Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 11: Second Worst Drought in Texas History (today: 41st day/row above 100 in Dallas)

40 days above 100 in Dallas (all-time record is 42 days in 1980)

Almost An August Frost! Check out the Wednesday morning lows, courtesy of the Duluth office of the National Weather Service. 36 at Embarrass! More details here.

Photo Of The Day: Spectacular Aurora Activity Near Calgary. This is one of the most amazing photos I've ever seen of the Northern Lights, courtesy of the Calgary Herald. More details: "Dr. Robert Berdan, Calgary nature photographer and U of C assistant professor, took these remarkable photos about 2 a.m. on Aug. 6. At about 7 p.m. the evening before, an aurora alert was issued by the University of Alberta indicating there was a 70% chance of auroral activity in the southern prairies including Calgary. Berdan says, "I headed out at 10:30 p.m. to photograph the aurora and local thunderstorms and stopped on Township Road 252 near Cochrane and photographed the aurora until 2 a.m. Getting bright auroras this far south is a relatively rare event. However, the Aurora is nearing its 11 solar max."

Broiled, Steamed Or Grilled? More records falling across Texas:
  • Waco, TX consecutive 100°+ streak reached 42 days Wednesday, tying the #1 spot in 1980.
  • Dallas, TX consecutive 100°+ streak reached 40 days Wednesday. Currently #2. #1 is 42 in 1980.
  • Wichita Falls, TX consecutive 100°+ streak reached 50 days Wednesday. #2 is 42 in 1980.
  • Oklahoma City’s consecutive 90°+ streak reached 71 days Wednesday, tying the #1 spot in 1980.

It's Official: Second Worst Drought In Texas History. It's the worst 1-year drought on record, and (overall) it's now the worst drought for the Lonestar state since the 1950s. More details from the Sacramento Bee:
  • Texas is officially in the midst of its second-worst drought on record.
  • National Weather Service meteorologist, Victor Murphy, said that this year's drought has now surpassed one that ended in 1918 as the second-driest period in the state.
  • Texas' most severe overall drought remains one that persisted from 1950-1957.
  • The state climatologist last week declared the current drought the state's most severe one-year drought on record.
  • Texas saw less than an inch of rain statewide in July, and more than 90 percent of the state already is in the two most extreme stages of drought.
  • It has endured its driest 10 consecutive months on record.
Photo Credit above from "In this Aug. 2, 2011 file photo, the bottom of the pond at the the Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area is nearly dried up in Amarillo, Texas. A devastating drought sweeping across Texas is turning rivers into sand, creeks into mud, springs into mere trickles and lakes into large puddles, destroying habitats and ecosystems crucial to the survival of hundreds of wildlife and plant species. Now, with the second-worst drought in Lone Star State history expected to stick around for at least a year, biologists say the impacts on those habitats will be so severe and widespread they will last for years after the drought ends."

Severe Storms Blow Throught (The Delaware Valley). Here's an update from NBC in Philadelphia: "Strong storms moved through parts of the region Tuesday afternoon, bringing heavy rain, hail, lightning and gusty winds. In Delaware, about 19,000 customers of Delmarva Power are doing without.Dozens of roads are flooded or are blocked by downed limbs. The severe storms brought down trees and power lines and ripped the roof off of at least one home in Wilmington. According to the National Weather Service, the damage was done by straight line winds, not a tornado."

Severe storms hit parts of the Tulsa OK area early (Wednesday) morning:
CLLNN - - gust 75 mph at 2:33 a.m. CDT - - Collinsville HS in Collinsville, OK
JNKSC - - gust 72 mph at 2:43 a.m. CDT - -  Central Campus in Jenks, OK
TLSST - - gust 68 mph at 2:44 a.m. CDT - -  Jenks Middle School in Tulsa, OK
KGOK - - gust 62 mph at 1:01 a.m. CDT - - Guthrie-Edmond Regional Airport
JNKSW - - gust 62 mph at 2:41 a.m. CDT - - West Elementary Intermediate School in Jenks, OK
Pieces of roofing are in the parking lot at CLLNN - - Collinsville High School.

* update courtesy of NOAA and James Aman at EarthNetworks.

Texas Plant Will Turn Sewage Into Drinking Water. Mmm. Mmm. Good. Just hope they don't bottle it and try to sell it elsewhere. The details from Fox News:

"FORT WORTH, Texas –  In parched West Texas, it's often easier to drill for oil than to find new sources of water. So after years of diminishing water supplies made even worse by the second-most severe drought in state history, some communities are resorting to a plan that might have seemed absurd a generation ago: turning sewage into drinking water. Construction recently began on a $13 million water-reclamation plant believed to be the first in Texas. And officials have worked to dispel any fears that people will be drinking their neighbors' urine, promising the system will yield clean, safe water. Some residents are prepared to put aside any squeamishness if it means having an abundant water supply."

* photo credit above: GreenWorld Energy Foundation.

Alaska's Mt. Cleveland Volcano Begins Erupting, Poses No Danger. has the story: "Anchorage - The Mount Cleveland volcano, located on a remote island in Alaska, has begun erupting, according to recently released satellite images. Officials say the volcano poses no immediate danger to individuals or airplanes. The Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) has confirmed that Mount Cleveland’s volcano has begun erupting on a remote Alaska island. The eruption, learned from overnight satellite images, is a slow effusion of magma confined in the dome summit crater. AVO issued an Orange Alert Level Watch – “orange” and “watch” mean eruption is ongoing with little or no volcanic ash emissions."

Measuring Somalia's Lack Of Rainfall. The newest generation of NOAA GOES weather satellites can estimates rainfall amounts - here's a summary of recent findings from NOAA: "Prolonged drought in the Horn of Africa along with political turmoil has created a dire situation in Somalia. The Horn receives the majority of its precipitation during two wet seasons: one in the fall and another in the spring. The spring rains are especially critical, as the water is needed to last throughout the brutal sub-Saharan summer. This past year has been especially dry. Both wet seasons have failed to produce the rainfalls necessary to sustain crops and livestock, leading to widespread food shortages and famine. In many areas around the world, even the U.S., rain gauge data can be sparse. Nevertheless, accurate rainfall estimates are needed for weather models and hazard warnings, so NOAA has developed techniques to augment rainfall measurements by including infrared and microwave data from geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites."

Satellite Series: "GOES" vs. "POES". AccuWeather takes an informative look at the difference between geostationary (GOES) satellites, and low-orbiting (POES) satellites that orbit the Earth at roughly 200 miles: "Satellites are a crucial tool used by forecasters especially during hurricane season. In part one of this series, we look at the difference between geostationary and polar orbiters, and the strengths and weaknesses of each."

New "GOES-14" Satellite. GOES-14 has been turned on for testing; comparisons with GOES-11 and GOES-13 showing stratus clouds near Los Angeles, courtesy of the University of Wisconsin CIMSS blog. The new satellite is the middle loop, showing a new level of resolution.

How Students Use Technology. I thought this was an interesting "infographic", courtesy of and Linkedin: "It’s clear that today’s students rely heavily on electronic devices even when they’re not incorporated in the classroom. In one survey of college students, 38% said they couldn’t even go 10 minutes without switching on some sort of electronic device. But how students are using their devices, how technology is affecting their educational experience, and what effect it has on their well-being are questions that are harder to answer. In the infographic below, online higher education database has summed up some of the existing research on these points."

Hacker Group "Anonymous" Vows To Destroy Facebook On November 5. Just what you wanted to read on a Thursday. Good grief. New details suggest this is just a subset of the Anonymous hacker group - but I'd bet you a server or two that Mr. Zuckerberg is taking the threat seriously Details from "Hacktivist group Anonymous, which has been responsible for cyber-attacks on the Pentagon, News Corp, and others, has vowed to destroy Facebook on November 5th (which should ring a bell). Citing privacy concerns and the difficulty involved in deleting a Facebook account, Anonymous hopes to "kill Facebook," the "medium of communication [we] all so dearly adore."
Here is an excerpt of the "Anonymous" post:

Attention citizens of the world,

We wish to get your attention, hoping you heed the warnings as follows:
Your medium of communication you all so dearly adore will be destroyed. If you are a willing hacktivist or a guy who just wants to protect the freedom of information then join the cause and kill facebook for the sake of your own privacy.

Facebook has been selling information to government agencies and giving clandestine access to information security firms so that they can spy on people from all around the world. Some of these so-called whitehat infosec firms are working for authoritarian governments, such as those of Egypt and Syria. 

Everything you do on Facebook stays on Facebook regardless of your "privacy" settings, and deleting your account is impossible, even if you "delete" your account, all your personal info stays on Facebook and can be recovered at any time. Changing the privacy settings to make your Facebook account more "private" is also a delusion. Facebook knows more about you than your family. "

Airplane Circling Wall Street With Banner: "Thanks For the Downgrade - You Should All Be Fired". From the Huffington Post: "On Tuesday, less than a week after Standard and Poor's downgraded U.S. credit for the first time in history, a plane circled lower Manhattan with a banner that read: "Thanks for the downgrade. You should all be fired," according to a tweet by AmericanBanker. It has since come out that the stunt was paid for by an unnamed broker from St. Louis, according to Fortune. But if the patron had gotten her first choice, the plane would have been circling another city center. "I originally wanted to fly it over Washington, D.C., but learned that you can't do that," she told Fortune anonymously, for fear of losing her job. "So I chose Wall Street instead, but didn't specifically intend it to fly over S&P."

Dylan Ratigan Rant. Another Howard Beale ("I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!") moment? I think Dylan may be onto something (then again, what do I know?) Here's an excerpt of his recent diatribe on MSNBC, referring to Congress and President Obama: "I would like him to go to the people of the United States of America and say, “People of the United States of America, your Congress is bought, your Congress is incapable of making legislation on healthcare, banking, trade, or taxes because if they do it, they will lose their political funding and they won’t do it. But I’m the President of the United States, and I won’t have a country that is run by a bought Congress. So I’m not going to work with a bought Congress and try to be Mr. Big Guy ... I’m going to abandon the bought Congress like Teddy Roosevelt did, and I’m going to go to the people of the United States get rid of the bought Congress." ... Until a President says that’s the problem and says he’s going to fix it, there is no policy that I can possibly see no matter how brilliant your idea may be or your idea or my idea or her idea or your idea at home, is that idea will not happen as long as there’s a capacity to basically fire a politician who disagrees with me by taking funding away from him. Is that a fair assessment?"

Still Betting On The USA. Dan Rather has a timely Op-Ed at Huffington Post. No minimizing how tough the current situation is (really worldwide), but Americans have a long, rich history of coming back from adversity: "The news is grim, and you don't have to be a newshound to know that. It seems that all trend lines are pointing in the wrong direction -- whether it's economic disaster (domestic and international), mounting death totals in Afghanistan (and even Iraq), London in flames, the promise of the Arab Spring becoming a summer of bloody stalemates, a drought-stricken American heartland, and on and on. We're not in complete panic yet, but most of us are starting to feel mighty queasy.  There's a real sense out there, even amongst people not prone to hyperbole, that perhaps our nation's best days are behind us. I guess it matters how you define "best days," but I, for one, am not buying it. 
To be sure, there are millions of Americans who are struggling for the basic necessities of life: keeping a roof over their heads, food on the table, their children on the path to an education. Their pain and needs must be a priority, for elected officials setting policy and for those of us who can afford to lend a hand. But when faced with the challenges of the present, we cannot allow ourselves to be so demoralized that we lose the strength of perspective that can lead us to a more hopeful future." (photo:

CNN Feature's 10 Year Old's iReport, Honoring His Father, Who Died In Afghan Helicopter Crash. A sad and moving tribute from a son to his father, courtesy of CNN: "In one of the more touching iReport submissions in recent memory, 10 year old Brayden Nichols submitted a photo of his father, Bryan Nichols, who was killed in Afghanistan in teh attack that took down a helicopter carrying a team of Navy SEALs and Afghan soldiers. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer featured the photo–and the story–on his program."

Colbert Report: "Heatsteria". Here's a funny clip from the Master of Comedy himself, Steve Colbert, over at Comedy Central. Yep, he pretty much nails it: "The liberal media brainwashes kids by sneaking global warming propaganda into their cartoons." Uh huh. Video courtesy of

Guarded optimism

"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdo­m should be tempered and controlled­, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance­." Cicero, 55 BC.

Yes, these are tough times. We face a myriad of challenges; the "American Dream" has been roughed up in recent years. But long-term, like many others, I'm cautiously optimistic. We'll be back. We're a resilient & tenacious country; we'll find new and creative ways to renew & reinvent the USA. Lately the weather has been as polarized as our politics: the 4th warmest U.S. July on record, worst 1-year drought in Texas history, 40 days/row above 100 in Dallas, while the northern states endured record dew points & the most severe July on record (37% of America experienced severe weather, according to NOAA).

Climate Stories...

With Climate Change Some Birds Are Taking Off For Migrations Sooner, Not Reaching Destinations Earlier. Science Daily has the story: "Migrating birds can and do keep their travel dates flexible, a new study published online on January 28th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, reveals. But in the case of pied flycatchers, at least, an earlier takeoff hasn't necessarily translated into an earlier arrival at their destination. It appears the problem is travel delays the birds are experiencing as a result of harsh weather conditions on the final leg of their journey through Europe. The discovery may in a sense be good news as far as birds' potential to cope under climate change, but it also highlights the vulnerability of long-distance migrants to environmental conditions in general." (photo credit:

Fox News Gives Science Lesson On Why Humans Aren't Causing Global Warming. I went to Penn State with Joe Bastardi - excellent forecaster and a gifted meteorologist, but he should limit his comments to something he knows a lot about: weather. Recently on Fox News he demonstrated how precious little he knows about climate science. Here's an excerpt from Treehugger and Media Matters: "As of late, Fox News has been particularly egregious in it's never-ending quest to sew doubt about the unequivocal scientific consensus that humans are causing the climate to warm -- see the SpongeBob SquarePants debacle, the moon volcano proof, the heat index nonsense, the list goes on. But this one takes the cake: Fox had the gall to get Joe Bastardi, the network's resident global warming "expert" (he works for the WeatherBELL meteorological consulting firm), to do a segment called "Why CO2 Can't Cause Warming" that was explicitly staged to explain that humans could not possibly be contributing to climate change. It was, as one climate scientist retorted, "utter nonsense". As in, not the kind of nonsense that belies traditional climate skepticism -- skeptics usually focus on some outwardly plausible concept and twist the evidence to sew doubt (sun spots! the climate's not that sensitive to CO2 concentrations! it's natural cycles). No, this is the level of nonsense that requires you to check your Physics 101 textbook at the door. Or, more accurately, I suppose, pretend that it never existed. 

Here's Media Matters:
Joe Bastardi ... declared that the theory of human-induced climate change "contradicts what we call the 1st law of thermodynamics. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. So to look for input of energy into the atmosphere, you have to come from a foreign source." 
It's not clear what to conclude from this except that Fox and Bastardi are not familiar with the greenhouse effect. Climate scientists aren't claiming that humans are creating energy. They're saying that humans are trapping more energy by increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."

Top Writers Tackle Climate Change In Short Stories. Here's a post from the U.K. Guardian newspaper: "Novelists from Margaret Atwood to David Mitchell are hoping to bring the dangers posed by climate change to life, through a new collection of short stories tackling the climate crisis. I'm With the Bears, taking its title from environmentalist John Muir's comment that "when it comes to a war between the races, I'm with the bears", will also feature stories by TC Boyle, Helen Simpson, Toby Litt, Paolo Bacigalupi and Kim Stanley Robinson. Out this October from radical press Verso, it is a response, said the publisher, to the absence of creative fiction dealing with climate change, an issue raised by Ian McEwan in the Guardian last year. Mitchell, twice shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, has imagined a near future in which oil sells for $800 a barrel in his story The Siphoners. Acclaimed short story writer Boyle has written an account of early eco-activists in The Siskiyou, July 1989, while Nathaniel Rich's Hermie is a comic fantasy about a marine biologist haunted by his youth. The stories range from science fiction to literary fiction, from past to present to future, and, said Verso, "aim to bring our probable future within the grasp of our comprehension ... to provide a sense of what life might be like in a world past fossil fuel [and to bring] a human reality to disasters of inhuman proportions".