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Winter Storm Watch (rough Monday AM commute; "stuck" jet stream responsible for baffling extremes over Northern Hemisphere)

Posted by: Paul Douglas under Lions Updated: February 15, 2014 - 11:27 PM

Disgustingly Baffling

"Every one of my customers is just disgusted with winter" Minnetonka friend Heidi Rusch explained. "It's enough to turn us all into reluctant snowbirds." I hear you. You can only imagine the grief I'm getting these days. Note to self: I don't make the weather, I'm just foolish enough to try and predict it.

While we enjoy a non-stop arctic bulge in the jet stream Europeans are scratching their heads in wonder, many disgusted by a lack of snow. A distant relative living outside Cologne, Germany sent me a photo of her red roses in full bloom. It's been in the 50s in recent weeks, she wrote. They should be knee-deep in snow, but winter never arrived.

Bitter or balmy?

Cities out east running out of salt due to a non-stop parade of snowstorms - severe flood emergencies across Britain - while California runs out of water. Dry areas get drier while wet areas get wetter. Where have you heard that before?

Natural chaos or fingerprints of a more volatile climate system? Not sure, but the jet stream is doing things I haven't seen in 40 years of tracking the weather.

We pick up a couple inches of additional snow early Monday; otherwise storms detour well south of Minnesota this week. For the first time in nearly 3 weeks the mercury rises above 32F by Tuesday.

A longer-lasting thaw is shaping up for early March. Spring is coming. Slowly.


Winter Storm Watch Sunday Night Into Monday Morning. The Twin Cities is in the Winter Storm Watch in effect for late Sunday night into Monday morning, but the heaviest snows should fall east of the St. Croix. I could still see a plowable accumulation of 2-4" just in time for a fun-filled Monday morning commute. Details from the Twin Cities National Weather Service.


Predicted Amounts. 12km NAM guidance from NOAA suggests a few inches of snow for the Twin Cities; amounts heavier on the east side of St. Paul than the west side of Minneapolis, with some 4-8" amounts possible over Wisconsin by Wednesday at 6 AM. Map: Ham Weather.


Risk Of A Thaw. The last time it was above freezing at MSP was January 29 (34F). Watch the solid red line, marking the 32F isotherm, surging north Tuesday, again Wednesday as steering winds aloft become more westerly. Colder weather returns by next weekend, but not the polar chill of a few weeks ago. 2-meter NAM temperatures guidance courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather.


Progress. On some level it's kind of sad to get excited about the prospect of "freezing", but that shows you what a winter we've had, with 44 subzero nights so far in the Twin Cities. ECMWF (European) guidance as well as GFS and NAM data show highs blipping above freezing Tuesday into Thursday. Graph: Weatherspark.


Reason To Keep On Going. After chilling back down next weekend GFS guidance shows a more consistent that the last week of February, maybe a few days topping 40F in late February and early March. Considering the sun angle is now as high in the sky as it was on October 22 - it's about time.


Faint Echoes Of The Polar Vortex. Wave goodbye to the coldest lobe of polar air, courtesy of a buckling jet stream. What has been impressive (at least to me) is the sheer persistence of Yukon air pouring south of the border since early December, how the jet stream configuration has become locked, treating Alaska, Greenland and Europe to near-record warmth; bitter air stalling over much of the central and eastern USA. Temperature anomalies valid this morning, courtesy of Climate Reanalyzer.


Sochi Among The Warmest Winter Olympics Host Cities. You've seen video of fans in shirtsleeves, athletes taking their shirts off to stay cool - during the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Here's some perspective on the venue from NOAA's climate.gov: "The 2014 Winter Olympics are taking place from February 7-23, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Sochi will be among the warmest cities to have hosted a Winter Olympic Games, with overnight low temperatures of 39°F (4°C) on average in February, and average daytime highs of 50°F (10°C). The map (above) shows the average minimum temperatures (overnight lows) for January and February from 1911-2011 for all the locations that have hosted the Olympic Winter Games, starting with Chamonix, France, in 1924 and ending with Sochi, Russia, in 2014..."


The "Hope Graph". The sun is climbing higher into the southern sky. Some melting is likely next week, with an extended thaw possible by early March. Here's an excerpt of an interesting post from Minnesota climate scientist Greg Laden that caught my eye - and gave me hope: "...About this time of year, some time in early or mid February, I make a graph. Using climatological data, I make a graph (I’ve done this with a table as well) showing what day we can expect, on average, for the daily high temperature to reach freezing. In theory, five or six days of the daily high reaching about freezing is enough to start the cascade of events that clears the roads and walkways of icy and hard-packed snow..."


Below Zero Nights Ending? We can only hope and pray. Here's an excerpt from Dr. Mark Seeley's latest edition of Minnesota WeatherTalk: "For the Twin Cities the count of nights with 0 degrees F or lower temperatures stands at 44 for the current winter season (since December 1st), the most since the winter of 1981-1982. A string of 17 consecutive days with minimum temperatures of 0 degrees F or lower was observed from January 26 to February 11, the 8th longest such streak in the Twin Cities climate records...Some other counts of days with 0 degrees F or colder this winter for other cities include:

St Cloud 52 days (most since 1981-1982)
Duluth 58 days (most since 1964-1965)
Rochester 42 days (most since 1978-1979)
International Falls 65 days (most since 2008-2009)..."


Days At Or Below Zero In The Twin Cities. More perspective on subzero fun at MSP from the Minnesota DNR; here's an excerpt: "...How does the winter of 2013-14 stack up for counts of minimum temperatures at or below zero in the Twin Cities? As of February 11, there have been 44 minimum temperatures of zero or colder: 13 in December, 20 in January and 11 so far in February..."


Frost And Thaw Depths. How bad will spring flooding be? It depends on many factors, including the rate of warming, and whether (heavy) rain accompanies the inevitable warm fronts to come. That, and the depth of the ground frost. Until we lose frost from the ground rain and melting snow will be unable to soak into topsoil. With this year's persistent chill the ground frost is unusually deep, over 70" deep in Otsego (Wright County). Thanks to MnDOT for providing this link to check out frost depth close to home.


Roses In Bloom Across Germany. A relative near Cologne, Germany sent me this photo of her prize roses, now in full bloom. In mid-February. Yes, highly unusual. Eva Fels-Huber writes:

"We are still waiting for winter to arrive. We had springlike temperatures since December, 10-12C every day. The birds are singing; my roses started blooming in mid-January."

Highs have been in the 50s in recent weeks. My father, who translated the e-mail for me, points out that roses bloom after crocus, tulips, and daffodils. The Symphony of the Seasons is seriously messed up. Springlike weather in Sochi for the (alleged) Winter Olympics, while the Polar Vortex stalls over the northern USA. Biblical flooding in Britain while California wilts during historic drought. The Winter of All or nothing.


Winter-Cane. Although this week's ice and snow storm didn't produce as much structural damage as a hurricane, if you look at economic losses related to the wintry smack damage will probably be equivalent to a moderate hurricane hitting a populated coastal region of the USA; one weather analyst at Planalytics estimates $15 billion in economic losses. That, and the the fact that New York City has picked up considerably more snow than the Twin Cities, Denver and Anchorage (!) is the subject of today's Climate Matters: "WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist looks at the details and impacts of the winter storm that impacted everything from Texas to Maine. We've seen the pictures of the damage, but what happened? 75,000 flights cancelled this winter and find out which places are WAY above normal for snowfall."


Snow On The Ground In Portions Of 49 States. Only Florida is entirely snow-free. That's comforting. USA Today has the story; here's a clip: "Snow is on the ground in 49 out of the 50 states — only the Sunshine State of Florida is completely snow-free, according to a map produced Thursday morning by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (This doesn't mean that those 49 states are snow-covered, of course, only that some part of each state has snow.)..."


California's Drought Could Be The Worst In 500 Years. Mother Jones explains how the historic drought gripping the west may soon show up at a grocery store near you; here's an excerpt: "The Golden State is in the midst of a three-year drought—and scientists believe that this year may end up being the driest in the last half millennium, according to University of California-Berkeley professor B. Lynn Ingram. Californians are scared, with good reason: Fire danger in the state is high, and drinking-water supplies are low. But the drought will have repercussions outside the state's borders, as well..."

Photo credit above: "The remains of Cachuma Lake, the main water source for 200,000 people in southern Santa Barbara County." .


Drought-Stricken California, Other States Prepare For Landmark Year In Fires. The fact that fires are burning during the height of the (alleged) rainy season on the west coast doesn't bode well for later in 2014, when things really heat up. Here's a clip from The Washington Post: "...We’re seeing summertime weather conditions in January,” Hein said as two of his crews continued to mop up the smoking remnants of the Red Fire. “If we don’t get some rain now, just imagine what the summer is going to be like.” Across the Western United States, officials tasked with fighting forest fires worry that a confluence of factors, including climate change and human development, are conspiring to create conditions ripe for a landmark fire year..." (File photo above courtesy of ThinkProgress).


Stroke Risk Tied To Cold, Humidity, Weather Swings. Here's a clip from a story at boston.com that caught my eye: "There may be a link between weather and the risk of suffering a stroke, say researchers who analyzed climate trends and hospital records on millions of Americans. Cold weather, high humidity and big daily temperature swings seem to land more people in the hospital with strokes. As it got warmer, risk fell — 3 percent for every 5 degrees, the study found. ‘‘Maybe some of these meteorological factors serve as a trigger,’’ said Judith Lichtman, a Yale University stroke researcher who led the study..."

Image above: strokesmart.org.


Warm Weather Leaves You In The Mood To Buy. No kidding. And we tend to attach a higher price/value to objects when it's warm outside. Confirming what may just be good old fashioned common sense, here's a clip from The Journal of Consumer Psychology at sciencedirect.com. What, you don't skim this from time to time? "A series of five field and laboratory studies reveal a temperature-premium effect: warm temperatures increase individuals' valuation of products. We demonstrate the effect across a variety of products using different approaches to measure or manipulate physical warmth and different assessments of product valuation. The studies suggest that exposure to physical warmth activates the concept of emotional warmth, eliciting positive reactions and increasing product valuation. Further supporting the causal role of emotional warmth, and following prior research relating greater positive feelings to reduced distance, we find that warm temperatures also reduce individuals' perceived distance from the target products..."


El Nino May Make 2104 The Hottest Year On Record. New Scientist has the article; here's the introduction: "Hold onto your ice lollies. Long-term weather forecasts are suggesting 2014 might be the hottest year since records began. That's because climate bad-boy El Niño seems to be getting ready to spew heat into the atmosphere. An El Niño occurs when warm water buried below the surface of the Pacific rises up and spreads along the equator towards America. For nine months or more it brings rain and flooding to areas around Peru and Ecuador, and drought and fires to Indonesia and Australia. It is part of a cycle called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation..."

* NOAA NCEP's latest ENSO discussion is here.


Flood Simple: The U.K. Flooding Crisis Explained. I thought The Guardian did a very good job explaining why the wettest winter in 250 years across much of Britain is creating so much chaos and devastation; here's an excerpt: "Rainfall which in many areas has been twice the average for January and February has left large parts of southern England under water. What causes the unusual weather, why is the country so ill-prepared, and what will be the political effect of 2014’s watery winter?..."

Photo credit above: "Flood waters inundate the area as one house stands alone near the flooded village of Moorland in Somerset, southwest England, Thursday Feb. 13, 2014. The house is owned by Sam Notaro, who has built his own levee to hold back the flood waters, as the local communities face further misery in the coming days with heavy rain, wind and snow predicted to sweep across Britain."  (AP Photo/Steve Parsons, PA)


U.K Floods: How Bad Have These Floods Been? Although much of Britain has experienced the most winter rain in the last 250 years, previous years have seen even worse flooding across the United Kingdom. The BBC provides perspective; here's an excerpt: "...Clearly, the bad weather is not yet over, but so far the Environment Agency says that since the beginning of December, 5,800 homes and businesses have flooded. As devastating as flooding is for residents, from a statistical point of view the national scale of the damage is, so far, relatively limited. In the summer floods in 2007, 48,461 homes were flooded and 6,896 businesses, according to the Environment Agency..."


The Dust Bowl Returns. With California entering the third year of an historic drought, and precious little rain or snow this winter season, the stage is set for a year of extreme drought, water shortages and record wildfires out west. Here's a clip from a story at The New York Times: "...Experts offer dire warnings. The current drought has already eclipsed previous water crises, like the one in 1977, which a meteorologist friend, translating into language we understand as historians, likened to the “Great Depression” of droughts. Most Californians depend on the Sierra Nevada for their water supply, but the snowpack there was just 15 percent of normal in early February. And the dry conditions are likely to make the polluted air in the Central Valley — which contributes to high rates of asthma and the spread of Valley Fever, a potentially fatal airborne fungus — even worse. The current crisis raises the obvious question: How long can we continue to grow a third of the nation’s fruit and vegetables?.."

Photo credit above: "A sercret service agent looks over a farm field as President Barack Obama speaks to the media on California's drought situation Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 in Los Banos, Calif. Farmers in California's drought-stricken Central Valley said the financial assistance President Barack Obama delivered on his visit Friday does not get to the heart of California's long-term water problems." (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Wally Skalij, Pool).


Imagining An Alaska-Generated Tsunami Hitting Los Angeles. Statistically it's only a matter of time before a scenario similar to the one described by Alaska Dispatch becomes reality. Will L.A. and other west coast cities be prepared?

Image credit above: "A hypothetical magnitude 9.1 earthquake off the Alaska Peninsula could send a devastating tsunami to Los Angeles in as little as four hours, according to some researchers predictions." Courtesy Vasily Titov, NOAA Center for Tsunami Research.


Will Philip Seymour Hoffman's Death Be A Wake-Up Call? Opiate addiction in this country has reached epidemic proportions. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Los Angeles Times: "...Keep in mind though: Since the rise of the American automobile, traffic fatalities have been our leading cause of accidental death — until now. More people now die of drug overdoses — about 38,000 a year, according to the latest numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics. The largest category of drugs represented within that number is prescription opioids (16,000 roughly), according to the CDC..."

Image above: drugfree.org.


From The Desk Of A Former FCC Commissioner. Will the pending Comcast - Time Warner merger be a good thing for consumers? The big get bigger, which seems to be the way of the world. Here's an excerpt of an interesting take from a former FCC Commissioner at Columbia Journalism Review: "...So instead of making good things happen, I would be spending untold hours listening to big media tell me how their latest merger proposal would translate into enormous “efficiencies” and “economies of scale” to produce more and better news. Meanwhile, everywhere I looked, I saw newsrooms like yours being shuttered or drastically downsized, reporters getting the axe, and investigative journalism hanging by the most slender of threads. Instead of expanding news, the conglomerates cut the muscle out of deep-dive reporting and disinvested in you..."


Still Mad As Hell. Remember Howard Beale in the movie "Network"? We're so far beyond that now. An Op-Ed from Maureen Dowd at The New York Times resonated with me; here's an excerpt: "...What would Paddy rant about the viral, often venomous world of the Internet, Twitter and cable news, where fake rage is all the rage all the time, bleeding over into a Congress that chooses antagonism over accomplishment, no over yes? What would he think of ominous corporate “synergy” run amok, where “news” seamlessly blends into promotion, where it’s frighteningly easy for corporate commercial interests to dictate editorial content?..."


32 Famous People Rejected By Saturday Night Live. I found this nugget interesting, courtesy of Mental Floss. Here's a clip: "The 39-year history of Saturday Night Live is littered with thousands of sketches, hundreds of guest hosts, and even more Not Ready for Prime Time Player wannabes—some more memorable than others. In fact, the list of now-famous folks who auditioned and were denied access to a permanent spot in 30 Rock’s Studio 8H is long enough to fill multiple casts on their own..." (Image above: NBC).


A big event, Sizzle For A Cause, is coming Thursday Feb. 20th from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Bayview Event Center in Excelsior. This Iron Chef style competition will feature five Minnetonka area restaurants. Enjoy live music, delicious appetizers, wine, beer or cocktails. I'm honored to be a returning judge, along with Mrs. Minnesota Tara Malone Mulkey, Lifestyle Expert Ross Sveback, Natalie Hagemo Host at MY TALK 107.1 and  WCCO Host Mike Woodley. The event benefits the ICA Food Shelf. It’s going to be sizzling HOT! Get your tickets fast at: icasizzle.eventbrite.com ….or, for more info: www.facebook.com/sizzle2014,

Here's a YouTube clip of the event. I had a blast participating last year - hope you can stop by and make an appearance, supporting a very good cause, the ICA Food Shelf: http://youtu.be/GqwGOB8A14E


18 F. high in the Twin Cities Saturday.

29 F. average high on February 15.

18 F. high on February 15, 2013.

1.8" snow fell yesterday at KMSP.


TODAY: Some sun, chilly. Winds: SE 10. High: 22

SUNDAY NIGHT: Winter Storm Watch. Light snow developing, icy roads by morning. Low: 19

MONDAY: Winter Storm Watch early. 2-4" snow expected. Slick roads. High: 28

TUESDAY: Partly sunny, risk of a thaw. Wake-up: 23. High: 35

WEDNESDAY: Mostly cloudy. Dripping icicles. Wake-up: 21. High: 36

THURSDAY: Partial clearing, slightly cooler. Wake-up: 25. High: 32

FRIDAY: Intervals of sun, chilly again. Wake-up: 15. High: 25

SATURDAY: Clouds, snow may track south of MN. Wake-up: 10. High: 22


Climate Stories...

Obama On California Drought: Climate Change Threatens The Nation. Here's an excerpt from AP and The Huffington Post: "Warning that weather-related disasters will only get worse, President Barack Obama said Friday the U.S. must rethink the way it uses water as he announced new federal aid to help drought-stricken California. Obama drew a clear connection between California's troubles and climate change as he toured part of a farm that will go unsown this year as the state faces its worst drought in more than 100 years. Even if the U.S. takes action now to curb pollution, the planet will keep getting warmer "for a long time to come" thanks to greenhouse gases that have already built up, Obama said..."

Photo credit: "In this Feb. 4, 2014 file photo a warning buoy sits on the dry, cracked bed of Lake Mendocino near Ukiah, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown was governor the last time California had a drought of epic proportions, in 1975-76 and now is pushing a controversial $25 billion plan to build twin tunnels to ship water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to farmland and cities further south." (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)


Newell: Climate Change Impacts Winter Sports. Here's a clip of an Op-Ed at USA Today from Andrew Newell, a member of the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team now in Sochi: "...As a skier, my life revolves around winter and being outside. Years spent training have not only honed my skills, but also shown me the negative impacts of climate change first-hand. There have been countless times in the past 10 years when our early season competitions have been delayed or canceled due to lack of snow, or our spring and summer training camps disrupted due to erratic weather or insufficient snowpack. It's no coincidence then that the last decade was also the hottest decade ever recorded..."


Future Forecast: More Severe Thunderstorms. Inside Science has the story - here's an excerpt: "...We find that over the next three decades, over the eastern United States, there’s a region [where] there’s a robust increase in the occurrence of severe storm conditions,” he said. Diffenbaugh used climate models based on physics principles to project severe thunderstorm conditions for the next century. He found that global warming may increase the likelihood of these events..."


Climate Change Skepticism's Funding Sources Are Obscure. Philly.com has a very interesting article that attempts to shine a light on who is funding an ongoing and organized effort at climate science denial; here's a clip: "In the high-stakes conflict over U.S. climate-change policy, groups that deny or cast doubt on global warming brought in $7.2 billion from 2003 through 2010 - less than a third of it publicly traceable to the donors. In a recently released study of 91 such organizations, a Drexel University professor found that $5.2 billion of their funding was "dark money" from undisclosed sources. Also of unknown origin: $78 million channeled by major benefactors through a special nonprofit that then redirected the money while keeping the givers' identities private..."

Photo credit above: "Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) called "dark funding" "an identity-laundering scheme." (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff).


A Conservative's Middle Ground Solution For Climate Change. LiveScience has an article and video that caught my eye; here's an excerpt: "...At a recent conference in Washington, D.C. on "Building Climate Solutions," he offered a handful of tips for changing the conversation and educating wider audiences on the impacts and opportunities of climate change. Here are four that are critical (see video for complete clips):

  1. Speak more like Apple, and less like Microsoft.
  2. Make the impacts of climate change relatable. It may be hard to comprehend the impacts of climate change in general terms, but people are certainly willing to listen when its happening to them.
  3. Environmentalism isn't anti-growth — it's anti-waste. Emphasize the economic opportunities that come with adaptation to climate change..."

The End Of Snow? Just in case you missed this article in the Sunday New York Times; here's an excerpt: "...The planet has warmed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1800s, and as a result, snow is melting. In the last 47 years, a million square miles of spring snow cover has disappeared from the Northern Hemisphere. Europe has lost half of its Alpine glacial ice since the 1850s, and if climate change is not reined in, two-thirds of European ski resorts will be likely to close by 2100. The same could happen in the United States, where in the Northeast, more than half of the 103 ski resorts may no longer be viable in 30 years because of warmer winters..."

Photo credit above: "Slopes were closed last month at Fichtelberg mountain in Oberwiesenthal, Germany." Jan Woitas/European Pressphoto Agency.


Global Warming, Winter Weather And The Olympics - Five Leading Climate Scientists Weigh In. Is there a connection between "global weirding" and what's happening in the Arctic during the summer months? Here's an excerpt from Andy Revkin at The New York Times: "...The research linking summertime Arctic sea ice with wintertime climate over temperate latitudes deserves a fair hearing. But to make it the centerpiece of the public discourse on global warming is inappropriate and a distraction. Even in a warming climate, we could experience an extraordinary run of cold winters, but harsher winters in future decades are not among the most likely nor the most serious consequences of global warming..."

Photo credit above: "Visitors to the Olympic Park enjoy the warm weather at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, in Sochi, Russia." (AP Photo/David J. Phillip).


The Gravitational Pull Of Planet Carbon. Can we eventually wean ourselves off our global addiction to carbon-based fuels? An epic question, and I'm still cautiously optimistic that the markets will come up with cleaner, cost-effective alternatives in the years to come. If we can save money AND clean up the air in the process it becomes a win-win proposition. Here's an excerpt from Huffington Post: "...In the past few years, the ever more widespread use of new extractive technologies -- notably hydraulic fracturing (to exploit shale deposits) and steam-assisted gravity drainage (for tar sands) -- has led to a significant increase in fossil fuel production, especially in North America.  This has left in the dust the likelihood of an imminent “peak” in global oil and gas output and introduced an alternative narrative -- much promoted by the energy industry and its boosters -- of unlimited energy supplies that will last into the distant future..."

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