Friday, January 11, 2013

Feels Like January Again (cold fronts - "glass half full")

40 F. high in the Twin Cities yesterday (as of 9 pm).
23 F. average high on January 11.
38 F. high on January 11, 2012.

.25" rain fell yesterday.

Trace of snow on the ground in the Twin Cities.

30-40 mph wind gusts today.

-5 to -10 F. wind chill by Sunday morning.

Glass Half Full

Have a friend or family member you're trying to coax back to Minnesota? Here's my spiel to new, fresh-faced meteorologists wavering at the thought of living on The Tundra: "Winters aren't what they used to be; Old Man Winter has lost a few teeth. Yes, it still gets cold, but our nippiest days tend to be sunny, which helps. Humidity levels are low. 15 F in Minnesota is tolerable. 15 F. in Chicago, Boston or Manhattan is miserable, because you're surrounded by water, with high humidity levels that allow the chill to penetrate your clothing faster. That, and everyone has their own lake."
It's worth a shot.

Rain, less than a week from what is historically the coldest weather of the year is a bit unnerving. According to climate guru Mark Seeley roughly 40 percent of Januaries in the last 20 years have seen some rain in the Twin Cities.

The coldest airmass of winter will spill south of the border, coming in waves. This weekend is the chilled appetizer. The main course, with a few subzero nights, arrives late next week - but no sustained subzero weather. Hey, it's January.

I'm worried about drought. The USDA has designated 597 counties in 14 states "Drought Disaster Areas".

Cold, But Not Subzero. All the models show a (big) temperature tumble today, readings dropping 35 degrees in less than 24 hours, whipping up 20-40 mph winds that will create a wind chill below zero by tonight. Readings thaw out by Wednesday before a second wave of cold air comes south of the border.
Looks LIke January. Daytime highs range from 10-15 today, Sunday and Monday, again late next week and next weekend. I still suspect the next 2-3 weeks will be the coldest of the winter. Not record-setting, but a rude reminder that the latter half of January often brings the coldest outbreaks of winter. No kidding.
Not Out Of The (Numbing) Woods Just Yet. My confidence level in the GFS model is low. I'm including this to show you (Exhibit A) how frustrating it can be tracking weather 1-2 weeks out. The GFS has a history of hinting at bitter cold, and then pulling back from the abyss with the core of the most bitter air tracking just north. We will be close to the Mother Lode of negative numbers, so all bets are off. A few rounds of bitter air are likely, but I still don't expect record cold.

How Unusual Is Rain In January? It's actually more common than you might think. Here's an excerpt of Dr. Mark Seeley's WeatherTalk Newsletter with details: "In the past 20 years there have been eight Januarys that have produced at least one day with only liquid precipitation (rain) and no sleet, snow, or freezing rain. In 1997 and 2006 there were two rain events in January. So an estimate is that about 40 percent of the time we see a rain event in January for the Twin Cities." (photo: NOAA).

Tracking The Trends. No, it's not getting as cold as it did 30-50 years ago. Yesterday's blog had details of a consistent warming trend (the map above showing the coldest nighttime lows at MSP every winter as tracked by investment banker and rose enthusiast Jack Falker in Edina). Today I expand on this, including looking at heating degree day data from the NWS - via YouTube.

Flu Myths: 7 Common Beliefs, Busted. Here's an interesting angle on the flu (epidemic) from Huffington Post: "As we face one of the earliest -- and most deadly -- flu outbreak in years, many are flooding emergency rooms and scrambling to get vaccinated. (Speaking of which, it's not too late! Vaccinating in the fall, before flu season really kicks off, is most effective, but experts still recommend getting the vaccine now.) A crucial part of staying healthy -- this flu season and beyond -- is staying informed. Click through the slideshow below to get the truth behind some of the most common myths about the flu..."

Heat, Flood Or Icy Cold. Extreme Weather Rages Worldwide. Here's an excerpt of a New York Times story: "Brush fires are raging across Australia, fueled by a record-shattering heat wave. Pakistan was inundated by unexpected flooding in September. A vicious storm bringing rain, snow and floods just struck the Middle East. And in the United States, scientists confirmed this week what people could have figured out simply by going outside: last year was the hottest since records began. “Each year we have extreme weather, but it’s unusual to have so many extreme events around the world at once,” said Omar Baddour, chief of the data management applications division at the World Meteorological Organization, in Geneva. “The heat wave in Australia; the flooding in the U.K., and most recently the flooding and extensive snowstorm in the Middle East — it’s already a big year in terms of extreme weather calamity.”

Global temperature extreme map above courtesy of Ham Weather.

USDA Declares 597 U.S. Counties Drought Disaster Areas. Here's the introduction to a story from The Guardian Express: "U. S. Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack indicated that the United States Department of Agriculture has designated 597 counties in the United States as primary natural disaster areas due to extended drought and heat. This designation makes all qualified farm operators in these areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans. This is just the 1st round of disaster designations made by the US Department of Agriculture in 2013. “As drought persists, the USDA will continue to partner with producers to see them through longer-term recovery, while taking this with actions needed to help farmers and ranchers prepare their land and operations for the upcoming planting season,” said Sec. Vilsack...."

* the latest U.S. Drought Monitor is here.

USDA's Final Crop Report For 2012 Shows Farmers Lost About Quarter Of Corn To Ongoing Drought. The Star Tribune has details - here's an excerpt: "The federal government released its final crop report for 2012 on Friday, detailing heavy losses caused by the worst drought the U.S. has experienced since the 1950s. Much of the attention focused on corn, which is widely used as an ingredient in many foods and as feed for livestock. Farmers produced less than three-fourths of the corn the U.S. Department of Agriculture anticipated when planting was done in the spring. The year-end report shows a harvest of 10.78 billion bushels, 27 percent less than the agency's initial estimate of 14.8 billion bushels. The harvest, however, was still one of the largest in U.S. history. Farmers say better crop technology that improved the ability of corn to withstand drought saved them from more devastating losses, and production was helped by the large number of acres planted this year..."

Parts Of Twin Cities Metro In USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5. As I mentioned in yesterday's blog (courtesy of Jack Falker in Edina) our warming climate means that things are growing here that weren't growing here a generation ago. Click here to see the latest USA map, courtesy of

Crazy Weather Down Under. Check out the "haboob" images from Australia - and harrowing stories of entire families leaping into nearby lakes to escape flames and "fire tornadoes". These are a few of the symptoms of the worst heat on record for Australia and Tasmania - details via YouTube.

Melting Snow = Dense Fog. The photo above is from the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As snow melts the air near the ground becomes saturated; falling temperatures can cool the air to the dew point and lazy clouds (fog) forms. More from the NWS: "Much warmer temperatures, a jump in higher dew points, rainfall, and bit of breezy conditions all-together account for snow melt. This is photo of fog forming due to snow melt outside our office. With some locations experiencing wind, the fog can begin to move and settle over certain areas..."

Technicolor Sunset. Thanks to Timothy Butz, who snapped this photo near his home in Ellicott City, Maryland, where temperatures may reach the 60s and 70s tomorrow. By the end of next week the wind chill may approach zero in this area. Enjoy the (fleeting) thaw!

The McMansion Of Tablets. I'm feeling a little insecure about my tablet right now, after getting a glimpse of this one, courtesy of "Panasonic might be getting outshined a little at CES 2013 as competitors like LG and Samsung show off their unique takes on 4K-resolution TVs, but that doesn't mean it didn't find its own creative use for 4K technology. On the show floor, the company demoed a new 20-inch tablet that runs Windows 8 on a 4K resolution ISP-alpha display..."

March In January. .71" of precipitation at International Falls, the vast majority of it rain, on January 11. Yes. Odd. HIghs reached the mid 30s to low 40s statewide, the combination of warmth and rain eating away at what little snow we had left - down to 4" at St. Cloud and Duluth, 1" in Rochester, a lousy "trace" at MSP International Airport.

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

TODAY: Blustery and much colder under a mostly cloudy sky, falling temps. Winds: W 20-35. High: 18 (early - falling thru the teens during the day with a wind chill near zero at times).

SATURDAY NIGHT: Parlty cloudy and numbing. Low: 4 (wind chill -10)

SUNDAY: Partly to mostly sunny. Character-building. Feels like -10 F. High: 12

MONDAY: Bright sun, light winds. Low: 3. High: 16

TUESDAY: Dim sun, not as numbing. Low: 8. High: 23

WEDNESDAY: Fleeting thaw. Make the most of it. Low: 17. High: 34

THURSDAY: Tumbling temperatures. Blue sky. Low: 9. High: 10

FRIDAY: Yukon-like early. Clouds increase with flurries possible. Low: -4. High: 12

Climate Stories...

Effects Of Climate Change Will Be Felt More Deeply In Decades Ahead, Draft Report Says. The Washington Post has some breaking (climate) news; here's an excerpt: "...The report’s executive summary states that not only have extreme weather and climate events become more frequent in recent years, “there is new and stronger evidence that many of these increases are related to human activities.” The report adds that these changes are exacting an economic toll on infrastructure across the country; it also identifies specific vulnerabilities in the Washington region, such as the Chesapeake Bay, which it said was threatened by changing land use patterns and the changing climate. Virginia Beach ranks among the nation’s “most vulnerable port cities,” according to the assessment, after Miami, the New York City area, New Orleans and Tampa-St. Petersburg...."

Photo credit: Washington Post. You can access the Draft Climate Assessment Report here (series of large PDF files).

Report: Climate Change Triggers Extreme Weather Events. Politico has the story; here's the introduction: "Human activities play a primary role in causing climate change, and evidence is mounting that those changes will lead to more frequent extreme weather events, according to a major draft report that will be released later Friday. The draft of the third National Climate Assessment comes as the Northeast continues to recover from devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy and just days after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said 2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States. The draft report, which runs more than 1,000 pages and was approved for release Friday by a federal advisory committee, warns that “human induced climate change is projected to continue and accelerate significantly if emissions of heat trapping gases continue to increase...” (photo credit: AP).
Climate Change Doesn't Have To Mean The End Of The World. Here's an excerpt of a story at The Atlantic: "This week the National Climate Data Center confirmed what most had long believed: 2012 was the warmest year on record for the United States. Ever. And not just a bit warmer: a full Fahrenheit degree warmer than in 1998, the previous high. In the land of climatology statistics, that is immense. In the understatement of one climate scientist, these findings are "a big deal." Almost every news story reporting on this juxtaposed the record with a series of disruptive climate events, ranging from the drought that covered much of the United States farmland and punctuated by Hurricane Sandy in its tens of billions of dollars of devastation. Many also pointed out that eight of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 1990 (though it should be noted that official records only extend to 1895). Not surprisingly, these observations were almost always followed by warnings of more warming and substantially worse consequences to come..."

Photo credit above: Reuters.

NASA Proves Global Warming Changes From Above. Here's a clip from The Guardian Express: "Starting this month, NASA will send a remotely piloted research aircraft as high as 65,000 feet over the tropical Pacific Ocean to probe unexplored regions of the upper atmosphere for answers to how a warming climate is changing Earth. The first flights of the Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX), a multi-year airborne science campaign with a heavily instrumented Global Hawk aircraft, will take off from and be operated by NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center atEdwards Air Force Base in California. The Global Hawk is able to make 30-hour flights. Water vapor and ozone in the stratosphere can have a large impact on Earth’s climate. The processes that drive the rise and fall of these compounds, especially water vapor, are not well understood..."

Hot Enough For You? Here's a portion of an Op-Ed from Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post: "...So we’re going to deal with climate change whether we like it or not. We’re going to spend many billions of dollars over the coming years providing disaster relief in the wake of hurricanes and other destructive weather events. If we’re a bit smarter, we’ll spend even more to protect our coastal cities from storm surges of the kind that devastated parts of New York. Investment in barriers and floodwalls will ultimately save both money and lives. But if we were really smart, we’d be talking about how to mitigate the ultimate damage by weaning ourselves from coal, oil and other energy sources that produce carbon emissions. We see what looks like disaster looming but don’t even talk about it, because the politics of climate change are inconvenient. Future generations will curse our silence."

How American Cities Are Adapting To Climate Change. Think Progress has a story about how cities are taking the lead on mitigating climate change - also hardening infrastructure to make the symptoms of a warmer atmosphere (more extreme heat and rainfall) less damaging: "A new report by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives highlights twenty local government across the country that are taking the initiative to combat global warming. The report follows up an earlier survey ICLEI did of 298 American cities, which found that 74 percent had perceived changes in the climate — including increased storm intensity, higher temperatures, and more precipitation. Almost two-thirds are pursuing adaptation planning for climate change, compared to 68 percent globally, and virtually all U.S. cities report difficulties acquiring funding for adaptation efforts. (Only Latin American cities reported similar levels of difficulty.) And over one-third of U.S. cities said the federal government does not understand the realities of climate change adaptation..."

Fox News Questions Whether Government Faked Hottest Year On Record. O.K. Time to put on your tin-foil hat and hold hands with some anti-science conspiracy theorists. These people need new hobbies. Here's an excerpt from Media Matters: "A Fox article questioned whether 2012 was actually the hottest year on record, quoting "skeptics" who suggest a government office is manipulating data to fabricate proof of rising temperatures. In fact, statistical adjustments made by the agency are required, publicly-documented changes to correct for errors and known sources of bias in the raw data. In January, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) announced that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous U.S. - an announcement that Fox News ignored until one of Fox News' few liberal commentators, Bob Beckel, tried to bring it up on The Five. Soon after, reporter Maxim Lott solicited the views of a few professional climate "skeptics" to claim that scientists made unjustified data adjustments to exaggerate 2012's heat..."

Explained In 90 Seconds: What Is Climate Change Doing To El Nino? Here's a snippet of a very interesting story (and video clip) from Mother Jones: "...For the past seven years, Cobb and her lab team have been recontructing the history of El Niño events across several millenia by taking core samples from corals in the Pacific. That process has uncovered reams of fresh climate data. And it's within this new, longer baseline of temperatures from the tropical Pacific that Cobb spotted something surprising: "The 20th century is significantly, statistically stronger in its El Niño Southern Oscillation activity than this long, baseline average," Cobb says. El Niño events have gotten worse.That led Cobb to wonder: Is man-made climate change, and the level of carbon in the atmosphere, shifting in El Niño events along with it? Or should we chalk it up to coincidence?..."

New York Times Dismantles Its Environment Desk. The latest from Inside Climate News; here's an excerpt: "The New York Times will close its environment desk in the next few weeks and assign its seven reporters and two editors to other departments. The positions of environment editor and deputy environment editor are being eliminated. No decision has been made about the fate of the Green Blog, which is edited from the environment desk. "It wasn't a decision we made lightly," said Dean Baquet, the paper's managing editor for news operations. "To both me and Jill [Abramson, executive editor], coverage of the environment is what separates the New York Times from other papers. We devote a lot of resources to it, now more than ever. We have not lost any desire for environmental coverage. This is purely a structural matter..."

Photo credit above: Scott Beale, flickr

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