Saturday, October 20, 2012

Taste of Indian Summer (why Republicans are praying for storms on Election Day 2012)

54 F. high in the Twin Cities Saturday. Morning clouds and fog kept afternoon highs a few degrees cooler than expected.
56 F. average high for October 20.
55 F. high on October 20, 2011.

.03" rain predicted for the Twin Cities over the next 84 hours (NAM model). The drought lingers on.

Indian Summer Alert. The best chance of 70-degree afternoon warmth: today, again Wednesday. Get your leaf-raking done today; next weekend will definitely feel like November - 30 degrees cooler than today.

Warmer, drier bias lingering into February for Minnesota? Latest winter outlook from NOAA below.
This is one of the most challenging outlooks we’ve produced in recent years because El Niño decided not to show up as expected,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. - from a NOAA update below.

21 of 28 counties served by the La Crosse, Wisconsin National Weather Service have been declared Natural Disaster Areas due to the growing drought. Details below.

When In A Drought...Don't Predict Rain. Here's the 12 km. NAM forecast for total rainfall thru Wednesday morning at 7 am; significant rain sweeping north across Ontario, Canada, only a little light rain for far southeastern Minnesota and parts of the Red River Valley. It's amazing how persistent this dry pattern has been, especially for eastern Minnesota in recent months.

"...Their paper, “The Republicans Should Pray for Rain: Weather, Turnout, and Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections” confirmed the conventional wisdom that weather does affect voter turnout, bad weather benefits Republicans and most interestingly, two presidential elections in the last 60 years may have had different results had the weather been different..." - excerpt from a story focused on the impact of weather on presidential elections over the years, details and links below. Image above:

Deer-Hunting Opener Outlook? No, it won't be this mild next weekend, in fact there's a good chance highs will be in the 30s with a chance of snow flurries, maybe a dusting or coating of slush up north for tracking. Details below.

Orionid Meteor Shower Peaking. has the details; here's an excerpt: "...Earth is passing through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, source of the annual Orionid meteor shower. Forecasters expect ~25 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on Oct. 21st. No matter where you live, the best time to look is during the dark hours before sunrise on Sunday morning. Observers in both hemispheres can see this shower. [video] [full story] [NASA Chat] [meteor radar] [sky map] On Oct. 19th, as Earth was making first contact with the debris stream, NASA's All-sky Fireball Network recorded 10 Orionid fireballs over the southern USA..." Photo above: Reuters.

Getting Better. If the sun comes out fairly quickly during the morning and midday hours we should see highs in the mid to upper 60s, possibly brushing 70 over the south metro with low to mid 70s south and west of the Twin Cities. Unseasonably mild weather spills over into midweek, followed by a Novemberlike smack by late week. Graph: Iowa State.

4 Mild Days, Then Reality Sets In. The ECMWF keeps us mild into midweek; Wednesday looks like the warmest day with the best chance of 70-degree highs nearby. The best chance of (light) rain comes Monday, again Wednesday - when there may be enough instability for a few T-showers. Enjoy the mild spell because highs may hold in the 30s to near 40 next weekend.

Today's Weather Map. The WRF model shows a dry Sunday for most of America, a few light showers over northern New England and the Pacific Northwest coast. Even Florida clears out as high pressure spreads east.

Elusive El Nino Challenges NOAA's 2012 U.S. Winter Outlook. The on-again, off-again El Nino warming of Pacific Ocean water is looking shaky, the odds now close to 50/50, basically a coin-flip. So NOAA has tweaked the winter outlook from December thru February - here's an excerpt of a longer explanation: "The western half of the continental U.S. and central and northern Alaska could be in for a warmer-than-average winter, while most of Florida might be colder-than-normal December through February, according to NOAA’s annual Winter Outlook announced today from the agency’s new Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in College Park, Md. Forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center say a wavering El Niño, expected to have developed by now, makes this year’s winter outlook less certain than previous years. 

“This is one of the most challenging outlooks we’ve produced in recent years because El Niño decided not to show up as expected,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “In fact, it stalled out last month, leaving neutral conditions in place in the tropical Pacific.” When El Niño is present, warmer ocean water in the equatorial Pacific shifts the patterns of tropical rainfall that in turn influence the strength and position of the jetstream and storms over the Pacific Ocean and United States. This climate pattern gives seasonal forecasters confidence in how the U.S. winter will unfold. An El Niño watch remains in effect because there’s still a window for it to emerge..."

Meteorological Mirage or Reality: Heading Into a Stormier Pattern? When the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation), a measure of the capacity for the atmosphere to become stuck in a blocking pattern, goes negative, odds of significant storms tend to rise, especially east of the Mississippi. A strongly negative signal in late October and early November may signal a better chance of Gulf moisture reaching Minnesota. I hope it's not wishful thinking.

Drought Brings Pleas To Cut Back Water Use. Bill McAuliffe at The Star Tribune takes a closer look at Minnesota's growing drought and the potential need for water restrictions; here's an excerpt: "With rivers and rainfall approaching record low levels, state officials said Thursday they want homeowners to eliminate "nonessential" water use, such as lawn watering and car washing, and have told farmers to abide strictly by irrigation permits. In parts of the state, some residential wells have run dry or had flow reduced by commercial and residential neighbors, said Dave Leuthe, deputy director of Ecological and Water Resources at the Department of Natural Resources. Continued lack of rain could prompt the DNR, under terms of a drought action plan, to require specific water conservation targets for users, particularly cities. In recent weeks it has suspended 50 permits for surface water use by businesses, golf courses and parks departments across the state, though many have backup water sources..."

Infographic map details above: "The map below is based on data released each Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. The drought monitor combines numeric measures of drought and experts' best judgment into a weekly map. It is produced by the NDMC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and incorporates review from 300 climatologists, extension agents and others across the nation. Each week the previous map is revised based on rain, snow and other events, observers' reports of how drought is affecting crops, wildlife and other indicators."

Minnehaha "Falls". Lakes, rivers and streams are at historically low levels across much of Minnesota; here's a photo from Jeff Wheeler at The Star Tribune that sums up the state of our weather: "Step into Minnehaha Creek this fall and your feet won’t even get wet.And the thundering waterfall? Just a drip.With little rain, flow dwindled in late summer, and the dam that releases water from Lake Minnetonka into the creek was closed Aug. 20 to maintain the lake’s level.(Dam closings have happened before.) Contrast the gravel-bed look of today with June 2011, left,when heavy rain caused streams to swell near flood levels. The dangerous,muddy conditions didn’t keep tourists from venturing near the falls."

Drought Killing Young Trees Over Southeastern Minnesota. Here's an excerpt of a post from the La Crosse, Wisconsin office of the National Weather Service: "...Drought impacts include: 
  • River flows are well below normal. The flows were less than 20 percent of normal along the Bloody Run, Cedar, Little Cedar, Mississippi, Root, Turkey, Upper Iowa, Volga, and Zumbro South Fork.
  • Record low ground levels have been established within the past month near El Dorado, IA in Fayette County (17.33 feet below ground on September 23, 2012 - the previous record was 17.11 feet on February 6, 2009) and Fort McCoy Military Reservation in Monroe County (9.15 feet below ground on October 12, 2012 - the previous record was 8.62 feet on October 7, 1987).
  • Some young trees have died.  Young and recently planted trees died in Winona County in southeast Minnesota and Monroe, Adams, and Juneau counties in Wisconsin.
  • 21 of our 28 counties have been declared Natural Disaster Areas.  This includes:  Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Floyd, Howard, Mitchell, and Winneshiek counties in northeast Iowa; Fillmore, Houston, and Mower counties in southeast Minnesota; and Adams, Clark, Crawford, Grant, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Monroe, Richland, and Vernon counties in western Wisconsin."

Low Water Levels on Lake Superior. Here's a post from the Marquette office of the National Weather Service, via FB: "You may have heard that the Great Lakes water levels are below normal. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as of October 17, 2012, Lake Superior was at 600.69 feet, which is 1.41 feet below the long-term average of 602.1 ft and 0.1 feet below the all time record low for October of 600.7 ft set back in 1925. The other Great Lakes are also below normal and very near the all time record lows for October. Mean levels are calculated by averaging the best available guage data at report generation and are subject to change."

In Spite of Severe 2011, No Evidence That Tornadoes Are Getting Worse. There's an uptick in small, brief tornadoes, possibly due to better detection (Doppler) and more spotters out in the field looking for them, but according to this USA Today article, there is no evidence that major/severe tornadoes are on the rise, nationwide.

Study Shows How Prayer, Meditation Affect Brain Activity. I'm always on the lookout for stories, photos and commentary that make me do a double-take. Here's one that fits the bill from Huffington Post: "How does prayer and meditation affect brain activity? Dr. Andrew Newberg, MD is the Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomson Jefferson University Hospital and Medical College and he has studied the neuroscientific effect of religious and spiritual experiences for decades. In a video that recently aired on "Through the Wormhole" narrated by Morgan Freeman on the TV channel Science, Dr. Newberg explains that to study the effect of meditation and prayer on the brain, he injects his subjects with a harmless radioactive dye while they are deep in prayer / meditation. The dye migrates to the parts of the brain where the blood flow is the strongest, i.e,. to the most active part of the brain..."

Speaking of prayer:
Why Republicans Should "Pray For Rain". Here is the summary of a 2005 paper (pdf here); political science researchers conclude: "The relationship between bad weather and lower levels of voter turnout is widely espoused by media, political practitioners, and, perhaps, even political scientists. Yet, there is virtually no solid empirical evidence linking weather to voter participation. This paper provides an extensive test of the claim.We examine the effect of weather on voter turnout in 14 U.S. presidential elections. Using GIS interpolations, we employ meteorological data drawn from over 22,000 U.S. weather stations to provide election day estimates of rain and snow for each U.S. county. We find that, when compared to normal conditions, rain significantly reduces voter participation by a rate of just less than 1% per inch, while an inch of snowfall decreases turnout by almost .5%. Poor weather is also shown to benefit the Republican party’s vote share. Indeed, the weather may have contributed to two Electoral College outcomes, the 1960 and 2000 presidential elections."

A Chilly Hunting Opener? The extended GFS model shows highs in the 30s the first weekend of November, with a few tenths of an inch of precipitation. 850 mb temperatures range from -0 to -5 C, cold enough for wet snow, or possibly a rain-snow mix. Although I don't see a heavy snow accumulation for the metro (yet) I could still  envision some slush on the ground for tracking up north. Stay tuned...

Dakota Slush. Yes, it's getting closer. Over 8" of snow for the mountains of Wyoming and western Montana, a little slush for North Dakota by Thursday? GFS solution above courtesy of NOAA.

Could A Hurricane Ever Strike Southern California? With warming oceans the idea isn't as far-fetched as it might sound at first blush. Tropical storms have struck San Diego and L.A. before, a long time ago, so the odds aren't zero, but California residents probably shouldn't lose much sleep over this. Here's an excerpt of a NASA JPL story: "There's an old adage (with several variations) that California has four seasons: earthquake, fire, flood and drought. While Californians happily cede the title of Hurricane Capital of America to U.S. East and Gulf coasters, every once in a while, Mother Nature sends a reminder to Southern Californians that they are not completely immune to the whims of tropical cyclones. Typically, this takes the form of rainfall from the remnants of a tropical cyclone in the eastern Pacific, as happened recently when the remnants of Hurricane John brought rain and thunderstorms to parts of Southern California. But could a hurricane ever make landfall in Southern California? The answer, as it turns out, is yes, and no. While there has never been a documented case of a hurricane making landfall in California, the Golden State has had its share of run-ins and close calls with tropical cyclones. In fact, California has been affected by at least a few tropical cyclones in every decade since 1900. Over that timeframe, three of those storms brought gale-force winds to California: an unnamed California tropical storm in 1939, Kathleen in 1976 and Nora in 1997. But the primary threat from California tropical cyclones isn't winds or storm surge. It's rainfall -- sometimes torrential -- which has led to flooding, damage and, occasionally, casualties..."

Image credit above: "In September 1997, powerful Hurricane Linda, shown in this NASA rendering created with data from the NOAA GOES-9 satellite, was briefly forecast to strike Southern California, most likely as a tropical storm, as shown in the inset forecast track from the Naval Research Laboratory’s Marine Meteorology Division. The storm eventually turned westward away from land, but still brought rainfall to parts of Southern California and high surf." Image credit: NASA/NOAA/NRL

TV Viewers "Left In The Dark" About Flood Of Political Ads. As one political scientist explained to me "other countries give candidates free airtime. But not the USA, where stations and networks that take advantage of (free) spectrum, spectrum that belongs to everyone, and is licensed to broadcasters with the charge that they "serve the public interest", CHARGE politicians for the priviledge of reaching viewers over our nation's airwaves. The result is a money-treadmill that would make the Founding Fathers turn over in their graves. Candidates spend much of their time, not legislating, but raising money to fund negative attack-ads on television. The entire system is out of whack."

Maybe so. Here's an excerpt from Free Press: "On Monday, Free Press released Left in the Dark, an analysis of political advertising and local news coverage in five cities — Charlotte, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Milwaukee and Tampa — where ad spending has skyrocketed this year. With fewer than 45 days left until Election Day, Americans across the country are facing an unprecedented increase in political advertising on local stations. Media analysts project that $3.3 billion — money that pads the bank accounts of station owners — will be spent on television ads by Nov. 6. Left in the Dark investigates whether stations airing political ads are balancing out their often deceptive messages with local coverage of the role this money is playing in the 2012 elections..."

* cartoon: Richmond Times Dispatch.

"The Lost Wheels" on TPT Almanac. If you missed the live show Friday evening on KTCA, Channel 2, you can watch the replay here. I babbled on about the drought, but the highlight of the show (for dear old dad) was seeing my oldest son play lead guitar for an up and coming Twin Cities band. Am I a little biased? Yep, but I know good music when I hear it. You can hear some of the tracks on their new CD, "Chipper" at their home page. Hey, I'm hoping Walt supports me in my old age!

More Gray Than Blue. Visibilities fell close to zero in parts of the metro Saturday morning, a low sun angle prevented the fog and stratus cloud cover from burning off rapidly. There was some afternoon sun, enough for highs in the 50s statewide.

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

TODAY: Partly sunny, mild. Shower possible central and northern MN. Winds: S 10-15. High: 69

SUNDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy, still milder than average. Low: 49

MONDAY: Light rain arrives PM hours. High: 67

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy, still mild for late October. Low: 50. High: 68

WEDNESDAY: Last lukewarm day in sight. Passing shower, T-storm? Low: 55. High: 71

THURSDAY: Partly sunny, breezy and cooler. Low: 53. High: 56

FRIDAY: Clouds, drizzle. A bit raw. Low: 36. High: 48

SATURDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, brisk! Low: 29. High: 42

* photo above courtesy of WeatherNation TV meteorologist Todd Nelson.

The Weather Factor

"Governor Romney, might heavy rain or snow on Election Day give you an unfair edge at the polls?" That's one question Bob Schieffer won't be asking Monday. But weather may, in fact, be a factor on November 6.

A 2005 paper concludes "rain significantly reduces voter participation by a rate of just less than 1% per inch, while 1 inch of snowfall decreases turnout by almost .5%. The political science researchers wrote "poor weather is also shown to benefit the Republican Party's vote share." Translation: when the weather is lousy Democrats are more likely to stay home, unwilling or unable to fight the elements. Weather may have impacted two Electoral College outcomes, in 1960 & 2000.

Make the most of Indian Summer; the best shot at 70 today & Wednesday. A little rain falls Monday, again midweek, but not the drenching we need.

We cool down by late week; 7 days from today highs may be stuck in the 30s and low 40s. Halloween looks cool & dry (40s to near 50).

My two week outlook is riddled with doubt & uncertainty. Right now it looks like a rain/snow mix over far northern states on Election Day, showers for Florida, probably dry in most swing states.

Stay tuned.

Climate Stories...

The Print Media And Climate Change. Here's the conclusion to a post from Doug Craig at's "Climate of Change": "...Back in 2000, McCright and Dunlap examined "what they termed a 'conservative countermovement' to undermine climate change policy, (as) they explored its organization within right-wing think tanks, (and looked) first at its claims-making activities and then its organization and tactics. They highlighted the way such groups draw on scientific 'experts' linked to fossil fuel industries and concluded that 'our nation's failure to enact a significant climate policy is heavily influenced by the success of the conservative movement in challenging the legitimacy of global warming as a social problem.'" We have no intention of solving the climate crisis. Neither presidential candidate has uttered a word related to the topic in the two debates. And even more telling, the American media establishment is perfectly content to avoid the topic entirely. We know the laws of physics require that the climate continue to warm in response to our cataclysmic production of emissions, but the laws of politics and media require that we pretend this is not happening."

One Mother's Reaction To The Climate Science: "I'm As Angry As Hell And High Water". Think Progress has the story; here's an excerpt: "Over here at Moms Clean Air Force, I’ve been–I’ll admit it–profoundly depressed that the candidates have blown their chance to talk about the most important issue facing our planet. Climate Change. Two debates down. A moderator who says “Whoops! Ran out of time to ask about climate. So sorry!” Well, I’m sorry too. And I’m angry. Angry as hell and high water. Two debates about “domestic policy” and not one word has been uttered about the chaotic domestic weather we’ve been enduring. Not one word about our unreliable climate. Not one word about the pain and suffering visited upon millions of Americans because of runaway greenhouse gas pollution. Not one word about the ugly legacy we will leave our children...."

Eyes On The Earth. NASA has impressive on-line tools to be able visualize Earth's morphing climate, including real-time global tracking of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide (showing huge plumes of pollutants sweeping across China into the Pacific). The map above shows global temperatures from Friday. By downloading a JAVA applet you can manipulate all these data sets in 3-D. Very cool.

Why The Chill On Climate Change? Here's an excerpt of a thoughtful (on the money) Op-Ed at The Washington Post: "...Why does it matter that nobody is talking about climate change? Because if you accept that climate scientists are right about the warming of the atmosphere — as Obama does, and Romney basically seems to as well — then you understand that some big decisions will have to be made. You also understand that while there are some measures the United States could take unilaterally, carbon dioxide can never be controlled without the cooperation of other big emitters such as China, India and Brazil. You understand that this is an issue with complicated implications for global prosperity and security. A presidential campaign offers an opportunity to educate and engage the American people in the decisions that climate change will force us to make. Unfortunately, Obama and Romney have chosen to see this more as an opportunity to pretend that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an approaching train."

Climate Change: Journalism's Never-Ending Fight For Facts. Here's an excerpt of a story at The Guardian's Environment Blog: "The debate about climate change is dogged – possibly even defined – by its interminable, intractable tug of war over the "facts". A hand grenade is lobbed into no-man's land triggering a volley of return fire. But, when the dust settles, can anyone truly claim to have advanced their position? Of course, the art of "manufacturing doubt" has long been in the playbook of those hoping or needing to divert attention away from evidence. We saw it a generation ago with smoking, just as we see it today with climate change. But knowing how this blatant tactic is deployed doesn't make it any easier to nullify or deter. Compounding the problem is the speed at which "facts" can now spread unchallenged across the internet. Rebutting or contextualising inaccuracies takes expertise and, above all, time and energy..." Graphic above: NOAA NCDC.

The Sad History Of Climate Policy, According to David Brooks. Here's a clip from an important Ezra Klein Op-Ed at The Washington Post's Wonkblog: "...So, to summarize: Addressing climate change by pricing carbon — an idea Brooks supported then and supports now — was a bipartisan project in 2003. It became a partisan project because Al Gore thought it was important enough to make a documentary about. Republicans began opposing efforts to price carbon, in part because they hate Al Gore. That left funding renewables research as the only avenue for those worried about climate change. Funding renewables research means funding some projects that won’t work out, and some that might make Al Gore rich. This led to bad publicity that tarnished the whole program.  The passivity of Brooks’s conclusion is astonishing. This isn’t a story of overreach, misjudgements, and disappointment. It’s a story of Republicans putting raw partisanship and a dislike for Al Gore in front of the planet’s best interests. It’s a story, though Brooks doesn’t mention this, of conservatives building an alternative reality in which the science is unsettled, and no one really knows whether the planet is warming and, even if it is, whether humans have anything to do with it. It’s a story of Democrats being forced into a second and third-best policies that Republicans then use to press their political advantage..."

Photo credit: "Sorry, planet. You never should have let Al Gore make that documentary." (Joel Boh — Reuters)

* the David Brooks Op-Ed at The New York Times is here. Subscription may be required.

A Rogue Climate Experiment Outrages Scientists. An attempt at geo-engineering climate (without any permission?) Scientists gone rogue? Here's a clip from a New York Times article: "A California businessman chartered a fishing boat in July, loaded it with 100 tons of iron dust and cruised through Pacific waters off western Canada, spewing his cargo into the sea in an ecological experiment that has outraged scientists and government officials...Marine scientists and other experts have assailed the experiment as unscientific, irresponsible and probably in violation of those agreements, which are intended to prevent tampering with ocean ecosystems under the guise of trying to fight the effects of climate change..."

Interior Department Creates Climate Change Committee. Here's the intro to a story at Human Events: "The Obama administration is creating an advisory committee on climate change to advise the federal government on future operations. The Interior Department announced the new bureaucracy in a recent federal registry notice along with a call for nominations by Nov. 19 to seat the 25-member board. The notice specifically states membership will be comprised of state and local government employees, non-governmental organizations, Native American tribes, academia, individual landowners and business interests...."

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