A Cool, Quiet Christmas - Snow Chance Next Week

"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness" wrote John Steinbeck.

Our December thaw reaches its 8th consecutive day today. It looks a little like Tulsa out there now; the 3 inches of December snow fell the first 2 days of this month. What little snow we had is vanishing before our eyes. This may be the first brown Christmas since 2015 in the metro area.

According to NOAA, Christmas in the Twin Cities can be a wild affair: nearly 10 inches fell on December 25, 1945. The mercury hit 51F in 1922, but on Christmas morning of 1879 MSP woke up to -39F.

Temperatures cool off into the weekend, and long range models bring a few swipes of numbing air into Minnesota the last few days of 2018. Not quite polar, but a bit of a reality check.

Saturday's clipper may drop a couple inches on northern Minnesota, with flurries in the metro. A dry sky the first half of next week gives rise to a more significant chance of accumulating snow next Thursday. A few inches may fall, but it's premature for details.

Yes Virginia, Santa is coming, snow or no snow. 


ECMWF Snowfall by Sunday Evening. The 12z Wednesday European model prints out a couple inches of snow for the Red River Valley; maybe an inch or so for the Brainerd and Alexandria Lakes area, but little more than a dusting or coating from Saturday's clipper for the MSP metro. Map: WeatherBell.




A Zonal Flip? Once again the GFS model is flip-flopping back and forth between a mild Pacific flow and a colder (arctic) pattern for the first few days of 2019. If the guidance above comes close to verifying it may not get that cold as we sail into January. Either way, it's an especially low-confidence 2-week peek over the horizon.

Rare December Tornado Rips Into Seattle Area. Capital Weather Gang takes a look at an unusual meteorological event: "It looked more like Kansas than Washington state Tuesday afternoon, as a powerful tornado tore through Seattle’s western suburb of Port Orchard. The twister caused major damage to at least one group of homes. According to local media, about 50 structures were damaged. The tornado also blew down many trees and caused power outages in the area. Thus far, there have been no reports of serious injuries. The tornado struck right around 2 p.m. local time as a vigorous atmospheric disturbance from the Pacific punched ashore. It originated from large vortex near Alaska that has kicked up massive waves on the West Coast in recent days..."

Strongest Washington State Tornado Since 1986? Fox News has details.


Are You Dreaming of a White Christmas? At least this year - dream on. Here's an excerpt of a post at NOAA: "Minnesota. Maine. Upstate New York. The Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Practically anywhere in Idaho. And of course, the Rockies or the Sierra Nevada Mountains. These are the parts of the Lower 48* where weather history suggests you want to be if you're looking for the best chance of a white Christmas. The map at right shows the historic probability of there being at least 1 inch of snow on the ground in the Lower 48 states on December 25 based on the latest (1981-2010) U.S. Climate Normals from NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). The background map shows interpolated values for all locations..."



White Christmas Calculator. This is pretty cool - just plug in your town and you get updated odds, courtesy of Omni.


Warm Pacific Ocean, But No Corresponding Change in Weather & Climate Patterns. El Nino in the Pacific is not "coupled", according to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology: "...The term El Niño–Southern Oscillation refers to the interaction between the tropical Pacific Ocean ("El Niño") and its overlying atmosphere ("Southern Oscillation"), which together produce a global influence on weather and climate. While tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are currently at El Niño levels, atmospheric indicators—such as cloudiness, pressure patterns, the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) and trade winds—have generally remained neutral. This means that the ocean and atmosphere are not reinforcing each other, known as coupling. It is this coupling that defines and sustains an ENSO event, and results in widespread shifts in global weather and climate..."

File image: NOAA.


MnDOT Program Uses Living Fences to Combat Icy Crashes. I had no idea - The Star Tribune has details: "...Unknown to thousands of motorists speeding along the busy thoroughfare every day, Kornder’s standing corn rows are a critical part of a Minnesota Department of Transportation program to combat snow blowing onto the highway. The wall of corn acts as a natural fence of sorts, blocking snow from fanning across the road — and keeping cars from careening out of control on icy patches of the rural roadway southwest of the Twin Cities. “Even without a snowstorm, if you get the wrong wind and then get blowing snow, it would still pack on the highway and you would have a lot of accidents,” Kornder said. “One day I counted 17 cars in a ditch near my house...”

Photo credit: "Ted Kornder is a farmer who is working with MnDOT to maintain a living fence along Hwy. 169 in Belle Plaine. In Kornder’s case, it’s several rows of corn, which prevents snow from blowing across the busy roadway." RICHARD TSONG-TAATARII


Artificial Intelligence Helps Predict Volcanic Eruptions. Promising new techniques highlighted at Science AAAS: "...There were simply too few examples to learn from, says Fabien Albino, a volcanologist who works with Biggs at Bristol. “For machine learning, 100 is nothing. They want thousands and thousands.” To overcome that problem, Biggs and her colleagues create a synthetic data set of computer-simulated eruptions, generated for a few known physical patterns. These synthetic data dropped the fraction of false positives from some 60% to 20%, as they reported today at the AGU meeting. That trend will only continue to get better as more Sentinel examples are poured into the algorithm, Albino says. “The system is just going to tune like Google, [inputting] millions of cats and dogs, and afterward the system knows. It doesn’t have to learn anymore. It’s stable...”

File image: NASA.


Why 536 Was "The Worst Year to be Alive". If you say so, but this comes from Science Magazine; here's an excerpt: "...A mysterious fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months. "For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year," wrote Byzantine historian Procopius. Temperatures in the summer of 536 fell 1.5°C to 2.5°C, initiating the coldest decade in the past 2300 years. Snow fell that summer in China; crops failed; people starved. The Irish chronicles record "a failure of bread from the years 536–539." Then, in 541, bubonic plague struck the Roman port of Pelusium, in Egypt. What came to be called the Plague of Justinian spread rapidly, wiping out one-third to one-half of the population of the eastern Roman Empire and hastening its collapse, McCormick says..."

Photo credit: "An 72-meter ice core drilled in the Colle Gnifetti Glacier in the Swiss Alps entombs more than 2000 years of fallout from volcanoes,  storms, and human pollution." NICOLE SPAULDING/CCI FROM C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL., ANTIQUITY 10.15184, 4, 2018.


DC Goes 100% by 2032:  Headlines and links via Climate Nexus: "Yesterday legislators from the Nation's capital passed the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act of 2018, which requires that 100 percent of the city's electricity come from clean energy by 2032. That makes it the strongest such provision in the nation. It also provides incentives for electric vehicles, creates energy efficiency standards for buildings, and then puts a price on fossil fuel use for electricity and home-heating oil. This carbon revenue will be spent on clean energy loans, social programs for low income residents, and more efficiency programs." (HuffPost, Mother Jones, The Hill, Think Progress, Earther, Washington Examiner).


The "Green New Deal" is a Popular Mystery to Voters. Axios has the post: "A survey from Yale and George Mason universities finds that respondents really like the "Green New Deal," a sweeping climate and economic proposal being pushed by a growing number of Democrats under the leadership of progressive newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Details: 81% of registered voters either "strongly" or "somewhat" support these features of the deal: a move to 100% renewable power within 10 years, upgrades to grid and other infrastructure, and job training. This includes nearly two-thirds of Republican respondents..."


Algorithmic Catastrophe: How News Feeds Reprogram Your Mind and Habits. Uh oh. A post at Big Think explains a lot: "...A filter bubble is your own personal universe of information that's been generated by algorithms that are trying to guess what you're interested in. And increasingly online we live in these bubbles. They follow us around. They form part of the fabric of most websites that we visit and I think we're starting to see how they're creating some challenges for democracy. We've always chosen media that conforms to our address and read newspapers or magazines that in some way reflect what we're interested in and who we want to be. But the age of kind of the algorithmically mediated media is really different in a couple of ways. One way is it's not something that we know that we're choosing..."


The Bright Green "Christmas Comet" Will Fly Closest to Earth in Centuries. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "Look into the night sky on Sunday and you just might see a bright, fuzzy ball with a greenish-gray tint. That’s because a comet that orbits between Jupiter and the sun will make its closest approach to Earth in centuries, right on the heels of this year’s most stunning meteor shower. “The fuzziness is just because it’s a ball of gas basically,” Tony Farnham, a research scientist in the astronomy department at the University of Maryland, said on Saturday morning after a long night studying the comet at the Discovery Channel Telescope, about 40 miles southeast of Flagstaff, Ariz. “You’ve got a one-kilometer solid nucleus in the middle, and gas is going out hundreds of thousands of miles...”

Image credit: NASA and Alex Cherney (Terrastro, TWAN).

In-The-Sky.org has details on where you can see the comet from your location.


Package Thief Vs. Glitter Bomb Track. This guy is my hero. Sick of having packages stolen from your front porch? Check out what this guy did in a suburb of Chicago. Brilliant. 11 minute YouTube clip here. If you need a laugh - check it out.


Diner Finds Pearl In His Oyster Dish. AP News explains: "A lucky diner says he happened upon a pearl while eating an oyster dish at a famous New York City restaurant.Rick Antosh was out to lunch with a friend and ordered his usual at the Grand Central Oyster Bar on Dec. 5 — the $14.75 pan roast, a stew-like dish that includes six oysters. The 66-year-old tells the New York Post that he felt a small object rolling around his mouth after diving into the dish. “For a fraction of a second, there was terror,” Antosh told the Post. “Is it a tooth? Is it a filling?” The Edgewater, New Jersey, resident says it turned out to be a pea-sized pearl. He has not had the prize appraised..."


20 Best Christmas Movies Of All Time? Mental Floss has a pretty good list: "...We all have our own lineup of movies, old and more recent, that instantly leaps to mind when you think of Christmas. Movies that you watch on repeat without fail this time of year. Movies that have achieved Christmas immortality. Here are the 20 best movies that capture the heart of Christmas (in alphabetical order, as we love them all too much to play total favorites)..."


Trace of snow on the ground as of Wednesday morning.

42 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

26 F. average high on December 19.

38 F. high on December 19, 2017.

December 20, 1989: Minnesotans are hard pressed to find snow cover across most of the state. Only good places to cross country ski are at Grand Marais and along the Gunflint Trail.


THURSDAY: Early flakes, gray & windy. Winds: NW 15-25. High: 35

FRIDAY: Partly sunny with less wind. Winds: N 5-10. High: 32

SATURDAY: Metro flurries. Couple inches Red River Valley. Winds: SE 7-12. Wake-up: 21. High: near 30

SUNDAY: More clouds than sun, dry. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 23. High: 31

CHRISTMAS EVE: Plenty of cool sunshine. Winds: N 5-10. Wake-up: 20. High: 33

CHRISTMAS DAY: Intervals of sun, dry Christmas. Winds: NE 5-10. Wake-up: 21. High: 32

WEDNESDAY: Clouds increase, wet snow late? Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 20. High: 33


Climate Stories...

What Would Jesus Do? Talking With Evangelicals About Climate Change. The Guardian has the story: "...I can’t help but imagine the sheer impact a faith-based movement could have on expediting climate action. Scott Coleman agrees. “I think that if our faith leaders in the south were more outspoken about the importance of creation care, it would go a long way in helping to depoliticize environmental issues in our region,” he says. “And if we could depoliticize environmental stewardship in the south, imagine the progress we could make with elevating environmental stewardship in southern culture.” I spoke with people of faith in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, and it became clear that the primary barrier to climate action is the fact that it’s been yoked with the liberal agenda. Climate activist and author Anna Jane Joyner, whose father is the pastor of a megachurch in North Carolina, writes that she grew up lumping “environmentalists in with hippies and liberals and all the other people who were probably going to hell”...

Image credit: "What would Jesus do?" Illustration: Eiko Ojala.


Exxon Mobil Opposes Weakening Obama-Era Emissions Rules: Letter to EPA. A story at Reuters caught my eye: "Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in support of methane gas emission rules put in place under the Obama administration, according to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters. The administration of President Donald Trump in September proposed weakening requirements for repairing leaks of the greenhouse gas in drilling operations in a step toward rolling back an Obama-era policy that was intended to combat climate change. “We support maintaining the key elements of the underlying regulation, such as leak detection and repair programs,” Exxon Vice President Gantt Walton said in the letter dated on Monday..."

Image credit: "The logo of Exxon Mobil Corporation is shown on a monitor above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, December 30, 2015." REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo.


The World Faces Rising Costs of Climate Change as Oil Prices Drop. Forbes explains: "In the last few weeks, two important climate reports were released – the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) and the UN Emissions Gap Report 2018. Both studies highlight the risks of rising greenhouse gas emission (GHG) concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere, and the potential consequences should these trends continue. The threats posed by a warming world are not just dangerous for the climate-dependent sectors of our economy (crops, livestock, and global fisheries), but bad for global security as well. The Trump Administration’s Pentagon calls climate change a ‘threat multiplier’ because it aggravates pre-existing societal stress factors..."

Hurricane Harvey file image: Fox News.


Americans Show Growing Support for Climate-Change Policies, Poll Says. The Wall Street Journal has details: "...Some 66% of poll respondents said some action was needed to address climate change, about the same share as in several past Journal/NBC surveys. The 45% share calling for immediate action was the highest since the survey began asking the question in 1999 and compares with 39% who supported immediate action in 2017. The urgency of the issue is viewed differently within each political party. Seventy-one percent of Democrats and 48% of independents see combating climate change as an immediate concern, while only 15% of Republicans do—the same share of Republicans who supported immediate action nearly 20 years ago, in a 1999 survey..."


How Corn Farmers Are Adapting to Climate Change. A post from ABC News caught my eye: "...U.S. farmers today harvest five to six times more corn per acre than their predecessors 100 years ago. Yields of other crops and in other parts of the world have also ballooned -- though not quite as dramatically. Despite a fast-growing human population, the number of food-deprived people around the globe fell year after year until 2014. After years of decline, that number has ticked up every year since. One critical factor is fickle weather, which remains largely outside of modern technological control. Farmers worldwide rely on temperatures warm enough to stimulate fast plant growth, but just cool enough to avoid parching crops. Many productive agricultural regions hover near that optimum, meaning small temperature increases could seriously stress crops -- especially if accompanied by drought..."

File image: Star Tribune.


Is There a Connection to Extreme Weather Events and Our Warming Climate. Meteorologist Don Paul reports for The Buffalo News: "...In 2017, a deadly heat wave in southern Europe brought record triple digit highs for days to the Balkans and Italy, and debilitating nighttime lows in the upper 80s. The authors calculate such extreme heat waves are now three times more likely to occur than in the 1950s. Similar extreme heat is now more likely even in northeast China than it had been in the 1950s. Again, the stalled inland tropical cyclones, extreme rainfall events and more severe heat waves do have a tie-in to the decline in Arctic sea ice, as mentioned previously. The well-forecast arctic warming is now likely the cause for more common atmospheric blocking of systems like Harvey that normally move along, due to the weakened jet stream from the warming. And, the warming is giving such systems significantly more water vapor to work with, from more evaporation..."


The Southwest May Be Deep Into a Climate-Changed Mega-Drought. The Atlantic explores the implications of new research: "...According to research unveiled last week, mega-droughts may no longer be history. On Thursday, a team of climate scientists argued that the American West may currently be experiencing its first mega-drought in more than 500 years. A record-breaking period of aridity set in around the year 2000 and continues to this day, they said. “The last 19 years have been equivalent to the worst 19 years of the worst mega-droughts on record,” said Park Williams, a professor of bioclimatology at Columbia University, at a presentation of the work. Only three recent mega-droughts—in the late 800s, the mid-1100s, and the late 1500s—were worse than the current period, he added..."

Photo credit: "The current western drought has caused a huge increase in the land area burned by wildfires, such as this one in Fallbrook, California, in 2014." Sandy Huffaker / Reuters.


What Pause? Weather and climate never (ever) moves in a perfectly straight line - more of a 'stair step' when it comes to warming across the planet. No, the warming hasn't "paused". Greg Laden has a good explainer in his blog: "...Here, I’ve plotted one of the widely used data sets of the Earth’s surface temperature, the one maintained by NASA, from 1960 to the present. The blue box shows the period sometimes called, incorrectly, the “hiatus” or “pause” in global warming. That high spike at the beginning of the box is the aforementioned El Nino year. You can see that temperatures do continue to climb, but the overall effect is somewhat anemic. Then, of course, temperatures start to climb again, in a surge that makes the pause seem puny. I’ve also indicated the period of time during which climate science deniers talked most about the pause, based on the mentions in the Wikipedia article on it..."


Using Penguin Poop to Track Changes in Climate. Sounds like a fascinating hands-on experiment. Gulp. Here's an excerpt from Mother Jones: "...Knowing what, and how much, five million breeding pairs of Adélie penguins are eating is important because it tells researchers how the base of the food chain is doing. The population of tiny krill appears to be crashing on the western side of the Antarctic peninsula, the 800-mile thumb that sticks up toward the tip of South America. Rapidly warming, changing climactic conditions as well as a huge increase in industrial-scale fishing, have taken a toll on these small crustaceans..."

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