Situational Awareness Critical at Outdoor Events

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail" said Benjamin Franklin. I'm an Eagle Scout, and the motto "Be Prepared" is tattooed on my psyche.

Every year millions of Americans attend concerts and sporting events, many of them oblivious to potentially life-threatening weather nearby. Weather apps on your smart phone are a good start, but being weather-aware amidst the hype & hoopla on the field or stage is challenging for everyone.

NOAA is advancing their "Weather-Ready Nation" concept, trying to raise awareness. A recent AMS post   suggests having a meteorologist on-site, and a detailed action plan to activate when weather threatens.

What can you do? Pay attention. Don't wait for authorities to save you or your family. Always have a Plan B, a safe room or space nearby you can evacuate to in seconds, if required.

The good news: today looks a little nicer than expected, with hazy sun and a shot at 90F. A stray shower is possible Sunday; fresh Canadian air gives us a break from humidity by Monday.

Update: Dr. Mark Seeley reports it's been the 4th warmest start to the growing season on record. Details below.


Near-Historic Heat for the Growing Season. Here are a couple of clips from Dr. Mark Seeley's excellent blog at Minnesota WeatherTalk: "Michelle Margraf of the NOAA-NWS Office in Chanhassen put me onto the near historically warm growing season we have been having in Minnesota so far in 2018. Since May 1st, often considered the beginning of the growing season we can look at temperature patterns since that date in 2018. May was nearly 6 degrees F warmer than normal on a statewide basis, while June was nearly 3 degrees F warmer than normal. So the combination of May-June in 2018 produced the 4th warmest start to the growing season in state history, averaging 4.5 degrees F warmer than normal. Only 1934, 1977, and 1988 were warmer. Now so far for July the average temperature across the state is nearly 4 degrees F warmer than normal...If this pattern of warmth persists throughout the balance of July then we will record the warmest May-July period in state history. Fortunately the second half of July looks to be near normal or cooler than normal, so we will fall off this record-setting pace..."

File photo: Andre Penner, AP.



Weather Safety at Venues and Public Gatherings. What keeps me up at night? 30,000 mostly-oblivious sports fans in the path of an EF-3 tornado, or lightning, or flash flooding. Here's an excerpt of an important post at The American Meteorological Society: "...Although many fatalities and injuries have occurred at venues and large gatherings, there are also numerous success stories where proactive venue operators working closely with weather professionals have averted disaster in the face of approaching life-threatening weather. Common practices during these success stories include:

  • Having a professional meteorologist forecast and monitor the weather to proactively support a comprehensive weather plan on behalf of life safety.
  • Identifying the appropriate staff at each venue who used basic guidelines set forth in the NOAA/NWS Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) and/or StormReady Programs, and implemented the concept of an integrated warning team.
  • Having each venue staffed using a decision-tree hierarchy where everyone knew their responsibilities in advance (as well as their backups). There was also a responsible and trained professional in charge of maintaining situational awareness and making weather-related decisions before, during, and after the event.
  • Generating a weather plan in advance with an actionable set of decision triggers against a portfolio of weather risk, with a process to routinely evaluate and update the plan..."

File photo: Charles Whisenant.


Weather Society Says Fatalities at Sporting Events and Concerts Are Preventable. Dr. Marshall Shepherd has additional perspective on the AMS report in a post at Forbes: "...Each year, millions of Americans invest time and money to attend sporting, entertainment, and recreational events at venues ranging in size from intimate parks to large fairgrounds and stadiums. Attendees are typically focused on the entertainer, activity, sports team, or event at hand, and less so on their surroundings. Situational awareness can be compromised when hazardous weather threatens, and in the worst of cases, loss of life has occurred. In addition, at many indoor events, and almost all outdoor events, sheltering options against life-threatening weather are limited or nonexistent. In the U.S., hazardous weather kills attendees at entertainment venues each year, and litigation in these instances exceeds tens of millions of dollars..."

Photo credit: "Lightning near a full stadium". NOAA.


18-24" of Rapidly Moving Water Can Move an SUV or Truck. Driving through water, especially at night, can have tragic consequences. Graphic above: NOAA.


Officials: Sirens Sounded Near Ravaged RV Park. This tragedy is another reminder that you don't want to be totally dependent on outdoor warning sirens (that were never designed to be heard indoors). The Washington Post has an update: "Authorities say all eight outdoor warning sirens in a North Dakota oil patch city were sounded before a deadly tornado ravaged an RV park, but park residents and others say they didn’t hear them. A newborn baby was killed and dozens were injured when the storm moved through Watford City shortly after midnight Tuesday. More than 120 structures were destroyed. McKenzie County emergency manager Karolin Jappe says all of the sirens functioned properly, including one within blocks of the RV park. She says the storm was so loud that someone in the path of it would have had to be outside to hear the warnings. Prairie View RV park resident Clifford Bowden said he and his neighbors didn’t hear sirens but someone he knows who lives across town heard them..."

Photo credit: "In this Tuesday, July 10, 2018 photo, Louis Vallieres searches for clothes and valuables through the wreckage of his mobile home in the Prairie View RV Park in Watford City, N.D., after a tornado whipped through the North Dakota oil patch city overnight, overturning recreational vehicles and demolishing more than 100 structures, officials said Tuesday. A newborn baby was killed and more than two dozen people were injured." (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP) (Associated Press).


Explainer: Drought Creates a Perfect Storm for Wildfires in U.S. West. Reuters connects the dots: "So far this year, 3.3 million acres have burned in U.S. forests, just below the figure for this time in 2017. Last year was the second worst year on record with 10 million acres blackened, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). Around 2,600 homes have been destroyed nationally by fires year to date, according to Forest Service data. Nine U.S. wildland firefighters have been killed up to this week, compared with 14 killed in all of 2017, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. It was not immediately possible to verify how many civilians have died this year. The number of wildfires larger than 25,000 acres on U.S. Forest Service land in the West nearly quadrupled in the decade to 2014, compared with the 1980s, according to data from the Department of the Interior..."

Photo credit: "Firefighters battle a fast-moving wildfire in Goleta, California, July 7, 2018." REUTERS/Gene Blevins


Photos: Death Toll Reaches 200 in Devastating Japan Floods. The Atlantic has a photo essay that captures the magnitude of recent flooding in Japan: "Over the weekend, sustained heavy rainfall hit parts of western and central Japan, causing flash flooding, setting off landslides, submerging floodplains, and forcing more than 2 million residents to evacuate. Today, Japan’s National Police Agency announced at least 200 people had died, and dozens were still missing, in the worst weather-related disaster to hit Japan in more than 30 years. More than 70,000 rescue workers are at work in hard-hit areas searching for survivors as the damage to villages, roads, and infrastructure is being assessed. Hundreds of thousands of homes remain without power or clean water."

Photo credit: "Submerged and destroyed houses remain in a flooded area in Mabi Town on July 10, 2018." Issei Kato / Reuters.


California Will Face a Terrible Choice: Save Cliff-side Homes or Public Beaches from Rising Seas. The Washington Post explains the dilemma: "Like an ax slowly chopping at the trunk of a massive tree, waves driven by sea-level rise will hack away the base of cliffs on the Southern California coast at an accelerated pace, a recent study says, increasing land erosion that could topple some bluffs and thousands of homes sitting atop them. California officials from Santa Barbara to San Diego will face an awful choice as the sea rises, the U.S. Geological Survey study says: save public beaches enjoyed by millions, or close them off with boulders and concrete walls to armor the shore and stop the waves in a bid to save homes. The study predicts coastal land loss on an unimaginable scale over the remaining century, up to 135 feet beyond the existing shoreline..."
 
Photo credit: "Homes along the edge of the coast in Santa Barbara County, Calif., in 2005." (Patrick Barnard/Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center/U.S. Geological Survey).

Ireland Will Divest: Headlines and links courtesy of Climate Nexus: "Ireland will make history by becoming the first country to divest entirely from fossil fuels. The country's lower parliament passed a bill Thursday requiring the national investment fund to sell shares in non-renewable energy over the next five years, and the upper house is expected to also pass the bill early this fall. The $10 billion fund currently has nearly $350 million invested in fossil fuels. Last year, a survey on climate action ranked Ireland as the worst-performing country in Europe." (New York Times $, The Guardian, Reuters, BBC, NPR, EartherInsideClimate News)

How One Industrial City is Fighting to Go Green. TIME.com has the story: "Larry Atencio is steering his Ford Explorer through the streets of Pueblo, Colo., pointing out how the city is going green. There’s the site of a planned community solar garden in an up-and-coming neighborhood, a manufacturing plant for wind turbines that opened in 2010 and the largest solar farm in Colorado, an array of 450,000 panels on 900 acres. Atencio, a small-business man who for years made and sold his own candy and now serves on the city council, has spent years trying to turn this industrial town on the Front Range into a hub for green-energy projects. “Pueblo is becoming quite the renewable-energy city,” he says with a grin. It’s all part of a deliberate, idealistic plan..."
 
Photo credit: "Black Hills Energy opened the Pueblo Airport Generating Station, a natural gas power plant, in 2012 at a cost of nearly $500 million." Jamie Kripke for TIME.

Climate Pollutants Fall Below 1990 Levels For First Time. A press release from the California Air Resources Board caught my eye: "The California Air Resources Board today announced that greenhouse gas pollution in California fell below 1990 levels for the first time since emissions peaked in 2004—an achievement roughly equal to taking 12 million cars off the road or saving 6 billion gallons of gasoline a year.  “California set the toughest emissions targets in the nation, tracked progress and delivered results,” said Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. “The next step is for California to cut emissions below 1990 levels by 2030 – a heroic and very ambitious goal.”  Under Assembly Bill 32 passed in 2006, California must reduce its emissions to 1990 levels (431 million metric tons) by 2020. The 2016 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory published today shows that California emitted 429 million metric tons of climate pollutants in 2016--a drop of 12 million metric tons, or three percent, from 2015..."


U.S. Energy Agency: Sorry Coal, Natural Gas is Having Another Record Summer. Natural gas emits roughly half as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere than coal. Here's an excerpt from Ars Technica: "Between 2018 and 2020, natural gas is expected to continue to eat away steadily at coal's share of the US energy mix, barring any regulatory intervention from the federal government. The competition between natural gas and coal is especially fierce this summer: the former could set a record in terms of its contribution to overall US energy generation. Another interesting prediction about fossil fuels: in 2018, the average price of a gallon of gasoline has been significantly higher than the year before, but that may not be great news for the oil industry, because drivers are already responding to higher prices. The amount of gas drivers will purchase in 2018 is expected to fall year over year for the first time since 2012. The contraction amounts to 10,000 barrels of oil per day not sold—a small change for the US economy but potentially a harbinger of things to come..."

File photo: Jim Wilson, New York Times.


Quantum Computing Could Put a Stop to Traffic Jams. Something to shoot for. Quartz explains how this could happen: "...Consider Los Angeles’ traffic nightmare again. Since 2013, the city has boasted one of the world’s most sophisticated traffic systems, with 20,000 sensors over 469 square miles feeding data into a centralized supercomputer that adjusts the timing of 4,000-plus traffic lights in real time to maximize traffic flow. This system has reduced a five mile LA commute from 20 minutes to 17.5 minutes—saving a mere 180 seconds. The premise and promise of a quantum computer managing traffic flow is that, with the right algorithms, it could approximate the most-efficient futures of an LA rush hour and orchestrate routes that not just redirect cars and buses around a traffic jam, but steer them home on routes that prevent the traffic jam from happening in the first place..."

Photo credit: "You are now on the fastest route through space-time." (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong).


Is Lab-Grown Meat Really Meat? Slate takes a look at a brewing battle: "...Cultured-meat manufacturers like Just Inc. and Memphis Meats are hoping to provide consumers with meat that is just like its predecessor, that tastes and looks and feels and smells exactly the same as something you might get in stores today but will be more sustainable. Whether that will turn out to be true won’t be clear for some time. But there’s another, more immediate battle heating up between the cattle industry and these new entrants into the meaty ring. So buckle up and put on your wonkiest hat, because the labeling war is about to begin..."

Image credit: photo illustration by Slate. Photos by catalby/iStock; Lisovskaya/iStock.


Man Mowing Lawns in Every State Reaches Minnesota. KARE11.com has the story: "A man with a mission of mowing lawns for those in need in every state in America is nearing his goal -- and he's hoping to check Minnesota off the list Thursday. Rodney Smith Jr. of Huntsville, Alabama, is providing free lawn care to senior citizens, veterans, single mothers and the disabled. On his website, 50states50lawns.com, Smith states the idea started in 2017, two years after he found a calling to help those who need it take care of their lawn, free of charge..."


SATURDAY: Plenty of warm sunshine. Winds: E 5-10. High: 89

SATURDAY NIGHT: Clear to partly cloudy. Low: 71

SUNDAY: Some sun, stray T-shower possible. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 88

MONDAY: Fresh breeze, big drop in humidity. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 64. High: 84

TUESDAY: Bright sunlight, less wind. Winds: N 7-12. Wake-up: 60. High: near 80

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, perfectly average. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 62. High: 83

THURSDAY: Chance of showers, T-storms. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 65. High: 81

FRIDAY: Warm sun, few PM T-storms? Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 64. High: 85


Climate Stories....

Americans Increasingy Aware of Climate Change, Media Clueless. Many mainstream news sources and local TV meteorologists are still not publicly connecting the dots, according to a story at Earther.com: "...A new survey conducted in May by the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College found that 73 percent of Americans think there is solid evidence for global warming. The survey also found that 60 percent people are aware that global warming is happening and that humans are at least partially to blame. These two results are the highest percentage of people that have recognized human-caused climate change since the poll began in 2008. The previous iteration of the survey, in the fall of 2017, found that 70 percent of respondents agreed there is solid evidence for climate change, while 58 percent accepted the harsh reality of a man-made global warming.  This increased acknowledgement might be connected to the record high temperatures occurring more and more often..."

File image: AP.


Rising Ocean Waters from Global Warming Could Cost Trillions. University of St. Thomas climate scientist (and good friend) Dr. John Abraham has the details for The Guardian: "...Rising oceans are a big deal. About 150 million people live within 1 meter (3 feet) of sea level. About 600 million live within 10 meters (33 feet) of sea level. As waters rise, these people will have to go somewhere. It is inevitable that climate refugees will have to move their homes and workplaces because of rising waters. In some places, humans will be able to build sea walls to block off the water’s rise. But, in many places, that won’t be possible. For instance, Miami, Florida has a porous base rock that allows sea water to permeate through the soils. You cannot wall that off. In other places, any sea walls would be prohibitively expensive. It isn’t just the inevitable march of sea level that is an issue. Rising waters make storm surges worse. A great example is Superstorm Sandy, which hit the US East Coast in 2012. It cost approximately $65 bn of damage. The cost was higher because of sea level rise caused by global warming..."

Image credit: NASA.


Rising Sea, Falling Prices: Climate Change Hits Key Biscayne. Thomson Reuters Foundation has the article: "...Key Biscayne, a barrier island just south of Miami Beach, is among Florida's most valuable real estate. However, fears over rising sea levels mean homes at lower elevations are selling for less than expected, and their value is increasing more slowly than those on higher ground, according to data from a Harvard University study published in April. The findings show that home buyers and investors are taking sea-level rise and other climate-related risks into account when making offers, said study author Jesse Keenan, a professor with Harvard's Graduate School of Design. "Nuisance flooding has increased a lot annually and people in these vulnerable areas are becoming much more aware of the risks," Keenan said, referring to problems such as high-tide flooding that can close roads or overwhelm drainage systems..."

Photo credit: "Elena Errazuriz checks her telephone as she sets beside the pool at her home for sale in Key Biscayne, near Miami in southern Florida, June 11, 2018." Thomson Reuters Foundation/Adriana Brasileiro.


Exxon Quits Koch-Backed Business Group After Climate Change Row. You know we live in interesting times when one of the largest oil producers (and carbon emitters) on the planet is actually sticking up for the science. Bloomberg explains: "Exxon Mobil Corp. quit the American Legislative Exchange Council, a lobbying group bankrolled by fossil fuel companies, following a disagreement over climate-change policy. The oil giant won’t be renewing its membership after it expired in June, spokesman Scott Silvestri said by phone. Exxon had a public spat with ALEC in December when some members backed by climate skeptics such as the Heartland Institute moved to convince the federal government to drop its claim that climate change is a risk to human health. Exxon’s departure comes amid a corporate exodus by the likes of Ford Motor Co. and Expedia Group Inc. departed, largely in response to ALEC’s positions on climate rules, renewable energy and other issues..."

File photo: Jamie Rector, Bloomberg.


Brett Kavanaugh: "The Earth is Warming". It's rather refreshing to see that the latest Supreme Court nominee acknowledges science, data and facts when it comes to a warming climate. Here's an excerpt from The Atlantic: "It probably isn’t surprising that Judge Brett Kavanaugh—a longtime member of the conservative movement whom President Trump nominated to the Supreme Court on Monday—has written about climate change. What might be surprising is that he says it’s real. “The earth is warming. Humans are contributing,” he told a federal courtroom two years ago, during a hearing about a major Barack Obama climate policy. “There is a moral imperative. There is a huge policy imperative. The pope’s involved.” He’s even inscribed this view in his judicial opinions. “The task of dealing with global warming is urgent and important at the national and international level,” he wrote in 2013..."


In Farm Country, Grappling with the Taboo of Talking About Climate Change. It isn't about "believing in climate change", but more an acknowledgement of the facts and trends, according to a story at Civil Eats: "According to a new study, around half of rural residents say they “Believe global warming/climate change has affected their community.” But many farmers seem to see it as something that is merely happening, unrelated to the causes most scientists seem to agree on. According to one 2014 study by Purdue and Iowa State universities, only 8 percent of farmers said they believed it was associated with human activities. And 2015 research from Iowa State University found that these opinions are often tied to where farmers received their information. “Farmers who said they trusted environmental groups for information about climate change were more likely to believe [it] was occurring and that it was due to human activity. However, farmers who said they trusted farm groups, agribusiness, and the farm press were less likely to believe climate change was happening and due to human action,” according to Scientific American..."

Image credit: "The key to Rural Climate Dialogues’ success, says Anna Claussen, is meeting people where they’re at. “It’s not about ‘bringing people along,’” she says." Photo: Center for Rural Strategies.


Cities Will Bear the Brunt of Climate Disruption. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at TheHill: "Cities will bear the brunt of climate change. That’s the not-so-surprising but still deeply disturbing news last month from two reputable research institutes. They report that the climate-related risks posed to urban dwellers are mounting. This is a serious problem in the United States since the majority of the population lives in metropolitan areas. One report, released by the Union of Concerned Scientists, shows that coastal cities in the United States face persistent flooding due to higher and higher tides stemming from sea level rise. The second study, conducted by the Urban Climate Change Research Network at Columbia University, suggests that no city is immune and that all cities will see a dramatic rise in flood risk, heat waves, blackouts, and food and water shortages over the coming decades..."


From Stinky Seaweed to Sick Fish, World's Warming Oceans Threaten Livelihoods. Reuters has the story: "From a rise in aquatic diseases to a “massive” invasion of stinking seaweed that stops fishing boats going out to sea, the warming of the world’s oceans is affecting the livelihoods of millions - and experts say it is going to get worse. Changes in water temperature, acidity and circulation patterns combined with rising sea levels will increasingly impact communities that live off the ocean, according to new analysis from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In Zanzibar, plant diseases are already destroying seaweed, a key export and a crucial source of income for women in the Indian Ocean archipelago. Meanwhile fishermen in the Caribbean have seen their catch plummet and costs rise due to a record invasion of sargassum, a brown, stinking seaweed, linked to ocean warming..."

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