Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Risk of a January Thaw (2012: ties 1931 for warmest year on record for MSP)

Cold Weather Tax

"Winter is not a season, it's an occupation" wrote Sinclair Lewis.

Perhaps, although I consider winter a well-disguised Godsend. Think about it. If it didn't get cold every now and then, a couple of battery-draining nights, our population would spike. Those wide-eyed CNN meteorologists pointing to Minnesota unwittingly keep our commutes less horrific; nice cabins on our lakes, instead of high rise condos.

Then again I may be rationalizing the lack of feeling in my toes.

We're picking up 1-2 minutes of additional daylight every day now. Within 3-4 weeks average temperatures start to rise again. I have a hunch our current cold spell will be one of the 2 or 3 coldest of winter. Models show highs near 32F by Friday; a few days in the 30s next week.

Snow? A dusting or coating of flurries today; by the end of next week it may be mild enough aloft for a little rain. The drought that developed in late summer continues to flavor our weather; El Nino nudging the storm track south/east of Minnesota.

On the blog below: 2012 was second only to 1931 for the warmest year in Twin Cities history. Our 5 warmest years have all occurred since 1987.

My gut? Another abbreviated, drive-by winter is shaping up.

A Numbing New Year. Tuesday morning saw the coldest readings of the winter, so far, subzero statewide, as cold as -21F (air temperature) at Paynesville. Details from the Midwestern Regional Climate Center, via the Twin Cities NWS.

A "Warming Trend". Few other spots on Earth (outside of interior Alaska, portions of Finland and Siberia) would call 0 to +3 C a "warm front", but after negative numbers I can assure you that 30s will feel good, as early as Friday. Significant snow? You 'gotta be kidding me. No.

Temperature Trends. This Ham Weather graphic makes it easy to see the average high and low for the period, and predicted temperatures looking out into mid-January. After warming into the 30s much of next week readings take another dive by the second weekend of January.

Predicted Snowfall Thru Friday Night. The latest NAM numbers look pretty bleak (for snow lovers). Lake effect snow squalls may drop up to 8" near Syracuse, but - note to self - we don't live in Syracuse. Can I interest you in a snowy coating today? Bleak.

Warmest Year Since 1820? 1931, By A Whisker. You have to go back to the beginning of the Dust Bowl years to find a warmer year, overall, than 2012, according to Twin Cities NWS data. I think we can all agree that, in spite of a cold finish, last year was unseasonably warm. Note the warming trend since the mid-80s above (solid black line).

2012: "Off The Scale". The dark red line shows St. Paul temperature trends in 2012, well above the previous 4 warmest years in modern-day records (1987, 1998, 2006 and 2010). For a better look at this graph from NOAA NCDC click here.

December Numbers. Statewide December was warmer, and a bit snowier than normal (most of the snow coming during the December 9 storm). The local National Weather Service has a good summary: "December of 2012 brought something the area hardly saw at all during the 2011-2012 winter and that is snowfall. The majority of snow seen during the month was observed with the December 8th and 9th snowstorm, though Eau Claire did get some snow from the December 20th blizzard that struuck Iowa into southern Wisconsin, helping give Eau Claire the most snowfall for the month between the 3 climate locations. Add into the mix a primarily rain event the following weekend and the entire area got to experience something for the first time since this summer: above normal precipitation for a month. Of course in a year when all three locations were at or within a degree of setting the record for the warmest year on record, it shold come as no surprise that yet again, temperatures for te month of December were above normal. In all, only October saw below normal temperatures for a month in 2012, with all other months seeing above normal temperatures at St. Cloud and MSP (Eau Claire snuck in a below normal month in September as well)."

Shocker: Another Warmer Than Average Month. The Midwestern Regional Climate Center shows temperature anomalies for December 2012 ranging from +2 to +5 F. across much of Minnesota, as much as 8-10 F. warmer than average from Chicago into much of the Ohio Valley.

Increasing Daylight. We're picking up 1-2 minutes of daylight every day from later this week into mid-January. Historically the coldest weather of the year comes during the second or third week of January, about 3 weeks after the Winter Solstice. Calendar source here.

Top 10 U.S. Weather Events Of 2012. The more I read about Superstorm Sandy, the more impressed I am by the size and intensity of this historic storm. Here's a post from Wunderground meteorologist Jeff Masters, via Think Progress: "It was another year of incredible weather extremes unparalleled in American history during 2012. Eleven billion-dollar weather disasters hit the U.S., a figure exceeded only by the fourteen such disasters during the equally insane weather year of 2011. I present for you now the top ten weather stories of 2012, chosen for their meteorological significance and human and economic impact....

1) Superstorm Sandy
Hurricane Sandy was truly astounding in its size and power. At its peak size, twenty hours before landfall, Sandy had tropical storm-force winds that covered an area nearly one-fifth the area of the contiguous United States. Sandy’s area of ocean with twelve-foot seas peaked at 1.4 million square miles–nearly one-half the area of the contiguous United States, or 1% of Earth’s total ocean area. Most incredibly, ten hours before landfall (9:30 am EDT October 29), the total energy of Sandy’s winds of tropical storm-force and higher peaked at 329 terajoules–the highest value for any Atlantic hurricane since at least 1969, and equivalent to five Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. At landfall, Sandy’s tropical storm-force winds spanned 943 miles of the the U.S. coast. No hurricane on record has been large..."

Photo credit above: "Cabs lie flooded on October 30, 2012, in Hoboken, NJ, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy." AP photo: Charles Sykes.

2012 Tornado Count Could Be One Of The Lowest In History. The reason? Record heat (and drought) over much of the USA for much of the summer, none of the large temperature contrasts that whip up strong wind shear, capable of turning garden-variety thunderstorms into tornadic "supercells". Huffington Post has more details: "...Harold Brooks, research meteorologist at NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., said that the lack of wind shear is responsible for the lower number of tornadoes in 2012. "That's associated, in some ways, with the drought that was over the central part of the U.S. during the summertime," Brooks said. "The jet stream went far to the north, and when we have that kind of a pattern over the central U.S., you have very hot weather at the surface. When it is that hot and dry, you don't get very many storms. And the storms that do form, there is not enough wind shear to get them organized into the kind of storms that make significant tornadoes." With very quiet and dry weather patterns, the winds do not vary much in speed or direction with height. Thus, rotating thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes are less likely..."

Graphic credit above: NOAA SPC. "This graph from the SPC shows the number of tornadoes in 2012 compared to the number of tornadoes in 2011 and the average number of tornadoes annually in the U.S."

Study: Home Air Conditioning Reduced Deaths. This probably doesn't come as a shock, but there is something of a paradox here: A/C requires electricity, which requires burning of fossil fuels, which warms the air, increasing the need for more air conditioning. Not sure how we (easily) break this cycle. Here's an excerpt of an article from courier-journal.com: "The installation of air conditioning in American homes reduced the chances of dying on an extremely hot day by 80 percent over the past half-century, according to an analysis by a team of American researchers.The findings, based on an analysis of U.S. mortality records dating back to 1900, suggest the spread of air conditioning in the developing world could play a major role in preventing future heat-related deaths linked to climate change. Very few U.S. homes had air conditioning before 1960; by 2004, that figure had climbed to 85 percent..." (Photo: NOAA).

Minnehaha Falls, Like You've Never Seen It Before. This is one of the benefits (?) of a cold wave, one of the more remarkable photos I've seen recently. Details from Neatorama: "Minneapolis-based photographer Matt Sepeta captured this image of the frozen Minnehaha Falls. Located in a Minneapolis park, Minnehaha Falls are near the point where the Mississippi River and Minnehaha Creek converge."

1. Our phones are becoming our remote controls for life. If we have a need for it in our daily lives, there should and will be an icon and app for it on our phone. It’s as simple as that. Our phones are our emergency kit for first-world problems. Whether it’s a taxi or a ride in the rain (Uber, Lyft), a mechanic (YourMechanic), a doctor’s appointment (ZocDoc), the literal remote control (AppleTV), a personal assistant (Exec), a cake-baker (Zaarly), groceries (Instacart), or you’re getting a little chilly and want the temperature in the house turned up (Nest), our phones are the concierge. I expect this phenomenon to continue in 2013 and as we run into times in our daily lives when we don’t have an icon for it just yet. Someone will be working hard to create it..."
Paul's Conservation Minnesota Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota

TODAY: Coating of flurries, a few slick spots. Winds: SW 10. High: 22

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Flurries taper, turning colder. Low: 10

THURSDAY: Sunny and colder again. High: 14

FRIDAY: Sunny. Grilling weather! Low: 8. High: 31

SATURDAY: More clouds, cooler breeze. Low: 14. High: 25

SUNDAY: Some sun, not quite as chilly. Low: 12. High: 28

MONDAY: Intervals of sun, risk of a thaw. Low: 18. High: 33

TUESDAY: Sunny peeks. Above average temperatures. Low: 20. High: 32

Climate Stories...

Top Climate Stories of 2012. Here's a look at a Greg Laden post at scienceblogs.com: "A group of us, all interested in climate science, put together a list of the most notable, often, most worrying, climate-related stories of the year, along with a few links that will allow you to explore the stories in more detail. We did not try to make this a “top ten” list, because it is rather silly to fit the news, or the science, or the stuff the Earth does in a given year into an arbitrary number of events...."

1 Super Storm Sandy

"Super Storm Sandy, a hybrid of Hurricane Sandy (and very much a true hurricane up to and beyond its landfall in the Greater New York/New Jersey area) was an important event for several reasons. First, the size and strength of the storm bore the hallmarks of global warming enhancement. Second, its very unusual trajectory was caused by a climatic configuration that was almost certainly the result of global warming. The storm would likely not have been as big and powerful as it was, nor would it have likely struck land where it did were it not for the extra greenhouse gasses released by humans over the last century and a half or so...."

Top 10 Warmest Global Temperatures. Here are more details from Global Warming: Man or Myth?: "20 of the warmest years on record have occurred in the past 25 years. The warmest years globally are 2005 with the years 2009, 2007, 2006, 2003, 2002, and 1998 all tied for 2nd within statistical certainty. (Hansen et al., 2010) The warmest decade has been the 2000s, and each of the past three decades has been warmer than the decade before and each set records at their end. The odds of this being a natural occurrence are estimated to be one in a billion! (Schmidt and Wolfe, 2009)."

Will The West Survive? Just looking at the trends - it's going to become even more challenging living in water-challenged western cities from Denver to Las Vegas and Phoenix, even Los Angeles. Here's an excerpt of an eye-opening article at Men's Journal: "This year, summer came on like a grudge, with record-breaking heat, inescapable drought, and the sense that the effects of climate change had arrived – and that life in America's mythic frontier might never be the same. Something looked off when I landed at Denver International Airport this past August. It had been about four years since my last visit, and I couldn't immediately put my finger on what was up. I bought a coffee, glanced at the 'Denver Post,' and wandered out into the main terminal, with its silly bedouin design, the domed white ceiling looking as flimsy and tarplike as ever. It wasn't until I was outside, riding in the shuttle bus to my rental car, that it struck me what had changed: The Rocky Mountains had vanished..."

The Windowless Room Of The Current Event. One problem many people have with MSM (mainstream media) is a collective amnesia, an inability to connect the dots and look at the big picture. Not what it is, but what it MEANS. Bill Moyer's web site takes a look at the media's inability to see the bigger picture with climate change in this post; here's an excerpt: "...Or take quite a different subject: climate change. These days — despite the 2012 presidential campaign’s silence on the subject until Frankenstorm Sandy hit — “extreme weather,” as the TV news generally likes to call it, is regularly headlined. Increasingly often, there is at least passing mention of, or even discussion of, climate change in some of these stories. Again, though, what’s generally striking in mainstream reportage is the way the dots aren’t connected. The issue is less what isn’t reported, than what isn’t included. After all, this year in American weather has been extraordinary. A partial list of the most salient events would include: the parching of the Southwest, as well as record wildfires, sometimes of staggering proportions in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and across the West; the heat records that made 2012 an “endless summer” and is just about sure to make it the hottest year in the continental U.S. since records began being kept; the devastating drought across the Midwestern bread (or corn) basket and parts of the South, which for many months had 60-65 percent of the country in its grip (and shows no sign of going away this winter) — with damage running into the many tens of billions of dollars; and, of course, the way Sandy, that gigantic storm passing over the heated waters of the Atlantic, surged into New York City and ravaged the New Jersey coast, causing widespread devastation and tens of billions of dollars in damage (while putting climate change back onto the political map)...."

Global Warming Research Eyes "Runaway" Ice Melt. Here's an excerpt from The Summit County Citizens Voice: "Most climate models are probably underestimating the rate of sea level rise expected during the next few decades, according to some of the latest research that tries to quantify how much ice may melt off the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets. A Dec. 26 update by James Hansen and Makiko Sato warns that melting of those ice sheets could increase sea level rise exponentially higher than most existing forecasts, potentially inundating coastal cities around the world with several feet of water by the end of the century. The short paper discusses the linearity assumptions in most existing climate models and suggests that, if greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, “the climate forcing will be so large that non-linear ice sheet disintegration should be expected and multi- meter sea level rise not only possible but likely.”..."

Photo credit above: "Will there be runaway ice sheet melting?" Bob Berwyn photo.

No comments:

Post a Comment