Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Showers Linger - Better Weekend Weather - Atmospheric Perspective

.13" rain fell at St. Cloud as of 7 pm yesterday.
69 F. high temperature yesterday in St. Cloud.
81 F. average high on August 9.
90 F. high on August 9, 2016.
August 10, 2004: Cool Canadian air is ushered in on strong northwest winds. International Falls has its record coldest high temperature for this date with 49 degrees. The Twin Cities only saw a high of 59.
August 10, 1939: Very heavy rain falls at Two Harbors, accumulating to 5.2 inches of rain.

The One Weather Risk We Don't Have to Worry About

Everyone, everywhere likes to brag about their local weather. I tend to hear from a handful of Florida friends in January. They send me helpful weather reports - and photos of lukewarm sunsets on the beach. Very nice. It gets quiet this time of year, at the onset of hurricane season, when storms (with names) menace.

"Franklin" was the 6th named storm of 2017; that's twice as many storms as normal as of early August. And the latest outlook from NOAA? "The season has the potential to be extremely active, and could be the most active since 2010." Call me crazy but Texas-size storms packing 20-foot waves put our scrawny thunderstorms into stark perspective.

Showers linger today, but the sun becomes visible Friday - and much of the upcoming weekend with comfortable 70s and low humidity. A few weekend T-showers may brush southwest Minnesota and the Arrowhead, but most of us will salvage a nice weekend - probably better for outdoor plans than last weekend.

A rerun of 80s and a few 90s is likely by late August for the fair. I'll be hanging out at the deodorant-on-a-stick booth.

* Hurricane Dennis file image: NASA.

NOAA: "Active Hurricane Season" Ahead. Here's an excerpt of a tropical update/forecast that went out from NOAA NHC on Wednesday: "Today, NOAA issued the scheduled update for its 2017 hurricane season outlook. Forecasters are now predicting a higher likelihood of an above-normal season, and they increased the predicted number of named storms and major hurricanes. The season has the potential to be extremely active, and could be the most active since 2010. Forecasters now say there is a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season (compared to the May prediction of 45 percent chance), with 14-19 named storms (increased from the May predicted range of 11-17) and 2-5 major hurricanes (increased from the May predicted range of 2 to 4). A prediction for 5 to 9 hurricanes remains unchanged from the initial May outlook..."

Hurricane Season, Already Busy, May Get Even Busier. The New York Times has more perspective.
Remarkable Resolution. The new GOES-16 imagery is pretty incredible - I'm seeing things (details on overshooting tops on thunderhead anvils) I've never seen before. The visible imagery is even more impressive close to sunset, when the western edge of showers and T-storms are lit up, highlighting details in the cloud formation. GOES-16 is still non-operational, this is test data. Imagery: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Near Real-Time Lightning. Check out the site, which uses triangulation of personal lightning detectors to display lightning strikes. Be sure to turn up the volume to get the complete effect!

Thursday Flash Flood Risk. NOAA predicts an elevated threat of torrential rains, capable of flash flooding, from eastern Colorado and southern Kansas into northern Oklahoma today.

Little Has Changed Since June. The west is dry, while gangs of heavy thunderstorms continue to bubble up east of the Rockies. Light showers linger from Minnesota and Wisconsin into the U.P. of Michigan with heavier T-storms over the southeastern USA. Strong strong storms flare up over the central USA tomorrow and spread to the east coast by Saturday afternoon. 84-hour NAM guidance: NOAA and

Seriously Wet. Check out some of these QPF rainfall predictions; upwards of 8" of rain near Tulsa by next Thursday? Heaviest rains stretch from Texarkana into the Deep South, Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic region.

Gradual Warming Trend. Soak up 70s for highs, because next week will feel a little more like the Dog Days of August. Not excessively hot, but humidity levels will be rising, and highs in the 80s will make it easier to take a dip in your favorite lake. Twin Cities ECMWF forecast: WeatherBell.

Disaster and Neglect in Louisiana. Last year's 20-30" drenching in the Baton Rouge area, from a cluster of persistent thunderstorms, is still having consequences, as reported by Climate Central: "...In some places, more than 2 feet of rain fell over three days, overtopping rivers and canals. The flooding killed 13 and affected hundreds of thousands, causing major damage to tens of thousands of homes. Research has shown it was one of the worst storms yet to have been clearly linked to climate change. The estimated $10.3 billion in damage ranked it as one of the worst floods in American history, but the national reaction has been muted in the year since. (Northern Louisiana was hit by flooding that caused $2.3 billion in damage earlier in 2016.) The storm in August had no name and it affected a neglected corner of the country. At the same time, the Olympic Games and a divisive national election reduced news coverage, leaving national reports on the flooding scarce. A New Orleans Times-Picayune movie critic wrote a week into the disaster that “locals have every reason to worry that recovery funds will be just as scarce...”

Photo credit: "A small boat transports flood victims down Old Hammond Highway in east Baton Rouge on Aug. 14, 2016." Credit: Travis Spradling/The Advocate.

There's a Wildfire Burning in West Greenland Right Now. That can't be good. Here's an excerpt from Climate Central: "It’s not just the American West and British Columbia burning up. A fire has sparked in western Greenland, an odd occurrence for an island known more for ice than fire. A series of blazes is burning roughly in the vicinity of Kangerlussuaq, a small town that serves as a basecamp for researchers in the summer to access Greenland’s ice sheet and western glaciers. The largest fire has burned roughly 3,000 acres and sent smoke spiraling a mile into the sky, prompting hunting and hiking closures in the area, according to local news reports..."

Image credit: "The Sentinel-2 satellite captured a wildfire burning in western Greenland." Credit: Pierre Markuse/flickr.

Gambling with Mother Nature. People living on or near the coast are already gambling, and the risks are only increasing as water levels continue to rise. Here's an excerpt from The Miami Herald: "For Floridians with no debt on their homes by or near the water, dropping the flood or other insurance previously required by their mortgage lenders could become a greater and greater gamble over time — especially if they live in areas affected by rising tides and sea level. Sunshine State homeowners who must insure their properties are buying policies from an industry that already is reacting to what it sees as global climate change — and its accompanying potential for more frequent flooding and storms and escalating damage claims. That reaction is one of caution that ultimately could call for dramatically increasing premiums — or even declaring some areas too risky to underwrite at any cost. While politicians still debate whether climate change or the impact — rising sea levels — are real, insurers already are preparing, especially in states like Florida. Besides the cost, the results could impact where people can live..."

Senate Restores Funding for NASA Earth Science and Satellite Servicing Programs. Some good news to report, courtesy of "An appropriations bill approved by a Senate committee July 27 would restore funding for several NASA Earth science missions slated for termination by the administration as well as a satellite servicing program. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations bill, along with two other spending bills, during a markup session. The CJS bill, offering $19.529 billion for NASA overall, had cleared its subcommittee July 25..."

Image credit: "NASA's Restore-L mission would develop satellite servicing technology and refuel the Landsat 7 spacecraft." Credit: NASA.

Read more here:

Fossil Fuel Subsidies are a Staggering $5 Trillion Per Year. A new study finds 6.5% of global GDP goes to subsidizing dirty fossil fuels. University of St. Thomas climate scientist John Abraham reports for The Guardian: "...A study was just published in the journal World Development that quantifies the amount of subsidies directed toward fossil fuels globally, and the results are shocking. The authors work at the IMF and are well-skilled to quantify the subsidies discussed in the paper. Let’s give the final numbers and then back up to dig into the details. The subsidies were $4.9 tn in 2013 and they rose to $5.3 tn just two years later. According to the authors, these subsidies are important because first, they promote fossil fuel use which damages the environment. Second, these are fiscally costly. Third, the subsidies discourage investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy that compete with the subsidized fossil fuels. Finally, subsidies are very inefficient means to support low-income households..."

Beijing file photo: Aaron Farr, Flickr.

Even With All Our Gadgets, Americans Are Using Less Electricity Than 10 Years Ago. Here's an excerpt from Recode: "Everything from our heating systems to our toothbrushes is plugged in and connected to the internet, and smartphones are glued to the palms of our hands. Yet, Americans are using less electricity than we did 10 years ago. Overall residential electricity sales have declined 3 percent from 2010 to 2016, and 7 percent on a per capita basis, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Our numerous gadgets are all getting more efficient, so they’re less of a drain on residential electric bills..."

Super-Colossal Wind Turbines May Be On The Horizon. We're talking offshore wind turbines here, some potentially mammoth in size, as reported by NBC News: "When it comes to building things, Eric Loth has his head in the clouds. This engineering professor at the University of Virginia wants to construct a wind turbine standing more than five times higher than the Statue of Liberty, with rotor blades longer than the Washington Monument is tall. Not only that, the 1,650-foot-high mega-turbine would change along with the weather, bending its blades gracefully to cope with hurricane-strength winds. And all of this would happen dozens of miles out at sea. Typical wind turbines are about 80 meters, or 260 feet, in height. Why build one so big?..."

Energy Department Reports: Wind Energy Continues Rapid Growth in 2016. Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa lead the nation. Here's an excerpt from The Department of Energy: "The Energy Department today released three wind market reports demonstrating continued growth in wind energy nationwide. America’s wind industry added more than 8,200 megawatts (MW) of capacity last year, representing 27 percent of all energy capacity additions in 2016. In 2016, wind supplied about 6 percent of U.S. electricity, and 14 states now get more than 10 percent of their electricity from wind. The reports cover the following market sectors: land-based utility scale, offshore, and distributed wind...In the past year, Iowa and South Dakota produced more than 30 percent of their electricity from wind, and 12 other states exceeded 10 percent (Kansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, Vermont, Idaho, Maine, Texas, Oregon, New Mexico, Nebraska)..."

Boeing Copies Flying Geese to Save Fuel. BloombergTechnology has the fascinating story: "Boeing Co. and NASA have found an inexpensive way to cut airline fuel bills by borrowing a trick from the world’s greatest long-distance aviators: migratory birds. By lining up cruising aircraft in a V-shaped formation favored by Canada geese, carriers would be able to produce a leap in efficiency without investing in structural makeovers or futuristic technology. The idea is to link the flying convoys safely using navigation and collision-avoidance tools that already are widely installed in cockpits..."

Why Health Care Policy Is So Hard. The New York Times has good background; here's an excerpt: "...Consumers often don't know what they need. In most markets, consumers can judge whether they are happy with the broducts they buy. But when people get sick, they often do not know what they need and sometimes are not in a position to make good decisions. They rely on a physician's advice, which even with hindsight is hard to evaluate. The inability of health care consumers to monitor product quality leads to regulation, such as the licensing of physicians, dentists and nurses. For much the same reason, the Food and Drug Administration oversees the safety and effectiveness of pharmaceuticals..."

This Type of Videogame May Actually Harm Your Brain. Fortune reports: "Video game effects on the brain have been heavily debated for decades, with a chief concern being that action video games like Call of Duty influence aggressive and violent behavior. Some experts believe these adverse effects have been overstated, but a new study from the Université de Montréal has found habitually playing them may actually harm your brain. Researchers had about 100 people play shooter games like Call of Duty, Killzone, and Borderlands 2, along with 3D Super Mario games for 90 hours. They found that participants who favor their brain's caudate nucleus — an area associated with the brain's reward system and habit formation — had less grey brain matter in their hippocampus after playing action games..."

People in Rich Countries are Dying of Loneliness. A story at Quartz made me do a double-take: "Sociologists have long been warning about the dangers of increased isolation thanks to aging populations, scattered families, and cultures that promote the individual over the collective. Now, new research analyzing previous studies suggests people who fall into the loneliness trap are 50% more likely to suffer an early death than those who remain socially connected. Previous studies have found that as many as a third of Americans are lonely....Such “epidemics,” while not confined to rich countries, are linked to prominent features of affluent culture: longer life expectancy, decreasing marriage rates, people having fewer children, more people getting divorced, and more people living alone..."

How America Lost Its Mind. Kurt Andersen reports at The Atlantic: "...Each of us is on a spectrum somewhere between the poles of rational and irrational. We all have hunches we can’t prove and superstitions that make no sense. Some of my best friends are very religious, and others believe in dubious conspiracy theories. What’s problematic is going overboard—letting the subjective entirely override the objective; thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings are just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, whereby every individual is welcome to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, all of us free to reinvent ourselves by imagination and will. In America nowadays, those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts..."
Image credit: R. Kikuo Johnson.

The Eclipse of 1878 Almost Killed the Father of the National Weather Service. Expect similar madness on August 21. Atlas Obscura explains what can go wrong; here's a clip: "...Over the next week or so, Abbe and his colleagues were battered with wind, cold, and extreme weather as they tried to observe the skies in preparation for the eclipse. But that wasn’t the worst of it. “They were battling snowstorms in July that threatened to rust out their telescopes. They also suffered significant altitude sickness,” says Baron. Due to the extreme difference in air pressure and lack of oxygen at such a high altitude, the astronomers experienced headaches, dizziness, and disorientation. Many people can adjust to altitude sickness, but that was not the case for Cleveland Abbe. The day before the eclipse, Abbe woke to pain so extreme he could not stand. The Langleys tried to convince Abbe to go down the mountain, but he refused, holing up in his tent, insisting that he could recover. Later that evening, General Myers finally made his way to the peak, where he ordered Abbe taken off the peak on a stretcher..."
File image credit: "The eclipse of 1878 as observed from Wyoming." Étienne Léopold Trouvelot/Public Domain

The Record Carp That Didn't Get Away. Wow. Check this out, courtesy of AP News: "A 10-year-old who reeled in a giant carp says he knew it was a record contender before he ever got it ashore. Chase Stokes’ fish did indeed set a state record in Vermont. It weighed in at 33.25 pounds (15.08 kilograms). The Rutland Herald reports ( the carp was weighed at a bait and tackle shop in New York in April. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department made the record official last month. The fish was a quarter-pound bigger than the previous record holder..."

Weather Balloon Released by Jackson, MS National Weather Service Returns to Launch Site. I saw this on Reddit and did a double-take. Is this even possible?

Weather Presenter Loses It When a Giant Seagull Drops By. Check out the video, courtesy of The Dodo: "Tara Jean Stevens, co-host of the Canadian morning show Vancouver's Breakfast Television, is responsible for delivering the forecast each day, but she certainly didn't see this one coming. While presenting the weather on Tuesday, Stevens was suddenly forced to share the airwaves with a scene-stealing seagull. The bird, it seems, had decided to rest his wings directly in front of the station's live skyline camera, making him look gargantuan. It was almost like he knew exactly what he was doing. "I won't let him distract me, though," Stevens said. Turns out, that was a promise she couldn't keep..."

Can You Find the Typo? Hey, are the proofreaders on strike or what? Thanks to the New York Times' Brian Stelter for passing this along. Oops.

TODAY: Showers likely. Cool and gray. Winds: NW 7-12. High: 73

THURSDAY NIGHT: Showers taper with partial clearing. Low: 58

FRIDAY: Partly sunny and pleasant. Winds: N 7-12. High: 77

SATURDAY: Mix of clouds and sunshine. Winds: N 5-10. Wake-up: 59. High: 76

SUNDAY: Intervals of sun, isolated T-shower. Winds: NE 5-10. Wake-up: 60. High: 77

MONDAY: Plenty of sun, quite pleasant. Winds: NE 3-8. Wake-up: 61. High: 77

TUESDAY: Patchy clouds, stray T-storm possible. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 62. High: 78

WEDNESDAY: Humid again, more numerous storms. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 63. High: near 80

Climate Stories...

9 Takeaways from the National Climate Report. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "A scientific report on climate change obtained by The New York Times, part of a regular federal climate assessment, shows that warming is already having a large effect on the United States. It's hot out there: It is getting warmer everywhere, but in the contiguous United States, the West is warming the fastest. While temperatures in the country (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) have increased an average of 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900, the Southwest and the Northwest, as well as the Northern Great Plains, have seen a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees or more. A degree and a half may not seem like much, but even slight changes in temperature can have widespread effects..."

How Climate Change Became a Question of Faith. Here's an excerpt from The Christian Science Monitor: "...Evangelical antipathy toward climate science, however, is far from uniform, and there has been a growing movement of environmental activism among the politically active subgroup. Groups such as the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which include more than 300 senior evangelical leaders in the United States, say they are convinced that “it is time for our country to help solve the problem of global warming.” But other scholars see a decades-long effort by conservatives to discredit climate science as the primary force behind the current skepticism. “The kind of language we’re hearing now dates back to the early 1990s, and comes from the conservative think tanks who – as the Kyoto Protocols were being put together – began releasing articles and books and reports all emphasizing uncertainty about global warming,” says John Cook, professor at George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication..."

Photo credit: David Goldman/AP.

How Fossil Fuel Money Made Climate Change Denial the Word of God. God promised there wouldn't be another flood, he said nothing about a gradual man-made warming trend. He's in control, but he gave us free will; the ability to make smart, long-term decisions - or greedy, short-sighted choices in the name of special interests. Here's an excerpt from Splinter: "...Conservative groups, funded by fossil fuel magnates, spend approximately one billion dollars every year interfering with public understanding of what is actually happening to our world. Most of that money—most of the fraction of it that can be tracked, anyway—goes to think tanks that produce policy papers and legislative proposals favorable to donors’ interests, super PACs that support politicians friendly to industry or oppose those who are not, or mercenary lobbyists and consultants, in some instances employing the same people who fought to suppress the science on smoking. In terms of impact, however, few investments can rival the return that the conservative donor class has gotten from the small cohort of evangelical theologians and scholars whose work has provided scriptural justifications for apocalyptic geopolitics and economic rapaciousness..."

Illustration credit: Jim Cooke/GMG.

Government Report Finds Drastic Impact of Climate Change on U.S. It turns out it wasn't leaked after all - it's been in the public domain for some time now. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest in the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration. The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited..."

File photo: NOAA.

Read the Draft of the Climate Change Report. The New York Times has a link here.

Climate Leaks. VICE News has a few findings from the most recent climate change report compiled by 13 different agencies. Here are a few highlights:
  • "Extreme weather events are occurring more frequently and have become more intense. The warmest days have become warmer since the early 1960s and extreme heat waves have become more frequent.
  • Overall, it has rained more heavily and more frequently in the U.S. since 1901, and the highest increase has been observed in the northeastern part of the U.S.
  • Oceans have risen 8-9 inches since 1880, the report found with “very high confidence,” citing human activity as making a “substantial contribution” to that rise..."

USDA Staff Were Coached Not to Say "Climate Change", E-mails Show. InsideClimate News has the story: "Four days after President Donald Trump took the oath of office, an official at the Department of Agriculture sent an email, the first in a string of messages signaling to staff that the term "climate change" could soon be erased from the agency's vocabulary. "It has become clear one of the previous administration's priorities is not consistent with that of the incoming administration," wrote Jimmy Bramblett, a deputy chief in the agency's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). "Namely, that priority is climate change. Please visit with your staff and make them aware of this shift in perspective within the Executive Branch." Over the course of the next six months, Bramblett and other officials sent emails to staff, coaching them to avoid using the term "climate change" and instead use the term "weather extremes..."

To Stop Global Warming, Should Humanity Dim the Sun. I have a dim view of geoengineering, tinkering with the atmosphere in ways that could easily come back to bite us in ways we can't even imagine. God help us if it gets to this point. Here's a clip from The Atlantic: "...We all agree that climate change is real and that the solution is to reduce the emissions of the gases that cause global warming,” said Alan Robock, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at Rutgers University and one of the co-chairs of the Maine meeting. “The Paris Agreement was a good start, but those pledges aren’t enough, and we have to reduce more. Even then it [won’t be] fast enough. So what we’re looking at is: If global warming is so dangerous, could we shave off a little warming while we continue to mitigate greenhouse gases?” There are several ways of holding off that warmth. They all involve bouncing sunlight back into space before it penetrates too far into the lower atmosphere. Over the past decade, scientists have discussed some different ways to do this: by brightening clouds over the ocean; by pushing cirrus clouds to form in the high atmosphere; or by spraying a reflective gas into the sky at high altitudes, mimicking the effect of a large volcanic eruption..."

Photo credit: "An aircraft tries to seed clouds in Thailand in 2007. Any global dimming effort would require larger aircraft, flying higher in the atmosphere." Sukree Sukplang / Reuters.

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