Unsettled weekend ahead; How should news organizations describe climate change?

Our long-advertised and mostly unwelcome weekend weather pattern is moving in.

A strong and slow-moving low pressure system brings several waves of rain this weekend. The latest model trends suggest the system may not be quite as wet as it looked a couple days ago. Still, soaking ran between 1 and 3 inches look common for the southern two-thirds of Minnesota. And temperatures will run about 15 degrees cooler than average.

The system

Our inbound low-pressure system tracks from Nebraska through Iowa into Wisconsin this weekend. It won’t rain all the time, but the dry hours will be punctuated by several hours of showers. Here’s NOAA’s GFS model this weekend.

NOAA GFS mode from Friday evening through Sunday night via tropical tidbits.

Soaking rains

The rainfall does not look quite as heavy as it did a few days ago. Still, many rain gauges across Minnesota will have multi-inch totals by Monday. Here’s the Canadian model’s rainfall output by Monday.

Graphic: pivotal weather

Severe risk

The risk of severe weather is not high this weekend. But a few storms could approach severe limits (58 mph winds/ 1″-diameter hail) in southern Minnesota.

Milder next week

Highs in the 50s will feel more like April this weekend. Temperatures recover next week. Another wave of showers arrives late Tuesday.

NOAA via Weather Bell.

Memorial Day weekend in flux

I’m hesitant to jump on any nice weather bandwagons this spring. But most models suggest a milder and nicer Memorial Day weekend. NOAA’s temperature outlook divides Minnesota between cooler and warmer than average temperatures by next weekend.


How should we communicate climate changes?

I’m truly curious about your views here. Is “climate change” descriptive and urgent enough given current trends? Is “climate catastrophe” too alarmist?

The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA image. Vast glaciers in West Antarctica seem to be locked in an irreversible thaw linked to global warming that may push up sea levels for centuries, scientists said on May 12, 2014. Six glaciers including the Thwaites Glacier, eaten away from below by a warming of sea waters around the frozen continent, were flowing fast into the Amundsen Sea, according to the report based partly on satellite radar measurements from 1992 to 2011. REUTERS/NASA/

Check out how the updated Guardian style guide is phrasing climate change in its reporting.

The Guardian has updated its style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world.

Instead of “climate change” the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” is favored over “global warming,” although the original terms are not banned.

“Increasingly, climate scientists and organizations from the UN to the Met Office are changing their terminology, and using stronger language to describe the situation we’re in,” she said.

What do you think about how we should talk about climate change at MPR News?


  • Sonnet Fitzgerald

    As a copy editor, I am very much in favor of the new guidelines! The term “catastrophe” is not alarmist, it is accurate. When we tone down our language to obscure the truth, we become complicit in helping people ignore reality, no matter how tough it might be to face. That does no one any good. If we want to survive, we must know what we’re facing. People have a choice in how they want to respond, but everyone should have access to accurate facts so they can make their choice.

    I also appreciate the Guardian’s style change from “skeptics” to “climate change deniers.” There’s so much overwhelming science to back up these facts. If media is interested in the truth, then we need to stop validating positions that are provably incorrect.

  • Philip A. Rutter

    I’ve been part of “what should we call it”, etc, since 1988. When we called it Climate Change. I was in favor of Climate Collapse; which I think is actually the most accurate; a “climate” is generally considered to be a predictable pattern of weather, month to month and repeated annually. We have not “changed” to a new climate- yet anyway; rather, the original patterns have disappeared, erratically. We do of course still get some totally normal weather- but we can now also count on – not being able to count on normal weather again.

    Climate Chaos would also be appropriately descriptive; we have by no means seen everything the atmosphere is now going to throw at us. More surprises, coming soon. “Catastrophe” is certainly accurate, but I think not useful; it’s on the side of paralyzing despair; a poor strategy for survival and adaptation.

    We seem to be experiencing Climate Chaos this week, across N America; big snow storms in California, tornadoes and hail in the MIdwest; for a week or two; pick a region, there are records being broken.

    The change to “deniers” is long overdue; I’d suggest adding the alternative of “climate troll”- since so many are, in fact; paid Russian agents.

    • Bronco Billy

      Yes to chaos, and collapse. But get rid of the word climate; the general public associates climate with the word nice. Rather, use weather; they understand the word weather. Want to use more adjectives? Human-sourced-weather-chaos. HSWC. Acronyms are mandatory these days.

  • El Ax Minn

    How about talking about the carbon dioxide flood? I saw a chart on Twitter the other that showed that it took 5000 years to go from 270 PPM to 280 PPM of carbon dioxide. We went from 405 to 415 PPM in 7.2 years!

  • Linda C Nelson

    Paul, you have been a leader on this issue and I trust your instincts. I believe it would be appropriate for the language to be stronger. We live in SE Minnesota in the driftless region. The changes in the Earth Community that we observe because of the erratic and changing weather patterns are sobering. Birds arrive and there isn’t enough food because it’s too cold for most flying insects. Trees and shrubs bloom; it’s too cold for most of the pollinating insects. Early monarchs are here and milkweed isn’t up because it’s too cold and cloudy. This is only this moment and doesn’t speak to the other seasons and many other changes. We’re all in this together and thrive together…or not.