Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pets feel the cold too

This is my dog, Max, who will be 14 years old in June. He's a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which is an awfully big name for such a small dog. He's a great companion - we've grown very attached to our furry little friend. Lately he's been protesting the glacier-like conditions in our yard by refusing to walk up the (recently shoveled) pathway to his favorite "pooping grounds" (sorry). Now he just saunters out the front door, turns around, and does his business on the sidewalk (with what appears to be a big grin). Nice touch. He's pretty much given up, and I know exactly how he feels. I've tried telling Max that the worst of winter's sting is behind us now, that March arrives Monday, and by the end of March the average high in the Twin Cities is a relatively balmy 49 degrees. By late March or the first week of April those towering, ice-covered drifts will melt away, and it will be business as usual - more time for Max to bark at birds and assorted squirrels. If only I could successfully teach him to use the commode. I tried - but we we both wind up frustrated. I don't recommend it.

A few tips for the special pets in your household:

* If you feel cold, chances are your dog or cat does too. Make sure they're indoors on the coldest nights of winter.

* Just like people - cats, dog and horses can suffer from wind chill and even hypothermia. The furry exterior helps to some extent, but animals are NOT impervious to the cold.

* Try to wipe the paws of your pet after they come back inside. When they lick their paws they can inadvertently ingest salt, antifreeze and other (potentially toxic) chemicals. Better safe than sorry.

* Puppies tend to be more vulnerable to the cold and wind chill than older, more mature dogs.

Hardly gold-medal weather. The back-story behind the Olympics in Vancouver? How absolutely, positively rotten the weather has been. The calendar says late February but as far as the atmosphere is concerned it looks and feels more like late March, early April. Cherry blossoms are in full bloom in downtown Vancouver - temperatures on the slopes of Whistler Mt. have been in the 40s - snow at the very top of the slopes, but a cold rain (and thick fog) at the bottom. The early spring has created a slow-motion nightmare for Olympic grounds-crews, who have been frantically trucking (and helicoptering) in snow during the nighttime hours, only to melt away during the daylight hours. Is the lousy weather directly or indirectly responsible for what appears to be more falls, spills, errors and subsequent injuries during the '10 Games? Not sure we can connect the dots - yet. But look for a series of stories coming out after the games are over, describing the heroic efforts of hundreds of Canadians to keep snow and ice on the slopes. For more on the (disastrous) weather conditions and more behind-the-scenes stories about the Olympics click here for an excellent article in Time Magazine.

More pieces of the climate puzzle. 2009 tied for the second warmest year worldwide, but over the southern hemisphere it was the warmest year observed since 1880. This coming after NASA reported that the decade from 2000 to 2009 was the warmest ever recorded for the planet. I know - another conspiracy. And all those moon-shots were staged at a backlot outside Phoenix. Shame on me for believing in this radical, left-leaning organization of hippies and Al-Gore-Lovers. Yes, NASA is reporting that global warming is real, folks, and they've set up a site to make their case.

A Climate Do-over? I think this is a very good idea. Britain's Meteorological Office is proposing that they open up 150+ years of weather data to not only scientific peer review, but to the climate skeptics as well. Bravo! Open up not only the data - but the scientific process - to the light of day. No secrets. And hopefully no more bumbling of facts and figures by the IPCC. The public has lost faith in climate science, which is unfortunate. In light of the hacked e-mails, the IPCC's mistakes, and any attempt to fudge data or prevent skeptics from access the raw data, I say open it up to everyone. Dig in. Let the chips fall where they will. For more click on this article at

* According to the USGS, the US Geological Survey ice sections are retreating in the southern regions of the Antarctic Peninsula. This gradual retreat of ice has been documented by USGS ever since 1949 - the government agency believes that climate change is responsible. For more on the changes at the bottom of the world click here.

Accumulating snow for Minnesota? Unheard of - no way! The GFS model is hinting at a few inches of slushy snow by next Friday, March 5. A series of storms will slam into California starting tomorrow, weakening after crossing the Rockies, dumping more snow/ice/rain on the southern and eastern USA. There are some signs that the storm track may finally start to shift north next week. Although it doesn't look like a major snowfall I could envision enough snow to shovel & plow by the end of next week. That said, March should have a very lamb-like start on Monday, daytime highs close to freezing almost every day next week.

Yes, we've had a couple of cold days, but I can't help but focus on the positive: we've had an unusually sunny stretch for the better part of the last 2 weeks, a persistent bubble of high pressure anchored over the Upper Midwest. Most towns haven't seen any accumulating snow in 14-17 days, and it will be nearly a week before the plows are out in full force. Three weeks in a row without a watch, warning or advisory? Pretty unusual for Minnesota in late February. Consider it a reluctant gift from Old Man Winter.

A snowy holding pattern. The latest nor'easter has stalled off the coast of New Jersey, prolonging a moist fetch off the Atlantic, producing 1-3 FEET of snow from the Berkshires of western Massachusetts to the hills of New Hampshire and Vermont (14" in Burlington, VT just on Wednesday). The New York City area may pick up 6-12" of snow by Friday afternoon, the heaviest amounts west of the Hudson in New Jersey.

* Washington D.C. just broke the all-time record for the most snow in a winter season. Reagan International reported 56" as of Thursday, about 1 1/2" more than the old record, set in 1898. Baltimore and Philadelphia: more than 80". That's twice as much snow as has fallen in the Twin Cities so far this winter. Strange but true.

Paul's Conservation MN Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota

Today: Plenty of sun, a bit milder. Winds: NW 5-10. High: 26

Friday night: Partly cloudy, not as numbing. Low: 10

Saturday: Partly sunny, closer to average. High: 28

Sunday: Mostly cloudy, a good day to play in the snow. Low: 13. High: 29

Monday: Mostly cloudy, dripping icicles. Low: 16. High: 31

Tuesday: Lot's of clouds, a few flakes around town. High: 32

Wednesday: Gray, chance of flurries. High: 33

Thursday: A period of wet snow, couple inches of slush possible. High: 34

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