Well-Timed Easter Sunshine – Lightning Facts
Friday’s lightning-related injuries at a paintball park in Hudson, Wisconsin were a stark reminder that storm season is upon us. Every thunderstorm, by definition, is potentially deadly, with cloud to ground lightning, striking the U.S. roughly 25 million times a year.
An average of 75 to 100 Americans are killed by lightning every year; hundreds injured; many with lifelong disabilities.
Most of these injuries are ultimately avoidable. The first growl of thunder signals it’s time to move inside: a home or vehicle offers the best protection. Avoid fields, golf courses and lakes.
Remember the “30-30 Rule”; if you count 30 seconds between the flash and the bang, it’s time to race indoors. Wait 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder to resume outdoor plans. Don’t push your luck.
The sun returns today with mid-60s and a drop in humidity. Showers pop up over northern Minnesota but the MSP metro should stay dry. More showers and storms arrive Tuesday.
Research suggests a 12 percent increase in lightning for every 1C rise in temperature. It pays to be weather-vigilant.
Will Warming Temperatures Bring More Lightning. New research suggests a correlation; here’s a summary from WXshift: “…The large, long-term dataset constructed from these instruments could also help scientists understand any links between severe storms and climate change. A study published in 2014 found that for every degree Celsius of global temperature rise, we could see a 12 percent increase in lightning rates, leading to a 50 percent increase by the end of the century. “To the extent that warm years now look like normal years in the future, that might tell us something about how we might expect lightning to change in the future from the current average,” Brooks said. And as lightning from these storms increases, it seems possible that climate change will have parallel effects on other dangerous aspects of severe storms, since some research suggests that a warmer climate will be a better breeding ground for severe storms. Some research has found that in recent decades, more severe tornado outbreaks have occurred over fewer days…”
File image from low-Earth orbit: NASA and the International Space Station.
Lightning Favors Men. Why is this? It’s true that more men work outdoors in construction, agriculture and energy services, but could it be that men are also more stubborn than women? Not sure – you can prove anything with statistics, I guess.
Good Reason To Get Off The Lake When Storms Begin to Grumble. Over a third of all U.S. lightning fatalities from 2006 through 2013 were water-related. Granted, that’s a fairly short time period to glean meaningful data, but there’s little doubt that a significant percentage of lightning deaths and injuries occur in fields and on or near lakes and other bodies of water. You don’t want to be the tallest thing in the area – lightning is lazy; looking for the easiest path from cloud to ground. Source: NOAA.
Lightning Round-Up: The World’s Weirdest Electricity. New Scientist has a good summary of some of the new and exotic forms of lightning discovered in recent years, including sprites: “..Once thought to be a myth, sprites are fleeting flashes of red light high above thunderclouds that look like giant jellyfish. These collections of “streamers”, formed of ribbons of ionised air, are believed to be produced by the strong electric fields generated in the upper atmosphere when lightning is born, but we don’t yet understand exactly how they form…”
Image credit: JSC/NASA.
Semi-Respectable Easter Sunday. The Upper Midwest dries out behind a sloppy cool front; a band of showers and T-storms pushing across the Ohio Valley and Mid South. A few strong to severe T-storms may flare up over Texas and Oklahoma. Meanwhile California braces for another round of rain showers and heavy mountain snows. Like 63 feet of snow isn’t enough. NAM guidance: Tropicaltidbits.com.
7-Day Rainfall Potential. Here’s is NOAA’s latest rainfall estimate looking out a week, showing the axis of heaviest rain from near Tulsa to Kansas City, Dubuque and Green Bay, where some 3-5″ amounts are predicted. A wet bias continues for most of the USA as far ahead as I dare look.
Slight Cooling Trend. No cold fronts looming on the northern horizon, but temperatures sink back down to “average” with highs in the mid 50s to near 60F looking out 15 days. Have we seen our last freezing low in the metro? Probably, but I still wouldn’t plan annuals until after Mother’s Day. ECMWF numbers for the Twin Cities: WeatherBell.
Mild Bias Eastern Two-Thirds of America. GFS ensembles continue to trend cooler and wetter for the west coast and Rockies, but ridging over the eastern half of the USA with temperatures significantly warmer than average.
May Temperature Outlook. NOAA’s CFSv2 model for May temperatures shows a warm anomaly (big surprise) for much of the USA, with the exception of California and Montana. Map: WeatherBell.
Remembering Minnesota’s Deadliest Tornado On April 14, 1886 residents of St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids woke up to unimaginable damage and carnage with 72 lives lost. 80 percent of homes in Sauk Rapids were leveled by a wedge tornado the size of 8 football fields. The Mississippi River was temporarily “sucked dry” by the massive funnel. In the words of the Minneapolis Tribune: “This place was today the scene of the most terrible calamity that has ever visited the Northwest.” There’s a perception that tornadoes only hit farms, and cities are somehow immune – or that they can’t cross rivers. Avoid fake tornado news, rumors and gossip.
April 15, 1886: St. Cloud, Sauk Rapids in Ruins. Here’s an excerpt of a good explainer of the massive tornado that destroyed much of central Minnesota on that fateful day 131 years ago, courtesy of Star Tribune: “Minneapolis Tribune copy editors of 1886 faced a challenge beyond anything we encounter in today’s newsrooms. Day in, day out, the big story on page one required a half-dozen or more subheadlines. Let’s give it up for the anonymous craftsman who managed to write 13 dramatic and informative subheds for the story below. At the same time, he could have done a better job editing the story, which is filled with overwrought prose, tangled syntax and contradictory assertions. My favorite is the writer’s habit of saying a scene is impossible or “too piteous” to describe — and then describing it in great detail. Must be an 1880s thing. Which is not to say that the tornado that hit St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids on April 14, 1886, was anything but a disaster of historic proportions. It is the deadliest tornado in Minnesota history. More than 70 people were killed, and Sauk Rapids was all but blown off the map…”
Photo credit: “The tornado flattened much of Sauk Rapids.” (Photo courtesy mnhs.org).
Texas Panhandle Severe T-storm and GOES-16. Check out the 1-minute visible imagery from the latest, greatest weather satellite, courtesy of Satellite Liaison Blog: “On April 14, a severe storm developed rapidly near Clovis, NM and slowly moved east into the southwest portion of the Texas Panhandle. This storm quickly produced hail in excess of 2.5 inches, and by 2305 UTC, had produced a tornado. Finally, given the slow motion of the severe storm, flash flooding became a hazard as well. GOES-16 mesoscale sector #2 provided 1-min imagery of storm development and evolution. Below is a 1-min, 0.64 um visible (0.5 km) animation of the storm between 2309 and 2359 UTC, during which a large tornado was reported. Given the proximity to sunset, storm top features such as overshooting tops and above anvil cirrus plumes are especially evident. The persistent overshooting tops (dome features with adjacent shadow to east) suggest a persistently strong updraft, potential severe weather, and heavy precip threat. Above anvil cirrus plumes (smooth feature downwind of overshooting top) are also indicators of strong updrafts, and occur when overshooting tops extending well above the tropopause inject moisture into the stratosphere. Additionally, the rapid expansion of the cirrus anvil signals continued storm growth...”
Graphic credit: “GOES-16 0.64 um imagery at 1-min temporal resolution.” Full resolution: https://satelliteliaisonblog.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/20170414_vis_anno.gif
To Save Lives, Supercomputer Dive Into the Hearts of Nature’s Worst Tornadoes. Here’s a link to a fascinating story (and video) at PBS NewsHour: “…He and his team use Blue Waters — one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world — to run many of their models. This spring, the group released the most detailed simulations ever of an EF-5 tornado, the same brand of high-powered storm that struck El Reno, Oklahoma, with deadly force in 2011. Together, their simulations reveal two tornado development features: a horizontal tube of air known as a “streamwise vorticity current” that helps initiate and maintain twisters and a parade of vortexes — called “misocyclones”– that both anchor and spin a tornado after it forms…”
Image credit: “The streamwise vorticity current, depicted in yellow in this supercomputer simulation, seems to be important to maintaining the strength of a tornado.” Photo courtesy of David Bock/NCSA.
Drought Outlook. Dry conditions are forecast to improve in the coming weeks from the east coast into the Mid South, but drought is forecast to persist from near Oklahoma City to Denver into the Texas Panhandle. No drought for the west coast. No kidding. Drought forecast into late June: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.
“Worst Flooding in Decades” in Northeast Washington State as Flood Season Begins. Details via The Yakima Herald: “What has been described “as the worst flooding in decades” in Ferry County in northeastern Washington has upended roads, slid a home into a riverbank and resulted in numerous mudslides. In one incident, said Amy Rooker, the county’s emergency manager, “We had a gentleman driving south on Highway 21 towards Keller when he noticed that half the road was gone. He flew across the road and ended up in a yard of a house.” On its official website, the county, population 7,700, says about itself: “Often described as one of the last frontiers of the American West, Ferry County combines a rugged mountain environment dominated by mining and logging industries with the breathtaking beauty of a wilderness retreat...”
Photo credit: Ferry County Sheriff’s Office.
River Flooding Update. NOAA has great online tools to keep tabs on nearby rivers that may be about to flood. As of Friday minor flooding was reported in upstate New York, moderate to major flooding from Lower Michigan into central Illinois. Source: NWS North Central River Forecast Center.
It’s Like It Never Left: Another El Nino May Be On The Way. Here’s a clip from a New York Times summary: “…Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md., said that since climate scientists have been studying the phenomenon, a swing from El Nino to La Nina and back to El Nino in such a short time – about three years – has happened only once, in the 1960s. El Nino forecasts are based on computer models of the global climate. Mr. Halpert said those models were somewhat at odds with the conditions forecasters were observing…”
Photo credit: “Flooding in Asuncion, Paraguay, brought on by the strong El Nino in 2016.” Andres Cristaldo/European Pressphoto Agency.
How Disappearing Arctic Ice is Already Changing Your Weather. We’ve been sprinkling hot sauce on our ice cream sundae, then acting surprised when the weather tastes odd. I’ve been talking about this for nearly 20 years and it would appear that the symptoms are becoming more apparent over time. Here’s an excerpt from meteorologist Dan Satterfield at AGU Blogosphere: “…Is Arctic amplification already altering the jet stream? That’s the big question and one of the first scientists to try and answer it was my friend Dr Jennifer Francis at Rutgers University. The wind flow aloft should be getting weaker and it should be more “curvy”. Dr Francis and 5 co-authors have a paper in an upcoming issue of the AMS Journal of Climate that shows that this indeed the case. The atmospheric flow is becoming wavier, and not only that, the newest climate models predict that it should be happening as the ice and snow disappear in the north. These models also show that it will all get dramatically worse by the end of this century as major changes develop in our weather patterns over North America. It looks like the wheat and corn belt in the Plains will be hit the hardest with much hotter and drier conditions, while winters may actually bring even stranger weather as blocks form and persist…”
Graphic credit: “The “curviness” of the winds aloft is indeed increasing as expected.” From: Changes in North American Atmospheric Circulation and Extreme Weather: Influence of Arctic Amplification and Northern Hemisphere Snow Cover Stephen J. Vavrus, Fuyao Wang, Jonathan E. Martin, Jennifer A. Francis, Yannick Peings, and Julien Cattiaux.
After 63 Feet of Snow, Northern California Mountains Break Record for Wettest Water Year. A number so staggeringly-big it doesn’t even compute. Jason Samenow reports at Capital Weather Gang: “A mind-boggling 751 inches of snow have pummeled the Sugar Bowl ski area near Lake Tahoe this winter. It’s emblematic of a record season for precipitation in California’s northern Sierra Nevada mountain range, and the abrupt end to a historic drought. As of Thursday morning, the northern Sierra had achieved its wettest water year in recorded history, the National Weather Service office in Sacramento announced...”
Photo credit: “
Big Sur, California Still Cut Off From Rest of the World. The Washington Post reports on the aftermath of a series of punishing storms that has effectively isolated this coastal community: “…The “island” of Big Sur — for that’s what this iconic stretch of coastline has become — is entering its ninth week of nearly total isolation, thanks to punishing winter storms, landslides and a failed bridge. The rain ended California’s five-year drought, but it left 45 miles of Highway 1 cut off from the rest of California, with few services for the 450 men, women and children who live here. That means no mail delivery, a limited supply of gasoline, and a single deli where you can buy eggs. Even the resident monks have been forced to pass around the modern-day collection plate known as GoFundMe to help repair the road leading to their monastery...”
Photo credit: “
Smoke-nado? Check out the footage of a smoke-whirlwind, triggered by intense updrafts sparked by wildfires in Nebraska. Video courtesy of Twitter and WeatherNation.
Worst Wildfire Season in Years Prompts a State of Emergency in Florida. PBS NewsHour has details: “Florida has entered a state of emergency as firefighters battle more than 100 wildfires that are raging throughout more than 20,000 acres in the state — from the northern border, to the Panhandle, to the southern tip. Gov. Rick Scott issued the state of emergency order Tuesday, allowing regional and local agencies to redirect their personnel to fight the wildfires and enlisting the help of the Florida National Guard. The order also puts Florida in a position to receive assistance from the federal government. State officials say less than a month into the spring season, large swaths of South and Central Florida are approaching drought-like conditions…”
Americans Used a Lot Less Coal in 2016. Details from Climate Central and Scientific American: “Coal in the U.S. is like landline telephones and fax machines — it was everywhere decades ago, but tastes, technology and the market have moved on. So it was little surprise when the federal government reported this week that U.S. coal use fell 9 percent in 2016, even as Americans consumed more energy overall. The U.S. used more natural gas and renewables last year than ever before, while oil use and even nuclear power were on the rise, too. But coal? Not so much. Coal use fell last year for the third year in a row — after slight increases in 2012 and 2013 — and has been steadily declining in the U.S. since it peaked a decade ago, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data…”
Kentucky Miners Paying With Their Lungs. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed focused on black lung disease at Lexington Herald Leader: “…At a time when the coal industry is being promised less regulation, the resurgence of black lung among Kentucky coal miners is even worse than previously thought. A federal epidemiologist recently said that Pike County is “the epicenter of one of the largest industrial medicine disasters that the United States has ever seen.” Dr. Scott Laney, who spoke recently to medical students at Pikeville University, co-authored a study published last December that identified a large cluster of the most severe form of black lung, known as progressive massive fibrosis, in Southeastern Kentucky...”
Photo credit: “Chandler Markie WYMT, Mountain News.
Tech World Ignores DC and Doubles-Down on Renewables. Climate Nexus has the overview and links: “As Trump doubles down on coal, some of the country’s largest tech companies are forging ahead with their own plans to reduce emissions and use renewable energy. Cloud computing company Salesforce said Thursday it has achieved net zero carbon emissions in its direct operations and will provide a “carbon neutral cloud” for its customers by offsetting indirect emissions along its supply chain. Apple announced Thursday that seven of its suppliers have now pledged to use 100 percent renewable energy. And Microsoft made an agreement this week to bypass Washington’s largest private utility to buy clean power. The tentative arrangement with Puget Sound Energy, which sources 60 percent of its energy from fossil fuels, will allow Microsoft to purchase wind, solar and hydroelectric power from other electricity suppliers.” Salesforce: Mashable, SF Gate. Apple: Bloomberg. Microsoft: Seattle Times
Solar Installers Struggle as Panels Become Cheap Enough to Own. Falling prices are good for consumers (and companies) but not so good for professional installers, according to The Wall Street Journal: “Solar panels are more affordable than ever for U.S. homeowners, and that is bad news for the biggest players in the industry. The price of solar panels dropped by 20% in the past year thanks in part to a global glut of panels and better technology, according to GTM Research, accelerating a shift among homeowners to buy panels rather than lease them. For a six-kilowatt residential array, the average price fell 17% to $17,340, according to GTM. More than half of U.S. homeowners now buy their panels with cash or a loan, rather than sign a lease or power purchase agreement, up from 38% of home installations in 2015…” (File image: Greentech Media).
Electric Ride Mowers? Why not – fewer moving parts, no messing around with gas and oil, just plug it in when you want to recharge. I saw this at Home Depot yesterday and did a double-take. I need one of these.
Your Farm Is Trying to Kill You. I knew it was a dangerous profession but idea how many threats were lurking out there. Here are a couple of excerpts from The Agenda at Politico: “…Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in America, with 22 of every 100,000 farmers dying in a work-related accident. Farmers are nearly twice as likely to die on the job as police officers are, five times as likely as firefighters, and 73 times as likely as Wall Street bankers…Farming death rates may be high, but the injury rates are even higher. In 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were 58,000 adult farm injuries — nearly 6,000 more than the number of U.S. soldiers wounded in all the years since 9/11. Many of those injuries last a lifetime, driving up disability rates among rural Americans, who are 50 percent more likely to have some form of disability than their urban counterparts. Also contributing are high rates of injury in other professions rooted in rural areas, including logging, fishing and trucking…”
Image credit: Edmon de Haro for POLITICO.
.84″ rain fell yesterday as of 7 pm.
72 F. maximum temperature in the Twin Cities Saturday.
58 F. average high on April 15.
77 F. high on April 15, 2016.
April 16, 1939: A rain, snow, sleet and ice storm begins across southern Minnesota. Despite many phone and power outages, farmers are jubilant that the storm brings needed moisture.
EASTER SUNDAY: Sunny, breezy, mild – showers up north. Winds: W 10-20. High: 66
SUNDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 43
MONDAY: Plenty of sun, still pleasant. Winds: N 7-12. High: 63
TUESDAY: Showers likely, possible thunder. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 48. High: 61
WEDNESDAY: Some AM sun, showers arrive late. Winds: E 10-15. Wake-up: 42. High: 57
THURSDAY: Cool and unsettled, showery rains. Winds: NE 10-20. Wake-up: 43. High: 52
FRIDAY: More clouds than sun, cool breeze. Winds: NE 10-15. Wake-up: 39. High: 57
SATURDAY: Partly sunny, so far so good. Winds: NE 7-12. Wake-up: 38. High: near 60
Educators Decry Conservative Group’s Climate “Propaganda” Sent to Schoolteachers. Then again, consider the source, The Heartland Institute, the same group that equated people concerned about climate change with the Unabomber, and assured us that smoking was safe. The very definition of fake news. Here’s an excerpt from InsideClimate News: “Science teachers and legislators are fighting back after a conservative advocacy organization mailed false information on climate science to thousands of school science teachers nationwide. After the Heartland Institute began a mass mailing of teaching materials denying the scientific consensus on climate change, lawmakers and teachers’ organizations have raised the alarm over what they characterize as propaganda disguised as information. “I am writing to ask you to consider the possibility that the science in fact is not ‘settled,'” Heartland Institute’s Lennie Jarratt, manager for the institute’s Center for Transforming Education, wrote in a cover letter sent to the teachers accompanying the book, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming. “If that’s the case, then students would be better served by letting them know a vibrant debate is taking place among scientists on how big the human impact on climate is, and whether or not we should be worried about it.” These statements are false, as is the book’s contention that the overwhelming majority of scientists do not agree on the manmade cause of global warming…”
Image credit: “The Heartland Institute, a libertarian nonprofit organization, has sent mailings discrediting the scientific consensus on climate change to thousands of teachers nationwide.” Credit: Rhett Allain via Twitter
Global Warming and Diabetes. Yes, there may be a link with rising temperatures. Here’s an excerpt of a post at Diabetes In Control: “Diabetes is on a rapid rise, with estimates of 642 million diabetes patients by the year 2040, a 55% increase from 2015. Scientists have begun to question whether the increasing global temperature could have any correlation with diabetes incidence and glucose intolerance. Previous studies have shown that exposing patients to a colder temperature for as short as 10 days can improve insulin sensitivity due to activation of brown adipose tissue (BAT). BAT, considered the body’s good fat, is known to convert lipids into body heat...”
Better Estimates of Clouds’ Climate Effects Are On The Horizon. Details via Eos: “The water that makes up a cloud can exist as liquid droplets, ice crystals, or a mixture of both phases. Cloud phase affects how much radiation from the Sun reaches the ground, stays in the atmosphere, or makes its way back into space; all three influence Earth’s temperature. However, inadequate tools and data have made it challenging for scientists to accurately incorporate cloud phase into predictions of future climate. In a new study, Matus and L’Ecuyer present a recent update to an algorithm for processing satellite data that could make such predictions more accurate. They used the algorithm to determine the influence of different cloud phases on solar radiation. The results confirm that the mixture of liquid and ice in a cloud can significantly influence how the cloud affects its environment...”
Four Seasons of Warming. During meteorological winter Minnesota is the fastest warming state in the USA, according to data compiled by Climate Central: “Climate change is driving up the temperature around the year and around the globe, but topography, weather patterns and snow cover — among other factors — yield regional differences for warming. In the U.S., that means winters are warming fastest from Montana to Florida, springs are cranking up the quickest in the Southwest, and falls are feeling the heat in the Northwest. Then there’s the Lone Star State as the lone place where summer is warming the fastest. If you look at all four seasons across all of the Lower 48 states — for a grand total of 192 state-season combinations — there are only three instances of cooling. The Dakotas and Iowa are cooling ever so slightly in summer. Otherwise, there’s only one direction temperatures have gone: up. Snow cover in particular plays a role in why winters are heating up so fast from Montana to North Carolina. Or more specifically, it’s a lack thereof...”
Where Climate Change is Threatening the Health of Americans. CNN.com has the story: “…Sarfaty helped prepare a report, released last month by the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, that mapped how climate change threatens the health of people across the United States and how those threats vary by region. Extreme temperatures and weather events, poor outdoor air quality, contaminated food and water, mosquito- and tick-borne infections, wildfires and stresses on mental health are the climate-related health risks identified in the report by practicing physicians. “There’s a gap between the public’s understanding of the health implications of climate change and physicians’ understanding of the health implications of climate change,” Sarfaty said. “Most people are not aware that climate change is a danger to their health, and physicians see that risk...”
In Generational Shift, College Republicans Poised to Reform Party on Climate Change. There will be a reboot of the GOP – mark my words. Here’s an excerpt from Reuters: “…In the U.S. Congress and in U.S. party politics, beliefs about climate change often match party membership: Democrats believe it is a largely man-made problem and something that needs urgent action, while a share of Republicans – including President Donald Trump – have dismissed it as anything from a natural phenomenon to a hoax. But a younger generation of Republicans – those on college campuses today – increasingly say they believe climate change is a human-caused problem, and that Americans have a responsibility to act on it and protect the environment, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation review of college Republican clubs across the United States. That shift appears to be the result of a range of differences, not least that most of the university students will be alive for many decades after current Republican leaders are gone. That period is expected to be a time of worsening climate change impacts, from stronger droughts to sea level rise, unless there is urgent action to address the problem…”
Photo credit: “Harvard University Republican Club members listen to a speaker at a meeting in Harvard Hall, September 6, 2016.” Declan Garvey/Harvard Republican Club/Handout via Thomson Reuters Foundation.