Friday, January 6, 2012

2012: Historic January Warmth (how long will it last?)

46 F. high temperature on Friday in the Twin Cities. Record high was 49, set most recently in 1912.

46 F. average high for March 26.

23 F. normal high for January 6.

18 F. high temperature last year, on January 6, 2011.

January 12: date when temperatures "bottom out" in the Twin Cities, based on 1981-2010 weather data from the Minnesota State Climatology Office. We are 5 days away from what is (historically) the coldest day of the year.

10 minutes of additional daylight since the Winter Solstice, on December 21.

10 years. In only 10 of the last 120 years of weather records has Minnesota reported a 60-degree high anywhere in the state.

1. This is the first time in recorded history where a 60-degree high has been recorded anywhere in Minnesota during the first week of January. Source: MN State Climate Office.

Year Without A (real) Winter? It's probably wildly premature to even utter those words in private, much less public, but long-range guidance shows little or no chance of sustained, prolonged, arctic air through the 4th week of January. I know - I don't quite believe it either. Details below.

"For the first time in 30 years, a lack of snow has not allowed us to open the back bowls in Vail as of January 6, 2012, and, for the first time since the late 1800s it did not snow at all in Tahoe in December.” - from a Bloomberg article on the dire lack of snow impacting ski resorts nationwide. Photo above courtesy of

"There has never been a 60-degree temperature recorded during the first week of January in Minnesota's modern climate record. The warmest temperature ever recorded in Minnesota during the first week of January is 59 degrees, occurring on January 7, 2003 in Amboy, MN. The warmest temperature ever recorded in MInnesota on January 5 is 57 degrees, recorded at Crookston in 1902. Reaching 60 degrees ANY time ANYWHERE in January is quite rare, occurring only 10 years of the 120 year modern record. The all-time record high temperature for any day in January is 69 degrees, occurring January 24, 1981 in Montevideo." - MN State Climate Office, as reported by the local NWS office.

1990, 2006: Since 1891 there have only been 2 Januaries without a zero or subzero day, but both had subzero days the preceding December. January 1990 and 2006 were both subzero-free.

2001-2002: winter with the fewest nights at or below zero (2). Average for the winter is closer to 30 subzero nights.

"The mildest winter we have had in the last 120 years occurred ten years ago, with only two zero or subzero days. December 2001 had no subzero days, there was only one January 2002 (-2) occuring on Jan. 18, 2002, which was latest subzero day in history, and one in March (-3) on the third. There were no subzero days in February, 2002. The coldest day of the winter, at -3, was the highest min for any winter in history."

* Thanks to Eden Prairie consulting meteorologist Dean DeHarpporte for passing along these timely weather factoids.

Record-Setting Start To January. Dr. Mark Seeley has more details on Thursday's historic warmth in his always-interesting weekly WeatherTalk blog: "Even more remarkable were the temperatures measured on Thursday, January 5th. It was clearly the warmest January 5th in state history as scores of observers reported new record high temperatures and the former state record high, 57 degrees F at Crookston in 1902, was shattered by a reading of 64 degrees F at Minneota (Lyon County) reached at 2:30 pm. Some of the new records included: 63 F at Marshall and Canby; 62 F at Granite Falls; 61 F at Madison and Montevideo; 59 F at Morris and Redwood Falls; 57 F at Pipestone, Wheaton, Willmar, Olivia, Tracy, and Luverne; 55 F at Fargo, Rochester, and Fergus Falls, and 54 at Moorhead and Worthington. Even as far north as St Vincent (Kittson County) and Baudette (Lake of the Woods County) hit 50 degrees F, while record highs of 48 degrees F and 46 degrees F were reported at Duluth and International Falls, respectively... For some observers the temperatures were not only new records for January 5th but near all-time highs for any day in January. The state record high for January remained intact (69 degrees F occurred at Montevideo on the 24th in 1981)." Photo above courtesy of AP and the St. Cloud Times.

January 6. 2011 vs. 2012. The map on the left shows snowcover a year ago; 10-15" on the ground in the metro with 20-30" snow reported over much of northern, central and western Minnesota. Compare that with the most recent snowcover map (right), showing a few inches over the MN Arrowhead. Data courtesy of NOAA.

Thursday Records:

74 F. at Philip, South Dakota. That breaks the old record of 46 in 2002.

63 F. at Aberdeen, South Dakota, shattering the old record of 46 in 1935. It's also the warmest temperature ever observed in Aberdeen during the month of January since weather records were started in the late 1800s.

One Amazing Map. 1158 records in one week? Most of these were record highs. Click on the Ham Weather interactive map showing all the details. I honestly can't remember seeing such widespread record highs in January in the 35 years I've been doing this. When meteorologists call this "historic January weather" they aren't exaggerating.

South Dakota
Philip 74
East Rapid City 71
Mitchell 68 (*also the all-time warmest high in January)
Yankton 68
Pierre 66
Huron 65 (*also the all-time warmest high in January)
Aberdeen 63 *(also the all-time warmest high in January)
Hot Springs 62
Pine Ridge 62
Sioux Falls 62
Camp Crook 61
Buffalo 59
Sisseton 59
Bison 58
Watertown 57
Mobridge 55

North Dakota
Dickinson 62
Minot 61 * (also the all-time warmest high in January)
Bismarck 59
Williston 58 *(also the all-time warmest high in January)
Jamestown 56 *(ties the all-time warmest high in January set in 1908)
Fargo 55 *(also the all-time warmest high in January)
Grand Forks 47

* Thanks to Julie Gaddy from Earth Networks for helping me summarize Thursday's record highs.

Thursday Records. More details from the Chanhassen office of the NWS here.

Semi Plunges Through Ice Near Monticello. There was (reportedly) about 4-6" of ice, fairly unstable ice, on the lake - strong enough to support a snowmobile, but no match for a semi. KARE-11 has the details: "MONTICELLO, Minn. - Eight hours after plunging through the ice covering a pond just off I-94 near Monticello, a semi-trailer truck is finally back on solid ground. Just before 6:30 a.m. Friday, 35-year-old John Nettifee of Anoka was pulling a Target trailer on eastbound I-94 when he lost control, left the road, crossed over lanes of oncoming westbound traffic and skidded onto the pond. The semi skidded 100 to 200 yards across the ice before breaking through."

Serious Time Warp. Thanks to the Facebook page of the Sioux Falls, South Dakota National Weather Service for posting this.

"Love one another and you will be happy. It's as simple and as difficult as that." - Michael Leunig

99 federal disasters in 2011, exceeding the previous record of 81 disasters in 2010 across the USA.

820:  "The number of disasters around the world, exceeding the 630 average over 30 years. They caused $105 billion in insured losses, more than any other year because of the higher frequency and more insured property in risk-prone areas." - from an article on 2011 weather disasters in the Sun Sentinel newspaper below.

2011 Extremes. Too wet, too dry, too warm, too windy, too wild. 2011 was an historic year around the USA, as reported by the NCDC, the National Climatic Data Center: "The following are annual records broken or tied at selected stations for the year 2011, compiled from National Weather Service “Record Event Reports”. This list should be considered preliminary and incomplete; it covers only larger towns and cities, and final quality assurance has not been performed on the 2011 data. When the data are complete, the final number of stations with new annual records will likely be larger. A more complete list will accompany NCDC’s annual climate report, to be released January 19th, 2012."

Vail Resorts Struggle As Snowless Season Hits. The story from Bloomberg: "Vail Resorts Inc. (MTN) shares have fallen 15 percent since Dec. 23 as major ski trails were closed at the company’s mountain properties in the western U.S. because of a lack of snow. Visitors to the company’s resorts were down 15.3 percent compared to this time last year, Rob Katz, chief executive of the Broomfield, Colorado-based company, said in a statement. Lift ticket revenue was up 0.6 percent and revenue from ski school was up 0.9 percent, even though “very unusual” weather had reduced skier visits and the use of season passes, he said. “For the first time in 30 years, a lack of snow has not allowed us to open the back bowls in Vail as of January 6, 2012, and, for the first time since the late 1800s it did not snow at all in Tahoe in December,” Katz said in the statement."
Bitter Air? Probably Not. Both the AO (top), the Arctic Oscillation, and the NAO (bottom graphic), the North Atlantic Oscillation, drop off to closer to zero by the end of next week - meaning a temporary weakening of the persistent westerly winds which have been howling since November, which in turn may allow seasonably cold Canadian airmasses to push into the USA. Although no long-lasting brutal, arctic air is in sight, the shift in these indices hints at a return to normal/average January temperatures for from January 12-19. Any bitter air will probably be fleeting. More details from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center here. Stay tuned....

A Fleeting Cold Front. The GFS model suggests a (very) brief cold snap, with daytime highs in single digits/teens and nights dipping below zero from January 17-18, potentially the first subzero readings of the entire winter in the Twin Cities. Remember, the record for the latest subzero reading at KMSP is January 18, 2002.

Still Waiting. Here is the predicted 500mb map for January 23 (GFS), showing a continued upper level wind flow from the west, from the Pacific. In spite of a brief cold snap around January 17-18 I still don't see any significant risk of sustained, bitter cold through the 4th week of January. I'd say "amazing" again, but I'm getting way too repetitive. Let's settle for extraordinary. At this rate this may be as close as any of us will come to a Year Without A Winter.

"Life is not always fair. Sometimes you get a splinter even sliding down a rainbow." - Terri Guillemets

Disaster Insurance Prices Predicted To Rise In 2012. The Sun-Sentinel has an article with some eye-popping statistics for last year: "The institute and Munich Re shared some eye-popping figures.

$35.9 billion: The insured losses in 2011, which exceeds the $23.8 billion average for 2000 to 2010. That includes paid and projected losses.

552: The number of lives lost in tornado outbreaks in the Midwest and South, making it the deadliest year for U.S. tornadoes. There were 748 tornadoes observed in April.

8.3 million: The acres burned from wildfires in Texas.

$7 billion: Insured losses from Hurricane Irene, including about $2.7 billion covered by the federal government's flood insurance program.

820: The number of disasters around the world, exceeding the 630 average over 30 years. They caused $105 billion in insured losses, more than any other year because of the higher frequency and more insured property in risk-prone areas."

26 Lightning-Related Fatalities In 2011. That's considerably fewer than average, almost half the usual yearly death toll from lightning, nationwide. Utah and Missouri had 3 lightning-related deaths each; no lightning fatalities in Minnesota last year. The leading cause of death: camping during electrical storms. More details and demographics from NOAA here.

Wild Weather Hits Latin America. The story from AP: "CHIA, Colombia (AP) — From Chile to Colombia to Mexico, Latin America has been battered recently by wildfires, floods and droughts. For many witnessing the extreme weather in the region and around the world, the question that comes up again and again is whether climate change is playing a role. The response from experts: Probably. While leading climate scientists are unable to pin any single flood or heat wave solely on climate change, experts say the number of extreme weather events is increasing worldwide and the evidence suggests global warming is having an impact."

Debris From Japan Tsunami Washes Onto Cannon Beach, Yakutat, Alaska. From the National Weather Service in Alaska: "Debris from the Japanese Tsunami has washed up on Cannon Beach in Yakutat. These floats are believed to have come for an oyster farming operation. Photo by Jack Endicott."

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Goes All-Electric. has the details: "The AMP Jeep Grand Cherokee, to be unveiled next week at the North American International Auto Show, is a 100 percent electric-drive vehicle with all the cargo space and utility of a true SUV. AMP trades out Jeep's V6/V8 powertrain for a combination of two Remi electric motors and a 37.6 kWh lithium iron phosphate battery. Because the motors are direct drive, the electrified Grand Cherokee does not require a transmission. The motors combine for 152 kW (203 hp), and the model will travel about 80 to 100 miles (129 to 161 km) per charge. In the base model, AMP mounts both motors to the rear axle, so the Grand Cherokee won't offer all the off-road handling benefits of a four-wheel-drive Jeep. However, it maintains other advantages of a Grand Cherokee, including passenger and cargo room. Despite the addition of the large battery pack, you still get room for five people and adjustable cargo space with split-folding rear seats. AMP will also launch an AWD model offering improved off-road handling and performance."

What A Turkey! "Hey, what are YOU looking at?" Thanks to Bonnie in Janesville for passing along a funny photo (courtesy of WKOW-TV).

Looks Like March. Mid to upper 40s, on the 6th day of January? Only 20-30 degrees above average today. Highs ranged from 39 at International Falls (down to 3" snow on the ground) to 45 at St. Cloud and Duluth (a TRACE of snow on the ground) to 46 in the Twin Cities and 48 at Redwood Falls.

"Life is like a beautiful melody, only the lyrics are messed up." - author unknown

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

TODAY: Plenty of sun, still March-like. Winds: W 7-12. High: 35

SATURDAY NIGHT: Clear to partly cloudy, well above average temperatures. Low: 25

SUNDAY: Lot's of sun, our historic January Thaw continues. High: 36

MONDAY: Mild sun, football-tossing weather. Low: 23. High: near 40

TUESDAY: Last lukewarm day in sight. Dry. Low: 27. High: 42

WEDNESDAY: Dusting of flurries? Turning colder. Low: 20. High: 28

THURSDAY: Feels like January. Cold wind. Low: 9. High: near 20

FRIDAY: Still nippy. Clouds linger with a coating of flakes. Low: 8. High: 19

January Convertibles

At 2:30 pm on Thursday the mercury at Minneota (Lyon County) hit 64 degrees. According to Dr. Mark Seeley January 5 was the warmest in our state's history; a touch of late April in January.

We have yet to hit zero in the metro area. According to consulting meteorologist Dean DeHarpporte, we may come close to setting a record for the latest subzero reading in the metro (Jan. 18, 2002). That winter we only had 2 nights at, or below, zero. In 1996 and 2006 MSP had NO subzero nights during January.

We're due for a little payback, and by late next week it will feel like winter again; the first subzero nights of winter possible January 18-20. Fresh outbreaks of numbing air often spin up significant snow, but I still don't see a respectable "storm" looking out 2 weeks. A quiet weekend gives way to another shot at 40 Monday and Tuesday - a lousy coating of snow Wednesday marking the arrival of seasonably cold air.

Food for thought: based on the latest 30 year averages for MSP, the coldest day of the year (on average) is 5 days away, on January 12. And since December 21 we've picked up 10 minutes of additional daylight.

It's too early to babble about spring fever right? Sorry.

* File photo above (Al Sicherman and his dog Gus) courtesy of The Star Tribune.

Hanson Et Al: "Extreme Heat Waves....In Texas and Oklahoma In 2011, and Moscow In 2010, Were "Caused" By Global Warming. Joe Romm at Climate Progress has the details: “Climate dice,” describing the chance of unusually warm or cool seasons relative to climatology, have become progressively “loaded” in the past 30 years, coincident with rapid global warming.   The distribution of seasonal mean temperature anomalies has shifted toward higher temperatures and the range of anomalies has increased.  An important change is the emergence of a category of summertime extremely hot outliers, more than three standard deviations (σ) warmer than climatology. This hot extreme, which covered much less than 1% of Earth’s surface in the period of climatology [1951-1980], now typically covers about 10% of the land area.  We conclude that extreme heat waves, such as that in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010, were “caused” by global warming, because their likelihood was negligible prior to the recent rapid global warming.  We discuss practical implications of this substantial, growing climate change."

Scientists Back "Significant Broadening" Of Climate Research Amid Tight Budgets. The story from CNN: "U.S. scientists want to expand research into climate change to focus on its social effects and ways to adapt to a changing planet, but tighter budgets may crimp those plans, the National Academy of Sciences reported Thursday. The 10-year plan reviewed by the academy represents a "significant broadening" of the federal Global Change Research Program, which includes researchers from across the U.S. government. Thursday's report by the academy's National Research Council generally supports the proposal but warned that researchers may have to overcome fiscal as well as scientific hurdles. "The proposed broadening of the program's scope from climate change only to climate change and 'climate-related global changes' is an important step in the right direction," the review committee concluded. But it cautioned that "in an era of increasingly constrained budget resources, those questions of how will become paramount."

Climate Scientist Spurned By Gingrich Laments "Politicization". The Hill has more details: "A week after GOP White House hopeful Newt Gingrich said he nixed plans for a chapter on climate change in his new book, the author of the chapter is lamenting the “politicization and polarization” of the issue. “I really, really deplore the politicization and polarization of this issue,” Katharine Hayhoe, a well-known climate scientist who had been tasked with writing a chapter on climate change for Gingrich’s new book on the environment, told The Guardian, a British newspaper. “There are these increasingly unprincipled attempts to polarize the science when the science is fact — like the sky is blue, the grass is green and the temperature of our planet is increasing.” Photo credit above:

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