Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hard Freeze Saturday Morning - 70s Return Monday. NOAA Winter Outlook: Mild Bias Continues

61 F. high on Thursday in the Twin Cities.
59 F. average high at MSP on October 15.
66 F. high on October 15, 2014.

October 16, 1996: Early evening storms produced 3/4 to 1 3/4 inch hail in Nicollet, Dakota, Brown, Watonwan, and Martin Counties. In Scott County near St. Patrick, hail fell intermittently for an hour and the area received 3 1/2 inches of rainfall. In Watonwan County, wind gusts up to 63 mph moved several garages off their foundations, destroyed a Cattle shed and a corn crib, and uprooted and toppled trees. Southwest of Lake Crystal in Blue Earth County, a garage was blown over onto a vehicle. A 250 gallon fuel tank was also blown over.
October 16, 1937: Snowstorm leaves 10 inches at Bird Island.
October 16, 1880: Earliest blizzard in Minnesota. Struck western Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas especially hard. Over a foot of snow in western counties. Railroads were blocked. Damage done to Great Lakes shipping. Huge drifts exceeding 20 ft formed in the Canby area lasted until the next spring when flooding occurred across the Minnesota River Valley.

A Mild Winter Outlook?
Bug-Killing Cold Saturday

My winter outlook hasn't changed. "Colder with some snow". Take it to the bank. When in doubt, talk fast, wave your arms and deal in vague generalities. The truth: if I could deliver a consistently accurate 3-6 month forecast I'd be sipping umbrella drinks on my own personal island.

Buyer beware.

NOAA just came out with their prediction for December through February. Based on a powerful El Nino warming of the Pacific, changes in the AO (Arctic Oscillation) and the MJO (Madden-Julian Oscillation) the forecast for Minnesota and Wisconsin calls for milder and slightly drier than average. That's consistent with previous El Nino events, but every warming phase is different.

That said, I think (I hope) we won't be tracking a persistent and perpetual polar vortex this winter. New England may get smacked, but a milder, Pacific wind should keep us consistently milder than average, with a few slaps of cold and snow. We'll see.

Today feels like October as the jackets come out. Clear skies and light winds set the stage for a hard freeze tonight in the suburbs: a few hours below 28F - cold enough to kill off most plant life, including ragweed.

Plan on a sunny weekend; 70s return Monday. The ECMWF hints at a tropical storm in the Gulf in 1 week.

Strong El Nino Sets The Stage for 2015-2016 Winter Weather. Will El Nino keep Minnesota somewhat warmer than usual? Odds favor that outcome, but it's not a slam-dunk. Here's an excerpt from a story at NOAA: "...This year’s El Niño, among the strongest on record, is expected to influence weather and climate patterns this winter by impacting the position of the Pacific jet stream. “A strong El Niño is in place and should exert a strong influence over our weather this winter,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “While temperature and precipitation impacts associated with El Niño are favored, El Niño is not the only player. Cold-air outbreaks and snow storms will likely occur at times this winter. However, the frequency, number and intensity of these events cannot be predicted on a seasonal timescale.”

Mixed Blessing for Snow Lovers. El Nino events tend to energize the southern branch of the jet stream, resulting in wetter winters from California to Texas to Florida and much of the East Coast. Will the biggest, wettest storms sail to our south in a few months? Plausible, but more energy and volatility (and warmth) in the system will probably result in a few significant snowfalls for the metro. I can't promise a blockbuster winter for snowmobilers (and kids hoping for a treadmill of snow days) but hopefully we'll see close to average amounts, around 50-55". That's not a prediction, more of a "wish-cast". Map: NOAA.

More Big Temperature Swings = Gusty Winds. The sharper the temperature contrast over a set period of time the stronger winds have to blow to keep the atmosphere in equilibrium. After bottoming out in the upper 20s Saturday morning temperatures may brush 60F Sunday afternoon; 70s Monday with a few 80s south and west of MSP. Map: Twin Cities National Weather Service.

Mild Bias Continues. We'll see more cold fronts (there's a safe forecast with 100% verification) but looking out 2 weeks I still see a warm ridge popping back into place over the Rockies and Plains, a trend toward trough formation in the west, which will trend cooler and wetter, while bubbles of unseasonable warmth continue to push into the central USA. Watch for possible tropical formation in the Gulf of Mexico the latter half of next week. GFS guidance: NOAA.

Tropical Disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico in 1 Week? The ECMWF (European), which often does a better job with tropical systems, spins up a tropical depression or possible tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico within 6-7 days. Stay tuned. Map above valid next Saturday evening, October 24. Map: WSI Corp.

Symptoms of El Nino Finally Kicking In? Los Angeles County experienced flash flooding and golf ball size hail from slow-moving T-storms Thursday, evidence of unusually high dew points and precipitable water values pushing into California (I'm in San Diego, where it feels more like Tampa or even Miami - unusually humid for October). El Nino should result in a southward shift in the jet with more numerous storms impacting the west coast. 500 mb winds valid Thursday evening, October 30 (GF) hints at increasing troughiness for the west, with a persistant ridge of warm high pressure east of the Rockies.

Strong El Nino Could Mean Winter Tornadoes in South. National Geographic connects the dots, and the implications of a more energized, high-speed southern branch of the jet stream, spiked by El Nino. Here's an excerpt: "...NOAA scientists said the possibility of tornado formation over the Deep South, including Florida, would be “elevated” this year because of the likely conditions. Winter tornadoes are not necessarily more powerful than twisters that form during the spring and summer, but they usually move faster. That can make them more deadly because it reduces the warning time and allows less time for people to get out of harm’s way. The tornadoes move faster because the upper-level winds that produce tornado-spawning thunderstorms are faster during the winter..." (File photo: AP).

Don't Get Too Excited About That Giant El Nino. It may put a dent in California's historic drought, but odds are it won't be enough moisture, especially in northern California. Huffington Post provides some perspective; here's a snippet: "...While a strong El Niño signal helps reduce the uncertainty around [California's high weather] variability, making the wet winter more likely in Southern California, it really offers less predictability for a wetter than normal winter in Northern California, a region where it can have the greatest impact in the drought," NOAA hydrologist Alan Haynes said. "Also, remember that El Niño increases the chances for drier and warmer weather in the Pacific Northwest, where drought has started to develop." The California Department of Water Resources also has played down the El Niño, urging people to look at its effects historically..." (File image credit: Associated Press).

2015 Closes In On Being The Warmest Year Ever. At least in the historical record. Here's an excerpt from Climate Central: "...The strong El Niño event that has taken shape this year – which could rank among the strongest on record – has been a large factor in keeping global temperatures elevated, but the long-term warming signal arising from the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has also made such heat records more likely. According to NASA’s global temperature archive, this September was the second warmest on record (going back to 1880), second only to September 2014. The year-to-date is the warmest on record, and “with three-quarters of the year already done, the ability to change things in the last three months is limited,” Gavin Schmidt, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which keeps the temperature records, said in an email..."

Image credit above: "How temperatures around the globe varied from average during September 2015, the second warmest September on record." Credit: NASA

What Hiatus? Warmest September, Worldwide, on Record. Records date back to 1891; here's an excerpt from Japan Meteorological Agency: "The monthly anomaly of the global average surface temperature in September 2015 (i.e. the average of the near-surface air temperature over land and the SST) was +0.50°C above the 1981-2010 average (+0.82°C above the 20th century average), and was the warmest since 1891. On a longer time scale, global average surface temperatures have risen at a rate of about 0.63°C per century..."

Thursday Waterspout over Lake Superior. Water temperatures are still (relatively) mild, enough instability and cold air aloft to whip up a rope funnel, a waterspout. Tornado Warnings were issued for a time for Marquette County, in Michigan's UP. Thanks to ABC 10 for the share.

America Is Increasingly Dependent on Just Two Crops, and It's Putting Us All At Risk. Quartz has an interesting read; here's a clip: "...In a study published in August in PLOS One, US researchers have quantified for the first time how much species diversity we are losing, due to our focus on major commodity crops—up to 19% in some areas. The danger of a drop in crop species diversity has been recognized for decades now: As farmers plant more and more commodity crops like corn, they’re planting fewer alternatives, leading to a loss in crop diversity, which makes the country’s food supply more vulnerable to problems like pests or climate change..." (Image credit:

A Megacity Without Water: Sao Paulo's Drought. TIME has a sobering update on what's happening right now in Brazil, and how other cities may face similar water shortages in the years to come. Here's an excerpt: "The biggest city in the Western hemisphere is facing its greatest water crisis in over 80 years — and climate change is only part of the problem. Millions of residents in São Paulo, Brazil face daily water shutoffs unless the city manages its water better. It is not only a problem of drought. The city of 20 million is plagued by failing infrastructure across the city, and it has been unable to deliver the water it does have to residents in need. Without major changes to the city’s infrastructure and planning, commentators say the crisis is bound to continue..."

File photo above: "View of drought in Rio Jacarei, region of Joanopolis, interior of Sao Paulo, southeastern Brazil, on February 14, 2014. The level of Cantareira System, abastace dam that almost 9 million people in Sao Paulo is in 18.7%, the lowest level since 1974." Photo by: LUIS MOURA/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Bill Gates: "We Need an Energy Miracle". Will technology save us from ourselves? Here's an excerpt of a fascinating interview at The Atlantic: "...Gates is on a solo global lobbying campaign to press his species to accomplish something on a scale it has never attempted before. He wants human beings to invent their way out of the coming collision with planetary climate change, accelerating a transition to new forms of energy that might normally take a century or more. To head off a rise in average global temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels—the goal set by international agreement—Gates believes that by 2050, wealthy nations like China and the United States, the most prodigious belchers of greenhouse gases, must be adding no more carbon to the skies..."

Object of Intrigue: Banknotes for a Japanese-Occupied Hawaii. I had no idea - here's an excerpt from Atlas Obscura: "In early 1942, the United States government began issuing a special set of banknotes custom-made for Hawaii. The back of each note looked identical to the existing U.S. paper currency apart from one major difference: the word "HAWAII" was stamped across it. The design of these notes wasn't the most elegant—the "HAWAII" looked as though it was inscribed by someone with a black ballpoint pen and a ruler. But that's understandable, given their circumstances: these banknotes were an emergency series, rushed to print in the months following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor..."

Image credit above: National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History).

A Photographer Edits Out Our Smartphones To Show Our Strange and Lonely New World. This is a little creepy, but it makes a good point: we spend an awful lot of time staring at our phones. Here's an excerpt from Quartz: "Are you reading this on a handheld device? There’s a good chance you are. Now imagine how’d you look if that device suddenly disappeared. Lonely? Slightly crazy? Perhaps next to a person being ignored? As we are sucked in ever more by the screens we carry around, even in the company of friends and family, the hunched pose of the phone-absorbed seems increasingly normal..."

Photo credit: "Out of hand." Eric Pickersgill.

Your Birth Month May Affect How Healthy You Are. Um, not sure what to do with this information. Here's a clip from Huffington Post: "Being born in the summer could come with some big health benefits, according to a provocative new study by researchers at the University of Cambridge's Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit in England. The study showed that people with birthdays in June, July or August are less likely than others to have low birth weight, enter puberty early or be of short stature. "Those are all markers of growth and development that have been associated with higher risks of adult diseases," said Dr. Ken Ong, a pediatric endocrinologist at the unit and co-author of the study, in an email to The Huffington Post..."

How Green Bay Became The Toilet-Paper Capital of the World. I had no idea - here's an excerpt from Atlas Obscura: "...Yet toilet paper was still a niche product, reserved for the rich or hemorrhoidal. It was not until the popularity of indoor plumbing took off—and the pages of the previously used catalogues proved unflushable—that the paper mills of Green Bay turned their covetous eyes on the nation’s backsides. Perhaps it was not surprising that Green Bay should have achieved such coprophilic success. After all, the area had originally been named La Baie des Puants, “The Bay of Stinkards,” by early French explorers because of the odiferous green algae in the water..."

Image credit above: "A 1943 advertisement for Northern Tissue." (Photo: SenseiAlan/flickr)

TODAY: Partly sunny, brisk. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 49

FRIDAY NIGHT: Heavy jackets for football games. Clear and frosty. Low: 30

SATURDAY: Hard freeze early. Cool sun with light winds. Winds: SW 5-10. High: 52

SUNDAY: Sunny and windy. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 37. High: 59

MONDAY: Some sun, lukewarm again. Wake-up: 46. High: 72

TUESDAY: Clouding up, showers late. Wake-up: 56. High: 65

WEDNESDAY: Cooler, few showers linger. Wake-up: 52. High: 57

THURSDAY: Cool sunshine returns. Wake-up: 41. High: 52

Climate Stories...

Acceptance of Global Warming Among Americans Reaches Highest Level Since 2008. Here's a clip from a press release at The Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan: "For the first time since 2008 at least 7 out of 10 Americans indicate that they believe there is solid evidence of global warming over the past four decades. This 70% belief level is the second highest mark in the history of the National Surveys on Energy and the Environment (NSEE) falling just short of the 72% record level reported in Fall 2008. This increased level of acceptance of evidence of global warming coincides with the lowest percentage of Americans expressing doubt in solid evidence of global warming in the history of the NSEE. The Fall 2015 survey shows that only 16% of adult Americans currently believe there is not solid evidence of global warming, a mark 1% lower than the previous record of 17% recorded in Fall 2008..."

Energy, Mining Companies Begin to Back Back Climate Talks. Here's the intro to a stor at The Wall Street Journal: "A major international agreement to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions is starting to draw in major energy and mining companies. Some global companies, especially those that face heavy environmental regulation, say they are supportive of nearly 200 countries’ efforts to reach an accord in Paris in December at negotiations sponsored by the United Nations. On Wednesday, a dozen companies, including oil giant BP PLC and global mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd. released a statement touting the Paris climate talks as a “critical opportunity to strengthen efforts globally addressing the causes and consequences of climate change...” (File photo: Shutterstock).

Exxon's Climate Lie: "No Corporation Has Ever Done Anything This Big or Bad". That's quite a statement, but Bill McKibbon backs up his claim with specifics in The Guardian. Here are a couple of excerpts: "...They helped organise campaigns designed to instil doubt, borrowing tactics and personnel from the tobacco industry’s similar fight. They funded “institutes” devoted to outright climate denial. And at the highest levels they did all they could to spread their lies....Instead, knowingly, they helped organise the most consequential lie in human history, and kept that lie going past the point where we can protect the poles, prevent the acidification of the oceans, or slow sea level rise enough to save the most vulnerable regions and cultures. Businesses misbehave all the time, but VW is the flea to Exxon’s elephant. No corporation has ever done anything this big and this bad..."

Photo credit here: "By 1978 Exxon’s senior scientists were telling top management that climate change was real, caused by man, and would raise global temperatures by 2-3C." Photograph: Pat Sullivan/AP.

* More perspective from Huffington Post.

Anticipating "Abrupt Changes" in a Changing Climate. We know there will be tipping points, but the details of how, when and why are still murky and nebulous. Here's an excerpt of an paper abstract at PNAS: "...We do find abrupt changes in sea ice, oceanic flows, land ice, and terrestrial ecosystem response, although with little consistency among the models. A particularly large number is projected for warming levels below 2°. We discuss mechanisms and include methods to objectively classify abrupt climate change..."

The U.S. Cities That Will Stay Above Sea Level After Global Warming - And The Ones That Will Disappear. Alarmist? I sure hope so, but you might want to think twice before purchasing beachfront property. Here's an excerpt from Quartz: "...The map uses four different scenarios laid out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In the best case, aggressive cuts would cause carbon emissions to peak within the next five years; in the worst case, pollution goes unchecked and emissions continue climbing through the year 2100. Even with aggressive carbon cuts, cities like Miami and Jacksonville, Florida, could lose more than half their land. New York and Boston are in danger of shrinking by a quarter..." (Miami file image: Wikipedia).

BP Admits Climate Concern Makes Some Oil Unburnable. Stranded assets? Even the top oil producers now admit that much of the oil will need to remain in the ground to avoid potentially catastrophic warming; here's an excerpt from Climate Home: "Some of the world’s oil will not be burned as a result of climate concerns, BP’s chief economist said on Tuesday. Scientists have calculated around a third of proven oil reserves need to stay in the ground to hold global warming to 2C, the international goal. Spencer Dale’s remarks, in a speech to the Society of Business Economists in London, represented a rare acceptance of that analysis from the industry..."

Photo credit above: Flickr/Ken Hodge.

Excuses for Climate Inaction Melt Away: Our View. Here's the intro of an Op-Ed from the Editorial Board at USA TODAY: "With every passing month, the arguments for inaction on climate change are melting away faster than glaciers in Alaska. Let’s take them one at a time. Argument No. 1: The science is uncertain. Actually, it’s not. An overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that human activity is warming the planet. In fact, based on global surface temperatures, 2015 is on track to eclipse 2014 as the warmest year on record. This past summer was the hottest in recorded history, topping 2014 and even 1998, which featured an El Nino-driven spike that has allowed skeptics to claim, misleadingly, that temperatures haven’t increased much since then..."

Photo credit above: An iceberg melts in Kulusuk, Greenland, near the Arctic Circle in 2005.(Photo: John Mcconnico, AP)

Climate Change Means Spring Could Come 3 Weeks Earlier Across U.S. The growing season is already longer for many northern locations. NBC News has the story; here's a snippet: "Spring flowers may arrive as much as three weeks earlier over the next century as climate change drives an earlier end to winters in areas of the United States, researchers say in a new report. Warmer weather earlier in the year might have consequences for farmers as well as wildlife, said the researchers from the University of Wisconsin, U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Their report was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters..."

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