Showers End As Snowy Coating in 48 Hours – Perils of “Thunderstorm Asthma” – Minneapolis Star Tribune

 In Health

“Thunderstorm Asthma” Hospitalizes 8,500 in Australia

I thought I had seen everything. I was wrong.

6 people are dead, thousands temporarily hospitalized when moisture within a thunderstorm hitting Melbourne, Australia combined with pollen to trigger severe asthma attacks. A third of patients who suffered these attacks reported never having asthma before. The storm broke up grass pollen into tinier fragments, penetrating deep inside people’s lungs. These events are rare, but similar cases of thunderstorm asthma have been reported in Britain, Italy, Canada and the USA.

Natural and man-made pollutants lead to twice as many premature deaths in the USA as auto accidents; over 70,000/year. People suffering from COPD and asthma are most at risk. Some of the most severe cases of air pollution strike in late fall, when warm air aloft can trap bad air near the ground.

Rain showers linger today; the atmosphere marginally cold enough for light snow later this week, but temperatures near 32F will keep roads wet during the day.

I don’t see any big storms, but NOAA’s GFS model hints at the first subzero nighttime low at MSP within 2 weeks.


Photo credit above: The Conversation in Australia, which has an explainer on thunderstorm asthma here.


“Thunderstorm Asthma”: Deadly Illness Caused By Freak Weather. CNN.com has more on the sequence of weather events that can result in extreme asthma outbreaks, even among people who don’t even realize they have asthma: “…People with hay fever are particularly at risk, Newbigin said. He advised them to “better manage your hay fever during the pollen season,” by using antihistamines, eye drops and other medications. Though normally hay fever occurs in the nasal area, the freak weather conditions which cause thunderstorm asthma can drive the allergens deep into the lungs, causing a far more severe asthmatic attack. “Anybody with severe or brittle asthma (a less common form involving severe but irregular attacks) is most likely to experience severe symptoms and need rapid treatment,” said Sheikh, adding that smog days, pollution and smoking as other environmental triggers for an attack. “They are much less likely to trigger it if there is good underlying asthma control…”

NBC News has more details on “thunderstorm asthma” here.



Australia’s Bizarre Outbreak: “What Is Thunderstorm Asthma?” This is the first I heard of this phenomena, explained at Live Science: “...It’s thought that these outbreaks occur because, during thunderstorms, pollen grains rapidly absorb water and rupture, leading to the release of hundreds of small particles into the air, ASCIA says. These particles can penetrate deep into people’s lungs and trigger asthma attacks, ASCIA says. Some outbreaks of thunderstorm asthma have also been linked with increased levels of fungal spores in the air. It’s also thought that gusty winds in thunderstorms help to spread pollen particles and other allergy-inducing substances. A 2008 study that looked at emergency room visits in Atlanta over a 10-year period found that there were 3 percent more visits for asthma on days following thunderstorms. The link between asthma visits and thunderstorms was strongest when the wind gusts during the storm were intermediate to high, the study found…”


Thunderstorm Asthma: “You’re Talking An Event Equivalent to a Terrorist Attack. How and why pollen combines with thunderstorms to create these freakish and deadly asthma attacks is still not fully understood. Frequency of these rare outbreaks may be increasing for a variety of reasons, reports The Guardian: “…What is known is that grass pollen is usually too big to get into the lungs to cause asthma, and instead causes a reaction in the superficial respiratory systems of those with pollen sensitivity: a hay fever reaction such as a runny nose, sore throat and itchy eyes are more common. But when a thunderstorm occurs, pollen which had settled during the day can be swept back into the air and the moisture in those winds combined with wind power causes the pollen to rupture into smaller pieces, between 0.5mm and 2.5mm in diameter. Those small fragments are then able to penetrate the superficial respiratory system and get into the lungs, triggering asthma and other serious respiratory responses…”


Thunderstorm-Associated Asthma in Atlanta, Georgia. Meteorologist Marshall Shepherd is among a handful of researchers who delved into this rare phenomenon; here’s an excerpt from their findings: “Associations between thunderstorm activity and asthma morbidity have been reported in numerous locations around the world. The most prominent hypotheses explaining the associations are that pollen grains rupture by osmotic shock in rainwater, releasing allergens, and that gusty winds from thunderstorm downdrafts spread particles and/or aeroallergens, which may ultimately increase the risk of asthma attacks. A full understanding of “thunderstorm asthma” is crucial, especially with projections of increases in heavy rainfall, thunderstorm events and aeroallergen concentrations as the climate system warms...”


Floods, Snow and Mud Continue To Strike Washington. The Pacific Northwest has been thrashed with wind-whipped snow and rain, according to The Olympian: “Western Washington was under alerts Saturday for flooding, snow and landslides. The National Weather Service issued a landslide warning for western Washington Saturday morning after heavy rain continued to strike the region. Rainfall in the half-inch to two-inch range has been recorded across much of western Washington since Friday...”


Monday Morning Weather Map. A storm on the Dakota/Minnesota border pushes a pinwheel of moisture across the eastern half of the USA today; warm enough for rain for most of the nation, but a few inches of snow will pile up over the Dakotas. Heavy valley rains and mountain snows are likely from the Pacific Coast to Boise and Salt Lake City.


Plowable Snowfall Potential Next 72 Hours. From North Dakota to the Rockies and western coastal ranges, snow will fall hard in the coming days. Source: NOAA WPC.


Long Overdue Southeast Soaking. NOAA models predict 2-5″ rains from Alabama into northern Georgia and the western Carolinas, helping to extinguish brushfires and put a serious dent in a 2-month drought.


Mild Monday, Then Cooling Down. Nothing frigid through the middle of next week, just a return to average temperatures after a Monday that will feel like something out of mid-October. MSP data: WeatherBell.


2-Week Preview: Plenty Cold For Much of USA. As inevitable as gravity (and bad reality TV) cold air pushes relentless farther south in coming weeks as we get closer to the Winter Solstice. No big troughs capable of spinning up major snow, ice and rainstorms, but temperatures should trend colder than average from Seattle to the Twin Cities, Detroit and Boston.


Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/news/weather/article117237813.html#storylink=cpy


Map credit above: “Predicted winter surface temperature anomalies for the United States Dec-Jan-Feb 2016/17 in degrees Fahrenheit. The model is forecasting colder than normal temperatures for much of the Eastern United States with warmer than normal temperatures for the Western United States. The model uses October Siberian snow cover, sea level pressure anomalies, predicted El Niño/Southern Oscillation anomalies, observed September Arctic sea ice anomalies, and the predicted winter value of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. October Siberian snow cover advanced at an above normal rate during the entire month. This is an indication of an increased probability of a weakened polar vortex or a sudden stratospheric warming and a predominantly negative Arctic Oscillation during the winter, and cold temperatures, especially east of the Mississippi. This is the most recent forecast using the full monthly values for snow cover and sea level pressure anomalies.” Forecast date: November 14, 2016. Credit: Judah Cohen. More information at The National Science Foundation.


From Russia, With Snow. How Siberian Weather Predicts U.S. Winter. USA TODAY has an article with more detail on how Judah Cohen uses Russian snowcover to predict the winter to come: “…Here’s how: Snow reflects about 70% to 80% of the sun’s warmth back into space, while a bare ground reflects only 20%. October is when Siberia and the entire Eurasian region sees its greatest expansion of snow cover, sometimes increasing as much as six million square miles, larger than the total land area of the U.S., including Alaska. Just how snow-covered Siberia gets in fall helps Cohen formulate his forecast because that icy cold air over the region will slowly slosh into Europe and eventually into North America by mid-winter. Essentially, more snow in Siberia equates to colder air and the potential for more snow than normal in the U.S...” (Map credit: Rutgers Global Snow Lab).


On-Again, Off-Again (Frigid) December? NOAA’s CFSv2 climate model keeps flip-flopping between mild and cold solutions for December; the latest outlook calls for 8-12F colder than average for much of the USA. Map: WeatherBell.


The Future of Oil. The Economist takes a look at a possible inflection point for fossil fuels; here’s a clip: “…Yet the transition from horse power to horsepower, a term coined by Eric Morris of Clemson University, South Carolina, is a useful parable for our time. A hundred years ago oil was seen as an environmental saviour. Now its products are increasingly cast in the same light as horse manure was then: a menace to public health and the environment. For all its staying power, oil may be facing its Model T moment. The danger is not an imminent collapse in demand but the start of a shift in investment strategies away from finding new sources of oil to finding alternatives to it. The immediate catalyst is the global response to climate change. An agreement in Paris last year that offers a 50/50 chance of keeping global warming to less than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels, and perhaps limiting it to 1.5ºC, was seen by some as a declaration of war against fossil fuels...”


Pressure Mounts to Reform Our Throwaway Clothing Culture. What does sustainable capitalism look like? How can we have everything we want, but put exponentially less strain on Earth’s operating system? Here’s an excerpt from Yale Environment 360: “…Eileen Fisher, the founder of the apparel company that bears her name, has called the clothing industry “the second largest polluter in the world, second only to oil,” a claim that can’t be verified because reliable data on fashion’s global footprint is scarce. But there’s no doubt that vast amounts of water, energy, and chemicals are required to manufacture clothes — up to 200 tons of water, for example, to make a ton of fabric, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. In places where environmental regulation is lax, chemicals are routinely discharged into rivers and streams without treatment. The textile industry has long been one of China’s biggest polluters, and it has fouled rivers and ruined farmland in India, Cambodia, and Bangladesh, as well…”

Illustration credit: Luisa Rivera for Yale E360.


Worrying About Getting Older Might Be Worse Than Actually Getting Older. So reports The Washington Post, with a summary of interesting findings: “…Our youth-obsessed culture teaches girls that time zaps their worth, said co-author Anne Barrett, director of FSU’s Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy. That “affects not only older women, who are challenged with avoiding ageism,” according to the study, published this month in the Journal of Women and Aging, “but also younger and middle-aged women, who are faced with negative and potentially anxiety-producing images of their possible futures as devalued older women.” Barrett drew this conclusion from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States, which seeks to measure how people see themselves over time. The MIDUS data showed that the youngest respondents, 25 to 35, were eight times as likely to report anxiety about declining attractiveness as women in the 66-to-74 bracket. This particular source of aging anxiety, Barrett found, drops with maturity...”


40 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities on Sunday.

34 F. average high on November 27.

27 F. high on November 27, 2015.

November 28, 1983: Widespread snowfall occurs across much of central Minnesota with snowfall totals at or above 1 foot in many areas. A record 15 inches fell in Gaylord and 14 inches fell in Farmington.

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