Monday, June 11, 2012

June 12: Raging Wildfires West, Pensacola Picks up 22" Rain (2 hurricane's worth) Since Friday

Fresh Air. For a high-resolution, short-term wind forecast for the USA click here. Enjoy the cool, comfortable breeze while you can - today easily the most comfortable day in sight (through September?) A rerun of heat and humidity is likely by Thursday.

Dew Point Prediction for MSP (00z NAM model output):
41 F. Today.
52 F. Wednesday.
65 F. Thursday.

"A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that "individuality" is the key to success". - Robert Orben. Image above:

"The Arctic is the first place where we're starting to see the security impacts of climate change and the geopolitical tensions," said Heather Exner-Pirot, a researcher with the U of S International Centre for Northern Governance and Development." - from a story at Regina's Leader-Post; details below. Photo: Kathyrn Hansen, NASA.

2011: 35th year in a row in which global temperatures were above historical 20th century norms.

2010, 2005: virtual tie for warmest year on record, worldwide.

Tuesday Severe Risk. Storms from Cheyenne to Denver, on south to Midland and Dallas may exceed severe limits again today; a potential for damaging hail, even a few isolated tornadoes, according to SPC.

Heat: America's Number One Killer. Hurricanes, tornadoes and floods "make news" more than extreme heat, which usually claims a smaller number of lives, often in combination with another medical ailment, like heart or respiratory problems. Heat can be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back, pushing many elderly people into cardiac arrest. Here's a good summary of the risk posed by heat from the Buffalo National Weather Service, via Facebook: "Did you know that “HEAT” is the number one weather-related killer in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year. In fact, on average, excessive heat claims more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined. In the disastrous heat wave of 1980, more than 1,250 people died. In the heat wave of 1995 more than 700 deaths in the Chicago area were attributed to heat. In August 2003, a record heat wave in Europe claimed an estimated 50,000 lives. Although “close” to record high temperatures across many locations today, you should still take precautions if you are going to be outside in the “HEAT”.

Not Quite As Hot. We may not hit 90 after all, although I suspect we'll come close to 90 Thursday, again Friday. Right now the wettest days (based on the ECMWF guidance above) appear to be Thursday, Sunday (sorry Dad) and Monday, when another cool front may spark the most widespread showers and T-storms. We are definitely in a wet pattern overall.

Best Chance Of Tripping Over Puddles? The arrival of warmer, stickier air sets off a few T-showers from Wednesday night into Thursday, another sloppy bullseye Saturday night into a portion of Sunday, based on the latest model ensemble.

5-Day Rainfall Projections. NOAA HPC's QPF (enough acronyms?) shows a 2-2.5" rainfall prediction over Minnesota and northern Florida; dry weather lingering for much of the west, making a bad fire scenario considerably worse.

Severe Flooding In Escambia County, Florida Forces Evacuations In Florida's Panhandle. As much as 22" of rain has soaked the Pensacola area, prompting evacuations, washing out roads and bridges. Huffington Post has more information: "Floodwaters from torrential rains damaged homes and closed roads throughout the Florida Panhandle, cutting power to the county jail and sending residents to emergency shelters as the area braced for additional rains Sunday. A tornado connected with the storm system also uprooted trees and destroyed chicken houses Sunday in southeastern Alabama, where an emergency official said a few homes were damaged but no injuries were reported. "I actually saw it myself coming out of our church door – my first tornado I have ever witnessed," said Margaret Mixon, emergency management director for rural Geneva County."

Photo credit above: "Forest Creek apartment resident Calvin Grace checks on the flooding conditions at his unit Sunday, June 10, 2012, after receiving nearly two feet of water on Saturday, in Pensacola, Fla. Floodwaters from torrential rains damaged homes and closed roads throughout the Florida Panhandle, cutting power to the county jail and sending residents to emergency shelters as the area braced for additional rains Sunday." (AP Photo/The Pensacola News Journal, Tony Giberson)

Car Sinks In Floodwaters During Live (Jacksonville) TV Segment. Here is more detail (and video) from "A car sank in a flooded creek behind WTEV-WAWS during the stations’ severe weather coverage, making for a tense moment of live TV (video above). It turned out that a teenager, along with a friend, was driving the car and, confused by the rising waters, took a wrong turn into a creek. Both young men escaped to safety, but the car was ruined. Following the incident, the joint Jacksonville stations orchestrated some more live TV drama when a local car dealership surprised the kid with a new car. Video inside…"

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due. Here is NOAA HPC's 5-Day Precipitation Outlook issued last Thursday. Notice the 10" bullseye over the Florida Panhandle. Yes, that forecast verified alright - as much as 22" of rain for portions of Escambia County, in the Pensacola area, since last Friday. That's 2 hurricane's worth of rain!

Fire Season 2012: "We're Just Getting Started". AccuWeather meteorologist Ken Reeves has a good summary of the fire season, compared with last year, to date: "Here are some statistics to show why I have said that this has been a rather slow start to the season.

So far in 2012, there has been 22,976 fires burning 838,853 acres.

In 2011 to date, there was 29,857 fires burning a much larger 3,450,882 acres.

The 10-year average to date is 32,576 fires burning 1,422,752 acres.

Therefore, 2012 has been well below the 10-year average for the number of fires and acres burned and far below the number of acres burned to date last year. Though interesting, we are in the infancy of the meat of the fire season. A lot can change over the next several month before the fire season peaks late summer and early fall."

Photo credit above: "Donna Dundon, left, and Arianna Roupinian, of Fort Collins, Colo., watch a fire burning in a mountainous area about 15 miles west of Fort Collins, on Sunday, June 10, 2012. Firefighters on Sunday were fighting wildfires that have spread quickly in parched forests in Colorado and New Mexico, forcing hundreds of people from their homes and the evacuation of wolves from a sanctuary. The Colorado fire grew to 22 square miles within about a day of being reported and has destroyed or damaged 18 structures." (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Helen H. Richardson)

"Pyrocumulus". Here is an amazing example of pyrocumulus, clouds formed by hot updrafts generated by the Little Bear Fire in New Mexico. Details and more photos from Expose-Sure 101 in Alto, New Mexico: "As of 6 a.m. this morning the Little Bear Fire is 26,000 acres, current cost $1.2 million, zero percent contained. Transferred to Type 1 incident command this morning at the White Mountain Elementary School Cmplex. No new evacuations. No evacuees will be allowed back to their homes. Highway closures remain in effect. Two Heavy helicopter, 2 Blackhawk helicopters, 2 medium helicopters, two light helicopters, 3 large air tankers and two light tankers in addition to at least 300 more firefighters The "heel of the fire line on ski run road is being held. Neighborhoods at the intersections of HWY 48 and airport road and in Sonterra have been "compromised". The Rio Bontio valley and Angus church /lower copper canyon have also been "compromised". Several structures are destroyed and hundreds remain threatened."

Floods And Misery In Southern England As A Month's Worth of Rain Falls In A Few Hours. Some amazing details from the U.K. Independent: "Forecasters warned there was little prospect of summer as once again more than a month’s worth of rain fell in just a few hours today bringing flooding and misery to parts of southern England. Storm conditions are set to return later in the week, the Met Office said, as homes were evacuated along the south coast while a hospital in Worthing was forced to divert emergency admissions after wards were inundated with water. The Environment Agency issued more than 40 flood warnings and alerts on rivers across Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire which were lashed with torrential downpours. Worst affected were the rivers Mole and Barnham."

Photo credit above: "The scene at Riverside Caravan Park in Llandre, Wales after swollen waters breached the banks of the River Lery and flooded the caravan park Saturday June 9, 2012. Around 150 people had to be rescued from homes and caravans after severe floods hit west Wales. Holidaymakers and residents were helped to safety in a large-scale rescue operation mounted by fire crews, coastguard lifeboats and military helicopters when water swept through caravan parks and villages near Aberystwyth in Wales." (AP Photo/PA Wire)

New Hurricane Center Head Turned Fear Into Career. AP and has the story; here's an excerpt: "MIAMI (AP) — When the National Hurricane Center's new director was growing up on the Florida and Texas coasts, tropical storms frightened him. Decades later, Rick Knabb understands storms better, but he still doesn't like them. "I'm still very scared of hurricanes," says Knabb, who left The Weather Channel to become chief of the U.S. government's hurricane forecasting hub in Miami on June 1. "I have a very healthy respect for what they can do and I try to channel that fear into preparedness and action." As hurricane center director, Knabb will spend a lot of time urging coastal residents to prepare for a major hurricane by securing their homes. He will tell them to create evacuation plans and stock enough supplies to last several days without power."
Photo credit above: "In this June 5, 2012 photo, Rick Knabb discusses his role as the new Director of the National Hurricane Center in MIami. He might better understand the tropical storm systems that frightened him as a child growing up on the hurricane-prone coasts of Florida and Texas, but that doesn’t mean he’s learned to like their howling winds. “I’m still very scared of hurricanes,” says Knabb, who left The Weather Channel to become chief of the U.S. government’s hurricane forecasting hub in Miami. “I have a very healthy respect for what they can do and I try to channel that fear into preparedness and action.” (AP)
"Shelf Cloud." Thanks to StormchaseKY, who snapped this ominous pic in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.

"Sun Dog". Here is an explanation of this optical illusion, courtesy of the Seattle office of The National Weather Service, via Facebook: "This is an image of a mock sun or sundog captured this afternoon. The scientific name for this phenomenon is ‘parhelion,’ which is Greek and means, ‘besides the sun.’ It occurs when sunlight passes through ice crystals, which refract or bend the light horizontally (acting as prisms)."

"Ask Paul". Weather-related Q&A.


"Three weeks ago, on Saturday morning, our moving vehicle, at 50 mph, was struck by a bolt of lightning. What are the odds on that??"

Ed Bohl III
Managing Director, Schawk!

Ed - glad you're OK. A vehicle is a fairly safe place to ride out an electrical storm. It is a crude (rolling) "Faraday Cage", which Wikipedia explains: "A Faraday cage's operation depends on the fact that an external static electrical field will cause the electric charges within the cage's conducting material to redistribute themselves so as to cancel the field's effects in the cage's interior. This phenomenon is used, for example, to protect electronic equipment from lightning strikes and electrostatic discharges."

The National Lightning Safety Institute has calculated the odds of any one person being struck by lightning in a given year:
USA population = 280,000,000
1000 lightning victims/year/average
Odds = 1 : 280,000 of being struck by lightning

Hello again Paul -

"Hope you're well. Thought of you when I saw this. Not a brilliant shot (because it was taken from our moving car) but it was looking southwest over Hong Kong's old Kai Tak airport site and the harbor - as this strange shaft of orange light appeared in the clouds."

Joe Kainz

Thanks Joe - great pic. It may have been caused by a narrow break in a line of showers and T-storms that allowed the setting sun to shine on mid-level clouds over the harbor.

Best Not To Complain About The Rain. Why? Because it's been snowing over northern Manitoba. Eden Prairie consulting meteorologist Dean DeHarpporte writes:

"Paul, maybe you have noticed but it has been snowing all morning in Thompson, Manitoba, which is about 530 miles north of the US border, and Gillam Manitoba, which is about 100 miles east northeast of Thompson. Hudson Bay is 100-150 miles to the northeast of both towns.Thompson, population 13,000, is a stop on the railway that goes up from Winnipeg to Churchill where I once went (in January). 

The precip was rain overnight but there has apparently been enough upward motion in the cyclone over Hudson Bay to cause enough cooling to make the change to snow, which has been classified as heavy at times. I just noticed it on the surface map reports so I dont know if there has been accumulation. My very subjective impression is that heavy snow this late in the season is rare that far south of Hudson Bay. Surprisingly (to me) Thompson is classified as subarctic climate (Köppen Dfc), but now I see why."

* map above courtesy of Unisys.

"Reaction System" Promises Versatile, Cost-Effective Emergency Housing. Here's an interesting concept for getting temporary housing to the scene of hurricane, flood or earthquake survivors who need temporary homes, as outlined at "In a world where millions of people are forced from their houses every year because of natural disasters, there is an ongoing need for huge numbers of decent mid- to long-term temporary housing units that can be swiftly delivered to the affected area. The Reaction Housing System has been developed to make the wait as short as possible."

Apple Has Its Own Killer Maps With Turn-By-Turn Navigation, 3-D, and Tons More. More details on Monday's announcements from Apple courtesy of; here's an excerpt: "As expected, Apple just announced its own in-house mapping platform at WWDC. Apple is doing all of the cartography itself, instead of Using Google Maps, or pulling from an open source format like OpenStreetMap. One big addition is turn-by-turn navigation in iOS 6, which has been a big feature that Apple fans have been begging for for years. It'll be narrated by Siri, of course. It will also be fully integrated with Yelp, and offer traffic updates, suggesting new routes if traffic is bad where you're heading. Another cool thing to do is that if you've got to take two turns back to back, it will show you both of the signs, so you know what to do."

World's Longest Kayak? O.K. It's modular, but I still haven't seen anything quite like this; has the story: "After touring the United States in a bespoke boot-mobile earlier this year, L.L. Bean has turned its attention to the water in its continuing centenary celebration. The 100-year-old outfitter has built what it believes to be the world's largest modular kayak. The bespoke vessel is a 500-foot-long (152 m) version of Point65's collapsible kayak. In its production form the Point65 Tequila! modular kayak breaks down into three segments, allowing for easier transport. In order to build it out to L.L. Bean's 500-foot specification, Point65 adds 98 additional middle sections - because you really wouldn't want to put a boat that size on your roof rack or trailer."

"Ah summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it." - Russel Baker

Tornado Tales

Raging wildfires burn out of control out west, while waterlogged residents of Pensacola, Florida mop up from 21 inches of rain; two hurricane's worth of moisture. Welcome to 2012, "The Year of All or Nothing".

I'm always looking for interesting articles for the weather blog. Todd Krause at the local National Weather Service office sent me a link that made me do a double-take. New studies show that if you have a vehicle with multiple airbags you may be safer staying in your car or truck than diving into the nearest ditch. It's still somewhat controversial - because a major (EF-3 or higher) tornado could toss your vehicle hundreds of feet into the air (with a very rough landing). Your best bet is to find a nearby building, store or rest stop.

New (connected) vehicles will include Doppler radar, so you know what you're driving into.
Today brings a welcome hint of September, dew points in the 30s, meaning a third as much water in the air as Sunday. Soak it up, because highs may brush 90 by late week.

A front stalled just to our west ignites rounds of T-storms Thursday into Sunday; no all-weekend-washouts but a sticky, tropical, thundery pattern sets up for Father's Day weekend.

"The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack". - Robinson Jeffers

Climate Stories...

National Academies of Sciences, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), American Physical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Chemical Society, American Meteorological Society, Geological Society of America, American Institute of Biological Sciences, American Society of Agronomy, American Society of Plant Biologists, American Statistical Association, Association of Ecosystem Research Centers, Botanical Society of America, Crop Science Society of America, Ecological Society of America, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Organization of Biological Field Stations, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Society of Systematic Biologists, Soil Science Society of America, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Science Academies of the G8+5 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa), European Academy of Sciences and Arts, Australian Institute of Physics, and International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics.

- Scientific societies that acknowledge the reality and danger of human-caused climate change. Source here.

China Emissions Study Suggests Climate Change Could Be Faster Than Thought. Reuters and The Chicago Tribune have the story; here's an excerpt: "SINGAPORE/BEIJING (Reuters) - China's carbon emissions could be nearly 20 percent higher than previously thought, a new analysis of official Chinese data showed on Sunday, suggesting the pace of global climate change could be even faster than currently predicted. China has already overtaken the United States as the world's top greenhouse gas polluter, producing about a quarter of mankind's carbon pollution that scientists say is heating up the planet and triggering more extreme weather."

Research Shows Humans Main Cause Of Global Warming. Radio Australia has more details: "Scientists say this is the most comprehensive study to date on global ocean warming. The research has been published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The team looked at rising ocean temperatures over the past 50 years, and a dozen models projecting climate change patterns. Australian based co-author, Dr John Church from Australia's island state of Tasmania says there's no way all of the world's oceans could've warmed by one tenth of a degree Celsius without human impact. He says nature only accounts for 10 per cent of the increase."

Photo credit above: "The coastline of Funafuti Atoll, in Tuvalu. Tuvaluans fear global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with king tides and cyclones, will render their nation uninhabitable." [AFP]

Greenhouse Gases Largely To Blame For Warming Oceans: Scientists. Australia's ABC Network has the story; here's an excerpt: "Researchers from America, India, Japan and Australia say the study is the most comprehensive look at how the oceans have warmed. The study, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, examined a dozen different models used to project climate change, and compared them with observations of ocean warming over the past 50 years. It found natural variations accounted for about 10 per cent of rising temperatures, but man-made greenhouse gases were the major cause."

Photo credit above: "The study says greenhouse gases are largely to blame for ocean warming." David Loh: Reuters.

"Man-Handled". A Decade Ago Conservatives Attacked A Scientist - And Created A Leader. Here's an excerpt from a story written by Chris Mooney for "I first became familiar with the name Michael Mann in the year 2003. I was working on what would become my book The Republican War on Science, and had learned of two related events: The controversy over the Soon and Baliunas paper in Climate Research, purporting to refute Mann and his colleagues’ famous 1998 “hockey stick” study; and a congressional hearing convened by Senator James Inhofe, at which Mann testified. Inhofe tried to wheel out the Soon and Baliunas work as if they’d dealt some sort of killer blow against climate science. In fact, just before the hearing, several editors of Climate Research had resigned over the paper. I went on to stand up for Mann, and his work, in Republican War. Little did I know, at the time, that he himself would become the leading defender of his scientific field against political attacks."

Global Warming Threat Seen In Fertile Soil Of Northeastern U.S. Forests. Science Daily has the story; here's an excerpt: "Vast stores of carbon in U.S. forest soils could be released by rising global temperatures, according to a study by UC Irvine and other researchers in a recent online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists found that heating soil in Wisconsin and North Carolina woodlands by 10 and 20 degrees increased the release of carbon dioxide by up to eight times. They showed for the first time that most carbon in topsoil is vulnerable to this warming effect. "We found that decades-old carbon in surface soils is released to the atmosphere faster when temperatures become warmer," said lead author Francesca Hopkins, a doctoral researcher in UCI's Earth system science department."

Photo credit above: "UCI doctoral student Francesca Hopkins tested soil in northeastern forests and found that warming releases carbon locked in the forest floor into the atmosphere."  (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Irvine)

Virginia Republican Forces Scientists To Stop Using "Climate Change" Terminology. OK. Let's call it "environmental discomfort" from now on. Better yet, let's ignore the science and just throw caution to the wind. Future generations won't mind. We did what was in our best interest at the time - we just thought about ourselves! Sounds like a viable path forward to me. Amazing details from The Virginian-Pilot and "Virginia House Delegate Christopher Stolle (R) might be on the right-wing fringe when it comes to climate science, but at least he’s helping fellow lawmakers temper the tea party’s reaction to costly government studies on the matter. In a legislative dust-up earlier this year, according to reporter Scott Harper, writing for The Virginian-Pilot, Stolle told Virginia State Senator Ralph Northam (D) that the terms “climate change” and “sea-level rise” are “liberal code words” that must be excised from a study request, or risk having that request shelved. Shockingly enough: Even though Republicans control the state’s general assembly and hold the tie-breaking vote in the Virginia Senate, they voted to approve $138,000 to fund the study after Northam allowed the term “sea-level rise” to be swapped out for “recurrent flooding.”

Photo credit:

Virginia Says "Sea Level Rise" Is Liberal Propaganda. We should force this guy to live on the Virginia coast (Norfolk or Newport News area?) - see if he changes his tune in the years to come. We're really having an argument about semantics? Think Progress has more details: "Virginia’s legislature commissioned a $50,000 study to determine the impacts of climate change on the state’s shores. To greenlight the project, they omitted words like “climate change” and “sea level rise” from the study’s description itself. According to the House of Delegates sponsor of the study, these are “liberal code words,” even though they are noncontroversial in the climate science community. Instead of using climate change, sea level rise, and global warming, the study uses terms like “coastal resiliency” and “recurrent flooding.” Republican State Delegate Chris Stolle, who steered the legislation, cut “sea level rise” from the draft. Stolle has also said the “jury’s still out” on humans’ impact on global warming."

Climate Change Could Chill International Relations In Arctic. Regina's Leader-Post has the story; here's an excerpt: "A new cold war is on the horizon in international politics, warns a report co-authored by a University of Saskatchewan researcher. This cold war is a fight over commercial opportunities in the Arctic, an increasingly important issue in international relations as climate change thaws out frozen transportation routes, says the report, Climate Change and International Security: The Arctic as a Bellwether. "The Arctic is the first place where we're starting to see the security impacts of climate change and the geopolitical tensions," said Heather Exner-Pirot, a researcher with the U of S International Centre for Northern Governance and Development. "It's about oil and gas. These weren't accessible before. This would never have been profitable if the Arctic was still frozen. Now you can go in there with ships."

China Launches Climate Change Think Tank. has the story - here's a snippet: "China's newly established national think tank for climate change has put the "top level design" of China's carbon trading system top of its agenda agenda. The country officially launched its first national climate change think tank on Monday — the National Climate Change Strategy Research and International Cooperation Center — to further strengthen the nation's research capabilities in addressing climate change. The center will provide policy decision-making support for climate change negotiations, advise on low-carbon economic development and cooperate internationally in this area."

Canada May Warm 2 C by 2020 and 4 C by 2050. A certain amount of warming is already in the pipeline, even if we could magically cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero. has the story; here's an excerpt: "TORONTO, June 11, 2012 /CNW/ - Intact Financial Corporation and the University of Waterloo, along with more than 80 experts from across the country, today released the Climate Change Adaptation Project report, which provides a roadmap for adaptation in Canada. It projects rising temperatures across the country and substantial fluctuations in precipitation levels, all of which will leave a range of sectors, cities and rural regions in Canada vulnerable. City infrastructure, biodiversity, freshwater resources, Aboriginal communities and agriculture were targeted as the most vulnerable areas where adaptive solutions to address climate change are most urgently required. The report outlines 20 practical and cost-effective recommendations that can be implemented on a priority basis in the short term.To guide the project, climate projections for Canada were developed. The results are striking."