Thursday, August 2, 2012

27th Day Above 90 (more than half of America's counties experiencing drought disaster declarations)

90 F. high on Thursday in the Twin Cities.

26 days at or above 90 so far in 2012.

July: 14th month in a row of above-average temperatures in the Twin Cities.

83 F. average high for August 2.

88 F. high on August 2, 2011.

Friday Severe Risk. SPC has the eastern Dakotas and much of Minnesota in a slight risk - the best chance after 5 or 6 pm, as a squall line sweeps from west to east, forming 100-200 miles ahead of the most vigorous cool front since mid June.

Last 90+ In Sight. Will we see more 90s by mid-September? The rate this year is going I'd count on it. But temperatures cool significantly over the weekend, by Sunday highs hold in the 70s over most of Minnesota (for the first time since June 25).

Tour de Tonka. Saturday is the big day, the annual Tour de Tonka bike ride. A few showers are possible, especially morning hours, but the sun should peek thru, a cool, comfortable breeze behind a cool front. BTW, that's WeatherNation TV's Susie Martin (upper right), joined by meteorologist Kristin Clark (upper right). Good luck to everyone participating!

Weekend Details. The ECMWF model keeps a few showers around thru midday Saturday as winds swing around to the west/northwest. Sunday still appears to be the sunnier day of the weekend, winds easing a bit by afternoon.

Extended Outlook: Not As Hot. Call me a naive optimist, but I suspect that the worst of the eye-watering, hair-curling heat is behind us now. After more 90s today we enjoy a hint of September over the weekend, warming into the mid to upper 80s Monday, again Thursday, based on ECMWF guidance. The best chance of rain: Saturday, again next Friday.

"As of this week, nearly half of the nation's corn crop was rated poor to very poor, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. About 37 percent of the U.S. soybeans were lumped into that category, while nearly three-quarters of U.S. cattle acreage is in drought-affected areas, the survey showed." - excerpt of a Huffington Post article below.

"Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona [said] “The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about.” - excerpt from The Hill, details below.

Severe threat later today. A small percentage of T-storms may produce large hail, damaging winds, even a few isolated tornadoes. Photo above courtesy of Randy Widmayer.

U.S Drought 2012: Half Of Nation's Counties Now Considered Disaster Areas. In a drought there are no warnings, no evacuations, no volunteers to help people restore their lives or businesses. It is a slow-motion catastrophe, and much of America's heartland continues to wither away in the worst drought since 1936. This will probably surpass 1988 to become the worst U.S. drought in nearly 80 years. Details from Huffington Post: "ST. LOUIS -- Nearly 220 counties in a dozen drought-stricken states were added Wednesday to the U.S. government's list of natural disaster areas as the nation's agriculture chief unveiled new help for frustrated, cash-strapped farmers and ranchers grappling with extreme dryness and heat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's addition of the 218 counties means that more than half of all U.S. counties – 1,584 in 32 states – have been designated primary disaster areas this growing season, the vast majority of them mired in a drought that's considered the worst in decades. Counties in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming were included in Wednesday's announcement. The USDA uses the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor to help decide which counties to deem disaster areas, which makes farmers and ranchers eligible for federal aid, including low-interest emergency loans.

* NOAA's latest U.S. Drought Monitor is here.

Minnesota Drought Update. The drought has eased a bit, statewide, at least in terms of coverage area. The percentage of the state described as "abnormally dry" or worse has shrunk from 62% last week to 47% this week. But the region of severe drought in far southern, southwestern and northwestern Minnesota has expanded slightly, from 13% to 16% this week, a touch of extreme drought into far southwest Minnesota. More details here.

Drought Details. Here's more information on the intensifying drought across the USA, courtesy of the U.S. Drought Monitor: "The July 24 U.S. Drought Monitor showed widespread intensification of drought through the middle of the country, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The map also set a record for the fourth straight week for the area in moderate drought or worse in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor. The July 24 map put 53.44 percent of the United States and Puerto Rico in moderate drought or worse, up from 53.17 percent the week before; 38.11 percent in severe drought or worse, compared with 35.32 a week earlier; 17.2 percent in extreme drought or worse, compared with 11.32 percent the week before; and 1.99 percent in exceptional drought, up from .83 percent the preceding week.

“We’ve seen tremendous intensification of drought through Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Kansa and Nebraska, and into part of Wyoming and South Dakota in the last week,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist and U.S. Drought Monitor author. “The amount of D3 developing in the country has increased quite a bit for each of the last several weeks.”

Images Above: "Palmer Index". Here's a good explanation of NOAA's Palmer Index: "The Palmer Z Index shows how monthly moisture conditions depart from normal (short-term drought and wetness). The maps show the geographical pattern of the moisture anomalies for the last 12 months. On these maps, the red shading denotes dry conditions, while the green shading indicates wet conditions."

An Amazing 14 Month Warm-Weather Run. Details from the local NWS office: "For the Twin's a look at the departure from normal for the average monthly temperature, and its historical ranking, back to June of 2011.

Temperature Departure from Normal
July 2011
June 2011

"'s been so hot in Minnesota, even ifs famous lakes provide little relief....We have temperatures probably pushing 90 degrees in some of our shallow lakes....causing fish kills in at least 25 lakes." - from Wednesday's NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.

89.9 F. average high temperature in the Twin Cities during the month of July. Only two months have been warmer, in 1988 and 1936.

May, 2011. Last time the Twin Cities, St. Cloud and Eau Claire all had below average temperatures for a given month.

Tropical Storm Ernesto NHC is tracking Tropical Storm Ernesto, forecast to push south of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, strengthening to Category 1 hurricane status by early next week well south of Cuba. Ernesto may move into the Gulf of Mexico; it's simply too early to speculate whether the storm will impact the USA. Map courtesy of Ham Weather and Alerts Broadcaster.

Shelf Cloud. Thanks to WeatherNation TV meteorologist Bryan Karrick for sending in this photo of a severe storm pushing toward Carver, Minnesota. Severe storm warnings were issued for parts of the south metro Wednesday evening.

24 tornadoes, nationwide, in July,a new record low - the result of persistent heat and drought. Canada saw more tornadoes than the USA last month, which is highly unusual. Details from Climate Central below.

What Would Produce An Effect Like This? A terrific example of "iridescent clouds" below.

"At this point, temperature readings alone aren't necessary to validate climate change, since seasonal events like flower blooms and bird migrations are shifting, Peterson said. "If we did not have any thermometers here on the planet, we would know darn well that it is warming because of all these other indicators." - from an article at LiveScience.

Don't Stand Next To The Wind Turbine. Thanks to Severe Studios for passing this along. Original tweet here.

Last Week's Worth Of Warm Weather Records. According to NOAA, 1337 warm weather records (maxes and mins) were set, nationwide, since July 25. For an interactive map from Ham Weather click here.

Smart Money? Warmer Than Average. We'll see a break from the heat and humidity over the weekend, but the 6-10 and 8-14 Day Outlook is still trending warmer than average for the Upper Midwest, the worst of the heat shifting into the Intermountain West. Click here to see full-screen NOAA CPC predictions, courtesy of Ham Weather.

Official Drought Designation Counties From USDA. Over 50% of U.S. counties are now in a major drought. The USDA has more information on drought assistance here.

Deepening Drought. This photo (from the USGS) sums it up. That's what's left of the Platte River at North Bend, Nebraska. Not good.

A Look At How Rising Corn Prices Will Impact Prices At The Supermarket. The Star Tribune has the story; here's an excerpt: "Cornflakes won't necessarily be more expensive as a result of rising corn prices, but the milk you pour over them might be. A drought covering two-thirds of the country has damaged much of the country's corn crops and pushed grain prices to record levels, triggering fears that a spike in food prices will soon follow. But there are many factors that determine the price of goods on supermarket shelves. A diminished corn supply doesn't mean that all food prices will be affected the same way. In fact, you're more likely to see higher prices for milk and meat than corn on the cob. That's because the sweet corn that shoppers buy at a grocery store is grown differently and not as vulnerable to drought conditions. As for the corn that's used as grain feed for cows, however, farmers are paying more as the drought persists."

Photo credit above: "A field of soy beans, left, meets drought-damaged corn in Mead, Neb., Tuesday, July 31, 2012. Soy beans, while distressed, are less sensitive than corn to the drought. The drought covering two-thirds of the continental U.S. had been considered relatively shallow, the product of months without rain, rather than years. But a report last Thursday showed its intensity is rapidly increasing, with 20 percent of the nation now in the two worst stages of drought up 7 percent from the week before." Photo: Nati Harnik, Associated Press.

Driest 4-Month Period On Record For Kansas City. Here are a few remarkable details, courtesy of NOAA and Facebook:
  • For the month of July, Kansas City received only 0.49″ of rain, which is 3.96″ below normal.
  • For the 4 month period of April 1st through July 31st, Kansas City has received just 5.88″, which is 12.60″ below normal.
  • This makes this period of time the driest on record for Kansas City beating 1911 by by 0.02″. In that year only 5.90″ fell.
  • To put this into a little more perspective the 5.88″ this year is drier than 1936 by 1.04″, 1988 by 1.42″, 1980 by 2.71″, 1953 by 2.83″, and 1934 by 3.63″. Those years represent the 3rd – 7th driest April 1st – July 31st periods of time on record at Kansas City. (photo above: Wikipedia).

Driest July On Record For Sioux Falls, South Dakota. A few details from NOAA:
  • July 2012 will go down in the record books as the driest July on record in Sioux Falls.
  • Rainfall for the month totaled only 0.24″ at the airport in Sioux Falls, breaking the previous record of 0.25″ which fell back in July 1947.
  • Normal rainfall for the month of July is 3.09″.

July Weather Summary. Here's a good overview of a very warm month, from the local Twin Cities National Weather Service: "July of 2012 will likely be remembered for near record warmth. July continued a long standing trend of seeing above normal temperatures across the area, with most locations seeing temperatures 5 to 7 degrees above normal.  In fact, this marks the 15th consecutive month that all three climate locations have seen above normal temperatures.  One has to go way back to May of 2011 to find a month where the average temperature for the month was below normal at all three locations. It was the 2nd warmest July on record for the Twin Cities (since 1873), the 5th warmest for St. Cloud (since 1893), and the 2nd warmest in Eau Claire (since 1950).  In fact, the lowest temperature recorded at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport during the month of July was 64 degrees."

Warm Bias To Continue...? Place your bets. The map above (from NOAA CPC) shows the (very) extended temperature outlook from October thru December. Based on a developing El Nino warming phase in the Pacific, and the mild trends we've seen for the last 12-15 months, I suspect going warmer than average probably isn't going out too far on a limb.

A Silver (Tornadic) Lining. Climate Central's Andrew Freedman explains why we had a record (low) number of tornadoes, nationwide, during July - here's an excerpt of a recent article: "Thanks, in part, to the record-setting drought that is gripping much of the U.S., the country had a record low number of tornadoes for the month of July, and the lowest number of tornadoes for any May-through-July period since high quality recordkeeping began in 1954, according to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. With just 24 tornado reports in July, the U.S. saw fewer tornadoes this month than Canada did, which is unusual...The majority of the lower 48 states are currently in the grips of one of the most widespread and intense droughts in U.S. history, and the drought itself is inhibiting storm formation by keeping the air drier than it otherwise would be. The sinking motion caused by a stubborn “Heat Dome” of High Pressure has also acted as a limiting factor for storm formation."

Photo credit above: "A tornado captured near MooseJaw, Saskatchewan on June 26, 2012." Credit: Twitpic/@JeffAdams.

Iridescent Clouds. Thanks to meteorologist Bay Scroggins in Miami for sharing these very unusual and spectacular cloud formations over south Florida. What is an iridescent cloud? Here's a good explanation from NASA: "Why would a cloud appear to be different colors? A relatively rare phenomenon known as iridescent clouds can show unusual colors vividly or a whole spectrum of colors simultaneously. These clouds are formed of small water droplets of nearly uniform size. When the Sun is in the right position and mostly hidden by thick clouds, these thinner clouds significantly diffract sunlight in a nearly coherent manner, with different colors being deflected by different amounts. Therefore, different colors will come to the observer from slightly different directions. Many clouds start with uniform regions that could show iridescence but quickly become too thick, too mixed, or too far from the Sun to exhibit striking colors."

Photo Of The Day. Ed Nepler snapped this terrific shot out in the (aptly named) town of Bliss, Michigan. Image courtesy of

  Is Your Garden Hose Toxic? Great. One more thing to worry about. According to this article at Time Magazine you may want to think twice before drinking from the old garden hose: "As a gardener, I’m always sipping water from the hose — especially during these brutally hot days when I have no choice but to get out and weed. You can imagine how dismayed I was to come upon research released by the Ecology Center, which tested water coming from standard garden hoses and found that it can contain lead, endocrine disruptors, and neurotoxins, especially in older hoses. Hose fittings contain brass, an alloy that can contain up to 8% lead. One in three hoses tested had levels of lead that exceeded drinking water standards — one as high as 18 times the level. It turns out that hoses aren’t covered by the same lead laws that govern plumbing fixtures — even though those hoses are watering our food." (Photo: USDA).

Hurricane App Debuts For Free From American Red Cross. If you have a collection of weather apps on your smart phone you may want to consider adding one more - details from " A new, free hurricane app from the American Red Cross offers location-based NOAA weather alerts and a one-touch "I'm safe" message that users can broadcast via social networks to family and friends in an emergency. The app became available today, the start of the third month in the Atlantic Ocean hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. The season starts in mid-May for the eastern Pacific Ocean. The app, dubbed simply "Hurricane," can be found in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross."

Watch Live TV On Your Phone (or Tablet)! No, Really. Do you want to watch live TV on your phone or tablet? That's a bigger question - I can definitely see the appeal, especially on tablets, especially if you can have a DVR capability built in. Here's a snippet of an intriguing article from "But more than two years later and at a cost of around $10 million, the broadcasters, operating under an alliance called Mobile Content Venture, are on the verge of making good on their crazy, ambitious plan. Along the way, big-name players such as NBC and Fox have picked up a cadre of allies, including handset manufacturers Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, and regional prepaid carrier MetroPCS. Dyle will officially launch in many major markets when MetroPCS sells the first Dyle-compatible Samsung smartphone, which is expected shortly, CNET has learned. Dyle declined to comment on the specific timing of the launch. "The big thing is, this is real," Salil Dalvi, who in addition to running Mobile Content Venture as co-general manager also serves as senior vice president of digital distribution at NBC Universal, told CNET. "There is a real product out there."

Apple's Next iPhone: The Complete Rumor Roundup. Gizmodo has the latest: "There's been so much rumor-hawking and speculation the past few weeks that whether you're ready or not, we're squarely in the middle of iPhone season. So here's a quick rundown of everything we think we know about Apple's next iPhone.


We think we have a pretty good idea of what the new iPhone will look like; we've been seeing leaked parts for months now, and recently that has moved up to fully assembled phones, and possibly a whole phone smuggled out of a plant."

Do Olympic Swimmers Pee In the Pool? "Nearly 100 Percent" Do, Says Former U.S. National Team Member. This may be my favorite headline of all time - remind me not to swim in any public pools until further notice. Details from Huffington Post: "Carly Geehr has answered one of life's eternal questions: Do Olympians pee in the pool? The answer, is, yes, but the extent to which this is true may disturb many. Geehr, a former USA Swimming National Team Member, decided to provide the icky details when faced with the question on Quora: Nearly 100% of elite competitive swimmers pee in the pool. Regularly. Some deny it, some proudly embrace it, but everyone does. The more interesting question is *when* does said peeing happen?
  • Just about the only time you can get away with peeing during a race is during a breaststroke pullout. You spend enough time gliding that if you really gotta go, you probably could. Otherwise, you're too tense and too, well, busy to even think about peeing."
Photo credit above: "The USA's Missy Franklin swims in the second semifinal of the women's 200m backstroke at the Aquatics Center during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, England, Thursday, August 2, 2012. Franklin won her semifinal, and moved on to the final." (Chuck Myers/MCT)

Ditto. Another 90? No big deal, at least not this summer. After early morning clouds and a trace of rain in the Twin Cities the sun stayed out most of the day, enough for a high of 90 at KMSP. Statewide highs ranged from 74 at Grand Marais to 88 at St. Cloud. Rochester saw a third of an inch of rain early in the day.

Shelf Cloud courtesy of Mike Leuchtenberg.

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

TODAY: Hot sun, 27th day this year above 90 F. PM storms up north. Dew point: 60. Winds: SE 10-15. High: 92

FRIDAY NIGHT: T-storms likely, a few may be strong to severe. Low: 70

SATURDAY: Unsettled with a passing shower, gusty. Turning cooler and less humid. Winds: W 15-20. High: 80

SATURDAY NIGHT: Sweatshirt weather? Clearing, still breezy..."cool". Low: 62 (50s in greater Minnesota).

SUNDAY: Comfortable sun, very pleasant. Dew point: 53. Winds: NW 15. High: 78

MONDAY: Plenty of sun, pleasant. Dew point: 56. Low: 63. High: 85

TUESDAY: Blue sky, a bit cooler. Low: 65. High: 82

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, still quiet. Low: 64. High: 83

THURSDAY: Warmer, chance of thunder. Low: 66. High: 88

Shifting Gears

Breaking news: you may need a "sweatshirt" or "light jacket" by Saturday night, especially if you're heading up north. The first puff of autumn is brewing for the weekend, a chance for all of us to catch our breath.

The greater the contrast in temperature, the stronger winds have to blow to keep the atmosphere in a state of equilibrium. Low-level wind shear may whip up severe storms by tonight; large hail and damaging winds can't be ruled out. 90s are likely today (27th day this year), but cool, comfortable 70s are imminent. A chance to exhale.

48 percent of Minnesota is abnormally dry (or worse), down from 62 percent last week). That's good news, but the area covered by severe drought rose from 13 to 16 percent.

More than half the country has been declared a drought disaster; a slow-motion crisis for agriculture, impacting food supplies & prices well into 2013. Unlike other weather disasters there are no evacuations, no tearful survivors - but the impact will be equivalent to 2 or 3 hurricanes; possibly approaching $50 billion before it's all over.

I'm counting my blessings, atmospheric and otherwise. Minnesota is in better shape than much of America.

I'm ready for a genuine cool front!

Climate Stories...

Extreme Weather From Climate Change Increases Urgency Of Pollution Reductions. As they say, the writing is on the wall. Will Congress (or President Obama) do anything about it? I'm not holding my breath. Here's an excerpt from The Hill: "....Climate science deniers argue that no single weather occurrence is definitely caused by climate change. However, it is the wrong question to ask whether global warming caused a specific record smashing weather event. Dr. Kevin E. Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research found that “all weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.” Climate change makes heat waves longer and more intense. This in turn makes droughts longer and more intense, which then makes wildfire seasons longer and more intense. And warmer temperatures yield more water vapor in the atmosphere, which makes rainstorms more intense."

Conversion Of Climate Change Skeptic Not Likely To Sway GOP. Here's an excerpt of an article from the L.A. Times: "Are two of the left’s most useful villains, Charles and David Koch, not quite as unredeemable as liberals believe? Could it be they might change their minds about climate change and admit that it is real? UC Berkeley physics professor Richard A. Muller says that, after years of paying for studies by global warming skeptics, the Koch brothers honestly want to get the science clarified. They helped fund Muller who, only three years ago, doubted that the Earth was heating up to dangerous levels due to human activity. Now, with his Koch-funded research complete, he has reversed himself. In a column published in the New York Times, Muller wrote, “Call me a converted skeptic."

Cartoon credit above: "Republicans heads are buried in the climate change sand (David Horsey / Los Angeles Times / August 2, 2012)."

Climate Change On Back Burner. The forecast calls for severe apathy from bickering politicians in Washington D.C. Keep your expectations low and you'll never be disappointed, right? Here's an excerpt from a story at "The planet may be getting hotter, but Washington’s debate on climate change isn’t heating up. Amid a summer marked by droughts, wildfires, record temperatures and freak storms, Congress is squeezing in just one hearing on the changing climate before it dashes out for a hot August recess. And that hearing, set for Wednesday, is unlikely to be a show-stopper: No federal officials will testify, and no big-name witnesses will appear — none of the elements that could help this gathering compete for an Olympics-mad public’s attention. It’s a reminder of how much things have changed for Democrats in Congress since their hopes for passing a major cap-and-trade bill died in 2010, reducing the entire climate issue to second-tier status. Now, Republicans are eager to argue, Democrats are reluctant to even talk about the issue in an election year."

Photo credit above: "This summer's record-high temperatures could help bring attention to the issue". | AP Photo

Skeptics, Contrarians And Deniers Of Climate Change. Here's an excerpt of a Doug Craig post at "Bob Baker reads Juan Cole and from the looks of it I should too. Like a lot of us, Mr. Cole was impressed with Dr. Richard Muller's public conversion from skeptic to alarmist. And wrote a nice, long piece worth taking the time to read. First, some definitions. A global warming or climate change alarmist, from my perspective, is someone who is alarmed at the idea that we are systematically destroying the crucial ecosystems that birthed Earth's various life forms including Homo sapiens.  I am an alarmist. I am alarmed. If your house is on fire, you would want me to be alarmed and to sound the alarm. To be an alarmist is to be alert, aware, and awake and willing to alert others when a viable threat is present. I am also a skeptic which means I am not alarmed by matters that cannot be proven scientifically. Human-caused climate change is supported by science, as Muller states."
Should Accountability For Global Warming Be Linked To Crimes Against Humanity? Huffington Post has the Op-Ed; here's an excerpt: "We define as having criminal intent any person who calculates that there is a definite possibility their actions will result in harm to others. Equally, we define as criminally negligent anyone who is aware that an individual is likely to harm others but who ignores the situation. In the not-too-distant future will politicians who intentionally ignore global climate change, or who obstruct action to implement conscientious policies to prevent deterioration of climate conditions, be deemed criminally negligent? The scale of death and destruction resulting from global warming may potentially exceed losses due to genocides and world wars. We need discussion of legal and moral accountability for gross negligence when it comes to destruction at this level."

California Prepares For Harsh Realities Of Changing Climate. Here's an excerpt of a recent story at "Climate change is real and unfolding, and the outlook for California is bleak, according to new state-sponsored studies. Released Tuesday, the studies warn that California can expect more scorching heat waves, severe wildfires and strain on the electric grid as the Earth warms and sea levels rise along the state's 1,100-mile long coast. Higher temperatures in the coming decade mean that many more of the state's 37 million people will depend on air conditioning -- increasing demand for electricity by up to 1 gigawatt during hot summer months. One gigawatt is roughly the size of two coal-fired power plants and is enough energy to power 750,000 homes." (Image: NASA).

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