Monday, July 6, 2015

Thunder & Smoke - Record Rains on July 6. Canadian Smoke Plume Triggers Unhealthy Air

76 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday.

84 F. average high on July 6.

90 F. high on July 6, 2014.

2.83" rain fell yesterday at MSP International Airport, a new record for the wettest July 6.

4.5" rain soaked downtown St. Paul yesterday.

"...In a press release issued over the weekend, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization warned of record-breaking temperatures and wildfires in North America and torrential downpours and widespread flooding in southern China. “It is notable that the time between major heat waves (2003, 2010 and 2015) is getting shorter,” stated Omar Baddour, who co-ordinates the WMO’s world climate data and monitoring program..." - from an article in The Vancouver Sun. File photo: NOAA.

Smoke On The Water

Remind me not to take a deep blue summer sky for granted. Last weekend was hazy and murky. It looked like L.A. on a bad day, complete with a cherry-red sunset. Yesterday was downright eerie with smoke dropping visibility and creating very unhealthy conditions.

Wildfires have charred over 2 million acres in Alaska; smoke from northern fires will continue to drift over Minnesota in the coming days, giving the sky a milky-white appearance at times. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an Air Pollution Health Alert. People with respiratory problems up north are most likely to be impacted by the smoke plume.

Monday's training T-storms brought 1-2 MONTH'S worth of rain to much of the area; 3-5 inches for the immediate metro - over 7 inches near River Falls, Wisconsin. Impressive.

I can already hear the mosquitoes talking trash.

We cool off and dry out into midweek, but long range guidance pulls some real summer heat north by the weekend, as highs surge well into the 80s with a drippy dew point in the 70s by Saturday. The approach of this free sauna sets off more scattered T-storms next weekend. What a shocker.

Historically we see the hottest weather of the year in mid-July, but compared to the western and southern USA Minnesota will get off easy this summer.

More smoke than heat.

Running Out of Colors. The derived accumulated rainfall product from the Twin Cities National Weather Service Doppler suggests over 5" of rain near Hudson and River Falls, which lines up with surface observations showing some 7"+ amounts in this area. Most of the metro picked up 2-4" of rain; just about a month's worth in many suburbs. I'll be surprised if we lapse into drought anytime soon.

4.7" of rain soaked Burnsville; it's a long list of communities that picked up at least 2.5" of rain yesterday.

June Monsoon. Yesterday's deluge was the kind of rain you'd expect to see in June, in fact 4 of the last 5 June's have been "historically wet", according ot Dr. Mark Seeley. The aerial extent of geography that picked up 2-4" of rain or more was impressive with Monday morning's slow frontal passage; waves of thunderstorms tracking along the front, each one squeezing out an inch or so of rain. Officially St. Paul picked up 4.5" of rain with 2.83" reported in MInneapolis, a new rainfall record for July 6.

Cream of Wheat Sky. Usually skies clear and visibilities improve behind a cool frontal passage. Usually. Strong subsidence (sinking motion) behind Monday's cooler front helped to pull smoke 3-6 miles above the ground down to the surface - unusual considering the source of that smoke is many hundreds of miles upwind from Saskatchewan into British Columbia. Look carefully at the visible satellite loop from yesterday and you can see a white haze lingering over eastern and southern Minnesota, aerosols suspended in the air from a rash of fires hundreds, even thousands of miles upwind. Source: NOAA and AerisWeather.

ThickSwirls of Smoke. All those red dots above are individual fires, one of the most dense concentrations of fire and smoke over northern Saskatchewan. With prevailing winds blowing from the west to northwest much of that smoke has nowhere to go but Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. At the rate we're going we may be tracking smoke much of the summer and fall. Source: NOAA.

Perpetual Smoke Plume. The smoky plume from hundreds of fires stretching from central Canada to Alaska continues to push into the USA. This is a file image from June 29, courtesy of NASA's Earth Observatory: "...On June 29, 2015, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of smoke from hundreds of wildfires in western Canada. Actively burning areas, detected by the thermal bands on MODIS, are outlined in red, while forests appear dark green. The image below shows shows a closer view of smoke and fires burning in northern Alberta near the Athabasca oil sands. While hundreds of fires are burning throughout Canada, some of the fires producing the most smoke are clustered in this area..."

Poor Air Quality in Minnesota from Canadian Forest Fires. Rain helped to bring some of the particulant pollution to the ground, but there's more fire and smoke upwind so that hazy pall to the sky may linger into much of July at the rate we're going. More on the Air Pollution Advisory from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: "The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air pollution health alert for the northern two-thirds of Minnesota due to smoke blowing in from forest fires in Canada. While air quality briefly improved following rain showers on Sunday and Monday, heavy smoke is returning to Minnesota behind the storm system. As of 9:00 a.m. Monday, air quality across the northern two-thirds of Minnesota had reached unhealthy levels. Air quality is expected to remain poor throughout the day on Monday..."

Alaskan Wildfires Char Nearly 2 Million Acres, Send Smoke to South Carolina. It's the next best thing to a (bad) Alaskan vacation. Here's an excerpt of a good explainer from Andrew Freedman at Mashable: "Alaska is on track to have one of its worst wildfire seasons on record, propelled by a combination of warming average temperatures, a historically mild, relatively snowless winter and extremely mild spring. So far this year, 1.88 million acres have gone up in smoke, from 617 individual fires. June 2015 beat June of 2004 in terms of both number of fires and amount of acres burned, which means this year is now outpacing the state's worst wildfire season ever recorded. With hundreds of fires still burning in Alaska and in Canada, smoke has made it all the way across the Midwest and Mid-South to the Atlantic Coast, crossing over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina on Wednesday..." (Image: NASA).

Fiery Perspective. One look at the map above explains the persistent pall of smoke pushing into the USA, a swath of large fires from Quebec to Alaska. Map: Canadian Wildland Fire Information System.

Drying Out. We may see 4 dry days, back to back, as smoky but comfortably cool, less humid Canadian air pushes southward. The next chance of showers and T-storms comes late Friday and Saturday as steamy, 70-degree dew point air approaches. Source: NOAA

Heaviest Rains Shift South. 7-Day accumulated rainfall predictions show a swath of 3-7" from Wichita Falls and Oklahoma City to near Kansas City and South Bend. The heat wave tapers over the Pacific Northwest; the core of the worst heat south and west of Minnesota

Better Late Than Never. As the core of the jet stream finally lifts northward the risk of 90s will increase as we head into late July; GFS guidance suggesting moderately hot weather from the intermountain west to the Midwest and Great Lakes by July 20.

An Authentic Hot Front? Statistically we are due for a few 90s sometime soon, and GFS guidance brings 90s into MSP between July 16-19; by the end of next week.

How To Maximize Your Vacation Happiness. The rush we get from material things wears off, in most cases rather quickly. But experiences often live on in the stories we tell and overall levels of satisfaction in our lives. Here's an excerpt of an interesting article at New York Magazine: "...In terms of happiness-per-dollar-spent, vacations are the right idea in general. A lot of past research has suggested that experiences in general provide more happiness than material goods. That’s partly because — excited new owners of the latest iPhone who won’t shut up notwithstanding — humans generally have more of a tendency to talk about experiences than mere stuff. “When one buys an experience, they seem to be buying themselves a story as well,” said Dr. Amit Kumar, a social psychologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business who studies the relationship between money and happiness. “So one way vacations continue to provide hedonic benefits even after they've long since passed is because they live on in the stories we tell...”

TODAY: Sunny & comfortable. Smoke may dim the sun. Winds: N 10. Dew point: 49. High: 73

TUESDAY NIGHT: Clear and cool for early July. Low: 56

WEDNESDAY: Mix of clouds and sun (and smoke). High: 76

THURSDAY: Hazy sun, a bit warmer. Wake-up: 60. High: near 80

FRIDAY: Partly sunny, nighttime T-storms? Wake-up: 64. High: 82

SATURDAY: Sticky, scattered T-storms likely. Dew point: 70. Wake-up: 66. High: 83

SUNDAY: Hot & steamy, PM T-storms. DP: 72. Wake-up: 69. High: near 90

MONDAY: Tropical humidity, few T-storms. Wake-up: 67. High: 82

Climate Stories...

Climate Change Plays Significant Role in Europe Heat. Climate Central talks about the record heat gripping much of Europe and how much of it can be attributed to a warmer temperature baseline. Here's an excerpt: "A team of international scientists says it is virtually certain that climate change increased the likelihood of the ongoing heat wave stretching across much of Europe. The risk increased by a factor of two or more over a large part of Europe, up to more than a factor of four in some of the hottest cities. The results are a part of the developing field of “weather attribution” that uses observational weather and climate data, weather forecasts and climate models. It is widely accepted that climate change, in general, will increase the frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves (Meehl and Tebaldi, 2004 [1]; IPCC, 2014 [2]). The field of extreme event attribution aims to analyze individual weather events over a smaller region (Stott et al., 2004 [3]). In the case of the ongoing heat wave in Europe, Climate Central convened an international team of scientists from Oxford University, KNMI, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, along with regional partners from CNRS and MeteoSwiss in order to assess the potential role of global warming on a specific extreme 3-day event, while the event is happening..."

Global Warming Exacerbates British Columbia Wildfire Season, Scientist Says. The Vancouver Sun has the story; here's an excerpt that caught my eye: "...We’ve predicted for some time that we will see fire seasons that last longer and are more intense, irrespective of what is going on in the ocean patterns.” People have thought that the impact of climate change will be felt some time in the future, he said. “It’s not. It’s something that is occurring now. He predicted global warning will not only increase the length and intensity of the forest fire season, but will also affect sockeye salmon runs, ski resorts like Whistler, which is changing to an all-season resort, and the inaccessibility of remote areas in the north because of an early breakup that makes transportation routes impassible..." (File photo: Capital Weather Gang).

Dozens of Nobel Prize-Winning Scientists Call for Action on Climate Change. Here's an excerpt from ThinkProgress: "Sixty years ago, Nobel laureates gathered on a tiny island in Western Europe and warned the world of the dangerous effects of nuclear weapons. Last Friday, on the same island, 36 Nobel Prize winners took up another cause: climate change, which they said poses a “threat of comparable magnitude” to nuclear war. “If left unchecked, our ever-increasing demand for food, water, and energy will eventually overwhelm the Earth’s ability to satisfy humanity’s needs, and will lead to wholesale human tragedy,” the Nobel laureates’ declaration reads. “Already, scientists who study Earth’s climate are observing the impact of human activity...”

The Deadlier Scourge of Wildfires in an Age of Climate Change. Here's a snippet from a book review and story at InsideClimate News: "...Wildfires in the U.S. have been growing more severe, more costly and more frequent over the past half century. Dickman writes that mismanagement, suppressing natural fires and allowing forests to grow dense, as well as encroaching development have led to worse fires, with climate change providing even more fuel. With longer periods of drought and hotter temperatures wicking moisture from the forests, much of the West is a tinderbox. Research shows conditions will continue to worsen as the planet continues to warm..."

Episcopal Church Votes to Divest from Fossil Fuels: "This Is A Moral Issue". The Guardian reports; here the intro: "The leadership of the Episcopal church has voted to withdraw from fossil fuel holdings as a means of fighting climate change, delivering an important symbolic victory to environmental campaigners. Two weeks after the pope’s pastoral letter on the environment, the divestment decision by a major US Protestant denomination underscored that climate change is increasingly seen by religious leaders as a deeply moral issue. The measure, adopted by the governing body at a meeting in Salt Lake City, commits the church to quit fossil fuels and re-invest in clean energy..."

Photo credit above: "Thousands attend a church service during the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Utah." Photograph: Jim Urquhart/Reuters.

Greenland Ice Melt Accelerating. Here's a wildcard, one that climate models have actually underestimated: the rate of summer melting of Greenland ice. Polar Portal has more information: "The Greenland Ice Sheet develops throughout the year with the changing weather conditions. Precipitation contributes by increasing the mass, whilst warmth induces melting, which makes the ice sheet diminish. The term surface mass balance is used for the isolated gain and melting of the surface of the ice sheet – excluding that which is lost when glaciers calve off ice bergs and melt in contact with warm sea water. Newly fallen snow is very bright and reflects most of the sunlight that hits it. As the snow warms up or gets older, it becomes darker. Dark areas absorb more energy from the sun, which leads to further warming and melting of ice. This is called the albedo effect..."

12 Tools For Communicating Climate Change More Effectively. Here's a clip from a story at The Guardian: "...But while scientists, campaigners and other communicators should never downplay or hide the intricacies inherent in climate models, there are better and worse ways of communicating uncertainty. A new Uncertainty Handbook released by the University of Bristol and the Climate Outreach and Information Network distills research finding and expert advice to set out 12 principles of smarter communication around climate change uncertainty. It’s intended to provide scientists, policymakers and campaigners with the tools they need to communicate more effectively around climate change...."

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