Thursday, June 9, 2011

Slow, Soggy Start (getting better over the weekend)

Weekend Preview:

Saturday: More clouds than sun, cool northwest wind at 8-13, rising barometer. Highs: 61-66
Sunday: More sun, southeast breeze at 10-15, slowly falling barometer. Highs: 68-73

.64" rain predicted early today at St. Cloud (NAM model).
Sprinkles possible Saturday, especially east of St. Cloud
T-stormspossible by Tuesday/Wednesday of next week as high temperatures climb to near 80.

Dry Weekend. We're waking up to big puddles, but skies should dry out later today, a mostly-dry sky expected this weekend (although clouds may leak a few stray sprinkles Saturday). Dry weather should be the rule from Saturday into Tuesday morning, followed by an increasing chance of a few T-storms by the middle of next week.

Saturday: "Dirty High". The latest WRF model is suggesting that rising pressures on Saturday may not result in a rapid clearing. Low-level moisture may be trapped in the lowest few thousand feet of the atmosphere, meaning stratocumulus clouds, even a stray renegade spriinkle or two. I suspect the sun will be peeking through by afternoon, especially over northern and central Minnesota.

Minnesota Twins Are Now "Stormready". It's one of my biggest nightmares (right up there with a cross-country trip with Anthony Weiner or Snooki showing up on Jeapardy - how do you protect 30,000 Twins fans if a tornado is tracking toward Target Field? It's a non-trivial problem, moving that many people (quickly and efficiently) to shelters. Kudo to the Twins and Target Field for drafting a viable plan to keep fans, players, staff and vendors safe during severe weather. More details about the Stormready plan from the local National Weather Service: "Stormready is a National Weather Service program through which counties and communities develop plans to protect residents from severe weather.  This includes informing residents of the threats, promoting readiness through community outreach and education, developing a hazardous weather plan that includes weather spotter training and emergency exercises, having multiple ways to receive and distribute warnings, and having a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center. Businesses, schools, and other entities are encouraged to embrace the goals of the StormReady program by adopting and promoting principles and guidelines of severe weather safety and awareness plans, and becoming a supporter of the StormReady program.  The Minnesota Twins had to fulfill specific recommendations of the National Weather Service and the local StormReady Board.  Upon doing so, the Minnesota Twins and Target Field were recognized today as the first StormReady Supporter in Minnesota, as well as the first StormReady Supporter in the American League."

Take The Survey. I'm biased, but I've been working with these men and women for the better part of 27 years now. We are blessed with an extraordinary local National Weather Service office. I've lived in other cities where I couldn't make that claim. If you're happy with the services you're receiving from the local Chanhassen office of the National Weather Service, their web site, NOAA Weather Radio, mobile products - take a few minutes and complete this survey. I don't take this level of service for granted - neither should you.

Killer Heat Wave Moves To Northeast, Midatlantic. ABC News has the latest details on suffocating levels of heat & humidity spreading into the eastern seaboard - and why this may be a sign of summers to come: "As fires ravage Arizona and sweltering heat settles into many areas across the country, a new study published in the journal Climate Change today by Stanford scientists finds that large areas of the globe will warm up so quickly that even the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest summers of the past 50 years. The pre-summer heat wave moved into the Northeast today, triggering heat advisories and warnings in cities from New York to Washington. It was nearly 100 degrees in New Jersey and Karl Sottung and his construction crew are paid to sweat it out, but this spring has been brutal. "If you are going to get a heat spell where you are gonna have this 95- to 100-degree day, day in and day out, it definitely starts taking a toll on the men," he told ABC News today. Several deaths have been reported and the National Weather Service warned that the heat wave would bring temperatures in the 90s and triple digits with high humidity to the East Coast and Southeast for several days."

Experts: Missouri River To Flood Until September. A four-month flood? KCCI-TV in Des Moines has the details: "Hamburg, Iowa. Hundreds of people leaving flood-threatened homes on the rising Missouri River may not be able to return before late summer.The river is set to reach peak flows within days but won't get back to normal until September as officials manage swollen reservoirs.Hamburg officials are skeptical two levees protecting their town will withstand the onslaught and have ordered half the town to evacuate. They warn any water that surges into Hamburg will be there to stay.The timeline has even veteran river-town residents resigned."

Aftermath. Joplin damage photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Hurricane Adrian. Adrian is now a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 120 mph. The majority of the models keep Adrian out at sea; one model brings the storm precariously close to Cabo San Lucas within 3 days, but odds favor the hurricane will remain out at sea. With light winds aloft (very little "shear") conditions are ripe for further strengthening. Graphic courtesy of Ham Weather.

Enhanced Infrared Satellite Loop Of Hurricane Adrian. Click here for the latest loop, showing a clearly-defined "eye".

Lightning Hits Mississippi Military Base, 77 To Hospital. AP has the latest on a cloud-to-ground lightning strike that took a heavy toll at Camp Shelby, Mississippi: "CAMP SHELBY, Miss. (AP) — Two Air Force Reserve cadets were taken to a hospital by ambulance and 75 others by bus after a lightning strike Wednesday at a southern Mississippi military training base, a spokeswoman said. Air Force Reserve cadets from around the country were at the Joint Forces Training Center for two weeks of work, said Army National Guard Maj. Deidre Musgrave. All were responsive and stable after the lightning hit about 2 p.m., she said. Forrest County emergency operations director Terry Steed told a National Weather Service forecaster that nobody was directly hit when lightning hit a power pole near tents. All were taken to hospitals as a precaution, said Mike Edmonston, a senior meteorologist in Jackson."

Chile: 100 Homes Damaged In Resort By Hurricane-Force Winds And Hail: The AP has more details: "ANTIAGO, Chile — An unusual storm bringing hurricane-force winds, heavy rain and hail has damaged more than 100 homes in a Chilean lake resort. Emergency officials were already dealing with a volcanic eruption in the region. Winds blew at nearly 125 mph (200 kph), the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane, ripping off roofs in Villarrica in southern Chile. Several people were injured. Chile's meteorology centre said Tuesday's storm was a strange had some "characteristics of a tornado."

In Historic Flooding On Mississippi River, A Missed Opportunity To Rebuild Louisiana. Huffington Post has the story: "PLAQUEMINES PARISH, La. -- For decades, a mixture of industrial development and erosion has carved away at southern Louisiana, eliminating nearly 2,000 square miles of land and making the area increasingly vulnerable to storms that sweep in from the Gulf of Mexico. Every day the Mississippi River delivers the raw materials required to replenish this lost territory: mud and sand that drop at the mouth of the waterway and would amass there, were nature allowed to run its course. But nature has proven no match for the century-long federal governance of the Mississippi as a vital marine highway: Five enormous ships operated by the federal government dredge the sediment collecting at the mouth of the river daily, then carry much of it into open waters offshore and dump it there, sending it into oblivion. This year’s historic flooding along the Mississippi River resonated as a threat to low-lying communities, sending families scrambling to preserve homes and property. But it was also a missed opportunity on an epic scale, say conservationists: The heavy rains that swelled the Mississippi loaded it with a massive supply of natural building materials that could have buttressed the Gulf Coast land. Instead, levees built to tame the river directed this sediment down to the mouth, where the federal ships are hauling it away."

Japanese Told To Beat The Heat With Hawaiian Shirts. Well, that's one way to do it. Sounds like a Fashion Nightmare, but when it's this hot you do whatever you have to do to keep your cool, right? NPR has the story: "At Japan's Environment Ministry, the atmosphere is almost preppy; it's full of fresh-faced young people in polo shirts, Crocs and even the odd Hawaiian shirt. This is the birthplace of Super Cool Biz, an energy-saving dress code designed to help ease power shortages following Japan's nuclear crisis, which could just lead to a revolution in Japanese office wear. Elsewhere in the building, only half of the elevators are working. The corridors are murkily dark, with overhead lights switched off to save electricity. The air conditioning is off and the windows are open — both unusual in Japanese offices. Japan is struggling with power shortages following the nuclear crisis that has crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant and led to another nuclear plant also being closed down. To save electricity, several measures are being put in place, including making government employees in Tokyo start work an hour earlier."

A Federal Study Finds That Local Reporting Has Waned. The New York Times has the latest on a worrying trend: as more people get their news and information on-line (which has a much weaker advertising base than traditional print newspaper/magazine reporting) the result has been fewer resources to cover local news - that has profound implications for our ability to get the news we need to make informed decisions: "An explosion of online news sources in recent years has not produced a corresponding increase in reporting, particularly quality local reporting, a federal study of the media has found. Coverage of state governments and municipalities has receded at such an alarming pace that it has left government with more power than ever to set the agenda and have assertions unchallenged, concluded the study, which is to be released on Thursday. “In many communities, we now face a shortage of local, professional, accountability reporting,” said the study, which was ordered by the Federal Communications Commission and written by Steven Waldman, a former journalist for Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report. “The independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned for journalism — going so far as to call it crucial to a healthy democracy — is in some cases at risk at the local level.”

10 Reasons Why China Is Different. Project Syndicate takes a close look at the rise of China and implications for U.S. policy: "NEW HAVEN – The China doubters are back in force. They seem to come in waves – every few years, or so. Yet, year in and year out, China has defied the naysayers and stayed the course, perpetuating the most spectacular development miracle of modern times. That seems likely to continue. Today’s feverish hand-wringing reflects a confluence of worries – especially concerns about inflation, excess investment, soaring wages, and bad bank loans. Prominent academics warn that China could fall victim to the dreaded “middle-income trap,” which has derailed many a developing nation. There is a kernel of truth to many of the concerns cited above, especially with respect to the current inflation problem. But they stem largely from misplaced generalizations. Here are ten reasons why it doesn’t pay to diagnose the Chinese economy by drawing inferences from the experiences of others:

Strategy. Since 1953, China has framed its macro objectives in the context of five-year plans, with clearly defined targets and policy initiatives designed to hit those targets. The recently enacted 12th Five-Year Plan could well be a strategic turning point – ushering in a shift from the highly successful producer model of the past 30 years to a flourishing consumer society.

Commitment. Seared by memories of turmoil, reinforced by the Cultural Revolution of the 1970’s, China’s leadership places the highest priority on stability. Such a commitment served China extremely well in avoiding collateral damage from the crisis of 2008-2009. It stands to play an equally important role in driving the fight against inflation, asset bubbles, and deteriorating loan quality."

Cool & Gray. Thursday highs were at least 10 degrees cooler than average, under a (rare) overcast sky - unusual for June. Highs ranged from 56 at Duluth to 64 at St. Cloud, 68 in the Twin Cities. A trace of rain was reported at Duluth and Redwood Falls.


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

TODAY: Showers taper, unusually cool. Winds: NE 10-15. High: 57

FRIDAY NIGHT: Lingering clouds, still cool and damp. Low: 48

SATURDAY: More clouds than sun - feels like early May. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 62

SUNDAY: Better. More sunshine - still a few degrees cooler than average. Winds: SE 8-13. Low: 49. High: 71 (mid 60s to near 70 on northern lakes).

MONDAY: Sunny start, clouds increase late in the day. Low: 55. High: 73

TUESDAY : Few showers, thunder? Low: 57. High: 74

WEDNESDAY: Unsettled, another T-storm. Low: 60. High: 76

THURSDAY: Warm & humid, spotty T-storms - feels like summer again. Low: 62. High: 78

June Jackets

My memory isn't what it used to be, but honestly, I can't remember a year like 2011. La Nina may have had a big role in our 66.1" snow and reluctant spring. We did have spring, right? Not so sure. What I still can't wrap my brain around is the amount of energy in the system; the (crazy) north/south temperature contrasts. 30s over northern Minnesota, 100s a few hundred miles to our south. The weather map looks like something out of late April or early May - jet stream steering winds 4-7 miles aloft unusually strong for June. The core of the jet should be lifting into southern Canada, not snaking to our south over Iowa. Odd.

Welcome to a Whiplash June, 101 on a Tuesday in St. Cloud (103 in the Twin Cities), light jackets on a Friday. Light rain tapers off early today, setting the stage for a dry weekend. That's the good news. The bad news: only the brave & fool-hearty will be jumping into the lake this weekend. Saturday will feel like late April: 50s north, low 60s south, a mix of clouds and (ineffective) sunshine. Sunday looks better: low 70s on metro lakes, enough sun for a respectable sunburn.

No extreme heat in sight through next week - Mother Nature's way of apologizing for Tuesday's blast-furnace "heat storm"?

Global Warming As A Heat Wave "Enhancer". Jason Samenow, a meteorological contributor to the Washington Post's prolific "Capital Weather Gang" has an intriguing post about climate change "turbo-charging" heat waves, making them more intense than they would be otherwise, with no human, greenhouse gas contribution: "Any time it’s hot or hotter than average, the subject of global warming invariably arises. The usual question I hear is: Is this global warming (or climate change)? The answer I give is that global warming is not causing hot weather but almost certainly intensifying it. In other words, think of the greenhouse gases building up in the atmosphere from human activities as steroids. Just like steroids can help a baseball player hit a ball farther and hit more home runs in a season, greenhouse gases are performance enhancers when it comes to hot weather. These gases from fossil fuel combustion and other sources add a little heat to the atmosphere or “juice” it up - loading the dice to make hot weather and hot weather records more likely as long as they continue accumulating in the atmosphere. Extending the analogy, just like any single homerun can not solely be attributed to a baseball players’ steroid use since it ignores natural ability (and past performance prior to use of performance enhancers), a single hot day can’t be exclusively explained by global warming (as it ignores natural weather variability and past hot days/heat waves; see Andrew Freedman’s column which further explores this analogy). The graphic (above), produced by the NationalCenter for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), offers another way to think about the hot weather and climate warming link: the warming shifts our distribution of temperatures to the right toward more hot weather and hotter extremes, and decreases cold weather."

Graphic Credit Above: "A small shift in average temperatures can result in a significant number of record heat events (National Center for Atmospheric Research) "

Romney Draws Early Fire From Conservatives Over Views On Climate Change. The latest from the Washington Post: "It seemed like a straightforward question on a second-tier issue: Would Mitt Romney disavow the science behind global warming? The putative Republican presidential front-runner, eager to prove his conservative bona fides, could easily have said what he knew many in his party’s base wanted to hear.

Instead, the former Massachusetts governor stuck to the position he has held for many years — that he believes the world is getting warmer and that humans are contributing to that pattern. Romney’s answer to the question about climate change last Friday during his first town hall meeting since announcing his second presidential campaign allowed him to demonstrate what he hopes voters will see as a new and improved candidate — an authentic leader with core convictions. But the exchange in New Hampshire also served as a fresh indicator of Romney’s great quandary. He must shed the flip-flopper reputation that haunted his last presidential campaign while also appealing to conservative voters wary of his past support for near-universal health care, abortion rights, same-sex marriage and other positions befitting a politician elected in liberal Massachusetts."
Mitt Romney Being Attacked For Being "Reasonable" On Climate Change. Huffington Post has the story: "Last week, Mitt Romney rolled out his formal announcement about his presidential ambitions and was met with a torrent of criticism from fellow candidates, other non-candidates, outside groups, and failed Senate candidate Joe Miller, for some reason. For the most part, the internecine opposition has focused on the fact that Mitt Romney invented "Obamacare" in Massachusetts. But Romney's enjoying a break from all of that this week. Now everyone is mad at him for his position on climate change! And what is that position? Well, it's pretty prosaic: "I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that," he told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire. "It's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors."
Climate Change Issue Bothers "Believers" And "Pagans" Alike. Here's an excerpt of a worthy read from the Sydney Morning Herald: "A few months ago, while browsing at a groovy music shop in Melbourne, the friend who was with me casually said, "You're a climate change believer, aren't you?" The question took me by surprise. After a pause, I replied, "No." I'm not a climate change sceptic. I don't doubt that climate change is real. But I haven't put my faith in climate change the way some people put their faith in God. Last week, the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change entered the public debate on climate change, proclaiming it to be a moral issue. What did it mean? The moral significance of climate change can be understood in different ways. If you see climate change as the new religion, which divides people into believers versus deniers, plus the great unwashed - or rather, the long-hot-shower-taking uncommitted - then the moral issue is one of politico-religious conversion. The righteous are called upon to bear witness to the shower lushes, and convert us before the deniers work their evil way into our hearts and minds. But it need not be a matter of political or religious allegiances. To define climate change as a moral issue is to see it as a question of shared responsibility for nothing less than the future of life on Earth. It addresses us all, as individuals and communities: local, national, global; scientific, political, economic; believers and pagans alike. It doesn't merely concern a collection of individuals or interest groups with beliefs that ricochet like billiard balls in a game without consequences."

Answering (Smart) Climate Skeptics. Here's an informative link from Stanford Magazine. What are the 5 most difficult questions asked by smart climate change skeptics at cocktail parties? And what are the best responses?
"Global Climate Models (GCMs) can't really be validated unless we wait around 100 years, so why should we trust them?

It's true that we can't really validate a GCM in the strictest sense, but why should we wait to act given the potentially dire consequences? In the meantime, we can do two things: 1) examine how well a GCM reproduces observed climate; 2) test each component of that model. GCMs do an excellent job at modeling the last 150 years of observed climate. We may have built the models to match the observations, however, so while encouraging, this doesn't guarantee their ability to predict future events. We can validate the GCM components that represent systems governed by physical (e.g. conservation of energy) or empirical relationships (e.g. how quickly rain forms in clouds). Climatologists validate individual components. For example, does cloud formation occur in the same way in the tropics as in the Arctic? (The answer is no.) Climatologists then make new measurements, develop refined relationships, and then refine the model. A GCM is therefore validated piece by piece.

If the Earth is really warming, why is the stratosphere cooling?

The stratosphere is indeed cooling, but it does so because of global warming, not in spite of it. Earth's lower atmosphere is divided into two layers, the troposphere—where we live—and the stratosphere above it, which can be reached by powerful jet planes (~32,000 feet). Observations of the stratosphere by weather balloons indicate a cooling trend. This cooling was predicted by global warming scientists. Here's how it works: Incoming solar energy is trapped in Earth's atmosphere. Some of that energy is radiated back into space. When CO2 increases in the troposphere it traps a greater amount of heat in this layer, lowering the amount of energy radiated outwards into, and adsorbed by, the layers above it. (Extra energy trapped by CO2 in the upper reaches of the stratosphere also radiates heat, much of which goes back out into space.) Since we are now trapping greater amounts of heat in the troposphere, there is more energy leaving the stratosphere than entering it, which causes stratospheric cooling. Stratospheric cooling, predicted and observed by climatologists, is thus evidence for, not against, global warming."

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