Snow Drought

Comedian Carl Reiner finds snow to be an unnecessary freezing of water, but many Minnesotans beg to differ. A reliable winter blanket of white is part of our heritage, our identity. We tromp, ski, skate, slip, slide and drill our way through these dark days by fixating on fresh moonscapes of snow and ice.

"Up north this weekend, near Pelican, and amazed how little snow we saw on the way up" a friend e-mailed. I called up the latest snowcover map, surprised to see so little snow for so much of central Minnesota. Subzero with brown ground from Brainerd and Wadena to Morris. What gives?

The 18.6 inches of snow so far in the Twin Cities this winter is almost 7 inches less than normal. An active southerly branch of the jet stream, possibly pumped up by El Nino, is whisking the wettest storms well south of Minnesota, keeping us in a No man's land of dry, relatively quiet weather, with swings from subzero to 30s. No bitter blocking pattern setting up similar to last winter.

Expect storm-free weather into next weekend as temperatures mellow. Highs reach the 30s Thursday into at least the first few days of next week. By January standards in Minnesota that's probably a warm front.

Where's The Snow? A friend reminded me how little snow is on the ground across central Minnesota, which got me looking up the data via NOAA NOHRSC. He's right, less than an inch on the ground from St. Cloud to Brainerd westward to Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls and Morris. Good grief. There's enough snow on the ground for snowmobiling and cross country skiing over far northern Minnesota, with 2-5" across most of southern Minnesota.

60-Hour Snowfall Potential. Latest NAM guidance from NOAA shows a streak of light snow spreading across the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes; lake effect dropping 1-2 feet of new snow near Buffalo and Watertown, New York. Source: HAMweather.

Tracking Ice. Our internal models show a good chance for icing conditions Little Rock, Indianapolis and Dayton to Baltimore and Washington D.C. over the next couple of days as moisture rides up and over a dome of numbing air over the northern USA.

Thank You Very Much. Weather is obviously cyclical (although last winter natural cycles gave way to a long-term blocking pattern). After another cold surge early next week European model guidance shows a Pacific breeze and a welcome thaw from Thursday into Sunday. I don't see any significant snow through the period, either. Fewer expletives for your commute next week. And trust me, 30s will feel amazing.

Cooling Trend Last Week of January? Upper level winds are forecast to swing around to the northwest by Saturday evening, January 24, allowing a fresh surge of cold air to pour south out of Canada. It's unclear whether this next shot will be as cold as last week, but there's little doubt more subzero nights are ahead.. Map: GrADS:COLA/IGES.

Cold Start To January. Dr. Mark Seeley summarizes the whiplash going from a relatively balmy December to an old-fashioned January; here's an excerpt from WeatherTalk: "After a mild December (11th warmest since 1895 on a statewide basis), the other shoe dropped over the first full week of January, with temperatures averaging from 7 to 10 degrees F colder than average through the first seven days of the month, somewhat analogous to the start of January last year.  Brimson (St Louis County) reported the coldest temperature in the nation on January 4th with -28F and on January 5th Togo (Itasca County) reported the coldest in the nation at -29F..."

Cold Comfort: U.S. Weather in 2014 Not Too Hot, Disastrous. Roughly the eastern half of the USA was cooler than average, in stark contrast to record heat in the west, and what appears to be the warmest year on record, worldwide. Here's a snippet from Yahoo News: "...The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday that the U.S. average temperature in 2014 was half a degree warmer than normal and weather was less disastrous and drought-struck than previous years. While 2014 was warmer than 2013 in the lower 48 states, it was still only the 34th warmest on record. That contrasts with the experience of the world as a whole. Globally, it will likely go down as the warmest year on record..."

Planes Flew From New York To London At Near-Supersonic Speeds Due To Powerhouse Jet Stream. The sharper the gradient in temperature at the surface the stronger winds have to blow to keep the atmosphere in equilibrium. Here's an excerpt from a story at Mashable: "A jet stream roaring across the North Atlantic at more than 200 miles per hour early Thursday morning nearly succeeded in bringing back supersonic air travel for the New York to London route. Several flights from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport made the trip from there to London's Heathrow Airport (from gate to gate) in about five hours and 20 minutes.British Airways Flight 114, a Boeing 777-200 jet, took off from JFK at 10:50 p.m. ET, and landed at 9:06 a.m. local time, taking just five hours 16 minutes to make a trip that typically takes more than six hours..."

Image credit above: "Visualization of the jet stream on Jan. 8, 2015, showing a swath of 200 knot winds blowing across the North Atlantic, affecting flights." Image:

Almost 4,000 U.S. Schools Are Running on Solar. I had no idea the number was that high. This includes 21 schools in Minnesota and 147 schools across Wisconsin, according to Here's an excerpt from "...Few places benefit more from solar than our public schools, where the energy savings can literally make the difference in being able to pay teacher salaries and buy textbooks. The first study of solar at US schools finds installations at 3,752 K-12 schools, reaching nearly 2.7 million students. The schools are saving a combined $77.8 million a year on utility bills - an average of almost $21,000 a year per school..."

Photo credit above: "Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools. The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida has a 15 million BTU/day solar pool heating installation." Photo: Solar Source.

In A World of Phones Gadgets Must Adapt. Remember stand-alone navigation systems, even "cameras"? Now many of us rely on one device, our pocket computers (formerly known as "phones") to do just about everything. From gadgets to apps, The New York Times reports on the implications of this brave new tech landscape; here's a clip: "...But the travails of CES are a symptom of a larger transformation in tech. The era dominated by consumer electronics — what most of us call gadgets — is in turmoil. One reason is that many devices have been superseded by a single, all-powerful tool: the smartphone. Today, just about everything that once required a small, dedicated electronic device — from cameras to portable game consoles to GPS navigators to music players to too many others to name — works better as an app on a phone..."

Has Technology Killed The Jewelry Industry? Millenials seems to have more of a taste for gadgets, connections and experiences than colorful rocks, it seems. Here's an excerpt from Pacific Standard: "...But as Golden Gate University psychology professor Kit Yarrow told Jeweler’s Circular Keystone, millennials have a different idea of success. “The psychology of this generation is not that of a depression generation…. Status for this generation isn’t about money—it’s about attention,” Yarrow explained. “Previous generations got that Chanel handbag or 3 carat diamond to tell the world they made it. This generation has already grown up in a time of unprecedented prosperity…. Their expectations are much higher..."

Manila Would Like Just About Everyone To Wear Diapers For The Pope's Visit Next Week. Trust me, this is going to become a trend. Because getting up off the sofa is hard! Quartz has the squishy details: "...A chronic shortage of portable toilets has prompted Francis Tolentino, chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, to resort to extreme measures during Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines next week: Recommending adult diapers for traffic police and many of the millions of people expected to attend an open-air mass in the heavily Catholic country..."

Photo credit above: "A Filipino man sells shirts with images of Pope Francis for 150 pesos each ($3) outside a church in downtown Manila, Philippines, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015. Pope Francis will visit this predominantly Catholic country on Jan. 15-19." (AP Photo/Aaron Favila).

McCook County Pile-Up Leaves Road Covered in 500 Pounds of Fries. Yep, I'm 'lovin it! Chances are road crews were not, according to this article at Argus Leader: "...The McCook County Emergency team spent Friday morning and early afternoon finishing the removal of more than 500 pounds of McDonald’s fries off Interstate 90 near Salem after a six-car pileup Thursday afternoon...."

SUNDAY: Lot's of clouds, turning cooler. Winds: NW 5. High: 15

SUNDAY NIGHT: Partial clearing, noticeably colder again. Low: -6

MONDAY: Blue sky, another cold swipe. High: 5 (feels like -15 to -20 at times)

TUESDAY: Sunny. No-drama commutes. Wake-up: -9. High: 8

WEDNESDAY: Mostly cloudy, a little better. Wake-up: 2. High: 22

THURSDAY: First thaw since January 3. Gray and mild. Wake-up: 12. High: 33

FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy, few complaints. Wake-up: 17. High: 33

SATURDAY: Clouds linger, few flurries. Wake-up: 15. High: 30

Climate Stories...

Winter May Be Knocking On Your Window, But 2014 Was The Warmest On Record. Here's a clip from a story (and audio clip) at PRI, Public Radio International: "...You have to look past the rapidly melting ice around both poles and on most of the world's glaciers. You have to look past the rapidly warming Arctic and rising sea levels. You have to look past the millions of data points from every corner of the globe that have convinced virtually all of the world's best climate scientists and major scientific organizations that climate change is real, and happening now. But there are still a few folks who do look past all this evidence and contend that the earth is not warming. And the data most of them point to first to support this argument are recent global average surface temperature records...."

Image credit above: "Glaciers around the world are retreating as the climate warms. NASA tracked a retreat of 3 kilometers (2 miles) of Argentina's Upsala glacier, in Patagonia, between 2001 and 2013. A new anaysis of global temperature data from the Japan Meteorological Agency found that 2014 was the warmest year on record." Credit: NASA.

Just 90 Companies Produced Two-Thirds of All Global Warming Emissions Ever. has the story; here's an excerpt: "...Who is to blame for climate change? Nearly two-thirds of all man-made global warming emissions from 1751 – 2010 can be traced back to just 90 companies, according to a 2013 report in the journal Climatic Change. And 30 percent of all emissions were produced just by the top 20. Of the 90 companies, 50 are investor-owned (Chevron, Exxon, and BP are among the worst offenders), 31 are state-owned companies and nine are government industries..."

Republican-Led Group Launches Ballot Petition To Boost Solar Power in Florida. The Tea Party backing a solar power initiative? Why not - this is about having the freedom to resell power generated on your rooftop, courtesy of the sun. Here's a clip from The Tampa Bay Times: "...Backers of broader use of solar energy in Florida have quietly launched a petition for the 2016 ballot that would allow those who generate electricity from the sun to sell the power directly to other consumers. If the measure passes, solar proponents argue that it would open up Florida's solar energy market, which has largely stagnated for years. The measure would allow business or property owners to produce up to 2 megawatts of solar power and then sell that power directly to others, such as tenants, without having to go through a utility..."

NASA Takes Climate Change Study To The Air. Gizmag has the details; here's the intro: "With the goal of shedding more light on a number of Earth system processes whose effect on our climate is incompletely understood, NASA will this year launch five new airborne field campaigns. These studies will look at long-range air pollution, warming ocean waters, melting Greenland glaciers, greenhouse gas sources, fires in Africa and clouds over the Atlantic, with the captured data to complement satellite- and surface-based observations to help provide a better understanding of the interconnected systems that affect our climate and how it is changing..."

Image credit above: "The DC-8 airborne laboratory is one of several NASA aircraft that will fly in support the five new Earth Venture class missions to launch this year." (Photo: NASA).

17 U.S. Cities On Track For Hottest Year (2014). MSN News has the story; here's an excerpt: "...Perhaps not surprisingly, the five states with record-setting cities - Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington - are all on track for one of their 5 warmest years. Of those five states, California has 10 of the 17 hottest cities, in part because it's such a huge urban state, but also because the heat there has been so extreme this year. As of November, the state was running about 2 F. above its previous hottest year, a surprisingly high margin in a world where temperature records are usually set by tenths or hundredths of degrees..."

EPA Chief: Arguing Climate Change is "Kind of Nuts". Amen. Here's a clip from "...McCarthy said that while the vast majority of scientists agree that the climate is changing, the scientific community doesn't always do a good enough job of explaining those changes and their impact to the public. She said it was important to make that point to the general public because the cost of inaction was great. "Science is under attack like it has never been before," McCarthy said. "Now is not the time for us to hide or to begin to be more quiet. It's the time for us to embrace this challenge..." (Source: WMO).

Survey Finds Doctors Concerned About Impacts of Climate Change on Patient Health. Here's a snippet from a story at Huffington Post that got my attention: "...A survey of members of the American Thoracic Society, which represents 15,000 physicians and other medical professionals who work in the fields of respiratory disease, critical care and sleep disorder, finds that the majority of respondents said they were already seeing health effects in their patients that they believe are linked to climate change. Seventy-seven percent said they have seen an increase in chronic diseases related to air pollution, and 58 percent said they'd seen increased allergic reactions from plants or mold. Fifty-seven percent of participants said they'd also seen injuries related to severe weather..."

Henry Cisneros: We're Hitting "Point of No Return" on Climate Change. NBC News has the interview; here's an excerpt: "...We're moving toward points of no return where the cumulative effect of the damage becomes a spiral downward from which the systems cannot recover, so issues like rising sea levels or exorbitant heating or historic level droughts take on multiple dimensions beyond the initial and that's the danger of trying to duck the conversation the way many are trying to do today..." (Source: IPCC).

Older Post

Snow Drought Central Minnesota - Significant Thaw in 5-8 Days Away

Newer Post

Winter Coping Skills - January Thaw 72 Hours Away