Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fast Forward Weather Pattern (more signs of climate volatility)

81 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.

74 F. average high for September 10.

83 F. high on September 10, 2012.

.02" rain fell yesterday at MSP International.
40s by Friday morning.
No chance of rain until next Monday & Tuesday.

Fast-Forward pattern

Weather, by definition, is changeable - often extreme. But are natural swings in temperature and moisture accelerating? Is it our imagination, or are changes happening faster than they did 30 years ago?

According to The National Drought Mitigation Center Minnesota saw America's most rapid onset of drought in August: from 1.7 percent moderate drought on August 6 to 55 percent by August 26. In a meteorological blink of an eye.

Sudden 20-30F "heat spikes" in the span of 24 hours in mid-May, again early this week; a rare August frost up north. Head-scratching weather.

Farmers are understandably anxious about a deepening "flash drought"; the rate at which fields are drying out. We need 3 to 6 inches of rain to replenish dusty topsoil.

That won't happen anytime soon. Canadian air leaking south will keep us cool, comfortable and dry into Sunday. Dig a light jacket out of cold storage: 40s at the bus stop Friday, again Monday? A surge of much warmer air returns next week - more 80s the latter half of the week as dew points reach the muggy 60s. A scuffle between lingering summer heat & Canadian chill may increase the potential for rain the last week of September. I hope that's not wishful thinking.

Jackets and shorts, together in one closet? More whiplash.

* CEI, Climate Extreme Index, above shows the percentage of the USA in severe drought or flood from year to year, courtesy of NOAA NCDC.

Weather And Climate Volatility Coincides With Fastest Rise In CO2 Ever Observed. I've been tracking weather for 40 years, and I can't say I've ever witnessed more abrupt changes in the pattern, the SPEED at which we go from drought to flood, back to drought again. Whiplash. In today's Climate Matters I include a 10,000 year graph of CO2 emissions, which for have held at 180-280 ppm. Carbon dioxide has spiked to 400 ppm, and nobody really knows how high those levels will rise. It's not only the absolute value, which is troubling enough, it's the RATE of CO2 and methane rise. This is what scientists are most concerned about - there is no history, no analog of a similar spike in CO2 levels, going back hundreds of millions of years, so I guess we shouldn't be too surprised when the weather takes a turn for the bizarre: "Much of the Upper Midwest could use a good soaking. Hard to believe when we started July, most of the Midwest was drought free. WeatherNation Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas says in 35 years in the weather business, he's never seen such sudden changes. Hence the term: "Flash Drought".

400,000 Years Of CO2 Records. Using ice core samples (Greenland and Antarctica) it's possible to reconstruct the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. According to NASA for 650,000 years atmospheric CO2 has never risen above 295 ppm. Until recently - now the level stands at 400 ppm.

A Manic Pattern. After one last day of low to mid 80s today, September returns later this week on a stiff north breeze - highs may not climb out of the 60s by Friday, again next Monday, nights dipping into the 40s according to ECMWF guidance. But a surge of summerlike heat returns again next week, in fact dew points are forecast to rise from 25 F. early Monday to 69 F. by next Tuesday, a nearly four-fold increase in water vapor in the air. More 80s the latter half of next week? Keep shorts (and light jackets) handy. Graph: Weatherspark.

Canadian Infiltration. And just like gravity, here comes the inevitable temperature tumble, focused on the Great Lakes and New England by the end of the week. 84 hour NAM temperatures forecast courtesy of NOAA. Animation from Ham Weather.

Warm Bias Into Late September? NOAA CPC (Climate Prediction Center) shows much of the USA trending warmer than average into the 3rd, possibly even the 4th week of September, a warm bullseye over the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and Central Plains. Map: Ham Weather.

Central USA Continues To Dry Out. The 5-day rainfall forecast from NOAA HPC shows some very heavy rains (and flash flood potential) from New Mexico into Colorado, additional heavy rain for much of northern New England, where it may be cold enough over higher terrain for a little wet snow by Saturday. Big gulp. Meanwhile rain will be spotty to non-existant for much of the central USA.

"Flash Drought" Starting To Hurt. Here's a clip from The Tomah Journal: "Monroe County is one of many Wisconsin counties coping with what the National Weather Service calls a “flash drought.” The rapidly developing drought has placed the area in moderate drought conditions. According to the National Weather Service, the precipitation deficit, which shows how little rain the area receives compared to an average year, is already worse than during the 2012 drought and is growing rapidly. Tomah has seen .972 inches of rain in the last month, compared to 3.36 inches last year during the same time. The deficit, which is measured against the average amount of rainfall between July 1 and Sept. 1 from 1981 to 2010, is 6.56 inches..."

"Strange" Hurricane Season Perplexes Forecasters. More background on the eerily quiet hurricane season in this excerpted article from HeraldTribune.com: "...On average, two hurricanes should have formed by now. Past seasons have started slow and finished with a flurry of tropical cyclones, but the window is starting to close. Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist with Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Project, has been perplexed by the hurricane season's progress so far. Klotzbach predicted there would be 18 named storms this year, including eight hurricanes. The average is 12 named storms and six hurricanes. Other forecasters, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also looked at the conditions that contribute to storm formation earlier this year and similarly predicted a busy season..."

8 tropical storms in the Atlantic so far this year.
8 years since a major (Category 3+) hurricane has hit the USA (Wilma in 2005).

Risk Of Sandy-Level Flood In New York City Has Doubled Since 1950. Sea level rise is a huge mitigating factor, as Climate Central explains: "...Rising seas are a consequence of manmade global warming, as well as local shifts in land surface elevations. Sea level rise has accelerated in recent years, from a rate of 1.7 millimeters per year between 1901 to 2010, up to 3.2 millimeters per year between 1993 and 2010. Depending on how much sea levels increase by the end of the century, the study said Sandy-like flooding could occur once every few decades in Manhattan, and on the order of once a year in parts of New Jersey and coastal Connecticut. By raising the water level, sea level rise provides storms with a higher launching pad for storm surges, which are bulges of water caused by a storm's winds, forward motion, and atmospheric pressure, to ride on top of..."

Image credit above: "NASA visualization of the wind field associated with Hurricane Sandy as it approached the Mid-Atlantic coast on Oct. 28, 2012. Wind speeds above 40 mph are yellow; above 50 mph are orange; and above 60 mph are dark red."

Industry May Have The Answer To Weather Forecasting Blind Spot (National Defense). NOAA's polar orbiting satellites are reaching the end of their life expectancy - and that has generated a lot of concern, since these low-orbiting platforms provide the necessary raw data to computer models that help us isolate everything from severe storm potential to hurricane tracks. Here's a clip from tmcnet.com: "...The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System is nearing the end of its lifespan. When decommissioned, NOAA will lose some of the essential weather data provided by the system for between 17 to 53 months, the GAO found. The blind spot could materialize as early as 2014. "A satellite data gap would result in less accurate and timely weather forecasts and warnings of extreme events, such as hurricanes, storm surges and floods. Such degradation in forecasts and warnings would place lives, property and our nation's critical infrastructures in danger," said the GAO in its 2013 High Risk Report... (Image above: NOAA).

"La Nada" Climate Pattern Lingers In The Pacific. We are in an ENSO-neutral situation in the Pacific, no significant warming or cooling, although I still see a slight bias toward a milder El Nino phase by winter or early 2014. Here's a clip from KATC.com: "New remote sensing data from NASA's Jason-2 satellite show near-normal sea-surface height conditions across the equatorial Pacific Ocean. This neutral, or "La Nada" event, has stubbornly persisted for 16 months, since spring 2012. Models suggest this pattern will continue through the spring of 2014, according to the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center. "Without an El Niño or La Niña signal present, other, less predictable, climatic factors will govern fall, winter and spring weather conditions," said climatologist Bill Patzert of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Long-range forecasts are most successful during El Niño and La Niña episodes. The 'in between' ocean state, La Nada, is the dominant condition, and is frustrating for long-range forecasters. It's like driving without a decent road map -- it makes forecasting difficult...."

Winter Depression May Be Less Common Than Believed. I did a double-take after reading this story from U.S. News and World Report; here's an excerpt: "Feel the blues in the winter? You might blame seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression that's thought to be driven by weather and the time of year. Now, a new study raises questions about whether this condition is as common as researchers have believed. "It is clear from prior research that seasonal affective disorder exists," study lead author David Kerr, an assistant professor in the School of Psychological Science at Oregon State University, said in a university news release. "But our research suggests that what we often think of as the winter blues does not affect people nearly as much as we may think..."

Double Rainbow. This optical illusion is created when white sunlight is refracted, or bent, twice within the same raindrops. Image courtesy of the Goodland, Kansas National Weather Service.

Amazing View. Look carefully and you can see a cloud to cloud lightning discharge just east of Florida, in this remarkable photo from the International Space Station, courtesy of the Miami NWS.

National University Rankings. Here's the latest annual list of top U.S. Universities, as calculated by U.S. News and World Report. Cue the excuses, hand-waving arguments and trash-talking: "...This year's installment offers data on nearly 1,800 colleges and universities, including tuition, acceptance rates, class sizes, graduation rates, average debt of graduates and much more. Eligible schools are ranked on up to 16 different factors, each weighted for importance. U.S. News updated the methodology for the 2014 rankings to reflect the current state of college admissions and better measure student outcomes. High school class rank, a figure included on fewer student transcripts, is less important in college admissions decisions than in years past. As a result, class standing received significantly less weight in this year's rankings..."

The Most (And Least) Lucrative College Majors, In One Graph. Oh, to have been smart enough to be an engineer. NPR has the story; here's an excerpt: "...What you major in has a bigger influence over your income than where you go to school, according to Anthony Carnevale, an economist at Georgetown University. The graph (above) is based on Carnevale's research — and it shows the huge range in median earnings for people with different majors..."

Graphic credit above: "Figures are median income for all full-time workers with bachelor's degrees in each subject. Workers with graduate degrees are not included in the data." Source: Anthony Carnevale, Georgetown University. Credit: Matt Stiles/NPR.

44 Of The World's 72 Tallest Buildings Are Cheating. Here's a snippet from Quartz: "It turns out that most of the world’s tallest buildings are doing the architectural equivalent of wearing platform shoes. That is, they’re scraping skies courtesy of dozens—sometimes hundreds—of meters of “vanity height,” says a new report (pdf) by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), first spotted by io9. That’s the term CTBUH uses to describe the distance between the highest floor occupied and the top of the building.."

Graphic credit above: "There's a lot of puff built into the world's tallest buildings." AP Photo/Shiva Menon/Solent News/Rex Features.

The Entire World Is Slightly Happier Than It Used To Be. Some good news on a Wednesday; but #17. Really? At least we're happier than the French. Here's a clip from a story at The Los Angeles Times: "...Let’s cut to the chase: The five happiest countries on Earth are Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden. This despite the fact that they all experience cold, dark winters. All five countries are pretty much as happy as they were the last time the report was published. The United States ranked as 17th-happiest country -- slightly happier than the citizens of Ireland (No. 18) and a little less happy than our neighbors in Mexico (No. 16). Americans saw their overall happiness drop by about 3% over the five-year period between surveys. Canadians are the sixth-happiest people in the world. Israelis came in at 11th, and the French rank 24th..."

TODAY: Warm sun, less humidity in the air. Dew point: 56. Winds: West 10-15. High: 84

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Clear and comfortable. Low: 60

THURSDAY: Blue sky, cooler. Dew point: 46. High: 73

FRIDAY: Early sweatshirt. Bright sun. Brisk. Wake-up: 49. High: 69
 SATURDAY: Sunny and milder. Wake-up: 51. High: 78
 SUNDAY: Another cool jab (reinforcing cool front). Sunny. Dew point: 36. Wake-up: 51. High: 69
 MONDAY: Sunny start, rain arrives late. Wake-up: 45. High: 74
 TUESDAY: AM T-storms. Milder, more humid. Wake-up: 59. High: 79

* 80-degree highs are likely the latter half of next week.

Climate Stories....

Extreme Weather: More To Come? Here's a clip from a Washington Post story: "...In a report published online last week in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tackled this question head-on. The report — the second such annual report — analyzes the findings from about 20 scientific studies of recent extreme weather events that occurred around the world, seeking to parse the relative influence of anthropogenic, or human-influenced, climate change. The overall message of the report: It varies. “About half of the events . . . reveal compelling evidence that human-caused change was a [contributing] factor,” said NOAA National Climatic Data Center Director Thomas Karl at a press conference accompanying the release of the report..."

Photo credit above: (Bloomberg News) - "In Union Beach, N.J., debris surrounds the front steps of a home destroyed in Hurricane Sandy last November."

Rising Sea Levels Ranked As Greatest Climate Change Threat: Guy Carpenter. Here's a clip from a story at Insurance Journal: "...As the planet warms up it leads to a rise in sea levels, which Guy Carpenter describes as the “single greatest threat posed by global warming.” The rise is “expected to increase coastal flood frequency and severity from tropical cyclones, extra tropical cyclones and tsunami events. “According to the IPCC, a sea-level rise of at least one to two feet can be expected by the end of the century, though a wide range of sea-level rise scenarios exist. The growing urban footprint and increasing population density in coastal areas has also amplified the financial and societal impacts of such events..."

Cooling Pacific Has Dampened Global Warming. An unusually strong and persistent La Nina cooling phase may be masking some of the greenhouse gas-related warming of the atmosphere. Here's a snippet of a story from Grist: "Cooling waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean appear to be a major factor in dampening global warming in recent years, scientists said on Wednesday. Their work is a big step forward in helping to solve the greatest puzzle of current climate change research — why global average surface temperatures, while still on an upward trend, have risen more slowly in the past 10 to 15 years than previously. Waters in the eastern tropical regions of the Pacific have been notably cooler in recent years, owing to the effects of one of the world’s biggest ocean circulatory systems, the Pacific decadal oscillation..." (Image above: Think Progress).

Climate Change May Affect Wheat Yields. Here's an excerpt from agriculture.com: "Growing a healthy, high yielding wheat crop takes years to master and requires hard work and commitment. Climate change brings on a series of problems, and a quality drought-resistant variety that is resistant to pests and diseases is essential. Over a 26-year period, Kansas State University examined wheat variety yield data from performance tests, along with location-specific weather and disease data. The tests were done to quantify the impact of genetic improvement in wheat, disease, and climate change. Through the years of 1985 through 2011, wheat breeding programs boosted average wheat yields by 13 bushels per acre, or 0.51 bushels each year, for a total increase of 26%. A simulation also found that 1.8 degree Fahrenheit in projected mean temperature was found to decrease wheat yields by 10.64 bushels per acre or nearly 21%. “Kansas wheat producers are challenged by weather, pests, and disease,” said Andrew Barkley, Professor of Agricultural Economics “Fortunately, the Kansas wheat breeding program produces new varieties of wheat that increase yields over time...”

Climate Change "Will Exacerbate Existing Problems" : Defense. Here's a clip from the ABC Network in Australia: "...The Australian Government's latest Defense White Paper, published in May, found that global energy, food and water resources were under pressure from population growth, rising affluence and climate change. "As a frequent first responder to national and international emergencies, Defence needs to be prepared for some of the consequences of global climate system changes, such as potentially increased demands for the Australian Defence Force to undertake humanitarian and disaster relief responses both domestically and across the region." As a threat multiplier, it has the potential to generate and exacerbate destabilising conditions that could reshape the regional security environment." The commander of the US Navy in the Pacific, Admiral Samuel Locklear, agrees climate change is a real threat to peace. Earlier this year he said climate change was the greatest long-term security threat for his region..."

Photo credit above: "As first responders and humanitarian assistance providers, the armed forces will be busy in a climate changed future." Credit: Australian Defence Image Library.

Air Pollution Worsened By Climate Change Set To Be More Potent Killer In 21st Century. Here's a clip from a recent story at Science Daily: "...Climate change is believed to harm human health in a variety of ways, including through adverse changes in food production, heat stress, sea level rise, increased storm intensity, flooding and droughts, and increased incidence of vector-borne diseases. In addition, climate change indirectly impacts health by influencing concentrations of air pollutants, such as surface ozone and fine particulate matter (smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter), including sulphate, nitrate, fine dust particles and black carbon. These pollutants are linked with increased risks of lung cancer and respiratory, cardiopulmonary, cardiovascular and all-cause deaths..."

Dealing In Doubt: Greenpeace Report Exposes Fossil Fuel Funded Climate Denial Machine. The Greenpeace report is here; Desmogblog.com has an overview - here's an excerpt: "As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prepares to release its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) -- the latest installment of its comprehensive assessment of climate science -- early next year, the science is already under attack. As the U.S. Global Change Research Program puts the final draft of the third National Climate Assessment together, also due out in early 2014, its conclusions are already under siege. In an updated report released today, Greenpeace explains how these attacks on the science of climate change -- on the reports, on the scientists themselves, and on the rigorous scientific process itself -- are part of a decades-old, well-organized, and richly-funded campaign to discredit the science of climate change and to intentionally pollute public discourse on climate change..."

The World Does Need a Red Line - On Climate Change. The Guardian has the Op-Ed; here's an excerpt: "Two degrees doesn't seem like much, but it takes only a few Google searches to connect the dots between the one degree of warming that has already set in, and catastrophic events like Hurricane Sandy, unprecedented wildfires in the American west and record flooding in places like the Philippines and Pakistan. Some have even pointed to extended climate-induced drought in Syria as a key driver of the conflict there. It doesn't take much sleuthing, either, to find out that humans have loaded so much carbon into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests and engaging in poor agricultural practices, that the IPCC says it's now 95% certain that we're responsible for most of the warming that has happened since the industrial revolution. Despite decades of science showing human impact on the atmosphere, and the availability of renewable energy options, from cheap solar to wind to geothermal, political will to deal with climate change in the world's richest countries has flatlined..."

Photo credit above: "President Barack Obama wipes perspiration from his face as he speaks about climate change in Washington." Photograph: Charles Dharapak/AP.

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