Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sliding Into November Next Week (good news & bad news: America is now the world's largest oil producer)

55 F. high yesterday at MSP.

58 F. average high on October 16.

65 F. high on October 16, 2012.

.01" of rain yesterday in the Twin Cities.
Frost by Sunday morning - hard freeze possible next week.
Flurries/snow showers can't be ruled out by early next week.

First Flakes Next Week?

Why does 50 degrees feel so much better in March than it does in October? Perspective. After a run of 70s in September, extending into the first 11 days of October, next week will feel like a cold slap across the face. Something I can relate to.

Long-range ECMWF (European) guidance shows a good chance of flurries early next week, with a slight risk of a coating by Tuesday morning. Lovely.

According to Minnesota State Climatologist Greg Spoden the first coating (tenth of an inch) usually comes by November 4 in the Twin Cities. We usually enjoy our first flakes by mid-October.

The coldest temperature so far this fall at MSP International: 39F. The first frost of the season is possible Saturday morning, likely Sunday morning; a hard killing freeze likely by the middle of next week. Right on schedule. Our first 28F low, cold enough to kill off most plant-life, usually comes October 20, based on 1948-2005 records.

Rain showers arrive tonight ahead of the next chilly surge, more showers late Sunday. Colder air behind that front will probably spark snow flurries/showers next Monday night & Tuesday.

My forecast: snowmobilers are about to develop an itch that a scratch won't reach.

More November Than October. ECMWF data shows 40s over the weekend, possibly a few days in the upper 30s next week. A frost is possible Sunday morning, a hard freeze possible by the end of next week with a couple nights in the mid to upper 20s in the metro. Have you taken out the dock and boat yet? Might be a good idea to move things along in the coming days. Graph: WeatherSpark.

No Cause For Panic - Yet. I'm not buying a few of the GFS runs predicting a couple inches of snow next week, although I can't rule out a dusting or coating on lawns and fields next Monday night. It's too early for specificity, but the atmosphere will be cold enough for flurries and snow showers next week. Here we go. Graph: Iowa State.

A Parade Of Cold Fronts. The 84-hour NAM forecast shows colder air pushing south into the Plains and Upper Midwest into the weekend. The red-outlined regions show temperatures colder than 32 F. By next week it may look and feel more like mid-November than mid-October. Map: NOAA and Ham Weather.

A Chilly Halloween Shaping Up. Payback time for a balmy September and lukewarm start to October? GFS data shows highs in the 30s on October 21, nights dipping into the low and mid 20s. The forecast calls for a few extra layers under that fancy costume.

First Coating Of Snow For Select Cities? Yes, this is my way of cheering you up on a Thursday. Thanks to State Climatologist Greg Spoden for providing me with this information. Bottom line, the mean (average) date of the first coating (tenth of an inch or more) in the Twin Cities is November 4. More details at this site:

Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport - Date of First Snowfall => 0.1"
(period of record: 1938 - 2012)
mean: November 4
earliest: September 24, 1985
latest: December 2, 1963

Duluth International Airport - Date of First Snowfall => 0.1"
(period of record: 1948 - 2012)
mean: October 23
earliest: September 18, 1991   (* note: very early snowfall last year - September 21, 2012 *)
latest: November 26, 2004

International Falls Airport - Date of First Snowfall => 0.1"
(period of record: 1948 - 2012)
mean: October 19
earliest: September 14, 1964
latest: December 8, 1999

Fargo International Airport - Date of First Snowfall => 0.1"
(period of record: 1942 - 2012)
mean: November 2
earliest: September 25, 1942
latest: December 14, 1999

Rochester International Airport - Date of First Snowfall => 0.1"
(period of record: 1933 - 2012)
mean: November 5
earliest: September 26, 1942
latest: December 19, 1939

Growing Wildfire Risk. The trends are clear: as the West continues to dry out and warm up wildfires are becoming bigger, and more intense over time. CoreLogic just released an update on the most vulnerable states and metropolitan areas. Texas and Colorado top the list, but in terms of insured property at risk California is also very much at risk. Details in today's edition of Climate Matters.

Ask Paul. Weather-related Q&A:

"I have put off some exterior painting.  Will there be a day soon when I can safely paint outside?  I think the paint folk say a minimum of 50 degrees is required."
Virginia Fuhrken

Virginia - there's little doubt we're heading into a cold part of the cycle, temperatures trending (well) below average the next 2 weeks, probably through the end of October. The GFS solution (below) shows a slight upward blip in temperatures around October 27-28, followed by a colder front in time for Halloween; not sure you'll see a series of days above 50F, but some temporary reprieve from the chill is possible into the first half of November.

Super Cyclonic Storm Phailin: The Strongest Storm Ever In The North Indian Ocean Basin. LiveScience puts Typhoon Phailin into perspective - here's an excerpt: "Phailin (the Thai word for sapphire) is officially the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded to make landfall over India. Phailin had begun as a tropical storm with 105kph (65mph) winds, but rapidly intensified on October 10 2013 to 250kph (155mph). It was upgraded to a super cyclonic storm, which is equivalent to Category 5 in the Saffir-Simpson Scale for the North Western Atlantic Ocean (NWA) Basin..."

Photo credit above: "Cyclone Phailin hit the Indian state of Orisha on Saturday night." EPA/STR.

A Fishing Community Recounts Evacuation Experience During (Typhoon) Phailin. Using force to evacuate people in the projected path of a severe typhoon? I haven't seen that before - but evacuating nearly 1 million Indians in the path of Phailin undoubtedly saved hundreds, possibly thousands of lives. Here's a clip from The New York Times: "...After pleading for hours with unwilling villagers to relocate, the authorities said they began to use force, although no violence was involved. Under the National Disaster Management Act, district administrations may use force during a disaster in order to remove people from vulnerable areas..."

Photo credit above: "An aerial view shows an area flooded by heavy rains in the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin in Balasore district, Orissa state, India, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. A mass government evacuation of nearly 1 million people spared India the widespread deaths many had feared from the powerful weekend cyclone Phailin, which destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of crops and tens of thousands of homes." (AP Photo)

New Views Of Sandy. Here's a clip from a fascinating article at UCAR explaining some of the factors that contributed to Superstorm Sandy's size, ferocity and outsized storm surge (for a Category 1 strength storm at landfall on October 29, 2012): "...Since the January AMS meeting, Tom Galarneau, along with NCAR colleagues Chris Davis and Mel Shapiro, have analyzed additional AHW simulations, which they describe in the just-released paper. They explain that Sandy’s life cycle—unique in Atlantic hurricane annals—was actually a blend of several well-studied phenomena that hadn’t been previously shown to come together in such a way near a major coastline.  As Sandy moved northeast, contrasting air masses created a pseudo-frontal system along the edge of the Gulf Stream’s warm water. The vorticity, or circulation, along this frontal zone (picture an atmospheric rolling pin oriented along the Gulf Stream) was gradually ingested by Sandy and tilted into vertical vorticity (now picture the rolling pin standing on one end). This helped the storm’s core to intensify, tighten, and regain its Category 2 status. It’s roughly similar to the smaller-scale process by which a supercell thunderstorm can ingest, tilt, and concentrate spinning air to produce storm-scale circulations (some of which can generate tornadoes)..."

Image credit above: "In this 3-D map of potential temperature, relatively cool air wraps around Sandy's core near the surface (purple and blue colors), while air parcels gain heat from moisture condensing into clouds and precipitation as they ascend through the storm’s core." For more details on this simulation, see the YouTube videos below. (©UCAR. Image courtesy Mel Shapiro, NCAR).

All Taxpayers Are Footing The Cost Of Fighting High-Risk Wildfires. MinnPost has more details; here's an excerpt: "...While the property losses may be confined to unfortunate homeowners (and others in their hazard insurance pool), the firefighting costs incurred by the U.S. Forest Service are borne by the Minnesota taxpayer on an equal footing with Coloradans and Californians, and driven up by continuing new construction in the fire zone. The 2013 season may actually turn out to be milder than some recent years — though still more destructive than long-term averages —despite huge fires in Colorado, California and Arizona, including the Yarnell Peak fire that killed 19 elite firefighters in June..."

Graphic credit above: Courtesy of CoreLogic. "This map shows a section of the wildland-urban interface outside Colorado Springs, where the Black Forest fire last June became the worst in Colorado history as measured by property loss. Areas with a wildfire risk score above 60 are considered at high risk of wildfire, and areas above 80 are at very high risk. In 10 days the blaze destroyed more than 500 homes and damaged many more."

Jellyfish Are Taking Over The Seas, And It Might Be Too Late To Stop Them. Bad sushi anyone? Is this a result of more acidic ocean water, or more pollution? No idea, but this story makes me appreciate Minnesota's (jellyfish-free) lakes even more. Here's an excerpt from Quartz: "...Coastal areas around the world have struggled with similar jellyfish blooms, as these population explosions are known. These blooms are increasing in intensity, frequency, or duration, says Lucas Brotz, a jellyfish expert at the University of British Columbia. Brotz’s research of 45 major marine ecosystems shows that 62% saw an uptick in blooms (pdf) since 1950. In those areas, surging jellyfish numbers have caused power plant outages, destroyed fisheries and cluttered the beaches of holiday destinations. (Scientists can’t be certain that blooms are rising because historical data are too few.)..."

Photo credit above: "The Nomura jellyfish invasion has plagued Japanese fishermen—and probably stems from pollution in China’s Yangtze River." AP Photo/Junji Kurokawa.

Marine Science Teacher Finds Carcass Of 18-Foot-Long Sea Creature Off California Coast. Hey kids, let's go to the beach and swim in the ocean! I think I'll pass and see a movie instead, after reading this story at The Star Tribune; here's an excerpt: "A marine science instructor snorkeling off the Southern California coast spotted something out of a fantasy novel: the silvery carcass of an 18-foot-long, serpent-like oarfish. Jasmine Santana of the Catalina Island Marine Institute needed more than 15 helpers to drag the giant sea creature with eyes the size of half dollars to shore Sunday. Staffers at the institute are calling it the discovery of a lifetime. "We've never seen a fish this big," said Mark Waddington, senior captain of the Tole Mour, CIMI's sail training ship. "The last oarfish we saw was three feet long..."

"The Last Chase". Robert Draper at National Geographic has a detailed, and haunting account of research meteorologist and veteran tornado chaser Tim Samaras's deadly encounter with a massive tornado in May; here's the introduction: "It’s shortly after six in the evening on May 31, 2013. Sitting in the passenger seat of the white Chevrolet Cobalt, the 55-year-old, bookishly handsome storm chaser momentarily gapes at the video camera that the driver of the car is pointing at his face. Then he looks back through the window at the outskirts of El Reno, Oklahoma. The wheat fields are eerily aglow and shudder from a vicious wind. No more than two miles away from the car, twin funnel clouds spiral downward from an immensity of blackness. What we hear in the man’s voice on the videotape is not quite terror. Nor, however, do his words sound clinically factual, in the manner of the scientist he happens to be. “Oh, my God. This is gonna be a huge one,” he says..."

A Tsunami-Proof Elementary School Gymnasium? We have to worry about blizzards, floods and tornadoes here in Minnesota, but this story from The Seattle Times helped me to keep some perspective; a local school district is planning vertical evacuations in the event of a major quake and resulting tsunami - here's an excerpt: "A new scenario for a megaquake and tsunami off the Washington coast warns that the death toll could top 10,000 — but Paula Akerlund is doing everything she can to keep her kids safe. All 700 of them. The Grays Harbor County school district Akerlund oversees on the Washington coast is preparing to build the nation’s first tsunami refuge. Residents of Westport, Grayland and other communities in the Ocosta School District approved a $13.8 million bond issue earlier this year to replace a flimsy elementary-school building with a complex that includes a gym strong enough to withstand tsunami surges, tall enough to stay dry and big enough to shelter more than 1,000 people on its roof..."

More Americans Die From Car Pollution Than Car Accidents. This headline made me do a double-take; here's a clip from Quartz: "Some day our descendants will marvel that we ever lived in cities filled with emissions direct from the tailpipes of cars. A new study from MIT suggests that in the US, 53,000 people a year die prematurely because of automobile pollution, compared to 34,000 people a year who die in traffic accidents. These results more than double the number of people who die in the US every year as a result of automobiles, to nearly 100,000. One in five Americans is in danger from air pollution, and it appears that the hazard is primarily their proximity to roadways.."

Photo credit above: "You might be able to avoid a pile-up, but you can't escape the smog." AP Photo/Rick Bowmer.

TODAY: Clouds increase, late PM showers. Winds: NW 8. High: 56

THURSDAY NIGHT: Showers likely. Low: 38

FRIDAY: Damp start, mostly cloudy. High: 51

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, chilly. NW 10-15. Wake-up: 34. High: 46

SUNDAY: Dry, potentially frosty start, more showers late. Wake-up: 30. High: 45

MONDAY: Clouds increase - snow flurries/showers late. Wake-up: 32. High: 42

TUESDAY: Early coating of snow? Slow clearing. Wake-up: 31. High: 39

WEDNESDAY: Hard freeze. Some sun - Novemberish. Wake-up: 29. High: near 40

* Photo above courtesy of Timothy Butz.

Climate Stories...
Supreme Courty Agrees To Hear Greenhouse Gas Case. The Los Angeles Times has the story - here's the introduction: "The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a utility industry challenge to the Obama administration’s environmental regulations that would limit greenhouse gases coming from power plants and factories. The justices agreed to rule on whether the Environmental Protection Agency’s restrictions involving motor vehicles give the agency the power to impose similar restrictions on “stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases,” which would include everything from power plants and refineries to apartment buildings and factories. The court, however, turned away the most aggressive challenges to the EPA’s authority to regulate heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions..."

The U.S. Is Now The Biggest Oil Producer In The World. Fracking (shale oil extracted via hydraulic fracture) has pushed us over the top. Here's a clip from an eye-opening story at Fast Company: "So long, Saudi Arabia. The U.S. is projected to be the biggest supplier of oil in the world this year when biofuels and natural gas liquids are taken into account, according to data released from PIRA Energy Group. The growth in U.S. oil production has been rapid--it was just last year that the U.S. overtook Russia to claim the second place spot. Now, thanks to the shale oil boom, the U.S. has climbed above even the Middle Eastern oil empire of Saudi Arabia. And while both Saudi Arabia and the U.S. increased oil production in 2013, the U.S. ramped up production faster than the Saudis. According to a press release from PIRA, the U.S. oil "growth rate is greater than the sum of the growth of the next nine fastest growing countries combined and has covered most of the world's net demand growth over the past two years..." (Image: Clean Technica).

These Maps Show Where The U.S. Is Most Vulnerable To Oil Shocks. The Washington Post provides perspective - here's an excerpt: "How do America's vulnerabilities compare globally? For that we can turn to the "Oil Security Index," a new project from Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE) and Roubini Global Economics. The United States, they find, is still more exposed than most other advanced economies to disruptions in the global oil supply.."

Response To Readers: Combating Climate Change With Nuclear Power And Fracking. There's a link to the original article and a follow-up from the author. Is nuclear power and fracking the lesser of the energy evils when compared to coal? Here's an excerpt to an article at Forbes: "With more than 7,500 views and 180-plus tweets, I want to thank everyone for taking the time to read the original HBS Working Knowledge piece, The Case for Combating Climate Change with Nuclear Power and Fracking, and, in particular, for sharing your thoughts with one another. I don’t expect the article has changed minds, but I do hope it encourages people to open their minds to consider new possibilities. Things that were once seen as relatively safe are now understood as likely to be quite dangerous, such as coal burning’s contribution to global warming driven by worldwide cumulative CO2 emissions. Perhaps, the opposite is also true. Are things that were once seen as quite dangerous now potentially relatively safe as result of new understandings and innovations?..."

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