Embrace The Burn

Friends in California ask me what subzero feels like. I compare it to a (naked) cannonball into an Olympic swimming pool filled with low-grade battery acid.

Not. Pleasant.

Ice crystals up your nose and squeaky snow are tell-tale signs of serious negative numbers - what may be the coldest morning of the entire winter with a chill factor near -35F.

How could half an inch of snow result in such a traffic nightmare over the last 36 hours? Car exhaust usually evaporates, but when it's this cold these hydrocarbons freeze directly onto highway surfaces, especially at intersections & ramps, where vehicles idle. "Wheel-Track Glazing" is another threat. Warm tires can melt freshly fallen powder, creating water which instantly refreezes into glaze ice, an impossible challenge for road crews.

Canada is about to run out of cold air, at least temporarily. Teens feel good by the weekend; I still think we'll see a thaw by the end of next week. No big storms brewing and next week will be closer to average.

This is probably as cold as it's going to get all winter.

Please.


Perils of Wheel-Track Glazing. Tires warm freshly fallen snow, sparking instant melting, then refreezing, resulting in glaze ice conditions well after the snow has stopped falling. Here's an excerpt of a good explanation from the Iowa Department of Transportation: "...The combination of light, blowing snow and cold surface temperatures could result in icy roadways due to a phenomenon called wheel-track glazing. "Wheel-track glazing" is caused by warm tires trapping theground-level light, blowing snow. As more vehicles travel over the same wheel tracks, a glaze of ice forms that becomes very slippery..."

Image credit above: iowadot.gov.


Bottoming Out. Weather models show wind chills dipping into the -26 to -35F range for a time this morning; probably one of the two coldest mornings of winter. Hard to believe we'll be whining about the humidity within 5 months. Graphic above: Aeris.


Very Slow Recovery. No rapid thaw this time around, although guidance suggests 20s, even low 30s by the end of next week as winds aloft begin to blow from the Pacific. The next (and final) subzero surge for now whips up an inch or so of powder tomorrow (roads may be rough again with black ice), followed by double digit negative numbers Friday morning before teens return this weekend. Kind of sad when a high of 13 represents a warm front.


Above Average Third Week of January. GFS guidance shows 20s and 30s, as a rule, between January 14 and 22 with little chance of a major storm during that period. No surprise there. A zonal flow tends to be milder and drier for Minnesota.


Nice To Be Above Average Again. Long-range guidance shows a breakdown of the west coast ridge with another series of storms approaching California, suggestive of a shift in steering winds to more west or even southwest. 500 mb winds on Tuesday evening, January 20 are blowing from Vancouver, not the Arctic Circle. You should regain feeling in your extremities by then. Map: GrADS:COLA/IGES.


NOAA Announces Significant Investment In Next Generation of Supercomputers. Some good news coming out of NOAA; here are a few excerpts of a Tuesday press release: "Today, NOAA announced the next phase in the agency’s efforts to increase supercomputing capacity to provide more timely, accurate, reliable, and detailed forecasts. By October 2015, the capacity of each of NOAA’s two operational supercomputers will jump to 2.5 petaflops, for a total of 5 petaflops – a nearly tenfold increase from the current capacity. Ahead of this upgrade, each of the two operational supercomputers will first more than triple their current capacity later this month (to at least 0.776 petaflops for a total capacity of 1.552 petaflops). With this larger capacity, NOAA’s National Weather Service in January will begin running an upgraded version of the Global Forecast System (GFS) with greater resolution that extends further out in time – the new GFS will increase resolution from 27km to 13km out to 10 days and 55km to 33km for 11 to 16 days. In addition, the Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS) will be upgraded by increasing the number of vertical levels from 42 to 64 and increasing the horizontal resolution from 55km to 27km out to eight days and 70km to 33km from days nine to 16..."


Liability Concerns Prompt Some Cities To Limit Sledding. Yes, this Grinch-like move is an apparent step to try and avoid dealing with injuries and inevitable lawyers. Here are two excerpts from an eye-opening story at AP: "...A study by Columbus, Ohio-based Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital found that between 1997 and 2007, more than 20,000 children each year were treated at emergency rooms for sledding-related injuries....Some cities have opted for less drastic measures in the last several years rather than an all-out ban, including Des Moines, Iowa; Montville, New Jersey; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Columbia City, Indiana. By banning sledding on certain slopes or posting signs warning people to sled at their own risk, cities lessen their liability if someone is seriously hurt, but they're still more vulnerable to lawsuits than if they had adopted an outright ban..."

Photo credit above: "In this Dec. 11, 2013 file photo Zoe Reisen,10, of Dubuque, Iowa, sleds down a hill at Allison-Henderson Park on in Dubuque, Iowa. Faced with the potential bills from people who are injured sledding, Dubuque is one of the cities across the country the is opting to close hills rather than face the risk of large liability claims." (AP Photo/The Telegraph Herald, Jessica Reilly, File).


Japan Confirms 2014 Was Earth's Warmest Year. We should know whether NOAA, NASA and the UK Met Office agree with this assessment within the next 1-2 weeks. Here's the intro to an explanation at Mashable: "The first official temperature monitoring institution to report 2014's climate data has now confirmed what climatologists widely expected: 2014 was the planet's warmest year since thermometers began monitoring temperatures in the late 19th century. Other studies, using data from ice cores, tree rings, corals and other so-called "proxy" data shows the planet has not been this warm in at least 4,000 years, while other data shows that the level of the main global warming gas has not been this high in all of human history..."


Land Of The Midnight Sun Warms Fastest In The World. Scientific American takes a look at the trends in Finland; here's an excerpt: "Finland's temperatures have risen at roughly double the rate of the planet as a whole, a new study suggests. A team of researchers from the University of Eastern Finland and the Finnish Meteorological Society found that over the past 166 years, the country's average monthly temperatures have increased by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a 0.14 C change per decade. For the planet as a whole, the average temperature had increased by 0.8 C over the same period..."

Photo credit above: "Finland's temperatures have risen at roughly double the rate of the planet as a whole, a new study suggests." Credit: josef.stuefer/Flickr.


Heat Stress Hospitalizations On The Increase. Here's a summary of a new study at the CDC, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta: "During 2001–2010, approximately 28,000 HSI hospitalizations occurred in 20 states participating in the Tracking Program. Data from three states were not included in this report because of missing data for ≥3 years. Two states joined the Tracking Program after the study period and also are not included in this report. The majority of HSI hospitalizations occurred among males and persons aged ≥65 years. The highest rates of hospitalizations were in the Midwest and the South. During this period, an overall 2%–5% increase in the rate of HSI hospitalizations occurred in all 20 states compared with the 2001 rate. The correlation between the average number of HSI hospitalizations and the average monthly maximum temperature/heat index was statistically significant (at p<0.0001) in all 20 states..."


The Best Places To Retire Abroad in 2015. Ecuador? OK. I'm trying to keep an open mind; details at Next Avenue; here's an excerpt: "Whether your dream is to retire abroad one day or the idea just offers a vicarious thrill, you’ll likely want to hear the winners in International Living’s just-released “World’s Best Retirement Destinations for 2015.” Mixing the latest data on everything from weather to retiree discounts with reports from its network of far-flung correspondents, International Living (a media company specializing in retirement abroad) ranked 25 countries for its annual Global Retirement Index. This year’s winner Ecuador nudged out the 2014 champ, Panama..."


The Real Reason U.S. Gas Is So Cheap Is Americans Don't Pay The True Cost of Driving. CityLab has a story that made me do a double-take; here's the introduction to an article well worth your time: "Amid all the celebration over America's plunging gas prices—down some 40 percent since June—it's easy to forget a very basic fact: in a global sense, U.S. fuel has been cheap for years. In late 2012, for instance, the United States ranked toward the bottom of a world list of gas prices, wedged between the likes of Tunisia and Chad on one side and Russia and Kazakhstan on the other. Most first-world countries paid at least double what America did then, just as they do today...."


This Is The Video CNN Will Play When The World Ends. I hope I'm not around to see this clip; courtesy of Jalopnik: "Thirty-four years ago, at the launch of Ted Turner's Cable News Network, the founder made a grandiose and specific promise about his newly created round-the-clock operation. "Barring satellite problems, we won't be signing off until the world ends," Turner declared. And in anticipation, he prepared a final video segment for the apocalypse..."


-5 F. morning low Tuesday.

8 F. afternoon high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

23 F. average high on January 6.

-12 F. high on January 6, 2014.

3" snow on the ground at MSP International Airport.

January 6, 2003: Record warmth over Minnesota. Many places reach the 50's including the Twin Cities. St. James hit 59 and the Twin Cities reached 51. Nine golf courses were open in the Twin Cities and 100 golfers were already at the Sundance Golf Course in Maple Grove in the morning.

January 6, 1873: Great Blizzard. Three day blizzard caused extreme hardship for pioneers from out east who were not used to the cold and snow. Visibility was down to three feet. Cows suffocated in the deep drifts and trains were stuck for days. More than 70 people died, some bodies were not found until spring. Weather conditions before the storm were mild, just like the Armistice Day storm.


Today: Windchill Warning. Some of the coldest weather of the winter. AM Wind Chill: -35. Numbing sunshine. Winds: NW 10-20. High: -1

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase, light snow late. Low: -6

THURSDAY: Next clipper with a coating to 1" of powdery snow - icy again. High: 14

FRIDAY: Freezer door swings open again. Blue sky, feels like -25. High: near 0

SATURDAY: Patchy clouds, not as harsh. Wake-up: -12. High: 13

SUNDAY: Partly sunny, cold and quiet. Wake-up: 4. High: 15

MONDAY: More clouds than sun, still dry. Wake-up: 0. High: 10

TUESDAY: Peeks of sun, light winds. Wake-up: -1. High: 14


Climate Stories...

2014 May Set A New Temperature Record. So Can We Please Stop Claiming Global Warming Has "Stopped"? Chris Mooney takes a look at data from JMA, the Japan Meteorological Agency, as well as the trends in recent years. The "temperature pause" is a political talking point, an ideological artifact, one not necessarily grounded in data and facts. Here's a clip from The Washington Post: "...Based on this data, 2014 was the hottest year on record for the globe. That surpasses the year 1998 (now in 2nd place in the JMA dataset) and 2013 and 2010 (now tied for 3rd). You'll also note, incidentally, that while the dataset is noisy, the upward trend is quite clear, and the decade of the 2000s is plainly warmer than the decade of the 1990s. So much for any "pause" in global warming. Japan's is the first major meteorological outlet to pronounce on how 2014 ranks for temperatures..." (Image: Japan Meteorological Agency).


Big Threat For Obama's Climate Efforts From GOP-Run Congress. Here's a link to the story at AP and ABC News: "President Barack Obama's determined efforts to combat global warming face their biggest trial yet as Republicans take full control of Congress this week. The GOP vows to move fast and forcefully to roll back his environmental rules and force his hand on energy development. The GOP's first order of business: the Keystone XL pipeline. The Republican-led House has repeatedly passed legislation to approve the pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada deep into the United States. The bills died in the Senate when Democrats were in control, but that will change Wednesday when a Republican-led Senate committee holds a Keystone hearing..."


Oil's Swoon Creates The Opening For A Carbon Tax. Implement a revenue-neutral tax on carbon pollution, one that doesn't grow the federal government, and put a definable signal into the markets that will accelerate innovation; new cleaner ways to generate electricity and power the economy. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers at The Washington Post: "The case for carbon taxes has long been compelling. With the recent steep fall in oil prices and associated declines in other energy prices, it has become overwhelming. There is room for debate about the size of the tax and about how the proceeds should be deployed. But there should be no doubt that, given the current zero tax rate on carbon, increased taxation would be desirable..." (File photo: AP).


Reverence For Life Underlies Catholic Case for Environment. Here's a clip from a story at The National Catholic Reporter: "...With the growing awareness of the enormous adverse effect that human behavior is having on the health of the planet, however, environmental concerns are moving from the periphery to the center. Climate change has raised environmental activism from the category of "nice" things to do to that of "must do" for the sake of life itself. Maturing along with the issue is the Christian understanding of creation and humans' place in the universe. In the new thinking, a revised and refined anthropology replaces a utilitarian view of earth's resources with one of complex connections and interdependence among species and with the earth itself..."


Looking Ahead In The Arctic, With The United States On Point. InsideClimate News has the story - here's an excerpt: "...Because of carbon dioxide's long lifespan (a century or more) even major reductions on that front may not slow the thaw of the Arctic before the ice disappears completely. But black carbon and methane are a different story. They have much shorter lifespans—black carbon's is just days or weeks; methane's is about 12 years—but they have a more powerful impact. Climate experts from the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization have determined that black carbon is 100 to 2,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide, while the EPA reports that methane has more than 20 times the impact of CO2 on climate change over a 100-year period..."


Report: Tibet's Glaciers At Their Warmest. China's Xinhua site has the story - here's the intro: "Recent decades have likely been the warmest and wettest on record in the Tibetan Plateau, known as the 'Third Pole' for its ice fields. A report on the region's ecosystem published today shows climate change has been coming fast at the glaciers. The Tibetan Plateau and surrounding mountains represent one of the largest ice masses on earth. But the glaciers are retreating rapidly, according to a report published by the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences..."


Polar Bears Shifting To Areas With More Sea Ice - Genetic Study Reveals. Here's the intro to a story at USGS, The U.S. Geological Survey: "In a new polar bear study published today, scientists from around the Arctic have shown that recent generations of polar bears are moving towards areas with more persistent year-round sea ice. Research scientists, led by the U.S. Geological Survey, found that the 19 recognized subpopulations of polar bears group into four genetically-similar clusters, corresponding to ecological and oceanographic factors. These four clusters are the Eastern Polar Basin, Western Polar Basin, Canadian Archipelago, and Southern Canada..."

Photo credit above: "This undated photo provided by NOAA shows a polar bear swimming. Earth's icy northern region lost more of its signature whiteness that reflects the sun's heat. It was replaced temporarily with dark land and water that absorbs more energy, keeping yet more heat on already warming planet, according to the Arctic report card issued Thursday, Dec. 17, 2014." (AP Photo/NOAA).



Perspective. Thanks to Elijah Zarlin and Twitter for clarifying why climate scientists are concerned.


Climate Change's Calling Card in 2014: Heat. Here's a clip from a 2014 recap at Climate Central that got my attention: "...This year is virtually guaranteed to go down as the world’s hottest on record. But it’s not just one hot year we’re talking about. It’s a staggering list. Consider that the 15 hottest years on record have all come since 1997. Or that this will be the third straight decade to break the mark for global temps. And that it’s been 358 months since the planet had a cooler-than-average month, and more than 100 years since we last had a record-cold month...."


2014 Brought Lasting Action on Climate Change Policy. Scott Horsley has the story at NPR; here's an excerpt: "...Critics complain that while the U.S. is already cutting its carbon pollution, China's emissions are allowed to keep growing until 2030. China is already making big investments in clean energy, though. And the Chinese government has announced plans to cap the use of coal within five years. Doniger of the NRDC says China's choking smog problem gives it a big incentive to clean up its power plants. What's more, he says, the Chinese government is genuinely worried by increasingly dry weather in the northern part of the country and rising sea levels in the east. "They understand climate change is real. And when their scientists tell them it's real, they don't have a bunch of ideologues who tell them it's a hoax," Doniger says..."


Time Is Running Out On Climate Denial. Here's a clip from a story at The Guardian: "...In fact, there are few groups that don’t support significant action to curb carbon pollution. The US military views climate change as a serious threat. The Pope is rumored to be planning a major effort to encourage an international agreement on climate policy targets in 2015. A growing number of faith groups support climate action, viewing it as an issue of stewardship. Even a majority of non-Tea Party Republicans agree that the planet is warming and support an international treaty that requires the United States to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide 90% by the year 2050..."


Can A Christian Make Conservatives Care About Climate Change? RollingStone has the article; here's a snippet: "...Last year, Joyner was featured in Showtime's documentary series Years of Living Dangerously, where she debated climate change with her father in a gripping segment. "What I found was that his resistance had very little to do with theology and much more to do with his entrenched political ideology," she says. "Conservative talking heads and think tanks don't have to prove the science, they just have to introduce an element of doubt..."

Photo credit above: The Years Project/Courtesy of SHOWTIME. "Anna Jane Joyner is trying to convince evangelicals that climate change is a problem worth solving."

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