Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Subzero Weekend On Tap - Tropical Storms in Atlantic and Pacific, in January?

23 F. high in the Twin Cities yesterday. Admit, it felt pretty good out there.
23 F. average high on January 13.
15 F. high on January 13, 2015.
1/10th of an inch of snow fell at KMSP yesterday.

17.2" snow has fallen in the Twin Cities so far this winter season.
27" of snow normally falls by January 13.

January 14, 1981: Over 24,000 Canada Geese are present at Silver Lake in Rochester.
January 14, 1952: A sleet and freezing rain storm develops across Minnesota from St Cloud south into Iowa. 1,100 Northwestern Bell telephone wires are knocked down. The Buffalo Ridge in the Pipestone area is the hardest hit with ¾ inches of solid ice on Northern State Power wires with icicles to 3 inches. Northwestern Bell reported ice up to 1 ½ inches on their wires in the same area. Thunder and a shower of ice pellets accompanied the storm in New Ulm and Mankato. Minneapolis General Hospital treated 81 people, victims of falls on icy streets.

Polar Vortex Light: 50-60 Hours Below Zero?

"You live in Minnesota?" Yep. "That's where they test batteries and plug in their cars right?" Yes and no. But after breaking my ankle on ice I have a better understanding of why so many people flee to Ft. Myers and Scottsdale.

Yes, the cold is annoying. Like the eccentric uncle who shouts and uses all-caps in his e-mails. But it's the threat of debilitating injury from falling that spooks so many people.

According to CDC 1 in 3 older Americans fall every year. 1 in 5 falls lead to serious injury. $34 billion in fall-related mishaps annually. It's not the cold, it's the ice! I get it now.

A brief, concentrated surge of polar air keeps us below zero from roughly midnight Friday into Monday morning; 50-60 hours of negative numbers. Wind chills may dip to -35F Sunday. Take it easy out there.

Today will feel like a bad vacation as the mercury approaches 30F; the approach of battery-draining air may set off a whopping inch of snow tomorrow. After a numbing weekend we return to "average"
most of next week with a welcome thaw the last week of January.

Hang in there - this too shall pass.

* 12z Sunday ECMWF surface temperature forecast: WeatherBell.

More Fun With Negative Numbers. Here is European guidance,  showing temperatures consistently below zero from around midnight Friday night into late morning Monday, possibly 50-60 consecutive hours of negative numbers. The harshest wind chills will probably come Sunday. Source: WeatherSpark.

Lowering the Risk of Slips and Falls. Although none of us can lower the risk to zero, there are some things you can do to manage the risk and lower the potential for a painful and dangerous fall on ice. Check your medications, consider exercises to help you with strength and balance (yoga?) and check with your doctor on preventative steps you can take. Here's an excerpt from The National Safety Council with some good advice: "...Falls are preventable and aging, itself, does not cause falls. Some of the underlying causes of older-adult falls, such as muscle weakness, medications that cause dizziness, improper footwear, impaired vision, slick floors, poor lighting, loose rugs, clutter and uneven surfaces, can be improved. While falls can happen anywhere, they most often occur at home. What can you do to make your home or the home of someone you love safer?
  • Remove clutter, small furniture, pet gear, electrical cords, throw rugs and anything else that might cause someone to trip
  • Arrange or remove furniture so there is plenty of room for walking
  • Secure carpets to the floor
  • Wipe up spills immediately
  • Make sure outdoor areas are well lit and walkways are smooth and free from ice..."

The Big Dump. You can lose a few layers today as the mercury nudges 30F in the metro; temperatures begin to fall tomorrow, by Saturday you'll remember it's mid-January, by Sunday it will quickly dawn on you that there's nothing between Minnesota and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence. Models show air temperatures from -9 to -15F by 6 AM Sunday morning. Source: Aeris Enterprise.
Noticeable Wind Chill Values. There's a chance the local National Weather Service office in the Twin Cities may have  to upgrade Wind Chill Advisories to Wind Chill Warnings, especially Sunday into Monday morning. Models show wind chills from -31 to -38 at 6 AM Sunday morning. 

Here We Go Again. Although surface temperatures in the metro probably won't drop below 0F until midnight Friday night, our internal models sent out the text alert (above) warning of subzero windchills by 7 PM Friday evening. Source: Aeris Enterprise Mobile.

Son of Polar Vortex. Unusual warmth over the Arctic is shoving the Mother Lode of numbing air (which should be over the North Pole) southward; subzero air rotating around Hudson Bay and coming in for one more swipe this weekend. The hot pink color denotes subzero air. Source: AerisWeather.

Metro Drizzly Mix Today - Accumulating Snow Far North.  Here is NAM guidance,  showing some 2-3" amounts from the Red River Valley to Bemidji, Hibbing and Duluth as a wave of low pressure ripples along the leading edge of frigid air.

Late January: Stormy New England, Warming Up Western USA. 500 mb wind forecasts from NOAA's GFS model continues to show moderating temperatures from Minnesota on south and west by the last week of January: 20s, even a few 30s possible. Meanwhile conditions may be ripe for a blizzard over New England and the Mid Atlantic states - too early for specifics, but the pattern appears ripe for weather disruption.

Unprecedented: Simultaneous January Named Storms in the Atlantic and Central Pacific. This should give you an idea of how freakishly warm the oceans are - tropical storms and hurricanes in January? Here's an excerpt from Dr. Jeff Master's WunderBlog: "As we ring in the New Year with record to near-record warm temperatures over much of Earth's oceans, we are confronted with something that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago: simultaneous January named storms in both the Atlantic and Central Pacific. The earliest named storm on record in the Central Pacific, Hurricane Pali, formed on January 7, and now the Atlantic has joined the early-season hurricane party, with Subtropical Storm Alex spinning up into history with 50 mph winds in the waters about 785 miles south-southwest of the Azores Islands. The average date of the first named storm in the Atlantic is July 9; the Central Pacific also typically sees its first named storm in July..."

Pali Becomes Earliest Central Pacific Hurricane on Record. Here's a clip from a Weather Underground update that caught my eye: "Hurricane Pali became the earliest hurricane on record in the central Pacific Ocean Monday evening and is now one of the closest hurricane-strength tropical cyclones to the equator on record.  This is on the heels of a historically active 2015 tropical season in the Pacific Ocean, including a Tropical Depression Nine-C, which formed near the end of the year and dissipated on Jan. 1, 2016..."

Lingering El Nino Could Mean Fewer Tornadoes This Year. 2015 was supernaturally quiet (until December). La Nina (cool phase) springs tend to be more active, but there is no room for complacency. Here's a snippet from a Climate Central article: "...Specifically, the forecast is calling for a 54 percent chance of a below-normal number of tornadoes and 71 percent chance of fewer-than-normal hailstorms in the south central U.S. this spring, thanks largely to the continuing influence of El Niño. In an average year, the odds are normally split 33/33/33 between above-, below- and near-normal chances. Though the warm waters in the tropical Pacific associated with El Niño have likely passed their peak heat, their influence on the atmosphere and weather around the world will continue into the spring..."

Graphic credit above: "Spring tornado and hail forecasts for the south-central U.S." Credit: John Allen.

February Preview. Most NOAA climate models show a warm bias returning next month, with the warmest temperature anomalies over central and eastern Canada and the northern tier of the USA. Temperature anomalies averaged over all of February in celsius. Map: WeatherBell.

Spring Break? We'll see if the long-range models are on the right track, but the same CFSv2 (Climate Forecast System) model shows a warmer bias for Canada and the northern USA into March as the El Nino signal lingers, slowly fading by late spring or early summer.

Is Light Snow More Dangerous for Drivers Than Major Snowstorms? Light snow at a bitterly cold temperature is far more dangerous than heavy snow at 25-32F, there's little question about that. Here's a clip from The Weather Channel: "...There seems to be a critical time of accumulations first occurring on untreated roads with some drivers not yet realizing the roads have become slick, maintaining their near-normal speeds until a slideoff or wreck occurs,” said senior meteorologist Jonathan Erdman. From 2004 to 2013, nearly a quarter of all traffic crashes in the U.S. were caused by weather, according to 10-year averages released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of those, 17 percent occurred during snow or sleet, 13 percent on icy pavement and 14 percent on snowy or slushy pavement..."

Photo credit: "A pileup involving as many as 50 vehicles shut down part of U.S. Highway 131 near Grand Rapids, Michigan last December after small snow event." (Courtesy of Fox 17)

America's Unusually Hot Year. An article at Pacific Standard points out that every state in the USA experienced temperatures in 2015 warmer than the 20th century average; here's an excerpt: "It's official: On average, 2015 was the second warmest year on record. In fact, every state in the United States experienced above-average annual temperatures last year, marking the 19th consecutive year in which average annual temperatures were higher than those of the 20th century. The annual average temperature this year was 54.4°F—just shy of 55.3°F, the average for 2012, the warmest year on record, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Centers for Environmental Information annual summary. Several states, including Montana, Washington, Oregon, and Florida all experienced their warmest years since 1895, the year in which record-keeping for temperature and precipitation began..."

Don't Blame All These Rains and Floods on El Nino. It's a complicated jumble of factors, argues a story at WIRED; here's an excerpt: "...El Niño is not weather. Weather is short-term stuff: hurricanes, rainstorms, droughts. El Niño is none of those things, but it influences them all. By the numbers, the phenomena is pretty boring: warmer than average surface ocean temperatures in the normally cool Eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. That warm water makes the normally dry air humid. Result: huge rainstorms and rapidly rising air that ripples around the world. “It’s like dropping a rock in a pond,” says Martin Hoerling, research meteorologist for NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory in Boulder. As those ripples spread towards the poles and eastward (because of Earth’s rotation), they cause the jet stream to undulate. So low pressure systems form in weird places..." (Image credit: NASA JPL).

A Rapidly Melting Arctic Is Having an Impact on Global Weather. Something we've been highlighting for a few years now. Everything is interconnected and changes in the arctic appear to be contributing to more volatility and unpredictability in weather at lower latitudes; here's an excerpt from Alternet: "...As Arctic Matters reports, "Changes in the Arctic have the potential to affect weather thousands of miles away. Because temperatures are increasing faster in the Arctic than at the tropics, the temperature gradient that drives the jet stream is becoming less intense." This causes the jet stream to weaken and shift away from its typical patterns, which then leads to weather patterns becoming more persistent and lasting longer in the mid-latitudes. This then results in longer droughts, more intense heat waves, and far longer and deeper cold snaps, such as those witnessed in the Northeastern United States and Europe during the last two winters..." (Image credit: Climate Reanalyzer).

Signs of the "Human Age".  Welcome to a new world; a little used and frayed around the edges. Here's the intro to a New York Times story: "Welcome to the “Anthropocene” — a new epoch in our planet’s 4.5 billion year history. Thanks to the colossal changes humans have made since the mid-20th century, Earth has now entered a distinct age from the Holocene epoch, which started 11,700 years ago as the ice age thawed. That’s according to an argument made by a team of scientists from the Anthropocene Working Group. Scientists say an epoch ends following an event – like the asteroid that demolished the dinosaurs and ended the late Cretaceous Epoch 66 million years ago – that altered the underlying rock and sedimentary layers so significantly that its remnants can be observed across the globe..."

What's So Significant About Oil Prices at $30 per Barrel? The Washington Post provides analysis; here's a clip: "...“The starting point is the oversupply in the world market and the battle for market share among the exporters,” says Daniel Yergin, a longtime energy expert and the vice chairman of IHS. “But the oil price is also being pounded down by the geopolitical rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Middle East, and the imminent return of Iranian oil under the nuclear agreement, and at the same time, by the increasingly big worries about the Chinese economy...”

Photo credit above: "A picture dated 27 April 2004 shows a BP plant in Cologne-Worringen, Germany. British energy giant BP on 12 January 2016 said it would cut a total of 4,000 jobs globally." EPA/ACHIM SCHEIDEMANN.

Gasoline Cheaper Than Bottled Water? The Telegraph reports.

Solar and Wind Comprises 61% of 2015 Capacity Additions, Gas Contributes 35%. Utility Dive has a link to some interesting (and encouraging) trends: "...A combination of wind, solar and natural gas made up the overwhelming majority of new capacity additions last year: Some 96%, according to SNL's data. Coal and oil combined for less than 1%. Those figures are similar to what EIA noted last year: that renewable power made up 70% of new generation in the first half of 2015. But SNL's data appears to show gas additions made up some ground, ultimately consisting of more than a third of additions last year..."

U.S. Solar Jobs Swell 20% as Credits and Prices Spur Demand. Bloomberg Business has the story - here's a link and excerpt: "The U.S. solar industry’s workforce grew by 20 percent last year as a federal tax credit and falling panel prices prompted more people to power homes and businesses with the sun. Roughly 209,000 people were working for solar companies in the U.S. last year, compared with 174,000 a year earlier and 143,000 in 2013, according to a report released Tuesday by The Solar Foundation. The study, based on data from 19,000 businesses, comes days after two of the largest U.S. solar installers announced plans to cut hundreds of jobs in Nevada..." (File image credit: U.S.  Marine Corp).

State Renewable Energy Mandates Are Producing Enormous Benefits. Here's an excerpt of an interesting read at Vox: "...Where we move into net benefits is when we include the cost of the so-called externalities: water use, local pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Shifting from fossil fuel electricity to renewables reduces all of those external costs, considerably. To wit: In 2013, existing US RPSs avoided $5.2 billion in local pollutions impacts and $2.2 billion in climate change impacts. Put another way: In 2013, for roughly $1 billion in utility compliance costs, RPSs across the US produced $7.4 billion in net societal benefits from avoided pollution..." Map source: (LBNL)

Why The Future of Wind Energy Lies Offshore. Here's a link to a video and story excerpt at Popular Science: "Wind turbines are a great way to produce clean energy, but not everybody wants a giant windmill in the backyard. The obvious solution? Send the turbines out to sea and create offshore wind farms. This plan moves wind farms away from populated areas, and, because wind blows more steadily over the sea, allows the seafaring turbines to be several times larger than grounded ones..."

NASA's Armageddon Office Aims to Protect Earth from Doomsday Asteroids. Well here's a ray of sunshine in on an otherwise blah, gray day, courtesy of Huffington Post: "Rest a little easier tonight, Earthlings: NASA has just launched a new office aimed at protecting the planet from potential doomsday asteroids. The Planetary Defense Coordination Office will oversee all of the space agency's efforts to detect and track near-earth objects, and coordinate with other federal agencies as well as other nations if and when it becomes necessary. The head of the department, Lindley Johnson, even has an awesome new title: Planetary Defense Officer. NASA has been stepping up its efforts to protect the planet from a devastating impact, most recently teaming up with the National Nuclear Security Administration to work on a plan to use nuclear weapons to deflect an asteroid..." (Image credit: Paul Paladin).

Automakers Go Electric, Even If Gas is Cheap. Here's the intro to a New York Times story: "While American consumers were taking advantage of low gas prices to buy trucks and sport utility vehicles in large numbers, some automakers delayed investing in slower-selling electrified vehicles. But with increases in federal fuel-economy standards looming in 2017, car companies are hustling to bring out hybrid and electric models to help them meet the new rules — even though electrified vehicles make up only 2 percent of overall sales. The federal government has mandated corporate average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. But companies need to meet an interim standard of about 37 m.p.g. by next year..."

Could AI Solve the World's Biggest Problems? Here's the intro to a story at MIT Technology Review: "Are we on the verge of creating artificial intelligence capable of finding answers to the world’s most pressing challenges? After steady progress in basic AI tasks in recent years, this is the vision that some leading technologists have for AI. And yet, how we will make this grand leap is anyone’s guess. Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet (formerly Google), says AI could be harnessed to help solve major challenges, including climate change and food security. Speaking at an event convened in New York this week to discuss the opportunities and risks in AI, Schmidt offered no details on how the technology might be adapted for such complex and abstract problems..."

Disruptive Change is Coming. Eco-Business has an article with a slightly different take on AI; here's an excerpt: "...A key conclusion: “The age of centralized, command-and-control, extraction-resource-based energy sources (oil, gas, coal and nuclear) will not end because we run out of petroleum, natural gas, coal, or uranium. It will end because these energy sources, the business models they employ, and the products that sustain them will be disrupted by superior technologies, product architectures, and business models.” But there is bad news, too. The fourth book was James Barrat’s Our Final Invention, published several years back—arguing that Artificial Intelligence will bring an end to the human era as we are forced to compete with “a rival more cunning, more powerful and more alien than we can imagine...”

Can Chocolate Milk Lower the Risk of Concussion? I know it sounds ridiculous, but is there really a link? Here's a clip from Quartz: "Chocolate milk is delicious, refreshing, and a great way to get calcium and sugar in one big gulp. But can it protect from concussions? Some US schools are spending tens of thousands of dollars on a Maryland-based company’s chocolate milk that it suggests can do just that. In December, the University of Maryland put out a press release announcing, “Concussion-Related Measures Improved in High School Football Players Who Drank New Chocolate Milk, UMD Study Shows...”

Photo credit above: "Nothing a little chocolate milk can't fix." (AP Photo/Matt Strasen)

The Fascinating Math Behind Why You Won't Win Powerball. No luck  last night. Turns out I had a better chance of being killed in a freak vending machine accident. Here's an excerpt from WIRED: "...Your odds of winning this week’s record Powerball jackpot with Jenny’s help, or any other combination of numbers, are pretty bad. How bad? Like one in more than 292 million bad. Or put another way, barely better odds than having your name randomly pulled from a hat filled with the names of everyone in the US. But you’re an optimist, right? I say that and you figure I’m telling you there’s a chance. And behind every game of chance is some fascinating math..."

Photo credit above: Matt Rourke/AP.

Connected Fishing Rods Ping Your Phone When You Have a Bite. For those moments when you're too busy slurping beer while taking in a good sunrise? Maybe this will help me catch fish; details via Gizmag: "Some anglers are more attentive than others when it comes to monitoring their lines, but all feel the disappointment of an opportunity gone begging. Seattle-based startup FishSentry has developed a set of connected fishing rods designed to make reeling in the big one a more frequent event by nudging the user's mobile device when there's a nibble on the end..."

TODAY: Milder, wet snow north - few flurries or light mix possible metro. Winds: SE 7-12. High: 29

THURSDAY NIGHT: Light snow  late. Low: 19

FRIDAY: Coating - 1" of snow, then turning colder. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 23 (early)

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, feels like -25. Winds: NW 10-20.  Wake-up: -6. High: -2

SUNDAY:  More sun, still numb. WC: -35. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: -12. High: -3

MONDAY: Bitter start. Blue sky - less wind. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: -15. High: 7

TUESDAY: Period of snow possible. Wake-up: 3. High: 24

WEDNESDAY: Mostly cloudy. Glad to be "average" again. Wake-up: 21. High: 28

Climate Stories...

Still Time to Register for The Third Annual Minnesota Climate Adaptation Conference. A reminder that the Third Annual Statewide Climate Adaptation Conference will be held on January 28, 2016 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in north Minneapolis. This year's conference is designed for local officials, planners, engineers, natural resource practitioners and others who want to learn more about adaptation strategies that have worked or are being tested in various sectors of our community infrastructure including tribal communities, energy industry, local foods, emergency management, communication (media) and water resources. We will learn from several major corporations how they are addressing climate adaptation at the morning plenary session and will have a mayor’s panel at lunch to hear from several community decision makers. New this year is a tools cafe, where you can learn about various tools that are available to communities, as well as a poster session in the afternoon.

I'm looking forward to facilitating a discussion with Minnesota business leaders on how resilience, sustainability and innovation can turn a potential negative into a positive, for shareholders, investors and all Minnesotans as we transition to a clean-energy economy while preserving the Minnesota we've come to know and love for our kids and future generations.

From protecting precious water resources to the growing impact on Minnesota's agricultural economy to tribal preparation to communication challenges and emergency management, there's something at this conference for everyone. Attached you'll find the draft agenda, which hopefully will assist you in making your decision to attend. Please follow this link to register for the conference!

As Exxon Faces Investigation, Investors Renew Pressure for Stronger Climate Stance. Here's the latest installment from InsideClimate News: "Against the backdrop of the historic Paris climate treaty last month and in the face of mounting calls for sweeping investigations of the company, ExxonMobil investors have filed a series of shareholder resolutions seeking to reform the company's climate change policy. Stockholders are demanding more transparency this year from the global oil giant over how much it spends on lobbyists and organizations dedicated to obfuscating climate science and opposing emission regulations designed to slow climate change. They want Exxon to pledge to comply with measures to hold global warming under the 2-degree Celsius limit set by the Paris accord, and they want the company to add climate-conscious board members..."

Liberals: Stop Your Climate-Change Hectoring. Because nobody wants to be accused of hectoring. Make it more about saving money/creating jobs than preserving the Earth? Here's a snippet of an Op-Ed at Bloomberg View: "...In one paper, researchers at the University of Tennessee and Florida State University examined the best way to encourage people to use less energy at home. They found that trumpeting the environmental benefits of energy efficiency can change people's behavior -- but only for liberals. For everyone else, stressing economic benefits produced better results. Saving the planet may not be as persuasive as climate advocates hoped..."

Scientists Say Greenhouse Gas Emissions Have Canceled the Next Ice Age. Well here's some truly good news, courtesy of The Washington Post: "...Moreover, the study says, massive human greenhouse gas emissions since that time have likely “postponed” what might otherwise be another ice age “by at least 100,000 years.” The new research is based on the idea that there are two key factors that shape whether the Earth goes into an ice age (or glacial period) or not.  There’s one that humans can influence, as well as one they really can’t. The factor out of our control is the Earth’s Milankovitch cycles, which describe the erratic way in which the planet orbits the sun and spins on its axis over vast time periods..."

Image credit: Williams College.

Millennial Voters Want a President Who Supports Energy, Climate Goals. Climate Nexus reports: "Millennials, ages 18-34, make up the biggest demographic group in the US and rank climate change and renewable energy among their top priorities for the next president, according to a new poll.  By an overwhelming majority of 80 percent, versus just 10 percent, those surveyed say the US should transition to mostly renewable energy by 2030. They also support government investment in public transportation and other climate change measures..."

President Obama's Final Climate Test: Keep It In The Ground. Here's an excerpt from Huffington Post: "...In order to keep global warming below 2°C, the world could only emit roughly 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The fossil fuel industry, however, had more than 2795 gigatons of CO2 in their known reserves, five times too much, and every day were out searching for more. What this "terrifying math" showed was that the industry's business plan--and by extension the Obama administration's energy policy--was fundamentally at odds with a livable planet. For the industry, this meant that they were creating a bubble: their value as companies depended on digging up and selling five times more coal, oil and gas then we could burn without resulting in complete catastrophe. Once climate policy caught up, and these reserves were put off limits, the stock price of the companies would plummet, leaving investors in the lurch..." (Image credit: Wikipedia).

Republicans Might Actually Be Willing To Do Something About Climate Change. Here's a snippet of an interesting Washington Post story: "...At this make-or-break moment for curbing emissions, we need to accept an inconvenient truth: It’s impossible to solve the climate crisis without winning conservatives to the cause. Believe it or not, this shouldn’t be reason for despair. There’s evidence that conservative views on climate are evolving. According to a recent poll commissioned by a top GOP donor and conducted by three respected Republican pollsters, a majority of Republicans — including 54 percent of self-identified conservatives — not only believe in human-induced climate change but would support a carbon tax if the money were rebated or paired with an accompanying tax cut..."

Photo credit above: "A coal-fired power plant outside Point of Rocks, Wyo." (Jim Urquhart/Reuters).

The Five Ethical Stories That Will Define the Next Decade. Here's a clip from a Guardian post that made me do a double-take. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking fossil fuel companies don't get (massive) subsidies: "...Climate change is funded in numerous, often opaque ways, from the issuing of bonds that support the relentless expansion of palm oil plantations to the lobby groups seeking to undermine government action on climate change. Some argue that climate change leaders should join forces with fossil fuel companies to put a price on carbon. According to Hunter Lovins and Felix Kramer, for example: “Fossil fuel companies receive $5.3tn [£3.6tn) in worldwide subsidies every year – that’s $10m a minute – exceeding global spending on health. Pricing carbon fuels to reflect their true social and environmental impacts will help to speed up the transition to renewable energy and more energy efficient living standards...”

America's Food System Could Be More Vulnerable to Climate Change Than We Thought. Increased whiplash (back and forth from extreme drought to extreme flood) and monoculture practices are a volatile combination. Here's an excerpt from Mother Jones: "...Ramankutty said it's not yet clear why droughts and heat waves tend to hit yields in the United States, Europe, and Australia harder than those in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. But he suspects it relates to how farmers set their priorities. In developed countries, the emphasis is often on maximizing profit with big monoculture farms that work great in good climates but get trashed when the weather turns sour. Farmers in developing countries, by contrast, may prioritize minimizing their risk, taking a smaller yield in exchange for better resilience. Of course, these findings don't mean developing countries are out of harm's way. They still face major challenges from climate change, since comparatively small yield losses can have an outsized impact on local economies and food security..."

Global Warming Threatens the Backyard Rink. If nothing else the outdoor skating season will be shortened - in fact it already is. Here's an excerpt from CBC News: "A Canadian tradition, the backyard rink, may be in trouble in the coming years in much of the country, including P.E.I. That's the conclusion of a group of geographers at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, which has been studying ice conditions in rinks since 2012. They're the founders of Rink Watch, a website that allows people to pin their rinks on a map, and then update ice conditions all winter. They've just crunched the first two years of data, along with global climate models, and they say the number of skating days will drop by 20 to 30 per cent in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary by the end of the century..."

Photo credit above: "Volunteers send in ice conditions from backyard rinks across the country to Rink Watch." (Submitted by Donna Cassell).

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