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.
A Mixed Blessing
Meteorologists often come off as Spock-like, Doppler-loving automatons; finger-pointing nerds who relish a good storm. Truth? We do.
But when weather is persistently foul (Exhibit A: this spring) it's no fun predicting the future.
Every day brings a chorus of new complaints. "Can't you DO something about this lousy weather, Paul?" When's the last time a sportscaster got BLAMED for the Twins losing? Totally irrational - but I guess it comes with the turf.
Sure, we've had 3 plowable snowfalls in April, nearly 18" snow - the snowiest month of the season; almost 4 times more snow than fell in January!
But a fire-hose of Gulf moisture has returned, fueling a parade of very wet storms. The drought is fading fast and the metro area should avoid the most serious river flooding in the weeks ahead. So it's not all bad news, right?
Wait, I think I hear crickets.
Expect lukewarm sun today & Tuesday, followed by 1-2" rains and greening lawns later this week, as a huge storm stalls over the Plains. Wednesday's soggy cold front does a U-turn; more rain pinwheeling in from the east by late week. Wet snow could mix in by Friday.
Excuse me while go I yell at the weatherman.
"Ice Breakers" Hasten Winter's Retreat On Lake Minnetonka. This is new one - using boats and waverunners to accelerate ice-out? Can you tell locals are getting frustrated with our extra-late spring? Here's an excerpt from Lake Minnetonka Patch: "Boats—and even jet skis—were out on Lake Minnetonka yesterday trying to break up ice and hasten the arrival of open water season."
Photo credit: "The photo received more than 40 "like" on Lake Minnetonka's Facebook page in less than 24 hours.
Promising Fishing Opener Outlook? It's still pretty far out, but the cold, rainy (possibly snowy at times) atmospheric holding pattern that will torment us from Wednesday into Sunday should be gone by May 9. Highs on Fishing Opener Weekend may reach the 60s and 70s for metro lakes; 10 degrees cooler up north, but all things considered - not bad.
Big Changes. Mother Nature remains mellow today and much of Tuesday, but a cold slap across the face is shaping up by midweek, highs near 40F by Wednesday with a cold rain, possibly mixing with a little wet snow. There's another surge of moisture shaping up for late week, probably rain, but a little snow can't be ruled out Friday night. Showers spill over into Sunday; 60s returning next week.
Unusual For May. These cut-off lows are more typical in March or October, rare (but not unprecedented) for early May. The same pattern that's pumping a steady stream of drought-busting moisture northward is also pulling unusually chilly air south out of Canada. It's hard to have one without the other. A storm aloft is forecast to stall over Missouri, counterclockwise winds pumping more rain (and a little wet snow?) back into Minnesota by late Thursday into Saturday. GFS model: NOAA.
Nuisance Snow? Plowable? Probably not, but the fact that we're even having this conversation heading into early May. GFS model runs are hinting at minor amounts of slush the latter half of the week. If anything does stick it won't be in your yard for long. Good grief.
PG Rated Weather Map. PG for pretty grim. But right now the latest NAM model keeps accumulating snow over southeastern Minnesota, western Wisconsin and parts of Iowa, maybe 4-6" or more from near Rochester to Eau Claire? The axis of slush may wave back and forth from east to west in the coming days - too early to know who may wake up to a (very rare) May snowfall later this week.
Maximum 24 Hour May Snowfalls in the Twin Cities:
3" May 1, 1935
2.8" May 11, 1946
* source: Minnesota Climate Office.
Midwest States Continue To Fight Record Flooding. Here's an excerpt of a story at The Los Angeles Times: "After months of drought, many areas of the Midwest on Saturday continued to fight off flooding from rising rivers that are not expected to crest for several more days. National Weather Service forecasters expect flooding to continue throughout the week along the Des Plaines, Fox, Illinois and other rivers and their tributaries in Illinois. U.S. Geological Survey monitors in the area have recorded record floods. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has declared 48 counties in his state disaster areas. In making the announcement, he noted that water is receding in some areas but rising in others. “We are continuing to do everything we can to provide the personnel and resources needed to fight the flooding,” Quinn said..."
Photo credit: "Water covers the intersection of Illinois State Route 100 and Route 3 in Grafton, Ill., on Tuesday. Swollen rivers in the Midwest are expected to remain at high levels into next month." (Derik Holtmann / Associated Press / April 23, 2013)
Some Good News For Fargo. Flood Warnings are posted for the Red River now, a Flood Watch for northwestern Minnesota and northeastern North Dakota for rapidly melting snow and ice dams causing sudden rises in streams and rivers. The latest NOAA forecast for Fargo shows a crest near 37 feet between Tuesday night and Wednesday night, a foot lower than predicted Saturday, and 3-4 feet below the high water mark set in 2009.
Effects Of Midwest Flooding Will Be Felt For Months. NBC News has a good overview of the problems, including a wild swing from not enough water in the Mississippi River a couple months ago to severe flooding in recent days; here's an excerpt: "...To the north, a damaged lock may keep a stretch of the Illinois River closed to commercial shipping traffic for weeks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. Flooding has halted the transport of corn and soybean barges at certain terminals on the river, Reuters reports. The disruptions could cause significant disruptions in the flow of grain and corn in the second-highest soybean producing state. Reuters reports almost 60 percent of U.S. grain exports are transported on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Grain prices at export terminals at the Gulf of Mexico climbed this week to the highest level in at least a month due to the disruptions..."
Photo credit: Seth Perlman / AP. "Steve Peters uses a make shift bridge to access dry land in Peoria Heights, Ill. The Illinois River crested at 29.35 feet, eclipsing a 70-year record in Peoria."
Up To 375 Flood Gauges To Turn Off Because Of Fund Cuts. Doyle Rice from USA Today has a head-shaking story, another victim of "The Sequester". Coming at a good time huh? Here's an excerpt: "Just in time for the spring flood season, the federal sequester is threatening to shut off funding for hundreds of stream gauges used by the U.S. Geological Survey to predict and monitor flood levels across the country. "The USGS will discontinue operation of up to 375 stream gauges nationwide due to budget cuts as a result of sequestration," the USGS notes on its website. Additional stream gauges may be affected if USGS partners at state and local agencies reduce their funding support..."
NOAA's National Weather Service Completes Doppler Radar Upgrades. New "dual-pol" Doppler upgrades do a better job calculating precipitation types and rainfall and snowfall amounts - so sensitive they can even detect the debris signature from a tornado on the ground. More details from NOAA: "This week, the National Weather Service completed the dual-polarization technology update in Brownsville, Texas – concluding the 122 NWS radar site upgrades throughout the country. This new advanced technology is helping federal weather forecasters more accurately track, assess and warn the public of approaching high-impact weather. Dual-polarization is the most significant enhancement made to the nation’s federal weather radar system since Doppler technology was first installed in the early 1990s. Dual-pol radar sends and receives both horizontal and vertical pulses, which produces a much more informative picture of the size and shape of the objects in the sky. This provides meteorologists the ability to distinguish between rain, snow, hail and non-weather items like wildfire smoke plumes, birds and insects. Conventional Doppler radar only has a one-dimensional view making it difficult to tell the type of precipitation or object in the sky..."
Is Air Pollution Contributing To Hardened Arteries? Some of the research was done in St. Paul, among other U.S. cities. Here's an excerpt from a story at Time Magazine: "Smog and car exhaust can take a toll on the heart, and the latest research explores how. Previous studies have shown an association between badly polluted air and a heightened risk of heart attack stroke, and researchers have started to investigate how pollutants could exert such harm. Some have documented the increased inflammation that pollution can trigger, as well as changes in blood pressure and the activity of clotting factors in the blood that could promote heart heart disease. The latest research, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, found that exposure to air pollution may increase heart attacks and strokes by accelerating the process of atherosclerosis..."
More Welcome Signs of Spring. WeatherNation TV meteorologist Todd Nelson snapped this photo in St. Michael Sunday evening as showers and a few T-showers blossomed, forming out ahead of a weak cool front. Note the rain shaft illuminating a small rainbow. Nice.
81 F. high in the Twin Cities Sunday.
September 29, 2012: last time it got this warm in the metro area (82F).
64 F. average high for April 28.
51 F. high on April 28, 2012.
Heat Spike. From 4" snow on a Tuesday morning to 81F 5 days later? Even by Minnesota standards that's impressive. Sunday highs ranged from 56 at Grand Marais to 68 Duluth (6" snow left) to 77 St. Cloud, 81 Twin Cities and a balmy 83 at Redwood Falls.
On April 28 in Minnesota Weather History (courtesy of the Twin Cities National Weather Service):
1984: Late season snow blankets the Twin Cities with 6.6 inches.
1940: Heavy rains in Duluth with 3.25 inches of rain.
TODAY: Partly sunny & pleasant. Winds: SE 5-10. High: 71
MONDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase - showers possible late, especially central/northern Minnesota. Low: 50
TUESDAY: Early shower or T-shower, then mild sun. High: 74
WEDNESDAY: Much colder, periods of rain. Wake-up: 43. High: 45
THURSDAY: Chilly. Wet snow mixes with rain - some slush possible. Wake-up: 37. High: 40
FRIDAY: Rain/snow mix - still looks more like early March than early May. Wake-up: 35. High: 41
SATURDAY: Gloomy & raw. More light rain. Wake-up: 34. High: 45
SUNDAY: Still damp. Lingering showers. Wake-up: 38. High: 46
Climate Change: Extreme Weather, Insurance Companies And Taxpayers. Here's a video and excerpt from The Energy Collective: "This NRDC video discusses the costs of extreme weather events, which in 2012 totaled one percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Insurance companies are “under water” in more ways than one and the US taxpayer ended up paying what is essentially a “climate disruption” of 2.7 percent more than the total collected in sales taxes for 2012..."
Climate Change: It's Real And It's Here, Expert Says. Here's a clip from htrnews.com: "Twenty-five years ago, James Brey was a climate change denier. “Then the evidence began to mount,” he said. “At some point, doubts began to diminish and the conviction began to grow.” Today, Brey, American Meteorological Society education program director, is a believer. You might say he was preaching to the choir Thursday night when he spoke to a group of about 50 concerned citizens gathered in the Riverview Room at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum for his climate change workshop. The workshop was presented by Friends of the Manitowoc River Watershed in conjunction with the Lakeshore Natural Resources Partnership..."
China Becoming Global Climate Change Leader. There is little "debate" about the science of climate change in China, which is a bit ironic. They realize they have a problem, and they're taking concrete steps to address those problems, according to this article from AFP and Google News: "China is rapidly assuming a global leadership role on climate change alongside the United States, a new study said Monday, but it warned greenhouse gas emissions worldwide continue to rise strongly. The report by the independent Australian-based Climate Commission, "The Critical Decade: International Action on Climate Change" presents an overview of action in the last nine months. It was released on the same day as a fresh round of UN talks were to start in Bonn on boosting action on climate change -- a two-decade-long process that has been dogged by procedural bickering and defence of national interests. The study found that every major economy had policies in place to tackle the issue, but China was at the forefront in strengthening its response, "taking ambitious strides to add renewable energy to its mix". "China is accelerating action," said Tim Flannery, the co-author and a key figure at the Climate Commission, which brings together internationally-renowned scientists, as well as policy and business leaders..."
Photo credit: "Solar panels in the Sino-Singapore Eco-city near Tianjin on June 11, 2012." (AFP/File, Ed Jones)
The Oddly Tepid Political Fight Over Global Warming. Here's an excerpt from a story at The Atlantic Wire: "Yesterday afternoon, a panel of experts was convened by a House subcommittee to discuss taking action on climate change. Earlier, the heavy machinery that was once Barack Obama's campaign team, Organizing For America, began a new push to hold politicians to task for having not yet done anything on the issue. The odds are good that you didn't know that either of these things happened. The urgency with which scientists and the environmental community looks at global warming has still not been translated to Capitol Hill — or to the rest of America. The House hearing, led by Republican Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah, was never likely to create a massive shift in the politics of the climate. Stewart has long denied a strong human role in warming, writing an opinion piece for the Salt Lake Tribune earlier this month in which he claims that "the science regarding climate change is anything but settled." (Scientists disagree.) Stewart's essay did have one positive outcome: the Tribune was also the only media outlet to cover yesterday's hearing..."
Image above: AP.
On Climate, GOP Turns From Concern To Denial. Here's a clip from an Op-Ed at The Houston Chronicle: "...How did the conservative movement travel so far, so fast? How did a party that prided itself on reason become a hotbed of scientific denial? The transformation has paralyzed U.S. policymaking and squandered decades that could have been spent weaning the world from fossil fuels. Twenty-three years after Thatcher urged action, the United States has no policy on climate change, even as its effects are evident and the window for action is closing. In 1997, "There was no difference between the way Democrats and Republicans across America viewed the issue," said Ed Maibach, executive director of George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication, a research center. Two out of three Democrats and two out of three Republicans believed that climate change was both real and serious. "Somewhere along the way, conservatism became, 'I've got a God-given right to drive my SUV wherever I want to go, and we'll send somebody else's kids to the Middle East to fight for it," said former South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis, a Republican who lost his 2010 primary election over global warming and now runs the Energy and Enterprise Initiative, where he is pushing for a price on carbon pollution..."
The Drought-Stricken Midwest's Floods: Is This What Climate Change Looks Like? Here'san excerpt from a story at The Atlantic Wire: "...In other words, a warmer atmosphere from climate change likely yields greater extremes in weather. This syncs with the draft report issued by the government's National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee last year. That report predicted the following for the Midwest: "longer growing seasons and rising carbon dioxide levels will increase yields of some crops, though those benefits will be increasingly offset by the occurrence of extreme events such as heat waves, droughts, and floods." That prediction was meant to be borne out over the next several decades. What it predicted, though, has already been seen over the course of six months..." (photo: AP).
As CO2 Concentrations Near Ominous Benchmark, Daily Updates Begin. Scientific American has the story - here's an excerpt: "...Scientist Ralph Keeling wants this generation to remember when atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide reached 400 parts per million, because of humans. "I hope that many people out there in the decades to come will say, 'Gosh, I will remember when it crossed 400,'" he said. That's why Keeling and his employer, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, have launched a website that will provide daily updates on atmospheric CO2 concentrations, measured at Hawaii's Mauna Loa Observatory..."
Graphic credit above: 398.36 ppm. The very latest CO2 concentrations can be found at The Keeling Curve web site, operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
CO2 On Trial: If Things Had Worked Out Better. Here's an excerpt of an important article, an explanation of how climate science has been turned into a perverse mock "trial". Michael Tobis argues that we need to grow up, and recognize our limits in this story at medium.com: "...The fact is that we are entering an age of new and unprecedented limits. We can still have a happy future, human achievement and human dignity can continue its broad historical progress, and we can still have a lot of fun. But we have to recognize new limitations. The emergence of limits is unfortunate. It's costly. It's ill-timed. But preserving a stable environment is an ethical responsibility like none that has preceded it. We need people to understand not only that CO2 is a global problem, but that it's just the first in a series, as we make the transition from an open frontier world to spaceship earth. As a brand of soap, this is a hard sell. We have to sell the idea of a widespread set of changes in behavior, a new set of ethical constraints, and a substantial increase in the complexity and scale of governance. There are serious risks and costs involved, but avoiding this responsibility will yield something much worse..."
Global Warming Accelerated Last 15 Years. Here's an excerpt from Doug Craig's terrific Climate of Change blog at Redding.com: "...And a new study of ocean warming published last month in Geophysical Research Letters by Balmaseda, Trenberth, and Källén reached several conclusions:
• Completely contrary to the popular contrarian myth, global warming has accelerated, with more overall global warming in the past 15 years than the prior 15 years. This is because about 90% of overall global warming goes into heating the oceans, and the oceans have been warming dramatically.
• As suspected, much of the 'missing heat' Kevin Trenberth previously talked about has been found in the deep oceans. Consistent with the results of Nuccitelli et al. (2012), this study finds that 30% of the ocean warming over the past decade has occurred in the deeper oceans below 700 meters, which they note is unprecedented over at least the past half century..."
2.24" liquid precipitation predicted for MSP by Friday. Rain today, ice tonight, ice changing to snow tomorrow, lingering into Thursday night.
4-8" slushy snow expected Twin Cities metro, maybe more far northern/western suburbs. Definitely plowable by Thursday.
High water content may result in downed trees and powerlines at the height of the storm. I wouldn't be surprised to see reports of power outages Wednesday and Thursday.
6.7" If we pick up at least 6.7" (very possible) this will be the heaviest April snow since 2002.
13.6" Most snowfall in a 24 hour period in April (April 14, 1983). I remember it well.
Winter Storm Watch in effect as of this evening - it may be upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning, even for the metro.
Just the Messenger
May I be excused, please?
This might be a good time to drive south to a slightly warmer, more meteorologically hospitable spot, like Dubuque.
A friend of mine, Tim, reports local fast-ball softball teams are driving as far south as Illinois and Kansas City to find (thawed) ball fields to play on. Our stunted spring has many of us in a funk, and things are about to get even more "interesting".
A slow moving storm tracking across the Plains will spray a fire-hose of Gulf moisture northward - flooding rains for the Midwest & heavy wet snow from the Upper Mississippi Valley into the Dakotas, where some 20-30 inch amounts are predicted. Good grief. A cold rain today mixes with ice tonight and Wednesday, a plowable (4-8"+) pile of slush may reach the metro area from Wednesday into Thursday; heaviest amounts on lawns, fields and dazed robins.
Thursday may be the most challenging travel day.
Note to self: I shouldn't have taken off my snow tires - but at least I left my driveway stakes in.
It's baffling: the maps look like something out of early March. The most snow from an April storm? 13.6" on April 14, 1983. If we pick up 6.7" (possible) it would be the most April snow since 2002.
Biggest Single Day April Snowfalls In The Twin Cities? I was really hoping not to have to include this data from the Minnesota State Climatology Office:
Rank Value Ending Date
1 13.6" 4/14/1983
2 8.9" 4/7/1923
3 8.8" 4/14/1949
4 8.5" 4/13/1928, 4/27/1907, 4/20/1893
7 7.2" 4/4/1957
8 7.1" 4/27/1908
9 6.6" 4/21/2002, 4/29/1984
Something For Everyone. Everything except sunshine and 70s. Flood watches and warnings for Wisconsin, a Winter Storm Watch for the Twin Cities, and Winter Storm Warnings west of St. Cloud. Details on the Winter Storm Watch from the Twin Cities NWS:
...WINTER STORM WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM TUESDAY EVENING THROUGH THURSDAY AFTERNOON... A WINTER STORM WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM TUESDAY EVENING THROUGH THURSDAY AFTERNOON. * TIMING: LIGHT RAIN WILL TRANSITION TO A WINTRY MIX OF PRECIPITATION ON TUESDAY EVENING AND CHANGE OVER TO SNOW LATE WEDNESDAY. * MAIN IMPACT: SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 6 INCHES OR GREATER... MAINLY BETWEEN WEDNESDAY EVENING AND MID DAY THURSDAY. * OTHER IMPACTS: SMALL ICE ACCUMULATIONS DUE TO SLEET AND LIGHT FREEZING RAIN ON TUESDAY EVENING AND WEDNESDAY. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS... A WINTER STORM WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR SIGNIFICANT SNOW...SLEET...OR ICE ACCUMULATIONS THAT MAY IMPACT TRAVEL. CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS.
Hey...It'll Melt. Last night I complained about the snow to my wife of 28 years. She told me to shut up. "It'll melt", she said. True enough. The GFS is still going nuts, showing some 12-16" amounts, which could happen, if there is no wintry mix (sleet and freezing rain); if precipitation falls as ALL SNOW. This could happen, but I still expect some rain, sleet (ice pellets) and freezing rain to mix in, especially today and the first half of Wednesday, which will keep amounts down in the far more reasonable range of 5-8", maybe 10" far northern suburbs. But hey, it'll melt.
I Can't Quite Believe It Either. I want to dismiss this as utter nonsense. It's the second week of April! As far as the atmosphere is concerned it's the first week of March. There's enough cold air in place for some 1-2 foot snowfall amounts from eastern Wyoming into South Dakota; maybe 18" for west central Minnesota and a cool foot for St. Cloud. The NAM is hinting at 4-8" for the immediate MSP metro by Friday morning, with the heaviest amounts north and west of town (on lawns and fields). I feel the sudden urge to drive (run?) south - as fast as I can.
Potential For Glaze Ice Tonight. I expect a cold rain today, but surface temperatures should dip just below 32F later tonight, allowing rain to freeze into glaze in time for rush hour Wednesday morning. Plan on leaving a lot more time to get around Wednesday and Thursday.
WSI RPM Model. WSI's high-resolution 12km. RPM model is in pretty good alignment with the NAM, suggesting 8-10" across the MSP metro, most of that coming Wednesday PM into Thursday, when temperatures in the lowest mile of the atmosphere bottom out. Some 24"+ snowfall amounts are forecast west of Sioux Falls. What month is this again?
One Of The Biggest Snowfalls of Winter - Coming in "Spring". No, the irony isn't lost on me. The 00z NAM shows a major storm spinning up over the Plains, moving slowly to the east-northeast, tapping moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, taking a track favorable for heavy wet snow from South Dakota into Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Storm Track. NOAA models show a track well south of Minnesota, ensuring a steady supply of cold air at the height of the storm, Wednesday into Thursday. The slow forward motion of the storm will help to contribute to excessive precipitation amounts: rain and heavy wet snow.
Plenty Of Moisture. I was hoping for rain (to alleviate the drought), but we'll wind up with more snow than rain this week. Models suggest 1.5 to 2.5" liquid by Friday morning, more (rain) Sunday of next week. The good news? I feel more confident than ever that, based on the cool, wet pattern we're stuck in, the drought will ease over much of Minnesota by June.
Euro-Trash. Sadly, I think the ECMWF (European) model is probably on track to verify; hinting at 1.25" liquid Wednesday and Thursday, much of that moisture falling as heavy, wet snow. With high water content in the snow I wouldn't be surprised to hear reports of downed tree limbs, even some power outages at the height of the storm. It should be warm enough for rain showers Sunday, readings reach the 50s to near 60 by the middle of next week. Right.
Tracking A Freak April Storm. Here's a YouTube video that delves into the reasons for this week's March-like storm, and why rainfall and snowfall amounts may be very significant, some of the highest of the winter season: "Calendar says April 8th, but the weather maps are much more in line with what you would see in early March. 20-30" snowfall amounts possible along with the potential for a few large violent tornadoes. Millions of people will be impacted this week. Are you one of them? Watch what Meteorologist Paul Douglas has to say about this freak April storm."
Here is an excerpt from an Alerts Broadcaster briefing issued to our corporate clients late Monday:
I'm sitting here, in a Monday funk, mourning the apparent death of spring, at least over the Plains and Upper Midwest. The calendar insists that its April 8, but as far as the atmosphere is concerned it's March 1, give or take. An unusually intense storm (for the second week of April) will impact the central USA with heavy wet snow, heavy rain capable of urban and river flooding, and deeper into the warm, humid air, a significant severe storm outbreak, with a potential for a few large, violent tornadoes: central Plains today and Tuesday, pushing into the Mississippi Valley and Mid South by Wednesday and Thursday.
* Near-blizzard conditions are possible in the Denver area Tuesday; where as much as 5-9" of snow will fall. Expect delays and cancellations at KDEN, especially tomorrow.
* Models print out some 20-30" amounts across South Dakota, with plowable snows pushing across Minnesota into Wisconsin Wednesday and Thursday.
* Chicago may pick up 3" of rain by Thursday, complicating stream and river flood forecasts - I expect some level of urban flooding as well.
* A few large, violent, long-track tornadoes are possible tomorrow from Austin and Dallas to Kansas City. By Wednesday the threat shifts to Shreveport, Little Rock, Memphis, St. Louis and Louisville. Details:
3-5 Week's Worth of Rain by Thursday. The NAM model prints out very heavy rainfall amounts for the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes, as much as 2-3" or more of liquid water. Most of that water will fall as heavy wet snow over the Plains and portions of the Upper Midwest.
Confirmation. The models are coming into alignment, showing the heaviest snowfall amounts from Nebraska into South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota, where some 12"+ amounts seem imminent. This could still be a plowable snowfall for the Twin Cities by Wednesday and Thursday, with some 5-10" amounts extending toward Wausau, Appleton and the Green Bay, Wisconsin markets.
Mile High Mess. Snow arrives tonight in Denver, peaking tomorrow, when an increase in wind speed may trigger near-blizzard conditions. I'm comfortable (wrong word) predicting 5-9" for the Denver area by the time snow tapers Wednesday.
Blizzard Potential Index. One of the many value-added models we run here at Alerts Broadcaster is the BPI, the Blizzard Potential Index, factoring in snowfall rates, wind speeds and predicted visibilities. The worst of the storm along Colorado's Front Range is forecast to come Tuesday afternoon.
Remarkable Extremes. I don't think I've ever seen this. Alerts Broadcaster models predict highs topping 100F over southern Texas, while holding in the 20s over Colorado and New Mexico over the next 72 hours. The resulting temperature gradient will help to spin up an unusually intense storm over the Plains states.
On Track For A Significant Severe Storm Outbreak. Although not as expected to be as violent as outbreaks in 2011, the stage is set for supercell thunderstorms capable of large, long-lasting tornadoes capable of significant destruction. The risk is greatest tomorrow from Dallas to Oklahoma City and Wichita - the threat shifts into the Mississippi Valley by Wednesday.
Friday Storm Potential. A few severe thunderstorms are likely in the Atlanta area late Thursday, possibly pushing into D.C., the Delaware Valley and New York City by Friday afternoon. Although the potential for tornadoes will be small, some storms may produce large hail and damaging straight-line winds. Friday's PM commute may be a real mess across the Northeast.
Summary: I've seen a lot of things in 40 years of meteorology, but I can't remember the last time I saw 20-30" snowfall amounts during the second week of April. Portions of the High Plains may be temporarily shut down, starting tomorrow, spilling over into Thursday. Disruptions to travel and the power grid may be considerable, especially from Denver into Nebraska and South Dakota. Ice changing to snow will create poor to treacherous travel conditions over Minnesota and Wisconsin. The worst conditions at KMSP (Twin Cities) and KMKE (Milwaukee) will probably come Thursday. The slow forward motion of the storm will prolong rainfall across the Midwest, accelerating run-off and stream/river flooding, especially southern Wisconsin into the Chicago and Indianapolis area by midweek.
Ask Paul. Weather-related Q&A:
Is there an easy place to get searchable records for actual snowfall totals by location and date? Looking to compare each month of the 2012-2013 Winter season in my neck of the woods (or stretch of the prairie - I'm on the edge)
I stumbled around NOAA for awhile and ended up chasing my tail.
I asked climate guru Pete Boulay at the Minnesota Climatology Working Group for his advice - here was his answer:
"You can find the closest snow data to your location by going here:
It appears as though the closest place with at least partial data is site 210643 (Bemidji Airport)."
Lightning Hits The Seattle Space Needle. At first I thought this photo was Photoshopped, but that is apparently not the case - this amazing image courtesy of Smithsonian.com: "Photo of the Day: March 15, 2013. An Editors' Pick from our 2012 Photo Contest. Photo and caption by Clane Gessel (Seattle, WA); Photographed August 01, 2010, Seattle, WA."
Climate Change And Turbulence Link? Warmer Air Could Mean A Bumpier Airplane Ride. Great. This is just what I want to read before getting onto a flight. I'd like a seat in the Black Box please. Here's an excerpt from Huffington Post: "Transatlantic airline passengers might expect to stay seated with their seatbelts securely fastened more often in the future, according to new research that finds climate change could lead to more airplane turbulence. By the middle of the century, turbulence strength over the North Atlantic flight corridor could increase between 10 percent and 40 percent, and turbulence frequency could jump between 40 percent and 170 percent, according to the new study published online today (April 8) in the journal Nature Climate Change. The increase could have major implications for the airline industry, as approximately 600 flights a day make the North Atlantic transit from Europe to North America and back. The study researchers focused on clear-air turbulence, the sort of bumps that occur even in the absence of clouds or mountains (which can also give airplane passengers a rocky ride). Clear-air turbulence occurs when masses of air moving at different speeds collide in the atmosphere, making it invisible to the naked eye and nearly impossible to detect using radar or satellite..."
* Here's an abstract of the research referenced in the article above, from Nature.
A favorable outcome for Aereo and the Hopper in court would push TV operators to dramatically reshape themselves. It could even force them to trade in their broadcast towers and become cable channels alongside networks such as Bravo, AMC and ESPN, says Garth Ancier, who has been the top TV programmer at Fox, NBC and the WB networks.
“They won’t have a choice,” Ancier said. “When someone attacks your business, sometimes you do something radical...”
TODAY: Cold rain - mainly wet roads. Winds: NE 20-30. High: 38
TUESDAY NIGHT: Winter Storm Watch. Sleet and freezing rain; roads may become very icy. Low: 31
WEDNESDAY: Winter Storm Watch. Ice changes to wet snow. Very slow & slippery. High: 35
THURSDAY: Worst day for travel? Wet snow; should be "plowable" - potential for 4-8" snow totals (greatest amounts northern suburbs). Wake-up: 30. High: 32
FRIDAY: Flurries taper, clouds linger. Wake-up: 28. High: 38
SATURDAY: Partly sunny, almost springy. Wake-up: 26. High: 46
SUNDAY: Milder, PM showers arrive. Wake-up: 37. High: 55
MONDAY: Drier, skies clear. Wake-up: 40. High: near 50
Breaking News (Literally). NOAA Confirms Early Break-Up. Here's a video and excerpt of a story at Climate Denial Crock of the Week: "...A series of intense storms in the Arctic has caused fracturing of the sea ice around the Beaufort Sea along the northern coasts of Alaska and Canada. High-resolution imagery from the Suomi NPP satellite shows the evolution of the cracks forming in the ice, called leads, from February 17 — March 18 2013. The general circulation of the area is seen moving the ice westward along the Alaskan coast “Intense storms” are not an unheard of thing in the arctic. What’s new is that the ice is so fragile that normal storm activity is breaking it up much earlier than has been seen in the past..."
Simpler, Cheaper Way To Make Methanol Fuel Using CO2 and Sunlight. Find a revenue-neutral way to price carbon pollution (one that doesn't make government bigger) then step back and let the markets do what they do best: innovate. Here's an excerpt of a fascinating story at gizmag.com: "Most previous methods of producing methanol from carbon dioxide have involved lots of electricity, high pressures and high temperatures, and used toxic chemicals or rare earth elements like cadmium or tellurium. A team of researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) has developed a new method they claim is safer, less expensive, and simpler than current approaches and can be scaled up to an industrial scale to allow some of the CO2 emitted from electrical power plants to be captured and converted into a useful fuel..."
Photo credit above: "Researchers at University of Texas at Arlington have developed a novel means of creating methanol from sunlight and CO2." (Photo: Shutterstock)
Oceans May Explain Slow-Down In Climate Change. 90-93% of warming is going into the world's oceans, the balance warming the atmosphere and melting ice. Here's an excerpt from Yahoo News: "Climate change could get worse quickly if huge amounts of extra heat absorbed by the oceans are released back into the air, scientists said after unveiling new research showing that oceans have helped mitigate the effects of warming since 2000. Heat-trapping gases are being emitted into the atmosphere faster than ever, and the 10 hottest years since records began have all taken place since 1998. But the rate at which the earth's surface is heating up has slowed somewhat since 2000, causing scientists to search for an explanation for the pause. Experts in France and Spain said on Sunday that the oceans took up more warmth from the air around 2000. That would help explain the slowdown in surface warming but would also suggest that the pause may be only temporary and brief..."
Photo credit above: "The tide comes in as the sun sets on the seafront in Scarborough, northern England February 26, 2013." REUTERS/Dylan Martinez.
Climate Change Will Threaten Wine Production, Study Shows. Coffee, chocolate, now wine? Say it isn't so. Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "Bid adieu to Bordeaux, but also, quite possibly, a hello to Chateau Yellowstone. Researchers predict a two-thirds fall in production in the world's premier wine regions because of climate change. The study forecasts sharp declines in wine production from Bordeaux and Rhone regions in France, Tuscany in Italy and Napa Valley in California and Chile by 2050, as a warming climate makes it harder to grow grapes in traditional wine country. But also anticipate a big push into areas once considered unsuitable. That could mean more grape varieties from northern Europe, including Britain, the US north-west and the hills of central China..."
Photo credit above: "A study has found sharp declines in wine production from Bordeaux, Rhone and Tuscany, as well as California’s Napa Valley and Chile by 2050, as a warming climate makes it harder to raise grapes in traditional wine country." Photograph: Cephas Picture Library / Alamy
Why We Support A Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax. Here are two prominent Republicans, George Schultz and Gary Becker, proposing to tax a known pollutant, but in a way that encourages economic growth and innovation in the marketplace. The Wall Street Journal has the story; here's an excerpt: "Americans like to compete on a level playing field. All the players should have an equal opportunity to win based on their competitive merits, not on some artificial imbalance that gives someone or some group a special advantage. We think this idea should be applied to energy producers. They all should bear the full costs of the use of the energy they provide. Most of these costs are included in what it takes to produce the energy in the first place, but they vary greatly in the price imposed on society by the pollution they emit and its impact on human health and well-being, the air we breathe and the climate we create. We should identify these costs and see that they are attributed to the form of energy that causes them. At the same time, we should seek out the many forms of subsidy that run through the entire energy enterprise and eliminate them. In their place we propose a measure that could go a long way toward leveling the playing field: a revenue-neutral tax on carbon, a major pollutant..."
Study: "Working Together" Won't Fix Climate Change. It's in our DNA to collaborate on big challenges, right? Not so much, argues this article at Salon; here's an excerpt: "When it comes to climate change, we’re all in this dilemma together, and forcefully addressing it will require collaboration and cooperation. A stirring sentiment, but if you’re looking to spur white Americans to action, it’s actually counterproductive. That’s the conclusion of a Stanford University research team, which found invoking the idea of interdependence undermined the motivation of European-American students to take a course in environmental sustainability. The researchers, led by MarYam Hamedani of Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, argue that in mainstream European-American culture, independence functions as a “foundational schema” — that is, an underlying design or blueprint that guides behavior..."
Photo credit above:.
Schwarzenegger: California's Silent Disaster. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed in the L.A. Times from the former governor of California: "I will always remember the day I woke to the news that more than 2,000 fires were burning in California. I thought I must not have heard correctly. Two thousand fires? How could that be? In the end, the state's brave firefighters, joined by contingents from out of state, won the battle. But not before 11 emergency declarations were issued and more than 400,000 acres burned. Countless lives and livelihoods were ruined. Today, there's a new disaster looming, and although it's not as riveting or dramatic as walls of flames and billowing black smoke, it needs our immediate attention. The draft National Climate Assessment, now being circulated for comment and scheduled for release this year by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, presents a sobering vision of the world that awaits us if we don't act..." (image: NASA).
2.07" liquid precipitation by Thursday morning. 00z NAM model.
Plowable snowfall can't be ruled out, even in and around the MSP metro, Wednesday into Thursday.
2" average April snowfall (latest 30 year climate data).
21.8" snow fell on the metro area in April, 1983. Good grief.
"This isn't funny Paul - we're not Duluth". That was my Saturday evening; more stares & glares than friendly smiles. Our tortured spring hits rock-bottom later this week; the second week of April's weather looking like something out of early March.
An intense storm spins up tornadoes from Kansas City to Dallas, while 1-2 feet of snow buries the Dakotas. I expect enough warm air aloft for rain into Tuesday evening. And then it gets interesting.
Models suggest enough sub-freezing air in the lowest few thousand feet of the atmosphere for some freezing rain (glaze ice) and sleet (ice pellets) by Wednesday- maybe a few inches of slush on lawns & fields by Wednesday and Thursday. Plowable? Perhaps - especially outside the MSP metro area.
It's too early to speculate on amounts, but whatever falls should be pretty much gone by Friday afternoon or Saturday. The sun is too high in the sky for slush to linger.
1-2" of precipitation may fall this week close to home, complicating the flood forecast - the ground is still frozen, making run-off and rapid urban, stream and river flooding a greater risk.
A few months ago I predicted a late spring, a slow easing of drought, and a cooler, wetter, more severe summer. I stand by that prediction.
Short-term I may need a better disguise and more therapy: long-range models hint at another slush-storm in one week.
I hope I'm wrong.
A Potentially Very Wet Week. Models are printing out well over 1" of liquid precipitation by Wednesday; mostly rain for the Twin Cities, but a wintry mix can't be ruled out by midweek. The local NWS office is predicting 1.2" by Wednesday midday. Graphic: Iowa State.
May I Please Be Excused? I'm tempted to drive to MSP International and hop the first southbound flight. Anywhere. Not sure I want to be here Wednesday and Thursday. The natives are already restless - if we do pick up a few inches of slush by Thursday that might just push people over the edge. Rain today, Tuesday and the first half of Wednesday. If we do see a wintry mix it would probably come from Wednesday PM into Thursday. Saturday looks dry, a cold rain pushing back into Minnesota Sunday - right now it looks warm enough for rain, at least in the Twin Cities, based on ECMWF guidance.
Skew-T. The projected temperature sounding (in red) by 2 pm Wednesday shows a relatively shallow layer of sub-freezing air in the lowest few thousand feet of the atmosphere. Warm ari aloft will melt rain, which may re-freeze into sleet or even wet snow by Wednesday afternoon and night.
Latest from Alerts Broadcaster:
A major storm is spinning up for the central USA, capable of impacting towns from Denver to Dallas to the Twin Cities from Monday thru Thursday of this week with a wide variety of potentially disruptive weather:
- Significant tornado outbreak possible the first half of this week. Tuesday looks like the most violent day from Dallas and Oklahoma City to Kansas City and St. Louis, with a few large, violent, long-track tornadoes expected.
- Heavy wet snow will fall from Wyoming and Colorado's Front Range across the Dakotas, potentially plowable amounts of slush into part of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Lower Michigan by Wednesday and Thursday. Yes, this is unusual for the second week of April.
- Flood risk. The ground is still frozen over most of the Upper Midwest - any heavy rain will run off into streets, streams and rivers. I expect river flooding (and urban flooding) to be on the increase over the next 72 hours. Details:
Latest Watches. Denver may pick up as much as 5-10" of snow from Monday night into Tuesday. Blizzard Watches are posted for portions of Colorado, a Winter Storm Watch from the Central Rockies into the Dakotas and western Nebraska. Severe thunderstorms are already popping up over the Plains; the potential for severe weather will increase into Tuesday.
Tuesday Severe Storm Potential. Severe storms are likely over the Plains Monday into Wednesday, but I suspect Tuesday will be the busiest day as dynamics converge for a few large, potentially violent tornadoes from Austin and Dallas northward to Tulsa, Wichita, Kansas City, St. Louis, even Des Moines. The timing is right - I expect SPC to upgrade the risk to "moderate" within 24 hours.
Facilities On Alert. There is a 30% probability of severe weather (58 mph+ winds and/or 1" hail or larger) within 25 miles of metropolitan areas from Dallas and Oklahoma City to Kansas City and Topeka on Tuesday. I expect numerous Tornado Watches and Warnings, with the greatest potential for damaging winds between 3 pm and 8 pm.
Cities Potentially Impacted Tuesday. Here is a close-up of the significant severe threat area, which includes Waco, Wichita Falls, Wichita, Springfield and the suburbs of Kansas City.
Serious Slush Potential. Chicago should avoid any snowy headaches, but enough snow to shovel and plow is expected from Denver into South Dakota and western and central Minnesota. A few inches of slush may accumulate on lawns and fields in the Twin Cities Wednesday night into Thursday - most freeways should stay wet.
Sliding Into A Much Wetter Pattern - Growing Flood Risk. The GFS model is printing out impressive rainfall amounts with this storm by Friday evening, as much as 4" from near Omaha and Lincoln to Des Moines; some 2-3" amounts near Milwaukee, Chicago and Detroit. This may complicate river flooding later this week. Areas prone to urban, stream and river flooding will want to keep a close eye on conditions and have contingency plans ready to go.
Flood Update. Major flooding is already underway near Devil's Lake, North Dakota, and along the East Fork of the Black River in Wisconsin. I expect river flooding to intensify later this week - the greatest concern is along the Red River flowing through Fargo, where a crest is still probably 1-2 weeks away. Urban flooding later this week is most likely from Des Moines into the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and possibly the greater Chicago area.
Summary: The calendar says April, but the weather maps still look like something out of early March. An unusually intense spring storm will elevate the risk of heavy wet snow (western Plains and Upper Mississippi Valley), significant river flooding from some 1-4" rainfall amounts, and a substantial risk of severe storms, hail, damaging winds and a few large, violent tornadoes by Tuesday from Dallas to Kansas City. After peaking in the 60s earlier today Denver will see 5-10" snow Monday night into Tuesday; I expect numerous delays and cancellations at KDEN Tuesday. We'll watch the storm unfold and provide updates as needed.
Impact Based Warnings. Minnesota is one of 14 states that will see new, enhanced wording of tornado warnings, to try to better reflect and communicate the risks to consumers in the potential path. Details from NOAA's Central Region: "An experimental National Weather Service warning enhancement will be used across much of the central U.S. this thunderstorm season (beginning April 1). This is an expansion of a smaller NWS experiment that began in Kansas and Missour in 2012. The Impact Based Warning (IBW) experimental product is an effort to better communicate severe weather threats within National Weather Service warnings. While the basic function of Severe Thunderstorm and Tornado warnings will remain the same, additional enhanced information will be provided within the warning to provide additional expected "impact" information. The goals are to provide more information through the warnings in order to facilitate improved public response and decision making, and to better meet societal needs in the most life-threatening weather events. This effort is in response to key findings from recent service assessments of devastating tornadoes in 2011, particularly the EF-5 tornado in Joplin, MO..."
Median Lake Ice Out Dates. The interactive map above shows median dates when most of the ice is off Minnesota's lakes. For Nokomis the date is April 5. Not this year. Map courtesy of the Minnesota DNR.
HydroClim Update. Here are a few bullet points from the latest update, courtesy of the Minnesota State Climate Office and the Minnesota office of the DNR:
* latest modeled snow depth from NOAA is here.
Weather, Disaster Agencies Turn To Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. Bill McAuliffe at The Star Tribune takea look at The Star Tribune takes a look at social media's impact on weather coverage, specifically severe storm tracking and communication. As I say in the article, I suspect it's a mixed blessing: nice to have more information, but be sure you're following "trusted sources" to get reliable, actionable information. Here's an excerpt: "With the season for quick-hitting storms about to barge into Minnesota, social media are about to become a key news tool. Indeed, public agencies concerned with natural disasters are glomming onto social media like so many teenagers, attracted to its instant, two-way connectivity. “It’s fast. It’s direct. It enhances our ability to deliver the message,” said Bruce Gordon, director of communications for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, whose 12 public information officers post breaking news, safety tips and even human interest stories on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube..."
38 Things Minnesotans Are Too Nice To Brag About. O.K. This is kind of funny, but rated PG. Buyer beware. Photo and article courtesy of Buzzfeed.
America's Most Bike-Friendly City? Minneapolis. At least according to Bicycle Magazine, which writes: "Despite the cold wintertime climate, Minneapolis has a thriving bike community. It has 120 miles of on- and off-street bicycle facilities, plus indoor bike parking and other cycling-friendly facilities."
48 F. high in the Twin Cities Sunday.
53 F. average high on April 7.
57 F. high on April 7, 2012.
Spring Lite. Look at the bright side: no bugs or humidity (yet). And no tornadoes - it's been much too cool and dry. O.K. I'm grasping at straws. The sun did peek thru yesterday, but highs were still 3-8 F. cooler than average, ranging from 30 at Alexandria to 46 St. Cloud, 48 MSP International to 49 Eden Prairie, Crystal and St. Paul.
TODAY: Few spring showers, mild. Winds: NE 5-10. High: 54
MONDAY NIGHT: Damp, a shower or two. Low: 39
TUESDAY: Cold rain. Icy mix possible up north late. High: 43
WEDNESDAY: Rain mixes with sleet, possible snow, some accumulation on lawns/fields, especially outside the metro. Wake-up: 33. High: 36
THURSDAY: What April? Wet snow. Few inches of accumulation - could be plowable. Wake-up: 32. High: 34
FRIDAY: Some sun - hope returns. Wake-up: 31. High: 41
SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, waiting for a real spring warm front. Wake-up: 28. High: 45
SUNDAY: A cold rain (wintry mix up north). Wake-up: 33. High: 42
When It Rains It Pours: Study Confirms Climate Change Will Keep Driving More Intense Precipitation. Here's a clip from a story at Think Progress: "...The NOAA study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, found that extreme precipitation events will become more intense this century as the globe continues to warm. Extra moisture expected from that warming will be the dominant factor fueling this increase in extreme precipitation, with a 20 to 30 percent more precipitation in the Northern Hemisphere by 2099.
The paper looked at three factors that go into the maximum precipitation value possible in any given location: moisture in the atmosphere, upward motion of air in the atmosphere, and horizontal winds. The team examined climate model data to understand how a continued course of high greenhouse gas emissions would influence the potential maximum precipitation. While greenhouse gas increases did not substantially change the maximum upward motion of the atmosphere or horizontal winds, the models did show a 20-30 percent increase in maximum moisture in the atmosphere, which led to a corresponding increase in the maximum precipitation value..."
Killing Pipeline Is Key To Climate Change Fight. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed written by climate scientist James Hansen in The Register-Guard: "...The draft review suggests the climate impacts of the pipeline are limited because the project will not substantially “induce growth in the rate of extraction in the oil sands.” This narrow analysis misses the mark. Researchers now say that the Alberta tar sands contain 360 to 510 billion tons of carbon — more than double that of all oil burned in human history. While only a fraction is considered economically recoverable right now, we humans are genius at finding new and better ways to dig junk out of the ground. Digging begets more digging. Once the big spigot is open, TransCanada will have every incentive to milk the massive tar sands basin for all it is worth..." (image: Clean Technica).
Getting Serious About A Texas-Size Drought. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times (subscription may be required): "...Other desperately dry states in the Midwest and West are facing similar challenges. Drought has hurt farmers in New Mexico and reduced California’s crucial mountain snowpack. Even the Great Lakes are at worryingly low levels. Drought conditions in the western half of the country are likely to persist at least through June, federal forecasters have warned. Over time, as the effects of climate change become more pronounced, hotter weather and longer dry spells will continue to threaten water supplies that are essential for development. Already the drought has led to consideration of wild, expensive ideas, like piping water hundreds of miles from the Missouri River to the parched Colorado River basin. Water traditionally has been mostly a state or local issue because communities draw supplies from nearby rivers or aquifers. But increasingly it is becoming a national one. Economies will rise and fall on the availability of water, whose price is inexorably marching upward. Litigation and rural-urban water conflicts are likely to intensify throughout the West and Midwest..."
Graphic credit above: Wesley Bedrosian
No Debate In The Scientific Community. Graph above courtesy of Greg Laden at scienceblogs.com.
How U.S. Energy Policy Fails To Address Climate Change. The Christian Science Monitor reports; here's an excerpt: "What never gets asked and answered definitively in the policy debate is this: What should our ultimate goal be and when should we aim to achieve it? The first part of the question has elicited so many answers from so many constituencies that I may not be able to represent them all here. But here is an attempt to categorize the main lines of thinking concerning the country’s energy goals:
Photo credit above: "Wind turbines of the Smoky Hill Wind Farm dot the countryside near Ellsworth, Kan. Perhaps the simplest way to manage the energy transition we must undergo would be to impose a high and ever rising tax on carbon, Cobb writes." Orlin Wagner/AP/File
Global Warming: 1,600 Years Of Ice In Andes Melted In 25 Years. Here's an excerpt from frenchtribune.com : "Providing one of the signs of global warming, glacial ice in the Peruvian Andes has started melting. A structure that took 1,600 years to build has fallen into the grip of high temperatures and melted within 25 years. The research has been conducted by Lonnie G. Thompson, the Ohio State University glaciologist. According to him, his team has worked from time to time on the Quelccaya ice cap for decades. Findings have been published in a paper that has been released online. Global warming is one of the results of man-made activities. This recent report has highlighted that the problem of global warming has reached its peak. This time the proof has been provided by margins of the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru..."
Even Doubter Wants To Prepare For Global Warming. Mother Nature News has the article; here's the intro: "Some still insist that climate change is a hoax, but the vast majority of Americans believe the globe is warming, a new survey finds — and they want to prepare for the worst. In fact, even 60 percent of climate-change doubters favored preparations, the survey found. Researchers collected opinions between March 3 and March 18 via an online questionnaire, using a nationally representative sample of 1,174 American adults, both English and Spanish speaking. The survey asked about climate-change beliefs and support for adaptation strategies to help coastal areas cope with the rising sea levels and frequent, intense storms that a warmer world could bring. The results showed that 82 percent of Americans are in favor of preparation..."
Photo credit above: "Sea level rise is swamping coasts. Rodanthe in the Outer Banks of North Carolina is pictured."(Photo: Andrew Kemp, Yale University)
Federal Study: Global Warming Means More "Extreme" Rains. Basic physics: warm up the atmosphere, even by a few degrees, and you increase the capacity of the sky overhead to hold more water vapor (which is itself another greenhouse gas). The result? More fuel for extreme rains (and snows). The Hill has the story; here's the intro: "Global warming will make cases of “extreme” rainfall even more intense and worsen flood risks, federal researchers say in the latest warning that climate change will likely worsen violent weather. A new federally led study explores how growing amounts of atmospheric water vapor due to global warming will affect what is called probable maximum precipitation. The report, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, forecasts an “accelerated water cycle with heavier extreme rains.” The study shows “a 20-30 percent expected increase in the maximum precipitation possible over large portions of the Northern Hemisphere by the end of the 21st century if greenhouse gases continue to rise at a high emissions rate,” NOAA said..."
Photo credit above: "The flooded Red River surrounds houses near Fargo, N.D., in 2010. Scientists say climate change will produce more intense storms, increasing the risk of damaging floods." (M. Spencer Green / Assoicated Press / March 21, 2010)
* The Los Angeles Times has another perspective on the potential for more extreme rains here.
Rising Seas Swallow 8 Cities In These Climate Change GIFS. Mashable has the story; here's an excerpt: "Climate change and global warming may cause sea levels to rise and flood coastal cities across the world. Over the past century, the Global Mean Sea Level has risen by 4 to 8 inches. And according to estimates by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (PDF), it will keep rising between 8 inches and 6.6 feet by 2100. How will the world look if that happens? In November of 2012, The New York Times published interactive maps displaying the effects of the sea level rising, in a series titled "What Could Disappear?" The maps show how much land the sea will claim in the future, if it rises by 5, 12, and 25 feet. Nickolay Lamm, a 24-year-old researcher and artist saw the interactive maps and wondered: "What would this actually look like in real life?" Lamm told Mashable in an email interview that "the only imagery I had of sea level rise came from Hollywood." So he decided to put his skills to work..."
O.K. On a Cold Scale of 1 to 10, 1 being minor goosebumps, 10 is Minnesota's record cold of -60 F. (Tower, on Groundhog Day 1996) - the next 36 hours will be a 4. Really.
Some readers have shared their fondest memories of the REAL arctic fronts that swept into town on a regular basis in the 70s. "Using a credit card to scrape the ice from the INSIDE of my windshield." "Holding my breath, so I wouldn't feel the ice crystals up my nose!" "Suddenly owning a Flintstone Car with tires made of concrete!" Ah, those were the days.
Today will be plenty cold, in fact you can count the high on two fingers (3 if you're bad with math, like me) - a wind chill of -20 F. If skies clear and winds ease, tonight may be the coldest of winter; Friday morning wake-up air temperatures from -12 to -16 F.
This will be a relatively quick, concentrated burst of pain. Saturday looks tolerable (upper teens!) with 20s Sunday; a thaw likely by late next week. Snow? Can I interest you in a fresh foot of lake effect over the U.P. of Michigan?
First sign of spring?
521 Record Highs: The map above shows record highs since Wednesday of last week. It does not include additional record highs yesterday. The warmth came tantalizingly close to Minnesota, low to mid 60s reached Chicago Tuesday. Map: Ham Weather.
Extended Outlook: February 6-12. NOAA's experimental NAEFS temperature trends show warmer than average conditions over much of the USA for the second week of February as bitter air finally retreats into northern Canada. The worst of the chill should be history by Saturday. Spread the news.
Warming Trend Next Week. The extremes in recent weeks have been impressive, as much as 50-60 degrees in some cities. A building ridge of high pressure coupled with a flow form the Pacific triggers milder weather the first week of February over the central third of the USA. Map: CPC and Ham Weather.
Tornado Aftermath. Alert News has some amazing footage of the aftermath of the Adairsville, Georgia tornado, which claimed at least one life (in a mobile home).
January - Or April? A surge of freakishly warm, humid weather out ahead of a vigorous cold front, coupled with unusually strong jet stream winds, sparked nearly 300 separate reports of wind damage yesterday, 7 tornadoes as of 8 pm yesterday evening. Details from SPC here.
Nighttime Tornadoes Are Worst Nightmare. Here's an overview of some new research from Northern Illinois University that shows that tornadoes that strike between midnight and dawn are 2.5 times more likely to result in fatalities, especially over the Mid South, from Arkansas into Tennessee and Kentucky. The problem is obvious: people are asleep, not monitoring media, apps or radio. How best to get the word out of an oncoming tornado at 2 am? NOAA Weather Radio. It may be the only thing that will set off a shrill alarm when there's a tornado warning for your county (if it has S.A.M.E. technology). Here's an excerpt of the article at Northern Illinois University: "A new study by Northern Illinois University scientists underscores the danger of nighttime tornadoes and suggests that warning systems that have led to overall declines in tornado death rates might not be adequate for overnight events, which occur most frequently in the nation’s mid-South region. Over the past century, the tornado death rate has declined, in large part because of sophisticated forecasting technology and warning systems. But the researchers found that the nighttime tornado death rate over the past century has not shared the same pace of decline as the rate for daytime tornadoes. “The proportion of nocturnal fatalities and killer tornado events has increased during the last half century,” said lead author Walker Ashley, an NIU meteorologist and professor of geography. “Unfortunately, this nocturnal fatality rate appears to be a major factor for the stalled decline in national tornado-fatality tallies during the past few decades....”
The Silver Lining In Drought: 5 Upsides To Rain-Free Weather. O.K. I'm a glass-half-full guy, but I'm not sure this one passes the smell test. Try explaining this to a farmer in Worthington or someone with lakeshore (in theory) on White Bear Lake, or towns in southwestern Minnesota where aquifers continue to recede, threatening agriculture and drinking water. But in the spirit of full disclosure here's an excerpt from a story at NPR: "Drought is mostly seen as a bad thing — and for good reason. It dries up crops, destroys landscaping and stops ships from moving. But even the lack of rain clouds has a bright side...Another upside of the drought? Fewer pests. And not just those plaguing grapes, but fewer bugs that, well, bug humans. Mike McClain at Metropolitan Mosquito Control District in the Twin Cities says the types of mosquitoes that drive people crazy tend to multiply after it rains. "And when you have real dry conditions that we did the last half of 2012, the actual number of complaints about mosquitoes and the number biting people tends to go way down," he says. "And that's a good thing. People are a little less irritated by mosquitoes during drought..."
* photo above courtesy of Timothy Butz in Ellicott City, Maryland, where Tuesday's high was a balmy 64 F.
66 F. record high in Buffalo yesterday. Old record: 56 F.
Are Tornado Alleys A Myth? It's all how you look at the data, right? Here's an excerpt of a fascinating perspective from Discovery.com: "...As she wrote in her AMS meeting poster, Tornado Alley and Dixie Alley are concepts coined by members of the meteorological community, specifically, Tornado Alley by Fawbush & Miller in 1952, and then Dixie Alley by Dr. Allen Pearson in 1971. “But no universal definition of either concept exists; they shift, expand, and shrink with different publications, authors, and purposes. They are sociopolitical rather than scientific concepts,” Henderson explained (you can see her poster here). The thing about the original Tornado Alley, she said, is that once it was established, it became the scientific standard against which other alleys were defined. The concept of a tornado-prone “alley” is a natural outgrowth of 20th century meteorological history. Tornado alleys are terms that have become “scientized,” she told me. “Scientization transforms sociopolitical concepts, ideas, and other phenomena into metrics that can be standardized and measured...” (photo: meteorologist Aaron Shaffer at WeatherNation TV).
Study Links Headaches And Migraines To Weather. Lightning as a possible trigger for serious headaches? Here's a clip from wkms.org: "If you've ever blamed the weather for a splitting headache, you might be right. A new University of Cincinnati study finds that lightning may affect the onset of headache and migraines. "What we found was that on days with lightning around the patients' homes there was approximately a 30-percent increase in headache activity, or headache occurrence, and also a 30-percent increase in migraine," said fourth-year medical student Geoff Martin, one of the researchers. The study looked at chronic headache sufferers. There are a number of ways lightning might be a trigger..." (Lightning photo: AP)
Research Spawns Stunning Hurricane Sandy Animations. Here are a few clips worth watching, courtesy of meteorologist Andrew Freedman at Climate Central: "...In Sandy's wake, researchers have tried to gain a better understanding of the characteristics of this fascinating storm, and their work has already resulted in some interesting insights. Mel Shapiro, an atmospheric scientist who studies how tropical storms and hurricanes transition into powerful extratropical storm systems, recently produced a series of astonishing animated visualizations showing the inner workings of Sandy as the storm moved up the Eastern Seaboard and eventually made landfall on the evening of Oct. 29. These visualizations were produced with an ultra-high resolution computer model run at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. Known as the ARW-WRF model, it used data from an operational computer model that the National Weather Service used to forecast the storm..."
Graphic credit above: "The animation above shows modeled particle trajectories that demonstrate how the low level air comes into Hurricane Sandy and then ascends to the outflow jet at the top of the troposphere. The outflow jet can be seen in red colors moving away from the storm, toward the Midwest. Particle trajectories help show how the air was flowing throughout the storm. This was done by simulating the movement of particles inserted into a modeled storm environment." Credit: Science by Mel Shapiro and Thomas Galarneau. Visualization by Alan Norton, NCAR Computational and Information Systems Laboratory, using VAPOR visualization software.
Twice As Many Structures In FEMA's Redrawn Flood Zone. Many homeowners living near the ocean will be forced to raise their homes by several feet, or risk not being able to qualify for any insurance. The New York Times has the story; here's an excerpt: "New federal flood maps released on Monday revealed the grim news that many New Yorkers were girding for after Hurricane Sandy sloshed away: More areas farther inland are expected to flood. Tidal surges will be more ferocious. And 35,000 more homes and businesses will be located in flood zones, which will almost certainly nudge up insurance rates and determine how some structures are rebuilt. (Photo above: Gizmodo).
"Superfog" Not To Be Taken Lightly, Expert Says. Here's an excerpt of an interesting article at gainesville.com that caught my eye: "The monster that formed over Paynes Prairie on Jan. 29, 2012, and led to what is believed to be the deadliest set of accidents in Florida history wasn’t merely fog or smoke or a combination of the two. It was a unique phenomenon that can arise when the conditions are ripe, and it could kill again. Meteorologist Gary Achtemeier with the U.S. Forest Service knows it well. He had named it “superfog” and warns it is not to be taken lightly. “There is only one course of action for a motorist encountering superfog, and it is not to drive. I liken it to a bridge collapse,” Achtemeier said. “It has to be stressed that it is a unique phenomenon and is extremely dangerous...”
Photo credit above: "Aerial view of Interstate 75 in Gainesville, Fla. where according to Florida Highway Patrol at least 9 people have died as a result of multiple crashes Sunday January 29, 2012 involving 4 commercial vehicles and at least 10 passenger vehicles. The majority of the accidents happened in an area adjacent to where a brush fire was burning and producing heavy smoke." Rob C. Witzel/Staff photographer
Research: Discovery Of Upper Atmosphere Bacteria That Affect Weather. Here's an excerpt from examiner.com: "...The finding is of interest to atmospheric scientists, because the microorganisms could play a role in forming ice that may impact weather and climate. Long-distance transport of the bacteria could also be of interest for disease transmission models. The microorganisms were found to be the appropriate size to facilitate the formation of water droplets and ice in the regions where they were discovered. When the air masses studied originated over the ocean, the sampling found mostly marine bacteria. Air masses that originated over land had mostly terrestrial bacteria. The researchers also saw strong evidence that the hurricanes had a significant impact on the distribution and dynamics of microorganism populations..."
Breathtaking 360-Degree Panorama Photo Taken Atop The World's Tallest Building. Isn't this where they filmed the Tom Cruise movie? Here's an excerpt from a story at gizmag.com: "Until the Sky City One tower is completed in China, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai can lay claim to being the tallest building in the world. Standing at a whopping 828 meters (2,717 ft), it's a must-visit destination for those traveling to the UAE. But now anyone can enjoy the building's stunning views from the comfort of their own home thanks to a photographer who recently composed a stunning 360-degree panorama image taken from on top of the Burj Khalifa...."
Popularity Of New Weather-Reporting App Stuns Officials. Have you downloaded "mPing" yet? Talk about crowd-sourcing weather; this app takes weather observations to the next level. Interactive Intelligence has the story; here's an excerpt: "...Already, the National Severe Storms Laboratory has received 22,000 reports in the first month the Precipitation Identification Near the Ground -- or PING -- app has been in use. That's five times the number of observations gathered by telephone over the past six years, Elmore said. And NOAA hasn't even begun promoting PING's existence. "It's unprecedented," Elmore said. "We have more than we ever thought we would" in such a short time. It's all due to social media, he said. Folks are hearing about the apps on sites such as Facebook and signing up for it..."
Experimental Cold Climate House Built In Japan. Wonder if this would work in Minnesota? Here's a snippet from one of my favorite sources for cutting-edge tech and sustainabiility news: gizmag.com: "Japanese architectural firm Kengo Kuma & Associates recently demonstrated its ethos of design inspired by light and nature with an experimental house in Hokkaido called "Même." The structure is designed for cold climates and whilst based upon the local Ainu people's “Chise” (House of the Earth), it uses modern materials for an insulated double skin membrane that promotes convection and maintains a comfortable internal environment due to heat circulation from its continually lit fire...."
26 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday.
25 F. average high for January 30.
44 F. high on January 30, 2012.
Trace of snow fell yesterday at KMSP.
* photo above snapped in southern Wisconsin, courtesy of Tom Purdy and WeatherNation TV.
Paul's Star Tribune Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:
TODAY: Wind Chill Advisory. Some sun. Won't help much. Windchill: -20. Winds: NW 15-25. High: 2
THURSDAY NIGHT: Clearing skies, possibly the coldest air temperature of winter. Low: -14 (immediate metro)
FRIDAY: Numbing start (but less wind). Dim sun. High: 6
SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, few flurries - coating possible. Wake-up: 3. High: 18
SUNDAY: Mix of clouds & sun. Better. Wake-up: 13. High: 27
MONDAY: Intervals of sun, cool breeze. Wake-up: 23. High: 26
TUESDAY: Next clipper. Burst of light snow. Wake-up: 19. High: 28
WEDNESDAY: Clouds increase, above average. Wake-up: 20. High: 29
* highs may reach the 30s again by the end of next week.
U.S. Temperature Trends Since 1900. Data courtesy of NOAA NCDC.
Millions of Acres Burned Since 1960 (USA). Data courtesy of The National Interagency Fire Center.
In Energy Taxes, Tools To Help Tackle Climate Change. There's growing concern among farmers about crop insurance, how a spate of recent disasters (Sandy comes to mind) and the federal deficit may put even more pressure on farmers grappling with a persistent drought over the nation's midsection. Here's an except of a New York Times story that caught my eye: "...The erratic weather across the country in the last couple of years seems to be softening Americans’ skepticism about global warming. Most New Yorkers say they believe big storms like Sandy and Irene were the result of a warming climate. Whether climate change is directly responsible or not, the odd weather patterns have underscored the risk that it poses to all of us. What’s yet to be seen is whether this growing awareness of the risks will translate into sufficient political support to address climate change, especially after we figure out the costs we will have to bear to do so. In his inaugural address, President Obama wove Hurricane Sandy and last year’s drought into a stirring plea to address climate change. “The failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” the president said..." (Photo: Star Tribune).
Climate Hawk: GOP Will "Pay In The Future" For Ignoring Climate Change. Yes, this is what I'm trying to explain to my friends on the right side of the political aisle. A few Republicans are paying attention; they seem to realize that this is a big deal, especially among younger voters. Here's an excerpt from Buzzfeed Politics: "U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, one of Congress' few outspoken environmental advocates, is making a new argument for legislative action on climate change: Lawmakers who oppose future measures to reverse global warming, Whitehouse argues, will pay a price — in votes. Whitehouse, who last Thursday announced the formation of a bicameral task force to address the issue, compared climate change to social issues like gay rights and immigration reform that Democrats claim are moving to the center. "I'm hoping we can convince Republicans that this is a big generational issue and, like being on the wrong side of immigration and gay rights, there will be a huge political price to pay in the future for being on the wrong side of climate change," said Whitehouse, the Democratic junior Senator from Rhode Island, in an interview with BuzzFeed..."
Fight Fire With Fire. Here's an overview of a Kickstarter project unlike anything you've ever seen: "Global warming might be real. The problem is that this unfortunate phenomenon hurts the pocket books of some really great Americans, like Charles and David Koch. We are two filmmakers who want to tell the other side of the story. If we can get enough funds together, we'll be able to make a documentary that discredits the current theory of Global Warming so that Charles and David can quit worrying about the earth and get back to their favorite pastime, making money...."
Groundwater Depletion Linked To Climate Change. We assume that when we drill a well, we'll eventually find (drinkable) ground water. But aquifer depletion is a real concern, especially over southwestern Minnesota. Here's a clip from a must-read article at ScienceDaily:..."Over-pumping of groundwater for irrigation is mining dry the world's ancient Pleistocene-age, ice-sheet-fed aquifers and, ironically, at the same time increasing sea-level rise, which we haven't factored into current estimations of the rise," says Allen. "Groundwater pumping reduces the amount of stored water deep underground and redirects it to the more active hydrologic system at the land-surface. There, it evaporates into the atmosphere, and ultimately falls as precipitation into the ocean." Current research estimates oceans will rise by about a metre globally by the end of the century due to climate change. But that estimation doesn't factor in another half-a-centimetre-a-year rise, says this study, expected due to groundwater recycling back into the ocean globally..."
Photo credit above: "SFU earth scientist Diana Allen has co-authored a major study linking groundwater depletion to climate change." (Credit: Image courtesy of Simon Fraser University).
Whispers From The Ghosting Trees. This is a very long (and rather haunting) explanation of why so many trees are sick and dying worldwide. Elevated levels of ozone may be the problem. An excerpt of this worthy read courtesy of ScienceBlogs: "...Is it merely a colossal coincidence that all over the world, within the past few decades and at a hugely accelerating rate, trees are dying? If it’s not a coincidence, what is the underlying factor? Fair warning – this post will be a long explanation as to how there is an underlying factor, and why it is pollution. One of the strongest and most persuasive evidence for me has been the visible damage to foliage and needles that became virtually universal several years ago. Serious, terminal damage can occur in roots before any of the classic symptoms appear on leaves…so the fact that by the end of the summer growing season, it is just about impossible to find a single leaf on a tree, bush, garden produce or ornamental flowering plant that ISN’T visibly injured indicates the extent to which the problem has intensified. Just about any link to my blog will include photos of typical leaf damage...."
Colorado: Are January Red Flag Fire Warnings In The Mountains Part Of A New Climate Reality? Here's an excerpt from The Summit County Citizens Voice: "January fire warnings, nearly unprecedented 30 years ago, have become more common the last decade. Illustrating the persistence of extraordinary drought conditions in parts of Colorado, the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag fire warning for the Rocky Mountain foothills west of Denver north to the Wyoming border and encompassing areas that were scorched by last summer’s High Park Fire. Boulder-based National Weather Service forecaster Mike Baker said the agency decided to post the warning after three wildfires were reported Wednesday (Jan. 24) within the span of an hour. All three fires were above 8.500 feet elevation on the east slope of the mountains along the Front Range, Baker said..."
Skating Rinks Monitor Climate Change. A grass-roots, citizen's crowd-sourced effort to track the impact of a warming climate across Canada, by monitoring ice skating conditions. Here's more from discovery.com: "In the latest citizen science venture, backyard ice skaters are monitoring climate change in Canada and the northern United States. After Canadian scientists predicted that global warming will eventually be the demise of backyard skating rinks, a group of geographers at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo created RinkWatch. In just 20 days, 630 volunteers signed up to keep tabs on the condition of their home rinks..."
Obama Talks Climate Change. California Is Acting On It. Here's a clip from a story at Time Magazine: "It’s not the happiest time to be an environmentalist. Climate change hit home last year with brutal force: 2012’s historic drought singed much of the Midwest, turning farms to dust and withering the corn crop. Other parts of the U.S. suffered through storms like Sandy and massive wildfires. Average annual temperatures in the continental U.S. beat the previous recorded high by a full 1°F (1.8°C). And the future is uglier still: over the weekend, the British economist Nicholas Stern warned that climate change could be even worse than he predicted in his sobering 2006 report on the financial impact of warming, while on Jan. 28 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a draft report outlining the serious threat that sea-level rise poses to the coastal U.S..."
I just had an eye-opening series of talks at TIES, an education technology collaborative that serves St. Paul school districts. Did you know parents can now receive text alerts when their kids skip class? Or log in and see upcoming assignments, and whether their child had fruit or candy for lunch? Yes, there's an app for that.
I was happy to see innovation & experimentation on display. "Fail as fast as you can" is the new mantra. If you're not failing - it means you're not really trying. The one thing that can't be automated, computerized or outsourced? Creativity. Something Minnesotans do very well.
I'd love to find a creative way to make it snow. We need moisture. Up to 1 inch of snow is possible early today; welcome 30s return for a glorious few hours by Monday. The next storm detours to our east Tuesday; then we get to enjoy a few more subzero nights late next week.
The jet stream is temporarily locked, howling from the Yukon, meaning a parade of numbing fronts into early February. A real winter, without the snow. Odd.
Barb Hollister, Guest Services Coordinator at TIES told me how much she LOVES winter. "It's a time to work on projects, slow down, read books, relax, wear big sweatshirts and cozy sweaters" she sighed.
Less yard work too.
"Take a look at this chart (below) of Twin Cities high/low readings from December of 1983...my second Minnesota winter. Ten straight days of double-digit below zero nightly readings in the metro. Six of the overnights were below -22 F. Six of the daily "highs" were in the negative numbers. And all of this during the holiday shopping season.
If this were to happen today schools would close, sirens would sound, TV stations would run primetime specials.
We are out of practice." - Brendan Henehan, Executive Producer of TPT's "Almanac" show.
Date High Low
Dec 16, 1983 3 -11
Dec 17, 1983 -4 -17
Dec 18, 1983 -11 -24
Dec 19, 1983 -11 -29
Dec 20, 1983 1 -22
Dec 21, 1983 11 -15
Dec 22, 1983 -12 -20
Dec 23, 1983 -17 -25
Dec 24, 1983 -10 -25
Dec 25, 1983 1 -11
This is getting old. We're just not accustomed to "arctic fronts". Last winter: 3 nights below zero. This winter? Probably closer to 10-13 nights of negative fun. So far we've experienced 6 nights below zero, compared with 3 subzero nights all last winter (average is 22.5). Sign me up for one of those .5 subzero nights please. The forecast calls for a family of clippers, a thaw early next week, a few more subzero nights late next week. Why so cold? Blame the Arctic Oscillation - a negative phase. That, and sudden stratospheric warming 2 weeks ago. Sounds like a painful medical ailment. Come to think of it - it is.
* photo: AP
Clipped Again. This morning's clipper may drop a coating to an inch of snow in the metro (when it's this cold the snowflakes puff up like feathers in a down comforter - and roads can be extra icy due to "wheel-track icing"....traffic compacting snow into a thin layer of ice). So AM Rush Hour may be extra-icy, an easier drive home later today. Some 2-4" amounts are possible closer to Crosby and Duluth.
News Of A Thaw. No, it can't come soon enough. I still think this will wind up being the coldest week of the entire winter, although a few more subzero nights are likely late next week. The ECMWF model shows highs near or just above 32 F. Sunday into Tuesday - the chance of a significant storm next week has evaporated. Big surprise.
Sudden Stratospheric Warming = Cold Intrusions Over Lower 48 States. Meteorologists look for cues. One big cue for subzero air is (paradoxically) sudden warming in the stratosphere, the upper atmosphere, where temperatures warm with altitude. This happened a couple weeks ago, as described by climate scientist Gavin Schmidt: "Stratospheric sudden warnings happen when there is a large planetary wave - usually originating in the tropics - that propagates northward and upward and disrupts the normal polar vortex. Think of it as an ocean wave breaking on a tide pool. The temperatures in the stratosphere near the pole go up a lot because of anomalous downward movement. The connection between the SSW and the surface winds are a well known phenomena - see papers by Baldwin and dunkerton a decade or do ago. After an SSW you get (after about 5-10 days) a negative phase AO associated with very non-zonal jet streams, leading to large temperature excursions (both +ve and -ve)." Image above courtesy of NOAA.
Arctic Oscillation Forecast. The AO reached a minimum earlier this week, coinciding with subzero air draining into the Lower 48 states of the USA. A more positive phase implies warming (nationwide) next week east of the Rockies. After February 1 it's anyone's guess - a wide divergence of solutions. I still suspect a very cold start to February, followed by moderation with 20s and 30s returning by the second week of February. Graphic above: NOAA.
Good Explanation Of Arctic Oscillation. Why should you care whether the phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) is negative or positive? Because if you know which way the atmosphere is leaning, you can make a better long range forecast. "Unusually mild winter with a persistent Pacific breeze [positive phase like we had most of last winter] or outbreaks of bitter cold [negative phase, like we've seen since mid-January of this winter]". This may be more than you've ever wanted to know, but here's a good description from The National Snow and Ice Data Center: "The Arctic Oscillation refers to opposing atmospheric pressure patterns in northern middle and high latitudes. The oscillation exhibits a "negative phase" with relatively high pressure over the polar region and low pressure at midlatitudes (about 45 degrees North), and a "positive phase" in which the pattern is reversed. In the positive phase, higher pressure at midlatitudes drives ocean storms farther north, and changes in the circulation pattern bring wetter weather to Alaska, Scotland and Scandinavia, as well as drier conditions to the western United States and the Mediterranean. In the positive phase, frigid winter air does not extend as far into the middle of North America as it would during the negative phase of the oscillation. This keeps much of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains warmer than normal, but leaves Greenland and Newfoundland colder than usual. Weather patterns in the negative phase are in general "opposite" to those of the positive phase, as illustrated below. Over most of the past century, the Arctic Oscillation alternated between its positive and negative phases. Starting in the 1970s, however, the oscillation has tended to stay in the positive phase, causing lower than normal arctic air pressure and higher than normal temperatures in much of the United States and northern Eurasia."
Arctic Oscillation graphic above courtesy of J. Wallace, at the University of Washington.
ENSO Outlook for 2013. Here is a prediction of ENSO probability (El Nino, La Nina) from The International Research Institute for Climate and Society. Odds favor "ENSO-neutral", which might help our ability to pull out of a long-term drought over the Plains and Upper Midwest. The worst-case scenario would be a La Nina cooling phase, which correlates with drought and much drier than average weather during the summer, especially central and southern Plains. We'll see.
"Paul... Here's an iPhone picture of me on Monday walking 4 miles at Bredesen Park in Edina. It was minus 7 at the time and the wind was blowing about 15 mph, so guess the wind chill was between minus 25 and 30. It's a self-portrait because no one else (except the coyotes) was around. My attire included, from the top, balaclava, neoprene mask, wool Navy watch cap, thinsulate-lined ski parka with hood, three layers, including heavy wool sweater, leather mittens with lining and skin-tight finger gloves inside, long johns, flannel-lined jeans, thermal socks and regular walking shoes. Bottom line: Felt nice and warm all the way around. Did it yesterday and today too."
* thanks to my rose-growing, investment-banking friend in Edina, Jack Falker, for sending this along.
"Ask Paul." Weather Related Q&A:
"Besides the lake levels and aquifers, the lack of snow is affecting winter sports too. My skiis are collecting dust and my naturalist-led snowshoe outing at Westwood Hills Nature Center are in danger of being canceled for the second year in a row. You know things are bad when you text friends in Iowa and beg them to send snow!"
John Porter, Minneapolis
John - I'm starting to wonder if this winter will rival last winter's 22.3" of snow. We've picked up 16.6" snow so far - last year on this date we had seen only 11.4". Will we make up for this snowfall deficit in late February or March? Perhaps, but we need snow now (at least for outdoor enthusiasts). Snow on the ground in March is a different animal than snow in January. Believe me, I'll send up a flare when I see an actual storm.
Bright Brown Over Southern Minnesota. There's precious little snow south of the Twin Cities, from Mankato to Rochester and Red Wing, only a coating to an inch or so in the immediate metro, maybe 2" far north and west metro. Parts of central Minnesota have about 6-8" of crusty snow on the ground. All in all the map above looks like something out of mid or late November, not late January. Source: NOAA.
USA Snow Cover. At least report, snow was on the ground over 39.6% of the nation, compared with 45.8% of the USA back on December 24, 2012. Map courtesy of NOAA.
Top Ten Sky Sights for 2013 for Minnesota
January 21 – Very close pairing of Moon and Jupiter
February 12-20 – Best view of Mercury this year
March 10-24 – Best view of comet PANSTARRS (Astronomers are still not sure if this comet will be great or a dud. How will it pan out?)
May 21-30 – Conjunction of Mercury, Venus, Jupiter (The wackos may be out again for this one, you know, planets aligning, end of world, etc)
June 23 – Biggest full Moon (Will be hyped but hard to tell the difference between this and other full moons)
August 12 – Peak of Perseid meteor shower
October 18 – Penumbral lunar eclipse
Mid Nov thru Dec – Comet ISON (Not sure of this one yet either but it looks promising.)
December – Venus as a beautiful evening object
Dec 13-14 Geminid meteor shower (I threw this in to make ten but it will be hindered by nearly full moon this year)
* my thanks to Parke Kunkle, Faculty of Minneapolis CTC and a volunteer at the amazing Bell Museum. You can sign up for the Astronomer's Update through the Bell Museum. They run monthly updates that include where to look for these sights and others. If you love astronomy (one of the many benefits of living in Minnesota's Big Sky Country) you should absolutely do this. Aurora image above courtesy of NASA and the International Space Station.
First Sunrise In 65 Days. Is a lack of sunlight making you a little loopy? Just be glad you didn't settle in Barrow, Alaska. Details from the Alaska NWS: "Residents of Barrow, Alaska watched the sun climb above the horizon for the first time in 65 days, after it set on November 18, 2012. The sun skirted along the southern horizon for about 43 minutes today. Tomorrow it will remain above the horizon for 1 hour and 27 minutes. The amount of sunlight will rapidly increase in Barrow until May 10th, at which point the sun will remain above the horizon for 24 hours a day for nearly 3 months. It was clear in Barrow today and a FAA webcam captured the short but welcome return of sunshine. Watch the sun trace across the horizon in the video below."
"Snowpig". Golf Cart Gets Pimped Into An Electric Snow-Blower. Wow. I need one of these, for the next time it snows. It will snow again....right? Pretty impressive, and eco-friendly to boot. Details from gizmag.com: "Canadian eco-enthusiast Dan Baker is at it again, pimping a golf cart into an electric snow-blowing machine. Last year Baker home built the Firefly solar-powered boat from scratch and this winter he’s determined not to be snowed in. Dubbed “Snowpig,” Baker built the snow blower as an alternative to an ATV/utility vehicle, with the added bonus of it being emissions free. “As far as I know this is the only vehicle of its type,” Baker told Gizmag..."
Hot Tub Boat Combines Cruising And Soaking. Hey, I've found the perfect boat! I wonder if they'll have one of these at The Boat Show, which kicks off next Thursday at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Gizmag.com has the hot, soggy details: "Can’t decide between lounging in the hot tub or going boating? Well, why not do both? People in and around The Netherlands can already do so, in a HotTug. Now, North Americans can also get in on the action, with the Hot Tub Boat. Manufactured in Seattle, the 6-passenger 15-foot (4.6-meter) vessel features an 8-foot (2.4-meter) rectangular hot tub, heated up to 104ºF (40ºC) by a built-in diesel boiler. The boat itself is propelled by a 24-volt electric drive system, maintaining a cruising speed of 4 knots..."
-6 F. low Thursday morning in the Twin Cities.
9 F. high at KMSP yesterday.
24 F. average high on January 24. The average high rises to 25 F. by January 28, up from 23 F. in mid-January. Progress.
24 F. high on January 24, 2012.
6 subzero nights so far this winter in the Twin Cities.
3 subzero nights all of last winter in the metro area.
Paul's Star Tribune Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:
TODAY: Partly sunny and breezy. Winds: NW 15-20. High: 17
FRIDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy, windy and colder. Low: -2
SATURDAY: Cold start. Sun should be out. High: 14
SUNDAY: Dim sun, getting better out there. Wake-up: 8. High: 28-30 F.
MONDAY: Gray. Badly-needed thaw. Wake-up: 20. High: 33
TUESDAY: Gusty, colder, few flurries. Wake-up: 25. High: 27
WEDNESDAY: Plenty of sun. Brisk! Wake-up: 2. High: near 10
THURSDAY: Patchy clouds, mostly numb. Wake-up: -3. High: 12
* the morning low at Duluth early Thursday was -21 F, about 56 degrees warmer than the water temperature of Lake Superior at Duluth. Photo of "sea smoke" courtesy of Wanda Brandt.
Exclusive: Billionaires Secretly Fund Attacks On Climate Science. This probably doesn't come as a shock, but this article at The Independent does come as confirmation; here's an excerpt: "A secretive funding organisation in the United States that guarantees anonymity for its billionaire donors has emerged as a major operator in the climate "counter movement" to undermine the science of global warming, The Independent has learnt. The Donors Trust, along with its sister group Donors Capital Fund, based in Alexandria, Virginia, is funnelling millions of dollars into the effort to cast doubt on climate change without revealing the identities of its wealthy backers or that they have links to the fossil fuel industry..."
How Climate Change Could Wipe Out The Western Forests. Here's an excerpt of an eye-opening story at The Atlantic: "...Like the hurricane season, statistics suggest the burn season is becoming longer and more severe. A recent study of fires on U.S. Forest Service land by Climate Central, a nonprofit research group that reports on the impacts of global warming, found "the first wildfires of the year are starting earlier and the last fires of the year are starting later, making typical fire years 75 days longer now than they were 40 years ago." Compared to the 1970s, the number of fires covering more than 10,000 acres has increased sevenfold. At the same time, a study published in the science journal Nature Climate Change in September predicted that by the 2050s, forests will experience the worst droughts in 1,000 years. The result will likely be more fires, but also more beetles, and more trees that just can't stand the heat. Soon, the landscape of the American West may be unrecognizable. In some cases, trees will regrow, although probably in sparser patches. Some may be replaced by different species. But especially in drier, hotter areas like New Mexico and Arizona, the forests are on course to disappear altogether..."
Photo credit above: "
Scientists Dismiss Geo-Engineering As Global Warming Quick Fix. As I keep telling people - there is no silver bullet, but there's plenty of silver buck-shot; thousands of ways we can reduce greenhouse gases and become more energy efficient (and independent). Here's an excerpt from a blog post at Smithsonian: "Installing a giant mirror in space to block sunlight, dispersing mass quantities of minerals into the oceans to suck carbon dioxide from the air and infusing the Earth’s upper atmosphere with sun-reflecting chemicals might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but they’re actual techniques that have been contemplated by scientists as possible quick solutions to climate change. More specifically, they’re examples of geo-engineering, a hotly contested subset of climate science whereby the Earth’s environment is intentionally manipulated in order to mitigate the effects of global warming. Since cutting greenhouse gas emissions has been something of an exercise in futility, the idea behind geo-engineering is to put systems in place that manage the carbon dioxide that’s already emitted into the atmosphere. The two basic methods are solar radiation management—whereby a small amount of the sun’s heat and light is reflected back into space—and carbon dioxide removal, which involves the capture of CO2 or its uptake by the oceans..."
Photo credit above: "A new study shows that dispersing minerals into oceans to stem global warming would be an inefficient and impractical process." By Kent Smith
Climate Change Beliefs Of Independent Voters Shift With The Wind. Looking out the window for evidence of "global" warming? A bit simplistic. Keeping a global perspective on long-term climate trends is challenging, even for meteorologists. That's why we have climate scientists doing most of the important work. Here's an excerpt from Science Daily: "...New research from the University of New Hampshire finds that the climate change beliefs of independent voters are dramatically swayed by short-term weather conditions. The research was conducted by Lawrence Hamilton, professor of sociology and senior fellow at the Carsey Institute, and Mary Stampone, assistant professor of geography and the New Hampshire state climatologist. "We find that over 10 surveys, Republicans and Democrats remain far apart and firm in their beliefs about climate change. Independents fall in between these extremes, but their beliefs appear weakly held -- literally blowing in the wind..."
Graphic credit above: "Predicted probability of “climate change is happening now, caused mainly by human activities” response as a function of temperature anomaly and political party." (Credit: Lawrence Hamilton and Mary Stampone/UNH)
Obama's Climate Challenge. Here's an excerpt of a long, but thorough Rolling Stone article: "...Now Obama gets another shot at it. "The politics of global warming are changing fast," says Kevin Knobloch, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Thanks to a year of extreme weather and Hurricane Sandy, a large majority of Americans – nearly 90 percent – favor action on global warming, even if there are economic costs. The U.S. economy is on the road to recovery and no longer offers an excuse for inaction. Big Coal, traditionally the loudest voice against climate action, has been weakened by a glut of cheap natural gas and the economic viability of solar and wind power. China has new political leadership that appears open to discussing a global agreement to cut carbon. And Obama himself has nothing left to lose..."
New Analysis Shows Simple Math: Keystone XL Pipeline = Tar Sands Expansion = Climate Change. Here's an excerpt from a blog post at The Natural Resources Defense Council: "New research confirms what we have heard time and again from the industry itself: the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will be a direct cause of an increase in tar sands oil development. More tar sands oil taken out of the ground means more dangerous pollution that hurts our climate and health. And, this new research also shows that tar sands will cause even more climate pollution than we previously thought due to the impacts of the high carbon byproduct petroleum coke. This is especially important in a time where our communities are feeling the damage of climate change in violent storms, wildfires, droughts and floods. Just recently a federal advisory panel—established by Congress in 1990 to analyze climate research—released the draft of its third National Climatic Assessment. The report confirmed there is “unambiguous evidence” that the earth is warming...."
Two Hopeful Signs The Obama Administration Will Not Approve The Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline. Joe Romm at Think Progress has the story; here's the intro: "50-50. Those were the odds you could get in DC for a bet on whether or not Obama would ultimately approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
But this week I think the odds turned against the pipeline, for two reasons: