All Weather News

Milder And Stormier Into Next Week (who will see a soggy Halloween?)

Soggy Halloween? Speaking of the ECMWF, here is the solution for next Thursday evening, Halloween 2013, showing a significant storm near La Crosse or Madison, pulling moisture from the Gulf of Mexico north. This is hardly gospel – the forecast will inevitably change in the days ahead, but if this comes close to verifying the Midwest, Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley can expect some very soggy Trick or Treat conditions, along with the Pacific Northwest. Map above courtesy of WSI Corporation.

A Stormier Pattern. The loop above shows GFS guidance, spinning up a series of storms over the Plains in the coming days, possibly a significant storm for the Midwest in time for Halloween. Rain? Probably, but I get very uncomfortable when a strengthening, cooling storm tracks south/east of Minnesota in late October. It will depend on the final track, but GFS is aligning with the (wet) ECMWF solution above. Loop of surface pressure and 10 meter winds courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather.

Misery Loves Company. If it’s any consolation, much of America east of the Rockies is feeling the chill. NAM guidance shows predicted 7 AM temperatures close to freezing in the northern and western suburbs of Atlanta, 50s pushing into the Florida Panhandle. Here’s a shout-out to Chief Meteorologist Mike Francis, who heads up an amazing team of meteorologists at WXIA-TV in Atlanta, our latest affiliate for WeatherNation TV. We’re very proud to be partnering with 11 Alive.

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 anniversary 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…”

Measuring America’s Decline, In Three Charts. I firmly believe our best days are ahead of us. We’ll have plenty of challenges, and education and literacy, especially science literacy, are near the top of the list. Here’s a clip from a sobering story at The New Yorker: “…But the data comparing young adults aged sixteen to twenty-four in different countries—the folks who will be manning the global economy for the next thirty or forty years—deserves a closer look. The figures come from three charts in the report’s statistical annex, which we have adapted here. Taken together, they vividly illustrate some of the challenges facing an economic hegemon that has for decades been plagued by wage stagnation and rising inequality, and which, as President Obama has pointed out, desperately needs to raise its game…”

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…”

Chicago Makes It Easier To Put Solar Panels On Roofs. Grist has the article – here’s the intro: “The Windy City is blowing red tape and roadblocks out of the way for new solar-panel owners. It used to take a month to receive a city permit needed to install a small solar array. That’s being reduced to one day. Meanwhile, the price of the permit is falling 25 percent to $275. These improvements are thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. “It will encourage more and more people to have solar here in the city of Chicago on a residential and commercial level,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said as he announced the changes at a solar event. “It will be cheaper, quicker and more efficient for people to put solar in…”

Photo credit above: ShutterstockMore solar is on its way.”

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…”

Ride A Horse, Save A Camry. Well, here’s one way to get to the local DMV. The Atlantic has the story; here’s the intro: “Sometimes the most efficient transportation technology is a very, very traditional transportation technology. Sometimes, if you’ve got somewhere you need to be, all the horsepower you need comes from a single horse. Take Ashlee Owens. The Virginia 26-year-old recently had her license suspended by the Virginia DMV after the agency hadn’t received proper proof-of-insurance paperwork. (She’d made “numerous attempts” to send the documents, the AP reports, but the DMV had apparently not received them. Phone calls in which she attempted to lift the suspension were, it seems, similarly unsuccessful.)…”

Photo credit above: “Owens, cruising the streets of Richmond.” (Associated Press).

Climate Stories…

“Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology says this year the average daily temperature has been 1.36 degrees above the historical average and the 12 months ending September 30 were Australia’s hottest year ever recorded”. – The Sydney Morning Herald.

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 Diego has 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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