Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Flood Risk Slowly Diminishes Locally - Dangerous Heat Building Across Much of USA

83 F. high temperature Wednesday in the Twin Cities.
84 F. average high on July 19.
87 F. maximum temperature on July 19, 2016.

July 20, 1951: A tornado hits Minneapolis and Richfield, killing five people.
July 20, 1909: 10.75 inches of rain falls in 24 hours at Beaulieu in Mahnomen County. This record would stand for over 50 years. Bagley receives an estimated 10 inches.

A Tornado Like No Other: Remembering July 18, 1986

I can't believe it's been 31 years since KARE-11's news helicopter beamed back live video of a tornado carving up Springbrook Nature Center, up in Fridley. Standing in the TV studio I was just as dumbfounded as viewers watching at home.

People tell me they can still remember exactly where they were that day. Did seeing a live tornado during the 5 pm news make them more likely to head to the basement? Probably not.

The video was riveting; footage of this nearly-stationary F-2 tornado has been analyzed by atmospheric scientists around the world. It's a minor miracle nobody was injured or killed that day, and it's a reminder that close-in suburbs CAN see large, violent tornadoes.

After last night's storms I'm happy to be tracking sunshine & upper-80s today; no drama expected. More T-storms arrive on Friday, but a push of Canadian air treats us to 70s by Sunday and Monday. Enjoy this temporary relief.

Today's blog includes news of a 7-second lightning strike, tales from lightning survivors, and the 2nd warmest year to date. By the way It may feel like 110F in Washington D.C. by Saturday. Ouch.

Behind the Scenes of the Brooklyn Park/Fridley (KARE-11) Tornado. I can't believe it's been that long since pilot Max Messmer and the late, great Tom Empey brought us live footage of a tornado ripping up Springbrook Nature Center. It was a day like no other, at least for me. I suspect my buddy Paul Magers will agree. Covering a tornado in the close-in suburbs during a newscast, with a vantage point from the air? It all seemed a bit surreal, and it still does. In some respects the story fell into our laps. KARE-11's helicopter was on its way to another story when Max saw a funnel forming over Brooklyn Park. Photographer Tom Empey was testing out a new, revolutionary "gyro-zoom" lens, which allowed him to take incredibly smooth, vibration-free close-ups of the tornado in progress. We made it up as we went along. There was (obviously) no script, no Teleprompter to fall back on. And in the heat of the moment mistakes were made: the tornado did not produce 200 mph+ winds. For a time the tornado looked like a powerful wedge, but peak winds were probably no stronger than 130-150 mph. Still strong enough to rip mature trees out of the ground like weeds though. Check out the video, courtesy of Tom Oszman at TCMediaNow.

Towering Thunderheads. I snapped this photo around 8:30 pm yesterday as a second line of T-storms blossomed over the southern metro, packing torrential rain, small hail and frequent lightning.

South Dakota Squall Line. Here's a GOES-16 visible image (insert non-operational disclaimer here) of the line of storms that sparked straight-line winds as high as 90 mph near Huron, South Dakota on Wednesday. Image source: NOAA and AerisWeather.

I Want My Mamma. It was an impressive display of cumulonimbus mammatus yesterday afternoon, on the backside anvil of the severe storms that swept south of the Twin Cities. They look like scoops of ice cream from below, but you'd definitely want to keep your distance from these hail-cooled downdrafts while flying.

Thursday Flash Flood Risk. A nearly stationary frontal boundary sets the stage for training T-storms over the Upper Midwest, the best chance of flash flooding from Pierre and Sioux Valls to Redwood Falls. Monsoon storms bubble up again over the southwestern USA, from Salt Lake City to Tucson and Santa Fe.

Praying for Cooling T-storm. Heavy showers and T-storms push across the Great Lakes into New England today, a few T-showers sprout across the Ohio Valley in response to strong heating of the ground. Any storms will temporarily cool things off 10-15F, but also increase humidity levels, making it a wash. Not much rain in the forecast west of the Rockies, although rain may brush Seattle and Vancouver by Friday night and Saturday. 84-hour NAM Future Radar: NOAA and

Dangerous Heat Index on Saturday. A "feels-like temperature" as high as 110F from Kansas City and St. Louis to Peoria and Indianapolis, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia? NOAA models are hinting at a 115F heat index from Charlottesville to Richmond and Norfolk by Saturday afternoon. You'll be hearing more about the extreme heat from the Midwest to the Mid Atlantic and Carolinas this weekend.

WetBulb Globe Temperature: More Accurate Than Heat Index? A NOAA link explains the difference between Heat Index and Wet Bulb Temperature, which seems to be a better measure of what the combination of heat and humidity (and direct sunlight) really feels like: "The WetBulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) is a measure of heat stress in direct sunlight, which takes into account: temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud cover (solar radiation). This differs from the heat index, which takes into consideration temperature and humidity and is calculated for shady areas. If you work or exercise in direct sunlight, this is a good element to monitor. Military agencies, OSHA and many nations use the WBGT as a guide to managing workload in direct sunlight..."

Temporary Relief. Sticky weather lingers into Saturday, but a wind shift to the northwest pulls cooler, drier air into Minnesota by Sunday, when dew points dip into the 50s. Great sleeping weather! Enjoy a brief reprieve from the muggies, because temperatures slowly warm again next week. Twin Cities ECMWF data: WeatherBell.

An Expansive, Persistent Heat Wave. Looking out 2 weeks (which is perilous) and the GFS shows a stubborn heat-pump ridge of high pressure over the western half of the USA, suggesting relentless heat from California and Oregon to the Plains and Midwest; slight relief for New England. Looks like much of America will see a real summer this year - for those of you who feel heat and humidity-deprived.

Hit By Lightning: Tales from Survivors. Any desire you ever had to boat, golf or swim during a thunderstorm will be dashed after reading this story at The New York Times; here's an excerpt: "...Dr. Mary Ann Cooper,  a professor emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and an expert on lightning injuries, said lightning can cause a wide range of damage, from tingling and numbness to cardiac arrest and lasting brain injury. About two-thirds of people lose consciousness, she said. Fewer than half suffer marks on their skin. And most are hurt by electricity as the current travels through the ground. The Weather Service estimates only 10 percent of those hit by lightning die. It's not a club anyone wants to join, but survivors often crave one another's company..."

Very Close Call with a Flash Flood. This guy is very, very lucky. This is the same Arizona flash flood that claimed 9 lives last weekend, all from the same family, an incomprehensible tragedy. Here's an excerpt from, including video from ABC's Good Morning America: "An eyewitness who captured video of the powerful flash flood that killed nine people this weekend in Arizona questioned during the ordeal whether he would even survive to talk about it. "You make the wrong step and you get sucked under. You just pray you make the right decision," Brandon West of Chandler, Arizona, told ABC Phoenix affiliate KNXV-TV. West, 36, a friend and his dog named Lucky were headed to the area for a swim in the hot weather, KNXV-TV reported, when they encountered the rolling tide of black water, thick with debris. West not only survived but managed to record what he saw on video..."

Deaths of 9 in Arizona Raise Questions About Flood Warnings. Not to minimize this horrific event for the people involved, but technology only goes so far. The warning system is good, but not foolproof. If you're swimming in a creek, odds are you don't have your cell phone on you, beeping, vibrating the latest warning. There's a place for technology, paranoia and personal responsibility too. Here's an excerpt from US News: "...The storm dumped up to 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) of rain in an hour, prompting a flash flood warning from the National Weather Service. Though the service sent out a flash-flood warning over cellphone networks, service in the remote area is patchy at best. Unless they had a weather radio, the swimmers would have been unaware. Officials have said people headed to wilderness areas should check weather alerts ahead of time to determine whether it's safe. They note that it's hard to predict where rain will fall in the desert Southwest, and people should know that heavy downpours can cause flash flooding. That hasn't stopped people from saying more should be done to protect the public from flash floods. Steve Stevens, a volunteer firefighter with the nearby Water Wheel Fire and Medical District, said there needs to be a way for visitors to get flash flood alerts on their phones..."

At Midway Point: 2017 is Second Hottest Year on Record. Andrea Thompson reports at Climate Central: "...Personally, I wasn't expecting it to be as warm as it has been,” Ahira Sanchez-Lugo, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate scientist, said in an email. “After the decline of the strong El Niño I was expecting the values to drop a bit and rank among the top five warmest years. This year has been extremely remarkable.” The odds are good that 2017 will stay in second place through the end of the year, and it is even more likely that it will remain in at least the top three hottest years. NOAA released its global temperature data for June on Tuesday, and ranked June as the third warmest in its records. The four-warmest Junes in its records have all happened in the past four years..."

Graphic credit: NASA. "How monthly temperatures differ from the 1951-1980 average. So far, 2017 ranks behind only 2016 for the temperature for the first six months of the year."

First Half of 2017: Fewer Weather-Related Losses Than 2016. Munich Re is tracking the trends. Here's an excerpt from Intelligent Insurer: "...Overall losses came to $41 billion. The corresponding figure for the first six months of 2016 was $111 billion; the average for the last ten years $102 billion. Insured losses totalled $19.5 billion (previous year: $32 billion; ten-year average $29 billion). The highest overall losses in the first half-year were caused by the floods in Peru in February and March with a figure of $3.1 billion, $380 million of which was insured. The costliest event for insurers was a powerful thunderstorm in the US in early May, with insured losses of $1.8 billion and overall losses of $2.2 billion. The high number of severe thunderstorms in the USA is presumed to have been at least partially influenced by a natural climate phenomenon, according to Munich Re, especially in the first quarter of 2017: the tropical eastern Pacific off the northwest coast of South America was exceptionally warm, a phenomenon that the Peruvian authorities have dubbed “coastal El Niño”, despite the fact that it is not a full-blown El Niño event..."

A Look Back at New England's Worst Hurricanes, in Photos. I found a post at to be quite fascinating: "Though hurricane season technically began June 1, the most dangerous storms to hit New England’s coast have typically arrived in late summer. Gov. Charlie Baker has officially devoted this week to hurricane preparedness, urging Massachusetts residents to educate themselves on how to prepare for a worst-case scenario weather event. Here’s a look back, in photos, at some of the worst hurricanes in local history. On Sept. 21, 1938, a record-breaking hurricane hit New England, killing 564 people and injuring 1,700 more. The Blue Hill Observatory in Milton recorded the strongest winds ever for the region, with gusts up to 186 mph, according to the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs..."
File photo credit: "This September 1938 photo shows a damaged ferry boat sitting in shallow water in Providence, R.I., following the deadly hurricane of 1938 that hit the Northeast." Leslie Jones/AP Photo.

Amazing Resolution. I took a couple of screenshots from Monday evening's thunderstorms, the image on the right zoomed into the Twin Cities, showing individual (cumulus) cloud streets at a resolution I've never seen before. This is using the SSEC - GOES weather app. Good stuff.

NMT Research Leads to New Definition of Lightning. 7 seconds? Details via "New Mexico Tech scientists have measured lightning strikes that have been declared the longest duration and the longest distance ever recorded. The new study is based on fundamental research and development by Tech professors Ron Thomas, Bill Rison, and Paul Krehbiel. Over the past 20 years, they developed the Lightning Mapping Array, or LMA, which has produced detailed records of lightning behavior. A new publication in Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society details a lightning discharge that travelled more than 200 miles in Oklahoma in 2007 and another discharge that lasted 7.75 seconds in France in 2012. Rison was credited as a co-author of the publication; all three NMT scientists were cited multiple times..."

Photo credit: "Lightning strikes inn Socorro County." Colleen Gino for El Defensor Chieftain.

In The Heart of Coal Country, State Officials Bet on Renewable Energy. CNBC has the report: "...When Kiran Bhatraju, a native of Pikeville, Kentucky, and the CEO of renewable-energy company Arcadia Power, heard that a coal company would be converting an old strip mine into a solar farm, he expected huge backlash. But his community's reaction was the opposite. "The mayor, local politicians and people in coal country are ready and excited about new jobs in the renewables industry," Bhatraju said. "The entire community has been rallying behind the project because it will retrain and put miners back to work..."

File photo: Berkeley Energy Group.

Clean Energy Is Trouncing Oil, Gas and Coal in Trump Era. So says Bloomberg, which has metrics to back it up: "...As clean-energy stocks climb, investors have pumped more money into wind and solar. U.S. investments totaled $14.7 billion during April, May and June, up 51 percent from the previous quarter to mark the highest level since 2015, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. European investments rose 10 percent, to $8.8 billion. “We are seeing catalysts for these markets driven by the fact that people increasingly realize clean energy is more profitable than conventional energy,” said David Richardson, an executive director at Impax Asset Management, which focuses on sustainability and has about $8.7 billion under management, up 32 percent this year..."

A Brighter Future for Electric Cars and the Planet. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The New York Times: "...the skeptics, however, have consistently been overly pessimistic about this technology. Electric cars face challenges, yet they have caught on much faster than was though likely just a few years ago. There were 2 million of them on the world's roads last year, up 60 percent from 2015, according to the International Energy Agency. The cost of batteries, the single most expensive component of the cars, fell by more than half between 2012 and 2016, according to the Department of Energy. Tesla has indicated that it can produce batteries for about $125 per kilowatt-hour. Researchers say the cost of electric cars will be at parity with conventional vehicles when batter prices reach $100 per kilowatt-hour, which experts say is just a few years away. Electric cars are more efficient, of course, but they also require less maintenance, which should make them cheaper to own over time..."

Electric Cars May Stall Without a Battery Revolution. The Guardian Sustainable Business talks about the challenges ahead: "...Costs could come down drastically just with the scale of manufacturing,” says Liu. Tesla alone wants to build three more Gigafactories around the world, each one capable of churning out as many lithium ion batteries in a year as the entire world did in 2013. The next step would be to replace the graphite anodes in today’s batteries with electrodes made of silicon. Silicon can store much more charge than graphite but expands and shrinks when charging and discharging, and can react with and use up the electrolyte. These problems cause experimental silicon anode batteries to fail much sooner than those made with graphite. Solving these issues could take five years, but should boost energy densities to 350 Watt hours per kilogram, thinks Liu. However, he admits lithium batteries with enough energy density to double the range of cars are still at least a decade away..."

Photo credit: "Electric vehicles plugged into a charging station in a workplace car park." Photograph: Alamy

All The Times Elon Musk Has Trash-Talked Tesla's Stock Price as Overvalued. Quartz has the story: "Tesla delivered just 76,230 cars last year, remains mired in debt, and profitability is a distant speck on the horizon. Yet Ford, which earned 22-times more revenue, billions in profits, and manufactured 6.6 million cars in 2016, is worth far less as valued by investors. Tesla CEO Elon Musk keeps telling investors Tesla’s stock price is wildly overpriced based on today’s performance despite his faith in its future. Investors keep ignoring him. Tesla is now one of the world’s most valuable carmakers. In terms of market cap, it has eclipsed Peugeot (April 2012), Fiat Chrysler (May 2013), Suzuki (June 2013), Renault (Feb. 2014), Hyundai (June 2015), Nissan (Feb. 2017), Ford (April 2017), and briefly outranked even General Motors, although it has since fallen back to second place among US carmakers. Since listing in 2010, Tesla’s stock is up more than 1,000%..."

Wind, Solar Do Not Harm Power Grid Reliability: Draft U.S. Study. Reuters has the story: "The growth of renewable power, including wind and solar, has not harmed the reliability of the U.S. electricity grid, according to a draft U.S. Department of Energy study, echoing the findings of grid operators across the country. The conclusion of the draft, dated July and viewed by Reuters, could ease fears in the renewable energy industry that the widely anticipated study would be used by President Donald Trump's administration to form policies supporting coal plants at the expense of wind and solar. "Numerous technical studies for most regions of the nation indicate that significantly higher levels of renewable energy can be integrated without any compromise of system reliability," the draft says..."

Photo credit: "Snow is seen on the San Gorgonio Mountains behind a windmill farm in Palm Springs, California, January 7, 2016." Sam Mircovich.

Why the Grim Reaper of Retail Hasn't Come to Claim Best Buy. A story at The Los Angeles Times caught my eye; here's an excerpt: "...His first move was to match any rival’s prices, especially those at Amazon, so that in-store shoppers no longer needed to buy elsewhere. “We had no choice, we had to take price off the table and match online prices,” Joly said.  That appeals to customers such as Scott Vellman of Los Angeles, who bought the “Battlefield 1” video game for his Xbox One player at Best Buy’s store in Atwater Village last week after Best Buy matched its $50 price on Amazon. “I bought it here [instead of online] because I didn’t want to wait for it to ship,” Vellman said. Best Buy next sped up its delivery times, in part by expanding its national distribution centers, and beefed up its website and phone app so that customers could order online and pick up their products at the stores or have them delivered..."

Interrupted Sleep May Lead to Alzheimer's, New Studies Show. The Washington Post has the details: "Getting a solid night’s sleep is crucial not only for feeling good the next day — there is increasing evidence that it may also protect against dementia, according to new research presented Tuesday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London. Three studies by researchers at Wheaton College found significant connections between breathing disorders that interrupt sleep and the accumulation of biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease. Treating the problems with dental appliances or CPAP machines that force air into airways could help lower the risk of dementia or slow its progress, the researchers said..."

File photo: Finding Mastery.

And Now, A Weather Report from Mars. Turns out there are some similarities to weather on Earth, according to Atlas Obscura: "...Pla-García works at the Spanish National Center of Astrobiology, which is associated with NASA. Now, along with other two researchers, he has decided to publish a periodical weather report in layman terms. The other two weathermen are Antonio Molina, who inputs geological data, and Javier Gomez Elvira, who processes the data for mainstream consumption. To make the weather report more appealing to the general public, the team has made a point of including comparisons with Earthly weathehr phenomena. In their first report, released on March 15, they compared the Gale Crater winds with the Chinook air streams in the Rocky Mountas of North America. Their second report, released on July 11,  discusses the strong whirlwinds known as Dust Devils..."

Image credit: "A towering dust devil in the late-spring afternoon, Amazonis Planitia region of northern Mars." ASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Netflix Takes on Hollywood. Will people still be going to movie theaters in 5 years? I hope so, but some days I'm not so sure. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "...There is a war in Hollywood right now and the war is the Netflix model versus the Hollywood model," said Ross Gerber, president and chief executive of Gerber Kawasaki, a wealth and investment management firm based in Santa Monica. Over the past decade movie attendance has trended downward, just as ticket prices have steadily increased, according to data compiled by Box Office Mojo. And opening night for many movies outside the blockbuster genre has lost some of its luster, analysts say. "Nobody is going to the movies," Gerber said. "If it's not a tent-pole movie, people don’t care anymore." Gerber envisions a new model where Netflix customers are granted access to newly released movies, perhaps for a onetime $40 fee, or as part of a monthly premium subscription..."

Robots Will Make The Best Fake News. Here's something to look forward to, courtesy of Bloomberg View: "...Human beings can doctor images such as photographs, but it’s laborious and difficult. And faking voices and video is beyond our capability. But soon, thanks to machine learning, it will probably be possible to easily and quickly create realistic forgeries of someone’s face and make it seem as if they are speaking in their own voice. Already, lip-synching technology can literally put words in a person’s mouth. This is just the tip of the iceberg -- soon, 12-year-olds in their bedrooms will be able to create photorealistic, perfect-sounding fakes of politicians, business leaders, relatives and friends saying anything imaginable. This lends itself to some pretty obvious abuses. Political hoaxes -- so-called “fake news” -- will spread like wildfire. The hoaxes will be discovered in short order -- no digital technology is so good that other digital technology can’t detect the phony -- but not before it puts poisonous ideas into the minds of people primed to believe them. Imagine perfect-looking fake video of presidential candidates spouting racial slurs, or admitting to criminal acts..."

This Rare Medical Condition Makes You Love Everyone. A story at National Geographic made me do a double-take: "A child that can’t stop hugging people, has no fear of strangers, and loves everyone equally—sounds beautiful, right? Not always. People with Williams syndrome, a rare genetic condition, face problems every bit as challenging as those with autism, from learning difficulties to trouble forming friendships. As Jennifer Latson reveals in her moving book, The Boy Who Loved Too Much: A True Story Of Pathological Friendliness, it can also be immensely difficult for parents. The syndrome, whose sufferers have a surfeit of oxytocin, aka the love hormone, affects roughly 1 in 10,000 people worldwide, with 30,000 in the U.S..."

Photo credit: "Raising children with Williams syndrome can pose some unique challenges, such as setting boundaries with strangers." Photo by Joel Sartore, National Geographihc Creative.

Clothes That Grow With Kids? Here's a novel idea, reduce waste and built-in obsolescence. If we can make expandable-waist pants that grow as I grow (outward) I'll really start paying attention. Details via Holy Kaw! "If you’ve ever been to a baby shower, you’ve seen piles of adorable clothes, many of which will never leave the drawer until it’s time for a Goodwill run. Royal College of Art graduate Ryan Mario Yasin began Petit Pli to stop the waste with a uniquely designed clothing line that’s comfy and grows with kids, so parents aren’t heading to the store every few months in search of a whole new wardrobe..."

The Ultimate Playlist of Banned Wedding Songs. For inquiring minds, here's a clip from FiveThirtyEight: "...There’s no single rule book on weddings, just a vaguely worded social contract we’re chipping away at, from how much to spend on gifts to who pays for the shindig. Last year, we asked readers to send in the songs they chose for their receptions, and thus we were able to establish the ultimate wedding playlist. But every light casts a shadow, and the interest in sending over the must-plays was met with even more fervor for the must-not-plays. We collected the testimonies of more than two dozen professional DJs on nearly 200 weddings to find out what the most commonly prohibited songs and artists are. Here are the songs that couples most frequently ban from wedding receptions..."

TODAY: Flood Watch early as storms taper. Clearing skies, drying out. Winds: NE 5-10. High: 88

THURSDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase. Low: 71

FRIDAY: Unsettled, few T-storms nearby. Winds: SE 7-12. High: 82

SATURDAY: Partly sunny, late-day T-storm? Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 69. High: 88

SUNDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, less humid. Winds: N 7-12. Wake-up: 66. High: 77

MONDAY: More sun, very pleasant. Winds: SE 7-12. Wake-up: 57. High: near 80

TUESDAY: Clouds increase, few T-storms. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 62. High: 83

WEDNESDAY: More showers and T-storms possible. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 65. High: 82

Climate Stories...

Climate Change Will Bring Coastal Flooding. Here's a snippet of an Op-Ed from the Editorial Board at San Antonio's Express-News: "...This fits a broader prediction for America’s coasts from the Union of Concerned Scientists. At present, about 90 communities across America face such chronic flooding. But that will nearly double to 170 communities by 2035 under moderate projections for sea level rise. By 2060, it will jump to 270 coastal communities. And by 2100, nearly 500 coastal communities. A more extreme projection says 670 coastal communities will face chronic flooding by the end of the century. These projections can be useful for planning purposes. How close to the coast should communities build hospitals, refineries, schools? What land can communities set aside to ease flooding? What actions should be taken to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate warming to limit the toll a warmer world will take on future generations? Like other reports on climate change, this coastal flooding report warns of an outsized impact on the poor as well as the business and security concerns that come with a warming world..."

File photo: Walt Jennings, FEMA.

Threat of Lyme Disease Spreads North.  Another unwelcome symptom of a warming climate. Here's an excerpt of an interview at Yale Climate Connections: "...The problem is not just in Maine. Annual reported cases of Lyme disease in the U.S. have more than doubled over the past 20 years. Foley says part of the reason is that warmer winter temperatures have allowed the ticks to thrive in new areas, so more cases are now reported in places like upstate New York, and the upper Great Lakes region.

Foley: “The expansion north is certainly associated with climate change.”

And it’s not just rising temperatures. Changes in precipitation, humidity, and vegetation can also affect tick populations and the transmission of Lyme disease..."

Global Warming Melts Ice, Alters Fabled Northwest Passage. Here's a clip from AP and The Washington Post: "More than a century has passed since the first successful transit of the treacherous, ice-bound Northwest Passage by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen in 1906. Now The Associated Press is sending a text, video and photo team through the passage, where global warming is melting sea ice and glaciers at an historic rate, altering and opening up the Arctic in a way unprecedented in recorded history. Although the passage presents an attractive shortcut for maritime traffic between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, only a dozen or two vessels attempt to navigate the poorly charted Canadian Arctic Archipelago during the brief summer window each year. Many are sturdy coast guard icebreakers, adventure cruises and thrill-seekers in small, nimble boats hoping to pick their way through fields of floating ice that can easily strand unprepared mariners..."

Photo credit: "Polar maritime lawyer Scott Joblin, from the Australian National University in Cambria, looks over a map aboard the Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as it sets sail in the North Pacific Ocean toward the Bering Strait, Thursday, July 6, 2017. A group of international researchers is sailing into the Arctic Sea aboard the Finnish icebreaker to traverse the Northwest Passage and record the environmental and social changes that are taking place in one of the most forbidding corners of the world." (David Goldman/Associated Press).

Scientists Warn Climate Change Could Bring the Dust Bowl Back Out of the History Books. Of course land use techniques and farming practices have improved dramatically since those dark, dusty days back in the 1930s. Could it happen again? Gizmodo has details on a new study: "...In a study published on July 17 in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers at Princeton University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory used satellite data from 2003-2015 to resolve some of the lingering uncertainty on prior dust activity models. Their research projects that “climate change will increase dust activity in the southern Great Plains from spring to fall in the late half of the twenty-first century – largely due to reduced precipitation, enhanced land surface bareness, and increased surface wind speed.” In other words, deforestation and the mega-droughts which are increasingly becoming a feature of our changing climate are likely to create conditions ideal for the return of massive dust storms..."

File photo: "A dust storm in April 1935 about to give Stratford, Texas a very bad day." Photo Courtesy NOAA

Great Plains to See More Dust Storms in Second Half of the 21st Century. UPI has more perspective on the study referenced above: "Climate change will bring more dust storms to the Great Plains in the latter half of the 21st century, according to the latest prediction models. According to new models developed by climate scientists at Princeton University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, already dry and dusty regions, like southwestern deserts and the central plains, will become drier and dustier in the second half of the 21st century. The increase in dry, dusty conditions in the southern parts of the Great Plains is expected to encourage an increase in the prevalence of dust storms. Global warming is expected to bring warmer temperatures to most of the globe, but the impacts of rising greenhouse gas concentrations on precipitation is more nuanced and geographically dependent. Some places are likely to experience more rain, while other places will get drier..."

File image: PBS.

Marin County, California Sues Energy Companies Over Climate Risks. The legal profession is going to log a nearly infinite number of billable hours over climate change. This will make litigation over tobacco risks look like small potatoes. Here's an excerpt from "Marin County sued 37 oil, gas and coal companies Monday asserting the companies knew their fossil fuel products would cause sea level rise and coastal flooding but failed to reduce their greenhouse gas pollution. The lawsuit was part of a coordinated litigation attack by Marin, San Mateo County and the city of Imperial Beach. The Marin lawsuit, filed in Marin County Superior Court, alleges that “major corporate members of the fossil fuel industry, have known for nearly a half century that unrestricted production and use of their fossil fuel products create greenhouse gas pollution that warms the planet and changes our climate.” The suit goes on to say that even though the fossil fuel companies knew there was a narrow window to take action before consequences would be irreversible, they engaged in a “coordinated, multi-front effort” to “discredit the growing body of publicly available scientific evidence and persistently create doubt...”

Photo credit: "A display installed along the shore of Richardson Bay in Mill Valley shows sea level projections." (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal).

"As the Glacier Receded, It Gave Up Their Bodies". Yet another symptom of a warming planet. Here's an excerpt from "...The regional police force told local media the bodies were discovered last week, near a ski lift on the Tsanfleuron glacier, by a worker for an adventure resort company. "The bodies were lying near each other. It was a man and a woman wearing clothing dating from the period of World War Two," Glacier 3000 director Bernhard Tschannen told local media, according to Reuters. "They were perfectly preserved in the glacier and their belongings were intact." Tschannen told the Tribune de Geneve that his staff believed the couple likely fell into a crevasse, "where they stayed for decades. As the glacier receded, it gave up their bodies..."

Photo credit: Associated Press.

Curbelo's Gang of Moderate Republicans Defeats Anti-Climate Change Legislation. Grandpa, what's a moderate Republican? Good for Rep. Curbelo - gives me renewed hope for a sane, science-centric future. Here's a clip from Miami Herald: "Carlos Curbelo touts himself as a rare Republican in Washington willing to criticize Donald Trump and conservative members of his own party. And after months of talk and lots of tweeting, Curbelo’s effort to build a bloc of moderate Republicans capable of swaying anti-climate-change legislation appears to have paid off. Curbelo’s Climate Solutions Caucus, a group of 24 Republicans and 24 Democrats who are concerned about the impacts of climate change, voted en masse on Thursday against a proposal to nix a Defense Department report on the threats posed by climate change to military installations. “A bipartisan majority of Members are on the record saying climate change and sea level rise must be taken into account when planning for our national defense,” Curbelo said in a statement. “With military bases like Naval Air Station Key West extremely vulnerable to sea level rise, this vote was a huge win for our coastal military communities..."

In Landmark Move, GOP Congress Calls Climate Change "Direct Threat" to Security. It's a step in the right direction, although the US Navy has been saying this for years. Here's an excerpt from Foreign Policy: "...One study last year found that rising oceans threaten 128 military installations on the coasts, including naval facilities worth around $100 billion. The Pentagon has been aware for years of the looming danger represented by climate change. But partisan infighting in Congress, budget sequestration, and the toxic nature of the climate debate have hamstrung the Defense Dept. from taking steps to protect key assets — or even identifying which facilities face the most serious threats. This week, though, the Pentagon may have gotten a boost — from the unlikeliest of places. The Republican-controlled House retained an amendment to the 2018 defense funding bill affirming that “climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States.” It orders defense officials to draw up a report laying out which facilities would be most affected..."

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