No Big Storms Between Now and Christmas

No big storms between now and Christmas? FAKE NEWS!! The big kid inside of me seriously hopes I'm wrong. The models are out to lunch. Maybe a glitch in The Matrix will blow up into an atmospheric bomb and plaster us with a paralyzing snowstorm days before Christmas! Maybe I've been standing too close to the Doppler (for 25 years).

The pragmatist/commuter/traveler in me is secretly hoping for a quiet spell: good news on the highways - no vehicular-angst getting around town. What's not to like? Keeping snow lovers and commuters happy - simultaneously - is impossible.

This weather update is brought to you by the Pacific Ocean, which will flavor our pattern into Christmas. Big
storms pummel both coasts, but the central USA escapes with generally quiet skies, and temperatures trending milder than average.

Flurries brush the area this morning, another batch drifting north of MSP Thursday. A light coating is possible; nothing to write home about.

Metro temperatures approach 40F Saturday, again Tuesday of next week. Odds of a brown Christmas are going up.

Just the messenger. 

240-hour total snowfall accumulation forecast (ECMWF) between now and 12z December 21 courtesy of WeatherBell.

Air Quality Alert. No Winter Storm Watches and Warnings in sight. Can I interest you in poor air? An inversion is trapping pollutants near the ground, posing some risk for people with respiratory problems and chronic illnesses. Maybe take it easy with running or cross country skiing until winds pick up and these fine particulants disperse. Map credit: AerisWeather and Praedictix. Details from NWS:

Colder Phase After Christmas. After relative warmth the next 2 weeks or so models suggest another fling of colder weather the last week of December, as polar air pushes across the Midwest and Great Lakes into the Northeast.

Low Confidence January Temperature Anomaly Forecast. The headline says it all. NOAA's CFSv2 climate model for January shows warmer than average temperatures from Alaska and much of western and central Canada into the Midwest. Disclaimer: this forecast has been jumping around wildly, so buyer beware.

Greensboro, North Carolina Just Experienced Its 4th Weather-Related State of Emergency of 2018. has the details: "Greensboro is in a State of Emergency for the fourth time this year, all related to weather.First a tornado in April; then hurricane related damage in September; then a tropical storm in October; and now, a major snowstorm in December..."

U.S. Coal Consumption Falls to Lowest Level Since 1970s. Take a bow, natural gas and renewables. The Houston Chronicle has the story: "The last time the United States consumed so little coal, Jimmy Carter was president and the Arab oil embargo was still fresh in motorists' minds. According to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States will likely burn through 691 million short tons of coal this year, the lowest level since 1979 and a 39 percent drop from coal's 2007 peak. The power sector accounts for more than 90 percent of the country's coal consumption, and coal's more than decadelong decline is "the result of both the retirements of coal-fired power plants and the decreases in the capacity factors, or utilization, of coal plants," the report reads..."

Photo credit: "NRG Energy is outfitting its W.A. Parish power plant in Fort Bend County with new infrastructure to capture carbon dioxide from coal burned in one of the plant s generators instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. The new facility will pipe the greenhouse gas to an oil field for use underground in enhanced oil recovery." (NRG Energy photo).

The Problem With All the Plastic That's Leaching Into Your Food. Is my freeze-dried (Zombie Apocalypse) food still safe? I wanted to know, after reading a post a Vox: "...Most of our food containers — from bottles to the linings in aluminum cans to plastic wraps and salad bins — are made using polycarbonate plastics, some of which have bioactive chemicals, like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. These man-made chemicals can leach from the containers or wrappings into the food and drinks they’re holding — especially when they’re heated. Research released earlier this year found that more than 90 percent of bottled water from the world’s leading brands was contaminated with microplastics, sparking a review of plastics in drinking water by the World Health Organization. The main cause for concern is that these chemicals can mess with our hormones. Specifically, they can mimic hormones like estrogen, interfere with important hormone pathways in the thyroid gland, and inhibit the effects of testosterone..."

Inside North Korea's Hacker Army. Bloomberg Businessweek has an eye-opening report; here's an excerpt: "...North Korea’s hacking prowess is almost as feared globally as its nuclear arsenal. Last May the country was responsible for an internet scourge called WannaCry, which for a few days infected and encrypted computers around the world, demanding that organizations pay ransom in Bitcoin to unlock their data. A few years before that, North Korea stole and published the private correspondence of executives at Sony Pictures Entertainment, which had produced a Seth Rogen satire of the country called The Interview. Jong wasn’t involved in those attacks, but for half a decade before defecting, he was a foot soldier in North Korea’s hacker army. Unlike their counterparts elsewhere, who might seek to expose security vulnerabilities, steal corporate and state secrets, or simply sow chaos, North Korean hackers have a singular purpose: to earn money for the country, currently squeezed by harsh international sanctions for its rogue nuclear program..."

Illustration credit: Simon Prades for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Boasting About How Many Hours You Work is a Sign of Failure. No, I don't think Elon Musk is a failure, in fact I suspect he's at the oppositve end of the spectrum, no matter how many hours he works to keep the wheels on the (electric) bus at Tesla and SpaceX. But there may be some merit to the major thrust of this post at Quartz; here are a couple of excerpts: "Talking about how many hours you work is not impressive. Far from being an indication of industrious achievements or alpha status, it should be seen as a professionally embarrassing sign that, quite frankly, you have nothing else to boast about...As countless studies have shown, this simply isn’t true. Productivity dramatically decreases with longer work hours, and completely drops off once people reach 55 hours of work a week, to the point that, on average, someone working 70 hours in a week achieves no more than a colleague working 15 fewer hours..."

Photo credit: "Where’s the colony on Mars, hm?" AARON P. BERNSTEIN/ REUTERS.

The Guardians and the War on Truth. If you missed Time Magazine's Person of the Year, 2018's award honors the journalists attempting to uncover truth, and the ongoing war on objective facts: "...This ought to be a time when democracy leaps forward, an informed citizenry being essential to self-government. Instead, it’s in retreat. Three decades after the Cold War defeat of a blunt and crude autocracy, a more clever brand takes nourishment from the murk that surrounds us. The old-school despot embraced censorship. The modern despot, finding that more difficult, foments mistrust of credible fact, thrives on the confusion loosed by social media and fashions the illusion of legitimacy from supplicants.Modern misinformation, says David Patrikarakos, author of the book War in 140 Characters, titled after the original maximum length of a Twitter post, “does not function like traditional propaganda. It tries to muddy the waters. It tries to sow as much confusion and as much misinformation as possible, so that when people see the truth, they find it harder to recognize...”

Why Being Busy is a Modern Sickness. You think? Big Think has an interesting post: "...It should be noted that none of these activities involve a phone in hand, or anywhere in sight. In the end, it's the relationship between our nervous system and the environment that matters most. There is much we cannot control, yet what we can is how we move through this world. Always being hurried, harried, distracted, anxious, not present—busyness is killing us. Like opioid abuse and texting and driving, it should be considered a public health crisis. Boredom reframed can be liberating. You just have to slow down long enough to recognize that, and then, perhaps most importantly, practice doing nothing."

ESPN Wants to Make ESPN "SportsCenter" Great Again. The Washington Post explains: "...Last year, the 6 p.m. “SportsCenter” struggled to build an audience, and ESPN faced heavy fire from the right for being both too political and too liberal. The marching orders from new ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro and his boss, Disney CEO Bob Iger, have been to recommit to hardcore sports fans. “Jimmy felt that the pendulum may have swung a little bit too far away from the field,” Iger said this year. “And I happen to believe he was right.” “SportsCenter” is central to that mission. The show’s impact on ESPN’s balance sheet is less significant than larger issues such as cord-cutting — much of ESPN’s revenue comes from the $8 it gets from each cable subscriber, and the network has lost some 15 million subscribers over the past eight years — or the billions it has committed to broadcast the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball..."

Big Tech Has Your Kid's Data - And You Probably Gave It To Them. Again, if the service is "free" - you (and your data/habits/preferences) are the product, as a story at Vox reminded me: "...A recent study focusing on the “datafication” of children and its possible consequences suggests these posts may be more problematic than we think. In late November, Anne Longfield, England’s children’s commissioner — tasked with promoting and protecting the rights of children — published a report titled “Who Knows What About Me,” which examines how big tech collects data on children and what the potential dangers can be. In the report, Longfield argues that parents are exposing their children’s data at an alarming rate. The report calculates that by the time a kid turns 18, there will be 70,000 posts about them on the internet. The report calls on parents and schools to examine the type of gadgets children play with, like smart speakers, wifi-powered toys, and gaming apps, all of which are collecting data on kids..."

10-Minute Test to See If You Have Cancer? The Guardian has encouraging news: "Scientists have developed a universal cancer test that can detect traces of the disease in a patient’s bloodstream. The cheap and simple test uses a colour-changing fluid to reveal the presence of malignant cells anywhere in the body and provides results in less than 10 minutes. While the test is still in development, it draws on a radical new approach to cancer detection that could make routine screening for the disease a simple procedure for doctors. “A major advantage of this technique is that it is very cheap and extremely simple to do, so it could be adopted in the clinic quite easily,” said Laura Carrascosa, a researcher at the University of Queensland..."

Image credit: National Cancer Institute.

The Silent Chinese Propaganda in Hollywood Films. Wait, what? Big Think explains: "...Supply and demand combined with strict controls on what movies get into China. At the time of writing, only 34 major American films are allowed into China each year using a quota system. Since China is the world's largest film market, getting into it is a very competitive business. Movies that the censors don't like aren't going to get in, giving them tremendous power over what money-chasing Hollywood executives are going to make. You can circumvent the quota system by co-producing the film with a Chinese firm, which makes it a domestic film for quota purposes. This method has lots of strings attached though, as it requires a movie to have a certain number of Chinese actors, filming locations in China itself, and the film cannot portray China as a villain..."

Image credit: "Jason Statham and Li Bingbig lead the cast of The MEG."

Dubai Launches Sail-Thru Supermarket for Yacht Owners. Taking wretched excess to an entirely new level. CNN Travel explains: "Behold, what is claimed as the world's first "sail-thru supermarket" -- a floating retail emporium ready to cater to anyone unwilling to leave the comfort of their yacht when picking up the groceries. The purpose-built ship, anchored out at sea, is the work of Dubai-based shopping mall Majid Al Futtaim. Customers have the choice of more than 300 snacks and treats from the vessel, which is a franchise of French retail giant Carrefour. Anyone passing by on a yacht or Jet Ski, can order and collect at the boat's window counter -- or order via app or phone call..."

Bacon Vending Machines are a Real Thing. Isn't this a great country? Star Tribune reports: "Ohio State University students can fuel up on pork as they study for finals. A bacon vending machine has been installed at the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences on the university’s Columbus campus. It offers cooked bacon strips and bacon bits for $1. The Ohio Pork Council sponsored the machine, and it received bacon donations from Smithfield, Hormel and Sugardale. Proceeds from the machine will go toward Ohio State’s meat science program. Members of the program will be responsible for machine maintenance. The machine will remain on campus until Dec. 13..."

Image credit: Ohio Pork Council.

27 F. Twin Cities high on Tuesday.

28 F. average high on December 11.

35 F. high on December 11, 2017.

December 12, 2004: A strong cold front pushes through Minnesota during the early morning hours. By dawn, winds turn to the northwest and increase to 25 to 40 MPH with gusts as high as 70 MPH. The windiest part of the day was from mid morning through mid afternoon when many locations suffered sustained winds in the 30 to 45 MPH range. The highest wind gusts recorded in southern Minnesota during this time included 71 MPH in Welch and 62 MPH near Albert Lea, St. James, Winthrop and Owatonna. Other notable wind gusts included 59 MPH at New Ulm, 58 MPH in Mankato, 55 MPH in St. Cloud and Morris, 54 MPH at Redwood Falls, and 52 MPH at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. Scattered trees were downed and a few buildings received minor roof damage across the region.

December 12, 1939: A December gale along the North Shore leads to winds clocked at 48 mph at Duluth.

WEDNESDAY: Air Quality Alert. AM flurries. Gray skies. Winds: SW 3-8. High: near 30

THURSDAY: Cloudy, light snow north and west of MSP. Winds: W 7-12. High: 33

FRIDAY: More clouds than sun, milder. Winds: W 7-12. Wake-up: 21. High: 36

SATURDAY: Sunny peeks, feels like November. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 25. High: 38

SUNDAY: Mix of clouds and some sun. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 28. High: 37

MONDAY: Intervals of sun, supernaturally quiet. Winds: SE 3-8. Wake-up: 23. High: 34

TUESDAY: Clouds increase, milder than average. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 27. High: 37

Climate Stories...

2019 May Be the Hottest Year Yet - Here's Why. National Geographic takes a look at how El Nino events can turbocharge the background warming that we're observing, worldwide: "...The impacts of El Niño have been more severe in recent years because of global warming, and these impacts will be worse as temperatures continue to rise, according to a recent study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “With an El Niño, it’s entirely possible 2019 will be the hottest year ever,” said co-author Samantha Stevenson, a climate scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The top four hottest years have been among the last four, 2015-2018, driven by increased emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2)—which have also reached record levels, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The Earth’s climate has been warmer than the 20th Century average over the last 406 consecutive months. That means no one under the age of 32 has ever experienced a cooler-than-average month..."

File image: Pete Schenck.

The Race to Understand Antarctica's Most Terrifying Glacier. puts the threat into perspective: "Few places in Antarctica are more difficult to reach than Thwaites Glacier, a Florida-sized hunk of frozen water that meets the Amundsen Sea about 800 miles west of McMurdo. Until a decade ago, barely any scientists had ever set foot there, and the glacier’s remoteness, along with its reputation for bad weather, ensured that it remained poorly understood. Yet within the small community of people who study ice for a living, Thwaites has long been the subject of dark speculation. If this mysterious glacier were to “go bad”—glaciologist-­speak for the process by which a glacier breaks down into icebergs and eventually collapses into the ocean—it might be more than a scientific curiosity. Indeed, it might be the kind of event that changes the course of civilization..."

Photo credit: "The Thwaites Glacier is collapsing into the sea. Now scientists are scrambling to answer two questions: When will it take the plunge? And what will it take to save our coastal cities?" Jeremy Harbeck/NASA.

At Climate Summit in Poland, Trump Team Pushes Fossil Fuels. The Star Tribune reports: "Trump administration officials at high-stakes climate talks here offered an unapologetic defense of fossil fuels Monday, arguing that a rapid retreat from coal, oil and gas was unrealistic. While that stance brought scorn from environmentalists and countries that favor stronger action to fight global warming, there are signs that the administration is finding a receptive audience among other major fossil-fuel producers, including Russia, Saudi Arabia and Australia. President Donald Trump’s international energy and climate adviser, Wells Griffith, hosted a panel discussion on fossil fuels at the U.N. conference, arguing that the developing world would be heavily reliant on coal, oil and gas for some time and that it was in the world’s interest to find more efficient ways of developing and burning those fuels..."

Photo credit: "Karolina Jonderko – New York Times. "Protesters disrupt a panel discussion on fossil fuels that Wells Griffith, President Donald Trump's international energy and climate adviser, was hosting at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Katowice, Poland."

Why Greens Are Turning Away From a Carbon Tax. A story at Politico caught my eye: "...The story of the carbon tax’s fading appeal, even among groups that like it in principle, shows the difficulties of crafting a politically palatable solution to one of the world’s most urgent problems — including greenhouse gas levels that are on track to reach a record high this year. “This aversion to taxes in the U.S. is high and should not be underestimated,” said Kalee Kreider, a former Gore adviser and longtime climate activist. “I have a lot of scars to show for that.” “I fear that the idea of a carbon tax is turning out to be a heavier lift than people envision," said RL Miller, founder of the advocacy group Climate Hawks Vote. "As it is right now, starting from scratch, there is no constituency for it. ... And I think the climate movement needs to go through some rethinking..."

Photo credit: "Even some progressives who support a carbon tax, such as Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are selling it as a possible element of a strategy that includes pouring money into renewable energy." Jae C. Hong/AP Photo.

Young Evangelicals Want Climate Action - Republicans Should Pay Attention. An Op-Ed at The Christian Post includes the following excerpt: "...A rising generation of conservative voters—Millennials and Generation Z—have been coming of age and overwhelmingly support clean energy investment and curbing the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. And young evangelicals have been standing up by the thousands on campuses, in churches, and in countless communities to demand that our lawmakers reflect the gospel values of compassion, justice, and stewardship in their climate policies. It’s been the conventional political wisdom for decades that the evangelical community in the U.S. overwhelmingly identifies with the policies and rhetoric of the Republican party. The fact that 81% of white evangelicals who voted in the 2016 election threw their support behind Trump was simply the latest confirmation. With 36% of registered voters identifying as “born again” or “evangelical”, that’s a sizeable chunk of voters that Republicans are smart to keep happy..."

Photo credit: Reuters/Ivan Alvarado.

Climate Change is Killing Our Patients. The Seattle Times has a review of new research: "A recent report from The Lancet, the world’s most widely read medical journal, along with recent October reports from the U.S. Climate Assessment and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) all confirm what we and other physicians are seeing in Washington and beyond — climate change is harming and killing our patients today. The numbers are striking. The Lancet’s global research team reports that 157 million more vulnerable people experienced heat waves and attendant health risks in 2017 than in 2000. Pollution from particulate matter, a key component of wildfire smoke and vehicle exhaust, contributed to 2.9 million premature deaths in 2015 alone. Vector-borne disease, food shortages and mental-health impacts are becoming more prevalent and will continue to do so..."

What's the Difference Between Global Warming and Climage Change? NOAA's division has a good explainer; here's an excerpt: "...Today’s global warming is overwhelmingly due to the increase in heat-trapping gases that humans are adding to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. In fact, over the last five decades, natural factors (solar forcing and volcanoes) would actually have led to a slight cooling of Earth’s surface temperature. Global warming is also different from past warming in its rate. The current increase in global average temperature appears to be occurring much faster than at any point since modern civilization and agriculture developed in the past 11,000 years or so—and probably faster than any interglacial warm periods over the last million years..."

Image credit: "Temperatures over most of the past 2000 years compared to the 1961-1990 average, based on proxy data (tree rings, ice cores, corals) and modern thermometer-based data. Over the past two millenia, climate warmed and cooled, but no previous warming episodes appear to have been as large and abrupt as recent global warming." NOAA graph by Fiona Martin, adapted from Figure 34.5 in the National Climate Assessment, based on data from Mann et al., 2008.

The Truth About These Climate Change Numbers. Jeff Goodell has a sobering update at RollingStone: "It's often argued that climate change is not a technological or engineering problem, it is a political problem. And it’s true. We have all the technology we need to power the world with renewables and stave off the worst of climate chaos. What we lack is the political will to take the kind of moonshot-scale action necessary to accomplish it. But climate change is also a numbers problem. Every ton of carbon that we dump into the atmosphere stays there for hundreds of years, warming the atmosphere and reshaping the future climate. As the recent IPCC report pointed out, to avoid the worst of climate chaos, the world needs to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Accomplishing that would require not just a remaking of our energy system, but profound changes in agriculture, the design of cities and transportation systems. It is possible to imagine how a revolution like this might happen, but it’s even easier to imagine how it would not..."

Human-Induced Climate Change Makes Heat Waves 30 Times More Likely. At least in the UK, according to a post at "Human-induced climate change has made the United Kingdom's record-breaking 2018 summer heatwave around 30 times more likely than under normal conditions, the country's meteorological body has said. The UK as a whole endured its joint hottest summer on record in 2018, and the hottest ever for England. Temperatures peaked in the east of England, reaching 35.6C (96F) in Felsham, Suffolk on July 27, and the UK's average temperature matched previous highs recorded in 2006, 2003 and 1976. A new analysis from the UK's national weather service, the Met Office, presented at the United Nations' COP24 climate change conference in Katowice, Poland Thursday, has shown that the UK now has an approximately 12% chance of average summer temperatures being as high as in 2018..."

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