Wednesday, June 8, 2011

1" Rain Tonight & Friday, Weather on Steroids (and a "perfect storm of stupid")

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

TODAY: Some sun, then clouds increase, cool breeze. Winds: NE 10-20. High: 66

THURSDAY NIGHT: Showers arrive. Low: 51

FRIDAY: Showers likely, cool & damp. High: 63

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, cool and damp - peeks of PM sun? Winds: NW 10-15. Low: 54. High: 65

SUNDAY: More sun, less wind. Nicer day of the weekend. Nice. Winds: SE 10 Low: 55. High: 76

MONDAY: Showers & T-storms likely, locally heavy rain? Low: 63. High: 81

TUESDAY: Few strong storms? Humid. Low; 65. High: 84

WEDNESDAY: Still unstable. Another PM T-storm or two. Low: 64. High: 82

Northern Lights: may be visible the next couple of nights. Details below.

Rain is likely tonight into Friday. Over 1" of rain may fall across much of Minnesota.

Saturday: cooler day of the weekend with a mix of clouds and some sun by afternoon. Skies should be partly to mostly cloudy, a northwest breeze at 8-13 mph. Odds favor dry weather, but it may be cool for the lake, highs holding in the 60s. Barometer: rising, then holding steady.

Sunday: sunnier, nicer, milder day of the weekend, highs in the mid 70s. Winds: southeast at 8-13, slowly falling barometer.

8 Separate Billion Dollar Disasters So Far In 2011 (record is 9 separate billion dollar disasters, set in 2008). Details below. The Wall Street Journal reports $7 billion in U.S. insured losses, just in May.

Aurora Potential. Clouds will be an issue in the coming days, but if skies clear the next couple of nights, even briefly, you may get a peek at the Aurora Borealis, the "Northern Lights". More from Alaska's Geophysical Institute: "An event on the Sun occurred on the 7th of June. Prompt arrival of high speed particles has already affected the atmosphere. Our model indicates that the shock wave will reach Earth on the 8th of June around 5pm GMT. This will be followed by a disturbance in the solar wind that should produce fairly extensive auroral displays within 24 hr after that time.

Forecast. Auroral activity will be high. Weather permitting, highly active auroral displays will be visible overhead from Inuvik, Yellowknife, Rankin and Igaluit to Juneau, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay and Sept-Iles, and visible low on the horizon from Seattle, Des Moines, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, and Halifax.

Record Heat. Most of these records were recorded on Tuesday - click here to see all the (interactive) details from Ham Weather.

Probability Of Puddles. Models are hinting at a period of rain Thursday night into Friday morning, another surge of showers Friday night. Most of Saturday should be dry, a blob-free Doppler radar screen lingering into Sunday. The chance of showers/storms increases again by the middle of next week.

1"+ Rain Thursday Night Into Friday? The 00z Thursday NAM model prints out over 1" rain for the metro area tonight into midday Friday as a warm front surges north. Hold off on the watering for now.

Saturday: Getting Better. We may wake up to a damp, cloudy start, but enough dry air will filter east for a few sunny breaks by afternoon/evening. Plan on a cool Saturday, highs stuck in the 60s. But any significant rain should be well east of Minnesota by Saturday.

Sunday: Nicer Day Of The Weekend. A weak ridge of high pressure over Wisconsin should promise a sunnier sky much of Sunday, although clouds may increase later in the day, especially over far western Minnesota. Sunday should be nearly 10 degrees milder than Saturday: highs in the mid to upper 70s.

Forecast: Smoke. Wildfires have burned over 500 square miles of forestland in Arizona, roughly an area 1/3rd the size of Rhode Island. 2,300 firefighters have been deployed to try to control the flames. The "Wallow Fire" is already the second biggest wildfire ever recorded in Arizona. NASA "MODIS" image above can be seen, full-resolution, here.

Hot Weather Factoids:

* Public schools in Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey cut their school days short in response to rising temperatures.

* In the District of Columbia, trash collection will begin an hour earlier than normal because of the extremely hot weather forecast. City officials warned residents not to open fire hydrants to cool off because it reduces water pressure and hampers firefighting.

* As the heat wave has pushed east, it has crushed previous record highs in St. Louis and St. Paul, Minn., where the mercury reached 102 degrees on Tuesday and finally melted a giant snow pile in a Sears store parking lot.

* Data courtesy of AP and Earth Networks.

Flood Factoids:
Amtrak service through Iowa and Nebraska has also been suspended:

* Information courtesy of James Aman from Earth Networks (formerly Weather Bug).

Landsat 5 Satellite Sees Tornado Track Near Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Details from NASA: Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen/USGS, using Landsat 5 data provided by Julia Barsi of the Landsat Project Science Office. "On June 1, 2011, a supercell thunderstorm developed over western Massachusetts. The storm produced an EF3 tornado that cut a 39-mile (63-kilometer) track of destruction across southwest and south-central Massachusetts. Not only did the long-lived tornado remain on the ground for many miles, but it also widened to 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers). The Thematic Mapper on the Landsat 5 satellite captured this natural-color image on June 5, 2011. This image shows part of the tornado track, including damage in Sturbridge. According to the Boston Globe, Massachusetts state police reported a tornado on the ground in Sturbridge at 5:22 p.m. The tornado was spotted on the Interstate 84 exit, and cars were overturned. The Boston Globe reported that the Massachusetts governor declared a state of emergency and ordered National Guard troops to assist with cleanup efforts. Tornadoes on June 1 killed at least four residents of the state, as well as reducing homes, schools, and churches to rubble."

Wilmington Photographer Takes Pictures Of Tornado-Ravaged Joplin. WECT-TV has the story: "WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – A local wedding photographer visited Joplin, Missouri to help storm survivors clean up damage and to offer his services as encouragement. Ray Baca says even the pictures don't give the damage justice.  Baca spends most of his time taking pictures of brides, but this last week, he spent it taking pictures of heartbreak. He recently drove to Joplin to help out a friend clean up the damage to her home.  He also helped by offering to take pictures for anyone who needed something uplifting.  It's something Baca did in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, too.  He says the devastation is unreal, but there is some encouragement. "You can't prepare yourself for something like this," Baca said.  "Part of the town was still intact but you go over a hill or a bridge and cross over and you can see the neighborhoods that were just destroyed."

"Wild And Weird" Weather Leaves Its Mark. USA Today attempts to connect the dots with all the extreme weather events we're witnessing, not just in the USA but worldwide. Record snowcover out west (and the specter of instant flooding as warm fronts finally arrive), the Mississippi experiencing the worst flooding since 1927, now the Missouri is overflowing its banks, a record year for tornadoes, and now extreme heat gripping much of America. It's like Mother Nature has "turned up the volume" on our weather - which has always been extreme - but now we're reaching a new level of records: "Monster tornadoes, historic floods, massive wildfires and widespread drought: Springtime has delivered a wallop of weather-related destruction and misery across much of the nation this year. And it may all be related. Never mind the debate over global warming, its possible causes and effects. We've got "global weirding." That's how climatologist Bill Patzert describes the wide range of deadly weather effects that have whipped the nation this year, killing hundreds of people and doing billions of dollars in damage to homes, businesses, schools and churches."Sometimes it gets wild and weird," says Patzert, a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. In more technical terms, weather forecasters searching for a unifying explanation point to the La NiƱa climate pattern, a phenomenon born far out in the Pacific Ocean that shapes weather across the globe, in combination with other atmospheric anomalies that have altered the jet stream flow of air across North America."

My Experience In Joplin Surveying Tornado Damage. KMOV-TV's Steve Templeton spent time on the scene - this is his first-person account of what he witnessed: "I surveyed the tornado damage in Joplin last week and wanted to share my impressions.  You can see a few of the pictures I took (click on pictures to the right), but even those don't do justice to the vastness of the destruction.  If you're in the middle of the damage path, no matter which direction you look you will see what I can only imagine looks like a large bomb has exploded-destruction as far as the eye can see. I can tell you that the few people we spoke to seemed to be focused on the task at hand, cleaning up.  Various charity organizations were offering free water, sunscreen, work gloves, food, pet food, and other needed items to the residents who were trying to clean up in sweltering heat.  And these charity stations were all over the place.  It was encouraging to see that a week later the organizations able to give had not packed up, but instead were still there giving. As for the damage, in a word it was incredible.  I saw what was once a Commerce bank, but everything was gone except the vault.  No walls, no windows, no carpet, no teller windows...just a thick cement vault was left standing. "

Living Safe: Tornadoes Should Be Part Of Your Weather-Safety Plan. Some solid advice and timely reminders from "Your Houston News": "Tornados are nature’s most violent storms. They arrive as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground. Whirling winds can reach 300 mph. To recognize the possibility of a tornado, look for the following danger signs:

- Dark, often greenish sky
- Large hail
- A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
- Loud roar, similar to a freight train.

If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, take shelter immediately. Remember these tips to protect yourself if a tornado looms, no matter where you are:

In a house or building: Go to the lowest building level and to the center of an interior room, such as a closet or interior hallway. Stay away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.

In your car: Park, get out and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or home.

Outside, with no shelter: Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Do not get under an overpass or bridge; you are safer in a low, flat location. Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.

Always watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries."

Is Anthony Weiner The "Biggest Loser"? Yes, I've heard enough weiner-jokes to last the rest of my life. On some level I feel bad for the guy. Did he have this fall-from-grace coming? Absolutely. Why do these guys think they're "Teflon"? More on this slow-motion train-wreck from Politico: "But underneath our forced amusement is sadness and anger. Come on guys, grow up. Surely you can control yourselves. Surely you have some impulse control. We watch the wives with fear-filled empathy. I mean: Maria Shriver, so accomplished, such a partner to her husband. Ditto Hillary Clinton. Did they know their men were prone to cheat? There is in me—and other women I know — at least a bit of irritation at the wives. Is that unfair? I don’t think so. But I feel it. The word on the street about Bill Clinton and Schwarzenegger was clear as a bell — and of high decibel. They were talked about as players, always had been, always would be. Did their wives choose to look the other way? Look: Marriage is tough. There is often an almost necessary dose of denial about someone else’s behavior to keep you staying attached. But this high-stakes bad boy behavior, which has not just private but public ramifications — that’s the highest level of denial."

WFSB Meteorologist Moonlights As Lady Gaga. O.K. I don't know if this guy has his AMS or CBM Seal (or if it's in danger of being revoked). Maybe it was a slow weather-day? Details from TV Spy and "Meteorologist Scot Haney currently appears on WFSB‘s weekday morning newscasts but he may have a future as a Lady Gaga impersonator. Haney made a bombastic appearance at a recent Hartford charity event dressed as Ms. Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah-ah Roma-roma-mamaa Ga-ga-ooh-la-la. “Scot raised the bar for charity performances by appearing as Lady Gaga,” writes WFSB anchor Dennis House. “Hilarious.” Another photo of Haney as Gaga inside…

There But For The Grace Of God Go I. There are no words...must have been a ratings period.

Jabba The Hut In The Clouds? Yes, some people have entirely too much free time on their hands: "It is a vision! But what does it mean? Offer your theological explanations in the comments." Cloudy daydream courtesy of Neatorama.

A Welcome Cool Front. Wednesday was 20 degrees cooler than Tuesday in the Twin Cities, a high of 83 still 6 degrees warmer than average. Statewide highs ranged from 62 at Hibbing to 70 in st. Cloud to 87 at Rochester.

Welcome Home Ken! Good to have you back in Minnesota. Good luck.

Weather on Steroids
According to NOAA we've already seen 8 separate billion-dollar weather disasters in 2011, just shy of the all-time record (9 in 2008). Record snowpack out west, fires torching 3.5 million acres in Arizona, "exceptional" drought in the south, while record floods plague the Missouri & Mississippi Rivers. And then there's the (unprecedented) tornado outbreak and now: extreme HEAT suffocating much of America.

103 F in the Twin Cities Tuesday; 6 degrees hotter than Death Valley - only 5 days since 1871 have been hotter in the metro area. Someone described this as "Mother Nature turning up the volume on our weather." Weather on steroids. Not sure we can pin all of this on climate change (or La Nina for that matter). More Americans living in harm's way? Perhaps. Particularly unlucky this year? Absolutely.

From blast-furnace 100s to light jackets in 48 hours; highs hold in the 60s through Saturday. Clouds increase today - a warm frontal passage triggers showers on Friday, but most of the rain surges east of Minnesota on Saturday. Skies clear late Saturday, highs reach the 70s Sunday (still the nicer day of the weekend up at the lake). No more free saunas in sight. What a week, eh?

U.S. Said To Be Falling Behind In The Business Of "Green". Will we be buying all our wind turbines, solar panels and hybrid cars from China in a decade? Here's a troubling story from the New York Times: "Many European countries — along with China, Japan and South Korea — have pushed commercial development of carbon-reducing technologies with a robust policy mix of direct government investment, tax breaks, loans, regulation and laws that cap or tax emissions. Incentives have fostered rapid entrepreneurial growth in new industries like solar and wind power, as well as in traditional fields like home building and food processing, with a focus on energy efficiency. But with Congress deeply divided over whether climate change is real or if the country should use less fossil fuel, efforts in the United States have paled in comparison. That slow start is ceding job growth and profits to companies overseas that now profitably export their goods and expertise to the United States.  A recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that while the clean technology sector was booming in Europe, Asia and Latin America, its competitive position was “at risk” in the United States because of “uncertainties surrounding key policies and incentives.” “This is a $5 trillion business and if we fail to be serious players in the new energy economy, the costs will be staggering to this country,” said Hal Harvey, a Stanford engineer who was an adviser to both the Clinton and the first Bush administration and is now chief executive of the San Francisco-based energy and environment nonprofit organization Climate Works. Although the 2009 stimulus bill provided a burst of funding — $45 billion — that has now tapered off, he said, “We’ve let energy policy succumb to partisan politics.”

A Link Between Climate Change And Joplin Tornado? Never! Bill McKibbon has some fairly strong opinions about the lens through which we're watching all these extreme weather events, including the EF-5 tornado that demolished much of Joplin, Missouri. Here's his recent Op-Ed in the Washington Post: "Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn’t mean a thing. It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected. 

If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air."

A Perfect Storm Of Stupid. Yes, let's spend more precious airtime analyzing "Weiner-Gate" and parsing every other word coming out of Sara Palin's mouth, rather than deal with the most pressing concerns: our (massive) budget deficit, mounting problems with health care, aging infrastructure, jobs and U.S. corporations fleeing to countries with lower taxes, and yes, we continue to sit on our hands when it comes to climate change, a growing problem that has profound implications from agriculture to development to clean water, the health of our citizenry and the rise of sustainable, green technologies. The U.K. Guardian has a few thoughts: "Herein lies the real scandal: Why aren't the TV meteorologists, with each story, following the words "extreme weather" with another two: "climate change"? We need modern-day eco-Paul (or Paula) Revere to rouse the populace to this imminent threat. If anyone fits that role, it's Bill McKibben. He's been speaking, writing and organising globally to stop climate change for more than two decades. I recently asked him about the extreme weather/climate change connection: "We're making the Earth a more dynamic and violent place … We're trapping more of the sun's energy in this narrow envelope of atmosphere, and that's now expressing itself in many ways. We don't know for sure that any particular tornado comes from climate change. There have always been tornadoes. We do know that we're seeing epic levels of thunderstorm activity, of flooding, of drought, of all the things that climatologists have been warning us about."

The Earth Is Full. Here is a New York Times Op-Ed from St. Louis Park's Thomas Friedman: "You really do have to wonder whether a few years from now we’ll look back at the first decade of the 21st century — when food prices spiked, energy prices soared, world population surged, tornados plowed through cities, floods and droughts set records, populations were displaced and governments were threatened by the confluence of it all — and ask ourselves: What were we thinking? How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we’d crossed some growth/climate/natural resource/population redlines all at once? “The only answer can be denial,” argues Paul Gilding, the veteran Australian environmentalist-entrepreneur, who described this moment in a new book called “The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World.” “When you are surrounded by something so big that requires you to change everything about the way you think and see the world, then denial is the natural response. But the longer we wait, the bigger the response required.” Gilding cites the work of the Global Footprint Network, an alliance of scientists, which calculates how many “planet Earths” we need to sustain our current growth rates. G.F.N. measures how much land and water area we need to produce the resources we consume and absorb our waste, using prevailing technology. On the whole, says G.F.N., we are currently growing at a rate that is using up the Earth’s resources far faster than they can be sustainably replenished, so we are eating into the future. Right now, global growth is using about 1.5 Earths. “Having only one planet makes this a rather significant problem,” says Gilding."

Playing Rough. ‘Hockey stick’ scientists dragged into the politics of global warming. tells the tale of climate scientists who are being harrassed and intimidated by politicians who seem to have more interest in keeping rich, influential donors and companies in their districts happy vs. understanding the implications of climate science: "PUT “RAYMOND Bradley’’ and “hockey stick’’ into a Google search box, and you’ll get an education in what happens when science runs afoul of politics. Bradley, a distinguished and widely respected climatologist who directs the Climate System Research Center at UMass Amherst, is co-author of a graph known as “the hockey stick’’ because it shows relatively flat temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere for most of the last millennium, with a sharp upward turn in the 20th century....Bradley’s book describes the shock of being yanked out of the scholarly realm and into the arena of partisan politics. Of being investigated by Barton’s House Energy Committee, Bradley said, “You realize they have infinite power, and they can ruin you — and they would have, if not for the strength of Sherwood Boehlert,’’ the Republican Congressman from New York who stood up to Barton. “Boehlert’s words should be etched on the portals of every science building in the country,’’ writes Bradley, “next to a big image of a thumb pushing down on the balance of scientific inquiry: ‘Seeking scientific truth is too important to be impeded by political expediency. When it comes to scientific debates, Congress is all thumbs.’ ’’ Scientifically, “the hockey stick is a brick outhouse, very robust,’’ as Bradley put it. The reliability of his findings has been confirmed by more than a decade of testing and scrutiny by the field. And yet the campaign to discredit what he and almost all of his colleagues accept as the fact of human-influenced global warming has made significant gains in popular and political culture over the past decade. “They’ve manipulated the media brilliantly,’’ he said. “Inhofe put out this anti-IPCC report and coupled it with a call for 17 scientists to be indicted. It got on the front page of every newspaper.’’ Despite his initial horror at being dragged into the public arena, Bradley recognizes that the battle will be won or lost there. He said, “We have to take on global warming as a political issue. Scientists need to stop self-flagellating if they can’t convince Rush Limbaugh and his followers. Let’s go for the other 60 percent who will listen. Right now, that’s basically a Democrat and left group. The Tea Party has made global warming a litmus test, so you almost can’t get a Republican to talk seriously about it. There’s a lot of money blowing hard the other way, but we have to keep insisting, explaining.’’

Report On The Colorado River Notes Climate Change. The story from "DENVER—An interim report on a study of potential imbalances in Colorado River water supply and demand predicts challenges from climate change. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and agencies in the seven states in the river basin plan to release a final report next year. But an interim report released Monday says that under one scenario, droughts lasting at least five years are projected 40 percent of the time over the next 50 years, which could reduce streamflows. The interim report documents progress on the study through Jan. 31. It doesn't mention this year's deep mountain snowpack in parts of the West. More than 30 million people in Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming depend on water supplied by the Colorado River and its tributaries."

Responding To the Skeptics. Carl Parker from the Weather Channel in Atlanta follows up on some heat generated from a recent article on climate change: "It's true that climate change has been taking place since the earth was young. What's also true is that natural forcing mechanisms do not explain the changes that are taking place today. Knowing the state of the atmosphere when the dinosaurs walked the earth doesn't help much, because that was tens of millions of years before our time. What's important is the nature of the atmosphere that allowed homo sapiens to develop, going back 200,000 years. We can look back 800,000 years, by sampling tiny air bubbles that are trapped in ice cores, pulled from deep within the Antarctic ice. And the bubbles reveal an atmosphere that, until the industrial revolution, operated within a certain range. The CO2 level is currently at 391ppm. That is 30% higher than highest end of the natural range that existed for hundreds of thousands of years, and it is increasing 30 times faster than it ever had prior to the industrial age. And though have been shorter-term periods of cooling, the broader trend in temperatures since the early 20th century has been quite clearly been upward."

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