Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Sep-tober": More Indian Summer Brewing

58 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.
56 F. average high on October 21.
40 F. high on October 21, 2013, with a trace of snow (flurries).

October 21, 1938: Sleet and wind causes damage along Minnesota/Wisconsin border. 100,000 dollars in damage at La Crosse.
October 21, 1913: Long Prairie had a record low of a chilly 8 degrees Fahrenheit.


A year ago today it snowed in the Twin Cities, just a trace of flurries, a high of 40F after waking up to 26F. This year temperatures are 20F warmer; a few rain showers in the forecast later today.

Does that imply a milder winter to come? You can't look out your window and make an accurate 3-4 month forecast. As much as we all want to know, the severity of winter cold and snow will depend on how fast El Nino can warm up the Pacific Ocean, and blocking patterns over North America that have yet to show up.

Weather rarely repeats itself from one year to the next - everything I'm looking at leads me to believe this winter won't be as rough as last, with more of a milder, Pacific flow than last year.

Winds pick up today ahead of a sloppy front; a few hours of rain by tonight. Friday will feel like early September with a shot at 70F. Expect 70-degree warmth again Sunday before jackets return by Tuesday. Next week's predicted weather map looks more like mid-September than late October, dominated by a zonal, west to east wind flow. That should mean 50s on Halloween.

I expect a mild bias to spill over into at least mid-November. After that? "Partly to mostly with a chance."

When in doubt, mumble.

But Wait, There's More! If you've been living in a cave, not noticing how amazing the month of October has been in Minnesota, you're in luck - because more Indian Summer is brewing later this week into the weekend. I wouldn't be surprised to see highs near 70F Friday, maybe low 70s Sunday. The best chance of a little rain comes tonight, a fleeting shower Sunday before a more October-like airmass arrives early next week. Graphic: Weatherspark.

Future Radar. As a nor'easter wraps up over New England, moisture-laded winds blowing off the Atlantic dropping some 2-4" rains capable of flash flooding. Heavy rain pushes into the Pacific Northwest, while a weak frontal boundary drags a few hours of showers into Minnesota by tonight. 60-hour accumulated rainfall forecast: NOAA and HAMweather.

A Retreat From Weather Disasters. There is no constitutional right to property insurance or flood insurance. What happens when enough insurance companies reach the conclusion that risks are just too high to insure specific communities? It's already happening, as reported by The New York Times; here's an excerpt: "...As the damages wrought by increasingly disruptive weather patterns have climbed around the world, the insurance industry seems to have quietly engaged in what looks a lot like a retreat. A report to be released Wednesday by Ceres, the sustainability advocacy group, makes the point forcefully. “Over the past 30 years annual losses from natural catastrophes have continued to increase while the insured portion has declined,” it concluded. Last year, less than a third of the $116 billion in worldwide losses from weather-related disasters were covered by insurance, according to data from the reinsurer Swiss Re..."

What's Behind Recent Flurry of Hurricane Activity? Here's a particularly good explanation of the MJO and how this signal can impact hurricane formation in the tropics, courtesy of Scientific American and oceanleadership.org: "...So a sort-of El Niño plus a suppressive MJO phase equaled a quiet September. But now, the enhanced phase of the MJO has come into the area, and it’s been a particularly strong one, Blake said. “We’ve seen this type of thing happen before, it’s just rare,” he said. The boost from the MJO has helped give storms a friendlier atmospheric environment in which to form, while ocean temperatures are still warm enough. “It’s still October, and October’s a pretty busy month for hurricanes, and the Atlantic’s still plenty warm,” Blake said, though he added that the busiest October pales in comparison to the busiest September..."

Image credit above: "On Oct. 16 at 17:45 UTC (1:45 p.m. EDT) NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of Hurricane Gonzalo (08L) in the Atlantic Ocean." (Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team)

Billion Dollar Weather/Climate Disasters: Overview. Here's an excerpt from NOAA NCDC: "Found here are the weather/climate events that have had the greatest economic impact from 1980 to 2013. The U.S. has sustained 170 weather/climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2013). The total cost of these 170 events exceeds $1 trillion. In 2013, there were 9 weather/climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. These events included a drought event, 2 flooding events, and 6 severe storm events. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 113 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted..."

El Nino Brings Floods, Risks, and Opportunities. Even a mild El Nino warming phase of the Pacific (which still looks likely) might tilt the odds over in favor an average or slightly milder than average winter. There are other consequences of this warm phase; here's an excerpt from Climate Central: "...Those patterns reflect the broad changes El Niño, known more fully as El Niño-Southern Oscillation or ENSO, generally causes to precipitation patterns globally. The warming of water in the eastern equatorial Pacific that characterizes El Niño tends to shift the odds of precipitation in certain places around the globe, though it by no means guarantees it. “There have been studies (showing) that some areas get more rainfall during El Niño years, but more rainfall doesn’t necessarily mean more floods. So we’re looking at the actual flooding and damages caused by flooding,” Ward said..."

Animation credit above: "A map showing sea surface temperature anomalies leading up and during the 1997-98 super El Nino." Credit: NOAA View

El Nino Ups Flood Risk. Scientific American has more details on the recent report, highlighting where flood/drought tends to spike during El Nino warming phases in the Pacific; here's a clip: "...Ward and his colleagues found that 44 percent of river basins around the world saw changes in 100-year flood risks during El Niño or La Niña years, with some seeing higher risk of floods and loss of property and some seeing lower risk. The Southwest U.S., parts of southern South America and the Horn of Africa saw some of the biggest increases in flooding risks while the West Coast, Sahel region of Africa and Australia saw the biggest decreases..."

2014: On Track for Warmest Year, Worldwide, on Record. Global temperatures are on track for the warmest year, worldwide, since the late 1800s. What makes this especially noteworthy is a lack of an El Nino warm phase (yet), a warm stain of Pacific water tends to turbocharge air temperatures downwind as well, but we've been in an ENSO-neutral phase for much of this year. A worldwwide "temperature pause"? Not so much. Here's an excerpt from NOAA NCDC: "...The graphic (above) shows the basic year-to-date comparison. The graphic on the right zooms even further to what were ultimately the five warmest years on record, and shows several end-of-year results based on the following scenarios: The years 2013 and 2014 are the only years on this list not to begin during a mature El Niño event. The years 1998 and 2010, each of which became the warmest year on record at the time, ended the year in a strong La Niña event, as evidenced by the relative fading of global average temperature later in the year...."

2014 On Track To Be Hottest Year On Record, Says U.S. Science Agency. The 10 warmest years, worldwide, have all been measured since 2000. Following up on the post above here's a clip of a good summary from The Guardian: "The world is on course for this to be the hottest year ever, with global land and sea temperatures for September the highest ever recorded for the month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Monday. The findings, which confirm September as the warmest such month on record, continue a string of record-beating months for global temperature. The year to date for 2014 is already tied with 1998 as the warmest such period since record keeping began in 1880, Noaa scientists said..."

Image credit above: "U.S. agency NOAA said: ‘If 2014 maintains this temperature departure from average... it will be the warmest year on record."  Photograph: ISS/NASA.

1934 Drought In Dust Bowl Days Was Worst in Thousand Years for U.S.: NASA. Here's a clip from a story at NBC News that made me do a double-take: "The drought of 1934 wasn’t just bad, it was the worst. That’s the finding of a reconstruction of North American drought history over the past 1,000 years, done by scientists from NASA and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Their study, to be published in the Oct. 17 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, concludes the drought of 1934 during the Dust Bowl years in the North American Plains was 30 percent more severe than the next worst, which occurred in 1580, NASA said. The scientists used tree ring records from 1000 to 2005 along with modern observations..." (Image: Wikipedia).

"Lost" Satellite Photos Reveal Surprising Views of Earth in the 1960s. This is fascinating, providing a sobering look at the rate of change of changes taking place on the planet's surface; here's an excerpt from National Geographic News: "The trove includes the first publicly available satellite photos of Europe, the earliest aerial views of Antarctica's ice, and a record of Central Asia's Aral Sea before it dried up. There's also a rare photo of the most powerful storm to hit North America in modern times. The images, when compared with recent satellite photos, show how humankind has changed the planet, from deforestation to changes in sea ice..."

Image credits above: "Scientists scanned nearly 40,000 images taken from Nimbus 1 to create the earliest satellite views of Antarctic sea ice and land (left and center). Using computer programs to pick out ice-covered areas was much more challenging than when using modern satellite images (right)." Photographs by (left and middle) NSIDC; (right) NASA/Reuters.

* EarthSky has an image of the first documented 5th order rainbow, sunlight reflected 5 times within raindrops, creating a fairly amazing optical illusion.

Street Rules: The Little Known Story of Pavement. I thought this article at The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa did a good job of laying out the differences (and advantages) of concrete vs. asphalt highways, and the impact the weather has on trying to keep roadway surfaces in good shape. Here's a clip: "...More challenging is what’s known as freeze-thaw cycles. For example, the temperature warmed from 4 degrees on Jan. 18 to 42 degrees on Jan. 19. “Other parts of the country get freeze-thaw, but the Midwest is the part of the country where we get the extremes — the very cold, deep frost, and then the thaw and moisture,” Brakke said. “We also have to deal with high temperatures that are hard on asphalt.” Iowa’s soil also complicates matters for pavement because it holds water rather than letting it run through. Engineers work hard to get water away from the pavement, so it doesn’t freeze, crack and cause potholes..."

Photo credit above: "Paul Colbert hands a shovel to Alex Foarde to clear fresh asphalt off of a manhole cover as Cedar Rapids Street Maintenance workers repair Meadowbrook Drive SE from flood-related damage in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, October 08, 2014." (Sy Bean/The Gazette).

Elephants Able To Detect Rainstorms 150 Miles Away. Forget Doppler, I'm buying an elephant. Here's the intro to an explanation at Popular Science: "Lions may be the kings of the animal world, but at least elephants could make for spunky meteorologists. New research is revealing that elephants have a radar-like spidey sense, capable of detecting an approaching rainstorm up to 150 miles off. While this may seem like an impractical talent, researchers say elephants' weather-predicting could help human conservationists save the animals from poachers. The elephants’ abilities are rooted in their excellent hearing skills..." (File photo: Wikipedia).

A U.S. Court Thinks The Most Famous Song in History Might Be Stolen. Was "Stairway to Heaven" an original Led Zeppelin masterpiece, or borrowed in bits and pieces from another band that opened for the legendary rockers a long time ago. Here's the intro to a story at Music.Mic: "Everything you know about classic rock music history may be a lie, according to one federal lawsuit. Years ago, a relatively unknown '70s band called Spirit accused Led Zeppelin of stealing the famous opening riff to "Stairway to Heaven" from Spirit's song "Taurus." The claim was mostly overlooked at the time, but now descendants of Spirit's founders have taken the accusation to a Pennsylvania court, where the surviving members of Led Zeppelin are being tried for the "falsification of rock history...."

All I Want For Christmas This Year. Our prayers have been answered - guys, if you're searching the interweb for comfortable, waterproof (!) chinos, you are in luck. Details from Gizmag: "YOU might think it's a little strange to be leaving a review for a pair of golf trousers. Then again, not every pair of chinos are designed 100% waterproof. Welcome to the new PING Typhoon waterproof trousers, which in my honest opinion are the most comfortable pair of slacks I've ever worn out on the course. I love them so much in fact, I wear them around the house and even take them out on the town.  At the heart of the Typhoon chino is Sensor Dry technology and that provides guaranteed waterproof and wind resistant protection..."

TODAY: Clouds increase, late PM showers. Winds: S 15+ High: near 60
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Showers likely. Low: 50
THURSDAY: Damp start, then slow clearing, still mild. High: 66
FRIDAY: Lukewarm sunshine. No complaints. Wake-up: 40. High: 68
SATURDAY: Sunny, slightly cooler breeze. Wake-up: 45. High: 63
SUNDAY: Summer in late October. Sunny and warm. Wake-up: 46. High: 72
MONDAY: Unsettled, isolated shower possible. Wake-up: 48. High: 59
TUESDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, cool breeze. Feels like October again. Wake-up: 38. High: 52

Climate Stories...

Climate Records Are Breaking So Often Now, We've Stopped Paying Attention. Chris Mooney has the story at The Washington Post; here's an excerpt: "...On Monday, we learned from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that last September was the hottest of them all, out of 135 Septembers going back to 1880.The same was true for August 2014. And June of 2014. And May of 2014. What that means is that for each of these months, the combined average global land and ocean surface temperature has never been higher, at least since we started recording these temperatures back in the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes..."

Coldest Winter Temperatures at MSP Since 1962. Jack Falker is an investment banker (Falker Investments) and prize rose grower, based in Edina. He sent me a graph he completed, showing the coldest nighttime temperatures every winter going back to 1962. Of couse this makes a difference in what will grow in the Twin Cities, an even specific varieties of roses that are more cold-tolerant. In spite of last winter's big dip you can clearly see the trends. As a rule, winter temperatures are not as cold as they were 30-50 years ago, especially nighttime lows. Here's an excerpt from Jack's latest post: "The Minnesota Rose Gardener: Winter Protecting Roses in a Climate-Change Environment: "...(above) is my recently updated Minnesota climatology chart showing the Extreme Minimum Temperatures (EMT) for the last 53 years at MSP airport.  This is the statistic the USDA uses to determine the cold zones.  As you can see, the Twin Cities are no longer consistently in USDA Zone 4b.  As a matter of fact, there have only been three nights in Zone 4 in the Twin Cities, since 1999!  That hardly puts us in Zone 4 and, as you can see, the mathematically determined trend-line has an upward slope of about 25 radian degrees. If you project that trend-line off the right side of the chart, it would appear that the Twin Cities will begin to see more winters in zone 6 than in zone 4, within the next five years..."

Similar Trends. Jack Falker created similar graphs for other cities across the Midwest and Great Lakes, and found a similar warming trend over time. Nature never moves in a perfectly straight line, but if you draw a smoothed line over the actual observations you can see the trends fairly clearly. Which underscores something I tell people in my talks: don't look at your thermometer for day to day evidence of warming. Look at the new plants, shrubs, flowers, trees (and pests) that in your yard that weren't there 40 years ago.

East Coast, Gulf Coast Should Get Used to Tidal Floods. Here's a snippet of an Op-Ed at CNN: "...Global sea levels rose approximately 8 inches from 1880 to 2009 as global warming hastened land-based ice melt, and seawater expanded as it absorbed heat from a warming atmosphere. Sea level rise worldwide is now accelerating, and at an especially fast rate along parts of the East Coast. This reality is captured in a report we co-authored earlier this month, analyzing how often flooding occurs at 52 sites along the Eastern seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico and estimating the frequency and extent of flooding over the next 15 and 30 years. We found that many East Coast communities now experience dozens of tidal floods every year. In some places, there has been a fourfold increase in the number of days per year with tidal flooding since 1970..."

Another Month, Another Global Heat Record Broken. Will 2014 break another record? It's still a little early, but if the warm weather departures we've been tracking in recent months continue the answer is probably yes. Here's an excerpt from AP and Huffington Post: "...If 2014 breaks the record for hottest year, that also should sound familiar: 1995, 1997, 1998, 2005 and 2010 all broke NOAA records for the hottest years since records started being kept in 1880. "This is one of many indicators that climate change has not stopped and that it continues to be one of the most important issues facing humanity," said University of Illinois climate scientist Donald Wuebbles..."

How Climate Change Is Fueling The Miami Real Estate Boom. Bloomberg Businessweek has the story - here's a clip: "...Where locals disagree with outsiders, however, is about how best to deal with the problem. Rather than sounding alarms and cutting back on development, there’s an implicit sense that the best approach may be, ironically, to do the opposite. And while a strong case can be made that this behavior has no rational basis, it may represent Miami’s best long-term hope for dealing with the threats posed by climate change, one that other cities might be advised to mimic: The best strategy, in fact, may be to foster a collective belief that there’s no threat—or at least not one serious enough to lose sleep over..."

Photo credit above: Trip Advisor.

Science The Benchmark of an Educated Society. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Sydney Morning Herald that resonated: "...Science provides a way of thinking. It encourages a healthy dose of skepticism and offers a guide on how to evaluate false claims made by politicians, advertisers, business, and almost anyone selling anything. Scientists aren't the only ones who need to know how to spot pseudoscience – think of popular diets and therapies such as paleo, clean eating, superfoods and homeopathy. In this information age, where Professor Google has become the expert of choice, being scientifically literate is an essential life skill. It is as important as reading and writing..."

World's Oceans Set All-Time Heat Record for Third Time This Year. Meteorologist Andrew Freedman has the story for Mashable; here's an excerpt: "...For the third month this year, the world's oceans set a record for the warmest they have ever been since at least 1880, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported on Monday. September had the highest global average sea surface temperatures of any month on record since instrument record-keeping began, with a global average temperature of 61.1 degrees Fahrenheit. This was warm enough to set another milestone that had already been set two previous times this year; the average global sea surface temperature was so warm in September that it broke the all-time record for the highest departure from average for any month since 1880, at 1.19 degrees Fahrenheit above average..."

Map credit: NOAA NCDC.

The Difficult Dance of the 2014 Climate Change Denier. Here's an excerpt of a Huffington Post story: "...To continue to claim that climate change is a hoax would get them labeled as crazy, but to fully accept climate science requires them to favor a solution to this threat, which would make them pariahs to the Koch brothers and other polluters who are spending millions of dollars attacking their opponents. These candidates' climate science denial becomes a reflection of a disturbing character trait - their unwillingness to address a growing threat to Americans because the possible solutions may affect their benefactors' profits. This crop of candidates ignores increasingly urgent warnings from NASA, the National Academy of Sciences, and nearly all other scientific bodies, simply to appease their special interest supporters. Their dance is choreographed."

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