Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Getting Stormier and Cooler - Sanders Calls for Federal Investigation of Exxon

63 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities yesterday.
56 F. average high on October 21.
58 F. high on October 21, 2014.

Trace of rain fell Wednesday at KMSP.

October 22, 1938: Sleet and wind causes damage along Minnesota/Wisconsin border. 100,000 dollars in damage at La Crosse.
October 22, 1913: Long Prairie had a record low of a chilly 8 degrees Fahrenheit.

Glancing Blows of Chilly Air
Mild Bias Continues

I feel like the little boy with his thumb in the dike, wondering how much longer his luck can hold out. The third nicest summer since 1905 has been followed by a remarkable, super-sized autumn. Not many people complaining about the weather these days, which seems miraculous on some level. Do we live in Minnesota or San Diego?

With the strongest El Nino since 1998 odds favor a more zonal, west to east flow for the next few months, pumping milder Pacific air across the Rockies into Minnesota. Most (but not all) El Nino events result in milder, drier winters. But there are exceptions to every rule.

We will see cold fronts.

We will get snow.

With any luck we'll pick up a third of an inch of rain Friday ahead of an eastbound cool front. Much of Minnesota is running a rainfall deficit; we need a couple of good soakings before the ground freezes up solid in mid-November, otherwise farmers will be facing soil moisture shortages next spring.

A preponderance of puddles tomorrow gives way to slow clearing on Saturday. I hope - I pray skies clear. If not listen for my faint primal scream.

Parade of Storms. So much for our quiet, sunny, lukewarm weather. As many as 4 different storm systems may impact Minnesota over the next 10 days. At the end of that period the atmosphere may be marginally cold enough for a cold, crystalline substance to fall from the sky. Rejoice commuters - it's about to get even more fun out there!

Cooling Down - Increasingly Stormy. Looking at the maps and how the pattern is forecast to evolve looking out 2 weeks our dry spell may be about to come to an end. All models show increasing "troughiness" in the western USA, possibly impacted by El Nino warming, pulling the main belt of westerlies farther south over time. A cold smack spins up moderate rain the middle of next week; by the end of next week I could see a mixed bag of snow and rain close to home. 500 mb GFS loop: NOAA.

Enough Rain to Settle the Dust. It won't be the soaking we need, not yet, but many areas will pick up a third of an inch of rain Friday; more north and west of MSP. Skies clear on Saturday. Source: Aeris Enterprise.

Sliding Into a Wetter Pattern. The first shot of rain comes Friday, another (heavier) rain event possible by next Wednesday; a third event forecast for a week from Saturday, when the atmosphere may be borderline cold enough for rain or snow or a mix. Too early to say with anything approaching confidence, but some of the models print out a total of 2.6 to 3.1" of precipitation within 10 days.

Jackets on Stand-By Alert. It's been nice wandering the streets in shorts and T-shirts in recent days, but the faint afterglow of summer warmth may become a distant memory by the end of next week. Expect 50s to near 60F the first half of next week; highs may be stuck in the 40s by the end of next week. Source: Weatherspark.

U.S. Drought Monitor. Portions of central Minnesota and the Red River Valley are drying out - we need some moisture before the ground freezes solid. We'll get some rain on Friday but it probably won't be enough to pull out of a growing rainfall deficit. Map: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Time Lapse Storm Reports. With our new interface you can track storm reports over the last week; numerous reports of flash flooding in the southwest and high wind reports around the Great Lakes. Source: NOAA SPC and AerisWeather.

2015 On Track to be World's Warmest Year Since the 600s. Here's an excerpt of an update at USA TODAY: "...While the natural El Niño cycle, marked by warmer-than-average water in the central Pacific Ocean, is the main driver of the warmth, it's being augmented by non-stop emissions of greenhouse gases. The emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas, which release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and oceans, warming them to levels that cannot be explained by natural variability. "Little doubt about it, the planet is warming at an unprecedented rate," said University of Arizona climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck. Temperatures in upcoming decades are forecast to blow past anything seen in the past 11,000 years, if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed."

Hunting the Godzilla El Nino. Will this one be as big as 1997-98? Stay tuned. But there's little doubt that every El Nino event is different, and uniquely difficult to predict the ultimately intensity and impacts in advance. Here's an excerpt of a good summary of the state of the science from Nature: "...Most oceanographers are not lucky enough to be out at sea this year, but they are taking advantage of their colleagues' data, as well as information flowing in from research buoys and other sources. One key question that they want to answer is why every El Niño behaves differently. “El Niños are not made from a cookie cutter,” says Michael McPhaden, an oceanographer with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Seattle, Washington. The strength and impact of each El Niño seem to depend in part on which region of the Pacific warms up first, but predicting the pattern of temperature anomalies is tough. “We would really like to better understand what's causing the diversity, and how far in advance it might be possible to predict what type of event we need to prepare for,” says McPhaden. That would help forecasters to give warning of coming droughts and floods months before they hit..."

Very Strong El Nino Forecast to Peak This Winter. The latest model simulations show water temperatures peaking nearly 2.5C above average between December and February. Image: Boulder office of The National Weather Service.

Would You Support a Flood-Related "Stupid Motorist" Law In Your State? But I have a pick-up truck - I can go anywhere I want! has an interesting story (and poll). Here's an excerpt: "Thanks to a piece of legislation nicknamed the "stupid motorist law," drivers who either disobey traffic barricades or who attempt to drive through a roadway covered in high water are liable to pay for any resulting expenses from a rescue. The law was enacted in 1995 and serves as more of a reminder of what not to do in a flood situation. Other states have adopted similar laws as well, hoping to prevent motorists from making a fatal mistake..."

Photo credit above: "A tow-truck operator assists a stranded motorist during flash flooding in Florence, S.C., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, as heavy rain continues to cause widespread flooding in the state." (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

These Are The Most Tornado-Prone Counties in America. Looking at this map I am struck by how many tornadoes are reported near Denver, and across Florida. Here's an excerpt of a very interesting update from Marshall Shepherd at Forbes: "This week I came across an analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Storm Prediction Center showing what counties in the United States experience the most tornadoes. The top spot went to Weld County, Colorado. This may be a surprise to some people because everyone has the perception and imagery of big tornadic storms in the heart of so-called “Tornado Alley” on the Great Plains. I always look for teachable moments so I decided to write a quick note with 2 pieces of context on this fascinating map..."

Graphic credit above: "Total number of tornadoes per county (1955-2014)." Source: NOAA Storm Prediction Center

Our Electric Grids are Equipped With a "Tsunami" of Data, but They're Still Super Vulnerable to Storms. Business Insider has an interesting story - is decentralization the answer: a move to smaller, more flexible "smart grids", more resilient to extreme weather (and hackers?) Here's an excerpt: "...As of 2009, US utilities had 194 Petabytes of stored data. By comparison, the entire digital collection of the Library of Congress is just 3 petabytes.  "It's a data tsunami," Amin said, "but it's also an opportunity." The question becomes, how much of that data do you store? And with all that stored data, security becomes very important. But as long as the smart grid is secure and the data are only kept for clear purposes, the system is actually more secure, Amin said. The main barriers are not technical, but rather political and economic. And overcoming them is going to require a change of mindset. For most utility companies, the number one goal is to keep the lights on. But we have to start thinking of utlities as powering opportunity and progress, Amin said..."

St. Cloud Moves Forward on Community Solar Garden. Good for St. Cloud for taking a leadership position, and saving money long-term. Here's an excerpt from The S.C. Times: "The city’s first community solar garden is expected to be completed by this time next year. The St. Cloud City Council approved Monday rezoning a 37-acre tract of land northeast of the wastewater treatment plant from a planned industrial district to a planned unit development. The energy company SunEdison will install a 5 megawatt solar array on the land, which is currently farmed and utilized for the spreading of biosolids. The city would be able to use a maximum of 40 percent of the energy generated, and SunEdison would sell the remaining energy..."

Image credit above: "The community solar garden site proposed by the wastewater treatment plant includes restoration areas." City of St. Cloud.

Parents: Let Your Kids Fail. You'll Be Doing Them a Favor. No, everyone doesn't get a trophy. There's a downside to helicopter-parenting, as pointed out in this article at Quartz; here's an excerpt: "...Lahey cites the work of Wendy Grolnick, a psychologist, who puts pairs of mothers and children in a room and videotapes them as they play. Grolnick then labels the mothers as “controlling” or “autonomy-supportive,” meaning the moms let the kids figure things out on their own. Grolnick then invites the pairs back and the children are put in a room by themselves and asked to perform a task. The results were “striking,” Grolnick says in the book. The children who had controlling mothers gave up when faced with a task they could not master. The others did not..."

Minnesotans Might Soon Need Passports to Fly Domestic. Really? And here I thought flying couldn't get any more painful. has the story; here's the intro: "After 9/11, the federal government issued stricter security standards for driver's licenses under the REAL ID Act. But Minnesota is one of only four states that refused to implement the law -- citing cost and data privacy concerns. And now the refusal could keep residents grounded. Having your driver's license is second nature when traveling on an airplane. But if a Minnesota law isn't repealed before Homeland Security's deadline of January, 2016, Minnesotans will need to have their passports in hand to travel domestically..."

How to Create a Super-Secure Password You'll Never Forget: Use Poetry. Huh? Yes, I need a password to remember my passwords. There has to be a better way - here's a clip from Quartz: "...A pair of computational linguists at the University of Southern California have a possible answer to your easy-to-hack habits. They set out (pdf) to automatically generate unique passwords that are both easy for humans to remember and very difficult for computers to crack. They found inspiration from, of all things, poetry. “But my password is great!” you protest. “It has a capital letter, and I used a ‘zero’ instead of an ‘o’!” That’s not nearly good enough..."

Photo credit above: "What was my password again?" (Reuters/Albert Gea).

Smart Jewelry Puts Out The Call for Help When Wearer Is Under Attack. Well I guess this makes sense; as explained at Gizmag - here's an excerpt: "Pepper sprays and self-defense know-how are useful tools in protecting against violent attacks. But in the view of startup Roar, women shouldn't be made to change their lifestyles in order to feel safe. It has developed a discreet device that can be worn as a piece of jewelry and alert loved ones to their whereabouts when trouble arises. Athena is described as smart safety jewelry and is designed to worn around the neck, attached to the waist or carried inside a bag. The small circular magnetic clip is equipped with Bluetooth and an activation button, which when pressed sends a distress signal to selected emergency contacts through the user's phone and notifies them of their location..."

TODAY: Plenty of sunshine, light winds. Winds: SW 3-8. High: 63

THURSDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 50

FRIDAY: Showery rains likely. Winds: SE 15-25. High: 58

SATURDAY: Clearing, cooler. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 48. High: 59

SUNDAY: More clouds, stray shower? Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 40. High: 57

MONDAY: Intervals of cool sunshine. Wake-up: 41. High: 52

TUESDAY: AM sun, late showers. Wake-up: 39. High: 53

WEDNESDAY: Cold rain possible, raw. Wake-up: 43. High: 47

Climate Stories...

Sanders Calls for Federal Probe of Exxon. TheHill has the details; here's the introduction: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is asking the Justice Department to investigate whether ExxonMobil Corp.’s climate change research strategy broke federal law. The Democratic presidential candidate cited a recent investigation by InsideClimate News that found that Exxon, prior to its merger with Mobil, concluded from its research in the 1970s that climate change is a real threat but later spent millions of dollars sowing doubt about global warming. Sanders asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to determine whether the oil giant’s actions were illegal. “These reports, if true, raise serious allegations of a misinformation campaign that may have caused public harm similar to the tobacco industry’s actions — conduct that led to federal racketeering convictions,” Sanders wrote in the Tuesday letter..."

Photo credit above: "Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders,  I-Vt., speaks during an unscheduled press conference after disembarking a train from Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in New York." (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Editorial: Exxon's Missed Opportunity to Address Climate Change. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from the Editorial Board at The Dallas Morning News: "...Nevertheless, we can’t shake the image of Exxon’s executives dismissing the damage their primary product creates but consistently questioning the science that underpins the global-warming argument. It reminds us of the days when Big Tobacco adamantly insisted that science was inconclusive about the cancer-causing effects of cigarettes. Jeffers rejects that analogy, saying that Big Tobacco concocted “junk research” that companies knew to be false. Exxon did no such thing. The company’s stand has evolved as research increasingly confirmed the effect humans were having on the environment. The record is undeniable that former Exxon chief executive Lee Raymond, whose opinions resonated throughout Washington, led the charge against what he portrayed as a global warming boogeyman..."

Image credit above: Don Ryan/AP. "Long the focus of controversy over its leading role in global oil production, Exxon had the opportunity as far back as the 1970s to change the international conversation about fossil fuels and climate change. It chose to go the opposite route."

Exxon Knew Everything There Was To Know About Climate Change By the Mid-80s, And Denied It. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from Bill McKibbon at The Nation: "...But though we know now that behind the scenes Exxon understood precisely what was going on, in public they feigned ignorance or worse. CEO Lee Raymond described global warming as “projections are based on completely unproven climate models, or, more often, on sheer speculation,” and insisted—in a key presentation to China’s leading officials in 1997—that the globe was probably cooling. This scandal will not go away easily..."

Photo credit above: " Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil CEO and Chairman." (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque).

Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts Calls for Sea Level Rise Superfund. 6 trillion (with a t). An imcomprehensible number. Here's an excerpt from WLRN: "Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin sent a letter last week to South Florida members of Congress urging for the creation of a Federal Resiliency Superfund. This is another instance of South Florida’s local governments seeking to plan ahead for the effects of sea-level rise. Ruvin says: “The proposal basically calls upon the federal government to play a part in what has to be an intergovernmental partnership to attack issues from climate change impact such as sea level rise." He says changes in ocean levels threaten $6 trillion worth state property as well as the lives of the millions of South Floridians..."

Image credit above: FL Center for Environmental Studies.

Dalai Lama: Combatting Climate Change a Matter of "Survival of Humanity". The Wall Street Journal has the story; here's the introduction: "The Dalai Lama said on Tuesday that action against climate change was a question of “the survival of humanity,” echoing recent statements by Pope Francis on the need to combat global warming. The 80-year-old Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader made his remarks in the run-up to international talks aimed at slowing global warming set for December in Paris. “This is not a question of one nation or two nations. This is a question of humanity affecting the whole world,” the Dalai Lama said in a statement, adding that people are responsible for global warming. “We have to take serious concern about the protection of the environment...”

Photo credit above: "The Dalai Lama called global warming ‘a question of humanity affecting the whole world.’ Photo: Ashwini Bhatia/Associated Press.

Over 3 out of 4 Americans Now Acknowledge That Climate Change is Occurring - Including the Majority of Republicans. Scientific American has the summary of a recent poll; here's a clip: "Maybe it's the weather. Or the Pope. Or the irrefutable scientific data. Or perhaps a combination of all three. The latest UT Energy Poll released this morning reveals that U.S. attitudes on climate change have shifted significantly - and not just in the ways you might expect. Seventy-six percent of Americans now say that climate change is occurring--an increase from 68 percent just one year ago. Further, only 14 percent say it's not, compared with 22% when we first asked the question in the Spring of 2012..."

Global Non-Linear Effect of Temperature on Production. Will, as some skeptics explain, warming will be a universal good, CO2 is plant food and the entire planet with flourish? Northern latitudes may fare well, but southern locations, closer to the tropics and equator? Not so much. Here's a a technical but important paper explaining how and why the potential negatives far outweigh any positives. (File photo: USDA).

Carbon Pollution: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Denial. CO2 is "plant food". Yes, to a point, but that doesn't factor in the negatives of a CO2-rich atmosphere: more volatility, more swings between flood and drought, more overall stressors on agriculture. Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "...In short, if all else is equal, higher carbon dioxide is generally better for plant growth. The problem is that when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise in the real world, we can’t hold everything else constant the way we can in a greenhouse. Temperatures rise, and the resulting extreme heat can have severely detrimental impacts on plant growth, particularly for certain crops like maize. That rise in temperatures also amplifies droughts, the increase of water vapor in the atmosphere intensifies floods, and so on. To evaluate the impact of rising carbon dioxide and the associated climate changes on crop yields, all these factors need to be considered..." (File photo: AP).

Scientists Confirm Fears That Alaska Wildfires Could Make Global Warming Worse. Here's an excerpt of Washington Post story at Alaska Dispatch News: "...And now, a study in Nature Climate Change reaffirms these concerns about the emissions of northern fires. The study, led by Ryan Kelly of the University of Illinois at Urbana, looked at a particular Alaska region that has seen intensive burning of late -- the remote Yukon Flats. The researchers used an ecosystem model to examine changes in the amount of carbon stored in the Yukon Flats going all the way back to the year 850 and carrying forward through 2006 -- a more than thousand-year period. The data used in the model came from "paleo-climate" reconstructions of what burn conditions were like in this area over large periods of time, based on charcoal layers found in cores of sediments extracted from the region. This approach allowed the researchers to confirm that the recent burning in this area is dramatic when compared with its past history -- and thus that recent fires have been releasing much of the carbon that has been stored over hundreds of years..."

Image credit: Alaska Fire Service.

Caring for God's Creation: A Call to Action. The NAE, the National Association of Evangelicals, released a resolution on Tuesday calling for action on climate change. As Christians we are called to be stewards, and care for those who are most vulnerable to rising seas and a more chaotic, disruptive climate. Here's an excerpt of the NAE's resolution: "...A changing climate threatens the lives and livelihoods of the world’s poorest citizens. The NAE commends its publication “Loving the Least of These: Addressing a Changing Environment” for careful and prayerful study by all concerned evangelicals.[3] In solidarity with evangelical leaders from around the world, we endorse the creation care principles outlined in the Lausanne Cape Town Commitment, which states:

All human beings are to be stewards of the rich abundance of God’s good creation. We are authorized to exercise godly dominion in using it for the sake of human welfare and needs, for example in farming, fishing, mining, energy generation, engineering, construction, trade, medicine. As we do so, we are also commanded to care for the earth and all its creatures, because the earth belongs to God, not to us. We do this for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the creator, owner, sustainer, redeemer and heir of all creation..."

General Mills, Best Buy and Target Enlist in Obama's Global Warming Initiative. Here's the intro to a story at The Star Tribune: "Best Buy, General Mills and Target joined dozens of other major U.S. companies Monday in pledging to join a White House initiative to reduce carbon pollution and backing efforts to reach a global climate deal at upcoming talks in Paris. The trio of Minnesota corporations join Minnetonka-based Cargill, which signed on to President Obama’s climate change plan in July. Obama has touted corporate cooperation as a vital part of his environmental agenda. He now has enlisted 81 of America’s biggest firms in the effort, including Apple, General Motors, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart. Collectively they employ 9 million people..." (Photo credit: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune).

How Climate Change Became a National Security Issue. The military is well aware of the fact that a more disruptive climate and rising seas are a "force multiplier". Here's an excerpt from WIRED: "...Since then, however, defense and intelligence agencies have concluded that climate change—and its ensuant upheaval—could be a more immediate threat. A Council on Foreign Relations paper in 2007 offered specific recommendations on how to mitigate risk. Another report in 2008, commissioned by the CIA, attempted to predict climate change’s impact on national security by the year 2030. By 2014, the Department of Defense had adopted the term “threat multiplier” to describe climate change, and put out its so-called Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, which surveyed the vulnerability of the country’s military bases, and included input from its Combatant Commands around the world. Meanwhile, research began to reveal how climate change contributed to the Arab Spring and the conflict in Syria...." (File image: AP).

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