Paul Douglas is a nationally respected meteorologist with 33 years of television and radio experience. A serial entrepreneur, Douglas is Senior Meteorologist for WeatherNation TV, a new, national 24/7 weather channel with studios in Denver and Minneapolis. Founder of Media Logic Group, Douglas and a team of meteorologists provide weather services for media at Broadcast Weather, and high-tech alerting and briefing services for companies via Alerts Broadcaster. 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.
Many government scientists are furloughed because of the government shut-down. Many FEMA employees and meteorologists at the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center are working for a "promise of pay" down the road. If only grocery stores and banks took IOU's.
Stating the obvious: meteorologists on TV and in the private sector rely on the raw data, models, satellite imagery and Doppler radar information provided by NOAA. It's the foundation upon which we interpret weather patterns and make our forecasts. Although data is still being transmitted, all maintenance has stopped, ongoing research on indefinite hold.
It's a happy coincidence that we haven't seen a major hurricane in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific in 2013, the first time since 1968.
Tuesday's soaking rain was a welcome sight, putting a big dent in our drought. A parade of increasingly chilly fronts in the next week will leave no doubt that it's October. Highs reach the 50s, a risk of frost Saturday morning with a better chance of a more widespread frost or freeze by the middle of next week.
You don't have to put in the driveway stakes yet, but ECMWF guidance shows a few flurries next Monday; our first real glimpse of winter.
Image credit: MPX Doppler site in Chanhasssen courtesy of Reid Wolcott.
The Shutdown Will Slowly Reduce Our Weather Preparedness. Here's an excerpt of a sobering analysis at GovExec.com: "...In a special blog post, Shepherd unfolds how the shutdown is damaging American meteorology. It’s easy to think, he writes, that “well, we are still getting our weather forecasts and warnings, and I still have the information from TV.” But this, he says, is deeply naïve.
"Private sector companies and broadcast stations," he says:
are essential partners in the weather enterprise. However, most of the satellite, Doppler radar, and observational data are from federal sources. The major forecast models are run at NOAA facilities. Federal predictions centers and Forecast Offices issue warnings. I can’t imagine a major potato chip maker saying that it could survive without potato farms. The point herein is that there is a vibrant public-private-academic partnership and each component is essential.
Those resources are still working, but all maintenance on them has halted. Many employees working at them have stopped being paid. American weather news depends on the American government..."
Texas Weather Whiplash: Drought To Flood Virtually Overnight. A month ago we were tracking historic flooding near Boulder. Now it's major flooding in Austin, Texas - the result of weather systems stalling once again, and a plume of tropical moisture streaming in from the Pacific. In today's Climate Matters we examine how "used" tropical systems spiked rain sparking severe flooding from Austin to Harrisburg: "WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas goes over the flooding in Texas and how weather patterns have increasingly become "stuck".
Nightmare Scenario; What Happens If We Actually, Truly Default? New York Magazine takes us through a blow by blow account of what could actually happen as early as Thursday; here's the intro: "Until recently, asking what would happen if the U.S. defaulted on its debt was like asking what unicorns like to eat for breakfast. It was simply an exercise in absurdity – a question whose answers lay outside the realm of possibility. But as it’s become increasingly clear that we could, in fact, default on our debt later this month, if the current attempts at striking a deal to extend the debt ceiling fall apart or simply take too long, it's worth trying to figure out what exactly would happen in a default scenario..."
* The Atlantic Wire has a good live blog of debt ceiling negotiations in Washington D.C.
How Your Knees Can Predict The Weather. It turns out that Grandma was right. Here's an excerpt of an interesting article at The Wall Street Journal: "...Still, other studies have linked changes in temperature, humidity or barometric pressure to worsening pain from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, as well as headaches, tooth aches, jaw pain, scar pain, low-back pain, pelvic pain, fibromyalgia, trigeminal neuralgia (a searing pain in the face), gout and phantom-limb pain. Scientists don't understand all the mechanisms involved in weather-related pain, but one leading theory holds that the falling barometric pressure that frequently precedes a storm alters the pressure inside joints..."
Does Rainy Fall Weather Really Affect Your Brain, Mood? I found this article at AccuWeather interesting; weather has less to do with moods than the amount of daylight; shorter days can result in more fatigue. Here's a clip: "...What Denissen's research did show, however, was that the association between sunlight and tiredness was significant. The less sunlight people were exposed to, the more they exhibited depression-like symptoms. As the days get shorter, people may experience more feelings of fatigue during the day, difficulty rising in the morning when it is still dark outside and craving more carbohydrate-rich foods leading to weight gain, Kelly Rohan, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of Vermont said...."
Weather Forecasts, And Our Trust In Them, Need To Improve. Amen. There are financial and computational limits to how accurate the weather forecast will ever be, but this blog post from The Rand Corporation summarizes the source of ongoing uncertainty and confusion: "Accurate forecasts of extreme weather events such as hurricanes are critical in helping communities to prepare and respond as effectively as possible. So when scientists predict extreme weather that never materializes, lay people tend to wonder what went wrong. This is a natural tendency that is not tied to a failure of the science, but rather to differences in the way scientists and lay people view predictions about extreme events, such as Hurricane Sandy a year ago. While forecasters are, by definition, married to their science, they also need to be mindful of the human factors that help determine how useful their work is in protecting people. Early this summer, meteorologists made dire predictions for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season: 18 named storms, including nine hurricanes. By contrast, the average season, which runs June 1 to Nov. 30, usually has 12 storms, including six hurricanes. Even just prior to the midpoint of the season, the same meteorologists were forecasting “an above-average probability of United States and Caribbean major hurricane landfall...”
A Record-Setting Blizzard Killed 75,000 Cows And You Might Not Have Heard About It. Details from theblaze.com: "Ranchers are still digging out thousands of their cattle that became buried in a record-setting snowstorm in South Dakota late last week and over the weekend. One would think the death of 75,000 cows by upwards of five feet of snow might get some national attention, but as one blogger observed, it has taken some time for the news of the precipitation massacre to reach outside of local media..."
Image above courtesy of Farm and Ranch Guide, which has more good information on the Black Hills blizzard's impact on the cattle industry.
Tropics Extremely Quiet In Atlantic; Record Drought In Major U.S. Hurricane Landfalls. No major hurricanes in the eastern Pacific or Atlantic for the first time since 1968? Here's an excerpt of a good overview of what's going on - or not going on, from Brian McNoldy at The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang: "...And this suppressed activity isn’t limited to just the Atlantic either. The East Pacific has now had 14 tropical storms, but like the Atlantic, no major hurricanes. This is extraordinary, since the two basins are typically out of phase; that is, one is active while the other is inactive. The only other year in recorded history in which no major hurricanes occurred in the Atlantic or the East Pacific is 1968..."
Image credit above: "Enhanced water vapor image from early this morning of the tropical Atlantic showing big pockets of dry air and strong wind shear." (NASA)
Atlantic Still Hurricane-Free, But Pacific Getting Pummeled By Typhoons. Check out the enhanced IR satellite image above, showing Phailin, Nari and Wipha - 3 major typhoons (same thing as a hurricane) pushing toward India, Vietnam and Japan, respectively. Phailin and Nari have already come ashore; Wipha will impact Tokyo as a category 1 storm early Wednesday, local time. Details from Quartz: "While Cyclone Phailin—at one point, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Indian Ocean—makes landfall in India, two other tropical storms are also menacing Asia. The images above show the cyclone and two typhoons now. The first is from Weather Underground; the second, from Quartz meteorologist Eric Holthaus. Typhoon Nari tore through the Philippines with wind gusts up to 116 mph, killing at least 13 people and leaving 2.1 million people without electricity. The storm largely spared Manila, the capital city, which is prone to flooding..."
What 50 Years Of Hurricane Data Still Hasn't Told Us. Here's an excerpt of an interesting article at mashable.com: "In case you haven't noticed, the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season has been pretty tame, thank goodness. Given that roughly 60% of Atlantic tropical cyclones since 1950 have occurred in August and September, and that we're coming off of three seasons with twelve, seven and ten hurricanes, respectively, this year's measly two hurricanes is puzzling..."
Mapping Our World. Here's a great interactive web site showing the many ways NASA maps the Earth, and the essential information this mapping provides: "NASA satellites have been mapping Earth for over 40 years. These global observations of the atmosphere, biosphere, land surface, solid Earth, and ocean enable an improved understanding of the Earth as an integrated system. The images above feature data from over a dozen Earth observation missions."
An American Shut-Down Reaches The Earth's End. The ongoing government shut-down is having a large, negative impact on research and science, worldwide, as reported by The New York Times; here's a clip: "...The shutdown in Washington is being felt acutely at the ends of the earth. Some 3,000 Americans work through the Antarctic summer, including scientists and support staff from the private sector and from federal agencies like the Defense and Energy Departments, NASA and the United States Geological Survey. Amid the battle over the country’s spending and debt limit, the National Science Foundation, which coordinates the Antarctic program, has ordered it into “caretaker status,” which means skeleton staffing. “All field and research activities not essential to human safety and preservation of property will be suspended,” the agency said in a statement last week..."
POV Video Of A Space Jump. This is pretty amazing - check out the video courtesy of kottke.org: "A year ago yesterday, Felix Baumgartner rode in a balloon up to a height of almost 128,000 feet and jumped out. Red Bull, who sponsored the jump, has finally released the full-length footage of the jump from Baumgartner's point-of-view..."
A Junk News Diet. Democracy depends on an informed electorate, right? Uh oh. Here's a clip from an Op-Ed at U.S. News: "When balancing what you need to know vs. what you want to know in a news-infused media diet, news consumers most often choose dessert over vegetables, or sports, weather, entertainment and crime over national, international and business topics. Journalists at leading news organizations, however, choose to deliver more "vegetable" news stories over "sugary" offerings. This crucial news gap between news provider and news consumer threatens the viability of the public service mission of news organizations, and their contributions to the healthy functioning of the democratic process. What results is a potential crisis of news choices..."
It's Not Just Political Districts, Our News Is Gerrymandered Too. Cue the news media echo chamber ("tune in and we'll tell you want you want to hear") Dave Carr takes a look at how the segregation of news is contributing to dysfunction in Washington D.C. at The New York Times.
Peering Into The Future Of Media. I'm trying to pay attention to the trends and business models that have a prayer of surviving digital disruption; here's a clip from The New York Times: "...The convergence of digital media and technology, under way since the dawn of the Internet, will accelerate. Distinctions between old and new media will fade; most media will be digital. Mobile devices, already the preferred media and Internet platform for many people, will continue to proliferate. We may wear them on our bodies or weave them into our clothing. Globalization of the media business will advance, creating new markets. The old centers of media creation and consumption, the United States and Europe, will feel new competition from faster-growing regions: Asia, of course, but also Latin America, Africa and others. When that happens, media content, still dominated by Western notions of what constitutes news and entertainment, will have to adapt, too..." (image above: Huffington Post).
To Help Dring Shutdown, Man Mows Lawn Around Lincoln Memorial. In case you missed this - here's another head-shaking story from Washington D.C. courtesy of NPR: "Because of the partial government shutdown, most of the monumental core in Washington, D.C. is not being maintained. That means that icons like the Lincoln Memorial and its Reflecting Pool look a little less majestic. But, today, a South Carolina man, took matters into his own hands and made news by doing what the government won't do..."
Photo credit above: "Chris Cox of Mount Pleasant, S.C., pushes a cart near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on Wednesday." Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP.
These Are Some Of The Most Amazing Lego Projects Ever Built. Wired has an amazing pictorial spread here.
The Latest Chinese Beach Craze: "Face-Kini". Just when you thought you had seen everything, along comes this story from Amusing Planet: "A new kind of swimwear trend is sweeping the Chinese beaches in Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong province. As the weather get hotter, both men and women are seen appearing on the beaches wearing full body suits that cover from head to toe. The upper part of the swimsuit has a ski-mask with holes cut out at appropriate places to leave the eyes, nose and mouth exposed, giving the wearer an odd Lucha libre look. The Netizens are calling the swimwear "face-kinis”...
Meet "Dave", A 19-Year Old Craft Beer With A $2,000 Price Tag. Wow. Forget the government shutdown, fiscal cliffs and debt ceilings - I want to know how a single bottle of beer can fetch a $2,000 price tag? A dozen bottles of Dave sold out within hours, for 2k/pop. Impressive. Details from NPR: "Hair of the Dog Brewery in Portland, Ore., makes a beer so rare, and so sought after, that it can fetch $2,000 a bottle. It's called Dave. And no, it's not something out of a sketch. Dave is a — a strong, dark beer with 29 percent alcohol content. It's been aged for 19 years, first in oak barrels and then glass bottles. According to the beer's creator, Alan Sprints, Dave was designed to get people to think about beer differently..."
55 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.
59 F. average high on October 15.
61 F. high on October 15, 2012.
.61" rain fell yesterday.
2.49" rain so far in October.
TODAY: More clouds than sun, drier. Winds: NW 10. High: 53
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 39
THURSDAY: Next cold front approaches. Rain showers late. High: 54
FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy, windy & chilly. Wake-up: 40. High: near 50
SATURDAY: Frost risk. Still mostly gray. Wake-up: 34. High: 52
SUNDAY: Sunny start, late showers. Wake-up: 41. High: 55
MONDAY: Raw, sprinkles & flurries. Wake-up: 42. High: 46
TUESDAY: Some sun, still chilly. Wake-up: 38. High: 48
* Frost or freeze likely Wednesday morning of next week.
Foliage Season Under Fire From Climate Change. Climate Central has the story - here's an excerpt: "...The U.S. Forest Service estimates that fiery foliage in the Berkshires and Green and White Mountains generates $8 billion in tourism revenue annually for New England alone. Foliage season is so important to Vermont that the state employs a leaf forecaster. States in other parts of the country also depend on foliage season to bring in tourism dollars, though specific numbers are harder to come by. Warmer weather is contributing to a later ending to the growing season in the U.S. according to research from Seoul National University. The end of the season is marked by the point when satellites see the overall greenness of foliage start to decline, was over two weeks later in 2008 compared to 1982..."
Image credit above: "The end of the growing season in the continental U.S. has become roughly two weeks later from 1982-2008."
The Second Biggest Clean Technology Investor Is An Oil Giant. Here's an excerpt of a story at Quartz that caught my eye: "We’ve written before about how big corporations have become increasingly important to financing green technology startups—on Oct. 10 for example, Google announced it was investing $103 million in a big solar power plant in California. But the second-most active corporate dealmaker isn’t a “don’t be evil” Silicon Valley tech giant. Rather it’s a company from the Dr. No sector—oil multinational ConocoPhillips, according to a new report from research and advisory firm Cleantech Group. Between the third quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2013, ConocoPhillips invested in 18 deals, putting cash into startups such as Cool Planet, biofuels developer, and Skyonic, which has invented a technology to capture carbon dioxide from industrial emissions..."
The Race To Understand A Changing Planet. A guest lecture from the standpoint of former astronaut Dr. Piers Sellers. Details from the Minnesota Climatology Working Group here.
Moose Die-Off Alarms Scientists. One of the focuses of this New York Times story is Minnesota, where the moose population has dropped off significantly in recent years; here's an excerpt: "...Twenty years ago, Minnesota had two geographically separate moose populations. One of them has virtually disappeared since the 1990s, declining to fewer than 100 from 4,000. The other population, in northeastern Minnesota, is dropping 25 percent a year and is now fewer than 3,000, down from 8,000. (The moose mortality rate used to be 8 percent to 12 percent a year.) As a result, wildlife officials have suspended all moose hunting...“Something’s changed,” said Nicholas DeCesare, a biologist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks who is counting moose in this part of the state — one of numerous efforts across the continent to measure and explain the decline. “There’s fewer moose out there, and hunters are working harder to find them...”
95% Certainty That Human Activity Is Dominating Climate Disruption. Here's a clip from a story at Scholars and Rogues: "...According to the SPM, there is no longer any question about whether the Earth has warmed. Not only that, but the SPM also declares that many of the observed changes are “unprecedented” over periods ranging from decades to millennia. First, the SPM says that “solar irradiance changes and stratospheric volcanic aerosols made only a small contribution to the net radiative forcing throughout the last century, except for brief periods after large volcanic eruptions.” Radiative forcing is a term used in part to describe how much energy is retained in the Earth’s climate system (oceans, atmosphere, and ecosystems) due to a particular effect. In this case, the SPM is saying that science has ruled out changes in the intensity of sunlight and volcanic gasses as significant contributors to the “unequivocal” warming..."
Politics Is Poorly Suited To Address Global Warming. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Washington Post: "...However the IPCC report is used or abused, it represents a consensus and not a conspiracy. “Each of the last three decades,” it concludes, “has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.” The oceans have warmed and grown more acidic. Ice sheets are losing mass. Sea ice and snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere are shrinking. Ocean levels are rising. (Compared to its report six years ago, the IPCC has raised its projection of sea-level rise during this century by about 40 percent.) All these things are plausibly related to increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases produced in vast amounts by humans. And these trends involve serious public risks..."
Climate Change Fight Needs Game Attitude. Here's a clip from a very interesting perspective (and podcast) from Scientific American: "It's obvious. Global efforts to combat climate change have failed. International summits are full of hot air and greenhouse gas pollution continues to rise. If a country bails on a climate commitment, they pay a price of, well, zero. Turns out that's okay, at least according to game theory analyses by researchers at the University of Lisbon. Their models suggest that punishment by global institutions has no effect. They also say that global summits actually impede cooperation..."
Global Warming - What's The Big Deal? Here is a clip of a reader Op-Ed at the Santa Fe New Mexican that caught my eye: "Global warming? What’s the problem? Personally, I don’t like cold weather and wouldn’t mind average temperatures being a few degrees higher than they are now. Unfortunately, global warming isn’t just about average global temperatures rising a few degrees by the end of this century. In fact, “global warming” misses the mark entirely when it comes to conveying the seriousness and urgency regarding what we’re collectively doing to the stability, and therefore livability, of our planet’s climate. “Climate chaos” may be more accurate..."
Last Hours. Alarmist hype? I sure hope so. But the truth, we don't know what we don't know. Check out the video here.
55.4" for the winter so far in the Twin Cities
Trace of snow reported Monday in the metro area.
27 F. High on Monday, 5 degrees above average for January 24. Record: 57 (1981)
8.2" average February snowfall in the Twin Cities.
10.4" average March snowfall in the Twin Cities. (March is now the second snowiest month, second to January, when an average of 13.5" falls.
3.1" average April snowfall in the Twin Cities.
22 F. average high on February 1 in the metro area.
34 F. average high on February 28 in the metro area.
49 F. average high on March 31 at MSP.
Garage Your Snowblower. No significant snowfalls are in sight through next week. In fact I don't see enough snow to shovel or plow looking out the next 2 weeks.
Snowcover Up North. John Dee has created a great site with updated snowfall totals across the Upper Midwest. Click snowcover, then click on Minnesota to see the latest numbers. 17" at Brainerd, 21" Walker, 19" Duluth and 32" up on the Gunflint Trail.
8"+ for New York City? Predicted Snowfall Through Midday Saturday. The GFS may be overestimating the snowfall amounts for northern Minnesota, where models are hinting at some 5-8" amounts later this week, but I suspect amounts will be less. The coastal storm for the east is looking more impressive, now forecast to track closer to the coast. Philadelphia may pick up 3-6" snow, with as much as 5-8" for New York City, maybe a foot or more for Connecticut and interior Massachusetts. The peak of the storm comes Wednesday night (New York) into Thursday (Boston area). There will be weather-related delays/cancellations later this week - if you're flying east you'll want to stay up on the latest forecast. A good place to start is NOAA's watch/warning map for the USA. Click on any city to get an updated forecast.
Another Shot? Let's enjoy this weeks 20s (and possible low 30s) before getting too worked up about the long-range outlook. But in the spirit of full disclosure the (GFS) model is pulling another Arctic airmass south of the border after February 5 or so. The good news - it should be relatively brief, maybe 2-3 nights below zero. We're gaining over 2 minutes of daylight every day now - subzero weather will become more rare as we sail through February. But looking out the next 2-3 weeks I don't see any major shift or breakdown in the pattern (the negative phase of the NAO, the North American Oscillation), that would pull consistent warmth into Minnesota from the Pacific. We're in a cold run, and with a few exceptions (this week, the end of next week) will see colder than average temperatures into at least mid February. A correction down the road? Possibly - I just don't see it yet.
Midwinter Smog? Relatively light winds, coupled with frequent inversions during the winter months (warmer air aloft trapping polluted air near the ground) can create high levels of particle pollution and ozone, even in January. The latest AQI, Air Quality Index for Minnesota and Wisconsin is here. A few highlights from the EPA's airnow.gov site: "Today, light to moderate southwesterly winds ahead of an approaching weak cold front will transport pollutants and moisture into the Twin Cities, increasing particle production and resulting in Moderate AQI levels. Wednesday, winds will shift to north-northwesterly behind the departing weak cold front, dispersing pollutants and lowering AQI levels to Good."
Scientists Perplexed By Weird Weather Pattnerns. New York City had the hottest summer on record in 2010. Two of New York City's largest snowstorms on record struck the city last year, including the 2 foot storm that disrupted travel after Christmas. While much of America, Europe and Asia shivers, parts of Canada and Greenland are experiencing record warmth, temperatures as much as 15-20 F. warmer than average. From an article at the New York Times: "Judging by the weather, the world seems to have flipped upside down. For two winters running, an arctic chill has descended on Europe, burying that continent in snow and ice. Historic blizzards last year afflicted the United States' mid-Atlantic region. The Deep South has endured unusual snowstorms and severe cold this winter, and a frigid Northeast is bracing for what could shape into another major snowstorm at midweek. Yet, while people in Atlanta learn to shovel snow, the weather 2,000 miles to the north has been freakishly warm the past two winters. Temperatures in northeastern Canada and Greenland ran as much as 15 or 20 degrees above normal in December. Bays and lakes have been slow to freeze. Iqaluit, capital of the remote Canadian territory of Nunavut, had to cancel its New Year's snowmobile parade. Deputy Mayor David Ell said people in the region had been looking with envy at snowbound American and European cities. "People are saying, 'That's where all our snow is going!' " he said. The immediate cause of the topsy-turvy weather is clear enough. A pattern of atmospheric circulation that tends to keep frigid air penned in the Arctic has weakened during the past two winters, allowing big tongues of cold air to descend far to the south, while masses of warmer air have moved north. The deeper issue is whether this pattern is linked to the rapid changes that global warming is causing in the Arctic, particularly the drastic loss of sea ice. At least two prominent climate scientists have offered theories suggesting it is. But many others are doubtful, saying the recent events are unexceptional, or that more evidence over a longer period would be needed to establish a link."
Definition Of "Normal" Weather About To Change. These 2 maps really tell the story. I'm not a rocket scientist, but I detect a temperature shift, a distinct warming from the 70s to the 2000-2010 decade (what are we calling this decade again? Still haven't heard a good description). The National Weather Service relies on a rolling 30 year average to define what "normal" weather is, the averages you hear quoted on radio, TV and the Internet all the time. The 70s were fairly close to long-term averages, but the last century has been significantly warmer, worldwide - so all the "normals" are about to be inflated, reflecting the last 30 years, since 1980. From a recent article: "While you've been freezing your tail off for the past few weeks, the National Climatic Data Center has been gearing up to announce new definitions of "normal" weather conditions for 10,000 regions across the country. And these new "normals" are going to be a lot warmer than the current definitions. Here's why: The NCDC uses temperature and precipitation data from the previous three decades to calculate what's "normal" for a region. Currently, that includes the relatively cold 1970s. New figures will replace the chilly 1970s with the 2000s, which was the warmest decade ever recorded. Check out the difference in these maps, showing the "temperature anomaly" (defined by NOAA here) for each decade."
Yellowstone Has Bulged As Magma Pocket Swells. A recent article from nationalgeographic.com suggests increasing concern on the part of volcanologists about what's going on beneath this majestic national park, site of one of the world's largest super-volcanoes: "Yellowstone National Park's supervolcano just took a deep "breath," causing miles of ground to rise dramatically, scientists report. The simmering volcano has produced major eruptions—each a thousand times more powerful than Mount St. Helens's 1980 eruption—three times in the past 2.1 million years. Yellowstone's caldera, which covers a 25- by 37-mile (40- by 60-kilometer) swath of Wyoming, is an ancient crater formed after the last big blast, some 640,000 years ago. Since then, about 30 smaller eruptions—including one as recent as 70,000 years ago—have filled the caldera with lava and ash, producing the relatively flat landscape we see today. But beginning in 2004, scientists saw the ground above the caldera rise upward at rates as high as 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) a year. (Related: "Yellowstone Is Rising on Swollen 'Supervolcano.'") The rate slowed between 2007 and 2010 to a centimeter a year or less. Still, since the start of the swelling, ground levels over the volcano have been raised by as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) in places. "It's an extraordinary uplift, because it covers such a large area and the rates are so high," said the University of Utah's Bob Smith, a longtime expert in Yellowstone's volcanism."
Your Lying Eyes - Can This Be Happening. Nothing like great optical illusions on a Tuesday! Seeing is believing - ot not. From an article at NPR: "You have two eyes. Each eye sees a slightly different world. (Put a finger in front of your face, switch from one eye open to the other and that finger will shift, just a little bit.) But rather than walk around all day seeing in double vision, your brain pulls the world back into one-ness. Brains decide what we see. Kokichi Sugihara knows this better than anyone. He makes videos that trick your brain into seeing things that you know, you absolutely know, can't happen. And yet — "
What The Heck Caused This? These are called "snow-rollers", usually found in fields. This is the first time I saw this phenomenon on a building (in this case a school). Strange, but pretty cool.
Audi "Icicle". Not what you want to see when you walk out of an NFL playoff game. The story from WPIX-TV in New York: "The owner of the car, who gave only his first name -- Pete -- said he parked his car Friday evening and that at some point during the weekend the leak began. As car after car splashed through the standing lake, layer upon layer of ice formed on Pete's car. After watching his beloved Jets lose lose the AFC Championship game Sunday, Pete got up and left his house Monday -- only to find his car turned into an ice sculpture. And it got worse after Pete used a hammer and screwdriver to free up enough ice to open one door. "I ran the heat in the car, then just the pressure alone and the cold temperature difference made it really brittle and it broke like it was a piece of ice and just splattered everywhere," Pete said."
Jesse Ventura Sues TSA Over Body Scans, Pat Downs. Our former gov has had quite enough of the polite groping down at MSP International. According to an article at Huffington Post: "Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura sued the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration on Monday, alleging full-body scans and pat-downs at airport checkpoints violate his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Ventura is asking a federal judge in Minnesota to issue an injunction ordering officials to stop subjecting him to "warrantless and suspicionless" scans and body searches. The lawsuit, which also names Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and TSA Administrator John Pistole as defendants, argues the searches are "unwarranted and unreasonable intrusions on Governor Ventura's personal privacy and dignity . and are a justifiable cause for him to be concerned for his personal health and well-being."
Upward Trend. Some good news in the weather blog - temperatures being to (finally) trend upward in late January (although the actual temperatures in 2011 have been running colder than average in recent weeks). For more information (and to check weather for any specific day in the Twin Cities dating back to 1995), click here, data courtesy of the National Weather Service.
Climate Data For Monday. yes, 27 felt almost tolerable - admit it. Nice to be "above average" again. The mercury hit 30 in Eden Prairie, a balmy 32 at Redwood Falls.
Paul's Star Tribune Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:
TODAY: Flurries taper, peeks of sun. Winds: SW 8-13. High: 20
TUESDAY NIGHT: Mostly cloudy - not quite as cold as recent nights. Low: 11
WEDNESDAY: More clouds than sun, quiet. Temperatures close to "average". High: 21
THURSDAY: Some sun, noticeably "milder". High: 31
FRIDAY: Dripping icicle early? Early thaw, then gusty and colder. High: 33
SATURDAY: Numbing wind returns, few flakes. Low: 11. High: 14
SUNDAY: Subzero start, blue sky. Low: -4. High: 6
MONDAY: Clouds increase, not quite as cold. Low: -5. High: 13
Nice To Be "Average"
To err is human. If you're a meteorologist - it's expected. A few days ago I (incorrectly) stated that "winter is running 4% warmer than average, based on heating degree data." What I MEANT to say is that the "heating season" (going back to autumn) is running 4% warmer than average. December was 2.3 F colder, so far January is 3.5 F colder. So, without question, winter is most definitely colder than average, whether you start from the beginning of "meteorological winter" (December 1), or the Winter Solstice on Dec. 21.
Meteorological winter HAS been colder, and the 55"+ of snow makes it seem even more forbidding. It's already the snowiest winter in 7 years, and you'll be happy to hear that we are now past the halfway point of winter. No mega-storms in sight. We catch a break this week, a string of 20s, freezing possible by Thursday and Friday as Pacific air (temporarily) dislodges the Arctic blocking pattern swirling over the eastern 2/3rds of America.
Parts of northeastern Canada and Greenland are running 20 degrees warmer than average; a milder Arctic has pushed the "polar vortex" thousands of miles south, spinning up bitter fronts & big storms here. We're seeing strange new air & water circulations at northern latitudes.
Prediction: Mega-Potholes. I swear they're testing tanks on Highway 7. The freeze-thaw cycle sparks more craters this week. Beware.
Sunlight Map. Great news: daylight in the Twin Cities today will be exactly 2 minutes and 17 seconds longer than it was yesterday. Within 1 week the average temperatures begin to trend upward again, for the first time since late July. Click here to see where daylight and darkness is - right now - across planet Earth.
Himalayan Glaciers Shrinking, With One Exception. From a post at wired.com: "An important portion of the Himalaya’s glacier cover is currently stable and, thanks to an insulating layer of debris, may be even growing, a new study finds. The study’s conclusion contradicts a portion of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that had to be retracted last year because it could not be substantiated.
Though the IPCC report stated that the risk of the region’s glaciers “disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high,” the new study finds that ice cover is stable in the Karakoram mountains, a northern range that holds about half of the Himalaya’s store of frozen water. That’s not to imply that water reservoirs on what’s often called the roof of the world aren’t under stress. Throughout most Himalayan ranges, roughly 65 percent of the studied glaciers were shrinking, Dirk Scherler of the University of Potsdam, Germany, and his colleagues report in the January 23 Nature Geoscience. But in Karakoram, 58 percent of studied glaciers were stable or slowly expanding up to 12 meters per year."
What Impact Would "Solar Dimming" Have On Earth's Weather? Call me crazy, but I believe nothing good can come out of tinkering with the atmosphere - more than we already have (inadvertently). From an article at R&D Magazine: "Solar radiation management projects, also known as sun dimming, seek to reduce the amount of sunlight hitting the Earth to counteract the effects of climate change. Global dimming can occur as a side-effect of fossil fuels or as a result of volcanic eruptions, but the consequences of deliberate sun dimming as a geoengineering tool are unknown. A new study by Dr Peter Braesicke, from the Centre for Atmospheric Science at Cambridge University, seeks to answer this question by focusing on the possible impacts of a dimming sun on atmospheric teleconnections. Teleconnections, important for the predictability of weather regimes, are the phenomenon of distant climate anomalies being related to each other at large distances, such as the link between sea-level pressure at Tahiti and Darwin, Australia, which defines the Southern Oscillation. "It is important that we look for unintended consequences of any sun dimming schemes," said Braesicke. "We have to test our models continuously against observations to make sure that they are 'fit-for-purpose', and it's important that we should not only look at highly averaged 'global' quantities." Dr Braesicke's team believes that the link between tropical temperatures and extra-tropical circulation are well captured for the recent past and that the link changes when the sun is dimmed."
The Economics Of Global Warming. Here is an excerpt of a recent Newsweek article: "The real global challenge facing us will be organizing to reduce carbon emissions and provide help to poor countries coping with climate change. The worst, but not the most likely, consequences of climate change could be rising sea levels: there is grounded ice in Antarctica that, if loosed from its moorings, is worth five or six meters of sea level, enough to sink Stockholm, Manhattan, or London, or to oblige them to build levees to escape inundation, and to oblige millions of Bangladeshis and others to abandon their homes and workplaces and to migrate. (Levees cannot save Bangladesh; they leave no escape for the freshwater floods that need to reach the ocean.) The most likely consequences of climate change will be severe impacts on food production in the developing world. We can worry about urban heat waves, polar bears, and forest fires, but the worst effects are almost certainly going to be on food production in the poor countries, where half or more of the population depends on growing its own food."
Less Is More For Cost-Efficient Wind Farms. Placing wind turbines too close together can have a big impact on the amount of wind power a farm can harvest on any given day, research shows. An article from gizmag.com: "While there are increasing numbers of large wind farms being built around the world, many of these projects are underperforming and not producing as much power as expected. New research suggests the reason could be that the wind turbines are being placed too close together. The researchers say that spreading the turbines out will result in a more cost-efficient wind farms and they’ve come up with a formula through which the optimal spacing for a large array of turbines can be obtained. The newest wind farms, be they on or offshore, typically use turbines with rotor diameters of around 300 feet (91 m), which are typically spaced about seven rotor diameters apart. Charles Meneveau, a fluid mechanics and turbulence expert at Johns Hopkins University, working with Johan Meyers, an assistant professor at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, conducted research that indicates placing the wind turbines more than twice as far apart as current layouts – 15 rotor diameters apart – results in more cost-efficient power generation."
55.4" so far this winter in the Twin Cities (24.5" more than average as of January 23).
3: number of days without snow in January.
3.5: number of degrees below average for January temperatures in the Twin Cities.
9: number of subzero nights in the Twin Cities this winter.
12: inches of snow on the ground at KMSP this morning.
16: number of days this winter with an inch or more of snow in the metro area.
52: number of days with at least a "trace" or more of snow so far at KMSP this winter season.
4,159: heating degree days since July 1, according to the National Weather Service. Average as of January 23 is 4,333 HDD. That means we've used 4% less energy to heat our homes and offices since temperatures started to drop last autumn. Put another way, the '10-'11 heating season is running roughly 4% warmer than average. I know. I did a double-take too. True, it has been colder than average since December 1 (December was 2.3 F colder than average, January is 3.5 degrees colder than the running 30-year average) but last autumn was considerably milder than average across Minnesota. An earlier statement I made that "winter is running warmer than average" is absolutely incorrect - we've been consistently colder than average since the start of meteorological winter in early December.
Snowfall So Far This Season:
Boston: 50" (average as of today is 41.5"). The Big Apple spent $40 million cleaning up from just one (1-2 foot) snowfall the day after Christmas.
New York City: 36" (average as of today is 21").
Atlanta: 6" (average is closer to .3"). Atlanta spent $10 million removing the 3-5" that fell nearly 2 weeks ago.
Nuisance Snow Today. Models are unanimously killing today's clipper - printing out a coating to (maybe) a whopping half inch of slush, one outlier closer to 1". With air temperatures in the mid 20s to near 30 by late afternoon most freeways/interstates will be wet and slushy.
A Relatively Quiet Week. Today's clipper may put down as much as 3-5" over far northern Minnesota, north of Duluth, near the BWCA and Grand Marais. More lake-effect snows are expected, but I don't see any widespread snow/ice- related delays through the end of the week east of the Rockiest....for a change.
Steering Out To Sea. The next coastal storm out east is now forecast to remain just offshore, brushing the Carolinas with a rain/snow mix, but any heavy snow bands should remain east of D.C., New York and Boston. Good news for travelers. This GFS forecast map is valid 7 pm Wednesday evening.
Not Quite Out Of The (Bitter) Woods Just Yet. Round 1 came in early December (3 subzero nights). This latest outbreak (4 subzero nights/row) will ease today as temperatures spike close to 30 (above!) A relatively mild week is on tap, followed by a colder swipe next weekend. The GFS is hinting at another pretty good shot of Arctic air after Saturday, Feb. 5. It may not be quite as cold as this latest outbreak, but close.
So You Think Winter's Been Bad? The Star Tribune's Kristin Tillotson has a good article focusing on people who have it REALLY bad, trying to navigate the cold and snow every day just doing their jobs. Here's an excerpt: "When it comes to trekking around our frigid, snow-saturated cities this winter, misery does love company -- and has plenty of it. Everybody's having a hard time getting around, but some have to deal with it throughout their entire work shift. Plenty of folks have jobs that keep them out in the clogged, slippery streets -- bus drivers, emergency medical technicians, highway salters/plowers, long-haul truckers, pizza deliverers, mail carriers and newspaper deliverers, to name a few."
The "Ice Bowl". December 31, 1967. You thought yesterday's AFC and NFC Championship games were "cold"? Hardly, at least compared with the very definition of a cold game, the "Ice Bowl" played between the Packers and the Cowboys on December 31, 1967. From the National Weather Service: "The 1967 NFL Championship Game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers, played on December 31 at Lambeau Field, is known as the Ice Bowl, arguably one of the greatest games in NFL history.
The game was played in brutal cold and windy conditions. The kickoff temperature in Green Bay was -13 F, with a wind chill of 36 below zero. Temperatures were so cold, in fact, that referees had to shout signals so that the metal whistles wouldn't stick to their lips. Even so, nearly 51,000 fans watched the coldest game in league annals.
Several players were treated for frostbite and a fan in the stands died of exposure to the cold.
Bart Starr, the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame quarterback, scored the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds remaining, clinching a third straight NFL Championship for the Packers.
Some Interesting Ice Bowl Weather Facts
America's Coldest Football Games. What is it about championship games and bitter weather? The photo above is from the Bengals - Chargers game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati on January 10, 1982. Air temperature: -9. Wind chill: -59. One of a handful of games included in a terrific Forbes article focusing on America's Coldest NFL Games.
Superbowl Weather Since 1967. Thanks for meteorologist D.J. Kayser for tracking down the Mother Lode of NFL/Weather factoids and trivia. A few fun facts from NOAA's Southeast Regional Climate Center:
13 of 44 Bowls Played indoors.
16 of 44 Bowls had a Trace or More of Rain at nearby AP.
2 Bowls had Snow on Game Day (1982,2006).
1 Bowl played during an Ice Storm (2000).
Warmest High Temperature of 82° (1973,2003).
Coldest High Temp for Dome Game 16° (1982).
Coldest High Temp for Non-Dome Game 43° (1972).
Wettest Super Bowl .92 inches (2007).
Outside Games With High Wind Gust (1980, 1984, 1989,2007).
"Snow-maha." One upside to bitter cold? These Arctic invasions tend to shove the main highway for (heavy) snow well south of Minnesota. St. Louis picked up a cool foot of snow on Friday, and Omaha has been in the path of some of these recent storms. The You Tube video was shot on an Android phone, by the way.
California's "Big One" Might Be A Superstorm. I included a similar article a few weeks ago - this story is getting a lot of traction, especially in California, as you might suspect. The L.A. Times reports: "California's "big one" may not be an earthquake at all, but a devastating megastorm that would inundate the Central Valley, trigger widespread landslides and cause flood damage to 1 in 4 homes in the state. The prospect of such a storm was raised this month by scientists predicting the consequences of an "atmospheric river" of moisture from the tropical Pacific hitting California with up to 10 feet of rain and hurricane-force winds over several weeks. A team of more than 100 scientists, engineers and emergency planners used flood mapping, climate change projections and geologic flood history to simulate a hypothetical storm so intense that it occurs only every 100 to 200 years.
Persistent Drought Over Southern USA. Major storms have made the news, so it's somewhat surprising to hear that drought conditions are continuing over roughly the southern third of America, from the Carolinas and much of Georgia westward to Texas and New Mexico. More from NOAA here.
An Active Tornado Season? Considering we have a strong La Nina (which will probably linger into part of the spring), the odds of a more active tornado season for the Plains and Upper Midwest are statistically higher than average. There are numerous papers linking a cooling phase of the Pacific with increased frequency of tornadoes east of the Rockies. 2008 was a La Nina year - with a subsequent uptick in tornadoes, as described in this article. I can't imagine a scenario where Minnesota would see more than 104 tornadoes (the number of confirmed touchdowns in 2010), but La Nina spring tend to spawn more numerous violent, long-lasting EF-3 and stronger tornadoes. We'll see.
Twin Cities Events. If you're looking for something to do to get out of the house (and get out of a mid-winter funk) check out KARE-11's Metromix site - lot's of great ideas and a useful calendar feature to help you get a handle on what's going on in the near future.
Sunday Numbers. Our -8 F. low looks almost reasonable compared to International Falls (-37) and Hibbing (-31). Brainerd woke up to -24 F. Sunday morning, all reporting stations recovering into single digits and teens for highs.
Paul's Star Tribune Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:
TODAY: Light snow, flurries. Coating to 1/2" possible. Winds: W 10-15. High: near 30
MONDAY NIGHT: Flurries taper, little or no additional accumulation. Low: 3
TUESDAY: Intervals of sun, better travel. High: 23
WEDNESDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, not bad. High: 22
THURSDAY: Fading sun, milder Pacific breeze kicks in. High: 28
FRIDAY: A fleeting thaw? Mild start, then windy, turning colder PM hours. High: 31 (falling by afternoon)
SATURDAY: Flurries, bitter breeze returns. Low: 9. High: 13
SUNDAY: Blue sky, numb again. Low: -5. High: 4
Yesterday's NFL playoff games reminded me of the "Ice Bowl", on December 31, 1967. I was 9 years old, but remember it vividly. The Cowboys were playing the Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay; a game-time temperature of -13, windchill: -36. It was so cold the referees had to shout signals so the metal whistles wouldn't freeze to their lips. Players had to be treated for frostbite; a crowd of 51,000 braved the elements, one fan died from exposure. A Bengals game played in 1982 at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati had a chill factor of -59! More useless football/weather trivia at my weather blog.
Good news on the weather front. Today's clipper has fizzled, a snowy coating to 1/2" possible. The next chance of a couple inches? Early February. The BIG news: our much-rumored warm front is still on the way this week. Today and Thursday your brain-freeze will ease, you'll even regain some feeling in your nose and toes. Both days you may eye your grill and shed a few layers, as temperatures near 32 F. Anywhere else in America a forecast of "freezing" would be greeted by gasps & a sense of foreboding. Here we exhale, relieved that things are "finally turning around." One more big reason to love "Minne-snowda."
Looking Back at 2010: Are Accelerating Weather Extremes A Symptom Of Climate Change? Gary Betts, climate scientist and commentator, had a few thoughts for Vermont Public Radio which I thought were worthy of sharing: "The Earth's climate system, which is rather unstable, is being driven by the increase in greenhouse gases and the warming of the Arctic into new patterns, and these are giving us new extremes of weather. Climate change is forcing us to face something that nobody wants to face. It is now widely acknowledged that our industrialized world, created by science and technology and a market economy, is polluting the atmosphere and oceans; and driving rapid climate change. We now face the paradox that although humanity is responsible for this; the longer we delay in changing direction as a society, the more the Earth system is slipping beyond our control. Climate scientists have been issuing warnings for twenty years, and every year our understanding of the Earth improves; so we can better estimate the climate risks we face. But there is a naïve assumption that our politicians will use this valuable information to redirect the economy away from fossil fuels, and so steer us away from the looming precipice of irreversible climate change. But in fact, politicians will say and do almost anything to avoid responsibility for difficult and painful decisions. So at the national level our paralysis has deepened." Image courtesy of Stu Ostro, forecaster at the Weather Channel.
Climate Change: Dogs Of Law Are Off The Leash. Are lawyers chomping at the bit for class action lawsuits, taking on some of the biggest greenhouse gas polluters? It's still early, but some analysts believe such suits are inevitable, and that's why so many energy providers are nervous, putting up a valiant attempt to deny/delay the science. From an article at MSN News: "Compensation for losses inflicted by man-made global warming would be jaw-dropping, a payout that would make tobacco and asbestos damages look like pocket money. Imagine: a country or an individual could get redress for a drought that destroyed farmland, for floods and storms that created an army of refugees, for rising seas that wiped a small island state off the map. In the past three years, the number of climate-related lawsuits has ballooned, filling the void of political efforts in tackling greenhouse-gas emissions. Eyeing the money-spinning potential, some major commercial law firms now place climate-change litigation in their Internet shop window. Seminars on climate law are often thickly attended by corporations that could be in the firing line -- and by the companies that insure them."
The World Is Warming And Waiting For Science. An excerpt from a recent story from the Orlando Sentinel: "As Thomas notes, record-breaking cold temperatures in parts of the northern hemisphere have provided easy fodder to those who deny the earth's climate is changing. A closer look at recent scientific investigations will reveal these cold-weather extremes are induced by anthropogenic warming. Rising Arctic temperatures and concomitant sea-ice loss alter the northern-hemisphere jet stream and, on occasion, force cold air toward the southern U.S. instead of western Eurasia. The fact is the year 2010 tied with 2005 as the hottest year for the planet in more than 130 years. Each of the past three decades has been hotter than the one before, and during that time, there have been twice as many record-high temperatures than record lows in the U.S."
2010 Meltdown of Greenland. The Cryospheric Processes Laboratory at the City College of New York reports that, in 2010, some areas of Greenland saw a melting season 50 days longer than average. "Remote sensing data, surface observations and models indicate new records in 2010 for surface melt and albedo, runoff, the number of days when bare ice is exposed and surface mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet. This was especially true over its west and southwest regions. Melting is a crucial factor in both surface and subglacial processes. Here's a video showing melting streams, supraglacial lakes and meltwater flowing through ice cracks that we recorded in 2009 and 2010."
Climate Change Fastest In Southeast Asia. An article from AsiaOne News: "A re-insurance giant has released a study that says that South-East Asia will be feeling the effects of climate change faster than any other region. This was due to the number of natural disasters that have struck the region over the past decade. Although South-East Asia had been feeling the full effects of flobal warming in the past century, the sharp increase of natural disasters from 100 to 300 annually was evidence of that. Ernst Rauch, Much Re's head of corporate climate centre, told the Sunday Times that warming temperatures were the clearest sign of climate change. Large land masses which surrounded the region, such as India and China, contributed to temperatures rising at a faster rate, he said. Munich Re has calculated total financial losses from natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and storms in Asia at around $1.4 billion. 1.14 million lives were lost in Asia alone last year."
Energy For The Economy. The New York Time's Andrew Revkin (author of the Dot Earth web site) has a thoughtful editorial about what President Obama might be able to do to get a conversation going about next-generation energy needs during Tuesday's State of the Union address: "Mr. Obama’s first step should not be to announce a predetermined list of policies to transform our energy system, but to use his State of the Union address to commence a yearlong American conversation on the merits and shape of such an effort. Modeled on the president’s health care summit meeting last February, this conversation would play out in public televised events attended by the president or his cabinet, along with politicians, experts, scientists and American workers, in places ranging from the White House to coal country, from the grounds of a potential site for a new nuclear reactor to the boiler room of a primary school looking to cut emissions and energy bills."