Thursday, January 6, 2011

Is "Global Weirding" Responsible For All These Global Animal Deaths?

* Coldest air of the winter possible January 17-20, subzero highs possible for 2+ days, nighttime lows may dip to -20 in the suburbs. The good news: the latest guidance is hinting that this Arctic outbreak will be relatively brief.

* Bitter air may be preceded by a few inches of snow from Friday, January 14 into Sunday, the 16th, potentially enough to shovel and plow.

* Today's clipper capable of a coating to 1/2" of snow, enough to ice up a few roads.

Behind the clipper, some weekend sun, but single digit highs are possible across much of Minnesota, nighttime lows dipping below zero.

Extreme Cold Warnings? Beginning January 10 the NWS may begin issuing extreme cold warnings (even on days when winds are relatively light) in a number of markets, including the Twin Cities. More information here.

Close Call. Friday's clipper should pass well south and west of the Twin Cities and St. Cloud (a coating to 1/2" possible in both metro areas). Parts of far southwestern MN may pick up enough snow to shovel and plow, possibly as much as 3-5" south and west of the Minnesota River.

Next Chance of Significant Snow? It's still way out on the horizon (the storm in question is still getting itself organized over the Pacific), but long-range guidance (GFS) is suggesting a period of accumulating snow next Thursday and Friday, maybe a few inches, followed by what MAY be the coldest air of the winter as we kick off the third week of January. Lovely.

Coldest Air Of The Winter? It's coming. Here is raw GFS guidance for the third week of January. The good news: it won't last long, maybe 3 or 4 days, tops. The bad news: we will probably experience 2 or 3 subzero "highs", afternoon temperatures in the -3 to -8 F. range (in the metro) with nighttime lows dipping as low as -20 to -25 F. I wouldn't be suprised to see some -40 to -45 F. lows up north by January 18th or 19th. Time to call your travel agent or hop on-line and find a good fare to....anywhere. My gut: Jan. 17-21 will be the coldest spell of the entire winter, possible record territory.

Next Semi-Storm? Not sure if it will be an outright "storm", but the GFS model is hinting at a "few inches" of snow next Friday, the 14th, with light snow/flurries spilling over into the following weekend - followed by what may be the coldest airmass of the winter.

Review of New Year's Eve Killer Tornadoes in Missouri and Arkansas. Jon Davies delves into the meteorological ingredients that resulted in an outbreak of killer tornadoes on New Year's Eve across Missouri and Arkansas - at least 7 fatalities have been linked to the swarm of major, long-lived tornadoes which spilled into New Year's Day, making this the earliest outbreak of tornadoes in America's history. His post is here.

2010 Watches, County By County. Patrick Marsh, with the assistance of SPC (Storm Prediction Center) has a recap of the hundreds of severe storm and tornado watches issued for the lower 48 states in 2010. A few highlights:

  • Much of Oklahoma experienced at or below normal numbers of tornado watches, even though the state (unofficially) recorded the 3rd most number of tornadoes on record. (This is because of two large tornado outbreaks in May!)
  • Portions of southern California and central Arizona experienced tornado watches this year (in October), even though the 10-year average is for less than 1 per year
  • The central plains experienced an above normal number of severe thunderstorm watches
  • Parts of western Louisiana and northern Florida did not record a single severe thunderstorm watch

Recap of the Blizzards of 1886. The Dodge City office of the NWS has a great review of the blizzards that pounded the Plains states during January of 1886 - almost makes our recent blizzards look like minor league stuff.

Arctic Ice Reaches Record Low in December. A shift in ocean currents (coupled with a blocking/holding pattern in the atmosphere) displaced Arctic air southward, over much of Canada and the lower 48 states, as well as much of Europe and Asia, creating unusually mild conditions over far northern latitudes. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center: "Arctic sea ice extent averaged over December 2010 was 12.00 million square kilometers (4.63 million square miles). This is the lowest December ice extent recorded in satellite observations from 1979 to 2010, 270,000 square kilometers (104,000 square miles) below the previous record low of 12.27 million square kilometers (4.74 million square miles) set in 2006 and 1.35 million square kilometers (521,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average." More details here.

Earth On Fire. According to an amazing article in Discover Magazine: "Thousands of hidden fires smolder and rage through the world’s coal deposits, quietly releasing gases that can ruin health, devastate communities, and heat the planet."

Tracking Animal Deaths. If you're a little freaked out about all the dead fish and birds making the news in recent days, Google has created an interactive page for you to track what's going on, worldwide.

Unusually Cold Water Killing Fish? The 2 million + fish deaths in the Chesapeake Bay may have been triggered by unusually cold water flowing into the bay - water temperatures abnormally cold. It's a theory that may hold water. More from WeatherMatrix and Accu-Weather here.

Not Again - More Dead Birds. Thousands of Turtle Doves Fall Out Of The Sky in Italy. The latest from Huffington Post: "On Wednesday, GeaPress reported hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of dead and dying birds in Italy. Countless turtle doves were found scattered in the streets, in flower beds and hanging tragically from trees "like Christmas balls" in the town of Faenza. Many of the birds that fell dead from the sky were discovered with a mysterious blue stain in their beaks."

* But Wait, There's More. Reports of thousands of dead crabs washing up on the shoreline of the U.K. Good grief - what the heck is going on? Wish I knew - I have yet to hear a scientifically believable explanation.

"Global Weirding". Could some of the abrupt swings in temperature be responsible for the simultaneous deaths of so many animals around the planet? I don't pretend to know the answer to that, but it's one (of many) theories floating around the 'net. More on the phenomenon of global weirding from this You Tube clip.

December Weather Extremes. 150" snow at Mammoth Ski Resort in California in 5 days? Just one of many examples of wild weather last month, documented by Dr. Jeff Masters on his Wunderblog.

Tablet Envy. OK, I love my Apple iPad, but a few of the new tablets being unveiled at the CES Show in Las Vegas are definite head-turners, including the upcoming Motorola XOOM, set to be released to the public in March. 2 cameras, a gyroscope, all running Android. Looks like this tablet thing is more than just a fad...

Best New Gadgets (um...Productivity Tools) From CES. The New York Times has a worthy slide-show displaying some of the must-have tech toys (tools!) from this year's CES Show in Las Vegas here.

Things Babies Born In 2011 Will Never Know. It's a long list, including wired phones, wrist watches, travel agents, movie rental stores, videotape, the evening news, and on and on. Yahoo Finance has more on technological dinosaurs and obsolte products & services here.

Is There A Hydrocar In Your Future. Rick Dobbertin spent 9 years building this 762 hp beast, which runs on land and water at speeds (reportedly) up to 60 mph. It will only set you back a cool $777k. That's a nice, round number. Exclusivity guaranteed. Details at here.

Always Time For A Beer. From a story at USA Today: "Keith Burnett, left, and Brian Malone drink beer at the flooded Pioneer Hotel in Rockhampton, Australia."

Wells Fargo To Employees: Leave Wallets Home, Pay By Phone. An interesting story from "Wells Fargo (WFC) is again trying to make mobile payments at restaurants and retailers mainstream, three years after an earlier attempt lost steam. Peter Ho, product manager of card services at the bank, led a test several years ago that let executives use a Nokia phone, rather than a debit or credit card, to pay for fast food and other items. While he liked the convenience, Wells Fargo didn't end up offering the service to customers, partly because only the one handset was capable of transmitting payment information at the time."

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

TODAY: Light snow and flurries. Coating to 1/2" of light snow possible, more south/west. Winds: NW 15-25. High: 19

FRIDAY NIGHT: Flurries taper, turning colder again. Low: -2

SATURDAY: Peeks of sun, better travel statewide. Colder. High: 8

SUNDAY: Numbing start. More clouds than sun, quiet. Low: -8. High: 9

MONDAY: Storm stay south, mostly gray, few flurries possible. High: 15

TUESDAY: Clouds, chance of flurries, a very light accumulation possible. High: 17

WEDNESDAY: Intervals of sun, no big weather-worries. High: 14

THURSDAY: Light snow or flurries possible. High: 16

* Heavier snow possible next Friday/Saturday, January 14-15.

* Coldest air may come between January 16-21, a few subzero days with nighttime lows as cold as -20 to -25F around the metro, some -40s possible up north.

Coming Cold Wave

For snow we use the patented "nuisance-plowable-crippling" scale. We probably need a comparable scale to evaluate cold air. I would consider what we're experiencing now to be "irritating-cold", but hardly debilitating, especially when the sun is out (which seems to make a huge difference).

What may wind up being a newsworthy cold wave, a potentially dangerous 3-4 day episode of Siberian air, is shaping up for the 3rd week of January, between the 17th and 21st, give or take. Models are fairly consistent, pulling polar air into Minnesota. The good news: it may be a relatively quick shot of brutally cold air, 3-5 days. The bad news: even the metro may experience a few days of subzero highs (-3 to -8 F) with nighttime lows in the -25 F. range. Up north I wouldn't be surprised to see -45 or colder. Still time to call your travel agent or check out those low-low fares on!

Fresh bursts of bitter air are often preceded by major storms, even blizzards. Today's clipper grazes the MSP metro with a coating, 2-5" amounts far southwestern MN. This time next week a plowable snowfall is possible, followed by what MAY be the coldest smack since Jan. 2004 (-24 in the metro). Ouch.

Celestial Event. Check out this amazing image of the sun, captured during the recent solar eclipse. That's the Earth's shadow in the lower left, the ISS (International Space Station) passing in front of the sun, and a sunspot in the lower right. Image courtesy of Discover Magazine.

Shift Of Earth's Magnetic North Pole Affects Tampa's Airport. One of the more random, bizarre stories I've seen in recent days, courtesy of

"Scientists say the magnetic north pole is moving toward Russia and the fallout has reached -- of all places -- Tampa International Airport. The airport has closed its primary runway until Jan. 13 to repaint the numeric designators at each end and change taxiway signage to account for the shift in location of the Earth's magnetic north pole. The closure of the west parallel runway will result in more activity on the east parallel runway and more noise for residential areas of South Tampa."

Climate News Snooze. In his Dot Earth blog, the New York Time's Andrew Revkin asks: "Has media coverage of human-driven climate change gone away, or gone undercover, as was the case for this CBS radio reporter  seeking a quiet zone at Copenhagen climate talks a year ago? If so, does this matter?"

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