Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tough Sledding - Beige Christmas - Numbing New Year

20 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday.
26 F. average high on December 17.
33 F. high on December 17, 2013.

December 18, 1922: Heat wave across southern Minnesota. Temperatures rose into the 60's at New Ulm and St. Peter.
December 18, 1917: Milaca had its fifty-ninth consecutive day with no precipitation.

Tough Sledding

Abe Lincoln was right - it's impossible pleasing all the people all the time. Don't even bother trying. Good news for commuters is a tough sell for skiers and anyone trying to fire up a snowmobile.
At a recent Christmas party a friend pulled me aside. "Paul, what are the local TV meteorologists thinking? They're calling green lawns, fog and 50 degrees in December good news. This is NOT what Minnesota is supposed to look like in late December. Where's the snow? Stop the insanity!"

I feel your pain, Jim.

El Nino tends to detour the biggest Pacific storms south and east of Minnesota. El Nino winters are usually stormier than average from Los Angeles, Dallas, and Atlanta to New York and Boston - but drier/milder/quieter for much of the Upper Midwest. El Nino is still kicking in, and I'm seeing early symptoms on the weather maps.

The whopping inch of snow in your yard will probably melt over the weekend with highs in the 30s; a rain/snow mix on Monday - but no major storms in sight here, just a much colder surge in about 8 days.

St. Thomas climate scientist John Abraham predicts 2014 will be the warmest year, worldwide, on record; even warmer than 1998, 2005 and 2010.

* Photo above: Mike Hall.

Weekend Thaw. Temperatures climb into the mid 20s today to near freezing tomorrow, but we should see 3-4 days with temperatures (mostly) above 32F from Saturday into Tuesday of next week. A light mix Monday gives way to light snow and flurries Tuesday into Christmas Eve. White Christmas? We'll be lucky to have an inch of snow on the ground by next Thursday.

60-Hour Accumulated Precipitation. A streak of light snow pushes across Kansas into Missouri today, while the next sloppy front pushes onto the west coast, sparking more (minor) flooding problems across California. Animation: NOAA and HAMweather.

A Numbing New Year? Our westerly wind flow aloft takes a turn to the northwest by the end of 2014, setting the stage for a spell of days in the teens and single digits, nights dipping below zero. Historically January is the coldest month of the year, and 2015 will probably be no exception. Graphic: GrADS:COLA/IGES.

Reality Check. GFS numbers show highs in the teens and single digits the last few days of December, spilling over into the first week of January. Not exactly polar-vortex-cold, but it should get our attention.

2014 Will Be The Hottest Year On Record. This news comes from Dr. John Abraham, a climate scientist at St. Thomas, via a story at The Guardian. Here's the intro: "For those of us fixated on whether 2014 will be the hottest year on record, the results are in. At least, we know enough that we can make the call. According the global data from NOAA, 2014 will be the hottest year ever recorded. I can make this pronouncement even before the end of the year because each month, I collect daily global average temperatures. So far, December is running about 0.5°C above the average..."

The Scientific Way To Stay Warm This Winter. Mashable has an interesting article with some good tips; here's a clip that made me realize how little I know about staying warm: "...Being well-fed — meaning consuming more calories than you're burning — will help your body handle the cold better, according to Greenway. "It always helps to be well-fed in the backcountry when it's cold," he said. "This is all-important, to keep your blood sugar up enough to provide the energy you need to keep warm in a cold situation." Staying hydrated is also key, Greenway said. "Your body will tolerate the cold much better if food and water balance are maintained..."

Hotter Ocean Waters Give Typhoons A Boost. Scientific American has the story - here's an excerpt: "Also rare for the Atlantic would be the five Category 5-strength storms that have spun up in the West Pacific this year, the most in that basin since the 10 seen in 1997, according to Steven Bowen, an associate director and meteorologist with the reinsurance group Aon Benfield. The record for Category 5 storms in a single season in the Atlantic is only four, which has only happened once, during the blockbuster 2005 season. The West Pacific, on the other hand, has averaged about three Category 5 storms a season since 2000, Bowen said..."

National Hurricane Center to Issue New Storm Surge Watches and Warnings in 2015. Here's a clip from a story at The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang: "...A hurricane’s surge — or ocean water inundation onto land — is the product of a number of variables, including the storm’s wind speed and direction, minimum central pressure, and the shape of the shoreline and ocean floor right off the coast. All of these factors come together to create a unique storm surge in every hurricane landfall. And historically, storm surge has been the biggest tropical cyclone killer around the world..."

Map credit above: "A prototype of the new hurricane storm surge watch and warning graphic to be issued by the National Hurricane Center beginning in 2015. Red indicates areas under a storm surge warning, and orange indicates areas under a storm surge watch." (NOAA/NHC).

Hurricane-Forecast Satellites Will Keep Close Eye on Tropics. A new constellation of microwave-oven-size satellites in low-Earth orbit will look for signs of rapid intensification with tropical systems and help meteorologists get a jump on storms that are strengthening rapidly. Here's an excerpt from The University of Michigan: "...Conventional weather satellites only cross over the same point once or twice a day. Meteorologists can use ground-based Doppler radar to help them make predictions about storms near land, but hurricanes, which form over the open ocean, present a tougher problem. "The rapid refresh CYGNSS will offer is a key element of how we'll be able to improve hurricane forecasts," said CYGNSS lead investigator Christopher Ruf, director of the U-M Space Physics Research Lab and professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences. "CYGNSS gets us the ability to measure things that change fast, like extreme weather..."

Graphic credit above: "A set of eight satellites - each abou tthe size of a microwave oven - will launch in 2016 and provide scientists unprecedented information about the formation and evolution of hurricanes." Image credit: Aaron Ridley.

Inside Beijing's "Airpocalypse" - A City Made "Almost Uninhabitable" By Pollution. This is what happens when there's no EPA-like entity to keep polluters in check, something  you might see in a dystopian science fiction movie, as documented by The Guardian: "...Beijing’s air quality has long been a cause of concern, but the effects of its extreme levels of pollution on daily life can now be seen in physical changes to the architecture of the city. Buildings and spaces are being reconfigured and daily routines modified to allow normal life to go on beneath the toxic shroud. Paper face masks have been common here for a long time, but now the heavy-duty kind with purifying canister filters – of the sort you might wear for a day of asbestos removal – are frequently seen on the streets..."

Photo credit above: "A man wearing mask visits Jingshan Park in the haze on February 24, 2014, in Beijing, China. Altogether 1.43 million sq km of China's land territory, nearly 15 percent of the total, have been covered by persistent smog in recent days, according to news report." (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images).

Brazil Olympics: Super-Bacteria Found In Rio Sea Waters. BBC has the not-so-savory details; here's an excerpt: "Researchers in Brazil have discovered drug-resistant bacteria in the sea waters where sailing and windsurfing events will be held during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The "super-bacteria" are usually found in hospital waste and produce an enzyme, KPC, resistant to antibiotics. Researchers found the bacteria in samples taken from Flamengo beach. Nearly 70% of sewage in Rio - a city of some 10 million people - is spilled raw into the waters of Guanabara Bay..."

File photo above: "In this Nov. 19, 2013 file photo, small boats sit on the polluted shore of Guanabara Bay in the suburb of Sao Goncalo, across the bay from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A drug-resistant “super bacteria” that’s normally found in hospitals and is notoriously difficult to treat has been discovered in the waters where Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic sailing events will be held, scientists with Brazil's most respected health research institute said Monday, Dec. 15, 2014." (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File).

Denmark Claims The North Pole? Not to hold Santa hostage, it seems, but for all the oily wealth under the (shrinking) ice cap. Here's an excerpt from Quartz: "...The race for ownership of the North Pole is hotting up. After 12 years and $50 million of research, Denmark has surveyed the 2,000-kilometer-long underwater mountain range that runs north of Siberia and concluded that it is geologically attached to Greenland, the huge autonomous territory that, along with the Faroe Islands, is controlled by Denmark. (Denmark’s broader strategy on the Arctic can be found here. (pdf))..."

Christmas Lights Can Be Seen From Space By NASA Satellites. Good news for Santa. Here's an excerpt from Huffington Post: "It's not just your neighbors who can see your Christmas lights. The combined effect of holiday lights in cities and suburbs is so powerful that the difference from normal lighting conditions can be detected from space. NASA reports that satellite images show certain cities shine between 20 percent and 30 percent brighter during the holiday season. And out in the suburbs, some areas shine as much as 50 percent brighter..."

The Top 10 Things You Can't Have for Christmas 2014. Check out Gizmag's list of decadent options, including a hurricane-proof tent that will make you the envy of your peers during the next BWCA camping trip: "...While it may amount to spare change compared to many of the other items on this list, €4,999.00 (US$6,730) still seems like quite an outlay for a tent. Designed specifically for the Red Bull Storm Chase windsurfing competition, Heimplanet's 10-person Mavericks geodesic inflatable expedition tent can cop winds of up to 112 mph (180 km/h) while campers dance about (read huddle with fear) in its spacious 142 sq ft (13 sq m) interior..."

TODAY: Intervals of sun, light winds. Winds: S 5. High: 25
THURSDAY NIGHT: Patchy clouds, not as cold. Low: 21
FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy and milder. High: 31
SATURDAY: More clouds and fog. PM thaw. Wake-up: 25. High: 34
SUNDAY: Winter solstice. Shortest daylight. Clouds, fog and mist lingers. Wake-up: 30. High: 37
MONDAY: Light mix, mainly wet roads. Wake-up: 32. High: 36
TUESDAY: Light snow, coating to 1 inch? Wake-up: 29. High: 33
CHRISTMAS EVE: Windy with flurries, wind chills dipping into the teens. Wake-up: 27. High: 29

Climate Stories....
Climate Change Driving Fish North, Rutgers Research Shows. Here's a clip from a story at "...Last week, the Rutgers team released data and charts to the public showing more than 60 species and how they migrated over the last 40 years. The average drift northward is 0.7 of a degree latitude, and 15 meters deeper in the water, Pinsky's work found. "We’re seeing a trend of many species shifting northward and shifting deeper," said Malin Pinsky, a marine biologist leading the Rutgers team. “It is a sea change – and it affects fisheries quite a bit...”

Research Eyes Global Warming - Extreme Weather Links. Here's a clip from a story at Summit County Citizens Voice: "...But decision makers need to appreciate the influence of global warming on extreme climate and weather events. “If we look over the last decade in the United States, there have been more than 70 events that have each caused at least $1 billion in damage, and a number of those have been considerably more costly,” said Diffenbaugh. “Understanding whether the probability of those high-impact events has changed can help us to plan for future extreme events, and to value the costs and benefits of avoiding future global warming.”

These Cities Might Be Seeing More Power Outages, Thanks To Climate Change. Warm up the air, warm up the oceans and you wind up with more intense storms with stronger winds capable of bringing down portions of the power grid. Here's a recap of recent research published at Climate Change, highlighted in an article at Huffington Post: "How likely is it that climate change will leave your city in the dark? Researchers at Johns Hopkins University asked just this question, analyzing which cities will be more likely to suffer from hurricane-related power outages in the future. Using historical data and a range of potential future storm scenarios, researchers created a computer model to predict which cities will likely see the greatest increases in power outage risk. Seth Guikema, associate professor at Johns Hopkins and co-author of the report, said in a press release that the information will be able to help cities make plans now to reinforce their systems..." (File photo: AP).

Most Americans Are Clueless About How Climate Change Will Affect Their Health. Here's a snippet from a Grist article that made me do a double-take: "...Even many respondents who recognized that climate change poses health threats didn’t understand which threats were likely to affect American communities in the next 10 years. For example:
  • Allergies? Correct answer: yes. Percent who said yes: 38%
  • Asthma? Correct answer: yes. Percent who said yes: 37%
  • Heat stroke? Correct answer: yes. Percent who said yes: 36%
  • The flu? Correct answer: no. Percent who said yes: 29%
  • Depression? Correct answer: yes. Percent who said yes: 26%
  • Ebola? Correct answer: no. Percent who said yes: 22%..."

Europe's Record Heat Directly Tied To Climate Change. We're still on track for 2014 being the warmest year, worldwide (land and ocean) on record, in spite of a chiller year for Minnesota and much of the eastern USA. Europe had an historically warm, wet year, as documented in this article at Climate Central; here's an excerpt: "As 2014 comes to a close, Europe is virtually certain to lock in its hottest year in more than 500 years, and according to research by three independent teams of climate scientists, the record can be closely attributed to climate change. The three groups, from the UK, the Netherlands and Australia, each using a different method, found that Europe should best its previous heat record set in 2007, and that setting that record has been made at least 35 to 80 times more likely by the manmade rise of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere..."

Graphic credit: "Temperature anomalies across Europe for the year from January-November, as compared to the 1981-2010 average."

Climate Change Plays Major Role In Record European Heat. Here's more background on research demonstrating how climate change loaded the dice in favor of 2014's record warmth across Europe, courtesy of Climate Central.

If You Don't Accept That Climate Change Is Real, You're Not a Skeptic. You're A Denier. Here's an excerpt from a story at Slate: "...Skepticism is all about critical examination, evidence-based scientific inquiry, and the use of reason in examining controversial claims. Those who flatly deny the results of climate science do not partake in any of the above. They base their conclusions on a priori convictions. Theirs is an ideological conviction—the opposite of skepticism..."

Earth's Future? Ancient Warming Gives Ominous Peek at Climate Change. Again, it's the rate of carbon release into the atmosphere that is historic and problematic. Here's an excerpt from a story at NBC News: "...The rate at which carbon was being released leading up to the PETM was pretty close to the rate being released now, which is 20.9 trillion pounds (9.5 petagrams) per year, the researchers found. "We are doing some crazy things with the carbon cycle," Bowen says. "Carbon naturally moves back and forth between rocks and the atmosphere at a steady slow rate. What we are doing by burning fossil fuels is accelerating the pace by about 30 times over the natural rate..."

The Lima Climate Deal Is Largely Voluntary. That May Be Its Biggest Strength. Here's a clip from a story at Vox: "...Victor has long argued that UN negotiators would never be able to impose a climate plan on reluctant countries from on high. Instead, any climate deal should work from the bottom up — start with what countries are actually willing to do and slowly build from there. And that's essentially taken in these latest climate talks. It's not enough to avoid drastic global warming — not yet, at least. But it may be a step forward from past gridlock..."

The New Climate Denialism: More Carbon Dioxide Is A Good Thing. Yes, and while you're at it I'd like an extra serving of mercury and carcinogins, topped off with a tasty sample of plutonium! Never let reality get int he way of a good argument. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "...And though Bezdek is an economist, not a scientist, he played one on Monday — showing a PowerPoint presentation that documented a tree growing faster when exposed to more carbon dioxide. “CO2 increases over the past several decades have increased global greening by about 11 percent,” the consultant said. Higher carbon levels in the atmosphere will boost worldwide agricultural productivity by $10 trillion over the next 35 years, he added..."

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