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Flash Flood Risk Gulf Coast – Cooling Off Midwest & Great Lakes (August: 6th lowest ice levels on record for Arctic)

6th Lowest Arctic Ice Levels On Record. Graph above courtesy of Climate Central; details below.



Waves Of Canadian Air. Cool air pushes south into the Midwest and Great Lakes today, preceded by a band of strong T-storms, followed by light jackets and sweatshirts by Saturday morning – pushing into the Northeast by the weekend. Another warming trend returns next week as the jet stream buckles and a ridge of high pressure pushes north. 4 km. temperature forecast courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather.


342. August was the 342nd consecutive month in a row of global land/sea temperatures warmer than the 20th century average. I know, just another coincidence. I also try to put this year’s Arctic ice loss, not as severe as 2012, into perspective in Climate Matters: “WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas goes over the climate highlights of August. Record heat in Alaska, South Korea, and Australia and Arctic ice melt make weather patterns get stuck. And that’s not good for anyone.”



Flood Maps, Models Inherently Flawed. One of the many lessons of last week’s 1 in 1,000 year flood: every storm scenario is different, making it difficult ot use past storms to predict future worst-case scenarios. Here’s an excerpt of an interesting angle on historic Colorado flooding from Boulder Weekly: “Flood experts agree it’s impossible to be 100 percent prepared for natural disasters, but last week’s flooding in Boulder County held some valuable lessons for how to be more ready the next time the waters start rising. They also say that flood modeling and floodplain mapping can only go so far in predicting the paths that the water will take. Each disaster, whether flood or fire, is unique, and when it happens, the silver lining is that it adds to the body of knowledge and historical experience that we rely on for making plans and predictions for future natural hazards. Dave Gochis, a hydrometeorologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, says local leaders are vigilant about updating floodplain maps, but those are based on “static depictions” of storms, and “that is very reliant on what happened in the past…”




Fire And Rain, Colorado Edition. The combination of a 14 year drought and recent wildfires may have made a bad situation much worse. Here’s a clip from a story at Mother Jones: “…Still, the compounded damages from the cycle of wildfire and flooding could very well be amplified on the Front Range in coming years. Climate models foretell larger regional storms, and scientists have also predicted bigger, more intense wildfires in Colorado’s future. “What is that going to mean for the people living in the mouth of these areas?” wonders Hyde. If the 100-year flood that turned Boulder inside out last week is any indication, living at the base of the Rockies—while arguably worth it—isn’t getting any less complicated.”



Photo credit above: “Flames from the High Park Fire west of Ft. Collins in June 2012.”  .



Colorado Floods: What Happens To All That Water? Here’s the intro to an interesting story at Live Science: “As flood waters slowly begin to recede from central Colorado, new flood warnings have cropped up downstream in Nebraska. Colorado’s South Platte River, which runs northeast from the middle of the state into the southwest corner of Nebraska, has taken the burden of much of the record rainwater that hasn’t already seeped into the ground...”

Graphic credit above: Flood Safety. “Boulder’s 500-year floodplain. River and flood water eventually discharges northeastward toward Nebraska along the South Platte River.”



Into The Wildfire. Here’s a clip from an article examining how residents of the west are coping with increasingly large and devastating fires, and what new tools and technologies may help in the years ahead, from the New York Times Magazine: “Lassen Volcanic National Park, in Northern California, consists of more than 100,000 acres of wilderness and woodlands surrounding Lassen Peak, a volcano named for a pioneer and huckster who guided migrants through the area, that last blew its top in 1915, before anybody knew it was an active volcano. Last summer the park, like much of the West, was in the midst of a yearlong drought — which could be more accurately described as the continuation of a decade-long drought that had merely been less severe for a couple of years. A forecast of thunderstorms might seem like welcome news for a firefighter in charge of so many acres of dry forest — parts of the park can get so hot and dry during the summer that rain evaporates before it reaches the trees — but Mike Klimek, the firefighter in charge of the park on July 23, 2012, knew better…”



Atlantic Hurricane Numbers “Linked To Industrial Pollution”. Is aerosol pollution making clouds brighter, dampening hurricane formation over the Atlantic in the process? Here’s a clip from a recent press release from the UK Met Office: “The paper,  published in Nature Geoscience, suggests aerosols may have suppressed the number of Atlantic hurricanes over the 20th Century and even controlled the decade-to-decade changes in the number of hurricanes. Researchers found that aerosols make clouds brighter, causing them to reflect more energy from the sun back into space. This has an impact on ocean temperatures and tropical circulation patterns, effectively making conditions less favorable for hurricanes. This interaction between aerosols and clouds is a process that is now being included in some of the latest generation climate models…”


Mexico Flood: Tourists Evacuated From Acapulco. USA Today has a recap on the historic flooding gripping the western/Pacific coast of Mexico, triggered by a series of tropical storms and weak hurricanes. Once again systems stalled (just like in Colorado), pumping out enormous quantities of rain in a relatively short period of time: “In the wake of devastating twin storms that have caused more than 80 casualties and left thousands stranded, tourists are being evacuated from flood-ravaged Acapulco, according to a statement by Javier Aluni, Secretary of Tourism for the State of Guerrero. Passengers with previously booked tickets on Aeromexico and Interjet are being shuttled from the Forum at Mundo Imperial directly to planes at Acapulco Alvarez International Airport (ACA) for flights to Mexico City. The Mexican government is operating additional flights from the Pie de la Cuesta Air Force Base. Priority is given to those with urgent medical conditions, the elderly, women and children...”

Photo credit above: “People wade through waist-high water in a store’s parking, looking for valuables, south of Acapulco, in Punta Diamante, Mexico, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. Mexico was hit by the one-two punch of twin storms over the weekend, and the storm that soaked Acapulco on Sunday – Manuel -re-formed into a tropical storm Wednesday, threatening to bring more flooding to the country’s northern coast. With roads blocked by landslides, rockslides, floods and collapsed bridges, Acapulco was cut off from road transport.” (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)


Mesocyclone. Check out this remarkable panorama shot of a spectacular shelf cloud approaching the Omaha office of the National Weather Service.


Hints Of What’s To Come. Thanks to the Grand Teton National Park Service for this tweet, which may get snow-lovers excited.


Grand Tetons Looking Even Grander. This may be the only part of the Rockies that reminds me of the Alps in Europe – thanks to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort for providing this spectacular photo.


Astronomers Create Detailed 3-D Map Of Milky Way Core. Here is a clip from a fascinating article at “Astronomers have used data from European Southern Observatory telescopes to create a three dimensional map of the central bulge of the Milky Way. The gigantic cloud at the center of our galaxy contains a staggering 10,000 million stars (or thereabouts) and resides around 27,000 light-years away. Despite the relative proximity of the area, prior to these new studies little had been confirmed concerning its origin and structure. The main problem faced by astronomers when observing the core of our home galaxy is the obscuring cloud of dust and gas that sits between it and the Earth. Clouds such as this are a common obstacle for astronomers, and are particularly common in star formation regions where the scattered materials eventually come together to form new stars…” (Image above: ESO).


Google Vs. Death. Here’s a clip from an interesting story at Time Magazine. Google “life extension” and you may find out even more details about the company’s plans to let you live to be 125 (if you care to hang around that long). “…At the moment Google is preparing an especially uncertain and distant shot. It is planning to launch Calico, a new company that will focus on health and aging in particular. The independent firm will be run by Arthur Levinson, former CEO of biotech pioneer Genentech, who will also be an investor. Levinson, who began his career as a scientist and has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, plans to remain in his current roles as the chairman of the board of directors for both Genentech and Apple, a position he took over after its co-founder Steve Jobs died in 2011. In other words, the company behind YouTube and Google+ is gearing up to seriously attempt to extend human lifespan…”

* more information on Google’s new “Calico” life extension initiative from Gizmag.

My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me. If you think your kid is getting too much homework on a consistent basis check out this article at The Atlantic.


21 Ways Supermarkets Control Your Mind. Yes, it’s a conspiracy – to get me to buy crap I don’t need. BuzzFeed has the story – here’s an excerpt: “…Slow music makes you shop for longer, whereas classical music makes you spend more. Experiments have also shown that playing French music in the wine aisles increases the sales of French wines…”


European Space Agency Might Send Robot Snakes Into Space. When science fiction catches up with reality: here’s an excerpt from a story at The Washington Post: “Researchers at the SINTEF Research Institute in Norway and at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology are working on a feasibility study for the European Space Agency (ESA) to see if snake-like robots could help explore alien planets. They hope that the maneuverability of snake-bots might assist more traditional rovers like Mars Curiosity get access to different soil samples and access tight spots. No word yet on if a robot Samuel L. Jackson will also be developed to respond if the snakes escape onto a spacecraft…”

Photo credit above: “Robot snakes in space is sort of like real snakes on a plane, right?” (New Line Cinema).













Climate Stories….




Administration Presses Ahead With Limits On Emissions From Power Plants. Here’s a clip from a story at The New York Times: “A year after a plan by President Obama to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants set off angry opposition, the administration will announce on Friday that it is not backing down from a confrontation with the coal industry and will press ahead with enacting the first federal carbon limits on the nation’s power companies. The proposed regulations, to be announced at the National Press Club by Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, are an aggressive move by Mr. Obama to bypass Congress on climate change with executive actions he promised in his inaugural address this year…”



Photo credit above: Matt Brown/Associated Press. “President Obama has told officials that he wants limits on all plants, like one in Colstrip, Mont., by the time he leaves office.”




No, Arctic Sea Ice Has Not Recovered, Scientists Say. Aerial coverage of ice has “recovered” from last September’s record low, but the volume and thickness continues to be in decline. Here’s a clip from an article at Climate Central that puts things into stark perspective: “…According to data from September 18, Arctic sea ice extent was about 1.97 million square miles, which is well above the level observed on the same date last year, yet still well below the 1981-2010 average, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colo. An official announcement of the sea ice minimum is expected to come from the NSIDC within the next few days. The long-term decline in sea ice, both in terms of the extent of sea ice cover as well as its thickness, is largely due to warming caused by human activities and natural variability, as the Arctic is warming at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the globe. As has been the case in recent years, the sea ice at the end of the 2013 melt season is unusually thin, which makes it more susceptible to the influence of weather systems…”



Image credit above: Climate Central. “Arctic sea ice loss during the 2013 melt season was equivalent to losing the entire area of states from Tennessee to Maine.”




Colorado Floods And Climate Change: The Elephant In The Room. Here’s an excerpt from a story at Huffington Post: “There have been many words to describe the flooding in Colorado over the past week: horrific, catastrophic, unprecedented and biblical are some. To illustrate the scale of the disaster, some numbers:


 Over 18″ of rain have fallen in the Boulder area since last Wednesday.
7-11″ of rain fell during a single 24-hour period.
• From north to south, 200 miles of Colorado were hit.
17 counties were affected.
30 bridges were destroyed.
Over 1500 homes were destroyed and 18,000 damaged.
Over 11,000 people were evacuated.
Over 600 people still missing and
• 8 people confirmed dead.

The flooding has been classified as a 1000-year event, meaning there was only a tenth of 1 percent probability (0.1 percent) that it would happen in a given year. When an event this unusual and extreme happens these days, one of the first questions people ask is: “Was it because of climate change?

Photo credit above: “This photo shows flood-damage at the River Bend Mobile Home Park in Lyons, Colo., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. The recovery process has begun along the front range as people clean out flooded homes and businesses. Local governments are starting to clear debris and repair infrastructure.” (AP Photo/Chris Schneider).

What’s The Climate Change Context Behind The Colorado Floods? Here’s an excerpt of a good explainer from E&E Publishing: “…According to both Hoerling and meteorologists with the National Weather Service, the conditions that led to this widespread, long-lasting rainfall stemmed from a moist tropical air mass from the Gulf of Mexico that was displaced into the region by air coming from the south. When the air hits the mountains, it is moved upward rapidly and cools, causing precipitation. An upper-level high-pressure system in the area to the west pinned this weather in for about a week, so the rain kept falling. What role does climate change play in any of this? Hoerling said in this storm, the amount of precipitable water measured in the atmosphere was record-high. Global warming is known to increase the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, although the effect is not large — perhaps a 3 to 5 percent increase in the precipitable water would be a “reasonable estimate,” he said. But what really caused the rain to fall the way it did, for the amount of time it did, was the unusual atmospheric circulation…”

Photo credit above: “This Sept. 17, 2013 photo provided by Ecoflight shows the result of flash floods that inundated parts of the booming oil and natural gas patch in northern Colorado’s Weld County. Hundreds of natural gas and oil wells along with pipelines are shut down by flooding in this key energy region in Colorado, as state and federal inspectors are just beginning to gauge the damage and looking for contamination from inundated oil fields.” (AP Photo/Ecoflight, Jane Pargiter)




Climate Change Spells Trouble For Anglers. Here’s a clip from an article at National Geographic: “…A new report, published September 4 by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF)—one of the country’s largest environmental groups—backs up the anecdotal evidence and explains the variety of threats that climate change poses. Besides the closures themselves—which are typically the result of droughts and earlier than normal melt of alpine snowpack—many rivers are simply getting warmer. According to the NWF report, half of the major American rivers surveyed in a 2010 study experienced “significant warming trends over the past 50 to 100 years.” Fish are sensitive to temperature, explained Jack Williams, a senior scientist with the conservation group Trout Unlimited and a co-author of the NWF report, who describes a massive geographical shift in fish species already underway. “Already, native trout have been pushed around,” Williams wrote in an email…”



Photo credit above: “An fisherman in Montana enjoying the river.” Photograph by Jeff Hornbaker, Corbis.




Is Global Warming In A Hiatus. Here’s a snippet from a long but interesting article from The Conversation: “On September 27 2013 the 5th Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be released. One part of this report will address the so-called “warming hiatus”. This is the argument that warming has stopped, with the further assertion in some quarters that we therefore have nothing to worry about in the future. It is a fact, based on observations of air temperature, that the rate of global warming measured as surface air temperature has slowed over the past 15 years. The last decade is still the warmest in the past 150 years….”



Photo credit above: “With low solar activity, a double-dip La Nina and more particles in the air, it should be much colder than it is.” Les Chatfield/Flickr




The Inevitability Of Sea Level Rise. A little warming is no big deal? If you live within a few miles of the ocean – any ocean – it will be a very big deal in the coming years and decades. Here’s a clip from United Academics: ” There is no doubt that for the next century, sea level will continue to rise substantially. Small numbers can imply big things. Global sea level rose by a little less than 0.2 metres during the 20th century – mainly in response to the 0.8 °C of warming humans have caused through greenhouse gas emissions. That might not look like something to worry about. But there is no doubt that for the next century, sea level will continue to rise substantially. The multi-billion-dollar question is: by how much? The upper limit of two metres that is currently available in the scientific literature would be extremely difficult and costly to adapt to for many coastal regions. But the sea level will not stop rising at the end of the 21st century. Historical climate records show that sea levels have been higher whenever Earth’s climate was warmer – and not by a couple of centimetres, but by several metres. This inevitability is due to the inertia in the ocean and ice masses on the planet. There are two major reasons for the perpetual response of sea level to human perturbations...”




The Known Knowns Of Climate Change. Here’s an excerpt of a good explanation of what we do know (vs. what is theory or conjecture) from Project Syndicate: “…We also know beyond doubt that emissions from human activities have substantially increased the amount of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) in our atmosphere. When the first IPCC report was published in 1990, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere had reached 354 parts per million (up from the preindustrial baseline of 280 ppm). This year, the concentration of atmospheric CO2 crossed the 400 ppm line for the first time. CO2 levels are already far higher than they have been in a million years, as ancient air bubbles trapped in the Antarctic ice show.CommentsWe know that the amount of greenhouse gases is rising due to our emissions, and we know that this is causing warming. But how much? The most telling number here is the “climate sensitivity” – that is, the degree of global warming caused by a doubling of atmospheric CO2. IPCC reports have consistently given a range of 1.5-4.5ºC (with a minor exception in the fourth report, which gave a range of 2.0-4.5ºC)….”



Illustration credit above: Paul Lachine.




Weather Whiplash Is Like My Old, Broken Sprinkler. Climate scientist Greg Laden uses his lawn sprinkler as a metaphor for how the jet stream has been “whiplashing” back and forth, most evident since record Arctic ice loss a year ago – here’s a clip from his post at “…Until recently I had one of those sprinklers that wave back and forth with a couple dozen high power streams of water. The water comes out of a bar, and the bar oscillates back and forth and back and forth so there is a long, linear, gentle rain storm that passes back and forth across the lawn over the zone covered by the sprinkler. But when my sprinkler got old it would get stuck sometimes. The bar would stop oscillating, and the streams of water would create a long linear rain storm on one strip of the law while the rest of the lawn simply got dryer. The broken sprinkler did something that resembles the weather in the middle-ish part of the United States for a week or so during September 2013. The midwest got a “flash drought” during which no rain fell but it as hot and breezy, while the Rockies and other areas got lots of rain from a big storm that sat there for days and days without moving. The main part of the storm was in Colorado but New Mexico got extra rain as well, and after the storm left Colorado it moved north in the Rockies and wet down Wyoming and Montana a bit as well (causing only some flooding)...”



Climate Change Is Not All Disaster And Uncertainty. How do you quantify uncertainty and attribution when it comes to climate change’s impact on extreme weather events? How do you accurately communicate what may be the most complex environmental risk we’ve ever seen to the media, and ultimately the public? A few interesting ideas in this post from Australia’s The Conversation: “How does newspaper coverage affect how we view climate change? A new report has estimated that 82% of articles about climate change are framed in the context of “disaster” and “uncertainty”. The report’s lead author, James Painter, notes that those dominant media frames may be doing us a disservice because the public “finds uncertainty difficult to understand and confuses it with ignorance.” Likewise, “disaster messages can be a turnoff,” and the report therefore suggests that a better framing might involve the language of risk. This, they suggest, would encourage focus on the trade-off between the risk – and cost – of inaction, and of climate mitigation…” (Image: NASA).



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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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