September 24

Ranking Severity of Southwestern Drought – Every Season Trending Shorter, Except for Summer

Paul Douglas

 

You Might Want To Get Your Boat Out Soon

I’m increasingly baffled by the definition of “nice weather”. A 3-day, 3-inch rainstorm would qualify as great weather news amid the worst drought since 1988.

”If you wait a few more weeks you may not be able to get your boat off the lift – and it may have to stay in all winter!” joked Dan Hause at Bayside Marina in Excelsior yesterday. On second thought, maybe he wasn’t joking water levels are down 2 feet on Lake Minnetonka, lower than any time since Hause started monitoring lake levels in 2000.

The drought has eased slightly thanks to recent rains, but with a mostly-dry outlook into at least the first week of October, lake levels may continue to fall. Buyer (and boater) beware.




Big Changes by Mid-October? A ridge of (mild and dry) high pressure is forecast to linger over Minnesota and much of the eastern half of the USA into the first week of October, but the sharpest trough of stormy low pressure I’ve seen since May (?) is forecast to dig into the Pacific Northwest, which may set the stage for colder, stormier weather by mid-month.


Minnesota DNR

Putting 2021’s Southwestern USA Drought Into Perspective. NOAA’s Climate Program Office (CPO) has the post; here is the intro: “Widespread drought emerged in early 2020 in the U.S. Southwest, defined in this report as the four corners states (Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico), Nevada, and California. Over the 20-month period from January 2020 through August 2021, the Southwest U.S. received the lowest total precipitation and had the third-highest daily average temperatures since 1895. The drought has led to unprecedented water shortages in western reservoirs threatening drinking, agricultural, and tribal water supplies; electricity supply generated from hydroelectric plants; and fishing and recreational activities. The massive western wildfire seasons of 2020 and 2021 have been fueled by the lack of precipitation and surface moisture associated with the drought. Immediate economic losses are in the billions of dollars, while ultimate cumulative losses, which won’t be calculable until the event ends, will likely be in the tens of billions of dollars based on the costs of similar significant droughts in the past…”



Paul Douglas

Extreme Heat Hits 30% of Americans This Summer. Nexus Media News has the details: “Nearly one-third of all Americans live in a county hit by an extreme weather disaster in the past three months, with far more living in places that have endured a multi-day heatwave, a Washington Post analysis revealed. Climate change, caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, is supercharging heatwaves, hurricanes, wildfires fueled by drought, and extreme precipitation that causes flooding. Those phenomena have killed at least 388 people in the U.S. since June…”


Paul Douglas

New Forecasting Models Could Help Prevent Heat-Related Deaths. Here’s an excerpt of an explainer at phys.org: “...Of all the natural disasters occurring in recent decades, heatwaves have caused the greatest loss of human life. And, as temperatures continue to increase, more lives will be put at risk. The key to saving lives is the use of accurate and reliable weather prediction models that go well beyond today’s standard weekly forecasts. One such model is sub-seasonal to seasonal (S2S) forecasting. Falling between weather forecast models, which predict the weather over the next week or so, and climate models, which predict the average weather, or climate, over many years, S2S forecast serve as extended weather forecasts…”


Artist impression of Aeolus satellite with a Doppler Wind Lidar.
Courtesy Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute

Study on the Best Way to Improve Forecasts Using a Proposed Satellite-Based Doppler Wind Lidar. Here’s an excerpt from NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division: “Accurate forecasts of the future weather depend on observing what is happening now in the atmosphere. There remain many gaps in our current observations, especially over the oceans where most measurements come from satellites. An instrument that could measure the winds at many levels through the atmosphere (called a Doppler Wind Lidar) could be placed on satellites in the future to fill this gap. These wind profiling instruments on satellites that orbit the earth may provide frequent observations of what is happening currently in the atmosphere. This could lead to more accurate forecasts by the numerical models used by forecasters to make their predictions. A Doppler Wind Lidar currently exists on a satellite that circles the earth (polar-orbiting satellite) and observes a single line of wind profiles...”


Climate Stories…

Paul Douglas

Tina Smith Pushes Climate Program Despite Slip Democratic Margins. Star Tribune reports: “U.S. Sen. Tina Smith is trying to pass a landmark climate program aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions, despite formidable political tensions and challenging procedural dynamics at a time when Democrats’ hold on Congress is razor-thin. “This is a moment where if we don’t seize it, the results are catastrophic,” Smith said in an interview. The Minnesota Democrat’s vision for a clean electricity program has become a critical aspect of efforts to help the United States try to meet urgent climate goals, in what is likely a pivotal challenge for Joe Biden’s presidency. The measure would provide financial incentives to utilities and other electric suppliers that accelerate the conversion to clean electricity and levy penalties against those that don’t…”

  • On Wednesday I interviewed Senator Tina Smith about her Clean Electricity Plan on WCCO Radio, where she went into more details about her plan. A link to the conversation is here.

Global Wildfire Carbon Emissions at Record High, Data Shows. Details via The Guardian: “August was another record month for global wildfire emissions, according to new satellite data that highlights how tinderbox conditions are widening across the world as a result of the climate crisis. The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service of the EU found that burning forests released 1.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide last month, mostly in North America and Siberia. This was the highest since the organisation began measurements in 2003. After a July record of 1258.8 megatonnes the previous month, scientists are concerned that areas with dense vegetation are becoming a source rather than a sink of greenhouse gases…”


Seasonal changes across the Tidal Basin in Washington
Kevin Ambrose

Every Season Except Summer is Getting Shorter, a Sign of Trouble for People and the Environment. Capital Weather Gang connects the dots and explains the trends: “In the 1950s, the seasons occurred in a predictable and relatively even pattern in the Northern Hemisphere. Flowers bloomed around April. Children planned summer adventures starting in June. Leaves dropped in September. Ski trips began in December. But recently, the seasons have been out of whack. Over the past seven decades, researchers found high summertime temperatures are arriving earlier and lasting longer in the year because of global warming. This summer was no exception. In parts of California, which saw its hottest summer on record, unusually warm temperatures arrived in May. Shasta Dam posted its third-warmest May on record, a harbinger of a record melt season for the glaciers on the summit of Mount Shasta to its north. Sacramento logged its fifth-warmest May...”


File image from Beijing, China
Paul Douglas

Why China’s Promise to Stop Funding Coal Plants Around the World is a Really Big Deal. TIME.com reports: “Chinese President Xi Jinping announced on Tuesday that China will no longer finance overseas coal projects—a move that could have far-reaching implications for the world’s ability to meet climate targets. “China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low carbon energy and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad,” Xi said in prerecorded remarks to the United Nations General Assembly. Experts say the move could mark the beginning of the end of coal as a primary energy source for the world (it’s currently no. 2, behind oil.) The caveat, though, is that China and many other nations remain reliant on coal. “This announcement is a strong sign of coal’s global collapse,” says Durand D’Souza, a data scientist with the climate think-tank Carbon Tracker…”


Environmental Law is Getting in the Way of Climate Action. WIRED.com has the post; here’s a clip: “…A big part of the problem is that American environmental law has so far proven unequipped to deal with the world the fossil fuel companies built. In some cases, environmental law can even stand in the way of climate action. “It is the greatest irony of law,” Wood says, “that it has not figured out how to hold [oil and gas companies] accountable yet.” But Wood and other legal scholars in the burgeoning field of climate law are working on a way to fix that. In the US, environmental issues have typically been understood as a matter of statutory rights, says Wood. A statutory right comes from a law passed by a state or federal government, and it can be overturned. Fundamental rights, by contrast, are those recognized by the Constitution and its amendments, international agreements like the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or created by the due process of law...”


Better Late (Night) Than Never? Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “In honor of Climate Week, late night comedians spent their Wednesday shows cracking wise about climate change, after years of largely ignoring the issue. Seven late night shows on five networks dedicated at least a portion of their airtime to the climate crisis. CBS’ Stephen Colbert and TBS’ Samantha Bee, at least, seemed to recognize the tardiness of the action: ”I’m thrilled to participate in Climate Night, but maybe we should move it up a few days? Just because, you know, it’s urgent?” Bee said. Colbert added: “I’m proud to dedicate one entire night of my show to the climate, so I can say I wasn’t part of the problem, I was 1/365th of the solution.” (CBS, Dateline, New York Times $, New York Times, Hollywood Reporter; Are we really doing this? Gizmodo; The Shows: Kimmel: ABC, ABC; Colbert: CBS, CBS, CBS; Corden: CBS, CBS, CBS; Fallon: NBC; Myers: NBC, NBC, NBC; Bee: TBS; Noah: Comedy Central)


United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, at United Nations headquarters in New York.
Eduardo Munoz/Pool Photo via AP

“The World Must Wake Up”: Tasks Daunting as UN Meeting Opens. Here’s the intro to a recap at Associated Press: “In person and on screen, world leaders returned to the United Nations’ foremost gathering for the first time in the pandemic era on Tuesday with a formidable, diplomacy-packed agenda and a sharply worded warning from the international organization’s leader: “We face the greatest cascade of crises in our lifetime.” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres rang the alarm in his annual state-of-the-world speech at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly’s high-level meeting for leaders of its 193 member nations. More than 100 heads of state and government kept away by COVID-19 are returning to the U.N. in person for the first time in two years. But with the pandemic still raging, about 60 will deliver pre-recorded statements over coming days. “We are on the edge of an abyss — and moving in the wrong direction,” Guterres said. “I’m here to sound the alarm. The world must wake up...”


File image
NASA Earth Observatory

Summer Wildfires Emitted More Carbon Dioxide Than India Does in a Year. Gizmodo has the story; here’s the intro: “The world set a scary new record last month: Wildfires around the world pumped out more carbon dioxide than ever before. Forests on multiple continents went up in smoke, spewing out billions of tons of carbon dioxide, new data from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service shows. In July, wildfires emitted nearly 1.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, a record that was topped by August’s 1.4 gigatons. Between the two months, forest fires emitted an amount of carbon dioxide greater than all of India’s carbon emissions in a year. The majority of those emissions came from wildfires two regions, western North America and Siberia. Blazes in both regions were fueled by heat waves, drought conditions, and low soil moisture levels—three hallmarks of the climate crisis…”


Big Tech’s Pro-Climate Rhetoric is Not Matched by Policy Action, Report Finds. The Guardian has the post: “The world’s biggest tech companies are coming out with bold commitments to tackle their climate impact but when it comes to using their corporate muscle to advocate for stronger climate policies, their engagement is almost nonexistent, according to a new report. Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Facebook and Microsoft poured about $65m into lobbying in 2020, but an average of only 6% of their lobbying activity between July 2020 and June 2021 was related to climate policy, according to an analysis from the thinktank InfluenceMap, which tracked companies’ self-reported lobbying on federal legislation. The report also sought to capture tech companies’ overall engagement with climate policy by analyzing activities including their top-level communications as well as lobbying on specific legislation...”


File image
UK Met Office

Climate Scientist Katharine Hayhoe’s Faithful Quest to Heal a Divided World. Here’s an excerpt of an interview at Religion & Politics: “…Though we have been very focused on the divide between the people who think that climate change is real and those who do not, we should be more concerned with the divide between those who think it’s real and those who think it matters to them. You can concede that climate change is real and important and even serious, but if you don’t think it matters to you, then you’re unlikely to do anything to fix it. I should add, too, that polling data shows we are not talking about it. We are not having conversations about climate, and the media is not covering it. I saw a pretty shocking statistic recently: that Jeff Bezos’ space launch had received as much media attention in a single day as climate change had received in the previous year. So we aren’t talking about it, and talking is a window into our minds. It’s our means for showing others what we think about, what we care about. We can’t read each other’s minds. If we, as individuals and as a nation, are not talking about climate change, then it will never receive the priority that it requires...”


Paul Douglas

Xi Announces Ending Of Chinese Coal Support Abroad: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “China will no longer build coal-fired power plants overseas, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced Tuesday in an address to the UN General Assembly. Xi gave no timeline, the announcement is likely to mark the beginning of the end of coal plant construction in the developing world. Depending on when it is implemented, China’s new policy could cut off $50 billion of foreign investment and halt the construction of up to 47 planned coal plants in 20 countries, about equal to the entire remaining German coal fleet. “It’s a big deal. China was the only significant funder of overseas coal left. This announcement essentially ends all public support for coal globally,” Joanna Lewis, an expert on China, energy and climate at Georgetown University, told the AP. “This is the announcement many have been waiting for.” Asia Society Policy Institute fellow and former climate diplomat Thom Woodroofe described the announcement as a “line in the sand” and told the Guardian, “It is further evidence China knows the future is paved by renewables. The key question now is when they will draw a similar line in the sand at home.” (The Guardian, NPR, Wall Street Journal $, Reuters, New York Times $, Politico, Axios, BBC, Reuters, Climate Home, CNET, FT $, Washington Examiner)

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