Friday, August 17, 2012

Slight Shower Risk (80s return next week; shift in public opinion about climate change?)

74 F. high yesterday at KMSP.
81 F. average high for August 17.
81 F. high on August 17, 2011.
50 F. low Friday morning, coolest reading in the Twin Cities since May 31.
33 F. at Embarrass, Minnesota Friday morning.

7% of America's water is reused/recycled. An estimated 16% is wasted through leakage and degrated infrastructure. Details in a New York Times Op-Ed below.

"...And let's acknowledge this isn't just about data. Somewhere along the way, what started out as a scientific debate turned into a political, even ideological, spat. High-handed advocates for slashing our use of fossil fuels backed extreme restrictions that would damage the world's developed economies — America's included. Skeptics pushed back, as aggravated by the righteousness of the climate change Cassandras as by their doubts about the underlying — and incomplete — science..." - from a Chicago Tribune Op-Ed below.

A Chilly Spell. Meteorologists call this a "correction", coming after the warmest July on record for most of the USA. A dose of brisk, Canadian air was probably inevitable, and we came close to a rare August frost up north. More details from Dr. Mark Seeley in this week's edition of his WeatherTalk Blog: "August 16th brought a record-tying low temperature to International Falls with a reading of 41 degrees F (tied 1958). But more significantly a strong Canadian high pressure ridge brought the coldest August 17th (Fri) since 1963 to many parts of the state. New record low temperatures were set at: Silver Bay (34 F); Hibbing (34 F); Crane Lake (36 F); Princeton (37 F); Austin (38 F); and Waseca (39 F). In addition many observers reported tying their record cold low temperatures on August 17th including, 36 degrees F at Fosston (tied 2007), 37 degrees F at Little Falls (tied 1999); 37 degrees F at Hallock (tied 1904); and 39 degrees F at Park Rapids (tied 1896). For many these were the coldest readings since May 16th last spring."

First (Average) Frost. Much of central and northern Minnesota experiences the first frost of the season by September 30, but temperatures don't usually dip below 32 F. in the metro until the first or second week of October. Most of the southern USA remains frost-free until mid November.
Latest Drought Monitor. The drought is holding pretty much steady across the state (not increasing in coverage or intensity). Although soil moisture is in good shape from the Twin Cities to St. Cloud, Brainerd and Duluth, far southern, southwestern and northwestern Minnesota is in moderate to severe drought. In fact a little more than a third of the state is in a moderate drought, or worse. The latest Drought Monitor is here.

"Don't Waste The Drought". Here are a few (staggering) statistics about water usage and waste in an Op-Ed at The New York Times: "...Our nation’s water system is a mess, from cities to rural communities, for farmers and for factories. To take just one example: Water utilities go to the trouble to find water, clean it and pump it into water mains for delivery, but before it gets to any home or business, leaky pipes send 16 percent — about one in six gallons — back into the ground. So even in the midst of the drought, our utilities lose enough water every six days to supply the nation for a day. You can take a shorter shower, but it won’t make up for that. The good news: There are a number of steps that together can change, gradually but permanently, how we use water and how we value it. Some can be taken right now. The average American uses 99 gallons of water at home each day. In the summer, half of that water goes to our lawns, way more than needed."

Photo credit above: "Cotton plants out of the range of an irrigation machine are pictured in Hydro, Okla, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. Drought conditions across Oklahoma have expanded and worsened despite recent rainfall in the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor report released Aug. 16, 2012." (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Comfortable Weekend - Summer Rerun Next Week. The ECMWF keeps us in the 70s for highs into Tuesday, but a warm-up is still on track by the middle of next week, a few days of 85-90 likely the latter half of next week.

Weekend Details: Meteogram. Temperatures today and tomorrow will be comparable; highs mostly in the mid 70s with low dew points. Expect a light northwest breeze today, the best chance of a shower later this afternoon north of Lake Mille Lacs. Sunday looks drier and a bit sunner with a light north breeze. Temperatures are in Celsius, by the way. No cause for panic.

Power Of New "Dual Polarization" Doppler Radar In Diagnosing The August 15 Hailstorm in Stevens County. The local Twin Cities NWS has a great explanation of the new technology that helped meteorologists get a better handle of hail size near Donnelly (where 1.75" diameter hail fell). It's a big step forward, technologically.

Weather Gone Wild. Here's an excerpt of an excellent cover story in this month's National Geographic Magazine: "...There’s been a change in the weather. Extreme events like the Nashville flood—described by officials as a once-in-a-millennium occurrence—are happening more frequently than they used to. A month before Nashville, torrential downpours dumped 11 inches of rain on Rio de Janeiro in 24 hours, triggering mud slides that buried hundreds. About three months after Nashville, record rains in Pakistan caused flooding that affected more than 20 million people. In late 2011 floods in Thailand submerged hundreds of factories near Bangkok, creating a worldwide shortage of computer hard drives. And it’s not just heavy rains that are making headlines. During the past decade we’ve also seen severe droughts in places like Texas, Australia, and Russia, as well as in East Africa, where tens of thousands have taken refuge in camps. Deadly heat waves have hit Europe, and record numbers of tornadoes have ripped across the United States. Losses from such events helped push the cost of weather disasters in 2011 to an estimated $150 billion worldwide, a roughly 25 percent jump from the previous year. In the U.S. last year a record 14 events caused a billion dollars or more of damage each, far exceeding the previous record of nine such disasters in 2008."

Photo credit above: "Supercell thunderstorm near Glasgow, Montana." Photograph by Sean R. Heavey, Barcroft Media/Landov.

Saturday Severe Risk. The soggy remains of a strong push of Canadian air will set off severe storms over the southern Plains and the Carolinas later today. Map above: SPC.

Today's Weather Map at 4 pm. The WRF model, valid at 4 pm today, prints out a few instability showers from northern Minnesota into the U.P. of Michigan, strong T-storms from near Oklahoma City and Dallas to New Orleans and the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Best photos from Friday around the USA:

A Turbulent Sky. Thanks to Payy Ingalls for sharing this terrific photo; details: "I took this photo, today, 8/16/12 in West Plains, MO (Howell County) at approximately 4:15 p.m. We had a severe thunderstorm warning. :)"
Hail And High Water. Brandon Wyatt snapped this photo in Bellemont, Arizona Friday. Monsoon season brings torrential rains, an occasional haboob, and plenty of hail: "Crazy thunderstorm in Bellemont AZ. Dropped a lot of hail."

Risk Of A Funnel Cloud. A funnel is a tornado where the circulation has not reached the ground. This one was captured near Suntree, Florida by Janna Griffin via the Melbourne, Florida office of the National Weather Service. Photo via WeatherNation TV's Facebook page.

Rotating Wall Cloud. Here's another great photo; this one taken near Sebastian, Florida by Ariel Silvana Dato.

One Wild Balloon. Bruce Mitchel snapped this photo of a very creative hot air balloon near Mechanic Falls, Maine.

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

Subject: Hurricanes, cyclones and tornadoes

Sent from my iPad


What is the difference between these three types of storms?

Laurie Auger
Laurie - it can get confusing, I grant you that. Hurricanes (called cyclones in the Indian Ocean) are huge storms that form over warm oceans, gathering their strength from warm ocean water. They literally starve to death and fizzle once they pass over land. They can be 400 miles in diameter, last days, even weeks, with sustained winds near the "eye" from 74-160 mph. All storms were called "cyclones" up until roughly the 1950s, any area of low pressure. Tornadoes were also called cyclones up until the mid 50s, when warnings were first issued by government forecasters. Tornadoes form under rapidly spinning (severe thunderstorms), brief, violent whirlwinds that last 5-15 minutes on average, and affect a tiny percentage of any given county. You don't hear the expression "cyclone" much any more; most meteorologists refer to these broad, 500-100 mile wide systems as storms or low pressure systems. Thanks for a good question!

Unbelievable DUI Laws And Punishments Around The World. You think the USA is tough on drunk driving? We go (too) easy, compared to the rest of the world. has a post that highlights a few countries and how they handle a first offense for drinking and driving. Here's an excerpt:

The Driver is jailed and if married, his wife is jailed too. (if this was in the US, it could explain the high divorce rate :)
South Africa:
A 10 year prison sentence and the equivalent of a $10,000 fine.
Drunk drivers are taken 20 miles outside of town by police and are forced to walk back under escort
Drunk drivers are automatically jailed for 3 weeks at hard labour  coupled with a license suspension for one year. Second offence  within five years – license revoked for life.
Finland & Sweden:
Automatic jail for one year of hard labor.

Invisible Bike Helmet Keeps Riders Safe, Looking Cool (Video). Technology will save us, especially if we're riding our bikes and have this new gizmo on our collar. It's actually a very slick concerpt, as described at "How often have you, or someone you know, eschewed a bicycle helmet to look cool at the expense of safety? Well, gamble with a traumatic brain injury no more. Two Swedish inventors created an invisible helmet called Hövding, and it doesn’t involving using any Harry Potter invisibility cloak magic, or even plastic. The helmet is actually a thick collar — like one you might see on a heavy winter jacket — with an airbag hood underneath that deploys should you get in an accident."

"Reinvent The Toilet Fair" In Seattle. No, you can't make this stuff up - but it's for a good cause, improving sanitation for billions of people. has the story; here's an excerpt: "In an effort to improve conditions for the more than 2.5 billion people worldwide with no access to safe sanitation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last year awarded grants totaling US$3 million to eight universities to reinvent the toilet. At the two-day “Reinventing the Toilet” fair held in Seattle this week, where Bill Gates was on hand with 50 gallons (189 l) of fake feces made from soybeans and rice to put the various designs through their paces, a California Institute of Technology (Caltech) team claimed first place for their solar-powered toilet."

Huffington Post Launches Some Sort Of New Thing. Breaking news, as only The Onion can provide; here's an excerpt: "NEW YORK—This week The Huffington Post officially launched some sort of new thing, which company representatives said will provide an exciting, revolutionary new way for users to do something or other. “We are proud to provide users with this brand-new type of thing,” the website’s co-founder Roy Sekoff said during the live debut of the thing that apparently exists now. “All of us at The Huffington Post have been hard at work making this, so here it is: a new thing.” Added Sekoff, “We are very proud of what we did and hope that our users can take full advantage of whatever it is this thing has to offer.”

Western USA: Hottest On The Planet Yesterday. The high of 105.8 F at The Dalles, Oregon was the hottest reading in the 3 hour period ending at 10 pm central time (not quite as hot as Basrah, Iraq's 116 F. reading). But if you factor in the dew point Green Canyon, outside Los Angeles, takes the top award. A ghastly dew point of 91.4 F. made it feel like 139.2 F. Unreal. Data courtesy of

Weather Bliss. Yes, it was pretty spectacular out there yesterday. Thursday's wild winds subsided, highs statewide in the 70s with low humidity and a mostly-blue sky. Daytime highs ranged from 70 at International Falls to 74 in the Twin Cities, 75 at St. Cloud. Nice.

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

SATURDAY: Plenty of sun morning and midday hours; PM shower or T-shower. Winds: W/NW 5-10. High: 76

SATURDAY NIGHT: Evening shower, then partial clearing. Low: 54

SUNDAY: Plenty of sun, still comfortable. Dew point: 49. High: 74

MONDAY: Sunny and milder. Low: 56. High: 77

TUESDAY: Warm sun, more humid. Dew point: 59. Low: 59. High: 83

WEDNESDAY: Sunshine, feels like summer! Low: 64. High: 86

THURSDAY: Hazy sun, sticky again. Dew point: 63. Low: 66. High: 88

FRIDAY: Hints of July. Sunny and hot. Low: 68. High: near 90

Toasty Lakes

I'm up at my cabin north of Brainerd, and dead walleye are washing up onto our shoreline; something I've never seen before. Why? Neighbors tell me its because of record warm lake water temperatures and less oxygen. Yesterday the lake was still 10-15 degree warmer than the air. Odd for mid-August.
Are you fond of the idea of a warmer Minnesota? Sounds pretty good to me too, until you realize it probably means (more) invasive species - as well as more beetles, bugs and pests that can survive yearround.

A warmer sky isn't killing millions of acres of trees out west. Bark Beetles are taking a steep toll on western forests.

I worry about the BWCA. And every time I gaze out over the water I wonder if it's going to still be this nice for my grandkids, and yours.

A sunny start gives way to an instability shower or T-shower this afternoon, ahead of a weak, reinforcing puff of Canadian air.

Aside from a few (predictable) PM showers today, it's a dry forecast into next week - the pattern not ripe for significant rain.With a sun angle as high as it was in late April, the odds of record heat are fading fast. But highs approach 90 by the end of next week.

It's way too early to write off summer.

Climate Stories...

No Denying It. Climate Change Is Real. Liberals, Conservatives - Let's Deal With It. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Chicago Tribune: "It's official: July was the hottest month in the continental U.S. since the government began keeping those records in 1895. Chicagoans, who sweated through 18 days of 90-plus heat, probably aren't surprised. For years, scientists have warned that climate change is happening. They reached that conclusion not because of a hot summer like this one, but from decades of data that show slowly rising temperatures. In 2010, the National Academy of Sciences unequivocally warned: "A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems."

Global Warming Conversations Heat Up. Here's an excerpt of an especially poignant (and in my opinion spot-on) Op-Ed at "The atmosphere is changing — not just the one that creates our weather, but the one in which we’re talking about climate change. For years, fossil fuel interests made global warming such a charged political issue that people avoided the topic. But as the effects of a warming planet multiply, the freeze on climate conversation is thawing as fast as the glaciers. This summer, I’ve overheard more people discussing climate change than ever before — in restaurants, coffee shops, and grocery store lines. You can see a change in the media coverage, too. Stories aren’t just reporting weather catastrophes; they’re making the connection to our fossil fuel addiction. The June Associated Press story entitled “This U.S. summer is ‘what global warming looks like’” actually ran in a newspaper in tiny Cullman, Ala. You wouldn’t have seen that a year ago."

Photo credit above: "A parched Rutherford County cornfield." Shelley Mays/File/The Tennessean.

Experts Warn Of Long-Term Climate Change Impacts On Food. Here's a snippet of a story at The Hill: "Experts working on a food security report for the United Nations warn climate change will cause disruptions to global food supplies beyond the U.S. drought this year, according to Reuters. The researchers note in a forthcoming chapter for the U.N.’s 2014 report on global warming that heat waves and massive downpours will become more common if nations fail to address climate change. That will make food supplies more unpredictable, which could cause volatile prices. "It has not been properly recognized yet that we are dealing with a food system here. There is a whole chain that is also going to be affected by climate change," John Porter, a professor of the University of Copenhagen, was quoted as saying in the Reuters story."

Climate Science As Culture War. Here's an excerpt of a fascinating and (in my opinion) deeply troubling story from Stanford Social Innovation Review: "...Today, there is no doubt that a scientific consensus exists on the issue of climate change. Scientists have documented that anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gases are leading to a buildup in the atmosphere, which leads to a general warming of the global climate and an alteration in the statistical distribution of localized weather patterns over long periods of time. This assessment is endorsed by a large body of scientific agencies—including every one of the national scientific agencies of the G8 + 5 countries—and by the vast majority of climatologists. The majority of research articles published in refereed scientific journals also support this scientific assessment. Both the US National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science use the word “consensus” when describing the state of climate science. And yet a social consensus on climate change does not exist. Surveys show that the American public’s belief in the science of climate change has mostly declined over the past five years, with large percentages of the population remaining skeptical of the science."

Photo credit above: "South Florida Earth First members protest outside the Platts Coal Properties and Investment Conference in West Palm Beach." (Photo by Bruce R. Bennett/Zum Press/Newscom

Survey Finds 2 Percent Of Canadians Don't Believe Climate Change Is Happening. Details from The Canadian Press and Yahoo: "REGINA - Only two per cent of Canadians who responded to a new opinion poll believe climate change is not occurring. The findings are in a survey conducted by Insightrix Research, Inc. for IPAC-CO2 Research Inc., a Regina-based centre that studies carbon capture and storage. The online poll of 1,550 people was done between May 29 and June 11. The results were to be released on Wednesday. "Our survey indicates that Canadians from coast to coast overwhelmingly believe climate change is real and is occurring, at least in part due to human activity," said centre CEO Carmen Dybwad."

Opinion: Severe Storms Prompted By Climate Change Require New Development Policies. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed an in New Jersey that caught my eye: "...Increased flooding also changes the aquatic ecological systems by changing spawning cycles, increasing the amount of sedimentation in streams and rivers (thereby reducing available oxygen and blanketing stream beds with sediment), and increasing the harmful impacts of runoff of fertilizers, pesticides and other pollutants, all resulting in loss of aquatic life. Storms of greater intensity do more damage to trees and other vegetation. They also over-saturate the soil, leading to weakened roots. Too much water can kill vegetation as much as can too little water. Soil saturation leads to basement flooding and unstable soil conditions, which may result in more sinkholes and problems with building foundations. There could also be impacts to septic systems that rely on the soil to remove and dispose of pollutants. Homes, buildings and roadways built near the coast, in flood plains or on poorly drained soils will most likely see an increase in problems due to these storms. However, all of us are likely to face additional complications from this trend..."

Photo credit above: "Two Trenton firefighters look at the damage a tree caused during a thunderstorm. The tree (on Cadwalader Drive) fell on some wires, causing the pole to fall down."

Talk Climate Change Solutions, Win Votes: Yale Study. Here's an excerpt of an intriguing story from "Conventional beltway wisdom holds that if you're running for office, you don't touch climate with a ten foot pole. It's considered "politically toxic," albeit by a cohort that tolerates birtherism and Donald Trump participating in the political process. So unless you're gunning to represent one of those wacky radical leftist states like Vermont or California or Massachusetts, any meaningful engagement on climate issues is off the table. The politicos say so. Obama took the hint; he almost never mentions global warming in public. Romney's mum, too. But new Yale research (pdf) says that conventional wisdom is probably wrong. A new study from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication finds that there are indeed a group of climate issues voters who will be more likely to support a candidate who's pro-climate."

Photo credit above: Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Study: TV Media Ignore Climate Change In Coverage Of Record July Heat Wave. Here's an excerpt from Media Matters: "Scientists say that human-induced climate change made this year's record heat more likely, and project that extreme heat will become more common in the United States. But a Media Matters analysis of media coverage of record-breaking heat in July finds that major television outlets rarely made the connection between heat waves and a changing climate. Only 14% Of Heat Wave Stories Mentioned Climate Change. In a study of major media outlets, only 8.7% of television segments and 25.5% of print articles reported on record-breaking July heat waves in the context of climate change."

Urban Heat Island Effect And Climate Change May Cause Scorching Summer Temperatures. It's a potential double-whammy: excess heat radiating up from concrete and asphalt, coupled with warming background temperatures. Here's an excerpt of a story from Climate Central and Huffington Post: "For scientists who worry about climate change, cities are just plain annoying. The acres of asphalt that cover roads and parking lots and roofs absorb enormous amounts of heat. In the summer, whirring air conditioners channel even more heat out of buildings and into the air. Climate scientists have to subtract this so-called urban heat island effect from their calculations if they want to get a true picture of how greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet. For people who actually live in cities, however the urban heat island effect is more than just a mathematical annoyance. If you’re sweltering on a hot summer day, your body doesn’t much care where the heat is coming from. And according to a paper just published in Nature Climate Change, urbanization alone could drive local temperatures up by a whopping 7°F by 2050 in some parts of the U.S. — some two or three times higher than the effects of global warming (which would also be going on at the same time)."

Leading By Example: The Dutch Prepare For Climate Change. Here's an excerpt of an interesting article at "...The Netherlands is a country particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, as two-thirds of its population lives below sea level. Throughout its history, the Dutch have understood the inevitability of change and how society must work with nature for effective strategies. In 2007, the Dutch began preparing for the changing climate in the upcoming two hundred years. They recognize that their nation will continue to combat rising seas, and must act expeditiously in order to prevent further encroachment. In State of the World 2012, Erik Assadourian outlines the 200-year plan put forth by the Dutch, describing their strategy to spend $1 billion a year on climate change adaptation. Through such policies, it is clear that the Netherlands is focused on the long-term public interest and not short-term private interests. The Dutch plan combines innovative techniques like building surge barriers and extending the coastline, with more traditional methods, such as fortifying levees."

Photo credit above: "Old Dutch canal." (Photo via Flickr, by Joepydo)

Methane From Fracking Triggers Climate Change. From what I understand about hydro-fracking, an important (and in my humble opinion - vital) energy source for America going forward, with far less greenhouse gas emissions than coal or oil, it would cost an additional 7% for operators to clean up fracking operations, so they won't pollute groundwater supplies or leak methane from drilling sites. There is a lot of concern about the environmental impacts of "fracking". Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at "Far from being a climate solution, fracking may be a disaster for our climate. Research indicates the methane leakage may mean that fracking is worse for the climate than coal and oil, particularly in the short term. Gas from fracking is mostly methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas that is up to 105 times more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over 20 years. A recent United Nations Environment Program report shows that it is more urgent to reduce methane than CO2, given that methane is so much more powerful, has quicker climate impacts and will trigger runaway climate change sooner. According to the Nobel-prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we must immediately reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to avoid dangerous tipping points for the climate. Failing to do so will cause catastrophic impacts, far worse than the extreme heat and droughts this summer."

Photo credit above: . "A sign on a building Friday reads 107 degrees in Clovis, Calif. A recent United Nations Environment Program report shows the need to reduce methane, which is released by fracking, since the gas traps heat in the atmosphere."

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