Tuesday, May 7, 2013

More Big Swings (has record melting of Arctic ice knocked the jet stream out of alignment, sparking more extremes?)

78 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.

67 F. average high on May 7.

66 F. high on May 7, 2012.

.41" rain predicted by Thursday evening (00z NAM).

Light jackets required by Saturday; winds gust over 20 mph.

80s by next Tuesday.

Jet stream 2.0

People are asking about recent weather extremes: record drought to historic floods, virtually overnight - 18" snows in May? "Is this the new normal?" Time will tell, but researchers increasingly see a link with recent melting in the Arctic. If you've seen the documentary film "Chasing Ice" you know what I'm referring to: 1.3 million square miles of ice lost in 30 years. Warming at the top of the world may be reducing temperature contrasts, turning the jet stream into a "sluggish estuary", according to Rutgers researcher Jennifer Francis.

As jet stream winds slow weather patterns can slow down and even stall, with more of a north-south component to wind patterns evident since record melting in 2012. Details below.

A rumble of thunder today gives way to light rain Thursday. A gusty cool front arrives Saturday; highs in the 50s with a rising barometer. Not sure the walleye will be biting, but it's worth a shot.
Mother's Day looks better: bright sun, less wind - highs near 60F. No accumulating snow in sight.
Models hint at 80s next Tuesday, but no sustained heat or humidity is brewing either. A big silver lining: May 8 and there have been no severe storms near the metro yet.
Fishing Opener Weather Over The Years. Pete Boulay at the Minnesota Climatology Working Group has a great overview of past weather for Minnesota's Fishing Opener; here's an excerpt: "Minnesota's Fishing Opener weather is typified by partly cloudy to cloudy skies, morning temperatures in the low 40's, and afternoon temperatures climbing to near 70. Three out of four years are free of measurable precipitation. A trace of snow has been reported in northern Minnesota on at least five of the last 64 fishing openers. On at least four occasions, some lakes were still frozen for the opener. Generally there is enough wind to be felt on the face, maybe enough to 'fly' a flag. Weather on Minnesota fishing opener dates is highly variable. 64 years of fishing opener weather data are summarized here to offer a glimpse of what is 'typical' and what is 'extreme'. 

Opening day temperatures have started as low as 24 degrees at International Falls (1996,2004), with freezing temperatures possible even in Minneapolis (31 degrees in 1979). On the warm side, St. Cloud saw 92 degrees in 1987, Minneapolis reported 91 in 1987, and International Falls reached 88 in 1977. The average early morning temperature varies from the high 30's in the northeast to the high 40's along the southern border. The average afternoon temperature generally ranges from the mid 60's along the northern border, to the low 70's in the extreme south. Along the shore of Lake Superior, highs are held in the mid 50's..."

Fishing Opener Weather Back To 1948. Sure, it's more than you ever wanted to know, but if you're really bored, troll through this page from The Minnesota Climatology Working Group to see how much worse it could be this weekend.

Governor's Fishing Opener. The Minnesota Historical Society has more details on why our governors probably live in mortal dread of The Fishing Opener.

May (Mostly). ECMWF data suggests Thursday may be a little wetter than today; skies dry out Friday - a few fleeting showers Friday night as cooler air arrives. Saturday should be the chilliest day: 50s south and some upper 40s far north. Winds ease Sunday with bright sun and highs in the mid 50s to near 60F. The Euro suggests 80s by Tuesday, then cooling off a bit the latter half of next week.

Slight Relapse. We cool off over the weekend, but the U.S. models agree with the ECMWF simulation, showing a nice, almost summerlike spike in temperature by Tuesday. Graphic: Iowa State.

84 Hour NAM Model. Pacific moisture (that helped to quench widlfires in California) will spread into Minnesota and the rest of the Upper Midwest today; a few claps of thunder possible. Showers spread up the east coast from a weakening cut-off low. By Saturday a shot of chilly air is poised to sweep into the Upper Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes. No, don't pack away the light jackets just yet.

Slight Severe Risk. Hail and isolated tornadoes are possible later today from Kansas into western Oklahoma and central Texas. Thursday the risk remains from Dallas to Oklahoma City; another risk area from St. Louis to Indianapolis and Detroit. Source: NOAA SPC.

Warming Trend. The European model forecast for midday Tuesday (courtesy of WSI) shows a surge of warm air pushing into southern and central Minnesota. Assuming the sun is out we should have no problem topping 80F, followed by a cooler front by Wednesday.

Why Our Turbulent Weather Is Getting Even Harder To Predict. Amen to that. Changes in the Arctic may be having a ripple effect at lower latitudes, as described in this article at The Guardian; here's an excerpt: ..."As the Arctic heats up disproportionately, so does the atmosphere at the north pole and as it warms up, it rises. The net effect has been to erode the gradient between the top of the atmosphere over the tropics and the top of the atmosphere over the Arctic. Less air pours down towards the north pole and less air is whipped up by Earth's rotation to form the jet stream. It is becoming less of a stream and is behaving more like a sluggish estuary that is meandering across the upper atmosphere at middle latitudes." The effects of this meandering are now being felt. As the jet stream slows, weather patterns tend to stick where they are for longer. In addition, the modest waves in the stream have increased in amplitude so that they curve north and south more frequently, bringing more weather systems northwards and southwards. Hence the cold conditions that have been brought south over Britain and which have persisted for so long..." (Photo: Kevin Gould, NASA Earth Observatory).

This Isn't The Weather We Grew Up With. Everyone wants a nice, tidy, 10 second TV soundbite explanation for why our weather has gone mad. Connecting the dots is a bit more complicated than that, but here's a good place to start, a story at The Guardian, co-authored by University of St. Thomas climate scientist John Abraham. Here's an excerpt: "What does this mean to us? It means that we shouldn't be surprised to see more severe weather that lasts for longer durations. Our weather can be expected to whiplash from one extreme to another. In the U.S. we are seeing some evidence of this. Alternating wet, snowy winters and warm non-winters. Summers of either extreme heat and drought – or unbelievable flooding. But don't just take my word for it. A leading researcher in this area, Dr. Jennifer Francis says,
"The Arctic is warming two-to-three times faster than the rest of the northern hemisphere -- the loss of sea ice, spring snow cover, increased Greenland melting, and permafrost degradation are all symptoms of and contributors to this warming. It's inconceivable that a change of this scale and magnitude will not have substantial impacts on the atmosphere, ocean, and land both within the Arctic and also beyond the Arctic where millions of people live. These impacts will affect not only the physical system -- such as weather patterns and ocean circulation -- but also life on land and in the ocean. Exactly how these effects play out is a wide-open topic of research..."
Photo credit above: Climate Nexus.

Farmers Whipsawed By Drought, Then Rain Across Region. Here's an excerpt from St. Louis Today: "Farmers had crossed their fingers and said their prayers. But then they got what they wanted. A decimating drought last year ravaged the country’s corn crop and had farmers nervously hoping for a snowy winter or rainy spring to replenish parched farmland. But now, after weeks of above-average rain, much of the nation’s corn belt is a muddy mess, leaving farmers frustrated and planting weeks behind schedule, potentially cutting into this year’s expected record crop. “It’s just mud out there. There’s no chance, whatsoever, of getting anything done,” said Greg Guenther, who grows corn east of Belleville. “Everyone’s worried and annoyed, because it really should be in the ground, and we should be planting beans by now. Instead we’re just looking at muddy fields...”

Photo credit above: "Water covers the intersection of Illinois State Route 100 and Route 3 in Grafton, Illinois, on April 23, 2013." (Derik Holtmann/Belleville News-Democrat/MCT)

The Government Is Spending Way More On Disaster Relief Than Anybody Thought. There is no Magic Money Genie - at some point the cost of all these disasters trickle down to all of us. The Washington Post Reports: "Hurricanes, floods and droughts are putting an increasingly large strain on the federal budget. A new report out Monday from the Center for American Progress finds that Congress spent at least $136 billion on disaster relief between 2011 and 2013. That works out to $400 per household per year. And those costs could rise in the years ahead — particularly if climate change leads to more frequent extreme weather. But the most striking part of the report? No one in the government even knew the full amount that Congress had been spending on disaster relief — not the Federal Emergency Management Agency, nor the Office of Management and Budget. The authors had to pore over all the appropriations bills and disaster-relief supplementals that Congress had passed between fiscal year 2011 and fiscal year 2013 to make an estimate..."

Photo credit: "As storm cleanup continues in the Rockaways neightborhood of New York, a man walks by a piece of the Rockaways boardwalk atop a car." (Kathy Willens / AP)

Minnesota's Deadliest Tornadoes. The Twin Cities National Weather Service has a comprehensive summary of the May 6, 1965 tornado outbreak with spun up F-4 tornadoes in the immediate metro. Fridley was hit the hardest (by two separate F-4 twisters; winds approaching 200 mph). Here's an excerpt: "The worst tornadoes in Twin Cities history occurred in 1965, with five tornadoes sweeping across the western and northern portions of the 7-county region, and a sixth tornado just outside the metropolitan area. Four tornadoes were rated F4, one was an F3, and the other produced F2 damage. Thirteen people were killed and 683 injured. Many more would have been killed had it not been for the warnings of the U.S. Weather Bureau, local officials, and the outstanding communications by local radio and television stations. Many credit the announcers of WCCO-AM with saving countless lives. It was also the first time in Twin Cities history that civil defense sirens were used for severe weather...."

Image credit upper left: "A photo taken by Minnetonka resident H. B. Milligan of a tornado crossing to the west of the junction of Hwy 7 and 101 on May 6, 1965. It is believed that this was the tornado that touched down in Chanhassen at 6:27 p.m. and dissipated in Deephaven at 6:43 pm. The photo was published in July 1965 by the Minneapolis Tribune as part of the "Photos of the Week" feature, and photographers received a $5 award."

Image credit upper right: "Radar footage from 1965 was recently discovered, and the 35mm film was converted to digital format, although there was no method available to us other than a somewhat crude technique.  So we present them "as is," with little indication of how distant the storm was from the radar, or without any map backgrounds.  It will take quite some time, but we hope some day to assign high resolution map backgrounds and possibly filter the radar echoes to highlight the most important storms.  This will allow us to study the event in greater detail and learn important lessons from this historic tornado outbreak. The clock uses 24 hour timing, and is in Central Standard Time.  For example, 1800 would be 6:00 p.m. CST, and 2100 would be 9:00 p.m. CST."

Warn On Forecast: Future of Weather Warnings. A 30-40 minute "Tornado Alert"? It's possible within the next 4-6 years. Here's a good overview of NOAA's plans for tornado and severe storm prediction in the years ahead from KTBX.com: "...He's going about it by working on research that will hopefully bring on a process called "Warn on Forecast." The idea is to forecast an individual storm from before the time it becomes severe through an hour in the future. Using a percentage basis, the theory is that a computer model should be able to give us an idea where a tornado will be likely and how it will move within that hour. After 5 minutes time, that same model will recreate the forecast, taking in the newest data and radar scans, and produce another updated forecast. Should a tornado be possible, the percentage and confidence will increase and forecasters should be able to issue a warning well ahead of the severe weather event happening..."

Hurricane Season Countdown: What We Learned In 2012. Sandy was sobering on many levels. It turns out there may be a better way to communicate the risk posed by a specific hurricane than the Saffir-Simpson scale. Here's an overview of today's Climate Matters video clip: "Meteorologist Paul Douglas previews the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season which is just a few weeks away. Learn about a new scale called TIKE that could compliment the Saffir-Simpson Scale."

Scientists Develop New Way Of Classifying Hurricanes. What is the "TIKE Index" and why should you care? Andrew Freedman at Climate Central reports on a new (and more accurate) way to measure the full impact of hurricanes and their storm surges - the most damaging and deadly component of these massive tropical systems. Here's an excerpt: "...Now, a new study, published in the journal Monthly Weather Review by scientists from Florida State University, proposes a new metric that aims to complement Saffer-Simpson and other recently developed scales by taking into account a storm's intensity, duration, and size. The metric, known as "Track Integrated Kinetic Energy", or TIKE, builds from an existing measure of storm integrated kinetic energy (IKE), which was developed in 2007..."

Graphic credit above: "Hurricane Sandy had a massive tropical storm force wind field that at one point spanned the entire East Coast from North Carolina to Massachusetts." Credit: National Hurricane Center.

2012 Shows How Storm Predictions Can Miss The Mark. Hurricane track forecasts are good, and getting better. Hurricane intensity projections? Much more problematic. Here's an excerpt from a story at The Herald Tribune: "..As predictions go, 2012 was a good year — the NHC had a record-low margin of error after verifying track predictions against the actual path of storms. "Two-thousand twelve was a successful year, no matter how you look at it," National Hurricane Center specialist John Cangialosi told conference attendees. But calculating storm intensity proved less reliable, and when the models were off, the consequent devastation to unsuspecting coastal areas overshadowed any statistical victory. "We do still make some occasional, big-time mistakes," he added. "There's no better way to see that than to look at last year..."

Photo credit above: "Motorists drive through a flooded section of Beach Road near Siesta Key Public Beach on une 28, 2012 after rain from Tropical Storm Debby filled streets and parking lots with water on the Sarasota barrier island." HERALD-TRIBUNE ARCHIVE / 2012 / ELAINE LITHERLAND

Hurricane Center Director: Water, Not Wind, Caused Most Serious Problems In 2012 Storm Season. Never underestimate the power of rapidly moving water. People tend to fixate on a hurricane's "category" (1-5) and wind speeds, when what they should really be focused on is storm surge potential. Here's an excerpt from AP and The Washington Post: "Last year’s hurricane season drove home some big lessons, the nation’s chief hurricane forecaster said Tuesday: Storm surge and flooding are dangerous and difficult to predict, and sometimes it’s even harder to communicate that sense of urgency to the public. It wasn’t just high winds that posed a threat and caused damage, said National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb, who joined Florida’s emergency managers in Fort Lauderdale at the annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference. “2012 was all about water, water, water. Debby, Isaac, Sandy,” Knabb said. “It was storm surge from the ocean, it was inland flooding, it was river flooding...”

Photo credit above: J Pat Carter - Associated Press. "National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb talks, Tuesday, May 7, 2013 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla, about the lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy and expectations for the Atlantic storm season that begins June 1..."

In The Market For A Flying Car? Looks like science fiction may become a reality in the very near future. Check out this article at gizmag.com: "Although countless small companies have tried to commercially develop flying cars over the past several decades, we’re still not seeing Blade Runner-esque vehicles cruising over our rooftops ... yet. Terrafugia is one of the groups currently trying to change that situation – a fully-functioning prototype of its Transition fixed-wing “roadable airplane” is currently undergoing flight tests, and was recently cleared for civilian use by the US Federal Aviation Authority. It still requires a runway for take-off and landing, though, which kind of clashes with many peoples’ flying car fantasies. Well, today Terrafugia announced its plans for a hybrid-drive vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) vehicle, known as the TF-X..."

Photo credit above: "Terrafugia has announced its plans to develop a vertical-take-off-and-landing flying car, known as the TF-X." (Image: Terrafugia)

China's Architecture Just Keeps Getting More Bizarre. Here's an excerpt from an article at Quartz: "...Bizarre buildings have increasingly been piercing China’s skylines, earning the country a reputation for being “a playground for bad design.” Unattractive Chinese buildings have become so commonplace that a Chinese architectural firm, Archcy, has started surveying residents on what they believe are the country’s 10 ugliest buildings (article in Chinese). One architect last year said choosing just 10 was “very hard” but a million he could do..."

Photo credit above: "The Guiyang Science and Technology building in Guizhou, China has been voted one of the ugliest buildings in China in 2013." archcy.com

A Snowman's Rapid Demise. Thanks to Andrew and Jill Dahl (hey, any relation to...never mind) for sending in these before and after photos from southeastern Minnesota. The photo upper left was taken Thursday, May 2. The photo on the right was taken just 96 hours later. This has to be some sort of record for the fastest snowman meltdown on record.

Whiplash. Consider people living in Eau Claire, who were digging out from 8-10" snow on Friday. Just 4 days later the high hits 81F. That's impressive. Tuesday highs ranged from 75 at Alexandria to 77 St. Cloud and 78 in the Twin Cities.

TODAY: Showers likely, a few heavy T-showers. Winds: SE 5. High: 72

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: More showers, possible. thunder. Low: 56

THURSDAY: Still soggy. Periods of light rain - cooler. High: 62

FRIDAY: Partly sunny, a drier day. Wake-up: 46. High: 64

SATURDAY: Intervals of sun, a cool wind. NW 15+ Wake-up: 42. High: 55

MOTHER'S DAY: Bright sun for mom. Less wind. Wake-up: 37. High: near 60

MONDAY: Turning warmer, passing T-shower? Wake-up: 44. High: near 70

TUESDAY: Warm sun, feels like summer. Wake-up: 53. High: 82

Climate Stories....

Video: What The Press Is Missing About Midwest Floods. Here's an excerpt from Media Matters: "As Midwestern states assess the damage wrought by record flooding in recent weeks, scientists tell Media Matters that the media has missed an important part of the story: the impact of climate change. A Media Matters analysis finds that less than 3 percent of television and print coverage of the flooding mentioned climate change, which has increased the frequency of large rain storms and exacerbated flood risks. Seven out of eight scientists interviewed by Media Matters agreed that climate change is pertinent to coverage of recent flooding in the Midwest. Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer told Media Matters it is "not only appropriate, but advisable" for the press to note that rainstorms in the Midwest are increasing in frequency and that climate models "suggest this trend will continue," which will contribute to more flooding. Aquatic ecologist Don Scavia added that this is the "new normal," and that the media is "missing an important piece of information" by ignoring this trend..."

Arctic Ocean "Acidifying Rapidly". Here's an excerpt from a story running at The BBC: "Scientists from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) monitored widespread changes in ocean chemistry in the region. They say even if CO2 emissions stopped now, it would take tens of thousands of years for Arctic Ocean chemistry to revert to pre-industrial levels. Many creatures, including commercially valuable fish, could be affected. They forecast major changes in the marine ecosystem, but say there is huge uncertainty over what those changes will be..."

Can Humans Survive? Newsweek has the story - here's a clip: "...No matter what we do to control our fossil-fuel use and carbon output, our climate has already been permanently changed for the next millennium. To prevent the planet from becoming uninhabitable, we’ll have to take our control of the environment a step further and become geoengineers, using technology to shape geological processes. Though “geoengineering” is the proper term here, I use the word “terraforming” because it refers to making other planets more comfortable for humans. As geoengineers, we aren’t going to “heal” the earth or return it to a prehuman “state of nature.” That would mean submitting ourselves to the vicissitudes of the planet’s carbon cycles, which have already caused several mass extinctions. What we need to do is actually quite unnatural: we must prevent the earth from going through its periodic transformation into a greenhouse that is inhospitable to humans and the food webs where we evolved. Put another way, we need to adapt the planet to suit humanity."

Photo credit above: "Are we in the first act of a mass extinction that will end in the death of millions of plant and animal species across the planet, including us?" (Eric Prine/Gallery Stock)

With Carbon Dioxide Approaching A New High, Scientists Sound The Alarm. 400 ppm. Here's an excerpt from The International Herald Tribune: "For the first time in human history, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will surpass 400 parts per million, according Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which has been measuring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii since 1958. “The 400-ppm threshold is a sobering milestone, and should serve as a wake-up call for all of us to support clean energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it’s too late for our children and grandchildren,” said Tim Lueker of the Scripps Institution in a statement. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is closely linked to global warming. The more carbon dioxide, the higher global average temperatures have climbed, according to climate science. (This graphic shows how global temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have been linked in the past 400,000 years)..."

Arctic Melting Rapidly: Action Needed Now. If you haven't seen the documentary "Chasing Ice" - and you still have an open mind about climate change, spend the time, make the effort to see this film. It may change the way you feel about this subject. Some people still don't trust climate scientists. Hopefully they'll believe their own eyes. Here's an excerpt from a Huffington Post story: "The Arctic sea ice is melting at a phenomenal rate and the London-based Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG) is calling for governments to put two and two together, and pull out all stops to save the Arctic sea ice or humankind will face starvation in the ensuing years ahead. This week, the White House will hear evidence from Australian scientist, Carlos Duarte, that the Arctic sea ice is on such a downward spiral that we may see a dramatic decline of sea ice over the next two years. Evidence was given to the UK government last year from British scientists, Peter Wadhams and John Nissen, that we could see minimal sea ice by September 2015, simply extrapolating the sea ice volume trend. Evidence from recent satellite images suggests that a record melt is in progress this year. The plight of the Arctic was highlighted to British MPs and the Met Office in a recent showing of the film "Chasing Ice" at the House of Commons, London. The Arctic has recently become an issue in the European Parliament..."

Suit Claiming Hurricane Katrina Related To Global Warming Goes Before Appeals Court. Think Philip Morris (time 10,000). Nothing diminishes shareholder confidence in fossil fuel companies faster than class action lawsuits. Can the plaintiffs prove that higher greenhouse gas levels (and warmer water in the Gulf of Mexico) fueled Katrina's explosive intensification into a Category 4-5 storm in the Gulf of Mexico? Keep an eye on this one and more to come; details from The Louisiana Record: "The U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is set to issue its second opinion in a drawn out climate change case that pits landowners against energy companies. The suit, which accuses a number of companies of contributing to global warming through greenhouse gas emissions, was originally filed in a Mississippi district court in 2005 just 22 days after Hurricane Katrina hit. In the original filing, 14 plaintiffs sued eight named oil companies, 100 unnamed oil and refining companies and 31 coal companies. Through the course of the litigation, electric utilities and chemical companies have been added as defendants. The plaintiffs claim that there is a causal relationship between the emissions, which increased the ferocity of Hurricane Katrina, and the resulting destruction of their property. Multiple defendants in the suit moved for a dismissal, alleging that the plaintiffs lacked standing and that their claims presented nonjusticiable political questions..."

Bob Ingliss Going The Distance On Carbon Emissions Tax. Bob Ingliss is a notable Republican, which makes his initiative significant. He proposes putting a price on greenhouse gas pollution, but in a way that is revenue neutral; a way that stimulates the economy without growing the size of government. Here's an excerpt from Politico: "Former Rep. Bob Inglis knows that his devotion to a carbon tax might have cost him his job. But the South Carolina Republican has no regrets as he dedicates his post-congressional career as well to the battle to persuade fellow conservatives to embrace a revenue-neutral carbon tax. “And really, I am the worst commercial for this, because I got my head blown off trying to do it,” he told POLITICO, sitting at a coffee shop a short walk from the Capitol. But he added, “Losing an election is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Losing your soul is considerably worse.” The controversial tax proposal has long won the backing of many economists, who say it is the simplest and purest means of reducing emissions blamed for contributing to climate change. And while it has also won tentative backing from oil giants like Shell and ExxonMobil, it’s been pilloried by many oil-state politicians and conservatives, who say it would raise energy costs and hurt fossil fuel industries..."

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