Paul Douglas is a nationally respected meteorologist with 33 years of television and radio experience. A serial entrepreneur, Douglas is Senior Meteorologist for WeatherNation TV, a new, national 24/7 weather channel with studios in Denver and Minneapolis. Founder of Media Logic Group, Douglas and a team of meteorologists provide weather services for media at Broadcast Weather, and high-tech alerting and briefing services for companies via Alerts Broadcaster. His speaking engagements take him around the Midwest with a message of continuous experimentation and reinvention, no matter what business you’re in. He is the public face of “SAVE”, Suicide Awareness, Voices of Education, based in Bloomington. | Send Paul a question.

December Thaw (50s by Monday; in search of "sensible seasons"; west coast threatened by "atmospheric rivers")

Posted by: Paul Douglas Updated: November 30, 2012 - 9:17 PM

Sensible Seasons

"The world of sensible seasons had come undone" wrote Barbara Kingsolver in "Flight Behavior", a fictional account of climate change's impact on one family in Tennessee. It's an excellent read, by the way.

No, not every weather quirk is a symptom of warming, but if you listen carefully Minnesota's weather tune is playing vaguely off-key.

Near 60F on Monday with a thundershower - on December 3? 83 percent of Minnesota is in severe drought, up from 43 percent a week ago.

Not a farmer? If you like water in your lakes and affordable food on your table you'll want to stay up on the drought.

Meanwhile northern California may pick up 15 inch rains, with 100 inch snows in the mountains. While we see just enough rain to settle the dust on Monday. 40s feel like a relief this weekend; hints of April Monday before cooling off by midweek. Jackets and coats return next weekend, but another thaw may be brewing for mid-December. I fear we'll go right down to the wire with a white Christmas again this year.

Dry bias and El Nino?

El Schmeeno!

At some point the law of averages will catch up with us and it will "snow". Minnesotans will slip and slide to work. Snowmobiles will roar to life. Skiers will smile, kids will celebrate.

Any day now.

 

* image above from funcram.com

 

Preliminary November Climate Summary. Here's a snippet from Dr. Mark Seeley's always-informative WeatherTalk Newsletter: "Most observers reported average monthly temperatures for November that ranged from 2 to 4 degrees F warmer than normal, with the larger positive departures in temperatures coming in southern counties. Extremes for the month ranged from -11 degrees F at Fosston (Polk County) on the 26th to 75 degrees F on the 10th at Rochester, Amboy, and Winnebago. The warm day on the 10th also brought extremely rare November tornadoes to the state. These storms were reported from Burnsville, Eagan, Mendota Heights and Mahtomedi, and were the 2nd latest autumn tornadoes in Minnesota history (there was a tornado near Maple Plain back on November 16, 1931)."

 

Severe Drought Expands. I can't remember the last time I saw this: the aerial extent of severe drought jumping from 43% to 83% of Minnesota in one week. The worst conditions: St. Cloud and Willmar to Mankato and all of southwest Minnesota, more pockets of extreme drought near Bemidji. The entire metro area is now in severe drought. Map courtesy of the U.S. Drought Monitor.
 
 
Temperature Roller Coaster. I expect 40s today and Sunday; a slight chance of a shower (or drizzle) today, a better chance of a few light showers Monday. If the cold front holds off until after 2 pm Monday a high of 60 F. isn't out of the question Monday, but mid to upper 50s are likely, about 20 degrees above average. We cool off by Wednesday - temperatures blip upward again Thursday before chilling back down to near average next Saturday.
 
Negative Trend For NAO? The NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) Index is a tip-off of weather to come, 1-2 weeks out. Strongly positive NAO's often correlate with quiet weather, strongly negative phases of NAO correspond to more dips and bulges in the jet stream, a greater potential for storms. We're in a drought, but maybe we'll be brushed by a few storms come mid-December. We're due. Graph above: NOAA.
 
 
2 Week Extended Outlook. The GFS forecast map above is valid December 16, showing the "540 line", the approximate location of the rain-snow line, pushing into southern Minnesota, another major storm thrashing the west coast. Highs reach the 20s and 30s from December 9 into December 16, fairly close to average for December. No frigid air is in sight - no major storms are brewing either, looking out 2 weeks or so. I keep waiting for a break in the pattern - don't see it yet.

 

Friday Night Satellite. The first frontal boundary is clearly visible from Las Vegas to Boise, with partial clearing over the west coast. Mainly dry conditions should hold much of the day Saturday, but already the next (severe) frontal boundary is showing up in the Pacific, scheduled to arrive on Sunday. Meteorologists call this “The Pineapple Express”, a treadmill of unusually wet systems lined up all the way from Hawaii to the West Coast of the USA. Satellite: Naval Research Lab.

 

1-2 Months’ Worth of Rain Has Already Fallen. The map above shows Doppler-estimated rainfall amounts from Thursday and Friday; a huge area has already picked up more than 2” of rain, with pockets of 6-10” of rain from Mendocino north to Medford, Oregon. Widespread flooding and mudslides have been reported over northern California. The ground is saturated – Sunday’s rain will trigger more extreme flooding and additional road closures and overflowing rivers.

 

Additional Predicted Rain. The high-resolution model above shows additional rain expected by Monday evening – most of it falling Sunday and Sunday night as the next front sweeps from northwest to southeast across the region. Another 6-8” of rain (and heavy mountain snow) is likely over higher terrain east of Redding and Chico, with some 2-4” rainfall amounts for the coastal range near San Francisco and Oakland. Los Angeles will see minimal amounts, under .5” of rain expected. Then again, it doesn’t take much rain to turn L.A. freeways into one vast parking lot. Map: WSI.

 

Alerts Broadcaster Models. Our weather simulations show a broad area receiving at least 3” of additional rain Sunday, with upwards of 10” amounts for the Coastal Range and as much as 10-15” for the northern Sierra Nevada range of northern California. This may translate into an additional 50-100” of snow with a significant avalanche risk north of Lake Tahoe.

 

Megastorms Could Drown Massive Portions Of California. "Atmospheric Rivers"? We're seeing new phenomena on our weather maps, things that can't be explained away as "normal weather". Here's an excerpt of a timely article at Scientific American: "Geologic evidence shows that truly massive floods, caused by rainfall alone, have occurred in California about every 200 years. The most recent was in 1861, and it bankrupted the state. Such floods were most likely caused by atmospheric rivers: narrow bands of water vapor about a mile above the ocean that extend for thousands of miles. Much smaller forms of these rivers regularly hit California, as well as the western coasts of other countries. Scientists who created a simulated megastorm, called ARkStorm, that was patterned after the 1861 flood but was less severe, found that such a torrent could force more than a million people to evacuate and cause $400 billion in losses if it happened in California today...."

Graphic credit above: "A 43-day atmospheric-river storm in 1861 turned California’s Central Valley region into an inland sea, simulated here on a current-day map." Image: Don Foley

 

19 named tropical storms and hurricanes in 2012 in the Atlantic basin, 3rd most since 1851. Details from AP and The Washington Post.

 

Rebuilding Cities After Sandy: Three Keys To Climate Resilience. Here's an excerpt of a story from Huffington Post

1) Build Green as Well as Gray

"As we saw from Hurricane Sandy and other destructive, recent storms, cities from New York to Miami to Houston need to develop infrastructure that reduces the vulnerability of homes, commerce, and services.

This does not mean walling-in every coastal community with huge barriers or dikes. Where cities meet shorelines, "green infrastructure" can often meet the same need. For example, Maryland's state government is buying up wetlands and marshes to provide buffers against future storm surge. And in New Jersey, the restoration of South Cape May Meadows provided a natural seafront barrier that helped the area fare much better than others when Sandy hit..."

Photo credit: "Parts of the brick walkway of Liberty Island that were damaged in Superstorm Sandy were shown during a tour, in New York, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. Tourists in New York will miss out for a while on one of the hallmarks of a visit to New York, seeing the Statue of Liberty up close. Though the statue itself survived Superstorm Sandy intact, damage to buildings and Liberty Island's power and heating systems means the island will remain closed for now, and authorities don't have an estimate on when it will reopen." (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

 

36 F. high on Friday in the Twin Cities.

33 F. average high for November 30.

41 F. high on November 30, 2011.

 

On The Verge of Average. Highs were fairly uniform, statewide, on Friday, a few degrees above average - ranging from 30 at Alexandria to 33 St. Cloud, 36 Twin Cities and 37 at Redwood Falls.

 

 

 

 

Minnesota Weather History for November 30. Information courtesy of the Twin Cities NWS:

1998: The warmest December day ever in the Twin Cities with 68 degrees. St. Cloud rose to 61.

1985: Parts of central Minnesota received up to a foot of snow. Snowfall totals included 12 inches at Waseca and Milaca, 11.3 at Alexandria, and 11 inches at Fairmont and Long Prairie. Photo above: NOAA.

 

 

Paul's Star Tribune Outlook for the Twin CIties and all of Minnesota:

 

TODAY: Milder. Drizzle, possible shower. Winds: S 10+. High: 48

 

SATURDAY NIGHT: Lingering clouds, still milder than average. Low: 35

 

SUNDAY: More clouds than sun, drier and brighter. High: 46

 

MONDAY: Springlike early. Passing shower possible, colder later in the day. High: 58 (by midday, then falling)

 

TUESDAY: Partly sunny, turning cooler. Low: 36. High: 42

 

WEDNESDAY: Breezy, clouds increase. Low: 25. High: 38

 

THURSDAY: Damp, few light showers possible. Low: 32. High: 41

 

FRIDAY: Intervals of sun, cooling off. Low: 26. High: 36

 

Climate Stories...

 

2012: 9th Warmest Year On Record, Worldwide. Here in the USA this year will probably wind up being the warmest year ever recorded. Details from The New York Times.

 

16 Irrefutable Signs That Climate Change Is Real. Here's an excerpt from Business Insider: "A new study published Thursday in the journal Science provides the most definitive — and accurate — evidence yet that polar ice caps on Greenland and Antarctica are melting. Shrinking ice is not the only telltale sign that climate change is real. From rising air and ocean temperatures to stronger storms to record droughts, evidence of a changing global climate is all around us..."

Graphic credit above: NOAA (2009). "Since 1901, global average surface temperatures have risen at an average rate of .13 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. The United States has warmed at nearly twice the global rate since the 1970s."

 

Climate Change Science Gets More Compelling As Politicians Fiddle. What's happening in the Arctic and Greenland is truly alarming. Here's a clip from a must-read Op-Ed at The Washington Post: "...In the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Thursday, scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and elsewhere further solidified the link between human activity and rising global temperatures. The researchers compared the findings of complex climate models against three decades of direct satellite observations. In response to human-related emissions, the models show a particular pattern of temperature change — cooling in the upper atmosphere, warming in the lower atmosphere. That pattern, the scientists found, is also present in the satellite record. Using similar methods, they also found that natural climate variability is extremely unlikely to explain the modeled and observed results. What about the effects of this warming? In the journal Science on Thursday, an international group of 47 glaciologists concluded that the world's massive ice sheets are currently losing 344 billion tons of ice a year, three times the rate of two decades ago. Greenland's ice sheet is worst off — shrinking at five times the 1990s rate, it accounts for most of the ice loss. Together, melting ice sheets account for about 20 percent of current sea-level rise, the glaciologists found. "Some ice sheets," a summary of the study warns, "are disconcertingly sensitive to warming."...

Graphic credit above: "These undated handout images provided by NASA shows the extent of surface melt over Greenland's ice sheet on July 8, left, and July 12, right. Measurements from three satellites showed that on July 8, about 40 percent of the ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. In just a few days, the melting had dramatically accelerated and an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12." (AP Photo/Nicolo E. DiGirolamo, SSAI/NASA GSFC, and Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory).

 

Faith In Values: Are We Finally Nearing The Tipping Point On Climate Change? Here's an excerpt of a thought-provoking article at The Center for American Progress: "...In terms of moral leadership, faith communities have long seen global warming as one of the most urgent spiritual issues of our time. From Catholics and Jews to Muslims, evangelicals, and others, faith communities have been working to change individual behavior and to advocate for sensible policies to address climate change. The Evangelical Environmental Network, for instance, ran television ads in swing states during the election campaign defending the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce carbon pollution. Interfaith Moral Action on Climate graded elected officials on their stewardship record and is urging responsible climate leadership. And the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action worked to make the environment a key voting issue among its followers through social media and direct organizing...."

Photo credit above: AP/James Balog. "A hiker surveys the damage from climate change atop an iceberg in Alaska. Correcting climate change used to be a bipartisan effort, but recently has become more partisan, causing faith groups to get involved."

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