All Weather News

Stubborn Drought Intensifies As More Records Are Set

August Blue Moon. There are two full moons in August, Wednesday night, again August 30 – a “blue moon”.


1 tornado so far this year in Wisconsin (near Wausau on May 24, a weak EF-0). Wisconsin should have seen 26 tornadoes as of July 31.

33 tornadoes reported across Minnesota in 2012, but no touchdowns in or near the Twin Cities. Details below.


35 days above 90 F. so far at Chicago O’Hare, 36 90+ days at Midway. According to WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling Chicago sees an average of 17 days above 90 every summer season.

28 days above 90 at Madison, Wisconsin.


30 Day Percent Of Normal Precipitation. This NOAA map is useful to point out why farmers over southern and southwestern Minnesota are so worried about the drought. Rainfall since June 30 has been 5-25% of normal from Rochester and Albert Lea west to Worthington and Granite Falls, another pocket of very dry weather over the Red River Valley. In contrast, rainfall in the immediate metro has been close to normal over the last 30 days, 1.5 times more than average from near Detroit Lakes to Brainerd, just as wet from International Falls to the Boundary Waters.


Will This Be The Hottest Summer On Record? Here’s an excerpt (focused on Madison, Wisconsin) from The Weather Guys: “Through the end of the day on July 24, Madison had had 28 days with high temperatures at or above 90 degrees. The all-time record number of such days is 40 recorded in 1955 (two were in June, 19 were in July, 15 were in August and four were in September that year). In the last 41 years, only six summers (1975, 1976, 1983, 1988, 1995 and 2012) have had 20 or more such days. Of the five such summers before this one, the number of days at or above 90 degrees after July 31 was seven, 10, six, 16, and 10, respectively.”

Photo credit above: “Matt Winker walks on what used to be a field of wheat that is now parched, July 12, 2012, on the Winker farm in Belgium, Wisconsin. The drought has presented a unique opportunity for Winkers to be proactive, which Matt has decided to embrace.” (Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MCT)

Drought Holding Steady In Areas Already Affected. No significant improvement is on tap from the Ohio Valley to the Central and Southern Plains, struggling through the worst drought since 1988 – possible since the mid 1930 Dust Bowl years. Details and a YouTube video from USDA: “USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey says there will be no short term weather relief for most drought stricken areas.”


33 Minnesota Tornadoes So Far In 2012. All those red dots are tornado touchdowns since January 1; no tornadoes reported east of a line from Willmar to Glencoe, which is a bit unusual. Not a single tornado in or near the Twin Cities metro area. Why? It’s been too hot, frontal boundaries (and subsequent low-level wind shear) pushed into central Canada. I’m not complaining. Map courtesy of SPC.


Jacksonville Waterspout. Numerous waterspouts (weak tornadoes forming over warm water, the result of intense T-storm updrafts) have been spotted in recent days from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the Florida Panhandle. Here’s more from the Jacksonville NWS, via Facebook: “Taken around 1:30pm 7/30/2012 St. Simons Island – Brunswick GA, near McKinnon Airport.”


Second Highest Tornado Touchdown On Record. It’s official. The Denver/Boulder office of the NWS confirms the tornado that touched down over the weekend on Mt. Evans was a record-setter. Details via Facebook: “Confirmed tornado touched down at 2:51 PM Saturday, July 28 near Mt. Evans, Colorado. The estimated elevation where this tornado touched down was 11,900 feet. This would make this tornado the 2nd highest ever recorded in the U.S.
Photo credit above: Sheila Gavins.

CB. A classic cumulonimbus captured over Bakersfield, Vermont by the Burlington office of the National Weather Service.


Yellowstone Closes Rivers To Fishing. Heat and drought is spreading west, now impacting rivers with Yellowstone National Park. Details from “Starting Wednesday, August 1, Yellowstone will implement some temporary fishing closures.

The following waterways will be closed to all fishing:

• Gibbon River below Gibbon Falls
• Firehole River below Keppler Cascades
• Madison River

Hot air temperatures, limited rainfall, runoff from thermal features, and below average stream flows have all resulted in high water temperatures in these rivers. Water temperatures in the Gibbon River have been above 73 degrees F most of the past two weeks, with water temperatures in the Firehole River above 78 degrees F.”

Hurricane/Typhoon Radar Loops Since 2001. This is an amazing link – Doppler radar loops showing all significant hurricanes and Pacific typhoon landfalls since 2001: “These loops were all created by me, and anyone may feel free to link to or use them, but I’d appreciate if credit is given (Brian McNoldy, Univ of Miami). Ground-based radar imagery of tropical cyclones is useful in studying the precipitation structure in the eyewall and spiral bands prior to landfall, but then also useful to study possible terrain effects and the influence of landfall on the TC structure. The larger loops might be choppy on machines with less memory.

* radar loop above from Hurricane Katrina from August 28-29, 2005; data from NOAA in New Orleans. Amazing.


Remarkable Cloud Photos. Thanks to meteorologist Jason Parkin in Des Moines for forwarding me a line from, with some of the most spectacular cloud photos I’ve ever seen in one place. How many of these can you name? From top left to bottom right: “Asperatus, Shelf Cloud, Lenticular Arcs and Lenticularis”.


Flooded North Korea Hit By More Torrential Rain. Here’s an excerpt of an update from Reuters: “Widespread flooding in North Korea appeared to worsen on Monday after 24 hours of torrential rain hit the impoverished state which even in times of good harvest is unable to feed itself. The floods follow a period of drought and are certain to lift food prices which have been rising sharply. According to defectors contacted by Reuters in neighbouring South Korea, rice prices have already risen beyond the reach of ordinary households.”

Photo credit above: “Road posts are submerged in a flooded street in Anju City, South Phyongan Province, North Korea, Monday, July 30, 2012. More heavy rain has pounded North Korea, flooding buildings and farmland and forcing stranded people and their livestock to take shelters atop rooftops.” (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

Olympic Viewers Have A New Reason To Complain, And The Means To Do It. Maybe I’m a sap, but I think NBC is doing a pretty good job overall. Look, if you really want to see events live you can – on your computer or tablet. I’m fine with being “surprised” during primetime. Yes, it’s hard keeping all the people happy all the time. The tape-delay issue is creating some serious viewer angst, who are taking to Twitter and FB to vent. The New York Times takes a look – here’s an excerpt: “NBC might have believed that streaming all the sports live from the London Games would have inoculated it from criticism of its Olympic broadcasting policy. The past animosity rested on tape-delaying certain marquee sports into prime time. But now Twitter has turned into a fiery digital soapbox against NBC, as its users have merged their resentment over tape delay with problems viewing the live streams. The outrage has been distilled, simply, into #nbcfail. It is difficult for now to determine if #nbcfail represents a tiny minority or is a sampling of a widespread problem.”


BMW Unveils The C Evolution Electric Scooter. No gas, 62 miles on a single charge? Details from “BMW Motorrad has been busying itself perfecting an electric scooter design for some time now and, following the early prototype E Scooter we first reported on last year, and the more fully formed Concept e model which popped up a few months later, the company has now unveiled a new “near-production” electric scooter named the BMW C evolution which boasts a reported 100 kilometers (62 miles) range from one full charge and some impressive styling to match.”


Augmented Reality Glasses Perform Real-Time Language Translation. Here’s another potentially radical innovation, courtesy of “Inspired by the Google’s Project Glass, computer programmer Will Powell has built a prototype real-time translation system that listens to speech, translates it into one of 37 languages, and then displays the resulting text as subtitles directly onto the user’s glasses. In a nutshell, here’s how it all works. A Bluetooth microphone picks up the audio signal and connects to a smartphone or tablet to provide a clean, noise-cancelled audio feed. The signal is then sent to the Microsoft Translator service, which detects the foreign language and transcribes it into the target language of choice. Finally, the translated text is displayed on the lower half of the glasses – effectively providing real-time subtitles for a conversation in a foreign language.”

Drought Bad. Water Good. Here’s a “story” from The Onion. I’m not sure but I suspect it’s (very) tongue in cheek: “KANSAS CITY, MO—Sources nationwide are confirming this week that the current drought is bad and that water is very good. “We don’t like the drought,” local farmer Dan Rickey told reporters. “We like water.” At press time, sources are confirming that the drought is still happening and that it’s bad.”

A Small Silver Lining

I saw a lake temperature of 84 F. on Lake Minnetonka Saturday. July is 6.4 F. warmer than average, so I’m not surprised. Chiggers have become a big nuisance up at the cabin, due to unusual warmth.

But there’s an upside: only 1 tornado so far in Wisconsin (where closer to 26 should have touched down). No metro tornadoes, but 33 (mostly small) tornadoes over far southern & western MN. Why? Its been too hot. Tornadoes need large temperature extremes, frontal boundaries and low level wind shear (rapidly changing speed/direction with altitude). With a heat-pump high stalled over the Midwest since late June we haven’t had the dynamics for twisters. No complaints here.

Less quality time in the basement, curled up in the fetal position.

The National Weather Service is upgrading to “dual polarization” Doppler August 20, making it easier to detect tornadoes, and distinguish between rain, snow and ice. The upgrade may take 2 weeks. I’ll be holding my breath. No severe storms, please!

A quiet Tuesday gives way to 93-98 F tomorrow; T-storms late Wednesday, again Saturday. A cooler front treats us to a glorious Sunday, but 90s return next week.

Summer isn’t nearly done with us just yet.

Climate Stories…


Want To Know Whether The Climate Has Warmed? Ask The Trees. Here’s an excerpt of an MPR article from Lee Frelich, Director of The University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology: “This summer’s heat wave, following the warmest winter on record and an exceptionally early spring, makes one wonder if we have reached the point where effects of global warming can be felt and seen on the landscape. I think so. We have had warm winters and summer heat waves before. Warm and cool periods, dry and wet periods have always occurred and will continue to come and go. However, as time goes on they are superimposed on a systematic rise in temperature caused by the accumulation of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere…. A lack of winter cold — January minimum temperatures in northern Minnesota have risen 8 degrees in the last 30 years — give the green light to maple and basswood to move north into territory where they would previously have been killed by extreme cold.”

Photo credit above: “Lee Frelich: It is an interesting time to be a forest ecologist in Minnesota.” (Photo courtesy of Paul Jost)

What Evidence Will It Take To Convince Climate Skeptics? Here’s an excerpt from a story at The Guardian: “So, that’s it then. The climate wars are over. Climate skeptics have accepted the main tenets of climate science – that the world is warming and that humans are largely to blame – and we can all now get on to debating the real issue at hand: what, if anything, do we do about it? If only. Yesterday’s announcement by Prof Richard Muller that, as a result of his Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (Best) project’s research, he had undergone a “total turnaround” in his views on climate science and now accepted that the Earth’s land has warmed by 1.5C over the past 250 years and that “humans are almost entirely the cause”, might be seen by many as a watershed moment in this long, often bitter debate. But not, it would appear, for climate sceptics – the very people he designed his project to please.”

Graphic credit above: “The annual and decadal land surface temperature from the BerkeleyEarth average, compared to a linear combination of volcanic sulfate emissions and the natural logarithm of CO2.” Photograph: BerkeleyEarth.

So Called Blockbuster Climate Change Studies Prove Little. I give physicist Richard Muller, lead author of the “BEST” study, credit for following the scientific method, and following the data, wherever it leads. He also proved that it’s OK to change your mind. My concern: some professional climate deniers have backed themselves into a corner, to the point where they feel like they can’t do a 180 and agree that AGW is real. They cherrypick on the “data” that supports their conspiracy-theory-of-the-week. Say what you will about Dr. Muller, but at least he had the courage of his convictions – in spite of being partially funded by the Koch brothers, he let the chips fall where they may and in the end was true to the science.  Capital Weather Gang meteorologist Jason Samenow weighs in with his own perspective of the new “Muller/Berkeley” research findings and a (skeptical) study of station siting from WUWT’s Anthony Watts in a post; here’s an excerpt: “Over the weekend, two groups released so-called “game-changing” climate change studies. The first, led by “converted skeptic” University of California-Berkeley professor Richard Muller, claims almost all of the warming observed in modern times is due to human activities. The second, led by blogger Anthony Watts, in an apparent attempt to diminish the impact of the Muller paper, argues warming in the U.S. since 1979 is about half the amount calculated by NOAA. Both studies staged high-profile releases and represent concerted efforts to influence public perception about what we know about climate science. But neither has been published in a peer-reviewed publication and there is cause to question their legitimacy.”

Have The Koch Brothers Changed Their Minds About Climate Change? Here’s an excerpt from an article at U.S. News & World Report: “…University of California-Berkeley Physics professor Richard A. Muller, who led the new study, told Whispers that he believes the Koch brothers really do “want to get the science clarified.” “People think they can look into the minds of Charles and David Koch,” says Muller, who himself was previously a climate change denier. “But I have had conversations with them, where they are interested in the science and the proof, so that these issues [on climate change] would be resolved.”


Climate Change Skeptics Unwarmed By Scientist’s Reassessment Of Cold Facts. Here’s a blurb from The Sydney Morning Herald: “AUSTRALIA’S climate change sceptic community remains defiant following the self-described “conversion” of prominent sceptic scientist Richard Muller, who had led a vast international research effort to debunk global warming science. Professor Muller’s team, partly funded by US fossil fuel interests, has now made public its findings and concluded that human emissions are in fact driving climate change — at a slightly faster rate than that asserted by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Professor Muller said the results had prompted a “total turnaround” in his views. “We were not expecting this, but as scientists, it is our duty to let the evidence change our minds.”

Energy Week Ahead: Forecast Calls For Hot Climate-Change Debate. Here’s an excerpt from Bloomberg “Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe will get a chance to cross-examine perpetrators of what he dubbed “The Greatest Hoax” this week, as a Senate panel takes on the science of climate change. Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, published a book by that name this year, saying the scientific theory of global warming is a conspiracy to increase government regulation of business and the economy. Carbon-dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution have led to a warming of the earth’s temperature, which threatens to cause extreme weather, drought and coastal flooding, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program.”



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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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