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November Smack (a few remedies for the dark days of late autumn)


Dark Days

“Hey Paul, are you looking forward to your cold, dark, snowy near-death experience? I think you refer to it as WINTER?”.

My friend in Sarasota has such a great sense of humor. He belongs in Florida.

Yes, in fact, I am looking forward to a quiet winter. No yard work, no bugs, no humidity, football on the tube; a chance to fire up the sleds and then nap with impunity.

We lost nearly 5 hours of daylight since June 21 and some of us feel the need to hibernate; sleep in ’til the crack of noon. We’re dragging.

I run into more people who dread a lack of sunlight far more than wind chill or knee-deep snowdrifts. A few sunny southern getaways during winter can help. So can full-spectrum light bulbs that mimic the sun. I have one installed at home right next to my favorite sofa. It does help.

* Amazon has a wide selection of full-spectrum light bulbs that mimic the sun and may help with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). No, I don’t get a commission.

84 Hour Snowfall. The 12km NAM shows the impact of a narrow, compact Alberta Clipper, laying down a carpet of 1-3″ from near Sioux Falls to the Quad Cities to near Peoria. Lake-effect snows are likely from the Minnesota Arrowhead into northern Wisconsin and the U.P. of Michigan. Map: Ham Weather.

Wildfire Emergency Declared Iin Australia State As Homes LostBloomberg Businessweek has more details; here’s the intro: “Australia’s most populous state declared an emergency as wildfires tore through bushland west of Sydney, destroying hundreds of homes and threatening mountain townships. New South Wales state Premier Barry O’Farrell signed the order late yesterday, giving emergency services personnel the power to forcibly evacuate people, tear down threatened buildings and cut off power and gas supplies. More than 2,000 firefighters are battling 58 blazes across the state, including 14 that are uncontained, Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters today. The nation’s bushfire season has started early after the warmest September on record, and the emergency measures reflect receding chances of rain to douse flames engulfing the Blue Mountains region 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Sydney….”

Photo credit above: “Firefighters work on putting in containment lines to help control a wildfire near the township of Bell, Australia, Monday, Oct. 21, 2013. Authorities warned that high temperatures and winds were likely to maintain heightened fire danger for days.” (AP Photo/AAP Image, Dan Himbrechts).

Australia Braces For Potential “Mega-Wildfire”AFP has the story; here’s a clip: “Mount Victoria — Firefighters were battling an enormous blaze in southeastern Australia Monday, with officials warning it could merge with another to create a “mega-fire” if weather conditions worsen. Crews have been fighting fires that flared in high winds and searing heat across the state of New South Wales last week with more than 200 homes destroyed so far and many others damaged. While dozens of blazes have been contained, 63 were still alight and 17 of them were out of control, enveloping Sydney in a thick white smoke haze that prompted warnings for people to stay indoors and avoid exercise…”

Photo credit above: “A New South Wales Rural Fire Service volunteer puts out a fire in the town of Bell, Australia, on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013. Firefighters battling some of the most destructive wildfires to ever strike Australia’s most populous state were focusing on a major blaze Sunday. Authorities warned that high temperatures and winds were likely to maintain heightened fire danger for days.” (AAP Image/Paul Miller).

Hurricane Raymond Threatens Mexican Coast – Dire Fire Outlook For Australia. In today’s 2:30 Climate Matters video update from WeatherNation TV I take a look at a major, Category 3 hurricane precariously close to Acapulco (the worst of this storm should remain just offshore). An even bigger story is evolving in Australia, where they didn’t have much of a winter. Temperatures were unusually warm with very little rain and snow, setting the stage for what may be the worst wildfire season in 40 years. Keep in mind it’s spring in Sydney, peak fire season is still 2-4 months away.

ENSO-Neutral, But Growing Signs Of Weak El Nino In 2014. The graph above shows various model forecasts of ENSO, the natural oscillation of wind and water in the Pacific. For several years we’ve been in a protracted La Nina cooling phase, which may be temporarily masking some of the atmospheric warming worldwide. There seems to be a trend toward a slight warming by early 2014. The definition of El Nino is water temperatures consistently .5C warmer than average for at least 3 consecutive months. Graph: NOAA NCEP.

Flood Insurance Costs Soaring For Thousands Of HomeownersCNN Money has the story, more fall-out from Superstorm Sandy and rising sea levels; here’s an excerpt: “Homeowners who live along the nation’s coasts and river valleys are discovering that changes made to the National Flood Insurance Program are causing their insurance premiums to skyrocket at alarming rates. Earlier this month, part of a new law, called theBiggert-Waters Insurance Reform Act of 2012, went into effect that phases out flood insurance subsidies on hundreds of thousands of older homes. The government has also been revising its flood zone maps and reassessing the level of flood risk for various areas…”

Photo credit: George Kosimos. “George Kosimos in his back yard, which FEMA has mapped out as a high risk of flooding.”

Despite Severe Storms, Sales Of One Vital Policy Remain Low. Are you covered for flooding? Most standard homeowners policies do NOT include flood-related damage under claims – you need to purchase this separately. In the wake of Sandy and major flash floods and river flooding of recent years many Americans continue to take their chances.Insurance Business Magazine has the story – here’s an excerpt: “…How do you recover from something when you don’t have insurance?” she said. “People assume that these large-scale disasters will always be followed by a federal emergency declaration that will help them out. That isn’t always the case.” Producers need to ensure that their clients recognize the importance of flood insurance, even if they feel the odds are in their favor. “The big message here is, yes…we do get flash floods,” Walker said. “It’s our most common natural disaster, and we really urge agents to offer flood insurance to everyone and everyone should consider purchasing it, weighing their risk…” (File photo: AP).

Sandy A Warning Rising Seas Threaten Nuclear PlantsClimate Central has a story focused on how rising sea level combined with more extreme coastal storms and subsequent storm surges may threaten coastal nuclear power plants; here’s an excerpt: “As Hurricane Sandy barreled ashore a year ago, the storm forced the shutdown of several Northeast coastal nuclear power reactors, including the Oyster Creek plant on the Jersey Shore, which took the brunt of Sandy’s huge storm surge. Another reactor at Indian Point Energy Center north of New York City shutdown because of power grid disruptions, and a third reactor in southern New Jersey shutdown when Sandy knocked out four of its circulating water pumps. No nuclear power plant in Sandy’s path was in imminent danger of a meltdown, but the force and size of the storm surge served as a warning that rising seas and higher storm surges, driven in part by climate change, could eventually have a devastating effect on the seven low-lying nuclear power generating sites on the Northeast Coast in future hurricanes…”

Photo credit above: “Indian Point Energy Center on the Hudson River in Buchanan, N.Y.” Credit: Bobby Magill 

California Residents Cautioned To Look Out For Yellow Fever Mosquito. Here’s the latest from The Los Angeles Times: “A mosquito that can carry dengue and yellow feverhas been found in California, prompting intense eradication efforts in the Central Valley and warnings from officials about how to keep the pest from spreading. “It could change the way we live in California, if we don’t stop it,” said Tim Phillips of the Fresno Mosquito and Vector Control District. “Imagine not feeling safe to sit out in your backyard in the afternoons.” The yellow fever mosquito, or Aedes aegypti — a white polka-dotted bug that bites during the day and can lay its eggs in less than a teaspoon of water — was first detected in June in Madera…”

Photo credit above: “The yellow fever mosquito has been found in California, prompting intense eradication efforts and warnings from officials about how to keep the pest from spreading.” (AP / December 31, 1969).

“Nightmare” Bacteria Are Real, And The U.S. Needs To Act Fast. I’m feeling better about the snow flurries and freezing temperatures. No wonder people are afraid to turn on their TV’s or computers. Here’s a clip from The Washington Post: “Last spring, Arjun Srinivasan, an associate director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, delivered a presentation to state health officials with some alarming information. Before the year 2000, he said, it was rare to find cases of bacteria resistant to carbapenems, a class of powerful, last-resort antibiotics. But by February 2013 they had been seen in almost every state. Srinivasan also briefed Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC. On March 5, Frieden issued a public warning about “nightmare” bacteria, a family of germs known as CREs. They can kill up to half the patients who get bloodstream infections from them, resist most or all antibiotics and spread resistance to other strains. Last month, Frieden released a report estimating that at least 2 million Americans get infections each year that are resistant to antibiotics and that at least 23,000 people die as a result…”

Image credit above: “CRE germs kill up to half of patients who get bloodstream infections from them. Source: CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Protection.

For Too Long Sports Journalists Glossed Over Football’s ViolenceI Was One Of Them. Here’s an excerpt of a mea-culpa from a retired sportswriter, editor and columnist at The Washington Post: “…I covered the NFL over four decades dating back to 1972. Now semi-retired myself and five years removed from day-to-day football coverage, I have one main regret: not focusing more of my reporting and writing on the absolute brutality of the sport, particularly the painful post-football lives of so many players. Instead, like many other sports journalists, I spent much of my career writing positive pieces about the league and its players — puffy features and breathless accounts of thrilling victories and agonizing defeats. I certainly covered my share of serious NFL warts: mounting injuries; the use of steroids and amphetamines; team doctors prescribing far too many painkilling pills and injections...”

Photo credit above: John McDonnell/The Washington Post. “Washington’s quarterback Robert Griffin III on the ground after getting a concussion in the 3rd quarter of a game against the Atlanta Falcons at FedEx Field in October 2012.”

Who Needs Air Conditioning? Gizmag’s Top-5 Passively-Cooled Homes. Here’s an excerpt of an interesting article at “Home air-conditioning offers near-instant relief from hot weather but is both expensive and resource-heavy to run. Gizmag picks five of our current favorite passively-cooled homes that are environmentally responsible to keep comfortably cool, and – perhaps just as importantly – very desirable to live in…”

From Mary To Emma: 6 Decades Of Most Popular Girl’s Names. Because inquiring minds want to know. Here’s a clip from a story and interactive graphic from “There will always be people out there picking weird names for their kids, but when you look at the choices that make their way to the top you’ll see that Americans tend to play it safe. The maps above, based on data from the Social Security Administration, show the most popular baby names for girls by state, for babies born from 1960 through 2012, with the colors representing the most popular single name for that year…”

Can A $400 Blender Change Your Life? Yes. Full disclosure: I have a Vitamix, and I love it. I’m eating (drinking) healthier than ever, and you’d be amazed the number of different fruits and vegetables that can be combined, blended to produce a surprisingly drinkdable and healthy milkshake. Oh boy, I’m drinking the Kool-Aid (literally). Here’s a clip from Slate: “When you first buy a Vitamix 5200, the so-called Ferrari of blenders, two thoughts are likely to pass through your mind. The first is “Did I really just spend more than $400 on a blender?” And the second is “This machine is going to change my life.” At least those are the thoughts I had after I bought my Vitamix at a nutrition-related conference several weeks ago. I hadn’t planned to make this purchase; I’d merely followed some colleagues to the Vitamix demonstration stand, where a fast-talking young man with a headset and an impressive dexterity with Dixie cups was offering samples to an enthusiastic crowd..”


Climate Stories…

Weathering The Change. USA Today has done a good job documenting examples where a morphing climate is already having an impact on communities around the United States. The site is here.

Super-Large-Scale Solar Installations Are Surging In the U.SQuartz has the article – here’s the introduction: “Don’t write Big Solar off yet. With the plunge in photovoltaic panel prices, US utilities that once enthusiastically signed deals for massive solar power plants to be built in the desert began to favor small installations deployed near cities that don’t require the construction of  multi-billion-dollar new transmission lines. But a new report shows that so-called utility-scale solar—which supplies more than 10 megawatts (MW) of electricity from a central power plant—hit a new record in the third quarter of 2013. So far this year, 1,081 MW of utility-scale solar has come online, with the flip switched on 282 MW in the third quarter, according to market research firm SNL. That’s a 15% spike over the third quarter of 2012...”

Climate Change: A Note From Our Letters Editors. Yes, you’re free to have whatever opinion you want to have. That doesn’t mean you’re free to make up facts or cherry-pick data, as the editors at the Sydney Morning Herald point out; here’s an excerpt: “…We do not ban writers whose views suggest they are climate change deniers or sceptics. We consider their letters and arguments. But we believe the argument over whether climate change is happening and whether it is man-made has been thrashed out extensively by leading scientists and on our pages and that the main debate now is about its effects, severity, and what society does about it. Climate change deniers or sceptics are free to express opinions and political views on our page but not to misrepresent facts. This applies to all our contributors on any subject. On that basis, a letter that says, “there is no sign humans have caused climate change” would not make the grade for our page.”

Image credit above: “Five degrees hotter… our climate in 90 years.” Digital illustrationPhoto: Matt Davidson.

Global Warming Forecast For Amazon Rain Forest: Dry And DyingLive Sciencehas an update on the troubling trends in the Amazon; here’s the intro: “The Amazon rain forest’s dry season lasts three weeks longer than it did 30 years ago, and the likely culprit is global warming, a new study finds. Rain falls year-round in the Amazon, but most of the annual deluge drops during the wet season. (The rainy season’s timing varies with latitude.) Scientists think that a longer dry season will stress trees, raising the risk of wildfires and forest dieback. The forest’s annual fire season became longer as the dry season lengthened, according to the study, published today (Oct. 21) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…”

Photo credit above: “The rain forest canopy north of Manaus, Brazil.” Credit: NASA LBA-ECO Project.

U.S. Oil Supply Looks Vulnerable 40 Years After Embargo. Shale oil helps our overall energy needs, but we are still vulnerable to disruptions in oil supply lines, according to this article at USA Today. Here’s a snippet: “…We remain very vulnerable,” Panetta says, adding it wouldn’t take much for members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) — which launched the 1973 embargo — or terrorist groups like al-Qaeda to disrupt supplies. He says the U.S. is using less oil per capita than decades ago and relying on the Middle East for a smaller share of its imports, but those shifts almost don’t matter. World oil prices, which largely determine what Americans pay at the pump, remain high, because developing countries including China and India are driving up demand. With global oil supplies so tight as a result, even a small disruption rattles the markets and causes price spikes. That’s why, despite a 50% increase in U.S. oil production since 2008, the price for a regular gallon of gas remains so high. It costs, in inflation-adjusted dollars, twice as much as 40 years ago...”

Image credit above: American Petroleum Institute, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Institute for Energy Research, Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, University of Michigan;1 – Which is $20.12 in 2012 dollars. 2 – For Brent crude. 3 – For leaded regular, which is $1.85 in 2012 dollars. 4 – For regular. 5 – Average on-road performance. 6 – Average sales-weighted fuel economy using the EPA window-sticker value. Janet Loehrke and Joan Murphy USA TODAY.

In Canada’s Alberta Province Oil-Sands Boom Is A Two-Edged Sword. What are the health implications of the Keystone XL Pipeline? The Los Angeles Times takes a look at environmental and health impacts already observed in Alberta, Canada – here’s an excerpt: “…Three weeks ago, government scientists told villagers that they had found high levels of mercury, a hazardous substance, in the eggs of migratory birds that nest downstream from oil sands production. Fishermen say pickerel and northern pike in the lake show bulging eyes and other deformities. Three studies by independent scientists have shown rising concentrations of pollutants, including carcinogens, in waterways near Alberta’s oil sands production. Industry officials and the Alberta government have long insisted that the chemicals detected in area waterways are naturally occurring, not the result of pollution. They also say they are taking full safety precautions to protect communities tucked into a vast wilderness. Some of the indigenous people, known as the First Nations, have hunted and fished here for thousands of years…”

File photo above: AP Photo/The Oklahoman, Matt Strasen.

How 9 Major Newspapers Deal With Climate-Denying Letters. Healthy skepticism, on any topic, is probably a good idea. But ongoing cynicism and outright denial, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence and observations? It almost makes one wonder whether some of this push-back is…orchestrated? Mother Jones has the story – here’s the introduction: “If you’ve looked through the letters sections of US newspapers, you’ve probably read that human-caused global warming is a “hoax” and a “myth.” You’ve also likely read about how “mankind cannot change the earth’s climate” and how the carbon dioxide we release isn’t a “significant factor” driving global temperatures. But recently, the Los Angeles Times took a stand against this type of misinformation. Paul Thornton, the paper’s letters editor, wrote that he doesn’t print letters asserting that “there’s no sign humans have caused climate change.” Why? Because, he wrote, such a statement is a factual inaccuracy, and “I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page.” He cited the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent statement that scientists are at least 95-percent certain humans are causing global warming…”

Image credit

Saving The Planet From Short-Termism Will Take Man-On-The-Moon Commitment. The Guardian Economics Blog has the post, here’s an excerpt: “…Contrast that with today’s America, which looks less like the leader of the free world than a banana republic with a reserve currency. Planning for the long term now involves last-ditch deals on Capitol Hill to ensure the federal government can remain open until January and debts can be paid at least until February. The US is not the only country with advanced short-termism. It merely provides the most egregious example of the disease. This is a world of fast food and short attention spans, of politicians so dominated by a 24/7 news agenda that they have lost the habit of planning for the long term...” (Apollo 17 file photo courtesy of NASA).

Natural disasters that have smacked Southeast Asia recently have killed scores of people and left severe damage in their wake. Recovery has begun, but the dent these events leave on the region’s economies could derail international efforts to eradicate poverty, according to a recent report that looks at how climate change and exposure to severe weather impact different countries. “As temperatures warm, many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens will face increased risks associated with more intense or protracted droughts, extreme rainfall and heat waves,” notes the joint report by London-based think-tank the Overseas Development Institute, Met Office and Risk Management Solutions, a software company that helps reinsurers and other financial institutions to quantify and manage catastrophic risks…”



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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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