Stories tagged climate

Feb
13
2013

The Science Museum of Minnesota is a partner with the University of Minnesota on its Islands in the Sun project, which is monitoring the urban heat island in the Twin Cities to find ways of lessening its effects through landscape design. More than half the global population now lives in cities and so there is urgent need to understand and mitigate urban heat islands, especially during heat waves when the risk of heat-related illness and mortality can increase dramatically.Islands in the Sun temperature sensor
Islands in the Sun temperature sensorCourtesy Courtesy Department of Soil, Water and Climate, University of Minnesota

Islands in the Sun is setting up temperature sensors throughout the Twin Cities Metro Area. This temperature network when completed will be one of the densest in the world. Would you like to be a part of this effort? Islands in the Sun is especially interested in volunteers willing to have a sensor installed on their property and who live in the following locations -- downtown Minneapolis, downtown Saint Paul, Saint Paul – east of Rice St, West Saint Paul, South Saint Paul, Mendota Heights, Inver Grove Heights, Eagan, Oakdale, Woodbury, Cottage Grove, northern Roseville, Arden Hills, and Plymouth.

Information about the sensor and its placement can be found here. If you are still interested after reviewing this information, then fill out and submit a volunteer form. Please note that your interest does not guarantee that a sensor will be installed because each site must meet certain criteria. If selected, a temperature sensor will be installed at a location on your property acceptable to you with the expectation that it will remain onsite collecting data for up to four years. A technician will visit the sensor every two to three months to download data.

Thanks for considering being a part of this ground-breaking research project.

Jul
12
2012

Radiometers at Science Museum of Minnesota
Radiometers at Science Museum of MinnesotaCourtesy Patrick Hamilton
The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport reported a low at 6:00 a.m. this morning of 73 degrees F degrees while nearby Lakeville was at 57 – a 16 degree difference in only 20 miles. Said Paul Huttner, an MPR meteorologist, “…one of the biggest urban heat island effects today I have ever seen in 40+ years of watching and forecasting weather in the Twin Cities.”

Urban heat islands are regions of strong warming localized around the heart of a city with progressively lower temperatures as one travels away from the center – hence the name “heat island”. Urban heat islands exist because of large differences in land use, building materials, and vegetation between cities and their rural surroundings. In much of the world, cities are warming at twice the rate of outlying rural areas and so the frequency of urban heat waves is projected to increase with climate change through the 21st century.

Drs. Peter Snyder and Tracy Twine are in the midst of a four-year research project funded by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment and the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences to monitor the urban heat island of the Twin Cities. The project aims to improve understanding of the mechanisms contributing to urban heat islands with a goal of finding ways to lessen their effects through landscape design.

Snyder, Twine and two graduate students installed two instrument towers at the Science Museum on Monday as part of their urban heat island research project. One is on the white roof outside of the windows of Elements Café and the other is on a nearby black roof. Both are visible if you stand at the southwest corner of the plaza outside of the Café and look back at the museum. The two towers with their arrays of temperature sensors and radiometers will collect data at the museum for about four weeks, permitting Snyder and Twine to better characterize the interactions between different roof types and solar radiation in their urban heat island modeling work.

Jul
05
2011

The entire nation now has a new ‘normal temperature.’ These climatological temperatures, and other weather parameters, are computed by averaging all temperatures over a 30-year period. These averages are called normal temperatures. These averages serve as a reference point and are used to help us interpret average climate conditions at a particular location. A comparison of today’s temperature with the normal temperature helps us determine if today is an atypical weather day. Private industry also uses these temperatures in the planning. For example, energy companies use the normal temperature for long term planning of energy usage. Agriculture uses this as they monitor a particular growing season.

The National Ocean and Atmosphere Administration’s National Climatic Data Center (or NCDC) calculates the normal weather conditions over a thirty year period for more than 7,500 locations in the United States.
Since this time period is a reference point, we have to define the 30-year period. As of July 1, this averaging period is 1981-2010. Prior to that date, the averaging period was 1971-2000. So, what does this new period tell us?

The normal temperature for the entire US is about 0.5 °F warmer now than it was during the 1971-2000 time period. The normal low temperature for WI is about 0.8 °F warmer now than it was in the 1971-2000 period; and WI normal high temperature is about 0.6 °F warmer. According to Assistant State Climatologist of WI, Dr. E. Hopkins, the new normal high and low temperatures for Madison (which is where I live) are 56.6 and 36.7, which are 0.2 and 1.2 degrees higher than the previous 30-year period.

You can find the new normals for where you live at this site:
http://www.climatewatch.noaa.gov/article/2011/the-new-climate-normals-ga...

Have I got a visual snack for you! But first, let's review:

Weather is not the same as climate. Weather is the actual day-to-day temperature, precipitation, wind, etc. Climate is the average long-term pattern of temperature, precipitation, wind, etc.

Got it? No? If you need more of an explanation (and who doesn't), check out this past Buzz post.

Great job! Now enjoy these amazing photos of extreme weather.

Did you check out the photos I shared with you above?

Get to it!

I'm waiting...

Alright. Moving on:

While Lane Turner's introduction to the photos makes it clear that a single extreme weather event is not evidence of climate change, she states (without citation) that

"a trend of weather intensity, and oddity, grows."

Beautiful Disaster: Cologne, Germany.  August 22, 2010
Beautiful Disaster: Cologne, Germany. August 22, 2010Courtesy meironke

Turner's continues by asking whether weather is becoming more extreme and, if it is, whether these increasing extreme weather events are evidence of climate change.

Say that 10 times fast... and then post your own answer to Turner's question below.

This is us
This is usCourtesy jadensmommy
Seriously, America, you really don't know much about how climate works. Like, most of us get an F when it comes to climate. Check it out: 52 Percent of Americans Flunk Climate 101. And here's a .pdf of the quiz. Test yourself, and tell us in the comments how you did!

Oct
15
2010

I'm watching you...: No, not you, JGordon. Get over yourself.
I'm watching you...: No, not you, JGordon. Get over yourself.Courtesy NOAA Photo Library
I always assumed that I was under near-constant supervision by government satellites. I figured that because satellites can’t really see me inside stores (where I do all my shoplifting), they’d be making up for lost time by watching me put stolen clothing on the dog (in the yard) and having my bubble baths (near a window).

At first it was creepy … but then it was sort of comforting. Like a nightlight. A nightlight that’s always looking at you.

Well, it turns out that my privacy may actually be pretty low on NASA’s list of priorities.

See, a new online system was just launched in the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, which should allow scientists and concerned organizations access to images from NASA satellites. Cool, I thought. I’ll get a fancy new hat. But, no, it just so happens that the images aren’t of me relaxing on the roof, or of me washing my car in carwash-appropriate clothing—they’re images of the Himalayas, and the massive glaciers they hold.

I wouldn’t say that I’m “devastated,” exactly. But I am crushed. I thought we—NASA and I—had something. I mean, yes, those images are recorded and distributed to track the effects of climate change on Himalayan glaciers, and, yes, the glaciers appear to be shrinking at an alarming rate, and, yes, more than a billion people depend on the water released by those glaciers, but … what about my feelings?

Hopefully, the data provided by the satellites will help the people in vast regions of Asia to prepare for floods and, perhaps eventually, severe shortages of fresh water.

In the meantime… I guess I’ll just hide some nanny-cams around the house. To feel looked after, you know?

[It's Blog Action Day 2010, and this year's theme is water.]

Aug
31
2010

This is not climate: It is weather. Also, it is breakfast.
This is not climate: It is weather. Also, it is breakfast.Courtesy Lori Geig
Well, no, I won’t literally shout it into your brain. First of all, I’m writing this in the near past, and it’s difficult to shout in this medium anyhow. Also, even if we were right next to each other at the same time, I’d really be shouting into one of your ears, or possibly into your face. To shout into your brain, I’d need some sort of saw, or a hammer, and I’d definitely need your cooperation. (I’m just that kind of guy.) So the shouting thing is out.

But it’s really important that you understand the difference between weather and climate, or folks are going to take advantage of your confusion. They’ll do it with op-eds and obnoxious little bumper stickers instead of with a hammer, but it will still be unpleasant in the end.

So here’s the thing: weather and climate are not the same.

See, you may say to yourself, “I know the difference between weather and climate. I’m smrt!” And you may very well be smert, but there’s a decent chance that you still let weather fool you into thinking it’s climate. As this article in the NY Times points out, plenty of samart people still confuse the two concepts, or at least use one (weather) to make points about the other (climate).

Let’s be different. Let’s be truly smaret people, and get this cleared up once and for all. Weather is not the same thing as climate.

Weather is day-to-day, climate is year-to-year, or decade-to-decade, or century-to-century. Weather is immediate, and we feel it acutely, so it weighs on our minds. But it isn’t climate, which is so long-term that even very smar people tend to miss the point.

The East Coast had a frigid snowy winter, so global warming must be myth, right? But the Midwest and Russia have been having a hot hot summer, so we must be in the burning grip of global warming, right? No. If either is the case, a cold winter or a hot summer isn’t the evidence for it.

Back in the year 1991, there was a blizzard on Halloween. If was off the hooook! I was a jawa, or something, and I trick-or-treated my way through about two and a half feet of snow. Crazy, right? But does that crazy Halloween blizzard mean that October is a very snowy month in Minnesota? Of course not! Who would even think that?

What if we (Minnesotans) got a couple solid weeks of rain right now, at the tail end of summer? That would be a damp way to spend the Labor Day weekend. But would it mean that Minnesota is on its way to becoming a rainforest. No, no it wouldn’t. A rainy couple weeks, or even a whole rainy summer, is weather. Climate is weather (temperature, wind, humidity, atmospheric pressure, precipitation, etc) averaged out over years and years. I’m sorry if your birthday was ruined by a freak firestorm, but that doesn’t have a thing to do with climate, so stop making that demonstration sign with a picture of your cake melting.

Maybe it seems obvious, but we still tend to use weather as a substitute for climate even when we think we understand it. Consider the concept of “Global Warming’s Six Americas.” A report from Yale University has found that people can be placed into six groups regarding their feelings on climate change: alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful, or dismissive.

People who fall into the extreme categories, the freaking-out “alarmed” and the denying “dismissive,” typically aren’t swayed by day-to-day weather—they might use it to further their own arguments, but they (rightly) don’t let it affect their perceptions of long-term climate behavior.

Everyone else, the various shades of undecided, however, is influenced by the local weather, often subconsciously.

Say what?! Clever people that we are, we still allow the wrong evidence to influence our opinions on huge, important issues?! We have to be smaearter than that! So whenever your jerky aunt or your shrill uncle are trying to tell you that the Christmas heat wave or the frosty July mornings are evidence for or against global warming, run the information through your own brain, and when your brain tells you that you need to consider years and years worth of information before you can make that call, you can tell them to shove it.

Of course climate is made up of weather—lots and lots and lots of weather—but, as an author of a report on the subject puts it, making generalizations about climate based on weather “is like asserting how the economy is doing by looking at the change in your pocket. It’s relevant, but not that relevant.”

I like to think of it another way, too. Like, in Home Alone, just because Kevin Mcallister’s family called him “such a disease,” and left him home alone that one time, it didn’t mean that they didn’t really love him. To actually switch to a climate of non-love, the Mcallisters would have to call Kevin a disease every day for years and years, and maybe even stop feeding him.

Or just because Hulk Hogan opened Pastamania in 1995, it would be a mistake to say that the nation was in a climate of true pasta-love, let alone pastamania. Far from it.

To say the climate is changing, or not changing, you have to look at the weather data over many years. So do that, instead of forming opinions on whatever is bugging you on a particular day. Don’t be a chump. Be smart.

Aug
21
2010

Tornadoes, Jan1 - Aug20, 2010
Tornadoes, Jan1 - Aug20, 2010Courtesy NOAA

Tornado alley moves to Minnesota

As of Aug 20, Minnesota has had 123 tornadoes. Texas is number two with only 87. Minnesota has never been number one in tornadoes before.

State tornadoe records for the past decade

.

  • 2009 Texas 125 tornadoes
  • 2008 Kansas 185 tornadoes
  • 2007 Texas 198 tornadoes
  • 2006 Illinois 123 tornadoes
  • 2005 Kansas 136 tornadoes
  • 2004 Texas 178 tornadoes
  • 2003 Texas 155 tornadoes
  • 2002 Texas 172 tornadoes
  • 2001 Texas 137 tornadoes
  • 2000 Texas 146 tornadoes

Learn more about MN tornadoes 2010

Minnesota Tornadoes 2010: We're #1! Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota Tornado History and Statistics University of Minnesota

It's Friday, so it's time for another Science Friday video. Science Friday
Science Friday
Courtesy Science Friday
"Engineer James Bird estimates that he watched thousands of bubbles pop while he was getting his Ph.D. at Harvard University. With the help of high-speed cameras, Bird and his colleagues discovered that when interfacial bubbles--bubbles resting on water or a solid--pop, they give birth to a ring of baby bubbles. The discovery, published in Nature, has implications for soda drinkers and global climate estimates."

Watch now
Watch nowCourtesy NPR
Well, I learned about it a day too late to listen live, but NPR's Marketplace hosted a invigorating conversation on Climate and Sustainability yesterday. You can listen to audio and watch video of the event online. We need more events like this, bringing scientists and business leaders together to create a sustainable environment that works for humans in our modern economy.