Sunday, May 7, 2017

Good Weather News for Central Minnesota but Historic Flooding Arkansas/Missouri to Montreal

66 F. maximum temperature in St. Cloud on Sunday.
66 F. average high on May 7.
69 F. St. Cloud high on May 7, 2016.

May 8, 1924: A snowstorm brings up to 4 inches to parts of Minnesota. Minneapolis sees a half inch of snow with St. Paul picking up an inch. Up to 50 mph winds accompany the snow.

When It Comes to Weather Everyone's a Critic

"To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing" said Aristotle. If I say the sky is blue a dozen people will disagree with me. Including my wife.

"You said the sun would be out!" my bride of 33 years muttered yesterday morning. "I thought it would be warmer, too!" Patience, butterfly.

We give the weather forecast as if it's a snapshot in time, when in fact weather is a movie, a collection of snapshots. Weather in Minnesota is rarely static, in fact it's theoretically possible to squeeze all 4 seasons into one day.

Our weather looks fairly quiet and benign the next couple of weeks, some of the nicer weather floating above the USA. A persistent blocking pattern favors big, wet, sloppy storms for both coasts, with lukewarm high pressure sandwiched in-between over the central USA. A few showers may blossom later today, even a clap of thunder - another round of showers possible late Wednesday.

Otherwise the pattern favors mostly-dry weather with highs warming into the 70s next weekend.
Sticky 80s with strong T-storms arriving a week from today? Summer is coming, slowly but surely.

Animation above: NOAA's NAM model shows windswept rain and snow continuing to plague New England, while strong to severe T-storms sprout over Colorado's Front Range by afternoon. Meanwhile southern California experiences near-record chill with a cold rain and snow for higher elevation.

Wild Extremes. Many residents of the Great Lakes and even the Ohio Valley are waking up to a frost or freeze this morning; rivers still out of their banks across much of the Mississippi River Valley from recent rains. Meanwhile out west southern California is getting roughed up with flooding rains, mountain snows and rough surf. Typical for January, not May. Map credit: Aeris AMP.

Slight Severe Risk Front Range Later Today. NOAA SPC is highlighting an area to watch, including Denver and Colorado Springs, for large hail and even a few isolated tornadoes later today.

Make It Stop. The last thing people living in Missouri and Arkansas want to hear is more rain in the forecast, but a series of slow-moving storms pushing across the central USA may add insult to injury with some 1-3" rains in the coming week. Map: NOAA.

Mellow May. No more harsh temperature relapses or flakes in sight, nothing like 1 week ago today. Expect 60s into next weekend with a string of 70s next week as we ease into summer this year. Imagine that. MSP numbers: WeatherBell.

2 Week Guess-Cast. GFS guidance nearly 2 weeks out shows a relatively warm pattern for the eastern half of the USA and the west coast; a showery trough of low pressure over the Intermountain West and Rockies. Summer heat kicks in a little early from the Mid South into the Southeast as we sail into mid-May.

Montreal Declares State of Emergency Due to Flooding. Bad things happen when weather stalls. The same cut-off low that has swamped much of New England is hammering eastern Canada as well. Here's an excerpt from CityNews: "Thousands of Canadians across the country are spending the weekend in a desperate struggle with rising floodwaters caused by unusually persistent rainfall. On Sunday, Montreal became the latest city in Quebec to declare a state of emergency after three dikes gave way in the Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough, in the north end of the city by the Rivieres des Prairies. Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said homes have been evacuated in that borough as well as on two nearby islands. He said officials were prepared to remove people from their homes if they refused to evacuate. “I understand that morally or psychologically, physically, mentally, people are very, very tired. We’re talking 24 hours in a row of people helping each other,” Coderre told reporters. “But sometimes we need to protect people from themselves...”

Photo credit: "Members of the Canadian army walk along a flooded street in the Montreal borough of Pierrefonds, Sunday, May 7, 2017, following flooding in the region." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Some 400 Soldiers Help with Quebec Floods. A cut-off low, a stalled system dragging Atlantic moisture inland day after day has produced extensive flooding unusually far north. Here's an excerpt from CTV News: "More than 400 soldiers headed to various regions of Quebec on Saturday to help cope with the heavy flooding caused by unrelenting rain in Central and Eastern Canada in recent days. The Canadian Forces personnel were deployed to western and central Quebec and in and around the Montreal area as water levels continued to threaten hundreds of residences. "People are tired psychologically and municipal authorities are running on empty in terms of resources," said Eric Houde, director general of Quebec's civil security services..."

Photo credit: "A resident walks through the flooded streets in the Ile-Mercier district of Ile-Bizard, Que. Friday, May 5,2017." (Ryan Remiorz / THE CANADIAN PRESS).

Floods May Be 2017's 6th Billion Dollar Disaster. No, it's not your imagination - we're seeing more weather and climate disasters over time. Here's an excerpt from "...Because of this, flood damages are far from over, and communities up and down the Mississippi could see minor to major flooding in the coming weeks as the excess water works its way to the Gulf of Mexico. All of these damages will continue to add up, and once the tallies are in, they'll likely easily surpass the billion dollar mark, bringing the year's total to six — all before hurricane season. This year is off to a quick start for the number of billion dollar weather disasters, similar to 2016 and 2011, which each had 15 and 16 disasters, respectively. The average number of billion dollar weather disasters in the last five years is 10.6 events. Since records began in 1980, that average number is only 5.5 events..."

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sees Flood Damage, Estimates 940,000 Acres Destroyed. Here's an excerpt from "U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in Arkansas Sunday on a tour of the major flooding in the northeast. Secretary Perdue, along with Governor Asa Hutchinson, and members of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation took in the devastation from the air. Seeing several farms under water from the floods last week. Farmers like Scott Brady said it's going to be a rough year. "As of today, we've got about 4200 acres of rice planted, and I'm estimating 3500 is under water," said Brady. Randy Veach, President of the Arkansas Farm Bureau said this is a disaster..."

Mississippi River Mayors Seek Flood Mitigation Solutions. A story at KMOX Radio in St. Louis had statistics that made me do a double-take: "...Wellenkamp said since 2011 there’s been $50 billion worth of natural disaster impact along the Mississippi, “Within that 50-billion you’ve got a 100-year flood, a 200-year flood, a 500-year flood, a 50-year drought, and two hurricanes.” Wellenkamp said his Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative continues to work with the federal government to find ways of minimizing flood impact. He said the American taxpayer gets five dollars back for every dollar spent on disaster mitigation for flooding..."

Dozens of Missouri Flood Detection Gauges to Deactivate After State Budget Cuts. Well this makes perfect sense - a story courtesy of KSHB-TV in Kansas City: "At a time when flooding is a major problem for parts of Missouri, state lawmakers have cut funding for a program that helps monitor flood levels throughout the state. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, about 20 percent of Missouri stream gauges will go offline by the end of June. The gauges are used by state and federal agencies, like the National Weather Service, to help monitor floodwaters and collect water data..." (Map credit: NOAA).

From Too Much Water To Not Enough Water. While flooding continues from New England into eastern Canada fires continue to rage across Florida, experiencing unusually dry conditions for early May.

Tornado Warning Time Could Be Improved by Drones. Is this the next big breakthrough in tornado detection/confirmation/tracking? Here's an excerpt from in Tulsa, Oklahoma: "...Thirteen minutes. That is the average time between the detection of a tornado forming to when it touches down, leaving people in its path scrambling to find a safe place. This countdown was a reality for parts of the Midwest and south earlier last week as severe storms and tornados battered the areas leaving at least 14 people dead.  Unlike other weather systems, tornados form quickly, are hard to predict and even harder to track. Jamey Jacob and his team from Oklahoma State University are working on a set of drones designed to fly into and analyze severe weather systems. "Meteorologists are very good at predicting when and where the storm is going to develop but not so good at determining when a storm is going to form a tornado at a particular place or at a particular time," Jacob said..."

Housing Quality Plays Role in Tornado Risk. Is it demographics or climate change or a mixture of the two? Here's an excerpt from Realtor Magazine: "...It’s the rising number of mobile homes that has researchers concerned as the threats from tornadoes grow. There are about 9 million mobile homes in the U.S. and an average of about 1,200 tornadoes per year, the most of any country. “If the climatologists are right about the continuing effects of climate change, then people living in mobile homes could be particularly vulnerable to tornadoes in years to come,” says Mark Skidmore, coauthor of the study and an MSU economics professor. In studying tornado fatalities in the U.S. from 1980 to 2014, researchers found that 2,447 tornado-related deaths occurred. The bulk of the deaths occurred in the region of the Midwest and Southeast labeled “tornado alley.” Texas has the most tornadoes annually at 150, followed by Kansas at 80, Oklahoma at 64, and Florida at 61. Florida has the most mobile homes in the nation at 849,304, followed by Texas at 731,652..." (File image: NOAA).

Cheapest Life Insurance You Can Buy. Time to go on my annual rant, reminding you to invest a whopping $20-40 on a NOAA Weather Radio, if you haven't already done so. Media, apps, sirens are all great, but this is probably the only device that will wake you up at 3 AM if a tornado is heading toward your neighborhood. Get a battery-operated radio, in case power goes out, and make sure it has "SAME" technology, so you can program in your county (and not be needlessly warned for nearby counties). They are worth every penny. Here are a few options available on Amazon.

As Environmental Battles Shift to States, Renewable Energy Adoption Could Come Down To Economics. Here's an excerpt from TechCrunch: "...Many of these are built in as best practices almost independent of regulatory requirements,” said Muro. “Much of the cleantech, advanced-economy-focused companies already embraced these practices as relentlessly trying to drive carbon and pollution out of their supply chains. They see it as a broader consumer appeal and are moving ahead irregardless of the immediate regulatory scrimmaging at the moment.” Wall street banks and big insurance companies are also pushing policies that encourage businesses to take their climate responses into account. The insurance industry is beginning to see losses rise from climate related events, and they’d like to encourage customers to do more to address those impacts. Meanwhile investment funds are beginning to drop fossil fuel stocks. A December report in the New York Times indicated that many big investors smell trouble in their traditional energy portfolios for a number of reasons..."

As Coal Jobs Decline, Solar Sector Shines. Why can't underemployed coal miners easily switch to solar? A story at NPR brought up some of the challenges involved: "...It's tempting to ask: Can't laid-off miners just switch to solar? "Well, certainly it's a possibility, but there are a couple major challenges," says Rob Godby, an energy economist at the University of Wyoming. One of those is simple: location. "When you are thinking about coal mining in Appalachia," he says, "often times there are generations of families in those regions, and it's just very difficult to pick up and move." The other big hurdle is pay. If coal miners average about $35 an hour, for renewables it's more like $20 or $25. "That doesn't mean you couldn't raise a family on that," Godby says. "But you're a lot closer to the average income in a lot of states in the solar industry than you are in mining industries..."

Photo credit: "A work crew for the Pittsburgh company Energy Independent Solutions installs solar panels at a community building in Millvale, Pa." Reid Frazier/The Allegheny Front.

Bosses Believe Your Work Skills Will Soon Be Useless. Prepare for a career of lifelong learning and retraining - that won't be optional. Here's a clip from The Washington Post: "Nearly a third of business leaders and technology analysts express “no confidence” that education and job training in the United States will evolve rapidly enough to match the next decade’s labor market demands, a new report from the Pew Research Center finds. About 30 percent of the executives, hiring managers, college professors and automation researchers who responded to the Pew survey felt future prospects looked bleak, anticipating that firms would encounter more trouble finding workers with their desired skill sets over the next decade. “Barring a neuroscience advance that enables us to embed knowledge and skills directly into brain tissue and muscle formation, there will be no quantum leap in our ability to ‘up-skill’ people,” wrote Andrew Walls, managing vice president at Gartner, an IT consulting firm..."

Linear Thinking in a Nonlinear World. Harvard Business Review explains why we all need to think different (thank you Steve Jobs). Here's an excerpt: "...If you’re still having trouble grasping this, it’s not your fault. Decades of research in cognitive psychology show that the human mind struggles to understand nonlinear relationships. Our brain wants to make simple straight lines. In many situations, that kind of thinking serves us well: If you can store 50 books on a shelf, you can store 100 books if you add another shelf, and 150 books if you add yet another. Similarly, if the price of coffee is $2, you can buy five coffees with $10, 10 coffees with $20, and 15 coffees with $30. But in business there are many highly nonlinear relationships, and we need to recognize when they’re in play. This is true for generalists and specialists alike, because even experts who are aware of nonlinearity in their fields can fail to take it into account and default instead to relying on their gut. But when people do that, they often end up making poor decisions..."

The AI Cargo Cult. Maybe we shouldn't fear artificial intelligence? The odds of a Terminator-type take-over of the human race by super-smart computers is small, argues the author at "...Artificial minds already exceed humans in certain dimensions. Your calculator is a genius in math; Google’s memory is already beyond our own in a certain dimension. We are engineering AIs to excel in specific modes. Some of these modes are things we can do, but they can do better, such as probability or math. Others are type of thinking we can’t do at all — memorize every single word on six billion web pages, a feat any search engine can do. In the future, we will invent whole new modes of cognition that don’t exist in us and don’t exist anywhere in biology. When we invented artificial flying we were inspired by biological modes of flying, primarily flapping wings. But the flying we invented — propellers bolted to a wide fixed wing — was a new mode of flying unknown in our biological world. It is alien flying. Similarly, we will invent whole new modes of thinking that do not exist in nature. In many cases they will be new, narrow, “small,” specific modes for specific jobs — perhaps a type of reasoning only useful in statistics and probability..."

Illustration credit: Michael Paul Young / YouWorkForThem.
The annual impact of tornadoes is expected to increase threefold over the next few decades due to the "twin forces of increased climate variability and growth in the human-built environment," according to the study, which is published online in the journal Regional Science and Urban Economics.
"If the climatologists are right about the continuing effects of climate change," said Mark Skidmore, MSU economics professor and co-author of the study, "then people living in mobile homes could be particularly vulnerable to tornadoes in the years to come."
The researchers investigated underlying factors of tornado fatalities in the U.S. from 1980 to 2014. There were 2,447 tornado-related deaths during that period; the bulk occurred in the "tornado alley" region of the Midwest and Southeast.

Read more at:

Making It Big. Mamma, don't let your kids grow up to be musicians. What are the odds of a specific band hitting the "big time"? Not good, if you're to believe research compiled in an effective infographic at The Pudding: "...But only 21 out of the 7,000 bands reached Sylvan Esso’s level of “making it”: headlining a show of over 3,000 capacity. Any act that headlines a venue of this size has reached a level of success that they could have barely dreamed of (with the possible exception of Kanye West). The following list shows some of the 21 bands who made it, and when and where they hit it big..."

Fogbow. From rainbows to fogbow, this photo taken at the National Weather Service in Duluth courtesy of Donna Maxie.

TODAY: Windy with increasing clouds. PM showers, even a T-shower. Winds: SE 15-25. High: 67

MONDAY NIGHT: Few lingering showers. Low: 52

TUESDAY: More clouds than sun, mild. Winds: N 7-12. High: 69

WEDNESDAY: Unsettled, chance of showers. Winds: E 7-12. Wake-up: 50. High: 64

THURSDAY: Partly sunny and pleasant again. Winds: E 7-12. Wake-up: 47. High: near 70

FRIDAY: Lot's of lukewarm sun. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 49. High: 74

SATURDAY: Warm sun, potentially irresistible. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 50. High: 77

SUNDAY: Windier, more humid. Taste of summer. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 55. High: near 80

Climate Stories...
These Christians Are On a Climate Mission, And Winning Converts. NRDC takes a look at a faith-based approach to framing the climate change threat/opportunity: "...In truth, support for climate action among evangelical faith leaders isn’t a new thing. The Evangelical Climate Initiative, which currently represents more than 300 of these leaders, has been sounding the trumpet on climate change for more than a decade. But the message hasn’t always caught on among parishioners, many of whom may feel uncomfortable endorsing a position they perceive as “liberal” or “progressive.” What feels different about this moment in time is that groups like the Micah Challenge, aided by expert climate communicators like the scientist Katharine Hayhoe, finally seem to have broken through to the next generation. This generation has grown up not just reading and studying about the effects of climate change but actually living through them. Millennials don’t pay too much attention to the ravings of misguided senators or to dubious reports put out by pro-pollution think tanks. But they do listen to the words of their favorite bloggers, authors, and singer/songwriters..."

Rep. Foster, Tom Skilling: Denying Climate Change Like Denying Smoking Dangers. Daily Herald has the story; here's a clip that got my attention: "...Skilling said the most recent example of climate change is the rampant flooding throughout the Midwest. Increased pockets of violent storms and tornadoes are also key indicators of warming causing increasing amounts of trapped moisture. He also showed time-lapse videos of melting glaciers around the world. "People say that the climate has always changed," Skilling said. "The changes happening now are happening at a rate 10 times faster than anything in the past." Foster built off Skilling's cigarette analogy to explain why Congress has not fully embraced human responsibility for climate change. "With cigarette smoking, it took decades for our government to respond because there was more on one side of the debate," Foster said. "That generates fake science and money to bribe politicians into not taking action. As a result, tens of thousands of people died needlessly..."

Why Canada Secretly Loves Climate Change. Not sure "love" is the right word, but there's little doubt that our neighbors to the north will benefit more than most countries. Here's a clip from Business Insider: "...Pleasant weather is just the retail end of Canada’s climate change perks. An assessment from our federal government lists the many “opportunities” climate change will present to Canadian agriculture:
“ expansion of the growing season to go along with milder and shorter winters. This could increase productivity and allow the use of new and potentially more profitable crops....These warmer temperatures would also benefit livestock production in the form of lower feed requirements, increased survival rates of the young and lower energy costs. Climate change could improve soil quality.”
However, the biggest boon to Canada as the world approaches permanent catastrophe is our wealth in natural resources: specifically, fossil fuels and freshwater. According to UCLA geographer Laurence C. Smith, climate change could turn Canada into a “global superpower” by 2050..."

Al Gore Calls Media Coverage of Climate Change a "Nature Hike Through the Book of Revelation". Here's an excerpt from the Hollywood Reporter: "Every night on the news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation," Al Gore said Saturday night when asked his opinion of how the news media reports on climate change. "And I'll wait for the newscasters to connect the dots," he continued, adding that they rarely do. Gore spoke about the state of the news media and its effect on the conversation surrounding global climate change at a Q&A before an advance screening of his his latest documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, held at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. At the Fandango-sponsored event, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt moderated the conversation with the former vice president of the United States, asking about "fake news" and its place in the denialist narrative about climate change..."

Image credit: Participant Media.

Extreme Weather Flooding the Midwest Looks a Lot Like Climate Change. Warmer air holds more water vapor. Full stop. Here's an explainer at InsideClimate News: "...Parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Arkansas and Louisiana received 10 to 15 inches of rain in the past seven days, according to the National Weather Service, resulting in record crests of numerous rivers across the central United States. Extreme storms like these have become more common as global temperatures have risen and the oceans have warmed. Some have the clear fingerprints of man-made climate change. "Of course there is a climate change connection, because the oceans and sea surface temperatures are higher now because of climate change, and in general that adds 5 to 10 percent to the precipitation," Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said. "There have been many so-called 500-year floods along the Mississippi about every five to 10 years since 1993..."

There Are Diseases Hidden in the Ice, And They Are Waking Up. Kind of makes me want to watch a Walking Dead episode on AMC, just to cheer myself up. Here's a clip from BBC: "...In August 2016, in a remote corner of Siberian tundra called the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic Circle, a 12-year-old boy died and at least twenty people were hospitalised after being infected by anthrax. The theory is that, over 75 years ago, a reindeer infected with anthrax died and its frozen carcass became trapped under a layer of frozen soil, known as permafrost. There it stayed until a heatwave in the summer of 2016, when the permafrost thawed. This exposed the reindeer corpse and released infectious anthrax into nearby water and soil, and then into the food supply. More than 2,000 reindeer grazing nearby became infected, which then led to the small number of human cases. The fear is that this will not be an isolated case..." (File image: NASA).

Is Climate Changing Cloud Heights? Too Soon To Say. Clouds have a cooling effect, but it's unclear how a warmer atmosphere will impact cloud formation.  Here's an excerpt from NASA: "...A new analysis of 15 years of NASA satellite cloud measurements finds that clouds worldwide show no definitive trend during this period toward decreasing or increasing in height. The new study updates an earlier analysis of the first 10 years of the same data that suggested cloud heights might be getting lower. Clouds are both Earth's cooling sunshade and its insulating blanket. Currently their cooling effect prevails globally. But as Earth warms, the characteristics of clouds over different global regions — their thickness, brightness and height — are expected to change in ways that scientists don't fully understand. These changes could either amplify warming or slow it. Pinning down some of the uncertainties around clouds is one of the biggest challenges in determining the future rate of global climate change..."

Photo credit: "Climate change may eventually change global cloud heights, but scientists need a longer data set to know whether that's happening already." Credit: NASA.

How to Make a Carbon Tax Insanely Popular. A story at The Week offers up one way to make a carbon tax fair for the poor and disadvantaged: "...So what to take from this? Coalitions created across the traditional liberal-conservative or Democrat-Republican divides will be in trouble. Right-wing supporters will push towards offsetting the carbon tax with other tax reductions, or elimination of regulations. Baker and the other Republicans pushing the carbon tax, for instance, would like it to replace Obama-era climate regulations. But to be broadly popular, a carbon tax simply cannot be divorced from a broader left-populist economic agenda. To succeed politically, it will need to come in a broader package of policies, the net effect of which leaves most Americans better off. As Paul argued: "The environment is something that, when we're born, each and every one of us has a common piece of ownership. And a tax and dividend policy restores that notion of common ownership."

10 Things Climate Change Will Do. Deutsche Welle takes a look at symptoms, including an increased risk to shipping lanes from rogue icebergs: "...No ship has been struck by an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean since the Titanic sunk in 1912 and the International Ice Patrol was subsequently formed. But patrol workers are likely going to get a lot busier soon. In early April, more than 400 icebergs clogged up shipping lanes in the North Atlantic, forcing ships to take detours of up to 400 nautical miles - wasting significant time and fuel in the process. While icebergs are common in these waters, their number and timing is unusual. Experts say climate change could be to blame. The icebergs begin their journey after breaking off a glacier in Greenland, which is influenced largely by winter weather, especially storms accompanied by strong winds. Rising temperatures also lead to the melting of ice sheets, causing more chunks of ice to break off and float into the open ocean..."

Can Global Warming Really Be Reversed? Maybe So, and Paul Hawken Shows How. There is no magic silver bullet - but plenty of silver buckshot, as explained in an interview at MinnPost; here's an excerpt: "...It is difficult to summarize the 80 options on the Drawdown list, but a look at the top 10 — ranked high to low by potential to reduce atmospheric CO2 — will give you a sense of the range the Hawken team endorsed:
  1. Replacing fluorocarbons used in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment with atmospherically benign alternatives like propane and ammonium.
  2. More electric generation from onshore wind turbines.
  3. Reducing food waste by one-half worldwide.
  4. Shifting more of the global diet from meat to plants.
  5. Restoring tropical forest on about half the degraded acreage identified as plausible reforestation locales.
  6. Assuring 13 years of schooling for girls around the world, especially in the poorest countries, as the surest path to voluntary population control.
  7. Encouraging family planning, with enhanced access to contraception, as a corollary effort.
  8. More utility-scale “solar farms...”

Climate Change Already Forcing 17 U.S. Communities to Move, New Analysis Says. It turns out we already have climate refugees, according to a story at "Climate change could force tens of thousands of U.S. residents to move this century. But 17 communities already face that threat, and most of these are Native American, according to a new academic analysis. One of them is the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, which lives on Isle de Jean Charles. The tribe has been awarded a $48.3 million grant from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to move from its remaining sliver of land in Terrebonne Parish..."

Map credit: "This map shows five of the 17 communities in the U.S. that are in the process of climate relocation. Upwards of 13 million Americans will be at risk of displacement from a projected 0.9 m rise in sea levels by 2100." (Center for Progressive Reform).

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