Saturday, November 8, 2014

Foot of Snow Not Out Of The Question by Tuesday

43 F. high in the Twin Cities Saturday.
46 F. average high on November 8.
47 F. high on November 8, 2013.

No snow reported at MSP International Airport as of November 8.

November 8 in Minnesota Weather History:

2003: Parts of west central and north central Minnesota received anywhere from 2 to 6 inches of new snow. Canby had the most at 6 inches and Benson measured 5 inches.
1977: A foot of snow falls in Western Minnesota. I-94 is tied up.
1850: The sky darkened at Ft. Snelling due to prairie fires.


I just staked my driveway, checked the inflation of my tires, threw an ice-scraper in the trunk. Here we go. September was pleasant, much of October was a dream. Now we skip 2 months and head right to January.

Sadly, I'm not exaggerating. The next two weeks will run 20-30F colder than average: a giant ice cream scoop of polar pain making a few passes at the USA - each jolt of cold air spinning up a new storm.

And the rumors are true: it's going to snow tomorrow. The air and ground will be cold enough for that snow to stick. Traffic may be a mess by afternoon. A plowable snowfall is likely; my concern is will it be 5 inches, or closer to a foot? A wave of low pressure passes south of Minnesota, throwing up a long-duration shield of light to moderate snow Monday morning into Tuesday morning.

Models consistently show an enhanced band of heavier snow with 6 to 12 inch snowfall totals possible over central Minnesota, even in the MSP metro. The first snow of the season is always memorable; this one should be a doozy.

Highs in the 20s, even a subzero low by next week? The maps do look bitter for the eastern USA, vaguely similar to last winter's pattern.

Don't assume the worst. Not yet.

Model Ensemble Spread. The heaviest snow band may set up just north of the Twin Cities, but models are converging around 5-8" for the Twin Cities, possibly more for the far northern suburbs depending on the final storm track. Graphic: Iowa State.

Model Creep. So much data, so litte wisdom. Which model do you believe, and why? We now have scores of weather models to browse, each simulation running slightly different initiatlization parameters and physics. In a perfect world all the models agree. This rarely happens. When models converge on a specific number our confidence level goes up, and as of late Saturday night the ensemble mean was close to 10". That number could still verify, especially far northern suburbs.

Accumulated Snowfall Potential. You can see the band of moderate to heavy rain pushing across the eastern Dakotas into central Minnesota Monday. A difference of 50 miles in the storm track could make the difference between 4-5" in the Twin Cities or a cool foot. At this point it looks plowable for the Twin Cities, where a period of ice may keep amounts down a bit on Monday. The best chance of 6, 8 or 10" may come over the north metro. 4 km NAM guidance: NOAA and HAMweather.

When A Forecast of 6-12" is Conservative. Check out the 00z NAM numbers from NOAA, a total of 1.53" liquid by midday Tuesday, all of it falling as snow. No mix, no changeover to ice or rain to keep snowfall amounts down. Could the storm take a more northerly track, pushing the heaviest snow bands into St. Cloud? Absolutely. But as of now there's a very real chance of some 8-14" amounts across the metro from Monday into midday Tuesday. Then it's going to get abnormally cold. Other than that, not much to talk about.

Son of Polar Vortex. The pattern looking out into the third week of November does bring back some scream-worthy memories of last winter. Not quite as harsh or extreme as January of 2014, but temperatures will be as much as 20-30F colder than average the latter half of this week and much of next week, while abnormally warm air swirls around the Arctic Circle. Very odd.

Image above obtained using Climate Reanalyzer (, Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, USA.

"Deadliest Catch" Fishing Boats To Ride Out Killer Storm. Typhoon Nuri was a Category 5 Super Typhoon. It has lost all tropical characteristics, but it promises to kick up 50 foot seas and hurricane-force winds off the coast of Alaska. The Bering Straight will be a tough place to ride out what may turn into an historic storm; here's an excerpt from Discovery News: "Three Alaskan fishing boats on Discovery Channel's award-winning program "Deadliest Catch" will be riding out a massive Bering Sea storm that is powering hurricane force winds and waves up to 50 feet and forecast to bring unseasonable cold to most of the United States next week. The remnants of Typhoon Nuri is moving northeast from off the Japanese coast and is mixing with cold air and the Jet Stream. It could arrive Saturday before weakening in the Bering Sea, the National Weather Service (NSW) said..."

Melting Arctic Sea Ice Doubles The Chances of Harsh Winters In Other Parts of the World. Public Radio International had a very interesting interview on a subject that may be relevant and timely; here's an excerpt: "...In its simplest terms, she says, when sea ice melts, the dark ocean underneath absorbs much more energy from the sun during the summer, which warms the water more than usual. When fall arrives and cold air moves in again, all the energy stored in the water gets released into the atmosphere, which, in turn, causes the air above the water to warm up more than usual. This warming has the effect of pushing the jet stream northward. The jet stream is a fast-moving river of air high in the atmosphere that generates the weather we experience at the Earth's surface..." (Image: NOAA Photo Library).

October 2014 Weather Recap. Here's an excerpt from the Minnesota DNR's Hydroclim Update: "...
  • October precipitation totals were generally below-normal across most of Minnesota. Monthly rainfall totals fell short of historical averages by one to two inches in most locations. Areas of relative wetness were reported in some southeast Minnesota counties where October rainfall totals topped historical averages by an inch or more.
    [see: October 2014 Precipitation Map  |  October 2014 Precipitation Departure Map  | October 2014 Climate Summary Table]
  • Average monthly temperatures for October in Minnesota were near, to slightly above, historical averages. Cool temperatures early in the month were counterbalanced by a late-month warm spell..."

Why Sand Is Disappearing. Here's a snippet of an Op-Ed at The New York Times that got my attention: "...Today, however, 75 to 90 percent of the world’s natural sand beaches are disappearing, due partly to rising sea levels and increased storm action, but also to massive erosion caused by the human development of shores. Many low-lying barrier islands are already submerged. Yet the extent of this global crisis is obscured because so-called beach nourishment projects attempt to hold sand in place and repair the damage by the time summer people return, creating the illusion of an eternal shore..."

Sandy file photo: Mike Groll, AP.

The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase's Worst Nightmare. Here's an excerpt of a fascinating story of greed, courage and redemption at Rolling Stone: "...Fleischmann is the central witness in one of the biggest cases of white-collar crime in American history, possessing secrets that JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon late last year paid $9 billion (not $13 billion as regularly reported – more on that later) to keep the public from hearing. Back in 2006, as a deal manager at the gigantic bank, Fleischmann first witnessed, then tried to stop, what she describes as "massive criminal securities fraud" in the bank's mortgage operations..."

Photo credit above: Andrew Querner.  "Chase whistle-blower Alayne Fleischmann risked it all."

TODAY: Fading sun, no travel problems. Winds: NW 10. High: 39
SUNDAY NIGHT: Cloudy with light snow spreading into western Minnesota. Low: 29
MONDAY: Winter Storm Watch. Snow gets heavier. PM traffic mess. High: 32
TUESDAY: Treacherous travel. Snow slowly tapers, band of 6-12" close to MSP? Wake-up: 26. High: 28
WEDNESDAY: Scrappy clouds. Roads still icy. Wake-up: 8. High: 25
THURSDAY: Average for mid-January. Nippy. Wake-up: 10. High: 27
FRIDAY: Partly sunny, feels like 10F. Wake-up: 8. High: 25
SATURDAY: Light snow develops. Few inches? Wake-up: 13. High: 28

Climate Stories...

Conservatives Don't Hate Climate Change; They Hate The Proposed Solutions: Study. Huffington Post has the story; here's the intro: "Conservatives who reject the science of climate change aren't necessarily reacting to the science, according to a new study from researchers at Duke University. They're reacting to the fact that they don't like proposed solutions more strongly identified with liberals. The paper looks at the relationship between political ideology and rejection of scientific evidence. The researchers look most closely at climate change and other environmental challenges, an area where those who identify as liberals or Democrats mostly accept scientific conclusions while conservatives or Republicans largely reject them. The researchers conclude that on climate and other important societal issues, this denial is "rooted not in a fear of the general problem, per se, but rather in fear of the specific solutions associated with that problem..."

Climate Conflict Is Near, Admiral Warns. U-T San Diego has the story; here's an excerpt: "...But land, fresh water and other essentials are at risk from the projected effects of climate change, he said. The U.S. will see conflicts over those assets unless we convert to clean energy, curb waste and prepare for long-term challenges, he said. “Sea level is rising, population is exploding, climates are changing, environments are being affected, and the potential for a secure and prosperous 21st century is at risk if we don’t start making some plans for opportunities that are not secured in the next quarter’s return on investment and the next election,” Hering said in an interview in advance of his presentation. “We need to make investments for our grandchildren...” (Image: NOAA).

I Was Once A Climate Change Denier. Salon traces the chronology of one skeptic as he went from denying to ultimately accepting the science; here's a clip: "...As time went on, I was exposed to more and more evidence in support of climate change that I could no longer deny. I had no choice but to adapt my theory and finally admit to some sort of climate change. “OK, it may be happening, but how can you tell if it’s our fault? We lack a control Earth!” To back myself up, I clung to a variety of fringe arguments: “It’s the sun!” or “We can’t trust the measurements!” or “It has happened before! It’s normal!” and so on. (You can find a long list of common climate change myths debunked here and a shorter version here. Right now the list counts up to 176. New ones are added often.)..."

Denying Problems When We Don't Like The Solutions. Here's an excerpt of a story at Duke University highlighting and confirming what many of us already suspect: "...A new study from Duke University finds that people will evaluate scientific evidence based on whether they view its policy implications as politically desirable. If they don't, then they tend to deny the problem even exists. “Logically, the proposed solution to a problem, such as an increase in government regulation or an extension of the free market, should not influence one’s belief in the problem. However, we find it does,” said co-author Troy Campbell, a Ph.D. candidate at Duke's Fuqua School of Business. “The cure can be more immediately threatening than the problem...”

Report on Second Annual Climate Adaptation Conference. This conference was held Thursday at the Hyatt in Minneapolis; I was very encouraged to see the turn-out, the variety of participants across multiple fields and the focus on finding solutions to adapt to a more volatile climate. Here's an excerpt of a summary from one of the conferences organizers, Dr. Mark Seeley, in his weekly WeatherTalk Newsletter: "...Highlights: Dr. Harold Brooks-NOAA Severe Storms Lab, Oklahoma lecturing on severe weather and climate change;

-Climate trends are clearly showing greater variability in some severe weather elements, including heavier rains, cluster outbreaks of tornadoes, more large hail, and seasonal changes in peak risk periods for hail, strong winds, and tornadoes. Peak season for heavy rainfall has shifted to August in our region.

-More research with reanalysis of upper air data and high resolution climate model outputs will be useful in further delineating the future risk of specific severe weather elements over finer scale geography.

-Climate trends are effecting recreation and tourism in terms of number of visitors and seasonal use and activity, e.g. northern MN more stable environment for winter recreation (skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing); Mississippi River accessibility for educational programs has recently been restricted due to many high flow periods..."

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