Blog

October 13

Meteorology is a Steep Learning Curve – Insane Precipitation Extremes Across USA Last 12 Months

A Reminder why today’s rain is welcomeBrian Brettschneider The Profound Perils of Predicting Weather You can only learn so much out of a book. Exhibit A: predicting the weather. Meteorologists study calculus, physics and chemistry, but at the end of the day we learn by making mistakes. Lot’s of mistakes. It’s a painful (and public) learning curve. The technology has improved (Doppler radar, better satellites and models) and as weather has trended more extreme over time fewer people are falling victim. We have new ways to receive warnings (smartphones and social media) and our National Weather Service is arguably the...

October 12

2021: Nearly as Many Billion Dollar Disasters as Record 2020 Season – Drought Spells Trouble for Hydropower – Can Grid Handle Renewable Revolution?

Maps Still Don’t Look Like Late October. NOAA’s GFS model roughly 2 weeks out shows a massive ridge of high pressure over the western US and much of western Canada, which suggests another warming trend by the third of fourth week of October. At this rate I wouldn’t be shocked to see a few more 70s within 2 weeks or so. World Meteorological Organization Sharpens Warnings About Both Too Much and Too Little Water. Inside Climate News reports: “The global supply of fresh water is dropping by almost half an inch annually, the World Meteorological Organization warned in a report...

Lock bride in park during fall
October 7

Fall Color Factors, As Explained by Paul Douglas!

The leaves are leaving, but not before a brilliant, Technicolor explosion of color! Why do leaves even change color? As the days get shorter in the fall, there is less sunlight for photosynthesis. Plants convert carbon dioxide in the air into sugars (glucose and starch) and oxygen by using energy from the sun through the process of photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is the green pigment necessary for photosynthesis. A decrease in photosynthesis that comes with less daylight means trees stop producing chlorophyll. As the green pigment fades over time other pigments present in the leaf are revealed, producing a veritable explosion of...

October 7

Fall On Hold For Much of USA – Disaster Fatigue – Calculating Your Home’s Flood Risk

Weather BlissPaul Douglas Weather Models Are Only A First Guess My father still thinks I forecast weather by looking out a west-facing window. I have nothing against using an “Amish Doppler” to gauge the current state of the clouds and sky. To be able to predict the future one needs to first grasp the present. Meteorologists have dozens of weather models to choose from. Which one works best in a pattern like this? What are the trends in models (wetter, drier, warmer, etc?). George Box said “all models are wrong, but some are useful”. They are merely a guide, not...

October 6

Fall Brings Secondary Tornado Peak to Parts of USA – Relative Risk of Climate-Fueled Extremes

Paul Douglas Extended Forecast Is Up In The Air ”Autumn is the hardest season. The leaves are all falling, and they’re falling like they’re falling in love with the ground” wrote Andrea Gibson. With weather, every day is different and every autumn is different. The patterns may be similar, but never identical. Talk about humbling. Which means it’s simplistic to go back in time and say “Well here’s what happened in 1968…so this is precisely what will happen next!” Nope. Weather models are good and becoming more accurate over time, but the 7-Day is as confounding as when I became...

Fires burn on a farm next to a forest in Sao Paulo. Photo by Jonne Roriz, Bloomberg.
October 5

Robotic Surfboards Refine Hurricane Predictions – Using AI to Pinpoint Precipitation Forecasts

WCCO Radio Producer David Josephson A Year Without a Winter? Dream On No, winter has not been canceled. Delayed by a few weeks? Yes. I vaguely remember dreaming about a year without a winter in Minnesota: 30s and 40s, no snow to speak of, just rain and ice. That scenario is unlikely through mid-century, and will hopefully never come to pass if we get serious about lowering climate-warming greenhouse gases. But we are experiencing more (unprecedented) ‘Black Swan’ weather extremes, and we don’t know all the tipping points yet. Expect the unexpected. 70s continue this week, with an outside shot...

Earth from space, via NASA
October 1

Hurricane Ida’s Continued Impact on Louisiana Education – “Tornado Alley” Shifted to Mid Atlantic States in 2021

Beware of Extended Winter Outlooks Beware of gloom and doom winter forecasts. They’re rarely right. The science just isn’t there. It’s the rough equivalent of predicting where the stock market (or pandemic) will be in February. Nope. Keep in mind, only 1 in 4 Minnesota winters since 2000 has been colder than average. Our winters are trending shorter, milder and more fickle over time (sometimes it rains in January). June through August was 3.9F warmer than average in Minnesota. Nationwide we tied 1936 (height of the Dust Bowl) for hottest summer on record, according to NOAA. Minnesota’s drought is holding...

Chairs on a beach facing the water at sunset, docks in the background. Image by Paul Douglas.
September 30

Dangerous Air: Wildfire Smoke and Dangerous PM2.5 Increasing Plains to West Coast Since 2016

A magnificent meteorological mirage…Paul Douglas Exposure To Wildfire Smoke Is A Health Risk What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas, and the recent swirl of western wildfire smoke didn’t stay in California. New research shows an average of 8-10 weeks of smoke every year in Minnesota between 2016 and 2020. This past summer was Exhibit A, both eye-opening and eye- watering. A few nearby towns experienced air quality worse than Beijing or New Delhi. Which has me thinking about masks and air filtration systems at home and in our vehicles. PM2.5 pollution is especially dangerous, responsible for over 4...

Image of the world from space with wavy line in red, green, and yellow representing the polar jet stream as it passes over the Earth's surface. Image rom NASA.
September 29

Tracking “Sam” – Running Out of Hurricane Names – Is Jet Stream Shifting Poleward?

Paul Douglas Weather Entering An Unusual Holding Pattern ”Paul, what’s the jet stream up to these days?” Great question. Glad you asked. Upper level steering winds are unusually light for late September. In fact, weather models predict an odd holding pattern into early October as weather systems stall. That’s more typical in mid-July than October, by the way. Warmer air holds more water vapor, increasing the potential for heavier downpours (exhibit A was the soggy remains of Hurricane Ida, a 1-in-1,000 year flood from Philadelphia to New York City). But it’s a 1- 2 punch of wetter systems AND lighter...

Entrance gate for University of Minnesota, with a red sign and gold lettering.
September 28

Summer Warmth Lingers – New Study: Today’s Kids Will Experience Three Times More Climate Disasters Than Their Grandparents

Paul Douglas A Taste of Autumn Into Thursday ”80s in late September. Paul, is this a symptom of a warming planet?” Yes and no. Most of this is natural weather variability, amplified by the warming signal we see all around us. Warmer background temperatures (atmosphere and oceans) are flavoring all weather now – today’s rerun of August may be a few degrees warmer than it would be otherwise, in a world where CO2 levels hadn’t doubled since the mid-1800s. Fickle winters, wetter springs (this year notwithstanding) and longer, milder autumns seem to be a trend. Minnesota DNR Low Lake Levels...