A Tough Winter?
It's human nature to compare and contrast. Yes, after March 2012 - the warmest March on record for Minnesota and the USA - 2013 has featured an old fashioned March: nearly 14 inches of snow, with temperatures 6.3F colder than average. But the claim of a tough winter? Not so much.
Your Honor, look at the evidence in Exhibit A: 49.3 inches of snow so far. Average for an entire winter is 54". Based on Heating Degree Days we've actually saved 1.5 percent on heating costs this winter season. Subzero nights in the metro: 9. The latest 30 year average is 22.5.
Truth? We've been so pampered and spoiled since roughly 1998 - even an "average winter" seems like a cold slap across the face.
Highs approach 50 today (I may take off my shirt and fire up the grill - just to annoy the neighbors) before a half inch of rain falls Saturday morning. A colder front arrives Easter Sunday on gusty winds. Expect bright, ineffective sun and wind chills of 15-20F for Monday's Twins Home Opener. Hey, who needs a retractable roof?
The sun angle is similar to mid-September, so it can't stay chilly for long. With our reluctant spring I wouldn't be surprised to see a few more slushy inches in April, but highs approach 50 next Wednesday, again the first weekend of April. Slow, tentative signs of a tardy spring.
Big Swings. After peaking near 50 today, temperatures cool off Easter Sunday; highs holding near freezing Monday and Tuesday. Some moderation is likely again the middle of next week, a mix of rain and wet snow possible by Friday of next week, according to ECMWF model data.
20-Degree Temperature Drop. After climbing to near 50 today, temperatures fall off late Sunday into Monday; wind chills early next week dipping into the teens at times. Don't retire the coats and heavy jackets just yet - but some moderation is likely by the middle of next week. Graphic: Iowa State.
Significant Storm April 7-8? It's still early, but GFS data shows nearly 2" of liquid precipitation falling around April 7-8, mostly rain - possibly ending as a little slushy snow. Colder air follows the storm; temperatures not rebounding into the 50s until late in the second week of April.
More Hints The Drought May Be Easing. Here's the GFS solution for early in the day, April 8, showing an intense storm tracking just south/east of Minnesota; a shield of potentially heavy rain and some wet snow from the Dakotas into Wisconsin. We'll see.
Fascinatingly Morbid. Here's an interesting infographic looking at snow and ice-related accidents in the USA, courtesy of graphs.net.
Upended: The Deadly Odds Of Slipping On Ice. Here's an excerpt of a relevant article from Book of Odds, focused on the risk of death from slipping on ice (or any hard surface): "... The odds of dying from a fall on ice or snow in a year are 1 in 4,908,000. The US population hovers around 304,000,000, which means roughly 60 people die from slipping on ice or snow every year. But wintry conditions are only involved in about 10% of deaths stemming from an accidental tumble. The overall odds a person will die from an accidental fall in a year are 1 in 435,800. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), accidental falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries in the US, and the primary cause of fatal injuries for Americans 65 and older. Most injuries come from striking a hard floor..."
Extreme Weather: The New Normal? Here's a clip of a terrific article from my friend, Bob Ryan, at WJLA-TV in Washington D.C.: "Is the weather really going to extremes, or are we just more aware or hear more about “extreme weather” on the news and in blogs? Well, March 2013 has sure been an extreme change from March 2012. March 2012, the warmest March on record here in Washington and across the United States, at the same time across the globe March 2012 was the coolest since 1999...."
Graphic above: Climate Central.
Which Is The Safest Seat On An Aircraft? Personally, I want a seat inside the "black box", which is almost always recovered intact. After reading this article from the U.K. Telegraph I won't be quite as upset if I'm not upgraded on my next Delta flight. Economy class, a window seat, near an exit, toward the rear of the plane, is just fine. Here's an excerpt: "...The producers of the documentary, The Crash, arranged for a Boeing 727 carrying cameras, sensors and crash test dummies with breakable “bones” to be deliberately crashed into the Sonoran Desert in Mexico. After hitting the ground, the front of the plane and the first 11 rows of seats – usually reserved for first-class, business-class or premium-economy passengers – were ripped off. A force of 12G was recorded in this section of the aircraft. Further back, the force fell to around 6G. Experts concluded that none of the plane’s first-class passengers would have survived, but 78 per cent of the other passengers would have, with the chance of survival increasing the closer they were sitting to the rear of the aircraft..."
How The Internet Is Making Us Poor. Is "software eating the world"? How many information-related jobs will be replaced by software, automation and even robotics in the years to come. Will we be competing with other people for jobs, or machines? Here's an excerpt of a thought-provoking story at Quartz: "Everyone knows the story of how robots replaced humans on the factory floor. But in the broader sweep of automation versus labor, a trend with far greater significance for the middle class—in rich countries, at any rate—has been relatively overlooked: the replacement of knowledge workers with software. One reason for the neglect is that this trend is at most thirty years old, and has become apparent in economic data only in perhaps the past ten years. The first all-in-one commercial microprocessor went on sale in 1971, and like all inventions, it took decades for it to become an ecosystem of technologies pervasive and powerful enough to have a measurable impact on the way we work..."
Photo credit above: "Librarians are being replaced by vast systems for automatically storing books—but it's Wikipedia and the internet that are the real threat." AP/Uncredited.
TODAY: Morning clouds, a few light showers. Some sun this afternoon, turning milder. Winds: S 5-10. High: 47
FRIDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase, light rain late. Low: 37
SATURDAY: Morning rain (even a clap of thunder), drier by late PM. High: 48
SUNDAY: Patchy clouds, windy & colder. Wake-up: 33. High: 36
MONDAY: Sunny Opener. Feels like 15-20F. Wake-up: 23. High: 32
TUESDAY: Bright sun, less wind. Chilly. Wake-up: 21. High: 34
WEDNESDAY: Some sun, breezy and milder. Wake-up: 25. High: 48
THURSDAY: More clouds, turning cooler. Wake-up: 37. High: 46
Buzzkill? How Climate Change Could Eventually End Coffee. This is the last straw - PLEASE don't take away my coffee! US News has the article; here's the intro: "Millions around the world wake up and brew a cup of coffee before they start their day. But for many involved in the industry, a caffeine buzz isn't keeping them up at night—instead, what's causing insomnia is the increasing difficulty that climate change causes coffee farmers. Coffee is one of the world's most traded commodities. Each year, more than $15 billion worth of coffee is exported from 52 countries—many of which are still developing and rely on the crop to buoy their economies. The industry employs some 26 million people worldwide...The problem has gotten so bad that on March 18, Starbucks bought its first ever coffee farm, specifically to research new climate change-resistant coffee varieties..."
Poll: Americans Favor Adapting To Global Warming, But Not To Save Beaches For Coastal Dwellers. Here's an excerpt of a story at The Washington Post: "...When it came to the general question of who should pay to protect the coast, 60 percent of the public said it should be paid for by local property owners and businesses, not the general taxpayers. And when it comes to specific solutions, about 80 percent of those surveyed said the money should come from local property taxes, not federal or state income taxes. Nearly half, 47 percent, said the government should prohibit people from rebuilding structures damaged by storms. The survey also found that 82 percent of the public believes global warming is already happening. About 3 out of 4 people said rising sea levels caused by global warming is a serious problem."
Surprising Depth To Global Warming's Effects. Over 90% of the warming has gone into oceans, some of that warming into deep ocean layers, below 700 meters. Here's an excerpt from Live Science: "The oceans are the flywheel of the climate system. As atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases increase, the Earth system is warming, and over 90 percent of that increase in heat goes into the ocean. Knowing how much heat the ocean absorbs is vital to understanding sea level rise (the oceans expand as they warm), and predicting how much, and how fast, the atmosphere will warm. Most estimates of ocean warming have been limited to the upper 700 meters of water, owing to the limited availability of ocean-temperature data below that depth. Since about the turn of the millennium, the Argo array, an international system of robotic profiling floats, has massively increased ocean sampling to 2,000 meters, and allowed scientists to show conclusively that ocean warming extends below 700 meters.."
Photo credit above: "The researchers compared ocean-temperature data collected in the 1870s by the Challenger vessel with modern data collected by the Argo Project, which uses 3,500 free-drifting floats (one of which is shown here) to measure temperature and salinity." Credit: Argo Project.
New Research Confirms Global Warming Has Accelerated. Following up on the article above, here's an excerpt from Skeptical Science: "A new study of ocean warming has just been published in Geophysical Research Letters by Balmaseda, Trenberth, and Källén (2013). There are several important conclusions which can be drawn from this paper.
- Completely contrary to the popular contrarian myth, global warming has accelerated, with more overall global warming in the past 15 years than the prior 15 years. This is because about 90% of overall global warming goes into heating the oceans, and the oceans have been warming dramatically.
- As suspected, much of the 'missing heat' Kevin Trenberth previously talked about has been found in the deep oceans. Consistent with the results of Nuccitelli et al. (2012), this study finds that 30% of the ocean warming over the past decade has occurred in the deeper oceans below 700 meters, which they note is unprecedented over at least the past half century..."
Poll Questions Shift Public Views On Global Warming. A majority of Americans acknowledge that our climate is shifting, but how the questions are posed can shape the ultimate outcome (and certainty) of the answers. Nothing new there, but here's an excerpt of an interesting article at USA Today: "...Belief that global warming is happening has been mostly stable and increasing for the last thirty years," says social scientist Orie Kristel of The Strategy Team, an applied social science company based in Columbus, Ohio. The agreement has approached 75%, and although it dipped in recent years, that consensus has since resumed its upward march, according to a just-released report sponsored by the Skoll Global Threats Fund, a foundation founded by eBay billionaire Jeff Skoll that looks for solutions to global problems such as pandemics, nuclear proliferation and environmental challenges. In it, Kristel and his colleagues weigh together public opinion polls dating back to 1986, from more than 150 nationwide questionnaires in all..."
Graphic credit above: "U.S. belief that global warming is occurring weighed over all polls since 1986 to 2012." (Photo: The Strategy Team)
New Video: Hunters, Anglers And Climate Change. Here's a video and excerpt from Climate Denial Crock of the Week: "Todd Tanner has an offer for you. Convince him that climate change is not real, and he’ll give you his gun.
Field and Stream: The Conservation Hawks is a new group dedicated to harnessing the power of sportsmen to address climate change. Stop. Before you give in to anger, or to the “conservation fatigue” that can fall upon us like a giant wet carpet whenever climate change is mentioned, consider this: If you can convince Conservation Hawks chairman Todd Tanner that he’s wasting his time, that he does not have to worry about climate change, he will present to you his most prized possession: A Beretta Silver Pigeon 12 gauge over/under that was a gift from his wife, and has been a faithful companion on many a Montana bird hunt. I know the gun, and I’ve hunted and fished with Todd for years. He’s not kidding. You convince him, he’ll give you the gun..."
How To Abuse Statistics: Claim Global Warming Stopped In 1998. My friend, Dr. Jeff Masters at Wunderground, has a great post on a common denier theme making the rounds these days, the result of cherry-picking data. Here's an excerpt: "One often hears the statement in the media that global warming stopped in 1998, or that there has been no global warming for the past 16 years. Why pick 16 years? Why not some nice round number like 20 years? Or better yet, 30 years, since the climate is generally defined as the average weather experienced over a period of 30 years or longer? Temperatures at Earth's surface undergo natural, decades-long warming and cooling trends, related to the La Niña/El Niño cycle and the 11-year sunspot cycle. The reason one often hears the year 1998 used as a base year to measure global temperature trends is that this is a cherry-picked year. An extraordinarily powerful El Niño event that was the strongest on record brought about a temporary increase in surface ocean temperatures over a vast area of the tropical Pacific that year, helping boost global surface temperatures to the highest levels on record (global temperatures were warmer in both 2005 and 2010, but not by much.) But in the years from 2005 - 2012, La Niña events have been present for at least a portion of every single year, helping keep Earth's surface relatively cool. Thus, if one draws a straight-line fit of global surface temperatures from 1998 to 2012, a climate trend showing little global warming results. If one picks any year prior to 1998, or almost any year after 1998, a global warming trend does result. The choice of 1998 is a deliberate abuse of statistics in an attempt to manipulate people into drawing a false conclusion on global temperature trends..."
Graphic above: Skeptical Science.
Keeping The Cork In The Oil Sands Bottle. Here's a snippet from a story at Planet 3.0: "Are the bitumen deposits in NE Alberta the biggest carbon bomb on the planet or will their exploitation have hardly any effect on the climate? Will the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline accelerate development of the oil sands or will it make little difference? I have attempted to answer the first question previously in a Skeptical Science post that discussed the 2012 Nature Climate Change article by Neil Swart and Andrew Weaver. The oil sands, even in the worst case (assuming constant production rates of coal, gas and conventional oil, with accelerated bitumen production), will only contribute a small proportion, about 3%, to fossil-fuel emissions over this century. However, when framed in terms of the steps we need to make to stabilize the climate, the oil sands loom larger, comparable in size to one of the Princeton wedges. In this view, exploiting the oil sands would be like taking a stride closer to the brink, whereas prudence requires us instead to take several steps back..."
Opinion: Life As A Target. Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann has become a target of climate change deniers, many funded by fossil fuel interests. He's the researcher who first published the "hockey stick", showing a sharp, upward spike in temperature - and he has the arrows in his back to prove it. Here's an excerpt from TheScientist: "...Meanwhile, I’ve also been subject to a constant onslaught of character attacks and smears on websites, in op-eds, and on right-leaning news outlets, usually by front groups or individuals tied to fossil fuel interests like ExxonMobil or the petrochemical tycoons, the Koch Brothers. As the journal Nature put it a March 2010 editorial, climate researchers are in a street fight with those who seek to discredit the accepted scientific evidence simply because it is inconvenient for some who are profiting from fossil fuel use. But being the focus of such attacks has a silver lining: I’ve become an accidental public figure in the debate over human-caused climate change. Reluctant at first, I have come to embrace this role, choosing to use my position in the public eye to inform the discourse surrounding the issue of climate change..."
Photo credit above: "Michael Mann testifying before Congress, with National Academies of Science Chair Ralph Cicerone (July 27, 2006)." National Academy of Sciences.