Thursday, July 12, 2012

Another Wave of Heat Brewing (moderate drought returns to southern Minnesota)

89 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities yesterday.

84 F. average high on July 12.

78 F. high on July 12, 2011.

Slight severe risk today for the Twin Cities and much of central/eastern Minnesota. Watches & warnings are possible.

24.07% of Minnesota is now in a moderate drought, nearly half the state characterized as "abnormally dry."

60.84% of America is in a moderate drought (or worse). Nearly 80% of the lower 48 states are abnormally dry. Details below.

Get Used To 90s (Again). Scattered T-storms may prevent us from reaching 90 today (we'll come very close), but I suspect we'll top 90 Saturday, in spite of a northeast breeze. Mid-90s are likely Sunday, at least one model hinting at 100 degrees. Highs may reach the mid 90s again Monday before slight relief by the middle of next week. The ECMWF solution (below) hints at another run of 95-100 F. heat by Saturday of next week. Something to look forward to.

Round 2 Of The Heatwave of 2012? I suspect the ECMWF is underestimating the heat on Sunday and Monday (I think we'll see mid 90s, not low 90s), but the models (U.S. and European) are all consistent cooling us off a little by the middle of next week, before another heat spike next weekend.

Earth-Directed X Flare: Big sunspot AR1520 erupted on July 12th around 16:53 UT, producing an X-class solar flare and hurling a CME directly toward Earth.  Forecasters expect the cloud to arrive on July 14th.  Its impact could spark moderate to severe geomagnetic storms, allowing auroras to be seen at lower latitudes than usual.  Check for more information and updates.

Tropical Storm Fabio. No, you can't make this stuff up. Fabio is whipping up in the Pacific, details below.

55 days above 100 F. at Phoenix this year. Every day in June was 100+.

40,000+ heat records, nationwide, so far in 2012. Details at Huffington Post below.

"In the past 50 years, we have added one trillion tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere from burning coal, oil and natural gas (Source: U.S. Department of Energy). That's 1,000,000,000,000 tons. Each ton of pollution is roughly the size of a hot-air balloon. Think of a million hot air balloons. Now repeat one million times." - from a Huffington Post article below.

"...But Jane Lubchenco of the NOAA disagrees with critics who say scientists are "campaigners for action on climate change": ''At NOAA, all we are doing is providing the data,'' she said. ''When some people don't like the information, they criticize the providers of that information, and we certainly see that playing out.'' - from an article at; details below.

61% of America is in a drought, the highest percentage in 12 years. More from USA Today.

Moderate Drought Returns To Southern Minnesota. The latest Drought Monitor from NOAA shows nearly a quarter of Minnesota in a moderate drought, up from 14.86% a week ago. Nearly half the state is now "abnormally dry". Farmers (and gardeners) need about 1" rain/week for proper growth of crops. After a very wet June rainfall has dropped off a cliff, and today's showers and T-storms probably won't be enough to make a significant dent in the rainfall deficit.

2012: Even Drier Than Last Year. Texas and Oklahoma experienced an historic drought last year, even worse than during the Dust Bowl Days of the 1930s. This year's drought is more widespread, but not quite as extreme. A few details:

* 80 percent of the country is at least abnormally dry this year, compared to 36 percent last year.
* 61 percent of the country is facing moderate to extreme drought conditions this year compared to half that last year.
* Only 20 percent of the country is not abnormally dry, as opposed to 64 percent last year.

Corn And Beans. WeatherNation TV meteorologist Bryan Karrick was out in Ellsworth, Wisconsin yesterday - sent back these pics of the maturing corn and bean crop - he noticed some stress on the crops, but we're in (much) better shape than much of the Corn Belt in the Ohio Valley. That said, if we don't get (significant, 1"+) rains in the next week or two there could be drought-related issues by late summer.

Latest Drought Monitor. This was just updated by NOAA, nearly 61% of the lower 48 states now in a moderate drought, 37% - over a third of the nation - in a severe drought. My hunch stands: this will probably wind up being the hottest, driest summer since 1988.

6-Week Drought Animation. Here is a time-lapse since June 5, showing the drought expanding in size and intensity over the last 6 weeks.

Friday Severe Threat. A few storms may exceed severe limits later today from Eau Claire to the Twin Cities southward to Des Moines and Omaha. Map courtesy of NOAA SPC.

Tropical Storm....Fabio? Yes, we've officially run out of hurricane names. "Fabio" is packing 60 mph winds, expected to become a category 1 hurricane well off the coast of Mexico. Category 1? Fabio should be a Category..6. Map courtesy of NHC and Ham Weather.

Severe Turbulence Affects Miami-Bound Flight. Here's a meteorological explanation of what caused severe turbulence and numerous injuries on a recent flight, courtesy of NOAA's Environmental Visualization Laboratory: "Strong convection over Cuba and in the Florida Straights contributed to severely turbulent conditions that affected American Airlines Flight 1780 as it approached Miami International Airport on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. At the time this image was taken by GOES East at 2145Z, storms covered almost the entire length and breadth of Cuba and others were developing along the aircraft's approach path to the airport. The turbulence caused injuries to passengers and flight crew during a 15 second time span 30 minutes from the Aruba-originated flight's conclusion."

2012: The Year Of All Or Nothing. What a difference a year makes; historic drought in 2011, now Texans can't turn off the rain. Flash flooding has been severe across central and eastern Texas; details from the Austin - San Antonio office of the NWS, via Facebook: "Flooding in San Antonio's Brackenridge Park on 7-11-2012. Picture courtesy of Brandon Rosier."

Urban Flooding. Here's another photo from the San Antonio, Texas area, where flash flooding has been widespread. Details from the local National Weather Service office, via Facebook: "Flooding on the lower deck of I-35, on the northwest side of Downtown San Antonio on 7-11-2012. Picture courtesy of Brandon Rosier."

Flash Flood Tips. Some good advice from NOAA. Only 6" of rapidly moving water can knock you off your feet; 18" of water can turn your vehicle into a boat, with potentially tragic consequences.

Technicolor Sunset. Here's a terrific photo from Denali National Park and Preserve: "The red and orange clouds mixing with blue sky turned a 5 minute walk to the bathroom into a 1 hour event last night."

"Yatoo" Concept Turns Your Car Into A Camper, With A Tent, Kitchen, And Bed. And who among us doesn't need one of these? has more details: "The French-designed Yatoo is a camper concept that looks like a lighter version of the Swiss Roombox. The three-part system equips a standard car, truck or van with the essentials for wilderness living. Owners get room to sleep, live and cook while keeping much of the vehicle's interior cargo space."

Streaming TV Service "Aereo" Survives First Legal Test. This could change the game, unless the courts shut it down. No more cable or satellite to get the channels of content you want - now you can stream them to any device (at least in the New York City market, for now). has more details: "Aereo, the streaming TV service backed by Barry Diller, scored a victory in court this week as a federal judge ruled that the company could continue to operate while it fights broadcasters over the use of their programming. A group of 17 network broadcasters had combined on a motion for a preliminary injunction against Aereo, which allows users to watch and record broadcast channels through their digital devices.  The service launched in the New York City area in March and currently costs $12 per month."

Disruptions: Life's Too Short For So Much E-Mail. Here's an excerpt of an artlcle at The New York Times: "Just thinking about my e-mail in-box makes me sad. This month alone, I received more than 6,000 e-mails. That doesn’t include spam, notifications or daily deals, either. With all those messages, I have no desire to respond to even a fraction of them. I can just picture my tombstone: Here lies Nick Bilton, who responded to thousands of e-mails a month. May he rest in peace. It’s not that I’m so popular. Last year, Royal Pingdom, which monitors Internet usage, said that in 2010, 107 trillion e-mails were sent. A report this year from the Radicati Group, a market research firm, found that in 2011, there were 3.1 billion active e-mail accounts in the world. The report noted that, on average, corporate employees sent and received 105 e-mails a day."

A 100% Solar-Powered Boat That Costs Under $3,000 To Build. What happens on a cloudy day? You hang out on the dock, I guess. Even so, it's amazing (to me) that renewable, sustainable solutions are showing up for fairly affordable costs. Details from my favorite uber-geeks at "While it might not be the world’s largest solar boat or the fastest, this modest home-built solar-powered boat does the job and comfortably accommodates six passengers. Dubbed “Firefly,” it was built by Canadian eco-enthusiast Dan Baker for an impressive CA$2,900 (US$2,845)."

Heating Up. Afternoon clouds from a weakening band of light showers kept MSP International from (officially) hitting the 90 degree mark. Highs ranged from 86 at St. Cloud to 90 Crystal, 91 St. Paul, Eden Prairie and Eau Claire.

We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

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

TODAY: T-storms, some severe. Dew point: 68. Winds: S 10. High: near 90

FRIDAY NIGHT: A few heavy thunderstorms, locally heavy rain possible. Low: 70

SATURDAY: Hot sun, slightly less humid. Wisconsin T-storms. Dew point: 66. Winds: NE 5. High: 91

SATURDAY NIGHT: Clear and quiet. Low: 72

SUNDAY: Plenty hot. Hazy sun. DP: 70. Winds: SE 15. Feels like 100+ by mid afternoon. High: 96

MONDAY: Help! Sizzling again. Blue sky, steamy. Dew point: 72. Low: 74. High: 97

TUESDAY: Some sun, slight relief. Dew point: 69. Low: 72. High: 92

WEDNESDAY: Feeling better. Mix of clouds/sun. Slight dip in humidity. Low: 67. High: 88

THURSDAY: Sunny, heating up again. Low: 68. High: 92

* long range (ECMWF) models are hinting at upper 90s again by next Saturday. We'll see.

60 % Chance of Confusion

Predicting summer convection (hit-or-miss T-storms) is tough. New NOAA models provide some skill out to 12 hours, but predicting WHAT TIME rain will arrive at your home, a day in advance? Good luck.

Does a 60 percent probability of precipitation mean 60 percent of the area will get wet? No. Does it mean it will rain 60 percent of the day? No. It means that, on 6 out of 10 days, one point will pick up measurable rain. Huh? This isn't a knock on the Weather Service, which does an amazingly good job - and unlike other nations gives away its data for free.

In summer we deal in statistics and probabilities, vague generalities. The atmosphere is "ripe" for thunderstorms, etc.

I prefer to use words like "isolated" (under 10% of the area), "scattered" (10-40%), "numerous" (40-80% of the state gets wet) or "rain", when nearly everyone will be lugging umbrellas.
A few T-storms may mutate today, spitting 1 inch hail and gusts over 60 mph. Storms push into Wisconsin Saturday; low to mid 90s over the weekend. Very lake-worthy indeed.

100 F. isn't out of the question Sunday & Monday. The fairly reliable (but not infallible) ECMWF model hinting at upper 90s a week from Saturday. By calculations a very long, memorable summer is roughly half over.

Historically today is the hottest day of the year in the cities.

Fun with statistics!

Climate Stories...

What Is Causing Our Climate To Unravel? The story from Huffington Post; here's an excerpt:
Answer: 1,000,000,000,000 Tons of Carbon Pollution (that's one trillion tons of carbon dioxide)
"Our weather has turned dangerous because our climate is breaking down. 40,000 heat records have already been broken this year across the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As the planet heats, climatic patterns unravel, creating destructive weather. Warm air sucks more water from the ground and holds more water (about 4 percent more for every 1 degree F increase in temperature), creating droughts in many regions and severe flooding when larger amounts of water are unleashed elsewhere."

State Of The Climate in 2011. The official NOAA NCDC pdf is here.

Hot, Dry Summer Rekindles Debate On Climate Change; A Closer Look. More details from the Cleveland Plain Dealer at "Hot and dry conditions have led to wildfires in Colorado, New Mexico and other areas that have destroyed hundreds of homes and thousands of acres of forest. In the Midwest, the federal government has declared a natural disaster in 26 states because of extreme drought. Heat records have been broken across the eastern portion of the United States and the extreme temperatures are blamed for dozens of deaths. And this is just a taste of the future. That's the argument from a trio of scientists who say this summer's extreme weather soon will become the new normal because of climate change, the gradual warming of the planet caused by man-made pollutants."

Photo credit above: Steve Niedbalski shows his drought and heat stricken corn on Wednesday in Nashville, Ill. Farmers in parts of the Midwest are dealing with the worst drought in nearly 25 years."

Fear Of Climate Change May Finally Be Trumping Ideological Denial. David Ropeik at Huffington Post has the story; here's the introduction: "Human behavior is controlled by a lot of neural wiring and chemistry, and an incredible range of cognitive shortcuts and instincts, over which we have practically no conscious control. A lot of this behind-the-scenes "thinking", which often leads to decisions and behaviors that seem to fly in the face of the facts, is driven by one of the most fundamental imperatives - survival. The brain's job is first and foremost to get us to tomorrow. But the brain relies on several instincts to help us survive, and sometimes they conflict. One fear can literally contradict another. That's the case with climate change. The bad news is that at this point, the wrong ones are winning. The good news is, things may be changing."

The Climate Of The Climate Change Debate Is Changing. Are American's opinions on climate change finally shifting, based primarily on increasingly extreme weather (flooding, drought, historic heat, etc?) Good question. Here's a theory from The Guardian: "The climate may have changed this week. Not the physical climate, but the climate of the climate change debate. Tuesday marked the publication of a series of papers examining the factors behind extreme weather events in 2011. Nothing remarkable about that, you might think, except, if all goes well, this will be the first of a regular, annual assessment quantifying how external drivers of climate contribute to damaging weather. Some of these drivers, like volcanoes, are things we can do nothing about. But others, like rising levels of greenhouse gases, we can. And quantifying how greenhouse gases contribute to extreme weather is a crucial step in pinning down the real cost of human influence on climate. While most people think of climate change in terms of shrinking ice-sheets and slowly rising sea levels, it is weather events that actually do harm."

Texas Judge Rules Atmosphere, Air To Be Protected Like Water, May Aid Climate Change Lawsuits. Details from AP and The Washington Post: "HOUSTON — A Texas judge has ruled that the atmosphere and air must be protected for public use, just like water, which could help attorneys tasked with arguing climate change lawsuits designed to force states to cut emissions. The written ruling, issued in a letter Monday by Texas District Court Judge Gisela Triana, shot down arguments by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that only water is a “public trust,” a doctrine that dates to the Roman Empire stating a government must protect certain resources — usually water, sometimes wildlife — for the common good."

Weary Of Climate Change Deniers, Republicans Launch Their Own Initiative. Details from; here's an excerpt: "Former GOP Rep. Bob Inglis is “urging conservatives to stop denying that humans are contributing to global warming.” "Conservatives have the answer to our energy and climate challenge," he says in a statement. "It's about correcting market distortions and setting the economics right. We need to stop retreating in denial and start stepping forward in the competition of ideas." Inglis, a South Carolina Republican beaten by the Tea Party in 2010, is launching the “Energy and Enterprise Initiative” at George Mason University to push “conservative solutions to America’s energy and climate challenges.”

Some Like It Hot? People Know Climate Change, But Politicians Chill. Here's a portion of an Op-Ed at The Pittsburgh Gazette: "This should be the summer of our discontent, with heat waves, drought and other troublesome weather affecting large parts of the nation. Instead, Americans are hot but apparently not bothered about what it all might mean. According to a new Washington Post-Stanford University poll, just 18 percent of Americans interviewed named climate change as the world's top environmental problem. In 2007, when Al Gore's warning documentary and a United Nations report were making headlines, 33 percent called climate change the top issue."

Climate Change Deniers Resurface; Who Will You Believe? Here's an excerpt of a post from NRDC:  "The temperature’s cooling, the power is back on in Washington, D.C., the fires are almost out in Colorado and they’ve almost cleaned up from the flooding in Florida. So naturally, those who continue to deny (at the peril of the rest of us) the connection between climate change and extreme weather disasters are once again raising their heads and raising their voices. Sen. Jim Inhofe, the igloo-building, oil-state politician who recently authored a book proclaiming global warming is a hoax, used the Senate floor as a stage to do just that on Wednesday. Columnist George Will used the airwaves over the weekend to say that prolonged record high temperatures and the hottest year on record just means it’s summer – get over it."

The World's Worst Ideas For Addressing Climate Change. The story from; here's an excerpt: "Rupert Murdoch made waves on Twitter yesterday by dunking his toe into the climate change debate:
"Climate change very slow but real. So far all cures worse than disease. Shale gas huge breakthrough for US. Half carbon of coal and oil."
David Roberts of Grist was incredulous: “Solar panels are worse than drought or rising sea levels?” Of course not. The problem is that we aren’t building enough of them to significantly slow climate change. And we may not anytime soon, thanks in part to that increasingly cheap shale gas that Murdoch is apparently fond of. (Shale gas is less carbon-intensive than coal, but far more so than renewable energy sources.)"

Is Mr. Romney A Climate Change Denier? I don't pretend to know the answer to that question - I hope not, for the sake of his candidacy. I'm disappointed President Obama hasn't done more to call attention to the problem and set out a plan to wean us off fossil fuels in the years ahead - there's no real vision, no blueprint for how we can grow jobs and GDP (without using the atmosphere as a sewer). Here's an excerpt from "Maybe it’s the record heat we just experienced in Washington, but I am very confused. Since last summer, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been saying that “we don’t know” if humans are causing climate change — flipping in the opposite direction from his earlier position as Governor, when he called for a “no regrets policy” on addressing climate change. But as we head into the general election, a surrogate from the Romney campaign now indicates the candidate has again changed his stance, declaring that he is “certainly not a denier” of climate science. Speaking at a debate on energy issues today between representatives of the Romney and Obama campaigns, former Deputy Secretary of Energy Linda Gillespie Stunz implied multiple times that Mitt Romney would be open to action on the issue."

Koehler: Warm And Climate Change. Here is a snippet of a particularly profound article at Newsday: "The heat backs up across the country, causing drought, wildfires, a mega-storm on the East Coast. More than 4,000 "hottest day" records have been shattered in the U.S. in the past month. "The ecological ego matures," Theodore Roszak wrote 20 years ago in "The Voice of the Earth: An Exploration of Ecopsychology," "toward a sense of ethical responsibility to the planet that is as vividly experienced as our ethical responsibility to other people. It seeks to weave that responsibility into the fabric of social relations and political decisions." Social change of real value is slow-going indeed. How do we manifest responsibility to the planet? A serious consensus is building across the globe that doing so is crucial, that the weather extremes of recent years are no less than global warming in action, the result of centuries of unbridled, industrial-age irresponsibility toward the planet, and something fundamental has to change in how we live our lives and sustain ourselves, but our leadership, certainly in this country, seems incapable of addressing an issue of such complexity."

Photo credit: AP | "A U.S. Bureau of Land Management vehicle battles a wildfire north of Jackpot, Nev." (July 10, 2012)

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