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Dog Days Of July (safeguarding your home from natural disasters – why summer storms may be more likely midweek than on weekends)

15 Jul 2013, 5:42 am


Best Kept Secret
In a recent CNBC poll (highlighted below) Minnesota finished 3rd for “Quality of Life”, behind Hawaii and Vermont. Hawaii I get, but Vermont? No treat in January either, unless you’re a skier or lumberjack.
The old adage that “Minnesota is the toughest state to get Fortune 500 executives to move to, and the hardest to get them to leave” rings true.
When I moved here in ’83 I couldn’t understand why people were driving 2-4 hours to their cabins, when there were lakes in the metro. I get it now, and it’s probably a back-handed blessing most of America is clueless about what’s up here.
I haven’t seen lake levels this high in 20 years; part of my yard washed into the street during Saturday’s tropical torrent. As downpours increase in frequency we’ll all be looking for new ways to make our homes & yards more resilient and storm-proof.
No drama this week, God-willing.
Expect highs above 90F into Thursday, late week storms – then a slight dip in dew point next weekend. A real cool front is shaping up for next week.
It’s all about perspective right? Last year we saw 20 days above 90F by July 15. Today will be the 7th day at/above 90F. Atlanta (“Hot-lanta?”) has only seen 4 days above 90F in 2013!

A Sloppy Week For Texas. Most of the rain predicted the next 5 days for Minnesota comes today up north, another round of T-storms by late week. The heaviest rains this week fall on Texas, some 3-5″ amounts from near Dallas to Austin and Midland, while the west coast remains tinder-dry. The tropics are quiet, for now.

A Steamy All-Star Game. Temperatures Tuesday evening at Citi Field in New York City should still be in the low 90s for the first pitch of this year’s All Star Game. Graphic: WeatherNation TV.

Prepare Your Home And Finances For A Natural Disaster. There’s some very good advice in this article at The Wall Street Journal; here’s an excerpt: “You may not be as prepared as you think. When a storm is bearing down or a wildfire or tornado is approaching, you don’t want to be thinking about all the things you should have done to protect your family, house and finances. So with wildfires raging in parts of the West, and hurricane season in full swing, taking some crucial steps in advance—especially if you live in a region prone to natural disasters—can help you minimize any damage. “It’s imperative to make sure you are prepared,” says Thomas Kirsch, a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and co-director of the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response at Johns Hopkins University. “Get things ready to go,” he says, with a disaster kit “and the appropriate financial stuff available to you…”

How Many Bathtubs Worth of Rain? 4″ of rain on an acre of land translates into 108, 616 gallons of water. If anyone asks. Which is doubtful. A few statistics to try and put Saturday morning’s record rains into perspective below.

Putting Excessive Rains Into Perspective. I estimated a 30 by 30 mile area of the western and southwestern suburbs picked up 4″ or more of rain (it’s a WAG, but I think it’s in the ballpark). Yes, you too can calculate how many bathtubs full of water fell on the metro area, thanks to the USGS.

NASA Data Link Pollution To Rainy Summer Days in The Southeast. Could smog/pollutants from vehicles and industry be seeding the clouds, sparking more showers and T-storms during the work week, when there’s more traffic and activity in general? Here’s a summary of a 2008 report from NASA: “The link between rainfall and the day of the week is evident in data from NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite, known as TRMM. Midweek storms tend to be stronger, drop more rain and span a larger area across the Southeast compared to calmer and drier weekends. The findings are from a study led by Thomas Bell, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. Bell said the trend could be attributed to atmospheric pollution from humans, which also peaks midweek. “It’s eerie to think that we’re affecting the weather,” said Bell, lead author of the study published online this week in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research. “It appears that we’re making storms more violent.” Rainfall measurements collected from ground-based gauges can vary from one gauge site to the next because of fickle weather patterns. So, to identify any kind of significant weekly rainfall trend, Bell and colleagues looked at the big picture from Earth’s orbit. The team collected data from instruments on the TRMM satellite, which they used to estimate daily summertime rainfall averages from 1998 to 2005 across the entire Southeast…”

Image credit above: “Torrential rainfall from a 2003 storm in the Southeast resulted in massive accumulations of rain (red). Similar data from NASA’s TRMM satellite has revealed that more rain falls midweek.” Credit: NASA.

Canada’s Second Largest Fire On Record Spreading Smoke To Europe. Some of that smoke has been circulating back into the USA, making for hazy (milky) skies and blood-red sunsets in recent weeks. Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Jeff Master’s WunderBlog: “A massive fire burning in northern Quebec is Canada’s second largest fire since fire records began in 1959, according to the Canadian Forest Service. The fire was more than twice the size of Rhode Island on Tuesday–1,621,000 acres. Called the Eastmain fire, the near-record blaze was ignited by lightning on May 25, and was burning along a 100-km front near the east shore of James Bay by the village of Eastmain. At times, the fire spread at 19 mph (30 kph). The fire cut power to Montreal’s subway system and to 10% of the population of Quebec (500,000 customers) on July 4, when smoke from the fire ionized the air by key hydroelectric power lines, causing a cascade failure…”

Image credit above: “On July 4, 2013, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of wildfires burning in western Quebec near James Bay. Red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected unusually warm surface temperatures associated with fire. The Eastmain fire, which became the 2nd largest fire since 1959 in Canada at 1.6 million acres, is at the upper left of the image, just east of James Bay. Other fires near Nemiscau, Quebec (about 150 – 200 km to the southeast of Eastmain) are also burning, but these patches are “only” 120,000 – 200,000 acres. MODIS also observed smoke from the fires moving across the Atlantic Ocean on July 5, July 6, and July 7. By July 8, smoke was drifting over Scandinavia.” Image credit: NASA.

Pumping Water Underground Could Trigger Major Earthquake, Say Scientists. Huge injections of water for “fracking” have already sparked tremors; water apparently lubricating faults deep underground. The Guardian has more: “Pumping water underground at geothermal power plants can lead to dangerous earthquakes even in regions not prone to tremors, according to scientists. They say that quake risk should be factored into decisions about where to site geothermal plants and other drilling rigs where water is pumped underground – for example in shale gas fracking. Prof Emily Brodsky, who led a study of earthquakes at a geothermal power plant in California, said: “For scientists to make themselves useful in this field we need to be able to tell operators how many gallons of water they can pump into the ground in a particular location and how many earthquakes that will produce…” (File photo: Ralph Wilson, AP).

When Space Weather Attacks! Great headline, sobering reading, courtesy of The Washington Post. Here’s an excerp: “…Today, electric utilities and the insurance industry are grappling with a scary possibility. A solar storm on the scale of that in 1859 would wreak havoc on power grids, pipelines and satellites. In the worst case, it could leave 20 million to 40 million people in the Northeast without power — possibly for years — as utilities struggled to replace thousands of fried transformers stretching from Washington to Boston. Chaos and riots might ensue. That’s not a lurid sci-fi fantasy. It’s a sober new assessment by Lloyd’s of London, the world’s oldest insurance market. The report notes that even a much smaller solar-induced geomagnetic storm in 1989 left 6 million people in Quebec without power for nine hours…”

Image credit above: NASA.

Large Power Transformers And The U.S. Electric Grid. Light reading this is not, but here is an important document focused on the U.S. grid and vulnerabilities to space weather, as well as other factors, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy.

America’s Top States For Quality Of Life. I love the photo CNBC used for Minnesota, taken sometime in January? Good grief. In spite of our well publicized winters we still came in at #3 overall, just behind Vermont and Hawaii. I get Hawaii, but Vermont….really? Here’s an excerpt: “The North Star State has something to offer almost everyone. Enjoy the natural beauty of the North Woods or the cosmopolitan sophistication of the Twin Cities. And everyone, it seems, is “Minnesota Nice” – so much so that the crime rate is among the nation’s lowest. The home of the famed Mayo Clinic is one of America’s healthiest states, and the environment is among the cleanest. But if you’re not a fan of winter, beware. With an average annual temperature of just 41.2 degrees F, Minnesota is one of America’s coldest states. But they’ll tell you – nicely – that they know how to adapt.…”

2013 Quality of Life Rank (Points): #3 
2013 Overall Rank: #15
2012 Quality of Life Rank: #5

Climate Stories…

Seas May Rise 2.3 Meters Per Degree (C) Of Global Warming: Report. Here’s the intro to a story from World Bulletin: “Sea levels could rise by 2.3 metres for each degree Celsius that global temperatures increase and they will remain high for centuries to come, according to a new study by the leading climate research institute, released on Monday. Anders Levermann said his study for the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research was the first to examine evidence from climate history and combine it with computer simulations of contributing factors to long-term sea-level increases: thermal expansion of oceans, the melting of mountain glaciers and the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets…”

Climate Change Will Cause More Energy Breakdowns, U.S. WarnsThe New York Times has the story – here’s an excerpt: “…The blackouts and other energy disruptions of Hurricane Sandy were just a foretaste, the report says. Every corner of the country’s energy infrastructure — oil wells, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants — will be stressed in coming years by more intense storms, rising seas, higher temperatures and more frequent droughts. The effects are already being felt, the report says. Power plants are shutting down or reducing output because of a shortage of cooling water. Barges carrying coal and oil are being delayed by low water levels in major waterways. Floods and storm surges are inundating ports, refineries, pipelines and rail yards. Powerful windstorms and raging wildfires are felling transformers and transmission lines…”

Climate Change Will Plague Energy Industry: DOE. Following up on the story above, here’s a slightly different perspective from CBS Marketwatch: “Climate change has created problems for the U.S. energy industry, and the stress it brings on an aging energy infrastructure could cancel out the coping mechanisms the industry has adopted, a Department of Energy report released Thursday said. The report highlighted the implications of climate change — droughts, fiercer storms, flooding, and higher temperatures, to name a few — on energy. An interactive map, showing where impact has already occurred, accompanied the report. Droughts have raised the risk of shutdowns at power plants powered by coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy by reducing the volume of water available for cooling the plants…”



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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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