Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Dog Days Delayed until Mid-August. Glaciers Melting at Unprecedented Rate Worldwide

82 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities Tuesday.
82 F. average high on August 4.
81 F. high on August 4, 2014.

August 5, 1904: Detroit Lakes woman is hit by lightning. It melted her hairpins and steel in corset but does not kill her.

Taking Responsibility

It you're not just a little bit paranoid you're probably not paying attention. The nightly news looks like a trailer for the Book of Revelations: epic wildfires raging from California to Alaska, Tampa is under water and deadly thunderstorm winds have wreaked havoc at concerts outside Chicago, flattening circus tents in New Hampshire.

Has the weather always been this extreme? Or is the media doing a better job capturing extremes that have always been there? How much of this is demographic trends and land use - more people living in unsafe places?

Insurance companies and Defense Department analysts see an emerging trend. Regardless of what you think about greenhouse gases and climate change you'd be well advised to take precautions. Weather-on-steroids means systems are stronger and faster, with less time to take evasive action.
Have a few Doppler and warning apps on your smart phone - or have a portable NOAA Weather Radio receiver that can receive warnings for your county. Stay alert while camping - or at an outdoor concert. Have an escape plan and shelter picked out, in advance. Don't rely on anyone else for your personal safety. A little paranoia is a good thing when it comes to avoiding life-threatening weather scenarios.

Heavy T-storms prowl Minnesota Thursday but skies dry out in time for a fairly nice weekend; highs in the 80s with a need for sunscreen both days.

Enjoy a welcome break from the muggies: 90-degree heat may return by mid-August.

Tornado Slipped Under Radar, Emergency Officials Say. Due to curvature of the Earth it can be impossible to know the wind circulations within a few thousand feet of the ground if the storm is more than 30 miles from the Doppler radar site. Here's an excerpt of a Chicago Tribune story on the Grayslake tornado (near Chicago) and why there was (apparently) no significant warning: "...According to Lake County Emergency Management Coordinator Kent McKenzie, the tornado literally slipped under the radar and was on the ground before observers knew it. "By the time they (National Weather Service personnel) saw it on the radar, it was already in Grayslake causing damage," McKenzie said Tuesday. McKenzie added that while many factors were involved, one of the most important is that the quickly-developing supercell thunderstorm that spawned the tornado formed at such a low level that the radar station in Romeoville did not detect it forming due to curvature of the earth. The radar equipment, he added, usually doesn't detect activity below 2,000 feet..."

Photo credit above: "Owners of homes damaged from the Sunday night tornado work to repair their roofs in Grayslake, Ill. as cleanup continued on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015 following a severe round of weather in the region Sunday afternoon." (Mark Welsh/Daily Herald via AP).

Thundery Spell. GFS data looking out 240 hours shows a good chance of showers and T-storms Thursday; again Sunday as a frontal boundary lingers nearby - the core of the heat and humidity positioned just south and west of Minnesota. By mid-August some of that heat may finally sweep northward into the Gopher State.

On The Cusp of Hot and Bothered. Although the core of the heat wave is positioned over the southwestern USA and Rockies, waves of heat will push across the Dakotas into Minnesota. I have a strong hunch heat will spill over into much of September this year. 500 mb predicted winds (GFS) valid Tuesday evening, Augsut 18.

Don't Write Off The 90s Just Yet. We haven't seen any extended streaks of obnoxious heat, but the State Fair is coming so all bets are off. GFS guidance shows highs near 90F between August 15-20. Please circle your calendar.

California Wildfires: 13,000 Under Evacuation Orders as Rocky Fire Rages. These are no garden-variety wildfires; NBC News reports - here's an excerpt: "Thousands of people were ordered out of their homes Monday after wind-whipped wildfires burned dozens of buildings across northern California. Described as "unprecedented" by authorities, the largest blaze — which is known as the Rocky Fire — had torn across Lake County, north of San Francisco, growing to almost 60,000 acres, or 93 square miles, by Monday afternoon, CalFire spokesman Officer Daniel Berlant said..."

* CNN has more details on the fast-moving, incredibly erratic Rocky Fire here.

Photo credit here: "A plume of smoke rises above a hillside as the Rocky Fire burns near Clearlake, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. The fire has charred more than 60,000 acres and destroyed at least 24 residences." (AP Photo/Josh Edelson).

Explosive Wildfires. The BBC has a video and additional information on the Rocky Fire, one of many blazes raging across the state of California.

Missing: One Year's Worth of California Rain. Climate Central puts California's historic drought into stark perspective; here's a snippet: "...The study’s researchers pin the reason for the lack of rains, as others have, on the absence of the intense rainstorms ushered in by so-called atmospheric rivers, the ribbons of very moist air that can funnel water vapor from the tropics to California during its winter rainy season. Overall, the study, accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, found that California experiences multi-year dry periods, like the current one, and then periods where rains can vary by 30 percent from year to year. Those wet and dry years typically cancel each other out..."

Graphic image credit above: "California’s accumulated precipitation debt from 2012 to 2014 shown as a percent change from the 17-year average using the TRMM mission’s multi-satellite observations." Credit: Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Heat, Drought Cook Fish Alive in Pacific Northwest. Here's an excerpt from USA TODAY: "Freakishly hot, dry weather in the Pacific Northwest is killing millions of fish in the overheated waters of the region's rivers and streams. “We’ve lost about 1.5 million juvenile fish this year due to drought conditions at our hatcheries,” Ron Warren of Washington State's Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement. “This is unlike anything we’ve seen for some time..."

Photo credit above: "This Sept. 10, 2014 photo provided by the Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game shows a mixture of wild and hatchery-raised sockeye salmon released into Redfish Lake in central Idaho to spawn naturally." (Photo: Chris Kozfkay, AP).

Can Forests Rebound From Severe Drought? CSMonitor.com has the story - here's the link and an excerpt that caught my eye: "...Dr. Anderegg, who studies climate change at Princeton University, found that living trees took an average of two to four years to recover post-drought. There was just one exception: California and Mediterranean regions actually grew faster after a drought. "We don't have a clear answer as to why this was," Anderegg says. "One possibility is that these regions tended to be dominated by oak forests, and we found that oaks tended to recover relatively quickly..."

Hurricane Sandy Still Taking A Toll Nearly 3 Years Later. Futurity has some statistics that made me do a double-take; here's an excerpt: "Hurricane Sandy continues to affect the lives of tens of thousands of New Jersey residents, who are still dealing with unfinished repairs, disputed claims, and recurrent mold—after-effects that are linked to an increased risk of mental health distress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. According to the Sandy Child and Family Health Study, a study of 1 million New Jersey residents living in the hurricane’s path, more than 100,000 New Jersey residents experienced significant structural damage to their primary homes. Of those people, 27 percent are still experiencing moderate or severe mental health distress and 14 percent report still signs and symptoms of PTSD two and a half years after the storm..."

The Miracle of Solar City. Elon Musk's Tesla and SpaceX are doing well, but Solar City may be the most disruptive company; here's an excerpt from Slate: "...SolarCity, which focuses on putting solar panels on the roofs of homes and buildings, didn’t invent the solar panel. But, like Ford Motor Co. did a century ago, it has put together and perfected a combination of functions and disciplines—efficient assembly, economies of scale, vertical integration, and innovative financing techniques—that could make mass adoption possible. And it continually seeks and finds ways to expand its market..."

How Will Ad-Blocking Software Change The Web-Content Industry? Is this the beginning of the end for ad-supported sites? Here's an excerpt from Quartz: "...Observers weren’t fooled by the last-day session placement and careful euphemism (“content” means “ads”). True to the “if it bleeds, it leads” dictum, we were treated to the usual clamor, from accusations of short-sighted tactics—Apple is at war with Google and wants to monopolize mobile advertising with iAds; publishers will blacklist Safari on iOS9—to predictions of calamity—content blocking will upend the Web, your favorite webiste is about to die, content creators are under attack:You realize that ‘bloat’ pays the salaries of editorial, product, design, video, etc etc etc, right?...” (Photo credit: before and after ad-blocking).

America's "Favorite Months". Is it just me or does someone have way too much time on their hands? The Washington Post reports, here's a clip: "...Gallup asked 1,000 Americans about their favorite month. May came in first, with October running a close second. June and December tied for third, with July and April tied for fifth. In a grave injustice, Americans ranked the winter months of January and February dead last. It's also fascinating to see how Americans' seasonal preferences have changed over the past 45 years..."

The U.S. Government Reimbursed Buzz Aldrin $33 For His Trip To The Moon in 1969. Just when you thought you'd seen everything; along comes a story at Quartz; here's the intro: "Like any other American returning home from a business trip out of the country, former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin filled out an expense report and a customs form when he came back from the moon. Aldrin—the second man to step foot on the lunar surface, after Neil Armstrong—recently shared the paperwork on Facebook. The records include signatures from Aldrin and a Honolulu customs inspector, and one of the most unusual itemized itineraries in history: Florida to Moon to Pacific Ocean to Hawaii, and then back home to Houston..."

TODAY: Warm sunshine, closer to average. Winds: S 10. High: 83

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase, thunder possible late. Low: 63

THURSDAY: Few showers and T-storms likely, especially north of MSP. High: near 80

FRIDAY: Damp start, becoming partly sunny. Wake-up: 66. High: 82

SATURDAY: Plenty of sun, lake-worthy. Winds: S 10+ Wake-up: 67. High: 84

SUNDAY: Intervals of sun, probably dry. Wake-up: 68. High: 85

MONDAY: Mix of clouds and warm sunshine. Wake-up: 66. High: 82

TUESDAY: Some of the best weather of summer - lot's of sunshine. Wake-up: 65. High: 84

Climate Stories...

Glaciers Melting at "Unprecedented" Rate. CBS News highlights new data that shows an acceleration of glacier ice loss, worldwide. Here's an excerpt: "According to a wide-ranging new study, in the first part of the 21st century, glaciers are melting faster than at any point in the last 165 years -- and possibly any point in recorded history. Published Monday in the Journal of Glaciology by the World Glacier Monitoring Service, the findings represent thousands of observations going all the way back to the 1600s. That includes more than 40,000 on-site measurements of glacier thickness, images from planes and satellites, and reconstructions based on historical pictures and texts...."

Image credit above: "The top image shows the Swiss Rhone Glacier in June 2007; the second image shows the same glacier in June 2014." Simon Oberli.

World's Glaciers Melting At Fastest Rate Since Record-Keeping Began. Globally 3 times the ice volume stored in the Alps is lost every year, according to new research highlighted at Huffington Post; here's a clip: "The world's glaciers have melted to the lowest levels since record-keeping began more than 120 years ago, according to a study conducted by the World Glacier Monitoring Service that was released on Monday. The research, published in the Journal of Glaciology, provides new evidence that climate change has spurred the rapid decline of thousands of the world's ice shelves over the past century. The first decade of the 21st century saw the fastest loss of ice since scientists began tracking it in 1894 -- and perhaps in recorded history, WGMS reported..."

Methane in Atmosphere May Greatly Exceed Estimates. Which is problematic, considering methane is a greenhouse gas far more concentrated and potent than CO2. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "A device commonly used to measure the methane that leaks from industrial sources may greatly underestimate those emissions, said an inventor of the technology that the device relies on. The claim, published Tuesday in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, suggests that the amount of escaped methane, a potent greenhouse gas, could be far greater than accepted estimates from scientists, industry and regulators. The new paper focuses on a much-heralded report sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund and published by University of Texas researchers in 2013; that report is part of a major effort to accurately measure the methane problem..." (File image: ThinkProgress).

Clean Power Plan: Your State-By-State Greenhouse Gas Emissions. In 2012 Minnesota accounted for 1.73% of the USA's greenhouse gas emissions. Here's an excerpt from U.S. News: "...The 10 biggest greenhouse gas emitters, from Texas to Michigan, accounted for nearly half of all U.S. emissions in 2012, it found. Texas, alone, made up one-eighth of all the country’s emissions, mostly from the sheer size of its industrial, electric and transportation sectors. In fact, transporation in Texas alone generated more than 3 percent of the nation's total emissions – greater than all of Michigan or even the 10 greenest states combined..."

Will Clean Power Plan Accelerate Renewables? Andrew Freedman has an analysis at Mashable; here's an excerpt: "...The rule is designed to give states flexibility in determining how to meet the national carbon standards. All states will get an emissions reduction goal, and each can determine on its own how to get there. For example, a state can switch its power plants from coal to natural gas, build tons of solar installations, or join cap and trade systems, while others may find it economically advantageous to shutter plants and take other actions. States will submit their plans by 2018 at the latest, and start cutting emissions by 2022..."

Climate Battle Will Likely Divide Red and Blue States Down a Green Line. NationalJournal takes a look at why some states are having a harder time coming to terms with the Clean Power Plan than others. Here's an excerpt: "...As the maps (above) show, red and blue states begin this process in very different positions relative to carbon emissions. The first map ranks the states based on how much carbon they emit per each megawatt of electricity they generate, according to the figures the EPA issued when it released the proposed rule last year. Since coal emits much more carbon per unit of electricity generated than other fuels (such as natural gas, much less solar or wind), the states that rely most on coal for their power top the list for electricity-related carbon emissions..."

Fact or Fiction? Natural Gas Will Reduce Global Warming Pollution. Scientific American takes a look; here's a clip: "...Natural gas did play a significant supporting role in reducing pollution from the energy sector, however—a role that has increased over time as people and companies have started buying more stuff. The shift away from burning coal has counterbalanced population growth, according to this new analysis. In fact, cheap and abundant natural gas appears to have helped keep some 160 new coal-fired power plants from being built, which would have spewed hundreds of millions of metric tons of CO2 over the years. Coal's share of electricity generation in the U.S. has been dropping since 2009 and more than 180 gigawatts of power plants that burn natural gas have been built since 1990..."

A Clean-Energy Breakthrough. Here's a snippet of an Op-Ed at The Wall Street Journal: "...Some question whether the EPA has the authority to take this step. They are arguing a point that was settled eight years ago. The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA has a clear responsibility under the Clean Air Act to act to reduce emissions of climate-altering pollution. The plan is also necessary. Without it, a lack of basic federal standards to reduce power-plant emissions created a bad mix of uncertainty for industry and unsafe pollution for the climate. The longer we delay addressing climate-change issues in a serious way, the greater the risk posed to national economic growth, long-term investment and job creation..."

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