Counting Down the End of Road Construction

Maybe I hit my head on the Doppler one too many times, but most days I’m a glass-half-full guy.

It’s not the end of summer – the death of green – a gradual retreat into an atmospheric near-death experience.

The opening salvos of winter mark the end of allergy season! Ticks and mosquitoes are in full retreat! And I’m counting down to the end of road construction.

We should have a holiday just to celebrate that!

The weather pattern looks fairly benign and drama-free into early November. A puff of Pacific air treats us to low 60s Thursday and Friday, but the next Alberta Clipper may spark flurries on Saturday. Sunday looks nicer for leaf-peeping (and raking) with highs rebounding into the 50s. NOAA’s extended models predict a milder than average November, which makes sense, after an unnecessarily chilly October.

Look at it this way: today’s sun angle is identical to February 25. Winter’s arrival is like letting air out of a balloon. It’s nice when it happens gradually. Too much pressure and the balloon pops (think Halloween Blizzard of ’91).

A slap is still better than a punch.

Moderate Halloween? Confidence levels are low, but if NOAA’s GFS forecast verifies we can expect 50s on Halloween this year with a low probability of any major storms (of any flavor).

November Preview. NOAA’s climate model (CFSv2) shows a mild bias for much of the USA and southern Canada next week as the weather pendulum swings in the other direction – perhaps indicative of a brewing El Nino mild phase in the Pacific Ocean. Map: WeatherBell.

Hurricane Michael’s Remarkable, Terrifying Run. A story at The Atlantic has perspective on what just hit the Florida Panhandle: “…Even inland, the winds—which blew as fast as those inside a tornado—collapsed churches and gas stations, knocked 18-wheelers on their sides, and stripped dense woodland entirely of its greenery, leaving behind only clusters of huddled, naked trunks. “Students in tropical-meteorology classes are going to be talking about this storm for 20 years,” says Colin Zarzycki, a tropical-cyclone scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. From the moment it made landfall, Michael became one of the four strongest hurricanes in history to hit the continental United States, according to the weather historian Phil Klotzbach…”

Photo credit: “The destruction wrought by Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida.” / AP.

Hurricane Michael By The Numbers. Some amazing stats and perspective from Capital Weather Gang; here’s an excerpt: “…919 millibars: If being the fourth-strongest hurricane at landfall for winds isn’t enough, Michael attained an even higher status for central pressure: 919 millibars at landfall is the third-most intense on record, behind only Labor Day and Camille. Ear popping…10-plus feet: Mexico Beach, to the east of Panama City on the Florida Panhandle, was more or less Ground Zero for Michael. In the “right front quadrant” of the eyewall, the strongest part of the storm, the area was decimated by wind and water. The storm surge rose to at least 10 feet here, high enough to wash entire homes and buildings away...”

Photo credit: “The whole town is gone:’ Hurricane Michael wipes out Florida coastal community.”

Hurricane Michael faced an array of obstacles when it first became a hurricane off the western end of Cuba on Sunday night.

  • One key impediment on its power was wind shear, which threatened to topple its thunderstorms over as they attempted to encircle the storm center.
  • There was also some dry air that got sucked into the storm, disrupting it for a time.
  • But in a matter of a few hours on Tuesday night, Michael transformed from a potent storm into a nightmare scenario, and just kept getting worse.
  • The likely cause is the fact that the rest of the ingredients needed for rapid intensification were there — plenty of unusually warm water, moist air, and an upper level wind pattern over the northeast Gulf of Mexico that was particularly conducive to evacuating the air the storm vaulted upwards, like venting the exhaust from a giant engine.
  • Still, the pace of intensification that Hurricane Michael went through is startling, with the winds jumping from 110 mph to 155 mph in 24 hours, and the air pressure dropping 46 millibars during that period…”

Graphic credit: National Hurricane Center; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios.

Dr. Emanuel used a computer model that generated a set of 22,000 landfalling U.S. hurricanes during the recent climate period of 1979 – 2005, then compared their intensification rates to a similar set of hurricanes generated in the climate expected at the end of the 21st century. For the future climate, he assumed a business-as-usual approach to climate change—the path we are currently on. The analysis found that the odds of a hurricane intensifying by 70 mph or greater in the 24 hours just before landfall were about once every 100 years in the climate of the late 20th century. But in the climate of the year 2100, these odds increased to once every 5 – 10 years. What’s more, 24-hour pre-landfall intensifications of 115 mph or more—which were essentially nonexistent in the late 20th Century climate—occurred as often as once every 100 years by the year 2100. The major metropolitan areas most at risk for extreme intensification rates just before landfall included Houston, New Orleans, Tampa/St. Petersburg, and Miami. In an email, Dr. Emanuel said: “My own work shows that rates of intensification increase more rapidly than intensity itself as the climate warms, so that rapidly intensifying storms like Michael may be expected to become more common...”

October 10 image of Hurricane Michael: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Cost From Hurricane Damage to Rise Alongside Frequency, Intensity. A few statistics from a post at TheHill: “…Economists say that increased intensity is leading to costlier damage. “When one tries to quantify the damages, in many ways it’s the extremes that matter the most,” said Gernot Wagner, a research associate at Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Several regular-sized storms hitting in a row is typically not as bad as having one extreme storm hitting. The fact that the extremes go up, that increases costs even more so than if the averages would move up.” In the case of the most recent hurricanes to hit the U.S., it’s both increased intensity and frequency. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this month estimated that so far this year there have been 11 weather or climate disaster events that caused more than $1 billion in damage. Hurricane Michael will likely expand that list to 12...”

October 10 radar image from Hurricane Michael: NOAA and GR2Analyst.

Reporting Live from Hurricanes: Unsafe and Over the Top or “Dangerous But Necessary?” Hey, it’s television. Marketing 101. Here’s an excerpt from Capital Weather Gang: “…Television stations will often do anything for what seems like the money shot. In an era where social media is drawing more attention and viewership dwindles, gaining that competitive edge oftentimes pushes networks to up the ante. Some argue that it’s a necessary evil — viewers are much more likely to take action if they see the power of the elements firsthand. After all, a live camera on a tornado is much more compelling than a radar presentation resembling a “bucket of spilled paint,” according to Alabama meteorologist James Spann. Others feel that compromising safety is never acceptable and that stations should be able to provide a coercive narrative without the risky gamble of being at ground zero. After all, is it appropriate to show what not to do? It’s a controversial debate that has meteorologists split right down the middle…”

Photo credit: “Television reporters stand watching as Hurricane Michael makes landfall as a Category 4 storm Wednesday in Panama City Beach, Fla.” (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post).

Miami Meteorologist John Morales is Looking for Higher Ground. Kudos to Mr. Morales for connecting the dots and speaking truth to power. Here’s an excerpt from HuffPost: “…Explaining climate change and how it can affect weather is only going to grow more urgent and painful, especially in Miami. For now, anthropogenic warming remains context for how storms fit into long-term weather patterns. But the effects of climate change are already present. A study published in April found that home values along Miami’s coveted waterfront are starting to suffer. King tides, a term for exceptionally high tides, are flooding the city even on sunny days. And even if, down the road, scientists and policymakers discover a safe and reliable way to deploy geoengineering ― chemically cooling the environment, sucking carbon dioxide out of the air or spraying light-reflecting aerosols into it ― it won’t help Miami. The city sits atop a porous limestone. The water isn’t only coming from the shore; it’s rising from beneath the city itself.  “This is an existential threat,” he said. “Someday we’ll need to retreat from Miami Beach. But nobody gives it the serious level of thought…”

Dr. Lackey said he and Mr. King, who jointly own the Mexico Beach house, did not even refer to the minimum wind resistance required in Bay County. They built the sand palace to withstand 250 mile-an-hour winds. The house was fashioned from poured concrete, reinforced by steel cables and rebar, with additional concrete bolstering the corners of the house. The space under the roof was minimized so that wind could not sneak in underneath and lift it off. The home’s elevation, on high pilings, was meant to keep it above the surge of seawater that usually accompanies powerful hurricanes…”

Photo credit: The elevated house that the owners call the Sand Palace, on 36th Street in Mexico Beach, Fla., came through Hurricane Michael almost unscathed.” CreditCreditJohnny Milano for The New York Times.

These Homes Can Withstand Hurricane, Floods and Fires. A story at CNN Business caught my eye: “…Ramsey looked at a natural coastline near the building site. “The wind and tides have shaped it into something that isn’t just a raceway for water,” says Ramsey. “Something that takes water through it and the water and land interact together.” He approached the house as a hydro-landscape intervention, shaping the land and terrain in a way that was responsive to the way Hurricane Sandy came through six years ago — where the water flowed and how it traveled. With a concrete retaining wall under the house and huge walls of ballistic glass, the house is tough. But the scrubby dune landscape with beach grass and plantings push the house up above the high water mark, providing a way for water to come in and go out naturally...”

Photo credit: “This beachfront residential property on the coast of New Jersey was built by RAAD Studio to withstand storms.”

The Case for Making Cities Out of Wood. Say what? There may be a sustainable, low-carbon way forward, according to a story at Nautilus: “…The idea of future wood cities has been hanging around for at least a few years. In 2014, for example, the Boston Globe wondered, “Will cities of the future be built of wood?” The rise of both human population and global temperature prompted much of the interest in the sustainability of city-scale timber construction. By 2050, we will number almost 10 billion; and since two-thirds of us will be city dwelling—up from just over half in 2014—cities will have to grow. It’d be ideal to do that without curtailing efforts to combat climate change; it wouldn’t be helpful, for instance, to keep extracting and transporting the raw materials needed to build steel and concrete structures, which are more expensive and have large carbon footprints. Wood, on the other hand, is “a plentiful resource that grows back relatively quickly, and even pulls carbon out of the atmosphere as it does,” the Globe noted…”

Photo credit: “An Alphabet subsidiary is planning to build a futuristic neighborhood, not out of concrete and steel, but wood—and wood is looking good. Photograph by Daici Ano / Flickr.

Rolls Royce Will Never Make a Hybrid Car: CEO. But they have plans for all-electric, according to an article at Bloomberg: “…There is an electric future for Rolls-Royce. We have not made our plan about what comes first, and what comes when, but we know that we will go full electric. We will not do hybrids or whatever. Our proposition is full electric. It will come in the next decade, step by step by step. But I can also tell you we will stick with our beloved 12-cylinder as long as we can…”

Photo credit: “Torsten Müller-Otvös.” Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg.

The End of Coal Could Be Closer Than it Looks. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Bloomberg Opinion: “…After all, about half the cost of coal-fired power is the fuel itself, which is currently trading at six-year highs. At present, while new renewables are cheaper than new coal almost everywhere in the world, it’s still usually more profitable to run existing thermal generators than to decommission them and build replacement wind and solar instead. As wind and solar costs continue to decline, the tipping point where new renewables undercut fully depreciated existing plants isn’t far off, though, especially in markets like Florida and India. When that happens, you can expect retirements to accelerate even faster...”

U.S. Weapons Systems Are Easy Cyberattack Targets, New Report Finds. Here’s the intro to a harrowing story at “The first step in solving any problem is admitting there is one. But a new report from the US Government Accountability Office finds that the Department of Defense remains in denial about cybersecurity threats to its weapons systems. Specifically, the report concludes that almost all weapons that the DOD tested between 2012 and 2017 have “mission critical” cyber vulnerabilities. “Using relatively simple tools and techniques, testers were able to take control of systems and largely operate undetected, due in part to basic issues such as poor password management and unencrypted communications,” the report states. And yet, perhaps more alarmingly, the officials who oversee those systems appeared dismissive of the results...”

Apple’s Jony Ive on the Unpredictable Consequences of Innovation. Is the world too connected? With all these screens and digital connections are we distracting ourselves to death, at the detriment of face-to-face, social interaction that binds us all together? Here’s an excerpt from “…But to hear Ive tell it, helping users manage their time is a small part of the challenge Apple and other technology companies face. “What I’m more concerned about,” said Ive, is preserving the interpersonal benefits of person-to-person interaction. “The more you remove people, the more technology can become transactional,” he said. Ive says the work Apple has been doing on emoji and messaging are meant to “restore some humanity to the way we connect.” In his remarks, Ive turned again and again to the theme of human connection. It’s important to Ive not just professionally (it’s central, for example, to his team’s vision for the future of Apple’s retail experience), but personally. “I moved to the US in 1992 for two reasons: I loved Apple and I loved the US.” At the time, he said, “optimism was tangible and material”—particularly in Silicon Valley...”

Photo credit: “First there were iPhones, and now there’s iPhone addiction,” Anna Wintour said to Jony Ive onstage at the WIRED25 summit. “How do you feel about that? Is the world too connected? Amy Lombard.

Waffle House is No Match for Michael. It turns out there is considerable validity to the “Waffle House Index” after all. Here’s an excerpt from Eater: “…Michael made landfall on the Florida panhandle Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 (out of 5) storm, with sustained winds of 155 miles per hour and a minimum central pressure of 919 millibars, making it the third-most intense hurricane to hit the United States. The last time Waffle House shut down so many locations in preparation for a storm was October 2016, as the chain temporarily shuttered more than 40 locations before Category 4 Hurricane Matthew battered the East Coast of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas…”

Image credit:

56 F. maximum temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.

58 F. average high on October 16.

66 F. high on October 16, 2017.

October 17, 1971: Heavy rain falls in NW Minnesota. 4.02 inches is recorded at Georgetown (20 miles N of Moorhead).

October 17, 1952: Record lows between 10 to 15 degrees are reported across central Minnesota, including a low of 10 at St. Cloud, 12 at Glenwood, and 14 at Alexandria, Litchfield, and Mora.

WEDNESDAY: Plenty of sun, brisk. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 49

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Clear and cool. Low: 35

THURSDAY: Sunny and pleasantly mild. Winds: SW 10-15. High: 61

FRIDAY: Early sprinkle. Cloudy and windy. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 49. High: 62

SATURDAY: Clipped again. Gusty with PM sprinkles, flurries. Winds: NW 15-30. Wake-up: 38. High: 44

SUNDAY: Sunny, nicer day of the weekend. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 30. High: 55

MONDAY: Plenty of sunshine, not bad. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 40. High: 57

TUESDAY: Blue sky, light winds. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 33. High: 51

Climate Stories….

IPCC Report: Going From Climate Theory to Reality. Here’s a link to an interview I gave to Ali Velshi at MSNBC Sunday morning from Washington D.C.: “The Hurricane Michael devastation is highlighting climate change, with meteorologist Paul Douglas telling Ali Velshi, ‘We’ve had four Category 4 or stronger hurricane strikes in the U.S. in the last 14 months,’ because of, ‘additional warming from greenhouse gases.”

Is Extreme Weather Really Becoming More Common? Some perspective from SciLine: “…The scientific consensus is “yes,” though details vary from region to region around the globe. Among the documented increases:Since 1991, the number of U.S. extreme downpours has increased by more than 30 percent compared to the 1901 to 1960 average, contributing to increased flooding. Extreme heat waves and droughts in Europe have more than doubled since 1980. Atlantic hurricane frequency, intensity (Category 4 and 5 storms) and duration have increased substantially since the early 1980s; North Atlantic tropical storm frequency over the years 2000 to 2013 increased by about 50 percent compared to the long-term (1966 to 2009) average…”

Climate Change Will Get Worse. These Investors Are Betting on It. Here’s a clip from a story at Bloomberg: “…The broader public’s failure to appreciate the risks of climate change is part of what makes it such a good area for investing, according to Schauble. He says that’s especially true in the U.S. “There is not a single other country where anybody smart isn’t a believer in these things,” Schauble says. “If you can see something that other people just refuse to see, and you can make decisions on that basis, I suspect over the longer term that is going to put you in good stead.” The fund managers and advisers interviewed for this story expressed little worry that the science is wrong. For some, a bigger concern was looking as if they were taking advantage of a slow-motion calamity. “I would love to give up these investment opportunities in a second if people would listen and stop polluting the environment,” Vogel says. In the meantime, he says, investors can be a societal warning system, alerting the public to a risk it has otherwise been reluctant to see. “If people are making money off it, that gets attention…”

Photo credit: “The aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Trenton, N.C., on Sept. 20, 2018.” Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg.

Exxon Mobil Pleges $1 Million to Campaign to Promote Carbon Tax. This just in: pigs are flying, but at least give credit to Exxon for evolving their position on a rapidly changing climate. They want a signal in the market, because the last thing (any) business wants is uncertainty. Here’s an excerpt from “Exxon Mobil will donate $1 million to a campaign promoting a tax to curb emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide to U.S. lawmakers and the American public. With the commitment, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company is throwing its financial support behind Americans for Carbon Dividends, an organization tasked with lobbying for a carbon tax plan developed by Republican statesmen James Baker III and George Shultz. Exxon’s support comes at a time when U.S. lawmakers remain at an impasse over putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions, with many Republicans opposed to a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system…”

File image credit: Inverse.

Shell Boss Says Mass Reforestation Needed to Limit Temperature Rises to 1.5C. The Guardian reports; here’s an excerpt: “The boss of Shell has said a huge tree-planting project the size of the Amazon rainforest would be needed to meet a tougher global warming target, as he argued more renewable energy alone would not be enough. Ben van Beurden said it would be a major challenge to limit temperature rises to 1.5C (equivalent to a rise of 2.7F), which a landmark report from the UN’s climate science panel has said will be necessary to avoid dangerous warming. “You can get to 1.5C, but not by just by pulling the same levers a little bit harder, because they are being pulled roughly as fast and as hard as we are currently imagining…”

Photo credit: “Reforestation is seen as essential if the world is to restrict warming to 1.5C, as outlined by the UN.” Photograph: Otto Bathurst/Jon Arnold Images Ltd/Alamy.

U.N Says Climate Genocide is Coming. But It’s Worse Than That. We are on track for about 4C of warming. What would that look like? Here’s a clip from New York Magazine: “…At two degrees, the melting of ice sheets will pass a tipping point of collapse, flooding dozens of the world’s major cities this century. At that amount of warming, it is estimated, global GDP, per capita, will be cut by 13 percent. Four hundred million more people will suffer from water scarcity, and even in the northern latitudes heat waves will kill thousands each summer. It will be worse in the planet’s equatorial band. In India, where many cities now numbering in the many millions would become unliveably hot, there would be 32 times as many extreme heat waves, each lasting five times as long and exposing, in total, 93 times more people. This is two degrees — practically speaking, our absolute best-case climate scenario. At three degrees, southern Europe will be in permanent drought. The average drought in Central America would last 19 months and in the Caribbean 21 months. In northern Africa, the figure is 60 months — five years...”

File image: Jeff Williams, NASA.

Hellfire. Is this what our future, especially in the western USA, looks like? Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian: “…Wildfire scientists bridle at the term “fire tornado”; they prefer “fire whirl”, but “fire whirl” seems inadequate to describe something that built its own weather system seven miles high. In 1978, meteorologist David Goens devised a classification system that placed fire whirls of this magnitude in the “fire storm” category, along with the caveat that: “This is a rare phenomenon and hopefully one that is so unlikely in the forest environment that it can be disregarded.” This was 40 years ago. So what has changed? For one, the addition of a new verb to the wildfire lexicon. “Natural fire never did this,” explained Gyves. “It shouldn’t moonscape.” But now it does…”

Photography credit by Tim Hussin.

A Philosopher Invented a Word for the Psychic Pain of Climate Change. Here’s a clip from Quartz: “In 2014, the writer and critic Zadie Smith published an essay in the New York Review of Books that drew a word-map around the perimeter of a feeling for which she felt we lacked language. “There is the scientific and ideological language for what is happening to the weather, but there are hardly any intimate words,” she wrote. Amid abstract global temperature trends and unfathomable volumes of melted sea ice, the everyday intimacy of climate change goes under-acknowledged. The feeling Smith wanted to describe was a type of loss—the loss of her home environment in England. That year, historic floods washed over the UK in the wettest winter England and Wales had seen since record keeping began nearly 250 years prior. Climate change had made extreme rainfall more likely for the region…”

Photo credit: “The emotional impact of climate change is one of dislocation.” Steffen Kastner/Unsplash.

Trouble Brewing: Climate Change to Cause “Dramatic” Beer Shortages. Media hype? I hope so. Here’s a clip from The Guardian: “Trouble is brewing for the world’s beer drinkers, with climate change set to cause “dramatic” price spikes and supply shortages, according to new research. Extreme heatwaves and droughts will increasingly damage the global barley crop, meaning a common ingredient of the world’s favourite alcoholic beverage will become scarcer. Key brewing nations are forecast to be among the worst hit, including Belgium, the Czech Republic and Ireland. The researchers said that compared with life-threatening impacts of global warming such as the floods and storms faced by millions, a beer shortage may seem relatively unimportant. But they said it would affect the quality of life of many people…”

Cracking Open Fewer Cold Ones With the Boys: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Climate change could cause the price of beer to skyrocket, according to new research. A study published Monday in the journal Nature Plants finds that warming temperatures and droughts could cause yields of barley, a key ingredient in beer, to drop by as much as 17 percent by the end of the century. This change could cause a big shift at bars worldwide: supply could decrease by up to 20 percent in the United States, while the price of a beer may triple in Ireland.” (New York Times $, Nexus Media NewsWSJ $, AP, Reuters)

Comment: Why Is It so Hard to Teach Climate Change? Here’s a snippet from EARTH Magazine: “…There are also systemic obstacles. Owing to a generations-long focus in American high schools on biology, chemistry and physics, there is no natural home in established curricula for detailed discussions of the climate system. A 2015 report from the American Geosciences Institute (which publishes EARTH) found that although 30 states required students to take a life science class to graduate from high school, only two states required students to take a class in earth or environmental sciences. So the incentive to offer such classes is absent…”

Climate Change is Transforming Business. Here’s a clip from Forbes: “...Some of the impacts on business are indirect, like changes in how insurance firms assess natural disaster risk, while others are clearly direct, such as Coca-Cola’s fear of water scarcity and IKEA’s fear of deforestation. These more immediate physical impacts are leading companies to invest in new processes and technologies to mitigate risk. There are also less intuitive impacts related to the transition to a carbon-free economy, as well as new trends in how customers, investors, business partners, and regulators make decisions. For example, customers are rewarding companies for sustainability efforts, governments and partners are enforcing goals of the Paris Agreement, and investors are demanding climate-risk disclosure…”

File image: Business Green.