Minnesota Climate Change

How many men does it take to fix a chain?

I had a great ride at Theo the other day, trail was fast and flowy.  I couldn’t help but notice, however, how dry the ground has become.  Maybe it was the mouth full of dusty dirt or the pile of sand in places that were previous void of sand but it’s easy to see that Minnesota’s drought is getting worse.  Currently, 99% of Minnesota is in a moderate drought.  For comparison, just 24% of the state was in a moderate drought back in July.  In fact, the last time we had over one inch of rain was on the 24th of July.

All this week, area meteorologists were hopeful for a chance of rain this weekend.  The models, for a time, showed 1-2″ of rain possible in central and southern Minnesota.  Now, our hopes have been dashed.

The low pressure storm that was promised to deliver a drought-denting rain to the Twin Cities is now trending further southeast resulting in central Minnesota missing out on the beneficial rain.  Locations southeast of the metro may still make out big with rain but that could come from severe thunderstorms.  The Twin Cities will miss out on the severe weather, thankfully.  The forecast CAPE values are much higher in extreme southeastern Minnesota.  CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy) is one out of many measurements of instability in the atmosphere.  The higher the CAPE value, the faster the storms can build vertically and, hence, become severe.

Iowa will be a hotspot for severe storms Saturday whereas the Twin Cities will be spared.


Saturday: Morning rain, rumble of thunder. Rain decreases throughout the afternoon. H: upper 60s

Sunday: Partly cloudy. Light wind. H: low 60s

Monday: Mostly sunny, southwest breeze gusting to 11mph. H: mid 60s

Tuesday: Sunny, slightly warmer. H: upper 60s

Wednesday: A sprinkle. Mostly cloudy. H: mid 60s

Minnesota and Climate Change

I had the great opportunity to attend the Climate Change Science Workshop for Broadcast Meteorologists at the Science Museum of Minnesota last weekend.  The seminar featured respected climatologists and meteorologists from across the country who have dedicated most of their careers to the study of climate change.  The all-day workshop was filled with presentations about the causes of climate change, the relationship between climate change and frequency/intensity of severe storms, differences between weather and climate models and how broadcast meteorologists can relay all this knowledge to the general public.

I’ll admit, I am a skeptic.  Honestly?  I haven’t read all the lengthy climate papers enough to be able to come to a logical decision about human-caused global warming.  I know, I’ve been lazy.  But recently I have been diving into some of the climate literature to learn more.  The website, Skeptical Science, is a great place to start if you’re interesting in learning more about the past, present, and future science of global warming.  I’ve been a meteorologist officially for a little over five years now and I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of this topic.

The Climate Science Workshop was extremely informative and here are just a few things that stuck with me.

"Have humans caused significant warming?" From John Abraham's presentation. Source Doran and Zimmerman, 2009 & Andregg et al., 2010

97% of climate scientists agree that humans are causing the planet’s atmosphere to significantly warm. Hmm. That’s an eye-catching number, isn’t it?  64% of meteorologists (not climate experts) agree that global warming is human-caused and only 59% of the general public is convinced.


Climate scientists have noticed that, while precipitation is becoming less frequent (expanding drought), the number of big weather events is increasing.  Just look at Duluth’s mega, flooding rain last June.  One of the presenters, Jeff Masters, Ph.D., co-founder of The Weather Underground, showed that heavy precipitation events are increasing nationwide and that even a 5-10% increase in rain is a big deal because most of our levees are designed for 20th century floods.

You may have even noticed that the seasons are getting earlier.  Just this past winter we saw record early ice out dates on our area lakes.  There has been a 100-150 mile northward shift in vegetation since 1980.  Tornadoes have also been trending northward with a gradual shift of tornado alley into more of the Midwest.  But what Jeff Masters, Paul Douglas, myself and many other meteorologists and climatologists are worried about is drought.  Yes…boring, old drought.  Drought is often the “quiet disaster.”  So far, the Midwest drought is the most costliest natural disaster this year.  Surprising, huh?

Climate models brought under global warming from the year 2030 to 2039 show a much drier climate worldwide.  The drought index depicts even Russia and southern Europe with Sahara-like conditions.  Those 97% of climate scientists warn that drought can crush an entire civilization and threaten our very existence.  If the climate models are correct, it might be time to get smart about our water supply.

Wunderground.com has a cool feature where you can plot your city and find out what the future climate would look like under global warming.

Okay, enough doom and gloom.  Let’s have a laugh. Check out this Colbert Nation Science Catfight!


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