Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Much-Needed Rain Friday - Minnesota Companies Sign on to Obama's Climate Initiative

69 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.
56 F. average high on October 20.
64 F. high on October 20, 2014.

October 20, 1916: 3" of snow falls in the Twin Cities.
October 21, 1916: Three day blizzard ends. Temperature at Bird Island falls from 65 to 13.


Easing Into Winter, Much-Needed Rain on Friday

"Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night" wrote Hal Borland.

I always mourn summer's slow fade. But snow and cold resets the clock, a clean white sheet for renewal and rebirth next spring. Nature prepares for extended hibernation while we brace for the Big Chill, dusting off snowmobiles and cross country skis, planning for the holidays, clicking around for the best fares on midwinter getaways, brushing up on the coping skills we're going to need to get us through the dark days to come.

Winter is taking its time this year. On Monday the Twin Cities were warmer than Los Angeles. MSP has seen only one night below 32F so far.

Some years winter arrives like a sharp slap across the face. Not so much this year.

60s today give way to an inevitable cooling trend later this week; Friday the wettest day in sight with over half an inch of much-needed moisture. Skies clear Saturday behind a cool front; models hint at heavy jackets by late next week.

The weather honeymoon is almost over - but what an autumn, huh?

A Gusty, Soggy Friday. Models show sustained winds of 15-25 mph by midday Friday with gusts over 30 mph from the southeast; the chance of rain increasing as the day goes on. Winds swing around to the northwest Saturday (around 10 mph) with lighter winds on Sunday. Source: Aeris Enterprise.

Significant Rains - But Not Quite Enough. Statewide, Minnesota is experiencing the 4th driest October since 1895. We need a couple of good soakings to recharge soil moisture before the ground freezes up solid, otherwise farmers may have problems come spring planting in 2016. Models suggest about half an inch of rain in the metro on Friday, another chance of .25 to .50" amounts late Monday into Tuesday of next week.

10-Day Accumulated Precipitation. Here is the GFS solution, showing heavy rains and potential flooding for the southern Plains and Texarkana; the best chance of rain Friday over the Red River Valley, followed by weekend clearing. Source: NOAA and AerisWeather.

The Big Slide. Nothing arctic brewing - not yet, and I still suspect we'll see fewer jaw-dropping subzero slaps this winter as a more prevalent zonal, west to east flow aloft (courtesy of El Nino) deflect many (but not all) of the coldest airmasses north and east of Minnesota. Maybe that's wishful thinking. 60s hang on today, but cooler weather (much closer to average for late October) returns by late week; European guidance hinting at a few days in the 40s by the middle of next week. Source: Weatherspark.

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.

Californians Must Prepare for Winter Floods While Still Conserving Water. It's an odd (but appropriate) message, considering historic drought gripping much of the west and the specter of El Nino-fueled floods and mudslides in the months to come. Here's an excerpt from a press release from The Association of California Water Agencies: "Californians should prepare for floods this winter if El Niño materializes as experts expect, but must continue to conserve water too. That was the message delivered by several state officials today during a press conference to honor the launch of 2015 California Flood Preparedness Week. Officials cautioned that the possibility of extreme weather this winter brings the need for heightened flood emergency preparation. But residents should continue to conserve water, as massive rains won’t necessarily end California’s drought woes..."

Extreme Weather: Is It All In Your Mind? Keeping the big picture, a global perspective on trends, is difficult for meteorologists, much less consumers. Breaking out of our bubbles and keeping the big picture is easier said than done, according to a study highlighted at USA TODAY; here's a clip: "Weather is not as objective an occurrence as it might seem. People's perceptions of what makes weather extreme are influenced by where they live, their income, as well as their political views, a new study finds. There is a difference in both seeing and believing in extreme weather events, according to the study in the journal Environmental Sociology. "Odds were higher among younger, female, more educated, and Democratic respondents to perceive effects from extreme weather than older, male, less educated, and Republican respondents," said the study's author, Matthew Cutler of the University of New Hampshire..."

Climate Extreme Index. The chart above (courtesy of NOAA NCDC) shows the percentage of the USA experiencing either extreme drought or extreme flood. Is the increase a coincidence, a fluke? Or a trend?

During Autumn King Tides Nuisance Flooding Becomes Chronic Flooding in Miami Area. Here's an excerpt of an eye-opening post from tropical expert Brian McNoldy at Capital Weather Gang: "King tides. Nuisance flooding. Coastal flood advisory. Road closed. These are phrases that are commonly heard and seen this time of year in the Miami area, especially in low-lying Miami Beach. The highest astronomical tides of the year are coming up in the next couple of weeks, and if these past few are any indication of what’s to come, the Miami area could see some of the highest flood levels that have been observed in decades — even on a perfectly sunny day. The official water level gauge for the Miami area is located on Virginia Key, a small island east of downtown Miami and south of Miami Beach..."

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! Accuweather.com 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)

The Northern Hemisphere Just Set a Cyclone Record. WXshift.com has an update on a crazy hurricane/typhoon season in the Pacific; here's an excerpt: "The northern hemisphere has been going gangbusters with cyclones this year and now it’s set a record. With typhoons Champi and Koppu reaching Category 4 status, the hemisphere has now had 20 cyclones — the generic name for hurricanes and typhoons — reach that intensity or greater. That breaks the previous record for the highest number of Category 4 storms in a year. And there’s still two months left to put more distance between this year’s record and 2004, the old record holder..."

Map credit above: "The track of every typhoon that has formed in the western Pacific in 2015." Credit:

The Arbitrary Definition of the Current Atlantic Major Hurricane Drought. Here's an excerpt of an interesting new paper at AMS Journals Online: "...Although nine years have passed since the last U.S. major hurricane landfall, the existence and relative significance of the current drought are largely artifacts of the chosen metric. Accordingly, this study suggests: 1) Caution is advised when identifying a hurricane drought and its historical significance; 2) Using hurricane landfall statistics to infer a climate signal is fraught with issues (threshold, coastline, potentially non-scientific contributions), regardless of intensity metric; 3) From a societal context, human and financial losses matter most, and Irene (2011; $8 billion) and Sandy (2012; $88 billion) occurred during the current drought..."

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

Rainfall Deficit Since September 1. It dries out the farther north and west you go across the state. St. Cloud reports a 2.26" rainfall shortage since September 1; well over 3" for much of South Dakota.

Driest October on Record for Iowa, Missouri and Illinois? As of October 19 that's the case, according to The Midwest Regional Climate Center.

Driest Harvest in Decades - Are Flood Gates About To Open Up? Harvest weather has been near-perfect for farmers in the corn belt; here's an excerpt from Agweb.com: "We've had the holy grail of exceptional harvesting weather with the Corn Belt trending the driest in over 25 years with near record dry weather over the past 30 days. Temperatures up until this most recent cold snap have also been well above average for the Corn Belt, especially the Western Corn Belt and Plains. The maps/charts (above) show the weather trends over the past month with the major Corn Belt counties outlined..."

Change in the Growing Season. It's not a climate model, it's reality - the growing season is already longer in Minnesota, to the tune of at least 2 months. Here's an excerpt from Climate Central: "As the planet warms from the burning of fossil fuels and the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the length of the growing season will continue to be affected. Nationally, the growing season is already about 15 days longer than at the beginning of the 20th century. Western states have seen the greatest changes since that time. Arizona, California, Nevada, and Oregon now have growing seasons that are more than a month longer than they were a century ago. In turn, this will influence when, where, and what types of food crops are planted and harvested – meaning agricultural practices will have to adapt – and impacting the types of produce available at your local supermarket..." (graphic above and below: Climate Central).

Why You Didn't See It Coming. Nautilus has a long (but brilliant) article about scale, cognition and the ability to sense big changes coming. Or not. Here's an excerpt: "...We do have a way to “see it coming,” whether it’s environmental tipping points or financial ones. It’s science. The whole point of science is to penetrate the fog of human senses, including common sense. Ingenious experiments and elegant equations act as extensions of senses that allow us to see farther and more precisely—beyond the horizons of what we think we know. Calculations predict possible futures, find clear signals in the almost constant noise. Science predicted that massive stars would implode, nuclear bombs would explode, and humans could well destroy their own habitat (if they didn’t begin to take seriously problems like overpopulation and resource depletion). Sometimes science requires us to accept the unacceptable, certainly the unpalatable: What? Drive smaller cars? Give up my lawn? Be satisfied with a small house?.."

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..."

Minnesotans Might Soon Need Passports to Fly Domestic. Really? And here I thought flying couldn't get any more painful. KSFY.com 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..."

Solar and Wind Power Surge as Drilling and Mining Falter. The Dallas Morning News has the article; here's the introduction: "While the production of fossil fuels drops in the U.S., solar and wind power is skyrocketing as technology and cheaper financing drive down the costs. “In the U.S., we’ve known that wind energy can be cheaper than [natural] gas in some states, but solar is now inching toward that same milestone,” said Jacqueline Lilinshtein, U.S. analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a firm that advises industry clients on energy issues. Texas leads the U.S. in wind power, with about 10 percent of its power from wind. California, Nevada and North Carolina are the nation’s top solar states and dominate the market..."

File photo above: 2013 File Photo/Zuma Press. "About 300,000 mirrors in California’s Mojave Desert focus sunlight on three towers, where water is turned to steam to generate electricity."



TODAY: Partly sunny, breezy, still milder than average. Winds: NW 15-25. High: 65

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Slow clearing. Low: 40

THURSDAY: Sunny and pleasant. Winds: NW 5-10. High: 63

FRIDAY: Wettest day in sight. Periods of rain likely. Winds: SE 15-25. Wake-up: 47. High: 57

SATURDAY: Clearing, cool breeze. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 49. High: 58

SUNDAY: Mix of clouds and sun. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 41. High: 54

MONDAY: Clouds increase, PM shower possible. Wake-up: 43. High: 52

TUESDAY: Unsettled, few showers. Wake-up: 45. High: 51


Climate Stories...

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).

7 Nat Geo Photographers on Witnessing Climate Change. Here's the intro to a powerful photo essay at National Geographic: "This month, as National Geographic’s climate change issue hits the stands, we asked seven photographers to share their most poignant images that reflect climate change. From direct examples to more tangential manifestations, we were interested in seeing how climate change was visible in the work they do. Here, they share stories of retreating ice, flooded landscapes, and the human toll of a warming planet—using photography, as Lynn Johnson writes, “to inform my neighbors in the hope the images motivate change..."

Photo credit above: "Mount Everest (Chomolungma) from the summit ridge of Lobuche peak, Nepal, April 2014." Photograph by Renan Ozturk.

Study: Climate Change Adding Billions to U.S. Hurricane Costs. As oceans warm and sea levels rise storm surge flooding will continue to increase, even from relatively minor events. Here's the intro to a story at USA TODAY: "The cost of U.S. hurricane damage has increased dramatically from 1900 to 2005 as a result of man-made climate change, an economic study released Monday concludes. "The rise in losses is consistent with an influence of global warming on the number and intensity of hurricanes, an influence which may have accounted for 2% to 12% of the U.S. hurricane losses in 2005," according to the study, which was published in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature Geoscience. In 2005 alone, climate change was likely responsible for close to $14 billion of additional damage, including devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina..." (File image: NASA).

Global Warming's Hurricane Tab in U.S.: $14 Billion and Counting. The paper's authors conclude that a climate change signal is already showing up in the hurricane data; here's a clip from Bloomberg: "...In the paper, Estrada and two European researchers say previous studies ignored the fact that more development often comes with added protection against hurricanes, from sea walls and stricter building codes to better early-warning systems. Those protections tend to reduce damages and may hide the effect of weather getting stronger, the scientists said. “Increases in wealth and population alone cannot account for the observed trend in hurricane losses," the researchers wrote..." (Hurricane Katrina File: FEMA).

No, Donald Trump, The Existence of Fall Does Not Disprove Global Warming. If it ever gets to the point where we run out of cold fronts the planet will have much bigger problems. Welcome to Venus. Here's an excerpt from The Capital Weather Gang: "...The existence of winter (or cold temperatures, or winter storms, or ice, or a snowball on the Senate floor) does not disprove the theory of global warming. Winter will always be colder than summer, and there’s no single cold snap — not even a year’s worth — that will invalidate the fact that our Earth is on a warming trend due to the burning of fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases...."

Photo credit above: "Yes, it gets cold in the fall. No, this does not disprove global warming." (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill).

Conservative Media Defend Corporations' "Right" to Deceive Public on Climate Change. Does freedom of speech include the freedom to (knowingly) deceive? Here's an excerpt from Media Matters: "Conservative media are defending the "right" of fossil fuel companies to knowingly deceive the public about climate change, after a group of climate scientists and members of Congress called for an investigation of such companies under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Contrary to claims by conservative media that these advocates are seeking to "shut down free speech," RICO would only apply to those who purposefully misled the public about climate change, with some Congressmen pointing to recent reports that ExxonMobil funded climate science denial for decades after discovering that fossil fuels drive climate change..."

Congressmen Want Probe of Exxon Mobile "Failing to Disclose" Climate Change Data. Here's an excerpt from The Los Angeles Times: "Members of Congress are asking for a federal investigation into Exxon Mobil. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles) and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Walnut Creek) wrote a letter Wednesday to Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch asking the Department of Justice whether the company violated the law by “failing to disclose truthful information” regarding climate change. The letter cites recent investigations by the Los Angeles Times, Columbia University’s Energy and Environmental Reporting Project, and Inside Climate News, which showed the company incorporated climate change research into its operations while publicly casting doubt on that very same science..."

Photo credit above: "Imperial Oil’s Dartmouth refinery in Halifax, Canada. Exxon Mobil owns about 70% of the company." ((Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press, Associated Press)).

Can Oil, Gas Companies Really Be Climate Leaders? Here's a clip from an Op-Ed at USA TODAY: "...Some skepticism is understandable. Of the three pillars of a successful energy system — security, affordability and sustainability — the industry has been more adept at responding to consumer demands for security and affordability than addressing concerns over sustainability. Some may wonder if big oil is trying to secure a seat merely to slow the process down. I believe we should listen and examine how these CEOs plan to address the issue. As a former employee, I know that oil companies are used to thinking big and acting big — bigger than most companies in most sectors, and often bigger than many states..."

The Bahamas: There's No Forgetting the Role Climate Change Played in our Destruction. Hurricane Joaquin was the first Category 4 hurricane to hit the Bahamas since 1866. 350.org has the story - here's an excerpt: "...For The Bahamas, climate change is an issue of access. More than access to adaptation funding, but access to food security, access to adequate public health, access to the fisheries and access to a Bahamian way of life that has existed for generations. Our country is fighting what appears to be a losing battle with the elements that have supported our existence for centuries. The sea is reclaiming the land; the ocean is killing off its contents through ocean acidification, the temperature is leading to disease (vector borne and heat related). We are finding it difficult to keep up..."

Photo credit above: "The remains of a house in Long Island, The Bahamas." Source: Long Island Hurricane Relief Facebook Page.

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