Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chilliest Halloween Since 2006 - Milder Pacific Breeze Next Week - No Major Storms Brewing



Climate Resilience

Why can't we put more people to work on badly-needed infrastructure upgrades, with increasing climate volatility and weather extremes in mind? The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the USA's infrastructure a D+ in a 2013 report card.

Meanwhile a recent study in Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers says that from 1980 to 2007 90 percent of all global disasters were triggered by flooding; either by heavy rain, hurricane, tsunami or some other natural event.

The frequency of extreme flooding is rising, especially Midwest to New England. The rain is falling harder, washing out more roads and bridges in the process. There has to be a smarter way to rebuild America's aging roads and bridges.

A reinforcing cold front sparks a few sprinkles early. A cold north wind kicks in by tonight and we may not climb out of the 30s tomorrow as winds slowly ease under the center of high pressure. A chilly Halloween but nothing wet or flaky falling from the sky, and winds will be light - no chill factor.

We just get a glancing blow of cold air; the main event sparks lake effect snow showers over the Great Lakes and a big nor'easter, which may remain just offshore.

Plenty of weather drama on either coast, but I still see a mild, dry bias across the central USA into early, possibly mid November. The ECMWF is hinting at 60s, even an outside shot at 70F, one week from Saturday.

Halloween Climatology for the Twin Cities:
1990 70 38 0
1991 32 28 0.85
1992 44 38 0.03
1993 38 26 0
1994 54 29 0
1995 40 33 0.11
1996 32 16 Tr
1997 61 32 0.35
1998 47 44 0
1999 68 41 0
2000 71 46 0
2001 61 49 0
2002 34 24 0
2003 40 32 0
2004 44 40 Tr
2005 50 38 Tr
2006 36 24 0
2007 62 39 Tr
2008 62 41 0
2009 44 35 0.01    
2010 49 30 0
2011 50 33 0
2012 52 25 0
2013 50 40 Tr
Chilliest Halloween Since 2006? Data from the Minnesota DNR shows highs, lows and precipitation on Halloween since 1990. Assuming a high in the upper 30s to near 40F on Friday it will be the coolest Halloween since 2006.

A Vortex of Relative Warmth. Temperature anomalies show unusually mild air over far northern Canada and much of the Arctic region, where temperatures yesterday were nearly 3.5F warmer than average. We will see cold and snow in the coming months (no kidding Paul!) but Old Man Winter doesn't appear to be in any great hurry this year.

Image credit: obtained using Climate Reanalyzer (http://cci-reanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, USA.

Not So Fast Polar Vortex! Why This Winter Might Not Be So Brutal After All. Note to self: don't bet the farm based on a 5 month forecast. Here's an excerpt from a story at Salon that does a good job summing up what we know, and what we are pretending to know about the winter to come: "...Sobel says that despite the headlines, it’s doubtful we will be seeing a winter as cold as last winter was in the eastern U.S. “Last winter was very extreme by historical standards, so it is improbable in any year,” says Sobel. “No information currently available (including the state of El NiƱo), or that will be available ahead of time, is strong enough to change that. It’s not impossible that this winter will be as cold or colder than last, it’s just very unlikely.”

Superstorm Sandy Anniversary: Remembering Hurricane Sandy 2 Years Later. Here's an excerpt of a good summary of Sandy from weather.com: "...As the animation above shows, before Sandy even made landfall, tropical storm force winds extended outward in diameter some 943 miles from southwest to northeast, the biggest circulation of any tropical system on record. The sheer size of the storm played an important role in the devastation Sandy dealt to the East Coast. Among the many factor that influence storm surge, size matters, because as the National Hurricane Center notes, bigger storms impact a greater area of the ocean over a longer period of time than smaller storms, thereby enabling a large storm to push more ocean water ashore..."

Hurricane Sandy's Lesson: Resilience Isn't Enough. Here's a clip from a post at the Harvard Business Review that caught my eye: "...Building resilience and adaptability are necessary actions and great to see. But there is more than a hint of a defensive posture here – we’re being reactive. Adaptation is critical, but as a sole strategy, it’s kind of silly and potentially devastating. We can build some walls around lower Manhattan but where will the water go? I don’t think New Jersey will appreciate the extra dose of storm surge. And how high a wall can we even build? If we continue with business as usual and think we’ll just adapt, we will be sorely disappointed..." (File photo: AP).

Hoboken Oceanographer Dreams of Slowing Hurricanes Before Landfall. There are some practical considerations here, including what 30-50 foot seas might do the pumps required, but under the headline of vetting all ideas, here's an interesting one - an excerpt courtesy of NBC New York: "...His plan is to slow down a hurricane by deploying hundreds of thousands of floating tubular pumps -- directly in the path of an approaching storm. Each pump would be upwards of a thousand feet long, using the kinetic energy of undulating waves to draw cold water from the depths of the ocean all the way to the surface. By cooling the surface water just two degrees, Blumberg estimates a storm could be reduced from a category-3 to a category-1 designation. From a category-5 to a category-3 designation..." (Hurricane Igor file: NASA).

Study Says Upgrading Infrastructure Could Reduce Flood Damage. Phys.org has the article which includes this interesting nugget: "...From 1980 to 2007, about 90 percent of all global disasters were caused by flooding either by rain, tsunami, hurricane or some other natural event. At the same time, the American Society of Civil Engineer's 2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure gave the country a dismal D+. The group said $3.6 trillion was needed by 2020 to address the most serious problems..."

File photo credit: Virginia Department of Transportation.

Overall, the researchers revealed a much wider problem.
From 1980 to 2007, about 90 percent of all global disasters were caused by flooding either by rain, tsunami, hurricane or some other natural event.
At the same time, the American Society of Civil Engineer's 2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure gave the country a dismal D+. The group said $3.6 trillion was needed by 2020 to address the most serious problems.


Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-10-infrastructure.html#jCp
Cigarette Plant Will Be Turned Into A Factory for Solar and Wind Farm Batteries. Think Progress has the story; here's an excerpt: "Deep in tobacco country, the once booming Phillip Morris cigarette plant in Concord, North Carolina has been reborn into a facility that churns out batteries for solar and wind farms. Swiss startup battery manufacturer Alevo plans to open up the 3.5 million square-foot plant Tuesday, which will produce utility-sized batteries to store electricity harvested from wind and solar plants, according to Fortune..."

File photo: Shutterstock.

Home Of The Brave? Why is there a question mark at the end of the first stanza of America's National Anthem? Gizmodo takes a look; here's an excerpt: "Everybody knows that "The Star-Spangled Banner" boldly proclaims that our flag flies over the land of the free and the home of the brave. But in Francis Scott Key's original 1814 manuscript for our national anthem, there are surprisingly more question marks than you might guess — including after the phrase "home of the brave?..."

Here's What It's Like To Be A Woman Walking Through The Streets of New York. 100 catcalls in 10 hours? The Daily Dot takes a look at a video that's gone viral: "...A new PSA from Rob Bliss and Hollaback exposes a close look at the catcalling and street harassment many women go through daily. With a GoPro camera strapped to his backpack, he walked in front of Shoshana B. Roberts, who volunteered for the project, as she silently walked around New York City for 10 hours. In the process, she had more than 100 instances of verbal street harassment—not including winks and whistles—from people of all backgrounds..."

Europeans Recall Fireball Whiskey Over A Sweetener Also Used in Antifreeze. The Daily Beast has the details; here's a clip: "Bottles of Fireball whiskey, the insanely popular cinnamon-flavored frathouse favorite, are being recalled in some European countries—because it’s got too much of a chemical used in antifreeze (among other things) inside. Late last week, the whiskey’s European bottler informed the makers of Fireball that they were out of compliance with European regulations..."

43 F. high in St. Cloud Wednesday.
50 F. average high on October 29.
35 F. high on October 29, 2013.

October 29 in Minnesota Weather History. Source: MPX National Weather Service:

1951: A early snow storm dropped as much as 8 inches of snowfall in north central Minnesota. Mora had 8 inches, while Long Prairie received 6 inches. Glenwood, Little Falls, Morris, and New London all had 5 inches of new snow. Meanwhile, surrounding areas received a couple of inches.
1936: Gale dust storm causes damage in Central Minnesota. Heavy wind damage is reported in Stearns County.


TODAY: Mostly cloudy, passing shower. Winds: NW 15-25 High: 45
THURSDAY NIGHT: Clearing, still breezy. Low: 24
HALLOWEEN: Clear and chilly. Light winds. High: 39
SATURDAY: Hard Freeze early. Sunny, becoming breezy. Wake-up: 21. High: 42
SUNDAY: Partly sunny, stiff wind. Wake-up: 28. High: near 50
MONDAY: More clouds, stray shower? Wake-up: 35. High: 52
TUESDAY: Partly sunny and cooler. Wake-up: 32. High: 47
WEDNESDAY: Sunny start, late shower. Wake-up: 33. High: 51


Climate Stories...

Superstorm Sandy Anniversary: "It's (Still) Global Warming, Stupid" A higher sea level, more water vapor, warmer sea surface temperatures and a highly unusual tropical track for late October - a warming climate made Sandy worse. Here's an excerpt from Think Progress: "...So we have nearly doubled the chances for a Sandy-type storm surge with just the modest several-inch sea level rise we have caused to date with carbon pollution. This study points out future Sandy-level storm surges will result from weaker storms than Sandy as sea levels rise. The NOAA study has an “intermediate high scenario” of 2 to 4 feet of sea level rise by 2100 and a “High scenario,” where sea level rises 4 to 7 feet by 2100..."

What Caused The "Pause" in Global Warming? Air temperatures have leveled off; additional heat being pumped into the oceans, according to climate scientist Kevin Trenberth. Here's an excerpt of his explanation at The Conversation: "...These changes in the atmosphere cause changes in the ocean and have led to heat being stored deeper than 700m in the ocean. while heat has also been carried down deeper in the subtropical Pacific, away from the surface.  The largest region of the planet that has not warmed in the 2000s is the eastern half of the Pacific Ocean. The planet is warming, but heat is effectively being dumped deeper in the ocean..."

Graphic credit above: "Global mean surface temperatures as anomalies relative to 1900-99, plotted with linear trends for 1970-2013 (blue) and 1998-2013 (red), (from Trenberth et al. 2014)." Trenberth et al (2014) Nature Climate Change .

Climate Depression Is For Real. Just Ask a Scientist. A story in Grist argues that climate scientists are human too, and many of them are trying to cope with the implications of their own research. Here's a clip: "...Parmesan certainly isn’t the first to experience some sort of climate-change blues. From depression to substance abuse to suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder, growing bodies of research in the relatively new field of psychology of global warming suggest that climate change will take a pretty heavy toll on the human psyche as storms become more destructive and droughts more prolonged. For your everyday environmentalist, the emotional stress suffered by a rapidly changing Earth can result in some pretty substantial anxieties...."

With Storms Intensifying, Milwaukee Braces for Bigger Floods. The Daily Climate takes a look at how a more volatile climate is impacting Milwaukee; here's a clip: "...Milwaukee is emblematic of how climate change is forcing the hand of sanitation departments in the Midwest. More frequent, intense storms threaten aging systems, making repairs, upgrades and innovative solutions more urgent. Climate change "keeps me up at night," said Kevin Shafer, executive director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. "Before, we had a design criteria, and Mother Nature followed a historic trend. Now the historic trend is thrown out of whack." The Midwest is already seeing more frequent and intense storms, with more precipitation on the way, said Don Wuebbles, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Illinois and member of the scientific team behind the 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment. Eight of the 10 wettest years for daily precipitation in the upper Midwest have happened since 1978..."

The Varieties of Denialism. This subject obviously extends well beyond climate science. Here's the intro to a story by Massimo Pigliucci at Scientia Salon: "I have just come back from a stimulating conference at Clark University about Manufacturing Denial,” which brought together scholars from wildly divergent disciplines — from genocide studies to political science to philosophy — to explore the idea that “denialism” may be a sufficiently coherent phenomenon underlying the willful disregard of factual evidence by ideologically motivated groups or individuals...."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chilly, Dry Halloween - No Blizzards This Year



Weather PTSD

Today marks the two year anniversary of Sandy, an odd mash-up of ex-hurricane and nor'easter, three times the size of Katrina. Sandy swamped lower Manhattan under 14 feet of water, rearranging the coastline of New Jersey, leaving behind $65 billion in damage. Sea level in New York Harbor is 17 inches higher than it was in the 1700s. Between that, high tide and a full moon the die was cast for a record storm surge.

A new study at Monmouth University suggests as many 20 percent of homeowners impacted by Sandy's wind and waves are still suffering emotional stress, a weather-related version of Post-traumatic stress disorder. I see this in tornado and flood survivors as well: anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and other symptoms of a severe trauma.

No weather drama close to home, just a return to scrappy clouds and a whiff of wind chill. A reinforcing cold front keeps highs close to 40F on Halloween, but skies should be clear, winds light for candy cravings.

We go from hard freeze Saturday morning to a gusty south wind over the weekend - 50s return by Sunday; the pattern not ripe for major storms looking out into mid-November.No more 60s in sight. No Halloween blizzards either.

Speaking of trauma.

A visualization comparing GPS data from New York City taxis in the days surrounding Hurricane Sandy with the same data under normal traffic conditions

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-10-taxi-gps-hurricane-sandy-effect.html#jCp
A visualization comparing GPS data from New York City taxis in the days surrounding Hurricane Sandy with the same data under normal traffic conditions

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-10-taxi-gps-hurricane-sandy-effect.html#jCp
The largest Atlantic hurricane on record, Hurricane Sandy offered a chance for researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to try out a new computational method they developed that promises to help municipalities quantify the resilience of their transportation systems to extreme events using only GPS data from taxis.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-10-taxi-gps-hurricane-sandy-effect.html#jCp
Colder Winters in Asia, Europe Linked to Sea Ice Decline. Climate Central examines how reduced sea ice from rapid arctic warming might impact the frequency of cold weather blocking patterns; here's a clip: "..The model simulations suggest that the reduced sea ice leads to greater absorption of incoming solar heat by open ocean waters, which leads to pressure changes in the atmosphere. Specifically, it seems to intensify a feature called the Siberian High over Europe and Asia, and leads to more of what are called blocking patterns, where the atmosphere effectively gets stuck in a particular pattern for days or even weeks. In the case of the study, the feature leads to more breakouts of Arctic air over the combined Europe-Asia landmass..."

Google's Dominance in Search Is Nearing Its Peak. Quartz has the story; here's the introduction: "Google is stumbling. Earlier this month the company disappointed shareholders with underwhelming quarterly results. The amount of money it makes each time somebody clicks on an ad has steadily fallen for the past three years. In response, according to Re/Code, Google CEO Larry Page has appointed insider Sundar Pichai to lead the bulk of Google’s product lines, freeing Page to focus on the “bigger picture...”

47 F. high temperature in St. Cloud Tuesday.
51 F. average high on October 28
41 F. high on October 28, 2013.

October 28 in Minnesota Weather History. Source: Twin Cities National Weather Service:
2004: Exceptionally muggy for October. Dew points surged into the middle to upper 60's over central and southern Minnesota. Ladybugs are extremely active.
1955: Early snow with 2.2 inches in the Twin Cities.
1905: Snowfall accumulated in south central Minnesota. Snow totals included 7 inches at Fairmont, 6 inches at Farmington, 4.5 inches at Montevideo, 4 inches at Faribault, and 3 inches at New London.


TODAY: Partly sunny and brisk. Winds: West 10. High: 46
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 33
THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy, turning colder late. High: 49, then falling
FRIDAY: Clear and chilly. Chilling too. Wake-up: 26. High: near 40
SATURDAY: Hard freeze, then sunny & windy. Wake-up: 21. High: 46
SUNDAY: Intervals of sun, milder breeze. Wake-up: 34. High: 53
MONDAY: Some sun, slightly cooler. Wake-up: 42. High: 50
TUESDAY: Partly sunny, cooler than average. Wake-up: 38. High: 48


Climate Stories...

With Storms Intensifying, Milwaukee Braces for Bigger Floods. The Daily Climate takes a look at how a more volatile climate is impacting Milwaukee; here's a clip: "...Milwaukee is emblematic of how climate change is forcing the hand of sanitation departments in the Midwest. More frequent, intense storms threaten aging systems, making repairs, upgrades and innovative solutions more urgent. Climate change "keeps me up at night," said Kevin Shafer, executive director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. "Before, we had a design criteria, and Mother Nature followed a historic trend. Now the historic trend is thrown out of whack." The Midwest is already seeing more frequent and intense storms, with more precipitation on the way, said Don Wuebbles, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Illinois and member of the scientific team behind the 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment. Eight of the 10 wettest years for daily precipitation in the upper Midwest have happened since 1978..."

A Chronicler of Warnings Denied. The New York Times has an interview with "Merchants of Doubt" author Naomi Oreskes; here's an excerpt: "...I did some digging of my own. I learned that my critic was among an informal group of physicists who’d risen to prominence in weapons and rocketry during the Cold War. Though none were climatologists, they became key figures in climate change denial. On the various issues where members of the group had been active — acid rain, ozone depletion and climate change — there appeared to be a playbook drawn from the tobacco wars: Insist that the science is unsettled, attack the researchers whose findings they disliked, demand media coverage for a “balanced” view..."

The Varieties of Denialism. This subject obviously extends well beyond climate science. Here's the intro to a story by Massimo Pigliucci at Scientia Salon: "I have just come back from a stimulating conference at Clark University about Manufacturing Denial,” which brought together scholars from wildly divergent disciplines — from genocide studies to political science to philosophy — to explore the idea that “denialism” may be a sufficiently coherent phenomenon underlying the willful disregard of factual evidence by ideologically motivated groups or individuals...."

2014 Setting Up As Warmest Year, Worldwide, Since 1880? We started the year in a cold phase (La Nina) and the much-hyped El Nino of 2014 is taking it's sweet old time ramping up in the Pacific. In spite of that, 2014 is on track to become the warmest year, globally, on record. Here's an excerpt from desmog.uk: "...These records tie 2014 with 1998 and 2010 for the warmest first nine months on record. The United Nations has pointed out that 13 out of the 14 hottest years recorded have taken place since the turn of the 21st century. In a statement, NOAA said: “If the surface temperature remains elevated at the same level for the remainder of the year, then 2014 will set a new record for the warmest annual average temperature since records began in 1880...”

Boston is Rethinking It's relationship With The Sea. Canals similar to Amsterdam to let the water IN? It may not be as crazy as it sounds, according to a story at the BBC; here's an excerpt: "...This is why Boston's city planners and architects are contemplating the radical idea of turning its most historic district - the elegant 19th Century terraced houses of the Back Bay - into a network of canals. "Much of the model has been how do we keep the water out? Everybody's afraid of the water," says Dennis Carlberg, sustainability director at Boston University and co-chair of Boston's sea-level rise committee. "So we wanted to turn that conversation on its head and say, well what if we let water in? How can we make life better in Boston by bringing water in?...."

Study Provides Deeper Understanding of Climate Change. Much of the excess heat energy from fossil fuel emissions is going into the deep oceans, and we're not precisely sure how a warming trend in the Pacific will manifest itself in the future: more hurricanes and typhoons, shifts in rainfall patterns and a higher risk of extreme summer heat? Here's an excerpt of an article at mycentraljersey.com: "...The study shows that changes in heat distribution between the ocean basins is important for understanding future climate change. However, scientists can't predict precisely what effect the carbon dioxide currently being pulled into the ocean from the atmosphere will have on climate. Still, they argue that since more carbon dioxide has been released in the past 200 years than any recent period in geological history, interactions between carbon dioxide, temperature changes and precipitation, and ocean circulation will result in profound changes..."