Conservation Minnesota

Brief Break From The Muggies (Midwest heatwaves increasing in frequency & intensity: new study)

84 F. high in the Twin Cities yesterday.

83 F. average high for July 26.

84 F. high on July 26, 2011.

No significant rain through Sunday for the Twin Cities.

90-degree heat returns to KMSP by Sunday afternoon.

The Twin Cities went from having an average of 13 cool summer days to 9, from 7 dangerously hot days to more than 11, and from 2 heat waves to 3 each summer.” – excerpt of a new, UCS (Union of Concerned Scientists) paper focused on the frequency and intensity of heat waves across the Midwest. Details below.

37.37% of Minnesota is in a moderate drought, up from 33.96% of the state on July 17.

13.05% of the state is in a severe drought, up from 7.32% of Minnesota a week ago.


Dual Polarization. The local Twin Cities NWS is upgrading to “dual pol” on August 20; the radar may be down for as long as 2 weeks during the upgrade. Details below.

13 feet. The Mississippi River at Memphis is 13 feet below normal, expected to drop another 2 1/2 feet by late August. Water levels are down 55 feet from last spring’s high water mark during the spring floods of 2011. Details from theleafchronicle.com below. (AP Photo/Nikki Boertman)

The price of corn has risen by 50 percent, to $8 a bushel, from where it was last month. And a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released today suggests that consumers can expect to see the price of meat and dairy products rise as feed for livestock becomes more expensive.” – from a Live Science report below. Photo: madison.com.

We’ve got the ‘storm of the century’ every year now,” said Bill Gausman, a senior vice president and a 38-year veteran at the Potomac Electric Power Company, which took eight days to recover from the June 29 “derecho” storm that raced from the Midwest to the Eastern Seaboard and knocked out power for 4.3 million people in 10 states and the District of Columbia.” – from a New York Times story on the impact of extreme weather on America’s energy & transportation grid; details below. Photo: NASA.

We could only attribute as much as 30% [of the Arctic ice loss] to the AMO,” he said. “Which implies that the rest is due to something else, and this is most likely going to be man-made global change.” – from a story at The Guardian below.


One More Wave Of Heat. The last spell of 90s? At the rate we’re going I wouldn’t be on that, but I suspect 3-4 more days at or above 90 F. next week. Highs should top 90 as early as Sunday; 90s likely the middle of next week. Model data: ECMWF.


Anatomy Of A Heatwave. 1,513 hot weather records (daytime highs and warm nighttime lows) in just the last week. Interactive map courtesy of Ham Weather.

Drought Worsens Over Minnesota. The rough rule of thumb during the summer months is 1″ of water every week – anything less and topsoil begins to dry out rapidly, especially when the pattern is sunny and hot. Although the immediate Twin Cities metro area (and much of central and northeastern Minnesota) is in pretty good shape from a soil moisture standpoint, drought conditions are worsening over far southern and northwestern counties. Last week 33.96% of Minnesota was in a moderate drought – that has risen to 37.37%. 13% of the state is in a severe drought, up from 7% last week. Details from the Drought Monitor here.

Drought Map Shows Widespread Intensification Over Central United States. Here’s an update on the the growing drought from the U.S. Drought Monitor: “The July 24 U.S. Drought Monitor showed widespread intensification of drought through the middle of the country, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The map also set a record for the fourth straight week for the area in moderate drought or worse in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor. The July 24 map put 53.44 percent of the United States and Puerto Rico in moderate drought or worse, up from 53.17 percent the week before; 38.11 percent in severe drought or worse, compared with 35.32 a week earlier; 17.2 percent in extreme drought or worse, compared with 11.32 percent the week before; and 1.99 percent in exceptional drought, up from .83 percent the preceding week. “We’ve seen tremendous intensification of drought through Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Kansa and Nebraska, and into part of Wyoming and South Dakota in the last week,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist and U.S. Drought Monitor author. “The amount of D3 developing  in the country has increased  quite a bit for each of the last several weeks.” Fuchs also noted that as of the July 24 U.S. Drought Monitor, every state in the country had at least a small area shown as abnormally dry or worse. “It’s such a broad footprint,” he said.”


Drought Deepens Over Plains. Showers and T-storms will drop welcome rain; some 1-2″ amounts from Boston and New York southward to Mobile. But little rain is forecast for the next 5 days over the Central Plains, where the drought will worsen. Map: NOAA HPC.

Food Prices Could Rise 5 Percent In Next 5 Months. Details from ABC News; here’s an excerpt: “The cost of filling grocery carts in America is going up. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that it is projecting as much as a 5  percent price hike for some food items over the next nine months. “Of course I’m concerned,” said shopper Barbara Webb. “I’m concerned for the people who can’t afford it.” Behind the expensive jump is the drought, now covering 60 percent of the United States, pushing up prices for feed that translate into higher prices for beef, pork and chicken products.”

Ongoing Drought Hits Crops Hard. Live Science has the story – here’s the introduction: “The drought affecting much of the continental United States — not to mention the heat and dryness around the globe — has sent corn and wheat prices skyrocketing, scientists said today (July 25). And the current weather could be a taste of what to expect in future decades. “Global warming helps make droughts hotter and drier than they would be without human influence,” said Heidi Cullen, the chief climatologist for Climate Central, a non-profit organization dedicated to communicating the science of climate change.”

Photo credit above: “Grain bins are silhouetted against approaching storm clouds that unfortunately contain very little water Thursday, July 26, 2012 in Pleasant Plains, Ill. The widest drought to grip the United States in decades is getting worse with no signs of abating. This week’s U.S. Drought Monitor report highlights that the drought’s severity is rapidly expanding across the nation.” (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Mississippi River Level Dropping. What a difference a year makes, a 55 FOOT drop on the Mississippi River at Memphis from the high-water marks of last spring’s flood? Unbelievable. Details from theleafchronicle.com; here’s an excerpt: “The Mississippi River’s water level keeps dropping, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Memphis said Wednesday it is using survey boats and dredges to maintain safe navigation. Meanwhile, river barge and tow boat operators are continuing to lose money as they reduce the amount of material they can safely carry on the river.The National Weather Service said Wednesday that drought has dropped the river’s summer level in Memphis to about 13 feet below normal, and it is forecast to fall about 2 1/2 feet more by Aug. 22. That would be more than 55 feet lower than the highest reading taken during last year’s near-historic flood.”

Photo credit above: “In this July 13, 2012 photo, the Memphis Queen riverboat moves down the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn. A year after nearly record floods, the Mississippi River level has dropped so low that it’s beginning to affect commercial operations. Port managers worry that their passages to the river could fill up with silt, and barge operators may have to lighten their loads.” AP Photo: Nikki Boertman.


Wild Thursday. The squall line that roared across the Ohio Valley into Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York State. There was at least one tornado touchdown (near Elmira, New York) with considerable tree damage; 366 separate reports of severe wind damage along the leading edge of Canadian relief. Details from SPC.

* for the first time in 16 years, SPC issued a Day 2 “Moderate Severe Threat” east of the Rockies. A few photos of the resulting squall line:

Shelf Cloud. Evidence of potentially violent straight-line winds near Marion, Illinois, courtesy of Mike Leuchtenberg.

Threatening Sky. Michelle White-Eyman snapped this photo near Mechanicsburg, Ohio. Yep, I’d be heading for the nearest basement right about now.

Thursday Funnel – In New York State? Details via The Albany Examiner and Facebook: “Photo of a wall cloud/possible funnel cloud in Saratoga county, just northwest of Saratoga Springs around 7 PM this evening…confirmed by NWS Albany with some weak rotation noted on radar at the time…(Photo by Sean Organ)

Significant July Tornadoes In The United States. Here are some interesting statistics from ustornadoes.com: “July continues the trend in recent months of a smaller ratio of significant tornadoes, or those F2/EF-2 and stronger, to overall tornadoes. Only 13 percent of the months tornadoes from 1950-2011 reached this strength. But, as throughout the year, these tornadoes make up in death and destruction what they lack in numbers.”

Farming Changes Can Limit Risk. Here’s an timely excerpt of a New York Times Op-Ed from Jon Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of the Minnesota, where he holds a McKnight Presidential Chair in global environmental sustainability: ”Droughts happen. They have happened in the past, and they will happen in the future. Whether the odds of extreme droughts are changing is still an open question, but signs point to shifting patterns of climate. No matter the cause, droughts have a heavy impact on agriculture. This year, American corn and soybean crops are being crippled by high temperatures and low rainfall. Only a lucky few farmers will have a decent harvest. Sadly, much of America’s commodity agriculture is especially vulnerable to climatic extremes – whether droughts, floods, heat waves or cold snaps. In particular, it is hard to imagine a system more susceptible to bad weather than the American corn and soybean belt.”

Weather Extremes Leave Parts Of U.S. Grid Buckling. Here’s a snippet of a New York Times article: “From highways in Texas to nuclear power plants in Illinois, the concrete, steel and sophisticated engineering that undergird the nation’s infrastructure are being taxed to worrisome degrees by heat, drought and vicious storms….The frequency of extreme weather is up over the past few years, and people who deal with infrastructure expect that to continue. Leading climate models suggest that weather-sensitive parts of the infrastructure will be seeing many more extreme episodes, along with shifts in weather patterns and rising maximum (and minimum) temperatures.”

Photo credit above: Travis Long/The News & Observer, via Associated Press. “Emergency repairs on a highway that buckled in triple-digit temperatures last month near Cary, N.C.”

Heat In The Heartland: 60 Years Of Warming In The Midwest. Here’s a new study released by UCS, the Union of Concerned Scientists, focused on temperature trends in recent decades. A few highlights of the report: “Deadly heat waves have become more common in the Twin Cities because the city’s weather has changed; more hot, dry air masses from the American Southwest and hot, humid air masses from the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea are intruding and settling over the city,” said Dr. Larry Kalkstein, lead report author and University of Miami professor. “During the past 60 years, these oppressive hot air masses have not only become more frequent, they have warmed significantly, which can threaten human health.”

The Twin Cities went from having an average of 13 cool summer days to 9, from 7 dangerously hot days to more than 11, and from 2 heat waves to 3 each summer.”

  • Heat waves lasting three days or more have become more common over the last six decades. St. Louis has approximately four more three-day heat waves each year than it did in the 1940s.
  • On average, hot humid days have increased more rapidly in frequency, while hot dry days have increased in temperature more rapidly across the Midwest since the 1940s and 1950s.
  • The meteorological characteristics of these weather types are also changing. In general, hot air masses have become hotter and more humid during nighttime hours.
  • In some cities, average nighttime temperatures within some air mass types have increased as much as 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit (˚F) over the six decades.
  • Relief from heat is harder to find—all of the cities studied now have fewer cool, dry days in the summer.
  • The results aren’t due solely to an urban heat island effect on major cities. Less urban neighboring locations showed similar increases in hot summer air masses.

* an Executive Summary of the UCS report (pdf) is here.


KMPX Upgrading To “Dual Polarization”. As of August 20 the Twin Cities Doppler radar (based in Chanhassen) will be out of commission for 2 weeks while the NWS upgrades to the latest generation of Doppler: “dual pol”. Details: “Beginning August 20, 2012, the Doppler radar at your National Weather Service Forecast Office will undergo an upgrade to incorporate new technology. While the work is being done, radar data will be unavailable from NWS Minneapolis! The radar is scheduled to be unavailable for two weeks during this upgrade. Recently, though, technicians have been completing the upgrade in 5 to 6 days, and radar data will become available as soon as the upgrade is complete.


The advantages of “dual pol”?

* Better estimation of total precipitation amounts.
* Better estimation of the size distribution of hydrometeors (raindrops, snowflakes, hailstones, drizzle).
* Much improved ability to identify areas of extremely heavy rainfall that are closely linked with flash floods.
* Improved detection and mitigation of non-weather related radar echoes (chaff, smoke plumes, ground clutter).
* Easier identification of the melting layer (helpful for identifying snow levels in higher terrain).
* Improved ability to classify precipitation type.

Photo above courtesy of Reid Wolcott.

Olympic Weather Update. I love the British accent. Then again, we Yanks may be the ones with accents, come to think of it. Here’s a great YouTube update on expected weather in London, courtesy of the UK Met Office: “Chief Forecaster Nick Grahame explains the forecast for the London Olympic opening ceremony. Keep up to date with the forecast during the Olympics on our event pages http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/events/olympics.”

2012 Hurricane Predictions: Tranquil Or Tumultuous? Here’s a clip from a story at redorbit.com: “The 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season is now in full swing. However, it has been fairly light after a vigorous start in May and then a very tranquil time since then. The biggest reason for the quiet period we are seeing now has to do with both the placement of the Bermuda High and also the upper level winds across the Atlantic, which are still a tad unfavorable for development in the region. The best and most favorable spots right now are portions of the Gulf of Mexico. When it comes to making forecasts for hurricanes it can be a very hard task at hand. Here are a few things that make it hard to forecast for the hurricane season.”

 
“China’s Katrina”: Second City Flooded; Corruption, Incompetence Blamed. NPR has a very good overview of how a flash flood in Beijing has escalated into a political crisis for China’s leadership; here’s an excerpt: “Outrage in China about the dozens of deaths last weekend when Beijing’s drainage system couldn’t cope with heavy rains and much of the city was flooded has been followed by more frustration and anger today. There was flooding Thursday in Tianjin, a city of 6 million, during a downpour there. Even the state-controlled Xinhua news agency couldn’t ignore what was happening. “The downpour has paralyzed traffic in downtown Tianjin, drowning many roads. Dozens of vehicles were stranded on Baidi road in Nankai district after their engines died in the flood,” it reports. “Many pedestrians complained they had to trek in knee-deep water. In some sections of Xianyang Street, flood water was waist deep.”
 

Photo credit above: “Residents look at a submerged bus on a flooded street in the Chinese city of Tianjin on Thursday. Beijing and neighboring areas have experienced the worst rainstorms in six decades. At least 77 people were killed, Chinese authorities said Thursday.”

A few fine photos….

An Ominous Sky. Thanks to Brad Birkholz, who snapped this eerie-looking photo near Neenah, Wisconsin late Wednesday.

I Want My Mamma. Who writes this crap? Oh, I do. Sorry. I’ve run out of photo headline ideas, but thanks go out to Mike Lachendro, who took this photo of cumulonimbus mammatus on the underside of a towering thunderhead anvil near Omaha, Nebraska.

“Isolated Showers”. Here’s another terrific photo, taken in the Boulder, Colorado area by Jonathan Fields. Very nice.



Getting Better Out There. Dew point temperatures dropped into the 50s (down from low 70s Wednesday), a welcome dip in humidity levels. A few late-day instability showers and T-showers popped up. Highs ranged from a comfortable 68 at Grand Marais to 77 Alexandria, 83 St. Cloud and 84 in the Twin Cities.

Paul’s Conservation Minnesota Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:



TODAY: Best day in sight. Comfortable sun! Dew point: 59. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 80
FRIDAY NIGHT: Clear and pleasant. Low: 63

SATURDAYPartly sunny (isolated T-shower over southwestern MN). Dew point: 62. High: 85

SUNDAY: Sticky sun. Dew point: 65. Winds: SE 7-13. Low: 69. High: 91

MONDAY: Unsettled, few T-storms possible. Dew point: 69. Low: 70. High: 90

TUESDAY: Intervals of sun, muggy. Dew point: 70. Low: 71. High: 91

WEDNESDAY: Hot sun, late T-storms. Dew point: 71. Low: 72. High: 93

THURSDAY: Last hot, steamy day in sight. Still steamy. Low: 71. High: 91

Severe Clear
The bloom is off the rose. I love Minnesota summers, but this year? I should be serving towels with my forecasts.
Wednesday evening was a slow-motion nightmare. My wife had some friends over. Our (busted) A/C unit created a sauna-like 90 F. inside, but they couldn’t go outside because of the showers (and bugs). “Check the Doppler. What TIME will this end? You said the showers would stay south!
” Please take me now, Lord.
A new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists confirms the heat is on; it’s not a fluke, but a trend. Nights are significantly warmer, and it can’t all be blamed on the urban heat island (asphalt releasing heat at night). “The Twin Cities went from having an average of 13 cool summer days to 9, from 7 dangerously hot days to more than 11, and from 2 heat waves to 3 each summer” the report concluded. Details on the blog.
We catch a break today; dew points in the 50s (!) T-storms brush southwest Minnesota Saturday PM as temperatures slowly warm; a few more 90s next week. But no more beastly heat.
Severe drought has returned to far southern & northwest Minnesota, so remind me not to whine about pop-up summer T-showers.
PS: it’s safe to go outside honey!

Climate Stories…

Loss Of Arctic Sea Ice “70% Man-Made”. The Guardian has more details: “The radical decline in sea ice around the Arctic is at least 70% due to human-induced climate change, according to a new study, and may even be up to 95% down to humans – rather higher than scientists had previously thought. The loss of ice around the Arctic has adverse effects on wildlife and also opens up new northern sea routes and opportunities to drill for oil and gas under the newly accessible sea bed. The reduction has been accelerating since the 1990s and many scientists believe the Arctic may become ice-free in the summers later this century, possibly as early as the late 2020s.” (photo: Jefferson Beck, NASA).

Summer Storms To Create New Ozone Holes As Earth Warms? This was a bit of a head-scratcher, but check out the National Geographic article and try to connect the dots; here’s an excerpt: “Summer storms may create new holes in our protective ozone layer as Earth heats up—bringing increased solar ultraviolet radiation to densely populated areas, a new study says. What’s more, if more sunlight reaches Earth, skin cancer could become the new marquee risk of global warming. As the planet warms, some studies have suggested summer storms may become more frequent and intense. This would send more water vapor—a potent greenhouse gas—into the stratosphere, the middle layer of Earth’s atmosphere, which sits between 9 and 22 miles (14 and 35 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.”

Photo credit above: “A thunderstorm rumbles through Kansas (file picture).” Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic

The Story Behind Record Ice Loss In Greenland. Here’s a snippet of a Climate Central story from meteorologist Andrew Freedman: “…William Colgan, a research associate at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, said the July melt event is extremely rare, but not completely unheard of. He said an analysis of ice core records from Greenland Summit station, which at 2 miles above sea level is near the highest point on the ice sheet, shows that the high elevation areas of Greenland have experienced melt about once every 150 years during the past 10,000 years. However, such a widespread melt event is unprecedented in the observational record, which dates back to about 1930.”

Map credit above: “In this chart you can see that a very strong area of high pressure (in red shading surrounding Greenland) set up shop over Greenland during July, providing warmer than average air temperatures and clear skies to enhance surface melting.” Credit: NOAA via Joe Witte.

A Carbon Tax Is More Viable Than Cap And Trade. Here’s an excerpt from theenergycollective.com: “Pricing carbon is the cornerstone of a blueprint to contain climate change as it would provide both incentives and disincentives to reduce emissions. It would also drive investment and research dollars into renewable energy and efficiency. The best thing that governments can do to reduce emissions is to implement a cap and trade scheme or failing that, a carbon tax. Creating carbon markets is among the most expedient ways to address climate change. Cap and trade rewards efficiency and punishes polluters. It would also increase green jobs, lower electricity bills, enhance competitiveness, and forestall a climate catastrophe.”

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About Paul Douglas

Paul Douglas
Paul Douglas is a meteorologist, author, entrepreneur, and software expert in Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota. He is a nationally recognized meteorologist with over 30 years of broadcast television and radio experience.
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