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More Big Weather Swings (jackets for New England – first 90s Upper Midwest since last September)

14 May 2013, 5:47 am
Sometimes you read a story and just shake your head in utter amazement. Last week saw a rash of 911 calls in Madison – people reporting “dead bodies” on area lawns. It turns out it was just sun-starved college kids sunbathing. Yep, reluctant zombies, just trying to get a tan. Details below.
“I’m calling this WUMMER, Paul. A rude mash-up of winter and summer…since we never really experienced spring” a friend complained yesterday. Will this be one of those tentative, sickly summers, where we celebrate every time we hit 80? No idea, but I suspect it won’t be anything like 2012, when we couldn’t buy a cool front.
Welcome to an All or Nothing May: frost Sunday morning to low 90s today? Wear a light jacket over your shorts and don’t ask any questions.
A Fire Weather Warning is posted; gusty winds and low humidity fanning & accelerating any brush fires later today. We cool off a little Wednesday – 70s into next weekend.
No need to water anytime soon: a series of storms rippling along an east-west frontal boundary may drop some heavy rainfall amounts Friday into Tuesday of next week. Minor flooding is even a possibility. Drought to flood – 30s to 90s?
I can’t remember a spring like this.
Heat Spike. All the models show a high above 90 today; a few suggesting mid-90s. Temperatures cool off into the 70s Wednesday and Thursday, before rising above 80 again by Saturday.
Big Swings. While residents of New England reach for jackets folks in the Upper Midwest will be sweating thru a July-like day; 90-degree highs surging into Minnesota by afternoon. The Southwest remains dry with only spotty instability T-showers over the Southeast. NAM model loop: NOAA.

Drought, Cold Cripple Wheat Crop. Here’s an excerpt from a story at AP and NBC News: “The winter wheat crop is expected to be far smaller this season compared to last, particularly for hard red varieties used in bread, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Friday. In the first government projection on the harvest’s anticipated size, the National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated winter wheat production will be down 10 percent to 1.49 billion bushels, due to fewer acres — 32.7 million acres, some 6 percent fewer acres than a year ago — and a 1.8-bushel decrease in average yields, to 45.4 bushels per acre. The government’s forecast comes amid a season marked by drought and late spring freezes in the Midwest’s major wheat growing areas, particularly in Kansas — the nation’s biggest wheat-producing state…”

Photo credit above: Travis Heying / AP. ‘Ben McClure examines a wheat stalk in a Reno County, Kan., wheat field. Forecasts show a smaller crop due to drought and late-spring cold.”

Minnesota Lakes Contaminated With All Kinds of Chemicals. Out of 50 Minnesota lakes studied only 3 were found to be chemical-free. Details from The Star Tribune: “Man-made chemicals, from cocaine to DEET to pharmaceuticals, are finding their way into Minnesota lakes in ways that no one understands. Some 50 lakes analyzed last year by state scientists contained at least some of 125 different chemicals. DEET, the insect repellent, was the most common, found in 76 percent of them. Only three of the 50 lakes were chemical-free. Bisphenol A, from plastic, was found in nearly half and cocaine was found in a third, according to a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency analysis made public Monday…”

Photo credit: Lake Nokomis, courtesy of Tom Wallace, Star Tribune.

* The MPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) reports are here.

Another Twist To The Weather: Tornadoes Few, Far Between. Here are some interesting stats, part of story at “…The last time Iowa had a confirmed tornado was May 24, 2012. If no tornadoes occur through Wednesday, the state will surpass the record of 355 days set at the end of April 1956, he said. “To have gone this long without one is pretty extraordinary,” said John Lee, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Des Moines. Harold Brooks, research meteorologist for the National Severe Storms Laboratory, said preliminary numbers for May 2012 through April 2013 indicate that 197 tornadoes rated EF1 or stronger occurred in the United States. Lesser tornadoes weren’t factored into his analysis because they cause little damage and may even have gone unnoticed in the past, so the historical record is considered suspect...” (Photo: FEMA).

Satellites See Double Jeopardy For SoCal Fire Season. It’s going to be a long, hot, highly flammable fire season for residents of the west, including Southern California. Here’s an excerpt from a post at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory: “PASADENA, Calif. –New insights into two factors that are creating a potentially volatile Southern California wildfire season come from an ongoing project using NASA and Indian satellite data by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.; and Chapman University, Orange, Calif. The scientists tracked the relationship between rainfall and the growth and drying-out of vegetation in recent months, during an abnormally dry year. They found the timing of rains triggered regional vegetation growth in January and early February, which then dried out faster than normal during a period of low rainfall, strong winds and high temperatures in March and April. The combination likely elevates wildfire risks by increasing available fuel. The two institutions are combining satellite datasets to monitor moisture changes in vegetation and soil across Southern California’s vast wilderness areas in order to identify early warning signs of potential wildfires. The scientists are using measurements of soil moisture change from the Indian Oceansat-2 satellite scatterometer (OSCAT) and of vegetation stress from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on NASA’s Aqua satellite…”
Graphic credit above: “Current vegetation conditions in Southern California’s Riverside County are illustrated in this image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on NASA’s Aqua spacecraft, acquired on May 1, 2013. Greener areas indicate more vegetation. Locations where multiple wildfires erupted in late April and May 1 are marked. See sidebar image for comparative image acquired Feb. 25, 2013.” Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/U.S. Forest Service.

Solar Cycle Peaks Later This Year – Are You Prepared for Possible Disruptions to Power and Communications? A potentially disruptive and damaging solar flare is reported on Earth roughly once a decade. The Earth’s rotation around the sun will place it in a more vulnerable position later in 2013, directly exposed to the most active portion of the sun and sunspots capable of sparking major solar flares, including potentially damaging X-Flares, which can disrupt communications, GPS signals, even the power grid. NASA has a good overview (“A Super Solar Flare”) detailing the last time the USA experienced a devastating X-Flare, the “Carrington Event” in 1859. The odds of a similar event are small, roughly 12% over the next 11 year cycle. A major geomagnetic storm (G4 or G5 from an X-scale solar flare) could cause major power outages that might last weeks, months, even years – something none of us want to think about, but a real risk nonetheless.

A Space Weather Primer. We’ve experienced 3 separate X-class solar flares since midday Sunday. The risk of geomagnetic storms is small, but not zero, and we need to pay attention to “space weather” in the coming months. The solar cycle peaks later in 2013, but some of the most intense solar flares and CME’s are often observed going into and coming out of a peak. Details from WeatherNation TV: “WeatherNation Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas goes over some of the more active space weather we saw in the past couple of days. Paul Douglas goes over CMEs and solar flares and how they can impact life on Earth.”

First X-Class Solar Flare Of 2013. There were two CME’s (coronal mass ejections), one Sunday evening (X1.7), a second (X-scale 2.8) Monday morning. A 2.8 flare is nearly 3 times stronger than an X1. Details from NASA: “On May 12, 2013, the sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 10 p.m. EDT. This flare is classified as an X1.7, making it the first X-class flare of 2013. The flare was also associated with another solar phenomenon, called a coronal mass ejection (CME) that can send solar material out into space. This CME was not Earth-directed. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. This disrupts the radio signals for as long as the flare is ongoing – the radio blackout associated with this flare has since subsided…”

Image credit above: “The sun erupted with an X1.7-class solar flare on May 12, 2013. This is a blend of two images of the flare from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory: One image shows light in the 171-angstrom wavelength, the other in 131 angstroms.” Credit:NASA/SDO/AIA

Before Calling 911 , Check To See If Person Lying On Grass Is Dead. Need a good laugh? Check out this excerpt of a story at “Following the zombie scare on Monday, dead people kept popping up all over Madison on Tuesday. Or, at least it seemed that way to the Dane County 911 Center. The center was overwhelmed with calls from cellphone users reporting people lying on the grass, not moving, possibly not living. Not so. Check the weather. “Please tell cellphone users that people lying in the grass are not necessarily dead,” a dispatcher at the 911 center told”

Climate Stories…

Shell To Develop World’s Deepest Offshore PlatformReuters has the story; here’s an excerpt: “Royal Dutch/Shell said on Wednesday it will go ahead with the world’s deepest offshore oil and gas production project, pushing the boundaries of technology to produce from nearly 2 miles (3.2 km) down in the Gulf of Mexico. Coming three years after the Macondo oil spill disaster, Shell targets first production by 2016, demonstrating confidence in big offshore projects in spite of a downturn in oil prices. Earlier this week, Exxon Mobil Corp flagged startup for a $4 billion project to develop the Julia oilfield, about 40 miles (64 km) west of Stones in the Gulf’s deepest waters…”

Climate Change, “Happy Plants”, And False Balance. Here’s an excerpt from Media Matters: “Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere passed 400 parts per million (ppm) on Thursday for the first time in human history. But one thing hasn’t changed: false balance still crops up in climate change stories. False balance occurs when journalists give equal weight to arguments from both sides, regardless of where the facts lie. Climate change is a textbook example of this problem — in fact, the term was coined in academic papers to criticize climate coverage in the 1990s. Yet 20 years later, we still get articles like thisfrom Bloomberg News, reporting on the 400 ppm milestone:

The True Cost Of Climate Change? Here’s a look at home changing climate and weather patterns (and availability of fresh water) may impact species and biodiversity, fromBirdwatch: “Accelerating world climate change will radically decrease two thirds of common plants and half the animals, says new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA). Research published today in the journal Nature Climate Change look at 50,000 globally widespread and common species, and found that two thirds of the plants and half of the animals will lose more than half of their climatic range by 2080, if nothing is done to reduce the amount of global warming and slow it down. This means that geographical ranges of common plants and animals will shrink globally, and biodiversity will decline almost everywhere. Almost two thirds of common plants and half the animals could see a dramatic decline this century due to climate change…”

China “Moving To Lead On Climate Change”, Says Report. Wait, this is the same country that’s been launching roughly one new coal-fired power plant every week; a country where, at times, you can’t breathe the air, drink the water or eat the food? The Chinese realize they have a serious environmental problem, and renewable energy provides the only way out. Here’s an excerpt from Climate Central: “…The report says China and the U.S., the world’s two largest economies which together produce about 37 percent of world emissions, are both on track to meet their international commitments on climate change, something they said in this month’s “historic agreement” they would tackle together. “Today the energy giants are undoubtedly on the move, which will fuel global momentum.” China earns praise for several reasons. It is reducing its emissions growth, and in 2012 cut the carbon intensity of its economy more than expected. After years of strong growth in coal use, the rate of growth has declined substantially. It is also “the world’s renewable energy powerhouse.” Professor Flannery says: “China has halved its growth in electricity demand… [and] is quickly moving to the top of the leader board on climate change…”

Graphic credit above: “Global progress on renewable energy graphic.” Credit: Climate Commission.



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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