Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hints of Early March into Next Week - Jumbo Clipper on Sunday?

32 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.
24 F. average high on January 20.
31 F. high on January 20, 2014.

January 20, 1936: Warroad fell to a bone-chilling 55 below zero.
January 20, 1922: High pressure areas that move across this region in the depths of winter are stronger than at any other times of the year. The barometer at Collegeville hit 31.11 inches. A record high pressure for the state.

Drifting Dirt

There is precious little snow on the ground over central Minnesota. The combination of no snow, open fields & high winds from a treadmill of clippers has produced severe wind erosion; topsoil blown downwind into drainage ditches, creeks and rivers.

A heavy blanket of snow is not only moisture-money in the bank for planting season, but it also holds topsoil in place. Greg Larson sent me amazing photos which are on my weather blog below.

Latest guidance shows a slow-moving, potentially beefier Alberta Clipper spreading snow into Minnesota Saturday night and Sunday. Plowable snowfall amounts are possible with this system; it's still too early for specifics.

The core of any bitter air pushes into the Great Lakes and New England in coming weeks, spinning up a parade of east coast storms.

We chill back down to single digits and teens by late next week but no polar pain is imminent here into early February. This is prime time for arctic invasions, so every day above 30F is a blessing, or a curse if you happen to like snow.

Pacific air pushes the mercury close to 40F by next Wednesday. That's roughly 40-60 degrees warmer than late January, 2014.

80 degrees if you count the wind chill.

Nervous Farmers. I don't blame them, with some of the wild swings in moisture and temperature we've seen in recent years. Weather has always been volatile, but the frequency and intensity of some of these extremes appear to be on the increase. Here's an excerpt of an e-mail that came in yesterday from Greg Larson in Excelsior: "A couple of photos taken Sunday out in Meeker County where the snow cover has melted exposing the barren fields to severe wind erosion. The first picture is a drainage ditch running into the South Fork of the Crow River.  All that black stuff (topsoil) will be washing downstream come spring melt into our lakes and rivers. The second photo shows the amount of soil blown off a neighbors field from the storm early this month. Usually the severest erosion happens in early spring. If there’s a drought in the near future and unless farmers start practicing soil stewardship we might be in for another dustbowl.  These photos could have been taken anywhere in the plains states. Thought you’d be interested in seeing what’s happening in farm country and the impact of open fields, no snow and high winds."

Greg Larson, Excelsior

Ski Texas. The map above shows 4 KM NAM guidance of accumulating snow over the next 60 hours, a big bullseye of heavy snow over New Mexico and the Panhandle of Texas, where some 3-6" amounts are possible. Source: Aeris Weather.

Super-Sized Clipper? ECMWF guidance, valid Sunday morning, shows a slow-moving storm pushing southeast across the state; a shield of light to moderate snow from the eastern Dakotas into central and southern Minnesota, western Wisconsin and much of Iowa. The slow movement of this clipper may contribute to more significant snowfall amounts. Map: WSI Corporation.

Plowable Potential. NOAA's GFS model shows a stripe of 2-6" of snow from near Alexandria and St. Cloud into the Twin Cities, Mankato and Rochester. Clippers are incredibly fickle; a difference of 50 miles in the storm track can make a difference between a coating of flurries and 6" of flurries. It's too early to throw around inch-amounts, but travel Saturday night into Sunday could be very tricky.

Relatively Mild Into Much of Next Week. European guidance shows 20s and 30s (above zero!) looking out 7-8 days, followed by a sharp drop in temperature late next week. I still don't see polar air, but a few days in single digits and teens are possible as we head into the first few days of February. The best chance of accumulating snow: Sunday. Source: Weatherspark.

Gig Harbor Tornado Rated EF-1 By National Weather Service. Tornadoes in the Pacific Northwest are rare events; here's an excerpt of a blog post from KOMO-TV meteorologist Scott Sistek: "...The tornado touched down around 2:18 p.m. about 4 miles West/Southwest of Gig Harbor, and lasted 4.1 miles -- pretty impressive for a Northwest tornado. It crossed the Gig Harbor waterway and finally dissipated around 2:30 p.m. shortly after making landfall again just past the Gig Harbor public boat launch. The storm began at EF-0 strength, but strengthened to EF-1 category as it crossed Rosedale St. NW where it toppled some trees and power lines and reached its greatest width, estimated at 175 yards. Wind speeds here were estimated at 110 mph..."

Why The Entire U.S. Weather Satellite System Is At Risk. Here's the introduction to an article at Popular Mechanics: "Members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology are worried about the future of U.S. weather satellites, which may include a gap in coverage that could leave the U.S. without crucial satellite data for over a year. NOAA (the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration) maintains two types of satellites: Geostationary (or GOES series), which provide continuous images of the earth from a fixed point about 22,000 miles up, and Polar-orbiting (or JPSS series), which circle 500 miles above the planet and provide the images used in long-range forecasting. A legacy of mismanagement, budget overruns, and slipping deadlines means that satellites in both programs may well fail before their replacements are launched and become fully functional.."

Image credit above: "JPSS-1 is the second spacecraft within NOAA's next generation of polar-orbiting environmental satellites- scheduled to launch in early 2017." (Photo Credit: Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.)

Go Figure. Figuring The Odds of Earth's Global Hot Streak. I'm all for coincidence and serendipity, but at some point you detect a trend in the numbers. This article from AP provides some badly needed perspective on the recent run of warm years worldwide: "...Thirteen of the 15 the hottest years on record have occurred in the last 15 years. The odds of that being random are more than 41 trillion to 1, the statisticians said. All 15 years from 2000 on have been among the top 20 warmest years on record. They said the odds of that are 1.5 quadrillion to 1. A quadrillion is a million billion. And then there's the fact that the last 358 months in a row have been warmer than the 20th-century average, according to NOAA. The odds of that being random are so high — a number with more than 100 zeros behind it — that there is no name for that figure, Grego said."

2014: Earth's Warmest Year On Record. Here's an excerpt of a long post at NOAA providing more detail on last week's news:
  • During 2014, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.24°F (0.69°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all 135 years in the 1880–2014 record, surpassing the previous records of 2005 and 2010 by 0.07°F (0.04°C).
  • Record warmth was spread around the world, including Far East Russia into western Alaska, the western United States, parts of interior South America, most of Europe stretching into northern Africa, parts of eastern and western coastal Australia, much of the northeastern Pacific around the Gulf of Alaska, the central to western equatorial Pacific, large swaths of northwestern and southeastern Atlantic, most of the Norwegian Sea, and parts of the central to southern Indian Ocean.

Explainer: How Do Scientists Measure Global Temperature? Carbon Brief has a good explanation of how NOAA, NASA and JMA (Japan Meteorological Agency) all came to the conclusion that 2014 was the warmest year, globally, on record: "...To get a complete picture of Earth's temperature, scientists combine measurements from the air above land and the ocean surface collected by ships, buoys and sometimes satellites, too. The temperature at each land and ocean station is compared daily to what is 'normal' for that location and time, typically the long-term average over a 30-year period. The differences are called an 'anomalies' and they help scientists evaluate how temperature is changing over time. A 'positive' anomaly means the temperature is warmer than the long-term average, a 'negative' anomaly means it's cooler..."

What Will Kill Us And When? If you're feeling a bit blue this should cheer you up, courtesy of Digg: "Do you fear death? No? Well this BBC infographic of what is most likely to destroy humankind and when will change that. Good luck getting to sleep tonight."

Up To 50,000 Gallons of Oil Spilled In Yellowstone River. Residents Told Not To Drink Water. Hey, what can possibly go wrong with the (pending) Keystone XL Pipeline? Here's an update from CNN: "A Montana pipeline burst sent as much as 50,400 gallons of oil gushing into the Yellowstone River, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency. Residents in nearby cities were told not to drink the tap water, which some said smelled like diesel..."

Photo credit above: "Crews work to contain an oil spill from Bridger Pipeline's broken pipeline near Glendive, Mont., in this aerial view showing both sides of the river on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. Officials said that they were bringing truckloads of drinking water to Glendive after traces of 50,000 gallons of oil that spilled into the Yellowstone River were found in the city's water supply." (AP Photo/The Billings Gazette, Larry Mayer).

Solar Is Cheaper Than Electricity From The Grid in 42 of 50 Largest U.S. Cities. We are #27! EcoWatch has the article; here's an excerpt that caught my eye: "...Now a new report called Going Solar in America, prepared by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, shows how the plummeting costs of going solar could already make it the more economical choice for energy consumers in 42 of the U.S.’s 50 largest cities. It found that in those cities, a fully financed solar system would cost average residential consumers less than they would pay for electricity from their current local utility. New York and Boston topped the list, in large part because the cost of electricity from the grid is very expensive there..."

"Going Solar in America". The pdf report is here.

Sweden's Icehotel. Then again you could just camp out in your backyard. Here's a clip from a morbidly fascinating story at Gizmag: "...The Icehotel is located 200 miles (322 km) north of the Arctic Circle in the village of Jukkasjärvi, and covers an area of 5,500 sq m (59,200 sq ft). In addition to the usual categories for hotel rooms such as super deluxe and deluxe, there area also art suites, Northern Light suites, snow rooms and ice rooms available. Around 35,000 people stay at the hotel every year..."

8 Things You Can Do To Make Life More Meaningful. PBS Next Avenue has an article with some unusual suggestions, including listening twice as much as you talk: "...The squeaky wheel may get the grease, but in the long run, do you want to be remembered as the person who always interrupted, who spoke in monologues, who asked the same questions repeatedly? Listening, truly listening, is an act of generosity and graciousness. Its implicit message: “You are important.” Seriously, has anybody ever criticized a friend, a party guest, a colleague or a customer service rep for being too good a listener? (And while you're at it, put the cell phone away! Not on vibrate. Away!)..."

TODAY: Clouds, few flakes in the air. Winds: N 5-10. High: 31
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Partial clearing, a bit colder. Low: 19
THURSDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, dry sky. High: 29
FRIDAY: Peeks of sun, drippy icicles. Wake-up: 23. High: 37
SATURDAY: Better travel day. Late night snow. Wake-up: 28. High: 35
SUNDAY: Next Alberta Clipper. Potential for a few inches. Wake-up: 30. High: 32
MONDAY: Some sun, average temperatures. Wake-up: 19. High: 28
TUESDAY: Plenty of sun, not bad at all. Wake-up: 12. High: 27

Climate Stories...

Obama Toughens Up On Climate. President Obama is making action on climate change one of the centerpieces of his second term, as reported at The Hill: "...In November, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moved on a long-awaited update to ozone pollution standards, which cut the allowable threshold for the ground-level smog to between 60 parts per million and 75 parts per million. And over the last six weeks the administration has floated guidelines for federal agencies to weigh climate change impacts when reviewing energy and infrastructure projects, and released first-ever regulations on methane emissions from industrial sources..."

2014 Record Breaking Heat Is Bad For Business. Here's a clip from an Op-Ed at Forbes that caught my eye: "...The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks report shows that leaders increasingly see these phenomena as a major drag on their bottom lines, ranking severe weather events and water crises among the top 10 likeliest global risks, and the risks expected to have the most impact in 2015. Neeraj Sahai, president of Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, put it this way in Fortune magazine: “The investment community – along with regulators – has woken up to this threat..."

Pope Has U.S. Climate Naysayers In An Uproar. Here's an excerpt from an AP story at The Star Tribune: "...He said global warming was “mostly” man-made. And he said he wanted his ­encyclical out in plenty of time to be absorbed before the next round of U.N. climate change talks in Paris in November. “I don’t know if it [human activity] is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face,” Francis said. “We have in a sense taken over nature...”

Photo credit: AP Photo/Giuseppe Cacace, pool.

Why Do Religious People of Color Care So Much About Climate Change? Climate change will become one of the most pressing civil rights issues of the 21st century. Because those with the least will be the first to be impacted. Deseret News has the story - here's a clip: "...Contrary to the prevailing perception that climate change is primarily a cause for upper-middle-class, highly educated white liberals, a 2014 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute shows the highest levels of concern for the issue can be found among black Protestants like the Rev. Keys, as well as Hispanic Catholics. Compared with 50 percent of all Americans, 73 percent of Hispanic Catholics and 58 percent of black Protestants said they were "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" about climate change..."

"It Is Profitable To Let The World Go To Hell". Can capitalism, free-market forces, eventually deal with climate change and increasing weather (and water) volatility? Once we find a way to put a price on carbon I want to believe that this is possible. There's little doubt in my mind that our grandkids will be dealing with something closer to "sustainable capitalism". How do we grow economies, consume energy and keep the lights on with minimal impact on the environment? Here's a clip from The Guardian: "...The professor of climate strategy at the Norwegian Business School has been pretty close to giving up his struggle to wake us up to our unsustainable ways, and in 2004 published a pessimistic update of his 1972 report showing the predictions made at the time are turning out to be largely accurate. What he cannot bear is how politicians of all persuasions have failed to act even as the scientific evidence of climate change mounts up, and as a result he has largely lost faith in the democratic process to handle complex issues..."

Is The Climate Movement At A Tipping Point? EcoWatch has the story; here's the intro: "Is the climate movement at a political tipping point? Could right now, 2015, be that moment in history, be something akin to the 1964-1965 period for the civil rights movement? Those were the years that two major pieces of legislation, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, ended legal segregation in the South and opened the way for a whole series of positive social, cultural and political changes in the U.S. in the years since..."

2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics. In case you missed the formal announcement late last week here's an excerpt of a Justin Gillis article at The New York Times: "...Extreme heat blanketed Alaska and much of the western United States last year. Records were set across large areas of every inhabited continent. And the ocean surface was unusually warm virtually everywhere except near Antarctica, the scientists said, providing the energy that fueled damaging Pacific storms. In the annals of climatology, 2014 surpassed 2010 as the warmest year. The 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1997, a reflection of the relentless planetary warming that scientists say is a consequence of human activity and poses profound long-term risks to civilization and nature..."

Map credit: NOAA, NASA, New York Times.

Global Warming Made 2014 A Record Hot Year. Here's more perspective on last year's warmth, which is significant in light of the absence of a significant El Nino. An excerpt courtesy of The Guardian: "...But what’s really remarkable is that 2014 set this record without the aid of an El Niño event. El Niño events create conditions in which sea surface and hence global surface temperatures are anomalously hot. We call this part of the Earth’s “internal variability” because these events just temporarily shift heat around between the ocean surface and its depths. As this graphic shows (click here for an animated version), the last five record hot years of 2010, 2005, 1998, 1997, and 1995 were all assisted by El Niño events..."

Animation credit: Skeptical Science.

It's Official: 2014 Was The Hottest Year On Record. Bloomberg has a remarkable animation that puts the recent warming into stark perspective: "Deny this. The animation below shows the Earth’s warming climate, recorded in monthly measurements from land and sea over 135 years. Temperatures are displayed in degrees above or below the 20th-century average. Thirteen of the 14 hottest years are in the 21st century."

Scientists: Human Activity Has Pushed Earth Beyond Four of Nine "Planetary Boundaries". The Washington Post has the grim details; here's a clip: "At the rate things are going, the Earth in the coming decades could cease to be a “safe operating space” for human beings. That is the conclusion of a new paper published Thursday in the journal Science by 18 researchers trying to gauge the breaking points in the natural world. The paper contends that we have already crossed four “planetary boundaries.” They are the extinction rate; deforestation; the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (used on land as fertilizer) into the ocean..."

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