Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


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Carmakers Agree To Near-Doubling of mpg: 54.5 by 2025

I didn’t think I’d see this day come any time soon: U.S. and foreign carmakers have agreed with the Obama administration to increase miles-per-gallon standards of cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. to 54.5mpg by 2025.  This follows news that standards will be increased to 35.5mpg by 2016.

Note that both of these standards are well within reach of today’s technologies.  Nothing revolutionary has to happen in the next 14 years to achieve these standards, as carmakers have already demonstrated in Europe and Asia.  What’s been missing in America is the will power to do the strategically correct thing: reduce fuel consumption, which will help ease the impact on Earth’s climate system, save consumers money, and boost our national security standards, all at one time.


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Tropical Storm Don Will Land Along Far Southern Texas Coast; Will Drought Be Impacted?

Tropical Storm Don continues to fight dry air and northerly wind shear as it moves WNW across the Gulf of Mexico.  As of this morning, it looks increasingly likely that T.S. Don will make landfall somewhere along the far southern Texas or far northeastern Mexican coast late tonight or early tomorrow morning (local time).

This track is somewhat unfortunate for most of Texas, since T.S. Don is expected to curve toward the WSW as it continues moving inland over Mexico.  The far southern portion of Texas is experiencing drought conditions (see map from yesterday), but they are of lesser magnitude than portions of Texas to the  north.  Still, rainfall is needed in southern Texas and northern Mexico also.  Hopefully T.S. Don will begin shifting conditions in the region.  Tropical moisture entering the region can be recycled a number of times as the North American monsoon continues to push storms up from Mexico into the southern U.S.

For those interested in tropical meteorology, another tropical disturbance is moving across the Atlantic, moving west toward the Lesser Antilles.  The National Hurricane Center is giving the system a 30% chance of developing into a named storm in the next 48 hours.


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Tropical Storm Don Should Land Along Texas Coast; What Will Effect On Drought Be?

A tropical wave that didn’t look terribly impressive as it traversed the Atlantic from Africa to the Caribbean intensified into the 4th named storm of the 2011 season: Tropical Storm Don.  Don is a small storm and is being impacted by dry air over the western Gulf of Mexico and northerly wind shear that isn’t allowing for a stacked system to develop.

All in all, that might be the best scenario for Texas, which is suffering through its worst drought in recorded history:

Brought about by climate change and La Nina, a drought of this magnitude can feed on itself by evaporating most of the soil moisture over a large area, thereby reducing the chance of thunderstorms to form and rain to fall.  This is where T.S. Don comes in.  If it stays on the small and weak side, downpouring rain and wind won’t be factors after landfall.  A sizable amount of rain will still likely fall, but hopefully flooding won’t be as much of a problem as it would be if Don were much larger and stronger.

It will take a week or two after projected landfall (this Friday) to ascertain how much of an impact Don has on the Texas Drought.


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Chicago Daily Precipitaiton Record Set

I caught this short post over at Capital Climate:

The National Weather Service (NWS) reports that the 6.86″ of rainfall at Chicago on Saturday, July 23, broke the record for the date of 2.79″ set just last year. It also set an all-time calendar day precipitation record, surpassing the 6.64″ on September 13, 2008. The 8.20″ of rainfall in a 24-hour period ending 7 am CDT Saturday was below the record set on August 13-14, 1987, however.

With one week remaining in the month, the July total of 9.04″ is now slightly over half an inch below the July monthly record of 9.56″ in July 1889. The 0.45″ of rain which fell through the first 3 weeks of the month would have made this the 3rd driest July in 140 years of Chicago records dating back to 1871.

7 inches of rain falling anywhere is incredible.  This is a reminder that extreme weather events like this will become more and more common the longer we continue to pollute heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.  This kind of event puts incredible strain on infrastructure, which needs to be maintained and repaired.  Such endeavors will only become more expensive because the powered elite want to transfer Americans’ wealth to dirty energy corporations.


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NASA’s Discovery Class Missions: Discovery 12 Pre-Selection Made

I definitely missed this a couple of months ago:

NASA announced three future key missions preselected as part of the Discovery program named GEMS, TiME and Comet Hopper.

The Geophysical Monitoring Station (GEMS) will perform for the first time an in-situ investigation of the interior of Mars.

The Titan Mare Explorer (TiME) [...] proposes to determine the composition and depth of the seas of Titan their variation over time and their relation with meteorology and the geography of their surroundings.

The Comet Hopper (Chopper) mission proposes to study in detail a comet over its full revolution around the sun.  The spacecraft will “hop” on the small comet nucleus and collect data about its surface composition and properties. Taking advantage of the weak gravity of the comet nucleus, it will be able to go back in orbit (a “sortie” as shown in the figure above) and remains around the nucleus to study as well the cometary coma to understand the link between the surface activity and the cometary activity.

All three sound like fascinating missions.  Unfortunately, only one will be selected for funding.

The NASA Discovery program is a low-cost mission ($425 million FY2010) program aimed at developing and supporting a well-defined and narrow-range science mission in the field of planetary exploration.


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Mars Science Laboratory Landing Site Decided: Gale Crater

In an update to my post earlier this week, NASA has decided that the Mars Science Laboratory’s target landing site will be Gale Crater.

Gale crater is about 96 miles (154 kilometers) wide and has a mountain at its center that rises higher, from the crater floor up, than Mount Rainer near Seattle. The crater, which is named after Australian astronomer Walter F. Gale, is so large that the U.S. states of Connecticut and Rhode Island could fit inside it, NASA officials said.

Launch is set for November of this year, with touchdown expected in August 2012.


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Another Republican In Favor Of Bigger Government

Not that the rabid right-wing teabaggers will deign to realize the irony of the situation, but Sen. Shelby (RTB-AL) wants to break the Consumer Financial Protection Board under the weight of unnecessary, bloated government.  Instead of letting the agency do its duly appointed business, Shelby wants to set up a five-member panel over the director, give Congress control over its finances and give corporate mega-banks that caused the Great Recession veto power over new regulations.

Stay classy, you big-gubmint lover.

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