Monday, September 22, 2014

Next Weekend: More August than September. 2013 CO2 Emissions Reach New Global Record

72 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday.
69 F. average high on September 22.
74 F. high on September 22, 2013.

September 22 in Minnesota Weather History. Source: MPX National Weather Service:
1995: 0.2 inches of snow fell in the St. Cloud area.
1985: Early snow over portions of Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Just under a half inch (.4) recorded at the Twin City Airport. Most of it fell during the afternoon.
1937: From summer to winter. The temperature was 101 at Wheaton. Then a cold front came through causing the mercury to tumble below freezing.

Relative Risk

Yes, there is a risk of relatives. On paper today is the first full day of autumn, but "meteorological fall", marking the end of the 90 warmest days of the year, on average, really began September 1.
Autumn tends to bring the lowest risk of severe weather here in Minnesota; far fewer floods, tornadoes and lightning deaths. Hurricane risk peaks in September as ocean water temperatures peak, but it's been supernaturally quiet in the Atlantic.

Which got me thinking about risk, something we all live with daily. Using seat belts is a no-brainer - so is booking a hotel room below the 9th floor (so fire equipment can reach you in an emergency).
I keep encouraging my youngest son, flying helicopters for the Navy, not to push the weather. With Doppler radar seemingly everywhere now you can SEE what's coming and take evasive action.

Radar may be speckled with a few blobs tonight & Wednesday as a weak trough of low pressure arrives; the atmosphere too cool & dry for anything severe. Expect a minor meteorological miracle Thursday into Sunday as a bloated ridge of high pressure expands into town: highs well into the 70s to near 80F.

Don't pack away the shorts (or boats) just yet.

Shades of Late August. Umbrellas are optional again today as sunshine gives way to increasing clouds, showers spreading into far western Minnesota by late afternoon and evening. A few spotty T-showers are possible tonight and Wednesday, followed by lukewarm sun Thursday into early next week. Weekend temperatures may brush 80F. MSP Meteogram: Weatherspark.

Warm High Pressure Bubble. The expansive ridge of high pressure that stalled over the west coast of the USA for much of 2014, amplifying a 3-year drought, shows signs of drifting east, resulting in a spell of August-like weather for the central USA from late week into the weekend. A weak ripple of cold air aloft sparks a few spotty showers from the Dakotas into Minnesota Tuesday night into Wednesday, but the forecast looks dry and unusually warm from Thursday into at least Sunday. 500 mb winds above courtesy of UCAR.

Zero Percent Water. In the midst of what may be one of the worst droughts in 800+ years many farmers in California's Central Valley are facing ruin. Medium takes a look at the politics and realities of managing rapidly dwindling water supplies in the west; here's a clip: "...We meet in a little café and the two of them offer me a crash course in California Water 101. Even in non-drought years the logistics are complex. Snowpack runoff is captured in reservoirs. Rivers and lakes are dammed. Canals snake across the state. Some water is managed at the federal level, some at the state. There are 500 public water districts, each with local ordinances. There are senior water rights, junior rights, riparian rights. As difficult as it is to understand water collection and distribution, Russ and Jim simplify the crisis by reiterating what I heard the night before: Radical environmentalists have effectively lobbied to have water diverted away from the Central valley..."

Hurricane Hugo Highlighted Challenges in Warning Public. has a video and article focused on how NOAA's strategies have changed with the advent of social media, but convincing people in the path of danger remains a constant challenge; here's an excerpt: "...Getting your citizens to evacuate is difficult because people don't want to leave," said Riley. "You have to thread the needle between panic and fear." The speed of information and the demand for knowledge have affected everything, including weather forecasting and alerts. Now there is virtually no excuse for a breakdown in communication on the part of officials or residents. But for as many problems as experts solve, they acknowledge problems will always exist. "A lot of that stuff has changed in the last 25 years," said National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Bright. "We're being more proactive, and hopefully, that sends a message to the public to be more proactive as well..."

Out of Date. NOAA's hurricane-planning software uses 2000 census data. The Post and Courier asks if that's good enough; here's an excerpt: "A Federal Emergency Management Agency computer model that's used nationwide for disaster planning is supposed to estimate how many homes would be destroyed and how many people would need shelter if a major hurricane or earthquake were to strike. But there's a problem. The software, called Hazus, can't truly calculate the disaster impact on people and property because it doesn't know how many homes and residents areas have today. The FEMA program is still loaded with 14-year-old data from the 2000 census..."

Image credit: File/Wade Spees/Staff.

High Above The Earth, Hoping for Turbulence. Flying into a thunderstorm is one thing, but clear air turbulence is much (much) harder to predict with any accuracy or reliability. The New York Times has an article on new technology being perfected by Honeywell; here's an excerpt: "...Honeywell’s IntuVue radar provides far greater detail and frees pilots from much of the distracting labor-intensive work in operating older systems. It is being marketed partly as a better way for pilots to assess direct localized weather threats and help spare passengers from sudden turbulence. A Honeywell competitor, Rockwell Collins, in February introduced a similar radar system, MultiScan ThreatTrack, which American Airlines has been installing in its new 737s..."

Image credit above: "Honeywell’s new radar system helps pilots track bad weather."

Researchers Study Ways to Protect Power Grid from Solar Storms. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Emergency Management have the article; here's a clip: "...The biggest eruptions can happen anytime during the solar cycle, said Bob Rutledge, who leads the federal Space Weather Forecast Office in Boulder, Colo. He said scholars predict a 6 percent to 12 percent chance of a Carrington-level disruption in the next 10 years. During the 1859 event, named for British astronomer Richard Carrington, who documented it, the northern lights dazzled observers as far south as the Caribbean Islands, and telegraph systems picked up so much energy from the solar storm that handsets began sparking and setting nearby papers on fire..."

Image credit: "This ultraviolet photograph of a massive solar flare, spanning a third of a million miles into space, was taken on Dec. 19, 1973." Flickr/NASA.

The Fragile Dominance of the NFL. The Atlantic delves into why football is so important, not only to the NFL, but to pay television in general; without live sports, especially football, the business model quickly unravels. Here's an excerpt: "...As viewers have learned to time-shift their favorite shows, where they can skip over ads, the value of a live event has soared. The cost of securing exclusive rights to live sports events have gone up for just about every athletic activity under the sun. But whereas ratings for baseball and other sports have stagnated, the NFL's ratings have grown. Indeed, they could be the keystone holding together the wobbly arch of pay-TV. Years into the recovery, young people are still resisting the pull of television. TV viewership among every age demographic under 55 is down between 12 and 16 percent since 2009, according to analysis from MoffettNathanson. Without the allure of live sports, the cable bundle might unravel..."

Almost 1 in 4 Americans Support Idea of Splitting From The Union. Voters in Scotland just voted, by a fairly narrow margin, to remain within the UK. For many Americans the idea isn't as far-fetched as it might sound. Here's a clip from Slate: "...But it turns out that wanting to break away from the union is not as much of a fringe idea as some might think. According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, almost one-quarter of Americans said they either strongly supported or tended to support the idea of their states leaving the union. As could be expected, the feeling is hardly overwhelming. After all, more than half—53.3 percent—directly opposed the notion or tended to oppose the very idea..."

Bored? This site promises hours of mind-numbing fun. It's addicting and disturbing. You've been warned. "The Useless Web... because some websites, we just couldn't do without."

This Week's Most Amazing News Headline. Here's an excerpt from the story at Time: "...The crocodile had launched at him, latched onto his right arm and tried to pull him underwater,” duty superintendent Louise Jorgensen told the Advertiser. “Like a true Territorian he wrestled the crocodile and was able to shake it off finally by poking its eyes.” When he got back to an outpost station to meet with clinic workers and police, authorities found him noticeably intoxicated and reported that he had decided to treat the pain with Australian lager Carlton Dry..."

TODAY: Sunny start, clouds increase later. Winds: S 10-15. High: 73
TUESDAY NIGHT: Mostly cloudy with a few showers possible. Low: 58
WEDNESDAY: Unsettled, a few showers, stray T-shower. High: 70
THURSDAY: Patchy fog, then mild sunshine. Wake-up: 57. High: 75
FRIDAY: Warm sun, clock out early. Wake-up: 60. High: 78
SATURDAY: Blue sky, low humidity, few bugs. Wake-up: 58. High: 79
SUNDAY: Postcard-worthy. Warm sun. Dew point: 58. Wake-up: 59. High: 80
MONDAY: Fading sun, more humid. Dew point: 62. Wake-up: 61. High: 76

Climate Stories...

The World Spewed More Carbon Pollution Into The Air Last Year Than Ever Before. Here's the intro to a story from AP and Huffington Post: "Spurred chiefly by China, the United States and India, the world spewed far more carbon pollution into the air last year than ever before, scientists announced Sunday as world leaders gather to discuss how to reduce heat-trapping gases. The world pumped an estimated 39.8 billion tons (36.1 billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide into the air last year by burning coal, oil and gas. That is 778 million tons (706 metric tons) or 2.3 percent more than the previous year..."

Testing Future Conditions for The Food Chain. Will more CO2 and warmer temperatures be a boon for crops, or complicate farming even more? Here's an excerpt from a Justin Gillis story at The New York Times: "...The tests so far have confirmed the beneficial “CO2 fertilization effect,” as it is known. But in field conditions, the boon to the crops was not as great as in earlier greenhouse experiments, and probably not enough to offset the heat and other stresses of a warmer planet. “It’s there, it’s real, but the question is, how much is it going to help?” Dr. Leakey said. Other research in recent years suggested that rising temperatures in some of the world’s most important growing regions were already cutting into potential grain production, compared with what the yields would likely be in the absence of global warming...."

Photo credit above: "Andrew Leakey is studying the effects of future climate change on crops by exposing test plants to conditions like elevated carbon dioxide levels on a farm outside Champaign, Ill." Credit Beth Rooney for The New York Times.

Ask Paul. Weather and climate-related questions, comments and threats:

"You said in your Star Tribune column that you would (read things that challenge you), so here is a challenge. The link is to a popular article but there are a series of scientific articles that I am trying to find the best articles digitally available.  I did find a few summaries. Warming or cooling is related to solar activity, but NOT as you would intuitively conclude. With decreased solar activity and decreased cosmic ray output, the Maunder Minimum, there is less cloud formation and temperatures go up. With increased solar activity, the nucleus for droplets forms clouds which cools the earth. You have a chance to swim against the currant and call all the “certainty”-about-global-warming-due-to-CO2 into question."

Ross S. Olson MD

Ross, I appreciate the note and question/comment. I continue to keep an open mind and I hope you do as well. I would also encourage you to visit scientific web sites from NOAA, NASA, the National Academy of Sciences, NSF, the American Meteorological Society and links to other peer-reviewed scientific studies in the public domain vs. conspiracy theory sites. In my opinion this is not a conspiracy or cover-up, it's basic science. Scientists are always testing new theories and possible feedback effects, from not only solar activity but cloud formation and aerosols. However, the body of evidence linking CO2 and other greenhouse gases to observed changes, including arctic melting, the warming of the atmosphere and ocean warming/acidity and sea level rise is robust and growing daily. I shared your question with a few local scientists I know and trust. Here was their response to the issues/links/theories you raised:

1). “It has been postulated that cosmic rays can affect clouds which can, in turn, impact the Earth’s climate. This thesis is extremely hypothetical and has not been shown to occur in the real world. In fact, there has been no correlation with cosmic rays and global temperatures. So, we are left with the obvious.  Human-emitted greenhouse gases are the main influence on climate, we simply cannot explain our observations any other way.”  - Dr. John Abraham, University of St. Thomas.
2). "Sloan and Wolfendale tested this hypothesis. Basically, more cosmic rays make it to the relevant part of the atmosphere at the higher lattitudes, but there is no link between latitude, cosmic rays, and cloud formation.  It might have been a good idea worth testing but it does not work out." - Greg Laden.

The Sloan/Wolfendale paper summarizes: "A decrease in the globally averaged low level cloud cover, deduced from the ISCCP infra red data, as the cosmic ray intensity decreased during the solar cycle 22 was observed by two groups. The groups went on to hypothesise that the decrease in ionization due to cosmic rays causes the decrease in cloud cover, thereby explaining a large part of the presently observed global warming. We have examined this hypothesis to look for evidence to corroborate it. None has been found and so our conclusions are to doubt it. From the absence of corroborative evidence, we estimate that less than 23%, at the 95% confidence level, of the 11-year cycle changes in the globally averaged cloud cover observed in solar cycle 22 is due to the change in the rate of ionization from the solar modulation of cosmic rays."

More details from Skeptical Science:

Portland Will Still Be Cool, But Anchorage May Be The Place To Be. Will our grandkids be packing their swim trunks for visits to Anchorage? It seems like an outlandish proposition today, but The New York Times takes a look at which cities may be safest in an overheated planet; here's a clip: "...Under any model of climate change, scientists say, most of the country will look and feel drastically different in 2050, 2100 and beyond, even as cities and states try to adapt and plan ahead. The northern Great Plains states may well be pleasant (if muggy) for future generations, as may many neighboring states. Although few people today are moving long distances to strategize for climate change, some are at least pondering the question of where they would go. “The answer is the Pacific Northwest, and probably especially west of the Cascades,” said Ben Strauss, vice president for climate impacts and director of the program on sea level rise at Climate Central, a research collaboration of scientists and journalists..." (image: SeaWiFS)

The People's Climate March: An Interview with Bill McKibbon. The New Yorker has an interview with the founder of - which may have to change it's name considering we're now at 400 ppm; here's a snippet: "...As individuals, there’s not much we can do. We can change our light bulbs—and we should—but doing so won’t change global warming. It’s a structural, systemic problem that needs to be addressed structurally and systemically. The most important rule for an individual in this fight is to figure out how not to remain an individual, how to join a movement big enough to change the politics. There’s no guarantee that we’re going to win, because it’s a timed test. In this case, if we don’t win pretty soon, it’s going to be a moot point..."

See The Effects of Climate Change in Side-by-Side Images. Mashable has the before and after photos which tell the tale; here's an excerpt: "...Climate change is real. And while you may hear the statistics and see some effects of climate change in your own backyard, sometimes pictures really are worth a thousand words. The photos below show places on earth that have taken a beating because of climate change. The images compare these locations to other points throughout history — sometimes more than 100 years prior, and sometimes just a few years prior..."

Image credit above: "The Enterprise Bridge passes over a section of Lake Oroville in 2011 (left) and 2014 (right) in Oroville, California, which is experiencing "exceptional" drought."

Climate Warning to World Leaders: Stick to 2C Limit or Face "Mayhem". The Guardian has the article; here's a clip: "...Scientists say that humans have now poured around 1,950bn tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – by burning fossil fuels – over the last 200 years. If that total reaches 3,670bn tonnes, they add, it will be hard to avoid a 2C rise in global temperatures and that would trigger a host of devastating changes to the climate. These would include major rises in sea levels, the melting of ice-caps, droughts in Africa, America and Asia, storms and ocean acidification. The trouble is that, at present rates of fossil fuel consumption, that 3,670bn-tonne limit will be reached in less than three decades..." (Image credit: NASA).

Climate Realities. Robert Stavins at Harvard's Kennedy School does a good job summarizing what makes climate change action so difficult, yet essential; here's an excerpt at The New York Times: "...Rather than rewarding today’s voters with benefits financed by future generations, as Congress typically does, solving the climate problem will require costly actions now to protect those who will follow us. Making matters more difficult, climate change is essentially unobservable by the public. On a daily basis, we observe the weather, not the climate. This makes it less likely that public opinion will force action the way it did 50 years ago when black smoke rose from industrial smokestacks, and chemicals and raw sewage were dumped untreated into rivers, famously causing one to catch fire..."

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