Thursday, January 31, 2019

Still Cold Up There

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the utilities in the Twin Cities are asking their customers to turn down their thermostats to 63 F during the Polar Vortex so as to not strain the system.  At this writing it is -27 F in Minneapolis.

That’s cold.

The good news is that the vortex will pass and by Sunday the high in Minneapolis is expected to be 44 F.  That’s a 71 degree swing to the warm side.  For now.  It’s still winter, and my memories of living at that latitude include snow and ice up to and beyond Mothers Day.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

That’s Hot

As we’re taught in elementary school science class, when it’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s summer in the Southern.  So while we’re going through extreme cold in the Midwest, they’re getting extreme heat in Australia.

As a polar vortex hits the U.S. Midwest, the extreme opposite is happening in Australia. The heat wave has parched landscapes, triggered damaging wildfires, pushed demand on the power grid to the brink and toppled significant records, Capital Weather Gang’s Angela Fritz wrote last week.

Temperatures soared to 116 degrees on Thursday in Adelaide, South Australia. That’s the highest temperature for any capital in Australia, according to Fritz. In the southeastern corner of the country, overnight temperatures were as high as 96 degrees — the warmest overnight lows for January anywhere in the world.

Australia’s climate has warmed by about 2 degrees since 1910, leading to more frequent heat waves and severe drought conditions, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Eight of Australia’s top-10 warmest years on record have happened in the past 13 years.

So if the climate-change deniers are having wondering where the global warming is, they need to be aware that yes, indeed, the world is round and that there’s more to the climate than what’s happening in their own home town.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

That’s Cold

Just because I live in South Florida doesn’t mean I don’t feel for the people who live up north where some of the coldest weather in a generation is taking hold.

Forecasters expect Wednesday’s high temperature (yes, the high) to be minus 14 degrees Fahrenheit in Chicago and Minneapolis. If the forecast holds, that would be Chicago’s lowest high temperature for a single day since officials began keeping records. An expected low of minus 22 was expected to approach, though not surpass, the coldest temperature ever recorded in Chicago. Officials predicted that wind chill readings could plummet to minus 50 in Chicago and minus 60 in Minneapolis.

“This is what you would expect when you get into central and northern Canada,” said Brian Hurley, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

The vortex, a brutal mass of cold air within strong bands of circulating winds, has spread southward from its normal location near the North Pole in recent weeks, bringing arctic weather to the middle of the United States. Such weather events have become more common in recent years; scientists are not sure why, but some suspect a link to climate change.

I can hear the climate-change deniers now: “Hey, what happened to all that global warming, snowflakes?  Har-de-har-har.”

The answer lies in the difference between local weather and climate.

Climate refers to how the atmosphere acts over a long period of time, while weather describes what’s happening on a much shorter time scale. The climate can be thought of, in a way, as the sum of long periods of weather.

Or, to use an analogy Mr. Trump might appreciate, weather is how much money you have in your pocket today, whereas climate is your net worth. A billionaire who has forgotten his wallet one day is not poor, anymore than a poor person who lands a windfall of several hundred dollars is suddenly rich. What matters is what happens over the long term.

Even on a day when it is colder than average where you live, the world as a whole is frequently warmer than average, which you can see for yourself on these daily maps from the University of Maine.

While climate scientists expect that the world could warm, on average, roughly two to seven degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century — depending on how quickly greenhouse-gas emissions rise — they don’t expect that to mean the end of winter altogether. Record low temperatures will still occur; they’ll just become rarer over time.

One 2009 study found that the United States saw roughly as many record highs as record lows in the 1950s, but by the 2000s there were twice as many record highs as record lows. Severe cold snaps were still happening, but they were becoming less common.

Some recent cold spells have been caused by a dreaded weather system called the polar vortex. There’s growing evidence to suggest that the polar vortex is appearing outside the Arctic more frequently, because of changes in the jet stream that are attributed to the warming atmosphere. These changes help frigid air escape from the Arctic and swoop southward.

Climate change brings about weather extremes more often.  2018 was one of the warmest years in recent memory — remember the heat waves last summer?  So the cold is getting colder, the heat is getting hotter, and it’s only going to get worse the more carbon we dump into the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, seeing the current temperature in Minneapolis of -4 F is cold comfort for knowing that tomorrow night the low is predicted to be -25 F without the wind.

And even though it’s a comparatively balmy 49 F in Miami at the moment, I’m not gloating.  I’m scared.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Monday, October 8, 2018

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Friday, May 25, 2018

Monday, May 14, 2018

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Friday, March 9, 2018

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Monday, March 5, 2018

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Short Takes

Deadly storms kill five in the South and Midwest.

Court rules against Trump’s attempt to kill DACA for now.

New York court rules that civil rights laws protect sexual orientation.

San Francisco Fire Department sees rise in breast cancer rates.

DeVos orders probe of how MSU handled sex-abuse investigation.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Winter Storm Grayson

It sounds like a name from a Jane Austen novel: Winter Storm Grayson.

Winter Storm Grayson will undergo bombogenesis off the Eastern Seaboard into Thursday, becoming an intense ocean low producing heavy snow, blizzard conditions, damaging winds and coastal flooding in New England.

Blizzard warnings have been posted for much of the coast from Maine to far northeastern North Carolina, including Boston, Portland, Maine, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Norfolk, Virginia.

Winter storm warnings have been issued to the west of the blizzard warnings, including much of the Interstate 95 Northeast urban corridor from Maine to Delaware. This includes New York City and Philadelphia.

Low pressure well off the Southeast coast will track north-northeast off the Eastern Seaboard and explosively intensify through Thursday, before plowing into Atlantic Canada Thursday night into Friday.

Areas in light blue denote snow. Pink and purple areas denote sleet or freezing rain. Areas in green, yellow, orange or red denote progressively heavier rain.

This explosive development is what meteorologists call bombogenesis, defined by a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure of 24 millibars or more in a period of 24 hours.

In this case, according to NOAA’s ensemble tracks forecast, Grayson’s central pressure could drop roughly 45 millibars in 24 hours ending Thursday evening just off southwestern Nova Scotia.

Not only would this be one of the most rapid rates of bombogenesis associated with an East Coast storm, but its central pressure may bottom out in the 950s millibars, also among the strongest offshore storms you’ll see.

Yeah, this is the subzero equivalent, at least in terms of threats to life and property, of a hurricane.  Take it very seriously.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Stay Warm

This weather pattern — the “bomb cyclone” — is a subzero version of a hurricane.

Unforgiving cold has punished the eastern third of the United States for the past 10 days. But the most severe winter weather yet will assault the area late this week.

First, a monster storm will hammer coastal locations from Georgia to Maine with ice and snow. By Thursday, the exploding storm will, in many ways, resemble a winter hurricane, battering easternmost New England with potentially damaging winds in addition to blinding snow.

Forecasters are expecting the storm to become a so-called “bomb cyclone” because its pressure is predicted to fall so fast, an indicator of explosive strengthening. The storm could rank as the most intense over the waters east of New England in decades at this time of year. While blizzard conditions could paste some coastal areas, the most extreme conditions will remain well out over the ocean.

In the storm’s wake, the mother lode of numbing cold will crash south — likely the last but most bitter in brutal blasts since Christmas Eve.

The responsible storm is forecast to begin taking shape off the coast of Florida Wednesday, unloading hazardous snow and ice in highly unusual locations not accustomed to such weather. The National Weather Service has already posted winter storm watches from Lake City, Fla. to Norfolk

It is then expected to rapidly intensify, buffeting the Mid-Atlantic beaches and eastern New England, where winter storm watches have also been issued.

Even though I live in South Florida, I am not gloating about this storm.  No one gloated about Hurricane Irma, and this weather could be on the same scale, at least in terms of the danger to lives, for the people in the storm’s path.  And since I have been through more severe cold blasts than I care to count during my years in Michigan and Minnesota (I recall a beautiful sunny morning in Minneapolis in January 1977 when it was -17 F), I speak from experience when I tell those of you up north to be very careful and remember your pets; they can’t tolerate the cold unprotected any more than you can.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday, October 9, 2017

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Planning Ahead

Miami-Dade County is putting together the first big evacuation plan in 12 years ahead of Hurricane Irma.  Via the Miami Herald:

The planned instructions to flee the county’s A and B evacuation zones — A covers coastal areas in southern Dade, Key Biscayne and a pocket north of Miami, while B encompasses Brickell Avenue, more inland areas and Miami Beach and other cities along the ocean — represent the most dramatic example of Miami-Dade’s efforts to clear out in advance of a hurricane that reached Category 5 status on Tuesday. Miami-Dade’s schools chief canceled classes Thursday and Friday, and most governments and colleges announced similar shutdown plans for an already shortened holiday week.

My house is literally on the border between Zones A, B, and C, and depending on the trends of the storm, I have contingency plans to go to a place in Zone D.  Of course I will obey instructions from authorities and I am prepared to go with a few moment’s notice: grab my valuable papers, unplug the computer and the external drive, and go.  (I even had a friend in North Carolina offer me shelter, assuming he doesn’t get hit, too.)

I’ll let you know how it goes and if I go.