July 2

Expanding Drought – Keeping an Eye on “Elsa” – Why Many US Cities Weren’t Engineered for Extreme Heat


On The Cusp of Broiling. A full blown heat wave continues for most of the USA into mid-July, which isn’t shocking, considering the next 1-3 weeks is the hottest of the year for most of America, on average. It still appears the core of the heat may remain just south of Minnesota, but this is a low-confidence peek over the horizon.


Sunniest June for MSP Since 1988
Minnesota State Climatology Office

Praedictix Briefing: Issued Thursday, July 1st, 2021:

Elsa Has Formed. The system we mentioned in yesterdays briefing out in the Atlantic has continued to develop over the past 24 hours, becoming a tropical depression overnight and now our fifth named system of the 2021 Atlantic Season this morning – Tropical Storm Elsa. Since 1966, this is the earliest fifth-named storm on record for the Atlantic basin. The previous record was set last year by Edouard on July 6. Elsa is quickly moving westward at 25 mph. As of the 8 AM AST update, Elsa was located about 780 miles east-southeast of the Windward Islands with sustained winds of 40 mph.

Elsa Track. Elsa will continue to quickly move off to the west-northwest over the next several days, bringing the system across the Lesser Antilles over the Windward Islands and southern Leeward Islands on Friday, into the eastern Caribbean Sea late Friday/Friday Night, and near the southern coast of Hispaniola Saturday. There is some uncertainty in the track and strength after about 60 hours out, which I’ll talk about in a moment. However, there is the potential this system could approach portions of the Southeastern United States next week and will be something to monitor the next few days. Some strengthening is expected over the next couple of days, with Elsa expected to have 65 mph winds in about 48 hours. After that point, interaction with land and its own fast movement could have the potential to limit additional strengthening.

Uncertainty In Track After 60 Hours. Models seem to be fairly confident in the track of Elsa over the next 48-60 hours. After that point, we start to see two camps develop. The first, due to the interaction with Hispaniola, would send Elsa northward toward the Bahamas. The second would keep Elsa farther south and west, bringing a higher potential of impacts to western Cuba late this weekend/early next week with the system afterwards moving into the Gulf of Mexico. We will continue to track the potential impacts to the Caribbean and potentially the Southeastern United States over the next several days.

Tropical Storm Alerts. Out ahead of this system impacting the Lesser Antilles Friday, Tropical Storm Watches and Warnings have been issued. This means that tropical storm conditions are either expected or possible across these areas within the next 36 hours. Here is a summary of the locations under these alerts:

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for…

* Barbados

* Martinique

* St. Lucia

* St. Vincent and the Grenadines

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for…

* Guadeloupe

* Grenada and its dependencies

Rainfall Potential. Heavy rain is expected to fall along the track of Elsa the next few days, with rainfall totals of 3-6” and isolated 8” amounts possible. This includes the Windward and southern Leeward Islands. This heavy rain could lead to flash flooding and mudslides across the islands.

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix


Daytime high temperatures across the western United States on June 23-28, 2021, according to data from NOAA’s Real-Time Mesoscale Analysis/URMA.
Climate.gov animation based on NOAA URMA data.

Seattle and the PNW Was Not Built for This Level of Heat. A post at NOAA’s Climate.gov had some hard truths about the consequences of extreme heat spikes in the Pacific Northwest and Canada showing up in unlikely places: “…Commenting on the event in a listserve for weather experts, Seattle resident Dale Duran, a professor in the atmospheric science department at the University of Washington described covering his windows with foam-core insulation board to block the incoming sun. “It’s not just that we don’t have air-conditioning,” he wrote. “It’s that our built environment is optimized for what used to be our climate. In Seattle, we build modern houses in a way that would be inconceivable in a hot climate. We not only do not have air-conditioning, we like to have lots of windows, including south-facing ones. Many of those windows don’t have any window coverings. They also don’t have sun-blocking film (for most of the year we’d prefer to have that heat come in)...”


A Scorcher in Siberia and Europe. NASA’s Earth Observatory confirms that extreme heat is gripping many northern latitudes: “…One of the hot spots parked over central and eastern Europe. On June 23, ground stations in Moscow measured an air temperature of 34.8°C (94.6°F)—the city’s hottest June temperature on record. Helsinki, Finland, also saw its hottest June day on record (31.7°C/89.1°F), and national records for the month were set in Belarus (35.7°C/96.3°F) and Estonia (34.6°C/94.3°F). According to Jennifer Francis, a scientist at Woodwell Climate Research Center, the heatwave is the result of a persistent northward bulge in the polar jet stream. “This is associated with a blocking pattern in the jet stream that has been prevalent over Scandinavia this year and contributed to unusually warm conditions there, especially in Finland,” Francis said...”


Canada Sets New All-Time Heat Record of 121 Degrees Amid Unprecedented Heat Wave. Capital Weather Gang put the heat into perspective: “…Perhaps the most astonishing heat occurred Tuesday in British Columbia where the high temperature in the village of Lytton soared to 121 degrees, setting Canada’s national heat record for a third straight day. For perspective, this temperature is more extreme than the all-time high in Las Vegas, 117, and higher than most places in the Lower 48 states outside the Desert Southwest. “Words cannot describe this historic event,” tweeted Environment Canada’s British Columbia branch. According to world weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera, the 121-degree reading also set a new world record for the most extreme high temperature ever observed north of 45 degrees latitude…”


Climate Stories…

Red bars show the percent of the U.S. Northwest (Oregon, Washington, and Idaho) having extremely warm days—daytime high temperatures in the top ten percent of the historical record—each summer since 1910. The footprint of extreme heat in the has ballooned in the past 20 years.
NOAA Climate.gov image, based on data from NOAA’s Climate Extreme Index.

Hot Weather Trends in the Pacific Northwest. It’s all about the data, and data shows a steady increase in extreme heat events for Portland, Seattle and the Pacific Northwest in recent decades. Details here, courtesy of NOAA’s Climate.gov.


Oregon’s Buckled Roads and Melted Cables are Warning Signs. WIRED.com (paywall) explains the complexities of climate resilience: “…It’s complicated by a little-known fact: Roads and railways are built differently in different places. Many highways in the US are paved with asphalt concrete, a mix of crushed stone, gravel, and sand called “aggregate” and a soft, black “binder.” The binder is what remains of crude oil after petroleum, kerosene, and other products are refined; its qualities depend on where and how it’s made. In an arid, hot desert like Arizona, engineers use a stiff binder that will withstand high temperatures. In Seattle, binders can soften at lower temperatures, because it’s not supposed to get as hot. That’s partly why Phoenix’s normal summertime temperature wreaked havoc on a place like Bellingham, Washington. Similarly, the overhead wires in Phoenix’s light-rail system are calibrated to withstand heat up to 120 degrees...”


The ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge. Greenpeace said that Unearthed reporters posed as recruitment consultants looking to hire a Washington lobbyist for a major client.
Kathleen Flynn/Reuters

ExxonMobil Lobbyists Filmed Saying Oil Giant’s Support for Carbon Tax is a PR Ploy. Wait, what? I just can’t believe a large corporation who’s future depends on unencumbered, unrestricted extraction of climate-warming fossil fuels would try to spin the science. The Guardian reports: “Lobbyists for ExxonMobil have described the oil giant’s backing for a carbon tax as a public relations ploy intended to stall more serious measures to combat the climate crisis. Two senior lobbyists based in Washington told an undercover reporter for Unearthed, the investigative journalism branch of Greenpeace, that they worked to undermine Joe Biden’s plans to limit greenhouse emissions and other environmental measures in his infrastructure bill…”


We’re shocked, shocked. Well, not that shocked: Climate Nexus has more perspective, headlines and links: “Two top ExxonMobil lobbyists were caught on camera admitting that despite an appearance of supporting some climate policy now, the company is still lobbying against climate change legislation, UK’s Channel 4 News first reported. The footage was obtained by an undercover reporter working for Unearthed, Greenpeace UK’s investigative platform, who posed as a headhunter. In the footage, lobbyist Keith McCoy explains how the company has been targeting senators to downplay or remove climate measures from the president’s infrastructure plan, and says he has been speaking with Senator Joe Manchin’s office on a weekly basis. He also revealed that Exxon uses its support of a carbon tax as “a talking point,” because it does not believe the policy has any real chance to actually become law. In addition, McCoy admitted the company worked with “shadow groups” to fight early climate legislation, claiming only that “there’s nothing illegal about that.” Exxon’s chief executive Darren Woods released a statement in response, saying he was shocked by the claims and that they do not accurately reflect the company’s stance on climate change. “The recording we’ve heard today only solidifies what we already know: for decades, fossil fuel companies have lied to the public, to regulators, and to Congress about the true danger posed by their products,” Rep. Ro Khanna said in a statement.” (Unearthed, Channel 4, New York Times $, The Hill, Insider, Bloomberg $, Reuters, The Guardian,Axios, Gizmodo, Washington Examiner, Reactions: Channel 4, Wall Street Journal $)


Revealed: ExxonMobil’s Lobbying War on Climate Change Legislation. It’s all about protecting the bottom line, not the planet’s welfare and future generations, according to an interview highlighted at the U.K.’s Channel 4: “…During the covert recordings, which have been passed to Channel 4 News, Mr McCoy claims:

  • the company secretly fought against legislative action on climate change using third-party organizations
  • he lobbied key senators to remove and/or diminish climate change measures from President Biden’s US $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs bill as it proceeds through the legislative process
  • he regards trade bodies like the American Petroleum Institute as “whipping boys” in order to avoid public scrutiny on Capitol Hill

During the virtual meeting held on 7 May, the investigators asked Mr McCoy questions about ExxonMobil’s current and historical lobbying…”


The Future of Humanity: Can We Avert Disaster. I would argue that disaster has already arrived. Can we mitigate future disasters? Big Think has an interview and post; here’s an excerpt that caught my eye: “…At the end of the talk, she focused on attempts to deal with climate change through new kinds of environmental controls with the subtext being that we are likely to run into the same cycle of unintended consequences and attempts to repair the damage. In a question-and-answer period following her talk, Kolbert was decidedly not positive about the future. Because she had looked so deeply into the possibilities of using technology to get us out of the climate crisis, she was dubious that a tech fix was going to save us. The only real action that will matter, she said, is masses of people in the developed would reducing their consumption. She didn’t see that happening anytime soon.”


Paul Douglas

How Climate Change “Loads the Dice” for Heat Waves. NBC News helps to connect the dots: “Larry O’Neill knew a heat wave was coming, but he still couldn’t believe what the climate models were telling him. The projected temperatures for this week were so unusually high — between 115 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit across parts of the Pacific Northwest — that O’Neill, Oregon’s state climatologist, felt something must be off. “The predictions seemed completely outlandish,” said O’Neill, an associate professor at Oregon State University. “They were so crazy insane that professional forecasters and people like myself thought something must be wrong with the models…”


Nowhere is Ready for This Heat. With any luck new infrastructure will take a radicalized climate into consideration, reports The Atlantic: “…In 2018, he and his colleagues looked at whether any state department of transportation was planning for the precipitation thresholds of the future. Essentially none of them were, he said. Since then, a few states have integrated the new normals into their highway manuals. But even if you know that climate change will happen, bending civil engineering to that future isn’t easy—and, at least for now, it requires some art and argument. An engineer building a bridge can test and calculate how much weight it can bear, and another engineer can check the math, Samaras said. No such standard exists for the climate, and “engineering standards take a long time to propose, promulgate, and get adopted.” Even if an agency—the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, perhaps—started this work now, another decade would pass without resilience standards…”


File Image
NOAA

The Siege of Miami. Elizabeth Kolbert writes for The New Yorker, asking questions many in south Florida apparently don’t want to hear: “…To cope with its recurrent flooding, Miami Beach has already spent something like a hundred million dollars. It is planning on spending several hundred million more. Such efforts are, in Wanless’s view, so much money down the drain. Sooner or later—and probably sooner—the city will have too much water to deal with. Even before that happens, Wanless believes, insurers will stop selling policies on the luxury condos that line Biscayne Bay. Banks will stop writing mortgages. “If we don’t plan for this,” he told me, once we were in the car again, driving toward the Fontainebleau hotel, “these are the new Okies.” I tried to imagine Ma and Pa Joad heading north, their golf bags and espresso machine strapped to the Range Rover...”


Scott Kelley, NASA ISS

A Space Laser Shows How Catastrophic Sea Level Rise Will Be. A post at WIRED.com (paywall) got my complete and undivided attention; here’s an excerpt: “…Today in the journal Nature Communications, scientists describe how they used ICESat-2’s new lidar data to map the planet’s land that’s less than 2 meters above sea level, which makes it vulnerable to the creep of sea level rise. Marrying this data with population figures, they calculated that 267 million people currently live in these at-risk areas. Assuming a sea level rise of 1 meter by the year 2100, they project that 410 million people will ultimately live in an affected zone. Asian countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia are particularly vulnerable, but the United States and Europe will also have no shortage of at-risk populations…”


Miami Condo Collapse Prompts Questions Over Role of Climate Change. Salt water and concrete don’t mix well, and rising seas may be one (of many) reasons that combined to create a tragedy in Surfside. Details via The Guardian: “The disaster has highlighted the precarious situation of building and maintaining high-rise apartments in an area under increasing pressure from sea-level rise. Experts say that while the role of the rising seas in this collapse is still unclear, the integrity of buildings will be threatened by the advance of salty water that pushes up from below to weaken foundations. “When this building was designed 40 years ago the materials used would not have been as strong against salt water intrusion, which has the potential to corrode the concrete and steel of the foundations,” said Zhong-Ren Peng, professor and director of the University of Florida’s International Center for Adaptation Planning and Design. “Cracks in the concrete allows more sea water to get in, which causes further reactions and the spreading of cracks. If you don’t take care of it, that can cause a structure failure...”

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