Wednesday, August 10, 2016

More June than August - Flooding Rains Continue

91 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities Wednesday.
82 F. average high on August 10.
82 F. high on August 10,  2015.

August 11, 1945: Nearly 8 inches of rain fall from a downpour over Red Wing.
August 11, 1899: A lightning bolt from 'clear skies' destroys a storefront in Fisher, Polk County. It is possible for lightning bolts to extend outward from nearby storms, striking locations that appear safe under blue skies.

Ripe for Tropical T-Storms and Flash Flooding

Only heat claims more U.S. lives than flooding. River floods are long-fuse events with days of warning. But flash floods can come on in minutes, in a meteorological blink of an eye.

In spite of impressive technology we still can't predict, hours in advance, which communities will be impacted by flash floods. Like tornadoes we can tell when the atmosphere is ripe; NOAA issues flood watches - but where T-storms will ultimately stall or redevelop is hard to pin down in advance.
With near-record amounts of moisture overhead for mid-August conditions are favorable for flooding storms into tonight.

Reminder: never drive across a flooded road; only 2 feet of rapidly-moving water can turn your vehicle into a boat, with tragic consequences.

Oppressive dew points and tropical thunder today give way to a drying northwest breeze Friday, setting the stage for a relatively comfortable weekend with blue sky and afternoon highs near 80F. We warm up again next week, although not quite as hot, sweaty or thundery as this latest outbreak of high-octane summer.

Drought potential? I don't think so.

File photo: Brad Birkholz.

Overnight rainfall and flooding reports are here, courtesy of NOAA.

Flash Flood Watch. NOAA has extended the watch into the morning hours, but a risk of flash flooding may linger into the evening as a few more waves of storms push out of the Dakotas - we don't really dry out until tonight.

Explosive. Check out the 1km visible satellite loop Wednesday evening, showing clusters of strong to severe T-storms flaring up along a warm frontal boundary draped across central Minnesota. Loop: WeatherTap.

Comfortable Front for the Weekend. Heavy showers and T-storms linger today, but winds shift to the north tonight, and drier, more stable, Canadian air will filter southward. By the weekend temperatures may hold in the 70s to near 80F in the metro. ECMWF guidance shows another warm-up next week; not as hot & nasty as this week was though. Graphic: WeatherBell.

Chicago Sees First Tornado in 10 years After Landspout Develops Near Midway Airport. Details via NBC Chicago: "Chicago saw its first tornado in nearly 10 years after a landspout developed near Midway Airport Tuesday, the National Weather Service reported. The landspout tornado was seen touching down just before 4 p.m. near the intersection of Ogden and Cicero avenues, but no significant damage or injuries were reported. It lasted for about 10 minutes, marking the first tornado within city limits since an F-0 hit the campus of Loyola University in September 2006..."

Photo credit: "William Benford, the senior weather observer at Midway Airport, captured a photo of a landspout developing in the area Tuesday."

The Start-Up That Watches Corn Grow, From Orbit. Here's a clip from a story at The Atlantic: "...The government is not the only entity to predict output in this way—insurers and financial intelligence firms do it too—but, this week, farmers in search of forecasts will have a new place to turn. Starting Wednesday, a company called Descartes Labs will release weekly summaries of how the maize crop is faring in the United States. The estimates, based primarily on algorithmic analysis of satellite data, will estimate corn yields at the national, state, and county level. They’ll be available for free through Descartes Labs’s website and app..."

Map credit: "The health of corn fields by county in 2016, according to Descartes Labs."

Solar Storm Almost Triggered Nuclear War in 1967 Between U.S. and Soviet Union. Here's an excerpt from International Business Times: "Almost half a century ago, a powerful solar storm disrupted radar and radio communications at the height of the Cold War. Had experts not monitored the sun’s activity at the time, the United States could have ended up with a disastrous military conflict, leading to a nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, a new study revealed. The U.S. Air Force was preparing for war on May 23, 1967, thinking that the Soviet Union was behind the jamming of its surveillance radars in polar regions. However, military space weather forecasters intervened and informed officials that it was a powerful solar storm that had interrupted the radar and radio communications, researches said in the study, published in the journal Space Weather on Tuesday..." (Image: NASA).

No, Really. Pokeman Go is the Future of Weather Forecasts. Is augmented reality a fad - or trend? Here's an excerpt from Capital Weather Gang: "...Weather and augmented reality. Hmm. Could the same technology that brought these strangers together on a tragic night also prevent people from being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Could Pokémon Go be the future of weather forecasts? Imagine for a moment that, instead of finding Roselia or Eevee as you roam your neighborhood, you “see“ the weather of the future. What if, rather than using mobile phones to seek Pokémon in Ellicott City several nights ago, the scene showed what Main Street would look like in 30 minutes — would people still choose to be there?..."

Image credit: "A group of diners watched helplessly from a restaurant window as cars were swept away by flood waters in the historic downtown of Ellicott City, Md., on July 30. One of the customers in the group said they "just came to play Pokemon and have dinner." (YouTube/Branden Cromwell).

We're Trashing the Oceans, And They're Returing the Favor By Making Us Sick. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "...In a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers find that Vibrio bacteria, tiny marine organisms capable of causing deadly infections in both human and also fish, are becoming more prevalent in North Atlantic coastal regions as ocean waters warm. (We’re causing that overall trend of warming, of course, by driving climate change, though there are also natural oscillations at work here.) Indeed, human infections caused by these critters are also on the rise. The research finds these are growing at an “unprecedented rate” along the U.S. Atlantic coast and also the coasts of Northern Europe..."

Photo credit: "Florida's waters are choking from algae, and the source of the growth is believed to be from polluted Lake Okeechobee. Residents say it smells like "a hundred dead animals" and some have complained of health problems." (Reuters).

Making a Mass Anti-Extinction Movement. Pacific Standard takes a look at the scientists who are not "going quietly into that night"; here's an excerpt: "...With the preceding list as preamble, 43 scientists — mostly ecologists and biologists — took to the pages of the journal BioScience in late July with an audacious appeal: “We must not go quietly into this impoverished future.” The group, led by Oregon State University professor William Ripple, penned a manifesto of sorts to protest the imminent extinction of large carnivores and herbivores the world over. Venturing beyond the staid terms of scientific discourse, they are calling for persistent political action to combat the extinction crisis. “Under a business-as-usual scenario,” the authors write, “conservation scientists will soon be busy writing obituaries for species and subspecies … as they vanish from the planet...”

Exxon Climate Fight With "Green" States Heats Up in Court. Bloomberg has the latest: "Exxon Mobil Corp.’s battle with New York and Massachusetts over their probes into the company’s use of climate change data is heating up, and a key element of the national dispute is now in the hands of a Texas judge. The states are investigating whether Exxon for years misled investors by hiding how climate change may affect its business. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued a subpoena in April, and Irving, Texas-based Exxon sued Healey on the company’s home turf to block it. New York and Massachusetts, backed by a dozen other states, on Tuesday urged U.S. District Judge Judge Ed Kinkeade in Fort Worth, Texas, to throw out Exxon’s suit on the grounds that the company is using the federal court system to trample the rights of states to investigate corporate wrongdoing..." (File image: Mike Mozart).

Can a North Dakota Oil Town Break The Boom-Bust Cycle? The Atlantic asks the question: "...Ideally, Williston would have diversified its economy, but ultimately it is an oil town and many here expect it always will be. The city’s narrative, then, often boils down to an unstable oscillation between Wild-West opportunity and ghost-town depression. Does it have to be that way? Can a boom-bust economy be molded into something that resembles long-term, sustainable growth? "Albeit exciting what happened the last five years, you don’t build a city off that sort of trajectory, because it’s not sustainable," Shawn Wenko, Williston's director of economic development, said. “It’s ok to take a breather every now and then...”

Image credit: "A pipeline network outside of Williston, North Dakota." Shannon Stapletone / Reuters.

This Is Where The First U.S. Offshore Wind Turbines Were Just Installed. Fortune has the story: "The first wind turbines to be installed off the coasts of the United States were constructed over the past few days about three miles offshore of Block Island, Rhode Island. While wind farms have been built all over the U.S. on land, the market for building wind farms in U.S. waters has stalled thanks to legal threats, lack of regulatory support, and push back from coastal property owners. At the same time, the “offshore wind” industry has boomed throughout Europe..."

Photo credit: "The first offshore wind turbine in the U.S., off the coast of Rhode Island." Photo courtesy of Deepwater Wind

NASA Has Some Wild Ideas For The Future of Flying. Grist explains: "NASA recently announced that it will start studying a bunch of cutting-edge aviation ideas — four of which could make commercial air travel much cleaner than it is today. The announcement comes after the EPA said that it’s going to crack down on airplanes’ greenhouse gas pollution. Think of NASA’s schemes as a window into what a cleaner future will look like.
  • First up, fuel cells. They’ve been used in spaceflight programs since the 1960s, but they’re still too complicated to work elsewhere. NASA wants to develop more efficient fuel cells and use them to replace the standard piston engines found in most aircraft..."
Image credit: NASA.

Pressure Mounts to Reform Our Throw-Away Clothing Culture. Are you prepared to recycle your clothes? Here's an excerpt from Yale Environment 360: "...Recycling has become a rallying cry in the apparel industry, with H&M as its most vocal evangelist. The Swedish firm launched a 1-million euro contest to seek out ideas for turning old clothes into new, invested in Worn Again, a company that is developing textile recycling technology, and enlisted hip-hop artist M.I.A. to produce a music video called Rewear It that aims to “highlight the importance of garment collecting and recycling.” With Nike, H&M is a global partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, whose mission is to drive a transition to a circular economy — that is, an industrial system in which everything at the end of its life is made into something new, in contrast to today’s economy, where most consumer goods are produced, used, and then thrown away..."

Illustration credit: by Luisa Rivera for Yale E360

Baby Boomers Are Taking On Ageism - And Losing. It would appear we don't enjoy taking orders from millenials, according to a story at The Washington Post: "...That disagreement goes to the heart of the awkwardness that baby boomers are now feeling as they enter the last years of their working lives. Often needing to stay in jobs longer than they anticipated to shore up savings depleted during the Great Recession, or simply wanting to remain active further into their lengthening life spans, they’re coming up against a strong preference in America for youthful “energy” and “innovation.”  That bias is so common we frequently don’t recognize it..."

The Original Assasins Were a Feared Cult That Ordered Hits All Over the Middle East. Who know? Atlas Obscura has details: "...It is generally believed that the group used highly trained followers to get close to targets and either threaten them or dispose of them. These agents, like modern sleeper cells, would often lie in wait for years, working their way into positions of influence and responsibility before waiting for the command to strike. One of the most notable of the killings attributed to them was that of Sabah’s nemesis, the vizier Nizam al-Mulk, who was stabbed on the road to Baghdad by an assailant posing as a wandering holy man, or dervish. So well-known and feared were the group that today's word “assassin” entered the English language directly as a result of their actions..."

Photo credit: "Approaching the internal castle keep – the inner stronghold where Hassan Sabah ruled."

TODAY: T-storms, some heavy; flash flood risk lingers. Winds: S 8-13. High: 86

THURSDAY NIGHT: T-storms taper, clearing late. Low: 70

FRIDAY: Partly sunny, drier, less humid. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 84

SATURDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, pleasant. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 63. High: near 80

SUNDAY: More sunshine, less wind. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 61. High: 81

MONDAY: Fading sun, warming up a bit. Winds: SE 7-12. Wake-up: 64. High: 84

TUESDAY: Humid again, passing T-storm possible. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 67. High: 85

WEDNESDAY: Sticky, a few pop-up T-storms. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 68. High: 87

Climate Stories...

Ancient Ice Reveals Vital Clues About Earth's Past Climate. Here's an excerpt from Associated Press: "...Smooth and milky white, the 4- to 5-inch-diameter pieces - called ice cores - provide scientists with a wealth of historical information, from air temperature to greenhouse gases to evidence of cosmic events. The record reaches as far back as 800,000 years. The ice is the remnant of centuries of snowfall, compressed by the weight of successive years of accumulation. "You can drill into it, and it's much like looking at tree rings," Fudge said. "It's just year after year after year of climate information that's preserved out in the ice sheet..."

Photo credit: "In this Aug. 8, 2016 photo, Geoffrey Hargreaves, curator of the National Ice Core Laboratory, carries an arctic ice core inside the minus-33 degree Fahrenheit environment of the lab's archive warehouse, in Lakewood, Colo. Using a wide range of data, from ice cores to trace gas analysis and other methods, scientists are attempting to measure the past and present so they can better model the near and distant future of our planet." (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley).

Climate Change 2016: Make America Hot Again. How much of the warming is natural vs. climate change? Here's a snippet from Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences: "...This report recognizes that for certain events, scientists can estimate the impact of human-caused climate change. This is based on three things: 1) how well we can simulate these events using climate models, 2) the observational record we have for these types of events, and 3) our physical understanding of how climate change will affect extremes. In the report, each type of extreme event was assessed for the three categories to calculate an overall level of confidence. Extreme heat and drought rank on the higher end, in terms of confidence in attributing these types of events to climate change (Figure 2). This is in contrast to things like severe thunderstorms and hurricanes, which are difficult to attribute to climate change because they are hard to simulate and tend to be more rare..."

Graphic credit: "A chart comparing how well we can attribute different types of extreme events to climate change." [Source:]

Seas Aren't Just Rising, Scientists Say - It's Worse Than That. They're Speeding Up. Chris Mooney has the story at The Washington Post: "...The study was performed using a suite of 40 climate change models to determine how the Pinatubo eruption affected seas and the global distribution of water. The scientists estimate as a result that sea level not only fell between 5 and 7 millimeters due to a major ocean cooling event in the eruption’s wake, but then experienced a rebound, or bounce back, of the same magnitude once the influence of the eruption had passed. This had a major effect on what the satellite record of sea level looks like, because the bounce-back occurred earlier in the record and made the sea level rise then appear extra fast. So the researchers conclude that while no official acceleration trend can be seen in the satellite record now, that’s an artificial consequence of Pinatubo and should be gone over time — barring another Pinatubo-like event..."

Enjoy It While You Can: Climate Change is Already Hitting the Olympics Hard. Here's an excerpt from Grist: "...But this Olympics might be the best it gets. According to a report from Brazil’s Climate Observatory, as climate records keep falling, outdoor sports records could become much harder to break. Already, marathon times are 2 minutes slower on average for every 10 degree Fahrenheit that temperature rises. In Rio, the problems are even more pronounced, because poor air quality from vehicle congestion makes high-performance outdoor sports difficult — even deadly. Each year, thousands of Rio’s citizens die from complications of air pollution, which is tied to lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and asthma..."

Photo credit: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard.

2015 State of the Climate: Mountain Glaciers See Second Highest Ice Loss on Record. has more details: "...At the time of this year’s State of the Climate publication, only 27 of the 41 reference glaciers had reported data, but the preliminary numbers indicate that the 2015 loss will join 2003 as one of the two highest losses in the 36-year record. In 2015, reference glaciers lost an amount of ice equivalent to a depth of 1,162 millimeters of water (3.8 feet) spread out across the surface of the glaciers. In 2003, reference glaciers lost an average of 1,268 millimeters of water (just over 4 feet), the greatest loss in a single year. The 2015 State of the Climate report called the ongoing retreat “without precedent on a global scale,” for the observed period. Cumulative mass loss since 1980 is 18.8 meters, “the equivalent of cutting a 20.5 meter [67-foot] thick slice off the top of the average glacier...”

Graphic credit: "In 2015, glaciers across the globe, on average, continued to shrink for the 36th consecutive year. Cumulative mass loss since 1980 is 18.8 meters, the equivalent of cutting a 20.5 meter [67-foot] thick slice of the top of the average glacier."


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