WeatherNation Blog

Drought, Record Heat, Another Derecho

7% of Americans work for the American government, about the same percentage as during the late 1970s. Details from businessinsider.com.

70% of Americans now believe the climate is changing, based on a recent University of Texas poll, up from a low of 52% during the winter of 2010. Details from philly.com below.

 

According to NOAA, more than 25,000 new record temperature highs have been set this year alone in the United States. A recent report from the National Climatic Data Center noted that the past twelve months were the warmest since record-keeping began in the U.S. in 1895. The number and intensity of extreme weather events has also risen — a shift the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded is linked to climate change. Four out of five Americans live in counties that have had natural disasters declared since 2006.” – from a Huffington Post story; details below. Image above: NOAA.

 

For several days this month, Greenland’s surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations. Nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland, from its thin, low-lying coastal edges to its 2-mile-thick (3.2-kilometer) center, experienced some degree of melting at its surface, according to measurements from three independent satellites analyzed by NASA and university scientists.” – from NASA JPL, details below.

Record Highs. NOAA data shows 695 record highs in just the last week east of the Rockies. For an interactive map from Ham Weather click here.

 

Drought-Stricken Farmers Buy Up Minnesota Hay. Here is an excerpt of a very interesting article from the St. Cloud Times: “As a record drought parches the nation’s midsection, ranchers are turning to Minnesota for hay to feed their cattle. Harlan Anderson, who grows 800 acres of hay near Cokato, said that he’s getting calls from just about every corner of the country from farmers who view Minnesota as an oasis. “I don’t think ever in my life I’ve seen it where the rest of the country is as dry as it is and we’ve got a good crop,” Anderson said. And the phone is ringing off the hook at Steffes Auctioneers in Litchfield. Auctioneer Randy Kath has proof of the demand for Minnesota’s hay: a legal pad scrawled with the 33 phone messages left for him while he was in Canada over the weekend looking for hay to broker in the U.S.”

 

On Our Radar: Rising Corn Prices. Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times: “World corn prices have jumped 55 percent in six weeks to a new record as a result of the Midwestern drought. [The Guardian] Japanese officials investigate the possibility that workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were pressured to underreport the amount of radiation they were exposed to so they could stay on the job longer. [The Christian Science Monitor] Facing oil drilling, an influx of freight haulers seeking a shortcut across the top of the world and the arrival of passenger cruise ships as the ice melts, the Coast Guard is scrambling to figure out how to police Arctic waters. [The New York Times]

Photo credit above: “Keith Greshik, 43, a grain farmer near Cochrane, Wis., took a look at some of the corn on one of his fields that were ruined by the drought, Monday, July 23, 2012. The drought that has hit the Midwest is the worst Wisconsin has seen in nearly 25 years. On Thursday, Gov. Scott Walker said the entire state was in a ‘drought emergency’ and sought federal disaster aid for 23 counties in the south central and southeastern part of Wisconsin.” Courtesy: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune.

Drought’s FootprintThe New York Times has an amazing infographic that shows the “footprint” of drought across the USA, every year dating back to 1899. Details: “More than half of the country was under moderate to extreme drought in June, the largest area of the contiguous United States affected by such dryness in nearly 60 years. Nearly 1,300 counties across 29 states have been declared federal disaster areas. Areas under moderate to extreme drought in June of each year are shown in orange (above).”

 

U.S. Drought Could Trigger Repeat Of Global Food Crisis, Experts Warn. More on what’s happening in the Corn Belt from The Guardian: “America’s drought threatens a recurrence of the 2008 global food crisis, when soaring prices set off riots and unrest to parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, food experts warn. Corn prices reached an all-time high on Friday, as the drought expanded across America, trading at $8.24 a bushel on the Chicago exchange. Soybeans were also trading at record levels. The US department of agriculture meanwhile predicted there would be less corn coming onto global markets over the next year, because of a sharp drop in US exports. America is the world’s largest producer of corn, dominating the market. Corn is also connected to many food items – as feed for dairy cows or for hogs and beef cattle, as a component in processed food – expanding the impact of those price rises.”

Graphic credit above: Food prices. Source: Rabobank

 

Drought Intensifies. Some counties in the Corn Belt (Ohio Valley) has received 1-2″ of rain in recent days, enough to put a small dent in the drought. But conditions are getting worse over the Central Plains, the Wheat Belt, where little or no rain is expected over the next 5 days. Map above: NOAA HPC.

 

Another Derecho. The same storms that dumped up to 3″ of rain on southern Minnesota Monday night went on to form into a “derecho”, a fast-moving, boomerang-shaped swirl of severe thunderstorms that sparked 70 mph wind gusts from near Chicago into the Carolinas. Although not as severe as the derecho that swept across the same region in late June, it was violent enough to down countless trees and powerlines from Indiana to West Virginia. Map above: NOAA and Ham Weather.

Derecho Climatology. NOAA data shows the highest frequency of derechos over Texarkana, with a high probability extending into the Midwest and Ohio River Valley.

 

Another Wild Severe Weather Day. Another derecho whipped up near Chicago – tracking eastward across the Ohio Valley, surviving all the way into the Carolinas with 70 mph plus wind gusts and large hail. The images above are from WeatherNation TV’s social library - contributed by viewers around the USA.

Vincente: A Hurricane Forecasters Nightmare. This really is the worst-case scenario for a hurricane forecaster: a storm that flares up from Category 1 to Category 4 or 5, virtually overnight. People along the coast are complacent (“hey, it’s only a Category 1″), only to wake up to a weather monster capable of 130-150 mph sustained winds and a 10 foot storm surge. Here’s an excerpt from Democratic Underground: “Vicente was an example of a hurricane forecaster’s nightmare. In six hours, Vicente strengthened from a Category 1 typhoon with 80 mph winds to a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds. Even twelve hours before this remarkable burst of intensification, there was little indication that Vicente would undergo rapid intensification. It is very fortunate the the typhoon missed a direct hit on the heavily populated areas of Hong Kong and Macao, because there was no time to evacuate all the people who would have needed to leave for the impact of a Category 4 storm–particularly since the storm hit at night. If a similar type of storm were to affect a vulnerable area of the U.S. coast such as the Florida Keys, New Orleans, Houston/Galveston, or Tampa Bay, the death toll could easily be in the thousands. ” (image: gdacs.org)

 

Saharan Sand Reaches Southeastern USA. NASA’s Earth Observatory has more details: “Sand in the Sahara Desert doesn’t always stay put. Tiny particles can be lofted into the air, eventually landing elsewhere in that vast sandy desert. Sometimes dust from the Sahara traverses an entire ocean. That was what happened in July 2012, when a dust plume extended across the Atlantic Ocean toward the Caribbean Sea and Florida. This color-coded map is made from data collected by the Ozone Mapper Profiler Suite (OMPS) on the SuomiNational Polar-orbiting Partnership (S-NPP) satellite. It shows relative aerosol concentrations across the Atlantic Ocean on July 21, 2012. Lower concentrations appear in yellow, and greater concentrations appear in dark orange-brown. Areas in grey represent data that have been screened out due to sunglint (reflection of sunlight) or other factors.”

“Ask Paul”. Weather-related Q&A:

Paul

Much is said about the heaviest rains in six decades in Bejing, but I cannot find anywhere in the articles how much fell. Any ideas?

Jon Miller

Jon – Here’s an excerpt from a story at msnbc.com: “Meanwhile, Beijing suffered through a 10-hour downpour over the weekend that dumped 6.7 inches of rain in parts of the city and as much as 18 inches in the worst hit parts on the outskirts of Beijing in what is being called the worst flooding to hit the Chinese capital in six decades.”

 

 

Hi Paul and crew.

I left work in Eden Prairie last night about half-past midnight, and headed home to Faribault. What a light show in the south! After stopping midway for gas and a snack at Lakeville Kwik Trip, I continued south on 35. The closer I got to Faribault, the more lightning flashed almost constantly. After the Northfield exit, I felt like I was in a huge Faraday Cage. Lightning was everywhere, including a couple right in front of me. They seemed so close to the road, I half expected fires when I passed the spot. It is not often my commute is so exciting….”

Daniel Jensen

Faribault

* photo courtesy of Eric Jaakkola

Dan – Glad you got home safe and sound. Yes, that was quite a display Monday night, strong enough to knock our power out for 5 hours. There seems to be a correlation between the number of lightning strikes and the potential for severe weather. Any storm that produces more than 25 strikes/minute is probably severe, capable of hail, damaging winds and torrential rains. As much as 2-3″ of rain fell out of some of those storms. The higher the dew point, the more water in the air, the greater the amount of fuel available to power up some memorable storms!

Could “Awe-Therapy” Make Us Nicer? What is awe-therapy, you ask? Great question. It’s those rare moments in your life when there are no words. Here’s a better explanation from theweek.com: “A breathtaking view could be just what the doctor ordered. A new study from Stanford University finds that an awe-inspiring experience — or a moment that overwhelms to the point that time seems to stand still — can improve our mental state and make us nicer people overall. What exactly is “awe therapy,” and why are perfectly reasonable researchers lending the concept credence? ….Stanford psychologists say that awe is the emotion we feel when we encounter something so beautiful that it changes our perspective, at least for the moment. That could range from finding yourself entranced underneath the northern lights to gazing out at a perfect sunset over the Pacific to feeling tiny underneath a moonlit sky full of stars.”

 

Dunkin Donuts Takes A Page Out Of Disney’s Book: Sprays Coffee Scents Into Buses. Hey, I’m being manipulated into craving a sugar donut (but I don’t mind too much). The head-scratching article from thenextweb.com; here’s an excerpt: “Here’s what’s new in the world of awesomely invasive advertising: Dunkin’ Donuts is now spraying the scent of coffee into South Korean buses in order to attract new customers. The technology, as reported by BostInno, works as such: #1. An aromatic sprayer is installed and outfitted with Dunkin’ Donuts coffee smell. #2. Whenever the company jingle is played over the bus radio, the device is triggered, and customers feel the need for a fresh brew.”

 

85 Amazing Animal Photobombs (Slide Show). O.K. My dear sister in Pennsylvania sent me this – as a pet lover how I can I resist. If you’ve had enough news and need a chuckle check out this funny photo essay from Huffington Post: “At this point, it’s pretty clear that animals are by far the best photobombers out there (for proof, just check out our Twitter avatar). Even since last month’s slideshow, the animal kingdom has been hard at work ruining people’s pictures (or making them way, way better, which is the way we prefer to look at it). Check out 40 new and hilarious animal photobombs from the likes of dogs, cats, llamas, dolphins and more at the top of the slideshow below, plus 45 from last month that are still LOL-worthy.

 

Uncle Ben’s To Compete Against Apple With Brand New Smartphone. Uh huh. Then again, the way things are going, I wouldn’t rule anything out. The Onion has more details: “HOUSTON—Hoping to boost profits by cutting into the valuable market share currently occupied by Apple’s popular iPhone 4S, top American rice manufacturer Uncle Ben’s announced plans Tuesday to release its first-ever smartphone. Uncle Ben’s, a company traditionally known for producing white, whole-grain brown, and flavored rices, confirmed a Nov. 23 launch date for its new “Basmati” phone, a 4G-capable device expected to serve as the brand’s flagship product as the company makes its entry into the lucrative mobile technology sector. “Whether it’s instant rice, country-style rice, boil-in-a-bag rice, or smartphones, Uncle Ben’s has always been committed to innovation,” a statement from the company read in part. “In 1942, we introduced the world to easy-to-cook parboiled rice.”

 

 

Million Dollar Rain

I’ve never been happier to see red on the old Doppler radar screen. Some 1-3 inch rainfall amounts were reported over central & southern Minnesota, enough to put a serious dent in moderate drought conditions south of the metro.

Summer rains are always fickle: one town picks up 3 inches, while 10 miles down the road the sun is out, and farmers feel cheated.

Master Gardener Tricia Frostad has some timely advice for your garden: let your lawn grow longer; 3 inches is fine. “Taller grass will help shield the soil and conserve moisture. It will also reduce weeds (which by the way also take up moisture, so keep your gardens weeded as well)” she said. Water in the early morning or evening, and consider mulching; a 3-4″ layer of mulch preserves moisture in your garden. My plants shudder when they see me coming, but I’m trying.

The heaviest storms are winding down; 90+ heat possible today, in spite of a wind shift to the northwest. By Thursday it should feel tolerable, as dew points dip into the 50s.

A dry sky lingers Friday & Saturday; more storms Sunday. Highs flirt with 90 again next week. I’m feeling better about my forecast of 35 days above 90.

Better isn’t quite the right word.

 

Climate Stories….

 

Satellites See Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Melt. Some troubling details from NASA’s JPL, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; here’s an excerpt: “For several days this month, Greenland’s surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations. Nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland, from its thin, low-lying coastal edges to its 2-mile-thick (3.2-kilometer) center, experienced some degree of melting at its surface, according to measurements from three independent satellites analyzed by NASA and university scientists. On average in the summer, about half of the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet naturally melts. At high elevations, most of that melt water quickly refreezes in place. Near the coast, some of the melt water is retained by the ice sheet, and the rest is lost to the ocean. But this year the extent of ice melting at or near the surface jumped dramatically. According to satellite data, an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface thawed at some point in mid-July.

Map credit above: “Extent of surface melt over Greenland’s ice sheet on July 8, 2012 (left) and July 12, 2012 (right). Measurements from three satellites showed that on July 8, about 40 percent of the ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. In just a few days, the melting had dramatically accelerated and an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12. In the image, the areas classified as “probable melt” (light pink) correspond to those sites where at least one satellite detected surface melting. The areas classified as “melt” (dark pink) correspond to sites where two or three satellites detected surface melting.” Image credit: Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory and Nicolo E. DiGirolamo, SSAI and Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory.”

Sea Level Rise And Greenland Ice Melt. More on the implications of accelerating ice melt on Greenland from scienceblogs.com; here’s an excerpt: “…Some have estimated that the Greenland Ice sheet can mostly melt off if there is enough Carbon in the atmosphere. If it did, sea levels would go up about 6 or 7 meters. During the last inter-glacial, sea levels were not THAT much higher than they are now, but they were close. Between the Antarctic and Greenland, there’s plenty of ice to convert to sea. I am concerned that melting conditions in Greenland could cause a lot of that ice to become sea water in a much shorter period of time than current, in my view conservative, predictions suggest. If something similar happens in the Antarctic … a wider and more even spread of warmth in the Southern Hemisphere most years … than there would be more than enough melt-water to produce surprising and catastrophic results.”

 

Climate Scores. How are Minnesota legislators doing on the climate change issue? Click over to Climate Scores and find out for yourself. One of the most important things all of us can do is make our voices heard with our representatives, in St. Paul and in Washington D.C. More from Climate Scores: “We believe in holding Congress accountable on climate change. Find out how your representative has been voting on climate change issues by clicking on the map (above).

 

Will Fire And Brimstone Help In The Fight Against Climate Change? Here’s a portion of an illuminating post from philly.com: “Leave it to some good ol’ hellfire to get the American public believing again in climate change. According to polling done last week by the University of Texas, 70 percent of Americans now believe that the climate is changing, compared to 65 percent just a few months back, and up from a low of 52 percent during the record winter snowfalls of 2010. These changes, of course, come in the wake of record heat across the United States and a widening drought now afflicting 29 states and covering 61 percent of the continental U.S. With the drought damaging crops and driving grain prices up, food prices are likely to rise in the coming months.”

Climate Change’s Costs Hit The Plate. The impact on agriculture? This summer may be a cautionary tale. We’ve always had heat waves and drought, but scientists are increasingly concerned that we’re loading the dice in favor of more frequent and intense drought. Here’s an excerpt from theglobeandmail.com: “In the past few years, agricultural scientists have shown that crops critical to humankind’s caloric supply – including corn and soybeans – are extremely sensitive to even short periods of high temperature. Output of these crops increases as the temperature rises to about 30 Celsius, but then it falls sharply as the temperature keeps rising. For instance, just one day of 40-degree (Celsius) weather will produce a 7-per-cent drop in the annual yield of corn compared with its yield if the temperature stays at 29 through the growing season. In the past, 40 degrees might have seemed unusual, but nowadays it isn’t. In recent weeks, temperatures have topped this level repeatedly in key corn-growing states such as Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. The U.S. grain-growing regions are being hit, in fact, by a particularly brutal combination of drought and high heat.”

 

Drought Grips Nation And Shows What Climate Change Does To Our CommunitiesHuffington Post has the story; here’s an excerpt: “The worst drought in 50 years has descended on America and left communities struggling to cope. “If no significant rain comes, I will have to go out of business,” explained Karen Harrelson, one of many farmers and ranchers fighting to hang on through the drought. “I just don’t have any grass and won’t be able to afford the hay prices.” She has already been forced to sell 100 of her 250 herd of cattle. The summer from hell continues to bring wave after wave of extreme weather events, and each one provides yet another example of what climate change is doing to our families and businesses. After the fires and heat waves, came the drought. The National Weather Service’s Drought Monitor said more than half the country is in its grip and nearly 1,300 counties have been designated disaster areas as a result. The number of lives impacted and the amount of money lost will be tallied for months and years to come.”

Photo credit above: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune.

 

Environmentalists Target 5 Republicans Who Question Humans’ Impact On Climate. Here’s an excerpt from a story at The Washington Post: “The League of Conservation Voters will launch a $1.5 million campaign Tuesday targeting five House Republicans who question the connection between human activity and climate change, in an effort to test whether the issue can sway voters. Prominent conservative Republicans have challenged the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and other sources are transforming the Earth’s climate. But it has not emerged as a central issue in a national political campaign, and President Obama, who pushed unsuccessfully for national limits on greenhouse gas emissions at the start of his term, has played down the issue over the past two years.” (File photo above: Wikipedia).

 

With Warming, Peril Underlies Road To Alaska. The Alaska Highway is under assault from a variety of factors, including warming and rapid melting of permafrost. Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times: “…But today the Alcan faces challenges that could not have been predicted when it was built. By far the biggest is permafrost, the permanently frozen ground that underlies much of the road. As the climate warms, stretches of permafrost are no longer permanent. They are melting — leaving pavement with cracks, turning asphalt into washboard and otherwise threatening the stability of the road. Not all of the melting is due to climate change. Road improvements like heat-absorbing dark pavement alter conditions in the ground beneath, particularly if a lens of ice lies close to the surface. Merely removing roadside vegetation to uncover dark soil can have a melting effect.”

Photo credit above: “In an undated handout photo, cracking on the shoulder of the Alaska Highway north of Burwash Landing, Yukon. The highway, built during World War II, is now facing big challenges, including the effects of climate change on the underlying permafrost. (Government of Yukon via The New York Times).”

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ABOUT ME

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Welcome to the WeatherNation blog. Every day I sift through hundreds of stories, maps, graphics and meteorological web sites, trying to capture some of the most interesting weather nuggets, the stories behind the forecast. I’ll link to stories and share some of the web sites I use. I’m still passionate about the weather, have been ever since Tropical Storm Agnes flooded my home in Lancaster, PA in 1972. I’ve started 5 weather-related companies. “EarthWatch” created the world’s first 3-D weather graphics for TV stations – Steven Spielberg used our software in “Jurassic Park” and “Twister”. My last company, “Digital Cyclone”, personalized weather for cell phones. “My-Cast” was launched in 2001 and is still going strong on iPhone, Android and Blackberry. I sold DCI to Garmin in 2007 so I could focus on my latest venture: WeatherNation. I also write a daily weather column for The Star Tribune startribune.com/weather And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather

 

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