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Severe Storms, “Flash Droughts” and Hints of El Nino (on track for more record Arctic ice loss)

A Data-Driven Life
“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” I understand why many TV meteorologists don’t want to talk about climate change. It’s kryptonite in a business of Q scores & research, where popularity is critical. I get it.
I ask people if they’re open to new data, or if their mind is made up. At the Star Tribune I started sharing what I was witnessing on the weather maps in the 90s; trends that have only accelerated since 2000.
As an entrepreneur if I don’t respect data I quickly go out of business. Healthy skepticism is a good thing, but denial, in the face of overwhelming evidence, is baffling. Science isn’t a popularity contest.
I’m still a naive optimist though. We’ll figure this out. Because we won’t have much of a choice. My hope? That you keep an open mind. Even if you don’t believe climate scientists – at least believe your own eyes. In today’s weather blog: we’re on track for another potentially record loss of arctic ice. One more data point.
Today looks sticky with a severe T-storm threat. Cooler, drier Canadian air returns Tuesday, in fact I see a cooler bias in our pattern looking out the next 2 weeks.
I’m OK not having to answer “Is it hot enough for ‘ya Paul?”


Monday Severe Threat. NOAA SPC has a slight risk from Duluth to the Twin Cities, Rochester and Mankato, another area of elevated risk from Omaha to Kansas City to Wichita. The biggest risk is large hail and straight-line winds.


Slow-Motion Weather Pattern. A nearly stationary swirl of low pressure sparks more heavy showers and T-storms from the Carolinas into New England into midweek, while the next puff of Canadian air sparks a few strong/severe storms over Minnesota today, pushing into the Great Lakes by Wednesday. Still no significant rain for the west coast looking out 84 hours. NAM model courtesy of NOAA. 

Hot Tips To Cool Pets When Summer Temperatures Soar. Among the suggestions offered in this timely Op-Ed from LiveScience: 1). Never leave your pets in a parked car, 2). Watch the humidity, 3). Limit exercise on hot days, 4). Don’t rely on a fan, 5). Provide ample shade and water, and 6). Cool your pet inside and out, and that’s just a few of the tips worth checking out. Yes, dogs, cats and horses feel the heat as much as we do.

Road-Melting Heat. You think it was hot here? In part of the United Kingdom it’s so hot that roads are beginning to melt. A Level 3 Heat Warning has been issued for much of England; details from The BBC and

No Air Conditioner? How To Keep Your Cool No Matter How Hot It Gets. I thought some of the reader suggestions at this post at were on the money; here’s an excerpt: “Now that the high temps have really kicked in, it’s hard to remember that this is the season everyone longs for during the darker, colder months of the year. Ha! If your home doesn’t have AC (or you are choosing to leave it off as much as possible) you can feel stuck, especially when it comes to getting a restful nights sleep. Thankfully our readers have come to the rescue with a long list of tips ranging from from absolutely quirky (but they swear they work!) to “why didn’t I think of that!?” good old common sense ideas . Bookmark this quick list of possible solutions and get started on your a cooldown plan!

Freeze a 2 liter bottle with water. Put in a pillow case and hold to your chest like a teddy. Cooling down the central core will cool down all extremities as a result. My roomie calls them “ice babies”. – Novalis…”


Flash Drought? Not Just Dust Blowin’ In The Wind. This is the first time I’ve heard the expression “flash drought”, but it fits right in with the definition of “weather whiplash”. Here’s the intro to a story from The Sioux City Journal: “The 2011-2012 drought finally washed downstream in April and May (2013), successive record-setting months for moisture in Iowa. Seems like more than a couple of months ago, according to Iowa State Climatologist Harry Hillaker. “Flash drought is the popular term now,” says Hillaker, who assured me in early June the drought had ended. “This is what you’d call a drought in a hurry.” Hillaker believes the term originated in Texas or Oklahoma, states accustomed to feast or famine when it comes to heat and rain. In Siouxland and across western Iowa, the sky was falling throughout the spring, replenishing aquifers and subsoil when not closing roads and damaging bridges. The rains abated not long after. Been more than three weeks since rain graced Siouxland lawns and crops…”

Photo credit above: Tim Gallagher, Sioux City Journal. “Corn tassels southwest of Kingsley, Iowa, on Saturday. Much of the Siouxland corn crop has endured heat, wind and virtually no rain for more than three weeks, prompting concerns about a “flash drought.”

Drought Update. For the first time since May, 2005 drought conditions are not showing up anywhere east of the Mississippi River. Map: U.S. Drought Monitor.

Creeping Back Into El Nino? It’s premature to make any pronouncements, but after an extended La Nina cooling phase from December of last year through late May, there are some signs the equatorial Pacific is warming up again. More details than you ever wanted to see, courtesy of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

7th Warmest Start To The Year On Record. In spite of a persistently chilly spring over much of the USA, taking a step back and looking at global temperature trends for 2013 tells a different story. Climate Central has the details: “Global temperature records are in for first half of the year, and they indicate a planet with no intention of cooling off. On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its analysis for the period from January to June. They show that six-month span ties with 2003 as the seventh warmest on record since 1880. Temperatures averaged over both land and sea ran 1.06°F above the 20th century average.
Some of the highlights include: 

  • The land temperature alone is the sixth warmest on record, running 1.80°F above average.
  • The ocean temperature alone is seventh warmest, running 0.79°F above average.
  • While this was the seventh-warmest start to the year, some regions of the world experienced their warmest January-June on record. These include parts of Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and Australia, which had to add a new color to its temperature map to account for the extreme heat.
  • June marks the 340th consecutive month — a total of more than 28 years — with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-normal month was February 1985.”

Graphic credit above: “A map showing January-June temperatures across the globe.” Credit: NOAA & Climate Central 

Sequestration Could Curtail “Hurricane Hunter” Missions. This would not be a good development. Meteorologists can only glean so much from satellite imagery – there is a data-driven need to fly planes into tropical storms and hurricanes, to get a better fix on position, estimate strength, and future development. Bottom line: forecast accuracy could be compromised, especially for large hurricanes approaching landfall. has the story; here’s the intro: “Federal furloughs caused by sequestration could ground “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft, depriving forecasters of real-time measurements of storms during what’s expected to be an especially active Atlantic hurricane season. While NOAA operates some of the Hurricane Hunters, most of the modified C-130s transports that fly into storms to gather vital information on their position, strength and direction are flown by the Air Force Reserve’s 53rd  Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. The unit is part of the larger 403rd Wing based in Biloxi, Miss. The Vice Commander of the 403rd, Col. Craig La Fave, told Miami TV affiliate WPLG that, “while NOAA is exempt of the furloughs, we are not…”

Photo credit: AP.

Before Air Conditioning. Yes, we feel it’s our birthright to whine about the heat, as most of us dart from one air conditioned space to the next. How did our parents and grandparents get by? This story from The New Yorker gives us a glimpse; here’s an excerpt: “…My first direct contact with an air-conditioner came only in the sixties, when I was living in the Chelsea Hotel. The so-called management sent up a machine on casters which rather aimlessly cooled and sometimes heated the air, relying, as it did, on pitchers of water that one had to pour into it. On the initial filling, it would spray water all over the room, so one had to face it toward the bathroom rather than the bed. A South African gentleman once told me that New York in August was hotter than any place he knew in Africa, yet people here dressed for a northern city. He had wanted to wear shorts but feared that he would be arrested for indecent exposure.”



New York Man Just Going To Stick An Entire Air Conditioner In His Car Window. Hey, why not? If you’re hot enough you’ll try anything. Details from New York Magazine: “Courtesy of our friends at the Lo-Down, here’s a photo of an SUV, on Pitt Street in the Lower East Side, with a standard window air conditioner unit in a back window (à la Mayor Bloomberg, except it’s not stationary). Maybe the car’s A/C is broken, or maybe this guy just likes being really, really cold. Either way, if you were already afraid of air conditioners falling from the sky — and you should be — now you have to worry about them hurtling out of speeding cars as well. Flying air conditioners are our Sharknado.”

The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements. After reading some recent scientific papers and articles I’ve stopped taking multivitamins. Here’s an excerpt of another article that caught my eye in The Atlantic: “On October 10, 2011, researchers from the University of Minnesota found that women who took supplemental multivitamins died at rates higher than those who didn’t. Two days later, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic found that men who took vitamin E had an increased risk of prostate cancer. “It’s been a tough week for vitamins,” said Carrie Gann of ABC News. These findings weren’t new. Seven previous studies had already shown that vitamins increased the risk of cancer and heart disease and shortened lives. Still, in 2012, more than half of all Americans took some form of vitamin supplements. What few people realize, however, is that their fascination with vitamins can be traced back to one man. A man who was so spectacularly right that he won two Nobel Prizes and so spectacularly wrong that he was arguably the world’s greatest quack...”

Photo credit: slipah/Flickr

Climate Stories….

Arctic Sea Ice Approaching Another Record Low. Latest data from The Arctic Sea-Ice Monitor at IARC-JAXA shows the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice, on a similar path as last year (and 2011 and 2007). Last September saw the greatest loss of sea ice on record. We are on track for more severe ice loss in the coming months.

The Big Idea: Can We Outsmart Climate Change? Is there a quick fix, a geo-engineering solution to counter a rapid increase in greenhouse gases? Here’s a clip from a story about geo-engineering and the need for more politics (?) from The Daily Beast: “…No wonder right-wing think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute and even the Heartland Foundation—organizations that have for years spread disinformation about climate science and attacked policies aimed at cutting emissions—have come out in support of geoengineering. There is a danger that geoengineering may become the preferred solution of conservatives, because it seems to protect the political-economic system from change. It’s time more progressive opinions, and scientists with a less Promethean view of the world, became involved. There are some of the latter, like Alan Robock, but more need to be heard. One thing is clear: American citizens need to learn about geoengineering and become engaged in the debate because at present less than 5 percent know what it is. It’s not going to go away. In fact, as I see it, geoengineering as a response to global warming is destined to be the dominant question of the 21st century.”


Hypocrites Vs. Climate Change. Do unto Exxon as you would do unto yourself, this Op-Ed suggests. The problem is demand, not supply. Here’s an excerpt fromThe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “The resolution on climate change approved last month by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ has garnered mostly admiring attention from the news media. But I admit to a degree of perplexity and sorrow over the document, which seems to place the blame for our heavy use of fossil fuels mostly on the companies that produce them — not the consumers who demand them. The resolution is intended to create a path toward divestment of church funds, including pension money, from “fossil fuel companies” unless they meet certain benchmarks. The text never defines “fossil fuel companies,” but it’s a good bet that the target is oil and mining enterprises…” (Image: Oil Technica).

Are The East Coast Heat Waves Related To Global Warming? A warmer, wetter atmosphere is flavoring all weather now. takes a look – here’s a clip: “…however, a combination of rain and heat leads to high humidity, which is being seen in many place currently. And humidity can lead to higher nighttime temperatures, which are a major factor in deaths from heat, said Jeff Weber, a scientist with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. Hot nights don’t allow people to cool down and get some relief, Weber said. As the Earth continues to warm, heat waves are tending to last longer, Weber told LiveScience. The jet stream, which generally ferries weather patterns from west to east across North America, is driven by a difference in temperature between the cold Arctic and warmer equator. Polar regions are heating faster than the equator is, which is leading to a weaker jet stream, Weber said. That means weather systems, like high pressure systems with high temperatures, tend to stay in place longer, he added.”

Photo credit above: “A crossing guard tries to cool off with a bottle of water while working on a sweltering street in New York’s Chinatown, Friday, July 19, 2013. A punishing heat wave continues to scorch New York, threatening to break heat records and putting a huge strain on the state’s overworked power grid.” (AP Photo/Jon Gerberg)

The Climate Change Real Estate Boom Is Coming. I’m no futurist, but I strongly believe that Minnesota and the Twin Citiies will benefit from warming temperatures, as will many northern cities and southern Canada. Others envision a real estate boom for many northern cities, well away from rising seas, persistent heat waves, wildfires and water shortages plaguing much of the south. Here’s a clip of an interesting story “Fabulously wealthy British futurist James Martin spoke about climate change at New York’s Lincoln Center and how it will change global population patterns in one of his last public appearances before passing away on June 30 at 79 years of age. Martin, who donated more than $150 million to Oxford University and lived on his own private Bermudan island, believed one of the biggest land booms in history is on its way–and it will happen in less than 100 years. At the June 15 Global Future 2045 conference, Martin explained that events like Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina will hit major American cities harder and more frequently because of climate change. Scientists and politicians have even come to the conclusion that whole countries such as Mauritius andTuvalu will need to evacuate due to rising sea levels. But while coastlines in much of the world may suffer, climate change will be a positive development in some areas. Specifically, Canada; northern Europe; Russia; Alaska; Patagonia, Argentina; and southern Africa may all experience real estate booms. These booms, he claimed, will be in “Climate Change Cities” with military fortifications catering to an increasingly displaced global elite…”


This Is What Fracking Really Looks Like. All those feel-good commercials on TV from energy companies extolling the virtues of oil and natural gas? There’s another side to this story. Slate has the story (and photos) – definitely worth a look. Here’s a clip from the article: “Photographer Nina Berman had just started focusing on climate and environmental issues when she read an article about fracking and its connection to the possible contamination of New York City’s drinking water. Berman resides in New York and knew very little about how the controversial process of drilling for natural gas via hydraulic fracturing worked and decided to head to Pennsylvania for Gov. Thomas Corbett’s inauguration in 2011. “I knew there would be demonstrators (opposed to his support of natural gas drilling), and I wanted to learn what they were screaming about,” Berman said. After researching the issues, she then had to figure out how to document them in a visual way. “It’s a very hard subject to photograph,” Berman explained. “You see a drill, and you don’t know what that means, and then it disappears. What does that mean? It took me a while to figure out how to approach it…”

Photo credit above: “Jodie Simons demonstrates how her sink water, full of methane, lights on fire. Simons’ household’s water was pristine before gas drilling started, but now they’ve been without clean drinking or bathing water for months.” Nina Berman/NOOR. 



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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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