Sunday, November 25, 2012

Monday Goosebumps (rain by Saturday; mild start to December)

30 F. high on Sunday in the Twin Cities.

36 F. average high for November 25.

54 F. high on November 25, 2011.

-18 F. record low for November 25 (1880)

62 F. record high for November 25 (1914)

Grumpy Old Men

Minnesotans like to share weather stories with me. Go figure. During Saturday's Gophers game: "Paul, I live in Chisholm. The last few winters snowmobilers have been detouring to Michigan's U.P. for guaranteed lake effect snow. Will this winter be any better?"

My wife calls it a methadone clinic for Yuppies, but Caribou is my little oasis of caffeintated tranquility. Sunday: "Paul, my husband and I distictly remember the scene in "Gumpy Old Men" with Minnesotans ice fishing around Thanksgiving. That hasn't happened in the 18 years we've lived here. What's up with that?"

Everyone has a story, anecdote or gripe. Weather is a contact sport and Mother Nature is the referee.
96 percent of Minnesota is in moderate drought or worse, up from 36 percent in late August. Droughts are resilient things - hard to break out of, especially in winter, when frozen ground prevents moisture from sinking into topsoil.

Today will be about as cold as it's going to get; a stubborn storm in the Gulf of Alaska keeping much of the USA unseasonably mild into mid December. We thaw out by Thursday; a little rain arrives Saturday with highs near 50.

A friend summed it up best: "we're limping into winter".

Imminent Thaw - 50s in December? Today there will be NO doubt in your mind that meteorological winter starts December 1. None. But a milder spell is right around the bend; a series of vigorous Pacific storms keeping winds over the Lower 48 States blowing from the west to southwest, meaning temperatures well above average from late this week into at least the first week of December. Map: NOAA CPC and Ham Weather.

Rain - On December 1? The latest ECMWF (European) model shows a surge of light to moderate rain spreading across Minnesota Saturday, temperatures aloft (lowest mile of the atmosphere) well above freezing - warm enough for rain. The blue dashed line in the Dakotas is the "540 line", the approximate rain-snow line. Map: WSI.

Gradual Thaw. Today will be plenty cold, low 20s for "highs", but at least the sun should be out much of the day, no small feat considering November and December are the two cloudiest months of the year, on average. Another (weaker) clipper arrives Wednesday, and then we begin to thaw out; 40s by Friday, a chance of sampling 50 by Saturday (best chance of rain in sight). I have a hunch we may see one or two more days next week near or above 50. ECMWF predicted highs (red and blue) in Celsius.

What December? Who knows what the latter half of December will bring, but there's little doubt now that much of the USA will get off to an unusually mild start to the month. A persistent Alaskan low pressure system will keep the western states stormy, counterclockwise winds pumping unusually mild air from the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico east of the Rockies. I don't see any more bitter air until mid-December (at the earliest). Map above: WSI.


I am a longtime reader of your blog.  Thought you would be interested to see these pics I took while visiting my parents for Thanksgiving down in SW Minnesota outside of Fulda.  Where I am standing usually has 4 feet of water.  The drought down in that area is as bad as I have seen.  Anyway, keep up the blog!

Tom Braun

Plymouth, MN

Thanks Tom - your photo sums up the drought better than any map I could possibly dig up. All of southwestern Minnesota is in extreme drought right now, with little improvement in sight. Once the ground freezes up (next week's thaw may delay a hard freeze until mid-December) moisture can't sink into topsoil, where it's needed. That's a problem. Right now I don't see any potential for improvement in Minnesota's drought until early 2013.
Historically, in Minnesota, what is the coldest week of winter? While you are at it, could you please tell us the coldest day as well? Thank you so very much! 

Carol Haakinson

Carol - historically the third week of January is the coldest of the year. If I had to pick a day (which is kind of a joke, a statistical average) it would be the 17th of January. Temperatures bottom out in late January, and then start to recover by Feb 1 or so. Photo above: AP.

Drought Update. According to NOAA's Drought Monitor, 96% of Minnesota is in moderate drought (or worse), up from 36% in late August. A quarter of the state is in extreme drought, a far cry from August 21, when less than 1% of the state was in the extreme category. The concern: once the ground freezes solid (we're close) any rain or melted snow will run off into streams and storm sewers before having a chance to soak into topsoil, where it's needed.

Drought Outlook. NOAA's drought forecast thru the end of February shows "persistence" across southwestern Minnesota (meaning no improvement in the drought). Some improvement is predicted for the rest of Minnesota, but we may have to wait until late winter, early spring, for the shift in the pattern necessary to put a serious dent in the drought.
Hurricane Sandy: New Jersey Rebuilding Ahead of Thoughtful Decisions? Here's a clip from Huffington Post: "...With rising sea levels and more frequent major storms, it's time to consider whether to rebuild in especially vulnerable areas and to look at further strengthening building codes for places that are rebuilt, scientists and environmentalists say. Similar debates have taken place after major storms on the Gulf Coast, Florida and elsewhere. And they're going on now on New York's Long Island...."

Photo credit above: "An American flag blows in the breeze in front of one of the largest pils of storm debris at the Jersey shore in Long Branch N.J. in this Nov. 15, 2012 photo. Superstorm Sandy created tons of debris that towns in New York and New Jersey are still struggling to dispose of weeks later. Three weeks in, the round-the clock effort to remove storm rubble has strained the resources of sanitation departments and landfill operators, and caused heartaches and headaches for thousands of families." (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
What Could Disappear. The New York Times teamed up with Climate Central and USGS to create an interactive map that shows how coastal U.S. cities would be impacted by rising sea levels: "Maps show coastal and low-lying areas that would be permanently flooded, without engineered protection, in three levels of higher seas. Percentages are the portion of dry, habitable land within the city limits of places listed that would be permanently submerged."

Those Bugs "Are Going To Outsmart Us". Yes, we have enough to worry about, but in case you missed this important story at The Star Tribune about how crops are becoming increasingly bug and pest-resistant, it's worth a read. Here's an excerpt: "...It is what scientists and environmentalists regard as one of nature's great ironies: Fifteen years ago, genetically engineered seeds promised to reduce the amount of poisons used on the land, but today they are forcing farmers to use more -- and sometimes more toxic -- chemicals to protect their crops. Why? Because pests have done what nature always does -- adapt. Just as some bacteria have become resistant to antibiotic drugs, a growing number of superweeds and superbugs in the nation's farm fields are proving invulnerable to the tons of pesticides that go hand in hand with genetically modified seeds..."

Photo credit above: "Danny Serfling tilled a field on his farm in Preston, Minn., in late October. He lost part of this field and a whole other one to rootworm. The solution? “We will have to use more insecticide,” he said."  Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune.

Mega-Flakes. I don't think I've ever seen anything like this - and frankly, I don't have a good explanation. Anyone out there have a clue what this is? Details via KARE-11: "Thank you Jody T. from Lonsdale for sharing this great picture! Jody says he saw these giant frost flakes in his yard this morning."

Where's The Snow? As of Friday, November 23rd, Milwaukee has gone 264 days since the last day with measurable snow, which is the 4th longest streak on record.  The last time Milwaukee had measurable snow was on March 4, 2012, when 0.9 inch was measured.  Only a trace of snow is expected today with no snow expected on Sunday.  Hence the current streak should climb to 3rd place this weekend. Source: NOAA.

* snowcover map above courtesy of NOAA's National Snow Analysis, showing 2" on the ground from St. Cloud to Brainerd, as much as 4" near International Falls. My friend in Herbster, Wisconsin reports 10-12" of new (lake effect) snow in his yard.

The Economics Of Wasted Leftovers. The statistics are daunting, according to this story from American Public Media's "Marketplace"; here's an excerpt of an eye-opening story: "...The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that Americans trash 40 percent of our entire food supply. For a family of four, that works out to more than $2,000 a year. Dana Gunders is a food project scientist at NRDC. She puts the numbers in perspective. “Imagine going to the grocery store, buying three bags of groceries, dropping one in the parking lot, and not bothering to pick it up," she says. "That’s essentially what we’re doing in our food system today." Gunders is talking about all the food we waste. From veggies left to rot in the fields because they’re not exactly the right shapet to uneaten food on restaurant plates. And, of course, forgotten leftovers that morph into something monstrous in the refrigerator..."

Feels like December. No, it won't stay this chilly for long, in fact we're 72 hour away from the start of a gradual thaw, one that may spill over into the first week, possibly the first half of December. Under a persistent cloud deck highs were stuck in the 20s and low 30s Sunday, ranging from 21 at International Falls (5" snow on the ground) to 29 at St. Cloud (1 inch left) to 30 in the Twin Cities (trace of snow), to 34 at Redwood Falls.

Major Weather Events on November 25 - courtesy of the Twin Cities National Weather Service:
2001: A strong low pressure system developed in Colorado on the 25th, reached eastern Iowa during the evening of the 26th, then moved into eastern Wisconsin late on the 27th. It produced a wide swath of heavy snow across much of central Minnesota into West Central Wisconsin. Storm total snowfall of 8 inches or more was common, with a large area exceeding 20 inches. Specifically, Willmar picked up 30.4 inches, New London saw 28.5 inches, Collegeville had 23.4 inches, Litchfield and Granite Falls received 22 inches, 14 inches at Canby, 10.7 inches at Springfield, 11 inches at Long Prairie, 12.5 inches at New Hope, 15 inches at Milaca, 11 inches at Wild River State Park, and Milan had 20 inches. A convective snow band set up across this area on the 27th and remained nearly stationary for over 12 hours, resulting in the extreme storm totals. From 8 am on the 26th to 8 am on the 27th, Willmar received 21 of its 30.4 inches, setting a record for most snowfall in Willmar in a 24 hour period. Visibilities were frequently below 1/4 mile during the storm, and winds remained in the 15 to 30 mph category. The heavy wet snow downed numerous power lines, and at one point, at least 20,000 customers were without power in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Over one thousand traffic accidents were noted across the entire area. Most were minor, but one accident claimed two lives when a car spun out and collided with a semi near Mora.

1995: A narrow band of five to eight inches of snow fell from west central Minnesota around Canby and Granite Falls to east central Minnesota. This included much of the Twin Cities metro area.
1965: Snowstorm across northern Minnesota. 14.7 inches of snow fell at Duluth, and 13.6 inches at Grand Rapids.

1896: Severe Thanksgiving day ice storm over southwest and central Minnesota. 1.42 inches of rain at Bird Island and 1.20 inches of rain at Montevideo. The ice caused a great deal of damage to trees and shrubs.

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

TODAY: Blue sky - coldest day in sight. Winds: NW 10. High: near 20

MONDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear, still cold. Low: 14

TUESDAY: Clouds increase, not as cold. High: 34

WEDNESDAY: Intervals of sun, brisk. Low: 13. High: 28

THURSDAY: Partly sunny, chance of a thaw. Low: 18. High: 35

FRIDAY: More clouds, probably dry. Low: 26. High: 38

SATURDAY: Rain arrives. On December 1. Low: 31. High: 49

SUNDAY: Gray start, slow PM clearing. Low: 29. High: 39

* more 40s are likely next week, maybe a few days at or above 50 F.

Climate Stories....

Global Warming Changes Gardening Tactics. Here's an excerpt of an informative article on the impacts of a warming climate on gardening from "...The warming climate will result in a longer growing season which will give rise to new insect pests and more life cycles from our current foes. New weeds will invade our gardens. Drought and heat will increase the need to water. Wet weather will increase fungal diseases. Predictability will tenuous. What is a gardener to do? Plant for the future and follow good gardening practices.

• Choose drought-tolerant plants. Research a plant’s requirements before you buy. The wider the range of conditions a plant tolerates, the better it will perform in the future. 

• Use microclimates in your yard for more than winter cold protection. Find areas that provide afternoon shade to shelter plants from summer heat and sun. Keep in mind that shady areas in winter may be sunny in summer and vice versa..."

Pine Beetles Contributing To Climate Change, Study Says. An estimated 20% of British Columbia's forests have been impacted by pine beetles - millions of dead trees contributing to a warmer climate over western Canada. Canada's CTV News has the story.

Photo credit: "A mountain pine beetle crawls out of a ponderosa pine tree while another, right, remains in its hole in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, August 24, 2005." (The Gazette, Hunter McRae).

Read more here:
"The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2011, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Between 1990 and 2011 there was a 30% increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping long-lived gases."  - WMO, the World Meteorological Organization. Source here.

Scientists Say Freakish Weather Could Become The Norm Due To Global Warming. Here's an excerpt from a story at The New York Daily News: "The U.S. was blasted by monster storms and scorched by record heat waves in 2012 - freakish weather that could become more commonplace because of global warming, scientists warn. But climate activists hope the destructive weather could have a side benefit of forcing President Obama off the bench when it comes to to the issue of climate change..."

Photo credit above: AP/Tony Rayle/Yuma Sun

Fight Against Climate Change Blocked By Luddites At Big Oil: McQuaig. Here's a clip from "...The news on the climate front is devastating. In a report earlier this month, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the world’s largest accounting firms, states the world has “passed the critical threshold” and that current carbon reductions amount to “a fraction of what is required against the international commitment to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.” In order to keep within that limit by 2050, the accounting firm says the world will have to dramatically accelerate its annual pace of carbon reduction — to a rate never before achieved, and then continue at that rate “for 39 consecutive years.” No problem! That’s if we want to keep warming to just 2 degrees Celsius — which may be too high. So far, we’ve warmed the planet by only 0.8 degrees Celsius — and yet that little bit of warming packs quite a punch, as the U.S. east coast learned last month..."

Photo credit: Bruce Chambers/AP "Oil companies currently have proven reserves of oil, gas and coal worth $27 trillion."

Global Warming And The Emotional Divide. No one wants to hear bad news. Believe me, I get that. Some days I feel like Dr. Doom. After a correct call on Sandy, 7 days before landfall, one of our corporate customers started referring to me as Nostradamus. Lovely. But here's the thing: once you acknowledge the trends, the science, you at least have a chance to adapt and mitigate, leveraging new technologies (the market!) to make the problem better. We'll eventually have to do just that, as a country (and planet), but some of us will be dragged kicking and screaming (and denying the data) for a few more years before we finally come to grips with a changing climate. And in the process we may just reinvent our energy economy and set America on the right course, competitively, for generations to come. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Madison County Journal that resonated: "...So, when global warming is brought up, I feel that same emotional click inside. My first thought is, “shut up!” I want to put my fingers in my ears. I think society generally shares that feeling. We don’t want to hear it. But my gut is going hard the other way. And my gut doesn’t have a “liberal” agenda unless it’s in front of a hot pizza. No, in fact, I want the scientists who push global warming to be wrong. How could I want anything else? It’s an awful prospect. And I certainly don’t want future generations to face any such reality. But I get this sick feeling these days about the weather. Beyond what scientists tell us, it feels like it’s changing — and not for the better. And the “nothing-to-see-here” mantra of global warming skeptics isn’t meshing with that feeling I have watching these storms grow more and more fierce, whether it’s spring tornadoes or fall hurricanes...."

Chasing Ice: A New Documentary Melts a Climate Change Skeptic's Heart. I've heard reports that this is a remarkable movie - hoping it comes to Minnesota soon. Here is an excerpt from a Huffington Post story: "...Going to the world's most remote places and taking photographs was second nature to James Balog, who developed a career with assignments for National Geographic and others. But he was a climate change skeptic. "It was hard for me to believe that people could affect something so vast as the whole planet," he said. But he has a 24-year-old and an 11-year-old daughter and "I want to offer them, in my own way, a better future," he said. He worried that he wouldn't have a good answer for them if climate change turned out to be true and they asked him "what did you do to stop it?" He decided to couple his "privilege as an artist," with "his duty as a human being" by documenting the changes occurring to glaciers..."

* more on the documentary "Chasing Ice" here.

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