Friday, August 19, 2016

Hints of Autumn - Showery Today - Sunday The Nicer Day of the Weekend

79 F. high in the Twin Cities Friday.
80 F. average high on August 19.
65 F. high on August 19, 2015.

.34" rain fell at MSP International Airport yesterday.

August 20, 1904: Both downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul are hit by tornadoes, producing the highest official wind ever recorded in Minnesota over one minute (110 mph in St. Paul).

A Touch of "Aug-tober" - Sweatshirts Optional

Football is on the tube - it won't be long before I'm tracking big yellow school buses on Doppler and people-watching at the Minnesota State Fair. So why not cue up a cool front, just to remind us what cool feels like? By Sunday morning you may need to rummage around for a light jacket or sweatshirt. Goosebumps. What a concept.

A storm spinning up along the leading edge of brisk, Canadian air flushing south whips up more showers today, with temperatures stuck in the 60s and a whiff of wind chill after dark. Sunday looks MUCH nicer with sunshine, cotton-ball cumulus and afternoon highs in the low 70s. 80s return Monday and Tuesday, but models pull another puff of premature chill into Minnesota late next week; more random hints of autumn which spill into the last weekend of August.

Remind me not to complain. My colleagues in Los Angeles are trying to pinpoint wind speed & direction to help firefighters. Louisiana is facing a flood-related housing crisis. And the GFS model pulls a hurricane into Florida by August 31. I don't believe it yet - but what else can go wrong?

Not Buying It (Yet). I'm not Tweeting it, or Instagramming it, or Snapchatting it, or faxing (?) it to tech-wary friends trying to avoid the Inter-webs. It's way premature. I shouldn't even be showing you this. But in the spirit of full disclosure here is Friday's 18z 240-hour GFS forecast, showing a tropical system approaching the east coast of Florida. Odds are (very) small this will verify, but just in case I want to cover my....Doppler. Source: WSI.

Showery Saturday - Heaviest Rains East of MSP. NOAA's 4km NAM spins up a significant swirl of rain across southeastern Minnesota and Wisconsin today, brushing the Twin Cities metro with heaviest amounts east of St. Paul. Expect spotty (light) showers up north with a cool wind blowing, temperatures stuck in the 60s. Future Radar: AerisWeather.

Sunday Morning: 7am. Check out these wake-up temperatures Sunday; 40s just west of the Twin Cities with low 50s in the outlying suburbs. No frost yet, I'm happy to report. Lows don't fall much below 60F near Lake Superior, thanks to relatively warm lake water temperatures. This weekend your favorite lake should be warmerr than the air temperature outside. Source: AerisWeather.

August Warmth Returns Early Next Week. ECMWF (European) model guidance pulls 80s back into town Monday and Tuesday before another Canadian Burp pushes 70s back into the state the latter half of next week. Highs in the 60s? We'll see. MSP Meteogram: WeatherBell.

Cooler Than Average September? At some point the law of averages catches up with you and the weather swings in the opposite direction. We've been trending warmer than average for all of 2016; a mild La Nina cooling of the Pacific may pull cooler than average air into the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest next month, while temperatures continue to bake from Seattle to Anchorage. Source: NOAA CFS and WeatherBell.

Celestial Sights In The Coming Days. Sky & Telescope reminds us what we can look forward to in the nighttime sky: "Step outside as the stars come out, look southwest, and you’ll see an eye-catching pattern. For the next few days (August 17–22), bright orange Mars shines to the right of Saturn and the reddish star Antares. The three form a tall triangle that changes every night. Mars is moving leftward on its way toward passing between the other two. Next Tuesday and Wednesday, August 23rd and 24th, the triangle will collapse to a nearly vertical line of three shining points. After that, Mars will continue leftward and the triangle will widen again, pointing in the opposite direction..."

Image credit: "Saturn, Mars, and Antares line up almost vertically on the evening of August 23 and 24, 2016. Have a look!" Credit: Sky & Telescope diagram.

Cruel Summer: Floods, Fires and Heat. Andrew Freedman connects the dots in an excellent overview of what's happening at Mashable; here's an excerpt: "...The ‘signal’ of climate change is no longer subtle. We are seeing climate change impacts now play out, on our television screens, in the headlines, on our television sets,” said Michael Mann, director of Penn State University’s Earth System Science Center. “Whether it’s the multitude of thousand-year flooding events we’ve seen over the past year, the massive wildfires, the strongest hurricanes in both hemispheres, etc., we are now dealing with the impacts of climate change on a daily basis,” Mann told Mashable in an email.  “What more do the critics need to see? It’s almost like someone up there is trying to tell them something…”

It's Time To Adapt to Megafires. Gizmodo has an excellent article analyzing fire trends and how we continue to pay to knock down increasingly pervasive and catastrophic fires: "...Fire is a natural part of the lifecycle of many ecosystems. But the changes we’ve seen in the past decade—more fires, hotter fires, larger fires, weirder fires—are not natural, and they are not going away. As more people settle at the edge of wildlands, as invasive species transform ecosystems, and as climate change promotes more exceptionally hot days, mild winters, and dry summers, our planet is becoming a tinderbox. The men and women fighting fire understand this. It’s on us to provide them the tools and resources they need to adapt. “The effects of climate change are fairly obvious to us as firefighters,” Gray said. “When you’re used to seeing fire season last four months, and it starts stretching to eight months, it’s something that’s ever present in your mind..."

Artwork credit above: Sam Woolley.

Catastrophic Floods in Louisiana Have Caused Massive Housing Crisis. NPR reports: "...And as NPR's Debbie Elliott reports, waters rose astonishingly high in places that historically have not experienced flooding. "Even for a state accustomed to natural disasters, this flood is like nothing they've ever seen before," Debbie says. She spoke to Wayne Norwood, who with his wife, Debbie, owns an antiques museum that was destroyed in the flooding. The couple, both retired police officers, also had four rental homes damaged in the disaster. "We have fire insurance, but we don't have flood insurance because we're not in the flood zone," Wayne Norwood tells Debbie. "And that's what happened to thousands of people..."

Photo credit: The Washington Post.

"They Didn't Warn You": Louisiana Disaster Reveals Deep Challenges in Flood Communication. There was no formal tropical storm or hurricane to track or warn on. Did the stalled tropical depression get the media time and attention it deserved? Here's an excerpt from Jason Samenow at Capital Weather Gang: "...Some Louisiana residents said they were completely caught off guard by the severity of this extreme event. “With a hurricane, they kind of warn you. But this, they didn’t warn you,” Jayda Guidry, a resident forced from her home, told The Washington Post. “We just thought it was raining.” Meteorologists knew this storm could wreak havoc days before the first drops of rain. And they issued strongly worded predictions. But now they are soul-searching, wondering how the message could’ve been more forcefully conveyed and attained greater reach..."

Photo credit: "A flooded baseball field at the Gonzales Civic Center in Gonzales, La., on Aug. 17." (Jeffrey Dubinsky via Reuters).

How Louisiana Plans to Rebuild After Historically Damaging Floods. Here's an excerpt of an interview at PBS NewsHour: "...Well, FEMA will give up to $33,000 if you weren’t in a flood zone and had no insurance, but the average — that’s the maximum you can get. The average is about $7,500. We’re going to have to make up that difference with volunteers and the giving of people from all over the country working with nonprofits to help make those people back in their house and make them whole. A lot of elderly people that had never flooded, lived in a house 40 or 50 years, didn’t see the need or couldn’t afford the flood insurance. So, those are — those are the ones that we’re really concerned about...."

Extreme Floods May Be The New Normal. Scientific American explains: "...Over the past year alone, catastrophic rain events characterized as once-in-500-year or even once-in-1,000-year events have flooded West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and now Louisiana, sweeping in billions of dollars of property damage and deaths along with the high waters. These extreme weather events are forcing many communities to confront what could signal a new climate change normal. Now many are asking themselves: Are they doing enough to plan for and to adapt to large rain events that climate scientists predict will become more frequent and more intense as global temperatures continue to rise? The answer in many communities is no, it’s not enough..." (File photo: U.S. Coast Guard).

Hurricanes and Tornadoes Have Them, Is It Time For a Flood Scale? Dr. Marshall Shepherd has food for thought at Forbes: "...Dr. Amanda Schroeder, informed me that their NSF-sponsored SPREAD working group, conceived by Colorado State’s Dr. Russ Schumacher, recently published a paper proposing a flood severity index. Dr. Schroeder, a hydrometeorologist with the National Weather Service Fort Worth, emailed me and said, "I led an interdisciplinary group of young scientists to develop a flash flood severity scale that goes beyond confusing return periods and mere historical recollections of past flood events. This new scale will be applicable across multiple geographic locations and should provide an easy-to-follow frame of reference for flood ratings and comparisons"...

13 Years After Northeast Blackout, U.S. Power Grid Remains Vulnerable. Here's an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal article: "...A coordinated attack on just nine of the nation’s 55,000 electrical substations could cause a blackout across the country, a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report found in 2014. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Energy Department has spent $4.5 billion over the past few years to modernize the electrical grid. Most of that funding, which was more than matched by private dollars, went to “smart grid” efforts, with a notable focus on energy storage and creating stable power in multiple locations. This is just the beginning of what’s needed for infrastructure nationally if the goal is a decentralized (and, ultimately, renewable) electrical grid that ensures power even under extreme conditions..."

Photo credit: "Cars try to navigate through New York City as the sun sets during a blackout on Aug. 14, 2003." Photo: Associated Press.

Smallpox Could Return as Siberia's Melting Permafrost Exposes Ancient Graves. So don't sweat the thundershowers OK? Here's an excerpt from The Independent: "...Boris Kershengolts, of the Siberian branch of the Academy of Sciences, said: “Back in the 1890s, there occurred a major epidemic of smallpox. There was a town where up to 40 per cent of the population died. “Naturally, the bodies were buried under the upper layer of permafrost soil, on the bank of the Kolyma River. “Now, a little more than 100 years later, Kolyma's floodwaters have started eroding the banks.” The melting of the permafrost has speeded up this erosion process..."

Photo credit: "The tundra in Yakutia normally melts to a depth of 30-60cm, but this year it has reached a meter." Rex Features.

Exxon Mobile Fraud Inquiry Said To Focus More on Future Than Past. Here's an excerpt from a New York Times story: "...But in an extensive interview, Mr. Schneiderman said that his investigation was focused less on the distant past than on relatively recent statements by Exxon Mobil related to climate change and what it means for the company’s future. In other words, the question for Mr. Schneiderman is less what Exxon knew, and more what it predicts. For example, he said, the investigation is scrutinizing a 2014 report by Exxon Mobil stating that global efforts to address climate change would not mean that it had to leave enormous amounts of oil reserves in the ground as so-called “stranded assets...”

File photo: Mike Mozart.

Netherlands on Brink of Banning Gasoline-Powered Cars. A headline at The Independent has a story that made me do a double-take; here's a clip: "...The Dutch government has set a date for parliament to host a roundtable discussion that could see the sale of petrol- and diesel-fuelled cars banned by 2025. If the measures proposed by the Labour Party in March are finally passed, it would join Norway and Denmark in making a concerted move to develop its electric car industry. It comes after Germany saw all of its power supplied by renewable energies such as solar and wind power on one day in May as the economic powerhouse continues to phase out nuclear energy and fossil fuels..."

Photo credit: "An electric Tesla car recharges on the banks of a canal in Amsterdam. The Netherlands saw an all-time high in electric cars in December this year." Rex Features.

Bigger, Better, Cheaper: Wind Power is Flourishing in the U.S. Dave Roberts reports for Vox; here's the intro: "Here’s some good news for your weekend: Wind power is kicking ass in the US. That is the TL;DR version of the annual Wind Technologies Market Report just released by the US Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). With 73,992 MW, the US is now the No. 2 country in the world in installed wind capacity (after China, which has a mind-boggling 145,053 MW). And we are No. 1 in actual wind electricity generated. All that wind only provides about 5.6 percent of US electricity, though, which puts us well behind leaders like Denmark (40 percent), Portugal, Ireland, and Spain (between 20 and 30 percent)..." (File photo: Shutterstock).

New Advice for the Graduate. There's a Green Future in Plastics. Really? Bloomberg reports: "Scientists at Exxon Mobil Corp. and the Georgia Institute of Technology have discovered an alternative to the most energy-hogging part of manufacturing plastics, potentially keeping 45 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the Earth’s atmosphere each year. The breakthrough, set to be published in the Aug. 19 issue of the journal Science, ultimately may help chemical plants shrink their carbon footprint and help the world meet ambitious targets for paring the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change. Although nearly 200 nations agreed last December to rein in carbon dioxide emissions by boosting energy efficiency and shifting to cleaner sources of electricity, experts say it’s also essential to green up industrial manufacturing..."

U.S. CO2 Emissions from Natural Gas Will Top Coal in 2016. Greentech Media reports: "At the beginning of 2016, America’s coal production fell to its lowest level in 30 years. The march away from coal is cheered by those who would like to see the U.S., and the world, move to a lower-carbon economy. But the increasingly heavy reliance on natural gas has exacted a toll. The energy-associated carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas are expected to top the CO2 emissions from coal for the first time more than 40 years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration..."

Beyond Coal: Imagining Appalachia's Future. Another hopeful article about reinvention from The New York Times: "Here in the heart of central Appalachian coal country, an economic experiment is underway inside an airy renovated Coca-Cola bottling plant. Most days, Michael Harrison, a former mine electrician and “buggy man” who once drove trucks 700 feet underground, can be found hunched over a silver laptop, designing websites for clients like the Pikeville tourism board. Mr. Harrison, 36, is one of 10 former mine workers employed at BitSource, an internet start-up founded by two Pikeville businessmen determined to prove a point: that with training and encouragement, Kentucky miners can learn to code..."

Photo credit: "Mountaintop removal in Virginia as seen from Black Mountain in Kentucky. Pikeville, Ky., is among the central Appalachian towns working to diversify their economies as the coal industry fades." Credit George Etheredge for The New York Times.

The Cheapest Places to Travel For Each Month of the Year. Travel + Leisure has some news you can use: "You’ve heard the myths: Tuesday is the best day to book airfare. Wednesday is the best day to fly. January is the cheapest month to travel. All of them are up for debate, to a certain extent. But according to new data from, you can count on getting good hotel values by picking the right destination for the right time of year. If a cheap vacation is what you’re after, plan your trips based on when hotel rates are proven to be low; then use a service like Hopper or Kayak to find the best-priced plane tickets to round out your plans..."

Northeast Ohio is Built Like New England Because It Used To Be Owned by Connecticut. I had no idea, but Atlas Obscura enlightened me: "If you look at a map of Connecticut, paying particular attention to town names, and then do the same to Northeast Ohio, you might get the impression that, at some point, the map was folded over onto itself before Ohio had been filled in, and before the ink of Connecticut’s place names had dried. That’s because in a sense, it was. In America’s early years, what is now Northeast Ohio belonged to Connecticut, and in the late 1700s and early 1800s, Connecticut transplants gave Ohio many of its names, institutions, traditions, and people, into what was then called the Connecticut Western Reserve..." 

Image credit: "Cleveland's Public Square in the 1910s." (Photo: Public domain)
“If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to serve as a horrible warning.” – Catherine Aird

TODAY: Cool and showery with a damp, annoying wind. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 67

SATURDAY NIGHT: Showers taper, clearing late -  brisk! Low: 54

SUNDAY: Partly sunny, the nicer outdoor day of the weekend. Winds: NW 8-13.  High: 73

MONDAY: Plenty of sunshine, gusty and warmer. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 61. High: 82

TUESDAY: Sticky sunshine, feels like summer. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 68. High: 87

WEDNESDAY: Few showers, grumbles of thunder. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 69. High: 79

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy, brisk wind. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 61. High: near 70

FRIDAY: Partly sunny, fresh air. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 56. High: 75

Climate Stories...

Historical Data Shows Arctic Melt of Last Two Decades is "Unprecedented". Here's an excerpt from InsideClimate News: "...Now, scientists have compiled the most detailed study to date of sea ice records going back more than a century and a half. The data shows that the rapid meltdown that satellites have been documenting since 1979 is unprecedented since at least 1850 and coincides with the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. Arctic sea ice has not been at levels as low as today's for at least 5,000 to 7,000 years, according to Julienne Stroeve, a researcher with the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), who was not involved in the study. "It may have been sometime during the mid-Holocene, based on driftwood found in Greenland that came from Siberia," she said. "Some other studies have suggested at least 800,000 years..."

Image credit: "A gridded database of Arctic sea ice extending back to the 1800s."

Arctic Faces "Boom" in Shipping As Ice Melts. Here's an excerpt from Climate Home: "...While a smattering of yachts and smaller passenger ships have plied these Arctic waters over the years, never before has such a large ship set sail on such an ambitious, and risky, voyage through the Northwest Passage. The Serenity’s hull is not strengthened against sea ice, and a conventional icebreaker won’t escort her; instead, she’ll be accompanied by the RRS Shackleton, a British logistics vessel typically used to support Antarctic researchers. Perhaps that’s why each passenger is required to carry $50,000 in evacuation insurance in addition to the $20,000 to $120,000 they paid for their ticket. However unprecedented, the Serenity’s voyage is a sign of things to come. This may be the beginning of a boom in Arctic vessel activity..."

Enlist the Market in the Climate-Change Fight. Here's the intro to an Op-Ed at The Wall Street Journal: "Even before the devastating flooding began in Louisiana last week, and we learned that July 2016 shattered all global temperature records, mounting data had demonstrated the growing risks climate change poses to the global economy. Whether you are an investor assessing the $2 trillion in bonds that Moody’s found carry elevated near-term climate risk, one of the nearly two million U.S. homeowners facing significant risk from climate-related flooding, or a U.S. taxpayer staring at $360 billion in direct government costs from extreme weather over the past decade—these threats are looming, large and increasing. This year’s World Economic Forum Global Risks Report declared the “failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation” the “risk with the greatest potential impact in 2016...”

Climate Change Will Redraw Louisiana's Flood Risk Maps. Here's an excerpt from Newsweek: "...And FEMA is going with another, more direct way of managing the increasing risks of climate change: encouraging more severe weather-resistant infrastructure. Some of the funds FEMA provides for a disaster go towards rebuilding cities and houses to stricter code and in areas that aren’t quite so risky—say, at higher elevations or further away from the ocean. “Instead of constantly rebuilding for the next disaster, it’s much smarter to use federal dollars to build safer and build back,” says Lemaitre. As climate change risks climb and insurance costs rise to reflect reality, the shoreline of Louisiana will change, too: fewer buildings on the coast, and a lot more houses on stilts."

Photo credit: "A submerged vehicle is seen in Ascension Parish, Louisiana." Jonathan Bachman/Reuters.

Space, Climate Change, and the Real Meaning of Theory. Here's an excerpt of an excellent essay from Piers Sellers at The New Yorker: "...Climate-change deniers in the United States have done a first-class job in spreading confusion and misinformation. As a result, many prominent politicians insist, and get away with insisting, that climate change is a hoax, a mantra that has gained some credibility through sheer repetition. Climate deniers are also fond of saying that global warming is not resolved in science or is “just” a theory. This is a perfect example of Orwellian Newspeak which also flies in the face of three hundred years of scientific progress, in which intellectual argument and conviction must be based on facts and substantiated theories, rather than personal beliefs or biases. It is also dangerous. If nothing is done to reduce carbon emissions over the next couple of decades, our climate models predict that there will be massive changes in the global precipitation and temperature patterns, with huge effects on water and food security, and dramatic sea-level rise..." (Image credit: NASA).

Don't Call the California Wildfires "Natural Disasters". Here's an excerpt from an article at TIME: "...Nine out of 10 wildfires are the direct result of human activity, a long list that includes poorly attended camp fires, discarded cigarette butts and equipment use. More than 2.4 million acres burn each year as a result of human-caused fires, according to a National Interagency Fire Center report. Human-caused global warming has also contributed to more frequent and severe wildfires, scientists say. Warm weather and a lack of water kills trees, creating kindling for fires, and heat increases the length of the wildfire season. And, because temperatures tend to be hotter and drier than in previous generations, firefighters often struggle to put out blazes. The length of fire season increased by 19% between 1979 and 2013, according to recent research, as temperatures have spiked due to climate change..."

In a Warming World, Deluges Like Louisiana's Expected to Increase. InsideClimate News has the story: "...The devastating rainstorm that unleashed terrifying flooding last weekend in Louisiana, with thousands of people escaping their homes and whole parishes being overtaken by water, comes in recent succession to similarly extreme and deadly storms across the country—in Texas, Maryland, West Virginia and South Carolina. These intense storms have become seemingly commonplace, raising questions about climate change's role. Of the two factors that made Louisiana's storm so devastating, one (increased moisture in the air) wears the fingerprints of man-made climate change from mostly fossil-fuel burning, while the other (how slowly the storm was moving) is not so easily explained..."

Image credit: "Flooding devastated area in Port Vincent, Louisiana along the Amite River southeast of Baton Rouge." Credit: NOAA Remote Sensing Division.

Climate Change Is Going To Bring More Floods Like Louisiana. We're Not Ready. Here's a clip from an analysis at Vox: "...Though smaller than the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, this latest flood reminds us of what a changing climate has in store for us: Places that have flooded before will flood again, and places that haven’t in the past will do so for the first time. These disasters are the new normal — several other states are currently recovering from disasters of their own. What has become painfully clear is that the “emergency management system” in the United States does not have the capacity to address all the needs. The systems we have in place to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from these events do not have the ability to deal with so many disasters at once. We can do better..."

File photo: AP.

When Climate Change Becomes The New Terrorism. A new level of climate volatility and weather disruption is already resulting in far more displacement, cost and heartache than conventional terrorism. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed that struck a chord at "...I guess the only way Americans will take global warming seriously is if and when we consider this the new form of terrorism. And the truth is, what could be more terrifying than going to bed one night and waking up with the floodwaters pounding on the front door, or trying to survive a 110-degree heat index day when you're old and sick in a North Philly walk-up that's not air conditioned? Americans have become so conditioned to the threat of  a 9/11-style attack that JFK Airport was evacuated the other night when someone panicked over loud cheering for Usain Bolt and thought it was gunshots. Maybe it's time for the public to fear things that are actually happening."

Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Bachman. "A casket is seen floating in flood waters in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, on Aug. 15, 2016."

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