Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dog Days of July (another streak of 90s - how a warmer atmosphere is sparking heatwaves)

88 F. high Wednesday in the Twin Cities.

84 F. average high on July 11.

88 F. high temperature on July 11, 2011.

.31" predicted rainfall for MSP (NAM model). The best chance of showers and T-storms: Friday evening/night.

July 13: historically the hottest day of the year in the Twin Cities. Average high temperatures plateau at 84 F. from July 6 to July 21.  Data: Minnesota Climatology Working Group.

June 25: last day the Twin Cities experienced a below-average high temperature (77 F.)

European Model. Low 90s are likely today, slightly cooler (muggier) weather Friday and Saturday with scattered T-storms. A couple hours of rain are possible Saturday - Sunday looks like the sunnier, drier, hotter day of the weekend. The ECMWF is hinting at mid 90s by next Tuesday, highs near 90 nearly every day from today through next Friday.

High Bust Potential. I'm saying low 90s today, a slight cooling trend Friday and Saturday (accounting for more clouds and a few T-storms nearby). But the latest computer ensemble is suggesting that I may be too conservative with my temperature forecast. More than one model is suggesting low to mid 90s each of the next 3 days. They may be right - all the (American) models have been consistently busting in recent weeks - actual temperatures have been 3-6 F. warmer than predicted by the NAM, RAP and GFS. 90s are likely today; if the sun stays out for a few hours Friday and Saturday (very possible) we could top 90 those days as well. The big difference: by Friday and Saturday dew points will approach or surpass 70, making it feel sauna-like again. Ugh.

Weekend Details. The ECMWF suggests the best chance of showers and T-storms will come Saturday morning and midday, enough afternoon sun for highs in the upper 80s. The sun should be out most of the day Sunday with highs ranging from 88 to 92 F.

An Olympic-Size Wash-Out? The extended forecast for London calls for more rain and potential flooding. Details below.

"Presently we’re breaking high temperature records much more frequently than by chance. And, by some estimates, the ratio of that exceedance of breaking highs compared to what you would expect by chance would lead to us say to that there’s about an 80 percent chance that the record high you experienced was due to climate change.” - from a Washington Post story focused on climate change increasing the odds of extreme weather, including severe heat waves.

"Meteorologist Jeff Masters puts it this way: “These are ridiculously long odds, and it is highly unlikely that the extremity of the heat during the past 13 months could have occurred without a warming climate.” - from a Washington Post story, details below. Image above: NASA.

"As Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University climate scientist and the lead author of the report, said: “A hotter, moister atmosphere is an atmosphere primed to trigger disasters.” - from a New York Times story; details below. Photo: NOAA.

 "Our weather is the brush stroke that makes up the bigger, grander picture of our climate. To fully understand and comprehend the climate, one must see the totality of events and look beyond a speck in time and space to see the grand scale." - from an editorial at Tulsa World; details below.

Thursday Severe Risk. A few storms over the Dakotas and Minnesota's Red River Valley may exceed severe limits (1"+ hail and/or wind gusts over 58 mph wind gusts). Map courtesy of SPC.

Heating Up. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The New York Times: "Many politicians and a vocal minority of scientists dispute such predictions as alarmist. What they cannot dispute are the numbers. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the 11 years from 2001-11 rank among the 13 warmest globally since record-keeping began 132 years ago. The average temperature in the contiguous United States for the first six months of this year, the National Climatic Data Center reported on Monday, were the hottest recorded since 1895."

NASA Scientist: 80% Chance Recent Heat Records Due To Climate Change. Fun with statistics and probabilities. The Washington Post's meteorologist Jason Samenow conducted an interview with NOAA's Martin Hoerling; here's an excerpt of the transcript (video after the link): "What Hoerling had to say about climate change and record-setting temperatures was fascinating. He makes a compelling case that human-caused climate change isn’t causing heat waves, but - in many instances - adding to their intensity. Consider these excerpts from his commentary, about 34-38 minutes into the 60 minute panel discussion. “....the globally averaged temperature of the planet has risen beyond any doubt beyond where you would expect ... with natural variability alone..... On the heat wave story. Sometimes you’ll see ‘that heat wave was due to climate change’ That’s not a very accurate statement, not a very helpful statement. But it’s not entirely untrue either.”

Graphic credit above: Above: Google hangout to discuss climate change and severe weather. Stanford Professor Noah Diffenbaugh is joined by Harold Brooks of the NOAA National Severe Storms Lab, Martin Hoerling of the NOAA Earth System Research Lab, Angela Fritz of Weather Underground, Dave Metz of the FM3 opinion research firm, and Jason Samenow of the Washington Post.

Historic Texas/Oklahoma Drought of 2011: 20 Times More Likely To Occur Due To Man-Made Greenhouse Gases. Here's a recap of 2011 across the USA from NOAA, including details of the (record) 14 separate billion dollar weather disasters. Amazingly, 2012 may wind up even more extreme: "According to NOAA scientists, 2011 was a record-breaking year for climate extremes, as much of the United States faced historic levels of heat, precipitation, flooding and severe weather, while La NiƱa events at both ends of the year impacted weather patterns at home and around the world."

Caption upper left: "Selected Annual Climate Records for 2011 - Green dots show the wettest, yellow dots the driest, red dots the warmest and blue dots the coolest records."

Caption upper right: "From extreme drought, heat waves and floods to unprecedented tornado outbreaks, hurricanes, wildfires and winter storms, a record 14 weather and climate disasters in 2011 each caused $1 billion or more in damages — and most regrettably, loss of human lives and property."

Global Warming Tied To Risk Of Weather Extremes. More on how researchers came to the conclusion that manmade greenhouse gases are increasing the intensity of weather extremes, including drought, heatwaves and flash floods, from ABC News; here's an excerpt: "...But beyond that, the scientists wondered, would global warming affect the chances of such an event happening? To find out, they studied computer climate simulations for La Nina years, focusing on Texas. They compared the outcome of three such years in the 1960s with that of 2008. They used 2008 because their deadline for the study didn't allow enough time to generate thousands of new simulations with fresh data from 2011. The two years were similar in having a La Nina and in amounts of greenhouse gases in the air."

The New Normal? Brian Williams had a recap of the new studies on the NBC Nightly News Tuesday - the video is here.

Climate Change, Extreme Weather Linked In Studies Examining Texas Drought And U.K. Heat. Another angle from Reuters and Huffington Post: "....Every weather event that happens now takes place in the context of a changing global environment," Deputy NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan said in a statement. "This annual report provides scientists and citizens alike with an analysis of what has happened so we can all prepare for what is to come." Beyond measuring what happened in 2011, the international team of scientists aimed to start answering a question weather-watchers have been asking for years: can climate change be shown to be responsible for specific weather events? The climate experts acknowledged that event attribution science, as it is called, is in its early stages. "Currently, attribution of single extreme events to anthropogenic climate change remains challenging," Peterson, Stott and other scientists wrote in a study published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society."

Severe Drought. 56% of America is suffering through drought; farmers in the Ohio Valley are comparing this dry spell to 1988. God-willing it won't get that bad. All the brown-shaded areas are suffering from severe drought. Map courtesy of NOAA.

QPF. NOAA HPC's 5-day rainfall prediction shows some 3-6" amounts from Louisiana into the Ohio Valley, helping with the drought conditions. Dry weather is likely for the southern Plains and the far west - some .5 to 1" amounts possible across far northern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin.

View From Space: Hurricanes Daniel And Emilia. has a terrific article about weather satellites; how they've revolutionized the tracking and prediction of hurricanes from space. Just think, before the first (Tiros 1) weather satellite launched in 1961 hurricane forecasters relied on ship reports to have any inkling where these 500 mile wide storms were located! Here's an excerpt:
"Question: What’s better than looking at satellite imagery of powerful hurricanes?
Answer: Knowing they are harmless storms that will not affect anyone. The 2012 Eastern Pacific hurricane season has been heating up lately as areas of low pressure have been developing this past week. Two named storms have already formed and peaked in intensity: Hurricane Daniel and Hurricane Emilia. Hurricane Daniel, the third hurricane of the 2012 eastern Pacific hurricane season, generated over this weekend and peaked in intensity with sustained winds of 115 miles per hour. Hurricane Emilia, which formed into the fourth hurricane of the 2012 Eastern Pacific Hurricane season on July 9, 2012, became much stronger with sustained winds of 140 mph (Category 4 storm). Check out these amazing satellite images taken by NASA of these violent, yet harmless storms."

Image credit above: "Visible satellite imagery from NOAA showing twin storms in the eastern Pacific Ocean: Daniel and Emilia." Image Credit: NOAA.

Further Flood Misery Expected As Torrential Rain Forecast For Sodden U.K. No, this doesn't bode well for The Olympics, but I believe in miracles. Is Mother Nature a sports fan? We're about to find out. Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "Britain's rain-sodden summer shows no sign of mending its miserable ways, with another day of thunderstorms and torrential downpours expected on Wednesday. Forecasters are predicting that up to 15mm of rain could fall in an hour in some places as the period of unseasonably wet weather that has brought flooding up and down the country drags on. The Environment Agency has three flood warnings – one in the south-west and two in the Midlands – and 26 flood alerts in place across England, while the Met Office has issued an amber warning of rain for south-eastern areas of Scotland and yellow warnings across large swaths of southern and northern England."

* visible satellite image above courtesy of

Atmospheric Art. Check out the swirls in a maritime cloud formation downwind of a small island chain in the Pacific - and the "glory", a rainbow-like effect running from top to bottom across the satellite image. Details from NASA MODIS: "A layer of stratocumulus clouds over the Pacific Ocean served as the backdrop for this rainbow-like optical phenomenon known as a glory. Glories generally appear as concentric rings of color in front of mist or fog. They form when water droplets within clouds scatter sunlight back toward a source of illumination (in this case the Sun). The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired the image on June 21, 2012. The glory can be seen running in a north to south arc above the clouds west of the swirling von karman vortices that trail through the clouds on the lee side of Guadalupe Island. The image was saturation-enhanced to make the glory effect more visible."

Photo Of The  Day. Thanks to Danny Kurily who snapped this terrific sunset shot in Noblesville, Indiana.

Is The Web Driving Us Mad? The short answer is yes. An emphatic yes. Be honest - do you know anyone who isn't drowning in data? But wait, a tweet just came in I need to respond to, and me respond to this insightful FB post. I just checked my latest e-mails (I get a visceral thrill when there's nothing new in my In-Box) is an excerpt from a must-read article at Newsweek, reprinted at The Daily Beast: "...Questions about the Internet’s deleterious effects on the mind are at least as old as hyperlinks. But even among Web skeptics, the idea that a new technology might influence how we think and feel—let alone contribute to a great American crack-up—was considered silly and naive, like waving a cane at electric light or blaming the television for kids these days. Instead, the Internet was seen as just another medium, a delivery system, not a diabolical machine. It made people happier and more productive. And where was the proof otherwise? Now, however, the proof is starting to pile up. The first good, peer-reviewed research is emerging, and the picture is much gloomier than the trumpet blasts of Web utopians have allowed. The current incarnation of the Internet—portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive—may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways."

American's Confidence In TV News At All-Time Low. Some humbling news for the TV news industry; here's an excerpt from TVSpy: "Americans’ confidence in television news has never been lower, according to a new Gallup poll. Only 21% of adults polled expressed a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in TV news.  That’s the lowest percentage ever registered by Gallup since the organization began tracking confidence in TV news in 1993.  Last year, the figure was 27%. Gallup conducted its annual survey on confidence in U.S. institutions in early June and the organization points out that the latest findings preceded the erroneous initial reports from CNN and Fox News about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent health care ruling."

Hybrid Series iPhone Case Features Removable USB Drive. For the iPhone (addict) who has (almost) everything; details from "A lot of people like the idea of being able to carry things like photo or video files with them on their iPhone, but depending on what capacity model they have, may not necessarily want to take up memory on the phone with those files. That’s where ego & company’s Hybrid Series USB Case comes into play – it’s a case for the iPhone 4 and 4S, with a built-in USB Flash drive. The scratch-resistant case protects against dings and drops, while still offering access to all of the phone’s ports and controls (it is not waterproof). Integrated into the back of it, however, is a removable USB Flash drive. These are available in 4, 8 or 16 GB capacities."

Blue Sky Wednesday. With dew points in the mid 50s it still felt OK out there yesterday, highs ranging from 76 at Grand Marais to 88 St. Cloud and the Twin Cities, 89 Redwood Falls. A trace of rain fell at Duluth.

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

TODAY: Hot sun, more humid. Dew point: 60. Winds: South 10-15. High: 92

THURSDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy and mild. Low: 69

FRIDAY: Sticky, few T-storms by afternoon. Dew point: 66. High: 88

FRIDAY NIGHT: Best chance of showers and T-storms, some heavy. Low: 70

SATURDAY: Hazy sun, muggy. Isolated T-storm possible, especially early. Dew point: 70. Winds: SE 8-13. High: 89

SUNDAY: Sunny and hot. Dew point: 72. Winds: S 10+ Low: 72. High: 92

MONDAY: Another sauna. Steamy sun, even hotter. Low: 73. High: 94

TUESDAY: Hottest day in sight. Feels like 105. Murky sun. Low: 74. High: 96

WEDNESDAY: Very slight relief. Still toasty - slight chance of T-storms. Low: 72. High: 92


More Data Points

I'm reassured that a majority of Americans still respond to logic, reason, and facts on the ground.
No, every disaster can't be blamed on a warming atmosphere. But a recent study suggests that the historic 2011 heat wave over Texas was 20 times more likely to occur because of a backdrop of elevated greenhouse gas levels.

Separating out weather from larger, longer-scale climate shifts is proving challenging, but we need to step back and look at the big picture: a 10" (1-in-500-year) flood in Duluth, while the Corn Belt shrivels in drought reminiscient of 1988. Is this all a grand coincidence?

"Our weather is the brush stroke that makes up the bigger, grander picture of our climate. To fully understand and comprehend the climate, one must see the totality of events and look beyond a speck in time and space to see the grand scale", said Jerry Wofford, in an editorial at Tulsa World. Well said.

Our only chance of rain comes Friday into Saturday morning from a few random T-storms firing along another steamy warm frontal boundary; a better chance of widespread storms late next week. Get used to 90+ temperatures, in fact the ECMWF is hinting at mid to upper 90s early next week.

30 days above 90F.  this summer? The hottest summer since 1988?


Climate Stories...

NCDC: Record U.S. Heat Unlikely To Be Random Fluke. More details from The Washington Post: "As hundreds of local temperature records have been smashed from Atlanta to Colorado Springs, there’s been lots of discussion about whether the recent molten weather can be “blamed” on global warming. Isn’t it at least possible this heat wave is just a random outburst? Or are we really seeing the effects of all that carbon dioxide humans have put into the atmosphere. Perhaps a chart can help clarify matters. The National Climatic Data Center has just released its “State of the Climate” report for June 2012. The last 12-month period on the mainland United States, it notes, were the warmest on record. What’s notable, however, is that every single one of the last 13 months were in the top third for their historical distribution–i.e., April 2012 was in the top third for warmest Aprils, etc. “The odds of this occurring randomly,” notes NCDC, “is 1 in 1,594,323.” (Note: This might be a bit high; see the update below.)"

Graphic above: NOAA NCDC.

Warm 2011 Shows Climate Change Despite La Nina. It was a real meteorological head-scratcher: 2011 was unusually warm, in spite of a cool phase in the Pacific, a full-blown (moderate) La Nina event. Bloomberg Businessweek has more details: "Last year was among the 15 warmest since record keeping began in the late 19th century, despite a La Nina weather pattern that should have cooled global temperatures, according to an annual climate assessment. La Nina’s failure to cause significantly cooler global temperatures is one of many indications of long-term climate warming, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s State of the Climate report compiled by 378 scientists from 48 nations. La Nina was responsible for droughts in eastern Africa and North America, the scientists reported."

Why Climate Change Is Real. Here's an excerpt of an editorial from Jerry Wofford at Tulsa World that really resonated wiith me, focusing on the need to step back and look at the big picture (an orchestra with many of the instruments playing out of tune these days): "....Tulsa has experienced the warmest January to June period in recorded history. Monumental droughts gripped the state during last summer’s again brutal heat wave. Nationwide, what you see is more of the same. A lot of use of the term "warm." While it may be easy to point to those and a slew of other events as evidence of climate change, like I said earlier, it’s not the full picture. Heidi Cullen is the chief climatologist for Climate Central, an independent, nonprofit research organization that focuses on climate science and collaborates with various national news organizations. She put it to me this way during an interview I had with her last year:

"It's trying to help people understand that climate is like this big orchestra where you have all these different instruments playing. It's this complex orchestra, within the background now, we can measure and we can see that there is this steady drumbeat of warming - a trend as opposed to a cycle - imprinted on the background of this chaotic orchestra. What scientists are trying to untangle is how does our fingerprint on that complex system, how does it push it in any direction."

Graphic credit above: "These graphs from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show the global temperature averages compared to the 1961-1990 average."

England Flood Risk To Rise Fourfold By 2035: Report. Reuters has the story; here's an excerpt: "The risk of flooding for many English homes and businesses could increase fourfold by 2035 if more action to deal with the impact of climate change is not taken, government advisers said on Wednesday. As severe floods continue to batter parts of Britain after the wettest June since records began, around one in seven homes and businesses face some kind of flood risk, the climate advisers said. Around 160,000 properties would be at risk by 2035 if better planning and more investment was made in flood defenses, compared with 610,000 at risk if no action was taken, they said."

London file photo above: AFP PHOTO / Adrian Dennis.

The Basic Science Of Climate Change Is Undeniable. Here's a snippet of a story at Forbes: "It’s not hard to have heat on the brain this summer, especially here in the United States. Since the government began keeping records in 1895, this June was the hottest June – 2 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th Century average. The past six months have been the hottest first half of the year on record since 1895, and for the 12 month period ending June 30th, it was also the hottest year on record since the United States began keeping records. Given that this followed a record warm winter and that the last decade has seen a tie for the hottest year on record, climate change has once again become a topic of debate. That being the case, I thought I might review what’s often lost in discussions of climate change: the basic chemistry that underlies what we know about how it works."

Photo credit above: "Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius."

Can Somebody, Please, Help George Will Understand Climate? Here's an excerpt from The Los Angeles Times: "George Will seems like a smart guy, so it's a little mystifying why he cannot seem to understand the difference between weather and climate -- concepts that with a little education, the average third-grader could easily grasp. Could it be that he's not trying? In an appearance on ABC's "This Week," Will dismissed the notion that the heat wave plaguing the nation has anything to do with climate change. "How do we explain the heat? One word: summer," Will said, asserting that current record-setting temperatures in the U.S. are nothing unusual. "Come the winter there will be a cold snap, lots of snow, and the same guys, like [Washington Post columnist] E.J. [Dionne], will start lecturing us. There's a difference between weather and climate. I agree with that. We're having some hot weather. Get over it."

Photo credit above: "The greens are easy to spot at a Lexington, Ky., golf course, as record-breaking heat fuels droughts across the U.S. -- and conservatives pretend climate change isn't happening." (Charles Bertram / MCT / July 6, 2012)

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