Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dreaming of a Beige Christmas? You're In Luck! (Christmas Day: coldest day of December?)

19 F. high on Sunday in the Twin Cities.
25 F. average high on December 23.
37 F. high on December 23, 2011.

12.3" snow so far in December.
5.6" December snowfall last year as of December 23.

1" snow on the ground at KMSP.

Christmas Perspective

As our winters slowly warm, with more fickle snowfall patterns showing up from year to year, it's good to keep some perspective. Yes it's chilly out there, but nothing like 1983, when the "high" on Christmas Eve was -10F.

Santa was not amused.

That was the year we had 20 inches of snow on the ground on December 25 and then went on to pick up 98.6 inches for the winter. Back when it snowed fairly consistently.

NWS records show 19 inches on Christmas 2010, 18 inches in 1996; both real winters. The exceptions to the rule. It's odd: December's the snowy canary in the winter coal mine. If we get smothered in snow - expect a long, old fashioned Minnesota winter.

But El Nino & nagging drought are conspiring to route storms south/east of home - a trend that will continue thru the first week of January.

Flurries are possible today (metro coating, 1-2" far western MN), maybe a Friday coating, but holiday travelers in the Upper Midwest catch a big break. Meanwhile the southern and eastern US get pummeled with heavy rain and T-storms.

We may wake up to readings near zero Christmas morning - cold enough for most of us.

1 inch of snow on the ground Christmas morning? More beige than white.

Santa Tracker. Hey, it's a Christmas tradition. Click here to track Santa's real-time GPS location, in a variety of languages. I don't expect any weather-related delays. Nobody does it better than NORAD.

72 Hour Snowfall. A combination of mid-December warmth (and rain) has chewed away at our snow cover, down from 11" on December 10 to a paltry inch as of December 23 in the Twin Cities. A coating of snow is possible south/west of the Minnesota River today, closer to 2" near Fargo/Moorhead. A Wednesday storm may dump as much as 10" of snow from Oklahoma City to Evansville, Indianapolis, Columbus and Cleveland. If you're traveling into the Ohio Valley or the Northeast immediately after Christmas you may run into weather-related issues. RPM model above: WSI.

Christmas Day: Coldest Day In Sight. We won't set any records, and (locals) probably wouldn't qualify Tuesday as "bitter", but it will be cold enough, temperatures holding in single digits across most of the metro area. We thaw out slightly, a shot at freezing Sunday and Tuesday of next week. ECMWF highs above in Celsius (thank God).

Wednesday Rainstorm For Northeast. Yes, it's a bit odd tracking (mostly) rain for the northeast and New England in late December, but that's the kind of winter we're having. The ECMWF model, valid Wednesday at midnight, shows heavy rain pushing into Philadelphia and New York City, with a potential for minor flash flooding (and flight delays). Map: WSI.

Weather Trends: Storms Buffeting Deep South and East Coast. The ECMWF model above, valid Sunday morning (WSI) shows yet another storm sweeping up the east coast, mostly rain for the major population centers, but a changeover to heavy wet snow over New England. Boston may pick up a few inches of wet snow from the system next Sunday/Monday, while Minnesota warms up to near freezing.

Christmas Numbers. The average high for Christmas Day is in the low to mid 20s across most of southern and central Minnesota. Climate info courtesy of the Twin Cities National Weather Service.

Very White Christmases. NWS historical data shows a whopping 20" on the ground back in 1983, 19" as recently as 2010.

Biggest Minnesota Weather Stories of 2012? Here is an excerpt from a recent post by Greg Spoden and Pete Boulay at The Minnesota Climatology Working Group:

#5 Non-Winter of 2011-12
Some of the predictions were dire. Possibly a winter more snowy than 2010-2011 was in the cards. It didn't happen. One of the most wimpy winters ever seen in the Twin Cities and Minnesota was the result with mild temperatures and scant snowfall. 2011-12 wound up the tenth least snowy winter on record for the Twin Cities and was the fourth warmest winter on record.

#4 Hot July 2012
2012 was the second warmest month ever for the Twin Cities back to 1872 with 80.2 degrees. Only July 1936 was warmer with 81.4 degrees. Duluth had its warmest July on record, although in 1936, the recording station for Duluth was closer to Lake Superior. To escape the heat, one had to go to International Falls where the average July temperature was 69 degrees making 2012 only the 12th warmest July on record there.

#3 Drought of 2011-2012
This could easily be #1 depending on where you live in Minnesota. The heavy rains of May and June, 2012 helped to blunt the drought a bit, but then it intensified by the late summer and continued into the fall. By late November 80% of the state was under a severe or extreme drought. By fall, soil moisture levels at the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca were some of the lowest on record.

#2 Northeast Minnesota Flood of June 19-20
The largest flash flood event in Minnesota for 2012 struck northeast Minnesota on June 19-20. The largest two day total was 10.10 inches just northeast of Duluth. There were so many roads flooded out in Carlton County that the county rain out of signs and more had to be trucked from the Twin Cities. One of the iconic photos of the storm was of Feisty the seal who escaped the Lake Superior Zoo and wound up on a neighborhood street. The St. Louis River engulfed and nearly destroyed the Jay Cooke State Park Swinging Bridge, but it will reopen in the summer of 2013. As for Feisty? She found refuge at Como Zoo and now has over 800 followers on Twitter. 

#1 Outrageously Mild March 2012
Imagine if you will a March that was so warm it would break six record high temperature records in the Twin Cities, have four days with muggy dew point temperatures that reached 60 and wound up warmer than October! To top it off the Twin Cities had its earliest 80 degree temperature ever with 80 degrees on St. Patrick's Day, March 17. The old record was March 23 back in 1910. March 2012 will go down in history as one of the most bizarre months temperature-wise, finishing 15.5 degrees above normal. The only other month in the historical record for the Twin Cities that matches this feat was January 2006 that also finished 15.5 degrees above normal. As a consequence, spring phenology was exceedingly early with lilacs blooming the earliest on record in the Twin Cities, with many in full bloom by mid April.

Sandy Timeline. has one of the better chronological summaries of Superstorm Sandy, including some of the most incredible (and harrowing) photos of the aftermath I've seen yet. Here's an excerpt: "This time it was no hype. Sandy rampaged through New York, New Jersey and the rest of the Northeast. The damage has been enormous: more than a hundred dead, massive flooding everywhere, collapsed buildings, generator malfunctions in hospitals, multiple fires, city-wide blackouts and explosions in power plants. This is the complete story of Sandy, one week later—a chronological timeline."

Hurricane Sandy: "the largest Atlantic hurricane on record in terms of wind span". Source: Swiss Re (article at

A 3.8 Billion-Pixel Tour Of Mt. Everest. This is pretty amazing; definitely worth a look. Here's an excerpt from NPR: "Photographer David Breashears of GlacierWorks was on All Things Considered Monday to talk about a new way of photographing the Himalayan region: By stitching together 400-plus images into one giant, zoomable, interactive image — or a "gigapan" containing more than a billion pixels. He and his team just sent us something even cooler that they're currently working on: a Mount Everest you can explore, containing an estimated 3.8 billion pixels!"

Nice Interior Trim. Thanks to for passing this one along. Looks like someone forgot to roll up their windows. Ouch.

Twin Cities: Stuck In A Snow Hole. There is snow all around us: 5" on the ground at St. Cloud, 6" at Rochester, a meager 3" reported up at Duluth. Sunday highs were about 5 degrees F. cooler than average, ranging from 11 at International Falls to 19 at St. Cloud and the Twin Cities to 22 at Grand Marais.

The Real Spirit of Christmas. It's easy to get caught up in your "December Bubble", running around, focusing on gifts, relatives, cooking, reunions. You should check out this YouTube clip, apparently shot at the Mall of America recently. If you don't have the holiday spirit - you will after watching this.

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

CHRISTMAS EVE: Mostly cloudy, dusting of flurries. 1-2" possible near Fargo/Moorhead. Winds: N 8. High: 17

TONIGHT: Tracking Santa. Flurries taper - turning much colder. Low: 0

CHRISTMAS DAY: Sun returns. Plenty cold. Wind chill: -10. High: 9

WEDNESDAY: Cold sun, light winds. Low: -2. High: 14

THURSDAY: Not quite as numb. Clouds increase late. Low: 4. High: 19

FRIDAY: Patchy clouds, few flurries possible. Low: 9. High: 22

SATURDAY: Partly sunny, closer to average. Low: 13. High: 23

SUNDAY: Mostly cloudy, grilling weather. Low: 18. High: 32

Climate Stories...

Western Antarctic Warming Confirmed. Contrary to the climate denier meme that "Antarctica is getting colder!" USA Today reports; here's an excerpt: "Western Antarctica has warmed unexpectedly fast over the last five decades, weather records confirm, adding to sea-level rise concerns in a warming world. Temperatures in West Antarctica have increased at a rate nearly twiceas large as the global average, a 4.3 degree Fahrenheit increase since 1958, conclude meteorologists in the journal, Nature Geoscience, out Sunday.The finding adds Western Antarctica to the list of hot spots most affected by global warming, the century-long increase in global average temperatures largely driven by greenhouse gas emissions from burning oil, gas and coal..."

Harvard Scientist Proposes Refreezing Arctic To Prevent Global Warming Disaster. Not sure this is a great idea - I hope we never reach the point where this is deemed a necessity. Mashable reports; here's an excerpt: "Harvard University geoengineer and environmental scientist David Keith has a "plan B" in case of an environmental emergency. Keith's unusual proposal is this: Force reflective particles into the Earth's upper atmosphere -- the stratosphere -- to reverse global warming. "One approach is to disperse particulates at high altitude to reduce the effective solar flux entering the atmosphere," Keith and his fellow researchers report in the Nature Climate Change journal and Environmental Research Letters..."

Image above:

Texas Bird Count Gives Scientists Alarming Climate Change Clues. Huffington Post has the story - here's an excerpt: "...Similar changes in bird behavior could be seen this year in the Midwest and parts of the South, areas that have been gripped by a massive drought that covered two-thirds of the nation at its height. The drought's severity is unusual, but scientists warn that such weather could become more common with global warming. Birds — as well as other animals — will have to adapt, and the data collected in the Christmas count gives crucial insight on how they might do that. The dataset is notable for its size and the decades that it covers. Along with showing how birds adapt to climate change, it reveals the impact of environmental changes, such as habitat loss, which has contributed to a 40 percent decline in bird numbers during the past 40 years, said Gary Langham, vice president and chief scientist for the National Audubon Society..." (Photo above: AP)

"...America's contributions to global climate change and our oil dependence are endangering our national security, our economy and our environment. But the global climate crisis is more than an urgent scientific emperative; it is also a tremendous economic opportunity to secure America's leadership in creating the low-carbon global economy and our future prosperity..."

- Senator Bob Kerry, quoted in an article at Ars Technica. Image: Wikipedia.

Troubling Trends. 14 separate billion dollar weather disasters in 2011, at least 11 more in 2012. Graph: Munich Re and NatCatSERvice.

With Climate Change, Winter Isn't What It used To Be. Here's an excerpt of an article at The Seattle Times: "...One of the biggest surprises in the technical report on biodiversity and ecosystems is how much winter has already changed, said Bruce Stein, director of climate-change adaptation with the National Wildlife Federation, in a conference call this week. "The bottom line is that these impacts aren't just going to happen in 50 to 100 years; many of them are already here, and are only going to get worse over time," Stein said. "There has already been more effect on winter than we thought, and that affects what happens in summer." In the Northwest, forests already show the effect of warmer winters in beetle-killed trees. The pests thrive without the killing cold. That, in turn, means summertime wildfires stoked with dead conifers..."

An Apps-Eye View Of Global Warming And Climate Change. Here is an excerpt of a good review of a few climate change related apps you can download for IOS and Android from "Drought in the Midwest; forest fires in the Southwest; blizzards and hurricanes on the East Coast; rising ocean levels on both coasts. If you're wondering what to make of the crazy weather of the past few years, maybe it's time to check out some of the iPhone and Android apps you can use to study climate change and global warming. Quite a few are devoted to the still-contentious issue. Many are for the Apple (AAPL) operating system, but there are some in the Android app store too. By making the science visual, some of these apps let the nonprofessional see historic trends without having to wade through thousands of spreadsheets and databases..."

Your 2012 Climate Change Scorecard. Grist tallies up the pluses and minuses for 2012; here's an excerpt: "As our friends at like to remind us, climate change really comes down to math. Put x amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, see y degrees of warming. Our goal — meaning, our goal as an evolved, aware species that would rather not be plagued by droughts and megastorms and constant flooding and armed conflict — is to reduce how much carbon dioxide we’re putting into the atmosphere each year instead of continually increasing the amount. We’re not good at this. And time is running very low: We either need massive, quick action or it’s too late. Given that this particular year is nearing its end, we decided to figure out how the math for 2012 stacked up. Did we, on balance, change our ways so that our net greenhouse gas emissions declined, or did we yet again increase how much we’re polluting? Are we running in the positive or the negative or what?..."

(Photo above: "mikepic")

Four Feasbile Ways Obama Can Work On Climate Change. Here's a snippet from a recent Bloomberg article: "As the president looks toward his second term, he has pledged that climate change will be one of his top three priorities. Given that a carbon tax or cap-and-trade program still seem to be remote possibilities, what else can be done? Here are four plausible policy options.

1. Extend emissions limits to cover existing power plants.
On Dec. 20, a federal appeals court upheld that the Environmental Protection Agency has the power to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions. With its regulatory authority better established, the next step for the EPA could be to extend its emissions limits to cover existing power plants, not just new ones..."

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