Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Early Hints of Spring In A Week? Warmer Winter Messing Up Minnesota Ice Fishing Contests

17 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.
27 F. average high on February 9.
33 F. high on February 9, 2015.

February 10, 1965: A snowstorm dumps 15 inches of snow at Duluth over two days.
February 10, 1861: An ice storm impacts Elk River. Coatings of 1/2 inch of ice are reported. The ice broke off many large branches and saplings were bent to the ground.
February 10, 1857: Extreme cold at Fort Ripley. E.J. Baily, Assistant Surgeon notes: 'Spirit thermometer -50 at 6am. Mercury frozen in charcoal cup. Spirit thermometer at Little Falls 16 miles from the fort -56 at 6am. The lowest degree of cold on record in the territory'.


Goosebump Alert - Whiff of Spring Next Week?

My Navy son is stationed in San Diego, a palm tree-studded oasis of warmth and sanity in southern California, a city with the distinction of having the best climate in the USA. "The weather is here, wish you were beautiful!" the text read.

If only.

Some days I fantasize about predicting the weather in a sunny, warm (boring) city. It might be fun for a couple of weeks, but I'd be climbing the walls before long. The variability, the seasons, the weather-specific traditions, the ebb and flow of the weather? Those are the things I would miss.

And it's not like we're having a "Polar Vortex" winter - now we gripe when it gets below zero. In the 70s we had consecutive WEEKS below zero. This is still a pale imitation of the winters your grandparents muddled through.

A clipper brushes far southwest MN with snow today. I could see an inch or 2 Sunday, followed by a sweeping thaw next week as Pacific air charges east. 30s and a few 40s are likely.

Is this the last significant cold shot of winter? Probably. Cold waves are possible in March, but fairly rare. Spring is coming. Trust me.

Widening Your Bubble. "Paul, I'm cold! How can the planet be warming?" It's probably in our caveman DNA to look out the window and assume it's this way (everywhere). It's challenging keeping a global perspective, especially over long periods of time. That's why climate scientists analyze trends going back many hundreds of thousands of years. It's colder than average here today, but much of the northern hemisphere is still warmer than average as of Wednesday morning. Map: Climate Reanalyzer.

Clipped by a Clipper. Today's swirl of low pressure pinwheeling out of Alberta (imagine that) will drop a couple inches of powder on far southwestern Minnesota. Clouds will thicken ini the metro, but any flakes should stay south and west of a line from Alexandria to Willmar to Mankato. 84-hour accumulated snow product: NOAA NAM and AerisWeather.

Light At The End of the Tunnel. 4 more character-building days, then a significant thaw next week with 30s returning, even a chance of 40s by the end of next week, according to European guidance. The next clipper pushes a shield of light snow across the state over the weekend; maybe an inch or two - the pattern not ripe for big storms (of any flavor) anytime soon. Source: WeatherSpark.
Coldest Morning: Saturday. Under the center of a Canadian high pressure bubble skies will be clear, winds light, conditions ideal for a rapid loss of thermal energy. Translation: Saturday morning is going to be cold with wake-up temperatures close to -10F in the suburbs. Source: Aeris Enterprise.


Lake Effect - in February? A steady stream of polar air passing over the relatively warm waters of the Great Lakes will spark very significant lake effect snows in the coming days; the best chance of plowable snows into next week over the Minnesota Arrowhead from a weekend clipper. 10-Day snowfall accumulation: NOAA GFS and AerisWeather.

Spring Preview from AccuWeather. I envision a milder than average spring, based on the current El Nino,  which is now bigger than the one that hit in 1997-98. The spring of 1998 brought a rash of extreme weather and severe thunderstorms with large hail; I vaguely recall nearly $2 billion in damage in1998, much of that hail-related. Does that automatically mean a similar spring is imminent. No. Every El Nino is different, with varying symptoms and impacts, but don't be shocked if we see more severe storms (earlier than usual). Here's a clip from AccuWeather.com: "...However, that will change as April progresses and storms track from the Southwest, leading to increased severe weather in the central and southern Plains, Mississippi Valley and Midwest. "Intense warmth ahead of these storms comming out of the West is going to promote severe weather. Those are the ingredients you need," Pastelok said. "The thing that worries me the most is that it could turn into heavy rain producers that could lead to flooding. And we've seen lots of flooding already over this past winter season in the Mississippi Valley..."

March Preview. Although February may wind up a little colder than previous runs of NOAA's CFSv2 (Climate Forecast System) were predicting a few weeks ago, the model continues to insist that El Nino-warmed winds will result in a much warmer than average March for much of western and central Canada and the northern tier states of the USA. We'll see, but the model has been amazingly consistent. Map source: WeatherBell.

Has El Nino Abandoned L.A.? Pacific-fueled storms have whacked the Pacific Northwest and northern California, but it's still abnormally warm and (mostly) dry across SoCal. Here's a clip from The Los Angeles Times: "...Southern California is still well below average rainfall, with downtown L.A. reporting 52% of normal since Oct. 1. But deluge after deluge to the north has built back the snowpack — it's 105% of normal in the Sierra Nevada — and begun to refill drought-depleted reservoirs. For Southern California, the strong El Niño "hasn't been a great predictor so far this winter," said Stanford University climate scientist Daniel Swain, and "hasn't been influencing the atmosphere in exactly the same way that we have seen." A massive ridge of high pressure is keeping much of California dry and warm this week. In Southern California, that brought dry winds and temperatures that approached 90..." (Graphic: L.A. Times).

NOAA and NASA Team Up To Investigate Strongest El Nino on Record. It's looking even bigger and more pervasive than the previous record warm stain in the Pacific in 1997-98. Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "America’s two leading climate science agencies are conducting an unprecedented survey via land, sea and air to investigate the current El Niño event and better understand its impact on weather systems that have brought both parched and soaking conditions to North America. The project, which will conclude in March, will deploy resources from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) and Nasa to analyze one of the strongest El Niños on record. El Niño is a periodic phenomenon in which parts of the eastern Pacific warm, causing a ripple effect for weather around the world..."

Animation credit: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

El Nino Seems To Have Smashed 1997 Record in Past Three Months. With additional perspective on today's weather headline here's an excerpt from New Scientist: "The evidence is in: we seem to be living though the most extreme of extreme weather events. Last year, New Scientist reported early indications that the present El Niño event is probably the strongest ever recorded. A new analysis backs that view. El Niño is a periodic phenomenon that occurs when ocean temperatures warm in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. Even before this current event began, forecasters warned that it was likely to wreak havoc with the world’s weather..."

Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies: earth.nullschool.net


Is Climate Change Making El Ninos Worse? That Remains a Scientific Mystery. The jury is still out. Here's an excerpt at Texas Climate News: "...But what about the deadly Texas downpours of last May, when the ENSO was developing? Was global warming partly to blame? Utah State University researchers assert that it was. They said greenhouse gas emissions brought a “significant increase” in abnormal rainfall in Texas and Oklahoma. Others aren’t convinced. Even if global warming is strengthening the atmosphere’s response to El Niños – unproven, Nielsen-Gammon said – the current one needed little help..."

Graphic credit above: "The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides this summary description of the phenomenon that produces El Niño and La Niña conditions: “El Niño and La Niña are the warm and cool phases of a recurring climate pattern across the tropical Pacific—the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or ‘ENSO’ for short. The pattern can shift back and forth irregularly every two to seven years, and each phase triggers predictable disruptions of temperature, precipitation, and winds. These changes disrupt the large-scale air movements in the tropics, triggering a cascade of global side effects.”


Drought Remains "Very Serious" in California. Recent rains and heavy snows are putting a dent in the drought, but the long term implications are still uncertain.  Here's a clip from Capital Public Radio: "...January brought above-average precipitation to California, but the narrative says more is needed to end the state’s historic four-year drought. "Despite heavy rainfall in January, an above-average snowpack and rising reservoirs in many areas, the California State Water Resources Control Board recently approved an 8-month extension of existing drought-related emergency regulations," the report says. "This is a reminder that although El Niño-related precipitation has been bountiful so far this winter, the drought situation in California remains very serious..."

Photo credit above: "The second snowpack measurement of the winter Feb. 2 was 130 percent of average at Phillips Station off Highway 50 near Sierra-at-Tahoe Road." California Department of Water Resources / Courtesy.

New Lyme-Disease-Causing Bacteria Discovered by Mayo Researchers. Here's another day-brightener, courtesy of MinnPost: "Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have discovered a new species of bacteria in the Upper Midwest that causes Lyme disease. They have named the bacteria Borrelia mayonii, after the two brothers, William and James Mayo, who founded the Rochester, Minnesota, clinic. Before this finding, which was published Monday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, the only species believed to cause Lyme disease in North America was Borrelia burgdorferi..."

Image credit: Blacklegged ticks, Minnesota Department of Health.

Driven by Power Outages and Savings, Towns Look to Microgrid. Is smaller better, more secure, resilient and ultimately sustainable? Here's an excerpt from The Associated Press: "An upstate New York town that repeatedly found itself without power for days during a string of storms is planning a dramatic step by pulling its municipal buildings entirely off the electric grid. The decision by Nassau to rely on solar, wind, landfill gas and battery storage by 2020 puts the town of 5,000 near Albany on the leading edge of a national campaign to develop "microgrids" designed to make communities more energy independent and the grid more resilient. While only a few communities have become early adopters and natural disasters have been a driving force, proponents say there is also growing interest nationwide from places looking to save money by selling excess power to utilities and to help the environment..."

Global Initiative Introduces First Proposal to Reduce Airplane Pollution. The Guardian reports; here's the intro: "Governments proposed for the first time on Monday to reduce climate pollution from airplanes, plugging one of the biggest loopholes in last December’s landmark Paris agreement. The global initiative was a first attempt to halt carbon emissions from air travel – one of the fastest growing sources of climate pollution. In a call with reporters, White House officials described the standards as “a huge deal”, noting that the aviation authority has also proposed an aspirational goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2020..."

File photo: Alamy.

China's Experimental Fusion Reactor Maintains Superheated Hydrogen Plasma for 102 Seconds. We're getting ever-closer; here's an excerpt at Gizmag: "A bit of friendly competition never hurt anyone. China's EAST tokamak and Germany's Wendelstein 7-X aren't exactly fusion energy's answer to Messi and Ronaldo, but through their own flashes of individual brilliance the reactors might one day command the world's attention in a much more important way. Wendelstein 7-X made headlines last week after generating a quarter-of-a-second pulse of hydrogen plasma, and now scientists at China's Institute of Physical Science have flexed their fusion muscle to sustain the gas for an impressive 102 seconds..."

Photo credit: "China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak reactor." (Credit: IPP)


Economists Keep Saying We Should Put a Price on Nature. Now They've Finally Done It. Factoring in the real (socialized) costs is essential in any discussion of costs and benefits; here's an excerpt at The Washington Post: "Putting a price on nature may seem like an impossible task, but economists believe that finding a way to calculate the value of natural resources is crucial when it comes to deciding whether our use of a resource is sustainable. Natural resources are capital assets, economists have argued, in the same way that land, buildings and stocks are considered assets — and spending money to protect these resources should be viewed as an investment in the future rather than just another cost. The problem is that, so far, no one has developed a good way to estimate the monetary value of natural resources. But now, a group of scholars may have finally come up with a solution..."

"Flint Isn't An Anomaly. We're Heading Toward a National  Water Crisis." Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from Mark Ruffalo at The Washington Post: "...Sadly, there have since been numerous high-profile cases of contamination, such as in Toledo, Ohio, in 2014, where agricultural runoff and crumbling infrastructure led to an algal bloom in Lake Erie that made the city’s drinking water unsafe. Also in 2014, in West Virginia, a chemical spill contaminated the Elk River, the tap water supply for hundreds of thousands of people. This past August, 3 million gallons of contaminated water were released into the Animas River in Colorado, resulting in lead levels 3,500 times normal and arsenic levels 300 times normal, affecting many communities and farms..." (File image credit: ThinkStock).

54 Million Americans Incorrectly Labeled as Unhealthy. This vaguely reassuring article is courtesy of Quartz; here's an excerpt: "Body Mass Index is used by everyone from insurers to health professionals to determine whether someone is at a healthy weight. According to the index, which is calculated by dividing a person’s weight by the square of the person’s height, someone with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is “healthy,” whereas a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is classed as “overweight” and a BMI of 30 or higher is categorized as “obese.” But these numbers do not directly correlate with physical health, according to a study of 40,420 people published this week in the International Journal of Obesity..."

U.S. Military: Robot Wars. Financial Times has a must-read story focused on the future role of the military and the use of robotics; here's an excerpt: "...The underlying objective of the new strategy is to find weapons and technologies to ensure US forces “can fight their way to the fight” as one official puts it — to evade the layered missile defences both China and Russia can erect, to defend bases against attack from precision-guided missiles and to be able to operate carrier fleets at a much greater distance from an enemy. For some Pentagon planners, the long-term answers will be found in robotics — be they unmanned, autonomous planes or submarines that can surprise an enemy or robot soldiers that can reduce the risk to humans by launching attacks. Mr Work, who once co-wrote a paper called “Preparing for War in the Robotic Age”, said in December: “Ten years from now, if the first person through a breach isn’t a fricking robot, then shame on us...”

Congressional Clocks Have a Secret Code. Let the conspiracy theories begin. Here's an excerpt at Atlas Obscura: "...Look along the top of a Congressional wall clock, and you’ll see seven small light bulbs. Even the fancier clocks in members’ offices have them. From time to time, these will light up in particular sequences, accompanied by loud, long buzzes or series of shorter buzzes. These patterns all have meanings: they’re meant to communicate to people working on the Hill when electronic votes are called, when one chamber or the other is adjourned or in recess, and when members need to think about actually being in the Senate or House chamber..."

Photo credit: "Library of Congress rotunda clock." (Photo: Library of Congress).

What Nationality Is A Baby Born Mid-Flight? Great question. How much time do you have? Atlas Obscura tackles the question; here's a clip: "...The answer is quite complicated, and contested. Countries have different laws governing the citizenship of babies born on their soil–either jus soli or jus sanguinis; Latin for right of the soil versus right of blood, respectively. Most countries follow jus sanguinis, which dictates that the baby can only assume citizenship via one or both parents. However, the U.S. and some of its neighbors observe the more generous jus soli, which grants automatic citizenship to babies born on their soil..."

Photo credit above: "What is the nationality of a baby born on a plane?" (Photo: mliu92/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)


WEDNESDAY: Clouds increase. Chilly. Winds: N 5-10. High: 11

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy and cold. Low: 0

THURSDAY: More sun, comfortably numb. Winds: W 5-10. High: 16

FRIDAY: Next shot, feels like 0 to -10F with some sun. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 9. High: 12

SATURDAY: Cobalt-blue sky, light winds. Winds: NE 5-10. Wake-up: -6. High: 9

SUNDAY: Couple inches of snow? Slick. Wake-up: 4. High: 20

MONDAY: Overcast, above average again. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 15. High: 31

TUESDAY: Early flurries, slow clearing. Wake-up: 28. High: 35

* 40s are likely the latter half of next week.

Climate Stories...


No Climate Conspiracy: NOAA Temperature Adjustments Bring Data Closer to Pristine. Here's the intro to a story at The Guardian: "Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has embarked upon a witch-hunt against climate scientists at NOAA, accusing them of conspiring to fudge global temperature data. However, a new study has found that the adjustments NOAA makes to the raw temperature data bring them closer to measurements from a reference network of pristinely-located temperature stations. Before delving into the new study, it’s worthwhile to revisit the temperature adjustments that Lamar Smith disputes. Volunteers have been logging measurements from weather stations around the world for over 150 years, and climate scientists use that data to estimate the Earth’s average surface temperature..."

Photo credit above: "The U.S. Climate Reference Network consists of 114 stations, including this one in Capitol Reef National Park, Torrey, Utah." Photograph: NOAA.

Cruz's "Pseudoscientific" Climate Claims. No, the satellite record isn't the best measure of tropospheric warming because it only infers temperatures at various altitudes, and the onboard sensors are peering through a cooling stratosphere, another symptom of AGW; here's the intro to a fact-checking story at FactCheck.org: "While on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz gave a speech to local residents that contained inaccurate and misleading claims about climate science and its terminology:
  • Cruz claimed “none of the alarmists say ‘global warming’ anymore — now it’s ‘climate change.’ ” That’s inaccurate. Scientists still use both terms, but tend to use “climate change” more often because, in addition to warming, it refers to phenomena such as sea-level rise and changes in precipitation patterns.
  • Cruz also said “climate change is the perfect pseudoscientific theory because it can never, ever, ever be disproven.” This is false. It could be, but the chances are slim. Climate change rests on the veracity of the greenhouse effect, a theory which has been repeatedly verified since it was first proposed in 1824..."


U.S. Military to War Game Climate Change Threats. Concern grows about climate volatility and weather/water/crop disruption as a "threat multiplier", accelerating global challenges and conflicts, many of which invariably blow back on the USA. Here's an excerpt at Climate Home: "US military planners have been ordered to war game climate change scenarios, focusing on “geopolitical and socioeconomic instability” linked to extreme weather. A new directive says forces need to undertake joint training exercises with allies to “enhance capacity” and “improve tactics” for tackling impacts linked to global warming. “Mission planning and execution must include identification and assessment of the effects of climate change on the DoD [department of defence] mission,” it reads..." (Image source: U.S. Military, Flickr).


The Pentagon Just Issued Marching Orders on Climate Change. Here's the intro to an update from VICE News: "A bit over a year after identifying climate change as a "significant challenge" for the US military, the US Department of Defense has given its top officials orders for handling the hazards posed by a warming world. The boring-but-important 12-page document issued in January tells the armed service chiefs and top civilian officials to identify how climate change will affect their missions, figure out how to manage any risks it poses, and factor those into their planning. It gives specific tasks to various Defense Department offices and regional commands, from determining how higher sea levels or longer droughts affect US bases to what new gear might be needed to work in a thawing Arctic..."

Global Warming: Coming To An Ice Fishing Contest Near You. Here's an excerpt from a post by climate science communicator Greg Laden: "Over the last several years, ice fishing contests, which are a big deal in Minnesota, have been repeatedly cancelled due to insufficient ice thickness on the relevant lake. Some of these contests have been permanently cancelled because the annual cancelations were becoming more frequent. Just now, the Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby has been cancelled. That’s bad. But even more disturbing is this: Ice conditions for the Eel Pout Festival have created enough concern to prompt vehicle restrictions, according to the Cass County Sheriff’s Office..."

7 Smarter Ways To Talk About Climate Change. Some good advice from Grist; here's an excerpt: "...There are billions and billions to be made in [the energy sector] inevitably over the coming two decades. America can lead that or can be dragged backwards into it. So what role does American business play in this transition? Like in the transition from horse carriages to cars: Do you want to produce horse carriages or be in the car business? When Google throws billions of dollars at Nest, it’s not because they want to be kind. You draw people into a commercial discussion and, again, climate is the background...”

Companies Are Misrepresenting Their Carbon Emissions. Michigan Radio has a story that is raising eyebrows; here's the intro: "Many companies are making their carbon emissions public, to show they are doing their part to fight climate change. But new research by Lux Research indicates most companies in the U.S. are either underestimating or overestimating their emissions. Ory Zik is Vice President of Analytics for Lux Research.  He says estimating one's own carbon emissions is very difficult.  That's because electricity moves from region to region on grids..."

File photo credit: "This is not a Google data center. It's one at the University of Hertfordshire. Data centers use a fair amount of electricity." Credit wikieditor243 / wikimedia/commons.

Weakening Ice Shelves Raise Sea Level Rise Conncerns. It's the "unknown unknowns" that keep climate scientists up at night. Here's an excerpt at Climate Central: "...The findings, published in Nature Climate Change on Monday, show that West Antarctica — long an area of scientific concern when it comes to sea level rise — has some of the weakest areas of defense protecting its ice. Researchers analyzed the tongues of ice — known as ice shelves — to see how much ground each ice shelf could lose before processes began to speed up, sending more inland ice to the sea. “When they break-up, it is like pulling the plug in the bathtub for the adjacent tributary glaciers,” Johannes Fürst, an ice expert at University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and leader of the new study, said. “For our article, we just wondered how far we can cut into the existing ice-shelf geometries before a notable and instant dynamic effect becomes apparent.”

Map credit: "Map showing the percentage area of "passive" ice in all of Antarctica's ice shelves. Passive ice can be lost without dramatically changing glacier and ice sheet dynamics." Credit: Fürst et al., 2016.

What The Earth Will Be Like in 10,000 Years. Chris Mooney delves into the latest science for a very long-range outlook. Chances are our distant ancestors won't be amused. Here's an excerpt at The Washington Post: "...In hundreds of years from now, people will look back and say, ‘yeah, the sea level is rising, it will continue to rise, we live with a constant rise of sea level because of these people 200 years ago that used coal, and oil, and gas,’ ” said Anders Levermann, a sea-level-rise expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and one of the paper’s authors. “If you just look at this, it’s stunning that we can make such a long-lasting impact that has the same magnitude as the ice ages...”

Image credit: "Oceanographer Josh Willis from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory explains how sea levels have changed over the last two decades." (NASA).

Consequences for 21st Century Policy for Multi-Millenial Climate and Sea-Level Change. Here's an abstract excerpt and link to a new paper that's generating headlines, courtesy of Nature Climate Change: "...Here, we argue that the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, a period during which the overwhelming majority of human-caused carbon emissions are likely to occur, need to be placed into a long-term context that includes the past 20 millennia, when the last Ice Age ended and human civilization developed, and the next ten millennia, over which time the projected impacts of anthropogenic climate change will grow and persist. This long-term perspective illustrates that policy decisions made in the next few years to decades will have profound impacts on global climate, ecosystems and human societies — not just for this century, but for the next ten millennia and beyond."


Sea Level Rise Will Last Twice as Long as Human History. With perspective on the new research highlighted above, here's the intro to a story at Newsweek: "Huge sea-level rises caused by climate change will last far longer than the entire history of human civilization to date, according to new research, unless the brief window of opportunity of the next few decades is used to cut carbon emissions drastically. Even if global warming is capped at governments’ target of 2 degrees Celsius — which is already seen as difficult — 20 percent of the world’s population will eventually have to migrate away from coasts swamped by rising oceans. Cities including New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Calcutta, Jakarta and Shanghai would all be submerged..."

Graphic credit: Guardian, source: Nature Climate Change.

Blackrock: World's Largest Investor Flags Up Climate Risk. How much exposure do you have in your portfolio? Climate Home has the story - here's the intro: "In a letter to the heads of S&P 500 companies and top European corporations, Larry Fink expressed concern at the lack of focus on environmental and social risks in boardrooms. “For too long, companies have not considered them core to their business – even when the world’s political leaders are increasingly focused on them, as demonstrated by the Paris Climate Accord. “Over the long-term, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues – ranging from climate change to diversity to board effectiveness – have real and quantifiable financial impacts...”

Photo credit: Suisse/Flickr.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cold Enough - Military Gives New Marching Orders on Climate Change

17 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday.
27 F. average high on February 8.
32 F. high on February 8, 2015.

2" snow on the ground at MSP International Airport.

February 9, 1899: The mercury plummets to -59 at Leech Lake Dam.



Better Travel Conditions - Cold Weather Benefits

John Inman from Morris sent me a note. "It was so cold my teeth were chattering...and they were still in the glass!" Thank you for keeping a sense of humor, John. Yes, when it's this cold the crime rate drops, and your garbage doesn't stink. There are other benefits.

Winter tends to bring cleaner air with less smog; good news for asthma sufferers. Better sleeping weather, less inflammation, better decision-making capabilities, calories get burned away faster and more time bonding with loved ones. Oh, no bugs - and no whining about the humidity!

This may wind up being the second coldest week of winter, a winter that should still wind up milder than average, overall. Highs hold in the teens and single digits; the best chance of feeling a mildly-euphoric subzero burn early Wednesday, again Saturday morning.

Not record-setting. Not school-closing. Just classic Minnesota Cold.

20s may return as early as Sunday with 30s next week. NOAA's GFS model hints at wet snow or a sloppy mix the weekend after next.

Spring is coming, and odds are it'll be milder than average. Any day now.
Ground Blizzards. Although no significant snow was falling from the sky winds of 30-55 mph whipped up snow already on the ground, producing white-out conditions over southwestern Minnesota on Monday. I grabbed this screenshot from MnDOT at 1:30 PM; many roads from St. James and Windom to Pipestone and Jackson still closed. Turns out those Blizzard Warnings issued by the Twin Cities National Weather Service were a very good idea.


Atmospheric "Bomb". The Nor'easter than spun up Sunday into Monday, brushing Cape Cod and Boston with blizzard conditions was no garden-variety storm. Tell that to passengers onboard Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas, which somehow steamed into the heart of hurricane-force winds.  Here's an excerpt of a harrowing account at Capital Weather Gang: "...Others were in pure awe of the storm, which was going through a process that we call bombogenesis, when mid-latitude cyclones undergo a drop in surface barometric pressure at a rate of 24 millibars in 24 hours..."

A Bit of Wind Chill. Models show wind chill values as low as -22F at 7 AM Wednesday morning. Not exactly school-closing cold, but chilly enough to get your full attention. Source: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Polar Vortex (Light). Subzero air laps south of the border, the thrust of the chill aimed at the Great Lakes  and New England; freezing weather pushing as far south as the Florida Panhandle. GFS model data shows a shift in the pattern next week as milder, Pacific air finally pushes east. Source: AerisWeather.

Thaw Next Week. Models consistently show temperatures dipping (just) below 0F into Saturday morning before a fairly rapid recovery next week; 20s are possible by Sunday with a few days in the 30s next week. I predict you'll be relieved and vaguely amazed how good "freezing" feels after a very cold week.

Serious Lake Effect. Subzero air funneling south of the border (thank you Canada) passing over the relatively mild Great Lakes will produce some 1-2 foot lake effect snows just downwind, from South Bend to Cleveland and Buffalo; precious little snow west of the Mississippi River. 10-Day accumulated GFS snowfall product: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Slow Moderation, In Spite of Occasional Cold Swipes. A higher sun angle will finally thaw out temperatures the latter half of February as the coldest air shifts into New England. The GFS 500 mb wind forecast for Monday evening, February 22, predicts a northwest flow, but a much more moderate Pacific airmass pushing across western Canada should take the edge off some of the coldest cold fronts.

Time To Exhale? Extended numbers show a streak of 30s next week with an outside shot at  40F, before cooling again by the 24h of February. The chance of snow or a mix the weekend after next may have been a mirage; latest GFS model runs don't bring any significant moisture into Minnesota the next 2 weeks, which is often the norm during an El Nino winter.

March Preview. Although February may wind up a little colder than previous runs of NOAA's CFSv2 (Climate Forecast System) were predicting a few weeks ago, the model continues to insist that El Nino-warmed winds will result in a much warmer than average March for much of western and central Canada and the northern tier states of the USA. We'll see, but the model has been amazingly consistent. Map source: WeatherBell.

NOAA and NASA Team Up To Investigate Strongest El Nino on Record. It's looking even bigger and more pervasive than the previous record warm stain in the Pacific in 1997-98. Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "America’s two leading climate science agencies are conducting an unprecedented survey via land, sea and air to investigate the current El Niño event and better understand its impact on weather systems that have brought both parched and soaking conditions to North America. The project, which will conclude in March, will deploy resources from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) and Nasa to analyze one of the strongest El Niños on record. El Niño is a periodic phenomenon in which parts of the eastern Pacific warm, causing a ripple effect for weather around the world..."

Animation credit: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

El Nino Seems To Have Smashed 1997 Record in Past Three Months. With additional perspective on today's weather headline here's an excerpt from New Scientist: "The evidence is in: we seem to be living though the most extreme of extreme weather events. Last year, New Scientist reported early indications that the present El Niño event is probably the strongest ever recorded. A new analysis backs that view. El Niño is a periodic phenomenon that occurs when ocean temperatures warm in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. Even before this current event began, forecasters warned that it was likely to wreak havoc with the world’s weather..."

Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies: earth.nullschool.net


Drought Remains "Very Serious" in California. Recent rains and heavy snows are putting a dent in the drought, but the long term implications are still uncertain.  Here's a clip from Capital Public Radio: "...January brought above-average precipitation to California, but the narrative says more is needed to end the state’s historic four-year drought. "Despite heavy rainfall in January, an above-average snowpack and rising reservoirs in many areas, the California State Water Resources Control Board recently approved an 8-month extension of existing drought-related emergency regulations," the report says. "This is a reminder that although El Niño-related precipitation has been bountiful so far this winter, the drought situation in California remains very serious..."

Photo credit above: "The second snowpack measurement of the winter Feb. 2 was 130 percent of average at Phillips Station off Highway 50 near Sierra-at-Tahoe Road." California Department of Water Resources / Courtesy.


How Melting Arctic Ice May Have Set Off Era of Vicious East Coast Snow Storms. Jason Samenow connects the dots at Capital Weather Gang; here's a clip: "...Cohen, who works at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc., has developed and published research that support a connection between declining Arctic ice and more severe East Coast storms. Cohen says the melting ice, which peaks in the early fall, sets off a chain reaction that establishes “a great atmospheric background for a blockbuster snowstorm” by winter. Here’s how it works…When sea ice melts, Cohen says, cold winds blowing over open waters in the Arctic pick up moisture which gets deposited as snow over Eurasia in October. The process is similar to how lake effect snow forms in the Great Lakes...."

Image credit: "2015 September Arctic sea extent compared to 1981-2000 average portrayed by yellow line." (NASA).

How Gloomy Winter Days Can Be An Issue for Employers. The dark days of winter can take a toll on mental and physical health, according to an article at The Chicago Tribune - here's an excerpt: "...This is a real diagnosis, and it's recognized by psychiatrists in many countries," said Norman Rosenthal, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. Rosenthal gave the disorder its name. According to the APA, symptoms of SAD include fatigue, pervasively sad mood, loss of interest, sleep difficulty or excessive sleeping, craving and eating more starches and sweets, weight gain, feelings of hopelessness or despair, and thoughts of suicide. In 2008, Rosenthal wrote in a journal article on seasonal affective disorder that 6 percent of the U.S. population is affected..."

In Tornado Alley, Using Drones to Pinpoint Severe Weather. Here's an excerpt of an interesting interview at PBS NewsHour: "...In other words, forecasters need to get closer to the action, scanning parts of the atmosphere that traditional radar, weather balloons and sophisticated weather towers can’t reach. That sweet spot is called the lower atmospheric boundary layer, a zone roughly 1,000 feet off the ground. Phillip Chilson is a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma and is also involved in the project. “There has been a need for high quality measurements of the lower atmosphere that’s been known by the meteorological community for decades. The lowest level of the atmosphere is so dynamic spatially and temporally, that it’s very under-sampled at present...” (File image: J Pat Carter, Associated Press).

"Flint Isn't An Anomaly. We're Heading Toward a National  Water Crisis." Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from Mark Ruffalo at The Washington Post: "...Sadly, there have since been numerous high-profile cases of contamination, such as in Toledo, Ohio, in 2014, where agricultural runoff and crumbling infrastructure led to an algal bloom in Lake Erie that made the city’s drinking water unsafe. Also in 2014, in West Virginia, a chemical spill contaminated the Elk River, the tap water supply for hundreds of thousands of people. This past August, 3 million gallons of contaminated water were released into the Animas River in Colorado, resulting in lead levels 3,500 times normal and arsenic levels 300 times normal, affecting many communities and farms..." (File image credit: ThinkStock).

A Small New England College Goes 100% Solar. An article at Christian Science Monitor caught my eye; here's the intro: "In western Massachusetts sits a small liberal arts college doing big things in the way of sustainability. Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., will soon be home to a "living building" and the only residential college generating 100 percent of its electricity from solar panels..."

Image credit above: "An artist's rendering of the interior of the R.W. Kern Center on the campus of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. The 17,000-square-foot center will host high-tech classrooms, admissions and financial aid offices, and social space. It will be only the ninth building certified as self-sustaining in the United States." Courtesy of Hampshire College.

Carbon Dioxide From The Air Converted Into Methanol. There will be more breakthroughs - count on it. Here's some encouraging news, an excerpt from Gizmag: "The danger posed by rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide has seen many schemes proposed to remove a proportion it from the air. Rather than simply capture this greenhouse gas and bury it in the ground, though, many experiments have managed to transform CO2 into useful things like carbon nanofibers or even fuels, such as diesel. Unfortunately, the over-arching problem with many of these conversions is the particularly high operating temperatures that require almost counterproductive amounts of energy to produce relatively low yields of fuel. Now researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) claim to have devised a way to take CO2 directly from the air and convert it into methanol using much lower temperatures and in a correspondingly simpler way..."

Image credit: "Converting CO2 from the air to methanol would not only help reduce the atmospheric concentration of this greenhouse gas, but also provide clean burning fuel in the process." (Credit: Surya Prakash)


Cover Crops, a Farming Revolution With Deep Roots in the Past. Not only does in help to sequester carbon in the soil, it can make fields more resilient to drought and flood. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "...But Doug didn’t become a believer until 2013, when the family was grappling with a terrible drought. “In the part of a field where we had planted cover crops, we were getting 20 to 25 bushels of corn more per acre than in places where no cover crops had been planted,” he said. “That showed me it made financial sense to do this.” Now some 13,000 of the 20,000 acres that the family farms across nine counties are planted with cover crops after harvesting, and farmers around them are beginning to embrace the practice..."

Photo credit above: "Dan DeSutter, in a field of dried-up daikon radish, sunflower, turnip and hairy vetch, has been experimenting with cover crops for 15 years." Credit David Kasnic for The New York Times.


Has The U.S. Really Reached an Epic Turning Point in Energy? National Geographic asks the question; here's an excerpt: "...Indeed, in recent years, the U.S. oil and natural gas boom has sparked much talk about an American energy renaissance. Yet as prices for oil, wind and solar have plunged, the most recent U.S. short-term forecast doesn’t see production growth for all three. Rather, it sees oil falling for the next two years but solar and wind rising. What this means is an energy mix in the world’s largest economy that’s increasingly efficient and clean with fewer heat-trapping carbon emissions..."

Photo credit: "The United States is seeing a surge in wind energy. Here, turbines spin at the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center in Texas." Photograph by Joe McNally, National Geographic.

Congressional Clocks Have a Secret Code. Let the conspiracy theories begin. Here's an excerpt at Atlas Obscura: "...Look along the top of a Congressional wall clock, and you’ll see seven small light bulbs. Even the fancier clocks in members’ offices have them. From time to time, these will light up in particular sequences, accompanied by loud, long buzzes or series of shorter buzzes. These patterns all have meanings: they’re meant to communicate to people working on the Hill when electronic votes are called, when one chamber or the other is adjourned or in recess, and when members need to think about actually being in the Senate or House chamber..."

Photo credit: "Library of Congress rotunda clock." (Photo: Library of Congress).



TODAY: Some sun, cold and crispy. Wind chill: -15 early. Winds: NW 15-25. High: 11

TUESDAY NIGHT: Clear and nippy. Low: -4

WEDNESDAY: Plenty of bright, ineffective sun. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 9

THURSDAY: Fading sun, still chilly. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 0. High: 14

FRIDAY: Next shot, coating of light snow? Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 8. High: 15

SATURDAY: Cold-blue sky, light winds. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: -8. High: 10

SUNDAY: Chance of light snow, "milder". Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 2. High:  22

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, above average again. Grilling weather. Wake-up: 18. High: near 30


Climate Stories...


The Pentagon Just Issued Marching Orders on Climate Change. Here's the intro to an update from VICE News: "A bit over a year after identifying climate change as a "significant challenge" for the US military, the US Department of Defense has given its top officials orders for handling the hazards posed by a warming world. The boring-but-important 12-page document issued in January tells the armed service chiefs and top civilian officials to identify how climate change will affect their missions, figure out how to manage any risks it poses, and factor those into their planning. It gives specific tasks to various Defense Department offices and regional commands, from determining how higher sea levels or longer droughts affect US bases to what new gear might be needed to work in a thawing Arctic..."


Sea Level Rise Will Last Twice as Long as Human History. Here's the intro to a story at Newsweek: "Huge sea-level rises caused by climate change will last far longer than the entire history of human civilization to date, according to new research, unless the brief window of opportunity of the next few decades is used to cut carbon emissions drastically. Even if global warming is capped at governments’ target of 2 degrees Celsius — which is already seen as difficult — 20 percent of the world’s population will eventually have to migrate away from coasts swamped by rising oceans. Cities including New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Calcutta, Jakarta and Shanghai would all be submerged..."

Graphic credit: Guardian, source: Nature Climate Change.

Blackrock: World's Largest Investor Flags Up Climate Risk. How much exposure do you have in your portfolio? Climate Home has the story - here's the intro: "In a letter to the heads of S&P 500 companies and top European corporations, Larry Fink expressed concern at the lack of focus on environmental and social risks in boardrooms. “For too long, companies have not considered them core to their business – even when the world’s political leaders are increasingly focused on them, as demonstrated by the Paris Climate Accord. “Over the long-term, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues – ranging from climate change to diversity to board effectiveness – have real and quantifiable financial impacts...”

Photo credit: Suisse/Flickr.

Michael Mann: Climate Change Deniers Perpetuate Smears on Proven Science. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed and response to a denialist Letter to the Editor from climate scientist Michael Mann at The Knoxville News Sentinel: "...The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the most authoritative assessment of climate science available, concluded that recent warmth is likely unprecedented over an even longer time frame than we had concluded (at least the past 1,400 years). Of course, the "Hockey Stick" is only one of numerous independent lines of evidence that have led the world's scientists to conclude that climate change is (a) real, (b) caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and (c) a grave threat if we do nothing about it..."

Study Points to Developing World Feeling More Impact from Climate Change. Here's the intro to a story at CSMonitor.com: "A study released Friday shows that the wealthiest 4 percent of the world’s population is creating 50 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions, but will likely suffer little impact resulting from climate change, such as increased frequency of natural disasters, changing habitats, human health impacts, and industry stress. The study, generated by the Wildlife Conservation Society, likens greenhouse gas emissions from countries such as the United States and China to “second-hand smoke..."

Photo credit above: "In this 2014 file photo, smoke billows out of a chimney stack of steel works factories in Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia." Rob Griffith/AP/File.

Climate Talk in Alexandia. I want to thank Reverend John Riggle and some very dedicated volunteers for arranging a presentation to local pastors and a public talk in the Alexandria area on Saturday. I had a chance to review meteorological and climate trends, and talk about faith, stewardship and Creation Care. Photo above courtesy of the Alexandria Echo Press, which has details here.

Greetings from Alexandria. I had enough time to see Big Ole and take a quick tour of the Kensington Rune Stone, which dates back to 1362. Yes, there's compelling evidence that the Vikings were here long before Christopher Columbus got close, and yet professional skeptics remain. Sound familiar?

T-Shirt Weather in the Arctic. The changes are happening even faster at more northerly latitude; here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The New York Times: "...Thunderstorms also raged over our camp. These storms used to be rare in the Arctic, but they strike often now. Lightning has set fire to the tundra, releasing into the atmosphere huge stores of ancient carbon from the permafrost. Sinkholes are also opening up in the thawing tundra. Walk up to one, and you will hear the trickle and clatter as heat dissolves permafrost into cascades of ice age mud and stones. We are only just beginning to understand these changes. Ecosystems involve a complex web of connections among species and the physical environment. Climate change alters these connections in ways that can surprise and baffle us..."

Some Trees May Slow Climate Change Better Than Others. Who knew? Here's the intro to a story at AOL.com: "Planting trees to help fight climate-change works, right? Well, according to a new study that's not always the case. It turns out that conifer trees, like evergreens, may actually cause temperature increases where they've taken root in place of broad-leafed trees. For example, look at Europe where the study was focused..."