Thursday, September 13, 2012

September 14: Quiet Weather (impact of record Arctic ice melt on upcoming winter?)

567 million smartphones will be shipped in 2012, according to NPD DisplaySearch. That number is expected to surpass one billion by 2016. Details at below.

Spreading Drought. According to NOAA's Drought Monitor, St. Cloud, Willmar and the entire north metro is in a moderate drought (again). In fact 44.39% of Minnesota is in a moderate drought, up from 39% last week. Severe drought is impacting the Red River Valley, pockets of extreme drought from Pipestone to Jackson and Worthington.

First Frost? No, I'm not ready for this either. No frost in the immediate metro thru the end of next week, but some flowers may freeze their buds off closer to Duluth and Hibbing by Friday morning. If skies are perfectly clear and winds become calm there's a good chance. Details from NOAA:







Fall Color Slightly Ahead of Schedule? According to the Minnesota DNR 25-50% of trees in Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota county are already ripening up, about 7-10 days ahead of schedule. Dry weather may be accelerating color, as trees across much of the metro are under stress.

Arctic Ice Melt Could Mean More Extreme Winters For U.S. And Europe. What's happening at the top of the world will probably have a ripple effect on winter weather from the USA to Europe and Asia. It's counterintuitive, but a warmer Arctic means a smaller north-south temperature contrast (what meteorologists call "baroclinicity"), which in turn leads to lower jet stream winds. So what? A slower jet increases the potential for blocking patterns, where weather patterns can stall for days, even weeks at a time. Weather is more apt to fall into a rut. It may be a snowy rut, or a mild rut - too early to say at this point in time, but there's little doubt that record Arctic ice loss will have a domino effect. Here's an excerpt of a good explanation from Climate Nexus, Climate Central and Huffington Post: "The record loss of Arctic sea ice this summer will echo throughout the weather patterns affecting the U.S. and Europe this winter, climate scientists said on Wednesday, since added heat in the Arctic influences the jet stream and may make extreme weather and climate events more likely. The “astounding” loss of sea ice this year is adding a huge amount of heat to the Arctic Ocean and the atmosphere, said Jennifer Francis, an atmospheric scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “It’s like having a new energy source for the atmosphere.” Francis was one of three scientists on a conference call Wednesday to discuss the ramifications of sea ice loss for areas outside the Arctic. The call was hosted by Climate Nexus."

Image credit above: "The extent of Arctic sea ice on Aug. 26, 2012, the day the sea ice dipped to its smallest extent ever recorded in more than three decades of satellite measurements. The line on the image shows the average minimum extent from the period covering 1979-2010." Credit: NASA/JPL.

Latest Trends. Arctic ice loss should be reaching a minimum in the next 1-2 weeks, leveling out after record ice loss. The previous record ice loss was 2007. Ice coverage and volume is roughly 20% less than it was 5 years ago.
Graphic creditArctic Sea Ice Monitor data: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Earth Observation Research Center

Drought of 2012: Status Quo. Not much change in the U.S. Drought Monitor - the driest conditions from the Midwest into the Central and Southern Plains, a pocket of extreme/exceptional drought over eastern Alabama and Georgia.

Weekend Weather Trends. Here is the latest 84-hour NAM model, showing a fairly nice spell of moderate weather over the northern tier states, a weakening cool front pushing showers into the Northeast Friday night, skies clearing over the weekend across New England. The best chance of heavy showers and T-storms extending from Texas along the Gulf Coast; a growing chance of coastal showers for the Carolinas by Sunday. A stronger cold front pushes showers into Minnesota and the Upper Midwest late Sunday and Monday of next week.

"Nadine". We're up to the N's in the alphabet, but "Nadine" should stay out over the open waters of the mid-Atlantic, not a threat to the U.S coastline. I don't see any (storms with names) threatening the USA looking out into the third week of September. GFS model data above courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather.

Monster Super Typhoon "Sanba" Aims At Okinawa And South Korea. At a recent AMS conference in Boston I discovered that Atlantic hurricanes are, on average, 40% smaller than Pacific storms. Why? A larger ocean gives these ocean-forming storms more "runway", more fetch out over warm 80-85 F. water to grow and expand. Here's an excerpt of an interesting post from The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang: "A large, dangerous typhoon has rapidly gained strength in the western Pacific. Super typhoon Sanba, positioned 690 miles south of Kadena Air Force base, Japan, has peak winds of 155 mph, the equivalent of strong category 4 hurricane, on the cusp of category 5. The storm is headed due north, on a path to pass very near the island of Okinawa, Japan late Saturday or early Sunday local time. After that, the storm is forecast to continue due north towards the southern tip of South Korea Monday, although southern mainland Japan is within the range of possible tracks."

* image above courtesy of Digital Typhoon.

Bad news for allergy sufferers (at least until the first frost):
Yes, Your Allergies ARE Worse This Year. KARE-11 confirms what those of us who suffer from allergies already know: the drought is making things worse. Check out the video; here's an excerpt of the story: "If you're going through tissues like they're going out of style, you're not alone. It's ragweed season, and it's a doozy. "This time of year I take my prescription allergy medication but I also take Sudafed on top of that, plus I quadruple the strength of my asthma inhaler," says Kristine Crossman-Little. Kristine is like thousands of others who always suffer at the end of summer, but this year seems to have an extra allergy kick. Why? there are a couple of reasons. First of all, the weather has been nice, which means you're likely spending more time outdoors with the pollen. Then, there's the fact that it has been so dramatically dry."

Allergy Season Made Worse By Drought. Just what you wanted to hear. Details from KWWL-TV in Dubuque: "Many Iowans have found the symptoms of allergy season are bad this year. Ragweed, a plant native to Iowa, is the main cause of what people commonly call hay fever. Due to the drought, the pollen count is especially concentrated. Rain helps wash away a weed's pollen, according to Bob Hartzler, weed specialist with the Iowa State University extension office and ISU professor of agronomy. With a drought this summer, he said, wave after wave of pollen has entered the air -- and people's sinuses. "The fall of the year tends to be very problematic for allergy sufferers, especially those that are pollen allergic," allergy and asthma doctor Brad McClimon said Tuesday afternoon at Medical Associates in Dubuque. "The weeds, such as ragweed, tend to pollinate in the fall of the year, from about mid-August until the first frost, so we're right in the midst of the pollen season."

5-Day Rainfall Outlook. NOAA HPC is predicting some 3-5" rains from Oklahoma into the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, 2-3" amounts from Biloxi to Mobile and Pensacola. Florida sees more soakers, some 2" amounts for Tampa, Naples and Miami.

The Evolution Of Wildfires Around The World. Here's a link to an amazing animation, courtesy of The New York Time's Andy Revkin and The Washington Post: "Andrew Revkin of Dot Earth passes along this fascinating video from the NASA Earth Observatory showing the “global pulse of fire” around the world since 2000. NASA offers this bit of commentary: The fire maps show the locations of actively burning fires around the world on a monthly basis, based on observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. The colors are based on a count of the number (not size) of fires observed within a 1,000-square-kilometer area. White pixels show the high end of the count —as many as 100 fires in a 1,000-square-kilometer area per day. Yellow pixels show as many as 10 fires, orange shows as many as 5 fires, and red areas as few as 1 fire per day."

Where Is The Hottest Place On Earth? Easy question, but the answer is a bit problematic. Here's an excerpt of an interesting article from NASA's Earth Observatory. "In October 2004, ecologist Steve Running visited the Flaming Mountain, a ridge of dark red sandstone on the edge of the Taklimakan Desert and the Tian Shan range. The surface of the mountain is said to reach temperatures of 50 to 80°C (122 to 175°F) in the summer, and a nearby tourist center marks the spot with a huge golden thermometer. It is the hottest place in China, if not the world, or so says the local lore."

Photo credit above: "According to local lore, the Flaming Mountain is the hottest spot in China. After visiting the site, scientists used NASA data to find out for sure." (Photograph ©2011 oh contraire.)

Sunset On Muddy Gut Road. Mike Hall snapped this terrific shot near Hancock, Kentucky late yesterday. Perfect.

Top 10 Tornadoes Caught On Surveillance Camera. This is interesting - now that we have so many webcams recording video around the USA, every now and then they catch the arrival of a full-blown tornado. Some incredible footage in this post from "I chose these videos — what I consider to be the top 10 tornadoes caught on security cam — to show the versatility of surveillance solutions.  Granted, the cameras that caught the tornadoes presented here had a different goal when initially installed. But as you can see below, these cameras can often go beyond their intended purpose.  And sometimes, with a little luck, you can get a glimpse at something that otherwise might have gone unseen."

In-Flight Entertainment. Here is a link to a remarkable web site, one that shows near real-time flights in the air at any given moment. Many flights are delayed by at least 5 minutes, for security reasons. After visiting I have newfound respect for air traffic controllers. Yeah - these men and women are probably underpaid.

Smartphone Shipments Tipped To Pass One Billion In 2016. It's nothing short of a revolution, from desktop computing to having a supercomputer in your pocket. One that makes voice calls too. Details from "The latest research from NPD DisplaySearch suggests that the smartphone is quickly heading for ubiquity, with annual shipments expected to exceed one billion in 2016. Given there are only seven billion people on the planet, a significant proportion of the earth's inhabitants can be expected to be carrying one by that point, signalling a huge shift in computer ownership. Who would have thought just ten years ago that most of us would be carrying a computer in our pocket."

Photo credit above: "Annual smartphone shipments are predicted to double by 2016." (Photo: Shutterstock)

Not Your Grandfather's Fishing Boat. 210 mph out on the open ocean? Can you troll behind this baby? Check out the amazing YouTube video focused on Miss GEICO: "The third Outpeformer mini doc follows Miss GEICO's boat pilot, Marc Granet, to chronicle what it takes to command a championship winning team and drive a boat capable of speeds in excess of 210 miles per hour, over open ocean and choppy waterways." More details here.

Worried About Chemical or Biological Attacks? Consider a "Biodome". For the (paranoid) family that wants to be ready for anything and everything; here's a clip from Time Magazine: "Get your own personal dome to protect you and your family from biological and chemical weapons! “The BioDome is the culmination of years of intense research and product design in the private, medical and military sectors,” said BioDome inventor Martin Gustafson. “We’ve designed a system to meet military requirements that can protect anyone from dangerous chemical/biological agents, in the event of a terrorist attack, accidental chemical spill or biological emergency.” The BioDome comes in two 60-pound cases and inflates itself in 10 minutes into a 10-foot square room – for either indoor or outdoor use – that can house six adults (!) for “up to several days” (!). Comes complete with 4-by-6-foot airlock to keep germs or chem-weaps at bay."

Photo credit above: The BioDome: "Your 10-minute solution to bio-chemical threats," the manufacturer says.
Video: Spider Interrupts KOLD-TV Meteorologist. I'm always amused when spiders and bugs crawl across TV webcams, looking like something out of a bad B-action horror film. Here's an explanation (and video clip) from TVSpy: "KOLD chief meteorologist Chuck George had his weather forecast interrupted by an uninvited guest during last night’s 10 p.m. newscast (video after the jump). The Tucson CBS affiliate’s website said George was unsure of what to do with the large arachnid but gave the the director enough time to take a close up without weather graphics. "He didn’t know if he should call attention to it, afraid the audience wouldn’t be able to see it, but what appeared to be a wolf spider was too large to go unnoticed!"

A Lazy Jet

The winter forecast is always a riddle - wrapped in an enigma. It's a little like predicting where the S&P 500 will be next February. Good luck. Last winter was a slushy speed-bump, while 2010-2011 brought punishing snowstorms for much of America.

There's a growing body of evidence that rapid melting in the Arctic is influencing our winters. Every day last month an area of ice the size of the state of Maine (!) melted at the top of the world. Water cycles warmth back into the atmosphere faster than ice. The Arctic is now warming twice as fast as the USA. This is slowing jet stream winds, allowing weather patterns to get "stuck"; falling into a persistent rut.

Will Arctic Amplification play a role in our upcoming winter? Probably. Arctic ice is at a record low - 20 percent lower than the previous record in 2007, roughly HALF the size it was back in the 70s. Expect the unexpected.

A sunny, lukewarm weekend is on tap; highs may top 80 F. A few clippers will push chilly, Canadian air south of the border next week. A little rain Monday gives way to blustery 50s Tuesday; a 1 in 3 chance of flurries (way) up north.

99F. in Madison this week - snowflakes the next?

Hang on tight.

* image above:

Climate Stories...

Climate Chronicles: Climate Change Becomes A Business Reality. The story from Bloomberg Businessweek; here's an excerpt : "This is the year climate change should have hit home. The first eight months are the hottest on record in the U.S., and Arctic sea ice is about to hit a record low. Extreme weather, as we’ve come to call it, has affected everything from the juiciness of the steak at Peter Luger (high corn prices mean steer are being killed before there’s sufficient fat in the marbled meat) to crime rates, as some blame the recent heist of $30 million of maple syrup in Quebec to a one-third drop in U.S. production. No wonder the Carbon Disclosure Project has seen a sharp spike in the number of large companies that view global warming as an immediate threat to their operations. The percentage that see danger right now has jumped to 37 percent of respondents in this year’s CDP Global 500 Climate Change Report, released on Sept. 12, up from 10 percent just two years ago."

Photo credit: Charlie Riedel/AP Photo. "Time exposure of smokestacks at the La Cygne Generating Station coal-fired power plant in Kansas."

NRDC Report: Typical Wind Farm Supports Nearly 1,100 Jobs, Adds Millions Of Dollars To Local Economies. Here's an excerpt from a recent press release from the Natural Resources Defense Council: "Each major wind farm in America creates nearly 1,100 jobs and can add tens of millions of dollars in new taxes and other benefits to the communities where they’re located, according to two new reports from the Natural Resources Defense Council. A new 250-megawatt wind farm will create 1,079 jobs throughout the many steps of building that wind farm, according to the NRDC report “American Wind Farms: Breaking Down the Benefits from Planning to Production.”  These are positions in manufacturing, construction engineering and management, among other areas. But the benefits don’t end there, a separate NRDC study on the secondary impacts of the wind energy industry shows."

Climate Change Will Extend Hay Fever Season By Six Weeks. Oh that's just great. I'm liking the milder trends to some extent, but 6 more weeks of sneezing, wheezing and sniffling? Details from The Guardian and Mother Jones: "Hay fever sufferers face longer pollen seasons and highly allergenic new strains from invasive plants, a new report on the health effects of climate change on the UK warned on Tuesday. Global warming will cause earlier flowering, possibly extending the hay fever season by six weeks, and enable new species to grow in the UK. Pollen is also getting more potent, packing more allergen into each grain. The report, from the Health Protection Agency (HPA), analyses a wide range of risks including killer heatwaves, increased flooding, greater food poisoning and new infectious diseases carried by mosquitoes."

Hot Graphics - Global Warming In Images. Here's a snippet of a post that summarizes the global trends we're witnessing in recent decades with excellent visuals and animations; from "..This NASA graphic impressively provides 131 years of temperature data in 26 seconds. "The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.  … The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience warmer temperatures than several decades ago. The average temperature around the globe in 2011 was 0.92 degrees F (0.51 C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline."

Extreme Weather & Climate Events: 2012. Here is a remarkable timeline summary of 2012: the warmest, and probably the most severe year in U.S. history, but an unusual number of extremes were witnessed worldwide. Check it out for yourself at

Heat: A Bridge To Climate Consensus? Huffington Post has the story; here's an excerpt: "Excessive heat is becoming a public health threat, especially in cities. It leads to heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and is a catalyst for ground-level ozone creation as well as asthma and lung disease. However, and perhaps even more importantly, heat may be the bridge to climate consensus. While extreme heat is not climate change in itself, it amplifies the heat impacts of climate change -- thus also amplifying the threats to human health. It therefore provides an opportunity that allows climate believers, agnostics, and deniers to work together to address a common threat to our society. Regardless of the motivations, dealing with extreme heat can help mitigate climate change, providing added benefits to society."

Arctic Warning: As The System Changes, We Must Adjust Our Science. Here's an excerpt from Climate Code Red: "The Arctic sea-ice big melt of 2012 “has taken us by surprise and we must adjust our understanding of the system and we must adjust our science and we must adjust our feelings for the nature around us”, according to Kim Holmen, Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) international director. From Svalbard (halfway between mainland Norway and Greenland), the BBC’s David Shukman reported on 7 September that Holmen had described the current melt rate “a greater change than we could even imagine 20 years ago, even 10 years ago”.

Photo credit above: "Northern Polar Institute Research Director Kim Holmen, left, with UN Foundation Board Chairman Ted Turner and President Timothy Wirth in the Arctic."

Faking That NASA Faked The Moon Landing. More on conspiracy theories and a possible link to ongoing climate change denial from "Data integrity is a central issue in all research, and internet-based data collection poses a unique set of challenges. Much attention has been devoted to that issue and procedures have been developed to safeguard against abuse. There have been numerous demonstrations that internet platforms offers a reliable and replicable means of data collection, and the practice is now widely accepted. Nonetheless, each data set must be examined for outliers and “unusual” responses, and our recent paper on conspiracist ideation and the motivated rejection of science is no exception. Perhaps unsurprisingly, after various unfounded accusations against us have collapsed into smithereens, critics of our work have now set their sights on the data. It has been alleged that the responses to our survey were somehow “scammed,” thereby compromising our conclusions."

Permafrost Thaw Will Speed Up Global Warming, Study Says. CBC News has the story; here's an excerpt: "Permafrost soils in Canada's Arctic are melting at a rate that will significantly speed up global warming, according to new research from the University of Victoria. The study, published this week in Nature Geoscience, predicts that the thawing permafrost will release between 68 billion and 508 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere by the year 2100. As a result of those carbon emissions, researchers say the Earth's temperature will rise by more than 0.5 C by the end of the century." Image above: NASA.