Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cool & Comfortable (2012: record for extreme weather; on track for record loss of Arctic ice)

79 F. high in the Twin Cities Thursday.
82 F. average high for August 9.
76 F. high on August 9, 2011.
.10" rain fell yesterday at KMSP.

Saturday: nicer, sunnier (drier) day of the weekend.
Weather Vertigo next week: from 90 next Wednesday to 60s by the end of next week? The extended outlook below.

Hang On. The European (ECMWF) model shows some big temperature swings over the next week. Saturday still appears to be the sunnier, warmer day of the weekend, a warming trend next week with a shot at 90 F. by Wednesday. A significant cool front arrives the end of next week; highs in the 60s late next week? Hey, we're due for a correction.

78.14% of the USA is described as "abnormally dry".
24.14% of America is in extreme or exceptional drought, nearly a quarter of the Lower 48 States.
16.18% of Minnesota in severe drought, down slightly from 16.25% last week.
69.14% of Iowa in extreme drought, up from 30.74% last week.

Photo credit above: "Buchanan County, Mo., employees Ron Martin prepares to go back out onto Lake Contrary Thursday afternoon Aug. 9, 2012, in his jon boat to pick up more dead fish while Shane Hartman tosses what he collected into a front end loader. Low water levels and extreme heat caused a sizable fish kill in the Oxbow lake that the Missouri Department of Conservation estimates to be about 20,000 mostly invasive Asian Carp." (AP Photo/The St. Joseph News-Press, Eric Keith)

46% record high CEI Index (Climate Extreme Index) for 2012, to date, surpassing the previous record of 42% in 1934. Details from NOAA NCDC below. Photo: WeatherNation TV meteorologist Bryan Karrick.

El Nino conditions "likely to develop during August or September 2012", according to NOAA. Details below.

"Nearly half of the nation’s corn crop is in poor or very poor condition, as well as a third of soybeans. The damage would be much worse without the crop science advancements of the last 40 years, said Andrew Wood, a professor of plant physiology and molecular biology at Southern Illinois University." - from a Washington Post article, details below. Photo credit: Nati Harnik, AP.

Twin Cities NWS Doppler Is Down For Maintenance. Actually, it's more than that - KMPX is being upgraded to "dual polarization" capabilities, a software and hardware upgrade that will help local meteorologists predict everything from rainfall amounts, to winter precipitation, even detect tornado signatures ("debris balls") with greater accuracy. I'm holding my breath that there won't be any severe weather outbreaks (doubtful) in the next week; until then we'll rely on Doppler from Duluth, Sioux Falls and La Crosse. Photo above: Reid Wolcott.

Thursday Waterspouts In Duluth. Check out the remarkable photos of the waterspout that formed over Lake Superior, just off the shoreline of Duluth. Photo upper left courtesy of Vana Leslee Photography (via WDIO). Photo upper left from Alissa Glickstein. Nicely done.

Minnesota Drought: Holding Steady. There was little change in the drought status, statewide, in the last week; 47% of Minnesota "abnormally dry", over a third of the state in a moderate drought, 16% in severe drought, and a tiny sliver of far southwestern MN in an extreme drought (near Worthington). Soil moisture from Rochester and Mankato, north to the Twin Cities, St. Cloud and Duluth are in good shape. More details from NOAA's U.S. Drought Monitor.

A Sprawling Heat. Although the Upper Midwest has seen significant relief, much of America continues to sizzle: 1,320 warm weather records since August 2, according to NOAA. Map courtesy of Ham Weather.

A Sprawling Drought. An estimated 62.46% of the USA is in moderate drought (or worse). The worst conditions can be found from southern Indiana westward through Missouri and Arkansas into Kansas and Oklahoma, pockets of exceptional drought as far south as Georgia. More details from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Drought Animation. You can see the progression of the Great Drought of '12 since May 22 in this animation. The darker the red: the more severe the drought - thought to be the worst since 1956, possibly 1936.

Iowa Farmers Are In Trouble. At first I thought it was a typo - I had to go back and check it again. The percentage of Iowa in extreme drought jumped from 30.74% last week to 69.14% this week, a nearly 40% jump. I've never seen that before. Details here.

Evolution Of Drought. The steady spread of drought conditions since May 29 has been striking; more details from NOAA: "The latest drought monitor is now available in the region. Once again, extreme drought continues over much of Kansas and Missouri. However, portions of the area have now been upgraded to the highest level of drought, “exceptional”. The drought monitor does not include impacts of rainfall from last night, but given the scattered nature of rain, the improvements would be minimal. Since the beginning of the drought monitor in 1999, this is the first “exceptional” drought status in western Missouri."

Severe Losses For Reinsurers From U.S. Drought: Munich Re. has the details; here's an excerpt: "The recent dry weather affecting crops across the midwest of America will hit the reinsurance industry with perhaps the biggest loss ever, according to Nikolaus von Bomhard, Chairman at Munich Re. “We do think it will be severe and probably one of the severest losses for this market ever,” he told CNBC Wednesday. “It’s too early to tell what the exact claim will be because we have to wait until the harvest is done.”  The prolonged hot spell is said to be the worst in five decades and has damaged corn production across 26 U.S. states."

Photo credit above: "A dry field of corn is seen near Ashland, Neb., Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. The latest U.S. drought map shows that excessively dry conditions continue to worsen in the Midwest states that are key producers of corn and soybeans. This is the worst U.S. drought in decades. The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday, Aug. 9. 2012 shows that the area gripped by extreme or exceptional drought rose nearly 2 percent to 24.14 percent." (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

2012: Most Climate Extremes On Record. Here's an explanation from NOAA: "The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI), an index that tracks the highest and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical cyclones across the contiguous U.S., was a record large 46 percent during the January - July period, over twice the average value, and surpassing the previous record large CEI of 42 percent, which occurred in 1934. Extremes in warm daytime temperatures (83 percent) and warm nighttime temperatures (74 percent) both covered record large areas of the nation, contributing to the record high year-to-date USCEI value." Graph courtesy of NOAA NCDC.

Friday Severe Threat. A stalled frontal boundary becomes a focal point for severe storms later today from New York and Albany to D.C. and Raleigh. Flying east? You may encounter delays. Map courtesy of NOAA SPC.

Weekend Outlook. The European model continues to hold up Saturday as the better day of the weekend for outdoor plans: highs in the upper 70s to near 80 with a light southeast breeze. Timing Sunday showers is tricky; no all-day rains, but a couple hours are possible with highs in the low 70s.

Slow-Motion Weather Map. The WRF model shows a slow-moving cool frontal boundary stalling over the eastern seaboard by Saturday, compounding rainfall amounts from the Mid Atlantic region to the Florida Panhandle. High pressure treats the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest to comfortable sun. The Great Lakes will see frequent showers and T-storms, mainly dry weather west of the Rockies. Upper left: today at 4 pm. Upper right: Saturday at 4 pm.

First Hints Of Autumn. Remarkable news: we may enjoy a spell of cooler, wetter than normal weather as we sail into mid-August. NOAA's Climate Prediction Center 6-10 Day Outlook shows a cool, wet bias for the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest - more relentless heat for the southern half of America. Map: Ham Weather.

NOAA: "El Nino Conditions Likely To Develop During August Or September 2012". More details from NOAA NCEP: "ENSO-neutral conditions continued during July 2012, despite above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) across the eastern Pacific Ocean. Reflecting this warmth, most of the weekly Nino index values remained near or greater than +.5 C. The oceanic heat content anomalies (average temperatures in the upper 300 meters of the ocean) also remained elevated during the month, consistent with a large region of above-average temperatures at depth across the equatorial Pacific. Althugh sub-surface and surface temperatures were above average, many aspects of the tropical atmosphere were inconsistent with El Nino conditions."

Graphic credit above: "Average sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies (C) for the week centered on 1 August, 2012. Anomalies are computed with respect to the 1981-2010 base period weekly means."

NOAA Raises Hurricane Season Prediction Despite Expected El Nino. The forecast calls for El Nino by autumn (see above). El Nino patterns usually imply stronger winds over the tropics - conditions not favorable for hurricane development (those winds tend to shred developing tropical storms and prevent them from reaching their peak potential). In spite of this, NOAA NHC is predicting a higher than average number of tropical systems: "This year’s Atlantic hurricane season got off to a busy start, with 6 named storms to date, and may have a busy second half, according to the updated hurricane season outlook issued today by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. The updated outlook still indicates a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season, but increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent and decreases the chance of a below-normal season to only 15 percent from the initial outlook issued in May.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the season – June 1 to November 30 – NOAA’s updated seasonal outlook projects a total (which includes the activity-to-date of tropical storms Alberto, Beryl, Debbie, Florence and hurricanes Chris and Ernesto) of:
  • 12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
  • 5 to 8 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which:
  • 2 to 3 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)
Photo credit above: "Satellite image of Hurricane Ernesto taken on Aug. 7, 2012 in the Gulf of Mexico." (Credit: NOAA)

Haboob! I still have trouble talking about haboobs without chuckling. Sorry. I know, infantile. One of many personal defects. Thanks to Mike Olbinski, who shot this advancing wall of dust and sand outside Phoenix. Amazing.

Get Flood Insurance Before You Need It. Are you in a flood zone? When was the last time you checked? Here's an excerpt of an important article from Reuters: "The best time to get protection against a flood is before it happens. That means if you keep anything in a basement or live on the ground floor, it's important to have flood insurance. Floods are the most common natural disaster and they can cause significant damage. Buying flood insurance is always a good idea but in some cases it's also mandatory. It's important to understand how and when to buy flood insurance so that you're prepared before disaster strikes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency administers the National Flood Insurance Program which is generally a good place to start. Under federal law, homes with a federally regulated mortgage must have flood insurance if located within a Special Flood Hazard Area. Even if your home is not within a SFHA, banks may require that you have flood insurance before approving a mortgage." Photo credit: NOAA.

Photo Of The Day. Art Fightmaster captured a photo of a sunlit shelf cloud in Gardnersville, Kentucky Thursday. Photo courtesy of WeatherNation TV.

Flames From Above. Photo courtesy of Wyoming's Bureau of Land Management: "Yesterday, firefighters were able to mop-up the perimeter of the Sheep Park Wildfire south of Jeffrey City. The fire burned 528 acres and is approximately 90% contained."

Weather Services International Acquires Weather Central. This may be inside baseball, but WSI (owned by The Weather Channel) and Weather Central create the weather graphics systems that 90% of America's TV stations and networks use for weather visualization. Full disclosure: a previous company of mine, "EarthWatch Communications", was acquired by a local company, Kavouras, back in 1997, which went on to license 3-D weather technology to Weather Central, which is about to be owned by WSI, which is owned by The Weather Channel. Confused? Me too. Not sure how this will impact the TV weather graphics landscape, but I'm keeping an open mind. Details from Madison-based Weather Central: "Weather Services International (WSI) today announced an agreement to acquire Weather Central, a Madison, WI based global provider of interactive weather technology, graphics and data services for professional, media, and consumers delivered to television, web and mobile screens. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. “The acquisition of Weather Central enables us to immediately expand the range of products we offer to each company’s business clients in television, wind energy, insurance and retail, as well as increase the speed at which we can develop new innovations,” said Mark Gildersleeve, president of WSI. “Our goal is to make the best products available to our collective customer base. Every broadcast customer, for example, will gain access to new tropical data, radar data, forecast models, and severe weather tracking tools within the first thirty days at no charge. In addition, we are offering a wider suite of products in the interactivity, social, news, traffic, web, mobile and video categories.

How To Make Your Lost Phone Findable. The New York Time's David Pogue had quite an adventure last week; he lost his phone, and using Twitter (and local police) was able to track it down. But it got him thinking; what technology or apps can I utilize to find my phone, if and when it gets lost again? Here's an excerpt from his column at The New York Times: "Last week, I lost my iPhone on a train. I used Apple’s Find My iPhone feature to track it to a house in suburban Maryland, and the local police were able to return it to me. Because I’d tweeted about these developments, the quest for the phone became, much to my surprise, an Internet-wide, minute-by-minute real-life thriller. (You can read the whole story here.) Several readers wrote to ask how to set up their own phones to be findable. As you’d guess, given last week’s experience, I have some strong feelings about the importance of setting up Find My iPhone or the equivalent on Android phones."

Ford Pushes Speed And Economy Rating Of 2013 C-MAX Hybrids. This new car from Ford caught my eye; a potential Prius-killer? has details: "Ford definitely appears to have Toyota in its sights with its 2013 C-MAX line. Having already revealed the C-MAX Hybrid will be cheaper than Toyota’s Prius v, the U.S. automaker is now boasting that its hybrid utility vehicle beats the Prius v in the fuel economy stakes by up to 7 mpg (2.9 km/l). It is also the first vehicle to offer the same fuel economy rating in both city and highway driving."

Instant Autumn. I didn't hear too many complaints about the weather yesterday (highly unusual). Most days it's too hot, too wet, too humid, too cloudy. With a mix of clouds and sun, low humidity, 70s, and only a few fleeting showers everyone I bumped into "thanked me" for the weather. I know. Bizarre. Highs ranged from 72 at Eau Claire (.63" rain) to 76 St. Cloud, and 79 Twin Cities and Redwood Falls.

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

TODAY: Cool sun, very nice - a hint of late September in the air. Dew point: 50. Winds: NE 10. High: 76

FRIDAY NIGHT: Clear and comfortably cool. Low: 56

SATURDAY: Sunshine, nicer day of the weekend. Dew point: 50. Winds: NW 6-12. High: near 80

SATURDAY NIGHT: Clouds move in, growing chance of showers (best chance south/west of MSP). Low: 60

SUNDAY: More clouds, unsettled with a few showers, cooler. Dew point: 57. Winds: S 5-10. High: 75

MONDAY: More sun, warming up. Dew point: 60. Low; 60. High: 85

TUESDAY: Still feels like summer. Blue sky, a bit more humid. Low: 64. High: 87

WEDNESDAY: Hot sun returns. Dew point: 67. Low: 67. High: near 90

THURSDAY: Passing shower, then breezy, cooler. Low: 65. High: 80

* highs may hold in the 60s and 70s by the end of next week.

The Edge of Drought

You may not believe it but we've been relatively lucky this summer. No deadly tornadoes or flash floods; ample soil moisture for much of Minnesota. Yes, drought is creeping into southern & western counties; a third of the state now in moderate drought. It could be much worse. The percentage of Iowa in extreme drought has spiked from 30 to nearly 70 percent in just the last week. I've never seen that before.

NOAA NCDC says 2012, to date, is the most extreme year ever recorded across the USA - even more temperature & rainfall extremes than 1934, the previous record, at the height of the Dust Bowl. Every day I drive into the Weather Center studios, holding my breath. What next?

A weak bubble of high pressure chases away the clouds today. Expect comfortable sun; 70s with a dew point near 50. Saturday looks like the sunnier, nicer day. Another clipper-like system sparks showers Saturday night into a portion of Sunday. Get out tomorrow, if possible.

Cool 70s linger the next 3 days. Yes, it's good to be "average again".

Enjoy, because highs may approach 90 by next Wednesday. Any heat will be fleeting; highs may sink into the 60s by the end of next week...!

Drumroll: NOAA says El Nino should return by autumn. Another milder Minnesota winter? Place your bets.

* photo credit above: Seth Perlman, AP.

Climate Stories...

Sea Ice Extent. I took one look at this graphic and my jaw dropped. We are on target for the lowest summer Arctic ice levels in recorded history. More details on Sea Ice Extent from the National Snow And Ice Data Center: " These images, derived from passive microwave satellite data, depict the most recent daily sea ice conditions. Extent images show the total area of ocean covered with at least 15 percent ice. Concentration images show varying degrees of ice coverage, from 15 to 100 percent. Monthly images are more indicative of trends than daily images."

On Track For A Record Sea Ice Minimum. An explanation from NSIDC: "These satellite-derived images depict current sea ice conditions and trends. Long-term changes in Arctic sea ice are an index of climate change. Southern Hemisphere sea ice images are also available. For more information about current conditions and their significance, see Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis."

Arctic Sea Ice Extent. We're on track for a new record ice minimum within 30 days.

Arctic Sea Ice Volume. Volumetric trends in the Arctic are even more troubling, literally off the scale. Graph: PIOMAS.

To Confront Climate Change, U.S. Agriculture Seeks Hardier Breeds That Can Survive Long Droughts. Universities and private ventures are already working on new strains of corn, wheat and beans that can better withstand extended dry spells (and sudden floods). The financial upside for the firms that figure this out will be astronomical. Here's a timely story from AP and The Washington Post: "Cattle are being bred with genes from their African cousins who are accustomed to hot weather. New corn varieties are emerging with larger roots for gathering water in a drought. Someday, the plants may even be able to “resurrect” themselves after a long dry spell, recovering quickly when rain returns. Across American agriculture, farmers and crop scientists have concluded that it’s too late to fight climate change. They need to adapt to it with a new generation of hardier animals and plants specially engineered to survive, and even thrive, in intense heat, with little rain."

Photo credit above: Nati Harnik, AP. "Jerry Johnson of Ashland uses his antique 57 Ford tractor to mow vegetation around his drying pond in Ashland, Neb., Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, which he hopes will keep the critters away."

How To Parse Climate Change And Extreme Weather. Here's an excerpt of a John Broder Op-Ed on connecting the dots in The New York Times: "James E. Hansen, the irrepressible NASA scientist who was among the first to sound the alarm about human-caused global warming, has roiled the scientific community again with a new scientific paper explicitly linking high concentrations of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases to recent severe heat waves and drought. My colleague Justin Gillis has a detailed article in Tuesday’s Times on the study and the initial reaction to it. In the paper, published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Hansen and two co-authors say that human activities – chiefly the burning of fossil fuels – have “loaded the dice,” making extreme weather events more frequent. They go further and say that the drought in the United States and the deadly heat wave in Russia, among other recent weather extremes, were direct consequences of this phenomenon."

Photo credit above: Robert W. Hart for The Texas Tribune. "A pump house at Lake J.B. Thomas in west-central Texas sat high and dry last year."

Six Tips For Newly Climate-Concerned Americans. Some good advice from Mike Sandler at The Huffington Post; here's an excerpt: "...Direct experience with heat waves and drought may be moving some Cautious and Disengaged people into the Concerned category. These individuals may benefit from a few tips for dealing with their new worries about climate change:
  1. Build Community -- it helps. If your existing community watches Fox News, or listens to Rush Limbaugh, then your new concern about climate change will cause some cognitive dissonance. That's OK, you'll be facing cognitive dissonance quite a bit at first, like every time you switch on a light or drive your car. Joining a community that recognizes the paradoxes that climate change brings to modern Americans can help during those first troubling weeks, months, and years.
  2. Listen to upbeat messages. Upbeat, positive messages about humanity, or about our ability to change, adapt, survive, and help each other through tough times can be helpful in countering anxiety after reading several depressing articles about the coming climate-pocalypse. A good example is a lyric from Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds": "Every little thing, gonna be alright."

Climate Change Adaptations: How To Prepare For Global Warming. Underground cities and floating farms? Hey, who knows - we're all going to have to think outside the (warming) box to come up with viable solutions, to grow global economies while mitigating the worst symptoms of a warmer world. Here's an excerpt from an intriguing story at Huffington Post: " Wild geoengineering schemes may aim to reverse global warming by reflecting sunlight into space or storing excess carbon dioxide, but they won't spare humanity from living through climate change in the next several decades. That means humans must adapt to life in a world where droughts hit harder, floodwaters rise higher and entire island nations may sink beneath the waves. 'Some adaptation ideas resemble science fiction made real — growing crops inside city buildings, floating villages and genetically engineered crops. Other solutions, such as floating agriculture and traditional species cross-breeding, draw upon the long history of human adaptation rather than futuristic technologies.

Waterworld homes: When the waters rise, tomorrow's buildings may rise with them as floating structures. Koen Olthuis, head of Waterstudio.NL, has begun working on projects ranging from floating apartments in the Netherlands to a floating mosque in the United Arab Emirates."

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