Turning The Corner

It’s been a ponderous spring: cool, wet and utterly forgettable. No kidding, Paul. The drought is fading fast, lawns are green, lakes brimming with (chilly) water. “That’s all well and good, but am I going to be able to strip down to shorts, apply sunscreen and pretend it’s May this holiday weekend?”
Next question please.

Although far from perfect I’m still cautiously optimistic you’ll be able to salvage much of your 3-Day weekend outside. Saturday appears to be the driest day; an approaching warm front sparks T-storms Sunday into Memorial Day as dew points surge above 60F. A few misguided souls may accidently complain about the humidity by Sunday.

Timing warm frontal T-storms is difficult, but they often flare up at night, with some midday and afternoon sun. The model guidance I’m studying suggests that Sunday may bring the most widespread storms, a better chance of breaking out into a little hazy sun Memorial Day as highs brush 80F. A few downpours are likely – have an indoor Plan B ready to go, especially Sunday.

80s linger much of next week as the jet stream finally lifts north of Minnesota, allowing a more summer-like airmass to linger.

Next week may feel like July. Really!

Holiday Weekend Details. Saturday still looks like the driest day of the weekend, a south breeze with highs in the upper 70s to near 80F as sun gives way to increasing clouds. T-storms may rumble in Saturday night; the best chance of a few hours of (hard) rain Sunday. By Memorial Day we may break out on the warm side of the front, at least temporarily, with enough sun for highs topping 80F and another instability T-storm or two popping later in the day. Not perfect – but we’ve seen worse.

GFS Future Radar. California is experiencing a few spotty showers and T-showers, mainly over the Sierra Nevada and high deserts – just enough to settle the dust. Otherwise a dry forecast is shaping up into most of next week for the western USA; while a plume of Gulf moisture sparks heavy T-storms over the Plains and Upper Midwest by this weekend. Portions of Texas and Oklahoma may go from exceptional drought to flooding. New England trends cooler than average, a few waves of heavy showers and storms pushing across the Great Lakes into the Mid Atlantic region. Loop: NOAA and HAMweather.

7-Day Rainfall Outlook. NOAA is predicting some 3-4″+ rainfall amounts from the Texas Panhandle into Kansas and Missouri, some 1″ amounts as far north as Bismarck, St. Paul and Green Bay Sunday into Memorial Day. Storms rippling along a sharp temperature gradient may spark some 1-2″ amounts across much of New England by Thursday of next week.

Minnehaha Creek Unsafe For Paddling Due To High Water Levels. Here’s a clip from an article at The Star Tribune: “The Minnehaha Creek has reached dangerous levels for kayakers and canoers this Memorial Day weekend. On Wednesday, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District advised paddlers to stay off the creek because of the unsafe conditions. With high, fast-moving water, downed trees and other debris, some bridge underpasses aren’t navigable…”

Denver “Hailers” And Tornadoes. One supercell east of downtown Denver may have dropped several tornadoes yesterday, along with ping-pong to baseball size hail, enough to cover the ground in many communities. Denver International Airport experienced a ground-stop, at one point passengers were instructed to take cover as the tornadic storm passed just south of the field. More details from AP: “Flights are resuming at Denver International Airport after severe thunderstorms and a tornado warning forced planes to stay on the ground. Delays of about an hour and a half were reported Wednesday afternoon after a series of severe storms brought hail and strong winds to the area…”

Photo credit above: Chris Grenz in Denver.

Large Hail: Potential Tornado Tip-off. The same supercell that dropped a family of tornadoes east of Denver yesterday also unleashed a fusilade of large hail, as big as 3″ in diameter. That’s the topic of today’s edition of Climate Matters: “Severe storms close to Denver International Airport today forced planes to stay on the ground and travelers into tornado shelters. WeatherNation Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas has more on what’s causing the turbulent weather pattern.”

Dayton, We Have a Problem. A webcam operated by Ohio’s Department of Transportation showed evidence of a big back-up on I-70 north of Dayton, which was temporarily closed for a time Wednesday due to flash flooding from intense thunderstorms.

NOAA: Last Month Tied For Globe’s Hottest April. We’re off to a warm start over the northern hemisphere, and a brewing El Nino may further spike (global) temperatures the latter half of 2014. Here’s an excerpt from Climate Central: “…The 1.39°F departure from normal also makes this April one of the 10 most anomalously warm months ever recorded. The record belongs to February 1998, when El Niño conditions helped bump the global average temperature 1.55°F above normal. El Niño has the potential to develop later this year, but current conditions in the eastern tropical Pacific, where El Niño develops, aren’t quite there yet. If it does develop, El Niño could help keep global temperatures high or push them even higher. NOAA’s report also showed this was the sixth-warmest start to the year since recordkeeping began in 1880. While the globe is on track for one of its top 10-warmest years, the U.S. national temperature is near average ranking, thanks to a chilly winter for the eastern half of the country…”

Graphic credit above: “A map showing temperature anomalies across the globe in April 2014.” Credit: NOAA National Climatic Data Center.

Tornado Technology One Year After Moore Tornado. Here’s an interesting video and story at KEYE-TV in Austin, Texas, describing new advances in being able to predict the conditions favorable for tornadoes, although predicting specific tornado strikes will always be a short-term challenge. Average lead times may increase from 14 minutes today to as much as 30-40 minutes within 4-5 years. Here’s an excerpt: “Greg Carbin, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, is studying the computer model carefully and says “it shows some promise, especially in the relatively short time span of seven to 10 days of indicating favorable regimes for severe weather.” By combining climatology with sophisticated equations to model the atmosphere, supercomputers are creating experimental forecasts that could help meteorologists forecast severe weather outbreaks days, weeks, even a month in advance…”

February 19, 1884: The Enigma Outbreak. Was this one of the largest tornado outbreaks in America’s history? Stormstalker has a very interesting explanation and detail concerning a swarm of deadly tornadoes that left behind a staggering amount of damage; here’s an excerpt: “…The extent of tornado-related damage is uncertain, but is suspected to have been several million dollars, the equivalent of perhaps $100 million today. More than 10,000 structures were destroyed. The final death toll, too, is a complete mystery. While the conservative estimate is 178 — a terrible toll in its own right — many estimates have placed the final number as high as 1,200. A further 2,500 may have been injured during the outbreak. The system produced more than 37 significant tornadoes (F2 – F5) during its 15-hour duration, ranking it still among the most violent outbreaks on record…”

Map credit above: “Map of all reported tornadoes during the Enigma Outbreak. Note that the northernmost tornado tracks may actually have been downburst damage. It is likely that there were many more tornadoes that simply went unreported, and some tracks may have been tornado families.”

Could Gentle Caribbean Unleash a Devastating Tsunami? Here’s an excerpt of a story at LiveScience that made me do a double-take: “…The massive 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed close to 230,000 people was triggered by an earthquake along a subduction zone fault, where two of Earth’s tectonic plates collide. The earthquake lifted the seafloor, giving the ocean above a giant shove that generated the deadly waves. A similar fault exists along the Puerto Rico Trench. The Caribbean tectonic plate is sliding beneath the North American plate at the trench, and such a plate boundary can be very dangerous, Ballard said. Underwater landslides and volcanic eruptions can also cause tsunamis, and these hazards are present in the Caribbean…” (Image above: Wikipedia).

Want To Get Ahead in Life? Make Your Bed. If you have time click on the video of Admiral Bill McRaven’s commencement address at the University of Texas; here’s an excerpt from Military Times: “…But students at the University of Texas at Austin got a rare treat last weekend when McRaven delivered their commencement speech. McRaven, a 1977 UT grad, riffed on the school’s motto (“What starts here changes the world.”) to deliver the 10 lessons he learned during his SEAL training. Among them: If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed…”

Are Airplane Seats a Ticket to Infection? I wonder if I can wear my wet suit and scuba gear onto my next flight? No wonder so many people are now wearing masks on planes. I always thought that was an overreaction, until I read this story at ABC News. Watch the video. Here’s a clip: “…The study found that certain types of bacteria can survive for up to a week on the inside surfaces of aircraft cabins — including your armrest, your plastic tray table, the metal toilet button, the window shade and your seat pocket. To determine this, researchers at Auburn University took samples of all of these materials and contaminated them with two disease-causing germs — the superbug MRSA, which causes nasty wound and soft-tissue infections, and E.Coli O157:H7, which can lead to diarrhea and other more dangerous illnesses. MRSA, the researchers found, survived a week on the seat-back pocket, while E.Coli survived four days on the armrest…”

Ultimate Toy (Productivity Tool) For the 1% of the 1%? If you have an extra $100 million in your pocket and a hankering to get to London at supersonic speeds, you may be interested in the Aerion Supersonic Business Jet. Gizmag has details: “Aerion Corporation has upped the cabin size and added an extra engine to the first in its planned range of supersonic business jets currently on the drawing board. Designed with Supersonic Natural Laminar Flow (SNLF) wing technology that was tested in transonic wind tunnel tests and in NASA flight trials, the Aerion AS2 will now use a set of three smaller jet engines in place of its previous large two-jet design to provide quieter running, improved take-off performance, and longer range…”

The 10 Most Dangerous Cities for Pedestrians. I’m happy to see that Minneapolis – St. Paul isn’t on this Top 10 List, but when in Florida beware. Boing Boing has the complete list of safest and scariest – here’s an excerpt: “Which American cities are the least and most safe for human beings on foot? Here are the stats, from “Dangerous by Design 2014” [PDF], a study by the Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition. The report calculates a “Pedestrian Danger Index” to identify where a person who is walking is most or least likely to get hit by a car.  The top four most dangerous cities are all in Florida. The four most safe: Boston, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and NYC. People who are not white and people who are older than 65 are most at risk…”

Map: The Worst Places In The World To Be A Worker. The Washington Post has the story and additional details; here’s an excerpt: “The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), an alliance of regional trade confederations that advocates for labor rights around the world, debuted its Global Rights Index this week, ranking countries on a 1 (best) through 5 (worst) scale on the basis of how well workers’ rights are protected. The organization used 97 different indicators to compile its index, centered around the ability of workers to join unions, win collective bargaining rights and have access to due process and legal protections. The report evaluates labor rights in 139 countries — hence the reason for some gray areas on the map…”

Map credit above: ITUC.

Google Plans To Show Advertisements Through Your Thermostat and Car. One question: will these ads be served up based on Google’s algorithms of my behavior or the NSA’s? Some days I wonder. Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times: “…According to a December letter sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which became public on Tuesday, Google hopes to put ads “on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities.” How would this work? Imagine that it’s a cold winter day. The snow starts floating down, a wind kicks up and you go to your thermostat to kick up the heat. In Google’s world, that action could be met with an advertisement on your thermostat for a new wool sweater...”
Photo credit above: Jeff Swensen for The New York Times.Google hopes to put advertisements in Google cars and on the company’s automated thermostats, according to a government filing.

Everything Is Broken. Poorly-written software code makes it easier for hackers (and spying eyes) to gain access to your personal information. If you’re paranoid yet, you will be after reading this story at Medium; here’s an excerpt: “…We often point out that the phone you mostly play casual games on and keep dropping in the toilet at bars is more powerful than all the computing we used to go to space for decades. NASA had a huge staff of geniuses to understand and care for their software. Your phone has you…”

Masters Degrees Are As Common Now As Bachelor Degrees Were In The 60s. Vox.com has the details; here’s a clip: “It’s graduation time, an occasion for commencement speakers, academic regalia, and celebrating achievement. One achievement has become a lot more common over the past few decades: the master’s degree, the fastest-growing college credential in the US. More than 16 million people in the US — about 8 percent of the population — now have a master’s, a 43 percent increase since 2002…”

Volvo To Test Electric Road That Charges Buses As They’re In Motion. Here’s a clever approach – put the electrification into the roadway surface. But how to do that without shocking side-effects? Gizmag.com explains; here’s a clip: “Volvo has announced plans to study the potential for electric roads that charge buses as they’re being driven. The study will be carried out in partnership with the Swedish Transport Administration to further develop sustainable transport. A stretch of electric road may be built in Gothenburg for testing. Volvo has already been testing electric rails built into the road as a means of powering long-haul trucks. It also already produces environmentally-friendly electric buses that are used in Gothenburg….”

Climate Stories…

The Climate Context for “Unprecedented” Balkans Flooding. Another “cut-off” low pressure system was the culprit, yet another instance where weather systems slow or even stall for days or weeks at a time. Are we imagining this as a trend that’s on the increase or cherry-picking specific storms? The answer is still unclear, but there’s growing evidence that rapid warming of far northern latitudes is impacting jet stream winds and configurations, increasing the potential for weather systems that get stuck. Here’s a clip from Climate Central: “…The flooding event began on May 13 when an area of low pressure developed as warm, moist air from over the Mediterranean Sea clashed with colder air from the north. The low became cut-off from the jet stream, which would ordinarily usher the system across the region — instead, it remained parked over southeast Europe, dumping rain for several days…”

Photo credit above: “A flooded area is seen in Obrenovac, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) southwest of Belgrade, Serbia, Monday, May 19, 2014. Belgrade braced for a river surge Monday that threatened to inundate Serbia’s main power plant and cause major power cuts in the crisis-stricken country as the Balkans struggle with the consequences of the worst flooding in southeastern Europe in more than a century. At least 35 people have died in Serbia and Bosnia in the five days of flooding caused by unprecedented torrential rain, laying waste to entire towns and villages and sending tens of thousands of people out of their homes, authorities said.” (AP Photo).

The Bible Calls for Moral Action on Climate Change. Here’s the introduction of an Op-Ed from Jim Wallis at TIME.com: “To ignore climate change is to abuse the moral call to care for the environment, and generations to come will suffer. Some of the most inspiring words in the entire Bible are found in the opening pages of Genesis. Here we are told that humans were created in God’s image and given a divine mandate to care for Creation (Gen. 1:26-31). Our vocation—our calling—is to partner with God in preserving and sustaining the earth with all the creatures and species that God has made. The word used in most translations is “dominion,” and the true meaning is what we would today call “stewardship...”

File photo: Shutterstock.

Will Climate Change Affect The Future of Travel? Here’s a clip from an interesting perspective from petergreenberg.com: “…According to the assessment, more than 1.2 million people move to coastal areas within the United States each year. Today, those populations make up 164 million, or 50 percent of the country’s population. Many of these individuals move for better work opportunities, tourism included. Almost 5 million Americans live less than four feet above the local high tide level for their area. These areas also include hundreds of billions of dollars of property. Additionally, more than 180 million tourists travel to U.S. coasts each year….”

“Erring On The Side of Least Drama.” Why Climate Scientists Are Inherently Conservative. Here’s a video clip and story excerpt from americablog.com: “I’ve been writing for a while that predictions from climate scientists are consistently “wrong to the slow side” — a statement that, if true, adds even greater urgency to stopping carbon emissions. My favorite “wrong to the slow side” graphic is from the Copenhagen Diagnosis, the climate document produced ahead of the 2009 summit in Copenhagen. It shows loss of Arctic summer ice, both modeled and observed. In other words, IPCC models were run that showed the likely range of loss of Arctic summer ice, year by year, and over that, the actual, observed loss for the same time period was shown…”

Here Are Five National Landmarks Facing Climate Threats. Climate Central runs down the risk of sites threatened by long-term sea level rise; here’s an excerpt: “…The agency that sends astronauts to space and whose satellites monitor our planet also faces threats from sea level rise. Two-thirds of its facilities sit within 16 feet of sea level including launch sites at Johnson Space Center in Texas, and the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, and Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the first flight to the moon was launched. NASA has recognized the threat sea level rise poses to these and other sites and has installed sea walls and fortified beaches and dunes at some facilities, including Wallops, so rockets (and the occasional frog) can still take off…”

Photo credit above: “A test rocket being launched at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.” Credit: NASA Wallops Flight Facility

NASA Launch Pads Threatened By Climate Change, Scientists Warn. Picking up on the Climate Central story above, The Telegraph goes into more detail about the risk to NASA infrastructure around the USA; here’s an excerpt: “…A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found that five of the US space agency’s seven major facilities were threatened by surging water levels. Among the bases at risk is Kennedy Space Center in Florida’s Cape Canaveral, the launch point for the 1969 Moon landing and all of Nasa’s human space flights since. “According to Nasa’s planning and development office, rising sea levels are the single largest threat to the Kennedy Space Center’s continued operations,” the UCS report said…” (Photo credit: AP).

The Politics of Climate Change This Summer Will Be Worse Than Obamacare’s. My only point of disagreement with the author of this story, Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine, is that mitigating climate change, preventing a truly worst-case scenario, will in fact spark new technologies, innovations and industries that will put Americans to work. Infrastructure projects to make our cities and coastlines more resilient and storm/drought/flood-proof? That requires capital and labor. Here’s an excerpt of his story: “…The grimmest contrast between power-plant regulation and health care is that regulating carbon emissions creates almost no winners. There will be no equivalent of the millions of people newly granted access to medical care, no heartwarming stories of long-suffering patients seeing a doctor for the first time in years. Climate regulation doesn’t create a benefit. It doesn’t even prevent a loss. Its only goal is to mitigate the extent of the damage. And this is why, unlike carefully selected election-year issues like the minimum wage or equal pay, Obama is not picking this issue to help his party save Senate seats. He is doing this because, given the enormity of the stakes for centuries to come, there is no morally defensible alternative.”

Global Warming Threatens More Deadly, Everest-Like Avalanches. Here’s a video and story excerpt from NBC News: “…The April 18 avalanche, in which ice and snow swept away 16 Nepali sherpa guides, was the deadliest disaster on the 8,850-m (29,035-ft) Mount Everest and shocked the global mountaineering community. It was not the only disaster that could be linked to melting glaciers and the impact of climate change. In May 2012, more than 60 people, three Ukrainian tourists among them, were killed in the popular Mount Annapurna region in western Nepal after flash floods triggered by an avalanche washed away Nepali homes…”