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Why The Track Forecast For Hurricane Dorian Has Been So Challenging

Here is something that you can take to the bank. We will not see the name “Dorian” used in the Atlantic basin for any future hurricane. The names of particularly destructive or impactful storms are retired. According to the National Hurricane Center, Dorian is now tied with the 1935 Labor Day hurricane for the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall on record. In a 3 pm advisory on September 1st, the National Hurricane Center warned of gusts to 220 mph and 18 to 23 feet storm surges for parts of the Abacos.

I have been in the field of meteorology over 25 years and do not recall seeing warnings about 220 mph gusts for a hurricane. Hurricane watches have also been issued for Andros Island and from North of Deerfield Beach to the Volusia/Brevard County Line in Florida. At the time of writing, the official forecast from the National Hurricane Center is for a northward curve and no direct Florida landfall. This is dramatically different from forecasts only a few days ago.

There is still uncertainty with the forecast so coastal Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas should remain on high alert. Why has the track forecast been so challenging with Hurricane Dorian?

Historically, hurricane track forecasts have outpaced intensity forecasts. I discuss the reasons why in a previous Forbes article at this link. With Hurricane Dorian, uncertainty about the forecast track and timing of the storm forced officials to move the Florida State – Boise State football game from Jacksonville, slated for a 7 pm kickoff on Saturday, to noon in Tallahassee. I am certain that many businesses and people are questioning the move given that timing of when impacts are now expected. Unfortunately, officials and emergency managers often must make decision on the best information at the moment.

Some people may be tempted to use uncertainty with this forecast to spew vitriol or skepticism at meteorologists and our models. However, challenges with Hurricane Dorian’s track forecast do not define the legacy of weather forecasts. It would be silly to say that the NFL’s best field goal kicker is terrible based on a few misses.

So what’s going on? I asked a panel of tropical meteorology experts.

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Speed of motion of Hurricane Dorian has been a significant challenge. Professor John Knox, a recent recipient of the American Meteorological Society’s Edward Lorenz Teaching Award, offers an important lesson. The University of Georgia atmospheric sciences professor pointed out:

Before you bash the meteorologists for being stupid: one reason the forecasted track has changed is because the forecasts of the forward speed of Dorian have slowed it down more and more. If it had chugged along as originally forecast, it likely would have hit east-central Florida and then maybe gone into the Gulf, before the high pressure above us in the Southeast would break down. But, because it’s moving more slowly, the high-pressure break down is opening the gate, so to speak, for Dorian to go more northward and eastward. So, the change in forecast is tied tightly to the arrival timing.

Professor John Knox, University of Georgia

Dr. Phillippe Papin is an Atmospheric Scientist and Associate Postdoctoctor Scientist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Papin also points to the high pressure as being a factor. He wrote:

the ridge to the north of Dorian has been steering Dorian off to the west the last few days….But there is a weak trough that is swinging into the eastern US that is going to erode the strength to the ridge enough so that a gap forms to the north of Dorian and it begins to move further to the north.

Dr. Phillippe Papin, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

The timing of when that weakness develops and on how far Dorian makes it west in the meantime has been the source of uncertainty in the model guidance for the last 2-3 days according to Papin. At the time of writing, there is still some spread in the model solutions.

Dr. Michael Ventrice is a tropical weather expert with IBM and The Weather Company. He has been concerned about the storm environment and how well the models are capturing the rapidly evolving situation. He told me:

I believe the uncertainty is derived from how the models are resolving Dorian, locally. The recent intensification of the storm today is not being resolved by the models properly at the time of the 12z initialization. The interaction with the Bahamas, how that interaction might alter the mesoscale structure of the Hurricane, if that interaction induces a wobble, are all valid questions at this point in time

Michael Ventrice — IBM/The Weather Company

A hurricane of this size and intensity can certainly modify its environment and be modified by that environment. Sam Lillo, a doctoral candidate at the University of Oklahoma, tweeted an interesting point on the afternoon of September 1st about how worrisome the rapid intensification and track uncertainty of Hurricane Dorian has been:

The track uncertainty in NWP at under 3-day lead-time is very uncomfortable, especially considering proximity to land. This would be uncomfortable for any hurricane. But then make it a category 5.

Sam Lillo, doctoral candidate in meteorology at the University of Oklahoma

Our best models have oscillated (and in some cases continue to do so) within the past 24-36 hours on just how close Dorian will get to Florida before curving northward. Lillo offers some further insight into what Dr. Ventrice was alluding to about the environment:

As Dorian strengthened faster than expected, diabatic outflow developed an upper level anticyclone to the southwest, adding southerly and westerly components to the steering flow. The westerly component in particular slowed the forward motion of the hurricane, and now its track across the Bahamas coincides with a trough that sweeps across the Mid Atlantic and Northeast on Monday. This trough cuts into the ridge to the north of Dorian, with multiple steering currents now trying to tug the hurricane in all different directions. The future track is highly sensitive to each of these currents, with large feedback on every mile the hurricane jogs to the left or right over the next 24 to 48 hours.

Sam Lillo, doctoral candidate in meteorology at the University of Oklahoma

Lillo offers a nice meteorological explanation. In a nutshell, he is saying that the rapid intensification perturbed the near-storm environment and now there may be other steering influences besides the ridge of high pressure that the models are struggling to resolve.

In a previous Forbes piece last week, I mentioned that forecasts in the 5+ day window and beyond can have errors of 200 miles and that the information should be used as “guidance” not “Gospel.” Because there is still uncertainty with the models and Dorian is such a strong storm, residents from coastal Florida to the Carolinas must pay attention and be prepared to act. I have complete confidence in my colleagues at the National Hurricane Center, and they should always be your definitive source with storms like this. They still maintain an eventual curve northward before the storm reaches the Florida coast. However, the issuance of hurricane watches in Florida also indicates that they know the margin of error is razor thin.

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Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, a leading international expert in weather and climate, was the 2013 President of American Meteorological Society (AMS) and is Director of the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Atmospheric Sciences Program. Dr. Shepherd is the Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor and hosts The Weather Channel’s Weather Geeks Podcast, which can be found at all podcast outlets. Prior to UGA, Dr. Shepherd spent 12 years as a Research Meteorologist at NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center and was Deputy Project Scientist for the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission. In 2004, he was honored at the White House with a prestigious PECASE award. He also has received major honors from the American Meteorological Society, American Association of Geographers, and the Captain Planet Foundation. Shepherd is frequently sought as an expert on weather and climate by major media outlets, the White House, and Congress. He has over 80 peer-reviewed scholarly publications and numerous editorials. Dr. Shepherd received his B.S., M.S. and PhD in physical meteorology from Florida State University.

Source: Why The Track Forecast For Hurricane Dorian Has Been So Challenging

National Hurricane Center director Ken Graham provides an update on Hurricane Dorian. RELATED: https://bit.ly/2NFZCak Dorian’s slow crawl, estimated at about 7 mph on Sunday afternoon, placed it within 185 miles of West Palm Beach, Florida. But forecasters remained unsure of whether, or where, it might make landfall in the U.S. after it makes an expected turn to the north.

That left millions of people from South Florida to North Carolina on alert and preparing for the worst. » Subscribe to USA TODAY: http://bit.ly/1xa3XAh » Watch more on this and other topics from USA TODAY: https://bit.ly/2JYptss » USA TODAY delivers current local and national news, sports, entertainment, finance, technology, and more through award-winning journalism, photos, videos and VR. #hurricanedorian #dorian #hurricanes

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NASA Says Earth Is Greener Today Than 20 Years Ago Thanks To China, India

Greening of China and India

NASA has some good news, the world is a greener place today than it was 20 years ago. What prompted the change? Well, it appears China and India can take the majority of the credit.

In contrast to the perception of China and India’s willingness to overexploit land, water and resources for economic gain, the countries are responsible for the largest greening of the planet in the past two decades. The two most populous countries have implemented ambitious tree planting programs and scaled up their implementation and technology around agriculture.

India continues to break world records in tree planting, with 800,000 Indians planting 50 million trees in just 24 hours.

The recent finding by NASA and published in the journal Nature Sustainability, compared satellite data from the mid-1990s to today using high-resolution imagery. Initially, the researchers were unsure what caused the significant uptick in greening around the planet. It was unclear whether a warming planet, increased carbon dioxide (CO2) or a wetter climate could have caused more plants to grow.

After further investigation of the satellite imagery, the researchers found that greening was disproportionately located in China and India. If the greening was primarily a response from climate change and a warming planet, the increased vegetation shouldn’t be limited to country borders. In addition, higher latitude regions should become greener faster than lower latitudes as permafrost melts and areas like northern Russia become more habitable.

The greening of the planet.

The greening of the planet.

Nature Sustainability

The map above shows the relative greening (increase in vegetation) and browning (decrease in vegetation) around the globe. As you can see both China and India have significant greening.

The United States sits at number 7 in the total change in vegetation percent by decade. Of course, the chart below can hide where each country started. For example, a country that largely kept their forests and vegetation intact would have little room to increase percent vegetation whereas a country that heavily relied on deforestation would have more room to grow.

Comparing the greening of various countries around the globe.

Comparing the greening of various countries around the globe.

NASA.gov

NASA used Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to get a detailed picture of Earth’s global vegetation through time. The technique provided up to 500-meter resolution for the past two decades.

Both China and India went through phases of large scale deforestation in the 1970s and 80s, clearing old growth forests for urban development, farming and agriculture. However, it is clear that when presented with a problem, humans are incredibly adept at finding a solution. When the focus shifted in the 90s to reducing air and soil pollution and combating climate change the two countries made tremendous shifts in their overall land use.

It is encouraging to see swift and rapid change in governance and land use when presented with a dilemma. It is something that will continue to be a necessary skill in the decades to come.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I am a geologist passionate about sharing Earth’s intricacies with you. I received my PhD from Duke University where I studied the geology and climate of the Amazon. I am the founder of Science Trends, a leading source of science news and analysis on everything from climate change to cancer research. Let’s connect @trevornace

 

Source: NASA Says Earth Is Greener Today Than 20 Years Ago Thanks To China, India

Typhoon Mangkhut Officially Hong Kong’s Most Intense Storm Since Records Began – Tony Cheung

The most intense storm in Hong Kong’s history caused a record storm surge, uprooted some 1,500 trees, and left hundreds of windows smashed all over the city, officials said on Monday. As the long process of recovering from Typhoon Mangkhut began in earnest, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu called the damage “serious and extensive”, and said the number of calls for help, or reports of injury, was as much as five times higher than when Typhoon Hato battered Hong Kong in August last year……

Read more: https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2164523/its-official-typhoon-mangkhut-was-most-intense

 

 

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With massive Hurricane Florence Approaching, a million People are Urged to Evacuate – Reuters

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South Carolina on Monday ordered an estimated 1 million people to evacuate its coast as the state and neighboring North Carolina brace for a hit from Hurricane Florence, the most powerful storm to take aim at the US mainland this year. The storm had winds of 130 miles per hour and was due to gain strength before making landfall, which the US National Hurricane Center said was likely to occur early Thursday in the Carolinas, bringing heavy rain that could cause severe flooding through the region.

Reda more: https://www.pri.org/stories/2018-09-10/massive-hurricane-florence-approaching-million-people-are-urged-evacuate

 

 

 

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Science Alone Won’t Save the Earth People Have to Do That – Erle C. Ellis

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This planet is in crisis. The safe limits within which human societies can be sustained, the earth’s “planetary boundaries,” are being exceeded, a path leading inevitably toward collapse. The experts have spoken. Only if humanity heeds the science, reverses course and lives within earth’s natural limits can disaster be avoided.

Or maybe you believe the opposite: that human ingenuity can continue to overcome those limits, that there is no need for environmental concern.

Both miss the point. In the age of humans, the Anthropocene, there is no safety in natural limits. Or in overcoming them. For those reasons, we should put the idea of limits off limits.

The question is not whether two degrees of warming is riskier than 1.5 degrees (of course it is), or whether we are using, as some claim, more than one earth’s worth of resources per year (of course not), or how many extinctions per year are sustainable without a collapse of human societies (why allow any at all?). The real question is how we better negotiate among ourselves, across all our many diverse peoples and cultures, so that we can navigate together toward the better futures we wish for, in our different ways.

On a planet of nearly eight billion people with billions more on the way, natural limits simply don’t mean much. Nor are there solutions in limits. The harshest reality of the Anthropocene is that every human action or nonaction generates a labyrinth of consequences, both social and environmental, local and global, some surprising, some predictable, that affect different people very differently.

The problem is, what works for me will very likely not work for you. So by focusing on environmental limits instead of on the social strategies that enable better environmental and social outcomes, we fail to engage the only force of nature that can help us: human aspirations for a better future.

There is no way to avoid the environmental consequences of industrial societies operating at planetary scale. We’ve covered and transformed the planet with the agriculture, settlements and infrastructure that sustain us. In doing so, we’ve also increasingly impoverished this planet of wild species and wild spaces, and the carbon emissions that power modern lives are causing the earth to warm faster than at any time since the fall of the dinosaurs.

We need to adjust our expectations. The new normal is not about staying within earth’s natural limits. We passed those long ago. It’s about winners and losers, and about navigating trade-offs and surprises. The human age will be no Eden or dystopia, but an everlasting struggle among different people seeking different futures. Who, for instance, will suffer from a hotter and less biodiverse planet, who will benefit and who will pay to avoid it entirely? And why haven’t we, the people, acted to solve the greatest environmental challenges of our time — global climate change, habitat loss and widespread extinctions?

One thing is for sure. A better future won’t be realized through unquestioning faith in the safety of scientifically defined environmental limits or in unlimited technological capacities to avoid environmental consequences. When there is no single optimal solution, no amount of rational debate, or even computational intelligence, can find one. Science does not, cannot and should not have all the answers — not for earth’s limits, nor for human futures. A future governed solely by rationality and scientific evidence offers no safe space in these times.

The problem is not us; it is that there is no “us.” Just as one future will never be best for all people, no single way of thinking, believing or acting will ever be enough to forge our better futures together on this one planet. Decisions informed by scientific evidence will, of course, create better outcomes for people and the planet. But no amount of scientific evidence, enlightened rational thought or innovative technology can resolve entirely the social and environmental trade-offs necessary to meet the aspirations of a wonderfully diverse humanity — at least not without creating even greater problems in the future.

For this reason and others, putting expert scientific narratives at the center of decision making, like “nonnegotiable environmental limits,” rather than focusing on opportunities for collective betterment, has led only to increasing divisions over which experts to trust. If we are to continue improving the human world, while retaining the nature we love, it will be necessary to get beyond polemics and expertise, scientific or otherwise. In the end, it is people, and their institutions — not science — that will decide the future.

No one wants a hotter, more polluted and less biodiverse planet, though most people want the modern lifestyles made possible by cheap energy, abundant food and industrial productivity. Even now there are no technological limits to supplying these lifestyles to eight billion, or even to 11 billion, people, with far less harm than we’re currently causing to the one planet all of us must live on. To do so is merely costly. Extremely costly, because rebuilding energy systems to make them carbon neutral, ensuring that land, water and other resources are used sustainably, adapting to climate change and cleaning up pollution don’t come cheap. But there is one hard limit. No better future will be possible if those most able to bear the costs — those who’ve benefited the most, the wealthy and the vested interests of this world — don’t step up to pay for it.

The greatest challenge of our time is not how to live within the limits of the natural world, or how to overcome such limits. It isn’t about optimizing our planet to better serve humanity or the rest of nature. To engage productively with the world we are creating, we must focus on strategies for working more effectively together across all of our diverse and unequal social worlds. If we truly intend to make this work, we need to leave behind treasured but outmoded beliefs in a stable balance of nature, unlimited human ingenuity and nonnegotiable environmental limits defined only by experts.

The Anthropocene is not the end of our world. It’s just the beginning. Collectively, we have the potential to create a much better planet than the one we are creating now. So let’s start talking about the better future we want, and less about the future we don’t. It’s about articulating values, and about sharing, fairly, the only planet we have with one another and the rest of life on earth. The planet we make will reflect the people we are.

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When The Weather Is Extreme, Is Climate Change To Blame – Laurel Wamsley

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Dramatic weather events happened this past week in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. There were wildfires in Greece, Scandinavia, and the Western U.S. Flooding followed record rainfalls in the Northeast. And dangerous heat waves settled over the Southwest, Japan, and the U.K.

If it continues like this, 2018 could end up being one of the hottest years on record.

When the news is full of stories on extreme weather, it’s hard not to wonder: Is this what climate change looks like?

Climate scientists say yes — though it’s complicated.

Take wildfires, for example.

“We see five times more large fires today than we did in the 1970s,” says Jennifer Balch, professor in geography and director of Earth Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Wildfires are part of the ecosystem of the American West, and scientists expect a certain number of them under normal average conditions. But what global warming does, says Balch, is change the backdrop against which they happen.

“Fire season is about three months longer than it was just a few decades ago,” she says. “We’ve seen a 2-degree Fahrenheit increase across the Western U.S. Snowpack is melting earlier, and what that’s doing is essentially opening up the window for fires to happen over a much longer period of time.”

Last year was the costliest fire season ever, with damages exceeding $18 billion dollars.

Overall, weather and climate disasters in the U.S. caused more than $300 billion in damages in 2017, shattering previous records. Though that’s not all climate — those increased costs are partly the result of development and sprawl.

Andreas Prein is a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. He studies how extreme weather — especially thunderstorms and heavy downpours — might change in the future.

“What we see from climate change is that you lose a lot of these very moderate and light rainfall storms and replace it with very intense storms,” he says. Over the last 50 years, the number of really big rainstorms has increased by as much as 70 percent.

Scientists are just beginning to put numbers on the effect climate change is having on individual storms.

“They pick an extreme event — let’s say, Hurricane Harvey from last year — and they try to run the event without human greenhouse gas emissions,” Prein says. “And then they add the human component … to the atmosphere and basically compare those two realizations of the world with each other. So you can try to get a feeling for how we altered specific extreme events or the likelihood and intensity of an extreme event.”

Some aspects of climate change are pretty certain, he says. Temperatures are rising. Rainstorms and heat waves are getting more intense. These are the long-predicted results of increased greenhouse gas emissions.

To a certain degree, that we’ve had so much extreme weather this past week is a coincidence: fires, heat waves, and rainstorms happen every summer.

But climate change makes this kind of extreme weather more common, researchers say – and it’s a trend that’s expected to continue as the planet keeps getting warmer.

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