Friday, July 15, 2016

Monday's Flood: 6th Mega-Rain Event Since 2002 in Minnesota. Dangerous Heat by Thursday

79 F. high in the Twin Cities Friday.
84 F. average high on July 15, the midpoint of meteorological summer.
81 F. high on July 15, 2015.

July 16, 2006: A heat burst occurs over west central and central Minnesota. The temperature at Canby jumped from 91 degrees to 100 degrees in 40 minutes from 10:35pm to 11:15pm. At the same time the dew point temperature dropped from 63 to 32 degrees. Heat bursts are caused by dying thunderstorms with very warm air aloft.
July 16, 1963: A downpour falls at St. Charles, where half a foot of rain accumulates in one day.


Record Rains - Risky Heat Spike Late Next Week

So who cares about a couple degrees of warming? Maybe the guy up in Brainerd who reported nearly 9 inches of rain in his rain gauge earlier this week. Warmer air holds more water vapor, more moisture to fuel intense summer rains.

Monday was another "mega-rain" event, classified as 6 inches of rain falling on at least 1,000 square miles. According to Mark Seeley there have been 13 such Minnesota floods since the early 1800s. Six of these have occurred since 2002.

A warmer background temperature also increases the frequency and intensity of extreme heat events, similar to what it's in store next week. NOAA's local Twin Cities office said: "This set-up is even more favorable than some of the hottest heat waves in the past. Confidence continues to increase for a potentially dangerous heat wave."

The heat  peaks next Thursday or Friday, when a few towns nearby may hit 100F. Factor in dew points in the 70s for a heat index close to 110F. A serious sauna - and very dangerous.

An MCS T-storm complex tonight packs torrential rains; 1-3 inches may soak a few towns. Welcome to the steaming jungles of Minnesota!

Heavy T-storms Tonight. Conditions are ripe for a swarm of showers and heavier T-storms tonight into early Sunday; 4 KM NAM guidance hinting at over 4" for portions of the Brainerd Lakes. I hope the models are wrong. 60-hour accumulated rainfall: NOAA and AerisWeather.


Heat Index Peaks Next Thursday. Will it really feel like 111F by 6 pm next Thursday? I hope not, but that's what NOAA's GFS model is predicting. The most oppressive combination of heat + humidity comes Wednesday into Friday of next week. Meteogram: Aeris Enterprise.

European Model: Stinking Hot. It may still wind up being more heat spike than heat wave (which implies an extended stretch of dangerously hot weather). The ECMWF predicts a high of 97F next Thursday, followed by some relief next weekend as winds swing around to the north. Source: WeatherBell.


This Week's Northland Flood Biggest Since 2012. So says the Minnesota DNR and State Climatology Office; here's an excerpt: "The largest flash flood since the June 19-20, 2012 event in northeast Minnesota struck some of the same areas on July 11-12, 2016. This time Pine County was hit especially hard. The highest two-day total found so far with this event was 9.34 inches at a DNR rain gauge volunteer site near Cloverton in eastern Pine County, near the Wisconsin border. The event was approximately 24 hours in duration, but spanned over the observer's observation time. Flooding rains also affected parts of Morrison, Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Benton, Mille Lacs, Kanabec and Carlton Counties. Numerous roads were affected by water in the hardest hit counties. Southbound I-35 was closed for a time and Highway 61 was closed during the afternoon hours of the 12th. The area covered by six inches or more of rainfall exceeded 2,000 square miles, with at least 1,000 square miles in Pine County alone...."

Animation credit: "6 hour Radar loop ending at 11:13 PM CDT on July 11, 2016. Note that sequence begins after heavy event was well underway, but does capture the tornadoes." Source: College of DuPage.

5th 1-in-1,000-Year Flood Event in Minnesota Since 2004? There have already been 4 such major flood events since 2004, according to the Minnesota DNR and State Climatology Office (3 in southern Minnesota, the 4th was the Duluth Deluge of 2012). According to consulting meteorologist and in-house Aeris statistician D.J. Kayser Monday's flood may also fit the definition: "Using the 9.00" rain total from the Hinckley area (http://www.weather.gov/dlh/flash-flooding-2016-07-11) and comparing it to the Precipitation Frequency Estimates (http://hdsc.nws.noaa.gov/hdsc/pfds/pfds_map_cont.html?bkmrk=mn) it would appear this was easily a 500-1,000 year rain event."

An Accumulation of (Soggy) Coincidences. With more perspective on the training storms and record floods for many communities earlier this week here's an excerpt of Dr. Mark Seeley's latest post at Minnesota WeatherTalk: "...According to the Minnesota State Climatology Office the storm on July 11-12 was the largest mega-rain event since the Duluth flood of June 19-20, 2012. A mega-rain event is classified as a six-inch rainfall that covers at least a 1000 square miles, with a central core value of at least 8 inches. There have been only 13 such storms documented in Minnesota history, but 6 of these have occurred since 2002. You can read more about this weeks storms at the MN State Climatology Office...."

Is Excessive Heat and Youth Football a Dangerous Mix. The short answer is a qualified yes. The always-prolific and informative Dr. Marshall Shepherd takes a look at Forbes; here's an excerpt that caught my eye: "...Coaches and parents would immediately pull kids from a lightning storm, yet the perception of heat as a risk is lower. Dr. Michelle Hawkins is the Climate, Weather and Health Lead in the National Weather Service (NWS) Climate Services Branch. She told me,
CDC found that over 650 people die per year from exposure to extreme heat (most of any weather threat). These deaths are preventable. Heat is considered a silent killer. It doesn’t come in toppling down trees or damaging homes, and often people don’t even know that they are suffering from heat illness.
Dr. Hawkins is spot on. I cringe when I hear a death from heat and football called an “accident...”

Twin Cities Heat Index and Dew Point History. It is quite possible that heat late next week will rival the heat observed in 1936, so this post is highly relevant. The Minnesota DNR takes a look at 100-degree heat and the history of dew point and heat index observations; here's the intro: "...Hitting 100 degrees is not a common occurrence for the Twin Cities metro area and happens in about one in five years. The most recent 100 degree reading occurred on July 4th and 6th of 2012. The hottest temperatures in the Twin Cities occurred in July 1936, during the Dust Bowl era. An all-time record of 108 degrees was observed on July 14, 1936. A high of 106 was recorded for each day from July 10th through the 12th in July 1936. In total an impressive 8 days in July 1936 were above 100 degrees, with another day in August also above 100. This put the summer of 1936 at 9 days with temperatures at or above the century mark. This is a record amount for the Twin Cities..."

Photo credit: "Cooling a Car in the 1930's." Courtesy: Minnesota Historical Society.


U.S. Faces Dramatic Rise in Extreme Heat, Humidity. Climate Central has some timely perspective: "...Heat is the No.1 weather related killer, and as carbon pollution continues, global temperatures will keep climbing, bringing hotter summers and more extreme and dangerous heat. Climate Central's States at Risk project analyzed historic trends in summer temperatures since 1970 as well as projections for future extreme heat for hundreds of metro areas across the lower 48 states. Using several measures, our findings show that most U.S. cities have already experienced large increases in extreme summer heat and absolute humidity, which together can cause serious heat-related health problems..."

Tornado Warning Forces 3 World Leaders Into School Basement. You may think you're hot stuff, until Mother Nature puts you in your place. The Star Tribune explains: "Three former world leaders were forced to take shelter in the lower level of an Arkansas high school after tornado sirens blared during a graduation ceremony for the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and former Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair were attending the ceremony at Little Rock's Central High School when the storm struck Thursday night. The attendees were moved to the lower level of the high school, and a spokesman for Clinton says the three leaders also took shelter downstairs, away from the crowd..."

Drought Makes Lake Mead Drop to Lowest levels in History. WQAD-TV in the Quad Cities has a good video explainer: "New imagery released by NASA shows the effect of extreme drought on Lake Mead. The lake is actually a reservoir, and is the largest in the United States. It was created with the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s. 16 consecutive years of drought due to climate change have caused the water level to fall to record low levels. Of note in the before-after pictures is the change in size of the Las Vegas Metropolitan area. The population of the city of Las Vegas has grown from 160,000 to 670,000 in just the past thirty years. Not only does the reservoir supply that entire population with water, it is pumped to many cities in Arizona, California, Nevada, and northern Mexico..."

Where Are The Hurricanes? No shortage of record typhoons in the western Pacific, but it's been supernaturally quiet in the Atlantic for over a decade, in spite of warming water. Here's a clip from a New York Times story: "The United States coastline has been calm so far this hurricane season, just as it has been over the last decade. Since 2005, the year of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, the country has been in a hurricane “drought,” with no major hurricane (Category 3 or above, meaning winds above 110 miles per hour) making landfall. The nation’s most hurricane-prone regions, the Southeast and Gulf Coasts, have been eerily quiet. Even so, climate scientists like me believe that human-induced climate change will strengthen hurricanes and lead to worse disasters. We know that significant global warming, over a degree and a half Fahrenheit, has already occurred since preindustrial days. So where, you might ask, are the powerful hurricanes?..." (2007 Hurricane Felix file image: NASA).

In Warming Oceans, Stronger Currents Releasing Heat in Bigger Storms, Study Says. InsideClimate News has a summary of recent research; here's an excerpt: "Global warming is intensifying some of the world's most important ocean currents, new research shows, raising the risk of damaging storms along heavily populated coastlines of China and Japan. The findings are sobering as China and Taiwan rebound from the devastating effects of super typhoon Nepartak last week. The western boundary currents, which run along the eastern coasts of South Africa, Asia, Australasia, and South America, carry massive amounts of heat from the tropics northward. The recent research by a group of scientists with the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany found they are strengthening, warming and moving poleward..."

Storm Chaser's Time-Lapse Video Is As Gorgeous As It Is Terrifying. I agree. Thanks to Mike Olbinski and Treehugger for passing this along: "Storms chasers are a special breed of people. Upon a storm warning the natural reaction for most of us might be, "ACK, take cover." Not for storms chasers, it's more like, "Let's go get that thing!" Which seems to be the exact attitude held by storm chaser (and wedding photographer!) Mike Olbinski who set out to capture some storms, and man did he ever..."

Video clip credit: Mike Olbinski/Vimeo

Why You Should Fear an "Ecological Recession". Because nature always bats last. Here's a snippet from TIME: "More than half of the world may be experiencing a dangerous loss in biodiversity. Human efforts to slow biodiversity loss are falling short across the globe, which could in turn harm future human development and wellbeing, according to new research. Researchers behind study, published in the journal Science, found that human-caused pressures like land use change—the destruction of natural habitats often for timber, agriculture or residential developments—have cause biodiversity to fall to unsustainable levels more than half of the world’s surface..."


Here's How The World Could End - And What We Can Do About It. Science has a quick read that will make it a bit harder to fall asleep; here's an excerpt: "...Some researchers fear that another Carrington-like event could destroy tens to hundreds of transformers, plunging vast portions of entire continents into the dark for weeks or months—perhaps even years, Murtagh says. That’s because the custom-built, house-sized replacement transformers can’t be bought off the shelf. Transformer manufacturers maintain that such fears are overblown and that most equipment would survive. But Thomas Overbye, an electrical engineer at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, says nobody knows for sure. “We don’t have a lot of data associated with large storms because they are very rare,” he says. What’s clear is that widespread blackouts could be catastrophic, especially in countries that depend on highly developed electrical grids. “We’ve done a marvelous job creating a great vulnerability to this threat,” Murtagh says. Information technologies, fuel pipelines, water pumps, ATMs, everything with a plug would be rendered useless. “That’s going to affect our ability to govern the country,” Murtagh says..."

Photo credit: "Electrical surges due to a solar storm shocked telegraph operators in 1859; today, they could wreak havoc on power grids and electronics." NASA/Martin Stojanovski.

How America Could Go Dark. Sabotage from the sun, or from terrorists attacking the grid, considerable risk remains. Here's a clip from a story at The Wall Street Journal: "...The Bakersfield attacks last year were among dozens of break-ins examined by The Wall Street Journal that show how, despite federal orders to secure the power grid, tens of thousands of substations are still vulnerable to saboteurs. The U.S. electric system is in danger of widespread blackouts lasting days, weeks or longer through the destruction of sensitive, hard-to-replace equipment. Yet records are so spotty that no government agency can offer an accurate tally of substation attacks, whether for vandalism, theft or more nefarious purposes..."

Power From Natural Gas Expected To Reach a Record High Despite Climate Concerns. TIME reports: "...Some recent research has shown that leaks in various spots along natural gas pipelines release enough methane gas—another gas that causes warming—to complicate the equation. The Aliso Canyon gas leak outside of Los Angeles, which released more than 100,000 tons of methane in the four months before it was sealed in February, drew attention to the risk of massive blowouts, but environmental policy experts say the real risk may lie in smaller leaks that can go undetected. When methane gets out it is more than 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide at holding heat in the atmosphere over a 100-year period, according to the EPA...."

These Deep Red States are Going Green. Almost everyone can agree that energy choice is good, especially when it results in lower costs, more security and resilience - and more good-paying jobs over time. Here's an excerpt from ThinkProgress: "Americans of all ideological stripes love clean energy. Across the country, deep-red states are leading the charge on zero-carbon power. Deep-red Texas now boasts more wind generating capacity than the next three biggest producers combined, according to the Department of Energy. As a portion of total generating capacity, Oklahoma, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa lead the nation. Iowa siphons nearly a third of its power from the sky. Soon, Carbon County, Wyoming, home of the state’s first coal mine, will cut the ribbon on the largest wind farm in North America. On solar, a similar story plays out. Sun-drenched Arizona ranks second in the country for potential solar capacity. North Carolina comes in third..."

Map credit: "The year-by-year growth in wind capacity, by state." CREDIT: Department of Energy.

The Future of Breaking News? We'll still need cable news to help with analysis and perspective (or will we?) but the past few nights I've glimpsed the future of live, global news coverage with Periscope and Facebook Live. Extremely powerful technology - with any luck shining a light on events with our smartphones may illicit better behavior, knowing people are watching. Wishful thinking?

Why Did American Cats Get Blamed For So Many Divorces? I had no idea, but here comes Atlas Obscura to make sense of the senseless: "...The relative newness of cats as pets was a fulcrum for these early divorce cases. Household pets were not assumed the respect they might be given today, which put couples at odds when one of them was more partial to cats. Another 1912 divorce report from the The Los Angeles Herald, a veritable record of cat and divorce news, concerned a 74-year-old Civil War veteran who could not handle his wife’s 35 cats and two dogs, in part because she “gave them more care than she gave him.” He seemed traumatized: "In all my experience of four years as a soldier,” he said, “I never had to contend with such conditions as those dogs and cats created in our home....” 

Image credit: "Too many cats has also been cited as a reason for divorce, although in that case there were certainly more than two." (Photo: Internet Archive/Public Domain).

Dog Days Coming. These guys won't even notice the heat next week. Where do I sign up? A very funny video clip courtesy of Barkhaus on Facebook. Yeah, I have those same sunglasses but they look better on him.


TODAY: Intervals of sunshine, a few degrees warmer. Winds: S 10-15. High: 81

TONIGHT: Strong T-storms possible, a few may be severe. Low: 66

SUNDAY: Unsettled, humid. More T-storms around. Winds: SW 8-13. High: 85

MONDAY: Partly sunny, almost comfortable. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 65. High: 82

TUESDAY: Sticky sunshine returns. Wake-up:  Winds: S 8-13. 67. High: 86

WEDNESDAY: Early thunder, then hot sun. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 70. High: 90

THURSDAY: Broiling sun, feels like 105 to 110F. Wake-up:  74. High: 98

FRIDAY: Scottsdale with lakes! Hot sun. Winds: NE 5-10. Wake-up: 80. High: 96

* Long-range models hint at slight relief the weekend of July 23-24.


Climate Stories...

"The Most Singular of All The Things That We Have Found": Cloud Study Alarms Scientists. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "...The study was led by Ramanathan’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography colleague Joel Norris, though Ramanathan said he was not involved in the work and didn’t know about it until shortly before publication. But Ramanathan said that the study basically confirms that there’s nothing to prevent the world from reaching the high levels of warming that have long been feared — except for our own swift policy actions, that is. “My reaction was, my goodness,” Ramanathan said. “Maybe the 4 to 5 degree warming, certainly we were all wishing there was some certainty that would make it go away. So I consider the findings of this paper, the data shows major reorganization of the cloud system...”


At Ground Zero for Rising Seas, TV Meteorologist Talks Climate. I have a lot of respect for John Morales in Miami, talking on the air about the ways a warming climate is already flavoring weather across south Florida. Here's an excerpt of an interview at Yale Environment 360: "...Ten years ago we had a big problem among broadcast meteorologists, who by greater than 50 percent seemed to be in the skeptic camp of anthropogenic global warming, according to some surveys. They either weren't communicating it, or they were finding ways to disparage the state of the science. Recognizing this, Bob Ryan, a former president of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), and myself, we co-authored an article in 2007 in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society saying that our profession is the face of science for the general public, that it is our responsibility to communicate the state of the science of climate change, that, in doing so, we need to divorce ourselves from political, religious, personal, and other views and just simply communicate the state of the science at the time..." (File image of Miami Beach: Trip Advisor).

Climate Change Exposes U.S. Infrastructure to Natural Hazards, Rand Corp. Says. A summary at Insurance Journal made me do a double-take; here's an excerpt: "...Oftentimes people think of disasters as largely a coastal phenomenon,” however the authors found potential impacts from riverine flooding, and wind and ice storms, among other perils, faced by people living far from the coast, he said. Some areas are more exposed than others, facing the risk of two, three or four major disasters, he added. These areas include California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Mississippi River, the New Madrid fault zone, regions in Oklahoma and the mid-Atlantic coast. The report lists several perils that may be exacerbated by climate change, including tornadoes, hurricanes and storm surge. But the one with possibly the biggest potential impact is drought, Willis said..." (File image: AP)


Scientists Think They've Just Pinpointed the Key Driver of Ice Loss in Antarctica. Chelsea Harvey reports at The Washington Post: "The Antarctic Peninsula is headed for trouble — that much scientists know. Glaciers on the peninsula, which extends from the increasingly unstable West Antarctic region, have been retreating for decades, and some in the region have undergone particularly accelerated melting since the 1990s. Until recently, many scientists assumed that a steady increase in air temperature around the peninsula, the product of global warming, was the primary cause behind most of the ice loss. But new research looking at the western side of the peninsula suggests that this may not be the case after all. A study published Thursday in the journal Science suggests that warm ocean water may be the biggest driver of glacial retreat in that region — and it’s a problem that may not be getting enough attention..." 

Photo credit: "An edge of the Thwaites Ice Shelf in Antarctica." ( Jim Yungel/NASA).


Here Is What a Conservative Climate-Action Agenda Would Look Like. A carbon tax (let's call it a fee), eliminating all subsidies across the board, a market-friendly approach that reduces the need for government intervention over time? Here's an excerpt from Grist: "...The tax code is riddled with provisions that promote inefficiency and favor politically connected industries. Leading Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan and every presidential candidate in the last few cycles have argued for cleaning up and simplifying the tax code. One great way to do so would be to eliminate the various tax breaks for fossil fuel producers, particularly for oil and gas, which currently cost taxpayers several billion dollars per year. Republican politicians, of course, often favor these gifts because fossil fuels are popular among their base and are dominant in the economies of many red states. But principled conservatives should favor getting rid of them. (And if they want to make sure the government isn’t left favoring wind and solar, they could schedule fossil-fuel and clean-energy tax credits to phase out simultaneously.)..."

Shuffle and Flow: Where Does Carbon Come From, and Where Does It Go? Wait, current North American greenhouse gas observations come from 100 towers? NASA explains: "...See, scientists have been measuring carbon dioxide and methane on a global basis. But we’d like to understand the mechanisms that are driving biological sinks and sources regionally. And we’d like to measure these greenhouse gases so that we can know if and when we’ve succeeded in reducing our emissions. Davis explained that right now, most of our knowledge about regional sources of methane and carbon dioxide comes from a ground-based network of highly calibrated instruments on roughly 100 towers across North America. Yet being able to understand the regional sources and sinks of these two greenhouse gases is crucial to being able to predict and respond to the consequences of a changing climate. “We don’t have all the data we need? That’s unbelievable,” I said, shocked. How is that even possible in 2016?...”

Graphic credit: "ACT-America, or Atmospheric Carbon and Transport – America, will conduct five airborne campaigns across three regions in the eastern United States to study the transport and fluxes of atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane."

"The Extraordinary Years Have Become the Normal Years": Scientists Survey Radical Arctic Melt. Chris Mooney explains at The Washington Post: "A group of scientists studying a broad range of Arctic systems — from sea ice to permafrost to the Greenland ice sheet — gathered in D.C. Wednesday to lay out just how extreme a year 2016 has been so far for the northern cap of the planet. “I see the situation as a train going downhill,” said Marco Tedesco, who studies Greenland at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. “And the feedback mechanisms in the Arctic [are] the slope of your hill. And it gets harder and harder to stop it...”

Image credit: "This July 13 image captured by a device on NASA’s Aqua satellite shows Franz Josef Land in the Arctic Ocean." (AFP/NASA)

State Attorneys General Subpoenaed by Rep. Lamar Smith for Exxon Fraud Probe. Here's the latest from InsideClimate News: "Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science Committee, escalated his confrontation over the climate probes of ExxonMobil by issuing subpoenas to two state attorneys general and several nongovernmental advocacy groups on Wednesday. Smith (R-Tex.) announced the action in a news conference on Capitol Hill, saying the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts were trying to criminalize the opinions of people and companies who hold alternative views on climate science..."

What Type of Climate Voter Are You? Here's a clip from Fusion: "A new analysis has found that 10% of the population of voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes action on global warming. Conducted by Yale University and George Mason University, the survey found that Americans can be divided into six distinct groups when it comes to climate and environmental voting preferences. Only members of the most anti-climate action group, the Dismissive (10% of the population; 10% of registered voters), are likely to vote for a presidential candidate who actually prioritizes their opposition to taking action to curtail human-caused climate change..." (Graphic: Yale University and George Mason University).

The Climate Anxiety Doctor is "In". Here's a clip from an article at Hakai Magazine: "...In the psychological literature, there is an increasing body of research demonstrating the toll that climate change can take. Climate change can affect mental health both as a result of individual significant weather events, and as a result of more gradual changes in climate. Psychologists have found that catastrophic events induce different mental health issues than gradual changes: catastrophic events are more likely to induce trauma responses, major depression, and complicated grief, while gradual changes can cause anxiety, fatalism, and chronic depression. A common thread running through all these effects is fear of an increasingly uncertain future, and the anxiety that fear generates is often not constructively addressed..."

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