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Bizarro Earth

US: Summer's cold shoulder

The past months have been cool and dry. Now it's time for fall.

Milwaukee - Summer is over. Maybe now we can put away our mittens and sweat shirts.

If it seemed as if summer lasted a day or two this year, the meteorologists who keep track of these things concur.

Madison shivered through its coldest July on record, Miller Park's roof has been closed 34 times, the high temperature in Milwaukee on July 1 reached only 64 degrees, and it was eerily quiet at the National Weather Service office in Green Bay.

While it's possible there might have been fewer cases of sunburn and heat stroke, the relatively cold and dry weather did have its benefits.

The Green Bay office of the weather service issued zero severe weather reports. That means there were no tornadoes, no hail measuring at least 1 inch or thunderstorms with winds of 58 mph or greater in an area that covers roughly the state's top right quadrant.

"For farmers and people that don't want to put new roofs on their houses, that's a good thing," said Jeff Craven, National Weather Service science and operations officer in Sullivan.

Though purists will point out that summer actually ends Sept. 21, weather forecasters treat it as June, July and August. This year's meteorological summer will be remembered for being as cool and dry as a martini.

In Milwaukee, the average temperature in July was 3.5 degrees below normal with only 0.71 inch of rain, the fourth driest on record. August was 1.5 degrees below normal.

Madison's average July temperature - a combination of the daily highs and lows - was 65.7 degrees, 5.9 degrees below normal. That easily beat the previous record of 66.7 degrees set in 1891.


NASA infrared imagery sees landfalling Jimena, weak Kevin and pyrocumulus clouds

© NASA JPL, Ed OlsenAIRS infrared image from Aug. 31 a 4:59 p.m. EDT shows the icy clouds of powerful Hurricane Jimena about to impact Baja California (bottom right), a fading Tropical Depression Kevin (left at sea), and a trail of pyrocumulus clouds stretching from Los Angeles to New Mexico from the California fires.
It's unusual to see towering clouds that are created from smoke and fires, but that's what showed up in the latest satellite imagery from NASA, when also capturing powerful Hurricane Jimena and Tropical Depression Kevin in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Jimena's outer rainbands were already spreading over southern Baja California at 11 a.m. EDT.

"I have never before seen the signature of a pyrocumulus cloud in the infrared channel which I use for hurricane imagery," said Ed Olsen of the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) Team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The pyrocumulus clouds are towering cumulus clouds that were created by the smoke and heat from the California wildfires that are currently burning around Los Angeles. In the AIRS infrared image, they stretch from Los Angeles, Calif. and sweep into Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico between latitude 32 and 36.

The AIRS instrument flies onboard NASA's Aqua satellite and provides valuable infrared data on cloud top temperatures. They're important because they tell forecasters how high thunderstorms are in a tropical cyclone. The higher the thunderstorm, the more powerful.

At the same time, an extremely dangerous Hurricane Jimena is approaching Baja California. This is a powerful storm with sustained winds that are a Category Four on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. AIRS revealed very high, cold, powerful thunderstorms in Jimena's center of circulation, so high that they're colder than minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit (F).

NASA's CloudSat also flew above Jimena and captured a side view of the storm earlier today. The CloudSat data indicated Jimena's highest clouds as high as 15 kilometers (9.3 miles), verifying the AIRS data and indicating strong convection and a powerful hurricane.


Connections Among Solar Cycle, Stratosphere and Ocean Discovered

Subtle connections among the 11-year-solar cycle, the stratosphere and the tropical Pacific Ocean work in sync to generate periodic weather patterns that affect much of the globe, according to research results appearing this week in the journal Science.

The findings will help scientists get an edge on predicting the intensity of certain climate phenomena, such as the Indian monsoon and tropical Pacific rainfall, years in advance.

"It's been long known that weather patterns are well-correlated to very small variations in total solar energy reaching our planet during 11-year solar cycles," says Jay Fein, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Division of Atmospheric Sciences, which funded the research. "What's been an equally long mystery, however, is how they are physically connected. This remarkable study is beginning to unravel that mystery."

Bizarro Earth

Blanco Fracture Zone: Four quakes hit sea floor

Four moderate earthquakes rattled the sea floor about 200 miles due west of Winchester Bay on Saturday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The first 5.2-magnitude quake struck at 1:11 a.m., followed by a 4.4 quake at 1:24 a.m. and a 4.8 quake at 4:06 a.m. The final quake Saturday shook the sea floor at 8:08 a.m. All were about 6 miles beneath the earth's surface, which is typical for temblors off the South Coast.

Geologists have said this is an extremely active fault area known as the Blanco Fracture Zone. Typically, hundreds of quakes strike along the zone every year, but most are so small no one notices.

Bizarro Earth

US: Earthquake Magnitude 3.3 rattles East Tennessee homes

Folks in East Tennessee might not have felt the earth move, but some heard their windows rattle.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded a magnitude 3.3 earthquake, centered two miles north of Friendsville in Blount County at 10:07 a.m. EDT Monday.

WLVT-TV in Knoxville reported receiving viewer calls about windows rattling and houses shaking.


US: California Fire grows to more than 122,000 acres; officials hope for improved conditions

firefighter Thomas Rindge
© Wally Skalij / LA TimesLos Angeles firefighter Thomas Rindge takes a break from battling the Station fire in La Crescenta Monday
The Station fire grew to more than 122,000 acres overnight and continued to burn out of control despite some signs of improving weather conditions.

The massive blaze, which has burned more than 50 structures, killed two firefighters and caused thousands of evacuations, grew by about 15,000 acres over the last 12 hours. That's a smaller rate of growth than Sunday or Monday, but officials are still on guard.

[Updated at 7:20 a.m.: At a briefing this morning, officials said they were growing more optimistic about the fire. They said firefighters were set backfires overnight in areas of Glendale, Tujunga and the Santa Clara ridge. More moisture in the air was slowing the blaze. Although temperatures are cooling, officials said they worried about the possibility of gusty winds and dry lightning. No new structures were burned overnight. The fire is 5% contained, but officials expect that number to grow significantly today.]

The fire this morning was bearing down on neighborhoods in Tujunga, where homes have been evacuated.


US: Californians told to prepare for mass evacuation

© Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesA wide plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles national forest seen from downtown Los Angeles
California's Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has urged the residents of Los Angeles to prepare for a mass evacuation in the event of a public call to flee raging fires.

Wildfires in the US Golden State, razing around 35,000 acres (over 14,000 hectares) of bush land, are threatening 13,000 properties just north of Los Angeles.

The ravaging flames, fanned by the weak Pacific Ocean breeze and fueled by incoming arid weather system from the west midlands United States, have thus far forced thousands out of their homes in the vicinity of the ongoing inferno.

The blaze has caused mandatory evacuations of around 7,000 California houses close to the valleys around the Big Tujunga Canyon, Schwarzenegger told reporters on Monday.


US: Wildfire makes menacing advance near Los Angeles

Aliso Canyon Road
© Genaro Molina / LA TimesThe Station fire bears down on Aliso Canyon Road in Acton, several miles north of the area where two L.A. County firefighters died Sunday night after their truck went down a mountainside.
Los angeles - A deadly wildfire that has blackened a wide swath of tinder-dry forest around Los Angeles took another menacing turn Monday as five people became hopelessly trapped inside a smoky canyon and thousands of suburban homes and a vital mountaintop broadcasting complex grew dangerously close to being devoured by explosive, towering flames.

The five trapped people refused to evacuate threatened areas and reported they were stranded at a ranch near Gold Creek, Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said. A sheriff's helicopter was unable to immediately reach them because of intense fire activity, but would try after the flames passed, he said.

"What this says is, 'Listen, listen, listen,'" Whitmore said. "Those people were told to get out two days ago, and now we are putting our people in danger to get them out."

Fire crews battling the blaze in the Angeles National Forest tried desperately to beat back the flames and prayed for weather conditions to ease. The fire was the largest of at least eight burning across California after days of triple-digit temperatures and low humidity.


US: Farmers' Almanac predicts numbing cold this winter

Lewiston, Maine - Americans, you might want to check on their sweaters and shovels - the Farmers' Almanac is predicting a cold winter for many of you.

The venerable almanac's 2010 edition, which goes on sale Tuesday, says numbing cold will predominate in the country's midsection, from the Rocky Mountains in the West to the Appalachians in the East.

Bizarro Earth

US: Wind, Current Combined to Raise East Coast Sea Level

Folks living along the East Coast were in higher water early this summer thanks to a change in the wind and current flow.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday the higher than normal sea levels were caused by persistent winds from the northeast - pushing water toward shore - and a weakening of the Florida current that feeds water into the Gulf Stream.

Water levels ranged from six inches to two feet above normal in areas from Maine to Florida during June and July, the agency said.