September 20, 2019, climate strike, the strong coordinated effort suggested they are still a force to be reckoned with…”


Hurricane Harvey Rainfall Estimates

“The Old American Dream,” a Trap As the Floods Keep Coming. What worked in the 1970s may not work in the 2020s and beyond, according to analysis from The New York Times (paywall): “…Residents were stuck in dark, unheated homes in single-digit temperatures, fingers tingling and words slurring from the intense cold. Yet it also plunged them into a familiar agony: no electricity, waterlogged homes (this time from burst pipes) and certainty that they faced more of a frustration they knew all too well from wrangling with bureaucracies for help that was rarely enough, if it ever came at all. As temperatures and sea levels rise, as wildfire seasons grow more intense, and as hurricanes have become slower and stronger, more and more communities are grappling with friction powered by climate change — between practicality and the comfort of the status quo, the pull of home and the fatigue from pushing against the momentum of nature to stay there…”


File image
NOAA

“Winter is Vanishing” From the Deep Waters of Lake Michigan. CNN.com highlights results of new research: “As the globe continues to warm at an astonishing rate due to climate change, winter is shrinking at depths we’ve never known before, including the Great Lakes. A study conducted by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) used a 30-year data set to investigate how climate change is impacting the deepest parts of Lake Michigan, the world’s fourth-largest freshwater lake. “We found that this long-term data set not only confirms that Lake Michigan’s deep waters are warming, but also shows that winter is vanishing from them,” said Eric Anderson, the study’s lead author...”


New Weather Institute

Major Climate Polluters Accused of “Green-washing” with Sports Sponsorship. The Guardian dives into companies trying to have it both ways: “Polluting industries are pouring hundreds of millions of pounds into sports sponsorship in an attempt to “sports-wash” their role in the climate crisis, according to the authors of a report published on Monday. The study reveals more than 250 advertising and sponsorship deals between some of the biggest corporate polluters and leading sports teams and organization. Andrew Simms, a co-director of the New Weather Institute and one of the report’s co-authors, said:“Sport is in the frontline of the climate emergency but floats on a sea of sponsorship deals with the major polluters. It makes the crisis worse by normalizing high-carbon, polluting lifestyles and reducing the pressure for climate action…”


Paul Douglas

Summer Could Last Half the Year by End of Century. NBC News explains the implications of new research and projections: “Summers in the Northern Hemisphere could last nearly six months by the year 2100 if global warming continues unchecked, according to a recent study that examined how climate change is affecting the pattern and duration of Earth’s seasons. The study, published last month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that climate change is making summers hotter and longer, while shrinking the three other seasons. Scientists say the irregularities could have a range of serious implications, affecting human health and agriculture to the environment…”


Fire-clearance of mountain beetles in British Columbian pine forests.
Andy Clark / Reuters

Lumber Shortage Linked to Rapidly-Changing Climate. Quartz connects the dots: “Lumber is in such short supply in the US that its prices have skyrocketed to an all-time high—so much so that the expense of building the average single-family home has risen by $24,000 since last April to reflect the cost of wood. The reason, in significant part, is the changing climate—and how it enabled a beetle species to infest forests in the Canadian province of British Columbia years ago. The steep rise in lumber prices illustrates the uncommon nature of the pandemic economy: a seizing-up of supply, but a constant simmer of demand that is now exploding as countries re-open. In the US, since the spring of 2020, the price of lumber has risen by more than 180%, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)...”


Drought Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor: https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

Climate Change Fuels Drought Across US, Makes Everything Worse: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “A mega-drought worsened by climate change is creating and exacerbating problems across the Western U.S. as NOAA predicts precipitation levels below historical norms through June. NOAA’s official spring outlook, released late last week, predicts expanding and worsening drought from Louisiana to Oregon and unusually warm temperatures in almost the entire country — which in turn make drought worse. “We are predicting prolonged and widespread drought,” National Weather Service Deputy Director Mary Erickson told the AP. “It’s definitely something we’re watching and very concerned about.” Shrinking snowpack means even less water will be available for everything from drinking water to hydropower to irrigation, and reservoirs such as Lakes Mead and Powell are already at below-normal levels. Climate change exacerbates drought in multiple ways, including by creating weather patterns that, “leav[e] the southwestern states mostly warm, dry, and prone to wildfires,’’ Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, told Bloomberg.” (Drought: Bloomberg $; Spring outlook: AP, CNN, The Hill; Climate Signals background: Drought, Wildfires)


https://yecaction.org/

For These Young Evangelical Activists, Facing the Climate Crisis is An Act of Faith. Here’s a clip from a Rolling Stone story: “…This is my sacrament,” says Sarah Herring, 23, another YECA field organizer. “The environment is one of the most powerful tools, if not the most powerful tool of connecting with the creator. That’s why I’m so passionate about my activism.” Says Meyaard-Schaap, “We’re doing this not because we’re environmentalists, not because we’re Democrats or Republicans. We’re doing this because we’re Christians, because we’re trying to follow Jesus and we think this is part of what that means.” Finding that connection between faith and climate activism can be a painful process. The climate crisis is a source of deep anxiety for most anyone who has a passing understanding of its potential impact, but for many young evangelical activists, it also means confronting the fact that they were misinformed by people and institutions they loved and trusted…”


How Well Does the Media Cover the Climate Movement? Here’s an excerpt of a post at The Columbia Journalism Review: “…Media coverage of the climate crisis has long lagged behind warnings from scientists and other experts—especially in the US, where coverage was sporadic at best, and often descended into a scientifically indefensible bothsidesism that portrayed corporate flaks and real scientists as equally credible. Improved news coverage overlaps with the emergence of the youth climate movement: According to a 2020 analysis by the watchdog outfit Media Matters for America, the outpouring of climate activism in 2019—especially a global youth strike in September of that year, led by Thunberg and involving some 6 million people—was largely what finally shocked the media out of their collective climate silence. In other words, despite a wealth of evidence establishing climate change as a story of massive, global importance, many news organizations still needed to be led out of the darkness…”

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