Weather Headlines For People In A Hurry:
* Temperatures average 5-15 degrees below average this week.
* Next clipper arrives Thursday, potential for a couple of inches, but right now it doesn't look as formidable as last Friday's snow burst.
* Reinforcing surge of Arctic air arrives over the weekend. Arrival of this Yukon Express may set off a coating to 1/2" of powder Saturday.
* Slight chance/opportunity for a brief thaw between December 15-17.
The Definition Of "Holiday Spirit". I have never seen anything in my life quite like this. People shopping at a Macy's in Philadelphia, suddenly Handel's Messiah begins to play and choruses begin to sing in angelic harmony. The end result is a remarkable display of public affection and outpouring - everyone is in the moment, contemplating the real meaning of the Christmas holiday. Why can't this happen in my mall? BTW, this YouTube clip has gone viral, nearly 6 million hits and counting.
One Last Look At Friday Night's Clipper. The local NWS office has done a good job of summarizing our late-week clipper. I have to say that this time around the models did a VERY good job, highlighting the heaviest snow bands setting up just south/west of the metro. Every storm is different, clippers are notoriously fickle, if anything amounts were a few inches higher than expected just south of MSP. A complete recap here.
Winter Storm Survey. Were you impacted by Friday night's storm? If so you might want to take a couple minutes to fill out this survey conducted by St. Cloud State University. It's just a hunch, but this may be part of a larger effort to assign a number to impending storms (like we do for tornadoes and hurricanes), based not only on expected snow/ice amounts, but the timing of the storm, impact on commutes, etc. A "category 5 snow event". Give it a year or two. It's coming...
MSP "Meteogram". Models are hinting at a couple inches of powder again Thursday (I don't expect the intensity or quantity of snow we saw late Friday), but it doesn't take much to turn the Crosstown Expressway into a "carnival of nightmare and death", with all deference and credit to Stephen King. The arrival of a reinforcing surge of Arctic air Saturday may squeeze out a quick coating or half inch of additional snow. That old adage, "too cold to snow" has a ring of truth. Of course you can get snow at any temperature < 32 F. But when it's this cold (teens and single digits) it usually means the storm track is too far south/east of Minnesota for significant snow.
Thursday Clipping? Rarely does Arctic air arrive without a burst of snow. Thursday's system won't have as much Pacific moisture or energy to work with, but a quick inch or two is still possible.
Potentially Plowable. Thursday's clipper will drop the most snow on northern Minnesota, where some 2-4" amounts are possible. We'll be on the edge of any significant snow here in the metro. Check out some of the predicted amounts downwind of the Great Lakes. Early December is prime time for "lake effect" snow, when the differential between lake water temperatures and the air passing over those lakes is greatest. In some cases as 20-30 degree F. difference can create severe instability. Throw in a little terrain downwind to enhance "lift" and you can wind up with snow falling at the rate of 2-4"/hour, complete with thunder and lightning! Tell that to residents of Buffalo, digging out from nearly 4 FEET of snow!
A Brutal December? The (meteorological) writing is pretty much on the wall - prevailing jet stream winds getting stuck in a groove, a rut, favoring severe cold for the east, abnormally mild weather for much of the west. Minnesota will be on the edge of the truly bitter air, but I don't see any relief until possibly December 15-17, when a quick surge of Pacific air may lure the mercury close to freezing. Other than that, cold air will dominate - I fully expect December temperatures to run 10, possibly 15 degrees colder than average. Source: CPC, the Climate Prediction Center.
Chemtrails. Urban Legend Or Valid Concern? I am not a conspiracy theorist. I believe men really did walk on the moon, and by now you probably know where I stand on the issue of climate change (I'm throwing my hat in with the 97% of peer-reviewed climate scientists around the world, thousands of them, who believe that greenhouse gases are largely responsible for a global warming trend in recent decades, and corresponding outbreaks of increasingly extreme weather). A friend loaned me a DVD and I approached the topic of chemtrails skeptically. But the more I watched, the more hard, empirical evidence was produced about an apparent spike in aluminum, barium and strontium levels on the ground, heavy metals that weren't there 10-20 years ago - I began to wonder if something really might be "up". The theory: either government agencies or rogue billionaires are experimenting in the stratosphere, spraying the upper levels of the atmosphere with tiny bits of "chaff", in an attempt to "geoengineer" climate change, literally cool the earth by spraying these heavy metals. We've all noticed those days when contrails seem to be far more numerous, where they crisscross the sky, forming a hazy, milkly appearance, a "dirty sky". I chalked it up to jet contrails, but now I'm taking a second look. The problem: alumuminum turns into aluminum oxide, which is toxic with potential neurological effects on the human brain. The possible spraying corresponds with huge increases in Alzheimers Disease and autism, and an increasing number of Americans are connecting the dots, wondering if there is a connection. I don't pretend to have the answer. But before you dismiss this outright, you might want to check out a few links, even watch the documentary.
I watched the 97 minute documentary, "What In The World Are They Spraying?", produced by G. Edward Griffin, Michael Murphy and Paul Wittenberger, and it opened my eyes. From the web site: "By now everyone has seen crisscrossing streaks of white clouds trailing behind jet aircraft, stretching from horizon to horizon, eventually turning the sky into a murky haze. Our innate intelligence tells us these are not mere vapor trails from jet engines, but no one yet has probed the qustions: WHO is doing this and WHY. With the release of this documentary, all of that has changed. Here is the story of a rapidly developing industry called Geo-engineering, driven by scientists, corporations, and governments intent on changing global climate, controlling the weather, and altering the chemical composition of soil and water – all supposedly for the betterment of mankind. Although official insist that these programs are only in the discussion phase, evidence is abundant that the have been underway since about 1990 – and the effect has been devastating on crops, wildlife, and human health. We are being sprayed with toxic substances without our consent and, to add insult to injury, they are lying to us about it. Do not watch this if you have high blood pressure." Again, I was skeptical/cynical going into this, but it's hard to argue with facts: aluminum levels in the snowpack at Mt. Shasta, California are 61 ppb (parts per billion) which is roughly 60 times higher than they should be. Phoenix is showing aluminum levels of 39,000 ppm (the number should be closer to 2 ppm). There are reports linking these increased levels of heavy metals to dying trees in the west (weakening the bark of coconut trees in Hawaii). Not sure if there's a link, but the documentary got me thinking. Again, I'm not a big "Area 51/Roswell UFO" conspiracy theorist, I don't think alien abductions are a big problem on the world stage. But I HAVE seen the odd, milky, "shredded-contrail" look to the sky, and there may be a real problem here. More background on "chemtrails" here. An 8 minute overview YouTube video focused on the chemtrail phenomenon is here. Generic jet contrails? Possibly. But the more I looked into this the more questions arose in my mind.
"What In The World Are They Spraying?" I found a link that has the entire doc here. It runs 97 minutes, and before you dismiss it out of hand as quackery or worse - take a few minutes and check it out. It is the most eye-opening thing you will see all month. Paranoia on a mass scale? Possibly. But people all around the world are seeing strange things in the sky, levels of aluminum, barium and other heavy metals have spiked in snow pack, soil and water samples. I'm not as quick to dismiss this as I was before watching the documentary. After all, we did spray in the past, attempting to modify weather. Cloud-seeing during the Vietnam War was common, trying to increase flooding over the Ho Chi Min Trail carrying supplies from the North Vietnamese. And then there was that whole "Agent Orange" thing. I hope there's nothing to this, but in the spirit of full disclosure I wanted to share it with you - let you reach your own conclusion.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Blames Natural Disasters On Capitalism. I know - it sounds like a bad SNL skit, but this (blame game) is real, and I have a hunch other (relatively poor) nations will be pointing an accusatory finger at large industrial countries like the USA and China every time extreme weather strikes. From the U.K's Guardian: "President Hugo Chávez today blamed "criminal" capitalism for the rains and flooding that have brought chaos to Venezuela, killing 32 people and leaving 70,000 homeless. Chávez has taken charge of rescue operations, inviting 25 families to take refuge in his palace and ordering space made for others in ministries, barracks and even a shopping mall. "The developed nations irresponsibly shatter the environmental order, in their desire to maintain a criminal development model, while the immense majority of the earth's people suffer the most terrible consequences," Chávez added. He criticised the "arrogance" of rich nations. "The environmental imbalance capitalism has caused is without doubt the fundamental cause of the alarming atmospheric phenomena," he wrote in his weekly "The Lines of Chavez" column. "The world's powerful economies insist on a destructive way of life and then refuse to take any responsibility."
Data Collecting Inside Tornadoes - Will It Improve Warning Lead Times? Uber-meteorologist and tornado-expert Jon Davies has an interesting post, reviewing some of 2010's biggest, most violent and long-lasting tornadoes, including the Yazoo City super-tornado. It was on the ground for hours, nearly 2 miles wide, struck during the daylight hours - more than 30 minutes warning for local residents, and yet 10 people still lost their lives. Quoting Davies: "Any competent NWS meteorologist on days with environment ingredients like those above would be primed and ready to issue warnings immediately at the first indication on radar or credible information from spotters. The next level of improvement regarding saving lives will likely involve sociology to find ways to get people to hear and pay attention to those warnings already being issued."
"Skiing With Zooey". Great fun skiing at Bullion Basin; a guy, his favorite dog (Zooey) and a camera-mounted camera. Sounds like a pretty good day to me. Check out the YouTube video here.
How To "Thrive". Dan Buettner's Secret to Happiness. No, more gadgets, more "stuff" won't necessarily make you happier. We all know that. Dan Buettner has traveled the world in search of what he calls "blue zones", regions where people tend to be significantly happier, live longer, and lead healthier lives. He wrote a book, "Thrive", that delvers into what his research found, and it's fascinating. From an interview with NPR: 'The Happiest People In America Socialize Seven Hours A Day' In terms of translating the lessons from the "blue zones" to daily life, Buettner recommends that people "set up permanent nudges and defaults" in order to maximize happiness. "For example, in our financial lives, we know that financial security has a three-times greater impact on our happiness than just income alone," he says. "So setting up automatic savings plans, and buying insurance as opposed to buying a new thing. The newness effect of a new thing wears off in nine months to a year, but financial security can last a lifetime." Buettner argues that relationships are really the key to lifelong happiness, noting that "the happiest people in America socialize about seven hours a day," and mentioning that "you're three times more likely to be happy if you are married ... and each new friend will boost your happiness about 10 percent." Deepak Chopra I am not - but I know how joyously, stressfully crazy this time of year is for most of us. Might make a good stocking stuffer for someone you care about - something who is trying to find a little more happiness in their life.
Sunday Goosebumps. Yesterday was the coldest day in the Twin Cities since March 11, when the high was a nippy 8 above zero. .01" of liquid precipitation translated into a half inch of fluff (more than we were predicting), just enough to keep a few roads slick. Highs held in the mid teens statewide, a good 15 degrees colder than average. What the heck happened to average?
Could Be Worse. With any luck it won't look anything like this anytime soon.
Paul's Star Tribune Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:
TODAY: Sun returns! Still numb. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 17
MONDAY NIGHT: Clear to partly cloudy - first subzero night of the winter season. Low: -3
TUESDAY: Some blue sky, still bitter. High: 15
WEDNESDAY: Clouds increase, OK travel. High: 18
THURSDAY: Next clipper, couple inches possible, maybe 1-2" metro (2-4" northern MN). High: 25
FRIDAY: Flurries taper, clouds linger, a coating possible. High: 23
SATURDAY: Burst of light snow or flurries. Coating - 1" possible. Cold wind. High: 18
SUNDAY: Like living in Alaska. Arctic sun. High: 14
Tip-offs that the mercury is close to 0: every time you take a breath ice crystals tickle your nostrils - snow squeaks underfoot - your engine makes little screaming sounds when you turn the key. Ice crystals (which normally stick together to form snowflakes) can form spontaneously when it's this cold, a magical fog of shimmering diamond-dust that can takes your breath away.
"Sun Dogs", tiny rainbow-bright splotches on either side of the sun can be more vivid in winter; a 22 degree halo around the moon a tip-off of possible snow within 24 hours. Don't discount nature for cues on what may be on the way.
How did we skip a month? Last year our first subzero low came on December 10 (-5 F). A brief thaw is possible mid month, but there's little doubt this month will wind up 5-10 degrees colder than average. A clipper arrives Thursday with a couple inches of snow, a reinforcing jab of numbing air shoving the storm track south/east of Minnesota by the weekend, one silver lining to our cold wave.
I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but today's weather blog highlights the mystery of "chemtrails". That and amazing video of a spontaneous Hallelujah Chorus that you have to see to believe.
Antarctica, The Timeless Continent. Good luck trying to set your watch (way) down under, at the "bottom of the world", Antarctica. I stumbled upon this interesting blog post from National Geographic. Here's an excerpt: "Of the unusual phenomena that occur at the polar extremes of the Earth, time is a particularly peculiar one. Yes, the sky at the South Pole splits the year between whole days of light and dark. But how do humans who venture there—to a place where the world’s 24 time zones converge—and to the rest of Antarctica set their clocks?"
A High Tech Form Of Life Insurance. Recently I came across an ingenious invention, a simple device that prevents you from operating your vehicle after you've had "one too many" drinks. December is a festive month, many of us attend holiday parties and inevitably spirits are served. Who among us hasn't gotten into a vehicle wondering "am I OK to drive? Am I endangering myself and others by turning the key?" The Safekey system governs your vehicle's ignition, and instantly detects a level of sobriety that may be a problem. Why take chances? This is a great gift idea for parents who want to sleep a little bit better every night, or maybe a spouse or significant other who needs a high-tech guardian angel to make ABSOLUTELY SURE they will never operate a vehicle while under the influence. From the Safekey web site: It's well known that many drugs, including alcohol, significantly increase the time a person requires to react to a change in circumstance such as a red light or obstruction in the road. The SafeKey is an affordable interlock device that can immobilize the ignition key. This prevents a vehicle engine from starting if the driver is impaired, unfit to drive safely, and in danger of DUI arrest. SafeKey is fully independent of other driver analysis methods, such as breathalyzers. It analyzes the only thing that counts: how quickly a driver can react to a stimulus – braking, swerving, and similar driving situations." (Full disclosure: I've never had a DUI, but I know a lot of people - otherwise good people - who have. I believe in this product and their mission, I just joined the Safekey Board of Directors and I'm doing some consulting with this amazing high-tech company because I believe in what they're attempting to do. It struck a chord on 2 levels: it's great technology, and it helps people, it lowers the risk of disaster and those late-night phone calls every parent dreads). For a couple hundred bucks you can purchase this device and have it professionally installed. I've spent my career trying to help people avoid potentially dangerous scenarios - this invention fits right in with that goal, and I'm hopeful this device will - eventually - make DUI's a thing of the past.