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Benefits of Polar Chill? (thaw early next week; -36 F. reported at Embarrass)

  • Blog Post by: Paul Douglas
  • January 22, 2013 - 8:40 PM
 

 

 

 

Embrace the Numb

 

Perhaps it's rationalization. Maybe my on-air team at WeatherNation TV had a collective case of brain-freeze? Yesterday they came up with a head-scratching list of "Cold Weather Advantages"; why we should all embrace the numb.

No bugs. No humidity (no kidding - my closet is crackling with static charge). Ice cream won't melt coming home from the grocery store. You burn more calories to keep warm; getting you closer to your New Year's Resolution! Schools sometimes close - as they did in Duluth. More sun dogs and sun pillars. And you hear from old (gloating) friends down in Scottsdale and Ft. Myers.

You'll have a chance to return the favor when Phoenix melts into the desert and Hurricane Bubba approaches Naples.

Patience.

Where else on the planet does 0 F qualify as a warm front? Moscow? Oslo? Low 30s will feel good early next week. Sunday's warm front sparks an inch or two; next week's big storm passes south/east of Minnesota. Again. The old Doppler is collecting dust.

I'm worried: lake water levels are down, aquifers running low, precious little water in our topsoil or the thin gruel of snow cover. The pattern better shift soon - otherwise drought will be the big story of 2013.

* graphic above courtesy of WeatherNation TV.

 

Coldest Daytime High In Duluth In Nearly 6 Years. No wonder many schools canceled classes yesterday; details from the Duluth office of the National Weather Service: "...High temperatures Monday afternoon, January 21st, ranged from the negative teens to around 20 degrees below zero across northeast Minnesota, to the negative single digits over northern Wisconsin. These high temperatures are the coldest daytime highs most areas have experienced in several years. As of 4 pm (January 21st), the Duluth airport has reached a high temperature of just negative 10 degrees F. The last time Duluth saw a high temperature this cold was in February 2007. International Falls, MN however has topped out today at negative 12 degrees F.; last seen as recent as January 2009. The high temperature of negative 7 degrees F at Brainerd, Minnesota was also last seen in January 2009."

 

A Dim Light At The End Of Our Cold Tunnel. Welcome to the coldest week of winter. I think I may have mentioned that a couple weeks ago. I'm sorry I was right. Temperatures creep toward 10 F. (above!) today, the next weak clipper capable of a Thursday dusting. After a cold start Saturday temperatures begin to finally rebound as the flow becomes more westerly, from the Pacific. The arrival of warmer air may set off an inch or two of snow Sunday, then low 30s return Monday and Tuesday. Hallelujah. An inch or so of slush is possible Tuesday from a storm spinning up to our east; we just get a glancing blow of sloppy snow before colder air arrives by the middle of next week. ECMWF highs above in Celsius. No, it won't be THAT cold.

 

The Source Of "Lake Effect". I love this photo from Split Rock Lighthouse north of Duluth, along the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior. You can see the air churning above the relatively warm lake water as bitter air pours over the lake. This will result in some 1-2 foot snowfall amounts on the downwind side of Superior. Details via FB: "Lake Superior is a steaming cauldron this morning. Open water and -17. This is where lake-effect snow comes from."

 

Fast Forward Seasons.  Lately (last 15 years or so) it seems like Mother Nature has picked up her Jumbo Weather DVR, put our seasons on fast-forward, and turned the volume of extreme weather up to a "10". The amazing animated gif above, showing the progression of seasons, is courtesy of Eirik Solheim at eirikso.com.

 

Need A Hug? I snapped this photo outside of my dining room window. No really! Trust me, I'm a weatherman. Were people talking about the weather yesterday? It's our birthright, and for good reason. Few other spots on the planet see the range of temperatures that Minnesota does: about 140-160 degrees, give or take. I think we bottomed out Tuesday morning; we'll see more cold air, a few more subzero swipes, but I suspect the worst of it may be behind us. We'll see. Today won't be a treat, but in an odd way +10 F will almost feel...tolerable. Imagine how low 30s will feel early next week. Cue the dancing in the streets. A little snow is possible Thursday, again Sunday and Tuesday of next week, but flakes are still coming in dribs and drabs, not the snowy drubbing we need to help replenish soil moisture and put some water back into our lakes. I'm increasingly paranoid about our deepening drought. I keep waiting for the pattern to shift and southern storms to reach Minnesota. I think I said that back in late October. Pray for a change in the weather, or it's going to be a very long, dry 2013, with drought the big weather story. Heavy rain/snow in March and April could make all the difference - let's hope for the best.

 

Cold Weather Perspective. Yes, it's cold out there, but this Arctic front pales in comparison with what we endured in 1996, 1976-78 and 1911-12. Those were real winters. Information above courtesy of the Minnesota Climate Office.

 

Atmospheric Payback. After an unusually mild December across most of the USA, Old Man Winter is (finally) making up for lost time, with subzero weather skirting the northern tier states. Why was last January so balmy, in comparison with this winter? How is a lack of snow over northern states impacting the severity of the cold. Here's the latest installment of "Climate Matters", courtesy of WeatherNation TV and YouTube: "Are you feeling the bitter cold yet? Folks in the Midwest already watched their temps nosedive. Folks in the eastern states next. Meteorologist Paul Douglas looks at the winter so far and how it compares to previous years. What do you think?"

 

 

Mostly Lake Effect. The NAM model (above) shows expected snowfall between now and midnight Friday. The big story: lake effect snows, as much as a foot downwind of Lake Superior and Lake Erie. A couple inches may fall over the Delmarva Peninsula and the hills of West Virginia; the risk of significant snow for Boston has diminished slightly.

 

 

Low Expectations The models giveth, and they taketh away. As I suspected yesterday, next week's storm will track too far south/east of Minnesota for significant snow here; maybe an inch or so of slushy snow late Tuesday before winds turn to the northwest. The atmosphere may be warm enough aloft for mostly-rain across the Midwest and Great Lakes. ECMWF model forecast for Tuesday night around midnight courtesy of WSI.

 

Cold Start To February - Not Quite As Nanook As This Week. Long range (GFS) guidance shows a numbing couple of days as we limp into February, maybe 2-3 nights below zero - although I suspect it won't be as cold as it was Monday and Tuesday. Some moderation is likely by the second week of February.

 

Serious Lake Effect Snow. 32" of snow in 24 hours at Bennetts Bridge, New York, close to the Lake Effect Capital of the Northeast, Oswego, New York? Pretty impressive. For an interactive NOAA map with the latest snow totals click here.

 

How Do Snowflakes Form? Here's an excerpt of the answer from NOAA: "...These ice crystals that make up snowflakes are symmetrical (or patterned) because they reflect the internal order of the crystal’s water molecules as they arrange themselves in predetermined spaces (known as “crystallization”) to form a six-sided snowflake. Ultimately, it is the temperature at which a crystal forms — and to a lesser extent the humidity of the air — that determines the basic shape of the ice crystal. Thus, we see long needle-like crystals at 23 degrees F and very flat plate-like crystals at 5 degrees F. The intricate shape of a single arm of the snowflake is determined by the atmospheric conditions experienced by entire ice crystal as it falls. A crystal might begin to grow arms in one manner, and then minutes or even seconds later, slight changes in the surrounding temperature or humidity causes the crystal to grow in another way. Although the six-sided shape is always maintained, the ice crystal (and its six arms) may branch off in new directions. Because each arm experiences the same atmospheric conditions, the arms look identical...."

 

"Ask Paul". Weather-related Q&A:

"I happened to run across a NASA web site that described three different variations in the Earth's orbit around the sun. As I recall, they occur every 19,000, 45,000, and 100,000 years.

Question: Is it possible that we are in one or more of these orbit shifts, and is it possible that this is part of the climate change picture? I haven't heard anyone discuss these shifts, and the possibility of an impact. Keep up the good work."

Art Warner

Little Falls, MN

 

Art - thanks for a thoughtful question. In millenia gone by Earth's climate has shifted for a variety of reasons, changes in orbit, the Earth's tilt on its axis, swarms of volcanic eruptions, possibly even variations in solar output. Throughout history greenhouse gas levels have varied from 180 to 280 ppm (parts per million in the atmosphere). Now we're at 394 ppm, a 40% spike in greenhouse gases due to burning of fossil fuels, most of that in the last 50 years. My friend and colleague, climate scientist Dr. John Abraham from St. Thomas provided me with some perspective. "We are always in one of those shifts. Problem is they change the climate over 10,000 year periods. We are changing climate over 100 year periods."

 

Hi Paul,

Has there ever been a "snownado" (a tornado recorded during a snowstorm?)

Thanks..

Brent Metfessel

Eden Prairie

 

Brent - I've never heard of such a thing, 'nor do I think it's even theoretically possible. Tornadoes require violent updrafts, as well as shifting wind direction/speed with altitude (wind shear). During the winter, with snow on the ground you just don't have the instability that exists in spring and early summer. I've heard reports of tornadoes passing over the Rockies, tracking over patches of snow, but not an actual "snownado".

 

Sour In The Sun? 3 Unexpected Ways Weather Affects Your Moods. Every day I'm reminded of the depths of my ignorance (by my wife, and a steady stream of fascinating articles). Here's another one that caught my eye, from Psychology Today: "...In a study conducted in the 1980’s, researchers found that out of eight weather variables (hours of sunshine, precipitation, temperature, wind direction, humidity, change in barometric pressure, and absolute barometric pressure), humidity was the best predictor of mood outcomes. On days when humidity was high, participants reported being less able to concentrate and feeling sleepier. Other researchers have also found a link between high humidity and increased tiredness using controlled experimental methods. In contrast, participants reported increased pleasantness when in low humidity conditions..."

 

Deficient Levees Found Across America. KAALTV.com has the story; here's an excerpt: "Inspectors taking the first-ever inventory of flood control systems overseen by the federal government have found hundreds of structures at risk of failing and endangering people and property in 37 states. Levees deemed in unacceptable condition span the breadth of America. They are in every region, in cities and towns big and small: Washington, D.C., and Sacramento Calif., Cleveland and Dallas, Augusta, Ga., and Brookport, Ill. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to issue ratings for a little more than 40 percent of the 2,487 structures, which protect about 10 million people. Of those it has rated, however, 326 levees covering more than 2,000 miles were found in urgent need of repair..."

 

Global "Superjet" Winds Could Explain Record Rains And Tornadoes. Here's an article that caught my eye from beforeitsnews.com: "Two talks at a scientific conference in December 2012 proposed a common root for an enormous deluge in western Tennessee in May 2010, and a historic outbreak of tornadoes centered on Alabama in April 2011. Both events seem to be linked to a relatively rare coupling between the polar and the subtropical jet streams, says Jonathan Martin, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences. But the fascinating part is that the change originates in the western Pacific, about 9,000 miles away from the intense storms in the U.S. midsection, Martin says...." (image above: flying-geeks.com).

 

"Hurricane Hunters" Weather Storms To Save Lives. Here's an excerpt of a story from The U.S. Department of Defense: "As the nation rebounds from 19 named storms and 11 major hurricanes in 2012, a small but hardy military organization keeps relentless watch to track and prepare for such disasters. Located at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, dubbed the “Hurricane Hunters” of the Air Force Reserve, is the Defense Department’s sole organization dedicated to flying into tropical storms and hurricanes. The unit has performed the mission since 1944. In a “DOD Live” bloggers roundtable today, Lt. Col. Jon Talbot, 53rd WRS chief meteorologist, and Capt. John Brady, a meteorologist with the squadron, said collecting winter storm, hurricane and tropical cyclone data for the National Weather Service is critical in mitigating loss of life and property..."


The Eagle Has Landed. Bernie Engels writes: "thought you might like to see how the cold snap has affected our local population of eagles near Rochester. They have a new item on the menu, and it doesn't have scales!"

 

"Hole Punch Cloud". This is an unusual formation, captured by Don Clark in Auburn, Washington. Turbulence around a descending jet provided enough additional "lift" for snow to fall out of a layer of mid-level clouds, leaving a clear hole behind: "I heard like a plane or planes go by then three sounds like thunder or concusions, then I saw these strange clouds appear. I watched this unfold shortly after the fog lifted."

 

Winter Panorama. Uber-photographer Mike Hall snapped this photo of the setting sun near Lewisport, Kentucky Tuesday evening - talk about a chaotic sky. Note the massive plumes from power plants in screen right, much more pronounced as bitter air envelopes the Ohio Valley.

 

 

"Cold Enough Out There For You?" I love this photo, courtesy of Bryan Hansel Photography, via Facebook and WeatherNation TV, who writes: "When I left my house this morning, it was -24F. On the Lake Superior shore at my favorite tombolo/island, it was -17F. With the wind chill it was about -32F. The temp is dropping, too. It's now -27F with a wind chill of -54F. I've never really understood the wind chill thing as the temperature doesn't actually get colder, but I guess they use it because it just feels colder. I guess it's sort of like waves, when the wind blows the waves get higher. Maybe we should make wind chill into a scale like the Beaufort sea scale. When it's -54F wind chill, we could call it a Winter Force 7.

Anyway, enough winter musing. This morning, I ventured to my favorite tombolo. It's east of Grand Marais by about 10 miles. To get to the point where I set up my tripod, I had to wade across a gap (water was flowing through it like a stream), slip across ice and then balance on an uneven surface of glare ice. I waited for twenty minutes tucked into my hood, while my glasses froze and my breath coated my collar with rime. Then the pink happened
."

 

A Bimmer Bobsled? Who wouldn't want this baby in their garage? Gizmag.com has details on a BMW you can't buy: "Last November, BMW DesignworksUSA announced that it was in the process of designing a new state-of-the-art two-man bobsled for the US Bobsled Team. At the time, only a vague teaser sketch of the sled was available. Now that one of the prototypes has been raced, however, we get to see some actual photos – and the thing looks pretty sharp. Its performance is also promising..."

 

"Leo, Do You Want To Go Out And Do Your Business?" This is the look I got from my dog after asking that (stupid) question. I could just hear him thinking "what do you think? NO!" I'm trying to teach him to use the commode, but so far not much luck. What a YouTube video that would make...

 

-36 F. low at Embarrass, Minnesota Tuesday morning. More low temperatures here.

-12 F. low temperature Tuesday morning.

2 F. high temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.

24 F. average high on January 22.

26 F. high on January 22, 2012.

 

Struggling Toward Zero. Only in Minnesota could 0 F be misconstrued as a "warm front". Much of northern and western MInnesota still experienced subzero highs yesterday; -1 F. at St. Cloud, a high of 2 in the Twin Cities, 5 at Rochester and 6 at Redwood Falls. Lovely.

 


 

Paul's Star Tribune Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:


TODAY: Partly sunny, mostly numb. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 12

 

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy, still plenty cold. Low: -6

 

THURSDAY: Clouds increase, late flakes. High: 14

 

FRIDAY: Sunny peeks, annoying breeze. Wake-up: 5. High: 15

 

SATURDAY: Cold start. Fading sun, better travel day. Wake-up: -5. High: 17

 

SUNDAY: Morning snow (inch or two?), turning milder by afternoon. Wake-up: 15. High: 29

 

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy. Risk of a thaw. Wake-up: 19. High: 33

 

TUESDAY: Wet snow possible. No big deal. Wake-up: 23. High: 34

 

* photo above courtesy of Birch Leaf Photography.

 

Climate Stories....

 

We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Mr. Obama said on Monday at the start of eight sentences on the subject, more than he devoted to any other specific area. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.” - from President Obama's Inaugural Address, courtesy of the New York Times.

 

Speech Gives Climate Goals Center Stage. President Obama devoted more of his Inaugural Address to climate change than any other topic; here's a summary from The New York Times: "President Obama made addressing climate change the most prominent policy vow of his second Inaugural Address, setting in motion what Democrats say will be a deliberately paced but aggressive campaign built around the use of his executive powers to sidestep Congressional opposition...The central place he gave to the subject seemed to answer the question of whether he considered it a realistic second-term priority. He devoted scant attention to it in the campaign and has delivered a mixed message about its importance since the election...."

Photo credit above: "President Barack Obama waves after his speech while Vice President Joe Biden applauds at the ceremonial swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013." (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

 

Ben Franklin, Climate Science, And National Security. Here's an interesting angle, an excerpt from an eye-opening Huffington Post article. I did not know that: "...According to British naturalist Gilbert White, "the sun, at noon, looked as blank as a clouded moon." When rising and setting, it was "particularly lurid and blood-coloured." The heat was so intense that meat went bad the day after it was butchered, and swarms of flies made life miserable. The seeds of climate science in America were very possibly being planted as Franklin observed the changes 200+ years ago. Conditions went from bad to worse as Europe and North America were plunged into a deep freeze that winter. In its first peacetime year as an independent nation, the United States had to contend with more extreme weather than the colonies had ever experienced. New England suffered a record below-zero weather streak. The Mississippi River froze as far south as New Orleans. Ice appeared in the Gulf of Mexico..."

 

How High Could The Tide Go? Here's an excerpt of an important story from Justin Gillis at The New York Times: "...For the leader of the team, Maureen E. Raymo of Columbia University, the find was an important clue as she tries to determine just how high the oceans might rise in a warmer world. The question has taken on new urgency in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which caused coastal flooding that scientists say was almost certainly worsened by the modest rise of sea level over the past century. That kind of storm tide, the experts say, could become routine along American coastlines by late in this century if the ocean rises as fast as they expect. In previous research, scientists have determined that when the earth warms by only a couple of degrees Fahrenheit, enough polar ice melts, over time, to raise the global sea level by about 25 to 30 feet...."

 

Amazon Rainforest Under Threat From Climate Change. Here's a snippet of a story at redorbit.com: "...An international team of scientists analyzed more than a decade of satellite microwave radar data collected beginning in 2000 over the Amazon rainforest. The observations, which included measurements of rainfall from NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and measurements of the moisture content and structure of the forest canopy (top layer) from the Seawinds scatterometer on NASA’s QuikScat spacecraft, showed that during the summer of 2005, more than 270,000 square miles of pristine, old-growth forest in southwestern Amazonia underwent an extensive, severe drought. Satellite images were able to detect the widespread changes to the forest canopy caused by this megadrought, including dieback of branches and tree falls. This is especially true among the older, larger, more vulnerable canopy trees that blanket the forest...."

File Photo credit above: "Rainforest being cleared by farmers, south of Itaituba, Para State, Brazil. Part of "Full Exposure: Images to Change the Future," a photography symposium featuring acclaimed photographers Daniel Beltra and Molly Steinwald on June 11 at the Arboretum."

 

Public Acceptance Of Climate Change Affected By Word Usage. Do the words climate scientists use impact acceptance levels (of the science) on the part of the public? Here's an excerpt of a story from Science Daily: "Public acceptance of climate change's reality may have been influenced by the rate at which words moved from scientific journals into the mainstream, according to anthropologist Michael O'Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri. A recent study of word usage in popular literature by O'Brien and his colleagues documented how the usage of certain words related to climate change has risen and fallen over the past two centuries. Understanding how word usage affects public acceptance of science could lead to better science communication and a more informed public...." (image above: sourcewatch.org).

 

The No Spin Zone On Climate Change. Here's another Huffington Post story that caught my eye. In many respects, our kids seem to be wiser, at least on matters of the environment and sustainability, than their parents: "Being a parent means you get to talk to kids to about climate change. Not your own kids, of course. With them, you're lucky if you can deduce what homework they have each night. But when their friends come over after school, that's when you get a chance. And, encouragingly enough, I've found a no-spin zone in talking with kids about climate change -- something I rarely encounter when talking with neighbors and colleagues steeped in op-ed page rhetoric. And it's in these no-spin conversations that one of the important truths about climate change comes out: global warming isn't a science problem. It's a political problem. There is no mystery about how global warming works or how dangerous it is. Even kids grasp the basics. The carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels is heating up the atmosphere and driving increasingly costly climate disruption..." (Image credit here).

 

Warming Trend. If the atmosphere over the USA wasn't warming you'd expect the number of record highs and record lows to be comparable. Not so. You can see the progression of record highs vs. lows since 2009, compared to the decade of the 1950s (lower left). Graphic: Climate Nexus.

 

More Global Weather Extremes. Huffington Post has an eye-opening account of some of the recent extremes around the planet; here's an excerpt: "Newest Extreme Weather Casualty: Jakarta, Indonesia, a megacity of 10 million, is underwater, paralyzed, reports Sarah Schonhardt at the Christian Science Monitor, from extreme downpours, causing extreme flooding, and threatening investment... move over, Manila... Amazon Drying Out, Likely From Climate Change, a new NASA study indicates, reports Bailey Johnson at CBS News online. A megadrought that began in 2005 has persisted, and the area is showing widespread signs of not recovering quickly enough to withstand the new frequency of droughts occurring...."

Map credit above: "A satellite image of the 2005 drought, now megadrought, in the Amazon, with the worst imacts in red and yellow." (Credit: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/GFSC)

 

Averting Climate Change May Cost $700 Billion A Year. Here's an excerpt from a story at Bloomberg: "About $700 billion a year of new spending on renewable power, low-carbon transport and energy efficiency is needed to meet the United Nations goal to cap temperature rises, a report for the World Economic Forum showed. That cash is needed in addition to the $5 trillion a year countries must spend on infrastructure for agriculture, transport, power and water through 2020, according to a report released today by the consultant Accenture Plc (ACN) for the forum’s Green Growth Action Alliance. “This development needs to be greened by re-evaluating investment priorities,” former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, chairman of the alliance, wrote in a forward to the report. “There remains a considerable shortfall in investment. Closing this gap is our collective task and one that we cannot afford to fail...”

 

NASA's Goddard Institute Says Global Warming Has Become Reality. Here's an except from The Guardian Express: "NASA scientists are reporting new global warming data indicating that 2012 was the ninth hottest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. Since the year 2000, the nine warmest years on record have all occurred, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the hottest years in the 132-years since records have been kept. The Goddard Institute for Space Studies monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis compared temperatures around the World in 2012 to the average global temperature from the mid-20th century, analyzing data that shows that the Earth continues to experience warmer temperatures than several decades ago. The average temperature in 2012 was about 58.3 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 1.0 F hotter than the mid-20th century baseline. The average global temperature has risen about 1.4 F since 1880..."

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