Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fine Thursday (Sunday severe risk, a link between wildfires and climate change?)

.73" rain fell at MSP International in the last 24 hours, .99" at Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie.
Dry weather should prevail today and much of Friday, at least through the mid afternoon hours tomorrow.
.36" rain (and T-storms) predicted for Friday night and early Saturday.
Severe storm outbreak possible Sunday. Too early for specifics, but many of the ingredients are coming together.

Paul's Conservation Minnesota Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:
TODAY: Plenty of sun, umbrella-free. A rare dry day. Winds: NE 10-15. High: near 80

THURSDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy and comfortable. Low: 63

FRIDAY: Warm sun much of the day; nighttime T-storms expected. High: 82

SATURDAY: Soggy start, some PM sun possible - probably the drier day overall. Winds: SW 3-8. High: 84

SUNDAYSticky, some AM sun possible - strong/severe PM storms? Winds: SE 8-13. Low: 70. High: 87

MONDAY: Few T-storms (best chance southern Minnesota). Low: 71. High: 85

TUESDAY: Unsettled, few more showers possible - turning slightly cooler. Low: 65. High: 79

WEDNESDAY: Showers give way to a partly sunny sky - comfortably cool. Low: 62. High: 75

Weekend Weather Preview:

Saturday: wet start, showers taper early, skies brighten by midday - a partly sunny, mild afternoon. Winds: light/variable. Falling barometer. High: 75-81. (plan on a cool, rainy Saturday along the North Shore for Grandma's Marathon. The latest NAM prints out nearly 1" of rain in the Duluth area Saturday. Wish I had better news - but for now prepare for cool and (very) wet and be pleasantly surprised if the rain holds off. Temperatures in Duluth: 55-65. East breeze off the lake at 8-15 mph.

Sunday: muggy, warmer, with more clouds than sun. Numerous T-storms expected, some potentially severe PM hours. Winds: SE 8-15, higher gusts in T-storms. Falling barometer. High: 80-86 (take an umbrella to "Back to the 50s" at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds - keep an eye on the sky, which may turn threatening by mid/late afternoon).

24 Hour Rainfall. NWS Doppler radar estimates show anywhere from .7 to 1.5" of rain across the Twin Cities metro area, lesser amounts over central and northern Minnesota. Over 4" soaked some counties in far southwestern MN, nearly 5" near Comfrey.

30 Day Rainfall. MRCC data shows some 3-6" rainfall amounts in the last month over central Minnesota, as much as 7-8" over southwestern Minnesota. The Golden Rain Gauge Award goes to southeastern Iowa, where some 15-18"+ amounts have been observed. That's 4-5 month's worth of rain in just the last 30 days.

"Waves" Of Showers/Storms. Models are hinting at two distinct surges of showers and T-storms, one line of weather moving in Friday night, lingering into early Saturday - a second (more severe) line of T-storms possible PM hours on Sunday.

Saturday: Slow Drying Trend. After a very wet start I'm predicting that skies will brighten up by midday, some sun possible PM hours (but rain will linger most of the day across Wisconsin and the Minnesota Arrowhead, making for a VERY wet Grandma's Marathon this year). If the sun does, in fact, come out - we should be good for highs in the upper 70s to near 80.

Sunday: Significant Thunder-Potential. It won't rain all day, but I suspect Sunday will be the stormier day of the weekend, the best chance of a few hours of (heavy) rain from mid afternoon into the nighttime hours. A severe storm outbreak is possible Sunday - too early to get specific, but many of the ingredients (low-level moisture, instability and wind shear) seem to be converging for a possible outbreak Sunday PM. I wouldn't be surprised to see a few isolated tornadoes Sunday evening.

Sunday - Monday Severe Risk. SPC's experimental long-range severe outlook shows a risk of severe storms over the eastern Dakotas, eastern Nebraska, western Iowa and a big chunk of Minnesota on Sunday and Monday.
Rybak Seeks More Storm Aid. Many neighborhoods are still cleaning up from the recent EF-1 tornado that swept across the western and northern suburbs of Minneapolis. The Star Tribune has the latest on attempts to get more help for impacted families: "Disappointed by the denial of federal help for victims of the May 22 tornado, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is going directly to the president for help. Rybak and state officials learned Tuesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied Minnesota's request for individual assistance to homeowners, renters and businesses affected by the tornado. In its decision, the agency said "the damage from this event to dwellings was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the combined capabilities of the State, affected local governments and voluntary agencies to warrant the designation of Individual Assistance for Hennepin County." In search of other options for federal help, Rybak called the White House on Tuesday. The response: an invitation to meet with President Obama and other federal officials on Monday to discuss possibilities for federal help for the tornado-torn North Minneapolis neighborhood, which has one of the city's highest concentrations of poverty and unemployment. The request for individual assistance from FEMA was meant to help homeowners, renters and businesses lacking insurance to cover the damage. "One thing we've learned in the recovery process is that it is very difficult to win individual assistance from FEMA," Rybak said. "While we're disappointed, our job now is to move forward and evaluate all our options for getting the greatest amount of help, including financial help, to the greatest number of people as quickly as possible." State officials said Tuesday they are analyzing all options, including appealing FEMA's decision. An appeal must be filed within 30 days. The tornado seriously damaged an estimated 274 homes and businesses. Declaring a disaster in Hennepin and Anoka counties where the tornado hit, Obama authorized federal funding to cover losses estimated at $16.33 million to publicly owned property but not private property.

327 PM EDT WED JUN 15 2011




Most U.S. Tornadoes Since 1953. The Crimson White has the story:

"In the wee hours of New Year’s Day, 2011, while many Americans were celebrating the beginning of a new year, portions of the Southeastern U.S. were being pummeled by a series of violent tornadoes. During the first three hours of this year, seven confirmed tornadoes touched down in the state of Mississippi, leaving behind a path of devastation and destruction and kicking off what would become one of the most active tornado seasons in U.S. history. According to the National Weather Service, over a thousand confirmed tornadoes touched down within the first five months of 2011, causing an estimated $20 million in damage. National Weather Service statistics revealed that 60 of this year’s twisters were “killer tornadoes,” causing not only severe property damage but also tragic loss of life. At least 536 people died in the United States this year as a result of these deadly tornadoes. This number appears especially large when compared to 45 fatalities in 2010 and just 21 deaths in 2009. The April 27 tornadoes, referred to as the “Dixie Outbreak” by the National Weather Service, claimed the lives of at least 335 people and now hold the record for deadliest tornado day (midnight to midnight) in modern history. There are many possibilities for the increased number of tornadoes this year, said Richard Scott, WVUA’s chief meteorologist. “The jet stream has been stronger than normal this year due to a colder than normal air mass to the north and warmer than normal air mass to the south,” Scott said."

The Warning Process Must Get Better. TV Meteorologist James Spann saved a lot of lives with his continuous coverage of the massive April 27 tornadoes that swept across Alabama. He makes some good points about the warning process (and the danger of too many people relying on sirens) in his Alabama weather blog: "I heard it over and over as people described their April 27 experience. “I hear those sirens all the time, and nothing ever happens”. The cry wolf syndrome is very real, and very dangerous. *Too many people believe they should hear a siren before a tornado strikes. I think the time has come to take them down. Sirens are not efficient, reach a limited number of people, and can’t be heard in most homes, schools, and businesses. And, in most counties, the sirens don’t sound only in the warned polygon, they sound county wide. In some cases, this means you are hearing a siren when the actual tornado threat is over 40 miles away. Sirens were born during the Cold War with the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s… their time has come and gone. If the sirens are taken down, then you KNOW you won’t hear one next time there is a tornado threat. Most southerners still have the “siren mentality”, and that no doubt killed people April 27. *NOAA Weather Radio must be upgraded to the polygon warning system soon, or it will become obsolete. Sure, it is the best thing we have now, and I still promote it heavily. But, why hasn’t NOAA upgraded their system so the receiver manufacturers can produce models with GPS included so they sound only when the receiver is a in a warning polygon? If something doesn’t change soon, the private sector will be the ones that push the warning process into the new technological era."

Are All Tornado Warnings The Same? Here's an interesting post about the thresholds for tornado warnings vs. "tornado emergencies". Should meteorologists issue a "probability of tornadoes?" Doppler-indicated tornadoes don't carry the same sense of (get to the basement!) urgency as warnings where an actual tornado has been spotted. For that reason an estimated 70% of all tornado warnings wind up being false alarms - Doppler picked up rotation, but no tornado ever spun up. That leads to complacency, a "cry wolf" syndrome, that leaves people thinking "they always issue warnings, but I never see anything. Maybe I won't go to the basement this time." That's a dangerous mind-set, one that killed scores of people from Joplin to Tuscaloosa to Raleigh in recent months: "Assuming that the presence of a storm is necessary to issue a warning, some threshold threat level has to be achieved in order for the warning forecaster to decide to go with a warning, and presumably this must include the perceived threat of a tornado if the storm may need to be covered with a tornado warning. As it now stands, there is no uniformly-defined threat level associated with any of the decisions a warning forecaster has to make -- every warning forecaster is more or less on their own. Obviously, not every forecaster is a carbon copy of every other forecaster. Some make warning decisions better than others. Recently, a new type of tornado warning has come into vogue -- the so-called "tornado emergency" (which has not been defined formally, either), presumably when a populated area is in the path of a very dangerous tornado. Implicitly, the perceived need for this is driven by the fact that the tornado threat varies from one situation to another. Yet another tough decision for a warning forecaster to make! In my view of things, warnings should use probability to express different levels of threat for different phenomena: wind, hail, tornadoes. This permits the forecaster to use the science to estimate the likelihood of various outcomes in the path of a storm. It's an established fact that forecasters can become quite good at estimating uncertainty. I don't yet know how best to formulate probabilistic warnings -- I believe years of research are needed to inform us how probabilistic warnings could be made most effective. This is a complex problem that involves far more than the science of meteorology."

Soldiers Scan Council Bluffs (Iowa) Levee For Weaknesses. Residents of Hamburg, Iowa are holding their breath, hoping the (recently reinforced) levees outside town will hold against the raging Missour River. KCCI-TV in Des Moines has an update:

Iowa National Guard members are now keeping a close eye on the levees protecting the city of Council Bluffs from the rising Missouri River.Teams of two are walking the levees from Big Lake to Lake Manawa."We're looking for things that could potentially cause weakness," said 2nd Lt. Jamie Moore.Those things include sand boils, deterioration or pooling water."We were briefed on warning signs as well as knowing how to properly report things so the proper people can come out and assess it and come up with an action plan that prevents further damage," Moore said.The Army Corps of Engineers has placed location markers along the levees to help the guard members pinpoint any trouble spots.One major trouble spot is 60 miles downstream outside Hamburg, Iowa. There's now a gap in the levee the size of a football field.A secondary levee was being built to keep the approaching water out of Hamburg."

Army Corp Of Engineers And Community Fight For Hamburg. The race is on - will a reinforced dike hold, or will the town of Hamburg, Iowa be inundated under 10 feet of muddy water from the Missouri River. Here's a YouTube clip from the Army Corp of Engineers: "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is teaming up with local and state entities, including the Iowa National Guard, to bolster the defenses of Hamburg, Iowa, against flood waters. Video by Kevin Wingert, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District."

Tracking Wildfires. The USDA Forest Service has a constantly updating web site that shows the locations of wildfires underway right now - the map shows blazes from Arizona to Florida. Primetime for wildfires is usually late summer into the autumn months - it's VERY early to be tracking this many large, severe fires. I fear it's going to be a long and destructive fire season across the southern third of America. Here's a summary:

Initial attack activity: Moderate (229 new fires)
New large fires: 11
Large fires contained: 10
Uncontained large fires: 36
Area Command Teams committed: 1
NIMOs committed: 1
Type 1 IMTs committed: 7

NOAA "Fire Detect". Here is another online tool for monitoring wildfires. The red dots are individual fires - the green shaded area shows the smoke plume from major fires underway across Arizona and New Mexico.

Cable Fights To Stay Relevent In Online World. You'll have to pry my cable remote control from my cold, dead fingers. Online is great, but is ALL programming heading for the 'net? Will our 300 cable channel universe become an infinite universe of channels once every TV set is internet-enabled? CNET has the story "CHICAGO--Cable operators and executives from their video content providers say they're doing all they can to avoid falling into the same trap as the music industry. That's why executives from three of the largest cable operators in the U.S.--Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cox--along with some heavy hitters from the content business--Time Warner, News Corp. and Viacom--took the stage today to explain how they're embracing online technology. In a panel discussion here on the first day of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's Cable Show led by Liz Claman of Fox Business News, the executives made their case for how they plan to keep cable services relevant to consumers. "We need to embrace all of the screens," said Glenn Britt, CEO of Time Warner Cable. "There's no such thing as a TV anymore." While most of the execs agree that they want to provide more programming on more devices, they disagree how to make money from it. 

Staying profitable

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, who has been at the forefront of the "TV Everywhere" initiative, believes programming should be free. "Put the TV on all the Internet devices, don't change the business model and don't charge people to do it." But other content execs were less willing to say that the content should be made available on any device for free. Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and News Corp. COO Chase Carey were cautious about how to approach the business model."
The Government's Gadget Habit Has Cost You Hundreds Of Millions. has a story that is bound to enrage a lot of people. At a time of sky-high deficits and bleeding red ink, should we really be using taxpayer money to make sure federal employees have the latest, greatest gear from Apple? Wow. Sign me up: "The federal government is just like you and me. Except it can legally kill people, and, instead of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on gadgets, it spends millions. Think you buy a lot of Apple gear? Not even close. Given what dire financial straits the government is in, we thought it would be interesting to see how many of our tax dollars are going to gadgets. We also wanted to see what kind of electronics the government is buying—in case there was a company making a consumer-grade teleportation machine that we might have overlooked. We searched through a decade's worth of government purchase orders, from June 2001 through today. It turns out, the government has some serious gadget lust, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on garden variety consumer electronics. But don't go gettin all outraged. Some of these purchases are easily explained. For example, the Air Force spent $663,000 on Playstation 3s. Sounds outrageous if you're picturing a bunch of airmen sitting around getting high and playing Ace Combat. But in fact it's for a supercomputer built from an array of PS3 consoles.

Connectivity Key To Attracting New Drivers, Expert Panel Says. Yes, we all want to stay connected, 24/7. God forbid I miss an important tweet or FB post. But I worry about too many distractions - even with hands-free Bluetooth and a simple phone call studies show that you're not devoting your entire attention to the task at hand: DRIVING! Yes, I sound like an old fart (I am turning into an old fart), but maybe there's a way to have connectivity in your vehicle, apps showing up on your navigation screen, and still stay safe? A huge opportunity here for start-up companies. has the story: "As technology has become more prevalent, automobiles have become one of the few places where people can't use their smart technology to its fullest, said Paul Wilbur, president and CEO of electric carmaker Aptera. Vehicle connectivity needs to improve in future vehicles, Wilbur said, or younger people may be less inclined to purchase an automobile. "The iPhone is established," Wilbur said. "To the Gen Y folks, the issue is that they've become in love with the technology and now they get in the car and they don't have their technology anymore. That can't be." Wilbur said the experience of using apps on a smart phone needs to be replicated safely and seamlessly somehow for drivers. "If you like Brooks Brothers suits and you drive by a Brooks Brothers store and you coded (into the car) that you like Brooks Brothers - boom. You drive by the store and the smart app pops up that there's a 50 percent sale on suits, you turn around and drive in," Wilbur said. Wilbur said automakers that fail to offer connectivity solutions will struggle to attract younger buyers raised with smart phones and tablets. "We've fallen in love with technology, with the iPhone. Not to have it in your car, that's a problem," he said."

Lunar Eclipse. The total lunar eclipse wasn't visible here in the USA, but here are a few spectacular photos, courtesy of the Huffington Post: "A combination of pictures taken in Islamabad shows the moon in various stages of a total lunar eclipse on June 16, 2011. Astronomers in parts of Europe, Africa, Central Asia and Australia enjoy a total lunar eclipse today, the first of 2011 and the longest in nearly 11 years. A total lunar eclipse occurs when Earth casts its shadow over the Moon. The lunar face can sometimes turn reddish, coppery-brown or orange, tinged by light from the Sun that refracts as it passes through our atmosphere. AFP PHOTO/ AAMIR QURESHI (Photo credit should read AAMIR)."
Fun Fact Of The Day: Michelle Bachman's Brother is A TV Meteorologist In Kansas City. That's right, Gary Amble, morning and noon meteorologist at KCTV-TV in Kansas City, is Congresswoman Bachman's brother. Who knew?

Million Dollar Rain. Tuesday night's soaking rain (peppered with thunder & lightning) dropped close to an inch of rain on much of the Twin Cities metro area (.99" in Eden Prairie, .73" at MSP International), but only .14" fell on St. Paul. St. Cloud picked up a cool .56", with 1.13" at Eau Claire, where a cold, steady rain kept temperatures unusually cool, with a high of only 59!


Agricultural Gamble

I have a tremendous amount of respect for farmers; some of the hardest-working people on the planet. Good weather forecasters too. You have to be, to have a prayer of making a living from the Earth. Every day these risk-takers gamble on the weather. Too wet? Too dry? Too severe? One storm can ruin an entire crop. "We're having fewer good days in the fields than we had 20 years ago, said Jason, who farms 3,000 acres of corn & beans near Gibbon. "We plan around the weather, but more of the storms are severe." Insurance helps, but it's expensive: $47/acre for corn, and then add hail insurance on top of that. Any trends, I asked? "In the last 5-10 years we've been getting crops in 2 weeks earlier. And the growing season is longer, no question." Large, automated, GPS-precision tractors have helped maximize the dwindling number of "good days", but Jason is still optimistic overall.

Tuesday night's soaking dropped 1-1.5" rain on much of Minnesota; we dry out today with sunshine, highs near 80, no blobs on Doppler. Nice to be "normal" again. Most of Friday looks dry; the next swarm of showers and T-storms rumbles in Friday night. A soggy start Saturday SHOULD give way to some midday/pm sun, probably the better day of the weekend (but not perfect). Steamy sun Sunday morning may give way to a severe storm outbreak by afternoon. Stay tuned.

Arizona "Wallow Fire" Largest In State History. Climate Change Projections Suggest Far Worse In The Pipeline. The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang has a post about the proliferation of large, damaging fires sweeping through Arizona (and much of the southern USA). The findings in a recent NAS (National Academy of Science) report suggests every 1 F. increase in average temperature may TRIPLE the amount of land consumed by wildfires every year:
"Firefighters in Arizona are reporting the Wallow fire, which has burned nearly 470,000 acres, is now the most extensive in the state on record, surpassing the Rodeo Chediski fire of 2002. Experts project numerous factors have contributed to the fire’s severity, ranging from forest management practices to this year’s drought. Perhaps more troubling, a report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) indicates a modest climate warming may lead to startling increases in wildfire impacts in the West. The NAS report, Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millenia, presents an analysis finding the area burned each year in the western United States from 1ºC warming may increase 73 percent to over 600 percent compared to recent levels."

Southwest Fires And Global Warming, Explained. A timely post from "For much of the Western US, wildfire season hits its peak near the end of summer, after months of hot and dry weather have increased the susceptibility of plants and trees, or “fuels” in wildfire parlance, to burning. But 2011 has already been a banner year for wildfires, in terms of acres burned to date, and the official start of summer is still one week away. At the rate things are going right now, this could be one of the worst wildfire years in recorded history. As with most extreme weather and climate events, and their related impacts, major wildfires require several factors to come together in order occur — typically some combination of dry and windy weather, abundant and dry vegetation, and a spark, which can range from a carelessly tossed cigarette to a lightning strike. Wildfires are a naturally occurring phenomenon closely tied to climate conditions, and as the world warms in response to rising amounts of greenhouse gases in the air, many studies show that wildfire frequency and severity will likely shift as well. In fact, retrospective analyses show that the marked increase in recent decades in wildfire activity in the Western US is largely explainable by changes in climate. And climate projections show expected further increases in wildfire extent in parts of the Western US, including some of the areas currently battling massive blazes."

Background Claims By State Senate's Global Warming Skeptic Fail To Check Out. Non-scientists weighing in and making pronouncements on climate science - it's a national trend, but one local climate skeptic/legislator doesn't seem to have the credentials he claims to have - in fact he has no scientific credentials, not even a college degree. Don Shelby has the remarkable story at "Sen. Jungbauer is fond of making pronouncements from on high regarding the scientific weakness of the United Nation's International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He takes positions in direct opposition to 98 percent of published and peer-reviewed climate, atmospheric scientists and glaciologists. But the water and sewer treatment specialist by day is, apparently, quite knowledgeable on all manner of science. It certainly appears to be. He uses big words and cites studies in his lectures.

The problem is, he is not a scientist. Even though his published biography lists his higher education credits from Moody Bible Institute, Anoka Ramsey Community College and Metropolitan State University and that he is working on his master's degree in environmental policy and that he has a background in biochemistry, it turns out he has never graduated from college. He doesn't have a bachelor's degree. He is an ordained minister, of sorts. But, although his official biography says he has a degree from Moody, he does not. In direct answer to my question, Jungbauer responded: "No I did not graduate. But I have a certificate." The truth is that Jungbauer was ordained by Christian Motor Sports International out of Gilbert, Ariz. His senate biography says the organization provides "chapel services, pastoral care, outreach and Christian fellowship at car races, car shows, cruise-ins and tractor pulls
Sun's Fading Spots Signal Big Drop In Solar Activity. The update from and Yahoo News: "Some unusual solar readings, including fading sunspots and weakening magnetic activity near the poles, could be indications that our sun is preparing to be less active in the coming years. The results of three separate studies seem to show that even as the current sunspot cycle swells toward the solar maximum, the sun could be heading into a more-dormant period, with activity during the next 11-year sunspot cycle greatly reduced or even eliminated. The results of the new studies were announced today (June 14) at the annual meeting of the solar physics division of the American Astronomical Society, which is being held this week at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. "The solar cycle may be going into a hiatus," Frank Hill, associate director of the National Solar Observatory's Solar Synoptic Network, said in a news briefing today (June 14). The studies looked at a missing jet stream in the solar interior, fading sunspots on the sun's visible surface, and changes in the corona and near the poles. [Photos: Sunspots on Earth's Star] "This is highly unusual and unexpected," Hill said. "But the fact that three completely different views of the sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation."

* The National Geographic has a story on solar cycles and a possible solar minimum around 2020.

* Peter Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute, a member of the NAS, the National Academy of Science, writes, "There is a possibility that changes in solar output may temporarily mask the full, serious effects of human-caused climate change but it will also risk delaying actions, which will, in the long run, only make climate impacts worse."

* Joe Romm, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Editor at adds:

  "1) 2010  was the hottest year on record  in spite of coming at the end of the deepest solar minimum in the century.
  2) The solar cycle (24) is limping along  modestly now.  With  an El Niño or just ENSO positive, 2012  is likely to be the hottest year on record.
  3)  The  solar cycle is supposed to peak in 2013.  That and soaring GHGs (thank you China and deniers) -- and the  slow equilibration of temps with CO2 concentrations -- will insure that half the years this decade or more  will be as warm or warmer than 2010, and  that this will again be the hottest decade on record."
How Would A Solar "Grand Minimum" Affect Global Warming? With the recent flurry of articles about the sun about to go into another (potentially stronger) "quiet phase" and possible cooling that could produce here on Earth, climate scientists are weighing in on what, if any, impact that would have on AGW. John Cook from Skeptical Science has a post, picked up by Climate Change: The Next Generation:

"Solar physicists have issued a prediction that the sun may be entering a period of unusually low activity called a grand minimum. This has climate skeptics speculating that solar 'hibernation' may be our get-out-of-jail-free card, cancelling out any global warming from our CO2 emissions. However, peer-reviewed research has examined this very scenario, "On the effect of a new grand minimum of solar activity on the future climate on Earth" (Feulner & Rahmstorf 2010). What they found was even if the sun fell into a grand minimum, global temperature would be diminished by no more than 0.3 °C. The sun is not our get-out-of-jail-free card.....Feulner (2010) simulates what would happen if the sun fell to Maunder Minimum levels in the 21st century. To include the effect of greenhouse gas emissions, they assume either A1B or A2 scenarios (IPCC TAR). A1B is a more optimistic scenario where carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise in the early 21st century, stabilise mid-century then fall in the latter-21st century. A2 is somewhat more pessimistic, projecting carbon dioxide emissions to continue growing throughout the 21st century. Unfortunately, the latest data on CO2 emissions indicates we're tracking towards the worst case scenario."

* Graph credit above: "Global mean temperature anomalies 1900-2100 relative to the period 1961-1990 for the A2 scenario. The red line represents temperature change for current solar levels, the blue line represents temperature change at Maunder Minimum levels. Observed temperatures from NASA-GISS until 2010 are also shown (black line) (Feulner 2010)."

Science Connects Climate Change And Wildfires. Why Won't The Media? Miles Grant from attempts to connect the dots, and wonders (out loud) why most media outlets aren't doing the same thing? "One of the least controversial impacts of the climate crisis is more frequent, severe, and damaging wildfires in America's West. Why won't reporters say so? It's been a scary spring for wildfires in places like Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Global warming caused by human-made carbon pollution is fueling perfect conditions, with longer fire seasons, drier conditions, and more lightning strikes. But a search of Google News over the last week shows few reporters are connecting the dots for their readers. I did a search for stories that mentioned both wildfires and climate or global warming. I found very few stories in mainstream news outlets that mentioned climate and wildfires together at all, and the ones that did were just as likely to wrongly downplay the connection as correctly draw the scientifically documented tie. (Note that Google News is a crude tool, not covering every print outlet and including very little of what's said on TV and radio. If you know a story I missed, please add it in comments.) 

First, the outlets that made the right scientific connection between wildfires and global warming:
That's it. Four stories that accurately connected wildfires and global warming based on the best science available. That's all I could find."
Climate Change Link To Fires Ignites Senate Committee. People are scratching their heads and asking the question: is record flooding, record drought in the south, and now unusually early (and severe) wildfires linked to a warmer atmosphere? An estimated 1.2 million acres of forestland and grassland has already burned - that's the typical acreage for an entire year. The New York Times reports on how this question came up in Congressional testimony: "Climate change crept into the discussion of fire management at a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing yesterday, despite Republicans' tiptoeing around the issue. As fires like the voracious Wallow Fire spread throughout the Southwest, the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Interior are being pressed to offer solutions. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, one of the witnesses present at the hearing, cited research from within the service to link fires and climate change. "Throughout the country, we're seeing longer fire seasons, and we're seeing snowpacks that, on average, are disappearing a little earlier every spring," he said, as well as devastating droughts. As a result, fire seasons have lengthened by more than 30 days, on average. "Our scientists believe this is due to a change in climate," said Tidwell. Tidwell's testimony was prompted by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who used the positive response to chide committee members into considering climate change as one of the committee's key issues. "I would just like to underscore that for members of our body, when we have discussions about the impact of climate change, the cost of this," he said. "It would be all well and good for members to understand that this is related to climate change, and how important it is for us to address and take national action to reduce our carbon emissions."

Warning: Extreme Weather Ahead. John Vidal from The Guardian has an overview of the freakish weather breaking out across much of the planet. Is this the "new normal"? "Tornados, wildfires, droughts and floods were once seen as freak conditions. But the environmental disasters now striking the world are shocking signs of 'global weirding' Drought zones have been declared across much of England and Wales, yet Scotland has just registered its wettest-ever May. The warmest British spring in 100 years followed one of the coldest UK winters in 300 years. June in London has been colder than March. February was warm enough to strip on Snowdon, but last Saturday it snowed there. Welcome to the climate rollercoaster, or what is being coined the "new normal" of weather. What was, until quite recently, predictable, temperate, mild and equable British weather, guaranteed to be warmish and wettish, ensuring green lawns in August, now sees the seasons reversed and temperature and rainfall records broken almost every year. When Kent receives as much rain (4mm) in May as Timbuktu, Manchester has more sunshine than Marbella, and soils in southern England are drier than those in Egypt, something is happening. Sober government scientists at the centre for hydrology and ecology are openly using words like "remarkable", "unprecedented" and "shocking" to describe the recent physical state of Britain this year, but the extremes we are experiencing in 2011 are nothing to the scale of what has been taking place elsewhere recently. Last year, more than 2m sq km of eastern Europe and Russia scorched. An extra 50,000 people died as temperatures stayed more than 6C above normal for many weeks, crops were devastated and hundreds of giant wild fires broke out. The price of wheat and other foods rose as two thirds of the continent experienced its hottest summer in around 500 years.

Extreme Weather Another Sign Of Global Warming. Here's an Op-Ed from the editors at the Baltimore Sun: "Extreme weather is on the rise ("Maryland braces for second heat wave," June 7). Maryland's heat wave is just one example, and scientists predict these extreme events will become increasingly common due to global warming. Heat waves are actually more lethal than other extreme events and pose greater danger to at-risk groups. In our recent report, "Global Warming and Extreme Weather," we found the number of heat waves has gone up since 1960, while 2010 is tied for the warmest year on record. Two recent heat-related fatalities in Maryland so far along with the 32 deaths in 2010 bring home the dangers of extreme weather. The threat of more extreme weather events is just one of many reasons we need big cuts in our global warming pollution. One of the easiest ways to do that is to make our cars and trucks less polluting. To make that happen, President Obama should ensure that new cars and trucks meet a 60 miles per gallon standard by 2025. Doing so would have the same effect as taking 70 million vehicles off the road, while saving the average Maryland family $726 at the gas pump annually. The president should seize this historic opportunity."

Vermont Governor Sees 2011 Harbinger Of Climate Change. Here's an excerpt of a story from Governor Peter Shumlin from Vermont isn't mincing his words much:

"Asked if all the bad weather this year is the result of global climate change, the governor said, "Absolutely," and said he thinks New England can expect 15-20% more precipitation and more extreme storms than usual now."

IPCC Asks Scientists To Assess Geo-Engineering Climate Solutions. From the U.K. Guardian: "Lighter-coloured crops, aerosols in the stratosphere and iron filings in the ocean are among the measures being considered by leading scientists for "geo-engineering" the Earth's climate, leaked documents from the UN climate science body show. In a move that suggests the UN and rich countries are despairing of reaching agreement by consensus at global climate talks, the US, British and other western scientists will outline a series of ideas to manipulate the world's climate to reduce carbon emissions. But they accept that even though the ideas could theoretically work, they might equally have unintended and even irreversible consequences. The papers, leaked from inside the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), ahead of a geo-engineering expert group meeting in Lima in Peru next week, show that around 60 scientists will propose or try to assess a range of radical measures, including:
• blasting sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight into space;
• depositing massive quantities of iron filings into the oceans;
• bio-engineering crops to be a lighter colour to reflect sunlight; and
• suppressing cirrus clouds.

Other proposals likely to be suggested include spraying sea water into clouds to reflect sunlight away from the Earth, burying charcoal, painting streets and roofs white on a vast scale, adding lime to oceans and finding different ways to suck greenhouse gases out of the air and deposit heat deep into oceans."

Why Australia Is Vulnerable To Climate Change And Climate Skeptics. The U.K.'s Guardian has the story: "Australia is often cited as being particularly vulnerable to climate change, with projections of longer droughts punctuated by increasingly horrendous floods. In Western Australia, rainfall has already declined by 20%, and the tragic "Black Saturday" bush fires that claimed 173 lives in 2009 were amplified by an unprecedented heatwave. It is less well known that Australia is also a coal "superpower," being the world's largest exporter of this dirtiest of all fossil fuels. This tension between vulnerability and commercial stakes has created fault lines throughout Australian society and polity. Although the federal government is currently seeking to introduce a modest carbon price (around $20 per ton, or roughly five times lower than the current price in Sweden), other branches of government just proposed a $6bn coal port expansion. Although Australia is blessed with an abundance of sunshine, the share of renewables in power generation has declined from 19% in 1960 to 7% in 2008. Australia now emits more CO2 to generate a unit of power than all but three other countries; only Botswana, Cambodia, and India emit more. Australia emits 20 times more than Sweden and 128 times more than Norway to generate the same amount of power. The Great Barrier Reef is as iconically Australian as rugged sheep farmers and shearers. Reef-related tourism and farming provide a sizable share of the country's economy. Both of those Australian icons are under threat from climate change."

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