Minnesota: A State of Hardy Winter Weather Warriors

Welcome to Minnesota. Yes, we have running water, electricity and cable. You don't have to plug in your vehicle, but most winters you can drive on the lakes, if you get the urge.

To put things into perspective a friend, Dan Lilledahl, told me about the freeway message that greeted drivers in Atlanta on Tuesday. "Winter Weather Alert. Snow Flurries. Use Extreme Caution." Alerts for flurries?

To be fair southern states see more ice than snow, creating one giant skating rink. But still.

Minnesota and the Dakotas see the biggest swings in temperature and moisture in North America; the most extreme weather whips up near the center of continents, well away from the moderating influence of oceans.

A reinforcing shot of bug-free air arrives Friday; after starting out near -10F in the suburbs highs creep into single digits Sunday under a bright, ineffective sun.

A couple inches of snow may fall on Sunday, but next week will feel like early March with a string of 30s; maybe 40s within a week.

All things considered it's been a fairly easy winter. What can possibly go wrong?

Bottoming Out Saturday Morning - Then Thawing Out. European guidance shows a cold start Saturday as the center of Canadian high pressure drifts right over Minnesota. A return southerly flow on the backside of this fair-weather bubble, coupled with a weak clipper, may spark a couple inches of snow on Sunday. By midweek it may be mild enough aloft for a sloppy mix with a chance of 40s within a week.

S-S-Saturday Chill. Models are in amazingly good agreement showing a wake-up temperature (6 AM) Saturday close to -10F. The urban heat island will keep the downtowns and close-in suburbs a few degrees milder, with outlying suburbs dipping into the -10 to -15F air temperature range. Thankfully winds will be light so wind chills won't be much colder. Source: Aeris Enterprise.

Atmospheric Correction. Goosebumps linger into Saturday, but next week will feel more like late February or early March,  with a streak of days in the 30s. The GFS solution isn't quite as mild as ECMWF, but there's little doubt that many Minnesotans will be breathing a collective sigh of relief, especially the latter half of next week.
Predicted Snowfall by Sunday Evening. NOAA's GFS model brings some 6" amounts into far southern Minnesota Saturday night into Sunday with the best chance of a plowable snowfall south and west of the Minnesota River. Metro? Maybe a couple inches. Keep expectations low. Map: AerisWeather.

Wobbles and Dips. This is still a pale imitation of the "Polar Vortex" we enjoyed 2 years ago, but subzero weather (hot pink color above) rotates across Minnesota Friday night and early Saturday, before a shift in the  pattern pulls milder, Pacific air east of the Rockies next week.

Spring Preview from AccuWeather. I envision a milder than average spring, based on the current El Nino,  which is now bigger than the one that hit in 1997-98. The spring of 1998 brought a rash of extreme weather and severe thunderstorms with large hail; I vaguely recall nearly $2 billion in damage in1998, much of that hail-related. Does that automatically mean a similar spring is imminent. No. Every El Nino is different, with varying symptoms and impacts, but don't be shocked if we see more severe storms (earlier than usual). Here's a clip from AccuWeather.com: "...However, that will change as April progresses and storms track from the Southwest, leading to increased severe weather in the central and southern Plains, Mississippi Valley and Midwest. "Intense warmth ahead of these storms comming out of the West is going to promote severe weather. Those are the ingredients you need," Pastelok said. "The thing that worries me the most is that it could turn into heavy rain producers that could lead to flooding. And we've seen lots of flooding already over this past winter season in the Mississippi Valley..."

Has El Nino Abandoned L.A.? Pacific-fueled storms have whacked the Pacific Northwest and northern California, but it's still abnormally warm and (mostly) dry across SoCal. Here's a clip from The Los Angeles Times: "...Southern California is still well below average rainfall, with downtown L.A. reporting 52% of normal since Oct. 1. But deluge after deluge to the north has built back the snowpack — it's 105% of normal in the Sierra Nevada — and begun to refill drought-depleted reservoirs. For Southern California, the strong El Niño "hasn't been a great predictor so far this winter," said Stanford University climate scientist Daniel Swain, and "hasn't been influencing the atmosphere in exactly the same way that we have seen." A massive ridge of high pressure is keeping much of California dry and warm this week. In Southern California, that brought dry winds and temperatures that approached 90..." (Graphic: L.A. Times).

Is Climate Change Making El Ninos Worse? That Remains a Scientific Mystery. The jury is still out. Here's an excerpt at Texas Climate News: "...But what about the deadly Texas downpours of last May, when the ENSO was developing? Was global warming partly to blame? Utah State University researchers assert that it was. They said greenhouse gas emissions brought a “significant increase” in abnormal rainfall in Texas and Oklahoma. Others aren’t convinced. Even if global warming is strengthening the atmosphere’s response to El Niños – unproven, Nielsen-Gammon said – the current one needed little help..."

Graphic credit above: "The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides this summary description of the phenomenon that produces El Niño and La Niña conditions: “El Niño and La Niña are the warm and cool phases of a recurring climate pattern across the tropical Pacific—the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or ‘ENSO’ for short. The pattern can shift back and forth irregularly every two to seven years, and each phase triggers predictable disruptions of temperature, precipitation, and winds. These changes disrupt the large-scale air movements in the tropics, triggering a cascade of global side effects.”

Newest Homes Built to Stand Up To Nature's Fiercest Outbursts. I find this fascinating, how with smart design and materials you can, in fact, build a home that is more storm-resistant as well as energy-efficient. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "...According to the Resilient Design Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Vermont, resilient design is “the intentional design of buildings, landscapes, communities and regions in order to respond to natural and man-made disasters and disturbances as well as long-term changes resulting from climate change, including sea-level rise, increased frequency of heat waves and regional drought.” There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a resilient home — solutions vary from region to region. For example, siding could be formulated to be resistant to moisture and freeze-thaw in the North or for resisting hail and flying storm debris in the South..."

Photo credit above: "Homes in the Links at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania were designed with high insulation levels to keep out drafts." High Performance Homes.

California and Massachussets Lead U.S. Solar Boom. Here's a clip at ThinkProgress.com: "Solar energy is ballooning across the United States with California and Massachusetts leading the way, according to a Solar Foundation report unveiled Wednesday. The U.S. solar industry now employs slightly over 200,000 workers, representing a growth of 20 percent since November of 2014. What’s more, last year the industry added workers at a rate nearly 12 times faster than the overall economy..."

Photo credit: AP Photo/Chris Carlson.

Reversible Fuel Cell Goes Both Ways For The Navy. Here's an interesting blurb at Gizmag: "Boeing has delivered a new type of fuel cell to the US Navy for testing that can both store energy and generate electricity. Called a "reversible solid oxide fuel cell," it's designed to absorb energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, then release it as required to provide commercial and military users with a cleaner, more sustainable source of power..."

Photo credit: "Boeing's reversible solid oxide fuel cell system in operation in Huntington Beach, California." (Credit: Boeing)

U.S. Power Costs Falling With Low-Carbon Energy: "We've Entered a New Era". Greentech Media takes a look: "The impressive numbers for renewable energy in 2015 keep coming. Just as there has been a tipping point globally in clean energy, the same is true in the U.S., according to new figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE). The fourth annual Sustainable Energy in America Factbook  highlights the record year for utility-scale and distributed solar, huge gains for wind energy, and a shift away from coal toward natural gas (which has a smaller carbon footprint although it is hardly clean). The result is an energy industry that is decarbonizing across the board..."

How The Presidential Candidates View the Future of Energy. TIME has a look at energy platforms for each candidate; here's an excerpt: "A Trump presidency would help conventional energy investors, while a Clinton presidency may add boost to renewable energy sectors As the 2016 presidential race starts to heat up it is time to take a look at the remaining serious candidates and what each one might mean for energy policies and energy companies in the U.S. While a lot can happen in the next couple of months, the current leaders for the Republican Party are Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio..."

File photo: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

New Lyme-Disease-Causing Bacteria Discovered by Mayo Researchers. Here's another day-brightener, courtesy of MinnPost: "Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have discovered a new species of bacteria in the Upper Midwest that causes Lyme disease. They have named the bacteria Borrelia mayonii, after the two brothers, William and James Mayo, who founded the Rochester, Minnesota, clinic. Before this finding, which was published Monday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, the only species believed to cause Lyme disease in North America was Borrelia burgdorferi..."

Image credit: Blacklegged ticks, Minnesota Department of Health.

54 Million Americans Incorrectly Labeled as Unhealthy. This vaguely reassuring article is courtesy of Quartz; here's an excerpt: "Body Mass Index is used by everyone from insurers to health professionals to determine whether someone is at a healthy weight. According to the index, which is calculated by dividing a person’s weight by the square of the person’s height, someone with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is “healthy,” whereas a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is classed as “overweight” and a BMI of 30 or higher is categorized as “obese.” But these numbers do not directly correlate with physical health, according to a study of 40,420 people published this week in the International Journal of Obesity..."

U.S. Military: Robot Wars. Financial Times has a must-read story focused on the future role of the military and the use of robotics; here's an excerpt: "...The underlying objective of the new strategy is to find weapons and technologies to ensure US forces “can fight their way to the fight” as one official puts it — to evade the layered missile defences both China and Russia can erect, to defend bases against attack from precision-guided missiles and to be able to operate carrier fleets at a much greater distance from an enemy. For some Pentagon planners, the long-term answers will be found in robotics — be they unmanned, autonomous planes or submarines that can surprise an enemy or robot soldiers that can reduce the risk to humans by launching attacks. Mr Work, who once co-wrote a paper called “Preparing for War in the Robotic Age”, said in December: “Ten years from now, if the first person through a breach isn’t a fricking robot, then shame on us...”

Assault With a Deadly Weapon: Florida Man Charged With Throwing Alligator into Wendy's. What a crock,  and another reason to tread carefully in the Sunshine State.  Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "Authorities in Florida have arrested a man accused of throwing a live alligator through a restaurant’s drive-through window. Investigators identified Joshua James, of Jupiter, Fla., as the man who tossed the 3½-foot reptile into a Wendy’s last fall, according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission incident report..."

Photo credit: "An alligator on the kitchen floor of a Florida Wendy’s after being thrown into the drive-through." (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission).

13 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday.

27 F. average high on February 10.

29 F. high on February 10,  2015.

February 11, 1932: Mizpah picks up 13 inches of snow in a storm.

TODAY: Partly sunny, chilly. Winds: SW 7-12. High: 17

THURSDAY NIGHT: Clear and cold. Low: 8

FRIDAY: Mix of clouds and sun with a cold wind, feels like -10F. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 11

SATURDAY: Cold start, bright blue sky. Wake-up: -9. Winds: SE 3-8. High: 9

SUNDAY: Couple inches of snow possible. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 7. High: 24

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy. Hooray for "average". Wake-up: 16. High: 31

TUESDAY: Flurries or light mix? Milder. Wake-up: 19. High: 33

WEDNESDAY: Slow clearing, not bad at all. Wake-up: 25. High: 31

Climate Stories...

Obama Climate Initiative: Supreme Court Calls Halt. In reaching this decision is the court looking out for the common good, or special interests? The price of energy is vitally important, so are short-term health implications and longer-term climate impacts. Here's an excerpt from The BBC: "...Introduced by the president last August, the plan set carbon reduction goals for each state and it was up to the states themselves to come up with proposals to meet those goals. A group of 27 states, utilities and coal miners sought to block the proposal in the courts. They argued that the plan was an infringement on states' rights. An initial attempt to halt the implementation of the plan until legal challenges were heard was thrown out by a US appeals court in Washington in January. However the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to suspend the plan pending the outcome of the litigation..."

Photo credit above: "US power stations are the country's largest source of greenhouse gases." AP.

Obama's Clean-Power Plan Put on Hold by U.S. Supreme Court. Bloomberg Business has more perspective; here's an excerpt: "A divided U.S. Supreme Court blocked President Barack Obama’s sweeping plan to cut emissions from power plants, putting on hold his most ambitious effort to combat climate change. The 5-4 order Tuesday halts the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan until at least the final months of Obama’s presidency -- and casts doubt on its ultimate fate before the nation’s highest court by suggesting concern among a majority of the justices. Utilities, coal miners and more than two dozen states say the agency had overstepped its authority and intruded on states’ rights..."

Supreme Court's Blow to Emission Efforts May Emperil Paris Climate Accord. Here's the intro to an analysis at The New York Times: "The Supreme Court’s surprise decision Tuesday to halt President Obama’s climate change regulation could weaken or even imperil the international global warming accord reached with great ceremony in Paris less than two months ago, climate diplomats said. The Paris Agreement, the first accord to commit every country to combating climate change, had as a cornerstone Mr. Obama’s assurance that the United States would carry out strong, legally sound policies to significantly cut carbon emissions. Over history, the United States is the largest greenhouse gas polluter, although its annual emissions have been overtaken by China’s..."

Photo credit above: "A coal-fired power plant behind homes in Poca, W.V., in 2014." Credit Robert Galbraith/Reuters.

New Study: Yep, Thermometers Do Show Global Warming is Real. The latest bit of contrived scandal is "satellites show no warming; we can't trust the thermometer record!" Slate explains why NOAA's recent calibrations of the thermometer record strengthen the case for warming; here's an excerpt: "...but in the new study the researchers looked at more modern stations that are known to be quite accurate and compared them to the data from nearby older stations during the 12-year period where the two different systems were both in operation at the same time. As was expected, the uncorrected data from the older stations didn’t match the newer ones well. However, when the corrections were applied, the older stations did in fact match the newer ones much better. This shows that the corrections being applied are in fact making the data more accurate..."

Graphic credit: "The average monthly temperature anomalies (deviations from an average) from 2004–2015. The new station readings are in green; the old ones using the correction are in orange.

Meet The Texas Flood Survivor Who Flew to New Hampshire to Confront Ted Cruz About Climate Change. Here's an excerpt from Think Progress: "...He was very sympathetic about the house loss, but clearly dismisses climate change as a reality,” Boschert said. “It makes me very angry. I do not see it as a political issue. It’s a personal tragedy.” Boschert’s New Hampshire meeting wasn’t her first attempt at convincing Cruz to sit down with Texas flood survivors to discuss climate change. Immediately after the floods, a group of flood survivors traveled to his office to present signatures from thousands of people around the country asking that Cruz meet with constituents to discuss climate change. Boschert, who was a part of that group, never received a response from Cruz’s office..."

Image credit: ClimateTruth.org/Youtube.

Winds of Climate Change Will Make Transatlantic Flights Longer, Study Shows. Here's a clip from a story at The Guardian: "Airline flights are known to worsen climate change but now climate change is set to worsen flight times, according to new research. The work shows faster jet stream winds will delay transatlantic flights, adding thousands of hours a year to journey times and millions of dollars to airline fuel bills. Earlier work showed other impacts of rising temperatures on aviation, including bumpier, more turbulent flights and reducing the weight planes can carry..."

Image credit above: "Climate change is increasing the speed of the jet stream, which blows west-east across the Atlantic." Photograph: Andrei Orlov/Alamy.

Bloomberg Climate Risk Initiative Targets Secret Polluters. Climate Home has the story - here's an excerpt: "Michael Bloomberg is on the warpath. In his sights: corporations who fail to disclose the risks climate change poses their business model. The billionaire founder of media giant Bloomberg LP, UN climate envoy and former mayor of New York is heading a taskforce to boost the quality of climate reporting. Set up on the sidelines of the COP21 Paris talks last December, the Financial Stability Board-backed initiative met for the first time this week. In just over a month, it releases its initial findings..."

Photo credit above: "Michael Bloomberg, Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, speaks at the 2016 Investor Summit on Climate Risk." (Pic: UN Photos).

No Climate Conspiracy: NOAA Temperature Adjustments Bring Data Closer to Pristine. Here's the intro to a story at The Guardian: "Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has embarked upon a witch-hunt against climate scientists at NOAA, accusing them of conspiring to fudge global temperature data. However, a new study has found that the adjustments NOAA makes to the raw temperature data bring them closer to measurements from a reference network of pristinely-located temperature stations. Before delving into the new study, it’s worthwhile to revisit the temperature adjustments that Lamar Smith disputes. Volunteers have been logging measurements from weather stations around the world for over 150 years, and climate scientists use that data to estimate the Earth’s average surface temperature..."

Photo credit above: "The U.S. Climate Reference Network consists of 114 stations, including this one in Capitol Reef National Park, Torrey, Utah." Photograph: NOAA.

Cruz's "Pseudoscientific" Climate Claims. No, the satellite record isn't the best measure of tropospheric warming because it only infers temperatures at various altitudes, and the onboard sensors are peering through a cooling stratosphere, another symptom of AGW; here's the intro to a fact-checking story at FactCheck.org: "While on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz gave a speech to local residents that contained inaccurate and misleading claims about climate science and its terminology:

  • Cruz claimed “none of the alarmists say ‘global warming’ anymore — now it’s ‘climate change.’ ” That’s inaccurate. Scientists still use both terms, but tend to use “climate change” more often because, in addition to warming, it refers to phenomena such as sea-level rise and changes in precipitation patterns.
  • Cruz also said “climate change is the perfect pseudoscientific theory because it can never, ever, ever be disproven.” This is false. It could be, but the chances are slim. Climate change rests on the veracity of the greenhouse effect, a theory which has been repeatedly verified since it was first proposed in 1824..."

U.S. Military to War Game Climate Change Threats. Concern grows about climate volatility and weather/water/crop disruption as a "threat multiplier", accelerating global challenges and conflicts, many of which invariably blow back on the USA. Here's an excerpt at Climate Home: "US military planners have been ordered to war game climate change scenarios, focusing on “geopolitical and socioeconomic instability” linked to extreme weather. A new directive says forces need to undertake joint training exercises with allies to “enhance capacity” and “improve tactics” for tackling impacts linked to global warming. “Mission planning and execution must include identification and assessment of the effects of climate change on the DoD [department of defence] mission,” it reads..." (Image source: U.S. Military, Flickr).

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..."

Global Warming: Coming To An Ice Fishing Contest Near You. Here's an excerpt from a post by climate science communicator Greg Laden: "Over the last several years, ice fishing contests, which are a big deal in Minnesota, have been repeatedly cancelled due to insufficient ice thickness on the relevant lake. Some of these contests have been permanently cancelled because the annual cancelations were becoming more frequent. Just now, the Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby has been cancelled. That’s bad. But even more disturbing is this: Ice conditions for the Eel Pout Festival have created enough concern to prompt vehicle restrictions, according to the Cass County Sheriff’s Office..."

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Tough Winter? Not So Much - Subzero Saturday; Touch of March Next Week