Thursday, August 25, 2016

Best Weather-Day at the Minnesota State Fair? Humans Have Been Triggering Warming Longer Than We Thought

74 F. high at MSP International Airport Thursday.
79 F. average high on August 25.
74 F. high in the metro area on August 25, 2015.

August 26, 1915: Unseasonably cold air leads to killing frosts across Minnesota, with a low of 23 degrees at Roseau.

A Perfect Day For The Fair. Saturday? Not So Much

We often romanticize the past, but the good 'ol days weren't all that great. Exhibit A: The Minnesota State Fair has been canceled 5 times. In 1861 and 1862 the excuse was a Civil War, 1893 for the Columbian Exposition, 1945 for a fuel shortage related to WW II, and 1946 for a polio outbreak. Today we gripe when our gadgets break or traffic is bad - our ancestors might have found this amusing.

State Fair temperatures have ranged from 97F (1913 and 2003) to 36F in 1974. The Minnesota Climate Office reports an average of 3-4 days of rain during the fair's 12-day run. You may be relieved to hear that snow has never been reported during the fair!

Today is a good day to head over to Falcon Heights with comfortable sun and a light breeze. The approach of a warmer front sets off showers and a few heavy T-storms Saturday; some models hint at an inch of rain for MSP. Sunday looks sunnier and drier with low 80s. We could hit 90F late next week, so take advantage of a cool September breeze.

Meanwhile Florida is bracing for flooding rains from a potential Tropical Storm Hermine early next week.

Photo credit above: Minnesota Historical Society.

Soggy Days At The Minnesota State Fair. Expect puddles on Saturday at the fair, but it could be worse, as described by the Minnesota Climatology Working Group: "...The wettest fair was in 1977 with 9.48 inches, and the driest fair was 2003 with only .02 inch of rain... The largest rain event in the State Fair's history was 4.06 inches on August 30, 1977. At 8:20 pm heavy rains hit the State Fair. The U of M St. Paul Campus climate observatory ½ mile north of the fairgrounds saw 4.06 inches of rain. This caused some of the worst street flooding seen at the fairgrounds. The bulk of the rain fell in a 3 1/2 hour period from 8:15pm to 11:45pm. The grandstand show was cancelled, and people had great difficulty trying to leave the fair. The Twin Cities International Airport saw 7.28 inches from this event, second only to the 1987 'Superstorm." People driving on I-94 leaving the fair found water "up to their hood ornaments" in low areas under bridges..."

Wedge Tornadoes Skip Across Indiana and Ohio. Yes, a bit unusual for late August, but our weather pattern is becoming increasingly unusual. Here's an excerpt from Fox8 in Cleveland: "A spokesman for the state Emergency Management Agency says damage was reported at a mobile home park and other sites across four northwest Ohio counties after storms that spurred multiple twisters in Indiana moved across the state line. Spokesman Jay Carey said Wednesday night that there was damage in Defiance, Henry, Paulding and Van Wert counties. Carey says one minor injury was reported. Video of one large tornado was reportedly captured in the Paulding County area of Northwest Ohio and posted to YouTube by Live Storms Media..."

Starbucks Manager's Quick Thinking Saves Customers During Kokomo Tornado. WTHR-TV in Indianapolis has the story: "Among the many impressive stories emerging from Wednesday's storms is Kokomo Starbucks at the Markland Mall, which collapsed as powerful winds moved through the area. The damage was caught on video. Starbucks manager Angel Ramos instructed everyone to get in the bathrooms. He was not allowed to give an on-camera interview, but he likely saved some lives by following the plan to seek shelter..."

Close Call. Thanks to Mark Saygar for uploading video to YouTube. He was on the edge of the Kokomo tornado with light damage, but you can see how quickly things go from bad to worse.

Tracking Invest-99 (Future "Hermine"?) The models are even less reliable than usual, literally all over the  map. A tropical depression is forecast to track toward the west-northwest, brushing south Florida with 5" rains Sunday and Monday as a weak tropical storm. U.S. and European solutions are quite different.

NOAA NHC has downgraded the storm a bit; there's now a 30% chance of tropical storm status within 48 hours, a 60% chance of tropical storm strength within 5 days.

NOAA HWRF Solution: Tuesday Evening. With water temperatures ranging fromm 85-90F in the Gulf of Mexico (and less wind shear) some of the models continue to strengthen Hermine. The 18z HWRF from Thursday is hinting at peak winds of 116 knots at 900mb by late Tuesday. I'm skeptical, but we can't rule out this solution. Map: WeatherBell.

On The Other Hand. The usually-reliable ECMWF model pulls a weakened "Hermine" up the west (Gulf) coast of Florida with a potential landfall in the Big Bend area, but as a fairly unimpressive storm, one still  capable of flooding inland rains. Confidence levels are still very low, across the board. Map: WSI.

A Few Swarms of Storms Friday Night into Saturday. A few hours of rain may fall Saturday, keeping temperatures cooler as a result. Not a great outdoor day, but it won't rain the entire day. And today should be an atmospheric work of art with puddles of blue sky, a gentle breeze and temperatures typical of mid-September. 4km NAM Future Radar: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Still More Summer Than Fall. Don't be fooled by a fleeting September breeze today and Saturday. Another surge of heat arrives next week with temperatures 5-10F warmer than average, possibly brushing 90F by Thursday and Friday. MSP Meteogram: WeatherBell.

Louisiana Governor: The State's "Historic" Flooding Is Being Ignored. TIME has the interview; here's a clip: "...The national media really has not given this story the focus that it needed to. This is historic, unprecedented, record-level flooding, with well over 100,000 homes damaged and tens of thousands of people that are not in their homes right now. But because of the Olympics, because of the presidential election, and I think because it was not a named storm, this wasn’t a hurricane that the nation was looking at. As a result, the attention of the American people has not been on this story. And they haven’t been as engaged and contributing to Red Cross as they normally would be. So we’re trying to make up for that..."

Image credit: NOAA Remote Sensing Division.

As Sea Levels Rise, Nearly 1.9 Million U.S. Homes Could Be Underwater By 2100. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "The real estate data firm Zillow recently published a research analysis that estimated rising sea levels could leave nearly 2 million U.S. homes inundated by 2100, a fate that would displace millions of people and result in property losses in the hundreds of billions of dollars. More than 100,000 of those homes would be in Maryland and Virginia, according to the analysis. Another 140,000 would be submerged in the Carolinas. And Florida would face the gravest scenario of any state, with one in eight properties in danger of being underwater. For the moment, let’s leave aside the larger debate about how much the water actually will rise..."

Recovering From Katrina: Will New Orleans Become the World's Climate Beacon? Deutsche Welle has an interesting read; here's a clip: "Vitally, too, the city has become a testing ground for innovative water management projects, including the construction of river gates to mimic flooding and create sediment. These will hopefully replace some of the 2,000 square miles of Louisiana's wetlands ecosystem that have disappeared due to erosion. In addition, the astounding Lake Borgne Surge Barrier - a 26-foot-high, 1.8-mile-long concrete- and steel-wall nicknamed by locals "The Great Wall of Louisiana" - was constructed to block deadly lake surges. "What's really resulted from Katrina is that now we have a better water management program," Musso said. "I believe that in a post-Katrina world, the right people turned up. I think that the city is going to be better in the future than it's ever been..." (File photo: Wikipedia).

U.S. Warning: Zika Could Spread to Gulf States, Persist For One to Two Years. The Washington Post reports: "The National Institutes of Health’s Anthony Fauci warned that Texas and Louisiana could be next for Zika. In the weeks since mosquitoes carrying the virus hit U.S. borders, they have already spread from a small suburban community in South Florida to Miami’s most popular tourist spot, South Beach. The development prompted a travel advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday urging pregnant women to avoid the area. Fauci, director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaking Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” said the situation is likely to get worse soon..."

Image credit: "The Post's Brady Dennis talks with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, about the process of getting a potential Zika vaccine tested and ready for the public." (Video: The Washington Post/Photo: Sammy Dallal for The Washington Post).

Exxon, The Olympics, and Greenwashing 2.0. Here's an excerpt from a story at GreenBiz: "...How much better off would all of us (and the planet) be if Exxon, with its immense political, technical and financial throw-weight, actually was committed to leading the way to the clean energy future? And how poetic would it be if Exxon led us to the clean-energy promised land using a workforce which, in totality, actually resembled the ethnically, racially and gender-wise perfectly diverse employee group featured in the commercial? Clean-energy leadership is probably too much to ask of this hydrocarbon colossus, but there still is a morality play here. Should Exxon as a leader of the foremost climate-damaging industry be applauded for pursuing new ventures and new sustainable technologies that ultimately might transform its business, and the energy sector with it?..."

Image credit: GreenBizPhotocollage.

The Falling Costs of Solar Power, In 7 Charts. Dave Roberts has the story at Vox; here's a link and excerpt: "The fate of the world depends on driving down the cost of solar power. Yes, that’s a melodramatic way of putting it. But it’s not wrong. Any scenario that has humanity avoiding the worst ravages of climate change involves explosive global growth in solar power. That’s why the US Department of Energy has a program, the SunShot Initiative, devoted entirely to driving down the cost of electricity generated by solar panels — the target is solar power with $1 per watt installed costs by 2020, a 75 percent reduction in costs from 2010. So how’s that going? Happily, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) releases a set of reports each year devoted to tracking solar prices; they’ve just released the latest editions. Long story short: Prices are steadily falling, more or less on schedule..."

Graphic credit: LBNL.

Why Uber Is Going to Test Its New Self-Driving Car in Pittsburgh. The future is arriving sooner than expected. Here's the intro to a Washington Post story: "Silicon Valley is the land of the beta test, the constant tweak, where companies habitually release products still in development to see how they work in the hands of consumers. Last week, that iterative approach, so ubiquitous in software, entered a new realm when Uber announced that it would begin testing a fleet of 100 self-driving cars for hire in Pittsburgh by the end of the month. The move means that the streets of a large American city, one that gets an average of 41 inches of annual snowfall and has more than 400 bridges, will become the company’s laboratory. And the test subjects will be real people who summon the vehicles, some weighing more than two tons with turbocharged engines, with their smartphones..."

Photo credit: "A self-driving Ford Fusion hybrid car is test-driven Aug. 18 in Pittsburgh. Uber said that passengers in Pittsburgh will be able to summon rides in self-driving cars with the touch of a smartphone button in the next several weeks." (Jared Wickerham/AP)

Is There a Place in America Where People Speak Without Accents? Right here! Hey, Minnesotans don't have accents, do we? Atlas Obscura explains: "...But the vaguely Midwestern basis for General American has stuck around in surprising ways. Most Americans do not really believe they have an accent; this is a reasonable, if inaccurate, thought, as most people are surrounded by others who speak the same way they do. But the Midwest is a particularly bizarre place, and Preston knows that better than anyone. Preston is a pioneer in the study of perceptual dialectology, the study of how normal people think about dialects: where they come from, where they are, what they consist of..."

Photo credit: "Minneapolis. The classic Midwestern accent is a result of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift." (Photo: Joseph Sohm/

"A Boombox of Cool Air" - Portable Air Conditioner is Ultimate Summer Accessory. Maybe take this clever contraption to the Minnesota State Fair? Gizmodo reports: "Sunglasses, swimsuits, tank tops, and sandals are the usual accessories you think of when you’re getting ready for summer. But with climate change pushing summer temps higher and higher ever year, it’s probably not a bad idea to add the Zero Breeze portable battery-powered air conditioner to that list. Unlike the portable air conditioner sitting in the corner of your bedroom that requires an exhaust vent, an outlet, and a bucket for catching drips, the Zero Breeze is as compact as a boombox and can run for up to five hours on its own rechargeable battery..."

Hey QVC - Can You Wait Until After Labor Day for Christmas Programming? Good grief - it's still summer. Santa can wait a few more weeks.

TODAY: Sunny, spectacularly cool and comfortable. Winds: SW 3-8. High: 76

FRIDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase, T-storms late. Low: 61

SATURDAY: Showers and T-storms likely, some heavy. Winds: SE 8-13. High: 74

SUNDAY: Partly sunny; isolated T-shower risk. Nicer day of the weekend. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 62. High: 83

MONDAY: Sticky with a better chance of storms. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 68. High: 85

TUESDAY: Warm sun, drying out. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 69. High: 87

WEDNESDAY: Still muggy, few T-storms fire up. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 70. High: 88

THURSDAY: Hazy sun, feels like July. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 71. High: near 90

Climate Stories...

Extreme Weather and Climate Change. Check out 2 experts I have a lot of respect for, Heidi Cullen and Admiral David Titley (retired) at WHYY's Radio Times podcast: "Severe flooding in Louisiana has killed 13 people and damaged or destroyed over 60,000 homes. In California, a five-year drought and scorching weather has fueled the Blue Cut fire, among others in the state. And around the globe, this past July was the hottest month on record. Are these extreme weather events evidence of climate change? How do scientists connect the dots and what weird weather should we expect in the coming decades? This hour we’ll explore the link between intense weather and the warming planet with HEIDI CULLEN, chief scientist at Climate Central, and DAVID TITLEY, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University and the founding director of their Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk."

Humans Have Caused Global Warming for Longer Than We Thought. Here's an excerpt from a story at TIME: "People have been contributing to global warming since the mid-nineteenth century, decades before scientists previously estimated, according to new research published in the journal Nature. The study questions the perception of climate change as primarily a 20th century phenomenon and provides new evidence of how quickly the Earth’s atmosphere responds to increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Even relatively low levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the first decades of the Industrial Revolution contributed to a temperature increase, according to the research..."

Paper. The research referenced in the TIME article above is available at

Climate Change is Thawing Deadly Diseases. Maybe Now We'll Address It? The Guardian reports; here's an excerpt that got my attention: "...In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences hosted a forum on the influence of global environmental change on infectious diseases. In his keynote speech, Dr Jonathan Patz stood in front of a large slide of a mosquito and warned: “Global warming’s greatest threat may also be the smallest.” The forum focused on many causes of disease, from fungi, bacteria, viruses and mold spores, to vectors like bats and mosquitoes. Climate change can exacerbate the spread of infectious disease by changing the behavior, lifespans and regions of diseases and their carriers. This can sometimes be hard to prove directly. It can be challenging, for example, to isolate the avenues by which climate change drives emerging infections in warm climates where travel, trade, land use and dense urban living can all lead to the spread of disease..."

Photo credit: "In addition to releasing ancient microbes, melting layers of permafrost also release methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, that in turn causes further warming." Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian.

Global Warming Is Melting the Greenland Ice Sheet, Fast. Here's an excerpt of a Guardian article written by University of St. Thomas climate scientist John Abraham: "...The authors of this study did such an accounting and they discovered that not only is Greenland losing a lot of ice, but the loss varies a lot depending on location and year. For example, 2012 was a year of incredible ice loss compared to other years. Also, the western side of the ice sheet is losing much more ice than the eastern side. They also found that a small part of the ice sheet (less than 1% of the sheet) is responsible for more than 10% of the mass loss. In total, they estimate approximately 270 gigatons of ice loss per year for 2011–2014. This result is almost a perfect match to independent measurements made by other researchers and builds our confidence in their conclusions. To put this in perspective, the Greenland Ice Sheet is losing approximately 110,000 Olympic size swimming pools worth of water each year..."

Photo credit: "Pools of melted ice form atop Jakobshavn Glacier, near the edge of the vast Greenland ice sheet." Photograph: Brennan Linsley/AP

The Future of National Parks Is Going To Be A Lot Hotter. So says new research highlighted at Climate Central: "...By 2100, the glaciers of Montana’s Glacier National Park will be long gone and rising temperatures will be one of the big reasons why. Visitors will not only have to contend with an ice-free landscape, but also hotter temperatures. Today the park sees an average of only one 90°F day each year. It could see 27 days with temperatures above 90°F by the end of the century. Yosemite National Park, high in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, currently sees about two weeks of 90°F weather every year. By 2050, it could see nearly a month of those temperatures, and by 2100 it could get nearly 50 such days each year. And the Great Smoky Mountains, currently the most-visited National Park, could go from fewer than 10 days above 90°F each year, on average now, to three months with those scorching temperatures..."

Climate Change: Warning of Extreme Events, and a Move Into Uncharted Territory. An article and new study featured at The Sydney Morning Herald caught my eye; here's an excerpt: "...Already, at about 1 degree warmer than pre-industrial times, parts of the world are experiencing more frequent and intense extreme events – heatwaves, unusual dry spells, dumping rainfall, massive coral bleaching. The report says the upper end of current climate extremes would be "the new normal" at 1.5 degrees warming - which could be just 10 to 20 years away under the current trajectory. At 2 degrees, the picture is much less clear – the climate system would move into uncharted territory..."

This Chart Shows Why Insurers Are Climate Change Believers. When people ask if "I believe" I tell the the truth: I believe in God, I acknowledge and continually test the science surrounding climate volatility and weather disruption. Here's an excerpt at Fortune: "Whether they’re paying for hurricane cleanup or reimbursing farmers for lost livestock and crops, insurers foot much of the bill for disasters associated with climate change. The chart below shows just how big that bill can get; the cost of insured weather catastrophes has been soaring far faster than inflation. Just about every company in the property and casualty insurance business carefully tracks climate data these days (the data for the chart above, for example, comes from Swiss Re)..."

Changing Opinions on Climate Change, From a CNN Meteorologist. I give Chad Myers at CNN a lot of credit. It's OK to change your mind, based on a preponderance of evidence and data. Here's an excerpt of his post, explaining why he now acknowledges that man-made climate change is real: "...2010 was a turning point for me. That year was the hottest year on record, even though there was a La NiƱa present, a process that should have cooled the planet. Down went the other potential causes: There were no volcanoes producing huge amounts of CO2. The sun was not getting hotter. Satellite-derived temperature readings ruled out the heat-island effect. Even "The Pause" (the so-called period post-1998 that showed very little warming of the planet for about 15 years) had been shattered. They are all now called "zombie theories," long since debunked myths about climate change that skeptics will continually bring up to counter the facts of man-made climate change..."

Russia Posed Military Threat in Melting Arctic, say UK MP's. Here's the intro to a story at Climate Home: "Russian military expansion in the Arctic as a result of the melting ice-cap is a potential threat to the UK, a Parliamentary inquiry has concluded. Moscow has invested millions of dollars in two ice-breakers and new miltary bases MPs heard, with new nuclear submarines also likely to join its Northern Fleet. "The melting Arctic ice-cap may have significant defense annd security implications for neighboring states," said the Defense Committee report, which was published on 5 July..."

Photo credit: "Russia has invested in new Arctic ice breakers." (Pic: Christopher Michel/Flickr).

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