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4th of July Preview: Don't Get Your Hopes Up (fishing: most dangerous outdoor activity for lightning risk - favorite radar/lightning apps)

  • Blog Post by: Paul Douglas
  • June 26, 2013 - 11:05 PM

 

 

 

Don't Push the Weather

 

Linnaea Nelson writes "We read you religiously every morning. I am in my 70’s and have just joined the smartphone crowd. Which weather-warning app would be the best to download on my iPhone5?" Thanks for the nice note Linnaea. My personal favorites are RadarScope, My-Cast Weather Radar, Victory Rides and WeatherRadio. You'll get up to the second Doppler info, maps and warnings for your location, 24/7. And no, I don't get a commission.

With My-Cast you can get lightning alerts, which come in very handy. According to NOAA 238 people were killed by lightning from 2006 to 2012, 82 percent of them male. Fishing topped the list, followed by camping, boating, soccer & golf.

As I tell my Naval aviator son: don't push the weather.

Precipitation for 2013 is running 7.3 inches wetter than average to date, but we seem to be transitioning into a drier pattern. A twist of chilly air aloft may spark a late-day T-shower up north Friday - with clouds and a stray shower Saturday; a fairly cool day. Sunday looks sunnier and milder.

All well and good, but what about the 4th? I defer to the European model, which shows 70s and a growing chance of scattered showers and T-storms next Thursday PM into Friday as a storm pushes north across the Plains. I really hope the ECMWF is wrong. I'm lighting a candle, saying a prayer & hoping for the best

 

Photo credit above: Brad Birkholz. Screen shot of lightning loop upper right from My-Cast Weather Radar.

 

Not As Optimistic For The 4th. An instability shower is possible late Friday into Saturday; Sunday still the sunnier, nicer day of the weekend, with a lovely first half of next week. Which would be great if we celebrated the 4th of July on July 2. The chance of showers and T-storms increases Thursday PM into Friday, with a chance of some partial clearing by next weekend. It's just to early to say with any level of confidence, and with our wonky weather pattern (stuck in a rut) all bets are off.

 

The Source of Holiday Angst. Hey, it's still a week away; maybe the models will become more optimistic with time. Maybe I'll grow hair and become a rock and roll singer. Doubtful, but one never knows. The map above is the "Euro" model valid midday next Thursday, the 4th of July, showing the best chance of showers and T-storms over far southwestern MInnesota, a broad Plains storm pushing northeast, casting doubt on Thursday evening fireworks and Friday activities. Map: WSI.

 

GFS Outlook for the 4th of July. The U.S. GFS solution has a vaguely similar solution for next Thursday; a much better chance of heavy showers and T-storms just south of Minnesota. It's too early to panic, but have a Plan B (indoors) just in case.

 

Surprise: New FEMA Maps Put More Of Edina In Flood Plain. Here's an excerpt from The Star Tribune: "...The new FEMA maps are part of a national effort to update and improve flood plain mapping, said Ceil Strauss, state flood plain coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources. In Minnesota, she said, the effect of the update, which calculates runoff from a 100-year flood, varies by county. In Washington County, twice as many properties were removed from flood zones as went in. But in other counties, flood plains were added around lakes, affecting more property owners. In Hennepin County, updated mapping provided more detail on elevation, changing the boundaries of flood plains along Minnehaha and Nine Mile creeks, Strauss said. “There are winners and losers there from the perspective of homeowners,” she said..."

 

Uncharted Waters. As I explain in today's edition of Climate Matters, I've been tracking weather for close to 40 years, and I've never seen anything like the last 3 years; the jet stream literally off the rails since about 2010 (when Minnesota saw the most tornadoes in the USA). Since then it's been one extreme after another, drought to flood to drought, serious weather whiplash: "The Jet Stream's normal West to East flow has been replaced by a Jet Stream with giant atmospheric wiggles. WeatherNation Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas explains how this impacts our day to day weather and leads to record heat in Alaska, historic flooding in Calgary and destructive wildfires in Colorado and the Southwest."

 

94F in Alaska? Weather Extremes Tied To Jet Stream. When I tell people that the pattern has changed, that the jet stream has become unrecognizable, I'm accused of hype (or worse). It turns out I'm not the only one making these observations. Here's an excerpt of a story at AP News: "...Consider these unusual occurrences over the past few years:

- The winter of 2011-12 seemed to disappear, with little snow and record warmth in March. That was followed by the winter of 2012-13 when nor'easters seemed to queue up to strike the same coastal areas repeatedly.

- Superstorm Sandy took an odd left turn in October from the Atlantic straight into New Jersey, something that happens once every 700 years or so.

- One 12-month period had a record number of tornadoes. That was followed by 12 months that set a record for lack of tornadoes.

And here is what federal weather officials call a "spring paradox": The U.S. had both an unusually large area of snow cover in March and April and a near-record low area of snow cover in May. The entire Northern Hemisphere had record snow coverage area in December but the third lowest snow extent for May. "I've been doing meteorology for 30 years and the jet stream the last three years has done stuff I've never seen," said Jeff Masters, meteorology director at the private service Weather Underground. "The fact that the jet stream is unusual could be an indicator of something. I'm not saying we know what it is." Rutgers' Francis is in the camp that thinks climate change is probably playing a role in this..."

Photo credit above: "This photo taken Monday, June 17, 2013, shows people sunning at Goose Lake in Anchorage, Alaska. Parts of Alaska are setting high temperature records as a heat wave continues across Alaska. Temperatures are nothing like what Phoenix or Las Vegas gets, but temperatures in the 80s and 90s are hot for Alaska, where few buildings have air conditioning." (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

 

Forecast for Death Valley/Furnace Creek:

Saturday: Sunny and hot with a high near 128.

Saturday night: Mostly clear, low around 98.

Sunday: Sunny and hot with a high near 129.

Sunday night: Mostly clear with a low around 101.

Monday: Sunny and hot with a high near 129.

* The USA high temperature record is 129F. We may set a new national record this weekend.

 

What Is A Derecho? Friday evening's severe wind storm was triggered by a bow echo, powerful thunderstorm downdrafts spreading out into violent straight-line winds at ground-level. A derecho is an even larger phenomenon, a swirl of severe storms traveling hundreds of miles over multiple states. Details in today's edition of Climate Matters: "After historic derechoes rolled through Chicago and Minneapolis/ St. Paul, we turn our attention to an increasing threat that is usually downplayed because "it's just a garden variety thunderstorm." WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas explains that these are different than normal thunderstorms, exactly what a derecho is, as well as what causes them."

 

Not All Of The Corn Belt Is Wet. Check out the rainfall amounts over southeastern Minnesota in this post from The Illinois Climatologist: "Here is the latest map of 90-day precipitation departures from average across the Midwest. The greens, blues, and purple show areas that were 2 to 12 inches above average. That is the dominate feature of much of the western and central Corn Belt. Meanwhile, the areas in light tan and yellow in southeastern Indiana, southern and eastern Ohio, and small patches in Kentucky and southern Illinois show areas that are 1 to 4 inches below average. The dry areas are nowhere near as severe as 2012. However, it is worth watching as we move through the growing season." (map: Midwestern Regional Climate Center).

 

Fishing Tops List Of Lightning Death Activities. Another good reason to have a few radar apps on your smart phone in the boat, or a portable NOAA Weather Radio with you. Here's more from Yahoo News: "Most lightning deaths in the United States occur while people are enjoying outdoor activities, with fishing the most deadly, government weather officials say. From 2006 to 2012, 238 people died after being struck by lightning in the country — 82 percent of them male. Of the total number of victims, 152 were taking part in leisure activities, according to new findings from the National Weather Service . Fishing topped the list with 26 lightning deaths, followed by camping with 15 deaths, boating with 14, soccer with 12 and golf with eight, NWS officials said. Other lightning victims died while at the beach, swimming, walking, running or picnicking. [Electric Earth: Stunning Images of Lightning] Activities like fishing and camping may be most hazardous during a storm because they often require extra time to take shelter in a safe place, explained John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist with the NWS..." (photo image: discovery.com).

 

Cleaner Air Linked To More Hurricanes. Here's a snippet of an interesting story at The Telegraph: "Researchers from the Met Office established a direct link between levels of industrial pollution and the frequency of hurricanes in the North Atlantic. For much of the 20th century, sooty pollution in the atmosphere has made conditions unfavourable for the storms, causing their numbers to drop. But since the 1980s, cleaner air over the Atlantic has created better conditions for hurricane formation, with more tropical storms developing and battering American and Caribbean coasts as a result..."

 

How Big Can A Tornado Actually Get On Earth? Good question: the (new) record is 2.6 miles wide, wind speeds around 300 mph. Here's an excerpt from DVICE: ..."We don’t really know," tornado researcher Joshua Wurman of the Center for Severe Weather Research told DVICE. "There are certainly extreme limits; it’s unlikely you would get wind speeds greater than the speed of sound, for instance. Whether they can even get close to that, probably not. Nature is always trying to get rid of strong, anomalous things. If there is an extremely strong wind, there are extremely string dissipative forces seeking to get rid of that anomaly." By mapping damage on either side of the storm’s path, weather spotters determined the El Reno twister spanned 2.6 miles across as it raged over 16.2 miles of ground west of Oklahoma City May 31. With surface winds greater than 200 miles per hour, it was hardly the most powerful tornado ever recorded, however. The record-holder, on May 3, 1999, reached wind speeds of 301 mph. That storm, incidentally, hit Moore, Okla., recently devastated in a powerful tornado a week before the El Reno storm. It’s possible that about 300 mph is just about as powerful as tornadoes get, Wurman said. The 1999 storm caused $1 billion in damage..."

Photo creditNational Severe Storms Laboratory

 

For Weather Satellites, Forecast Is Cloudy. Here's an update on the tenuous situation with America's weather satellites, courtesy of news.gnom.es: "As hurricane season gathered force, the main U.S. weather satellite watching the eastern seaboard failed last month for the second time in a year. The difficulties with the seven-year-old weather satellite are a symptom of a broader problem: Scientists are losing their orbital eyes on Earth. Lee Hotz reports. Photo: AP. The main U.S. weather satellite watching the eastern seaboard malfunctioned last month for the second time in a year, underscoring the hazards of aging satellites that monitor the planet as a threatening hurricane season gets under way..."

 

Tsunami-Like Wave In New Jersey Being Investigated. It must have been a fairly small "tidal wave". I don't remember the cable networks covering this (breathlessly) from sunrise to sunset. Here's an excerpt from nj.com: "A six-foot wave that crashed through Barnegat Inlet and swept three people off a jetty and into the water earlier this month is being investigated as a possible tsunami by federal officials, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The June 13 wave was observed at over 30 tide gauges and a buoy throughout the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, according to a report on NOAA’s website. The cause of the incident is "complex and still under review," the report said, but it is believed to have been connected to a strong weather system known as a "derecho," which had passed through the area shortly before the wave was reported..."

Google Maps image credit: "A six-foot-wave that crashed through Barnegat Inlet in mid-June is being investigated as a possible tsunami, federal officials said."

* The Wall Street Journal has more on the alleged tsunami here (subscription may be required).

 

Map Shows The Most Famous Brand From Each State Of The U.S. Details from DesignTAXI.com: "Charts and infographics website Maps on the Web has created a map that shows the most famous brand to come from each state in the US. While the origins of some popular brands, like Apple and Starbucks, are common knowledge, others are less well-known—for instance, do you know that Dr. Pepper is from Texas or that Hooters is a native of Florida?  Do you agree that the “most famous” brand from your state is as depicted on this map?"

 

U.S. Pet Poll: Most Prefer Dogs; 18% Want Dinosaur. This story gets the honor for most unusual (and terrifying) headline of the week. Dinosaur? 20% of people polled would rather spend time with their pets than people. National Geographic has the story; here's the intro: "Americans love their pets—and a new poll shows just how much we dote on our critters, while revealing some curious attitudes toward animals (and people). Six out of ten voters interviewed have a pet, with a third reporting that their critters sleep in the bed with them. (No word on whether that includes reptiles.) Perhaps not surprisingly, one in five people said they'd prefer to spend time with their animals than with other people. (See pictures of pampered pets.) Fifty-two percent prefer dogs, 21 percent prefer cats, and 27 percent aren't sure which species they like better..."

 

89 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday.

82 F. average high on June 26.

82 F. high on June 26, 2012.

Trace of rain fell at MSP International Airport yesterday.

 

Feels Like Summer. A few optimistic bank thermometers in the Twin Cities flashed 90 yesterday, in spite of the official high at MSP International coming in at 89 F. 1.64" rain doused Eau Claire, a trace of rain in Richfield, while St. Paul saw a formidable .6" of rain from afternoon T-showers.

 

 

TODAY: Mix of clouds & warm sun. Dew point: 66 Winds: NW 15. High: 87

 

THURSDAY NIGHT: Clear and mild. Low: 66

 

FRIDAY: More clouds than sun, PM shower up north. High: 83

 

SATURDAY: Cooler with patchy clouds, a passing shower or two. Wake-up: 62. High: 74

 

SUNDAY: More sun, a bit milder. Dew point: 56. Wake-up: 58. High: near 80

 

MONDAY: Plenty of sun, still pleasant. Wake-up: 59. High: 82

 

TUESDAY: Sunny holding pattern. Still dry. Wake-up: 61. High: 83

 

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, seasonably warm. Wake-up: 63. High: 84

 

Climate Stories...

 

A Rowboat Expedition To The Arctic Made Possible By Climate Change. The Guardian has the story; here's the intro: "The Irish-Canadian team setting out next week to cross the Northwest Passage by row boat knows full well the hazards of the fabled journey through the Arctic: the unpredictable storms, the ice jams, the prospect of becoming prey for a polar bear. "They are the only animal out there that will actively hunt down a human being," said Kevin Vallely, a veteran adventurer who is part of the expedition. The four-man crew are due to set off in their 8-metre rowboat from Inuvik on 1 July, on a journey meant to showcase the extreme effects of climate change on the Arctic..."

Photo credit above: "The Irish-Canadian team will set out on 1 July across the Northwest Passage." Photograph: Mainstream Last First

 

President Obama Speaks On Climate Change. Here is the complete Tuesday speech at Georgetown from whitehouse.gov: "President Obama lays out his vision for a comprehensive plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change, and lead global efforts to fight it."

 

Obama Announces Sweeping New Global Warming Plan. Mercury News has the story; here's a snippet: "In the most sweeping action the federal government has taken to date to combat the warming of the planet, President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced the nation's first mandatory restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants. The new rules, a centerpiece environmental initiative of Obama's presidency, follow the lead that California set last year when it began to impose statewide greenhouse gas limits on power plants, factories and other industrial sources. Speaking at Georgetown University, Obama took a swipe at climate deniers and described global warming as a major threat to the nation's economy, farm production and its environment, noting that severe storms, droughts and forest fires already are on the increase. "We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and arsenic and sulfur in our air and water," Obama said. "But power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into our air for free. That's not right. That's not safe. And it needs to stop..."

 

5 Takeaways From President Obama's Climate Speech. Here's a clip from The Washington Post: "What did we learn from President Obama’s climate speech Tuesday? Here are five takeaways.

1. He won’t duck the climate implications of Keystone XL, even though he may still end up approving it. Obama declared, “Our national interest will be served only if this pipeline does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem.” That means the administration will be analyzing whether approving the project will generate more greenhouse gas emissions than blocking it would. However in its draft environmental impact assessment, the State Department indicated that even if the president denies a permit to TransCanada to build the project, the oil in Alberta may be shipped to the U.S. by rail, leading to comparable emissions. So Obama’s final decision will largely depend on how his deputies crunch the numbers..."

Image credit: NASA.

 

President Obama's Climate Speech: 10 Takeaways. Politico.com has the story - he's an excerpt: "...Obama tried to get a cap-and-trade bill through Congress during his first term, and in this year’s State of the Union address he gave lawmakers one final ultimatum. “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” he said in the February speech. “I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.” But even at the time, the universal expectation was that Congress had zero chance of passing any serious climate legislation. His rollout Tuesday acknowledged that reality. Now, the president is directing agencies from the Department of Agriculture to the EPA to take action — with the main onus falling on the EPA..."

Photo credit above: "Coal-fired power plants will take a big hit under the president’s plan." AP Photo

 
 

"We Need To Act". Obama's Climate Fight Draws A Green Line On Keystone. Here's an excerpt from a story at The Atlantic Wire: "...Eventually he turned to politics, and the need for action, not denial. "We don't have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society!" he exclaimed. "Sticking your head in the sand may make you feel safer, but it won't keep you safe from the coming storm." He demanded that the Senate approve Gina McCarthy, his nominee for administrator of the EPA, and asked Americans to "broaden the circle of those willing to stand up for the future" by championing his plan in their communities. By cutting away early, the networks missed what was perhaps the most unexpected bit of news Obama laid out: that he would insist that the Keystone XL pipeline not result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Even last night, during a call the administration held with members of the media, it was suggested that Keystone wouldn't be a topic of conversation. That the president would draw a red — or, rather, green — line on the controversial proposal was only revealed shortly before the speech..." (photo: AP).

 

Goodbye Miami. From Rolling Stone: "...Sea-level rise is not a hypothetical disaster. It is a physical fact of life on a warming planet, the basic dynamics of which even a child can understand: Heat melts ice. Since the 1920s, the global average sea level has risen about nine inches, mostly from the thermal expansion of the ocean water. But thanks to our 200-year-long fossil-fuel binge, the great ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are starting to melt rapidly now, causing the rate of sea-level rise to grow exponentially. The latest research, including an assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, suggests that sea level could rise more than six feet by the end of the century. James Hansen, the godfather of global-warming science, has argued that it could increase as high as 16 feet by then – and Wanless believes that it could continue rising a foot each decade after that. "With six feet of sea-level rise, South Florida is toast," says Tom Gustafson, a former Florida speaker of the House and a climate-change-policy advocate. Even if we cut carbon pollution overnight, it won't save us. Ohio State glaciologist Jason Box has said he believes we already have 70 feet of sea-level rise baked into the system..." (image: Phillip's Natural World).


 

Introducing The New Profession Of Extreme Weather Architect. Yes, the upward spike in T-storm winds, hail and flash flooding is already impacting the way some architects design homes to better withstand weather extremes. Here's an excerpt from Quartz: "Daniel Horn, a fresh New York architecture graduate, has launched a global competition around a tricky design question—what is the most aesthetic way to raise the elevation of an entire neighborhood block by eight to 10 feet? Call it extreme weather architecture. Horn, a 23-year-old graduate of the New York Institute of Technology (more on him below), is part of a boom in design competitions and urban reconstruction initiatives built around climate change. A rash of storms, drought and fires in recent years has ignited this contemplation of a new school of design cutting across cities and shorelines, homes and commercial buildings. The emerging class of architecture suggests the onset of a global design-and-construction industry worth tens of billions of dollars in the coming years..."

Photo credit above: "Mantoloking, New Jersey on March 22, 2013." Reuters/Lucas Jackson.

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