Wednesday, September 17, 2014

September Mellows - Arctic Ice Loss: 6th Greatest on Record

77 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday.
71 F. average high on September 17.
67 F. high on September 17, 2013.

September 17 in Minnesota Weather History. Source: MPX National Weather Service:
1997: An F3 Tornado destroyed several buildings and numerous others damaged. Hundreds of trees were knocked down. A number of cattle were also killed in a barn that collapsed. One man was injured when the tornado engulfed his car and threw it into a nearby woods. A second man was critically injured when his garage collapsed. He died several weeks later. The total path length of the tornado from 1 NE of Lastrup to Onamia was 17 miles. Total property damages were estimated at $1.7 Million. In total, 6 tornadoes touched down in Morrison, Mille Lacs, and Kanabec.
1991: Duluth got a 2.5 inch summer snowstorm. (Fall was still five days away)
1971: A brush fire at Lake Alexander in Morrison County started a 10-foot wide, 50-foot high "fire whirl." It moved out over the lake, overturned a 1,800 pound pontoon boat, and then dissipated as it moved back to shore.
1903: 3.75 inches of rain fell in the Minneapolis area.

More Boom than Bust

Back in June, the wettest month on record for the state of Minnesota, who would have predicted that corn farmers would be faced with another record harvest, with results so amazing that prices have dropped below profitability? It's a testament to new seed varieties, precision farming, and a notable absence of drought and killing hail and wind storms.

"Another historically wet June has delayed corn and beans by 7-10 days" said Wayzata-based Al Kluis, who has been tracking Ag crop commodities for 40 years. But adequate soil moisture and growing degree days has left fields from the Dakotas to Ohio overflowing with corn, depressing prices.

How can good weather be bad for business? No, farming is not for the faint of heart.

Winds pick up today; the next frontal passage sparking T-showers late Friday. A wet start Saturday should give way to lukewarm sun with a shot at 80F before northwest winds cool us back down early next week. Temperatures may sink into the low 40s Tuesday morning, but the immediate metro area should avoid a frost. Long-range guidance shows 70s returning by the end of next week.
Nothing severe, no storms with names, no weather drama.

Plenty to like about September.

September Mellows. 70s are the rule into much of next week, even a few degrees above average, in spite of a cool-down early next week. Latest European guidance isn't nearly as chilly for Monday and Tuesday, as Minnesota experiences a glancing blow of Canadian air. The best chance of T-showers: late Friday and Friday night, but an instability shower may pop up Saturday afternoon, especially north of the Twin Cities. More showers and T-showers push in by Wednesday of next week. MSP Meteogram: Weatherspark.

60-Hour Accumulated Rainfall Forecast. NOAA's 4 KM NAM model prints out some 6"+ amounts for southeastern Arizona and southern New Mexico, with flash flooding possible as far east as Texas by Saturday morning. The remains of "Odile" are forecast to push east, possibly sparking flooding rains as far east as Wichita, Tulsa and Little Rock. Florida may also experience significant flooding in the coming days. Graphic: HAMweather.

Oh No, This Is Exactly How Last Winter Started. Early season snows from Rapid City to Denver; does this mean another winter tracking the dreaded Polar Vortex? Not necessarily, as meteorologist Eric Holthaus explains in this excellent overview at Slate; here's an excerpt: "...So, sticking to the science, what can we actually expect for the coming winter? Using the Climate Prediction Center’s freshly updated long-range model suite, now’s as good a time as any to take a first guess. These models take into account semi-stable patterns of ocean temperatures to predict areas of relative drought and excess rain and warmth and frigidity over the next few months, and their historical accuracy is better than a random guess..."

Image credit above: NOAA CPC NMME. "Breathe easy: This winter is looking warmer than average for most of North America."

Long-Range Winter Guidance: Models Trending Milder than Average. Would I bet the farm based on a 3-6 month climate model trend? Absolutely not. But to counter the growing sense of paranoia out there ("Paul, are we going to suffer through another polar vortex - is the Farmer's Almanac right?") I wanted to include the latest December-January-February guidance from various NOAA models. Not one shows a persistently bitter solution for Minnesota or the Lower 48 states - in fact temperatures anomalies range from .5 to 2C warmer than average. Not exactly a heat wave, but I still believe the upcoming winter will be a bit easier to take than last year.

NASA Ranks This August As Warmest On Record. Climate Central has more details; here's an excerpt: "While this summer may have felt like fall across much of the eastern half of the U.S., worldwide the overall picture was a warm one. This August was the warmest August on record globally, according to newly released NASA temperature data, while the summer tied for the fourth warmest. Central Europe, northern Africa, parts of South America, and the western portions of North America (including Alaska) were just some of the spots on the globe that saw much higher than normal temperatures for the month. Large parts of the oceans were also running unusually warm..."

Image credit above: "Temperature anomalies (in degrees Celsius) of various regions around the world in August 2014." Credit: NASA

NASA Releases IRIS Footage of X-Class Flare. Here's the intro to a story and video link from Science Codex: "On Sept. 10, 2014, NASA's newest solar observatory, the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, mission joined other telescopes to witness an X-class flare – an example of one of the strongest solar flares -- on the sun. Combing observations from more than one telescope helps create a much more complete picture of such events on our closest star. Watch the movie to see how the flare appears different through the eyes of IRIS than it does through NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory..."

Image credit: NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory.

How America Forecasts The Weather. Here's an excerpt of an interesting interview with National Weather Service Dr. Louis Uccellini at Piqued: "...We are actually showing more success with [predicting] extreme events now than ever before and are now able to forecast the likelihood of an extreme weather event 4 to 8 days in advance.  However, [forecasting] the magnitude of the event still remains a challenge. We have seen some notable precipitation events in the past year such as the ones in Florida and in Georgia where heavy rainfall was predicted, but not the 20 inches that actually occurred. The same thing happened in Colorado last year, and it was a very tough forecast in that the atmosphere was not in one of its more predictable states..."

New Way to Predict Hurricane Strength, Destruction. Factoring in IKE seems like a big step forward. As Sandy demonstrated, even a marginal Category 1 hurricane can be catastrophic. The current system doesn't take into account size and ultimate strength. Here's an excerpt from ScienceDaily: "...The model predicts the amount of integrated kinetic energy within Atlantic tropical cyclones. This kinetic energy metric is related to the overall size and strength of a storm, not just the maximum wind speed. Predictions of this metric complement existing forecasting tools, potentially allowing forecasters to better assess the risk of hurricanes that make landfall. "We don't perceive this to be an alternative to how storms are explained to the public, but a complement," Misra said. Hurricane forecasts have traditionally focused on wind speeds as measured through the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale..."

Tornadoes Occurring Earlier in Tornado Alley. Another symptom of warming or a statistical fluke? Here's a snippet of some interesting new research highlighted at "Peak tornado activity in the central and southern Great Plains of the United States is occurring up to two weeks earlier than it did half a century ago, according to a new study whose findings could help states in "Tornado Alley" better prepare for these violent storms. Tornado records from Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and northern Texas - an area of high tornado activity dubbed "Tornado Alley" - show that peak tornado activity is starting and ending earlier than it did 60 years ago..."

Photo credit above: "A supercell storm, known to produce violent tornadoes, forms in Courtney, Oklahoma in April 2014. A new study shows that peak tornado activity is occurring nearly two weeks earlier in Oklahoma, Kansas and northern Texas, according to a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters." Credit: Kelly DeLay/Flickr.

"Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index" Unveiled. We rate every other kind of natural disaster, why not the risk of wildfires? The Desert Sun has an interesting update; here's a clip: "A web-based weather monitoring system designed to “quantify” the risks of wildfires during Santa Ana windstorms will equip first responders and the public with the information they need to be prepared for an emergency, officials said Wednesday. U.S. Forest Service rangers, along with representatives from San Diego Gas & Electric and UCLA, jointly developed the Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index, which was unveiled during a briefing at the USFS's Southern California Geographic Area Coordination Center in Riverside..."
A supercell storm, known to produce violent tornadoes, forms in Courtney, Oklahoma in April 2014. A new study shows that peak tornado activity is occurring nearly two weeks earlier in Oklahoma, Kansas, and northern Texas, according to a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. Credit: Kelly DeLay/Flickr

Read more at:
Peak tornado activity in the central and southern Great Plains of the United States is occurring up to two weeks earlier than it did half a century ago, according to a new study whose findings could help states in "Tornado Alley" better prepare for these violent storms.

Read more at:
Peak tornado activity in the central and southern Great Plains of the United States is occurring up to two weeks earlier than it did half a century ago, according to a new study whose findings could help states in "Tornado Alley" better prepare for these violent storms.

Read more at: Weather Matters When You're Depressed. Here's a clip from a story at Everyday Health that got my attention: "New research suggests that exposure to sunshine affects suicide rates, regardless of what time of year it is. Published in JAMA Psychiatry, the study looked at the relationship between daily suicide rates – 69,462 over 40 years – and hours of daily sunshine independent of season. The study linked higher rates of suicide with shorter durations of sunny weather – 10 days of fewer – regardless of season, says Norman Sussman, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Treatment Resistant Depression Program at NYU Langone Medical Center, who was not involved in the study..."How a Simple Blood Test Can Now Help Diagnose Depression. Fast Company has the story.

Study Links Increased Drilling With Earthquakes. Wait, injecting water and chemicals deep underground might have a downside? Imagine that. Here's a clip from a Wall Street Journal story: "A magnitude 5.3 earthquake that hit Colorado in 2011 was likely caused by the injection of wastewater into the ground, a process used in natural-gas drilling, according to new research to be released Tuesday. The new study, published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, adds more detail to a growing body of work seeking to establish and explain the connection between human activity and seismic events, known as induced quakes..."

Photo credit above: "The aftermath of an earthquake in Segundo, Colo., in 2011. Scientists have linked the magnitude-5.3 quake with nearby wastewater injection, a process used in drilling." Associated Press.

Together We Make Football. Grantland takes a look at the dark underbelly of America's favorite sport, the NFL and domestic violence; here's an excerpt: "...The video did something else. Its existence turned what had been a serious but abstract problem into a scandal. It brought greater awareness to the NFL’s long history of tolerating high rates of domestic violence, but it didn’t prompt most people to explore why. The story became a kind of conspiracy, talked about in excited tones. Had Goodell seen the tape? If he hadn’t, why hadn’t he? Was he incompetent? Who knew what, and when? Was there a conspiracy here? Who was lying? What else was the league hiding? Conveniently, these were questions with answers. This was a crime that could be solved. The problem had a clean solution: Get rid of Roger Goodell..."

Uh, Here's an Interesting Bit of Useless Trivia. Do you say um or uh? If you live in Minnesota or Wisconsin you may be predisposed to mumble uh vs. um. I know, fascinating. Here's more...uh...detail from Quartz: "...Every language has filler words that speakers use in nervous moments or to buy time while thinking. Two of the most common of these in English are “uh” and “um.” They might seem interchangeable, but data show that their usage break down across surprising geographic lines. Hmm. The map above shows a preliminary attempt to use the tremendous amount of linguistic data being produced on the web to understand how language works..."

Map credit: Quartz, Twitter, analysis by Dr. Jack Grieve.

Egypt's New Stamp Mixes Up Suez and Panama Canals. Someone's not getting a promotion. France 24 has the head-scratching details: "To celebrate the planned extension of the Suez Canal, Egypt decided to commission a line of stamps showing off the multi-billion dollar project. The only problem is that the designers seem to have confused their canals. Some of the stamps show the Panama Canal, located in Central America. Embarrassed authorities announced Sunday that they were halting the stamps’ production. .."

Image credit above: "On the left, Egypt's stamp of the "Suez Canal", on the right, a photograph of the Panama Canal."

TODAY: Partly sunny and breezy. Winds: SE 10+ High: near 70
THURSDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase, not as cool. Low: 58
FRIDAY: Unsettled, few T-showers expected. Dew point: 62 High: 75
SATURDAY: Partly sunny and mild. PM clouds, a few showers north of MSP. Wake-up: 64. High: 78, falling during the PM hours
SUNDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, cooler. Wake-up: 57. High: 68
MONDAY: Blue sky, hints of October. Wake-up: 49. High: 63
TUESDAY: Chilly start, bright sun. Dew point: 37. Wake-up: 43. High: near 71
WEDNESDAY: Clouds increase, a few showers late. Wake-up: 47. High: near 70

* photo credit above: Dan Durkin.

Climate Stories...

U.S. Moves to Reduce Global Warming Emissions. Coral Davenport at The New York Times has the story; here's the introduction: "The Obama administration on Tuesday announced a series of moves aimed at cutting emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, powerful greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. The White House has secured voluntary agreements from some of the nation’s largest companies to scale down or phase out their use of HFCs, which are factory-made gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration. Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Red Bull, Kroger, Honeywell and DuPont, the company that invented fluorinated refrigerants, have agreed to cut their use and replace them with climate-friendly alternatives..."

Natural Disasters Displaced More People Than War in 2013, Study Finds. Here's a clip from an article at The Guardian: "Natural disasters displaced three times as many people as war last year – even as 2013 was a horrific year for conflict – with 22 million people driven out of their homes by floods, hurricanes and other hazards, a new study has found. Twice as many people now lose their homes to disaster as in the 1970s, and more people move into harm’s way each year, the study by the Norwegian Refugee Council found. “Basically, the combination of mega natural disasters and hundreds of smaller natural disasters massively displaces people in many more countries than the countries that have war and conflict,” said Jan Egeland, the secretary of the Norwegian refugee council..."

* Catholic Online has another perspective here.

Antarctic Sea Ice Set for Record High as Arctic Heads for 6th Lowest Extent. Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "...Figures released by the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado, show that the so-called Arctic sea ice minimum – the point where the extent of sea ice there is at its lowest after the summer, before it begins to refreeze for winter – is expected to be confirmed imminently and would be millions of square kilometres below the long-term average. At 5.09m sq km, the extent of Arctic sea ice this year would be the sixth lowest on record, slightly worse than last year, though not as extreme as the record set in 2012 when it plunged to less than 3.5 million square kilometres..." (Graphic: NSIDC).

Antarctic Peninsula Glacier Recession "Unprecedented". The BBC has the story - here's an excerpt: "Glaciers around the Antarctic Peninsula are melting faster than ever despite more snowfall, say experts. Prof Neil Glasser, from Aberystwyth University, was part of a team who studied the ice-core data on a 4km long glacier on James Ross Island. He said over the next 200 years it "will become far smaller than at any point over the last 10,000 years." The research published in the journal Nature Climate Change says it will lead to an increase in sea level..."

Photo credit above: "The study looked at changes in glaciers over the last 10,000 years around the Antarctic Peninsula."

2014: Warmest Summer, Worldwide, Since 1891. This, according to JMA, The Japan Meteorological Agency, which adds: "The seasonal anomaly of the global average surface temperature in Summer (June to August) 2014 (i.e. the average of the near-surface air temperature over land and the SST) was +0.31°C above the 1981-2010 average (+0.65°C above the 20th century average), and was the warmest since 1891. On a longer time scale, global average surface temperatures have risen at a rate of about 0.66°C per century.."

Polar Vortex Excursions Linked to Global Warming. This is precisely what I've been seeing on the maps, especially since 2010: a slower-moving, higher-amplitude pattern over North America with weather becoming increasingly "stuck", stalled for extended periods of time, magnifying both flood, drought, heat and cold. Here's an excerpt from Slate: "Over the past year or so, I’ve written a few times on how the “polar vortex”—actually, deep meanders or excursions in the usually stable west-to-east direction of the polar cyclonic air stream—may be tied to global warming, but there hadn’t been enough research done yet to be sure. Well, here we go: A team of Korean and American scientists has made the connection. Warmer waters lead to more melting of Arctic ice, which destabilizes the polar jet stream. My Slate colleague Eric Holthaus has an excellent write-up of it, and I wanted to give him a signal boost here. Go read it..."

China, The Climate, and The Fate of the Planet. China is now the largest source of greenhouse gases, and Rolling Stone takes a look at how the zeal for economic growth, at any cost, may impact CO2 levels and the ability to contain worldwide warming within a level in which the world can still adapt. Here's an excerpt: "...The blunt truth is that what China decides to do in the next decade will likely determine whether or not mankind can halt – or at least ameliorate – global warming. The view among a number of prominent climate scientists is that if China's emissions peak around 2025, we may – just barely – have a shot at stabilizing the climate before all hell breaks loose. But the Chinese have resisted international pressure to curb their emissions. For years, they have used the argument that they are poor, the West is rich, and that the high levels of carbon in the atmosphere were caused by America's and Europe's 200-year-long fossil­fuel binge. Climate change is your problem, they argued – you deal with it. But that logic doesn't hold anymore..."

Photo credit above: "A red-alert smog day in China last year. Pollution has become a public-health hazard." Reuters/Landov.

Climate Expert: "Washington D.C. Faces Significant Risk of Record High Floods." Maybe this will wake up the politicians who refuse to believe the science and mounting evidence. Here's a video and story excerpt from The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang: "A rise in local tidal waters – fueled by global warming – virtually guarantees record flooding in Washington, D.C. over the next century, concludes a new analysis on sea level rise and flood risk. The analysis from Climate Central – a non-profit science communication organization based in Princeton, N.J. — finds that the cumulative risk of a record-setting flood grows by the decade as sea levels rise. “I would say the headline is that Washington, D.C. faces significant risk of record high floods within the coming few decades,” says Ben Strauss, Climate Central’s vice president for climate impacts..."

Fixing Climate Change May Add No Costs, Report Says. Overly optimistic? Or will the move toward zero-carbon invigorate global economies? Here's an excerpt of a New York Times story from Justin Gillis: "...A global commission will announce its finding on Tuesday that an ambitious series of measures to limit emissions would cost $4 trillion or so over the next 15 years, an increase of roughly 5 percent over the amount that would likely be spent anyway on new power plants, transit systems and other infrastructure. When the secondary benefits of greener policies — like lower fuel costs, fewer premature deaths from air pollution and reduced medical bills — are taken into account, the changes might wind up saving money, according to the findings of the group, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate..."

Jellyfish: It's What's For Dinner. Mmmm. Please pass the "jellyballs" please. I pray that never comes out of my mouth, but it turns out there is a large and growing appetite for jellyfish, as Modern Farmer explains. Here's a clip: "...At the Golden Island plant, the jellies are dried and shipped to China and Japan, where they are cut into long, thin strips and served in salads with cabbage and teriyaki sauce. If prepared right, the jellyfish are crunchy, like a carrot. Jellyfish are popular in China, along with other sea creatures like geoducks (those gigantic phallic clams from the Pacific Northwest) for similar textural reasons. But these sorts of foods are being embraced well beyond Asia. And as climate change and the global industrial agriculture system continue on what many view as a doomed course, we may have no choice but to eat foods that make sense ecologically — or can at least thrive in a changed environment..."

Major Food Companies Warn Climate Change Threatens Business. From first-hand meetings and observations I can tell you that Minnesota's largest food companies are paying close attention to climate change and increasingly erratic weather patterns, worldwide. There is very little science denial within these corporations. They can see the impact in their fields, and in the data. Here's an excerpt from Think Progress: "...While politicians continue to bicker over whether or not climate change exists, companies now have no choice in the matter — they must acknowledge the science and the risk and disclose the reality of that risk to their investors’ pocketbooks. Whether that risk actually manifests itself is another matter, but the fact that companies are increasingly putting climate change on their threat lists speaks volumes to the severity of the problem. Here are seven other big food companies that disclose to investors that climate change poses a threat to their products and bottom lines..."

Photo credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar.

No Rain for Decades: Stand By For The "Megadroughts", Scientists Warn. The Independent has the story; here's an excerpt: "...Experts warn the droughts could be even more severe than the prolonged water shortage currently afflicting California, where residents have resorted to stealing from fire hydrants  amid mass crop failures and regular wildfires. Megadroughts – which are generally defined as lasting 35 years or more – will become considerably more frequent as global warming increases temperatures and reduces rainfall in regions already susceptible, warns Cornell University’s Dr Toby Ault, the author of the new report..."

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