Sunday, September 1, 2013

Comfortable Labor Day (summer heat returns late week - are we entering a "flash drought"?)

Labor Day Flashback

Labor Day 2013, a chance to look back and remember the odd jobs I've had over the years. 

Delivering newspapers - on a minibike, making subs & pizzas, washing dishes at a Sheraton (worst job ever?), being told by McDonalds that I wasn't "management material". That hurt. Asking a kid in high school study hall if the AM radio station he worked at had their own on-air weatherman. Updating 11 FM stations from a payphone in my (noisy) college dorm. Standing outside, like a wayward postal carrier, pointing to a green screen, trying to make sense of the weather for a string of TV stations. Launching my own TV weather studios in 2008, only to participate in a new national weather channel two years ago. Didn't see that coming. In fact my meteorological career has been tougher to predict than the weather, taking some odd twists and turns, more pleasant surprises than unpleasant setbacks.

It's been a strange and wonderful ride with great friends along the way. No regrets.

Today will be a meteorological breath of fresh air: blue sky, dew points in the 40s - a preview of coming attractions. Enjoy what may be the best day at the fair, because summer isn't nearly done with us yet. Highs may reach or top 90F from Thursday into Saturday. That's on top of the 16 days of 90-plus highs since May. Average is 13. Last summer: 31 days at/above 90F.

More than half the state is in a moderate drought again; I don't see any rain until Sunday & Monday of next week.

In fact I'm seeing a warm, dry bias into much of September. Long range guidance shows 80s looking out 2-3 weeks.

Big Extremes. After waking up to 40s across much of central and northern Minnesota this morning, temperatures will be 40 degrees warmer by Wednesday afternoon as surface winds turn to the southwest. Maps above: Ham Weather.

Saturday Damage Reports. Winds gusted as high as 60-70 mph. over northern and western Minnesota, before the squall line weakened as it pushed into the Twin Cities after the dinner hour. Hail up to 2" in diameter was reported at Montevideo, at least one funnel cloud spotted northwest of Grand Forks. Interactive map above: Ham Weather.

A Chaotic Sky. WeatherNation TV meteorologist Bryan Karrick snapped this photo of undulatus asperatus near Cologne late Saturday as a weakening squall line was approaching the Twin Cities metro area.

Flash Drought: New Term Coined To Describe Summer's Strange Weather. I thought this article from captured the moisture (and temperature) whiplash we've experienced this summer: too much moisture early in the planting season, far too little by August, with huge swings in temperature accompanying these meteorological flip-flops. Here's an excerpt: "The region’s mood swing from cool, soggy spring to parched yet sweltering late summer has coined a new weather term: flash drought. The label reflects how quickly conditions have deteriorated in the region under the withering combination of weeks without rain coupled with extreme heat at a crucial time for maturing crops, said Todd Shea, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in La Crosse....This quick-onset drought also comes in a year in which crops that otherwise might have endured the dry spell already were delayed by, ironically, too much rain that pushed planting in some fields until mid- to late June. “It’s been a year that’s not been like any in recent memory,” Steve Huntzicker, in his eighth year as La Crosse County UW-Extension agricultural agent, said of the conditions...."

Photo credit: Chris Hardie. "A cornfield near Ettrick show signs of stress from the recent drought."

Midwest DrynessIntensifies; Plains Drought Sustained. Farm Futures has more on the sudden onset of moderate drought across much of the state: "Higher than normal temperatures coupled with minimal rainfall has kept the Midwest in a "flash drought" late in the summer season, the latest U.S. Drought Monitor reports, while rain the Plains continues to be minimal. Rapid onset of heat and diminishing soil moisture is taking a toll on Midwestern crops, however, regional waterways are not yet showing much impact. According to the USGS, approximately three-quarters of Midwestern stream flows are close to normal for this time of year, with most of the remainder registering as below-normal, the Drought Monitor reports. The dryness is in stark contrast to the wet spring many areas of the Midwest experienced; for example, Burlington, Iowa, this year had its wettest spring on record since 1898, with 19.23 inches of precipitation. Burlington is now on track to experience its driest summer on record since 1898, with only 3.86 inches of precipitation so far..."

A Week's Worth Of Records. Ham Weather interactive graphics show dozens of record afternoon highs and (warm) nighttime low temperature records in the last 7 days, even a few 24-hour rainfall records over northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Big Extremes For Late August. NOAA data shows the focus on record heat last week over the Midwest, with (fewer) record lows over the southern USA. Green dots are 24 hour rainfall records over the last 7 days. More details from Ham Weather:

Total Records: 1393
Rainfall: 245
High Temp: 244
Low Temp: 63
Low Max Temp: 84
High Min Temp: 757

Autumn or Summer? ECMWF guidance (above, courtesy of Weatherspark) shows some big swings over the next week; 40-degree dew points keeping us comfortable into Wednesday as temperatures slowly warm. I don't see a significant chance of rain until early next week, when dew points may clip 70F, meaning more than twice as much water in the air. Don't write summer (weather) off just yet.

60-Hour NAM. Here's the 4 km solution from the 12z Sunday run, showing heavy showers and T-storms spreading from the Ohio Valley into the Northeast and New England, a potential for showers near Yosemite (hopefully giving 5,000+ firefighters at the Rim Fire the upper hand in the coming days). Still quiet in the tropics, for now. Animation: Ham Weather.

BWCA Fire Declared 100% Contained. Here's a clip from a story at AP and KARE-11: "U.S. forestry officials say the last remaining wildfire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has been declared 100 percent contained. A Duluth News Tribune report says the 188-acre Knife Lake fire will be declared officially controlled once additional clean-up work is finished. Two firefighters remained on the scene Saturday for patrol work and clean-up. The fire was located near the South Arm of Knife Lake, northeast of Ely near the U.S.-Canadian border. The largest fire burned at least 15 to 20 acres. A Superior National Forest spokeswoman says heavy rains last week helped aid the containment efforts..."

Sierra Wildfire Now California's Fourth-Largest. Here's an update from "The wildfire burning in and around Yosemite National Park has become the fourth-largest conflagration in modern California history, fire officials said Sunday as clouds and higher humidity helped crews further contain the biggest blaze in the United States this year. The 2-week-old Rim Fire moved up a spot on the state's list of large wildfires dating back to 1932 when it grew to 348 square miles - an area larger than the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose combined - on Saturday, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said. Although the fire still is growing, it was 40 percent contained as of Sunday, up from 35 percent a day earlier..."

Photo credit above: "In this Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service, a member of the Bureau of Land Management Silver State Hotshot crew from Elko, Nevada, stands by a burn operation on the southern flank of the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park in California. The wildfire burning in and around Yosemite National Park has become the fourth-largest conflagration in California history." (AP Photo/U.S. Forest Service, Mike McMillan)

Possible Marijuana Link To Massive California Wildfire. Here's a new potential angle on how the fire got started that I hadn't seen before, an excerpt of a story at "Investigators probing the massive wildfire in Yosemite National Park are looking into whether an illegal marijuana farm may have triggered the blaze, US media reports said Saturday. As the vast wildfire continued to rage in the iconic Californian tourist destination, several reports quoted a local fire chief who suggested marijuana growers may be to blame. Todd McNeal, a fire chief in Twain Harte, one of the towns affected by the 219,000-acre (88,630 hectare) inferno, said investigators had not pinpointed the cause of the blaze. "We don't know the exact cause," McNeal was quoted as telling a community meeting. However, he added it was "highly suspect that there might have been some sort of illicit grove, a marijuana-grow-type thing." "We know it's human caused. There was no lightning in the area," he said..."

No Atlantic Hurricane By August In First Time In 11 Years. The probability of an average or above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic is dwindling with each passing day. Details from "August is about to end without an Atlantic hurricane for the first time since 2002, calling into question predictions of a more active storm season than normal. Six tropical systems have formed in the Atlantic since the season began June 1 and none of them has grown to hurricane strength with winds of at least 74 miles (120 kilometers) per hour. Accumulated cyclone energy in the Atlantic, a measure of tropical power, is about 30 percent of where it normally would be, said Phil Klotzbach, lead author of Colorado State University’s seasonal hurricane forecasts. “At this point, I doubt that a super-active hurricane season will happen,” Klotzbach said in an e-mail yesterday..."

Four Reasons You Shouldn't Exist. Yes, science is an important tool, but it only goes so far. For example, it has no answers for why (ultimately) we're here, reading articles questioning why we're here. Here's an excerpt of a head-scratching article from Slate: "You’re almost unfathomably lucky to exist, in almost every conceivable way. Don’t take it the wrong way. You, me, and even the most calming manatee are nothing but impurities in an otherwise beautifully simple universe. We're lucky life began on Earth at all, of course, and that something as complex as humans evolved. It was improbable that your parents met each other and conceived you at just the right instant, and their parents and their parents and so on back to time immemorial. This is science’s way of reminding you to be grateful for what you have. But even so, I have news for you: It's worse than you think. Much worse..."

Graphic credit above: "Amid perfect cosmic symmetry, there's us." Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer.

"Walking" Shark Discovered In Indonesia. Chalk Indonesia off the bucket list. Suddenly the "Land Shark" skits from SNL don't seem quite so funny - good grief. Here's a clip from Yahoo News: "A new species of shark that "walks" along the seabed using its fins as tiny legs has been discovered in eastern Indonesia, an environmental group said Friday. The brown and white bamboo shark pushes itself along the ocean floor as it forages for small fish and crustaceans at night, said Conservation International, whose scientists were involved in its discovery. The shark, which grows to a maximum length of just 80 centimetres (30 inches) and is harmless to humans, was discovered off Halmahera, one of the Maluku Islands that lie west of New Guinea...."

Photo credit above: "A tourist walks along a white sand beach in Doloda Island, North Maluku, Indonesia, on August 25, 2006. A new species of shark that "walks" along the seabed using its fins as tiny legs has been discovered in eastern Indonesia, an environmental group said Friday." (AFP Photo/Adek Berry).

70 F. high in St. Cloud Sunday.
76 F. average high on September 1.
85 F. high on September 1, 2012.
Whispers of Autumn. Yesterday was a crude reality check, a subtle (yet blunt) reminder that, as far as the atmosphere is concerned, it's already autumn. Meteorological Autumn, marking the end of what is historically the 90 warmest days of the year, is September 1. That wasn't hard to believe Sunday, with highs holding in the 60s from Alexandria to Brainerd to International Falls (62F). Saturday evening showers and T-storms dropped up to a third of an inch of rain on parts of northern Minnesota, with .36" reported at Redwood Falls, only .06" in the Twin Cities.

Severe Clear. Thanks to WeatherNation TV meteorologist Mace Michaels, for a photo of Split Rock Lighthouse on the North Shore.

LABOR DAY: Sunny. less wind. Winds: N 10. Dew point: 48. High: 73

MONDAY NIGHT: Clear and cool. Low: 45

TUESDAY: Sunny and warmer. High: near 80

WEDNESDAY: Plenty of sun, feels like summer again. Wake-up: 56. High: 84

THURSDAY: Blue sky, almost sticky. Dew point: 61. Wake-up: 60. High: 87

FRIDAY: Sunny - a hot afternoon. Wake-up: 61. High: near 90

SATURDAY: Sunnier, drier day of weekend. Nicer day for outdoor plans. Wake-up: 62. High: near 90

SUNDAY: Welcome showers & T-storms. Wake-up: 63. High: 76

Climate Stories...

Climate Change Deniers At War With Military Over Green Energy. Here's an excerpt of a story at "When Congress returns from vacation in a week and a half, the Senate will take up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the bill that sets the Department of Defense (DoD) budget — and defense-related budgets for other departments — and mandates how America’s military leaders use that funding. Last year, the fight over the NDAA got stuck on the Pentagon’s plans to make the military’s operations greener and more sustainable. Republicans in particular went after Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ plan for a “great green fleet” powered on alternative energy — a play on Theodore Roosevelt’s vision of a “great white fleet” that would circumnavigate the world and define the U.S. as a key international player. Mabus’ goal is for his forces to draw 50 percent of their energy from alternative sources by 2020..."

Photo credit above: "U.S. Navy officers and sailors stand at attention as U.S. Navy ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) berths at the Changi Naval Base on Thursday April 18, 2013 in Singapore." (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E).

Spread Of Global Crop Pests Threatens Global Food Security As World Warms. EurekAlert has the story - here's an excerpt : "A new study has revealed that global warming is resulting in the spread of crop pests towards the North and South Poles at a rate of nearly 3 km a year. The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change and carried out by researchers at the University of Exeter and the University of Oxford, shows a strong relationship between increased global temperatures over the past 50 years and expansion in the range of crop pests. Currently 10-16% of global crop production is lost to pests. Crop pests include fungi, bacteria, viruses, insects, nematodes, viroids and oomycetes. The diversity of crop pests continues to expand and new strains are continually evolving. Losses of major crops to fungi, and fungi-like microorganisms, amount to enough to feed nearly nine percent of today's global population. The study suggests that these figures will increase further if global temperatures continue to rise as predicted..." (File photo: Star Tribune).

Winding Up The Global Spring Of Planetary Catastrophe. In a nutshell, we don't know what we don't know. And nature rarely moves in a perfectly straight line. Tipping points? Unintended consequences that climate models can't possibly see in advance? We're in uncharted waters with Earth's climate system, odds are pretty good things will pop up that we hadn't expected. Here's a clip from Huffington Post: "I was always taught that if you don't know how something works, you shouldn't mess with it. The Earth's climate represents a wonderfully complex dynamical system that we do not fully understand. Some components are in a delicate balance. As we continue to shift that balance by disrupting our atmosphere's cooling capacity, there is no telling what will happen...One of the most ominous aspects of global warming is the apparent "plateau" in global mean surface temperature. We know from basic physics and from observations that more energy is entering the earth's atmosphere than is escaping to space. All that heat is being stored. We don't know exactly where, or what effects it will have. It's as if we are winding up a giant spring that us pushing back and giving the appearance of stability that cannot be real. There is some evidence that the gigantic spring is the Pacific Ocean. Eventually, something is going to give..."

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