A Tough Minnesota Winter? Not So Much

Before you grumble about the latest cold front try and keep things in perspective. Tonight will be the 10th night below zero at MSP. During an average winter the metro picks up 23 nights below zero.

Heating degree data from NOAA confirms we've all saved 17 percent on heating bills, compared to average. Since December 1 meteorological winter is the 11th warmest since 1872, to date.

By historical standards this winter has been fairly tame, with only 1 real snowstorm (9 inches on Groundhog Day).

The last time we came out of a major El Nino was 1998. The spring that followed was wild: an EF-4 tornado in Comfrey, 57 tornadoes overall - with nearly $2 billion in hail and wind damage, statewide. Every El Nino is different, but I wouldn't be surprised to see an active severe season in 2016.

After waking up to a refreshing -10F Saturday morning and trudging through a couple inches of fresh snow Sunday the mercury rebounds next week. We could see March-like 40s and a little rain one week from today.

I'll have details on the implications of a fading El Nino on TPT's "Almanac" at 7 PM.

Where's The Ice? Great Lakes ice cover (and thickness) is a good overall barometer of how cold the winter has been. As of February 9 the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab is reporting total Great Lakes ice cover at 5.9%.

Compared to a "Polar Vortex" Winter. 2 years ago we had a real (pioneer) winter - at this time in 201 ice cover on the Great Lakes was 78.2%

Little Ice = Lot's of Lake Effect Snow. The latest advisory map shows Wind Chill Advisories for northern Minnesota, but the big story is open water on the Great Lakes in early February; a large temperature differential fueling heavy snow bands downwind of the Great Lakes. Typical for November and December, but a bit unusual for early February. Map: AerisWeather AMP.

Record Heat in SoCal? Reports of 90s, in early February. Details from The Los Angeles Times.

The Current El Nino May Hold Lessons for How To Deal With a Warming Planet. This El Nino may exceed 1997-98 for the largest, most intense ever recorded. Here's an excerpt from PRI, Public Radio International: "...In some sense, what we're seeing around the world right now is an advanced view of the sort of things that we'll see more of in the future — all of the weather systems being somewhat more vigorous than they have been in the past, the risk of both droughts in some regions and flooding in other regions,” says climate scientist Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. El Niño is essentially a “mini global warming" event, Trenberth explains. It arises from a build-up of heat in the waters of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The warm ocean waters and higher sea levels begin in the western tropical Pacific and then spread to the central and eastern Pacific..." (Image credit: NOAA).

2016 Already On Track To Be Hottest Year Ever Recorded. EcoWatch has the story.

First Subzero Low of February. MSP enjoyed 9 nights below zero in January, tonight should be the first of February with suburbs waking up to -10F (wind chill of -20 to -25F). Not as harsh as mid-January, but cold enough. Screen shot: Aeris Enterprise Mobile.

Urban Heat Island. The downtowns will stay a little warmer tonight due to the urban heat island, asphalt and concrete retaining and re-radiating heat, but outlying suburbs will be colder. NDFD data from NOAA predicts -15F air temperature at Maple Grove by 7 AM Saturday.

Sunday Snow Event. Hardly Snowmaggedon, maybe an inch or two in the metro with some plowable 3-6" amounts across southwestern Minnesota. Roads may be icy Sunday with surface temperatures in the upper teens to near 20F. NAM 84-hour snowfall potential: NOAA and AerisWeather.

One More Shot - Then Mellowing Out Next Week. Subzero air (shaded in hot pink above) rotates across the Upper Midwest into the Great Lakes and New England into the weekend, another (weaker) burp of chilled air Tuesday, before the flow becomes more zonal, sparking a streak of 30s, even 40F one week from today. 10-Day GFS 2-meter temperatures: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Extended Thaw Next Week. European guidance is "only" going -6F at MSP Saturday morning; 21F will feel pretty good by Sunday with 1-2" snow possible, more south of the metro area. After thawing out Monday temperatures cool slightly before a sharper rise by late week. Only Minnesotans are happy and relieved to see 40F in February. Source: WeatherSpark.

March Preview. Although not as warm as predicted a few weeks ago NOAA's CFSv2 model is still forecasting March temperatures 4-6F warmer than average next month; a lingering whiff of El Nino continuing to flavor weather over most of the USA. Source: WeatherBell.

U.N. Agency: Major Droughts Count Rises Amid Record-Hot 2015. The story is from AP and The Washington Post; here's the intro: "The U.N. agency specializing in reduction of disaster risks says the Earth faced more than twice as many major droughts last year than the average of the last decade. Focusing part on the human cost of the hottest year on record last year, the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction says in a trend analysis Thursday that 98.6 million people were affected by disasters in 2015. It counted 32 major droughts last year, up from an annual average of 15 over the preceding decade..."

File photo: USGS.

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.

Tapping The Power of the Plains to Light Up Faraway Cities. Here's an excerpt of a story at Bloomberg Business: "There’s enough untapped wind howling across the vast plains of Oklahoma and Kansas to generate more electricity than a dozen nuclear power plants. What’s missing are transmission lines to ship it from spinning turbines to faraway homes and businesses..."

BP Admits It Has Consistently Underestimated Renewables. The carbon-free train has already left the station, as reported at Climate Home: "It is hard for any company to envisage a future in which it becomes irrelevant. So it should be no surprise that oil majors forecast the continued dominance of fossil fuels in the energy mix – with coal playing a declining role. What is revealing is how their projections change year-on-year, in the face of a reality that climate policies and clean technology are eating into their market share. BP has revised upwards its predictions for renewable energy every year since it started publishing an energy outlook in 2011..." (Photo credit: Flickr, Aaron).

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.

The Year 2040 Is Looking Very Scary For The World's Richest Countries. Here's an excerpt from Quartz: "For demographers and economists, 2020 is a big year. That’s when 20% of the population of the world’s richest countries will be older than 65—a magic number because, starting in the mid-1900s, it’s the age when people stop working (though in many European countries people retire at 60), collect pensions, and consume lots of health care. But the date people should really worry about is 2040..."

This Chart Shows Who Marries CEO's, Chefs, Doctors and Janitors. Who knew? Check it out - see if you married up? Bloomberg Business has an interesting infographic; here's a link and excerpt: "...Some of the matches seemed practical (the most common marriage is between grade-school teachers), and others had us questioning Cupid’s aim (why do female dancers have a thing for male welders?). High-earning women (doctors, lawyers) tend to pair up with their economic equals, while middle- and lower-tier women often marry up. In other words, female CEOs tend to marry other CEOs; male CEOs are OK marrying their secretaries."

Legal Marijuana Is Now a Billion Dollar Industry in California. That's a lot of munchies. Here's an excerpt from Quartz: "The 2015 figures are in, and the number is huge—legal marijuana sales in Colorado were $996 million in 2015, according to Colorado Department of Revenue figures, the Denver Post’s marijuana website the Cannabist reports. Colorado collected more than $135 million in taxes from marijuana sales in 2015. Of that, about $35 million will be put to school construction projects, the Cannabist reports..."

Photo credit: "That's a lot of weed." (Reuters/Jason Redmond).

17 F. high in the Twin Cities Thursday.

28 F. average high on February 11.

30 F. high on February 11, 2015.

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.

TODAY: Sunny, feels like -15F. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 9

FRIDAY NIGHT: Clear and very cold. Feels like -20. Low: -11

SATURDAY: Numbing start, fading PM sun. -25 WC early. Winds: SW 3-8. High: 10

SUNDAY: Couple inches of snow, slick. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 6. High: 21

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, average again. Wake-up: 15. High: 31

TUESDAY: Weak clipper, flurries develop. Wake-up: 14. High: 29

WEDNESDAY: Flurries taper, skies clear. Wake-up: 12. High: 26

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy, warming up. Wake-up: 13. High: 36

Climate Stories...

Faith and Climate Change: A Meteorologist's View. I want to thank the College of Saint Benedit and St. John's University, Gary Eichten and MPR for arranging at Q&A earlier this week on campus. The full interview is available online, courtesy of MPR: "Dogma, ideology and money are blocking efforts to address climate change, says Twin Cities meteorologist Paul Douglas. Douglas, a Republican and evangelical Christian, says he believes in stewardship. He was a featured speaker at a Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, event as part of the "On Campus with Gary Eichten" series. The event was held at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict."

Climate Change May Have Helped Spread Zika Virus According to WHO Scientists.Here's an excerpt at The Guardian: "The outbreak of Zika virus in Central and South America is of immediate concern to pregnant women in the region, but for some experts the situation is a glimpse of the sort of public health threats that will unfold due to climate change. “Zika is the kind of thing we’ve been ranting about for 20 years,” said Daniel Brooks, a biologist at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “We should’ve anticipated it. Whenever the planet has faced a major climate change event, man-made or not, species have moved around and their pathogens have come into contact with species with no resistance...”

Photo credit above: "Tamires da Costa, 16, who is four months pregnant, stands in a street with standing flood water next to her home in the Parque Sao Bento shantytown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 29 January 2016." Photograph: Leo Correa/AP.

Climate Change Driving Species To The Earth's Poles Faster Than Predicted, Scientists Say. Australia's ABC Network has the story - here's a link and excerpt: "Warming temperatures are pushing land and sea creatures closer to the north and south poles and to cooler altitudes at rates faster than first predicted, scientists say. Scientists from 40 countries are gathering in Hobart for a four-day conference about how climate change is forcing species to move, including humans. Professor Camille Parmesan from Plymouth University in the UK said around the world animals and plants were moving towards the Earth's poles, and it is happening faster than scientists had originally predicted..."

What Scientists Just Discovered in Greenland Could Be Making Sea-Level Rise Even Worse. The Washington Post has details; here's an excerpt: "Rising global temperatures may be affecting the Greenland ice sheet — and its contribution to sea-level rise in more serious ways that scientists imagined, a new study finds. Recent changes to the island’s snow and ice cover appear to have affected its ability to store excess water, meaning more melting ice may be running off into the ocean than previously thought. That’s worrying news for the precarious Greenland ice sheet, which scientists say has already lost more than 9 trillions tons of ice in the past century and whose melting rate only continues to increase as temperatures keep warming..."

Image credit above: "This NASA animation shows Greenland's ice mass loss from January 2004 to June 2014." (NASA)

Can Only Congress Prevent Climate Change? If you live (or govern) in south Florida climate change isn't an abstraction; rising seas are already taking a toll. Here's an excerpt at Bloomberg Business: "...The new Climate Solutions Caucus differs from most other House groups in that its co-founders, Representatives Carlos Curbelo and Ted Deutch, are from different parties. And they want to keep it bipartisan, with an even number of Rs and Ds. It's probably not a coincidence that Curbelo, a Republican from Florida's 26th congressional district, and Deutch, a Democrat from the 21st district, represent people witnessing climate change in its starkest terms: Their communities, in Miami and surrounding counties, are slowly slipping into the sea..." (Miami Beach photo credit: Trip Advisor)

What These Christians Are Giving Up For Lent: Fossil Fuels. Here's a clip from The Washington Post: "A new initiative in the United Kingdom is not only calling for Christian communities to band together in support of clean energy, but actually helping them get their own electricity that way. The Big Church Switch, which launched Wednesday, aims to inspire both individuals and churches to make the switch to renewable energy sources — and they’re already gaining support from church leaders in the country..."

Photo credit above: "Solar panels sit in an array at the Southwick Estate Solar Farm, operated by Primrose Solar Ltd., near Fareham, U.K., on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. The plant, situated in 200 acres (81 hectares) of farmland, consists of 175,000 monocrystalline PV modules and has a capacity of 48 megawatts." Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

The Court Blocks Action on Climate Change. Science has been turned into a political football. Now the battle has reached the Super Bowl of Jurisprudence, The Supreme Court. Here's the intro of an Op-Ed at The New York Times: "The Supreme Court’s extraordinary decision on Tuesday to temporarily block the Obama administration’s effort to combat global warming by regulating emissions from power plants was deeply disturbing on two fronts. It raised serious questions about America’s ability to deliver on Mr. Obama’s pledge in Paris in December to sharply reduce carbon emissions, and, inevitably, about its willingness to take a leadership role on the issue. And with all the Republican-appointed justices lining up in a 5-to-4 vote to halt the regulation before a federal appeals court could rule on it, the court also reinforced the belief among many Americans that the court is knee-deep in the partisan politics it claims to stand above..."

The Supreme Court Could Block Obama's Climate Plans - But It Can't Stop Clean Energy. Here's an excerpt of a Chris Mooney article at The Washington Post: "...However, there’s another side of the story. The fact of the matter is that the Clean Power Plan wasn’t set to fully kick in until 2022 — and in the interim, the U.S. has been going through something that looks a lot like the kind of transition it is meant to prompt even without the plan in place. Namely: The nation has been slowly decarbonizing its electricity system, through the growth of renewables and the switching from burning coal to burning natural gas..."

Photo credit above: "Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, from left, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Stephen Breyer, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor arrive before President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016." (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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.

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Subzero Saturday morning, but 50 degrees warmer by late next week

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An Indianapolis winter: arctic breeze today, 40s and rain showers by Friday