Rain on Christmas? Santa May Need a Boat on Sunday

'Tis the season to be stressed. This year's Christmas card should show us all passed out on the couch. It's ironic: we exchange gifts - but the most precious gift of all is time. But it's hard to turn that into a jingle or 30 second commercial.

Any other December we might be looking at a foot of snow on Christmas Day. But a storm track west of MSP will pull enough warm air into the storm's circulation for a hard rain Sunday, possibly starting as a little glaze ice during the morning hours. Travel Sunday should be a mess with ponding of water on highways, minor flooding, even thunder and lightning.

I hope Santa is waterproof.

In the meantime today should rub you the right way (low 30s, no drama) and a period of wet snow Friday may drop an inch of slush - temperatures close enough to 32F for mainly-wet roads.

Christmas Eve looks quiet and dry, but a big storm tracking from Denver to Fargo will spark an almost March-like rain event on Christmas Day. We cool down into the 20s next week; closer to average for late December.

One of these days Minnesota's weather will be average. 

Christmas Day Temperature Spike. Temperatures run a few degrees above average into Saturday, and then surge on Sunday as a powerful storm pulls unusually mild air unusually far north for late December. Not sure about 50F, but low to mid 40s seem likely, about 20 degrees warmer than average. ECMWF numbers for MSP: WeatherBell.

Marchlike Storm on Christmas Day. With cold surfaces rain will initially freeze on contact with roads, sidewalks and powerlines Sunday morning, before temperatures surge through the 30s into  the 40s, with all rain by midday and afternoon, heavy at times in the metro. But north and west of a line from roughly Alexandria to Brainerd to Duluth precipitation will fall as an icy mix and wet snow. Fargo and far northwestern Minnesota could pick up 1-2 feet of snow by Monday. The metro area will see mostly rain, slushing up the snow already on the ground. Nearly 1" of liquid water may cause problems with run-off and flash flooding by Sunday evening and night. Temperatures fall below freezing on Monday, turning whatever snow is left in your yard into solid ice.

Tracking a Christmas Day Storm. The same storm that soaked San Diego Wednesday will produce flooding rains across Arizona and New Mexico, brushing the Upper Midwest with a little slush on Friday. A much more intense low pressure system tracks from Denver to Fargo Sunday, pumping warmth unusually far north, keeping precipitation mostly-rain from Des Moines to the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, Chicago and Detroit. GFS Future Radar: NOAA and Tropicaltidbits.com.

10-Day Snowfall Forecast. The animation above shows a time-lapse of expected snowfall from now through midday, New Year's Day. 16" for Fargo? Very credible, but most of the Midwest picks up rain Sunday into Monday. Snow continues to pile up over the Rockies to the Cascades and coastal mountains of the west coast.

A Little Friday Slush? Wet snow may mix with sleet or rain on Friday as a weak trough of low pressure drifts overhead; latest models hinting at a coating to an inch around the Twin Cities. Graphic: Iowa State.

Saturday Soaker in L.A. This is stormy season for California and the west coast in general, ECMWF guidance bringing a strong front into Los Angeles by Friday night and Saturday; rainfall heavy enough to spark flooding and great fun on area freeways! Map: WSI

7-Day Rainfall. 4" near Phoenix? You can imagine how that increases the flash flood risk into next week. Heaviest precipitation amounts are forecast for the Mid South and western third of the USA, another surge of 1-2"+ for the Upper Mississippi Valley (falling as mostly-rain Sunday). Map: NOAA.

Early 2017: Cold East - Mild West. GFS is catching up with ECMWF guidance showing a tendency for colder, stormier weather east of the Mississippi River; with a warm bias for the western half of the USA looking out 2 weeks. The east coast is ripe for a family of snowy, icy nor'easters, and I could see a ripe pattern for heavy snow in major east coast city centers by early January.

La Nina Signal on Winter Patterns. Just like El Nino warming phases, no two La Nina cooling phases are identical. Buyer beware - generalities and oversimplifications are rampant, and short-sighted. Here's an excerpt of a good explainer at NOAA's Climate.gov: "...I’m sure you’re thinking “this is great and all, but I’m more of a visual learner and I have places to be, could you simply summarize this in a graphic?” Of course! When we combine and condense the important facts with what we already know happens to the jet stream across the Pacific Ocean during La Niña – and we apply an artistic brush – we get what you see above. A retracted jet stream over the Pacific causes a ripple effect on the atmospheric flow across the United States, which means warmer and drier than average temperatures over the southern U.S. while colder temperatures can filter in across the northwestern and north-central U.S. Wetter conditions prevail in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio River Valley as storms follow around the blocking high in the Pacific or across more northern areas near the Great Lakes. And the southern tier of the United States tends to be drier and warmer than normal as storms keep away..."

Spiking Temperatures In The Arctic Startle Scientists. The New York Times reports on strange and troubling trends at the top of the world: "A spate of extreme warmth in the Arctic over the past two months has startled scientists, who warn that the high temperatures may lead to record-low ice coverage next summer and even more warming in a region that is already among the hardest hit by climate change. In mid-November, parts of the Arctic were more than 35 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than observed averages, scientists said, and at the pole itself, mean temperatures for the month were 23 degrees above normal. Although conditions later cooled somewhat, the extreme warmth is expected to return, with temperatures forecast to be as much as 27 degrees above normal beginning Thursday. Jeremy Mathis, who directs the Arctic Research Program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the warmth had led to a later than usual “freeze-up” of ice in the Arctic Ocean..."

Photo credit: "The cruise ship Crystal Serenity, anchored outside Nome, Alaska, in August, before its inaugural voyage through the Northwest Passage. The trip would not have been possible before climate change led to diminished sea ice coverage." Credit Mark Thiessen/Associated Press

Sweaty Santa? Weird Warmth Forecast For The North Pole. The head-scratching trends continue at the top of the world, as reported by USA TODAY: "...This is the second straight December of freakish warmth spreading across the Arctic due to weird weather patterns shoving unusually warm air over the region. The cause this time around is a powerhouse storm east of Greenland, said Capital Weather Gang meteorologist Jason Samenow. Counter-clockwise flow around the storm "is doing a wonderful job of (bringing) warm, moist maritime air over the Arctic sea ice and North Pole," WeatherBell meteorologist Ryan Maue said. "It's clear that this warming event will be 'close enough' to freezing to be considered an extreme event like previous such warmings," Maue added. The warmth should last for the next few days, before the "Siberian Express" takes over, bringing back typical cold over the region, he said. A lack of sea ice appears to be playing a role: Record low levels of sea ice in the Arctic are contributing to the record high temperatures, noted Mashable's Andrew Freedman..."

Freakish Warmth Continues In The Arctic - 50F Warmer Than Average by Thursday. Have we reached a tipping point? Here's an excerpt from Jason Samenow at Capital Weather Gang: "It’s not normal, and it’s happening again. For the second year in a row in late December and for the second time in as many months, temperatures in the high Arctic will be freakishly high compared to normal. Computer models project that on Thursday, three days before Christmas, the temperature near the North Pole will be an astronomical 40-50 degrees warmer-than-normal and approaching 32 degrees, the melting point..." (Map: Climate Reanalyzer).

Arctic Ice Melt "Already Affecting Weather Patterns Where You Live Right Now". A meteorological domino effect with uncertain results - the experiment continues. A weaker jet stream may already be creating more blocking patterns, more holding patterns capable of amplifying floods and drought. Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "...The northern ice cap has been shrinking since the 1970s, with global warming driving the loss of about three-quarters of its volume so far. But the recent heat in the Arctic has shocked scientists, with temperatures 33C above average in parts of the Russian Arctic and 20C higher in some other places. In November, ice levels hit a record low, and we are now in “uncharted territory”, said Prof Jennifer Francis, an Arctic climate expert at Rutgers University in the US, who first became interested in the region when she sailed through it on a round-the-world trip in the 1980s. “These rapid changes in the Arctic are affecting weather patterns where you live right now,” she said. “In the past you have had natural variations like El Niño, but they have never happened before in combination with this very warm Arctic, so it is a whole new ball game. “It is inconceivable that this ridiculously warm Arctic would not have an impact on weather patterns in the middle latitudes further south, where so many people live..." (Jet stream simulation: NASA).

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Here's an excerpt from The Mayo Clinic focused on symptoms of "SAD", which can result in both physical and mental: "Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, "leaden" feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain

...It's normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can't get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed or if you feel hopeless, think about suicide, or turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation."

Record-Breaking Wave Thunders Through North Atlantic. It took nearly 3 years to verify the size of this monster-wave, according to CNN.com: "...Four times the size of a double-decker bus, the WMO said the huge swell followed the passage of a "very strong cold front" which produced powerful winds of up to 50 mph (80 kph). The organization said the delay in confirming the new record was due to the time it took to analyze, cross-check and verify the data. "This is the first time we have ever measured a wave of 19 meters. It is a remarkable record," said Wenjian Zhang, WMO Assistant Secretary-General, in a statement..."

How Soil Moisture Can Help Predict Power Outages Caused by Hurricanes. ScienceDaily has a summary of new research that shows a convincing link: "...The project aims to curtail outages by helping power companies allocate equipment and crews in advance of storms, said Steven Quiring, professor of atmospheric sciences at The Ohio State University. Healthy trees that receive just the right amount of moisture are less prone to storm damage, he explained, so soil moisture is a good indicator of where outage crews will be needed. "We see increased numbers of outages at both ends of the spectrum -- wherever soils are too wet or too dry," Quiring said. "Drought makes tree branches more likely to snap off, and over-saturation makes trees more likely to be uprooted..."

Map credit "Researchers at The Ohio State University, University of Michigan and Texas A&M have developed a computer model to forecast power outages caused by hurricanes. The model uses NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite to pinpoint where trees are more likely to contact power lines during severe weather." Credit: Courtesy of The Ohio State University.

Another Doppler Radar Is Needed on West Coast. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Chinook Observer: "Rambunctious autumn storms this year highlight the need for more atmospheric data and better forecasting on the Northwest coast. Since many of our worst storms come out of the southwest, Doppler weather radar for the central Oregon coast would also benefit many communities farther north. The mid-October tornado in Manzanita was a warning siren on behalf closing a dangerous gap in the nation’s coastal Doppler system. KGW reported at the time that it is the only stretch of coast in the lower 48 states not covered by the storm-detecting technology. The only radar to detect the tornado before it hit — giving a couple minutes warning — is located on Langley Hill in Grays Harbor County..."

Photo credit: Cliff Mass, University of Washington. "Construction of a Doppler radar station on Langley Hill in Grays Harbor County has meant a major improvement in weather forecasting on the Washington and north Oregon coasts since it went into operation in September 2011. It cost about $9 million. A similar facility is needed for the next stretch of coastline to the south."

Amid Smoggy Days in London, Growing Calls to Clean Up Europe's Toxic Air. Why is it so bad? Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "...The air is horrible. The taxis stop right here, and when they take off, boom, you can taste it,” says the 67-year-old as the heavenly smell of the caramel peanuts he hawks from a humble street stall mingles with the sickly stench of diesel. “I’m on the worst corner in London.” In at least one important respect, it may be the worst in the world. London has come a long way since the days when its infamous coal-fired pollution shrouded Sherlock in a permanent haze or struck at least 4,000 residents dead in less than a week. But the city’s overreliance on diesel-powered vehicles has given it a dubious distinction: a global leader in nitrogen dioxide, a particularly noxious pollutant that shortens the lives of thousands of Londoners a year..."

Photo credit: "A bus carries commuters as it travels over Waterloo Bridge in London." (Toby Melville/Reuters)

China Chokes on Smog So Bad That Planes Can't Land. Here's an excerpt from cincinnati.com: "Major cities across northern China choked Monday under a blanket of smog so thick that industries were ordered shut down and air and ground traffic was disrupted. At least 23 cities issued red alerts for a swath of pollution that has hovered over much of the nation since Friday, China's Xinhua news agency reported. Alerts are expected to remain in effect through Wednesday. Hospitals set emergency procedures in motion to deal with an influx of breathing-related illnesses..."
Photo credit: "Haze envelops the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, on Dec. 19, 2016." (Photo: Wu Hong, EPA)

Beijing Now Has "Smog Refugees". Mashable reports that at least 150,000 people have fled thick smog.

China Smog Alerts Signal New Outlook. I was just in Beijing and Tangshan, and I've never experienced that level of air pollution - anytime, anywhere (and I was in Pittsburgh in the 60s). It quite literally takes your breath away, and in my case, it made me sick. It was a reminder to never take clean air for granted. Here's an excerpt from The Wall Street Journal: "Cities across northern China maintained air-pollution measures on Monday after issuing a series of red alerts over the weekend, signaling a new willingness to pay an economic price for cleaner air. With thick, yellow air smothering three provinces as coal-fired power plants ramp up to generate heat, the official Xinhua News Agency said more than 20 cities in the region have joined Beijing in issuing red alerts since Friday, triggering restrictions on factories and traffic..."
File photo: I snapped this photo of the Beijing skyline from my hotel room on December 3, 2016.

How Bad Air Came Back. Here's more perspective from TIME: "...Delhi ranks high on a World Health Organization (WHO) list of cities with unhealthy levels of air pollution, but it is far from alone. WHO research found that 90% of the world’s population lives in areas with unsafe air-pollution levels. And it’s not just cities in the developing world, like Beijing, that face dirty air–Western metropolises like New York City and London are on the list as well. At the beginning of December, Paris was hit by some of the worst air pollution in a decade, leaving the Eiffel Tower cloaked in smog. For all the deserved focus on climate change as the planet’s major environmental threat, a much older one–bad air–is still a persistent danger. Economic growth in places like Delhi and Beijing has led to the rapid construction of coal-fired power plants, quick factory construction and traffic-choked streets. Regulations–to the extent that they exist in these places–receive little attention from the officials charged with enforcing them..."
Photo credit: Adnan Abidi—Reuters. "Children play on a smoggy day in New Delhi, where thousands die early from air pollution yearly."

Saharan Desert Town Sees First Snow In Nearly 40 Years. Mashable has the amazing pictures.

As Republicans take Minnesota's Legislature, Clean Energy Still On The Table. Here's an excerpt from Midwest Energy News: "While Republicans will control both houses of Minnesota’s legislature next year, a recent forum suggests clean energy policy – particularly for solar and electric vehicles – will still have a place in the conversation. Speaking at the legislative preview last week on energy, transportation and climate change mitigation sponsored by the Environmental Initiative, Rep. Pat Garofalo, chair of the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee, praised the state’s community solar program for being a cheaper alternative than rooftop solar and suggested the program should win bipartisan support..." (File photo: Orlin Wagner, AP).

Republicans and Democrats Alike Want More Clean Energy. Dr. John Abraham at The University of St. Thomas reports for The Guardian: "...A fascinating study was just released by Yale and George Mason Universities that involved a national survey of American opinions. What this survey found was astonishing. Almost 70% of registered voters in the U.S. believe that their country should participate in international agreements to limit global warming. Only 1 in 8 registered voters believe the U.S. should not participate in such agreements. Similarly, 70% of respondents support limits on carbon dioxide, the most important human-emitted heat trapping gas. Moreover, they agree to limits even if that means electricity costs will increase (although they won’t). What this means is that 7 in 10 registered voters agree with President Obama’s signature climate accomplishment, the Clean Power Plan..." (File photo: MN.gov).

To Slow Global Warming We Need Nuclear Power. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse at The New York Times: "...In roughly two decades, the United States could lose about half its reactors. That’s because, by 2038, 50 reactors will be at least 60 years old, and will face having to close, representing nearly half of the nuclear generating capacity in the United States. Without them, or enough new reactors to replace them, it will be much harder to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. Unfortunately, some of our federal policies to encourage clean energy, such as the Clean Energy Incentive Program within President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, do not explicitly include or incentivize nuclear power. Likewise, some states have chosen to adopt policies, such as renewable portfolio standards, that do not include or incentivize nuclear power..."

File photo credit: Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Is Our Fear of Nuclear Energy Overblown? Pacific Standard reports: "When we think about nuclear energy, what usually comes to mind are its worst consequences. The disastrous accidents of Chernobyl and Fukushima—as well as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—loom large in the debate over whether we should rely more heavily on nuclear power as part of a shift toward a low-carbon energy economy. But do these terrible events loom too large? In a recent piece in Genetics, biologist Bertrand Jordan, of Aix-Marseille University in France, argues that most of us have a exaggerated view of the dangers of radioactivity, and that this is distorting the debate over nuclear power as a viable clean energy option. Jordan bases his argument on the results of long-term studies of Japanese atomic bombing survivors..."

Photo credit: memoriesbymike/Flickr.

ISU Study Finds Wind Turbines Have Some Impact on Crop Fields. Radio Iowa has the story; here's an excerpt: "...One result of the changes could be less dew forming on the plants. “Which would be generally a good thing because dew promotes growth of fungus and mold and some pathogens that crops are generally affected by,” Takle says. He says they found the turbines slowed the wind over the fields. “And this in meteorological terms that leads to a surface convergence. And that means that by laws of physics that there must be an upward motion over the windfarm,” Takle says. “..and it could have significance in that it could affect fog and cloudiness or rainfall if it is on a large enough scale.” The research was done behind a couple of rows of turbines. “We have not gone to look at the regional scale say of 150 or 200 turbines, the impact that might have,” Takle says. “But that is an very interesting question and one that we are pursuing, because it could have some significance...” (File photo: AP).

New Data Shows Auto Industry Failing to Advertise Electric Cars. The Huffington Post has the story: "In the past month, how many car advertisements have you seen? I’ve seen a lot, and I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to drive fast on forested roads with my hot date by my side to reach our luxury destination with valet parking. Now, how many of those car ads were for electric cars? If that number is more than zero, then you’re in the minority. New data shows what we’ve long observed - that auto companies and auto dealers are focusing much less on electric vehicle (EV) advertising than on advertising for conventional gas-guzzling cars and trucks - especially outside of California..."

A Year in Discovery: The 58 Greatest Finds of 2016. Atlas Obscura has a good, long list of some of the more bizarre discoveries this year: "Every morning at Atlas Obscura, we seek out news of the most amazing discovery - whether that's the world's first identical twin puppies, a 50,000-year old sewing needle, a previously unknown monument at Petra, or a 22-pound of butter that's still edible even after spending 2,000 years buried in a bog. This year we collected hundreds of these surprising finds: here are 58 of the greatest."

6" snow on the ground in the Twin Cities.

41 F. high on Wednesday at MSP.

25 F. average high on December 21.

33 F. high temperature on December 21, 2015.

3 seconds. The Twin Cities will enjoy (?) an additional 3 seconds of daylight today. Spring fever anyone?

December 22, 2000: A chilly day in Minnesota, with a high of zero degrees in Minneapolis, and a low of 14 below.

TODAY: Some sun, "mild". Winds: SW 8-13. High: 34

THURSDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase. Low: 26

FRIDAY: Slushy snow likely, coating to 2" possible. Winds: S 10-15.  High: 33

CHRISTMAS EVE: Mostly cloudy, good travel weather. Winds NE 5-10. Wake-up: 24. High: 33

CHRISTMAS DAY: Icy start, then rain, heavy at times. T-storms possible with a risk of flooding. Winds: SE 15-30+ Wake-up: 27. High: 45

MONDAY: Windy and colder, few flurries with falling temperatures. Winds: W 15-30. Wake-up: 26. High: 29

TUESDAY: Partly sunny and brisk. Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 13. High: 26

WEDNESDAY: Clouds increase, few flurries. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 16. High: 31

Climate Stories...

Earth's Temperature to Dip, But Still Sizzle in 2017. Reuters has the latest: "World temperatures are likely to dip next year from a sizzling record high in 2016, when man-made global warming was slightly boosted by a natural El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean, scientists said on Tuesday. It is still likely to be the third warmest since records began. The year-on-year decline will coincide with the first year of Donald Trump's presidency. He has sometimes dismissed as a hoax the idea that global warming is caused by human activity. "Next year is not likely to be a record but it will still be a very warm year," Professor Adam Scaife of the British Met Office told Reuters of a report on Tuesday based on new computer data. He said it would be wrong for anyone who doubts that climate change is caused by humans to interpret the expected 2017 dip, prompted by the end of El Nino, which released heat from the Pacific Ocean, as a sign of an end to the long-term trend of global warming..."

El Nino-Linked Hurricanes to Increase in Pacific With Global Warming. Data suggests that warmer water, throughout a deeper layer of the western Pacific, is increasing wind speeds and intensities. Here's an excerpt from Reuters: "Small Pacific island states could be hit by more tropical cyclones during future El Nino weather patterns due to climate change, scientists said on Tuesday. El Nino is a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific occurring every two to seven years which can trigger both floods and drought in different parts of the world.  Its opposite phase, a cooling of the same waters known as La Nina, is associated with the increased probability of wetter conditions over much of Australia and increased numbers of tropical cyclones. Between 2070 and the end of the century, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands and Hawaii could face an increased frequency in powerful storms during El Nino of up to 40 percent, Australian meteorologists said in a study..." (Typhoon Haiyan image: Asian Development Bank).

Voice of America has more perspective on the apparent increase in Pacific typhoon intensity here.


If You Were Warmer This Summer, You Might Be More Likely to Believe in Climate Change. Here's a clip from The Sacramento Bee: "Climate change may be a global phenomenon, but whether or not you believe in it may have more to do with your local weather. A recently published study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that people’s views on climate change may be tied to the weather they have personally experienced, instead of weather conditions around the world. People who experienced more record heat were more likely to believe in global warming, according to study researchers, and those who had experienced recent colder temperatures were more likely to doubt warming in the long term. "Who do Americans trust about climate change; scientists or themselves?" lead author and Boston University professor Robert Kaufmann said in a press release. "For many Americans, the answer seems to be themselves..."

Map credit: "Local weather may impact whether or not Americans believe in climate change." Michelle Gilmore.

Scientific American has more context on how our views and opinions on climate are shaped by weather. My take: it's a little like confusing an argument (weather) with a 40-year marriage (climate).

Nixon Went to China. Can Trump Do Climate Change? Here's a snippet from Christian Science Monitor: "...We hear that we could win in the World Trade Organization if China or some other country challenges our imposition of the carbon tax on the stuff they’re importing to America. Now that’s a deal, we conclude. But who could pull it off? No international agreement involved, just a bold move by the United States – a United States with the guts to say to our trading partners, “Challenge us, and we’ll meet you and beat you in court. Then, you can make your own decisions as to whether you want to follow our lead. If you don’t, fine, keep on paying a carbon tax on entry into the United States. We’ll happily take your money. But we are going to lead and bring worldwide accountability for emissions.” It would be a big, bold deal. It would take a real dealmaker. Richard Nixon went to China. Bill Clinton signed welfare reform. Maybe Donald Trump can do climate change..." (Image credit: National Science Foundation).

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/weather/article121931623.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/weather/article121931623.html#storylink=cpy

Obama Bans Drilling in Parts of the Atlantic and the Arctic. The New York Times reports: "President Obama announced on Tuesday what he called a permanent ban on offshore oil and gas drilling along wide areas of the Arctic and the Atlantic Seaboard as he tried to nail down an environmental legacy that cannot quickly be reversed by Donald J. Trump. Mr. Obama invoked an obscure provision of a 1953 law, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which he said gives him the authority to act unilaterally. While some presidents have used that law to temporarily protect smaller portions of federal waters, Mr. Obama’s declaration of a permanent drilling ban from Virginia to Maine on the Atlantic and along much of Alaska’s coast is breaking new ground. The declaration’s fate will almost certainly be decided by the federal courts..."

Photo credit: "The Polar Pioneer was the first of two oil drilling rigs Royal Dutch Shell was outfitting for Arctic oil exploration before the company ended its contract last year." Credit Elaine Thompson/Associated Press.

El Nino on a Warming Planet May Have Sparked the Zika Epidemic, Scientists Say. Alarmist hype or is there a causal connection? Here's a clip from The Washington Post: "In a world characterized by rising temperatures, deforestation and other human influences on the environment, the spread of infectious disease is a hot topic. Many recent studies suggest that environmental changes can affect the transmission of everything from malaria to the Zika virus — and it’s increasingly important to understand these links, scientists say. This week, a new study has provided new evidence that environmental changes can increase the threat of disease. It concludes that unusually warm temperatures caused by 2015’s severe El Niño event — probably compounded by ongoing climate change — may have aided in the rapid spread of the Zika virus in South America that year. And while there are many complex factors at play in the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, the study may help scientists better prepare for the kinds of future effects we might see in our warming world..."

Photo credit: "A female Aedes aegypti mosquito in the process of acquiring blood from a human host."(James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP).

The Latest Zika News is More Bad News. FiveThirtyEight has more perspective.

Climate Change Investing Heats Up. Forbes has the story: "Climate change could be the most important long-term trend for investors. It will produce winners and losers over the next decades, and all investors should consider how they will “weatherproof” their portfolios to mitigate the risks and take advantage of the opportunities created by a changing climate. Many investors think of green energy, energy conservation, or water as the primary investments for a climate change portfolio. The most sophisticated family offices – which measure portfolio performance over decades, not quarters or years – think more broadly about the risks and opportunities of a changing global climate such as physical, technological, regulatory, and societal risks..."

Image credit: "This natural-color image mosaic, provided by NASA, taken in Aug. 2015, based on data collected during two orbital passes of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) shows typhoons in the western North Pacific. A new scientific report finds man-made climate change played some kind of role in two dozen extreme weather events around the world in 2015." (NASA via AP)

Pope Francis: "Never Been Such a Clear Need for Science" to Protect the Planet. The Washington Post reports: "...Pope Francis this week implored world leaders not to postpone the implementation of global environmental pacts, an appeal that appeared aimed at President-elect Donald Trump’s vows to end the United States’ leading role in combating climate change. The pope’s remarks came during a gathering of scientists at the Vatican, at which he said there has “never been such a clear need for science” to guide human actions to safeguard the future of the planet. “It is worth noting that international politics has reacted weakly — albeit with some praiseworthy exceptions — regarding the concrete will to seek the common good and universal goods, and the ease with which well-founded scientific opinion about the state of our planet is disregarded,” the pontiff said, according to a translation provided by the Vatican..." (Photo: AP).

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Hello Winter Solstice - Christmas Day Rain Storm - More Freakish Warmth in the Arctic

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Nuisance Snow Today - Christmas Rain for the Twin Cities - Winter Storm Watch Up North for Icy, Snowy Mix