Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer Heat On Hold Northeastern Third of USA into mid-August (while heat grips unlikely spots)

A Fine Whine

It's human nature to compare, contrast and complain. Compared to last summer's historic, blast-furnace heat, we're having a cool summer.

Some, not all, feel cheated by the lack of hot fronts. "What summer?" an old friend e-mailed me yesterday. "Our lake up north has cooled by 13 degrees. Make it stop!"

Done. I kicked the Doppler, lit a candle and wrote my Congressman.

Don't hold your breath.

There is, as always, a silver lining, a significant upside to the lack of jungle-like heat and humidity. We're saving money on air conditioning, and this hint of September is keeping the juiciest, most unstable air well south of Minnesota, meaning fewer severe T- storms. SPC reports only 6 tornadoes in Minnesota this year. Maryland has seen 10!

I suspect most readers will be just fine with the weather into Saturday: blue sky, highs near 80F with a dew point in the 50s. Like living in a postcard. Showers & storms return Sunday, but next week looks dry and comfortable, brushed by another puff of cool air by midweek. More sweatshirt weather up north, with little chance of 90s into mid-August. I'm betting on a sizzling front in time for the Minnesota State Fair. Wait for it.

Nothing severe, no debilitating heat, no weather drama? Sounds pretty good to me.

"...Indeed, if free-market conservatives really want evidence of climate change, they ought to look towards the insurance markets that would bear much of the cost of catastrophic climate change. All three of the major insurance modeling firms and every global insurance company incorporate human-caused climate change into their projections of current and future weather patterns. The big business that has the most to lose from climate change, and that would reap the biggest rewards if it were somehow solved tomorrow, has universally decided that climate change is a real problem. An insurance company that ignored climate change predictions could, in the short term, make a lot of money by underpricing its competition on a wide range of products. Not a single firm has done this..." - from The Weekly Standard; more details below.

Sure It's Not September 1? ECMWF guidance shows upper 70s to near 80 into Saturday, most of the showers and T-storms Sunday may hold off until late in the day and at night. A cool Monday gives way to a (slight) warming trend into the middle of next week, another unusually strong cool front the end of next week, when highs may hold in the low to mid 70s over southern Minnesota, with 60-degree highs up north.

A Dry Spell. A few pop-up, instability showers and T-showers may sprout over the Minnesota Arrowhead later this afternoon, another area of rain brushing southwestern Minnesota tonight and early Friday, but odds are most of us in the metro area will stay dry until late Sunday or Sunday night.

Holding Pattern. A series of cool fronts, unusually strong for early August, spark a few waves of showers and T-storms from the Midwest to New England into Saturday, more soaking rains possible for the East Coast. The southwest third of the USA remains hot and steamy, pop-up instability T-storms over the Rockies, while the soggy remains of "Dorian" soak the Bahamas. 84-hour NAM courtesy of NOAA.

A/C Optional Into Mid-August? After an outreak of Septemberlike air late next week, we warm into the upper 70s and low 80s the second week of July, cooler than average most days thru the period, according to GFS guidance.

Summer of 2013: Actual Vs. Normal. Yesterday I talked about the apparent disconnect (paradox?) of having not only more HDD (heating degree days) but also CDD (cooling degree days) at MSP since June 1. This graph perfectly illustrates the summer, to date, showing the heat of mid-July, contrasted with the unusual chilly spell at the end of last month. Thanks to Michelle Margraf at the Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service, who adds: "I've attached a temperature chart showing the high and low temperatures against the records and normals for June and July 2013.  It highlights how unusually cool last week was, as compared to normal, which brought us the above normal HDDs.  It also shows the warm period we had in early and mid July which gave us higher than normal CDDs..."

Probability Of Rain In August. There is plenty of great, useful climate information at Here's an explanation of the chart above: "The fraction of days in which various types of precipitation are observed. If more than one type of precipitation is reported in a given day, the more severe precipitation is counted. For example, if light rain is observed in the same day as a thunderstorm, that day counts towards the thunderstorm totals. The order of severity is from the top down in this graph, with the most severe at the bottom."

Record Heat In Rare Places. Want to warm up? Head to central Alaska. Fairbanks has seen 30 days at or above 80F so far this summer. An odd (and amazingly persistent) kink in the upper level jet stream pattern will keep Alaska, western Canada and much of the Arctic unusually warm, while a series of September-like cool fronts dive-bomb the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and New England into much of the first half of August. More on today's Climate Matters segment: "WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas looks at record heat in strange places and asks "If you have one foot in ice water, one in boiling water, do you feel average?" Also, more on the record cold in July for a third of the US."

A Giant Vortex Of Wildfire Smoke Is Hovering Over Russia. A symptom of record heat gripping much of Europe, Russia and Siberia. More details in this clip from The Atlantic Cities: "...The fire is having an easy time carbonizing the land because the vegetation is dried out, a consequence of a nasty heat wave that saw people wearing bikinis in Siberia. Sweltering summers have been the setting for several recent fire outbreaks in Russia – the one in 2010 that killed more than 50 people (or 56,000, if you factor in heat-related deaths), for example, and the even-worse flame-plague in 2012 that sent smoke as far as Vancouver. Many of the blazes were triggered by lighting, although humans were also to blame with their poorly managed agricultural burns and unattended campfires. A fire that sprouts up in the Russian hinterlands stands a good chance of running rampant before the authorities get around to battling it. That's because bureaucracy has made firefighting a difficult prospect, as RT reports..." (Image above: NASA).

Massive African Dust Storm Cooling Atlantic Hurricane Odds For Early August. This factor, along with a southward dip in the jet stream (and more wind shear over the tropics) may result in fewer tropical storms, at least for the first half of August. Dr. Jeff Masters has more information at Wunderground; here's his introduction: "A massive dust storm that formed over the Sahara Desert early this week has now pushed out over the tropical Atlantic, and will sharply reduce the odds of tropical storm formation during the first week of August. The dust is accompanied by a large amount of dry air, which is making the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) much drier than usual this week. June and July are the peak months for dust storms in the Southwest Sahara, and this week's dust storm is a typical one for this time of year. Due in large part to all the dry and dusty air predicted to dominate the tropical Atlantic over the next seven days, none of the reliable computer models is predicting Atlantic tropical cyclone formation during the first week of August..."

Image credit above: "A massive dust storm moves off the coast of Africa in this MODIS image taken at 1:40 UTC July 30, 2013." Credit: NASA.

Ask Paul. Weather-related Q&A:

"Maybe only because I live here now, but I moved from Minnesota to southern Oregon a couple of years ago, and I find the weather out here fascinating.
The rain stops in May or June, and doesn't start up again until September (or October, or November...)  We get about the same precipitation (~31") as the Twin Cities, but it all comes in the winter months.
One of the new concepts I've become familiar with, is that we do sometimes get thunderstorms that roll in over the summer months.  However, because the air is so dry, the moisture never reaches the ground and we get "dry lightning".
Anyway, today is a perfect storm kind of setup.  The fuel moisture is at almost record-low levels, the entire county (Josephine County) is swathed in very thick smoke from fires that start on July 26 (so no visual spotting of fires), and the NWS has forecast abundant dry lightning potential and 40 mph wind gusts from 9 am to 2 pm PST.
Obviously it's too late to write about it in today's blog before it happens, but I know I always enjoy learning about weather patterns in other areas, that are different from my own experience. I thought this might be something you'd wan to add."
Meghan Pietila

Thanks Meghan - dry lightning is one of the few things we don't have to worry about here in Minnesota on a consistent basis - humidity levels are (usually) high enough that evaporation isn't a big factor with spring/summer/fall T-storms. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

A New Way To Get Tornado Warnings? I haven't seen any research to back up these claims, but there's some new technology that (allegedly) detects tornadoes. No Doppler radar involved, this uses sound waves undetectable by the human ear to warn of potential tornadoes on the ground. We've all heard the descriptions ("it sounded like a freight train!"), the rumble/roar that a tornado often gives off, so I'm not dismissing this out of hand. And no, I have nothing to do with this company - there are no commission checks. The company is Tornadolert and here is an excerpt from their FAQ page: "Tornadolert is completely independent of the NWS tornado warning system.  While NWS issues tornado warnings to affected communities, Tornadolert warns of a tornado that is a potential threat to your family. Tornadolert is physically located in your home or vehicle. Utilizing patented technology, Tornadolert detects sound below the human hearing range (infrasound) generated and radiated by all tornados. Tornadolert immediately sounds an alarm when a tornado threatens your location. There are no missed tornado detections and there are no false tornado alarms.  Tornadolert emits a constant tone alarm when a tornado is approximately 5 to 10 miles away.   When a tornado is less than approximately 5 miles away, Tornadolert emits a beeping alarm plus a flashing red light.  Both alarms provide ample time to seek shelter."

Why Traffic Jams Are The Sign Of A Healthy Economy. This one made me do a double-take. So we should be quietly pleased when we're stuck on I-94 or 494 or The Crosstown Expressway? You 'betcha. Quartz has the story; here's an excerpt: "...Traffic is used as a proxy for economic activity because it measures people going to work and deliveries being made, according to INRIX. While the capacity of a road changes infrequently, the commerce that transits them fluctuates. Congestion on US roads was up 8.3% from last June, according to data released today. Data from Europe show that Hungary saw the largest traffic increase of the 32 nations INRIX tracks, up 107% from June 2012. However, traffic in Hungary was down 47% in the first half of 2013, second only to Portugal, which saw congestion decline 58%..."

The Era Of iSpying: Court Upholds Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking. Need to track someone without a court-issued warrant? There's an app for that. The Atlantic has a rather disturbing story; here's the intro: "As ever, rumors are circulating about the features Apple may include on the next iteration of the iPhone. Will it store fingerprints as a security feature used to unlock the device or aid secure transactions? That's the buzz. The idea has undoubted appeal. I'd love to press my thumb to a screen rather than entering the four-digit code the currently unlocks my device. But wait. If I store a thumbprint on my iPhone, does that mean the government would be free to seize it, sans warrant, on the theory that I forfeited any expectation of privacy when I gave it to Apple? There is reason to think so. The government doesn't need a search warrant to extract location data from cell-phone users, a federal court ruled Tuesday, noting that a cellular subscriber, "like a telephone user, understands that his cellphone must send a signal to a nearby cell tower in order to wirelessly connect his call..."

Photo credit: Gary Lerude/Flickr.

XKeyscore: NSA Tool Collects "Nearly Everything A User Does On The Internet". Uh oh. And you thought your mom judged you harshly. Here's a clip from a story at The Guardian: "A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its "widest-reaching" system for developing intelligence from the internet. The latest revelations will add to the intense public and congressional debate around the extent of NSA surveillance programs..."

Image creditOne presentation claims the XKeyscore program covers 'nearly everything a typical user does on the internet'

Mutilated Cows Found At Missouri Farm: Police Not Ruling Out The Possibility Of Aliens. Possibly the most bizarre headline of the week. No, it has no business in a weather blog, but it still caught my eye. Details from CBS St. Louis: "...Mitchell said the veterinarian told her the cuts to the cow were precise and surgical. Also what seems to be the common denominator of all these incidents is the lack of blood and other bodily fluids surrounding the area and inside the animal. Mitchell told the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) that the third cow’s heart was removed and exposed, but was not taken. She believes that maybe whoever did this was interrupted and she does not rule out the possibility of aliens."

Photo Credit: The Mutual UFO Network.

How Your Job Is Slowly Killing You. Well there's a happy thought. But this infographic at Huffington Post shows the various ways an especially stressful job can impact your health: "More than eight in 10 Americans are stressed about their jobs. Occupational stress is so pervasive that we accept it as a fact of life, but the truth is that demanding jobs do more than make us unhappy -- they can also spur some serious health consequences. Chronic stress in general has been linked with a number of negative health issues, including poor sleep quality, depression, weight gain and an increased risk of developing a number of chronic diseases. And studies looking particularly at work stress show that there are a number of physical and mental effects unique to on-the-job strain. If you're part of that blissful 17 percent of the population who say that nothing about their job stresses them out, congratulations. But for the rest of us, check out the infographic below for some of the scary ways your high-octane career could be affecting your health. If this research doesn't make you want to leave it all behind to teach yoga or travel the world, we don't know what will..."

No, You're Probably Not Smarter Than A 1912-Era 8th Grader. This cheered me up to no end yesterday. Take the 1912 quiz, and you'll see why the headline isn't far off the mark. More details from "...Eighth graders needed to know about patent rights, the relative size of the liver and mountain range geography. They had to be able to put together an argument for studying physiology. Though some of it is useful, much of the test amounts of little more than an assessment of random factoids. So, if you’re anything like us, no, you’re probably not much smarter than an 1912 Bullitt County eighth grader. But that’s okay..."

No, it's not okay.


Climate Stories...

Report: Emissions From North Dakota Flaring Equivalent To One Million Cars Per Year. Here's a snippet from a story at Think Progress: "A new report released today by the investor group Ceres found that the unconventional oil boom in North Dakota has led to a dramatic increase in the amount of natural gas that is intentionally burned off, or flared, carrying major economic and environmental consequences. In 2012 alone, flaring resulted in the loss of approximately $1 billion in fuel and greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to adding nearly one million cars to the road. According to Ceres, nearly 30 percent of North Dakota gas is currently being flared each month as a byproduct of oil production — double the volume of just two years ago. This is due to the fact that at current market rates, oil is approximately 30 times more valuable than natural gas. Therefore, as companies rush to extract oil from the Bakken shale field and cash in on the high price of crude, they have little economic incentive to invest in the infrastructure necessary to capture the gas that bubbles up alongside the oil. So the gas is treated as waste and burned..."

Image credit above: and NASA.

Congressional Task Force Links Worsening Wildfires To Climate Change. The National Journal has the story - here's the introduction: "In a forum convened Tuesday by the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, a panel of experts on climate, wildfires, and forestry met with task force cochairs Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and other lawmakers to discuss the impact of climate change on wildfires. "We've been experiencing wildfire activity that is different and more dangerous," Waxman said in his opening statement, calling recent fires some of the "largest and most intense ... we've seen." Panelists cited a number of reasons for wildfire flare-ups, including land-use patterns and insect activity. But the discussion kept circling back to climate change. "Scientists tell us these changes are not just random variability," Waxman said. "Bigger and more-intense fires are one of the red flags of climate change..." (Image: NASA).

Gina McCarthy: Climate Change Poses An Economic Threat. Politico has the story - here's an excerpt: “...Hello. Climate change isn’t an environmental issue. It is a fundamental economic challenge for us,” the Boston native said during Tuesday’s address at Harvard Law School. “It is a fundamental economic challenge internationally.” Nobody looked at Hurricane Sandy as an environmental problem, McCarthy said. “They looked at it as economic devastation.” She said the limits on natural resources are real; the threats of climate change are real; and the country should embrace cutting carbon emissions as a way to spark innovation..."

Photo credit above: "McCarthy left no doubt that she sees tackling climate change as her central marching orders." | AP Photo.
EPA Chief Vows Actions On Climate Will Spur Economy. I couldn't agree more, and I'm not the only businessman who feels this way. Bloomberg has the story - here's a clip: "Gina McCarthy, the new head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, vowed to tackle global warming with actions that will help spark economic growth. In her first public speech since taking over two weeks ago, McCarthy today defended her agency against attacks from Republicans in Congress, and urged companies to “embrace the opportunity of climate change” as a reason to invest. The investments “will, in turn, fuel the complementary goals of turning America into a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing,” McCarthy said in a speech at Harvard Law School in Boston..."

U.S. Renewable Energy Tops Record In 2012. Yahoo News has the story; here's a clip: "Renewable energy production hit an all-time high in the United States in 2012, according to a recent annual energy report. A combination of government incentives and technological innovations has helped solar and wind power grow in the United States in recent years, the report suggests. From 2011 to 2012, solar energy production increased by 49 percent and wind energy increased by 16 percent, according to a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory annual energy analysis published earlier this month. "I attribute the steady growth to technological advancements as well as tax incentives and state mandates for renewable energy," said A.J. Simon, an energy analyst at LLNL, who wrote the report. "I would expect this to continue for a while..."

Scientists Have A Responsibility To Engage. Here's a clip of an Op-Ed from Gretchen Goldman at The Union For Concerned Scientists: "To be or not be an advocate? This is a question many scientists grapple with. The answer is of course not a simple yes or no, but so many through the years have attempted to make it so. This morning, Tamsin Edwards of the University of Bristol wrote an opinion piece for the Guardian, provocatively entitled, “Climate scientists must not advocate particular policies.” Dr. Edwards makes the claim that scientists should be above the fray. But she gets it wrong in a few ways. The idea that scientists shouldn’t have a voice in policy discussions is naïve—and concerning. Scientists, like all citizens, have the right to engage in policy discussions. They have a right to express their opinions, political or otherwise. I’ve seen what can happen when scientists are silenced, and it certainly doesn’t provide us with better policy outcomes (see here, here, and here)..."

I Was A Climate Change Denier. I suspect Sandy opened up a lot of eyes late last year. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at "...It seems like everywhere we turn, we’re being fed the same old climate Armageddon story. You’ve heard it, I’m sure: If we continue to be dependent on fossil fuels, hundreds of gigatons of CO2 will continue to pour into the atmosphere, the temperature will rise above 2 degrees Celsius, and we’re done. There will be a biblical cocktail of hurricanes, floods, famines, wars. It will be terrifying, awful, epic and, yes, as far as any reputable scientist is concerned, those projections are for real. I call this narrative the Armageddon Complex, and my own denial was a product of it. I spun all sorts of stories to keep the climate crisis out of my life, ranging anywhere from “it can’t be that bad” to “if it is that bad, there’s nothing I can do about it,” and “it’s not my role. That’s for climate activists; I’m a different kind of activist...”

Photo credit above: "Mural by the artist Bansky along Regent’s Canal in London." (Credit: Flickr/Matt Brown)

How To Talk To A Conservative About Climate Change. I found this perspective interesting, courtesy of Canada's The Tyee and Salon. Here's an excerpt: "...But a growing body of social science research has revealed an unexpected counter-narrative: for two decades the language, narratives and images of global warming have reinforced deeply held liberal values, it argues. Conservatives now see global warming solutions, and the science itself, as attacks on values they hold dear. “There is a vacuum where a coherent and compelling conservative narrative on climate change should be,” the U.K. panel report concluded, “and this vacuum has been effectively filled by sceptical voices.” That is also the opinion of respected social scientists contacted by The Tyee in recent weeks. Yet their research on environmental communication suggests the situation is still reversible. Below are some of that research’s most important insights, a roadmap potentially leading our climate change debate out of its “left-wing ghetto...”

Barry Bickmore: Climate Change And The Open Mind. Barry Bickmore is a Republican, and I found a recent presentation he gave helpful and forward-looking. The Vimeo clip is here. Credit: 2013 Undergraduate Ethics Symposium: Environmental Ethics April 10, 2013.

Climate Change For The GOP. I found this Op-Ed from the Weekly Standard interesting and timely; here's the introduction: "President Barack Obama’s climate agenda announced last week represents the latest of many Democratic party efforts to address climate change. Although it includes no new legislation, the president’s plan makes unprecedented use of executive branch powers and offers a great many things that appeal to core Democratic constituencies. Implemented in full, the new power plant carbon rules, further delays in economically beneficial pipeline projects, and added green energy projects would result in a bigger, more intrusive government that exerts greater control over the economy, rewards perceived “good guys,” and punishes supposed “bad guys.” Not surprisingly, the plan, like all previous Democratic efforts, has earned a suspicious and hostile reaction from conservatives..."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Holding Pattern (hints of September next 2 weeks northern USA; more downpours Plains to East Coast)

Summer Roller Coaster

If you have one foot in ice-water, the other in boiling water, do you feel "average"? Since June 1 both heating and cooling degree days, a measure of how far we are from 65F, are running above average in the Twin Cities. 

How can it be warmer AND cooler? Evidence of more extremes? A few extra-hot weeks earlier in July coupled with chilly surges in early June & late July? Yes, this summer has been a meteorological roller coaster.

"I don't find this apparent paradox unusual. It's a mathematical quirk stemming from the way heating and cooling degree days are calculated" Minnesota state climatologist Greg Spoden said yesterday.
The National Weather Service says last Saturday brought the coolest July temperature (36F) ever observed in southern Minnesota at 850 millibars (4,100 feet).

It may be an omen of freakish August cool fronts to come. ECMWF (European) guidance shows another jab of chilly air pouring south the second week of August. If this verifies we could see some 50s up north: metro highs in the 60s.

The jet stream is still misbehaving - something significant has changed.

A cooler front sparks a shower today; comfortable sun returning Wednesday into Saturday; highs near 80F. An anemic "warm front", yes.

"...The existence of extreme weather is obvious to Minnesotans. That’s because, according to FEMA data, nearly 100 percent of us live in counties that have been affected by at least one federally declared weather-related disaster since 2007..." - from a Minnpost Op-Ed below.

"...Strauss says tragedy can be avoided or mitigated with deep global pollution cuts followed by technology that sucks CO2 from the atmosphere. Such bold steps, he says, could help preserve hundreds of coastal communities. If current emissions continue, his analysis projects the year when global carbon emissions will lock hundreds of U.S. cities into the eventual sinking — below the high-tide line — of the land that now houses half their residents: Galveston, Texas (2030); Miami (2040); Norfolk, Va., (2044); Coral Gables, Fla. (2044); and Virginia Beach (2054)." - from a USA Today story, details below. Photo credit: Marvin Nauman, FEMA.

Record Cold 850 mb Temperature. As referenced above, here are more details on last Saturday's historically chilly sounding report from KMPX, courtesy of the Twin Cities National Weather Service: "The 12Z MPX sounding launched on the morning of Saturday, July 27th revealed the coldest temperature ever measured in southern Minnesota at 850 mb (or about 4,100 feet AGL) for the month of July. At only 2.2 C (36F), it was about 13C cooler than the usual values seen at that level for this time of year. Believe it or not, it is not unusual to get these temperatures at 850 mb periodically during the winter. Heat waves typically consist of 850 mb temperatures in excess of 20 C. Saturday was a far cry from those values. The 850 mb level is meteorologically significant for a number of reasons, hence the record keeping..."

Not A Hot Front In Sight. Well, at least we're consistent. A/C will remain optional for most of the next week; highs approaching 80F Friday and Saturday, then cooling off slightly Monday before a stronger cool front approaches late next week. No soaking rains or major storms brewing looking out 7-10 days.

A Dry Spell. In spite of a fleeting shower or sprinkle this morning, most of the next 96 hours will remain dry; the best chance of showers and T-storms coming Sunday night. Graphic: Iowa State.

A Persistent Atmospheric Tug Of War. A scuffle between two airmasses, one overheated and stuffy, the other comfortably Canadian in origin, will set the stage for heavy showers and T-storms with some 1-3" rainfall amounts from the Central Plains into the Ohio Valley and Mid Atlantic region. 5-day rainfall accumulated rainfall prediction courtesy of NOAA.

Relatively Quiet. The weather usually slows down in August, and the first week of August, 2013, will be no exception. A series of weak cool fronts spark showers and T-storms from the Great Lakes to the East Coast, while the soggy remains of "Dorian" soak the Bahamas. Monsoon T-storms sprout over the Rockies and Southwest, while the West Coast remains tinder-dry. 84 hour NAM model loop: NOAA.

August Sweatshirts? It's too early to say with a high confidence level, but long-range ECMWF (European) guidance shows another healthy dose of chilled air pushing south of the border next Thursday, August 8. If this verifies high temperatures may hold in the 50s up north Thursday, with some gradual moderation in temperature by the following weekend. Map courtesy of ECMWF.

Tornadoes Strike Italy Near Milan - Incredible Video. Here's an amazing clip from The Washington Post: "Check out this *insane* video from inside a tornado near Milan, taken from an office building. Watch as a huge mass of debris – some of the fragments very large – swirls and then rages through the air (the action picks up in a big way after about 40 seconds).

Long-Range Tornado Prediction: Is It Feasible? The short answer appears to be yes, at least in terms of broad trends. Here's an excerpt from a story from UCAR: "...The push to explore extended (two-to-six-week) and seasonal (three-month) tornado prediction has gained momentum due to several factors.
  • Researchers are understanding more clearly how multiyear cycles such as El Niño and La Niña and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation influence tornado frequency. For example, when La Niña is transitioning to El Niño during springtime, the odds of a major tornado outbreak—especially in the Midwest and South—appear to be almost twice as large as in neutral springs, according to a recent Journal of Climate paper led by Sang-Ki Lee (University of Miami/NOAA).

  • The NOAA Climate Forecast System (CFS) now issues nine-month forecasts of U.S. circulation anomalies four times each day. This makes it a potential foundation for building weekly to seasonal tornado outlooks.

  • High-resolution regional models that simulate thunderstorms directly—such as ARW, the NCAR-based Advanced Research Weather Research and Forecasting Model—can now be linked to larger-scale climate models..."
Photo credit above: "More than 1,000 tornadoes strike the United States in a typical year—sometimes in clusters of more than 50 in a single day." (©UCAR. Photo by Greg Thompson).

NOAA's National Weather Service More Than Doubles Computing Capacity. Some of this is in response to the European ECMWF model, and how it out-performed the GFS and other U.S. models, especially during "Sandy" last year. Encouraging news for those of us who want the USA to have the fastest (most accurate) computer models on a consistent basis. Details from NOAA: "Whizzing through 213 trillion calculations per second, newly upgraded supercomputers of NOAA’s National Weather Service are now more than twice as fast in processing sophisticated computer models to provide more accurate forecasts further out in time. And as the hurricane season ramps up, forecasters will be armed with an enhanced hurricane model that will improve track and intensity forecasts. The scientific data and insights that these newly upgraded supercomputers will provide are essential to help government officials, communities, and businesses better understand and manage the risks associated with extreme weather and water events. In support of the president’s Climate Action Plan, the administration will continue to take steps like this to analyze and predict climate variability amid an increasing number of extreme natural events affecting the nation..."

Graphic credit above: "This is the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) model showing the Tropical Storm Flossie precipitation forecast for the Hawaiian Islands on July 29, 2013. HWRF is one of the sophisticated numerical computer models now being run on NOAA's new supercomputers."

Outrage As Homeowners Prepare For Substantially Higher Flood Insurance Rates. We're just seeing the tip of the iceberg with this issue. If someone wants to live on or near the coast, should other Americans, well away from rising seas, be forced to subsidize their (cheaper) flood insurance? Some people may walk away from insurance altogether and take their chances. Here's a clip from The New York Times: "...Currently, the only way to obtain lower rates is to raise a home above certain elevation levels. That can be difficult in New York, where the housing stock is old, and homes are often attached to adjacent buildings. Economists and insurance experts said the program needed to be overhauled to make it financially viable. “The program is $26 billion in debt and much of that debt is borne by federal taxpayers who do not have flood insurance,” said Frank W. Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America. “They are subsidizing those that do...”

Photo credit above: Lucas Jackson, Reuters.

Climate Matters: Warming Air, Rising Seas. For every 1 F. of global temperature increase the world's oceans are forecast to rise by a little more than 4 feet. Buying beachfront property will involve even more faith, a strong stomach, and almost limitless wallet in the years and decades to come. In today's edition of Climate Matters: "WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas looks at how climate change leads to rising sea levels and what coastal cities can expect to see by 2040. Also, more on torrential downpours and record setting rainfalls."

Possible Tornado Struck Washington D.C. And The White House 100 Years Ago. Here's a clip from a fascinating read at The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang: "A hot and humid airmass set the stage for a destructive thunderstorm and possible tornado that tore through the District 100 years ago today (July 30, 1913). On the afternoon of July 30, 1913, the temperature in Washington had surged to 97 degrees for the second straight day.  It was the fourth consecutive day the temperature had exceeded 90. Late that afternoon, a severe thunderstorm erupted near Washington, D.C. and it raked the city with violent wind gusts. Its torrential rains exceeded two inches.  The storm resulted in considerable building and tree damage, particularly in northwest D.C..."
Photo credit above: "On the White House grounds, there were 16 trees uprooted and 25 that were damaged during the severe thunderstorm of July 30, 1913." (Library of Congress).

Life And Death In Assisted Living. If you have a loved one in assisted living, or about to go into assisted living, watch this 53 minute documentary from PBS Frontline and ProPublica - an impressive, and sobering bit of journalism. Many assisted living facilities don't have the staff necessary to deal with Alzheimers, dementia and serious ailments, and yet the promise of a fat bottom line is prompting many facilities to fill up as many beds as possible, even if trained staff is inadequate to handle all those residents. My mother, who passed away late last year, was in a particularly good assisted living facility, but I worry about the patients and families of those who aren't getting the care they need, deserve, and paid for.

Rethinking How We Watch TV. Aereo and Dish's Hopper are two (very) disruptive technologies. When you empower consumers the content gate-keepers become nervous, and a paradigm shift (lead by Netflix) is changing the way many of us access our favorite shows. The Wall Street Journal has a story focused on the trends (subscription may be required to read the full article). Here's an excerpt" "...Computer industry players have been pushing new TV visions for 20 years, with decidedly mixed results. Cable and satellite TV providers have strong positions, with big players like Comcast Corp. CMCSA -1.59% preparing major technology upgrades of their own. Negotiations with media companies for content rights could delay new services and limit some features, though Intel vows to enter some markets by the end of the year. Yet there is a growing consensus that underlying technologies are evolving to the point that major changes in the TV experience are all but inevitable, whether delivered by new entrants or incumbents. "I've never seen as much innovation in television as there is right now," says Ulf Ewaldsson, chief technology officer at Swedish telecom-equipment giant Ericsson, which plans to step up its own TV efforts..."

Infographic: The Amount Of On-Line Activity That Goes On In 60 Seconds. This is fascinating, in a "look how I just wasted a minute!" kind of way. Yes, we like to hear ourselves echoing around in cyberspace. Details from "To give us an idea on how fast and big the internet truly is, Qmee has created an infographic that shows us the amount of online activity that goes on every 60 seconds.

According to infographic ‘Online in 60 Seconds’, there are 2 million searches on Google, 72 hours of videos uploaded onto YouTube, 42 thousands post every second and 1.8 million likes on Facebook, and 204 million emails sent every minute.

This 14-Year Old Is Kicking Your (Butt) At Photo Manipulation. OK, I cleaned up the title a little for a family-friendly audience. Buzzfeed has details: "Meet Zev, also known as Fiddleoak. Through his self-portraits, he creates a wondrous and whimsical world that you’ll wish you lived in."
Photo credit: "You are blowing my mind Zev." Source: fiddleoak  /  via:

Oops, Best TV News Bloopers Of July. There are some good ones in here - it's worth a look, courtesy of

Climate Stories...

How To Prove To A Global Warming Denier That Climate Change Is Real, In 14 Seconds. This short video clip, courtesy of The Washington Post, is from NASA.

Study: Sea Level Rise Threatens 1,400 U.S. Cities. Here's a clip from a story at USA Today: "A rise in sea levels threatens the viability of more than 1,400 cities and towns, including Miami, Virginia Beach and Jacksonville, unless there are deep cuts in heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, says an analysis out Monday. Prior emissions have already locked in 4 feet of future sea-level rise that will submerge parts of 316 municipalities, but the timing is unclear and could take hundreds of years, according to the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If global warming continues at its current rate through the year 2100, at least an additional 1,100 cities and towns will be mostly under water at high tide in the distant future..."

Photo credit above: "A bicyclist makes his way past a stranded taxi on a flooded New York City street Aug. 28, 2011, as Tropical Storm Irene passes through the city." (Photo: Peter Morgan, AP).

Climate Study Predicts A Watery Future For New York, Boston And Miami. Following up on the story above, here's a different perspective from The Guardian: "...Even if we could just stop global emissions tomorrow on a dime, Fort Lauderdale, Miami Gardens, Hoboken, New Jersey will be under sea level," said Benjamin Strauss, a researcher at Climate Central, and author of the paper. Dramatic cuts in emissions – much greater than Barack Obama and other world leaders have so far agreed – could save nearly 1,000 of those towns, by averting the sea-level rise, the study found. "Hundreds of American cities are already locked into watery futures and we are growing that group very rapidly," Strauss said. "We are locking in hundreds more as we continue to emit carbon into the atmosphere." A recent study, also published in PNAS by the climate scientist Anders Levermann found each 1C rise in atmospheric warming would lead eventually to 2.3m of sea-level rise. The latest study takes those figures, and factors in the current rate of carbon emissions, as well as the best estimate of global temperature sensitivity to pollution..."

Photo credit: Brett Brownell, Mother Jones.

The High Cost Of Climate Inaction. Here's an excerpt from and Mother Jones that caught my eye: "Climate change is already creating major economic problems for businesses. But Kate Sheppard has a must-read in the latest Mother Jones on the immense costs to the federal government due to the shortsightedness of paying huge sums in annual disaster relief, while doing almost nothing to prepare for the inevitable next storm. Sheppard writes: Roughly 123 million of us—39 percent of the US population—dwell in coastal counties. And that spells trouble: 50 percent of the nation's shorelines, 11,200 miles in all, are highly vulnerable to sea level rise, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And the problem isn't so much that the surf laps a few inches higher: It's what happens to all that extra water during a storm. We're already getting a taste of what this will mean. Hurricane Sandy is expected to cost the federal government $60 billion. Over the past three years, 10 other storms have each caused more than $1 billion in damage. In 2011, the federal government declared a record 99 weather-related major disasters, from hurricanes to wildfires. The United States averaged 56 such disasters per year from 2000 to 2010, and a mere 18 a year in the 1960s.."

Global Warming: Urgent With A Chance Of Optimism. Here's a snippet of an Op-Ed from Environment America's Madeline Page, at "In terms of weather, this summer — even in all of its storm-induced power outage glory — has not been particularly noteworthy; that’s probably because it pales in comparison to the weather antics of 2012. However, as a heat wave scorched a huge swath of the country in mid-July, especially in the Midwest, I was reminded of what’s in store if we continue to act sluggishly in solving our current climate-change trajectory. The existence of extreme weather is obvious to Minnesotans. That’s because, according to FEMA data, nearly 100 percent of us live in counties that have been affected by at least one federally declared weather-related disaster since 2007. Last year alone, we witnessed the devastating consequences of unchecked carbon pollution through climate-associated weather events like Hurricane Sandy and devastating droughts here in the Midwest..."

Photo credit above: REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol. "The bottom line is that global warming is fueling the extreme weather that we've witnessed, and it will only become more frequent and severe unless we act."
Climate Change Divestment Plans Go On The Offensive. The Guardian has the story - here's a clip: "Bill McKibben, leader of the global climate action group, had barely left Australia when the Climate Commission released its report The Critical Decade 2013. The timely report underlines much that we already know. The climate is changing and the evidence continues to strengthen. The risks we were warned about are now happening. The effects of climate change endangers our "health, property, infrastructure, agriculture and natural ecosystems". More needs to be done to stabilise the climate. And most importantly, "most of the available fossil fuels cannot be burnt if we are to stabilise the climate this century"...

Climate Change's Nasty New Natural Disaster: "Himalayan Tsunamis". GlobalPost has the story - here's the introduction: "This summer’s devastating “Himalayan tsunami” is a grim omen for the future of the millions of people living downstream from the majestic mountain range. The June floods wiped out the Hindu pilgrimage town of Kedarnath and may have killed as many as 6,000 people. But the scale of the disaster could be dwarfed by future flooding, experts warn. “The Kedarnath floods may be only a small precursor to never-seen-before mega floods,” Maharaj K. Pandit, director of Delhi University's Center for Inter-disciplinary Studies of Mountain & Hill Environments, told India Today...." (Photo credit: AP).