Wednesday, May 14, 2014

East Floods - West Sizzles - May-Not over Central USA


I'm more confused than usual. Not sure whether to mulch the garden, toss a football, or go Trick-or-Treating? Big decisions. THIS is why smart gardeners wait until after Memorial Day, not Mother's Day, to plant annuals.

After studying the weather map I'm not sure whether to laugh or weep. A high-amplitude jet stream pattern (big dips and bulges in the prevailing winds aloft) is creating mind-boggling extremes. Brush fires are raging across drought-baked counties in the Texas Panhandle, where Freeze Warnings are in effect. At the same time record heat sizzles southern California and skiers hit the slopes one last time in Colorado & Wyoming.

Once again weather systems have stalled, a Great Lakes low pinwheeling clouds and light showers into Minnesota by afternoon. Another pop-up shower may sprout late Friday.

Spring stages a valiant comeback over the weekend; highs topping 70F by Sunday with blue sky and a hopeful, southerly breeze.

A stalled warm front sparks T-storms much of next week; a warm, sticky and partly-thundery weather pattern lingers Memorial Day weekend, with highs closer to average.

All well and good. But tonight? Cover up those tender shoots, just in case.

A Refreshing May Freeze. Freeze warnings are posted for western Minnesota this morning, the combination of clear skies,light winds, and a (dry) Canadian airmass allowing temperatures to drop into the low 30s again. Yes, I'm enjoying "spring".

Stuck In A Chilly Rut. Once again weather systems are in a holding pattern - a bit odd for May; "cut-off" lows are more likely in March or October. A swirling pocket of unusually cold air aloft will spark snow over the U.P. of Michigan, pumping unusually cool air southward to Texas and Arkansas. While the east warms up with heavy showers and T-storms and the western USA sizzles. NAM 2 meter temperatures courtesy of NOAA and HAMweather.

East Coast Soakers. A very slow moving frontal passage will spark some 2-4" rainfall amounts along the Appalachians, from Pittsburgh to Atlanta, sparking spotty flash flooding problems. Meanwhile the rest of the USA stays dry into Saturday night.

A Lukewarm Memorial Day Weekend? At some point, at least in theory, we will climb out of this chilly pattern and emerge into something vaguely resembling spring, or maybe leapfrog into summer. GFS guidance shows 70s on Memorial Day weekend in the MSP metro. I'm not celebrating just yet, but I find the data encouraging. Place your bets.

Preliminary Data on May 8 Outbreak. At least 2 tornadoes touched down over southwestern Minnesota last Thursday, but straight-line wind damage produced even more damage near Waseca, Montgomery and Red Wing, according to the Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service.

Partially Parched: Half of U.S. Is In Drought. Yahoo News has an update on extreme to exceptional drought, now spreading into the southern and central Plains; here's an excerpt: "...The drought is deepest in California and the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, according to the latest drought map, released May 8. Most of California is in extreme or exceptional drought, and triple-digit heat was returning to Texas and Oklahoma, according to Mark Svoboda of the National Drought Mitigation Center, who penned a report on recent drought conditions. "This is not the recipe for recovery as the calendar pushes toward summer," Svoboda wrote of the heat in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles. "What winter wheat wasn't damaged or killed off by recent hard freezes was left to bear the brunt of the heat and dryness this week, with little in the way of relief on the horizon..." (Map above: U.S. Drought Monitor).

Texoma's EF2-EF5 Tornado Risk Highest In Nation. I found this interesting; where (statistically) the most intense tornadoes touch down, courtesy of "The National Weather Service keeps a continuous record of the following statistics:
  • Tornadoes that occur in the nation
  • Strength of the tornadoes
  • Frequency of the tornadoes in a geographic area
  • Damage of the tornadoes
This information combined allows the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center (NWS-SPC) to create risk maps for significant tornadoes. These maps are updated daily but a clear trend has been evident lately..."

New Video Gives Great Tornado Safety Information. KRMG in Tulsa has a link to a remarkable video with timely information learned in the wake of 2013's epic tornadoes across Oklahoma: "May of last year was a dangerous and deadly month for storms around Oklahoma City. 24 people killed in Moore on May 20, 2013 and 8 killed in El Reno on May 31, 2013, some of them highly-trained storm chasers. A new video aims to keep people safe."

Hurricane Hiatus: Will The USA's Luck Run Out This Year? With a brewing El Nino and more (predicted) wind shear over the tropics the trend once again this year should be fewer tropical storms and hurricanes. Then again, it only takes one. Here's an excerpt from USA Today: "Will this be the year the USA's luck runs out? With the Atlantic hurricane season starting June 1, the nation is enjoying two record streaks for a lack of hurricanes: It's been nine years since the last hit from a "major" hurricane and also nine years since a hurricane of any sort hit Florida, traditionally the most hurricane-prone state in the nation. Both streaks began on Oct. 24, 2005, when Category 3 Hurricane Wilma slammed into southwest Florida with 120-mph winds..."

Tropical Cyclone "Maximum Intensity" Is Shifting Toward Poles. Here's a clip of new research findings from NOAA NCDC: "Over the past 30 years, the location where tropical cyclones reach maximum intensity has been shifting toward the poles in both the northern and southern hemispheres at a rate of about 35 miles, or one-half a degree of latitude, per decade according to a new study, “The Poleward Migration of the Location of Tropical Cyclone Maximum Intensity,” published tomorrow in Nature. As tropical cyclones move into higher latitudes, some regions closer to the equator may experience reduced risk, while coastal populations and infrastructure poleward of the tropics may experience increased risk. With their devastating winds and flooding, tropical cyclones can especially endanger coastal cities not adequately prepared for them. Additionally, regions in the tropics that depend on cyclones’ rainfall to help replenish water resources may be at risk for lower water availability as the storms migrate away from them..."

Could Dangerous Underwater Volcano In Caribbean Cause a U.S. Tsunami? The idea may not be as far-fetched as it sounds, according to a story at ABC News; here's an excerpt: "...Ballard, the president of The Ocean Exploration Trust and the director of the Center for Ocean Exploration at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, said the Kick'em Jenny volcano has a history of explosive eruptions, which could have the potential to trigger tsunamis, the effects from which could be felt as far away as the northeastern United States. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Kick'em Jenny volcano has erupted 10 times since 1939 with the most recent eruption in 1990..."

Image above: National Geographic.

The 10 Greenest Mid-Size Cities. Did your town make the cut? Here's an excerpt from a story at "It takes a little effort being “green.” From separating recycling and trash, to taking public transportation, to walking to the grocery store instead of driving, it takes a lot of energy to consume less energy. But these ten cities proved that it is worth the extra time to go above and beyond the normal environmental concerns..."

Apple Said To Be Planning Split-Screen iPad Multitasking In IOS 8. Sounds cool, but I'm hoping for quad-screen multi-processing to tame my raging case of digital ADHD. Here's an excerpt from Tech Crunch: "A new report from 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman, who has a strong track record in predicting the future of Apple’s software, says that Apple will be building split-screen multitasking into iOS 8, the next major update for its mobile devices. This split-screen functionality will resemble these features as seen in recent Samsung tablets and the Microsoft Surface, the report claims. This comes hot on the heels of a new jailbreak tweak that adds almost exactly that kind of multitasking to iPad called “OS Experience....

The Military Has A Plan To Stop The Zombie Apocalypse. Seriously. Foreign Policy has the details, and yes, it's for planning purposes only - I don't think the Pentagon is really concerned about zombies. Yet. Here's a clip: "...Incredibly, the Defense Department has a response if zombies attacked and the armed forces had to eradicate flesh-eating walkers in order to "preserve the sanctity of human life" among all the "non-zombie humans." Buried on the military's secret computer network is an unclassified document, obtained by Foreign Policy, called "CONOP 8888." It's a zombie survival plan, a how-to guide for military planners trying to isolate the threat from a menu of the undead -- from chicken zombies to vegetarian zombies and even "evil magic zombies" -- and destroy them.

Climate Stories...

April Was Second Warmest Globally, Average for USA. Climate Central has the details - here's the introduction: "While April was an uneventful month temperature-wise in the U.S., with most areas experiencing near-average temperatures, the month was the second-warmest April on record globally, according to new NASA data. That makes April the 350th month in a row — more than 29 years — with above-average temperatures, largely caused by the buildup of manmade greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere..." (Image: NOAA NCDC).

From Airports to Interstates: Global Warming Threatens Coasts. Here's an excerpt from a story focusing on transportation infrastructure at increasing risk of rising seas and storm surges, courtesy of U.S. News: "...More than a dozen of the nation's 47 largest airports, meanwhile, have at least one runway that sits within reach of moderate to high storm surge. In fact, all three major airports around New York City – Newark, LaGuardia and JFK – are all at risk, as are Philadelphia International and Ronald Reagan Washington National..." (Graphic above: U.S. News).

Shrinking Arctic Sea Ice Is Fully Offset By Growing Antarctic Sea Ice? False. So says NASA, which provided the graphic above.

What Does U.S. Look Like With 10 Feet Of Sea Level Rise? Granted, this won't happen next year, or even 20 years from now, but some of the models are suggesting as much as 4-6 feet of rise by the end of this century, depending on the rate of melting in Greenland and West Antarctica. The honest answer is we don't really know how fast water levels will rise. Here's a clip from an interactive tool at Climate Central: "New research indicates that climate change has already triggered an unstoppable decay of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The projected decay will lead to at least 4 feet of accelerating global sea level rise within the next two-plus centuries, and at least 10 feet of rise in the end. What does the U.S. look like with an ocean that is 10 feet higher? The radically transformed map would lose 28,800 square miles of land, home today to 12.3 million people..."

U.S. Military Pressed on Climate Change. The Pentagon is taking climate change seriously as a force-multiplier, a potential catalyst capable of igniting local and regional conflicts related to mass migrations linked to shortages of water and food - as well as rapidly melting Arctic ice during the summer months and potential skirmishes as countries jockey for mineral rights at the top of the world. Here's a clip from The Wall Street Journal: "The military panel that advises CNA also found that many changes were happening more quickly than they predicted in 2007 in their latest report that examined the national-security implications of climate change. "For our national defense, we need to be making sure we are more resilient for the changes we have locked in," said retired Adm. David Titley, the former oceanographer of the Navy. "It is changing the battle space the Department of Defense operates in..." (File photo: Hassan Ammar, AP).

Center For Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board: Climate Change Is Severe National Security Risk. Details from Daily Kos.

The Forgotten History of Climate-Change Science. No, this is not a new "discovery" or untested theory, as described in this article from NPR; here's an excerpt: "...So through Fourier and Tyndall we could trace the basic elements of the greenhouse effect back almost 200 years. Hardly the stuff of a modern conspiracy. But neither of these researchers suggested that human beings were doing anything to alter the chemistry of the atmosphere. Surely that is a recent invention of the environmentalist age. The first calculation of the greenhouse effect to include human-driven release of greenhouse gases came about 100 years ago. Using estimates of coal burning, Swedish chemist built on other calculations he'd made and estimated that doubling the CO2 content of the planet's atmosphere would raise it's temperature by 2.5 to 4.0 degrees Celsius. That is where it all begins...."

Delays on Climate Change Have Cost Us $8 Trillion. NewScientist has the study and details; here's a clip: "TIME is money, goes the saying. When it comes to climate change, two years of inaction has cost the world $8 trillion. A report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), published Monday, looks at the cost of converting to green electricity in order to keep global warming below 2 °C. The agency found that it will cost $44 trillion more than keeping the current mix, where most electricity comes from fossil fuels. The extra money will go on building wind and solar power stations, efficient grids, electric vehicles and infrastructure..."

Climate Change: Has Science Finally Won The Debate? Here's an excerpt from a story at The Guardian: "...Consensus on climate change built incrementally through the 1990s until, by the time the 2001 IPCC report came out (with the hockey stick graph in it), there were very few scientists who felt uncomfortable attributing some climate change to human activity. But Hulme says there was no collective eureka moment and there will always be doubt and questions. "Science doesn't really do that. It is always an unending process of confirmation, correction, refutation … It is the collective social practice of science that in the end gives science its particular credibility and status. But it's a rather harder thing to get to the bottom of because you can't just focus on one charismatic individual..."