Sunday, May 27, 2012

Drier, More Comfortable Memorial Day (from severe drought to serious flooding in 3 weeks)

92 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities Sunday; second hottest day of 2012 so far (93 F. on May 18 at KMSP).
73 F. average high for May 27.
63 F. high temperature on May 27, 2011.

13.27" rainfall in the Twin Cities since March 1.
7.47" average rainfall between March 1 and May 27.

Storm Reports. For more specifics on hail and flooding reports from Sunday, click here, data from NOAA.

Storm Damage Reports. Ham Weather's Aeris "Broadcaster" app showed the tornado touchdown at 8:58 pm and wind damage in the Excelsior area around 7:53 pm Sunday evening.

Ding-Worthy Hail. Thanks to Curt Lentner for sending in this photo of the 1.5" diameter hail that pelted Andover, Minnesota (Anoka County) Sunday evening. This was the same "supercell" that dropped a possible tornado near St. Francis around 8:58 pm.

Too Close For Comfort. WeatherNation TV meteorologist Addison Green snapped this photo near MSP International as the first wave of severe storms rolled in around the dinner hour Sunday. It was, what, maybe 1/4 mile away? When you see lightning and hear thunder (simultaneously) you know it was less than 1/4 mile away.

30-Day Rainfall. This is impressive - NOAA Doppler Radar rainfall estimates show over 10" from the northern and western suburbs of the Twin Cities into southwestern Minnesota, and this was before yesterday's additional deluge.

"Bubbling Trouble". Andrew Casey sent in this photo of cumulus congestus sprouting into full-blown thunderstorms Sunday evening, via Facebook.

"Beryl" Coming Ashore. As of late last night Tropical Storm Beryl was approaching hurricane status, with 70 mph. sustained winds. A storm surge of 2-4 feet is possible for coastal Florida and Georgia, from Jacksonville north to Macon. Enhanced IR satellite loop courtesy of NOAA and WeatherTap.

Beryl's Projected Track. Here is an ensemble of models from NHC; nearly all seem to agree that Beryl will make a U-Turn, and push quickly across coastal South Carolina and North Carolina, then accelerate out into the Atlantic. However, the core of the storm may remain close enough to warm Gulf Stream waters to prevent rapid weakening, and considerable coastal flooding and beach erosion is possible from Charleston and Hilton Head to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Power Outages. Tens of thousands of Jacksonville, Florida residents are without power, due to Beryl's 60-80 mph. wind gusts. The latest map showing outages from

Tropical Storm Beryl Discussion From Baron Services in Huntsville:

Definition Of A "Good Day". WeatherNation TV meteorologist Todd Nelson sent back these photos on Sunday, a towering thunderhead developing near Lake Mille Lacs late Sunday, and a 9 lb. walleye caught in Serpent Lake earlier in the day. I suspect his son, Crosby, actually caught the fish, but Todd ("LT") is taking credit for it. We'll never know!

Damp start Today, but skies should become partly sunny with a drying west wind at 10-20 and dew points falling through the 50s (far more comfortable than today). High should range from 60s up north to upper 70s metro.

Memorial Day Severe Threat. SPC shifts the severe threat into the Midwest and Great Lakes Monday, hail and damaging winds possible from Madison to Chicago and Detroit, another smaller severe threat over interior New England and north Texas.


"Specifically, numerous complaints were made to NOAA and the Department of Commerce Inspector General, which have now been verified, that the Chief Financial Officer of the National Weather Service (NWS) was misappropriating funds from his program accounts and redirecting them to 122 weather offices nationwide, which conduct critical forecasting of weather events and major storms." - part of a press release from Maine Senator Olympia Snowe's office; details below.

"For decades, solar activity has been trending downwards, even as temperatures have continued to rise. It's not that the researchers are being induced or compelled to some sort of biased interpretation of the data. Reality just happens to have a bias." - from an article about money and climate science at Ars Technica below.

"What's going on? Basically people with technical smarts just use their abilities to better rationalize their already-held views. And why is that? Fitting in with your friends matters a lot more to people than getting climate science right, suggests Kahan." - from a USA Today article, details below

"The total weight of CO2 that entered the atmosphere thanks to fossil-fuel burning last year was 31.6 billion metric tons (or nearly 35 billion old-fashioned tons). That’s a 3.2 percent increase over 2010, setting an all-time record. To see what that looks like in real time, you can check out Deutche Bank’s carbon counter, which pegs the accumulate weight at more than 3.7 trillion metric tons." - from a Climate Central story below.

"A September 2009 study by the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) provides a snapshot of this disparity. It found that between 2002 and 2008, the government gave fossil fuels $72.5 billion, corn ethanol $16.8 billion, and renewable energy $12.2 billion in subsidies. In other words, 71 percent of federal subsidies went to oil, natural gas and coal, while only 12 percent went to renewables."
"The question should be whether the government should continue to underwrite extremely profitable, mature industries--especially highly polluting ones--at the expense of nurturing new, promising low-carbon alternatives. The obvious answer is no. Renewables currently generate only about 5 percent of U.S. electricity, but by 2030 they have the potential to produce more than 40 percent, half coming from wind. That would just about replace the share currently generated by coal, which is responsible for more than 80 percent of U.S. utility sector carbon emissions."
- from a Huffington Post article below.

Global Heat Wave Disasters. I had no idea there were 126 killer heat waves, worldwide, from 1980 - 2008, with 89,889 deaths linked to extreme heat. More details from

Could Another Hurricane Andrew Surprise Us? Statistically, it's only a matter of time - hopefully we won't be surprised, but poses an important question; here's an excerpt: "With peak gusts of more than 200 mph, leaving a startling swath of destruction, Andrew's legacy taught us five important lessons:

No.1: Warning time is critical

Andrew, which struck on Aug. 24, 1992, intensified in two days from a tropical storm into Category 5, picking up forward speed. Forecasters posted a hurricane warning only 20 hours before the strike. "The hurricane hit quicker than what was anticipated," said Chris Landsea, the hurricane center's science and operations officer. Those 16 hours of additional warning time under today's hurricane center protocols would make a big difference, emergency managers said. "It's going to have people pay attention and watch closer for a longer period of time, and that's a good thing," Bill Johnson, director of Palm Beach County emergency management said."

* Hurricane Andrew time-lapse satellite sequence courtesy of NASA.

$175 Million Worth of Hail Damage In Louisville - Thousands of New Ford Escapes Damaged. Here's a story from the Courier-Journal: "Nearly a month after the worst hail storm to hit Jefferson County in several years bashed cars and homes with hail as large as baseballs, the resulting cost is climbing past $175 million. The massive damage has swamped insurance adjusters, body shops and roofing businesses, as Kentuckians file claims and try to fix their dinged-up cars and battered shingles. The PCS unit of Verisk Analytics said the $175 million estimate applies only to insured losses. The amount of losses of the uninsured would likely add many millions of dollars to the total cost of the storm."

21,000 Acre Blaze. Fires continue to intensify over the U.P. of Michigan. has an update. Photo courtesy of AP and

Michigan Wildfires From Space. The Columbia, South Carolina office of the NWS shared this, via Facebook: "Thought we would share with you an outstanding 250 meter resolution Visible satellite image from this afternoon in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Featured in the image is a large fire with a eastward drifting smoke plume. Also visible is the lake breeze boundary identified by the cumulus cloud field."

Sand Storm! Thanks to Wayne Angelo and Instagram, for capturing a massive sandstorm heading for the Phoenix area Friday.

A Year After A Rare Killer Tornado, Residents On One Massachussets Road Are On Rebound. Here's an excerpt of a story from AP and The Washington Post: "MONSON, Mass. — Pia Rogers still goes home every day, even though all that remains of her two-story farmhouse are two granite front steps. When it rains, treasures pop up in the dirt. That’s where the 39-year-old’s wedding and engagement rings were found after a tornado cut a swath through this rural Massachusetts town on June 1, 2011..... Four tornadoes touched down in Massachusetts, destroying or damaging 1,400 houses and 78 businesses. Damage to insured property surpassed $200 million. Three people died because of the storm, the state’s first tornado deaths in 16 years. Monson, population 8,500, got a visit from the biggest twister. With 160-mph wind gusts, it touched down downtown before crossing Bethany Road in one of the worst-hit neighborhoods."

Tornado Touchdown Confirmed Near Montreal. Yes, "Tornado Alley" is shifting north over time. Here's an excerpt of a story at Canada's CBC: "Environment Canada has confirmed an F-1 tornado touched down northwest of Montreal Friday night. Meterologist René Héroux from Environment Canada said the tornado touched down in St-Benoît-de-Mirabel. Damage at the scene suggests winds reached up to 150 km/h, he said. Trees were uprooted, roofs damaged and windows shattered as the severe storm rattled through southern Quebec Friday night. The Mirabel area, northwest of Montreal, was hit the hardest."

Photo credit above: "The storm flattened this church near Mirabel, Que." (Pascal Robidas/Radio-Canada)

Bad Idea: Six Myths About How To React During A Disaster. I think Myth #6 is wrong - a ditch still offers more protection in a tornado than staying in your car, which will become airborne if it's a major tornado. But I learned a few new things from this story at; here's an excerpt: "Here are some common misconceptions about disaster preparedness and what you really need to do to stay safe.

Myth No. 2: Open the windows in your home to equalize the pressure caused by a tornado
This is a terrible idea for a couple of reasons, explains Julie Rochman, president of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. "A, it doesn't work. And B, it's a really bad idea to stand in front of a window when a tornado is flinging debris all over the place. Plus, if there's an opening in the window, you could be sucked out."
Rochman recommends that people "leave their windows alone and instead go to a windowless area, like a shelter, your basement or a windowless room."

"Safe Rooms" Too Expensive For Homeowners, Even In Tornado Country. Here's a story from the Star Tribune's Bill McAuliffe, picked up by "Even in the heart of tornado country, where more than 3,000 tornado-damaged have been under repair the last year, there is still not a "safe room" in sight. Safe rooms are reinforced interior spaces designed to offer even more protection from tornadoes and hurricanes than basements do. But they're expensive. And across north Minneapolis, residents are even cutting corners on shingles, said contractor Ishmael Israel. "They're opting for the more economical route," Israel said, adding that typical disaster precautions in the neighborhood now include storing bottled water and having working flashlights and extra batteries. Safe rooms, which can also do double-duty as laundry rooms or bathrooms, are designed to withstand a blow from a 15-pound 2-by-4 fired at 100 mph. Flying debris, such as lumber, is one of the most dangerous features of a tornado. Standard safe rooms also offer overhead protection that basements often do not."
* basement safe room above courtesy of a company called "rhinovault" that offers a wide range of safe room options.

March 15 Storm Dumped Enough Water To Be Classified As A 1-In-100 Year Storm. Here's an update from The Peterborough Examiner, serving Ontario, California: "A storm that struck Peterborough on March 15, causing localized flooding in some neighbourhoods, dumped enough water on the city to be classified a one-in-100-year storm, shows a report that goes to city council Monday night. The city identified 83 road flooding locations, 23 culverts or catch basins that overflowed, 53 flooded basements and 45 sewage backup spots. Between 40 millimetres and 80 millimetres of rain fell on the city, depending on the location in the city, according the city’s rain gauge network. The city should only get hit by a storm that severe once every 100 years, utility services director Wayne Jackson states."
Photo credit above: "Pylons warn motorists to a washed out sections of Harper Rd. on Friday, Mar. 16, 2012 in Peterborough following a severe storm." CLIFFORD SKARSTEDT/PETERBOROUGH EXAMINER/QMI AGENCY

Local Weather Radar Gets An Upgrade, Just In Time For Hurricane Season. Here's an interesting article from "MYRTLE BEACH -- Just in time for the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, forecasters with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., are getting a boost in technology to help them better identify and predict how much rain and hail is falling in a specific area during a storm. The upgrade is taking place at all 160 radar stations in the U.S. and at five overseas locations. It means forecasters will go from monitoring single polarization radars to dual polarization radars, which gives them the ability to see a second dimension and determine, for example, where hail is falling and how big it is, said Steven Pfaff, a warning coordination meteorologist in Wilmington. “This is the first big modification. This is the next step in radar technology,” Pfaff said holding two softballs – one with a single blue piece of tape and the other with an X on it. Single polarization “gets us into the ballpark, whereas the dual polarization will get us into the infield.” Image: UCAR.

Read more here:
El Nino May Lessen Hurricane Risk. Right now we're in an ENSO-neutral situation (no El Nino or La Nina); ocean water temperatures in the Pacific pretty close to normal for late May. Some oceanographers are predicting a mild El Nino warming by the end of 2012, which correlates with stronger winds over the tropics, winds that can shred tropical depressions and prevent them from maturing into hurricanes. But El Nino may come too late for the 2012 hurricane season. Here's an excerpt from an story: "To say our weather in many parts of the country has not been normal of late. In fact, far from it when you consider the historic and severe hurricanes and tornadoes we have witnessed to the freak events like the halloween blizzard in the east to a lack of winter for millions of americans this past season. It's against that backdrop that today's official government hurricane forecast comes out just as America geared up for the traditional start of the summer kickoff weekend, and it's where we begin our reporting tonight with NBC's tom costello. Get ready for the ferocious power of mother nature . The official start of hurricane season is still a week away, but it's already been an active two weeks. tropical storm Alberto has come and gone as hurricane Bud churned off new mexico. now a category two storm. Today from NOAA, a prediction for a near normal hurricane season between june 1st and november 30th . That means 9 to 15 tropical storms with 4 to 8 strengthens into hurricanes. and one to three of those becoming major hurricanes , category 3 or greater. the big wild card , the warmer effect from EL Nino in the Pacific."

10 Steps To Take Before Storm Season. has some good advice for every family - this is geared more to residents of Hurricane Alley, but there are some good take-aways for the rest of us impacted by flooding and tornadoes. Here's an excerpt:
  1. "Locate and agree on a safe room.  Plan to find the lowest place in the house, without windows.  Usually this is the basement or an interior closet or storeroom.  Meet as a family and agree to the plan to meet there in case of emergency.  Be sure that each family member has a plan for shelter away from home in case of a storm that doesn’t allow everyone to get home.
  2. Supplies.  Be sure to keep supplies on hand in or near the safe room.  These should include:  water, a water purification kit, non-perishable snacks/food, blankets and pillows, clothing, first aid, medical equipment for special-needs family members, pre-moistened towelettes, hand sanitizer, zip-lock plastic bags, disposable eating ware, duct tape, necessary toiletries, flashlights with fresh batteries, radio, cell phone with charged batteries, entertainment items such as books, or games, pet care items.  If you have a baby or toddler you will need appropriate supplies:  diapers, baby food, formula, toys, etc.  You may want a battery-operated laptop with a cellular modem to be able to connect with email and Internet.
  3. Evacuation plan.  Have a plan if you will be required to evacuate due to incoming weather.  Hurricanes and floods approach more slowly giving people time to escape."

Snowe Calls For Action In Wake Of Reported Mismanagement Of National Weather Service Funding. From Maine Senator Olympia Snowe's D.C. offices - here's a snippet of a recent press release: "WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to the announcement that the Director of the National Weather Service (NWS), Jack Hayes, was stepping down from his position today in response to an investigation that senior management at NWS misappropriated millions of taxpayer dollars, U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), the Ranking Member of the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee, released the following statement:  “The deeply troubling revelation that senior staff at the National Weather Service, which provides indispensible storm and weather forecasting, have been conducting improper and potentially illegal transfers of taxpayers’ money is unacceptable.  While the Director of the National Weather Service has stepped down, there are many more remaining questions which require answers from both National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Commerce – and any and all individuals who bear responsibility in this misconduct must be held fully to account."

Not Forgetting Why We Celebrate Memorial Day. Thanks to WeatherNation TV meteorologist Aaron Shaffer for snapping this photo in Boston, showing thousands of American flags on Bunker Hill.

TV Weather Reporter Caught Faking Storm During Live Broadcast (Video). Oops! I've been trying to do this with a tornado for years now, but no luck. Hey, it's all about the ratings, right? Think we can fake a stunningly beautiful Memorial Day Weekend? Check out the fake sandstorm video from Yahoo News; here's an excerpt: "A Romanian TV weatherman has put a new spin on the phrase "having sand kicked in your face," after he was caught faking a storm during a live news report. The Metro reports that the reporter was filing a story about heavy winds along the Black Sea coast, which were gusting at more than 60 mph. At least, the winds were blowing that hard before the weatherman began filing his report. But by the time he went live, the winds had apparently died down. So in an attempt to recreate the stormy conditions, the reporter had a production assistant begin kicking sand in his direction. The reporter then told viewers, "The wind blows with incredible power; there are moments when it is impossible to stand up here. The wind blows the sand at over 60 km per hour. It blew away the beach umbrellas and the tourists had to leave in a hurry."

Who Knew? Thanks to Rainn Wilson and Twitter for passing that nugget along...

Sophomoric? Members Of Congress Talk Like 10th Graders, Analysis Shows. Here's an excerpt of a fascinating article from NPR: "Members of Congress are often criticized for what they do — or rather, what they don't do. But what about what they say and, more specifically, how they say it? It turns out that the sophistication of congressional speech-making is on the decline, according to the open government group the Sunlight Foundation. Since 2005, the average grade level at which members of Congress speak has fallen by almost a full grade.
Image credit above: Source: Sunlight Foundation analysis. Credit: Alyson Hurt / NPR

How To Destroy The Internet. No, don't do this - not even sure should be doing a story on this (or I should be republishing it) - but I came away from this article believing that it's probably impossible to bring down the entire net. It would take a massive coordinated effort on nearly every continent, at least doing it the conventional way. What I worry about (a little) is someone finding an unconventional way to wreak havoc. Here's an excerpt: "Remember when Anonymous threatened to destroy the entire internet? We laughed, and ultimately their words were just hacker hubris. But it got us thinking—could someone actually destroy the Internet? We did some digging, and guess what: With enough effort, the entire thing can be shattered. Physically. Completely. Here's how to kill the net. Before we destroy mankind's greatest, vastest machine, let's get something polite out of the way: don't. Destroying the Internet's core infrastructure would constitute the greatest act of global terrorism in history and/or a declaration of war against every sovereign nation in existence—to say nothing of the danger it would put both you and others in. This is a thought exercise.

A Turbulent Sky. Thanks to Broadcast Weather meteorologist Miranda Hilger for sending in this photo of an ominous, swirling sky drifting over Excelsior Sunday evening.

"Hot Enough". Talk about extremes: highs ranged from a chilly 52 at Duluth to 92 in the Twin Cities, over 1" of rain at Hibbing as of 7 pm. St. Cloud saw 87, 89 at Rochester.

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

MEMORIAL DAYWet start, then clearing by midday, a partly sunny, breezy afternoon. Winds: SW 15-25. High: 79

MONDAY NIGHT: Partial clearing, cooler. Low: 52

TUESDAY: Sunny start, PM clouds. Cooler. High: 63

WEDNESDAY: Fading sun, rain stays south/west of Minnesota. Low: 46. High: 62

THURSDAY: Leftover clouds, showers possible far south. Low: 48. High: 66

FRIDAY: Intervals of sun, still drying out. Low: 51. High: near 70

SATURDAYPartly sunny and milder. Winds: S 10-15. Low: 55. High: 76

SUNDAYLot's of warm sun. Hallelujah! Low: 58. High: near 80

Heroes Among Us

"Never take your freedom for granted" my father lectured as I was growing up. He escaped a virulently oppressive, communist regime in East Germany, and he drilled it into his kids that the things most of us take for granted aren't "free". Someone fought, and died, for our way of life.
My youngest son, Brett, is graduating from the Naval Academy tomorrow, heading to Pensacola to fly helicopters or fixed-wing F-18s. Like every other military family - I watch the news differently than I did before. Developments in China and Iran hit close to home. Hearts flutter when the phone rings at 2 am.

Take a moment to thank a military (hero) and their families today. Take nothing for granted. Go Navy! Beat Army.

It takes a lot to amaze me these days, but our recent moisture turnaround is nothing short of stunning: from severe drought to severe floods, in about 3 weeks. A soggy start gives way to some sun this afternoon, a drying southwest wind dropping dew points into the 50s. An instability shower is possible up north, but it should get better as the day goes on.

A cool snap steers soggy storms south of Minnesota; a dry week on tap! Next weekend looks sunny & promising, 80 by Sunday.

Yes, we're due for a nice weekend right about now.

Climate Stories...

Obama Silent On Climate Change In Big Iowa Energy Speech. Details from Joe Romm at Think Progress: "Last month, the White House edited climate change from Obama’s Earth Day 2012 proclamation. That was after the President omitted any discussion of climate change from his State of the Union address. But then, in a Rolling Stone interview, Obama unexpectedly broke out of his self-imposed silence on climate change, saying he thought climate change would be a campaign issue. Of course, it would be hard for climate to be a campaign issue if the president doesn’t actually talk about it in public. After all, his challenger Mitt Romney seems unlikely to bring it up, having Etch-a-Sketched his position on that subject many times. And Lord knows that media isn’t itching to talk about climate."

Climate Splits Science Views, Not Science Smarts. Here's an excerpt of an interesting article from USA Today: "...The study sought to test two explanations for the split, said Yale's Dan Kahan, who led the study, in a statement: "The first attributes political controversy over climate change to the public's limited ability to comprehend science, and the second, to opposing sets of cultural values." The first notion doesn't wash, says the study, finding a small increase in the odds of folks seeing global warming as not too serious in the most science literate people in the survey. Instead the best explanation for the split came from looking at response differences between people with individualistic viewpoints, less concerned about the environment, and people with more community-focused ones, who are more concerned, says the study."

Fund For "Climate Justice" Launched. The story from The Press Association: "A fund aimed at helping some of the world's poorest communities tackle climate change will be launched in Scotland later this week. First Minister Alex Salmond will be joined by the former Irish president, human rights champion Mary Robinson, when he launches the climate justice fund in Edinburgh on Thursday. Details of the fund are expected to be announced then. Looking ahead to the event, Mr Salmond said: "The huge injustice of climate change is that it is those who have done the least to cause the problem, the most vulnerable from the world's poorest communities, who are hardest hit. "That is why Scotland is committed to working towards climate justice."

Bonn Climate Talks End In Discord And Disappointment. The story from Climate Central and OPB News; here's an excerpt: "The latest round of international climate change talks finished on Friday in discord and disappointment, with some participants concerned that important progress made last year was being unpicked. At the talks, countries were supposed to set out a work plan on negotiations that should result in a new global climate treaty, to be drafted by the end of 2015 and to come into force in 2020. But participants told the Guardian they were downbeat, disappointed and frustrated that the decision to work on a new treaty – reached after marathon late-running talks last December in Durban – was being questioned."

It's Not About Climate Change, It's About Keeping Advertisers Happy. An interesting perspective - and not the first time I've encountered this train of thought: "Let's hold off reporting on what's happening with climate trends, because it might make some of our advertisers, the men and women who pay the bills, a little uncomfortable." Right. Here's an excerpt from a post at "Scientific American has a dilemma (Extra!, 2/11): It takes advertising from oil companies whose profits depend on denying the most important scientific fact of our era, the reality of human-caused climate change. The magazine would lose its whole brand identity if it pretended global warming wasn't happening, but there are things short of that that will make its fossil-fuel-selling advertisers a little happier. Such as running blog posts like "It's Not About Tar Sands–It's About Us" by Melissa C. Lott and Scott McNally (5/23/12). Lott and McNally–both of whom have worked for the energy industry when they aren't science blogging–dispute the idea that people concerned with climate change ought to discourage Canada from extracting and burning its tar sands, because: Stopping Canada from producing tar sands will not curb the world's oil demand, reduce fossil fuel consumption or significantly reduce our total greenhouse gas footprint."

Knocking The Wind Out of U.S. Energy Options. Here's a snippet from an important, scientifically eloquent Huffington Post article: "Unless Congress acts soon, the wind industry will have to trim its sails--and its workforce. An essential federal tax break for the fledgling industry, scheduled to expire at the end of the year, has become a victim of Washington gridlock. President Obama was in Newton, Iowa, yesterday at TPI Composites, a leading wind blade manufacturer, to again ask Congress to extend the production tax credit, which provides a credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced by wind turbines--as well as geothermal, biomass and underwater turbines--for the first 10 years of production. The president also urged Congress to expand a 30 percent tax credit instituted in 2009 for investments in companies manufacturing renewable energy components. The package, called the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit, provided $2.3 billion in credits for solar panel parts, "smart" electric meters, fuel cell components and wind turbines." Photo: AP.

U.S. Cut Its Carbon Emissions In 2011 - But China Erased The Gains. The problem? Coal-fired energy, which China is leaning on heavily for its growth - it's the dirtiest fuel, from a carbon emissions standpoint; here's a clip from a Washington Post story: "Yes, it’s true: Americans are slowly starting to tackle global warming. U.S. carbon emissions dropped 1.7 percent last year, according to the International Energy Agency. But that only went so far. Thanks to China’s fast growth, the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions hit record highs in 2011. How did the United States managed to restrain its carbon-dioxide? The IEA offers up three reasons for the decline: First, many U.S. power companies have been swapping out coal for somewhat cleaner natural gas, since the latter has become so cheap. That’s helped. The United States also had a mild winter in 2011, which meant less energy was needed for heating. Finally, Americans have been driving less and purchasing more efficient cars of late, which has tempered the country’s oil use. It wasn’t a huge drop. It may prove fleeting. But it was a step toward less carbon."

Photo credit above: "Up, up, up." (TIM WIMBORNE - REUTERS)

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Across The Globe Hit A Record High. Following up on the story above comes this piece from Climate Central: "Thanks to developing countries like China, greenhouse-gas emissions across the globe hit record highs in 2011, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). While the IEA’s report is a preliminary estimate of carbon dioxide emissions for 2011, the news as a whole is not good. The total weight of CO2 that entered the atmosphere thanks to fossil-fuel burning last year was 31.6 billion metric tons (or nearly 35 billion old-fashioned tons). That’s a 3.2 percent increase over 2010, setting an all-time record. To see what that looks like in real time, you can check out Deutche Bank’s carbon counter, which pegs the accumulate weight at more than 3.7 trillion metric tons."

Climate Armageddon: How The World's Weather Could Quickly Run Amok (Excerpt). Here's a troubling excerpt of a story at Scientific American: "The eminent British scientist James Lovelock, back in the 1970s, formulated his theory of Gaia, which held that the Earth was a kind of super organism. It had a self-regulating quality that would keep everything within that narrow band that made life possible. If things got too warm or too cold—if sunlight varied, or volcanoes caused a fall in temperatures, and so forth—Gaia would eventually compensate. This was a comforting notion. It was also wrong, as Lovelock himself later concluded. "I have to tell you, as members of the Earth's family and an intimate part of it, that you and especially civilization are in grave danger," he wrote in the Independent in 2006. The world has warmed since those heady days of Gaia, and scientists have grown gloomier in their assessment of the state of the world's climate. NASA climate scientist James Hanson has warned of a "Venus effect," in which runaway warming turns Earth into an uninhabitable desert, with a surface temperature high enough to melt lead, sometime in the next few centuries."

Timescale Matters: 800,000 Years Of CO2 (NOAA). I was floored when I saw this YouTube clip from NOAA, tracking CO2 levels going back 800,000 years (tracking carbon is Antarctic ice core samples). The data set shows a spike between 20 and 70 North Latitude, and it's the rate of CO2 increase that is alarming. We've had increases in the past (related to changes in the Earth's orbit around the sun), but the atmosphere has never seen a CO2 spike like the one we've experienced in the last 50 years. More from NOAA: "Time history of atmospheric carbon dioxide from 800,000 years before present until January, 2009. Recommend full screen/HD to read titles. See for more information on the global carbon cycle."

The Big Picture. Data going back 800,000 years before Christ show fluctuations in CO2 levels, but during the warm (astronomical) cycles CO2 levels stayed within at 225-300 ppm range. We're now over 392 ppm, and unless we begin reducing greenhouse gas levels (soon) those levels may double by the end of the century, resulting in a 3-8 F. temperature rise worldwide. I'm sure how much clearer the trends need to be before reasonable, logical people realize that we have a bit of a problem here. YouTube animation courtesy of NOAA.

Killer Heat Waves: Heat-Related U.S. Deaths Could Increase By 150,000 By Century's End Due To Climate Change. Here's a clip from an NRDC article: "NRDC released a report today projecting that more than 150,000 additional Americans could die by the end of this century due to excessive heat caused by climate change. This startling conclusion is based on peer-reviewed scientific papers published recently by Dr. Larry Kalkstein and colleagues. This is the kind of study that should make headlines around the country but is generally ignored when published only in scholarly journals. So NRDC is presenting the information in a more accessible manner, adding calculations of the cumulative additional death toll attributable to projected global warming by mid-century and century’s end (the report, including these additional calculations, was reviewed by Dr. Kalkstein to ensure that we have presented the information accurately)."

Climate Change Allows Once-Rare British Butterfly To Thrive. The story from The Christian Science Monitor: "Warming in Great Britain appears to have given a little brown and orange butterfly an edge. The brown argus butterfly has spread about 49 miles (79 kilometers) northward on the island over 20 years, observations indicate. Although it's well known that climate change can prompt plants and animals to shift the ranges in which they live, the brown argus (Aricia agestis) has widened its living quarters with unusual speed, according to an analysis of decades of data collected by British volunteers. The butterfly's secret? A new host plant to feed its larvae."

Photo credit above: "Warming has allowed the brown argus butterfly to rapidly expand its range in England and Wales." Louise Mair.

Climate Change And The Media. Here's a post from "According to Yahoo News, the Casey Anthony trial was the number one issue in 2011. Global climate change did not make the top ten, although, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. experienced "14 weather and climate disasters in 2011, each (of which) caused $1 billion or more in damages -- and most regrettably, loss of human lives and property." When Rasmussen recently conducted a national telephone survey of what Americans considered the most important issues, global climate change was not mentioned. Number one on the list was the economy with 82 percent of Americans reporting this as being very important. Their tenth concern was Afghanistan with 27 percent of Americans citing the war as very important."

Countries Doing Too Little On Warming: Research. Reuters has the details: "Greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 could rise to nine billion metric tons (9.92 billion tons) above what is needed to limit global warming as some countries look set to miss their emissions cut targets, a report by three climate research groups said on Wednesday. Countries have agreed that deep emissions cuts are needed to limit an increase in global average temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius this century above pre-industrial levels, a threshold that scientists say is the minimum required to limit devastating effects like crop failure and melting glaciers. They believe the 2 degree limit is only possible if emissions levels are kept to around 44 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020."

Accusations That Climate Science Is Money-Driven Reveal Ignorance Of How Science Is Done. Here's an excerpt of an eye-opening article from Ars Technica: "One of the unfortunate memes that has made repeated appearances in the climate debate is that money isn't just influencing the public debate about science, but it's also influencing the science itself. The government, the argument goes, is paying scientists specifically to demonstrate that carbon dioxide is the major culprit in recent climate change, and the money available to do so is exploding. Although the argument displays a profound misunderstanding of how science and science funding work, it's just not going away. Just this week, one of the sites where people congregate to criticize mainstream climate science once again repeated it, replete with the graph below. That graph originated in a 2009 report from a think tank called the Science & Public Policy Institute (notable for using the serially confused Christopher Monckton as a policy advisor). The report, called "Climate Money: The climate industry: $79 billion so far—trillions to come" (PDF) and prepared by Australian journalist Joanne Nova for the Science & Public Policy Institute, claims to show how money has distorted climate science."

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