Psychiatrists tell us that people often deny there's a problem until and unless there's an obvious solution. I'm getting past the gloom and doom and chronic hand-wringing by focusing on solutions.
How Has Solar Improved the Local Area? I asked Pat Collins to address the ROI for solar: "I think the economics of our solar panels will be staggering... saving 6 million dollars over 30 years is great with always tight school budgets.... and then the question becomes... what programs can the extra money be put into? Fine arts? Academics? Bricks and Mortar? And the thought that we will prevent 56 million pounds of Carbon Dioxide from being emitted is priceless.... Perhaps the best benefit is that the solar energy and the news that it brings keeps environmental concerns in the spotlight and family conversations and the cost benefit of that is presses.
Minnesota's Earliest Tornado. It's strange seeing tornado damage with snow on the ground. If the dynamics and wind shear is strong enough it doesn't much matter what's happening on the ground. Here's are two excerpts from the Faribault County Register: "The severe storm that uprooted trees, deroofed buildings and overturned a camper on March 6 in Pihl's Park, near Wells, actually included a tornado. And not just any twister. A March 17 survey by the National Weather Service (NWS) determined that the campground damage was the product of an EF-1 tornado one that struck earlier in the year than any other twister in the history of Minnesota...But Faribault County's March 6 heavy winds, which forced Pihl's Park to close its campground and public park for an anticipated seven weeks' worth of repairs, were actually the first to strike at around 5:04 p.m. that evening, according to the NWS..."
Photo credit: "The March 6 storm that did some heavy damage to the county’s Pihl’s Park, including flipping this camper over, was designated as a tornado that first touched down near Bricelyn and traveled nearly 10 miles to near the Wells area. It was designated by the National Weather Service last week as the earliest-in-the-season tornado ever reported in Minnesota."
Leigh Orf Creates Super-Storms From the Comfort of His Desk. Supercomputer simulations of super-cell thunderstorms, the rotating monsters that often go on to spin up tornadoes, is improving rapidly as speeds increase and costs continue to come down. Here's an excerpt of an interview at madison.com: "...I have to say this is just one simulation, but there are two main takeaways that I'll give you. Before the tornado forms, there are a whole bunch of mini-tornadoes. They're not actually called tornadoes, they're called mesocyclones. They're little spinning whorls of air that are maybe 100 yards in diameter. They're in the simulation, but you can't see them in the atmosphere — the air is spinning, but it's not kicking up debris and there's no cloud...they're kind of scooting into where a tornado would form. The second thing we've noticed, we gave a name: we call it a streamwise vorticity current. In a storm, there's cold air that's formed by the storm itself...the storm is producing this cold pool of air. One of the things my simulation is suggesting is that the tornado is made up of air from that cold pool. But there's a certain feature we've identified that's sort of hard to explain in words — it's a helically flowing horizontal thing of air, that kind of goes up and becomes tilted into the supercell..."
UW-Madison Researcher Creates Tornado Computer Simulation. As computers become more powerful (and cheaper) we are getting closer to modeling a simulation very close to reality, with more perspective on advanced tornado modeling at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "...Orf is a scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Studies at UW-Madison who leads a team of researchers using computer models to unlock the mysteries of tornadoes. As tornado season gets underway, scientists like Orf are working to peel back the layers of twisters to determine how and why they form. The recipe always includes wind shear, instability and lots of moisture plus a trigger to move the air up, which can be a difference in temperature or moisture. But what vexes researchers is that storms that have all of those ingredients often don't form tornadoes. Unlocking the tornado code could help forecasters better predict them and give people in their path more time to seek shelter. "My dream, and maybe in my lifetime it will happen, is we can predict a scenario where in a 1 square kilometer region we can say a tornado will hit and we can do that well in advance of the storm," said Orf..."
Image credit: "When a tornado is fully formed, the simulation reveals several structures that make up the tornado, including the streamwise vorticity current (SVC), thought to be a main driver of the tornadic activity (seen in yellow)." (Photo: University of Wisconsin-Madison).
Rainy Day? Microbes May Be at Play. Science Friday provides details: "Bacteria are all around us—even in the atmosphere. Under the right wind conditions, air currents sweep up ultra-light microbes, which can drift as high as the stratosphere. For instance, a 2012 study appearing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences identified over 300 different families of bacteria floating amid the clouds. As it turns out, these airborne microbes seem to influence the weather. Recently on Science Friday, we spoke with Cindy Morris, a microbial ecologist at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research in Avignon, France, and Athanasios Nenes, a professor of atmospheric sciences and chemical and biomolecular engineering at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia, to understand how microbes participate in precipitation..."
Fun Factoids About Clouds. Your typical run-of-the-mill popcorn cumulus cloud weights as much as 100 elephants. Who knew? Here's a nugget from a very good post at Mental Floss: "...Clouds look like they weigh little more than a tuft of cotton, but they’re heavier than they look. Your average cumulus (fair weather) cloud can weigh more than a million pounds, and a vivacious thunderstorm can pack billions (if not trillions) of pounds of water in one tiny part of the sky. Yet, all of that weight seems effortlessly suspended in the air. It’s both a little unsettling and, at the same time, awesome to think about..."
How Much Does a Cloud Weigh? Check the math, but the calculations described at Mental Floss seem to pan out: "...Next, figure out how big the cloud is. By measuring a cloud’s shadow when the sun is directly above it, you can get an idea of its width. LeMone does this by watching her odometer as she drives under a cloud. A typical cumulus, she says, is about a kilometer across, and usually roughly cubical—so a kilometer long and a kilometer tall, too. This gives you a cloud that’s one billion cubic meters in volume. Do the math with the density and volume to determine the total water content of the cloud. In this case, it's 500,000,000 grams of water, or 1.1 million pounds. That’s a lot of weight to wrap your head around, so LeMone suggests putting it in more familiar terms, like elephants. That cloud weighs about as much as 100 elephants. If you’re a Democrat and you’re feeling partisan, she says, you could substitute 2500 donkeys. If you care more for dinosaurs than politics, you could also say the cloud weighs about as much as 33 apatosauruses..."
Great American Eclipse. Check out this amazing web site for everything you need to know for the total solar eclipse coming up on August 21: "On August 21, 2017, millions of people across the United States will see nature's most wondrous spectacle — a total eclipse of the Sun. It is a scene of unimaginable beauty; the Moon completely blocks the Sun, daytime becomes a deep twilight, and the Sun’s corona shimmers in the darkened sky. This is your guide to understand, prepare for, and view this rare celestial event. A total solar eclipse is unlike anything you've seen in your life. As totality approaches, you will see the astonishing sight of day turning to night and the Sun's corona blazing in the sky. This is truly a great American eclipse because totality will sweep the nation from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Nearly everyone in the US can reach this total solar eclipse within one day's drive. An eclipse is a cosmic billiard shot — the Sun, Moon, and Earth line up to reveal the Sun's atmosphere, it's corona. Eclipses on Earth occur only because of an amazing celestial coincidence..."
California Commits to Cleaner Cars. In spite of proposed legislation at a national level to relax fuel efficiency standards California is moving in a different direction, as reported by Christian Science Monitor: "On Friday, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted to finalize new vehicle emissions rules for the model years 2022-2025. Eight years from now, new cars and trucks sold in the Golden State will be required to have an average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon. The CARB rules will also mean more “zero emission vehicles” powered by batteries and fuel cells, and tough new standards on particulate matter pollution. The CARB didn’t come up with these guidelines on the spot. The Obama administration had sought to apply them nationally, but President Trump’s administration put them back under review. Now, environmentalists are looking to California to keep the higher emission standards from being tossed out..."
Tesla Will Take Orders For Its Solar Roof in April. In addition to solar panels, soon you'll be able to install more aesthetically pleasing solar shingles. Followed by solar paint and even solar windows (with the photovoltaics baked into the glass). Clean energy is a brave new world, one the USA can and should lead. Bloomberg Technology as an update: "...The company will begin taking orders next month, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said via Twitter on Friday. Tesla hasn’t disclosed detailed pricing on the tiles, but that would presumably become clear when people start putting down deposits. Installations will begin in mid 2017, according to the company’s website. The roof tiles are made of textured glass. From most viewing angles, they look just like ordinary shingles, but they allow light to pass through from above onto a standard flat solar cell. The plan is for Panasonic Corp. to produce the solar cells at Tesla’s factory in Buffalo and for Tesla to put together the glass tiles and everything that goes along with them..."
Madison Commits to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy. Midwest Energy News has the story: "Madison, Wisconsin committed to getting 100 percent of its energy from clean, renewable sources in a resolution passed unanimously by the City Council on Tuesday. It became the 24th city to make such a promise, according to a tally by the Sierra Club, which has a “Ready for 100” nationwide campaign. Madison’s resolution sets a high bar in a state that gets most of its electricity from coal and where, as in most places, natural gas is almost exclusively used for heating during harsh winters. Madison’s resolution calls for the entire city to get all of its power from clean renewable sources, starting with city operations..."
Don't Let Knuckle-Draggers on Ohio's Energy Future Win, Leaving the People with Zero. Entrenched (fossil fuel) monopolies are doing whatever they can to avoid disruption by an inevitable clean energy economy. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from the Editorial Board at cleveland.com: "...In his Dec. 22 veto message, Kasich said that, from 2009 to 2012, energy efficiency standards had produced $1.03 billion in savings and would produce an estimated $4.15 billion in lifetime savings. The response: an even more draconian attempt this year in HB 114, a bill goosed by utility lobbies, to dump the standards in favor of "goals and incentives" that the bill's sponsor, Cincinnati-area Republican Rep. Louis Blessing, said would work just fine. Is it any wonder that among the groups testifying in favor of HB 114 have been the Ohio Coal Association and the American Petroleum Institute of Ohio...?"
Photo credit: "Cleveland's first privately owned, large-scale wind turbine, pictured in 2009 atop a 140-foot tower at the Pearl Road Auto Parts and Wrecking Co. at 5000 Pearl Road. The turbine is still there but Ohio energy policy is yo-yoing in a way that's cost the state jobs and investment, writes the editorial board." (Expedite Renewable Energy, File, 2009).
Silicon Valley's Quest to Live Forever. Playing God? What can possibly go wrong. Here's an excerpt from a New Yorker article: "...For us, aging is the creeping and then catastrophic dysfunction of everything, all at once. Our mitochondria sputter, our endocrine system sags, our DNA snaps. Our sight and hearing and strength diminish, our arteries clog, our brains fog, and we falter, seize, and fail. Every research breakthrough, every announcement of a master key that we can turn to reverse all that, has been followed by setbacks and confusion. A few years ago, there was great excitement about telomeres, Liz Blackburn’s specialty—DNA buffers that protect the ends of chromosomes just as plastic tips protect the ends of shoelaces. As we age, our telomeres become shorter, and, when these shields go, cells stop dividing. (As Blackburn said, “It puts cells into a terribly alarmed state!”) If we could extend the telomeres, the thinking went, we might reverse aging. But it turns out that animals with long telomeres, such as lab mice, don’t necessarily have long lives—and that telomerase, the enzyme that promotes telomere growth, is also activated in the vast majority of cancer cells. The more we know about the body, the more we realize how little we know..."
Photo credit: "Photograph by Grant Cornett for The New Yorker."
Can We Know What Animals Are Thinking? My dog (Leo) thinks I'm an idiot, but he seems to love me anyway. Here's an excerpt of an eye-opening story from The Economist and Medium: "...Nevertheless, most scientists now feel they can say with confidence that some animals process information and express emotions in ways that are accompanied by conscious mental experience. They agree that animals, from rats and mice to parrots and humpback whales, have complex mental capacities; that a few species have attributes once thought to be unique to people, such as the ability to give objects names and use tools; and that a handful of animals — primates, corvids (the crow family) and cetaceans (whales and dolphins) — have something close to what in humans is seen as culture, in that they develop distinctive ways of doing things which are passed down by imitation and example. No animals have all the attributes of human minds; but almost all the attributes of human minds are found in some animal or other..."
Could You Give Up TV For a Year? Not sure I could, but I salute the people who have. Here's an intriguing story at The Washington Post: "...Americans are obsessed with television, spending an average of five hours a day pointing ourselves at it even as we complain we’re busier than ever. It rules our lives, whether we admit it or not. A friend of mine claims to not watch much TV, but whenever I visit her — morning, noon or night — it’s on. After my husband admitted we hadn’t watched any while on vacation, a family member was floored: “A whole week without TV?” And when I showed off my new house, visitors were most excited about the cable outlet on the back porch; now I can even point my outdoor furniture at a TV. But for all the time we spend with it, TV doesn’t repay us very nicely. People who watch more television are generally unhappier, heavier and worse sleepers, and have a higher risk of death over a defined length of time. Studies have found links between children and teenagers who watch a lot of TV and worse attention spans, lower grades and structural differences in brain regions associated with intelligence..."
Netflix: The Monster That's Eating Hollywood. Every industry gets disrupted - nobody gets a pass. The Wall Street Journal reports: "...The ongoing legal battle is just one sign of the escalating tensions between Netflix and Hollywood as the streaming-video company moves from being an upstart dabbling in original programming to a big-spending entertainment powerhouse that will produce more than 70 shows this year. It is expanding into new genres such as children’s fare, reality TV and stand-up comedy specials—including a $40 million deal for two shows by Chris Rock. The shift has unnerved some TV networks that had become used to Netflix’s original content being focused on scripted dramas and sitcoms..."
There Was Almost a "Honey War" Between Missouri and Iowa? Who knew? Atlas Obscura explains; here's an excerpt: "...Since then, the border conflict between Missouri and Iowa had tensed into what historians would call “the Honey War,” after some unknown Missourian went over the border and cut down three bee trees filled with honey. It was about to escalate even further. The trouble that would cause the Honey War began in 1816, with some less-than-perfect surveying work. John C. Sullivan had been tasked with drawing a border described in a treaty with the Osage. He started at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers and marked a line due north, for one hundred miles. That part went well..."
Photo credit: "The beginning of the Sullivan line." Americasroof/CC BY-SA 2.5
61 F. maximum temperature in the Twin Cities Monday.
47 F. average high on March 27.
43 F. high on March 27, 2016.
March 28, 1924: A drought is broken with style in southern Minnesota as up to 25 inches of snow falls.
“Money is the root of every mess you can think of. Anyone who lives for money is surely missing the best things in life.” – Sadie and Bessie Delany
TODAY: Lots of sun, quite pleasant. Winds: E 5-10. High: 61
TUESDAY NIGHT: Clear to partly cloudy. Low: 39
WEDNESDAY: Clouds increase, late showers southern MN. Winds: E 8-13. High: 54
THURSDAY: Damp start, then clearing. Winds: NE 8-13. Wake-up: 40. High: 51
FRIDAY: Plenty of sun, no complaints. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 34. High: 56
SATURDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, drama-free. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 38. High: 55
SUNDAY: Partly sunny and pleasant. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 40. High: 59
MONDAY: More clouds, few showers. Winds: E 5-10. Wake-up: 42. High: near 53
20 Common Myths That Climate Scientists Often Hear. Dr. Marshall Shepherd has done a public service by organizing the 20 biggest (whoppers). Here's an excerpt of a recent post at Forbes:
1. The climate always changes naturally, and we always had extreme weather. This is an accurate statement but misses the point that natural cycles can be altered by anthropogenic processes (Natural growing grass+fertilizer and Major League Baseball-home runs in the steroid era). Natural processes have always and will continue to affect climate. We just have to figure out how this relatively new anthropogenic "ingredient" is modifying the recipe.
2. Ok, the climate is changing but how do we know humans are contributing? There are a couple of good public-focused resources to answer this. One, from Bloomberg, provides a visual graphic to explain relative contributors to climate warming, and the other, from The Economist, explains it with text. For science background, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is a good source....
Image credit: NASA.
Climate Change: Human Fingerprint Found on Global Extreme Weather. No, you're probably not imagining it - the extremes do, in fact, appear to be getting more extreme over time, especially rainfall, heat and drought. Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "...The new work analysed a type of extreme weather event known to be caused by changes in “planetary waves” – such as California’s ongoing record drought, and recent heatwaves in the US and Russia, as well as severe floods in Pakistan in 2010. Planetary waves are a pattern of winds, of which the jet stream is a part, that encircle the northern hemisphere in lines that undulate from the tropics to the poles. Normally, the whole wave moves eastwards but, under certain temperature conditions, the wave can halt its movement. This leaves whole regions under the same weather for extended periods, which can turn hot spells into heatwaves and wet weather into floods. This type of extreme weather event is known to have increased in recent decades. But the new research used observations and climate models to show that the chances of the conditions needed to halt the planetary waves occurring are significantly more likely as a result of global warming..." (Image credit: NASA).
The new research on planetary waves and climate change referenced above is here.
One of the Most Troubling Ideas About Climate Change Just Found New Evidence in its Favor. To think that rapid changes in the arctic won't have any impact on weather at our latitude is the height of wishful thinking. Chris Mooney reports at The Washington Post; here's an excerpt: "...But when the Arctic warms up faster than the equator does — which is part of the fundamental definition of global warming, and which is already happening — the jet stream’s flow can become weakened and elongated. That’s when you can get the resultant weather extremes. “It’s sort of like if you confine an electromagnetic wave to a coaxial cable, then you’re not losing energy, it’s being tightly contained in that cable and sent to your television,” said Mann. “These waves aren’t losing energy, so they grow and get larger and get stuck in place as well.” What the new study is saying is that in summer, in particular, this can occur. Moreover, it finds that a particular temperature pattern is linked to that behavior — and this temperature pattern, featuring an extra warm Arctic, is becoming more frequent over time, based on both observations and also a review of the outputs of high powered climate change models that the researchers conducted. “We think that the signal has emerged from the noise over the last decade,” said Mann..."
Image credit: "This animation shows changes in the polar jet stream from June 1, 2015 to July 31, 2015. The jet stream is approximated by crosses. The northerly shift of the jet stream may be linked to a warming arctic, and record melt of the Greenland ice sheet in 2015." (Marco Tedesco/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)
More Warm Spring Days. Not every day, but the trend is more warmth earlier in the warm season, according to Climate Central: "...Spring is getting warmer, on average, as the globe heats up from the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As a result, the number of spring days with above-normal temperatures is increasing in many places in the U.S. In an unchanging climate, the number of days above normal and below normal should be relatively balanced and constant through the years. For meteorological spring, that number would be 46 out of the 92 days. In the majority of these cites, the number of days above normal has risen sharply. In some cases, there are more than 10 additional above-normal days than there were a few decades ago..."
What You Can Do About Climate Change. There are lots of things you can do, including voting for pro-science politicians running for local, state and national offices. An article at The New York Times argues that the most important thing you can do is drive a more fuel-efficient vehicle: "...The simple fact is that American drivers are a significant contributor to greenhouse gas pollution, so having a vehicle fleet that burns less fuel can have an outsize impact on total emissions. Though the United States has just 4 percent of the world's population, it is responsible for 14 percent of man-made greenhouse gases that end up in the atmosphere. Transportation accounts for 27 percent of those emissions. And 60 percent result from driving personal vehicles..."
The Major U.S. TV Networks Spent a Grand Total of 50 Minutes on Climate Change Last year - Combined. Quartz has the story: "By all accounts, 2016 was an eventful year for the planet. It was the year when a record amount of coral perished in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, deforestation in the Amazon increased nearly 30%, polar sea ice the size of India disappeared, and of course it got hotter. In fact, it was the hottest year ever recorded. But the average American could be forgiven for not knowing about any of this. Because major US TV news networks, fixated on an election that provided the drama and entertainment of reality TV, dedicated almost no time to covering climate change. The nightly news programs of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox News Sunday collectively aired 50 minutes of climate-change coverage in 2016, according to research from Media Matters, a nonprofit research organization that covers American media. This is 96 minutes less than in 2015, a combined drop of about 66%..."
Documentary Explores How Climate Change is Impacting Yosemite. CBS News has the video promo: " PBS' "Nature" series will premeire "Yosemite," a sublime look at one of our nation's most stunning national parks. It's also a sobering one, as the park's ecosystem is threatened by climate change. Award-winning nature filmmaker Joseph Pontecorvol, who produced, wrote and served as a cinematographer, joins "CBS This Morning: Saturday" to discuss the filming process and the park's future."