Moderating Temperatures - Winter Hazard Awareness

Appropriately, this is Winter Hazard Awareness Week in Minnesota. Driving on snow and ice always triggers a ripple of fear and trepidation, even among residents who have lived here a long time. Every November we relearn how to drive, or "surf", down the street on a cold, crunchy, crystalline layer of frozen water.

The colder the storm, the more dangerous the travel conditions. An inch of snow at 10F is much more slippery than an inch of snow at 25-30F. If you begin to skid, remain calm. Ease your foot off of the gas and turn the wheel in the direction you want the front of the car to go.

And stay at least 8 seconds behind those MnDOT snow plows, which weigh, on average, 17 times more than the typical car. You don't want to get into a duel with a plow.

No big storms of any flavor are brewing, just a slow warming trend. Weekend moisture tracks across Iowa, leaving our skies gray as temperatures rise into the low 40s by Saturday. 50F is possible next week, before the next inevitable wind-blown cold front one week out.

After this latest cold blast - 50 degrees will feel like a (bad) vacation.


14 Days Below Average. How unusual is this? The Minnesota DNR puts this latest cold spell into perspective. "A two week below-normal streak ushers in a taste of winter. As of November 9, 2017, temperatures have stayed below normal for fourteen days straight in the Twin Cities. The normal maximum and minimum temperature for November 9 is 45 degrees F and 30 degrees F. This cold streak began on October 27. When was the last time there was this long of a below normal stretch? From February 11 to March 6, 2015 was a streak of 24 days below normal. Above normal streaks have been more common in recent years. Despite the cold, no daily records have been broken so far in the Twin Cities."


Temperature Recovery. No, it can't stay this cold indefinitely, not even in Minnesota in early November. Temperatures rebound into the 40s; even a few 50s next week as a Pacific breeze returns. Twin Cities ECMWF numbers: WeatherBell.

84-Hour Snowfall Potential. A light coating of snow is possible over parts of central and southern Minnesota Friday night into early Saturday as milder air starts to flow northward; the greatest potential for plowable accumulation from northern Wisconsin into Michigan. NAM guidance: NOAA and Tropicaltidbits.com.

Confidence Growing in Winter La Nina. Nearly all the long-range climate models show a cool phase for the Pacific Ocean, which often (but not always) correlates with colder weather for Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. Keep in mind every La Nina is different.

La Nina Winters. NOAA data shows that La Nina winters tend to be colder across Canada and the northern tier of the USA; wetter for the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley/Great Lakes - warmer for the southern tier states. Place your bets.


That Isn't Rain - It's Migrating Birds. NWS Doppler radar picked up bird migrations Tuesday evening. Keep in mind the new Doppler is so sensitive it can pick up not only birds, but insects, even dust in clear-air mode. GoMN.com has more detail: "...The NWS noted that these birds were mostly geese and ducks, with Minnesota's migration season shortly drawing to a close. According to Birdwatcher's Digest, the last of the ducks move out of the state during November, as lakes begin to freeze over. The Minnesota DNR's waterfowl report for Nov. 2 said there are still a lot of ducks, which in turn is making for good hunting. Canadian goose numbers have been rising as well, though the DNR notes that "large numbers still remain in Southern Canada." Tundra swans are also heading south at this time of year, typically mid-to-late November, as they gather along the Mississippi River before heading to wintering grounds in North Carolina and Virginia..."

Why Does the Season Before Winter Have 2 Names? Another fascinating article at Atlas Obscura; here's a clip: "There is indecision about the season that comes before winter. The plants all die, or seem to, but at the same time are at their most magnificent: they produce more fruit, turn vibrant colors. We are relieved at the end of a hot summer, and terrified of the long winter ahead. (At least those of us with seasonal affective disorder.) We cram in holidays to both celebrate these brief few weeks and also mourn the green times behind us. And we don’t even know what to call this weird time: is it autumn or fall? Why does this season have two names? The understanding of seasons varies dramatically based on where you’re located geographically, coupled with, if applicable, which country colonized your country. In the temperate zones, the seasons are generally split up into four; in tropical zones, usually two; in South Asia, usually six. Older calendars may have five or ten or more or fewer. Countries like the US, which span multiple zones, run the gamut. The United States sticks to four seasons, even in parts of the country like South Florida and most of the Southwest, which really only have a wet season and a dry season..."

Photo credit: "Usage of the word “fall” first appeared in England in the mid-16th century; “autumn” pre-dates it to sometime in the late 14th century." Autumn Mott/ Public Domain


Snowfall Last Winter. Yes, last winter was fairly bleak for snow lovers, with 25-35" of snow across much of the metro area (30-year average is 54" if anyone asks). Map credit: NOAA.


New NOAA Satellite Will Assist Long-Range Forecasting.  A few interesting nuggets in a story at KSHB.com: "Friday, November 10, officials from NOAA and with the help of NASA will be sending a new type of weather satellite into space. The Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1 for short, is the first of four highly advanced polar satellites that will help improve the accuracy of weather forecasts out to seven days. While NASA will be assisting with the launch, all of the data will be collected and distributed by NOAA. JPSS-1 will orbit the earth in a "polar orbit" meaning that it will circle the earth from North Pole to South Pole over and over as it spins. The satellite will be traveling so fast in a 24 hour period that it will cross the equator 14 times a day and will give us a glimpse of the weather around the entire globe twice a day..." (File image: NASA).


Scientists in Houston Tell as Story of Concrete, Rain and Destruction. Here's an excerpt of a story at NPR worth your time: "...Sam Brody, a flood scientist at Texas A&M University, says Houston has grown to a size where it can't handle these kinds of record rainfalls. "We're piling in people with roads and rooftops and parking lots into these low-lying coastal areas and exacerbating these problems," he says. "And that is an urban, human development, built-environment problem." You can't move Houston. So what's to be done? Officials are now talking about building that third reservoir and demolishing houses that repeatedly flood. Brody's team is advising those officials. He says the city needs more radical changes, like requiring new homes to be built 3 feet above flood level. He says yes, preparing for future floods will be expensive — but cheaper than paying up after the next one.


Republicans Move Ahead on Flood Insurance Reform. The Houston Chronicle explains: "A years-long effort to shore up the finances of the federal government's flood insurance program is nearing a vote in the House. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, the powerful chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, are pushing members to vote for flood insurance legislation after striking a deal Friday to move ahead on reform efforts that have long divided Democrats and Republicans alike. "The bill we support will begin to make the flood insurance program more stable and sustainable for the people who count on it. We look forward to bringing this legislation to the House soon and urge our colleagues to support it," Scalise and Hensarling said in a joint statement Monday. "Being from Louisiana and Texas, we are all-too familiar with the devastating effects of floods and the havoc they wreak on communities..."

Photo credit: Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle.


Breathing Delhi’s air is the same as smoking 45 cigarettes a day. Quartz reports: "In what has become a chronic condition for the city of 22 million, New Delhi is once again choking on extremely high levels of air pollution. In parts of the city, air quality index (AQI) readings have hit 999—the equivalent of smoking 45 cigarettes a day. But 999 is the maximum reading on air monitors, which means actual levels are likely higher. The dense smog is being blamed for car crashes, including a 24-car motorway pileup just outside the city, according to the Telegraph. PM2.5 air pollution hits babies and the elderly hardest, and exposure in the womb has long been associated with an array of adverse birth outcomes like preterm birth and low birth weight..."

Photo credit: "Can't see or breathe." (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)


Pollution in India Is So Bad It's Causing Car Crashes. More perspective at National Geographic.


2 Reasons Solar is Booming in Trump Country: Price and Energy Independence. InsideClimate News takes a look: "...What is resonating with utility companies like Mississippi Power and communities like Hattiesburg is the economic argument for cheaper solar power. Despite the lack of renewable-energy-friendly policies and the reluctance from Republican-led state legislatures to address climate change, states across the South and Appalachia―regions that voted heavily for Donald Trump―are rapidly expanding their solar markets. Most of that growth has come from utilities investing in large-scale solar projects, which have dropped in price by nearly 80 percent since 2010 to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, making them more cost-competitive with coal and natural gas. There's also a grassroots rooftop solar movement in coal-friendly communities, encouraged by cheap technology and a push for energy independence..."

Photo credit: "Georgia ranked third in the nation for photovoltaic solar installations in 2016. More than 600 kilowatts of solar panels can be found on the roofs at Georgia Tech." Credit: Georgia Institute of Technology.


Tesla's Dangerous Sprint Into the Future. The New York Times Magazine has a fascinating read.

Image credit: "Robots applying adhesive and welding seams on the Model X and Model S." Christopher Payne for The New York Times.


Something is Wrong on the Internet. After reading this I'm glad I don't have young kids watching YouTube. James Bridle authors a (very) troubling tale at Medium: "...I see kids engrossed in screens all the time, in pushchairs and in restaurants, and there’s always a bit of a Luddite twinge there, but I am not a parent, and I’m not making parental judgments for or on anyone else. I’ve seen family members and friend’s children plugged into Peppa Pig and nursery rhyme videos, and it makes them happy and gives everyone a break, so OK. But I don’t even have kids and right now I just want to burn the whole thing down. Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatise, and abuse children, automatically and at scale, and it forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level. Much of what I am going to describe next has been covered elsewhere, although none of the mainstream coverage I’ve seen has really grasped the implications of what seems to be occurring..."


How I Left the Liberal Bubble and Learned to Love the Right. Daily Beast has a fascinating read: "Washington, DC, resident and lifelong Democrat Ken Stern took a year or so to search out and confront his purported Red State enemies. He was utterly changed by what he discovered. In 2015, Ken Stern, the former CEO of NPR and a lifelong Democrat, left his liberal Washington, D.C., neighborhood, and over the course of more than a year, sought out Republicans across the country: in churches, on pig hunts, at Trump rallies, NASCAR races, and even on Steve Bannon’s radio show. Stern believed, as Atticus Finch said in To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”  And when he did, he found fellow Americans whose values didn’t differ all that much from his own and, even where there was real disagreement, on things like guns, abortion, religion, and healthcare, the divide isn’t nearly as deep as we are led to believe.

Graphic: Yale Climate Connections.


Are We Becoming Less Neighborly? Here are a couple excerpts from a Washington Post article: "Sen. Rand Paul sustained five broken ribs after an assault by a neighbor last weekend. The alleged assailant, Rene Boucher, released a statement through his lawyer calling the incident “a very regrettable dispute between two neighbors over a matter that most people would regard as trivial… In 2016, the share of Americans who say they “never” socialize with their neighbors hit an all-time high of 34 percent, according to the General Social Survey. That number's been rising steadily since 1974, when just 21 percent said they never hang out with their neighbors…"


Joining a Fraternity May Hurt Your GPA, But Can Boost Future Income by 36%, Study Says. Big Think connects the dots: "Fraternity culture has been under attack for incidents of hazing and excessive drinking but there are some unexpected benefits that come from joining a frat. That’s the conclusion of a new study by economists from Union College in Schenectady, New York. They found that being in a fraternity may lower the GPA of its members by an average of 0.25 points, but may raise their future income by as much as 36%. How is that possible? The paper titled “Social Animal House: The Economic and Academic Consequences of Fraternity Membership” suggests that while frats may have a deserved reputation for partying and binge-drinking, being in one can boost your social capital, "which more than outweigh(s) its negative effects on human capital for potential members...”

Photo credit: "Cast of the film “Animal House”. 1978. Credit: Universal Pictures.


“God Only Knows What Facebook is Doing To Our Kid’s Brains” The Daily Beast has the story: "Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, said the social-media platform functions by “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” At an event in Philadelphia on Wednesday night, the erstwhile 38-year-old Napster inventor told Axios, “It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.” Parker said he now understands that a site as popular as Facebook “literally changes your relationship with society, with each other... The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them... was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?..."


Axios has more onn Sean Parker trolling Facebook.


Brazil Contestants Wear "Beef-kinis" to Protest Sexual Harrassment. HuffPost has the story: "Some contestants in a Brazilian beauty pageant dedicated to finding the nation’s best behind are protesting sexual harassment. And they’re doing it with a photo op straight out of Lady Gaga’s handbook. The infamous Miss Bumbum Brazil pageant takes place Monday evening in Sao Paulo. As part of the hype, five of the women whose keisters are competing decided to pose in “beef-kinis” reminiscent of the all-meat dress Gaga wore to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards..."

Photo credit: Splash News.


30 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities (1 AM)

45 F. average high on November 9.

60 F. high on November 9, 2016.

November 10, 1999: Late season hail falls in Eden Prairie. Pea size hail (0.25 inch. in diameter) up to one foot deep collected near storm drains near Hennepin Technical College and Hwy 212. Pea size hail about 4 inches deep was also reported on grass near Hwy 5 and Mitchell Rd. The hail and torrential rains forced drivers off the road in Bloomington.

November 10, 1998: A potent storm nicknamed a 'land hurricane' sets a new all-time record low pressure for Minnesota around noon at Albert Lea and Austin as it passes overhead. The automated weather observing equipment at both airports measured a barometric pressure of 28.43 inches, which broke the previous record of 28.55 inches set on 11 January 1975 in Duluth. The new record for the Twin Cities was set with a reading of 28.55 inches. The previous record was 28.77 inches, set on April 13th of 1964. 10 inches of snow fell at Madison, MN and St. Cloud State University had a wind gust to 64 mph.

November 10, 1975: The Edmund Fitzgerald sinks off Whitefish Bay, causing 29 fatalities.

November 10, 1913: A severe windstorm occurs on Lake Superior. Three ships were lost. Winds were clocked at 62 mph at Duluth.



TODAY: Nippy start, fading sunshine. Winds: SE 10-15. High: 29

FRIDAY NIGHT: Cloudy, chance of a few flurries. Low: 27

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, not as cold. Winds: SW 7-12. High: 43

SUNDAY: Mix of clouds and sun. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 29. High: 41

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, feeling better. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 27. High: 46

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy, mild. Late sprinkle. Wake-up: 42. High: 51

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, pretty quite out there. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 37. High: 47

THURSDAY: Lot's of clouds, more like October. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 36. High: 52


Climate Stories...

Clouds' Warming Potential is Frightening Researchers. E&E News has the story: "When it comes to the dangers of climate change, it may be the behavior of clouds — the wispy creatures of water, air and tiny particles — that becomes the master of man's fate. Their role is fundamental: They shade the planet, reflecting much of the sun's heat back into space. Without them, scientists calculate, the Earth could be absorbing twice as much warmth. But after three decades of research, how and where clouds move the way they do and how that will change as the climate warms and as the atmosphere becomes either more or less polluted remain among the biggest unanswered questions. These are major concerns for scientists who have spent their careers studying clouds. They see time running out for solutions. While the world's nations are planning to mitigate enough carbon emissions to contain the rise in the world's warming to a global average of 2 degrees Celsius by midcentury, the risks of missing this target may be severe..."

Image credit: "A sheet of stratocumulous clouds covers parts of the Pacific Ocean." NASA.


The 7 Megatrends That Could Beat Global Warming: "There Is Reason for Hope". Most days I'm optimistic too, but we need to turn up the dial and move faster. Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "...No one is saying the battle to avert catastrophic climate change – floods, droughts, famine, mass migrations – has been won. But these megatrends show the battle has not yet been lost, and that the tide is turning in the right direction. “The important thing is to reach a healthy balance where we recognise that we are seriously challenged, because we really have only three years left to reach the tipping point,” says Figueres. “But at the same time, the fact is we are already seeing many, many positive trends.” Michael Liebreich, the founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, agrees. “The good news is we are way better than we thought we could be. We are not going to get through this without damage. But we can avoid the worst. I am optimistic, but there is a long way to go.” Also cautiously hopeful is climate economist Nicholas Stern at the London School of Economics. “These trends are the start of something that might be enough – the two key words are ‘start’ and ‘might’..."

File image: TheHill.


Faith Leaders Must Stop Acting as if There's No Preventing Natural Disasters. Are we inadvertently making these (natural) disasters worse? Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Religion News Service: "...We jump into action after destruction has hit with courageous self-sacrifice and awe-inspiring generosity, all the while pretending as if there was nothing we could do before the storm hit, before the fires started. As faith leaders, we believe it’s time we stopped pretending and summoned our great generosity of spirit and incalculable ingenuity to address the ongoing disaster that is causing so many of our other disasters: climate change. In the last several decades, natural disasters have been increasing in both frequency and intensity. And 40 percent of the world’s population, including our fellow New Yorkers, live on coastlines while sea levels are rising. Last weekend (Oct. 28) New Yorkers from across our city marched to mark five years since Superstorm Sandy pounded the Eastern Seaboard, causing billions of dollars in damage, and devastating coastal New Jersey and New York City in particular..."


Ratio of Record Highs to Record Lows. In a world that wasn't warming you would expect the ratio to be close to 50:50. It isn't, according to the just-released 4th National Climate Assessment.


White House Releases Report Contradicting It's Own Position on Climate Change. Snopes explains the inherent contradiction: "On 3 November 2017, the White House released a document known as the Climate Science Special Report — a scientific study authored by scientists from academia and numerous federal agencies, peer-reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences, and required by law to be released every four years. That report’s findings are at direct odds with the Trump administration’s efforts to downplay or reject the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, as they instead suggest that recent warming is unambiguously the result of human activity and that observational data does not support an alternative explanation: This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence..."


"How Often Do You Get 12 Inches of Rain?" Turns out the answer across much of the USA is...more often lately. Here's an excerpt of a story from Louisville Public Media and The Weather Channel: "...The federal government has 145 years of rainfall data for Louisville. In that time period, there have been only 11 years with two or more days of at least 3 inches of rainfall. At that rate, you’d expect one of those heavy rainfall years around every 13 years. But four of them have been since 1990. Of Louisville’s top 10 wettest years, half have occurred this century. Eight of the 10 have occurred since the 1990s. None of the top ten driest years have occurred since 1987. Weather.com meteorologist Jonathan Erdman said the increased frequency and intensity of rainfall in Louisville is directly linked to a warmer climate. “In a warming climate we expect weather systems to move more slowly,” he said. “And because the climate is warmer, we expect the atmosphere to be able to hold more water vapor. So, as a result, we expect weather systems to be able to produce a bit more rainfall and for there to be more heavy rain events than there would be if the climate was not warming...”

Graphic credit: Weather.gov


The Zombie Diseases of Climate Change. The Atlantic focuses on another unpleasant symptom of a warming, thawing planet: "...What biologists call the permafrost’s “active layer”—the part of the dirt where microbes and other forms of life can live—now reaches farther underground, and further north, than it has for tens of thousands of years. The newly active permafrost is packed with old stuff: dead plants, dead animals, mosses buried and reburied by dust and snow. This matter, long protected from decomposition by the cold, is finally rotting, and releasing gases into the atmosphere that could quicken the rate of global warming. This matter is also full of pathogens: bacteria and viruses long immobilized by the frost. Many of these pathogens may be able to survive a gentle thaw—and if they do, researchers warn, they could reinfect humanity..."

Illustration credit: Narciso Espiritu.


Climate Change: A Catalyst for Conflict. Deutsche Welle shows how a warmer, more volatile climate can aggravate challenges and increase the potential for conflict - one reason why the U.S. military is paying close attention: "...That said, one cannot draw a direct connection between climate change and violent conflict, as the causes that lead to bloody conflict are often too complex to allow such mapping. Therefore, it is perhaps more helpful to think of climate change as a threat amplifier. That is how Rob van Riet of the World Future Council describes the relationship between climate and conflict. Van Riet expanded on that thought when speaking with DW: "Existing threats – like resource shortages, poverty, famine, terrorism or extreme ideology – are only amplified by climate change..."

Photo credit: "Flooding in Karachi, Pakistan."

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