Friday, August 7, 2009

Drought still effects Minnesota's lakes and streams

A dry summer and fall means water levels on Minnesota lakes and rivers are down. The flow on the Mississippi River near Little Falls Minnesota is about half of what it should be this time of year. (MPR Photo/Tim Post).

No doubt you've noticed that Minnesota is in the middle of a snow drought. With the exception of far northern Minnesota, much of the state is without snow. This precipitation-free winter is no help to the region's already parched soil. Minnesota suffered through a hot dry summer, and received little relief in the form of rain this fall. Weather watchers say come spring the region will be really dry.

Little Falls, Minn. — A flock of geese gathers on the frozen Mississippi River near downtown Little Falls. The river's coating of ice cracks and shifts as it's warmed by the December sun. This winter scene hides the fact that water levels on the Mississippi, and most of the other rivers and lakes in Minnesota, are down because of drought.

Upstream near a dam the signs of drought are easy to find. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources hydrologist Tim Crocker scrambles down a boulder-strewn riverbank and stands on rock that would normally be under water.

The rest of this (excellent) MPR report on the lingering drought can be found here.

DNR Graphic showing the Departure from Normal of Rainfall for the period April 1 to August 3. Note the 7-9" rainfall deficit for the Twin Cities metro area, with a 7" deficit near Alexandria. It's going to take more than a couple of thunderstorms to make up for this - although Fridays waves of heavy/severe storms certainly did put a dent in the drought!

For a thorough, exhaustive update on the drought of '09 compiled by the Minnesota Climatology Working Group click here.

The top 5 ways the "birthers" are like the global warming deniers

The people who refuse to accept the reality that President Obama was born in the United States share much in common with those who refuse to accept the reality that humans are dramatically changing the climate.

5. Both groups are impervious to the evidence. During the campaign, "Obama released a certification of live birth, which is the official document you get if you ask Hawaii for a copy of your birth certificate," as Salon explains. Further, "state officials have repeatedly affirmed its authenticity and said they've checked it against the original record and that Obama was indeed born in Hawaii." Politico labels this "seemingly incontrovertible evidence." Similarly, the reality of human-caused warming has been overwhelmingly demonstrated and affirmed by the peer-reviewed literature, the hundreds of scientists who review and report on that literature periodically as part of the IPCC process and the more than 100 world governments (including the Bush Administration) who approved the 2007 IPCC summary reports word for word (see "Absolute MUST Read IPCC Report: Debate over, further delay fatal, action not costly" and "Can you PROVE to me that global warming is being caused by mankind?"*).

Joseph Romm is the Editor for The rest of his story is here.

Climate change melting US glaciers at faster rate, study finds

A composite image showing South Cascade glacier in Washington state (year 2000, left, 2006, right). A new study today found a sharp rise in the melt rate of three key American glaciers over the last 10-15 years. Photograph: USGS

Climate change is melting America's glaciers at the fastest rate in recorded history, exposing the country to higher risks of drought and rising sea levels, a US government study of glaciers said today. The long-running study of three "benchmark" glaciers in Alaska and Washington state by the US geological survey (USGS) indicated a sharp rise in the melt rate over the last 10 or 15 years.

Scientists see the three - Wolverine and Gulkana in Alaska and South Cascade in Washington - as representative of thousands of other glaciers in North America.

"The observations show that the melt rate has definitely increased over the past 10 or 15 years," said Ed Josberger, a USGS scientist. "This certainly is a very strong indicator that climate change is occurring and its effects on glaciers are virtually worldwide." The survey also found that all three glaciers had begun melting at the same higher rate - although they are in different climate regimes and some 1,500 miles apart.

The complete article at the U.K's Guardian is here.

The Los Angeles Times has a slightly different angle; the report tracked 3 "benchmark glaciers" over the span of 50 years.

What's Inside a Hurricane?

Eastern Pacific Hurricane Felicia made headlines recently as it quickly become a category 4 hurricane (sustained winds of 140mph) within a days time. NASA has a nice 3D view of Felicia here, check it out:

The Atlantic Hurricane season began June 1st, but has yet to see its first named storm of 2009. On average, we should have seen the first named storm July 10th. Still, it remains "All Quiet on the Western Front".

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Inflection is Near?

Minnesota's own Thomas Friedman wrote an excellent column back in March which I felt compelled to re-post, in light of the previous (Joe Romm) blog equating the global economic bender we've been on with a Ponzi scheme.

Friedman writes, "What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”

The thermometer record (worldwide) goes back to the mid 1800s, but we have reliable "proxy data" going back hundreds of thousands of years: tree rings, ice core samples, fossilized sediment from lake bottoms. Call me crazy, but do you see anything unusual about this graph?

Climate change deniers like to point out that Earth has cooled since 1998. Not true. We were in the midst of a Super-El Nino in 1998 which compounded and amplified the warmth observed on land and at sea. But climate scientists all agree that the decade from 1998-2007 was warmer than the previous decade, from 1989-1998 - that decade was warmer than the previous 10-year span, and so on, going back to the mid/late 70s.

Friedman's entire article in the New York Times is here.