Almost 10F Warmer Than Average on St. Patty’s Day

March in Minnesota: A Month Like No Other?March. It's like Mother Nature tried to cram an entire year's worth of weather into 31 days. Think I'm kidding? Temperatures have ranged from -27F (1948) to 86F (most recently in 1986). Minnesota has seen March tornadoes; blizzards are rare - but possible. River flooding & wildfires until things green up? Did I mention ice dams? No hurricanes or earthquakes, if that's of any consolation! NOAA data highlighted at The New York Times shows that Minnesota winters from 1989 to 2018 were 3F warmer than a 20th century baseline. We just experienced an average winter. Average feels like punishment, since most winters are trending milder. Much of the snow in your yard will be gone by Monday with weekend temperatures consistently above freezing. There's an outside shot at 50F today, again Sunday, before cooling off a little next week. Another mild surge late next week brings a smear of showery rain by Friday; possibly ending as flurries next Saturday. The sun is now too high in the sky for snow to linger. Spring is coming, reluctantly.  Relatively Quiet. Residents of New England are still digging out from 1-2 feet of snow, while a Pacific storm with much-needed rain and snow pushes into the western USA. A persistent longwave ridge of high pressure means relatively quietweather for Minnesota Saturday and Sunday. 12km NAM Future Radar: NOAA and Few Degrees Above Average. Average high temperatures at MSP are around 41F now; and we'll be above average this weekend and late next week as spring makes a pass at Minnesota. I still see a cool bias into at least early April - no rush of 60s or 70s shaping up anytime soon. Twin Cities ECMWF numbers: WeatherBell. Updated Flood Threat. Here's an excerpt from NOAA's just-released Spring Outlook: "...Through May, moderate flooding is likely in the lower Mississippi Valley, parts of the Ohio River Basin, the Illinois River Basin, and in parts of the lower Missouri River Continue Reading

Perfectly Average for Late April

Perfectly Average Weather - For April 28 The bigger the differential in temperature, the wider the range over a given spot, the faster winds have to blow to keep the atmosphere in a state of equilibrium. We'll go from mid-60s today (with a few strong thunderstorms) to low 20s Wednesday morning. The result: gale-force wind gusts. Temperatures cool off close to average by late week with a series of slushy clippers, but nothing that will rock your world or mess up travel plans. This chilling Canadian Correction lingers into much of next week before the mercury recovers into the 40s and 50s later in March. Mud season comes early this year but look at the bright side: a supernatural lack of snow means a reduced risk of river flooding. Oddly enough the risk of brush fires will be high until we green up (which may come 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule). Nationwide this is the most active year for tornadoes since 2012. I doubt Minnesota will see 144 tornadoes like 2010, but I'm expecting a busier severe storm season.  Enhanced Severe Risk. A few large and violent tornadoes are likely across the Mid South later today, with the best chance from Springfield and Joplin, Missouri toward Fort Smith and Fayetteville, Arkansas. A few strong T-storms are possible as far north as the Twin Cities and Madison. Map: NOAA SPC. Winter Camps Out Over Pacific Northwest - While Spring is in Full Swing East of Mississippi. It's odd to be seeing rain for Maine and even the U.P. of Michigan during the first week of March. A powerful storm pushes across the Dakotas toward Winnipeg, a tight pressure gradient whipping up sustained winds of 30 mph with gusts to 50 from the northern Plains into the Upper Midwest. More rain and snow torments the west coast as a remarkably persistent pattern hangs on. 84-hour NAM Future Radar: NOAA and Clash of Seasons. Tie down garbage cans, pets and small, imported cars over the next 36 hours because the wind will be wailing away, especially Continue Reading

For many, coffee really is a matter of life and death

The nomination of a climate change skeptic to run the Environmental Protection Agency may have renewed old arguments in Washington, but CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips says in Uganda, there’s no argument.  The facts there are clear, and they affect people in the African country directly. As Phillips discovered, the facts also affect anybody, anywhere who starts their day with a favored hot, brown beverage. To millions of people, coffee is the other dark liquid that powers the world. But because of the damage being done to the planet by the primary dark liquid, oil, along with other fossil fuels, coffee is in trouble.  So, too, are the farmers who grow it. High in the mountains of eastern Uganda, coffee is the most important crop grown, but it hasn’t been a good year for harvest. On global warming, world seeks “Viking leadership” World’s most ambitious tidal power project underway in Scotland Unlocking climate change secrets in the frozen north Anthony and Vincent Khabala’s family have been growing coffee on their farm about 4,000 feet up the slopes of Mount Elgon for generations. Lately, they’ve been having problems their family has never encountered before. It turns out coffee is as fussy as the people who drink it. This Goldilocks of crops likes just the right altitude, the right temperature and the right amount of rain and sunshine -- and all in the right order. “Too much sunshine produces bad fruits,” Anthony tells CBS News, and this year, there’s been too much sunshine on Mount Elgon. On another farm, Phillips meets another farmer with another problem. A fine white powder coats parts of Sam Massa’s coffee plants. It’s produced by the stem-borer beetle, which drills into the plants and, according to Massa, “completely ruins” them. Massa says the warming weather has brought new pests and diseases that used to live down in the valleys, up the hillsides. Continue Reading

Search for a driveway ground cover turned into a love affair with peanuts

Search for a driveway ground cover turned into a love affair with legumes By Molly Glentzer Updated 2:35 pm, Friday, January 19, 2018 window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-5', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 5', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-10', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 10', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); Photo: National Peanut Board Image 1of/10 CaptionClose Image 1 of 10 Shelled, roasted peanuts are a nutritious snack. The plants are easy to grow at home. Shelled, roasted peanuts are a nutritious snack. The plants are easy to grow at home. Photo: National Peanut Board Image 2 of 10 Peanuts are harvested by uprooting the withered plants. Dozens of the legumes form along the roots of each plant. Peanuts are harvested by uprooting the withered plants. Dozens of the legumes form along the roots of each plant. Photo: Molly Glentzer Image 3 of 10 Peanuts are harvested by uprooting the withered plants. Dozens of the legumes  form along the roots of each plant. Peanuts are harvested by uprooting the withered plants. Dozens of the legumes  form along the roots of each plant. Photo: Molly Glentzer Image 4 of 10 Peanut plants grow along a driveway, underneath a newly-planted screen of trees.. Peanut plants grow along a driveway, underneath a newly-planted screen of trees.. Photo: Molly Continue Reading

Oyster farmer’s guide to pier growing and becoming a rock star

By Andy DePaolaI've grown tens of thousands of oysters in baskets hanging under my pier in Mobile Bay each year since 2013 and I'm growing 100,000 now. In just five months I'm eating the best oysters on the planet. No bias!I started in order to satisfy my oyster cravings but ended up more addicted to growing them and out grew my appetite! This year my oysters were being served in fine restaurants in Atlanta, Birmingham and New Orleans. Pier growing oysters benefits the environment and could be a win for your pocketbook. It is easy, affordable, educational, fun, and you can keep your day job. I want to teach you how to become a pier grower in this article. Below is a guide to pier growing and becoming a rock star.Sharing oysters with friends and family are my most festive memories beginning with oyster roasts in eastern North Carolina as a young child. In 1979, FDA transferred me from Washington DC to Dauphin Island; I thought I had gone to heaven. The transformation from bureaucrat to researcher unleashed my creativity, and lead to an amazing career of discovery with extraordinary collaborators to advance seafood safety. Oysters back then were $8 for a 100-pound sack; an unexpected bonus of the move. Even as Alabama's wild oyster supply dwindled, I was gladly paying $50 per sack ten years ago.But in the last decade, the good old days of inexpensive Alabama oysters ended and I had to find a new way to satisfy my oyster addiction.  Ironically, my FDA research into Vibrio vulnificus bacteria led to regulations that have essentially ended the wholesale of oysters to the public. This bacterium occurs naturally in coastal waters and grows exponentially in oysters after harvest until they are cooled to 55F. While V. vulnificus is relatively harmless to healthy people, post-harvest growth greatly increases risk of potentially deadly infections to susceptible consumers of raw oysters that have chronic liver disease or are immunocompromised.But I had always wanted to Continue Reading

Silent Spring—II

As man proceeds toward his announced goal of the conquest of nature, he is writing a depressing record of destruction—destruction of the earth he inhabits and destruction of the life that shares it with him. The history of recent centuries has its black passages—the slaughter of the buffalo on the Western plains, the massacre of the shore birds by the market gunners, the near extermination of the egrets for their plumage. Now to these, and others like them, we are adding a new chapter—the killing of birds, mammals, fishes, and, indeed, every form of wildlife by chemical insecticides indiscriminately sprayed on the land. Opinions on the effect of this spraying differ. On the one hand, conservationists and many wildlife biologists assert that the losses have been severe, and in some cases catastrophic. On the other hand, the insect-control specialists tend to deny that such losses have occurred, or that they are of any importance if they have. When we try to decide which view to accept, the credibility of the witness is of the first importance. The biologist on the scene is certainly well qualified to discover and interpret the loss of wildlife. The control specialist, even if he is an entomologist, is not so well qualified by training, and besides he is not psychologically disposed to look for undesirable side effects. Like the priest and the Levite in the biblical story, the control men in the state and federal governments and, of course, the chemical manufacturers—choose to pass by on the other side and to see nothing. It is sometimes argued that the destruction of wildlife through spraying is only temporary and that the populations soon reëstablish themselves. Even in the occasional situations where this has happened, an injustice has been done. The bird watcher, the suburbanite who derives joy from birds in his garden, the hunter, the fisherman, and the explorer of wild regions have been deprived of pleasure to which they have a Continue Reading

Silent Spring—III

The biologist George Wald once compared his work in an exceedingly specialized field, the visual pigments of the eye, to “a very narrow window through which at a distance one can see only a crack of light” but through which “as one comes closer the view grows wider and wider, until finally through this same narrow window one is looking at the universe.” So it is when we turn our attention to the individual cells of living organisms, then to the minute structures within the cells, and, finally, to the molecules within these structures; as we come closer, the view grows wider and wider. Not until quite recently did medical research begin to explore the question of how the individual cell functions in producing the energy that is the indispensable quality of life, though it had long been known that the ultimate work of energy production, or oxidation, is accomplished not in any specialized organ but in every cell of the body. Like a furnace, a living cell burns fuel to produce energy, though the “burning” is accomplished with only the moderate heat of the body’s normal temperature. Should all the billions of gently burning little fires cease to burn, the physical chemist Eugene Rabinowitch has said, “no heart could beat, no plant could grow upward defying gravity, no amoeba could swim, no sensation could speed along a nerve, no thought could flash in the human brain.” And now this beautifully functioning mechanism is in danger of being disrupted as a result of the activities of man himself, for he has brought into being many radically new substances—not only radioactive dust but chemicals for use against insects, rodents, and weeds—and the nature of some of these substances is such that they may strike directly at this very system. The transformation of matter in to energy in the cell is a continuous process, one of nature’s cycles of renewal, which can be compared to a wheel endlessly turning. Continue Reading

Edible insects a boon to Thailand’s farmers

Depending solely on the rains to either yield a good rice crop or leave their fields dry and barren, farmers in this village in northeastern Thailand, the country's poorest region, led a precarious and back-breaking existence. Then they discovered bugs. At Boontham Puthachat's home, six concrete pens seethe with crickets munching on chicken feed, pumpkins and other vegetables - treats to fatten them before they are harvested and sold to hungry humans increasingly eager for a different type of dining experience. "We haven't become rich, but now we have enough to better take care of our families," Boontham says proudly. "We are self-sufficient." Boontham's family is one of 30 in this village raising mounds of the profitable crisp and crunchy critters in their backyards, satisfying a big domestic appetite for edible insects, and a slowly emerging international one in countries where most diners would rather starve than sample fried grasshoppers or omelets studded with red ant eggs. Replicated across the country, these enterprises have spawned a multimillion-dollar industry with more than 20,000 registered farms, most of them small-scale household operations, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Averaging an annual output of 7,500 tons in recent years, Thailand leads the world in producing insects for the dining table. While it may still seem exotic, if not outright repulsive, to many in the Western world, the FAO points out that insects have long been an integral part of human diets in nearly 100 countries, particularly in Asia, Africa and Latin America, with more than 1,600 species consumed. In China, the use of insects for food and medicine goes back more than 5,000 years. In recent times, cockroach farming has flourished, with some entrepreneurs getting rich by selling dried cockroaches to companies producing cosmetics and traditional medicines. Besides generating extra income, insects Continue Reading

Jersey man scores major deal with Whole Foods

Even on a rainy day, a field of sunflowers offers relentless cheer.The gray skies make the sunflowers seem even brighter, ultra-saturated in yolky yellowness. On the early-summer day of our visit to Durr Farms in Chesterfield, we need cardigans and umbrellas, but we bask in the warmth of that golden color, and we feel like singing in the rain. The flowers seem pleased to see us, too, as they nod and sway in the cool breeze, humming a happy-plant song. Forget your troubles, come on, get happy, you better chase all your cares away...We are in Burlington County, but not far from Great Adventure in neighboring Ocean County. My 10-year-old skips through the muddy rows of the field, befriending each bloom. This farm is as exciting to her as any ride at the theme park.It's an exciting place for the farmer, too. Jim Durr's flower farm is the main supplier for Whole Foods stores in New Jersey, New York and Western Connecticut. His sunflowers, dahlias, peonies, zinnias and other flowers also have been in demand at upscale weddings, gracing the altar at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan. Durr says his quince will be on display at the Waldorf-Astoria on New Year's Eve, and his orange dahlias once decorated an event at the United Nations.The flowers also find their way to less exalted settings, where they are just as pretty. If you've purchased a bouquet from Whole Foods as a hostess gift, or to cheer up a friend, or simply to decorate your own dining room table, then you have supported New Jersey agriculture.Many consumers have embraced the "buy local" ethos when it comes to food, realizing that produce is fresher and of a better quality when grown locally. The same concept applies to flowers."Most domestic flower growers went out of business in the '70s," Durr said, as he inspected sunflowers in one of his fields. "You used to grow carnations, roses, all the standard cut flowers. But in the late '60s, the government eliminated tariffs in Colombia to discourage the drug Continue Reading

Kent, Sukup and Iowa Corn give $14 million for new ISU feed, grain complex

Two Iowa-based companies and the state’s corn promotion board plan to give Iowa State University $14 million to kick off construction of a $21 million feed mill and grain science complex, the groups said Friday.Muscatine-based Kent Corp. said it will give $8 million; the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, $4 million; and Sheffield-based Sukup Manufacturing Co., $2 million.Project supporters envision building a feed mill tower and feed milling and mixing structures; grain storage bins and a one-story classroom and laboratory building.The groups said it would “provide hands-on student learning, meaningful faculty research, and extension and outreach to industry workforce.”Iowa leads the nation in corn production, and ranks second for soybeans. More on Iowa agriculture: Some Iowa farmers struggle with drought“Iowa’s economy is heavily dependent upon grain and livestock production,” said Duane Aistrope, the Iowa Corn Promotion Board’s president.Much of the nation’s corn and corn products — particularly for pork, beef, dairy and poultry feeds — are processed at feed mills throughout Iowa and the Midwest, the groups said.Over the past decade, commercial feed consumption in Iowa has doubled to 15 million tons. At about 5 million tons, corn byproducts from ethanol plants represent the largest ingredient source in animal feeds.Deere will spend $305 million to buy a California tech company that uses “deep-learning algorithms” –  similar to facial recognition programs  – to better identify weeds that should be sprayed with herbicides and plants that need fertilizer.The Moline, Ill.-manufacturer of tractors, combines and sprayers said Wednesday it entered into an agreement to buy Sunnyvale-based Blue River Technology.Deere said the company's 60 employees will remain in California. The sale is expected to close in September.Blue River Technology says on its Web site it Continue Reading