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Sunday Blizzard Potential Western Minnesota - Subzero Swipe Next Weekend

Weekend Thaw - "Post Traumatic Weather Disorder"

Relatives out east are frantic. "Are we going to get another Snowzilla?" After a 2-3 foot blizzard they're all paranoid. And just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

Back in 1998 my wife and kids were driving to the dentist, when they got caught in a massive hailstorm. My wife handled it well, gripping the steering wheel, yelling "We're going to die!" For months after that scare my boys would call me every day. "Is there going to be severe weather? Is it going to be bad? Do we have to drive with mom?"

Anyone who's been through a flood, blizzard, tornado or hurricane describes an almost PTSD-like trauma, complete with anxiety, depression and sleepless nights. You never watch a weather report quite the same way. Suddenly it's personal.

Then again most TV meteorologists were traumatized by the weather at a tender age, incentive to learn more about meteorology and try to reconcile what happened to them. For me it was a tropical storm (Agnes, in 1972). Who knows how many careers exceptionally bad weather has launched.

A welcome weekend thaw gives way to a couple inches of new powder Sunday night and Monday as much colder air drills southward. Blowing and drifting could make for rough travel outside the metro by early Monday. Expect 1 or 2 subzero nights next week, but temperatures blip back up to average by next week.

Oh, how I long for "average weather".


Blizzard Watch Western Minnesota on Sunday. The combination of a couple inches of new snow, plus strong winds whipping up snow already on the ground may exceed blizzard criteria, especially late afternoon Sunday into Sunday night, when winds could exceed 50 mph. Map via AerisWeather AMP. Details from NOAA:

 ...STRONG WINDS GENERATING BLOWING SNOW SUNDAY AND SUNDAY NIGHT... A BLIZZARD WATCH HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR WEST CENTRAL...SOUTHWEST AND PORTIONS OF SOUTH CENTRAL MINNESOTA SUNDAY MORNING THROUGH LATE SUNDAY NIGHT. THIS WATCH IS WEST OF A LINE FROM ALEXANDRIA TO REDWOOD FALLS...TO FAIRMONT. A DEVELOPING WINTER STORM THAT WILL AFFECT THE NORTHERN PLAINS AND UPPER MIDWEST THIS WEEKEND...WILL PRODUCE VERY STRONG WINDS IN EXCESS OF 40 TO 50 MPH IN THE WATCH AREA. LIGHT SNOW WILL DEVELOP SUNDAY MORNING...AND CONTINUE THROUGH SUNDAY IN THE WATCH AREA. SNOWFALL AMOUNTS WILL AVERAGE BETWEEN ONE AND TWO INCHES BEFORE TAPERING OFF TO FLURRIES LATE SUNDAY NIGHT. THERE IS A CONCERN THAT HIGH TEMPERATURES ON SATURDAY WILL CREATE A CRUST ON THE SNOWPACK...LIMITING THE BLOWING SNOW AND REDUCED VISIBILITIES. HOWEVER...THE LIGHT SNOW EXPECTED BEFORE THE STRONGER WINDS DEVELOP...MAY ALLOW FOR SIGNIFICANT BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW IN THE WATCH AREA...


Super-Sized Sunday Clipper. NAM guidance still shows a couple inches of snow Sunday PM into Monday AM; more over the Red River Valley and far western Minnesota, where this could be a plowable snow event. The bigger concern is high winds whipping up snow already on the ground, creating a potential for blizzard conditions, especially Sunday night. 84-hour accumulated snowfall: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Winds Peak Monday Morning.  Models still show sustained winds of 25-30 mph with higher gusts, which will be more of a factor in open areas outside the metro area. Winds ease by the middle of next week as colder air settles in. Graphic: Aeris Enterprise.


Minor Canadian Occupation. As is (always) the case the cold air comes in waves, like slowly cresting swells on the beach. This beach faces due north, and the waves of numbing air will be a poignant reminder that a low sun angle coupled with long, snow-covered nights across Canada is still brewing up chilly air. A couple inches of snow Sunday night heralds the arrival of cold front #1; a colder cold front sparks a smear of snow Friday, coupled by a better chance of negative numbers next weekend. Enjoy the thaw!

Colder Next Week - Nothing Too Forbidding. It won't be as cold as 3 weeks ago, but temperatures may hold in single digits and low teens by the middle of next week with a subzero wind chill at times, one or two nights below zero next weekend, followed by a slight rebound next week.


Moderately Cold. This is a shift from previous trends in the 2-week GFS predicted winds at 500 mb, suggesting a lingering Canadian flows for the northern tier states, milder Pacific winds pushed south of Minnesota. We'll see if this is a fluke or a real trend, but if this verifies we won't see any extended thaws anytime soon.


Drought Update. Mark Seeley takes a wider look at El Nino and the status of (historic) drought in the western USA in this week's installment of Minnesota WeatherTalk; here's an excerpt: "...From Brad Rippey at the USDA in his weekly USA drought briefing: Since mid-October 2015, stormy weather in many parts of the country­ in part driven by a strong El Niño ­has significantly reduced U.S. drought coverage from 34.78 to 15.48%­a drop of 19.30 percentage points. Where drought remains, mostly in the Far West, there has been incremental improvement. Although long-term concerns still include below-average reservoir storage, groundwater shortages, and tree mortality, winter precipitation has boosted spring and summer runoff prospects; improved rangeland and pasture conditions; cut irrigation demands; and reduced the need for supplemental feeding of livestock. California’s intrastate reservoirs held just 54% of their normal water volume on December 31, and that number may not appreciably improve until high-elevation snow begins to melt in the spring..." (Graphic credit: U.S. Drought Monitor).


A Healthy Snowfall Offers Variety of Environmental Benefits. Today's weather blurb was, in part, inspired by a 2011 post at The University of Delaware that reminded me of the many advantages of a significant snowfall: "...This blanket effect makes snow an excellent insulator for gardens and landscapes, protecting these natural areas and their animal inhabitants against frigid temperatures and damaging winds. Snow also lessens -- to some extent -- the extremes of temperature fluctuation to which the soil is subjected, says Hansen. This can be critical for some plants, including evergreens. Even in mid-winter, if air temperature within the canopy of these plants rises during the day, the plants will try to take moisture from the soil. If the soil is frozen, the plants can actually die of thirst. The extent to which snow insulates depends on its depth. Generally, temperatures underneath a layer of snow increase about 2 degrees Fahrenheit for each inch of accumulation..."



January Hits New Record Low in Arctic. Here's an excerpt from The National Snow and Ice Data Center: "Arctic sea ice extent during January averaged 13.53 million square kilometers (5.2 million square miles), which is 1.04 million square kilometers (402,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average. This was the lowest January extent in the satellite record, 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 million square miles) below the previous record January low that occurred in 2011. This was largely driven by unusually low ice coverage in the Barents Sea, Kara Sea, and the East Greenland Sea on the Atlantic side, and below average conditions in the Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk..."

USA TODAY has more perspective on the data here.


The Southwest May Have Entered a "Drier Climate State". Here's an excerpt from Climate Central: "...We see a very intense trend in the Southwest,” Andreas Prein, a postdoctoral researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said. “The Southwest might already have drifted into a drier climate state.” Prein, who led the research published on Thursday in Geophysical Research Letters, looked at weather patterns rather than average trends in precipitation. The team identified 12 major patterns, only three of which are favorable for rain in the Southwest. In an ominous finding for the region, they found that over the past 30 years, those three rainy patterns are becoming less frequent and the rains and mountain snow that come with them are drying up..."

Map credit above: "Precipitation across the U.S. that can be attributed to these changes in weather patterns. The gray dots show areas where the results are statistically significant." Credit: Andreas Prein.


GOES-R: A Weather Superhero With Lightning Vision. I am really looking forward to GOES-R going online with up to 1 minute satellite updates and a real-time lightning mapper; here's a preview of capabilities from Lockheed Martin: "Sure it's bright, loud and sometimes scary, but if you watch lightning from space, you can learn a lot about storms. The GOES-R satellite has a new instrument called the Geostationary Lightning Mapper that can take hundreds of images every second of all types of lightning. Think of it as a weather superhero with 'lightning vision.' When it sees an increase of lightning flashes, it can help weather forecasters predict a severe storm or tornado, and give us more warning to go to a safe place."



Security Cam Footage of EF-1 Tornado. This is the tornado that hit a high school in Crockett County, Mississippi. Here's more info and a link to YouTube video, courtesy of Michael Maness: "Raw security camera footage from an EF-1 Tornado that hit Crockett County High School on 2/2/2016. The EF-1 tornado’s path was reportedly 100 yards wide and spanned just more than two and a half miles, according to an NWS release. The tornado’s maximum wind speed is estimated at 95 mph. The tornado formed about 4:55 p.m. around three miles west to southwest of Alamo, according to the release. It is listed as having ended at 5:03 p.m. about two miles west to northwest of Alamo."


Car Fumes Are Killing Us. So Why Isn't Anyone Telling Us Not To Drive? This study focuses on the UK, but the results and implications are more sweeping; here's an excerpt at The Guardian: "...Because air pollution – in the memorable phrase of Prof Chris Griffiths, who shared the preliminary findings of a study with Channel 4’s The Great Car Con last week – causes children growing up in polluted areas (of which my London borough is one) to develop “smaller, stunted lungs”. It also causes people to die from heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer, and exacerbates other lung diseases and asthma. Usually it’s not the only cause, but air pollution is a factor in at least 30,000 deaths each year in the UK, although scientists are struggling to disentangle the damage caused by nitrogen dioxide from that caused by particulates, or soot. By way of comparison, in the UK there are up to 100,000 smoking-related deaths each year, nearly 9,000 alcohol-related ones and about 1,800 people killed in car crashes..."


Koch Network Frustrated by Trump. Here's an excerpt from Bloomberg Politics: "...Although historically the Koch network has supported mostly Republican candidates, Koch is sharply critical of both parties for what he views as out-of-control spending and corporate welfare. Sometimes he sounds like a liberal. Of Bernie Sanders' crusade against the power of corporations, he said, “a lot of what he says is true. The businesspeople who are successful haven’t become successful because they helped others improve their lives. It's because they helped rig the system...”


Fracking the Everglades? Many Floridians Recoil as House Approves Bill. InsideClimate News has the story - here's a clip: "South Florida, home to one of the country's most fragile water systems, could be the nation's next fracking frontier. The Florida House of Representatives voted 73-45 on Jan. 27 to approve a bill that opens the door to fracking by 2017 after the state studies the environmental and public health risks. Next, the bill requires state regulators to draft rules governing the practice, which could begin in 2018 or 2019...." (File image: NASA).


Sustainable Energy in America. Here's an excerpt from an online resource provided by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy: "The 2016 edition of the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook – produced for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, provides up-to-date, accurate market information about the broad range of industries — energy efficiency, renewable energy and natural gas — that are contributing to the country’s move towards cleaner energy production and more efficient energy usage..."


One Statistic Shows Just How Rapidly Our Energy System is Changing. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "...Because natural gas only emits about half as much carbon dioxide when burned in comparison to coal, a shift like this has major implications for the U.S.’s overall pollution profile. Sure enough, the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook also finds that 2015’s greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector were the lowest since 1995, at 1,985 million metric tons. That number was also an impressive 4.3 percent lower than levels just a year earlier, in 2014..."

Graphic credit above: Bloomberg New Energy Finance/Business Council for Sustainable Energy.


The Developing World Can Leapfrog Dirty Coal And Go Straight To Clean Energy. Just like many Soviet-block countries bypassed landlines and went right to cellular technology, the same thing is happening with energy. Here's a snippet from a story at Fast Company: "...The rapidly unfolding energy transition is bypassing coal and going straight to low-cost renewables. As countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America seize this chance to "leapfrog" over fossil fuels and expand their clean energy capacity, they not only benefit from economic growth and cheap electricity, they also increase their security and avoid the severe damage to health and the environment that burning fossil fuels causes..."


Sodium Battery Contains Solution to Water Desalination. Gizmag has news of the promising developments; here's an excerpt: "...The researchers carried out modeling to investigate how their device might perform with salt concentrations on par with seawater. They claim it could recover around 80 percent of desalinated water, though this does not take into consideration other water contaminants. They are now working towards using real seawater in the device to see how it performs..."

Photo credit above: "Illinois mechanical science and engineers found they could desalinate salt water more efficiently than traditional methods relying on reverse osmosis." (Credit: L. Brian Stauffer).


What to Expect When You're Expecting the Collapse of Society As We Know It. Here's an excerpt of a harrowing and mildly disturbing article at BuzzFeed: "...There are tutorial blog posts on water purification, videos declaring “a vague sense of uneasiness is reason enough to prepare,” and five different Survival Mom Facebook groups totaling more than 150,000 members. “Preparedness runs the gamut from practical things all the way to the real, extreme, worst-case scenarios,” Bedford says. “The stuff that isn’t even that unthinkable anymore.” Stuff like a massive electromagnetic pulse. Or an earthquake, or a tidal wave, or a complete unraveling of the fabric of society — stuff that would make for a second Great Depression. Not the end of the world, then, so much as the end of a relatively pleasant and convenient one..."


Now You Can Summon A Tesla Using Your Apple Watch. Here's a link to a story and video at Quartz: "...Wong created the Remote S for Tesla app under the Rego Apps brand, and is credited with earlier combining Tesla functionality with Siri, the voice-activated assistant found on iOS devices. According to Wong, when using Summon via the Apple Watch, Tesla owners will no longer need to have their key fob within 39 feet (12 meters) of the car..."


You Won't Be Happiest Until You Turn 65 Years Old. Well that gives me something to live for - here's an excerpt from Quartz: "Will you ever be happy? The answer, it seems, is yes. Likely when you’re a bit older. A recent government survey asked people in the UK to rate out of 10 how satisfied they were with life, as well as how anxious and happy they’d felt. The results showed that people aged 65-79 had the highest levels of life satisfaction and happiness, and the lowest levels of anxiety. But things appeared less rosy for those aged 45-59, who reported the lowest levels of life satisfaction..."


The Injuries Most Likely To Land You In An Emergency Room. Here's an excerpt from Quartz: "What you’re looking at are 367,492 visits to US emergency rooms in 2014, distributed by age. The data give us some insight into how people injure themselves at different points in their lives..."


Healthy Fast Food? McDonald's Kale Salad Has More Calories Than a Double Big Mac. Say it isn't so. Here's an excerpt from CBC News: "In a quest to reinvent its image, McDonald's is on a health kick. But some of its nutrient-enhanced meals are actually comparable to junk food, say some health experts. One of new kale salads has more calories, fat and sodium than a Double Big Mac. Kale, a leafy green vegetable chock-full of vitamins, has become a trendy superfood. In Canada, the global fast food chain recently tossed the green into a breakfast wrap and a line of salads..."

Photo credit above: "When you add the accompanying dressing to the crispy chicken Caesar salad with kale, it has more calories, salt, and fat than a Double Big Mac."


Friday Was National Weather Person's Day. Did you give a weather nerd a hug yesterday? No? It's not too late. Here's an excerpt about one of the original weather nerds, John Jeffries, from NOAA: "February 5th is National Weatherperson's Day, commemorating the birth of John Jeffries in 1744. Jeffries, a Boston physician and one of America's first weather observers, began taking daily weather observations in Boston in 1774. He took the first balloon weather observation over London in 1784. He carried a thermometer, a barometer, and a hygrometer to the height of 9000 feet..."


29 F. high in the Twin Cities Friday.

26 F. average high on February 5.

19 F. high on February 5, 2015.

February 6, 1994: The national low is at Tower, dropping down to -41.



TODAY: Mostly cloudy, quiet. Winds: SW 10-15. High: 33

SATURDAY NIGHT: Gray, patchy fog - milder than average. Low: 28

SUNDAY: Blizzard Watch western Minnesota. Overcast, mild start. Snow arrives late, 1-2" Sunday night with drifting. Winds: NW 15-25. High: 33

MONDAY: Slow, slippery AM commute? Gusty, colder with drifting snow. Winds: NW 15-30. Wake-up: 15. High: 18

TUESDAY: Peeks of sun, feels like zero. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 5. High: 15

WEDNESDAY: Fading sun, a bit nippy. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: -3. High: 11

THURSDAY: More clouds than sun, still chilly. Winds: SE 7-12. Wake-up: 2. High: 17

FRIDAY: Period of light snow possible. Winds: NE 10-15. Wake-up: 6. High: 23


Climate Stories...
 
Climate Change Implicated in a Specific Extreme Weather Event.  Severe weather attribution is emerging science, but the link between warmer air/oceans and an increase in flooding events is increasing. Here's an excerpt from National Geographic: "...In an article published in Nature Climate Change, the team said that their climate model simulations showed that anthropogenic warming not only increased the amount of moisture the atmosphere can hold but also caused a small but significant increase in the number of January days with westerly flow, both of which increased extreme precipitation. The authors explained that climate change “amplified” the violent storms that led to the area’s wettest January in more than a century and that it has likely increased the number of properties at risk and raised the costs of a flooding event. Based on more than 130,000 simulations of what the weather would have been like with and without human influence on the climate, the study finds that man-made greenhouse gas emissions have raised the possibility of extreme flooding by 43 percent..."

Did ExxonMobile Lie to Investors About Climate Change? Here's an excerpt from an article at The Nation: "...Telling the truth is not only crucial; it’s the law. American firms must regularly disclose to investors and the public all material risks that could affect corporate operations and profitability. That will be a challenging if not self-defeating exercise for fossil-fuel companies in the post-Paris era. Telling the truth about Paris only figures to further spook already-nervous investors. “There’s now a very clear message that fossil-fuel use must be quickly and dramatically reduced,” said an official involved with Schneiderman’s investigation. “Companies must acknowledge that. If they disagree, they need to state why and explain in clear, practical terms what the implementation of the Paris Agreement means for their business and its future...”

Deniers Sweating Over Senate Shaming. Here's a clip from The Daily Kos: "...Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) have introduced an amendment to the energy bill that scolds merchants  of doubt and the companies that fund them. The amendment wouldn't actually do anything. It's a "sense of the Senate," which means the amendment just serves to express an opinion to get Congress on record as supporting or opposing an issue. The amendment calls out the tobacco, lead and fossil fuel companies for knowing the peer-reviewed science of  their products and employing "a sophisticated and deceitful campaign that included funding think thanks to deny, counter, and obstruct (the science)...to mislead the public and cast doubt in order to protect their financial interest..."
 
File image: Shutterstock.

Glaciologists Anticipate Massive Ice Shelf Collapse. Other than that things are going quite well in Antarctica. Here's an excerpt from University of Alaska Fairbanks: "A team of researchers is traveling to a rocky outcrop in Antarctica to study a massive ice shelf that could crash down around them before the end of March. University of Alaska Fairbanks glaciologist Erin Pettit said that an ice shelf about 1,000 feet thick and a third the size of Rhode Island is on the verge of shattering into millions of icebergs during February or March, the end of Antarctica’s summer. If it does, the lead researcher and her team will be within viewing distance in a place they hope doesn’t live up to its name — Cape Disappointment..."
 
Image credit above: Ted Scambos. "A Landsat image from Jan. 6, 2016, shows summer conditions of the fast ice, glaciers and ice shelf in the Scar Inlet region of Antarctica."

El Nino and Global Warming - What's the Connection? Phys.org has a story that attempts to connect the dots; here's an excerpt: "...The science here isas yet inconclusive.  One 2014 study suggests that super El Nino events could double in the future due to climate change. Using 20 climate models to examine possible changes in El Nino over the next 100 years, the scientists projected that extreme El Nino events could occur roughly every 10 years instead of every 20..."

Image credit above: "A visualization of El Nino". Credit: NOAA/Stuart Rankin.


The science here is as yet inconclusive. One 2014 study suggests that super El Niño events could double in the future due to climate change. Using 20 climate models to examine possible changes in El Niño over the next 100 years, the scientists projected that extreme El Niño events could occur roughly every 10 years instead of every 20.

Lisa Goddard, director of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, finds the study interesting, but questions its conclusions because observational evidence of El Niño only goes back a few decades, whereas scientists know that there is a great deal of natural variation in El Niño events over long periods of time. Moreover, said Goddard, "The models have limitations in their representation of El Niño and its variability."



Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-02-el-nino-global-warmingwhat.html#jCp

The science here is as yet inconclusive. One 2014 study suggests that super El Niño events could double in the future due to climate change. Using 20 climate models to examine possible changes in El Niño over the next 100 years, the scientists projected that extreme El Niño events could occur roughly every 10 years instead of every 20.

Lisa Goddard, director of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, finds the study interesting, but questions its conclusions because observational evidence of El Niño only goes back a few decades, whereas scientists know that there is a great deal of natural variation in El Niño events over long periods of time. Moreover, said Goddard, "The models have limitations in their representation of El Niño and its variability."



Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-02-el-nino-global-warmingwhat.html#jCp

Is Global Warming Behind D.C's New Era of Great Snowstorms? 7 of the 10 biggest snowfalls in Washington D.C. since 1889 have taken place since 1979. Jason Samenow has a fascinating post at The Capital Weather Gang; here's an excerpt that got my attention: "...As Capital Weather Gang’s Ian Livingston put it: “It seems the tempo of big storms for the city has increased.” The flurry of recent blizzards is even more impressive farther north:


Will Climate Change Move Agriculture Indoors? And Is That a Good Thing? Here's a snippet of an interesting story at Grist: "...It’s this indoor farming future that Allison Kopf, founder and CEO of the agricultural technology startup Agrilyst, is curious about. In an indoor farm, water doesn’t inconveniently evaporate. LED lights can lengthen the hours of sunlight so plants can grow faster. CO2 levels can be tweaked. Even as the weather outside goes haywire, plants farmed indoors can live out an optimized version of the weather that they coevolved with — the weather of the past. The best weather of the past. Or, as Kopf calls it, a “weather-independent environment.” Kopf’s journey to greenhouse tech was an unexpected one..." (Photo credit: Horticulture Group).

In Praise of Snow, In Spite of White-Out Risk on Monday Across Greater Minnesota

In Praise of Snow - Minor Cold Slap Next Week

There is something magical about snow, especially watching it from your family room window, not stranded on I-35. It's nature's do-over, a fresh start, a clean sheet of white wonder as far as the eye can see.

A heavy blanket of snow has many benefits, insulating your garden and protecting small animals. A deep layer of snow can help soil manage temperature extremes, critical for some plants, including evergreens. Remember this the next time you're adrift in a snowy sea of brake lights during a soul-sucking commute.

Good news for the Loppet in Minneapolis this weekend: in spite a little compaction from Tuesday's record snow we should keep 6-10 inches on area trails.

Wait, snow on the ground, roads in good shape? For a brief moment in time everyone is happyish.

GFS guidance pulls 40s into Minnesota in about 2 weeks, so make the most of the snow while you can. A clipper will whip up strong winds late Sunday; blowing & drifting is likely outside the metro with a few inches of fresh powder possible Sunday night into Monday.

Next week will feel like midwinter with 1 or 2 nights near 0F. Not too shocking for mid-February.

Not a prolonged arctic intrusion, just a taste this time.


A Healthy Snowfall Offers Variety of Environmental Benefits. Today's weather blurb was, in part, inspired by a 2011 post at The University of Delaware that reminded me of the many advantages of a significant snowfall: "...This blanket effect makes snow an excellent insulator for gardens and landscapes, protecting these natural areas and their animal inhabitants against frigid temperatures and damaging winds. Snow also lessens -- to some extent -- the extremes of temperature fluctuation to which the soil is subjected, says Hansen. This can be critical for some plants, including evergreens. Even in mid-winter, if air temperature within the canopy of these plants rises during the day, the plants will try to take moisture from the soil. If the soil is frozen, the plants can actually die of thirst. The extent to which snow insulates depends on its depth. Generally, temperatures underneath a layer of snow increase about 2 degrees Fahrenheit for each inch of accumulation..."


Watching The Spring Flood Threat. Here's an early sign of spring. Minnesota State Climatologist Greg Spoden has an DNR update recapping January weather across the state of Minnesota, including this nugget that caught my eye. The combination of high streamflows, saturated soil, and record rains in late autumn may increase the threat of spring snowmelt flooding, although it's too early to reach conclusions. Much will depend on the volume of additional snow, and how quickly we warm in late February and March. Here's an excerpt: "Current conditions impacting prospects for spring snowmelt flooding:

- Present streamflows are high to very high relative to historical flows for the date.

- Soil profiles are moist to saturated in most areas.

- The high stream discharge and moist soils are due to record-breaking high precipitation totals in November/December.

- Frost depths are shallow relative to historical values due to very warm early-winter temperatures..."


Few Inches Sunday Night into Monday - Then Colder. Enjoy another fleeting thaw this weekend, because temperatures drop like a rock on Monday, accompanied by high winds and a few inches of snow, possibly even enough to shovel and plow. By the middle of next week there will be no doubt it's February.


Super-Sized Clipper. NOAA's 12 KM NAM brings a coating into town today; a relatively quiet (dry) Saturday giving way to 1-3" Sunday night into Monday ahead of the next arctic swipe. It won't be anything like Tuesday, but travel conditions from Sunday night into Monday could be pretty bad, especially outside the metro where sustained winds will whip up the snow already on the ground. Animation: AerisWeather.


Freshening Up The Snow. Between compaction and melting this weekend we will lose a few inches of our precious snow cover, but Old Man Winter comes to the rescue early next week with a few inches. NAM snowfall prediction between now and midnight Sunday.

Wind-Whipped. It's not the heat, it's the humidity. It's not the cold, it's the wind chill. And in the case of Monday's weather it may be more blowing than falling snow. GFS guidance shows sustained winds of 20-30 mph Monday with higher gusts, capable of near white-out conditions across greater Minnesota.



Not As Cold As 3 Weeks Ago. I know how shocked you must be: early February and we're tracking Canadian air? Wow. After peaking above freezing late Saturday into Sunday the big slide resumes, bottoming out close to 0F by Wednesday morning of next week. Graphic: Aeris Enterprise.


February Thaw? The 2-week GFS 500 mb wind flow forecast has been remarkably consistent, showing a shift in the pattern by late in the third week of February as winds aloft blow from the west or even the southwest. I expect more 30s, even a few 40s by the end of this month.


Current Snow Cover Map. Here is a resource I use, which is updated regularly, and (from my experience) quite reliable. You can zoom in and out, pan around the USA and find updated snow amounts for anywhere. Click here for an interactive snow cover display, courtesy of NOAA's NOHRSC division.

Here are a couple more, courtesy of the Midwest Regional Climate Center:

http://mrcc.isws.illinois.edu/cliwatch/DLY_SNDP_MAPS.htm

http://mrcc.isws.illinois.edu/cliwatch/central_region/DLY_SNDP_MAPS.htm


January Hits New Record Low in Arctic. Here's an excerpt from The National Snow and Ice Data Center: "Arctic sea ice extent during January averaged 13.53 million square kilometers (5.2 million square miles), which is 1.04 million square kilometers (402,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average. This was the lowest January extent in the satellite record, 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 million square miles) below the previous record January low that occurred in 2011. This was largely driven by unusually low ice coverage in the Barents Sea, Kara Sea, and the East Greenland Sea on the Atlantic side, and below average conditions in the Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk..."


GOES-R: A Weather Superhero With Lightning Vision. I am really looking forward to GOES-R going online with up to 1 minute satellite updates and a real-time lightning mapper; here's a preview of capabilities from Lockheed Martin: "Sure it's bright, loud and sometimes scary, but if you watch lightning from space, you can learn a lot about storms. The GOES-R satellite has a new instrument called the Geostationary Lightning Mapper that can take hundreds of images every second of all types of lightning. Think of it as a weather superhero with 'lightning vision.' When it sees an increase of lightning flashes, it can help weather forecasters predict a severe storm or tornado, and give us more warning to go to a safe place."


Security Cam Footage of EF-1 Tornado. This is the tornado that hit a high school in Crockett County, Mississippi. Here's more info and a link to YouTube video, courtesy of Michael Maness: "Raw security camera footage from an EF-1 Tornado that hit Crockett County High School on 2/2/2016. The EF-1 tornado’s path was reportedly 100 yards wide and spanned just more than two and a half miles, according to an NWS release. The tornado’s maximum wind speed is estimated at 95 mph. The tornado formed about 4:55 p.m. around three miles west to southwest of Alamo, according to the release. It is listed as having ended at 5:03 p.m. about two miles west to northwest of Alamo."


How Rare Is a Tornado in February? Christian Science Monitor takes a look - here's a clip: "...Meteorologists also warn that winter tornadoes can be more dangerous than tornadoes in the spring. So-called rain-wrapped tornadoes can appear invisible to both human eyes and doppler radars. What's more, winter's shorter daylight hours increase the odds that a tornado will form at night, when the funnel cloud is harder to see and when people are less likely to be prepared. Southern states have historically experienced destructive tornadoes in February, with the worst being in February 2008 in Ohio Valley..."

Severe Storm Reports since January 27 courtesy of NOAA and AerisWeather.


Climate Data Now Key to Disaster Preparedness, First Responders Say. Here's an excerpt from InsideClimate News that got my full attention: "...Natural disasters such as flooding, hurricanes, drought and snowstorms have become more frequent or more intense due to climate change in recent decades, the experts said. In the 1980s, the U.S. averaged 29 disaster declarations per year. That average jumped to 74 per year In the 1990s and 127 per year in the 2000s. Nimmich, Spinrad and Livingston said shifting demographics—more people moving toward the coast and waterways directly in harm's way of most extreme weather—has also played a role in the cost and severity of recent natural disasters. Extreme weather today "is literally biblical in nature," said Spinrad. And because greenhouse gas emissions linger in the atmosphere for long periods of time, "we will have many decades to centuries of these continued [weather] patterns. It is a new normal, if you will..."

Photo credit above: "South Carolina's epic floods in 2015 served as a vivid reminder of climate change's impact on extreme weather." Credit: U.S. Coast Guard via Flickr


Higher Temperatures Make Zika Mosquito Spread Disease More. Another compelling reason why warming matters; here's an excerpt from The Associated Press: "The mosquito behind the Zika virus seems to operate like a heat-driven missile of disease. The hotter it gets, the better the mosquito that carries Zika virus is at transmitting its buffet of dangerous illnesses, scientists say. Although it is too early to say for this outbreak, past outbreaks of similar diseases involved more than just biology. In the past, weather has played a key role, as have economics, human travel, air conditioning and mosquito control. Even El Nino sneaks into the game. Scientists say you can't just blame one thing for an outbreak and caution it is too early to link this one to climate change or any single weather event. As the temperature rises, nearly everything about the biology of the Aedes aegypti mosquito — the one that carries Zika, dengue fever and other diseases — speeds up when it comes to spreading disease, said entomologist Bill Reisen of the University of California Davis..."

Map credit: Vox, and Elife Sciences.org. "Global map of the predicted distribution of Aedes aegypti, one of the types of mosquitoes that spread Zika."


Ample Grain Stocks Could Dampen Impact of El Nino/La Nina Shift. Will we head into La Nina, a cooling phase of the Pacific, which correlates with a higher risk of late summer drought? Too early to tell. Here's an excerpt from Reuters: "When El Nino gives way to its little sister, La Nina, this year, as meteorologists are forecasting, the disruptive weather patterns may still be unable to disperse the bearish clouds that have hung over U.S. grains markets for years. Corn and soybean futures have gone haywire in past transition years, with prices soaring as yields withered. But plentiful supplies, both overseas and domestically, should provide a buffer against any disruptions this year and dampen any market rallies..."

Photo credit above: "A truck is loaded with corn next to a pile of soybeans at Matawan Grain & Feed elevator near New Richland, Minnesota October 14, 2015." Reuters/Karl Plume.

U.S. Economic Growth Decouples From Both Energy and Electric Use. Here's an excerpt from Think Progress: "In a stunning trend with broad implications, the U.S. economy has grown significantly since 2007, while electricity consumption has been flat, and total energy demand actually dropped. “The U.S. economy has now grown by 10% since 2007, while primary energy consumption has fallen by 2.4%,” reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) in its newly-released 2016 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook. BNEF’s Factbook, which is chock full of excellent charts and data, cites studies attributing most of this change to improvements in energy efficiency..." (Graphic credit: BNEF).


France To Roll Out Futuristic "Solar Roads" to Power Millions of Homes. Why can't we do this in Minnesota? Use to solar to melt snow and ice, while we're at it? Here's the intro to a story at International  Business Times: "France is set to roll out over 1,000km (621 miles) of solar road that will deliver an eco-friendly way to produce enough energy to power millions of households. The project was announced by Ségolène Royal, the country's minister of ecology and energy, and will see these electric avenues hit highways over the next five years. The Wattway photovoltaic solar panels, which have been five years in development by Colas, will be laid over the top of existing roadways and harvest energy to provide electric power to approximately one household per metre. It is understood the amount of power will be sufficient enough for most household needs apart from heating..."

Photo credit above: "France has announced it will lay 1,000km of solar roads to power millions of homes." Colas.


A Renewables Revolution is Toppling the Dominance of Fossil Fuels in U.S. Power. Here's an excerpt from Bloomberg Business: "Renewable energy was the biggest source of new power added to U.S. electrical grids last year as falling prices and government incentives made wind and solar increasingly viable alternatives to fossil fuels. Developers installed 16 gigawatts of clean energy in 2015, or 68 percent of all new capacity, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said in its Sustainable Energy in America Factbook released Thursday. That was the second straight year that clean power eclipsed fossil fuels..."


How Do We Power Utopia? Some interesting ideas from How We Get To Next; here's an excerpt: "...That’s why I’m pretty pumped to be curating this month’s theme on How We Get To Next. It’s called Power Up, and it deals with the future of energy and power. The questions swirling around the issue of how to provide clean, safe energy to billions of people around the world have many answers, and we’ll explore as many of them as possible — from renewables, to nuclear, to as-yet-undiscovered innovations. We’ll also look at key trends like the global, fossil fuel divestment campaign; the vital importance of batteries in our daily lives; and the positive impact of electrification on vulnerable communities globally..."


Germany's Wendelstein 7-X Fusion Reactor Produces Its First Flash of Hydrogen Plasma. There will be breakthroughs we can't even imagine today. Here's a clip from Gizmag: "...After a decade of construction, the Wendelstein 7-X fusion stellarator was finally started up in December last year. The device is designed to be magnetically efficient enough to continuously contain super-hot plasma in its magnetic field for more than 30 minutes at a time. If this vision does one day become a reality, it could help to usher in an era of clean, reliable nuclear fusion power..."

Photo credit: "The outside of the Wendelstein 7-x stellarator with its conglomeration of equipment, ports, and supporting structure." (Credit: IPP, Bernhard Ludewig).


From Liquid Air to Supercapacitors, Energy Storage is Finally Poised for a Breakthrough. The Guardian takes a look at why energy storage is so important when talking about renewables; here's an excerpt: "...Energy storage is important for renewable energy not because green power is unpredictable - the sun, wind and tides are far more predictable than the surge that follows the end of a Wimbledon tennis final or the emergency shutdown of a gas-fired power plant. Storage is important because renewable energy is intermittent: strong winds in the early hours do not coincide with the peak demand of evenings. Storage allows electricity to be time-shifted to when it is needed, maximising the benefits of windfarms and solar arrays..."

Image credit above: "Tesla’s Powerwall captured attention at its launch, but the lithium-ion batteries it’s based on are just one of a host of energy storage technologies taking root in the UK." Photograph: Patrick T. Fallon/REUTERS.


We're Drowning in Cheap Oil, Yet Still Taxpayers Prop Up This Toxic Industry. George Monbiot has an Op-Ed at The Guardian; here's an excerpt: "...Strangely, the same rules do not apply to the oil companies. Your friends get protection. The free market is reserved for enemies. Yes, I do mean enemies. An energy transition threatens the kind of people who attend the Conservative party’s fundraising balls. It corrodes the income of old schoolfriends and weekend guests. For all the talk of enterprise, old money still nurtures its lively hatred of new money, and those who control the public purse use it to protect the incumbents from the parvenus. As they did for the bankers, our political leaders ensure that everyone must pay the costs imposed by the fossil fuel companies – except the fossil fuel companies. So they lock us into the 20th century, into industrial decline and air pollution, stranded assets and – through climate change – systemic collapse..."

Illustration credit above: ‘Oil companies have already been granted ‘ministerial buddies’ to ‘improve access to government’ – as if they didn’t have enough already.’ Illustration: Andrzej Krauze.


Why Are Americans So Angry? Personally I blame El Nino, but there may be more going on. Interesting to get a different perspective from the other side of the pond at The BBC; here's an excerpt: "Americans are generally known for having a positive outlook on life, but with the countdown for November's presidential election now well under way, polls show voters are angry. This may explain the success of non-mainstream candidates such as Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders. But what is fuelling the frustration? A CNN/ORC poll carried out in December 2015 suggests 69% of Americans are either "very angry" or "somewhat angry" about "the way things are going" in the US..."


You Won't Be Happiest Until You Turn 65 Years Old. Well that gives me something to live for - here's an excerpt from Quartz: "Will you ever be happy? The answer, it seems, is yes. Likely when you’re a bit older. A recent government survey asked people in the UK to rate out of 10 how satisfied they were with life, as well as how anxious and happy they’d felt. The results showed that people aged 65-79 had the highest levels of life satisfaction and happiness, and the lowest levels of anxiety. But things appeared less rosy for those aged 45-59, who reported the lowest levels of life satisfaction..."


A Bicycle Helmet Made of...Wood? Here's another clip that caught my eye; courtesy of gizmag.com: "...Known as Cellufoam, the shock-absorbing foam in the helmet is said to be similar to Styrofoam – except it comes from a renewable source, and it's biodegradable. Like similar products we've covered before, it's made by mixing a foaming agent with cellulose nanofibers derived from forestry industry byproducts. This means that trees don't need to be cut down specifically for foam production..."

Photo credit above: "The helmet features a wood outer veneer, wood-based foam on the inside, and paper straps." (Credit: Rasmus Malbert).


27 F. high in the Twin Cities on Thursday.

26 F. average high on February 4.

15 F. high on February 4, 2015.

7" snow on the ground at KMSP.

February 5, 1834: Unseasonably mild temperatures are felt at Ft. Snelling with a high of 51.



TODAY: Coating of light snow. Winds: S 8-13. High: 26

FRIDAY NIGHT: More flurries - a few slippery spots. Low: 21

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, PM thaw still on track. Winds: SW 7-12. High: 33

SUNDAY: Mild start, snow/drifting late PM? Winds: NW 15-30 (late PM) Wake-up: 28. High: 34

MONDAY: Cold wind, period of light snow. Couple inches of snow possible with low visibility and poor travel conditions. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 15. High: 18

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy, feels like -5F. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 1. High: 10

WEDNESDAY: More sun, still deliriously numb. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: -3. High: 12

THURSDAY: Cold start, chance of flurries. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 2. High: 22


Climate Stories...
 
Glaciologists Anticipate Massive Ice Shelf Collapse. Other than that things are going quite well in Antarctica. Here's an excerpt from University of Alaska Fairbanks: "A team of researchers is traveling to a rocky outcrop in Antarctica to study a massive ice shelf that could crash down around them before the end of March. University of Alaska Fairbanks glaciologist Erin Pettit said that an ice shelf about 1,000 feet thick and a third the size of Rhode Island is on the verge of shattering into millions of icebergs during February or March, the end of Antarctica’s summer. If it does, the lead researcher and her team will be within viewing distance in a place they hope doesn’t live up to its name — Cape Disappointment..."
 
Image credit above: Ted Scambos. "A Landsat image from Jan. 6, 2016, shows summer conditions of the fast ice, glaciers and ice shelf in the Scar Inlet region of Antarctica."

El Nino and Global Warming - What's the Connection? Phys.org has a story that attempts to connect the dots; here's an excerpt: "...The science here isas yet inconclusive.  One 2014 study suggests that super El Nino events could double in the future due to climate change. Using 20 climate models to examine possible changes in El Nino over the next 100 years, the scientists projected that extreme El Nino events could occur roughly every 10 years instead of every 20..."

Image credit above: "A visualization of El Nino". Credit: NOAA/Stuart Rankin.


The science here is as yet inconclusive. One 2014 study suggests that super El Niño events could double in the future due to climate change. Using 20 climate models to examine possible changes in El Niño over the next 100 years, the scientists projected that extreme El Niño events could occur roughly every 10 years instead of every 20.

Lisa Goddard, director of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, finds the study interesting, but questions its conclusions because observational evidence of El Niño only goes back a few decades, whereas scientists know that there is a great deal of natural variation in El Niño events over long periods of time. Moreover, said Goddard, "The models have limitations in their representation of El Niño and its variability."



Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-02-el-nino-global-warmingwhat.html#jCp

The science here is as yet inconclusive. One 2014 study suggests that super El Niño events could double in the future due to climate change. Using 20 climate models to examine possible changes in El Niño over the next 100 years, the scientists projected that extreme El Niño events could occur roughly every 10 years instead of every 20.

Lisa Goddard, director of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, finds the study interesting, but questions its conclusions because observational evidence of El Niño only goes back a few decades, whereas scientists know that there is a great deal of natural variation in El Niño events over long periods of time. Moreover, said Goddard, "The models have limitations in their representation of El Niño and its variability."



Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-02-el-nino-global-warmingwhat.html#jCp
Is Global Warming Behind D.C's New Era of Great Snowstorms? 7 of the 10 biggest snowfalls in Washington D.C. since 1889 have taken place since 1979. Jason Samenow has a fascinating post at The Capital Weather Gang; here's an excerpt that got my attention: "...As Capital Weather Gang’s Ian Livingston put it: “It seems the tempo of big storms for the city has increased.” The flurry of recent blizzards is even more impressive farther north:

Will Climate Change Move Agriculture Indoors? And Is That a Good Thing? Here's a snippet of an interesting story at Grist: "...It’s this indoor farming future that Allison Kopf, founder and CEO of the agricultural technology startup Agrilyst, is curious about. In an indoor farm, water doesn’t inconveniently evaporate. LED lights can lengthen the hours of sunlight so plants can grow faster. CO2 levels can be tweaked. Even as the weather outside goes haywire, plants farmed indoors can live out an optimized version of the weather that they coevolved with — the weather of the past. The best weather of the past. Or, as Kopf calls it, a “weather-independent environment.” Kopf’s journey to greenhouse tech was an unexpected one..." (Photo credit: Horticulture Group).


What It's Like to Defend Science Before the House Science Committee. Pacific Standard has an interesting tale; here's an excerpt: "...I try to bring facts," he says, "which is not always easy quite frankly because there's so much opinion in the room that if one nuances things at all people will sort of pounce on it. I think I just told facts today, the truth." But every so often, he'll try to inject a little emotion into his testimony as well. To explain why, he gestures over our heads at a Bible verse displayed on the brightly lit back wall of the committee's room in the Rayburn House Office Building. I've never noticed it before but it's clearly something he's studied: Where there is no vision, the people perish. "These guys believe that," he says. "These guys have an incredible responsibility, and we as citizens need to remind them of that responsibility..."

Image credit above: David Vogin.


Army Should Not Ignore Climate Change. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Fort Hood Herald: "...The Army and Fort Hood took a big step into the future last week by breaking ground on a huge solar farm that, when combined with a wind-energy project, will provide 40 percent of the post’s energy. That’s the kind of innovation we need from government, commercial and private entities to slow down the ugly future of climate change. In any case, the Army should be looking at what kind of wars and conflicts may develop due to climate change in the next 20 or 40 years. To ignore what’s going on outside could turn out to be very costly..."


Humidity Could Be The Killer With Climate Change. Because we all know it's not the heat, it's the humidity. For the record the town of Bandar Mahshahr, Iran experienced a suffocating heat index of 165F last summer, so this is more than theoretical. Here's an excerpt from Cosmos Magazine: "...Coffel found that by 2060, an estimated 600 million people will live in regions at risk of heat waves producing wet bulb temperatures hitting 32 °C. Of these, 250 million could see heat waves with wet-bulb temperatures of 33 °C, and 50 million could see 34 °C – one degree shy of the limit. Even if these areas are never truly rendered uninhabitable, people living there will have to make major lifestyle changes, says Radley Horton, another Columbia climate scientist involved in the project. Outdoor labour will become increasingly difficult, for example: “We will see more [rest] breaks, more people working overnight, changes in clothing, less strenuous activity...”

Measuring Ocean Heating is Key to Tracking Global Warming. Here's an excerpt from a story authored by St. Thomas University climate scientist John Abraham at The Guardian: "...The answer to this question is clear, unassailable and unequivocal: the Earth is warming because the energy is increasing. We know this because the heat shows up in our measurements, mainly in the oceans. Indeed the oceans take up more than 92% of the extra heat. The rest goes into melting Arctic sea ice, land ice, and warming the land and atmosphere. Accordingly, to measure global warming, we have to measure ocean warming. Results for 2015 were recently published by Noaa and are available here. A recent paper by Karina von Schuckmann and her colleagues appeared in Nature Climate Change, and provides an excellent summary of our knowledge of the energy balance of the Earth and recent advances that have been made..."

Chance of Extreme Flooding Up By 43% Because of Global Warming, Scientists Warn. The study referenced is focused on Britain, but there is now little doubt that increased CO2 and warming is pumping more water vapor into the atmosphere, more fuel to "juice" storms. Here's an excerpt from Tech Times: "...Now, man-made greenhouse gas emissions have upped the chances of extreme flooding by 43 percent, scientists said, as increasingly warmer temperatures hold larger amounts of moisture that lead to heavier downpour. "What was once a 1 in 100-year event in a world without climate change is now a 1 in 70-year event," said Oxford University's Friederike Otto, co-author of the report. Their paper is the first research to look into the likely role of climate change in the winter flooding of Somerset Levels..."
 
Image credit above: "Global warming may unleash devastating and extensive flooding, scientists warn. As levels of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions increase, the chances of extreme flooding also goes dangerously high." Image: NASA.