Friday, January 13, 2012

Sunday Thaw (next week may be the coldest of winter)

13 F. high in the Twin Cities Friday.

23 F. average high for January 13.
16 F. high temperature 1 year ago, on January 13, 2011.
1" snow on the ground at Duluth.
3.5" new snow reported at Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
16" of new snow near Saxon, in Iron County, Wisconsin (almost all of that from lake-effect snow).
29" snow on the ground at Gile, Wisconsin (also in Iron County). Significant blowing/drifting reported.

Exceptionally Brown (For Mid January). The latest numbers from the Minnesota DNR are pretty grim for snow-lovers. Most of the state has a dusting of snow, if that, with a few inches for far southeastern counties from Friday's near-miss, and as much as 8-12" over the Boundary Waters. If you're looking for snow for snowmobiling consider driving into far northern Wisconsin, where there's a good 1-3 feet of (lake effect) snow on the ground.

163 warm weather records in Minnesota during the first 10 days of January. Details below.
1,629 warm weather records reported nationwide in just the last week.
Warmest, driest start to January in U.S. history, according to NOAA.

"Winter came down to our home one night, quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow, and we, we were children once again." - Bill Morgan Jr.

One Amazing Week. Map above courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather. More details:

2,189 Total Records
1,363 High Temperature Records
266  Highest Minimum Temperature Records
440  Rainfall Records
9  Low Temperature Records
4  Lowest Maximum Temperature Records

"Due to warm weather, Hockey Day in Minnesota games that were scheduled 1/21 for Lake Minnetonka have been moved indoors to Pagel Arena." - tweet from Chris Long. Photo courtesy of

"South African weather forecasters who predict severe storms or gales without permission from the authorities could be punished by up to ten years imprisonment or a hefty fine under new legislation." - from an article below from the U.K. Telegraph newspaper.

65.06" of rain drenched Nara Prefecture, Japan, during a 72 hour period in early September - from Typhoon Talas. A total of 71.08" of rain fell during the storm. Source:

"It's like picking a fight with the biggest bully in the schoolyard. You know, you get your lunch money stolen, you get your pants pulled down, and you get sent home humiliated. We've made about that much progress with CO2." from an NPR article on reducing soot and ozone to slow climate change.

"To avoid sickness eat less; to prolong life worry less." - Chu Hui Weng

An Amazing Start To January. Dr. Mark Seeley has more details on a record-setting start to January, the warmest, driest first 10 days of January on record with 163 record highs. More details in his weekly WeatherTalk Blog: "January 9-10 brought even more new high temperature records to the state and the region, adding to the previous weeks record-setting values. It was far and away the warmest first 10 days of January ever measured in Minnesota history, averaging over 20 degrees F above normal statewide (27.2 F versus a normal of 7.1 F). New temperature records were established for many Minnesota communities on January 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10, as a total of 163 new temperature records were reported, and 18 record temperatures were tied around the state. Three all-time state high temperature daily records were set."

Weird Weather. Here is a link to an interview with Kerri Miller and me on MPR's "Midmorning" program on Friday. We covered a lot of ground; talking about the meteorology behind our strange winter, how winter defines us as a state, and implications of (no snow) and a growing drought. Photo courtesy of AP.

Ski Wisconsin? It's not enough that the Packers are doing Wisconsin has to boast (considerably) more snow than Minnesota? What is going on? Friday's storm dumped out 3-6" new snow on much of central and southern Wisconsin, with as much as 12-20" over far northern coutnies, north of Rhinelander. has the latest conditions, courtesy of NOAA.

Snow-Covered By Middle Of Next Week? There's little doubt it's going to get even colder next week, possibly the coldest week of winter, a winter that hasn't been all that cold. When the mercury is colder than10-15 F. it doesn't take much moisture (or atmospheric lift) to produce a quick inch or two of icy fluff. That may happen next Monday night and early Tuesday as the leading edge of numbing air pushes into Minnesota. Map courtesy of NOAA and WeatherCaster.

Snow-Blower-Worthy? Not really, but a couple inches of powder is possible next Monday night, another coating of snow next Wednesday and Friday. I know - hard to get excited over an inch or two, but it's a start.

Sunday Thaw - Then Much Colder. All the models are in agreement: the mercury will take a nose-dive by the middle of next week, temperatures consistently below 10-15 F. from Wednesday thru Friday, nighttime lows at or just below zero (for the first time all winter). You may still get some mileage out of that favorite parka.

Last Week Of January: Not As Cold. The extended GFS guidance shows temperatures rebounding well into the 30s to near 40 between January 22-25, followed by a brief cold snap around January 26, then warming back up to average the last few days of the month. It may be nausea, but my gut feeling is that next week may see the coldest readings of winter.

Finally - Looks Like Winter! "Snow flies past the ski shop sign at the Morse Farm Ski Touring Center shop Friday, Jan. 13, 2012 in East Montpelier, Vermont. It's finally looking like winter in parts of the Midwest and Northeast that are seeing their first big snowstorm of the season, leaving skiers and snow-reliant busineses giddy. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)."

Hail In Unlikely Places. Here's a photo from WeatherNation meteorologist Aaron Shaffer: "my friend Ryan Doliber sent me a picture of hail in Kuwait from a storm today (Friday)."

Jet Lag: What's Causing One Of The Driest, Warmest Winters In History? Scientific Atlantic tackles a difficult question: "A little snow and rain are falling in a few states today, but the 2011–12 winter has been extremely warm and dry across the continental U.S. Meteorologists think they have figured out why. First, a few records: The initial week of January was the driest in history. And more than 95 percent of the U.S. had below-average snow cover—the greatest such percentage ever recorded—according to some intriguing data maps generated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. During December, approximately half of the U.S. had temperatures at least 5 degrees Fahrenheit above average, and more than 1,500 daily record highs were set from January 2 to 8. Europe has seen similar extremes."

Chicagoans Dig Out. Chicago picked up a cool 4-8". Photo above courtesy of, which has more on the first real snowstorm of winter here.



NORTHERN ILLINOIS                              SNOW
LOCATION (COUNTY):                           FALL(INCHES)

  LINCOLNWOOD 2E (COOK).........................8.2
  NEW LENOX 2SE (WILL)..........................8.0
  OAK PARK 1NNE (COOK)..........................7.9
  PEOTONE (WILL)................................7.1
  PEOTONE (WILL)................................7.1
  OAK PARK 2S (COOK)............................7.0
  PLAINFIELD 1SW (WILL).........................7.0
  JOLIET LOCK/DAM (WILL)........................7.0
  ROCKFORD 4NW (WINNEBAGO)......................6.8
  YORKVILLE 1W (KENDALL)........................6.5
  BULL VALLEY 2WNW (MCHENRY)....................6.5
  PARK FOREST (COOK)............................6.5
  BUFFALO GROVE 2N (LAKE).......................6.4
  MONEE (WILL)..................................6.4
  BURNHAM-HEGEWISCH 2NNW (COOK).................6.2
  ROMEOVILLE (WILL).............................6.2
  YORKVILLE 2SE (KENDALL).......................6.2
  ELGIN (KANE)..................................6.1
  ELGIN 1S (KANE)...............................6.1
  ST. CHARLES 6NW (KANE)........................6.1
  AURORA (KANE).................................6.0
  BOTANIC GARDENS (COOK)........................6.0 

Hurricane Hunter Jet Being Used To Forecast Winter Storms. An interesting story from "This winter, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is using one of its Gulfstream IV-SP “Hurricane Hunter” jets to help forecast winter storms from a seemingly unlikely place: Hawaii. It is in the skies over the relatively balmy central Pacific Ocean that the worst snow storms gather their moisture and intensity before slamming the U.S. mainland a few days later. From 45,000 feet above the Pacific, east and west of Hawaii — and sometimes as far north as Alaska — data on wind speed and direction, pressure, temperature and humidity are fed from the plane’s sensors to meteorologists onboard, much the same way they survey hurricanes. A U.S. Air Force Reserve weather reconnaissance plane flies along at lower altitudes to supplement the data." Photo above courtesy of NOAA.

* Click here for a video of (winter) storm experimentation from NOAA, courtesy of nycaviationTV.

South African Forecasters Who Get It Wrong Face Imprisonment. One word: yikes! So much for freedom of speech. The U.K. Telegraph has more details: "South African weather forecasters who predict severe storms or gales without permission from the authorities could be punished by up to ten years imprisonment or a hefty fine under new legislation. The bill, officials say, is aimed at "protecting the general public against the distribution of inaccurate or hoax warnings or weather predictions that could cause public panic and lead to evacuations and/or the unwarranted waste of resources – money, people and technology". It would mean that independent forecasters wanting to issue a severe weather warning would first need to get written permission from the state-run South African Weather Service." Photo above courtesy of Reuters.

SPC Severe Weather Events Archive. The Storm Prediction Center has a new way to retrieve severe weather information dating back to 2000. Here's more information: "Welcome to the Storm Prediction Center's Severe Weather Event Archive search engine and listing. The first event in this archive occurred on January 3, 2000. We continue to archive significant severe weather events through the present day based on a variety of conditions and thresholds. You can access those archived events by using the simple search engine below. When this page is first loaded, the listing shows the most recently archived events. You can list all the days in the archive by simply clicking on the "Retrieve Events" button below. When you click on a particular date in the archive listing you will be brought to the Severe Weather Event Review Page for that date. A left-hand menu with links to products, loops, and other data related to that particular severe weather event is available to browse a particular event, or you can move forward and backward across events by using the dated links at the top of the left hand menu of the Severe Weather Event Review Page. To return to this search page, use the "Search All Events" link at the bottom of the left-hand menu of any of the Severe Weather Event Review Page. "

China's Pollution Is So Insane You Can See It From Space. Our fellow techno-geeks over at Gizmodo have the (remarkable) story: "This is really bad. NASA has published an image of the pollution haze taking all over the North China Plain. Yes, it's so bad that you can see it taking over thousands of square miles from space. Things were so bad that visibility dropped to 200 meters. The Chinese capital's airport had to cancel 43 flights and delayed 80 more. The first image—taken by NASA's Aqua satellite—shows the situation on January 10. The entire North China Plain was covered with a gray pollution haze. You can also see white patches: that's normal fog hanging below the haze. On the second image, you can see the skies on the next day: the heaviest pollution is mostly gone, moved by the wind."

Observing The Earth: A Southern Summer Bloom. I thought this was pretty amazing, courtesy of ESA, the European Space Agency: "In this Envisat image, a phytoplankton bloom swirls a figure-of-8 in the South Atlantic Ocean about 600 km east of the Falkland Islands. During this period in the southern hemisphere, the ocean becomes rich in minerals from the mixing of surface waters with deeper waters. Phytoplankton depend on these minerals, making blooms like this common in the spring and summer. These microscopic organisms are the base of the marine food chain, and play a huge role in the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and the production of oxygen in the oceans. By helping to regulate the carbon cycle, phytoplankton are important to the global climate system. "

Can U.S. Deter Cyberwar? The Diplomat examines a vaguely terrifying threat - the next war may involve shutting down the Internet (and countless companies, services, utilities, etc): "There has been a great deal of thinking and writing about why deterrence is difficult in cyberspace. Attacks can be masked, or routed through another country’s networks. And even if you know for sure the attack came from a computer in country X, you can't be sure the government was behind it. All of this creates the attribution problem: It's hard to deter if you can't punish, and you can't punish without knowing who is behind an attack. Moreover, much of the cyber activity is espionage, and it's hard to imagine a government threatening military action for the theft of data."

The 10 Best Gadgets And Tech At CES 2012. has a story that may appeal to techno-geeks: "At one end of the scale, CES is about big, high-end product announcements - the world's biggest TV, the smallest pico projector, hi-fi speakers that cost more than your car. Or are bigger than your car. At the other end it's about companies you've never (or barely) heard of trying to catch the tired eye of a wandering blogger with head-mounted displays, portable scanners and USB penknives. Filter out the noise with our pick of the best gadgets and tech of CES 2012.

1. Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook

You know that it's a low-key CES when laptops are the stars of the show. Of course, the Dell XPS 13 isn't just any old laptop. It's part of the first wave of Intel Ultrabooks, super skinny portables that hope to outdo the MacBook Air (for power, if not skinny styling)."

For The First Time In Years Your Next PC Will Be Amazing. O.K. I navigate both worlds: Windows and Mac. Certain weather programs only run on Windows PC's (I've tried emulation - doesn't work for these applications). I use Windows for the office, everything at home, editing, photos, music, streaming, is via Apple. So I appreciate innovation in both camps. Gizmodo has some encouraging news: "By now you're maybe sick of hearing about ultrabooks, the best chance Windows rigs have to catch up to Apple laptops in design, usability, build quality, and general good-and-wantable-product-ness. Don't be. What's coming from PC manufacturers in 2012 isn't the inevitable, dreary sameness that's made laptops so boring for the last decade. In fact, it's the opposite. If what we've seen so far this year is any indication, the notebooks of the near-future look good and thoughtful and true. The design elements are inspiring. The features are useful. And most importantly: They don't just imitate, they improve. Which means it's finally time to get excited about PCs again."

"The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread." - Mother Teresa

A Bit Nippy. Friday was plenty cold, temperatures running 10-15 degrees below average statewide, ranging from 8 at International Falls, Alexandria and Hibbing to 12 at St. Cloud, 13 in the Twin Cities and 15 at Grand Marais. What's still a bit surreal: Duluth dipped to -1 Friday morning, with only 1" of snow on the ground. 1" in Duluth on January 13?

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

TODAY: Light snow and flurries from a clipper. Coating possible. Milder. Winds: W 8-13. High: 28

SATURDAY NIGHT: Flurries taper, slick spots. Low: 16

SUNDAY: Some sun, fleeting thaw. S 15. High: 34

MONDAY: Breezy, turning colder again. Low: 20. High: 23 (falling during the day).

TUESDAY: Light snow or flurries (mainly southern MN), then clearing - bitterly cold. Low: 4. High: 11

WEDNESDAY: Coating of flakes. First subzero temperatures in the metro? Low: -3. High: 7

THURSDAY: Icy start, black ice possible. Some sun, still numbing. Low: -4. High: 12

FRIDAY: Numbing start. Clouds increase, chance of a little light snow. Low: -6. High: near 20

What Is Going On?

Weekend anchor at NPR, Guy Raz, asked me a simple question on his radio show, "All Things Considered". "Paul, can you explain why our weather has been so..unusual?" Long pause. How much time do you have? There is no neat, elegant, TV soundbite answer, sadly. We can explain WHAT is happening but WHY is problematic.

For much of winter the jet stream has been stuck in a Marchlike rut, record winds blowing unusually far north, preventing bitter air from surging south. La Nina is a factor, along with blocking patterns; the AO and NAO patterns that have reached record levels in recent winter. Solar activity is on the rise; melting arctic ice may be a factor too.

You can no longer separate out weather from climate. They are flip-sides of the same coin. Something is injecting more energy into the weather machine. Extremes are becoming more extreme; this trend toward drier, milder winters was predicted by climate models 30 years ago.

A coating of snow today marks the leading edge of milder air; freezing will feel good on Sunday.
Next week may be the coldest week of winter. If our first subzero reading comes Wednesday we'll tie a record (2002) for the latest subzero on record.

* graphic above courtesy of WISN-TV in Madison.

Climate Stories....
Massive Ecological Change Predicted For Canada: NASA. The story from "Many parts of Canada are predicted to see massive ecological changes over the next century, according to NASA. Researchers from the space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology investigated how Earth's plant life is likely to react over the next three centuries to changes in climate brought about by rising levels of human-produced greenhouse gases. "While warnings of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and other environmental changes are illustrative and important, ultimately, it's the ecological consequences that matter most," said the study's lead scientist, Jon Bergengren, in a news release. One of the consequences, their computer model predicts, is that most of the land not covered by ice or desert will undergo at least a 30% change in plant cover — changes that will require humans and animals to adapt and often relocate."

Can Better Communication Of Climate Science Cut Climate Risks? Andrew Revkin at the New York Time's Dot Earth has a good post, where he interviews a Danish scientist who is still incredulous that basic scientific truths aren't being adequately communicated. In short, there are natural, cyclical variations in climate, there is random noise and natural variability, and then there is a secular, human-induced signal, from the roughly 95 million tons of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere daily. And that last component continues to grow with time. An excerpt from the interview with Revkin and Physics Nobelist Murray Gell-Man:

Gell-Mann: "Is it really, really so extremely difficult to persuade people that climate, which is average weather, can have three contributions that add to one another? That is, some cyclical effects, some random noise and a secular steadily rising trend from human activity?"

Revkin: "I spent 20 years focused on the basic physics and geoscience of this… But I’ve spent the last five or six years focused on the social science. How we perceive problems, how we respond, or don’t. And global warming is the world’s worst problem in that sense. It has all the elements that make it the kind of thing we don’t, as a public or individuals, really engage on."

How Will Global Warming Affect Our Water Supplies? The Mercury has the story: "Climate change promises to have a very big impact on water supplies in the United States as well as around the world. A recent study commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading environmental group, and carried out by the consulting firm Tetra Tech found that one out of three counties across the contiguous United States should brace for water shortages by mid-century as a result of human induced climate change. The group found that 400 of these 1,100 or so counties will face “extremely high risks of water shortages.”

12 Simple(ish) Ways To Reduce Global Warming Two Thirds By 2050. has the story:

  1. Switch to cleaner burning cookstoves — In addition to being a major health hazard when used indoors, disproportionally affecting women, inefficient cookstoves are a major source of black carbon soot. Currently they cause an estimated 1.6 million premature deaths annually. There are a number of much more efficient versions of these type of cookstoves available right now. In other words, it won't require a wholesale shift in the way people cook or major lifestyle changes. That is, except for the premature death part.
  2. Limit leaks from the fossil fuel industry — Though in up to 90% of methane byproduct of fossil fuel production is captured and reused in many industrialized nations, in many developing countries that drops to 20%. Raising that figure will reduce methane emissions and slow warming.

MIT Scientist's Wife Threatened In A "Frenzy Of Hate". It's come to this - death threats against climate scientist's families? Mother Jones has the story: "Prominent MIT researcher Kerry Emanuel has been receiving an unprecedented "frenzy of hate" after a video featuring an interview with him was published last week by Climate Desk. Emails contained "veiled threats against my wife," and other "tangible threats," Emanuel, a highly regarded atmospheric scientist and director of MIT's Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate program, said in an interview. "They were vile, these emails. They were the kind of emails nobody would like to receive. "What was a little bit new about it was dragging family members into it and feeling that my family might be under threat, so naturally I didn't feel very good about that at all," Emanuel said. "I thought it was low to drag somebody's spouse into arguments like this."

Global Warming Fires Up A $300,000 Complaint. Courthouse News Service has more: "LOS ANGELES (CN) - Actor-economist-political pundit Ben Stein claims he was wrongfully fired from a $300,000 job on a TV commercial because of his view of global warming: that "God, and not man" controls the weather. Stein, a former New York Times columnist who does commercials in his signature bow tie, glasses and a sports jacket, claims a Kyocera Corp. affiliate breached his contract and wrongfully fired him after it learned of his opinion about climate change. Then, Stein says, Kyocera and its ad agency "in an astonishingly brazen misappropriation of Ben Stein's persona," dressed up a college professor "as Stein often appeared in commercials (bow tie, glasses, sports jacket)" and had the professor do the commercial as a Ben Stein imitator."
  To Slow Climate Change, Cut Down On Soot, Ozone. NPR has the story: "Politically, climate change is off this year's campaign agenda. Jobs, the economy and social issues are front and center. But scientists are working as hard as ever to figure out how much the Earth is warming and what to do about it. Some now say it's time for a new strategy, one that gets faster results. Talk to Durwood Zaelke, for example. Zaelke is a grizzled veteran of the climate wars: He was in Kyoto in 1997 when the world's nations drafted a treaty promising to curb warming, and he has watched that promise fizzle while the planet's temperature continues to rise." Photo credit here.

Investors Say Private Sector Must Tackle Climate Change. Amen. Let's not leave this to government to muck up. Let the markets. I'm investing my own money into green energy (designing software to make energy from wind turbines more predictable and profitable via a company called Smart Energy). Climate change is a threat, and the mother of all opportunities for start-ups - to design carbon-free forms of energy to power future growth and expansion. Reuters has the story: "Institutional investors with a collective $26 trillion under management opened a new front on Thursday in the fight against climate change, urging the private sector to mobilize, follow the money and find new technologies to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Putting a price on climate-warming carbon emissions, which has been instituted in parts of Europe and elsewhere with limited success, would be "nice to have" but not essential, said Kevin Parker, global head of Deutsche Asset Management." Photo above courtesy of

1 comment:

  1. "Let the Markets (figure out climate change)". Really? You mean, like the markets priced housing and mortgage-backed securities this decade? Or, how the markets price oil? Or, how the markets price healthcare costs?

    Just like predicting weather is an inexact science with lots more unknowns than knowns, so is your precious "free market". The market economy is perfect in THEORY. In execution, it's FAR from perfect. Regulations, rules, and enforceable guidelines are often times needed to help the free market.