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Midwest Heat Spike (why it’s too early to be complacent about 2013 Hurricane Season)

7 Sep 2013, 6:36 am
Hot Enough



“The only predictable thing about the weather is that it will remain largely unpredictable.” And yet we keep on trying. Most days we come pretty close, but no matter how good the technology, there will be days when we shake our heads and shrug in unison.



Weather often comes in cycles; ie. a 4-day and 7-day cycle. Patterns repeat, yes, but the weather machine is inherently chaotic – it never moves in a straight-line. Temperature contrasts build and then the jet stream suddenly buckles, throwing the atmosphere into a new state.



Computer models often pick up on these dramatic shifts but not always. The larger the north-south temperature extreme the greater the potential for storm development and rain. The fact that we’ll go from low 90s today to mid/upper 90s Monday (ECMWF model) to 70s late next week suggests some potential for welcome rains, especially Monday and Tuesday. But there’s precious little water in topsoil to evaporate into PM storms, and I still don’t see the 2-3 day soaking we need. Most farms & lawns need 3 to 6″ rain to pull out of our drought. That won’t happen overnight.



Take a dip in the lake today. Monday may be beastly-hot but relief is brewing late next week. It’ll be nice to be “average” again.


Gradual Weekend Cool-Down. 12km NAM guidance (courtesy of Ham Weather) shows highs near 90F in the Twin Cities today, 80s for the Alexandria and Brainerd Lakes area, with 70s up north. A puff of cooler, Canadian air pushes south tomorrow, keeping highs in the 70s over much of Minnesota, even some 60s over far northern counties.

Monday Heat Spike? Maybe it’s my imagination, but we’re seeing more of these sudden northward surges of hot weather from time to time. We had one back in May (72 F high on May 13, then a whopping 98F high a day later, on May 14), and computer guidance is hinting at a comfortable Sunday giving way to a very hot Monday, with the possibility of mid-90s pushing into the Twin Cities metro area. A large north-south temperature gradient may set the stage for T-storms, especially northern Minnesota. Right now I don’t see any sustained soakings for the southern half of the state. Map above: Ham Weather.

Easing Into September. The transition from summer heat to autumn cool should trigger a series of storms and frontal passages capable of more significant rains in the weeks ahead, especially the third week of September. Our best (and probably only) chance of showers and T-storms comes Monday. Meanwhile, cool, sunny weather lingers over the Northeast; a relatively dry forecast for the South, monsoon PM T-storms over the Southwest. 84-hour NAM: NOAA.

September Starts Cool And Dry. Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Mark Seeley’s latest edition of WeatherTalk: “…Rainfall deficits continue to mount in many parts of the state. The U.S. Drought Monitor now shows that over 53 percent of the state landscape is in moderate to severe drought. Severe drought is now designated for parts of Stearns, Sherburne, Benton, Wright, Meeker, and Kandiyohi Counties in central Minnesota. These counties and others had been drought-free since mid-May. Volume flow on many Minnesota watersheds is down as well, in some cases well below average for this time of year. Unfortunately the outlook favors warm and dry weather through the third week of September for most of the state….”

Warm Weather Keeps Pools Open Longer, But Hits Farms With Extreme Drought. Here’s a clip from a story at The Star Tribune: …“It’s a bit disconcerting,” said University of Minnesota Extension climatologist Mark Seeley. “That’s pushing them right back into the predicament they were in last year.” In fact, last year’s drought that hit Minnesota from midsummer into early winter was among the worst in state history. In April 2012, nearly 98 percent of the state was in some kind of drought condition A wet later part of winter and spring alleviated that, but now drought has returned after a streak of little rainfall and lingering heat. Since July, Seeley said, rainfall for central Minnesota is 5 to 7 inches short of average, stressing crops. “They’ve been sucking the water out of soil,” he said…”

Sign Of The Times. Here’s the first fall color update from the Minnesota DNR. No color yet, in fact dry conditions coupled with unusual late-season warmth may delay peak color by a week or two this year.

Rainfall Needed To End Drought. Much of Minnesota needs 3-6″ of rain to eliminate the deepening drought. Possible, but not likely anytime soon. Long-range guidance is hinting at a wetter pattern next week into the third week of September. Rain may come too late to help with this year’s crop, but a couple of soakings would be very welcome, recharging soil moisture heading into the winter months. Map: Ham Weather.


Flash Drought. Summer came late this year to much of the northern USA. June was abnormally wet, followed by a heat spike the first half of July, then came unusually cool weather from late July into the first half of August, a stubborn northwest wind flow aloft keeping showers and T-storms away from the Upper Midwest. And then came the heat; the hottest week of summer arrived during the last week of August, but T-storms tracked over northern Minnesota – no help to farms, gardens and lawns over central and southern Minnesota. In this 6-week animation from the U.S. Drought Monitor you can see the rate at which drought has returned to the Upper Midwest.

Frosty Lows Friday Morning, courtesy of Mark Hoekzema at Earth Networks:

CNAAN – Canaan, VT – 30 degrees


KSLK – Saranac Lake – Gabriels, NY – 28 degrees


KBML – Berlin, NH – 33 degrees


ROMPA – Rome, PA – 33 degrees


ULYSS – Ulysses, PA – 34 degrees


HNCDL – Hinsdale, NY – 34 degrees


Nearing Record For Latest (First) Hurricane In The Atlantic. Yes, this season may wind up being a dud for hurricanes, but I’m not sure I’d take that bet, not yet. In today’s Climate Matters we look at previous quiet starts to a handful of hurricane seasons that wound up being VERY active: “Since record keeping began, the latest the first hurricane has formed in the Atlantic is September 11th. We’re only a few days away from breaking that record. But just because we haven’t seen a hurricane yet, doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. WeatherNation Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas shows us how the seasons with late hurricane starts panned out.”

Long Overdue For A (Major) Hurricane. It’s been 8 years since America has been struck by a Category 3 or stronger hurricane (Wilma in 2005). If we go 4 more days without a hurricane we’ll set a new record (for latest-first hurricane in the Atlantic basin). But it’s still early to call the hurricane season a bust. Gustav formed on September 11, 2002, followed by 3 more hurricanes. Erin didn’t form until September 9, 2001. It was one of 9 hurricanes that year, 4 of them major Category 3 storms. Graphics: WeatherNation TV.

Tropical Storm Gabrielle Fizzles: Why Has Hurricane Season Been So Calm? It’s supernaturally calm in the tropics right now. This is prime-time for tropical storm and hurricane development, but we’re approaching a record for the latest (first) hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin. Here’s a clip from a story at The Christian Science Monitor: “…On average, however, the season should have seen its first hurricane by now, and none has emerged. Indeed, the first major hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 111 miles an hour or more, typically appears around Sept. 4, notes Dennis Feltgen, spokesmen for the National Hurricane Center. If the first hurricane fails to appear until after 8 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time Sept. 15, this will be the most hurricane-free first half of a season since satellites began tracking the storms in 1967, he notes in an e-mail. One measure of a season’s oomph is known as the Accumulated Cyclone Energy – a gauge of the energy tropical cyclones expend one by one and accumulated over a season. Through Sept. 5, this ACE index has reached only 25 percent of the 1981-2010 average, according to the NHC data…”

Image credit above: “This satellite image of shows tropical storm Gabrielle moving east toward the Dominican Republic Wednesday. The storm has since been downgraded to a tropical depression.” NASA GOES Project/Reuters.

USAA Admits That Some “Totaled” Cars Were Sold. So that’s why I got such a deal on my newest purchase! I was told the car was “extra-clean”, but little did I know… Here’s more from “USAA officials now admit that some vehicles it branded as total losses after being damaged by Hurricane Sandy’s floodwaters later were resold and put back on the road. The San Antonio-based insurer totaled some 4,000 customer vehicles damaged during last year’s storm in the Northeast. USAA earmarked 174 of those vehicles to be sold for parts only because they had no titles. But USAA later found some buyers who bought them at auto auctions fraudulently obtained clean titles with the intention of putting them on the road again….”

Photo credit above: AP. “This file photo shows thousands of cars that were damaged in Superstorm Sandy and stored on the runways at Calverton Executive Airpark in Calverton, N.Y. USAA totaled some 4,000 customer vehicles that had been damaged, but officials for the San Antonio-based insurer now admit that some vehicles that had been totaled instead were resold and put back on the road. USAA had earmarked 174 vehicles to be sold for parts only, but has found that some were fraudulently given clean titles.”

Lackluster Hurricane Season Could Still Rev Up. Yes, it’s amazingly quiet in the tropics, but history teaches us that it would probably be premature to let our guard down just yet. Here’s a clip from a story at Live Science: “…The lack of hurricanes can be blamed on westerly winds, Weber said. So far this summer, there have been strong winds blowing from west to east across the Atlantic, which have systematically destroyed developing storms and prevented them from strengthening and growing into well-organized hurricanes, Weber said. Hurricanes are fueled by the transfer of heat from the ocean to the upper atmosphere, but they depend on a relatively symmetrical, rotating system to get going. They form best in calm conditions, with warm surface temperatures, Weber added. A second, lesser factor: Dry air and dust have also been blowing westward from North Africa’s Sahel region, hampering development of early season hurricanes that often form near the Cape Verde Islands in the eastern Atlantic, Weber said...” (File photo of “Katia” courtesy of NASA).

Latest First Hurricane On Record? Will we go another 4 days without a hurricane in the Atlantic basin? If so we’d set a new record. The latest (first) Atlantic hurricane on record, to date, is Gustav, back on September 11, 2002. Graphic courtesy of Tri-State Weather.

Aon Benfield: August Brings Multiple Billion Dollar Floods Worldwide. Here’s an excerpt from a press release at The Wall Street Journal: “…The report reveals that billion-dollar flood losses were recorded in China, Russia, Philippines, and Pakistan during August, causing an initial combined estimate of USD10 billion in economic losses. Persistent rainfall caused flooding across much of China during the month of August, with Heilongjiang Province sustaining much of the damage. According to available data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA), nationwide totals during August showed that more than 260 people died, at least 306,000 homes and structures were damaged, and the aggregate economic loss was at least CNY32 billion (USD5.3 billion). Across China’s northeast border, torrential rains led to the worst flooding in at least 120 years in Russia’s Far East. The Ministry of Emergency Situations reported that a combined 6,964 homes and 3,762 summer cottages were damaged. More than 627,000 hectares (1.55 million acres) of agricultural land was also submerged. Total economic losses were estimated by the government at RUB30 billion (USD1.0 billion)...”

* the August 2013 Global Catastrophe Recap PDF from Aon Benfield is here.

Why Do Our Best Ideas Come To Us In The Shower? Hmmm. Bathroom shower? Rain shower? Bridal shower? I’m so confused, but Mental Floss takes us the heart of the matter: “…Research shows you’re more likely to have a creative epiphany when you’re doing something monotonous, like fishing, exercising, or showering. Since these routines don’t require much thought, you flip to autopilot. This frees up your unconscious to work on something else. Your mind goes wandering, leaving your brain to quietly play a no-holds-barred game of free association. This kind of daydreaming relaxes the prefrontal cortex—the brain’s command center for decisions, goals, and behavior. It also switches on the rest of your brain’s “default mode network” (DMN) clearing the pathways that connect different regions of your noggin. With your cortex loosened up and your DMN switched on, you can make new, creative connections that your conscious mind would have dismissed...

Betty White, “Breaking Bad” Earn Guiness World Records Titles. Here’s an excerpt from NBC’s The Today Show: “Betty White has had a career for the record books, and finally, it’s getting officially acknowledged: The 2014 edition of the “Guinness World Records” book will now list the 91-year-old comedian and actress as the record-holder for Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female)….White was in good company among other record holders from the world of pop culture this year; AMC’s “Breaking Bad” will be listed in the new “Guinness” as the Highest-Rated TV Series, thanks to a metascore of 99 out of 100 on…”


The United States of Football. Map and commentary courtesy of America’s Finest News Source: The Onion.

Climate Stories…

Global Warming Has Increased Risk Of Record Heat, Scientists Say. has the story – here’s a clip: “…In the north central and northeastern United States, extreme weather is more than 4 times as likely to occur than it was in the pre-industrial era, according to a new study by Noah Diffenbaugh, a Stanford associate professor of Environmental Earth System Science, and Martin Scherer, a research assistant in the department….

* USA Today takes a look at how frequency of extreme heat and coastal flooding have changed in recent decades.

Global Warming Update: Record Heat Is 4 Times More Likely Now Than In Pre-Industrial Times. A slightly different angle on the same story from Popular Science: “Here’s your latest global warming update: It’s still happening. Intense heat is now four times more likely to strike in the U.S. than it was in pre-industrial times, according to a new study from Stanford University researchers. July 2012 was the hottest month on record in the lower 48 states, and the summer brought the “most severe and extensive drought in at least 25 years,” according to the USDA. And it seems summers like last year’s are going to become more commonplace, with 2012-esque temps becoming more likely, specifically in the north-central and northeastern United States. This study follows on the heels of a recently leaked draft of an Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change report, which noted that scientists believe we are experiencing more heat waves because of climate change–which yes, we’re still sure humans are causing….” (File photo: NOAA).

Ice Melting Faster In Greenland, Antarctica In U.N. Leak. The IPCC is about to release another climate update; Bloomberg Businessweek is running a story with an alleged leak from this upcoming report; here’s a clip: “Ice in Antarctica and Greenland is disappearing faster and may drive sea levels higher than predicted this century, according to leaked United Nations documents. Greenland’s ice added six times more to sea levels in the decade through 2011 than in the previous 10 years, according to a draft of the UN’s most comprehensive study on climate change. Antarctica had a fivefold increase, and the UN is raising its forecast for how much the two ice sheets will add to Earth’s oceans by 2100. The changes in the planet’s coldest areas are a “very good indicator” of a warming planet, according to Walt Meier, a research scientist with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration…”

Anglers Feel The Burn Of Global Warming. Michigan’s The Times Herald has a story on the impact to the local fishing industry – here’s an excerpt: “…The effects of heating the Great Lakes go beyond making some fish winners and some losers. Lisa Borre, writing for National Geographic, says that climate change is the main reason the lake’s water levels are so low. Erosion in the St. Clair River gets some of the blame, but most of the water that leaves the Great Lakes basin just evaporates. Lake Superior alone loses 29 billion gallons of water every day from evaporation. Warming not only means that more evaporates in the summer, but also means that the evaporation losses don’t stop in the winter because ice cover doesn’t form…”

In the north-central and northeastern United States, extreme weather is more than four times as likely to occur than it was in the pre-industrial era, according to a new study by Noah Diffenbaugh, a Stanford associate professor of environmental Earth system science, and Martin Scherer, a research assistant in the department.
Diffenbaugh and Scherer found strong evidence that the high levels of now in the atmosphere have increased the likelihood of severe heat such as occurred in the United States in 2012.

Read more at:


Why Trust Climate Models? It’s A Matter of Simple Science. Climate models are far from perfect, but they’ve done a pretty good job, overall, predicting some of the changes we would see, decades in advance. If anything these models were too conservative with melting ice over Greenland and the Arctic. Here’s an excerpt from Ars Technica: “Talk to someone who rejects the conclusions of climate science and you’ll likely hear some variation of the following: “That’s all based on models, and you can make a model say anything you want.” Often, they’ll suggest the models don’t even have a solid foundation of data to work with—garbage in, garbage out, as the old programming adage goes. But how many of us (anywhere on the opinion spectrum) really know enough about what goes into a climate model to judge what comes out? Climate models are used to generate projections showing the consequences of various courses of action, so they are relevant to discussions about public policy. Of course, being relevant to public policy also makes a thing vulnerable to the indiscriminate cannons on the foul battlefield of politics. Skepticism is certainly not an unreasonable response when first exposed to the concept of a climate model. But skepticism means examining the evidence before making up one’s mind. If anyone has scrutinized the workings of climate models, it’s climate scientists—and they are confident that, just as in other fields, their models are useful scientific tools…”

Global Warming In One Unmistakably Compelling Chart. Here’s an excerpt from a story by meteorologist Jason Samenow at The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang: “Produced by NASA, the chart illustrates how temperatures have compared to “normal” (or the 1951-1980 average) from 1880 to present, from pole to pole (-90 latitude to 90 latitude). From the 1880 to the 1920s, blue and green shades dominate the chart, signaling cooler than normal temperatures in that era.  Then, from the 1930s to the 1970s, warmer yellow, oranges, and reds shades ooze in, balancing the cooler shades. But since the 1970s, the blue and green shades rapidly erode and oranges and reds take over, dramatically. The rapid warming at the northern high latitudes especially jumps out in recent decades, reflecting “Arctic amplification” or more intense warming in the Arctic…” (Graphic above: NASA).

NOAA: Warming-Driven Sea Level Rise To Make Sandy-Type Storm Surges The Norm On East Coast. Here’s an excerpt of a story at Think Progress: “A new study by NOAA researchers finds future Hurricane Sandy level inundation will become commonplace in the future under business-as-usual sea level rise projections. NOAA’s news release for the report “Explaining Extreme Events of 2012 from a Climate Perspective” summarizes the key finding:

The record-setting impacts of Sandy were largely attributable to the massive storm surge and resulting inundation from the onshore-directed storm path coincident with high tide. However, climate-change related increases in sea level have nearly doubled today’s annual probability of a Sandy-level flood recurrence as compared to 1950. Ongoing natural and human-induced forcing of sea level ensures that Sandy-level inundation events will occur more frequently in the future from storms with less intensity and lower storm surge than Sandy…”

* Climate Central has more on the doubling risk of Sandy-scope storm surges.

This September Ask A NASA Climate Scientist. Good for NASA, being more proactive and soliciting questions. Here’s more information on the NASA initiative and a video clip explaining the program: “The topic of climate change inspires a lot of debate. At NASA, it has also inspired a lot of science. NASA scientists examine the Earth’s climate and how it is changing – gaining knowledge through decades of satellite observations, powerful computer models and expert scientific analysis. Over the course of this month, these NASA climate experts will answer selected questions through the agency’s social media channels – primarily on YouTube, Twitter and Google+. But first – we need your questions. Have a question that’s always confounded you about Earth’s climate? Wonder why it matters that the climate is changing now if it has changed before? Or how scientists know changes seen in recent decades are the result of human activities, not natural causes?…”

Climate Change Is Cleaving The GOP In Two. Is there a theoretical revenue-neutral tax on carbon that conservatives might eventually accept, if not embrace? Here’s a clip from a story at The Tyee and  Salon: “…A price on America’s carbon emissions will surely remain theoretical for some time. No Republican in Congress publicly supports it. Nor does President Barack Obama. “We would never propose a carbon tax,” the White House has promised. Yet the Globe Theatre debate may signal emerging Republican fissures on global warming. “There is a divide within the party,” one conservative scholar recently told the National Journal. “The position that climate change is a hoax is untenable…”

Photo credit above: AP/Ian Joughin.

Study Proves That Politics And Math Are Incompatible. Really? Salon sums up the challenge of separating out ideology from science and math in this piece – here’s an excerpt: “It’s hard to look at climate change deniers as being anything other than willfully ignorant. The numbers are right there: As surely as greenhouse gas emissions are rising, so are global temperatures. To discount all that is to choose to be stupid. But according to Yale law professor Dan Kahan, it’s easier than we think for reasonable people to trick themselves into reaching unreasonable conclusions. Kahan and his team found that, when it comes to controversial issues, people’s ability to do math is impacted by their political beliefs…”

Graphic credit: Global temperature by decade.” (Credit: World Meteorological Association)

Explaining Extreme Events Of 2012. Here’s an excerpt from a summary report by NOAA NCDC: “…The report shows that the effects of natural weather and climate fluctuations played a key role in the intensity and evolution of many of the 2012 extreme events. However, in several events, the analyses revealed compelling evidence that human-caused climate change was a secondary factor contributing to the extreme event. “This report adds to a growing ability of climate science to untangle the complexities of understanding natural and human-induced factors contributing to specific extreme weather and climate events,” said Thomas R. Karl, LHD, director of NCDC. “Nonetheless, determining the causes of extreme events remains challenging.” In addition to investigating the causes of these extreme events, the multiple analyses of four of the events—the warm temperatures in the United States, the record-low levels of Arctic sea ice, and the heavy rain in both northern Europe and eastern Australia—allowed the scientists to compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of their various methods of analysis. Despite their different strategies, there was considerable agreement between the assessments of the same events.

* the full report, all 104 pages (PDF) of the report referenced above is here, courtesy of the AMS, the American Meteorological Society.



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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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