Monday, October 8, 2012

Cool & Showery (long range forecast expert: 80-90" snow this winter)

64 F. high in the Twin Cities yesterday.
62 F. average high for October 8.
83 F. high on October 8, 2011.

Trace of rain reported Monday in the Twin Cities.

Freeze possible Wednesday morning, likely Friday morning.
Saturdaythe most rain since mid-August? It's the first chance of steady/heavy rain in many weeks.

Cool Week - Significant Rain Saturday? It's too early to celebrate, but the ECMWF (European) model is fairly consistent bringing a surge of steady, potentially heavy rain into Minnesota and Wisconsin Saturday. 37 mm equals about 1.4" of rain, which may be overly generous, but at least there's a chance of significant rain. A series of clippers keep highs in the upper 40s to low 50s this week, but Indian Summer returns next week with 60s by Monday, maybe 70+ Tuesday.

Shift In The Pattern? The 12z ECMWF brings an area of low pressure northward across the Great Plains, pulling Gulf moisture into the Upper Midwest by Saturday. The map above is valid 1 pm Saturday, hinting at steady rain. Sunday should be the drier, brighter day of the weekend.

Fearless Felix Supersonic Free-Fall. Have you been keeping up with Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking free-fall attempt? It's this morning, weather permitting, and you can see it live on the Red Bull Stratos web site. A swan dive from 120,000 feet? We wish him well and God speed. Supersonic God speed. Wow.

* the Vancouver Sun has more details on the highest, fastest free-fall in history here.

Aurora Watch. Things are heating up on the sun (sorry), with more CME's bombarding Earth's magnetic field. That could and should translate into a higher probability of seeing the Northern Lights in the coming days and weeks - one of the benefits of living at this lofty latitude. The photo above was taken in Bayfield, Wisconsin by Migizi Gichigumi: "Northern Lights turned on!..even with the clouds and moonlight it was an awesome display of Auroras:) Bayfield,Wisconsin (Lake Superior) 10/8/12."

* NASA has more on the enhanced aurora potential here.

Awe-Inspiring. Check out this remarkable photo from Norway, courtesy of "On Oct 7th, Frank Olsen went to the beach outside Sortland, Norway to photograph the colors of aurora borealis in the sky. He also found some strange colors at his feet. The beach was aglow with bioluminescent dinoflagellates..."I was photographing the auroras when the Noctilucales washed up on the beach," says Olsen. "The moonlight was a nice bonus."

"Ask Paul". Weather-related Q&A:

"Here is a question that I have, that you may or may not want to share with the public.
It seems to me that EL Nino is struggling to  gain  a foot hold , so it looks like that signal may turn out to be a very weak to neutral ENSO for this winter season.  What has gotten my attention is the signal that we are seeing in the north central Pacific ocean..  The waters were warming in that area causing a cold pool of water to set up near the coast of North America..  Now it looks like the Sea surface temps in the central northern Pacific are starting to cool, could that bing  in warmer waters  just of the coast of the NW USA.?  In other words I am talking about the PDO.....I think it could be the major driver for our winter forecast."

Randy Peterson

* heavily retouched photo (what WAS that roadkill on my head?) courtesy of KARE-11 and

Temperature Roller Coaster. The maps above (NOAA NCEP) are an ensemble of computer models, hinting at mild weather next week, but a potentially chilly end to October and a cold start to November. I passed your question along to Larry Cosgrove, who specializes in long-range weather prediction for utilities and other companies that want a jump on the 2-5 month outlook. He publishes a newsletter (WEATHERAmerica) - you can see his latest thoughts on the implications of a weak El Nino here. Here is what Larry has to say about Minnesota's upcoming winter:

Larry: "I will have the finished winter forecast out around October 18th. Looking for a tepid Modoki El Nino, trending back to a neutral ENSO in February. Deep cold pool near and below Aleutians, warm SST intrusion along immediate West Coast and just below Greenland are pushing me toward a warm West, cold Central, changeable to mild East alignment. Should be a good winter for the (Twin) Cities."

* I nudged Larry (gently) about what he meant by a "good winter" for the cities:

Larry: "If I am reading the pattern evolution correctly (and after last winter, who knows LOL), the basic storm track would be from the western Gulf of Mexico up along the western slopes of the Appalachian Mountains into Quebec. That isn't a great snow path for the Cities, but with a closed 500 mb low nearby you might pull off one or two synoptic scale blizzards and plenty of frontogenetic stuff spoking around the upper level cyclones. So at this point I would go with 80-90" in MSP...with most occurring late November through January, and a mild February as the +ENSO wanes."

Paul: Holy Batman! 80-90"? Larry does a great job, and part of me hopes he's right. I'd be thrilled with 100" snow and 20-30 F all winter. If only. At this point I wouldn't rule anything out, but I'll wash and wax Dave Dahl's car if we get 90" of snow. Based on a (weak) El Nino nudging the storm track over the southern USA and a pervasive drought that doesn't show any immediate signs of letting go, I'm leaning toward 40-45" for the winter. Better than last winter, but not as snowy as 2010-2011. Stay tuned. I'll stock up on some high-quality automotive wax, just in case.


"I thought Paul would like a copy of the photo below for his column. Later."
Terry Guy

Beam Me Up Scotty. One of the (many) great things about weather is that I'm continually a). humbled, and b). amazed. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like the photo that Terry passed on. What is a "sky punch"? Here's an explanation from Dr. David Whitehouse at The BBC, at

"Strictly speaking there is no scientific term for the apparition, and what exactly it is has been the subject of much meteorological speculation. One hypothesis is that the hole is made by falling ice-crystals that could have come from the exhaust of a passing aircraft. It is possible the air was at just the right temperature and with just the right moisture content so that the falling crystals could absorb water from the air and grow. The moisture removed from the air could have increased the evaporation of the cloud's water droplets, which then disappeared to produce the dramatic hole. The wispy clouds seen below the hole may be heavier ice-crystals that have fallen from the hole, evaporating (the correct term is subliming) before they reach the ground. It's called a fallstreak hole."
Hi Paul,

"Attached are a couple of pictures from my Jet demo flight this past weekend. The Eclipse Jet is part of a new line of small jet aircraft called Very Light Jets (V.L.J's). The Eclipse Jet has a cruise speed of just over 400 mph, but can take off and land at under 100 mph. The relatively slow take off and landing speed makes it possible for someone like me (with very little flying experience) to actually fly a jet. It also makes it possible to takeoff and land at smaller regional airports like the one in Blaine (where these photos were taken) or even smaller. This jet also uses the latest in airframe, engine, and avionics technology to make it the most efficient, easy to fly, and safest jet available. The Eclipse has a max seating capacity of 6 people (including the pilot).  Most other VLJ's that I am aware of only have 4 seats."

Jay Gustafson - Director of IT
Media Logic Group

Jay - I'm slobbering all of my laptop, and for good reason. That's one beautiful aircraft. At close to $2.5 million I wouldn't exactly call it affordable, but the capabilities seem to rival jets 2-5 times more expensive. Very impressive, and made in America! More information on the Eclipse 550 here. Corporate jet? Keep dreaming...

How Big Data Can Make Us Happier And Healthier. Here's a story that caught my eye, a snippet from an article at Mashable Tech: "Big data is getting personal. People around the globe are monitoring everything from their health, sleep patterns, sex and even toilet habits with articulate detail, aided by mobile technology. Whether users track behavior actively by entering data or passively via sensors and apps, the quantified self (QS) movement has grown to become a global phenomenon, where impassioned users seek context from their big data identities. Moreover, with services like Saga and Open, users can combine multiple streams of data to create insights that inspire broader behavior change than by analyzing a single trait. This reflects a mixed approach design (MAD) research methodology that purposely blends quantitative and qualitative factors in a framework where numbers are driven by nuance. The science of happiness, for example, is now a serious study for business, as organizations combine insights of the head and heart to create environments where workers feel their efforts foster meaningful change..."

Steve Jobs' Most Disruptive Trait: His Obsession With The Customer's Experience. Yes, he could be a jerk at times, but I think this story nails what made Steve Jobs singularly unique, and truly visionary: his total focus on streamlining and simplifying how we deal with tech. Here's an excerpt: "You have to wonder whether all of the tech bloggers who gush sentimental tributes to Steve Jobs would have actually liked the man. Numerous accounts paint a picture of a person who – in addition to his obvious charm, wicked intelligence, and inspired creativity – could be extremely rude, manipulative, and hot-tempered. It's easy to laugh these traits off when you're reading about them in a biography, but if these sappy fanboys had actually spent time with Jobs, would they still offer such moving words?"

"Stress Paul" - Rubber Stress Reliever. Yes, that's a very nice likeness. In fact I often curl up into the fetal position, watching the Vikings every Sunday (in my purple Spandex outfit). "Don't get stressed - take it out on Paul!" Amen brother. Details from "Need some stress relief? Look no further than the Stress Paul - Rubber Stress Reliever. Paul will help you get rid of that stress. He's only to happy to take some squeezing and abuse for your state of mind. This squeezy stress reliever is made of soft rubber and measures 2.4 b 1.4 by 3.2 inches. It will give you something to do that will relieve your stress. Whenever you need him grab him and squeeze. Don't worry, he can take it. He just curls up into a ball so you can do your thing. Only $11.44 from"

The Warm Side of the Clipper. Counterclockwise winds pumped milder air northward yesterday, boosting temperaturs into the 60s, ranging from 61 at St. Cloud to 64 Twin Cities and 68 Redwood Falls and Rochester. .19" rain fell at International Falls with a high of onl 42.

Paul's Conservation Minnesota Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota (and western Wisconsin):

TODAY: Mostly cloudy, windy and cooler with light showers and sprinkles. Winds: NW 15-25. High: 52

TUESDAY NIGHT: Gradual clearing, frost/freeze expected late. Low: 30

WEDNESDAY: Frosty start. Bright sunshine, still cooler than average. High: 53

THURSDAY: Next clipper, clouds & sun. Brisk. Low: 39. High: 51

FRIDAY: Sunny, turning breezy. Low: 30. High: 53

SATURDAY: Steady, soaking rain. Cool & raw. Low: 39. High: 48

SUNDAY: Drier day. Soggy start, skies brighten PM hours. Low: 44. High: 55

MONDAY: Sunshine, milder breeze. Low: 42. High: near 60

* photo above courtesy of Shad Van Matre.

Winter Hassle Factor

I've been babbling about the Hassle Factor since the 80s, when I loitered in KARE-11's backyard. It's an attempt to predict rush hour conditions, based on snow, ice, wind chill, etc.

The question keeps bubbling to the surface: "what's the Winter Hassle Factor"? Colder with some snow. I know it's vague, but I stand by that prediction. Snow lovers may be happy to hear from Larry Cosgrove, an old college buddy, who now specializes in long-range weather for utilities. He's predicting the main storm track from the western Gulf to the Appalachians, but overall a "good winter" for snow lovers. How good?

"At this point I would go with 80 to 90 inches in MSP, with most occurring late November through January and a mild February as the +ENSO wanes" Cosgrove e-mailed me yesterday.
Yikes! Average is 55 inches. I'll be amazed (and greatful) if we pick up 45 inches this winter, based on our ongoing drought. Time will tell. Details of Larry's prediction above in the "Ask Paul" section.

The maps are looking a little more encouraging for moisture. Sprinkles (even a few flurries tonight) give way to dry weather into Friday. Significant rain is expected Saturday, the most since mid-August.

Heavy jackets this week; 60s return next week.

No "sticking snow" shaping up the next 2 weeks.

* photo above courtesy of

Climate Stories...

"Many laws protecting environmental quality have promoted liberty by securing property against the destructive trespass of pollution." - Ronald Reagan

Don't Forget The "Global" In Global Climate Change. Here's a snippet of a timely story at Scientific American: "...This approach allows for flexibility in letting each country craft a solution tailored to their individual economies and politics. Imposing limits on greenhouse gas emissions for each country on a strict timeframe might make us sleep better at night, but it as the high likelihood of gridlock and failure. And also, because it is flexible, goals can be updated as countries emerge from developing status, or other unforeseen circumstances. It’s keeping the rest of the global community, where each country has its own funky domestic policies and politics and development goals, in mind with our goals for prosperity and development. Mitt Romney essentially articulated this point when he answered the question on climate change."

Underestimating The Dangers Of Peak Oil And Climate Change. It's been a long time since I've heard news of "peak oil", with all the euphoria surrounding "fracking" and at least a century's supply of (American) natural gas. So this story at The Christian Science Monitor caught my eye; here's an excerpt: "Many people dismiss the risks associated with oil depletion and climate change--even many who accept the two issues as problems. They judge those risks to be small or at least manageable. Since no one can know the future, we cannot be sure whether they are right or wrong. But even if they are right, should we be so sanguine? As we examine this question, keep in mind that we are talking about probabilities and the level of risk, not absolute knowledge which none of us can have about the future....In a nutshell, we believe that because a certain event has reliably repeated itself in the past or because certain conditions have prevailed for a long time, we can always expect more of the same in the future. If that were true, there would come a point in our lives when we would never be surprised. But as it turns out, humans are continually surprised, which shows you that the problem of induction lives on." Photo above: Clean Technica.

What Kind Of Energy Journalism Do We Need? Here's an excerpt of a story at Climate Progress: "What I'd like to see in all these varieties of energy journalism is a little bit more systems thinking, a greater sense of context. Humanity's relationship with energy is changing in fundamental ways and lots of the familiar frames for energy coverage no longer make much sense, or at least are woefully inadequate. Here are the three great energy challenges of the 21st century:

1). Maintain safe and reliable energy supply to developed countries, where demand is leveling off and infrastructure is aging."

Climate Science Seminar. St. Paul's Science Museum hosted a Climate Science Seminar Friday evening and Saturday, hosting local TV and radio meteorologists from around the Upper Midwest. It's impossible for me to adequately summarize everything I heard and learned, but here are a few highlights, based on the notes I took at the event. I don't purport to be recapping the seminar, word for word (I'm too easily distracted), but here is what I remember and put to paper:

Dr. Ben Santer (Lawrence Livermore Laboratory):

Most of the observed warming during the latter half of the 20th century is very likely (greater than 90% probability) to be attributed to human activities. - 2007 IPCC conclusion
Natural causes alone cannot explain the observed changes.
"The science is real - we can't embrace ignorance."
"Many Americans are rightfully concerned about the fiscal debt we're handing down to tour kids, which proves we can still focus on future problems and issues. Buut when it comes to environmental debt, triggered by a steady build-up of greenhouse gases, many of these same people are silent. There is a serious disconnect."
"What do people want to be remembered for? The money they accumulated during their careers? How much stuff they have? Or the world they left behind?"
* no such thing as "settled science" or "perfect science". The science is continually evolving as new data comes in and new hypotheses are formed, tested, validated or discarded.
* based on the evidence at hand scientists try to reach consensus.
" media "balance" on climate policy is appropriate - but on climate science?

Anthony Brocoli, Rutgers University:

How do we know that greenhouse gases trigger warming?
* Basic physics.
* Observations
* Modeling
According to NCDC: 2012 is the warmest year since 1895 for most states from the Upper Midwest to the east coast.
* map above courtesy of NOAA NCDC (118 means hottest on record).
"Human-caused warming (AGW) will increase the probability of warmer weather, but internal variability will always be a powerful factor from year to year."
97% Why do (only) 97% of published, climate scientists agree that humans are largely responsible for most of the warming since the latter half of the 20th century? "Scientists do not all have identical thresholds for accepting hypotheses."
Climate Policy: "Your opinion counts just as much as mine."

Mark Seeley, University of Minnesota:

Important Drivers With Climate Change:
1). Natural variability.
2). Land use/landscape changes.
3). AGW (human-caused warming linked to the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation)
"The persistence and amplitude of the warming signal during winter is stronger in Minnesota."
Brainerd: new 30-year rolling weather averages show a 3.8 F. warming for January low temperatures.

Implications for Minnesota:

* increased freeze/thaw cycle (more damaged roads)
* longer growing and construction season.
* changes in animal migration, hibernation and foraging.
* longer exposure times to mold and allergens
* later nitrogen applications (soil temperatures too high)
* more rapid breakdown of crop residues.
* change in the depth/duration of soil and lake freezing.
* fewer adverse-weather days.
Temperature signal during the summer is modest in Minnesota.
Based on cooling degree days: 2012 is the 3rd warmest on record.
Slight increase in 70-degree dew point days.
* first 80-degree dew point reported at Voyageur's State Park. Historically this is unprecedented.
"Most of our heat waves since the 1980s have been driven not by air temperature, but by excessive dew points."

Minnesota Impacts & Vulnerabilities:

* new insects/pathogens.
* efficacy of herbicides.
* warm water issues (algae blooms).
* heat-related health care implications (MS, COPD, obesity.
* increased livestock stress.
* shorline management.
* storm sewer runoff.
* influence on fisheries.
There are 1,500 volunteer weather observers in the state of Minnesota (I did not know that).
Trends: springs and falls are trending wetter. Eastern Minnesota is trending wetter with time.
10-30% increase in "normal precipitation".

Bipolar Weather Regime:
Severe drought has been reported somewhere in Minnesota every summer since 2005.
Greg Zandlo report: three separate 1-in-1,000 year flood events in southern Minnesota since September, 2004.

"I'll accept the notion of climate change when pigs and rabbits fly..."

Cloud credits: "pig", courtesy of Cloud Appreciation Society, "rabbit" photo here.

Peter Snyder, University of Minnesota Department of Soil, Water and Climate:

Minnesota: 3rd fastest-warming state in the USA (Climate Central)

CMIP5 Model Ensemble Predictions (image above courtesy of

* 4-6 F. warming by 2100
* minimum winter temperatures (nighttime lows) forecast to warm the most.
* increase in winter cloudcover over time.
* 20% reduction in snowfall by 2100 (more rain and mixed precipitation during winter months).
* current average winter snowfall at MSP: 55" forecast to be one foot less by 2100.
* Overall increase in precipitation forecast for eastern Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Jeff Masters, Founder, Weather Underground:

Consensus on sea level rise by 2100: around 1 meter, or 3 feet.
Hurricane damage is doubling every 20 years.
Models suggest fewer hurricanes in a warmer world, but more extreme (Category 3+) storms.
Florida/Bahamas may be most at risk.
Warming oceans: odds of a San Diego/Los Angeles hurricane are increasing. Mediterranean Sea forecast to become warm enough to support hurricane activity.
2012: ten separate billion-dollar weather disasters, second only to 2011.
$20 billion in severe storm damage so far in 2012, much of it from the massive derecho that swept across the Ohio Valley into the Mid Atlantic region - the most damaging/deadly on record
Flood control systems: designed for 20th century storms.
Top 10 Most expensive disasters since 1980: 6 out of the top 10 were hurricanes, 3 were droughts.
1988 heat wave and drought: 7,500 Americans died (!) with a damage estimate of $78 billion.

Drought: key driver of climate change (more heat = more intense drought). Link to extreme storms more tenuous. has a new section focused on local impacts of climate change, state by state.
"During the last 7 years we've broken pretty much every kind of weather record there is, from heat to tornadoes to floods..."

John Abraham. University of St. Thomas:

"All the volcanoes of the world produuce less greenhouse gas emissions than the state of Florida".
Greenhouse gas levels higher now than they've been in 800,000 years.

Evidence of changing climate not dependent on one data source: numerous threads of evidence.

10 of the 11 warmest years on record, worldwide, observed since 1998.
No atmospheric blanket of gases to trap warmth: Earth's temperature would be closer to 0 F, not 59 F.
CO2 increasing at the rate of 2 ppm/year, or about .5% every year.

Paul Douglas. Co-Founder, Senior Meteorologist at Media Logic Group.

Twin Cities: 16 months/row of warmer than average temperatures. Odds of flipping 20 consecutive "heads" is roughly 1 in 1 million.
331 months/row of global temperatures warmer than the 20th century average.

2012 Anomalies. Yes, London was cooler and (much) wetter for much of the summer, but the idea that record heat over the USA was somehow "balanced" by the same magnitude of cooling elsewhere doesn't hold up under scrutiny. The map above shows 2012 temperature anomalies from January thru August. Everything in yellow/red is warmer than average. Map: NASA GISS.

Minnesota Temperature Trends. Southern Minnesota temperatures since 1980 rising at the rate of 5.5 F/century. Over northern Minnesota temperatures are rising at the rate of 7.2 F/century.
"Mitigating climate change will require a level of sustained innovation and American reinvention that will propel the USA into a new competitive paradigm. This is our Energy Moonshot Moment. To remain competitive on a global stage we have to develop new ways to grow our energy infrastructure, jobs and GDP that aren't totally reliant on fossil fuels."

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