This Summer 80s Are “The New Cool Front”
I’m happiest when Mother Nature isn’t trying to murder me. To be alive is to live with risk. We have no active volcanoes nearby, no earthquake faults or rising seas to worry about.
The biggest temperature swings are found near the center of continents, well away from the moderating influence of ocean water. Large extremes can lead to powerful storms and fronts capable of hail, high winds and (rare) tornadoes. Drought this summer has reduced the severe storm count, but yesterday’s sauna-like airmass whipped up gangs of supercell storms along thunderstorms. Exhibit A: yesterday’s swarm of the periphery of blast-furnace, 100-degree air.
I make plans like everyone else, but I’ve learned not to push the weather. When Mother Nature is agitated, best to get out of the way.
Serious Heat Indices. At one point the heat index in Hutchinson, Minnesota reached 117 degrees (thanks to a dew point in the low 80s). The definition of tropical air. Today should be a big improvement.
Don’t Write Summer Off Anytime Soon. Long-range guidance (low confidence) suggests another warming trend by the second week of August. If the question arises, no, we haven’t seen the last 90-degree readings of the summer. MSP is up to 22 days at/above 90F and counting.
Beyond Human Endurance. Will some countries be unlivable in the years and decades to come? Here’s an excerpt from The Washington Post (paywall): “…A term we rarely hear about, the wet-bulb temperature reflects not only heat, but also how much water is in the air. The higher that number is, the harder it is for sweat to evaporate and for bodies to cool down. At a certain threshold of heat and humidity, “it’s no longer possible to be able to sweat fast enough to prevent overheating,” said Radley Horton a professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Scientists have found that Mexico and Central America, the Persian Gulf, India, Pakistan and Southeast Asia are all careening toward this threshold before the end of the century…”
Wildfires Have Burned a Combined Area the Size of Delaware and Rhode Island Combined. CNN.com reports: “Wildfires in the US have burned nearly three million acres so far this year — that’s the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined and then some — as the nation’s largest fire scorches even more land and buildings. The Bootleg Fire, the largest active fire in the US, has been steadily growing since it was sparked by lighting July 6. It has charred 413,400 acres in southern Oregon, destroying hundreds of structures and vehicles in its way. It was 53% contained late Tuesday, according to Inciweb, the clearinghouse for fire information in the US. The enormous fire has destroyed 161 residences and 247 outbuildings, according to a statement on InciWeb…”
Using Satellites and AI, Space-Based Technology is Shaping the Future of Firefighting. NBC News reports: “…New programs are being developed by startups and research institutions to predict fire behavior, monitor drought and even detect fires when they first start. As climate change continues to increase the intensity and frequency of wildfires, these breakthroughs offer at least one tool in the growing arsenal of prevention and suppression strategies. “This is not to replace firefighting on the ground,” said Ilkay Altintas, a computer scientist with the University of California, San Diego, who developed a fire map for the region. “The more science and data we can give firefighters and the public, the quicker we’ll have solutions to combat and mitigate wildfires...”
Do You Have What It Takes To Be a Hurricane Hunter. Here’s an excerpt from WNCT.com: “…The scariest experience he’s had? That would be Hurricane Michael in 2018. “It’s not too atypical to drop some altitude. We dropped about 2,000 feet in altitude in the eyewall, from the south to north eyewall pass,” DeHart said. “So once we actually got in the storm environment, we had to circle for a while and find a patch of better air to get through going outbound.” But for him, it’s all worth it…”
Water Levels in Utah’s Great Salt Lake Hits Historic Low. The Guardian reports: “The water levels at the Great Salt Lake have hit a historic low, a grim milestone for the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River that comes as a megadrought grips the region. On Saturday, the US Geological Survey announced average daily water levels had dropped about an inch below the previous record of 4,191.4ft (1,278 meters) above sea level, which was set in 1963. The new record comes months earlier than when the lake typically hits its lowest level of the year, indicating water levels could continue to drop even further, said Candice Hasenyager, the deputy director of Utah’s division of water resources…”
New Residents Flood Into the Most Drought-Stricken Counties. A post at Economic Innovation Group caught my eye; here’s an excerpt: “…Nearly 20 million additional residents could be in some of the most water-starved counties by 2040. Some of the country’s most water-starved states like Arizona, Utah, and Texas are poised to continue adding millions of residents in the coming decades, further compounding economic and infrastructure concerns around water availability and heat-related health problems. NASA’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center produced several county-level population projections factoring in various future development policies, fossil-fuel usage, emission reductions, and climate adaptation policies. Based on the “middle of the road” scenario involving medium challenges to climate change mitigation and adaptation, the U.S. population is expected to grow by nearly 54 million through 2040. Almost 37 percent of those gains are expected to occur in the 507 counties, mainly in western states and Texas, that have cumulatively experienced at least three years of severe drought conditions since 2010...”
Is This the End of Summer as We’ve Known It? The New York Times (paywall) asks a question that I’ve heard from many others this summer: “In the state that perfected if not invented the American summer, the smell of 17 million gallons of spilled sewage lingered last week on a Southern California beach. There were bare rocks where snow once capped the Sierra Nevada and bathtub rings where water once glistened in Shasta Lake. Wildfires roared across the West, threatening the electrical grid, the smoke so thick it could be seen from space, pluming into the jet stream, delaying planes in Denver, turning the sun red in Manhattan, creating its own weather. Health authorities warned that recent Death Valley-style heat waves had contaminated shellfish from Washington State. Monsoons swept cars from the road in Arizona. Pennsylvania songbirds were dying. This is the summer that feels like the end of summer as we have known it…”
The Climate Change Link to More and Bigger Wildfires. Public Radio Tulsa has the story; here’s a clip: “Across the country people have been experiencing hazy skies from big wildfires in Western states. More than 3 million acres have already burned, and fire experts say this is just the beginning. A historic drought and heatwave have primed forests to burn big this year, just like they did last year. A conservative estimate from the U.S. Forest Service said by 2015, fire season had gotten about two-and-a-half months longer than it was in the 1970s. Scientists say that number is growing even larger. At the same time, wildfires are burning more acres than ever before. The nine largest wildfire seasons since reliable records begin have occurred since 2005…”
Dog Days of Summer Can Injure Our Pets. Here’s an excerpt of an explainer at Climate Central: “When the air temperature hits 77°F degrees, asphalt surfaces can reach 125°F in direct sunlight and when there’s no wind. This is the temperature that can burn human skin, and it can be unsafe for dogs’ unprotected paws. Climate Central looked at the temperature trends for 246 U.S. cities, and found that 94% (232) have seen an increase in days each year that were 77°F or above since 1970.
- The annual number of days above 77°F has increased by at least 3 weeks on average in 43 cities.
- Bluefield, Va. showed the greatest increase, with 45 more days on average above 77°F, followed by Tucson, Ariz. (40 days), Santa Maria, Calif. (34), Erie, N.Y. (33), and Flint, Mich. (31).
As air temperatures rise, pavement gets much hotter in the sunlight. At 86°F, the surface temperature jumps to 135°F. At 87°F, only one degree more, the asphalt temperature rises to 143°F…”
Researchers Identify Battery Alternative to Slow Climate Change. WSKG.org has an interesting story – here’s an excerpt: “…The salt in most traditional batteries are lithium-ions. Takeuchi said the trouble starts with cost. Building enough lithium-ion batteries for renewable energy storage can be expensive. “There’s like one or two places on Earth where you can actually mine these elements. And one of the elements, cobalt, that’s used in lithium-ion, the biggest mines are all located in Congo, in Africa,” she said. The salt Takeuchi uses is made of manganese and zinc, instead of lithium. “If these batteries are really big, can we use elements, can we use materials that are not very dangerous, that are Earth abundant, that are readily available?” she said…”
Hot Start to Olympics Raises Health Concerns: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “The 2020 Summer Olympics kicked off in Tokyo on Friday and there are already signs the toughest part of the competition may just be the extreme heat and humidity in what is expected to be the hottest Olympics on record. Temperatures in Tokyo this time of year are usually in the high 80’s, but a heat wave is pushing temperatures into the 90s. The heat index on Saturday made it feel like 100°F and humidity levels were above 80% on Sunday. Temperatures in July and August are 5.15°F/2.7°C warmer than they were last time Tokyo hosted the games in 1964, and on average, there are eight more days of 95-plus-degree weather. Athletes are feeling the heat already: ahead of the Opening Ceremony on Friday, Russian Archer Svetlana Gomboeva collapsed during a qualifying event due to the heat. The Tennis tournament, which began Saturday, was also affected by the heat, as Russian player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova required a medical timeout after feeling dizzy due to the heat. Then, several athletes participating in the triathlon, which finished Monday morning, had to be helped off the track due to overheating. Extreme heat is now the deadliest weather event, and it is only getting worse as the planet continues warming. Despite this, currently, the International Olympic Committee doesn’t take climate change into consideration when selecting host cities. Japan’s proposal to host the 2020 games, for example, claimed “this period provides an ideal climate for athletes to perform their best” because of its “many days of mild and sunny weather.” (Overview: Wall Street Journal $, Popular Science; Weather: NBC News, Axios, Washington Post $; Gomboeva: Yahoo, Reuters $, AP; Tennis: Reuters $, AP, Insider; Health: Vox; Commentary: Dan Wetzel, Yahoo).
Heat, Floods, Fires: Jet Stream is Key Link in Climate Change Disasters. Bloomberg Green delves into rapid warming in far northern latitudes and the possible impact on jet stream wind speeds and configurations and the tendency for upper air blocking patterns: “…But the link between these far-flung extremes goes beyond warming global temperatures. All of these events are touched by jet streams, strong and narrow bands of westerly winds blowing above the Earth’s surface. The currents are generated when cold air from the poles clashes against hot air from the tropics, creating storms and other phenomena such as rain and drought. “Jet streams are the weather—they create it and they steer it,” said Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center. “Sometimes the jet stream takes on a very convoluted pattern. When we see it taking big swings north and big dips southward we know we’re going to see some unusual weather conditions…”
Climate Change to Bring More Intense Storms Across Europe. ScienceDaily reports: “Climate change is driving a large increase in intense, slow-moving storms, a new study by Newcastle University and the Met Office has found. Investigating how climate affects intense rainstorms across Europe, climate experts have shown there will be a significant future increase in the occurrence of slow-moving intense rainstorms. The scientists estimate that these slow-moving storms may be 14 times more frequent across land by the end of the century. It is these slow-moving storms that have the potential for very high precipitation accumulations, with devastating impacts, as we saw in Germany and Belgium...”
How to Win Big for the Climate: Rein in the “Super Polluters”. Here’s an excerpt of a post and summary at Nature.com: “A crackdown on a limited number of ‘hyper-emitting’ power plants could yield outsize cuts in the carbon emissions resulting from global electricity generation. Don Grant and his colleagues at the University of Colorado Boulder, combed an inventory of more than 29,000 fossil-fuel power plants across 221 countries to identify the world’s largest polluters as of 2018. They then calculated the potential emissions reductions that could be attained if the worst offenders boosted their efficiency, switched to lower-carbon fuels or implemented carbon-capture technologies. The team found that extreme emitters — power plants that ranked in the top 5% in terms of climate pollution — were responsible for 73% of global emissions from electricity generation…”