All Weather News

Halloween Weather Preview (Canadian Arctic warmer than anytime in the last 44,000 years)

More Heavy Snow For Black Hills. NAM data thru late Monday night shows another significant snow potential from Wyoming and Montana into the western Dakotas, as much as a foot north/west of Rapid City. May: NOAA and Ham Weather.

An Active Pattern. GFS model data also shows a major storm for the Plains and Midwest by Wednesday of next week, but this model takes the storm farther east than the ECMWF solution. The southeast slowly warms, another weekend cool frontal passage on the way for New England. Map: NOAA and Ham Weather.


What This Winter Is Packing. Thanks to Emily Sohn at Discovery News for including my inane comments in a story focused on the winter to come. Cue the shrugging and hand-waving arguments: “…There are just so many variables, many of which can change in an instant. “A three-to-six month weather outlook is still more of a horoscope than an actual scientific prediction — your horoscope may be a little more accurate, in fact,” said Paul Douglas, senior meteorologist and co-founder of WeatherNation TV, a new 24-hour national weather channel. “To be honest, any forecast beyond two weeks should come with a warning much like on a pack of cigarettes. In the end, some things are inherently unknowable.” Among the factors that determine whether a winter will be lion-like or lamb-like, perhaps the most well known is the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, also known as ENSO, which describes shifts in the temperature of surface waters in the Pacific Ocean…”


Upward Blip In Temperatures? Here’s the latest trend of the NAO, where we’ve been and where we (may) be going. A strong negative phase of the NAO corresponds with colder, Canadian air having a clear runway to invade the USA (especially east of the Rockies), which is what we’ve seen for the past 7-10 days. An upward trend in the coming days may bring a few highs in the 50s to near 60 in the Twin Cities the latter half of next week – hardly Indian Summer, but not as harsh as recent days. It should be warm enough aloft for a potentially significant rain event by the end of next week. Graph: NOAA NCEP.


North Atlantic Oscillation. NC State has a good explanation of the NAO and how, along with ENSO (El Nino and La Nina) it helps to set the tone for weather across much of North America. Again, it appears we’re heading into a positive (milder) phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation in the next 1-2 weeks, a slight (temporary) reprieve from the worst of the wind chill over the northern USA.


China’s Smog As Seen From Space. The scale of the smog is amazing from a meteorological perspective, cold (stable) air, a strong inversion layer trapping pollutants near the ground, covering a huge part of northern and northeastern China. Details from NPR: “We told you earlier this week about how smog choked the northeast Chinese city of Harbin, which is home to 11 million people. Today, we get a stunning look at just how bad the problem is from an image taken by the Suomi NPP satellite on Tuesday. That murky gray you see below is all smog…”

Image credit above: “Heavy smog has shrouded much of eastern China, and air quality levels have been dropped to extremely dangerous levels. The heavy smog is caused by industrial pollution, coal and agricultural burning, and has been trapped by the mountains to the west and wind patterns. The thick haze of smog is clearly visible as the murky gray color in this true color satellite image.” NASA/NOAA.


Response To A City’s Smog Points To A Change In Chinese Attitude. Because it’s pretty hard to hide, dismiss or conceal a 1,000 mile wide stationary toxic cloud. Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times: “…Action plans in Harbin, Beijing and other cities, along with broad national policies meant to curb air pollution announced last month, signal that some officials are serious about tackling the chronic problem. On Thursday, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said it was sending inspection teams to cities across China for the winter to ensure that environmental regulations were enforced. Awareness of various kinds of pollution — air, water and soil — has risen quickly this year, especially among middle-class urbanites…”

Photo credit above: Hao Bin/European Pressphoto Agency. “Government workers moved signs to block roads amid heavy fog in Harbin this week.”



Wildfire Smoke Puts At Risk The Health of Americans Living Far From The Flames. I did a double-take on this story from the NRDC, The National Resources Defense Council. Here are a couple of noteworthy clips: “…Today my NRDC colleagues released a report concluding that wildfire smoke can pose serious health risks to people even hundreds of miles away from a blaze. That means residents of cities and suburbs far from forests or grasslands may still be vulnerable to the asthma attacks, pneumonia, and more serious chronic lung diseases brought on by smoke….My colleagues looked at data from the 2011 wildfire season and found that two-thirds of Americans—nearly 212 million people—lived in counties affected by smoke. Six states that didn’t even have major fires that year still had to deal with more than a week of medium- to high-density smoke conditions. Texas topped the list of most smoke-affected states, with more than 25 million people living in places with wildfire smoke conditions for one week or more. Illinois was second, with nearly 12 million people living in areas with smoky conditions, and Florida came in third, with more than 11 million…”


Lessons From Sandy. We’re coming up on the one year annniversary of Superstorm Sandy (it came ashore on October 29, 2012). What were the major take-aways from a meteorological perspective? What astronomical forces conspired to make this storm even worse than it should have been. Sea level in New York City has risen 8-12″ in the last 40 years, the result of volumetric expansion of warming ocean water and melting from glaciers and Greenland. In today’s edition of Climate Matters we take a look at the factors that made Sandy a 1 in 500 year event.


Hurricane History: Sandy And Wilma. Here’s an excerpt of a good post marking two tropical anniversaries from Brian McNoldy at The University of Miami: “One year ago this morning, Sandy intensified to a hurricane just south of Jamaica.  By the morning of October 25th, it rapidly intensified to a Category 3 hurricane with 115mph winds as it made landfall on the southeastern coast of Cuba. Model guidance was coming into better agreement on a track that would bring Sandy into the New Jersey coast as a very large cyclone on October 29th, possibly not tropical, but still very potent…”


Sandy: One Year Later. Architectural Record has an interesting perspective on some of the lessons learned, and what more needs to be done to mitigate damage from the next (inevitable) super-storm; here’s an excerpt: “…The predictable chaos and lack of information are the outcome of any disaster, but one year after Sandy (which killed 150 people and damaged or destroyed some 650,000 houses), officials, charities, and disaster experts are concluding that much can be done to smooth the recovery process—and that there’s more for architects to do other than drive-by damage assessments and holding empty “ideas” competitions. Now architects are working in neighborhoods to link people like Chati to the resources they need. Sandy was a much more destructive storm than predicted, and so-called 100-year storms may now arrive much more frequently. Such unprecedented climate violence makes the option of simply rebuilding questionable…”

Photo credit above: Sage and Coombe Architects. “Sage and Coombe Architects’ trellised canopies perch in front of restored concession stands in Queens, N.Y.”


Ted Fujita Defined Getting Blown Away. The meteorologist and legendary tornado researcher who’s name became the basis for the F-scale for rating the destructiveness of tornadoes is featured in this excellent article at The Tennessean; here’s a clip: “…The Weather Bureau was formed in 1870 to take meteorological observations and to give notice of the approach of severe storms to the coastal areas of the United States and the Great Lakes. The service started as a part of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, moved to the Department of Agriculture in 1890, and then to the Department of Commerce in 1940; in 1970, it was renamed the National Weather Service and became part of the renamed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The service is dedicated to improving the safety of Americans and their property. However, it was not until 1950 that forecasters were freed to use the word tornado in their forecasts and warnings. Prior to a July 12, 1950, authorization, which stated, “There is no regulation or order against the forecasting of tornadoes,” the bureau was actively discouraged and often prohibited from predicting tornadoes for fear of striking unreasonable panic in the public…”

Photo credit above: “Theodore Fujita was born Fujita Tetsuya.” University of Chicago.


Cool Discovery: Mountains Moved By Lightning. I had no idea. Here’s a clip from a story at “Lightning, as fleeting as it may be, shapes the land around us. Although many processes weather the landscape, a recent paper published in the journal Geomorphology demonstrates that rock formations of a particular shape and signature were thought to result dominantly from cold temperatures. However, studies of such rock formations in Lesotho, South Africa show that lightning strikes also play a major role…”


Too Close To Home: Deluge Engulfs Flood Researcher’s Town. LiveScience has the article; here’s the intro: “G. Robert Brakenridge has spent his career researching floods. But a lifetime’s worth of knowledge didn’t make it any easier when his own life was upended by rushing water. Brakenridge, the director of the Dartmouth Flood Observatory and a senior scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, was among the hundreds of people cut off from the world in Lyons, Colo., in September, when days of heavy rain, unleashed torrential floods along the Colorado foothills…” (Photo credit above:C. R. Brakenridge).


The 27 Most Glorious Moments In The History Of BBC Weather. I’m getting dizzy – hope this guy is wearing tennis shoes, because he’s getting a work-out. Here is a fascinating (R-rated) chronology of how weather has been communicated in the UK since 1936, courtesy of those wonderful troublemakers over at BuzzFeed: “BBC Weather is eternal. It’s been there 27 minutes and 57 past the hour since 3645 BC, hasn’t it?


I Don’t Need No Stinking TV Weather Graphics! This confirms my theory. We went from telling weather stories around a campfire to telegraph, telephone, magic markers, magnetic boards, crude blocky 2-D graphics to 3-D fly-through (rings a bell) to interactive touch-screen maps and tablets. What’s next? Depending on the economy and Q4 advertising sales, your favorite local TV station may have to resort to WeatherBoard HD. I think it has serious potential. Check out this clip on YouTube: “WEATHER BOARD HD! Wednesday morning, Jonathan Oh’s weather computer decided to go on vacation, so it was time to introduce the newest item in the arsenal of our weather center… the “Weather Board HD”! It’s interactive, live, and easy to read!


Move Over Bezos, ESPN Can Do News Better Than You. I doubt ESPN will dilute its (incredible) sports brand by moving into news, but the velocity at which media is transforming today? Nothing would surprise me. Here’s a clip from an interesting story at Reuters: “…Like Alexander the Great, ESPN has recorded so many victories in such a brief time that it will soon weep upon discovering that no additional sports worlds exist to conquer. The company has entered its mop-up phase, a place where most mature companies end up, doing more of what it does best, finding new ways to serve the old stuff, but not advancing at the old velocity. But if ESPN wanted to break out of the gold-plated sports ghetto that it now owns, what better strategy than to spend its millions refashioning itself as “The Worldwide Leader in News.” International news. Political news. Domestic news. Cultural news. Business and financial news. Local news (it already has a sports presence in five top cities). Weather. And, yeah, even sports. The idea isn’t as fanciful as it seems…”


The Starbucks Guide To World Domination? How did they go from one store in Seattle to one store on every block in the USA? Well, it sure seems that way. Here’s an excerpt of a fascinating read at Slate: …”So how did Schultz take Starbucks from a small chain—six stores as of 1984—to world domination: 18,000 stores in 60 countries, generating $13 billion in sales? First, he quit. If he couldn’t sell drinks to Starbucks customers, he would start his own chain. In 1986, Schultz, backed by Seattle investors, started a company called Il Giornale, opening three stores in less than a year. And so why is it that today we all drink Starbucks and not Il Giornale? It’s not because Schultz failed. It’s because Baldwin and Bowker decided to sell Starbucks to focus their energy on Peet’s Coffee, which Starbucks had purchased in 1984…”


Golf Leaf Trees Discovered In The Australian Outback. Now I’ve officially seen everything, after reading this amazing article at Gizmag; here’s the introduction: “Scientists from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have discovered that eucalyptus trees in the Australian outback are drawing up gold particles from deep underground through their root system and depositing the precious metal in their leaves and branches. Rather than being a new source of “gold leaf,” the discovery could provide a cheaper, more environmentally friendly way to uncover valuable gold ore deposits…”


The Incredible Shrinking Plane Seat. No kidding. No, you’re not getting wider, airline seats are getting narrower, as reported in The Wall Street Journal; here’s a clip: “…The new trend in economy seating reverses a half century of seat growth in economy class. Early jet planes like Boeing’s 707 had 17-inch seats, a dimension based on the width of a U.S. Air Force pilot’s hips, says Airbus marketing chief Chris Emerson. That standard for long-haul flying increased to 18-inches in the 1970s and 1980s with the 747 jumbo and the first Airbus jets. It widened to 18.5 inches with the Boeing 777 in the 1990s and A380 superjumbo in the 2000s. Now, cost-conscious airlines are moving to lighter 17-inch-wide seats on their Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliners and 18-inch seats for A350s…”

Why You Look Like Your Dog. O.K. This one hits close to home – details from The Atlantic; here’s an excerpt: “…Could there be something to the old adage that people resemble their pets? The phenomenon has been amply documented. Researchers around the world have repeatedly found that strangers can match photos of dogs with photos of their owners at a rate well above chance [4]. Perhaps people are drawn to animals that look like them. In a study of female college students, those with longer hair judged flop-eared dogs—spaniels, beagles—to be more attractive, friendly, and intelligent than dogs with pointy ears; women with shorter hair concluded the opposite..”

Climate Stories…

Arctic Temperatures Reach Highest Levels In 44,000 Years, Study Finds. Here’s the intro to a LiveScience story at Huffington Post: “Plenty of studies have shown that the Arctic is warming and that the ice caps are melting, but how does it compare to the past, and how serious is it? New research shows that average summer temperatures in the Canadian Arctic over the last century are the highest in the last 44,000 years, and perhaps the highest in 120,000 years. “The key piece here is just how unprecedented the warming of Arctic Canada is,” Gifford Miller, a researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said in a joint statement from the school and the publisher of the journal Geophysical Researcher Letters, in which the study by Miller and his colleagues was published online this week…”



Climate Change Will Make Colorado’s Millenial Rainstorm A Lot More Common. Here’s an update from Quartz: “The rainfall that caused massive flooding in Colorado last month was a once-in-a-millennium event, according to a recent study (pdf). And climate change is making those kinds of extreme weather events more common. The impressively named Hydrometeorological Design Studies Center, a division of the National Weather Service, has concluded with greater than 90% certainty that the rainfall was millennial in nature. Here’s the chart for one rain gauge in Boulder, Colorado, that was inundated over seven days..”



Photo credit above: “Houses partially submerged last month in Longmont, Colorado.” AP/John Wark



Elon Musk: Oil Campaign Against Electric Cars Is Like Big Tobacco Lobbying. The Guardian has the story – here’s an excerpt: “Attacks on electric cars by the oil industry are on a par with misinformation campaigns promoted by big tobacco companies and vested interests undermining climate science, according to Elon Musk, the serial entrepreneur who founded PayPal and the brains behind both the space exploration company SpaceX and the electric sports carmaker Tesla Motors. The oil giants, he reckons, are attempting to sow the seeds of doubt. Speaking before the opening of Tesla’s new luxury store in the Westfield shopping mall in Shepherd’s Bush, London, last night, Musk told the Guardian: “It’s kinda like the battle against ‘big tobacco’ in the old days, and how they’d run all these ads about how tobacco’s no problem…”

Photo credit above: “Elon Musk in the new Tesla Model S high performance electric car in the showroom at Westfield London.” Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian.


Adversaries, Zombies And “NIPCC” Climate Psuedoscience. There’s a lot of (manufactured/sponsored) misinformation out there, as described in this post at Australia’s The Conversation; here’s a clip: “…IPCC reports openly discuss the strengths, weaknesses, criticisms and uncertainties of the science. The reports provide policy makers with a range of plausible outcomes given rising atmospheric CO2. Heartland’s NIPCC partially mimics the IPCC, but with key differences. It is written and reviewed by dozens of people, almost exclusively drawn from the “sceptic” community, and is consequently highly partisan. Indeed, the NIPCC advocates an adversarial approach to assessing climate science, with partisan “teams” arguing for different positions…”

Photo credit above: “Dead science lives on, thanks to the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change.” Scott Beale


Wall Street Demands Answers From Fossil Fuel Producers On “Unburnable” Carbon. Keep an eye on this – fossil fuel companies won’t go down without a fight. Inside Climate News has the story; here’s an excerpt: “A well-heeled coalition of investors is asking top fossil fuel companies to calculate the risks of plowing billions into new oil, gas and coal projects. They fear that carbon emission limits and slowing demand will turn them into bad investments that leave investors worse off. The requests, contained in letters sent to 45 companies last month, are part of an initiative aimed at persuading oil producers and others to rein in their quest to stockpile more carbon energy. They hope to do so by tapping into growing concerns that climate policies and market factors could prevent companies from selling all of their reserves of fossil fuels, which are still growing fast…”

Photo credit above: “Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, speaks at a conference in 2012. On Thursday, Ceres launched an initative with the backing of investors representing about $3 trillion. They’re demanding that fossil fuel firms divulge the financial risks of their “unburnable” carbon reserves.” Credit: Julie Sterling Williams. 
* more perspective on the pension fund initiative from ABC News.


Climate Change Affects Australia’s Epic Wildfires – No Matter What Prime Minister Says. Here’s a clip from Time Magazine: “Wildfires are nothing new in Australia, a sunburned country with plenty of vegetation to burn to a crisp when temperatures skyrocket during the southern-hemisphere summer. Deadly wildfires are immortalized in Australian history, including Black Saturday in 2009, when a frighteningly fast wildfire in southern Australia killed 173 people in a single day. The blazes that burned in southeastern Australia this past week may not go down in history — just one death has so far been reported, which is a testament to the bravery of the country’s firefighters and the experience that most Australians have in dealing with fires. But the wildfires did manage to burn more than 121,000 hectares, and the smoke blackened the skies of Sydney, Australia’s largest city, while damage is set to exceed $100 million…”

Photo credit above: Rob Griffith – AP. “Firefighters control flames during hazard reduction in Bilpin, 46 miles from Sydney, Oct. 23, 2013.”




Mystery Of The “Missing” Global Warming. Here is a good summary of a major point climate scientists are making: over 90% of the observed warming is going into the world’s oceans. Here are two clips from a recent story at Bloomberg Businessweek: “…Have you heard the one about how global warming stopped in 1998? It’s been called a “pause,” a “hiatus,” a “slowdown” and a “siesta.” Above all, it’s a red herring, and it isn’t difficult to find where some of the ‘missing’ heat has gone….The warming at the ocean’s surface layer may have slowed a bit, but ocean temperatures in aggregate have continued to rise unchecked during the so-called hiatus, according to the IPCC. That’s important because while the atmosphere accounts for just 1 percent of planetary heat, the oceans carry 93% of the stored energy from climate change (melting ice and warming continents make up the rest).…”



Graph credit: National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC).




Canadian Arctic Warmer Now Than Last 44,000 Years? Here’s an excerpt from a News Consortium story at Catholic Online: “A new study reveals that temperatures across the Canadian Arctic are now greater than they have been in the last 44,000 years, and possibly longer. Scientists say it is more proof of anthropogenic global warming. A new study shows that Arctic temperatures are the highest they have been in the past 44,000 years and possibly even the hottest in the past 120,000 years. Gifford Miller, a researcher from the University of Colorado, Boulder, wrote a letter in coordination with the journal Geophysical Researchers Letters that was published online this week. The letter says that the study proves the warming we’re witnessing in the Arctic is unprecedented in modern times and real...”




Disequilibrium Is Not Your Friend. Global warming is a totally inadequate phrase for summing up what we’re seeing in the data and around the world. Climate volatility better explains the changes. Global weirding, climate instability or even disequilibrium might be a better phrase, as described by Michael Tobis at Planet 3.0; here are a couple of clips:”…That is to say, it seems to me that the usual method of attribution acknowledges global warming (the graph shifting to the right, in figure (a)) but not global weirding ((b)). So, is this really what is happening? Just a few days ago I thought it was too early to tell, but I was wrong. Hansen, Sato and Reudy have a paper submitted to PNAS and published on Hansen’s website…..And this is why “global warming” is an inadequate name for what is happening. Climate is changing very quickly. Some of the slower parts of the system are just starting to wake up. We are entering a period of increasing disequilibrium, and what we are seeing is unequivocally worse than we expected.”




Hot Topic: The Science Of Global Warming And The Public Disconnect. U-T San Diegohas the first part of a 3-part series on why it’s easier to deny or dismiss a growing scientific body of evidence than take steps to mitigate the risk; here’s an excerpt:

Q: Could you summarize the findings in the latest IPCC report?

SEVERINGHAUS: They said five years ago that they were 90 percent sure that more than half the warming was human-caused in the past 50 years. Now they’re 95 percent sure. This is basic physics. There is natural climate change. We know that. And so if you’re going to make a statement like more than half of the warming over some particular time is due to humans, you also have to know how much was natural. And it’s just really hard to know how much is natural. And that’s why that figure is 95 percent and not 99 percent, or 99.99 percent…

Photo credit: “Jeff Severinghaus, a professor of geosciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.” — K.C. Alfred.


A Fine Vermont Wine? Yes, a slow-motion warming is benefiting grape growers and wine producers…in Vermont? CBS News has the story; here’s an excerpt: “While no one wants to promote climate change, a group of Vermont winemakers can thank the state’s rising temperatures for an economic boost. They have been able to add warmer-weather varieties, like pinot noir, to their selection. Thirty years ago, winemaker Patrick Barrelet says, the grapes would not have survived Vermont’s cold winters. “We definitely have seen bigger crops in I’d say the last 10 years,” he told CBS News, adding that he thinks it is because of climate change. “They’re very cold sensitive and if you don’t have a warmer winter, you don’t have a crop,” he continued…”


Gambling With Civilization. Here’s an excerpt of a book review at The New York Review of Books: “…So the future is uncertain, a reality acknowledged in the title of Nordhaus’s new book, The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World. Yet decisions must be made taking the future—and sometimes the very long-term future—into account. This is true when it comes to exhaustible resources, where every barrel of oil we burn today is a barrel that won’t be available for future generations. It is all the more true for global warming, where every ton of carbon dioxide we emit today will remain in the atmosphere, changing the world’s climate, for generations to come. And as Nordhaus emphasizes, although perhaps not as strongly as some would like, when it comes to climate change uncertainty strengthens, not weakens, the case for action now. Yet while uncertainty cannot be banished from the issue of global warming, one can and should make the best predictions possible. Following his work on energy futures, Nordhaus became a pioneer in the development of “integrated assessment models” (IAMs), which try to pull together what we know about two systems—the economy and the climate—map out their interactions, and let us do cost-benefit analysis of alternative policies…”

Photo credit above: Stanley Greene/NOOR/Redux. “Greenland, photographed from a boat navigating the melt where dog sleds used to travel across the ice, October 2009.”


Killer Climate Change: Deaths On The Rise. Data for Stockholm, Sweden was analyzed, and warmer weather is resulting in more heat-related mortality. The Guardian has the story; here’s a clip: “Scientists say that because of the increasing temperatures associated with climate change, deaths from heat exposure appear to be on the rise. The problem, they say, is that when temperatures go up, it causes longer, more frequent and hotter heat waves.  Even without the effects of global warming, heat waves tend to be killers, with hundreds of American dying each year .  And, with it, they tend to be much worse…”



Climate Change Cost You The McDonald’s Dollar Menu. Quartz has the story – here’s the intro: “The McDonald’s “Dollar Menu” is no more—or rather, it will now be the “Dollar Menu & More,” including sandwiches, sides, and snacks that cost up to $2. The new menu, driven by rising prices on commodities, is the product of extensive negotiations between McDonald’s corporate headquarters and their franchisees. Here are some of the trends behind the change. 



1). Droughts have driven up the wholesale price of cattle. Since 2011, rising temperatures across the United States have led to drought conditions in cattle-ranching states like Texas and Oklahoma.



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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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