Thursday, December 29, 2011

Slushy Coating Today (40+ New Year's Eve, again late next week)

37 F. high in the Twin Cities on Thursday.

19 days at or above freezing so far in December.

+ 7.1 F. December temperatures are running just over 7 degrees above average, according to the NWS.

8.6" snow so far this winter season (5.6" of that fell in December).

43.2" snow fell as of December 29, last year.

3 minutes. As of tomorrow daylight will have increased by a whopping 3 minutes since December 21.

Early Morning Advisories. Both the Winter Weather Advisory and the Freezing Rain Advisory expire at 6 am this morning - the biggest concern is freezing rain/drizzle, rain freezing on contact with sub-freezing surfaces, mainly south/west of the Twin Cities. The metro area may pick up a coating to 1" of slushy snow today, mixed with a little freezing drizzle at times. With temperatures at or just above freezing I expect most roads to remain wet. Bridges and secondary roads, especially outside the metro area, may be icy.

Road Conditions. The University of Wisconsin has a useful site displaying road conditions across the entire Upper Midwest. Yellow implies "slippery/wet/icy stretches". For the latest update click here.

Big Swings. After peaking at or just above 40 New Year's Eve a vigorous cold front will knock highs into the teens Monday, but any (fresh) air will be brief. We start to warm up by the middle of next week; highs may reach the 40s again by Thursday of next week.

10 days above 50 so far this month in Kansas City, the most since 2006 when the city experienced 13 days above 50.

Cleveland still under 10″ of snow/yr. Since 1950 its happened 15 times! (source: Scott Sabol, Twitter).

2nd wettest year on record in Chicago. On December 27 Chicago surpassed 1983 as the second wettest year on record since 1885. Following is a list of the Top 5 Wettest Years in Chicago:

1. 2008   50.86"
2. 2011   49.41" (through December 27)
3. 1983   49.35"
4. 1970   46.09"
5. 1954   45.92"

The year stands only 1.45" behind 2008. But given the forecast through Saturday it is highly likely that 2011 will remain as the second wettest year on record. Source: Chicago office of the National Weather Service.

"Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to." - Bill Vaughn

Snowfall As Of December 29. Check out the difference in snowcover across the Lower 48 states from 2010 (left) to 2011 (right). Last year at this time nearly half of the USA had snow on the ground. This year: less than a third of the nation. Source: NOAA.

A Fresh Coating For The Gunflint Trail. WeatherNation meteorologist Bryan Karrick snapped this photo, boasting 5.5" of new snow on the Gunflint Trail from an Alberta Clipper Wednesday night. More amounts from the Duluth NWS:

Pacific Northwest Rainfall Amounts:

2.78"  Skokomish, WA
2.06"  Coos Bay, OR
2.04"  Langlois, OR

New Ohio State Rainfall Record:

76.1"  Cheviot (Hamilton County). Old record was 70.82", set in 1870 at Little Mountain, Ohio.
73.12"  Cincinnati, Ohio: new yearly rainfall record (old record was 57.58" in 1990).

Avalanche Warning For Wyoming. The Bridger- Teton National Forest Avalanche Center has issued an avalanche warning until midnight Friday. High winds and heavy snowfall have prompted this warning. Natural and man made avalanches are likely to occur. Source: National Weather Service.

"Atmospheric River" Brings Flood Threat To Oregon. From NOAA's Visualization Laboratory: "As a plume of moisture travels across the Pacific towards the Pacific Northwest, the National Weather Service has issued flood outlooks for four counties in Oregon. Up to 10 inches may fall over the next 24 hours in Curry County, which may result in rapid rises in rivers and streams in the region. The newly operational GOES-15 satellite’s improved water vapor sensor can see such plumes as they traverse the Pacific basin. In this image, taken on December 29, 2011 at 1830z, areas of the atmosphere containing the most moisture are colored in bright green, whereas dry areas are colored brown."

Downslope Winds. Here's a post from the WeatherNation TV Facebook page, courtesy of Greg Berman: "Downsloping winds along the Front Range in Colorado are boosting temperatures to almost 20 degrees above normal. Here in Lyons, Colorado I have recorded a 64mph gust on two occasions this morning. Current temp at 1:15pm Mountain Time is 60 degrees. This picture taken from the Lyons Cam is completely different from yesterday when our cliff was covered in snow. The downsloping, warming winds have eaten away most of the snow in the last 12 to 15 hours."

Hot-Lanta Frost. Here's a photo from Brett Rosner, via Twitter, who writes: "What is this cold, icy stuff? Not cool, Georgia. Not cool."

Land, Sea And Air Travel Left Reeling By Scotland's Storms. The British Isles have seen punishing storms in recent weeks; here's an update from "SEVERE winds of nearly 90mph and heavy rain battered parts of Scotland yesterday, causing widespread travel disruption for commuters returning to work after the Christmas holidays. Bridges were closed to traffic and a host of ferry services and flights were scrapped due to the gale-force winds, while tourist attractions and sporting fixtures fell foul of the weather. Flooding and fallen trees caused problems on roads across the country, although a return to the chaos of earlier this month, when gusts of up to 120mph caused widespread damage and disruption, did not come to pass. Conditions are expected to improve in the lead up to Hogmanay, although the Met Office has issued a yellow warning for the Highlands, Orkney and Shetland for today, with very strong north-westerly winds forecast, possibly causing travel disruption."

Photo credit: "High winds battered the promenade in Largs, with waves crashing over, while these two dogs were left looking a bit windswept by the weather. Photos: Robert Perry."

Sendong Was A Weak Storm, Ranked Among Most Destructive In PHL History. Here's an update from GMA News Online: "Tropical Storm Sendong was a bizarre weather creature —  a "weak" storm by the standards of PAGASA yet it claimed more lives than any typhoon in more than a decade. Its destructiveness came from the rare and "very extreme" amount of rainfall dumped on northern Mindanao on Dec. 16. According to a new analysis of the storm by the scientific institution Manila Observatory, the 180 millimeters (mm) of rain that fell in Cagayan de Oro on that day far exceeded the previous record of 142mm in 1999. Rainfall has been measured in the Lumbia weather station in Cagayan de Oro since 1977. The same study by the Manila Observatory cited historical evidence  that storms rarely make landfall in Mindanao. That fact has been used to explain why local officials and the public didn't show much of a response to warnings about Sendong's pending arrival. The Manila Observatory noted that in the last 15 years, only six tropical cyclones crossed Mindanao, and only one in 10 years in December." Photo credit here.

Top 5 Extreme International Weather Events Of 2011. The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang has the story: "Earlier this week, we looked at the top five extreme weather events to impact the U.S. this year. Not confined to any particular borders, Mother Nature also brought extreme conditions to other parts of the world in 2011, including deadly storms, flooding and prolonged drought. Globally, extreme weather events were responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, not to mention billions of dollars in damages. 

Related link: NASA scientist warns “climate dice” loaded for more extreme weather

Let’s take a look at the top 5 extreme weather events to occur outside the U.S. in 2011:

1. Drought in East Africa

By far the deadliest natural disaster of the year, a severe and prolonged drought in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya triggered a food crisis in July 2011."

How 2011 Became A "Mind-Boggling" Year Of Extreme Weather. Here's a very good summary of 2011, the year that may go down in the record books as America's most extreme year of weather, even more violent than 2010. PBS has the details: "From snowstorms to floods and tornadoes, severe weather wreaked havoc across the United States this year, with 2011 marking far more extreme weather events than a typical year. Hari Sreenivasan discusses the science behind this year of extreme weather with NOAA's Kathryn Sullivan and Weather Underground's Jeff Masters."

Top 10 Photo Galleries Of 2011: Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Maniacs And More. has the story: "2011 was a year made for photographs. Frankly, if we didn’t have the photographic evidence for some of these events, who would have believed that New England experienced a hurricane that caused widespread flooding, an unusually big autumn snowstorm and a tornado that ripped a 39 mile-long ‘Path of Fury’ through nine towns -- all within a span of a few months. Not surprisingly, The Republican's photographs of these natural disasters dominate the list of the Top 10 photo galleries of the year. Readers also found time to check out the entertaining side of the Pioneer Valley: from the annual Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade to Southwick's Rugged Maniac Race, the photos show that Western Massachusetts knows how to play hard!" Photo courtesy of John Suchocki, The Republican.

2011 In Review: Historic, Deadly And Costly Storms. The story from "For many 2011 will be remembered as a year of wild weather. Storms were historic, deadly, and costly. 2011 started out with a lot of slipping and sliding. A series of snow and ice storms battered the country.  In the southeast, where communities are not equipped to handle the wrath of winter, roads went untreated and air passengers went nowhere, and it was only January. February brought a battery of storms that dumped snow from the Plains to Maine. "Every time I go out there's a couple more inches and it's not letting up," said one observer. When all that snow began to melt and the spring rains arrived, major rivers in the U.S. were overwhelmed."

6 Years Later, Katrina Victims Fight FEMA Debts. has the story: "NEW ORLEANS (AP) — When the Federal Emergency Management Agency mailed out 83,000 debt notices this year to victims of Hurricane Katrina and other 2005 storms, one of the letters showed up in David Bellinger's mailbox. Bellinger, who is blind, needed a friend to read it and break the news that FEMA wants him to pay back more than $3,200 in federal aid he received after Katrina. "I nearly had a stroke," recalls the 63-year-old, who moved to Atlanta after the storm wrecked his New Orleans home. "I'm totally blind. I subsist entirely on a Social Security disability check. If I have to pay this money back, it would pretty much wipe out all the savings I have." Photo above courtesy of NOAA.

"Be always at war with  your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man." Benjamin Franklin. Photo above courtesy of Wikipedia.

"Many people look forward to the new year for a new start on old habits." - author unknown

December Thaw - The Saga Continues. Is it me, or does this pattern more closely resemble early March than late December? You walk out the door, expecting to get knocked over by numbing air, and then quickly realize "this isn't so bad." A gray start gave way to a few PM peeks of sun Thursday, highs ranged from 34 at Eau Claire and Alexandria to 37 St. Cloud and the Twin Cities.

"Redneck Ice Fishing". Please don't try this at home.

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

TODAY: Periods of light snow and freezing drizzle; coating to 1" possible. Most roads should remain wet. Mostly cloudy. Winds: NW 7-12. High: 34

FRIDAY NIGHT: Partly to mostly cloudy. Low: 25

NEW YEAR'S EVE: Some mild sun, unseasonably mild. High: 41

SATURDAY NIGHT: Rain showers end as snow showers with about 1" accumulation expected. Turning gusty and colder. 19

NEW YEAR'S DAY: Windy and colder with more clouds than sun. Passing flakes. High: 24 (wind chill in the teens and single digits).

MONDAY: Coldest day in sight. Bright sun, less wind - a rare colder-than-average day. Low: 9. High: near 20

TUESDAY: Fading sun, light snow up north. Low: 8. High: 22

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, a bit milder. Low: 14. High: near 30

THURSDAY: Mild sun. Feels like March again. Low: 18. High: 43

Photo credit:

Looks Like "Snow"

Snow  /sno/ Noun. "Atmospheric water vapor frozen into ice crystals and falling in light white flakes or lying on the ground as a white layer." You remember snow right? This morning will be a subtle yet blunt reminder of where we're living. Brown ground in late December is an aberration, a fluke; not the natural order of things.

A slow-moving Alberta Clipper may drop a coating to 1" of slushy snow today, just enough to complicate the morning commute a bit (better chance of freezing rain/drizzle over southwest MN). This will be an almost March-like snow, temperatures near freezing - meaning mainly wet freeways, but potentially plowable amounts outside the metro.

Take a photo, because much of the snow will melt by tomorrow as the mercury passes 40 F; a New Year's Eve nearly 20 degrees warmer than average for much of Minnesota. Welcome to what will probably go down in the books as the 9th warmest December on record.

No subzero lows is unusual, but not unprecedented. According to meteorologist Dean DeHarpporte there have been 8 Decembers in the past 120 years where the mercury stayed above 0 all of December.
Expect a New Year's Day cold front; it will feel like January early next week. We thaw out midweek; more 40s by Thursday? Remarkable.

As Climate Change Worsens, Scientists Feel Increasing Pressure To Speak Out. has the story: "Factors contributing to climate change are moving faster than predicted and pushing us toward planetary conditions unlike any humans have ever known—this was one of the salient themes to emerge from this month's meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the world's largest gathering of earth and space scientists. Some scientists think we've already crossed that boundary and are, as Jonathan Foley, director of the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment, said, "in a very different world than we have ever seen before."

Photo credit: "James Hansen of NASA, one of the most outspoken scientists when it comes to advocating for climate policies, participates in civil disobedience protests against the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington D.C./Credit: Rick Reinhard, flickr"

Global Warming: Wildlife Facing Extreme Weather Risks. The Summit County Citzens Voice (a consistently good source of climate news) has the story: "SUMMIT COUNTY — Extreme weather in 2011 may or may not be linked directly with global warming, but most climate scientists agree that droughts, flooding and other anomalous events are likely to become more frequent in coming decades. Along with potential impacts to human civiliation, the planet’s wildlife is also facing  an unprecedented threat from natural disasters exacerbated by climate change — with no good way to identify vulnerable animal populations, according to a new paper published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution."

Photo credit: "Ice-dependent species like penguins are at risk from climate change. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN."

Bark Beetles, Climate Change And Our Future. The story from The Vancouver Sun: "Recently, a classmate from the University of B.C. asked what I thought about Canada backing out of the Kyoto agreement, and if there was any connection between the insatiable bark beetles infesting the province's forests and the rising temperatures on Earth. First, trees are effectively the greatest CO2 warehouses ever created. For every metric ton of wood grown, 1.5 metric tons of CO2 is absorbed and one metric ton of oxygen is released. Bark beetles like the mountain pine or spruce beetles and lightning-induced fires are nature's emissaries of change. All forests must undergo a natural process of aging, facilitating regeneration - new life."

Photo credit: "Bark beetles have damaged pine trees in the Sawtooth Ridge area above the Methow Valley in the North Cascades. The beetles are whittling away at high-elevation trees once thought mostly safe from bugs. (Steve Ringman/Seattle Times/MCT)"

Quebec On The Verge Of Catastrophic Climate Change, Experts Say. The story from the "Record floods, melting permafrost, shoreline erosion and intense winds caused havoc for thousands of Quebecers as 2011 proved to be yet another year of higher than normal temperatures. These higher temperatures add to the credibility of climate models that have predicted the march of global warming will accelerate the more greenhouse gases we pump into the atmosphere, scientists say. “It is striking that over the last 10 to 15 years we didn’t have a single season colder than normal,” said Alain Bourque, director of climate change impacts and adaptation at Quebec’s climate change research institute Ouranos. “That is a clear indication that Canada’s climate is heating up beyond any reasonable doubt.”

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