Monday, November 30, 2015

Slushy Possibilities - 40s Brewing - Unearthing America's Deep Network of Climate Change Deniers

35 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday.
33 F. average high on November 30.
24 F. high on November 30, 2014.

2.9" snow fell at KMSP yesterday.

4" snow on the ground at Twin Cities International Airport as of 7 PM Monday.
December 1, 1998: The warmest December day ever in the Twin Cities is recorded, with a high of 68 degrees. St. Cloud rose to 61.
December 1, 1985: Parts of central Minnesota receive up to a foot of snow. Snowfall totals include 12 inches at Waseca and Milaca, 11.3 at Alexandria, and 11 inches at Fairmont and Long Prairie.
More March than December: Heavy Slush, then 40s

Let. It. Snow.

I mean, c'mon. This is Minnesota. The Winter Solstice is 3 weeks away, when the sun is lowest in the southern sky. Santa is coming and he doesn't want to take out the red SUV this year.

If we were perennial weather-wimps living in Dallas, Atlanta or Washington D.C. a half foot of slush would be cause for panic, a run on stores. Martial law. From the breathless media reports I saw yesterday you would have thought we were due for a volcanic eruption, tsunami or an alien invasion.

It's SNOW folks. It's supposed to snow here this time of year! Personally I find it vaguely reassuring.

Especially when I'm not stuck on I-35.

The pinwheel of heaviest snow rotates north today leaving us with flurries and grinning snowmobilers. Fire up the sleds soon because models bring a surge of Pacific air into Minnesota with highs in the low 40s later this week. This is about as good as it gets for snow lovers.

A Pacific breeze lingers into mid-December - temperatures continuing to trend milder than average, thanks to a jumbo El Nino.

With high water content this was a March-like "heart attack" snow. Be careful out there OK?

* The Google Traffic map above was from Monday morning; one good reason to turn around and work from home. Good grief.

** Latest snowfall amounts from around the metro and the state of Minnesota are here, courtesy of NOAA.


Just One More Weather Model. Weather models have become as numerous as bad reality television shows on cable, and they are often just as disappointing. Meteorologists are temporarily relieved when the models agree, or when they're close, or when they're trending in the right direction. That rarely happens; you wind up trusting specific models (that have burned you less often over time) but try to keep an open mind, just in case. Last night's snow bands were fickle; rain and freezing rain mixed in, keeping amounts down in some communities. Last night's 3 KM HopWRF model predicted that the heaviest snow bands would set up just north of the Twin Cities, closer to Lake Mille Lacs and Little Falls. Even if it's wrong you have to admire the fancy colors, huh?


Pacific Influence Continues to Dominate. 500 mb winds valid Monday evening, December 14, shows a trough digging across the southwestern USA, possibly setting up a rain or snow event for mid-December from the Plains into the Upper Midwest. There's precious little arctic air over North America, but coldest air cut-off from the lower 48 states. Symptoms of El Nino, the PDO or the warmest year in recorded history? Yes.

This Is The Globe's Hottest 5-Year Period on Record. Here's a clip from Climate Central: "No matter how you stack it, the first half of the 2010s will be remembered for its record heat. The five-year period from 2011-15 has been the hottest such period ever recorded. And with last year setting the hottest year mark, only to be surpassed by a wide margin this year, it’s clear that the planet has changed. Ahead of the Paris climate talks, the World Meteorological Organization released its annual state of the climate report on Wednesday. It documents the excessive heat that’s been building up around the world and causing changes from the depths of the oceans to the top of the atmosphere..."

Super-Sized El Nino Lingers On. Rumors of El Nino's imminent demise aren't holding up - temperatures in the mid-Pacific as much as 3C warmer than average; a warm signal that may bias weather across much of North America well into the winter, even the spring of 2016. Source: NOAA CPC.

December Warmth. When in doubt stick with persistence, which is weather-speak for "go with the flow" or "don't buck the trends". 2015 is the warmest year ever recorded, beating out 2014, which was the previous record. El Nino-enhanced warmth bubbling out of the Pacific is forecast to result in a much warmer than average December, especially northern USA and much of Canada. Source: NOAA CPC.

January - March Temperature Anomalies. The southern Plains and Gulf Coast is forecast to be cooler (and stormier) than average, but unusual warmth is forecast to persist into the winter months, with the greatest anomalies over northern Canada and Alaska, where temperatures are forecast to run nearly 5F warmer than average.

Model Consensus. It isn't only NOAA's NMME model, but virtually ever other longer-range climate model shows unusual, in some cases record-breaking warmth for the northern tier of the USA and Canada into March of 2016. Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

What's a "Car" Grandpa? Will future generations question the wisdom of one person per vehicle? Probably. Here's an excerpt of an interesting story/interview and peek into the future at The Los Angeles Times: "...The single-occupancy car is not good. Do we want to keep buying the cow, when what we really want is the milk? We need to develop a car-light lifestyle. Uber, Lyft, driverless vehicles, robo taxis are steps in that direction. Even Bill Ford Jr. will tell you that the single-occupancy car is not the future. The self-driving car is on the way. They will be coming in some numbers by 2017-18. Tesla already has new software that will allow its Model S to automatically steer, change lanes and park. There is the Google car. Self-driving buses are now being tested, and many car companies are developing autonomous vehicles..."

Photo credit: "Gabe Klein, an author and futurist, speaks on the importance of communities to plan for the self-driving vehicle in a talk at UCLA on Nov 19." (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

13 Science-Backed Signs You're Smarter than Average. Sadly I didn't recognize any of the signs at this StumbleUpon article: "How do you know if someone's smart? Without administering an impromptu IQ test, there are certain clues you can use to gauge a person's relative intelligence. We combed through decades of scientific research and highlighted 13 surprising signs of braininess. Keep in mind, however, that "intelligence" is often measured through tests that have been widely criticized for putting certain social groups at a disadvantage and for minimizing the importance of creativity. Psychologists are constantly finding newer, more effective ways to measure cognitive ability — meaning the signs are ever evolving..."

On the other hand...

America Is Too Dumb for TV News? Are we shopping for only the news that fits our preconceived view of the world, afraid to venture out of our warm, comfortable info-tainment bubbles, afraid to be challenged? Matt Taibbi seems to think so - here are a couple of excerpts of his recent post at Rolling Stone: "...It's our fault. We in the media have spent decades turning the news into a consumer business that's basically indistinguishable from selling cheeseburgers or video games. You want bigger margins, you just cram the product full of more fat and sugar and violence and wait for your obese, over-stimulated customer to come waddling forth...When you make the news into this kind of consumer business, pretty soon audiences lose the ability to distinguish between what they think they're doing, informing themselves, and what they're actually doing, shopping. And who shops for products he or she doesn't want? That's why the consumer news business was always destined to hit this kind of impasse. You can get by for a long time by carefully selecting the facts you know your audiences will like, and calling that news. But eventually there will be a truth that displeases your customers. What do you do then?..."


TODAY: Slow and slushy AM commute. Flurries linger with little or no additional accumulation - roads becoming mainly wet by late morning. Winds: S 5-10. High: 34

TUESDAY NIGHT: Lingering clouds and flakes. Low: 29

WEDNESDAY: Sunny breaks, turning milder. High: 36

THURSDAY: Partly sunny, sloppy mess by afternoon as snow melts. Wake-up: 25. High: 40

FRIDAY: Plenty of sun, early hints of March. Wake-up: 26. High: 43

SATURDAY: Patchy clouds, milder than average. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 28. High: 41

SUNDAY: Lingering clouds and fog. Light winds. Winds: W 3-8. Wake-up: 27. High: 40

MONDAY: More clouds than sun, still quiet. Wake-up: 29. High: 41


* Photo courtesy of Bryan Hansel Photography.

Climate Stories...

The Great Thaw. As temperatures continue to rise most of America's western glaciers could vanish in the coming decades - here's a snippet from a Washington Post story: "...The decline of glaciers here and around the world is frequently cited by scientists as evidence of a climate undergoing rapid change. Scientific studies have confirmed that more than 90 percent of the world’s glaciers are retreating, and many of the smaller ones — like the alpine ice sheets of Glacier National Park — are rapidly disappearing. The impacts extend well beyond the loss of majestic scenery. Thawing glaciers account for about 20 percent of the sea-level rise recorded in the past century, adding to the meltwater coming from polar ice caps and ice sheets. In the United States, the loss of mountain glaciers and snow cover is depriving Western states of a critical water source during the summer, when snowmelt feeds streams and rivers and helps farmers and wildlife survive the dry months..."

Photo credit above: "Upper Grinnell Lake, next to the remnants of the Grinell Glacier in Glacier National Park, Mont." (Ben Herndon).

3.2 Millimeters: A Troubling Rise in Sea Level. The New York Times reports; here's an excerpt: "...Still, there is no question about the basic facts. Since 1993, the average rate of increase has nearly doubled, to 3.2 millimeters a year. The retreat of glaciers, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and the loss of sea ice have contributed to these accelerating increases. Extreme sea levels during storm surges like that of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 have increased since 1970, mainly the result of rising seas. By 2081, yearly increases are likely to be as high as 16 millimeters a year, or about six-tenths of an inch. By the end of this century, seas will have risen by as much as three feet, and levels will almost certainly continue to rise for many centuries..."


Unsafe Climates. Elizabeth Kolbert wrote an article for The New Yorker; here's an excerpt: "...A recent study by researchers at Loyola Marymount University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that unabated warming would render Persian Gulf cities like Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Dhahran virtually unlivable in a matter of decades. “A plausible analogy of future climate for many locations in Southwest Asia is the current climate of the desert of Northern Afar on the African side of the Red Sea, a region with no permanent human settlements,” the researchers wrote. One of the most robust predictions that can be made about climate change is that it will send millions—perhaps tens or hundreds of millions—of people in search of new homes. And, in an “extraordinarily interconnected” world, disaster cannot be cordoned off..." (Illustration credit: Tom Bachtell).

Earth is a Warmer, Wilder Place Since Last Climate Deal Made. The changes are slow, until they hit you over the head (repeatedly). Ironically it's the increasingly freakish weather that is causing many to wake up and acknowledge that something has changed. Here's an excerpt from AP: "...The five deadliest heat waves of the past century — in Europe in 2003, Russia in 2010, India and Pakistan this year, Western Europe in 2006 and southern Asia in 1998 — have come in the past 18 years, according to the International Disaster Database run by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster in Belgium. The number of weather and climate disasters worldwide has increased 42 percent, though deaths are down 58 percent. From 1993 to 1997, the world averaged 221 weather disasters that killed 3,248 people a year. From 2010 to 2014, the yearly average of weather disasters was up to 313, while deaths dropped to 1,364, according to the disaster database. Eighteen years ago, the discussion was far more about average temperatures, not the freakish extremes. Now, scientists and others realize it is in the more frequent extremes that people are truly experiencing climate change..."


Paris Climate Summit Could Bring Historic Deal on Emissions, But Likely Won't Halt Climate Change. The question now is: 3C warming, or 8C warming by the end of the century? Here's an excerpt from The Los Angeles Times: "...Yet for all the potential for Paris to deliver a transformative and unifying moment — with diverse leaders gathering in a city shaken by recent terrorist attacks in order to confront a different kind of threat — experts say that on a practical level, it might prove just another steppingstone in the long stop-start international effort to address climate change. As Fabius acknowledged, the plans of the 183 countries are projected to limit global warming by between 2.7 and 3.5 degrees Celsius — not the 2-degree threshold at which scientists say most of the worst effects of climate change could be avoided..."

Pope Francis Says Failure of Climate Summit Would Be Catastrophic. Will special interests prevail, or the will of the people, and the common good? Here's a clip from a story at The Guardian: "...Francis chose his first visit to the world’s poorest continent to issue a clarion call for the success of the two-week summit, known as COP21, that starts on Monday in the French capital still reeling from attacks that killed 130 people and were claimed by Islamic State. In a long address in Spanish at the United Nations regional office, Francis said it would be “catastrophic” if particular interests prevailed over the common good of people and the planet or if the conference were manipulated by business interests..." (File photo: AP).


Unearthing America's Deep Network of Climate Change Deniers. Why? Because mature companies that rely on fossil fuels don't want to be disrupted. Because of the (trillions) of dollars at stake. When in doubt - follow the money. Here's an excerpt from Eric Roston's article at Bloomberg Business: "...New research for the first time has put a precise count on the people and groups working to dispute the scientific consensus on climate change. A loose network of 4,556 individuals with overlapping ties to 164 organizations do the most to dispute climate change in the U.S., according to a paper published today in Nature Climate Change. ExxonMobil and the family foundations controlled by Charles and David Koch emerge as the most significant sources of funding for these skeptics. As a two-week United Nations climate summit begins today in Paris, it's striking to notice that a similarly vast infrastructure of denial isn't found in any other nation..."

Existential Threat in Paris. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from the Editorial Board at The Scranton Times: "...And among the components of that threat is the capacity of climate change to create conflict and, as a result, more terrorism. That’s why the Pentagon has identified climate change as a leading national security threat. Across the world, climate already underlies conflict. A key underlying factor in the Syrian civil war, thus in the emergence of the Islamic State group, is the failure of the Bashar al-Assad regime to deal with a devastating drought. Such environmental issues often drive instability in many places around the world, which only will worsen as populations are displaced by rising seas, spreading droughts and other phenomena that disrupt economies and societies..."

Obama, Bill Gates to Spur Lead Major Effort to Spur Spending on Climate Research. How do we track down and nurture another 100 Elon Musks? Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "...In a separate program heavily backed by Gates, 28 of the world’s wealthiest investors will pool their money to provide early-stage capital for technologies that offer promise in bringing affordable clean energy to billions of people, especially in the developing world. “Given the scale of the challenge, we need to be exploring many different paths, and that means we also need to invent new approaches,” Gates explained in a statement on Monday’s launch of the private initiative, dubbed the “Breakthrough Energy Coalition.” Gates said he was “optimistic that we can invent the tools we need” to battle climate change while providing energy to the world’s poor. The amount of investment planned by the group wasn’t announced..."

Clean Energy Could Fuel Most Countries by 2050, Study Shows. What's lacking is (primarily) political will. Here's an excerpt from a story and study recap at InsideClimate News: "A new study claims to leave little room for doubt that the world can run 100 percent on renewable energy, and it even maps how individual countries should best make this transition—by mid-century. The main barriers to overhauling the global energy system "are social and political," said Mark Z. Jacobson, lead study author. "They aren't technical or economic," added Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. Jacobson and his Stanford colleagues published the analysis in a draft paper online to coincide with the start of global climate talks in Paris on Nov. 30..."

Photo credit above: "Workers walk among newly installed solar panels at a solar power plant in Zhouquan township of Tongxiang, Zhejiang province in China on December 18, 2014." Credit: REUTERS/Stringer

Clear Thinking Needed. The writer at The Economist argues that global warming can't be dealt with using today's tools and mindsets - we need to create new ones. Here's an excerpt: "... If only world leaders would stiffen their spines and promise even more green energy, they argue, disaster could be averted. But this drastically understates the challenge. The parts of the planet that have become rich have done so by tapping a vast store of fossil energy with feckless, if understandable, abandon. For the rest of the world to join them over the century ahead, and then for all concerned—as well as the planet’s non-human inhabitants—to flourish in the centuries that follow, will take a lot more than just a big expansion of existing renewable technologies. The world and its leaders need more ambition and more realism. The ambition requires increasing the options available. Generous subsidies perpetuate today’s low-carbon technologies; the goal should be to usher in tomorrow’s. Unfortunately, energy companies (unlike, say, drug firms or car companies) see investment in radical new technologies as a poor prospect, and governments have been feeble in taking up the slack..."

A Scientists Examines the Folly of "I Am Not a Scientist". Dan Rather has an interesting interview at Mashable; here's an excerpt: "A few weeks back, I wrote a piece about the political, social and journalistic implications of a phrase that has been bothering me like a burr under a saddle. “I’m not a scientist” has become a go-to cop out for politicians, big corporate press reps, and activists who want to evade deliberate scientific questions about things like climate change, GMOs, vaccines, stem cells and all the other hot button scientific issues that expose raw political leanings or moral ideologies. Judging by the magnitude of the response, I’m not the only one who feels this is a problem. My call to action is to rally journalists (and you at home) to demand better, more complete answers and explanations from both scientists and the politicians and leaders who are using “I’m not a scientist” as an excuse to avoid engaging with the science..."

Photo credit above: "Why do climate change skeptics insist on ignoring the wisdom of scientists?" Image: Nick Ut/Associated Press.

* The entire 45 minute interview of Nobel Laureate Paul Nurse by Dan Rather is here.

Climate Change is a Form of Terror. So argues the author of this article at CNN: "...Signs of warming abound: 2015 promises to be the hottest year on record; a heat wave in India killed 2,300 people this summer; air pollution is killing far more people all the time; floods in the United States likely have been made worse by higher-than-normal tides; there's evidence that a drought in Syria helped create conditions that led to the rise of ISIS. We humans, however, are excellent at ignoring long-term global problems -- like climate change. We focus on what's right in front of us. The recent terror attacks are tragic, and many lives will never be the same because of them. They should not be minimized. But climate change is another form of terror -- and it's one we're wreaking on ourselves..."

Photo credit above: "In this Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015 photo, Syrian refugee children run at a temporary refugee camp in Irbil, northern Iraq. Some 240,000 refugees who fled the fighting in Syria now live in Iraq. Their children are neither citizens of Syria, their families’ country of origin, or of Iraq, the country where they now live." (AP Photo/Seivan M. Salim).

Here's What You Need To Know About the Massive Climate Summit Kicking Off in Paris. Mother Jones and Grist have more details; here's an excerpt: "On Monday, roughly 40,000 heads of state, diplomats, scientists, activists, policy experts, and journalists will descend on an airport in the northern Paris suburbs for the biggest meeting on climate change since at least 2009 — or maybe ever. The summit is organized by the United Nations and is primarily aimed at producing an agreement that will serve as the world’s blueprint for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of global warming. This is a major milestone in the climate change saga, and it has been in the works for years. Here’s what you need to know..."

Paris Climate Summit: The Climate Circus Comes to Town. The Guardian has an amazing behind-the-scenes look at the last summit in Copenhagen. Will December's conference in Paris yield more promising results? We want to be hopeful, but the marriage of climate science and political expediency means perpetual uncertainty - getting the nations of the world to agree (on anything) is fraught with peril. Here's an excerpt: "...Since 1992, negotiators have gathered every year to turn that weak promise into concrete action, meeting in cities including Berlin, Kyoto, Buenos Aires, Marrakesh, New Delhi, Milan, back to Buenos Aires, Montreal, Nairobi, Bali, Copenhagen, Doha, and Lima. The annual gatherings have grown from roughly 500 participants at the first official climate negotiations in Berlin in 1995 to sprawling jamborees – gargantuan rotating festivals of anything remotely associated with environmental causes or, increasingly, profit-making “green” enterprises. The talks are conducted in English. Inside dimly lit halls, negotiators have spent two weeks at a stretch gazing at text blown-up into headline size by overhead projectors, doing battle over “shall” or “should”, “commitment” or “contribution”..."

* HotWhopper has more perspective and behind-the-scenes details of what's really happening at the Climate Summit in Paris.

Tales of a Warmer Planet. Curt Stager takes a look at previous warm phases and wonders out loud how the current Anthropocene will ultimately compare; here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "...This best-case scenario is troubling, but Earth history shows us that the alternative is unacceptable. If we burn all remaining coal, oil and gas reserves within the next century or two, we could introduce a more extreme, longer-lasting hothouse much like one that occurred about 56 million years ago: the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM. Unlike the relatively mild interglacials driven by the tilt, wobble and orbit of the Earth, the PETM fundamentally transformed the planet. Experts speculate that it was set off by volcanism in the Atlantic Ocean, thawing of permafrost, melting of methane hydrates, or a combination of such factors. Whatever caused the PETM, it spewed trillions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air and oceans. Global average temperatures climbed 10 degrees or more, erasing cold-loving species and habitats from the planet..." (Illustration above: Wesley Allsbrook).

Chinese Report on Climate Change Depicts Somber Scenarios. The New York Times takes a look at a deepening awareness of the folly of relying on dirty fossil fuels and the implications for China; here's an excerpt: "Rising seas besieging China’s economically vital coastal zones. Mighty feats of infrastructure, like the Three Gorges Dam and railway in Tibet, strained by turbulent rainfall and the melting of frozen earth. And on the Himalayan frontiers, the risk in future decades of international conflict over dwindling water supplies after glaciers retreat. These and other somber scenarios are laid out in the Chinese government’s latest scientific assessment of global warming, released just before negotiations in Paris for a new international agreement on climate change. “There’s deepening awareness of the gravity of the problems,” Zhang Haibin, a professor at Peking University who was among some 550 experts who prepared the report, said in an interview..."

Smith's Intimidation Tactics Offensive, Dangerous. Lamar Smith's hometown newspaper, The San-Antonio Express News takes a dim view of Smith's grandstanding and attempted intimidation of climate scientists in Washington D.C. - here's an excerpt of their Op-Ed: "...Smith told Express-News reporter Bill Lambrecht that he has taken such an aggressive approach because the Obama administration hasn’t been honest with the public about climate change and is ostensibly using it as a wedge to force more regulations on industry. He has focused on an NOAA study that found the rate of global warming hasn’t slowed between 1998 and 2012, a finding that runs counter to other studies. Smith has requested emails and internal communications about the study, arguing it was politically manipulated, and has threatened Sullivan with criminal penalties if she doesn’t comply..."

Photo credit above: Bill Clark /AP. "Chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is playing a dangerous game with climate change. His strategy is less useful inquiry as it is active indimidation of the agencies and scientists who conduct such study."

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