Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Record Heat, Smoke, Storms (101 yesterday, 80s by the weekend)

101 F. record high Wednesday in the Twin Cities (old record was 100, set in 1949).

81 F. morning "low" in the Twin Cities.

83 F. average high for July 4.

90 F. high on July 4, 2011.

A Staggering Number of Record Highs. NOAA and Ham Weather show 2,302 record highs in just the last week:

Total Records: 3630
Rainfall: 185
High Temp: 2302
Low Temp: 225
Low Max Temp: 90
High Min Temp: 828

Two More Days of 90s - Then Some Relief. Expect mid 90s today, the 00z NAM model hinting at 100 again Friday (not so sure about that; it's an outlier). But we're dealing with a fickle frontal boundary. If that boundary lingers just north of MSP, then 95-100 F. heat can't be ruled out again tomorrow. Either way all the models cool us off into the 80s over the weekend.

European Solution. The ECMWF has been doing a consistently better job than the (US) GFS model in recent month for Day 3-7. The latest run shows a cool-down over the weekend, highs next week ranging from 95-100 F.

Continuity. The model ensemble continues to show the best chance of rain (and heavy T-storms) late Friday into Saturday morning as we make a transition from steamy 90s to more reasonable 80s, as dew points drop into the 60s.

Hot And Smoky. The 8:30 pm Wednesday visible satellite showed plumes of smoke from western wildfires pushing into Minnesota (and severe storms popping up north).

Blood-Red Moon. Susie Martin captured this photo Wednesday evening - smoke from western wildfires giving the moon an eerie orange cast.

Heat Safety Tips. Please take the heat seriously - there will be problems with heat exhaustion and heat stroke later today. Here's some timely advice from NOAA:

Child Safety Tips:
  • Make sure your child's safety seat and safety belt buckles aren't too hot before securing your child in a safety restraint system, especially when your car has been parked in the heat.
  • Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down.
  • Teach children not to play in, on, or around cars.
  • Always lock car doors and trunks--even at home--and keep keys out of children's reach.
  • Always make sure all children have left the car when you reach your destination. Don't leave sleeping infants in the car ever!
Adult Heat Wave Safety Tips:
  • Slow down. Reduce, eliminate or reschedule strenuous activities until the coolest time of the day. Children, seniors and anyone with health problems should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors.
  • Dress for summer. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect heat and sunlight.
  • Put less fuel on your inner fires. Foods, like meat and other proteins that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.
  • Drink plenty of water, non-alcoholic and decaffeinated fluids. Your body needs water to keep cool. Drink plenty of fluids even if you don't feel thirsty. Persons who have epilepsy or heart, kidney or liver disease, are on fluid restrictive diets or have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids. Do not drink alcoholic beverages and limit caffeinated beverages.
  • During excessive heat periods, spend more time in air-conditioned places. Air conditioning in homes and other buildings markedly reduces danger from the heat. If you cannot afford an air conditioner, go to a library, store or other location with air conditioning for part of the day.
  • Don't get too much sun. Sunburn reduces your body's ability to dissipate heat.
  • Do not take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.

Potential For More Heat-Related Power Outages? The combination of extreme heat (and humidity) and the specter of more strong/severe T-storms into the weekend means a higher than usual potential for power outages. Here's an excerpt from an article at The Star Tribune: "Xcel spokeswoman Mary Sandok said the high temperatures can also cause outages. High energy use and heat can add stress to the system, so there might be more outages as the hot weather continues this week. Sandok said crews are working on outages around the clock and encouraged people to reduce usage, particularly at peak hours between the afternoon and early evening. She recommended users try to run large appliances after 10 p.m. and to keep drapes and doors closed to keep cool air in. Several thousand customers were without power yesterday because of the heat, but their power was restored before the storms." (image:

"According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the period of January to May was the warmest on record for Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Nebraska. Minnesota and Pennsylvania ranked “much above normal.” - from The Des Moines Register; details below.

"According to federal climate data, dozens of heat records have fallen or been tied in the past week, and even more in the past month. In the past 30 days, the number of broken daily records climbed beyond 2,360, hitting nearly 35,000 over the past year." - from an L.A. Times story; details below.

"The problem for those who dismiss climate change as a figment of scientists' imagination, or even as a crypto-socialist one-worldish plot to take away our God-given SUVs, is that the data are beginning to add up." - from an Op-Ed at below.

18% of Americans questioned in a recent Washington Post - Stanford poll said climate change was their #1 environmental concern, down from 33% in 2007. Details from The Washington Post below.

10:1. Since January 1 the USA has experienced roughly 10 times more record highs than record lows, nationwide. Source: NOAA NCDC.

Severe Weather Visualization. The folks at ESRI have done a very good job with this interactive map, showing real-time severe storm reports: "View continuously updated US tornado reports, wind storm reports, weather warnings, and precipitation. See the real-time effects of the storm via social media posts. To change the search terms, go to the Social menu, click the settings icon, and update the keyword. For media inquiries, contact us at"

As A Heat Wave Rolls Across U.S. - Scientists Predict More To Come. Here's an excerpt from a recent article at The Los Angeles Times: "Climate scientists have this to say about the record-breaking heat wave rippling across the country: Get used to it. This week’s spike toward triple-digit temperatures is unusual, they say. But as Earth gets warmer and greenhouse gases build, highs will keep getting higher. “There have always been heat spells,” said Glen MacDonald, the director of the UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “That’s just the climate system. But … if you’re generally warming things, you have a greater chance to reach new highs. Your hot spells become even hotter than they had in the past.”

Past Year Among Warmest In Duluth Of All Time. The story from The Duluth News Tribune; here's an excerpt: "Duluthians are about to complete a remarkable journey marking the warmest 12 months in 134 years, and maybe in recorded history. And there’s more on the way. June in Duluth will end about 4 degrees warmer than the 30-year normal if today’s weather turns out as forecasted. “It appears that the past 12 months in Duluth, ending June 2012, will be among the warmest 12-month periods of the climate record,” said Greg Spoden, Minnesota’s state climatologist. “The only 12-month periods that top our recent stretch are associated with the extraordinarily warm winter of 1877-1878.”

In One Kansas Town, Even Hotter Than Usual. 115 F. air temperature at Hill City, Kansas last week? Hotter than Death Valley, California? The New York Times has more details; here's an excerpt: "For five days last week, a brutal heat wave here crested at 115 degrees. Crops wilted. Streets emptied. Farmers fainted in the fields. Air-conditioners gave up. Children even temporarily abandoned the municipal swimming pool. Hill City was, for a spell, in the ranks of the hottest spots in the country. “Hell, it’s the hottest place on earth,” Allen Trexler, an 81-year-old farmer who introduced himself as Old Man Trexler. He spoke while standing in the shade of a tree on Saturday morning, the temperature already sneaking toward 100."

2012: Year Of The Derecho. Another massive bow echo swelled up over northern Minnesota Monday evening, producing straight-line winds in excess of 80 mph. at times - with numerous reports of downed trees and powerlines.

* more on the straight-line wind damage from Monday night's severe thunderstorms up north from The Star Tribune.

A Week's Worth Of Storm Reports. NOAA reports 3,666 storm and excessive heat reports in just the last 7 days. There were 2,374 severe (straight-line) wind reports in one week - I've never seen anything like this, certainly not in mid-summer. For an interactive map from Ham Weather click here. Here's a breakout:

Total Storm Reports: 3666
0: 1
Wind: 2374
Rain: 174
Snow/Blizzard: 1
Tornado: 15
Hail: 1003
Fire: 3
Avalanche: 1
Lightning: 21
Dust: 7
14: 5
16: 1
Excessive Heat: 60

Severe Storms + Social Media. One more look at the new online tool from ESRI, focusing on Minnesota's storms (and extreme heat). It's a mash-up of NOAA storm reports, and weather-related tweets, photos and YouTube clips. Pretty powerful.

5-Day Rainfall. The tropics are quiet for the time being, the best chance of heavy T-storms from New Mexico into the High Plains, another rainy bullseye over the Gulf Coast. Map above: NOAA HPC.

D.C. Derecho: Storm That Hit Capital Was Fast, Destructive - And Rare. Here's an excerpt of an article reprinted by The Washington Post at The Seattle Times - from meteorologist Jason Samenow: "It's a hurricane. It's a tornado. No, it's a derecho. Only a meteorologist was likely to have made the right guess about the violent storm system that hit the Washington, D.C., area Friday night. Derechos occur only about once every four years in the District of Columbia area, according to the National Weather Service. They are more likely in the Midwest and Great Lakes, between May and July. A derecho is a fast-moving, long-lived, large, violent thunderstorm complex. By definition, it creates wind damage along a swath of more than 240 miles and produces wind gusts of at least 58 mph." (Image above: SPC).

* Friday's super-Derecho tracked nearly 700 miles, from Illinois to coastal Delaware, moving at speeds as high as 60-70 mph, producing straight-line winds over 90 mph. at times; roughly equivalent to a Category 1 hurricane lasting less than 30 minutes.

Photo Of The Day. Thanks to Bob Israel at RJI Photography for this terrific show of cloud to ground lightning, taken on June 19 in Minneapolis, via flickr: "This photo was taken on June 19, 2012 in North Loop, Minneapolis, MN, US, using a Canon EOS 5D Mark III."

"Ask Paul". Weather-related Q&A:

Hey, Paul.
"Here's a link I thought might interest you, if you haven't already seen it. I received it from my son-in-law from Arlington, Virginia. 
I'm curious: we get this kind of thing all the time, so why don't we call them derechos? Spanish for straight ahead, of course, but I've never heard the word used in conjunction with a storm before. We generally say straight-line winds, do we not? This storm was so much bigger than it appeared at first report, and family members in the area all said it just blew up out of nowhere. And yet, it had ripped through three or four other states - which apparently do not have the tracking and warning systems that we have. Your thoughts? BTW, please keep up the statements/warnings about global warming - we are still (collectively) not getting the message. Thanks for your decades of service to Minnesota!"
Maria Klein
Minnetonka, MN

Thanks Maria - appreciate the kind words and your interest in derechos. If you Google "derecho" you'll find a wealth of information, but these (boomerang-shaped) swirls of fast-moving severe thunderstorms are still somewhat mysterious. They are most likely to form on highly unstable days, with "CAPE" values higher than 3,000 or 4,000. Last Friday CAPE values near Washington D.C. exceeded 5,000, off-the-scale extreme. The more heat (and moisture) in the atmosphere, the greater the potential for derecho formation.

Towering Trouble. Note to self: taking the pontoon over to Breezy Point Resort to see "Elvis" can be fraught with peril this time of year, and a lousy pontoon doesn't offer much protection from the elements. Massive cumulus congestus bubbled up overhead Saturday evening, illuminated by the setting sun.

The...Real Deal? I'm starting to think so, yes. Elvis can be seen up at Breezy Point Resort on Pelican Lake - I think he's playing a few Saturdays through July - check the resort's web site for details. Is it really...him? Not sure, but I have my suspicions. At this point nothing would surprise me. BTW - he's good. Elvis hasn't lost any of his charms or crooning abilities...

An Unstable Atmosphere. Either that or Mother Nature was flipping me off. I snapped this photo Saturday evening up at Breezy Point, on Pelican Lake. Monday evening a severe storm swept over Pelican Lake, nearly continuous lightning - the southern extent of the derecho that swept across northern Minnesota.

Fans Howl After Weather Site Buys Out Rival. What do you think of The Weather Underground buy-out by TWC? They must have had their reasons, I guess. With any luck The Weather Channel won't mess with the secret sauce that made W.U. a must-visit destination. Here's more from The New York Times: "The announcement on Monday that the Weather Channel Companies, owners of television’s Weather Channel and, would buy one of its rivals, Weather Underground, set off howls of displeasure on social media platforms and around water coolers across the nation. The purchase price was not disclosed. In the eyes of Weather Underground’s ardent fans, the Weather Channel appears to represent the wrong kind of weather information: personality-driven sunniness and hype, they say, rather than the pure science of data. As Mike Tucker, a computer professional in New Hampshire, put it on Facebook, reacting to news of the deal: “Nooooooooooooooooo! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Hilarious Spoof Forecast In Midst Of East Coast Heat Wave. I have to hand it to Richmond TV meteorologist Aaron Justus, who did a very good job taking viewer's minds off the oppressive heat. Huffington Post has details, and the video (which is worth a look): "Aaron Justus, weatherman for local CBS affiliate WTVR, sure knows how to handle a high-pressure situation. Faced with volcanic eruptions, massive tropical storms and battles with Godzilla, Justus manages to maintain his professional tone -- giving the good people of Richmond, Va., the information they'll need to get them through the next few days of terror. Comedy aside, the last few weeks have seen plenty of record-breaking weather across the country."

Oops. My bad. Thanks to for sending this along.

Fun With Triple Digits. The Twin Cities suburbs and Redwood Falls all enjoyed (?) 100-degree heat yesterday; the morning low in Eden Prairie a toasty 82. That's within 1 degree of our average high for July 4.

* photo credit above here.

Fireworks courtesy of WeatherNation TV meteorologist Susie Martin.

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

TODAY: Stuffy and hot with intervals of sun, stray T-storm. Dew point: 74. N 5-10. High: 96

THURSDAY NIGHT: Muggy with a few T-storms possible. Low: 72

FRIDAY: Sticky, more numerous PM T-storms. Dew point: 70. High: 92

SATURDAYUnsettled, few T-storms likely. Dew point: 67. Low: 70. High: 84

SUNDAYStorms linger south, drier and sunnier north - not as oppressive. Dew point: 64. Low: 66. High: 85

MONDAY: Plenty of sun, more comfortable. Low: 68. High: 87

TUESDAY: Partly sunny & quiet. Dew point: 63. Low: 67. High: 88

WEDNESDAY: Mix of clouds & sun, plenty warm. Low: 68. High: 87

Glass Half Full

Norman Rockwell would be proud. My neighborhood has a 4th of July celebration every year, with a 3 block "parade"... a few token convertibles, a guy on a Segway scooter, little girls pulling red wagons - all topped off with root beer floats.

Independence Day is a chance to reflect and give thanks for the brilliance of America's Founding Fathers. It's an opportunity to remind my 2 boys how blessed we all are.

"Do you realize how lucky we are - to have been born here - at this moment in time?" God knows we have big challenges, but would you really want to live anywhere else?

Maybe someplace cooler, like Phoenix or Death Valley.

An incendiary, character-building, 100-degree Wednesday gives way to real relief: 80s return by the weekend - with a few heavy T-storms. Now trying to time those storms is a hopeless cause; models hint at Friday afternoon into Saturday morning as the best window for puddles.

Winds shift to the north later today, highs in the mid to upper 90s. You know it's a real summer when 96 F qualifies as a "cool front". Highs next week range from 85-90 F; plenty warm, but not ridiculously hot.

Back to my root beer float.

Tempted to pour it over my head.

Climate Stories...

What's Causing Unusually Hot Temperatures U.S.? Can we pin some of these extremes on a warmer atmosphere, or is all this (atmospheric insanity) just normal, random weather. Most climate scientists believe we passed normal a long time ago. Here's an excerpt of an interview on Monday's PBS Newshour with Judy Woodruff:

JUDY WOODRUFF: "And when you say -- you used the term no parallel. You literally meant that?"

KEVIN TRENBERTH: "I don't think there has been anything quite like this before. Back in the 1930s, the Dust Bowl era was very hot and dry. But, you know, I mean, every year is somewhat exceptional. Last year, of course, there was heat waves and all kinds of wildfires in -- centered in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico. And it was extraordinarily hot in Oklahoma. The previous year, it was in Russia. In 2009, there were exceptional conditions in Southern Australia, in the Melbourne area. And so these areas where the really hot and dry conditions leading to wildfires has -- is moving around. We certainly don't expect them to occur every year, but we do expect more of them. The odds are changing for these to occur with climate change, with the global warming from the human influences on climate."

Summer Heat Wave An Early Indication Of Global Warming. Here's a video clip from "Climate change is driving temperatures up around the country, but are conservatives ignoring all the talk of global warming? MSNBC's Alex Wagner talks to author and environmentalist David De Rothschild about what the heat means for the Earth, and what we should be doing to prepare for future erratic weather."

This Summer "Is What Global Warming Looks Like." The story from AP and - here's an excerpt: "Is it just freakish weather or something more? Climate scientists suggest that if you want a glimpse of some of the worst of global warming, take a look at U.S. weather in recent weeks. Horrendous wildfires. Oppressive heat waves. Devastating droughts. Flooding from giant deluges. And a powerful freak wind storm called a derecho. These are the kinds of extremes experts have predicted will come with climate change, although it's far too early to say that is the cause. Nor will they say global warming is the reason 3,215 daily high temperature records were set in the month of June. Scientifically linking individual weather events to climate change takes intensive study, complicated mathematics, computer models and lots of time. Sometimes it isn't caused by global warming. Weather is always variable; freak things happen."

Photo credit above: "A tree sitting atop a vehicle offers free firewood in Falls Church, Va., Monday, July, 2, 2012, as cleanup continued after Friday's storm, Around 2 million utility customers are without electricity across a swath of states along the East Coast and as far west as Illinois as the area recovers from a round of summer storms that has also caused at least 17 deaths." Photo: Matthew Barakat / AP
Feeling The Heat: It's Too Hot To Be A Global Warming Skeptic. Here's an excerpt of a post from "...This is the point in the column where I'm obliged to insert the disclaimer that no one event — no heat wave, no hurricane, no outbreak of tornadoes or freakish storms — can be definitively blamed on climate change. Any one data point can be an anomaly; any cluster of data points can be mere noise. The problem for those who dismiss climate change as a figment of scientists' imagination, or even as a crypto-socialist one-worldish plot to take away our God-given SUVs, is that the data are beginning to add up. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the past winter was the fourth-warmest on record in the United States. To top that, spring — which meteorologists define as the months of March, April and May — was the warmest since record-keeping began in 1895. If you don't believe me or the scientists, ask a farmer whose planting seasons have gone awry."

"Climate Scores" Keeps Representatives Accountable On Climate Change Legislation. Details from "A new online scorecard helps you keep your representatives accountable for their votes on climate change legislation and lets you reach out to them via Facebook, Twitter, emails, and phone calls. How does your Senator or Congressman score on important climate change legislation? Now you can find out how they voted on key bills and amendments, and reach out to them with either your kudos or your urging to work for better and longer-lasting climate change legislation. Climate Scores aims to make the actions of members of Congress on important climate change issues more transparent, and hold them accountable to us, their constituents."

Minnesota House Climate Change Legislation Grade. Here are the latest "grades" for Minnesota House legislators; more from Climate Scores here.

Iowa View: More Extremes Seen As Climate Changes. We're all witnessing the symptoms of a warming atmosphere: more intense heat waves, more extreme thunderstorms (and super-derechos), more flash flooding, while the west dries out, fanning more intense and longer-lasting wildfires. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Des Moines Register: "Many people are asking the same question: As the climate changes, can we expect more of this? The answer: Yes. There is a strong probability that climate change is influencing extreme weather events — heat waves, drought and floods. That’s what we know. We’re not alone. Insurance industry leaders think so, too, and they have been meeting with U.S. senators to call for action. The extreme weather events with huge costs thus far in 2012 unfortunately reflect a growing recent trend. In 2008, 2010 and 2011, there were 100- or 500-year floods in Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin. In April 2011, the nation suffered through 875 tornadoes; the previous one-month record was 542."

Study: Media Avoid Climate Context In Wildfire Coverage. From Media Matters: "While numerous factors determine the frequency, severity and cost of wildfires, scientific research indicates that human-induced climate change increases fire risks in parts of the Western U.S. by promoting warmer and drier conditions. Seven of nine fire experts contacted by Media Matters agreed journalists should explain the relationship between climate change and wildfires. But an analysis of recent coverage suggests mainstream media outlets are not up to the task -- only 3 percent of news reports on wildfires in the West mentioned climate change."

Clueless About Climate Change. Science literacy is front and center - the sad fact: many Americans don't have the ability to parse out the signal from the noise - and instead rely on talk radio and TV "Talking Points". Instead of deferring to climate scientists, who study this topic for a living, they automatically believe there are two sides, that the climate deniers are somehow on an equal footing with peer-reviewed Phd's. Here's more on the quandary from "There's a dangerous meme drifting through the climate community: that when it comes to "solving" climate change, literacy does not matter. True, years of promoting filling the information deficit with more facts hasn’t worked, but the current “literacy bashing,” repeated in climate blogs and conversations, is unfortunate, oversimplified and, to be blunt, nonsense. Literacy, particularly about 21st century challenges such as climate and energy, does matter.  The media is, as is often the case, partly to blame. "Global warming skeptics as knowledgeable about science as climate change believers," read a recent headline from Fox News, reporting on a research paper by Dan Kahan and colleagues published in Nature Climate Change entitled: "The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks." Mother Jones' conclusion about the study: "Why Science Education Won't Solve Our Climate Problems."

Global Warming No Longer Americans' Top Environmental Concern, Poll Finds. More from The Washington Post: "Climate change no longer ranks first on the list of what Americans see as the world’s biggest environmental problem, according to a new Washington Post-Stanford University poll. Just 18 percent of those polled name it as their top environmental concern. That compares with 33 percent who said so in 2007, amid publicity about a major U.N. climate report and Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary about global warming. Today, 29 percent identify water and air pollution as the world’s most pressing environmental issue."

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