Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tornado Tales (looking a little better for the holiday weekend)

* 4 EF-5 tornadoes so far this year, the most since 1974.
* 9 days so far in 2011 with more than 100 tornado warnings. Last year (the entire year) there were only 2 days with more than 100 tor warnings.
* 232 residents of Joplin are still listed as unaccounted for. The death toll stands at 125, the largest loss of life from tornadoes since 1947.

* Freeze warning in effect early this morning for much of northeastern Minnesota, including Duluth.
* .06" rain predicted tonight (NAM model). Much of today (daylight hours) should be dry.
* Much of the weekend should be drybest chance of showers/T-showers late Saturday and Saturday night, another chance of showers and thunder over far southern Minnesota late Sunday.
* Slight severe storm risk on Monday, mainly over southern Minnesota.
* 80s expected the first weekend of June, shot at 90 a week from Sunday? (details below)

Freeze Warning on May 27? The northeastern third of Minnesota and much of central and northern Minnesota is under a freeze warning, meaning that several hours of sub-freezing temperatures are likely, potentially cold enough (long enough) to damage or kill annuals. More from the NWS office in Duluth:

203 PM CDT THU MAY 26 2011





Second Crest On The Minnesota River. Here is NOAA's flood forecast for the Minnesota River at Savage - a crest of 1 foot above flood stage expected by Monday/Tuesday of next week.

30-Day Rainfall. Much of the metro area has picked up 5-6" of rain since late April, dry pockets over far northern Minnesota, where amounts have been closer to .5 to 1" of rain in the last 30 days. NOAA's interactive rainfall maps are here.

Saturday: Looking A little Better. After a damp start skies should clear Saturday, partly sunny conditions much of the day with a growing chance of late-day showers and T-storms, especially over far western Minnesota. But much of Saturday should be dry with highs ranging from mid 60s (north) to low 70s (south). NAM model image above is valid 1 pm Saturday, showing the best chance of morning showers on Saturday over the Minnesota Arrowhead.

Dry Most Of Sunday. The nicest weather Sunday should come up north. The NAM forecast map (above) is valid 1 pm Sunday, showing dry weather over much of Minnesota. The only exception: southeastern Minnesota, where the risk of showers and T-storms will increase during the afternoon hours. A shower or T-storm can't be ruled out in the metro area late Sunday with a better chance of T-storms Sunday night into Monday as a warm frontal boundary pushes north.

Instant Summer? It's still a long-shot, but all the models I've looked at (GFS and European ECMWF) bring a surge of hot air (there's a new expression) into Minnesota by next weekend. 80s seem likely, even a slight chance of 90 a week from Sunday, on June 5. Yes, we're due for a real warm front. This is one of those year where summer isn't on a dimmer switch, more like an on/off switch. From jackets and frost to 80s and low 90s in a week? Sounds like Minnesota to me.

No Fatalities From Wednesday's Tornadoes. SPC reported nearly 80 tornadoes on Wednesday, but most were relatively small EF-0 to EF-2 strength, not the maxi-tornadoes, the massive wedge tornadoes that tore through much of the nation from Sunday through Tuesday. AccuWeather reports: "Just days after an EF-5 tornado devastated the town of Joplin, more twisters touched down across Missouri and other parts of the Mississippi Valley region on Wednesday, highlighting another busy day of severe weather. Several people were injured in association with numerous tornadoes on Wednesday, spanning 10 states from Ohio to Texas (also California). In addition, there were hundreds of separate reports of large hail and non-tornadic damaging wind gusts. Fortunately, there were no reports of any fatalities from Wednesday's tornadoes, highlighting successful and advanced severe weather warnings and forecasts. While severe thunderstorm and tornado activity was ongoing throughout much of the day over a wide area, the most prolonged cluster of dangerous storms progressed across Missouri from the late morning through the afternoon hours."

Storms Create Scramble To Install Shelters. If you don't have a basement this might be a good time to take a long, hard look at your home or apartment. Where would you go? Do you have a small, reinforced (interior) room where you could rideo out an extreme storm? Building a "safe room" (reinforced concrete/steel) costs a few thousand dollars, but many people are realizing this is a worthy investment for the long-term safety of their families, as reported in the New York Times: "What is on track to be the deadliest tornado season in the nation’s history has prompted record-breaking sales for companies that sell safe rooms and shelters designed to withstand the powerful storms that have killed hundreds of people this spring. From Minnesota to Texas — and especially in the tornado-ravaged South and Midwest — people are begging installers to get to their houses as soon as possible. “We are having such a bad season that people say, ‘I thought about it for two years and put it off, but now I really need to get one,’ ” said Alisa Smith, director of sales for the Arkansas branch of Family Safe Shelter. Her company is scrambling to install more than 40 shelters a day around the country. “Everybody would like to have one, and they want them yesterday,” she said. But only in select cases are people required to build them. Government regulations mandating storm shelters, either public or private, are inconsistent. There are some regulations for apartment buildings, and some states, like Minnesota and Kansas, require that shelters be built near mobile home parks. Many areas, like Williamson County in Illinois, commandeer churches or schools to serve as voluntary shelters."

Raw Security Camera Footage From Joplin. This YouTube video gives you a better idea of what 200 mph winds look like - it's amazing (in retrospect) that anyone survived this EF-5 tornado.

Evidence Of What An EF-5 Is Capable Of. Sam Clausen has captured a remarkable collection of photos from the Joplin tornado - available on Facebook here (you probably need a FB account to see these). He writes: "The wall of a nearby store was littered with trash including this chair. (Concrete wall)"

Search For Joplin Tornado Survivors Finds Few Amidst Debris. Where did these people go? As a father I can't imagine not knowing where my children are - missing, in a distant shelter (or hospital) or lying underneath 10 yards of rubble? The horrors continue to grow in Joplin, scene of America's deadliest tornado in recorded history. The Huffington Post has the story: "JOPLIN, Mo. -- Mike Hare has scoured the ravaged neighborhood where his 16-year-old son Lantz was seen last. He's called hospitals from Dallas to Kansas City and taken dozens of calls offering advice, prayers and hopeful tips. None of the calls came from Lantz. None offered any hope he might still be alive. Hare has been looking for his son since Sunday, when much of the southwest Missouri city of Joplin was leveled by the deadliest single tornado since the National Weather Service started keeping records. "We know he's hurt somewhere," Hare said Wednesday, his voice breaking. "We just can't sit and keep calling. You've got to be moving." Hare is among an increasingly desperate group of people in Joplin pleading for help in tracking down one of the dwindling number of people still missing in the wake of Sunday's storm. They're scrawling signs in wreckage, calling in by the hundreds to local radio stations and posting on the Internet. They are inspiring city officials to continue search and rescue efforts: there is no talk yet of recovery. Officials planned to release a list Thursday morning of people still considered missing."

* 232 local residents of Joplin are still listed as missing. More details here.

Search For Joplin Tornado Survivors Finds Few Amidst Debris. These stories are heartbreaking - I watched the father of this missing young man (who was driving home from his graduation ceremony) Wednesday night and tried to imagine what this poor guy was going through. Yahoo News and AP have the story: "JOPLIN, Mo. – Mike Hare has scoured the ravaged neighborhood where his 16-year-old son Lantz was seen last. He's called hospitals from Dallas to Kansas City and taken dozens of calls offering advice, prayers and hopeful tips. None of the calls came from Lantz. None offered any hope he might still be alive. Hare has been looking for his son since Sunday, when much of the southwest Missouri city of Joplin was leveled by the deadliest single tornado since the National Weather Service started keeping records. "We know he's hurt somewhere," Hare said Wednesday, his voice breaking. "We just can't sit and keep calling. You've got to be moving." Hare is among an increasingly desperate group of people in Joplin pleading for help in tracking down one of the dwindling number of people still missing in the wake of Sunday's storm. They're scrawling signs in wreckage, calling in by the hundreds to local radio stations and posting on the Internet. They are inspiring city officials to continue search and rescue efforts: there is no talk yet of recovery. Officials planned to release a list Thursday morning of people still considered missing. "I am hopeful," Joplin Fire Chief Mitch Randles said. "We've had stories from earthquakes and tsunamis and other disasters of people being found two or three weeks later, and we are hopeful we'll have a story like that to tell."

Anatomy Of A Tornado. Here is the raw data from the El Reno weather station, part of the Oklahoma Mesonet. Not the spike in winds around 4:30 pm on May 24 (wind gust to 150 mph), accompanied by a sharp drop in air pressure. Somehow the weather station survived the direct hit - something I've never seen before.

Aftermath. Here is a Twitpic photo of the El Reno mesonet station, courtesy of Angela Fritz.

"We're IN The Tornado!" Here is some of the most incredible video I've ever seen, courtesy of Wunderblog, CNN and WFAA-TV in Dallas. Yes, this guy was a little too close: "Meyers rode out the tornado inside a vehicle and videotaped the twister as it tore the roof off a school about a block away. "We are in the tornado! We are in the tornado!" Meyers yells several times in the video. "The sheer power was just amazing," Meyers said in an interview Monday on CNN's "American Morning" program. The storm, which struck around 5:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. ET), also turned over an 18-wheeler truck onto a passenger car, knocked 11 cars from a freight train off their tracks and caused extensive damage to Rice Elementary School, Navarro County Chief Deputy Mike Cox said."

Chickasha, Oklahoma Footage. Here is more amazing video, courtesy of holytornado84. Notice the Highway Patrol car trying to prevent motorists from driving right into this thing.

Classic Hook. At the center of the screen you can see the supercell thunderstorm that spawned the monster tornado near Chickasha, Oklahoma. Image courtesy of Brad Panovich from WCNC-TV and Twitpic.

Stark Evidence Of A Tornado's Fury. Check out this Facebook post of what 150-200 mph winds can do to a vehicle. This is why you don't want to be in (or under) a vehicle when a tornado strikes. Details: "A vehicle of sorts. The engine was behind me." © RM Photography 2011

* Thanks to WeatherNation meteorologist Jason Parkin for tracking down these video clips from around the USA.

Joplin Faces Sad Task Of Clearing The Rubble. It will take months, possibly a year or more, just to truck away the rubble left over from last Sunday's EF-5 tornado (the 4th EF-5 of the year nationwide). The New York Times has the story: "JOPLIN, Mo. — As rescue workers continue to sift through the wreckage of this city piece by piece, hoping to unearth survivors and victims of a lethal tornado, local leaders have been wrestling with the difficult question of when to start cleaning up the destroyed area. They know that ultimately they must sweep away what the storm did not. But so far the word bulldoze is one that they have been hesitant to use in news conferences, as rescue and recovery efforts continue. But they acknowledge that it is only a matter of time before the battered and blown-down houses, which cover an area stretching more than a half-mile wide and six miles long, have to be stripped to their foundations and hauled away. Standing in a wreckage-strewn park across from a hospital that is now only a concrete shell, the mayor pro tem, Melodee Colbert-Kean, said that officials understood the need to be careful about how fast they moved forward. In addition to the considerable logistical challenges, there are the emotional considerations imbued in the splintered lumber, crushed brick and strewn personal possessions — as well as the remains of the missing. “To a lot of people, it’s just rubble,” she said. “But to a whole bunch more, it’s lives.”

Joplin Tornado. NBC's Brian Williams interviews the Editor of the Joplin Globe newspaper. 7 of the reporters at the Globe lost their homes in last Sunday's terrible tornado, but there was no loss of life. The NBC clip has footage of the tornado, in addition to the interview.

Rebuilding Will Take Years, Millions - And Patience. USA Today has the story about rebuilding efforts now underway in Tuscaloosa: "TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — To say Tuscaloosa is rebuilding would be wildly optimistic. A month after a monstrous tornado struck here, flattened houses still line block after block. Some homes simply vanished. Streets are festooned with trees ripped from the roots or snapped at the top. Remnants of people's lives dangle from broken branches: a bit of foundation skirting here, a maroon shirt there, bits of insulation over there. The tornado killed 41 people, devastated vital parts of the city's infrastructure, destroyed or damaged more than 7,000 buildings and affected 10% of local businesses. It was part of a phalanx of twisters that killed 238 people in Alabama alone and another 100 or so in other states across the South. But Tuscaloosa is further along the road to rebuilding than Joplin, Mo., which was struck Sunday by a tornado that killed at least 125, blasted 2,000 homes, took out one of the city's two hospitals, ravaged big-box stores and smashed several hundred small businesses."

GeoEye Releases Some Aerial Imagery From The Joplin Tornado. Even well-constructed, brick and mortar buildings were severely damaged, many swept off their foundations by the EF-5 tornado. More from the Google Earth blog: "It's been a few days since a devastating F5 tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri, and we're just starting to get some aerial imagery of the area. GeoEye, by way of MJ Harden and their digital imaging aircraft, has posted an amazing image of the area around Joplin High School."

5 Days Of Tornadoes Look Strangely Soothing From Space. has the story, and a unique perspective. It was anything but soothing on the ground: "It's hard to believe that this beauty can cause so much grief and damage, but from space even the deadliest of natural disasters always looks strangely soothing and mesmerizing. Those explosions of clouds seem to come from Earth herself. This video shows five days of deadly Midwestern tornadoes, from May 20 to 25. It was taken by the GOES-13 satellite, and it shows "the storms that spawned the deadly Joplin, Missouri tornado on May 22 (around 5:30 p.m.) and the Oklahoma tornado event (Oklahoma City and Piedmont, Oklahoma) on May 24, 2011." The GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) satellite network is operated by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA. You can actually watch them all updating here. [Flickr]

Super Typhoon Songda The First Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Of 2011. Dr. Jeff Masters has an update on "Songda" and more information on the recent tornado outbreak in his Wunderblog: "The first typhoon of 2011 is also the globe's first Category 5 tropical cyclone of the year. Super Typhoon Songda intensified dramatically over the past 24 hours in an environment of light wind shear and warm sea surface temperatures of 30°C, to reach Category 5 status with top sustained winds of 160 mph. Tropical Cyclone Yasi, which devastated Queensland, Australia in early February, was the globe's previous strongest tropical cyclone of 2011, with 155 mph winds. Fortunately, Songda is expected to miss making a direct hit on the Philippines, though evacuations have been ordered in low-lying areas. Satellite-estimated rainfall for the coming 24-hour period is predicted to be less than 4 inches along the northeast coast of the Philippines' Luzon Island, which should not cause major flooding problems. Songda is expected to turn northwards and threaten the island of Okinawa on Saturday. Sea surface temperatures decline rapidly north of the Philippines, and Songda is expected to weaken significantly before reaching Okinawa, where sea surface temperatures are approximately 26°C. Wind shear will also increase to high levels by Saturday, and Songda should be at most a Category 2 typhoon by the time it reaches Okinawa."

Italian Scientists Indicted On Manslaughter Charges For Not Predicting An Earthquake. Good grief - this is a troubling sign. What's next - failure to predict a storm, suing the local weather service for not catching that shower that rained out your baseball game? Predicting the future is perilous, in any profession. We can detect earthquakes with sophisticated monitoring systems - but there is still no way to accurate (reliably) predict them hours or days in advance. The first company that figures that out will be worth a few hundred billion, give or take. From "After a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit L’Aquila, Italy in April of 2009, ravaging the city and killing 308 people, local authorities took the questionable step of prosecuting researchers on a scientific committee for failing to predict the earthquake. In March of 2009, after smaller quakes had hit the region, the committee president had concluded that “just because a small series of quakes has been observed” did not mean that a large quake would necessarily occur, and that the near occurrence of one was “improbable, although not impossible.” Infamously, the one government official on the committee appeared on television and said that “The scientific community tells me there is no danger, because there is an ongoing discharge of energy. The situation looks favorable,” and some residents “quoted those statements as the reason they did not take precautionary measures, such as fleeing their homes.” After the earthquake struck, prosecutors took these statements to mean that the committee had been downplaying the risk of a seismic occurrence, and charged the six seismologists and one government official on the committee with manslaughter, their reasoning being that the seismologists had indirectly caused the deaths of L’Aquila residents by not properly informing them about the risks of an earthquake. The seismologists have argued, with the strong support of the scientific community, that it is impossible for current science to predict future earthquakes."

Tech Talk Podcast: Vacation Apps. Planning on a few long trips in the car (or in the air) this summer? Nothing like loading up the right apps on your iPad, Nook or Kindle to keep the kids entertained in the back seat. The New York Times has a few suggestions: "Time to start getting ready for that summer vacation! On this week’s episode of Bits: Tech Talk, Bettina Edelstein, J.D. Biersdorfer and Pedro Rafael Rosado chat about mobile apps for travel on the road, in the air and with children. Ms. Biersdorfer offers suggestions to help with road trips, from apps that find quirky attractions to those that locate the best highway exits for pit stops. Ms. Edelstein looks at apps that can make life a little easier when things don’t go as planned, like those that help you monitor traffic, find information about flights and airport conditions and let you manage your itinerary in one place. Mr. Rosado, after conducting tests on the home front, reports on apps that can keep children from going bonkers in the car or hotel room. (For mom and dad, he says, the bathroom-finder Sit or Squat is indispensable.) The news roundup includes a new, paperback-sized touch-screen Nook e-reader, sneak peaks of new features for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, a study linking cellphone use and diminished male fertility and an explosion at an iPad factory in China and its impact. Ms. Biersdorfer’s tech tip is about subtitles on Netflix streaming videos."

Brilliant Thursday. Under a shimmering-blue sky the mercury rose to 62 in St. Cloud, 64 in the Twin Cities, 65 at Redwood Falls. A raw breeze off Lake Superior kept the high at 50 in Duluth, a chilly 45 at Grand Marais. These temperatures are 10-15 degrees cooler than average, the result of an unusually strong (and chilly) bubble of high pressure centered north of the Great Lakes.

Paul's SC Times Outlook for St. Cloud and all of central Minnesota:

TODAY: Sunny start, clouds increase PM hours. Still cool. Winds: SE 10-20. High: 58

FRIDAY NIGHT: Light showers likely - still cool. Low: 47

SATURDAY: Damp start, then partly sunny and milder. A late-day shower or T-storm can't be ruled out, especially over far western MN. Winds: S 10-20. High: near 70

SATURDAY NIGHT: Showers, possible thunder. Low: 55

SUNDAY: Best day of the holiday weekend? Partly sunny, breezy and mild. Showers and T-storms possible late Sunday and Sunday night, especially over southern Minnesota. Winds W: 10-15  High: 73

MONDAY: Humid, risk of a few strong/severe storms. Low: 57. High: 75

TUESDAY: Some sun, windy, turning cooler and less humid. Low: 61. High: 71

WEDNESDAY: Plenty of sun, light winds - best day of the week? Low: 52. High: 73

THURSDAY: Few showers, T-storms expected. Low: 56. High: 75

* 80s expected next weekend, even a shot at 90 by Sunday, June 5.

Weather Nightmares

The deadliest tornado since 1947 (Joplin). The most expensive tornado in U.S. history (Joplin). Most April tornadoes on record. The largest tornado outbreak on record (327 tornadoes in 21 states from April 26-28). 2011 has seen 9 days with more than 100 tornado warnings. Last year there were 2.
In spite of Doppler radar, continuous media coverage and heightened public awareness people are dying in huge numbers as massive "wedge" tornadoes plow into urban areas east of the Mississippi. We've seen four EF-5 tornadoes, top of the scale; the most since 1974.

What keeps me up at night? In spite of Sunday's EF-1 tornado in North Minneapolis I'm still concerned about a sense of false complacency among metro residents. "Tuscaloosa or Joplin couldn't happen here, right?" I hear that a lot.

A recent study of a hypothetical (large) tornado hitting the suburbs of Chicago at rush hour estimated a death toll of 3,000, with tens of thousands injured. The Boy Scouts are right: be prepared.
A sunny start gives way to increasing clouds, a few showers expected tonight. Much of Saturday should be dry, a late-day shower or T-shower can't be ruled out, especially far western Minnesota. Skies may clear for much of Sunday, probably the best day of the holiday with highs in the low to mid 70s. A warm front shoves a few showers and T-storms into far southern Minnesota late Sunday - I can't rule out a few (isolated) severe storms by Monday.

The rumors are true: a hot front is brewing for the first weekend of June (finally!) Highs should reach the 80s, with an outside shot at 90 degrees 8 days from today, on Sunday, June 5. Remember how to sweat? Me neither.

Is Climate Change Causing The Record-Breaking Tornadoes And Floods? A timely article from Live Science: "Several studies have investigated the relationship between global warming and the vicious tornado outbreaks. They've all given the same answer: "The data is inconclusive." "So far, we have not been able to link any of the major causes of the tornado outbreak to global warming," Martin Hoerling, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research meteorologist, and his research team recently announced. Where tornadoes are concerned, inconsistent record keeping — made more difficult by the fact that the storms are relatively small and often last for only minutes — makes it hard to say whether there are more of them now than there used to be. In recent years, the use of radar tracking, spotter networks and higher populations "all contribute to an artificial upward trend in tornado data, especially for smaller tornadoes," Hoerling, who works at the Earth Systems Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., told Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience. "Those are becoming more frequently reported not because there are more of them but because there are more eyes looking for them. That creates some complications in doing a historical analysis." Setting the spotty historical record aside, researchers have started investigating whether global warming might be conducive to conditions that are favorable for tornadoes. Thermodynamic instability, the condition that causes thunderstorms by forming vertical clouds, combined with wind shear, which stabilizes the updraft and causes it to rotate, are the "perfect storm" that leads to a funnel. Does global warming amplify these conditions?"

* Others are more cautious about drawing a straight line between climate change and this year's record tornado outbreak:

Is Global Warming Causing More Tornadoes? Not So Fast. Discover Magazine interviews one of America's top scientists about a possible connection between the recent spate of (extreme) tornadoes and climate change: "Fortunately, being in Norman, I was also in the place to ask one of our country’s top experts this question—Harold Brooks, a tornado specialist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory. Along with other mainstream scientists, Brooks agrees that “it’s abundantly clear that the surface temperature has increased, and will continue to increase, and the overwhelming evidence is that it’s due to human activities.” Brooks also thinks global warming is likely to impact many weather phenomena–increasing the risk of heat waves, for instance, and stronger precipitation events. “But it doesn’t necessarily mean that every bad weather event is going to get worse,” Brooks continues, and when it comes to tornadoes, “I get really worried when people oversell the case.” After all, if we’re wrong and we go through a series of quiet tornado years in the coming years, it will be just another weapon with which to attack those who want climate action. You can read the rest of the piece–where Brooks elaborates on why he doubts tornadoes are increasing in number–here."

Chris Christie: Global Warming Is "Real", But Program Is Ineffective. A story in Politico: "Chris Christie wants it known he’s not a skeptic on global warming. Before the Republican New Jersey governor launched into an explanation Thursday for why he’s bowing out of a landmark regional cap-and-trade program for power plants, he first strapped on his layman scientist’s cap to give a brief overview of what’s widely considered accepted climate science. “In the past I’ve always said that climate change is real and it’s impacting our state,” Christie said at the start of a 14-minute prepared statement. “There’s undeniable data that CO2 levels and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are increasing. This decade, average temperatures have been rising. Temperature changes are affecting weather patterns and our climate.” Christie said he made his decision to pull the Garden State out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative following a 16-month internal review that included town hall meetings and private chats with climate scientists, academics and environmentalists. "I’m certainly not a scientist, which is the first problem," he said. "So I can’t claim to fully understand all of this, certainly not after just a few months of study. But when you have over 90 percent of the world’s scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role, it’s time to defer to the experts."

Everest Glacier "Turning Into A Lake" Due To Global Warming. A recent article in the U.K.'s Telegraph: "A study of glacial melting in the high Himalaya found that the Imja glacier has melted from solid ice in the mid-1950s to a one and a half mile long lake today. Scientists from Nepal's International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) said the lake is growing by just under 50 metres per year and is in danger of bursting its banks – a 31 metre-high dam of rocks and stones – and flooding nearby villages and trekking routes. They predicted that more than 7,500 people would be affected by the floods, including tourists hiking along the popular Everest Base Camp route. The study compared photographs taken from the 1956 Swiss Everest expedition, which showed no evidence of a lake on the glacier, to later pictures and revealed the creation of a large lake. "Photographs taken in the 1950s demonstrate that, except for several small melt ponds, no lake existed at that time. By 1984 a lake of approximately 0.4 square kilometres had formed," the report said."

What Motivates Climate Change Deniers? NPR has a few theories: "I've lived in St. Louis for 33 years. During that time, the tornado sirens have sounded maybe 1-2 times per 10 years — let's say 5 times in 33 years — and never with a touchdown. This year they've already sounded 3 times. In January a touchdown landed in a neighborhood a few miles to the south; in April one hit our airport and surrounding neighborhoods to the north. Today, when the sirens went off throughout the afternoon, there was blessedly no touchdown. But, with Joplin heavy in our hearts, any relief was bittersweet. Bill McKibben, a dauntless advocate for action on climate change, wrote a powerful op-ed piece for The Washington Post on Wednesday called "A link between climate change and Joplin tornadoes? Never!" He lists numerous recent extreme climate events, and intersperses, tongue-in-cheek, the standard retorts of climate-change deniers: "It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events ... It's far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods – that's the important thing. And he ends with a zinger: "If worst ever did come to worst, it's reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there's no need to worry because "populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations. I'm pretty sure that's what residents are telling themselves in Joplin today."

Ho Hum, More Scientific Data, Another Nail In The Global Warming Denial Coffin. Berkely professor Robert Brown has the post in Seattle's PI: "I’m not looking at the record setting tornado stats of this year for April; or record flooding along the Mississippi, and in Australia and Pakistan; or record droughts in the southwest USA with record fires across America; or the record weather caused crop failures in Russia, Queensland, France, Germany and Texas; or the record number of records. Records are broken all the time, and of course we can’t link any specific event above to the slow process of Global Warming. We do note that all of these events are consistent with what the climate models have been predicting as a result of fossil fuel increased CO2. The nail I refer to is the little note from NSF about a study that has been going on for 11-years of observing 13-species of common Mid-Western plant species, where the plants are exposed to higher CO2 levels as in GW. The results suggest that plants’ capacity to absorb extra carbon from the atmosphere as CO2 levels rise may be less than expected. This indicates that the carbon cycle model in climate models overpredict plant CO2 absorption, hence underpredict CO2 levels and consequently: “What this all boils down to,” says Reich, “is that the world could warm even faster than we thought.” The findings are published in the current issue of the journal Global Change Biology by Tali Lee, Susan Barrott & Peter Reich."

Republican Sees Electric Car Bill As A Climate "Step". The New York Times has the story: "A member of the Senate Republican leadership believes a major expansion of electric cars is one way to address climate change, illustrating the party's fractured views on climate science. As some lawmakers search for a bipartisan agreement on clean energy, others see no reason for it. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, expressed confidence yesterday that the promise of increasing America's energy independence at a time of high gas prices could drive the bickering Congress to cooperate on an electric car bill he introduced with Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat. But Alexander also embraced climate change as a man-made problem that the government has a responsibility to correct. That counters a host of statements by Republicans who expressed skepticism, or denial, about the impacts of society's emissions while campaigning last year. "My view on climate change is of course it's occurring. Anyone can see that," Alexander said at an event hosted by National Journal yesterday. "The big argument is what you do about it. ... I think what you do about it is take steps."

Scientists Respond To Wall Street Journal's "Woefully Ignorant" Use Of Snowpack Research. An post from Media Matters: "In a column equating those concerned about climate change with members of a "doomsday cult," the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto quoted the following two headlines in an apparent effort to bolster his claim that global warming is not "real science":
  • "Decline in Snowpack Blamed on Warming"--headline, Washington Post, Feb. 1, 2008
  • "Record Snowpacks Could Threaten Western States"--headline, New York Times, May 22, 2011
Taranto suggests that this year's record snowpacks in western states undermine previous research indicating that global warming is pushing down snowpack levels. But, as is oftenthecase with conservative media seeking to downplay the threat of climate change, Taranto relies on the misconception that short-term data can invalidate a long-term trend. The first article he references, from the Washington Post in February 2008, reports on a study which concluded that a significant portion of the decline in snowpack in the western U.S. between 1950 and 1999 was a result of human-induced climate changes. According to the authors of that study, Taranto is making a fundamental mistake in suggesting that this year's snowpack levels contradict their findings. Tim Barnett, research marine physicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said Taranto is comparing "apples and oranges" and that "the difference between year to year changes in the weather and long term changes in climate are not really comparable." Barnett's co-author David Pierce similarly explained that "confusing the year-to-year up and downs with the long-term decline is a fairly common mistake that people make" and "shows a sad ignorance of climate science." He added: "We can have both natural fluctuations such as El Nino and La Nina, which cycle back and forth over the years, and slow, long-term warming due to human effects on climate. Having humans affect the climate doesn't suddenly stop the effect of natural fluctuations such as La Nina."

When Chicago Turns As Hot As Baton Rouge. Here's an editorial in the New York Times that caught my eye: "Re “A City Prepares for a Warm Long-Term Forecast” (“Changes in the Air” series, front page, May 23):

"If Chicago must prepare itself for having the climate of present-day Baton Rouge by 2100, one can only wonder what Baton Rouge is in for. 

If global climate change proceeds as most mainstream climate scientists are now projecting, Baton Rouge, along with New Orleans and many other Gulf Coast cities, may actually become, if not uninhabitable, then barely habitable, hammered by heat, humidity and hurricanes to a degree unknown in their prior history. 

The measures necessary to keep New Orleans alone from simply disappearing beneath the waves will be stunningly expensive, even assuming they work. 

That’s why, although it makes sense to prepare for hot times in the old town tomorrow, it makes even more sense to get cracking immediately on efforts aimed at limiting climate change. (Forget about avoiding it altogether; that ship has sailed.) 

Battening down the hatches against the coming climate storm without acting now and forcefully to temper its fury is a policy of resignation. And if the attitude takes hold that nothing can be done to prevent the changes forecast to occur over the next century, the only winners will be those whose short-term interests are served by doing nothing and who refuse to worry about the long term because when it arrives they’ll be dead anyway. 

The rest of us, and our descendants, will end up footing the bill."

Staten Island, May 23, 2011

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