Paul Douglas is a nationally respected meteorologist with 35 years of television and radio experience. A serial entrepreneur, Douglas is Senior Meteorologist and Founder of Media Logic Group. Douglas and a team of meteorologists, engineers and developers provide weather services for various media at Broadcast Weather, high-tech alerting and briefing services for companies via Alerts Broadcaster and weather data, apps and API’s from Aeris Weather. His speaking engagements take him around the Midwest with a message of continuous experimentation and reinvention, no matter what business you’re in. He is the public face of “SAVE”, Suicide Awareness, Voices of Education, based in Bloomington. | Send Paul a question.

Faux Winter - A Little Cold, A Little Snow

Posted by: Paul Douglas under Lions Updated: January 29, 2015 - 10:20 PM

Half a Winter?

My future in-laws live in Newton, Massachusetts, just west of Boston. They sent me a nice photo of the 21 inches of new snow in their yard. In one blizzard the Boston area picked up more snow than the Twin Cities has seen all winter. I don't know whether to be jealous or grateful. Or baffled.

A few months ago some meteorologists were beating the Polar Vortex gong, convinced this winter would rival last year's polar pain. It isn't quite work out that way.

Based on heating degree days we've used 2 percent less energy to heat our homes this winter. Last year was 7 percent colder. So far 13 subzero nights, compared with 29 nights of negative fun as of January 30, 2014.

20.4 inches of snow at MSP is 13 inches less than average, to date. A TRACE on the ground? Bizarre for late January.

Models show a parade of clippers the next 2 weeks, any big storms (with names) snubbing Minnesota, sailing off to our south. Old Man Winter administers a light spanking next week; a couple of nights dipping below zero. But not as cold as the first 10 days of January. And a thaw returns by late next week.

Six more weeks of winter seems like a pretty sure bet at this northerly latitude, but I'm banking on an early spring this year. Nothing like the past 2 springs with snow in May. Place your bets.


Don't Get Too Comfortable. Yes, our recent spree of 30s and 40s has been welcome (by many, not all). Last week felt more like March than January, more brown than white. Snow lovers are not amused. A particularly beefy clipper arrives next Tuesday (ECMWF) and could give us a few inches of powder before much colder air arrives; as many as 3 subzero nights the end of next week before thawing out around Saturday, February 7.


Plowable Snow Brewing For Midwest. The approach of colder air will set off a swirl of snow, with plowable amounts possible from Des Moines to the Quad Cities and Chicago. Source: Alerts Broadcaster.


2 Week Temperature Trend. GFS and GEFS ensemble data shows a brief subzero stretch the end of next week, followed by a fairly rapid rebound with highs rising above freezing by February 8-10. No evidence of polar air stalling overhead, or nearby, into mid-February. Source: Aeris Weather.


The Gathering Storm. Could air pollution in Asia be strengthening storms thousands of miles downwind over the USA? Here's an excerpt of an eye-opening story at onEarth: "Increasingly intense storms in the United States might have an unexpected origin: Asian air pollution. Researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have found that aerosols from across the Pacific strengthen extratropical cyclones—a type of storm system that drives much of our country's weather. Asia is home to the world's 20 most polluted cities, but that dirty air doesn’t stay put, as the above animation of aerosol emissions shows..."


What Happened To The Blizzard of 2015? Wait, there was a blizzard? I had no idea. Greg Laden has an interesting post at scienceblogs.com; here's an excerpt: "...More importantly, the forecast was for a huge blizzard with up to three feet of snow across a blob shaped region of the Northeast approximately 475 miles along its longest dimension (see graphic above). The blob ended up being off, on the southwest end, by about 40 or 50 miles. So the spatial extent of the storm was misestimated, days in advance, by about 10%. An object the size of a country was off by the distance a healthy adult can walk in a long day. That was, ladies and gentleman, an excellent, accurate prediction..."

Photo credit above: "Bruce Raymond shovels snow from the roof of his Chaplin, Conn. home on Jan. 28, 2015, after yesterday's storm that brought more than 20-inches to parts of the state. More snow and freezing temperatures are forecast for most of next week." (Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant/TNS).


Why The Forecasters Got It So Wrong For New York City. Bloomberg takes a look at dueling models, and how all the models (sucked) for New York City's snowfall totals; here's an excerpt: "...Everyone went with the Euro and it was wrong,” Carolan said. “This winter the Euro hasn’t been the model it has been in the last two winters.” While the GFS, which was upgraded earlier this month, did a better job forecasting how the storm played out, another U.S. model also erred on large snowfall amounts, Uccellini said. “Our own NAM model was right there with the European Centre,” he said..." (Image: Aeris Weather).


Leaders In New York and New Jersey Defend Shutdown For A Blizzard That Wasn't. The New York Times reports; here's an excerpt that caught my eye: "...The weather laid bare the civic and political high-wire act of the modern snowstorm — pocked with doomsayer proclamations and sporadic lapses in communication. At the episode’s heart is the sort of damned-if-you-do decision that has bedeviled politicians for decades: Play it safe with closings, all but guaranteeing sweeping economic losses, or try to ride out the storm?..."

Photo credit above: "Jeff Williams widens the walking path in front of the storefront where he works in Patchogue, N.Y., Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. While much of the New York City region breathed easier after eluding serious damage from a deadly blizzard, highway crews helped eastern Long Island residents recover from a storm that dumped more than two feet of snow in some places." (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)


There Once Was A Storm on Nantucket. Boston.com has an amazing collection of photos and tweets from Monday night's storm, which hit the island of Nantucket, Mass. with the fury of a category 1 hurricane.


The Adult Snow Day Is Dying, And That's Sad. Amen. New York Magazine has the essay; here's a snippet: "...The grown-up world has a tendency to strip things of their magic a bit, but the snow day still served as a wonderful stop sign from the heavens for myopic, overworked adults. What else could grind to a halt, even temporarily, the exhausting, striving adult world of meetings and reports and office memos? What else could not only suggest to the workaholic that he take a day off, but force him to because the roads were too icy, the subways all closed? What else could unite father and son on a sled on a snowy hill in the middle of a weekday?..."


Central American Fires May Intensify U.S. Tornadoes. Really? Science News has an overview on how smoke can amplify conditions necessary for tornadoes, which I found to be non-obvious; here's a clip: "...Smoke wafting across the Gulf of Mexico from Central America can help spawn intense twisters in and around North America’s Tornado Alley, new research suggests. Reconstructing the extreme April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak, which sired 122 twisters across the Southeastern United States, researchers found that smoke particles in the atmosphere further enhanced conditions already favorable for intense tornado formation..."


The Coming Food Disaster. My new diet just kicked in after reading this story at CNN; here's an excerpt that got my full attention: "...To accommodate the fact that weeds are becoming glyphosate resistant, thereby requiring more herbicide use, the EPA has steadily increased its allowable concentration limit in food, and has essentially ignored our exposure to the other chemicals that are in its commercial formulation. As a result, the amount of glyphosate-based herbicide introduced into our foods has increased enormously since the introduction of GM crops. Multiple studies have shown that glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and likely public health hazards..."


All Sports Everything. The Verge takes a look behind the scenes at ESPN, and how it is transitioning beyond live, linear television into social media and multiple platforms, simultaneously. Here's a clip of a fascinating story: "...By any measure – it’s the most popular cable channel by a mile; it commands a per-subscriber fee from cable companies equal to the next five most expensive combined; it’s valued at more than $50 billion, 13 times as much as Disney-owned ABC — ESPN is the country’s most powerful media company. The calculus is as simple as it is devastatingly effective: sports is practically the only TV that millions of people still insist on watching live, and ESPN owns almost all the sports...."


Paul,

More of an observation…I was out for a noon-time walk on Tuesday, Jan 27, near Rice Creek Parkway in Shoreview, when I spotted this little fellow walking alongside me.  Air temp was about 35 F, and he was definitely moving (albeit very slowly).

I don’t recall ever seeing a live caterpillar in the middle of winter before.

- Jason Torgerson


34 F. high in the Twin Cities Thursday.

25 F. average high on January 29.

34 F. high on January 29, 2014.

Trace of snow on the ground in the Twin Cities.

January 29, 1994: Duluth has a record low of -35.

January 29, 1893: Blizzard hits the state with temperatures falling 40 degrees in five hours at Park Rapids.


TODAY: Partly sunny, close to average. Winds: S 8. High: 26

FRIDAY NIGHT: A few clouds, no drama. Low: 20

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, turning colder late. High: 27

SUNDAY: Chilly Super Sunday. Clearing. Wake-up: 9. High: 15

MONDAY: Clouds increase, nighttime coating? Wake-up: 5. High: near 20

TUESDAY: Stronger clipper, few inches possible. Wake-up: 17. High: 21

WEDNESDAY: Blue sky. Nippy. Wind chill: -20. Wake-up: -2. High: 9

THURSDAY: Crunchy extremities. Fading sun. Wake-up: -10. High: 6

* ECMWF guidance is hinting at another thaw by the end of next week.


Climate Stories...

The U.S. Is A Country Divided By Seasons and Warming. The rate of warming is fastest in winter, when we are probably least equipped to register the trends. Scientific American has a fascinating story; here's an excerpt: "...While winter is the fastest-warming season in most states, spring and fall are making strides in this dubious race, particularly in the western part of the country. And then there’s the Lone Star state, which stands alone as the only state where summer is warming the fastest. Don’t mess with Texas. The one thing that unites the country is that each and every season has been warming since 1970 nationally and that the rate of warming has accelerated compared to the past. In summer, the Lower 48 has warmed by 0.4°F per decade. In the winter, the U.S. average temperature has risen by about 0.6°F per decade..."


Even With Global Warming, It Still Snows. If it gets to the point where it's too warm for snow, even at far northern latitudes, there won't be any homo sapiens around to notice. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Rock Hill Herald Online: "...And as for that business about how can we have blizzards when the climate is warming, there’s a reasonable explanation for that, too. In fact, global warming could increase the number of severe weather events such as blizzards, droughts and hurricanes. Even if the overall amount of snowfall in a year remains about the same, we are more likely to get more intense storms that dump more snow on us all at once. Climatologists note that warmer air masses – mostly those produced by warming ocean waters – can hold more moisture. When those air masses collide with frigid Arctic air, we get storms, including blizzards, which can be more powerful because of more moisture in the atmosphere..."


Read more here: http://www.heraldonline.com/2015/01/29/6750313_even-with-global-warming-it-still.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Climate Coverage on TV Is Rising. That's Not Always A Good Thing. Vox puts things into perspective; here's an excerpt: "...In 2014, the networks devoted 154 minutes to the subject. That's more than the year prior, though it's still well below 2009 levels. The leaders were CBS and NBC, with 56 and 47 minutes respectively. Fox had the least coverage, with 19 minutes — largely because it doesn't have a nightly news program. About 22 million people in America still watch the evening news on ABC, NBC, or CBS, so this is a fairly big media source, though obviously the networks don't have anywhere near the vast reach they once did..."


Climate Models Don't Overpredict Warming, Study Shows. The Los Angeles Times has the story; here's an excerpt: "...A study that combined 114 possible 15-year trends since 1900 found that there was nothing statistically biased in the ways model-generated data differed from actual measurements of global mean surface temperatures. These short trends cannot predict “chaotic” fluctuations in such factors as ocean currents, according to the study. A similar analysis of every possible 62-year trend was much better at picking up the effects of human activity on rising global temperatures, the study found..."


U.K. Flood Victims Less Likely To Be Climate Skeptics. Climate change only hits home when it...hits home. And it will be hitting home with greater frequency and ferocity in the years to come. Here's a clip from The Guardian: "...A new study released today by the Understanding Risk team at Cardiff University provides some fascinating answers to this question. In the months following the flooding, a nationally representative survey of around 1,000 people was conducted, asking about people’s views on climate change, on the floods, and whether they saw a link between the two. The results were striking. Most respondents (85%) felt that flooding had become more common, and that it would continue to get worse in the future. At the same time, scepticism about climate change was at its lowest for 10 years: very few people disputed the link between human activity and climate change..."

File photo credit: AP Photo/Scott Heppell.


U.S. To Enlist Pope Francis's Help On Climate Change. Here's a snippet of an article at VOA, Voice of America: "In a bid to bolster the Obama administration's "moral" case for combating climate change, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency will meet senior Vatican officials Friday to enlist papal support for its policies. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said Pope Francis, who has become a vocal climate advocate since his 2013 election, can be an ally for President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan..." (File photo: AP).


Pope Francis Turning Into A Headache For Catholic Presidential Hopefuls. Bloomberg Politics has the story; here's a clip: "...Those clashes with Francis may prove relatively minor compared to what may ensue when the pope visits the United States next fall, smack in the middle of the campaign to decide who will win the Republican nomination, to promote his forthcoming encyclical that declares man-made global warming a problem that Catholics have a duty to try and address. “I don't know if it [human activity] is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face,” Francis said earlier this month. “We have in a sense taken over nature...”


Corn Belt Farming Boosts The Global Carbon Cycle. I thought this was interesting, a snippet of a story at KCUR.org: "...Scientists have noticed a change in the atmosphere. Plants are taking in more carbon dioxide during the growing season and giving off more carbon in the fall and winter. Recent research shows the massive corn crop in the Corn Belt may be contributing to that deeper breath. It comes down to the Carbon Cycle. Over the winter when corn fields lay dormant, corn stalks and roots break down, sending CO2 into the air. Then in the summer when a new crop is growing, it takes up carbon from the atmosphere..."


Yes, We Can Live Well And Avoid Climate Disaster, Says UK Government. The Guardian has the story; here's an excerpt: "...Dealing with greenhouse gas emissions will require a transformation of electricity generation, including an expansion of renewable energy and nuclear power, as well as more public transport and changes to the built environment, according to the key findings of the Global Calculator, an online software tool developed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), with partners. The calculator is intended to show the likely outcomes of a variety of choices that policymakers and the public can make to tackle global warming, such as investing in nuclear, insulating houses, making electrical appliances more efficient and using electric vehicles..." (Image: FEMA).


What A Warming World Means For Major Snowstorms. Warmer air and ocean water has already resulted in an increase in water vapor, more fuel for flash floods in summer, and higher snowfall amounts in winter. Here's a clip from Quartz: "...About half of the current anomalous ocean warmth, and therefore the enhanced moisture, can be attributed to climate change, Trenberth said. As the oceans and atmosphere warm due to the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, that moisture source could continue to grow, to the tune of 4% more water vapor in the atmosphere for every 1 °F rise in global temperatures..."


Why Climate Scientists Shouldn't Testify Before Congress. Science 2.0 has an interesting story about the politicization of science, here's a clip: "...Of course, the purpose of congressional hearings on science most often is not to actually expand or clarify the scope of choice available to decision makers, nor to convince neutrals or to win over the other side to one’s point of view. Rather, these hearings are meant to show and confirm solidarity with one’s own side. In this sense, they mark a breakdown of democratic deliberation..."

Another Gusty Clipper - An Easy January by Minnesota Standards

Posted by: Paul Douglas Updated: January 28, 2015 - 9:57 PM

What January?

A year ago meteorologists were hyping the Polar Vortex; jet stream winds buckling and stalling, allowing arctic air to overstay its welcome. This year: more of a Pacific influence, fewer subzero flings, January temperatures about 3F milder than average.

David Young wrote me a note, describing a harrowing plunge into Lake of The Isles Sunday. Unstable ice in late January? Always an issue for spring-fed lakes and river currents, but falling through the ice in January, in Minnesota, requires a fair amount of effort. Jason Torgerson sent a photo of caterpillars in Shoreview.

Chirping robins, canceled pond hockey games, where does it end?

I'm here to (gently) remind you that Canada won't run out of cold air anytime soon. I'm predicting a minor reality readjustment, with teens early next week, an even colder front the end of next week with a few single digit days - maybe a couple nights below zero. But still not as cold as the first 10 days of January.

Call me crazy but I suspect the coldest days are behind us.

I see scrawny clippers into mid-February. At some point we'll see a legitimate storm. But as farmers like to say "When in a drought don't forecast rain."

Or snow for that matter.


Blizzard-Free. At least for a few days. The next clipper pushes snow showers across the Great Lakes into New England, a southern system dropping a few inches of snow on the mountains of New Mexico by Saturday morning. 60-hour 4 km NAM snowfall potential courtesy of Aeris Weather.


Reality Readjustment. Although not as cold as early January there's little doubt we'll see a temperature tumble early next week, an even colder slap the end of next week. A few clippers swept up in a northwest flow may coat the ground, but (amazingly) not significant snow is in sight. Graphic: Weatherspark.


Mixed Signals. The latest output from NOAA's GFS model shows a thaw by the second week of February, followed by more arctic air by mid-month. With a higher sun angle it gets increasingly difficult to experience subzero weather, especially subzero daytime highs. I'm still not convinced it will get as cold as the first 10 days of January.


Colder Phase. After a brief thaw around February 10 temperatures tumble again by the middle of next month; the core of the jet stream continuing to whisk the biggest, wettest storms south and east of Minnesota as far ahead as I dare look (about 2-3 weeks). Source: GrADS:COLA/IGES.


2 Week Temperature Trend. GFS guidance shows temperatures bottoming out Feb. 5-7 with a few nights below zero, daytime highs in single digits (but the sun should be out!) Models generally show a warming trend by the second week of February. Graphic: Aeris Enterprise.


What Happened To The Blizzard of 2015? Wait, there was a blizzard? I had no idea. Greg Laden has an interesting post at scienceblogs.com; here's an excerpt: "...More importantly, the forecast was for a huge blizzard with up to three feet of snow across a blob shaped region of the Northeast approximately 475 miles along its longest dimension (see graphic above). The blob ended up being off, on the southwest end, by about 40 or 50 miles. So the spatial extent of the storm was misestimated, days in advance, by about 10%. An object the size of a country was off by the distance a healthy adult can walk in a long day. That was, ladies and gentleman, an excellent, accurate prediction..."

Photo credit above: "Bruce Raymond shovels snow from the roof of his Chaplin, Conn. home on Jan. 28, 2015, after yesterday's storm that brought more than 20-inches to parts of the state. More snow and freezing temperatures are forecast for most of next week." (Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant/TNS).


Why The Forecasters Got It So Wrong For New York City. Bloomberg takes a look at dueling models, and how all the models (sucked) for New York City's snowfall totals; here's an excerpt: "...Everyone went with the Euro and it was wrong,” Carolan said. “This winter the Euro hasn’t been the model it has been in the last two winters.” While the GFS, which was upgraded earlier this month, did a better job forecasting how the storm played out, another U.S. model also erred on large snowfall amounts, Uccellini said. “Our own NAM model was right there with the European Centre,” he said..." (Image: Aeris Weather).


Leaders In New York and New Jersey Defend Shutdown For A Blizzard That Wasn't. The New York Times reports; here's an excerpt that caught my eye: "...The weather laid bare the civic and political high-wire act of the modern snowstorm — pocked with doomsayer proclamations and sporadic lapses in communication. At the episode’s heart is the sort of damned-if-you-do decision that has bedeviled politicians for decades: Play it safe with closings, all but guaranteeing sweeping economic losses, or try to ride out the storm?..."

Photo credit above: "Jeff Williams widens the walking path in front of the storefront where he works in Patchogue, N.Y., Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. While much of the New York City region breathed easier after eluding serious damage from a deadly blizzard, highway crews helped eastern Long Island residents recover from a storm that dumped more than two feet of snow in some places." (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)


There Once Was A Storm on Nantucket. Boston.com has an amazing collection of photos and tweets from Monday night's storm, which hit the island of Nantucket, Mass. with the fury of a category 1 hurricane.


Snowstorm's Forecast Was Mostly Right, Even If It Felt Wrong In New York. Manhattan was on the western edge of the heaviest snow bands; 40 miles made the difference between 8" and 21". Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "...One of the difficulties with forecasting major storms, Dr. Sobel said, is that a small error in predicting the path of the storm can cause a much larger error in impact. “The bigger the event, the bigger the bust potential,” he said. In this storm, the predicted snowfall gradients — charts showing how much would accumulate where — were very steep. “So a little bit of track error means a big snowfall error,” he said..."

Photo credit above: "Snow swirls into the air as Ted Diamond operates a snow blower to clear out his driveway on Greenvale Drive in East Northport on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, in New York. Long Island was one of several areas throughout the state to be hit by a blizzard overnight into this morning." (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek).


Partly Wrong With A Chance of Being Right: Weather Forecast. Why do weather models fail? In light of the Big Bust out east I wanted to include a link to a storyy at ScienceDaily; here's an excerpt: "...For example, they found that in the eastern Mediterranean, particles in the atmosphere were the most important cause of forecast fallacies, followed by land cover change. They also found topography to be the most influential factor affecting weather around the world. "The only tool the weather forecaster has is his model, and the only choice he or she has is to look at different models, each of which has strengths and weaknesses," said Prof. Alpert..."


Snow Scary. The New Yorker has a terrific article that helps to explain why the USA is a nation of extreme-weather junkies; here's a clip: "...Edgework” is precisely what extreme weather is. A winter storm—or any storm, really—approximates this thrill. It’s powerful, and even dangerous. But safely ensconced inside, and in front of our computer screens, we don’t think that it will really hurt us. The power might go out, but then we would be able to share a picture of a car buried in a snowdrift. And then, soon, it will be over. You will have had the thrill, and you might have gained control over it by capturing a moment of “danger,” but, in all, it seems a relatively minor risk. We satisfy our inner risk-seeker without going into dangerous territory..."


The Adult Snow Day Is Dying, And That's Sad. Amen. New York Magazine has the essay; here's a snippet: "...The grown-up world has a tendency to strip things of their magic a bit, but the snow day still served as a wonderful stop sign from the heavens for myopic, overworked adults. What else could grind to a halt, even temporarily, the exhausting, striving adult world of meetings and reports and office memos? What else could not only suggest to the workaholic that he take a day off, but force him to because the roads were too icy, the subways all closed? What else could unite father and son on a sled on a snowy hill in the middle of a weekday?..."


7 Chilling Stories Of Snow Storms Throughout American History. TIME Magazine takes a numbing walk down memory lane; here's a clip: "...It was Jan. 31, 1977, when this poor freezing man appeared on the cover of TIME. The story inside, which detailed the effects on the United States of what the publisher’s letter called “the bitterest cold spell in memory.” The first-ever reported snow fall in West Palm Beat, Fla., had shocked residents. Buffalo had been buried under more than 120 in. of the white stuff that season. And, ironically, areas that needed snow — the ski resorts of Idaho, for example — had to rely on snow-making machines despite the cold temperatures...

Photo credit: Bill Koch, North Dakota State Highway Department. Credit: Collection of Fr. Herbert Kroehl, NGDC.

"Snowstorms Then And Now". McSweeney's Internet Tendency has a look at how adults have ruined snowstorms. It's a worthy (and funny) read.


Central American Fires May Intensify U.S. Tornadoes. Really? Science News has an overview on how smoke can amplify conditions necessary for tornadoes, which I found to be non-obvious; here's a clip: "...Smoke wafting across the Gulf of Mexico from Central America can help spawn intense twisters in and around North America’s Tornado Alley, new research suggests. Reconstructing the extreme April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak, which sired 122 twisters across the Southeastern United States, researchers found that smoke particles in the atmosphere further enhanced conditions already favorable for intense tornado formation..."


Why So Many Global Temperature Records? NASA Earth Observatory has a good explainer focused on 2014 being the warmest year ever observed, as well as providing perspective of recent trends; here's a clip: "...But let’s get back to the original question: why are there so many temperature records? One of the hallmarks of good science is that observations should be independently confirmed by separate research groups using separate methods when possible. And in the case of global temperatures, that’s exactly what is happening. Despite some differences in the year-to-year rankings, the trends observed by all the groups are roughly the same. They all show warming. They all find the most recent decade to be warmer than previous decades..."


Is It OK To Eat Snow? I know this has been on your mind; here's an answer from Popular Science: "...Once the snow is on the ground, it stays clean until other things land on top of it. Everyone knows you shouldn’t eat yellow snow. Brown snow is off limits, too. That’s because as snow sits around, it goes through a process called dry deposition, in which dust and dirt particles stick to the snow. And Nolin says to steer clear of watermelon snow: It might look pretty and very pink, but it’s filled with algae that don’t do great things for digestion..."


So THIS Is What Winter Looks Like. Thanks to Leslie Corris in Newton, Mass. - just west of Boston, for reminding all of us that winter often brings heavy snow. Newton picked up about 20" of snow, some 30" amounts in a few Boston suburbs. For the record, Boston received, in one snowfall, as much snow as the Twin Cities has picked up all winter (20.4" so far). Good grief.


Paul,

More of an observation…I was out for a noon-time walk on Tuesday, Jan 27, near Rice Creek Parkway in Shoreview, when I spotted this little fellow walking alongside me.  Air temp was about 35 F, and he was definitely moving (albeit very slowly).

I don’t recall ever seeing a live caterpillar in the middle of winter before.

- Jason Torgerson


31 F. high in the Twin Cities yesterday.

25 F. average high on January 28. That's up one degree; average temperatures finally creeping upward.

0 F. high on January 28, 2014 after waking to -16 F.

Trace of snow on the ground in the Twin Cities.

January 28, 1977: Due to the extreme cold, the St. Paul Winter Carnival was held indoors for the first time.


TODAY: Cloudy, windy, cooler. Winds: NW 15-25. High: 31

THURSDAY NIGHT: Gusty and colder. Low: 12

FRIDAY: Chilled sunshine, less wind. High: 27

SATURDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, dry. Wake-up: 16. High: 28

SUNDAY: Some sun, deflated temperatures. Wake-up: 8. High: 16

MONDAY: Sunny start, clouds increase. Wake-up: 3. High: 19

TUESDAY: Early coating, then clearing. Wake-up: 15. High: 29

WEDNESDAY: Sunny peeks, a colder swipe arrives. Wake-up: 14. High: 17


Climate Stories...

Corn Belt Farming Boosts The Global Carbon Cycle. I thought this was interesting, a snippet of a story at KCUR.org: "...Scientists have noticed a change in the atmosphere. Plants are taking in more carbon dioxide during the growing season and giving off more carbon in the fall and winter. Recent research shows the massive corn crop in the Corn Belt may be contributing to that deeper breath. It comes down to the Carbon Cycle. Over the winter when corn fields lay dormant, corn stalks and roots break down, sending CO2 into the air. Then in the summer when a new crop is growing, it takes up carbon from the atmosphere..."


Yes, We Can Live Well And Avoid Climate Disaster, Says UK Government. The Guardian has the story; here's an excerpt: "...Dealing with greenhouse gas emissions will require a transformation of electricity generation, including an expansion of renewable energy and nuclear power, as well as more public transport and changes to the built environment, according to the key findings of the Global Calculator, an online software tool developed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), with partners. The calculator is intended to show the likely outcomes of a variety of choices that policymakers and the public can make to tackle global warming, such as investing in nuclear, insulating houses, making electrical appliances more efficient and using electric vehicles..." (Image: FEMA).


What A Warming World Means For Major Snowstorms. Warmer air and ocean water has already resulted in an increase in water vapor, more fuel for flash floods in summer, and higher snowfall amounts in winter. Here's a clip from Quartz: "...About half of the current anomalous ocean warmth, and therefore the enhanced moisture, can be attributed to climate change, Trenberth said. As the oceans and atmosphere warm due to the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, that moisture source could continue to grow, to the tune of 4% more water vapor in the atmosphere for every 1 °F rise in global temperatures..."


Why Climate Scientists Shouldn't Testify Before Congress. Science 2.0 has an interesting story about the politicization of science, here's a clip: "...Of course, the purpose of congressional hearings on science most often is not to actually expand or clarify the scope of choice available to decision makers, nor to convince neutrals or to win over the other side to one’s point of view. Rather, these hearings are meant to show and confirm solidarity with one’s own side. In this sense, they mark a breakdown of democratic deliberation..."


Why Bigger Snowstorms Come With Global Warming. Warmer air and ocean water is increasing water vapor, more fuel for flash floods in the summer months, and extreme snow events in the winter. In fact 5 of New York City's biggest blizzards on record have all occurred in the last 12 years. Here's an excerpt from a timely story at InsideClimate News: "...As the oceans warm due to the burning of fossil fuels, the atmosphere above can hold more moisture, which in turn fuels the creation of the most intense precipitation events. The mid-Atlantic is currently 2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. In the spring, summer and fall, that translates into more of the most intense rainstorms. In the winter, when that moisture-rich air hits cold temperatures on the continent, heavier snowfall results. The amount of rain and snow falling in the heaviest precipitation events in the Northeast has jumped 71 percent in the last half-century, according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment...."


Is Climate Change To Blame For The Northeast Snow Storm? The short answer is no, the storm would have formed, with or without warmer air and sea surface temperatures. Did significantly warmer water in the Gulf Stream just east of New Jersey help to spike some of the winds and snowfall amounts? Probably. Here's an excerpt from Huffington Post: "...Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist in the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said that in winter, temperatures are generally colder on land than over the oceans. Climate change is raising ocean temperatures, however, and current sea surface temperatures are more the 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal over much of the area off the East Coast of the United States, he explained to The Huffington Post. Trenberth also said that water vapor in the atmosphere is about 10 percent higher than normal, and about half of this change can be attributed to climate change..."

Photo credit: "A snow-entombed car in Cambridge, Mass., Jan 27, 2015. The first major storm of the winter blasted across eastern New England on Tuesday, unleashing whiteout conditions driven by gale-force winds." (Katherine Taylor/The New York Times).

50 Degrees Warmer Than Last Year - Was Northeast Blizzard Forecast a Bust?

Posted by: Paul Douglas under Lions, Super Bowl Updated: January 27, 2015 - 11:49 PM

The Grand Illusion

With apologies to the rock band Styx - I'm talking about a different illusion here. Recent years have brought a meteorological arms race: new weather models, higher resolution, more petaflops! Here is what I hear all the time:

"Paul, you blinking meathead, you have access to supercomputer and Doppler radar. You SHOULD be able to tell me exactly how many inches of snow will fall in my yard!"

In theory, yes. In reality, not even close.

Private and government (NOAA) forecasters in New York and Boston are under siege for overestimating Monday night's snowfall amounts. In their defense even the ECMWF (European) model busted. Total amounts ranged from 8 inches at Central Park to 21 at Sayville, Long Island, only 50 miles due east. I'm not sure weather models will ever able to effectively pinpoint such extremes over such a small geographical area.

Weather isn't an exact science, like economics or foreign policy.

After brushing 40F today we cool off Thursday; weekend snow passing south of Minnesota. A whiff of subzero air is expected on Groundhog Day, an even colder slap by the end of next week.

But no sign of polar air stalling nearby. Another Pacific thaw is shaping up for the second week of February.


20-30" snow for metro Boston. The forecast verified for Bean Town; details from CBS Boston. Photo credit: "Cars are buried by drifted snow along Marlborough Street, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, in Boston. A howling blizzard with wind gusts over 70 mph heaped snow on Boston along with other stretches of lower New England." (AP Photo/Dwayne Desaulniers).


Snowstorm's Forecast Was Mostly Right, Even If It Felt Wrong In New York. Manhattan was on the western edge of the heaviest snow bands; 40 miles made the difference between 8" and 21". Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "...One of the difficulties with forecasting major storms, Dr. Sobel said, is that a small error in predicting the path of the storm can cause a much larger error in impact. “The bigger the event, the bigger the bust potential,” he said. In this storm, the predicted snowfall gradients — charts showing how much would accumulate where — were very steep. “So a little bit of track error means a big snowfall error,” he said..."

Photo credit above: "Snow swirls into the air as Ted Diamond operates a snow blower to clear out his driveway on Greenvale Drive in East Northport on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, in New York. Long Island was one of several areas throughout the state to be hit by a blizzard overnight into this morning." (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek).


Partly Wrong With A Chance of Being Right: Weather Forecast. Why do weather models fail? In light of the Big Bust out east I wanted to include a link to a storyy at ScienceDaily; here's an excerpt: "...For example, they found that in the eastern Mediterranean, particles in the atmosphere were the most important cause of forecast fallacies, followed by land cover change. They also found topography to be the most influential factor affecting weather around the world. "The only tool the weather forecaster has is his model, and the only choice he or she has is to look at different models, each of which has strengths and weaknesses," said Prof. Alpert..."


What Exactly Is A Nor'easter? Newsweek has a good description; here's an excerpt: "...A classic nor’easter results when an existing low-pressure system moves across the country from west to east and then spawns a new storm off the East Coast, usually between the Carolinas and New Jersey, explains Keith Seitter, executive director of the American Meteorological Society. The initial storm may not have produced a huge amount of precipitation as it moved over land, but the new storm goes through an “explosive development,” says Seitter, and becomes a “monster storm” that absorbs the original one..."

Image credit above: "A winter storm approaches the eastern United States in a satellite image released January 26, 2015. The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for New York City and surrounding areas between coastal New Jersey and Connecticut, beginning 1 p.m. EST on Monday. The storm will worsen overnight into Tuesday morning." .


Snow Scary. The New Yorker has a terrific article that helps to explain why the USA is a nation of extreme-weather junkies; here's a clip: "...Edgework” is precisely what extreme weather is. A winter storm—or any storm, really—approximates this thrill. It’s powerful, and even dangerous. But safely ensconced inside, and in front of our computer screens, we don’t think that it will really hurt us. The power might go out, but then we would be able to share a picture of a car buried in a snowdrift. And then, soon, it will be over. You will have had the thrill, and you might have gained control over it by capturing a moment of “danger,” but, in all, it seems a relatively minor risk. We satisfy our inner risk-seeker without going into dangerous territory..."


7 Chilling Stories Of Snow Storms Throughout American History. TIME Magazine takes a numbing walk down memory lane; here's a clip: "...It was Jan. 31, 1977, when this poor freezing man appeared on the cover of TIME. The story inside, which detailed the effects on the United States of what the publisher’s letter called “the bitterest cold spell in memory.” The first-ever reported snow fall in West Palm Beat, Fla., had shocked residents. Buffalo had been buried under more than 120 in. of the white stuff that season. And, ironically, areas that needed snow — the ski resorts of Idaho, for example — had to rely on snow-making machines despite the cold temperatures...

Photo credit: Bill Koch, North Dakota State Highway Department. Credit: Collection of Fr. Herbert Kroehl, NGDC.

"Snowstorms Then And Now". McSweeney's Internet Tendency has a look at how adults have ruined snowstorms. It's a worthy (and funny) read.


Cold Start to February - Not Polar Yet. I keep waiting for the other shoe (boot) to drop, and it may the end of next week; ECMWF guidance hinting at subzero weather in about 8-10 days. We'll see - we've had a few false alarms in the last few weeks so confidence levels are low about any kind of sustained cold waves. Highs may brush 40F today before cooling off tomorrow; the mercury nicking freezing again Saturday and Wednesday of next week. Big storms? Get serious. Graphic: Weatherspark.


GFS Numbers. GFS guidance also confirms that the first week of February may be colder than average with a few nights dipping below zero. Most models show another puff of Pacific air sparking another thaw by the second week of February.


Why So Many Global Temperature Records? NASA Earth Observatory has a good explainer focused on 2014 being the warmest year ever observed, as well as providing perspective of recent trends; here's a clip: "...But let’s get back to the original question: why are there so many temperature records? One of the hallmarks of good science is that observations should be independently confirmed by separate research groups using separate methods when possible. And in the case of global temperatures, that’s exactly what is happening. Despite some differences in the year-to-year rankings, the trends observed by all the groups are roughly the same. They all show warming. They all find the most recent decade to be warmer than previous decades..."


Millions of GMO Insects Could Be Released in Florida Keys. The Associated Press has the story - here's the introduction: "Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in the Florida Keys if British researchers win approval to use the bugs against two extremely painful viral diseases. Never before have insects with modified DNA come so close to being set loose in a residential U.S. neighborhood..."


Patriots Say Study Proves Ball Deflation "Not Human Caused". Where have you heard this before? Here's the intro to a tongue-in-cheek look from Daily Kos: "The New England Patriots pointed to a study released today which they say shows that the alleged deflation of footballs in recent games was not due to human causes. "It's just natural variation," explains the executive summary of the study. "Footballs have had different inflation pressures for thousands of years." The study was released today by the Edelman research firm, which usually focuses on swatting away the damaging efforts of environmentalists to impede progress..."


Is It OK To Eat Snow? I know this has been on your mind; here's an answer from Popular Science: "...Once the snow is on the ground, it stays clean until other things land on top of it. Everyone knows you shouldn’t eat yellow snow. Brown snow is off limits, too. That’s because as snow sits around, it goes through a process called dry deposition, in which dust and dirt particles stick to the snow. And Nolin says to steer clear of watermelon snow: It might look pretty and very pink, but it’s filled with algae that don’t do great things for digestion..."


36 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.

24 F. average high on January 27.

-6 F. high on January 27, 2014.

-16 F. morning low on January 27, 2014.

Trace of snow on the ground in the Twin Cities.

January 27, 1914: A very rare thunderstorm observed at Maple Plain during the evening. Heavy thunder and vivid lightning was observed.

January 27, 1846: Not too shabby for a January day. The high in the Twin Cities was 50, which is the normal high for the beginning of March.


“You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.” – Malcolm Forbes“You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them.” – Malcolm Forbes


TODAY: Mostly cloudy and mild. Winds: Southeast 10. High: 40

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Clouds, still unseasonably mild for late January. Low: 30

THURSDAY: Windy, turning cooler with more clouds than sun. High: 33

FRIDAY: Fading sun, average temperatures. Wake-up: 18. High: 27

SATURDAY: Gray with flurries possible south. Heavier snow should stay south of MN. Wake-up: 19. High: 30

SUNDAY: Brisk Super Bowl Sunday. Dry with plenty of sun. Wake-up: 15. High: 18

MONDAY: Blue sky. Groundhog's shadow may freeze off. Wake-up: 3. High: 12

TUESDAY: Not as cold, flurries possible. Wake-up: 10. High: 25


Climate Stories...

Why Bigger Snowstorms Come With Global Warming. Warmer air and ocean water is increasing water vapor, more fuel for flash floods in the summer months, and extreme snow events in the winter. In fact 5 of New York City's biggest blizzards on record have all occurred in the last 12 years. Here's an excerpt from a timely story at InsideClimate News: "...As the oceans warm due to the burning of fossil fuels, the atmosphere above can hold more moisture, which in turn fuels the creation of the most intense precipitation events. The mid-Atlantic is currently 2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. In the spring, summer and fall, that translates into more of the most intense rainstorms. In the winter, when that moisture-rich air hits cold temperatures on the continent, heavier snowfall results. The amount of rain and snow falling in the heaviest precipitation events in the Northeast has jumped 71 percent in the last half-century, according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment...."


Is Climate Change To Blame For The Northeast Snow Storm? The short answer is no, the storm would have formed, with or without warmer air and sea surface temperatures. Did significantly warmer water in the Gulf Stream just east of New Jersey help to spike some of the winds and snowfall amounts? Probably. Here's an excerpt from Huffington Post: "...Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist in the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said that in winter, temperatures are generally colder on land than over the oceans. Climate change is raising ocean temperatures, however, and current sea surface temperatures are more the 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal over much of the area off the East Coast of the United States, he explained to The Huffington Post. Trenberth also said that water vapor in the atmosphere is about 10 percent higher than normal, and about half of this change can be attributed to climate change..."

Photo credit: "A snow-entombed car in Cambridge, Mass., Jan 27, 2015. The first major storm of the winter blasted across eastern New England on Tuesday, unleashing whiteout conditions driven by gale-force winds." (Katherine Taylor/The New York Times).


Climate Change Expected To Bring More Extreme La Ninas. Here's an excerpt from a story at CBS News: "...A new study concludes that extreme La Nina events like this will become twice as likely in the future due to climate change. The study in Nature Climate Change found that the La Nina extreme weather -- which happens about once every 23 years -- will occur every 13 years by the end of this century, based on an analysis of 21 climate models. Three-quarters of those increased La Nina events would follow extreme El Nino events "thus projecting more frequent swings between opposite extremes from year to the next..."


The United States of Denial. Which states send the most climate-science-deniers to Washington D.C.? Here's an excerpt of a story and interactive graphic from onEarth: "...An analysis by the Center for American Progress, a public policy think tank, found that 53 percent of Republicans in the House and 70 percent in the Senate deny humanity’s role in climate change. (As the map shows, deniers also tend to receive a pretty penny from the fossil fuel industry.)..."


Climate-Change Consensus Is Reached Everywhere But In Washington. Here's a snippet from an Op-Ed that resonated at The Globe and Mail: "...This is less like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic than looking over the railing and debating whether the giant white thing is an iceberg or a marshmallow. The consensus has been reached, gentlemen, everywhere but in Washington. Even the plutocrats at Davos are sweating through their Zegna suits: The World Economic Forum spent a day debating climate change and its disruptive effects, and listed climate-related chaos among the greatest threats facing the planet..."

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