A Kinder, Gentler El Nino Winter Brewing?

The atmosphere and oceans are slowly warming, but winter hasn't been cancelled yet. Not at this latitude. More midwinter ice and rain, sporadic snows, warmer nights, especially in February and March?

Yep, but if it ever stops snowing altogether - or Canada runs out of cold fronts, the planet will have much bigger challenges.

NOAA predicts a 70-75 percent chance of a (weak) El Nino developing this winter. Warm phases in the Pacific tend to correlate with milder winters for most of the USA. In fact each of the last 3 winters was milder than average in the lower 48 states.

After watching Game of Thrones I'm convinced winter is coming, and snow flurries racing past your window this morning are Exhibit A. Today will feel like November, but Sunday looks sunnier and milder, with highs in the 50s most of next week. No gasp-inducing storms are brewing; just a little drizzle late next week.

For now I'm relieved: we're not tracking storms with names, no slushy commutes are imminent, no Siberian slaps, in fact temperatures trend near normal.

I'm always a little amazed when Mother Nature takes a time-out. 

November Preview. NOAA's latest CFSv2 (Climate Forecast System) model is predicting a milder than average November for the west and northern tier of the USA; colder (stormier/wetter) conditions expected for much of the southern states.

Will a "Warm Alaska Blob" Mean a Wilder Winter for the USA? The Star Tribune has a story that caught my eye, here's a clip: "...When the blob is in place, the jet stream, which both divides warm and cold air and acts a super highway for storms, tends to veer north over top the blob. This results in a big ridge of high pressure forming over the western North America, which brings mild weather and blocks storms. The blob’s presence was linked to the persistence and intensity of the drought in California from 2013 to 2015. It also ?was blamed for contributing to 2015 being the hottest year on record in Seattle,” according to Scott Sistek, a meteorologist with KOMO in Seattle. As the cold air displaced by the blob has to go somewhere, it then often crashes south in the East. Remember the polar vortex intrusions during the winters of 2013-2014 and 2014-2015? The blob played a role..."

NOAA Winter Outlook: El Nino May Mean Stormy Conditions in South and Eastern USA. Jason Samenow delves into a brewing El Nino at Capital Weather Gang: "...We find ourselves on the verge of El Niño,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, on a call with reporters Thursday. “There’s a 70-to-75 percent chance El Niño will develop in the next few months.” Historically, El Niño events have boosted precipitation amounts across the South and into the Mid-Atlantic and sometimes snowfall as well. In the Mid-Atlantic region, the amount of snow has depended on the strength of El Niño. Moderate and strong El Niño events have tilted the odds toward heavy snow in the Mid-Atlantic, but weak events have not. Halpert said this El Niño is likely to be a weak one..."

Photo credit: "A plow makes its way under a railroad bridge as light snow falls during a snowstorm, March 21, in Lebanon, N.J." (Julio Cortez/AP).

Milder Winter For Much of the USA? Place your bets. Based on a brewing El Nino NOAA is predicting a milder than average winter, with the best chance of a mild bias in the western USA: "A mild winter could be in store for much of the United States this winter according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. In the U.S. Winter Outlook for December through February, above-average temperatures are most likely across the northern and western U.S., Alaska and Hawaii. Additionally, El Nino has a 70 to 75 percent chance of developing. “We expect El Nino to be in place in late fall to early winter,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Although a weak El Nino is expected, it may still influence the winter season by bringing wetter conditions across the southern United States, and warmer, drier conditions to parts of the North...”

Whispers of El Nino? The winter precipitation forecast from NOAA (above) bears all the hallmarks of an El Nino winter, with a wet bias from southern California into the Deep South, and a slight dry tendancy for many northern states.

Early November Cut-Off Low Out East? The pattern increasingly favors colder/stormier weather for the eastern USA during late October and early November, a series of coastal storms spinning up ahead of colder, Canadian bursts. Minnesota is forecast to be on the edge of the cold/unstable air, but to be honest the forecast winds at 500mb keep changing (fair dramatically) with every GFS run, so confidence levels are even lower than usual this far out.

Houses Intact After Hurricane Michael Were Often Saved by Low-Cost Reinforcements. The Washington Post explains: "The houses still standing in the storm-ravaged neighborhoods of Florida’s Panhandle are conspicuous for their presence. Sticking up from the rubble like one remaining tooth in a jawful of decay, each one is a haunting reminder of what used to exist around it. In many cases, they were saved by additional strategically placed nails, some small metal connectors and window shutters that created a sealed package — low-cost reinforcements that determined whose home survived and whose was destroyed by the power of Hurricane Michael. There are the five Habitat for Humanity houses in Panama City, a waterfront vacation home in Mexico Beach, a house built by a homeowner and a few of his church friends..."

Photo credit: "Five Habitat For Humanity houses, center, stood firm during Hurricane Michael even as an adjacent trailer park saw heavy damage." (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Designers Are Reinventing Hurricane Maps For An Era of Extreme Weather. To this day many people still misinterpret NHC's "cone of uncertainty", as pointed out in a post at MIT Technology Review: "...First, people assume that the cone delineates the area under threat, and that its boundaries indicate how big the storm will grow. Second, people rarely realize that the cone represents a 67% confidence interval—a detail disclosed within the map’s documentation rather than on the map itself. Third, people often believe that the white and dotted regions signify something more than just a division between the days of the forecast. Some, for example, think the dots indicate the area that will be affected by heavy rain. Fourth, people don’t understand the difference between watches and warnings, or whether one is more severe. And finally, people don’t know what the letters mean within the black and white circles—again, because an explanation doesn’t appear on the map itself..."

Image credit: Hurricane Harvey. NASA/NOAA GOES Project.

Fighters Downed by Hurricane. How vulnerable is the military to extreme weather events, in the USA and abroad? Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: "Hurricane Michael did terrible damage in Florida last week, and that may include some of the world’s most capable military aircraft left in its path. But why can’t Air Force F-22 jet fighters, of all things, escape a storm? Answer: They lack the parts to be operational and so were stuck in hangars to take a beating. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Sunday that the damage to an unspecified number of F-22s on Tyndall Air Force Base was “less than we feared.” But maintenance professionals will have to conduct a detailed assessment before the Air Force can say with certainty that the planes will fly again. Press reports estimate that at least a dozen planes were left on the base due to maintenance and safety issues..."

Photo credit: "An aircraft hangar damaged by Hurricane Michael is seen at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Oct. 11." Photo: jonathan bachman/Reuters.

With Hurricanes and Toxic Algae, Florida Candidates Can't Ignore the Environment. Tourism, the life-blood of Florida's economy, is being impacted. InsideClimate News has the story: "It's been a year of environmental discontent in Florida. On the Gulf Coast, a toxic red tide algae burned beachgoers eyes and lungs and killed manatees by the dozens. In Lake Okeechobee and on the Atlantic Coast, slimy, rancid blooms of toxic blue-green algae prompted health warnings to stay out of the water. Sunny-day flooding in South Florida during king tides brought reminders of climate change and sea-level rise. Then a powerful hurricane fueled by the overly warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico exploded from almost nothing to Category 4 strength in just three days, devastating communities in the Panhandle. The environment is rarely a decisive issue for voters, but Florida is different, especially this year..."

Hurricane Michael Damage: Up to $3 Billion in Georgia Agricultural Losses. The storm was still a Category 3 hurricane when it pushed into southern Georgia. Here's an excerpt from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Damage from Hurricane Michael to Georgia’s agriculture industry could reach nearly $3 billion, according to new state assessments. “These are generational losses that are unprecedented and it will take unprecedented ideas and actions to help our farm families and rural communities recover,” Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said in a statement. Timber losses alone are estimated at $1 billion, as about 1 million acres were destroyed, state figures show. Cotton, peanuts, pecans, vegetables and poultry also were hit hard. “Unfortunately, our worst thoughts were realized,” Black said. “We saw months and sometimes years of work just laid over on the ground in a matter of seconds..."

Adults Ingest 2,000 Pieces of Plastic in Table Salt on Average Each Year. Pass the plastic please. Quartz has the tasty details: "There’s microplastic in that table salt. A study published Tuesday (Oct. 16) in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found microplastics in more than 90% of the packaged food-grade salt—also known as table salt—for sale in stores. The team, from South Korea’s Incheon National University and Greenpeace East Asia, sampled 39 brands of salt harvested in 21 countries. Only three of the samples had no detectable microplastics. Microplastics are virtually everywhere. Sea salt and lake salt are made by evaporating water and harvesting the salt that remains. Plastic waste flows from rivers into those bodies of water, so it’s no surprise that the salt contains traces of it too..."

Map credit: "This chart shows where salts were sampled, with the height of the bars indicating the number of pieces of microplastic per kilogram of salt found in each sample." Ji-Su Kim/Hee-Jee Lee/Seung-Kyu Kim/Hyun-Jung Kim/Environ. Sci. Technology.

Wind, Solar and Electric Vehicles Will Dominate by 2035, Study Says. The Houston Chronicle has findings of a new paper: "The world runs on oil and gas now, but it won't for long, according to a study by the research firm Wood Mackenzie that estimates a global shift from fossil fuels to renewables by 2035. By then, the world will rely more on electric vehicles, wind power and solar power than gasoline-powered vehicles or fossil fuel-based electricity, according to Wood Mackenzie...Today, about 8 percent of power produced in the United States comes from renewable sources, chiefly wind and solar. In Texas, about 30 percent is from renewable sources..."

Photo credit of all-electric Porsche Taycan: Electrek.

How to Respond to a Diplomatic Crisis Like Khashoggi's Disappearance. The Atlantic interviews experts; here's an excerpt: "...Part of the reason for this is the fact that the kingdom plays a key role in the U.S. pressure campaign against Iran. It also maintains steady oil prices and supplies, and will support any eventual U.S. plan for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. As Christopher Hill, a veteran U.S. diplomat who served as the ambassador to Iraq, told me: “The U.S. has made it very clear that the administration has put all of its Middle East apples into this Saudi basket … To have this come out … about a close ally is highly problematic,” Hill said. While allies often behave problematically during conflicts, “the utter, apparently premeditated nature of this is not the same as having some hideous, awful situation in some distant village where it turns out the good guys are not so good,” he added..."

Photo credit: Leah Millis / Reuters.

Jamal Khashoggi: What the Arab World Needs Most is Free Expression. This is the last column Jamal Khashoggi wrote for The Washington Post before he was murdered. Here's an excerpt of that column, which was just published: "I was recently online looking at the 2018 “Freedom in the World” report published by Freedom House and came to a grave realization. There is only one country in the Arab world that has been classified as “free.” That nation is Tunisia. Jordan, Morocco and Kuwait come second, with a classification of “partly free.” The rest of the countries in the Arab world are classified as “not free.” As a result, Arabs living in these countries are either uninformed or misinformed. They are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives. A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche, and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative. Sadly, this situation is unlikely to change..."

Image credit: Jamal Khashoggi (Illustration by Alex Fine for The Washington Post).

Brain-Eating Amoebas Are Spreading - And That's Just As Bad as It Sounds. Don't sweat the snow flurries. Here's a clip from Popular Science: "...N. fowleri, however, can enter the human body through the nasal cavity, where it attaches to the olfactory nerves and migrates into the brain. There, it causes inflammation that you might know better as meningitis. The term “meningitis” just means inflammation of the meninges, which are the membranes surrounding your brain and spinal column. At some point you (hopefully) got a meningitis vaccine, but that only protects you against three types of bacterial meningitis. Viruses, parasites, fungi, and amoebas can also cause this inflammation. Any of these sources can be deadly, but amoebic meningitis is generally more dangerous than the more-common viral or bacterial varieties because there’s no clear treatment. We have potent antibiotics and antivirals. We don’t have the same options for killing amoebas..."

Image credit: CDC.

Nebraska’s Message for Tourists: It’s Not For Everyone. Gotta give 'em points for candor and honesty. Personally, I think it's brilliant. Here's a clip from AP: "...The slogan, which the Nebraska Tourism Commission unveiled Wednesday at a Nebraska City conference… State tourism director John Ricks told the Omaha World-Herald that because Nebraska consistently ranks as the least likely state tourists plan to visit, the marketing campaign needed to be different. “To make people listen, you have to hook them somehow,” Ricks said. “We had to shake people up....”

Image credit: Adweek.

23 Charts and Maps That Show the World is Getting Much, Much Better. Thank you Vox, for a little perspective and reality-check: "This is probably the most important chart on this list. The extraordinary rate of economic growth in India and China — as well as slower but still significant growth in other developing countries — has led to a huge decline in the share of the world population living on less than $1.90 a day, from nearly 35 percent in 1987 to under 11 percent in 2013. That’s a low bar for what counts as poverty, and some development experts argue we should be using a global poverty line of $10-15 a day instead. But that very debate is a sign of the tremendous progress made in recent decades..."

Graphic credit: "The huge drop in global poverty since 1987". Our World in Data

Winnipeg's First Ticket for Toking in a Car Comes 1 Hour After Legalization. Because, of course. CBC has the details: "One hour after pot was legalized, Winnipeg police issued their first ticket for consuming cannabis in a car.  Around 1 a.m., Winnipeg Police Service traffic division Insp. Gord Spado says one of his officers issued the ticket during a traffic stop.  "An hour into legality, and something illegal," Spado said Wednesday. It's not clear whether the person ticketed was driving at the time or not....The ticket, like a lot of offences pertaining to legal marijuana, comes with a $672 fine..."

65 F. maximum temperature in the Twin Cities on Friday.

57 F. average high on October 19.

74 F. high on October 19, 2017.

October 20, 2002: Heavy snow impacts central Minnesota. It fell in a 10-20 mile wide band from southeast North Dakota to around Grantsburg, Wisconsin. Little Falls picked up 9 inches.

October 20, 1916: Accumulating snow falls in south central Minnesota with 4.5 inches recorded in New Ulm, 4 inches in Farmington and Hutchinson, 3.5 inches in Montevideo, and 3 inches in Faribault.

October 20, 1835: 6 inches of snow falls at Ft. Snelling.

SATURDAY: AM flurries, blustery and cold. Winds: NW 20-35. High: 41

SATURDAY NIGHT: Clearing and chilly. Low: 28

SUNDAY: Partly sunny with a stiff breeze. Winds: SW 15-25. High: 54

MONDAY: Plenty of sun, still breezy. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 37. High: 57

TUESDAY: Bright sun, winds finally ease. Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 32. High: 52

WEDNESDAY: Clouds slowly increase, still dry. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 33. High: 53

THURSDAY: Gray with light rain or drizzle. Winds: S 7-12. Wake-up: 39. High: 51

FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy and drab. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 40. High: 52

Climate Stories....

Fighting Climate Change Won't Destroy the Economy. Not if we do it right. Here's an excerpt of a story at Vox: "...In its latest report, the IPCC estimated that the global economy would take a $54 trillion hit if the world warms by 1.5°C by 2100. That price tag rises $69 trillion if temperatures reach 2°C. In other words, there’s a huge price tag to doing nothing on climate change. On the other hand, increasing sustainability by using more renewable energy, curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and becoming more energy-efficient would save the global economy $26 trillion by 2030. Dirtier sources of energy like coal are already struggling with job losses and bankruptcies. There are about 52,000 workers left in the coal industry. Meanwhile, the renewable energy sector employs more than 800,000 people in the United States. And those numbers are poised to grow further in the United States: Solar power has surpassed natural gas and wind as the largest source of new energy generation..."

As Climate Change Batters U.S. Cities, Some Discuss "Managed Retreat". I'm amazed more elected officials aren't talking about this...yet. Here's a clip from Thomson Reuters Foundation: "...About 300,000 coastal homes, valued at almost $118 billion, are at risk of chronic flooding by 2045, according to advocacy group the Union of Concerned Scientists, which predicted in June that the figure would rise to $1 trillion by the end of the century. Inland, about 41 million Americans are threatened by river flooding - three times the government's current estimate - according to a report earlier this year by researchers from the University of Bristol. "We have seen escalating flood damage every decade from the 1980s until now, to the point that it almost seems to be doubling every decade," said Chad Berginnis, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers. Despite the rising threat, he said, it remains difficult to discuss the idea of buying properties and moving populations..."

Photo credit: "Louisville residents are forced to use boats and kayaks to get to their homes along the Ohio River after it flooded Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., February 25, 2018." Picture taken February 25, 2018. REUTERS/John Sommers II.

Why General Mills is Turning to "Throwback" Farming to Fight Climate Change. Because sometimes the old methods are still the best methods? Fortune has the story: "To fight climate change, General Mills is looking to its past. The 152-year-old food company is turning to “a throwback of classic, old farming practices” combined with new methods to contribute to a more sustainable future for the food industry, according to Carla Vernón, president of its natural and organic operating unit. That means expanding its organic acreage and implementing regenerative farming practices with perennial grains, cover crops, and pollinator habitats. “If we mean to stay in the food business at General Mills, then this problem that we’re facing, that we have been a participant in we realize now, we have to make positive contributions,” Vernón said..."

Drinking Wine in a Warmer World. Check out the Facebook video from Quartz News: "We'll be drinking wines we've never tasted before in the near and warmer future—because, climate change. 🍇🌍🍷 This week Quartz News travels to Spain to investigate how an increase in global temperatures is threatening grapes used in our favorite wines and forcing winemakers to look to the past to adapt to the future..."

Climate Activism Nears Final Frontier. Here's a clip from a guest-post Op-Ed at Reuters: "...Just a handful of around 250 global corporations and their supply chains account for about one-third of total annual emissions caused by human society, according to a recent study by Thomson Reuters, CDP, and Constellation Research. Think Exxon, PetroChina, Coal India and other oil, gas, transportation, capital-goods and mining engines of the world from which we have all benefited, and through which lies a key solution to climate change. More than half of these companies, though, do not voluntarily disclose their major sources of greenhouse-gas emissions, let alone their plans to reduce future pollution. In lieu of disclosure, outside experts try to estimate the numbers. What results is a guessing game on who matters most, and what their rate of increase or decrease might be over time..."

Photo credit: "A photo taken by Expedition 46 flight engineer Tim Peake of the European Space Agency (ESA) aboard the International Space Station shows Italy, the Alps, and the Mediterranean on January, 25, 2016." REUTERS/NASA/Tim Peake/Handout.

In North Carolina, Hurricanes Did What Scientists Could Not: Convince Republicans That Climate Change is Real. Will a new generation of super-sized storms help to convince skeptics that weather is - increasingly - being disrupted by a wetter, more volatile climate? Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "...An Elon University survey taken in early October, after Hurricane Florence hit, showed that 37 percent of Republicans believe global warming is “very likely” to negatively impact North Carolina coastal communities in the next 50 years. That is nearly triple the percentage of Republicans — 13 percent — who felt that way in 2017. The percentage of Republicans who felt climate change is “not at all likely” to harm the state’s coastal communities dropped by 10 points over the past year — from 41 percent in 2017 to 31 percent now. “That suggests to me that there’s a very large minority within the Republican Party who are at least open to the first steps to accepting that climate change is a possibility,” said Jason Husser, a political-science professor who directs the Elon poll. “It signals some sort of tipping point...”

Photo credit: "A man crosses a flooded street in downtown Wilmington, N.C., after Hurricane Florence made landfall on Sept. 14." (Chuck Burton/Associated Press).

The Hurricanes, and Climate Change Questions Keep Coming. Yes, They're Linked. The New York Times connects the dots: "Scientists are increasingly confident of the links between global warming and hurricanes. In a warming world, they say, hurricanes will be stronger, for a simple reason: Warmer water provides more energy that feeds them. Hurricanes and other extreme storms will also be wetter, for a simple reason: Warmer air holds more moisture. And, storm surges from hurricanes will be worse, for a simple reason that has nothing to do with the storms themselves: Sea levels are rising. Researchers cannot say, however, that global warming is to blame for the specifics of the latest storm, Hurricane Michael, which grew to Category 4 with sustained winds of 155 miles an hour, as it hit the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday..."

Photo credit: "A storm chaser returned to collect his things after debris collapsed on his car Wednesday in Panama City, Fla." Credit: Gerald Herbert/Associated Press.

Exposed by Michael: Climate Threat to Warplanes at Coastal Bases. The New York Times has the story: "...Michael’s devastation of Tyndall raises question about how well the bases are defended against the elements. “This threat is not new to the military — they’ve been talking about climate change for decades — and they generally learn from the latest storm,” said Lt. Gen. Arlen D. Jameson, who is retired from the Air Force and was a former deputy commander of the United States Strategic Command. “The problem is, the lessons learned going forward may be almost too painful to wait for the next lesson.” Several factors conspired to put a tenth of the nation’s F-22 fleet at risk in Hurricane Michael. The sophisticated jets are notoriously temperamental, and at any given time, only about half the them are mission-ready, according to a recent Air Force report. The storm appeared and developed swiftly, giving maintenance crews only a few days’ warning to get as many jets airworthy as they could..."

Photo credit: "Hurricane Michael caused catastrophic damage to the U.S. air force base in Panama, Fla.Published On." Image by Terray Sylvester/Reuters.

Climate Change Policy Remedies: Which Do You Favor? What policies will move the needle (faster) toward sustainable, cleaner, renewable technologies? A price on carbon to place a definable, predictable signal in the markets? Something else? Here's an excerpt from Countable: "...Importantly, carbon pricing schemes are technology-neutral. They directly target the actual problem – carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to atmospheric warming – rather than favoring a particular solution, such as solar panels or smart meters. The approach thus encourages the marketplace to develop the best possible tools and systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. pioneered market-based approaches to pollution. A program to curb sulfur dioxide, the cause of acid rain, was created in 1990 by a bipartisan Congress and launched by President George H.W. Bush. Emissions were cut about twice as quickly as predicted at a fraction of the cost of traditional regulation..."

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