Saturday, January 31, 2015

Brushed By Snow - Climate Change's Bottom Line for Midwest

28 F. high in the Twin Cities Saturday.
25 F. average high on January 31.
9 F. high on January 31, 2014.
-9 F. morning low on January 31, 2014.

0" snow on the ground at KMSP.

January 31, 1931: Heat wave across southern Minnesota. St. Peter hits 60.

Computer Crutch?

"So Paul, last week's big snowfall bust in New York City, is it because meteorologists have become too dependent on weather models?" Cathy Wurzer asked me on TPT Almanac Friday. Great question.
We do look at scores of models, comparing, looking for agreement. So much noise, so little wisdom. But if it weren't for models weather forecasts beyond 12-24 hours would be difficult; a 7-Day Outlook impossible.

Accuracy is improving 1 percent a year; today's 5-Day forecast roughly as reliable as a 2-Day forecast 30 years ago. But weather is chaotic with huge variations over short distances. When you're on the edge of a storm all bets are off. People want perfection in a very imperfect world. In the end you try to err on the side of caution & public safety.

Welcome to the least snow so deep in a winter in 13 years. January was the driest since 2008 according to Mark Seeley. Today's storm brushes the metro with a coating to an inch or two (southern suburbs); a 6-10 inch coating from Chicago to Boston. Nothing polar is on the way, but temperatures run below average this week. Models (sorry Cathy) hint at a thaw next week. The next chance of snow from a wayward clipper: Saturday, maybe a few inches.

You remember snow right?

Close Call. A cool foot of snow falls from Chicago to Toledo, Detroit and the suburbs of Boston over the next 36 hours. New York City may see a significant ice storm with a few inches of slush; potentially plowable amounts over far southern Minnesota this morning. 4 KM NAM guidance: NOAA and Aeris Weather.

Snowfall Potential. Latest 00z NAM guidance prints out .10" liquid this morning, and with temperatures this cold that could easily be a quick inch or two of accumulation. Roads may be icy into midday with gradual clearing by afternoon. The farther south you travel on I-35 or I-94 the worse travel conditions will become.

Colder, But Nothing Controversial. A few days ago even the ECMWF (Euro) was hinting at a few subzero nights later this week, but Old Man Winter appears to be pulling his punch - a glancing blow of cold air for Minnesota. Colder than average, but not exactly arctic or polar. The best chance of snow comes Saturday from another clipper. Source: Weatherspark.

Extended Numbers. GFS guidance into the second week of February shows 20s and 30s, near or even a few degrees above average. With a predominately Pacific flow blowing a firehose of relatively mild, dry air into the Upper Midwest it'll be tough getting big storms into town; a continuation of our dry bias the next 2 weeks.

Steering Winds by Mid-February. GFS guidance at 500 mb shows a zonal flow for the USA with temperatures trending warmer than average; wet weather for the Pacific Northwest and Gulf Coast by Saturday evening, February 14. Source: GrADS:COLA/IGES.

Driest January Since 2008. Here's a clip from Dr. Mark Seeley's latest installment of Minnesota WeatherTalk: "...Most observers reported a drier than normal month of January.  In fact a number of locations reported less than half of normal precipitation.  On a statewide basis it was the driest January since that of 2008.  For most climate stations the monthly total snowfall was very sparse.  Only a few northern Minnesota locations reported near normal or above normal snowfall for the month..."

Urban Heatwaves Getting Worse, Study Confirms. Yahoo News has the story - here's an excerpt: "Urban heatwaves have become more frequent over the last 40 years, scientists reported on Friday. A weather database of cities around the world reveals "significant" increases in periods of extremely hot days and falls in the number of cold days, they found. Previous research found that, in the four decades covered in the study, man-made global warming stepped up a gear. But, in urban heatwaves, additional factors can play a role, the authors cautioned..."

Poll Shows Giant Gap Between What Public, Scientists Think. In the end this comes down to education and science literacy, according to a story at AP; here's an excerpt: "...The American public and U.S. scientists are light-years apart on science issues. And 98 percent of surveyed scientists say it's a problem that we don't know what they're talking about. Scientists are far less worried about genetically modified food, pesticide use and nuclear power than is the general public, according to matching polls of both the general public and the country's largest general science organization. Scientists were more certain that global warming is caused by man, evolution is real, overpopulation is a danger and mandatory vaccination against childhood diseases is needed..."

Dying To Be Free. If you have a friend or family member with an addiction read this long, but remarkable bit of investigative journalism from Huffington Post. Abstinence simply doesn't work for a majority of people. But there are medications that can ease recovery and decrease the risk of relapse (and death by overdose). Here's an excerpt of this important article: "..There’s no single explanation for why addiction treatment is mired in a kind of scientific dark age, why addicts are denied the help that modern medicine can offer. Family doctors tend to see addicts as a nuisance or a liability and don’t want them crowding their waiting rooms. In American culture, self-help runs deep. Heroin addiction isn’t only a disease – it’s a crime. Addicts are lucky to get what they get.......”

Illustration by Jan Diehm / The Huffington Post.

In Rain And Snow, It's Clear That Patriots Are A Good Bet. In case you missed this, here's a clip from The New York Times: "...Over the past 12 seasons, the New England Patriots have played so well in wet conditions that their margin of victory in those games has exceeded the betting spread — set by a global market that tries to take all known advantages into account — 80 percent of the time, according to an analysis by Covers, a sports betting information website. The analysis suggests that the Patriots have an edge in wet weather that neither the general public nor professional bettors have taken into account..."

Image credit: AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File.

Wecome To The Super Bag. I enjoyed this post at Grantland; trying to put the Deflategate "Cheating" rumors into some sort of perspective. Cheating in pro sports? I'm shocked. Absolutely shocked. Here's an excerpt: "...Regardless, America wouldn’t have cared about this story nearly as much if any other NFL team were involved. Football teams cheat all the time. (Read this admittedly homerrific breakdown.) Football teams constantly search for edges. (Why does just about every head coach and offensive coordinator STILL cover their faces when calling a play? You think they’re trying to hide a pimple from HD cameras?)..."

TODAY: Early coating to an inch or 2; plowable snow far south. Partial clearing, cold wind. North 10-15. High: 15
SUNDAY NIGHT: Clearing and chilly. Low: 3
MONDAY: Early sun, clouds increase. High: 17
TUESDAY: Still gray, seasonably chilly. Wake-up: 10. High: 23
WEDNESDAY: Blue sky, an even colder shot. Wake-up: 8. High: 16
THURSDAY: Clouds increase, few flurries. Wake-up: 6. High: 19
FRIDAY: Cloudy and milder. Light snow north. Wake-up: 13. High: near 30
SATURDAY: Stronger clipper. Potential for a few inches? Wake-up: 19. High: 25

Climate Stories...

Climate Change's Bottom Line. Thanks to Greg Page and Cargill for standing up for data, facts and science - and not giving into ideological talking points. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "...Mr. Page is not a typical environmental activist. He says he doesn’t know — or particularly care — whether human activity causes climate change. He doesn’t give much serious thought to apocalyptic predictions of unbearably hot summers and endless storms. But over the last nine months, he has lobbied members of Congress and urged farmers to take climate change seriously. He says that over the next 50 years, if nothing is done, crop yields in many states will most likely fall, the costs of cooling chicken farms will rise and floods will more frequently swamp the railroads that transport food in the United States. He wants American agribusiness to be ready..."

* The 58 page PDF from Risky Business, "Heat in the Heartland: Climate Change and Economic Risk in the Midwest" is here.

In Major Shift, Obama Administration Will Plan For Rising Seas In All Federal Projects. The Washington Post has the story - here's the intro: "President Obama issued an executive order Friday directing federal agencies to adopt stricter building and siting standards to reflect scientific projections that future flooding will be more frequent and intense due to climate change. The order represents a major shift for the federal government: while the Federal Emergency Management Administration published a memo three years ago saying it would take global warming into account when preparing for more severe storms, most agencies continue to rely on historic data rather than future projections for building projects..."

Graphic credit: "Figure from the new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report on flood risks to the North Atlantic coast, showing sea level rise scenarios for Sandy Hook, N.J." Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Does Global Warming Mean More or Less Snow? Climate scientist Kevin Trenberth pens an article for The Conversation in the wake of this week's New England blizzard; here's a clip: "...By contrast, the heaviest snowfalls occur with surface temperatures from about 28°F to 32°F – just below the freezing point. Of course, once it gets much above freezing point, the snow turns to rain. So there is a “Goldilocks” set of conditions that are just right to result in a super snow storm. And these conditions are becoming more likely in mid-winter because of human-induced climate change..." (Image: NOAA/NASA).

Storms Like U.S. Blizzard May Get Stronger But Less Frequent: Study. Reuters has the details of new research; here's the introduction: "Large storms like the blizzard that battered New England this week may become more severe but less frequent as the Earth's climate changes, scientists said on Thursday. The Canadian-led study noted that warmer air can hold more moisture, meaning more fuel for rain, hail or snow, and found knock-on effects on how the atmosphere generates storms..."

Extreme Thunderstorms Might Be Making Climate Change Worse. VICE News has an interesting article; here's the intro: "Scientists watching a Midwestern thunderstorm discovered it sucking a river of ozone from high in the sky and dumping it in the lower atmosphere, a find that may require them to tweak some computer models that simulate the impacts of climate change. While ozone acts as a shield against ultraviolet radiation when it's in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, it's a source of pollution and a heat-trapping greenhouse gas when it's near the Earth's surface..."

Climate Change Is Altering The Global Heat Engine. Fewer storms, longer periods between precipitation, but when it does rain (or snow) amounts are more extreme. This dovetails with recent research from the University of Minnesota finding similar trends. Here's the intro to a story at Smithsonian Magazine: "Climate scientists have been warning for a while that as the planet heats up, storms will become fewer but stronger. This trend has been seen in a variety of historical data tracking wind speed, rain and snow over the past century or so. Now a team of researchers has figured out why, and the explanation is firmly rooted in atmospheric thermodynamics. Global warming is intensifying the world’s water cycle, and that drains energy from the air circulation that drives stormy weather, say Frederic Lalibert√© of the University of Toronto and his colleagues..."

Most Americans Support Government Action on Climate Change, Poll Finds. Here's an excerpt of a New York Times article and poll result that made me do a double-take: "...Among Republicans, 48 percent said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change, a result that Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of political science at Stanford University and an author of the survey, called "the most powerful finding" in the poll. Many Republican candidates either question the science of climate change or do not publicly address the issue..."

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