Still Standing

Have we reached an epic new low for winters in Minnesota? Maybe. 50 subzero lows IS impressive, but Kent Smith in Eden Prairie and Pete Boulay at the Minnesota Climate Office both confirm no record lows this winter at MSP, which I found a bit odd. A spree of subzero lows but nothing record-breaking. 9th coldest meteorological winter on record at KMSP, and based on heating degree days we've spent 12.3 percent more than average heating our homes this winter. Whatever average is.

Two meteorological trends I've noticed in recent years: a tendency for weather to stall, to get "stuck". And more volatility, more extremes, more weather whiplash.

Think about it. Two years ago we saw 60F the first week of March; 80F by mid-March. Flowers were in bloom & sail boats were in the water by late March, on our way to a 7 month boating season! This winter we feel blessed just to see freezing.

"Every winter seems like a new low" my oldest son complained. Here's a guy that lived for snow days and shrugged at cold fronts growing up. Now he's thoroughly disgusted. I sense he's not alone. Last winter it snowed in early May, creating a chorus of groans. The groans have turned into gasps.

No epic, March Tournament storms are brewing anytime soon; an inch or two from a fast-moving clipper tonight - a better chance of a few inches of slush next Tuesday as a more significant storm spins up over the Midwest - the brunt of snow, ice and rain may stay south and east of Minnesota, but it could be a close call.

Remarkably no more subzero lows are in sight. We brush 32F Thursday; 40F is possible next week. I'm nervous saying this out loud, but I sense we're finally turning the corner... on a winter to remember.

Twin Cities Records. We set a record on Sunday for the coldest maximum temperature (3F), breaking the old record of 5 set most recently in 1989. St. Cloud has tied or broken 5 records since February 25. Details from NOAA.

* photo above courtesy of

Another Cruel Meteorological Mirage? I know, we've been burned too many times by long-range models that dangle the possibility of 30s, only to get closer to the blessed event and have them vanish into thin, Canadian air. The temperature trend is upward, a hint of low 30s by Friday, then cooling off Saturday before a more significant whiff of Pacific air arrives early next week. A thaw seems likely Sunday and Monday before cooling down. Look carefully at the ECMWF (European) guidance above. Notice anything unusual? No subzero lows predicted. That's progress, in a ghastly, pathetic sort of way. Graph: Weatherspark.

A Sluggish Thaw. With all the snow on the ground I guess we should be hoping for a slow-motion thaw, and that's exactly what we'll get later this week. The solid red line marks the 32F isotherm, pushing north Wednesday and Thursday. All that snow and ice in your yard will melt. Give it a month or two. 2 meter NAM temperature forecast courtesy of NAM and Ham Weather.

Extended GFS Numbers. Yes, I'm skeptical of (all) long range models now, after the persistent polar rut we've been in since December. But the GFS is fairly consistent, run to run, showing mostly 30s the third week of March. We'll see, but it's probably still too early to celebrate.

Upward And Onward. At least if you believe NOAA's 45-day trends, the CFS (Climate Forecast System) model, which I lovingly describe as the "Wish-Cast". It shows highs topping 40F by the third week of March, some 50s to near 60F the second week of April. One prediction with rare 100% accuracy: none of us will EVER take spring for granted again. Graphic: NOAA and Ham Weather.

Serious Weather Whiplash. Cloud to ground lightning during heavy snow and sleet - in Oklahoma? The maps have been looking like early February, not early March, with cold and snow pushing as far south as Texas. From drought in the west to a parade of storms east of the Rockies, record warmth in Las Vegas to 73" snow in Chicago (43" above average, to date) the extremes have been even more extreme. That's the topic of today's edition of Climate Matters: "WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas goes over the two very different winters that the United States saw this year. While the Eastern half of the US saw well above average snow and bone chilling cold, folks in Las Vegas enjoyed the warmest winter on record! Talk about weather whiplash!"

What March? Here's a good excuse to consider Florida - although I hate it when they get smug and start to gloat. Wait until summer-sauna and hurricane season, eh? Map above: NOAA.

Preliminary Snow/Ice Totals. The map above is courtesy of NOAA, showing snow and ice totals from 7 AM March 1 to 7 AM March 3. Much of the Ohio and Middle Mississippi River Valley picked up .25 to .50" of glaze ice.

National Temperature Departures During Meteorological Winter. All those locations in green, blue and purple experienced colder than average temperatures from December thru February (no kidding). Only the far southeastern USA and much of the southwest was warmer than average. Map: University of Nebraska, HPRCC and Larry Cosgrove's WEATHERamerica newsletter.

Lake Michigan Is 90% Ice-Covered. That compares with a maximum ice cover of 20% last winter. Map above and more details from the Milwaukee office of the National Weather Service.

Ask Paul. Weather-related questions, comments (and threats):

"How many hours has Mpls been above freezing since November 1, 2103?  Thank you."

Lyman Dale

I asked local weather and climate guru Pete Boulay at the Minnesota Climatology Working Group to tally up the numbers. Here is an excerpt of his reply:

"The more impressive totals are number of hours that we had above 32 degrees for meteorological winter.

December:  The Twin Cities International Airport had 64 hours of above freezing temperatures 33 or warmer

January: The Twin Cities International Airport had 34 hours of above freezing temperatures 33 or warmer in January and one hour of 40 degrees and that one hour was glorious.

February: The Twin Cities International Airport had was 32 hours for 33 degrees and above

Reluctant Robin Retraction. In Monday's weather column I mentioned that "I can't promise robins or daffodils anytime soon". Howard Richards begs to differ:

"I had 8 of them vying for a spot around my heated birdbath in Mound on Sunday. I don’t think they ever left last fall!"

Best Regards, Howard Richards

Plymouth, Minnesota

No Green In Green Bay. In fact, according to NOAA, it's the third longest streak with a foot of snow or more on the ground at KGRB.

Warmest Meteorological Winter on Record in Las Vegas. Welcome to the Winter of All or Nothing, at least in terms of warmth. Details from NOAA.

GPM Weather Observatory Successfully Launched. Gizmag has more details on a new weather and climate platform just launched into low orbit; here's an excerpt: "...A joint mission between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory is a 4-ton spacecraft (and the largest spacecraft ever built at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center) that will join a constellation of existing and future spacecraft to provide detailed information on the Earth's weather and climate cycles by mapping global precipitation every three hours..."

Photo credit above: "The GPM Core Observatory is launched aboard a Japanese H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center last week." (Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls).

Tame Hurricanes With Offshore Wind Farms. You'd need a lot of turbines to blunt the raw power of a major hurricane, but this idea may not be as far-fetched as it sounds. Here's an excerpt of a Stanford University study from "Computer simulations show that offshore wind farms with thousands of turbines could have sapped the power of three real-life hurricanes, significantly decreasing their winds and accompanying storm surge, and possibly preventing billions of dollars in damages. For the past 24 years, Mark Z. Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, has been developing a complex computer model to study air pollution, energy, weather, and climate. A recent application of the model has been to simulate the development of hurricanes. Another has been to determine how much energy wind turbines can extract from global wind currents..."

Photo credit above: "Wind turbines could potentially disrupt a hurricane enough to reduce peak wind speeds by up to 92 mph and decrease storm surge by up to 79 percent." (Credit: Department of Energy and Climate Change/Flickr)

Why Apple Could Win Big With Tesla's Giant New Battery Factory. Wired has the article; here's an excerpt: "...This week, years after that first sighting, Tesla announced plans for what it calls the “Gigafactory,” a 10-million-square-foot plant for making car batteries. The company hopes that the sheer scale of the operation, combined with the inventiveness of its engineers, will bring battery prices down far enough to finally bring its electric cars into the mainstream. But it’s not just the prospect of a gasoline-free future that has sparked such excitement about the Gigafactory. The same basic lithium-ion tech that fuels Tesla’s cars also runs most of today’s other mobile gadgets, large and small. If Tesla really produces batteries at the scale it’s promising, cars could become just one part of what the company does. One day, Tesla could be a company that powers just about everything, from the phone in your pocket to the electrical grid itself..."

Energy Sector's Newest Power Player: Elon Musk. Here's an excerpt of a story at LinkedIn that caught my eye: "Elon Musk has established a well-deserved reputation for designing and building things that take off quickly — rockets, electric cars … and stock prices. But his biggest impact won’t necessarily be in speeding up how we get from here to there. It may be in transforming a much slower-moving industry: electric utilities..."

It Costs Five Times What It Did In 1970 To Spend A Day At Disney World. Save up your money if you're heading to Orlando to hang out with Goofy; here's a clip from a story at Quartz: "...Hanging out with Mickey Mouse is getting more expensive. Disney World hiked the price of a one-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom to $99 earlier this week. But it’s hardly the first time. The same thing happened last year. And the year before that. In fact, the price of a one-day ticket has been rising pretty steadily for decades, even after adjusting for inflation..."

10 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday.

35 F. average high on March 3.

32 F. high on March 3, 2013.

19" snow on the ground at KMSP.

11 hours, 17 minutes. Amount of daylight in the Twin Cities today.

8 hours, 46 minutes. Amount of daylight on the Winter Solstice, on December 21, 2013.

TODAY: Clouds much of the day, warming up a little more. Winds: E 5-10. High: near 20

TUESDAY NIGHT: Light snow and flurries, an inch or two possible (more south of MSP). Low: 9

WEDNESDAY: Snow tapers early, partial PM clearing. High: 26

THURSDAY: Breezy, turning milder. More smiles. Wake-up: 14. High: 32

FRIDAY: Mild start, then cooling off a bit. Wake-up: 23. High: near 30

SATURDAY: Blue sky and cooler, good travel weather. Wake-up: 6. High: 22

SUNDAY: Some sun, finally feels like March! Wake-up: 13. High: 37

MONDAY: Sunny start, wet snow late PM? Wake-up: 30. High: 42

* a period of accumulating snow is possible next Monday and Tuesday. Too early for details.

Climate Stories....

Don't Ignore Climate Change Realities. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed that appeared in The Kansas City Star: "...Using information from around the globe, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lays out compelling climate change evidence from the last century:

-Global surface temperatures are rising.

-The index ranking extreme weather events in the United States is at its highest level in 100 years. (Think polar vortex.)

-Sea levels are rising; oceans are getting warmer.

-Glacier volume is shrinking dramatically..."

Scientists Discover New "Giant Virus" From 30,000 Year-Old Permafrost. Don't sweat the snow flurries ok? Here's the intro to a story at Mashable: "If this sounds like it's coming straight from an episode of X-Files, that's because it is. Well, almost. Scientists studying microorganisms buried in Siberian permafrost, a layer of permanently frozen soil that rings the Arctic, found and revived a new type of giant virus that had been locked away for more than 30,000 years. The virus — pithovirus sibericum, a new type of giant DNA virus characterized by its large size and abundance of genes — is not hazardous to human or animal health..."

Photo credit above: "An iceberg melts in Kulusuk, Greenland near the arctic circle Tuesday Aug, 16, 2005." Image: John McConnico/Associated Press.

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Older Post

Waking up to 50th Subzero Low of Winter (thaw on the horizon....)

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Paul Douglas: Polar shrinkage, 40s on the way