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.

Record 51F High Monday - Much of Minnesota Suddenly Snow-Free

Posted by: Paul Douglas under Lions, NFC Updated: December 15, 2014 - 9:29 PM

Wacko Weather

So let me get this straight. After a cold, white Thanksgiving, and a 3-day stretch of Easter-like 50s and rain in mid-December, odds now favor a cold (brownish) Christmas? No wonder we're all so confused.

And yes, just about any other December yesterday's precipitation would have translated into a cool half foot of snow. Not this year. Slushy exhaust at the tail-end of Monday's storm creates a few icy patches this morning with highs stuck in the mid-20s, close to average for December 16. A dry, seasonably chilly sky lingers into Sunday. Good news for Christmas travel across the Upper Midwest.

“A day without sunshine is like, you know, night" Steve Martin said. He was onto something. The recent canopy of crud, fog and mist - coupled with the usual holiday insanity and stress - has left many of us in a deep, dark funk. The sun may peek out by Wednesday & Thursday as drier Canadian air finally breaks up a very persistent inversion.

The Winter Solstice arrives Sunday at 5:03 PM CST, the least daylight of the year - and the worst day to get a tan in the northern hemisphere.

We thaw out again early next week before a cold front swoops in Christmas Day, with highs in the teens & single digits. Ouch.


Slightly Warmer Than Average Next 9 Days. Although we won't be flirting with 50 again anytime soon I do see another thaw Sunday into Tuesday of next week, followed by a potential temperature tumble by Christmas Day. I'm not convinced the high on December 25 will be 7F in the Twin Cities, but there's little doubt it will cool off around Christmas. Right now I don't see this cold surge spinning up any significant snowstorms, but a light mix is possible by Monday and Tuesday of next week.


Extended Outlook: Colder, But Not Exactly Frigid. Temperatures above 0F in late December? After last winter that seems almost reasonable. The first surge of colder air arrives around Christmas Day, a second reinforcing shot of chilly air around New Year's Eve. The pattern looks very dry for the next 2 weeks; I see no evidence of significant snow accumulation through the end of 2014. NOAA GFS guidance.


Prevailing Jet Stream Winds December 21-25. I still don't see any evidence of the supernaturally strong ridge of high pressure returning for western North America, which would, in turn, increase the risk of a Conga-line of cold fronts hurtling southward direct from the Arctic Circle. Whether it's a symptom of a brewing El Nino or just natural atmospheric variability there is a tendency toward troughiness and more major Pacific storms pushing into California, with a more persistent west-northwest pattern than we saw last winter.


Have a Numbing New Year! Cold, but probably not subzero. Hey, it's a start! Based on NOAA GFS guidance the wind flow aloft takes a northwest turn the last couple days of December, allowing cold air to flow south. At this point I see little risk of a persistent block similar to last year, where polar air remained stalled over the eastern two third's of America for the better part of 90 days. Source: GrADS:COLA/IGES.


Shrinking Snow Pack. Winter is in reverse, at least for the next week to 10 days. Here's the latest USA snowcover map from NOAA - which reports that the percentage of the USA (lower 48) with snow on the ground fell from 28.5% on November 15 to 27.6% yesterday. Blame (or thank) a developing El Nino warm phase in the Pacific for hijacking jet stream winds aloft and keeping them blowing more from the west than northwest in recent weeks.


Where'd The Snow Go? Snowmobilers are not happy. Neither are area ski resorts and cross-country skiers. Hockey players looking for ideal conditions on area rinks and ponds aren't thrilled either. We obviously added to snow cover over parts of western and central Minnesota overnight, but yesterday's snowcover map looks more like late October than mid-December. Source: NOAA.


Negative Phase Of AO and NAO = Colder Fronts. The last couple of weeks the AO (Arctic Oscillation) and NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) have been strongly positive, correlating with strong west to east (zonal) winds pushing relatively mild, Pacific air into much of the USA. NOAA forecasts both AO and NAO to become strongly negative again by the end of December, meaning a higher amplitude pattern capable of pulling in much colder air. Not polar-vortex cold, but cold enough to get your attention.


Climate Model Consensus: Mild Bias First Quarter of 2015. We'll see, and no, I wouldn't bet the farm on a 90 day extended outlook, but most of the climate models run by NOAA CPC (Climate Prediction Center) show a mild bias for much of North America January, February and March of 2015. Only the GFDL FLOR and NASA's GEOS5 climate models show a chilly bias east of the Rockies. Either way, El Nino should reduce the odds of an extended blocking pattern capable of creating the polar pain we enjoyed last winter.


Earth Had 7th Warmest November on Record; Still On Track For Warmest Year. Meteorologist Jason Samenow at The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang has an update; here's an excerpt: "...After achieving its warmest August, September and October on record, the Earth’s temperature stepped back from record-setting levels in November, NOAA reports.  It was the 7th warmest November on record (dating back to 1880), but the planet remains on track to have its warmest year – though just barely. The average temperature of the oceans remained at record-setting levels in November, extending the streak of record warm seas to six straight months (May-November).  But land areas only ranked 13th warmest..."

Map credit above: "November 2014 temperatures difference from 20th century average." (NOAA)


NOAA Looks To Build The Next Generation Of Hurricane Planes. TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune, has news of an RFP from NOAA for a (sturdy) new plane capable of sending back even more data; here's an excerpt: "...But Kermit and its sister Orion, Miss Piggy, are getting long in the tooth. Each plane, which came on line in the mid-70s, has flown more than 10,000 hours and into more than 80 hurricanes. With the pounding they’ve taken, the planes are undergoing a $35 million refurbishing job to extend their service lives for another 15 to 20 years. Given that there will still be hurricanes to hunt past the year 2030, NOAA is looking to develop the next generation of Kermits and Miss Piggys. To that end, it has put out a solicitation looking for companies that can help figure out what kinds of sensors and other data-gathering equipment will be needed in the future..." (WC130 "Hurricane Hunter" aircraft photo: NOAA).


Trillions and Quadrillions: Numbers Tell U.S. Energy Story. 10 years ago who would have predicted that North Dakota would become the rough equivalent of an energy superpower? Here's an excerpt from Climate Central: "...Just as the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that the crude oil production in the U.S. is expected to continue booming even as oil prices decline, the federal government put out an interactive map showing just how production of energy of all kinds has increased over the past 20 years or so, and where those production hotspots are. For example, in 2012, the U.S. produced a total of about 79,000 trillion Btu or about 79 quadrillion btu of energy, up from about 68 quadrillion Btu in 1993. By comparison, the average U.S. household burns about 89.6 million Btu of energy each year..."

Map credit above: "The largest energy producing hotspots in the U.S. as of 2012, part of a new U.S. Department of Energy interactive map showing the growth in energy production across the U.S." Credit: DOE.


"Sunn Light: An Artificial Sun In Your Family Room?" I am tempted to run out and buy one of these to help with my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but it's a Kickstarter project - those of us who are sun-deprived will just have to be patient. Here's an excerpt from Gizmag: "...There are two sizes of Sunn Light: the smallest measures 48.6 cm (19 in), contains a total of 240 LEDs, and outputs a maximum of 3,300 lumens, while the larger measures 60 cm (24 in), features 330 LEDs, and outputs up to 5,500 lumens. Both can be hung on a wall like a picture frame or professionally fitted, and you can install essentially as many Sunn Light units as you'd want (at least 100). Once paired with an iOS or Android device via Bluetooth, a Sunn Light detects its latitude and longitude, and mimics the natural rhythm of the sun in that area..."


15 Fun Facts About Fruitcake. Yes, how bored are you right now? For more than you EVER wanted to know about fruitcake check out this link from mental_floss; here's a clip: "Loved or hated, but very rarely anything in between, fruitcake has long been the holiday season’s favorite neon-dotted loaf, joke, and re-gift. But in addition to being the baked good that never dies (literally—there are a couple century-old fruitcakes in existence), it has also traveled to space, become some towns’ claims to fame (“Fruitcake Capital of the World,” Home of the “Great Fruitcake Toss”), and, somewhat recently, suddenly gave an 89-year-old woman a brand new career..."


The 4 Stages of Life. No explanation required.


51R. Monday's high of 51F broke the old record of 49F set in 1923.

27 F. average high on December 15.

4 F. high on December 15, 2013.

.15" rain fell yesterday at KMSP. St. Cloud picked up .38" of rain.

0" of snow on the ground at MSP International Airport. First time 0" reported since November 9.

Trace of snow on the ground at Duluth, where .51" of rain fell yesterday.


December 15 in Minnesota Weather History. Source: Twin Cities National Weather Service:

2000: A surface low pressure system tracked east-northeast through Iowa on the 18th and then into western Illinois during the early evening hours. Extreme south central and southeast Minnesota received 6 to 10 inches of snow, including Albert Lea with 10.5 inches, Kiester and Bixby with 6.0 inches.

1972: Fairmont had its fifteenth consecutive day with lows at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit.

1940: Snowstorm hits state. Water equivalent of the snow was 1.27 inches at Winona.


TODAY: AM slushy roads - slick spots, clouds linger with a cold wind. Feels like 10F. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 25

TUESDAY NIGHT: Partial clearing, colder. Low: 15

WEDNESDAY: Rare sunshine sighting? Less wind. High: 23

THURSDAY: Peeks of sun, chilly and dry. Wake-up: 14. High: 26

FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy, good travel weather. Wake-up: 17. High: near 30

SATURDAY: More clouds than sun, no drama. Wake-up: 20. High: 32

SUNDAY: Still gray, with a welcome PM thaw. Wake-up: 22. High: 33

MONDAY: Cloudy, breezy and milder. Wake-up: 29. High: 38


Climate Stories....

Warmer Pacific Ocean Could Release Millions of Tons of Seafloor Methane. We are conducting an experiment on Earth's cryosphere, atmosphere and oceans, and we're not exactly sure how this will all turn out. The University of Washington has an article focused on warming seas, and the implications of warmer ocean water; here's a clip: "...Off the West Coast of the United States, methane gas is trapped in frozen layers below the seafloor. New research from the University of Washington shows that water at intermediate depths is warming enough to cause these carbon deposits to melt, releasing methane into the sediments and surrounding water. Researchers found that water off the coast of Washington is gradually warming at a depth of 500 meters, about a third of a mile down. That is the same depth where methane transforms from a solid to a gas. The research suggests that ocean warming could be triggering the release of a powerful greenhouse gas..."

Graphic credit above: "Sonar image of bubbles rising from the seafloor off the Washington coast. The base of the column is 1/3 of a mile (515 meters) deep and the top of the plume is at 1/10 of a mile (180 meters) deep." Brendan Philip / UW.


Past Global Warming Similar To Today's: Size, Duration Were Like Modern Climate Shift, But In Two Pulses. Here's an excerpt from a very interesting story at phys.org: "The rate at which carbon emissions warmed Earth's climate almost 56 million years ago resembles modern, human-caused global warming much more than previously believed, but involved two pulses of carbon to the atmosphere, University of Utah researchers and their colleagues found. The findings mean the so-called Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, or PETM, can provide clues to the future of modern climate change. The good news: Earth and most species survived. The bad news: it took millenia to recover from the episode, when temperatures rose by 5 to 8 degrees Celsius (9 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit)...."

The rate at which carbon emissions warmed Earth's climate almost 56 million years ago resembles modern, human-caused global warming much more than previously believed, but involved two pulses of carbon to the atmosphere, University of Utah researchers and their colleagues found.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-12-global-similar-today-size-duration.html#jCp
The rate at which carbon emissions warmed Earth's climate almost 56 million years ago resembles modern, human-caused global warming much more than previously believed, but involved two pulses of carbon to the atmosphere, University of Utah researchers and their colleagues found.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-12-global-similar-today-size-duration.html#jCp

A Single Word In The Peru Climate Negotiations Undermines The Entire Thing. Here's a clip from a story by Eric Holthaus at Slate: "...In the final version of the text, developing countries largely got their way—including language referencing a temperature rise of just 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, a target so ambitious that it would likely require a single-minded global focus—but one key word related to international oversight of the emissions reductions plans was changed from "shall" to "may" at the request of China. Had the re-write not occurred, a leaked strategy document showed a coalition of some influential developing countries, including India, were prepared to scrap the entire agreement..."

* The final U.N. statement from Lima, Peru is here.


We Could See More And More "Hot Droughts" Like California's. Here's an excerpt from an interesting read at FiveThirtyEight: "...But it’s not merely low precipitation levels that make the current drought extraordinary, Griffin said. It’s also exceptionally hot temperatures. California’s dry spell qualifies as a “hot drought,” where high temperatures evaporate whatever moisture is trying to make its way into the soil. The researchers calculated that record-high temperatures may have exacerbated drought conditions by about 36 percent. (The chart [above] is based on California temperature data from NOAA.)..."


"Climate Change" or "Global Warming?" Two New Polls Suggest Language Matters. Here's an excerpt from a blog post at Scientific American: "...Several academic studies have attempted to measure whether there is a difference in how we perceive or respond to “climate change” and “global warming” with mixed results. Poll responses can also be influenced by where a question appears in a survey and several other factors. Still, we do know Democrats and Republicans certainly use these terms differently...."


China's Glaciers Shrink By 18 Percent In Half Century. China's media outlet, Xinhua, has the story - here's the introduction: "China's glaciers have retreated by about 7,600 square km, an 18 percent retreat since the 1950s, Chinese scientists have found. A survey using remote sensing data between 2006 and 2010 showed China had 48,571 glaciers covering 51,840 square km in the west region, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which released its second catalog of the country's glaciers on Saturday. An average of 243.7 square km of glacial ice had disappeared every year over the past half century, according to the survey by the CAS Cold and Arid Regions Research Institute..."


How The "War on Coal" Went Global. Politico has the story - here's a snippet: "...Just a few years ago, domestic producers had high hopes for selling coal to energy-hungry Asia, but prices in those markets are plummeting now amid slowing demand and oversupply, ceding much of the market space to cheaper coal from nations like Indonesia and Australia. Meanwhile, a lot of U.S. coal can’t even get out of the country, thanks to greens’ success in blocking proposed export terminals in Washington state and Oregon. And China, the world’s most voracious coal customer, just pledged to cap its use of the fuel and is promising to curb its greenhouse gas pollution..."


Whaaat? 20 Percent of Americans Still Don't Believe in Global Warming. I'm not a fan of the word "believe", as if there's something subjective to talk about here. It's more acknowledging the mountains of scientific evidence, and avoiding conspiracy theories. Here's a clip from Fusion which provides a little perspective: "...Some experts suggest that most global warming or climate change deniers cannot or will not accept scientific findings because of closely held ideological or religious beliefs. It’s also worth pointing out that 36 percent of Americans believe in UFOs, and that 15 percent of U.S. voters say the government or the media adds mind-controlling technology to TV broadcast signals..."


Climate Change Takes a Village. Huffington Post has the article; here's an excerpt: "...The remote village of 563 people is located 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle, flanked by the Chukchi Sea to the north and an inlet to the south, and it sits atop rapidly melting permafrost. In the last decades, the island's shores have been eroding into the sea, falling off in giant chunks whenever a big storm hits. The residents of Shishmaref, most of whom are Alaska Native Inupiaq people, have tried to counter these problems, moving houses away from the cliffs and constructing barriers along the northern shore to try to turn back the waves. But in July 2002, looking at the long-term reality facing the island, they voted to pack up and move the town elsewhere..." (File image of Shishmaref: NOAA).

Rain Ends as 1-2" Slush Tonight. Another Thaw by Christmas

Posted by: Paul Douglas Updated: December 14, 2014 - 9:29 PM

December Puddles

Emerging from hibernation can be awkward. "Let me be the 100th person to ask if we're having a white Christmas" my neighbor, Teri, asked me yesterday. Not looking good, I answered. It could be the first brown Christmas in 3 years. "Can you explain that to 7 family members driving up from Texas? One of them has never seen snow. He will be crushed" she sighed.

Snow for Christmas is no longer a sure thing. Winters are becoming ever-weirder. More volatile. According to Dr. Mark Seeley Minnesota has seen a 4X increase in mid-winter rain and ice since 2000.

Exhibit A: today. Expect moderate rain as temperatures fall through the 40s. An inch or two of slushy snow piles up tonight at the tail-end of the storm - the same storm that clobbered California with flooding rains, mudslides, even a small tornado in the skies above L.A. Friday.

Here's what I believe: we'll see our fair share of cold fronts and snowstorms this winter. But El Nino will take the edge off the coldest air. I would wager a (stale) bagel that this winter won't be as persistently bitter as last.

After cooling off to average this week with a rare sunshine sighting expect another thaw just in time for Christmas.


Slushy Monday Night. Models are converging on an inch or two of snow for the Twin Cities tonight, maybe a little more north and west of MSP, less south and east of the downtowns. Although I don't expect much snow, temperatures falling into the 20s will ice up any wet wet, slushy roads after 6-7 PM or so.


Advisories and Warnings. The Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for Carver and Wright counties, deeper in the cold air, for a few inches of accumulation from late afternoon into the wee hours of the morning. Winter Storm Warnings are posted from Marshall to Montevideo to Willmar for some ice and 3-5" amounts.


60-Hour Snowfall Animation. An area of rain rotating north (the soggy remains of the massive storm that smacked California late last week), and then as the column of air overhead rapidly cools a changeover to snow is likely from southwest to northeast across the state by late afternoon and evening. NAM guidance: NOAA and HAMweather.


Nuisance to Plowable. The best chance of enough snow to shovel and plow comes over southwest Minnesota this afternoon into tonight, some 3" amounts near Willmar and LIttle Falls, closer to 1-2" from St. Cloud into the Twin Cities. I expect mostly rain up until late afternoon; probably wet roads for the Twin Cities for the drive home later today, but increasingly slushy roads after 7-8 PM.


The Inevitable Correction. After pushing into the low 50s over the weekend temperatures drop through the 40s today, reaching the 30s by late afternoon. Rain ends as a period of wet snow tonight, and then dry weather prevails Tuesday into Monday, the 22nd. European guidance hints at a mix next Tuesday; if we do see a white Christmas (1" or more on the ground) it'll be by the skin of our teeth.


No Tailwind for Santa. Prevailing winds from December 20-24 are forecast to be from the west-northwest, blowing more Pacific air into the Lower 48, moderating just how cold it can get through Christmas. We're due for a temperature correction, which may be shaping up for the last few days of 2014. Map: NOAA.


Extended Outlook: Colder, But Not Exactly Polar. NOAA's GFS model shows little change in prevailing jet stream winds by the end of the month, but colder air will begin to drain southward over Canada, setting the stage for a real cold front in time for New Year's Eve festivities. Map: GrADS:COLA/IGES.


Christmas Thaw - Much Colder By New Year's Eve. Long-range GFS numbers show highs above freezing Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; not one of our whiter Christmases in recent years. Highs may hold in single digits and teens the last few days of December as a series of real cold fronts take a test drive overhead.


Maps: Tornadoes in California Aren't As Rare As You Might Think. Gawker does a good job of putting Friday's (tiny) tornado in south Los Angeles into perspective; here's an excerpt: "...Between 1950 and 2013, there were 403 confirmed tornadoes in California, coming out to an average of around 6 or 7 tornadoes per year. The vast majority of them occurred in the Central Valley, but you can see a tight cluster of tornadoes down around Los Angeles. Most of the twisters are weak, with 66% of those surveyed by meteorologists rating either F0 or EF0 (we switched from the Fujita Scale to the Enhanced Fujita Scale in 2007). A handful of tornadoes recorded in the state have been significant, with 23 clocking in at F/EF2 and two achieving F3 status..." (Map credit: Dennis Mersereau, The Vane).


"How's The Weather?" Becomes a Loaded Question. Yes, we are all armchair meteorologists (and climate experts) now. Here's an excerpt from a New York Times article: "...According to a recent report by the World Bank Group, extreme weather events could become the new “climate normal.” In this world of “increased risks and instability,” it seems we find comfort in being armed with the facts. With access to the storm-surge of information on our smartphones, we are all meteorologists now. Just a few years ago, terms like extreme snowfall or polar vortex were familiar only to professionals; today, they are bandied about in coffee shops and office elevators..."


The Pilots of Instagram: Beautiful Views From The Cockpit, Violating Rules of the Air. Yes, if I was a pilot I'd probably be taking (illegal) selfies with me and the weather out the cockpit window too - so I sympathize. The FAA may not be so sympathetic. Here's a clip from Quartz: "The pilots of Instagram are internet famous. Their stunning photos of the skies, captured from their unusual perspective inside the cockpit, garner hundreds, sometimes thousands of likes from fans. But taking photos, or using most any electronic device, while piloting a commercial aircraft is prohibited by American and European regulators. Pilots for airlines large and small, flying planes of all sizes, seem to be violating the safety rules, taking photos with their phones as well as GoPro cameras mounted inside the cockpit..." (Images above: Instagram).



50 F. high in the Twin Cities Sunday.

27 F. average high on December 14.

16 F. average high on December 14.

1/10th of an inch of snow has fallen during the first 14 days of December.

5.7" snow should have fallen since December 1.

8.9" snow fell between December 1-14, 2013.


TODAY: Periods of rain as temperatures fall. NE 10-20. High: 48 early, reaching upper 30s by late afternoon.

MONDAY NIGHT: Wet snow, an inch or two possible. Getting slippery. Low: 26

TUESDAY: Slick start. Mostly cloudy with a colder wind. Feels like 15F. HIgh: 27

WEDNESDAY: More clouds than sun, chilly. Wake-up: 14. High: 23

THURSDAY: Risk of spying the sun. Still brisk. Wake-up: 13. High: 25

FRIDAY: Sunny peeks, good travel weather. Wake-up: 15. High: 28

SATURDAY: Light winds, average temps. Wake-up: 18. High: 30

SUNDAY: Still gray, quiet for late December. Wake-up: 19. High: 31

* File photo: Robert F. Bukaty, AP.


Climate Stories....

Global Average Temperature Cools A Bit in November, But No Pause in Global Warming - And There Never Was One. A long headline, but Discover has a very good article explaining the fallacy of the alleged "temperature pause". The vast majority of extra heat is going into the world's oceans, which may accelerate sea level rise and fuel stronger hurricanes. Here's a clip: "...In fact, as many papers pointed out, there has been no real overall pause: the Earth system has been continuing to accumulate heat, thanks to humankind’s emission’s of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It’s just that a lot of that heat seems to have been going into the oceans, slowing the rise in temperatures at the surface. Moreover, it’s important to emphasize that each of the last three decades has been warmer at the surface than every preceding one back to the start of modern record keeping in the 1880s..."

Graph credit above: "Global average temperature trend, 1998-present." Source: Stefan Rahmstorf/RealClimate.


Weather Bombs, Polar Vortex: Global Warming's Influence on Extreme Weather. No, it's probably not your imagination. Here's an excerpt from Stanford and Science 2.0: "...The media are often focused on whether global warming caused a particular event," says Diffenbaugh, who is a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. "The more useful question for real-world decisions is: 'Is the probability of a particular event statistically different now compared with a climate without human influence?'" His belief is based on three elements of varying rigor: climate observations, climate computer simulations which estimate variations in climate and statistics to reconcile the first two..."


What We Learned About Climate Change in 2014, in 6 Scary Charts. Here's an excerpt from ThinkProgress: "...The 2014 chart I consider the most important is not the prettiest or simplest. But it is the one that best captures our latest understanding of what has emerged as the greatest danger to humanity this century from human-caused climate change — Dust-Bowlification and the threat to our food supplies. This map of the global drying we face uses the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), a standard measure of long-term drought. It is excerpted from the study, “Global warming and 21st century drying...”

Graphic credit above: "Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) for 2080-2099 with business-as-usual warming. By comparison, during the 1930s Dust Bowl, the PDSI in the Great Plains rarely exceeded -3 (see here)." Source: Cook et al. and Climate Progress.

Wintry Intermission: 50+ One Week Before Winter Solstice

Posted by: Paul Douglas Updated: December 14, 2014 - 8:03 AM

Dirty Gray

No, this is not halftime. If winter was a football game we'd be 5 minutes into the second quarter. But I'm grateful for a lack of atmospheric penalties. 50 degrees a week before the Winter Solstice is a welcome reprieve. Time to exhale.

A year ago tomorrow the high was 4F in the Twin Cities. We had already muddled through 5 subzero nights by December 14, 2013 - a preview of coming attractions.

So I won't complain about an inversion, fog, drizzle and bad air. An air pollution advisory is still in effect. I almost drove off the freeway after seeing the big digital sign overhead reminding me "not to idle". OK. Walk the dog, wash the car; soak up late March because a minor correction is coming.

Rain today and Monday ends as an inch of slush Monday night; the best chance of a coating of snow north and west of the MSP metro.

That may be the only real chance of snow between now and Christmas Day. It'll be cold enough for snow by Tuesday, but El Nino detours big storms south of Minnesota.

I see no evidence of a bitter blocking pattern similar to last winter setting up. Christmas 2014? A shot at 40F with rain showers. No snow? Not to worry. Remember, Santa has "rain-deer".


Nuisance - Almost Plowable Late Monday. Here's the early morning NAM solution for accumulated snow late Monday and Monday night as colder air changes the snow back to a wintry mix. Southern South Dakota picks up a plowable snowfall of as much as 5-8", with generally 1-3" amounts from southwest into central and northeastern Minnesota, maybe 4-5" near Crosby. Expect slippery travel late tomorrow. Source: NOAA and HAMweather.


Not Much Drama. I'm OK with that, by the way. As much as I want a white Christmas I'm also sympathetic to pre-Christmas travelers who don't want to be stuck at MSP International Airport. After a balmy Sunday temperatures drop tomorrow (that 52F is a bit misleading, occurring around midnight). Temperatures track pretty close to average from Tuesday into next weekend.


Steering Wind Outlook: December 19-23. A modified zonal pattern continues into at least Christmas as jet stream winds 18,000 feet above the ground blow from Seattle and Vancouver. At some point colder air will penetrate southward and wipe the smug self-satisfied smile off our faces, but expect reasonable temperatures through at least the middle of next week. Map: NOAA.


Tame Tornadoes: Quietest 3 Years For Twisters On Record. USA TODAY has the story - here's the introduction: "The U.S. experienced fewer tornadoes in the past three years than any similar span since accurate records began in the 1950s. Yet meteorologists aren't sure exactly why. As this year comes to a close, about 150 fewer damaging tornadoes than average have hit the U.S., according to data from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC). Explanations for the decrease in twisters the past three years range from unusual cold to unusual heat, or just coincidence..." (Map credit above: NOAA SPC).


Maps: Tornadoes in California Aren't As Rare As You Might Think. Gawker does a good job of putting Friday's (tiny) tornado in south Los Angeles into perspective; here's an excerpt: "...Between 1950 and 2013, there were 403 confirmed tornadoes in California, coming out to an average of around 6 or 7 tornadoes per year. The vast majority of them occurred in the Central Valley, but you can see a tight cluster of tornadoes down around Los Angeles. Most of the twisters are weak, with 66% of those surveyed by meteorologists rating either F0 or EF0 (we switched from the Fujita Scale to the Enhanced Fujita Scale in 2007). A handful of tornadoes recorded in the state have been significant, with 23 clocking in at F/EF2 and two achieving F3 status..." (Map credit: Dennis Mersereau, The Vane).


23 Minnesota Tornadoes in 2014. Yes, it was fewer than average; the coolest year for Minnesota since 1996 took the edge off the tornado count - Dr. Mark Seeley has more details in the latest edition of Minnesota WeatherTalk: "...This week Todd Krause of the NOAA-National Weather Service in Chanhassen, MN  provided a summary of tornado reports across the state this year.  Only 23 tornadoes were reported in the state during 2014, the second consecutive year with a smaller than average number (only 15 reports in 2013)..."


"How's The Weather?" Becomes a Loaded Question. Yes, we are all armchair meteorologists (and climate experts) now. Here's an excerpt from a New York Times article: "...According to a recent report by the World Bank Group, extreme weather events could become the new “climate normal.” In this world of “increased risks and instability,” it seems we find comfort in being armed with the facts. With access to the storm-surge of information on our smartphones, we are all meteorologists now. Just a few years ago, terms like extreme snowfall or polar vortex were familiar only to professionals; today, they are bandied about in coffee shops and office elevators..."


Study: Hot Temperatures Rising Faster Than Cold Temperatures Over Last 30 Years. Meteorologist Jason Samenow has the story at The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang - here's a snippet: "...As the Earth has warmed over the last three decades, it’s the warmest temperatures that have warmed the most, a new study finds...To put it another way, the long-term trend shows global warming concentrated on easing the severity of the most extreme winter cold, while the short term trend shows warming focused on intensifying some of the most oppressive heat..."

Graphic credit above: "Spatial patterns of temperature differences from normal for April 1998." (University of Indiana)


DHS Admits Catastrophic Impact of EMP. A severe X-class solar flare could knock the USA back to the mid 1800s; it might take years to get the power grid back up in a worst-case scenario. Here's the intro to a sobering assessment at WND.com: "Buried in a 303-page report is an assessment by the Department of Homeland Security that a massive electromagnetic pulse event caused by a solar flare could leave more than 130 million Americans without power for years. In spite of the admission of the cataclysmic consequences of an EMP event, DHS still has not added the threat to its 15 National Planning Scenarios..."


Sony Pictures Hack: The Whole Story. Welcome to the opening salvo of CyberWarfare, with the first volleys of pain directed at a major global corporation. This redefines the meaning of "hack". Here's an excerpt from Engadget: "...Baumgartner says the malware used to harm Sony Pictures, known as Destover, acts as a backdoor and is capable of wiping disk drives and any Master Boot Record disk -- in other words, it can sneak into a system, completely take over and, just like that, have access to the data saved within. "It does not target consumers," he added. "There may be other issues for customers, however, that arise out of any business being hacked and sensitive data accessed..."


Everyone's Worst Page on the Internet. Some perspective on the Sony hack, and why everyone should pay close attention; here's a clip from The Awl: "...Look at your laptop: It could destroy you, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. This realization should be compounded by the knowledge that most of what’s “on” your computer actually lives somewhere else, too, in the servers of companies that are interested in protecting your data only insofar as it preserves their business interests, which are, generally, variations on data marketing and the sale of advertising, to which appearances of privacy and security are helpful. Modern life is a digital nesting doll of latent blackmail opportunities and neglected, decaying data warheads..."


The Pilots of Instagram: Beautiful Views From The Cockpit, Violating Rules of the Air. Yes, if I was a pilot I'd probably be taking (illegal) selfies with me and the weather out the cockpit window too - so I sympathize. The FAA may not be so sympathetic. Here's a clip from Quartz: "The pilots of Instagram are internet famous. Their stunning photos of the skies, captured from their unusual perspective inside the cockpit, garner hundreds, sometimes thousands of likes from fans. But taking photos, or using most any electronic device, while piloting a commercial aircraft is prohibited by American and European regulators. Pilots for airlines large and small, flying planes of all sizes, seem to be violating the safety rules, taking photos with their phones as well as GoPro cameras mounted inside the cockpit..." (Images above: Instagram).


How Much Longer Will You Live? O.K. This is a little morbid, but based on demographics, your age, where you were were born and where you live, Population.io can calculate how many years you have left. It doesn't take current health into effect, so I'm a bit skeptical. Maybe it's a defense mechanism. Pour yourself a stiff drink first. Oh, it calculated that I share a birthday with 185, 273 people, and I get an extra 3 years of life expectancy for living in the USA. I can't say I'm looking forward to November 26, 2040, although by then I may be more than ready to meet my maker.


The Cutest Panda You'll Ever See. Check out this clip at Huffington Post for an "ah-cute" moment.


51 F. high on Saturday in the Twin Cities. That's average for April 3.

27 F. average high on December 13.

17 F. high on December 13, 2013.

December 13, 1996: Snowfall exceeding one foot was reported from south central Minnesota through portions of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Some of the higher snow totals included 15 inches at Rockford, 14 inches at Cedar and North Branch, 13 inches at Stewart and 7 to 10 inches across the central and southern parts of the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

December 13, 1933: Severe ice storm hits southeast and central Minnesota.


TODAY: March-like. Rain and fog. Winds: South 5-10. High: 51

SUNDAY NIGHT: Periods of rain. Low: 38

MONDAY: Rain ends as slushy coating to 2" late. High: 40 (falling during the day).

TUESDAY: Slick start? Clouds linger, colder. Wake-up: 19. High: 27

WEDNESDAY: Rare ration of sunlight? Chilly. Wake-up: 14. High: 25

THURSDAY: Clouds increase, still dry. Wake-up: 19. High: 29

FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy, few flakes? Wake-up: 21. High: 31

SATURDAY: More clouds than sun, quiet. Wake-up: 20. High: 30


Climate Stories....

Weather Bombs, Polar Vortex: Global Warming's Influence on Extreme Weather. No, it's probably not your imagination. Here's an excerpt from Stanford and Science 2.0: "...The media are often focused on whether global warming caused a particular event," says Diffenbaugh, who is a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. "The more useful question for real-world decisions is: 'Is the probability of a particular event statistically different now compared with a climate without human influence?'" His belief is based on three elements of varying rigor: climate observations, climate computer simulations which estimate variations in climate and statistics to reconcile the first two..."


What We Learned About Climate Change in 2014, in 6 Scary Charts. Here's an excerpt from ThinkProgress: "...The 2014 chart I consider the most important is not the prettiest or simplest. But it is the one that best captures our latest understanding of what has emerged as the greatest danger to humanity this century from human-caused climate change — Dust-Bowlification and the threat to our food supplies. This map of the global drying we face uses the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), a standard measure of long-term drought. It is excerpted from the study, “Global warming and 21st century drying...”

Graphic credit above: "Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) for 2080-2099 with business-as-usual warming. By comparison, during the 1930s Dust Bowl, the PDSI in the Great Plains rarely exceeded -3 (see here)." Source: Cook et al. and Climate Progress.


How America Is Kicking Its Oil Habit. Bloomberg has the story; here's the introduction: "The U.S. is producing the most oil in 31 years, economic growth is picking up and crude prices are plunging. So why is Americans’ use of petroleum waning? As the U.S. moves closer and closer to energy independence, greater fuel efficiency, changing demographics and an increase in renewables are altering the dynamic that in the past would have seen demand for gasoline climbing. Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S., grew at a 2.4 percent pace in the third quarter from the year-earlier period. Oil consumption fell 0.3 percent, government data show..."


Alarming Quantities of Methane Escaping From Pacific Seafloor, Scientists Warn. Remember, we don't know what we don't know. A comforting thought. That said, we might want to err on the side of caution. Here's the intro to a story at Tech Times: "Scientists have discovered that water off the coast of Washington is warming at a depth where solid methane can transform into gas, indicating that the warming of the ocean is triggering the release of the heat-trapping greenhouse gas. Methane, which is several times more potent than carbon dioxide in fueling global warming, forms into methane hydrate wherein it gets enclosed in frozen water given the right conditions: cold temperature and high ocean pressure..." (File image: ThinkProgress).


Fact or Fiction? Geoengineering Can Solve Global Warming. Here's a clip from a story at Scientific American: "...The world may find itself in need of another alternative, such as geoengineering, if catastrophic climate change begins to manifest, whether in the form of even more deadly heat waves, more crop-killing droughts, more rapid rises in sea level or accelerating warming as natural stores of carbon—such as the ocean’s methane hydrates—melt down, releasing yet more greenhouse gases to drive yet more climate change. So maybe the answer is to genetically soup up plants so they can pull more CO2 out of the air and then bury them at the sea bottom?..."

Photo credit above: "ARTIFICIAL VOLCANO: Could mimicking a massive volcanic eruption, like that of Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, avoid global warming?" Courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey

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