Sunday, October 23, 2011

October 24: Denver Snow, Texas Dust (Tropical Storm Rina?)

Winter Storm Watch posted for metro Denver - over 6-8" may fall on some western suburbs by late Tuesday. More from the Denver office of the National Weather Service here.

9th largest stratospheric ozone hole over Antarctica and the southern hemisphere on record.

Texas Outlook: More Dust Storms. The story from "Meteorologists say people living on Texas’ parched plains could see more dust storms as a record drought tightens its grip across the Southwest. At least six sandstorms hit Phoenix this summer, with the most powerful striking on July 5 and measuring a mile high. But experts say another Dust Bowl is unlikely thanks to modern irrigation and farming techniques aimed at holding soil in place. Dust storms form when wind whips up loose soil. They aren’t unusual in West Texas, although the size and speed of Monday’s cloud was rare. Typically, the wall of dirt climbs to only about 1,000 feet in that area, not the 8,000 feet seen with the latest storm, experts said. The thing that is scary is this exact type of dust storm is the same type of dust storm from during the 30s,” said Tom Gill, a geology professor at the University of Texas-El Paso who has studied dust storms for years." (Lubbock, Texas haboob courtesy of

Tsunami Debris About To Reach Hawaii? Debris from the Japanese quake and tsunami may wash up ashore on the Hawaiian islands shortly, according to KITV-TV: "HONOLULU — It could be the first official report of tsunami debris from Japan nearing Hawaii. A new report coming from a Russian ship have UH researchers changing their predictions. Since the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, researchers have been predicting it would take about two years for the debris from Japan to hit Hawaii’s west-facing beaches. “We have a rough estimate of 5 to 20 million tons of debris coming from Japan,” said UH computer programming researcher Jan Hafner. An average of 10 million tons of debris, the same amount released into the north Pacific basin in one year, was dislodged and set adrift in one day. “Hawaii is just in the path,” said Hafner. Since the disaster, Hafner has been watching and calculating that wave of debris on a specialized computer program that follows and analyzes the currents." (photo courtesy of, which has more on the tsunami debris here).

"One of the big messages is that snowfall is increasing across parts of the far northern plains," said Henson, a media relations associate for the University Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. "It appears to be decreasing toward the central plains. The natural north-south divide in snowfall is becoming even more pronounced." - from a Star Tribune article below.

Tropical Storm Rina? There's a good chance an intensifying tropical depression in the western Caribbean will become Rina today, possibly hitting Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as a strong tropical storm or minimal hurricane by Wednesday afternoon. The GFDL model has sustained winds close to 72 mph by Wednesday. Data courtesy of NOAA - map courtesy of Ham Weather.

Deadly Tornado Destroyed Town, Not Spirit, Of Smithville, Mississippi. The inspirational story at The Commercial Appeal: "At 3:47 p.m. on April 27, an EF-5 tornado with wind speeds of more than 200 mph leveled the town of Smithville, Miss., population 942. Seventeen people died in Monroe County, about 130 miles southeast of Memphis. The tornado destroyed Town Hall, the police station, the post office, four churches, more than 150 homes and nearly every business. Over the past six months, The Commercial Appeal spent time with townspeople, listening as they recounted their 10 seconds of terror, the haunting aftermath of the storm and what some described as the harrowing, heroic, even hallowed day that changed their lives and their small-town way of life. These are the stories they shared."

The Story Behind The Story Of Dixie Alley. The Birmingham Examiner has the fascinating story: "From 1950 through 2006, Alabama reported more F5 tornadoes than any other state.  We now of course know that as a an enhancement to the overall Fujita scale, we now call all tornadoes “E” something.  For example, the tornado that obliterated Hackleburg, Alabama on April 27th 2011 was an E-F5.  Similarly, the storm that ravaged Tuscaloosa a couple hours later was labeled as an E-F4.  At any rate, any tornado above an E-F3 calls for below ground action.  It is virtually impossible to survive a large violent tornado such as the one mentioned above unless you are under underground.  It does happen though.  That’s why we constantly preach for everyone to get in the lowest floor of their home and to put as many windows between yourself and the outside as possible.  That advice is ONLY if that is your only option.  A storm Shelter or safe room is definitively the safest place to be when dealing with a monstrous E-5 Tornado."

La Nina Winter. Here We Go Again. We're heading into a mild to moderate La Nina - considerably weaker than last winter's cooing of equatorial Pacific Ocean water. That should mean a bias toward colder weather east of the Rockies, warmer, drier conditions over the south central USA, but a potential for more significant storms for the east coast and the Pacific Northwest. Map courtesy of NOAA.

What October? It's felt more like September across the Upper Midwest and portions of northern New England during the first 3 weeks of October, with temperatures running 8 to 10 degrees above average. Source: NOAA and WxAmerica.

MajorStorm Out East By Friday-Saturday? "The European model (shown), ensembles and other solutions continue to indicate a stripe of heavy snow will certainly be possible in the Thursday to Saturday timeframe next week (Oct. 27-29) - from KY/TN through parts of OH, PA, NY and into western and central New England. Such early season snowfall is typically heavy/wet and elevation dependent, but in this case models are simulating sufficient cold air to bring snow to valley floors in central and western PA. We think you'll probably want to keep an eye on this one for later next week. As is typical 5+ days out, expect this solution to change in the coming days, so stay tuned." Source: State College NWS.

Fog From Space. October is prime time for fog, especially on clear, calm nights, when surface temperatures can cool to the dew point, resulting in "saturation", a 100% relative humidity, and lazy clouds forming on the ground. Moisture from the rivers contributes to the fog potential - satellite image courtesy of NOAA.

Dense Fog Advisory For Southern California. Details from the San Diego National Weather Service here. Photo courtesy of Matt Meyer on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica.

Many In North Minneapolis Waiting For Tornado Aid. An update in the Twin Cities Star Tribune: "Although the state offered $1 million in forgivable loans to north Minneapolis residents to repair their tornado-damaged homes, only five homeowners have qualified for the loans while nearly 500 homes remain unrepaired. With winter approaching, the city is asking the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to waive an eligibility requirement that is preventing low-income homeowners from getting the loans. City housing officials say more Quick Start loans could repair 33 to 50 additional homes. Tom Streitz, director of housing and policy development for the city of Minneapolis, said he drafted a letter Friday to the agency. It's not clear whether the state will change its rules. "We are going to take any request we receive from Minneapolis very seriously so that individuals can be served," said Michael Haley, assistant commissioner for single families with the housing agency."

Is A Rerun Of Last Winter - Gulp - Likely? The Star Tribune's Bill McAuliffe takes a look at recent trends, and NOAA's winter forecast, along with a scientist who believes a warmer atmosphere will result in more snow. I agree (to a point), but this winter the most significant snowfalls may pass just south of Minnesota. Place your bets: "A warming climate might actually mean more snow across the northern Great Plains, said Henson, author of "The Rough Guide to Climate Change," who will be the keynote speaker Monday at the sixth annual Northern Plains Winter Storms Conference at St. Cloud. Henson's address will be well-timed. Friday brought the first official autumn frost to the Twin Cities -- a 32-degree reading at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport at 6:15 a.m. -- two weeks later than the long-term median date. At the same time, however, the national Climate Prediction Center added a strong likelihood of above-normal snow to its winter outlook for the Upper Midwest, accompanying strong chances of below-normal temperatures."

Denver Snow Crews Ready For Winter. CBS4 in Denver has the story - I'm pretty sure the Mile High City is going to get significant snow before the Twin Cities does: "With snow in the forecast for next week, Denver Public Works said their crews are ready for an early blast of winter. The city has 68 plows to treat main streets, those are classified as the ones with stripes to separate traffic. For the residential side streets, 90 pickup trucks with plows attached can be deployed. Those will be rolled out only when there’s at least 12 inches of snow and prolonged freezing temperatures."

Colorado Skiers/Snowboarders Have An Itch That A Scratch Won't Reach. Here we go - the NAM model predicting as much as 16" snow for the higher terrain west of Denver. Vail, Breckenridge, A-Basin, Aspen - most of the major resorts should be in good shape for weekend fun-in-the-snow. The immediate Denver metro area is now under a Winter Storm Watch for 4-6" of accumulation by midweek.

Thailand's Prime Minister Says Floods May Take 6 Weeks To Recede -  More Than 110,000 Displaced. The story from the Washington Post and AP: "BANGKOK — Thailand’s catastrophic floods may take up to six weeks to recede, the prime minister said Saturday, as residents living in Bangkok’s outskirts sloshed through waist-high waters in some areas and the human toll from the crisis nationwide rose to 356 dead and more than 110,000 displaced. Water bearing down on the capital from the north began spilling through Bangkok’s outer districts on Friday and continued creeping in on Saturday. So far, however, most of the metropolis of 9 million people has escaped unharmed, and its two airports are operating normally."

NASA Redies To Launch Next-Gen Observation Satellite For Weather And Climate Change. The story from Newstaar Media: "NASA sent out announcements today inviting the press to cover the launch of nation’s newest Earth-observing satellite at NOAA’s Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Md. NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and NOAA Deputy Administrator Kathryn Sullivan will be on hand to view the launch which is currently scheduled for the 28th of October. Launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, with a launch window from 5:48 AM to 5:57 AM local time, the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP), “heralds a new era of climate change science and weather forecasting for the nation,” according to the statement from NASA. NOAA has extended an invitation for the press come to the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility Suitland Federal Campus for a good vantage point to watch the launch. NOAA currently operates 17 environmental satellites for the United States and other countries from its operations center. Once the launch is complete, the center will also monitor the NPP satellite."

NASA, NOAA: Significant Ozone Hole Remains Over Antarctica. Here's the latest from NOAA: "The Antarctic ozone hole, which yawns wide every Southern Hemisphere spring, reached its annual peak on September 12, stretching 10.05 million square miles, the ninth largest on record. Above the South Pole, the ozone hole reached its deepest point of the season on October 9 when total ozone readings dropped to 102 Dobson units, tied for the 10th lowest in the 26-year record. The ozone layer helps protect the planet’s surface from harmful ultraviolet radiation. NOAA and NASA use balloon-borne instruments, ground instruments, and satellites to monitor the annual South Pole ozone hole, global levels of ozone in the stratosphere, and the manmade chemicals that contribute to ozone depletion. “The upper part of the atmosphere over the South Pole was colder than average this season and that cold air is one of the key ingredients for ozone destruction,” said James Butler, director of NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division in Boulder, Colo. Other key ingredients are ozone-depleting chemicals that remain in the atmosphere and ice crystals on which ozone-depleting chemical reactions take place. “Even though it was relatively large, the size of this year's ozone hole was within the range we'd expect given the levels of manmade, ozone-depleting chemicals that continue to persist," said Paul Newman, chief atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center."

Record Low Pressure at Norfolk, Virginia. Here's the information from NOAA (thanks to Chad Merrill from EarthNetworks for passing this along):



A Risk Of Flamingos? Ah yes, the perils of auto-correct. Thanks to for passing this one along.

Cheese: The Most Stolen Food In The World? Say what? You heard right. has the details: "I would've guessed candy or liquor, but no. The most frequently stolen food on Earth is actually cheese: Almost four percent of the world's cheese supply ends up stolen, putting cheese ahead of other frequent grocery targets like candy and alcohol. Shoplifting rates as a whole are going up, because, hey, times are tough. "For the past six months, [retailers] have been affected by bad news—economic slow down, government cuts and now an increase in shoplifting," one retail analyst told Sky News."

Healthy Respect
I had a scare yesterday, a teachable moment. Oil accumulating on area highways during our dry spell mixed with rain to create scary-slick roads, as raindrops first began to fall. A blunt reminder. It's estimated that 24% of all car crashes take place during bad weather: snow, ice and rain. Research suggests the vast majority of drivers don't consider rain as "bad weather"; they fail to slow down and leave enough car lengths in front of them. Hey, I'm as guilty as the next guy. Here's a sobering statistic: nearly 7,400 deaths and 670,000 injuries every year on America's roads. Be careful out there.

Climate Stories...

Why Is The CIA Keeping Climate Change Secret? The story (more of a blurb than an actual story) from Scientific American: "Climate change is hard to hide, but the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is trying anyway. Back in 2009, the CIA established a Center on Climate Change and National Security dedicated to researching the implications of rising sea levels, declining agricultural yields and other climate change impacts. A National Security Archive historian asked the CIA for a copy of any impact studies or reports the center has done in March 2010. But the CIA responded (pdf) this September that such material is quote "currently and properly classified and must be denied in its entirety." The CIA claims to be concerned about the "protection of intelligence sources and methods, names, official titles, salaries, and numbers of personnel." But is it a secret that satellites and ground observations show a meltdown in Arctic sea ice that will open new shipping lanes—and security concerns—for the first time in recorded history? To take just one example."

Global Warming Melting China's Glaciers At Faster Rate. Here's an update from "Beijing, Oct 22 (ANI): Glaciers in China’s Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau are melting at a faster rate because of global warming, researchers have said. According to experts, a large area of the glaciers, the major source of the country’s largest rivers-Yellow and Lancang, has melted in the 2,400-square-kilometer region. Li Xiaonan, an expert with Qinghai’s Three-River Headwaters Office said the cluster of some 80 glaciers around the Aemye Ma-chhen Range, the source of the Yellow River headwaters, is shrinking especially fast. “I can sometimes see the Ameye Ma-chhen Range on the plane. But I worry that we are not likely to see the glaciers there in ten years or more,” Xinhua quoted Xiaonan, as saying." (photo credit above from

Bleak Prospects For Avoiding Dangerous Global Warming. ScienceNOW has the story: "The results suggest challenging times ahead for decision makers hoping to curb the greenhouse. Strategies that are both plausible and likely to succeed call for emissions to peak this decade and start dropping right away. They should be well into decline by 2020 and far less than half of current emissions by 2050. Only three of the 193 scenarios examined would be very likely to keep the warming below the danger level, and all of those require heavy use of energy systems that actually remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. That would require, for example, both creating biofuels and storing the carbon dioxide from their combustion in the ground. "The alarming thing is very few scenarios give the kind of future we want," says climate scientist Neil Edwards of The Open University in Milton Keynes, U.K. Both he and Rogelj emphasize the uncertainties inherent in the modeling, especially on the social and technological side, but the message seems clear to Edwards: "What we need is at the cutting edge. We need to be as innovative as we can be in every way." And even then, success is far from guaranteed."

Koch Brothers Accidently Fund Study That Proves Global Warming. For the longest time deniers have been pointing to the "urban heat island" as the real reason temperatures are warming ("it's big, hot, expanding cities, stupid!"). IPCC scientists have filtered out temperature reports tainted by warm cities, but skeptics/deniers weren't convinced, so they launched a new investigation (The Berkeley Report), which (surprise) agreed that atmospheric temperatures are, in fact, warming, independent of growing/warming cities around the planet. More details from the Christian Science Monitor: "A new climate study shows that since the mid-1950s, global average temperatures over land have risen by 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.6 degrees Fahrenheit), confirming previous studies that have found a climate that has been warming – in fits and starts – since around 1900. Most climate scientists attribute warming since the mid-1950, at least to some degree, to carbon dioxide emissions from human activities – burning coal, oil, and to a lesser extent gas, and from land-use changes. The latest results mirror those from earlier, independent studies by scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, the Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research in Britain, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). An 'Are You Smarter Than Al Gore?' energy quiz These previous efforts, however, came under fire from some climate-change skeptics who said they had detected serious flaws in the analytical methods and temperature records the three groups used. The new research, which has yet to be formally published but which appears in four papers posted on, uses new analytical techniques and a much larger set of records than the previous studies did."

Climate Change Deniers Abandon "Befuddled Warmist" - Physicist Who Came Around on Global Warming. Another perspective on the Berkeley Study, from Talking Points Memo: "Climate change deniers thought they had an ally in Richard Muller, a popular physics professor at UC Berkeley. Muller didn’t reject climate science per se, but he was a skeptic, and a convenient one for big polluters and conservative anti-environmentalists — until Muller put their money where his mouth was, and launched the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, in part with a grant from the Charles G. Koch foundation. After extensive study, he’s concluded that the existing science was right all along — that the earth’s surface is warming, at an accelerating rate. But instead of second-guessing themselves, his erstwhile allies of convenience are now abandoning him. “When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find,” Muller wrote in a Friday Wall Street Journal op-ed. “Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections. Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate.” That’s put a small but influential group of anthropogenic global warming skeptics and climate change deniers on the war path."

Big Companies, Big Investors Say It's Time To Do Something About Climate Change. The story from " As the next world Climate Change Summit approaches in Durban, South Africa in November, the largest group of investors and some of the world's largest corporations are calling for significant action on climate change. 285 of the world's largest investors, representing assets of $20 trillion reiterated "the calls we have made about the importance of domestic and international climate change policy in catalyzing the required levels of investment needed to transition to a low-carbon economy.  The investor group, which includes Swiss Re, HSBC, and CalPERS, wants governments to commit to short-, medium- and long-range targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, along with enforceable legal mechanisms and timelines for achieving those targets. In their statement, they note that countries attracting the most investment in energy efficiency and renewables are those with strong, consistent, long-term policies and incentives required for investors."

"Lord" Monckton Mistaken For Sasha Baron Cohen By Australian Satirist. This is pretty funny - one of the biggest deniers on the planet getting punked by Hugo Farrant, as described by the BBC: "Lord Monckton is an excellent showman. No one - not even himself - would begrudge him that. He has that rare ability to captivate a crowd and bedazzle them with his famous (some would say infamous) slideshows detailing his unique interpretations of climate science. He activelycourts attention and many people, particularly in the US and Australia, oblige him with feverish adoration. Somewhat inevitably, his bombast and grandiosity act as a magnet for satire and send-up. In 2009, a Melbourne-based English MC called Hugo Farrant brilliantly lampooned both Monckton and his nemesis Al Gore in a spoof "rap battle", which is still harvesting hits on YouTube. But now someone's gone a step further by dragging Monckton himself into the joke – albeit without Ukip's head of research seemingly realising that he is the object of mockery. An Australian comedian called Craig Reucassel has produced a sketch for ABC's The Chaser, a popular team of TV satirists who have a tradition of "punking" famous faces. It only aired in Australia two days ago as part of a new series called The Hamster Wheel and – at the time of writing – has already attracted nearly 300,000 views on YouTube."

Americans Don't Care About Climate Change - And That's OK. Really? Here's an Op-Ed that made me do a double-take, courtesy of Good Environment: "Whatever the cause, it’s frightening that people can’t seem to see the facts. Climate change is the most important problem the world faces, representing the “one true existential threat to our planet,” in the words of United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon. It threatens the survival of our species (and the other ones too). Under the worst-case scenario, we lose the polar ice caps, the glaciers, and the coral reefs; suffer widespread food shortages; and experience ever-increasing extreme weather events. But while there’s no excuse for people to deny the dangers of climate change, it’s important to keep in mind that public opinion on the subject matters less and less. The deniers may be winning the battle for Americans’ hearts and minds, but they’ve lost the true war: The market is tipping in favor of renewable energy, leaving them behind."