Saturday, November 28, 2009

An historic November

Weather Headlines

First snow-free November in 46 years for most of Minnesota, monthly temperatures 8-14 degrees above average.

Flurries today, couple inches of snow predicted for far northern Minnesota by Thursday.

No heavy snow for central/southern Minnesota, but a real cold front is on the way for later this week.

Numbing first week of December, but temperatures may thaw out (temporarily) during the second week of December.

Statistical odds of a white Christmas for the Twin Cities? 71%

Unnecessarily Optimistic?
We're enjoying the first snow-free November since 1963, according to National Weather Service records. Temperatures across Minnesota are running 8-14 degrees above average, more typical of October than November. Although December will bring the first true outbreak of arctic air the CPC, the Climate Prediction Center, still has a warm bulls-eye directly over Minnesota for December, January and February, based on a strengthening El Nino event in the Pacific. We will see cold and snow, no question, but statistically: odds favor a somewhat milder than normal winter. That said, I still have my doubts. Only 2 out of 3 El Ninos wind up bringing warmer winters for Minnesota. I have a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that this winter may be the exception to the rule.

Normal Snow Cover as of November 28. According to long-term weather records the blue-shaded regions have a greater than 50% probability of snow by this date. For the reality...

Current Snow Cover as of November 28. To check this out for yourself (compare actual vs. normal snow cover around the globe click here to check out the Rutgers Global Snow Lab). Click on "daily" to see the latest snow conditions (and compare it with climatology).

Dig out the coats and parkas
: computer models pull the first true arctic slap into Minnesota by midweek (highs stuck in the 30s, some 20s central & north) with a reinforcing shot of even colder air arriving by next Sunday/Monday. A lack of (insulating) snow cover may increase the odds of pipes freezing up and bursting about one week out as nighttime lows dip into the teens, even some single digits up north. Hope I'm wrong on that call.

Where's the ice? Click the image to bring it full-screen, it's a high-resolution (visible) satellite image snapped by the low-orbiting NASA "Terra" weather satellite, roughly 250 miles above the earth. If you look carefully, squint a lot - you can make out a lack of ice, even over the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (the white squiggly line is the Minnesota/Canada border). No ice that far north in late November is highly unusual, almost unprecedented. To get the latest, ultra-high resolution satellite image (usually a 1 day delay) click here to see resolutions as high as 250 meters! The data and web site is courtesy of the University of Wisconsin.

46 degrees yesterday. Unbelievable. I'm black and blue from pinching myself all month. Yep, getting more odd stares than usual. We're in the midst of an historic November - no measurable snow to speak of as of November 28. At this rate we'll experience the first totally snow-free November since 1963, according to National Weather Service records. BTW, after no snow in November, '63, we went on to see just over 34" of snow for the entire winter. Click here to see a winter-by-winter, month-by-month recap for MSP since the winter of 1884-85. It's true that the official recording station has moved around during that period, from downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis, to MSP International, then over to Chanhassen, where the local NWS office is located. That makes climatologists who study long-term trends a little nutty - shifting the weather instruments around from place to place, when what is truly prized and valued is continuity, consistency of record-keeping. There can be significant variations in temperature, wind, even moisture, from one part of the metro area to the next, so it's not the best scenario, but due to a number of factors, financial and political, the local NWS office has been forced to bounce around from time to time.

You may be surprised to hear me mention that (in my humble opinion) our mild, snow-free November is not PROOF of global climate change. When it gets really cold in December that won't be proof of anything either, other than the fact that we experience huge contrasts in day-to-day weather (only Siberia has more extremes in temperature and precipitation than we do, sitting close to the geographic center of North America). The recent uproar over leaked e-mails from a climate research center in the U.K. has provided fresh "evidence" for skeptics and deniers, they'll be feasting on this for months, maybe years. It's unfortunate, because it's another diversion, another distraction, another opportunity to put thousands of climate scientists on the defensive while greenhouse gases continue to accumulate, and changes (some quite dramatic) continue to play out, especially in the arctic regions.

If there was a cover-up of any kind, if data was concealed, changed or manipulated, then the scientists involved should pay a steep price (resign?) I'm a big believer in transparency, shining a bright light on all the science, make all of it public. The problem? A lot of arm-chair skeptics who know a thing about weather believe this automatically makes them experts on climate change. That's why some of these climate scientists are so defensive and angry in the first place. They're being repeatedly spammed, hounded, harassed and bullied by professional skeptics, many of them funded by various "institutes" that represent the oil, coal and gas industries maintaining the status-quo. Some of these targeted climate scientists made their displeasure known in these e-mail strings. I wouldn't like it either if I was being (digitally) stalked by a steady stream of deniers who have little interest in uncovering the "truth" when it comes to the state of the art of climate science.

Is there still a consensus among climate scientists that most of the observed warming is (mostly) man-made? Yes. Are things (apparently) getting worse, faster than even the IPCC predicted just a few years ago? Yes. Should ALL science be open, transparent and above petty bickering and obfuscation? Absolutely. The recent hacking of e-mails will probably change, perhaps profoundly, the way climate science is conducted and released to the public. Peer-review science needs to be above reproach, not subject to petty bickering or political posturing. If laws were broken the climate scientists involved should be prosecuted and reprimanded. Sadly, this all goes to perception. The public is already losing interest in climate change, even though 80% of the population still believes climate change is real, the percentage of people who believe it's the result of man-made activities is under 40% (and falling), and that's a very worrisome trend. The truth: for some deniers there will never be a critical mass of evidence to convince them. Ever. They've already made up their minds, and now they'll cherry-pick data that supports their (scientifically shaky) bully pulpit. If climate scientists start cherry-picking data to get the results they want, then God help us all - that would be an utter catastrophe. If the vast majority of reasonable, logical, fact-loving people who still believe there's a place in the world for science, if these consumers throw up their hands and give up on trying to understand what's happening all around them, well, then we're in for a very long & unpleasant 21st century. A certain amount of change is inevitable, based on what we've already pumped into the atmosphere. The question is whether we'll reach a true tipping point, a point of no return. Chances are your kids and grandkids will take this issue far more seriously than the current generation of baby-boomers. Just a hunch.

I wholeheartedly agree with George Monbiot's recent editorial in the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper, calling into question the climate scientists whose e-mail accounts were recently hacked. The data is out there, the genie is out of the bottle. No time to whine about invasion of privacy, better to explain what was said in those e-mails, and use this as an opportunity to shine a light on the science of climate change, making improvements in how this data is gathered, interpreted and ultimately explained to politicians and the general public. This is a teachable moment if there ever was one.

Interested in the science of climate change? Here is the Mother Lode of data from computer models, techniques and explanations. When I talk to people face to face I implore them to keep an open mind on this subject. The more you dig into the data, really drill down into the meat of the science of climate change, the more you'll see that this is not some global conspiracy, a new religion (as a Christian I find that charge more than a little insulting) or mass hypnosis - something is happening, something has changed, and the sooner we take action, the better the outlook for future generations.

The "Copenhagen Diagnosis" is being released in advance of next month's global conference. Here are a few of the "highlights" from the report. What's that old saying, "while Nero fiddled Rome burned..." While we turn climate change into fodder for shouting talking heads on TV and incendiary blog posts, the planet continues to warm, the weather continues to veer toward the extreme (just ask flooded residents in the U.K, cleaning up from some of the worst flooding in a millenia). And we just sit here, twiddling our thumbs, pointing fingers, waiting, wondering, screaming at each other, ultimately hoping for the best. Think anthropogenic climate change is all a bunch of baloney, an excuse for Al Gore to get rich, etc etc? Stay tuned - it's going to get very interesting, and within our lifetime.

A few highlights from the report:

— Greenhouse gas emissions are skyrocketing despite attempts to control them.

— Summertime melting of Arctic sea ice is 40 percent greater than forecast.

— Global sea level rise is 80 percent above past expectations and likely will continue for centuries.

“Many climate indicators have been tracking along the upper edge near the worst case scenario,” said Richard Somerville, a climate researcher at Scripps, which is part of the University of California, San Diego. “

“The Copenhagen Diagnosis” is the work of 26 researchers from around the world, most of whom have authored portions of landmark reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In early 2007, that organization gained worldwide attention when 3,700 affiliated scientists said humans almost certainly are causing climate change. Click here for more details on the Copenhagen Diagnosis.

Potential for a few inches of snow up north. Relatively weak cold frontal passages today and again Wednesday may spark a few inches of wet snow for far northern Minnesota later this week (this map goes through midday Thursday) but I don't see any accumulating snow for St. Cloud or the Twin Cities through the end of the week. As long as winds aloft blow from the west/northwest we'll be hard-pressed to see a blanket of white. For a real snowy drubbing winds aloft need to blow from the southwest, from New Mexico and Texas, allowing Gulf moisture to surge north. I don't see that specific scenario....yet.

Paul's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Partly to mostly cloudy with a cool breeze, best chance of flurries comes Sunday morning. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 36

Tonight: Patchy clouds, seasonably chilly. Low: 28

Monday: Partly sunny, a bit milder. High: 41

Tuesday: Mildest day of the week, fading sun, still unseasonably mild. High: 44

Wednesday: Gusty and colder with a few flurries in the air. High: 32

Thursday: Unsettled, lot's of clouds, a few flakes around (probably no accumulation). High: 29

Friday: More sun, not as cold. High: 37

Saturday: Clouds increase, windy and colder again with more flurries (best chance north). High: 32

No comments:

Post a Comment