Thank (or Blame) the Arctic Oscillation

For the record, the "Arctic Oscillation" has nothing to do with Shakira's halftime Super Bowl performance. A positive phase of the AO means that jet stream winds aloft are howling faster than usual, keeping the coldest air of winter bottled up over Canada. Previous winters brought a negative phase: lighter, meandering winds, pulling polar air farther south. Not this winter, which may wind up being the mildest since 1895 across the USA.

No extended spells of polar pain shaping up, just a quick slap of bitter bliss Thursday and Friday, when wind chills dip into the danger zone. Expect double-digit negative numbers when you wake up Thursday and Friday, but a rapid thaw is likely. Temperatures recover to near freezing by Saturday. The European model (ECMWF) is hinting at 40F next Thursday. That may be tough with 10 inches of snow on the ground, but prevailing winds are predominately from the Pacific.

A snowy coating is possible today, maybe a few inches next Monday as big storms detour south and east.


Graphic credit above: "A positive Arctic Oscillation (left) is associated with a strong, stable polar vortex whereas a negative Arctic Oscillation (right) is associated with a weak, unstable vortex." (NOAA) and Capital Weather Gang.


Temperature Tumble. Temperatures fall from near freezing to 0F by midnight tonight; GFS is colder than NOAA's NDFD guidance, which I suspect will be closer to the mark. Temperature trend: AerisWeather.


"Start Making Plans Now". Hydrologists See Warning Signs of Major Spring Flooding. Bill Hudson filed a report for WCCO-TV; here's an excerpt: "...River levels remain higher than normal, and many places went into winter already saturated. Outside the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, mounting snow piles lend credence to a growing concern. Service Hydrologist Craig Schmidt leads the north central river forecast center. “The soils are very saturated as they froze up,” Schmidt said. Data is constantly crunched at the center into formulas to help predict spring flooding. The troublesome Red River is already off the charts. “Chances normally for reaching major flood is about 10%. This year. it’s about 80,” Schmidt said. River levels statewide are already abnormally high. But swollen lakes, ditches and marshes could spell trouble for folks far from any river..."


Arctic Weather Pattern Shatters Record as it Fends Off Winter Weather in US, Europe. Jason Samenow reports for Capital Weather Gang: "The mildest winter on record is possible in many parts of the Lower 48 and Europe, and it’s directly connected to an Arctic weather pattern that has prevented bitter cold air from surging south. The strength of this pattern, known as the Arctic Oscillation (AO), set a new daily record Monday. Computer models suggest this pattern may hang on for weeks, continuing to limit the extent and severity of winter weather in the Lower 48. The AO, in essence, is a reflection of how much cold air in the Arctic is able to penetrate into the mid-latitudes. When the index is strongly positive, frigid air remains parked near the Arctic Circle as it has for much of the winter. When it’s negative, the cold is unleashed, resulting in punishing Arctic blasts into the Lower 48 and often major snowstorms, even reaching into the Southern states..."

Map credit: "Temperature difference from normal over the past 60 days." (WeatherBell).



Clipper Coating Today. There won't be much new snow, but the concern is high winds blowing around the snow already on the ground, mainly south/west of MSP. ECMWF snowfall: WeatherBell.

Ground Blizzard Risk Western/Southwestern Minnesota. Not from falling snow, but blowing the snow already on the ground as winds gust as high as 30-45 mph Wednesday. Wind chill advisories kick in for the MSP metro tonight into Thursday. Map: AerisWeather and Praedictix.








A Hiccup of Numbing Air. No prolonged sneezing and wheezing from the Arctic, just a quick shot of numbing air later today into Friday before temperatures rebound over the weekend. 30s next week, according to ECMWF. Graphic: WeatherBell.


Still Trending Milder. That positive phase of the Arctic Oscillation shows no signs of letting up anytime soon; unusually strong jet stream winds bottling the truly nanook air north of Minnesota - a persistent Pacific influence moderating any intrusions of icy air into late February.


Every State, Ranked by How Miserable Its Winters Are. You'll never guess who came in Minnesota. Here's an excerpt, and a hint from Thrillist: "...How can you remain so upbeat when you get all the winter weather patterns? Alberta clippers? Sure. Panhandle hooks? You betcha! Parts of northern Minnesota see up to 170 inches of snow in a winter. One hundred seventy inches! That’s like two and a half times the height of Kent Hrbek!! It can get down to negative 60 degrees, a temperature at which frostbite can occur in fewer than five minutes. There are no chinook winds or moderating oceans to temper things outside of a small area by Lake Superior. Your sports teams never win championships. All of your good high school hockey players end up starring for NHL teams in other cities. Ice fishing can’t be that cool, really..."


Does Minnesota Really Have the Worst Winters in the Country? Short answer: no, but it's close. Here's an excerpt from a Star Tribune story: "...However, Minnesota is truly cold in comparison to other states. Minnesota had the second-coldest temperatures from December to February between 1971 and 2000, ringing in at a mere 12 degree average. According to meteorologist Paul Douglas, if you look at average winter temperatures over an entire state, Alaska appears to be the coldest state in the country, followed by North Dakota and then Minnesota. “We are, on paper, in theory, the third coldest state in the U.S.A., if the measure of ‘cold’ is winter temperatures, averaged over an entire state,” Douglas said via email..."


Praedictix Briefing: Issued Tuesday, February 11th, 2020:

  • Flood concerns are continuing in the Southeast over the next couple days as more rounds of rain are expected across the region. An additional 2-3”+ of rain will be possible through Thursday.
  • In the upper Midwest, a cold front dropping south mid-week will bring the threat of strong winds and blizzard conditions to the Red River Valley and Devils Lake basin Tuesday Night into Wednesday.

Flash Flood Threat This Morning. Showers and thunderstorms from northern Alabama to western North Carolina are bringing the threat of flash flooding with total amounts of 1-2” expected this morning.


More Storms Expected. The frontal system responsible for yesterday's heavy rain is still located across the Southeast today, producing some more showers and thunderstorms. Another round of storms is likely as we head into Wednesday across portions of the region as an area of low pressure moves from the Texas Coast into the Tennessee Valley.



Forecast Rainfall. A band of 1-3” of rain is expected to fall from portions of northeastern Texas into the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys over the next couple of days. Some of the heaviest rain will fall in northeastern Texas, where over 4” will be possible in spots, especially from tonight into Wednesday.


Flood Watches. Numerous Flood Watches remain in effect today and Wednesday across portions of the Deep South and Southeast due to the potential of more heavy rain.




Blizzard Concerns. We’re also still watching the potential for blizzard conditions in the upper Midwest late tonight into Wednesday with a strong cold front diving south out of Canada. While this is not expected to produce much snow (up to 2” in spots), it’s going to be strong winds up to 50 mph that are the main concern producing blizzard conditions across the Red River Valley and Devils Lake basin. Across these areas - including Fargo and Grand Forks - Winter Storm Watches are in place from late Tuesday Night/Wednesday morning through Wednesday afternoon for the potential of blizzard conditions.

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix.


As Minnesota River Expands, Erosion Damage Grows. Star Tribune has details: "It’s anyone’s guess as to when the Minnesota River will stop growing. Stretches of its eastern bend, not far from Mankato, have more than doubled in size since the 1940s. Several homes that were built more than 50 feet from its banks or its main tributaries have collapsed or been demolished before they could be washed away by the encroaching waters. The river, always prone to erosion, has been expanding much faster over the past 20 years than it ever has before. As much of the state braces for the potential flooding of yet another spring, state lawmakers and pollution control managers are looking for new ways to stop or reduce erosion along the Minnesota..."

Photo credit: David Joles – Star Tribune. "A sign along the flooded Minnesota River on March 20, 2019, near Belle Plaine, Minn. As much of the state braces for the potential flooding of yet another spring, state officials are seeking new ways to stop or reduce erosion along the Minnesota River."


How's the Weather? It Could Be EPIC. The Boston Globe has the story: "As meteorologists gather in Boston this week to mark the 100th anniversary of the American Meteorological Society, they will celebrate one of our era’s greatest scientific accomplishments: the ability to forecast the weather. A century ago, scientists had yet to demonstrate that weather could be predicted in any detail. Cities received notice of snow or rain moving toward them a day or two ahead of time, but they did not know the amount of precipitation or even if it would actually arrive. Forecasters now can alert communities to major storms as much as a week or more in advance, filling in such details as the timing and location while putting realistic bounds on the uncertainties. These forecasts, which build on generations of research into the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere, use far-reaching observations and high-resolution weather models run on increasingly powerful supercomputers..."

Photo credit: "Swirling sediment reveals erosive power of New England storm." NASA/Jesse Allen/LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response.


Bill Gates Just Ordered the World’s First Hydrogen-Powered Super Yacht. This may be fake news: buyer beware: The Guardian has details; here are a few excerpts: "Bill Gates has ordered the world’s first hydrogen-powered superyacht, worth an estimated £500m ($644m) and featuring an infinity pool, helipad, spa and gym. The billionaire co-founder of Microsoft has commissioned the Aqua ship – a 112-metre (370ft) luxury vessel completely powered by liquid hydrogen – which was publicised last year at the Monaco yacht show by the Dutch design firm Sinot….The boat has five decks and space to accommodate 14 guests and 31 crew members…two 28-tonne vacuum-sealed tanks that are cooled to -423F (-253C) and filled with liquid hydrogen, which powers the ship. The fuel will generate power for the two one-megawatt motors and propellors via on-board fuel cells, which combine hydrogen with oxygen to produce electricity. Water is a byproduct..."

On Monday the Dutch Design Firm said "they have no business relationship with Mr. Gates....Aqua is a concept under development and has not been sold to Mr. Gates..."


10" snow on the ground in the Twin Cities.

30 F. maximum MSP temperature on Tuesday.

28 F. average high on February 11.

25 F. high on February 11, 2019.

February 12, 1988: For warm weather...head west! Duluth had a temperature of 31 below zero, while Rapid City was sitting at 59.

February 12, 1872: A severe blizzard hits central Minnesota. The temperature at Litchfield was 34 degrees on the afternoon of the 12th, and fell to -20 by the morning of the 13th. At least 6 people died in Meeker County alone.


WEDNESDAY: Coating of flurries, turning windy and colder. Winds: N 15-30. High: 31 (falling)

THURSDAY: Sunny with an arctic breeze. Feels like -25F. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: -7. High: 3

FRIDAY: Numbing start. Clouds increase. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 13. High: 15

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, thawing out. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 13. High: 33

SUNDAY: Clouds, few flurries. Winds: NE 7-12. Wake-up: 22. High: near 30

MONDAY: Heavier snow possible. Winds: NE 10-20. Wake-up: 24. High: 28

TUESDAY: A few sunny breaks, better travel. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 14. High: 27


Climate Stories...

Get Used to Record Heat Because It's Here to Stay. Bloomberg Green looks at the trends: "Unprecedented warming will dominate the coming decade, according to a new study, which said every year is likely to rank among the planet’s 10 hottest. Global temperatures are already consistently breaking records, with 2016 the warmest ever followed by 2019, data from the World Meteorological Organization show. That trend is likely to continue through 2028 with a 75% chance that every year will feature in the top 10 hottest of all time, according to the study submitted to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. While there could be some cooler years because of natural variability, they’re unlikely to disrupt the broader global trend for rising temperatures, according to the analysis, which sees a more than 99% chance that most years in the next decade will rank in the top 10 of all time..."

Image credit: "Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Based on NOAAGlobalTemp data from 1880-2018." Link to study: https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/BAMS-D-19-0215.1.



The Heartland Lobby. Turns out organized disinformation pays pretty well. Here's an excerpt from CORRECTIV: "A joint investigation from CORRECTIV and Frontal 21 reveals how the American Heartland Institute is supporting climate change deniers in Germany with the goal of undermining climate protection measures. We went undercover to meet with the institute’s chief strategist. He told us how the network of climate change deniers works, how donations are disguised and how they intend to use a German YouTuber affiliated with the AfD to reach young people. In the end, he made us a concrete offer..."


US’s Oil Bonanza: Climate Nexus has links and headlines: "Oil production on US federal lands and waters reached a record 1 billion barrels in 2019 as increasingly relaxed regulations and quicker government approval times are helping to drive production, officials told the AP. The 1-billion-barrel milestone marks a 13 percent increase from 2018’s production figures, which Acting Assistant Secretary of the Interior Casey Hammond told the AP is thanks to the administration’s willingness to create a “fair and efficient” process for industry. “This is another example of the Trump administration undoing four or five decades of thoughtful laws to protect the public lands,” former Bureau of Land Management director Mike Penfold told the AP. “The benefits of this go to the oligarchs who put more money in their pockets — not other public land users or the taxpayers.” (AP)



Antarctic's New Record High Temperature: Is It Climate Change? USA TODAY provides perspective and context: "...Experts differ on what the new record high may have to do with human-caused climate change.  "This record looks to be a one-time extreme event that doesn’t tell us anything about Antarctic climate change,” David Bromwich, a climate researcher at the Ohio State University, told The Washington Post. Bromwich added, however, that the peninsula has warmed noticeably since the late 1940s. "This is a record from only a single station, but it is in the context of what’s happening elsewhere and is more evidence that as the planet warms we get more warm records and fewer cold records," Steve Rintoul, an oceanographer and Antarctic expert at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, told the Guardian..."


Balmy Temps in Antarctica: Climate Nexus has links and headlines: "Temperatures in Antarctica soared to an all-time high of nearly 65 degrees F last week, scientists at a northern research center recorded Thursday. Once the measurement of 18.3 degrees C – or 64.94 degrees F – is verified by the Meteorological Organization, it will significantly beat the former record of 17.5 degrees C recorded in March of 2015. The measurement means that Antarctica, one of the fastest-warming regions in the world, was warmer than several cities across the United States and on par with temperatures in San Diego, California last week – which, despite it being summer in the Southern Hemisphere, is an alarming occurrence. “This is unfortunately a continuing trend," Randall Cerveny, the World Meteorological Organization's rapporteur of weather and climate extremes, told NPR. "We are seeing these high temperature records — not only in Antarctica, but across the entire world — fall, whereas we just don't see cold temperature records anymore.” (New York Times $, Washington Post $, NPR, The Guardian, CNN, AP)

File image: NASA.


Climate Change is Shrinking Winter Snow in the South, and in Fall and Spring Over Much of the Nation. Capital Weather Gang explains; here's a clip: "...In recent years, there has been a demonstrable trend in many East Coast cities, during which some winters will feature booming blockbuster storms while others pass with hardly a flake. The “feast or famine” nature of the snowfall may have a climate explanation behind it. “It gets back to the fundamentals of the physics of these systems,” said Dave Robinson, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Rutgers, who runs the university’s Global Snow Lab. “You can develop stronger storms over warmer seas. And with more moisture in the air and a greater temperature contrast.” As long as you can still be “dynamically cold enough to snow … they’re powerful systems. We’re seeing some suggestion of more large storms, more impactful storms, up in the north,” Robinson said..."

Map credit: Rutgers University Global Snow Lab.


Is Trump's USDA Ready to Address Climate Change? There Are Hopeful Signs. InsideClimate News has the story: "After three years of sidelining climate change research and thinning its roster of scientists, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a new five-year scientific plan this week to help American farmers cope with the worsening effects of the climate crisis. The "USDA Science Blueprint" was unveiled at a conference Wednesday by Scott Hutchins, a former pesticide industry executive who heads the agency's research divisions. The plan, intended to guide "USDA's science priorities," lays out a broad agenda across a range of areas, from soil health to weather impacts on agriculture to data collection, and specifically mentions climate change.  The new plan, welcomed by advocacy groups and the industry, represents a hopeful sign that the agency will realign its research priorities, especially in the wake of a series of weather disasters that have battered American farms and cost billions..."

File photo credit: "A cattle feedlot in Oklahoma." Credit: Alice Welch/USDA.



Where America's Climate Migrants Will Go As Sea Level Rises. CityLab has the post: "When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita swept through Louisiana in 2005, cities like Houston, Dallas, and Baton Rouge took in hundreds of thousands of displaced residents—many of whom eventually stayed in those cities a year later. Where evacuees have moved since hasn’t been closely tracked, but data from those initial relocations are helping researchers predict how sea level rise might drive migration patterns in the future. Climate experts expect some 13 million coastal residents in the U.S. to be displaced by the end of this century. A new PLOS One study gives some indication of where climate migrants might go..."

Map credit above: "Blue indicates counties where flooding will displace residents if sea levels rise by six feet by 2100. Counties in shades of pink and red will see higher-than-average migration, with the darker shades representing larger population increases." (PLOS One).


How to Tell if a Republican is Serious About Climate Change (or Not). Grist has the story; here's an excerpt: "...Kiera O’Brien, a recent Harvard graduate and president of Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends, a group that galvanizes student support for a carbon tax, thinks it’s important to discern between Republicans who are climate hawks and Republicans who are just conservationists. “The reality these days is there’s a difference between conservation and issues of climate change,” she said. “Anyone who’s fundamentally serious about conservation should be serious about climate as well, but that’s not always the case, especially among elected Republicans.” For O’Brien, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s new climate plan doesn’t make the cut. “It does not take that step into what I would call a true Republican rebuttal to the Green New Deal by offering a comprehensive plan for reducing emissions,” she said..."

Image credit: Yale Climate Connections.

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Paul Douglas: Windchill factors from -20 to -30