WeatherNation Blog

Heat Wave Shrinks & Shifts into Western USA; Hints of September in Northern States

Significant Correction. After simmering thru June and July the pattern is finally shifting, allowing more frequent and intense surges of Canadian air to spill south of the U.S. border. The 8-14 temperature outlook from NOAA SPC shows a cool biast from the Northern Plains into the Great Lakes, hotter than average predicted for the southeast. Map: Ham Weather.

116 new Olympic records set in London. It seems that, for a gloriously quiet, 2 week spell in August, 2012, the world community struck gold.

Photo credit: “This image taken with a fisheye lens shows fireworks during the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London.” (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

 

50 consecutive days of 90+ heat in Wichita, Kansas. The all-time record is 52 days/row.

The government’s latest estimate of this year’s harvest, released Friday, was even worse than expected. After predicting a bumper crop of nearly 15 billion bushels of corn in June, the USDA Friday predicted a harvest of less than 11 billion bushels, 13 percent below last year’s level. Expected corn yields were slashed from June’s estimate of 166 bushels per acre to just 123 bushels, some 25 percent below normal. Inventories of soybeans, widely used as livestock feed from India to Indiana, will be the smallest in nine years.” – from an NBC News summary of the drought; details below.

Photo credit above: “Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) examines soybeans growing on John Askew’s farm, which has been affected by drought, in Thurman, Iowa, Aug. 10, 2012. With lawmakers at home for a Congressional summer recess, constituents are venting their anger over delays in enacting a new five-year farm bill.” (Steve Hebert/The New York Times)

However, the summer figures provide the real shock. In 2004 there was about 13,000 cubic kilometres of sea ice in the Arctic. In 2012, there is 7,000 cubic kilometres, almost half the figure eight years ago. If the current annual loss of around 900 cubic kilometres continues, summer ice coverage could disappear in about a decade in the Arctic.” – excerpt from an article at The Guardian below; new research from The European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 satellite suggests summer ice loss in the Arctic is 50% higher than computer models have been predicting.

 

As a single individual, none of us can alter such massive and overwhelming situation. It seems utterly meaningless to foul our planetary nest. But there is meaning to be found here. The meaning resides in the very source of the problem, human nature. Human beings place their desires ahead of the collective good. We consider ourselves more important than the ecology, which is rooted in the belief that we are above Nature herself, a privileged species that need answer to no one, not Nature, not God….” – Deepak Chopra, from an Op-Ed at sfgate.com; details below.

Grain Prices Soar As Drought Deepens. Here’s an excerpt of a story (and slide show) from NBC News: “The worst American drought in more than half a century is driving up grain prices and deepening worries about global food shortages. With much of the corn crop already lost, farmers are holding out hope for some weather relief that could help salvage the harvest of soybeans and other. But the latest data from the government Friday showed that the damage to the food supply chain already has been done. “This is worse than 2008 — we’re in kind of a perfect storm scenario,” said Ana Puchi-Donnelly, senior agricultural commodities trader at London-based Marex Spectron. “We won’t really know until the whole crop is harvested. We’re talking about the worst drought in the last 50 to 70 years in one of the hottest years on record.”

Photo credit above: “Drought conditions plague much of the United States after a summer of scorching temperatures and a lack of rain. The dryness is affecting America’s farmland, threatening crops like soybean and corn.”

Hundred Year Forecast: Drought. Is drought occuring with greater frequency and intensity? How extraordinary is the current drought – impacting more than 62% of the USA? Here’s an excerpt from an excellent Sunday New York Times story: “…Indeed, scientists see signs of the relationship between warming and drought in western North America by analyzing trends over the last 100 years; evidence suggests that the more frequent drought and low precipitation events observed for the West during the 20th century are associated with increasing temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere. These climate-model projections suggest that what we consider today to be an episode of severe drought might even be classified as a period of abnormal wetness by the end of the century and that a coming megadrought — a prolonged, multidecade period of significantly below-average precipitation — is possible and likely in the American West.”

Graphic credit above: Sources: Henri D. Grissino-Mayer, University of Tennessee, “A 2,129-Year Reconstruction of Precipitation for Northwestern New Mexico, USA,” 1996; David M. Anderson, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climatic Data Center. Graphic: Bill Marsh, The New York Times.

Monday Weather Map. The WRF model, valid at 1 pm today, detects a few lingering showers over Wisconsin (east metro stands the best chance of another shower or sprinkle). The east coast dries out, dry (and very hot) out west. The only rain stretches from an upper level disturbance sparking a swirl of showers from Madison and Chicago south to Memphis.
Monday Severe Threat. A swirl of cold air aloft may help to ignite a few severe storms later today from Louisville and Evansville southward to Memphis and Jackson, Mississippi. Map: SPC.

Pyrocumulus. From the NWS office in Pocatello, Idaho via Mark Zuckerberg: “Hot and dry days are also dangerous days when it comes to wildfires. These conditions often promote large growth and spread of wildfires. This is a classic pyrocumulus cloud from the Halstead Fire near Stanley.” Photo is courtesy of IMET Stefanie Sullivan.

Perseid Meteor Shower. One of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year peaked last weekend, although you may still be able to see a few lucky shooting stars later tonight, as skies finally clear. Details from spaceweather.com: “Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Worldwide observers are now reporting more than 30 Perseids per hour, a number that could triple during the weekend when Earth reaches the heart of the debris zone. Forecasters recommend looking during the dark hours before dawn, especially Sunday morning, August 12th, when activity is expected to be highest.

Olympic Bodies: They Just Don’t Make Them Like They Used To. NPR has a fascinating article (and some great graphics) showing the evolution of Olympic athletes over the years; here’s an excerpt: “The Olympic Games seem to celebrate the extremes of athletic physique — from tiny gymnasts to impossibly huge shot-putters. But why are they shaped that way? We’ve put together an infographic that explores how athletes’ bodies have changed over the last century, and the role physics plays in each event. Here on Shots, we’re taking a look at some of the athletes featured in the graphic.”

“Faster, Higher, Stronger.” Here is an excellent 29 minute YouTube clip from the BBC focused on what it takes to become an Olympic-caliber gymnast: “Part of a series of documentaries looking at the rise in popularity and landmark events in Olympic competition. This episode looked at the development of gymnastics and the rise in popularity thanks to athletes such as Larissa Latynina, Vera Caslavska, Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci.”

Who Knew? My favorite excerpt of the week, courtesy of NPR: ”Condoms have been provided free of charge at the Olympic Village since the 1992 Barcelona Games. And they’ve been distributed in progressively copious amounts. Some 100,000 were provided for Beijing’s 2008 Games, printed with the Olympic motto “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”

 

And The Gold Medal for Wild Debauchery Goes To. What happens when the cameras aren’t on and athletes return to the Olympic Village for the evening? Not sure you want to know. Let’s just say there’s not a lot of reading and Facebooking going on. ESPN has a hair-raising story of what happens, behind the scenes, here.

“Old fishermen never die….they just smell that way.”

 

Olympic Gold

It’s easy to be a cynic these days. Turn on the tube, open up a newspaper – chance are you’ll be shaking your head in despair before the first sip of coffee.

Maybe I’m just getting sappy in my advancing years but I thought the 2012 London Olympics was extraordinary. The athletics were breathtaking, but the stories of courage, comebacks and perseverance struck a real chord. Forget the gold medal count. 116 new Olympic records! A runner with prosthetic legs. For the first time our U.S. team had more women than men participating. Milestone after milestone.

And call me crazy, but I thought NBC did a great job. Some people just like to hear themselves whine.

A local TV news director put it best. “News highlights the worst in human nature: creeps, criminals & deviants. But sports celebrates our best traits – the things that unite all of us as human beings.”

Extreme heat shifts into the western U.S. this week. Leftover clouds today give way to a few days above 80. Strong T-storms late Wednesday signal the arrival of the next puff of cool, Canadian air by late week.

A partly sunny, lukewarm weekend gives way to a few days near 90 next week. Right now I do not see a rerun of sauna-like heat.

I’m OK with that.

 

Photo credit above: ”Fireworks soar over the Olympic Stadium during the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London.” (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Climate Stories….

 

This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations.” Genesis 9:12

 

Arctic Warming 2-4 Times Faster Than The Global Average. Here’s an eye-opening excerpt from a research paper at Geophysical Research Letters: ”The Arctic is warming two to four times faster than the global average. Debate continues on the relative roles of local factors, such as sea ice reductions, versus remote factors in driving, or amplifying Arctic warming. This study examines the vertical profile and seasonality of observed tropospheric warming, and addresses its causes using atmospheric general circulation model simulations. The simulations enable the isolattion and quantification of the role of three controlling factors of Arctic warming: (1) observed Arctic sea ice concentration (SIC) and sea surface temperatures (SST) changes; (2) observed remote SST changes, and (3) direct radiative forcing (DRF) due to observed changes in greenhouse gases, ozone, aerosols, and solar output. Local SIC and SST changes explain a large portion of the observed Arctic near-surface warming, whereas remote SST changes explain the majority of observed warming aloft. DRF has primaritly contributed in Arctic tropospheric warming in summer.”

Rate Of Arctic Summer Sea Ice Loss Is 50% Higher Than Predicted. Some troubling news from the U.K. Guardian; here’s an excerpt: “Sea ice in the Arctic is disappearing at a far greater rate than previously expected, according to data from the first purpose-built satellite launched to study the thickness of the Earth’s polar caps. Preliminary results from the European Space Agency‘s CryoSat-2 probe indicate that 900 cubic kilometres of summer sea ice has disappeared from the Arctic ocean over the past year. This rate of loss is 50% higher than most scenarios outlined by polar scientists and suggests that global warming, triggered by rising greenhouse gas emissions, is beginning to have a major impact on the region. In a few years the Arctic ocean could be free of ice in summer, triggering a rush to exploit its fish stocks, oil, minerals and sea routes.” Photo: NASA.

Sea Ice Decimated, Huge Storm May Have Broken Arctic Ocean Stratification. Some of the climate scientists I’m in touch with were fixated on what was happening at the top of the world last week, a remarkably strong storm for August; central pressure 966 millibars, or 26.54″ mercury. The theory: less ice is triggering more warming and moisture, fueling larger storms and higher winds, which (in turn) may be helping to break up and thin out the remaining Arctic ice. Here’s an excerpt of an article at The Daily Kos: “A huge, long-lived Arctic ocean storm has decimated the sea ice area which was melting out at a record rate before the high waves and winds shattered the Siberian side of the ice cap…..I understand Neven’s position that we should wait and see what the impact of the storm will really be after the clouds are gone, but let me tell you that I have a very bad feeling about this one. Last year, with the “flash melt” during the November storm, I was confident that the “flash melt” was mostly caused by sea water flushing over the ice, which only temporarily (and artificially) confuses the satellite sensors in believing that large swats of ice have turned to water. At that time, the ocean flux data from ITP buoys revealed that ocean water was stirred up down to 25 meter or so, which caused some salty water to bubble up to under the ice, with the potential to ‘flash’ melt out about 10 cm from the bottom of the ice pack.”

Graphic credit above: ”The sea ice area for August 9 was lower this year than in previous years as determined by Cryosphere Today of the University of Illinois. The rate of area loss is the highest since measurements began in 1979.

Arctic Sea Ice Forecast: “It’s Going To Be Tough To Stay Cool”. Here’s a snippet from Gareth Renowden at Climate Change, The Next Generation: “Bad news from the Arctic is piling up as we head into the last few weeks of the melting season. The various measures of sea ice area, volume and extent and plummeting towards a new record minimum. I have therefore reviewed the Arctic sea ice melting seasons since 2007, and compiled my own forecast of how the rest of the year is going to pan out. Remember, you read it here first….

When Arctic sea ice sets a new record low in the next couple of weeks, the usual suspects will say “you can’t trust area, sea ice extent is the only valid metric”.

When Arctic sea ice extent sets a new record low in September, the following arguments will be run in parallel:

* There will be a frantic search for a definition of extent in which a new record was not set.

* There will be a complaint that the satellite record has been blighted by the failure of a sensor and the calibrations needed to get a new sensor in operation have corrupted the record.

* It will be claimed that it was all caused by the major Arctic storm that hit in August, and thus can’t be attributed to global warming.

Photo credit: Kathryn Hansen, NASA.

 

Global Warming And The Meaning Of Doom. This is why so many people turn off their brain when the subject of climate change comes up – they want to avoid the gloom and doom headlines. It’s easier to ignore the subject or deny it altogether. Many feel hopeless, depressed. “What can any one person do?” I get it. In fact many won’t accept a problem until and unless there’s an obvious and viable solution. There are solutions to AGW, but it’s going to take a concerted global effort, putting a price on carbon and methane pollution, and then turning the markets loose to create technologies that can mitigate some of the worst symptoms of a warming atmosphere. Here’s an except of a Deepak Chopra Op-Ed at sfgate.com: “Alarming data and warnings about climate change have been with us for twenty years. The issue has morphed into something like a low-level toothache. The public is numbed by all the bad news, and in place of sensible solutions, we witness the folly of political polarization. You can’t believe in climate change and be a good conservative. This departure from fact-based reality is only part of the problem. China and the U.S., who produce 40% of the world’s harmful emissions, block measures to reverse the trend toward global warming for purely selfish reasons – two rich economies want to preserve the status quo.

One can react to this situation in various ways, leading to a choice of tactics.

 -Mount a vigorous public crusade with greater signals of alarm.

- Rely on future technology to reverse the harm done to the atmosphere.

- Prepare for a future with a drastically different ecological balance.

- Do nothing, except perhaps pray.”

Signs Of Climate Change. Yes, I’ve made a startling discovery: people are much more likely to admit that climate change is taking place during the hot summer months than during February. It’s easy to confuse weather and climate. I was struck by an Op-Ed in The New York Times; here’s an excerpt: “…During hot spells, for example, more people accept that climate is changing, but a colder spell reverses those opinions. Everybody understands weather: it’s hot, cold, raining, snowing, windy and so on. Fewer people understand that a region’s climate is the frequency of such weather events: how often does it rain or get hotter than, say, 90 degrees? The Hansen paper shows that these frequencies have changed substantially, both globally and throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Hot and very hot days have become more frequent; very cold days less frequent.”

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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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