Cold Turkey

Think of the 7-Day as good incentive to bulk up to your winter weight. Go for that extra slice of pumpkin pie! What I lack in warmth & sunlight I plan to make up for in sugar and cool calories.

Welcome to the 11th day in a row below freezing; typical for January - a bit unusual for November. No match for 1874-75, when the Twin Cities enjoyed 83 days in a row colder than 32F. Ouch.

A few friends are freaking out, huddled in their weather bunkers, expecting another winter identical to last year. It may be more prayer than prediction but I still think we'll see more variability, more swings in temperature.

El Nino appears to be strengthening in the Pacific, increasing the odds of milder air pushing into the western half of the USA from time to time, reducing the odds of another perpetual polar vortex blocking pattern similar to last winter.

Place your bets.

We finally thaw out Saturday. Rain stays to our east on Sunday - a snowy coating Monday. The risk of snow on Thanksgiving has dropped off a bit; there may be too much cold air pushing the storm track well south of Minnesota. A cold smack late next week gives way to 30s, even a few 40s the first week of December.

Get ready for some BIG ups and downs over the next 3+ months.


Serious Lake Effect. This brief time lapse of the snow squalls rolling across the south side of Buffalo is pretty amazing. I can't recall ever seeing such a sharp cut-off, almost resembling the edge of a line of severe summer T-storms. Details via Facebook: "This may be the coolest thing you see all week. Video from downtown Buffalo looking south toward the monster lake effect snow band over Lake Erie." (Courtesy: Joseph De Benedictis and Jason Holler).


Snowstorm Again Pounds Western New York. Here's an excerpt of an update from The New York Times: "...The snow fell so fast that it quickly packed into a solid mass, making plowing impossible. The only option is to use heavy machinery to pick up snow and haul it away, a slow, grinding effort. But unlike a typical winter storm, the snow caused by the “lake effect” — in which cold, dry winds sweep across bodies of warmer lake water — was not felt equally across the region. The divide was so stark that someone on a tall building in downtown Buffalo had clear skies overheard but could see a menacing gray wall of moisture and snow swept up off the lake and driven south..."


Unraveling The Mysteries of Deadly "Firehose" Lake Effect Snow Events. Every lake effect snow event is different, but what are the ingredients that go into historic snowfalls? Are lake effect snows downwind of Erie and Ontario some of the heaviest on earth? Andrew Freedman has a fascinating story at Mashable; here's an excerpt: "...Jim Steenburgh, a meteorology professor at the University of Utah, said the Buffalo storm's first round confirms some of what he and his colleagues observed in high-resolution last year. These storms can have a “structure that’s really incredible… a structure that you sometimes see with severe thunderstorms,” he told Mashable. From Tuesday through Wednesday, the narrow band of heavy snow that targeted towns such as West Seneca, New York, on Tuesday night, was barely 15 miles wide but more than 100 miles long. In chilling photographs, it resembled a wall of snow more closely akin to a broiling dust storm than a snow squall..."

Image credit above: "Radar imagery from the Doppler on Wheels (DOW) mobile radar, operated by the Center for Severe Weather Research, collected during the NSF-sponsored OWLeS project. Left panel is radar reflectivity (length scale is added); Right panel is Doppler velocity. Arrows show location of small vortices. X marks location of radar." Image: Karen Kosiba/CSWR.



Global Warming Is Probably Boosting Lake Effect Snows. Here's an excerpt of an excellent article from meteorologist Eric Holthaus at Slate, showing how a gradual warming trend (and less ice cover) is creating conditions more favorable for more lake effect snows: "...Another massive early-season lake-effect event occurred in Buffalo back in October 2006, when Lake Erie water temperatures were even warmer than they were this week. Almost a million people lost power. Lake Erie is warming (along with the rest of the planet) by a steady but measurable amount. Since 1960 that trend has been about a half of a degree Fahrenheit per decade. More important than this, though, Lake Erie has been losing its ability to freeze over in the winter, with a decline of about one sub-freezing day per year in recent decades..."

* graphic above from a 2003 paper by Burnett, et all available via PDF here.


Weekend Thaw, Then (Very) Cold Turkey. Although not as cold as January or February, temperatures dip into the teens again late next week with a chance of subzero lows Friday morning. Make the most of 40F warmth Sunday (the best chance of rain stays east of Minnesota, but a little drizzle or very light rain is possible). A coating of snow is possible Monday, maybe an inch or two of powder Wednesday as a reinforcing clipper arrives. Behind that next swirl of low pressure temperatures tumble in time for a brisk shopping experience on Black Friday.


Lake Effect Fire-Hose Shuts Off, For Now. Residents of Buffalo are pleading for mercy, and icy winds begin to ease a bit today and Friday; in fact temperatures rise into the 50s by Monday across western New York, sparking flooding concerns. A Pacific storm spreads heavy snow into the higher terrain of Washington state, Idaho, Montana and Utah's Wasatch Range within 36-48 hours. Source: NOAA and HAMweather.


Southern Surge. Soaking rains push across northern California and much of the Pacific Northwest, another developing storm sending a streak of heavy rain from Texas right up the Mississippi River Valley toward Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan over the weekend. 4 km NAM guidance: NOAA and HAMweather.


Freezing On East Coast? Blame a Super Typhoon and Maybe Global Warming. Ex-Typhoon Nuri helped to energize the jet stream as it curved to the north last week, speeding up and amplifying jet stream steering winds, building a massive, record-setting (5.5 sigma) ridge of warm high pressure over Alaska and the Arctic; this buckling of the jet stream plunging polar air southward into the USA. Here's a clip from a story at NBC News: "...The cold front this month, however, appears to have a different birth. The events "started with exceptionally warm sea temperatures in the Pacific that led to the super Typhoon Nuri," says Kevin Trenberth, an atmospheric scientist at NCAR. On Nov. 8, the typhoon became "incredibly intense … advanced to the north and brought very warm air up into Alaska and into the Arctic." "The cold air had to go somewhere else and it did: down across the U.S.," says Trenberth. "By Nov. 12 the very cold air over North America was matched by very warm air over Alaska and the Arctic..."

Temperature anomalies (departure from average) for November 20 obtained using Climate Reanalyzer (http://cci-reanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, USA.


Tropical Pacific Ocean Moves Closer to El Nino. The odds of an El Nino have risen to 70% according to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology; here's an excerpt of a recent release: "The Pacific Ocean has shown some renewed signs of El Niño development in recent weeks. Above-average temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean have warmed further in the past fortnight, while the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) has generally been in excess of El Niño thresholds for the past three months. Climate models suggest current conditions will either persist or strengthen. These factors mean the Bureau's ENSO Tracker Status has been upgraded from WATCH to ALERT level, indicating at least a 70% chance of El Niño occurring..."


2014: On Track For The Warmest Year, Worldwide, On Record? It may be close, but what makes this even more unusual is that 2013 and 2014 weren't El Nino years, no Pacific warmth turbocharging the atmosphere. Here's an excerpt from NOAA NCDC: "The years 2013 and 2014 are the only years on this list not to begin during a mature El Niño event. The years 1998 and 2010, each of which became the warmest year on record at the time, ended the year in a strong La Niña event, as evidenced by the relative fading of global average temperature later in the year. The anomalies themselves represent departures from the 20th century average temperature. The graph zooms into the warmest part of the entire history. For a broader perspective on how these five years relate to the long-term record, click here..."


Winter Outlook from Columbia University. This is from The International Research Institute for Climate and Society, at Columbia Unversity's Earth Institute. Of course all long-range seasonal outlooks should be taken with a big grain of salt, but I couldn't get over how much red (warmer than average) is predicted for the planet from December into February.


Average Winter Temperatures for Minnesota? It's too early to celebrate, but at least one longer-range climate model from Columbia University is forecasting a notable lack of polar air for much of North American from December into February; warmer for much of the western USA (consistent with a developing El Nino), warmer for much of Canada, the Arctic and Greenland, colder than average for the southern USA.


NOAA: Globe Sets 5th Hottest-Month Record of 2014. Some temperature "pause". The eastern USA has had a chilly year, but that's more than compensated for by the rest of the planet, on it's way toward what may be the warmest year on record. The 6 warmest months on record for global ocean water temperatures have been in the last 6 months. Here's an excerpt from the AP and wsbtv.com: "Despite a bitter U.S. cold snap, the globe is rushing hell-bent toward its warmest year on record with last month setting the fifth monthly heat record of year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday that last month was the hottest October on record worldwide. The 58.43 degrees Fahrenheit (14.74 Celsius) beat out October 2003. "It is becoming pretty clear that 2014 will end up as the warmest year on record," said Deke Arndt, climate monitoring chief for NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina. "The remaining question is: How much?..."


How To Protect Your Phone In Cold Weather. Here's an excerpt of a CNN story that made me do a double-take: "...Some smartphones list the optimum range of temperatures in their technical specs. For example, when it's turned off, the iPhone 5S can withstand temperatures between -4° and 113° Fahrenheit. When it's turned on, the range is much more narrow. Apple suggests 32° Fahrenheit as the lowest operating ambient temperature. Other phones are rated for much lower temperatures, and some can go as low as -4° Fahrenheit while in operation..."


Are Our Buildings Prepared For Natural Disasters Bigger Than Hurricane Sandy? Technically Sandy wasn't even a hurricane when it hit coastal New Jersey on October 29, 2012, rather a massive mash-up of nor'easter and ex-hurricane. Is New York City better prepared? Here's an excerpt of a story at The Guardian: "...What if you have Sandy, but it’s an actual hurricane, with hurricane-level winds? The first generation of skyscrapers was not designed for windloads. So would we see facades being pulled off in Midtown Manhattan? That’s something we don’t understand yet. We recommended the city study this, and legislation passed – the results of their study is due on October 2, 2015. Also, in a modern city, everyone’s reliant on power – and all the more so in a vertical city. We’ve facilitated a change that makes it easier to install backup generators, but what happens if we get two weeks without power next time instead of a week?..." (Image above: NOAA).


America's Toughest Commutes, Charted. I love Quartz's information-dense maps - here's an excerpt of a story focused on commute times across the USA: "...But it turns out that of the 20 counties with the longest commutes, nine are among the 100 wealthiest counties in the US. And where are all the well-off commuters going? Washington, DC. When we only look at the 100 wealthiest US counties, 13 of the 20 longest median commutes are in the Washington area. The remainder of the list is comprised of counties in the New York, Chicago, Denver, and San Francisco areas..."

Map credit above: Quartz. Data: 2013 American Community Survey.


18 F. high in the Twin Cities Thursday.

38 F. average high on November 20.

45 F. high on November 20, 2013.

November 20, 2001: Record highs were set in west and north central Minnesota with highs in the upper fifties to lower sixties. Redwood Falls set their high with 68 degrees Fahrenheit and Little Falls had a high of 65 degrees.

November 20, 1980: On this date, around 28 thousand Canadian geese spent their nights on Silver Lake in Rochester.


TODAY: Clouds increase, not as cold. Winds: S 15. High: near 30

FRIDAY NIGHT: Mostly cloudy, not as chilly as recent nights. Low: 28

SATURDAY: First thaw in 12 days. Gray skies - not as numb. High: 38

SUNDAY: Cloudy, chance of drizzle. Wake-up: 32. High: near 40

MONDAY: Coating of flurries, light snow. Wake-up: 29. High: 33 (falling)

TUESDAY: Clearing skies, chilly again. Wake-up: 16. High: 22

WEDNESDAY: Inch or so of snow showers? Wake-up: 13. High: 26

THANKSGIVING: Feels like January again. Mostly cloudy. Wake-up: 5. High: 18


Climate Stories...

Did Climate Change "Juice" The Buffalo Snow Amounts? Water temperatures in Lake Erie were in the low to mid 50s earlier this week, almost 50F warmer than the air passing overhead. There's considerable evidence that warmer water in the Great Lakes is resulting in more extreme lake effect snow events earlier in the season than 30-50 years ago. What influence did climate volatility play in the (incredible) snowfall amounts and snowfall rates since Tuesday. I had a chance to chat with Ed Schultz at MSNBC Thursday; the clip is here.



There's Growing Evidence That Global Warming Is Driving Crazy Winters. Here's an excerpt of a story from Chris Mooney at The Washington Post: "...According to Francis, the extreme U.S. winter of last year and now, the extremes at the beginning of this season, fit her theory. "This winter looks a whole lot like last winter, it’s a very amplified jet stream pattern," she says. "We know that when we get these patterns, it tends to be very persistent. And it is definitely the type of pattern that we expect to see more often as the Arctic continues to warm so fast." To be sure, Francis acknowledges that our recent bout of extreme cold was kickstarted most directly by Typhoon Nuri, which swerved up into the mid-latitudes and exploded into an atmospheric bomb over the Bering Sea..."


Significant Global Climate Anomalies and Events in October. NOAA NCDC has the high-resolution graphic with more details here.


Climate Change To Increase Flood, Crop Insurance Losses. USA TODAY has the story - here's an excerpt: "...For agriculture, the report cites research that predicts changes in temperature and precipitation can be offset over the next 25 years by technological advancements, expansion of irrigation and shifts in crop production. But by mid-century, weather and precipitation extremes could intensify and cause yields and farm profits to decline, despite these adjustments..."


States Can Bring Clean Energy to 21st Century. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Hill that resonated. Many of the new, disruptive energy alternatives are also zero-carbon, and they're scaling up faster than predicted: "...The U.S. electric power system is facing serious challenges today, with innovations disrupting old ways of doing business, infrastructure showing its age and customers looking for new forms of service. Fortunately, we have the tools to address these challenges: demand response to maintain reliability at times of peak load; combined cycle natural gas to provide flexible electricity generation; solar power and wind power for zero emission generation with no fuel cost; more efficient lighting, appliances and industrial motors that use less energy and reduce demand; and smart meters to provide better data and more control for consumers. In short, we have more ways to make, manage and use electricity than ever before — and many of these technologies also reduce carbon emissions..."


"Merchants of Doubt" Film Exposes Slick U.S. Industry Behind Climate Denial. The Guardian has details; here's an excerpt: "...With the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center occupying attention, Americans For Prosperity, a powerful, fossil-fuel lobby group founded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, launched a decade-long, multi-pronged campaign to sow doubt about the reality of climate change. By equating the findings of climate scientists as an attack on personal freedoms, they cleverly shifted the focus away from science to political opinion. “Creating a focus point away from what is actually going on is how magicians pull off their tricks,” said Kenner who directed the Oscar-nominated documentary Food Inc. The deception has worked well. Few Americans know 97% of scientists agree climate change is caused by human activity and is happening now..."

Photo credit above: "Robert Kenner’s documentary Merchants of Doubt looks at professionals working for the fossil fuel industry to sow doubt in the US climate change debate." Photograph: Sony Pictures Classics.


A GOP Generation Gap on Climate Change, Similar to Gay Marriage? Chris Mooney takes a look at a growing gap between younger and older Republicans and their expectations about curtailing greenhouse gases at The Washington Post; here's the intro: "Congressional Republicans want to make fighting the Environmental Protection Agency's climate regulations and President Obama's greenhouse gas reduction targets a centerpiece of their agenda over next two years -- now that they have wrested control of the Senate as well as House. But how will the politics of that look 10 years from now? Several commentators have suggested that climate change could become the gay marriage issue of the future for the GOP..."

Graphic credit above: Washington Post-ABC News poll - Click for details


Dear Snow Trolls: Winter Weather Does Not Refute Global Warming. The Washington Post hosts an obligatory story about the difference between weather and climate; here's an excerpt: "...Indeed, much evidence suggests that we may be experiencing this stark cold while en route to the warmest year in recorded history. Just recently we learned that at least according to data from the Japan Meteorological Agency (which may soon be confirmed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), October 2014 on a global level was the hottest October on record. And even before we knew what October's temperatures looked like, NOAA had shown that there was a very good chance of 2014 setting an overall temperature record...."


More Frequent Wave Resonance in the Atmosphere. The number of planetary wave resonance events (which lead to exceptional weather extremes) is shown as grey bars for each 4-year intervals. For comparison the red curve shows the change in Arctic temperature relative to that in the remainder of the Northern Hemisphere. Rapid Arctic warming since 2000 could explain the increasing number of weather extremes. Source: Coumou et all, PNAS 2014.


The Moral Issue of Climate Change. Climate change is a moral and even a spiritual issue, as much as a scientific and economic issue. Here's an excerpt of a David Ignatius Op-Ed at The Washington Post that caught my eye: "...They reject or minimize the arguments of leading scientists that such emissions are directly linked to global warming and climate change and could have catastrophic long-term consequences. The doubters question the data, to be sure. But their basic argument is political: Action to protect the environment will hurt “my state.” But what if the climate change problem were instead treated as a moral issue — a matter like civil rights where the usual horse-trading logic of politics has been replaced by a debate about what’s right and wrong?..."

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