Severe Outbreak East Coast & Growing Frost Threat in the Northern States Sep 18, 2012

“…Incredibly, in some areas, even in “Tornado Alley,” public shelters are closing because of manpower issues, inflexible Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, or underfunding for emergency management. Certainly, homes can be built more cheaply and quickly on a slab – and for a generation now, we have built homes without basements, resulting in homes that have greatly decreased tornado survivability. However, basements can be built almost anywhere, notwithstanding claims that the water table is too high. More basements, storm cellars, and safe rooms simply must be built in more of “tornado country.” – from a post about protecting populations from tornadoes and other deadly weather risks at below.


Severe Weather Outbreak. Conditions are ripe for a squall line with hail, straight-line winds, even an isolated tornado for much of the east coast later today. SPC has a slight risk from New York southward to Atlanta and Savannah.

The most frequently described experiences of global warming were changes in seasons (36 per cent), weather (25 per cent), lake levels (24 per cent), changes in plant and animal species (20 per cent) and snowfall (19 per cent). Notably, most of these perceived signals were indeed borne out of regional climatic records.” – from a story at The Calgary Herald below.

F-F-F-Freeze Warnings and Frost Advisories. No frosty worries here in the Twin Cities metro, at least not yet – a few outlying suburbs waking up to upper 30s. A Freeze Warning is posted for far northern Minnesota (north of a line from Brainerd to Duluth) for a few hours colder than 28-30, which may kill off a significant amount of plant life (and ragweed!). A Frost Advisory is posted for Willmar, St. Cloud and Marshall –  I suspect a much closer call over the weekend, especially Sunday morning, when even close-in suburbs of the Twin Cities may come very close to 32 F.

Cold Enough Aloft For Flurries (and Frost). The map above shows the ECMWF (European) outlook for Saturday evening, a massive wrinkle of cold air aloft hovering above the Upper Midwest and Great lakes. Clouds will form during the day Saturday, and depending on cloud cover the stage may be set for a frost for some Twin Cities suburbs Saturday morning, again early Sunday. The downtowns should remain frost-free, but from Medina to Ham Lake to Stillwater and Lakeville, I suspect a little frost may be on the pumpkin by 7 am Sunday morning. Map: WSI.

Evidence Linking Arctic Amplification To Extreme Weather In Mid-Latitudes. This study caught my eye earlier this year, and with record melting over the Arctic I thought it might be timely to highlight the findings once again. The impact of a warmer Arctic (slower jet stream winds over mid-latitudes favoring high-amplitude patterns which can cause weather to stall for days, even weeks) tends to be most pronounced in spring and autumn. Here’s the abstract at GRL, Geophysical Research Letters: “Arctic amplification (AA) – the observed enhanced warming in high northern latitudes relative to the northern hemisphere – is evident in lower-tropospheric temperatures and in 1000-to-500 hPa thicknesses. Daily fields of 500 hPa heights from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction Reanalysis are analyzed over N. America and the N. Atlantic to assess changes in north-south (Rossby) wave characteristics associated with AA and the relaxation of poleward thickness gradients. Two effects are identified that each contribute to a slower eastward progression of Rossby waves in the upper-level flow: 1) weakened zonal winds, and 2) increased wave amplitude. These effects are particularly evident in autumn and winter consistent with sea-ice loss, but are also apparent in summer, possibly related to earlier snow melt on high-latitude land. Slower progression of upper-level waves would cause associated weather patterns in mid-latitudes to be more persistent, which may lead to an increased probability of extreme weather events that result from prolonged conditions, such as drought, flooding, cold spells, and heat waves.”

* Meteorologist Andrew Freedman at Climate Central has a good explanation of this paper and recent trends, how an Arctic warming twice as fast as mid-latitudes may be impacting our weather here at home – reprinted from earlier this year.

The Texas Hurricane Season Is Over. Here’s an excerpt of interesting post (with some great facts and figures) from Eric Berger at The Houston Chronicle: “Writing this is crazy. Preposterous, really. After all the Atlantic hurricane season just reached its historical peak intensity last week. But you only live once, so here goes: Hurricane season for Texas is probably, likely, pretty much and almost certainly over. Oh, enough hedging — it’s over people.

Let’s list the reasons.

1. Nothing appears likely to affect Texas over the next 10 days, reliable models suggest.

2. After Sept. 24, the historical odds of Texas getting hit by a hurricane are 1-in-50, meaning it’s happened three times in the last 150 years. So it’s rare.”

* graph above courtesy of NOAA and The Houston Chronicle.

Lengthy Airline Delays In July Blamed Mostly On Storms. Wait, wasn’t there a sprawling heat wave and drought in July? Around the edge of the heat-bubble-high there were strong to severe storms, and they had more impact on airlines than winter storms will ever have. Here’s an excerpt from The Los Angeles Times: “Severe summer storms in Chicago were blamed for most of the 18 lengthy delays that kept passengers stuck on grounded planes in July, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported Monday. Federal rules that took effect in 2010 prohibit airlines from keeping passengers stranded on a grounded domestic flight for more than three hours without allowing passengers to return to the terminal. On international flights, the limit is four hours. Airlines that violate the rules can be fined up to $27,500 per passenger. The Department of Transportation is investigating 18 tarmac delays of more than three hours for domestic flights that took place in July and one international flight that was delayed for more than four hours.”

Photo above: AP, courtesy of Owen Humphreys.

Helping At-Risk Populations Survive Tornadoes. No matter how good the technology is, or the amount of time between when a tornado is detected and when it arrives, you can never guarantee a happy ending for everyone. Even with 30 minutes advanced notice a significant percentage of the population may not have a safe place to ride out an EF-3+ tornado. I found this to be a very insightful article from a couple of researchers, appearing at; here’s an excerpt: “…It is assumed that how the population utilizes this information is a matter for emergency preparedness teams. Unfortunately, there is no real fix for irrational human behavior. People will make bad and sometimes deadly decisions for stupid reasons, even when they are educated enough to know better. No NWS terminology can “cut through” this clutter, unless a disaster arrives – and then it’s too late. Just as important, additional lead time does little for at-risk populations that cannot evacuate and must seek “shelter-in-place.”  The poor, the elderly, people with disabilities, and people without adequate shelter (travelers and those living in mobile homes or pre-fabricated housing) have disproportionate death rates in tornadoes. Especially for elderly or disabled people, the alternative to “sheltering-in-place” is being caught in a car while en route to a shelter when the storm hits. And economically disadvantaged families often live in substandard housing that lacks adequate shelter.”

Photo above courtesy of Kent Nickell, taken near West Liberty, Kentucky.

Tornado Victim’s Family Names Joplin Wal-Mart In Wrong-Full Death Suit. Here’s an excerpt of a story at The Joplin Globe: “The family of a man killed inside the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Range Line Road during the May 22, 2011, tornado has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Arkansas corporation and the store’s manager. Janice Kirk and Jodelle Kirk, both of Joplin, are listed as plaintiffs in a lawsuit that was filed July 31 in Jasper County Circuit Court and transferred Friday to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. They are the wife and daughter, respectively, of Stanley Kirk, 62, an aircraft engine technician who died as a result of injuries suffered during the EF-5 tornado that led to the deaths of 161 people.” Image credit above: NOAA.

On Our Radar: Nuclear Plants And Flood Risks. Most nuclear plants rely on nearby rivers for cooling, which as all fine and well until major floods threaten. Here’s a clip from a New York Times article: “An engineer within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission accuses its regulators of deliberately covering up information related to the vulnerability of nuclear power plants that sit downstream from large dams and reservoirs. [The Huffington Post] Tree deaths from insects and diseases have plunged recently in the United States, mainly because mountain pine beetles are running out of food, the Forest Service says. But the next cycle of infestation is well under way in the south-central Rockies, where spruce beetles are devastating mature trees. [The Summit County Voice]

Photo credit above: Associated Press. “The Fort Calhoun nuclear plant in Nebraska in June 2011, when it was surrounded by floodwaters.”

Q&A: Geologist David Montgomery On Noah’s Flood. I read this book review at The Seattle Times and it resonated – here’s a quick excerpt from a longer read: “David Montgomery goes where most scientists might fear to tread. The University of Washington geologist and MacArthur Fellow has written a new book, “The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood” (Norton), which takes on the polarized argument between science and some Christians over the very nature of creation. What could be more charged than the debate between “young earth” creationists, who believe the world was made by God less than 10,000 years ago, and geologists, who peg the age of the Earth at about 4.54 billion years? But Montgomery has written a thoughtful, readable book that respects both sides.” Photo: The Peope’s Forum.

BMW To Show New i3 Concept In Paris. Talk about pushing the envelope – you may not appreciate the asthetics, but something tells me BMW will do very well with the i3 and the beefed-up, more elegant i8. Here’s an overview from “BMW will present a new version of its i3 Concept electric vehicle at the Paris Motor Show later this month. This time around, BMW is emphasizing its holistic approach to sustainability by focusing not just on the all-electric drive-train and extensive use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) to reduce weight, but on the renewable materials employed to put the finishing touches on the high-tech interior.”


The Big Slide


Addison Green stuck his head in my office, a look of bemused horror on his face. One of 12 TV meteorologists on the air here at WeatherNation, our new national channel focused on 24/7 weather, he had just flown in from his boyhood home in New York City. “What can I expect Paul? Is it going to be as rough as everyone says?”

I scratched my jaw thoughtfully. “I have no idea” I confided. “But odds are it won’t be average”.

We’ll either have another easy winter (courtesy of an El Nino warm phase of the Pacific) or we’ll get hammered, like 2 winters ago. I’m leaning toward the former, based on the historic warmth of 2012, but at this point nothing would surprise me.

A Freeze Watch is posted up north this morning, but the metro stays frost-free into Friday. On average (ha!) we enjoy our first 32 F. low October 4, our first flurries by October 15-20; the first 1 inch of snow greases up area highways by November 2.

A hiccup of warmth Wednesday (70F) will be drowned out by repeated sneezes of October-like air; a stronger push of Cool Canadian Fun arrives by the weekend. If skies clear Saturday night we may see our first suburban frost. It’ll be close.

Hang in there Addison.


Climate Stories…

Droughts Latest Wrinkle In Climate Debate. The story from Politico; here’s an excerpt: “Climate change is here. Even those who differ over its cause agree that it’s happening. In the United States alone, 28,570 high-heat records have been set so far this year, more than ever before, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported this month. As if that weren’t problem enough, the world is also plunging into another major food crisis. And what most people don’t know is that the two issues are directly related. Food prices “soared by 10 percent in July” alone, the World Bank said, because of “an unprecedented summer of droughts” worldwide. The U.S. is hardly the only nation affected, but the Department of Agriculture said more than half of this nation’s counties have been designated disaster zones because of the summer’s devastating drought, including many major food producers. That has never happened before either.”

Photo credit above: “Experts said they don’t know if this food-price spike will be as severe as the one in 2008.” | AP Photo


Financial Cost Of Climate Change Seriously Underestimated By U.S. Government Calculations. has the story; here’s a clip: “I’m not really sure economic calculations play much role in how the US government approaches climate change policy, thanks entirely to philosophical obstructionism and corporate lobbying in Congress, but this is nevertheless serious business: A new study in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences shows that current calculations on the future financial impacts of climate change are being underestimated by the US government somewhere between 2.6 and 12 times. Report co-author Laurie Johnson from NRDC explains the full economic reasoning in two though blogs, but the the gist of it is that the government uses a figure for the damage caused by carbon pollution at $21 per ton of CO2, wheres a more accurate estimate is in the range of $55-266 per ton—and that’s for a middle-of-the-road climate scenario, not worst case.”

Photo credit above: Jerry Angelica Photography/CC BY-ND 2.0

False Balance Lives: In Worst Climate Story Of The Year PBS Channels Fox News. I watched the PBS NewsHour yesterday, as I do every day, and my jaw almost hit the floor. Joe Romm at Think Progress sums up the severe journalistic disconnect: “If you happened to be watching the PBS News Hour tonight, you probably thought the show had been hijacked by Fox News. At first, their climate segment seemed to be about Koch-funded former “skeptic” Richard Muller and his conversion to scientific reality. But then PBS decided that the way to “balance” a former skeptic who merely confirmed what climate scientists have demonstrated repeatedly for decades was by quoting nonsense from Sen. James Inhofe and then giving an extended interview to former TV weatherman and current A-list disinformer Anthony Watts. The video of the show itself isn’t online yet, but I’ll post it when it is. It should forever kill the absurd notion that false balance is dead — or that the News Hour has some sort of liberal bias. Not that this is news — see the CP post from May, “False Balance On Climate Change at PBS NewsHour.”

Climate Change Threat More Real To Those With Perceived Personal Experience: Study. Some interesting data points in this story from The Calgary Herald; here’s an excerpt: “We have dramatically shrinking glaciers. We have freight trains of science. We have adorable polar bears treading water. But wouldn’t you know it, what really makes us fret over climate change is making it all about us. A new study finds that a feeling of “personally experiencing” global warming heightens people’s perception of risks related to the environmental phenomenon – and particularly those risks germane to where they live. Changes to the seasons, unusual weather, water levels, snowfall patterns and shifts related to plants and animals were among the most common signs cited by laypeople.”

Deniers Lose. Freedom Of Thought Wins. The Koch Brothers Have No Right To Read Your Mail. Peter Sinclair has the latest at Climate Crocks: “A rare-as-hens-teeth-these-days win for freedom of thought, science, truth, justice and the American way. Deniers 0, Smart people, 1. For this week anyway – but then its only monday. Mike Mann’s Facebook Announcement: Breaking: A victory for science! ATI loses ATI/UVa FOIA case. Judge issues final order. Affirms the university’s right to withhold scholarly communications and finds that the documents & personal emails of mine demanded by ATI were indeed protected as the university had contended.”


Court Rules for University of Virginia and Michael Mann Against Denialist Inquisition: Scholarly E-Mail and Documents are Protected Communication. Here’s a good summary of what the courts did in response to a demand for climate scientist Michael Mann’s e-mail correspondence while doing research at UVA from Climate Science Watch: “A Virginia court has affirmed the University of Virginia’s right to withhold confidential scholarly communications, thus ruling against the global warming denialist American Tradition Institute’s demand to make public climate scientist Michael Mann’s documents and email correspondence with dozens of other scientists during his time at UVa. This is an important victory in a case that threatened to send a chilling message to university scholars that they could no longer to expect to engage in personal communications without having the whole world reading over their shoulders.”



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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 And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather

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