Thursday, September 6, 2012

Autumn Breeze (Minnesota drought worsens; El Nino developing)

81 F. high in the Twin Cities Thursday.
76 F. average high for September 6.
74 F. high on September 6, 2011.
25 mph wind gusts possible this afternoon - risk of a passing shower or sprinkle between 2 and 6 pm.
Saturday now looks like the milder day of the weekend (low to mid 70s). Another cool frontal passage keeps highs in the upper 60s to near 70 across much of Minnesota Sunday, as winds ease statewide.

70% of Nebraska now in exceptional drought, the most extreme designation. Source: NOAA.

109 F. heat index yesterday at Searcy, Arkansas.

Isaac’s rains were like Chapter 1 in the drought relief book,” said David Miskus, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s climate prediction center. “We still need a lot more rain to go here to really eliminate this drought.” - excerpt from a New York Times article on the drought below.

Today's Weather Map. The WRF model, valid 4 pm, shows badly-needed rain over the Midwest and Great Lakes, out ahead of the latest surge of cooler, Canadian air. T-storms bubble up along the Carolina coast, while a tropical depression sputters over the Gulf of Mexico. Dry weather persists for much of the western half of the USA.

PM Instability Sprinkles. The high-res, 12 km RPM model (courtesy of WSI) shows a few sprinkles and very light showers over eastern Minnesota this afternoon; heavier showers and T-storms pushing into Chicago, capable of sparking delays at O'Hare and Midway.
Today: Exception To The Rule. The maps still look more like late August than early September, and I expect a few more days at or above 80 early next week. Today will be the coolest day in sight: highs in the 60s with stratocumulus and a stiff northwest wind. For at least 12-24 hours it will actually feel like autumn. Graph: Iowa State.

Warm Bias. The ECMWF (European) solution above shows temperatures running about 5-10 F. above average through the end of next week. Today is the coolest day looking out the next 2 weeks, another warming trend early next week - precious little rain in the extended outlook.

"...While some parts of the nation were dealing with drought and fire, others were being pummeled by storms. A freak wind system known as a derecho left 23 dead and 1.4 million people without power from Illinois to Virginia. Another potent storm dumped up to 10 inches of rain in Minnesota and in Wisconsin, flooding homes, breaking records, and prompting a polar bear to escape from a swamped Lake Superior Zoo. All these storms, heat waves, droughts, and fires are not one-off events, but a pattern of increasingly extreme weather that is exactly what global warming models have predicted." - excerpt from a story at The Energy Collective; details below. Photo above: NOAA.

"...In providing an overview of the climatological situation, AMS noted that all of the 10 warmest years in the global temperature records through 2011 occurred since 1997. For the U.S. as a whole, there have been twice as many record daily high temperatures as record daily low temperatures recorded in the first decade of the 21st century." - from an article on the new, revised AMS (American Meteorological Society) position on climate change; details below.

"...Cherry pickers ignore the fact that our planet is currently building up heat at the stunning rate of around 3 Hiroshima bombs per second. Instead, they focus on short periods of the surface temperature record. This record bounces up and down from year to year as the ocean exchanges heat with the atmosphere, meaning that it’s possible to find any short period during a long-term warming trend where temperatures fall briefly." - excerpt from The Conversation below.

KSMQ Station Operating Again. This is what the severe storms rumbling across far southern Minnesota earlier this week did - straight line winds possibly in excess of 70 mph. at times. The Austin Daily Herald has an update; here's an excerpt: "Austin KSMQ TV employees had a hectic day Wednesday after a storm toppled the station’s broadcast tower early that morning; however, the station is now back on the air. While the tower itself still lies in shambles, the station was able to get back up and running at 7:58 p.m. thanks to the help of other local broadcast stations. “We had great cooperation with local broadcasters,” Eric Olson, KSMQ president and CEO, said Wednesday afternoon before the station was again operational. The fiasco was like a mini TV reunion for Olson and other local TV executives, many who have not seen each other in years. Initially, Olson and others thought it could be two weeks before KSMQ would be operational, so much of the day was spent collaborating with other stations on a solution."

Photo credit above: "A portion of a 440-foot transmitter tower lies draped over a small building near the Riverland Community College west building Wednesday morning. The tower came down during the severe storms that swept through Wednesday between midnight and 1 a.m." Eric Johnson/

Aurora Forecast. Here's a good link to gauge the probability of being able to view the aurora on any given night, the latest forecasts from the Geophysical Institute at The University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

* more great aurora links here.

Not Quite As Ominous. The soggy remains of Isaac, which struck Louisiana (twice) as a hurricane early last week is still festering over the Gulf of Mexico. NHC has lowered the odds of reintensification back to tropical storm status to 30%, down from 50% on Wednesday. Forecasters will watch this disturbance carefully - it may still drift east over Florida by the weekend, increasing the odds of heavy rain. Image above courtesy of NASA MODIS.

Waiting For Leslie. Here is the latest radar loop from the Bermuda Weather Service. The island may endure Category 2 (95-110 mph) winds by the weekend as Hurricane Leslie's eye passes very close to Bermuda.

GFS Solution. The GFS solution is slower (and deeper/stronger), showing a Category 2-3 hurricane 300 miles south of St. John's, Newfoundland next Wednesday. Other solutions move the hurricane faster, bringing "Leslie" ashore as early as Tuesday as a Category 1 storm.

Projected Track of "Leslie". Models sweep a strengthening Hurricane Leslie 150 miles east of Bermuda this weekend, brushing the island nation with a 4-8 foot storm surge. The storm is forecast to strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane, with sustained winds exceeding 100 mph by the weekend. Map: NHC and Ham Weather.

A Canadian Hurricane? Water temperatures over the North Atlantic are unusually warm, some 5-10 F. warmer than average for early September. That may sustain Leslie as a Category 1 storm unusually far north, with landfall projected next Tuesday near St. John's, Newfoundland - possibly as a Category 1 hurricane. Map: Alerts Broadcaster.
Bermuda Weather Trivia. more details on Bermuda weather and climatology (and hurricane history) here.

Warm Bias Thru Third Week of September. In spite of a few blips of cooler air (including cool 60-degree highs for much of Minnesota today) the trend will be...the same as it's been for the last 15 months across the Upper Midwest: warmer than normal. The 8-14 day temperature outlook from NOAA CPC shows a warm bias across most of America. Map: NOAA and Ham Weather.

El Nino Conditions Are Likely To Develop During September 2012. Not sure I'm ready for this. El Nino (warming phases) correspond to a warm, dry bias for Minnesota and northern tier states. But wait, last winter was the 3rd warmest, in spite of a La Nina cooling phase? We're just as confused as you are. NOAA has more details: "ENSO-neutral conditions continued during August 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 +5 C. The oceanic heat content (average temperature in the upper 300 meters of the ocean) anomalies also remained elevated during the month, consistent with a large region of above-average temperatures at depth across the equatorial Pacific. Possible signs of El Nino development in the atmosphere included upper-level easterly wind anomalies and a slightly negative Southern Oscillation Index."

Will Winter Return With A Vengeance? I doubt it (based on recent trends) but I reserve the right to be pleasantly surprised. Here's an excerpt from my (bootleg) copy of the 2012 Farmer's Almanac. Why not. "After a year of unprecedented warmth – both during the winter and summer months – the great debate over whether or not Old Man Winter will return with a vengeance is on. Last winter was the fourth warmest for the contiguous 48 since record keeping began in 1895, with 24 states experiencing below-normal precipitation. In fact, California experienced its second driest winter ever. In only 10 states—chiefly across the nation’s midsection— was winter precipitation above normal. The situation became critical this past spring and summer with broiling hot temperatures across much of the country and the most severe drought conditions the nation has seen in more than 50 years."

HydroClim Minnesota. Here are some climate highlights from Minnesota State Climatologist Greg Spoden:

- The U.S. Drought Monitor, released on September 6, places portions of southwestern and south central Minnesota in the Extreme Drought category. Many northwestern Minnesota counties, and many of Minnesota's southernmost counties, are said to be in Severe Drought. In total, approximately 63% of Minnesota is considered to be in the Abnormally Dry category or worse.

- The drought situation in northwest Minnesota and in far southeast Minnesota is the result of an historically dry autumn in 2011, a snow-sparse winter, and a dry 2012 growing season. The moisture deficits in southern Minnesota developed rapidly due to very hot and very dry conditions that begain in late June and continue as of this writing. Over the past 11 weeks rainfall totals in many Minnesota counties fell short of average by four or more inches. This is the climatological equivalent of missing an entire summer's month worth of precipitation. In some south central Minnesota communities, late-summer rainfall deficits are in excess of 6 inches.

- The U.S. Geological Survey and Minnesota DNR report that stream discharge values are very low at numerous Minnesota reporting locations. Stream flow values rank below the 10th percentile for this time of year in some of these watersheds.

- In a September 4 summary, the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service reported that topsoil moisture was 22% Very Short and 41% Short across Minnesota. The report also indicates that roughly 85% of Minnesota's corn and soybean crop is in fair, good, or excellent condition. This is a significantly higher percentage of favorable conditions than those found in other Corn Belt states.

- Ample autumn rains are critically needed to replenish soil moisture reserves. Water levels on other hydrological systems (lakes, rivers, wetlands) will rebound only after the soil profile is recharged.

* latest Minnesota Drought Monitor is here.

U.S. Drought Monitor. NOAA data continues to show exceptional drought conditions across the central and southern Plains, with extreme drought stretching from Nevada to Georgia. Click here to get more information.

Wide Area Of Nation Still Parched After Storm. The New York Times has more on (slight) relief from Isaac, and how much of the USA is still suffering through the worst drought since the mid-50s. Here's an excerpt: "The remnants of Hurricane Isaac that blew through the middle of the country over the weekend softened the worst drought in decades in some areas, but a large portion of the nation remains desiccated with ponds still too shallow to water cattle, fields too dusty for feeding and crops beyond the point of salvage, meteorologists and agriculture experts said Wednesday. Conditions have, in fact, worsened in some rain-starved regions untouched by the hurricane’s gray clouds, meteorologists said."

Graphic above: Drought's Footprint. "More than half of the country was under moderate to extreme drought in June, the largest area of the contiguous United States affected by such dryness in nearly 60 years. Nearly 1,300 counties across 29 states have been declared federal disaster areas. Areas under moderate to extreme drought in June of each year are shown in orange (above)" Source: New York Times.

Flash Flood. Jennifer Shutte snapped this photo of street flooding in Salisbury, Maryland Thursday afternoon, the result of slow-moving T-storms dumping out some 1-2" rains in a short period of time. Details from WBOC-TV.

Haboob! Another massive dust storm swept across Phoenix Thursday, the result of T-storm downdrafts whipping up sand and dust and suspending 1 mile overhead. Thanks to Dr. Matthew Pace for shooting some compelling footage, available on YouTube.

Moisture Imbalance. The 5-Day rainfall outlook (NOAA HPC) shows some 1-3" amounts from Indianapolis and Toledo to Detroit, another soggy bulls-eye near Tampa. Monsoon T-storms flare up over the desert southwest.

Active Fire Mapping. Here's a web page with updated wildfires around the USA, courtesy of USDA.

Hurricane Isaac 3-D Satellite Images Show Extent Of Flood Damage. I thought this was fascinating - a story from Huffington Post and Our Amazing Planet; here's an excerpt: "Hurricane Isaac sent sheets of rain from the sky and ocean waters surging ashore, inundating large regions of the Gulf Coast with devastating floods last week. Teams of scientists are already on the ground, using advanced laser-imaging technology to capture the storm's effects in 3D. Teams with the U.S. Geological Survey are using lidar (short for light detection and ranging) to help make intricately detailed topographic maps of the floodwaters Isaac brought to the hardest hit population centers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The scans capture not only the extent of the flooding, but also catalog damage to buildings, levees and other structures."

Image credit above: "A lidar scan, taken from the ground, of New Orleans' I-510 bridge taken on Aug. 31, 2012." USGS.

Hurricane Season Dilemma: To Stay Or To Go. Many locals take a wait and see attidude, often relying on the category of the hurricane to decide on whether to evacuate inland or wait it out. "Category 1? No big deal - I'll take my chances." But Isaac was a Category 1, a "minimal hurricane" (oxymoron) that produced Category 3-like damage and flooding, especially in the parishes outside of New Orleans. Here's an excerpt of an article at in New Orleans: "It was seven years ago that my life changed forever, just as many of us who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. And it was deja vu last week when Hurricane Isaac decided to pay us a visit and prolong its stay, leaving many without power for days, and unfortunately, entire communities without homes. When my husband suggested that we evacuate, I originally thought that he was overestimating the severity of what was then Tropical Storm Isaac. As I watched the newly formed Hurricane Isaac destroy power lines and homes from the comfort of a family member’s home the next day, I soon realized we had made the right decision."

Flood An Underestimated Risk. There is some interesting information, statistics and trends in this article from Insurance Networking News; here's a clip: "As Costa Rica sends rescue teams to an area hit yesterday by a magnitude 7.6 earthquake, risk modelers have more natural catastrophe data to contend with: flood loss. Flood losses are on a rapid upswing, according to a report issued today by Swiss Re. Affecting an estimated 500 million people worldwide annually, the increase in flood-related claims has been significant, notes Swiss Re’s new report, “Flood - an Underestimated Risk: Inspect, Inform, Insure.” According to Swiss Re’s data, in the 1970s annual flood-only related claims were $1-2 billion; in 2011, insured flood losses amounted to $15 billion." Photo: Dan Anderson, EPA.

Iowa's Wine Lovers Rejoice Over Crop. I've never tried a fine Iowa wine. Most of my wine comes out of a box, but I'll give a try - if you say so. Details from The Des Moines Register: "The drought may give wine aficionados a rare gift this holiday season. Iowa grape growers and wine experts say hot, dry weather has concentrated the grapes’ flavors, which will lead to unusually tasty reds and whites. “The quality of the crop is fantastic,” said Mike White, a viticulture field specialist at Iowa State University. “It’s some of best that I’ve seen.” But some shadows have fallen on the vines. A frost in April killed much of the grapes. The drought also produced smaller fruit. White predicts the volume of the grape harvest will fall by 30 percent."

Weekend Outlook. An Alberta Clipper may whip up a few Saturday PM showers, but dry weather should prevail across most of Minnesota. Sunday still appears sunnier, with less wind and highs well up into the 70s.

Souring Skies. After a sunny start clouds increased on Thursday, a few light showers by late afternoon and evening in the metro. Highs ranged from 66 at International Falls to 81 in the Twin Cities, 83 at St. Cloud and Redwood Falls.

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

FRIDAY: More clouds than sun, cool and brisk! Winds: NW 10-20. High: 67

FRIDAY NIGHT: Clearing, almost chilly. Low: 51 (40s outside the metro)

SATURDAY: Partly Sunny. Wisconsin showers by afternoon. High: 72

SUNDAY: Warm sun, less wind, the nicer day of the weekend. Winds: SW 5-10. Low: 53. High: 77

MONDAY: Summer flashback. Warm sun. Dew point: 51. Low: 58. High: 81

TUESDAY: More clouds, still lukewarm. Low: 59. High: near 80

WEDNESDAY: Blue sky, slightly cooler. Low: 57. High: 72

THURSDAY: Warm sun, as good as it gets. Low: 55. High: 78

Celestial Magic

One of the (many) things I love about living in Minnesota: a front row seat to the Northern Lights. Seeing ripples of red and green race across the northern sky conjurs up a rare, almost childlike sense of wonder. It's a mind-blowing experience.

There is still no way to predict the Aurora Borealis in advance, but with recent solar flares the probability of taking in a dazzling free show just went up.

I've had more luck in autumn than any other season, but you'll need to get away from metro light pollution, and give your eyes at least 15 minutes to adjust. Good luck.

A cooler front of Canadian heritage will be whistling thru the trees today, daytime temperatures stuck in the 60s, with a few lumpy stratocumulus clouds to convince you that it really is September. The sun comes out on Saturday; a clipper sparks a few PM showers east of the St. Croix. Sunday looks sunnier and nicer.

What a shock: no significant rain is in sight. 63 percent of Minnesota is "abnormally dry"; extreme drought pushing into southern counties.

According to State Climatologist Greg Spoden "some counties have missed an entire summer month's worth of rain since late June". No end to warm/dry in sight.

Climate Stories...

Arctic Ice Melt "Like Adding 20 Years Of CO2 Emissions." The BBC has the story (and video) - here's a clip: "The loss of Arctic ice is massively compounding the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, ice scientist Professor Peter Wadhams has told BBC Newsnight. White ice reflects more sunlight than open water, acting like a parasol. Melting of white Arctic ice, currently at its lowest level in recent history, is causing more absorption. Prof Wadhams calculates this absorption of the sun's rays is having an effect "the equivalent of about 20 years of additional CO2 being added by man".

Summer From Hell: Climate Change Makes Its Presence Known. The Energy Collective has the story; here's an excerpt: "The summer of 2012 has come to a close, but it won’t be forgotten anytime soon. It delivered one extreme weather event after another, from heat waves to freak storms, wildfires to drought. People lost their homes and livelihoods, yet even as they try to pick up the pieces, more powerful weather systems are looming on the horizon. Extreme weather is a hallmark of climate change. Scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other leading groups confirm that climate change is contributing to the frequency and power of 2012’s weather events. Climate change creates stronger storms, including hurricanes like Isaac, and more potent heat and drought."

Meteorologists Update Position On Climate Change. The story from; here's a segment of the article: "Updating a 2007 position statement, the American Meteorological Society released an updated Statement on Climate Change Aug. 27. In addition to providing background and a brief overview on how and why the global climate has changed in recent decades, the statement names human activities as the main cause of atmospheric and oceanic warming. “There is unequivocal evidence that Earth’s lower atmosphere, ocean and land surface warming; sea level is rising; and snow cover, mountain glaciers, and Arctic sea ice are shrinking,” the statement concludes. “The dominant cause of the warming since the 1950s is human activities. This scientific finding is based on a large and persuasive body of research.”

Timeline (Infographic) Showing Extreme Weather, Climate Change Link So Far In 2012. Huffington Post has the story (and timeline): "As the Gulf Coast assesses damage from Hurricane Isaac, food prices take a hit from the Midwest drought and the West continues to battle wildfires, the World Resources Institute has compiled a timeline of some of the extreme weather and climate events that have hit the world so far in 2012. As WRI's Kelly Levin notes, "While we have not performed analysis connecting any of these events to climate change, many of these occurrences are in line with what scientists have predicted in a warmer world. Plus, the science of attributing extreme events to human-induced warming has improved significantly."

How Do People Reject Climate Science? Here's an excerpt from an article at Australia's The Conversation: "In a previous article on The Conversation, Stephan Lewandowsky asked, why do people reject science? I’m going to take a slightly different angle and consider how people are able to reject climate science in the face of strong evidence. A growing body of research has found that when a person’s worldview is threatened by scientific evidence, they interpret the science in a biased manner. One issue where this influence is strongest is climate change. For supporters of an unregulated free market, regulating polluting industries to reduce global warming is so unpalatable that they are far more likely to reject that climate change is happening."

Photo credit above: "In spite of overwhelming scientific evidence for climate change, people find ways to reject that evidence if it does not fit with their world view. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center."

Democrats Mention Climate Change Once In Over 80 Speeches. Details from The Daily Caller: "CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Though the 2012 Democratic Party platform declares that the “national security threat from climate change is real, urgent, and severe,” it is apparently not urgent and severe enough to merit mention by speakers at the Democratic National Convention during the past two days. The Daily Caller reviewed the speech transcripts of the over 80 speakers who took the stage at the Time Warner Cable Arena here in Charlotte on Tuesday and Wednesday, and only one mentioned climate change — and even he only mentioned it in passing."

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