Pro-Snow No-Go. Looks Like a Brown Thanksgiving

Polarization is increasing. Minnesotans are upset! Am I talking red team vs. blue team? No, I'm focused on something far more insidious. A new and disturbing menace is rearing its ugly head: pro-snow vs. anti-snow Minnesotans. Where do you come down on this?

Yesterday a stranger stopped to complain about a lack of snow. "Can't you do something about this,
Paul?" he pleaded. Sadly, no. That's way above my pay grade.

The divide is very real. Commuters fret about long slogs to work on snow and ice but body shops would prefer an icy 7-Day. It's good for business! Any kid out there would gladly give up screen-time for a full hour (!) for a Snow Day. And towns up north pray for thick ice and fresh shellackings of white to lure fishermen and a free-spending caravan of snowmobilers. Channeling Abraham Lincoln, it's hard to please all the people all of the time - so don't even try.

A brewing El Nino still favors less snow than average this winter. I am pro-snow and anti-30-below, so I'm hoping for a few plowable snows.

No drama this week, just flurries today and light rain Friday PM; maybe ending as a light mix Saturday. A big storm early next week slides south/east of Minnesota.

If you're pro-snow, don't lose hope for a white Christmas.

Thanksgiving Day Outlook. New England will be abnormally cold, but temperatures moderate over the central USA. Miami is looking pretty good right now. Images above courtesy of AerisWeather and Praedictix.

Perfectly Zonal. If NOAA's GFS outlook for 500mb winds (valid the evening of December 3) actually verifies it will mean milder than average conditions across most of the USA and southern Canada; a zonal pattern that doesn't favor large, headline-grabbing storms.

Uptick in Disaster Declarations. Like most mere mortals, I tend to respond to facts, evidence and data. Hand-waving arguments, innuendo and conspiracy theories? Not so much. A recent update from USA FACTS caught my eye. It shows an increase in natural disasters across the nation, from an average of 25.2 disaster declarations from 1980 to 1989 - to an average of 121/year in the last 10 years. Severe storms increased from 18.3 per year in the 90s to an average of 40.4 per year in the 2000s. Fluke or trend? Even accounting for the fact that more people are living in high-risk areas is this a symptom of a warming climate?

Graphic credit above: New York Times.

Cold Weather Perspective. Mark Seeley's weekly post at Minnesota WeatherTalk provided some interesting perspective: "The week of November 7-13 brought temperatures that ranged from 11 to 15 degrees F colder than normal. In fact for the Twin Cities it was the coldest such week in history (1872-present). Here is a ranking of the five coldest weeks of November 7-13 for the Twin Cities climate:

2018 mean temperature 21.2°F
1896 mean temperature 22.4°F
1947 mean temperature 23.6°F
1921 mean temperature 23.9°F
1995 mean temperature 25.1°F

The week was so cold that soils began to freeze up and ice began to form on shallow lakes around the state. No wonder the sunny days with daytime highs in the 40s and 50s F (as high as 55°F at Browns Valley) over Wednesday and Thursday (Nov 14-15) felt so fantastic this week!..."

How California Needs to Adapt to Survive Future Fires. A story at is timely; here's an excerpt: "...Something’s gone awry in California. Fires aren’t supposed to destroy entire cities—at least not since San Francisco burned in 1906. Fire codes, better fire-resistant materials, fancier firefighting equipment, and water-spewing aircraft have made it easier to put out flames. Yet in the last year, California has seen seven of its 20 most destructive wildfires ever. The Camp Fire comes just a year after the second most destructive blaze, the Tubbs Fire, struck the city of Santa Rosa in the wine country, leveling 5,500 structures and killing 22. “How could this happen?” says Stephen Pyne, a fire researcher at Arizona State University. “How did this come back? I mean, this is what we saw in the 19th century.” You can find much of the “how” in the clash of two long-term trends, climate change and population growth. The fires aren’t going away, but likely neither are the people..."

Could a Fire-Resistant Material Have Saved Many California Homes? A story at caught my eye; here's an excerpt: "...The panel technology is not new. NASA has been using a version of it to build spacecraft for years because of its strength. And former President Jimmy Carter used the material in his charity work decades ago on damaged buildings in Florida and Georgia. But it never really took off in the United States. "The reason the product has not been used well in the United Stated to date is because we have wood," said Geoffrey Evancic, chief operating officer of Hutter Pioneer, a construction company that is working with the RSG 3-D panels..."

The Hail Mary Plan to Restart a Hacked U.S. Electric Grid. It's probably just a matter of time before this happens, according to experts interviewed in a story: "...Over the past few years, the threat of grid hacking has morphed from a distant possibility to a stark reality. The most chilling incidents to date are two cyberattack-induced blackouts in Ukraine—one in December 2015 and the next a year later in December 2016—that caused power outages for hundreds of thousands of residents in Kiev for a few hours each time. Both attacks are thought to have been perpetrated by Russian state-sponsored hackers. And though a similar incident hasn't played out in the US so far, there is increasing evidence that various hacker groups have infiltrated US grid defenses. The Department of Homeland Security warned repeatedly this year that it has detected extensive Russian probing of the US grid. But awareness can only get you so far. For actual resilience, the industry needs what cybersecurity practitioners call an "assume breach" mentality: thinking not just about how to keep attackers out, but knowing how to respond if and when they do break in..."

Photo credit: "A Plum Island grid utility pole. The power lines for the RADICS test grid were physically separate from the Plum Island lines." DARPA.

The Best Way to Save People from Suicide. A story at HuffPost Highline caught my eye - must reading in a day and age when far too many people are taking their own lives: "...Over the last two decades, suicide has slowly and then very suddenly announced itself as a full-blown national emergency. Its victims accompany factory closings and the cutting of government assistance. They haunt post-9/11 military bases and hollow the promise of Silicon Valley high schools. Just about everywhere, psychiatric units and crisis hotlines are maxed out. According to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are now more than twice as many suicides in the U.S. (45,000) as homicides; they are the 10th leading cause of death. You have to go all the way back to the dawn of the Great Depression to find a similar increase in the suicide rate. Meanwhile, in many other industrialized Western countries, suicides have been flat or steadily decreasing. What makes these numbers so scary is that they can’t be explained away by any sort of demographic logic..."

If you or someone you know is struggling, here is a list of resources.

The Egregious Lie Americans Tell Themselves. Here's a clip from a post at truthdig: "...The social wealth of a society is better measured by the quality of its common lived environment than by a consolidated statistical approximation like GDP, or even an attempt at weighted comparisons like so-called purchasing power parity. There is a reason why our great American cities, for all of our supposed wealth, often feel and look so shabby. The money goes elsewhere. Seville, a pretty, modest city of less than a million people in the south of Spain, built 80 kilometers of bike lanes for $40 million in less than two years, and eliminated a lot of ugly, on-street parking in the process. Imagine a commensurate effort in New York City, a far wealthier place on paper. Well, its supposedly liberal mayor is going to give Amazon $1.5 billion in tax breaks instead..."

Photo credit: "Commuters crowd into a subway car in New York City." Mark Lennihan, AP.

How the Wall Street Journal is Preparing Its Journalists to Detect Deepfakes. Welcome to the newest chapter of fake news - the emerging ability to manipulate video. Here's an excerpt from NiemanLabs: "...The production of most deepfakes is based on a machine learning technique called “generative adversarial networks,” or GANs. This approach can be used by forgers to swap the faces of two people — for example, those of a politician and an actor. The algorithm looks for instances where both individuals showcase similar expressions and facial positioning. In the background, artificial intelligence algorithms are looking for the best match to juxtapose both faces. Because research about GANs and other approaches to machine learning is publicly available, the ability to generate deepfakes is spreading. Open source software already enables anyone with some technical knowledge and a powerful-enough graphics card to create a deepfake..."

"Nothing On This Page is Real": How Lies Became Truth in Online America. At the end of the day people believe what they want to believe, and there's always a dubious web page or post to support (any) claim or theory, no matter how crackpot-worthy. The Washington Post explains: "...We live in an Idiocracy,” read a small note on Blair’s desk, and he was taking full advantage. In a good month, the advertising revenue from his website earned him as much as $15,000, and it had also won him a loyal army of online fans. Hundreds of liberals now visited America’s Last Line of Defense to humiliate conservatives who shared Blair’s fake stories as fact. In Blair’s private Facebook messages with his liberal supporters, his conservative audience was made up of “sheep,” “hillbillies,” “maw-maw and paw-paw,” “TrumpTards,” “potatoes” and “taters.”“How could any thinking person believe this nonsense?” he said. He hit the publish button and watched as his lie began to spread..."

Photo credit: "Christopher Blair, 46, sits at his desk at home in Maine and checks his Facebook page, America’s Last Line of Defense. He launched the political-satire portal with other liberal bloggers during the 2016 presidential campaign." (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post).

Maybe It's Time For America to Split Up? No, not really. The American Experiment has survived much worse (the Civil War comes to mind) and we'll past this too. Here's a clip from a post at Intelligencer: "...Let’s just admit that this arranged marriage isn’t really working anymore, is it? The partisan dynamic in Washington may have changed, but our dysfunctional, codependent relationship is still the same. The midterm results have shown that Democrats have become even more a party of cities and upscale suburbs whose votes are inefficiently packed into dense geographies, Republicans one of exurbs and rural areas overrepresented in the Senate. The new Congress will be more ideologically divided than any before it, according to a scoring system developed by Stanford political scientist Adam Bonica: the Republicans more conservative, the Democrats more liberal. Come January, we are likely to find that we’ve simply shifted to another gear of a perpetual deadlock unlikely to satisfy either side..."

Photo credit: "One of Trump’s midterm rallies." Photo: Mark Peterson/Redux.

The Unintended Consequences of the "Free" Internet. The old adage, sadly, is true. There is no free lunch. Never has been. If the product or service is "free" YOU are the product, your data, your personal information, your privacy. Here's an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal: "...Apple makes its money by charging premium prices for its products. Google and Facebook make theirs by giving away their products and then selling ads. Yet this is not just some internecine battle of billionaires. The zero-price business model is a source of many of the problems plaguing the Internet. It’s no coincidence that Google, Facebook and Twitter Inc. —which garner more than 80% of their revenue from advertising—are the ones most often accused of propagating toxic content and eroding privacy, while Microsoft Corp. and Apple, whose revenue comes from selling software, hardware and services, fly under the radar. Think about why price matters: It’s how the market rations precious resources. A price signals to suppliers how much to invest in a product. It’s how a consumer decides whether that product is the best use of her budget..."

Image credit:

Stores Use These Tricks to Get You to Spend Money. Don't Fall For It. Good luck trying to avoid the hype. Here's an excerpt of a story at Vox: "...These holidays feed on herd mentality, where everybody is rushing to shop because there’s all this hype,” Benson says. “People need to be asking themselves, ‘is it really true I won’t get these deals any other time of year?’” Sometimes the prices are indeed slashed, but most of the time, she says, the deals will likely reappear throughout the year because “it’s more about pressure on you to spend money than about you saving money.” Benson adds that tying the sales to certain days works because it feeds anxiety. Shoppers hate to miss out on a deal, so there’s a rush to spend money, even when it’s on something they don’t need. The FOMO of missing a sale can often outweigh the logic that you’re spending unnecessarily in the first place, albeit at a discount..."

Image credit (not a real Walmart, BTW) courtesy of

Random Tweet of the Day. Be on the lookout...

30 F. maximum temperature in the Twin Cities on Monday (MSP International Airport).

39 F. average high on November 19.

41 F. high on November 19, 2017.

November 20, 1996: Heavy snowfall accumulations of four to eight inches blanket much of Central Minnesota. Some of the heavier amounts included 8 inches at Montevideo and Gaylord, along with 7 inches at St. James, Mankato, Madison and Stewart. Six inches was reported in the Twin Cities and Glenwood.

November 20, 1953: Freezing rain hits parts of Minnesota. 3 inches of ice accumulates on wires at telephone wires at Lake Benton.

TUESDAY: Windy, few passing flurries. Winds: SW 10-20. High: 32

TUESDAY NIGHT: Partial clearing, colder. Low: 20

WEDNESDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, dry roads. Winds: E 8-13. High: 31

THANKSGIVING DAY: Partly sunny, milder than average. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 22. High: 44

BLACK FRIDAY: Cloudy, light rain arrives late. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 35. High: 45

SATURDAY: Light mix tapers. Mostly-wet roads. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 33. High: 38

SUNDAY: Gusty and cold. Few flakes. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 24. High: 29

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, heavy coat weather. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 16. High: 24

Climate Stories...

In California, Climate Change Has Turned Rainy Season into Fire Season. As I understand the science, a warming climate has resulted in a longer period of warm/dry conditions for California and much of the west; low humidity and tinder-dry conditions increasingly coinciding with peak Santa Ana season, when powerful east winds can spread fires rapidly, with deadly consequences. Here's an excerpt from Intelligencer: "...In the California of that future, every season would be fire season. In fact, that is already how climate scientists and firefighters are now describing the state’s wildfire season: year-round. Multiply the devastation, as the coming decades almost surely will, and it begins to seem all-encompassing: the burning nearly nonstop, and the fearsome prospect of new fires looming just over every crest and down every valley in a state full of them, nearly every week of the year, with no meaningful reprieve. Against that possible future, the simple inversion of November from rainy season to fire season is a powerful poetic reversal — and a sort of map for how all of us will wake up to climate horrors in the decades ahead..."

"Like a Terror Movie". How Climate Change Will Cause More Simultaneous Disasters. The New York Times highlights new research: "...Global warming is posing such wide-ranging risks to humanity, involving so many types of phenomena, that by the end of this century some parts of the world could face as many as six climate-related crises at the same time, researchers say. This chilling prospect is described in a paper published Monday in Nature Climate Change, a respected academic journal, that shows the effects of climate change across a broad spectrum of problems, including heat waves, wildfires, sea level rise, hurricanes, flooding, drought and shortages of clean water. Such problems are already coming in combination, said the lead author, Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He noted that Florida had recently experienced extreme drought, record high temperatures and wildfires — and also Hurricane Michael, the powerful Category 4 storm that slammed into the Panhandle this summer..."

Photo credit: "A search-and-rescue team looking for human remains in the aftermath of the recent Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif. The state is also suffering from drought, extreme heat waves and degraded air quality." Credit: Eric Thayer for The New York Times.

The New Politics of Climate Change. A mixed bag after the midterms, according to an analysis at The Atlantic: "...Last Tuesday was only one election, encompassing thousands of candidates who campaigned on issues that mostly weren’t climate change. It would be ludicrous to try to extract lasting takeaways for the climate movement from that range of specific, never-to-be-repeated contests. It would generate some flawed conclusions. It might even be a fundamentally silly exercise. But let’s try it anyway. I looked closely at climate advocates’ theories of change, to see which could claim vindication from the midterm results, and I’m not sure a single one emerged looking vastly stronger and more obviously correct than it did before..."

File image: Yale Climate Connections.

Climate Change Made Recent Hurricanes Wetter, and They May Get Worse. LiveScience has the story: "Some of the biggest storms in recent years were fueled by climate change, which increased the amount of their drenching rainfall. Future storms could be even windier, wetter — and potentially more destructive — according to a new study. Researchers evaluated 15 tropical cyclones (which are called hurricanes when they form in the Atlantic) from the past decade and then simulated how the storms would have performed during preindustrial times, prior to the advent of recent climate change. They also peered into possible future scenarios, modeling what the storms might look like if they took shape during the late 21st century, should Earth's climate continue to warm..."

Image credit: "Captured by the GOES-16 satellite on Aug. 25, 2017, this image shows Hurricane Harvey as it reached its peak intensity — Category 4 — with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph." NESDIS.

How Humans Are Transforming the Hurricanes of the Future. More perspective in a post at The Verge: "...Today’s paper provides yet more evidence about the ways in which climate change shapes extreme weather events, says Dim Coumou, an atmospheric scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research who was not involved in the study. “It’s a very important confirmation of our understanding of how hurricanes change with global warming.” Climate scientist Michael Mann says that some of the results make perfect sense. “We expect greater rainfall and flooding from hurricanes as ocean surface temperatures and atmospheric moisture content increases in a warming world.” But he cautions that the papers use a single climate model, so “it is difficult to draw other general conclusions from these studies...”

Image credit: "Hurricane Harvey from the International Space Station, August 28th, 2017." Photo by Randy Bresnik/NASA. 

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Thumbing Our Nose at Old Man Winter - Thanksgiving Thaw - Snow Risk South/East of Minnesota Early Next Week?