Gentle Reminder: Every T-storm Is Dangerous
There’s a pernicious, pervasive belief that technology will save us – from ourselves. I’m not so sure. Apps on smartphones are great, but no replacement for common sense.<p>In recent years I’ve run into coaches who don’t evacuate the ball field until and unless “they can see lightning”. Thunder? Rain? No problem – let the kids play!
That’s risky, considering any rumble of thunder implies that lightning is nearby. Lightning can travel up to 10 miles, horizontally. And just because the rain has stopped doesn’t mean the lightning risk has passed. It’s smart to wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunderclap before heading back out onto the field. Remember the “30-30 Rule“.
There have been 12 lightning fatalities across the USA this year. It pays to be paranoid.
No complaints today or tomorrow; the nicer day of the weekend. A wrinkle of cold air aloft sparks a few pop-up T-storms on Sunday; a couple hours of showers. Summer is on full display next week with a streak of 80s – the best chance of T-storms Wednesday & Friday.
All in all a fairly quiet, benign, reasonable weather pattern. No complaints!
Photo credit: Mitch Dobrowner.
Lightning Fatalities in 2017, To Date. 5 lightning-related deaths so far in Florida, which is still the most lightning-prone state in the USA. More details via NOAA.
Wettest 12 Month Period on Record. The Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service tweeted this out yesterday. 40.72″ precipitation (rain and melted snow) since August of 2016, making this the wettest 12-month period since 1837
(Much) More of the Same. Heaviest rains over the next 84 hours are predicted for the southern Plains with potential flash flooding most likely across Oklahoma and Arkansas. Heavy T-storms bubble up east of the Rockies, but the western USA continues to trend drier. Model guidance: NOAA and Tropicaltidbits.com.
Southern Soaking. Roughly “half a tropical storm’s worth of rain” is forecast to fall on the southern Plains and Mid South into the Carolinas, as much as 3-7″ of rain in the next week, according to NOAA models.
It Wasn’t Even a Hurricane, But Heavy Rains Flooded New Orleans as Pumps Faltered. The Washington Post reports: “…Panic and rough memories have surfaced across New Orleans this week as residents cope with yet another reminder that parts of the city sit as much as seven feet below sea level. And even though U.S. taxpayers have spent nearly $15 billion rebuilding the city’s flood protections since 2005, few here are confident the fixes can keep the city dry for long. Unlike during Hurricane Katrina, the problem over the weekend wasn’t the 133 miles of levees and flood walls that protect New Orleans from the tidal surges of the Gulf of Mexico or Lake Pontchartrain, which hangs over the northern and eastern edge of the city. Instead, parts of New Orleans were underwater because the city’s hundreds of miles of drains and pumps couldn’t bail rainwater fast enough…”
Photo credit: “
Part of the problem was that eight of the huge pumps meant to move floodwaters weren’t working. Six smaller “constant duty” pumps also were out, general superintendent Joseph Becker said Tuesday. “I was upset about that because everything that they had represented to the community indicated that all of the pumps were working, everything was fine, we were in great shape, we were prepared for hurricane season,” Stewart said. “And come to find out, in a typical rainstorm, the pumps could not do their job.” The storm was unusually heavy, with 9.4 inches (24 centimeters) in three hours. National Weather Service meteorologists told local news outlets that’s the sort of storm with a 1 to 2 percent chance of happening in a year…”
Disaster and Neglect in Louisiana. Last year’s 20-30″ drenching in the Baton Rouge area, from a cluster of persistent thunderstorms, is still having consequences, as reported by Climate Central: “…In some places, more than 2 feet of rain fell over three days, overtopping rivers and canals. The flooding killed 13 and affected hundreds of thousands, causing major damage to tens of thousands of homes. Research has shown it was one of the worst storms yet to have been clearly linked to climate change. The estimated $10.3 billion in damage ranked it as one of the worst floods in American history, but the national reaction has been muted in the year since. (Northern Louisiana was hit by flooding that caused $2.3 billion in damage earlier in 2016.) The storm in August had no name and it affected a neglected corner of the country. At the same time, the Olympic Games and a divisive national election reduced news coverage, leaving national reports on the flooding scarce. A New Orleans Times-Picayune movie critic wrote a week into the disaster that “locals have every reason to worry that recovery funds will be just as scarce…”
Photo credit: “A small boat transports flood victims down Old Hammond Highway in east Baton Rouge on Aug. 14, 2016.” Credit: Travis Spradling/The Advocate.
Insurer: Miami Is More Vulnerable to Hurricanes Like Andrew. Here’s an excerpt from a story at AP: “Almost 25 years have passed since a Category 5 hurricane struck south of Miami, and the city’s vulnerability to catastrophic storm damage has grown exponentially, according to a new insurance underwriters’ analysis. At the time, Hurricane Andrew was the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history, causing more than $26 billion of damage in Florida’s most populous areas, including $15.5 billion in insurance payouts. Stringent building code enforcement followed in Miami, but so did population growth, coastal development and climate change. “Our concerns lie with the fact that even though we’ve made good changes, 25 years later you have a much larger population living in Florida, and people forget what can happen or they don’t know what could happen,” said Monica Ningen, chief property underwriter for the U.S. and Canada at Swiss Re...”
File photo credit: “In this Aug. 25, 1992, file photo, rows of damaged houses sit between Homestead and Florida City, Fla. Almost 25 years after Hurricane Andrew struck south of Miami, a new insurance underwriters’ analysis says the city’s vulnerability to another Category 5 hurricane has grown exponentially.” (AP Photo/Mark Foley, File)
NOAA: “Active Hurricane Season” Ahead. Here’s an excerpt of a tropical update/forecast that went out from NOAA NHC on Wednesday: “Today, NOAA issued the scheduled update for its 2017 hurricane season outlook. Forecasters are now predicting a higher likelihood of an above-normal season, and they increased the predicted number of named storms and major hurricanes. The season has the potential to be extremely active, and could be the most active since 2010. Forecasters now say there is a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season (compared to the May prediction of 45 percent chance), with 14-19 named storms (increased from the May predicted range of 11-17) and 2-5 major hurricanes (increased from the May predicted range of 2 to 4). A prediction for 5 to 9 hurricanes remains unchanged from the initial May outlook…”
Gambling with Mother Nature. People living on or near the coast are already gambling, and the risks are only increasing as water levels continue to rise. Here’s an excerpt from The Miami Herald: “For Floridians with no debt on their homes by or near the water, dropping the flood or other insurance previously required by their mortgage lenders could become a greater and greater gamble over time — especially if they live in areas affected by rising tides and sea level. Sunshine State homeowners who must insure their properties are buying policies from an industry that already is reacting to what it sees as global climate change — and its accompanying potential for more frequent flooding and storms and escalating damage claims. That reaction is one of caution that ultimately could call for dramatically increasing premiums — or even declaring some areas too risky to underwrite at any cost. While politicians still debate whether climate change or the impact — rising sea levels — are real, insurers already are preparing, especially in states like Florida. Besides the cost, the results could impact where people can live...”
Do You Sea the Change? Due to a combination of factors, including land subsidence, sea level rise isn’t even across the board – some areas are seeing much larger increases in water levels than others. Grist explains: “It’s been flooding a lot lately and new research might explain why. It turns out that sea level along North Carolina’s coast south of Cape Hatteras has been rising six times faster than the long-term global rate, according to scientists at the University of Florida. While it’s easy to think that sea-level rise is a uniform phenomenon, it actually differs from place to place, making some places “hotspots” of rising waters. The researchers believe the North Carolina hotspot to be the result of two large-scale atmospheric patterns — the El Niño cycle and the North Atlantic Oscillation — which intersect offshore and push up water. These patterns could be behind sea level rises that have inundated coastal communities in recent years. Silver lining: If the researchers are right, this might help them more accurately predict when and where tidal flooding will happen in the future, since these hotspots tend to move up and down the coast with shifting atmospheric pressure…”
Photo credit: Mike Cohen
Tracking Sea Level Rise. The paper referenced above is available here, courtesy of AGU’s Geophysical Research Letters.
What is Turbulence? It’s Scary, But No Cause for Alarm. It pays to be a little paranoid on every flight – but there is risk, especially when you unfasten your seat belt to go to the restroom. Here’s an excerpt from The Washington Post: “…Carmichael said that during the past three to five years, the introduction of tablets in cockpits has greatly assisted pilots who previously relied mostly on voice communications with controllers and dispatchers. He also sees the value of equipping cabin-crew members with the gadgets. “Flight attendants should have tablets so they can see what’s going on with turbulence and plan their service around it,” said Carmichael, adding that NCAR staff presented the idea to the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA at a conference in 2014…”
(To understand turbulence from a flight attendant’s point of view, read the presentation, “Turbulence in the Cabin,” by Candice Kolander.)
This Is How Much of the World is Currently On Fire. Popular Science takes a harrowing look at global wildfires: “…Here in the United States the Forest Service is reporting that 2017 is shaping up to be a worse than average fire year based on acres of federal, private and state land burned. So far, 5.6 million acres of land has burned this year, or 1.8 million acres more than the ten year average of 3.8 million acres burned by this time. Some states like Nevada are saying that 2017 is the worst fire season in 15 years, while Montana has already used up much of its firefighting budget, even as much of the state remains in drought conditions according to the US Drought Monitor. The state may have to tap into reserve and federal funding, but that isn’t the only cost. Brent M. Witham, a 29-year-old firefighter from Mentone, California, was killed cutting down a tree while working on the Lolo Peak Fire…”
Senate Restores Funding for NASA Earth Science and Satellite Servicing Programs. Some good news to report, courtesy of Space.com: “An appropriations bill approved by a Senate committee July 27 would restore funding for several NASA Earth science missions slated for termination by the administration as well as a satellite servicing program. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations bill, along with two other spending bills, during a markup session. The CJS bill, offering $19.529 billion for NASA overall, had cleared its subcommittee July 25...”
Image credit: “NASA’s Restore-L mission would develop satellite servicing technology and refuel the Landsat 7 spacecraft.” Credit: NASA.
Can Solar Panels Be Recycled? Here’s an excerpt of a timely blog post: “
British and French governments last month committed to outlaw the sale of petrol- and diesel-powered cars by 2040, and carmaker Volvo pledged to only sell electric or hybrid vehicles from 2019. The number of electric cars in the world passed the 2m mark last year and the International Energy Agency estimates there will be 140m electric cars globally by 2030 if countries meet Paris climate agreement targets...”he drive to replace polluting petrol and diesel cars with a new breed of electric vehicles has gathered momentum in recent weeks. But there is an unanswered environmental question at the heart of the electric car movement: what on earth to do with their half-tonne lithium-ion batteries when they wear out?
Minnesota Sees Growing Wind Energy Capacity. Here’s a clip from AP, The Associated Press: “New data from the U.S. Department of Energy show that Minnesota’s wind energy capacity increased nearly 10 percent last year. Wind power accounts for nearly 18 percent of the electricity generated in the state, the Minnesota Public Radio reported . The data show that Minnesota ranks seventh in the nation for wind energy. The report said the state has added enough new wind energy last year to power about 150,000 homes. Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said the cost of wind power is competitive with other forms of electricity generation. “Wind is now turning out to be one of the lowest cost alternatives — competitive with natural gas, and with other forms of electricity,” he said. “That’s why we’re seeing such a huge growth in the wind energy in Minnesota...”
Target Corp. agreed to buy 100 megawatts of output from an Infinity Renewables wind project in Kansas. Power from the 474-megawatt Solomon Forks wind facility will help offset the energy used at 150 Target stores in the area, Santa Barbara, California-based Infinity said in an emailed statement Wednesday. Terms weren’t disclosed…” (File photo: Star Tribune).
Super-Colossal Wind Turbines May Be On The Horizon. We’re talking offshore wind turbines here, some potentially mammoth in size, as reported by NBC News: “When it comes to building things, Eric Loth has his head in the clouds. This engineering professor at the University of Virginia wants to construct a wind turbine standing more than five times higher than the Statue of Liberty, with rotor blades longer than the Washington Monument is tall. Not only that, the 1,650-foot-high mega-turbine would change along with the weather, bending its blades gracefully to cope with hurricane-strength winds. And all of this would happen dozens of miles out at sea. Typical wind turbines are about 80 meters, or 260 feet, in height. Why build one so big?…”
File image: Kayana Szymczak, NYT, Redux.
Why Health Care Policy Is So Hard. The New York Times has good background; here’s an excerpt: “…Consumers often don’t know what they need. In most markets, consumers can judge whether they are happy with the broducts they buy. But when people get sick, they often do not know what they need and sometimes are not in a position to make good decisions. They rely on a physician’s advice, which even with hindsight is hard to evaluate. The inability of health care consumers to monitor product quality leads to regulation, such as the licensing of physicians, dentists and nurses. For much the same reason, the Food and Drug Administration oversees the safety and effectiveness of pharmaceuticals…”
This Type of Videogame May Actually Harm Your Brain.Fortune reports: “Video game effects on the brain have been heavily debated for decades, with a chief concern being that action video games like Call of Duty influence aggressive and violent behavior. Some experts believe these adverse effects have been overstated, but a new study from the Université de Montréal has found habitually playing them may actually harm your brain. Researchers had about 100 people play shooter games like Call of Duty, Killzone, and Borderlands 2, along with 3D Super Mario games for 90 hours. They found that participants who favor their brain’s caudate nucleus — an area associated with the brain’s reward system and habit formation — had less grey brain matter in their hippocampus after playing action games…”
The Secret to Office Happiness Isn’t Working Less – It’s Caring Less. A subtle, yet important distinction, according to the author at Quartz: “We live in an age of “total work.” It’s a term coined by the German philosopher Josef Pieper just after World War II—describing the process by which human beings are transformed into workers, and the entirety of life is then transformed into work. Work becomes total when all of human life is centered around it; when everything else is not just subordinate to, but in the service of work. Leisure, festivity, and play come to resemble work—and then straight-up become it. Even our co-circular habits play into total work. People work out, rest and relax, eat well, and remain in good health for the sake of being more productive. We believe in working on ourselves as well as on our relationships. We think of our days off in terms of getting things done. And we take a good day to be a day in which we were productive...”
People in Rich Countries are Dying of Loneliness. A story at Quartz made me do a double-take: “Sociologists have long been warning about the dangers of increased isolation thanks to aging populations, scattered families, and cultures that promote the individual over the collective. Now, new research analyzing previous studies suggests people who fall into the loneliness trap are 50% more likely to suffer an early death than those who remain socially connected. Previous studies have found that as many as a third of Americans are lonely….Such “epidemics,” while not confined to rich countries, are linked to prominent features of affluent culture: longer life expectancy, decreasing marriage rates, people having fewer children, more people getting divorced, and more people living alone…”
First-Borns are the Worst Drivers, Study Shows. I knew it. Here’s a clip from The Independent: “Younger siblings, take heart: you’re probably a better driver than your parents’ golden child, the first-born. According to a new study, the eldest child in a family is most likely to speed, get fines for motoring offences and have road traffic collisions. And at the other end of the scale, youngest children tend to be the safest drivers. The research, carried out by Privilege Car Insurance, assessed the driving habits of 1,395 motorists. They found that 89 per cent of older siblings are likely to speed, 47 per cent to annoy other drivers by cutting them off, 46 per cent to hog the middle of the road and 35 per cent to get fined...”
How America Lost Its Mind. Kurt Andersen reports at The Atlantic: “…Each of us is on a spectrum somewhere between the poles of rational and irrational. We all have hunches we can’t prove and superstitions that make no sense. Some of my best friends are very religious, and others believe in dubious conspiracy theories. What’s problematic is going overboard—letting the subjective entirely override the objective; thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings are just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, whereby every individual is welcome to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, all of us free to reinvent ourselves by imagination and will. In America nowadays, those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts…”
Image credit: R. Kikuo Johnson.
Drink Tea and Wine to Reduce Flu Symptoms, Says Research. Hey, it’s science – have another glass of wine. Harper’s Bazaar reports: “When you start feeling under the weather and want to stop flu in its tracks, your answer could be as simple as heading to your wine rack or putting on the kettle. Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine discovered that a compound found in foods such as red wine, blueberries and black tea could help gut bacteria to prevent severe influenza infections in mice, reports Spectator Health. It is thought that consuming the plant flavonoid compound before flu develops may reduce symptoms and flu’s impact…”
Weather Presenter Loses It When a Giant Seagull Drops By. Check out the video, courtesy of The Dodo: “Tara Jean Stevens, co-host of the Canadian morning show Vancouver’s Breakfast Television, is responsible for delivering the forecast each day, but she certainly didn’t see this one coming. While presenting the weather on Tuesday, Stevens was suddenly forced to share the airwaves with a scene-stealing seagull. The bird, it seems, had decided to rest his wings directly in front of the station’s live skyline camera, making him look gargantuan. It was almost like he knew exactly what he was doing. “I won’t let him distract me, though,” Stevens said. Turns out, that was a promise she couldn’t keep...”
Shortest Scheduled Flight in the World? It goes 1.7 miles and lasts all of 90 seconds. No peanuts on this flight, according to Quartz.
The Closest Man to Trump is a Stealth Climate Believer. Who knew? The Denver Post has more details: “When it comes to climate change, the biggest influence on President Donald Trump may turn out to be his new chief of staff, John Kelly. The retired four-star Marine general shares the military’s pragmatic view of global warming. Under Kelly’s command from 2012 to 2016, U.S. Southern Command played a central role in Pentagon planning for the higher temperatures, more extreme weather and rising sea levels that it sees as threatening national security. Now advocates hope he will bring that view into the White House. For more than a decade, military leaders have warned that climate change is aggravating social tensions, destabilizing regions and feeding the rise of extremist groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State…”
Photo credit: Carlos Tischler, NurPhoto/Sipa USA/TNS. “U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly in Mexico City on Feb. 23, 2017. Kelly told a group of Latin American leaders on Friday, May 5, 2017, that the United States’ insatiable demand for illegal drugs has fueled the violence in Central America that’s driving migrants to the United States.”
Sailing to the North Pole, Thanks to Global Warming. Here is an excerpt of an interview at NPR:
PEN HADOW: “We are not going to be able to carry on mindlessly taking whatever we want from the environment. And I think a lot of people are looking to this as a symbol for a new debate.
KWONG: Because if two sailboats can get there, a whole universe of economic activity opens up around shipping and fishing. Both Russia and Denmark have filed claims for the North Pole, and other countries want to expand their Arctic territory, too. Unlike the South Pole, the North Pole has no legal protections. Hadow wants to shine a spotlight on the vulnerability of this region by being the first to get there.
HADOW: It is a strange challenge and ambition indeed – working very hard to put together a project that you don’t actually want to succeed.…”
File photo credit: Esther Horvath.
Yes, You Can Blame Climate Change for Extreme Weather. Not all extreme weather, but does a warmer (wetter) climate amplify heat, drought and rainfall rates? Yes. Connecting the dots with wildfires, hurricanes and severe local storms isn’t nearly as clear-cut, at least not yet. Here’s an excerpt from TIME.com: “...For years, careful climate scientists — and the politicians like Obama who listened to them — have avoided saying that any particular event was directly caused by climate change, even as they called for urgent action to address the issue. But researchers now say they can use a variety of approaches to show that climate change is all but certainly causing and worsening extreme weather events. A comprehensive new report from scientists at 13 federal agencies, published this week by the New York Times as it awaits review by the Trump administration, highlights the change in thinking. The scientists behind the report, leaders in their respective fields, say researchers can use statistical analysis, modeling and other methods to determine how much climate change increased the likelihood of a given event…”
Graphic credit: Lehmann et all, 2015.
Potential for “Super Heat Waves”? Here’s an abstract of a new paper at ScienceDaily: “Heatwaves amplified by high huidity can reach above 40°C and may occur as often as every two years, leading to serious risks for human health. If global temperatures rise with 4°C, a new super heatwave of 55°C can hit regularly many parts of the world, including Europe. A recently published study by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) — the European Commission’s science and knowledge service — analyses the interaction between humidity and heat. The novelty of this study is that it looks not only at temperature but also relative humidity to estimate the magnitude and impact of heat waves. It finds out that the combinations of the two, and the resulting heatwaves, leave ever more people exposed to significant health risks, especially in East Asia and America’s East Coast...”
Image credit: “Millions to be exposed to extreme Humidity and heat globally.” Credit: Image courtesy of European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)
There’s a Wildfire Burning in West Greenland Right Now. That can’t be good. Here’s an excerpt from Climate Central: “It’s not just the American West and British Columbia burning up. A fire has sparked in western Greenland, an odd occurrence for an island known more for ice than fire. A series of blazes is burning roughly in the vicinity of Kangerlussuaq, a small town that serves as a basecamp for researchers in the summer to access Greenland’s ice sheet and western glaciers. The largest fire has burned roughly 3,000 acres and sent smoke spiraling a mile into the sky, prompting hunting and hiking closures in the area, according to local news reports…”
Image credit: “The Sentinel-2 satellite captured a wildfire burning in western Greenland.” Credit: Pierre Markuse/flickr.
9 Takeaways from the National Climate Report. Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times: “A scientific report on climate change obtained by The New York Times, part of a regular federal climate assessment, shows that warming is already having a large effect on the United States. It’s hot out there: It is getting warmer everywhere, but in the contiguous United States, the West is warming the fastest. While temperatures in the country (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) have increased an average of 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900, the Southwest and the Northwest, as well as the Northern Great Plains, have seen a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees or more. A degree and a half may not seem like much, but even slight changes in temperature can have widespread effects…”
How Climate Change Became a Question of Faith. Here’s an excerpt from The Christian Science Monitor: “…Evangelical antipathy toward climate science, however, is far from uniform, and there has been a growing movement of environmental activism among the politically active subgroup. Groups such as the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which include more than 300 senior evangelical leaders in the United States, say they are convinced that “it is time for our country to help solve the problem of global warming.” But other scholars see a decades-long effort by conservatives to discredit climate science as the primary force behind the current skepticism. “The kind of language we’re hearing now dates back to the early 1990s, and comes from the conservative think tanks who – as the Kyoto Protocols were being put together – began releasing articles and books and reports all emphasizing uncertainty about global warming,” says John Cook, professor at George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication...”
Photo credit: David Goldman/AP.
How Fossil Fuel Money Made Climate Change Denial the Word of God. God promised there wouldn’t be another flood, he said nothing about a gradual man-made warming trend. He’s in control, but he gave us free will; the ability to make smart, long-term decisions – or greedy, short-sighted choices in the name of special interests. Here’s an excerpt from Splinter: “…Conservative groups, funded by fossil fuel magnates, spend approximately one billion dollars every year interfering with public understanding of what is actually happening to our world. Most of that money—most of the fraction of it that can be tracked, anyway—goes to think tanks that produce policy papers and legislative proposals favorable to donors’ interests, super PACs that support politicians friendly to industry or oppose those who are not, or mercenary lobbyists and consultants, in some instances employing the same people who fought to suppress the science on smoking. In terms of impact, however, few investments can rival the return that the conservative donor class has gotten from the small cohort of evangelical theologians and scholars whose work has provided scriptural justifications for apocalyptic geopolitics and economic rapaciousness...”
Illustration credit: Jim Cooke/GMG.