The Big Picture


Every time a cold front sails thru town the e-mails, tweets & FB posts arrive like clockwork. "Hey Paul, global warming is a joke. It's cold outside!" To which I reply, "what part of GLOBAL warming is so confusing?" It's human nature (part of our caveman DNA?) to stare out the window and assume this is what's happening planet-wide.

NOAA reports February 2012 to January 2013 was the warmest on record across the USA.

We've now experienced 335 consecutive months with global temperatures exceeding the 20th century average. According to Bill McKibben, who's coming to Minnesota next week (details on the blog), the odds of this occurring by simple chance are less than 3.7 x 10(-99) - "a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe." A natural warming cycle? Right.

Expect quiet skies thru the middle of next week, a brisk Saturday giving way to a Monday thaw - another surge of "partly numb" next Tuesday & Wednesday.

Storms thrive on Gulf moisture and large north-south temperature extremes. We may have have both factors working in our favor by late next week. It's too early to get too specific but ECMWF model guidance is hinting a "plowable" snowfall by next Friday. Stay tuned.


Setting The Stage For Significant Snow? After a tentative thaw Monday temperatures tumble Monday night, barely reaching +10 Tuesday, possibly dipping just below 0 Wednesday morning before struggling back up toward normal. But here's the thing. It's tough to get a (major) snowfall without significant cold air in place. The colder Minnesota is, the larger the north-south temperature gradient. If you have a big storm crossing the Rockies, southwest winds aloft and moisture bubbling out of the Gulf of Mexico? Well, then you have a chance...


Conveyor Belt of Moisture. I can't remember much from the college days (Penn State, late 70s), but I do remember one college meteorology professor referring to this kind of scenario as a "conveyor belt", an atmospheric escalator of moisture starting in the Gulf of Mexico, and wrapping around the center of the storm as it flows toward the north/northwest. The ECMWF model forecast above is valid midnight Thursday night, showing a storm west of Kansas City, possible severe storms over the Deep South, a change from rain to snow north/west of Chicago. It's too early to panic (or get too terribly excited), but we've had a few runs/row hinting at "plowable" snow for Minnesota late Thursday into Friday.


Snowy Writing On The Wall. That may be my favorite Star Tribune headline....ever. Any time you can work zombies into the forecast it's a good day. No weather woes or worries this weekend; a chilly Saturday giving way to average temperatures Sunday, maybe a fleeting thaw on Sunday. And then it turns colder again, plenty cold for snow. The good thing (?) about persistent cold over the northern tier states is that you establish a framework for potential storms (which thrive on large north-south temperature gradients). A southern storm is still forecast to surge north the latter half of next week, possibly producing enough snow to shovel, plow, and turn I-494 into one big slushy, nightmarish adventure by Thursday night. Too early to panic...or celebrate, but the trends are clear: February will probably wind up being the snowiest month of the month this winter. Just the way the maps are setting up. And no, spring is not right around the corner. (photo credit here).


Smells Like Snow. I want to see a few more runs, to see if there is true continuity from model to model and run to run, but the ECMWF (European) prints out .86" liquid between Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning. If this verifies, and it's all snow, it would be a pretty good pile. A lot of "ifs" in there. Deep breaths.


Why Meteorologists Drink. O.K. Here's your forecast for next Thursday-Friday: 3-12". Give or take. Obviously the final amount depends on the exact storm track, and how much Gulf moisture wraps around the storm and streaks into Minnesota late next week. There's still a huge divergence in amounts from the various models - confidence levels are still low.


Meteorite Hits Russian Urals; Fireball Explosion Wreaks Havoc, Over 900 Injured (Photos - Video). This is what happened when a meteor exploded in the upper atmosphere, creating a shock wave, a pulse of energy and sonic boom. Here's an excerpt from the Russian web site "Russia’s Urals region has been rocked by a meteorite explosion in the stratosphere. The impact wave damaged several buildings, and blew out thousands of windows amid frigid winter weather. Hundreds are seeking medical attention for minor injuries.


Eyewitness accounts of the meteorite phenomenon, handpicked by RT. Around 950 people have sought medical attention in Chelyabinsk alone because of the disaster, the region's governor Mikhail Yurevich told RIA Novosti. Over 110 of them have been hospitalized and two of them are in heavy condition. Among the injured there are 159 children, Emergency ministry reported. Army units found three meteorite debris impact sites, two of which are in an area near Chebarkul Lake, west of Chelyabinsk. The third site was found some 80 kilometers further to the northwest, near the town of Zlatoust. One of the fragments that struck near Chebarkul left a crater six meters in diameter."


* more details on the meteor (sonic boom and subsequent damage) from "February 15 a meteor exploded in the daytime skies of Chelyabinsk, Russia. Shock waves from the blast shattered windows in many buildings and sent onlookers to the hospital with wounds from flying glass. The meteoroid entered the atmosphere just as asteroid 2012 DA14 was approaching Earth for a record-setting close approach later in the day. however, NASA says there is no connection between the two: the Russian meteor and 2012 DA14 have different trajectories. A cosmic coincidence?"


Meteor Plume From Space. Meteorologists at Colorado State captured the mega-contrail from Friday's explosive meteor streaking across Russia. More satellite imagery of the meteor signature here.


Drought Update. Here's an excerpt from this week's edition of Weather Talk, from Mark Seeley: "Highlights for the drought-monitoring period ending on February 12 from Brad Rippey at the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board include:

- Overall U.S. drought coverage decreased to 55.73% of the contiguous U.S., down 1.11% from last week and down 5.36% since the beginning of the year. The decrease came on the strength of heavy rain across the South and some snow in the upper Midwest.

- The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category ­ D4, or exceptional drought ­ dipped nearly one-quarter of a percentage point (0.24%) to 6.61%. D4 coverage has ranged from 5 to 7% for 27 consecutive weeks (August 14, 2012 ­ February 12, 2013).

- The percent of hay in drought (57%) fell two percentage points, while winter wheat in drought was unchanged at 59%. Cattle in drought (67%) fell one percentage point


One Fickle January - Giving New Meaning to Blue/Red States. On paper it was the 39th warmest January on record for the USA, according to NOAA. But there were big disparities in temperature and moisture, as described in my latest 2:30 "Climate Matters" update for WeatherNation TV: "Meteorologist Paul Douglas looks at how January 2013 stacked up to years past. For a couple of states it was one of their top 10 coldest Januaries. But when you look at the the contiguous U.S. as whole, January was actually warmer than average. In this segment, you'll see some of the other weather highlights from January 2013. What will you remember?"


NOAA: February 2012 To January 2013 Warmest On Record. Here's a portion of a story at Climate Central: "January was warmer and wetter than average in the contiguous U.S., despite the persistent drought in the nation's heartland, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday. The average temperature in the lower 48 states reached 32.0°F last month. At 1.6°F above the 20th century average, January 2013 ties 1958 as the 39th-warmest January on record. That was still warm enough to make February 2012-to-January 2013 the warmest February-to-January period since record-keeping began in 1880, NOAA said in its monthly State of the Climate report..."

Graphic above: NCDC, National Climatic Data Center.


National Hurricane Center: Sandy Was Second Costliest Hurricane In U.S. Here are some interesting new details about "Sandy" from Insurance Journal: "Superstorm Sandy was the deadliest hurricane in the northeastern U.S. in 40 years and the second-costliest in the nation’s history, according to a report released Tuesday, Feb. 12. The storm’s effects reached far and wide, according to the National Hurricane Center report. While Sandy visited devastation on the East Coast, principally New Jersey and New York, it created wind gusts as far west as Wisconsin and as far north as Canada and caused water levels to rise from Florida to Maine, the center found. The hurricane center attributed 72 U.S. deaths directly to Sandy, from Maryland to New Hampshire. That is more than any hurricane to affect the northeastern U.S. since Hurricane Agnes killed 122 people in 1972, according to the center’s records covering 1851 to 2010..."

Photo credit: "Sandy damage in Ortley Beach, N.J. on Nov. 10, 2012." Photo: N.J. Governor's Office/Tim Larsen.


FCC Tells TV Stations To Secure EAS Equipment After Fake Zombie Alerts. And my favorite story of the day, the FCC actually reminding television stations that the equipment that generates emergency messages "This Is A Test" may be vulnerable to hacking from overseas - cyber hanky panky capable of issuing a (fake!) Zombie Alert. As opposed to a real Zombie Alert. TVSpy explains: "The FCC is telling stations to “take immediate action” to secure their Emergency Alert System equipment after hackers took control of the system at several stations to broadcast warnings of an imminent zombie attack. FTV Live has the full memo from the FCC:

Urgent Advisory: Immediate actions to be taken regarding CAP EAS device security.

"All EAS Participants are required to take immediate action to secure their CAP EAS equipment, including resetting passwords, and ensuring CAP EAS equipment is secured behind properly configured firewalls and other defensive measures. All CAP EAS equipment manufacturer models are included in this advisory..."


Southshore Sizzle. I'm going for the Frank Sinatra impersonators. And the great chefs and food, and a little wine to wash it all down. Hope to see you at the Southshore Sizzle at Southshore Center in Shorewood (near Excelsior) a week from today. Details on the event here. I predict a good time.


Image courtesy of


A Logical Reaction To 2.5 Feet Of Snow. I might be crying too - this photo taken somewhere in New England last weekend, courtesy of The Chive. Perfect.


18 F. high Friday in the Twin Cities.

29 F. average high for February 15.

36 F. high on February 15, 2012.

10.6" snow fell on KMSP during the first half of February.

3.9" normal snowfall from Feb. 1 - 15.

.4" last February, as of the 15th. Yes, I notice the trend too. Maybe we are (very slowly) pulling out of the drought.


At Least The Sun Was Out. Don't let anyone from Detroit, Cleveland or Chicago give you a hard time about our cold fronts. At least our chilliest days tend to be blue-bird sunny days, and having that sun out helps a lot. Chicago is routinely a few degrees warmer, but far more humid (thanks to Lake Michigan), which also keeps Chicagoland cloudier, which can make the wind chill all that more miserable. "Dry Cold?" Yes, there's some truth to that. Friday night ranged from 13 at Redwood Falls to 17 St. Cloud and 18 in the Twin Cities.


Doggie Snow Angels? Hey, why not? That's "Willie", Heidi Rusch's amazing Jack Russel, enjoying a fresh snowfall from Thursday's clipper. This one photo brightened an otherwise ho-hum Friday for me.


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

TODAY: Partly sunny, still chilly. Winds: S 3-8. High: 19


SATURDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 10


SUNDAY: Dim sun, milder breeze. Winds: S 10-20. High: 29


MONDAY: Early thaw, patchy clouds - flurries north. Wake-up: 24. High: 32 (much colder by Monday night).


TUESDAY: Intervals of sun, colder again. Wake-up: 4. High: 12


WEDNESDAY: Plenty of sun, light winds. Wake-up: -2. High: 13


THURSDAY: Clouds thicken. Late PM snow possible. Wake-up: 7. High: 23


FRIDAY: Plowable snow? Tapers PM hours. Wake-up: 15. High: 27


Climate Stories...


Video: Boston Meteorologist Links New England Blizzard To Climate Change. I know Harvey Leonard; a veteran TV meteorologist in Boston (who knows his stuff). He was initially skeptical of climate change (as most of us were), but - like me - he's seeing markers of climate change on his maps day in and day out. A link with the recent mega-blizzard in New England? Here's an excerpt from Think Progress: "The unusually powerful blizzard that slammed into New England earlier this month prompted a Boston meteorologist to speak out unusually bluntly on the ties between climate change and extreme weather events.After being asked about the increase in extreme weather around the world by the interviewer — citing Hurricane Sandy, flooding, the record-breaking drought in midwest — WCVB Chief Meteorologist Harvey Leonard laid out the scientific case for how climate change is driving these recent events: Climate scientists, most of them who have been working on this issue, that’s exactly what they have been predicting: that over time, we would see more extremes — more drought, more heavy precipitation events, stronger storms…."


Bill McKibben Is Coming To Minnesota. He'll be speaking about climate change and implications for Minnesota at The University of St. Thomas on Wednesday (Feb. 20) and Macalaster College on Thursday (Feb. 21). I'll be presenting meteorological trends at St. Thomas before his talk next Wednesday - really looking forward to what he has to say. If you're interested in this topic, I hope you make it a point to be there. From Paul Thompson, Director at "How can we connect people with their desire to take action on a rapidly changing climate? Can people actually do something to alter the future of history? What season to Minnesotans relate to more than any other? At Cool Planet ( we believe that people will take the ncessary steps to address climate change when they make a personal connection with what is happening in THEIR world."

McKibben, arguably the global leader for climate action, is coming to ski the American Birkebeiner Ski Marathon in NW Wisconsin. As cross-country skiers we have noticed a distinct lack of predictable snow over the past decade. Minnesota winters without snow? That's just not right. Here's what some Minnesotans/Wisconsinites are saying about "What I Love About Winter":

Grace, age 11, Edina: "I love, love, love ice skating and going sledding because I love the feeling of wind and snow in my face."

Jen, age 26, Whittier Neighborhood, Minneapolis: "When we actually get the snow I remember getting growing up."

Jonathan, age 54, Cable, WI: "The crunch of snow underfoot. Viewing the moon on a frigid evening. Watching my daughter make snow forts."

Kamin, age 54, Hayward, WI: "Finding wold tracks in the snow, snow shoeing and cross country skiing."

How do we get together to protect the things we love about this season that defines Minnesota and Wisconsin?


Thawing Permafrost May Be "Huge Factor" In Global Warming. Here's an excerpt from Inter Press Service: "Thawing permafrost is emitting more climate-heating carbon faster than previously realised. Scientists have now learned that when the ancient carbon locked in the ice thaws and is exposed to sunlight, it turns into carbon dioxide 40 percent faster. “This really changes the trajectory of the debate” over when and how much carbon will be released as permafrost thaws due to ever warmer temperatures in the Arctic, says researcher Rose Cory of the University of North Carolina. There are 13 million square kilometres of permafrost in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe. As previously reported by IPS, a 2011 study estimated that global warming could release enough permafrost carbon to raise global temperatures three degrees C on top of what will result from human emissions from oil, gas and coal..."

Photo credit above: "Crack patterns in Arctic permafrost as viewed from a helicopter." Credit: Brocken Inaglory/cc by 3.0


Christian Faith Towards Global Warming. Here's a clip from Opposing Views: "Global warming, in the view of the vast majority of scientists, is the phenomenon of changing climates on Earth due to human industrialization and pollution with carbon dioxide and other gases, and it has emerged as the 21st Century's leading environmental issue. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has published extensive peer-reviewed studies demonstrating global warming's disastrous effects in years to come. Yet in the United States, many evangelical Christians still report a disbelief in climate change, campaigning against global warming as an "unfounded and undue concern..."

Photo credit: "Human-emitted greenhouse gases are a leading cause of global warming."


Senators Propose Long-Shot Carbon Tax Bill For Big Polluters. Reuters has the story; here's the intro: "Two of the most liberal senators on Thursday proposed a bill to tax carbon emissions, raising up to $1.2 trillion in revenue over 10 years that would largely be returned consumers. Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California, attempted to seize on the momentum from Tuesday's State of the Union speech when President Barack Obama expressed support for efforts to battle climate change. "We have the opportunity right now, with the president's commitment in the State of the Union to make major progress," Sanders said at a press conference Thursday...."


Smart Water; New Jobs. Water, not gas or oil, will quickly become the most precious natural resource in the 21st century; here's an excerpt of an article at ScienceBlogs: "Invest in the future. And especially, invest in sustainable, effective job creation in the water sector. The result will be millions of new jobs – a significant result. That is the key message from a new analysis just released today by the Pacific Institute on sustainable water jobs in the United States. That study, Sustainable Water Jobs: A National Assessment of Water-Related Green Job Opportunities, finds that proactive investments increasing efficient water use, improving water quality, expanding smart water treatment and re-use, and more will address growing problems associated with failing water infrastructure, deteriorating water quality, severe drought, and flooding, as well as create jobs in a wide range of professions. The study identifies 136 different kinds of jobs at all levels of skill: from plumbers to landscapers, from technology specialists and engineers to irrigation experts. Thirty-seven of these job types are also projected to have high growth in the overall economy, with each offering more than 100,000 job openings across the country by 2020. That’s millions of new jobs..."

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Don't Sweat The Windchill (asteroid passes within 17,200 miles at 1:24 pm - concrete helmets optional)

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Asteroid Anxiety (odds of a plowable snowfall increase later this week)