Saturday, August 20, 2016

Kinder and Gentler Today; The 1-in-1,000 Year Rainfall That Drove the Louisiana Flood

68 F. high in the Twin Cities Saturday.
80 F. average high on August 20.
74 F. high on August 20, 2015.

.38" rain fell at MSP International Airport yesterday.

5.12" rain so far in August.

August 21, 1918: Minnesota's third deadliest tornado strikes Tyler and destroys the downtown area, leaving 36 dead.
August 21, 1886: High winds hit Northfield with winds blowing at 60 mph for 20 minutes. Peak gusts up to 75-80 mph are recorded.
August 21, 1883: The 4th deadliest tornado in Minnesota history hits Rochester. The tornado kills 31 residents and injures 100 more. Appalled by the lack of medical care received by the tornado's victims, Mother Alfred Moes, founder of the Sisters of St. Francis, proposes to build and staff a hospital if Dr. W.W. Mayo will provide medical care. St. Marys Hospital opens in 1889 with 27 beds and eventually grows into the Mayo Clinic.

A Touch of October Today, But 80s Return Monday

Nobody will be complaining about the heat index today. Sunscreen is optional. Your favorite lake is warmer than the air temperature. And a flurry of light jackets this morning give way to shorts by afternoon.

The sun is as high in the sky as it was on April 21. Longer nights are brewing up progressively colder airmasses over Canada. One such cheap shot of chilly air spun up Saturday's comma-shaped swirl of rain over Minnesota, with temperatures stunted in the 60s. Perfectly average for early October.

Note to self: summers are expanding, with a longer growing season. Two more months of boating; 70s well into October. It would be premature to write an obituary for the Summer of '16.

Sunshine returns today; 40s and 50s early giving way to low 70s by late afternoon. Expect 80s Monday and Tuesday with midweek showers giving way to another push of cooler air by late week. No cold fronts, no torrential rains and storms with names. NOAA's GFS model is hinting at a hurricane near New England by early September.

I'm skeptical - but remind me not to complain about a few cool fronts.

A Volatile Atmosphere. I saved a loop of the visible satellite animation Saturday evening, showing the showers and T-storms that sprouted in response to severe instability.  The result: a mix of sunshine and tropical downpours with temperatures in the 60s. The definition of a fickle sky.

Warming Trend into Tuesday. No more stinking hot weather is brewing, looking out 2 weeks or so. Cool fronts will become more frequent and formidable as we sail into September. Nothing controversial about that. With any luck it'll dry out a little to help with fall harvest. MSP Meteogram: WeatherBell.

110,000 Homes Worth a Combined $21 Billion Are In Louisiana's Flood-Affected Zones, Study Says. The Washington Post reports: "The first attempt to assess the scope of damage from the past week’s historic flooding in Louisiana has produced staggering numbers. Approximately 280,000 people live in the areas that flooded, according to an analysis released Friday by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. In those flood-affected areas are 110,000 homes worth a combined $20.7 billion and more than 7,000 businesses — about one in every five businesses in the region — that together employ more than 73,000 people. The figures underscore two of the biggest challenges that families as well as local, state and federal officials face as they work to recover from the unprecedented flooding: How to house those left suddenly homeless, and how to pay for the recovery..."

Photo credit: "In this Aug. 15, 2016, U.S. Coast Guard handout photo, flooded areas of Baton Rouge are seen from the air."

"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...."

Scientists Explore Future of Storm Prediction. The University of Oklahoma has an interesting look at how social media and drones are impacting tornado detection, prediction and communications; here's an excerpt at "The panel trumpeted the impact of social media and pointed to a potential shift in the way people stay ahead of the storm. The Weather Channel’s Mike Bettes said people still flock to their TVs for up-to-date storm information but said more people are looking to social media outlets for vital updates. “If you look at something like Twitter now, you can do live video,” Bettes said. “Facebook is a way for families to reconnect after [the storm]. I think it’s just evolving now. I think this is probably bad to say, because I’m a TV broadcaster, but I think TV is becoming a bit of a dinosaur...”

Photo credit: Nick Rutledge for The Transcript.

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…”

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..."

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 sun, a much better day. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 73

SUNDAY NIGHT: Clear and comfortable. Low: 59

MONDAY: Partly sunny with a warm wind. Winds: S 15-30. High: 84

TUESDAY: Sticky sun, feels like summer again. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 68. High: 89

WEDNESDAY: Showers and T-storms likely. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 67. High: 81

THURSDAY: Intervals of sun, cooler breeze. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 60. High: 76

FRIDAY: Plenty of lukewarm sunshine. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 58. High: 77

SATURDAY: Chance of showers, few T-storms. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 60. High: 76

Climate Stories...

The 1-in-1,000 Rainfall That Drove the Louisiana Flood. Hunter Cutting takes a look at attribution at Nexus Media: "...The record levels of water vapor that fueled the Louisiana flood are consistent with the global trend toward increasing water vapor in the atmosphere — a trend driven by global warming. Basic physics tells that a warmer atmosphere can hold more water. And, indeed, that is exactly what global observations report. The atmosphere acts like a sponge, holding water vapor, and as it warms it holds more moisture. And like a sponge, the atmosphere dumps out more water when passing storms wring out that extra moisture. Not surprisingly, observations have also reported a global trend toward extreme rainfall as the atmosphere dumps more water when it rains..."

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).

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