Monday, March 16, 2015

Cooling Trend - Was Climate Change a Factor with Super-Cyclone Pam?

62 F. high in the Twin Cities yesterday.
41 F. average high on March 16.
25 F. high on March 16, 2014.

March 17, 1965: Great St. Patrick's Day Blizzard. Two feet of snow dumped at Duluth. 19 inches at Mora.

Feeling Lucky?

It was a winter devoid of major, knock-down, drag-out blockbuster snowstorms but we saw our fair share of annoying clippers. At temperatures colder than 15F a meager inch of snow, at the wrong time, sparks gridlock and a disproportionate number of fender-benders. But 27 inches of snow? Kentucky picked up more snow than the Twin Cities as a temporarily locked jet stream pattern whisked the most formidable storms well south of Minnesota.

J. Meilinger wanted to know if MSP set any cold weather records. No. We counted up 3 records for the metro: the warmest low on December 14 (43F), a record high on December 15 (51), and a snowfall record for January 8 (3 inches).

I don't see any big slush storms, just a temperature correct with 40s this week, 30s possible by the weekend. It'll be cold enough for snow but prevailing winds keep us dry, with few exceptions. The same old song and dance. Expect a chilly bias, maybe a few flakes or snow showers the next 2 weeks, but nothing Boston-like.

108.6 inches has fallen in Boston, a new all-time record. Mayor Marty Walsh tweeted: "Superbowls, World Series, Stanley Cups and snowfall records. We are truly a title city. There will be no parade."

Go big or go home, right?

Cooling Down. Nothing subzero, mind you, but it's still premature retiring the heavy jackets. NOAA data shows cooler air pushing southward, but temperatures don't bottom out until the weekend. NAM guidance: Ham Weather.

Minor Relapse. A series of clippers may whip up a little rain-snow mix late Wednesday, again late Friday and next Monday. You'll be shocked to hear that the pattern still isn't ripe for a legitimate "storm".

Recovery. The sun is too high in the sky for (sustained) chill. And subzero nights are behind us now. GFS guidance from NOAA hints at 50s, even a shot at 60 by April Fool's Day. Moisture will be sparse.

Boston Sets New Snow Record. And here we sit in the Twin Cities at a whopping 27.2" for the winter, to date. Here's an excerpt from NBC News: "Boston officially broke its snowfall record for one season, notching up 108.6 inches this winter, the National Weather Service said Sunday. February was by the snowiest February on record in Boston, at 64.8. For the winter season, that put the city an inch above the 107.6 inches set in the winter of 1995-96..."

Fake Snow, Real Money: The High-Tech Fight to Save California Skiing. Bloomberg Business has a fascinating story about how some of the smaller mom and pop ski operations are threatened by rising temperatures; here's a clip: "...To varying degrees, this is a problem for the global ski industry. Among the 19 cities that have hosted the winter Olympics—including Calgary, Chamonix, Nagano, and Oslo—the average February temperature is up to 46 degrees, up from 32 in the 1920s. These days, everyone is making snow. And among them, Heavenly’s system is known to be one of the most expensive and sophisticated. If they can’t save their season, no one can..."

NASA: February 2015 Was Second Warmest After 1998. The site,, has an update; here's an excerpt: "...Significantly warmer than usual weather in parts of the northern hemisphere pushed up global average temperatures last month, according to data released by US space agency NASA. The global average surface temperature in February 2015 was +0.79oC above the long term average, according to NASA. This was 0.04oC warmer than the January and makes the month the second warmest February – behind 1998 (+0.86oC) - on the records maintained by the agency which date back to 1880..."

Image credit above: "NASA GISS global surface temperature anomaly map for February 2015 showing particularly high anomalies across northern Europe, Eurasia, China and the Arctic. Note: Gray areas signify missing data. Note: Ocean data are not used over land nor within 100km of a reporting land station." Courtesy: NASA.

Weather Weirdness? Often-Deadly March Has Seen Zero Tornado Reports So Far. The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang takes a look at a remarkably quiet March, to date. Here's an excerpt: "...Not a single tornado has been reported to the National Weather Service so far in March, which typically marks the first month of severe weather season in the Plains and Southeast. According to the Weather Channel’s severe expert Greg Forbes, the only other year since 1950 that there have been zero tornado reports in the first half of March was 1969..." (Data above courtesy of NOAA SPC).

El Nino Can Predict Tornado Season's Severity. Another quiet tornado year? It's a little premature to wave that flag, but here's an excerpt of a story at Live Science: "This year's El Niño may not only bring a bit of drought relief to parched Western states, but also could deliver a quiet tornado season, a new study finds. Much of the southeastern United States faces a lower risk of tornadoes during El Niño years, the new research shows. The effects are strongest in Oklahoma, Arkansas and northern Texas..." (Photo credit above: Nashville National Weather Service).

* USA TODAY has another perspective on El Nino and 2015's tornado risk here.

"Twin" Cyclones Could Jolt Weak El Nino. Climate Central ran this article on Friday, and I wanted to make sure I posted this, showing the potential interplay between tropical cyclones and El Nino: "...Where the two cyclones come in is the winds associated with an El Niño. Normally, the tropical Pacific features a pool of warm water in the west and cooler temperatures to the east, where cold waters well up from deep off the coast of South America. The prevailing easterly trade winds keep this temperature pattern in place. When an El Niño occurs, the winds slacken and can even reverse to blow from the west. That sends the warm waters spilling eastward, the hallmark of an El Niño. (When a La Niña occurs, the easterlies grow stronger and intensify the east-west temperature contrast.)..."

Image credit from March 13 above: "Cyclone Pam (bottom right) and Tropical Depression 3, or Bavi (top right), are two of four cyclones spinning in the oceans around Australia." Credit: NOAA.

Flexible Cloth Harnesses Human Motion To Generate Electricity. Gizmag has an eye-opening post; here's an excerpt: "We've already heard about how thermoelectric or piezoelectric clothing could be used to generate electricity for our mobile devices. Now, an international team of scientists has successfully used special fabric to serve as an electricity-generating triboelectric nanogenerator. The research could pave the way for clothing that charges devices simply by moving..."

File image above: "In the future, simply running while wearing your favorite hoodie could be sufficient to charge gadgets carried within it." (Photo: Shutterstock).

Japan Takes a Step Towards Beaming Solar Power to Earth from Space. It's amazing how quickly science fiction can morph into reality. Here's another clip from a story at "A successful ground test of a system designed to ultimately collect solar power from orbit and beam it back down to Earth was announced in Japan this week by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The wireless power demonstration saw 10 kilowatts sent over microwaves from a transmitting unit to a receiver 500 meters (1,640 ft) away..."

TODAY: Bright sun, seasonably cool. Winds: NW 15. High: 45
TUESDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear and brisk. Low: 30
WEDNESDAY: Clouds increase, light mix late? High: 43
THURSDAY: Gray, cool and damp. Wake-up: 31. High: 44
FRIDAY: Another clipper. Late slushy mix? Wake-up: 29. High: 45
SATURDAY: Partly sunny, turning colder. Wake-up: 27. High: 35
SUNDAY: Blue sky, light winds. Still chilly. Wake-up: 21. High: 37
MONDAY: Unsettled, rain/snow showers. Wake-up: 27. High: near 40

Climate Stories...

Cyclone Pam: Vanuatu's President Blames Climate Change for Extreme Weather. Warmer oceans may be fueling more extreme hurricanes (called typhoons in the western Pacific and cyclones near Australia and India); sea level is rising, compounding storm surge damage. Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "...For leaders of low-lying island atolls, the hazards of global warming affect our people in different ways, and it is a catastrophe that impinges on our rights … and our survival into the future.” The cyclone caused major infrastructure damage to the island nation with up to 90% of structures believed to have been levelled in Efate. Winds were estimated to have reached 250km/h, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The damage is also extensive in the capital, Port Vila, which one Unicef officer said looked like it had been “hit by a bomb”..."

Photo credit above: "Samuel, only his first name given, kicks a ball through the ruins of their family home as his father, Phillip, at back, picks through the debris in Port Vila, Vanuatu in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam Monday, March 16, 2015. Vanuatu's President Baldwin Lonsdale said Monday that the cyclone that hammered the tiny South Pacific archipelago over the weekend was a "monster" that has destroyed or damaged 90 percent of the buildings in the capital and has forced the nation to start anew." (AP Photo/Dave Hunt, Pool)

Cyclone Pam: Untangling The Complex Science on Tropical Storms and Climate Change. Here's a clip from an informative and timely story at Carbon Brief: "...Tropical storms derive energy from the warmth of the ocean and convert it into wind strength. While strong storms aren't unusual for the region, Cyclone Pam was exceptional. Prof Kevin Trenberth, expert in climate change and extreme weather at the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research, tells Carbon Brief: "In the large area around Vanuatu the sea surface temperatures were one to two degrees Celsius above normal … So the atmosphere all around there has some 10 to 20% more moisture in it than a comparable storm in the 1970s would have had..."

Image credit above: "Sea surface temperature anomaly for 16th March 2015, compared to 1981-2011 daily average. Blue is lower than average, red is higher." Images courtesy of Cameron Beccario via

Are Extreme Hurricanes, Typhoons and Cyclones Becoming More Extreme Over Time? The answer appears to be yes, although the science is still emerging. Fewer storms, but the big storms are hitting with greater ferocity. Here's a link to an interesting paper at the Journal of Climate, courtesy of the University of Wisconsin.

Exponential Increase in a Hurricane's Destructive Power. Here's a nugget from the University of Rhode Island that made me do a triple-take, something many (meteorologists) don't even realize - or communicate: "...An often-misunderstood aspect of hurricane winds is the potential for increased damage as wind speeds increase. The forces against structures do not increase linearly, they increase exponentially (power of 3), and as wind speed increases. A 241 kph (150 mph) wind is 20% stronger than a 201 kph (125 mph) wind. However, the destructive power of a 241 kph (150 mph) wind compared to a 201 kph (125 mph) wind is actually 73% greater..."

How Climate Change May Be Producing More Blockbuster Snowstorms. The Capital Weather Gang had a story that made me do a double-take last week; here's a snippet: "...But contrary to the predictions of the climate models, recent winters, especially since 2009-2010, have produced some historic snowstorms and seasonal totals in the Northeast. So, despite being much warmer now, the large cities in the Northeast are seeing an increase in snowfall, similar to the model projections for Siberia. Once-moderate snowfalls are now blockbuster snowstorms instead, pushing both storm and seasonal snow totals higher. So are the models wrong? Does climate change actually result in an increase in snowfall?..."

Graphic credit above: "Top 10 snowstorms by snowfall in inches in the historical record for Washington; Baltimore; Philadelphia; New York; Albany, N.Y.; Providence, R.I.; Hartford, Conn.; and Boston." (Judah Cohen/Jason Furtado/AER).

A Reagan Approach to Climate Change. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from former Secretary of State George Shultz at The Washington Post: "...We all know there are those who have doubts about the problems presented by climate change. But if these doubters are wrong, the evidence is clear that the consequences, while varied, will be mostly bad, some catastrophic. So why don’t we follow Reagan’s example and take out an insurance policy? First, let’s have significant and sustained support for energy research and development. More of that is going on right now than in any previous period..."

Image credit above: "President Ronald Reagan (right) with George Shultz (left), who served as secretary of state under Reagan from 1982 to 1989." (Courtesy of Hoover Institution).

Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science? National Geographic has a terrific article that highlights the Internet echo-chamber/conspiracy-theory effect; here's an excerpt: "...We live in an age when all manner of scientific knowledge—from the safety of fluoride and vaccines to the reality of climate change—faces organized and often furious opposition. Empowered by their own sources of information and their own interpretations of research, doubters have declared war on the consensus of experts. There are so many of these controversies these days, you’d think a diabolical agency had put something in the water to make people argumentative. And there’s so much talk about the trend these days—in books, articles, and academic conferences—that science doubt itself has become a pop-culture meme..."

Photo credit: Kennedy Space Center.

Conscious Decoupling: Divorcing Economy and Emissions. Wait, it might be possible to power the economy and add jobs and prosperity without nearly as much CO2 emissions? Here's an excerpt of a story at Huffington Post: "...This divorce between emissions and economy is one of the most promising developments imaginable. For too long conventional wisdom decreed that the only way to reduce emissions would be to reduce economic development, but 2014 data shows that may no longer to be true. While the past 40 years have seen only three reductions of emissions, those have always been a result of an economic downturn instead of intentional efforts to reduce emissions...."

Warming Could Hit Rates Unseen in 1,000 Years. Climate Central has the story - here's a paragraph excerpt that got my attention: "...By 2020, warming rates should eclipse historical bounds of the past 1,000 years — and likely at least 2,000 years — and keep rising. If greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current trend, the rate of warming will reach 0.7°F per decade and stay that high until at least 2100. The northern hemisphere will be the first region to experience historically unprecedented warming. The Arctic, which is already the fastest warming part of the planet, will see temperatures rise 1.1°F per decade by 2040. North America and Europe will see slightly lower, though equally unprecedented, warming..."

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