Tony mentioned the August recap yesterday and I will add a little to that today. It turns out that it was the second month in a row (and only the second month this year) with above normal temperatures. In this case (August) the average temp was about 1.5 degrees above normal. It was never really hot during the month but consistently a little warmer than normal.
As Tony noted yesterday, precipitation was well above normal, but it might not have seemed that way because the last coupe of weeks have been somewhat dry. The lion’s share of the rain, a bit over 4 inches, feel in the first week, including a record rainfall of 2.43 inches on August 6th – the only daily record for the month. I was glad to see that we made it through the most critical part of the growing season with adequate rainfall. The crops in most of the area are maturing well and even if we did not see another drop of rain this year, we will still have food on the table. Here are the official stats for Wausau as compared to normal:
Average High: 79.1 (normal: 77.7)
Average Low: 58.6 (normal 57.0)
Precipitation: 5.36″ (normal 4.16″)
Highest Temp: 85 on the 6th and the 19th
Lowest Temp: 51 on the 28th
Besides the record rainfall on the 6th of the month, the most significant event was the Clark county tornado on the 23rd. As far as interesting trends in the numbers, there were not many. The average high for the month was 79.1 so it is mildly interesting that we hit 79 on 6 different days but that was not the most common number of the month. We had a high temp of 81 on 7 different days.
Back to the precipitation trend. It is a good thing that the growing season is about over because it does not look like there will be much chance of rain for the next couple of weeks. The highest chance of heavier rainfall will be tomorrow morning (maybe a quarter to half inch in a few a spots if storms form), otherwise no major storm systems are foreseen, only minor fronts and chances of widely scattered showers. This will no doubt cause the abnormally dry conditions in a couple parts of the state to expand a bit. The latest US Drought Monitor indicates the abnormally dry category has already spread a bit since last week. I suspect that central Wisconsin will be in this category by late next week – if no heavy rain falls tomorrow morning.
Unfortunately, the deep south and southwestern U.S. is still suffering under exceptional drought. The good news is that a tropical system is forming in the gulf of Mexico and it could move toward Louisiana and far southeast Texas by this weekend, and it will probably stick around for a few days. This would be just what the doctor ordered for some of these areas – a tropical system that could bring a lot of rain, all the while not getting strong enough to cause damage.
In alternative energy news there was a depressing development yesterday. It was something I foreshadowed in the blog last week. It just goes to show you that this blog is worth checking out for current trends. The news is that solar panel manufacturer Solyndra declared bankruptcy yesterday. Here is another article about the demise of Solyndra with a good comment discussion. It is unfortunate, but typical for a U.S. government supported business venture. Tax-payers spent 535 million on Solyndra. I am quite aware of the argument that alternative energy sources will be hard to develop on a mass scale without some sort-of federal government support, but I don’t buy it. First of all, there are enough state programs and enough early adopters to keep things moving forward. Second of all, the price of traditional fossil fuels remains high which makes the alternatives more attractive. Thirdly, entrepreneurs operating in what is left of the free market are much more adept at delivering what people truly need than what the federal government thinks they need. A good sign is that some bigger companies think they need more alternative energy and are willing to spend some money. Volkswagen in Germany recently announced that it would make a big investment into alternative energy sources.
Of course, a lot of basic research is essentially publicly funded through Universities (maybe not the optimal method of progress, but it has worked reasonably well for the last half century or so) and that is where we find a little more positive news this week.
Fuel cell technology caught the eye of many when the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville announced that they have “discovered” a method to produce hydrogen from water and sunlight – that’s it. I put discovered in quotes because the researchers did not actually build the device. They used computer simulations to predict how water would react with a special semi-conductor material (a metal alloy) when exposed to light. The results of their numerical simulation showed hydrogen would be produced. Now the most critical step it to actually make the product – which in most cases takes years, if not decades.
If and when the hydrogen is being produced with this new special alloy, researchers at the University of Southern California may have come up with the best way to store it (given current materials and technology). They propose to use ammonia borane. It is the first material proposed for hydrogen storage that is air stable and re-usable.
As you know, I am not big on fuel cells and hydrogen as the dominant competition to traditional fossil fuels, but I am certainly not against people pursuing this avenue, as there are some useful applications – storing energy from wind and solar power plants being one of them. Perhaps some modes of transportation could benefit. A University in England has manufactured and is testing a barge that runs on hydrogen fuel cells. It is not the “ultimate” solution for shipping but at least it proves it can be done.
Have a nice Thursday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.
This post was written by jloew on September 1, 2011