Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Brush With 90F Today - Rapidly Melting Siberian Permafrost Releases Anthrax Virus

88 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.
83 F. average high on August 2.
84 F. high on August 2, 2015.

August 3, 1896: A violent hailstorm destroys two thirds of the crops in Swift County.

Hot Enough - In Praise of the Month of August

"In the summer the days were long, stretching into each other. Out of school, everything was on pause and yet happening at the same time, this collection of weeks when anything was possible" wrote Sarah Dessen.

Forgive me while I point my remote control at the sky and put the seasons on pause. Every month has its own unique challenges and benefits, but after shivering half the year there's a warm spot in my heart for August.

Days are still warm to hot but nights cool off, however slightly. Fewer storms clutter Doppler - the odds of ruined outdoor plans less than in June, when warmth is new and often toxic. The kids are heading back to school soon, baseball will get nudged out by football in the coming weeks leading up the culinary crescendo of The Minnesota State Fair.

Time to start fasting.

We may hit 90F today, and T-storms will prowl the state tomorrow. But a fresh swipe of Canadian air drops temperatures and humidity levels in time for a beautiful stretch of weather Friday into Sunday with temperatures right where they should be. Precious little to complain about, for now.

Shot at 90F This Afternoon. Models suggest upper 80s to near 90F this afternoon with plenty of sun; dew points in the 70s will make it feel like one big, bad sauna when you step out the door. But by Friday models are in good agreement that highs will be near 10F cooler. Source: Aeris Enterprise.

Next Thunder Threat: Thursday. 4km NAM model output shows a dry sky today; the next wave of slightly cooler, drier air kicking up a line of T-storms late Wednesday night into Thursday. Source: AerisWeather.

Half Inch Rains Thursday? With convection amounts are always fickle: an inch in one town, while 5 miles down the road barely a drop of rain falls. NOAA models are converging on some half inch rainfall amounts Thursday.

Hurricane Drought Hits a New Record. No hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico for nearly 3 years? Scientific American explains: "Saturday was a quiet day across the Gulf of Mexico, but not one without note, because a strange record was set: It has been 1,048 days since a hurricane developed in or entered the Gulf. That is the longest streak in the past 130 years, since formal record-keeping began in 1886. The Atlantic hurricane season starts in June and lasts through the end of November. But the last storm in the Gulf was Hurricane Ingrid, which made landfall in northeastern Mexico in September 2013. "You have to have conditions just right for a hurricane to form, and the conditions haven't been ideal in the Gulf of Mexico in the last two years," says Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center..."

Dear Science: Why Can't We Just Get Rid of All The Mosquitoes? If only it were that simple. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "...Mosquitoes are our most deadly adversaries in the animal kingdom. While the "factoid" that floats around about malaria causing "half of all human deaths" throughout history is pretty silly, it's true that we have the insects to thank for some devastating diseases. Over 400,000 people were killed by malaria alone in 2015 – a death toll that until recently was nearly doubled. Warming climates and increased global travel have helped previously obscure viruses like Zika and chikungunya gain footholds across the globe. And even if you never face a life-threatening disease because of a mosquito bite, swelling and itching is hardly a pleasant experience..." (Image: USDA).

After Second Deluge in 5 Years, Flood-Weary Ellicott City Weighs How to Adapt and Prepare. Here's a clip from The Baltimore Sun: "...The town is prone to that sort of flooding because it's built almost entirely on granite, with little soil to absorb water in a big storm. Water comes in from all directions but the east, where the Patapsco is forced into a narrow ravine between Ellicott City and neighboring Oella. That has always presented engineering challenges. But with three devastating floods within a generation, the possibility of more to come is changing the way the community is approaching reconstruction..."

When The Sky is Falling, the National Weather Service Is There to Warn Us. Although not perfect (nothing is) we still have the best national weather service on the planet when it comes to value for the dollar. Here's an excerpt at INFORUM: "...We do not wait until the hail, wind or tornado have started to issue a warning,” Gust continues.  “Posting a warning is always a human call. The software can provide bells and whistles, and "look hear" types of signals, but the human makes the call. Sometimes the various software inputs can be overly aggressive and sometimes they're behind the power curve. And sometimes it’s based on “gut instincts.”

Photo credit: "Brad Hopkins of the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks considers storm motion on his monitors." W. Scott Olsen / Special to The Forum

Rising Sea Levels Could Cost U.S. Homeowners Close to $1 Trillion. Here's the intro to a story at Bloomberg: "When talking about housing, “underwater” usually means you owe more on a mortgage than the home is actually worth. If climate change continues apace, that term could take on a much more literal meaning. Rising sea levels could soak homeowners for $882 billion, according to a new report from real estate website Zillow. The research takes its initial cue from the journal Nature, which in March found sea levels could rise more than 6 feet by the end of the century. In that scenario, Florida could lose close to 1 million homes, or 13 percent of the state’s current stock..."

Planning for Disaster. Jacobin Magazine has an interesting post focused on the fairest, most equitable way of paying for the treadmill of disasters, current and future. Here's a clip: "...But when its eventual effects come to batter our door they will arrive at an exact address: floods and heat waves are intensely local disasters, and their history tells us that we are very much not in it together. Anywhere they strike the poorest residents are often hurt the most, lacking both the resources to rebuild and the protections that accrue to richer areas. If billions are being committed to fighting the effects of climate change, we should rightly be asking where they’re going, and who benefits. And we should ask now because the ball is already moving on local adaptation projects..."

Photo credit: "A home after Hurricane Sandy in Staten Island, NY in 2012." John de Guzmán / Flickr.

Evacuate or Stay? Technology is lulling us into a false sense of security when it comes to hurricanes. "Hey, I can see them coming satellite and radar - if it looks bad we can head inland at the last minute." Maybe not. Here's an excerpt of an excellent article at Medium: "...In all disasters, knowing when, where, and how to escape is key, which brings us to the hurricane problem. Hurricanes are survivable events. They don’t strike out of nowhere. We have a battalion of satellites, buoys, and airplanes to track their every move from their infancy over the sea to their kamikaze-like demise along our coastlines. Forecasters man 24-hour weather offices that, in most cases, give days of warning of an impending storm. Yet some 2,000 people have died, either directly or indirectly, from hurricanes in modern, 21st century-America..."

Photo credit: "Millions evacuate the Greater Houston metro area ahead of Hurricane Rita in 2005." Source: Public Domain

Where Are The World's Most Water-Stressed Cities? The Guardian takes a look at the most precious natural resource of the 21st century: "...Water stress – where the human or ecological demand for water is not met – is caused by a variety of factors. There’s the physical scarcity of water due to lack of rainfall, the natural aridity of the area and, increasingly, changes in climate; but poor management and investment in water infrastructure, and pollution, also play their parts. The problem affects an estimated 2.7 billion people for at least one month of every year, across every continent – and is particularly pressing in cities as the global urban population grows. At present, almost four billion people live in cities, with a further 2.5 billion expected to join them by 2050..."

Photo credit: "Last year, California’s cities were required to cut their water usage by up to 35%." Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters.

Charging Pads Let Electric Car Owners Cut the Cord. A story at The Detroit News made me do a double-take: "Electric-vehicle charging cords could soon go the way of the cassette tape, floppy disk and landline telephone. Suppliers like Qualcomm Inc. and a handful of after-market companies offer wireless charging that requires no cords or physical contact. Some automakers are beginning to implement it on their fleets, although it will likely first be available mostly on high-end luxury makes. Mercedes-Benz, for example, will offer wireless charging on its S550e plug-in hybrid next year..."

Image credit:

Meet The Man Who Is Trying to Change the GOP on Clean Energy. Details via TheHill: "...Unlike environmentalists, who mostly promote renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, Faison is a champion of options that he says don’t get respect they deserve, including nuclear power, hydropower, coal with carbon capture and natural gas. His main selling point for conservatives is strictly political. Research that he and others have commissioned shows that support for clean energy is the top issue that can sway an undecided voter. “No other issue does more to change a persuadable voter’s mind than clean energy,” he said. “It is the No. 1 peel-away issue.” Faison says he’s tired of watching the left take control of environmental policy matters and forcing Republicans — particularly in tough election races — to be on defense..."

LED Lighting Miracle: "One of the Fastest Technology Shifts in Human History." ThinkProgress has details: "...The rapid adoption of LEDs in lighting marks one of the fastest technology shifts in human history,” Goldman Sachs stated in a new report. The accelerated deployment of light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs is on track to save U.S. consumers and businesses $20 billion a year in electricity costs within a decade, which would lower U.S. CO2 emissions by some 100 million metric tons a year! The growing global effort to speed up LED adoption could ultimately cut global energy costs and carbon pollution 5 times as much..."

Image credit: Shutterstock.

The Smithsonian Will Pay Someone $64,000 a Year To Drink (and Research) Beer. MONEY has the tantalizing, mouthwatering details: "Beer nerds, it may be time to dust off your resume: The Smithsonian is hiring a beer historian. The hoppy gig, which will pay $64,650 a year and includes benefits, is a new role for the Museum of American History, the Washington City Paper reported. Funded by the Brewers Association, the position lasts for three years and seeks someone who’s interested in “research, documentation and collecting American brewing history...”

Skydiver Surfs Thunderstorm. Words I've never seen in the same sentence. The Facebook video from Tech Insider says: "Watch an insane skydiver surf the edge of a thunderstorm." You have to see it to believe it.

TODAY: Sunny, sticky and hot. Winds: SE 5-10. High: near 90

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy and humid. Low: 74

THURSDAY: Muggy with a few T-storms, some heavy. Winds: SW 8-13. High: 87

FRIDAY: Generous sunshine, less humid. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 64. High: 81

SATURDAY: Sunny, potentially spectacular. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 62. High: 82

SUNDAY: Blue sky, another fine summer day. Winds: E 5-10. Wake-up: 63. High: 83

MONDAY: Partly sunny, lukewarm breeze. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 65. High: 84

TUESDAY: More clouds, risk of a T-storm. Winds: E 8-13. Wake-up: 66. High: 83

Climate Stories...

Deadly Maryland Flood Part of Clear Global Warming-Related Pattern in Extreme Rainfall Events. Here's an excerpt from Andrew Freedman at Mashable: "...However, the deadly downpour is consistent with what one expects to occur more frequently and with greater intensity — and what is already occurring with greater regularity — in a warming climate. The 2014 National Climate Assessment, for example, found there was an increase of 71 percent in the heaviest precipitation events in the Northeast between 1958 and 2012. According to Steve Bowen, a meteorologist for the insurance company AonBenfield, there have been nine 1-in-1,000-year rainfall events in the U.S. since 2010 alone, including a deadly flooding event in West Virginia in June..."

Photo credit: "Workers gather by street damage after Saturday night's flooding in Ellicott City, Maryland on, Sunday, July 31, 2016." Image: Kevin Rector/The Baltimore Sun via AP.

Anthrax Spewing Zombie Deer Are the Least of Your Warming Planet Worries. Eric Roston explains at Bloomberg: "Climate change is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. In northern Russia, you get anthrax.Conditions that are melting Arctic permafrost there recently thawed the carcasses of deer felled by anthrax some 75 years ago, when World War II raged. Warmer temperatures then reactivated the infectious disease, which can survive in hibernation for decades. More than three dozen people have been hospitalized, half of them children, though with no confirmed cases. Making matters worse, a heatwave combined with the anthrax outbreak may have killed more than 1,200 deer. New ones..."

Photo credit: "Reindeer in eastern Siberia." Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg.

Child, 12, Died from Anthrax, As 9 Cases Confirmed of Deadly Disease. More perspective from Siberian Times: "...The boy, Denis, died on Saturday from the virulent intestinal form of anthrax after eating infected venison. His grandmother died a day earlier, but as yet the cause is not established. Eight other people are now confirmed to be suffering from anthrax, including three children, according to preliminary diagnoses in the outbreak on the Yamal Peninsula in northern Siberia. The dead boy was a member of a reindeer herding family.  A total of 72 people are now in hospital, a rise of 32 since Friday, under close observation amid fears of a major outbreak. 41 of those hospitalised are children as Russia copes with a full scale health emergency above the polar circle which has also killed thousands of reindeer..."

Photo credit: 'I was informed about the death of the boy in our hospital. There are no words to express my condition. I feel sorry, I pass my condolences to his parents'. Picture: Press Service of Yamalo-Nenetsk Governor's Office.

Climate Change is Hell on Alaska's Formerly Frozen Highways. Bloomberg explains: "...For seven decades, the Alaska Highway has mesmerized adventure-seeking travelers. In one breathtaking stretch through the Yukon, glacier lakes and rivers snake through aspen forests and rugged mountains that climb into the clouds. In recent years, though, a new sight has been drawing motorists’ attention, too, one they can spot just a few feet from their cars’ tires. Bumps and cracks have scarred huge swathes of the road, with some fissures so deep a grown man can jump in and walk through them. Scientists say they’re the crystal-clear manifestation that permafrost -- slabs of ice and sediment just beneath the Earth’s surface in colder climes -- is thawing as global temperatures keep rising..."

Illustration credit: Sam Dodge for Bloomberg.

Americans Need a Dose of Truth Serum About Climate Change. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Des Moines Register: "...Many people are only beginning to understand this reality. But ExxonMobil knew back in the 1970s, when the company’s own scientists warned of extreme flooding and record heat that could damage crops, homes and businesses. Yet, rather than take action or warn the public, Exxon invested millions to sow doubt around the validity of climate change. Exxon is now trying to silence those working to compel it to tell us the whole story. The U.S. House Science Committee even went so far recently to issue subpoenas targeting attorneys general and environmental groups who support an investigation into Exxon..."

Why Are Democrats So Bad at Talking About Climate Change? Grist has the story - here's an excerpt: "...But people are suffering from extreme climate impacts today, too, and they would make much better spokespeople for the problem than politicians and movie directors. Five thousand California residents, many of them Latino, had to live without any running water at least part of last year because of the state’s prolonged drought. Alaskan Native communities are losing their land to rising sea levels and erosion and are being forced to relocate. Residents of Isle de Jean Charles in southeastern Louisiana are considered by some to be the first officially recognized “climate refugees” in the U.S. because they will receive federal grants to help them move away from their flood-ravaged community. Many people have lost their homes to increasingly intense wildfires, and lost loved ones to flash floods..."

Climate Change Divide Burst to Forefront in Presidential Campaign. Here's an excerpt of a New York Times story: "...Mrs. Clinton’s opponent in the November election, Donald J. Trump, has gone further than any other Republican presidential nominee in opposing climate change policy. He often mocks the established science of human-caused climate change and dismisses it as a hoax. The Republican platform calls climate change policy “the triumph of extremism over common sense.” The divide between the two parties over the issue is the widest it has been in the decades since it emerged as a public policy matter. That is all the more remarkable given that during the 2008 election, the Democratic and Republican positions on climate change were almost identical..."

Looking, Quickly, For The Fingerprints of Climate Change. Here's an excerpt from a fascinating New York Times article: "...David W. Titley, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University who was chairman of a National Academies committee that looked at developments in the field of climate-change attribution, said that at this point studies of heat waves and other extreme-temperature events appeared to produce the most reliable assessments. Studies of extreme rainfall are considered less reliable in finding links to climate change, and studies of events like wildfires and severe thunderstorms even less reliable. Still, Dr. Titley said, such studies are worth doing, as long as certain conditions are met..."

Image montage: Environment America.

The Middle East is Baking. An article at The Economist argues that climate change, even more than perpetual war, is making the Middle East increasingly uninhabitable: "...The UN’s Environmental Agency (UNEA) released a report in May calculating that the harsh climate claims 230,000 lives annually in West Asia (the Arabian Peninsula and the fertile crescent), making it a greater killer than war. By somewhere between 2070 and 2100, predicts Dr Elfatih Eltahir, professor of climate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the temperature in much of the Gulf could have reached levels beyond which any exposure for more than six hours would be intolerable even for the fittest of humans. Current highs might seem like a normal summer day. Mecca’s outdoor pilgrimage could become hazardous. “We’re seeing just the tip of the iceberg,” he adds. “Extreme temperatures will be much worse in the future...” (Photo credit: EPA).

Climate Threat to our Water Supplies. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "...What can we do? Climate change has been inadequately addressed in both management and policies, and there are gaps in knowledge. The major challenge in water governance is to align water use with demand at levels that protect the environment and to support and enforce effective legislation. People, who should pay for water, pay very little. Yet, the poorest in developing countries can pay up to 40% of their income for this basic necessity. Groundwater extraction must be regulated, and polluters should pay...."

Image credit: ThinkStock.

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