Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Rare Sunshine Sighting Today - Cool, Wet Bias Into Much of Summer?

56 F. high temperature yesterday in St. Cloud.
73 F. average high on May 30.
83 F. high on May 30, 2016.

May 31, 1934: Extreme heat impacts the Twin Cities, with highs of 107 in St. Paul and 106 in Minneapolis. Rush City reached 110. Numerous cases of heat ailments affect people and livestock.

May 31, 1932: A heat wave hits southern Minnesota, with highs of 108 at Campbell, Fairmont, Faribault, and New Ulm.

"Summer Lite": A Cool Bias Much of the Summer?

After 19 consecutive months of warmer than average temperatures May should wind up slightly cooler than normal. And it may just be a signal of a cooler, more comfortable summer to come.
It's true that any weather forecast beyond 5-7 days is more of a hand-waving experiment, a semi-educated guess, even on a good day, but sometimes we can detect trends ("warmer/cooler/wetter/drier").

I'm slightly cross-eyed from staring at long-range models, which all hint at a warm ridge of high pressure for the western USA much of the summer, with a cooling northwest flow east of the Rockies pulling Canadian air south - taking some of the edge off the worst heat & humidity from Minnesota to Maine. We'll see our fair share of sweaty warm fronts but the odds of oppressive heat waves lingering week after week have diminished. If anything I see a slightly cool, wet bias into August.

Stifle a primal scream; the sun comes out today with highs in the 70s; low 80s by Friday with a few strong to severe T-storms possible. Some rain may spill into Saturday before a northeast breeze dries us out on Sunday.

Wait, a summer that isn't stinking-hot? I guess we can all live with that.

Excessive Rainfall Potential Today. NOAA WPC is forecasting a slight risk of flash flooding across parts of Texas, where some 2-5" rainfall amounts are possible. If it's any consolation the risk of severe thunderstorms has diminished a bit today, according to NOAA SPC.

Persistently Consistent. At the risk of repeating myself (over and over again) the pattern favors showers and T-storms east of the Rockies, with generally fair weather for the western USA - with the exception of the Pacific Northwest. After a glorious Memorial Day weekend with highs in the 80s more bands of showers will continue to sweep in from the Pacific. Summer continues to pull its sweaty punch across most of the nation. NAM 84-hour Future Radar: NOAA and Tropicaltidbits.com.

Warm Fronts Temporarily Endangered. Nothing too hot and sweaty is shaping up into the first week of June, although dew points will be noticeable by Friday of this week as the mercury flirts with 80F. Another relapse is forecast by the ECMWF model (above) over the weekend as a northeast wind kicks in behind a line of heavy showers and T-storms. Saturday still appears to be the wetter day of the weekend. Twin Cities data: WeatherBell.

2-Week Hand-Waving Outlook. A zonal flow by mid-June? We'll see, but the GFS is consistently printing out the hottest weather for the desert southwest, with a tendency for cool, showery troughs for the Great Lakes and New England.

Penn State Predicting Above Average Hurricane Season for Atlantic Basin. Here's an excerpt from Penn State's ESSC, the Earth System Science Center: "ESSC scientist Michael E. Mann, alumnus Michael Kozar, and researcher Sonya K. Miller have released their seasonal prediction for the 2017 North Atlantic hurricane season, which officially starts on June 1st and runs through November 30th. The prediction is for 15.3 +/- 3.9 total named tropical cyclones, which corresponds to a range between 11 and 20 storms with a best estimate of 15 named storms. This prediction was made using the statistical model of Kozar et al. (2012, see PDF here). This statistical model builds upon the past work of Sabbatelli and Mann (2007, see PDF here) by considering a larger number of climate predictors and including corrections for the historical undercount of events..."

When Severe Weather Strikes, Be Mindful of Tree Damage. Some good advice from High Plains Journal: "...Klempa’s advice: When assessing damaged trees, start at the top—scan the upper branches for broken limbs, especially those that might be hanging by a few strands. Binoculars can be helpful if you have them. If the broken branches and limbs are big, leave them for a certified arborist. Debris that’s close to active power lines should be reported to the local utility company so it can send trained technicians out to deal with them. “A certified arborist is your best bet for addressing damaged trees after a severe event of some sort,” said Tim McDonnell, a community forest coordinator with the Kansas Forest Service office in Haysville. “Arborists have extensive education about tree care, and they’re trained to safely climb up into trees, if need be, to trim and prune trees to be stronger and healthier...”

Photo credit: "A damaged tree in Finnup Park, Garden City, Kansas. The tree was split by the weight of heavy snow from an unseasonably late snowfall." (Photo courtesy of Kathy Sexson.)

Inside One of the Wildest Tornado-Chasing Days Ever Recorded. CNN.com takes a look back at May 24, 2016: "In the world of storm chasers, May 24, 2016, inspires a near-universal fascination. On that day, the panoramic skies stretching over the Great Plains just outside of Dodge City, Kansas, became the backdrop for a dazzling tornado outbreak, when a series of supercell thunderstorms produced at least 12 twisters immediately around the city. "It was like a Dr. Seuss book of tornadoes," said Jason Persoff, referencing "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" -- one tornado, two tornado, each different in shape and size. The twisters dropped out of the sky nonstop for more than two hours, the 46-year-old storm chaser from Aurora, Colorado, recalled..."

Atmospheric Holding Pattern. Weather systems are slow and sluggish; the circulation creeping along in slow motion, as if powered by a handful of (drained) AAA batteries; fronts and storms more prone to getting "stuck". Where have you heard that before? The atmosphere is warming and capable of holding more water vapor, more fuel for storms. And if the weather is, in fact, slowing down, the potential for flooding goes up. 2016 brought 160 natural disasters across North America with 19 major floods in the USA; the most since records were started in 1980, according to reinsurance company Munich Re. At the rate we're going 2017 may be just as wet.

How Do the Chemicals in Sunscreen Protect our Skin From Damage? Experts agree that there is no such thing as a "safe level of exposure to the sun". Here's an excerpt of an interesting explainer at Scientific American: "...The majority of people apply between a quarter to a half of the recommended amounts, placing their skin at risk for sunburn and photodamage. In addition, sunscreen efficacy decreases in the water or with sweating. To help consumers, FDA now requires sunscreens labeled “water-resistant” or “very water-resistant” to last up to 40 minutes or 80 minutes, respectively, in the water, and the American Academy of Dermatology and other medical professional groups recommend reapplication immediately after any water sports. The general rule of thumb is to reapply about every two hours and certainly after water sports or sweating. To get high SPF values, multiple UVB UV filters are combined into a formulation based upon safety standards set by the FDA. However, the SPF doesn’t account for UVA protection..."

Pakistan's Hottest Day Recorded in Turbat. 122F in the shade? Here's an excerpt from The Express Tribune in Pakistan: "Citizens of Turbat sweltered through the hottest day recorded in Pakistan’s history, as the mercury shot up to 53.5°C on Sunday. The temperature equalled the one measured on May 27, 2010 in Mohenjo Daro which broke a 12-year record – 53°C in Larkana on May 31, 1998...."

How Rising Seas Drowned the Flood Insurance Program. Unless you have very deep pockets and an iron-reinforced stomach I'd avoid property within a few feet of sea level. The bubble bursts when people no longer have access to the flood insurance mandated by their mortgage bankers. Climate Central reports on a growing headaches for coastal residents: "...Today, the NFIP is effectively bankrupt. It owes the U.S. Treasury nearly $25 billion – money it borrowed from federal taxpayers to cover its obligations in Sandy, Katrina (2005), and Hurricane Ike (2008). No one expects that money to be repaid. Some coastal state lawmakers are even calling for Congress to write off the massive debt, contending it is the only way the troubled insurance program, which is up for reauthorization this year, can regain its financial footing. Wiping away the debt will help. But it is only a matter of time until the next big storm drains the coffers again. Even relatively weak hurricanes cause hundreds of millions in damage, while monster storms like Katrina and Sandy cause billions. Complicating matters, the NFIP has improbably subsidized thousands of risky properties along the coast – low-lying houses that flood over and over – by charging them below-market premiums to entice them to join the program. Now the federal flood program faces no less than an existential threat. As seas rise, coastal floodplains are expected to expand, exposing more property to routine flooding, surge, and waves. By some estimates, hundreds of thousands of U.S. houses could be underwater by century’s end and a trillion dollars worth of property at risk..."

Photo credit: "Aerial photo of damaged homes along New Jersey shore after Hurricane Sandy." Credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS/flickr

Can Smart Investment in AgriTech Help Farmers Feed the World? A story at Forbes caught my eye: "From unpredictable weather to plant-destroying locusts and viruses, farming has always been a high-risk industry. Over centuries, advances in tools and methods such as crop rotation, plows, irrigation and fertilizer helped farmers produce more food and reap profits. But small-scale farmers in developing countries lack the modern agricultural technology needed to produce enough food. Increasingly, climate change and severe weather decimate food production, jeopardizing hundreds of millions of farmers, their communities, global food security and political stability across nations. Investing in these farmers by providing technology, training and other solutions is the right thing to do. But these companies aren’t just focused on social impact. They are tackling food security across the value chain, increasing efficiencies and, in some cases, even outperforming others in their category by 50 percent..."

Weather Service Staff Shortages Have Led to Burnout Among Employees. Here's an excerpt of a post at Government Executive: "Officials at the Government Accountability Office reported this week that an extensive hiring backlog at the National Weather Service has led to burnout among meteorologists at the agency, who are frequently shifting schedules and working overtime. NWS plays a vital role in tracking weather across the country, frequently sending out warnings and advisory alerts to Americans when severe storms are imminent. But the agency, which is a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the Commerce Department, has suffered from an acute hiring backlog stemming back to sequestration in 2013. According to a GAO report released Wednesday, as the sequester took effect, NOAA implemented an agency-wide hiring freeze, during which time NWS saw some attrition in its ranks..."

Lyme Isn't the Only Disease Ticks Are Spreading This Summer. After reading a post at WIRED.com I'm tempted to wear a space suit during my next nature hike: "...Scientists like Armstrong estimate that POW is only prevalent in about 4 percent of deer ticks, way lower than the 30 to 40 percent prevalence of Lyme disease. But here’s the thing. Lyme disease, which is caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium, takes about 48 hours to transmit; if you find a tick on your body and remove it within a day or two, you can usually escape a Lyme infection. POW, on the other hand, goes from the tick’s body, through its saliva, and into your bloodstream within a few minutes of a bite. So even though it’s not in many ticks, if the right one gets you, there’s not much you can do. The most public health officials can do is recommend wearing long sleeves and pants when hiking, and using repellents on your skin, gear and clothing..."

Tennesseans Might Not Be Too Worried About Climate Change, But They Sure Love Electric Cars. And here, in one elegant headline, is why I'm ultimately optimistic - because I have yet to meet a person who doesn't want to save money, where possible. Here's an excerpt from Grist: "...Polls show that Tennesseans are among the least worried nationwide about global warming, yet they support one of America’s healthiest electric car markets. One out of every 400 new cars sold in the state in 2016 could be plugged in, Auto Alliance figures show, ranking Tennessee 11th nationwide. Electric car owners here tend to give other reasons for their purchases and view climate benefits as nice extras. “The car of the future,” said Williams, a retired federal nuclear worker, beaming as he drove his Tesla Model S after punching the gas to show off its acceleration. “When I went and test drove it and saw it personally, I mean, I just liked everything about it...”

Photo credit: "Mark Bishop opens the hood of his Honda Insight, which he converted to run on electricity." John Upton/Climate Central.

Pretty Soon Electric Cars Will Cost Less Than Gasoline. Personally I think it's going to happen faster than 2025. There are 150 moving parts on the Tesla I drive, compared with roughly 10,000 moving parts on a traditional gas-powered vehicle. There is simply less that can go wrong, which means electric vehicles will ultimately be cheaper to manufacture and operate than fossil-fuel powered vehicles. Here's a clip from Bloomberg: "...Now research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance indicates that falling battery costs will mean electric vehicles will also be cheaper to buy in the U.S. and Europe as soon as 2025. Batteries currently account for about half the cost of EVs, and their prices will fall by about 77 percent between 2016 and 2030, the London-based researcher said. “On an upfront basis, these things will start to get cheaper and people will start to adopt them more as price parity gets closer,” said Colin McKerracher, analyst at the London-based researcher. “After that it gets even more compelling...”

Look To The Sun: A Conservative's Case for Solar Energy. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at TheHill: "...Nationally, solar now employs more than 260,000 people — growing 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy — and that number will continue to grow. Oh, and by the way, these are good-quality, local jobs that cannot be outsourced. Residential rooftop solar paired with net metering — which gives consumers credits for excess power that is returned to the electrical grid — offers an opportunity for our country’s rapidly aging grid. Just think about it. The more energy homeowners are creating directly from the place it will be used, the less need we’ll have for distribution and transmission infrastructure, better known as poles and wires. And as batteries become cheaper and more efficient, folks will begin to store the energy they create to help curtail daily spikes in energy demand. That’s less demand on our already stressed energy grid and more reliability and efficiency from a new way of doing business..."

Who Will Pay For The Future If Not the Robots? WIRED.com attempts to connect the dots: "Robots are taking over the world’s workforce—and why shouldn’t they? For so many jobs, machines are faster, more consistent, smarter, and cheaper than you or I will ever be. As advances in artificial intelligence accelerate, robots will spread into all corners of the labor market: blue collar and white collar, service work and knowledge work alike. Along with their jobs, people will lose their incomes. When that happens, governments will also lose theirs. Where does the money come from without incomes to tax? One San Francisco lawmaker is trying to get ahead of this likely revenue gap by going after the source of the problem: She wants to tax the robots..."

Work Hard - But Keep Your Expectations Low. We put such pressures on ourselves, when the author of a story at Quartz argues we should try and stay neutral - accepting of any outcome: "...The pressure to succeed—or to define success conventionally—can be subverted with neutrality. Things can go just so or totally awry once you understand that all things are fine, their upsides and downsides to be determined. According to the Tao Te Ching, gain is loss and loss is gain. Successes create pressures that are unpleasant and even big failures can be instructive, thus are fundamental to success. That perspective provides resilience, the ability to keep going instead of getting stuck imaging how things could or should be or will be when things go some other way..."
Climate Stories...

The Ghost of Climate Change Future. The consequences of rising seas are already showing up with greater frequency in Hawaii, as reported by The Atlantic: "The water is everywhere. For the second time in a month, Hawaii’s coastlines have been swamped by epic tides. The phenomenon, known as a king tide, is actually a convergence of a few different factors: high lunar tides, rising sea levels associated with last year’s strong El NiƱo and climate change, swirling pockets of ocean eddies, and a robust south swell—that is, big waves rolling onto south-facing shores. King tides happen routinely in the Hawaiian Islands—a few times a year, usually—but this year’s batch have been particularly extreme. Data from federal tide stations around Hawaii show that water levels have been up to six inches above predicted tidal heights since early last year. In April, levels peaked at more than nine inches above predicted tides and broke the record high for any water level around Hawaii since 1905. Scientists say the record is likely to be broken again in 2017..."

Photo credit: "A historically high tide washes up over Queens Beach in Waikiki over Memorial Day Weekend." rafberg81 / Hawai'i and Pacific Islands King Tides Project.

Facing Climate Change on the Louisiana Bayous - In Pictures. The Guardian has a photo essay: "Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana is home to a Native American community who fished, hunted, trapped and farmed the land. But since 1955, more than 90% of the island’s original land mass has washed away, the loss caused by logging, oil exploration, hurricanes and ineffective flood control. A report by 13 US federal agencies found the island and its tribal residents to be among the nation’s most vulnerable, as the remaining land will be lost to rising sea levels..."

File photo: William Widmer, Redux.

Sea Level Rise Predicted to Double Flood Frequency on Louisiana Coast. NOLA.com has more perspective on the implications of rising seas: "The small floods that submerge roads and sometimes enter homes along Louisiana's coast could become more than an occasional headache. A new study suggests that the frequency of "nuisance flooding" around the Gulf of Mexico will double every decade thanks to small rises in sea level. In lower latitudes, the flooding will be worse. The tropics, including South America and Africa, will experience a doubling of extreme flooding due to sea level rise, said Sean Vitousek, lead author of the study published in the Scientific Reports journal this week..."

Photo credit: "A Crown Point woman wades through water pushed on to the Lafitte-Larose Highway by Hurricane Rita in 2005." (Photo by Susan Poag, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune archive).

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