Finally: Hints of March
Well, at least snow lovers are content. Not nearly as many (flaming) e-mails from irate snowmobilers wondering where to drive their sleds to see snow. That's an improvement.
An extended stay from the Polar Vortex is treating the continental U.S. to the coldest winter since 1979; the 3rd coldest on record, to date. A real winter. The same stagnant, mostly-stalled jet stream is sparking record drought across California, biblical storms for Britain, a springlike February across Europe - along with shirtsleeves & surplus slush for Sochi, Russia.
For the first time in 20 days we surge above 32F today. Some towns may see the first 40F high since January 12. A poignant reminder of a higher sun angle, making it harder to get extreme, school-closing cold fronts by late February.
Lows slip below zero again early next week, but it won't be anything like January's Siberian Smack. Enjoy a partial thaw into Thursday, but keep heavier coats handy for the weekend. No big snows brewing; cold air from the weekend into much of next week will push the storm track well south of Minnesota. Some light accumulation is possible Thursday - maybe a couple inches.
Kent from Eden Prairie writes: "Hey Paul, I witnessed at least 10 fat robins in the midday sun hopping from branch to branch under a marvelous blue sky. Are these birds crazy and confused?"
Yep. Join the crowd.
Monday Morning Amounts. Some clipper-like storms are more fickle than others. Yesterday's snow burst dumped nearly half a foot of snow from near Lake Minnetonka and Shakopee westward to Waconia, while White Bear Lake reported 1", 3.5" at Woodbury and 2-5" for the downtowns. The latest amounts from the Twin Cities NWS are here.
Bring Out Your Dead! O.K. If you're not a Monty Python fan you probably think I've lost my mind, which, under the circumstances, is quite possible. Maybe ring the church bells? More PC. If nothing else go ahead and exhale - for the first time in 20 days the mercury should rise well into the 30s to near 40F, in spite of the 15" snow on the ground in the Twin Cities. 3 pm 2 meter NAM predicted temperatures courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather.
A Precious Puff of Pacific Air. Canadian air will be in full retreat, at least for the next 48-72 hours as a more westerly kink in the jet stream blows milder air across the USA. The solid red line marks the 32F isotherm, which pushes as far north as Duluth and Grand Rapids, Michigan in the coming days. 50s stream up the East Coast by Friday ahead of the next cold frontal passage.
84-Hour Snow Potential. Thursday's storm system may drop another plowable snow from northern Iowa into southeast Minnesota and much of Wisconsin. It's still early to be assigning inch-amounts, but if you're traveling into the Upper Midwest late Wednesday into Thursday you may run into some slushy delays. 2-4" of snow may drop on New York City and Boston this morning, a taste of spring in the air by late week. NAM snowfall numbers: NOAA and Ham Weather.
A More Ominous Sign of Spring. NOAA SPC (Storm Prediction Center) is predicting a slight risk of a severe weather outbreak from near South Bend to Memphis and Little Rock Thursday, shifting to the East Coast by Friday - with enough low level moisture, wind shear and instability to support supercell T-storms capable of large hail, straight-line wind damage, even an isolated tornado. What's ironic is that there's still snow on the ground over much of the Ohio Valley. Talk about weather whiplash.
European Numbers. Highs should rise up 32F each afternoon into Thursday, followed by a cooling trend by late week, a couple more subzero lows possible early next week. Cold, but not school-closing cold. Graph: Weatherspark.
Evidence Of A Higher Sun Angle. We'll see more cold fronts (take it to the bank), but the odds of subzero daytime highs drop rapidly as we enter March - the sun is just too high in the southern sky for the level of cold we saw in January and even early Febraury. GFS numbers shows 30s the first 5 days of March, even a shot at 40F. That would be nice.
Third Coldest U.S. Winter On Record For USA? Here's an excerpt from Steven Goddard: "If February ended today, this would be the third coldest winter on record in the US, after 1979 and 1899."
The Winter of All or Nothing. Flood or drought, record warmth or record chill? A stalled kink in the jet stream steering winds is creating chaos and unusual anomalies of moisture and temperature across the Northern Hemisphere; the topic of today's Climate Matters: "WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas goes over the historically cold meteorological winter the Lower 48 has been experiencing. Lots of snow, lots of ice, and bone chilling temps were all par for the course this winter. But Spring is around the corner! Just because the US has been cold, what has the temperature trend been around the globe? Find out what a stuck jet stream has to do with it all."
Warming Arctic May Be Causing Jet Stream To Lose Its Way. Echoing trends I've been seeing since roughly 2010-2011, NPR reports on how changes in far northern latitudes may be showing up in the skies floating above your house; here's an excerpt: "...The temperature difference between the Arctic and lower latitudes is one of the main sources of fuel for the jet stream; it's what drives the winds. And because the Arctic is warming so fast, that temperature difference is getting smaller, and so the fuel for the jet stream is getting weaker," Francis says. "When it gets into this pattern, those big waves tend to stay in the same place for some time. The pattern we've seen in December and January has been one of these very wavy patterns..."
Image credit above: "The jet stream that circles Earth's north pole travels west to east. But when the jet stream interacts with a Rossby wave, as shown here, the winds can wander far north and south, bringing frigid air to normally mild southern states." NASA/GSFC.
A Surplus Of Ice. Photographer Steve Burns captured this remarkable photo of the ice-covered North Shore of Lake Superior Sunday morning. Check out his gallery here.
Chest-Thumping Warmth Across Arizona. Are you hearing anything from your long-lost friends down in Phoenix, Scottsdale or Tucson? Expect a call, text or tweet, because near-record warmth continues. Must be nice. Graphic: Phoenix office of The National Weather Service.
At Sochi Olympics, Finding Risk Is Snow Problem. No shortage of lukewarm slush on the slopes of Sochi. In the city of Sochi itself there are days when I ask myself "Winter or Summer Olympics?" Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "The snow around here looks like soup, a creamy bisque that seems harmless enough until the athletes plunge into it and find the hard crags of the Caucasus beneath, which is when the medics race out. The sounds of the Sochi Games are a whack and the clatter of boards and skis, followed by wails — or worse, a terrible stillness. The mounting crash toll includes a broken back, a broken jaw and an assortment of head injuries. The logo for this Olympics ought to be a stretcher..."
Photo credit above: "Rain drops hang on a railing at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. After days of warm weather at the Sochi Olympics, fog up in the mountains is causing an even bigger disturbance.Thick fog rolled in over the mountains in Krasnaya Polyana on Sunday night and was still lingering on Monday, and the limited visibility forced organizers to delay a biathlon race and cancel the seeding runs in a snowboard event." (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth).
A Mad Dash For Salt Rescues Olympic Slopes. This sounds like the plot for a (bad) made-for-TV-movie of the week, but it's true. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "...Homeowners use salt to melt ice on the sidewalk, but Alpine experts cleverly use it to overcome soft snow conditions when a hard, icy surface is preferable. The salt melts the soft snow, and when the temperature drops — usually overnight — a layer of ice forms. Large-grain salt, about five millimeters in size, is best for soft, deep snow, because it drops farther into the snow and lasts for days, not hours..."
Photo credit above: "A referee throws salt on the track prior to the men's biathlon 20k individual race, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man).
Can Anybody Save California? Politico has the article; here's an excerpt: "...The mega-drought is pitting farmers against fishermen, north against south and, of course, Democrats against Republicans. But that’s frequently the case in California, which has battled for more than a century over how to allocate too little water for too many people. The dry landscape adds another layer of rancor, and with the planet heating up and fueling bigger, longer and more severe droughts, that’s likely to be a permanent fixture. How state and federal lawmakers respond to the crisis could offer a window into how the United States writ large will react to climate events in real time—and so far, the politics appear too small for the task..."
While Britain Floods, Politicians Debate Climate Change. Time Magazine has a good overview of historic flooding gripping the U.K., and how it's unleashed a political firestorm of debate. Here's a clip: "Britons are normally never more comfortable than when talking about the weather, but recent extreme weather events have began to test that theory. Since December, the U.K. has faced a relentless assault from some of the worst winter weather on record. It began with the worst storm and tidal surges in 60 years hitting the North Sea coastline, floods that ruined Christmas for thousands across Surrey and Dorset and in January, the most exceptional period of rainfall since 1766. The deluge has transformed swathes of southern England into cold, dark lakes, destroying homes and businesses, and in some cases taking lives..."
Photo credit above: "Flood water surrounds homes in Shepperton, Surrey, England, as Royal Engineers are now being tasked to carry out a high-speed assessment of damage to the UK's flood defense infrastructure, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014. The military could have been brought in earlier to help deal with the winter storms that have been wracking Britain, a Cabinet minister has admitted. As the weather finally gave the country a respite, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond defended the Government's handling of the crisis." (AP Photo/PA, Steve Parsons).
More Heat Is Going Into The Ocean. Really. The experiment continues, and we're not really sure how the deep-ocean heating will manifest itself with weather. Here's an excerpt of a post from Simon Donner: "You may have heard climate scientists, myself included, state that “global warming” has indeed continued with little interruption over the past 10-15 years, but that more of the heat trapped in the climate system by greenhouse gases has been “going into the ocean”. This is not the rhetoric of irrational climate alarmists. This is what the measurements show. The human enhancement of the greenhouse effect has reduced the outgoing radiation to space and increased the energy content of the climate system, as is shown on the graph (above)...."
Graphic credit above: "Change in energy content of different components of the climate system." (IPCC, 2013).
Viewpoints: Fracking During The Drought Is Destructive and Irresponsible. The Sacramento Bee has an Op-Ed that caught my eye; here's a clip: "...Fracking is a triple threat to California’s water. Not only does it exacerbate the climate crisis, it requires mixing vast amounts of water with harmful chemicals, and it puts our vital aquifers at risk of contamination for generations. Last week, the green investment group Ceres released a report that found that 96 percent of fracking wells in California were drilled in regions under high or extremely high water stress..."
Photo credit above: "This Feb. 14, 2014 photo shows a freeway sign in Los Angeles advising motorists to save water because of the state's severe drought. This week the California Department of Transportation launched an education campaign with 700 electronic highway boards displaying the message: "Serious Drought. Help Save Water."