Thursday, June 18, 2015

Strong Storms Saturday Morning - Implications of Pope Francis Encyclical on Climate Change

79 F. high in the Twin Cities Thursday.
80 F. average high on June 18.
81 F. maximum temperature on June 18, 2015.

June 18, 1939: Tornado hits Anoka. 9 were killed and over 200 were injured.

June 18, 1850: Territorial Governor Ramsey reports that about halfway between Ft. Ripley and Ft. Snelling on the Mississippi a severe hail storm occurred in the evening. One or two hailstones picked up were as large as hens eggs and he thought he saw one about the size of a "musket ball."

"Laudato Si"

The Pope's Encyclical on climate change reminds us that our impact on God's Creation is a moral challenge. For people of faith, any faith, this comes down to Creation Care and stewardship. Can we do whatever we want with the land, water and air that sustains us - with no consequences? When did that become OK?

Why is this so important to me? Because a warmer, wetter atmosphere is spiking the weather patterns I'm tracking. Because this will be one of the big ongoing narratives of the 21st century, impacting nearly everything, including the freedom to live where we want to live, where we we can successfully grow crops, the reliability of water supplies, coastal flooding as sea levels continue to rise, weather disasters putting an even greater strain on America's deficit, infrastructure challenges, resilience of our cities - it's a long list.

Because this is a story of injustice, spin and subterfuge. It's so much easier to believe conspiracy theories on the Internet than real scientists. "Let's confuse the public and protect special interests, at the expense of the common good". Trillions of dollars are at stake as we clean up the energy sector and invent new technologies and sustainable solutions. This is highly disruptive to some of the richest multinational corporations on the planet  - that's why there's been so much push-back, manufactured doubt and resistance - from Congress to lobbyists - to the rest of us trying to keep the carbon-party going.

When in doubt follow the money.

This is tobacco times 1,000, because of the amount of money in play.

Because, as a businessman, I refuse to believe that, in order to keep the lights on and the economy powered up, we have to pollute - threatening not only the poor but generations to come.

Actions have consequences. Take responsibility for your actions. Don't spin the truth or kick the can down the road. Don't make our kids clean up our mess. Those are conservative ideals; at least that's the way I was raised. There is another way forward. We can have everything we want and need - but with far less impact on Earth's life-support system. That's not Marxism. It's common sense.

We'll figure this out - because before long we won't have much of a choice.

Now excuse me while I climb down off my soap box.

NOAA predicts temperatures and rainfall near normal into August for Minnesota, in spite of a strengthening El Nino warming phase which may not peak until winter. More details below.

Heavy T-storms arrive late tonight; another round of cauliflower cumulonimbus sprout late Sunday. Expect 80s this weekend followed by a little puff of free A/C next week, courtesy of Canada.

Saturday Morning Fireworks? The NAM model continues to spin up an MCS system late Friday night into Saturday morning, a squall line of strong to potentially severe storms pusing out of the Dakotas into Minnesota by Saturday morning. Have a Plan B for the first half of Saturday, but I expect the sun to be out by afternoon and evening; Sunday a sunnier (quieter) day. Meanwhile the remains of Tropical Storm Bill push across the Ohio Valley, possibly spiking storms as far away as Washington D.C. and Philadelphia by Sunday. Guidance: NOAA.

Easing Into Summer. I still don't see any heat spikes between now and the 4th of July. Puffs of Canadian air will come sailing south of the border, cooling us off a bit by the end of next week. In the meantime the mercury nudges 80F today, climbing into the low 80s over the weekend - the best chance of strong T-storms coming late Friday night and Saturday morning. The weekend may get off to a very stormy start.

Bill's Slow Fade. Although no longer a warm-core tropical storm, the soggy swirl that pushed in from the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday continues to threaten the Middle Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley with flash flooding. Yesterday's visible satellite (courtesy of NOAA) shows the coma-shaped remains of Bill pushing to the east-northeast.

2-3 Month's Worth of Rain. Doppler radar estimates show a wide swath of central and eastern Texas, western Louisiana and much of Oklahoma picking up 5-10" rains over the last 36 hours; additional heavy rainfall today over Oklahoma and Arkansas will spark flash flooding and river flooding. Map: NOAA.

Heaviest Rains Fell Northwest of Fort Worth. Montague and Wise Counties bore the brunt of the most intense rains Wednesday and Wednesday night, with over 12" reported near Montague. Stream and river flooding is most prevalent west of I-35 from Agnes to Montague and Courtney. Map: NOAA.

Rainfall Subtotals. Here are a few reports that came in this morning, showing some of the most excessive rainfall amounts that fell from Bill; the heavist rainfall bands setting up just west of Houston and Galveston into the northwestern suburbs of Dallas-Fort Worth.

Oklahoma Mud. Oklahoma City will wind up with 5-8" of rain from this tropical system, but the heaviest amounts have been focused south of Ardmore, with as much as 11-12" of rain reported with significant flash flooding and river flooding at this hour. Image: Oklahoma Mesonet.

Additional Rainfall. High-resolution weather models print out another 3-7" from Tulsa and Fort Smith to Fayetteville and Springfield, with potential flash flooding in metro St. Louis. Excessive amounts should extend into the Ohio Valley, the greatest risk within 125 miles of the river. Cairo, Evansville, Louisville and Cincinnati may be impacted by urban flooding and some level of stream/river flooding by Friday night and Saturday. 4 KM WRF accumulated rainfall guidance: NOAA and WeatherBell.

Impact As Far Away as Pennsylvania? Models continue to show rainfall amounts being spiked by Bill's tropical remains, with some 1-3" amounts as far away as Pittsburgh, Altoona, Harrisburg and possible the Delaware Valley by Sunday. Although the impacts won't be nearly as great as Texas and Oklahoma, minor to moderate flash flooding can't be ruled out across the Mid Atlantic region this weekend.

Timing The Storm. As you can see from the time-lapse progression of Future Radar above the storm gradually weakens and loses most of its tropical characteristics by the weekend; even so it will tend to spike/enhance thunderstorm rainfall rates and increase the risk of flash flooding as far away as Pittsburgh, Charleston, even Baltimore and Philadelphia. Imagery above: AerisWeather.

85% Chance El Nino Lingers Into Next Winter. The warm phase of ENSO in the Pacific is forecast to peak at the end of 2015 or beginning of 2016. According to NOAA there is now a 90% chance of El Nino into the autumn months; an 85% probability this warm cycle will linger into next winter. That could mean more rain for California (although this is far from a certainty - every El Nino is different) and it sways the odds of a milder winter slightly in our favor. Graphics above: NOAA.

* More details on El Nino below, courtesy of IRI, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University:
  • El Niño and La Niña events tend to develop during the period Apr-Jun and they
  • Tend to reach their maximum strength during Dec-Feb
  • Typically persist for 9-12 months, though occasionally persisting for up to 2 years
  • Typically recur every 2 to 7 years

An Average Summer? Oh to be average again, not flip-flopping back and forth between drought and flood. Based on a strengthening El Nino NOAA CPC is predicting much wetter than normal conditions into August from the central Rockies into the Plains and much of the southern USA, the result of a stronger, El Nino-spiked southern branch of the jet stream. Temperatures are forecast to be cooler into August over the southern Plains, but warmer for the southeast, much warmer for the west coast and Alaska.

El Nino 2015 Forecast To Intensify And Last Through Winter. has a good explainer on El Nino, and how the effects, especially a wetter trend for California where they desparately need rain, may kick in later in the year - here's an excerpt: "Looks like El Nino is going to stay with us for a while. A monthly report assessing El Nino's status, released this week, said there was a greater than 90 percent chance El Nino will continue through the fall, and an 85 percent chance it will last through the winter. El Nino is the term used for the warming of the equatorial waters of the Pacific off the west coast of South America. Those warmer waters can change global weather patterns. This El Nino could be a strong one, according to climate experts. But what does that mean for the United States?.."

Earth's Largest Groundwater Aquifers Are Past "Sustainability Tipping Points". Andrew Freedman has more perspective on the NASA research referenced above at Mashable; here's an excerpt: "...The fact that the majority of the world's groundwater accounts “are past sustainability tipping points” was not known before, according to James Famiglietti, an author of both studies and a professor of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine and senior water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Such points are crossed when groundwater aquifers are no longer being replenished as quickly as they are being depleted, Famiglietti told Mashable in an interview. Both studies appear Tuesday in the journal Water Resources Research. Famiglietti and his coauthors call for a global effort to determine how much water is left in the world's most important aquifers..."

Senate Bill Proposes Centralizing Weather Service Forecasting in 6 Regional Offices. Streamlining, cost-cutting, "achieving greater efficiencies". It may save a few bucks but you're losing the institutional memory and forecasting ability in each local NWS office. I don't see how this makes the forecasts (or warnings) any more effective, and it may wind up endangering public safety. Here's an excerpt from The Capital Weather Gang: "The Senate Commerce Committee is introducing a bill on Tuesday that would consolidate forecasting at 122 National Weather Service (NWS) forecast offices into six regional offices. The measure and its supporters argue that it would make NWS forecast operations more efficient and nimble while saving money. Opponents say it would reduce jobs and significantly compromise forecast quality by dispersing the trove of local knowledge within the nation’s forecasting network..."

Solar Plane, Ready To Go, Waiting Out Weather Front in Japan. AP News has the latest on a fascinating (solar) experiment in the air - not to be confused with a UFO. Will we be flying on solar-powered Delta aircraft in the not-too-distant future? At this point I wouldn't rule anything out: "...The plane, called the Solar Impulse 2, is powered by more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings that recharge its batteries, enabling it to fly. The goal of the project is less about solar-powered air travel - which would not be commercially practical given weather and weight constraints of the Solar Impulse, but about spreading a message about clean technologies. The Solar Impulse's extra-wide wings, brightly lit as it flew into Nagoya, caused some Japanese to call authorities to report a UFO, or unidentified flying object..."

Photo credit above: "The Solar Impulse 2 takes off from Nanjing Lukou International Airport in Nanjing in eastern China's Jiangsu province, Sunday May 31, 2015. The solar-powered plane was beginning a planned six-day, six-night non-stop flight over the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii, considered to be the most challenging leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe." (Chinatopix Via AP).

Google's New Project Is So Insanely Advanced It Will Blow You Away. Uh huh. It looks cool, but where's my flying car? Here's an excerpt from "If Google has its way, our future will be nothing less than a sci-fi movie. After creeping us out with a robotic cheetah and the Google ‘Glass’, Google is all set to bring forth something really amazing. Google’s Project Soli has invented a new interaction sensor using radar technology that can capture motions of your fingers at up to 10,000 frames per second. And that is something that has never ever been done before. Simply put, this technology is so bafflingly accurate that you could operate any device (fitted with this) without having to even touch it..."

Who Owns Your Face? Weak Laws Give Power to Facebook. They're putting the FACE into Facebook! The privacy challenges get more and more interesting with time. Yes, tech (and social media specifically) is a double-edge sword. Here's the intro to a story at Fortune: "In a fateful moment for privacy, Facebook’s “Moments” uses facial recognition to expose where people went and who they were with. What a bad week for privacy. Consumer watchdogs gave up on government talks over facial recognition software after industry groups appeared to reject even basic restrictions on face-scanning. Meanwhile, Facebook rolled out a new service called “Moments” that expands the use of the company’s powerful “faceprint” technology..." (Image: FourTwoNine).

TODAY: Warm sunshine, breezy, a bit more humid. Winds: S 15. High: 81

FRIDAY NIGHT: Clouding up, strong T-storms possible late. Low: 68

SATURDAY: Stormy start with locally heavy rain from T-storms in the morning, then some sticky PM sun. Winds: SW 10-15+ Dew point: 65. High: 83

SUNDAY: More sun, slight late-day T-shower risk, especially northern/western MN. Wake-up: 66. High: 84

MONDAY: Partly sunny, still lukewarm. Wake-up: 65. High: 82

TUESDAY: Sunny start, PM T-storms. Wake-up: 63. High: 79

WEDNESDAY: Cooler and drier, isolated shower possible. Wake-up: 60. High: 74

THURSDAY: Sunny, breathing easier. Dew point: 56. Wake-up: 57. High: 76

Climate Stories...

Pope Francis, in Sweeping Encyclical, Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change. The New York Times has a good summary of Thursday's announcement from The Vatican; here's the intro: "Pope Francis on Thursday called for a radical transformation of politics, economics and individual lifestyles to confront environmental degradation and climate change, as his much-awaited papal encyclical blended a biting critique of consumerism and irresponsible development with a plea for swift and unified global action.The vision that Francis outlined in the 184-page encyclical is sweeping in ambition and scope: He described a relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment, for which he blamed apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology and political shortsightedness. The most vulnerable victims are the world’s poorest people, he declared, who are being dislocated and disregarded..."

Photo credit above: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia.

Encyclical Letter: "Laudato Si" Pope Francis is correct: climate change is a scientific challenge, an economic challenge, and ultimately a spiritual and moral challenge. If you have the time and interest read Pope Francis's Encyclical for yourself; no media spin or interpretation. The 184 page PDF is here.

Key Quotes From Pope Francis' Encyclical Letter. The excerpts below are courtesy of Rev. Mitch Hescox at EEN, the Evangelical Environmental Network. Full disclosure: I'm on their Board of Directors:

 “The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us, men and women, but because human life is itself a gift, which must be defended from various points of debasement.”
“Outside the Catholic Church, other Churches and Christian communities- and other religions as well- have expressed deep concern and offered valuable reflections on issues which all of us find disturbing.”
“He [St. Francis] shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.”
“The world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”
“ become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.”
“...the climate is a common good.”
 “It [climate change] represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”
“The warming caused by huge consumption of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating to farmers.”
 “As the United States Bishops have said, greater attention must be given to ‘the needs of the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable in a debate often dominated by powerful
“Still less is there room for the globalization of indifference.”
“We still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis.”
“Many people will deny doing anything wrong because distractions dull our consciousness of just how limited and finite our world really is.”
“For all of our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity, and care cannot but well up  within us, since we were made for love.”
“This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to  see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decision, and  pretending that nothing will happen.”
“Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the Risen Christ embraces and illuminates all things.”
“Jesus lived in full harmony with creation and others were amazed: What kind of man is  this? Even the winds and the waves obey him! (Mt 8:27)”
“A certain way of understanding human life and activity has gone awry, to the serious detriment of the world around us.”

Pope Urges "Broad, Cultural Revolution" To Save Planet, Fix "Perverse" Economy That Harms Poor. The rich can build higher walls, move to higher ground, they will be able to "adapt". The poor? Not so much. Those with the least are the first to be impacted by rising seas, more extreme storms and more intense heat and drought. Here's a slightly different perspective from The Star Tribune: " In a sweeping environmental manifesto aimed at spurring concrete action, Pope Francis called Thursday for a bold cultural revolution to correct what he described as a "structurally perverse" economic system where the rich exploit the poor, turning Earth into an "immense pile of filth." Francis framed climate change as an urgent moral issue to address in his eagerly anticipated encyclical, blaming global warming on an unfair, fossil fuel-based industrial model that harms the poor most..."

File photo credit above: AP Photo/Andy Wong.

Pope Francis Aligns Himself With Mainstream Science on Climate. Justin Gillis at The New York Times takes a look at the Pope's Encyclical as it relates to climate science; here's an excerpt: "...The hard lesson scientists have learned in recent years, Dr. Schellnhuber said, is that presenting the facts and data about global warming and other environmental problems has not been enough to move the public to action. The issues have become so serious that only a broad moral awakening can offer hope of solving them, he said. “We have pushed the planet into a major environmental crisis, so creation is at stake,” Dr. Schellnhuber said..."

Photo credit above: "Cardinals follow a press conference to present Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si," (Praise Be), at the Vatican, Thursday, June 18, 2015. Pope Francis called Thursday for a bold cultural revolution to correct what he calls the "structurally perverse" economic system of the rich exploiting the poor that is turning Earth into an "immense pile of filth." (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

Pope Francis: Climate Change a "Principal Challenge" For Humanity. Because it's the perfect problem, because we're addicted to fossil fuels, which are acclerating the changes we see all around us, and because any attempt to point out impacts on the world's poor or the need for sustainable economic development will brand you as a "Marxist" among some on the radical right. Here's a clip from NPR: "...He called on humanity to collectively acknowledge a "sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded." And wrote that climate change "represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day." Francis said that developing countries, as the biggest producers of harmful greenhouse gasses, owed the poorer nations a debt. "The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programs of sustainable development..."

Photo credit above: "Cardinals follow a news conference to present Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si, (Praise Be), at the Vatican, on Thursday. The far-reaching papal letter addressed climate change and the poor." Andrew Medichini/AP.

Pope Hands GOP Climate Change Dilemma. Here's the intro to a story at CNN Politics: "Republicans eyeing the White House are caught between two political blasphemies: angering the conservative base and disagreeing with a very popular Pope. Pope Francis released a highly anticipated papal document on climate change and the environment on Thursday, calling the fight against global warming a moral imperative and "one of the principal challenges facing humanity..."

Catholics Divided Over Global Warming. Here's an excerpt of new poll results from the Pew Research Center: "...About seven-in-ten U.S. Catholics (71%) believe the planet is getting warmer. Nearly half of Catholic adults (47%) attribute global warming to human causes, and a similar share (48%) view it as a very serious problem. But more than eight-in-ten Catholic Democrats say there is solid evidence that Earth is warming, compared with just half of Catholic Republicans.1 And while six-in-ten Catholic Democrats say global warming is a man-made phenomenon and that it poses a very serious problem, only about a quarter of Catholic Republicans agree..."

New Study Shows That As The Climate Warms, Melting of Alaskan Glaciers Is Adding Significantly to Sea Level Rise. Here's the intro to a story at ImaGeo: "As heat about global warming continues to emanate from the presidential campaign trail, new research published today shows that the melting of Alaskan glaciers is largely the result of a warming climate. According to the study, accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Geophysical Research Letters, Alaskan glaciers lost about 1.4 trillion tons of ice between 1994 and 2013. That works out to about 75 billion tons a year. Given that rate of ice loss, we’re talking about enough water to cover the entire state of Alaska to a depth of one foot every seven years..."
Animation credit above: "An animation of Landsat satellite images showing dramatic shrinkage of the Columbia Glacier in Alaska. The animation pauses for extra time on the first image, acquired in 1986, and the last one from 2914." (Images: NASA Earth Observatory. Animation: Tom Yulsman).

* More details on the new research highlighted above from in Fairbanks.

Google Just Created A Stunning Visualization Of How The World Searches for "Global Warming". The Washington Post reports; here's the intro: "In a year in which the world will focus heavily on climate change, its top search provider is relaunching a popular feature — Google Trends — and providing a special data visualization to capture how people living in 20 of the world’s major cities search for information about “global warming” and related terms. The interactive, created by data visualization firm Pitch Interactive working with Google’s News Lab, displays search volumes in 20 major cities across the years from 2004 through 2015, for the terms “global warming,” “energy,” “oceans,” “drinking water,” and other environmentally focused words and phrases..."

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