Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Severe Storms Early - Sticky Wednesday (3-5 days above 90 on the way)

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

TODAY: Stormy start. Intervals of sun, very sticky. Few severe storms pop later, especially south/east of the metro. Dew point: 74. Winds: S 10-15+ High: 88

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: More T-storms, locally heavy rain. Low: 70

THURSDAY: Sunnier and drier statewide, plenty hot. Dew point: 67. High: 91

FRIDAY: Hot sun, stray late-day storm? Low: 71. High: near 90

SATURDAY: Hot, steamy sun, mostly PM storms. Dew point: 73. Low: 72. High: 93

SUNDAY: Lot's of sun, PM T-shower. Dew point: 72. Low: 74. High: 91

MONDAY: Sunny, no funky blobs on Doppler. Dry. Low: 72. HIgh: near 90

TUESDAY: More T-storms (best chance north). Low: 70. High: 89

Severe Storm Watch Until 6 am Wednesday. SPC has issued a watch for much of central and southern MN until 6 am today - it does include the immediate Twin Cities metro area.

Severe Straight-Line Winds? Doppler radar at 11 pm Tuesday night showed a line of strong/severe storms pushing across western Minnesota - some evidence of 70 mph+ straight-line winds west of Morris and Benson. These storms will sweep across the metro area overnight - we may be waking up to some big puddles Wednesday morning.

In Today's Weather Blog:
* Tropical Storm "Don" may be about to form in the Gulf of Mexico.
* "Jekyll & Hyde" July in Chicago.
* Today should be the 26th day/row above 100 in Dallas/Ft. Worth.
Unseasonably cool weather continues across the Pacific Northwest.
* A silver lining to extreme weather in the west?

"Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment." Among those risks in the USA: more intense and frequent heat waves, threats to coastal communities from rising sea levels, and greater drying of the arid Southwest. - USA Today article below.

Much Of America Continues To Bake. 100 degree plus heat indices are predicted from southern Minnesota southward to Texas, eastward to the Carolinas again today. Relatively comfortable weather prevails from New England to the Great Lakes, and across the Pacific Northwest.

Wednesday Severe Threat. SPC has a slight risk of severe storms from the Twin Cities to Milwaukee, Chicago, Des Moines and Omaha, a smaller risk area from Cheyenne, Wyoming into the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Tropical Storm "Don"? Early Tuesday the probability of this tropical wave over Cuba becoming a tropical storm was listed as "0%" by NHC. As of late evening Tuesday the probability has risen to 40% Water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are in the mid 80s, warm enough for further intensification. The question: is there too much wind shear over the Gulf (increasing wind speed with altitude) that might shred the storm circulation? Stay tuned. Here's the latest from NHC:

Watching The Tropics. This enhanced IR satellite loop (courtesy of WSI) shows a rather disorganized tropical depression centered south/west of Cuba (which is disrupting the storm's inflow). Once the circulation moves out over the open waters of the Gulf further strengthening is likely.

"Don's" Potential Track. O.K. It's not a tropical storm yet, not even close, but I do expect the disturbance to intensify into a tropical storm within the next 36 hours. Right now NHC models are pushing the storm across the Gulf of Mexico, into Texas (which could sure use a tropical cyclone to help relieve the 3rd worst drought in state history - over $4 billion in agricultural damage so far, and rising). But Tuesday afternoon I saw a different track from Baron Service's 15 km "BAMS" model, which takes this storm into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, on a track closer to Mobile or New Orleans. It's too early to say with any certainty, but people living along the Gulf should stay alert. (map courtesy of Weather Underground).

"Jekyll and Hyde" July In Chicago: From 3rd Driest To 2nd Wettest Virtually Overnight. Through the first three weeks of July, as of Thursday morning the 21st, only 0.45” of rain had been recorded at O’Hare Airport.  Had July ended with no additional rainfall, this would have been the third driest July in about 140 years of record keeping at Chicago. Here's more from the Chicago office of the National Weather Service:
  • Three days later, by Sunday afternoon, this July ranked as the second wettest on record for Chicago…with a week still left to go.  What a difference three (wet) days make.
  • Total rainfall through the 24th now is 9.04 inches while the record for the month is 9.56 inches (set in July 1889).
  • So in a three day period we moved from potentially the third driest July to the second wettest!

A brief summary of facts regarding the record rainfall measured on Saturday, July 23:
  • The all-time Chicago daily record rainfall of 6.86 inches was set during the pre-dawn hours this past Saturday, July 23.  Never had Chicago’s official climate station (presently O'Hare Airport) measured more rainfall in a single calendar day.
  • The previous daily record for Chicago was 6.64 inches on September 13, 2008.  The previous record for July 23 itself was set just one year ago…with a total of 2.79 inches on 7/23/2010.
  • A total of 8.20 inches of rain fell during the 24-hour period from 7:00 AM Friday to 7:00 AM Saturday. This fell shy of the all-time 24-hour record rainfall set on August 13-14, 1987.
  • As shown by the blue line in the graph below, this record setting rainfall actually took place over just about a 3-hour period!
  • If Chicago had not received a single drop of rain this month outside that 3-hour window early Saturday, this would still rank as one of Chicago's top ten wettest Julys on record (8th overall).
* photo above courtesy of flooddamagess.com.

Obama Declares Major Disaster In Kentucky For Storm Damage. The story from WLKY-TV: "President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in Kentucky and ordered federal assistance for some areas. The declaration is for areas damaged by severe storms, tornadoes and flooding from June 19-23.A tornado hit the Louisville area, including Churchill Downs, during that time." (photo: kentucky.com).
Minot Flood Victims To Get Little Help. $30,000 for a (gutted) $325,000 home? Must be the new math. The Winnipeg Free Press has the story: "MINOT, N.D. -- How will state and federal governments look after the citizens of Minot, whose properties were destroyed in last month's tsunami-like flood? The early signs aren't good for Joe Holzer and nearly 4,200 other homeowners who had up to three metres of water in their homes. Holzer had a $325,000 house. There's about $70,000 left on his mortgage. Water filled his house to 1.8 metres high on the main floor. He's already gutted his house to prevent mould. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded him its maximum compensation payment: US$30,000. It's already down to $27,000 after deductions for emergency accommodations and other costs he's incurred. By comparison, victims of flooding in Manitoba this year are eligible for compensation up to a maximum of C$240,000 under disaster financial assistance, a government spokesman said. The federal government is on the hook for 90 per cent of the payments. The province is estimating Manitoba's cost for both fighting the flood and repairing damages to be $550 million. "I'm destroyed," said Holzer, 49, an electrician. "I've worked for this place my whole damn life. Now it's shot."

Smartphones Expedite The Fighting Of A Flood. Yes, smartphones are helping with not only the prediction of, but the clean-up after, a major flood event, as reported by the Kansas City Star: "It will never replace a wall of sandbags, but Susan Abbott’s smartphone is turning out to be a pretty good tool for fighting the flooding of the Missouri River. Part of Abbott’s job as a civil engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers is to spot weakening levees before they become disasters. That used to take hours: Snap a picture on a digital camera, note the location, drive back to corps offices, download the photo and file a written report. Now, with her smartphone and an application, she can take a picture, tap in a note, sync her phone and send all the information to a database in a matter of seconds. That can cut the time between information gathering, analysis and action by 24 to 36 hours — and that can mean the difference between saving the day and seeing a levee fail. “The ability to get somewhere fast and take a picture and send it back is far superior to having someone get in the car and drive,” said Jud Kneuvean, director of emergency management for the Corps of Engineers’ Kansas City district.

Pakistan Flood One Year On: Thousands Of People Still Homeless As Country Fails To Rebuild. The U.K. Telegraph has the sobering story: "One year after torrential floods plunged Pakistan into an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, thousands of people are still homeless, living at the side of roads or staying with relatives, and millions more are at risk of fresh flooding despite a massive international operation to rebuild the country."

Unseasonably Cool Weather In The Pacific Northwest. While much of America bakes, folks in the northwest are wondering "what happened to summer"? (phone courtesy of freshplaza.com).

  • Farmers in parts of Oregon and Washington are struggling with cold, wet weather that's slowing the growth of their crops. Cherries aren't ripe. The region's world-class grass seed won't dry out.
  • One Oregon county is seeking a disaster declaration after losing as much as 80 percent of its peaches and cranberries.
  • There's time for the situation to improve, but farmers say they desperately need some warmth and a break from above-normal rainfall.

A Silver Lining To 2011's Extreme Weather?  Photo above courtesy of USA Today. Yes, there is some good news: the result of record spring snows out west:

  • This year's run of extreme weather conditions, which has brought everything from a heat wave to flooding along the Mississippi River to drought and wildfire in Arizona and record snow in the Midwest and Northeast, also has produced some positive results.
  • Rain and snow has boosted water supplies for farms and cities and ended the drought in California. The same conditions have improved habitat for desert wildlife and reduced wildfire risk in many areas out West.
  • More than 60 feet of snow fell in the Sierra Nevada over the winter and spring, second only to the winter of 1950-51. That snow brought enough water to prompt Gov. Jerry Brown in late May to lift a statewide drought declaration ordered in 2008.
  • All of the states west of the Rockies are drought-free, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor.
  • At the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada, water draining from a record-setting mountain snowpack has transformed this desert oasis, expanding marshes now teeming with birds and wildlife and creating the largest wetlands in the past five years. More than 20,000 acres are flooded, providing habitats for waterfowl and other wildlife.
  • The fire risk to forests across much of the Northern Rockies, Pacific Northwest and Northern California has been substantially reduced by snowpack and a cooler- than-average spring.

Respectable Tuesday. Under bright sunshine much of the day (with a lower dew point than was predicted - mostly 50s, but 70s over far southwestern MN) temperatures reached a comfortable 74 at Duluth, 78 Hibbing, 83 at St. Cloud and 84 in the Twin Cities. Nice to be "average" again.

Tinkering With Nature

"Paul, can't you DO something about this weather?" Long pause. "Yes I can - but I choose not to. It would set a bad precedent." You may be happy to hear that weather modification on a grand scale (in our lifetime) is pure science fiction. It's not going to happen anytime soon. Even if we could effectively seed clouds to end drought or steer a hurricane away from the coast, the liability issues would be overwhelming. Who pays when the experiment goes bad? That, and you'll never keep farmers and boaters happy (simultaneously).

We are nudging the weather: cities can be 5-10 degrees warmer than outlying suburbs, jet contrails can spread out into cirrus clouds, keeping daytime highs 2-5 degrees cooler and nighttime lows a few degrees warmer. "Sweaty corn" may add a few degrees to our dew point today: mid 70s will make it feel tropical out there. A few strong/severe storms are likely; stay tuned for watches & warnings. We dry out Thursday & much of Friday; plenty warm for the lake or pool. 5 days in a row above 90 are expected, from Thursday through Monday of next week. Not as oppressively steamy as last week, but a subtle (yet blunt) reminder that the Dog Days of summer are here!

"Climate Change Is Not A Religion. Climate Change Is Science." Smart Planet has an interview with Anne Thompson, Chief Environmental Affairs Correspondent for NBC News. Here's an excerpt: "It bothers NBC News chief environmental affairs correspondent Anne Thompson when people ask: “Do you believe in climate change?” On Tuesday, Thompson clears the air in a program called Changing Planet, which will be broadcast on The Weather Channel at 9 PM EST. This is the second show of a three-part series,  which focuses on why the United States is falling behind other countries in the area of clean energy developments. SmartPlanet interviewed NBC News’ Anne Thomspon to find out her views on clean energy and climate change."

SmartPlanet: What concerns you most about energy and climate change?

"AT: As a reporter, I think climate change is still a very confusing subject for the public to comprehend. I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard the question “do you believe in climate change?” Climate change is not a religion. Climate change is science. There is plenty of evidence that the earth is warming, that the chemistry of the oceans is changing, that growing zones in our country are creeping northward. The question is not “do you believe in climate change?” but “what, if anything, are we going to do about it?” On energy, we talk a lot about “energy independence” but we are not doing much to get there. We import about half of the oil we use. There is talk about increasing domestic oil production but there appears to be a math problem."

Drought Costs Texas Billions, Consumers Face Higher Beef Prices. KLTV-TV has the details on a growing natural disaster in Texas, one that could have us paying more for beef: "The impact of this lingering drought will continue into the new year as thousands of Texas cattle raisers have sold out.  They just can't afford to feed and water their herds. The Texas Cooperative Extension Service says between cattle and crops, this drought has cost texas $4.1 billion just to this date.  The costliest drought before?  It was 1998, and that was $2.1 billion for the whole year. "It's real hard," says cattle raiser Steve Carpenter.  "We've got some $3,000 to $5,000 cows we're taking $700 for." For Carpenter and countless other Texas cattle ranchers, this year has been the breaking point. "We could stand 20 inches [of rain.] It could sit here and rain for a week and it wouldn't hurt a thing." But it wouldn't help in some respects at this point.  His 100 head Charolais herd is down to 60.  The cattle had to go as the hay this year just won't grow. "Our fields, which usually make 160 to 200 rolls [of hay] made 67 rolls.  It's just not there," he says. "We need something in the neighborhood of 100,000 gallons an acre to get that crop," says Extension agent Brian Triplett.  He says you can't truck in enough water.  And even now, if the rain began, production would be limited as the weather cools."

Fighting Climate Change By Not Focusing On Climate Change. Time Magazine has a story about the use of coal, America's largest electrical energy source, and also a huge contributor to climate change. Do we focus on the potential warming (which is a harder concept for many people to grasp - why a warmer atmosphere will, by definition, create more volatile and severe weather patterns) or do we - instead - focus on the health implications of coal-fired electrical plants? "Climate change advocates haven't had much to celebrate recently, but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement last week that he was giving $50 million to the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign marked a real win. The Sierra Club — the nation's largest environmental group — has successfully stopped more than 150 proposed coal plants from being built over the past decade through the campaign. Bloomberg's money — and perhaps more importantly, the imprimatur of one of the richest and most influential people in the country — will enable the Sierra Club to bring its war on coal to a new level, preventing untold millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions from warming the planet. Yet when I spoke to Bloomberg before his donation became public, climate change wasn't foremost on his mind. He saw coal pollution first and foremost as a public health issue, one that is directly hurting Americans through higher rates of asthma and heart disease. He was certainly worried about the greenhouse gases those coal plants were spewing — coal is responsible for about 20% of global carbon emissions — but what really motivated him were the mercury emissions, the particulates, the arsenic and all the other conventional poisons created by burning coal. "Coal kills every day," Bloomberg told me. "It's a dirty fuel." So it is with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, which has succeeded more by motivating individual communities over the local health effects of coal pollution than by appealing to the broader risks of global warming. (photo above courtesy of Getty Images).

Our View: America, Pick Your Climate Choices. The story from USA Today: "One way to deal with a problem is to pretend it doesn't exist. This approach has the virtue of relieving you from having to come up with a solution, spend money or make tough choices. The downside, of course, is that leaky faucets and other problems rarely solve themselves and, in fact, usually get worse if ignored. Such is the case with climate change, a threat that too many members of Congress, most of them Republicans, have decided to manage by denying the science. That head-in-the-sand approach avoids messy discussions of higher energy prices, but it just got harder to justify. Late last week, the nation's pre-eminent scientific advisory group, the National Research Council arm of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report called "America's Climate Choices." As scientific reports go, its key findings were straightforward and unequivocal: "Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment." Among those risks in the USA: more intense and frequent heat waves, threats to coastal communities from rising sea levels, and greater drying of the arid Southwest." (photo above courtesy of David McNew, Getty Images).

Norway Terrorist Is A Climate Change Denier. The article from grist.com: "Inspired by climate denial pundits, right-wing Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik railed against global warming "enviro-communism" in his manifesto. Breivik -- who confessed to killing 76 people in two attacks in Norway -- published on the web a 1,500-page manifesto describing his Christian conservative conspiracy theories. In one section, "Green is the new Red -- Stop Enviro-Communism!" Breivik argues that global warming is actually an eco-Marxist plot "to create a world government" using the "Anthropogenic Global Warming scam": "You might know them as environmentalists, enviro-communists, eco-Marxists, neo-Communists or eco-fanatics. They all claim they want to save the world from global warming but their true agenda is to contribute to create a world government lead by the UN or in other ways increase the transfer of resources (redistribute resources) from the developed Western world to the third world. They hope to accomplish this through the distribution of misinformation (propaganda) which they hope will lead to increased taxation of already excessively taxed Europeans and U.S. citizens. Although Breivik's conspiracy theories are insane, they are in line with mainstream opinion among American conservatives. He cites Christopher Monckton's speech before the Minnesota Free Market Institute in 2009, accusing President Obama of trying to cede United States sovereignty to the United Nations through climate treaties. Monckton -- a rabid conspiracy theorist who claims his opponents are Nazis -- was a Republican witness before Congress on global warming in 2010."

Climate Deniers Campaign Against The BBC Backfires. An update from Huffington Post: "Last week's independent review of the BBC's science coverage was a major setback for climate denialism, concluding as it did that the BBC has given far too much weight to unsubstantiated claims. But one point has been largely overlooked in the extensive news coverage and commentary about the report: climate denial activists had actively campaigned for the investigation in the first place. That campaign has clearly backfired. The review was announced in early 2010 as a response to heated public debates on the coverage of controversial issues such as climate change, genetically engineered foods, and the MMR vaccine. In particular, the BBC's coverage of the 2009 email hacking scandal known as "climategate" sent denialists into fits of apoplexy, charging that the BBC had not given the story the prominence they believed it deserved. Unlike other mainstream British media corporations, whose political leanings if not overt biases are well understood, the BBC is expected to be impartial. This is because it is funded through public licensing fees, and is governed by a Trust expressly mandated to "represent the public who own and pay for the BBC."

Blame For Extinction Spreads To Methane Gas. The New York Times has the story: "Two hundred million years ago, at the end of the Triassic period, a mass extinction, often attributed to major volcanic activity, wiped out half of all marine life on Earth. But new research published in the journal Science suggests that the extinction was more likely to have been caused by the release of at least 12,000 gigatons of methane from the seafloor into the atmosphere. Volcanic activity occurred over a period of 600,000 years at the end of the Triassic, while the extinction took place over a period of just 10,000 to 20,000 years, said Micha Ruhl, an earth scientist at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and the study’s lead author. Dr. Ruhl and his colleagues studied carbon isotopes of sediments from the period and found that the extinction event coincided with the giant release of methane into the atmosphere. Volcanoes still played in a role in the process, Dr. Ruhl said. “There was a release of CO2 from volcanic eruptions that warmed up global temperatures and also the ocean,” he said. “Methane is only stable under certain temperatures. If it gets warm, it is released.” The study could be foreshadowing the effect of climate change on Earth, Dr. Ruhl said. An increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from fossil-fuel use could warm up the planet enough to release methane from the ocean floors, he said.

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