76 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.
79 F. average high on August 26.
96 F. high on August 26, 2013.

August 26, 1992: A chilly night in Embarrass. The temperature dipped to 28 degrees.

Winter Trepidations

The good news: we’re all going on a date. The bad news: the guest of honor is Old Man Winter! After the polar pain of last winter, the toughest in a generation, factoring relentless cold and snow, we can be excused for premature pangs of paranoia.

Betty Magnuson wrote me an e-mail, confused and curious about who was right: Dr. Mark Seeley, predicting a milder winter thanks to El Nino, or The Farmers’ Almanac, forecasting another severe winter east of the Rockies?

Personally, I’d err on the side of listening to Dr. Seeley. Our harshest winters often come during ENSO-neutral winters (no El Nino or La Nina). Models still point to a mild to moderate warming phase of the Pacific, which SHOULD tilt the odds in favor of a more forgiving winter.
Then again I bought ENRON stock, so hedge your bets.

Lukewarm sun today gives way to a soaking rain Thursday; over an inch may perk up your lawn with temperatures stuck in the 60s. We dry out Friday but showers may brush MSP again Saturday. Sunday looks like the nicest, driest, sunniest day of the holiday weekend. Storms rumble in on Labor Day so have a Plan B.

As for next winter let me go out on a limb. Ready? Here goes:

“Colder with some snow.”
Fine Wednesday – Free Watering Thursday. Thursday still appears to be the wettest day of the week (latest NAM model predicts 1.38″ for MSP Thursday PM into Friday AM). A leftover shower may spill over into Saturday; Sunday appears to be the sunnier, driest (mildest) day with highs near 80F. An approaching cool front shoves a few showers and T-showers across the state on Labor Day. Graphic: Weatherspark.
Tracking Cristobal, and a Thursday Soaker? 4 KM NAM guidance shows the projected track of Cristobal (heaviest 6″+ rains in bright green), veering away from the Carolina coast, but whipping up strong rip currents and minor beach erosion at high tide for the Outer Banks. The next surge of warm air sparks heavy showers and T-storms from Colorado’s Front Range into Iowa and southern Minnesota by Thursday. NOAA guidace: HAMweather.
Groundwater Depletion is Destabilizing the San Andreas Fault and Increasing Earthquake Risk. If fracking, injecting chemically-laden water deep underground, may be a factor in sparking small earthquakes maybe it’s not much of a stretch that depleting underground aquifers is impacting stress on earthquake faults. Here’s an excerpt of a story at San Francisco Public Press that caught my eye: “Depletion of groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley is having wide-ranging effects not just on the agricultural industry and the environment, but also on the very earth beneath our feet. Massive changes in groundwater levels in the southern Central Valley are changing the stresses on the San Andreas Fault, according to research published today…”

Photo credit above: “In a newly published scientific paper, researchers attributed modest uplift in areas of the Sierra Nevada and Coast Ranges across central California to human-caused groundwater depletion in the adjacent San Joaquin Valley. GPS stations such as this one, P311 in the eastern Sierra Nevada, are administered by the EarthScope Plate Boundary Observatory.” Photo courtesy of UNAVCO.

Depletion of groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley is having wide-ranging effects not just on the agricultural industry and the environment, but also on the very earth beneath our feet. Massive changes in groundwater levels in the southern Central Valley are changing the stresses on the San Andreas Fault, according to research published today.
Researchers have known for some time that human activity can be linked to localized seismic effects. In particular, much of the debate about fracking in California in the past few years has centered on evidence that the process of injecting large volumes of liquid underground can lubricate fault lines and increase local earthquake risk.
– See more at: http://sfpublicpress.org/news/2014-05/groundwater-depletion-is-destabilizing-the-san-andreas-fault-and-increasing-earthquake-risk#sthash.S1I1Q4xa.dpuf

Visualize It: Old Weather Data Feeds New Climate Models. How do you get old, relatively crude, hand-drawn weather maps into the climate models? Crowd-sourcing. Here’s an excerpt of a fascinating story at Climate Central: “In the 1930s, there were no computers to run climate models or record weather observations. Instead, weather reports were written or typed on typewriters and forecast maps were drawn by hand. Those observations from the past contain valuable data that can help scientists better understand what the climate may look like in the future. But gathering that data and making it usable is a tall task involving scanning millions of sheets of paper and transcribing them into formats that scientists can use…”
Choking The Oceans With Plastic. Here’s an excerpt of a Charles Moore Op-Ed at The New York Times: “…Plastics are now one of the most common pollutants of ocean waters worldwide. Pushed by winds, tides and currents, plastic particles form with other debris into large swirling glutinous accumulation zones, known to oceanographers as gyres, which comprise as much as 40 percent of the planet’s ocean surface — roughly 25 percent of the entire earth. No scientist, environmentalist, entrepreneur, national or international government agency has yet been able to establish a comprehensive way of recycling the plastic trash that covers our land and inevitably blows and washes down to the sea…”

File photo credit: Marine debris washing up onto the coast of Hawaii courtesy of Wikipedia.
Murdoch on the Rocks. How A Lone Reporter Revealed the Mogul’s Tabloid Terror Machine. You think you have a rough newsroom? Here’s a clip from an amazing story at The Daily Beast: “…What Murdoch understood and wanted was news in a form that excited and appealed to the emotions. McKenzie’s formula of the basest of emotions, bigotry, is too crude to define the contours of Murdoch’s own formula. Murdoch does understand the power of fear in the delivery of news—particularly fear of the future in all its forms, which has become part of his conservative creed and is so much trafficked on Fox News. Better than anyone though, Murdoch saw and exploited the emotional needs satisfied by the pursuit of celebrity. It was the pursuit of celebrities, right down to the knickers in the garbage, that finally led to the disgrace of phone hacking and forced Murdoch to close the News of the World...”

Image credit: Vintage Publishing.
A Gut Microbe That Stops Food Allergies. Science Magazine has an interesting article; here’s an excerpt: “…Food allergies have increased about 50% in children since 1997. There are various theories explaining why. One is that the 21st century lifestyle, which includes a diet very different from our ancestors’, lots of antibiotic use, and even a rise in cesarean section deliveries, has profoundly changed the makeup of microbes in the gut of many people in developed countries….”
Image credit above: Kenya Honda, Science/AAAS (21 January 2011). “A new study finds that members of a common class of gut bacteria, Clostridia, can counter sensitivity to peanuts.”

Ralph Lauren Polo Tech Shirt Reads Wearer’s Biological and Physiological Information. Great, now my shirt can judge me. “Put the brownie down now!” Gizmag has details; here’s an excerpt: “Ralph Lauren clothing has been helping people look slick since 1967, but in the future it may also help you to keep fit. The company has announced a new Polo Tech shirt that monitors biological and physiological information of its wearer. It will be tested out at this year’s US Open. Lots of people use mobile apps to help track and improve their fitness, but fewer will be familiar the concept of T-shirts that can do the same. The Hexoskin shirt is one such garment that analyzes movement, breathing and heart activity…”
Being A Couch Potato: Not So Bad After All? Pacific Standard Magazine has an article that explains why we shouldn’t feel so guilty about rewarding ourselves with time in front of the boob-tube; here’s a clip: “...It turns out that the people who feel guiltiest about indulging in TV were also the most ego-depleted. The study—whose title, “The Guilty Couch Potato,” is among the better ones we’ve seen—found that people who have a negative perception of media consumption derive fewer recovery benefits from watching TV and playing video games. “Rather than seeing it as a guilty pleasure, a waste of time, and a proof of one’s own self-regulatory failure, it makes sense to also look at the bright side and think of media use as a deserved treat after a long working day and an effective recovery strategy that may help us to be more productive afterwards,” says Leonard Reinecke, one of the paper’s authors…”
Using Google Earth and Goats to Combat Wildfires. This is my favorite headline of the week, to date. More details (because I suspect you’re just as curious as I was) at the Google Earth Blog: “…Using historical data of fire paths, they map out the ideal places to graze the goats so as to stop wildfires from spreading. They use the Google Earth plugin to display the map on their website and use GPS and the map to decide where to place electric fencing which is moved around to control where the goats graze. The electric fencing also helps to keep mountain lions from eating the goats, but despite this they have lost 5 goats to a local mountain lion over the last 2 years…”

TODAY: Plenty of sun, still pleasant. Dew point: 56. Winds: East 5. High: 77
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase, showers possible late. Low: 63
THURSDAY: Cool, soaking rain. Over 1 inch possible, especially south of MSP. High: 68
FRIDAY: More clouds than sun, a drier day. Wake-up: 62. High: 75
SATURDAY: Risk of showers, possible thunder, especially southern/eastern Minnesota and Wisconsin. Wake-up: 63. High: 74
SUNDAY: Best day.Warm sun, pleasant. Dew point: 58. Wake-up: 61. High: 81
LABOR DAY: Unsettled, few T-storms. Dew point: 66. Wake-up: 65. High: 79
TUESDAY: Sunny, less humid. Dew point: 55. Wake-up: 62. High: 76

Climate Stories…

Irreversible Damage Seen From Climate Change in UN Leak. Bloomberg obtained a leak draft of the next IPCC report; here’s an excerpt of their reporting: “…Possible permanent changes include the melting of the ice sheet covering Greenland. That would boost sea levels by as much as 7 meters (23 feet) and threaten coastal cities from Miami to Bangkok along with island nations such as the Maldives, Kiribati and Tuvalu. The scientists said they have “medium confidence” that warming of less than 4 degrees Celsius would be enough to trigger such a melt, which would take at least a millennium. Other impacts the report flags include reduced food security such as crops such as production of wheat, rice and maize in the tropics are damaged, the melting of Arctic sea ice, and the acidification of the oceans…” (Image: NASA).
Greenhouse Gas Emissions are Growing, and Growing More Dangerous, Draft of U.N. Report Says. Here’s a snippet of a Justin Gillis article at The New York Times: “Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” over the coming decades, according to a draft of a major new United Nations report. Global warming is already cutting grain production by several percentage points, the report found, and that could grow much worse if emissions continue unchecked. Higher seas, devastating heat waves, torrential rain and other climate extremes are also being felt around the world as a result of human emissions, the draft report said, and those problems are likely to intensify unless the gases are brought under control…..”

A Climate For Change: America Should Not Wait While The World Warms. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Washington Post: “…Between $66 billion and $106 billion worth of U.S. property will likely be below sea level by mid-century. The federal government will probably have to spend billions more in disaster relief. Waiting to deal with carbon emissions until the effects are clearer or technology improves is not a wise strategy. The emissions humans put into the atmosphere now will affect the climate in the middle of the century and onward. Technological change, meanwhile, could make a future transition away from fossil fuels cheap — or it might not, leaving the world with a terrible choice between sharply reducing emissions at huge cost or suffering through the effects of unabated warming.”

Why The Washington Post is Running a Series Of Editorials on “The Existential Threat of Climate Change”. Media Matters reports; here’s a clip: “..Over the long run it is an existential threat to the planet, I believe that, so you don’t get much bigger than that,” Hiatt said about the decision to run the week of editorials. “That doesn’t mean that you can set aside other really big problems that are facing us today, but over time … the longer we wait to do something about it, the greater the damage is likely to be and the more disruptive the response will be.” Monday’s first editorial lamented the faltering national debate on this issue, while today’s offering explained why the country can’t afford to “wait while the world warms…”
Old School Farming Methods Could Save The Planet. Sometimes the old ways are still the best ways, especially when it comes to agriculture? Here’s an excerpt of a story at PRI, Public Radio International: “…The soil has been playing a mighty role in our climate ever since we’ve been a planet,” Ohlson says. It’s full of carbon fuel that helps plants and microorganisms thrive, but today’s industrial farming methods rip up the soil and release huge amounts of that carbon into the air. Ohlson argues that returning to no-till farming practices, which leave the soil undisturbed and carbon trapped underground, will help reverse climate change and solve other pressing environmental issues at the same time. “Everything we want for our planet above the soil line depends on the activity of those microorganisms below,” she says…”

Photo credit above: Tim McCabe/USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. “No-till planting is under way at an alfalfa field on a farm in Montgomery County, Iowa.”
The Climate Scientist Who Pioneered Geoengineering Fears It’s About to Blow Up. So we sit on our hands, collectively, for another decade or two, “waiting for more data”, and then realize we do, in fact, have a huge problem on our hands? There may be strong pressure for a quick fix, an attempt to cool the atmosphere by seeding the stratosphere with sulfate aerosols, basically conduct yet another grand experiment. Let’s hack the climate and see what happens. Here’s a clip from an interview at Motherboard: “…So the idea that huge swaths of the tropics might not be suitable for growing crops,” he went on, “is plausible. And if you’re unable to grow crops in huge swaths of the tropics, is that going to create political turmoil and migration? It could be a major disruption.” That, he says, is the likeliest reason we would see geoengineering attempted, and why we have to be prepared if politicians and increasingly desperate nations look for a quick climate fix…”
Italian Explorer Plans To Live on an Iceberg for Up To A Year. Where can I sign up for this? No e-mails (or bills) for a full year? I’m there. Here’s an excerpt of a story at Gizmag: “Italian explorer Alex Bellini has conceived an extraordinary plan to live alone on a drifting iceberg in northwest Greenland for up to a year, or until it melts away – whichever happens first. He aims to stay alive during this time in a tiny survival pod, and hopes his experience will encourage further discourse on climate change and the environment in general…”