MONDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear and comfortable. Low: 57
116 F: Childress, Texas on Sunday, hotter than any time on record, including the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s.
113 F: Borger, Texas yesterday - hottest on record.
111 F: Amarillo, Texas on Sunday; hottest temperature ever recorded.
.84" rain predicted today in the Twin Cities as a slow-moving cool front pushes across the state.
* Mea Culpa. No, the weekend wasn't nearly as nice as we had hoped. Meteorologists are human (believe it or not), just like everyone else. We too HOPE and PRAY for nice weather on the weekends, for a variety of reasons. We like sunshine too. We also know that when the weather turns foul (even if it's in the forecast) we're going to get an earful. For some reason this year it doesn't take much of a nudge for the atmosphere to whip up clouds and showers. An "upper air disturbance" sparked a smear of clouds and a few spotty showers Saturday. Yesterday turned out cloudier than expected (with a few hours of sunshine) - still a stretch calling this "partly sunny", I realize. The one consolation: the vast majority of the weekend was dry, warm enough yesterday for the lake and pool. That said, I wish Gov. Dayton would decree that weekends could fall on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Just this summer. Just this once. Please.
Tornado Count: 2011. Here's an update from the Iowa Environmental Mesonet at Iowa State: "The featured map presents the number of tornado warnings issued by each NWS forecast office so far this year. The largest value is 179 by the Memphis office. This year has seen more than its fair share of tornadoes. The largest numbers of warnings are shifted a bit east of the traditionally known tornado alley. Iowa has seen its share of severe weather recently, but most of it has been hail and wind."
Experts Challenge Building Design Codes After Joplin Tornado. When a tornado is approaching you don't want to be in a mobile home, an auditorium or large room, or a "big-box" store either. The aftermath of Joplin's EF-5 is prompting a harsh look at building codes, and how companies can do a better job keeping staff (and guests) safe during severe winds. The Kansas City Star has the story: "JOPLIN, Mo. | As the monster tornado bore down on them, Rusty Howard and his two small children sought refuge in a Home Depot store. But instead the young father, the children and four other people died when the roof came off and the walls came down, crushing them beneath a 100,000-pound concrete panel. Within seconds the entire structure collapsed in a heap of concrete slabs, metal trusses and roofing. At least 28 other people survived, huddled in an un-reinforced training room in the back of the building. Rescue workers found Howard with an arm wrapped around each child. There aren’t many safe havens in such ferocious, 200-mph winds. Most building codes in “tornado alley” require that commercial structures withstand only 90-mph winds, slower than many major league pitchers’ fastballs. But while all big-box stores are vulnerable to high winds, the Joplin Home Depot — even though it met local building codes — was especially at risk, according to engineers who study the destruction that tornadoes leave behind. The Joplin Home Depot and many of the company’s other stores used a popular construction method called “tilt-up wall” that The Kansas City Star found can be deadly under certain conditions."
Latest Drought Monitor. According to NOAA 9.89% of the Lower 48 States is in an "exceptional drought". That's up from 7.54% of the USA just a week ago. Three months ago there were no reports of exceptional drought nationwide. The latest map is here.
A Quarter BILLION Dollars Worth of Tree Damage In Alabama? The Tuscaloosa News has a story about the extent of damage to Alabama's forests - not as bad as Hurricane Ivan in 2004, but the damage toll is rising up into the hundreds of millions of dollars: "April’s tornadoes will long be remembered for laying waste to lives and homes and buildings. Less noticed has been the destruction beyond neighborhoods and towns. The storms also sliced through miles of valuable timber, and those losses might not be fully realized for years. Alabama’s forest and timberland losses from the tornadoes that hit the state on April 15 and April 27 stand at more than a 204,000 acres valued at more than $266 million, according to a preliminary assessment by the Alabama Forestry Commission. And those figures could get higher. That’s because damaged and downed trees remain an immediate fuel for forest fires that could spread to healthy woodlands, especially during the current drought. Also, the longer damaged, dead and dying trees remain in woods, the more susceptible surrounding healthier trees become to insect infestation and disease, said Assistant State Forester Patrick Glass. Some of the worst timberland destruction occurred in West Alabama counties, with Tuscaloosa County sustaining the biggest losses in the state. More than 10,000 acres of forest land in the county were damaged, with 750,000 tons of timber valued at more than $25 million lost, according to the Forestry Commission survey Only Hurricane Ivan in 2004 was more devastating to the state’s forests than the April tornadoes. Ivan caused about $475 million in damage, mostly in southern Alabama, while the tornadoes’ destruction was in central and northern Alabama."
Atop TV Sets, A Power Drain That Runs Non-Stop. Yes, your cable or satellite box is an energy-pig, running 24/7, humming away in the background so there's no way you'll miss the latest edition of "The Biggest Loser". European cable systems have a "sleep" mode which can cut power consumption in half, even a "deep sleep" function that drops power usage by 95%. The New York Times takes a closer look: "Those little boxes that usher cable signals and digital recording capacity into televisions have become the single largest electricity drain in many American homes, with some typical home entertainment configurations eating more power than a new refrigerator and even some central air-conditioning systems. There are 160 million so-called set-top boxes in the United States, one for every two people, and that number is rising. Many homes now have one or more basic cable boxes as well as add-on DVRs, or digital video recorders, which use 40 percent more power than the set-top box. One high-definition DVR and one high-definition cable box use an average of 446 kilowatt hours a year, about 10 percent more than a 21-cubic-foot energy-efficient refrigerator, a recent study found. These set-top boxes are energy hogs mostly because their drives, tuners and other components are generally running full tilt, or nearly so, 24 hours a day, even when not in active use. The recent study, by the Natural Resources Defense Council, concluded that the boxes consumed $3 billion in electricity per year in the United States — and that 66 percent of that power is wasted when no one is watching and shows are not being recorded. That is more power than the state of Maryland uses over 12 months."
"Compass of Pleasure". Why Some Things Feel So Good. David Linden is a neuroscientists who has spent many years investigating pleasure and how the human brain is hard-wired to seek out pleasure. Here's a don't-miss read about his latest book from NPR: "Understanding the biology of the pleasure circuit helps us better understand and treat addiction, Linden says. It is important to realize that our pleasure circuits are the result of a combination of genetics, stress and life experience, beginning as early as the womb. "Any one of us could be an addict at any time," Linden says. "Addiction is not fundamentally a moral failing — it's not a disease of weak-willed losers. When you look at the biology, the only model of addiction that makes sense is a disease-based model, and the only attitude towards addicts that makes sense is one of compassion."
Don't Let Cool Spring Fool You - Experts Say Global Warming Is A Fact. The truth: we're in uncharted waters. We're seeing patterns we've never seen before - especially over the Arctic region. The northern states are still trending cooler than average, while the southern USA broils and cooks in 100+ heat with wildfires and "exceptional drought". The huge contrasts in temperatures are whipping up unusually strong storms, capable of tornadoes, hail and flooding rains - compounding problems on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. The Yakima Herald-Republic has the story: "YAKIMA, Wash. -- With this year's heavy snowpack and a cool, wet spring that has delayed some harvests, it might be tempting to conclude that global warming isn't an issue in the Yakima Valley. But some of the state's most respected climate experts say the planet is still warming as carbon dioxide levels rise faster than ever, and the results have major implications for the region. Polar oceanographer Miles McPhee said unusual temperatures, plus the recent increase in tornadoes and storms nationally, indicate of a growing imbalance in the earth's weather patterns, caused by a rapid increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the oceans. "You can tie that to the energy we've been seeing in these storms," said McPhee, a Naches resident and graduate of Stanford University and the University of Washington. "The earth has to address this imbalance by moving heat around, and it's doing it in a way that might not be advantageous for us." It's true that temperatures in the Pacific Northwest have been cooler than average this year, but McPhee said temperatures in the Southwest have been higher than average. Although recent years have seen wider variations with hotter and colder temperatures and different levels of precipitation, experts say it's just a matter of time before the definite impacts of global warming overtake those trends."
Kump tells us that when you compare the present warming with the last one, "the climate shift currently under way is happening at breakneck speed."
In a matter of decades, deforestation and the cars and coal-fired power plants of the industrial revolution have increased CO2 by more than 30 percent, and we are now pumping nine petagrams (one petagram equals one billion tons) of carbon into the atmosphere each year."That rate is expected to reach 25 billion tons a year until all fossil-fuel reserves are exhausted."