Saturday, May 31, 2014

Flooding Rains Upper Midwest - Protecting Your Home from Disasters


Super Soakers

I'm thoroughly enjoying the Mosquito Olympics, now playing out in my buggy backyard (available on ESPN7). If the rains keep up I'm going to need a low-flying helicopter to cut my lawn.
Welcome to monsoon season in Minnesota. Rainfall for the last 30 days is already 3-8 inches above average for portions of central Minnesota, and the rains just keep on coming. Once again, for the umpteenth time in recent memory, weather systems are stalling, and when weather gets stuck you need to pay close attention.

A stalled frontal boundary snaking across Minnesota will ignite more heavy T-storms again today; heaviest rains on the cooler north/west side of the front - but the MSP metro may see tropical downpours capable of 1-2 inches, enough for standing water and garage-worthy grad parties.
Have a Plan B and hope for the best.

A ripple of low pressure keeps gulley-washers in the forecast into Monday but Wednesday's storm may steer showers and storms south of the metro. We slowly warm late next week with spotty weekend T-storms. Right on cue.

I'm still betting on a wetter than average summer, statewide, but El Nino may keep us warmer and drier the latter half of 2014.

Keep the faith.

4.43" Sauk Centre
2.6" Breezy Point, on Pelican Lake
* Click here for rainfall and flash flood details, courtesy of NOAA.
* more Minnesota rainfall amounts from CoCoRaHS.

Storm Rainfall. Check out some of the rainfall amounts from near Sauk Centre to Little Falls and Brainerd; Doppler radar estimates of 4-8" in less than 24 hours. To put that into perspective that's 1-2 month's worth of rain since Friday morning. Some of the northern and western suburbs of the Twin Cities picked up 2-3" of rain.

Flash Flood Watch. NOAA has issued a flood watch for much of Minnesota, including the Twin Cities, St. Cloud, Brainerd and Duluth. Saturated soil means any additional heavy rain will almost immediately run off into streets and streams. June is the wettest month of the year for Minnesota, on average. No kidding. Details from the Twin Ciites National Weather Service:

THE FLASH FLOOD WATCH IS NOW IN EFFECT FOR

* PORTIONS OF CENTRAL MINNESOTA...EAST CENTRAL MINNESOTA AND
  WEST CENTRAL MINNESOTA...INCLUDING THE FOLLOWING AREAS...IN
  CENTRAL MINNESOTA...BENTON...KANDIYOHI...MEEKER...SHERBURNE...
  STEARNS AND WRIGHT. IN EAST CENTRAL MINNESOTA...ISANTI...
  KANABEC AND MILLE LACS. IN WEST CENTRAL MINNESOTA...CHIPPEWA...
   LAC QUI PARLE...POPE AND SWIFT.

* THROUGH SUNDAY MORNING.

* ADDITIONAL HEAVY RAIN WITH 2 TO 4 INCHES POSSIBLE IN SPOTS
  TONIGHT COMBINED WITH SATURATED SOIL...SWOLLEN CREEKS AND
  STREAMS COULD LEAD TO FLOODING.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A FLASH FLOOD WATCH MEANS THAT CONDITIONS MAY DEVELOP THAT LEAD
TO FLASH FLOODING. FLASH FLOODING IS A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION.

YOU SHOULD MONITOR LATER FORECASTS AND BE PREPARED TO TAKE ACTION
SHOULD FLASH FLOOD WARNINGS BE ISSUED.

Rising Minnehaha Creek Leads to Flood Warnings. KARE-11 has an update on the ongoing flood potential on Lake Minnetonka, which empties into Minnehaha Creek: "...Currently, Lake Minnetonka's water level is 930.21 feet. The MCWD is discharging water from the Gray's Bay Dam into Minnehaha Creek. Due to high lake levels, water is also flowing over the emergency spillway north of the dam, which has an elevation of 930 feet. As a result of heavy rains this spring, the lake level has been at or above 930 since May 9 and there is no additional capacity in the lake or Minnehaha Creek for more rainfall, increasing the likelihood for flooding in some areas..." (photo: Matt Passolt).

Lingering Flash Flood Potential. NOAA's RAP model thru 4 PM Sunday shows more showers and heavy T-storms flaring up along a stalled frontal boundary. Based on this guidance I could see the Flash Flood Watch extended into late Sunday or early Monday. Future Radar: HAMweather.com.

84-Hour Future Radar. NOAA's 12 km NAM model finally dries us out during the day Monday as winds swing around to the west and heavy T-storms pinwheel into the Great Lakes. A dry Tuesday gives way to another risk of showers and thundershowers Wednesday, with the greatest potential for heavy rain south of the Twin Cities.

Protecting Your Home From Disasters. Here's a clip from a timely story at The Wall Street Journal: "Many homeowners are flirting with disaster - and they may not even know it. Natural catastrophes and severe weather events that cause major damage are occurring more frequently and inflicting more costly harm. Insurers have responded by putting stricter limits on their liability for losses, forcing homeowners to take on a greater share of the risk. The result is a growing financial incentive to prepare wisely..."

Photo credit above: "Residents of Joplin, Mo, survey the damage after a tornado hit the city in May 2011." Associated Press.

Reflecting Back on Historic (El Reno) May 31, 2013 Tornado. KOCO-TV has a good recap of a massive EF-5 that struck outside Oklahoma City; here's a clip: "...The tornado also had smaller tornadoes within the larger circulation. These are called sub-vortices. Thanks to the help of research meteorologist Gabe Garfield, we know that one of the more intense sub-vortices moved on the ground at 180 mph. It was also stationary at times. The Doppler On Wheels (DOW) measured a 255 mph wind gust in one of the smaller tornadoes just south of I-40. There were also satellite tornadoes, or tornadoes that occur outside of the main circulation. The main gigantic tornado also spawned a tornado with clockwise winds. Most tornadoes have counter-clockwise winds..."

Late Start to Planting Season. Here's a clip from the latest installment of Dr. Mark Seeley's WeatherTalk Newsletter: "...There were numerous reports of hail during the month, and two tornadoes were reported on May 8th, near St James and Madelia. Straight line wind damage occurred near Waseca, Montgomery, and Red Wing damaging buildings, trees, and powerlines. This cool, wet spring produced a late planting season for farmers, but nearly all of the state corn acreage was planted by May 30, and over half of the soybean acreage was planted as well. Southern Minnesota farmers began harvesting alfalfa the last week of the month. Moderate drought remained in the extreme southwestern counties of the state..."

Dust Storm Kills 12 in New Delhi. The Times of India reports.

How To Read The Mind of a Wildfire. An article at The Atlantic has some details about how tree rings and computer models are being tapped to gain a greater understanding of wildfires; here's a clip: "...When fires do burn, they're more destructive, often killing the big trees along with the small. “What's being released in a fire is the accumulated capital stored up through years of photosynthesis,” Falk says. “You're not destroying the carbon, hydrogen, or oxygen molecules. They're just being liberated.” And on a tremendous scale: even a relatively small fire of a couple hundred acres can pump out energy equivalent to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and can push a mushroom cloud of hot air, ash, and soot miles into the sky..."

Animation credit above: "A FIRETEC animation of a 1996 blaze in Malibu." (icess.ucsb.edu).

The Wealthy, English-Speaking Country Starbucks Can't Conquer. Here's a snippet of a fascinating business case study at Quartz: "...The Seattle-based chain also has a large and growing presence in international markets: Seoul has more Starbucks locations than New York City does, and Canada has more stores on a per capita basis than anywhere else in the world. There is, however, a wealthy international market where the coffee chain has struggled: Australia. That might seem surprising, given it is one of the world’s wealthiest countries and is also completely obsessed with coffee..."

Virgin Spaceflights Cleared For Take-Off. Will my 250k get me peanuts and a drink? That, and a sturdy barf bag? The FAA cleared the way for low-orbit trips later this year, as reported by CNN Money: "...Virgin Galactic has been gearing up to offer space flight services for the general public and has said it wants to start offering flights by the end of 2014. Branson and his family will be on Virgin's first space flight. Virgin Galactic said it has accepted more than $70 million in deposits from about 580 individuals. That's about 10% more than the total number of people who have ever gone to space..."

* more fascinating details on Virgin Galactic's upcoming "flights" at The Houston Chronicle.


Climate Stories...

Climate Change Meets Kitchen Table As Issue Gets Personal. Will curbing emissions from coal-fired plants be a net positive or negative, when it comes to everything from energy bills to human health? Here's an excerpt of a post at Bloomberg Businessweek: "The White House, as it prepares to announce new limits on carbon emissions, is working to transform the debate from distant threats to more immediate issues. President Barack Obama wants to shift the conversation from polar bears and melting glaciers to droughts in Iowa and more childhood asthma across the nation. Opponents are also making the issue personal. They’re homing in on the rules’ potential kitchen-table impact, raising the prospect of higher utility bills and job losses. They expect those arguments to resonate with voters as the country is still recovering from the worst recession in seven decades..."


Global Warming and the Vulnerability of Greenland's Ice Sheet. Climate models have consistently underestimated the rate of ice melt in Greenland (and the Arctic). Here's an excerpt of a story at The Guardian: "...This work is important because in the past decade or so, it has been found that Greenland is losing ice, lots of ice, to the world’s oceans. As a consequence, Greenland is one of the significant contributors to sea level rise. The level our oceans will rise to in the next decades and centuries depends strongly on how fast the Greenland ice sheet will melt. This study is novel because of the way it combined measurements with mass-conservation calculations. The method allowed far better resolution of the thickness of Greenland glaciers and the shape of the valleys beneath the glaciers. The shape and depth of these valleys is important for moderating the speed of ice flow to the oceans. In fact, in the paper, authors state, “the overall state of mass balance of the ice sheet is affected by considerable uncertainties in bed topography and ice thickness...”

GOP Science Deniers Threaten National Security. Not my headline, but from a marine veteran who is hot under the collar. Here's a snippet of his Op-Ed at Marketwatch: "...The Republican Party is now officially on record as the party of climate-science denialism. These research programs, ongoing and widely used by the Pentagon in strategic national defense planning for many years, could, if the Senate agrees, become illegal to use. Yes, this Marine veteran is mad as hell. GOP science deniers have “crossed the line,” they’re now messing with national security. America is now under attack from an enemy within, irrational science denialism, a toxic mind-set, a spreading, self-destructive mental virus. Yes, this is a “War on America.” The military has been using climate-science research for decades. This vote is self-destructive. These research studies are essential in our national defense..."

Obama Is Planning His Biggest Climate Policy Yet - And He Doesn't Need Congress. Vox has more details on the upcoming rule changes regarding coal-fired energy; here's an excerpt: "...Early reporting suggests that the EPA will set overall emissions limits for each individual state. Power companies in those states will have a variety of options for getting below that limit — using more efficient technology, boosting their use of solar or wind or nuclear, or even joining regional cap-and-trade systems that require companies to pay to emit carbon-dioxide. Early reports suggest that US coal plants could ultimately have to reduce their emissions around 20 percent (though we still don't know the baseline — more on that below). Those coal plants, in turn, are responsible for about 28.7 percent of all US carbon-dioxide emissions.."

Graphic credit: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

How Obama's Power Plant Emission Rules Will Work. More details, and a Q and A, from The Washington Post; here's a clip: "Obama says the rules are essential to curb the heat-trapping greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Critics contend the rules will kill jobs, drive up electricity prices and shutter plants across the country. Environmentalists and industry advocates alike are eagerly awaiting the specifics, which the Environmental Protection Agency will make public for the first time on Monday and Obama will champion from the White House..." (File photo above: Matt Brown, AP).

The All of the Above Energy Strategy as a Path to Sustainable Economic Growth. More details and light reading in this 43 page PDF from The White House.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Super Soakers Upper Midwest - Will a Tropical System Soak Florida in 1 Week?

"...This is scary, in fact a “War on America” ... from deep within America’s collective conscience. Science denialism is spreading wide and deep, sabotaging our ability to intelligently plan the defense of our nation ... by tying the hands of the Pentagon..." - from an Op-Ed by a marine veteran and Marketwatch columnist; details below. File photo: AP.


Thunder-wear Alert

Weather, as in life, isn't like a DVR. Or VCR for readers who grew up fumbling with Betamax and VHS tapes. You can't fast-forward through the rough patches.

But for every gray, mop-bucket sky, washed out cabin adventure or messy, white-knuckle commute, there are just as many serene, blue-sky, postcard perfect days. It should all balance out, at least in theory.

I love technology as much as the next guy, but for all our ingenious inventions created to insulate ourselves from Nature, we're still helpless to control the forces playing out overhead. We are all bewildered spectators. For a species that likes to thump its chest in conquest I find this somewhat reassuring.

Which is a long, cumbersome way of saying we're in a wet pattern that shows no sign of letting up anytime soon. A stalled frontal boundary fires off swarms of T-storms from later today into Monday. Some 1-2 inch rainfall amounts are likely; another storm soaks us again next Wednesday & Thursday.
Note to self: invest in a floating dock. Forget tomatoes. Plant rice.

In the blog below: Mark Seeley reports that, in spite of cool and soggy weather pushing back spring planting season, nearly all the corn is now in the ground.

Super Soakers. NOAA's guidance shows some 2-4" rainfall amounts over the next 7 days across the Upper Midwest and central and northern Plains states, over 1" of rain from Helena, Montana to Chicago and Louisville. We're still watching potential tropical development in the Gulf of Mexico by the end of next week.

84 Hour Future Radar. NOAA NCEP guidance from the 12km NAM model shows waves of heavy showers and T-storms training along a frontal boundary over the Upper Midwest, where flash flooding can't be ruled out in some communities from today into Monday. An impressive storm in the North Atlantic keeps New England cool and dry thru the weekend, while pop-up T-storms continue over the south; the west still sunny, hot and dry.

Tropical Possibilities. The models are far from being in perfect agreement/alignment, but GFS guidance continues to suggest the formation of a tropical wave, depression or even a weak tropical storm ("Arthur"?) in the eastern Gulf of Mexico next weekend. A Florida soaking may be 6-8 days away. Source: NOAA.

Late Start to Planting Season. Here's a clip from the latest installment of Dr. Mark Seeley's WeatherTalk Newsletter: "...There were numerous reports of hail during the month, and two tornadoes were reported on May 8th, near St James and Madelia. Straight line wind damage occurred near Waseca, Montgomery, and Red Wing damaging buildings, trees, and powerlines. This cool, wet spring produced a late planting season for farmers, but nearly all of the state corn acreage was planted by May 30, and over half of the soybean acreage was planted as well. Southern Minnesota farmers began harvesting alfalfa the last week of the month. Moderate drought remained in the extreme southwestern counties of the state..."

Probability of a Washout. NOAA NDFD data shows the highest probability of rain in dark green into Sunday evening; potentially strong T-storms from the Dakotas into Minnesota and Wisconsin. More garden-variety instability showers and T-showers are likely to sprout along the Gulf Coast.

Drought Yields Only Desparation. The Los Angeles Times has a look at how historic drought is already impacting California, especially farmers and migrant workers; here's a clip: "...Each day more families are leaving for Salinas, Arizona, Washington — anywhere they heard there were jobs. Even in years when rain falls and the Sierra mountains hold a snowpack that will water almonds and onions, cattle and cantaloupes, Huron's population swells and withers with the season. These days in Huron — and Mendota and Wasco and Firebagh and all the other farmworker communities on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley — even the permanent populations are packing up..."

* the latest U.S. Drought Monitor for the western USA is here.

How To Read The Mind of a Wildfire. An article at The Atlantic has some details about how tree rings and computer models are being tapped to gain a greater understanding of wildfires; here's a clip: "...When fires do burn, they're more destructive, often killing the big trees along with the small. “What's being released in a fire is the accumulated capital stored up through years of photosynthesis,” Falk says. “You're not destroying the carbon, hydrogen, or oxygen molecules. They're just being liberated.” And on a tremendous scale: even a relatively small fire of a couple hundred acres can pump out energy equivalent to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and can push a mushroom cloud of hot air, ash, and soot miles into the sky..."

Animation credit above: "A FIRETEC animation of a 1996 blaze in Malibu." (icess.ucsb.edu)

Want To Spot The Next Bubble? Look At Where Harvard Grads Work. Here's a link to an interesting story at The Washington Post; an excerpt: "...That's why the more Harvard grads that head for Wall Street, the worse a sign it is for markets. It usually means that the irrational exuberance is about to give way to rational panic. The good news now, though, is that Harvard kids aren't flocking back to Wall Street in anywhere near the numbers that they did before the financial crisis. As you can see in the chart below from the Harvard Crimson, "only" 31 percent of seniors will be working in finance or consulting next year; down from a high of 47 percent in 2007..."

Graphic credit above: Harvard Crimson.

Scientists from CERN and MIT Launch Encrypted E-Mail Service. If you are sufficiently and understandably paranoid, between Chinese hackers, spammers and the NSA looking over your shoulder, you might want to check out ProtonMail. Gizmag has more details: "The privacy of the data that we put online has been a hot topic over the last year. In order to protect against unwanted snooping, a group of scientists has created a new secure email service. ProtonMail provides end-to-end encryption, meaning that even the company itself can't even see the content of your messages..."

Virgin Spaceflights Cleared For Take-Off. Will my 250k get me peanuts and a drink? That, and a sturdy barf bag? The FAA cleared the way for low-orbit trips later this year, as reported by CNN Money: "...Virgin Galactic has been gearing up to offer space flight services for the general public and has said it wants to start offering flights by the end of 2014. Branson and his family will be on Virgin's first space flight. Virgin Galactic said it has accepted more than $70 million in deposits from about 580 individuals. That's about 10% more than the total number of people who have ever gone to space..."

* more fascinating details on Virgin Galactic's upcoming "flights" at The Houston Chronicle.

Hiccuping Through The Weather Report. Yes, every meteorologist's worst fears. Actually, it's not our worst fear but right up there in the Top 10. TVSpy.com has the YouTube clip: "After a large hiccup Urbanowicz said, “I’m going to end up on YouTube. I just have this big fear of ending up on YouTube today.” Well guess what Aubrey, the good folks at the Harrisonburg, VA, ABC affiliate were there to make your fears come true! The station posted the video on facebook and asked viewers to help spread the news,.."


* image above: Miami office of the National Weather Service.

Climate Stories...

GOP Science Deniers Threaten National Security. Not my headline, but from a marine veteran who is hot under the collar. Here's a snippet of his Op-Ed at Marketwatch: "...The Republican Party is now officially on record as the party of climate-science denialism. These research programs, ongoing and widely used by the Pentagon in strategic national defense planning for many years, could, if the Senate agrees, become illegal to use. Yes, this Marine veteran is mad as hell. GOP science deniers have “crossed the line,” they’re now messing with national security. America is now under attack from an enemy within, irrational science denialism, a toxic mind-set, a spreading, self-destructive mental virus. Yes, this is a “War on America.” The military has been using climate-science research for decades. This vote is self-destructive. These research studies are essential in our national defense..."

Obama Is Planning His Biggest Climate Policy Yet - And He Doesn't Need Congress. Vox has more details on the upcoming rule changes regarding coal-fired energy; here's an excerpt: "...Early reporting suggests that the EPA will set overall emissions limits for each individual state. Power companies in those states will have a variety of options for getting below that limit — using more efficient technology, boosting their use of solar or wind or nuclear, or even joining regional cap-and-trade systems that require companies to pay to emit carbon-dioxide. Early reports suggest that US coal plants could ultimately have to reduce their emissions around 20 percent (though we still don't know the baseline — more on that below). Those coal plants, in turn, are responsible for about 28.7 percent of all US carbon-dioxide emissions.."

Graphic credit: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

How Obama's Power Plant Emission Rules Will Work. More details, and a Q and A, from The Washington Post; here's a clip: "Obama says the rules are essential to curb the heat-trapping greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Critics contend the rules will kill jobs, drive up electricity prices and shutter plants across the country. Environmentalists and industry advocates alike are eagerly awaiting the specifics, which the Environmental Protection Agency will make public for the first time on Monday and Obama will champion from the White House..." (File photo above: Matt Brown, AP).

The All of the Above Energy Strategy as a Path to Sustainable Economic Growth. More details and light reading in this 43 page PDF from The White House.

Photographer Captures Tar Sands "Destruction" From Above. Huffington Post has the story and pictorial that may ultimately impact how you think about the safety of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline; here's a clip: "Photographer and pilot Alex MacLean wanted to learn more about the Keystone XL pipeline, which if approved will carry oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, so he decided to take pictures from above of the tar sands that will supply oil to the project. What he found shocked him. "The scale of the operation is staggering," MacLean told The Huffington Post. It's "mind-boggling," he said, how expansive it is, and how much money is being poured into drilling and strip mining for the viscous petroleum product that will give the Keystone XL pipeline its oil..."

Photo credit above: Alex MacLean "Bitumen is excavated at the Syncrude Mildred Lake mining site. Giant tires line the traffic circle."

Cutting Back on Carbon. Here's an excerpt of a Paul Krugman Op-Ed in The New York Times: "...Everything we know suggests that we can achieve large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at little cost to the economy. Just ask the United States Chamber of Commerce. O.K., that’s not the message the Chamber of Commerce was trying to deliver in the report it put out Wednesday. It clearly meant to convey the impression that the E.P.A.’s new rules would wreak havoc. But if you focus on the report’s content rather than its rhetoric, you discover that despite the chamber’s best efforts to spin things — as I’ll explain later, the report almost surely overstates the real cost of climate protection — the numbers are remarkably small..." (Image: Shutterstock).

Study: Species Disappearing Far Faster Than Before. Here's an excerpt from AP and The Evansville CourierPress: "Species of plants and animals are becoming extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived on the scene, and the world is on the brink of a sixth great extinction, a new study says. The study looks at past and present rates of extinction and finds a lower rate in the past than scientists had thought. Species are now disappearing from Earth about 10 times faster than biologists had believed, said study lead author noted biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University..."

Republicans on Climate Science: Don't Ask Us. They admit they're not scientists, yet they refuse to listen to the vast majority of climate scientists who are telling them with one loud voice: "Houston, we have a problem." Interesting. Politico has the new talking points; here's an excerpt: "Some leading conservatives have a new talking point on climate science: They’re not qualified to talk about it. House Speaker John Boehner became the latest top Republican to try that tack Thursday, seeking to deflect an issue that has given Democrats an opening to brand the GOP as “anti-science.” “Listen, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change,” Boehner told reporters when asked about the science behind climate change. “But I am astute to understand that every proposal that has come out of this administration to deal with climate change involves hurting our economy and killing American jobs...”

File photo: Matt Brown, AP.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Moisture Haves & Have-Nots - Lightning Safety - NHC Flying Drones into Hurricanes in 2014


Weather Amnesia

A friend of mine at the office explained a recent epiphany. "I rode my bike to work - blue sky, gentle breezes, chirping birds - for a few precious minutes I almost forgot about our nasty winter" he sighed.
One female friend compared the last 6 months to the meteorological equivalent of childbirth. That may be a stretch, but I get her point.

Our on-again, off-again spring has given way to a fast-forward summer, with all the 'fixins.

Mid-80s will lure you outside again today; no chance of red blobs showing up on Doppler. Take advantage of a quiet sky because a stalled frontal zone will spark a sloppy parade of showers and heavier T-storms from Saturday afternoon into Tuesday of next week. NOAA models predict some 2-3 inch rainfall amounts by the middle of next week; heaviest amounts over central and northern Minnesota, where many waterlogged farmers are already hurting from incessant rains and muddy fields.

A brewing El Nino favors a wetter, slightly cooler summer for Minnesota and most of the Upper Midwest; we'll see if that semi-educated guess pans out.

Hurricane season kicks off Sunday, and the GFS model still tries to bring a tropical system into Florida late next week.

No storms with names for Minnesota.

.96" of rain forecast from Saturday afternoon into early Monday at KMSP. (NAM model).

30 Day Rainfall Departures. Much of the Twin Cities metro has seen 1-2" more rain than average since late April, a band of +4-5" departures from near Little Falls to Sandstone and much of western Wisconsin. While farms over far southwest and north central Minnesota are running a 2" rainfall deficit over the last 30 days.

Fickle (Torrential) Rains. Rainfall deviations are as much as 5-8" above average (for just the last 30 days!) from near Houston to New Orleans, Mobile and the Florida Panhandle, the I-95 corridor from Washington D.C. to New York has picked up as much as 3-6" more than than average since April 29. Source: NOAA.

84 Hour Future Radar. Data from NOAA's NAM model and HAMweather shows a cool front stalling over the Upper Midwest over the weekend, acting as a focal point for scattered showers and heavy T-storms. Meanwhile a persistent cyclonic circulation keeps torrential rains over the Lower Mississippi Valley; a storm off the east coast keeping New England in a cool northerly flow through the period.

More Gulley-Washers. NOAA's 7-Day rainfall guidance shows as much as 2-4" of rain from the Dakotas into northern and central Minnesota and Wisconsin; more heavy T-storms from the central Plains into the Lower Mississippi Valley, where some 5-8" amounts are possible. While the southwest remains bone-dry.

Lightning Risk. It may seem counterintuitive, but the threat of being struck by lightning is greatest prior to, and just after heavy rain associated with thunderstorms. All thunderstorms, by definition, produce potentially deadly cloud to ground lightning, and many people are struck immediately before, and after the storm hits. Just because it's not raining doesn't mean the threat is low - lightning can travel up to 10 miles from the parent thunderhead. Here's an excerpt of a good explanation from NOAA: "In the first graph, the threat of lightning increases as a thunderstorm approaches, reaches a peak when the storm is overhead, and then gradually diminishes as the storm moves away. At the same time, it’s people’s behavior that determines the risk of a fatal lightning strike. While some people move inside at the first signs of a thunderstorm, many people wait far too long to get to a safe place. Some wait until the thunderstorm is overhead and it starts to rain. Others, due to poor planning, are caught outside and can’t get to a safe place. Although most people got inside, some put themselves at risk by touching items that could become electrified by a nearby lightning strike. Finally, many people go outside too soon after the storm has seemingly passed, often only waiting for the rain to become lighter or end. It is all of theseƂ  unsafe behaviors that put people at risk when thunderstorm are in the area..."

Effective Tornado-Proof Houses and Rooms: Can They Be Built? Given enough steel-reinforced concrete it's possible to make any building more tornado-resilient, although tornado-proof may be wishful thinking. But can reinforced "safe rooms" be added which will withstand most tornadoes? Here's an excerpt of a story at The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang: "...By the way, it bears repeating (from the earlier post) that even the relatively small expense of a safe room might seem unnecessary to some, as statistics have shown that even in tornado alley, the chances of a particular home being struck by a tornado during its rated life span of 50 years is only about 1%. On the other hand, keep in mind that if you are in that 1%, the destructive force of a 150 mph wind is not 3 times that of a 50 mph wind—it’s more like 9 times! And in case you’re wondering, the Texas Tech Wind Science and Engineering Research Center has grave misgivings about remote underground shelters—even though they’re in considerable use–because people tend to wait until the last possible minute before taking refuge, thereby subjecting themselves to flying debris, etc.)..."

File photo: Andrew Graettinger, University of Alabama.

Tornado Titillation or Public Service? So is airing tornado footage, after the fact, a good idea? Does it tempt others, without training or experience, to rush headlong into supercells with iPhones held high, tempting fate in the process? There's anecdotal evidence that streaming LIVE tornado footage from webcam, spotters or chasers confirms the fact that there's a life-threatening storm moving in, prompting people to take action and head for the basement or another shelter. I asked Severe Studios founder Kory Hartman for his thoughts in the wake of the (reckless) tornado footage from Watford City, North Dakota: "El Reno killed some of the best and most knowledgeable chasers of all time. If that somehow inspires people to grab a Camaro and a camcorder and go flying after storms at 90mph with no experience, then God help them." He added "live video is very valuable as the "social science" confirmation that a tornado is heading toward a person's house. The video of chasers getting hit by tornadoes should be a "caution" to people. After El Reno, most of my chasers have learned to leave earlier, have more escape routes, stay to the south/southeast of the storm, take others with for navigation, etc."

* image above is a Doppler radar velocity field showing the enormous EF-5 tornado that hit El Reno, Oklahoma on May 31, 2013, killing at least one amateur storm chaser and 3 tornado research veterans, including Tim Samaras. The red dots are locations of storm spotters relative to the tornado vortex.

Hurricane Forecasters: Unpredictable Paths to Fame. Here's an excerpt from AP and The Houston Chronicle: "We see them on TV, braving tornadoes and hurricanes and flooding. Delivering the weather has put a whole new group of celebrities on the national radar: meteorologists. But what path did they take to become so well known? For some, it was a childhood obsession with storms; for others, it was a fortuitous but unpredictable turn of events With the Atlantic hurricane season opening Sunday, here are three of the nation's most well-known meteorologists and how they reached the top of their field..."

File photo above: Andy Newman/AP. "In this Aug. 31, 2006 file photo, National Hurricane Center director Max Mayfield briefs a Charleston, S.C., television audience on the progress of Tropical Storm Ernesto, at the hurricane center in Miami. Delivering the weather has put a whole new group of celebrities on the national radar: meteorologists. Mayfield, the retired director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, became an accidental TV personality following Hurricane Katrina in 2005."

Researchers Turn To Drones To Gather Hurricane Information. Because drones can capture real-time data that Hurricane Hunter aircraft can't. Here's an excerpt of a great article from AP and Longview's News-Journal: "...Hurricane hunter aircraft typically don’t fly below 5,000 feet and can’t descend below 1,500 feet, and real-time radar doesn’t provide information about the thermodynamics at work inside a storm’s cloudy core. Canisters stuffed with electronics dropped from the planes transmit data about a storm’s pressure, temperature, winds and moisture as they fall to the ocean, but they remain airborne for only a few minutes. The kind of drone that Cione plans to launch from the hurricane hunters will spend hours descending slowly, cruising on the air currents spinning through a storm, possibly even orbiting a hurricane’s eyewall..."


125 Years After Johnstown: Facts About The Flood. Here's a snippet of an interesting piece from AP and seattlepi.com: " A privately owned dam collapsed in western Pennsylvania 125 years ago on May 31, 1889, unleashing a flood that killed 2,209 people. The terrible stories from the Johnstown Flood of 1889 are still part of lore because of the gruesome nature of many of the deaths and the key role it played in the rise of the American Red Cross. Here's some of what's known about the flood, one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history..."

File photo credit: "In this 1889 file photograph, people stand atop houses among ruins after disastrous flooding in Johnstown, Pa. Facts, figures and anecdotes about the Johnstown flood in Pennsylvania, which killed 2,209 people 125 years ago, gave the Red Cross its first international response effort and helped set a precedent for American liability law." Photo: Uncredited, AP.

Mobile Is Eating Global Attention: 10 Graphs on the State of the Internet. Here's an interesting article at The Atlantic that shows how advertising has yet to catch up with the fastest-growing form of media consumption: mobile devices. An excerpt: "...Eyes move faster than ads. It was true for TV: In 1941, when the first television ads appeared with local baseball games, radio and print dominated the media advertising market. Now it's true for mobile, which is practically a glass appendage attached to working Americans and commands more attention than radio and print combined, even though it only commands 1/20th of US ad spending. Google and Facebook own the future of mobile advertising, for now. But the present of mobile monetization isn't ads. It's apps..."

Skype Translator Means Never Having To Learn Another Language Again. This is pretty cool, I have to admit. Details via Huffington Post: "Language barriers are about to be broken way down. Microsoft showed off its Skype Translator feature at the inaugural Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, on Tuesday. Skype Translator allows users speak to into the video chatting service in their language of choice. The words are then translated into the recipient's preferred language. The system will hear users' words and do its best to translate them in real time. The display will show a text translation of what was just spoken in case the automated voice isn't able to handle a pronunciation or moves too fast..."

GF7 Car Design Could Legally Hit 550 MPH - In The Sky. I've been a little disappointed with the 21st century. Internet speeds are faster and I can do some pretty cool things on my smart phone, but where are the computerized butlers and flying cars? We may be one step closer to the flying car fantasy, according to Gizmag: "Greg Brown and Dave Fawcett are working on an design that they hope will yield something we've spent decades waiting for – a flying jet-propelled car. A sleek cross between a business jet with a luxury automobile, the GF7 drives on electric motors while on the ground, then can extend wings and use a 3,500-lb thrust jet engine to fly to 38,000 ft (12,000 m) and speeds of 550 mph (885 km/h). The (obvious) catch: if this ambitious project does get of the ground, it won't come cheap..."

Someone's not getting a refund from the IRS:


Climate Stories...
IPCC Co-Chairman Says Scientists Being Intimidated By Climate Change Deniers. The Irish Times has the story - here's the introduction: "Global warming deniers have been involved in a “concerted campaign to isolate individual scientists and destroy them,” according to one of the co-chairmen of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Prof Thomas Stocker, Swiss-born co-chairman of the panel’s working group on the scientific basis for climate change, said the campaign to undermine its fifth assessment report was led by “people and organisations with vested interests”...

Obama Raises Stakes Against GOP Skeptics. A "creeping national security crisis?" National Journal has the story - here's a clip: "President Obama's foreign policy speech to West Point graduates Wednesday leveled a serious charge against Republicans who deny human-induced climate change: You're threatening national security. Check out the progression of the few climate sentences in Obama's wide-ranging remarks. He starts by telling the grads that battling global warming requires global cooperation. Then he says climate change is "a creeping national security crisis that will help shape your time in uniform, as we're called on to respond to refugee flows, natural disasters, and conflicts over water and food..."

The Coming Political Explosion Over Climate Change. Here's an excerpt from an analysis at The Washington Post: "...This is also the latest sign climate change could actually become something of an issue in this year’s campaigns, something environmentalists have long hoped for. Obviously climate change will not be a central issue in Senate races. But the topic will probably get more attention than usual. In part, that’s because more GOP candidates appear to have dabbled in climate skepticism. Among them: Tillis, Terri Land in Michigan, Cory Gardner in Colorado, and Joni Ernst in Iowa..."

Image above: Clean Technica.

New Video: Neil deGrasse Tyson Destroys Climate Deniers. If you haven't checked out "Cosmos" yet on National Geographic you should, especially this upcoming Monday. Here's a link to a video preview and story from Mother Jones science writer Chris Mooney: "...Courtesy of National Geographic, above is a clip from the new episode, which should have climate deniers fulminating. In it, host Neil deGrasse Tyson uses the analogy of walking a dog on the beach to helpfully explain the difference between climate and weather (pay attention, Donald Trump) and to outline why, no matter how cold you were in January, that's no argument against global warming. We've seen the rest of the episode already, and won't spill the beans. But suffice it to say that it contains some powerful refutations of a number of other global warming denier talking points, as well as some ingenious sequences that explain the planetary-scale significance of climate change..."

* "Keep your eye on the man, not the dog". deGrasse's Cosmos YouTube clip describing the difference between weather and climate is a brilliant.

WSJ's Shameful Climate Denial: The Scientific Consensus is not a Myth. Here's an excerpt from Salon: "Climate change is a tricky subject to talk about: It’s a large, complex scientific issue that’s both difficult to grasp in full and extremely important for the public to understand. In our shorthand for making sense of it, one statistic is often thrown about: 97 percent of scientists agree that man-made climate change is happening. Yet a big, impressive-looking Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal asserts the number is a “myth.” WSJ’s claim is wrong, of course, but where its authors fail to debunk a popular meme, they also manage to make a much more insidious, and radical, argument..."

Image credit above: "Rupert Murdoch." (Credit: Reuters/David Gray/Volodymyr Goinyk via Shutterstock/Salon).

An Animated Map Of The Last 160 Years Of Carbon Emissions Worldwide. Thanks to Slate and io9.com for making this available; here's a clip: "Just how does the carbon dioxide pollution of today compare with that of the past? Not very well, as this animated map of where and when carbon emissions have increased across the globe since 1850 reveals. The map is the work of Slate's Eric Holthaus and Chris Kirk, who used the recent update to the World Resources Institute's data on carbon emissions to put it together..."

Carbon Dioxide Passes Global 400 ppm Milestone. Climate Central has an update; here's the introduction: "...A new carbon dioxide milestone has been reached according to the World Meteorological Agency. Average carbon dioxide measurements at all monitoring stations in the northern hemisphere were above 400 parts per million for the month of April, the first time that’s been recorded in human history. Previous reports from the Mauna Loa Observatory, the longest continually running CO2 monitoring site in the world, showed that the average CO2 concentration for April was above 400 ppm. On Monday, the WMO reported that the 11 other northern hemisphere monitoring stations that continuously monitor CO2 also surpassed the 400 ppm mark for the month..."

Graphic credit above: "The location and April average CO2 levels measured at 12 World Meteorological Organization monitoring stations around the globe." Data: World Meteorological Organization.

Obama To Offer Rules To Sharply Curb Power Plants' Carbon Emissions. The New York Times has an update; here's the introduction: "President Obama will use his executive authority to propose a global warming regulation that would cut carbon pollution from the nation’s coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent and pave the way for the creation of state cap-and-trade programs without having to go through a reluctant Congress, according to people familiar with the rule. The proposed regulation, written by the Environmental Protection Agency and set to be unveiled Monday by Mr. Obama at the White House, would be the strongest action ever taken by an American president to tackle climate change and could become one of the defining elements of Mr. Obama’s legacy..."

Climate Change a Top Priority, Says ExxonMobil CEO. I had to pick myself up off the floor after reading this one. The CEO of ExxonMobile acknowledging man-made climate change? I want to give anyone the benefit of a doubt, and the ability to change their mind based on data and facts on the ground. Will technological innovation save us from ourselves? Here's an excerpt from Natural Gas Intelligence: "...He (ExxonMobile CEO Rex Tillerson) asked shareholders to "rightfully acknowledge" that climate change "is the most complex area of scientific and social conversation anyone's having today. It is extremely complex. And it is one that's not going to be a ready set of solutions that are going to fit the world's peoples because the world's peoples all have varying needs in this stage of their development, which is why it makes it so complex. "We do support and engage in, and will continue to engage in, active dialogue." Among other things, ExxonMobil scientists have continued to be actively engaged with the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said Tillerson..."

Beetles and Climate Change Helped Create This Huge Wildfire in Alaska. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus explains at Slate; here's a clip: "...This particular fire has grown so large as a result of “years of spruce bark beetle infestation,” he told me. The bugs have killed and weakened countless trees in this area, creating more kindling. That’s forced fire command agencies to take a step back and essentially let the fire burn, for safety reasons: “You can’t put people into an area where a bunch of trees have died and fallen.” The U.S. Forest Service predicts that “the greatest risk to spruce forests over the next 30 years will be in Alaska,” as spruce beetles expand their attack on trees..."

File photo above: "Trees turning red in forests that have been attacked by the mountain pine beetles in Montana, July 7, 2011. Some scientists are increasingly worried that as the warming accelerates, trees themselves could become climate change victims on a massive scale." (Josh Haner/The New York Times).

Government's Weather Forecasters Shouldn't Discuss Climate Change, Says Environment Canada. Here's an excerpt of an interesting post from Mike De Souza: "Weather forecasters at Environment Canada aren’t supposed to discuss climate change in public, says a Canadian government spokesman. Environment Canada made the comments in response to emailed questions about its communications policy. The department defended its policy by suggesting that Environment Canada meteorologists – among the most widely-quoted group of government experts in media reports and broadcasts – weren’t qualified to answer questions about climate change. “Environment Canada scientists speak to their area of expertise,” said spokesman Mark Johnson in an email..."