Hey August, Hurry Up and Mellow Already!

If you liked Friday you’ll love today. And Sunday. And Monday. The sun is slipping below the horizon earlier in the evening, football is now back on the tube and “Back to School” sales are in full swing. But Mother Nature couldn’t be bothered with our calendars and strange habits. Summer has plenty of oomph left, as the next few days will demonstrate.

In theory, my job gets a little easier in August. The upper atmosphere is still warm, but surface temperatures cool a few degrees, meaning a more stable sky overhead; less prone to tantrums of heavy thunderstorms. Winds ease, dew points dip a few degrees as the worst of the heat tails off. In theory.

August is, on average, far more mellow than June.

The Doppler will be delightfully blob-free into Monday, but models show a thunder risk by Tuesday – possibly more organized/widespread showers on Wednesday before we dry out again.

ECMWF shows 90-degree heat possible the next 4 days, but we do cool off next week.

On average MSP sees 13 days of 90-degree heat every summer. This year? Somewhere between 20-25 is my semi-educated guess.


Air Quality Alert Extended Into Sunday – Statewide. Normally the smoke stays aloft, but high pressure (sinking air) and an inversion will trap some of that smoke near the ground in the coming days. Here’s an excerpt of an update from Patch: “The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an air quality alert for the entire state of Minnesota. Officials say smoke from wildfires in western Canada will continue to affect Minnesota Friday into Saturday. A “thick blanket of smoke” is expected to arrive in the atmopshere Friday afternoon. An air quality alert is issued when air quality indices are expected to reach or exceed 101, a level considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Officials say people with lung disease, asthma, heart disease, children and older adults, and people who are active outdoors should limit “prolonged exertion...”


Smoke Plumes. I snapped this visible image around midday yesterday; thickest smoke over the northern Half of Minnesota and the Red River Valley.


Tracking Smoke. NOAA ESRL runs a model that shows the projected path of smoke plumes – the thickest smoke (and greatest health risks to people with respiratory problems) remains across the Dakotas into Montana and Wyoming this weekend.




Who Experiences the Most Oppressive Heat? Factoring in duration of heat and humidity that honor goes to Louisiana and eastern Texas (hello Houston!) Check out the story at Forbes. Map courtesy of NOAA NCEI and Brian Brettschneider.

Hurricane Forecasters Lower Atlantic Hurricane Season Prediction. Then again, all it takes is one. The water is just too cool for sustained hurricane formation, according to NOAA: “Conditions in the ocean and the atmosphere are conspiring to produce a less active Atlantic hurricane season than initially predicted in May, though NOAA and FEMA are raising caution as the season enters its peak months. “There are still more storms to come – the hurricane season is far from being over. We urge continued preparedness and vigilance,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Seasonal forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center have increased the likelihood of a below-normal Atlantic hurricane season to 60 percent (up from 25 percent in May) in the updated outlook, issued today. The likelihood of a near-normal season is now at 30 percent, and the chance of an above-normal season has dropped from 35 percent to 10 percent...”



Tornadoes on the East Coast May Be a Sign of Things to Come. The correlation between a warming climate and tornado frequency/intensity is still largely unproven, but patterns are shifting – there’s little doubt about that. Here’s a clip from a New York Times story: “…The storms were far from the region in the middle of the country known as Tornado Alley, where the bulk of the nation’s tornadoes occur. In a summer already marked by simmering heat that researchers have linked to global warming, is climate change also making tornadoes more common in places where they once were infrequent? Though individual weather events are distinct from the more broadly changing climate, global warming does influence weather patterns. Still, any link between climate change and the frequency of tornadoes is far from straightforward, according to researchers…”

Photo credit: “Debris cluttered Betty and Tom Therrien’s yard after a tornado swept through the area near Douglas, Mass., last month.” CreditChristine Peterson/Worcester Telegram & Gazette, via Associated Press.


California’s Viral Fire Tornado Has Scientists Searching for Answers. Earther at Gizmodo has a particularly good explainer: “…A fire tornado shares some features with a fire whirl but quite literally takes things to new heights. These rotating columns of air are, by definition, connected both to a cloud system above and the ground below. So-called pyrocumulous clouds (and pyrocumulonimbus thunderclouds) form as hot air rises above a wildfire’s smoke plume, cools, and condenses, creating the potential for a tornado to form. But these clouds typically only emerge at high altitudes due to the intense heat of the flames. What that means is that any vortex connected to both a fire-generated cloud system and the ground is going to be big. According to Clements, the one that formed inside the Carr Fire on the evening of July 26 was associated with a pyrocumulonimbus system that extended tens of thousands of feet up into the stratosphere…”

Photo credit: “The aftermath of the Carr Fire tornado.” Photo: Craig Clements / Fire Weather Research Laboratory.


The Era of Megafires: the Crisis Facing California and What Will Happen Next. The Guardian has perspective on the record fires gripping California and much of the western USA: “California is no stranger to fire. The temperate winters and reliably dry summers that make the Golden state such an attractive place to live are the same conditions that make this region among the most flammable places on Earth. But even for a region accustomed to fire, the continuing wildfire siege has proven unprecedented. Although it is only early August, numerous very large, fast-moving, and exceptionally intense fires have already burned vast swaths of land throughout the state – consuming hundreds of thousands of acres and thousands of homes and claiming at least nine lives, including four firefighters. State and national firefighting resources are stretched to their limits; choking smoke inundated the state capital of Sacramento; and much of Yosemite national park is closed indefinitely...”

Photo credit: “Firefighters with Cal Fire tackle spot fires near the town of Clearlake Oaks in northern California.” Photograph: Mark McKenna/Zuma Wire/REX/Shutterstock


NASA Launching a Craft to the Sun.  Don’t worry – to avoid melting they’ll fly at night. Slashdot.org has an update: “In T-minus three days, NASA will launch a car-sized spacecraft to investigate our Sun’s scorching hot atmosphere. “The vehicle is the Parker Solar Probe, and it’s set to launch at 3:33AM ET on Saturday, August 11th, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. “It’ll be riding on a Delta IV Heavy rocket made by the United Launch Alliance, which will send the probe zooming toward the inner Solar System,” reports The Verge. “Just six weeks after launch, Parker will do a flyby of Venus to alter its route slightly, and then six weeks later, the vehicle will be in the corona. Over the course of seven years, Parker will do 24 orbits around the star, as well as six more Venus flybys so that it can get even closer to the Sun’s surface over time...”

File image: NASA SDO, GOES-15.


Clean Energy Jobs in Minnesota. Bring Me The News has the latest stats: “The clean energy industry continues to strengthen in Minnesota, now accounting for 2 percent of total jobs in the state. As of the end of 2017, there were 59,079 clean energy industry workers in Minnesota, a 2.6 percent rise on the year before. That’s the finding of a report – albeit an industry-sponsored one – by Clean Jobs Midwest, which analyzed data from the 2018 U.S. Energy and Employment report. Minnesota is one of the few places in the Midwest where clean energy and renewables jobs are increasing, and the 59,079 people employed in the sector in 2017 are expected to be joined by around 2,700 this year – a projected 4.6 percent rise…”

File image: MN.gov.


The U.S. is Cow Country, and Other Lessons From This Land Use Map. I had no idea, and for the record I’m very pro-cattle. A post at Big Think set me straight: “…Judging by land use, the U.S. is dominated by cattle. More than one-third of the area of the contiguous states is given up to pasture—more than any other land use type. Most of it is for cows, with much smaller areas nibbled by horses, and sheep/goats/other. About a quarter of pastureland is federally administered, mainly in the western states. Adding up pasture and cropland used to produce feed (124.7 million acres), cattle dominate 41% of all land in the contiguous U.S...”


Yves Smith on Why We Didn’t See the 2008 Crash Coming. Could it happen again? If history is any guide (it usually is) the answer, sadly, is yes. Here’s a clip from an eye-opening interview at Daily Intelligencer: “…The crisis itself was the greatest looting of the public purse in history. The crisis itself was a huge wealth transfer. The Obama administration should have forced a lot more recognition of the losses. These losses were real. They should have forced more loan write-downs. And recognition of the loss to the financial system. And they should have had a huge stimulus to offset the downdraft of recognizing those losses. And in fact the Japanese, early in their crisis, they said the biggest mistake we made was not writing down the bad loans in the banking system. “Don’t repeat our mistake.” And we did this in a more indirect manner by having the Fed engineer these super-low interest rates that were a transfer from savers to the financial system. Economist Ed Kane said that basically savers lost $300 billion in income a year...”

Photo credit: PBS.


Pressure to Work in Pain. A Quarter of Massachusetts Construction Deaths Are in Construction. A story at The Boston Globe caught my eye: “Relying on skill and strength to raise up skyscrapers and spruce up homes, construction workers routinely face difficult and dangerous working conditions. Now a Massachusetts study has identified an overlooked hazard linked to their jobs: fatal opioid overdoses. The report by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that nearly a quarter of overdose deaths in a five-year period occurred among people, mostly men, who work in construction. Farmers and fishermen also had higher-than-average rates of overdose deaths. The common factor: Workplace injuries occur frequently in these occupations…”

Image credit here.


Is War With China Inevitable? David Kang has interesting perspective at Big Think: “…In many ways this Eurocentric focus really does put us at a disadvantage in making policy towards Asia, because in some ways we are talking ourselves into conflicts that I don’t think necessarily have to exist. And the perfect example is this whole Thucydides trap. If you go to DC right now or if you read almost any foreign policy magazine—or even scholarly journals—that talk about East Asia it is essentially a conventional wisdom now. Essentially I would say scholars and policymakers from the left and from the right, almost everybody takes for granted in the United States that “China’s rise can be a threat,” that “we better be prepared to contain,” that “there’s going to be some kind of a titanic struggle.” But most of this is based not on what China is doing but is based on a belief that “it must inevitably happen, so just wait. It may not be happening now, but it’s going to happen in the future...”


People Tend to Date People “Out of Their League”. No kidding. The Boston Globe explains: “Online daters tend to pursue people who are “out of their league,” according to a new study that used a unique method to analyze a large online dating website in Boston and three other major US cities. The study determined people’s “desirability” by using the PageRank algorithm, which was created by the founders of Google to rank Web pages. The study found that men and women both pursued partners who were about 25 percent more desirable than they themselves were. And they tended to write longer messages the more desirable the person they were writing to…”

Illustration credit: ADOBE.


A Novel Way to Cool Off. No, this is (apparently) not a hoax. DW.com explains: “The city, like most of Europe, has been buckling under unseasonably warm temperatures for weeks. But temperatures in the cold-storage room at Lars Koch’s Edeka supermarket are a cool 6 degrees Celsius. Last Friday, Koch decided to advertise a rather unusual offer: Customers could pay to spend time in the room. The cost: 3 euros for 2 minutes; or 5 euros for 5 minutes. Those wishing to spend more time can purchase 10 sittings for 20 euros. Hardcore fans could spend 2 minutes in the freezer-room (-20 degrees) for 5 euros…”


90 F. high in the Twin Cities Friday.

82 F. average high on August 10.

74 F. high on August 10, 2017.

August 11, 1945: Nearly 8 inches of rain fall from a downpour over Red Wing.

August 11, 1899: A lightning bolt from ‘clear skies’ destroys a storefront in Fisher, Polk County. It is possible for lightning bolts to extend outward from nearby storms, striking locations that appear safe under blue skies.



SATURDAY: Air Quality Alert. Murky sunshine, plenty hot. Winds: SW 5-10. High: 92

SATURDAY NIGHT: Clear and mild, few shooting stars. Low: 68

SUNDAY: Smoky sunlight, still sticky. Winds: S 7-12. High: 91

MONDAY: 19th day of 90-degree heat? Sunny and hot. Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 70. High: 91

TUESDAY: Sultry with a stray PM T-storm. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 72. High: 90

WEDNESDAY: More numerous showers & T-storms. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 69. High: near 80

THURSDAY: Sunny and less humid. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 60. High: 83

FRIDAY: Warm sunshine, quite pleasant. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 63. High: 87


Climate Stories…

At “America First Energy Conference” Solar Power is Dumb, Climate Change is Fake. Reuters has the story: “…The day-long conference reflected the political rise of global warming skeptics in Donald Trump’s America that is occurring despite mounting scientific evidence – including from U.S. government agencies – that burning oil, coal, and natural gas is heating the planet and leading to drought, floods, wildfires, and more frequent powerful storms. A similar conference blasting the link between fossil fuels and climate change last year drew then-Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, who was appointed by Trump to reverse Obama-era climate initiatives and roll back regulation hindering drillers and miners but who has since resigned in a flurry of ethical controversies…”

Photo credit: “Literature left on a chair during the America First Energy Conference 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., August 7, 2018.” Picture taken August 7, 2018. REUTERS/Edmund D. Fountain.


Climate Change and Wildfires – How Do We Know If There Is a Link? NCAR scientist Kevin Trenberth weighs in with a terrific explainer at The Conversation: “…Coming back to the original question of wildfires and global warming, this explains the argument: there is extra heat available from climate change and the above indicates just how large it is. In reality there is moisture in the soil, and plants have root systems that tap soil moisture and delay the effects before they begin to wilt, so that it typically takes over two months for the effects to be large enough to fully set the stage for wildfires. On a day to day basis, the effect is small enough to be lost in the normal weather variability. But after a dry spell of over a month, the risk is noticeably higher. And of course the global mean surface temperature is also going up. “We can’t attribute a single event to climate change” has been a mantra of climate scientists for a long time. It has recently changed, however...”

Photo credit: “A firefighter runs after trying to save a home in Lakeport, California, suffering its biggest fires ever.” AP Photo/Noah Berger.


San Diego Scientists Say Extreme Events Caused by Climate Change Could Spur Action. Check out a story at KPBS.com: “If people in wealthy nations start to realize that the fires, flooding, droughts and heatwaves surrounding them are due to climate change, will they take action? That’s the hope of two UC San Diego scientists who co-authored an article in “Foreign Affairs” magazine along with three members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences. The authors propose that as the rich nations of the earth see a greater impact from a changing climate world leaders will increase their efforts to limit carbon emissions and create technology that could remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is a hopeful message, coming at a time of great concern about our ability to avert a growing environmental catastrophe…”

Photo credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press. “Flames from a wildfire burn Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Napa, Calif. The fire is one of several burning across Northern California’s wine country.”



Limiting Warming By Half a Degree Could Help with Extreme Weather. More perspective from a post at Newsweek.com: “…Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences studied how the weather may change if humans are able to limit climate change. Published in Nature Communications, the study found that by changing the goal from 2 degrees to 1.5 degrees Celsius could prevent extreme precipitation events, such as abnormally high rain or snow that can lead to severe flooding, landslides and debris flows. “As the climate warms, both the mean state and the variability of extreme precipitation are projected to increase, inducing more intense and dangerous extreme events,” Tianjun Zhou, an author on the paper, said in a press release...”



Tipping Point in Public Opinion? According to polling conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication 68% of Americans now favor a revenue-neutral tax on carbon. Incidently, so do many of the world’s largest oil producers, including ExxonMobil.


Costs of Extreme Heat are Huge, But Hard to Quantify. Here’s a clip from a post at Climate Liability News: “…In terms of costs, heat-related climate impacts are likely to be in the billions of dollars, considering risks to health and mortality, economic disruption, and cooling expenses. Currently these costs are shouldered solely by taxpayers, but the climate liability lawsuits targeting the fossil fuel industry are trying to shift that burden. New York quantified its costs in its complaint against five major oil companies—recently dismissed by a federal judge but the city says it will appeal—as it faces skyrocketing costs related to heat. “Heat kills more New Yorkers than any other natural hazard and disproportionately impacts communities of color and the elderly, which is why the City is tackling this challenge with unprecedented investments in heat mitigation and adaptation programs,” said Jainey Bavishi, director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency...”

File photo: Tom Wang, Bismarck Tribune.


Europe’s Heat Wave Shows How Climate Change Could Change Tourism. The time to hit Italy and Spain may be April and October vs. August. Here’s an excerpt from NBC News: “…Climate change is going to have an impact, but it’s not going to be a doomsday impact,” said Michigan State University professor Michelle Rutty, who has researched the implications of warmer temperatures on tourism in Europe and the Caribbean. She predicted “shifts rather than outright declines” as tourists try to avoid scorching weather. “If you think of a place like Greece, there may be a shift in time when people travel to these destinations,” Rutty added. “They won’t want to go in August but now perhaps they’ll go in the fall instead...”