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“Mega Doppler” – Preview of Summer 2013

Mega Doppler
One of the local news channels in Los Angeles touts “Megadoppler”, which is ironic, since most summer days the only thing their Doppler is detecting is dust, drizzle, wildfire plumes – maybe an occasional L.A. Laker?
Doppler has revolutionized tornado prediction, allowing us to zero in on rotating T-storms most likely to spin up a twister. The problem: not every twisting storm will tornado. In fact 70 percent of tornado warnings wind up as false alarms.
It’s always good to err on the side of safety & caution but too many false alarms & people tune out.
If these rains keep up you’ll need a machete to cut your jungle-like lawn this weekend. We’ve gone from dry, dusty topsoil to farmers unable to get into their muddy fields, all in the span of a few months. A remarkable turn-around.
The core of the jet stream is creeping farther north, allowing warmer, more summer-like air to push into Minnesota. Dew points may hit 70F today: tropical jet-fuel for strong storms tonight and Wednesday; another chance of T-storms late Friday into Saturday morning. Sunday looks like the drier day to salvage some sunscreen-time on the bike, boat or deck.
Amazingly, you may even  be able to work up a minor sweat!

Out On A Limb – Again. Is our cool, unsettled, sloppy June a preview of the summer to come? Probably. There is a correlation, and to pretend otherwise would be a waste of your time. We’ll see heat spikes, but the pattern is remarkably persistent and resilient, jet stream steering currents setting up an average of 300 to 600 miles farther south than 2012. That means chilly air at our northern doorstep, a tug-of-war taking place overhead, meaning frequent weather changes and a cool, wet bias, probably into at least July, maybe longer. Here is the latest edition of Climate Matters.

Tuesday Severe Risk. A slow moving warm frontal passage, coupled with rising dew points (close to 70F) and strong instability + marginal wind shear may set off a few severe storms later today and tonight – the greatest risk coming from large hail and damaging straight-line winds. Source: NOAA SPC.

Tracing The Outline Of Prevailing Jet Stream Winds. Check out the plume of 1-3″+ rains predicted from Montana to Iowa, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Boston, evidence of jet stream winds still unusually far south for mid June. More flash flooding is likely from the Ohio Valley into New England. Map: NOAA NCEP.

Trending Warmer. We’ve graduated from 60s to 70s and low 80s – temperatures inching in the right direction. ECMWF model data indicates a slight thunder risk later today, a better chance of T-storms Wednesday. Odds favor a drier, warmer weekend – it HAS to be better than last weekend.

After Drought, Rains Plaguing Midwest Farms. Weather whiplash over the Midwest is making national news. From drought to flood, in the meteorological blink of an eye, and once againmany farmers are suffering. Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times: “…One of the worst droughts in this nation’s history, a dry spell that persisted through the early part of this year, has ended with torrential rains this spring that have overwhelmed vast stretches of the country, including much of the farm belt. One result has been flooded acres that have drowned corn and soybean plants, stunted their growth or prevented them from being planted at all. With fields, dusty and dry one moment, muddy and saturated the next, farmers face a familiar fear — that their crops will not make it. “This is the worst spring I can remember in my 30 years farming,” said Rob Korff, who plants 3,500 acres of corn and soybeans here in northwestern Missouri. “Just continuous rain, not having an opportunity to plant. It can still be a decent crop, but as far as a good crop or a great crop, that’s not going to happen…”Photo credit: “Rob Korff, a corn farmer who planed about a month late this year after heavy rains that have made growing difficult, in Norborne, Missouri, June 7, 2013. In many areas of the Midwest, one extreme has given way to another, as flooded pastures have delayed planting or washed away young shoots.” (Steve Hebert/The New York Times).

* Flood zone will cover roughly 1/4 of New York City metro by 2050s. The New York Times has details here.

Bloomberg To Propose Spending Billions to Reduce Storm RiskBloomberg (the excellent news and information web site, mobile app and TV station) has more details: “Almost eight months after Hurricane Sandy flooded New York’s subways, destroyed homes and blacked out half of Manhattan, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will propose spending billions of dollars to mitigate storm risk along the city’s more than 500 miles of coastline. Mindful of environmental scientists’ predictions that sea levels around the city may rise 12 to 55 inches by 2080, the mayor tomorrow will unveil a capital spending plan to mitigate the dangers, his office said. “As bad as Sandy was, future storms could be even worse,” the mayor said in remarks prepared for delivery tomorrow. “Because of rising temperatures and sea levels, even a storm that’s not as large as Sandy could be — down the road — even more destructive.” By mid-century, as much as one-quarter of New York’s land area, where 800,000 residents live, will be in a flood plain, the mayor plans to say...”

Visualizing The May 2013 Moore, Oklahoma Tornado. Here’s interesting perspective from NOAA NCDC, the National Climatic Data Center, showing how tracking tornado debris on Doppler can provide clues about the wind circulation inside the supercell that whipped up an EF-5 strength super-tornado over Moore, Oklahoma on May 20: “…The Oklahoma City weather radar, or KTLX, is about 13 miles directly east of the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado, and it observed the entire life of the tornado from 2:56 p.m. to 3:35 p.m. Central Time on May 20, 2013. The KTLX weather radar took 14 different elevation scans of the atmosphere between 3:16 p.m. and 3:20 p.m., detecting the tornado debris as it moved eastward. NCDC scientists used the Weather and Climate Toolkit to produce multiple visualizations of the tornado and its devastation based on the data from the KTLX weather radar. In these visualizations, the vertical scans are exaggerated by a factor of two, making them easier to see. Google Earth is also used to display the data in three dimensions. Click the links below to download and view the visualizations of the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado produced by NCDC…”

Insight: In Tornado Alley Building Practices Boost Damage. The reality: it all comes down to building codes. Outside of Hurricane Alley (coastal communities from Brownsville to Portland) building codes are more lax; homes only built to withstand 75 mph winds. A home or office could be constructed to be “tornado-proof”, but costs would probably be prohibitive. Could (most) homes be constructed to withstand (most) tornadoes? Probably. If Oklahoma building codes could be raised to the standards of Florida more homes (and homeowners) could survive tornadoes. Here’s an excerpt of an interesting story at The Chicago Tribune: “…This notion that we cannot engineer buildings economically to withstand tornado loads is a fallacy,” said Prevatt, who has studied damage from hurricanes and the devastating tornadoes in 2011 in Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The cost of damage from tornadoes is soaring in the United States even though National Weather Service historical data shows no significant rise in the number of storms. The last five years have seen the highest losses from thunderstorm damage in U.S. history, according to an analysis by insurer Munich RE…”

Photo credit: “A sign warning against insurance fraud is displayed as heavy equipment is put to use removing debris from a home destroyed by the May 20th tornado in the Plaza Towers neighborhood of Moore, Okla., Friday, June 7, 2013.” (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Scientists Hope To Predict Tornadoes By Using Little Drones. I can see every TV station having their own drone. Drone7! Just when you thought it couldn’t get any crazier, check out this story at The Los Angeles Times: “Tornadoes used to strike without any warning. Since the 1970s, meteorologists have worked to bring the average warning time up to 13 minutes. A combination of weather balloons, radar and on-the-ground observations form the core of today’s forecasting technology. Now scientists have a new goal: extending the warning time from minutes to hours by sending unmanned aircraft — drones — into a brewing storm. Pulling that off would require not only technological expertise but also flexibility in government rules that block most such flights. Until now, most of the work on unmanned aircraft has been for military or public safety uses. But researchers are increasingly exploring their use in science, including severe weather research…”

Is Climate Change Increasing Tornado Intensity? The short answer: we’re not sure. A warmer, wetter atmosphere may fuel more severe thunderstorms, but changes in wind shear in a warming world may impact tornadogenesis. Here’s a clip from Huffington Post: “…Global warming is making wet places wetter and dry places drier, and creating moisture-laden air that fuels hurricanes and snowstorms, making them much worse than they otherwise would be in a climate unchanged by human behaviors. [The New Normal: Deluge] But we can’t necessarily say the same about tornadoes, at least not yet. The tornado connection to global warming is tenuous, and for several reasons. Chief among them is the fact that climate change apparently affects the two major factors influencing tornadoes — energy and wind shear — in completely opposite ways…”

Photo credit above: AP. “Lightning strikes from a storm illuminate a home damaged by a tornado on Hyde Park Lane at Country Club Rd. in Cleburne, Wednesday night, May 15, 2013.”

Inside The Immortality Business. Here’s an amazing read (troubling on so many levels) from Buzzfeed: “Some things should not be left to the last minute. For instance, having yourself frozen. The act of being preserved in a giant thermos cooled by liquid nitrogen in the hopes that the scientists of the future will figure out how to revive you and repair whatever it was that drove you to require freezing in the first place is no small matter. There are insurance policies to settle upon. Legal documents to notarize. Relatives to appease. And all of this must be done far enough in advance that arrangements can be made for a field response team to reach you on your deathbed and stand by until a doctor declares you medically deceased, at which time they will leap into action and begin your cryopreservation. Legally speaking, cryonics is okay because it’s considered an extravagant funeral practice. Its few practitioners would not argue with the notion that the procedure would be more effective if started before the heart has taken its final beats, but to do so would be illegal, even if the soon-to-be-deceased is a willing participant. Thus, the process waits for death, and the longer after death it begins, the worse off you are. This is why the Alcor Life Extension Foundation really doesn’t like to accept last-minute cases….”

I’d Watch This. Thanks to Lorange Blog for sharing this. I’m suddenly hungry for big bites of weather information.

Climate Stories…

Op-Ed: Climate Change Threatens America’s National Security. Retired Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney, of the American Security Project, says rising sea levels and extreme drought could be just as dangerous as terrorists and crises. Here’s an excerpt from “…The effects of this temperature change are severe. Climate change is usually presented as an environmental problem, but the consequences—and the consequences of the consequences—present real national security threats to the United States. First, climate change generates new security risks around the world. Although climate change may not directly cause violent conflict, it acts as “an accelerant of instability” or a “threat multiplier.” That is, it makes conflict more likely, or intensifies conflict already underway. For example, climate change wreaked havoc on Mali, a poor, dry Saharan nation with an unstable government. As rivers dried up and agricultural production suffered, Al-Qaeda-linked militants capitalized on instability and overthrew the government in 2012. We cannot say that climate change has caused conflict in Mali, but it clearly multiplied the already existing threats…”

Elite Flyers Pressure United Airlines To Act On Climate Change. Reuters and The Chicago Tribune has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…A group of United Airlines’ most frequent flyers, including billionaire investor Tom Steyer, on Monday called on the big airline to stop blocking climate change actions. United Airlines Inc has opposed “multiple efforts to curb climate change pollution, at home and abroad,” the group, Flying Clean, said in a letter to Chief Executive Jeff Smisek. Flying Clean, launched by several nongovernmental organizations seeking to reduce carbon emissions from airplanes, sent its letter ahead of United’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday in Arlington, Virginia. It had 85,000 electronic signatures including 2,700 elite frequent flyers…”

Global Floods Of The Future. It’s basic physics: as the atmosphere warms it can hold more water vapor, more fuel for storms (and floods). Here’s an excerpt “…In terms of the number of people exposed to flood risks, they found that depends on the temperatures to which things heat up. With a 2-degree Celsius rise in temperature, about 27 million people will be exposed to more floods. With a 4 degrees C warming the exposure rises to 62 million and at 6 degrees C it is up to 93 million people. The climate models were also used to study the outlets of some river basins. There they saw the frequency of floods increasing during the twenty-first century in just about every selected rivers in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania, Africa and Northeast Eurasia. They also predict that what were considered 100-year floods in the 20th century will occur every 10 to 50 years in the 21st century…”

Graphic credit above: “Projected return period (in years) in the 21st Century for river discharges matching what in the 20th Century were 100-year floods.” Dr Sujan Koirala

Climate Science Tells Us Alarm Bells Are Ringing. Here’s a portion of an Op-Ed atThe Washington Post: “…projections from an array of scientific analyses summarized by the National Academy of Sciences and most of the world’s major scientific organizations indicate that by the end of this century, people will be experiencing higher temperatures than any known during human civilization — temperatures that our societies, crops and ecosystems are not adapted to. Computer model projections from at least 27 groups at universities and other research institutes in nine countries have proved solid. In many cases, they have been too conservative, underestimating over the past 20 years the amounts of recent sea-level rise and Arctic sea ice melt. Much has been made of a short-term reduction in the rate of atmospheric warming. But “global” warming requires looking at the entire planet. While the increase in atmospheric temperature has slowed, ocean warming rose dramatically after 2000. Excess heat is being trapped in Earth’s climate system, and observations of the Global Climate Observing System and others are increasingly able to locate it. Simplistic interpretations of cherry-picked data hide the realities…” (Image: Climate Central).



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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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