Thursday, June 15, 2017

Showery Rut - Weekend Cooling Trend - Water and U.S. National Security

88 F. maximum temperature Thursday in the Twin Cities.
79 F. average high on June 15.
77 F. high on June 15, 2016.

June 16, 1992: A total of 27 tornadoes touch down across Minnesota, the second most in Minnesota history. The communities of Chandler, Lake Wilson, Clarkfield and Cokato are badly damaged. 80 million dollars worth of damage would occur, and Presidential disaster declarations would be made for many counties.
June 16, 1989: Frost develops across Minnesota with crops destroyed on high ground in southeast Minnesota. Preston got down to 32.

Not Tornado Alley, But Tornado Cul de Sac?

Much of the movie "Twister" was filmed in Iowa, because Oklahoma was in a drought, and wilted/brown didn't look so great on film. When you think tornadoes you think southern Plains, for good reason. That's ground zero. But Minnesota sees its fair share of spin-ups; an average of 36 tornadoes every year.

25 years ago today a total of 27 tornadoes touched down on Minnesota, including the F-5 monster that slammed Chandler, the last F-5 to hit the state.

7 years ago tomorrow a swarm of 48 tornadoes strafed Minnesota; 3 of them violent EF-4. That was the year Wadena was hit. We've been lucky in recent years, but as we all know, at some point your luck runs out.

It pays to stay a little paranoid, and never let your guard down.

Dynamics required for severe (damaging) storms should remain south of Minnesota, but cool air aloft keeps showers and T-showers in the forecast later today and Saturday. By Sunday a stiff northwest wind confines temperatures to the 60s.

We warm up next week but models show the core of blast- furnace heat staying to our south into July, with frequent bursts of fresh air here at home. Whew...

June 17, 2010 Albert Lea mesocyclone photo courtesy of meteorologist Aaron Shaffer.

When In Doubt - Predict Rain. Unless you live in the southwestern USA, where the forecast calls for a free sauna with potentially dangerous levels of heat into next week. Rain tapers across the Pacific Northwest, but heavy shower and storms linger across New England and the Mid Atlantic today. Strong to severe storms flare up Saturday across the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes as cooler air drains out of Canada. 84-hour Future Radar: NOAA NAM and

Friday Severe Risk. The best chance of damaging storms later today comes from near Omaha to Des Moines, but storms may exceed severe criteria (58 mph+ winds and/or 1" diameter hail) from Kansas City to Sioux Falls, South  Dakota, according to NOAA SPC.

Cool Correction Coming. Today and much of Saturday will still feel like June, but you may notice a faint whiff of October in the air Sunday and Monday as temperatures hold in the 50s and 60s. Sweet relief, while much of America fries. ECMWF forecast for the Twin Cities: WeatherBell.

Heat Wave Builds. Looking out 2 weeks the 500 mb pattern suggests a lengthy, potentially severe heat wave taking hold for much of the USA with 90s, even 100s from the southwest into the southern Plains. The only relief will come from the Pacific Northwest and northern tier states into New England, where Canadian air will take the edge off the worst of the heat with occasional cool frontal passages.

Warmer Than Average July For Most of USA? Here is the latest prediction from NOAA CPC, the Climate Prediction Center, calling for a very warm July (with the possible exception of the Pacific Northwest).

An Opportunity for Storm-Resistant Infrastructure. A recent fusillade of storms, hail and high water was a vivid reminder that we need to keep the lights on, no matter what Mother Nature throws at us. Every threat is an opportunity for disruption and reinvention. As we talk about infrastructure, why wouldn't we try to make everything we do more storm-resilient, flood-proof and drought-tolerant? I'm still waiting for 3M (or grad students in a garage) to invent and market hail-proof film I can stick on my car. Hail-resistant singles? Basements that don't flood? Road surfaces, pipes and culverts that can better handle 21st century downpours? Crops less susceptible to drought (and standing water)? Someone is going to invent this stuff - it should be cooked up right here at home.

8 Tips for Shooting an Award-Winning Tornado Photo. National Geographic photographer Jim Reed has some good advice at PetaPixel: "I’ve been photographing extreme weather for 25 years. After publishing tips on how to photograph lightning here back in March, I was asked to share any tips I have in capturing an award-winning tornado image. So, here I go…

Note to reader: Storm chasing and extreme weather photography, as discussed in this article, can be very dangerous. Any person should approach these activities with caution and appropriate supervision and training.

Tip 1: Study Your Subject and Risks

Adopting a ‘safety first’ policy is critical when storm chasing. To start, I recommend reading The Basics of Tornadoes on the Storm Prediction Center website. In my experience, storm chasing risks fall somewhere between climbing Mount Everest and shopping at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Veteran storm chaser Chuck Doswell has an excellent article titled “Storm Chasing with Safety, Courtesy and Responsibility....”

Earth is Not in the Midst of a Sixth Mass Extinction? A matter of debate and perspective; here's an excerpt from The Atlantic: "...So things don’t look so good, no matter where we look. Yes, the victims in the animal world include scary apex predators that pose obvious threats to humans, like lions, whose numbers have dropped from 1 million at the time of Jesus to 450,000 in the 1940s to 20,000 today—a decline of 98 percent. But also included have been unexpected victims, like butterflies and moths, which have declined in abundance by 35 percent since the 1970s. Like all extinction events, so far this one has been phased and complex, spanning tens of thousands of years and starting when our kind left Africa. Other mass extinctions buried deep in earth’s history have similarly played out over tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of years..." (File image: NASA / Reuters).

NASA Data Suggest Future May Be Rainier Than Expected. Details from NASA: "...Su's team found that most of the climate models underestimated the rate of increase in precipitation for each degree of surface warming that has occurred in recent decades. The models that came closest to matching observations of clouds in the present-day climate showed a greater precipitation increase for the future than the other models. Su said that by tracing the underestimation problem back to the models' deficiencies in representing tropical high clouds and the atmospheric general circulation, "This study provides a pathway for improving predictions of future precipitation change..."

President Trump Chats on Phone with Tangier Mayor. Delmarva Now has details: "...According to Eskridge, the president also addressed the issue of sea-level rise as it affects Tangier. "He said not to worry about sea-level rise," Eskridge said. "He said, 'Your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more.' " The island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay is a Republican stronghold — about 87 percent of residents voted for Trump in the November 2016 election. Still, erosion is among the islanders' main concerns, Eskridge said in an interview last November with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The island, population about 450, is losing up to 16 feet of land a year, scientists say. Islanders have been advocating for years for construction of a seawall to protect their home; a smaller project — a jetty to protect the harbor's west entrance — is in the works and should come about in the near future..."

Asia's Rivers Send More Plastic Into The Ocean Than All Other Continents Combined. Quartz reports: "Every year, millions of tonnes of plastics are produced and trashed, with some ending up in the sea, and gobbled up by tiny fish. Even though countries don’t report on how much plastic they are flushing, a recent study suggests that around 86% of the plastic running through rivers was coming from a single continent—Asia. An estimated 1.15 to 2.41 million tonnes (1.27 to 2.66 million metric tons) of plastic waste enters rivers every year, around one-fifth of the total plastic in the sea from coastal populations worldwide, according to a study published in Nature on June 7..."

Photo credit: "Heading out." (EPA/Sebastiao Moreira)

World Coal Production Just Had Its Biggest Drop on Record. Bloomberg Markets reports: "It’s the end of an era for coal. Production of the fossil fuel dropped by a record amount in 2016, according to BP Plc’s annual review of global energy trends. China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, burned the least coal in six years and use dropped in the U.S to a level last seen in the 1970s, the company’s data show. Coal, the most polluting fuel that was once the world’s fastest growing energy source, has been a target of countries and companies alike as the world begins to work toward the goals of the Paris climate agreement. Consumption is falling as the world’s biggest energy companies promote cleaner-burning natural gas, China’s economy evolves to focus more on services than heavy manufacturing and renewable energy like wind and solar becomes cheaper..."

Renewables Provided a Record 10% of U.S. Power in March. Bloomberg Markets has details: "Wind and solar energy accounted for more than 10 percent of U.S. power generation for the first time in March following a record year for clean energy development. Wind farms in Texas, Oklahoma and elsewhere accounted for 8 percent of electric generation, while residential and commercial solar installations provided about 2 percent, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a statement Wednesday..."

Will Replacing Human Drivers With Self-Driving Cars Be Safer? Fortune speculates (as much as I can't see myself giving up on driving anytime soon - I suspect the experts are right). Our grandkids won't think twice about taking a driverless (electric) vehicle to work, ride-sharing along the way: "U.S. cities will look a lot different in 20 years, at least when it comes to public transportation. That’s according to Bryan Salesky, the CEO of the self-driving car company Argo AI, which became a Ford Motor subsidiary after the auto giant said in February it would invest $1 billion in the startup. The rise of self-driving cars will usher a “much safer mode of transportation” by “removing the human from the loop,” Salesky said on Wednesday at the Rutberg FM technology conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif. Human drivers are more prone to distractions and errors in their judgment compared to autonomous cars in the future, Salesky believes..."

Image credit: BMW and Business Insider.

U.S. Power Plant Emissions Fall To Near 1990 Levels, Decoupling From GDP Growth. More cause for cautious optimism in a post at InsideClimate News: "...A report released Wednesday by the consulting firm M.J. Bradley & Associates finds that climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions from the country's power generators declined between 2005 and 2015 as the companies shifted away from coal and toward renewable energy sources and natural gas. Preliminary data from 2016 suggests that emissions dropped further last year, putting them at or near the same level they were in 1990. Meanwhile, the report notes, gross domestic product (GDP) has grown steadily over the same period. "The decoupling of economic growth from emissions growth is really encouraging," said Dan Bakal, director of electric power for Boston-based sustainability advocacy group, Ceres, which sponsored the study. "You can achieve these reductions while growing the economy, and trying to reverse these trends would be an uphill battle..."

At Xcel Energy, We'll Stay on a Clean Energy Path. My thanks to Xcel Chairman and CEO Ben Fowke for brightening my day; here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Star Tribune: "...Power companies like Xcel Energy are leading the way toward a clean energy future. As an industry, electric utilities already have reduced carbon emissions by 25 percent since 2005. The Paris agreement would have required a reduction of 26 to 28 percent by 2025. Our industry is reducing carbon emissions and doing so 10 years in advance of international agreements. All CEOs are proud of their companies, and I am no exception. Last year, Xcel Energy achieved a 30-percent reduction in carbon emissions, and we are on track to reduce our emissions by 45 percent by 2021 companywide. Our reductions are the result of remarkable changes in how we produce energy. Back in 2005, 9 percent of our energy came from renewable sources. In 2016 it was 25 percent, and by 2021 we project it will be more than 40 percent..."

Photo credit: "Xcel Energy's renewable energy sources include the 100-megawatt North Star Solar project near North Branch, Minn." Brian Peterson - Star Tribune file.

U.S. Cities Don't Need the Paris Accord to Fight Climate Change. Fortune Magazine has the Op-Ed, here's an excerpt: "...Cities can incorporate alternative fuel vehicles into municipal fleets. Within Texas, they have made widely varying progress along this line. Whereas Dallas Area Rapid Transit has converted most of its buses to use cleaner compressed natural gas, Houston’s fleet is dominated by diesel buses, although it unveiled its first electric bus late last year. By comparison, in China, the city of Shenzhen has more than 10 million residents and will feature an entirely electric bus fleet by the end of this year. This is one area where American cities can and should improve dramatically. Cities can also reduce emissions by helping residents pay for rooftop solar installations or other energy efficiency improvements, and expanding bike lanes to make zero-carbon commuting more viable. It is promising that U.S. cities are stepping up to the plate, but city leaders need to carefully plan the policies they enact..."

San Diego Commits To 100% Clean Energy. Yale Climate Connections has a video and story: "San Diego recently became one of the largest cities in the country to commit to the goal of 100 percent clean electricity city-wide. It’s just one part of a climate action plan that aims to cut the entire city’s global warming pollution over the next 18 years to half its 2010 levels. The plan also sets targets to electrify all city vehicles, divert waste from landfills, reduce water use, and increase the use of bikes and mass transit. It’s a big goal. Hooven: “The fun part of announcing it is over. Now we just need to put our heads down and get to work.” That’s Cody Hooven, chief sustainability officer for the city..."

Cable News Wars: Inside the Unprecedented Battle for Viewers in Trump Era. Variety explains the new level of stress and insanity at CNN, Fox News and MSNBC: "...In this fraught atmosphere, it’s no surprise that combined viewing of the Big Three cable-news networks — Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC — is up 33% through the first week of June compared with the same period last year, according to data from Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser. In this endless cycle of breaking political headlines, television news is facing its biggest moment of opportunity since Fox News Channel and MSNBC came on the scene 21 years ago. The competitive fervor among the Big Three to turn these added eyeballs into regular viewers is further stoked by the fact that the longtime market leader — Fox News — is vulnerable after a year of turmoil on both sides of the camera. Staffs are being pushed to the brink..."

Image credit: Alex Fine for Variety.

Sweden's Museum of Failure Highlights Products That Have Flopped. If you're not failing it might mean that you're not really trying. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "Green Heinz ketchup? Fat-free Pringles? Colgate frozen lasagna? You don’t need to be an expert to know these products weren’t successful. Which is why these creations, with dozens of others, feature in the new Museum of Failure, a wacky parade of rejected products from years gone by set up in the Swedish town of Helsingborg. It’s the brainchild of 43-year-old curator and clinical psychologist Samuel West. The idea came to him while on vacation, and he quickly purchased the Internet domain name. West later realized he had accidentally misspelled “museum” — a sure sign the project would succeed..."

Photo credit: "Samuel West, curator of the Museum of Failure, holds a bottle of Heinz ‘Green Sauce’ ketchup at the Museum of Failure in Helsingborg, Sweden. West has put together a collection of failed products that also includes Fat-Free Pringles potato chips and a frozen lasagna by toothpaste maker Colgate." (James Brooks/AP).

Hong Kong Parking Spot Sells for Record $664,300. Good grief, a new record for wretched excess? Bloomberg reports: "Hong Kong just set another property-price record. This time, it was for a parking space. A 188-square-foot space on Hong Kong island sold for HK$5.18 million ($664,300), or HK$27,500 a square foot, last month, newspaper Ming Pao reported Wednesday, citing land registration records. The car park cost more than some Hong Kong homes: Centaline Property data shows a HK$4.2 million sale of a 284-square-foot, two-bedroom home in Sha Tin, in the New Territories, in April..."

Photo credit: Trip Advisor.

KFC Launches Chicken Sandwich Into Space Next Week. You just can't make this stuff up. HuffPo has the tasty details: "It’s one small step for a chicken sandwich, and one giant leap for fast food. On June 21, KFC plans to launch its Zinger chicken sandwich into a space via a high-altitude solar-powered balloon known as a “stratollite,” a word combining “stratosphere” and “satellite.” The chicken sandwich will zip up to about 28.5 miles above Earth ― not quite the 62-mile threshold to be considered to be the edge of space, but, as the New York Times notes, it's cheaper than shooting off an orbiting rocket..."

7% of Americans Believe Chocolate Milk Comes From Brown Cows. Wait, you mean it doesn't? Here's a head-shaking clip from The Washington Post: "Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a nationally representative online survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy. If you do the math, that works out to 16.4 million misinformed, milk-drinking people. The equivalent of the population of Pennsylvania (and then some!) does not know that chocolate milk is milk, cocoa and sugar..."

Photo credit: "Pumpkin,” a 7-month-old Guernsey cow who does not produce chocolate milk." (The Washington Post).

TODAY: Warm sun, late T-storm possible. Winds: SW 5-10. High: 86

FRIDAY NIGHT: Few T-storms around. Low: 64

SATURDAY: Numerous showers, few T-storms. Winds: W 8-13. High: near 80

SUNDAY: What June? Mostly cloudy, windy and showery. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 58. High: 69

MONDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, refreshing. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 55. High: 73

TUESDAY: Some sun, risk of a shower. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 56. High: 72

WEDNESDAY: Clouds increase, stray T-shower. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 58. High: 78

THURSDAY: Sticky sun, a few strong T-storms? Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 64. High: 86

Climate Stories...

Water and U.S. National Security. People can live without a lot of things, but water isn't one of them. You think mass migrations are overwhelming now? Give it a few years. Here's a post at War Room, at the United States Army War College: "...Fresh water has long been a vital and necessary natural resource, and it has long been a source of tension, a military tool, and a target during war. The links between water and conflict have been the subject of extensive analysis for several decades, beginning with the development of the literature on “environmental security” and water conflicts in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In coming years, new factors, including rising populations, industrial and agricultural demand for water, human-induced climate change, and political uncertainties make it increasingly urgent that solutions to water tensions be found and implemented. The failure to address water problems through diplomacy will lead to new and growing security risks, including for the U.S. The U.S. and its allies must develop and employ a wide variety of instruments to reduce instability and the risk of conflict related to growing water problems, before military intervention is needed..."

Climate Change in Schools Where It's "Fake News". Turns out in many school districts the kids should be teaching the teachers, at least when it comes to climate science. reports: "...Although 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming is linked to the burning of fossil fuels, a majority of middle and high school teachers are not aware of this consensus. Many of these teachers teach climate change as if it were an ongoing debate within the scientific community. This disconnect between scientists and educators was captured in a recent survey (PDF) by the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit that works to promote science over ideology. "Our survey found that relatively few teachers had even a college course that devoted as much as a single class to climate change," said Glenn Branch, the center's deputy director, who notes that many teachers present misinformation about climate change or avoid teaching it entirely..."

File image: Shutterstock.

Delray (Florida) To Put Climate Change at Forefront: "The Waters Are Coming". Here's an excerpt from "...Miami Beach will soon embark on an ambitious $100 million project to raise roads, install pumps and water mains and redo sewer connections to combat flooding, according to the Miami Herald. That could be in store for Delray Beach a decade down the line, commissioners said. The effects of rising tides are already presenting themselves in Delray Beach, according to city staff. Delray’s Marina Historic District along the Intracoastal Waterway sees damaging floods during high tides. And the city’s freshwater aquifers have already experienced saltwater intrusion that will require action within a year, said John Morgan, who heads the city’s environmental services department. The city is planning both long-term and immediate actions to adapt to global climate change..."
File photo: Lynne Sladky, AP.

The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World is Watching. It's both a threat - and an opportunity. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "...Mr. Ovink is the country's globe-trotting salesman in chief for Dutch expertise on rising wawter and climate change. Like cheese in  France or cars in Germany, climate change is a business in the Netherlands. Month in, month out, delegations fromm as far away as Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, New York and New Orleans make the rounds in the port city of Rotterdam. They often end up hiring Dutch firms, which dominate the global market in high-tech engineering and water management..."
Photo credit: Josh Haner.

Climate Change Pushing Tropical Diseases Toward Arctic. Here's an excerpt from National Geographic: "...It's no secret that climate change can spread illnesses such as West Nile virus, Zika, and malaria, as rising temperatures push disease-carrying mosquitoes into new places, from the highlands of Ethiopia to the United States. But warm temperatures and shifting weather patterns work in subtle ways, too. Changes in precipitation, wind, or heat are shifting the threat posed by other human illnesses, from cholera to a rare freshwater brain-eating amoeba to rodent-driven infections like hantavirus. And the importance of all these changes are only growing more significant. "Probably almost everybody is going to feel this at some point in their life," says Stanley Maloy, a microbiologist and dean of the College of Sciences at San Diego State University. "It may be transmission of a mosquito-borne disease in a place it didn't used to be. It may be a simple case of salmonella. But it's going to affect us all..."
Photo credit: "Bathers on the Baltic have recently been confronted with a new threat: dangerous disease that is normally only found in warm water." Priit Vesilind, National Geographic Creative.

Growing Concern Over Climate Change is Creating Interfaith Dialogue. Pacific Standard reports: "...In the U.S., dozens of seminaries—mostly Protestant—are integrating environmental education into their theological training. A younger and bigger generation of clergy is being urged to ramp up the urgency in their parishes for local and governmental climate action. But the hope and promise of Laudato Si could remain beyond human reach without even more aggressive and engaged faith leaders mobilizing the billions they represent in all corners of the globe to pressure their governmental leaders and to act on their own. "My students are excited and they want to take this on, but the challenges are so big," said Tim Van Meter, an associate professor of ecology and justice at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. "People are just tired. It seems inevitable that we will drive ourselves to collapse..."

POV: A Doctor's Prescription for Climate Change. Here's a snippet of an Op-Ed at The Palm Beach Post: "...Florida’s rise in the heat index is the highest of any state each year and will continue, according to a National Climate Assessment report by a team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member federal advisory committee. These heat waves are particularly dangerous to seniors, those with chronic medical conditions, outdoor laborers, and the poor. Doctors like me see increased cardiorespiratory problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) attacks. There will be more asthma attacks from reduced air quality and increased carbon pollution, and more heart attacks from already choked arteries made worse by heat stress, according to the Florida Department of Health. Newer or re-emerging infections such as Zika, chikungunya and dengue, spread by mosquitoes, will continue..."

How Retiring Nuclear Power Plants May Undercut U.S. Climate Goals. The expression that comes to mind is "pick your poison". Keep nuclear plants going and try to address concerns with radioactive fuel storage, or risk an uptick in CO2 emissions from burning more natural gas and coal? The New York Times reports: "Over the last decade, a glut of cheap natural gas from hydraulic fracturing has driven hundreds of dirtier coal plants in the United States out of business, a big reason carbon dioxide emissions fell 14 percent from 2005 to 2016. But more recently, that same gas boom has started pushing many of America's nuclear reactors into early retirement - a trend with adverse consequences for climate change. The United States' fleet of 99 nuclear reactors still supplies one-fifth of the country's electricity without generation any planet-warming greenhouse gases. When those reactors retire, wind and solar usually cannot expland fast enough to replace the lost power. Instead, coal and natural gas fill the void, causing emissions to rise..."

Photo credit: "The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Middletown, PA. Exelon has said it will shut down the last reactor there by 2019 unless it receives financial assistance." Jonathan Ernst, Reuters.

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