Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What September? An "Albino Unicorn" Confronts Climate Change & Weather Disruption

84 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities yesterday.
72 F. average high on September 16.
68 F. average high on September 16.

.07" rain fell at MSP International Airport yesterday.

September 17, 1955: A late-season tornado hits Koochiching County. Most damage was confined to trees.
September 17, 1911: Pipestone is hit with baseball-sized hail that smashes numerous windows at the Calumet Hotel and high school. The local observer measured hail three inches deep. People got their photos taken in automobiles surrounded by the icy white ground.

Warm Bias
From Sweat to Sweatshirts in 36 Hours

Worldwide, July was the hottest on record. August will also be the warmest ever recorded. We live in our bubbles, but keeping a global perspective on weather and climate trends is important.

Minnesota's growing season is at least 2 weeks longer now than it was a generation ago. That's not a climate model, that's based on actual observations. Spring arrives earlier, warmth lingers deeper into autumn. Not every year, but with a warm El Nino phase in the Pacific turbocharging the warming already underway I see a mild bias lasting into winter. Famous last words.

One more hint of July warmth today with low 80s and T-storms; a small percentage of which may turn severe. Unusual for late September, but hardly unprecedented. We cool into the 60s Friday and

I'm nervous about Saturday's forecast. Nothing new. NOAA models bring a second wave of rain into Minnesota Friday night and early Saturday but the ECMWF (European) hints at rapid clearing Saturday, with a fairly nice day.

70s return next week, maybe 80s the last weekend of September? An extra month of summer this year.


Weather Threat Overview. Friday's cool frontal passage showed up on the satellite map yesterday, sparking a smear of clouds and showers pushing in from the Dakotas. Meanwhile a tropical disturbance lingering over Florida will create a ripe environment for T-storms and flash flooding. Meteorologists are watching a tropical disturbance south of Baja Mexico. The ECMWF (European) model brings that moisture into California early next week, raising the specter of flash flooding and mudslides. Details below.

Dueling Models. NOAA's NAM model brings a second wave of potentially heavy showers into Minnesota late Friday, lingering into Saturday morning with only a slow clearing trend late Saturday. The ECMWF hints at a few spotty showers late Friday, with more rapid clearing predicted for Saturday. We'll see which model verifies, but there's little doubt (in my mind) that Sunday will be the nicer, sunnier, milder day of the weekend.

Rainfall Projections. Models are all over the map; the GFS printing out 1.71" over the next 36 hours, while the 4 KM NAM predicts .34" and the GEFS ensemble shows .59". A decent watering seems inevitable with T-storms today, another wave of rain, potentially heavy, Friday night. Source: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Cool and Wet for Friday Evening Prep Football Games. Models show Friday evening temperatures ranging from 55F to 63F with a good chance of rain. Not the most pleasant conditions. But it won't snow.

Late Month Warm Bubble. NOAA's GFS forecast for 500 mb winds Wednesday evening, September 30, shows a persistent bubble of unusually warm air from the Midwest to the East Coast, temperatures 10-15F warmer than average as summer hangs on. Meanwhile a closed low over the West Coast may spark significant rains, even flooding rains. It would be premature to say that this is the first real sign of El Nino-generated rains pushing into the western USA. A fluke or a trend? Too early to say. Source: GrADS:COLA/IGES.

Drought To Flood? ECMWF (Euopean) guidance shows the soggy remains of a tropical depression near Baja Mexico pushing into southern California with very heavy rain next Tuesday. That's still a long way off, but we need to see if subsequent model runs keep a plume of moisture pushing into California. Too much rain falling too fast onto drought-stricken land could result in flash flooding and mudslides. Map: WSI.

1 in 3 California Homes Prone to Wildfires. USA TODAY has the article; here's the intro: "A third of homes in California are located in areas prone to wildfires, according to data from the U.S. Forest Service, a startling statistic that helps explain the fires that destroyed hundreds of homes in the state over the weekend. More such devastation is likely as people continue to build houses close together in areas vulnerable to wildfires and the blazes themselves become more common as a result of prolonged droughts and higher temperatures partly blamed on global warming, Forest Service and climate data show..."

Photo credit above: "The charred remains of an apartment complex remain that burned from a wildfire two days earlier on Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, in Middletown, Calif." (Photo: Elaine Thompson, AP)

August Smashes Global Heat Record as Giant El Nino Builds. Here's an excerpt from The Sydney Morning Herald: "...Climate models indicate sea surface temperatures in the central tropical Pacific are likely to rise further over the next few months, coming close to, or possibly exceeding, monthly values observed during the 1997–98 event," the Bureau of Meteorology said in its fortnightly update on Tuesday. The years 2005, 2010 and 2014 have all been warmer than 1998 but 2015 is shaping up to be hotter yet. Since the effects of El Ninos tend to linger, climate experts are now pointing to 2016 as a possible rival for the next hottest year on record..."

AP File photo credit: "Wildfires and drought have been widespread across the western US this northern summer."

California Fire Updates: Valley Fire Among The Most Destructive in State History. The Los Angeles Times is live-blogging updates on the fires raging across the state. Photo credit: "Signage for a home sits forlorn in the foreground of a burned down house after the Valley Fire swept through a residential neighborhood in Middletown, Calif., on Monday, Sept. 14, 2015." (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Valley fire (as of Tuesday, 8:00 p.m.)
  • 67,200 acres burned
  • 30% contained
  • 13,000 people displaced
  • 9,000 structures threatened
  • 585 homes destroyed
  • 2,639 fire workers
  • 4 injured firefighters
  • 1 confirmed death
Butte fire (as of Tuesday, 6:15 p.m.)
  • 71,780 acres burned
  • 40% contained
  • 10,000 people displaced
  • 6,400 structures threatened
  • 233 homes, 175 outbuildings destroyed
  • 4,961 fire workers
  • 6,000 homes evacuated

El Nino To Peak By End of 2015, Followed By Rapid Weakening: Australia Weather Bureau. Details via Reuters: "Climate models suggest the 2015 El Nino will peak around the end of the year and will then rapidly weaken within three months, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday. The 2015 El Nino is expected to be the strongest event in nearly 20 years, the bureau has said previously..."

Study: Spread of Deserts Costs Trillions, Spurs Migrants. Desertification is a growing risk factor - one the military is paying close attention to; here's an excerpt from Voice of America: "Land degradation, such as a spread of deserts in parts of Africa, costs the world economy trillions of dollars a year and may drive tens of millions of people from their homes, a U.N.-backed study said on Tuesday. Worldwide, about 52 percent of farmland is already damaged, according to the report by The Economics of Land Degradation (ELD), compiled by 30 research groups around the world. It estimated that land degradation worldwide cost between $6.3 trillion and $10.6 trillion a year in lost benefits such as production of food, timber, medicines, fresh water, cycling of nutrients or absorption of greenhouse gases..." (Map source:

How Foul Weather And Physics Can Turn a Crane Into a Tragedy. WIRED has another interesting story; here's an excerpt: "...Wind is a crane’s greatest foe, and even a perfectly set-up structure is susceptible. This is because the boom acts like a giant lever that the wind can push upon. “If you think about it, the higher up you have the boom, the less wind it will take to push the crane over,” says McGettigan. On the evening of the collapse, Mecca’s airport weather station showed sustained winds around 25 mph. This does not account for gusts—which could have been much higher—or how wind behaves when it encounters tall, clustered buildings like the ones that surround the Grand Mosque..."

Photo credit above: "Muslim Pilgrims walk past the site of a crane collapse that killed over a hundred Friday at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015. Saudi Arabia has in part blamed the construction giant Saudi Binladin Group for the collapse last week of a crane at Mecca that killed more than 100 people and injured over 350 ahead of the hajj." (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)

Introducing WXshift. Check this out, a new web site that blends climate and weather to look at not only current and predicted weather conditions for any zip code, but the longer term trends. It's visual and powerful, and worth adding to your online diet. Full disclosure: my company, AerisWeather, is providing the raw weather data for this site.

A New Web Site Puts Your Daily Weather Forecast Into a Long-Term Climate Context. onEarth has more details on the new WXshift site; here's a clip: "...Type in your zip code at WXshift, and alongside the usual deets (current temperature, humidity, etc.), you’ll glimpse into the future with projections for 2050, as well as into the past with info on how long global temps have been above average. (Spoiler: That would be 368 consecutive months and counting.) Users can also check out recent extreme weather events, watch video forecasts, and brush up on how indicators like sea ice and wildfires reflect a warming world. Weather and climate have always gone together, but now they’re finally in the same place..."

A Third City Is Now Running Entirely on Renewable Energy. To make Al Gore feel good? No, because it's clean, reliable, buffeted from shocks in the oil market - it's a sustainable way forward. And residents will get an ROI. Here's an excerpt from Think Progress: "...Last week, the city of Aspen, Colorado declared it had become the third municipality to receive all of its power from renewable sources. Aspen’s energy portfolio now primarily consists of wind power and hydroelectric, with smaller contributions from solar and geothermal. The announcement came after the city’s decade-long effort to shift toward renewable energy. David Hornbacher, Aspen’s Utilities and Environmental Initiatives Director, told the Aspen Times that “It was a very forward-thinking goal and truly remarkable achievement.” Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas were the first two cities to achieve all-renewable energy portfolios..." (Image: Wikipdeia Commons).

How To Parent Like a Dane. I thought this was interesting - fewer helicopter parents doting over their kids in Copenhagen, it appears. TIME has the story; here's a clip: "...There’s no such thing as “baby-proofing” in Denmark. In America baby-proofing is an industry built on the fear that kids will be in danger. But in Denmark, kids are encouraged to be independent and adventurous. Every day they do things that would send most American moms running after their children yelling..."

Suddenly Wearing Socks With Sandals is Fashionable. Another sign of the pending Apocalypse? Or just bad form going viral? Here's an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal: "At men’s apparel shows this spring, runway models sported a look that many fashion experts believe is just wrong. “It’s not acceptable,” says Sam Spector, a fashion stylist whose clients include actors Daniel Radcliffe and Neil Patrick Harris. Wearing socks with sandals—a source of endless ridicule for dads, German tourists and hippies—is allegedly in vogue. Calvin Klein Collection, Bottega Veneta, Marni and other luxury labels showcased the pairing at men’s runway shows in June..."

Image credit above: "Professional athletes like members of the New York Giants are the inspiration for the latest (counterintuitive) high-fashion trend: wearing socks with sandals." Photo: Stu Woo/The Wall Street Journal.

TODAY: Humid with T-storms, some may turn severe. Winds: SW 10-20. High: 82

THURSDAY NIGHT: Lingering T-storms, especially eastern MN and Wisconsin. Low: 56

FRIDAY: More showers late, cooler. Winds: N 8-13. High: 66
FRIDAY NIGHT: Showers likely. Low: 54

SATURDAY: Damp start, then clearing skies. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 69

SUNDAY: Lot's of sun, milder. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 53. High: 74

MONDAY: Warm sunshine. Wake-up: 57. High: 77

TUESDAY: Partly sunny, still very nice. Wake-up: 60. High: 78

WEDNESDAY: Isolated T-shower possible. Wake-up: 59. High: 75

Climate Stories....

New Web Tool Aims To Help You Divest From Fossil Fuel Stocks. Vote with your dollars. Here's an excerpt from Inside Climate News: "...Andrew Behar, who runs a foundation that promotes socially responsible investing, shared your curiosity. So he sat down at his computer to figure out how much of his retirement fund depended on the growth and success of fossil fuel companies. What he discovered was disturbing. And what he came up with is It’s a web platform that makes it easier for investors to assess the holdings in their portfolios. It was a natural project for Behar, who is chief executive of  As You Sow, a 23-year-old nonprofit in Oakland, Calif., which  promotes shareholder activism and dialogue with corporations..."

GOP Moderates to Push to Fight Climate Change. TheHill has the story - here's an excerpt: "A group of moderate Republicans is working on a resolution calling for action to fight climate change. The effort, led by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) seeks to get at least some in the GOP on the record as agreeing with Democrats and the vast majority of scientists that the climate is changing and that human activity is to blame. But it would stop short of endorsing any particular policy to reduce greenhouse gases, instead calling for research into what could be done about it, according to a GOP aide familiar with the declaration. The lawmakers are planning to introduce their non-binding legislation Thursday, exactly a week before Pope Francis speaks to Congress..."

Meteorological Reality From An "Albino Unicorn". Here's an excerpt of an article I wrote for Climate Central's amazing new web site, WXshift: "...The concern among perpetual skeptics is that merely acknowledging the problem will automatically grow government, adding new layers of choking regulation and withering, wasteful bureaucracy. I get it. How does capitalism cope with such a slow-motion and vexing problem? Our way of life demands perpetual growth and growth requires energy, which up until recently was exclusively carbon-based and ultimately polluting. But I’m a naively optimistic serial entrepreneur – we can keep the lights on and power the economy without relying on 19th and 20th century extraction-based technologies. Thank Moore’s Law. The price of clean, renewable solar power has dropped 80% in 5 years. At this rate everyone will soon tap the free power of the sun. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t want to save money. Even if you don’t give a whiff about climate change you may switch to renewables because going green will put more green back into your wallet. Remove all subsidies, including fossil fuels. Let the markets work. Wind. Geothermal. Geogas. Hydropower. Biofuels. Tidal power. Allow consumers to choose the cheapest, cleanest energy alternatives available. Freedom of choice applies to energy, too..."

Obama Seeks Psychological Help with Climate Change. Yes, you have to read the entire sentence. "Say what?" Here's an excerpt from Scientific American: "President Obama is seeking psychological advice about climate change. Yesterday, he issued an executive order instructing federal agencies to use behavioral science when developing programs to address rising temperatures and other policies. That’s the stuff of sociologists, psychologists and behavioral economists. The administration suggests that behavioral cues, like comparing your energy use with a neighbor, can be used to increase participation in energy efficiency and other federal goals..."

What Megablazes Tell Us About the Fiery Future of Climate Change. Rolling Stone has the story - here's an excerpt: "...The human imprint on the bone-dry conditions that lead to fire is real — and now measurable. According to a major new study by scientists at Columbia and NASA, man-made warming is increasing atmospheric evaporation — drawing water out of Western soil, shrubs and trees. In California alone, the epic drought is up to 25 percent more severe than it would have been, absent climate change. And this impact doesn't respect state borders. The study's lead author, Columbia scientist Park Williams, tells Rolling Stone, "There's the same effect in the Pacific Northwest..."

Millenials Urge Climate Action, Could Sway 2016 Election. Here's a clip from a story at DeSmogBlog: "...According to a new report by NextGen Climate, young voters are increasingly concerned about the threats of climate change and more than 70% of them favor severe cuts to U.S. carbon emissions and a switch to clean, renewable energy. According to the NextGen report:
"Millennials are looking for a bold solution to climate change and are solidly behind plans to expand clean energy in the United States. The overwhelming majority (73%) is favorable to setting a goal to power America with at least 50% clean energy by the year 2030 (including 52% who are very favorable). Furthermore, they see direct economic benefits to setting this goal. Sixty eight percent (68%) of Millennials believe that setting this clean energy goal would have a positive effect on America’s economy overall (only 10% think it would have a negative effect) and 68% say the same about jobs..."

What Keeps Bill Nye up at Night? Here's an excerpt from an interview at EcoWatch:

“...These people who are in denial of climate change. If you’re a denialist and this will probably find its way to you and you will post these crazy mean spirited comments about me and knock yourself out. It’s fine. If that brings you joy, okay,” he said.

“But if somebody told you that there is no connection whatsoever between smoking and cancer would you vote for that person? Would that be somebody you’d trust now? Fifty years after that discovery was made?” Nye pointed out. “Well the connection between humans and climate change is about that strong and by some very reasonable modern statistical reckoning slightly stronger. So if you’re a denier out there I strongly encourage you to cut it out. Just change. Just get to work...”

Exxon: The Road Not Taken. Inside Climate News, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, has an amazing series on how Exxon knew as far back as 1977 that burning fossil fuels would warm the planet. Here's an excerpt: "...Speaking without a text as he flipped through detailed slides, Black delivered a sobering message: carbon dioxide from the world's use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity. "In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels," Black told Exxon's Management Committee, according to a written version he recorded later. It was July 1977 when Exxon's leaders received this blunt assessment, well before most of the world had heard of the looming climate crisis..."

Video produced with Frontline:
Cast of Characters:

Arctic Sea Ice Reaches Fourth Lowest Minimum. Professional climate skeptics will say it's another cosmic coincidence, you're being an alarmist, ignore the allegedly shrinking ice sheet. It's a conspiracy! Right. Here's an excerpt of an update from The National Snow and Ice Data Center: "On September 11, 2015, sea ice extent dropped to 4.41 million square kilometers (1.70 million square miles), the fourth lowest minimum in the satellite record. This appears to be the lowest extent of the year. In response to the setting sun and falling temperatures, ice extent will now climb through autumn and winter. However, a shift in wind patterns or a period of late season melt could still push the ice extent lower. The minimum extent was reached four days earlier than the 1981 to 2010 average minimum date of September 15. The extent ranked behind 2012 (lowest), 2007 (second lowest), and 2011 (third lowest). Moreover, the nine lowest extents in the satellite era have all occurred in the last nine years..."

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