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“Aug-tember” Northern USA While Southwest Bakes (potential for a record wildfire season out west)

2 Aug 2013, 5:46 am



If this keeps up I may have to fly to Greenland, or possibly Fairbanks, Alaska to warm up. 30 days above 80F at Fairbanks so far this year, and counting. The same persistent kink in the jet stream steering winds pushing record warmth into Alaska and western Canada is nudging a family of cool fronts into the northern USA.



Maybe I’m getting senile – or the Doppler is frying my brain, but what’s not to like about this weather pattern? Blue sky, low humidity, no severe storms churning overhead? Go ahead and unplug the A/C. You won’t need it looking out the next 2 weeks.



While wildfires rage out west and persistent T-storms soak the south some of the best weather in America will be floating overhead into the weekend. A reinforcing puff of Canadian air may spark a lonely shower tonight, but a dry sky spills over into the weekend, highs in the mid to upper 70s. No drama.



Showers & T-storms return early next week, followed by another swipe of September-like air late next week. If you’re heading north you’ll need a few sweatshirts.



Keep the cool fronts in perspective. In my weather blog (below): U.S. wildfires in 2012 burned an area greater than New Jersey, Delaware & Connecticut combined.



2013 will be worse.


“…At a Senate hearing in June, United States Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell testified that the average wildfire today burns twice as many acres as it did 40 years ago. “In 2012, over 9.3 million acres burned in the United States,” he said – an area larger than New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware combined…” – from a Rolling Stone article; details below. Image: NOAA.

Saturday Jet. 500 mb winds midday Saturday show a weak split flow over North America, a very active northern branch to the steering winds guiding record warmth into Alaska and western Canada, while unusually chilly air over eastern Canada breaks off little chunks, keeping the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and New England cooler than average for early August. Meanwhile the southwest continues to bake. Map credit: Weather Bell.

5-Day Rainfall Outlook. The latest NOAA QPF into next Wednesday shows a big, wet bulls-eye over Kansas City, where some 3-4″ rains are predicted. Heavy showers and T-storms flare up along the boundary separating cooler, Canadian air over the northern tier states from blast-furnace heat over the south and west. The tropics are still quiet.

Who Turned Off The Heat? The map above shows a week’s worth of 24 hour records: rainfall records, highs and lows as well; over 2,000 between July 25 and August 2. Map above courtesy of Ham Weather. Here’s a breakdown:

Total Records: 2131
Rainfall: 462
High Temp: 42
Low Temp: 563
Low Max Temp: 957
High Min Temp: 107





Fickle July Rainfall Pattern. Last month was wetter than average from the southwest suburbs of the Twin Cities to Albert Lea, and across much of the northern third of Minnesota. The driest pockets: western Wisconsin, far southwest Minnesota and portions of the Red River Valley. Map: Midwest Regional Climate Center.


Heading Into Peak Wildfire Season And Tinder-Dry In The West. I have a bad feeling about the potential for more major fires out west in the coming months. The trends are unmistakable, and much of the west (much) drier than average for early August. This sets the stage for potentially explosive fires during peak season, which runs from late August into October. In today’s edition of Climate Matters we look at why conditions are ripe for another active and potentially destructive year of (larger, more destructive) fires out west: “Rainless in Seattle for July? Yes, many areas in the west had their driest July on record. Not good news for the outlook for Western wildfires. WeatherNation Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas looks at why wildfires are larger and more extreme than 40 years ago.”

August Significant Wildfire Potential. Here’s an explanation from The National Weather Service Western Region HQ: “NIFC Predictive Services has updated their Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for August through November 2013. Significant fire potential remains above normal for a large portion of the Pacific Northwest and the mountains of California. The executive summary can be found here:

Greenland Soars To It’s Highest Temperature Ever Recorded, Almost 80F. The Capital Weather Gang has the story – here’s a clip: “The Danish Meteorological Institute is reporting that on Tuesday, July 30, the mercury rose to 25.9 C (78.6 F) at a station in Greenland, the highest temperature measured in the Arctic country since records began in 1958. The balmy reading was logged at the observing station Maniitsoq / Sugar Loaf, which is on Greenland’s southwest coast, the DMI reports. It exceeded the 25.5 C (77.9 F) reading taken at  Kangerlussuaq on July 27, 1990, in the same general area. Mantiitsoq is Greenland’s sixth-largest town, with a 2010 population of 2,784…”

Graphic credit above: “Weather pattern responsible for record warmth in southwest Greenland.” (Danish Meteorological Institute).

China Swelters In Record Heat Wave. Details from “It’s been so hot in China that folks are grilling shrimp on manhole covers, eggs are hatching without incubators and a highway billboard has mysteriously caught fire by itself. The heat wave – the worst in at least 140 years in some parts – has left dozens of people dead and pushed thermometers above 40 degrees C (104 F) in at least 40 cities and counties, mostly in the south and east. Authorities for the first time have declared the heat a “level 2″ weather emergency- a label normally invoked for typhoons and flooding…”

Photo credit above: “In this photo taken on Wednesday, July 31, 2013, a child demonstrates how raw shrimp and an egg are fried in a pan on a manhole cover on a hot summer day in Jinan in east China’s Shandong province. It’s been so hot in China that folks are grilling shrimp on manhole covers, eggs are hatching without incubators and a highway billboard has mysteriously caught fire by itself. The heat  wave — the worst in at least 140 years in some parts — has left dozens of people dead and pushed thermometers above 40 degrees C (104 F) in at least 40 cities and counties, mostly in the south and east.” ( AP Photo)

Alaska Heat Wave: Anchorage Sets Record For Most Consecutive 70-Degree Days. My good friend and meteorologist Jason Samenow has the details at The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang; here’s an excerpt: “…In addition to the record-breaking 70-degree streak, Anchorage is closing in on the most 70-degree days logged over an entire summer.  It has 38 so far, compared to the record of 49 from 2004. To its north, Fairbanks has also been unseasonably warm.    Reports the Associated Press: [T]emperatures Monday reached 80 or higher for the 29th day this summer. The record is 30 days of 80 degrees or higher, set in 2004. Consider Fairbanks averages just 11 80-degree days per summer (compared to this year’s 29, already)…”

Photo credit above: “Kan Kil floats face-first in the cool waters of Campbell Creek, near Lake Otis Parkway, while beating the heat on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. Anchorage broke a record on Tuesday for hitting 70 degrees or more for the 14th straight day.” (AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, Bill Roth)

More unusual weather across the USA. Too hot across Utah:

Meanwhile it’s too dry over much of the Pacific Northwest, including Washington State:

Tell that to residents of Oklahoma City:


Saharan Dust Discouraging Tropical Storm Formation. There’s probably a good reason why tropical development has slowed in recent weeks – too much wind shear, and too much dust from Africa. The Baltimore Sun has a good explanation about what’s really going on; here’s an excerpt: “The peak of hurricane season is approaching later this month, but storm activity in the middle of the Atlantic is unlikely to develop during the first half of August because of a massive cloud of dust from the Sahara Desert moving across the ocean. Satellite images from earlier this week (shown above) revealed a burst of dust blowing westward off of Africa. NASA Global Hawk aircraft were scheduled to explore the dust further on Tuesday. Saharan dust can significantly discourage tropical cyclone formation in the Atlantic, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists. It typically brings dry air that is not conducive to storm development, and some studies have suggested the dust itself has an effect on cloud formation...”

Image credit above: Ham Weather.


Rare UK Tsunami Was Caused By A Storm. This one made me do a double-take; details from the UK’s Planet Earth Online: “The meteotsunami, which reached around half a metre in height was originally thought to have been caused by a landslide. But a new report, published in Weather, suggests the origin actually lay with some thundery storm cells with a starting point over 300 miles away in the Bay of Biscay. Weather tsunamis like this have been known to occur in the Mediterranean, where they can cause significant damage to coastal infrastructure, and in Japan where they have been known to result in death. But this wave travelled from Portugal to Brittany and then into the English Channel, making it the first meteotsunami to be positively identified in Britain, Spain and France…”

Japan Prepares For 9-Magnitude Earthquake And Tsunami. A “9” on the Richter scale is almost unimaginable, but Japan is taking it seriously. Business Insurance has the story: “The Japanese government expects a 9-magnitude earthquake to hit the Nankai trough in the southern Pacific side of the main Honshu island followed by a tsunami, reported Channel News Asia. These calamities are expected to kill up to 320,000 people and cause economic damage of more than $2.2 trillion, worse than the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Several cities and towns are preparing for the worst-case scenario, and the government is looking to come up with an action plan by the end of July to mitigate risk of fatalities..”

File photo above: The Telegraph.

Cost Of Storm Damage Will Rise Sharply, Even Without Climate Change. Some of this comes down to demographic trends, more people wanting to live near water (oceans and rivers that often flood). Here’s a clip from a story at Scientific American: ” Extreme weather could cause four times as much economic loss in the U.S. by 2050 as it does today—without any increase in the frequency or intensity of hurricanes, tornadoes or lightning. That is because the population will be larger and richer and because more Americans are moving to the Eastern seaboard, the Gulf Coast and other storm-ridden places. The frequency of natural hazards varies across the country (top), but nationwide, average annual losses from all of them over the past 50 years amounted to $10 billion to $13 billion (not including business disruption). By 2050 the price tag will double in many counties, and in some it will swell by four or six times or more (bottom), according to Benjamin L. Preston, deputy director of the Climate Change Science Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The highest increases will be driven mostly by rising population. If society is concerned about future risk, Preston says, it has to pay closer attention to where people are migrating…”

NOAA’s New Supercomputers Mean Better Storm Tracking, Officials Say. Here are some specifics on NOAA’s new supercomputer upgrade. I’m hoping that GFS and the new HWRF hurricane model outperform ECMWF. Here’s a clip from Nature World News: “…These upgrades are a game-changer for the entire public and private weather industry,” Louis W. Uccellini, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service, said in a press release. “In addition to the benefits to our own forecasters and products, we will provide our private sector partners with better information to empower them to enhance their services.” Nicknamed “Tide,” the supercomputer located in Reston, Va., along with its Orlando-based backup named “Gyre,” are operating with 213 teraflops (TF), versus the 90 TF with which is operated at. As a result, the National Weather Service can now implement an enhanced Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) model that, according to US Sen. Bill Nelson, could save lives…”

Wind Farms Get More Accurate Weather Forecasts. has an interesting story with a local angle; here’s an excerpt: “When you’re running an electricity grid, the more renewable power you have in your mix, the more you fear unexpected ‘wind ramp events’. Tornadoes, ice storms or other extreme weather events can interrupt the spin of wind turbines, so that you have to ramp up baseload generation to meet demand. Highly-tuned next-day probabilistic forecasts for each precise location would let you integrate wind power more aggressively into your supply-side balancing act. Which is just what US utility Xcel Energy will be getting from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Under a new two-year programme, a variational Doppler radar analysis system will combine radar data with computer simulations to forecast the weather conditions for individual wind farms. Xcel’s regional control centres can integrate these forecasts with a growing body of data on past output performance, for a much better indication of how much power the grid can count on from a source...”

Photo credit above: Robert East.

Be Careful What You Plug Into Google. Just the right (wrong) combination of search keywords, and you too may find agents showing up at your front door, especially if you Google “pressure cookers”. Here’s an excerpt from a must-read story at “…But my son’s reading habits combined with my search for a pressure cooker and my husband’s search for a backpack set off an alarm of sorts at the joint terrorism task force headquarters. That’s how I imagine it played out, anyhow. Lots of bells and whistles and a crowd of task force workers huddled around a computer screen looking at our Google history...”

* Then again the whole pressure cooker/Google story may have been made up, according to The Washington Post. I’m still going to be careful what I plug into Google, just in case.

Researcher: U.S. To Devour More Media Digitally Than On TV. CNET News has the story; here’s a clip: “…Average time spent with digital media per day will surpass TV-viewing time for the first time this year, researcher eMarketer estimated in a report Thursday. That’s largely because the total amount of time spent with media has increased every year, though daily digital media consumption is expected to rise 16 percent this year versus a slight decline in TV consumption of less than 3 percent. Most of the increase in digital viewing is on mobile devices, which are quickly becoming the go-to place to watch entertainment. According to the estimates, the average U.S. adult will spend 5 hours and 9 minutes a day online on nonvoice mobile activities or with other digital media this year, compared to 4 hours and 31 minutes watching television…”

Image credit above: Sarah Tew/CNET.

* NPR reports on the dwindling handful of countries around the world that don’t have a McDonalds. How do the locals survive in places like Cambodia?

California To Get America’s Fastest High-Speed Rain Line. So maybe in a few years we’ll catch up to the Europeans and Japanese? Encouraging news from; here’s an excerpt: “When people grumble about how they think the US isn’t as technologically advanced as it should be, they like to bring up bullet trains – Europe and Asia have them, so why doesn’t America? Well, it’s getting one. Work is starting this summer on a high-speed rail line running from San Francisco to Los Angeles, that will carry a passenger train traveling at over 200 mph (322 km/h)...”

The Hottest Trends In Boomer Travel. Showing my age, I know. A reluctant baby boomer. Gen-X sounds like more fun, come to think of it. But my wife of 29 years and I love to travel, especially winter months (imagine that), and this story at PBS Next Avenue caught my eye; here’s an excerpt: “…While it’s hard to make generalizations about 78 million individuals (especially this trailblazing demographic), pundits do point to certain trends among boomer travelers. To give you some inspiration for the 3.7 statistical trips you’ll take in the next year, here are seven of the hottest trends among our peers.

1. Ecotourism Green is the new black when it comes to vacations. The U.N. World Tourism Organization predicts there will be some 1.6 billion eco-inspired trips taken by 2020. But all operators are not created equal. It’s important to do your homework and find a company that works closely with local residents to benefit them. True ecotourism isn’t just zip-lining through the jungle. It helps the local economy and is sustainable. An important fringe benefit: Local residents come to appreciate the inherent value of their natural resources — rain forests, nature preserves, waterways, coral reefs — and realize that they must be protected and preserved…”

13+ Things You Shouldn’t Eat At A Restaurant. Not my list, but an excerpt from an interesting read at Readers Digest; here’s an excerpt: 

1. Meat with the Bone In

Small cuts of meat, like bone-in pork or chicken breasts, are harder to cook thoroughly because their outsides easily char. This often translates to crispy on the outside and raw on the inside. Unlike undercooked beef—say, a rare burger or a steak tartare—undercooked pork and chicken are highly dangerous and could causes food-borne illnesses.
Plus, bone-in means less meat

Photo credit above: iStockphoto/Thinkstock.

Climate Stories…

The Great Burning: How Wildfires Are Threatening The West. No, it’s not your imagination. Fire season is pretty much yearround now west of the Rockies. Here’s an excerpt of an eye-opening article at Rolling Stone: “…But the United States is facing an even more basic question: How should we manage fire, given the fact that, thanks to climate change, the destruction potential for wildfires across the nation has never been greater? In the past decade alone, at least 10 states – from Alaska to Florida – have been hit by the largest or most destructive wildfires in their respective histories. Nationally, the cost of fighting fires has increased from $1.1 billion in 1994 to $2.7 billion in 2011. The line separating “fire season” from the rest of the year is becoming blurry. A wildfire that began in Colorado in early October continued smoldering into May of this year. Arizona’s first wildfire of 2013 began in February, months ahead of the traditional firefighting season. A year-round fire season may be the new normal…”

Photo credit above: Gene Blevins/Reuters/Landov.

Extreme Wildfires Likely Fueled By Climate Change. Here’s a summary of new research at Michigan State University: “Climate change is likely fueling the larger and more destructive wildfires that are scorching vast areas of the American West, according to new research led by Michigan State University scientists. These erratic fires are harder to contant and often result in catastrophic damage and loss of property and life. Although not analyzed in the study, the recent Arizona wildfire that began with a lightning strike and killed 19 firefighters appeared to be such an unpredictable, fast-spreading blaze, according to a state report. The MSU-led study, which appears in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, predicts the trend will continue in the western United States. “Our findings suggest that future lower atmospheric conditions may favor larger and more extreme wildfires, posing an additional challenge to fire and forest management,” said Lifeng Luo, MSU assistant professor of geogrphay and lead author on the study…”

Photo credit above: U.S. Air Force – Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock.

A Nation On Fire: Climate Change And The Burning Of America. Here’s an excerpt from a story at Climate Progress: “…Scientists and fire experts speaking on a recent conference call organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists say the nation is moving into an era when massive and destructive wildfires of the kind that occurred only sporadically over the last century will now be a regular occurrence. “Within the next few decades we anticipate these [forest] systems being as dry on a regular basis as the major fire years of the last century,” said Anthony Westerling of the University of California, Merced. “We are now completely certain that there is a climate signal in the observed fire activity,” added Dave Cleaves, climate adviser to the head of the U.S. Forest Service. “Fire, insects, disease and moisture stress are all being linked more closely by climate change.” Wildfire statistics compiled by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, offer sobering confirmation. The seven largest fire years since 1960 have all occurred since 2000. In 2006, 2007, and last year, the toll exceeded 9 million acres, an area roughly equivalent to Maryland and Rhode Island combined…”

A Republican Case For Climate Action. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed from former EPA administrators who served Republican presidents at The New York Times: “…There is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts: our world continues to warm, with the last decade the hottest in modern records, and the deep ocean warming faster than the earth’s atmosphere. Sea level is rising. Arctic Sea ice is melting years faster than projected. The costs of inaction are undeniable. The lines of scientific evidence grow only stronger and more numerous. And the window of time remaining to act is growing smaller: delay could mean that warming becomes “locked in….”

From The New York Times: “The writers are former administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency: William D. Ruckelshaus, from its founding in 1970 to 1973, and again from 1983 to 1985; Lee M. Thomas, from 1985 to 1989; William K. Reilly, from 1989 to 1993; and Christine Todd Whitman, from 2001 to 2003.”

Climate Disruption And Sea Level Rise. PRI, Public Radio International, has the story (and audio); here’s a clip: “…Perhaps no consequence of global warming is more immediately dangerous than rising sea levels. Big ice sheets and glaciers in Greenland and the Antarctic are giving out and melting away to become part of the ocean. The question for climate researchers has not been whether sea levels are rising, but how fast. New research from Germany’s climate research center, the Potsdam Institute, finds the rise to be about seven feet for every degree Celsius of global warming. Of course, that rise will be on a geographic timescale — perhaps thousands of years, Levermann said. Anders Levermann, lead author of the report, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said sea level rise can be attributed to four main factors…”

Photo credit above: “A Norwegian glacier melts on August 1, 2012.” (Photo by Flickr user ironpoison.)

Caribbean Has Lost 80% Of It’s Coral Reef Cover In Recent Years. The Guardian has the story; here’s the intro: “A major survey of the coral reefs of the Caribbean is expected to reveal the extent to which one of the world’s biggest and most important reserves of coral has been degraded by climate change, pollution, overfishing and degradation. The Catlin scientific survey will undertake the most comprehensive survey yet of the state of the region’s reefs, starting in Belize and moving on to Mexico, Anguilla, Barbuda, St Lucia, Turks & Caicos, Florida and Bermuda. The Catlin scientists said the state of the regions’ reefs would act as an early warning of problems besetting all of the world’s coral. As much as 80% of Caribbean coral is reckoned to have been lost in recent years, but the survey should give a more accurate picture of where the losses have had most effect and on the causes…”

Photo credit above: “As much as 80% of the Caribbean coral is thought to have been lost in recent years.” Photograph: Catlin Seaview Survey.

Australia To Get Southern Hemisphere’s Largest PV Plant. PV, as in photovoltaic. Here’s a clip from “With plenty of sun-drenched, wide open spaces, Australia is an obvious place for large-scale solar power plants. It would seem that large reserves of coal, oil and natural gas, have on the other hand made it difficult for the country to wean itself off fossil fuels. But renewable energy is getting a boost down-under with the announcement of two solar projects, one of which will be the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) plant in the Southern Hemisphere…”

Why The Peak Oilers Are Still Right. I don’t pretend to know whether we will have abundant supplies of (affordable) fossil fuels for my kids and future grandkids, but this Grist article caught my attention; here’s a clip: “…Readers who’ve seen articles and TV ads proclaiming America’s newfound oil and gas abundance may find it strange and surprising to learn that the official forecast from the U.S. Energy Information Administration is for America’s historic oil production decline to resume within this decade. But the EIA may actually be overly optimistic. Once the peak is passed, the agency foresees a long, slow slide in production from tight oil deposits (likewise from shale gas wells). However, analysis that takes into account the remaining number of possible drilling sites, as well as the high production decline rates in typical tight oil and shale gas wells, yields a different forecast: Production will indeed peak before 2020, but then it will likely fall much more rapidly than either the industry or the official agencies forecast. And there’s much more to the story: shale gas wells that cost more to drill than their gas is worth at current prices; Wall Street investment banks that drive independent oil and gas companies to produce uneconomic resources just so brokers can collect fees; official agencies that have overestimated oil production and under-estimated prices consistently for the past decade…”

Image credit above: Shutterstock.

Buffering The Sun. Is geo-engineering a prudent course of action to mitigate and diminish the negative impacts of climate change, or an example of scientific hubris which may have some very unpredictable and potentially unpleasant side effects? Check out this article at Harvard Magazine; here’s a clip: “…Keith speaks candidly about the risks and uncertainties of solar geoengineering, acknowledging a range of possible outcomes. “The balance of evidence so far suggests that solar geoengineering could reduce climate risks, but early science might be wrong,” he says. “We need experiments, which might show that it does not work.” Additionally, some research suggests that sulfate aerosols may further damage the ozone layer, an issue that he says needs further study. Alan Robock, professor of environmental sciences at Rutgers, is one critic who has raised other concerns, theorizing that sunlight-blocking strategies could not only reduce the amount of electricity produced through solar power but also alter weather patterns, which might trigger widespread droughts. Keith does not find these possibilities convincing. He believes solar energy would be affected only in “extreme scenarios” with very heavy use of solar geoengineering, and he says he has not seen serious analysis that supports the possibility of drought...”



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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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