Better Travel Conditions - Cold Weather Benefits

John Inman from Morris sent me a note. "It was so cold my teeth were chattering...and they were still in the glass!" Thank you for keeping a sense of humor, John. Yes, when it's this cold the crime rate drops, and your garbage doesn't stink. There are other benefits.

Winter tends to bring cleaner air with less smog; good news for asthma sufferers. Better sleeping weather, less inflammation, better decision-making capabilities, calories get burned away faster and more time bonding with loved ones. Oh, no bugs - and no whining about the humidity!

This may wind up being the second coldest week of winter, a winter that should still wind up milder than average, overall. Highs hold in the teens and single digits; the best chance of feeling a mildly-euphoric subzero burn early Wednesday, again Saturday morning.

Not record-setting. Not school-closing. Just classic Minnesota Cold.

20s may return as early as Sunday with 30s next week. NOAA's GFS model hints at wet snow or a sloppy mix the weekend after next.

Spring is coming, and odds are it'll be milder than average. Any day now.

Ground Blizzards. Although no significant snow was falling from the sky winds of 30-55 mph whipped up snow already on the ground, producing white-out conditions over southwestern Minnesota on Monday. I grabbed this screenshot from MnDOT at 1:30 PM; many roads from St. James and Windom to Pipestone and Jackson still closed. Turns out those Blizzard Warnings issued by the Twin Cities National Weather Service were a very good idea.

Atmospheric "Bomb". The Nor'easter than spun up Sunday into Monday, brushing Cape Cod and Boston with blizzard conditions was no garden-variety storm. Tell that to passengers onboard Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas, which somehow steamed into the heart of hurricane-force winds.  Here's an excerpt of a harrowing account at Capital Weather Gang: "...Others were in pure awe of the storm, which was going through a process that we call bombogenesis, when mid-latitude cyclones undergo a drop in surface barometric pressure at a rate of 24 millibars in 24 hours..."

A Bit of Wind Chill. Models show wind chill values as low as -22F at 7 AM Wednesday morning. Not exactly school-closing cold, but chilly enough to get your full attention. Source: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Polar Vortex (Light). Subzero air laps south of the border, the thrust of the chill aimed at the Great Lakes  and New England; freezing weather pushing as far south as the Florida Panhandle. GFS model data shows a shift in the pattern next week as milder, Pacific air finally pushes east. Source: AerisWeather.

Thaw Next Week. Models consistently show temperatures dipping (just) below 0F into Saturday morning before a fairly rapid recovery next week; 20s are possible by Sunday with a few days in the 30s next week. I predict you'll be relieved and vaguely amazed how good "freezing" feels after a very cold week.

Serious Lake Effect. Subzero air funneling south of the border (thank you Canada) passing over the relatively mild Great Lakes will produce some 1-2 foot lake effect snows just downwind, from South Bend to Cleveland and Buffalo; precious little snow west of the Mississippi River. 10-Day accumulated GFS snowfall product: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Slow Moderation, In Spite of Occasional Cold Swipes. A higher sun angle will finally thaw out temperatures the latter half of February as the coldest air shifts into New England. The GFS 500 mb wind forecast for Monday evening, February 22, predicts a northwest flow, but a much more moderate Pacific airmass pushing across western Canada should take the edge off some of the coldest cold fronts.

Time To Exhale? Extended numbers show a streak of 30s next week with an outside shot at  40F, before cooling again by the 24h of February. The chance of snow or a mix the weekend after next may have been a mirage; latest GFS model runs don't bring any significant moisture into Minnesota the next 2 weeks, which is often the norm during an El Nino winter.

March Preview. Although February may wind up a little colder than previous runs of NOAA's CFSv2 (Climate Forecast System) were predicting a few weeks ago, the model continues to insist that El Nino-warmed winds will result in a much warmer than average March for much of western and central Canada and the northern tier states of the USA. We'll see, but the model has been amazingly consistent. Map source: WeatherBell.

NOAA and NASA Team Up To Investigate Strongest El Nino on Record. It's looking even bigger and more pervasive than the previous record warm stain in the Pacific in 1997-98. Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "America’s two leading climate science agencies are conducting an unprecedented survey via land, sea and air to investigate the current El Niño event and better understand its impact on weather systems that have brought both parched and soaking conditions to North America. The project, which will conclude in March, will deploy resources from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) and Nasa to analyze one of the strongest El Niños on record. El Niño is a periodic phenomenon in which parts of the eastern Pacific warm, causing a ripple effect for weather around the world..."

Animation credit: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

El Nino Seems To Have Smashed 1997 Record in Past Three Months. With additional perspective on today's weather headline here's an excerpt from New Scientist: "The evidence is in: we seem to be living though the most extreme of extreme weather events. Last year, New Scientist reported early indications that the present El Niño event is probably the strongest ever recorded. A new analysis backs that view. El Niño is a periodic phenomenon that occurs when ocean temperatures warm in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. Even before this current event began, forecasters warned that it was likely to wreak havoc with the world’s weather..."

Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies:

Drought Remains "Very Serious" in California. Recent rains and heavy snows are putting a dent in the drought, but the long term implications are still uncertain.  Here's a clip from Capital Public Radio: "...January brought above-average precipitation to California, but the narrative says more is needed to end the state’s historic four-year drought. "Despite heavy rainfall in January, an above-average snowpack and rising reservoirs in many areas, the California State Water Resources Control Board recently approved an 8-month extension of existing drought-related emergency regulations," the report says. "This is a reminder that although El Niño-related precipitation has been bountiful so far this winter, the drought situation in California remains very serious..."

Photo credit above: "The second snowpack measurement of the winter Feb. 2 was 130 percent of average at Phillips Station off Highway 50 near Sierra-at-Tahoe Road." California Department of Water Resources / Courtesy.

How Melting Arctic Ice May Have Set Off Era of Vicious East Coast Snow Storms. Jason Samenow connects the dots at Capital Weather Gang; here's a clip: "...Cohen, who works at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc., has developed and published research that support a connection between declining Arctic ice and more severe East Coast storms. Cohen says the melting ice, which peaks in the early fall, sets off a chain reaction that establishes “a great atmospheric background for a blockbuster snowstorm” by winter. Here’s how it works…When sea ice melts, Cohen says, cold winds blowing over open waters in the Arctic pick up moisture which gets deposited as snow over Eurasia in October. The process is similar to how lake effect snow forms in the Great Lakes...."

Image credit: "2015 September Arctic sea extent compared to 1981-2000 average portrayed by yellow line." (NASA).

How Gloomy Winter Days Can Be An Issue for Employers. The dark days of winter can take a toll on mental and physical health, according to an article at The Chicago Tribune - here's an excerpt: "...This is a real diagnosis, and it's recognized by psychiatrists in many countries," said Norman Rosenthal, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. Rosenthal gave the disorder its name. According to the APA, symptoms of SAD include fatigue, pervasively sad mood, loss of interest, sleep difficulty or excessive sleeping, craving and eating more starches and sweets, weight gain, feelings of hopelessness or despair, and thoughts of suicide. In 2008, Rosenthal wrote in a journal article on seasonal affective disorder that 6 percent of the U.S. population is affected..."

In Tornado Alley, Using Drones to Pinpoint Severe Weather. Here's an excerpt of an interesting interview at PBS NewsHour: "...In other words, forecasters need to get closer to the action, scanning parts of the atmosphere that traditional radar, weather balloons and sophisticated weather towers can’t reach. That sweet spot is called the lower atmospheric boundary layer, a zone roughly 1,000 feet off the ground. Phillip Chilson is a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma and is also involved in the project. “There has been a need for high quality measurements of the lower atmosphere that’s been known by the meteorological community for decades. The lowest level of the atmosphere is so dynamic spatially and temporally, that it’s very under-sampled at present...” (File image: J Pat Carter, Associated Press).

"Flint Isn't An Anomaly. We're Heading Toward a National  Water Crisis." Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from Mark Ruffalo at The Washington Post: "...Sadly, there have since been numerous high-profile cases of contamination, such as in Toledo, Ohio, in 2014, where agricultural runoff and crumbling infrastructure led to an algal bloom in Lake Erie that made the city’s drinking water unsafe. Also in 2014, in West Virginia, a chemical spill contaminated the Elk River, the tap water supply for hundreds of thousands of people. This past August, 3 million gallons of contaminated water were released into the Animas River in Colorado, resulting in lead levels 3,500 times normal and arsenic levels 300 times normal, affecting many communities and farms..." (File image credit: ThinkStock).

A Small New England College Goes 100% Solar. An article at Christian Science Monitor caught my eye; here's the intro: "In western Massachusetts sits a small liberal arts college doing big things in the way of sustainability. Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., will soon be home to a "living building" and the only residential college generating 100 percent of its electricity from solar panels..."

Image credit above: "An artist's rendering of the interior of the R.W. Kern Center on the campus of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. The 17,000-square-foot center will host high-tech classrooms, admissions and financial aid offices, and social space. It will be only the ninth building certified as self-sustaining in the United States." Courtesy of Hampshire College.

Carbon Dioxide From The Air Converted Into Methanol. There will be more breakthroughs - count on it. Here's some encouraging news, an excerpt from Gizmag: "The danger posed by rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide has seen many schemes proposed to remove a proportion it from the air. Rather than simply capture this greenhouse gas and bury it in the ground, though, many experiments have managed to transform CO2 into useful things like carbon nanofibers or even fuels, such as diesel. Unfortunately, the over-arching problem with many of these conversions is the particularly high operating temperatures that require almost counterproductive amounts of energy to produce relatively low yields of fuel. Now researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) claim to have devised a way to take CO2 directly from the air and convert it into methanol using much lower temperatures and in a correspondingly simpler way..."

Image credit: "Converting CO2 from the air to methanol would not only help reduce the atmospheric concentration of this greenhouse gas, but also provide clean burning fuel in the process." (Credit: Surya Prakash)

Cover Crops, a Farming Revolution With Deep Roots in the Past. Not only does in help to sequester carbon in the soil, it can make fields more resilient to drought and flood. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "...But Doug didn’t become a believer until 2013, when the family was grappling with a terrible drought. “In the part of a field where we had planted cover crops, we were getting 20 to 25 bushels of corn more per acre than in places where no cover crops had been planted,” he said. “That showed me it made financial sense to do this.” Now some 13,000 of the 20,000 acres that the family farms across nine counties are planted with cover crops after harvesting, and farmers around them are beginning to embrace the practice..."

Photo credit above: "Dan DeSutter, in a field of dried-up daikon radish, sunflower, turnip and hairy vetch, has been experimenting with cover crops for 15 years." Credit David Kasnic for The New York Times.

Has The U.S. Really Reached an Epic Turning Point in Energy? National Geographic asks the question; here's an excerpt: "...Indeed, in recent years, the U.S. oil and natural gas boom has sparked much talk about an American energy renaissance. Yet as prices for oil, wind and solar have plunged, the most recent U.S. short-term forecast doesn’t see production growth for all three. Rather, it sees oil falling for the next two years but solar and wind rising. What this means is an energy mix in the world’s largest economy that’s increasingly efficient and clean with fewer heat-trapping carbon emissions..."

Photo credit: "The United States is seeing a surge in wind energy. Here, turbines spin at the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center in Texas." Photograph by Joe McNally, National Geographic.

Congressional Clocks Have a Secret Code. Let the conspiracy theories begin. Here's an excerpt at Atlas Obscura: "...Look along the top of a Congressional wall clock, and you’ll see seven small light bulbs. Even the fancier clocks in members’ offices have them. From time to time, these will light up in particular sequences, accompanied by loud, long buzzes or series of shorter buzzes. These patterns all have meanings: they’re meant to communicate to people working on the Hill when electronic votes are called, when one chamber or the other is adjourned or in recess, and when members need to think about actually being in the Senate or House chamber..."

Photo credit: "Library of Congress rotunda clock." (Photo: Library of Congress).

17 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday.

27 F. average high on February 8.

32 F. high on February 8, 2015.

2" snow on the ground at MSP International Airport.

February 9, 1899: The mercury plummets to -59 at Leech Lake Dam.

TODAY: Some sun, cold and crispy. Wind chill: -15 early. Winds: NW 15-25. High: 11

TUESDAY NIGHT: Clear and nippy. Low: -4

WEDNESDAY: Plenty of bright, ineffective sun. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 9

THURSDAY: Fading sun, still chilly. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 0. High: 14

FRIDAY: Next shot, coating of light snow? Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 8. High: 15

SATURDAY: Cold-blue sky, light winds. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: -8. High: 10

SUNDAY: Chance of light snow, "milder". Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 2. High:  22

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, above average again. Grilling weather. Wake-up: 18. High: near 30

Climate Stories...

The Pentagon Just Issued Marching Orders on Climate Change. Here's the intro to an update from VICE News: "A bit over a year after identifying climate change as a "significant challenge" for the US military, the US Department of Defense has given its top officials orders for handling the hazards posed by a warming world. The boring-but-important 12-page document issued in January tells the armed service chiefs and top civilian officials to identify how climate change will affect their missions, figure out how to manage any risks it poses, and factor those into their planning. It gives specific tasks to various Defense Department offices and regional commands, from determining how higher sea levels or longer droughts affect US bases to what new gear might be needed to work in a thawing Arctic..."

Sea Level Rise Will Last Twice as Long as Human History. Here's the intro to a story at Newsweek: "Huge sea-level rises caused by climate change will last far longer than the entire history of human civilization to date, according to new research, unless the brief window of opportunity of the next few decades is used to cut carbon emissions drastically. Even if global warming is capped at governments’ target of 2 degrees Celsius — which is already seen as difficult — 20 percent of the world’s population will eventually have to migrate away from coasts swamped by rising oceans. Cities including New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Calcutta, Jakarta and Shanghai would all be submerged..."

Graphic credit: Guardian, source: Nature Climate Change.

Blackrock: World's Largest Investor Flags Up Climate Risk. How much exposure do you have in your portfolio? Climate Home has the story - here's the intro: "In a letter to the heads of S&P 500 companies and top European corporations, Larry Fink expressed concern at the lack of focus on environmental and social risks in boardrooms. “For too long, companies have not considered them core to their business – even when the world’s political leaders are increasingly focused on them, as demonstrated by the Paris Climate Accord. “Over the long-term, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues – ranging from climate change to diversity to board effectiveness – have real and quantifiable financial impacts...”

Photo credit: Suisse/Flickr.

Michael Mann: Climate Change Deniers Perpetuate Smears on Proven Science. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed and response to a denialist Letter to the Editor from climate scientist Michael Mann at The Knoxville News Sentinel: "...The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the most authoritative assessment of climate science available, concluded that recent warmth is likely unprecedented over an even longer time frame than we had concluded (at least the past 1,400 years). Of course, the "Hockey Stick" is only one of numerous independent lines of evidence that have led the world's scientists to conclude that climate change is (a) real, (b) caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and (c) a grave threat if we do nothing about it..."

Study Points to Developing World Feeling More Impact from Climate Change. Here's the intro to a story at "A study released Friday shows that the wealthiest 4 percent of the world’s population is creating 50 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions, but will likely suffer little impact resulting from climate change, such as increased frequency of natural disasters, changing habitats, human health impacts, and industry stress. The study, generated by the Wildlife Conservation Society, likens greenhouse gas emissions from countries such as the United States and China to “second-hand smoke..."
Photo credit above: "In this 2014 file photo, smoke billows out of a chimney stack of steel works factories in Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia." Rob Griffith/AP/File.

Climate Talk in Alexandia. I want to thank Reverend John Riggle and some very dedicated volunteers for arranging a presentation to local pastors and a public talk in the Alexandria area on Saturday. I had a chance to review meteorological and climate trends, and talk about faith, stewardship and Creation Care. Photo above courtesy of the Alexandria Echo Press, which has details here.

Greetings from Alexandria. I had enough time to see Big Ole and take a quick tour of the Kensington Rune Stone, which dates back to 1362. Yes, there's compelling evidence that the Vikings were here long before Christopher Columbus got close, and yet professional skeptics remain. Sound familiar?

T-Shirt Weather in the Arctic. The changes are happening even faster at more northerly latitude; here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The New York Times: "...Thunderstorms also raged over our camp. These storms used to be rare in the Arctic, but they strike often now. Lightning has set fire to the tundra, releasing into the atmosphere huge stores of ancient carbon from the permafrost. Sinkholes are also opening up in the thawing tundra. Walk up to one, and you will hear the trickle and clatter as heat dissolves permafrost into cascades of ice age mud and stones. We are only just beginning to understand these changes. Ecosystems involve a complex web of connections among species and the physical environment. Climate change alters these connections in ways that can surprise and baffle us..."

Some Trees May Slow Climate Change Better Than Others. Who knew? Here's the intro to a story at "Planting trees to help fight climate-change works, right? Well, according to a new study that's not always the case. It turns out that conifer trees, like evergreens, may actually cause temperature increases where they've taken root in place of broad-leafed trees. For example, look at Europe where the study was focused..."

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