Dear Paul

Expert answers to your most dire questions

I’d like to plan the ultimate April Fool’s Day prank. Any advice? My favorite prank would have to be last year when CBS fired me on April Fool’s Day—at least until I realized it wasn’t a cruel joke but a sign of the times. I remember one year when I was working at KARE-11, anchorman Paul Magers locked the door leading out to the backyard set. I was on-air and tried to open it and almost yanked my right arm off! I could hear Magers cackling in the background.
 

With both Arbor Day and Earth Day this month, I’ve decided to plant a tree in my yard. What’s the easiest variety to care for? First, good for you! Planting a tree remains an effective, relatively easy way to reduce your carbon footprint and increase biodiversity in your neighborhood. If you’re looking to help the earth, also know that trees are most efficient at absorbing carbon dioxide (and releasing oxygen) during times of rapid growth, something to consider when selecting a species to plant. A quaking aspen can grow up to 5 feet each year; the American sycamore can grow 6 feet per year and has winter fruit that resembles Christmas ornaments. I’m partial to the weeping willow, though, which typically grows 4 to 8 feet per year and thrives in a variety of soils and moisture conditions.
 

Why are tornadoes so frequent in April? The atmosphere in April suffers from a winter hangover—it’s still quite cold miles above the ground. But a high sun angle means the air just above the earth is warming rapidly. Warm air wants to rise, cold air wants to sink: This means extreme instability. Throw in strong jet-stream winds and wind shears, and thunderstorms can begin to spin. This is what Doppler radar detects, though less than three in 10 spinning T-storms will ever go on to become tornadoes. That’s why there are so many false alarms. Trust me, I’m a weatherman.
 

Paul Douglas is a meteorologist, inventor, and businessman living in the Twin Cities. Got a question for him? Send it to dearpaul@mnmo.com

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