Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Grinch (no snow...but odds of a white New Year's increase)

42 F. high in the Twin Cities on Christmas Eve.
49 F. high at Granite Falls yesterday.
25 F. average high for December 24 in the metro area.
26 F. high temperature last year, on December 24, 2010.
30% of America will have a white Christmas this year, at least 1" or more of snow on the ground.
45% of the USA experienced a white Christmas last year.

2-4" snow at El Paso, Texas - first white Christmas there in 25 years.

Environment Canada senior climatologist Dave Phillips told AFP “he has never seen so little snowpack in Canada’s cities.” (Think Progress article below).

+10F. Northern Norway is running more than 10 degrees F. warmer than average (from a story on a brown Christmas for much of the USA and Europe below from Think Progress)

A 40-Degree Plus Christmas Eve. Highs ranged from low 40s in the Twin Cities metro area to 48 at Montevideo and 49 at Granite Falls, almost 30 degrees above average.

"Waves of happiness will run higher than normal, with flurries of thanks and floods of good will, especially at the time of highest Yule Tide. Back near the tree, a sharp warning or pine needle advisory will be in effect in the vicinity. There's also a no running with scissors advisory. One more advisory in effect: too many cannolis can have an effect around the beltway." - from AccuWeather meteorologist's Elliot Abram's Christmas Forecast below.

"There has been only one Christmas - the rest are anniversaries." - W.J. Cameron

"The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other." - Burton Hillis

"One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don't clean it up too quickly." - Andy Rooney

Elliot Abram's "Indoor Forecast" For Christmas. Eliot Abrams is a big reason why I chose to become a meteorologist back in the early 70s. He is one of the principals of AccuWeather, based in State College, PA. He's incredibly creative (and an all-around nice guy too). He's made the weather fun for over 40 years now, and today's Christmas Outlook is no exception: "As we head into the nighttime hours of Christmas Eve, bedtime warnings and hallway watches will be posted for all children, as long as they haven't been storming and thundering around the house. In most areas, a flurry of parcels from various source regions will accumulate under the tree. However, we issue a bright paper ad ribbon snipping advisory."

Upside Down Christmas Weather Map. Here's a photo from Midland (Texas) taken on Christmas Eve. Just when you thought the weather couldn't get any stranger.

                                     2010                                                                                  2011

"What A Difference A Year Makes!" No kidding Einstein. Check out the difference in snowcover from Christmas last year to this year. In 2010 an inch or more of snow covered 45% of the USA; this year closer to 30% of America will be "white".

The Miracle Of Mapleton. Here's an amazing and heartwarming story from the Sioux City Journal: "MAPLETON, Iowa -- Allen and Jessica Mead and their four children fled Picayune, Miss., as Hurricane Gustav roared in 2008. Left their dog, Bud, behind. Bud survived Gustav. He moved north when the Meads returned to their roots, renting a two-bedroom home at 301 S. 2nd St. in Mapleton. Bud was the only one home the night of April 9, as a tornado blew apart portions of 142 residential and business dwellings in the Monona County town. Bud crouched in the garage. A triangle-shaped cranny formed when a freezer fell against a disabled washing machine. The metal cocoon protected the canine as winds measuring 136 mph blew the neighborhood apart. The garage collapsed, leaving the roof intact, resting inches above the ground."

"This year we had three weather events that matched or exceeded three U.S. weather extremes,"  Jeff Masters, a meteorologist and founder of The Weather Underground blog, says. The Mississippi flood was higher than any other, the Texas drought was drier than any other, and the tornado season was deadlier than any other. "It boggles my mind. .....Fifty-six percent of the U.S. had a top 10 percent wettest or driest year. That's a record." That divergent pattern is to be expected with climate change -- the wet areas will grow wetter, the dry areas drier."  - from an article in The Atlantic below.

Snow On The Ground Christmas Morning In The Metro Area:

2011: 0"

2010: 19"
2009: 12"
2008: 8"
2007: 6"
2006: Trace
2005: 3"
2004: 1"

Brown Christmas For Much Of Europe. The latest from AP: "The International Ski Federation is canceling the World Cup competition planned for New Year's in Munich, Germany because of lack of snow, too warm temperatures and rain. Sounds like pattern much of the U.S. is experiencing as well."

Extreme weather warning

  • Navn Cato
  • AreaSalten, Ofoten, Lofoten, Vesterålen, Troms og kyststrøkene i Vest-Finnmark
  • *Fase B
  • Timelørdag 24. desember kl 16:04
Lavt lufttrykk kombinert med springflo gir søndag ettermiddag kraftig forhøyet tidevann. Vannstanden ventes likevel å være ca 20 cm lavere enn under ekstremværet Berit. Lavtrykket befinner seg ved Island og beveger seg i løpet av søndag nordøstover mot Bjørnøya. 

* Got that? Translation: warning posted for high winds and heavy snow/ice for portions of northern Norway. I think.

Go Santa Go! Who knew Santa could snowboard like a maniac? Mrs. Claus seems pretty good on her feet too. Who knew? "Santa and Mrs. Claus made some last minute turns at Loveland Ski Area. They'll be riding Loveland Ski Area on Sunday and Monday after their big adventure around the world!" Check out the YouTube video of the Claus family snowboarding. Strange but true...

Thank You Troops And Veterans. Check out this home, seriously decked out - with a very patriotic theme. With a son in the Navy I'm more aware than ever of the men and women who are sacrificing so much to keep our nation strong and free: "Since 1775, over 1.3 million American troops have made the ultimate sacrifice. Thank you and please visit to help give back to those who protect our freedom."

Highs One Year Ago Today. Temperatures were seasonably cool across most of the USA - within a few degrees of average.

Christmas Day 2011. Temperatures are 10-20 degrees warmer than last year east of the Rockies - a map that looks more like mid November than late December.

Snow In Unlikely Places. A white Christmas for El Paso, Texas? It looks like the first white Christmas since 1986. Photo courtesy of Katie Miles and Twitter: "Holy mashed potatoes Batman its snowing in El Paso! "

Bass Fishing On The Winter Solstice. Strange, but true - from our weather spotter in northwestern New Jersey: "Yesterday I was bass fishing on the lake next to my the end of December. I never fished on my boat on the Winter Solstice before. Stayed 'til sunset to get a picture....front moving toward me."

Reaction To Predictions Of A Brown Christmas. Kids of all ages are pretty unhappy about the lack of snow. To quote Kurt Vonnegut, "and so it goes". Payback for 19" snow on the ground on Christmas of last year.

White Christmas Dreams May Not Come True In Northern US, Where Mild Weather Makes Snow Scarce. The Washington Post has the grim, brown(ish) details: "TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Dreams of a white Christmas are hanging by a thread in the North, where unusually mild weather has left the ground bare in many places — a welcome reprieve for people who don’t like shoveling, but a lump of coal in the stockings of outdoor sports buffs who miss their winter wonderland. From New England to the Dakotas and even parts of the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest, snowfall has been well below normal through the fall and early winter with cold air bottled up over Canada. Golf courses were open this week in Minneapolis, which a year ago was digging out from a storm that dumped more than 17 inches of snow and collapsed the Metrodome roof. Many downhill ski resorts are making snow to compensate for nature’s stinginess."

Photo credit: (Genevieve Ross / Associated Press ) - "In this Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 photo, with temperatures above freezing and no snow on the ground, Mike Schneider, of St. Paul, Minn., golfs at Parkview Golf Club in Eagan, Minn."

Tough Times For Cross Country Skiers. From the Star Tribune: "High school cross country ski teams took advantage of the man-made snow at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis, Minn. to work out Thursday afternoon, December15, 2011. With time ticking away toward Christmas Eve, it's looking more likely that 2011 will not deliver us a White Christmas. While it's not all that unusual -- fewer than 3 out of 4 Minnesota Christmases are white -- a brown Christmas forces us to change plans when it seems like the one payoff for months of frigid cold isn't always a guarantee. (JEFF WHEELER/Star Tribune)"
                  2011                                                              2006
Less Snow Than 2006? The last brown Christmas was 5 years ago, but you can make an argument that there's even less snow (up north) this year than there was back in 2006, especially the Red River Valley. Maps courtesy of the Minnesota DNR, State Climatology Office.

Global Snow And Ice. NOAA reports: "The cryosphere (areas covered by ice, snow, glaciers, or permafrost) is an extremely dynamic part of the global system. Changes in the seasons and climate bring great changes to the expanse of Earth's cryosphere. Satellite data allows scientists to keep a constant eye on these areas. Infrared and microwave data from multiple satellites including the NOAA's GOES Imager and POES AVHRR, US Air Force DMSP/SSMI, and EUMETSAT MSG/SEVIRI sensors is combined to create these daily maps of global snow and ice cover of the planet. The use of multiple datasets provides relatively high spatial resolution (about 4 km/pixel) daily maps in all weather conditions. Light blue areas indicate sea ice extent; white colors indicate all other areas covered in snow."
Who Will See A White Christmas? About 30% of the USA, according to NOAA. There's precious little snow on the ground east of the Mississippi, with bare, brown ground in unusual places (northern Minnesota and North Dakota, where the statistical odds of a white Christmas are close to 100%) The Rockies will see a very white Christmas, along with parts of Wisconsin, Upper Michigan and the highest terrain of northern New England. The latest NOAA snowcover map is here.

Predicted Snow Through Midnight Wednesday. Still no significant snow for the Upper Midwest, although Indianapolis may pick up a couple inches, along with upstate New York and northern New England. That's pretty much it looking out 120 hours (GFS model).

A Little More Interesting Late Week? We are long overdue for a "snow event" - something. Anything. No snow is expected through Wednesday, but a clipper-like system pushing in from the west may arrive with a quick inch or two on Thursday, maybe a few more slushy inches on Saturday, just in time for New Year's Eve festivities. Great timing!

Snowy New Mexico. While we deal with a brown Christmas, there is PLENTY of snow from Arizona and New Mexico into Colorado and Kansas. Here's an update on major road closures due to continued blowing and drifting:

Interstate 10 is closed in Southwest NM, from Las Cruces to close to the AZ state line (just over 100 miles)
Interstate 25 is closed in southern New Mexico, from Las Cruces to Socorro (about 100 miles)
Interstate 40 is closed in western New Mexico, from Gallup to Grants
Interstate 40 is also closed in eastern New Mexico, from east of Albuquerque to Tucumcari.

* Data courtesy of Earth Networks. I can't remember the last time I heard of I-10 closing due to snow. That's close to the Mexican border!

Photo credit above: "This Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011 photo provided by New Mexico Search And Rescue shows the Higgins family's SUV buried under a snowdrift on U.S. Highway 412 about 30 miles from Clayton, N.M., when a blizzard moved through the area Monday. Rescuers had to dig through 4 feet of ice and snow to free David and Yvonne Higgins and their 5-year-old daughter, Hannah, who were found clinging to each other early Wednesday. The family had plenty of water to drink, plus sandwiches and chips. But as the hours passed, it seems as if they were working harder to breathe inside the buried SUV. (AP Photo/New Mexico Search And Rescue)"

Earth At The Winter Solstice. From NOAA: "Taken on December 22, 2011, this full hemisphere scan from the GOES East satellite shows Earth on the 2011 winter solstice. The solstice is the shortest day of the year, and is also notable because the Sun's angle relative to the planet is at its most southern point, leaving the North Pole in darkness. The high angle is evident in this image, were no visible cloud imagery can be seen over the North Pole, whereas the South Pole is well lit. Clouds are actually present over the North Pole (and would be visible in infrared imagery), however the visible imager sensor on GOES requires sunlight to capture imagery - and there is no sunlight at the high latitudes."

Australians Brace For Cyclone Grant: Expected To Hit Christmas Day. An update from "Many residents of Darwin, in Australia's Northern Territory (NT), are canceling Christmas dinner, having been advised that a hurricane — called a cyclone Down Under — will make landfall around p.m. on Dec. 25. Those old enough to remember Cyclone Tracy, which 37 years ago to the day devastated the NT capital, Darwin, killing 65 people, are likely taking evasive action. Cyclone Grant was expected to approach the Australian coast on the day after Christmas, also known here as Boxing Day after the English tradition derived from boxing presents for the poor." Cyclone track of Grant courtesy of Australia's Bureau of Meteorology.

Top 10 Weather Stories Of 2011: From Manitoba Flooding To Goderich's Tornado. Environment Canada discusses the most significant weather events of '11 for our neighbors to the north in this CBC article: "Snowstorms, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes — Canada bore the brunt of all these weather systems during 2011, and Environment Canada's Dave Phillips has also included them in the top 10 weather stories of the year. Phillips told reporters during a conference call on Thursday that while Canadians had plenty to weather in 2011, they were remarkably unscathed compared to their global neighbours. But weather-related losses were pegged at $1 billion by the insurance industry, making it the second most expensive year for Canadian weather catastrophes.
1. Historic flood fights in the West
The floods resulted in more acreage under water than ever recorded, lasting from October 2010 to late July and featured the highest water levels and flows in modern history across parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Governments spent $1 billion on flood fighting and victim compensation."

NASA - WISE Presents A Cosmic Wreath. Here are some details behind this breathtaking image, courtesy of NASA: "Just in time for the holidays, astronomers have come across a new image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, that some say resembles a wreath. You might even think of the red dust cloud as a cheery red bow, and the bluish-white stars as silver bells. This star-forming nebula is named Barnard 3. Baby stars are being born throughout the dusty region, while the “silver bell” stars are located both in front of, and behind, the nebula."

Comet Lovejoy From Orbit. Here's more information (and a spectacular video) from "Veteran astronaut Dan Burbank has seen many amazing things. Once, he even flew through the aurora borealis. So when Burbank says "[Comet Lovejoy] is the most amazing thing I have ever seen in space," it really means something. Currently serving onboard the International Space Station, Burbank photographed the sungrazing comet on Dec. 21st, an experience he describes in this NASA video."

11 Groundbreaking Inventions Of 2011. I'm a geek, I admit it, and as such always on the lookout for amazing tech. Business Insider takes a look at some of the more promising technological breakthroughs of this past year.

Medical Mirror" Takes Your Pulse By Analyzing Your Face.
Inventor: Ming Zher Poh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student
What is it? "Did you know you could measure your heart rate through your face? If you did, you're probably a graduate student at MIT. Poh's mirror, using a web cam behind the glass, measures the amount of light your face is reflecting and uses it to calculate your heartbeat."

* photo above courtesy of MIT.

iTV or Apple TV3: A Perfect TV Set? The Perfection Paradox web site takes a look at what Apple may be planning for next generation TV sets. Simplicity is key - make it EASY for me to find my favorite show, no fumbling for remotes or channel guides. Voice-controlled, streamlined, elegant and so easy a 4 year old can use it: "Can Steve Jobs and Apple reinvent the TV set and bring it closer to perfection, just as he helped perfect the tablet computer, the phone and the music player? From the recent revelations in the Steve Jobs' biography and articles in the Wall Street Journal, as well as leaks from suppliers in Japan and Australia, the rumor mill is pounding the drums. Below are my own speculations about what the Apple TV set will be like, based on taking seriously Steve Jobs' obsession with perfection."

Why Everyone Hates The Media. Salon takes a look at America's growing distrust and dislike of traditional media outlets: "The cover of Jonathan M. Ladd’s new book shows a pair of newspaper vending boxes that have been vandalized. “Lies,” reads the graffiti scrawled across the machines. Lots of people seem to agree with the sentiment expressed by this anonymous street-level press critic — even if most of us are more apt to express this by screaming at the TV. In his meticulous and informative “Why Americans Hate the Media and How It Matters,” Ladd cites a 1956 study that “found that 66 percent of Americans thought newspapers were fair.” Within 50 years, things would change dramatically. By 2004, he writes, “only 10 percent of Americans had ‘a great deal’ of confidence in the ‘national news media,’” according to one poll."

Warming Up. After 2/10ths of an inch of snow during the morning from a fast-moving clipper, skies cleared and temperatures reached 37 in the Twin Cities and St. Cloud, 39 at Redwood Falls. Duluth has 3" snow on the ground, 4" at International Falls.

"Oh, for the good old days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they rain out of money." - author unknown."

More Like Halloween Than Christmas Eve. Saturday highs ranged from 28 at Duluth and International Falls to 42 in St. Cloud and the Twin Cities to 48 at Redwood Falls.

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

CHRISTMAS DAY: Plenty of sun, cool start - turning milder by afternoon. Winds: W 10-15. High: near 40

SUNDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear. Low: 27

MONDAY: Mildest day. Is it really late December? High: 42

TUESDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, turning cooler. Low: 24. High: 33

WEDNESDAY: More clouds than sun, a bit milder. Low: 22. High: 36

THURSDAY: Couple inches of slush possible over southern MN? Low: 23. High: 32

FRIDAY: Clouds, better travel statewide. Low: 20. High: 32

NEW YEAR'S EVEPotential for accumulating snow. Low: 23. High: 30

The Spirit of Christmas

"Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we're here for something else besides ourselves" said journalist Eric Sevareid. Today, as Christians around the world celebrate the Ultimate Gift, I'm especially proud of our team at WeatherNation.

This year we adopted a family down on their luck: 3 moves in the last year, no money; a drafty apartment with mattresses and little else. All 31 employees brought in carefully-wrapped gifts; my partner delivered a truckload of presents Thursday. The mom was overcome with emotion, stunned, blinking back tears of joy. It was our own little Christmas Miracle.

OK. The maps are looking a bit more interesting: an inch or two possible Thursday, maybe a few more inches New Year's Eve. I know, I'll believe it when I see it too. But we're due, and it makes sense that New Year's might be slushy/slick.

We may hit 40 F. today; low 40s possible tomorrow before cooling off midweek. No arctic air in sight thru January 10. I know - just plain weird.

For now I'm predicting a 4-8" accumulation of wrapping paper, a blizzard of bows, occasional squeals of delight.

Wishing you and yours a memorable Christmas!

Climate Stories....

Global Warming Hates A White Christmas. The story from Think Progress: "This winter has been unusually warm, crippling ski resorts, ruining holiday traditions, and dashing hopes of a white Christmas across the northern hemisphere. While the billions of tons of greenhouse pollution in our atmosphere sometimes encourage freak snowstorms, the primary effect of global warming on winter is, well, warmer temperatures — making white Christmases less likely. Temperature increases in some regions were off the charts in November, with northern Norway about 10°F warmer than average. In Finland, snow has been replaced by rain, killing World Cup and European Cup ski races, hurting retail sales, and adding to the gloom people feel from the long winter dark. This “black Christmas” shows the “footprint of global warming“:  "Helsinki is experiencing uncharacteristically mild December temperatures, and only light dustings of snow have come and gone. “At the beginning of December it was on average six degrees warmer than is usual for this time of year,” meteorologist Pauli Jokinen told AFP."

How To Discuss Climate Change With Your Uncle During The Holidays. Uncle, father, skeptical brother, inlaws, outlaws - with a neon-brown landscape outside our windows the subject may come up. Here's how to answer pointed questions, courtesy of Mother Nature Network and Think Progress: "Most people know better than to bring up politics, religion or climatology in polite company. It’s a recipe for arguments, or at least for awkwardness. But when families get together for big holiday meals … that recipe is often dusted off anyway. And whether it’s your nephew demonizing the Tea Party, your niece deifying Tim Tebow, or your aunt and uncle arguing about polar bears, no one wants squabbling to overshadow gobbling at a holiday feast. Still, not all taboo topics are the same. Fuzzier issues like politics and religion are often sensitive, since they’re largely matters of opinion and faith. But climate science is a little different, thanks to the “science” part. It’s one thing to bite your tongue while a relative rants about taxes or morality, but what if the conversation turns to coral bleaching or glacier loss? Is it worth risking an argument to set the record straight?"

The Year In Weather: It Was A Disaster. The Atlantic has a good recap of what was an extraordinary year for meteorologists. To be honest, I saw things I never thought I would see in my career, everything from an 82 dew point at MSP (84 in between hours), to a heat index topping 130 in Grand Forks, a flood on the Missouri that lasted much of the year, the worst drought since the Dust Bowl Days for Texas, massive sandstorms ("haboobs") from Arizona to Texas, and hundreds dead in a single day from tornadoes - at one point more than a dozen tornadoes were on the ground simultaneously. Surreal: "A once-in-five-hundred-year flood inundated the Mississippi River valley. A once-in-a-century drought in Texas shriveled the summer's crops and sparked sweeping forest fires. The deadliest tornado season on record tore communities to splinters. 2011 was clearly a year of extreme weather. Perhaps it is a sign of the pending 2012 apocalypse, but more likely, it is the result of a changing climate that is amplifying extremes. The chart above marks more than 2,900 separate weather records broken this year, and these records were costly. In all, Mother Nature inflicted $52 billion dollars in damage on the United States."

Public Attitudes Toward Climate Change Across Countries. Here's an interesting story from "So it's interesting to look at how these views affected country attitudes at Durban recently. It is pertinent to mention here that Asia has been worst hit by severe climate change.  Pakistan is one of the countries that have been severely hit in the recent years by disastrous effects of climate change including flash floods and devastating earthquakes. “Developed nations are not guilty of causing the climate change that developing nations claim they are suffering,” said Tom Harris, executive director of ICSC which is headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. “Climate changes all the time—both warming and cooling—due to natural causes and there is nothing that we can do to stop it. However, to the degree possible, and considering our economic circumstances, developed nations still have a moral obligation to devote a proportion of their foreign aid to helping the world’s most vulnerable people adapt to natural climate events.”

Floods, Heat, Migration: How Extreme Weather Will Transform Cities. CNN has the story: "When Tropical Storm Washi ripped through the southern Philippine city of Cagayan de Oro last weekend, it dumped in one day more than the city's entire average rainfall for the month of December. According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, a total of 181 millimeters of rainfall was recorded in the area last Friday, compared to the expected 99.9 millimeters for the whole month. The devastating flash floods, which have so far claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people, arrived just weeks after a report from the UK's Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Change indicated that climate change has significantly increased the number of people at risk from flooding globally."

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