Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Coldest Thanksgiving Since 1985

Snowfall Totals. Most of the metro area picked up 1-2" of snow - the system simply moved too quickly for more than that to accumulate. The band of snow was less than 100 miles wide, we didn't have a long, reliable fetch of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, and that limited amounts. A little freezing drizzle mixed in with the snow, but temperatures were cold enough throughout the lowest mile of the atmosphere for a snow event across most of the region. The computer models were predicting anywhere from .30 to .50" of liquid. In reality final amounts ranged from .05" to .14", a fraction of what was actually predicted, and yet we still wound up with enough snow to shovel and plow.  Data courtesy of the National Weather Service.

Tracking The Cold. No, it's not 32. I took a snapshot of the current temperature map late last night. Click here to see the latest temperatures for the Upper Midwest (if you dare). Try to distract yourself with family, turkey (and napping), in that order - resist the urge to look at the back yard thermometer. Welcome to the coldest Thanksgiving Day since 1989, when the high was a whopping 18. Temperatures today should run 20 degrees below average, a subzero night shaping up tonight north/west of St. Cloud. Yep, looks like we got our winter mojo back.

Thankful My Furnace Works. Check out the predicted wind chill for 1 pm today. -5 in the Twin Cities, -7 at St. Cloud, 14 below at Alexandria. Good grief - these temperatures are more typical of late January than late November. Mercifully the pain will be brief - about 36 hours of bonechilling cold - temperatures recover above the freezing mark by Sunday. Woo hoo!

Thanksgiving Day Weather Overview. Yesterday's pint-size storm is now pushing east, leaving cold, swirling winds in its wake - but little or no additional accumulation is expected. A wintry mix will overspread the Great Lakes today, mostly rain from Indianapolis to New York and Boston with potentially severe thunderstorms rumbling across the Tennessee River Valley. Unseasonably cold weather is rushing southward in the wake of the storm, which is impacting weather conditions over the eastern 2/3rds of America.

Old Fashioned Blizzard. Click this YouTube link for a gentle reminder of what blizzard conditions look like. It's a time lapse showing conditions deteriorating rapidly in the Salt Lake City, Utah area, visibilities dropping under 1/4 mile with sustained winds over 35 mph in falling/blowing snow - the definition of a "blizzard."

More Tornadoes In Unusual Places. Check out this clip from KCRA-TV in Sacramento, California. Around 1:30 Tuesday an apparent tornado touched down in the suburb of El Dorado Hills, producing minor damage. Late November twisters - in California? Very strange. Unusual, but not unprecedented for the winter season on the west coast.

Wintry Possibilities. Jeff Masters on his excellent Wunderblog takes a look back at 3 La Nina winters (1999, 2000 and 2008) to get a gauge on what the upcoming winter may bring to the lower 40 states. A moderate to strong La Nina is underway (cooling of Pacific Ocean water) - which tends to correlate with more snow/ice/rain for much of America - temperatures in 2 of the last 3 strong La Ninas were considerably warmer than average. He believes that, based on Arctic Sea ice loss, the winter of 2010-2011 may have an analogue in the Winter of 2007-2008, which brought 45" of snow to the Twin Cities, but over 100" in Madison (with very significant snowfalls for much of the northeast). He points out the profound changes taking place in the circulation of the Arctic region - a lack of ice much of the summer/fall, coupled with a potentially strong NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) may have the effect of pulling unusually cold air southward, especially over the eastern half ot the USA, spinning up more frequent/intense snow storms for much of the northeast. Time will tell - long range forecasting is for the bold (and deranged), but one thing is clear: La Nina winters tend to be fickle. Unlike El Nino (warming of the Pacific) which has a strong correlation with milder, drier winters for Minnesota. La Nina winters can go either way.

Strange But True. Scientists at NASA built a gun specifically to launch standard 4 pound dead chickens at the windshields of airliners, military jets and the space shuttle, all  traveling at maximum velocity.  The idea is to simulate the frequent incidents of collisions with airborne fowl to test the strength of the windshields.

British engineers heard about the gun and were eager to test it on the windshields of their new high speed trains.  Arrangements were made, and a gun was sent to the British  engineers. 
When the gun was fired, the engineers stood shocked as  the chicken hurled out of the barrel, crashed into the shatterproof  shield, smashed it to smithereens, blasted through the control console, snapped the engineer's back-rest in two, and embedded itself in the back wall of the cabin, like an arrow shot from a bow.

The  horrified Brits sent NASA the disastrous results of the experiment, along with the designs of the windshield and begged the U.S. scientists  for suggestions.

NASA responded  with a one-line memo --

"Defrost the chicken." (this is a true story)    

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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

THANKSGIVING DAY: Coldest Thanksgiving since 1989. Flurries. Windchill: 0. Winds: W 15-25. High: 15 (wind chill close to zero at times).

THURSDAY NIGHT: Bitter cold, few flurries, wind chills dip to -15. Low: 5

FRIDAY: Intervals of sun, not quite as numbing (winds ease up a bit). High: 22

SATURDAY: Partly sunny, go sledding (or shopping). High: 29

SUNDAY: Clouds increase, thawing out. No travel problems expected. High: 33

MONDAY: About 1" of slushy snow possible. High: 34

TUESDAY: Few flurries, better travel statewide. High: 26

WEDNESDAY: Gray, light snow possible far north. High: 25

Giving Thanks

My fast is officially over. The forecast calls for 2-4" of white meat; some salting may become necessary. Watch out for massive mashed potato drifts and showers of hot gravy. Cranberry sauce will leave side dishes slippery.

Welcome to the coldest Thanksgiving Day since 1989, when the high was a meager 18 F. Winds will gust to 25, making it feel subzero at times. No more accumulating snow is expected until Monday at the earliest. We get a chance to eat, digest, shop (and snooze), in that order, between now and Sunday. Temperatures bottom out in single digits tonight - only the brave and fool-hearty will camp out for "Black Friday" sales tomorrow morning. At least the sun will peak through, temperatures topping 20 tomorrow with less wind (a good day for a calorie-burning walk?)

One of the many joys of living in Minnesota is welcoming the freezing mark after a brief spell of Arctic air. By Sunday you will regain some feel in your extremities. An inch of slush is possible Monday, but no travel-busting storms thru next week. I don't see any major, headline-grabbing storms looking out 10-15 days, but the long range (GFS) guidance is hinting at another Arctic outbreak the first week of December, when highs may not climb out of teens and single digits. something to look forward to. Bundle up today, make the most of Sunday's "warm front".

The Warming Of Antarctica: A Citadel Of Ice Begins To Melt. From a recent Reuters article: "The fringes of the coldest continent are starting to feel the heat, with the northern Antarctic Peninsula warming faster than virtually any place on Earth. These rapidly rising temperatures represent the first breach in the enormous frozen dome that holds 90 percent of the world's ice."

NASA Says Earth's Lakes Are Warming. A recent story from NASA: "The Earth's largest lakes have warmed up over the past 25 years in response to climate change, the US space agency said Tuesday, announcing the first such global study of its kind. Scientists Philipp Schneider and Simon Hook of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California used satellite data to measure the surface temperature of 167 lakes around the world, NASA said. "They reported an average warming rate of 0.81 degrees Fahrenheit per decade, with some lakes warming as much as 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit per decade," NASA said in a statement. "The results were consistent with the expected changes associated with global warming," it said.

World's Largest Solar-Powered Boat in World Record Circumnavigation Attempt. has a story about no ordinary boat, one that's trying to set a new record for navigating around the planet. From the article: "The world’s largest solar-powered boat – TÛRANOR PlanetSolar – departed from Monaco on September 27 in an attempt to become the first boat to circumnavigate the globe using only solar energy. Aside from getting another world record under the boat’s belt, the aim of the expedition is to demonstrate that, through the use of existing materials and technology, high-performance solar mobility can be realized today. The multihull vessel is covered in 537 square meters (5,780 sq ft) of solar panels, which power the four electric motors (two in each hull) that have a maximum output of 120 kW and can propel the boat to a speed of 14 knots. Although the vessel is capable of hosting 40 passengers and is destined to be used as a luxury yacht after the circumnavigation attempt, the vessel is crewed by just six people and that is the number that will be making the round the world journey." Pretty cool.

Proclamation Of Thanksgiving. We have Abraham Lincoln - and a little known woman, Sara Hale - to thank for the official national holiday of Thanksgiving. Thanks to the power of Google and this link, I thought it appropriate to share this on a day we gather to give thanks for family, friends, and all that we have.

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

This is the proclamation which set the precedent for America's national day of Thanksgiving. During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders similar to this. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving.

Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on September 28, 1863, urging him to have the "day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival." She explained, "You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution."

Prior to this, each state scheduled its own Thanksgiving holiday at different times, mainly in New England and other Northern states. President Lincoln responded to Mrs. Hale's request immediately, unlike several of his predecessors, who ignored her petitions altogether. In her letter to Lincoln she mentioned that she had been advocating a national thanksgiving date for 15 years as the editor of Godey's Lady's Book.

The document below sets apart the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise." According to an April 1, 1864, letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln's secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. On October 3, 1863, fellow Cabinet member Gideon Welles recorded in his diary how he complimented Seward on his work. A year later the manuscript was sold to benefit Union troops.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

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