A Place That Makes Minnesota Seem Pleasantly Mild

I just got back from my first glimpse of Alaska. It was relentless - overwhelming; everywhere I turned there was another Eureka Moment.

In addition to seeing Denali through a pall of smoke from distant wildfires, we spent some time in Fairbanks, the coldest city in the USA. You can plug in your vehicle, which makes sense considering the mercury dips below -40F at least 11-12 nights a year.

Kids have outdoor recess until the air temperature goes below -20F. Now that's hardy, and it almost makes Minnesota look like Club Med. Almost.

Today is the wettest day in sight; over 1 inch of rain from heavy thunderstorms sloshing across the state. Minnesota teeter-totters on the northern edge of a sprawling heat bubble, meaning uncomfortable humidity levels and sporadic T-storms into Saturday.

Right now Sunday looks like the sunnier, drier, more comfortable day of the weekend as Canadian air splashes south, cooling us off before the next inevitable heat spike later next week.

We shouldn't be surprised. On average the hottest weather of the year arrives roughly 3-4 weeks after the Summer Solstice. No kidding.

* The photo of a grizzly bear was taken on the Alaskan Highway about an hour out of Whitehorse, Yukon Territories. I was behind glass, so the bear couldn't hear me screaming hysterically. The black wolf shot was taken in Denali National Park, roughly the size of Massachusetts. Staggeringly beautiful. I panned for gold in Fairbanks ($74 in gold flakes!) and witnessed one of 26 amazing glaciers in Prince William Sound. If you haven't been to Alaska you owe it to yourself to see what is truly America's Final Frontier. There are no words...

Minnesota Crop Progress and Condition. Here's an excerpt from this week's summary at USDA: "...Topsoil moisture supplies decreased slightly from the previous week, rating 2 percent very short, 23 percent short, 72 percent adequate and 3 percent surplus. Subsoil moisture supplies also decreased slightly, rating 1 percent very short, 14 percent short, 81 percent adequate and 4 percent surplus. Corn was 20 percent silked, a week behind last year, and five days behind the five year average. Corn crop condition rated 79 percent good to excellent. Forty-eight percent of the soybean crop was blooming, 4 days behind average, with 10 percent of soybeans setting pods. Soybean condition rated 72 percent good to excellent. Most Minnesota small grains were neary finished heading by Sunday..."

Video of Flash Flooding in Payson, Arizona. Here is some footage of the wall of water that swept down Ellison Creek, near Payson, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries nearby: "Video from Tonto Recreation Alliance signing run. Volunteers promoting responsible OHV in the Tonto National Forest..."

Witnesses Recount Horrific Flash Flood That Killed 5 Kids, 4 Adults in Arizona. It's easy (now) to look back with 20-20 hindsight and remind readers that the NWS issued warnings in advance. But the reality is, especially when people are swimming, they don't have access to apps on their smart phones or their AM/FM radios in their vehicles. It's a real problem. When you're swimming in a stream or river during the summer months situational awareness is critical, keeping an eye on what's happening with the weather upstream. My only advice: check radar on your phone before you take that dip in your favorite creek. CBS News reports: "...The National Weather Service estimated up to 1.5 inches of rain fell over the area in an hour. The thunderstorm hit about 8 miles upstream along Ellison Creek, which quickly flooded the narrow canyon where the swimmers were. Hornung noted that the National Weather Service had issued a flash flood warning about 1 1/2 hours before, "but unless they had a weather radio out there, they wouldn't have known about it. There is no cell phone service out here." The swift waters gushed for about 10 minutes before receding in the narrow canyon, Hornung said. "One witness said all they heard was this tremendous roar," Water Wheel Fire and Medical District Fire Chief Ron Sattelmaier told CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal..."

Tuesday Severe Storm Risk. NOAA SPC prints out a severe bulls-eye over the Upper Midwest, where large hail and a few isolated tornadoes may spin up later today. I'm more concerned about the risk of flash flooding as high precipitable water content fuels a temporarily-stalled east-west frontal boundary, which may result in some significant rainfall totals.

Excessive Rainfall Potential. The risk of "training thunderstorms" (storms redeveloping, passing over the same waterlogged counties) is greatest today from Sioux Valls and Des Moines to the Twin Cities, Eau Claire and Oshkosh.

A July "Cool Front". Monday was sweltering, but ECMWF (European) guidance shows a slight cool-down in the coming days, although I hesitate calling mid to upper 80s "relief", especially with dew points so high. By Sunday and Monday of next week we should start to see a stronger push of comfortable Canadian air. Twin Cities numbers: WeatherBell.

Thundery Sauna. The roughest storms today bubble up from South Dakota into the southern half of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan; an atmospheric tug of war playing out between blast-furnace heat over the nation's midsection and slightly more tolerable hot/steamy air farther north. Stormy ripples aloft will irritate this frontal boundary, resulting in a few waves of strong to severe T-storms over northern states today into the weekend. Meanwhile the southern half of the USA continues to cook, a few more (monsoon) thunderstorms over Arizona capable of flooding rains. 84-hour NAM guidance: NOAA and Tropicaltidbits.com.

Sizzling Sunday. Check out the predicted heat indices for this upcoming Sunday, as high as 110-115 for portions of the Carolinas. Much of America will experience potentially dangerous levels of heat and humidity; the only relief over the northern Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi Valley this weekend.

One of the Worst Droughts in Decades Devastates South Europe Crops. Here's a clip from a story at Reuters: "...Drought in southern Europe threatens to reduce cereal production in Italy and parts of Spain to its lowest level in at least 20 years, and hit other regional crops including olives and almonds. Castile and Leon, the largest cereal growing region in Spain, has been particularly badly affected, with crop losses estimated at around 60 to 70 percent. "This year was not bad, it was catastrophic. I can't remember a year like this since 1992 when I was a little child," said Joaquin Antonio Pino, a cereal farmer in Sinlabajos, Avila..."

Graphic credit: European Drought Observatory, Reuters.

Disproportionate Number of Tropical Cyclone Deaths in Louisiana and Mississippi. A new paper highlighted at AMS caught my eye: "...More than half of the U. S. tropical cyclone deaths from 1963 to 2012 occurred in either Louisiana or Mississippi (LA-MS). Even excluding the fatalities associated with the levee failure in New Orleans, LA-MS had almost one-quarter of the deaths. In contrast, Florida (FL) and Alabama (AL) together incurred only about 5% of the deaths even though they experienced about two-and-a-half times the number of hurricane and tropical storm landfalls as LA-MS. This means that there were about 25 times as many deaths in LA-MS per landfall event as in FL-AL (and still about 10 times more when leaving out Katrina's New Orleans impact). A similar comparison shows LA-MS having fewer landfalls than Texas, but more than seven times the number of deaths as in Texas (still three times more when excluding New Orleans in Katrina)..."

90 Minute Lead Time on Recent Oklahoma Tornado? Impressive, but is it repeatable? Here's an excerpt of a post at Fox 23 News in Tulsa that caught my eye: "...An experimental forecast model helped the National Weather Service predict the path of an Oklahoma tornado hours before the tornado formed, the agency said. According to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, western Oklahoma residents near Elk City were alerted to possible tornado chances on the afternoon of May 16. “Ninety minutes later, a dangerous, rain-wrapped EF-2 tornado struck the small town: It killed one, injured eight, and destroyed about 200 homes and more than 30 businesses...”

An Irritable Atmosphere. In spite of a strong cap (inversion) surface heating was sufficient to break through, rising thermals mutating into a line of strong to severe thunderstorms Monday evening. Juicy air is feeding into this frontal boundary, which may set the stage for flooding thunderstorms in some communities.

Doppler "Sunburn". Here is the reflectivity scan from KDLH (Duluth) at 9:04 pm yesterday, when a low elevation scan interacted with a sun setting in the southwest.

Today's Extreme Heat May Become the Norm Within a Decade. Here's an excerpt from Climate Central: "...Just how soon that record heat will become the norm surprised even its researchers, but the information could be useful to officials around the world trying to plan for the changes global warming will bring to their cities and countries. It will help show when notable heat waves, downpours, or other extremes may become run-of-the-mill, and would allow planners to develop the infrastructure and policies to withstand those extremes. “At the moment, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal when we have record-hot summers or years,” study leader Sophie Lewis, a climate researcher at Australian National University, said in an email. “But this study really shows the nasty side of our current records becoming more frequent in the near future...”

Graphic credit: "Weather stations in the U.S. that are having a warmer than normal, colder than normal and record hot year."

U.S. Farms Could Suffer as the Arctic Heats Up. WIRED takes a look at how changes in the Arctic don't always stay in the Arctic: "...Planet Earth is getting hotter. One of the more confusing aspects of this global trend is the persistent, undeniable discomfort of winter. Even more confusing is when that chilly weather continues into April, May, or godforbidpleasenot June. This might clear the confusion (but probably not the frustration): Those colder temperatures in the first half of the year might be due to warmer weather in the Arctic. Authors of a new study, published Monday in Nature Geoscience, found this trend looking at over 100 years of climate data from the Arctic and North America. This warm Arctic/cold North America connection has been particularly noticeable since 1990. And that doesn't just mean you'll be wearing a puffy jacket to Memorial Day cookouts from now on. Spring is an important time for agriculture, and the authors noted that US crop productivity declined by as much as 4 percent following warm Arctic years. Plus, those crops, along every other plant affected by the connected weather cycles, absorb less CO2—Arctic warming begets the potential for even more warming..."

Image credit: NSIDC.

Extreme Weather Forecasting: Looking Years, Even Decades Into The Future, Could Soon Be a Thing. My strong advice: don't hold your breath. But in the spirit of full disclosure and getting our hopes up, here's an excerpt of a story at news.com.au: "...Dr May’s team are now researching if the ensemble method can be used to predict weather events far into the future. By entering in variables, such as possible climate change scenarios, they can test different outcomes. “We’re making use of big data, four petabytes that’s as much as eight million laptops and we need the equivalent of 20,000 laptops joined up to generate that data,” he said. It could lead farmers to move livestock around that might be at risk, for emergency services to bolster civilian cyclone defenses or prepare for bushfires..."

Experts Uncover the Origins of 10 Common Weather Terms. AccuWeather has an interesting post, including an explainer on how tornadoes got their name: "...Navigators exploring the tropics during the 16th century likely derived tornado from the Spanish word “tronar,” or, “to thunder,” according to linguist, teacher and author Janina Klimas. “There’s [also] a word that’s derived from that called ‘tronada,’ which is a thunderstorm,” said Klimas. “It seems that the ‘r’ and the ‘o’ got mixed up, and that’s where you get ‘tornado.’” Harper added that tornado also stems from both “tornar,” which means “to turn” in Spanish, and the Latin word “tornāre.” “At first, it was a very general word for a violent, windy thunderstorm in the tropics that gradually got the sense of turning into it, and it became our word for the funnel cloud storm,” he said..."

Tornado simulation: NCAR.

SSEC - GOES Weather App. It's free, and it's (very) good. Here's some new meteorological ammunition for your favorite smartphone, in this case the iPhone or iPad: "The SSEC - GOES App brings near real-time GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) imagery and related data from NOAA and academic researchers to the palm of your hand. The data products are hosted by the University of Wisconsin – Madison Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC) with visualization powered by the SSEC RealEarth™ platform.

- Includes the latest available imagery (GOES-16)
- Select products to display by category, name, and time
- Pan and zoom map interface dynamically
- Display current location on map
- Adjust transparency and composite multiple layers
- Animate by relative or absolute time steps
- Save custom favorites.

The Next Global Blackout Will Be Caused by the Sun. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean (nature) isn't out to get you. Here's an excerpt from Inverse: "...It’s difficult to calculate the extent of the damage a Carrington-scale storm could do to Earth today, but we can be sure that most of the human population would experience blackouts for far longer than New Yorkers did in 1977. On the Earth’s surface, the damages to the electrical grid — and the effects that would have on transportation, sanitation, medical, and even water infrastructure — would cost around $1 or $2 trillion in the first year, with four to 10 years necessary for a full recovery. The storm would destroy the entire fleet of satellites in orbit, causing up to $70 billion in damage. Global telecommunications infrastructure would be destroyed so rapidly that humans wouldn’t even know — or be able to find out — that a solar storm had hit..."

21 Solar Facts. Climate Reality ran this back on June 21, but there are a few nuggets in here worth sharing: "...More energy from the sun lands on the face of the earth in just one hour than the entire global population uses in one year. We have all the solar power we could want. Plus, unlike fossil fuels, it's renewable and will never run out - at least not for a few billion years. The U.S. Department of Energy estimated that 90 percent of the electricity used by the U.S. could be generated from solar panels installed in abandoned industrial sites in our nation's cities...factories, plants, etc. Installing solar panels would put that space to a productive use and create a significant amount of clean energy..."

Electric Vehicle Outlook 2017. The electric revolution is coming faster than many realize. Yeah, I'm a bit biased, but you can't stop progress - you can only slow it down. Here's an excerpt from Bloomberg New Energy Finance: "...The EV revolution is going to hit the car market even harder and faster than BNEF predicted a year ago. EVs are on track to accelerate to 54% of new car sales by 2040. Tumbling battery prices mean that EVs will have lower lifetime costs, and will be cheaper to buy, than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars in most countries by 2025-29...”

Elon Musk: "Artificial Intelligence the Greatest Risk We Face as a Civilization". Before you laugh yourself silly keep in mind this guy has a pretty good track record predicting the future. Here's an excerpt from Fortune: "...Musk has long been vocal about the risks of AI. But his statements before the nation’s governors were notable both for their dire severity, and his forceful call for government intervention.“AI’s a rare case where we need to be proactive in regulation, instead of reactive. Because by the time we are reactive with AI regulation, it’s too late," he remarked. Musk then drew a contrast between AI and traditional targets for regulation, saying “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization, in a way that car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs, or bad food were not...”

Elon Musk Lays Out Worst-Case Scenario for AI Threat. The Wall Street Journal has more perspective.

Photo credit: "Elon Musk at the National Governors Association meeting in Providence, R.I., on Saturday. Mr. Musk warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence and said the high price of Tesla shares reflects optimism for the company’s future." Photo: brian snyder/Reuters.

Machines With Brains. Quartz has an excellent online series focusing on our increasingly awkward relationship wiith technology, automation and AI. Then again we've been doing this for a long time: "...Robots and artificial intelligence are upending everything we thought we knew about what it means to be human. The boundaries between person and machine are becoming difficult to define. Human brains power robotic limbs; an artificially intelligent machine serves as the manager for tens of thousands of workers; chatbots act as digital replicas of us. Humanity is, in effect, getting an upgrade. What were once capabilities thought unique to humans are now powering technologies that could offer the ability to extend and deepen our lives—or supplant our livelihoods. Quartz explores the stories of humans who are navigating the complex reality of a world where machines have brains..."

Globalization: The Rise and Fall of an Idea That Swept the World. Which may at least partially account for the current wave of populism, worldwide. Here's a clip from The Guardian: "...In a panel titled Governing Globalisation, the economist Dambisa Moyo, otherwise a well-known supporter of free trade, forthrightly asked the audience to accept that “there have been significant losses” from globalisation. “It is not clear to me that we are going to be able to remedy them under the current infrastructure,” she added. Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, called for a policy hitherto foreign to the World Economic Forum: “more redistribution”. After years of hedging or discounting the malign effects of free trade, it was time to face facts: globalisation caused job losses and depressed wages, and the usual Davos proposals – such as instructing affected populations to accept the new reality – weren’t going to work. Unless something changed, the political consequences were likely to get worse..."

The Elephant in the Room. Some countries have benefited far more than others when it comes to globalization, according to Barclays Investment Bank: "A growing factor in the case against hyperglobalisation, and in what we have elsewhere called the politics of rage, is its effect on the distribution of global wages. Workers in emerging economies have benefited considerably since 1988, as value-added manufacturing and services have moved to low-wage countries like China, India, and Mexico, as have those at the very top of the income spectrum. But the middle classes in advanced economies have seen very little income growth, and they have made their displeasure all too clear—most notably in the UK’s vote to exit the European Union and the recent presidential election in the US. The above graph of relative changes in income distribution during the age of hyperglobalisation, as modelled by Branko Milanovic (2012), resembles the outline of an elephant..."

Star Wars Lands at Disney Parks. This does look pretty cool; details via Quartz: "...Disney unveiled what it’s calling “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge,” the forthcoming Star Wars-themed additions to its theme parks. The new area is supposed to look like a planet in the Star Wars universe, The Verge reported, and will blend characters and objects from across the franchise’s films into a completely immersive world. There will be rides that take guests off the planet, including onto a Star Destroyer ship and a face-off against AT-ATs, and even flying on the Millennium Falcon—with all the requisite Star Wars vehicles and foes included. The world itself, from the few pictures that have been released of the massive diorama that Disney built for D23, appear to combine aspects of other Star Wars planets, including Luke Skywalker’s home world of Tatooine and the forested world of Takodana in 2015’s The Force Awakens..."

Prime-Time for Weddings Now September - October? When did this happen? I thought peak-wedding was June. The Wall Street Journal reports.

92 F. maximum temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.

84 F. average high on July 17.

84 F. high on July 17, 2016.

July 18, 2000: Fall apparel makes an early debut with a 60 degree high temperature at the Twin Cities, 54 at Brainerd and 52 at Cambridge.

July 18, 1970: A tornado slices right through the center of Miltona.

July 18, 1867: The greatest 'unofficial' rainstorm in Minnesota history is reported. 36 inches of rain is recorded in 36 hours near Sauk Center. Disastrous flooding occurs in central Minnesota. The Pomme De Terre river becomes impassable; a courier attempted to cross on horseback and drowned. Flooding also occurs on the Mississippi, with millions of logs lost on the river.

TODAY: Steamy with heavy T-storms likely. Localized flooding risk. Winds; SW 8-13. High: 85

TUESDAY NIGHT: Muggy with more T-storms around. Low: 68

WEDNESDAY: More sun, drier. Storms return late in the day/night. Winds: SE 7-12. High: 87

THURSDAY: Damp start, then sticky, hazy sun. Winds: E 5-10. Wake-up: 70. High: 89

FRIDAY: Still steamy, more heavy T-storms. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 71. High: 85

SATURDAY: Partly sunny, stray T-shower (best chance north). Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 70. High: 88

SUNDAY: Plenty of sun, breathing easier again. Winds: N 8-13. Wake-up: 68. High: 82

MONDAY: Sunny and spectacular. Low humidity. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 66. High: 81

Climate Stories...

In Landmark Move, GOP Congress Calls Climate Change "Direct Threat" to Security. It's a step in the right direction, although the US Navy has been saying this for years. Here's an excerpt from Foreign Policy: "...One study last year found that rising oceans threaten 128 military installations on the coasts, including naval facilities worth around $100 billion. The Pentagon has been aware for years of the looming danger represented by climate change. But partisan infighting in Congress, budget sequestration, and the toxic nature of the climate debate have hamstrung the Defense Dept. from taking steps to protect key assets — or even identifying which facilities face the most serious threats. This week, though, the Pentagon may have gotten a boost — from the unlikeliest of places. The Republican-controlled House retained an amendment to the 2018 defense funding bill affirming that “climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States.” It orders defense officials to draw up a report laying out which facilities would be most affected..."

80% of TV Weathercasters Convinced of Human-Caused Climate Change. Here's an excerpt of an abstract from the AMS, the American Meteorological Society: "...In contrast to prior surveys that found many weathercasters who were unconvinced of climate change, newer results show that approximately 80% of weathercasters are convinced of human-caused climate change. A majority of weathercasters now indicate that climate change has altered the weather in their media market over the past 50 years, and many feel there have also been harmful impacts to water resources, agriculture, transportation resources and human health. Nearly all (89%) believe their audience is at least slightly interested in learning about local impacts..."

The Uninhabitable Earth. This story at New York Magazine set off a furor, even among many notable climate scientists who warned against presenting an overly bleak (worst-case) scenario for fear that readers will shut down. There will be disruptions and tipping points that nobody saw coming. Here's an excerpt: "...Until recently, permafrost was not a major concern of climate scientists, because, as the name suggests, it was soil that stayed permanently frozen. But Arctic permafrost contains 1.8 trillion tons of carbon, more than twice as much as is currently suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. When it thaws and is released, that carbon may evaporate as methane, which is 34 times as powerful a greenhouse-gas warming blanket as carbon dioxide when judged on the timescale of a century; when judged on the timescale of two decades, it is 86 times as powerful. In other words, we have, trapped in Arctic permafrost, twice as much carbon as is currently wrecking the atmosphere of the planet, all of it scheduled to be released at a date that keeps getting moved up, partially in the form of a gas that multiplies its warming power 86 times over..."

File image: NASA.

The Power and Peril of "Climate Disaster Porn". New Republic takes a look at the New York Magazine article referenced above, and ponders whether presenting dire worst-case possibilities is the best way to promote climate action: "...The more common critique is that Wallace-Wells engaged in some hyperbole to describe what might happen, and then didn’t present enough solutions or optimism to counter it. After spending 6,000 words on the worst-case scenario, Wallace-Wells devoted fewer than 1,000 words to possible solutions—and yet, gave credence to geoengineering, the controversial and highly unlikely idea that we deliberately manipulate the atmosphere by dumping sulfur dioxide into the the lower stratosphere to block sunlight. Wallace-Wells then described many of the scientists he interviewed as “improbably” optimistic, adding that “climate scientists have a strange kind of faith: We will find a way to forestall radical warming, they say, because we must...”

Boreal forest file photo: NASA.

Sea Level Rise Will Flood Hundreds of Cities iin the Near Future. National Geographic reports: "Sea level rise caused by global warming is usually cast as a doomsday scenario that will play out so far into the future, it’s easy to ignore. Just ask anyone in South Florida, where new construction proceeds apace. Yet already, more than 90 coastal communities in the United States are battling chronic flooding, meaning the kind of flooding that’s so unmanageable it prompts people to move away. That number is expected to roughly double to more than 170 communities in less than 20 years. Those new statistics, compiled in the first comprehensive mapping of the entire coastline of the Lower 48 states, paint a troubling picture, especially for the East and Gulf coasts, which are home to some of the nation’s most populated areas..."

Image credit: "Aerial view of sea side Miami." Photograh by George Steinmetz, National Geographic Creative.

Game of Thrones is Secretly All About Climate Change. Wait, (endless) summer is coming? Vox explains: "...The White Walkers are some of Thrones’ creepiest monsters — but they also help tell a really interesting metaphor about climate change. For starters, the White Walkers are a threat to all humanity: Their zombie minions are equally happy to rip apart people of all nations and noble houses. Yet instead of uniting to combat the shared threat to human existence, the houses in the show spend basically all their time on their own petty disagreements and struggle for power. White Walkers are generally ignored; some nobles deny their existence outright. Swap climate change for White Walkers and "countries" for noble houses, and it starts to sound a lot like the real world..."

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