Friday, February 4, 2011

Couple Inches Sunday, A Cold Week, And Signs Of Hope

60.4" snow so far this winter in the Twin Cities.

13" snow on the ground in the Twin Cities.
19" snow on the ground in Duluth.
27" snow on the ground at International Falls.
3305 heating degree days since December 1. That means we've spent roughly 3.5% more than average heating our homes and businesses since the beginning of "meteorological winter" on December 1.

Friday Snowfall in Texas: (courtesy of EarthNetwork)
Dallas, TX - - Love Field - - has 5 inches of snow !
Dallas-Ft. Worth International airport - - has 3 inches of snow
Ft. Worth, TX (NWS WFO) - - has 3 inches of snow
Waco, TX - - has 2 inches of snow

5 Coldest Places On Earth. The Christian Science Monitor lists the top 5 (populated) cities. International Falls is #5? Somehow that doesn't seem quite right: "5. International Falls, Minnesota. Widely described as the coldest city in the continental United States, International Falls, Minn, sits on the Rainy River, just across from Fort Frances, Ontario. On Friday, the town set a new cold record for Jan. 21, hitting 46 degrees F below zero. The town has long promoted itself as the "Icebox of the Nation," but the trademark for this slogan has been repeatedly challenged by the town of Fraser, Colo. In 1986, International Falls paid Fraser to relinquish its claim, and then registered it as a federal trademark. Ten years later, the town forgot to renew the trademark, and Fraser tried to snap it up. A 12-year legal battle ensued, with International Falls prevailing in the end. Needless to say, relations between the two towns remain chilly."

Winter Storm Raises The Question: What's Going On With The Weather? The recent spat of major storms from Chicago to New York, Boston (and now Dallas) has a lot of people scratching their heads, attempting to connect the dots. The Christian Science Monitor tackles the subject: "Scientists caution that it is far too early to speculate on whether these climate patterns are part of a new normal for North American winters. Over the long term, none of the storms this winter or last are unprecedented, notes Deke Arndt, who heads the climate monitoring branch at the federal government’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, N.C. But they raise questions, and scientists are looking a wide range of data – from summer sea-ice levels in the Arctic to rainfall over the Indian Ocean – to better understand the global mechanics behind when and how these climate patterns shift. To be sure, the past two winters “have not been like the slew of winters we’ve seen over the past couple of decades,” says Mr. Arndt."

Monster Winter Storm. Five Ways To Stay Safe And Prepared. This winter has been a supreme challenge for travelers, by air and by land. The Christian Science Monitor has a few suggestions on how to stay safer when wintry weather rolls in: "In this kind of storm, winter driving experts say the best advice is not to drive. Postpone a trip for a day, or try to do business via webinar. But, if you absolutely have to get in the car there are lots of things you can do. First, make sure you can see and be seen, says Bill Van Tassel, head of driver training for AAA, the motorists’ club based in Heathrow, Fla. That means cleaning off snow from the roof of the car, for example, so it does not slide off and blind a nearby driver. He recommends turning on your lights and using turn signals much earlier so other drivers can adjust their driving. Second, drivers have to be aware that they might lose traction. His advice: if a driver’s traction is cut in half, the car’s speed needs to be cut in half, if not more. “The biggest error is to drive like it’s dry even though you don’t have the traction,” he says. Third, even if the car has anti-lock brakes, all-wheel drive, and sophisticated traction-control devices, he says safe winter drivers should “drive as if you don’t have them.”

Tallying The Costs Of A Wicked Storm. More from the NY Times here.

Another Wild Week. The meteorological analysts over at Planalytics are predicting another active week, a series of major storms pounding the south and east with ice, snow, even a severe storm outbreak for Texas. Blizzard conditions are possible across New England by next Thursday.

Sunday Slipping And Sliding? The GFS models have been much more aggressive with Sunday's predicted snow, over 3", while the (usually more accurate/reliable) NAM models have been in the 1--2" range. With an expected air temperature close to 30 many roads may be slushy/wet, but there could still be some travel glitches, especially after dark Sunday evening.

A Reason To Keep On Going. The GFS model continues to pull milder, Pacific air into Minnesota the third week of February, maybe 4-5 days in a row above 32 F? No more 40s showing up - we'll see, but stating the obvious: we're due.

Tulsa Timelapse. The Blizzard of '11, condensed into 3:00 in this YouTube clip.

Is The Worst Of Winter Behind Us? No question: next week will be cold, maybe one of the 3 coldest weeks of winter. But based on the duration of subzero weather I still suspect the "worst of winter" may be behind us now. Maybe that's wishful thinking, but Professor Mark Seeley seems to agree. Here's an excerpt of his most recent WeatherTalk blog: "Yes, I think the coldest temperatures of the season are behind us now, no more -30 F readings. But, I see a continuation of a colder than normal temperature pattern well into the month of February. Perhaps by the end of the month we will see a string of warmer than normal days materialize and bring widespread thawing."

Chicago Snow Season On The Verge Of Making History - More Snow On The Way? Andre Evbuoma has an interesting (Examiner) article about the snow season in Chicago - how they are on track for an historic season: "The 2010-2011 snow season is on the verge of setting weather history after the Blizzard of 2011 dumped over 20 inches of snow over the Chicago area. Dating back to the 1884-1885 snow season, there have been 25 snow seasons that have produced 50 inches or more of snow, but there has never been more than 3 seasons in a row to produce 50 or more inches of snow. With just an additional 2.5" of snow, the 2010-2011 will make it 4 seasons in a row to have 50 or more inches of snow. Since 1884-1885, there has been only two occurrences where 3 concsecutive seasons produced 50 or more inches of snow:
  • 1976-1977: 54.1"
  • 1977-1978: 82.3"
  • 1978-1979: 89.7"

New Mexico Declares State Of Emergency. The cold weather is causing real problems, especially for New Mexico and Texas. KOB-TV reports on a state of emergency declared by the governor of New Mexico: "Governor Susanna Martinez has declared a state of emergency in regards to the widespread natural gas outages reported throughout the state.  New Mexico Gas Company officials say up to 32,000 customers statewide are without natural gas Thursday. The primary areas affected include Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Espanola, Otero County, Taos, Red River, Questa, Silver City, Santa Clara Pueblo, Okway Owingeh Pueblo and portions of San Ildefonso Pueblo. The utility says the demand is high because of the extremely cold weather across New Mexico. The company also says rolling blackouts in West Texas have impeded the delivery of natural gas coming into New Mexico.
* Another report from the Fox affiliate in El Paso is here.

Australia Picking Up The Pieces After Cyclone Yasi. An update from the New York Times: "SYDNEY, Australia — One of the most powerful cyclones ever to strike Australia ripped dozens of houses from their foundations, uprooted trees and shredded millions of dollars worth of sugar and banana crops when it slammed into Queensland’s northeastern coast in the predawn hours on Thursday. With winds howling at up to 185 miles per hour, Tropical Cyclone Yasi ripped through a number of coastal and farming villages between the popular tourist cities of Cairns and Townsville, which were largely spared any major damage. Residents told local news outlets of huddling in their bathrooms while the ferocious winds pried the corrugated roofs from their houses. Aerial photos from the cyclone’s strike zone showed several houses with their rooms laid bare like dollhouses. Other residents said they found shelter where they could to wait out the storm."

Climatology of Moderate/High SPC Risk. Some breaking news for storm-chasers. Patrick Marsh has done a great job looking at moderate and high risks (of tornadoes and severe weather in general) issued by SPC in Norman from 1990 to 2008. From his article: "After posting the climatology of where the first moderate and high risks occur, I’ve received a couple of requests for additional graphics. One that was extremely easy to produce, and also one most frequently requested, is a climatology of moderate and high risks. Using the same Kernel Density Estimation technique described in the original post, I’ve calculated the number of moderate and high risk outlooks an area might expect during a given year, based on data from 1990 through 2008."

Weather A Factor In Slow U.S. Job Growth. Go ahead, blame the weather. Everyone else is. An article from the New York Times: "The United States labor market slowed to a crawl in January, adding just 36,000 jobs last month, far below consensus market forecasts. With 13.9 million people still out of work, the unemployment rate actually fell to 9 percent, from 9.4 percent, in part because of a readjustment of population figures and also because fewer people looked for jobs during the month.The disappointing jobs number, restrained by snowstorms and government layoffs, was far below what economists generally say is needed to merely keep pace with normal population growth. Although some economists said they would largely disregard January’s data because of the effects of bad weather, others said that underlying job growth was still not robust. “You can blame weather for the number being as low as it is,” said Steve Blitz, a senior economist for ITG Investment Research. “But even if you abstracted out the weather, you’re still not getting the dynamic job growth that is going to cut the unemployment rate significantly.”

Study: Coffee Makes Women Smarter, Men Dumber. So THAT'S my problem! One of many. An eye-opening jolt of a story from "According to a new study in England, drinking coffee ameliorates women's brainpower in stressful situations, but makes men slower on the uptake. And because caffeine is the most widely consumed drug in the world, with Britons alone drinking around seventy-million cups of coffee each day, researchers say the implications are potentially staggering. Researchers from Bristol University wanted to examine coffee's effect on a body already under stress, so they recruited sixty-four men and women as test subjects, putting them in same-sex pairs. Each pair was then given a number of tasks to complete, such as negotiating, doing puzzles, and taking memory tests, and were told that, upon completion, they would give a presentation relating to their tasks. Half of the pairs were given decaf coffee, while the other half received cups containing a large shot of caffeine. Researchers discovered that men who drank the high-test coffee suffered greatly impaired performances in memory tests, as well as taking an average of twenty seconds longer to complete puzzles than the decaf drinkers. But women completed the puzzles an astonishing 100 seconds faster if they'd been given coffee, according to the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. So, might I propose a strategy for future U.S. military success? The Starbucks Doctrine, with quick-thinking, espresso-fueled women on the front lines synergistically complementing the brute force of male grunts."

What The Heck? Hey, I love my iPad too, but this may be taking things a bit too far...

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

TODAY: Mosty cloudy, better travel day of the weekend. Winds: SE 3-8. High: 32

SATURDAY NIGHTMostly cloudy. Low: 23

SUNDAY: 1-3" snow possible, icy/slushy roads. High: near 30

MONDAY: Flurries taper, windy and much colder. Low: -1. High: 6

TUESDAY: Peeks of sun, still bitter. Low: -10. High: 5

WEDNESDAY: More clouds, passing flakes. Low: -5. High: 10

THURSDAY: Reinforcing cold front, nippy. Low: -6. High: 5

FRIDAY: Clouds increase. Yes, this is getting old. Low: -5. High: 8

Piles Of Snow At The WeatherNation Parking Lot. There's something to be said for commuting to work by snowmobile.

Vehicular Anarchy

It's been a challenging winter for travel, by air on on land. The other day I came close to getting smacked, just pulling out of my driveway. The problem? Towering 8 foot piles of snow made it impossible to see oncoming traffic. We're all flying blind these days. Snow-blind.

Have you noticed parking lots have HALF as many spaces as usual? The mountains of dirty snow have to go somewhere. That can lead to skirmishes for rare and coveted parking spots. Its come to this. Yes, we will earn our spring this year, more than any year in the last decade.

Next week: one of the 3 coldest weeks of winter; 5 subzero nights, single-digit highs in spite of a bright (mocking) sun. But there is some good news. No mega-snows in sight, nothing that will complicate your commute anytime soon. And by the third week of February we may see a real thaw, maybe 3-4 days in a row > 32 F. One model is even hinting at 40 F. by Feb. 18. Kind of sad that it's come to this.

The approach of bitter air will set off 1-3+" snow Sunday, maybe enough to shovel/plow and freshen things up in your yard.

Go slow - watch for cars, pets and kids. And the next time you duel for a parking spot? "Minnesota Nice."

Australia's Cyclone: Climate Change Or Just Really Bad Weather? A closer look at what (if anything) all these extreme weather events really mean from Time Magazine: "The cyclone that thrashed a still-soggy Queensland yesterday has re-energized an ongoing debate Down Under over what Australia can expect from a warmer planet and what the nation – the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide per capita – should do about it. Front and center in the fray is Ross Garnaut, the government's climate change adviser who released the first of several updates to his 2008 report on fighting global warming yesterday. “If we are seeing an intensification of extreme weather events now, you ain't see nothing yet," he said in a speech the day after the category 5 storm landed in northeast Queensland, killing one man and doing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to the region's buildings and the agricultural sector."

Special Report: Catastrophic Drought In The Amazon. A story from Reuters and the U.K. Independent newspaper: "A widespread drought in the Amazon rainforest last year caused the "lungs of the world" to produce more carbon dioxide than they absorbed, potentially leading to a dangerous acceleration of global warming. Scientists have calculated that the 2010 drought was more intense than the "one-in-100-year" drought of 2005. They are predicting it will result in some eight billion tonnes of carbon dioxide being expelled from the Amazon rainforest, which is more than the total annual carbon emissions of the United States. For the second time in less than a decade, the earth's greatest rainforest released more carbon dioxide than it absorbed because many of its trees dried out and died."

Home Go Ultra-Green. A story from the Sacramento Bee: "A Sacramento developer said it plans to roll out a new, ultra-efficient housing development in midtown this fall where energy bills will be as much as 70 percent lower than normal. The 34 houses planned for 25th and R streets will be net-zero energy – meaning they produce more energy than they use. Such houses are usually sold at the high end of the residential market. Developer Pacific Housing Inc. said the single-family homes will be priced around $300,000, which it believes is within the affordable range of median family incomes in the area."We feel this is one of the first of this kind of project in the Western region," said Mark Wiese, Pacific Housing's president."

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