Cosmetic Snowfall Today (odds favor a very white Christmas this year)
- Blog Post by: Paul Douglas
- December 14, 2013 - 12:13 AM
A Very White Christmas
Yesterday I asked a friend how he was enjoying December. "Reminds me of Minnesota" he grinned. Yep, like the good 'ol days, when cold and snow were a given. Before weather patterns started acting wonky and strange.<p>If anyone asks (doubtful) 7 out of 10 Twin Cities Christmases are "white", with at least 1 inch or more of snow on the ground. This will be one of them.
The older I get the less I take for granted. Christmas 2011 was brown. In fact since 1899 there have been 32 years with "zero" or a trace of snow on December 25, according to the Minnesota Climate Office.
An anemic Alberta Clipper drops a candy-coating of fluff today; maybe a quick inch in some spots. That compares with half a foot in the suburbs of New York, maybe 8" of slush in Boston by tomorrow - both cities closer to the main storm track.
Cool, Canadian exhaust lingers into Tuesday morning - and then we warm up a little. 30s by midweek will feel like a (bad) Club Med vacation, before another cold wave sweeps into town late next week. Single digit highs are possible 1 week from today but temperatures may reach 20s by Christmas Day.
Leaving most of us happier than a dog with two tails.
Moderating Temperatures Next Week. If teens feel tolerable, imagine how low 30s might feel next week, the best chance of a fleeting thaw around midweek. ECMWF guidance shows another sharp temperature downturn late Thursday into Saturday of next week.
Clipped Again. Today's clipper, marking the leading edge of colder air of Canadian origin, may spark an inch or so of powder in the Twin Cities, as much as 2" near Mille Lacs and Sandstone. When it's this cold chemicals don't melt snow and ice on area highways, so expect slick spots. NAM guidance: NOAA and Ham Weather.
Accumulating Snow Ohio Valley to New England. A wave of low pressure tracking to the east-northeast spreads accumulating snow from Columbus and Pittsburgh to New York City and Boston later today and Sunday, enough to shovel and plow in 18-20 states, with as much as 8-12" over interior New England. NAM Future Radar courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather.
Beware Of Unstable Ice. We picked up a few inches of snow (a very good insulator) in early December, before the ice could freeze to a thickness where it safely supports vehicles - with several high profile cases on the news recently where trucks and ice houses have gone into the water. Be careful out there. With frigid weather returning in less than a week the ice will (gradually) thicken, but most lakes aren't there yet.
Ask Paul. Weather-related Q&A:
"In your "arctic myths" article of 12/13/13, you indicate that wind chill is due to evaporation of sweat. Can you cite your reference for that conclusion?
It's been over 50 years since I studied Thermodynamics & Heat Transfer at the U, but wasn't the wind chill an indication of the rate of cooling and not the wet-bulb temperature? In fact, weren't the original measurements made with a bottle of water?"
Bruce H. Johnson
Yes Bruce, I oversimplified the answer (space is limited in print, but on the blog I have the luxury of not editing content as much). Evaporation (evaporative cooling) is only part of the process, along with other factors. You are correct, original estimates were done on an elevated water bottle (in Antarctica), but the algorithms for calculating wind chill were revised (improved?) in 2001. It's still the source of considerable controversy though among meteorologists. The point I was trying to make is that, unlike human flesh, an inanimate object, like a vehicle, can't "feel" colder than the actual air temperature, but a strong wind will cool an object down to the ambient temperature faster. Here's an excerpt of an explanation from Wikipedia: "The human body loses heat through convection, evaporation, conduction, and radiation.The rate of heat loss by a surface through convection depends on the wind speed above that surface. As a surface heats the air around it, an insulating boundary layer of warm air forms against the surface. Moving air disrupts the boundary layer, allowing for new, cooler air to replace the warm air against the surface. The faster the wind speed, the more readily the surface cools. The speed of cooling has different effects on inanimate objects and biological organisms. For inanimate objects, the effect of wind chill is to reduce any warmer objects to the ambient temperature more quickly. It cannot, however, reduce the temperature of these objects below the ambient temperature, no matter how great the wind velocity. For most biological organisms, the physiological response is to maintain surface temperature in an acceptable range so as to avoid adverse effects. Thus, the attempt to maintain a given surface temperature in an environment of faster heat loss results in both the perception of lower temperatures and an actual greater heat loss increasing the risk of adverse effects such as frostbite, hypothermia, and death..."
Significant Weekend Storm Northeast and New England. Here's an excerpt of an Alerts Broadcaster briefing that went out to corporate customers yesterday:
* Friday the 13th, what can possibly go wrong? Nothing today, but facilities and travel plans will be impacted from Saturday into Sunday as a coastal storm spreads a burst of snow, ice and rain into portions of the Mid Atlantic Region and all of New England.
* Snow will spread across Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey into New York City Saturday afternoon, the storm peaking Saturday night as snow mixes with ice and rain. I'm expecting roughly 4" of heavy, wet, slushy snow in Manhattan, but closer to 6-8" for suburbs in northern New Jersey and Connecticut. The storm peaks late Saturday night into midday Sunday from Hartford to Boston, where some 5-8" amounts are likely; closer to 10" well inland from the coast, where precipitation will fall as mainly snow.
* Over a foot of snow may fall from near Albany to the Berkshires to Portland, Maine by late Sunday afternoon.
Sharp Cut-Off To The Snow. Note the lack of (any) snow over most of central and southern New Jersey. There's a potential for a sharp north-south gradient in snowfall amounts with this fast-moving system; mostly rain for much of Long Island, a plowable snow in New York City before changing to rain and ice Saturday night, but mostly snow from Parsipanny to Ossining and Pound Ridge to Darien and New Canaan, where closer to 6-9" may pile up by Sunday morning. NAM model guidance: Ham Weather.
Sloppy, Icy Mix Near The Coast. Computer models are vascillating back and forth, which makes me more nervous than usual, but the guidance (I trust) still suggests enough warm air flowing in from the Atlantic for a rain/ice mix from metro New York and Long Island to Cape Cod. Farther inland, well north and west of I-95, I expect more snow than ice or rain. RPM model guidance: WSI Corporation.
Probably Of 4" or More of Snow. Our internal models show a high probability of a plowable snowfall from State College, Allentown and Scranton into north Jersey the suburbs of New York City, and much of New England, with some 5-8" amounts from Hartford into the western suburbs of Boston. Map: NOAA and Ham Weather.
Ice Potential. At the height of the storm Saturday evening and night a surge of milder air aloft will change precipitation over to sleet (ice pellets) and freezing rain, creating a potential for an icy glace from Reading and Allentown, PA into northern New Jersey and metro New York City. Although I don't expect a prolonged period of freezing rain - some power outages are possible, especially eastern PA into north Jersey and southeastern New York state. Map: Ham Weather.
A 4-8 Period Of Heavy Snow. Our BPI (Blizzard Potential Index) derived model shows conditions approaching near-blizzard conditions from Long Island Sound to Boston Saturday night into Sunday morning, with low visibilities and sustained winds of 20-30 mph. Flights will be impacted from Saturday evening (New York area) into Sunday (Hartford, Boston and Providence) with conditions improving from west to east by Sunday afternoon. BPI guidance: Ham Weather.
Select City Amounts. I suspect the 7" predicted for New York City is a little high - I'm thinking closer to 3-5" in midtown Manhattan as ice and rain mixes in at the height of the storm Saturday night, keeping total amounts down. If precipitation were to fall as all snow in New York total amounts would be in excess of 8", but I believe the odds of this happening are less than 1 in 3. Expect heavier amounts over interior New England, where enough cold air will be in place for all-snow. Boston will probably wind up with 4-8", the best chance of 8" over the western suburbs.
Winter Storm Watch Posted. We alerted you to the heavy snow and ice possibility yesterday, and now NOAA has issued Winter Storm Watches for much of the Northeast. I expect these watches to be upgraded to Winter Storm Warnings later today or first thing Saturday as the storm becomes imminent, capable of hampering travel and impacting facilities Saturday afternoon into Sunday morning.
Summary: Underscoring my theory that we're about to experience a real winter across much of the USA, probably one of the 2 or 3 coldest and snowiest in 20 years, this weekend will be character-building from the Delaware Valley to coastal Maine, impacting an estimated 50+ million Americans. A heavy, wet, slushy snow will slow things down in New York, with the heaviest amounts from the suburbs of New Jersey, Westchester County and Connecticut into the western suburbs of Boston and Portland, where some 5-8"+ amounts are quite likely by Sunday. Accelerate travel and contingency plans today and first thing Saturday. Conditions will rapidly deteriorate as the day goes on tomorrow in the Northeast.
Paul Douglas - Senior Meteorologist - Alerts Broadcaster
Geminid Meteor Shower To Light Up Skies. Maybe I'm rationalizing here (not above that), but one advantage of Canadian air - skies tend to be clear to partly cloudy, increasing the odds of seeing aurora or meteor displays. Here's an excerpt from Sky News: "The annual Geminid shower can be seen from almost any point on Earth and astronomers say the best time to see the action is between midnight and sunrise on December 14. While most meteor showers come from comets, Geminids is different because the 'parent' is an asteroid called 3200 Phaethon. "Of all the debris streams Earth passes through every year, the Geminids' is by far the most massive," said Nasa astronomer Bill Cooke..."
NASA Says Ozone Hole Stabilizing, But Won't Fully Recover Until 2070. Here's the introduction to a story at The Los Angeles Times: "The hole in the ozone layer is stabilizing but will take until about 2070 to fully recover, according to new research by NASA scientists. The assessment comes more than two decades after the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty that banned chlorofluorocarbons and other compounds that deplete the ozone layer, which shields the planet from harmful ultraviolet rays. Levels of chlorine in the atmosphere are falling as a result of the treaty, but have not yet dropped below the threshold necessary to have a shrinking effect on the ozone hole that forms each year over Antarctica, according to scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. They presented their findings this week at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco..."
Graphic credit above: "The ozone hole, shown in October, has stopped growing since the mid-1990s, but scientists say a full recovery is many decades away." (Ozone Hole Watch / December 12, 2013).
The Data Flood. Managing that flood of data (noise) is increasingly problematic for many of us. Big Data is the rage, turning that torrent of bits into something approximating wisdom. Here's a clip of an interesting story at Student Science: "There is a huge amount of information available online. And its volume is growing at lightning speed. Each minute on average, more than 200 million emails move across the Internet (though most are spam). Twitter users post more than 300,000 new tweets. People across the globe share more than 38,000 Instagrams. YouTube users upload another 100 hours of video. Google processes more than 3.6 millionwebsearches. And 2.2 million things on Facebook get a “like” or a comment. But the Internet isn’t the only numbers-driven environment packed with information. Scientists, too, have more information than ever before. It comes from the study of volumes of raw facts, called data. For example, biologists collect enormous numbers of measurements on millions of cells and everything inside them. Astronomers fill banks of hard drives with observations of stars, galaxies and energy in deep space. Earth scientists assemble detailed snapshots of weather, including patterns of winds and waves throughout the world..."
Graphic credit above: "Modern life generates huge volumes of data. That data can yield detailed information — and provide valuable insights. This image visualizes the volume of Internet data that flows between New York City and cities around the world over a 24-hour period. The larger the glow at any particular location, the larger the volume of data." MIT Senseable City Lab.
World's Smallest Pacemaker Can Be Implanted Without Surgery. Hooray for the Hometown Team, Medtronic! This is pretty amazing, but I still pray I won't need one of these down the road, although the weather maps are giving me heart palpatations. Here's a clip from M.I.T. Technology Review: "Pacemaker surgery typically requires a doctor to make an incision above a patient’s heart, dig a cavity into which they can implant the heartbeat-regulating device, and then connect the pulse generator to wires delivered through a vein near the collarbone. Such surgery could soon be completely unnecessary. Instead, doctors could employ miniaturized wireless pacemakers that can be delivered into the heart through a major vein in the thigh. On Monday, doctors in Austria implanted one such device into a patient—the first participant in a human trial of what device-manufacturer Medtronic says is the smallest pacemaker in the world. The device is 24 millimeters long and 0.75 cubic centimeters in volume—a tenth the size of a conventional pacemaker..."
Photo credit above: "Tiny ticker: A new pacemaker is small enough to fit inside the heart and can be implanted through a patient’s veins."
ION Adventure Hotel Basks In The Glow Of The Northern Lights. This almost makes me want to check out Iceland - one more for the endless travel bucket list. Details via Gizmag: "While the use of geothermal energy and recycled materials would normally be starting points for Gizmag's look at a new holiday destination like the ION Adventure Hotel, there's one element here that stands well above the pack – location. The hotel is nestled amidst the diverse Icelandic landscapes in the heart of the Mt. Hengill region, offering guests the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the spectacular aurora borealis or midnight sun, depending on which time of the year it is..."
French Cafe Charges Extra For Rudeness. The French. Rude? Say it isn't so. But if you visit this cafe you had better order your pastry with a smile and a "bonjour!". The Local has the story; here's an excerpt: "The French are well-known for their love of everyday formalities. While much of the Western world can sometimes seem to get through the day with grunts and nods, the French insist on sprinkling their exchanges with a “Madame” here and a “C’est gentil” there. Baguette purchases must be preceded by a mandatory “Bonjour”, and it’s de rigeur to wish complete strangers a good afternoon, even when leaving an elevator. So what happens if these standards drop, as can happen from time to time? Well, for the owners of one café in the south of France, the solution is clear – hit your rudest clients in their pockets, or at least threaten to do so..."
Photo credit: "The owners of a café in the south of France have struck a blow for good old-fashioned French politeness, with a sign charging extra for rudeness." Photo: Courtesy of Fabrice Pepino.
Another Sign of Spring? I keep getting Twins tickets updates. Can Opening Day be far behind? You 'betcha!
17 F. high in the Twin Cities Friday.
27 F. average high on December 13.
40 F. high on December 13, 2012.
Minnesota Weather History on December 13. Courtesy of the Twin Cities National Weather Service:
1996: Snowfall exceeding one foot was reported from south central Minnesota through portions of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Some of the higher snow totals included 15 inches at Rockford, 14 inches at Cedar and North Branch, 13 inches at Stewart and 7 to 10 inches across the central and southern parts of the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
1933: Severe ice storm hits southeast and central Minnesota.
TODAY: Light snow, slippery coating to an inch? Winds: NW 10. High: 16
SATURDAY NIGHT: Clearing and colder again. Low: -3
SUNDAY: Intervals of sun, plenty chilly. High: 6
MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, few flurries. Wake-up: 3. High: near 20
TUESDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, seasonable. Wake-up: 13. High: 32
WEDNESDAY: Fading sun, close to average. Wake-up: 15. High: 26
THURSDAY: Mild start, wintry mix. Colder late. Wake-up: 20. High: 33
FRIDAY: Windy. Arctic sun returns. Wake-up: 2. High: 5
* more subzero lows are likely by next weekend.
2014 Climate Models Wall Calendar. Yes, an entirely different sort of "climate model", and wouldn't this look good under the Christmas Tree. Details here: "In collaboration with photographers Charlie Naebeck and Jordan Matter, of the New York Times bestseller "Dancers Among Us," we've created a 2014 wall calendar that features 13 portraits of climate scientists and their research. From studies of drought in the American Southwest to reconstructions of Southeast Asia's climate history using data obtained from tree rings, the information in the calendar covers a broad range of current climate science and describes what scientists are discovering about Earth's past, present and future climate..."
November Was Cold, But The Climate Keeps Warming. It's hard-wired into our cave-man DNA to look out the window and assume it's this way (everywhere). Winter has come on suddenly, and hard, but that doesn't mean the rest of the planet is experiencing what we are, as described in this article at Time Magazine; here's a clip: "Global warming is a misnomer. “Warming” makes it sound as if the climate will get hotter at a steady, predictable pace—like a pot of soup heating on the stove. But that’s not how our enormously complex climate system works. The increasing concentration of carbon dioxide and other warming gases in the atmosphere is just one of many factors affecting the global climate—including the natural year-to-year variability that has always been at work. Over the short term, temperatures can rise and fall like the fluctuating value of a single company in the stock market. But the long-term trends—the important trends—remain unchanged. Case in point: the National Climatic Data Center revealed yesterday that the average temperature in the contiguous U.S. in November was 41.6 F—0.3 F below the 20th century average..."
Sea Level And Risk Of Flooding Rising Rapidly in Mid-Atlantic. Climate Central has the story - here's the intro from meteorologist Andrew Freedman: "During the 20th century, sea levels along the highly populated U.S. Mid-Atlantic coastline between New York and Virginia rose faster than in any other century during the past 4,300 years, according to a new study. And as those sea levels continue to increase as a result of global warming and local land elevation changes, the risks of coastal flooding will dramatically escalate. The study, by geoscientists at Rutgers and Tufts Universities and published in the new journal “Earth’s Future,” took a comprehensive look at the history of sea level in the Mid-Atlantic, combining sediment records of prehistoric sea level with modern data, which includes readings from tide gauges and satellite instruments. The result is one of the most in-depth examinations of past, present, and future sea level rise of any region in the U.S..." (Photo credit: AP).
What Cities Can Do To Prepare Themselves For Increasingly Severe Weather. Here's a clip from a story focused on urban resiliency, from Huffington Post: "...Cities across America have good reason to expect that increasingly severe weather events could bring devastation. Today, a 100-year flood is no longer a once-in-a-lifetime event. Cities such as New Orleans, Milwaukee, and Hoboken deal with regular flooding issues. In Miami Beach and Norfolk, ocean-side streets flood with seawater simply when a high tide comes in. And in many cities, a mild thunder storm is enough to overflow sewers and release sewage into fresh water supplies. In these communities, local leaders are searching for practical, cost-effective solutions to manage floods, storm water runoff, erosion, and other negative environmental impacts from storms. Forward-looking cities that want to better prepare for future severe weather events can take proactive steps to mitigate the damage of future storms..." (Image: Red Orbit).
Is Global Warming Stoking An Arctic Cold War? As polar ice continues to melt, opening up new sea routes and opportunities for oil and gas exploration (ironic, huh?) expect to see the arctic emerge as a geopolitical prize, with strategic (and military) implications. Grist has the story - here's an excerpt: "Militarization and geopolitical maneuvering is heating up in the Arctic as once-frozen tundras melt into the sea, unearthing a bonanza of oil fields and shipping routes. Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin this week ordered his military brass to pay “particular attention to the deployment of infrastructure and military units in the Arctic.” He said Russia would open two new Arctic airbases and noted that a long-deserted Russian airbase on the Novosibirsk Islands was recently reopened..."
Photo credit: Shutterstock / Sergey Kamshylin.
How Bill McKibbon Ruined My Life. Here's an excerpt of a story at Huffington Post: "Other good news is that McKibben's "Fossil Fuels Divestment Campaign" is gathering momentum at American universities. The goal? Bankrupt the fossil fuel industry. (If not financially, then at least tarnish their reputation by exposing an industry that is profiting from wrecking the climate.) On college campuses, in the 1980s, activism protesting apartheid successfully forced the divestment from companies doing business with South Africa. McKibben hopes to do the same with big oil. "The fossil fuel industry has five times as much carbon in its reserves of coal, oil and natural gas as we can safely burn. These are now rogue industries committed to burning more carbon than any government on earth thinks would be safe to burn," says McKibben..."
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