Beware of Rapid Hurricane Intensification

What keeps me up at night? Plenty. But weather amnesia is near the top of the list. How quickly we forget the lessons of history – and that applies to natural disasters.

Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle as a rare Category 5 storm last October, intensifying explosively at the last minute before coming ashore.

Dennis Feltgen (who worked at KSTP-TV and is now a communications specialist for NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami) reminded me that Michael, Andrew (1992), Camille (1969) and the deadly Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 were all unimpressive tropical storms 3 days before landfall.

Models print out a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico (Andrea?) later this week, posing risk for New Orleans and maybe Houston.

Which puts today’s thunderstorm risk into perspective. Conditions are ripe for a few T-storms today into tomorrow, followed by a dry sky Thursday. Random instability storms may sprout again late week, with daytime highs flirting with 90F from Friday into early next week.

Graphic credit: Dennis Feltgen, NOAA NHC.

Lake Superior Tops Record High July Water Level. Duluth News Tribune has the story; here are a couple of excerpts: “Despite a drier than normal June across much of the Lake Superior basin the big lake has set a new record-high Water level for July 1, the International Lake Superior Board of Control reports…Lake Superior sat 14 inches above the normal July 1 level and 10 inches higher than at this time in 2018.” There is a much-increased risk of shoreline erosion, lakeshore flooding and coastal damages across the upper Great Lakes system,” the board noted in its monthly report…”

ECMWF Numbers for Twin Cities. Highs near 90F from Friday into the middle of next week? If the sun stays out for a few hours each day that seems realistic. Graphic: WeatherBell.

Heating Up Again by Late July? The core of the jet is forecast to lift slightly north again within 2 weeks, just enough for southern heat to make another pass at Minnesota and Wisconsin. July is, historically, the hottest month of the year and this month should be no exception.

Praedictix Briefing: Issued Monday, July 8th, 2019:

  • We’re tracking a system which could turn into a tropical depression by the middle to end of the week in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Chances of tropical formation sit at 80% over the next five days.
  • Once the system forms in the Gulf of Mexico (whether it becomes a named tropical system or not), it is expected to meander across the northern Gulf and potentially drift westward. There is not much certainty in the overall track of the system at this time, so facilities from eastern Texas to the Florida Panhandle should keep an eye on this system over the next several days.
  • Whether or not this system eventually becomes tropical, it appears heavy rain will be the biggest concern at the moment. Parts of the Gulf Coast (depending on the overall track) could see at least 3-6” of rain from this system.

Potential Tropical Formation This Week. The tropical threat this week in the Gulf of Mexico is increasing as a system works its way southward over the next couple days. Once it reaches the Gulf of Mexico, an area of low pressure is expected to form, with potential development into a tropical depression by the middle to end of the week. As of Monday morning, the National Hurricane Center has a 10% chance of tropical formation in the next two days and an 80% chance in the next five days.

(Images above: potential location of our area of concern midday Saturday via the European model (left), American model (center), and Canadian model (right).)

System To Meander In The Gulf. Whether or not a tropical system forms, this disturbed area of weather will meander across the northern Gulf of Mexico later this week, potentially drifting westward as well. Right now there is not much certainty in the overall track of the system, as the models still have a wide spread in possible tracks from eastern Texas to the Florida Panhandle. This is unlikely to improve much until the system gets organized. This means that facilities across the northern and western Gulf Coast should keep an eye on this system over the next several days. What is certain, though, is that heavier rain will be possible along at least parts of the Gulf Coast this week, along with potentially stronger wind gusts at times.

Heavy Rain Possible. The main threat at the moment from whatever forms would be heavy rain along the Gulf Coast. Who potentially gets the heaviest rain will be determined by the overall track and forward speed of the system, but there are some areas of the Gulf Coast that could see at least 3-6” of rain with this system through the weekend.

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix.

ECMWF: Midday Saturday. Stating the obvious this is still pretty far out and confidence levels are (very) low, but Monday’s 12z European model suggests a strong tropical storm or weak hurricane off the coast of Texas/Louisiana. Stay tuned and know that forecast track and intensity will change over time. Map: WSI.

Hurricane-Proof Home Can Withstand 326 MPH Gusts. Really? Gizmodo has details: “…A Canadian company has recently completed construction of a home with exterior walls made from recycled plastic, and it’s claimed to be able to withstand winds gusting at over 300 miles per hour. Built by JD Composites, the three bedroom home is situated near the Meteghan River in Nova Scotia. Aside from a distinct lack of trees, gardens, and neighbors, the house looks like any other dwelling with a clean modern design and a minimalist facade. Inside it’s fully furnished and finished with drywall covered lumber walls, but the exterior is what makes the house appealing as a new, and seemingly much improved, approach to construction...”

Photo credit: JD Composites Inc.

Ongoing Flooding Around The D.C. Metro (Monday) Morning. Briefing issued Monday morning, July 8: Heavy rain has been falling across the D.C. metro this morning, with numerous reports of flooded roadways and water rescues ongoing. Between 9:00-9:36 AM, over 2” of rain had been reported at Reagan National Airport. Meanwhile, radar has estimated over three inches of rain has fallen, especially west of the District of Columbia. Here are links to view road conditions from local DOT offices:

Flash Flood Emergency For Washington D.C. Due to the heavy rain and ongoing flood situation, a Flash Flood Emergency has been issued for the Washington D.C. metro through 11:15 AM EDT. Up to three inches of rain has already fallen. Here’s the text of the Flash Flood Emergency from the Washington D.C. and Baltimore office of the National Weather Service:

Numerous Flash Flood Warnings In Place. The Flash Flood Emergency isn’t the only warning in place this morning. Due to numerous reports of flooding as well as rising creeks from the heavy rain, several Flash Flood Warnings are in place through the morning hours across parts of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. A report from Montgomery County, MD, said that a wall collapsed on a house due to a mudslide in Potomac.

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix.

Juneau It’s Hot When…: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “The city of Anchorage hit a record 90 degrees F on July 4, forcing officials to cancel firework displays to safeguard against wildfires as a suffocating heatwave sweeps Alaska. Sunday marked the fifth day in a row that temperatures in Anchorage have hit highs of 80 degrees or above, with July 4’s temperature smashing the previous record high of 85 degrees set in 1969. Brian Brettschneider of the International Arctic Research Center told the New York Times that Anchorage has now had “an exceptional run” of 34 consecutive days of above-average temperatures. Global warming has amplified the intensity, duration and frequency of extreme heat and heat waves.” (Heatwave: New York Times $, Washington Post $, CNNBBC, NBCKTUU, The Hill. Fire: Washington Post $, The Hill. Commentary: Washington Post, Philip Bump analysis $. Background: Climate Signals)

After Brutal Spring Floods, U.S. Farmers Face Big Losses. Thomson Reuters Foundation has perspective; here’s a clip: “...After historic spring rains flooded huge swathes of western Corn Belt states such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa – a disaster scientists say is likely linked to climate change – rain there eased off shortly before planting time in May. But further east, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois are facing a disastrous year, with unusually heavy rain over five straight month to June. Normally, by mid-June, all the corn and 94% of the soybean crop in Ohio would be planted. This year, just 68% of corn and 46% of soybean crops were in the ground by that time, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Even those figures are thought to be high, as they include responses from farmers who still hope to plant but may eventually be unable to do so...”

Photo credit: “Greg McGlinch, who farms 450 acres in Darke County, Ohio, looks out over a flooded cornfield, after record spring rains, June 21, 2019.” Thomson Reuters Foundation/Stephen Starr.

Wettest Weather in 124 Years Has Farmers Speeding Crops. Bloomberg has the story: “…After suffering through the wettest 12 months since at least 1895, U.S. farmers have plans to adapt next year to what some forecasters say may be an increasingly soggy new normal for the nation’s midsection. The plans include bigger and faster tractors to speed up planting, quick-growing seeds and more extensive use of cover crops and drainage tiles to keep flooding fields intact. But there’s problems here too, growers say: The tractors are costly, the short-season seeds have lower yields and cover crops and tiling take time and effort. While farmers have long been locked in a give-and-take tussle with Mother Nature, trends tracked by scientists and forecasters over decades suggest the merciless rains and wild storms that drastically delayed planting times this year could be a weather standard moving forward…”

Photo credit: “Flooding in Kingfisher, Oklahoma on May 21.” Bloomberg.

Hurricane Season Getting Longer and Stronger Along South Carolina Coast, Scientist Says. Here’s an excerpt from WSOC-TV: “…The coast of South Carolina has seen three destructive hurricanes in three years — Matthew, Irma, and Florence. Dr. Lee Lindler from the College of Charleston has been researching storms for 30 years. He says he believes a variety of modern factors like rising sea temperatures are cause for concern. “If wind shear and all the other parameters stay the same, then you would definitely expect to see a significant increase in the number of days you have intense hurricanes,” Lindler said...”

File image of Hurricane Florence: NASA.

When Will the Next Hurricane Strike California? Don’t laugh – it’s statistically inevitable. Here’s an excerpt from a story at OneZero, courtesy of Medium: “…Linda, in September 1997, was the strongest eastern Pacific hurricane on record at the time, with Category 5 winds of 185 mph at one point. For a time, the National Hurricane Center actually warned Southern California residents they might be a target. The storm veered out to sea, but still brought rain and 18-foot waves that caused millions of dollars in damage to the state. “Every year we plan for the possibility that a hurricane could strike San Diego or Los Angeles,” Landsea says. “On the preparedness side, we’re ready for a hurricane to hit there. Whether or not the population is ready or not is another thing...”
Image credit: “Hurricane Linda, a Category 5 monster in the Pacific Ocean in 1997, briefly looked like it might head toward Southern California.” Image: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio.

Scientists are Probing Tornadoes with Drones to Save Lives. Gizmodo has a fascinating story; here’s an excerpt: “…That’s why Houston helped put together Project TORUS, basically a roving pack of weather monitors strapped to trucks and SUVs that allowed researchers to get up close and personal with nature’s most violent weather. But of course if you really want to understand what’s going on in the atmosphere, it helps to sample it directly. So Project TORUS’ panoply of high tech weather monitors also includes fix-wing autonomous drones that can be sent into the storm while driving using a pneumatic launcher. This merry band of weather monitoring equipment spent five weeks this spring prowling Tornado Alley in search of storms. Each day, the group of 60 researchers, students, and assistants would wake up (usually at an interstate hotel) and begin poring over weather data. The meteorologists would create a forecast, identify an area where severe weather was likely to pop up that day as well as the next, and brief the team before decamping to said location, sometimes driving hundreds of miles to get there…”
Photo credit: “The drone named TTwistor3 approaching a supercell thunderstorm in southern South Dakota.”

Photo: Integrated Remote and In-Situ Sensing (IRISS), University of Colorado Boulder.

Electric Car Sales Grab Almost Half of Sales in Oil-Producing Norway. Reuters has the story: “Almost half of new cars sold in Norway in the first six months of 2019 were powered by fully electric engines, up from just over a quarter in the same period last year, ensuring the Nordic nation retains its top global ranking in electric vehicle sales. Tesla’s (TSLA.O) Model 3 was Norway’s top-selling vehicle, the Norwegian Road Federation (NRF) said when announcing the latest sales data on Monday. In total, 48.4% of all new cars sold from January to June were electric, surpassing the 31.2% seen for the full year 2018, and making oil-producing Norway the global leader in per-capita electric car sales by a wide margin…”

How Moving to the Right Place Can Prolong Your Life. The Washington Post has an interesting read; here’s a clip: “…What’s surprising is that the relationship between place and longevity is causal: A person of average health who moves to one of the red zones can expect to die earlier as a direct result. If that same person moves to a blue area, it will prolong their life. “Where you live when you are elderly (over age 65) affects your longevity,” Heidi Williams, an associate economics professor at MIT and one of the study’s authors, said in an email to The Washington Post. All told, moving from a place in the bottom 10 percent to one in the top 10 percent would extend the average person’s life by a little more than a year, researchers found. The five places with the most positive effects on life expectancy were all in New York (Yonkers, New York City and Syracuse) or Florida (Port St. Lucie and Naples). Any would add at least a year to the average senior’s life…”

In 1919 Driving Cross-Country Was a Crazy Idea. An Army Convoy Set Out to Show It Could Be Done. The Washington Post has an interesting story; here’s the intro: “A long line of nearly 100 vehicles stretched out along the White House Ellipse on the morning of July 7, 1919, replete with heavy troop carriers, light trucks, sidecar motorcycles, reconnaissance cars, field kitchens, blacksmith shops and one Renault light tank. The automobiles were a cross section of the vast motor pool acquired by the federal government during World War I. Though an armistice had brought peace to Europe the previous year, the military had given itself a new mission: driving a convoy across the country. Flush with surplus Army vehicles, the War Department intended to send a first-of-its-kind motorized expedition from the District to San Francisco…”
Photo credit: “The 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy crossing east Wyoming.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library)

The Perils of Empire. Check out a timely essay at The Washington Post: “…Comparisons of the British and American empires are easily overdrawn, particularly when assessing an 18th-century imperium with one that flourished in the 20th century. But echoes can be heard. Both were built and sustained with a large, permanent military force, including navies without peer in their respective epochs. Both reflected a devotion to market capitalism that relentlessly sought foreign markets and resources. Both derived from reasonably robust democracies, committed to political liberalism and personal freedoms within cultures that often bent toward conservatism. Both also displayed a penchant for foreign adventures, including expansionist and punitive expeditions sometimes infused with evangelical zeal that could be taken for arrogance. Both could be bullies, demonstrating a knack for alternately alienating and wooing allies. Diplomacy as practiced by America in 2019, which often consists of giving a thumb in the eye to our closest partners, threatens to leave us as friendless as Britain was 243 years ago…”

Map credit: “A map of the British Empire in North America in 1762, by John Gibson. The shaded areas are territories formerly claimed by France or Spain.” (Library of Congress)..

The Purpose of Life is Not Happiness. It’s Usefulness. Food for thought from Medium: “…What really makes me happy is when I’m useful. When I create something that others can use. Or even when I create something I can use. For the longest time I found it difficult to explain the concept of usefulness and happiness. But when I recently ran into a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the dots finally connected.

Emerson says:

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

And I didn’t get that before I became more conscious of what I’m doing with my life. And that always sounds heavy and all. But it’s actually really simple...”

85 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

85 F. average high on July 8.

90 F. maximum temperature on July 8, 2018.

July 9, 1932: A tornado touches down near Springfield and moves into St. James, causing 500 thousand dollars in damage.

TUESDAY: Showers and T-storms likely. Winds: S 10-20. HIgh: 82

WEDNESDAY: Windy and cooler, Few PM showers. Winds: W 15-25. Wake-up: 67. High: 78

THURSDAY: Sunny, warm and pleasant. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 62. High: 82

FRIDAY: Sticky sunshine, risk of a T-shower. Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: 66. High: 89

SATURDAY: Sunny, almost hot. Widns: N 5-10. Wake-up: 70. High: 88

SUNDAY: Sunny spurts, few T-storms bubble up. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 71. High: 88

MONDAY: Hot sun, ripe for PM T-storms. Winds: SW 10-20. Wake-up: 73. High: 91

Climate Stories…

Easy as One, Two, Tree: Details via Climate Nexus: “Planting billions of trees across the world could be one of the most effective tools available to fight the climate crisis, new research suggests. A study published Thursday in the journal Science finds that the planet could support an additional 2.5 billion acres of trees to increase the world’s forested areas by 25 percent. When those trees mature, the study finds, they have the potential to absorb up to 830 billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere–around as much CO2 as human activity has created over the past 25 years. “What blows my mind is the scale,” lead researcher Tom Crowther told The Guardian. “I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.” (APThe Guardian, New York Times $, LA Times $, VoxCBS, The Hill, Deutsche Welle, GizmodoReuters, BBC. Commentary: The Guardian editorialMother Jones, Kevin Drum analysis, Naples News editorial)

It’s the Cars, Not the Cows. Here’s a snippet of an Op-Ed at Star Tribune: “…But the campaign underway to shame the world into giving up animal foods in the name of climate change is pure vegetarian projection, a low-calorie mixture of facts and assumptions. It piggybacks on our anxiety over rising seas, shifting a worthwhile fear of greenhouse gases onto an unfounded fear of meat. Mostly, the vegetarian appropriation of the climate crisis is reckless. Climate change will require our focused attention, collective sacrifice and unprecedented political courage. Transformative, disruptive changes will be necessary to make fossil fuels reflect their costs to the environment, then transition society to 100% renewable energy. These will be painful enough without battling the perception that food activism may have hijacked the agenda…”

Illustration credit: Rob Dobi for the Star Tribune.

If Climate Change Makes You Feel Hopeless, Maybe Religion Can Help. Here’s a snippet from VICE: “…The problems with climate change are real for us all and we need changes now.” “One thing I talk about frequently is the definition of faith,” said Motzkin Rubenstein. “And faith is not the belief that if you do the right thing, the outcome you hope for will happen. Faith is the space between denial and despair. Faith is the space where you can realistically look at a situation and say, ‘Yes, this is happening and this is terrible and we don’t even know what the consequences will be,’ and yet, we understand that we are called to do something about it, even if what we feel is despair, even if our efforts can’t do any good…”

Illustration credit: Lia Kantrowitz.

“Our Biggest Compliment Yet”. Greta Thunberg Thanks OPEC for Criticism. has details: “Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg has welcomed criticism from OPEC’s secretary general, describing it as the “biggest compliment yet” to a growing movement of young protesters demanding action over climate change. “Thank you!” Thunberg said Thursday in response to thinly-veiled criticism from a prominent fossil fuel leader. “Our biggest compliment yet!”….OPEC’s secretary general did not mention any group specifically, but his comments appeared to refer to the recent wave of school strikes inspired by Thunberg’s “Friday’s for Future” movement. Barkindo said that the “mobilization” against oil was beginning to “dictate policies and corporate decisions, including investment in the industry...”

U.S. Mayors Pressure Congress on Carbon Pricing, Climate Lawsuits and a Green New Deal. Here’s the intro to a post at InsideClimate News: “The mayors of hundreds of U.S. cities called on Congress this week to pass legislation to put a price on carbon emissions, citing the financial and social strains their communities are already experiencing because of climate change. After some contention, they also voiced opposition to any congressional action that would limit cities’ ability to sue fossil fuel companies for damage linked to climate change. That vote marked a stand by the mayors against one of the key policy trade-offs sought by big oil companies that have backed the idea of carbon pricing. The carbon pricing resolution, introduced by Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, calls for a price “sufficient enough to reduce carbon emissions in line with ambitions detailed in the Paris Agreement on climate change…”

Photo credit: “Mayors LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans and Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles were among the leaders attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The group, representing hundreds of U.S. cities, voiced support for several climate change-related resolutions.” Credit: U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Hot & Sweaty in Europe: Last week’s scorching heatwave in Europe was made at least five times more likely due to climate change, a new report finds. A rapid analysis released yesterday from World Weather Attribution estimates that heatwaves returning with this frequency would have been 4 degrees C cooler a century ago, and specifically estimates that the scorching conditions in southern France at the end of June, which smashed temperature records, were 100 times more likely than they were in 1900. Data also released this week collected from EU satellites show that June was Europe’s hottest month on record. (AP, Reuters, Nature, Ars Technica, USA Today, Gizmodo, Grist, CNN)

Climate Change Made European Heat Wave At Least Five Times Likelier. The Guardian has details: “The record-breaking heatwave that struck France and other European nations in June was made at least five – and possibly 100 – times more likely by the climate crisis, scientists have calculated. Such heatwaves are also about 4C hotter than a century ago, the researchers say. Furthermore, the heatwaves hitting Europe are more frequent and more severe than climate models have predicted. Last month was the hottest June since 1880, both in Europe and around the world, according to separate data released on Tuesday by the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. In Europe the temperature was 3C above the June average a century ago, and globally it was more than 1C higher…”

Antarctic Sea Ice is Declining Dramatically And We Don’t Know Why. New Scientist explains: “Decades of expanding sea ice in Antarctica have been wiped out by three years of sudden and dramatic declines, leaving scientist puzzled as to why the region has flipped so abruptly. A new satellite analysis reveals that between 2014 and 2017 sea ice extent in the southern hemisphere suffered unprecedented annual decreases, leaving the area covered by sea ice at its lowest point in 40 years. The declines were so big that they outstripped the losses in the fast-melting Arctic over the same period. “It’s very surprising. We just haven’t seen decreases like that in either hemisphere,” says Claire Parkinson at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who undertook the analysis. However, researchers cautioned against pinning the changes on climate change and said it was too early to say if the shrinking is the start of a long-term trend or a blip…”

File image: NASA.