Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Economic Benefits of Foreign Students

Yesterday, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, more commonly known as ICE, announced changes to the temporary exemptions being provided for nonimmigrant students taking online courses due to the pandemic during Fall Semester 2020.  As described at https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/sevp-modifies-temporary-exemptions-nonimmigrant-students-taking-online-courses-during, M-1 and F-1 visas will not be issued for students to enter the United States if they are enrolled at a school or program that is fully online.  Students currently in the United States on F-1 and M-1 visa who are enrolled in such a school or program must leave the country or transfer to a school with in-person instruction. 

This is a cruel and xenophobic policy that also makes very little sense economically.  The United States benefits greatly from attracting the world's greatest minds, but also, these students pay tuition and spend money in the United States.  Detailed information about the economic benefits of foreign students is avialable from NAFSA: Associations of International Educators (see https://www.nafsa.org/policy-and-advocacy/policy-resources/nafsa-international-student-economic-value-tool-v2).  In Utah, for example, there are almost 8,000 foreign students, providing cumulative economic benefits of over $200 million by paying tuition, renting apartments, dining out, making retail purchases, etc. 

Source: NAFSA

Monday, July 6, 2020

I See Your Fireworks

It was an unusual Fourth of July holiday this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.  Public fireworks displays were limited, with none in Salt Lake County, but a few displays in Tooele and Utah Counties (see https://www.deseret.com/entertainment/2020/7/3/21311412/4th-of-july-events-fireworks-parade-celebration-utah-salt-lake-stadium-of-fire). 

However, individual displays were plentiful, and one can "see" these fireworks in PM2.5 measurements collected by the Utah Division of Air Quality.  PM2.5 spikes were occurred on either the night of the 3rd or 4th or both, indicating degraded air quality. 

Cache County gets the reliable patriotism award for producing spikes on both the night of July 3rd (times below local) and July 4. 
Cache County PM2.5 concentrations.  Source: Utah Division of Air Quality.
Utah County gets the extreme patriotism award for producing the highest PM2.5 concentrations measured by one of the DAQ's real-time sensors, with values reaching over 160 ug/m3 on the night of the 4th.  Technically, they could have pipped Cache County for the persistent patriotism award too since they also produced a spike on the night of the 3rd, but in this contest, everyone gets only one award. 
Utah County PM2.5 concentrations.  Source: Utah Division of Air Quality.
Davis County gets the extreme patriotism honorable mention award for also pushing PM2.5 to relatively high levels (> 100 ug/m3), but falling shy of Utah County's effort.  Nice try.  Maybe next year. 
Utah County PM2.5 concentrations.  Source: Utah Division of Air Quality.
Finally, Salt Lake County gets the participation award.  Nothing on the night of the 3rd with a pulse on the 4th that barely gets to 40 ug/m3.  On a population-adjusted basis, that's pretty pathetic, although many of us were happy to breath easy. 
Salt Lake County PM2.5 concentrations.  Source: Utah Division of Air Quality.
These are single point measurements though and there was probably a great deal of spatial variability that one might explore using the PurpleAir network, although I have work to do to get my classes ready for fall....

Saturday, July 4, 2020

July Enters "Like a Lamb"

July is climatologically the hottest month of the year in Salt Lake City, but so far, the first three days of July have been relatively pleasant.  One might even say that July has entered like a lamb.

It's worth a look at July from a historical perspective.  July is not only the hottest month in Salt Lake, but it also features relatively little variability from year to year.  The range in average temperature from July to July is around 5˚F, with a few exceptions (e.g, 1993). 

Source: NOAA Regional Climate Centers
One can also clearly see that recent July's have been quite warm.  During the 20th century (1901-200), the average July temperature in Salt Lake City was 77˚F.  We have not had a July below that average since 1997 (75˚F) and since 2010 the average temperature in July has been a miserable 81.6˚F, more than 4˚F above the 20th century average.  Further, since 2010, even the coolest July, 2015 (77.4˚F) was warmer than the 20th century average.  

So, on this 4th of July, we should thank our lucky stars that the first three days of July were relatively pleasant.  On the 1st, the minimum and maximum temperatures were 53˚F and 88˚F, both below average (average here based on 1981-2010).  On the second, they were 59˚F and 90˚F, below and at average, respectively.  And then on the 3rd, we reached 68˚F and 95˚F, which are above average, but I've learned not to complain about 95 in July.

By and large, the forecast for 4th of July weekend looks great, with the only blemish being a possible isolated shower or thunderstorm, mainly in the mountains of central and eastern Utah, as noted by the National Weather Service graphic below.

Additionally, the extended forecast ain't awful, with highs in the low-to-mid 90s through next Friday.  

Based on those forecast temperatures, the average temperature for the week would be 78.5˚F.  Hot and higher than the 20th century average temperature, but a bit lower than the average for Julys since 2010. 

Thus, I'll take it and will hope that we will continue to keep it at or below 95.  

Monday, June 29, 2020

Bizarro World

It's sort of a bizarro-world situation right now with coronavirus running amok, wildfires threatening homes, and late June turning into late April.

Saturday night and Sunday, wildfires threatened homes near Lehi, Draper, and Saratoga Springs as two separate fires raged in the urban-wildland interface.  The Traverse Fire near Lehi and Draper was apparently caused by fireworks.  The cause of the Knolls Fire near Saratoga Springs remains undetermined.

The cooler weather today is a blessing, but conditions Saturday night and Sunday must have been difficult with strong winds from varying directions.

Observations from the flight park near Point of the Mountain show south-southeast winds Saturday morning through about 1300 MDT, then a shift to S-SSW, and finally a shift to north at about 1800 MDT.  Winds from about 1300-1800 MDT were sustained at 35 mph with gusts to nearly 50 and then after the frontal passage peaked with gusts over 60 mph. 

Source: MesoWest
The remarkable late-June airmass change is quite evident in the temperature trace which shows an afternoon maximum yesterday of 88˚F, a rapid drop in temperature of over 15˚F with the frontal passage, and then a continued decline to current temperatures just above 40˚F.  Thankfully, the lower temperatures, higher humidity, and lighter winds this morning should greatly assist firefighters.

We will thankfully be under the grips of this late-June trough through Tuesday.  It will be unseasonably cool today with valley highs in the 60s, which is more like late April.  The Alta Devils Castle webcam is even showing a trace of snow above about 10,000 feet. 

Tip of the hat this morning to all health-care workers, first responders, and anyone helping with relief efforts for all that you do. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

A State Divided

In our previous post, we discussed some uncertainties in the forecasts for early next week, with differences in the amplitude and timing of a late-June upper-level trough that was expected to affect Utah's weather. 

The model spread has decreased some in the past couple of days with both the GFS and the ECMWF now going for a solution that favors a frontal passage over northern Utah on Sunday (probably noon or later, but follow forecasts as this could change) with the front moving very slowly across the state through Tuesday.

On Monday, we will be a state divided meteorologically.  At 0000 UTC 30 June (1800 MDT Monday), the GFS forecast puts the surface cold front over central Utah, with unseasonably cold, northwesterly flow over the northern and western portions of the state and warmer southwesterly flow over southwest Utah. 

The ECMWF has a very similar solution, as illustrated by the surface temperature forecast below, with a 30˚F temperature contrast between southeast Utah and Cache Valley. 

Source: Pivotal Weather
Direct model temperature forecasts can exhibit large biases, so I don't use the absolute values of those numbers above for anticipating actual temperatures, but the National Weather Service is currently forecasting a high of 67˚F for the Salt Lake City airport on Monday, which would be 22˚F below average. 

Monitor forecasts for evolving details, but be prepared for big changes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Late June Troughs

A weak trough will move over northern Utah tomorrow, lowering maximum temperatures in the Salt Lake Valley into the mid 80s and bringing a chance of scattered showers and thunderstorms. 

I mentioned how great it is that we keep seeing these troughs in my previous post, and there's a chance of another, stronger one, early next week, but the impacts on northern Utah vary substantially depending on the forecast model. 

The GFS forecast valid 1200 UTC (0600 MDT) Monday shows a deep trough over the northwest U.S. with a cold front moving through northern Utah. 

The GFS then brings the trough directly through the northern half of the state and by 1200 UTC (0600 MDT) Tuesday, forecast 700-mb temperatures are just below 0˚C, cold enough for snow in the upper elevations above probably 9000 feet, although possibly lower. 

However, the ECMWF has a much different evolution for northern Utah.  It stalls the trough over the Pacific states. 

We would probably see a cold frontal passage at low levels in that solution, but it's a tough call.  Additionally, it would be drier and snow levels would not be as low. 

Thumbnail 500-mb plots from the GEFS all show a trough over the western US, but with varying amplitudes and speeds. 

Source: Penn State E-wall
This means there's a great deal of uncertainty about how things will play out early next week.  In fact the ECMWF drags the trough very slowly across the western U.S. which would be a fly in the ointment for weather for much of the week as the 4th approaches.

The bottom line is that you should monitor forecasts in the coming days to see how this plays out.  Ahead of the trough we could see elevated fire-weather risk with wind and low humidities.  Near the trough, a chance of showers and thunderstorms.  Much will depend on track, intensity, and movement and the range of possible outcomes for any given location in northern Utah is quite large.