Monday, August 23, 2010

Harrowing News From the Top Of The World

* Waking up to a few fleeting puddles, but dry weather likely right through next Monday. Finally we catch a break.

* Gusty northwest winds (topping 25 mph. at times) ushers another taste of September into Minnesota - light jackets needed up north by late tonight.

* By Wednesday morning: half as much water in the air as dew points dip into the 40s.

* Warming trend later in the week, more 80s in time for the weekend.

Alligator Spotted in the Chicago River. File this in the "say what" folder. For the second time in less than a month a small alligator was spotted in the Chicago River, near Belmont Avenue. Officials are on the lookout for a 3-5 foot alligator - near the same exact spot a smaller 2 1/2 foot alligator was captured on August 6. What's next: crocodiles on the St. Croix River? Good grief. The story from is here.

NASA: Study Says Massive Solar Storm Could Wipe Out Power Grid. Not sure it has anything to do with the ominous Mayan "prediction" centered on 2012, but an increasing number of scientists are concerned about the next (potentially record-breaking) solar cycle - forecast to be even larger than the previous peak in 1958. Storms on the sun can interfere with communications satellites, power generation, and transportation. The concern: with heavy reliance on the electrical grid and digital technology we are far more vulnerable that we were in 1958. An overview of the risk is here - NASA sheds more light on the regions of the USA most vulnerable to sun-induced power blackouts here.

Los Angeles: "Big One" Could Come Sooner Than Expected. The last major (7.9) quake hit the L.A. area 153 years ago, the next big tremor is long overdue. Seismologists estimated that anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 people could lose their lives, depending on when the next, inevitable quake hits. Discovery News has more on the ongoing quake threat here. Kind of puts all those tornadoes and cold fronts into perspective.

Paul's Conservation MN Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota

Today: Damp start, then partly sunny, windy and cooler (big drop in humidity). Winds: NW 15-25. High :76

Tuesday night: Clearing and comfortably cool. Low: 56

Wednesday: Plenty of sun, still breezy and September-like. High: 73

Thursday: First day of the Minnesota State Fair. Sunny and pleasant - low humidity. High: 78

Friday: Hazy sun, warming up to summer-like levels again. High: 83

Saturday: Lot's of sun, windy and warm. High: 86

Sunday: Hazy sun, sticky and warm - still windy. High: 85

Monday: Still dry and quiet, a mix of clouds and sunshine. High: 84

Monday Memories. Not a bad way to start the work-week: warm sunshine, a gentle breeze, still sticky out there (but we've seen worse). Highs ranged from a comfortable 71 at Grand Marais to 88 in St. Cloud, Redwood Falls, International Falls and the Twin Cities.

Do not, under any circumstances, even think of writing off the Summer of '10 anytime soon. True, we've lost roughly 114 minutes of daylight since June 21, the Summer Solstice, the sun now as high in the sky as it was back in mid April. But summer brought warmer than average temperatures across most of North America - water temperatures from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes to Hudson Bay are trending warmer than average, to date - and that unusually tepid lake water may nudge temperatures milder than normal for the next couple of months.

That old adage, "when in a drought don't predict rain" rings true. 2010 is on-track to be the warmest year - globally - since at least 1880. With a macro weather & climate trend like this it's best to go with "persistence", which basically means - ride the current wave, don't buck the trends.

CPC, the Climate Prediction Center, is forecasting a warmer than average September, October and November for the Upper Midwest and much of New England, in spite of a developing La Nina pattern (a cooling of Pacific Ocean water - which in some winters gone by tipped the pattern in favor of colder conditions for Minnesota and the Upper Midwest). The correlation between La Nina and chilly winters isn't nearly as strong as the link between El Nino and a tendency toward milder-than-normal winter weather. I don't even want to think about the winter forecast, at least not yet. Let's give it a few weeks (or, better yet) months. There's still too much warmth to savor: I'm pretty confident we'll see at least 1-3 more 90-degree days, probably another 7-15 days above 80, if not more. September is (arguably) one of the nicest months of the entire year: still lukewarm, lakes still warm enough for a swim, at least through the first half of September, without all the humidity and storms raging overhead. You get some of the best of summer, without all the crowds, debilitating dew points and jumbo-puddles. For the record, whenever June brides inquire about the weather I BEG them to consider September instead: the odds of pulling off a dry, pleasant, sun-splashed weekend are FAR higher in mid September than in mid June.

The arrival of a cooler front set off some rain overnight - but here's a sign of morphing seasons: last night's cool frontal passage sparked a north-south smear of rain, but no embedded T-storms (for a change).

Enough To Settle The Dust. Last night's advancing wedge of cooler, Canadian air was forecast to dump the heaviest rainfall amounts over far southwestern MN, more than an inch south/west of Marshall and Windom. From St. Cloud to the Twin Cities only .10 to .20" rain was predicted.

In the short term we'll all be enjoying a taste of mid September, Canadian air charging south of the border, keeping us 5-10 degrees cooler than average today and Wednesday. Minnesotans living up north may reach for sweatshirts and light jackets by Wednesday morning, with wake-up temperatures in the 40s. I wouldn't be shocked to see some 30s up near Tower and Embarrass, the Twin Towns of Cold.

The arrival of this cool wedge of fresh air set off some rain overnight - we wake up to a few leftover puddles, but a dry Tuesday is on tap with brisk northwest winds and dew points dropping through the 50s into the 40s. No need for A/C from this afternoon through at least Thursday afternoon. Wednesday may be the best day of the week, a cloudless sky, light winds and low humidity, like something out of a postcard. Winds swing around to the south Thursday, warming us back into the 80s from Thursday afternoon into the weekend. Not sure we'll see 90 the end of the week, but I wouldn't rule it out over parts of western MN by Friday and Saturday.

Weekend Preview: next weekend's weather looks more encouraging than it did a day or 2 ago. A fizzling cool front may spark a few T-storms over far northern MN Saturday, a better chance of a few stray storms over western counties by Sunday - but much of Minnesota should experience a warm, hazy (sticky) and mostly-dry weekend, highs well up into the 80s, in fact long-range GFS guidance has us in the 80s into the second week of September. The long-range outlook is still very much up in the air - all I know is that another warm, windy (sticky) weekend is shaping up for the lake, Renaissance Festival or the State Fair.

How on Earth did it get to be State Fair time? Our summer is on fast-forward, accelerating at break-neck speed toward Labor Day. Soak up this week, a mostly-dry, quiet, severe-free week across Minnesota. After the wild, stormy, sticky and warmer-than-average summer we've just muddled through I (like you) take NOTHING for granted.

A Surplus of Rain. With the exception of a couple of dry weeks in late May and mid June, this summer has been consistently wet in the Twin Cities. Total rainfall since May 23: 14.1", about 2.2" wetter than average, to date. No droughts to worry about this year, at least not close to home (moderate/severe drought conditions linger over the Minnesota Arrowhead).

A Presidental Washout. No, not even the President of the United States can do anything about the weather on a vacation. President Obama endured several days of heavy rain on Massachusetts' Martha's Vineyard. He muddled on, playing golf in the rain, apparently trying to make the best of a waterlogged time-out. Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe, the story in USA Today is here.

Hurricane Danielle. The fourth named storm this season in the Atlantic, "Danielle" is forecast to become a category 2, possibly even a minimal category 3 hurricane in the coming days. The good news: prevailing steering winds aloft should nudge Hurricane Danielle away from the east coast, possibly brushing Bermuda with tropical storm force winds by Thursday. Map courtesy of Ham Weather, a division of WeatherNation.

"Frank." You have to respect a hurricane named Frank. It formed off the west coast of central America - tracking almost due west-northwest, the brunt of the storm remaining well offshore.

* New Orlean's Storm Defenses Are Nearly Ready, But Mistrusted. We're coming up on the 5 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which inundated the Big Easy on August 29, 2005. Since then the Army Corp of Engineers has constructed a 350 mile-long "ring" of linked levees, floodwalls, gates and pumps forming a protective defense of the city. The statistical odds of a repeat of a Katrina-like storm? Less than 1% But residents of New Orleans have come to expect the unexpected. The New York Times has a comprehensive story about the construction, and why many local residents still believe the city is vulnerable to inundation.

Katrina Still Has Emotional Grip on Thousands of Kids. Sunday marks the 5 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina engulfing New Orleans. Recent studies suggest that some of the biggest scars may be on the kids who suffered through the flood - they're 5 times more likely to have ongoing emotional problems. The problem: fewer than half the affected kids have received any help. Many have PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, similar to what veterans of war endure when they return from the battlefield. The story in USA Today is here.

"Hailer!" The Bridlewood area of Calgary, Canada experienced a freak hailstorm yesterday, enough hail to whiten the ground (and even plow/shovel!) YouTube video of the sudden barrage of hail is here.

Unusually Dry Water Vapor Image Signature Over The Central U.S. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin are tracking unusually dry air over the mid and upper levels of the troposphere, the region of the atmosphere where almost all "weather" takes place. You may have noticed Sunday's cloudless, deep-blue sky. After a summer that brought almost unprecedented levels of moisture overhead, the turnaround has been rather dramatic. True weather-fanatics may find this story of some interest.

Anatomy Of A Tornado. In a single day, April 26, 1989, a tornado killed an estimated 1,300 people in Bangladesh, the greatest death toll ever reported from a tornadic storm. More on how tornadoes form and intensify, along with some harrowing statistics, can be found here.

Weather-Related Disasters: The New Normal? The Des Moines Register reports that an increasing number of Iowans are scratching their heads, wondering about all the "1-in-100 Year Floods" in recent years. They seem to be happening with increasing frequency and ferocity. Homeowners that never imagined they were in a floodplain are questioning whether they should rebuild or relocate - the treadmill of severe floods seems to be increasing, and not just in Iowa, but worldwide.

Satellite Study from 2000 - 2009: Plant Growth Slowing. It was widely accepted among scientists that a warmer, more CO2-rich world might be a stimulus for plant growth worldwide, and yet recent studies at the University of Montana from 2000 - 2009, the warmest decade of the instrument record, suggest that plant growth has slowed. Anthony Watts has a good summary of these latest developments in his excellent post here.

Nearly 260,000 People Flee Flooding Along the China - North Korea Border. The Yalu River, separating China from North Korea, has swelled out of it's banks, affecting more than a quarter million local residents. China and Pakistan have been hit especially hard this summer - an update from CNN is here.

Pakistan Flood Survivors Face Face Disease Threat. The scope of the flooding gripping Pakistan is hard to comprehend - an estimated 6 million kids are at risk of disease. The greatest short-term threat: cholera. Drinking water has become overwhelmed by raw sewage - resulting in unlivable conditions. The world is not grasping the enormity of the disaster in Pakistan, the thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of people who may perish from disease in the coming weeks and months. The problems will only get worse when the flood waters recede - we're witnessing a slow-motion catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. The story is here.

* If a Country Sinks Beneath The Sea, Is It Still a Country? The Maldives, Tuvalu, Kiribaldi and other small island states face possible extinction later this century as sea levels continue to rise worldwide. If land disappears beneath a rising ocean do these countries still have legal rights? Representation at the United Nations? The question brings up a myriad of legal questions - the New York Times tackles a few of them in this article.

Pakistan Flooding: Social Media Map. ESRI has launched an interactive map that provides further perspective about the scope of flooding in Pakistan, telling the story via social media, including Twitter and Flickr - here.

* Pakistan's Temperatures Soar, Europe Braces For Floods. On Sunday the heat index reached 130 F. in portions of interior Pakistan, into the extreme danger zone. Meanwhile flood warnings are posted for much of Europe, including London, where 3" rains are possible. CNN has the latest here.
Disaster At The Top Of The World. A Canadian professor who has conducted extensive research in the arctic region explains what he's witnessed in recent years, the profound changes taking place at the top of the world, where warming has been twice as fast as the global average. He worries that it's going to take a couple of "climate calamities" to wake people up, especially politicians, who don't seem willing or incentivized to deal with climate change in the short term. His story in the New York Times is here.

* The Best Science Indicates Humans Cause Warming. More on the NAS, the National Academy of Science, which has a 130 year (bipartisan) record of service to Congress, and their stance on climate change. A recent survey showed that 97% of professional climate scientists worldwide believed that a). the atmosphere is, in fact, warming - and b). much of the warming is anthropogenic, the result of a 38% spike in (man-made) greenhouse gases since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, most of that increase in the last 50 years. The story is in the Houston Chronicle is here.

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