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Drought Deepens Western USA (arctic sequel east of the Rockies)

20 Jan 2014, 5:49 am


Arctic Sequel

Before you let out a shrill primal scream let me gently remind you that average temperatures are on the rise again, for the first time since July. Since December 21 we’ve picked up 32 minutes of daylight. But nights are still long – a snow-covered Canada brewing up an ocean of numbing air – lapping south of the border in waves. And we have beachfront property.

Temperatures tumble today, and in spite of bright sun, may be unable to climb much above 0F Tuesday, again Thursday of this week. Double-digit negative numbers are possible at night. Although not as cold as January 6, the coldest since 1997, wind chills will dip into the -20 to -30F range later this week. Typical Minnesota cold, but probably not polar-vortex-school-closing-cold.

A non-stop parade of blustery clippers yanking cold air south in their wake brings up communication challenges for meteorologists. Do we publish the 24-hour maximum temperature for tomorrow, even if the “high” for the day comes at midnight, or the high during normal working hours, when most people are awake? Why should it be easy.

I still don’t see significant storm potential here into early February.

Super Bowl weather February 2? AM rain showers, then clearing with 40s, gusty winds & falling temperatures.

Super Bowl Weather Preview. It’s still early, the big game at New Jersey’s Meadowlands (outdoor) stadium a little less than 2 weeks away. GFS guidance above, valid Sunday evening, February 2, shows the brunt of the rain offshore, a stiff west breeze and clearing skies over northern New Jersey. Not a blizzard in sight, at least not yet.


A Massive Canadian Leak. Although the sun angle is now noticeably higher, and daylight is longer, we still haven’t been able to compensate for long nights and a snow-covered Canada brewing up numbing airmasses. Although not as cold as January 7-8 this next surge will get your attention. 84-hour NAM forecast surface temperatures courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather.

Snow Potential Mid Atlantic To Cape Cod? The ECMWF (European) solution keeps most of the snow offshore, but NOAA’s NAM model prints out accumulating snow from near Richmond and Washington D.C. to Wilmington, Cape May, Long Island and Cape Cod. Later today we should have a better idea if the snow potential is real. Otherwise we expect primarily lake-effect snows into Thursday; unusually dry weather continuing over the western USA.

Fire Tornado In Australia. In 40 years of tracking the weather I can’t remember ever seeing anything quite like this – symptoms of the massive blazes underway in Australia. Details via Twitter.

Drought Disaster Declared In Utah, 10 Other States. Details from The Salt Lake Tribune: “Federal officials have designated portions of Utah and 10 other drought-ridden Western and Central states as primary natural-disaster areas, highlighting the financial strain the lack of rain is likely to bring to farmers in those regions. In addition to 12 counties in Utah, the announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday included counties in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Kansas, Texas, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Oklahoma and California...”

File photo credit: “In this April 2, 2013 file photo, Davis Nixon, left, and Jose Ponce, walk on the dry shores of Minnequa Lake in Pueblo, Colo. Federal officials have designated portions of 11 drought-ridden western and central states as primary natural disaster areas, highlighting the financial strain the lack of rain is likely to bring to farmers in those regions. The announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Jan. 16, 2014, included counties in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Kansas, Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Oklahoma and California.” (AP Photo/Pueblo Chieftain, John Jaques, file).

California Drought: Water Officials Look To Rules Of 70sThe San Francisco Chronicle puts the current drought gripping California and much of the western USA into perspective; here’s an excerpt: “…While Californians are environmentally conscious and mindful of conserving natural resources, water demand has never been greater. The state’s population has nearly doubled since the ’70s, from 20 million to 38 million, and agricultural needs remain significant: The Golden State produces nearly half of the nation’s fruits, nuts and vegetables. Last year was the driest calendar year in California since records began in 1849, and hardly a drop of water has fallen this year. The Sierra snowpack – used to irrigate millions of acres of farmland and to quench the thirst of most of Californians when it melts – is 17 percent of normal…”

“Voluntary” Efforts Not Strong Enough To Combat California’s Drought. Here’s a link to a video and Op-Ed at The Los Angeles Times: “…But, if there is concern about a prolonged drought and there’s real uncertainty about the state’s water supply given the condition of the delta and the Colorado River and the impact of climate change, why rely on voluntary measures to conserve water? If California wants to cut water use, look to the desert city of Las Vegas. Sin City has enacted some of the strictest water-use policies in the nation...”

California Fire From Low Earth Orbit. Mike Hopkins is an astronaut onboard the ISS, the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA.

California In “Drought State of Emergency”, Governor Brown Declares. Here’s a clip from a story at “California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a “drought state of emergency” on Friday due to ongoing water shortfalls following the driest calendar year in state history. The governor said the state was facing perhaps the worst drought since records have been kept. “We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” Brown said. “I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible…”

Photo credit above: “Gov. Jerry Brown points to images showing the snow depth in the Sierra mountains on Jan. 13, 2013, left, and Jan. 13, 2014, center, while declaring a drought state of emergency in San Francisco, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. With a record-dry year, reservoir levels under strain and no rain in the forecast, California Gov. Jerry Brown formally proclaimed the state in a drought Friday, confirming what many already knew. Brown made the announcement in San Francisco amid increasing pressure in recent weeks from the state’s lawmakers, including Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.” (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu).

Is Our Sun Falling Silent? Activity on the sun is reaching a new minimum, freakishly odd considering we’re in a normally busy peak part of the natural solar cycle. Here’s a clip and video from The BBC: “I’ve been a solar physicist for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” says Richard Harrison, head of space physics at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire. He shows me recent footage captured by spacecraft that have their sights trained on our star. The Sun is revealed in exquisite detail, but its face is strangely featureless. “If you want to go back to see when the Sun was this inactive… you’ve got to go back about 100 years,” he says…”

Photo credit: “Rebecca Morelle reports for Newsnight on the solar lull that is baffling scientists.”

Scientists Observe Ball Lightning In Nature For The First Time Ever. Right place, right equipment, at the right time. Here’s an excerpt from a hair-raising story at Medium and Gizmodo: “…Scientists in the Qinghai region of China were observing a thunderstorm in 2012 using video cameras and a spectrometer, a device that measures light and electromagnetic waves to identify elements. As luck would have it, these instrumentsrecorded a five-meter-wide flash of ball lightning that stayed in the air for about 1.6 seconds. Back in the lab, the researchers analyzed the spectrometer readings to find large indicators of silicon, iron and calcium, elements present in the soil of the region…”

This LED Billboard Is The Only Way To See The Sunrise In Smoggy Beijing. No need for regulation; let’s just go with the Ayn Rand fantasy and let markets police themselves! Just like China, where you can’t breathe the air, drink the water or eat the food. Otherwise things are going well – the economy on a roll! Here’s a snippet from Grist: “Yes, that’s a giant LED billboard displaying the sunrise — or maybe the sunset? Who can tell, since the smog is so bad it’s impossible to tell what time it is in real life…”

“Shoveling in Shortsleeves” photo above courtesy of Jessica Roe in Golden Valley.

Climate Stories….

Global Warming Doubles Risk Of “Extreme El Nino’s”. The Exeter Express and Echohas the story; here’s the introduction: “The risk of extreme versions of the El Niño weather phenomenon will double over the coming decades due to global warming, new research involving Exeter scientists has shown. The frequency of ‘extreme El Niños’ could see a twofold increase as the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean warms faster than the surrounding regions. Similar events were experienced in 1982-3 and 1997-98, when sea surface temperatures exceeding 28°C developed in the normally cold and dry eastern equatorial Pacific, causing a massive reorganisation of global rainfall…”

Climate Change Is Too Important To Ignore. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed from the former U.S. Senator from Delaware, Ted Kaufman, at “…You may think the probability of climate change being real is very low, but you would have to admit that if it is a reality, the potential payoff –the expected value – of taking action and spending money to ameliorate its effects is enormous. Said differently, even if there is only a 1 percent chance that the more alarming predictions about climate change are correct, the payoff of doing nothing could be catastrophic….”

Why Are Hard-Headed U.S. Military Chiefs So Worried About Global Warming?Two words: the arctic. Here’s a clip from a story at The Telegraph: “Here’s your starter for ten. Who is about to issue a report concluding that “climate change has had a visible and direct impact on the Arctic region?” and that dramatic reductions in its sea ice are on the way. The much maligned Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? The Green Party? Yet another noisy environmental pressure group competing for public attention? Nope. None of the above. It’s those infamous, sandal-wearing, green hippies in the PentagonRussia – says the independent think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies – already has 25 icebreakers to defend its interests, but the US Navy has none…”

If You See Something, Say Something. Climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann from Penn State has an Op-Ed in The New York Times; here’s an excerpt: “…It is not an uncommon view among scientists that we potentially compromise our objectivity if we choose to wade into policy matters or the societal implications of our work. And it would be problematic if our views on policy somehow influenced the way we went about doing our science. But there is nothing inappropriate at all about drawing on our scientific knowledge to speak out about the very real implications of our research. My colleague Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, who died in 2010, used to say that being a scientist-advocate is not an oxymoron. Just because we are scientists does not mean that we should check our citizenship at the door of a public meeting, he would explain…”

“Neglected Topic” Winner: Climate Change. The New York Time’s Nicholas Kristof has the column; here’s the intro: “HERE’S a scary fact about America: We’re much more likely to believe that there are signs that aliens have visited Earth (77 percent) than that humans are causing climate change (44 percent). That comes to mind because a couple of weeks ago, I asked readers for suggestions of “neglected topics” that we in the news business should cover more aggressively in 2014. Some 1,300 readers recommended a broad range of issues, which I look forward to pilfering (with credit!) — and many made a particularly compelling case for climate change...”

Did You Hear The One About The Serious Environmentalist? Huffington Post has the Op-Ed; here’s an excerpt: “Environmentalists don’t get the joke. The situation is too dire —extreme weather from a changing climate, toxins in our food, endangered species dying off — for this to be a laughing matter. At least, that’s our reputation: Serious, earnest, humorless. The reputation is partly deserved. Most environmental activists take their work very seriously. We see huge problems facing our world, and know that human lives are at stake. Take a look at this new study from the National Academy of Science, about the abrupt impacts of climate change, and you’ll know why. When you focus on issues that are so serious, it’s easy to slip into taking yourself too seriously...”



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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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