Conservation Minnesota

Getting Better In A Hurry – Did Climate Change Spike Recent Louisiana Super-Flood?

77 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday.
75 F. average high on September 7.
82 F. high on September 7, 2015.

September 8, 1985: An F1 tornado touches down in Faribault County causing $25,000 worth of damage, and hail up to 1 3/4 inches falls in Freeborn and Waseca Counties.
September 8, 1968: 1 3/4 inch hail falls in Goodhue County.
September 8, 1931: A record high is set in St. Cloud with a temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hold the Presses: A Welcome Ration of Sunshine!

“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine” quipped Anthony J. D’Angelo. Easier said than done this year, when rain is the default weather setting. There’s little doubt day to day weather powers our moods, even our ability to get things done.

You would be well advised not to ask for a raise or serious favors on a drippy, somber weather-day.
Since June 1, the start of Meteorological Summer, Minnesota rainfall has been 5 to 15 inches above average. A perpetually drippy sky has set back construction crews and road crews. Will we dry out in time for autumn harvest? A parade of progressively cooler fronts pushing out of Canada SHOULD mean a drying trend into mid and late September; reaching for sweatshirts, not umbrellas.

Blue sky (temporarily) restores your faith in a Minnesota September today; a few spotty showers Friday give way to cooler exhaust from Manitoba by Saturday. Daytime highs hold in the 50s and 60s by next Tuesday and Wednesday.

The atmosphere is shifting gears. The winter outlook is uncertain but so what? Let’s try to enjoy the here and now.


Trending Close to Average Into Monday – Then Cooler. ECMWF (European) model guidance shows a cooling trend Friday into Saturday, but the sweatshirts may not return in full force until early next week with highs in the 50s (north) and 60s (south) with nighttime lows dipping into the 40s. It’s time. Meteogram for MSP: WeatherBell.


Friday Showers. The good news: the weekend looks (miraculously!) dry, but the arrival of cooler air may set off a couple hours of showers Friday, with models predicting about .1 to .3″ of rain. Source: Aeris Enterprise.


Peak Wind Day: Sunday. Friday may feature the lightest winds; by Sunday a return southerly flow and tightening pressure gradient sparks sustained winds at 20 mph with higher gusts.


October Guess-Cast. Here is NOAA’s CFSv2 (Climate Forecast System) outlook for October, predicting a mild bias for much of the USA. Place your bets.



Hype, Bust or Effective? Messaging Hermine In A Post-Hurricane Sandy Era. Dr. Marshall Shepherd has an interesting post mortem on Hermine at Fortune: “…Did we learn anything from Sandy for Hermine? Gary Szatkowski told me in a message,
Overall, I thought the Hermine messaging was good for a very difficult situation, The track forecast was a technical challenge and the timing of the storm affecting the holiday weekend was a social science challenge. I think the track forecast was as good as the state of the science allows.

In social and traditional media there was the urge to compare the storm to Sandy. And in many ways there were some similarities. However these storms were also very different. Though certainly a threat Hermine was no Sandy…” (Image credit: Aeris Maps Platform).


Storm Models No Match for Uncertain Hurricane Hermine. Following up on a very fickle (hybrid) storm and dueling, flop-flopping weather models, here’s more perspective from Post and Courier: “…The models have improved a lot during the past 10 years, though not so much the past five years, Masters said. New equipment keeps coming on line to make them more accurate, including two satellites next year, one using Lidar, or laser radar, from space. Together, they are expected to improve not only fixing locations for a storm at sea, but also its winds. “Better data, better forecast,” he said. When Marks started with NOAA, the models weren’t reliable at all more than three days out; now it’s five to 10 days out, he said…”
Photo credit: “Water levels rose at the corner of Killians and Fishburne street in Charleston during Tropical Storm Hermine last Friday.” Michael Pronzato/ Staff

Why Nocturnal Tornadoes Are 2.5 Times More Deadly. AccuWeather.com has an interesting story that made me do a double-take: “…While modern technology has greatly reduced the number of deaths from tornadoes over time, those numbers don’t seem to be affected when the storm occurs at night. A 2008 study from Northern Illinois University found that while only 27 percent of tornados occur at night, 39 percent of tornado fatalities happen during that time. The study also found that the most dangerous time for tornadoes is from midnight to 6 a.m., when the storms are 2.5 times more likely to kill…”

Photo credit: Video Screenshot/Reed Timmer.


Hottest Temperature Ever Measured in September for Europe. Christopher C. Burt reports at WunderBlog: “An intense heat wave has occurred in recent days in the Iberian Peninsula with a site in Spain, Sanlucar La Mayor, measuring 46.4°C (115.5°F) on Monday, September 5th. This (if verified) would be the hottest temperature ever observed anywhere in Europe during the month of September. Portugal broke its September monthly heat record with 44.5°C (112.1°F) at Alacer do Sal also on September 5th. A few days earlier amazing heat also prevailed in the Middle East with Mitribah, Kuwait reaching 51.2°C (124.2°F) on September 3rd. This would be the 2nd hottest temperature ever reliably measured on Earth during the month of September. Here are some more details…”

Map credit: Climate Reanalyzer.


A Very Soggy Meteorological Summer. The map above shows precipitation anomalies since June 1 courtesy of NOAA. Much of Minnesota has picked up 6-12″ more rain than average over the last 90 days.



Hottest Summer? Snowiest Winter? Yes, Data Show Weather Is Getting More Extreme. Where have you heard that before. Here’s an excerpt from The Boston Globe: “…According to the U.S. Climate Extremes Index, which considers both the frequency of extreme weather and how much land area is affected by such conditions nationwide, 2015 ranked as the second-most extreme year on record, trailing only 2012. Records date to 1910. The first half of 2016 ranked as the seventh most-extreme when compared with the same period in other years. The index is based on data on several key indicators: maximum and minimum temperatures that are much above or much below normal; how much of the country has either a severe drought or moisture surplus; single-day events with unusually high precipitation; and abnormalities in the number of days with, and without, precipitation…”

Graphic: NOAA NCDC.



The Oceans Are Heating Up. That’s a Big Problem on a Blue Planet. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed from Bill McKibbon at The Guardian: “…The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has published an extensive study concluding that the runaway heating of the oceans is “the greatest hidden challenge of our generation”. When we think about global warming, we usually fixate on the air temperature. Which is spiking sharply – July was the hottest month ever measured on our planet. But as the new study points out, 90% of the extra heat that our greenhouse gases trap is actually absorbed by the oceans. That means that the upper few meters of the sea have been steadily warming more than a tenth of a degree celsius per decade, a figure that’s accelerating. When you think of the volume of water that represents, and then try to imagine the energy necessary to raise its temperature, you get an idea of the blowtorch that our civilization has become...” (File image: NASA).

With Plants It’s Not the Humidity, It’s The Heat. Here’s an excerpt from Voice of America: “…The higher the humidity, the more water vapor in the air. Now, a new study from researchers at Indiana University suggests that low humidity can stress plants just like dry soil. The new research was published in the journal Nature Climate Change, and the authors say this information will become more important as climate change makes both the air and the soil hotter and drier. Low humidity stresses out plants because the dry air literally pulls moisture out of their cells. To prevent this, plants close their pores, called stomates, to hold in the water they have. But when they do, they can’t breathe in as much carbon dioxide, which means they can’t do their part in getting carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere…”

Photo credit: “The effect of drought-induced dieback of ponderosa pines in California’s Tehachapi Mountains.”


Thunderstorms, Hail and Flooding Drive Weather Losses for First Half of 2016. Here’s a clip from Yahoo Finance that got my attention: “…Texas absolutely drove the catastrophe losses in the United States during the first six months of 2016,” said Bove. “Of the $17 billion in economic losses and $11 billion in insured losses, approximately 80% of both the over and insured losses occurred within Texas, of which roughly $7 billion of the insured losses were due to severe thunderstorm events.” Bove also highlighted the floods in West Virginia, which he said the National Weather Service and NOAH consider to be a 1-in-1,000-year event. However, Bove said he believes that the one catastrophe that is increasing losses is hail…”

Before You Get Too Excited About the Farmer’s Almanac Winter Outlook. The forecast for last winter was “cold and snowy”. No, it didn’t quite work out that way, just like overall accuracy is (meh) most winters. Fun to read, just like a horoscope, but don’t put too much stock in a specific forecast for a specific period.

These Gorgeous New Alaska Maps Could Transform Our Understanding of the Arctic. The Washington Post reports; here’s a clip: “…The new data will complement an ongoing project by the U.S. Geological Survey to map Alaska at a still higher resolution using lasers and radar. The lack of good maps of Alaska was covered extensively by the Post’s Lori Montgomery in 2014. As she put it then:

Alaska, it turns out, has never been mapped to modern standards. While the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is constantly refining its work in the lower 48 states, the terrain data in Alaska is more than 50 years old, much of it hand-sketched from black-and-white stereo photos shot from World War II reconnaissance craft and U-2 spy planes.
Errors abound. Locals tell of mountains as much as a mile out of place. Streams flow uphill, and ridges are missing because a cloud happened by when the photo was taken.

Map credit: “Mount Aniakchak is a volcanic caldera located in the Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve in the Aleutian Range of Alaska. Aniakchak is one of the wildest and least visited places in the National Park System. The area was proclaimed a National Monument on Dec. 1, 1978.” (Paul Morin, PGC)


Disposal Wells’ Link to Oklahoma Earthquake Scrutinized. Is fracking in the state just an unfortunate coincidence, or is there a link? Here’s an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal: “…Oklahoma has a history of seismic activity—it experienced a 5.5-magnitude temblor in 1952, for example. But the state has stepped up regulation of injection wells after seeing a dramatic increase in quakes over the past decade that experts at the USGS and in academia have tied to the practice of burying wastewater near faults underground. In 2015, the USGS recorded 2,500 quakes with a magnitude of 2.5 or higher in the state, up from just three in 2005...” (Map credit: AerisWeather Interactive).



Costa Rica Hasn’t Burned Any Fossil Fuels for Electricity in Two Months. Mashable has the story.

Photo credit: Martin Meissner, STR.


Battered Coal Companies Courted State AGs to Fight Climate Rules. Here’s an excerpt from Bloomberg Politics: “…The episode shines a light on how individual companies and industry groups can work hand-in-hand with like-minded politicians. In most cases, attorneys general are elected by popular vote and run as partisans, making them not merely the top prosecutors in their respective states but politicians who must win popular support for re-election. The Republican group laid down an explicit menu of options for its biggest donors, with an annual contribution of $15,000 conferring membership in the organization…”

Graphic credit: “Coal production in the U.S. has fallen as cheap natural gas and environmental regulations have taken their toll.” U.S. Energy Information Administration.


How Batteries Can Help Personalize Our Energy System. Midwest Energy News has the Q&A; here’s an excerpt: “Facebook and Google personalized the news. Uber and Lyft tailored transportation to individual needs. Now, advances in battery technology promise to introduce a similar kind of customization and independence into energy, says George Crabtree, director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), based at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois. Crabtree oversees a team of scientists and researchers across five national labs, 10 universities and five private-sector partners looking to dramatically improve energy storage technology...” (Image credit here).


In The Land of Robots Androids Are On The March. Japan is definitely ahead of the USA when it comes to creepy robots; here’s an excerpt from The New York Times: “…Meet Chihira Junco, a tourist greeter at a shopping mall in Tokyo. In her crisp blue button-down shirt, white blazer and pinstripe skirt, she stands in sensible pumps behind a counter in Aqua City Odaiba on Tokyo Bay, dispensing directions to local sites and shops in Japanese, Chinese and English. She is not, however, human. Ms. Junco — if you can use an honorific for a machine — joins an incipient group of androids springing up around Japan. There are also Yumeko, a receptionist at the Hen-na Hotel, a robot-operated boutique in Nagasaki, and Matsukoloid, who appears in a popular television variety show with her human doppelgänger, Matsuko Deluxe…”
* A positively creepy YouTube video of Chihira Junco is here.

Atlas Obscura’s Guide To The Longest Running Scientific Experiments. Remember this when you consider moving into one of those tiny houses highlighted on HGTV.  Here’s an excerpt from Atlas Obscura: “…For two years a team of scientists voluntarily confined themselves to the Biosphere Two domes, which were designed to simulate various environmental climates that could be recreated on Mars. This experiment was the longest of any of these confined biosphere types of experiments. Though the oxygen levels in the domes dropped, the experiment was deemed a failure not because of ecological factors, but rather those rooted in human psychology. Even omitting Pauly Shore, at experiment’s end the biospherians became depressed, supremely annoyed with each other, and teetered on the edge of sanity. These psychological factors turn out to be a regular problem in these types of environments...”

United’s CEO Said What? Please tell me he didn’t actually say this. I came across this little nugget at Marketplace yesterday, a quote attributed to United CEO Oscar Munoz: “…I think the hardest thing that historically the industry may have relied upon is that we can’t control weather, we can’t control air traffic control, and use that at the end of the day as an excuse. Things do happen, we know they happen — we don’t exactly know when they are going to happen — but we should definitely be prepped. A very quick example: Farmers’ Almanac is calling for a very nasty winter, particularly in Chicago — one of our main hubs. So as we speak, our operating team is hard at work as to how are we going to accommodate passengers...”

Marijuana “Tornado” Rips Through an Oregon Farm. It was a dust devil, but no matter. Even worse than a Sharknado? What I really want to know: how high was this particular weed-nado? Here’s an excerpt at SFgate.com: “…Marijuana has been called ‘devil weed’ and ‘the devil’s lettuce’ by critics and humorists, but never ‘dust devil weed’ — until now. Oregon pot farmer Michael Johnson of Siskiyou Sungrown got quite the surprise when he reviewed security camera footage of his twin recreational and medical gardens Thursday. In the footage, a small ground air phenomenon known as a dust devil rips through the medical garden, creating a whirlwind of precious, pricey buds, and ripping a 36 square-foot medical pot plant out of the ground and throwing it fifty feet south over an eight-foot fence…”


TODAY: Lukewarm sunshine! Winds: W 8-13. High: 76
THURSDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase, late shower? Low: 60

FRIDAY: Some sun, passing shower or T-shower. Winds: W 10-15. High: 78

SATURDAY: More clouds than sun, brisk. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 55. High: 71 (60s greater MN)

SUNDAY: More sunshine, warming up. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 54. High: 79

MONDAY: Still mild, isolated PM T-shower? Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 61. High: 78

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy, cool wind. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 58. High: 66

WEDNESDAY: Slow clearing, feels like fall. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 51. High: 65


Climate Stories….

Scientists See Push From Climate Change in Louisiana Flooding. The New York Times reports: “Climate change has increased the likelihood of torrential downpours along the Gulf Coast like those that led to deadly floods in southern Louisiana last month, scientists said Wednesday. Using historical records of rainfall and computer models that simulate climate, the researchers, including several from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found that global warming increased the chances of such intense rains in the region by at least 40 percent. “But it’s probably much closer to a doubling of the probability” of such an event, or a 100 percent increase, said Heidi Cullen, chief scientist for Climate Central, the research organization that coordinated the study...”

Photo credit: “Residents in Baton Rouge, La., cleaning out flood damaged homes in August. Credit Max Becherer for The New York Times.


Will ExxonMobil Have to Pay for Misleading the Public on Climate Change? Bloomberg asks the rhetorical question: “…A company that has 73,500 employees and reported $269 billion in 2015 revenue would seem not to have much to fear from a bunch of tree-huggers and a grandstanding state AG. And yet the #ExxonKnew backlash comes at a financially perilous time for Big Oil. A glut-driven collapse in crude prices has rocked the entire industry. On July 29, Exxon announced second-quarter profit of $1.7 billion, its worst result in 17 years. That followed a rocky spring when ferocious wildfires reduced production in the oil-sands region of western Canada. (The frequency and intensity of such fires may be related to climate change, Exxon’s Jeffers acknowledges, adding, “But we just don’t know.”) Most important, though, #ExxonKnew comes as climate change, after being on a legislative back burner, has gotten hot again…”


Arctic Ocean Shipping Routes “To Open for Months”. Here’s an excerpt from BBC: “Shipping routes across the Arctic are going to open up significantly this century even with a best-case reduction in CO2 emissions, a new study suggests. University of Reading, UK, researchers have investigated how the decline in sea-ice, driven by warmer temperatures, will make the region more accessible. They find that by 2050, opportunities to transit the Arctic will double for non ice-strengthened vessels. These open-water ships will even be going right over the top at times…”

Photo credit: SPL. “Sea-ice is in decline but scientists expect quite a bit of variability year on year.”


* The paper referenced in the BBC article above is available here.

“We Are All Noah Now”. So says Thomas Friedman at The New York Times: “…The dominant theme running through the I.U.C.N.’s seminars was the fact that we are bumping up against and piercing planetary boundaries — on forests, oceans, ice melt, species extinctions and temperature — from which Mother Nature will not be able to recover. When the coral and elephants are all gone, no 3-D printer will be able to recreate them. In short, we and our kids are rapidly becoming the Noah generation, charged with saving the last pairs...”


Climate Change Spells Worse Typhoons for China, Japan: Study. Here’s an excerpt at Yahoo News: “…Over the past 37 years, typhoons that strike east and southeast Asia have intensified by 12-15 percent,” they wrote in the journal Nature Geoscience. And the data showed this intensification, in turn, was linked to ocean surface warming — possibly caused by climate change, though this is yet to be proven. Projections for ocean warming if humans continue to emit planet-harming greenhouse gases, said the team, “suggest that typhoons striking eastern mainland China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan will intensify further...”
Photo credit: “The world’s nations concluded a pact in Paris to halt the march of climate change, which threatens stronger storms, longer droughts and land-gobbling sea-level rise.” (AFP Photo/Tokachi Mainichi).

Flooding of Coast, Caused by Global Warming, Has Already Begun. The New York Times had a long and excellent summary of (sunny day) flooding due to higher sea level and land subsidence – here’s an excerpt of Justin Gillis’s story: “…For decades, as the global warming created by human emissions caused land ice to melt and ocean water to expand, scientists warned that the accelerating rise of the sea would eventually imperil the United States’ coastline. Now, those warnings are no longer theoretical: The inundation of the coast has begun. The sea has crept up to the point that a high tide and a brisk wind are all it takes to send water pouring into streets and homes. Federal scientists have documented a sharp jump in this nuisance flooding — often called “sunny-day flooding” — along both the East Coast and the Gulf Coast in recent years. The sea is now so near the brim in many places that they believe the problem is likely to worsen quickly...”

Photo credit: “At the City Market in Charleston, S.C., one of the most popular spots in town, shoppers dodged seawater that bubbled up from storm drains during high tide in June. Credit Hunter McRae for The New York Times.



Sea Level Rise Puts Mid-Atlantic in Greater Damage When Storms Like Hermine Strike. Andrew Freedman provides more perspective at Mashable.

Photo credit: “Water from Roanoke Sound pounds the Virginia Dare Trail in Manteo, N.C., Saturday, September 3, 2016 as Tropical Storm Hermine passes the Outer Banks.” Image: Tom Copeland/AP.


Camp Century – Project Iceworm. A cold war atomic camp buried deep into Greenland’s ice is now emerging due to rapid warming. Here’s an excerpt at Atlas Obscura: “…When Camp Century was deserted, it was left almost entirely intact. The U.S. military assumed consistent snowfall and crushing glaciers would encase the research facility for all time. However, in 2016, an investigation revealed that because global warming has caused the ice sheet covering Camp Century to melt, the facility may be unearthed by the end of the century, maybe sooner. If and when that happens, any waste—radioactive or otherwise—that’s uncovered along with the base could wind up disrupting the surrounding ecosystems—a wholly unintended consequence of a top-secret Cold War plot.”

Image credit: U.S. Army/Public Domain.


Funds Leader BlackRock Calls on Investors to Assess Climate Change Impacts. Reuters has the story: “BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset manager, said all investors should factor climate change into their decision-making and doing so would not mean having to accept lower returns. Global moves to coordinate a response to climate change took a big step forward on Saturday when both China and the United States ratified a 2015 plan to curb climate-warming emissions, raising chances it will enter into law this year. BlackRock said it is strengthening its data and analytical processes to reflect changes to the environment – and political responses to them…”

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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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