Sunday, September 2, 2012

Growing Thunder Risk (2012: warmest year on record for MSP)

86 F. high in the Twin Cities Saturday.
77 F. average high for September 1.
94 F. high on September 1, 2011.
60-degree dew points today will make it feel a bit more sticky out there.
Severe risk later today/tonight for western/central Minnesota.
Passing T-shower Labor Day in the metro area, but no all-day rains.

Thank You September. It's been the warmest year on record for much of Minnesota, temperatures 2-5 F. warmer than average. It's also been the warmest 12 months on record. Details below.

Slight Severe Threat. A few storms later today and tonight may exceed severe limits (especially with hail size) across central, western and northern Minnesota, according to SPC.

September 10. Date when hurricanes are most likely to strike the USA mainland. We are almost halfway thru hurricane season.

Twin Cities: Warmest Year To Date On Record. 2012 is turning out warmer, to date, than 1987 or 2006, the previous records for warmest years. St. Cloud and Eau Claire are also having their warmest year. Details from the Twin Cities NWS.

Meteorological Summer. Temperatures from June 1 thru the end of August ran 3.5 F. warmer than average in the metro, nearly 3" drier than average. Source: Twin Cities NWS.

Growing Fire Danger. The Minnesota DNR is tracking very high fire danger over far northern Minnesota; burning restrictions are in place, statewide. (upper right).

Hurricane Isaac Storm Surge Reversed Flow Of Mississippi River. Just when you thought you'd read everything about Isaac, along comes this story from The Christian Science Monitor; here's an excerpt: "As hurricane Isaac reached southeastern Louisiana as a Category 1 storm earlier this week, it did something unusual to the Mississippi River: It threw the river into reverse. For nearly 24 hours, according to the US Geological Survey, Isaac's storm surge drove upriver at a pace nearly 50 percent faster than the downstream flow. This backflow produced a crest some 10 feet above the river's prestorm height at Belle Chasse, La., in flood-beleaguered Plaquemines Parish southeast of New Orleans. The surge added eight feet to the river's height at Baton Rouge, father north. Isaac had help. A scorching, rain-starved summer in the middle of the country sent river levels to lows not seen since a similar drought struck the region in 1998, easing the Mississippi's flow."

Photo credit above: "High winds from hurricane Isaac toppled signs and caused flooding and power outages in New Orleans Wednesday." Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor
We're Almost Over The Hurricane Hump For This Storm Season. The date you probably want to avoid a Caribbean cruise is September 10. That's the day when landfalling hurricanes are most likely to strike the USA. More details from The Houston Chronicle: "When Tropical Storm Leslie developed Thursday, this Atlantic hurricane season jumped ahead of the record-setting 2005 season in its count of named storms. That's because the 12th named storm in 2005, Tropical Storm Lee, didn't form until Aug. 31. But the comparison ends there. Just like Hurricane Isaac was no Katrina, most of this year's other tropical storms and hurricanes have been pale imitations of their 2005 counterparts. That year, in July alone, Category 4 Hurricane Dennis became the strongest hurricane ever in July. A week later, Emily became the first Category 5 hurricane in July."

$2 billion in damage from Hurricane Isaac? Details from Bloomberg Businessweek below.

"...The fact is, many people lack the resources to escape. Having no money, no mode of transportation and no friends or family in safe places means no choice but to weather the storm." - from an NBC News story on why some people won't (or can't) evacuate to a safe spot before a hurricane.

Photo credit above: "A man makes his way down a flooded street in a boat in the aftermath of Isaac Friday, Aug. 31, 2012, in Ironton, La. Isaac is now a tropical depression, with the center on track to cross Arkansas on Friday and southern Missouri on Friday night, spreading rain through the regions." (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Hurricane Isaac May Cost Insurers $2 Billion; AIR Says. Details from Bloomberg Businessweek; here's an excerpt: "Isaac, the storm drenching Arkansas after making landfall in Louisiana as a hurricane, may cost insurers as much as $2 billion in the U.S., risk-modeling firm AIR Worldwide said. The industry’s claims costs, including wind and storm-surge damage to residential, commercial and industrial onshore properties, will be at least $700 million, the Boston-based firm said today in an e-mailed statement. The estimates are a fraction of the $41.1 billion cost for Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 storm that struck Louisiana and caused flooding in New Orleans. Hurricane Irene, which lashed the U.S. East Coast last year, cost $4.3 billion."

Photo credit above: "Two sailboats, the Sweet Dreams, foreground and the Caribe, were swept from their docks by Hurricane Isaac to the parking lot in front and beside Shaggy's at Pass Christian, Mississipi, on Friday, August 31, 2012." (Tim Isbell/Biloxi Sun Herald/MCT)

149 Photos Capture Isaac's Fury. Huffington Post has a good recap, and there's only so much you can convey about a hurricane via text. The photos tell the story in a way no narrative ever will. Many locals, officials and members of the media didn't pay Isaac the respect it was due. Intensity (the "category" of the storm) is important when estimating storm surge coming ashore, but in the end the track and forward speed of the storm is even more important when calculating the duration of the storm surge and total rainfall amounts. Isaac stalled, stuttered and sputtered, hitting Louisiana twice as a Category 1 hurricane, but that big, lazy loop prolonged the extreme rains (and 8-12 foot storm surge), allowing a Category 1 storm to create damage more typically found in a Category 2-3 hurricane. More details: "As Gulf Coast states began to assess the damage from Hurricane Isaac, photos and video started to trickle in of the devastation. Although the death toll has been minimal compared to Hurricane Katrina, fatalities have occurred, and damage was extensive in some regions. Rising floodwaters from Isaac have forced thousands of evacuations, catching many by surprise, reported the Associated Press. Pictures of Isaac's impact reveal residents and homes caught in flood conditions. Up to half of Louisiana was left powerless on Thursday, and hundreds of thousands were in the dark in Mississippi."

Flooding Spreads North. Jalen Brown captured this photo of severe flooding at Pine Bluffs, Arkansas Friday. Pic via Twitter.

Isaac Rainfall Totals. NOAA data shows over 20" for metro New Orleans. Vero Beach, Florida picked up 16.6" over 4 days.

Tropical Swirl. Yes, those high clouds spreading into southeastern Minnesota are the forerunners of "Isaac", which has lost all tropical characteristics. Rain may spread as far north as Iowa and southern Wisconsin, the best chance of flooding from Missouri into central Illinois. IR satellite image: Naval Research Lab.

Isaac: Equal Opportunity Soaker. NOAA HPC prints out some 3-4"+ rainfall amounts from the Tennessee Valley into the Mid Atlantic region and New England by Friday, spiked by the soggy remnants of Isaac.

Billion Dollar Flood-Protection System Around New Orleans Proves Reliable. It passed the first test, a Category 1 hurricane. Will it withstand a Category 4 or 5? We'll see, but so far so good, as reported by The Washington Post; here's an excerpt: "Seven years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers was desperately trying to plug breaches in the city’s broken and busted levee system. Since those catastrophic days, the Army Corps has worked at breakneck speed — and at a cost of billions of dollars — to install new floodgates, pumps, floodwalls and levees across New Orleans. The work paid off. A day after Isaac hit New Orleans on the seventh anniversary of Katrina, officials said the 130-mile flood protection system did its job."

Photo credit above: Vincent Laforet, Pool, File - Associated Press). "In this Aug. 30, 2005 photo, floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina pour through a levee along Innter Harbor Navigational Canal near downtown New Orleans, LA, a day after Katrina passed through the city."

Hurricanes Don't Scare Natural Gas Anymore. Fracking has changed the equation; gas and oil prices no longer spike (as much) when a hurricane is churning into the Gulf of Mexico, littered with drilling rigs. Marketwatch explains: "Even with much of the Gulf of Mexico’s energy production shut down as Hurricane Isaac approached the region earlier this week, the natural-gas market barely blinked — and that’s exactly what analysts said would happen. “Natural gas did not react like it has in previous storms because, with the rapid development of shale gas over the last several years, the Gulf is increasingly less important to overall gas supply,” said Kim Pacanovsky, managing director and senior research analyst for oil and gas at MLV & Co. in New York. As of Thursday, about 72.5% of the current daily natural-gas production in the Gulf was shut-in because of Isaac, according to U.S. government data. Price action in natural-gas market over the past few days, however, indicates just how little concern the market has for the production disruption."

Storm Psychology: Why Do Some People Stay Behind? Great question, and NBC News does a good job providing credible reasons why many people can't (or won't) evacuate to higher ground in advance of a hurricane. Here's an excerpt: "It’s the question so many of us have while watching news coverage of a hurricane or tropical storm like Isaac: Who are these people who don’t leave home even as an angry storm is advancing – and what are they thinking?! The short answer: For some, the up-and-leaving idea isn’t as easy as it sounds to those of us watching from a safe and dry distance. Actually, a 2009 article published in the journal Psychological Science sought to examine the reasons some people won’t evacuate, despite the urging or even mandates of city and state officials, by asking a group who would know: Hurricane Katrina survivors who weathered the storm at home."

Photo credit above: "Tony Miranda takes a break from clearing out his home after it was flooded by Hurricane Isaac in LaPlace, La., Friday Aug. 31, 2012." (AP Photo/The Advocate. Arthur D. Lauck)

Magnificent Eruption On The Sun. has the details; here's an excerpt: "A filament of magnetism curling around the sun's southeastern limb erupted on August 31st, producing a coronal mass ejection (CME), a C8-class solar flare, and one of the most beautiful movies ever recorded by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory."
So Far So GoodMy expectations go down on major holiday weekends, although the odds of success are certainly higher on Labor Day weekend than Memorial Day or the 4th. The atmosphere is more stable (cooling at the surface, still fairly warm aloft) - so the odds of T-storms come down by late August and September. This is the month to get married outdoors, btw. Forget June. Unless you're already married, in which case your (old) spouse may not be happy about a September wedding. Under another perfect sky Saturday highs ranged from 72 at Grand Marais to 85 St. Cloud, 86 Twin Cities and 88 Redwood Falls.

Paul's Star Tribune Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota

TODAY: Sticky sun. Dew point: 61. A few strong storms far northern/western MN by afternoon. Winds: South 10-15. High: 87

SUNDAY NIGHT: More clouds, slight chance of a shower or T-storm. Low: 70

LABOR DAY: Some sun, stray T-storm possible, still muggy. Dew point: 63. High: 88

TUESDAY: T-storms, then warm sun. Low: 69. High: 84

WEDNESDAY: Clearing, turning cooler and less humid. Dew point: 53. Low: 63. High: 78

THURSDAY: Plenty of sun, comfortable. Low: 58. High: 75

FRIDAY: Clouds increase, probably dry. Low: 56. High: 74

SATURDAY: Intervals of sun, September-like. Low: 57. High: 73

Weather on Hold

When people live in other, less fortunate parts of America ask me what Minnesota is like I invite them to the State Fair. Nothing sums up our agrarian, lake-centric culture better than strolling & munching your way down Dan Patch Avenue.

After a heart-straining jolt of sugar & grease some people just can't help but speak their minds.
My earliest memory from my KARE at the fair: " look better on TV!" 

Thank you ma'am. May I have another?

I'm looking forward to loitering at the Star Tribune booth this afternoon. I'm hoping warm sun and a lack of purple blobs on Doppler will keep natives in an agreeable mood.

While the soggy dregs of Isaac soak the Ohio Valley we enjoy sticky sun; dew points rising into the 60s, with highs ranging from 85-90. Not bad. A weak frontal boundary sparks a stray T-shower tonight and Monday, more numerous T-storms Tuesday, before a puff of Canadian air cools us off the latter half of the week.

We're heading into fire season; a high risk in the metro, very high up north.

September 1, 1894: an area the size of the Twin Cities metro scorches Hinckley, killing nearly 800 people; the deadliest blaze in Minnesota history. 

Since then we've been very lucky.

Climate Stories....

New AMS Statement on Climate Change. Here are more details (and the complete text from AMS) courtesy of The American Geophysical Union Blog: "The AMS has released it’s updated statement on climate change, and as expected, it is considerably more direct than the previous one issued in 2007. This is no surprise since the last 5 years have seen a remarkable increase in understanding, along with 5 more years of observations and measurements. Full disclosure here: I’ve been a proud member of the American Meteorological Society for around 35 years. I also serve on the AMS Committee for Station Science. For someone wanting a non-political look at what we know, I highly recommend reading the statement. It’s well done and to be honest on the conservative side. A good example is the portion that talks about sea level rise of 10-28 inches. If sea level continues to rise only at the rate it is rising now it will exceed 10 inches. The next  IPCC summary of the science will (from everything I’ve read over the past year or so) forecast a likely rise of over a foot by the end of this century. "

Climate Change In The Great Lakes. Here's an interesting infographic from Circle of Blue Waternews.

Is Geoengineering The Answer To Climate Change? Tinkering with the atmosphere - what can possibly go wrong? Here's an excerpt of an interesting article at Smithsonian Magazine: "Climate change used to be thought of as a long-term worry; now, there’s good reason to believe we’re already encountering its effects. As the problem grows more urgent, some say we ought to take a radical approach: Instead of struggling in vain to limit greenhouse gas emissions, we should try to engineer systemsto directly stop the warming of the planet. This approach is known as geoengineering, and it might be the most controversial area in climate science. The term encompasses a wide variety of techniques. One company tried to fertilize the ocean with iron, to encourage the growth of algae to absorb excess carbon dioxide. Other scientists have suggested spraying clouds with seawater to increase their whiteness—and thus reflectivity—reducing warming by bouncing light back out to space. The U.S. government has even considered gigantic, sun-blocking mirrors in outer space as a last-ditch option if climate change hits a tipping point."

Photo credit above: "Geoengineering could replicate the cooling effects of a massive volcanic eruption as a tool to reduce climate change." Photo via Wikimedia Commons

GOP Platform Highlights The Party's Abrupt Shift On Energy, Climate. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "Over the past four years, the Republican Party has undergone a fairly dramatic shift in its approach to energy and environmental issues. Global warming has disappeared entirely from the party’s list of concerns. Clean energy has become an afterthought. Fossil fuels loom larger than ever. And one way to see this shift clearly is to compare the party’s 2008 and 2012 platforms. It may seem difficult to believe now, but back in 2008, the Republican Party’s platform (pdf) had a long and detailed section on “Addressing Climate Change Responsibly.” Here’s how it opened:
"The same human economic activity that has brought freedom and opportunity to billions has also increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. While the scope and longterm consequences of this are the subject of ongoing scientific research, common sense dictates that the United States should take measured and reasonable steps today to reduce any impact on the environment. Those steps, if consistent with our global competitiveness will also be good for our national security, our energy independence, and our economy."
Photo credit above: "No longer a Republican concern." (JOHN MCCONNICO / AP)

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