Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Soggy, Lukewarm Pattern - Growing Anticipation Over Pope Francis's Upcoming Climate Encyclical

71 F. high in the Twin Cities Saturday.
78 F. average high on June 13.
76 F. high on June 13, 2014.

.07" rain fell yesterday at MSP International Airport.

June 13, 1991: Lightning struck a tree at the U.S. Open golf tournament in Chaska, MN. One spectator was killed, and 6 people were injured.
June 13, 1968: The 13 mile long path of an F5 tornado took it directly through Tracy, MN. Nine people were killed and 111 homes destroyed. Farms outside of town were swept completely away, two of which had been hit by a tornado 44 years earlier.
June 13, 1930: Tornado hits Northfield area, heavy damage at Randolph. Source: MPX NWS.

Weather Walk of Shame

If you want to make God laugh tell him your plans. If you want to make it rain - plan an outdoor event in June.

"Why can't the forecasts be consistently better Paul?" I was wondering the same thing yesterday, as a cold rain fell on dignitaries and spectators gathered to honor Minnesota's military families at the State Capitol.

A few days ago it looked dry. Friday we put showers in the forecast for the east metro, but this was a hard, steady rain. So I did what any self-respecting meteorologist would do. "Hi, my name is Mike Lynch. I am SO SORRY about the blown forecast..."

As technology gets better and faster, as we spin up more weather models, satellites and Dopplers you would expect the forecasts to improve. The 2-7 day forecast accuracy is less-horrible but the 24-hour batting average is stuck at 88 percent, where it's been for the better part of 30 years. There will be days when we shake our heads and say "how did THAT happen?"

(One other factor I didn't mention in the print edition due to a lack of space: weather patterns are evolving, shifting, seemingly mutating. It's still early, but there is a growing body of evidence linking rapid warming in the Arctic with changes in the shape and speed of jet stream winds. This, in turn, is creating a higher amplitude flow (more deep troughs and bloated ridges) which can slow down systems, causing weather to stall, increasing the potential for extreme heat, drought and flooding. We may be tracking fewer storms overall, but when it does rain it's falling much harder. That's not a climate model, that's observations. Perhaps the physics used in the weather models isn't adquately picking up on all of these changes. That's pure speculation on my part, but something has changed and there are days when the models are useless - pure junk. Is climate change making it harder to predict day to day weather? At this point I wouldn't rule anything out. Then again weather is chaotic, it always has been. There is a limit to how accurate the forecasts will ever get, unless we reinvest in radically more powerful/flexible models (borrowing a page from how ECMWF initializes their model runs on the fly) and new ways to initialize models with better data, worldwide. No small task.)

The sun stays out today with low 80s; a much better June specimen. Our soggy pattern hangs on; with a round of T-storms Wednesday, again Friday.

Meanwhile a tropical system in the Gulf may drop another 5-10 inches of rain on flood-ravaged Texas by Wednesday. Amazing. Updates on the weather blog.

Soggy Swirl. Saturday's 1 km visible loop (late afternoon) shows the cyclonic swirl that created just enough upward motion for a period of rain over far eastern Minnesota and Wisconsin, brushing the metro with a few hours of rain and drizzle during the morning hours. Skies brightened during hte afternoon, while the northern half of Minnesota enjoyed a beautiful Saturday. Loop: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Still More Spring Than Summer. I keep waiting for the core of the jet stream to lift north into Canada (for more than a day) with a subsequent streak of 80s and 90s. Looks like we'll have to wait a little longer for sustained heat, which is probably OK with most Minnesotans. The sun lures the mercury into the 80s today; expect a drop in humidity Monday and Tuesday. The best chance of showers comes Wednesday, again late in the week. I could see a severe storm outbreak on Friday, followed by considerably cooler weather next weekend.

Northern USA: Limping Into Summer. A stubborn (zonal) jet stream pattern from Seattle to St. Paul will continue to pump frequent outbreaks of cooler, drier air into the northern USA, limiting just how hot it can get through the end of June. Meanwhile much of the nation will continue to simmer, from California to Kansas City, Atlanta and Washington D.C. as a heat-pump high pressure bubble stalls.

Tropical Trouble. A weak cool frontal passage sparks a few T-showers later today (northern and central Minnesota) and tonight (metro), followed by a dip in dew point Monday and Tuesday. The feature in the Gulf of Mexico looks real, and although the disturbance over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula may not strengthen into a tropical storm or depression rainfall amounts may be excessive from Houston to Oklahoma City to St. Louis later in the week, with more flooding a very real risk. Considering soil is saturated from recent (biblical) rains it won't take much additional rain for rivers to flood. NAM guidance: NOAA.

A New Flash Flood Risk. A plume of moisture from the tropics, what may consolidate into a weak tropical depression, is forecast to reach coastal Texas by Tuesday and then push into Oklahoma and much of the Corn Belt later in the week, creating some excessive rainfall amounts as high as 5-10". The map above shows GFS-predicted 10-day rainfall, courtesy of Tropical Tidbits.

Blown Away: Wind Tunnel Highlights Hurricane Dangers. A story at USA TODAY about recreating the effects of hurricane winds has a good reminder: 1992 was an El Nino year, but it produced Category 5 Hurricane Andrew, which ravaged south Florida. All it takes is one. Here's an excerpt: "...However, if we look back to 1992, that was the hurricane season of Hurricane Andrew, and that was also another El NiƱo year," he said. "All it takes is one hurricane to come ashore and do devastation." Another catastrophic storm was Hurricane Katrina, which will mark its 10th anniversary this year. That massive system killed more than 1,800 people and caused more than $100 billion in damage..." (1992 Hurricane Time Lapse: NOAA).

Completely Drought-Free. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows pockets of dry weather from Garrison and Hinckley to Duluth and far northern Minnesota, but the entire state is now drought-free. That was fast.

A Hot June 9th. Mark Seeley has details on Tuesday's heat spike across the state in this week's edition of Minnesota WeatherTalk: "Tuesday, June 9th brought southerly winds, plenty of sunshine and the warmest temperatures across the state since July of last year.  Over 50 Minnesota climate stations reported daily high temperatures of 90°F or greater, topped by 99°F at a few locations.  Some communities tied or set new high temperature records, including:
99°F at Madison
98F at Browns Valley
97°F at Marshall
96°F at Minnesota City Dam
96°F at La Crosse, WI
95°F at Sioux Falls, SD (tied record)
93°F at Rochester (tied record)..."

Watch Out For Flood-Damaged Cars Coming Out of Texas. More complications from the recent (biblical) floods in Texas. The Consumerist has some good advice - here's a link and excerpt: "... When a car is destroyed in a flood and sold to be rebuilt or “salvaged,” there’s supposed to be a special notation on the title. That doesn’t always happen, or you may not realize what a different state’s salvage title notation looks like. How can you protect yourself from unknowingly buying a flood-damaged vehicle? First, check multiple sources when performing a background check on your vehicle: our mildew-free colleagues down the hall at Consumer Reports recommend cross-checking multiple sources for signs that there’s been some shenanigans with the car’s title..."

The U.S. Produces More Oil Now Than Saudi Arabia, And Other Tectonic Shifts In The Energy Sector. Quartz has the jaw-dropping story - here's an excerpt: "...Changes on the supply side should be pretty obvious. Thanks to controversial fracking techniques and massive investments in shale, the US has raised its oil output dramatically. It now produces more of the stuff than Saudi Arabia for the first time since 1991—a fact that gives an extra edge to the two countries’ battle for energy supremacy..."

TODAY: Warm sun, few T-storms up north. Winds: SE 8. High: 82

SUNDAY NIGHT: More clouds, a passing shower or T-storm. Low: 65

MONDAY: Wet start, then slow clearing. High: 79

TUESDAY: Comfortable sunshine, less humid. Dew point: 50. Wake-up: 58. High: 76

WEDNESDAY: Showers and T-storms likely. Wake-up: 59. High: 73

THURSDAY: Ration of sunshine, hurry outside! Bright and sunny. Wake-up: 58. High: 78

FRIDAY: More T-storms, some strong? Wake-up: 63. High: 82

SATURDAY: Stalled front, more heavy T-storms. Wake-up: 67. High: 77

Climate Stories...

Pope Francis To Explore Climate's Effect on World's Poor. The New York Times reports; here's an excerpt: "...By wading into the environment debate, Francis is seeking to redefine a secular topic, one usually framed by scientific data, using theology and faith. And based on Francis’ prior comments, and those of influential cardinals, the encyclical is also likely to include an economic critique of how global capitalism, while helping lift millions out of poverty, has also exploited nature and created vast inequities. “We clearly need a fundamental change of course, to protect the earth and its people — which in turn will allow us to dignify humanity,” Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, who oversaw the drafting of the encyclical, said at a conference on climate change this spring at the Vatican..."

Angry U.S. Republicans Tell Pope Francis to "Stick With His Job and We'll Stick With Ours". That quote from the Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma; here's an excerpt of a story at The Guardian: "...In the US for the past 10 years we have allowed climate change to become an ideological political issue instead of being the moral issue that it is,” said the Rev Mitchell Hescox, leader of the Evangelical Environmental Network. “The idea that climate change is a liberal issue has just permeated the thought of those in the conservative movement, and those in the denier campaign have taken advantage of that to continue to drive home the message that climate change is not a moral issue,” added Hescox, who identifies himself as a conservative. But it gets much harder to dismiss climate change as a fringe concern of liberals such as Al Gore, and environmental regulations as a sneaky first step to sweeping regulations and a government takeover of private lives, once the pope becomes involved..."

Papal Climate Encyclical: Are We Closer To A Tipping Point? Check out a humorous video about a very serious subject; the video link and more details are here: "This video is a lot of fun but, also, an indication of how fast things are changing with our perception of climate change. Would you have imagined something like that just a couple of years ago?..."

How The Pope Could Turn U.S. Climate Politics Upside Down. Here's a snippet from a story at Bloomberg Business: "...Climate change is about to join the list of things faith leaders are always on our case about. Are the values celebrated in church preeminent in the workplace? Is our lifestyle consistent with what we believe? These are questions Francis wants Catholics, and everybody else, to begin asking themselves when it comes to global warming and global poverty, closely related issues.   “This is not about Al Gore,” says Mitch Hescox, head of the Evangelical Environmental Network, which promotes care of the earth among evangelical Christians. “This is about being a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Photo credit above: "Pope Francis" talks with Poland's Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz during a private audience at the Vatican, Friday, June 12, 2015." (Gabriel Bouys/Pool Photo via AP).

Pope Francis: "Let Us Modify Our Relationship With Natural Resources". Here's an excerpt from Religion News Service: "People must change their lifestyles and attitudes to help defeat hunger, Pope Francis said Thursday (June 11), a hint of what may be coming in his much-anticipated environmental encyclical next week. “We must begin with our daily lives if we want to change lifestyles, aware that our small gestures can guarantee sustainability and the future of the human family,” said Francis, addressing delegates at a conference hosted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. “Let us modify our relationship with natural resources, land use, consumption, and eliminate waste. Thus shall we defeat hunger,” he added..."

Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement Harnesses The Power of Shame. The impact on the markets may be small, but at some point perception becomes reality. Here's a snippet from a New York Times article: "...But that does not mean divestment campaigns have no consequences. What they do best is good old-fashioned public shaming. The Oxford researchers found that the negative publicity can create reputational headaches. “It becomes much harder for stigmatized businesses to recruit good people, to influence policy and, occasionally, to raise capital,” Mr. Caldecott said. Divestment campaigns also give activists a focused — and easy to understand — object for their outrage..."

Climate Change Creating Longer, More Intense Fire Seasons, Warns Interior Secretary. has the story; here's an except: "...This is the situation now facing the American West,” said a prescient National Wildlife Federation study six years ago.  “Wildfire frequency and severity are increasing because of rising temperatures, drying conditions and more lightning brought by global warming. “When combined with decades of fire suppression that allowed unsafe fire loads to accumulate, severe bark beetle infestations that are rapidly decimating trees, and ever-expanding human settlements in and near forests, the result is increasing vulnerability and major fires.” Washington saw its largest wake-up-call fire last summer — the Carlton Complex blaze that consumed 256,000 acres of forests, range lands and houses in Okanogan County..." (File image: Grist).

Polar Bears Are Now Eating Dolphins In The Arctic. Unusually warm water is luring dolphins far from their traditional waters, as reported at VICE News; here's the intro: "The good news: Polar bears, imperiled by climate change, appear to have found something new to eat. The bad news: It's dolphins. Scientists studying bears on the Arctic shores of Norway found several of the white-coated predators feasting on the remains of white-beaked dolphins, which appeared to have become trapped under the ice of a fjord..."

Photo credit above: Jon Aars/Norwegian Polar Institute.

New Charges of Climate Skeptic's Undisclosed Ties to Energy Industry Highlight Journals' Role as Gatekeeper. PLOS, the Public Library of Science, has an interesting blog post; here's an excerpt: "...Thanks to documents obtained from court settlements, whistleblowers and investigations by reporters and U.S. congressmen, we know that corporations hire scientists to write studies that help delay regulations, defend products worth billions and discredit research to protect their bottom line. Reviews of studies in several high-stake fields, including pharmaceutical research, chemical toxicity and passive smoking, have found a “funding effect.” Researchers who receive funding from industry in these fields, the reviews show, are more likely than those who don’t take industry money to publish results in line with the company’s interests..."

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