Articles by Paul Douglas

Image of wind turbines in a foggy field during sunrise
December 8

The Clean Energy Revolution Will Be Weather-Optimized

The only predictable thing is change. You can live in the past, or you can embrace the future. My take: With few exceptions, what worked in the 1970s probably won’t work in the 2030s. Technology evolves and improves, and policy imperatives shift over time. The climate crisis demands creativity to power the economy without emitting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Earth is approaching a tipping point — one that requires new and reliable sources of clean energy. A Brief Overview of Energy in the United States In the United States, renewable sources of energy generation are accelerating, accounting for...

October 12

2021: Nearly as Many Billion Dollar Disasters as Record 2020 Season – Drought Spells Trouble for Hydropower – Can Grid Handle Renewable Revolution?

Maps Still Don’t Look Like Late October. NOAA’s GFS model roughly 2 weeks out shows a massive ridge of high pressure over the western US and much of western Canada, which suggests another warming trend by the third of fourth week of October. At this rate I wouldn’t be shocked to see a few more 70s within 2 weeks or so. World Meteorological Organization Sharpens Warnings About Both Too Much and Too Little Water. Inside Climate News reports: “The global supply of fresh water is dropping by almost half an inch annually, the World Meteorological Organization warned in a report...

Lock bride in park during fall
October 7

Fall Color Factors, As Explained by Paul Douglas!

The leaves are leaving, but not before a brilliant, Technicolor explosion of color! Why do leaves even change color? As the days get shorter in the fall, there is less sunlight for photosynthesis. Plants convert carbon dioxide in the air into sugars (glucose and starch) and oxygen by using energy from the sun through the process of photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is the green pigment necessary for photosynthesis. A decrease in photosynthesis that comes with less daylight means trees stop producing chlorophyll. As the green pigment fades over time other pigments present in the leaf are revealed, producing a veritable explosion of...

dry field with irrigation system
September 3

Water Stress Increases Need for Reliable Weather Data to Power US Agriculture

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water”, wrote Loren Eiseley. As a meteorologist, that quote has stuck with me over the years. But a warmer, more volatile climate is putting Earth’s hydrological cycle on fast-forward. The wets are trending wetter, the dries are drier. We are faced with too much water – or not nearly enough. The western US is enduring a 1200-year “Megadrought”, made worse by climate change. Cities are running out of water; fires and thick palls of smoke have become a daily fixture on local weather maps; all while a 7-8% increase...

Hurricane Florence
April 18

Will a New GFS Weather Model Upgrade Close the Gap with The European Model?

Image credit: NOAA Are you with Team GFS or Team ECMWF, the “European Model”? I hate to pick sides, but as a meteorologist I defer to the weather model that, consistently, is most accurate. Of course I’m rooting for the “American Model”, the GFS or Global Forecast System, to win. But here’s the thing: if you’re sanding a table or building a deck you want to use the best tools at your disposal, right? So it goes with weather forecasting. Meteorologists examine scores of models, looking for consistency, continuity, and trends – ultimately choosing a blend of model solutions that...

NOAA-GFS-model-upgrade-header
March 24

Latest on NOAA’s GFS Model Upgrade – Are We Underestimating Tornado Strength?

Maps Look More Like Early April ”It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade” wrote Charles Dickens in Great Expectations. He had that right. March is weather lunacy, meteorological madness. Few other months can unleash blizzards, tornadoes, 80s and subzero; all packaged into 31 days of utter uncertainty. March 2021 is trending 9.1F warmer than average at MSP with 4 inches of snow so far. There is precious little snow on the ground anywhere, which has lowered the risk...

Tornado Damage
June 7

6 Takeaways From The Biggest Swarm of U.S. Tornadoes Since 2011

America’s tornado drought is officially over. The last few years have been relatively quiet, with few large, violent tornadoes. In 2018 there were no tornado-related deaths in traditional Tornado Alley, stretching from Texas to Iowa. But so far in 2019, 31 Americans have lost their lives to tornadoes, nature’s most extreme, unpredictable and capricious wind storms. In the last 2 weeks at least 366 tornadoes have been observed east of the Rockies. Once again, the United States is living up to its reputation as the tornado capital of the planet. Over the last couple weeks I’ve watched in morbid fascination...

Hurricane Blog
August 30

Minimizing Tropical Storm Risk With A Real-Time Weather API

by Paul Douglas Meteorologists track storms of all shapes and sizes, but there is nothing quite as awe-inspiring and destructive as a major landfalling hurricane. These Texas-size whirlwinds of trouble produce a weather-trifecta of risk: storm surge, high winds, and inland flooding. Called typhoons in the western Pacific and cyclones in the Indian Ocean, they are identical in structure and formation; drawing warmth from the oceans and converting it into raging spiral bands of shrieking winds and blinding rain. The lighter the winds aloft and warmer the seas, the greater the potential for a cluster of thunderstorms to strengthen into a...

July 24

Flooding Frequency and Intensity are Increasing – Are You Factoring the Latest Trends?

by Paul Douglas A tropical storm named “Agnes” flooded my home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1972; a traumatic event that ultimately led me to pursue a degree in meteorology at nearby Penn State. Many of us have a flood-related story or close encounter, and rising water is impacting more Americans with every passing year. There is precedent for concern: according to NOAA only extreme heat has claimed more American lives over the last 30 years. In fact, flooding is the costliest natural disaster in the United States. It accounted for more than $268 billion in damage in 2017, a number...

Lightning Strike Blog
June 6

Harnessing the Power of Lightning Strikes

by Paul Douglas “Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work”, said Mark Twain. Most of us have had a close call with lightning and no wonder. Cloud to ground lightning strikes the Earth approximately 50 times a second – roughly 1.4 billion flashes every year. According to NOAA, an average of 47 Americans are struck and killed by lightning annually – deadlier than tornadoes and hurricanes many years. Lightning is terrifying and vaguely mysterious – scientists don’t begin to have all the answers. But it serves a purpose in nature. These crackling electrostatic...