The March of Science: A Better Hurricane Scale?

When it comes to natural disasters we need perspective to put specific events into context. Earthquakes? The Richter Scale (which is logarithmic). Tornadoes? The Enhanced-Fujita (EF) Scale.

Hurricanes have relied on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, which focuses on wind speed and storm surge potential. Yet most of the damage in recent years has come from extreme flooding, in some cases hundreds or thousands of miles inland.

NOAA is working on a new scale that tracks the speed of hurricanes to calculate flood risk. The ERM (Extreme Rain Multiplier) may help the public gauge risk from not only wind and storm surge, but epic rainfall events associated with tropical systems.

After a soggy spell the next chance of T-storms won’t come until Monday. A cooler front treats us to a taste of September by Friday and Saturday, but temperatures heat up next week. Sizzling heat has been delayed, but Minnesota will be stinking-hot by by late next week with 80s; maybe a few 90s and a drippy dew point in the “oh-zone”.

It’s been a nice spring. Here comes summer.

October 14, 2018 Hurricane Michael image taken in Mexico Beach, Florida, courtesy of KC Wilsey, FEMA.

Chilly Start Saturday Morning. No frost expected, but 30s up north early Saturday? Pack and extra jacket. Daytime temperatures will be lukewarm, but cooler than average – Sunday probably the nicer day for the lake.

A Grudging Warming Trend. I’ve said it before: summer is in no particular hurry this year, but by next week we should finally turn the corner into a sweaty pattern, with a string of 80s, even a day or two near 90F. A few T-storms may flare up as warmer air arrives Monday, again late Tuesday. Map sequence above: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

Model Divergence. NOAA’s GFS guidance (bottom) is considerably hotter than ECMWF (top) for the latter half of next week. Place your bets. MSP Meteograms: WeatherBell.

Simmer, Not Bake. Expect blast-furnace heat for much of the USA the second week of June, but a series of weak cool frontal passages over the northern tier states will take some of the edge off the warmth from Seattle to St. Paul and Milwaukee.

Praedictix Briefing: Issued Wednesday morning, May 27th, 2020:

  • Tropical Storm Bertha has formed off the east coast of South Carolina this morning.
  • Tropical Storm Warnings have been issued along the coast of South Carolina from near Edisto Beach to Winyah Bay.
  • This system is expected to track north-northwest and become a Tropical Despression by 2PM Wednesday over central South Carolina.
  • As the system moves inland, gusty winds and heavy rains will be the primary threats. Flood Advisories have been issued from the South Carolina Coast and farther inland, including Charleston, Summerville, and Moncks Corner, South Carolina.

Tropical Storm Bertha. As of the 8 AM EDT update from the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Bertha was located about 30 miles east-southeast of Charleston, SC and moving to the northwest at 9 mph. The system had sustained winds of 45 mph.

Track Of Bertha. This system will lift slowly to the north-northwest over the next day or so and weaken as it does. By 2 PM EDT, Bertha should weaken to Tropical Depression status and will continue to weaken by Thursday 2AM EDT as it moves over parts of central and western North Carolina. Again, this storm won’t pose a huge wind threat, but gusty winds and heavy rains will certainly be possible. Isolated flood concerns can’t be ruled out, especially over eastern portions of South Carolina and into central North Carolina, where some 1″ to 3″ rainfall tallies will be possible.

Tropical Storm Watches. Tropical Storm Warnings have been issued along the South Carolina coast from near Edisto Beach to Winyah Bay and places inland, including Charleston, Monchs Corner, SC and as far inland as Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion. Tropical Storm Warnings mean that tropical storm force wind gusts up to 45mph maybe possible with heavy rains. There will also be higher surf and strong rip current potential along the South Carolina coast.

Potential Wind Gusts. Gusty winds be expected Wednesday and Thursday over portions of South and North Carolina as Bertha lifts north-northwest. Sustained winds of 20-30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph will be possible, particularly along the coast.

Rainfall Forecast. This system will also bring areas of heavy rain to the region with some 1″ to 3″ tallies possible through the end of the week. Note that the heaviest will be found over eastern portions of South Carolina and across central and eastern portions of North Carolina. Isolated flood concerns can’t be ruled out, especially over eastern portions of South Carolina, where Flood Advisories have been issued from Edisto Beach to Winyah Bay and farther inland, including Charlestion, Summerville, and Moncks Corner, SC

Todd Nelson, Meteorologist, Praedictix.

First Came the Virus. Next Come the Storms. What can possibly go wrong. The Atlantic (paywall) has a good overview of the challenge ahead: “…State and local emergency planners must rethink any task involved in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from storms that requires physical proximity to other people. First, there’s the question of evacuations. Even under normal circumstances, deciding whether to recommend or order an evacuation requires weighing the risks of riding out the storm against the risks of putting tens or even hundreds of thousands of people on the road at once. Now the potential for a viral outbreak at a storm shelter has to be factored into the equation. “It may come down to a governor or a mayor saying, ‘Okay, I’m either going to leave people in harm’s way because of this [pandemic], or I’m going to put them in harm’s way by asking them to go to the shelter,’” says Bryan Koon, a former emergency manager for Florida…”

Image credit of Tropical Storm Bertha: AerisWeather.

A Scale for Hurricane Rainfall Magnitude. A replacement for Saffir Simpson (which doesn’t quantify rainfall risk) or is this a complimentary scale? Here’s an excerpt from NOAA NCEI: “…Hurricanes examined in the study, Harvey in 2017 and Florence in 2018, both weakened post-landfall but caused severe flooding. In the case of Harvey in the Gulf of Mexico, the result was the highest tropical cyclone-related rainfall total ever recorded in the United States: Nederland, Texas received 1,500 mm (60 inches) of rain. Florence broke the North Carolina record for tropical cyclone rainfall. Jim Kossin, a co-creator of the new metric, previously found a pattern emerging in hurricanes: a stalling effect. Regardless of wind speed, hurricanes that move slowly or stall over land can cause devastating impacts. Because no official numeric scale of risk applies to rain in hurricane weather warnings, studies have found that descriptions have fallen short of providing the public accurate information. Calling an event a “500-year” or “1,000-year” flood has lacked relevance in the mind of the public, according to research. The new study developed a more intuitive alternative metric—the extreme rain multiplier (ERM)...”

Image credit: National Geodetic Survey.

Covid-19 Flares Up in America’s Polluted “Sacrifice Zones”. A link between air pollution and more serious Covid-19 symptoms and outcomes? Here’s an excerpt from (paywall): “In April, scientists at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health compared death rates from Covid-19 with air pollution levels for each of the nation’s 3,000 counties. They found that elevated levels of fine particulate matter (an air pollutant abbreviated as PM 2.5) are associated with an increase in the Covid-19 death rate, even after controlling for other factors like income or preexisting conditions. The authors noted that counties with a higher percentage of black residents had consistently higher rates of Covid-19 deaths, though this was not part of the study. African Americans were more likely than other racial groups to live in counties with elevated levels of PM 2.5...”

Scientists Have Made the Most Powerful Bionic Eye Ever. Our robot overlords will be thrilled about this development. Popular Mechanics has specs: “Scientists say they’ve made a bionic human-compatible eyeball that has nearly 50 times more “sensing” nanowires than there are optic cells in the human retina. The researchers suggest the eventual product could see farther and in finer detail than the human eye, with potential to restore sight or even surpass healthy normal sight—including seeing in the dark. In a new paper in Nature, the scientists explain the challenges of biomimetic (life-imitating) vision. Characteristics like “extremely wide field of view, high resolution and sensitivity with low aberration” are required of any imitation eye, they explain, but “the spherical shape and the retina of the biological eye pose an enormous fabrication challenge for biomimetic devices...”

Image credit: “Detailed structure of the bionic eye.” Gu et al., Nature, 2020

Be Like Mike: What Founders Can Learn From the Last Dance. Which I’m enjoying far more than I thought I would. Kudos to ESPN for creating something pretty extraordinary. Here’s an excerpt from a solid story at Medium: “…Phil’s key insight was that an offense based solely around MJ was too predictable and therefore easy to defend against. Prior coach Doug Collins’ playbook was “give the ball to Michael and get out of the way.” Phil’s triangle offense was all about creating threats including but not limited to MJ. It was a flexible system that allowed every player to contribute their strengths and complement each other. Being the best player on the court only gets you so far. To win big, founders need to surround themselves with other greats and role players, working in a system that brings out the best in everyone…”

Image credit:

Interested in Renting Your Own Personal Field of Dreams? Wait for it, there is a Minnesota connection. Reuters explains: “U.S. professional sports may be on hold during the pandemic, but anybody with $1,500 can rent a minor league baseball stadium in Florida on Airbnb to create their own experience. The waterfront home of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, a team co-owned by two-time Masters golf champion Bubba Watson, has been mostly empty after coronavirus lockdowns forced Minor League Baseball to suspend its season, which had been due to begin in April. This is the first time a professional U.S. sports stadium has been listed on the lodging website, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the ad by the Wahoos, a minor league affiliate of MLB’s Minnesota Twins...”

I Found the Perfect Gift. The King of Jock Straps? The New York Post reports: “You can own the King of all cups later this month when Elvis Presley’s custom bedazzled jockstrap goes up for auction. The rhinestone-studded athletic supporter complete with the King’s initials in blue diamonelles on the waistband is expected to fetch $36,000 when it goes on the block as part of the Elvis Presley Museum collection being sold by Paul Fraser Collectables. The strap was made by a fan and worn by Presley for years until his 1977 death. I’m sure the new owner won’t be able to resist wearing it out on a Saturday night – the Elvis magic will work wonders, I’m certain…”

Photo credit: Paul Fraser Collectibles / CATERS NEWS.

Lickable Screen Recreates Any Taste or Flavor Without Eating Food. Well what’s the fun in that? Tastes, without the calories? No thanks. Here’s a clip from Gizmodo: “No matter how they may make you feel, licking your gadgets and electronics is never recommended. Unless you’re a researcher from Meiji University in Japan who’s invented what’s being described as a taste display that can artificially recreate any flavor by triggering the five different tastes on a user’s tongue. Years ago it was thought that the tongue had different regions for tasting sweet, sour, salty, and bitter flavors, where higher concentrations of taste buds tuned to specific flavors were found. We now know that the distribution is more evenly spread out across the tongue, and that a fifth flavor, umami, plays a big part in our enjoyment of food. Our better understanding of how the tongue works is crucial to a new prototype device that its creator, Homei Miyashita, calls the Norimaki Synthesizer...”

Image credit: Homei Miyashita (Meiji University (YouTube)

78 F. maximum temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities (2:44 PM)

73 F. average high on May 27.

64 F. high on May 27, 2019.

May 28, 1965: Late season snow falls across much of Minnesota with Duluth and Caribou reporting an inch.

THURSDAY: Partly sunny, breezy. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 76

FRIDAY: Hello September! Cool sunshine, windy. Wake-up: 53. High: near 70

SATURDAY: Intervals of sun, still breezy. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 48. High: 67

SUNDAY: Blue sky with light winds. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 49. High: 73

MONDAY: Sunny peeks, stray T-shower. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 57. High: 79

TUESDAY: Warm sun, late-day thunder? Wind: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 61. High: 86

WEDNESDAY: Heat slowly builds. Hazy sun. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 64. High: 84

Climate Stories…

Summer Warming Trends. The warming is lumpy, uneven, according to a Climate Central analysis; here’s an excerpt: “…Looking at average summer temperatures, 94% (228) of the 242 cities analyzed recorded an increase, including 101 (42%) cities that warmed by more than 2°F since 1970. This warming trend is also reflected in the change in individual summer days above normal, with 93% (226) of cities recording an increase since 1970 and 74% (179) of cities with an increase of a week or more. The top 30 stations with the greatest increases, all recording more than a month of additional days above normal, were concentrated in the southern United States一particularly in the Southeast and Texas. While it’s usually summer high temperatures and record-breaking heat that get the most attention, summer nights are warming faster than summer days. Analyzing low temperatures, 53% (128 of 242) recorded a rise of more than 2°F, on average, since 1970…”

Cape Canaveral Launch Sites Threatened by Rising Seas. Including the site of Saturday’s tentative NASA/SpaceX launch. Here’s more perspective from Climate Central: “Climate Central examined flood risks facing NASA’s active space launch complexes at the John F. Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Using our proprietary Portfolio Analysis Tool (PAT). We found that the launch pads most vulnerable to flooding from rising seas are Complexes 39A and B, which were built for the Apollo/Saturn V rockets, and one of which is now used by SpaceX...”

Climate Change Could Dramatically Reduce U.S. Snowstorms. A press release from Northern Illinois University caught my eye: “A new study led by Northern Illinois University scientists suggests American winters late this century could experience significant decreases in the frequency, intensity and size of snowstorms. Under an unabated greenhouse gas emissions scenario, the study projects 28% fewer snowstorms on average per year over central and eastern portions of North America by the century’s last decade, with one-third the amount of snow or frozen precipitation and a 38% loss in average snowstorm size. “If we do little to mitigate climate change, the winter season will lose much of its punch in the future,” said Walker Ashley, an NIU professor of meteorology and lead author of the study, published today (May 25) in Nature Climate Change...”

Graphic credit: Northern Illinois University.

Now’s the Time to Get Ahead of the Climate Crisis. The Economist and Star Tribune have the Op-Ed; here’s an excerpt: “Following the pandemic is like watching the climate crisis with your finger jammed on the fast-forward button. Neither the virus nor greenhouse gases care much for borders, making both scourges global. Both put the poor and vulnerable at greater risk than wealthy elites and demand government action on a scale hardly ever seen in peacetime. And with China’s leadership focused only on its own advantage and America’s as scornful of the World Health Organization as it is of the Paris climate agreement, neither calamity is getting the coordinated international response it deserves. The two crises do not just resemble each other. They interact. Shutting down swathes of the economy has led to huge cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions…”

Photo credit: “42nd Street in New York has very little traffic amid the coronavirus pandemic. The world cut its daily carbon dioxide emissions by 17% at the peak of the pandemic shutdown last month.” Ted Shaffrey, Associated Press.

Coronavirus Shows the Limits of Individual Climate Action. Quartz (paywall) has details: “Coronavirus shutdowns have sent greenhouse gas emissions off a cliff. Early estimates project global emissions will decline by 5% to 8% by the end of the year—which might seem like a win for the climate. Emissions need to drop about 7.6% every year until 2030 to keep global warming in check. But as economies kick back into gear, emissions will return to where they were, or worse. Now, the first peer-reviewed analysis of the pandemic’s impact on carbon dioxide emissions highlights another reason this kind of global crisis makes a poor model for climate action: It’s the most-polluting sector that saw the smallest percent decline in emissions…”

Graphic credit: Quartz | Data: Le Quéré et al, Nature Climate Change 2020.

“We’re Screwed.” Louisiana Wetland Destruction Past The Tipping Point: Climate Nexus has links and headlines: “The Louisiana wetlands that protect New Orleans from hurricanes and help drive the state’s fishing and tourism economies will likely be wiped out by sea level rise within 50 years, according to a new study. The findings show that over the past 8,500 years these wetlands have shrunk whenever sea levels rose more than 3 millimeters per year, a rate that is already increasingly exceeded by current sea level rise fueled by climate change. The study, based on sediment cores from across the Mississippi River Delta, was published in Science Advances last week. The dire implications for the region, however, are likely a best-case scenario. The study only addressed sea level rise, and did not account for other factors that are causing the marshes to sink, including oil and gas drilling and pipelines, and a reduction of sediment caused by upstream dams. “What it says is we’re screwed,” Torbjörn Törnqvist, a professor of geology at Tulane University in New Orleans who led the study, told the Times-Picayune. “The tipping point has already happened.” (Times-Picayune, Washington Post $, WWNO)