Monday, January 28, 2013

One More Arctic Swipe (series of February thaws on the way)

33 F. high in the Twin Cities Monday.
25 F. average high for January 28. The average high has risen 2 degrees F. since mid-January. Can spring be far behind? Yep.
28 F. high on January 28, 2012.

-10 to -13 F. low predicted for Friday morning (air temperature). Low 30s return by Sunday.

54 minutes of additional daylight since the Winter Solstice on December 21.

Weather Cues

Predicting the weather is a little like trying to make sense of the stock market. Financial analysts run models, they look at projected earnings & competitive risks when evaluating whether a stock should go up or down.

Meteorologists examine models, look for agreement (continuity), always on the lookout for "Black Swan Events". Sandy comes to mind.

But weather models only go so far. Things as seemingly random as melting arctic ice and "sudden stratospheric warming" can nudge Minnesota's weather in a certain direction. Last year's La Nina cooling phase of the Pacific may have made our drought worse.

Now comes news from NOAA that a weak La Nina should become "ENSO-neutral". No warming or cooling, which MAY loosen up the blocking patterns keeping moisture-laden storms from dumping heavy rain and snow on our farms, gardens and lakes. "Improvement" in the drought is predicted by late April.

My fingers (and eyes) are crossed.

We wake up to a snowy coating; today the last day you can feel your extremities this week. A "high" near zero Thursday gives way to -13 F Friday morning.

Before you let out another primal scream consider this: no subzero lows showing up in February. It WILL warm up.

Imminent Temperature Tumble. Enjoy low 30s again today, because temperatures will drop like a rock tomorrow; highs on Thursday close to zero. We bottom out Friday morning around -10 F before temperatures rebound next weekend. Yes, it's going to get cold, but not quite as cold, for as long, as last week. Graphic: Iowa State.
Snowfall Potential. Parts of western and northern Minnesota are waking up to a few inches of snow this morning, little more than a coating from St. Cloud to the Twin Cities. A surge of much colder air spins up another smear of snow from Iowa into Wisconsin by tomorrow, a couple inches for Des Moines, as much as 6-10" for southwestern Minnesota, maybe 3-4" for Madison. Map: WSI RPM Model.
Next Front: Not Quite As Arctic. This may be the last ("get me out of here") Arctic front of winter. Don't get me wrong - we'll see more cold fronts, probably a few more subzero nights in February. But my sense is that last week and this week will be the worst of winter, in terms of persistent cold. The end is near...
Feeling Better About February. ECMWF guidance shows highs at or just above 32 F. by Sunday, with another run of 30s the latter half of next week. The GFS model shows a brief burst of subzero around February 12, maybe one night below zero, but nothing like the past 7-10 days. Significant snow? Are you kidding me?

Winter Or Spring? Wild January Temperature Extremes. Here's my latest edition of "Climate Matters", focused on some of the surreal swings in temperature the USA has been witnessing in recent weeks: "Many cities have seen quite a smorgasbord of temps to start the year. Tucson and Los Angeles had record lows one week followed by record highs. Now Chicago is flirting with 60 degree temps in January after sub zero temps just days ago. What do you make of this weather Roller Coaster ride in January?"

How Does Melting Arctic Sea Ice Affect The Weather? Picking up on the theme of major temperature extremes above, here's a possible link with record Arctic sea ice loss last September, courtesy of Penn State Live: "...In the middle latitudes -- where most people live -- the changes in sea ice cover and its reduced thickness can result in greater fluctuations in the weather during the winter, and also larger year-to-year variations, explains Carleton. "For example, the warming of the Arctic atmosphere can enhance blocking high pressure systems in the Greenland-Iceland area during winter and spring," he notes. "On either side of a blocking high, a cold trough of low pressure usually amplifies in eastern North America and also over Europe, leading to more unusually cold and snowy conditions in those places, such as we had during the winter of 2010-11..."

NOAA Outlook: "ENSO-Neutral" Into Mid-2013. Who cares whether the Pacific Ocean is getting warmer or cooler? Last year we had a mild to moderate La Nina cooling phase, which correlates with more severe drought over the central U.S. We wound up with the worst drought since 1956, bone-dry weather continues to cause problems over the Plains and Upper Midwest. So a forecast of ENSO-neutral, a gradual weakening of the current (slight) La Nina cooling signal, might increase the odds of breaking out of this dry rut, once and for all. Details from NOAA here.

90 Day Trends. According to NOAA temperatures have been running considerably warmer than average since late October over most of the USA, even factoring in the recent series of cold waves. The map in the upper left shows a + 2-4 F. temperature anomaly over the last 90 days. It won't comes as a shock to hear that precitation over the Red River Valley and roughly the southern third of Minnesota has been half what it should have been since late October.

60 F. Today in Chicago? The last time that happened was 2008. Since 1877 there have been only 33 January days with a temperature of 60 F. or higher, according to NOAA.

From WGN-TV Meteorologist Tom Skilling: "Record warmth ahead! Also thundery downpours, potential for flooding & possible severe weather here or nearby later Tue/Tue night & a temp dive which could mean sticking snow Wednesday. Chicagos 60s predicted Tuesday would a set new record for Jan 29 & be 1st 60s to occur in January here in 4 yrs since 65 1/7/2008 & only the 35th Jan 60s in 143 yrs! The grounds frozen preventing percolation of water into soil-thus the flood threat Tue PM & nite. Avg of model fcsts puts total rain near 1.63″. Famously, the Blizzard of 67 Jan 26-27 occrd 2 days after mid 60s which produced powerful t-storms & even funnels in some south suburbs.Check out Tuesdays jet stream forecast at 18,000 ft. the 500 mb. level. T-storms poking up into those powerful winds will be fast-movers and will be able to transfer wind energy down to the surface as powerful wind gusts."

Kansas City Heat. From the Kansas City, Missouri office of the National Weather Service: "Through 4pm, the Kansas City International Airport has reached 74 degrees. 1 degree short of the all-time January record set on January 24, 1950 at 75 degrees. However, 9 degrees higher than today’s daily record of 65 degrees set back in 1917. The downtown airport in KC reached 76 however. Daily records have been shattered all across the region. How have you been enjoying this preview of June? Don’t get used to it though, as snow is in the forecast for Tuesday night and Wednesday."

128 PM CST MON JAN 28 2013


Heat From Urban Centers Can Have Far-Ranging Effect: NCAR Study. Here's the intro to a Huffington Post story that caught my eye: "Heat generated through everyday activities in one urban setting can affect the jet stream and other atmospheric systems, according to a new study in which the National Center for Atmospheric Research was a participant. Extra "waste heat," as it is termed in the study, generated by buildings, cars and other sources in major Northern Hemisphere urban centers can cause winter warming across large areas of North America and northern Asia, researchers found. However, the study shows, changes to atmospheric circulation caused by waste heat also cools areas of Europe by as much as 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, with much of that cooling coming in the fall..."

Are You Ready For Landslide Season? The short answer is no. Some days I miss the (big) hills, and then I realize that at least I don't have to worry about landslides, living in Minnesota. Here's an excerpt from a story posted by USGS, The U.S. Geological Survey: "As a rainy winter plods on, scientists, resource managers and property owners from coast to coast cast worried eyes on America’s hillsides for signs of this common natural geologic hazard – a landslide. Landslides can happen anyplacethat has unstable hillslopes and a contributing factor such as an earthquake, a wildfire severe enough to alter soil properties, human modification of the landscape or, most commonly, rain. The West Coast, particularly California, is vulnerable to landslides because of its steeplands, its seasonal rainfall patterns, and the way its ongoing tectonic deformation exposes vulnerable sediments,not to mention the large population that lives in areas that could be affected by landslides, said  Lynn Highland, a geographer with the USGS National Landslide Information Center in Golden, Colo..."

Photo credit above: "This slide on San Pedro, Calif.,’s Paseo del Mar began moving over a period of weeks in November 2011. On Sunday, Nov. 20, the landslide moved abruptly, causing the roadway to collapse." Photo by Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe.

"Dainese" Fine-Tunes Its Ski Airbag System. A last resort for crashing as you sail down the double-diamond slopes? Forget that. I need one of these babies just to go out and get the mail on icy days. Details from "Besides continuing to produce its high-end protective body armor, Dainese has also spent the last several years developing something else – a wearable airbag system for motorcyclists. A couple of years ago, the Italian company announced that it had entered into a partnership with the International Ski Federation, to adapt that system for use by downhill ski racers. Now, Dainese has announced that it is fine-tuning the ski system, for use in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics..."

Oxijet Air Shower Reduces Water Usage By 50% In an era where keeping a predictable supply of clean water is going to be a greater challenge, here's an innovation that may just show up one of these days in Las Vegas, Phoenix or Los Angeles. has the story; here's an excerpt: "Low-flow shower heads are a good way to save water, but using one can be a bit like showering with a spray bottle. New Zealand company Felton, in collaboration with Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), has developed the Oxijet – an “air shower” head that injects tiny air bubbles into the water droplets to make the shower feel like it’s at full pressure, yet while using 50 percent less water..."

A Minnesota "Warm Front". Where else on the planet do the locals sigh with relief when the mercury hits...freezing? Everything is relative. After a spell of subzero 30s almost feel like a Club Med Vacation, right? With fog and drizzle highs ranged from 30 at Duluth (9" snow on the ground) to 33 Twin Cities, 34 St. Cloud, to a balmy 37 at Grand Marais.

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

TODAY: Snowy coating possible early, still mild (for Minnesota in late January). Foggy. Winds:NW 15. High: 34, falling by afternoon.

TUESDAY NIGHT: Gusty and colder. Low: 12

WEDNESDAY: Mostly cloudy, cold wind. High: 14

THURSDAY: Last bitter day of winter? Not bad (for Siberia). WC: -25. Wake-up: -3. High: 2

FRIDAY: Ineffective sunshine. Less wind. Wake-up: -13. High: 8

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy. Less numb. Wake-up: 7. High: 25

SUNDAY: Sighs of relief. Another thaw. Wake-up: 15. High: 34

MONDAY: Cold clipper exhaust. Gusty winds. Wake-up: 18. High: 26

Climate Stories...

Climate Change Action Now Helps Win Elections. When will politicians in Washington D.C. think twice about taking fossil fuel funding and delaying meaningful action on climate change? When their reelection depends on it. Here's an excerpt of a story at "Politicians who oppose taking action on climate change or discount the whole matter could be risking their careers. Public opinion in the United States has shifted in favor of doing something about climate change, and politicians who want to get elected need to take note of it, according to a new study by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. A nationwide survey conducted before the November election found that concern about the effects of global warming is high across political groups, with most Democrats and Independents expressing concern about global warming and its potential harm for people today as well as to future generations. A clear majority of registered voters, 58 percent, said they would consider a candidate's position on global warming when deciding how they will vote...."

Graphic credit above: "A new Yale Project poll shows how taking a stand on climate change can help politically." Yale Project on Climate Change Communication

On Battered Jersey Shore, Sandy Victims Struggle With Costs Of Climate Change. Here's an excerpt from The Christian Science Monitor: "..."You can't attribute Sandy to increased ocean temperatures, but the increased intensity of the storm can be attributed to a warmer ocean," says Kenneth Miller, an earth scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Homeowners who do not elevate their houses "are rolling loaded dice for extreme events." But imposing the new codes during storm cleanup has proved chaotic. Toms River is home to 95,000 people. Fifteen thousand homes were damaged or destroyed in the storm, nearly half the town's housing stock and a substantial portion of the 72,000 homes and businesses that were hit in New Jersey...."

Climate Change Impacts To U.S. Coasts Threaten Public Health, Safety And Economy, Report Finds. The story from Science Daily; here's a snippet: "...The report's authors noted that the population of the coastal watershed counties of the U.S. and territories, including the Great Lakes, makes up more than 50 percent of the nation's population and contributed more than $8.3 trillion to the 2011 U.S. economy but depend on healthy coastal landforms, water resources, estuaries and other natural resources to sustain them. Climate changes, combined with human development activities, reduce the ability of coasts to provide numerous benefits, including food, clean water, jobs, recreation and protection of communities against storms..."

Norway Climate Sensitivity Research Not Yet Peer Reviewed. Could climate sensitivity be lower than the vast majority of climate scientists have theorized? The weekend headlines showed up at the usual denier sites. Maybe the warming has slowed or stopped, and now there's a new Norwegian study that seems to validate that it won't be as bad as expected! I hope they're right, but in 20/20 hindsight a few nuggets were taken from a paper that has yet to withstand the rigor of peer-review, as reported by The Carbon Brief: "A press release last week appeared to present the results of new research suggesting earth's climate is not as sensitive to carbon dioxide as scientists previously thought. But Carbon Brief has confirmed that the findings came from research by a PhD student in Oslo which has not yet been published or accepted for publication by a scientific journal. The results cited in the press release may change before publication, we were told. The Research Council of Norway last week published a press release entitled ' Global warming less extreme than feared?'. It suggested it could be easier to contain global warming at the accepted target of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels than "many experts have feared". As you might expect with a story like this, the news release sparked a deal of media interest. The Express picked up the story, with the headline "More signs that global warming is just hot air"...

Can Record Snowstorms And Global Warming Coexist? Here's an excerpt of a 2010 NOAA article that is still timely, attempting to differentiate between climate change and climate variability, and how a warming atmosphere can set the stage for heavier snowfall amounts as water vapor levels continue to rise: "...So, what’s the difference between weather, climate variability, and climate change? How can scientists accurately predict climate months, years or even decades into the future when they struggle to predict weather accurately more than a week in advance? Weather and climate are related but they are not the same things. Each describes environmental conditions, but on different scales of time and space. Meteorologists describe the state of the atmosphere at a particular time and place — weather — by measuring its temperature, air pressure, moisture, wind speed and direction, etc. But because the atmosphere behaves like a fluid, these conditions are prone to rapid change. Thus, weather at any one location is inherently difficult to predict more than, say, a week in advance. Climatologists, on the other hand, don’t try to predict weather at one location on such a short timescale. Rather, they look at the bigger picture. Climatologists consider the much larger context in which weather operates and describe the expected frequency and strength of weather conditions. The stock market offers a good analogy for appreciating the difference between meteorologists and climatologists..."

Graphic credit above: "This composite map shows temperature anomalies for periods in the historical record (from 1950-2009) when El NiƱo and the negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation coincided. Note that this historical composite closely matches temperature anomalies observed this winter." (NOAA image by Ned Gardiner, Climate Program Office, and Michelle L’Heureux, Climate Prediction Center, using data based on NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis with a 1971-2000 climatology.)

Why Greenland's Melting Could Be The Biggest Climate Disaster Of All. Here's a snippet from Mother Jones: "...As an expert on Greenland who has traveled 23 times to the massive, mile thick northern ice sheet, Box has shown an uncanny ability to predict major melts and breakoffs of Manhattan-sized ice chunks. A few years back, he foretold the release of a "4x Manhattans" piece of ice from Greenland's Petermann Glacier, one so big that once afloat it was dubbed an "ice island." In a scientific paper published in February of 2012, Box further predicted "100 % melt area over the ice sheet" within another decade of global warming. As it happened, the ice sheet's surface almost completely melted just a month later in July—an event that, in Box's words, "signals the beginning of the end for the ice sheet."...

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