Saturday, June 9, 2012

"Hot and Bothered" (odds of record U.S. warmth last 12 months being normal: 1 in 531,000)

Severe storm threat later today: from the Twin Cities and Duluth south to Des Moines, Kansas City and Tulsa a few T-storms may pack large, damaging hail, straight-line winds, even a few isolated tornadoes - details below from SPC.

Meteogram. I've always liked meteograms as a potent way to visualize expected changes in weather - I think it works much better than text on a page. The forecast calls for highs peaking around 32 C (93-95 F) by early afternoon, the best chance of showers and storms this evening and early tonight. Winds shift around to the west tomorrow, temperatures cooling a bit (only 80 for a high on Monday, give or take). Source:

Sunday Severe Threat. An eastbound surge of much cooler, drier Canadian air will act as a trigger, creating enough low-level convergence to initiate convection - strong to severe storms most likely later today from Minnesota and western Wisconsin southward to Wichita and Tulsa. Source: SPC.

900+ high temperature records tied or broken in Minnesota in the last 12 months, according to Dr. Mark Seeley. Details below.

 "Each of the 12 months from June 2011 through May 2012 ranked among the warmest third of their historical distribution for the first time in the 1895-present record. According to NCDC, the odds of this occurring randomly during any particular month are 1 in 531,441. Thus, we should only see one more 12-month period so warm between now and 46,298 AD--assuming the climate is staying the same as during the past 118 years." - from Dr. Jeff Master's latest Wunderblog; details below.

"As the Arctic thaws, that prevailing westerly (jet stream wind) flow has slowed measurably, by 20 percent in the past few decades." - from an article about the impact of Arctic warming on America's winters; details below.

64.4 F. average spring temperature at Wichita, Kansas (almost 8 F. warmer than average), making it the warmest spring in over 120 years. Source: Wichita office of The National Weather Service.

900+ Minnesota High Temperature Records In The Last 12 Months. It's a staggering number - tabulated by Dr. Mark Seeley in his weekly WeatherTalk Blog. Here are a few highlights (that made my jaw drop): "The estimated total number of daily maximum temperature records set or tied in Minnesota over the past 12 months is at least 900, bearing in mind a like or greater number of record high minimum temperatures is a probable value as well. During the same period from June 2011 to May 2012, 13 new statewide high temperature records were set, and one was tied. This level of statewide extremes in maximum temperature has not been seen since the 1930s."

Number of Minnesota High Temperature Records (according to Mark Seeley):

27    June 2011
26    July 2011
      August 2011
12     September 2011
58     October 2011
11      November 2011
69     December 2011

191  January 2012
12     February 2012
434   March 2012
14     April 2012
35     May 2012

Photo credit above: Matt McKean, AP.

8-14 Day Temperature Outlook. Here is the forecast trend looking out 2 weeks, according to NOAA CPC, showing a high probability of significantly warmer than average temperatures through the third week of June. Map: Ham Weather.

Spring 2012: Most Extreme Season In U.S. History. Here's an excerpt from Dr. Jeff Master's must-read Wunderblog: "Spring 2012 in the contiguous U.S. demolished the old records for hottest spring and most extreme season of any kind, said NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) on Thursday. With the warmest March, third warmest April, and second warmest May, the March - April - May spring season was 5.2°F above average--the largest temperature departure from average of any season on record for the contiguous United States. What's truly remarkable is the margin the old record was broken by--spring 2012 temperatures were a full 1°F above the previous most extreme season, the winter of 1999 - 2000. All-time seasonal temperature records are very difficult to break, and are usually broken by only a tenth of a degree. To see the old record crushed by a full degree is a stunning and unparalleled event in U.S. meteorological history. "

Graphic credit above: "Temperature rankings for spring 2012 in the Contiguous U.S. Thirty-one states were record warm for the 3-month period, and an additional eleven states had top-ten warmth. Spring 2012 beat the previous record for hottest spring on record, set in 1910, by an remarkable 2°F. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC."

Western Tornadoes (Rare, Not Impossible) Hit Wyoming, Colorado. Details (and a compelling video) from the L.A. Times: "Parts of Wyoming and Colorado were working Friday to recover from the week's harsh weather, including tornadoes that caused minor injuries. A rare tornado cut through open country in southeastern Wyoming on Thursday, injuring at least one person and causing some property damage in the Wheatland area. In Colorado, four tornadoes were reported in the Elbert County area, southeast of Denver. A minor injury was also reported there."

Record Events. Here are the towns that registered record highs, lows and 24 hour rainfall amounts in the last 7 days. Data courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather.

Wild Wall Cloud Scares New Jersey Graduates. Yes, if you see a rotating cloud like this it probably can't be good - in this case there was a lowering cloud base, but no tornado. Details (and remarkable video) from Philadelphia's WPVI-TV, "....But was it a tornado? Action News Meteorologist Cecily Tynan says no. On Action News at 11, Cecily explained that what graduates and their families saw was what's known as a wall cloud or pedestal cloud. It forms when the base of a storm cloud extends towards the surface of the ground. A wall cloud is in the area of the strongest updraft. If there was rotation, a tornado could likely have formed, but since there was no rotation in the storm, there was no chance for a tornado."

"What Was That Thing?" It wasn't a tornado - no debris - the circulation never reached the ground and triggered damage, but there is a difference of opinion in meteorological circles about what formed in the skies above New Jersey. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang: "CWG’s Ian Livingston, who just spent two weeks storm chasing in the Plains and blogged earlier today about identifying scary storm types, offers the following explanation: Watching the video, and examining radar from the time of the storm, it appears the low-hanging cloud is a shelf cloud / outflow type feature with scud-type clouds associated with it. At times, the videographer pans up enough to see a “line” of similar low hanging clouds going up above their head (and presumably further). A rain curtain to the left, likely “behind” the low clouds, tends to back this up." 

Photo credit above: "Screenshot from video of Galloway Township, NJ storm. Video uploaded to YouTube by MatthewRBlanchard on June 7."

Hail, Flooding Swamp Cars In Colorado. The Denver/Colorado Springs area has taken a pounding in recent days: tornadoes, flash flooding and enough hail to call out the snow plows! has more details: "Six tornadoes touched down across northeast Colorado on Wednesday, including one near Denver's airport, though none caused any damage. But golf-ball sized hail punched holes in car windshields and combined with heavy rain to flood streets in Colorado Springs, where NBC affiliate KOAA-TV lost count of the numerous water rescues. "Holy hail," was how KOAA-TV anchor Rob Quirk began his broadcast Wednesday night. KOAA video showed a person being rescued from a car swamped by hail and water at an intersection near a mall, one of 10 rescues at that site alone."

Photo credit above: "Hail and floodwaters swamped this vehicle in Colorado Springs Wednesday night. A rescuer is seen helping someone from the vehicle, in this video clip from NBC Affiliate KOAA-TV."

Wednesday's Storm: "1 in 100 Year Event". Details from "Mayor Steve Bach called the massive storm a “once in 100-year storm.” The Mayor said there were 21 home rescues and 25 car rescues throughout the course of the evening. No one was injured or killed in the storm and Mayor Bach says everything worked the way it should to keep people safe."

Photo above courtesy of aliving00 and Instagram.

7 Days Worth Of Severe Storm Reports. 1,666 severe reports in the last 7 days, according to NOAA. For an interactive map from Ham Weather click here.

7 Unusual Tips For Hurricane Preparedness. Here's an excerpt of an article from The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

* "Buy a local/state map: Whether you are waiting out the storm or are forced to evacuate, a local and/or state map is essential. When the power goes out, your GPS might not be fully charged or fully functional, so a map will ease many headaches when either finding the quickest way out of town or getting around closed/blocked roads.

* Do your laundry and dishes ahead of time: Having all of your clothes, towels and dishes clean and ready to go will not only give you more resources during the storm, but you also won't have to worry about finding a place to wash them since you will have lots of clean ones on hand.

* Place towels along window sills and the bottom of doors leading outside: The towels will act as an extra barrier to keep water from seeping into your home. This is especially important for any windows or doors on lower levels and in basements."

9 Months After Irene, People In North Carolina Still Suffer. Details from; here's a snippet: "As winds from the second named storm of the 2012 hurricane season picked up speed, the sounds of recovery from the only hurricane to hit last year still echoed through a rural area across the water from North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Buzz saws, nail guns and other power tools competed for attention with birds and frogs as almost 1,700 volunteers from a group called Eight Days of Hope carried out their work in Pamlico County. They pulled out insulation and Sheetrock, put down new flooring and replaced electrical outlets submerged when Hurricane Irene roared through eastern North Carolina in August before tearing a path up the East Coast."

Hurricane Evacuation Survey Shows Many Along Coast Don't Know If They Are At Risk For Storm Surge. You would think you'd want to know if you live in a potential hurricane storm-surge flood-zone, but the reality suggests something else. Details from Charleston's Post and Courier: "Too many people who live in the riskiest places for storm surges say they wouldn’t evacuate unless a major hurricane threatened. At least one-third aren’t sure if they live in a place that could be flooded by a storm surge from a less powerful storm. Three in every 20 who do live there think they don’t....Partly because of the survey, hurricane evacuations will now be called for in specific areas based on surge zones. Those zones can be viewed in the S.C. Emergency Management Division’s 2012 Hurricane Guide."

Map above courtesy of the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.

Weather Service May Impose Furloughs. The Washington Post has the story; here's an excerpt: "The National Weather Service notified lawmakers Thursday that it plans to furlough up to 5,000 employees for 13 days between July and September if Congress and the agency cannot find $36 million to cover its budget deficit. Weather Service officials acknowledged to legislators, as well as the union, that requiring employees to take unpaid leave could disrupt critical weather operations at the peak of the hurricane season. But with labor costs of $2 million a day, the Weather Service cannot pay its employees through the end of the fiscal year in September without a solution to a problem of its own making. An internal investigation concluded that for years, the agency reallocated millions of dollars that Congress approved for other projects to pay employees."

Death Ray? No worries, it's just the MPX (Chanhassen) National Weather Service Doppler detecting the setting sun at 9 pm Friday evening. If you check the radar frequently you'll notice these beams of energy at sunrise and sunset. Yes, it's reassuring knowing that Doppler can detect rain, hail, tornado circulations, dust, insects, birds and even..the sun.

A Sudden Urge For Donuts. How's this for evidence of a high pressure bubble (near Tasmania), warming, drying, sinking air under this high pressure system. More from NASA's Earth Observatory, via Facebook: "High-pressure weather systems often bring fair weather and relatively clear skies. In early June 2012, a high off the coast of Tasmania did just that...and in spectacular fashion."

Spring Optional. It doesn't look much like spring up at Crater Lake, Oregon - details from The National Park Service, via Facebook: "Every once in a while, Wizard Island peeks out from under the snow clouds. Come and see it here at Crater Lake National Park tomorrow, June 9th for National Get Outdoors Day. Admission to the park is free for the day!"

China Says Only It Has Right To Monitor Air Pollution. Sadly, everyone living in China has to breathe the lousy air, but only Chinese authorities can actually measure the level of pollution. Makes perfect sense to me. More from Reuters: "A senior Chinese official demanded on Tuesday that foreign embassies stop issuing air pollution readings, saying it was against the law and diplomatic conventions, in pointed criticism of a closely watched U.S. embassy index. The level of air pollution in China's heaving capital varies, depending on the wind, but a cocktail of smokestack emissions, vehicle exhaust, dust and aerosols often blankets the city in a pungent, beige shroud for days on end. Many residents dismiss the common official readings of "slight" pollution in Beijing as grossly under-stated."

Invasive Species Ride Tsunami Debris To U.S. Shore. Just what we need: more invasive species crowding out the stuff that's been growing for millenia. MyWay News from AP has the fascinating and vaguely troubling story; here's an excerpt: "When a floating dock the size of a boxcar washed up on a sandy beach in Oregon, beachcombers got excited because it was the largest piece of debris from last year's tsunami in Japan to show up on the West Coast. But scientists worried it represented a whole new way for invasive species of seaweed, crabs and other marine organisms to break the earth's natural barriers and further muck up the West Coast's marine environments. And more invasive species could be hitching rides on tsunami debris expected to arrive in the weeks and months to come."

Photo credit above: "This June 7, 2012 photo provided by the Oregon Park and Recreation Department shows an exotic mussel attached to a dock float that washed up on Agate Beach near Newport, Oregon. Scientists are worried that other debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan could represent a new way for invasive species to reach American shores. (AP Photo/Oregon Parks and Recreation Department)."

The Bear Necessities. From Denali National Park and Preserve, via Facebook: "Denali is no place for the timid. These tiny cubs seemed oblivious to the steep drop below them as they played in the remaining midnight light."

iPhone 5: What We Think We Know. Details, rumors and pure speculation from those uber-geeks at "As the fifth anniversary of the original iPhone's launch approaches later this month, the Apple rumor mill has been particularly active and everything from a larger screen, radical case design and all-new dock connector have been cited as forthcoming alterations to Apple’s flagship mobile device. While nobody outside Apple’s inner circle can be sure exactly what the famously tight-lipped company has planned for the iPhone, a skeptical reading of rumors makes it possible to build up a picture of what we know, or rather what we think we know, so far."

"Habitents": The Toyota Prius Camper. Now I've officially seen everything; details from "We're used to seeing campers and trailers here at Gizmag. Typically, they're made for big, gas-drunk trucks, SUVs and vans - vehicles with the size and hauling capacity to spend the night in. What we're not used to seeing is campers made for small, fuel-frugal hybrids. But the Habitents is just that - a camper extension for the Toyota Prius."

Congratulations Class of 2012!  Here are a few excerpts from a particularly well-done segment on Friday's "NBC News with Brian Williams" that resonated with me. The entire video clip (well worth watching) from is here.

"Life is full of contradictions. You want wealth? Create value for others. If you want to fly - fall down often."
- Newark Mayor Cory Booker

"The key to success is continually maintaining an ever-present curiosity."
- Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

"You're going to fall down, but the world doesn't care how many times you fall down, as long as it's one fewer than the number of times you get back up."
- Screenwriter Aaaron Sorkin

1 in 531,441

I respond to data, where the numbers & trends lead me. The odds of recent heat records being random are about the same odds of me being drafted into the NFL.

"Each of the 12 months from June 201 through May 2012 ranked among the warmest third of their historical distribution for the first time in the 1895-present record. According to NCDC, the odds of this occurring randomly during any particular month are 1 in 531,441" reports Dr. Jeff Masters in his Wunderblog (link on my blog).

Dr. Mark Seeley writes "The estimated total number of daily maximum temperature records set or tied in Minnesota over the past 12 months is at least 900." Seeley reports 13 new statewide high temperature records tied or broken since June 2011. "This level of statewide extremes in maximum temperature has not been seen since the 1930s."

It's getting warmer out there. No kidding Paul. Mid 90s are likely by 3 pm, before a swarm of strong/severe storms arrive by the dinner hour. Stay alert later today.

Canadian air cools us off into Tuesday, but heat and numerous T-storms return from Wednesday into next Sunday. Highs poke into the 90s again by next weekend.

The extended outlook: "Stinking Hot!"

Climate Stories...

NASA Hints That Thinning Arctic Sea Ice May May Slow Impact Of Global Warming. The plankton will save us! Hopefully. Details from The Capitol Column; here's an excerpt: "Turns out that increased amounts of CO2 could actually help the planet stave off the effects of global warming. That is the consensus of a team of NASA scientists, according to a newly published report, which finds that a growing body of microscopic plants may eventually provide the Arctic ice with additional time. NASA researchers say microscopic plants could serve as a solution to increasingly high rates of CO2, one of the key contributors to global warming. The team of scientists suggest that the large quantities of phytoplankton, recently discovered growing under sea ice, could pull in large amounts of the greenhouse gas, possibly curtailing any potential consequences of global warming."

Global Warming: Cornell Researchers Say Arctic Ice May Be Setting The Stage For More Extreme Winter Weather. Details from The Summit County Citizens Voice: "Evidence continues to mount that melting Arctic ice is having a significant effect in the mid-latitudes, where most people live, and it’s not something that’s going to take decades to develop. Instead, researchers say, the warming of the high latitudes has decreased a historic pressure gradient at the boundary of the high- and mid latitudes. Basically, the pressure difference has decreased, and that is having a fundamental effect on the way the jet stream moves from west to east in the northern hemisphere. The jet stream is a high-elevation, high-speed river of air that drives storm systems. Historically, there are variations in the flow of the jet stream, which also influenced by seasonal and decadal variations in sea surface temperatures and other factors."

Climate Change To Bring More Severe Wildfires To British Columbia: Report. Here's an excerpt from The Vancouver Sun: "The number of major forest fires in B.C. will likely increase by 50 per cent or more in the next 40 years according to a recent report on climate change. Telling the Weather Story, released this week by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, addresses altering weather patterns across the country in the coming decades and urges Canadians to adjust to the realities of climate change. The study predicts B.C. can expect an increase in wildfires over the average of nearly 2,000 blazes a year between 2000 and 2010. Furthermore, the province will likely see a host of other weather-related issues like warmer temperatures, declining — and, in some regions, disappearing — mountain snowpacks, more intense rainfall during the winter, and drier summers. The number of wildfires sparked by lightning strikes — responsible for nearly 60 per cent of fires — is also expected to rise."

Photo credit above: "The number of major forest fires in B.C. will likely increase by 50 per cent or more in the next 40 years, according to a recent report on climate change. Telling the Weather Story, released this week by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, addresses altering weather patterns across the country in the coming decades and urges Canadians to adjust to the realities of climate change." File Photo: Joshua Lott, Reuters

Climate Change Deniers Blinded By Political Ideology. Here's an Op-Ed from climate scientist Michael Mann in The Vancouver Sun: "A recent commentary by Frank Hilliard of the Individual Rights Party of B.C. that appeared in The Vancouver Sun June 4 misinformed readers when it comes to the reality and seriousness of human-caused climate change. Further, Hilliard's tirade was riddled with fabrications and dishonest personal attacks against me and other climate scientists. Hilliard demonstrates that he does not understand the so-called "Hockey Stick" graph that my co-authors and I published more than a decade ago, which demonstrated that the nature of recent warming is unprecedented. Our temperature reconstruction was based on hundreds of climate "proxy" records around the world, including tree-ring data from every continent as well as ice cores from polar regions, coral records from the tropical oceans, and other sources of information. Yet, Hillard claims they were based only on "one set of observations of tree rings in Russia." That is simply a blatant fabrication."

Peter Gleick Reinstated By Pacific Institute Following Heartland Expose. Details from The Guardian; here's an excerpt: "The scientist who exposed the inner workings of the ultra-conservative Heartland Institute, triggering the defection of key donors, has been reinstated after an investigation. Peter Gleick, who impersonated a Heartland board member to obtain and make public confidential budget and strategy documents, was restored to his position as president of the Pacific Institute, the organisation announced on its website. The Pacific Institute indicated in the statement that it had found no evidence for Heartland's charges that Gleick had forged one of several documents he released last February."

Photo credit above: "The Pacific Institute gave every indication that Gleick would suffer no further sanctions for his actions, beyond his brief leave of absence." Photograph: Paul Chinn/The Chronicle.

Fighting Climate Change, One Gorgeous Building At A Time: Chicago Commercial Building Initiative. Here's a story from Huffington Post: "Yesterday, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel announced plans to tackle one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases in Chicago (or any city), and a key part of the City’s economy at the same time -- the energy we use in commercial buildings.  With the mayor’s leadership, 14 of the biggest and most recognizable downtown buildings have signed up to be leaders in creating a leaner, cleaner and more sustainable and affordable city, by curbing their energy use by at least 20 percent over the next five years. This initiative is smart business for Chicago. It cuts one of the biggest expenses for most property owners by using less energy. And it eliminates vast amounts of carbon pollution by cutting down overall energy use -- that’s less coal and natural gas burned with all the associated impacts the quality of our air.  It also makes our buildings more resilient, physically and economically, while boosting the local retrofit industry and jobs for building trades. This sets up a robust, growing source of new jobs here in Chicago that cannot be outsourced."