Lukewarm Start to November – How Exxon Overstates Uncertainty in Climate Science

53 F. high in the Twin Cities Friday.
51 F. average high on October 30.
49 F. high on October 30, 2014.

October 31, 1991: Great Halloween Blizzard begins. Trick or Treating was memorable for the few who ventured out. 8.2″ fell at MSP as of midnight on Halloween, 1991.

Partly-Damp Halloween
4 Days Above 60F Early Next Week

I can’t decide whether to dress up as Donald Trump or Taylor Swift for Halloween this year. Maybe I’ll stalk the neighbors dressed as El Nino? Be afraid.

Today won’t win any awards for beauty and splendor; models hint at a few instability showers and sprinkles this afternoon and evening. I don’t expect a steady, soaking rain; temperatures right around 50F for Trick or Treating.

We’ve seen much worse.

Speaking of rain, a suburb of Austin, Texas picked up 7 inches of rain in one HOUR yesterday – 15 to 18 inches of rain falling on ground already saturated from the soggy remains of Hurricane Patricia last week. More symptoms of an El Nino-energized pattern kicking in? Probably.

This same warm stain in the Pacific will pump unseasonably mild air into Minnesota next week; highs reach the 60s from Sunday into Wednesday. The latest ECMWF (European) model hints at 70F next Wednesday. I know, what November?

Models spin up a big (rain) storm the end of next week – it should feel more like November within 2 weeks.

Halloween 2015? More treat than trick. Set your clocks back tonight!


* Photo credit above: Mike Hall Photography.


Friday Flood Emergency for Austin and much of South Central Texas. The Weather Channel has an update on the incredible rains that flooded a stretch from San Antonio to Austin on Friday; some 15-18″ rainfall amounts (see tweet below – white areas are over 15-20″), which is nuts, considering this area was hit by flooding from ex-Hurricane Patricia last week. Here’s an excerpt: “…More than 10 inches of rain fell in a two-hour span near the creek Friday morning. Multiple people were rescued from floodwaters in Travis County earlier Friday morning. The rainfall became so extreme that the airfield of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport had to be closed late Friday morning, the airport announced. “We do have some water rescues ongoing, and that could become a bigger problem later today if the rain continues into rush hour,” said Joe Arellano, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Austin, while speaking with The Weather Channel…”



7-Day Rainfall Outlook. NOAA’s models show more heavy rains for the southern USA (possible manifestation of El Nino kicking in, which tends to energize the southern branch of the jet stream). Some 10″ amounts are predicted for the Pacific Northwest, where Flood Watches have been posted.


“I’m Reporting From 20 Feet Up in a Tree”. In 45 years tracking the weather I have never seen anything quite like this; a man swept downstream in his car for nearly half a mile, who gets out and climbs a tree before his car completely submerges in Onion Creek in the Austin, Texas area. His Boy Scout training was put to good use. Check out the remarkable interview and footage at KVUE-TV in Austin. The man, Kerry Packer, was rescued and he is safe. Good grief!


Mild Start to November, Then a Minor Reality Check. Enjoy 4 days at or above 60F early next week (70F is still a possibility next Wednesday if the sun stays out) because we’ll be lucky to see highs in the 40s by the end of the week; models spinning up a significant rain event late Thursday into Friday. We need the moisture, and it should fall as liquid, not in a crystalline form. Not yet, but we’re getting closer.


Colder and Stormier by Mid-November. After a balmy start early next week temperatures chill back down to normal, possibly even colder than average by the middle of November as polar air begins to seep south of the border, carving out a broad long-wave trough that may spark heavier, steadier rains (or snows!)


First Measurable Autumn Snowfall. Dr. Mark Seeley has more details on our midweek snow event at Minnesota WeatherTalk, the first of the season for the immediate Twin Cities metro, just enough to remind all of us that winter is, in fact, on the way: “Wednesday and Thursday, October 28-29 brought the first measurable snowfalls of the autumn season to Minnesota, although most observers reported a mixture of precipitation, both rain and snow, with temperatures hovering in the low to mid 30s F.  Many observers reported from 0.1 to 0.4 inches, including Rochester with 0.2 inches which tied the record value there for October 28th.  Long Prairie (Todd County), Montgomery (Le Sueur County), and Cass Lake (Cass County) reported 0.5 inches, Grand Rapids 0.7 inches, and Eau Claire, WI reported 0.9 inches.  Rothsay (Wilkin County) reported 1 inch of snow (tying the record from 1964), while just north of Brainerd an observer reported 2.2 inches of new snow…”


Rare Cyclone Heads Toward Arabia, May Dump Year’s Worth of Rain. A rare occurrence? It would seem so. Here’s a clip from USA TODAY: “…Cyclone landfalls in this area are “fairly rare,” tweeted meteorologist Steve Bowen of Aon Benfield, a global reinsurance firm. According to Weather Channel hurricane specialist Michael Lowry, there is no record of a hurricane-strength cyclone landfall in Yemen dating back to 1945. The Weather Channel reports that there have only been two Category 4 equivalent Arabian Sea cyclones on record. Gonu in 2007 and Phet in 2010 both weakened before making landfall in northern Oman near the capital, Muscat…”


Projected Track of Chapala. This rare cyclone is forecast to strengthen into a Category 5 storm before weakening to Category 1 status before pushing into Yemen. Image source: UW-CIMSS.


Prepared for The Next Sandy? Some Experts Call for Bolder Action. Living next to the water is great – until it isn’t. NBC New York has the story – here’s the introduction: “Three years after Sandy caused $50 billion in damage as the powerful storm ripped up beaches along the New York and New Jersey coasts, flooded shops and homes and left lower Manhattan dark for days, “resiliency” has become the byword of the region. New York City alone is spending $20 billion to try to make sure that the five boroughs better withstand the severe storms that scientists say climate change will make more likely. But some experts say the area should be bolder, with one proposal calling for a storm barrier that stretches across the entrance to New York Harbor...”

Three Years Later, Are We Ready for the Next Sandy? Picking up on the same theme of resilience and readiness, New York Magazine takes a look; here’s an excerpt: “Hurricane Sandy struck three years ago today, flooding the coasts of New York and New Jersey and, unforgettably, putting out the lights in half of Manhattan. And unless you were directly affected by it, it’s pretty easy to forget, or at least not think about it. But it’s not if you’re still trying to rebuild, as many people are. This spring, the Federal Emergency Management Agency began a review of 17,000 Hurricane Sandy–related disaster claims. According to ABC News, the resulting report found that roughly three in five were still owed money. Some people are waiting for more than $100,000, and FEMA is trying to fix the problem by doling out additional reimbursements, at an average of $15,000...” (File image above: NASA).


East Coast and Gulf Coast Power Grids Are Still Not Ready for a Big Hurricane. Grist takes a look at the grid and discovers it isn’t ready for The Big One. Shocking. Here’s a clip: “…So, you might think maybe it’s high time we get our catastrophic-weather act together? Well, earlier this week, The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a study showing that most of the power grid on the Gulf and East Coasts of the United States would not be prepared for another Category 3 hurricane. Inside Climate News reports: In all, 68 power plants and 415 major electric power substations are susceptible to flooding in a Category 3 hurricane, a storm with sustained winds up to 130 mph…”

Photo credit above: “Water pushed up by Hurricane Sandy splashes into the window of a building in Bellport, N.Y.REUTERS/Lucas Jackson.


Halloween Climatology in the Twin Cities. Here’s an excerpt of a timely post from the Minnesota DNR: “… The last fifteen years have had some balmy Halloween afternoons with a 71 degrees in 2000, and some quite cool ones as well with a 34 in 2002. There hasn’t been a Halloween washout since 1997. Measurable precipitation has occurred on Halloween only 26% of the time in the Twin Cities, or 37 times out of 143 years. The most rain recorded was in 1979 with .78 inches. In 1991 .85 inches of precipitation fell, which was snow. In spite of the 1991 Halloween Blizzard, measurable snow on Halloween is about as rare as getting a full sized candy bar in your trick or treat bag. Since 1872 there’s been enough snow to measure only six times: .6 in 1884, .2 in 1885, 1.4 in 1932, .4 in 1954, .5 in 1995 and of course 8.2 inches with the Halloween Blizzard of 1991…”



California Officials Outline Preparations for El Nino Flooding. Reuters has an update on the potential for more serious weather-whiplash, in this case going from historic drought to flood as the symptoms of El Nino become more apparent. Here’s an excerpt: “As California braces for torrential downpours this winter from El Nino, authorities have stockpiled extra sandbags across the state while putting hundreds of personnel through flood-control training, officials told state lawmakers on Wednesday. Water engineers and emergency managers addressed a state Senate hearing in Los Angeles on preparations for the El Nino phenomenon, a recurring climate pattern that warms parts of the Pacific and is expected to bring severe weather to California and other regions. The latest El Nino, with forecasts of powerful winter storms and drenching rains, is seen as a mixed blessing for California, which is struggling through the fourth year of a record drought…”

File photo credit from February 2, 1998 in Ventura, California: AP Photo/Nick Ut.


Could Hurricane Patricia Be A Harbinger of Storms in a Warming Climate? The oceans are warming – that’s not a climate model, that’s based on direct observations. Here’s an excerpt at The Conversation: “…This time, the near-record warm waters arose at least in part from El Niño. Greenhouse warming may also have played a role, since the waters in Patricia’s path were warmer than in previous El Niños, and have been warmer-than-normal since even before this El Niño formed. The crucial question moving forward, though, is not what roles greenhouse warming and El Niño played in this particular storm. Instead, we should focus on the fact that the largest amount of warming and its impacts are yet to come. Warming to date has been about a degree Celsius overall, and slightly less over oceans...”



A Texas Republican and NOAA Are In a Standoff over Global Warming E-mails. Professional conspiracy theorists are chattering once again. A cover-up, “cooking the books”, or science in action? New numbers from new and improved data sets show no slow-down in warming, no “hiatus”. Here’s an excerpt from Andrew Freedman at Mashable: “…Smith chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, a perch he’s used to push his anti-climate science views. Smith has sought to cut NASA’s earth science budget, for example, while speaking out against the Obama administration’s plans to limit manmade global warming. Smith has also done something unprecedented in the 54-year history of this committee: He has turned it into an oversight body, issuing six subpoenas, including a recent one to the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) demanding the handing over of internal scientific correspondence concerning a landmark climate study published in one of the top scientific journals in the world earlier this year...”


Is America Completely Unprepared for a Power Grid Cyberattack? The short answer appears to be yes. I watch the PBS Newshour every night and was surprised, no, shocked to see Ted Koppel warning of an almost inevitable attack on the grid. I worked with Ted a few times on Nightline; he’s not prone to hype or exaggeration – I have a tremendous amount of respect for his journalistic instincts. He wrote a book on the potential for a hack that could bring down significant portions of the electrical powergrid, and basically said, on live TV, that everyone who can afford to do so should have a 3-6 month supply of food and water, just in case. Before you laugh it off or dismiss it as “just another guy selling a book” check out the interview and video. Here’s an excerpt: “…Several of them know that the likelihood of it happening is great. When I spoke to Janet Napolitano just after she left as secretary of homeland security — and she had been on the job for five years — I said to her, what do you think the chances are of a cyber-attack on the power grid? She said very, very high, 80 to 90 percent. It seems to me inevitable that we have to deal with this. But maybe, because we don’t know what the answer is, we have not even begun to do so...”


Antarctic Ozone Hole Expands to Near-Record Size. Here’s the latest from USA TODAY: “The Antarctic ozone hole widened to one of its largest sizes on record earlier this month, the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced Thursday. The hole’s large size was due to unusually cold temperatures in the stratosphere, the level of the atmosphere where the ozone hole and ozone layer are located, the agency said. “This shows us that the ozone hole problem is still with us and we need to remain vigilant. But there is no reason for undue alarm,” Geir Braathen, a senior scientist in WMO’s Atmospheric and Environment Research Division, said in a statement...” (Image credit: NASA).



NASA’s TIMED Satellite Identifies Unexpected Carbon Dioxide Trends. Here’s an excerpt from Gizmag: “NASA has analyzed 14 years worth of data collected by its Thermosphere, Inonosphere, Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) satellite, revealing a surprisingly fast increase in carbon dioxide levels in the upper atmosphere. The stats also reveal that the gas is more localized to the Northern Hemisphere than predicted by climate models. Human activities like deforestation and burning fossil fuels are pumping huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere. The gas is responsible for raising temperatures close to Earth’s surface, but it has a very different effect in the upper atmosphere, reducing air density and actually having a cooling effect…”

Image credit above: “Data from NASA’s TIMED mission is forcing us to reassess our knowledge of the relationship between the Earth’s lower and upper atmosphere.” (Credit: NASA).


New Technique Desalinates Sea Water Using Half the Power. It’s innovations like this that will save us (from ourselves). Here’s an excerpt from Gizmag: “Despite having one of the world’s largest rivers running the length of its country, Egypt lacks the fresh water needed to supply its growing population. To quench an annual 7 billion cubic meter (247 billion cubic foot) shortfall, the country has looked to desalination, which is energy-intensive and expensive. Now, researchers from Alexandria University have developed a technique for desalinating and cleaning water that uses less than half the energy of current desalination methods, making it potentially cheap enough as a viable fresh water source…”

Image credit above: “The process produces potable water, with 99.7 percent of the salt removed in one pass.” (Credit: Shutterstock)


2015 Tesla Model S P90D With “Ludicrous Mode”. First Test Review. I’m just amazed that Elon Musk was able to get “Ludicrous Mode” (0 to 60 in 2.6 seconds) past the lawyers. Wow. Here’s an excerpt of a review at Motor Trend: “Stop what you’re doing right now. Stop texting. Get off YouTube, close Facebook, and pause for a moment so you can truly appreciate the times we’re living in, a world where if you have the means you can go out and buy an American-made, 762-hp, all-wheel-drive electric car that’s as capable of driving itself as it is smoking supercars off the line. That car is the new Ludicrous-enhanced 2015 Tesla Model S P90D…”


IBM to Buy Digital Branch of Weather Company, Leaves Weather Channel Behind. I predict The Weather Channel will be just fine, in spite of all the hype, hoopla and understandable paranoia. Here’s an excerpt from a story at Capital Weather Gang: “In a major shakeup to the weather industry, IBM announced on Wednesday that it will purchase the Weather Company’s digital assets, including weather.com, WSI and Weather Underground, as well as all of the Weather Company brands. It did not, however, include the Weather Channel TV network in the agreement, leaving the future uncertain for the network’s meteorologists and employees. IBM is particularly interested in the company’s “big data” platform, which powers both the in-house Weather Company apps in addition to serving up data for 26 billion third-party requests each day…”


2 Years After Raising Taxes on the Rich, Here’s the “Hellscape” Minnesota Has Become. Don’t be mislead by the headline. Actually, we’re doing pretty well in Minnesota, all things considered, according to a story at mic.com; here are a couple of excerpts: “…The critics who feared Dayton’s campaign to have the top 2% pay their fair share would ruin growth and cause business interests to flee appear to have been crying wolf. Minnesota’s labor market is healthy. Minnesota was ranked one of the fastest-growing economies in the country by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in 2013. Gallup found economic confidence in the state to be the highest in the nation…But here’s what we can say: Dayton’s progressive vision for Minnesota has not ruined the economy, and has likely helped it. Walker’s conservative vision has clearly not ushered in the free market paradise he envisioned. And it’s noteworthy that since the Great Recession and the implementation of their divergent philosophies, Minnesota’s economy has pulled further ahead of Wisconsin in several areas...”


The End of Craft Beer. Say it isn’t so. The definition of “craft beer” is blurring even faster than new breweries are opening up; here’s an excerpt from Grub Street: “…As a result, the country’s biggest craft brewer today is officially Yuengling, the independent Pennsylvania brewery most closely associated with a middle-of-the-road lager that most people would probably call “Bud-like,” meaning it’s a pale, light beer that’s very easy to drink. It’s perfectly fine, but it’s also at odds with the deeply flavored, hoppy beers that craft brewers have used to set themselves apart from Big Beer — things like double IPAs and coffee stouts that are to Miller Lite what a handmade, wood-roasted pizza from Roberta’s is to a frozen pie from Tombstone...”

Photo credit above: “Craft beer is just about to completely explode and become unrecognizable to itself.” Photo: Jed Egan.




HALLOWEEN: Some sun, few showers likely. Winds: SW 10-15. High: 57

SATURDAY NIGHT: Leftover shower or sprinkle, clouds linger. Low: 43

SUNDAY: Partly sunny, a milder, nicer day. Winds: SW 10-15. High: 63

MONDAY: More clouds than sun, above average. Wake-up: 47. High: 62

TUESDAY: Sunny, unusually mild for November. Wake-up: 46. High: 66

WEDNESDAY: What November? Warm sunshine. Wake-up: 51. High: near 70

THURSDAY: Sunny start, rain arrives late. Wake-up: 47. High: 53

FRIDAY: Potentially heavy rain. Wake-up: 45. High: 48 (falling)


Climate Stories…

Climate Change and Creation Care. The Catholic church continues to be a voice in the climate change discussion where the Bishops from around the world plead for climate change action. “The bishops also asked governments to recognize the “ethical and moral dimensions of climate change,” to recognize that the climate and the atmosphere are common goods belonging to all, to set a strong limit on global temperature increase and to promote new models of development and lifestyles that are “climate compatible.”

On Saturday, November 7th at 9a in Prior Lake, MN Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church is hosting a Creation Care event that will examine the intersection of faith, climate change and weather. Presenters include myself, Dr. John Abraham (climate scientist from the University of St. Thomas) and faith leaders from the Lutheran, Methodist, MCC and Catholic church. RSVP at: http://www.sollc.org/creationcare.


How Exxon Overstates the Uncertainty in Climate Science. Here’s an excerpt of the latest installment of a series at InsideClimate News: “…Testing people’s reaction to one such complicated graph, Rosemarie McMahon and two other Zurich experts found that the test-takers commonly missed the point. People didn’t see that our choices, not the models, will determine how much warming we are in for. The result, says an article they published in the journal Climatic Change, is “a misguided perception that climate science is too uncertain to play any significant role in policy decisions.” If the researchers found many of their test subjects utterly befuddled by the graph, Cohen did little to clarify things. His point in highlighting that particular chart was to emphasize scientific uncertainty, an approach Exxon has pursued for decades…”

Graph credit above: “Exxon spokesman Ken Cohen either misunderstood or misrepresented the chart pictured above as he pushed back against an InsideClimate News investigation into what Exxon’s own scientists knew about the emerging risks of climate change, and when they knew it.”


Fossil Fuel Companies Aren’t Just Bad for the Climate – They’re Bad Investments. Grist makes the case; here’s the intro: “Activists often use moral language when advocating for divestment from fossil fuel companies: It is wrong to participate in the destruction of our planet, say college students and the parishioners of liberal churches. We should express our disapproval by divesting, they argue, and help to build momentum for carbon regulation and cleaner energy sources. But what if fossil fuels are just bad investments? What if oil, gas, and coal companies have sunk billions of dollars into buying up the rights to carbon fuels that they will never actually be able to extract? That’s what a growing band of financiers argue, and the people who follow their investment advice are benefiting from it...”


Buy Coal Now! Should climate-concerned billionaires pay up to keep remaining coal in the ground – indefinitely? Here’s an excerpt of a story at The Atlantic: “…Most climate regulations focus on making it more expensive to emit greenhouse gases. The cap-and-trade systems run by both the European Union and, soon, China take this approach: The thing they’re capping and trading is emissions. Frost believes that instead of regulating to limit the burning of fossil fuels, we should just never remove the fuels from earth’s crust in the first place. Coal-fired power plants release about 40 percent of global carbon emissions and are a frequent target of climate policies. Frost thinks we should pay the organizations which own underground coal deposits—specifically, the U.S. government—for the right to never mine it...”

Illustration credit above: Stephanie Shafer


A Few Questions for Those Who Think Global Warming Isn’t Real. The accumulation of coincidences continues, in fact its accelerating. Here’s an excerpt from Slate: “If global warming is a hoax …

… then why was this September globally the hottest September on record by a substantial margin?
… then why were seven of the months in 2015 (so far!) the hottest of those months on record (February the hottest February on record, and so on)?
… then why is 2015 on track to be by far the hottest year on record?
… then why was the last warmest year on record just last year?
… then why are the 10 hottest years all since 1998?

… then why are we seeing far more high temperature records broken than lows?…”
Image credit above: Shutterstock/Barnaby Chamber.


Ignorance for a Price: How the Fossil Fuel Industry Pays Politicians to Doubt Science. When in doubt follow the money. Here’s an excerpt from DeSmogBlog: “…As Open Secrets reports, the oil & gas industries have pumped more than $36 million into the upcoming 2016 elections, with 93% of that money going to Republicans. In 2014, that total was $64 million, and 87% went to Republicans. In 2012, a presidential election year, the amount from these two industries topped $76 million, with 89% going into the campaign coffers of Republicans. The coal industry is also a major player in American politics, and for 2016, 2014, and 2012, the industry donated $2 million, $11 million, and $15 million, respectively, with an average of 94% of that money going to Republicans. This money buys so much more than political favors...”


Imagine if Exxon Had Told The Truth on Climate Change. Bill McKibbon ponders the imponderable at The Guardian; here’s a snippet: “…And if you think it’s just scientists and environmentalists thinking this way, it’s actually almost anyone with a conscience. Here’s how the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News — Exxon’s hometown paper, the morning read of the oil patch— put it in an editorial last week: “With profits to protect, Exxon provided climate-change doubters a bully pulpit they didn’t deserve and gave lawmakers the political cover to delay global action until long after the environmental damage had reached severe levels. That’s the inconvenient truth as we see it.” Those years weren’t inconvenient for Exxon, of course. Year after year throughout the last two decades they’ve made more money than any company in the history of money. But poor people around the world are already paying for those profits, and every generation that follows us now will pay as well, because the “Exxon position” has helped take us over one tipping point after another. Their sins of emission, like so many other firms and individuals, are bad. But their sins of omission are truly inexcusable.” (File photo: Jamie Rector, Bloomberg).