Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Friday Severe Risk - Rains Accelerate Greenland Ice Melt

82 F. high temperature at MSP International Airport Wednesday.
83 F. average high on July 22.
86 F. high on July 22, 2014.

July 22, 1972: A significant downpour occurs over a portion of Minnesota, with 10.84 inches of rain in 24 hours at Ft Ripley. 14 inches of rain fell at a farm in Morrison County

Learning Machine

The Internet is both empowering and disruptive, streamlining information, but rendering layers of middle management unnecessary. The rate of technological innovation is accelerating. Just keeping up is perilous, bordering on impossible.

In computing people often say the half-life of expertise is roughly 5 years. Meaning in 5 years HALF of what you know is obsolete - so you better keep learning.

I'm taking a cue from my oldest son (Walt) and learning new software, trying to venture out of my comfort zone. It's like swimming upstream, but it's essential for both companies and individuals.

If you think you can get your high school or college degree and be "set for life" I have an 8-track (and gently used fax machine) I'd like to sell you. Like it or not all of us are perpetual learning machines now.

No red blobs are expected on Doppler today, but a few T-storms Friday may turn severe as a hot front approaches and the heat index nears the 100F mark by late afternoon, especially far southern Minnesota. Hey it's been 4 days since my last power outage. I'm due. Between wild, power-sapping wind storms and perpetual road construction it's a wonder I'm semi-sane.

A lake-worthy weekend is brewing with highs near 90F and sticky sun both days. Compared to the rest of America sizzling away Minnesota will see a mild dose of dog days this summer.

Friday Severe Threat. NOAA SPC has a slight risk of severe storms Friday from Duluth and the Twin Cities to Eau Claire and Waterloo. The leading edge of very hot, 70-degree-plus dew point air coupled with a sheared environment will result in a squall line capable of large hail, straight-line winds, even a few tornadoes. I expect watches and warnings closer to home on Friday. 3 power outages in less than 12 days? Hey, let's go for a record!

Partly Sweaty. Friday looks like the most uncomfortable day with a shot at low 90s and a swamp-like dew point in the 70s, making it feel like 100F by late afternoon. Winds swing around to northwest Saturday and dew points will come down to more tolerable levels over the weekend, a shot at 90F Sunday and Monday before another spirited round of T-storms late Monday as we get a midweek break from the stickies.

Trending Wetter. NOAA model ensembles still soak much of Florida, and every new run looks a litlte wetter from Des Moines to the Twin Cities, Fargo and Bismarck. The best chance of 2-4" rains will come across Iowa, but some local 1-2" amounts in heavy T-storms are possible across much of Minnesota between Friday and next Tuesday.

GFS Guidance Next 10 Days. The animation above, courtesy of NOAA, shows predicted rainfall and surface pressure between Thursday and August 1. A ROF (Ring of Fire) pattern will prevail for the Upper Midwest from Friday into early next week, "ridge-rider" T-storms flaring up along the northern periphery of a heat bubble. By Tuesday and Wednesday of next week a more formidable shot of Canadian air cools us off.

NOAA: Hottest First Half of Year in Northern Hemisphere By Stunning .36F. ThinkProgress has an update on what will almost certainly wind up being the hottest year on record, worldwide. Here's a snippet: "NOAA’s latest monthly climate report confirms that 2015 will crush previous global temperature records. That’s especially true up here in the northern hemisphere, where the first half of 2015 is a remarkable 0.36°F warmer than the first half of any year since records started being kept 135 years ago..." (Image: NOAA).

Europe to America: Your Love of Air Conditioning Is Stupid. Are we really one big, hot mess? The Washington Post takes a look at our obsession with staying cool; here's a clip: "...Overall, it's safe to say that Europe thinks America's love of air-conditioning is actually quite daft. Europeans have wondered about this particular U.S. addiction for a while now: Back in 1992, Cambridge University Prof. Gwyn Prins called America's love of air-conditioning the country's "most pervasive and least-noticed epidemic," according to the Economist. And according to the Environmental Protection Agency, it's getting worse: American demand for air-conditioning has only  increased over the past decades. The U.S. has been the world's leader in air-conditioning ever since, and it's not a leadership Americans should necessarily be proud of..."

El Nino Intensifying, Could Rival Strongest in Recorded History. The current warming of the Pacific bears uncanny resemblance to 1997-98, which helped to spawn floods and mudslides for California during the winter months. Here's an excerpt from a good update at Capital Weather Gang: "...The sprawling area of warm waters has proven to be a boon for Pacific tropical cyclone activity, near record levels through mid-summer. Through a positive feedback mechanism, these cyclones have likely helped to reinforce the westerly push of warm waters, Slate’s Eric Holthaus reported. The 2015 El NiƱo event is now neck-and-neck with record-setting event of 1997-1998  in terms of its mid-summer intensity..."

Image credit: Jan Null.

* Bloomberg Business takes a look at the link between an intensifying El Nino and the flurry of hurricanes and typhoons in the Pacific.

What's The Likelihood of a Hurricane Hitting California? Don't laugh too hard. It's a remote possibility yes, but the probability is greater than zero, especially during an El Nino year when Pacific water is unusually warm and storms can retain their strength farther north. Here's an excerpt from The Weather Channel: "...And while it's not all that uncommon for tropical moisture to make it to California, many have been asking: could a hurricane make landfall on the West Coast? History shows a hurricane landfall is possible, but if it happened, it would be in Southern California. On Oct. 2, 1858, a hurricane came ashore and caused widespread damage in San Diego. That unnamed hurricane was the last, and only, example on record of a hurricane coming ashore on the West Coast. In 1939, a tropical storm made landfall along the California coast at Long Beach, according to Weather Underground..."

Last Big Hurricane Scare for California: 1997's Hurricane Linda. What's interesting is that the current El Nino is being compared to 1997-98, when trade winds subsided and El Nino-warmed water spread unusually far north, providing a potential runway for Hurricane Linda to run all the way up to California. It never happened, but we came close. Here's an excerpt from my book, Restless Skies: "On September 9, 1997 Hurricane Linda formed about 700 miles southwest of the Baja peninsula. As the storm slowly moved north along the Mexican coastline, El Nino's warm waters caused Linda to grow explosively into a large howling hurricane, with sustained winds up to 185 mph, and gusts over 200 mph. Linda had become the most powerful East Pacific hurricane in the history of weather records. As the storm swirled and strengthened, growing even larger and deadlier, meteorologists were stunned as they pored over the forecasts comong out of the computer models. The extreme hurricane would most likely slam the coast somewhere between San Diego and Los Angeles. El Nino had slowed the prevailing westerly winds, allowing warm, 80-degree water to linger, thereby providing a fertile breeding ground for a hurricane to churn north toward Southern California. It was a perfect storm of warm water and raging winds. Los Angeles seemed to be in Linda's crosshairs. At almost the last moment and upper-level trough, a stormy wrinkle of cold, windy air aloft, moved erratically, and Hurricane Linda veered out to sea...." (Image: NASA)

NASA Measures Southwestern U.S. Record Rainfall. Here's more information from the GPM, NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement satellite: "Moisture pumping into southern California and the Desert Southwest from the remnants of hurricane Delores has caused record July rainfall. Data from the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission core observatory was used to estimate the rainfall. Dolores formed over the weekend of July 11 and 12 about 175 miles (275 km) south-southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico. The storm moved north-northwest and on July 17, moisture associated with the storm began streaming to the northeast over Baja California, mainland Mexico and southern Arizona. As the storm continued moving to the north-northwest over the open waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean, that stream of moisture moved north over southern California and Arizona..."

New NASA Video on Flood Prediction. EarthSky has a link to the video - here's an excerpt: "By any metric — from financial ruin to the human toll — floods rank alongside earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis as the worst natural disasters. In fact, the most deadly disaster of the 20th century was the China floods of 1931, which may have resulted in more than a million deaths. But predicting floods is notoriously difficult. Floods depend on a complex mixture of rainfall, soil moisture, the recent history of precipitation, and much more. Snowmelt and storm surges can also contribute to unexpected flooding. Thanks to NASA, however, the predictions are improving. The video above has more..."

Scientists Are Building A System That Could Turn Atmospheric CO2 Into Fuel. This is the kind of innovation we're going to need - new technologies we can't even imagine (today) that will help us solve this problem and have the economic growth we need, but not at the expense of adding to greenhouse gas pollution and climate volatility. Here's an excerpt from ScienceAlert: "...Scientists in Canada are developing an industrial carbon dioxide recycling plant that could one day suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and convert it into a zero-carbon e-diesel fuel. Developed by tech start-up Carbon Engineering and partly funded by Bill Gates, the system will essentially do the job of trees, but in places unable to host them, such as icy plains and deserts. Just like these new solar cells that are designed to split water into a hydrogen fuel, the CO2 recycling plant will combine carbon dioxide with hydrogen split from water to form hydrocarbon fuel..." (Image: Carbon Engineering).

Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep On The Highway - With Me In It. Here's an excerpt of the experiment and WIRED article that has caused such a stir: "...All of this is possible only because Chrysler, like practically all carmakers, is doing its best to turn the modern automobile into a smartphone. Uconnect, an Internet-connected computer feature in hundreds of thousands of Fiat Chrysler cars, SUVs, and trucks, controls the vehicle’s entertainment and navigation, enables phone calls, and even offers a Wi-Fi hot spot. And thanks to one vulnerable element, which Miller and Valasek won’t identify until their Black Hat talk, Uconnect’s cellular connection also lets anyone who knows the car’s IP address gain access from anywhere in the country. “From an attacker’s perspective, it’s a super nice vulnerability,” Miller says..."

Summer Travel: How To Avoid Extreme Weather, Stay Safe on Vacations. The most important thing you can do is load the right weather apps on your smart phone, in my humble opinion. That, and to quote the Boy Scouts, be prepared. Here's an excerpt from "Have a car charger for cell phones to ensure the ability to call for help if needed. Smart phones also have access to applications that can give you weather forecasts or help locate nearby hotels or other shelter if needed. Brady also suggested the FRX2 American Red Cross radio, which will carry weather warnings on the radio stations, has a built in flashlight and can be hand-cranked to give it power or also charge a cell phone..."

The Smartest Way To Take a Vacation. The Wall Street Journal has some good advice; here's an excerpt: "...Psychologists and researchers have been studying how to create an ideal vacation that boosts our well-being, relieves stress that can impact our health, and helps us recharge for returning to work. Some conclusions: Longer vacations aren’t necessarily better than shorter ones. Engage in activities you haven’t done before, even if you’re at home on a staycation. And end a trip on a high note..."

These Are The Top 20 Cities Americans Are Ditching. Hawaii? Bloomberg Business takes a look at which cities are seeing a net loss of residents; happy to see no towns in Minnesota are on the list. Here's an excerpt: "New York City, Los Angeles, Honolulu: They're all places you would think would be popular destinations for Americans. So it might come as a surprise that these are among the cities U.S. residents are fleeing in droves. The map below shows the 20 metropolitan areas that lost the greatest share of local people to other parts of the country between July 2013 and July 2014, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data..."

The Only Realistic Way To Fix Campaign Finance. Lawrence Lessig has an interesting Op-Ed at The New York Times; here's an excerpt: "...If the core problem is politicians beholden to their funders, then giving Congress the power to limit the amount spent or the amount contributed would not resolve it. Regardless of how much was spent, the private funding of public campaigns, even with limits, would inevitably reproduce the world we have now. Real reform will require changing the way campaigns are funded — moving from large-dollar private funding to small-dollar public funding..." (Photo credit here).

These Superhumans Are Real And Their DNA Could Be Worth Billions. Bloomberg has a fascinating story - here's an excerpt: "Steven Pete can put his hand on a hot stove or step on a piece of glass and not feel a thing, all because of a quirk in his genes. Only a few dozen people in the world share Pete’s congenital insensitivity to pain. Drug companies see riches in his rare mutation. They also have their eye on people like Timothy Dreyer, 25, who has bones so dense he could walk away from accidents that would leave others with broken limbs. About 100 people have sclerosteosis, Dreyer’s condition..."

Illustration credit: Stephanie Davidson.

Too Much TV Could Raise The Risk of Alzheimer's, Study Suggests. The Washington Post has more details; here's an excerpt: "...Researchers at the Northern California Institute for Research and Education in San Francisco who investigated the association between sedentary lifestyles, cognitive performance and the risk of developing dementia found that people who watched a lot of television — namely, four hours or more per day — scored significantly lower on measures of cognitive performance in middle age..."

Terrafugia Unveils New Design for TF-X Autonomous Flying Car. For many years now I've been lamenting the lack of flying cars. It's 2015. There should be flying cars! And along comes this post at Gizmag to whet my appetite. Damn. Here's an excerpt: "...Terrafugia says the aim of its vehicles is to provide "true door-to-door transportation." The TF-X is designed to seat up to four people and will have computer-controlled flight that that will allow the operator to simply input the desired destination before letting the vehicle take off (from a level clearing of at least 100 ft in diameter) and fly itself. To enable flight, the TF-X design has fold-out wings with twin electric motor pods attached to the ends. The motors are powered by a 300 hp engine and can move from vertical to horizontal positions as required for taking off, cruising and landing..."

TODAY: Warm sun, a dry sky. Winds: South 10-15. High: 86

THURSDAY NIGHT: Clear evening, clouds increase late. Low: 70

FRIDAY: Sticky and hot with some murky sunshine, strong to severe T-storms possible. Feels like 95-100F by late afternoon. High: 91

SATURDAY: Hot sun, light winds. Dew point: 68. Wake-up: 73. Winds: NW 5-10. High: 88

SUNDAY: Hazy sunshine. Go jump in a lake. Wake-up: 72. High: near 90

MONDAY: Still steamy. Strong T-storms late? Wake-up: 74. High: 92

TUESDAY: Damp start. Becoming sunny, turning less humid. Wake-up: 71. High: 86

WEDNESDAY: Blue sky, comfortable. DP: 58. Wake-up: 66. High: 84

Climate Stories....

Heavy Summer Rain in Greenland Speeds Up Ice Melt. ScienceNordic has an interesting, and vaguely troubling story - here's an excerpt: "...The new study shows that these heavy rain events have occurred frequently due to the warmer, wetter weather of the last 20 years, penetrating deeper into the ice sheet, making it move and melt faster. “We saw 10 to 15 % of the total annual surface melt occur in this unusual week of warm, wet weather in late summer 2011. When this water reached the bed, the ice sheet lifted up and moved faster,” says Sam Doyle, from Aberystwyth University, UK, lead author of the new study, which has just been published in Nature Geoscience. According to his colleague and co-author, professor Jason Box of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, their results add more weight to scientists’ concerns of the sensitivity of the entire Greenland Ice Sheet to melting..."

Photo credit above: "Formation of lakes on the Greenland Ice Sheet after the main melt-season due to warm wet weather and heavy rain. Later this water drains to the bottom of the ice sheet enabling it to move and melt faster. This makes the ice sheet more vulnerable to such rapid melt events as the climate warms, scientists say in a new study." (Photo: Sam Doyle).

Is Climate Policy Reaching a Turning Point? Vox has an interview with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy; here's an excerpt: "...Part of the challenge is that we’re trying to do a couple of things here. We’re trying to identify what further reductions are achievable by every state. Because we want to make sure that every unit [i.e., coal or gas plant] can actually achieve the reductions we’re intending to achieve. So for some states, because of how far they’ve already moved with renewables and efficiency programs, they’re far ahead of others, and they have infrastructure in place that will allow them to continue this downward trend. Whereas states that have not been engaged or do not have that infrastructure will take a bit longer [to cut emissions]..."

The Climate Terminator: "Climate Changes Is Not Science Fiction" TIME has a story about Arnold Schwarzenegger's fight to raise climate awareness and climate action; here's an excerpt: "...I’ve starred in a lot of science fiction movies and, let me tell you something, climate change is not science fiction, this is a battle in the real world, it is impacting us right now,” Schwarzenegger said on Tuesday at the first “summit of conscience for the climate.” Schwarzenegger addressed an audience that included spiritual leaders from many religions, as well as climate change experts. “I believe the science is in. The debate is over and the time for action is now,” Schwarzenegger continued..."

Photo credit above: "This photo provided by Paramount Pictures shows, Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator in "Terminator Genisys," from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Paramount Pictures via AP).

The 5 Telltale Techniques of Climate Change Denial. Here's an excerpt from a John Cook story at "...The link between conspiratorial thinking and science denial has serious and practical consequences. Conspiracy theorists are immune to scientific evidence, as any evidence conflicting with their beliefs is considered part of a conspiracy. The implication is that the most effective approach is not changing the mind of the unchangeable. Rather a more fruitful approach is communicating the realities of climate change to the large, undecided majority who are open to scientific evidence. A crucial part of the puzzle is explaining the techniques of science denial. This has the powerful effect of inoculating people against the misinformation of climate science deniers."

More Eyes on Climate Change. Computers can only do so much, according to a story at Harvard Gazette; here's an excerpt: "...The creation of Margaret Kosmala, a postdoctoral fellow, Andrew Richardson, an associate professor of organismic and evolutionary biology, and colleagues at the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), Season Spotter is a citizen-science project that aims to recruit Internet users to assist researchers in analyzing images of natural scenes. “We’re trying to get scientific data out of a set of images that we can’t easily get with a computer,” Kosmala said. “We need to rely on people’s eyes and brains to do the processing for us. We’re asking them to answer simple questions about what they see in these images...”

Photo credit above: Season Spotter/PhenoCam. "This flowery field and image of Hawaii's Kamuela mountainside come from a network of cameras tracking vegetation's response to climate change. The project, called Season Spotter, appeals to the public for help by recruiting Internet users to assist researchers in analyzing images of natural scenes."

"The absence of certainty is not an excuse to do nothing." - Christine Todd Whitman, President George W. Bush's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator.

"There are too many special interests - and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good." - Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si.

State of the Climate Report Released. Here are a few bullet points from a timely summary of the latest report, courtesy of the AGU Blogosphere: "Key highlights from the report include:
  • Greenhouse gases continued to climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, continued to rise during 2014, once again reaching historic high values. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 1.9 ppm in 2014, reaching a global average of 397.2 ppm for the year. This compares with a global average of 354.0 in 1990 when this report was first published just 25 years ago.
  • Record temperatures observed near the Earth’s surface: Four independent global datasets showed that 2014 was the warmest year on record. The warmth was widespread across land areas. Europe experienced its warmest year on record, with more than 20 countries exceeding their previous records. Africa had above-average temperatures across most of the continent throughout 2014, Australia saw its third warmest year on record, Mexico had its warmest year on record, and Argentina and Uruguay each had their second warmest year on record. Eastern North America was the only major region to experience below-average annual temperatures..."
Image credit above: "2014 was likely the hottest year on the instrument record and one of the hottest over the last 1000 years at least. 2015 so far is warmer."

Arctic Sea Ice Rebounds, But Not Recovering. Climate Central explains how a new satellite is helping scientists get a better understanding of what's really happening at the top of the world; here's a clip: "...The 2010 launch of the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 satellite finally allowed scientists to take a wide-scale view of Arctic sea ice volume, and the first five years of data have yielded some surprises. The volume of sea ice left at the end of the summer melt season seems to vary more from year to year than had perhaps been previously appreciated; after declining for several years, sea ice volume shot up after the unusually cool summer of 2013, the data revealed. The authors of a new study reviewing the volume data, detailed on Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, are quick to caution, though, that one single year of rebound doesn’t suggest any sea ice recovery, as the overall trend is still downward..."

Image credit above: "Arctic sea ice thickness in autumn as measured by CryoSat-2 between 2010 and 2014." Credit: CPOM.

Innovation To Stanch Climate Change Sputters. Availability of relatively cheap, accessible domestic oil and natural gas is slowing the adoption rate of renewables, argues the author of a story at The New York Times; here's an excerpt: "...Perhaps most critically, the world’s collective effort to reshape energy infrastructure seems to be losing steam. In 2014, global investments in renewable energy declined for the fourth year in a row, to under $250 billion. The United States, the most technologically proficient nation on earth, could be expected to take the lead in developing new energy alternatives. It isn’t. Awash in cheap energy from shale oil and gas — the product of a surge in federally funded research decades ago — America has lost sight of the goal: decarbonizing the world’s energy supply within a matter of decades..."

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