What a Wondrously Troubling December

Go with the flow, roll with the punches. Someone should set that to music in 2020. My December gardening is not going well. I keep watering the hydrangea, but so far no sprouts.

Mow the lawn one last time? Put the boat back in? Bad idea. This pattern seems otherworldly, considering snow drifts could easily be thigh-high by mid-December.

Why? Natural weather cycles superimposed on a slow warming trend, with unknown effects from a rapidly-warming arctic. Changes that have left our day to day weather, increasingly, playing out of tune. And some days, weeks and months it's more noticeable than others.

Looking into late December I see longer-duration spells of Pacific warmth and brief, chilly Canadian slaps. If snow was a stock I'd short it right about now. Until we get consistently cold air in place and a storm track running from Des Moines to La Crosse and Eau Claire, it'll be hard to see significant snow.

ECMWF (European) guidance has 40s today, with another shot at 40F Monday and Friday.

NOAA's GFS suggests highs in the mid-30s for Christmas.

Santa may need a red SUV.

Where's the Snow? We are heading into mid-December but the latest NOAA snow cover map looks like something you might see in early October. At last report 10.5% of the lower 48 states had snow on the ground, down from 18.3% of the USA on November 9.

Keep Dreaming. At this point, unless there is a major shift in weather patterns (that isn't yet showing up on the weather models) I'm not sure how we salvage a white Christmas for most of Minnesota. It's not impossible, but the odds are...small.

Dribs and Drabs of Snow. A coating for far northern Minnesota by Friday evening? Borrow a friends's snowmobile until further notice.

Mild Thursday, Then Cooling Off. For a point of reference, our new definition of cold front is merely a return to average temperatures early next week. A few clippers are brewing, each one followed by a relatively brief shot of Canadian air, but no prolonged polar outbreaks are in sight.

Mild Bias into Christmas? That's what GFS is implying, and ECMWF shows a few days at or just above 40F next week as we approach the Winter Solstice. Cold fronts are inevitable, but in the scope of things not that cold at all.

Christmas Coating? It's a bit of a stretch, but if the 2-week GFS forecast verifies (a very big if) the next inevitable cold front could squeeze out a little snow Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but we're really gasping at straws here. Until a thick dome of cold air is in place and jet stream winds buckle, allowing southern moisture to stream north and fuel a real storm, it'll be slim 'pickens in terms of accumulating snow.

New Index Shows Riskiest Places for Minnesota's Natural Hazards. There were some stats in this Star Tribune post that I had not seen before; here's an excerpt: "...Windstorms are the number one source of power outages in Minnesota, he said. There's no evidence that climate change is amplifying the winds, he said. Warmer winters and heavier and more frequent precipitation remain the state's biggest climate change signals. But wetter soil means trees are more vulnerable to toppling, he said. Waage noted that the FEMA index doesn't address all the types of flooding affecting Minnesota. It covers coastal and river flooding, but not flooding on regular ground caused by heavy rains and rising water tables. "What we're finding is that nationally, about a quarter of flood damages are outside of flood plains now," Waage said..."

2020 Billion Dollar Disasters. The extremes are becoming more extreme over time, according to a good summary at Climate Central: "According to NOAA NCEI, 2020 is the sixth consecutive year in which the U.S. has experienced 10 or more billion-dollar weather- and climate-related disasters, compared to the 1980-2019 average of 6.6 events per year. It may take some time to assess the full impact of the 2020 disasters; so far the toll is 188 lives lost and $46.6 billion dollars and counting. In the midst of the pandemic, tens of thousands of Americans were forced to flee their homes. The American Red Cross reported that it provided over 1.2 million overnight stays to evacuees (quadruple the number provided in an average year) and emergency financial assistance to 11,800 households, primarily in response to wildfires and hurricanes..."

NOAA Expert Answers Questions About Historic 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season. NOAA has more insight into the crazy year we just experienced; here's an excerpt: "...The total number of tropical storms that were named this season has broken the all-time record set in 2005, so this is probably the most noteworthy aspect. But we also saw yet more examples of very rapid intensification and very slow moving hurricanes, both of which have recently been linked to climate change. In 2020, to date, there have been a remarkable ten hurricanes that rapidly intensified (Hanna, Laura, Sally, Teddy, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta and Iota)—some of which underwent explosive intensification—and two hurricanes that practically stopped moving as they made landfall (Sally on the Gulf Coast and Eta in Central America). All of these storms had the potential for causing great damage and loss of life because they were so strong and they lingered for so long..."

Most Popular Holiday Dessert in Each State. Because the public demands answers. Mental Floss delves into the details: "...After analyzing last December's Google Trends data for more than 40 holiday treats, online recruiter Zippia found that 11 states put up surprisingly high numbers for cheesecake. Most of them seem to have gone for classic recipes, but two states got creative: Hawaii favored Oreo cheesecake, while Pennsylvania preferred gingerbread cheesecake. Pennsylvania wasn't the only state to pay homage to gingerbread's legacy as a holiday staple. Colorado and Maryland went for gingerbread cake, and New Hampshire and Virginia both chose an even more traditional route—gingerbread men..."

52 F. high in the Twin Cities on Wednesday.

29 F. average high on December 9.

34 F. high on December 9, 2019.

December 10, 1992: By this time there is partial ice cover in the Duluth harbor.

December 10, 1979: A 'heat wave' develops across Minnesota. Highs of 54 at Twin Cities and 57 at Winona are recorded.

December 10, 1978: Alexandria ends its fourteen day stretch of low temperatures at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit.

December 10, 1889: A late season thunderstorm is observed at Maple Plain.

THURSDAY: Partly sunny, pleasant. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 43

FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy and cooler. Winds: N 8-13. Wake-up: 29. High: 33

SATURDAY: More clouds than sun, breezy and dry. Winds: NE 10-20. Wake-up: 25. High: 32

SUNDAY: Bright sunshine returns. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 18. High: 31

MONDAY: Intervals of sun, still quiet. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 22. High: 38

TUESDAY: Cloudy, gusty and colder. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 28. High: 33

WEDNESDAY: Brief reality check: chilled sunshine. Wake-up: 20. High: 23

Climate Stories...

Americans Have Spent More Nights in Emergency Housing in 2020 Than In Any Other Year on Record. CBS News has details; here are 2 excerpts: "...The2020 fire seasonis finally winding down in the U.S., but the damage is done:nearly 14 million acreshave burned across the nation, aboutdouble the 10-year averageand themost acres burnedsince reliable record-keeping began in 1983. Five of the sixlargest fires in California historyand three of the fourlargest in Colorado historyall burned this year...These kinds ofdystopian weather eventsare not a coincidence — they're a sign of human-caused climate change. Extreme weather is a part of the natural cycle, but the recent boost in both the ferocity and frequency of these extremes, scientists say, is evidence of an acceleration of climate impacts, which will only get worse as society continues to release heat-trapping greenhouse pollution..."

Global Emissions Hit New High, On Track for Increase of 3 Degrees Celsius - UN. Reuters has details: "Greenhouse gas emissions reached a new high last year, putting the world on track for an average temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius, a U.N. report showed on Wednesday. The report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - the latest to suggest the world is hurtling toward extreme climate change - follows a year of sobering weather extremes, including rapid ice loss in the Arctic as well as record heat waves and wildfires in Siberia and the U.S. West. On Monday, researchers at Europe's Copernicus Climate Change Service said last month was the hottest-ever November on record. "The year 2020 is on course to be one of the warmest on record, while wildfires, storms and droughts continue to wreak havoc," said Inger Andersen, UNEP's Executive Director..."

Shift to Not-So-Frozen North is Well Underway, Scientists Warn. The New York Times (paywall) reports: "The Arctic continued its unwavering shift toward a new climate in 2020, as the effects of near-record warming surged across the region, shrinking ice and snow cover and fueling extreme wildfires, scientists said Tuesday in an annual assessment of the region. Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the University of Alaska and one of the editors of the assessment, said it "describes an Arctic region that continues along a path that is warmer, less frozen and biologically changed in ways that were scarcely imaginable even a generation ago." "Nearly everything in the Arctic, from ice and snow to human activity, is changing so quickly that there is no reason to think that in 30 years much of anything will be as it is today," he said..."

Sea Ice Loss and Extreme Wildfires Mark Another Year of Arctic Change. NOAA has more perspective in their annual Arctic Report Card; here are a few highlights: "...The average annual land-surface air temperature in the Arctic measured between October 2019 and September 2020 was the second-warmest since record-keeping began in 1900, and was responsible for driving a cascade of impacts across Arctic ecosystems during the year. Nine of the past 10 years saw air temperatures at least 1 degree C above(2.2 degrees F)the 1981-2010 mean. Arctic temperatures for the past six years have all exceeded previous records. Extremely high temperatures across Siberia during spring 2020 resulted in the lowest June snow extent across the Eurasian Arctic observed in the past 54 years..."

Global Warming Has Profoundly Transformed Arctic in Just 15 Years, Report Warns. Capital Weather Gang has more ramifications of a rapidly warming Arctic Region: "...The Arctic is quickly losing its ice, and as it loses its ice, it loses its soul. In terms of a report card, the Arctic has been failing for a long time, and the blame lies on us," said Mark Serreze, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., in an email. This year, the biggest Arctic climate extremes were the persistent, dramatically warmer than average conditions in the Siberian Arctic, which had a domino effect that led to record-low sea ice in the adjacent Kara and Laptev Seas, a wildfire season that defied historical norms, melting permafrost and changes in wildlife populations..."