NOAA Takes Steps To Catch Up to ECMWF

For the record, I’d like American Exceptionalism to apply to weather model accuracy. My take: The National Weather Service is the best on the planet, but in recent years the ECMWF (European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts) has been more accurate. Not perfect, but better than NOAA’s models many days.

That may change with the recent overhaul of NOAA’s GEFS (Global Ensemble Forecast System) FV3, which reduces resolution to 25km, with better physics – able to peer out 35 days into the future. Stay tuned, and good luck with all these odd acronyms.

I come in peace with good weather-news, at least today and tomorrow, when highs should top 80F in the metro. The next cool front is moving slower, and we should salvage a lake-worthy Saturday. Temperatures start to cool Sunday with a few PM instability showers. Daytime highs hold in the 50s the latter half of next week, when there will be NO doubt in your mind that fall is imminent.

We warm up again second week of October. More 70s. More daydreaming.

Deerfield Trail Lake photo courtesy of Pete Schenck.

NOAA Upgrades Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS). NOAA explains: “…With the inclusion of the FV3 dynamical core, GEFS resolution has increased from approximately 33km to 25km, and the number of individual forecasts input into the ensemble has increased from 21 to 31. These changes will allow models to run at a higher resolution of detail and provide better accuracy. Additional upgrades include extending the forecast length from 16 to 35 days, along with improvements to the physics. GEFS attempts to quantify the amount of uncertainty in a forecast by varying the known inputs to multiple forecasts, thereby generating a range of possible outcomes. “This GEFS upgrade continues the ongoing revolution of numerical modeling that began with the introduction of ensemble modeling into operations over 25 years ago,” said Louis W. Uccellini, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Weather Service…”

Friday Storm Potential Up North. NOAA’s NAM model shows a few T-storms firing up, best chance central and northern Minnesota during the PM hours on Friday.

Touch of Mid-October Next Week. After basking in the low 80s today and near 80F on Saturday temperatures fall off next week; probably unable to climb out of the 50s for daytime highs the latter half of next week.

Lukewarm Second Week of October? After next week’s chilling correction I see more of a zonal, west to east wind flow returning within 10-14 days, meaning 60s and a few 70s possible. Don’t write warmth off just yet.

Why the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Has Spun Out of Control. Jack Henson reports for Capital Weather Gang: “…One of the most obvious culprits is La Niña, whose arrival was confirmed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Sept. 10. La Niña, a semiregular cooling of the eastern tropical Pacific, tends to reduce the wind shear that can impede Atlantic hurricane formation. A La Niña is only present about every third hurricane season, though — so by itself, it doesn’t fully explain why 2020 is so extraordinarily active. Sizzling oceans, supercharged by climate change, may be an even bigger factor. Most of the tropical and subtropical Atlantic, including the Gulf of Mexico, has run warmer than average through the season, with sea surface temperatures (SSTs) at or near record values in some areas…”

NOAA Declares La Nina is Here. The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang discusses the potential implications (for hurricane season and the upcoming winter) by a cooling phase in the Pacific Ocean: “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared Thursday that a La Niña pattern had become established, having bearing on the remainder of the hurricane season and the upcoming winter. La Niña conditions are likely to continue through at least wintertime, potentially returning to a more relaxed “neutral” state by spring. La Niña, which means “the girl” in Spanish, is the opposite of an El Niño. La Niña features unusually cool ocean waters in the equatorial tropical Pacific Ocean and can influence weather patterns beyond the Pacific. The expectation of a La Niña pattern was a contributor in NOAA’s early August forecast of an “extremely active” hurricane season...”

Map credit: “Current sea surface temperature anomalies in degrees Celsius. Note the cool waters in the eastern Pacific commensurate with La Niña.” (Tropical Tidbits).

California Fires Tornadoes Had Winds Up to 125 MPH. Capital Weather Gang has the jaw-dropping specifics: “California’s Creek Fire, which has torched almost 300,000 acres and become California’s largest wildfire on record, was still only a third contained as of Wednesday. Like other blazes this year, it grew rapidly during periods of hot and dry weather with strong winds, burning tens of thousands of acres in a single night. Now we know that the fire featured a rare phenomenon that demonstrates just how extreme it was, with the National Weather Service’s announcement Wednesday afternoon that two fire tornadoes were associated with the blaze. The two vortices, one rated an EF2 while the other was an EF1, were produced by the fire, as the extreme heat from the blaze and towering smoke plume above it essentially created its own weather...”

August Complex Fire Now the Largest in State History. ABC7 in San Francisco has the story: “The August Complex Fire currently burning in Northern California is the largest fire in the state since record-keeping began, according to data from CAL FIRE. Several other fires that started in August have also climbed the list of the largest in recent history, including the SCU and LNU Lightning Complex fires and the North Complex Fire…”

Image credit: “The August Complex Fire in Northern California is now the largest fire in the state since record-keeping began. Several other fires that started in August have also climbed the list of the largest in recent history, according to data from CAL FIRE.”

Few Resources, Old-Growth Forest Allowed for Fire’s Growth. And a warmer (drier) climate is part of the equation, according to Associated Press: “…Numerous studies in recent years have linked bigger U.S. wildfires to global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas, especially because climate change has made California much drier. A drier California means plants are more flammable. The Bobcat Fire was one of more than two dozen major wildfires burning across California, including five of the largest in state history. Twenty-six people have been killed. Officials were investigating the death of a firefighter at another Southern California wildfire that erupted earlier this month from a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used by a couple to reveal their baby’s gender...”

Google Maps Get a Covid-19 Layer. TechCrunch explains: “Google today announced an update to Google Maps that will bring a new COVID-19 layer to the service to help you better understand the number of cases in a given area. With the pandemic continuing to spread in many countries — and ahead of what many fear will be a second wave — Google Maps users can now enable this feature and see a color-coded map based on the number of cases per 100,000 people, as well as labels that indicate whether numbers are trending up or down...”

Image credit: Google.

Shocking: Wilderness the Size of Mexico Lost Worldwide in Just 13 Years, Study Finds. Here’s the intro from The Guardian: “Wilderness across the planet is disappearing on a huge scale, according to a new study that found human activities had converted an area the size of Mexico from virtually intact natural landscapes to heavily modified ones in just 13 years. The loss of 1.9m square kilometres (735,000 sq miles) of intact ecosystems would have “profound implications” for the planet’s biodiversity, the study’s authors said. Using mostly satellite imagery, 17 scientists across six countries examined the human footprint across the globe and how it had changed between 2000 and 2013...”

Image credit: “The world’s wilderness is disappearing at a huge scale, study finds.” Photograph: HANCOCK/EPA.

Tesla Lays Out Path to an Electric Car Cheap Enough for Most People. Here’s an excerpt from Fortune: “…At its heart, the plan is to vertically integrate a large portion of Tesla’s battery production, “from mining the ore to the complete battery pack,” as Musk put it. That control will allow for design and technology innovations that Musk says will dramatically slash costs for Tesla’s cars. Tesla currently works with partners like LG and Panasonic to produce batteries, and it apparently won’t end those relationships anytime soon. But it will dramatically expand its own battery production capacity, and, executives said, make those batteries for less than its partners do today. Based on its various innovations, Tesla projects it can reduce the cost of its batteries by more than half within about three years (though Musk and Baglino didn’t reveal much about Tesla’s current production costs)…”

76 F. maximum temperature in the Twin Cities on Thursday.

68 F. average high on September 24.

81 F. high on September 24, 2019.

September 25, 1998: A wind gust to 78 mph is reported at Staples Municipal Airport, just to the north of Staples in Wadena County. In Todd County, trees are blown down in the city of Staples. Buildings are damaged at a farmstead on the northwest edge of the city. A roof is torn off of Stern Rubber Company, and rooftop heating and cooling units are ripped off McKechnie Tool and Engineering. In Mille Lacs County, 3 inch hail is reported, damaging many automobiles.

September 25, 1929: Willmar experiences a deluge that produces 5.22 inches of rain in 24 hours.

FRIDAY: Warm sun, breezy. Winds: S 10-20. High: 83

SATURDAY: Lukewarm sun, few T-storms up north. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 58. High: near 80

SUNDAY: Cooler with a few instability showers. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 57. High: 69

MONDAY: Damp and unpleasant. Showers likely. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 51. High: 61

TUESDAY: Peeks of sun, less wind. Winds: W 10-15. Wake-up: 50. High: 63

WEDNESDAY: Gusty with AM sun. Few PM showers. Winds: NW 15-30. Wake-up: 48. High: 59

THURSDAY: Windblown showers, downright nasty. Winds: NW 15-30. Wake-up: 43. High: 56

Climate Stories…

Is Global Warming Happening? A significant percentage of Americans say yes – they can see the symptoms in their back yards. Here’s an excerpt from The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication: “This version of the Yale Climate Opinion Maps is based on data from autumn 2020. Americans are interested in climate news and require information about the global warming’s impacts and solutions in order to inform their decision making about policies to reduce global warming or prepare for the impacts. Such opinions vary, however, depending on where people live. So why would we rely on just one national number to understand public interest in climate change news at the state and local levels? Public opinion polling is generally done at the national level, because local level polling is very costly and time intensive. Our team of scientists, however, has developed a geographic and statistical model to downscale national opinion results to the state, congressional district, and county levels. We can now estimate public opinion across the country, revealing a rich picture of the diversity of Americans’ interest in learning more about climate change…”

“The One Chance We Have”. Is the Pandemic of 2020 a pivot-point in the struggle for climate action? Here’s an excerpt from “…The Pandemic could have been the decisive moment in the fight against climate change – an opportunity for leaders to bail out the environment and pivot the planet toward a greener future. Instead, CNN has found that some of the biggest fossil fuel-producing countries are injecting taxpayer money into propping up polluting industries. And exclusive new data shows these decisions are taking the world a step closer to a climate catastrophe…”

Image credit: Climate Action Tracker.

Polls Show Support For Climate Action, Widespread Impacts: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Substantial majorities of American voters want the government to take action to address climate change, including generating all of its electricity from clean energy within 15 years, according to a new poll. The survey, conducted by Climate Nexus, Yale University, and George Mason University, also found more than half of Republican voters saying climate change is a very or somewhat serious problem for their local area and supporting US involvement in the Paris agreement, and 41% supporting the Green New Deal. A second poll, from Public Policy Polling, also found 60% of voters across eight battleground states have been impacted by extreme, climate-driven events (including wildfires, hurricanes, and extreme heat), or know someone who has. The polls come before the first presidential debate, which according to its moderator, will not include questions on climate change, though 74% of voters want to see debate moderators ask climate questions.” (Climate action: The Guardian, Vice, Roll Call, NPR, The Hill; Impacts: Mother Jones)

Lifestyle Choices Aren’t Enough to Save the Planet. Here’s What Could. Climate scientist (and friend) Michael Mann has an Op-Ed at Time: “…We don’t need to ban cars; we need to electrify them (and we need that electricity to come from clean energy). We don’t need to ban burgers; we need climate-friendly beef. To spur these changes, we need to put a price on carbon, to incentivize polluters to invest in these solutions. Though air travel accounts for only a paltry 2% of global emissions, whether or not climate scientists should fly consumes far more than 2% of my Twitter timeline. Unfortunately, sometimes doing science means traveling great distances, and we don’t always have the time or luxury to take slower low-carbon options. We have a job to do, after all. But even still, a single scientist, or even hundreds of scientists, choosing to never fly again is not going to change the system. Purchasing carbon offsets for flights is a viable means of decarbonizing your air travel, for now. However, the true solution, pricing carbon, requires policy change…”

Illustration credit: Harry Campbell for TIME.

California to Ban Sales of New Gas-Powered Cars Starting in 2035. Wow, we’ll see if (once again) California leads the nation on the inevitable transition to electric-powered transportation. Here’s the intro to a story at The Wall Street Journal: “California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Wednesday requiring all passenger cars sold in the state to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. Mr. Newsom said in a statement that the widespread adoption of zero-emission vehicles would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help to combat climate change. The transportation sector is responsible for more than half of carbon pollution in California, the Democrat said. The announcement comes as Mr. Newsom has emphasized climate change as a key cause of the historically disastrous fires that have ravaged the state in the past month. Experts have said California has become more susceptible to fast-moving, destructive wildfires due in part to climate change...”

Photo credit: Paul Douglas.

Warming Seas Spawning Stronger Hurricanes. Climate Central takes a look at the trends: “Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic, known as the Main Development Region for tropical systems (depressions, storms, and hurricanes), have risen 1.85°F in the last century. The likelihood of tropical cyclones (the term scientists broadly use to represent hurricanes, typhoons, etc) reaching Category 3 status has increased since 1979. Warming water and air from climate change creates the potential for stronger hurricanes, with heavier rain and higher storm surge, increasing the risk of flooding when they make landfall...”

2020 Hurricane Season is a Turning Point in Human History. Eric Holthaus writes for OneZero: “…In general, the consensus among scientists is that tropical storms — the weakest category of tropical cyclones — won’t become substantially more common as the world warms. However, top-end hurricanes, the kind that rend shorelines and change history, almost certainly will. In fact, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this year, these changes are already being observed. The chance that a tropical cyclone will reach Category 3 or higher is now 16% greater than it was late last century — just a couple decades ago. Hurricanes are forming further north, producing heavier rainstorms, lingering longer, and intensifying more rapidly than they have in the past, all because of human activity. A few decades from now, it may be common to have a system blossom from a tropical storm to a Category 4 monster in just over 24 hours the day before landfall as Hurricane Laura did. It will always feel terrifying…”

Arctic Sea Ice Drops Below a Grim Benchmark in 2020. Mashable has details: “Atop Earth, ice is vanishing. The National Snow and Ice Data Center announced Monday that Arctic sea ice, which has historically blanketed the expansive Arctic ocean, fell to its lowest extent for the year. Called the “Arctic sea ice minimum,” the event occurs annually near the end of summer. 2020, however, met a grim benchmark. For only the second time in the satellite record, sea ice fell below 4 million square kilometers, or about 1.5 million square miles. Only 2012, which holds the record for the lowest ice extent, had less ice. The diminished sea ice this year is part of a declining trend in the now 42-year Arctic satellite record. It’s a consequence of a rapidly heating planet. “The last 14 years (2007-2020) are the 14 lowest years in the record,” said Walt Meier, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. “In other words, we are in a changed Arctic from the 1980s and 1990s and earlier...”

Climate Disruption is Now Locked In. The Next Moves Will Be Crucial. A post at The New York Times (paywall) provides perspective: “…What we’re seeing today, this year, is just a small harbinger of what we are likely to get,” said Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan. Things are on track to get “twice as bad” as they are now, he said, “if not worse.” Earth has already warmed roughly 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, since the 19th century. The most optimistic proposals made by world governments to zero out emissions envision holding warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. Nations remain far from achieving those goals...”

File image: NASA.

Two American Crises: The Parallels Between Climate Change and the Pandemic. Here’s a clip from a post from “…I don’t fear that people will become numb. What I fear is that information will be suppressed,” she says. “I fear that people will get the wrong information, and they’ll continue blaming themselves and continue thinking that they don’t have the power to change these things.” Emissions dropped at the beginning of the pandemic, but Atkin says solving climate change requires long-term solutions around reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Investing in long-term solutions can prevent trillions of dollars in yearly damages from climate-related disasters, she says. One stark parallel between COVID-19 and climate change is how the crises disproportionately impact Black, Brown and poor communities...”

Photo credit: Paul Douglas.

Voters Want to Use Climate Change Policies to Rebuild the Economy After COVID. Here’s an excerpt from Vice News: “…A majority of U.S. voters want to see corrective climate change policies and the creation of jobs in the clean energy sector as a way to recover from the mismanagement and economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll. The poll, conducted by VICE Media Group and several partners, found that 54% of Americans disapprove of President Trump’s handling of the pandemic, while 78% of Americans want to see Congress take a more aggressive stance in stamping out the coronavirus for good. Two of the most supported methods of recovering were job training for workers who left the fossil fuel industry and a carbon tax on companies with high annual emissions...”

Image credit: “Voters support climate policy as part of the economic recovery from coronavirus.”