Friday, September 28, 2012

September 29: "Jelawat" Threatens Japan, Drought Drying Up Lakes in Minnesota

3 days with more than a "trace" of rain this month in the Twin Cities metro area.

1952. The last time it was this dry across the state of Minnesota during September.

The Amazing, Shrinking White Bear Lake. What happened to White Bear Lake? The photos are a stark reminder of what's happening statewide: lake water levels are down 2-5 feet, but the problem is much worse on White Bear: "White Bear Lake is plummeting to a record low water level due to the current drought and large amount of groundwater pumping. Some lakeshore property owners have had to constantly expand their docks to reach water's edge." (MARLIN LEVISON/STARTRIBUNE

Rainfall Necessary To End The Drought. Based on NOAA's Palmer Index, the values above are the rainfall amounts necessary to end the drought. Those amounts range from 5-6" in the Twin Cities metro to 8-11" over southern counties, to as much as 11-13" over the Red River Valley. A couple of storms won't do the trick - it may take many months to dig ourselves out of this dry, dusty hole. Map: NOAA, USDA and Ham Weather.

Good News For Dock Companies. Good grief - look at the collection of extendable docks on White Bear Lake. Details: "White Bear Lake is plummeting to a record low water level due to the current drought and large amount of groundwater pumping. Docks along the shoreline need to be constantly extended." (MARLIN LEVISON/STARTRIBUNE

.30" rain so far this month; driest September since 1882. Photo credit: Paul Sundberg Photography.

2.80" normal rain as of September 27.

77.45% of Minnesota in moderate drought - up from 13.67% just 3 months ago. Details below.

45 Minnesota counties in severe or extreme drought as of September 25. Source: U.S. Drought Monitor.

331 months/row where the global temperature exceeded the 20th century average. Source: NASA GISS.

"...In total over 35 percent of Minnesota's landscape was designated to be in severe or extreme drought, the largest fraction of the state since the fall of 2006. The only Minnesota county not designated to be drier than normal is Cook in the far northeast." - from Dr. Mark Seeley's WeatherTalk blog; details and links below.

"Noted sea ice geophysicist and climatologist Professor John Yackel from the University of Calgary has delivered a bombshell: He recently declared after the latest Arctic ice melt that, "This is the smallest minimum ice extent we've ever had, and not just in the satellite record, but probably in the last million years." - excerpt from a San Francisco article; details and links below. Photo above: NOAA.

One Of The Driest Septembers On Record. Actually, it's the second driest September in modern-day records dating back to 1891, the driest since 1882 for MSP. Here's an excerpt of this week's WeatherTalk blog post from Dr. Mark Seeley: "...The real story for September was the dryness due to absence of rainfall. Many observers reported measurable rainfall amounts on only 2-3 days, resulting in one of the driest Septembers in history on a statewide basis. The driest September was 1952 when the statewide average rainfall was just 0.57 inches. This year's statewide value will be close to that one. Many observers clearly reported their driest September in history, including Windom (0.30"), Moorhead (0.19"), Willmar (0.14"), Collegeville (0.08"), and Morris (0.03"). For Morris and Collegeville it was one of their driest months in history as well.....As of the end of September the U.S. Drought Monitor placed all or parts of 45 Minnesota counties in severe to extreme drought, most notably in southwestern, south-central and northwestern Minnesota."

Photo credit above: "White Bear Lake is plummeting to a record low water level due to the current drought and large amount of groundwater pumping. Some lakeshore property owners have had to constantly expand their docks to reach water's edge." (MARLIN LEVISON/STARTRIBUNE).

More Sinkhole Than Waterfall. That's a photo of Minnehaha "Falls" taken by WeatherNation TV meteorologist Addison Green on Thursday. Not even a trickle of water. Not good.

Minnesota's Drought Deepens. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows 98.08% of the Gopher State is now "abnormally dry", 77.45% of Minnesota in moderate drought - severe drought now pushing across central Minnesota into the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities. Extreme drought is expanding across far southern Minnesota and much of the Red River Valley. We started the year in serious drought - we will end 2012 in serious drought.

A Slow Motion Weather Disaster. No such thing as a Drought Warning - local meteorologists aren't interrupting Dancing With The Stars for drought updates, but what's happening over the central USA is nothing short of a disaster for many farmers. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor nearly 69% of the USA is "abnormally dry". The area covered by moderate drought has increased from 42% in late June to 54%; extreme drought has expanded from 7% of the USA to nearly 18% of America as of September 25. Some relief is expected over the Southern Plains and Lower Misssissippi River Valley, but little sustained relief is anticipated from the Upper Midwest westward to the Rockies.

Evolution Of An Historic Drought. The time-lapse above shows 12 weeks worth of evolving drought conditions. The soggy remains of Hurricane Isaac provided some partial relief for the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys in late August and early September. The driest conditions have been shifting westward in recent weeks; right now the worst conditions (extreme to exceptional drought) found over the Plains states. Map: NOAA and USDA.

Expanding Drought - Exhibit A. There was a lake here the last time I checked. This photo sums up the problem, which has reached alarming levels at White Bear Lake: "White Bear Lake is plummeting to a record low water level due to the current drought and large amount of groundwater pumping. Stairways that formerly led to water's edge now end at a grassy beach." (MARLIN LEVISON/STARTRIBUNE).

16 months in a row of warmer than average temperatures in the Twin Cities metro. Temperatures have been consistently warmer than average since June, 2011.

"...The fact that outdoorsmen — 50 percent of whom identify as conservative — are firmly aware of the changes on our natural resources from global warming makes sense.  As Theodore Roosevelt IV put it:
"The nation’s fishermen and hunters are in the frontline of our field naturalists. Doing what they love best they see firsthand the impact of climate change on natural systems and our wildlife.  Their conclusions are based on observations made over years spent in the out of doors." - from a post at Think Progress below.

"...For conservatives," he says, "it's seen as an attack on our lifestyle. You can't live in the suburbs. You gotta give up that big car." He knows people don't like to be told what to do. But Inglis remembers his dad teaching him to save gas by letting up on the pedal and coasting. He says a party that once valued thrift now touts a philosophy of "burn it up." "It's not conservative to waste stuff," Inglis says, "and to cause somebody else's kids to go on the sands of the Middle East to fight for that stuff that we're wasting." At stake, he says, is the most basic of conservative principles: whether we leave our children a place that's pleasant and livable." - from a post describing a conservative approach to climate science at North Country Public Radio; details and links below.

What's 50 Degrees Among Friends?. We should top 80 today in the metro; 15 degrees or more above average. Sunday should be nearly as warm; a taste of late August in late September. Soak up the warmth and sunshine, because a temperature tumble is likely later this week, a few models hinting at frosty conditions over the suburbs by Friday morning. Graph: Iowa State.

Status Quo. The 84-hour NAM model shows more heavy rain for the Gulf coast, spreading into the east coast by Monday and Tuesday. Dry weather prevails from the Pacific coastline across the Central Rockies and Great Plains, unseasonable warmth being swept across western Canada into the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes, with temperatures 10-20 degrees above average. No tropical systems in sight - the Atlantic unusually quiet.

Lukewarm Into Tuesday. The ECMWF (European) model shows 70+ readings into Tuesday, followed by a reality check the latter half of next week. A wave of low pressure rippling along the leading edge of chilly, Canadian air may spark a little light rain shower activity Wednesday and Thursday, followed by a clearing trend Friday (and a potential for late-week frost). Skies should clear for next weekend, highs stuck in the 40s north and 50s south).

No Sustained Winter Chill - Yet. There's little doubt it's going to cool off after Wednesday; light jacket weather likely by the end of next week. But the same warm bias we've seen all year may return, the GFS model (above) showing a rerun of 60s and even a few 70s for the second week of October.

Typhoon Jelawat Closing In On Okinawa, Japan. The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang has an update; here's an excerpt: "Typhoon Jelawat remains a formidable storm as it passes dangerously close to Taiwan on path towards Okinawa and then mainland Japan. On Sunday, Jelawat became the second super typhoon to pass over the region in two weeks: Sanba was just there on September 13-14. While the western Pacific is no stranger to frequent typhoons, it is quite rare to have two consecutive super typhoons (a “super typhoon” is a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph or greater)."

* the latest radar image of Jelawat is here, courtesy of the JMA, the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Hurricane Force. A typhoon is the same thing as a hurricane, although Pacific hurricanes are, on average, 30-40% bigger than Atlantic hurricanes (more ocean = a longer "fetch" of warm water, more runway for these storms to grow). Here's some terrific YouTube footage that captures the ferocity of Jelawat: "Check out the powerful wind gusts generated by Typhoon Jelawat. Footage taken at 9:45 AM Tokyo time, Sep. 29, 2012. The winds are literally pushing back the surf."

Putting The Eyes Of The Crowd Into The Eye Of Hurricanes. Crowd-sourcing hurricane wind information? Why not. Here's an excerpt of another fascinating article from Climate Central: "Ordinarily, it takes an advanced degree and years of training to become a bona fide hurricane expert. But thanks to an innovative new project, ordinary citizens can make a real contribution to hurricane science armed with little more than an internet connection, a sharp eye and a bit of enthusiasm. The project is known as Cyclone Center, and it’s designed to crowdsource one of the most important questions facing scientists: how strong are the winds in the average hurricane or typhoon?"

Storm Reports. September and October can bring a secondary spike of severe weather, as chilly Canadian air advances south. A persistent frontal boundary produced hail, straight-line winds, even a few tornadoes from Colorado and Texas into the Ohio Valley. The map above shows a week's worth of severe storm reports; hail in blue, flash flooding in green, tornado reports show up as red dots. That's one small consolation of a drought: no Gulf moisture capable of sustaining severe T-storms. Map: NOAA SPC and Ham Weather.

Waterspout! The National Weather Service in Key West has details, via Facebook: "Waterspout report just in. Waterspout located at 120 yards South of Smathers Beach."

Great Smoky Mountain Sunrise. I'm impressed with the quality of photography we're receiving on a consistent basis. This pic is courtesy of Chris Higgins Photography and WeatherNation TV: "Sunrise from Cades Cove in The Great Smoky Mountain National Park this morning, before the rain moved in."

"Sunflower Shelf Cloud". This (stunning) photo of an advancing severe thunderstorm, lit up from below by cloud to ground lightning, was taken by Scott Ackerman Photography, courtesy of WeatherNation TV. The smooth, laminar cloud formation was triggered by a temperature inversion, temperatures warming with altitude. Amazing.

A Sunrise To Remember. Here's a panorama of The Apostle Islands and Lake Superior, taken by Migizi Gichigumi on Friday.
Technicolor Sunset. Michael Trofimov snapped this photo of the setting sun near Battle Ground, Washington.
U.S. Navy Looking At Obtaining Fuel From Seawater. has the details: "Tell someone that you’ve invented a car that runs on water and they're liable to report you for fraud. That hasn’t stopped scientists and engineers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NSL) who want to run warships on seawater – or at least, to turn seawater into jet fuel. This may sound like they’ve been standing too close to the ether again, but the idea is to extract carbon dioxide and hydrogen from seawater and then convert these into jet fuel by a gas-to-liquids process. If this proves practical, American naval vessels could refuel themselves at sea."

California Gives The Go-Ahead For Driverless Cars On Public Roads. I still can't quite wrap my brain around this one. True, commutes can be monotonous, but I enjoy driving (most of the time). Why would I want to automate this? Maybe our kids or grandkids won't have an issue with this, but short-term you'll have to pry my cold, dead fingers off the steering wheel. Here's an except from "California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill that will allow Google (and other companies) to test autonomous vehicles on state-owned roads. The bill – which is similar to those already enacted in Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, and Oklahoma – allows the state to oversee safety and performance standards. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are around 30,000 to 37,000 fatal car accidents every year. The technology being implemented in autonomous vehicles could reduce that number dramatically, particularly in the case of human error." Photo above: Yahoo News.

The Real Carpet King. Thanks to Crystal Kuehn for snapping this remarkable pic of a station wagon completely covered in....carpeting? But why? Never mind...

Words of Wisdom. Thanks to and my sister, Joan, who is German, so she can almost get away with sharing this. "Ich liebe dich!" How romantic.

How Dry We Are

I don't want to be Debby Downer. There's enough depressing news. As much as I'm enjoying this stretch of lukewarm, postcard-perfect, Chamber of Commerce-worthy weather, I'm seeing red flashing lights.

It's dry out there. According to Dr. Mark Seeley all or parts of 45 Minnesota counties are in severe to extreme drought. "In total over 35 percent of Minnesota's landscape was designated to be in severe or extreme drought, the largest fraction of the state since the fall of 2006" he wrote in his latest WeatherTalk post. Statewide this may rival 1952, the driest September on record, when average rainfall was .57 inches.

Trees, flowers & shrubs need a good dousing before the ground freezes up. Farmers are hoping to replenish depleted soil moisture, looking ahead to 2013's growing season.

The arrival of cooler air late next week may spark a little light rain Wednesday and Thursday; but not the soaking we need.

We're sliding into an El Nino pattern, a warm stain of water in the central Pacific that tends to nudge wet, sloppy storms well south of Minnesota.

Soak up the 70s and low 80s this weekend, because a suburban frost is possible by Friday -  next weekend will bring 50s and light jackets. No big storms (of any flavor) on the horizon.

Pray for rain.

Photo credit above: Duluth sunrise courtesy of Alison Gimpel via WeatherNation TV.

Climate Stories...

Politicians And Their Professors: The Discrepancy Between Climate Science And Climate Policy. This should be required reading for every politician, local, state and national, but why do I think that won't happen anytime soon? Here is an overview of the (pdf) overview from The Better Future Project at Cambridge, Mass: "This report seeks to highlight the discrepancy between the overwhelming consensus on climate change that exists among the nation’s scientific community and the lack of action by federal leaders. Past studies have shown that 97-98% of climate scientists who publish in peer-reviewed journals agree with the consensus that climate change is real, happening now, and man-made. Since many politicians seem to disregard the views of such scientific “elites” as a whole, we decided to compare politicians’ views on climate change to those of the climate experts at their alma maters. These politicians clearly valued the expertise of the academics at their schools enough that they chose to (usually) spend tens of thousands of dollars and up to four years of their lives absorbing knowledge from these institutions’ experts. We thought that even if these politicians choose to disregard the consensus of national experts, they might be persuaded by the consensus of the higher education institutions in which they trusted enough to invest great amounts of their time and money."

Extreme Weather: Arctic Ice At Lowest Point In A Million Years. It will be interesting to see if this statistic holds up - here's an excerpt from the San Francisco Examiner: "...According to Frank J. Dinan, an emeritus professor of chemistry at Canisius College, "The GWP of methane gas combined with the rapid warming of the Arctic will give rise to a potentially disastrous positive feedback loop. As the Arctic's permafrost regions warm, methane gas is released. Methane's high GWP assures that the Earth will warm even more rapidly as the gas enters our atmosphere. This increased warming will result in methane being released even more rapidly, thereby establishing a snowballing feedback cycle leading to increasingly rapid climate change." Research documents show that 48 million tons of methane are entering our atmosphere from eastern Siberian permafrost alone each year. That amount is sure to grow." Photo above: NOAA.

New Guide For Scientists: Responding To Criticism And Personal Attacks. Yes, nasty out there - it seems the same climate-denial-trolls keep showing up, parroting the same talking points. The Union of Concerned Scientists has a post on responding to these tactics; here's an excerpt: "Scientists find themselves under scrutiny now more than ever before, and that scrutiny intensifies when their research is at the center of a public policy debate. Sometimes, this scrutiny helps educate the public and clarify what we know; at other times, this scrutiny is designed to confuse the public and policymakers. Today, UCS is releasing a guide that helps scientists deal with harassment and other unwarranted attacks on their integrity and their work. Many people think of climate scientists when they think of harassment—and they’re not wrong. Climate scientists have faced subpoenas, intrusive open records requests, threatening phone calls, even dead rats on their doorsteps."

Global Warming Is Solved: Just Make Snow Out Of Sewage. Here's a snippet from an article at "Yes, sure, global warming is leading us inexorably down the path to all-out global war due to massive human displacement and destruction of resources. But let's focus on the real problem: what about ski resorts? What if people were forced to go skiing later in the season? Absolutely unacceptable. Fortunately, America is ready to tackle this problem head-on. Problem: warmer weather means less good snow for rich people to go skiing. Solution, at the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort: "use 100 percent sewage effluent to make artificial snow." Now all of the rich people will be able to ski on sewage! Sewage full of "hormones, antibiotics, antidepressants, pharmaceuticals and steroids." But on the upside: skiing in November, in Arizona. The NYT quotes an official from the US Forest Service offering this bulletproof rationale: "Snow-making has become necessary because of climate change."

Poll: 69% of Hunters and Anglers Say We Should Reduce Carbon Emissions That Contribute To Global Warming. I run into many fishing and hunting enthusiasts who tell me that they've seen significant changes in Minnesota's lakes and fields. Here's an excerpt of a post at Think Progress: "The National Wildlife Federation has issued a new poll outlining the priorities and opinions of America’s sportsmen (and women).  Conducted by a Republican polling firm, the poll asked hunters and anglers who vote questions about conservation, public lands, energy, and climate change. One of the most important findings is that 59% of sportsmen agree that “global warming is occurring,” while 69 percent say that we should reduce carbon emissions that are contributing to the problem. The fact that outdoorsmen — 50 percent of whom identify as conservative — are firmly aware of the changes on our natural resources from global warming makes sense."

Climate Change Kills 400,000 A Year, New Report Reveals. The Daily Beast has the story; here's an excerpt: "Nearly 1,000 children a day are now dying because of climate change, according to a path-breaking study published Wednesday (PDF), and the annual death toll stands at 400,000 people worldwide. Climate change also is costing the world economy $1.2 trillion a year, the equivalent of 1.6 percent of economic output, reports the Climate Vulnerability Monitor, a study commissioned by 20 of the world’s governments whose nations are most threatened by climate change and released on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York." Photo above: NASA.

New Groups Make  A Conservative Argument On Climate Change. I think Bob Inglis, former Congressional Representative from South Carolina, is onto something. An interview he gave to NPR's All Things Considered resonated; here's an excerpt from North Country Public Radio: "...These days, Inglis heads the Energy and Enterprise Initiative at George Mason University, making a free market case for tackling global warming. "We think free enterprise has the answer to energy and climate," Inglis said at a recent meeting of students with the Wharton Energy Club at the University of Pennsylvania. "There's an incredible opportunity in energy, if we just get the economics right." Inglis proposes eliminating government incentives: no more tax breaks for solar panels or electric cars; no more subsidies for oil companies. Then, he says he would impose a carbon tax on fossil fuels. We already pay more, he says, just in hidden ways, like detrimental health impacts from coal-fired power plants or higher insurance costs from extreme weather linked to greenhouse gases. This "market distortion," he says, leaves fossil fuel companies unaccountable."

Photo credit above: "Former South Carolina Republican Rep. Bob Inglis now runs the Energy and Enterprise Initiative." (Energy and Enterprise Initiative)

Young Conservatives for Energy Reform. I almost fell off my chair when I clicked on this site. It would appear there are a growing number of conservatives who see climate change as a threat, and an opportunity to reinvent America.

Environmentalists Get Vocal On Obama, Romney Silence On Climate Change. The Hill has the story; here's a clip: "A handful of environmental groups are amplifying calls Thursday for President Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to speak up on climate change after a summer of devastating drought, fires, storms and heat. Friends of the Earth and Forecast the Facts debuted a website Thursday called that asks visitors to sign a petition asking Obama and Romney how they would address climate change if elected. The website, which features photos of Obama and Romney with their mouths duct taped, tracks the candidates’ climate change mentions on a timeline."