Sitting Here Wondering Where the Wonder Went?

Whatever happened to our collective sense of wonder? Friday I watched “First Man”, chronicling Neil Armstrong’s ordeal to land on the moon. I remember watching those first steps in awe on the little black and white TV in our kitchen – then walking outside to gaze up at the moon in utter amazement.

Today’s modern marvels can’t compare. A new app, more megapixels, 523 Facebook friends, heated car seats?

I keep waiting for something (or someone) to unite us all in a way that hasn’t happened since those magical moments on July 20, 1969. What is America’s next “moon-shot”? Please encourage young dreamers to step up and surprise us.

You won’t have to wonder about the weather this week. Summer’s warm caress is gone. Canada wins most atmospheric scuffles into April. The only question: will it be a slap or full-frontal punch?

Expect timid slaps of chilly air into early November. Highs reach the 50s this week, with little chance of rain until late Friday.

No slushy adventures brewing. Hold off on driveway stakes, but know that models bring more of a cold-air-punch our way around Election Day.

Apollo 11 file image courtesy of NASA.

High Amplitude? Confidence levels remain (very) low due to flipping solutions from model run to run, but the latest GFS forecast for 500mb winds almost 2 weeks out predicts a giant cut-off low over the Upper Midwest and Plains, capable of unusual chill (for early November) and rain changing to snow. Stay tuned.

National Severe Storms Laboratory Unveils Weather Radar Research Prototype. Everything gets disrupted, including first-generation Doppler radar systems. Here’s an excerpt from NewsOK: “…Conventional radar systems use a dish to focus radar beams on a single area. Hondl compared those systems to a flashlight: Shine it in a particular area, and you’ll see what’s there. But when forecasters need to look somewhere else, they must mechanically move the dish to point to that area. Phased-array radar uses panels of nearly 5,000 radar beams to look for weather events. Forecasters can point those beams anywhere in a 90-degree area without physically moving the panel. That gives them the ability to look in several different areas more quickly than conventional radar would allow, Hondl said…”

Will a “Warm Alaska Blob” Mean a Wilder Winter for the USA? The Star Tribune has a story that caught my eye, here’s a clip: “…When the blob is in place, the jet stream, which both divides warm and cold air and acts a super highway for storms, tends to veer north over top the blob. This results in a big ridge of high pressure forming over the western North America, which brings mild weather and blocks storms. The blob’s presence was linked to the persistence and intensity of the drought in California from 2013 to 2015. It also ?was blamed for contributing to 2015 being the hottest year on record in Seattle,” according to Scott Sistek, a meteorologist with KOMO in Seattle. As the cold air displaced by the blob has to go somewhere, it then often crashes south in the East. Remember the polar vortex intrusions during the winters of 2013-2014 and 2014-2015? The blob played a role…”

NOAA Winter Outlook: El Nino May Mean Stormy Conditions in South and Eastern USA. Jason Samenow delves into a brewing El Nino at Capital Weather Gang: “…We find ourselves on the verge of El Niño,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, on a call with reporters Thursday. “There’s a 70-to-75 percent chance El Niño will develop in the next few months.” Historically, El Niño events have boosted precipitation amounts across the South and into the Mid-Atlantic and sometimes snowfall as well. In the Mid-Atlantic region, the amount of snow has depended on the strength of El Niño. Moderate and strong El Niño events have tilted the odds toward heavy snow in the Mid-Atlantic, but weak events have not. Halpert said this El Niño is likely to be a weak one…”

Photo credit: “A plow makes its way under a railroad bridge as light snow falls during a snowstorm, March 21, in Lebanon, N.J.” (Julio Cortez/AP).

Houses Intact After Hurricane Michael Were Often Saved by Low-Cost Reinforcements. The Washington Post explains: “The houses still standing in the storm-ravaged neighborhoods of Florida’s Panhandle are conspicuous for their presence. Sticking up from the rubble like one remaining tooth in a jawful of decay, each one is a haunting reminder of what used to exist around it. In many cases, they were saved by additional strategically placed nails, some small metal connectors and window shutters that created a sealed package — low-cost reinforcements that determined whose home survived and whose was destroyed by the power of Hurricane Michael. There are the five Habitat for Humanity houses in Panama City, a waterfront vacation home in Mexico Beach, a house built by a homeowner and a few of his church friends...”

Photo credit: “Five Habitat For Humanity houses, center, stood firm during Hurricane Michael even as an adjacent trailer park saw heavy damage.” (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Fighters Downed by Hurricane. How vulnerable is the military to extreme weather events, in the USA and abroad? Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed from The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: “Hurricane Michael did terrible damage in Florida last week, and that may include some of the world’s most capable military aircraft left in its path. But why can’t Air Force F-22 jet fighters, of all things, escape a storm? Answer: They lack the parts to be operational and so were stuck in hangars to take a beating. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Sunday that the damage to an unspecified number of F-22s on Tyndall Air Force Base was “less than we feared.” But maintenance professionals will have to conduct a detailed assessment before the Air Force can say with certainty that the planes will fly again. Press reports estimate that at least a dozen planes were left on the base due to maintenance and safety issues...”

Photo credit: “An aircraft hangar damaged by Hurricane Michael is seen at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Oct. 11.” Photo: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters.

With Hurricanes and Toxic Algae, Florida Candidates Can’t Ignore the Environment. Tourism, the life-blood of Florida’s economy, is being impacted. InsideClimate News has the story: “It’s been a year of environmental discontent in Florida. On the Gulf Coast, a toxic red tide algae burned beachgoers eyes and lungs and killed manatees by the dozens. In Lake Okeechobee and on the Atlantic Coast, slimy, rancid blooms of toxic blue-green algae prompted health warnings to stay out of the water. Sunny-day flooding in South Florida during king tides brought reminders of climate change and sea-level rise. Then a powerful hurricane fueled by the overly warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico exploded from almost nothing to Category 4 strength in just three days, devastating communities in the Panhandle. The environment is rarely a decisive issue for voters, but Florida is different, especially this year...”

An App Built for Hurricane Harvey Is Now Saving Lives in Florida. Every threat is an opportunity, right? Here’s an excerpt from WIRED.com: “…They used as their guide a service called Crowdsource Rescue, or CSR, which showed on a map individuals who might need help. On one of Salty Water’s visits, the crew met a woman whose house had a gas leak, so Lewis called local authorities. “It’s an eerie feeling to dial that number thinking someone’s going to come and it goes straight to a busy signal,” he says. The woman’s family had used CSR to request a wellness check on their relative. The idea behind CSR started out simple: collect calls for help posted on social media, geolocate them, and route volunteers to the distressed parties. Basically, Uber for emergencies...”

Adults Ingest 2,000 Pieces of Plastic in Table Salt on Average Each Year. Pass the plastic please. Quartz has the tasty details: “There’s microplastic in that table salt. A study published Tuesday (Oct. 16) in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found microplastics in more than 90% of the packaged food-grade salt—also known as table salt—for sale in stores. The team, from South Korea’s Incheon National University and Greenpeace East Asia, sampled 39 brands of salt harvested in 21 countries. Only three of the samples had no detectable microplastics. Microplastics are virtually everywhere. Sea salt and lake salt are made by evaporating water and harvesting the salt that remains. Plastic waste flows from rivers into those bodies of water, so it’s no surprise that the salt contains traces of it too...”

Map credit: “This chart shows where salts were sampled, with the height of the bars indicating the number of pieces of microplastic per kilogram of salt found in each sample.” Ji-Su Kim/Hee-Jee Lee/Seung-Kyu Kim/Hyun-Jung Kim/Environ. Sci. Technology.

Brain-Eating Amoebas Are Spreading – And That’s Just As Bad as It Sounds. Don’t sweat the snow flurries. Here’s a clip from Popular Science: “…N. fowleri, however, can enter the human body through the nasal cavity, where it attaches to the olfactory nerves and migrates into the brain. There, it causes inflammation that you might know better as meningitis. The term “meningitis” just means inflammation of the meninges, which are the membranes surrounding your brain and spinal column. At some point you (hopefully) got a meningitis vaccine, but that only protects you against three types of bacterial meningitis. Viruses, parasites, fungi, and amoebas can also cause this inflammation. Any of these sources can be deadly, but amoebic meningitis is generally more dangerous than the more-common viral or bacterial varieties because there’s no clear treatment. We have potent antibiotics and antivirals. We don’t have the same options for killing amoebas…”

Image credit: CDC.

23 Charts and Maps That Show the World is Getting Much, Much Better. Thank you Vox, for a little perspective and reality-check: “This is probably the most important chart on this list. The extraordinary rate of economic growth in India and China — as well as slower but still significant growth in other developing countries — has led to a huge decline in the share of the world population living on less than $1.90 a day, from nearly 35 percent in 1987 to under 11 percent in 2013. That’s a low bar for what counts as poverty, and some development experts argue we should be using a global poverty line of $10-15 a day instead. But that very debate is a sign of the tremendous progress made in recent decades…”

Graphic credit: “The huge drop in global poverty since 1987“. Our World in Data

Man-Made Moon to Shed Light on Chengdu (China) in 2020. Wow. Just wow. Here’s an excerpt from China Daily: “…Wu estimated Chengdu could save around 1.2 billion ($174 million) yuan in electricity annually if the artificial moon illuminated 50 sq km of the city.Meanwhile, the extra light can shine into disaster zones during blackouts, thus aiding relief and rescue efforts, he added. The mirrors can be adjusted for luminosity, and can be completely turned off when needed. However, less light from the satellite will reach the ground if the sky is overcast. “The first moon will be mostly experimental, but the three moons in 2022 will be the real deal with great civic and commercial potential,” Wu said. The three new man-made moons can take turns reflecting sunlight as they will not always be in the best position relative to the sun, and together they can illuminate an area of around 3,600 to 6,400 sq km on Earth for 24 hours if desired, he said…”

File image: NASA.

SUNDAY: Sunny and milder. Winds: SW 10-20. High: 56

SUNDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear. Low: 34

MONDAY: Partly sunny and pleasant. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 54

TUESDAY: Blue sky, a lighter breeze. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 35. High: 51

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, seasonably cool. Winds: SE 7-12. Wake-up: 30. High: 53

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy, a little drizzle? Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 36. High: 52

FRIDAY: A bit milder, rain showers late. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 41. High: 58

SATURDAY: Morning showers, then windy & cooler. Winds: NW 15-30+ Wake-up: 46. High: 53

Climate Stories….

Why Climate Change and Other Global Problems are Pushing Some Business Leaders to Embrace Regulation. An article at Harvard Business Review contains the following excerpt: “…Many businesses were actively involved in lobbying governments to make an ambitious agreement on climate in Paris in the first place. Unilever CEO Paul Polman was one of many who worked tirelessly to push governments to higher ambition. More than 365 companies and investors voiced their support for the US Clean Power Plan in 2015. More than 200 companies have publicly called for the introduction of carbon pricing. Business leaders are now calling on governments to create the policy frameworks to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. And it’s not just on climate. Companies invested significant resources in pushing for high public policy ambition in agreeing the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. On human rights issues, companies have lobbied the UK government for stronger regulation tackling Modern Slavery in corporate supply chains, and the Cambodian government for stronger protection for worker’s rights...”

Fighting Climate Change Won’t Destroy the Economy. Not if we do it right. Here’s an excerpt of a story at Vox: “…In its latest report, the IPCC estimated that the global economy would take a $54 trillion hit if the world warms by 1.5°C by 2100. That price tag rises $69 trillion if temperatures reach 2°C. In other words, there’s a huge price tag to doing nothing on climate change. On the other hand, increasing sustainability by using more renewable energy, curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and becoming more energy-efficient would save the global economy $26 trillion by 2030. Dirtier sources of energy like coal are already struggling with job losses and bankruptcies. There are about 52,000 workers left in the coal industry. Meanwhile, the renewable energy sector employs more than 800,000 people in the United States. And those numbers are poised to grow further in the United States: Solar power has surpassed natural gas and wind as the largest source of new energy generation…”

As Climate Change Batters U.S. Cities, Some Discuss “Managed Retreat”. I’m amazed more elected officials aren’t talking about this…yet. Here’s a clip from Thomson Reuters Foundation: “...About 300,000 coastal homes, valued at almost $118 billion, are at risk of chronic flooding by 2045, according to advocacy group the Union of Concerned Scientists, which predicted in June that the figure would rise to $1 trillion by the end of the century. Inland, about 41 million Americans are threatened by river flooding – three times the government’s current estimate – according to a report earlier this year by researchers from the University of Bristol. “We have seen escalating flood damage every decade from the 1980s until now, to the point that it almost seems to be doubling every decade,” said Chad Berginnis, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers. Despite the rising threat, he said, it remains difficult to discuss the idea of buying properties and moving populations...”

Photo credit: “Louisville residents are forced to use boats and kayaks to get to their homes along the Ohio River after it flooded Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., February 25, 2018.” Picture taken February 25, 2018. REUTERS/John Sommers II.

Why General Mills is Turning to “Throwback” Farming to Fight Climate Change. Because sometimes the old methods are still the best methods? Fortune has the story: “To fight climate change, General Mills is looking to its past. The 152-year-old food company is turning to “a throwback of classic, old farming practices” combined with new methods to contribute to a more sustainable future for the food industry, according to Carla Vernón, president of its natural and organic operating unit. That means expanding its organic acreage and implementing regenerative farming practices with perennial grains, cover crops, and pollinator habitats. “If we mean to stay in the food business at General Mills, then this problem that we’re facing, that we have been a participant in we realize now, we have to make positive contributions,” Vernón said…”

Drinking Wine in a Warmer World. Check out the Facebook video from Quartz News: “We’ll be drinking wines we’ve never tasted before in the near and warmer future—because, climate change. 🍇🌍🍷 This week Quartz News travels to Spain to investigate how an increase in global temperatures is threatening grapes used in our favorite wines and forcing winemakers to look to the past to adapt to the future…”

Climate Activism Nears Final Frontier. Here’s a clip from a guest-post Op-Ed at Reuters: “…Just a handful of around 250 global corporations and their supply chains account for about one-third of total annual emissions caused by human society, according to a recent study by Thomson Reuters, CDP, and Constellation Research. Think Exxon, PetroChina, Coal India and other oil, gas, transportation, capital-goods and mining engines of the world from which we have all benefited, and through which lies a key solution to climate change. More than half of these companies, though, do not voluntarily disclose their major sources of greenhouse-gas emissions, let alone their plans to reduce future pollution. In lieu of disclosure, outside experts try to estimate the numbers. What results is a guessing game on who matters most, and what their rate of increase or decrease might be over time...”

Photo credit: “A photo taken by Expedition 46 flight engineer Tim Peake of the European Space Agency (ESA) aboard the International Space Station shows Italy, the Alps, and the Mediterranean on January, 25, 2016.” REUTERS/NASA/Tim Peake/Handout.