Monday, June 12, 2017

Rough T-storms Into Midweek - Potential Grows for Late June Heat Spell

.20" rain fell yesterday at Twin Cities International Airport.

83 F. maximum temperature in the Twin Cities Monday.
78 F. average high on June 12.
78 F. high on June 12, 2016.

June 13, 1991: One fatality and 5 injuries occur when lightning strikes a tree at Hazeltine Golf Course during the US Open.
June 13, 1930: A tornado hits the Northfield area, and causes heavy damage at Randolph.

Typical for June: Hot, Sticky and Thundery

"If hugs were lightning I'd send you the thunderstorm" wrote Natessha Arne Tallo. We have the illusion of control, but when it comes to weather all we can do is shrug. Which is vaguely reassuring.
This year roughly 100,000 thunderstorms will sprout above the USA, unloading hail, precious rains and flooding rains, and about 20 million cloud to ground lightning strikes.

Worldwide lightning strikes the Earth about 30 times per second. If anyone asks (doubtful) your lifetime odds of being killed by lightning are 1 in 30,000. The odds of perishing due to extreme cold? 1 in 6,155. So you're about 13 times more likely to be killed by a cold front than lightning.

A surge of hot, humidified air sparks more T-storms today; if the sun stays out for a few hours this afternoon and Tuesday the mercury will brush 90F.

Cooler 70s return by the weekend; Saturday looks salvageable but models pull more showers and T-storms into Minnesota Sunday. Good news for northern Minnesota, where pockets of moderate drought linger.

We may end June on another hot, steamy note, based on latest guidance. Bring it.

File photo: Brad Birkholz.

Nagging Severe Risk. The best chance of large hail and damaging winds comes over western Minnesota,  roughly west of St. Cloud and Brainerd later today; but more severe weather could easily drift into the Twin Cities metro. By Sunday a wind shift to the west pumps drier air into Minnesota and the severe risk migrates into Wisconsin.

Enhanced Severe Risk. The area to watch later today is central and western Minnesota into the eastern Dakotas and northeast Nebraska (including Omaha) where atmospheric dynamics are ripe for squall lines capable of 2"+ hail and even a few tornadoes. Tornado watches and warnings will be issued later today from Lincoln to Fargo - stay alert. Source: NOAA SPC.

Flash Flood Potential Today. NOAA WPC has much of central Minnesota, northwest Wisconsin and western Montana in a slight risk of excessive rainfall amounts capable of sparking flash flooding.

Looking for Free A/C? Head to Yellowstone. NOAA's NAM model actually prints out slushy snow from near Boise to Yellowstone National Park over the next 48 hours. Much of the snow will melt on contact but a couple inches can't be ruled out over the highest terrain. A week before the summer solstice. Good grief. meanwhile the Heat Index tops 100 over much of the central USA and Midwest. Severe storms flare up across the northern Plains, while late-day instability pop-up showers and T-showers sprout from the Gulf Coast and Ohio Valley to New England. Another Pacific storm gives Seattle and Portland a big wet kiss Wednesday into Thursday with more moderate to heavy rain. Future radar:

Brief Break from the Muggies. After peaking near 90F today and Wednesday (assuming at least a couple hours of sunshine) we cool down by the weekend. ECMWF guidance hints at 60s for highs Sunday, which seems a little extreme, but at this point nothing would shock me. Twin Cities data: WeatherBell.

Southern Half of USA Simmers. Maybe marinate is a better description, with a predicted heat index as high as 105 Saturday from Texas into the Mid South and Ohio Valley. The northern tier states will be more comfortable as spurts of Canadian air continue to leak south. Saturday Heat Index: NOAA.

Remember Your Pets Feel the Heat Too. Here's an excerpt from The U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit that caught my eye: "...Additionally, some of the same characteristics that make some humans more vulnerable than others are also in play with other animals, such as older or very young pets and pets with existing health conditions. Watch for warning signs, such as heavy panting or glazed eyes, because animals cannot tell you when they are too hot. Another risk to pets and service animals is the potential for burns to their paws and pads as paved surfaces may become excessively hot during a heat wave. Both the Best Friends Animal Society and the Humane Society provide excellent reference materials for understanding the risk of heat and warning signs for pets, as well as tips for mitigating heat risk, for instance, by making peanut butter popsicles or "keep cool" mats..."

Photo credit: "Pet owners should take special precautions to safeguard the health of their pets during extreme heat."

Hot Omega Block. The pattern over the last few months has been characterized by blocking patterns, where weather temporarily stalls. Such a holding pattern is brewing for late June with cool low pressure keeping New England and the Pacific Northwest showery (and cooler than average) while much of the rest of the USA enjoys a run of 90s, maybe hotter than that for the central and southern Plains.

Pockets of Drought. Moderate to severe drought lingers from the Dakotas into far northern Minnesota, as well as much of Florida and southern Georgia, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.

Link Between Warming and Severe Hail/Winds? How will warming impact us? More flooding events. Flooding in places that rarely see flooding - more "drainage floods" as opposed to rivers overflowing their banks. Check your homeowners policy - damage from flooding probably isn't included. I see no strong scientific evidence the warming well underway is sparking more tornadoes or hail, at least not yet. Higher dew points in summer; we're seeing a longer growing season and erratic winter snows, but data linking high winds/big hail with a warmer, wetter atmosphere is inconclusive at this time. Sunday's squall line probably fit the definition of a rare "derecho", with wind damage along a 250-mile swath or longer.

Bow Echo. Whenever you see a line of thunderstorms "bowing out", the configuration roughly resembling a horseshoe, it's a good indicator that severe straight-line winds are a part of this storm complex. Such was the case Sunday morning, with wind gusts to 70 mph and 2-3" diameter hail. Some communities were hit harder than others (which is always the case) - a reminder that June has a reputation for the most severe weather of any month.

Derecho Climatology, Part 1. Here is a map of some of America's most  severe derechos. They are most likely to develop over the Plains and Midwest, but especially extreme derechos can survive the trip to the east coast of the USA. These systems thrive on severe instability and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, both in short supply from the Rockies to the west coast, where you may stand a better chance of spotting Elvis than a full-blown derecho.

Derecho Climatology, Part 2. On average central Minnesota experiences roughly 1 derecho every year. That's the story fro Dallas and Oklahoma City to St. Louis, Chicago, Louisville and Detroit. The climatological bulls-eye for derecho formation is roughly Tulsa to Bentonville to Joplin, based on SPC data.

How To Keep Tabs on Atlantic Hurricanes. The Economist reports on a new constellation of low-orbiting satellites which may provide the raw data necessary to do a better job accurately predicting hurricane intensity (much harder to do than predict track). Here's an excerpt: "...Advances in automated sensors, both those that fly and those that swim, are making it possible to gather more data from both of these places. This season, for example, will be the first in which a constellation of microsatellites called CYGNSS (Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System) watches storms as they roll in towards the east coast. The eight-satellite swarm, which was launched in December, listens for radio signals that come from GPS satellites directly above it in space, and for the same signals when they have been reflected from the ocean’s surface beneath the hurricane being studied. Differences between the reflected signal and the original are a consequence of the state of that surface, and CYGNSS can use them to infer wind conditions there..."

Hurricane Joaquin file image: NOAA.

The Real Story Behind Elon Musk's $2.6 Billion Aquisition of Solar City, and What It Means for Tesla's Future - Not To Mention the Planet's. The longest headline on record? But more interesting background on what motivates Elon Musk, courtesy of Fast Company: "...These roof tiles are the latest component of Musk’s larger plan to wean us off fossil fuels. Inside the garage of each of these homes, he points out, is a Tesla vehicle and next-generation Powerwall, the sleek rechargeable battery Tesla developed in 2015 to store energy for household use. During the day, the solar shingles can generate electricity and recharge the Powerwall. After the sun goes down, the battery takes over, providing power independent of the traditional utility grid. “This is the integrated future. You’ve got an electric car, a Powerwall, and a Solar Roof. It’s pretty straightforward, really,” he says with a big shrug and a smile. “[This] can solve the whole energy equation.” Musk’s announcement is about saving the planet. But it’s also about saving SolarCity, the company his cousins, Peter and Lyndon Rive—who are in the audience—launched with Musk’s support in 2006 to bring solar power to the masses..."

Cyber Experts Identify Malware That Could Disrupt U.S. Power Grid. Another argument for clean, renewable, resilient options that keep keep the lights on, even if the grid goes down. Here's an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal: "Computer-security researchers said Sunday they have discovered the malicious software that knocked out electricity in Ukraine’s capital last year, and warned U.S. companies that the code could be repurposed to disrupt systems in the U.S. The discovery sheds light on an incident that security experts have been watching closely, hoping to understand the risk to the U.S. electrical grid. It follows a 2014 cyber-campaign against the U.S. in which networks at 17 energy companies, including four electric utilities, were compromised..."

Photo credit: "The Kentucky Utilities Co. E.W. Brown generating station in Harrodsburg. U.S. researchers have been studying malicious software to understand the risk it could pose to the U.S. electrical grid." Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News.

"Crash Override": The Malware That Took Down a Power Grid. More perspective on the threat from "...The researchers say this new malware can automate mass power outages, like the one in Ukraine’s capital, and includes swappable, plug-in components that could allow it to be adapted to different electric utilities, easily reused, or even launched simultaneously across multiple targets. They argue that those features suggest Crash Override could inflict outages far more widespread and longer lasting than the Kiev blackout. “The potential impact here is huge,” says ESET security researcher Robert Lipovsky. “If this is not a wakeup call, I don’t know what could be.” The adaptability of the malware means that the tool poses a threat not just to the critical infrastructure of Ukraine, researchers say, but to other power grids around the world, including America's..."

U.S. grid map: FEMA.

Concussion Expert Says Extent of Brain Damage in Youth Football Players "Took My Breath Away". Here's a clip from ThinkProgress: "...While the impact of football on younger brains hasn’t been studied as comprehensively, scientists at the Mayo Clinic Brain Bank last year discovered evidence of CTE in 21 out of 66 brains they studied that belonged to males who played contact sports when they were young. Perhaps most alarmingly, they studied 198 brains in the bank that had zero documented history of participating in contact sports, and none of those brains showed signs of CTE. So while the research is still in the early stages, the connection between contact sports in youth and CTE later in life is pretty clear..."

85% of Americans Use Mobile Devices to Access News. Nieman Journalism Lab has details: "Most people in the U.S. — 85 percent of U.S. adults — have used a mobile device to access news at some point, up from around just 50 percent in 2013. But put aside any assumptions about which groups of people are responsible for the big increases. More than two thirds (67 percent) of Americans aged 65 and older get news on a mobile device (in 2016, that number was 43 percent; in 2013, it was 22 percent). Mobile news consumption among 50- to 64-year-olds also increased sharply over the past four years..."

Bear Breaks Into House, Plays the Piano but Not Very Well. I give him credit for trying. Here's an excerpt of a funny tale at The Washington Post: "Katie Hawley was not home when the black bear toured her house in Vail, Colo., but it had no problem getting in. She had accidentally left the kitchen window unlocked, and the bear slid it right open, as if it were familiar with the model. In the living room, as security camera footage would later reveal, the bear took in the views, loped around the coffee table and briefly stood on its hind legs to play the piano. The animal was less adept with that human-designed apparatus: The music was not very good. This was no Bear-thooven. Its “Clair de Lune” was more “Bear de Lune”: one atonal chord. Vail police, accustomed to mediating bear-human encounters in the mountain town, declared it “unbearable” and “grizzly...”

Video credit: "A Colorado woman called police when she came home to find her house trashed. Then they watched the surveillance tape." (The Washington Post).

The Museum of Moist Towelettes. Because why-the-heck-not? I always thought The Moist Towelettes would be a great name for a rock band. Which may be one, of many, reasons why I'm not in a rock band. Here's an explainer at Atlas Obscura: "The office of John French, a Michigan State University employee who works in the planetarium, houses what is likely the campus’s least visited, most unusual museum. There, French keeps a display case full of his collection of moist towelettes from around the globe, with all but one unopened. Beginning 20 years ago, when French first started collecting towelettes, the museum eventually outgrew its first display case as people donated more and more unique towelettes. Some of the most notable include one called “Finger Pinkies,” which is advertised as “the secretary’s hand cleaner,” a few from the Hard Rock Caf├ęs in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur, and a series with Star Trek-themed packaging from the show’s original run..." (Image credit: The Moist Towelette Museum).

TODAY: Sticky and unsettled, more T-storms. Winds: SE 10-15. High: 88

TUESDAY NIGHT: Muggy and warm with a nagging storm risk. Low: 72

WEDNESDAY: Another T-storm, then partial clearing. Winds: SW 8-13. High: 89

THURSDAY: Warm sunshine, a rare dry day? Winds: W 7-12. Wake-up: 65. High: 86

FRIDAY: Unsettled, PM showers, T-storms. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 64. High: 83

SATURDAY: Better day of the weekend? Some sun, comfortable. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 62. High: 77

SUNDAY: Heavier rain, few T-storms. Winds: NE 10-15. Wake-up: 60. High: 69

MONDAY: Drier, but slight risk of a PM shower. Winds: W 10-15. Wake-up: 58. High: 75

Climate Stories...

If You Think Climate Will Be Expensive, Calculate the Cost of Letting It Happen. Here's a clip from Harvard Business Review: "...This echoes a common political talking point: that fighting climate change is bad for the economy. I’d like to point out the flip side: that climate change itself is bad for the economy and investing in climate resilience is not only a national security priority, but an enormous economic opportunity. The share of national GDP at risk from climate change exceeds $1.5 trillion in the 301 major cities around the world. Including the impact of human pandemics – which are likely to become more severe as the planet warms — the figure increases to nearly $2.2 trillion in economic output at risk through 2025..."

As Glaciers Retreat, They Reveal a Host of New Problems. An article at Fusion caught my eye: "...This melting will only continue. According to a recent study from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Portland State University, Montana’s Glacier National Park’s glaciers have shrunk by an average of about 39% since 1966, with some shrinking by as much as 82%. Currently about 10% of the land on Earth is covered with glacial ice—including glaciers, ice caps, and the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica—stretching over 5.8 million square miles and storing about 75% of the world’s fresh water. Were melting of land ice to continue until it was all gone, sea level would rise some 230 feet, drowning the coastal cities of the world. And as the cryosphere continues to warm and change, it will only exponentially increase the pace of climate change, by releasing more CO2 and methane in the atmosphere, decreasing the reflective surfaces on the Earth, and increasing the surface area of the ocean. “The glaciers are telling us something,” says Clarke. “We need to listen if we care about our future.”

How Climate Data is Collected. NPR explains how we know that CO2 levels are, in fact, rising worldwide:

HOOD: Despite the frozen fingers, every week Morse skis, hikes or drives a snowcat to get to this ridge. She works for the University of Colorado at Boulder collecting data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
MORSE: We know that CO2 is going up because of sites like this. And there are sites like this all over the world.
HOOD: About 100 in NOAA's network. For hundreds of thousands of years, concentrations of carbon dioxide, or CO2, were never higher than 280 parts per million, but that number began to rise with the industrial revolution. And in recent years, it's rising faster at an unprecedented level. It's the direct result of burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas...

File image: John Sonntag, NASA.

Do Recent Climate Decisions Put Our Military Men and Women at Increased Risk? Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from the San Antonio Express-News: "...Climate change also causes more frequent extreme weather events, which means more requests for humanitarian aid across the globe; meanwhile, droughts and resource shortages end up strengthening the very extremist groups our troops face on the battlefield. In light of these dangers, the Department of Defense describes climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it makes the jobs of our troops harder and riskier. If we choose not to take steps to move away from the fossil fuels of the past and toward the clean energy of the future, we will be condemning our allies, our children and our loved ones in uniform to an increasingly dangerous world — and a world in which the United States is a backward outsider..."

Climate Change in British Columbia: Here's How 2050 Could Look. CBC News reports: "Climate change has been blamed for raging forest fires, devastating floods and shrinking glaciers, but scientists have determined the effects will look different in various regions of B.C. Their severity depends on how successful humans are in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under a middle-of-the-road scenario that assumes that in the future greenhouse gas emissions are halved, the average annual temperature in B.C. would increase by 2.5 C by 2050, according to the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium..."

Photo credit: "The risk of wildfires in the Okanagan will increase if average annual temperatures rise 2.5 C by 2050." (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press).

Trump Wages Battle Against Regulations, Not Climate Change. Some interesting spin from PBS NewsHour; here's the intro: "While President Donald Trump’s beliefs about global warming remain something of a mystery, his actions make one thing clear: He doesn’t consider it a problem for the federal government to solve. Trump’s recent decision to pull out of the Paris climate deal was just his latest rapid-fire move to weaken or dismantle federal initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, which scientists say are heating the planet to levels that could have disastrous consequences. Trump is waging war against efforts to curb U.S. dependence on fossil fuels. He’s done that through executive orders targeting climate change programs and regulations, massive proposed spending cuts and key appointments such as Scott Pruitt as chief of the Environmental Protection Agency..."

Photo credit: "U.S. President Donald Trump announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., on June 1, 2017." Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.

Iowa Teaching Standards Don't Say Humans Cause Climate Change, But... An article at The Des Moines Register explains: "At first, people who reject predominant scientific findings that humans are the main cause of climate change may be glad that new public-school science standards don’t require teachers to teach that. But if inquiry-based teaching guides under development in the Iowa K-12 Climate Science Education Initiative are used, students may reach that determination on their own, educators say. The Climate Science Education Initiative, a project of the University of Iowa’s Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research and College of Education, will help teachers apply in class Next Generation Science Standards that do not take the step of telling students what to think about climate change..."

Photo credit: "Iowa is seeing more floods as a result of climate change, yet has little idea of the price tag for needed protection." Aaron Young/The Register.

Once Again Climate Change Cited as Trigger for War. A recent report highlights 12 epicenters worldwide,  where a rapidly changing climate could contribute to destabilization and conflict. Scientific American has details: "...Many of the risk epicenters stem from resource shortages and dislocated populations, but the experts also consider an increased likelihood of nuclear war, more pandemics and tensions in the Arctic. Any one of those factors is enough to cause serious problems, but together they threaten to undermine the international order, said Francesco Femia, one of the authors of the report, titled “Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene.” “The humanitarian effects of [climate change] are massive,” he said. “But what we’re saying is that those humanitarian consequences are likely to spill over into broader security problems that speaks to the heart of how the world organizes itself...”

Photo credit: "The Mosul Dam in Iraq." Credit: United States Army Corps of Engineers Wikimedia Commons

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