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.

Snow Briefly Tapers This Afternoon (heaviest snow tonight; 5-8"+ totals by Tuesday afternoon)

Posted by: Paul Douglas Updated: March 4, 2013 - 12:36 PM

 

Very Plowable

 

I wish I could see your face as you read this. Maybe it's best I can't. Grin? Or grimace? High five - or a stream of spank-worthy expletives? March snows are a Rorschach test for Minnesotans. Many find them annoying; I look at the maps and get encouraged.

Why? Last March brought 70s and 80s; the warmest March on record was an omen for record heat & drought later that summer.

Not so in 2013. A parade of storms into spring is required to pull us out of a potentially debilitating drought. Think of this as cold, white Manna from Heaven. Theoretically possible, until you get into your car.

We should have 4 to 5 inches of wet snow by tonight, another 2-4 inches early Tuesday. Metro totals should (mostly) be in the 5-9" range by dinner on Tuesday. Plowable, but hardly crippling. Leave extra time, extra space on the freeways, and please tip your waiter.

Chicago picks up 8 inches, maybe 4-8 inches in Washington D.C. - which qualifies as a natural disaster. Mother Nature is about to sequester members of Congress.

We thaw out later this week; more sloppy snow brewing 1 week from today.

Most of this delightful, concrete-like slush will run off before it can soak into dusty topsoil. But some pain on the freeways now means drought may be easing.

 

* photo credit above: upper left: St. Cloud Times - upper right: Wikipedia.

 

* Snow tapers briefly this afternoon.

* Heavier snow bands set up tonight into Tuesday morning. The Tuesday morning commute should be the toughest.

* 5-8" storm totals by Tuesday evening across most of the metro - a few towns may see more

 

A Respectable Pile of White. WSI Corporation's 12 km. RPM model prints out some 10" snow amounts just west of the metro area, a 150-200 mile wide band of at least 6" of snow, closer to 8"+ for much of central, east central and southeastern Minnesota and a vast swath of Wisconsin. As much as 12-16" snow is possible from Madison and Milwaukee to Chicago and South Bend, Indiana. Great fun! Especially at O'Hare and Midway. This will be a good 48 hour period to take Amtrak.

 

One Beefy Clipper. What this Alberta Clipper lacks in moisture it will make up for in speed, or I should say a lack of speed. This system is limping along, and a 36+ period of snow will result in plowable snowfall amounts from Minnesota into Wisconsin, northern Illinois and Indiana and the Detroit area. Washington D.C. may pick up as much as 5-10" Wednesday, with a foot for the far northern/western suburbs. Looks like Old Man Winter is about to sequester our nation's capitol.

 

The Best Clipping In Years. NOAA has issued Winter Storm Warnings from much of North Dakota into a big stretch of Minnesota, western Wisconsin and northern Iowa, meaning heavy snow and treacherous travel is imminent. Details:

.SNOWFALL ACCUMULATIONS OF 6 TO 10 INCHES ARE EXPECTED ACROSS
MUCH OF CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN MINNESOTA AND FAR WESTERN WISCONSIN
DEVELOPING TONIGHT AND LASTING THROUGH TUESDAY...AS A WINTER
STORM MOVES ACROSS THE NORTHERN PLAINS AND UPPER MIDWEST. SOME
STORM TOTALS COULD APPROACH 12 INCHES DEPENDING ON WHERE PRIMARY
SNOW BANDS SET UP.

THIS SNOWFALL LOOKS TO BE SPLIT UP INTO TWO WAVES OF SNOW. THE
FIRST WILL COME TONIGHT THROUGH MONDAY MORNING...WITH A SECOND
ROUND EXPECTED MONDAY NIGHT THROUGH TUESDAY MORNING. SNOWFALL
RATES ARE EXPECTED TO DECREASE FOR A PERIOD MONDAY AFTERNOON AND
EVENING BETWEEN THESE TWO WAVES.

...WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON CST
TUESDAY...

A WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON CST TUESDAY.

* TIMING: TWO PERIODS OF MODERATE SNOW EXPECTED THIS EVENING INTO
  MONDAY MORNING AND AGAIN MONDAY NIGHT. SNOW WILL SLOWLY DIMINISH
  TUESDAY MORNING.

* MAIN IMPACTS: SNOW ACCUMULATION OF 6 TO 10 INCHES.

* OTHER IMPACTS: SOUTHEAST WINDS GUSTING TO AROUND 25 MPH WILL
  RESULT IN SOME BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW IN OPEN AREAS.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER
CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING.  SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF
SNOW ARE FORECAST THAT WILL MAKE TRAVEL DANGEROUS. ONLY TRAVEL IN
AN EMERGENCY. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL...KEEP AN EXTRA FLASHLIGHT...
FOOD...AND WATER IN YOUR VEHICLE IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY.

 

Sputtering Along. A typical Alberta Clipper moves at 20-35 mph, leaving little time for snow to accumulate, in fact most clippers just whip up gusty winds which kick around the snow that's already on the ground. But this system is limping along at 10-15 mph, meaning a much longer period of snow from the Upper Midwest into the Great Lakes; eventually regenerating into a coastal storm capable of dumping 5-10" or more on Washington D.C. New York City may be spared, with only an inch or two by Thursday, but it will be a very close call.

 

Model Spread. Keep in mind that clippers are extremely fickle; a slight deviation in the storm track will make a big difference in final snowfall totals. That said, I don't see how we don't pick up a plowable snowfall (at least 3-4"), and I'm still comfortable (wrong word) predicting a final tally in the 5-10" range by Tuesday afternoon or evening.

 

Storm Track. You can see the various models and their predictions of where/when the Alberta Clipper will be centered looking out 72 hours. The heaviest snowfall amounts are likely just north of the storm track. Map: NOAA.

 

Bad News For No-Way and O'Hairy Airports. Flying thru Chicago Midway or O'Hare Tuesday? Just wave a little white flag of defeat now, because I don't think it's going to happen. Latest models show 7-10" for Chicago, more just north of the city.

 

A Rough Winter? Not So Much. NOAA's Regional Climate Center shows a warmer than average winter east of the Rockies; temperatures as much as 3F warmer than normal from the Midwest into the Southeast. The western third of the USA has been trending colder since December 1. My sources tell me that, as of Feb. 23, national temperatures since December 1 were running .64 F. warmer than average.

 

Preliminary February Climate Summary. Here's an excerpt of Mark Seeley's always-excellent weekly edition of WeatherTalk: "Most observers in Minnesota reported a mean monthly temperature for February that was 2 to 4 degrees cooler than normal. Since June of 2011 (a 21 month period), February 2013 is only the 2nd month with a statewide average temperature that is cooler than normal (the other was October 2012). Extremes for the month were 45 degrees F at Grand Rapids on the 27th and -39 degrees F at International Falls on the 2nd. Precipitation was generally abundant during the month of February, except for small portions of southwestern Minnesota. It was the wettest February statewide since 2007. Many observers reported over 2 inches of precipitation, most of which came as snowfall..."

 

How The Sequester Impacts Weather And Hurricane Reporting. Here's a story that caught my eye; an excerpt courtesy of Central Florida News 13: "How you are protected and receive information about extreme weather conditions from the government could be affected by the sequester. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which runs the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center, stands to take a large hit if the sequester takes effect, according to the Obama administration. The Department of Commerce, oversees NOAA, stated that the budge cuts could potentially impact the public in a storm. In an emailed statement, a spokesman wrote: 

“These cuts would result in a gap in weather satellite coverage, diminishing the quality of weather forecasts and the warnings of severe weather events like hurricanes and tornadoes...These impacts directly affect NOAA employees and partners throughout the country: up to 2,600 NOAA employees would have to be furloughed, approximately 2,700 positions would not be filled, and the number of contractors would have to be reduced by about 1,400. If sequestration is enacted, NOAA will face the loss of highly trained technical staff and partners. As a result, the government runs the risk of significantly increasing forecast error and, the government's ability to warn Americans across the country about high impact weather events, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, will be compromised..".

Photo credit above: "(FILE/Kimberly Prosser, Brevard County Emergency Management) "Hurricane hunter aircraft like this one in Brevard County could be forced to reduce flight hours under budget cuts as outlined in the March 1, 2013 sequester."

 

Percentage Annual Sunshine. The list above highlights America's sunniest cities. Phoenix and Las Vegas get top honors for the most sunshine (85% of daylight hours are sunny, on average). As a point of comparison 58% of daylight hours in the Twin Cities are clear to partly cloudy, a higher number than Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit or Boston. Source: currentresults.com.

 

If Anyone Asks (Doubtful) St. Cloud Is Sunnier Than The Twin Cities. Who knew? I dug around the currentresults.com web site and found the nugget above: St. Cloud is the sunniest (large) city in Minnesota. It should be a trivia question.

 

2012 U.S. Extreme Weather Overview. Here's a portion of an excellent recap and summary (PDF) of America's weather extremes during 2012 from Climate Nexus: "With oppressive heat waves, devastating droughts, ravaging wildfires, and hard-­hitting storms, 2012 was one for the record books. Thousands of precipitation and temperature records were broken, plaguing almost all of the United States this year and underscoring the connection between increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather and climate change. With climate change, we’ve set the table for precisely this kind of extreme weather, and unfortunately, our changing climate threatens to alter the weather for years to come.

A year of extremes: 2012 was the second most extreme year on record for the nation, according to the U.S.Climate Extremes Index. The year had 11 disasters costing $1 billion or more. The only year on record that had more billion dollar disasters was 2011, which had 14. According to Munich Re, extreme weather caused $107.2 billion worth of damage in the U.S in 2012...."

 

Going Blind: The Coming Satellite Crisis. The USA has 24 earth-observing satellites in orbit right now; several of the polar-orbiting satellites are about to go dark, and replacements may not be available for a period of time, resulting in a potential forecast-accuracy-gap. Some predictions have only 6 earth-observing satellites in operation by 2020. More from PBS Nova: "...That’s where polar orbiting satellites come in. They complement geostationary satellites by trading frequent updates for sharper images. Polar orbiting satellites sit much closer to Earth—generally about 500 miles up—and complete a trip around the globe every 100 minutes or so. Most Earth-observing satellites, weather and otherwise, fly in polar orbits. With the right sensor, they can image the entire planet twice a day, once on the day side, once on the night side. Their role in meteorology is unquestionable. “The polar orbiting satellites give us the ability to do long term weather forecasts,” says Jane Lubchenco, outgoing administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Currently, NOAA’s forecasts go out 7 to 10 days. If we don’t have a polar orbiting satellite, we would do 2 to 3 day forecasts. That’s a huge difference...”

Image credit above: "Suomi NPP is a weather satellite in low-Earth orbit—the only one the U.S. currently operates for civilian uses."

 

The King Tides. What Happens When The Sea Level Rises. This is the first I've heard the expression "King Tides"; here's a segment of an article at Huffington Post: "Did California just get a glimpse of what future sea level may look like? California experienced King Tides, especially high tides, during early February. The King Tides come three times a year, predicted because of the orbit and alignment of the Earth, sun, and moon. I was interested in tracking them because I am an advocate for low-lying islands and coastal communities, and I frequently write about issues facing these islanders from an eyewitness perspective. The timing of the latest King Tide in California turned out to be poignant, as the Solomon Islands experienced an earthquake and subsequent tsunami that took lives and again challenged the world to think about the way communities are shaped and sometimes traumatized by the water..."

Photo credit above: "Drowning Islands Facebook fan Tracey Coleman took this before and after photo in San Clemente, California to highlight the before and after effect of the King tide. Of all the submissions received, this was my favorite - what a great shot."

 

Words To Live By. Thanks Heidi. I have some awesome FB friends. Some of them I even know.

 

 

How Much? No, not this much either. Photo from the early 60s, courtesy of Bill Koch, North Dakota State Highway Department. Credit: Dr. Herbert Kroehl, NGDC.

 

32 F. high Sunday at KMSP.

35 F. average high for March 3.

28 F. high on March 3, 2012.

10.5" snow fell on December 9, 2012 in the Twin Cities.

 

Calm Before The Snow. It was a fairly nice Sunday statewide, sun giving way to high and mid level clouds, forerunners of today's super-sized, slow-motion clipper. HIghs ranged from 27 at Alexandria to 32 St. Cloud and Twin Cities, 33 at Eau Claire. MSP had 5" of snow on the ground, a number I expect to inflate in the hours ahead.

 

 

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


TODAY: Winter Storm Warning. Snow likely. Winds: E 10-20. High: 29

 

MONDAY NIGHT: Snow becomes heavier. Low: 24

 

TUESDAY: Snow slowly tapers. 6-9" possible (total) across much of the metro. High: near 30

 

WEDNESDAY: Bright sun. Sloppy highways. Wake-up: 10. High: 28

 

THURSDAY: More clouds, breezy & milder. Wake-up: 15. High: 34

 

FRIDAY: Some sun, melting snow. Wake-up: 25. High: 37

 

SATURDAY: Some sun, temps. slightly above normal. Wake-up: 23. High: 38

 

SUNDAY: AM sun, clouds increase later. Wake-up: 25. High: near 40

 

Climate Stories...

 

The Crisis In Climate Change Coverage. Is the mainstream media doing a good job communicating the urgency of the threat. A well organized, well-funded group of climate deniers is doing a good job raising doubt and confusion, even though a majority of Americans are seeing the manifestations of warmer, stormier atmosphere outside their windows. Here's an excerpt of a story at truth-out.org: "...A complex mix of structural and cultural factors has affected climate-change coverage in the U.S. The forces that shape U.S. media have not been kind to environmental reporting. Years of media consolidation have led to dramatic layoffs in commercial newsrooms, and environment and science desks are often the first to go. In addition, M. Sanjayan noted that media consolidation has had an echo-chamber effect: All climate stories sound the same and they lack depth, specificity and connection to place. The U.S. also under-funds noncommercial alternatives, like public media, where climate-change reporting should thrive. The best environmental writing is happening at the margins of our media at longtime nonprofit magazines and new online startups. In contrast, mainstream outlets have tended to legitimize climate-change deniers in the face of widespread scientific consensus about the effects of global warming. Wen Stephenson argued that journalists have been reticent to raise the alarm about climate change. “The mainstream media has failed to cover the climate crisis as a crisis,” he said..."

 

Permafrost: Climate Change Time Bomb. We're in uncharted waters: carbon that took hundreds of millions of years to form into coal, oil and natural gas is being burned and released back into the atmosphere in less than 100 years, a geological blink of an eye. If permafrost at far northern latitudes melts sufficiently to release vast quantities of methane things could get really interesting. Here's a NASA video clip, courtesy of theenergycollective.com: "Recent research from a team of Russian scientists reports that a 1.5°C rise in global temperature is enough to melt permafrost in Siberia and throughout the Arctic. As permafrost melts it releases greenhouse gases and could likely push climate change across a tipping point beyond human control. This video from the Yale Climate Forum looks at the state of permafrost and the consequences on climate as it melts in an increasingly warming Arctic."

 

"No Warming" For The Last 15 Years? Think Again. It's a favorite denier-meme, but a true and accurate calculation of heat balances has to include the world's oceans, where the vast majority of warming has been observed. Here's an explanation from Skeptical Science: "As we have discussed many times at Skeptical Science, although the warming of global surface air temperatures has slowed over the past decade due to a preponderance of La Niña events, the rate of heat accumulation on Earth has not slowed at all.  In fact over the past 15 years, the planet has accumulated more heat than during the previous 15 years. That's global warming. Unfortunately many people (often even including climate scientists) mistakenly equate the warming of global surface air  temperatures with global warming.  That is simply inaccurate.  Approximately 90% of global warming goes into heating the oceans..."

Graphic credit above: "Land, atmosphere, and ice heating (red), 0-700 meter OHC increase (light blue), 700-2,000 meter OHC increase (dark blue).  From Nuccitelli et al. (2012)."

 

1 in 500 Probability Extreme Summer Weather in Australia was "Natural". Record heat and extreme rains Down Under over the last few months - just how unusual was it? Here's a clip of a story at Australia's The Age: "A few years ago, talking about weather and climate change in the same breath was a cardinal sin for scientists. Now it has become impossible to have a conversation about the weather without discussing wider climate trends, according to researchers who prepared the Australian Climate Commission's latest report. The report, The Angry Summer, says behind the litany of broken heat and rainfall records this year, a clear pattern has now emerged. ''Statistically, there is a one in 500 chance that we are talking about natural variation causing all these new records,'' said Will Steffen, the report's lead author and director of the Australian National University's Climate Change Institute. ''Not too many people would want to put their life savings on a 500-1 horse...''

Graphic credit above: Australia just experienced it's hottest summer season on record. The satellite-derived map above, from Australia's Burea of Meteorology, shows temperature anomalies for the first week of January. The dark red areas depict surface temperatures as much as 27 F. warmer than average. The Atlantic Cities has more details on a summer to remember.

 

Trapped As Climate Changes, Giant Gusts Of Hot Air Trigger Weather Extremes. Here's the intro to a story at smithsonian.com that caught my eye: "During the month of July 2011, the United States was seized by a heat wave so severe that roughly 9,000 temperature records were set, 64 people were killed and a total of 200 million Americans were left very sweaty. Temperatures hit 117 degrees Fahrenheit in Shamrock, Texas, and residents of Dallas spent 34 consecutive days stewing in 100-plus-degree weather. For the past couple of years, we’ve heard that extreme weather like this is tied to climate change, but until now, scientists weren’t sure exactly how the two were related. A new study published yesterday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals the mechanism behind events such as the 2011 heat wave. What it comes down to, according to scientists at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), is that higher temperatures caused by global warming are disrupting the flow of planetary waves that oscillate between Arctic and tropical regions, redistributing the warm and cold air that usually help regulate the Earth’s climate. “When they swing up, these waves suck warm air from the tropics to Europe, Russia, or the US, and when they swing down, they do the same thing with cold air from the Arctic,” lead author Vladimir Petoukhov of PIK explained in a statement...."

Photo credit above: "Scientists have identified a link between global warming and extreme weather events such as heat waves." Photo by Flickr user perfectsnap

 

Our View: America, Pick Your Climate Choices. Climate deniers and birthers in the same Op-Ed? Here's an excerpt from USA Today: "One way to deal with a problem is to pretend it doesn't exist. This approach has the virtue of relieving you from having to come up with a solution, spend money or make tough choices. The downside, of course, is that leaky faucets and other problems rarely solve themselves and, in fact, usually get worse if ignored. Such is the case with climate change, a threat that too many members of Congress, most of them Republicans, have decided to manage by denying the science. That head-in-the-sand approach avoids messy discussions of higher energy prices, but it just got harder to justify..."

 

Climate Change, Conflict and TV Weather. Don't get me started. I began talking about climate change and the trends I was witnessing with Minnesota's increasingly manic weather back in the late 90s on WCCO-TV. I was looking at science, not policy implications or politics, but even then there were some who saw this as evidence of a vast, global conspiracy. Since then more TV meteorologists are talking about climate change on the air, but it's a daily struggle. Why? Not enough time allotted to accurately tell the story, and a desire to be loved (by all). Because when you start talking about climate change on the air you just know that 20-30% of viewers, especially older viewers, will see this as a negative. Ratings and research drive local TV news; every news director I've ever worked with told me "not to be controversial". No negatives. Which is why talking about climate trends can be kryptonite for TV meteorologists. Here's an excerpt of an article from NCAR: "...Yet in a 2011 survey of more than 400 weathercasters led by GMU’s Edward Maibach, only 19% agreed that global warming was real and primarily caused by humans, whereas 35% felt it was due to a mix of human and natural causes and 29% believed it was primarily a natural phenomenon. To get a clearer picture of what’s motivating or demotivating weathercasters, the GMU group conducted 49 in-depth interviews with weathercasters and moderated a workshop that drew on methods used for conflict analysis and resolution. Analyzing their feedback, Schweizer identified three main types of barriers.

  • Occupational:  Given that local TV news is a highly competitive business, some weathercasters fear that discussing climate change could cast them or their stations in a negative light.

  • Social:  Because climate change is such a highly charged topic, there’s a natural tendency to avoid conflict by avoiding the subject.

  • Cultural: Among the 35% of weathercasters in the above-mentioned survey who cited both natural and human factors in climate change, many stressed the uncertainties inherent in any research conclusion. Some also feared that politics might be affecting the research itself, including the ways in which scientists presented and discussed their policy-relevant findings. The 29% of weathercasters who viewed climate change as primarily natural had even deeper reservations about the process of climate science, including peer review and funding decisions..."

Photo credit above: "Gary Lezak (KSHB, Kansas City) is among TV weathercasters who deliver occasional reports on the global and local implications of climate change." (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin).

 

Why You Should Sweat Climate Change. USA Today has some good interactive graphics that help to tell the climate story and the implications of a warmer, stormier pattern.

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