Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Risky Business: Bipartisan Study Outlines Economic Risk of Climate Change for USA

84 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.
82 F. average high on June 24.
82 F. high on June 24, 2013.

June 24 in Minnesota Weather History. Source: NOAA

2003: Heavy rains across central Minnesota. Elk River picked up 8.19 inches. 4.36 inches in 4 hours in Maplewood with reports of street flooding in St. Paul. Strong winds toppled trees in Richfield.
1950: Flood at Warroad. Strong winds accompanied waters that rose 4 feet in 10 minutes.

"...The science is settled, with the debate left to the trolls, conspiracy theorists, and corporate shills who much prefer to repeat thoroughly discredited memes than to discuss market share or investment-related issues. As I am fond of pointing out, someone has to be on the money-losing side of the trade, and it might as well be the anti-science crowd. Call it Darwin’s revenge: Ignorance as an evolutionary adaptive failure..."  - from an Op-Ed by professional money manager and columnist Barry Ritholtz at Bloomberg View; details below. Photo credit here.


According to scientists at NOAA and NASA May was the warmest on record, worldwide. It was the 351st month in a row of global temperatures warmer than the 20th century average.

I'm sure it's all a coincidence. I read that on the Inter-web so it must be true.

Warmer air can hold more water vapor, unleashing heavier rains. The number of 3" plus downpours over the Midwest has doubled since 1964.

That's not hard to believe this year. As the Mississippi River in St. Paul crests at its highest June level in recorded history meteorologists are tracking a potential for more heavy T-storms by late week.
Today will be relatively cool and monsoon-free, but an advancing warm frontal boundary, marking the leading edge of tropical 70-degree dew points, sparks more torrential rains anytime from Saturday into Monday.

Another .83 inches of rain at MSP International and we break the all-time June rainfall record set in 1874. I suspect some 1-2 inch amounts before we cool down and dry out next week.

In today's blog: the lightning capital of the USA - why the word "tornado" was banned from weather forecasts up until 1950 - why the Twin's Brian Dozier should hit more home runs on muggy days than cool, comfortable days - and a sneak peak at weather for the 4th of July.

7-Day Rainfall Potential. It's still a tale of moisture haves and have-nots. No rain predicted for the southwest USA, while the torrents keep coming from the Upper Midwest into much of New England, as much as 3-6" for Florida. Flood-stricken Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin could easily pick up another 1-3" rain late Friday into Monday of next week. Map: NOAA.

First 24 Days of June: 86% of Meteorological Summer Rainfall at MSP. Thanks to meteorologist Todd Nelson for compiling the statistics below. If anyone asks (doubtful) the Twin Cities has already picked up 82% of the average annual precipitation, and the year isn't even half over yet.

MSP Rainfall through June 23rd:

June 2014 Rain: 10.85"
June Average.: 4.25"
Meteorological Summer So Far: 10.85"
Meteorological Summer Avg.: 12.59"

(We've seen 86% of our normal meteorological summer rain)

June Avg.: 4.25"
July Avg.: 4.04"
August Avg.: 4.30"
Summer Avg.: 12.59"
NOAA NOWData Annual Avg. Precip (1981-2010): 30.61"
2014 Precipitation So Far: 25.32"
(We've seen 82% of our normal annual precipitation at MSP International)

The Midwest Receives Two Months of Rainfall in One Week. For some spots it was closer to 3 months of rain. Here's an excerpt from a summary at ThinkProgress: "...The rain has damaged corn and soybean crops, according to local reports, with water slow to drain from farmers’ fields. If farmers can get the water off their crops over the next few days, the crops could survive, and soybeans can be replanted this late in the season. The rains also elevated river levels, which could temporarily halt grain shipments in the region. The Midwest’s recent patterns of floods, droughts and damaged crops are in line with predictions for the region in this year’s National Climate Assessment..."

A Submerged Harriet Island. Webcam courtesy of the City of St. Paul, which has more details on flooding impacts here. A projected crest of 20.5 feet Thursday into early Friday would be the highest June crest on record.

Aerial View of Rising Floodwaters in Minnesota. NBC News and KARE-11 have a good summary of some of the most extreme flooding across the state: "Flood waters nearly cover roads of Delano, Minnesota as the Crow River is on the brink of overflow."

Relatively Dry Next 48 Hours - Weekend Thunder Risk. A weak high pressure bubble of Canadian origin will cool us off into the 70s today and Thursday with a mix of clouds and sun (and an isolated shower or two). 70-degree dew point air surges north by Friday, fueling another ill-timed frontal passage over the weekend with scattered showers and T-storms, some packing potentially heavy rain. 84 hour NAM data: NOAA.

Out On A Limb: 4th of July Preview. ECMWF (European) guidance hints at drier, cooler, sunnier conditions returning to Minnesota and much of the Upper Midwest next week. On Friday morning, the 4th of July, a northwest breeze may favor lukewarm sunshine and highs near 80F. Confidence levels are low this far out, so check back in (preferably on the 5th of July). Map above: WSI Corporation.

Lightning Alley: Central Florida. Data from Vaisala (1997-2011) shows more than 33 strikes per square mile every year from near Tampa to Daytona Beach; cloud to ground strikes most likely from the Gulf Coast into the lower and middle Mississippi River Valley. NOAA Map credit here.

Classic Hook Echo. I saved this image of NWS Doppler radar (reflectivity mode) yesterday as a tornado was on the ground near Plainfield, just west of Indianapolis, where damage was reported.

Schools Need Better Tornado Protection. No kidding. And putting kids in hallways may not be the safest option, it turns out. Here's an excerpt of a timely post at LiveScience: "...Despite this danger, building codes are not designed to ensure that schools withstand the kinds of winds even the most modest tornado can muster. The standard is to build schools to resist 90-mph (145 km/h), straight-line winds. The weakest EF1 tornadoes can sustain gusts of up to 110 mph (177 km/h), and their rotational winds put more pressure on buildings than a straight-line wind of the same speed, Iowa State University engineer Partha Sarkar told Live Science in 2013. "The buildings are simply not designed to withstand that level of wind," Sarkar said..."

Photo credit above: Lubbock National Weather Service. "A May 2006 tornado damaged the gym of Childress High School in Texas."

History of Tornado Forecasting. Did you know that the word "tornado" was banned for the longest time, for fear of inciting mass public panic? That's one of many interesting nuggets from this worthwhile post from NOAA; here's an excerpt: "...In 1882, after nearly 300 years of numerous observations and stories of whirlwinds, cyclones, and tornadoes, U.S. Army Signal Corps Sergeant John P. Finley was placed in charge of the investigation of tornadoes and the development of forecasting methods. During a tornado outbreak that occurred on February 19, 1884, Finley established 15 rules for early tornado forecasting. In 1888, Finley published these rules, which identified signs that the formation of a tornado was likely. Unfortunately, as Finley was developing his techniques, the tornado prediction program encountered a huge road block. The word "tornado" was banned from official forecasts by the U.S. Army Signal Corps due to limitations with the observing network and concerns over causing mass panic among the general public..."

* more detail on the history of tornado forecasting and the banning of the word "tornado" from CNN.

5 Ways Weather Is Pivotal In A Baseball Game. All other things being equal, batters stand a better chance of hitting a home run on a hot, muggy day with high dew points, when air density is lower and the ball can travel farther. AccuWeather has an interesting story - here's the intro: "The impact of weather on a baseball game may not always be immediately recognizable as a heavy storm causing a rain-out, but it can be profound even on a bright, sunny day. "The weather can impact every aspect of the game," said Mike Collins, head baseball coach at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Baseball is a sport that is played throughout multiple seasons, so players must continuously adapt throughout the year. Below are five ways weather can affect the outcome of a game..."

Temperature Highest On Record For May. Here's a clip from an update at The Boston Globe: "Driven by exceptionally warm ocean waters, Earth smashed a record for heat in May and is expected to keep on breaking high temperature marks, experts say. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Monday said May’s average temperature on Earth of 59.93 degrees beat the record set four years ago. In April, the globe tied the 2010 record for that month. Records go back to 1880..." (Map: NOAA NCDC).

* May was the 351st month in a row of global temperatures warmer than the 20th century average.

See How Borders Change on Google Maps Depending On Where You View Them. Quartz has a fascinating story about how map borders are in the eyes of the beholder (or state government). Here's an excerpt: "...The border between China and Bhutan has been the subject of decades of diplomatic talks, since the areas China claims in Bhutan’s West would provide China with strategic military positions on the Indian border. The country’s borders are similarly altered when viewed from China, showing some areas administered by Bhutan as part of China..."

CNN To Study Drone Use For Reporting. Hey, I'd watch for that. At this rate we'll all have our own pet drones within a few years, but for covering breaking news or natural disasters? I guess it's inevitable. Here's a clip from CNN Money: "Seeking to speed up government rule-making about the use of drones in newsgathering, CNN and the Georgia Institute of Technology said Monday that they would jointly study how to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) safely and effectively. In a press release, the partners called it a "research initiative" and said they will share data with the Federal Aviation Authority "as it considers regulations that will allow for the safe and effective operation of UAVs by media outlets..."

Apple's Big iPhones Said To Start Production Next Month. Bloomberg has a video and story focusing on what's in the Apple pipeline for fall; here's an excerpt: "...Apple is ramping up on two bigger devices, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. One model will have a 4.7-inch display, compared to the 4-inch screen of the current iPhone 5s, that may be available to ship to retailers around September, said two of the people. A 5.5-inch version is also being prepared for manufacturing and may be available at the same time, the people said..."

Video credit above: "Apple suppliers in China will begin mass production of its largest iPhones ever next month, according to people familiar with the plans, as the smartphone maker faces increased competition. Alix Steel reports on “Movers & Shakers” on “In The Loop.” (Source: Bloomberg)

14 Amazing Tips For Shopping Amazon You Need To Know. Buzzfeed has a post with some interesting perks and tips for getting the most from Amazon. If the price on your item drops within 7 days of online purchase you can get a refund. Also, Amazon Warehouse sells gently used items that still have a warranty, at significant discounts: "...According to Amazon these discounted items “are in good condition but do not meet Amazon’s rigorous standards as ‘new.’” They’re covered by Amazon’s standard 30-day return policy, though, so if your item doesn’t work you can send it back..."

TODAY: Partly sunny, cooler. Dew point: 56. Winds: NE 7. High: 75
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy and comfortable. Low: 61
THURSDAY: Intervals of sun, more humidity. High: 78
FRIDAY: Warm, sticky sunshine. Wake-up: 65. High: 85
SATURDAY: Unsettled, numerous T-storms with locally heavy rain. Wake-up: 72. High: 84
SUNDAY: Some sun, PM T-storm risk. Wake-up: 70. High: 85
MONDAY: More heavy showers, T-storms possible. Wake-up: 68. High: 81
TUESDAY: Turning sunnier, less humidity. Wake-up: 63. High: 79

Climate Stories...

Bipartisan Report Tallies High Toll On Economy From Global Warming. Here's the introduction to a story at The New York Times: "More than a million homes and businesses along the nation’s coasts could flood repeatedly before ultimately being destroyed. Entire states in the Southeast and the Corn Belt may lose much of their agriculture as farming shifts northward in a warming world. Heat and humidity will probably grow so intense that spending time outside will become physically dangerous, throwing industries like construction and tourism into turmoil. That is the picture of what may happen to the United States economy in a world of unchecked global warming, according to a major new report being put forward Tuesday by a coalition of senior political and economic figures from the left, right and center, including three Treasury secretaries stretching back to the Nixon administration..."

"Risky Business" Report Aims To Frame Climate Change As Economic Issue. Following up on the New York Times, here's an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal: "...The whole point was to have a bipartisan group who agreed on the nature of the problem, which is that climate change is a huge economic risk," said Mr. Paulson, who served under President George W. Bush. The study concludes that within the next 15 years, higher sea levels, storm surges and hurricanes could raise the annual price tag for coastal damage along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico to $35 billion. Some Midwestern and Southern agricultural areas could see a decline in yields of more than 10% over the next five to 25 years due to increased drought and flooding, unless farmers adapt their crops, according to the study..."

* The Risky Business report, download and Executive Summary is here.
* Click here for the Risky Business Press Conference Live Stream.

The Losing Bet on Climate Change. Professional money manager and columnist Barry Ritholtz has an Op-Ed at Bloomberg View where he discusses something I've been talking about for some time: climate volatility, and how companies will soon be divulging climate volatility risk to their investors; here's an excerpt: "...Changes in weather are going to be disruptive for investors. Opportunities and risks will abound. Your choices will be to either take advantage of these opportunities for your clients or your own holdings or let them pass by because you have come to the scientifically unsupported conclusion that there is no such thing as global warming -- or maybe there is, but it's only modest, and besides, it's natural and caused by sunspots and not human activity, or whatever slice of agnotology your cognitive dissonance has foisted upon you. .."

Why We Care About The 97% Expert Consensus on Human-Caused Global Warming. Dana Nuccitelli has the story at The Guardian; here's the intro: "Three distinct studies using four different methods have independently shown that the expert consensus on human-caused global warming is 97 ± 1%. The result is the same whether we ask the experts’ opinions, look at their public reports and statements, or examine their peer-reviewed science. Even studies that quibble about the precise percentage have accidentally reinforced the 97 ± 1% consensus. The evidence is crystal clear that humans are the main cause of the current global warming, and the expert consensus reflects the strength of that body of evidence. It’s not easy to convince 97% of scientific experts about anything – that requires some powerful scientific evidence. And yet public opinion is a very different story. Americans think experts are evenly split on the causes of global warming..."

Corn Farming In The Midwest Heavily Taxes Water Resources and Supply. Water conservation (and flood resilience) will be increasingly big business in the years to come, as highlighted in this article at The Guardian; here's a clip: "...But, as a new Ceres report reveals, the corn sector’s prodigious growth is taking a major toll on water quality and shrinking water supplies. US corn production today uses vast amounts of water and fertilizer, far more than any other agriculture sector. Driven by high corn prices, record demand and generous federal subsidies, a growing number of midwest farmers are forsaking traditional conservation steps, such as crop rotations and use of cover crops, that would limit soil erosion and fertilizer runoff. They are also expanding production into highly erodible and ecologically sensitive lands, oftentimes wetlands..."

Photo credit above: "Drought-damaged corn near Nickerson, Nebraska. US corn production uses vast amounts of water and fertilizer — problematic for a drought-stricken Midwest." Photo: Nati Harnik/AP.

University of Dayton Becomes First U.S. Catholic College to Divest from Fossil Fuels. Here's a clip from an update at EcoWatch: "Monday marked a historic day for the University of Dayton and colleges throughout the country. The University of Dayton announced that it would divest its $670 million investment pool to fossil fuel companies. Monday’s announcement made Dayton the first catholic university to make such a decision..."

We Need To Ditch Our Filthiest Source of Energy: Coal. Here's a snippet of an Op-Ed at Time Magazine: "...Instead, the EPA projects that we would still get more than 30 percent of our power from coal in 2030. That would be a catastrophe. Coal plants emit twice as much carbon as natural gas, and infinitely more carbon than wind, solar, nuclear and other zero-emissions sources of power. They are also public health nightmares, fouling our air with mercury, soot, and other toxics, shrouding cities in smog and triggering asthma attacks among children. And the coal we burn in our power plants—unlike the petroleum we burn in our vehicles—can be easily and inexpensively replaced without changing our behaviors or disrupting our economy..."

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