More Trend Than Fluke

Odds favor another wet spring, with rapid drying in late summer and autumn. In fact this may be a trend. Dr. Mark Seeley told me 4 of the last 5 springs in Minnesota have been historically wet.<p>

Now comes new research from Dr. Keith Harding, a climate scientist at the University of Minnesota. Rapid warming is impacting the GPLLJ, the Great Plains Low Level Jet. Implications? Summer rainfall is already becoming less frequent and more intense. In fact the timing and intensity of summer rain is already changing, according to Harding. People may not see a dramatic change in total summer rain, but how much and how often it rains has a much bigger impact on people's livelihoods. "With less frequent and more intense rain, on top of higher temperatures, farmers and backyard gardeners would need much more water to maintain enough soil moisture" he added. Details below.

Freezing will feel ridiculously good later today, Friday and Saturday. We cool off again next week; a couple of glancing blows of arctic air by late month, but probably not as cold as last week.

A few wimpy cosmetic snowfalls are possible, enough to give the gritty snow in your yard a quick facelift.

Woo hoo!


Photo above: AP.


Examining Future Changes In The Character of Central U.S. Warm Season Precipitation Using Dynamical Downscaling. Here is a link to Dr. Harding's research referenced above, outlining observed changes in the timing and intensity of summer precipitation events, possibly linked to changes in the low-level jet: "...Significant intensification of the heaviest rainfall events occurs in the models, with the greatest changes in the early warm season (April). Increases in total April–July rainfall and the enhancement of extreme rainfall events in the RCP8.5 2090s are related to a stronger Great Plains Low-Level Jet (GPLLJ) during those months. Conversely, late warm-season drying over the North Central U.S. is present in nearly all future simulations, with increased drought in August–September associated with a slight weakening of the GPLLJ. Simulated trends generally increase with stronger greenhouse gas forcing..."


Q&A With Keith Harding at the University of Minnesota. I asked Dr. Harding for more information on his research, what it means for Minnesotans. I've certainly noticed this in recent years, and conveyed my sense that the patterns were changing. Here's an excerpt of my e-mail conversation with answers to my questions:

1) "Summer rainfall over Minnesota is becoming less frequent and more intense (with more days between rain events), with an acceleration of this trend expected with climate change. Similarly, heavy rain events are becoming more frequent and intense, and even greater increases are likely as the planet warms further."

2) "Our research demonstrates that the timing and intensity of summer rainfall over the Midwest is already changing, and climate change is expected to drive even larger changes. We show that while there is large uncertainty about how total summer rainfall may change, the models consistently show that the frequency and intensity of rain will be clearly affected by climate change."

3) "We didn't look into how Arctic Amplification may affect rainfall patterns over the Midwest, but I think the jury is still out on the link between AA and extreme events. Conceptually I think it makes a lot of sense, but in reality it's hard to conclusively determine whether the rapidly warming Arctic is causing a lot of these extremes. Unfortunately, it's probably going to take a lot more research (and many more decades of observations) to conclusively answer that question."

"I think one final thing I would add is that people may not see any change whatsoever in the total summer rainfall they measure in their own rain gauges or in official records, but how much and how often it rains has a much bigger impact on people's livelihoods. With less frequent and more intense rain (on top of higher temperatures), farmers and backyard gardeners would need much more water to maintain enough soil moisture. Heavier downpours typically require more robust infrastructure to reduce flooding. In this study, I think we conclusively demonstrate that these important aspects of summer rainfall have rather consistent and clear signals, all of which get stronger with greater warming..."


Confirmation: 2014 Warmest Year On Record, Worldwide. Here's an excerpt from Climate Nexus: "This Friday, NOAA and NASA will officially declare 2014 as the hottest year in 134 years of record keeping, with an expected annual global temperature 0.68°C above the 20th century average according to NOAA’s dataset. In 2014, seven out of 12 months tied or topped previous monthly global temperature records. Oceans in particular experienced record warmth, with seven consecutive months—May through November—setting new records for surface ocean heat.  Most importantly, 2014 sets the new global temperature record in the absence of an El Niño, a phenomenon which raises global temperature. Many of the previous hottest years on record have occurred during El Niño years, including 2010 and 2005, which now share the record for second hottest year..."

* More on the joint NOAA/NASA announcement here.


A Belated January Thaw. Then again, the thaw may have come in mid-December, come to think of it. 30s spill over into midday Saturday before cooling off early next week; temperatures next week still a couple degrees milder than average for this time of year. This will come as a shock but no major storms are brewing looking out 7-10 days. Source: WeatherSpark.


Another West Coast Storm. NAM guidance shows moderate to heavy rain spreading into to the Pacific Northwest and northern California by late week; a cold rain for the Gulf Coast as a clipper pushes light snow across far northern Minnesota and the U.P. of Michigan. Animation: NOAA and HAMweather.


Cold Gyre For Late January - Early February. It remains to be seen whether temperatures sink lower than last week, but there's little question we'll see a rerun of typical mid-winter weather within a few weeks. I may be a naive optimist but I still suspect the coldest weather (duration of subzero temperatures and wind chill) is behind us. Source: GrADS:COLA/IGES.


GFS: Coldest Air Passes North Next 2 Weeks. My confidence level is low because the models keep jumping around, but there's at least a chance the core of the coldest air will pass north of Minnesota the last week of January.


2014 Weather: Yes, Cold Was Brutal, But How About That Autumn? In case you missed it in print or online, Bill McAuliffe at The Star Tribune has a terrific look back at last year's manic weather; here's the intro: "Minnesota was a cool place to be in 2014. Very cool. While the rest of the globe panted through what’s likely to be the warmest year on record, “polar vortex” became a household term in Minnesota. Said vortex also shoved the state into its coldest year since 1996. In the Twin Cities, the urban heat island became a tiki-torch ice bar, with the coldest winter in 34 years. (Remember those 53 days with below-zero readings?) Duluth, already well-known for its bone-chilling temps, suffered through the coldest winter in 141 years..."


California Still Needs A Ridiculous Amount Of Rain To End Its Drought. Vox has the details; here's an excerpt that caught my eye: "...The big problem here is that California is really, really dried out — and it takes a lot more than a few storms to fill the shortfall. Back in December, an analysis from NASA led by Jay Famiglietti estimated that the state needed nearly 11 trillion gallons of water to fill its rain deficit — a process that could take years. Another way to look at this, as NOAA did, is that the state needs rainfall far, far above the historical average between now and September to even begin to make up the shortfall..."

Map credits above: "Percent of normal precipitation required from mid-December through the end of the water year in September in order to reduce rainfall deficits." (Climate.gov/NOAA Climate Prediction Center.)


A Return To Oil At $32 A Barrel Is No Longer Unthinkable. Quartz has the story; here's the intro: "After plunging below $50 per barrel, oil has just a few hours later pushed on without resistance and seems headed for the $30s, a price not seen since the doldrums of 2008. The immediate trigger has been a swatting down of a market rumor that OPEC would surely go into emergency session this month or next to cut production..."


The End Of OPEC As We Have Known It Is Here. Fortune has the analysis; here's an excerpt: "...Some of the effects are welcome, others not. For Russia, whose budget depends heavily on oil revenues, the decline in oil prices is a financial disaster. The ruble’s foreign exchange value has already been cut in half. Terrorists in the Middle East arm themselves with revenue from oil. In the U.S., the development of shale fields has often been funded with credits that are held by banks and high-yield bond funds. Many of these credits could default..."


The American Way Over The Nordic Model. Are We Crazy? Here's an excerpt from an Op-Ed at The Los Angeles Times: "...All the Nordic countries broadly agree that only when people's basic needs are met — when they cease to worry about jobs, education, healthcare, transportation, etc. — can they truly be free to do as they like. While the U.S. settles for the fantasy that every kid has an equal shot at the American dream, Nordic social welfare systems lay the foundations for a more authentic equality and individualism..."


The Enduring Power of (Free) Radio. No, don't write radio off just yet, according to a story at Quartz: "Radio reigns supreme. The old-fashioned wireless remains the audio service used by the most Americans. The above numbers also suggest consumers still overwhelmingly prefer free music services (internet radio provider Pandora and even TV music channels are quite a bit more popular than other services). And when they want to hear a particular song on demand they find it on YouTube..."


15 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday.

23 F. average high on January 14.

34 F. high on January 14, 2014.

January 14, 1972: Cold air invades the region with a minimum temperature of -33 degrees F at Alexandria, -32 at Eau Claire, and -29 at the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport.


TODAY: Sunny peeks, sweet relief. Winds: West 10. High: 32

THURSDAY NIGHT: Patchy clouds. Low: 17

FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy, thawing out. High: 34

SATURDAY: Mild start, flurries, cooling off late. Wake-up: 22. High: 38

SUNDAY: Some sun, still above average. Wake-up: 18. High: 28

MONDAY: Gray with a coating of flurries possible. Wake-up: 16. High: 29

TUESDAY: Nuisance snow. Light coating? Wake-up: 20. High: 28

WEDNESDAY: More clouds than sun. Wake-up: 15. High: 26


Climate Change

2015 Begins With CO2 Above 400 PPM Mark. Climate Central has the story and details; here's the introduction: "The new year has only just begun, but we’ve already recorded our first days with average carbon dioxide levels above 400 parts per million, potentially leading to many months in a row above this threshold, experts say. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography records of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels show that Jan. 1 was the first day of the new year above that concentration, followed by Jan. 3 and Jan. 7. Daily averages have continued at this level or higher through Jan. 9, though they could continue to dance up and down around that mark due to day-to-day variations caused by weather systems..."

Graphic credit above: "Carbon dioxide levels measured atop Hawaii's Mauna Loa from early December 2014 to early January 2015, when they jumped above 400 ppm." Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography.


The Antarctic Ice Sheet Is A Sleeping Giant, Beginning To Stir. Dr. John Abraham at St. Thomas has the story in The Guardian; here's a clip that got my full attention: "...In the Southern Hemisphere, the largest player is the Western Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS). It is less stable than Eastern Antarctica and is particularly vulnerable to melting from below by warmed ocean waters. Scientists are closely watching the ice near the edges of the WAIS because they buttress large volumes of ice that are more inland. When these buttressing ice shelves melt, the ice upstream will slide more rapidly toward the ocean waters. As reported in our paper, according to some studies, “no further acceleration of climate change and only modest extrapolations of the current increasing mass loss rate are necessary for the system to eventually collapse ... resulting in 1-3 metres of sea-level rise.” And this is from just one component of the great southern sheets..."


Sea Levels Are Suddently Rising Way Faster Than We Realized. Quartz has more details: "...What this paper shows is that sea-level acceleration over the past century has been greater than had been estimated by others,” says Eric Morrow, a recent PhD graduate of Harvard’s department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. “It’s a larger problem than we initially thought...” (Graphic: Real Climate).


Climate Change And Intergenerational Ethics. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The St. Louis Post Dispatch that resonated: "...Traditional western thought, religious and secular, has tended to see the rest of nature as a tool for human happiness and progress, but more and more people of every worldview are coming to understand humanity as co-residents of the Earth, as one part of nature - the only )that we know of) self-conscious part, and therefore having a special opportunity and responsibility. It is time for us to lieve up that responsibility..."


Can Monsanto Help Farmers Adapt To Climate Change? A 200 mile northward shift in corn production? It's all about the data, and what you can do with that data. Here's an excerpt from Mother Jones: "...The company is working with Bay Area data gurus to provide super-accurate weather updates and farming advice to growers via their smartphones. These new services can help farmers better predict climate trends that have been shaken up by global warming—in the last couple decades, according to Monsanto, corn production belts in the US have migrated about 200 miles north. And they can help farmers make more efficient use of water and potential pollutants like fuel and fertilizer..."


Ice Researchers Capture Catastrophic Greenland Melt. Here's a video clip and story excerpt from The Los Angeles Times: "Over a few summer days in 2012, nearly all of the Greenland ice sheet surface thawed right under the feet of a UCLA-led team of scientists. What was not absorbed into snow quickly gathered and flowed across the 20,000-square-mile sheet, coalescing into roaring turquoise rivers. And then most of it disappeared. Where all that water went may seem an easy guess. But that’s just the problem with Greenland ice science -- some of the guesses have been wrong, according to a study published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences..."

Image credit above: "In 2012, 97% of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet thawed. UCLA scientists captured the spectacular runoff."


Developing Cities Hold Big Key To Climate Action. Climate Central has the story; here's the introduction: "Cities — the best of which are bastions of transit networks, bike paths, compact apartments and chirpy baristas — are growing faster than litters of sewer rats, exacerbating their already-high hungers for energy. The trend is so steep that a new analysis projects that urban centers will be burning through three times more energy in the year 2050 than was the case in 2005. But what sounds like a threat could also be viewed as an opportunity. The new study, by five European and American researchers and published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pinpoints staggering potential climate benefits of smart growth, gasoline taxes and other measures that can reduce energy demand in urban centers, which is where a growing majority of the world’s population is becoming concentrated and where most of its energy is used..." (Mumbai file photo: AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool).

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Mild Weather Through the Weekend!