Updraft & The Daily Circuit Present: Climate Cast
These days it seems like we are witnessing climate changes unfold right before our very eyes.
It's not our imagination.
The nature of our seasons is changing. Spring blooms come earlier. Summer is more humid with a documented increase in extreme localized flash flood events...and more frequent droughts. Fall lingers longer. Lakes freeze up later. Winters are shorter and noticeably, measurably milder.
The map below shows average annual temperatures have warmed +2F to +4F in much of Minnesota in just the past 30 years.
We're all living witnesses to rapid climate changes in our lifetime. This is no longer your grandparents "Minnesota."
In 2013 at MPR we're devoting more coverage to the growing effects of our changing climate in Minnesota and around the globe. You can hear me discuss the week's top climate stories in our new "Climate Cast" every Thursday morning at 9:50am with Kerri Miller on The Daily Circuit.
Every Thursday, MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner joins The Daily Circuit to talk about the latest research on our changing climate and the consequences that we're seeing here in Minnesota and worldwide.
This week on Climate Cast, we discussed the role climate change may have played in Hurricane Sandy and the drought, and looked at some of the most extreme Minnesota weather & climate related events in 2012.
Also this week, NOAA came out officially with the news we've been following and anticipating for months: 2012 was indeed the hottest year on record in the USA.
NCDC Announces Warmest Year on Record for Contiguous U.S.
According to NOAA scientists, the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. for 2012 was 55.3°F, which was 3.2°F above the 20th century average and 1.0°F above the previous record from 1998. The year consisted of the fourth warmest winter, a record warm spring, the second warmest summer, and a warmer-than-average autumn. Although the last four months of 2012 did not bring the same unusual warmth as the first 8 months of the year, the September through December temperatures were warm enough for 2012 to remain the record warmest year, by a wide margin.
Here's a great video from NOAA's Climate Watch highlighting the top climate related events of 2012.
Check this out, The White House has started a new climate change blog. The post highlights a newly released Federal Advisory Committee Draft Climate Assessment Report that forecasts a +4.9F rise in Midwest temps by 2050 at the current emmisions scenario.
Caption: Increasing annual average temperatures (top left) by the mid-century (2041-1 2070) as compared to the 1971-2000 period tell only part of the climate change story. Maps also show projected increases in the number of the hottest days (days over 95°F, 3 top right), longer growing seasons (bottom left), and an increase in cooling degree days (bottom right), which generally leads to an increase in energy use for air conditioning. Projections are from Global Climate Models that assume emissions of heat-trapping gases continue to rise (A2 scenario).
(Figure source: NOAA NCDC / CICS-NC. Data 7 from CMIP3 Daily Multi-model Mean.)
Finally, here's a look at my notes from this week's Hurricane Sandy Town Hall at the 2013 Annual AMS Conference I attended in Austin, Texas.
Climate Cast for January 10th, 2013
Here is an edited transcript of this week's show:
Kerri Miller: I'm going to play a little tape here to remind you of what we're talking about today and one of the events that was high on everyone's list.
AUDIO: That's a wind gust right there.The tide has been rising. Is that snow or rain? It's rain but it's coming down really hard. We're seeing waves six feet high.
Miller: Paul, that reminds me of how chaotic that was. Like a brew of crazy weather.
Paul Huttner: It was just amazing and frightening to watch this thing come. It was a slow motion weather disaster that we saw coming a week in advance. Some of the computer models, the hurricane center, did a great job seeing the potential path of the storm a week in advance. And then it was just a question of watching it come ashore and when it did. It exceeded everyone's expectations.
Miller: Is it the damage that Hurricane Sandy did that puts it at the top of extreme weather lists? What kind of standard are they using?
Huttner: That's the biggest one and let's start with that.
Sandy hit the most populated region in the United States with devastating damage. And I think overall it really altered the conversation about climate change. Some of the numbers: New York and New Jersey some of the hardest hit - 125 killed, 43 in NYC alone, 8 million without power, $100 billion in damage - and that's second only to Katrina. This may end up being the second most devastating hurricane to hit the United States.
Miller: When you say it altered the conversation is that because we got an up close real time look at what a changing climate can mean to a storm and the kind of damage it can do in a place where you maybe might not expect it?
Huttner: Let's talk about the links specifically and how climate change might have played a role in Sandy. Again, it's not a slam dunk but there are some strong ties here as we try to connect the dots between how a changing climate is driving extreme weather patterns.
First of all, Kerri, the water temperatures, the sea surface temperatures off of the Atlantic coast in October were unusually warm unusually far north. That was a result of the very hot summer that we saw in the northern hemisphere in the United States and the western Atlantic. So what happened was as Sandy came north when it would usually weaken and lose intensity it actually flared up over those warm waters, about 12-24 hours before it turned and hit shore. That I think is a pretty strong tie with a changing climate.
The second one is this unusually wavy jet stream pattern that caused Sandy, instead of steering out to the sea and the east like most hurricanes do in October, to slow down and then get sucked back to the west. There are some signs - not a slam dunk - but some signs that these unusually wavy or blocked jet stream patterns could be a result of some of the warmth and melting of sea ice that we saw in the Arctic that that tends to slow the jet stream down and make it more wavy and that may have sucked Sandy to the west on that unprecedented track that it took into NY and NJ.
Miller: It's kind of odd to think that Sandy hits the top of the list for extreme weather events but drought. So much moisture in Sandy and so little moisture we're experiencing with this drought. That's also on the list of extreme weather events, isn't it?
Huttner: It really is. That's number two on the list - there are a few top 10 lists - the one I'm reading from comes from Climate Central which is a pretty good source of breaking climate and weather news. That mega U.S. drought in the central part of the U.S., Minnesota was really right on the edge of it. It snuck in late in the year here to the point where we're now in severe to extreme drought in over 60 percent of Minnesota.
Here's the situation: that big dome of high pressure just sat over the central U.S. all summer and it baked areas. We saw consecutive days over 100 degrees, 20, 30 days from Kansas down through Oklahoma and Texas. It's the worst drought since the 1950s. It basically shut off all rain fall throughout the central plains and the Midwest.
There are multiple causes to drought, but the link with climate change potentially is again this slowing or blocking of the jet stream that can allow these patterns to persist. This drought, we're talking about potentially $100 billion in losses. Deutsche Bank Securities estimating it could affect US GDP by about 1 percent for 2012. With record corn prices, $8 a bushel, that will affect all of us at the grocery store going forward.
Miller: Part of the difficulty of trying to figure out what climate change is going to mean to us is that some parts of the country and the world are going to be affected quite differently than others. This is why they have a hard time getting agreements on what to do about climate change. Many people are going to experience this differently depending on where they live.
Huttner: That's a great point, Kerri. The words you used: "climate change" -- a lot of people used to call this global warming. Climate change is really a more accurate term because these changes we're seeing don't always imply warmer weather all the time in all parts of the earth even though the earth is warming up as a whole. So these changes are regional.
The global science on climate change has really kind of been done. But where the work is really going on now, the science is in regional effects of climate change. There's a lot of good work going on at the University of Minnesota about upper Midwest climate changes, the Minnesota climate working group, Mark Seeley and his folks. So we're trying to pinpoint what do we expect to happen, what does this puzzle look like in different regions of the earth.
Miller: Tell me about some of the extreme weather events for Minnesota if we were to compile a list, which I think they've done.
Huttner: They have. In fact, Minnesota Climate Working Group has a pretty good list. We'll start with number five which we go back to almost a year ago now: the non-winter of 2011-2012. You may remember a little more than a year ago, some of the predictions were dire. Accuweather among others saying people in Chicago are going to want to move south after this winter. It turned out that was very far from the truth and we had one of the mildest winters on record throughout the U.S. and in the upper Midwest. We had very little snowfall in Minnesota. 22.3 inches in the Twin Cities, 10th least snowy winter on record for the Twin Cities and the fourth warmest winter on record.
Miller: What else is at the top?
Huttner: The hot July they pegged as number four. Second warmest month ever for the Twin Cities, 80.2 degrees for the average temperature if you add up all the highs and lows for that month. Number three - the drought that snuck into Minnesota late in the year. Remarkable weather pattern for Minnesota last year because we had the flooding and the heavy rains early in the season and then the second half of the year somebody just flipped the switch off and drought crept in. That also again may be a sign of climate change where we're seeing these wild swings from wet to dry. We mentioned the flood, the Duluth area flood, June 19th-20th. That was the largest flash flood event ever for that region. 10.10 inches of rain recorded just northeast of Duluth. Hundreds of homes damaged with that and Feisty the seal escaped from Lake Superior Zoo. That was kind of the symbol of that. Just a remarkable situation there.
Then number one: the mild March last year. It was a record-warm March. 15.5 degrees above average. We saw 80 on St. Patrick's Day, earliest 80 degree temperature ever recorded in the Twin Cities. It just fit the overall pattern of what turned out to be the warmest year on record for the Twin Cities.
Miller: But again it's a story of contrast. Even as you're talking about the Duluth flooding, we know the Mississippi River hit one its lowest lows in history last year.
Huttner: It did. A record late in the year. All that lack of rainfall, the drought from southern Minnesota through Iowa, Missouri, all those places that drain into the Mississippi. And of course that has an impact on shipping. There were parts of the Mississippi that literally had to shut down late in 2012.
Going forward we're hoping that we'll get a better snow cover and we're already off to a decent start in the US. Hopefully some of that snow melt will help boost and recharge the Mississippi. We are setting up for a drought spring. It's going to be very critical in terms of what kind of rainfall we get after the ground thaws out to see where we're going to be at in Minnesota. We're in kind of a precarious situation as we go into the spring of 2013.
Climate Cast resources:
Want to know more about climate change? Here are few quick links to credible climate change sources.
-NOAA NCDC's "State of the Climate" report
-Great summary of Modern Day Climate Change from SUNY-Suffolk
-Minnesota Climate Working Group climate change resources
-Mark Seeley's Weather Talk
-Common climate change myths
-Climate change in the news from Climate Central
January Thaw continued for all but far NW Minnesota Friday
5th straight day above freezing at MSP Friday!
+6F Temps running close to +6F vs. average at MSP so far this month
Return to January as cold front finally slams through Minnesota early Saturday
Blizzard Warnings up for the Red River Valley into Saturday
Winter Storm Warnings including Fargo, Thief River Falls & Roseau
5" to 10" snowfall likely in Red River Valley & NW Minnesota by Saturday PM
Sub-Zero wind chills return this weekend as Canadian air sweeps in
Near 0F in the metro by Sunday morning
-15F to -20F in northern Minnesota this weekend
Wintery air here to stay for most of next week
Brief "mini-thaw" next Wednesday?
Winter Strikes Back: Tale of two forecasts
As the Twin Cities slogs through puddles Friday night, the Red River Valley is getting hammered by Blizzard conditions.
URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAND FORKS ND
250 PM CST FRI JAN 11 2013
...MAJOR WINTER STORM THROUGH SATURDAY MORNING...
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...CROOKSTON...EAST GRAND FORKS...
DEVILS LAKE...GRAFTON...NEW ROCKFORD...LAKOTA...GRAND FORKS...
250 PM CST FRI JAN 11 2013
...BLIZZARD WARNING NOW IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON CST SATURDAY...
THE BLIZZARD WARNING IS NOW IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON CST SATURDAY.
* MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOW WILL OCCUR. SNOW ACCUMULATIONS FROM 4 TO
7 INCHES...WITH ISOLATED HIGHER AMOUNTS...ARE EXPECTED.
* NORTH WINDS FROM 30 TO 35 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 45 MPH WILL
RESULT IN WIDESPREAD BLIZZARD CONDITIONS. VISIBILITY WILL BE
REDUCED TO ONE QUARTER MILE OR LESS IN BLOWING AND DRIFTING
SNOW...MAKING TRAVEL NEAR IMPOSSIBLE.
* WIND CHILL VALUES WILL BE 25 TO 35 BELOW ZERO SATURDAY MORNING.
5" to 10" snowfall totals and high winds will make for difficult..to impossible travel in the Red River Valley into at least Saturday PM.
Wintery air returns this weekend with sub freezing...and some sub-zero temps and wind chills for all of Minnesota. The thaw is over...get ready for a return to January" in Minnesota for most of next week.
Positive sign of the times?
I knew the economy is improving, but I can't recall the last time I saw a sign like this one on my way to hockey Friday night.
Have a great weekend.
We know most of Minnesota has already warmed +2F to +4F in the past 30 years, but this one still comes as a bit of a shock.
A new Federal Advisory Committee Draft Climate Assessment Report from the "National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee" or NCADAC released Friday projects that at current greenhouse gas emissions rates... Minnesota and the Midwest will warm an additional 5-degrees F by 2050.
Lake Superior waters are projected to see a 7-degree F increase by 2050.
The report is long detailed and well cited with credible sources current in climate change research. This thing is a beast, so I've tried to break it down into a more easily digestible read focused on the Midwest and Minnesota.
Here's an excerpt:
The rate of warming in the Midwest has markedly accelerated over the past few decades. Between 1900 and 2010, the average Midwest air temperature increased by more than 1°F. However, between 1950 and 2010, the average temperature increased twice as quickly, and between 1980 and 2010 it increased three times as quickly (Pryor and Barthelmie 2012). Warming has been more rapid at night and during winter. These trends are consistent with the projected effects of increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases, and the spatial variability of trends is also influenced by land-use changes and increased use of irrigation (Pan et al. 2009; Pryor and Barthelmie 2012).
The amount of future warming will depend on changes in the atmospheric concentration of heat-trapping gases. Projections for regionally averaged temperature increases by the middle of the century (2046-2065) relative to 1979-2000 are approximately 3.8°F for a scenario with substantial emissions reductions (B1), and 4.9°F for the current high emissions trend scenario (A2). The projections for the end of the century (2081-40 2100) are approximately 5.6°F for the low emission scenario, and 8.5°F for the high emission scenario (Pryor et al. in press).
Caption: Increasing annual average temperatures (top left) by the mid-century (2041-1 2070) as compared to the 1971-2000 period tell only part of the climate change story. 2 Maps also show projected increases in the number of the hottest days (days over 95°F, 3 top right), longer growing seasons (bottom left), and an increase in cooling degree days 4 (bottom right), which generally leads to an increase in energy use for air conditioning. 5 Projections are from Global Climate Models that assume emissions of heat-trapping 6 gases continue to rise (A2 scenario).
(Figure source: NOAA NCDC / CICS-NC. Data 7 from CMIP3 Daily Multi-model Mean.)
Another 10 days per year above 95F for the metro on average? Time to have my AC unit checked I think.
This kind of future warming will have wide ranging impacts on our Minnesota landscape. Here are the key effects highlighted in the report.
(I've removed the individual citations to make it easier to read, but they can all be found in the report text)
1. In the next few decades, longer growing seasons and rising carbon dioxide levels will increase yields of some crops, though those benefits will be increasingly offset by the occurrence of extreme events such as heat waves, droughts, and floods. In the long term, combined stresses associated with climate change are expected to decrease agricultural productivity, especially without significant advances in genetic and agronomic technology.
2. The composition of the region's forests is expected to change as rising temperatures drive habitats for many tree species northward. The region's role as a net absorber of carbon is at risk from disruptions to forest ecosystems, in part due to climate change.
3. Increased heat wave intensity and frequency, degraded air quality, and reduced water quality will increase public health risks.
4. The Midwest has a highly energy-intensive economy with per capita emissions of greenhouse gases more than 20% higher than the national average. The region also has a large, and increasingly utilized, potential to reduce emissions that cause climate change.
5. Extreme rainfall events and flooding have increased during the last century, and these trends are expected to continue, causing erosion, declining water quality, and negative impacts on transportation, agriculture, human health, and infrastructure.
6. Climate change will exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes region, including changes in the range and distribution of important commercial and recreational fish species, increased invasive species, declining beach health, and harmful blooms of algae. Declines in ice cover will continue to lengthen the commercial navigation season.
Source: National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee
Lake Superior: San Diego of the North? +7F by 2050?
The reduction of ice cover and warmer annual temperatures will raise Lake Superior water temps by +7F by 2050 according to the report.
That will have a remarkable impact on lake conditions...and may put Lake Superior into play as a warmer, more effective moisture source to "juice" intense rainfall events as the lake becomes an additional source of moisture and "heat energy" for incoming storms.
Another rather alarming excerpt:
Due to the reduction in ice cover, the temperature of 1 surface waters in Lake Superior during the summer increased 4.5°F, twice the rate of increase in 2 air temperature (Austin and Colman 2007). By 2050 and 2100, these surface temperatures are 3 projected to rise by as much as 7.0°F and 12.1°F, respectively (Mackey 2012; Trumpickas et al. 4 2009). Higher temperatures, increases in precipitation, and lengthened growing seasons favor 5 production of blue-green and toxic algae that can harm fish, water quality, habitat, aesthetics 6 (Ficke et al. 2007; Mackey 2012; Reutter et al. 2011), and potentially heighten the impact of 7 invasive species already present (Bronte et al. 2003; Rahel et al. 2008).
Overall the changes in this report are remarkable...and will take some time to digest.
This magnitude of warming will likely cause some dramatic... and potentially alarming changes in our Minnesota Landscape.
Our forests will shift north. Pine forests may dissapear, and transition to hardwood forests in significant sections of northern Minnesota.
Prairies will also overtake areas that are now forested...possibly even the parts of Twin Cities metro.
Increases in the frequncy of extreme rainfall events will create more events like the multiple "500 to 1,000 year" flood events seen in Duluth and southern Minnesota in the past 9 years.
The changes we're already observing in Minnesota will continue...and the pace of change is likely to quicken in the next 30 years. Our children will live in a very different Minnesota than our parents did.