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A Jet Stream Odyssey (large north-south swings sparking unusually severe weather over Northern Hemisphere)

Jet Stream Odyssey



“I would be willing to pay a monthly fee for this unbelievable weather” my friend Heidi texted me, in a state of unmitigated weather bliss up on Pelican Lake. It’s been a perfect week, a well-timed example of how extraordinary Minnesota’s skies can be by mid-summer.



The same quirky weather holding pattern responsible for record heat and wildfires out west and flooding rains east of the mighty Mississippi, is keeping us dry and sun-sational.



And I’m not the only meteorologist baffled by the configuration of the jet stream. Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters writes “This week’s extreme jet stream pattern is the third time in the past five weeks that we’ve seen a highly amplified ridge-trough pattern that has led to extreme weather.”



From record heat in northern Canada & Scandinavia to historic flooding in central Europe and Calgary, these wild north-south swings in steering level winds are creating more jaw-dropping extremes.



Dew points rise today, fueling a few T-storms by the weekend, but highs reach the 80s; plenty warm for the lake or pool. Better than average for a major holiday.



The older I get the less I take for granted. Like a picture-postcard-perfect 4th of July.

Gulf Coast Soaking. The same fire-hose of moisture that drenched the Florida Panhandle, Georgia, Alabama and much of the Mid South will drift west, dropping som e2-4″ rainfall amounts from Mobile, to New Orleans and Houston by Sunday. The risk of showers and T-storms increases over the Upper Midwest, while the eastern seaboard and west coast remains dry for the next 84 hours. NAM model data courtesy of NOAA.

2013 Half Year Weather Report Card. We’re a little more than halfway thru 2013; I thought this would be a good opportunity to step back and take a larger look at trends so far this year. In today’s edition of Climate Matters: “We’re halfway through 2013. How does this year compare? WeatherNation Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas looks at temperature records, precipitation, storm reports and much more. How has the first half of 2013 been for you in the weather department?


Extreme Jet Stream Bringing U.S. Record Heat, Record Cold, And Flash Flooding. Here’s an excerpt of a post from Weather Underground meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters that quantifies how a high-amplitude jet stream pattern, unusual for mid-summer, is wreaking havoc with weather from coast to coast: “The jet steam is exhibiting unusual behavior over the U.S., a pattern we’ve seen become increasingly common in summertime over the past decade. There’s a sharp trough of low pressure over the Central U.S., and equally sharp ridges of high pressure over the Western U.S. and East Coast. Since the jet acts as the boundary between cool, Canadian air to the north and warm, subtropical air to the south, this means that hot extremes are penetrating unusually far to the north under the ridges of high pressure, and cold extremes are extending unusually far to the south under the trough of low pressure. The ridge over the Western U.S., though slowly weakening, is still exceptionally intense. This ridge, which on Sunday brought Earth its highest temperatures in a century (129°F or 54°C in Death Valley, California), was responsible for more record-breaking heat on Tuesday. July 2. Most notably, Redding, California hit 116°, just 2° short of their all-time record. Death Valley had a low of 104°, the second hottest night on record since 1920 (the hottest was just last summer!) Numerous daily high temperature records were set in Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. It was the opposite story in the Central U.S., where the southwards-plunging jet stream allowed record cold air to invade Texas. Waco, Texas, hit 58°F this morning (July 3), the coldest temperature ever measured in July in the city…”

Graphic credit above: “Jet stream winds in the upper atmosphere at a pressure level of 300 mb on July 3, 2013. The jet had an unusually extreme configuration for summer, with a sharp trough of low pressure over the Central U.S., and equally sharp ridges of high pressure over the Western U.S. and East Coast.” Image from the wunderground jet stream page.



June Climate Highlights. Here’s an excerpt from a comprehensive summary of a very wet June, statewide, courtesy of Greg Spoden at the Minnesota Climatology Working Group and the Minnesota DNR: “June totals were well above historical averages in most Minnesota counties, except for far northern Minnesota where rainfall was somewhat below average. In some communities, especially in southeast counties, monthly precipitation totals topped the long-term average by more than 4”.

* Persistently wet weather during June hampered many outdoor activities. Field working conditions for agriculture were often poor. Occurrences of rural and urban flooding were reported throughout the month. Of particular note was an eight inch-plus rainfall reported in northwest Wilkin County on June 25-26.

* Season-to-date precipitation totals top historical averages in most MInnesota counties. April-through-June precipitation totals in some southeast Minnesota counties were in excess of 24″, exceeding the historical average by an astounding 12 or more inches.

* Just four percent of Minnesota’s landscape is in Moderate Drought, a substantial improvement over early April, when 67 percent of Minnesota was experiencing Extreme or Severe drought.

* Stream discharge values are well above historical medians at many gauging locations, and lake levels are responding upward to ample spring and early summer precipitation.

As Arizona Fire Rages, Scientists Warn Of More Unpredictable Blazes. Here’s a clip from a story at The Los Angeles Times: “Early morning is a frenetic time at a wildfire command post. Biologists, meteorologists, foresters and firefighters hustle into tents and grab laptops to review overnight reports, prepping for the day’s assault. Fire behavior analysts run computer models that spit out information crucial to putting out the blaze: how many acres a fire will probably burn, in which direction and with what intensity. In recent years, the models have been rendered practically obsolete, unable to project how erratic Western fires have become, making tactical decisions more difficult for fire bosses and the fire lines less safe for crews in the field. The analytical work performed by fire scientists here at the National Interagency Fire Center also confirms what seems anecdotally evident: Wildfires are getting bigger — the average fire is now five times as large as it was in the 1980s — and these enormous conflagrations have a breathtaking facility to dance and grow. Unforeseen winds are swerving and turning on fire crews, and it’s no longer unusual for fires to double in size in a day...”

Photo credit above: Los Angeles Times.

* weather conditions at the time of the Yarnell Hills blaze, and what can be done, technologically, to get more current weather information to the firefighters in the line of danger, from Wildfire Today.

This Is America On Fire. Here’s a clip from a good summary at NationalJournal: “As of Tuesday, 1.8 million acres (an area the size of Delaware) in the United States have been burned by wildfires this year—and about a half a million of those acres are currently ablaze. Earlier this week, 19 elite firefighters died trying to contain a wildfire in Arizona. Colorado experienced its most destructive fire of all time last month, consuming more than 500 homes. But according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center, 1.8 million acres is actually typical for this time of year. The 10-year average for acres burned between January and July is 2.4 million…”

Photo credit above: “A fire eight miles northwest of Prescott, Ariz., blazes behind a row of houses June 24.” (

Budget Cuts Trim Federal Wildfire Spending. Here’s a clip of a story from AP and ABC News: “This year’s across-the-board budget cuts are slicing tens of millions of dollars from the federal government’s funds for battling wildfires, reductions that have meant fewer firefighters and could cause agencies to dip into other programs designed to prevent future blazes. The U.S. Forest Service’s $2 billion-a-year firefighting budget, which comprises the bulk of the federal effort, has been reduced by 5 percent, a cut that has meant 500 fewer firefighters and 50 fewer fire engines than last year, agency officials say. The Interior Department’s $37.5 million reduction has meant 100 fewer seasonal firefighter positions and other lost jobs as well, department officials say…”

Photo credit above: “A wildfire burns homes in the Glenn Ilah area near Yarnell, Ariz., June 30, 2013.” (David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic/AP Photo)

There are currently 27 fires in the northeast section of Manitoba. These fires have burned over 126,000 hectares (over 311,000 acres). Showers have lowered wildfire danger levels in most areas of the province with the exception of northeastern Manitoba where conditions continue to remain dry.Read more at:


There are currently 27 fires in the northeast section of Manitoba. These fires have burned over 126,000 hectares (over 311,000 acres). Showers have lowered wildfire danger levels in most areas of the province with the exception of northeastern Manitoba where conditions continue to remain dry.Read more at:


Comediens In Cars Getting Coffee. This is Jerry Seinfeld’s new on-line project, in conjuntion with Sony Entertainment, a series of video shorts with different comediens (and cars). Cool concept, and great execution. It’s funny too. Check out the web site here.

Climate Stories…

U.N. Charts “Unprecedented” Global Warming Since 2000. Here’s an excerpt from Bloomberg Businessweek: “The planet has warmed faster since the turn of the century than ever recorded, almost doubling the pace of sea-level increase and causing a 20-fold jump in heat-related deaths, the United Nations said. The decade through 2010 was the warmest for both hemispheres and for land and sea, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization said today in an e-mailed report examining climate trends for the beginning of the millennium. Almost 94 percent of countries logged their warmest 10 years on record, it said. “The decadal rate of increase between 1991-2000 and 2001-2010 was unprecedented,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement. “Rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are changing our climate, with far-reaching implications for our environment and our oceans…”

Look At This Chart And Then Try To Say Global Warming Doesn’t Exist. Here’s more on the latest WMO report, courtesy of Quartz: “The World Meteorological Organization just released its Global Climate Report (pdf), which wastes no time in announcing a stark truth. The report’s first sentence: “The first decade of the 21st century was the warmest decade recorded since modern measurements began around 1850.” Nine out of ten years between 2001 and 2010 were among the ten warmest in recorded history, according to the report, and the warmest year to date was 2010. For those worried about glacier melting, the heat spike wasn’t isolated to land. The decade was warmest for both land and ocean surface temperatures. In case anyone still doubts the existence of global warming, take a gander at this chart.”

Graphic credit here.

Climate Change Is The Next $10 Trillion Opportunity. For the record, as an entrepreneur, I agree. But the train is leaving the station. Here’s a portion of an Op-Ed at Yahoo Finance: “…President Obama made clear that he believes in our entrepreneurs, investors, and corporations who bringing climate change solutions to market. What he did not do is inspire thousands more to join them to unleash a climate wealth economy. These folks are all motivated to do well by doing good. Our inspiration is not to just fix climate change, it is to ignite the next economy by meeting our energy needs using climate change solutions. Climate change is a trillion dollar opportunity masquerading a crisis. The next step for the president is to jump-start this next economy with the federal government taking the lead. As much as I respect Europe and China, America is still the last remaining superpower. Countries around the world are looking not just for the moral message, but also for actions that drive the global economy. An American president can powerfully lead the world economy by dismissing the belief to solve climate change we must all sacrifice. Rather he needs to spread the message that climate change solutions represent the largest wealth creation opportunity of our lifetime…”

At One Army Base, A Vision For A New Shade of Green. Here’s an excerpt of an upbeat, empowering story about innovation in the military from the Los Angeles Times: “…If a base is self-sufficient, it becomes less vulnerable to outside threats, such as power outages, Pittard believes. And if the United States and other countries husband their resources now, perhaps they could avoid future wars. “Most of us have been deployed three, four, five times,” Pittard said. “If we do something like reduce our dependence on oil from the Middle East, maybe we’d be fighting fewer wars over there.”  The Pentagon says it has made overhauling energy use a priority. The U.S. military is one of the world’s largest consumers of fossil fuels, but by 2025, it plans to draw at least 25% of its energy from renewable sources. The Navy’s fighter planes have begun to burn biofuel. The Pentagon is experimenting with plug-in nontactical vehicles at several bases…”

Photo credit above: “Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, as commander of the Army’s Ft. Bliss, pressed to set up environmental measures.” (Sgt. Valerie Lopez / September 10, 2010)

Business Journalists: Climate Change Deniers Have No Place In Our Reporting. What the heck is going on over at CNBC? Here’s an excerpt from Media Matters: “Climate change deniers should not be given a place in business coverage at a time when industries from agriculture to insurance are making real financial decisions dealing with its impact, according to some of the nation’s top business journalists. Last month Media Matters reported that more than half of the climate change segments on CNBC this year cast doubt on man-made climate change. That network’s coverage drew criticism from top business journalists who said such coverage does not serve their viewers. “It doesn’t seem to me at this point to be a point of serious controversy within the corporate establishment,” said Paul Barrett a Bloomberg BusinessWeek reporter (Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s sister company Bloomberg News is a CNBC competitor). “The insurance industry, which is a key barometer of these things, has reached the conclusion that whatever your politics are on this, the costs of extreme weather are so great and the patterns over the last couple of decades are so distinct that the corporate establishment absolutely must recognize these risks…”

Has The Republican Party Stopped Denying Climate Science, And Will They Begin Participating In The Solutions? The Guardian has the story – here’s the intro: “Given that nearly 70 percent of Republicans in Congress and 90 percent of the party’s congressional leadership deny the reality of human-caused global warming, you might expect them to attack President Obama’s climate plan on scientific grounds. On the contrary, Republican politicians have critiqued President Obama’s plan almost entirely on the economics. Even Senator James Inhofe, who wrote an entire book based around the absurd premise that “global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” did not even touch upon climate science when responding to the climate plan. This is a fascinating turn of events. Perhaps Republican politicians have decided that disputing the consensus of 97% of climate research and climate experts is a losing proposition. Whatever the reason, the shift away from science denial toward the economics debate is a welcome one. As even the right-wing Washington Times admitted, remaining entrenched in climate science denial has prevented the Republican Party from becoming involved in discussions about the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the least impact on the economy…”

Cartoon above courtesy of Tom Toles, at The Washington Post.

Church Dropping Fossil Fuel Investments. Here’s a clip from The New York Times: “The United Church of Christ has become the first American religious body to vote to divest its pension funds and investments from fossil fuel companies because of climate change concerns. The Protestant denomination, which traces its origins to the Pilgrims in 1620 and has about 1.1 million members, voted on Monday to divest in stages over the next five years…”

Was Paul Revere An Alarmist? Here’s a tongue in cheek, but devastatingly effective Op-Ed from Huffington Post: “On this Independence Day, it is worth reflecting on the willingness of our founding fathers to sacrifice their own comforts for the future–for many generations to come, including ours. They didn’t argue about discount rates, or how expensive it would be, or if fighting the British would be cost effective in the long run. Imagine what would have happened if the “skeptics” had been given equal time, or if the patriots had lacked the will to “mitigate the threat”.

“The weight of evidence suggests that it is ‘very likely’ (probability greater than 90%) that the British are coming. I am not advocating any specific mitigation or adaptation response.” (Paul Revere, if he had been a climate scientist)


“We should refrain from asserting that the British are (or are not) coming without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon information that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts.” (Fox News, if cable TV had existed in 1775)…”



This Is What Climate Change Looks Like: Top 10 Most Expensive Climate Disasters of 2012. Here’s a story from Huffington Post that provides some perspective, more examples of how a warmer, wetter climate is fueling more extreme storms – and consequences: “On Tuesday President Obama released his climate action plan — and not a moment too soon. Extreme weather has been pounding the U.S., and while pundits and the fossil fuel industry will claim action is too expensive, the cost of inaction is far too much to bear. In 2012 there were 11 climate disasters that cost more than $1 billion each, according to NOAA. Below are the 10 most expensive.

1. Hurricane Sandy – cost $65.7 billion and caused 159 deaths

Hurricane Sandy touched down on U.S. soil on October 29 after leaving a path of destruction through Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. Sandy was the second-costliest and deadliest hurricane ever to hit the U.S. after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A total of 24 states were affected, with thousands of homes destroyed and millions of people left without electricity. Of the direct deaths, the storm caused 48 direct deaths and 87 additional indirect deaths.”

Photo credit upper left: EPA/MASTER SGT. MARK OLSEN / US AIR FORCE
Photo credit upper right: NWS Meteorologist Samuel Shea

A Decade Of Weather Extremes. Here is a PDF of a Cournou-Rahmstorf paper published in March, 2012 that sums up weather and climate extremes during the first decade of the 21st century.

2001-2010: A Decade of Climate Extremes. Here is more from the WMO, the World Meteorological Organization: “…The decade was the warmest for both hemispheres and for both land and ocean surface temperatures. The record warmth was accompanied by a rapid decline in Arctic sea ice, and accelerating loss of net mass from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and from the world’s glaciers. As a result of this widespread melting and the thermal expansion of sea water, global mean sea levels rose about 3 millimetres (mm) per year, about double the observed 20th century trend of 1.6 mm per year. Global sea level averaged over the decade was about 20 cm higher than that of 1880, according to the report….”

* The BBC has more details on the record number of climate extremes during the first decade of the 21st century.



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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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