Pick Your Poison
The safest state in the USA? Possibly New Mexico. No hurricanes, few earthquakes and tornadoes, but flash flooding takes a toll.
Hurricane Raymond is chewing up the Mexican coastline, while massive, potentially historic wildfires are spawning “pyrocumulus”, fire clouds, near Sydney. Large fires make their own weather, spewing embers and lightning that can spark more blazes downwind. Just ask residents of Hinckley.
And for the record a wide swath of the south, from Texas to Georgia to North Carolina, saw 3 times more billion dollar weather disasters than Minnesota since 1980. There, I’m feeling better already.
No sign of Indian Summer, but mid to upper 40s will feel pretty good by late week. No snowy drama brewing, but rain showers are likely Monday, maybe a bigger (rain) storm late next week.
It’s still early, but Halloween may bring 40s with a chance of rain after dark. Nothing too scary this year.
* billion dollar weather/climate disasters in the USA from 1980 to 2011 courtesy of NOAA NCDC.
With An October Like This Who Needs November?
Much of America east of the Rockies is getting off to an early start to heavy jacket season, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that a harsh winter is imminent. In fact America’s winters are trending milder, and less snowy over time. That’s the subject of today’s Climate Matters
: “WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas looks at the trends of increasingly wimpy winters. You’re not getting as many frigid days as your grandparents
Snowfall Change Since 1930
. Is it possible to discern any real trends in the data since 1930? This map from EPA
shows the net increases and decreases in winter snowfall for the USA up to 2007. The data shows significant decreases in winter snows for the Pacific Northwest, Arizona and the Central Plains, along with Tennessee and the Carolina’s – a slight increase for the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes states.
UNC: Why Bosses Want Dreary Weather
. Sunny weather is distractingly nice, too nice to work? Possibly. Here’s an excerpt from an interesting story at Triangle Business Journal
: “Those who enjoy a sunny outdoor day might be disappointed to learn that their bosses probably want it to rain every day. Bosses don’t necessarily have anything personal against sunny weather, it’s just that they get a more productive workforce on bad weather days, according to research from , Kenan-Flagler School of Business. According to two studies by operations and finance professors from UNC-CH and , weather actually has an affect on productivity. They measured productivity at one company and matched it against precipitation that day, finding that workers were more productive on rainier days.
New Blaze Fears For Australia As Weather Conditions Turn Bush Fire Into Devastating “Fire Cloud”
. Large fires can actually make their own weather, helping to dry out surrounding landscapes and breed more fires as embers are swept scores of miles downwind. Here’s a good explanation of a worst-case scenario and the potential for “pyrocumulus” from the U.K. Daily Mail
: “Catastrophic weather systems known as “fire clouds”, sparked by heat from the raging bush blazes outside Sydney, could see southwest Australia hit by devastating lightning storms. The dramatic cloud formations have already been seen over some burning parts of the New South Wales bush last week. But a merging of the biggest wild fires into one “mega blaze” could see temperatures intensify and the atmosphere about the region made unpredictable and potentially dangerous
….” (Graphic credit: Daily Mail).
Time Is Ripe For Fire Detection Satellite Say UC Berkeley Scientists. EurekaAlert has the story; here’s the intro: “As firefighters emerge from another record wildfire season in the Western United States, University of California, Berkeley, scientists say it’s time to give them a 21st century tool: a fire-spotting satellite. Such a satellite could view the Western states almost continuously, snapping pictures of the ground every few seconds in search of hot spots that could be newly ignited wildfires. Firefighting resources could then be directed to these spots in hopes of preventing the fires from growing out of control and threatening lives and property. The UC Berkeley scientists have designed such a satellite using state-of-the-art sensors, written analysis software to minimize false alarms, and even given it a name – the Fire Urgency Estimator in Geosynchronous Orbit (FUEGO). They’re hopeful it can be built for several hundred million dollars, either by government or private entities…”Image credit above: “This is an artist’s concept of the FUEGO satellite, which would snap digital photos of the Western U.S. every few seconds in search of hot spots that could be newly ignited fires.” Credit: R. E. Lafever, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Costly Lesson Of Rim Fire: Forests Need To Be Thinned
. Here’s a clip from FindLaw
: “That movie-based logic is how federal dollars get allocated for forests, say foresters, scientists, environmentalists and others familiar with how fire risk gets handled in the Sierra. The Rim Fire that started Aug. 17 and burned more than 400 square miles has already run up a $127 million price tag for firefighting. On Friday, federal officials announced another $4.3 million in funding for post-fire treatments to damaged watersheds. But cost-effective efforts that might prevent such catastrophic fires languish due to lack of funding and political will, observers say, even though thinning forests using controlled fires to reduce the fuel load would, in the long run, save taxpayers millions
above: “Burned trees from the Rime Fire still stand in Stanislaus National Forest near Tuolumne, California, on September 13, 2013
.” (Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times/MCT).
Alerts Broadcaster Update. Here’s an excerpt of a briefing that went out Tuesday morning from Alerts Broadcaster:
I’ve been monitoring Raymond very carefully over the last few days – trying not to hype a storm that poses only a moderate risk of flooding for Acapulco and Manzanillo. There has been considerable flooding at Ixtapa-Zihuatenejo and Petatlan, but Acapulco is on the fringe of the storm. No extreme flooding or storm surge impact to coastal facilities is expected at either Acapulco or Manzanillo. Raymond is still a dangerous Category 3 storm, but is already showing signs of slight weakening, pulling westward, away from the Mexican coastline.
Raymond’s Projected Path. A Category 3 (major) hurricane, Raymond is doing a U-Turn and heading out into the colder waters of the eastern Pacific. Conditions along the Mexican coast should slowly improve over the next 24-36 hours.
Dueling Typhoons – Near Miss For Japan. We’ve been watching Typhoon Francisco carefully as well, but latest models push the core of the storm farther east, away from Tokyo, weakening Francisco to a tropical storm by the time it brushes the far eastern coastline of Japan with 20-40 mph winds and heavy rain squalls Saturday (local Tokyo time). Minor to moderate flooding is possible (latest models print out nearly 8” rain for Hiroshima) but right now this does not look like a repeat of Wipha a couple weeks ago. Typhoon Lekima takes a track well east of Japan and should not be a factor.We’re watching the tropics and monitoring the brush fires pushing across New South Wales into the far western suburbs of Sydney, a very early start to what may be an historic fire season for Australia. Facilities in and near Sydney should remain on high alert in the coming days – evacuations of some suburbs is a distinct possibility, especially western suburbs. We’ll watch it carefully.
ENSO-Neutral, But Growing Signs Of Weak El Nino In 2014.
The graph above shows various model forecasts of ENSO, the natural oscillation of wind and water in the Pacific. For several years we’ve been in a protracted La Nina cooling phase, which may be temporarily masking some of the atmospheric warming worldwide. There seems to be a trend toward a slight warming by early 2014. The definition of El Nino is water temperatures consistently .5C warmer than average for at least 3 consecutive months. Graph: NOAA NCEP
Why The Growth Of Wind Energy Worries Weather Forecasters In Oklahoma
has the story of how turbulence from wind turbines can (sometimes) be mistaken for severe thunderstorms on Doppler radar; here’s a clip: “…Wind farms are multiplying and expanding in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and throughout the Great Plains, where the nation’s wind energy potential is concentrated. The industry’s growth is worrying weather forecasters because wind turbines can confuse radar. The problem is the 150 foot-long blades spinning atop a wind turbine and the undulating, ominous clouds that accompany severe weather look the same to the computers that digest and display weather radar data, says Ed Ciardi, a meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
…” (graphic: Weather Underground).
Choking Smog Paralyzes Cities In Northeast China, Closing Schools, Airports
. Here is what you get when there’s no equivalent of an EPA, when it’s “economic-growth-at-any-cost”. Portions of China are now unlivable. You can’t breathe the air, drink the water or eat the food. Other than that things are going well. Here’s a clip from The Washington Post
: “Thick, choking smog enveloped cities in northeast China on Tuesday, closing schools and airports, snarling traffic and reducing visibility to a few yards, in a dramatic sign of the country’s worsening air quality. China’s breakneck dash for economic growth has badly damaged the environment, and the rapid deterioration in air and water quality has increasingly become a source of public unrest. As a result, improving environmental standards has become a priority for the government. But the acrid clouds enveloping several cities this week showed how tough that task had become.
above: “A woman wearing a mask walk through a street covered by dense smog in Harbin, northern China, Monday, Oct. 21, 2013. Visibility shrank to less than half a football field and small-particle pollution soared to a record 40 times higher than an international safety standard in one northern Chinese city as the region entered its high-smog season
.” (AP Photo/Kyodo News)
Waterspout Spotting Record Shattered
. 67 waterspouts in one day? Wow. Canada’sWelland Tribune
has the remarkable story; here’s the intro: “Storm chasers across southern Ontario and western New York had no clue what they were in for Sunday when they headed out to watch lakes Ontario and Erie for waterspouts. It turned out to be a record-setting day, with 67 waterspouts documented. “I’ve never seen anything like this … 67 in one day,” said Wade Szilagyi, director of the International Centre for Waterspout Research. “Not only is that a Great Lakes record, but that’s a world record. There’s never been that many documented in one day before
above: “This file photo shows a waterspout at the south west tip of Wolfe Island at the eastern end of Lake Ontario
.” (QMI Agency file photo)
Starpath Spray-On Coating Lights Up The Road. Highway surfaces that glow, reducing the need for street lights? Interesting concept, fleshed out in an article at Gizmag; here’s an excerpt: “UK company Pro-Teq has developed a new water-resistant, spray-on coating that absorbs UV light during the day and releases it at night, adapting to the lighting conditions in its surroundings. The technology is being given a test run at the Christ’s Pieces park in Cambridge, and could prove a cost effective alternative to conventional street lighting...”
Photo credit above: “UK company Pro-Teq’s glow-in-the-dark spray coating could prove a cheaper alternative to conventional street lighting.” (Photo: Pro-Teq).
Here’s a visually remarkable and sobering history of our world, the dawn and evolution of civilization, and how it may all end, in a convenient, 2 minute YouTube format
, courtesy of Joe Bush. I’m still hoping for a sustainable way forward.
A New Definition Of Wretched Excess. $38,000 for an iPhone case? Good grief. Details from The Wall Street Journal: “…The latest entry is the Koku, a bedazzled case for the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S, which comes in both silver and gold varieties. The gold case is fitted out with more than 200 diamonds and sells for 3,776,000 Japanese yen, or more than $38,500. Though the cases are currently sold only in Japan, the president of the Japanese jewelry company that makes them says he hopes to start selling them it world-wide…”
Photo credit above: Phonenet. “This bedazzled gold iPhone case has a price tag of more than $38,500. Diamond ring not included.”
It’s Settled. Thanks to David Horse and Facebook for sharing this one…
U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Emissions Fall To 18 Year Low
. Higher fuel efficiencies for vehicles, a transition from coal to natural gas, and tepid economic growth may be the biggest factors, as explained in this National Geographic Energy Blog
update; here’s a clip: “The last effort in the U.S. Congress to tackle climate change head-on died in 2010, amid ferocious lobbying by interests who argued it would wreck the economy. That bill would have cut carbon dioxide emissions 3 percent below their 2005 level by 2012. The actual 2012 figures are now out and in fact, the United States was able to cut its carbon emissions fourfold below the goal of the ill-fated Waxman-Markey legislation, even though the nation’s economy grew 2.8 percent in 2012. A U.S. Energy Information Administration report released Monday showed that U.S. energy-related carbon emissions last year were 5,280 million metric tons, their lowest point since 1994 and 12 percent below the 2007 peak (and about 11.8 percent below the 2005 benchmark year that was used in the Waxman-Markey bill.)
above: “Foliage lines the Ancroscoggin River near a Berlin, New Hampshire pulp and paper plant
.” National Geographic stock image by Sandy Felsenthal.
Warm Winters, More Efficient Cars, Less Coal Use Combine For Big Drop In U.S. Carbon Pollution. The AP and The Star Tribune has the story; here’s an excerpt: “The United States cut its energy-related carbon dioxide pollution by 3.8 percent last year, the second biggest drop since 1990, the Department of Energy said Monday. The only recent year with a bigger percentage drop was in 2009, when America was in a large recession. American cars and factories spewed 5.83 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, down from 6.06 billion in 2011. It is the lowest level for U.S. emissions since 1994. Carbon dioxide is the chief man-made global warming gas. Energy Department economist Perry Lindstrom said carbon pollution reduction is due to warm winter weather, more efficient cars because of new mileage requirements and an ongoing shift from coal-power to natural gas to produce electricity…”
Photo credit above: “A Norfolk Southern Railroad train pulls transport cars full of coal near Goodfield, Ill., on Oct. 9, 2012. The United States cut its energy-related carbon dioxide pollution by 3.8 percent in 2012, the second biggest drop since 1990.” Photo: Seth Perlman, Associated Press.
Clear Link Between Climate Change And Bush Fires. We call them wildfires here in the USA, in Australia they are known as bush fires, and the one threatening the western suburbs of Sydney is unprecedented, coming so early in the fire season. Here’s a video clip and excerpt from a story at The Sydney Morning Herald: “A senior United Nations climate change official says there is ”absolutely” a link between climate change and bushfires and has warned that the Coalition government will pay a high political and financial price for its decision to scrap carbon pricing. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday, the head of the UN’s climate change negotiations, Christiana Figueres, said there was a clear link between climate change and bushfires such as those raging in New South Wales..”
The Renewable Boom
. The biggest source of (new) electricity generation last year wasn’t from a fossil fuel. It was from wind. More details in this article at Time Magazine
: “Earlier this year, the U.S. became a net exporter of oil distillates, and the International Energy Agency projects that the U.S. could be almost energy self-sufficient in net terms by 2035. Domestic oil production hit 7.75 million barrels a day in September, the highest level since 1989, while oil imports are at 7.5 million barrels a day and falling. The country that was spending $341 billion on crude-oil imports in 2008 managed to export $117 billion worth of processed oil products in 2012. That’s a lot of money that is staying in the U.S
….” (Photo credit: Robert East).
Pear Energy. Here’s an interesting concept – take advantage of clean renewables, without installing wind turbines or solar panels. More information here. There are numerous options for buying clean, green power, nationwide. EPA has a good interactive map showing all the options here.
Why Climate Change Deniers Owe Us A (Scientific) Explanation
. Here’s a clip from a post written by Graham Wayne
: “…I’ve often remarked that climate change deniers have no science. A common retort is that since we ‘warmists’ are making the claims, it is us that need to produce the evidence to support it. On the face of it, this seems fair enough – and indeed we have produced the evidence, not that deniers are prepared to acknowledge any of it. (No surprise there). However, as with calls for probity, accuracy and transparency, one might imagine that such virtues, attributes or burdens of proof would be applicable to us all, not just scientists, advocates or journalists. Evidently, one would be wrong. Clearly, deniers do not care to understand that when they make claims, the same rules ought to apply. Describing the changes we have already witnessed as ‘natural variability’ without explaining the forcing or its origin is exactly the superstitious ‘magical thinking’ that Dana discusses, which explains absolutely nothing and has as much credibility in scientific terms as claiming that God did it
How Delayed Gratification, Human Self-Interest May Restrict Early Action Against Climate Change. Medical Daily has a very interesting post about the psychology of facing up to long-term risks; here’s an excerpt: “Self-interest and time perception may be the most significant obstacles to climate change action, according to a new study. Researchers at New York University (NYU) have determined that the long-term goals of preventive action are not sufficient incentives for nations who fail to cooperate in the face of global warming. The findings suggest that emphasizing the short-term gains may be the only way to spur a concerted effort against the climate shift that threatens to unravel infrastructures and economic systems worldwide…”
* Time Magazine has more details on the new research paper cited in the article above.
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 startribune.com/weather And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather.