Be Careful

"Less sunshine, more caffeine!" I babbled yesterday, meditating in front of the urinal. The stranger nodded, pointing to my Caribou coffee cup. "Be careful" he said before walking out.


Careful of what? To much coffee, sunshine.... or making awkward restroom small talk with strangers?

Most Minnesotans crave sunlight even more than warmth. That's why we decorate our homes and trees with little white lights - a touch of artificial radiance. For the record we'll enjoy a meager 8 hours, 57 minutes of daylight today. That compares with 15 hours, 27 minutes on June 21. We lose another 11 minutes of daylight before climbing out of a dark rut by late December & January.

Forget the calendar - Old Man Winter will be temporarily AWOL from next week into Christmas, as a bubble of March-like air, direct from the Pacific, surges into the Plains. 40s, even a few 50s are possible late next week into the following week.

Most of the metro snow will be gone within 10 days and the odds of a brown Christmas are greater than 50-50. After November's cold crunch that's hard to accept.<p>Slush arrives Sunday but no big storms are brewing.

Who knows what January will bring, but mid-December should feel like mid-March. No complaints here.

* photo above courtesy of Steve Burns Photography.

Gradual Warming Trend. Earlier runs of the European model were hinting at 50F by the end of next week, which could still happen, depending on how rapidly we melt snow and whether thick clouds/fog will form as mild, Pacific air surges north. A little rain/snow mix is possible late Sunday into Monday morning; maybe a nuisance accumulation. By the end of next week the atmosphere will be warm enough for rain-only.

Ohio Valley Soaking - Another Pacific Surge. 60-hour NAM accumulated precipitation products from NOAA print out some 2"+ rainfall amounts from near Little Rock to Louisville and Cincinnati; another sloppy Pacific storm spreading 2-4" rains into the Pacific Northwest with flash flooding possible from near Portland to Seattle. Animation: NOAA and HAMweather.

Warm Phase. How long will it last? Great question, but guidance suggests unusual warmth east of the Rockies the second and third week of December, possibly spilling over into Christmas. 500 mb forecast winds from December 10-14 show a long, cold, stormy trough stretching from Hawaii to the west coast. The Pineapple Express will continue to push flooding rains into California and the Pacific Northwest, keeping winds blowing from the west to southwest much of December. I still think this month will wind up being milder than November across most of Minnesota.

November Recap - Much of Minnesota Abnormally Dry Again. Here's an excerpt of a good November summary for the state from the Minnesota DNR, and a look at moisture conditions - once again Minnesota is trending drier than average:

  • Average monthly temperatures for November in Minnesota were well below historical averages, ranging from six to ten degrees below normal. Numerous records for all-time minimum high daily temperatures were set during the month. Extremes for November ranged from a high of 60 degrees F at a number of locales on the 2nd, to a low of -25 degrees F at Camp Norris (Lake of the Woods County) on the 27th.
    [see: November 2014 Climate Summary Table]
  • Snow depths across Minnesota vary from zero to eight inches. Little or no snow cover is on the ground in southwest Minnesota. Whereas, some areas of south central, west central, and northeast Minnesota report six to eight inches of snow depth in early December.
    [see: NWS Snow Depth Estimation Map]
  • The U. S. Drought Monitor, released on December 4, indicated that Abnormally Dry conditions exist over large sections of Minnesota, the result of a dry late summer and autumn. A small area of west central Minnesota is placed in the Moderate Drought category. The Drought Monitor index is a blend of science and subjectivity where drought categories (Moderate, Severe, etc.) are based on several indicators.

Fishing In Pink Waters. Here is one of the better explanations I've seen on El Nino and ENSO in general, and how this periodic warming of Pacific ocean water can impact global weather, courtesy of Road to Paris: "...Here’s the basic idea of El Niño. Every few years, a relatively warm patch of water—the pink on Pierce’s map—forms beneath the Pacific. The difference is just a few degrees, but in a global context, the extra heat can transform the seasonal climate. Some years, the warm region spreads outward and eventually upward, where it meets with easterly trade winds. This creates a feedback loop. Warm water undermines easterly winds that normally enable an upwelling of cool water, which amplifies warming and in turn further slows the winds. It’s this moment of atmospheric-oceanic coupling that helps scientists define the start of El Niño. Wind and water exist in delicate balance with the rest of the climate—so El Niño sets off a cascade of effects..." (Graphic credit: NOAA CPC, NCEP).

Cat 5 Super-Typhoon Hagupit Poised To Hit Philippine Islands Devastated By Haiyan. Here's the intro to Dr. Jeff Master's always-excellent blog at Weather Underground: "Super Typhoon Hagupit has exploded into mighty Category 5 storm with 175 mph winds and a central pressure of 905 mb, and is threatening the same portion of the Philippine Islands devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. The spiral bands of the massive storm are already bringing gusty winds and heavy rain showers to Samar and Leyte Islands, which bore the brunt of Haiyan’s massive storm surge and incredible winds--rated at 190 mph at landfall on November 7, 2013 by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center..."

Thursday visible image courtesy of NOAA RAMMB.

2014: Hottest - Or One Of The Hottest On Record, Worldwide. Here's an excerpt of a post at The World Meteorological Society (WMO) that caught my eye: "The year 2014 is on track to be one of the hottest, if not the hottest, on record, according to preliminary estimates by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This is largely due to record high global sea surface temperatures, which will very likely remain above normal until the end of the year. High sea temperatures, together with other factors, contributed to exceptionally heavy rainfall and floods in many countries and extreme drought in others..."

How Unusual Is The 2012-2014 Drought? According to a new research paper submitted to The Wiley Online Library it may be the worst in 1200 years. Here's an excerpt of the paper's abstract: "...We demonstrate that while 3-year periods of persistent below-average soil moisture are not uncommon, the current event is the most severe drought in the last 1200 years, with single year (2014) and accumulated moisture deficits worse than any previous continuous span of dry years..."

Photo credit: AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File.

The Golden Quarter. Aeon has a terrific article focusing on the golden age of innovation and technological breakthroughs (1945-1971). We have fancy phones, but where are the flying cars? Here's an excerpt that caught my eye: "...In the energy sector, civilian nuclear technology was hobbled by a series of mega-profile ‘disasters’, including Three Mile Island (which killed no one) and Chernobyl (which killed only dozens). These incidents caused a global hiatus into research that could, by now, have given us safe, cheap and low-carbon energy. The climate change crisis, which might kill millions, is one of the prices we are paying for 40 years of risk-aversion. Apollo almost certainly couldn’t happen today. That’s not because people aren’t interested in going to the Moon any more, but because the risk – calculated at a couple-of-per-cent chance of astronauts dying – would be unacceptable..." (Photo credit: NASA).

Natural Gas: The Fracking Fallacy. Limitless natural gas for the next 30-70 years in the United States? That estimate may be overly optimistic. Here's an excerpt of a story at Nature: "...But a careful examination of the assumptions behind such bullish forecasts suggests that they may be overly optimistic, in part because the government's predictions rely on coarse-grained studies of major shale formations, or plays. Now, researchers are analysing those formations in much greater detail and are issuing more-conservative forecasts. They calculate that such formations have relatively small 'sweet spots' where it will be profitable to extract gas. The results are “bad news”, says Tad Patzek, head of the University of Texas at Austin's department of petroleum and geosystems engineering, and a member of the team that is conducting the in-depth analyses..."

32 F. high in the Twin Cities Thursday.

31 F. average high on December 4.

32 F. high on December 4, 2013.

2" snow on the ground at KMSP.

9.4" snow so far this winter season.

11.5" average snowfall in the Twin Cities as of December 4.

5.7" fell as of December 4, 2013.

TODAY: Clouds giving way to slow PM clearing. Winds: SW 5-10. High: 34, then falling

FRIDAY NIGHT: Patchy clouds, turning colder. Low: 16

SATURDAY: Sunny and cooler. Good travel weather. High: 28

SUNDAY: Mostly cloudy. Light mix develops, rain mixing with snow. A little late PM slush? Wake-up: 18. High: 33

MONDAY: Partial clearing, drying out. Wake-up: 27. High: 32

TUESDAY: More sun, close to average. Wake-up: 19. High: 33

WEDNESDAY: Clouds increase, still quiet. Wake-up: 24. High: 35

THURSDAY: Peeks of sun, pleasantly mild! Wake-up: 30. High: 43

* Some models are hinting at highs in the 40s to near 50F by the end of next week.

Climate Stories...

Minneapolis Gets White House Attention for Climate Change Work. The Star Tribune has the story - here's the introduction: "Minneapolis' efforts to combat climate change have helped put it on a White House list of national leaders on the issue. The White House said Wednesday that Minneapolis is one of 16 "Climate Action Champions" selected in a competitive process. Each of the communities will receive help from a coordinator, who will help provide information and guidance on funding, among other support. The designation does not come with direct funding..." (Photo credit: Steve Burns Photography).

"No Warming Since 1998 - Wrong." You've probably heard this meme, temperatures have flattened out or even cooled since 1998, the last extreme El Nino event. The reality is that the data just doesn't support this statement. Here's an excerpt from RealClimate: "...You see a warming trend (blue line) of 0.116 C per decade, so the claim that there has been no warming is wrong. But is the warming significant? The confidence intervals on the trend (+/- 0.137) suggest not - they seem to suggest that the temperature trend might have been as much as +0.25 C, or zero, or even slightly negative. So are we not sure whether there even was a warming trend? That conclusion would be wrong - it would simply be a misunderstanding of the meaning of the confidence intervals. They are not confidence intervals on whether a warming has taken place - it certainly has. These confidence intervals have nothing to do with measurement uncertainties, which are far smaller..."

You see a warming trend (blue line) of 0.116 °C per decade, so the claim that there has been no warming is wrong. But is the warming significant? The confidence intervals on the trend (± 0.137) suggest not – they seem to suggest that the temperature trend might have been as much as +0.25 °C, or zero, or even slightly negative. So are we not sure whether there even was a warming trend?

That conclusion would be wrong – it would simply be a misunderstanding of the meaning of the confidence intervals. They are not confidence intervals on whether a warming has taken place – it certainly has. These confidence intervals have nothing to do with measurement uncertainties, which are far smaller.

- See more at:

CO2 Takes Just 10 Years To Reach Planet's Peak Heat. Stated another way, industry and political leaders can take steps (today) that can effectively lower carbon dioxide levels in their lifetime. Here's a clip from Climate Central: "In a study that could have important ramifications on estimating the impacts, costs and benefits of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, new research shows that CO2 brings peak heat within a decade of being emitted, with the effects then lingering 100 years or more into the future. The research, published Wednesday in Environmental Research Letters, provides policymakers and economists with a new perspective on how fast human carbon emissions heat the planet..."

Animation credit: "Spring atmospheric CO2 concentrations, when they're usually at their peak." Credit: NASA

Climate Skeptics Feeling The Heat. Paul Hudson is a weather and climate presenter at The BBC; here's an excerpt of a recent post: "...And according to new research from the Met Office, the current elevated level of global temperatures is highly unlikely in a world without man-made carbon dioxide. Moreover, the research shows that human influence has made breaking the current UK temperature record around 10 times more likely. In the years since I joined the BBC from the Met Office in 2007 I have spoken to several prominent climate sceptics who always insisted to me, quite vocally, that global temperatures would soon begin to fall. The latest temperature data will make uncomfortable reading for them."

Cartoon credit: Tom Toles, Washington Post.

If A Carbon Tax Is Good Enough For Big Oil. ExxonMobile is already factoring an inevitable price for carbon pollution into their future plans. Why can't Congress do the same? What will unleash the market forces we need, the disruptive Google and Apple-like companies, capable of revolutionizing how we develop and consume energy (with zero carbon)? A carbon tax, as explained by Bloomberg Businessweek Middle East; here's a clip: "...Pricing carbon would address what economist Sir Nicholas Stern in a 2006 report called "the greatest market failure in history". Greenhouse gas emissions cause profound damage - drouught slashes crop yields; hurricanes flood subways; rising seas inundate property - but that damage is not reflected in the emissions' market price. Indeed, the market price is zero: the costs of climate change are shouldered by third parties or society as a whole..."

Facts? We Don't Need No Stinking Facts! A story at Pacific Standard resonated - it's easier to lean on ideology (and not rocking the boat with your friends or peer group) than digging into actual data, which takes some amount of time and effort. Here's an excerpt: "...Ah, but what happens when the facts clearly contradict our assumptions? Do we rethink our opinions at that point? Don’t be silly. New research suggests that, if options such as relying on biased sources of information prove insufficient, many of us simply rely more heavily on “unfalsifiable” assertions—ones that cannot be definitely proven or disproven..."

Saudi Arabia Can't Stop The U.S. Fracking Boom. Here's a clip from a story at National Journal: "World oil producers have put oil prices into a free fall, refusing to pare back global supplies in the hopes that low prices will derail the fracking-backed production boom in the U.S. and preserve OPEC's power over world energy markets. But global analysts are skeptical that the move will work. The basic reason: Prices remain high enough to keep pumping..."

Pricing carbon would address what economist Sir Nicholas Stern in a 2006 report called “the greatest market failure in history”. Greenhouse gas emissions cause profound damage — drought slashes crop yields; hurricanes flood subways; rising seas inundate property — but that damage is not reflected in the emissions’ market price. Indeed, the market price is zero: The costs of climate impacts are shouldered by third parties or society as a whole.

Economists from right to left agree that taxing carbon is the most efficient way to cut emissions. A rising, predictable carbon price would unleash the power of the market against climate change, giving both producers and consumers an incentive to shift to lower-carbon energy choices.

- See more at:

Here's What Your City Will Look Like When The Ice Sheets Melt. Cheap hype? I hope so, and a total collapse of the cryosphere is unlikely in the near term. Then again the rate of melting is faster than those (alarmist!) climate models were predicting 20-30 years ago, especially over Greenland and the Arctic. Here's an excerpt from a story at Grist: "...What are we likely to see? In its most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that, if we continue polluting the way we’ve been, the seas will rise between 1.7 and 3.2 feet by 2100. But that’s a conservative estimate. A survey of sea-level scientists published earlier this year found that most experts believe the IPCC’s worst-case scenario is actually about the best we can expect if we aggressively cut greenhouse gas emissions, starting now. Failing that, they said, we can expect 2.3 to 4 feet of rise by 2100, and 6.5 to 9.8 feet by 2300. Some believe we could see as much as 16 feet of rise by the end of this century..." (Image: Jeffrey Linn).

2014 Headed Toward Hottest Year on Record - Here's Why That's Remarkable. Joe Romm takes a look at 2014 temperature records, in spite of a lack of El Nino. Here's an excerpt from Think Progress: "...What is remarkable, as the WMO explains, is that we’re headed toward record high global temps “in the absence of a full El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).” We get an El Niño “when warmer than average sea-surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific combine, in a self-reinforcing loop, with atmospheric pressure systems,” which affects weather patterns around the world. It’s usually the combination of the long-term manmade warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records. But not this year..."

* Graph above courtesy of The U.K. Met Office.

The Rate of Melting Ice in Antarctica's Most Vulnerable Region Has Tripled. Slate has the story - including a clip that made me do a double-take: "...In fact, the melt rate in West Antarctica’s most vulnerable region, the Amundsen Sea Embayment, has tripled over the last decade, according to new research released on Tuesday. The total glacier loss averaged 91.5 billion tons per year according to the study, which means that every two years for the last two decades it lost a water weight equivalent to Mt. Everest. The loss rate has only been getting worse, accelerating by an average of 6.7 billion tons per year since 1992..." (File photo: James Yungel, NASA).

The Last Time The Arctic Was Ice-Free In The Summer, Modern Humans Didn't Exist. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus at Slate provides perspective at Slate; here's an excerpt: "...1 year ago, atmospheric carbon dioxide reaches 400 parts per million for the first time in at least 800,000 years, probably longer. It took 100,000 generations for human ancestors to transition to something resembling us. For each of those 100,000 generations, the planet was crowned with ice. Now, that ice will probably go away. That incredibly rapid rate of change—10 times faster than any change recorded over the past 65 million years—is extinction-worthy..."

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