88 F. high on Friday in the Twin Cities.
83 F. average high on July 24.
82 F. high on July 24, 2014.

.23″ rain fell at MSP International Friday.

July 25, 2000: An F4 tornado hits the town of Granite Falls. One person is killed and there is 20 million dollars in damage.

July 25, 1915: Frost hits northeastern Minnesota. Source: Twin Cities National Weather Service.

Tell Me A Story

All of us are drowning in information, tweets and posts. 400 channels and nothing’s on right? So much data, so little wisdom. “I heard about it – but what does it mean?”

From the first caveman’s excited rant about this new thing called “fire” to reading a newspaper or watching TV news to find stories of relevance that resonate with our lives – it’s in our DNA to appreciate a good story.

Online or on your smartphone the blur between media become inconsequential, but these digital content centers are still the best source of perspective, context and meaning.

Speaking of context: based on cooling degree data we’ve spent 10 percent less than average cooling our homes so far this summer. Blast-furnace heat is bubbling and boiling just south of Minnesota. We get an occasional taste but not much more – a trend which should continue into much of August. Historically the hottest days are behind us now, but I expect a handful of 90-degree days into September.

A potentially epic El Nino brewing in the Pacific, maybe the biggest since 1997-98, would tend to keep a mild bias into the fall, winter and spring of 2016. On paper.

But just like every storm is different every El Nino is unique. Computer models help, but only to a point. The future is largely unknowable.

* Image credit above here.

Summer Temperatures, To Date. Temperatures have been average to slightly below average, as of July 23. Here are a few bullet points that caught my eye:

* Average temperature so far this summer (June 1 – July 23) is 70.8°

* According to my calculations, taking the average temperatures for the same period from 1981-2010 and averaging them, that average is 70.9°. So it would appear we are about on average.

* Warmest June 1 – July 23 on record is 77.1° in 1933. Coolest June 1 – July 23: 64.6° in 1915. (Random? Yes. But I had the numbers.)
* June was 0.8 degrees above average, with an average monthly temperature of 69.7.
* Warmest low temperature: 68 on July 18. (So no 70+ lows so far this summer).

* Two 90 degrees so far this summer.
Summer temperature data courtesy of AerisWeather meteorologist D.J. Kayer.

Why Haven’t We Seen Any Hurricanes This Year? Things may be heating up in the weeks to come; the peak of the season is the second week of September, historically. Here’s an excerpt at thedenverchannel.com: “…Just because there hasn’t been a named hurricane yet, and only three storms have been named doesn’t mean the season’s a complete wash. It’s just the opposite. Hurricane season begins on June 1, but it usually doesn’t start to ramp up until the beginning of August, and more often than not, into September…” (Image above: NHC).

A Chance of “Danny”? Confidence levels are still very low, but the ECMWF fires up a tropical storm or hurricane off the east coast by the very end of July. The European model solution above is valid Saturday morning, August 1, showing what sure appears to be a full-fledged Hurricane Danny a few hundred miles southeast of Long Island. ECMWF has spun up one or two phantom storms in recent weeks – let’s go a few runs and see if there’s any continuity here. Source: WSI Corporation.

Relatively Dry into Monday. The atmosphere over much of Minnesota and Wisconsin will be “capped” for the next 48+ hours, too warm and dry in the low layers for T-storms to flare up; no boundaries nearby to focus convection. A stray T-shower is possible Sunday afternoon or evening; today should be dry statewide. Models hint at highs near 90F Monday with a dew point in the mid-70s, a late afternoon heat index of 95-100F.

As ‘Dog Days’ As It’s Going To Get. We’re on the northern fringe of the heat, and in spite of occasional hot fronts no prolonged/sustained sauna-like conditions are brewing into the first week of August. Most models keep the ridge axis west of Minnesota, keeping us in a week northwest flow aloft much of the time, meaning frequent sweeps of slightly cooler air, taking the edge off any heat. The best chance of T-storms: Tuesday, again next Sunday. Source: Weatherspark.

How This El Nino Is And Isn’t Like 1997. Just like no two storms are identical no two El Nino warming phases are carbon copies. The stronger the warming signal in the Pacific, the greater the odds of a turn to wetter weather, even flooding for California by the winter months. Here’s a snippet of a good explainer at Climate Central: “…We think that the strength of [El Niño] is important,” L’Heureux said, but the exact strength it achieves is no guarantee of impacts similar to 1997, “and that’s simply because there’s other stuff going on,” she said. “El Niño is not the only ball game in town.” So where does that leave us in terms of looking ahead to what El Niño might bring this winter? We have an event that is looking more and more robust (when comparing June 2015 to June 1997, the broad ocean temperature patterns are very similar) and forecasting models are in pretty good agreement that that event will strengthen as we head towards winter and El Niño’s typical peak. But exactly when it will peak and what its final strength will be is still uncertain. Even more uncertain is what those other influences on U.S. weather will be…”

Hope Grows That El Nino Will Reach Northern California – And Key Reservoirs. Every El Nino is different, but some of the warmest Pacific ocean water since 1997-98 raises the odds of a wet winter season for California. Here’s an excerpt from The Los Angeles Times: “…That could change if El Niño continues to muscle up, enabling storms to elbow into the north. That’s what happened during the two biggest El Niños on record, in 1982-83 and 1997-98. “If this El Niño continues to strengthen, it would not surprise me to see … all the lines extend farther north,” bringing the far reaches of the state into a zone where odds favor a wet winter, NOAA Climate Prediction Center Deputy Director Mike Halpert said. El Niño can shift the so-called subtropical jet stream from the jungles of southern Mexico and Nicaragua north, over Southern California and the southern United States, said Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge…”

Image credit above: “A comparison of the November 1997 and July 2015 El Niños in the Pacific Ocean west of Peru. Areas of warm water, shown in red, in 1997 contributed to relentless, damaging storms in California that winter. Note: This image has been edited to add a key and to express degrees in Fahrenheit.” (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Environmental Visualization Laboratory).

Scorched Earth: U.S. Wildfires Near Record Level. Here’s the introduction to a good summary at USA TODAY: “Wildfires have burned a phenomenal 5.5 million acres across the U.S. so far this year, an area equal to the size of New Jersey. This is the second-highest total in at least the past 25 years, according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. Only 2011, which saw 5.8 million acres charred as of July 23 of that year, had more. On average, at this point in the year, 3.5 million acres would have burned...” (Map credit above: ESRI).

A Raging WIldfire Is Threatening the Iconic Glacier National Park. Here’s a link to a story at Mashable: “The West’s wildfire woes have spread to one of America’s most iconic, and endangered, national parks: Glacier National Park in Montana. The park is already considered extremely vulnerable to global warming, with receding glaciers that may force the park to change its name by the middle of this century. Now, it is facing a wildfire that has been spreading rapidly since it began on Tuesday afternoon about six miles east of Logan Pass…”

Photo credit above: “Visitors leave as part of a mandatory evacuation, Wednesday, July 22, 2015, near East Glacier Park, Montana.” Image: Brenda Ahearn/The Daily Inter Lake via AP/Associated Press.

Remembering The July 23, 1987 Twin Cities “Superstorm”. This is the storm that spawned 11″ of rain for parts of the metro area, closing a stretch of I-494, as well as tornadoes for the northwest suburbs. Details via TC Media Now: “Continued day after coverage of the record breaking Super Storm “of the century” that pounded the Twin Cities on July 23, 1987 with rain, tornadoes, flooding, hail and wind. On this report from July 24 Paul Douglas examines the patterns of the storms, Paul Magers, Diana Pierce anchor coverage along with reports from Dennis Feltgen, Kevin MacDowell, Kirstin Lindquist and others.”

The Tiny Islands Where Canada and America Are At War. I had no idea – here’s a snippet of a story at Maclean’s: “Canada is one wrong move away from a border war with the United States—if you believe a group of boiling-mad Maine lobstermen. Unfathomable as armed conflict between Canada and the United States seems, if it’s going to happen, it will be in the ocean between Maine and New Brunswick, where two tiny, treeless islands—North Rock and Machias Seal—are the last remaining disputed lands between the two countries…”

Photo credit above: “The Canadian flag flutters in the breeze Monday, Sept. 8, 2003, by the lighthouse at Machias Seal Island. The Canadians man the lighthouse on this island claimed by the US and Canada in The Gray Zone waters between the two countries.” (Fred J. Field/CP).

In The War of 2050, The Robots Call The Shots. Here’s the intro to a fascinating story at defenseone.com: “In April, thought leaders from the Defense Department, the U.S. Army Research Lab, the Institute for Defense Analysis, and national security thinkers across academia met for a two-work workshop on the next three and a half decades of war. The report they recently produced reads like a Tolkien-esque saga set in the future, a fascinating mashup of futuristic concepts, far-off capabilities, and emergent technologies that play off one another, competing and evolving at hyperspeed. Among the report’s most significant conclusions: faster “battle rhythm” will increasingly push human beings out of the decision-making loop. The future of war belongs to the bots...”

SATURDAY: Warm sunshine. Dew point: 65. Winds: SE 5-10. High: 89

SATURDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear and warm. Low: 72

SUNDAY: Sunny start, stray T-shower late? Winds: Southeast 10. High: 91

MONDAY: Steamy, PM pop-up T-storms. Dew point: 71 Wake-up: 74. Heat index: 95-100F. High: 91

TUESDAY: Uncomfortable. Few storms. Dew point: 74. Feels like 100F+ late. Wake-up: 75. High: 93

WEDNESDAY: Sunny, turning less humid. Dew point: 60. Wake-up: 73. High: 86

THURSDAY: Blue sky, pleasantly warm, slight dip in humidity. Wake-up: 66. High: 87

FRIDAY: Muggy sunshine, late-day thunder. Wake-up: 69. High: 89

Climate Stories….

Jeb Bush Calls for End To Fossil Fuel Subsidies. Here’s a clip from an update at NationalJournal: “eb Bush wants to get rid of tax credits for the oil and gas industry. “I think we should phase out, through tax reform, the tax credits for wind, for solar, for the oil and gas sector, for all that stuff,” the 2016 Republican candidate said in New Hampshire on Wednesday, according to a video recorded by grassroots environmental group 350 Action...”

July 23 photo credit: Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/The New York Times.

Navy Climate Change Expert Sees Opponents Ignoring Science. I know Admiral Titley – he’s a friend, classmate and colleague, and he’s right. This is no longer about science and facts. Here’s an excerpt from Times Union: “…Climate deniers who claim that thousands of scientists are engaging in a global fraud are “one step way from a conspiracy theory” that is too fantastical to be even feasible, he added. “Think about it. We have an administration that could not roll out a proper health care website. You think they can manage a global scientific conspiracy? They could not do it if they wanted to,” said Titley, who also holds a doctorate in meteorology. And he scoffed at the idea that scientists are deliberately lying about climate change just to obtain short-term research grants. When he headed the Navy’s climate change task force, the group looked at issues like rising sea levels, which is one outcome of global warming. Naval bases around the world will be affected and planners have to be ready for it, he said…”

Photo credit above: “Rear Admiral David Titley tours the USS Slater in Albany, N.Y. April 26, 2012, as part of the United States Navy’s 50/50 Program, an outreach effort that features 50 senior Navy leaders in 50 U.S. cities.” (Skip Dickstein/Times Union archive)

A New Climate Change Danger-Zone? Elizabeth Kolbert takes a look at the recent fuss over climate scientist James Hansen’s latest research on the rate of Antarctic ice and the level of risk posed to coastal cities. Here’s an excerpt at The New Yorker: “…In a paper set to appear online this week in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, the modellers, led by James Hansen, the former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, warn that an increase of two degrees Celsius could still be enough to melt large portions of Antarctica, which, in turn, could result in several metres’ worth of sea-level rise in a matter of decades. What’s important about the paper from a layperson’s perspective—besides the fate of the world’s major coastal cities, many of which would be swamped if the oceans rose that high—is that it shows just how far from resolved, scientifically speaking, the question of danger levels remains. And this has important political implications, though it seems doubtful that politicians will heed them...”

What Religion Can Teach Climate Scientists. Climate activist Bill McKibbon has an Op-Ed at The Boston Globe; here’s an excerpt: “…Religious environmentalism hasn’t conquered every territory — many evangelical churches remain suspicious of the fight. Even that is changing, though: A former New England physician, Matthew Sleeth, organized a nonprofit called Blessed Earth and speaks to conservative congregations across the country. Polling data show such efforts find increasing favor with young evangelicals. In the end, it may be less the political power of faith communities that matters and more their ability to transform the bleak message of scientists into something that more people can hear. Faith-based environmentalists, after all, are allowed to have some hope that if they work hard, the world might meet them halfway…”

Martin O’Malley’s Link Between Climate Change and ISIS Isn’t Crazy. Was the most severe drought on record a material factor in Syria’s unraveling? The Pentagon refers to climate change as a “force multiplier”. The rise of ISIS may be Exhibit A. Here’s an excerpt from an article at The Atlantic: “…But O’Malley’s comment isn’t as weird as it might initially seem. There’s an established body of work that draws a connection between drought, resource scarcity, and conflict in general. In a 2013 article for The Atlantic, William Polk, a historian and former adviser to President Kennedy, noted a possible relationship between Syria’s civil war and devastating 2006-2011 drought. “As they flocked into the cities and towns seeking work and food, the ‘economic’ or ‘climate’ refugees immediately found that they had to compete not only with one another for scarce food, water, and jobs, but also with the existing foreign refugee population,” he wrote...”

A “Third Way” To Fight Climate Change. Will we see the breakthroughs and price drops in carbon capture required to make this a viable way to address climate change? I wouldn’t rule anything out at this point. Here’s a snippet from a New York Times article: “Two options for dealing with climate change — reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a global agreement, and geoengineering proposals such as injecting sulfur into the stratosphere — tend to dominate current thinking. But there is a “third way” that is almost entirely neglected in political negotiations and public debate. It involves capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it or using it to create things we need. Because of the scale of the climate problem, I believe that in coming decades third-way technologies will become a major focus of activity...”

Graphic credit above: Alec Doherty.

Minneapolis Mayor: Debate over Climate Change Not An Issue at Pope’s Summit. Here’s the intro to a story at The Star Tribune: “After two days of meetings in Rome with mayors from around the world on climate change, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said she realized a familiar topic at home hadn’t been part of the conversation. Leaders of cities from outside the U.S. didn’t seem to have to spend much time debating the matter with people who don’t believe in climate change, the mayor said in a call with local media on Wednesday. “I noticed that, probably about halfway through today, and just realized that climate change deniers cast a pall on the conversation in the United States,” Hodges said. “And that as far as I can tell, it does not extend to anywhere else in the world...”

Hansen Paper: “2C Temperature Rise is Very Dangerous”. Here’s an excerpt of the paper abstract at ACPD: “There is evidence of ice melt, sea level rise to +5–9 m, and extreme storms in the prior interglacial period that was less than 1 °C warmer than today. Human-made climate forcing is stronger and more rapid than paleo forcings, but much can be learned by combining insights from paleoclimate, climate modeling, and on-going observations. We argue that ice sheets in contact with the ocean are vulnerable to non-linear disintegration in response to ocean warming, and we posit that ice sheet mass loss can be approximated by a doubling time up to sea level rise of at least several meters. Doubling times of 10, 20 or 40 years yield sea level rise of several meters in 50, 100 or 200 years. Paleoclimate data reveal that subsurface ocean warming causes ice shelf melt and ice sheet discharge…”