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Dog Days by Mid-August? Taking Responsibility for Severe Storm Safety

Taking Responsibility

It you're not just a little bit paranoid you're probably not paying attention. The nightly news looks like a trailer for the Book of Revelations: epic wildfires raging from California to Alaska, Tampa is under water and deadly thunderstorm winds have wreaked havoc at concerts outside Chicago, flattening circus tents in New Hampshire.

Has the weather always been this extreme? Or is the media doing a better job capturing extremes that have always been there? How much of this is demographic trends and land use - more people living in unsafe places getting into trouble more often?

Insurance companies and Defense Department analysts see an emerging trend. Regardless of what you think about greenhouse gases and climate change you'd be well advised to take precautions. Weather-on-steroids means systems are stronger and faster, with less time to take evasive action.

Have a few Doppler and warning apps on your smart phone - or have a portable NOAA Weather Radio receiver that can receive warnings for your county. Stay alert while camping - or at an outdoor concert. Have an escape plan and shelter picked out, in advance. Don't rely on anyone else for your personal safety. A little paranoia is a good thing when it comes to avoiding life-threatening weather scenarios.

Heavy T-storms prowl Minnesota Thursday but skies dry out in time for a fairly nice weekend; highs in the 80s with a need for sunscreen both days.

Enjoy a welcome break from the muggies: 90-degree heat may return by mid-August.


Tornado Slipped Under Radar, Emergency Officials Say. Due to curvature of the Earth it can be impossible to know the wind circulations within a few thousand feet of the ground if the storm is more than 30 miles from the Doppler radar site. Here's an excerpt of a Chicago Tribune story on the Grayslake tornado (near Chicago) and why there was (apparently) no significant warning: "...According to Lake County Emergency Management Coordinator Kent McKenzie, the tornado literally slipped under the radar and was on the ground before observers knew it. "By the time they (National Weather Service personnel) saw it on the radar, it was already in Grayslake causing damage," McKenzie said Tuesday. McKenzie added that while many factors were involved, one of the most important is that the quickly-developing supercell thunderstorm that spawned the tornado formed at such a low level that the radar station in Romeoville did not detect it forming due to curvature of the earth. The radar equipment, he added, usually doesn't detect activity below 2,000 feet..."

Photo credit above: "Owners of homes damaged from the Sunday night tornado work to repair their roofs in Grayslake, Ill. as cleanup continued on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015 following a severe round of weather in the region Sunday afternoon." (Mark Welsh/Daily Herald via AP).


Thundery Spell. GFS data looking out 240 hours shows a good chance of showers and T-storms Thursday; again Sunday as a frontal boundary lingers nearby - the core of the heat and humidity positioned just south and west of Minnesota. By mid-August some of that heat may finally sweep northward into the Gopher State.


On The Cusp of Hot and Bothered. Although the core of the heat wave is positioned over the southwestern USA and Rockies, waves of heat will push across the Dakotas into Minnesota. I have a strong hunch heat will spill over into much of September this year. 500 mb predicted winds (GFS) valid Tuesday evening, Augsut 18.


Don't Write Off The 90s Just Yet. We haven't seen any extended streaks of obnoxious heat, but the State Fair is coming so all bets are off. GFS guidance shows highs near 90F between August 15-20. Please circle your calendar.


California Wildfires: 13,000 Under Evacuation Orders as Rocky Fire Rages. These are no garden-variety wildfires; NBC News reports - here's an excerpt: "Thousands of people were ordered out of their homes Monday after wind-whipped wildfires burned dozens of buildings across northern California. Described as "unprecedented" by authorities, the largest blaze — which is known as the Rocky Fire — had torn across Lake County, north of San Francisco, growing to almost 60,000 acres, or 93 square miles, by Monday afternoon, CalFire spokesman Officer Daniel Berlant said..."

* CNN has more details on the fast-moving, incredibly erratic Rocky Fire here.

Photo credit here: "A plume of smoke rises above a hillside as the Rocky Fire burns near Clearlake, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. The fire has charred more than 60,000 acres and destroyed at least 24 residences." (AP Photo/Josh Edelson).


Explosive Wildfires. The BBC has a video and additional information on the Rocky Fire, one of many blazes raging across the state of California.


Missing: One Year's Worth of California Rain. Climate Central puts California's historic drought into stark perspective; here's a snippet: "...The study’s researchers pin the reason for the lack of rains, as others have, on the absence of the intense rainstorms ushered in by so-called atmospheric rivers, the ribbons of very moist air that can funnel water vapor from the tropics to California during its winter rainy season. Overall, the study, accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, found that California experiences multi-year dry periods, like the current one, and then periods where rains can vary by 30 percent from year to year. Those wet and dry years typically cancel each other out..."

Graphic image credit above: "California’s accumulated precipitation debt from 2012 to 2014 shown as a percent change from the 17-year average using the TRMM mission’s multi-satellite observations." Credit: Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio


Heat, Drought Cook Fish Alive in Pacific Northwest. Here's an excerpt from USA TODAY: "Freakishly hot, dry weather in the Pacific Northwest is killing millions of fish in the overheated waters of the region's rivers and streams. “We’ve lost about 1.5 million juvenile fish this year due to drought conditions at our hatcheries,” Ron Warren of Washington State's Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement. “This is unlike anything we’ve seen for some time..."

Photo credit above: "This Sept. 10, 2014 photo provided by the Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game shows a mixture of wild and hatchery-raised sockeye salmon released into Redfish Lake in central Idaho to spawn naturally." (Photo: Chris Kozfkay, AP).


Can Forests Rebound From Severe Drought? CSMonitor.com has the story - here's the link and an excerpt that caught my eye: "...Dr. Anderegg, who studies climate change at Princeton University, found that living trees took an average of two to four years to recover post-drought. There was just one exception: California and Mediterranean regions actually grew faster after a drought. "We don't have a clear answer as to why this was," Anderegg says. "One possibility is that these regions tended to be dominated by oak forests, and we found that oaks tended to recover relatively quickly..."


Hurricane Sandy Still Taking A Toll Nearly 3 Years Later. Futurity has some statistics that made me do a double-take; here's an excerpt: "Hurricane Sandy continues to affect the lives of tens of thousands of New Jersey residents, who are still dealing with unfinished repairs, disputed claims, and recurrent mold—after-effects that are linked to an increased risk of mental health distress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. According to the Sandy Child and Family Health Study, a study of 1 million New Jersey residents living in the hurricane’s path, more than 100,000 New Jersey residents experienced significant structural damage to their primary homes. Of those people, 27 percent are still experiencing moderate or severe mental health distress and 14 percent report still signs and symptoms of PTSD two and a half years after the storm..."


The Miracle of Solar City. Elon Musk's Tesla and SpaceX are doing well, but Solar City may be the most disruptive company; here's an excerpt from Slate: "...SolarCity, which focuses on putting solar panels on the roofs of homes and buildings, didn’t invent the solar panel. But, like Ford Motor Co. did a century ago, it has put together and perfected a combination of functions and disciplines—efficient assembly, economies of scale, vertical integration, and innovative financing techniques—that could make mass adoption possible. And it continually seeks and finds ways to expand its market..."


How Will Ad-Blocking Software Change The Web-Content Industry? Is this the beginning of the end for ad-supported sites? Here's an excerpt from Quartz: "...Observers weren’t fooled by the last-day session placement and careful euphemism (“content” means “ads”). True to the “if it bleeds, it leads” dictum, we were treated to the usual clamor, from accusations of short-sighted tactics—Apple is at war with Google and wants to monopolize mobile advertising with iAds; publishers will blacklist Safari on iOS9—to predictions of calamity—content blocking will upend the Web, your favorite webiste is about to die, content creators are under attack:You realize that ‘bloat’ pays the salaries of editorial, product, design, video, etc etc etc, right?...” (Photo credit: before and after ad-blocking).


America's "Favorite Months". Is it just me or does someone have way too much time on their hands? The Washington Post reports, here's a clip: "...Gallup asked 1,000 Americans about their favorite month. May came in first, with October running a close second. June and December tied for third, with July and April tied for fifth. In a grave injustice, Americans ranked the winter months of January and February dead last. It's also fascinating to see how Americans' seasonal preferences have changed over the past 45 years..."


The U.S. Government Reimbursed Buzz Aldrin $33 For His Trip To The Moon in 1969. Just when you thought you'd seen everything; along comes a story at Quartz; here's the intro: "Like any other American returning home from a business trip out of the country, former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin filled out an expense report and a customs form when he came back from the moon. Aldrin—the second man to step foot on the lunar surface, after Neil Armstrong—recently shared the paperwork on Facebook. The records include signatures from Aldrin and a Honolulu customs inspector, and one of the most unusual itemized itineraries in history: Florida to Moon to Pacific Ocean to Hawaii, and then back home to Houston..."


82 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities Tuesday.

82 F. average high on August 4.

81 F. high on August 4, 2014.

August 5, 1904: Detroit Lakes woman is hit by lightning. It melted her hairpins and steel in corset but does not kill her.


TODAY: Warm sunshine, closer to average. Winds: S 10. High: 83

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase, thunder possible late. Low: 63

THURSDAY: Few showers and T-storms likely, especially north of MSP. High: near 80

FRIDAY: Damp start, becoming partly sunny. Wake-up: 66. High: 82

SATURDAY: Plenty of sun, lake-worthy. Winds: S 10+ Wake-up: 67. High: 84

SUNDAY: Intervals of sun, probably dry. Wake-up: 68. High: 85

MONDAY: Mix of clouds and warm sunshine. Wake-up: 66. High: 82

TUESDAY: Some of the best weather of summer - lot's of sunshine. Wake-up: 65. High: 84


Climate Stories...

Glaciers Melting at "Unprecedented" Rate. CBS News highlights new data that shows an acceleration of glacier ice loss, worldwide. Here's an excerpt: "According to a wide-ranging new study, in the first part of the 21st century, glaciers are melting faster than at any point in the last 165 years -- and possibly any point in recorded history. Published Monday in the Journal of Glaciology by the World Glacier Monitoring Service, the findings represent thousands of observations going all the way back to the 1600s. That includes more than 40,000 on-site measurements of glacier thickness, images from planes and satellites, and reconstructions based on historical pictures and texts...."

Image credit above: "The top image shows the Swiss Rhone Glacier in June 2007; the second image shows the same glacier in June 2014." Simon Oberli.


World's Glaciers Melting At Fastest Rate Since Record-Keeping Began. Globally 3 times the ice volume stored in the Alps is lost every year, according to new research highlighted at Huffington Post; here's a clip: "The world's glaciers have melted to the lowest levels since record-keeping began more than 120 years ago, according to a study conducted by the World Glacier Monitoring Service that was released on Monday. The research, published in the Journal of Glaciology, provides new evidence that climate change has spurred the rapid decline of thousands of the world's ice shelves over the past century. The first decade of the 21st century saw the fastest loss of ice since scientists began tracking it in 1894 -- and perhaps in recorded history, WGMS reported..."


Methane in Atmosphere May Greatly Exceed Estimates. Which is problematic, considering methane is a greenhouse gas far more concentrated and potent than CO2. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "A device commonly used to measure the methane that leaks from industrial sources may greatly underestimate those emissions, said an inventor of the technology that the device relies on. The claim, published Tuesday in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, suggests that the amount of escaped methane, a potent greenhouse gas, could be far greater than accepted estimates from scientists, industry and regulators. The new paper focuses on a much-heralded report sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund and published by University of Texas researchers in 2013; that report is part of a major effort to accurately measure the methane problem..." (File image: ThinkProgress).


Clean Power Plan: Your State-By-State Greenhouse Gas Emissions. In 2012 Minnesota accounted for 1.73% of the USA's greenhouse gas emissions. Here's an excerpt from U.S. News: "...The 10 biggest greenhouse gas emitters, from Texas to Michigan, accounted for nearly half of all U.S. emissions in 2012, it found. Texas, alone, made up one-eighth of all the country’s emissions, mostly from the sheer size of its industrial, electric and transportation sectors. In fact, transporation in Texas alone generated more than 3 percent of the nation's total emissions – greater than all of Michigan or even the 10 greenest states combined..."


Will Clean Power Plan Accelerate Renewables? Andrew Freedman has an analysis at Mashable; here's an excerpt: "...The rule is designed to give states flexibility in determining how to meet the national carbon standards. All states will get an emissions reduction goal, and each can determine on its own how to get there. For example, a state can switch its power plants from coal to natural gas, build tons of solar installations, or join cap and trade systems, while others may find it economically advantageous to shutter plants and take other actions. States will submit their plans by 2018 at the latest, and start cutting emissions by 2022..."


Climate Battle Will Likely Divide Red and Blue States Down a Green Line. NationalJournal takes a look at why some states are having a harder time coming to terms with the Clean Power Plan than others. Here's an excerpt: "...As the maps (above) show, red and blue states begin this process in very different positions relative to carbon emissions. The first map ranks the states based on how much carbon they emit per each megawatt of electricity they generate, according to the figures the EPA issued when it released the proposed rule last year. Since coal emits much more carbon per unit of electricity generated than other fuels (such as natural gas, much less solar or wind), the states that rely most on coal for their power top the list for electricity-related carbon emissions..."


Fact or Fiction? Natural Gas Will Reduce Global Warming Pollution. Scientific American takes a look; here's a clip: "...Natural gas did play a significant supporting role in reducing pollution from the energy sector, however—a role that has increased over time as people and companies have started buying more stuff. The shift away from burning coal has counterbalanced population growth, according to this new analysis. In fact, cheap and abundant natural gas appears to have helped keep some 160 new coal-fired power plants from being built, which would have spewed hundreds of millions of metric tons of CO2 over the years. Coal's share of electricity generation in the U.S. has been dropping since 2009 and more than 180 gigawatts of power plants that burn natural gas have been built since 1990..."


A Clean-Energy Breakthrough. Here's a snippet of an Op-Ed at The Wall Street Journal: "...Some question whether the EPA has the authority to take this step. They are arguing a point that was settled eight years ago. The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA has a clear responsibility under the Clean Air Act to act to reduce emissions of climate-altering pollution. The plan is also necessary. Without it, a lack of basic federal standards to reduce power-plant emissions created a bad mix of uncertainty for industry and unsafe pollution for the climate. The longer we delay addressing climate-change issues in a serious way, the greater the risk posed to national economic growth, long-term investment and job creation..."

What August? Maps Look Like September Next 10+ Days

What August?

I am in big trouble.

I forgot to set my alarm clock and somehow slept thru the entire month of August; waking up on September 4. I missed my father's 85th birthday, the big SAVE golf tournament at TPC in Blaine to benefit suicide awareness on August 10, and the wide array of heart-healthy foods and exotic-people-watching at the Minnesota State Fair.

My 7-Day Outlook calls for narcolepsy.

What the heck happened to August? Climate data indicates average highs drop from 83F on August 1 to 78F by the 31st. It wouldn't be August without the Dog Days, sweaty dew points and obnoxious Back to School Sales. I missed it all.

A brewing Super El Nino - coupled with increasing climate volatility - may spark more head-scratching weather into the winter months, with a warm bias likely over much of the USA into spring of 2016. No, this early puff of autumn doesn't mean an early fall or a harsh winter is imminent. This still falls under the heading of normal weather variability.

Temperatures trend below average into late next week as we enter a drier pattern now. T-showers are possible by Thursday, again on Monday of next week.

August is prime time for wildfires and tropical storms. The hottest days are behind us, at least on paper. Let's see if Mother Nature plays along.


Floods Swamp Tampa Area. Swarms of heavy thunderstorms sprouting along a temporarily stalled frontal boundary have squeezed out excessive rains on much of Florida for 2-3 weeks, with Tampa bearing the brunt of flash flooding, as reported by USA TODAY; here's an excerpt: "...Heavy rain caused widespread flooding in the Tampa Bay area Monday, closing roads, forcing evacuations and delaying air travel. Up to 1 1/2 feet of rain fell in parts of the Tampa metro area the past 10 days, the National Weather Service said. Measurable rain has fallen for 14 days consecutively in Tampa. By Monday morning, Tampa already exceeded its average August rainfall with more than 8 inches of rain, and it's only Aug. 3, the Weather Channel reported..."


Midwestern Storms: 1 Dead, 16 Injured, Lollapalooza Music Festival Briefly Evacuated. The Weather Channel has video and more details; here's an excerpt: "...One person died and 15 others were transported to local hospitals after strong winds toppled a tent at the Wood Dale Prairie Fest in Wood Dale, Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reported. Among those hurt, at least three were seriously injured, the report added. In a statement released Sunday, Wood Dale Mayor Nunzio Pulice said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the deceased and we are also praying for all those who were injured or affected by this tragedy..."

Circus Tent Collapses In New Hampshire, Killing Two. As meteorologists this is one of our greatest fears: hundreds or thousands of people outside, at the mercy of severe storms. Where are spectators or fans to go? Back to their vehicles in the parking lot? If there are no significant shelters (preferably below ground, below grade) nearby, if all you have is a tent, or even an open-air stadium, the options for safe shelter are few. The New York Times reports.


Flash Flood Risk Thursday? It's early to making such pronouncements, but NAM guidance hints at a few waves of heavy showers and T-storms rippling along a stalled frontal boundary Thursday and Thursday night, capable of some heavy rainfall amounts across central Minnesota. With any luck Florida will finally dry out.


84 Hour Rainfall Prediction. This is courtesy of NOAA's 12 km NAM model, and it shows the heaviest rains pushing across the Ohio Valley and central Minnesota by Thursday and Thursday night. California remains bone-dry and prone to erratic wildfires. No sign of El Nino-fueled rains kicking in just yet. Source: AerisWeather.


Summer On Hold. It may look and feel a little more like early September than early August out there for the next 10-12 days. No drippy dew points, no extended stretch of 90s, no Dog-Day-babble on the radio or TV. Mornings will be a little on the cool side but afternoons will be very pleasant with dew points mostly in the 50s. The best chance of storms: Thursday, again Monday of next week. Source: Weatherspark.


Missing: One Year's Worth of California Rain. Climate Central puts California's historic drought into stark perspective; here's a snippet: "...The study’s researchers pin the reason for the lack of rains, as others have, on the absence of the intense rainstorms ushered in by so-called atmospheric rivers, the ribbons of very moist air that can funnel water vapor from the tropics to California during its winter rainy season. Overall, the study, accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, found that California experiences multi-year dry periods, like the current one, and then periods where rains can vary by 30 percent from year to year. Those wet and dry years typically cancel each other out..."

Graphic image credit above: "California’s accumulated precipitation debt from 2012 to 2014 shown as a percent change from the 17-year average using the TRMM mission’s multi-satellite observations." Credit: Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio


Heat, Drought Cook Fish Alive in Pacific Northwest. Here's an excerpt from USA TODAY: "Freakishly hot, dry weather in the Pacific Northwest is killing millions of fish in the overheated waters of the region's rivers and streams. “We’ve lost about 1.5 million juvenile fish this year due to drought conditions at our hatcheries,” Ron Warren of Washington State's Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement. “This is unlike anything we’ve seen for some time..."

Photo credit above: "This Sept. 10, 2014 photo provided by the Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game shows a mixture of wild and hatchery-raised sockeye salmon released into Redfish Lake in central Idaho to spawn naturally." (Photo: Chris Kozfkay, AP)


Expert Analysis Finds That The Clean Power Plan Is Not A Threat To Midwestern Power Grid Reliability. Here is the intro to a J. Drake Hamilton analysis at Fresh Energy: "Working toward an electricity system that aggressively lowers carbon pollution requires a well-operated regional power grid for success. Today’s interconnected electric power grid is reliable, affordable, and increasingly carries clean electricity. Tomorrow’s integrated electric grid must be cleaner still, as well as reliable and affordable. The emerging modern, efficient power grid must be designed and operated to reduce environmental impacts, including allowing Minnesota and its neighbors to comply with the nation’s first (and long overdue) limits on carbon pollution from our existing coal-burning power plants; these standards, to be finalized this summer, are known as the Clean Power Plan..."


The Dangers of Mercury Poisoning. Even if you don't care one whiff about man-made climate change, weather and water volatility or the implications for your kids and grandkids, you should be aware of the side effects of fossil-fuel generated power; specifically mercury poisoning downwind of these plants. Taller stacks have turned this from a local into a regional issue and scrubbers can't catch all the carcinogenic pollutants released. There's only so much you can do to clean up inherently dirty fossil fuels. Here's an excerpt from EEN, The Evangelical Environmental Network that caught my eye: "Mercury emitted from power plants drops from air to earth and presently contaminates over 6 million acres of freshwater lakes, 46,000 miles of streams, and 225,000 wetland acres across the U.S. Every state has a fish consumption advisory. Mercury contaminated fish are often eaten by pregnant women. Mercury and other heavy metal toxins pass across the mother’s placenta and enter the bloodstream of her unborn child. A protective shield around the developing child’s brain is not fully formed until the first year of life. Mercury easily crosses into the developing child’s brain causing brain damage, developmental disabilities, neurological disorders, lowered intelligence, and learning difficulties..."


Jimmy Carter: The U.S. "Is An Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery". Other than that how are we doing? More fall-out from the Supreme Court's Citizen United ruling. Here's the transcript of a recent interview at The Intercept: "Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on the nationally syndicated radio show the Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” has created “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.” Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, “look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves....” (Photo: Pete Muller, AP).


Can Singapore Save Democracy? Here's a snippet of an Op-Ed at Bloomberg View: "...Democracy has not been much in evidence in the workings of the European Union’s technocrats, or indeed among the radicals of Syriza. Feckless wars, special-interest lobbyists, and political dysfunction have made the U.S. resemble late Byzantium rather than the small-town civic haven witnessed by Tocqueville. The runaway candidacy of Donald Trump exposes a growing constituency for demagogues in the world's oldest democracy..."


Once In A Blue Moon: ISS Transits Moon. Here's an excerpt of an explainer at SpaceFlight Insider: "...After the “Blue Moon” that took place on Friday, July 31, NASA photographers worked to capture the transit of the orbiting laboratory in front of the Moon’s disk. While the photographers working on this effort accomplished the feat with relative ease, it is a little more difficult than just aiming one’s camera at the Moon and snapping a picture..."


Great Leaps Forward in Ice Cream History. Too cool for ice cream? It's NEVER too cool for ice cream. Here's an excerpt from Digg: "...For millennia, humankind has gathered and stored natural ice and snow in order to preserve food and chill drinks — snow was sold in the markets of Athens in the fifth century, and wealthy Romans, inspired by Middle Eastern sherbets, recklessly disobeyed the medical advice of their day by mixing ice chips to their wine. But simply adding ice is not enough to freeze sherbet into sorbet: to do that required the creation of a substance that was colder than ice..." (Image: JoyReactor).


80 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday.

82 F. average high on August 3.

88 F. high on August 3, 2014.

August 3, 1904: Half of Waconia was destroyed by an F4 tornado. Thirty homes were utterly destroyed, and the debris was carried for miles.

August 3, 1898: Storms dump 4.5 inches of rain on Montevideo. Soure: Twin Cities National Weather Service.


TODAY: Sunny and beautiful. Dew point: 54. Winds: NW 10. High: 79

TUESDAY NIGHT: Clear and comfortable. Low: 60 (50s in the suburbs)

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, closer to average. Wake-up: 60. High: 82

THURSDAY: Few T-showers in the area. Wake-up: 65. High: 78

FRIDAY: Sunny intervals, a drier day. Wake-up: 66. High: 81

SATURDAY: Mix of clouds and sun. Wake-up: 67. High: near 80

SUNDAY: Hazy sun, isolated T-shower. Wake-up: 66. High: 83

MONDAY: Better chance of T-showers. Wake-up: 66. High: 80


Climate Stories...

Obama Unveils Plan To Sharply Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions. The New York Times reports; here's an excerpt: "...He also sought to wrap the policy in the legitimacy of transcendental values, noting that Pope Francis had issued an encyclical in June, calling action on the issue a “moral obligation.” Even as Mr. Obama acknowledged the steep resistance from coal-producing states and industry critics to a plan that could lead to the closing of hundreds of polluting coal-fired plants, he said it was up to the United States to adopt tough standards so that other countries like China would feel compelled to take similar steps. “When the world faces its toughest challenges, America leads the way forward,” the president said. “That’s what this plan is about...”


Obama Takes a Crucial Step on Climate Change. I may not agree with his politics, but I admire what he's doing for the environment and future generations by standing up to entrenched special interests. President Obama was one of the driving forces behind the EPA's new Clean Power Plan, which incentivizes states to lower greenhouse gas emissions, but builds in the flexibility to tailor reductions for each state. It actually moves the needle and proves to other nations that we are serious. Yes, he may be thinking about his own legacy, but also the legacy of our children and grandchildren at the same time. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from The New York Times: "...Power plants are the largest source of such pollution in the United States, responsible for more than a third of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions. This greenhouse gas is the main driver of climate change, yet, until today, most plants could emit the pollutant in unlimited quantities. The president’s plan is important not only because of the reductions it will achieve in domestic emissions. It also signals to the international community that America is serious about reining in its contribution to the global problem of greenhouse gas pollution. This message is particularly salient as the world’s nations prepare to gather in Paris in December to negotiate a new climate agreement..."


5 Myths About The New U.S. Climate Plan: What You May Not Know. National Geographic provides some timely perspective; here's a clip: "...Still, coal will be hit hard. Once the dominant source of U.S. electricity, it’s been on the wane in recent years as it’s struggled to comply with federal limits on mercury emissions and lower natural gas prices. Coal, which generated 34 percent of U.S. power in the first five months of this year—down from 49 percent in 2007, emits about twice as much carbon as natural gas when burned. The rule will shutter more coal-fired power plants. It’s likely to more than double the number of closures by 2040, the EIA recently forecast. Most shutdowns will occur by 2020, cutting coal power generation by one-fifth..."

Photo credit above: "West Virginia, where this coal-fired power plant is located, and other coal-heavy states face pressure to cut emission as part of a new Obama Administration proposal." Photo by Skip Brown, National Geographic.


Do Americans Have Enough Zeal for Obama's Climate Change Plan. We know the EPA's new Clean Power Plan will create more billable hours for lawyers hired by fossil fuel interests who have every incentive to fight this, but will Americans get on-board? Here's an excerpt from Christian Science Monitor: "...But perhaps most important to the survival of the president's new vision of American energy is the support of the American people. President Obama has now put the US on a path largely pioneered by a handful of Western European nations, such as Sweden and Germany. Particularly in Germany's case, those experiments have not gone smoothly. Germany now has some of the highest energy prices in Europe. But public support has remained strong, even as energy companies have pushed back on the changes. In short, the residents of those countries wanted to be green-energy leaders, so they have been..."


The Moral and Scientific Urgency of EPA's Clean Power Plan. Joe Romm makes the case at ThinkProgress; here's the intro: "The next few years are unprecedented in human history. We know with unusually high scientific certainty that the near-term choices we as a nation and a species make about carbon pollution will determine whether or not we will destroy our livable climate in the coming decades — thereby ruining the lives of billions of people irreversibly for centuries to come. We have no right to destroy the soil (and other elements of a livable climate) for our children and future generations — a point Thomas Jefferson explained was universally self-evident in a 1789 letter to James Madison..."


Sea Level Rise Set To Accelerate in Coming Decades. Forget "debating the science", which is no clear-cut and unambiguous; what would all the presidential contenders do to address the low-grade risks associated with man-made climate change like the steady rise in sea level? That's not a climate model, that's reality. Here's an excerpt from The Union of Concerned Scientists: "...Over the next 30 years—the short length of a typical home mortgage—sea levels are expected to rise a foot or more in locations up and down the Eastern seaboard and along the Gulf coast. More than three million Americans live within three vertical feet of the average high tide line. They face growing threats from coastal storms and flooding events. Now is the time to prepare our communities for rising seas. Now is the time to take action to reduce the carbon emissions that are driving global warming. The next president will play a pivotal role in this effort..."


Which Advanced Country Has The Most Climate Skeptics? Hint: It's Not The United States. DeSmogBlog takes a look way down under; here's the intro: "It's not necessarily a competition you should be particularly keen to win, but which country in the world has the most climate change “sceptics”? Most people would probably hazard a guess at the United States, what with its preponderance of climate science denialist think tanks, conservative television and radio hosts and politicians who think it’s all a hoax. But a new study that analysed identical surveys carried out across 14 industrialised nations has found that when it comes to climate science denial, Australia tops the pile..."


Tracking The Retreat of Arctic Ice. I'm sure it's just another cosmic coincidence. Phys.org has the story; here's an excerpt: "Not so long ago, skeleton staff overwintering at the Ny-Alesund research centre could walk on the Arctic town's frozen bay and race their snow mobiles across its surface. Now there is liquid water even in the coldest months, the glaciers are retreating at a rate of hundreds of metres per year, and alien species from warmer climes are making the bay their home, say longtime residents of the sparsely-populated town on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. "In the 1990s, we could cross the bay in snow mobiles," recalled Juergen Graeser, a technician at the Franco-German Awipev research station which collects weather, atmospheric and chemical data. "The last time we could walk on it was in the winter of 2003-04..."

Image credit above: "Not so long ago, skeleton staff overwintering at the Ny-Alesund research center could walk on the Arctic town's frozen bay and race their snowmobiles across its surface."