Sunday, February 10, 2013

Slushy, Slick Commute (did climate change make New England blizzard worse?)

34 F. high in the Twin Cities Sunday.
27 F. average high on February 10.
28 F. high on February 10, 2012.

1.8" snow fell at MSP International as of 7pm yesterday.
.46" total precipitation fell yesterday as of 7pm. It was a mix of rain, sleet and snow. Had it been all snow totals in the Twin Cities would have been closer to 4-5".

5" snow on the ground at KMSP yesterday evening, 6" reported in Chanhassen.

Looks Like Winter

Hamden, Connecticut picked up an eye-watering 40 inches of snow from Saturday's blizzard. It was a record snow for Portland, Maine (31.9); the 5th snowiest ever recorded in Boston (24.9). These extreme snows are possible if a) you live near an ocean, a major water source, or b) a blocking pattern causes storms to temporarily stall (1991 Halloween Superstorm).

Scientists report that winters are trending shorter in general, but the storms that do spin up are producing more rain and more snow. Why? Warmer air holds more water vapor; warmer sea surface temperatures pack more potential fuel for extreme coastal storms.

With yesterday's snow burst we've picked up roughly 30 inches inches in the metro; twice what we saw last winter. Is the drought over? No. Most of the snow in your yard won't be able to soak into the (frozen) ground. Big, wet storms in early spring may set the tone for 2013. Will this be a drought year, or a tornado year? Too early to know.

No big storms are brewing close to home. Another clipper yanks chilly air into Minnesota by late week. But a higher sun angle is making a difference now. You won't be nearly as numb as you were weeks ago.

Faint whispers of spring.

How Much Fell? If I had issued a forecast of 1-9" snow back on Friday the men with the little white jackets would have come to take me to the Home For Wayward Weathermen. But that's pretty much what happened: 1" at New Brighton, as much as 8.5" at St. Augusta in Stearns County. Over 3" fell in the western suburbs, but most spots in the metro picked up 1-3", as rain and sleet mixed in with the snow. More of a Marchlike slopstorm. Details at the local National Weather Service.

Late Week Chill - But Not Arctic. Here is this week's meteogram, showing a slight thaw by midweek, and then a cold surge behind a Thursday clipper. Highs may hold in the teens Friday into Sunday, maybe one night dipping near or just below zero. Piece of cake. Graph: Iowa State.

Extended outlook. The latter half of February looks seasonably chilly. No more polar airmasses in sight (I still believe the coldest air of winter is behind us now). No big southern storms are brewing either, a series of clippers capable of an inch here, and inch there. Fairly quiet.

31.9" snow at Portland, Maine. This breaks the old record of 27.1" set on January 17-18, 1979. This makes it the greatest snowstorm on record at Portland, Maine. Source: Gray, Maine office of the National Weather Service.

* photo above showing waist-deep drifts in Glenburn, Maine - courtesy of Angie Whittington and WeatherNation TV.

40" snow reported at Hamden, Connecticut, 34" at New Haven.

* State of Emergency in effect for the entire state of Connecticut. AP photo above.
* 20-30" snowfall reports from Connecticut to Maine.
* New York City misses the worst of the blizzard (8-12" reported), but 20-24"+ over Long Island. Suffolk County hit very hard.
* 700,000 residents without power at the height of the storm.

* Winds gusted to hurricane force from coastal Connecticut (82 mph Westport) to Massachusetts and Maine, resulting in considerable flooding and beach erosion. Map: WeatherNation TV.

How Much Fell. As expected, New York City was on the southwestern edge of the most extreme snow bands, with generally 8-12" reported. Over 20" piled up on Long Island, as much as 30" from Connecticut to Portland Maine, according to NOAA.

Record-Breaking. The weekend blizzard produced the greatest amount of snow ever recorded in Portland (31.9") - the fifth heaviest snowfall for Boston, with 24.9" reported.

Monday Rain Event. The next system moving in tomorrow will bring a cold rain to much of the Northeast, accelerating snow melt, possibly resulting in minor flooding of intersections and poor-drainage areas (still clogged with snow). Expect a slushy, sloppy mess tomorrow and 2-5X commute times. ECMWF map above valid midday Monday courtesy of WSI.
More Fingerprints. Some say that no storm or event can be attributed to a warmer atmosphere or warmer sea surface temperatures, but here's the scientific reality: climate change is flavoring all weather now. Winters are shorter, nationwide, but the storms that do spin up have a higher probability of being extreme. Why? Warmer air holds more water vapor, increasing the potential fuel for extreme snowfall events. It was just 2 years ago much of the East Coast endured "Snowmageddon". This blizzard was another marker, evidence of our increasingly super-sized, weather-on-steroids environment. NOAA data shows water temperatures from the Carolinas to southern New England as much as 3-7 F. warmer than the 1980-2010 averages on February 7. Alarmist hype? I respond to data, not ideology, and what I've witnessed on the weather maps since the late 1990s leads me to believe that our weather patterns are, in fact, becoming more extreme over time. Forecasters are witnessing increased frequency and intensity of weather extremes, worldwide. Climate theory has become a meteorological reality. Here are more details in an article I wrote for Bloomberg.

Outlook. Much colder air will push into the Northeast in roughly 1 week. No more blizzards or severe outbreaks for the USA looking out one week.

Snowbound. Stephanie from Hyannis, Massachusetts shared this photo of a small tree down on their minivan, after 18-24" snow and 60 mph. wind gusts. She explained that her family had to crawl out of a window to get outside - there was too much snow blocking the front door!

Next Time Your Mom Says Don't Go Out In The Rain Spray Yourself With This. Nanotechnology? Robert Krulwich has an amazing article (and video) at NPR: "OK, this is an ad. I can't vouch for it. I'm almost embarrassed to be showing it to you. But you have to take a look. When I saw it yesterday, I had to pick my jaw off the floor. This product, called "Ultra Ever Dry" is a nano-tech coating you can spray on any number of different surfaces, shoes, cinder blocks, coats. (Your hands? Probably not.) It's superhydrophobic (it repels water) and oleophobic (repels hydrocarbons) — but words don't do it justice..."

Future TV Meteorologist. If you haven't checked out this video - you should. This kid has serious talent. Details (and video) courtesy of "Even if you've been overwhelmed with weather reports in the past 24 hours, here's one you don't want to miss. Not because it contains vital information ahead of a storm, but because it's simply adorable and hilarious. Watch as 9-year-old William Hallman helps deliver the forecast for NBC affiliate station KVLY in Fargo, ND..."

Sloppy Sunday. Yes, the snow was really coming down for a few hours yesterday, especially northern and western suburbs, where some 2-5" amounts were reported. But a layer of warmer air aloft meant a sloppy mix, even a few hours of rain and freezing rain, keeping snowfall totals lower, especially southern and eastern suburbs. St. Cloud picked up 6.5" of snow yesterday, a cool foot on the ground.

Creative Use Of A Blizzard. From an anonymous source on Facebook. Nice.

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

TODAY: Flurries taper, strong winds. NW 20-35. High: 27

MONDAY NIGHT: Clearing and chilly. Low: 10

TUESDAY: Blue sky, less wind. High: 29

WEDNESDAY: Sun fades, a bit milder. Wake-up: 17. High: 32

THURSDAY: Next clipper, few flakes. Wake-up: 22. High: 29

FRIDAY: Some sun, cold wind. Wake-up: 7. High: 18

SATURDAY: Partly sunny, still brisk. Wake-up: 2. High: 14

SUNDAY: Fading sun, temps. mellow a bit. Wake-up: 5. High: 25

Climate Stories...

Climate Change is Real. Graph courtesy of

A friend and climate scientist, Jeff Nesbit, posted a long list of links proving that it's not business as usual with weather (or climate). Below is the Twitter flurry that got this started:

Jeff Nesbit
Record snow in a warming world? The climate science is



David Housholder
@jeffnesbit Dude. Weather is complex. Climate has never been stable. Can you name a more random set of data?
@LibertyHous Yes, weather is complex. So is God. Scientists, and theologians, study complex sets of data in order to understand patterns.
@LibertyHous Let's start. Pattern #1. 13,950 climate science studies in past 20 years. Only 24 deny a CO2 connection. 
@LibertyHous Pattern #2. NASA satellites 2003-2010 show 1,000 cubic miles (4.3 trillion tons) of ice melt worldwide. 
@LibertyHous More Pattern #2. 1K cubic miles of ice lost in last 10 years caused half inch of global sea level rise. 
@LibertyHous More Pattern #2. 1K cubic miles of ice lost in 10 years is enough ice to cover the U.S. 1.5 feet deep. 
@LibertyHous Pattern #3. 1,700 different species worldwide migrating either north or south to avoid global warming. 
@LibertyHous Pattern #4. Keeling curve shows atmospheric CO2 growth rate has more than doubled annually since 1950.http:// 
@LibertyHous Pattern #5. Arctic ice volume minimums drop 75% since 1986, on track for ice-free summers by 2020. 
@LibertyHous Pattern #6. Greenland's ice sheet ability to reflect sun (albedo effect) dropped every year since 2000. 
@LibertyHous Pattern #7. Atmospheric methane (another GHG) two and a half times pre-Industrial Revolution levels. 
@LibertyHous Pattern #8. The number of dry areas in the world doubled in the last 50 years due to climate change. 
@LibertyHous Pattern #9. Total number of floods (due to more climate-driven precipitation) has tripled in 15 years. 
@LibertyHous Pattern #10. Record high temperatures in the U.S. are now twice that of record lows. 
@LibertyHous Pattern #11. Seven times more wildfires in western U.S. greater than 10,000 acres compared to 1970s. 
@LibertyHous Pattern #12. The number of climate-driven natural catastrophes has doubled in the past 30 years. 
@LibertyHous. Pattern #13. 20 warmest years occurred since 1981; all 10 of the warmest years in the past 12 years. 
@LibertyHous Pattern #14. Rate of global sea level rise in past decade double that of the past century. 
@LibertyHous Pattern #15. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, ocean acidification increased 30 percent. 
@LibertyHous Pattern #16. Extremely hot temps covered 0.2 percent of the planet in 1951; extreme temps now cover 10%.

Climate Change And The Blizzard: Nor'easters More Fierce With Global Warming, Scientists Say. Did warmer sea surface temperatures (and thus the availability of more water vapor) turbocharge the blizzard? Professional climate science deniers scoff at the idea, but there's sound science to back up the claim. Here's an excerpt from Huffington Post: "Climate change may or may not have helped generate the nor'easter lashing the East Coast this weekend. Such storms happen with some regularity, after all. But the amount of snow the storm called "Nemo" ultimately dumps, and the extent of flood damage it leaves in its wake, may well have ties to global warming, climate scientists suggested. Michael Mann, a climatologist who directs the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, compared a major storm like Nemo -- or Hurricane Irene or Superstorm Sandy, for that matter -- to a basketball slam-dunk with a lower net. "If you take the basketball court and raise it a foot, you're going to see more slam-dunks," Mann said. "Not every dunk is due to raising the floor, but you'll start seeing them happen more often then they ought to..."

Climate Change Is Serving Up Doses Of Extreme Weather. Even In Winter. It's basic physics: warmer air holds more water vapor, more potential fuel for major rainstorms (and snowstorms). If we reach the point where it's too warm for midwinter snows from Minnesota to New England it's game over; we're truly living on a different planet, and no amount of technology, clean energy or political decrees will help. We're not there yet. Here's another perspective from The Daily Climate: "As the Northeast digs out from under a mammoth blizzard, it might seem easy for climate change skeptics to point to such intense storms as evidence that global warming isn't real. They would be wrong. "Climate change contrarians and deniers love to cherry-pick individual events to argue that they are somehow inconsistent with global warming, when they are not," said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University.  "As long as it's cold enough to snow – which it will be in the winter – you potentially will get greater snowfalls...."

Photo credit above: "Snow blankets Boston on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. Heavier winter storms fit a pattern predicted by climate scientists as the world warms." Photo by Christopher Petroff/flickr.

Study: Global Warming Causes Most Monthly Heat Records Today. Here's a clip from a story at Think Progress and Skeptical Science: "A new paper published in Climatic Change by Coumou, Robinson, and Rahmstorf (CRR13) examines the increased frequency of record-breaking monthly temperature records over the past 130 years, finding that these records are now five times more likely to occur due to global warming, with much more to come“..worldwide, the number of local record-breaking monthly temperature extremes is now on average five times larger than expected in a climate with no long-term warming. This implies that on average there is an 80% chance that a new monthly heat record is due to climatic change … Under a medium global warming scenario, by the 2040s we predict the number of monthly heat records globally to be more than 12 times as high as in a climate with no long-term warming...”

Graphic credit above: "Observed record ratio (the increase in the number of heat records compared to those expected in a world without global warming) for monthly heat records as it changes over time (thin red line is annual data, thick red line smoothed with half-width 5 years). This is compared with predictions from a simple stochastic model based only on the global mean temperature evolution (blue line with uncertainty band directly comparable to the smoothed red curve)"

Global Warming Brings Severe Rainstorms. No, when it does rain, it's not falling as gently as it did for our grandparents. Here's an excerpt from "Extreme rainfall events are becoming more and more commmon across the globe as climate change brings higher temperatures, researchers say. The University of Adelaide team looked at extreme rainfall and atmospheric temperatures at more than 8,000 weather gauging stations around the world between 1900 and 2009. "The results are that rainfall extremes are increasing on average globally. They show that there is a seven percent increase in extreme rainfall intensity for every degree increase in global atmospheric temperature," says Dr Seth Westra. "Assuming an increase in global average temperature by three to five degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century, this could mean very substantial increases in rainfall intensity as a result of climate change..."

See The Trailer. The movie comes out next month (no, Al Gore has nothing to do with this one). The thrust of the movie: the Koch brothers and other key fossil fuel companies have trillions of dollars on the line - so there is incentive to push back on climate science, and do (or say) anything to create doubt and confusion about what's really going on. I'm keeping an open mind - but right now it appears that the uptick in severe storms, more persistent droughts and rising sea levels is probably a symptom of greenhouse gas levels approaching 400 ppm (parts per million) in the atmosphere, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels. A natural cycle? Over the eons greenhouse levels have fluctuated between 180 and 280 ppm. No. This is not a natural cycle.

Climate Change Means More Fires, Insects In Forests, USDA Warns. Here's a clip from "Big changes are in store for the nation’s forests as global climate change increases wildfires and insect infestations, and generates more frequent floods and droughts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture warns in a report released Tuesday. The compilation of more than 1,000 scientific studies is part of the National Climate Assessment and will serve as a roadmap for managing national forests across the country in coming years. It says the area burned by wildfires is expected to at least double over the next 25 years, and insect infestations often will affect more land per year than fires..." (file photo courtesy of the Grand Junction, CO office of the National Weather Service).

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