"Paul, spare me the weather-babble. How many inches of snow in my yard by noon Sunday. Please be precise." Right. The only thing harder than pinpointing a tornado touchdown is calculating, down to the inch, how much snow will fall.
My favorite college professor bemoaned the utter futility of giving inch amounts. He suggested 3 flavors of snowfalls: nuisance (enough to slow things down a bit), "plowable" (self-explanatory), and crippling, where everything shuts down.
I would put Sunday morning's snow in the plowable range. And for purists who need their diet of inches, I'm thinking 2-4 inches in the immediate metro, 5 inches north metro, maybe 8 inches Brainerd and over a foot for Duluth. Hey, it's human nature: if I predict 2-4, you'll probably remember 4. Yes, we all like to round up.
Today will be the better travel day; a 7-10 hour burst of snow from late tonight through midday Sunday.
Leave extra time to get around tomorrow. This is the first legitimate "storm", and we're all a wee bit rusty driving on snow.
We may get our white Christmas after all; no big thaws in sight thru December 25. A couple more inches may fall in 7 days.
Models, maps and alibis on the blog.
Winter Storm Warning. The watch has been upgraded to a warning, which pretty much means it's imminent. What can possibly go wrong? I know you're skeptical. I don't blame you. We'll get some snow - not sure we'll see 6", but 2-4" seems like a fairly sure bet, with the best chance of 5" or more north metro. Details from the local National Weather Service:
URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TWIN CITIES/CHANHASSEN MN 839 PM CST FRI DEC 7 2012 ...LIGHT SNOW TAPERING OFF THIS EVENING...THEN A LARGER WINTER STORM EXPECTED SATURDAY NIGHT INTO SUNDAY EVENING... .THE FIRST OF TWO SYSTEMS HAS BEEN PRODUCING LIGHT SNOW ACROSS MOST OF SOUTHERN MINNESOTA...BUT THE SNOW WAS TAPERING OFF. ACCUMULATIONS THE REST OF THE NIGHT IN SOUTH CENTRAL MINNESOTA WILL BE LESS THAN ONE INCH. IT APPEARS THE SECOND SYSTEM FOR THE WEEKEND WILL DEVELOP INTO A WINTER STORM. A WINTER STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT NORTH OF A LINE FROM MADISON MINNESOTA TO THE TWIN CITIES AND LADYSMITH WISCONSIN SATURDAY NIGHT THROUGH SUNDAY EVENING. SNOW WILL SPREAD INTO WESTERN MINNESOTA BY EARLY SATURDAY EVENING...AND THEN PUSH EAST...ACROSS EASTERN MINNESOTA INTO WEST CENTRAL WISCONSIN BY LATE SATURDAY EVENING. THE SNOW COULD BE HEAVY AT TIMES. SNOWFALL ACCUMULATIONS IN THE WINTER STORM WARNING AREA WILL RANGE FROM 5 TO 8 INCHES...WITH THE HIGHEST TOTALS NORTHEAST OF INTERSTATE 94. A WINTER STORM WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR A PORTION OF SOUTHERN MINNESOTA INTO WEST CENTRAL WISCONSIN...FROM GRANITE FALLS AND REDWOOD FALLS TO RED WING...THEN TO EAU CLAIRE AND CHIPPEWA FALLS WISCONSIN. SNOWFALL AMOUNTS IN THE WINTER STORM WATCH AREA COULD REACH 6 INCHES...IF THE STORM SLIDES A LITTLE SOUTH.
* near-blizzard conditions are possible Sunday behind the storm over parts of western and southern Minnesota. The greatest odds: south/west of a line from Alexandria to Willmar to Mankato, as 25-50 mph. wind gusts combine with snow on the ground to create white-out conditions.
Prediction: We Will Not See This Much Snow. This file photo was taken in northern Japan. Surreal. Yes, this would qualify as a crippling snowfall. And no, we won't see quite this much. Not yet.
Yes, It's Going To Snow. I'm in my snow-bunker, stocking up on Cheetos and various cold (Summit) beverages. My advice to you: get your errands out of the way today, including staking your yard if you haven't already done so. Sunday won't be the end of the world, but it will snow, probably enough to shovel, scrape and plow. Highways may be a mess, especially Sunday morning, but roads should be in O.K. shape for Monday morning rush hour. Whatever falls should stick around for a few weeks/months - in fact the odds of a white Christmas have gone way up. No thaws are in sight between now and December 25. We're due, the planets are about to line up. By Sunday morning it may look like "winter" outside your window. Imagine that.
First Significant Snow of Winter. NOAA's NAM model shows an area of low pressure tracking from Rapid City to Sioux Falls, then turning northeast toward Alexandria and Duluth. The heaviest snow bands should set up over central and northern Minnesota, but the Twin Cities metro may still pick up 2-4", maybe 5" north metro. A surge of much colder air arrives Monday, as counterclockwise winds yank numbing air out of Canada, but some moderation is likely by midweek.
WSI RPM Model. The high-res 12km RPM model from WSI Corporation continues to show some 4" amounts near MSP, with 6-8" possible from Lake Mille Lacs to the Iron Range, maybe a foot of snow along the North Shore of Lake Superior.
12z NAM Model: More Impressive. NOAA's latest NAM model is hinting that the eastern suburbs may pick up almost twice as much snow as the far western suburbs; some 3-6" amounts predicted across the metro area, lake effect and orographic lifting spiking snowfall amounts up near Two Harbors and Lutsen. Gentlemen (and women), start your snowmobiles.
ECMWF Model. I keep wondering: what can possibly go wrong, and what time? Will the storm track farther north, pushing the moderate snow shield toward Mille Lacs and Hinckley? Will dry air get sucked into the circulation (the dreaded "dry tongue"?) We're still in a nagging drought, and that's always in the back of my mind. The ECMWF (European) prints out only 6 mm. of liquid Sunday, about .26 inches of precipitation, which would imply closer to 2 or 3" of slushy snow on the metro. Place your bets. I'm still thinking 2-5" by midday Sunday, just enough to shovel and plow.
Record Snow Drought For Chicago? WGN-TV weather legend Tom Skilling reports that, as of Sunday, Chicago will have gone 280 days without measurable snow, an all-time record for the Windy City.
Growing Concern About Minnesota's Drought. Here's an excerpt from a recent update from Greg Spoden, Minnesota State Climatologist:
- Across Minnesota, snow cover is sparse to nonexistent. At all locations, the present snow depth is below the historical median.
- Stream discharge values are very low at a number of Minnesota reporting locations. At many sites, stream flow ranks below the 10th percentile when compared with historical data for this time of year.
- Soil moisture measurements made during November at University of Minnesota Research and Outreach Centers indicate extraordinarily dry conditions in the soil profile. Ample early-spring rains are critically needed to replenish soil moisture reserves before the commencement of the 2013 growing season.
- It is reasonable to assume that the present drought status will remain relatively unchanged throughout the winter. The historical average precipitation over the next three months is a meager two and one-half inches and the topsoil will soon be sealed by frost. Without abundant spring rains, a number of critical drought issues involving public water supply, agriculture, horticulture, and tourism will rapidly emerge in the spring.
* updated (December 4) U.S. Drought Monitor is here.
2/3rds of America remains in drought. The New York Times has a good overview here.
32 F. high temperature at KMSP Friday.
30 F. average high for December 7.
29 F. high on December 7, 2011.
1/2" snow fell in the Twin Cities yesterday.
Flakey Appetizer. A half inch of snow fell yesterday in the metro, just a light coating up in St. Cloud, from a weak disturbance out ahead of the main storm. Highs were closer to average, ranging from 19 at International Falls to 30 St. Cloud, 32 Twin Cities and 34 at Rochester.
Paul's Star Tribune Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:
TODAY: Clouds increase during the day, better travel day. Winds: SE 10-15. High: 35
SATURDAY NIGHT: Winter Storm Warning. Snow likely. Roads become slushy and slick late. Low: 30
SUNDAY: Icy and potentially treacherous into midday. Snow tapers to flurries. 2-5" metro snow, 5-10" possible up north. High: 32
MONDAY: Ah, winter! Numbing sun. Wind chill: -10. Low: 6. High: 15
TUESDAY: Partly sunny, not as harsh. Low: 8. High: 26
WEDNESDAY: Intervals of sun, "milder". Low: 17. High: 33
THURSDAY: Stubborn clouds, a bit cooler. Low: 25. High: 31
FRIDAY: Still drab and gray. Low: 18. High: 29
* a couple inches of additional snow may fall next Saturday, a week from today.
2012: Still Off The Scale. Here's an update from NOAA NCDC on what will be the warmest year ever observed for the USA. I know - another coincidence. They're piling up: "This time series also shows the 2012 year-to-date temperature through November. Outcome scenarios based on persistence of temperature for December, the remaining month of 2012, are shown. The January-November 2012 contiguous U.S. average temperature was 57.1°F, 3.3°F above average. The nationally-averaged temperature for December 2012 would need to be more than 1.0°F colder than the coldest December (1983) for 2012 not to be the new record warmest year. The data for 2012 are preliminary."
Global Warming Gives Ski Industry Chills. Live Science has the story; here's an excerpt: "...POW and the Natural Resources Defense Council have issued a report, "Climate Impacts on the Winter Tourism Economy in the United States," detailing the numerous effects that global warming is expected to have on the $12.2 billion U.S.ski and snowmobile winter sports industry, which supports an estimated 211,900 jobs nationwide. "Winter as we know it is on borrowed time," Elizabeth Burakowski, a co-author of the POW/NRDC report, told The New York Times. The 2011/2012 winter season was the fourth-warmest on record since 1896 and had the third-lowest snow cover since record-keeping began in 1966...."
Photo credit above: "Ski resorts are expected to suffer from global warmng." Marcin Moryc, Shutterstock.
Global Warming Good News For Russian Shipping. Marketplace has the story; here's the introduction: "There's been a breakthrough in the shipping industry, and a milestone in the story of global warming. A large tanker named Ob River has just sailed eastwards from Northern Europe to Japan through the Arctic Ocean. This is the first time a ship of this type has completed the voyage. It's bad news for the planet. It shows how far the north polar ice cap is melting. But it also shows how climate change is creating new commercial opportunities -- especially for the Russians. Ob River is not the first cargo ship to make the crossing, but it is the first big tanker to do so carrying Liquefied Natural Gas -- perhaps the first of many. Gunnar Sandar of the Norwegian Polar Institute says global warming is creating a viable new trade route through the Arctic Ocean..."
Photo credit: "Melting ice means a Russian gas company can now send tankers to Japan through the Arctic Ocean, instead of the Suez Canal." Tim Lucas - Creative Commons.
Projection: The IPCC 2007 assessment projected a worst-case temperature rise of 4.3° to 11.5° Fahrenheit, with a high probability of 7.2°F.
Reality: We are currently on track for a rise of between 6.3° and 13.3°F, with a high probability of an increase of 9.4°F by 2100, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Other modelers are getting similar results, including a study published earlier this month by the Global Carbon Project consortium confirming the likelihood of a 9ºF rise.
* excerpt above from Scientific American. Details below.
"Bleak Forecast". The recent interview I gave to Jim Poyser at NUVO in Indianapolis is being picked up by other publications, including Utah's City Weekly. Yes, my dermatologist is calling 911 right now. I've never had Doppler on my face, even worse than egg on my face. Here's an excerpt: "...I'm not saying we don't take advantage of our natural resources. The message I'm trying to get out is that by fixating exclusively on fossil fuels, not only are we endangering future generations, we are endangering our competitiveness downt he road. Because there is no debate about climate change in Europe or China. They are moving forward with clean alternatives to creating energy. If we totally focus on mining and drilling and extracting ever last bit of carbon at the exclusion of solar and wind and geothermal and battery technology and everything else that's out there, we are going to be crippled as a country, competitively..."
Report: Global Warming Hits Utah's Ski Industry Hard. A preview of coming attractions here in Minnesota? I hope not, but there's little doubt that snowfall is becoming increasingly fickle, sporadic, and unreliable. No, it's not your father's or grandfather's winter. Here's an excerpt from The Salt Lake Tribune: "Every lean-snow winter batters Utah and its $1 billion-a-year ski industry, according to an economic study on global warming released Thursday by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Comparing snowfall to visitation records since 1999, the NRDC report said Utah resorts attracted 14 percent fewer skiers in the driest winter compared to the snowiest. That difference cost the state $87 million in revenue and 1,000 jobs, it said..."
Photo credit above: (Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) "Skiers ride the lower lift at Park City Mountain Resort on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. A new report warns that global warming will make low-snow years more prevalent and batter the ski industry."
World's Largest Mining Company Admits Climate Change Is Real. Here's a clip from theenergycollective.com: "Sure, those of us who call ourselves environmentalists take those as truths, but a major coal company? Yet that’s exactly what the Australian BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, has just copped to. Explaining the company’s decision to retrofit one if its coal-exporting facilities against significant weather events, BHP Billiton executive Marcus Randolph was quoted as saying, “As we see more cyclone-related events ... the vulnerability of one of these facilities to a cyclone is quite high. So we built a model saying this is how we see this impacting what the economics would be and used that with our board of directors to rebuild the facility to be more durable to climate change....”
How The IPCC Underestimated Climate Change. "Those alarmist scientists?" It turns out climate scientists, as a rule, underestimated the rate of warming and subsequent outbreaks of severe weather (intense rains, more severe hurricanes, etc). Here's an excerpt from Scientific American: "Scientists will tell you: There are no perfect computer models. All are incomplete representations of nature, with uncertainty built into them. But one thing is certain: Several fundamental projections found in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports have consistently underestimated real-world observations, potentially leaving world governments at doubt as to how to guide climate policy..."
Photo credit above: "Today, ice loss in Greenland and Antarctica is trending at least 100 years ahead of projections compared to IPCC's first three reports. Pictured: Rajenda Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)." Image: Flickr/kk+
Accelerating Warming Driving Arctic Into New Volatile State. Meteorologist Andrew Freedman at Climate Central has the story; here's an excerpt: "...Since the report card effort began in 2006, each iteration has issued more shrill alarms about the pace and extent of the changes taking place in the Arctic. This year’s report is noteworthy for what it says about the acceleration of climate change in the Far North. Despite air temperatures that averaged nearly equal to the average for the past decade -- which is warmer than the 30-year average -- 2012 saw the most extensive loss of Arctic sea ice ever seen in the 33-year satellite record. When the melt season finally ended in late September, the Arctic Ocean managed to hold onto less than half of the average sea ice extent seen during the 1979-to-2000 period..."
Image credit above: "Departure from average of Arctic surface temperatures during the first decade of the 21st century, as compared to the 1971-2000 average. This map illustrates that no part of the Arctic experienced cooler than average conditions during this period." Credit: NOAA.
Arctic Climate Change's Unglacial Pace. The story is from The San Francisco Chronicle; here's an excerpt: "The Arctic's sea ice is shrinking, Greenland's ice cover is melting faster, areas of once-frozen tundra in Alaska are alive with plant growth, and wildfires during Southern summer heat waves are carrying soot to darken northern snowfields and speed the melting. And a year-end report from more than 140 scientists around the world concludes that climate change caused some of the strongest-ever environmental effects on the Arctic this year and the pace of change is far from slowing..."
Photo credit above: "A technician stands on an iceberg in Columbia Bay, Alaska, during filming of "Chasing Ice," which follows a photographer recording the changing Arctic." Photo: James Balog, Associated Press / SF
Climate Change Risk Looms As 2 Degree Limit Now Unlikely. Here's an excerpt from The Energy Collective: "With global greenhouse hitting a record high in 2011 and 2012 on track to break that record, the prospects of limiting average atmospheric global warming to within a 2 degree Celsius rise from pre-industrial is now considered unlikely according to the Emissions Gap Report from the U.N. Environment Programme. The report warns that even if nations adhere to their strickest current reduction goals, CO2 output won’t be reduced in time to stop runaway global warming in the coming decades.Scientists from the Global Carbon Project (GCP) estimate CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels in 2012 will exceed 1990 levels by as much as 58 percent. In 2011 38.2 billion tons of CO2 was pumped in the atmosphere – equal to 2.4 million pounds every second...."