Monday, July 15, 2019

Small Favors

It looks like Hurricane Barry did not devastate New Orleans.

On Sunday afternoon, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D) issued the all-clear for the city, which regained some sense of normalcy even as the skies periodically opened and unleashed another batch of heavy rain.

“We absolutely made it through the storm. Beyond lucky, we were spared,” Cantrell said in a public briefing about the tropical storm. “As those [rain] bands moved closer to New Orleans, it just seemed to go around us.”

And the ICE raids that were threatened did not occur despite all the tough talk.

The nationwide immigration raids that President Trump said would begin Sunday failed to materialize on the streets of major U.S. cities, even as his statement cast a cloud of fear that kept many families indoors. Immigration enforcement authorities said their plans to track down migrants with deportation orders would continue, but their operations over the weekend appeared more akin to routine actions rather than the mass roundups the president promised.

In either case both the natural and the man-made disasters could strike again, but at least we were spared this weekend.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Friday, July 12, 2019

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Monday, June 24, 2019

Hot Town

I’ve lived in Miami for almost 20 years (this go-around; I was here for three in the 1970’s), and I don’t remember it getting this hot.

A meteorologist friend suggested that it was a bad sensor, but if you went outside yesterday it felt like it was over 100. And I’ve been in 100 before.

But it’s not really happening, right? It’s a hoax, right?

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