Topsoil Moisture

An “Opportunity” For Showers Into Sunday

I keep a NOAA Weather Radio under my bed (cheapest form of life insurance around). I think it’s gone off once all summer. Yes, tornadoes are rare during a drought – a small, silver lining.

There aren’t many upsides to a crop-withering, lake-draining drought. We’ve always had floods and droughts, but man-made warming is turning up the dial. The wets are wetter and the dries are drier. The hydrological cycle is on fast forward (faster evaporation and when it does rain, the rain consistently falls harder). We will need new tools, methods and materials to reduce the impact of these wild swings and keep things going (and growing), no matter what an agitated Mother Nature throws at us.

I may have to plug the Doppler back in today with a few lines of showers and T-storms. After a drier Friday thundery weather returns for the weekend. A few lucky towns and farms could pick up a half or more of rain, but it won’t be the series of soakings we need to put a serious dent in the drought.

I guess at this point every little bit helps.

Thursday Future Radar

Fire Up The Doppler – Finally. NOAA’s NDFD precipitation totals may be a little light with the numbers shown above. The best chance of showers and T-storms comes today, again Saturday, but rainfall amounts will be all over the board; half an inch or more in some communities while a few miles down the road just enough falls to settle the dust. Such is the nature of fickle, convective, summer showers. It’s hit or miss (usually miss).

Unsettled Into Sunday, Then a Hot Start to Next Week. Clouds and welcome showers keep us in the upper 70s today and 80s Friday into Sunday. We break out into a sunnier, hotter airmass by Monday and Tuesday with highs in the low 90s, adding to the 22 days MSP has been at or above 90F since June 1.

NOAA NDFD Numbers for MSP
ECMWF Temperatures for MSP

More Dog Days To Come. Although Minnesota won’t be as (smoking) hot as the central Plains, I see a fairly steady run of 80s and a few 90s into the third week of August. Then again the Minnesota State Fair is coming, which is good for a few more 90s, right?

The canals that used to bring water to the fields of Caywood Farms have gone dry due to the drought. In Arizona, 99% of the land is undergoing a years-long drought.
Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Starving Cows. Fallow Farms. The Arizona Drought is Among the Worst in the Country. The Los Angeles Times and Yahoo News has the story; here’s a clip: “…In Arizona, 99% of the land is undergoing years-long drought that has accelerated. Large swaths of the region are now in extreme distress and the picture may well get worse, with less reliable mountain snowfall to feed streams and a morphing monsoon season that has only proved a temporary reprieve and even led to flooding. The state, where more than a third of all water can trace itself up the Colorado River to Lake Mead, will also be forced to make do with less beginning next year because of the lake’s dwindling supply. “Arizona is pretty much an irrigated state and we’ve managed our water resources generally well,” said Stephanie Smallhouse, a fifth-generation cattle rancher on the far outskirts of Tucson who is the president of the Arizona Farm Bureau. “But it’s near impossible to manage yourself out of a drought…”

Map: Elijah Wolfson for TIME. Source: Cloud to Street

Populations are Booming in Flood-Prone Areas, Especially in Developing Countries. has a summary of recent research: “The number of people living in flood-prone areas is growing faster than in other places, and at a much faster rate than scientists had previously expected, a study published Aug. 4 in the journal Nature finds. It’s a worrying sign that human settlements are not prepared for increased flood risks in the climate crisis.Researchers at Cloud to Street, a flood-tracking platform, used satellite images to estimate the scale of 913 large flood events across 119 countries, and the number of people exposed to them. They found that between 2000 and 2015, the total population living in areas exposed to flooding grew by between 58 and 86 million. That’s a growth rate ten times higher than estimated by previous studies, which relied on modeling rather than satellite imagery to assess the number of people exposed to floods...”

File: July 15, 2021
NASA Earth Observatory

A Summer of Fire-Breathing Smoke Storms. NASA’s Earth Observatory explains the difference between cumulonimbus and pyrocumulonimbus: “In 2000, atmospheric scientists from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) first reported that smoke plumes from intense wildfires could spawn towering thunderstorms that channeled smoke as high or higher than the cruising altitude of jets. These pyrocumulonimbus, or pyroCb, events wowed scientists at the time. Prior to that discovery, only explosive volcanic eruptions and extreme thunderstorms were thought to be capable of lofting material so high. Though the workings of these smoke-infused storm clouds have come into clearer focus, their increasingly extreme behavior in recent years has surprised and worried some scientists who track them. The latest encounters with these fire-breathing smoke clouds came in North America in June and July 2021 during an unusually warm fire season that arrived early in Canadian and U.S. forests...”

Flickr Creative Commons

Sunny Day Flooding is About to Become More Than a Nuisance. Here’s an excerpt of an explainer at (paywall): “… The study, published this June in Nature Climate Change, found that higher and more frequent tides will reach an inflection point in the 2030s, particularly along the West Coast and at islands like those in Hawaii, making what’s been labeled as “nuisance flooding” common. “Many areas along the East Coast are already experiencing recurrent impacts,” Thompson says. “In the mid-2030s, these other areas are going to catch up rapidly. So then it’s a transition from being a regional East Coast issue to a national issue, where a majority of the nation’s coastlines are being affected by high-tide flooding on a regular basis.” How regular? The study, which included researchers from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows that sunny-day floods will cluster in the fall, creating a nightmare for cities and businesses...”


Atlantic Hurricane Season is About to Ramp Up Dramatically. The lull in tropical activity may be coming to a close. Capital Weather Gang has an update: “...On Wednesday morning, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released their latest hurricane outlook calling for even greater odds of an above-average season, which runs through November. That would make 2021 the sixth consecutive year to feature above-average tropical storm activity. “NOAA’s updated outlook… indicates an above average season is likely,” said Matthew Rosencrans, a meteorologist at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, in a news conference on Wednesday. “The number of named storms is likely to be 15 to 21, [which includes] 7 to 10 hurricanes and 3 to 5 major hurricanes….”

The six CubeSat nanosatellites – each the size of a shoebox – will be launched in early 2022.
Picture courtesy of Blue Canyon Technologies.

How Tiny Satellites Could Help Warn the Next Big Hurricane. in Austin, Texas has more information on a new generation of smaller, cheaper, polar orbiting satellites that may provide critical data and improve hurricane track and intensity forecasts: “…While geostationary satellites are, well, stationary, polar orbiting satellites circle the Earth, taking measurements from all longitudes as the planet rotates. The problem with polar orbiters is that it takes them 12 hours to complete a full trip around the globe. In that time, an area of interest could become an organized system or storm. The TROPICS satellite constellation would reduce the lag, offering a detailed look and and giving forecasters new information every 30 to 40 minutes. For this to work, the six CubeSats must be launched in a very specific orbital configuration. In early 2022, the nanosatellites will be sent up two at a time on three separate trips. Each pair will share an orbit at a 30-degree angle to the Equator...”

Ford Slated to Spend More on EVs Than Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles in 2023. The Detroit News reports: “For the first time in its 118-year history, Ford Motor Co. plans to spend more on electrified vehicles than it does on internal combustion engine vehicles starting in 2023, an executive said Monday. Speaking at an event hosted by the bank Barclays, the Blue Oval’s chief operating officer for North America, Lisa Drake, mentioned the 2023 timeline while discussing the automaker’s investments in electric vehicles. Earlier this year, Ford said it was increasing its investments in electrification to $30 billion through 2025…”


Toyota (Finally) Releases 15 New Electric Vehicles by 2025. The future may not be hydrogen, after all. The Verge has details: “Toyota, an early pioneer in electrification that has since fallen far behind its competitors, finally announced an electric vehicle strategy that will result in 15 new battery-electric vehicles released by 2025. The company, which helped pave the way for companies like Tesla and others by proving that vehicles with alternative powertrains could be immensely popular, also unveiled a new concept EV at the Shanghai Motor show called the BZ4X. The electric SUV concept will serve as a starting point for other models with the BZ (which stands for “Beyond Zero”) branding in the future. Toyota did not reveal any details or specifications for the BZ4X, but it did say the vehicle would be released in China and Japan later this year…”

The system is energy efficient because it delivers power directly from the electrical grid to a truck’s motors.
Felix Schmitt for The New York Times

What if Highways Were Electric? German is Testing the Idea. The New York Times (paywall) has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…At one level the idea makes perfect sense. The system is energy efficient because it delivers power directly from the electrical grid to the motors. The technology saves weight and money because batteries tend to be heavy and expensive, and a truck using overhead wires needs only a big enough battery to get from the off-ramp to its final destination. And the system is relatively simple. Siemens, the German electronics giant that provided the hardware for this test route, adapted equipment that has been used for decades to drive trains and urban street cars. At another level the idea is insane. Who’s going to pay to string thousands of miles of high voltage electrical cable above the world’s major highways?…”

The cryostat used to hold Google’s quantum processors.

Do “Time Crystals” Upend Physics As We Know It? Quanta Magazine has the story: “In a preprint posted online Thursday night, researchers at Google in collaboration with physicists at Stanford, Princeton and other universities say that they have used Google’s quantum computer to demonstrate a genuine “time crystal.” In addition, a separate research group claimed earlier this month to have created a time crystal in a diamond. A novel phase of matter that physicists have strived to realize for many years, a time crystal is an object whose parts move in a regular, repeating cycle, sustaining this constant change without burning any energy. “The consequence is amazing: You evade the second law of thermodynamics,” said Roderich Moessner, director of the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden, Germany, and a co-author on the Google paper…”

85 F. Twin Cities high on Wednesday.

82 F. average high on August 4.

79 F. MSP high on August 4, 2020.

August 5, 1904: A Detroit Lakes woman is hit by lightning. It melts her hairpins and the steel in her corset, but does not kill her.

THURSDAY: Few showers, T-storms. Winds: S 10-15. High: 79

FRIDAY: Intervals of sun, drying out. Winds: N 5-10. Wake-up: 65. High: 85

SATURDAY: Showers and T-storms, some heavy. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 65. High: 81

SUNDAY: Lingering showers, few rumbles. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 67. High: 82

MONDAY: Hot sunshine returns. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 68. High: 92

TUESDAY: Steamy sunshine, PM T-storm. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 71. High: 92

WEDNESDAY: Some sun with a cooler breeze. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 67. High: 84

Climate Stories…

In this Thursday, July 15, 2021, 2021 file photo, a regional train in the flood waters at the local station in Kordel, Germany, after it was flooded by the high waters of the Kyll river. This summer a lot of the places hit by weather disasters are not used to getting extremes and many of them are wealthier, which is different from the normal climate change victims. That includes unprecedented deadly flooding in Germany and Belgium, 116-degree heat records in Portland, Oregon and similar blistering temperatures in Canada, along with wildfires. Now Southern Europe is seeing scorching temperatures and out-of-control blazes too. And the summer of extremes is only getting started. Peak Atlantic hurricane and wildfire seasons in the United States are knocking at the door.
Sebastian Schmitt/dpa via AP, File

This Year’s Summer of Climate Extremes Hits Wealthier Places. The Associated Press has perspective: “As the world staggers through another summer of extreme weather, experts are noticing something different: 2021′s onslaught is hitting harder and in places that have been spared global warming’s wrath in the past. Wealthy countries such as the United States, Canada, Germany and Belgium are joining poorer and more vulnerable nations on a growing list of extreme weather events that scientists say have some connection to human-caused climate change. “It is not only a poor country problem, it’s now very obviously a rich country problem,” said Debby Guha-Sapir, founder of the international disaster database at the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. “They (the rich) are getting whacked…”

Climate Central

Increasing Demand for Cooling. Nights are warming faster than days during the summer months, adding to an enhanced and growing demand for AC. Climate Central explains: “As temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, our need for air conditioning will increase as well. Cooling Degree Days (CDDs) describe how much cooling is needed to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature and can help determine changing energy demands. About 95% (235 of 246) of locations had an increase in the number of CDDs since 1970, indicating that cooling demand has risen in these places. We also see more homes being built with central air conditioning across the U.S. Higher usage of air conditioning raises several challenges. Air conditioners contain potent greenhouse gases, rely on fossil fuel-intensive power grids, and cost us money. Improving building and air conditioning efficiencies would reduce wasted energy. And replacing coal and natural gas with renewables, like wind and solar, will allow us to stay cool without making the planet warmer…”


A Florida City Wanted to Move Away from Fossil Fuels. The State Just Made Sure It Couldn’t. Grist has the post; here’s an excerpt: “…No state-level policies in Florida require reducing planet-heating emissions, and some federal and state lawmakers deny the science of human-caused climate change. So it’s been up to cities and towns to do what they can, like buying electric school buses and powering municipal buildings with renewable energy. Increasingly, local governments are ramping up their ambitions. But around the country, the gas industry has aggressively lobbied against local climate policies while simultaneously trying to get state legislatures to strip cities of their ability to restrict fossil fuels. That fight was about to come to Florida...”

Permafrost, seen at the top of the cliff, melts into the Kolyma River outside of Zyryanka, Russia, in July 2019. A new study has found that methane is being released not only from thawing wetlands but also from thawing limestone.
Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post

Scientists Expected Thawing Wetlands in Siberia’s Permafrost. What They Found is “Much More Dangerous”. The Washington Post (paywall) reports: “Scientists have long been worried about what many call “the methane bomb” — the potentially catastrophic release of methane from thawing wetlands in Siberia’s permafrost. But now a study by three geologists says that a heat wave in 2020 has revealed a surge in methane emissions “potentially in much higher amounts” from a different source: thawing rock formations in the Arctic permafrost. The difference is that thawing wetlands releases “microbial” methane from the decay of soil and organic matter, while thawing limestone — or carbonate rock — releases hydrocarbons and gas hydrates from reservoirs both below and within the permafrost, making it “much more dangerous” than past studies have suggested…”

BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE BILL: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Biden’s bipartisan win leaves progressives thirsting for more (Politico), in the infrastructure bill, a recognition: climate change is a crisis (New York Times $), bipartisan $1T Senate infrastructure bill focuses on nuclear, carbon capture, transmission (Utility Dive), bipartisan infrastructure deal wouldn’t remove all lead pipes (HuffPost), five key energy components of the bipartisan infrastructure bill (The Hill), infrastructure bill protects forests for climate resilience (E&E $), recycling industry hails ‘major victory’ in infrastructure bill (E&E $), some Republican senators snipe at $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill (Reuters), the infrastructure deal could create pipelines for captured CO2 (The Verge), infrastructure proposal creates a program to cut emissions. Critics say it’s missing major pieces.”(Washington Post $)

The bipartisan group of Senate negotiators speak to reporters just after a vote to start work on a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 28, 2021. From left are Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Bipartisan Bill Leaves Out Key Climate, Clean Energy Steps. Associated Press has the story: “The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package unveiled by the Senate includes more than $150 billion to boost clean energy and promote “climate resilience” by making schools, ports and other structures better able to withstand extreme weather events such as storms and wildfires. But the bill, headed for a Senate vote this week, falls far short of President Joe Biden’s pledge to transform the nation’s heavily fossil-fuel powered economy into a clean-burning one and stop climate-damaging emissions from U.S. power plants by 2035. Notably, the deal omits mention of a Clean Electricity Standard, a key element of Biden’s climate plan that would require the electric grid to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydropower…”

A Brain Drain Among Government Scientists Bogs Down Biden’s Climate Ambitions. The New York Times and Yahoo News reports: “…President Donald Trump’s battle against climate science — his appointees undermined federal studies, fired scientists and drove many experts to quit or retire — continues to reverberate six months into the Biden administration. From the Agriculture Department to the Pentagon to the National Park Service, hundreds of jobs in climate and environmental science across the federal government remain vacant. Scientists and climate policy experts who quit have not returned. Recruitment is suffering, according to federal employees, as government science jobs are no longer viewed as insulated from politics. And money from Congress to replenish the ranks could be years away…”

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Case for Climate Realism. Somewhere between paralyzing gloom and doom and sheer apathy lies the appropriate course for climate action. Andrew Freedman reports for Axios: “…Climate change is not an existential cliff that we’ll suddenly fall off of, with no turning back. It’s more like a hill we’re sliding down at ever-increasing speed. We can choose to alter course at any time by hitting the brakes and slashing emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, emanating from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.But the longer we wait, the faster we’ll be traveling, and the more effort it will take to slow down and achieve the cuts that are needed. And we’ve already waited a long time to start pumping the brakes. Optimism has its place in climate change discourse…”


How Journalists Should Report the Weather. Because climate change is flavoring all weather now. A story at in Ireland caught my eye; here’s a clip: “…There are several ways that journalists can report weather events in the context of climate change. Climatologist Michael Mann said that he believes part of the problem is that there are too few environmental and science journalists on staff. “This often forces other reporters to cover climate-related topics and they’re less well equipped to sort out legitimate science from agenda driven anti-science. But even the best-trained journalists can fall victim to this framing, owing to the fractious and confusing nature of the public discourse on climate change. “Often the issues are more on the editorial side than the journalistic side. One solution is to schedule regular round table discussions where leading scientists and science communicators conduct background discussions with editorial boards, complementing the one-on-ones between scientists and journalists...”