Thursday, January 17, 2013

Boasting Rights: 36 hours of subzero fun early next week

20 F. high on Thursday in the Twin Cities.
23 F. average high for January 17.
20 F. high on January 17, 2012.

Trace of flurries fell at KMSP yesterday.

35-40 F. highs today and Saturday, then a 35 degree temperature drop Saturday night.

36 hours of subzero weather expected, from Sunday evening thru midday Tuesday, probably the coldest weather of the winter.

Boasting Rights

Not sure what to do. I'm tempted to drive to MSP International, scan the departure screen and cash in some Delta frequent flier miles. On the other hand, the (delightfully) insane voice in my head is telling me to stay put. Tough it out. Embrace the burn.

Here's the deal: the Arctic Spanking setting up for early next week doesn't look quite as forbidding as it did 2 days ago. Highs hold just below zero Monday, but it won't be anything like January, 2009, when we enjoyed 15 subzero nights (as cold as -21F) and 3 subzero days.

We're just not seeing the frequency & intensity of polar air that was commonplace in the 70s and early 80s. Many years Old Man Winter pulls his punch.

Although we're not tracking as warm as last winter, based on heating degree data we've saved 9 percent on heating bills since autumn in the Twin Cities. We've been so pampered most winters that now "average" seems unreasonable.

We may hit 40 (above!) today, a Saturday thaw gives way to cold, howling winds by Saturday night. Expect 36 hours of negative numbers between Sunday evening and midday Tuesday; Monday should be the coldest day, probably of the entire winter season.

By the way, just for the record, if we had a few inches of "snow" on the ground (remember snow?) we'd be a good 10-15F colder than we will be Sunday into Tuesday. Subzero with brown ground, more evidence of a persistent drought, will be something of a disconnect.
The Mother Lode. At least for this winter, coming about  3-5 days after what is (historically) the coldest day of winter, right around January 16 or so. By Monday at 6 pm subzero wind chills will impact a large chunk of the USA, from the Rockies to the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, pushing into New England. Time to dig out your heaviest winter coat.

Big Changes. Highs should reach the mid to upper 30s today and Saturday, followed by a sharp drop in temperature Saturday PM. At this point Monday may be the only day in sight where high temperatures hold (just) below zero, a wind chill dipping to -20 to -25 at times. Temperatures rebound next week, the ECMWF printing out accumulating snow next Thursday as temperatures thaw out a bit and a storm tracks south/east of Minnesota. Too early for specifics.

A Fresh (Yukon) Breeze. Make the most of one more January Thaw today into the first half of tomorrow. A 30-35 F. temperature tumble is likely during the PM hours tomorrow, "highs" in the low single digits Sunday, holding below zero Monday (for the first time in about 4 years). I think we'll struggle above zero Tuesday afternoon, after roughly 36 hours of subzero air temperatures. 20s will feel like a dream by Thursday of next week. Really. Graph: Iowa State.

Recovery. No 50s showing up - not a hint of spring fever in sight, but here in The Land of Low Weather Expectations we'll be just fine with 20s and a few 30s the last week of January. We'll see more cold fronts, but I suspect the outbreak shaping up for early next week will be the coldest of winter, a winter I still expect to trend (slightly) warmer than average, overall.

Snowfall This Winter, To Date:
1.1" Chicago
1.1" Philadelphia
1.7" Jackson, Mississippi
2.8" San Angelo, Texas
3.1" El Paso, Texas

"Wake-Up Call": Chicago Set To Break 73-Year-Old Snowless Record. As bad as it is for snow-lovers in Minnesota, it could be worse. Much worse. Chicago has seen just over 1" of snow so far this winter season, which has a lot of people scratching their heads in wonder. NBC News has more details: "Chicago residents have managed to avoid one winter chore almost altogether this year: shoveling. The city perched on the shores of Lake Michigan, ever braced for a harsh winter, is set to break a decades-old record for lack of snow. On Wednesday, assuming forecasts hold, the city will have its 320th day without an inch of snow, breaking a record set in the winter of 1939-1940, according to Accuweather. A dusting in Chicago on Sunday brought the snow total for the whole winter to a meager 1.3 inches. "This is a wake-up call of how we may have to adapt," said Brant Miller, chief meteorologist at NBC's Chicago affiliate, referring to the process of climate change that contributes to the unusual weather. "It’s not going to be business as usual going forward..." (photo credit above: AP).

Winters Aren't What They Used To Be. In today's segment of "Climate Matters" we take a look at a developing snow drought over northern tier states (more snow in Jackson, Mississippi and El Paso, Texas than Chicago so far this winter), and what is driving increasingly erratic winters: "Meteorologist Paul Douglas offers perspective on some of this season's winter weather. Is the predicted arctic blast in the Midwest considered unusual? Plus, the snow surprises this season."

Sudden Stratospheric Warming Split The Polar Vortex In Two. Here's an article at The Daily Kos that caught my attention. Extreme storms are bearing down on Hawaii, and much of Europe in the coming days - this sudden intensification may have something to do with a sudden upward spike in temperatures in the upper atmosphere. Here's an excerpt: "Sudden stratospheric warming has split the polar vortex in two. The polar vortex, which forms and deepens as the atmosphere looses heat to space in the darkness of the long Arctic winter night, was split in two by massive heating from below. A series of intense storms in the far north Pacific intensified a very long wave in the lower atmosphere. Energy on that planet sized wave went upwards from the lower atmosphere around the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau and broke into the stratosphere, causing major sudden warming. It rapidly reversed the strong cyclonic winds in the stratosphere around the pole, creating a central dome, breaking the vortex into two smaller vortices..."

2012: 9th Warmest Year on Record. It was also the warmest La Nina year ever recorded, according to NOAA.

That's A Lot Of Meteorologists. We've teamed up with KARE-11 to bring WeatherNation TV, our new 24/7 headline weather and meteorology channel, to Minnesota. The service just launched in Boston, other major markets to follow. Thanks to everyone who has tuned into KARE-11.2, or tuned in on cable around the state. All weather - no excuses.

Wild Ice Formations. Thanks to Neil Weaver Photography and WeatherNation TV for sending in this photo, unlike anything I've ever seen before. Weaver shot this pic on Lake Superior, from a vantagepoint on the U.P. of Michigan.

How Can You "Vogue" Your Way Thru Hurricane Aftermath? Tasteless..or edgy? You be the judge. For some inexplicable reason the editors at Vogue felt the need to send their models into Sandy's debris. Check out the slide show here. More from Huffington Post.

Jodie Foster's Guide To Life At 50 And Beyond. I found this to be an interesting post, courtesy of PBS's; here's an excertp: "...It should come as no surprise that what is good advice for those who are 50 and older is also good advice for those who are younger. Here’s my interpretation of Foster’s guidance:

1. Don’t be afraid to claim your age; own it and the body that goes with it. She started off her speech by announcing “I’m 50! I’m 50!,” setting the stage for heartfelt resolutions about how to live life in the second stage of adulthood. She had a light-hearted view of her age and quipped, “You know, I was going to bring my walker tonight but it just didn’t go with the cleavage.”

2. Be exceptionally grateful all the time, especially for those who are often unsung — and tell them often. We’re all used to award recipients ticking off a long-winded list of people we’ve never heard of who need to be thanked.

One Cartoon Sums It Up. Thanks to Dave Grandlund at the Midwest Daily News for summing up, so eloquently, the perils of a single snowflake. Looks like winter in Washington D.C., where the mere mention of "flurries" can trigger a run on grocery stores. I'm not exaggerating.

Implications Of Little Snow. All the models suggested a high today around 16-18 F. It turns out the metro area saw highs closer to 20. It turns out a lack of snow is decreasing albedo (less white lurking out there - more brown), which allows the sun to warm up the air near the ground a few extra degrees. After morning flakes the sun came out, highs ranging from 15 at Alexandria to 18 St. Cloud, 20 Twin Cities and 24 Redwood Falls.

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

TODAY: Light snow tapers, slick roads early. Another January Thaw. Pleasant. Winds: SW 15. High: 36-40

FRIDAY NIGHT: Clouds and patchy fog, relatively mild. Low: 30

SATURDAY: Mild start. Bitter winds late with flurries. High: 35, falling thru the 20s and teens late (winds gust 20-40 mph).

SATURDAY NIGHT: Bitter with highs winds and a wind chill of -20F. Low: -3

SUNDAY: Sunny start, PM coating of fluff. Bitter. High: 4

MONDAY: Yukon-like. Coldest day of winter. WC: -20. Wake-up: -9. High: -2

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy, comfortably numb. Wake-up: -13. High: 5

WEDNESDAY: Fading sun, not quite as Nanook. Low: -1. High: 17

THURSDAY: Potential for accumulating light snow. Low: 15. High: 23

Climate Stories...

6 Ways Climate Change Will Affect You. This is a slow-motion transformation, and yet we're seeing some of the impacts of a warmer atmosphere (more extreme rainfall amounts, an uptick in weather disasters, rising sea level, dry areas getting drier, the list goes on and on). National Geographic does a good job summarizing why we should all be engaged on this subject; here's an excerpt: "The planet keeps getting hotter, new data showed this week. Especially in America, where 2012 was the warmest year ever recorded, by far. Every few years, the U.S. federal government engages hundreds of experts to assess the impacts of climate change, now and in the future. From agriculture (pictured) to infrastructure to how humans consume energy, the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee spotlights how a warming world may bring widespread disruption. Farmers will see declines in some crops, while others will reap increased yields. Won't more atmospheric carbon mean longer growing seasons? Not quite..."

Photo credit above: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Long Term Global Warming Trend Continues. Here's the intro to a good summary of 2012 from "Scientists report that 2012 was the ninth warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. The ten warmest years in the 132-year record have all occurred since 1998. The last year that was cooler than average was 1976. This map, from NASA Earth Observatory, depicts temperature anomalies, or changes, by region in 2012. Reds and blues show how much warmer or cooler each area was in 2012 compared to an averaged base period from 1951–1980..." (graphic above: NASA).

Earliest Blooms Recorded In U.S. Due To Global Warming. Here's an excerpt from National Geographic: "You could call them early bloomers: In 2010 and 2012, plants in the eastern U.S. produced flowers earlier than at any point in recorded history, a new study says. This result, according to the research team, has a bit of a literary twist: It comes from data collected by U.S. environmental writers Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold. Thoreau began observing bloom times in Massachusetts in 1852, and Leopold began in Wisconsin in 1935. Scientists compared this historical data with modern, record-shattering high temperatures in Massachusetts and Wisconsin during 2010 and 2012. (See "Heat Waves 'Almost Certainly' Due to Global Warming?") They discovered that those two recent warm spells triggered many spring-flowering plants to blossom up to 4.1 days earlier for every 1 degree Celsius rise in average spring temperatures, which translates to 2.3 days for every 1 degree Fahrenheit..."

Photo credit above: "Forget-me-nots bloom during springtime (file picture)." Photograph by Darlyne A. Murawski, National Geographic.

Study Finds Severe Climate Jeopardizing Amazon Forest. NASA JPL has the story; here's an excerpt: "At left, the extent of the 2005 megadrought in the western Amazon rainforests during the summer months of June, July and August as measured by NASA satellites. The most impacted areas are shown in shades of red and yellow. The circled area in the right panel shows the extent of the forests that experienced slow recovery from the 2005 drought, with areas in red and yellow shades experiencing the slowest recovery."

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC

Obama On Climate Change Faces High Expectations, And High Hurdles, In Second Term. Here's a snippet from an article at Huffington Post: "...If past is prologue, Obama is unlikely to make anyone fully satisfied. While many conservatives spent much of the last four years condemning the president as an environmental zealot bent on sacrificing jobs and economic growth to the altar of green, Obama also took substantial heat from his environmental base. A broad collection of conservation groups and climate activists have argued that the president was walking an equivocal line at best, championing emissions reductions, for example, while also embracing expanded oil and gas drilling, including in the delicate Arctic, and continuing his support for so-called clean coal technology, which many environmentalists consider an oxymoron..." (Image above: AP).

Global Warming Opening Up Russia's Arctic Oil. The UPI has the story; here's an excerpt: "Russian state-owned energy firms are preparing to move into the country's offshore polar regions. On Jan. 15 Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich's told journalists that the state-controlled Rosneft and Gazprom energy companies are to receive licenses to develop the 12 and 17 arctic continental shelf sectors. The decision is raising concerns among the country's private energy companies that they will be locked out of developing the country's potentially vast arctic hydrocarbon reserves. Russia's natural resources ministry proposed on Jan. 15 that offshore oil and gas fields on the country's Arctic shelf that isn't wanted by state-controlled firms should be explored and developed by non-state companies..."

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