Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shocking News: 1-3" Possible Saturday

74.9" snowfall so far this winter in the Twin Cities.
41.1" average snow as of February 24.
14.5" snow so far in February.
7" average snow as of February 24 in the metro area.
11" snow depth at MSP International Airport at 7 pm Thursday evening.

4198 degree days since December 1, 2010.
4153 average number of degree days since December 1.
1% Since December 1 consumption of electricity to warm homes, schools and businesses has run about 1% more than average. In terms of temperature it's actually been a very "normal" winter in the Twin Cities. Snow? That's a different story.

Only in Minnesota.There have to be easier ways to stay in shape during the doldrums of winter...

Close Call. Although the brunt of any snow will pass off south of Minnesota over the weekend, a story swirl of unusually cold air aloft (one of those "upper level disturbances" meteorologists babble about) is capable of a quick inch or two over the weekend - best chance of a light accumulation coming Saturday night, a second surge of moisture sliding off to our south/east Sunday night and early Monday.

South Side Cleans Up Again. What is it about the south metro this winter? Closer to the storm track, closer to the moisture source (Gulf of Mexico)? Both pretty valid reasons. Models are hinting at 3-5" over far southern Minnesota, with the best chance of 1-3" over the southern suburbs by Sunday morning.

Brushed By Snow. Even though the main event will pass a few hundred miles south of Minnesota, a stormy swirl (aloft) may drop a coating to 1/2" on Friday. Another wave of low pressure may squeeze out a quick 1-3" Saturday night. Confidence is increasing - with temperatures near 10F. it won't take much moisture (or upward motion) to get a quick couple of inches of fluff late Saturday into early Sunday.

Storm Track Too Far South. A "perfect" track for significant snow here at home runs across Iowa into central Wisconsin. The heaviest bands of snow usually set up 100-300 miles north/west of the actual path of a low pressure system. In this case Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio will see the heaviest snow amounts.

Thursday Snowfall:
2" downtown Seattle
13" Spokane

Road Conditions. If you're going on a cross-country trip, you might want to check out road conditions across the Upper Midwest, courtesy of the University of Wisconsin meteorology department.

Stormy Post Mortem. The local Chanhassen office of the National Weather Service has a terrific overview of the storm that dumped 13.8" on the Twin Cities Sunday and Monday, with as much as 20" in a few southwestern metro suburbs. "After a respite of a few weeks in what is becoming one of the most active winters on record, a large and intense winter storm blanketed the region with heavy snowfall, including blizzard conditions in western Minnesota.  This system  developed quickly late Saturday night (19th) and into the early hours of Sunday (20th), as a strong jet stream moved across the western United States.  Well above normal, deep moisture for late February, expanded north across the entire Mississippi River Valley and into the Upper Midwest. Mixed precipitation of snow, sleet, and freezing rain across southwest and south central Minnesota gradually spread northeast Sunday morning.  In most areas north of the Interstate 90 corridor, the precipitation either began or quickly turned to heavy snow. Thunderstorms across eastern Nebraska and Iowa on Sunday morning pushed northward into the snowfall region of the system, leading to thundersnow and very heavy snowfall rates at times. The Twin Cities experienced the heaviest snow from late Sunday morning, through the afternoon, and into the middle of the evening. "

La Nina Continuing. The moderate to strong La Nina that contributed to a colder, snowier winter for much of America is hanging on - although showing some signs of weakening slightly. Why should you care? La Nina winter are often followed by unusually active tornado springs. It's hard to imagine we'll see more than 2010 (104 touched down, most in the USA), but I suspect it's going to be a very busy April, May and June for severe weather, hail and tornadoes. From NOAA: "El Niño and La Niña (collectively called the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, or “ENSO” for short), are the end points of a seesawing pattern of changes in ocean temperatures, rainfall, and wind patterns across the tropical Pacific Ocean that occurs every 3-7 years. This naturally occurring climate pattern influences weather around the globe. At one end of the seesaw is El Niño, during which ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean get unusually warm. At the other end is La Niña, in which the same part of the ocean grows unusually cool."

La Nina. 1950 - Present. La Niña exists when the three-month-average sea surface temperature in the central tropical Pacific Ocean (graphed line) drops to at least 0.5° C below average (shaded box). The October–December 2010 anomaly was -1.4° C. Graph by Rebecca Lindsey based on NOAA Climate Prediction Center Oceanic Niño Index data.

Solar Blast. Don't be surprised if communications satellites are impacted in the days and weeks ahead, maybe a power failure or two. The reason? Solar flares - picking up on the surface of the sun, as reported by "The quiet didn't last long. Earth-orbiting satellites detected an M3-class solar flare at 0735 UT on Feb. 24th. The source was an active region located just behind the sun's eastern limb. The eruption produced strong radio emissions, a coronal mass ejection (not Earth directed), and this spectacular picture taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory."

Editorial: Tornadoes And Numbskulls. This editorial in the Huntsville Times caught my eye. I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with this guy. If you slash funding for the National Weather Service there will be (dire, life-threatening) consequences. Not only the weather models, but the warning process will suffer.  "Just in time for the tornado season, one of the looniest ideas to come out of Washington recently is a proposal to chop the budget of the National Weather Service for the last half of this federal fiscal year by roughly a third, $126 million out of an annual budget of about $850 million. A continuing budget resolution proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives would force work furloughs and rolling closures for 27 days at a time of the National Weather Service's 122 Weather Warning Offices, including offices in Huntsville, Calera and Mobile. It would be one thing if this budget-cutting was a well-considered move to cut the expenses of a government agency that was wasting our money. A careful review might reveal ways to save some money without seriously affecting its performance. But this continuing resolution appears to be an impulsive effort to cut the federal deficit, consequences be damned, including the prospect of the loss of lives. Let's be clear: There is no doubt that federal spending has to be cut. There are trims and cuts to discretionary spending that can be made, but nonsecurity discretionary spending makes up only 12 percent of the federal budget. Programs such as Medicaid and Social Security - which neither party seem willing to tackle - are where most of the real budget solutions lie."

Breakfast Toast & Tunes. For the gadget freak that has everything - and has more money than sense, check out this device. From "The width of the twin toasting slots at the top of the Breville VTT296 2 Slice Radio Toaster can be altered to accommodate different sized slices of bread, and there's a variable browning control for dark/light adjustment. An extra high lift helps users reduce the risk of burning fingers on the body of the toaster. A defrost button automatically lengthens the toasting time for frozen slices and a reheat mode puts some warmth back into cooled toast without fear of it burning further. The Radio Toaster is shown as available now on Amazon UK, and is up for pre-order on Both price it at GBP49.99 (US$80)."

A True Competitor To The iPad? The New York Time's David Pogue has a good overview of Motorola's latest creation, the "XOOM", which has a lot of promise. Too bad the Android marketplace is still a mess, but the XOOM may have enough other features and functionality to make up for that drawback: "The Xoom also has a dual-core processor, which, according to Motorola, means smoother game animation. And it has cameras. On the back, there’s a 5-megapixel still camera that can also record high-definition video. On the front, there’s a low-resolution video camera for video chatting. The new Android software includes a beefed-up Camera module, which gives weird prominence to gimmicky effects you’ll never use, like Solarize, Sepia and Polarize. Clearly, a camera is useful on a tablet, and will remain a gigantic competitive advantage for the Xoom — at least until the iPad 2 comes out next month (if Apple sticks to its usual annual update pattern, that is). If the new iPad doesn’t have a camera or two, I’ll eat a tablet. The Xoom’s screen has slightly higher resolution than the iPad’s, and it gives the tablet a slightly different shape — more like a business envelope than a greeting-card envelope. The screen shape is a better match for hi-definition videos, but worse for photos and maps."

How To Construct A 10 Foot Snowman. Check out this YouTube timelapse of one of the larger snowmen I've ever seen. It helps to have a bobcat to get the heavy lifting out of the way!

Below Average. In case anyone asks (doubtful) the average high now is 32 F. At least the sun was out, 11" on the ground in St. Cloud and the Twin Cities. By the way, last year the high on Feb. 24 was 20 F. in the Twin Cities.

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

TODAY: Unusually cold. Coating of light snow? Winds: NW. High: 14

FRIDAY NIGHT: More flurries, a few icy roads. Low: -3

SATURDAY: Still numb. Light snow and flurries - slick spots. High: 13

SATURDAY NIGHT: Light snow, 1-3" possible with slick roads. Low: 4

SUNDAY: Fading sun, snow develops south/east of MSP. High: 28

MONDAY: Flurries give way to bright sun. High: 27

TUESDAY: Clouds increase, PM flurries. High: 26

WEDNESDAY: Intervals of sun, still chilly. High: 24

THURSDAY: Snow develops, some accumulation? High: 31

Interesting Times

Looking at the weather maps that old proverb, "may you live in interesting times" comes to mind. 2010: wettest year on record for Minnesota. Most tornadoes (104) on record. Tied for 2005 for the warmest year (globally) on record. Every time we turn around we're setting a RECORD. Earlier this week, for the first time since 1985, the Twin Cities had seen more snow (75") than International Falls and Duluth! Strange but true.
Now the concern is shifting from snow to flooding. Will this be the worst spring on the Red River since '97? If we pick up another 1-2 feet of snow could we have a year to rival the Mother Of All Floods, 1965? Too early to tell, but the rate of snow melt (and whether it rains hard and often) will seal our fate. Time to check your flood insurance policy.

A weak area of low pressure aloft may squeeze out a quick coating to 1" of (powdery) snow today; with "highs" in the teens some roads will be icy. A couple inches of snow may fall from a second disturbance Saturday night. Confidence levels are low - we need to see a few more computer runs, but there's at least a chance of some very icy roads over the weekend, especially Saturday night.

Models print out a more significant storm over the Quad Cities by Sunday night; the heaviest snow should pass south and east of town but it's a little close for comfort. March starts on a chilly note next week, but 30s arrive the second week of March. Signs of hope.

Models Guiding Climate Policy Are "Dangerously Optimistic". Here's an excerpt of an article I found in the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper. Increasingly, scientists (and policy-makers) are concerned that, if anything, the supercomputer simulations have been underestimating the rate of warming, sea level rise, etc. The models do a notoriously bad job predicting snow-melt over Antarctica and Greenland, two huge wildcards in the climate puzzle: "Integrated assessment models (IAMs) used by researchers today – where climate change data is integrated with economic data – are dangerously flawed because they are based on naïve assumptions, according to Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change at the University of Manchester, UK. Anderson told environmentalresearchweb: "The vast majority of IAMs assume low emission growth rates; early emission peaks; annual reduction rates limited to between 2 and 4%; untested geoengineering; and a high penetration of nuclear power alongside untested 'carbon capture and storage' technologies. Because IAMs typically use similar and inappropriate sets of assumptions, they repeatedly come up with the same narrow and fundamentally flawed answers." Anderson argues that actual emissions growth rates are much higher than those used by most IAMs, and that even ambitious emission peaks are much nearer 2020–2030 than the naïve estimates of 2010–2016 used by most models. His calculations have shown that, if we want to aim for a high chance of not exceeding a 2°C increase in global temperature by the end of the century, our energy emissions need to be cut by nearer 10% annually rather than the 2–4% that economists say is possible with a growing economy."

Which Nations Are Most Vulnerable To Climate Change? The Daunting Politics Of Choosing. From ClimateWire and the New York Times comes a story focused on how to categorize which nations around the world are most susceptible to a warmer, drier, stormier climate? "Judging who is most threatened has real-world implications. Those at the top of the list -- if ever such a list is developed and agreed upon internationally -- could decide who is first in line to tap a multibillion-dollar Green Climate Fund. The trail toward making such a determination, experts say, is strewn with scientific and political land mines. After all, many scientists consider China -- susceptible to droughts, typhoons and sea level rise -- to be the world's most threatened nation. But with a gross domestic product of $4.99 trillion, should it be as eligible for aid as poverty-stricken Bangladesh? Some small island nations like the Seychelles are middle-income countries, yet climate change threatens their very existence. And where in the mix to put a Colombia or Pakistan, which doesn't fit neatly into any prescribed U.N. category yet suffers catastrophic flooding? "There is simply no objective, scientific way of categorizing a ranking of 100-plus countries in order of who is more vulnerable than another," Huq said. "The moment someone comes up with a list, there's a problem." Yet economists are trying. Last year, the British firm Maplecroft developed an extensive ranking that analyzed countries' exposures to weather extremes, sensitivity to damage tied to poverty, population, internal conflicts, dependence on agriculture, and capacity to adapt (Climatewire, Oct. 21, 2010).

Inspector General's Review Of Stolen E-Mails Confirms No Evidence Of Wrong-Doing By NOAA Scientists. The latest from NOAA regarding the hacked "climate-gate" e-mails: "At the request of U.S. Sen. Inhofe, the Department of Commerce Inspector General conducted an independent review of the emails stolen in November 2009 from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, and found no evidence of impropriety or reason to doubt NOAA’s handling of its climate data. The Inspector General was asked to look into how NOAA reacted to the leak and to determine if there was evidence of improper manipulation of data, failure to adhere to appropriate peer review procedures, or failure to comply with Information Quality Act and Freedom of Information Act guidelines. “We welcome the Inspector General’s report, which is the latest independent analysis to clear climate scientists of allegations of mishandling of climate information,” said Mary Glackin, NOAA’s deputy under secretary for operations. “None of the investigations have found any evidence to question the ethics of our scientists or raise doubts about NOAA’s understanding of climate change science.” 

The Inspector General’s report states specifically:
  • “We found no evidence in the CRU emails that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data comprising the [Global Historical Climatology Network – monthly] GHCN-M dataset.” (Page 11)
  • “We found no evidence in the CRU emails to suggest that NOAA failed to adhere to its peer review procedures prior to its dissemination of information.” (Page 11)
  • “We found no evidence in the CRU emails to suggest that NOAA violated its obligations under the IQA.” (Page 12)
  • “We found no evidence in the CRU emails to suggest that NOAA violated its obligations under the Shelby Amendment.” (Page 16)
The report notes a careful review of eight e-mails that it said "warranted further examination to clarify any possible issues involving the scientific integrity of particular NOAA scientists or NOAA's data,” that was completed and did not reveal reason to doubt the scientific integrity of NOAA scientists or data."

Slim Pickings For Climate Science Critics In Inspector General Report. The latest from Andrew Revkin at the New York Time's Dot Earth blog: "Senator James M. Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican and the dean of congressional naysayers on the need for action on climate and energy, appeared to come up empty-handed today. Inhofe had requested that the Commerce Department Inspector General investigate whether e-mails and other information revealed in the  hacking of climate files at the University of East Anglia in December 2009 revealed any wrongdoing by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. His news release today held slim pickings if the hope was to uncover a scandal: 

- A mention of a possible irregularity in some contracts with no discernible bearing on the quality of climate science.
- The phrase “warrants further action” was used in the release to describe eight e-mail messages that the inspectors found might potentially point to integrity issues. The problem is that the agency conducted interviews and document reviews and provided explanations in the report — none of which raised red flags. (Inhofe plans to pursue more investigations of these e-mails nonetheless, his release said."

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