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Stumbling into Winter (first frost and flurries in sight)

  • Blog Post by: Paul Douglas
  • October 15, 2013 - 11:37 PM

IOU

Many government scientists are furloughed because of the government shut-down. Many FEMA employees and meteorologists at the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center are working for a "promise of pay" down the road. If only grocery stores and banks took IOU's.

Stating the obvious: meteorologists on TV and in the private sector rely on the raw data, models, satellite imagery and Doppler radar information provided by NOAA. It's the foundation upon which we interpret weather patterns and make our forecasts. Although data is still being transmitted, all maintenance has stopped, ongoing research on indefinite hold.

It's a happy coincidence that we haven't seen a major hurricane in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific in 2013, the first time since 1968.

Tuesday's soaking rain was a welcome sight, putting a big dent in our drought. A parade of increasingly chilly fronts in the next week will leave no doubt that it's October. Highs reach the 50s, a risk of frost Saturday morning with a better chance of a more widespread frost or freeze by the middle of next week.

You don't have to put in the driveway stakes yet, but ECMWF guidance shows a few flurries next Monday; our first real glimpse of winter.

Image credit: MPX Doppler site in Chanhasssen courtesy of Reid Wolcott.


The Shutdown Will Slowly Reduce Our Weather Preparedness. Here's an excerpt of a sobering analysis at GovExec.com: "...In a special blog post, Shepherd unfolds how the shutdown is damaging American meteorology. It’s easy to think, he writes, that “well, we are still getting our weather forecasts and warnings, and I still have the information from TV.” But this, he says, is deeply naïve.

"Private sector companies and broadcast stations," he says:

are essential partners in the weather enterprise. However, most of the satellite, Doppler radar, and observational data are from federal sources. The major forecast models are run at NOAA facilities. Federal predictions centers and Forecast Offices issue warnings. I can’t imagine a major potato chip maker saying that it could survive without potato farms. The point herein is that there is a vibrant public-private-academic partnership and each component is essential.

(Emphasis mine.)

Those resources are still working, but all maintenance on them has halted. Many employees working at them have stopped being paid. American weather news depends on the American government..."


Texas Weather Whiplash: Drought To Flood Virtually Overnight. A month ago we were tracking historic flooding near Boulder. Now it's major flooding in Austin, Texas - the result of weather systems stalling once again, and a plume of tropical moisture streaming in from the Pacific. In today's Climate Matters we examine how "used" tropical systems spiked rain sparking severe flooding from Austin to Harrisburg: "WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas goes over the flooding in Texas and how weather patterns have increasingly become "stuck".


Nightmare Scenario; What Happens If We Actually, Truly Default? New York Magazine takes us through a blow by blow account of what could actually happen as early as Thursday; here's the intro: "Until recently, asking what would happen if the U.S. defaulted on its debt was like asking what unicorns like to eat for breakfast. It was simply an exercise in absurdity – a question whose answers lay outside the realm of possibility. But as it’s become increasingly clear that we could, in fact, default on our debt later this month, if the current attempts at striking a deal to extend the debt ceiling fall apart or simply take too long, it's worth trying to figure out what exactly would happen in a default scenario..."

* The Atlantic Wire has a good live blog of debt ceiling negotiations in Washington D.C.


How Your Knees Can Predict The Weather. It turns out that Grandma was right. Here's an excerpt of an interesting article at The Wall Street Journal: "...Still, other studies have linked changes in temperature, humidity or barometric pressure to worsening pain from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, as well as headaches, tooth aches, jaw pain, scar pain, low-back pain, pelvic pain, fibromyalgia, trigeminal neuralgia (a searing pain in the face), gout and phantom-limb pain. Scientists don't understand all the mechanisms involved in weather-related pain, but one leading theory holds that the falling barometric pressure that frequently precedes a storm alters the pressure inside joints..."


Does Rainy Fall Weather Really Affect Your Brain, Mood? I found this article at AccuWeather interesting; weather has less to do with moods than the amount of daylight; shorter days can result in more fatigue. Here's a clip: "...What Denissen's research did show, however, was that the association between sunlight and tiredness was significant. The less sunlight people were exposed to, the more they exhibited depression-like symptoms. As the days get shorter, people may experience more feelings of fatigue during the day, difficulty rising in the morning when it is still dark outside and craving more carbohydrate-rich foods leading to weight gain, Kelly Rohan, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of Vermont said...."


Weather Forecasts, And Our Trust In Them, Need To Improve. Amen. There are financial and computational limits to how accurate the weather forecast will ever be, but this blog post from The Rand Corporation summarizes the source of ongoing uncertainty and confusion: "Accurate forecasts of extreme weather events such as hurricanes are critical in helping communities to prepare and respond as effectively as possible. So when scientists predict extreme weather that never materializes, lay people tend to wonder what went wrong. This is a natural tendency that is not tied to a failure of the science, but rather to differences in the way scientists and lay people view predictions about extreme events, such as Hurricane Sandy a year ago. While forecasters are, by definition, married to their science, they also need to be mindful of the human factors that help determine how useful their work is in protecting people. Early this summer, meteorologists made dire predictions for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season: 18 named storms, including nine hurricanes. By contrast, the average season, which runs June 1 to Nov. 30, usually has 12 storms, including six hurricanes. Even just prior to the midpoint of the season, the same meteorologists were forecasting “an above-average probability of United States and Caribbean major hurricane landfall...”


A Record-Setting Blizzard Killed 75,000 Cows And You Might Not Have Heard About It. Details from theblaze.com: "Ranchers are still digging out thousands of their cattle that became buried in a record-setting snowstorm in South Dakota late last week and over the weekend. One would think the death of 75,000 cows by upwards of five feet of snow might get some national attention, but as one blogger observed, it has taken some time for the news of the precipitation massacre to reach outside of local media..."

Image above courtesy of Farm and Ranch Guide, which has more good information on the Black Hills blizzard's impact on the cattle industry.


Tropics Extremely Quiet In Atlantic; Record Drought In Major U.S. Hurricane Landfalls. No major hurricanes in the eastern Pacific or Atlantic for the first time since 1968? Here's an excerpt of a good overview of what's going on - or not going on, from Brian McNoldy at The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang: "...And this suppressed activity isn’t limited to just the Atlantic either.  The East Pacific has now had 14 tropical storms, but like the Atlantic, no major hurricanes.  This is extraordinary, since the two basins are typically out of phase; that is, one is active while the other is inactive.  The only other year in recorded history in which no major hurricanes occurred in the Atlantic or the East Pacific is 1968..."

Image credit above: "Enhanced water vapor image from early this morning of the tropical Atlantic showing big pockets of dry air and strong wind shear." (NASA)


Atlantic Still Hurricane-Free, But Pacific Getting Pummeled By Typhoons. Check out the enhanced IR satellite image above, showing Phailin, Nari and Wipha - 3 major typhoons (same thing as a hurricane) pushing toward India, Vietnam and Japan, respectively. Phailin and Nari have already come ashore; Wipha will impact Tokyo as a category 1 storm early Wednesday, local time. Details from Quartz: "While Cyclone Phailin—at one point, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Indian Ocean—makes landfall in India, two other tropical storms are also menacing Asia. The images above show the cyclone and two typhoons now. The first is from Weather Underground; the second, from Quartz meteorologist Eric HolthausTyphoon Nari tore through the Philippines with wind gusts up to 116 mph, killing at least 13 people and leaving 2.1 million people without electricity. The storm largely spared Manila, the capital city, which is prone to flooding..."


What 50 Years Of Hurricane Data Still Hasn't Told Us. Here's an excerpt of an interesting article at mashable.com: "In case you haven't noticed, the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season has been pretty tame, thank goodness. Given that roughly 60% of Atlantic tropical cyclones since 1950 have occurred in August and September, and that we're coming off of three seasons with twelve, seven and ten hurricanes, respectively, this year's measly two hurricanes is puzzling..."


Mapping Our World. Here's a great interactive web site showing the many ways NASA maps the Earth, and the essential information this mapping provides: "NASA satellites have been mapping Earth for over 40 years. These global observations of the atmosphere, biosphere, land surface, solid Earth, and ocean enable an improved understanding of the Earth as an integrated system. The images above feature data from over a dozen Earth observation missions."


An American Shut-Down Reaches The Earth's End. The ongoing government shut-down is having a large, negative impact on research and science, worldwide, as reported by The New York Times; here's a clip: "...The shutdown in Washington is being felt acutely at the ends of the earth. Some 3,000 Americans work through the Antarctic summer, including scientists and support staff from the private sector and from federal agencies like the Defense and Energy Departments, NASA and the United States Geological Survey. Amid the battle over the country’s spending and debt limit, the National Science Foundation, which coordinates the Antarctic program, has ordered it into “caretaker status,” which means skeleton staffing. “All field and research activities not essential to human safety and preservation of property will be suspended,” the agency said in a statement last week..."

Photo credit above: University of Texas Institute for Geophysics. "Buried ice sheets in Antarctica, left over from the last ice age, are melting, and scientists may not be able to reach them this year."


POV Video Of A Space Jump. This is pretty amazing - check out the video courtesy of kottke.org: "A year ago yesterday, Felix Baumgartner rode in a balloon up to a height of almost 128,000 feet and jumped out. Red Bull, who sponsored the jump, has finally released the full-length footage of the jump from Baumgartner's point-of-view..."


A Junk News Diet. Democracy depends on an informed electorate, right? Uh oh. Here's a clip from an Op-Ed at U.S. News: "When balancing what you need to know vs. what you want to know in a news-infused media diet, news consumers most often choose dessert over vegetables, or sports, weather, entertainment and crime over national, international and business topics. Journalists at leading news organizations, however, choose to deliver more "vegetable" news stories over "sugary" offerings. This crucial news gap between news provider and news consumer threatens the viability of the public service mission of news organizations, and their contributions to the healthy functioning of the democratic process. What results is a potential crisis of news choices..."

It's Not Just Political Districts, Our News Is Gerrymandered Too. Cue the news media echo chamber ("tune in and we'll tell you want you want to hear") Dave Carr takes a look at how the segregation of news is contributing to dysfunction in Washington D.C. at The New York Times.


Peering Into The Future Of Media. I'm trying to pay attention to the trends and business models that have a prayer of surviving digital disruption; here's a clip from The New York Times: "...The convergence of digital media and technology, under way since the dawn of the Internet, will accelerate. Distinctions between old and new media will fade; most media will be digital. Mobile devices, already the preferred media and Internet platform for many people, will continue to proliferate. We may wear them on our bodies or weave them into our clothing. Globalization of the media business will advance, creating new markets. The old centers of media creation and consumption, the United States and Europe, will feel new competition from faster-growing regions: Asia, of course, but also Latin America, Africa and others. When that happens, media content, still dominated by Western notions of what constitutes news and entertainment, will have to adapt, too..." (image above: Huffington Post).


To Help Dring Shutdown, Man Mows Lawn Around Lincoln Memorial. In case you missed this - here's another head-shaking story from Washington D.C. courtesy of NPR: "Because of the partial government shutdown, most of the monumental core in Washington, D.C. is not being maintained. That means that icons like the Lincoln Memorial and its Reflecting Pool look a little less majestic. But, today, a South Carolina man, took matters into his own hands and made news by doing what the government won't do..."

Photo credit above: "Chris Cox of Mount Pleasant, S.C., pushes a cart near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on Wednesday." Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP.


These Are Some Of The Most Amazing Lego Projects Ever Built. Wired has an amazing pictorial spread here.


The Latest Chinese Beach Craze: "Face-Kini". Just when you thought you had seen everything, along comes this story from Amusing Planet: "A new kind of swimwear trend is sweeping the Chinese beaches in Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong province. As the weather get hotter, both men and women are seen appearing on the beaches wearing full body suits that cover from head to toe. The upper part of the swimsuit has a ski-mask with holes cut out at appropriate places to leave the eyes, nose and mouth exposed, giving the wearer an odd Lucha libre look. The Netizens are calling the swimwear "face-kinis”...


Meet "Dave", A 19-Year Old Craft Beer With A $2,000 Price Tag. Wow. Forget the government shutdown, fiscal cliffs and debt ceilings - I want to know how a single bottle of beer can fetch a $2,000 price tag? A dozen bottles of Dave sold out within hours, for 2k/pop. Impressive. Details from NPR: "Hair of the Dog Brewery in Portland, Ore., makes a beer so rare, and so sought after, that it can fetch $2,000 a bottle. It's called Dave. And no, it's not something out of a sketch. Dave is a — a strong, dark beer with 29 percent alcohol content. It's been aged for 19 years, first in oak barrels and then glass bottles. According to the beer's creator, Alan Sprints, Dave was designed to get people to think about beer differently..."


55 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.

59 F. average high on October 15.

61 F. high on October 15, 2012.

.61" rain fell yesterday.

2.49" rain so far in October.


TODAY: More clouds than sun, drier. Winds: NW 10. High: 53

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 39

THURSDAY: Next cold front approaches. Rain showers late. High: 54

FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy, windy & chilly. Wake-up: 40. High: near 50

SATURDAY: Frost risk. Still mostly gray. Wake-up: 34. High: 52

SUNDAY: Sunny start, late showers. Wake-up: 41. High: 55

MONDAY: Raw, sprinkles & flurries. Wake-up: 42. High: 46

TUESDAY: Some sun, still chilly. Wake-up: 38. High: 48

* Frost or freeze likely Wednesday morning of next week.


Climate Stories...

Foliage Season Under Fire From Climate Change. Climate Central has the story - here's an excerpt: "...The U.S. Forest Service estimates that fiery foliage in the Berkshires and Green and White Mountains generates $8 billion in tourism revenue annually for New England alone. Foliage season is so important to Vermont that the state employs a leaf forecaster. States in other parts of the country also depend on foliage season to bring in tourism dollars, though specific numbers are harder to come by. Warmer weather is contributing to a later ending to the growing season in the U.S. according to research from Seoul National University. The end of the season is marked by the point when satellites see the overall greenness of foliage start to decline, was over two weeks later in 2008 compared to 1982..."

Image credit above: "The end of the growing season in the continental U.S. has become roughly two weeks later from 1982-2008."


The Second Biggest Clean Technology Investor Is An Oil Giant. Here's an excerpt of a story at Quartz that caught my eye: "We’ve written before about how big corporations have become increasingly important to financing green technology startups—on Oct. 10 for example, Google announced it was investing $103 million in a big solar power plant in California. But the second-most active corporate dealmaker isn’t a “don’t be evil” Silicon Valley tech giant. Rather it’s a company from the Dr. No sector—oil multinational ConocoPhillips, according to a new report from research and advisory firm Cleantech Group. Between the third quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2013, ConocoPhillips invested in 18 deals, putting cash into startups such as Cool Planet, biofuels developer, and Skyonic, which has invented a technology to capture carbon dioxide from industrial emissions..."


The Race To Understand A Changing Planet. A guest lecture from the standpoint of former astronaut Dr. Piers Sellers. Details from the Minnesota Climatology Working Group here.


Moose Die-Off Alarms Scientists. One of the focuses of this New York Times story is Minnesota, where the moose population has dropped off significantly in recent years; here's an excerpt: "...Twenty years ago, Minnesota had two geographically separate moose populations. One of them has virtually disappeared since the 1990s, declining to fewer than 100 from 4,000. The other population, in northeastern Minnesota, is dropping 25 percent a year and is now fewer than 3,000, down from 8,000. (The moose mortality rate used to be 8 percent to 12 percent a year.) As a result, wildlife officials have suspended all moose hunting...“Something’s changed,” said Nicholas DeCesare, a biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks who is counting moose in this part of the state — one of numerous efforts across the continent to measure and explain the decline. “There’s fewer moose out there, and hunters are working harder to find them...”

Photo credit above: Brian Peterson/Minneapolis Star Tribune. "Mark Keech, right, a research biologist, and Tiffany Wolf, a veterinarian, fitted a moose with a radio collar and took samples as part of a Minnesota study of why the animals die."


95% Certainty That Human Activity Is Dominating Climate Disruption. Here's a clip from a story at Scholars and Rogues: "...According to the SPM, there is no longer any question about whether the Earth has warmed. Not only that, but the SPM also declares that many of the observed changes are “unprecedented” over periods ranging from decades to millennia. First, the SPM says that “solar irradiance changes and stratospheric volcanic aerosols made only a small contribution to the net radiative forcing throughout the last century, except for brief periods after large volcanic eruptions.” Radiative forcing is a term used in part to describe how much energy is retained in the Earth’s climate system (oceans, atmosphere, and ecosystems) due to a particular effect. In this case, the SPM is saying that science has ruled out changes in the intensity of sunlight and volcanic gasses as significant contributors to the “unequivocal” warming..."


Politics Is Poorly Suited To Address Global Warming. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Washington Post: "...However the IPCC report is used or abused, it represents a consensus and not a conspiracy. “Each of the last three decades,” it concludes, “has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.” The oceans have warmed and grown more acidic. Ice sheets are losing mass. Sea ice and snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere are shrinking. Ocean levels are rising. (Compared to its report six years ago, the IPCC has raised its projection of sea-level rise during this century by about 40 percent.) All these things are plausibly related to increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases produced in vast amounts by humans. And these trends involve serious public risks..."


Climate Change Fight Needs Game Attitude. Here's a clip from a very interesting perspective (and podcast) from Scientific American: "It's obvious. Global efforts to combat climate change have failed. International summits are full of hot air and greenhouse gas pollution continues to rise. If a country bails on a climate commitment, they pay a price of, well, zero. Turns out that's okay, at least according to game theory analyses by researchers at the University of Lisbon. Their models suggest that punishment by global institutions has no effect. They also say that global summits actually impede cooperation..."


Global Warming - What's The Big Deal? Here is a clip of a reader Op-Ed at the Santa Fe New Mexican that caught my eye: "Global warming? What’s the problem? Personally, I don’t like cold weather and wouldn’t mind average temperatures being a few degrees higher than they are now. Unfortunately, global warming isn’t just about average global temperatures rising a few degrees by the end of this century. In fact, “global warming” misses the mark entirely when it comes to conveying the seriousness and urgency regarding what we’re collectively doing to the stability, and therefore livability, of our planet’s climate. “Climate chaos” may be more accurate..."

Last Hours. Alarmist hype? I sure hope so. But the truth, we don't know what we don't know. Check out the video here.

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