Winter Outlook is Wonderfully Unknowable

This time of year brings spine-tingling clarity, a creeping sense of dread over what comes next. What will the winter be like, Paul? “Cold and snowy!” I yell, before changing the subject to the Twins.

“But what about the length of caterpillar stripes? Al Roker saw his shadow! My right knee aches – ‘gonna be a bad one. The almanac says…”

Spare me.

I’m open to whatever works, but there’s no evidence (anyone) can accurately predict winter weather months in advance. NOAA reports ENSO-neutral conditions in the Pacific. No unusually warm or cool water to nudge our winter in any specific direction. Plan on being surprised.

Soak up cool, dry weather today, because showers arrive tonight and spill into part of Sunday. A few storms over far southwest Minnesota may turn severe tomorrow. The mercury surges into the 80s Monday, before cooling into the 50s for highs much of next week.

If anyone asks (doubtful) the last time metro highs held in the 50s was May 19. We’ll see a few more 70s.

Keep the faith!

Warmer, Soggier September. Dr. Mark Seeley has another solid post at Minnesota WeatherTalk, including a statewide overview of September: “As we near the end of the month it appears that most climate stations will report a mean monthly temperature that ranges from 3 to 5 degrees F above normal, only the 2nd significantly warmer than normal month of 2019. Extremes were 91°F at Marshall on the 18th, and 31°F at Celina (St Louis County) on the 14th. With respect to rainfall, September of 2019 will be among the six wettest in history on a statewide basis. Many areas received between 5 and 10 inches for the month. There were several new daily rainfall records set during the month, including 4.28″ at Lake Wilson and 4.30″ at Pipestone on the 12th. At least 70 new daily rainfall records were set within the state climate network during the month. A handful of climate stations reported over 10 inches of rainfall for the month...”

Map credit: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Severe Storm Risk Far Southwestern Minnesota Sunday Night. The map and information above is courtesy of the Twin Cities National Weather Service office.

Predicted Rainfall by Next Thursday Morning. ECMWF shows the heaviest rains sliding southof Minnesota, with 3-5″ amounts for much of Iowa. Some 1″+ amounts are possible for Minnesota over the next 5-6 days. Map: WeatherBell.

Mellowing Trend by Mid-October? No prolonged descents into numbing weather anytime soon. Hiccups of chilly air? Absolutely. But the pattern won’t favor a period of sustained cold for Minnesota over the next 1-3 weeks.

Slow-Moving Atlantic Storms Like Imelda and Dorian Are Growing More Common. Dr. Jeff Masters reports for Weather Underground Category 6; here’s an excerpt: “...Imelda, Dorian, Florence, Harvey, and Idai are examples of storms we have been seeing more often in recent decades: ones that move more slowly over land, resulting in increased flooding and damage. The forward speed of tropical cyclones (which includes all hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions) has decreased globally by about 10% since 1949, according to a 2018 paper in the journal Nature by NOAA hurricane scientist Dr. Jim Kossin. As a result of their slower forward motion, these storms are now more likely to drop heavier rains, increasing their flood risk. Most significantly, the study reported a 20% slow-down in storm translation speed over land for Atlantic storms, a 30% slow-down over land for Northwest Pacific storms, and a 19% slow-down over land for storms affecting the Australia region. (See my June 2018 post, Observed Slowdown in Tropical Cyclone Motion May Portend More Harvey-Like Rainstorms.)...”

September 1 visible image: AerisWeather and Praedictix.

World’s Forests Are Burning – Damage Goes Far Beyond Amazon. Here’s a clip from Fortune: “From the Amazon to central Africa, forests are burning. In late August, for example, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research said that the number of fires in the country—largely set by humans—had jumped 84% this year over the same period in 2018. The amount of Amazon forest cover lost in Brazil in that span spiked 39%. Last year, according to Global Forest Watch, the tropics overall lost some 8.9 million acres of primary rain forest—an area equal to the size of Belgium. But not just rain forests are aflame: Greenpeace estimates that massive blazes in Siberia this year have released more than 166 metric tons of CO2, nearly equal to the annual emissions of 36 million cars…”

First Gas Station in America to Ditch Oil for Electrical Charging. has details: “The first gas station in the U.S. that has been completely transitioned from a petroleum station to exclusively charging EVs opened Thursday in Takoma Park, Maryland. RS Automotives, the local gas station, has been around since 1958. Depeswar Doley, owner of the station since 1997, said he was already unhappy with the way oil and gasoline companies structure contracts — such as limiting the use of multiple suppliers, including clauses that extend contracts when a certain volume of sales is not met and limiting maintenance support...”

Photo credit: “The first ever gas station to be converted to electric charging for electric vehicles opens in Takoma Park, Maryland on Thursday, September 26, 2019.” Electric Vehicle Institute.

Bio-Plastic Made From Fish Scales? Kudo to the (inventors) that create a viable alternative to traditional plastic. They deserve whatever windfall comes their way. Big Think reports: “Single-use plastics — among them, straws, cutlery, shopping and sandwich bags — are small, but they have a huge impact on the environment. The vast majority of these plastics end up in landfills or the ocean, where they can take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose. And when you consider that the world consumes about 1 million plastic bottles per minute, the implications of plastics consumption are pretty staggering. To help offset these environmental costs, University of Sussex graduate Lucy Hughes recently used fish waste to create a compostable alternative to single-use plastic. The translucent material, called MarinaTex, is made from fish scales and skin – materials that break down in food-waste bins within about four to six weeks...”

Photo credit: Dyson.

Millions of Americans Have Had Suicidal Thoughts Because of Politics. Another story at Big Think got me…thinking. Here’s the intro: “Many Americans say following politics is causing them to lose sleep, friends and peace of mind, with a small share even reporting suicidal thoughts, according to new research.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, is among the first to examine the social, psychological and physical costs of political involvement. After surveying a representative sample of 800 Americans, the results showed that approximately:

  • Forty percent reported experiencing stress caused by politics
  • Ten percent reported non-specific physical health ailments caused by politics
  • About 10 to 25 percent reported “thinking, caring, and focusing on politics more than they want, saying and writing things they later regret, making bad decisions, ignoring other priorities, and feeling empty at the end of major political events”
  • Four percent considered suicide as a result of politics…”

Graphic credit: Yale Climate Connections.

How the U.S. Hacked ISIS. NPR has a fascinating story; here’s an excerpt: “…The one thing on which everyone seemed to agree is that ISIS had found a way to do something other terrorist organizations had not: It had turned the Web into a weapon. ISIS routinely used encrypted apps, social media and splashy online magazines and videos to spread its message, find recruits and launch attacks. A response to ISIS required a new kind of warfare, and so the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command created a secret task force, a special mission, and an operation that would become one of the largest and longest offensive cyber operations in U.S. military history. Few details about Joint Task Force ARES and Operation Glowing Symphony have been made public…”

Graphic credit above: “Neal stands in a room with military cyber operators from Joint Task Force ARES to launch an operation that would become one of the largest and longest offensive cyber operations in U.S. military history.” Josh Kramer for NPR.

Buttigieg Is Right: College Football is “Problematic”. So says the author of a post at New York Magazine’s Intelligencer. Do you agree? Here’s an excerpt: “...College football is a sport that brings in more than a billion dollars a year and one that is under increased public pressure to bring at least some of that money closer to the players who are putting their minds and bodies on the line for free each week. So far, that money is just going to the middle-aged, mostly white men ordering them around: Clemson itself has three assistants who make more than $1 million a year. In a sign of just how imbalanced this has become, for the first time, in 2018, college athletic spending for coaches outpaced spending on scholarships. It is the sort of factoid that gives up the game…”

Social Poverty. The only metric of success that truly matters is one we usually choose to ignore. A post at Pocket me was a subtle (yet blunt) reminder that social media only goes so far – we are wired to (need) face to face human interaction: “…. Regardless of one’s sex, country or culture of origin, or age or economic background, social connection is crucial to human development, health, and survival.”  In 2010, Holt-Lunstad published research showing that people who had weaker social ties had a 50 percent increased likelihood of dying early than those with stronger ones. Being disconnected, she showed, posed danger comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and was more predictive of early death than the effects of air pollution or physical inactivity…When the Kaiser Family Foundation surveyed rich countries with the Economist in 2018, it found 22 percent of people in America, always or often felt lonely, lacked companionship, or felt left out or isolated. People crave a sense of belonging. And yet we focus on how to look better, exercise efficiently, and work effectively, often neglecting to take the necessary steps to build and sustain social ties…”

Apple Watch Can Save Your Life. The Seattle Times has a story that has me reconsidering wearing a smart watch: “Bob Burdett was on his bike just before noon on Sept. 15, heading to meet his son for an afternoon of mountain biking at Riverside State Park. He was several miles from his South Hill home and was going to be early for his 12:30 p.m. rendezvous with his son. As he coasted to the bottom of Doomsday Hill, Burdett, 62, approached a turn at a little more than 20 mph. His bike veered right. His body flew left. Then his helmeted head hit the ground so hard it knocked him unconscious — hard enough for his Apple Watch to feel it. “A hit that hard could have killed me if I weren’t wearing it,” Burdett said…”

Photo credit: “Bob Burdett, right, holds up his Apple Watch, now scratched and damaged from a devastating bicycle crash on Spokane’s Doomsday Hill. As he lay bleeding and unconscious from a head wound on Sunday, Sept. 15, the watch automatically called his son, Gabe, left, and emergency services, based on the watch sensing a hard crash.” (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review).

Babies on a Plane. Is this a good idea? The Guardian reports: “Being stuck on a long-haul flight within earshot of a crying baby could be a thing of the past for passengers on Japan Airlines (JAL), after the carrier unveiled an online booking tool that indicates where toddlers will be seated. When passengers with children aged between eight days and two years old reserve their seat, a child icon automatically appears on the seat plan, alerting other passengers who have yet to select their seats…Some travelers love the idea. Others lament a general intolerance towards fellow passengers…”

67 F. official high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

67 F. average high on September 27.

62 F. high on September 27, 2018.

September 28, 1983: Late summer-like temperatures arrive in Minnesota with 91 degrees at Montevideo and 90 degrees at Elbow Lake.

September 28, 1895: A ‘furious wind’ at Pleasant Mound in Blue Earth County blows down grain stacks and corn shocks.

SATURDAY: Some sunshine as clouds increase. Winds: E 5-10. High: 60

SATURDAY NIGHT: Rain arrives. Low: 51

SUNDAY: Showers likely, possible thunder. Winds: SE 10-20. High: 62

MONDAY: Warm sun, slight thunder risk. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 60. High: 83

TUESDAY: Showers and T-storms slowly taper. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 68. High: 73

WEDNESDAY: Mostly cloudy, late shower risk. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 50. High: 59

THURSDAY: Patchy clouds, coolest since mid-May. Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 46. High: 57

FRIDAY: Partly sunny, a little nicer. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 44. High: near 60

Climate Stories….

GOP Congressman Introduces Bipartisan Carbon Tax Bill. Details via TheHill: “A new bill introduced by Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) would place a price on carbon and invest revenue in infrastructure. The bipartisan Market Choice Act co-sponsored with Democratic Reps. Salud Carbajal and Scott Peters of California aims to reduce emissions and invest in infrastructure projects such as those for highways and bridges. It would do so by replacing the federal gasoline tax with a tax on carbon emissions from sources of fossil fuel combustion like power plants. “Efforts to reduce climate risk should protect our Nation’s economy, security, infrastructure, agriculture, water supply, public health, and public safety and there is bipartisan support for pursuing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through economically viable, broadly supported private and public policies and solutions,” the text of the bill reads…”

Increasingly, Oil and Gas Executives Realize They Need a Plan to Address Climate Change. Here’s the intro to a story at The Washington Post: “In a closed-door meeting of oil and gas executives this summer in Colorado Springs, industry lawyer Mark Barron offered a bold proposal: Energy companies must accept that fossil fuels are helping to drive climate change. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s real, or not real, or what the issues are,” said Barron, who heads the energy litigation arm of Baker Hostetler. “That ship has sailed from a political perspective.” Barron added that any American younger than 40 had grown up learning that climate change is “an existential crisis that we need to address.” The recording of the June 24 meeting of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), which was obtained by The Washington Post, highlights a growing schism between the Trump administration and key players in the fossil fuel industry...”

Graphic credit: Sarah Grillo. Axios.

Category 4 Hurricane Lorenzo Presents Ominous Climate Signal. Capital Weather Gang provides perspective: “…It’s also only the 10th major hurricane on record east of the 40 degrees west marker. Five of those have occurred in the past decade, a number that National Hurricane Center forecaster Eric Blake called “probably no coincidence.” Ocean water temperatures in the corridor swept over by Lorenzo are up to a few degrees warmer than their former average baseline, making the lower atmosphere replete with fuel to spin up a beastly storm. Hurricanes are the atmospheric equivalent of large heat engines; with more thermal heat input by the ocean as seas continue to warm, scientists have concluded that more of these higher-end storms are likely in the future. A summary of available research from NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory notes that “tropical cyclone intensities globally will likely increase.” An increase in the most intense tropical cyclones, Category 4s and 5s, may already be underway…”

Image credit: “Hurricane Lorenzo is a Category 4, unusually far east in the Atlantic.” (NOAA/RAMMB)

Italy and France Prepare for Imminent Collapse of Mont Blanc Glacier. This can’t be good. Daily Beast reports: “…Tuesday evening, Italian civil protection authorities took the extreme measure of closing down the Italian side of Mont Blanc due to the imminent threat of around 9 million cubic feet of ice breaking away from the Planpincieux glacier on the Grandes Jorasses mountain on the Mont Blanc massif. To get an idea of how big that is, that much ice would make 67.3 million gallons of water if it melted. Courmayeur’s mayor Stefano Miserocchi called the evacuation after a damning report by the Safe Mountains Foundation that showed new fissures in the ice. The glacier has been moving at a rate of between 20 and 24 inches a day, which has authorities concerned that it could crumble at any moment. Extreme heat this summer, followed by torrential warm rains this fall, have only made matters worse…”

Photo credit: The Independent. “The Planpincieux glacier (seen on the left) on the southern slopes of the Grandes Jorasses in the Mont Blanc massif.” ( Wikimedia Commons )

Glacier Could Crash Soon, Scientists Say: Climate Nexus reports: “Authorities have closed roads and evacuated buildings in the Italian Alps after scientists warned Wednesday that a massive chunk of a glacier is in danger of collapsing. Experts say a 250,000 cubic meter section of the Planpincieux glacier on Grande Jorasses peak of the Mont Blanc massif could break off at any time as the glacier’s movement has increased rapidly. “This phenomenon once again testifies that the mountain is in a phase of strong change due to climatic factors, therefore it is particularly vulnerable,” Stefano Miserocchi, the mayor of Alpine resort town Courmayeur, said in a statement. The announcement comes on the heels of a devastating UN report on the state of the world’s oceans and ice, which finds that glaciers are increasingly endangered due to climate change, threatening the world’s high mountain economies and communities that rely on glacial melt and snow runoff for agriculture and drinking water–and bringing more wildfires to places like the Arctic.” (AP, NBC, USA Today, New York Times $, The Guardian).

Kathryn Murdoch Steps Out of the Family Shadow to Fight Climate Change. A story from John Schwartz at The New York Times (paywall) caught my eye; here’s a clip: “…So this could be awkward. But to Ms. Murdoch, it is all part of her moment to go public on some 13 years of behind-the-scenes climate activism. “I’m very comfortable staying in the background and continuing to work quietly,” she said, but “I’ve decided doing that means I’m not working hard enough, I’m not doing everything in my power to do.” Ms. Murdoch said that she actually got the inspiration to take on climate change from that Al Gore talk at the Fox retreat in 2006. The former vice president presented a version of the slide show that had just been turned into the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” In particular, the urgency of the climate crisis jolted her. “I decided to switch everything I was doing,” she said. “I wanted to be able to look my children in the eye and say ‘I did everything I could…’”

Photo credit: “Credit: Hilary Swift for The New York Times.

Arctic Ice is Melting Faster Than Expected. These Scientists Have a Radical Idea to Save It. Mother Jones has the post; here’s an excerpt: “…Glaciers, polar land, and sea ice are rapidly melting, much faster than many scientists expected, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report on oceans and the cryosphere released Wednesday reiterated. During a five-day heatwave this summer, Greenland lost more than 60 billion tons of ice, including the biggest loss in a 24-hour period since record-keeping began. Recent projections warn that Arctic summers could be nearly ice-free in 10 to 40 years. Arctic ice levels are both a primary indicator of rising global temperatures and a key determinant of how bad climate change might get. Serious ice loss means sea levels rise, more heat is absorbed by the ocean and planet, and weather and ocean currents could change…”

Photo credit: Krista Kahl/Ice911.

Q&A With Policy Wonks Who Wrote Jay Inslee’s Climate Plans. Here’s a clip of a series of interviews from Grist: “…One strategic piece involved thinking through “What is the role of pricing carbon?” We think that pricing carbon should be part of the solution. And it ended up coming in the context of rolling back fossil fuel subsidies and making polluters pay. We wanted a price on carbon, and we sort of looked at it as a pollution stymie and a way to finance doing good green things. So it’s in there, but it’s subordinated, and it’s at the right level of primacy. Frankly, if you never got it you could still build the rest of the plan, it’s not the linchpin…”

Extreme Sea Level Events “Will Hit Once a Year by 2050”. The Guardian highlights new projections; here’s a snippet: “Extreme sea level events that used to occur once a century will strike every year on many coasts by 2050, no matter whether climate heating emissions are curbed or not, according to a landmark report by the world’s scientists. The stark assessment of the climate crisis in the world’s oceans and ice caps concludes that many serious impacts are already inevitable, from more intense storms to melting permafrost and dwindling marine life. But far worse impacts will hit without urgent action to cut fossil fuel emissions, including eventual sea level rise of more than 4 metres in the worst case, an outcome that would redraw the map of the world and harm billions of people…”

Photo credit: “A child walks through floodwaters near a pier in California. The climate crisis can expose millions to flooding.” Photograph: Ana Venegas/AP.

New U.N. Climate Report: Earth’s Oceans Are In “Big Trouble”. Daily Beast has a recap; here’s an excerpt: “A new climate report by the United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns of “severe damage” to the world’s oceans and icy regions. The 42-page summary published Wednesday morning says Earth’s oceans are under such severe strain from climate change that everything from seafood harvests to the well-being of hundreds of millions of people along the coasts will soon be in jeopardy. Rising temperatures are to blame for a drop in fish population and an increase in acidity levels threaten marine ecosystems. The rising temps also contribute to ice melt, meaning oceans have risen about 16 centimeters since the beginning of the 20th century—more than double the rate of the previous 100 years. The warmer oceans will continue to fuel harsher tropical storms and floods, which poses the greatest threat to coastal populations...”

New U.N. Climate Report: Massive Change Already Here For World’s Oceans and Frozen Regions. The Washington Post has more perspective: “Climate change is already having staggering effects on oceans and ice-filled regions that encompass 80 percent of the Earth, and future damage from rising seas and melting glaciers is now all but certain, according to a sobering new report from the United Nations. The warming climate is already killing coral reefs, supercharging monster storms, and fueling deadly marine heat waves and record losses of sea ice. And Wednesday’s report on the world’s oceans, glaciers, polar regions and ice sheets finds that such effects foreshadow a more catastrophic future as long as greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked. Given current emissions levels, a number of serious effects are essentially unavoidable, says the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)…”

Photo credit: “Lightning is seen over the Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 4 as Hurricane Dorian approaches Carolina Beach, N.C.” (Elijah Nouvelage for The Washington Post).