Saturday, December 17, 2011

Least December Snow Since 2006-07 (40+ today, no storms in sight)

35 F. high in the Twin Cities Saturday.
2/10ths of an inch of snow fell Friday night.
42 F. predicted high today for the metro area.
30s for highs will be the rule through the end of 2011, more typical of mid/late November.
8.2" snow so far this winter season at KMSP.
34" had fallen on the Twin Cities as of December 17, 2010 (24.2" of that in December alone).

In Search Of Snow. The latest NOAA snowcover map looks like something out of late October, not mid December. It's remarkable how little snow is on the ground, especially from northern New England to the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest, including central and northern Minnesota.

Fun With Statistics. Did you know (or care) that the odds of 5" of snow on the ground in the Twin Cities on Christmas Day is 32%? Or that roughly 1 in 10 Christmases have 10" or more of snow on the ground? Or that 71 out of 100 December 25s have an inch or more of snow on the ground in the metro? Fascinating. More fun facts from the NWS here.

Think Twice Before Venturing Onto Area Lakes. With highs near freezing today and low 40s tomorrow already unstable ice may thin out even more. Ice on many area lakes is still not safe - be careful out there.


Think in terms of the thermometer rather than the calendar when deciding to go out on the ice. Just because it was okay on December 1st to go out on the ice last year, doesn’t mean it’s going to be safe on the same date this year!

Check with a local resort or bait shop about any known danger spots such as aeration systems or traditionally unsafe areas before heading out on the ice.

Have a plan of what to do if you do break through. Carry rope, ice picks and a flotation device to help save your life or that of a companion.

During the winter of 2000, an ATV operator who broke through thin ice used a pair of ice picks to save his own life. vest‑style life jacket can provide extra warmth and flotation in case you fall through.

* source: Minnesota DNR.

Mild Weekend, Highs should still top 40 today, about 15 degrees above average, before cooling back down closer to average by Tuesday. Highs top 30 Wednesday, possibly above the freezing mark on Christmas Eve.

Hope Fades For A White Christmas. Friday night's coating is pretty much the only snow I see looking out the next week or so - the models killing any shot at a snowy coating for Christmas Eve/Day. In fact I don't see any signficant storms looking out 2 weeks. Our drought continues...

Snow Potential Next Week. The next storm will track well south/east of Minnesota, laying down a stripe of significant snow from the Texas Panhandle to Kansas City, with an inch or two possible for Chicago and the suburbs of Detroit.

December or October? I can't quite decide, staring at these predicted highs for Sunday. No bitter air (anywhere), a zonal, west to east flow direct from the Pacific sparking temperatures 15-30 degrees above average, especially over the northern tier states. Amazing. Map courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather.

Winter On Hold. Here is the GFS forecast for New Year's Day - showing the rain-snow line ("540 line") stretching from north of Seattle to Duluth to Albany. It will be warm enough for rain across most of America, with the exception of northern New England. You would expect to see a map like this in mid or late October, not January 1.

What A Difference A Year Makes. NOAA snowcover maps show the stark, dramatic difference in snowcover from December 16, 2010 to December 16, 2011. A year ago we had 16" snow on the ground - another snowfall would bring the snowcover up to 19" in time for Christmas. This year: little more than a trace of flurries is expected.

Peak Wind Gusts From Saturday's Santa Ana Wind Event:

MALIBU HILLS...........................NORTHEAST 38 MPH.
NEWHALL PASS...........................NORTH     51 MPH.
SAUGUS.................................NORTH     39 MPH.
CAMP NINE..............................NORTH     59 MPH.
CHILAO.................................NORTHEAST 44 MPH.
CLEAR CREEK............................SOUTHEAST 36 MPH.
WARM SPRINGS...........................EAST      48 MPH.
WHITAKER PEAK..........................NORTH     38 MPH.

 VENTURA COUNTY                        PEAK WIND GUST
CHEESEBORO.............................NORTHEAST 45 MPH.
WILEY RIDGE............................NORTHEAST 48 MPH.

Snow Potential Next Week. has a good story focusing on the potential for accumulating snow next week. A white Christmas is possible from Chicago and Detroit into portions of northern New England. "The best chance for snow will be on the far northern tier, from the higher ground of northern New York to northern New England, where enough cold air will be in place at the beginning of the storm. Heavy accumulations are not out of the question, and it is likely that there may be a white Christmas for the far northern mountains of New England."

New January Outlook. The new 1 month outlook is out from NOAA's CPC (Climate Prediction Center) unit, and it shows a significant shift in thinking. Warmer than average temperatures are predicted from the Plains to the east coast, a bias toward colder, stormier weather for the far western USA. Wetter than average conditions are predicted for the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, a dry bias over the far southern USA.

"Debt crises here in the U.S. and Europe overshadowed this alarming fact: 2011 ranks as the worst ever for catastrophic economic losses from disasters, says reinsurance company Swiss Re." - from an article at Fox Business below.

"A recent estimate suggests that the perennially frozen ground known as permafrost, which underlies nearly a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere, contains twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere....The best estimate so far was published in 2009 by a Canadian scientist, Charles Tarnocai, and some colleagues. They calculated that there was about 1.7 trillion tons of carbon in soils of the northern regions, about 88 percent of it locked in permafrost. That is about two and a half times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere."  - from a New York Times article on thawing permafrost below.

North Dakota Flood Victims Still Await Aid. The L.A. Times has an update: "Nearly six months after a record-breaking flood wiped out a fourth of the city's housing and left 11,000 people scrambling for shelter, the grim future that many feared has come to pass: The frigid winter has descended, and hardly anyone is securely back home. City officials say that only about 10% of flooded families have been able to return to fully repaired homes. An additional 20% have been able to get enough windows, doors and heat to live in the ruined shells of their houses through the winter."

2011 Record Year For Disaster Costs. Fox Business has the details: "Debt crises here in the U.S. and Europe overshadowed this alarming fact: 2011 ranks as the worst ever for catastrophic economic losses from disasters, says reinsurance company Swiss Re. The reinsurer says 2011 losses could still grow, due to expected winter storms in Europe and incoming claims from the ongoing floods in Thailand. Ranked as the five costliest insured disasters for the year, in this order, were: Japan’s deadly earthquake and tsunami; New Zealand’s earthquake; floods in Thailand, and two deadly tornadoes in the U.S.; Hurricane Irene ranked number six; floods in Australia came in seventh; and storms in the U.S. took the remaining three spots out of the top 10. The US was the worst hit, as the country posted six of the top 10 most costly insured disasters in 2011."


1) Japan’s earthquake, tsunami, $36 BN insured losses
2) New Zealand earthquake, $12 BN
3) Thailand floods, up to $11 BN
4) US tornadoes, Alabama et al, $7.3 BN
5) US tornadoes, Missouri et al, $6.7 BN
6) Hurricane Irene, $4.9 BN
7) Australia floods, $2.3 BN
8) US storms, $2 BN
9) US storms, $1.5BN
10) US storms, $1.4BN

* list courtesy of Swiss Re and Fox Business.

Mother Nature Runs Up Record Tab On The Housing Market. A company called CoreLogic Spatial Solutions has posted an impressive summary of 2011's severe weather statistics in an artlcle at National Mortgage Professional Magazine (what, you don't read that one?) Yes, I will go to the ends of the Earth to find fodder for this blog. The complete article is here - below are a few weather highlights:

►2011 was the most expensive hurricane season for the U.S. since 2008.
►Though only three named Atlantic storms made landfall, Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and Tropical Storm Don, they caused at least $8 billion in damages, primarily from flooding.
►Many risk experts feel it's time to rethink national flood policies, especially in major metropolitan hubs like New York City.

►The 2011 tornado season was the third most active since 1980, with 1,559 storms to date.
►The "2011 Super Outbreak" that occurred between April 25 and April 28 has been identified as the largest tornado outbreak ever recorded, with 336 confirmed tornadoes spread across the South, Midwest and Northeast of the U.S.
►Property, casualty and commercial insurers are now beginning to reevaluate risk for tornado damage well beyond the traditional geographic focus on "tornado alley" and adjacent areas.

►While the 2011 wildfire season continued the trend of having fewer but larger wildfires, there was a significant geographic shift in home losses over the past year from California, which had a cooler and wetter-than-average fire season, to the drought-affected states of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
►In May, the largest fire in Arizona history, the Wallow fire, forced thousands of resident evacuations and burned more than 469,000 acres.
►Texas and Oklahoma experienced a record number of wildfires. The Bastrop fire in Texas alone resulted in more than 1,600 homes and structures destroyed and 34,000 acres burned.
►Wildfire trends indicate that wildfire activity often follows a cyclical pattern of increase and decrease due to changing seasonal weather patterns. Based on this, parts of California are expected to see a dramatic increase in wildfire acreage next year.
►Persistent and intensifying drought conditions forecast for a large section of the U.S. for the coming year is expected to intensify and spread wildfire activity in early 2012.

►The non-western U.S. earthquakes that occurred this year in Virginia and Oklahoma startled many residents who believed earthquakes to be strictly a far western U.S. phenomenon.
►A 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit central Virginia on Aug. 23, and was felt throughout the eastern seaboard. The tremors caused damage to several iconic local structures, namely the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument.
►In early November, Oklahoma experienced a series of low magnitude earthquakes, with a quake on Nov. 5 registering a 5.6 magnitude, the strongest ever recorded in the state.

►CoreLogic estimates flood losses in the U.S. this year at approximately $10.67 billion, based on various flooding and storm events recorded in the National Climate Data Center.
►The melting of an above-average snowpack across the northern Rocky Mountains, combined with abnormally high precipitation, caused the Missouri and Souris rivers to swell beyond their banks across the upper Midwest.
►Record-breaking rainfall in the Ohio valley in the spring and summer, combined with melting snowpack, resulted in historical flooding along the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
►The floods of 2011 heightened awareness of flood risk outside of the FEMA 100-year flood zones. There has also been an emphasized need to raise current flood protection standards for the critical and strategic infrastructures in the U.S.
►Based on the trend pattern, 2012 should not be an extreme flood year - in fact, there should be several more years before the next extreme flood loss year. U.S. flood loss in 2012 is projected at approximately $3.53 billion.

Increase In Severe Weather Has Authorities On Alert. The Gaylord Herald Times takes a look at recent trends in extreme weather across the USA: "OTSEGO COUNTY — The increase of severe weather events is having an adverse impact on public health, safety and the economy, according to data compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The data reveals that all 50 states had experienced record-breaking severe weather events in the first 10 months of 2011, including extreme droughts, violent rain and snowstorms, dangerously high temperatures and floods. In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a program to connect state and city health and emergency officials with climate scientists to plan for diseases caused by rising temperatures. A warmer atmosphere means record increases in snow and rainfall. Extreme rainfall has already caused a number of deaths and illnesses through waterborne parasites and diseases."

2011: One Scorcher Of A Year. The southern region of the National Weather Service put together a summary of 100-degree heat earlier this year. Austin reported a record: 27 consecutive days above 100. Dallas experienced 40 days above the century mark, coming very close to shattering an all-time record. Even more important: check out the Summer 2011 Avg. Temp column. Many cities experienced the warmest summer on record, dating back to the late 1800s. More details here.

Texas Drought Takes Cow Numbers Down By 600,000. The story from CBS-TV in Dallas: "The worst drought in Texas’ history has led to the largest-ever one-year decline in the leading cattle-state’s cow herd, raising the likelihood of increased beef prices as the number of animals decline and demand remains strong. Since Jan. 1, the number of cows in Texas has dropped by about 600,000, a 12 percent decline from the roughly 5 million cows the state had at the beginning of the year, said David Anderson, who monitors beef markets for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. That’s likely the largest drop in the number of cows any state has ever seen, though Texas had a larger percentage decline from 1934 to 1935, when ranchers were reeling from the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, Anderson said."
Photo Of The Day: "Wave Clouds". This is one of the more remarkable photos I've seen in recent days, an amazing example of wave clouds, triggered by an inversion (warm air above a layer of colder air near the ground) coupled with "orographic lifting", air rising up and over a series of hills - producing this very unusual sight. Thanks to Jay Vaughan who writes: "wave clouds in Birmingham taken minutes ago by friend. The original tweet can be found here.

Comet Lovejoy Survives. First of all, Comet "Lovejoy"? Who names these things? Wow. Here's the latest (and an amazing animation) from "Incredibly, sungrazing Comet Lovejoy appears to have survived its close encounter with the sun. Lovejoy flew only 140,000 km over the stellar surface during the early hours of Dec. 16th. Experts expected the icy sundiver to be destroyed. Instead, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the comet emerging from perihelion (closest approach) at least partially intact."

Wait A Minute - The Top 3 Google Execs Have How Many Jets? The Mercury News and Business Insider have the answer: "Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt have eight jets between the three of them, reports Mercury News. They want to pay $33 million to help finish renovation of Moffett Federal Field, a joint civilian/military airport located between Mountain View and Sunnyvale. In exchange, they want to be able to use 2/3 of the floorspace to house their eight aircraft."

Top 10 Things You CAN Have For Christmas 2011. The techno-geeks (and I say that with all love and admiration) over at have the details: "Having taken a look at some highly desirable items that are highly unlikely to find their way under the tree this year with our 2011 list of things you CAN'T have this Christmas, it's time for a look at some of the gear that might represent more realistic shopping options this festive season. There's definitely some items on the list we wouldn't mind receiving ourselves, while others fall into the category of "for the person who has everything" ... either way, there's sure to be something for every technophile in the household."

Thawing Out. Highs topped freezing across much of central and southern Minnesota. Three tenth's of an inch of snow fell at MSP Friday night, just enough to coat the ground, but Rochester reported nearly 2". Highs ranged from 25 at International Falls to 35 in the Twin Cities, 36 at St. Cloud (no snow on the ground) to 39 at Redwood Falls. The most snow on the ground: 3" at International Falls.

Virtual Christmas Cards? Jacquie Lawson, based in the U.K., has created some stunningly creative (virtual) cards for the holiday season. If you haven't already sent out (paper) cards and you still want to ping friends and loved ones, consider an e-card. No, I don't get a spiff - I got one of these from a friend yesterday - was very impressed, wanted to share this link.

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

TODAYSunny and mild. Typical weather for mid November.. Winds: SW 10-15. High: 42

SUNDAY NIGHTPartly cloudy - milder than average. Low: 28

MONDAY: Sunny and cooler, nearly steady temps. High: near 30

TUESDAY: Less sun. Storm stays south of Minnesota. Low: 14. High: 29

WEDNESDAY: More clouds, light snow far north. Low: 18. High: 30

THURSDAY: Cold breeze, few flurries. Low: 19. High: 27

FRIDAY: More sun, good travel weather. Low: 16. High: 29

CHRISTMAS EVEBreezy and milder. Some sun. Odds favor a brown Christmas. Low: 18. High: 33

CHRISTMAS DAYWindy and cooler with more clouds than sun, few flurries. Low: 20. High: 28

A Late Indian Summer?

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth (and a couple inches of snow would be nice). Just enough to cover up the yard-bombs from our new puppy, Leo. A shiny new Doppler would be welcome. OK. I'll settle for a weather app for my smartphone.

My company just launched a FREE app for Polaris ("Snow Trails") that has Doppler radar, every snowmobile trail, snow reports, and interactive maps. You can even save and share your favorite rides.
Now all we need is some snow, right? The Winter Solstice, when the sun reaches its lowest point in the southern sky, is 4 days away. We should be knee-deep in it right about now. Instead we're talking low 40s today, a shot at 50 over southwestern Minnesota - maybe even a 40 degree New Year's Day. Say what?

Will this be another 2005, when 25 inches of snow fell? Or 1987, when 17.4" snow delighted commuters and disgusted winter weather lovers?

In spite of La Nina, which favors colder winters for northern tier states, CPC, NOAA's Climate Center is now predicting a milder than average January. Howling west winds, a mild "zonal" flow from the Pacific, keep bitter air bottled way up north into early January.

A gloriously boring winter indeed.

Extreme Weather Map. Thousands Of Weather Records Broken In 2011, Costs Climbing - Climate Change A Factor. Here's more from the Natural Resources Defence Council, the NRDC: "2011 has been a year of unparalleled extremes: 14 disastrous weather events in the US so far this year have resulted in over a billion dollars in property damage – an all-time record breaking number – and their estimated $53 billion price tag doesn’t include health costs. As shown recently, in a first-of-its-kind study published in the journal Health Affairs1, when health-related costs of extreme events are calculated, the total tally increases substantially and will likely continue to climb due to climate change. 7 of the 2011 extreme events – a record-high number – are the type expected to worsen due to climate change. Climate scientists are saying that these events may be part of a troubling trend influenced by climate change2. This trend has also been identified by the international reinsurance company MunichRe [PDF]; they concluded that from 1980 through 2011, the frequency of extreme events in the U.S. is rising.3 A newly-released analysis by international climate scientists (IPCC)4 concluded that climate change will amplify extreme heat, heavy precipitation, and the highest wind speeds of tropical storms."

As Permafrost Thaws, Scientists Study The Risks. The story from the New York Times: "FAIRBANKS, Alaska — A bubble rose through a hole in the surface of a frozen lake. It popped, followed by another, and another, as if a pot were somehow boiling in the icy depths. Every bursting bubble sent up a puff of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas generated beneath the lake from the decay of plant debris. These plants last saw the light of day 30,000 years ago and have been locked in a deep freeze — until now. “That’s a hot spot,” declared Katey M. Walter Anthony, a leading scientist in studying the escape of methane. A few minutes later, she leaned perilously over the edge of the ice, plunging a bottle into the water to grab a gas sample. It was another small clue for scientists struggling to understand one of the biggest looming mysteries about the future of the earth." Photo above courtesy of NOAA.

The Climate Post: Surprise Deal Emerges At United Nations Climate Talks. Huffington Post has the story: "In a surprise turnaround, the United Nations climate talks managed to produce a new deal to eventually curb global emissions moving forward. In a press release announcing the agreement, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) called it a "breakthrough." The new agreement marks a break from the Kyoto Protocol, which divided the world into two categories -- the developed and the developing world. Instead, said the European Union's Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, the new agreement reflects "today's mutually interdependent world," and moves toward an agreement that partners all countries in combating climate change."

Britain: Computer Equipment Seized In Climate E-Mail Inquiry. The New York Times has the story: "The British police said Thursday that they had seized computer equipment at a home in West Yorkshire as part of an investigation into the online dissemination of thousands of private e-mails from servers at the University of East Anglia in late 2009. Skeptics who challenge the science underlying global warming cited them to argue that scientists had distorted data to exaggerate the threat of global warming. Inquiries in Britain and the United States refuted that charge. The police in Norfolk said that no one was arrested in the operation, which was carried out on Wednesday."

Governor Vows To Prepare California For Climate Change. The story from AP: "SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The United Nations' top climate official joined California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday to call for renewed efforts in the state to more quickly adapt to the risks that extreme weather and a rising sea pose to agriculture and the coastline. Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, joined Brown, scientists, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and billionaire Sir Richard Branson at a conference at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Brown organized the conference, he said, to urge people to "wake up" to extreme weather patterns caused by manmade global warming that he said are already causing damage, and to start thinking about what California ought to do to prepare for worse threats." Photo above courtesy of NASA.

Brown Slams Global Warming Skeptic's "Cult-like Behavior". NBC in the San Francisco Bay Area has the story: "It's not a sequel to "Twins." But it is an unlikely-looking political duo.  Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown are headlining a climate change conference at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Brown, who spent much of his first year embroiled in California's budget fiasco, wasted no time today changing the subject. tossing a rhetorical bomb at skeptics of climate change. "The main thing we have to deal with in climate change is skepticism and denial, and the cult-like behavior of political lemmings that would take us over the cliff," Brown said, to the delight of  his invited audience."

More Thuggery From Deniers And Their Enablers. More death threats for climate scientists? From The Cost of Energy at "It has come to my attention that we now have yet another example of a threat to a highly respected member of the climate science community. This time, it’s Dr. Michael Mann, and the situation is a bit more convoluted than the normal, run-of-the-mill, denier-threatens-scientist story.

First, the evidence. On Judith Curry’s blog, one can find this piece of text:
Fifth, Mr. Matarese challenges me to support my calling him a goat buster.
Here is one quote:
"When I got a look into the e-mail communications which Dr. Mann mistakenly assumed would never get into the hands of the people he’d been so successfully defrauding and suppressing, I confess that it got my Sicilian up, and I began recalling remote locations in the Pine Barrens – well within driving distance of Centre County, Pennsylvania – where a little work with some shovels and a sack of quicklime could serve a genuine public benefit."

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