Sunday, July 14, 2013

Record Saturday Rains - Dog Day 90s On The Way

80 F. high in the Twin Cities Saturday.
84 F. average high for July 13.
91 F. high on July 13, 2012.

2.97" rain fell yesterday at MSP International (new rainfall record for July 13).
24.02" precipitation since January 1; 8.52" wetter than average, to date.

Monsoon Season. Here's what 3-4"+ in a short period of time is capable of. The photo in the upper left is from KARE-11, showing the minutes leading up to Lifetime Fitness's Triathlon, which was delayed by flash flooding and lightning. Mark Kangas snapped the photo of Minnehaha Falls on Saturday.

2.72" rain fell at MSP International yesterday, a new daily record for July 13. 3-6" amounts were reported over the western and southern suburbs.

"In 2011-2012, the United States experienced 25 floods, storms, droughts, heat waves and wildfires that caused at least $1 billion in damages each. An analysis by the Center for American Progress found that the federal government, or taxpayers, spent $136 billion from 2011 to 2013 in disaster relief – equivalent to almost $400 per household per year...." - from a Think Progress story; details below.

Technical Difficulties

The toughest challenges in meteorology? Whether a rotating T-storm will go on to tornado, will a hurricane get stronger or weaker with time, how many inches of snow for my yard, and WHAT TIME will that T-storm reach my house?

It was a simple question from one of our clients, Lifetime Fitness. "Will there be lightning for the Saturday morning triathlon?" We know when the atmosphere is ripe for T-storms, but they're usually too small to show up on computer models. A new generation of high-res NOAA models going out 15 hours offers more skill, but most days we still can't determine, with any consistent skill, whether T-storms will produce severe flooding more than 1-3 hours in advance.

Saturday's warm frontal squall dumped over 4 inches on the southwest suburbs; about 5 week's worth of rain in 5 hours. 

Guam-like rains.

More T-storms pop today; enough hazy sun trickling thru the murk for upper 80s. I expect 4 days above 90F in a row this week - tomorrow into Thursday. The Dog Days.

I estimate at least 900 square miles of southwest suburbs picked up 4" rain Saturday. That works out to 62 billion gallons of water, or 1.5 billion bathtubs full of water. Some watery perspective.

Image above courtesy of WeatherNation TV meteorologist Addison Green, who writes: "Our WeatherNation Studios are located in the suburbs of Minneapolis and as I was driving to work early this morning (“Gotta Make the Donuts!”) , the lightning flashes were getting bigger and brighter.  I took out my phone and took some videos and wow, were the flashes really bright.  I was able to screen grab a few of the lightning bolts, like this one.  There were over a 1000 reported lightning strikes at one point from this cluster of storms.  The booms of thunder were so loud at one point, my car shook!  And in the studios, once I got to work, you could hear the boom of thunder very clearly through the walls..."

Putting Excessive Rains Into Perspective. I estimated a 30 by 30 mile area of the western and southwestern suburbs picked up 4" or more of rain (it's a WAG, but I think it's in the ballpark). Yes, you too can calculate how many bathtubs full of water fell on the metro area, thanks to the USGS.

Sunday Flash Flood Potential. High-res NOAA models are suggesting the best chance of excessive rains over eastern South Dakota and far southwestern Minnesota into midday Sunday. Graphic: Ham Weather and Alerts Broadcaster.

Rainfall Estimates. Here is a rough estimate of how much rain fell overnight, based on MPX (Twin Cities) Doppler overlaid over GR3: an impressive swath of 2-5" from Elk River across the western suburbs into the Minneapolis area. The far southwestern suburbs experienced the most rain; over 4" estimated from Eden Prairie and Chanhassen to Lakeville, Shakopee and Prior Lake.

Serious Rains. 6.7" at Crystal Bay, near Lakeville. That's nearly 2 months worth of rain falling in about 4-5 hours. Over 5" at Eden Prairie and Northfield - 4+" of rain fell at Independence, Eden Prairie, Chanhassen, Apple Valley, Shakopee and Prior Lake, 3" reported in South Minneapolis, but under .5" for St. Paul. Amazing.

A Month's Worth Of Rain. A vast area of the western and southern suburbs picked up 3-4" or more of rain early Saturday, anywhere from 3 to 5 week's worth of rain in about 4-5 hours. The result: serious flash flooding in many communities. A complete list of storm damage from NOAA is here.

A Little Dog Day Action. We got off to a slow start in June, but maybe we'll make up for lost time in July. ECMWF guidance shows highs at or above 90 Monday into Thursday, maybe a few days around midweek with highs in the mid 90s. Summer heat may peak in the next 1-2 weeks.

84 Hour Animation. The Deep South remains soggy with pop-up T-storms, east to west trade winds extending unusually far north into Texas and Missouri. Most of the USA will be a hot, sticky holding pattern, more T-storms over the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest. Loop: NOAA.

NASA Data Link Pollution To Rainy Summer Days in The Southeast. Could smog/pollutants from vehicles and industry be seeding the clouds, sparking more showers and T-storms during the work week, when there's more traffic and activity in general? Here's a summary of a 2008 report from NASA: "The link between rainfall and the day of the week is evident in data from NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite, known as TRMM. Midweek storms tend to be stronger, drop more rain and span a larger area across the Southeast compared to calmer and drier weekends. The findings are from a study led by Thomas Bell, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. Bell said the trend could be attributed to atmospheric pollution from humans, which also peaks midweek. "It's eerie to think that we're affecting the weather," said Bell, lead author of the study published online this week in the American Geophysical Union's Journal of Geophysical Research. "It appears that we're making storms more violent." Rainfall measurements collected from ground-based gauges can vary from one gauge site to the next because of fickle weather patterns. So, to identify any kind of significant weekly rainfall trend, Bell and colleagues looked at the big picture from Earth's orbit. The team collected data from instruments on the TRMM satellite, which they used to estimate daily summertime rainfall averages from 1998 to 2005 across the entire Southeast..."

Image credit above: "Torrential rainfall from a 2003 storm in the Southeast resulted in massive accumulations of rain (red). Similar data from NASA's TRMM satellite has revealed that more rain falls midweek." Credit: NASA.

Rising Temperatures, Shrinking Snowpack Fuel Western Wildfires. The trends are pretty clear for the west due to a variety of factors, as reported by Climate Central: "Wildfire trends in the West are clear: there are more large fires burning now than at any time in the past 40 years and the total area burned each year has also increased. To explore these trends, Climate Central has developed this interactive tool to illustrate how warming temperatures and changing spring snowpack influences fires each year. In our 2012 report, Western Wildfires, we analyzed federal wildfire data stretching back to the 1970s to see how fires have changed in the American West. In some states, like Arizona and Idaho, the number of large fires burning each year has tripled or even quadrupled. And in other states, including California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wyoming, the number of large fires has doubled..."

Canada's Second Largest Fire On Record Spreading Smoke To Europe. Some of that smoke has been circulating back into the USA, making for hazy (milky) skies and blood-red sunsets in recent weeks. Here's an excerpt from Dr. Jeff Master's WunderBlog: "A massive fire burning in northern Quebec is Canada's second largest fire since fire records began in 1959, according to the Canadian Forest Service. The fire was more than twice the size of Rhode Island on Tuesday--1,621,000 acres. Called the Eastmain fire, the near-record blaze was ignited by lightning on May 25, and was burning along a 100-km front near the east shore of James Bay by the village of Eastmain. At times, the fire spread at 19 mph (30 kph). The fire cut power to Montreal's subway system and to 10% of the population of Quebec (500,000 customers) on July 4, when smoke from the fire ionized the air by key hydroelectric power lines, causing a cascade failure..."

Image credit above: "On July 4, 2013, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of wildfires burning in western Quebec near James Bay. Red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected unusually warm surface temperatures associated with fire. The Eastmain fire, which became the 2nd largest fire since 1959 in Canada at 1.6 million acres, is at the upper left of the image, just east of James Bay. Other fires near Nemiscau, Quebec (about 150 - 200 km to the southeast of Eastmain) are also burning, but these patches are "only" 120,000 - 200,000 acres. MODIS also observed smoke from the fires moving across the Atlantic Ocean on July 5, July 6, and July 7. By July 8, smoke was drifting over Scandinavia." Image credit: NASA.

Pumping Water Underground Could Trigger Major Earthquake, Say Scientists. Huge injections of water for "fracking" have already sparked tremors; water apparently lubricating faults deep underground. The Guardian has more: "Pumping water underground at geothermal power plants can lead to dangerous earthquakes even in regions not prone to tremors, according to scientists. They say that quake risk should be factored into decisions about where to site geothermal plants and other drilling rigs where water is pumped underground – for example in shale gas fracking. Prof Emily Brodsky, who led a study of earthquakes at a geothermal power plant in California, said: "For scientists to make themselves useful in this field we need to be able to tell operators how many gallons of water they can pump into the ground in a particular location and how many earthquakes that will produce..." (File photo: Ralph Wilson, AP).

When Space Weather Attacks! Great headline, sobering reading, courtesy of The Washington Post. Here's an excerp: "...Today, electric utilities and the insurance industry are grappling with a scary possibility. A solar storm on the scale of that in 1859 would wreak havoc on power grids, pipelines and satellites. In the worst case, it could leave 20 million to 40 million people in the Northeast without power — possibly for years — as utilities struggled to replace thousands of fried transformers stretching from Washington to Boston. Chaos and riots might ensue. That’s not a lurid sci-fi fantasy. It’s a sober new assessment by Lloyd’s of London, the world’s oldest insurance market. The report notes that even a much smaller solar-induced geomagnetic storm in 1989 left 6 million people in Quebec without power for nine hours..."

Image credit above: NASA.

Large Power Transformers And The U.S. Electric Grid. Light reading this is not, but here is an important document focused on the U.S. grid and vulnerabilities to space weather, as well as other factors, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Breaking News: The Solar System Has A "Tail". Who knew? Apparently NASA did; here's an excerpt from a recent press release: "It has long been assumed that our solar system, like a comet, has a tail. Just as any object moving through another medium – for example, a meteor traveling through Earth’s atmosphere – causes the particles to form a stream trailing off behind it. But the tail of our solar bubble, called the heliosphere, has never actually been observed, until now. NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, has mapped the boundaries of the tail of the heliosphere, something that has never before been possible. Scientists describe this tail, called the heliotail, in detail in a paper published on July 10, 2013, in The Astrophysical Journal. By combining observations from the first three years of IBEX imagery, the team mapped out a tail that shows a combination of fast and slow moving particles. There are two lobes of slower particles on the sides, faster particles above and below, with the entire structure twisted, as it experiences the pushing and pulling of magnetic fields outside the solar system..."

Image credit above: "NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer has observed and described the solar system's tail for the first time." Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

America's Top States For Quality Of Life. I love the photo CNBC used for Minnesota, taken sometime in January? Good grief. In spite of our well publicized winters we still came in at #3 overall, just behind Vermont and Hawaii. I get Hawaii, but Vermont....really? Here's an excerpt: "The North Star State has something to offer almost everyone. Enjoy the natural beauty of the North Woods or the cosmopolitan sophistication of the Twin Cities. And everyone, it seems, is "Minnesota Nice" - so much so that the crime rate is among the nation's lowest. The home of the famed Mayo Clinic is one of America's healthiest states, and the environment is among the cleanest. But if you're not a fan of winter, beware. With an average annual temperature of just 41.2 degrees F, Minnesota is one of America's coldest states. But they'll tell you - nicely - that they know how to adapt...."

2013 Quality of Life Rank (Points): #3 (242)
2013 Overall Rank: #15
2012 Quality of Life Rank: #5

TODAY: Murky sun, T-storms north and west. Dew point: 67. Winds: S 10. High: 88

SUNDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy and muggy. Low: 71

MONDAY: More sun, very sticky. Dew point: 69. HIgh: 90

TUESDAY: Hot sun, free sauna. Dew point: 71. Wake-up: 73. High: 93

WEDNESDAY: Dog Days. Sweaty sunshine. Wake-up: 75. High: 92

THURSDAY: Still tropical. Few T-storms north. Wake-up: 76. High: 92

FRIDAY: Passing storm, still sticky. Dew point: 70. Wake-up: 74. High: 90

SATURDAY: Partly sunny, still plenty warm. Slight dip in humidity. Wake-up: 72. High: 88

Climate Stories...

Climate Change Will Cause More Energy Breakdowns, U.S. Warns. The New York Times has the story - here's an excerpt: "...The blackouts and other energy disruptions of Hurricane Sandy were just a foretaste, the report says. Every corner of the country’s energy infrastructure — oil wells, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants — will be stressed in coming years by more intense storms, rising seas, higher temperatures and more frequent droughts. The effects are already being felt, the report says. Power plants are shutting down or reducing output because of a shortage of cooling water. Barges carrying coal and oil are being delayed by low water levels in major waterways. Floods and storm surges are inundating ports, refineries, pipelines and rail yards. Powerful windstorms and raging wildfires are felling transformers and transmission lines..."

Climate Change Will Plague Energy Industry: DOE. Following up on the story above, here's a slightly different perspective from CBS Marketwatch: "Climate change has created problems for the U.S. energy industry, and the stress it brings on an aging energy infrastructure could cancel out the coping mechanisms the industry has adopted, a Department of Energy report released Thursday said. The report highlighted the implications of climate change — droughts, fiercer storms, flooding, and higher temperatures, to name a few — on energy. An interactive map, showing where impact has already occurred, accompanied the report. Droughts have raised the risk of shutdowns at power plants powered by coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy by reducing the volume of water available for cooling the plants..."

GOP Climate Disconnect Would Sacrifice Climate Research For Weather Forecasting. Slash climate research to make America's weather models more accurate? Great idea! Here's an excerpt from Think Progress: "...Both sides agree that increased funding for weather forecasting research is critical, but Democrats criticized Republican plans to take money away from climate change research, which already contributes to weather prediction capabilities. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) pinned the blame squarely on her GOP colleagues, in pointing out the folly of robbing one forecasting program to pay for another.
There is a deep animus to anything related to climate research on the side of the majority… But the fact is, climate impacts weather. Our experts need to have full knowledge and expertise about this impact so there can be better forecasting.
This logic failed to resonate with Republicans, as Vice Chairman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) explained his opinion that NOAA is spending too much money on “ineffective research on climate,” and suggested weather forecasting should be a higher priority than climate change research..."

Got Science? Pushing Back Against Corporate "Counterfeit Science". Here's a clip from Huffington Post: "Planted scientific articles. Attacks on individual scientists. Recent revelations in two separate court cases spotlight an often hidden form of fraud: corporations deliberately trying to manipulate scientific findings about the safety of their products. Documents in each of these cases reveal corporate dirty tricks that are beneath contempt -- a kind of "counterfeit science" that not only undermines the credibility of the entire scientific enterprise, but can pose a serious threat to people's health. For an egregious example, look no further than the recently revealed scheme of Georgia-Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries. This June, a New York Appeals Court ruled unanimously that Georgia-Pacific must hand over all internal documents pertaining to its alleged efforts to tamper with the scientific understanding about the health effects of asbestos..."

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