Saturday, September 20, 2014

Canadian Breeze - 80F by Late Week. "Climate Change Denial May Cost U.S. Billions"

77 F. high Saturday afternoon in the Twin Cities.
70 F. average high on September 20.
66 F. high on September 20, 2013.
.24" rain fell yesterday at MSP International as of 7 PM.

September 20, 1994: 1/2 inch hail in Blue Earth County resulted in $6 million in crop damages.
September 20, 1924: Windstorm with a peak gust of 64 mph in Duluth.

September Bliss

"We know that in September we will wander through the warm winds of summer's wreckage. We will welcome summer's ghost" wrote Henry Rollins. I prefer to think of September as a summer encore, one last chance to get it right.

What's not to like? A crisp snap to the air, drooping dew points, fewer grumbles of thunder (yesterday's storms notwithstanding) and not nearly as many minivan-size mosquitoes showing up on Doppler.

This month can bring 100-degree heat and snow but most days are reasonable, the frenetic pace of summer replaced with fog & football.

Sorry for sounding like an infatuated teenager but this is my favorite time of the year. I don't have to sleep with one eye open.

I still see a warm bias into the first week of October. The ridge of high pressure that's been parked over California pushes east, bottling up any chilly air over Canada. After cooling into the 60s today 70s will be the rule much of this week; model guidance still showing highs near 80F by late week. Next weekend may be ideal for escaping up north to check out ripening leaves. Peak leaf-peeping time in the MSP metro is still about weeks away.

Summer was slightly milder than average. That trend should now spill over into early autumn.

An Oddly Average Summer. After the monsoons of June, officially the wettest month on record in Minnesota, temperatures were all over the map. Only 2 days above 90F (average is 14; last year we saw 19 days at or above 90F), with a series of chilly fronts in mid-July, the midpoint of summer heat. The perception: a chilly summer, and daytime highs were slightly cooler than average. But nighttime lows were 1.2F milder than average at MSP, meaning meteorological summer was .2F warmer than average. Yes, it was one of the strangest "average" summers I can recall.

2014: Fewer Tornadoes Than Average. At last count SPC reports 25 tornadoes in Minnesota so far in 2014, none of the touchdowns near the Twin Cities. The 20-year average is closer to 35. There were reports of hail and damaging winds this summer, but no widespread blow-downs or extensive areas of crop-destroying hail. Map: meteorologist D.J. Kayser at Media Logic Group.

When Good Weather = Bad Business. No drought, no extensive crop-damaging hail or wind events. The result: another potentially record corn harvest from the Dakotas to Ohio. Record supply is depressing prices, corn futures still well below profitability for many farmers. A commodity trader in Wayzata told me that back in 2012 (warmest year on record with pockets of drought and record heat spikes) corn farmers were looking at a profit of $300/acre. This year: a net loss of $250/acre. Yes, the weather really can be "too good".

Saturday's Severe Storm Outbreak. NOAA SPC reports 56 high wind reports (blue icons above), many of them in Minnesota as a rare squall line bubbled up in response to moderate instability and a strong jet stream feature. Winds gusted over 60 mph, bringing down trees, sparking sporadic power outages. A complete chronological rundown of severe weather reports is here.

September Squall Line. I saved this NWS Doppler reflectivity image, taken at 5:04 PM, showing the most severe storms near Glencoe and Fairfax, where some of the most extensive straight-line wind damage was reported. NOAA SPC did issue a Severe Storm Watch around midday, and the models (especially HRRR) did a good job with the timing of these storms.

Cool Surge. Look carefully at the beginning of this 2-meter temperature animation: you can clearly see the surge of cool air in the wake of yesterday's strong to severe storms. You'll feel the cool front today with more clouds than sun and a stiff northwest wind, a few instability showers can't be ruled out, especially east of the St. Croix River. Any cool-down will be brief with a rapid warming trend later this week. 4 KM NAM model data: NOAA and HAMweather.

Lukewarm. We cool off today and Monday; but any light jackets at the bus stop tomorrow morning may be replaced by shorts and T-shirts by the end of the week as highs climb well into the 70s to near 80F. An isolated shower or sprinkle can't be ruled today, especially over Wisconsin, with a better chance of scattered showers Wednesday. Right now next weekend looks dry and warm, more typical of late August than late September. MSP Meteogram: Weatherspark.

2014 Was a Summer Sizzler: Earth's Hottest on Record. Here's more information on a record-setting summer, worldwide, from USA TODAY: "The planet just had its hottest summer on record, according to data released Thursday by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. It's also well on its way to having its hottest year ever, beating 2010, said climate scientist Jake Crouch of the data center. The global temperature for summer was 1.28 degrees above the 20th-century average of 61.5 degrees. Records go back to 1880. Climatologists define summer in the Northern Hemisphere as the months of June, July and August..."

Map credit above: "The parts of the world that were warmer-than-average this past summer are seen in red and pink on this map, while places that were cooler-than-average (such as the eastern U.S.) are seen in blue." (Photo: NOAA's National Climatic Data Center)

Hurricane Odile: From Paradise to Armageddon in 12 Hours. Here's a blog account of what really happened in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on the southern tip of Baja, when Category 3 Hurricane Odile arrived. The impact was even worse than I thought it would be. Here's an excerpt from a must-read account at wHaT iT iS: "I'm writing from the safety of my family's home in Mexico City after fleeing Cabo on a rescue plane yesterday morning. Words will never be enough to portray what I saw and experienced in Cabo during and after Hurricane Odile, but I want to write the most detailed account so people can get a sense of what the situation was really like as of Wednesday, Sept 17- as most media outlets are filtering things likely to protect tourism in the long run, as well as not to worry friends and relatives of those in Cabo during the storm. The easiest way to do this is as a "timeline"...

Family Describes "Nightmare Experience" in Cabo. has the harrowing details.

Americans Trapped in Cabo Describe Desperation, Danger. NBC News has the story.

The Chemistry Behind The Different Colors of Autumn Leaves. Gizmodo and Compound Interest have a good explainer of what makes leaves change colors this time of year; here's an excerpt: "...Over at Compound Interest, Andy Brunning has made yet another infographic that gets into the geeky and fascinating details. Yes, the green of chlorophyll gives way to the yellow, orange, and red of carotenoids and flavonoids. But that deep purple and magenta you sometimes see? That's an entirely different class of compounds, called anthocyanins that plants only start making in the fall..."

El Nino is Kinda Sorta Maybe Here. Climate Central takes a look at this year's slow-motion warming phase in the Pacific; here's a clip: "El Niño watchers, rejoice (maybe). A weak El Niño has formed (sorta).  On Tuesday, researchers at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society said a borderline El Niño is upon us, with the odds for further development increasing throughout the fall and winter. This El Niño has played a game of hide and seek since an El Niño Watch was declared way back in March. After picking up steam in the spring and early summer, El Niño conditions essentially disappeared in July and much of August..."

Image credit above: "Chart showing ocean temperatures in different regions of the Pacific used to gauge El Niño, including the recent rise in temperatures." Credit: IRI.

Looking Back to 1821, Insurers Foresee a $100 Billion Hurricane. No, Sandy was not a worst-case scenario for the northeastern USA. Here's an excerpt from an Andrew Revkin Dot Earth story at The New York Times: "...The result is, needless to say, deeply sobering, showing that the losses from Hurricane Sandy were, as many experts have warned, nowhere near a worst case. The study’s bottom line? If the 1821 Hurricane were to happen today, it would cause 50% more damage than Sandy and potentially cause more than $100 billion in property losses stemming from storm surge and wind damage..."

Image credit above: "Analysts at Swiss Re, the giant reinsurance company, have projected that a repeat of the great 1821 hurricane that struck New York City would flood a far greater area than Hurricane Sandy and could cause more than $100 billion in damage." Credit Swiss Re.

Report Warns That Superstorm Sandy Was Not "The Big One". Following up on the Swiss Re report Huffington Post has more perspective; here's an excerpt: "...When the 1821 storm passed through hubs like Washington, D.C. and New York City, those cities had much smaller populations -- only 136,000 people combined. Today, Washington alone has more than four times as many residents, and New York is home to more than 8 million people. Using meteorological models, geographic and infrastructure data and Swiss Re's underwriting tools, the report considers the impact an analogous storm would have today. It predicts a storm surge of up to 12 feet at the southern tip of Manhattan, and a surge of up to 25 feet in Atlantic City, New Jersey -- in part because the water is about a foot and a half higher now than it was in 1821, due to sea level rise..."

College Football: The Multi-Billion Dollar Business Where The Labor Is Free. Quartz has another interesting article, this time looking at why so many of us are rabid college football fans, and how the economics of football, the huge dollars involved, are changing not only the game, but how colleges operate. Here's an excerpt: "...And today, as economists debate rising inequality and low minimum wages, college football debates whether student athletes—who aren’t paid, but get scholarships—should be compensated more. Michael Weinreb, the author of the new book Season of Saturdays: A History of College Football in 14 Games, explains that the fervent support for college football stems from one of the most powerful marketing tools there is: nostalgia. “It appeals to people’s nostalgia, because they either went to school there or they grew up there, and they think they can get back to that place,” he tells Quartz..."

Photo credit: "Kind-of a big deal in Alabama." Reuters/ RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

What Happens When We All Live To 100? Kiss social security goodbye, right? Here's a snippet of a fascinating article from The Atlantic: "...Since 1840, life expectancy at birth has risen about three months with each passing year. In 1840, life expectancy at birth in Sweden, a much-studied nation owing to its record-keeping, was 45 years for women; today it’s 83 years. The United States displays roughly the same trend. When the 20th century began, life expectancy at birth in America was 47 years; now newborns are expected to live 79 years. If about three months continue to be added with each passing year, by the middle of this century, American life expectancy at birth will be 88 years. By the end of the century, it will be 100 years..."

TODAY: More clouds than sun, still windy. Risk of a shower, especially Wisconsin. Winds: NW 15+ High: 65
SUNDAY NIGHT: Clearing and cool. Low: 49
MONDAY: Bright sun with less wind, beautiful. Dew point: 45. High: 71
TUESDAY: Fading sun, seasonably mild. Wake-up: 50. High: 73
WEDNESDAY: Unsettled, few showers in the area. Wake-up: 56. High: 69
THURSDAY: Early fog, PM sun, milder. Wake-up: 57. High: 74
FRIDAY: Bottle it. Warm sunshine. Wake-up: 60. High: 78
SATURDAY: August memories. Hazy sun. Wake-up: 61. High: near 80

Climate Stories...

My Climate Change. We all start from a point of skepticism. But if you do more than mouth cable TV talking points and really take time to drill down into the data, you're left with the knowledge that something really is happening, and odds are it isn't natural or benign. Here's an excerpt of Weather Channel Senior Meteorologist Stu Ostro's story, how he came to acknowledge the science, at Weather Underground: "..Did I suddenly switch from conservative to liberal? No, in fact I consider myself politically independent. I have voted for Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians. (I've either now assuaged everyone's concerns or irritated everyone, or both!) Did The Weather Channel pressure me to change my point of view on global warming or what I communicate about it? Nobody at The Weather Channel, its owners or its advertisers has ever done that. I come to my own objective conclusions, and that will never change. Skepticism is a fundamental part of the scientific process, and healthy when in that vein. I continue to look at data with a skeptical eye. However, skepticism is not constructive when it becomes overwhelming and results in being closed-minded and only seeing what you want to see. So, what convinced me?..."

Obama Budget Chief: "Climate Denial" Will Cost the U.S. Billions. Here's an excerpt from The Hill: "...President Obama's budget director on Friday said "denial" of climate change will eventually cost the United States "billions of dollars." Shaun Donovan, delivering his first speech as head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), put the focus on an issue not normally associated with the dollars and cents of the federal budget. "Climate action is tremendously important to me," Donovan said..."

Climate Change is a Global Emergency. Stop Waiting for Politicians to Sound The Alarm. Here's a clip of an Op-Ed at The Guardian from Naomi Klein: "...What is most terrifying about the threat of climate disruption is not the unending procession of scientific reports about rapidly melting ice sheets, crop failures and rising seas. It’s the combination of trying to absorb that information while watching our so-called leaders behave as if the global emergency is no immediate concern. As if every alarm in our collective house were not going off simultaneously. Only when we urgently acknowledge that we are facing a genuine crisis will it become possible to enact the kinds of bold policies and mobilize the economic resources we need. Only then will the world have a chance to avert catastrophic warming..."

Image credit above: "The most terrifying part of climate change may be watching politicians behave as if the emergency is no immediate concern." Illustration: Cesar Maxi.

The Imminent Threat To The U.S. That Gets Ignored. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at CNN: "There is an imminent threat facing the people, economy and territory of the United States of America. A report by the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board calls it a threat to national security and a broader "catalyst for conflict," domestically and worldwide. The admiral in charge of U.S. forces in the Pacific says it poses the biggest long-term security threat to the region. A comprehensive study, with 16 terabytes of data, documents how this threat will affect every single county in the United States — costing coastal cities billions and decimating crops all across the Midwest..."

Photo credit above: Mary Altaffer, AP. "Protections have already been added to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York, but will they be enough in an era of climate change. Listing 30 at-risk sites, a report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists contends rising seas are endangering many of America's landmarks. Here's a look at some of them."

New Map of 15 Years of CO2 Emissions. EarthSky has an interesting story on carbon dioxide emission rates, worldwide. Here's the introduction: "Researchers have developed a new system – which they call the Fossil Fuel Data Assimilation System (FFDAS) – to estimate CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. This new system has now been used to quantify 15 years of CO2 emissions, every hour, for the entire planet – down to the city scale. Researchers unveiled the new system in an article published September 10 in the Journal of Geophysical Research. The FFDAS uses information from satellite feeds, national fuel accounts and a new global database on power plants to create high-resolution planetary maps..

Map credit: Gurney Labs.

What A Biblical-Style Flood Could Mean for Washington D.C. When congressmen have to boat to the U.S. Capitol maybe they'll realize that something has changed. Here's a clip from a story at Citylab: "It's amazing that with a 97 percent scientific consensus on human-caused climate change we still have politicians talking smack about its importance. Will their tune change at all, one wonders, once the flood waters are lapping at the base of the federal government? This mapping tool can't answer that question, but it does give an indication of what a climate-enraged flood could mean for Washington, D.C. And to believe the folks at Climate Central, the independent group that created it with government data, such an epic dousing is nigh. They say the city will "likely see a record flood before mid-century," meaning one that would measure 8 feet above the high-tide level in the Tidal Basin..."

Global Investors Urge Leaders To Act On Carbon Pricing Ahead of UN Meeting. Here's the intro to a story at Reuters: "More than 340 institutional investors representing $24 trillion in assets on Thursday called on government leaders attending next week's United Nations climate summit to set carbon pricing policies that encourage the private sector to invest in cleaner technologies. Firms signing a joint letter include BlackRock, Calvert Investments, BNP Paribas Investment Partners and Standard Bank..."

Our Disappearing Snows: Climate Change and Water Resources. We're talking primarily about snow trends over the western USA and Rockies. Peter Gleick has the story at Huffington Post; here's an excerpt: "...We're not ready. We still manage our water systems for the 20th century climate we use to have, not the 21st century climate we will have. We still act as though our water problems can be solved with traditional solutions despite the growing evidence of peak water limits in places like the western US. And we still assume that we can indefinitely overdraft our groundwater, suck our rivers dry, and expand our populations in arid regions. We cannot. The sooner we accept the new reality of climate change, the sooner we can have a real conversation about the most effective strategies for truly sustainable water management and use."

Map credit: National Geographic 2014.

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