Monday, August 12, 2013

Enjoy The Canadian Air - Dog Days Return Next Week (growing sense of solar paranoia)

80 F. high on Monday in the Twin Cities.
79 F. high in Fairbanks, Alaska yesterday.
81 F. average high on August 12 at KMSP.
68 F. high on August 12, 2012.

Slight T-shower risk Friday.

90 F. highs expected the latter half of next week.

Solar Paranoia

Wouldn't it be ironic, if after growing (legitimate) concern about climate change, the greatest risk of severe, short-term trouble came from the sun?

I can't go into any details, but I can share the fact that most of our corporate customers who receive briefings & alerts on hurricanes, typhoons, floods and wildfires are MOST concerned about X-class solar flares, unpredictable burps on the sun that produce an EMP (electro magnetic pulse), capable of bringing down the grid.

Apparently Edward Snowden told his Russian hosts that one of the CIA's deep, dark secrets is a massive solar flare in September. The solar cycle is peaking this year, so the odds of a solar flare are higher than average, and a series of X-class solar flares did erupt from the sun earlier this year. But after consulting with NASA and other scientists I trust I can confirm that there's still NO WAY to predict a flare in advance, or whether Earth will even be in its path. It's like trying to predict an earthquake months or years in advance.

Good luck. No, I'm not stocking up on food, water or emergency generators just yet.

Quiet, comfortable weather lingers into Thursday - but the rumors are true: "Summer, The Sequel" kicks in this weekend, with a few days above 90F next week. Just in time for the Minnesota State Fair! No significant rain is in sight; you may have to get out and water the yard. With any luck we'll avoid big droughts (and solar flares).

* image credit here.
Getting Drier Out There. It's true that 1.98" of rain fell at MSP International on August 5-6, but the rains have become more sporadic, statewide, since our turn to cooler, almost September-like weather since mid-July. No significant rain is in sight thru the middle of next week; only a slight chance of isolated T-storms Friday, especially south of MSP. ECMWF (European) forecast highs above in Celsius - showing a slow warming trend; possibly no 90s until the middle of next week.

Summer Refrain. Warmth, without the drama - the pattern not ripe for significant rain or T-storms looking out thru the first half of next week. Forecast temperatures and cloud cover above courtesy of WeatherSpark.

Good Samaritan Rescues Man Amid Rising Colorado Waters. ABC News has the remarkable story, pictures (and video); here's the introduction: "A Good Samaritan rescued a 70-year-old man trapped on a highway amid fierce floods that have already killed at least one person in Manitou Springs, Colo. Glenn Dotson was driving on Highway 24 in Manitou Springs Friday when a wall of water came gushing down the road and trapped him inside his vehicle. Dotson decided to abandon his car and jump into the flood waters in an attempt to save his life. “Walls of mud and water just came right at me. Then the next thing I knew the cars were flying past me. I had a pickup just barely miss me. It looked like one of them was going to hit me for sure,” Dotson said..."

10 Myths About Summer. Here's an excerpt of a very interesting article at The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang: "

#10: “Soda quenches your thirst”
"After a hot day in the sun, you may feel as though nothing would refresh you more than a glass of Coke. And perhaps you would feel as though you were sufficiently rehydrated. But that sugary drink might actually cost your body more fluids. Unlike the folklore, which states that caffeine is the reason that soda is dehydrating, the refined sugars in artificially sweetened drinks actually cause your body to pull more fluid and work extraordinarily hard to metabolize them. Although this has been a controversial topic of study over the years, water is always the healthiest way to rehydrate after a long day in the sun. Some sports drinks are too high in sugar to end up being rehydrating, although isotonic (containing similar concentrations of salt and sugar as the human body) sports drinks may reduce exhaustion during an intense workout..."

To Save Water, Parched Southwest Cities Ask Homeowners To Lose Their Lawns. Better than asking, they're PAYING them to dig up their lawns and plant things that require less water. The New York Times has more - here's an excerpt: "...Grass front yards are banned at new developments in Las Vegas, where even the grass medians on the Strip have been replaced with synthetic turf. In Austin, Tex., lawns are allowed; watering them, however, is not — at least not before sunset. Police units cruise through middle-class neighborhoods hunting for sprinklers running in daylight and issuing $475 fines to their owners. Worried about dwindling water supplies, communities across the drought-stricken Southwest have begun waging war on a symbol of suburban living: the lush, green grass of front lawns. In hopes of enticing, or forcing, residents to abandon the scent of freshly cut grass, cities in this parched region have offered homeowners ever-increasing amounts to replace their lawns with drought-resistant plants; those who keep their grass face tough watering restrictions and fines for leaky sprinklers..."

Photo credit above: Monica Almeida/The New York Times. "Jessica Seglar and her fiancé, Dominic Nguyen, of Long Beach, Calif., decided to replace their lawn with Ceanothus, a lilac native to California, and other drought-tolerant plants. "

As Cost Of Weather-Related Power Outages Rises, White House Says Grid Should Be Made Tougher. Here's an excerpt from AP and Times Colonist: "...Seven of the ten costliest storms in U.S. history occurred between 2004 and 2012. Eleven times last year weather-related outages led to losses of $1 billion or more, the second most on record, behind 2011, according to the report. Climate scientists expect ever more intense and destructive weather as climate change increases global temperatures, adding more energy to storms and shifting patterns of drought and precipitation. Storms cause most of the nation's power outages. Thunderstorms, hurricanes, blizzards and other extreme weather caused 58 per cent of all outages studied since 2002 and 87 per cent of outages affecting 50,000 or more customers. At the same time, the U.S. electric grid is getting old. The average U.S. power plant is 30 years old and 70 per cent of the grid's transmission lines and transformers are at least 25 years old, making them weaker and more susceptible to failure in storms..."

Photo credit above: "In a Thursday, Aug. 14, 2003 file photo, the city of Cleveland sits in the dark except for emergency lights in the Federal Courthouse, left, and the SBC building, far right, after a massive power outage struck the eastern United States and parts of Canada. Ten years after a blackout cascading from Ohio affected 50 million people, utilities and analysts say changes made in the aftermath make a similar outage unlikely today, though shifts in where and how power is generated raise new reliability concerns for the U.S. electric grid system." (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)

10 Years After Record Black-Out, U.S. Electrical Grid Faces New And Emerging Threats. All I want for Christmas is a back-up emergency generator. Here's an excerpt from the AP and The Star Tribune: "...At the same time, aging coal and nuclear plants are shutting down in the face of higher maintenance costs, pollution restrictions and competition from cheap natural gas. Renewable generation such as wind turbines and solar panels is being installed, adding power that's difficult to plan for and manage. Temperatures and storms are getting more extreme, according to federal data, and that increases stress on the grid by creating spikes in demand or knocking out lines or power plants. Some regulators and policymakers are increasingly worried about cyberattacks that could target systems that manage power plants or grids. "The grid that exists today wasn't designed for what everybody wants to do with it," says Joe Welch, CEO of ITC Holdings Corp., the largest independent transmission company in the U.S..."

Photo credit above: "In a Friday, Aug. 15, 2003 file photo, the Empire State Building towers over the skyline of a blackout-darkened New York City just before dawn. Power lines from Jersey City, N.J., are in foreground. Ten years after a blackout cascading from Ohio affected 50 million people, utilities and analysts say changes made in the aftermath make a similar outage unlikely today, though shifts in where and how power is generated raise new reliability concerns for the U.S. electric grid system." Photo: George Widman, Associated Press.

Edward Snowden Predicts Catastrophic And "Inevitable Solar Tsunami". During the course of the day I collect, curate and aggregate stories that I find interesting, curious or funny. I initially hesitated including this one (considering the sources, Snowden and Voice of Russia). But that little (borderline insane) voice in the back of my muddled mind won out, and here is a curious story, one I hope and pray is "alarmist hype". To the best of my understanding the state of science doesn't support a predict of WHEN an X-class solar flare will erupt on the sun, and whether Earth will be in the direct path of a subsequent CME, or coronal mass ejection, one capable of bringing down the grid. I don't think this is actionable intelligence, but under the heading of full disclosure, here is an excerpt from The Voice of Russia. What, you don't troll this site? "The documents collected by Snowden offer proof that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) learned about the existing threat 14 years ago. Ever since the world’s governments have been working secretly since, to be well prepared for what could be termed as “Solar Apocalypse”. Speaking from his room at the Sheremetyevo Airport’s hotel, Snowden said that the government has been working hard to be well prepared for September’s catastrophic solar flares, which can be fraught with fatal consequences, as scientists said – they can lead to the death of mankind. The Central Intelligence Agency learned about the existing threat as long ago as 1999, but according to the government’s decision, this information was immediately made secret..." (File image above: NASA).

A Breathing Earth. Look at this image long enough and you'll begin to hallucinate. I found this post from UX Blog to be particularly visual, and interesting. Here's a clip: "...Of course there are the global characteristics of climate and the nature of land to heat and cool more rapidly than water.  The effects of warm currents feeding a surprisingly mild climate in the British Isles.  The snowy head start of winter in high elevations like the Himalayas, Rockies, and Caucuses, that spread downward to join the later snowiness of lower elevations.  The continental wave of growing grasses in African plains. But, overall, to me it looks like breathing. And my pixel is right at an interesting intersection of life and ice, where the longest night of the year feels like forever, and the longest day of the year is a like a battery strapped to my back. My winter was especially dark. And my summer has been full of blessings -but I don't think either extreme would have been as memorable without the helpful (or painful) contrast of its opposite -all made possible by a 23.5° tilt."

Scandinavian Skinny-Dippers Warned Of Testicle-Biting Fish. Cue the chorus of groans (at least from the guys). Any urge I had to bare my soul (and everything else) in the waters off Norway, Sweden and Finland has been erased by this story at CNN. Here's a clip: " Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, as the saying goes, male skinny-dippers in Scandinavia are being warned about a fish infamous for munching on testicles. Yes, you read that right. The Pacu, native to South America, was found by a fisherman in the Danish/Swedish strait of Oresund, according to experts at the Natural History Museum of Denmark. Though the fish has big teeth and looks menacing, it is generally known as a friendly cousin of the piranha. The Pacu's large teeth aren't as sharp as the piranha's but are "fully capable" of severing fishing lines and fingers, the museum's experts said. Oh yeah, and the Pacu is vegetarian, unlike it's meat-eating cousin..."

Photo credit above: "The Pacu's large teeth aren't as sharp as a piranha's but are "fully capable" of severing fishing lines and fingers. Happy swimming!"

What Happens When Four Guys Try To Cross The Atlantic...In A Rowboat. Please don't try this at home. If you're going to do it use a canoe, better yet a kayak. Here's a clip from an amazing story at SportsNet: "Adam Kreek has just finished a four-hour overnight shift rowing through thrashing wind and waves. The two-hour nap he’s owed is even more welcome than usual as darkness fades into morning. Kreek, 32, and three crewmates had set off Jan. 23 from Senegal on a cramped nine-metre boat that resembles a wingless, waterproof space shuttle. They’re bound for Miami, 6,770 km across the Atlantic Ocean, and a world record—it would be the first successful row from mainland Africa to the mainland U.S. It’s now April 6. They could have been home by now, but harsh weather has slowed them down. Miami is still 1,500 km away. During the shift change, Kreek and his crewmates discuss the conditions. The two-metre-high waves are rough, but not even close to the most intimidating stuff they’ve faced out here so far. And their sleek little boat loves to surf the swells—it’s basically impossible to flip when the cabin doors are sealed. If things get too violent, they’ll just put out the sea anchor, an underwater parachute that slows the boat’s descent down the face of the waves..."

This Is How Your Brain Becomes Addicted To Caffeine. This article made me crave a (moosed) vanilla latte. I quit coffee and caffeine once in my adult life (before climbing The Matterhorn in 1985, to become better acclimated to high altitudes). Here's an excerpt from Smithsonian Magazine: "Within 24 hours of quitting the drug, your withdrawal symptoms begin. Initially, they’re subtle: The first thing you notice is that you feel mentally foggy, and lack alertness. Your muscles are fatigued, even when you haven’t done anything strenuous, and you suspect that you’re more irritable than usual. Over time, an unmistakable throbbing headache sets in, making it difficult to concentrate on anything. Eventually, as your body protests having the drug taken away, you might even feel dull muscle pains, nausea and other flu-like symptoms. This isn’t heroin, tobacco or even alcohol withdrawl. We’re talking about quitting caffeine, a substance consumed so widely (the FDA reports that more than 80 percent of American adults drink it daily) and in such mundane settings (say, at an office meeting or in your car) that we often forget it’s a drug—and by far the world’s most popular psychoactive one..."

Photo credit above: "Regular caffeine use alters your brain’s chemical makeup, leading to fatigue, headaches and nausea if you try to quit." Photo by Flickr user jamesjoel.
Not Happy? That's Predictable. A few surprising results in this article from Pacific Standard; here's a clip: "...Along those lines, the disabled, the unemployed, the poor, and minorities had much higher levels of dissatisfaction (six to 18 percent above-average), while the well-educated and the rich (four and five percent below-average) were better off than average. More intriguingly, the well-educated and rich were not more likely to feel much more satisfied than average; they were only more likely to be less dissatisfied. The pattern across all types surveyed revealed stronger correlations between life status and dissatisfaction than satisfaction. That result held when comparing happiness and unhappiness levels..."


TODAY: A September sky. Sunny. Dew point: 50. Winds: N 5-10. High: 76

TUESDAY NIGHT: Clear and cool. Low: 56

WEDNESDAY: Mostly sunny, still comfortable. High: 78

THURSDAY: Partly sunny and warmer. Wake-up: 59. High: near 80

FRIDAY: Some sun, more humidity. Slight chance of T-storms (mainly southern MN). Dew point: 60. Wake-up: 62. High: 81

SATURDAY: Warm sun, feels like summer again. Wake-up: 63. High: 84

SUNDAY: Hazy sun, almost hot. Dew point: 65. Wake-up: 65. High: 87

MONDAY: Late August heat bubble. DP: 67. Wake-up: 67. High: 90

Climate Stories...

Timing A Rise In Sea Level. Here's a clip from a Justin Gillis story at The New York Times: "...While it is clear by now that we are in the early stages of what is likely to be a substantial rise in sea level, we still do not know if Dr. Mercer was right about a dangerous instability that could cause that rise to happen rapidly, in geologic time. We may be getting closer to figuring that out. An intriguing new paper comes from Michael J. O’Leary of Curtin University in Australia and five colleagues scattered around the world. Dr. O’Leary has spent more than a decade exploring the remote western coast of Australia, considered one of the best places in the world to study sea levels of the past. The paper, published July 28 in Nature Geoscience, focuses on a warm period in the earth’s history that preceded the most recent ice age. In that epoch, sometimes called the Eemian, the planetary temperature was similar to levels we may see in coming decades as a result of human emissions, so it is considered a possible indicator of things to come..."

Photo credit: NASA, via Reuters.

NASA: Climate Change Makes This Year's Wildfire Season The "New Normal" In Arizona, Nationwide. Here's an excerpt of a story at East Valley Tribune: "...Reinhardt said that wildfire season began getting longer and more intense about 25 years ago. Before that, during the post-World War II era, it was relatively calm. “That (post-World War II) reduction was partially due to our increased capabilities to suppress fires, it was partially due also to the fact that those happened to be relatively cool, wet decades,” Reinhardt said. But the future is likely to bring not only a “warmer West, but a drier West and that definitely translates into a more fiery West,” said Bill Patzert, research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. As more “people move into harm’s way of these fires, it becomes a serious problem,” Patzert added. “Weather can get you a break, but in the long run it’s going to get you...”

Photo credit above: "In this June 30, 2013 file photo, a wildfire burns homes in Yarnell, Ariz. The wildfire that began with a lightning strike and caused little immediate concern because of its remote location and small size quickly blazed into an inferno, leading officials to rapidly order more resources in the hours before flames killed 19 members of an elite Hotshot crew, according to a report released Monday, July 15, 2013." (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Kadlubowski, File)

Global Warming,  Arctic Ice Loss, And Armchair Meteorologists. The Guardian has the article - here's a clip: "...Perhaps the poster child of climate change is in the Arctic, where sea ice has been declining at an astonishing rate. Over the past few decades, satellite information has been gathered which shows huge declines in ice extent (the area covered by ice). The declines are enough that it is possible that in a few years, there will be little or no ice left in the Arctic at the end of the melt season. If the loss of ice area wasn't bad enough, the volume of ice has decreased faster than the area. By some measures, the volume of ice has decreased approximately 75% over the past 3 decades, since adequate records began to be kept..."

Graphic credit above: "Summer Arctic ice extent." National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Two Big Climate Stories You Didn't Read About In The New York Times. Here's a blurb from Media Matters: "The New York Times failed to cover both a major government report and a scientists' statement indicating that global warming marches on, just months after the paper shuttered both its environment desk and an affiliated blog with the promise that coverage would not significantly change. On Monday, the American Geophysical Union (AGU), a scientific organization comprising thousands of earth scientists, published a quadrennial renewal of its position statement affirming that "humanity is the major influence on the global climate change observed over the past 50 years." One day later, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released the annual "State of the Climate" report, showing that 2012 was among the 10 warmest years on record worldwide and saw record-low Arctic sea ice extent. NOAA included these charts, illustrating warming of 0.16°C (0.28°F) per decade since 1970 and plummeting Arctic sea ice extent compared to the 1979-2000 average, respectively..."

New Study Finds High Levels Of Arsenic Near Fracking Sites. I'm not advocating not taking advantage of our plentiful shale gas supplies via fracking - but I agree with a majority of concerned citizens who believe companies have an obligation to spend the additional money to do it safely, with no adverse impacts on the environment. The jury is still out on whether hydraulic fracture poses a risk to groundwater supplies. That, and methane releases from wells that aren't capped properly is a growing issue, nationwide. Here's an excerpt of a post from ProPublica: "A recently published study by researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington found elevated levels of arsenic and other heavy metals in groundwater near natural gas fracking sites in Texas’ Barnett Shale. While the findings are far from conclusive, the study provides further evidence tying fracking to arsenic contamination. An internal Environmental Protection Agency PowerPoint presentation recently obtained by the Los Angeles Times warned that wells near Dimock, Pa., showed elevated levels of arsenic in the groundwater. The EPA also found arsenic in groundwater near fracking sites in Pavillion, Wyo., in 2009 — a study the agency later abandoned..."

Photo credit above: "Brian Fontenot and Kevin Schug, two of the authors of a new study that ties fracking to arsenic contamination." (University of Texas Arlington).

Wacky Weather Changing Iowans' Climate Change Perceptions. The Gazette has the story - here's a clip: ..."Yes, I do believe recent extreme weather, with the whiplash effect from drought to floods, has gotten people's attention," said Arbuckle, who bases his assessment largely on the results of the 2011 and 2013 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Polls, in which researcers questions Iowa farmers about their climate change beliefs. The annual poll conducted by Iowa State University shows that thhe percentage of farmers who believe that climate change is occurring increased from 67.7 percent in 2011 to 74.3 percent in 2013, while the percentage who believe it is not dropped from 4.5 percent in 2011 to 2.5 percent this year..." (Photo image: Environment America).

State Asks Insurers: Are You Ready For Climate Change? Here's a clip from a story at The Star Tribune: "Minnesota has joined four other states in requiring its insurance companies to discuss how extensively they’ve prepared for climate change. About 70 companies have until Aug. 31 to respond to an eight-question survey. The questionnaire, developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), focuses on the assessment of risk associated with climate change. However, it also seeks information on whether insurance companies are working to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, have altered their investment strategies in response to climate change, or have encouraged policyholders to reduce losses caused by “climate change-influenced events...”

Photo credit: David Fine, FEMA.
“Yes, I do believe recent extreme weather, with the whiplash effect from drought to floods, has gotten people’s attention,” said Arbuckle, who bases his assessment largely on the results of the 2011 and 2013 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Polls, in which researchers questioned Iowa farmers about their climate change beliefs..
Polling farmers
The annual poll conducted by Iowa State University, shows that the percentage of farmers who believe that climate change is occurring increased from 67.7 percent in 2011 to 74.3 percent in 2013, while the percentage who believe it is not dropped from 4.5 percent in 2011 to 2.5 percent this year.
The questionnaire, which is sent to about 2,000 Iowa farms with half of them responding, also found that the percentage of farmers who think climate change is caused by human activity increased from 10 percent in 2011 to 17.3 percent this year.
- See more at:

Hybrids Better For Climate Than Leaf, Tesla In Most States. I was surprised to see these results, courtesy of Climate Central - here's the introduction: "An electric car is only as good for the climate as the electricity used to power it. And in states that rely heavily on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas for their electricity there are many conventional and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that are better for the climate than all-electric cars. But that is just part of the story. Another critical factor is the carbon emissions generated when a car is manufactured. Emissions from producing the battery and other electrical components create a 10,000 to 40,000-pound carbon debt for electric cars that can only be overcome after tens, or even hundreds of thousands of miles of driving and recharging from clean energy sources..."

Graphic credit above: "Electric cars are not always the best cars for the climate. In most states, the emissions from charging electric car batteries and the emissions generated while manufacturing those batteries are large enough that some high-mileage, gasoline-powered hybrid cars are more climate-friendly options thhan the most efficient electric car."

A Growing Sense Of Urgency. Here's a clip of a Huffington Post Op-Ed from Bill Richardson, former U.S. Energy Secretary, Governor of New Mexico and UN Ambassador: "As I prepare to take part in an event on hurricanes and extreme weather in Miami, Florida later today, it's clear just how much climate change threatens the state's local communities. Florida is the most vulnerable U.S. state to sea-level rise, with seas projected to rise along the state's coast by as much as 2 feet by 2060 -- threatening valuable infrastructure, homes, and communities. Even Superstorm Sandy - which had the greatest impacts in New York and New Jersey -- caused significant damages along Florida's east coast while centered miles offshore. Rising seas contributed to Sandy's storm surge and tidal surges, causing flooding throughout Miami-Dade County and sweeping away portions of State Road A1A in Fort Lauderdale. But as overly concerned as I am of the climate change impacts Florida faces, I'm also encouraged. Florida has something that few other states have: A bipartisan collaboration to address global warming's disastrous impacts..."

Rebranding Climate Change As A Public Health Issue. I think there is some obvious logic to this approach. Nobody wants consistent bad news (without solutions to rectify the situation). And I've noticed that my audiences tend to sit up a little straighter when I pivot from statistics and science to health/safety/security impacts on their kids and future grandkids. Here's a clip from Time Magazine: "...The politicization of climate change — the never-ending debate over whether it exists, for example, and the ensuing back-and-forth over its causes, its implications and potential solutions — further discourages the public from action. But what if climate change were instead about an increase in childhood asthma, or a surge in infectious diseases, or even an influx of heat-induced heart attacks? Would that hold more resonance for the average citizen of the world? That’s what some climate change experts are hoping, as they steer the conversation about global warming toward the public health issues it raises. Last week, the journal Science  featured a special issue on climate change and included a study on the complex yet growing connection between global warming and infectious diseases..."

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