"Paul, where should I turn: local TV meteorologists, computer models, or plowing companies, who seem to have some of the best information?" All of the above.
Take all the snowfall predictions and divide by 2. That will be closer to reality.
Beware of models; they're only as good as the physics involved, and the quality of weather data feeding these simulations. The art is knowing which model to believe, and when. I've discovered (the hard way) that it's better to be conservative with snowfall predictions. Because Mother Nature always finds a new and creative way to trip you up.
Travel won't be a problem today; a surge of snow pushes in from the south late tonight. Rush hour tomorrow may be anything but with some 2-5 inch amounts possible (over 6" parts of southern MN).
As I've mentioned in the past - the air temperature during a storm is as important as "how many inches?" I expect 20-25 F tomorrow, a colder snow. Wheel tracking glazing, from traffic compacting snow, may result in glaze ice, especially Friday AM.
The storm next Tuesday doesn't look quite as impressive; a couple inches of slushier snow?
This may be one of the best weekends of winter to get out and PLAY in that snow!
Dueling Models. Here is the GFS solution, courtesy of Ham Weather, showing the heaviest amounts (3-5") over southeastern Minnesota. Some 4-8" snowfall amounts are likely over Iowa, with 15-20" amounts centered on southern Nebraska and Kansas.
NAM: Slightly More Aggressive With Snow Totals. Both ECMWF and NNAM are predicting just over .30" liquid. If the air temperature was 30-32 that would equate into about 3" of slushy snow. With temperatures tomorrow forecast to be in the low to mid 20s, there will be more air between the flakes, a slightly drier, more powdery snowfall, so we could still see 5" from this system, even though most of the moisture and energy will pass south of MSP.
* State of Emergency declared in Kansas City; snow falling at the rate of 2"/hour with thunder/lightning. Details.
A Tale Of Two Snowfalls. The predicted rain/snow ratio Friday is forecast to be 1:15 to 1:17, meaning 15" of snow for every inch of liquid precipitation. The latest NAM prints out about .37", which equates to 4-5", give or take. The best chance of 4-5" will probably come over the south metro. Another (wetter, slushier) snowfall is possible Tuesday of next week.
Track: A Bit Too Far South/East. A perfect storm track for significant snow at MSP runs from DSM (Des Moines) to La Crosse to EAU (Eau Claire). The predicted track with tomorrow's storm will be about 150 miles to far south east for the heaviest snow bands to set up right over the metro, but I still believe we'll be brushed by a few inches, probably enough to shovel/plow.
Grazed. The serious snows pile up over the Central Plains; this next pulse of moisture/energy weakening a bit as it pushes north late tonight and Friday. It'll still be a few inches, but no cause for panic. That said, it doesn't take much snow to gum up the freeways, and rush hour Friday morning will be rougher than usual.
Next Week's Storm: Few Inches (Probably Not A Major Storm). Thhe latest ECMWF (European) model pushes the track of the next storm a little too far south/east of MSP (again) for heavy snow. We may pick up a few inches of sloppy, slushy snow, temperatures closer to freezing may keep freeways mostly wet. Too early to tell.
Ski Scottsdale. O.K. It would have been rough, but possible Wednesday, at least in theory. Sleet and Arizona is not a good combination. From Lorinda Mishek: "While I was out today by our old townhouse a storm came up and within 20 minutes we had 2 inches of sleet. People stopped in the iddle of the freeway trying to clean off the cars and one young driver got out of her car, crying, not knowing what to do. Blocked traffic for miles!"
More Blizzards, Yet Less Snow Overall? I know it sounds like a disconnect, but it's the same trend we're seeing during the summer month: storms spaced farther apart, more time in-between rain events, but when it does decide to rain it comes down in buckets, torrents - tropical deluges. According to the Minnesota Climate Office southern Minnesota has experienced 3 separate 1-in-1,000 flash floods just since 2004. I could see one, but three? These trends are now spilling over into winter months, the result of a warmer atmosphere above to hold more water vapor. Basic physics. Here are more climate science details in today's 2.30 WeatherNation Update.
$188 Billion Price Tag From U.S. Severe Weather From 2011 To 2012. Climate Progress and beforeitsnews.com have the story; here's an excerpt: "The United States was subjected to many severe climate-related extreme weather over the past two years. In 2011 there were 14 extreme weather events — floods, drought, storms, and wildfires — that each caused at least $1 billion in damage. There were another 11 such disasters in 2012. Most of these extreme weather events reflect part of the unpaid bill from climate change — a tab that will only grow over time...."
- 67 percent of U.S. counties and 43 states were affected by “billion-dollar damage” extreme weather events in 2011 and 2012.
- 1,107 fatalities resulted from these 25 extreme weather events in 2011 and 2012.
- Up to $188 billion in damage was caused by these severe weather events in 2011 and 2012.
- $50,346.58 was the average household income in counties declared a disaster due to these weather events—3 percent below the U.S. median household income of $51,914. 
- 356 all-time high temperature records were broken in 2012.
- 34,008 daily high temperature records were set or tied throughout 2012, compared to just 6,664 daily record lows—a ratio of 5-to-1.
- 19 states had their warmest year ever in 2012.
Budget Cuts Threaten Weather Forecasts, NOAA Warns. Here's a clip of a story from Climate Central and Huffington Post that made me do a double-take: "Automatic budget cuts set to take effect March 1 could add to the woes of the federal government’s troubled weather satellite programs, jeopardizing future forecasts, a top official said Friday. “It’s not going to be pretty,” outgoing National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco said of the package of across-the-board spending cuts known as “sequestration.” “The sequester has the potential to wreak havoc with so many different things, and satellites loom large within that,” she told reporters at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “There’s just so much uncertainty. Nobody knows how long it might last, and it’s very difficult to plan for that...”
Photo credit above: "The VIIRS sensor on the NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP satellite passed over the central eye of Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 25, 2012. Without the satellite data, NOAA’s weather forecasts would become less reliable." Credit: JPSS/NOAA/NASA
Weather Satellites Could Miss The Next Hurricane Sandy. There may be a serious gap in coverage with the POES (polar orbiting) weather satellites; data which is fed into computer models, data which made a tangible difference forecasting major winter storms (and Sandy) during recent years. Here's a portion of a Yahoo Finance article that caught my eye: "...Since the 1970′s, America had two sets of polar-orbiting weather satellites, one operated by the government’s weather researchers, and the other by military. In 1994, it was decided that combining them into one operation would save a lot of money. After 16 years of unsuccessful attempts to do that, the government threw up its hands and decided to split the task, giving the weather agency the late afternoon orbit and the military the early morning, with the mid-day orbit shared with the European space agency. But even these separate plans have been plagued by delays, and the GAO warns that the gap in afternoon coverage by the weather researchers could last from 17 to 53 months. The defense department, meanwhile has decided to launch previously mothballed satellites. which may not have the technology to perform the kinds of observation needed for weather forecasting..."
More Images From The New England Storm. Here's an excerpt of a fascinating story at NASA's Earth Observatory: "Marshall Shepherd, current president of the American Meteorological Society and director of the atmospheric science program at the University of Georgia, tweeted out this annotated version of a Terra MODIS satellite image of the storm aftermath. It seems that the monumental snowfall highlighted some land features of New England, including its longest river, one of the largest manmade reservoirs in the United States (Quabbin), and the scar of a vicious tornado..."
Impact-Based Severe Storm Warnings. NOAA is testing new wording (to get consumers to take action, to actually get up off their couches) in Kansas and Missouri. Here's an excerpt of a story (and video) from WICS-TV: "From now on, severe weather events will include “impact-based” warnings. The idea has been tested in Missouri and Kansas already. The focus is to include statements that indicate how much damage will come with a storm, to give the public a better idea of a storm’s severity. The NWS works with local television and radio stations, as well as emergency management agencies, to disseminate storm information to the public through broadcasts and sirens. Generally, the Logan County Emergency Management Agency uses three factors to determine when they activate their outdoor sirens..."
In America Weather Forecasters Get A Yugo While Climate Modelers Gets A Ferrari. Here's a portion of a post from Eric Berger at The San Francisco Chronicle: "Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, recently posted some eye-opening graphics about computers used by national forecasters. The post came after a forecast model run by the European forecast center (ECMWF) kicked the tail of the U.S. model (Global Forecast System) in regard to both Hurricane Sandy and the recent blizzard that struck the northeastern United States. In both cases the European model showed a clear severe storm threat to the northeastern United States five days out where the American model did not. “Disappointing,” Mass concludes. If you’re interested, I also recently interviewed one of the top European modelers about some of reasons why they’ve become so successful..."
Researchers Prove Air Pollution Causes Heart Attacks. Forbes has the eye-opening article; here's the intro: "Air pollution causes heart attacks and death. Especially when the pollutants include ozone and particulate matter. And more often in the summer time, when ozone levels are higher. These are the conclusions of researchers at Rice University who studied the 11,677 cases of cardiac arrest logged by emergency services personnel in Houston, Tx. between 2004 and 2011. They found that during periods of peak pollution, the heart attack risk to Houston residents increases as much as 4.6%..." (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan).
* America's 20 Dirtiest Cities? 7 of them are in California. Forbes has the details here.
"The Master in the Art of Living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education, his love, and his religion. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in everything he does, leaving others to determine whether he is at work or at play."
- Zen Wisdom
19 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday. 5" snow on the ground at MSP.
31 F. average high for February 20.
44 F. high on February 20, 2012. 0" snow on the ground at MSP.
Paul's Star Tribune Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:
TODAY: Clouds increase. No travel problems during the day. Winds: E 10-15. High: 22
THURSDAY NIGHT: Weather Advisory. Dry evening. Snow arrives during the wee hours of the morning. Low: 19
FRIDAY: Weather Advisory. Snow. 2-5" metro (best chance of 4-5" south metro). Roads will be icy, especially AM commute. High: 25
SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, better travel conditions. Wake-up: 15. High: 23
SUNDAY: Patchy clouds, a little sun - milder. Wake-up: 11. High: near 30
MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, mix possible at night. Wake-up: 23. High: 32
TUESDAY: Wet slushy snow. Couple inches? Wake-up: 29. High: 33
WEDNESDAY: Flurries taper, clouds linger. Wake-up: 23. High: near 30
Bill McKibben visted The University of Minnesota last night, talking about climate change's impact on Minnesota, and what will happen if the Keystone XL Pipeline is approved (he was arrested protesting the pipeline last week in Washington D.C.). His all volunteer organization, 350.org, is global in scope, thousands of people concerned about the implications of a warmer, stormier world. He's skiing the Birkie this weekend (in his free time - which he has precious little of these days).
Climate Change Series: Global Warming A Threat To National Security. I know Admiral David Titley of the Navy; he's a friend and a former classmate. He was also a climate skeptic, before seeing the effects of a changing climate in his role at the Navy. Here is an excerpt of an interview at wbur.org: "It’s all about the water. Okay, it’s partly about food and energy, too. But from a national security perspective, climate change is all about the water: where it is or isn’t, how much or how little there is, how quickly it changes from one state (e.g., solid ice to liquid water) to another. Because of the effects of climate change in the Arctic, for the first time in 500 years we’re opening a new ocean to navigation. The last guy who did that was Christopher Columbus. Until 2005, the Arctic Polar ice cap consisted mostly of multi-year ice — ice that had formed two or more years before the date of measurement and was generally 2 to 4 meters (6.6 to 13 feet) thick and much harder to break through than first-year ice. Since 2007, most Arctic ice is now less than a year old and less than one meter thick. Climate scientists now expect that by 2030 much of the Arctic Ocean will be free of ice several months a year, opening it for commercial navigation just as the Baltic Sea is now...."
Photo credit above: "In this Aug. 20, 2009 photo, released by the USGS, the Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks ice ahead of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship, in the Arctic Ocean. The ship is taking part in a multi-year, multi-agency Arctic survey that will help define the Arctic continental shelf." (Patrick Kelley/AP)
Weather Warning: Study Examines Climate Change As National Security Issue. What does the CIA know that we don't know? Plentty, including the implications of shifting climates and the potential for changes in drought frequency and access to clean water to be a tipping point for minor things like...revolutions, uprisings and civil wars. Here's an excerpt of a very interesting story from The Harvard Gazette: "...One of the recommendations in our report is the need for a serious investment in measurement and observation. It’s really important to keep doing that, otherwise we’re going to be flying blind.” “The bottom line is that our national security depends on our ability to sustain and augment our scientific and technical capacity to monitor unfolding events and forewarn of important changes,” Baker said. “The imminent increase in extreme events will affect water availability, energy use, food distribution, and critical infrastructure — all elements of both domestic and international security.”
We Need Climate CHANGE. CNBC has some interesting numbers in this Op-Ed; here's an excerpt: "...Moreover, the National Academy of Sciences reported in 2010 that 97 percent of 1,372 climate researchers agree that these fundamental changes in our climate are human-caused. By contrast, Republican Senator Rubio's skepticism may be based on a very different set of numbers, such as 146 million. That's the number of dollars spent in recent years by the Virginia-based Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund to cast doubt on the causes of climate change. This money is more than double the contributions made to similar denial groups by the more widely publicized Koch brothers and seven times the funding provided by ExxonMobil during a similar period. It total, these funds can buy a lot of doubt about the overwhelming scientific consensus and the weather patterns that are changing before our eyes..."
Even Deadly Meteors And Asteroids May Not Unite The Human Race. David Horsey has a cartoon (and message) that resonates in the L.A. Times; here's an excerpt: "...Similarly, many of the same people refuse to accept the settled scientific facts that indicate the changing global climate is bringing more destructive storms, drought and rising seas. They cannot honestly refute the science, so they willfully ignore it. They have a vested interest in the status quo and so choose short-term political and economic gain over the long-term welfare of the human race. It is oh-so-much easier to blame the president, blame a conspiracy of international scientists or talk about God’s wrath than it is to tell the oil and coal companies and the polluting industries that provide large donations at election time that they cannot do business as they have in the past...."
Cartoon credit above: "Russian meteor would not convince science skeptics of anything." (David Horsey / Los Angeles Times / February 18, 2013)
Forecasting Climate With A Chance Of Backlash. My friend, Jim Gandy, is a seasoned TV meteorologist in Columbia, South Carolina, a (very) red state. He's been including regular segments on climate change in his television weathercasts, tying it into the changes South Carolinians are already witnessing all around them. Jim's efforts are featured in this NPR story, where I'm briefly quoted. Here's an excerpt: "When it comes to climate change, Americans place great trust in their local TV weathercaster, which has led climate experts to see huge potential for public education. The only problem? Polls show most weather presenters don't know much about climate science, and many who do are fearful of talking about something so polarizing. In fact, if you have heard a weathercaster speak on climate change, it's likely been to deny it. John Coleman in San Diego and Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That? are among a group of vocal die-hards, cranking out blog posts and videos countering climate science. But even many meteorologists who don't think it's all a hoax still profoundly distrust climate models. "They get reminded each and every day anytime their models don't prove to be correct," says Ed Maibach, who directs the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, and has carried out several surveys of TV weathercasters. "For them, the whole notion of projecting what the climate will be 30, 50, a hundred years from now, they've got a fairly high degree of skepticism"....
Is It Time For A National Climate Summit? The short answer is yes. Here's an excerpt of a story at The Summit County Citizens Voice: "Citing damage from intense storms like Sandy, more intense and frequent wildfires and prolonged droughts, a coalition of national groups, including the American Meteorological Society and the American Fisheries Society, are calling for a national, science-based climate summit. In a Feb. 8 letter to President Bararck Obama, the groups said the summit “would be designed to identify policies and actions that can be taken by each Federal agency and by state and local governments to address the causes and effects of climate change.” Other groups signing on to the letter include: Society for Conservation Biology, Society for Ecological Restoration, The Wildlife Society and the Ecological Society of America..."
China To Introduce Carbon Tax: Official. Now I've seen everything. Here's a clip from the China's official news agency, Xinhua: "BEIJING, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- China will proactively introduce a set of new taxation policies designed to preserve the environment, including a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, according to a senior official with the Ministry of Finance (MOF). The government will collect the environmental protection tax instead of pollutant discharge fees, as well as levy a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, Jia Chen, head of the ministry's tax policy division, wrote in an article published on the MOF's website. It will be the local taxation authority, rather than the environmental protection department, that will collect the taxes..."
Volcanic CO2 Caused Ancient Episodes Of Global Warming. Keep in mind that (today), volcanoes spew greenhouse about the same amount of greenhouse gases, including CO2, as the state of Florida. It wasn't always this way - tens and hundreds of millions of years ago volcanoes were erupting (simultaneously) around the world, pumping enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, leading to dramatic warming. Climate Central has the details; here's a clip: "The main effect of volcanoes in the modern world is to cool the planet by throwing particles of sulfur dioxide high into the stratosphere, where they temporarily block the Sun. In the distant past, however, paleo-climatologists have long believed that volcanic activity was a major cause of global warming. Massive eruptions - far more powerful than anything going on today - can pump large amoounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the air. The problem with that theory is that those events don't last long enough to explain periods of warmer climate that have lasted tens of millions of years..."
Photo credit above: "The new idea is that it's a more sustainted series of eruptions from volcanoes in strategic locations along the edge of continents that cause these long periods of warmth." Credit: flickr/NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.