Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Thaw (40s by Monday - 8th brown Christmas since 1967)

28 F. high reported Thursday in the Twin Cities, 3 degrees above average.

.03" liquid precipitation predicted today (NAM model). That should translate into a dusting to .4"
snow, enough to possibly ice up a few roads, especially north/east of the metro area.

35-40 degree F. highs possible Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

8th brown Christmas for the Twin Cities since 1967 (professor Mark Seeley, U. of Minnesota).

38-42 F. highs possible Monday.

A Risk Of Brown. When I think brown I think of UPS, and maybe Cleveland...but not Minnesota in late December. The only real snow on the ground is over the Minnesota Arrowhead, a lousy 4-8", according to the latest DNR map. 2006 was the last brown Christmas, but I can't remember a December when we had so little snow on the ground as of December 23. More stark evidence of a deepening drought across the Gopher State.

Additional Snow Between Now And Christmas. Parts of far northern Minnesota may still eek out a white Christmas, with 1" or more of snow on the ground. A few inches of snow is possible from the U.P. of Michigan into upstate New York and northern New England. That's pretty much it between now and Monday morning. NAM map above courtesy of NOAA and WeatherCaster.

Dusting Of Snow Today? The models are hinting at a coating of snow from a fast-moving clipper today, maybe .1 to .4" snow - enough to coat some lawns and fields. Whatever does fall will probably melt Saturday afternoon with highs in the mid to upper 30s.

What Month Is This Again? The ECMWF (European) model may be overdoing the warming trend a bit - predicting 38-39 F. on Christmas Day and 44 on Monday. But a lack of snow means temperatures can climb 5-10 degrees higher than they would with snow on the ground, so I'm not discounting this altogether. Highs are forecast to be above freezing all next week, a slight chance of a light rain/snow mix on New Year's Eve. Don't get your hopes up too high.

An Early January Thaw? GFS numbers show a slow warming trend next week, highs consistently above freezing. These predicted temperatures are 10-15 degrees above average, nighttime lows more than 20 degrees warmer than normal.

Alaska declared a federal disaster area on Thursday making the state eligible for federal funding to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area impacted by severe winter storms and flooding. As many as 4 separate storms packing hurricane-force wind gusts have affected Alaska since mid November. Photo courtesy of AP.

"Stunning lack of sun! The past 10 days have seen 220 mins of the possible 5,496 mins of sun here - just 22%! December usually receives 41% of its possible sun!" - WGN meteorologist extraordinaire Tom Skilling.

"This trend may produce a rare occurrence for many southern Minnesota observers, that of not having a single night of below zero F readings during the month of December!" - Dr. Mark Seeley, in his WeatherTalk blog referenced below.

"Our task is to win the debate on the merits, to employ, as best we can, honest and credible arguments in order to ascertain the reality of things. And if the science shows that Earth is warming and that humans have played a role in that, then we need to accept it, even if that puts us on the same side with some individuals we don’t find particularly appealing. What matters is where the truth lies, not the company we find ourselves in." - from an Op-Ed in Commentary Magazine below.

Over 20 Stranded Anglers Rescued On Mille Lacs. KARE-11 has the story, a subtle (yet blunt) reminder that ice on most area lakes is still unsafe: "AITKIN COUNTY, Minn. - Emergency crews successfully rescued more than 20 stranded fishermen on Lake Mille Lacs who were floating on a piece of ice Wednesday night. Sheriff of Aitkin County Scott Turner told KARE 11 over 20 people had to be rescued from the ice sheet that was about one-half mile off the north shore of the lake. Turner said they had to use boats and hovercrafts to get the fishermen off the lake.  People living on the lake also provided boats to help rescue the stranded anglers. The State Patrol helicopter was used to assure there were no additional stranded fishermen."

Many Ski Resorts Lack An Essential Ingredient. The New York Times has the cold, hard, snow-free facts: "WEST DOVER, Vt. — There were far too many skis on hand this week at High Altitude, a rental shop on the road to Mount Snow here, and Andrew Glover, the manager, was far too lonely. The problem was the weather. Week after maddening week of unusually balmy temperatures have made snowfall scant in New England, and, worse, wreaked havoc on snowmaking at ski resorts that like to have a healthy base of, at the least, manmade snow by Christmas." Photo courtes of the AP.

Not Ruling Out A Christmas Dusting. I'm not convinced we'll salvage a white Christmas (1" or more on the ground at KMSP), but a fast-moving Alberta Clipper may put down a coating of white early Sunday, a better chance of a carpet of snow north/east of the metro area. Talk about coming right down to the wire.

Dry/Mild New Year's Day. Weak ridging over the Upper Midwest should be good for 30s a week from Sunday- right now I don't see any major storms for January 1, with the possible exception of northern New England. Again, the flow is zonal, west to east, more typical of late October than the first day of January. Remarkable.

January 5 - 40s for Minnesota? The 570 line at 500 mb (18,000 feet) right over Minnesota...on January 5? I've never seen this in my 27 years here in Minnesota. If this verifies it could be good for mid 40s, 50 not out of the question. Talk about a dramatic January Thaw. The long-range GFS model is also hinting at a major storm for the southeastern USA, with a sharp cold frontal passage as far south as Florida. In fact it may not be that much warmer in Florida than it is in Iowa and southern Minnesota. What a strange pattern.

Top 5 Weather Events For Minnesota in 2011. Thanks to the Minnesota State Climate Office for reminding us what a crazy year 2011 was, statewide:

Here are candidates for the top five weather events of 2011 from the Minnesota Climatology Working Group.

#5 Extreme Cold of January 20-21
The coldest air mass to hit Minnesota in two years sideswiped the state on January 20-21, 2011. The coldest air temperature found on January 21 was -46 at International Falls. This was the coldest temperature at the "Icebox of the Nation" since -46 on January 6, 1968. The temperature also bottomed out at -46 at Babbitt as well. This was the coldest air to move over Minnesota since January 14, 2009 when Babbitt saw -48. This cold came in the middle of one of the snowier winters in recent years.

#4 Record-Setting Non-tornadic Winds in Kittson County: September 1
On September 1, severe thunderstorm winds were clocked at 121 mph at an automated station a mile west of Donaldson in Kittson County. Two large commercial grade steel bins were torn out from the local grain elevator and the significant tree damage in the area matched winds of that extreme range. 121 miles per hour is the strongest wind speed measured in Minnesota. While wind speeds of this magnitude, and higher have likely occurred in Minnesota in the past, there wasn’t any instrumentation that survived to record the wind speed. Due to the proliferation of automated weather stations in Minnesota, there is a greater chance that one of these gusts can be measured.

#3 Driest Meteorological Autumn in Twin Cities History
A scant 1.36 inches fell from September 1 to November 30 in the Twin Cities, the driest since modern records began in 1871. The dryness in the Twin Cities was a reflection of the large scale drought situation that intensified across Minnesota in the late summer and autumn. Soil moisture levels at the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca by mid November were the lowest seen in recent years.

#2 Record Dew Point Temperatures: July 19, 2011 For the Twin Cities and Minnesota
On Tuesday, July 19, 2011 the dew point temperature reached 82 degrees at the Twin Cities, breaking the old record of 81 that was set on July 30, 1999. In addition, the highest dew point temperature recorded in Minnesota was set at the Moorhead Airport with 88 degrees, breaking the old record of 86 that was set at both Pipestone and St. James on July 23, 2005. The high dew point temperatures had some odd effects. When people wearing glasses walked outside from the indoor air conditioning, their eyeglasses instantly fogged up. Window air conditioners quickly sold out around the Twin Cities.

#1 Minneapolis Tornado: Sunday, May 22, 2011
Minneapolis Tornado: Sunday, May 22, 2011. The Minneapolis tornado killed one person and injured 48. The hardest hit area was from Lowry Avenue and Logan Avenue in Minneapolis to 42nd and Lyndale Avenue. The tornado then crossed the Mississippi River and caused damage in Anoka County. This is the second tornado to hit Minneapolis in three years. There hasn’t been a tornado reported in Ramsey County since 1998.

Honorable Mention

Brown Christmas 2011
Similar to 2006 when most places south of Highway 2 from Grand Forks to Duluth had little or no snow on the ground. In 2011 the snow-free area looks to be even more extensive with northwestern Minnesota also most likely not having any snow on the ground on Christmas Day.

Recent Snowfall From Space. NOAA high-resolution visible imagery shows the recent snow that shut down parts of the southern Plains, from Kansas into the panhandle of Oklahoma and Texas, westward to New Mexico. In spite of steady melting many of these areas will probably be able to hang onto enough snow for a white Christmas.

Mega-Drifts. Here's a photo from the Pueblo, Colorado office of the National Weather Service. 4 foot drifts are being reported in northern Prowers County, with 10 foot drifts in Baca County!

Warm December Continues. Dr. Mark Seeley takes a look at our abnormally mild and dry December in his weekly WeatherTalk blog: "The month of December continues to average from 3 to 6 degrees F warmer than normal. A significantly warmer than normal pattern has prevailed statewide since October. Last weekend after Grand Marais Airport reported the coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states on Saturday (-11 degrees F) many Minnesota observers then saw record-breaking high temperatures for Sunday, December 18th. Temperatures broke 50 degrees F in many areas, while Montevideo and Madison both topped 60 degrees F. The above normal temperature trend is expected to dominate through the New Year and into the first week of January. This trend may produce a rare occurrence for many southern Minnesota observers, that of not having a single night of below zero F readings during the month of December!"

A Very White Christmas In The Mile High City. Thanks to Daisy Bailey for passing on this photo - she lives in Lakewood, a suburb of Denver, where a cool foot of snow fell. Must be nice, huh?

Snowfall Amounts In The Denver Area:
DENVER INTL AIRPORT      5.8            15.0             28.0
DENVER-STAPLETON         6.5            15.0             24.3
DENVER CITY PARK         4.0            13.5             26.8
EVERGREEN               21.0            38.9             56.5
NORTH LONGMONT           9.7            19.1             39.3
RALSTON RESERVOIR       13.0            20.5             33.0
WHEAT RIDGE             10.1            24.5             39.7
2011 Hurricane Season Was Tame Here, Active In Atlantic Region. More details from the Gulf Breeze News: "The 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season ended Nov. 30. Although the season will go down in the record books as having been “extremely active,” tying 2010, 1995, and 1887 for the third-most active season since records began in 1851, there was very little activity that affected Northwest Florida. There were 19 named storms, including seven hurricanes. Three were Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Though the Sunshine State was spared an official landfall, Tropical Storm Lee during the Labor Day Weekend brought several inches of rain to Gulf Breeze. It kept most area residents out of the water and off the beaches. The system affected Gulf Breeze for four days and brought much-needed rain relief to the drought-stricken area. More than 7 inches of rain was recorded at Gulf Breeze High School before clouds began moving out and long awaited cool, drier air descended onto the area." Hurricane Irene imagery courtesy of NASA.

Thursday Numbers. Yesterday may have been the coolest day we'll see for the next week, maybe two. I know it sounds crazy, but I see a gradual warming trend next week, a string of 30s, 40 not out of the question. Thursday highs ranged from 20 at International Falls (2" snow on the ground), to 25 at Duluth (one whole inch reported), 27 at St. Cloud and 28 in the Twin Cities, a balmy 30 at Redwood Falls.

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

FRIDAY: More clouds than sun, flurries may dust a few roads, especially north/east of the metro area. Winds: SW 10-20. High: 36

FRIDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy, seasonably cool. Low: 21

CHRISTMAS EVE: More sun, thawing out a bit. High: 37

SATURDAY NIGHT: Patchy clouds, tracking Santa on Doppler. Dusting of flurries late? Low: 24

CHRISTMAS DAY: Partly sunny, Wisconsin flakes taper. High: 35

MONDAY: Bright sun, feels like early November! Low: 24. High: 43

TUESDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, dry sky. Low: 22. High: 37

WEDNESDAY: More clouds, few flurries. Low: 23. High: 32

THURSDAY: More clouds than sun, dry roads. Low: 21. High: 34

Remembering 2011

Is the weather getting wilder or is it just our imagination? 2011 brought the most billion dollar weather disasters on record, and Minnesota had its fair share of eye-opening headlines. In fact, the Minnesota Climate Office just released their "Top 5 Weather Events of 2011" list. Coming in number 1: the May 22 Minneapolis tornado, the second tornado to hit the city in 3 years. Second place: the July 19 dew point of 82, an all-time record for the Twin Cities. The driest meteorological autumn on record came in at number 3; our predicted brown Christmas scored an honorable mention. Check it out on my blog. Never a dull moment.

NOAA's CPC, Climate Prediction Center, is backing (way) off an earlier prediction of colder and snowier for the northern tier states. La Nina, La Schmeena! It doesn't seem to matter that Pacific Ocean water is trending cooler than normal. A stupefyingly persistent west wind howling from Vancouver is keeping bitter air bottled up near the Arctic Circle; we should reach 30s (above zero) into the first week of January.

A feeble clipper whips up decorative flurries today (dusting or coating of snow can't be ruled out); a Christmas thaw may give way to November-like 40s by Monday. Remarkable.

Foster and Rahmstorf (2011) have published a paper in Environmental Research Letters seeking to extract the human-caused global warming signal from the global surface temperature and lower troposphere temperature data. In order to accomplish this goal, the authors effectively filter out the effects of solar activity, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and volcanic activity. The result is shown in Figure 1 above.

  U.S. Helping Britain Investigate Hacking Of Climate Scientist E-Mails. The L.A. Times has the latest: "The Justice Department is helping British authorities in an investigation into the hacking of climate scientists’ emails, which caused an uproar among skeptics of global warming when they were released two years ago. Ten days ago, the Justice Department contacted San Francisco web development company Automattic, asking it to preserve records of three climate skeptic bloggers in the U.S., Canada and Britain who recently received another batch of stolen emails sent from a server in Russia. The Justice Department declined to comment on the nature of the investigation and did not give Automattic a reason for its request. But the letter to Automattic suggests the request is part of an ongoing investigation by law enforcement officials in Britain. On Dec. 14, the home of Roger Tattersall, the British blogger “Tallbloke,” was raided by detectives from the Metropolitan Police in London and members of the Norfolk Constabulary, whose jurisdiction in East Central England includes the University of East Anglia, whose scientists’ email accounts were targeted. Tattersall was not arrested, but the police confiscated two laptop computers and other equipment, according to his blog."

Top 5 Of 2011: #4. Who's Attacking Climate Scientists? The Institute For Southern Studies has the story: "But in 2011, Facing South's highest-profile story about climate-science shenanigans was our in-depth investigation into the forces behind a new type of attack on climate scientists: In October, we revealed the dirty-energy interests behind an effort to target those scientists using the Freedom of Information Act. Our story looked at the American Tradition Institute -- a free-market think tank that wants the public to believe human-caused global warming is a scientific fraud -- and its lawsuit against the University of Virginia seeking the release of emails and other documents from former professor Michael Mann (in photo), now at Penn State. One of the world's preeminent climatologists, Mann has become a target of the climate-denial movement because of his research documenting the recent spike in earth's temperatures."

Conservatives And Climate Change: Facts Need To Be Our Guiding Star. I couldn't agree more with an Op-Ed in Commentary Magazine. Here's an excerpt: "The second statement I want to focus on is this one: “Rather than the onus being on conservatives to bow to the dictates of warming science, it is the responsibility of those who wish to convince skeptics to make their case in a more accountable fashion.” To be clear: I’m not in favor of having conservatives “bow to the dictates of warming science.” But I am in favor of conservatives examining, in an independent and dispassionate manner, the best evidence we have on the matter of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). And the case for AGW has, in my estimation, been made. This doesn’t mean there aren’t some climate scientists who have exaggerated the threat or contorted the data. I said as much in my posts. But it’s simply not the case that this field of science is entirely corrupt or that the vast majority of climate scientists are dishonest and/or being intimidated to state conclusions with which they disagree."

Climate Story Of The Year: Warming-Driven Drought And Extreme Weather Emerge As Key Threat To Global Food Security. ThinkProgress has the details:

"This year has seen a great many important climate stories.  Obviously, the continued self-destructive failure of the nation and the world to reverse greenhouse gas emission trends always deserve to be the top story in some sense:
The emergence of a genuine grassroots movement following Obama’s fecklessness on the environment is a major U.S. story (see “A Climate Movement Is Born: Ozone Decision Spikes Total Arrests to 1,252 at White House Pipeline Protest“).
And the energy story with the biggest climate implication was clearly Fukushima:
But the climate story that affects the most people around the world today by far is well described in this post — Oxfam: Extreme Weather Has Helped Push Tens of Millions into “Hunger and Poverty” in “Grim Foretaste” of Warmed World."

Running From Climate Change: The Obama Administration's Changing Rhetoric. Here's a story from The Climate Development Lab: "At both President Obama’s “job speech” to the Joint Session of Congress and his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative last September, one issue was shockingly absent from the agenda: climate change. The term was scarcely mentioned in either speech, and more surprisingly, the administration also failed to deliver on the more popular message of clean energy. For all the talk of job creation and economic growth, the role of green jobs and a potential transition to a green economy were missing from the dialogue. In fact, lately the green jobs issue has taken a serious hit because green innovation has not been proven to create enough immediate “boots, jeans and helmets” jobs. The phrases “climate change” and “global warming” have become all but taboo on Capital Hill. These terms are stunningly absent from the political arena, and have been since 2010."

Global Warming Bringing Negative Effects On China. No, this isn't something I browse on a daily basis, but my search engine filter brought up a revealing article from the (China) People's Daily Online: "The Global Climate Conference held in Durban of South Africa not long ago has made the world pay high attention to the climate change once again.  According to data offered by the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), China's average temperature rise was higher than that of the world in the past 100 years. According to global surface temperature data, the global temperature rose by 0.47 degrees Celsius from 1906 to 2005. The temperature rising speed of the Northern Hemisphere was between 0.234 degrees Celsius and 0.245 degrees Celsius per decade in the period between 1979 and 2005, higher than that (between 0.092 degrees Celsius and 0.096 degrees Celsius) of the Southern Hemisphere.  The abnormal climate change of China is reflected in not only the rise of the annual mean temperature but also the direct and indirect effects brought by it. The vice director general of the Technology and Climate Change Department under the CMA Chao Qingchen said that, compared to 1880, China's precipitation has not changed much, but a decade-long fluctuation occurred in a period between 20 and 30 years."

'Tis The Season To Deny Climate Change: A Very Fox News Christmas (Video). has more: "'Tis the season! A time for gathering together with family, rolling out the holiday decorations, weathering an interminable cascade of Christmas tunes, avoiding unbridled consumerist bum rushes, and enjoying those winter wonderlands. Of course, those winter wonderlands inevitably lead to another fine seasonal tradition: Fox News highlighting snowy weather to mock climate science. Not a year goes by without Fox News using a snowstorm to crack jokes about global warming or to run truly vacuous 'Isn't it ironic?' stories when someone attempts to address climate change during the winter months. Of course, no scientist has ever suggested climate change means the immediate end of winter."

  TCEQ, Reports Editors Reach Deal On Climate Change Data. From the Houston Chronicle: "GALVESTON — Texas' environmental agency has reached an agreement with a Rice University oceanographer and his editors to publish a scientific article the agency had earlier rejected because of references to climate change, human impact on the environment and sea-level rise. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the editors have negotiated an agreement that will allow the publication of an article on sea-level rise in Galveston Bay by John Anderson, Maurice Ewing professor of Oceanography, said Jim Lester, an editor at the Houston Advanced Research Center. The article is the summation of a 10-year, peer-reviewed study published in the Geological Society of America." Photo above courtesy of NASA.

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