Thursday, June 30, 2011

July 1: Expanding Heat (100 in the Twin Cities and Chicago?)

95 yesterday in the Twin Cities, Heat Index as high as 108

98: predicted high today from the  Twin Cities metro area to Chicago, some thermometers may brush 100 before winds shift to the west/northwest by evening and temperatures start to fall. Heat index by early afternoon: 105-110.

Excessive Heat Warning in effect from the Twin Cities southward to Missouri today.

124 Degree Heat Index: Atlantic, Iowa Thursday afternoon. 99 degree temperature + 82 degree dew point = 124 H.I.

Soaking rains again across Florida: some 1-2" rainfall amounts possible, helping to ease the drought.

Seattle: 296th day/row without seeing an 80-degree high. All-time record is 313 days.

"...The damage this spring broke records. Last week, a report from Aon Benfield, a re-insurance company, estimated $21 or $22 billion in damage from severe weather so far this year...The damage total reported by Aon does not include damage from flooding, drought and wildfire.

" - article on losses suffered due to extreme weather in 2011, details below.

2010: 874 weather and climate-related disasters resulted in 68,000 deaths and $99 billion in damages worldwide. (Pew Center White Paper, details below).

Blazing Saddles. A Heat Advisory is in effect for much of central/southern Minnesota, almost all of Wisconsin, southward to Missouri, where Excessive Heat Warnings are posted (purple counties). An Excessive Heat Warning is also posted for Hennepin and Ramsey county, where the "urban heat island" (more asphalt/industry) will boost temperatures by another 5+ degrees. The NOAA watch/warning map for the USA is here.

Dangerously Hot On Thursday in the Twin Cities. Data below from the local Twin Cities NWS office:

Photo Of The Day. This may be one of the most spectacular photos I've ever seen, in this case a tornadic supercell approaching a truck stop in Nebraska. Details from The Telegraph: "A stormchaser has turned his hobby into a job, driving tens of thousands of miles every year to take spectacular photographs of extreme weather. Mike Hollingshead jumps in his car and races after storm warnings in the hope of capturing shots of tornadoes. He follows about 40 storms each year, clocking up around 20,000 miles. June 17, 2009. Mike says, "this photograph was taken at the end of the day after seeing 3 tornadoes from the storm. The supercell is moving towards the York, Nebraska truck stop." Remarkable.

Arrival Of Cooler Air May Set Off A Few Severe Storms...

Friday Severe Threat. SPC has much of Minnesota, Wisconsin and western/central Iowa in a "slight risk" of isolated severe storms today, the leading edge of cooler, drier Canadian air destabilizing the atmosphere - spinning up a few cells capable of large hail, highs winds, even an isolated tornado.

Friday Highs. Much of America will sizzle today, highs topping 100 in as many as 10 states. Predicted highs range from 98 in the Twin Cities to 97 in Chicago, close to 100 at Kansas City, low 100s in Oklahoma City and Dallas. Seattle will experience the 295th day in a row without seeing 80 degrees. The all-time record is 313 days. Map courtesy of Ham Weather, a division of WeatherNation.

Friday Precipitation Outlook. The latest NAM/WRF model predicts strong/severe storms from Minnesota southward to Missouri, along the leading edge of cooler, drier, more comfortable Canadian air. More heavy T-storms will help to ease the drought across Florida, a few spotty showers over interior New England and along the Gulf Coast. The west looks dry, still cool over the Pacific Northwest, seasonably warm for the southwestern USA. Map above valid at 7 pm, showing expected precipitation for the previous 6 hours.

1         30          2011
2         29          1953
3         28          1914
4         27          2010...1952
5         26          1934...1925...1911

Nuke Query: What If Dam Breaks? A chilling throught, with a low probability of taking place, but has a look at what a massive failure of dams located upstream of Omaha might mean for the nuclear power plants on the Missouri River: "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is asking for an explanation of the flooding that would occur should a dam break upstream of two Nebraska nuclear plants it monitors. Combined, the six U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dams on the flood-swollen Missouri River comprise one of the largest reservoir systems in the country. The dams are releasing historic amounts of water during what will be a summer of managed flooding in the Missouri River valley. On Wednesday, the NRC regional office that oversees Nebraska sent an official request to the corps for its 2009 and 2010 analyses of what would happen if a dam fails. Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, 19 miles north of Omaha, has been taken offline because of the flooding. The river surrounds the plant to a depth of about two feet. About 70 miles south of Omaha, Cooper Nuclear Station remains online. On Thursday, the river was about three feet below the level that would require the plant to shut down. Anton Vegel, director of the division of reactor safety for the Arlington, Tex., office of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission made the request to Col. Robert J. Ruch, commander of the Omaha District of the corps. The Omaha district oversees the dams. The dams themselves have had some issues, according to the corps, but nothing that affects their integrity, said John Bertino, head of dam safety for the Omaha district. While the amount of water being released from them is a record, the amount of water being held behind the is not, he said."

Flood Evacuation In Percival, Iowa After Levee Breach. Here is raw footage of the evacuation from WHO-TV in Des Moines.

Tornado Tips: How To Stay Safe Before, During And After The Storm. The Las Vegas Review-Journal has a good recap on what you should (and shouldn't) do during a tornadic storm:

* "Taking shelter at home. An essential part of tornado safety is knowing where to go when it's time to take shelter. If your home has a basement, you should go down into it. If possible, go under a sturdy table and/or cover yourself with something that will protect you from falling debris, such as a mattress or a sleeping bag. Think about where heavy objects are on the floor above you and do not position yourself under them. If your home does not have a basement, go to a small, windowless room or a stairwell positioned in the center of the ground floor of your house. Cover yourself with a mattress or other protection from falling debris and crouch as low to the floor as possible, covering your head with your hands.

* Taking shelter on the road. Driving during a tornado is dangerous, but if you are on the road when the warning is issued or a storm is sighted, it's important to know what to do. Whenever possible, pull over safely and seek shelter in a sturdy building. If there are no buildings around, pull over to the side of the road and go to low ground well away from vehicles. Lie flat, face down and protect your head with your arms. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can cause traffic hazards."

Texas Drought Declared Natural Disaster. The combination of debilitating heat and "exceptional drought" is wiping out crops across Texas. More details from Huffington Post: "Drought and wildfires have lead to the decision by the US Department of Agriculture to declare the entire state of Texas a natural disaster.KCBD in Lubbock reports that in all, 213 counties in Texas have lost at least 30 percent of their crops or pasture. The disaster declaration will allow farmers and ranchers to qualify for emergency loans at lower interest rates. "This is a disaster," Texas farmer Scott Harmon said. "This is a train wreck."

The Entire State Of Texas Has Been Declared A Disaster Area. Another perspective on the deepening drought in the Lonestar state from Business Insider: "More than 200 Texan counties have been designated drought disasters by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and all remaining counties now qualify for federal aid. KCBD in Lubbock reports that 213 counties have lost at least 30 percent of their pasture or crops to wildfires and drought. The natural disaster designation allows farmers and ranchers to qualify for low-rate emergency loans. South Plains farmer Scott Harmon told KCBD, "This is a disaster. This is a train wreck. We've never seen anything like this before. People are scared, they don't know what to do and what's going to happen to them next." Harmon's family have been farming their small piece of Texas since the 1920's....Texas Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples told 103.5 things are bad and they will probably get worse:

We are currently ranked as the third-worst drought on record in Texas. But each passing day moves us closer to the number one year. It is a true calamity. The impact is heartbreaking,” says Staples. “We’ve had over two million acres of dry land cotton being declared 100% abandoned. We have livestock producers that are liquidating their herds, something they’ve spent their entire lifetime building up. It’s just a dreadful set of circumstances.”

Agricultural losses may exceed the 2006 record of $4.1 billion. More than 70 percent of the state is in a full blown drought and three million acres have been burned by wildfires."

Driest Consecutive 9 Months Ever Recorded In Midland, Texas. Here's a post from the NWS: "From October 2010 through June 2011 Midland International Airport has received 0.18 of an inch of precipitation. This is by far the least amount of precipitation that has fallen in any 9 consecutive month period since record keeping began in 1930. Here is a list of the top ten driest consecutive 9 months at the airport from 1930-2011."

Wild Weather Draining Fragile State Budgets. The story from the Southeast Farm Press: "Drought, floods, thunderstorms and tornadoes brutally hit the United States this spring and hurricane season hasn't started yet. With people and government budgets suffering from weather costs, what will summer bring?

 Meteorologists at predict four direct hits on the United States by tropical systems this year. Cleanup costs from those storms will drain already fragile state budgets hit by extreme weather this spring.

 The damage this spring broke records. Last week, a report from Aon Benfield, a re-insurance company, estimated $21 or $22 billion in damage from severe weather so far this year. Aon Benfield's report included uninsured losses from April and May's tornadoes and severe storms. Aon said that in those two months, the amount of severe weather insured losses is three times the U.S. annual average (1990-2010).

 The damage total reported by Aon does not include damage from flooding, drought and wildfire.

 Flooding of the Mississippi River from Illinois to Louisiana caused between $850 million and $2 billion in damage, John Michael Riley, agricultural economist at Mississippi State, said.

 In Minot, N.D., $90 million is the preliminary estimate for flood damage to public facilities. With the flood waters still high, there is no prediction on damage to homes and other private property.


Active Fires. Wildfires continue to burn from California east to the Carolinas and Florida. Click here to see the latest information from the North American Forest Fire Incident Display System.

Fire Threat. The fire situation remains critical from northern Arizona into the central Plains states, map courtesy of NOAA.

Airplane Deployed To Monitor Air Over New Mexico Fire. The concern is radioactive materials being stored at the Los Alamos Nuclear Lab, but so far there are no indications that any of these 55 gallon drums have been compromised by the wildfire. USA Today has the latest: "LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) — The government sent a plane equipped with radiation monitors over the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory Wednesday as a 125-square-mile wildfire burned at its doorstep, putting thousands of scientific experiments on hold for days. Lab authorities described the monitoring as a precaution, and they, along with outside experts on nuclear engineering, expressed confidence that the blaze would not scatter radioactive material, as some in surrounding communities feared. "Our facilities, our nuclear materials are all safe, they're accounted for and they're protected," said lab director Charles McMillan. After firefighters spent Wednesday setting fires to create a burned out area west and south of the lab, Los Alamos County Fire Chief Doug Tucker said he is confident that the fire won't spread onto the facility. "It's looking real good right now," Tucker said Wednesday night. "By having that buffer I'm pretty confident that we'd be able to stop any spot fires from coming into the lab." A 10-mile fire line along a highway has held since Monday, save for a one acre spot fire that started on lab grounds that was quickly extinguished."

TRMM. Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission. NASA is using a low-orbiting satellite to scan tropical storms and hurricanes from low-orbit. Here is some data gathered on Tropical Storm Arlene from TRMM; more details here: "The image (above) is the result of automatic processes designed to show the latest hurricanes and typhoons (tropical cyclones) observed by the TRMM satellite. The images are made and stored in near "realtime". TRMM VIRS, TMI and PR are processed for use in these displays. The "A" to "B" line on the static image on the left below is drawn where the highest value of radar reflectivity was found. Animations show multiple vertical cross sections (slices) of Precipitation Radar reflectivity."

Freakish Weather Out West...

Snow In The Lake Tahoe Area On June 29! Check out this YouTube clip. Snow was accumulating above 7,000 feet on Wednesday - pretty remarkable for so late in the season: "Lake Tahoe woke up to snow above 7300 feet. This is the second snow of June. It has been over 12 years since it has snowed every month of the year but it does happen. This could be one of thoes years. The Lake Level is at 6228. 0. Flood stage begins at 6228.7 Warm weather should return on thursday and back to the 80's for 4th of July week end. This rain could save us from wild fires over the long week end."

"EarthWeek". Highlighting The World's Weather Extremes. This is an interesting web site, showcasing some of the more noteworthy extremes and highlights over the last 7 days. According to EarthWeek: "The week's hottest temperature was 116.1 degrees Fahrenheit (46.7 degrees Celsius) at Nema, Mauritania. The week's coldest temperature was minus 101.9 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 46.7 degrees Celsius) at Russia's Vostok Antarctic research station."

Airplanes Found To Trigger Rain, Snow. An intriguing story from CBS News and AP: "WASHINGTON - Airplanes flying through super-cooled clouds around airports can cause condensation that results in more snow and rain nearby, according to a new study. The correct conditions for this inadvertent weather modification occur about 5 percent of the time - but 10-to-15 percent in winter - according to Andrew J. Heymsfield of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., lead author of the study appearing in Friday's edition of the journal Science. Aircraft take off into the wind, he noted, so if they are generating extra ice particles upwind of an airport, the result can be snow right on the airport. That might mean planes will require more de-icing, he said, though other researchers weren't so sure. The team was investigating holes or canals that are sometimes seen drilled in clouds after an airplane has passed through. Studying six commercial airports, they found that increased snow and rainfall occurs in areas where the unusual cloud holes appear, usually within 60 miles (100 kilometers) of the airport. Places farther away from an airport are more likely to be at higher altitudes, above the clouds. The added rain or snowfall occurred when conditions in the clouds were super-cooled. That means the clouds were made up of water droplets that were colder than freezing, but which had not yet frozen. Water in the atmosphere can remain liquid at temperatures below freezing if it doesn't have any type of nucleus to freeze onto, such as bits of dust or salt. It will freeze without a nucleus when it gets very cold, however - about minus 40 degrees(minus 15 Celsius). It turns out, when an airplane passes through one of these clouds the movement of air around the tips of the propeller, or over the wings of a jet, causes a sudden cooling of the air, sometimes down to the critical point where the droplets freeze. They then can fall to earth as snow or rain, depending on whether or not the air is warm enough to melt them on the way down."

We Have To Fix E-Mail. I couldn't agree more - I spend WAY too much of my day deleting spam and clicking through mind-numbing e-mails. There has to be a better way. The New York Time's David Pogue has a few ideas (subscription may be required to read the full text): "I’ll admit it: I have an e-mail problem. At this moment, there are 1,944 unanswered messages in the Inbox of my private account, and 2,730 in the Inbox of my public account. And that’s after taking a deep breath and deleting all the unanswered ones from 2008 and 2009, which I realized would be too embarrassing to answer anyway. I’m a special case, of course. My e-mail address is published everywhere, and I write about a subject that’s among the most baffling in the world — technology. Many people write me in hopes of getting “what should I buy” advice, seeking “how do I fix it” information or just responding to something they’ve read. Still, I’m not the only one with an e-mail problem. Among my friends, many have hundreds or thousands of messages sitting unanswered at this moment. It’s a broken system, for sure. Yesterday, someone posted a Web site called the E-mail Charter. It’s 10 principles that are designed to ease the problem. This isn’t a new idea; you can find similar articles all over the Internet. (You can also find “zero-inbox” advocates online: people who advocate filing all e-mail every day, so you always leave work with an empty Inbox. To me, though, that’s just a self-fakeout. You’re just shuffling the same unanswered messages into folders.)"

Social Media + Broadcast TV = Killer App. TVNewsCheck has the story: "A study found that more viewers chatted and tweeted while watching live TV during the past season and the top 10 most popular "social shows" are all aired on broadcast networks. Such social viewing is giving rise to a new metric, social impressions, that bolsters the gross ratings points. Stations are also discovering the value of tying local programming in with the Facebook and Twitter. The more dedicated the fans of a show are, the more impact their social media presence has. Maureen Bosetti, EVP of broadcast and buying for Optimedia US, recently told Media Daily News that social media considerations allow “us to tap into sponsorship opportunities across multiple platforms and amplify our client’s message where consumers are most engaged.” The social media effect is also showing up in the strategies of television stations. Gannett Broadcasting has done a number of marketing promotions on its NBC affiliates built around late-season entry, The Voice. The result? Most of those six Gannett stations in the top 25 markets are ranked either first or second in the time period during which the show airs. And latenight local programming, for virtually all of Gannett’s 11 NBC affiliates, has seen noticeable bumps in the ratings. Can local television broadcasters take advantage of the social media/television interaction to directly benefit one of our greatest assets: local news? "

Worst Weatherman? Not so fast - I think this guy does a fine job. Just needs to pick out a shirt that isn't ChromaKey green next time. Give him a chance...

Climate Stories...

Part 1: "Storm Warnings: Extreme Weather Is A Product Of Climate Change". John Carey, writing for Scientific American, has a series focused on the extreme weather gripping much of America. 2010 may have seen the most frequent (and severe) weather outbreaks since 1816, according to the Weather Underground's Chief Meteorologist Jeff Masters. Is this all a coincidence, or is the 4-5% increase in water vapor "loading the dice" in favor of more flooding, more severe local storms and heavier winter snows? "In North Dakota the waters kept rising. Swollen by more than a month of record rains in Saskatchewan, the Souris River topped its all time record high, set back in 1881. The floodwaters poured into Minot, North Dakota's fourth-largest city, and spread across thousands of acres of farms and forests. More than 12,000 people were forced to evacuate. Many lost their homes to the floodwaters. Yet the disaster unfolding in North Dakota might be bringing even bigger headlines if such extreme events hadn't suddenly seemed more common. In this year alone massive blizzards have struck the U.S. Northeast, tornadoes have ripped through the nation, mighty rivers like the Mississippi and Missouri have flowed over their banks, and floodwaters have covered huge swaths of Australia as well as displaced more than five million people in China  and devastated Colombia. And this year's natural disasters follow on the heels of a staggering litany of extreme weather in 2010, from record floods in Nashville, Tenn., and Pakistan, to Russia's crippling heat wave. Increasingly, the answer is yes. Scientists used to say, cautiously, that extreme weather events were "consistent" with the predictions of climate change. No more. "Now we can make the statement that particular events would not have happened the same way without global warming," says Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo. That's a profound change—the difference between predicting something and actually seeing it happen. The reason is simple: The signal of climate change is emerging from the "noise"—the huge amount of natural variability in weather."

Part 2: "Global Warming And The Science Of Extreme Weather". Here is the second part of John Carey's 3-part series at Scientific American: "Extreme floods, prolonged droughts, searing heat waves, massive rainstorms and the like don't just seem like they've become the new normal in the last few years—they have become more common, according to data collected by reinsurance company Munich Re. But has this increase resulted from human-caused climate change or just from natural climatic variations? After all, recorded floods and droughts go back to the earliest days of mankind, before coal, oil and natural gas made the modern industrial world possible. Until recently scientists had only been able to say that more extreme weather is "consistent" with climate change caused by greenhouse gases that humans are emitting into the atmosphere. Now, however, they can begin to say that the odds of having extreme weather have increased because of human-caused atmospheric changes—and that many individual events would not have happened in the same way without global warming. The reason: The signal of climate change is finally emerging from the "noise"—the huge amount of natural variability in weather. Scientists compare the normal variation in weather with rolls of the dice. Adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere loads the dice, increasing odds of such extreme weather events. It's not just that the weather dice are altered, however. As Steve Sherwood, co-director of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Australia, puts it, "it is more like painting an extra spot on each face of one of the dice, so that it goes from 2 to 7 instead of 1 to 6. This increases the odds of rolling 11 or 12, but also makes it possible to roll 13."

Part 3: "Our Extreme Future: Predicting And Coping With The Effects Of A Changing Climate. Here is the final part of John Carey's 3-part Scientific American series on climate change and extreme weather events - a look at what recent trends might mean for the future: "Extreme weather events have become both more common and more intense. And increasingly, scientists have been able to pin at least part of the blame on humankind's alteration of the climate. What's more, the growing success of this nascent science of climate attribution (finding the telltale fingerprints of climate change in extreme events) means that researchers have more confidence in their climate models—which predict that the future will be even more extreme. Are we prepared for this future? Not yet. Indeed, the trend is in the other direction, especially in Washington, D.C., where a number of members of Congress even argue that climate change itself is a hoax. Scientists hope that rigorously identifying climate change's contribution to individual extreme events can indeed wake people up to the threat. As the research advances, it should be possible to say that two extra inches (five centimeters) of rain poured down in a Midwestern storm because of greenhouse gases, or that a California heat wave was 10 times more likely to occur thanks to humans' impacts on climate. So researchers have set up rapid response teams to assess climate change's contribution to extreme events while the events are still fresh in people's minds. In addition, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is preparing a special report on extreme events and disasters, due out by the end of 2011. "It is important for us emphasize that climate change and its impacts are not off in the future, but are here and now," explained Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, during a briefing at United Nations climate talks in Cancún last December."

Extreme Weather And Climate Change: Understanding The Link, Managing The Risk. Here is the Pew Center White Paper, written by Dan Huber and Jay Gulledge: "Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company, began compiling global disaster data in 1980. In that data set, 2010 had the second-largest (after 2007) number of recorded natural disasters and the fifth-greatest economic losses.4 Although there were far more deaths from geological disasters—almost entirely from the Haiti earthquake—more than 90 percent of all disasters and 65 percent of associated economic damages were weather and climate related (i.e. high winds, flooding, heavy snowfall, heat waves, droughts, wildfires). In all, 874 weather and climate-related disasters resulted in 68,000 deaths and $99 billion in damages worldwide. The fact that 2010 was one of the warmest years on record as well as one of the most disastrous, begs the question: Is global warming causing more extreme weather? The short and simple answer is yes, at least for heat waves and heavy precipitation.5 But much of the public discussion of this relationship obscures the link behind a misplaced focus on causation of individual weather events. The questions we ask of science are critical: When we ask whether climate change “caused” a particular event, we pose a fundamentally unanswerable question (see box). This fallacy assures that we will often fail to draw connections between individual weather events and climate change, leading us to disregard the real risks of more extreme weather due to global warming."

Increases In The Number Of Days With Very Heavy Precipitation: 1958-2007. From the Pew Center White Paper referenced above:

Fire Up The Grill, Not The Atmosphere. Here's an Op-Ed from the New York Times: "FOOD is responsible for 10 to 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. By many estimates, cooking represents more of a meal’s carbon footprint than transport. For certain vegetables, it accounts for more emissions than agriculture, transport and disposal combined. Fourth of July, the national celebration of combustion, presents an opportunity for atonement. I’m not advising you to forsake grilling this holiday and join the ranks of raw-foodists. Nor do I believe that we can reverse climate change by eating burgers rare instead of well done. But a little creative thinking can reduce this year’s Fourth of July carbon emissions without gustatory sacrifice. And maybe that awareness will carry into other days and other parts of our lives."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June 30: Expanding Heatwave Central U.S. (more snow out west!)

Excessive Heat Warning posted for the Twin Cities today: highs in the mid to upper 90s coupled with a predicted dew point of 75-80 will make it feel like 105-108 by late afternoon. The risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke will be significant later today. Take it easy out there.

Extreme Humidity Statistics. Since 1945 the Twin Cities has experienced only 20 hours with a dew point temperature of 80 or higher. The all-time record: 81, set in 1999.

Guam, With Lakes. The "low" temperature (minimum reading) in the Twin Cities may not drop below 80 F. in the downtowns tonight.

4th of July: A long-range outlook for Monday. Will Mother Nature whip up a few atmospheric firecrackers? The probability of thunder Monday evening below.

...The climate of the 2000s is about 1.5 degree F warmer than the 1970s, so we would expect the updated 30-year normals to be warmer,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., NCDC director. Article on the new NOAA "normals" below.

* 2010 one of the 2 warmest years ever recorded, worldwide. NOAA has details below.

" would seem that the growing number of weather-related catastrophes can only be explained by climate change....Meanwhile, the political winds in the Washington have a strong whiff of petroleum." - Guardian article on the insurance industry coming to grips with climate change.

"...Our figures indicate a trend towards an increase in extreme weather events that can only be fully explained by climate change," says Peter Höppe, head of Munich Re's Geo Risks Research/Corporate Climate Center: "It's as if the weather machine had changed up a gear." - recent Scientific American article on a growing link between extreme weather events and climate change."

Excessive Heat Warning For Twin Cities. The "urban heat island" will amplify and magnify the heat today (all that asphalt and concrete adds another 5-10 degrees on a day like this). Heat advisories are posted for most of central and southern Minnesota, flood warnings remain in effect for the Minnesota River. More from the NWS here.

Heat Index. Leave to a meteorologist to leave you feeling more miserable than you thought possible. In the winter and early spring it's wind chill. Today it's the "heat index", what it actually feels like out there, factoring temperature and dew point. The concept is simple: your body cools itself naturally by sweating. Evaporation of sweat off your skin has a cooling effect (that's why you feel chilled stepping out of the shower). But when dew points are in the 70s to near 80, when there's this much water already in the air, your body can't cool itself by sweating. It's much easier to overheat. The predicted heat index at 4 pm today is forecast to range from 104 in the Twin Cities to 105 at Marshall, 108 at Alexandria and Moorhead. Pass the A/C please.

Thursday Weather Map. Showers and heavy T-storms linger over Florida (great news for the drought-stricken state). Much of the east should be sunny and dry, extreme heat surging north across the Plains into the Twin Cities. A line of strong/severe storms may pop across the western Plains late in the day, a few storms over the Dakotas may turn severe. Meanwhile the west remains dry - still unseasonably cool, a few light showers for Seattle. WRF/NAM model forecast map above valid at 7 pm this evening.

Probability Of Precipitation On July 4. Dry weather is likely out west and across the southern Plains states, the best chance of scattered T-storms across the Upper midwest and Ohio Valley. The risk of T-storms is 42% in the Twin Cities, 35% at Duluth, less farther west across the Dakotas.

Meteorological Aspects Of 100-Degree Heat In Chicago. The local NWS office in Chicago has a good post focused on what meteorological ingredients are necessary for 100-degree heat in the Chicagoland area. I was in Chicago (WBBM-TV) in 1995 when the mercury hit 106 (dew point over 80). It felt like 120 F. Nearly 800 people died over the span of 3 days. Local media referred to this deadly heat as a "Heat Storm", because it came on suddenly, and left just as quickly. A spell of 100-degree heat is shaping up for Chicago by Friday, but a cooler front should provide some relief over the weekend. More details: "As the week progresses, the models continue to hint at the possibility of a major heat wave impacting the Chicagoland area. 100 degree days in the Chicago area are extremely rare; in fact, they have accounted for less than 0.2% of the days in the past 31 years. Given the rarity of 100 degrees, some basic research was done to determine the past synoptic setups in which 100 degree days were recorded. Based on each 100 degree day recorded during the past 31 years, an average was achieved, and from that average, a composite map was created. These composite maps draw stark comparisons to current model runs (as of 28 June, 2011). In particular, current model runs seem resemble the composite maps in regards to the 500mb ridge axis, as well as location of the 500mb high. Along with that resemblance, the 925mb, and 850mb temperatures also have a similarity in their max temperature (22-24C; generally greater in model runs), as well as the orientation of the thermal ridge (west-east). Even though there seems to be a good correlation between the model runs and these past events, it would be premature to issue forecasts for 100 degree temperatures. At this current time there are far too many variables that remain in question to consider forecasting high temperatures of 100 degrees or greater. Most importantly: a lot can change in the next several days."

USA Flood Outlook. The latest graphic from NOAA's NCEP division is here - extensive flooding underway from the Dakotas southward to Missouri. Rapid snow melt coupled with sudden warmth and rain showers are producing flooding problems for the central and northern Rockies as well.

Minnesota Flood Update. Minor flooding is being reported along the Minnesota River, but moderate flooding is taking place in Montevideo. Click here to see all the details, courtesy of the National Weather Service.

Is Deluged Minot, North Dakota Ready For Drought? What's that old saying? "Only in North Dakota can you be ankle-deep in mud with dust blowing in your face." The extremes are pretty staggering - once the flood waters recede residents of North Dakota may be dealing with drought conditions. Unbelievable. The New York Times reports: "Mayor Curt Zimbelman of Minot, N.D., sat in his office yesterday for the first time in more than a week after battling the worst flood of the Souris River his town has seen since 1881. Zimbleman oversaw an emotional, voluntary evacuation of his town when the crests last week were forecast to be 7 feet higher than they have ever been. He has taken numerous helicopter rides to survey the inundation's damage. He is overseeing a secondary levee that is holding water back for emergency vehicles and trying to find shelter for Minot's 11,000 displaced people. Zimbelman said he knows climate change could create more flooding and even drought someday in his city. But he is not thinking about that now. "It's complete devastation. Most of these houses are up to the rooftops," Zimbelman said, recounting his observations from hours spent at the emergency center and surveying the damage by helicopter. "Right now we're just focused on getting through the immediate disaster." This year, record amounts of snow and rainfall resulted in unprecedented flooding of the Souris and Missouri rivers, wreaking millions of dollars in damages in North Dakota towns like Minot and states throughout the Midwest. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers braced for crisis along the Souris on Father's Day, with severe flooding setting in June 24. Last weekend the river crested, some areas reaching 14 feet above flood level."

Utah Flood Risk Remains High, Fire Danger Peaks. It may be a short-term peak in the fire situation across Utah, but prime-time for wildfires is late summer and early autumn. The Salt Lake Tribune has the latest: "As potential climatic crises go, forecasters are serving up an eclectic repast: overflowing rivers and creeks in northern Utah, tinder-dry high desert ranges to the south and high winds throughout the state. In northern Utah, the National Weather Service left flood warnings in place for Cache County’s Logan River and Spring Creek; the Weber River in Weber and Summit counties; and the Duchesne and Green rivers in the eastern part of the state. Salt Lake County’s Little Cottonwood Creek started Wednesday at “bank full,” though floodwatchers believed the worst was over. Creek monitors expected it to rise to near or at flood stage by early Thursday morning before once again retreating. Residents of Providence, where sandbag barriers had been reinforced late Tuesday against an expected overnight peak flow at Spring Creek, were breathing easier with the coming of dawn Wednesday. “Last night went very well,” said Randy Eck, public works director for Providence. “The anticipated [flooding] levels were not reached overnight. I don’t know why, but I’m not going to ask, either. I’m just very thankful.” (photo courtesy of

Global May Weather Highlights. Click here to see some of the weather and climate highlights (low-lights) for May. The USA experienced the wettest May on record across the Northern Plains and Northern Rockies, contributing to historic flooding now underway on the Missouri River.

Average U.S. Temperature Increases By .5 F. The new 30 year "normals" are about to be released by NOAA; here's a preview: "According to the 1981-2010 normals to be released by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) on July 1, temperatures across the United States were on average, approximately 0.5 degree F warmer than the 1971-2000 time period. Normals serve as a 30 year baseline average of important climate variables that are used to understand average climate conditions at any location and serve as a consistent point of reference. The new normals update the 30-year averages of climatological variables, including average temperature and precipitation for more than 7,500 locations across the United States. This once-a-decade update will replace the current 1971–2000 normals. In the continental United States, every state’s annual maximum and minimum temperature increased on average. “The climate of the 2000s is about 1.5 degree F warmer than the 1970s, so we would expect the updated 30-year normals to be warmer,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., NCDC director. Using standards established by the World Meteorological Organization, the 30-year normals are used to compare current climate conditions with recent history. Local weathercasters traditionally use normals for comparisons with the day’s weather conditions.

Wednesday In New Mexico: 24 New Fires In 24 Hours. has the details: "2011 is the busiest,the most destructive fire season since records started being kept. Twenty-four new fires in twenty-four hours and other fires from around the state add to the record."

Next Week. According to NOAA flooding will continue to be a major concern from Montana and the Dakotas southward to Missouri, extreme heat from the Middle Mississippi River Valley to the Carolina, while extreme drought conditions grip much of the south.

"Mini-Tsunami" Hits England, Triggered By Underwater Landslide. This YouTube clip caught my eye - a surge of water (apparently) triggered by a landslight off the coast of the U.K. Amazing.

Tropical Storm Arlene. Packing 50 mph winds, "Arlene" is the first tropical storm of the season, tracking due west into Mexico, where it may drop some 10-15" rains in the next 1-2 days. Satellite loop courtesy of NOAA and Mike's Weather Page.

Projected Track. The soggy remains of "Arlene" are forecast to track due west, only one model pulls the storm north into Texas, where locals are probably praying for a tropical soaking (preferably not a hurricane). Data courtesy of NHC.

Crazy Extremes Continue Across the USA...

Los Alamos Wildfire Update. As of late Wednesday flames had consumed over 70,000 acres of land around the Los Alamos nuclear lab. The blaze is only 3% contained. KOB-TV has more details here.
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory announced it will remain closed through Friday because of risks presented by the Las Conchas Fire and the mandatory evacuation of Los Alamos town site.
  • The Las Conchas fire has not jumped the highway and entered Technical Area 16 on the lab’s southwestern boundary.
  • Only one fire has been sparked at LANL, and it was less than an acre and put out quickly.
  • Santa Fe National Forest and Valles Caldera National Preserve will close the majority of the Forest and Preserve to all public access starting Thursday. Many state parks and wildlife areas closed as well.
  • Governor Susana Martinez declared a State of Emergency in New Mexico through July 6th regarding the use of fireworks. While State law does not allow the Governor to ban fireworks by executive order, she is urging all New Mexicans to refrain from buying, selling, or using fireworks during the dry summer fire season and has instructed the Department of Public Safety to increase staffing of officers and coordination with local law enforcement agencies to enforce all statewide and local fireworks bans or restrictions.

Snow In Lake Tahoe Area, On June 29! Check out this YouTube video taken yesterday - enough snow to coat the ground. What summer?

4th Of July Skiing At Snowbird. Tired of picnics, grilling and fireworks? Consider a little downhill skiing or snow-boarding on the 4th of July. Unbelievable. 783" snow so far this super-sized "winter season", with a whopping 107" of snow still on the ground mid-mountain. The mind-boggling details are here. No, you can't make this stuff up.
  • Lake Tahoe woke up to snow above 7300 feet.
  • This is the second snow of June.
  • It has been over 12 years since it has snowed every month of the year but it does happen. This could be one of those years.
  • Even with the melt accelerating fast, enough upper-elevation snowpack remains for Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort to stick with plans to extend the ski season through the Fourth of July.
  • Lasting through Monday would give Snowbird a 202-day season — its longest ever.

Lightning Kills 18 Students, Teacher in Uganda. USA Today has the story: "A lightning strike on a primary school in Uganda killed 18 students and their teacher and injured 36 other pupils, according to news reports. Two other people died in separate lightning strikes elsewhere in the African nation. In the past week, a wave of lightning strikes has killed a total of 31 Ugandans. A government meteorologist said the electrical storms have resulted from "an unusual" surge of moist air flowing from the Atlantic Ocean and through the Congo Basin, combined with dry spells, the Daily Monitor  reports. The country's top disaster-preparedness official blamed the deaths on a lack of lightning rods, which are required under building codes. "Over the years, there has been a reluctance to enforce these building codes. It is until now that we have realized that many schools and health centers do not have these conductors," said Musa Ecweru, minister of state for disaster preparedness. "Yes, there has been negligence on the part of those who certify buildings are fit for public use."

Close Call. This woman is lucky to be alive. She was shooting video outside her window of an electrical storm, when a cloud to ground strike hit a pole and transformer less than 30 feet from where she was standing. This is why it's probably not a good idea to stand next to a large window during a thunderstorm. Check out the YouTube footage. Details: "I shot this last night during a storm in Richmond, VA. I got first degree burns on my forehead from the heat of the blast. Enjoy!!"

Man Hit By Lightning For The 6th Time. Talk about redefining the meaning of "bad luck"! has the remarkable story. Best not to hang too close to this guy: "An Upstate man has again disproved the old adage about lightning never striking the same place twice after being struck for the sixth time on Monday.Melvin Roberts, 58, is recovering at Oconee Memorial Hospital after being struck at his home on Deer Park Drive in Seneca on Monday.His wife, Martha Roberts, said that her husband was outside trying to cover his lawn mower when he was struck. Neighbors found Roberts lying unconscious in the yard.Melvin Roberts said he was struck several times over the last several years, and in the last case in 2007, it was not even raining when it happened.Robert said, "I went to cover my chickens up, and I believe it was clear. But when I woke up, I was all bloody and burned and confused and had my little chickens lying with their feet up."Roberts carries a scar on his head from the first time and scars on his legs from the 2007 strike. That strike left him with nerve damage to his left leg and he spent more than a year in a wheelchair.This time he has a wound on his foot and blisters on his ankles."

Climate Stories...

Disaster Trends Since 1975. Expanding cities, more people living along the coast (and along flood-prone rivers), at risk to river flooding and hurricanes - that may be one factor, but superimposed over a "nation of sitting ducks" is climate change, a 4% increase in water vapor increasing rainfall rates, flash flooding, heavier winter snows and severe local storms. The graph above shows the incidence of global disasters, courtesy of "2010 Disasters In Numbers" from Munich Re.

Impact Of "ENSO" On Climate System: 2010 One Of The Two Warmest Years On Record: Here's an excerpt of an article from NOAA: Worldwide, 2010 was one of the two warmest years on record according to the 2010 State of the Climate report, which NOAA released today. The peer-reviewed report, issued in coordination with the American Meteorological Society, was compiled by 368 scientists from 45 countries. It provides a detailed, yearly update on global climate indicators, notable climate events and other climate information from every continent. This year’s report tracks 41 climate indicators ― four more than last year ― including temperature of the lower and upper atmosphere, precipitation, greenhouse gases, humidity, cloud cover, ocean temperature and salinity, sea ice, glaciers, and snow cover. Each indicator includes thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets that allow scientists to identify overall trends.    While several well-known cyclical weather patterns had a significant influence on weather and climate events throughout the year, the comprehensive analysis of indicators shows a continuation of the long-term trends scientists have seen over the last 50 years, consistent with global climate change. “We’re continuing to closely track these indicators because it is quite clear that the climate of the past cannot be assumed to represent the climate of the future. These indicators are vital for understanding and making reliable projections of future climate,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Last year was marked by important climate oscillations like the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and the Arctic Oscillation, which affected regional climates and contributed to many of the world’s significant weather events in 2010.
Highlights of some of the climate indicators include:
  • Temperature: Three major independent datasets show 2010 as one of the two warmest years since official record-keeping began in the late 19th century. Annual average temperatures in the Arctic continued to rise at about twice the rate of the lower latitudes.

  • Sea Ice & Glaciers: Arctic sea ice shrank to the third smallest area on record, and the Greenland ice sheet melted at the highest rate since at least 1958. The Greenland ice sheet melt area was approximately 8 percent more than the previous record set in 2007. Alpine glaciers shrank for the 20th consecutive year. Meanwhile, average sea ice extent in the Antarctic grew to an all-time record maximum in 2010.

  • Sea Surface Temperature and Sea Level: Even with a moderate-to-strong La Niña in place during the latter half of the year, which is associated with cooler equatorial waters in the tropical Pacific, the  2010 average global sea surface temperature was third warmest on record and sea level continued to rise.

  • Ocean Salinity: Oceans were saltier than average in areas of high evaporation and fresher than average in areas of high precipitation, suggesting that the water cycle is intensifying."

Climate Change And The Insurance Industry. If you missed the recent Guardian article it's worth a read. A highlight: "And this month, while US media fail to consistently connect the dots between weather patterns and climate change, Munich Re – the world's biggest reinsurer – stated plainly, "weather extremes such as the massive floods experienced by China since early June are due to the advance of climate change." While acknowledging factors like population growth and rising property values – especially in risk-prone areas – Munich Re wrote, "it would seem that the growing number of weather-related catastrophes can only be explained by climate change."

Silence Of The Lambs: Media Herd's Coverage Of Climate Change "Fell Off The Map" In 2010. An article from Joe Romm at Climate Progress: "We had jaw-dropping science in 2010 (A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice).  We had gripping climatic disasters (Masters: “The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability”; Munich Re: “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change”).  And we even had major political theater — domestic (The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 1 and Part 2) and international (see The Cancun Compromise). But, as we’ll see, the one-time paper of record didn’t have climate change in a single one of its largest lead headlines.  And analyses of multiple databases reveal that the rest of the media sheepishly returned to 2005 levels of coverage.  The Daily Climate’s Douglas Fischer reports:

Media coverage of climate change in 2010 slipped to levels not seen since 2005, after spiking in in late 2009 in the run-up to the much-hyped United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen and the release of private emails from climate scientists stored on a English university server.
Analysis of’s archive of global media coverage shows that journalists published 23,156 climate-related stories in English last year — a 30 percent drop from ’09′s tally.
Those stories came from 8,710 different reporters, columnists and editorial writers at 1,552 different media outlets. Last year, according to the Web site’s database, more than 11,000 reporters tackled the subject – a 22 percent drop for 2010.
Despite the trend, some outlets and reporters remain prolific. Reuters again lead the pack, publishing 1,683 stories last year – 4.6 stories a day. The New York Times had 1,116; the London Guardian, 941; the Associated Press, 793.
But for network news and other mainstream outlets, the trend was down, down, down."