Friday, July 21, 2017

Stray T-storm Today - Cooler Front Sunday - Worst of Heat Stays South of Minnesota

83 F. high temperature in St. Cloud on Friday.
83 F. average high on July 21.
88 F. high on July 21, 2016.

July 22, 1972: Copious amounts of rain fall in parts of Minnesota, with 10.84 inches of rainfall in 24 hours at Ft. Ripley. 14 inches of rain is measured at a farm in Morrison County.

The Importance of Summertime Situational Awareness

A recent flash flood tragedy in Arizona, with 10 members of one family swept to their deaths by a surging wall of water, got me thinking about the limits of technology.

What could they have done differently, so they'd still be with us today? Apps on smart phones and a portable NOAA weather radio increase the odds of hearing a warning in time but there are still gaps in coverage. You can call up Doppler radar on your phone now, and take note of a distant storm's track before hitting the water. On volatile summer days it's a good idea to have a designated "weather-watcher", someone who can tap you on the shoulder when it's time to go. The grim reality: in spite of Doppler and streamlined warning services there technology won't save us, the government won't save us. Its up to each of us to take responsibility for our personal safety.

A stray T-storm can't be ruled out today, but winds swinging around to the northwest will pull more comfortable air into town Sunday and Monday, as dew points dip into the 50s.

The worst of the heat stays south of Minnesota into early August, but odds still favor a real summer. MSP has picked up 9 days above 90F so far in 2017. Average is 11. 2016 brought 13 days above 90.
A little perspective: 1988 saw an astounding 44 days above 90 degrees!

90-Degree Days in the Twin Cities. So far in 2017 a total of 9 days at or above 90F. This compares to a summer average of 11 days, but 13 days > 90F were reported last year. To keep things in perspective during the heat wave and drought of 1988 a total of 44 days at or above 90F were observed at MSP!

Adequate Soil Moisture for the MSP Metro. Rainfall amounts are running close to average since the start of meteorological summer on June 1.

Drying Out Up North. Although not nearly as dire as the drought gripping the Dakotas and Montana, counties near Bemidji are running a 4-6" rainfall deficit since May 1. In start contrast to southeastern Mnnesota and a huge hunk of Wisconsin, where it won't stop raining.

How Unusual is 100-Degree Heat in Minnesota? It turns out it's not all that unusual at all, according to my friend and climate guru, Dr. Mark Seeley. Here's an excerpt from his latest Minnesota WeatherTalk: "...The statistics for the past 40 years (my time as Extension Climatologist) show that 80 percent of the time (32 years), a temperature of 100 degrees F or higher is measured somewhere in the state. More often such readings come from western or southern Minnesota counties. For example, 19 of the 40 years the highest temperature in the state was measured in Traverse, Lyon, Lac Qui Parle, or Redwood Counties. These statistics conform to those of our state climate history all the way back to the second half of the 19th Century. Most of the all-time daily high temperature records for the state come from climate stations in Big Stone, Traverse, Lac Qui Parle, and Yellow Medicine Counties. On rare occasions the state's highest daily temperature for a given year may come from southeastern Minnesota, as was the case in 1985 when Theilman (Wabasha County) reported 103 degrees F on June 10th..."

Dangerously Hot. Check out the heat index on Saturday: 106F at Wichita and Kansas City, 113F at St. Louis. Today appears to be the worst day for heat and humidity, followed by slow improvement by early next week.

Serious Dog Days. NAM guidance pulls a few bands  of heavy showers and T-storms across the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes today into the Mid Atlantic by Sunday, providing slight relief from the blazing heat and obnoxious humidity levels. Garden-variety instability T-showers sprout over the Gulf Coast, with monsoonal T-storms over the desert southwest, a few capable of flash flooding. The west coast remains dry; no weather-related help for the brushfires near Yosemite. Loop: NOAA and

Seasonably Warm. The epicenter of discomfort passes south of Minnesota into next week, with temperatures generally within a few degrees of the average high (84F). I still think Sunday will bring 70s with a brief dip in dew point - it should feel better out there. Twin Cities ECMWF data: WeatherBell.

Nagging Heat - Slight Relief Far North. The heat wave of '17 shows no signs of letting up over the southern half of the nation, but as we've been mentioning in recent days a series of feeble Canadian cool fronts should provide slight relief for far northern cities, from Seattle to the Twin Cities, Chicago, Cleveland and New England by early August.

Midpoint of Summer. Temperatures tend to peak roughly 1 month after the Summer Solstice, although there is some variation across North America (hottest weather in south Texas and south Florida doesn't come until August).

Editorial: Envisioning a Chicago Future Without Massive Flood Damage. Development of land in flood-prone suburbs is coming back to bite much of Chicago this summer as waves of heavy thunderstorms produce widespread flooding. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from the Chicago Sun Times Editorial Board: "The massive flooding ravaging parts of the Chicago area is doing hundreds of millions of dollars of damage, and all because of a basic failure of planning. It is foolish that so many homes and businesses stand in low-lying areas that are susceptible to flooding. It need not be that way. Among possible solutions, we support a call for the federal government — which already is spending billions of dollars on flood insurance for some properties that flood again and again — to buy out more homes and businesses that repeatedly flood and raze them as the owners voluntarily move elsewhere. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, on its own, already has done some of this..."

Photo credit: "Flooding continued Monday in Fox Lake, Ill., along the Chain O' Lakes."
(Gilbert R Boucher II/Daily Herald via AP)

Security Camera Catches Tornado Winds Lifting Car. And this was a small tornado; exhibit A why you don't want to be in or near a vehicle when tornado-force winds are possible. Here's a clip from "A New York state man's home security camera captured the moment strong winds from a tornado lifted his car off the ground. Kevin Karas posted a video to Facebook showing footage from a home security camera that was pointed at his driveway in Hamburg during a Thursday storm that saw two tornadoes touch down in the town. The video shows Karas' car becoming briefly airborne in the high winds before crashing into a nearby tree..."
The video shows Karas' car becoming briefly airborne in the high winds before crashing into a nearby tree.

Shocking Secrets About Lightning, Exposed. I enjoyed an article written by Matthew Cappucci, writing for Capital Weather Gang. Here are a couple of excerpts: "...The phenomenon is a spectacular sight to behold, and was widely viewed on May 18 in Bethany, Okla., at the “antenna farm.” Here, more than a dozen thousand-foot-high towers are all crammed into a three-square-mile plot of land, and the results can be electrifying. On this particular day, at least 20 bolts of lightning shot upward into the cloud from the towers, especially strange considering the storm had already left. Some even assert that this type of lightning is caused by humans, since it is almost exclusively caught leaping from man-made structures...However, the charge of lightning can offer quite a bit of key information about the strike. Positive flashes, for instance, are considered particularly dangerous, because they originate from the top of severe thunderstorms. Here, the “electric potential” is strong enough to give rise to supercharged lightning bolts, oftentimes three- to 100-times more powerful than ordinary lightning. These “sparks on steroids” have a high enough peak current that they are able to travel many miles from the parent storm cloud, posing a danger to folks that may find themselves under otherwise clear skies and sunshine..."

Photo credit: "Lightning strikes in Cape Cod Bay, Mass., on May 23, 2014." (Matthew Cappucci)

New Forecast Models Could Give You An Extra Hour to Hide From a Tornado. This may be overstating the capability, at least looking out 5-10 years. And early research suggests that if the warnings are too long many people are tempted to get into vehicles to try to escape the area vs. hunkering down in the basement, which is obviously counterproductive (last place you want to be during a tornado is in your car or truck). Here's an excerpt from ScienceAlert: "...Warn on Forecast could eventually provide severe weather warnings up to three hours in advance, say the researchers working on the technology, and in the case of its first trial run it gave Oklahoma residents 90 minutes to brace themselves for large hail and tornadoes. "We had a picture of the storms and their evolution before they became life-threatening," says one of the team, science operations officer Todd Lindley. "We used this model guidance to forecast with greater lead time and greater confidence." Today, tornado warnings are issued by forecasters manually studying satellite data and volatility in the atmosphere, but WoF takes in more data and analyses its patterns in ways human brains aren't equipped to..."

Image credit:" WoF produces a "firehose" of data, say researchers. NOAA.

Photo credit: Niccolò Ubalducci/

The World's Plastic Problem. According to a story at Quartz the vast majority of all the plastic humans have ever made is still sitting somewhere on the planet: "In total, according to a paper published today (July 19) in Science Advances, humans have made 8.3 billion metric tons of new plastics since 1950. And, thanks in large part to the global popularity of single-use plastic packaging, half that total was made in just the last decade. The problem is plastic doesn’t ever really disappear—at least not on any timescale that would be relevant to humans. Recycling plastic helps some, but it doesn’t make it go away, it just delays the date at which it ultimately ends up in a landfill. So each year, the plastic we make piles onto the plastic we made the year before, and the year before that, and so on..."

Photo credit: "Recycling only delays the day a plastic object ends up in a landfill." (Reuters/China Daily)

Fortune 500. Fortune is out with the latest list: Walmart at the top, Apple is #3: "This year’s Fortune 500 marks the 63rd running of the list. In total, Fortune 500 companies represent two-thirds of the U.S. GDP with $12 trillion in revenues, $890 billion in profits, $19 trillion in market value, and employ 28.2 million people worldwide..."

Healthier Living Could Reduce Worldwide Dementia by a Third, Report Says. The Washington Post has more detail: "Up to one-third of the world’s dementia cases could be prevented by addressing factors such as education, hypertension, diet, hearing loss and depression over the course of a person’s lifetime, according to a new report presented Thursday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London. The report was compiled by the first Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care, which brought together 24 experts from around the world to review scores of studies and synthesize them into a model showing how lifestyle modification could reduce dementia risk. Around 47 million people have dementia worldwide, and that number is projected to triple by 2050..." (File photo: BBC).

Hip-Hop Is Bigger Than Rock Music, Thanks to Nobody Buying Albums. An interesting development, courtesy of Quartz: "...According to Nielsen Music’s latest semi-annual report, hip-hop (including R&B) is now the biggest genre in the US, overtaking rock music for the very first time. Hip-hop claims 25.1% of all music consumption, while rock music is at 23%. Why this happened has as much to do with US’s listening methods as it does the undeniable talent of many modern-day rappers. In the 1990s, CD sales still dominated. Digital-music streaming has now outstripped physical album sales and iTunes downloads as the primary way people listen to songs; with this new order comes both a new audience and a revamp of music charts..."

The Abstract Beauty of One Of The World's Harshest Climates. Atlas Obscura has an eye-opening photo essay: "...In these regions—some of the most sparsely populated in the world—it’s essential to be prepared. Otherwise, says photographer Luca Tombolini, “you just aren’t in the condition to photograph because you’re probably thinking about how to save yourself.” Tombolini photographs deserts with an eye for “plays of symmetries and purity.” His large format images show pastel-hued dunes that form sweeping, abstract shapes, and endless horizons under bleached blue skies..."

A 9-Year Old Tripped, Fell and Discovered a Million-Year-Old Fossil. The New York Times has an amazing story: "Jude Sparks was only 9 years old when he made a remarkable paleontological discovery. While out for a walk wiith his family in Las Cruces, N.M., in November, Jude had been running to hide from his younger brothers when he tripped and fell. He found himself face to face with something that, he said, looked like "fossilized wood." "It was just an odd shape," Jude, now 10, said in a phone interview on Tuesday. "I just knew it was not something that you usually find." It looked like a massive jaw, and Jude's younger brother Hunter thought it belonged to a cow skull. His parents, Michelle and Kyle Sparks, thought it resembled the remains of an elephant. So they took a picture of the object to investigate further..."

Photo credit: "Jude Sparks sitting beside the fossilized remains of a Stegomastodon." Peter Houde.

Steam Train in China Ignites Coal Mine Particles in the Air. How bad is the air pollution in China that the air catches on fire? Reminds me of the infamous Cuyahoga River catching fire in northeast Ohio back in 1969. Yes, by all means let's abolish the EPA so our air can spontaneously combust! Here's a link to an amazing video clip at theCHIVE.

* Then again, maybe this is all perfectly natural. Check out the (R-rated) Reddit comments. I've never seen anything like this in the USA. Either way coal sure does make for colorful train rides.

TODAY: Sticky sun, still humid with a T-storm risk. Winds: NW 7-12. High: 88

SATURDAY NIGHT: Drying out, a bit better out there. Low: 65

SUNDAY: More clouds than sun, more comfortable. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 79

MONDAY: Bright sun, very little wind. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 58. High: 81

TUESDAY: Unsettled, few T-storms around. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 63. High: 86

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, seasonably warm. Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 65. High: 84

THURSDAY: T-storms rumble across southern MN. Winds: NE 5-10. Wake-up: 66. High: 83

FRIDAY: Blue sky, fairly comfortable. Winds: NE 3-8. Wake-up: 63. High: 84

Climate Stories...

In Miami, Battling Sea Level Rise May Mean Surrendering Land. Reuters explains: "...Mayor Philip Levine, who was elected on his promises to protect Miami Beach from rising waters, says the city will invest even more if necessary in adaptation strategies to protect more than $40 billion worth of properties. But on the other side of Biscayne Bay, in Miami’s Shorecrest neighborhood, a novel idea is taking shape: Instead of trying to keep the water out of the notoriously flood-prone area, officials are considering surrendering some developed land to nature, to accommodate inevitably rising seas. The idea is controversial and expensive, as it involves demolishing properties and moving people and businesses away. But officials say it’s a long-term solution, unlike Miami Beach’s temporary remediation efforts..."
File photo: NOAA.

Gov. Candidate Chris King: Climate Change is Biggest Threat to Florida's Economy. With rising seas (not a climate model, but actual observations of water levels rising) Florida is ground zero for climate change, an issue that may help to sway elections one way or another in the future. Here's an excerpt from Tampa Bay Times: "Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King today made his case for how economic growth and fighting climate change go hand in hand. His rivals for the Democratic nomination, Gwen Graham,  Andrew Gillum and possibly Philip Levine, make climate change and environmental protection top priorities too..."

Climate Change Will Be Very Bad for Dallas County. Virginia, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona and California are additional states already seeing early impacts of a warming climate and/or rising seas. Here's an excerpt from D Magazine in Dallas, Texas: "...A new study led by climate scientists and economists at the University of Chicago and the University of California, published last month in Science, drives that point home. It takes a detailed county-by-county look at how climate change will affect communities across the U.S., finding that Texas and the South are especially vulnerable to projected economic losses caused by global warming, as desirable jobs move to wealthier and cooler climes to the west and north, and an unpredictable climate wreaks havoc on agriculture and industry. (An emboldened mosquito population is another issue.)..."

Glacier National Park Still Has Glaciers, For Now. I want to get out there to see the glaciers ASAP, after reading a story at USA TODAY: "There’s good news and bad news regarding the future of Glacier National Park. The bad news has to do with science. Long-term studies indicate that the famous ice fields that inspired the park’s name are, in fact, shrinking. And, yes, the same research predicts that all 25 named glaciers likely will be gone by 2030. The good news, if you can call it that, is that these large-scale changes are still at least a decade away, and the park has plenty of grandeur to go around until then. Grandeur like blue-green Lake McDonald, which is more than 9 miles long and sits like a mirror in one of the most picturesque valleys of the West. And the knee-buckling vistas at Many Glacier, the heart of the park, from which visitors can spy jagged mountains, those aforementioned glistening glaciers, and (if you’re lucky) abundant wildlife, including moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats and grizzly bears..."

Documenting Glaciers in the Dying Days of Ice. Here's an excerpt from a Climate Central Special Report: "National Parks have grown up with photography. So it’s only fitting that in the last days of ice in Montana’s Glacier National Park, Lisa McKeon is using a camera to show how quickly climate change has killed off the park’s namesakes. After all, it’s one thing to note that of the park’s 150 glaciers that existed in the late 1800s, only 25 of them remain today. But it’s another to see what that cold, hard fact looks like on the landscape. For nearly 20 years, McKeon, a U.S. Geological Survey biologist, has prowled dusty archives to find old photos showing the splendor of the park’s glaciers in decades past. Those images have taken her to bushwhacking through the forest and to the highest reaches of the park so she can recreate those images. Put the old and the new images side-by-side and it’s impossible to ignore the visual evidence of how rapidly climate change has eaten away at the ice..."

Photo credit: "Park visitors eating dinner at Cracker Lake, a glacial-fed lake in Glacier National Park's backcountry." Credit: Jacob Frank/National Park Service.

Photo credits: "Blackfoot Glacier and Jackson Glacier in 1914 and 2009. They used to be joined as a single glacier but are now split in two because global warming has melted the ice away." Credit: E.C. Stebinger/Glacier National Park (left). Lisa McKeon/U.S. Geological Survey (right).

Innovate, Award-Winning Way to Visualize CO2 Emissions. Of course, one of the many challenges of talking about a warming blanket of CO2: the gas is clear and odorless - almost invisible, unless you have the right equipment. The Post and Courier explains: "...Featuring in-depth reporting about plankton, sea-rise and coral reefs, the “Every Other Breath” series featured the use of a rare thermal imaging camera to show readers what emissions of carbon dioxide look like from buses, planes and other everyday sources of CO2. The Post and Courier is said to be the first newspaper or magazine to use such a device for a news story..."
Photo credit: "As part of The Post and Courier's Every Other Breath series, the newspaper obtained a one-of-a-kind thermal imaging camera from FLIR to document everyday sources of invisible CO2 emissions."

$7 Trillion/Year to Remove CO2 From the Air? According to climate scientist James Hansen that's the number, if we continue to sit on our hands and kick this down the road a few more decades. Details at Quartz: "The world has been slow to realize the immense financial and human costs of climate change. Would that change if we realized just how much worse it could get? That’s the hope of new research led by James Hansen, a Columbia University professor and former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Hansen’s research estimates that if the world were to delay reducing carbon emissions until a later date, it could cost as much as $6.7 trillion per year for at least 80 years after that date to reign in the effect of those emissions on the climate. For comparison, all the countries in the world combined spend about $2 trillion annually on defense. That fact makes “the war on climate change” an apt metaphor..."

Climate Change is Killing Us Right Now. Not as much in the USA, not yet, but the author of a story at New Republic argues that even under a best-case scenario nearly half of humanity will be regularly exposed to potentially deadly levels of heat by 2100: "...These scenarios are supported by the science. “For heat waves, our options are now between bad or terrible,” Camilo Mora, a geography professor at University of Hawaii at Manoa, told CNN last month. Mora was the lead author of a recent study, published in the journal Nature, showing that deadly heat days are expected to increase across the world. Around 30 percent of the world’population today is exposed to so-called “lethal heat” conditions for at least 20 days a year. If we don’t reduce fossil-fuel emissions, the percentage will skyrocket to 74 percent by the year 2100. Put another way, by the end of the century nearly three-quarters of the Earth’s population will face a high risk of dying from heat exposure for more than three weeks every year..."

Paying People to Not Cut Down Trees Pays Off, Study Finds. Deforestation is another (very) significant source of CO2, since fewer trees means less of a carbon sink available (trees breathe in CO2 and exhale oxygen). Here's an excerpt from InsideClimate News: "Across dozens of villages in rural Uganda, researchers have explored what they believe could be an easy way to help tackle climate change: paying landowners to leave their trees standing. The concept is simple—and controversial, because critics say it can foist the burden of cutting emissions onto developing countries. But the researchers, led by an economist from Northwestern University, found that these financial incentives—or "payments for ecosystems services"—have both a climate and economic benefit, something that had not been firmly established in previous studies..."

Methane Seeps Out as Arctic Permafrost Starts to Resemble Swiss Cheese. Here's the intro to a story at InsideClimate News: "Global warming may be unleashing new sources of heat-trapping methane from layers of oil and gas that have been buried deep beneath Arctic permafrost for millennia. As the Earth's frozen crust thaws, some of that gas appears to be finding new paths to the surface through permafrost that's starting to resemble Swiss cheese in some areas, scientists said. In a study released today, the scientists used aerial sampling of the atmosphere to locate methane sources from permafrost along a 10,000 square-kilometer swath of the Mackenzie River Delta in northwestern Canada, an area known to have oil and gas desposits. Deeply thawed pockets of permafrost, the research suggests, are releasing 17 percent of all the methane measured in the region, even though the emissions hotspots only make up 1 percent of the surface area, the scientists found..."

Image credit: "In parts of northern Canada's Mackenzie River Delta, seen here by satellite, scientists are finding high levels of methane near deeply thawed pockets of permafrost." Credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

Robert Redford: "To Save the World, Start Small". The solutions will be organic, bottom-up, not top-down, dictated more by economics than politics. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at "...Our choice is no longer the economy vs. the environment. It is now the economy and the environment. Addressing climate change will help both. Ignoring it risks both. This is not a revelation in many of our cities and towns. There, the idea that climate change is “political” is dissolving. If you are the mayor of a coastal town that now floods regularly or a farming town that just experienced several “once-in-a-hundred-years” droughts within a couple years, politics is the furthest thing from your mind. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Mayors are usually our most direct connection to government. They see the immediate ways in which our communities are threatened and reinvented. Fighting climate change can be opportunity for such reinvention..."

Image credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring.

2017 Is So Unexpectedly Warm It Is Freaking Out Climate Scientists. Joe Romm explains why at ThinkProgress: "Normally, the hottest years on record occur when the underlying human-caused global warming trend gets a temporary boost from an El Niño’s enhanced warming in the tropical Pacific. So it’s been a surprise to climate scientists that 2017 has been so remarkably warm — because the last El Niño ended a year ago. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported Tuesday that the first half of 2017 was the second-warmest January-June on record for Earth, topped only by 2016, which was boosted by one of the biggest El Niños on record..."
Graphic credit: "January–June 2017 global surface temperatures (compared to the 20th century average) in Degrees Celsius." CREDIT: NOAA.

Climate Change Will Force Today's Kids to Pay for Costly Carbon Removal Technologies, Study Says. The Washington Post explains: "The longer humans continue to pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the closer we draw to leaving the next generation with an unmanageable climate problem, scientists say. A new study, just out Tuesday in the journal Earth System Dynamics, suggests that merely reducing greenhouse gas emissions may no longer be enough — and that special technology, aimed at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, may also be necessary to keep the Earth’s climate within safe limits for future generations. The research was largely inspired by a landmark climate change lawsuit brought by 21 children against the federal government, which is scheduled to go to trial in February 2018, and will be used as scientific support in the case. In fact, its lead author, Columbia University climatologist and former NASA scientist James Hansen, is a plaintiff on the case, along with his now 18-year-old granddaughter..."

Photo credit: "New research suggests that if immediate and significant emissions reduction efforts are undertaken — amounting to a decline in global carbon output by at least 3 percent annually starting in the next four years — then less carbon extraction will be needed." (Martin Meissner/AP).

Scientist Spreads the Word on Climate Change, by Biking Across America. WTOP NewsRadio in Washington D.C. has the story: "...He recently discussed the book with WTOP’s Shawn Anderson and Hillary Howard, and highlighted some of the moments in which he witnessed the dramatic impact of global warming. In Idaho and Montana, Goodrich rode his bike (and 50 pounds of gear) into wildfire-affected areas. In Kansas, he pedaled through 100-degree heat and punishing hot winds. And across the front range of the Rockies, he saw particularly dramatic evidence of its impact: massive amounts of dead trees caused by the mountain pine beetle. The pest used to be killed off by extreme cold, but “those kinds of winters don’t happen anymore, and the population of this beetle has just exploded,” he said..."

Photo credit: "Goodrich rides on the Hi-Line along U.S. 2 in northern Montana. Glacier National Park can be seen in the distance." (Courtesy David Goodrich).

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