Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Quiet Spell - Perils of Glaze ice

27 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.
24 F. average high on December 29.
10 F. high on December 29, 2014.
December 30, 2005: A large swath of snowfall in the 6 to 8 inch range falls approximately north of a line from Madison to Redwood Falls through Glencoe and Woodbury. Even heavier snowfall occurred west of a Granite Falls to Willmar line, where reports of between 8 and 11 inches were recorded. In Willmar, several vehicles were reported stuck in ditches. A semi-truck also rolled onto its side.
December 30, 1996: 6 to 7 inches of snow falls in Willmar. The new snowfall, in addition to previous heavy snowfall, caused a portion of the historical society's roof to collapse.
December 30, 1980: A 'heat wave' develops across Minnesota. Redwood Falls hits 51.

Watch for Ice: Take it From Personal Experience

My crutches are hanging next to the Christmas tree, a giant boot on my newly broken right ankle. Happy New Year!

I'm a little hazy on what happened. It might have been from lifting a 4 ton truck off a helpless bystander. Wait, I was skiing a double black diamond run at Jackson Hole when an eagle landed on my shoulder, distracting me on the mogul run.

Truth? It was a severe dog-walking accident, slipping on glaze ice, landing hard on my ankle. Tragically funny.

Second only to motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall accidents account for 15 percent of all accidental deaths in the USA; 8 million emergency room visits every year. "Look at the situation as the universe telling/forcing you to slow down" a friend e-mailed.

Be careful out there; your life can change in a few milliseconds.

South metro picked up 5-6 inches, less north - more south of MSP. Respectable, but hardly Snowmageddon.

No more drama, just a chilly New Year's Eve with a shot at freezing from Saturday into early next week; no storms for at least a week.

No white Christmas this year, but 2016 will arrive on a cold, crystalline note.

Managing Slip and Fall Injuries. Since it's top of mind (for me) I wanted to share an excerpt of an eye-opening post at Culture of Safety. Chances are someone you know, a friend or family member, will take a nasty tumble with serious implications: "...Slips and falls are consistently one of the leading causes of injuries affecting workers in every industry. Slips and falls can range from minor to severe and can affect people of all age groups. The United States Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently conducted a study on slips and falls in the workplace and made the following discoveries:
  • Injuries from slips and falls are the most common work related injury
  • 25,000 slip and fall injuries per day
  • 35% of all work-related injuries are from slips and falls
  • 65% of all work days lost are from slips and falls
  • The total annual cost of slip and fall injuries in the United States is over $60 billion annually..."

Snowfall Totals. The GFS had the right idea after all, steering the heaviest snow bands south and east of MSP. No, the ECMWF doesn't always win the forecasting battle (although more times than not it has the right idea). About 4-5" fell across southern suburbs, 2-3" northern suburbs, with 8-10" amounts as close as Mankato and Rochester, a whopping 12.5" reported at Mapleton. Here's a partial rundown from NOAA:

1149 AM CST TUE DEC 29 2015


LOCATION                     AMOUNT    TIME/DATE
MAPLETON                     12.5 IN   0924 AM 12/29
FAIRMONT                     11.5 IN   1030 AM 12/29
WINNEBAGO                    9.6 IN    0800 AM 12/29
1 N ALBERT LEA               8.5 IN    1012 AM 12/29
MANKATO                      8.5 IN    1146 AM 12/29
SAINT CLAIR                  8.0 IN    0932 AM 12/29
SAINT CLAIR                  8.0 IN    0932 AM 12/29
FARIBAULT                    8.0 IN    0700 AM 12/29
JANESVILLE                   8.0 IN    0915 AM 12/29
JANESVILLE                   8.0 IN    0915 AM 12/29
2 SW LAKEVILLE               7.7 IN    0937 AM 12/29
3 NE TRIMONT                 7.5 IN    1110 AM 12/29
1 S MENOMONIE                7.5 IN    1030 AM 12/29
1 N MINNESOTA LAKE           7.4 IN    0941 AM 12/29
MANKATO 4 E                  7.2 IN    0700 AM 12/29
WELLS                        7.0 IN    0900 AM 12/29
OWATONNA                     7.0 IN    0800 AM 12/29
AMBOY                        7.0 IN    0603 AM 12/29
OWATONNA                     7.0 IN    0800 AM 12/29

Quiet Spell. After Monday night's plowable "near-miss" things settle down for the next week or so, only a slight chance of wet snow or a light mix by the middle of next week. The next 5 days should be dry with seasonable temperatures for late December and early Janaury; guidance hinting at a few days above 32F next week.

Top 5 Weather Events of 2015 in Minnesota. Thanks to Pete Boulay, the State Climate Office and the Minnesota DNR for passing this along; here's an excerpt: "Here are the candidates for the top five weather events of 2015 from the Minnesota State Climatology Office. Please visit us on Facebook and post your top five weather events for Minnesota. Looking back over the past year there have been a few weather events that stand out against the rest. From the states second warmest Autumn ever, to smoke filled skies in July, this years top five events offer the weather variety Minnesotans are accustomed to.

#4 Straight Line Winds Wreck Havoc in the Brainerd Lakes Area: July 12, 2015
The most damaging severe storm event of the year came in the form of a line of severe thunderstorms that brought winds from 70 to 95 mph in an area just south of Wadena eastward to the Pillsbury State Forest where winds were in excess of 100mph in places. Significant damage was done to resorts on Gull and North Long Lake as well as the grandstand at the Brainerd International Raceway..."

Screenshot credit: Aeris Pulse.

Historic Storm Set to Slam Iceland, Northern UK with Hurricane-Force Winds. Andrew Freedman at Mashable has a good overview of a wild storm bringing the prospect of more wind, wave and flood damage - and record warmth for the North Pole; here's the intro: "One of the strongest storms on record to form in the North Atlantic is set to rock Iceland with winds above hurricane force by Wednesday. It's also expected to drive a new batch of rain and wind to flood-weary areas of the UK. The storm could even set an all-time record for the strongest storm to develop in this part of the North Atlantic. The storm will be a meteorological marvel, intensifying so rapidly that the term "bombogenesis" is perhaps an understatement to describe its intensification. Aiding its explosive development is a jet stream on steroids, with winds of 230 miles per hour roaring across the North Atlantic at aircraft cruising altitudes..." (Image:

In Canada's Far North, Warm Weather Threatens Vital Ice Road. Here's an excerpt from Reuters: "...To climate scientists, this year's late freeze could be a harbinger of winters to come. It also raises the alarming prospect of thawing permafrost - the frozen layer of soil covering nearly half of Canada's landmass - which traps methane, a greenhouse gas, which would only hasten warming. This year's warmer temperatures may be connected to the El Nino climate phenomenon, a periodic warming of Pacific Ocean waters that has far-reaching effects.  It is Yellowknife's second warmest December on record, said David Phillips, a senior climatologist at Environment Canada, Canada's national weather service. So far, the average temperature for this December is just above -15 Celsius, marginally cooler than the -13 Celsius for December 2005, but well above the mean of around -22 Celsius..."

Map credit: GFS temperature anomalies valid 18z January 1 courtesy of Climate Reanalyzer.

10 of the Wildest Weather Stories of 2015. You'll remember many of these jaw-dropping moments, highlighted by Boston's mega-snows and historic flooding across the Deep South; here's an excerpt from and Sinclair Broadcast Group: "...Texas and Oklahoma faced their wettest month on record in May 2015, with both states far exceeding their previous records for total rainfall. According to the National Weather Service, Texas was hit with enough rain to cover the entire state in 8 inches of water. The worst of the rainstorms around Memorial Day delivered fatal floods in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Flooding earlier in the month caused an estimated $210 million in damage in Nebraska. In total, at least 40 deaths were blamed on southern flooding in May, according to the Weather Channel. President Obama declared a major disaster as storms bore down on Texas, causing evacuations, damage, and death..."

Why Forecasting Tornadoes is so Difficult. CNBC takes a look at the implications of the worst tornado death toll in December since 1953 in the United States, long before Doppler and split-second warnings: "...While there are some days that we know are going to produce storms ... there are other days where conditions that are favorable for a tornado to form come together so briefly — for a few hours and over a very small area," he said. "You really have to be incredibly diligent and never assume that it can't happen today because conditions don't look favorable. All it takes is one relatively small change in how the atmosphere is structured or how it is behaving, and that can make an incredible difference in the outcome." That means that the National Weather Service often has little time to issue a proper warning — sometimes only a few minutes — before a storm hits..."

Photo credit above: "This aerial photo shows a damaged home after a tornado ripped through the area, Monday, Dec. 28, 2015 in Texas. Residents surveyed the destruction from deadly tornadoes in North Texas as the same storm system brought winter woes to the Midwest on Monday, amplifying flooding that's blamed for more than a dozen deaths and prompting hundreds of flight cancellations. At least 11 people died and dozens were injured in the tornadoes that swept through the Dallas area Saturday and caused substantial damage." (G.J. McCarthy/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

This Month Is Now the Deadliest December for Tornadoes in 60 Years. Killer tornadoes in December are unusual, but not unprecedented, especially during strong El Nino events, which tend to strengthen the southerly branch of the jet stream, increasing wind shear and the potential for violent supercells. Here's a clip from The Capital Weather Gang: "Up until Christmas week, 2015 was looking really good for tornado safety and was on track to become the least-deadly tornado year on record since the late 1800s. But multiple holiday severe weather outbreaks — including two deadly tornado days — pushed the year well beyond its near-record, and made this month the deadliest December on record for tornadoes in over 60 years. Through Dec. 22, just 10 people had died in tornadoes in 2015. While it’s true that even a single life lost is one too many, 10 tornado deaths in an entire year is exceptionally low..."

Photo credit above: "Holiday storms cut a path of death and destruction across the country, killing dozens of people and leaving many homeless." (Reuters).

* Winds estimated close to 200 mph from an EF-4 tornado near Dallas swept vehicles off of Interstate 30, killing at least 8 people. The New York Times provides more context.

The Meteorology That Led to the Deadly Late-December Tornado Outbreaks. The Capital Weather Gang sets up the synoptic pattern that resulted in a swarm of tornadoes, including a rare December EF-4 near Dallas; here's an excerpt: "...The synoptic weather chart from Dec. 26 shows the key atmospheric players. The strong Bermuda high parked over the Atlantic Ocean circulated warm, moist, unstable air northward, feeding into the warm sector of a surface low pressure system. Meanwhile, fast winds coursed along a pronounced dip in the jet stream, the trough, while sub-freezing air filtered southward into northern Texas. Some of the cold air aloft overlapped warm air at low levels in the cyclone’s warm sector, creating an explosively unstable atmosphere. The core of fast winds developed both directional turning and increase in speed with altitude (wind shear), an ideal configuration for supercell thunderstorms that spawn nearly all violent tornadoes..."

* Early estimates of tornado-related damage in Texas: $1.2 billion.

5 Tips for Helping Kids With Tornado Fears. Surviving a tornado brings on a weather-related form of PTSD, it really is a form of trauma and should be treated as such. Here's an excerpt from The Dallas Morning News: "...Children of all ages may need and benefit from repeated reassurance. Although you can’t promise that tornadoes won’t return, you can reassure them that tornadoes are rare. Multiple conversations may be necessary, especially when children return to school and hear classmates say things that may need clarification. Maintaining typical schedules and routines can be comforting. Parents should stick to regular bedtimes, mealtimes and playtime. Preschool and elementary school age children might ask to sleep with parents. This is OK in the short term, with the understanding that it’s temporary until a set future date. For those directly affected by the tornadoes, parents should attempt to provide as much consistency and routine as possible at the shelters..."

Photo credit above: David Woo/Staff Photographer. "Hitel Rodriguez, 8, carries toys from his uncle's home in the 300 block of Mesa Drive in Glenn Heights on Monday, December 28, 2015. The tornado killed 11 people across North Texas on Saturday, December 26, 2015."

Bizarre December Weather Continues. EF-4 tornadoes in late December, extreme flooding from Mississippi to Paraguay to the U.K. Is this normal? Here's an excerpt from Danny Satterfield's blog at AGU Blogosphere: "...The warming oceans are making this El Nino event even stronger and it’s far from over. This year globally was the hottest ever recorded, and it beat the previous record set just last year. It may have been the hottest in several thousand years and I’ve heard talk that it may be the warmest since the ice age ended. Yes, really. The weather pattern is changing as we head into the new year, but it may not bring much relief from the floods and severe storms. It will bring colder air and snow to the Eastern U.S., and with the record warmth of the water off the East Coast, there will be plenty of moisture for heavy snow. You can blame that on El Nino and “clean coal” as well..."

Photo credit above: "Members of the Mountain Rescue team wade through floodwater in Skeldergate, York. England, Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. British Prime Minister David Cameron sent hundreds more troops into northern England on Sunday to help exhausted residents and emergency workers fight back rising river waters that have inundated towns and cities after weeks of heavy rain." (Anna Gowthorpe/PA via AP).

* Flood threat on the Lower Mississippi River could rival 2008 and 2001, potentially impacting thousands of people. Details here.

El Nino and Climate Change to Blame for Extreme Weather in Five Continents. Raw Story and AFP has an update; here's an excerpt: "...This year’s El Nino is the most powerful ever measured, surpassing the one in 1997-98, both in terms of ocean surface temperature — up by more than 3C (5.4F) — and the surface area affected, said Lecou. As was true in 1998, this year’s super El Nino will have contributed to making 2015 the warmest on record, worldwide. But the reverse may also be true, with climate change boosting the power of cyclical El Nino events. “If you add the background global warming to natural weather phenomena, there’s a tendency to break records left and right,” Le Treut told AFP..."

Photo credit above: "Adams Drive in Key Largo, Florida has been flooded for nearly a month, after high tides were exacerbated by a super moon." (AFP Photo/Kerry Sheridan).

Scientists Cleverly Use Cargo Ships for New Tsunami Warning System. Huffington Post reports; here's an excerpt: "...By using GPS systems and satellite communications, the newly outfitted ships form a network of open ocean tide gauges. In the deep ocean, a tsunami wave may only be a few inches high. But with the additional data points, researchers will be able to generate more accurate predictions and models -- and at a fraction of the price of a network of fixed sensors. “Our approach offers a new, cost-effective way of acquiring many more observations to augment the current detection networks,” co-investigator Todd Ericksen said in the statement..." (File photo: AP).

For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions. The New York Times has a story that may leave you smoldering; here's an excerpt: "...With inequality at its highest levels in nearly a century and public debate rising over whether the government should respond to it through higher taxes on the wealthy, the very richest Americans have financed a sophisticated and astonishingly effective apparatus for shielding their fortunes. Some call it the “income defense industry,” consisting of a high-priced phalanx of lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists and anti-tax activists who exploit and defend a dizzying array of tax maneuvers, virtually none of them available to taxpayers of more modest means..."

Why Big Oil Should Kill Itself. An Op-Ed from Anatole Kaletsky is Chief Economist and Co-Chairman of Gavekal Dragonomics got my attention at Project-Syndicate; here's an excerpt: "Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, has warned that the stranded-asset problem could threaten global financial stability if the “carbon budgets” implied by global and regional climate deals render worthless fossil-fuel reserves that oil companies’ balance sheets currently value at trillions of dollars. This environmental pressure is now interacting with technological progress, reducing prices for solar energy to near-parity with fossil fuels. As technology continues to improve and environmental restrictions tighten, it seems inevitable that much of the world’s proven oil reserves will be left where they are, like most of the world’s coal. Sheikh Zaki Yamani, the longtime Saudi oil minister, knew this back in the 1980s. “The Stone Age did not end,” he warned his compatriots, “because the cavemen ran out of stone.” OPEC seems finally to have absorbed this message and realized that the Oil Age is ending. Western oil companies need to wake up to the same reality, stop exploring, and either innovate or liquidate."

Elon Musk is Right About the Threat of AI; But He's Dangerously Wrong About Why. Well now I'm cheered up. Where's Arnold Schwarzenegger when you need him? Cue the theme from SkyNet. Here's an excerpt from Quartz: "Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking are right: AI is dangerous. But they are dangerously wrong about why. I see two fairly likely futures: Future one: AI destroys itself, humanity, and most or all life on earth, probably a lot sooner than within 1000 years. Future two: Humanity radically restructures its institutions to empower individuals, probably via trans-humanist modification that effectively merges us with AI. We go to the stars..."

The True Story of Roland the Farter, and How the Internet Killed Professional Flatulence. Hey, I don't make the news, I just report it, even news of the bizarre. Here's another reason why highly intelligent aliens have thus far bypassed planet Earth, reported by Atlas Obscura: "Roland, court minstrel to 12th century English king Henry II, probably had many talents. But history has recorded only one. Referred to variously Rowland le Sarcere, Roland le Fartere, Roland le Petour, and Roland the Farter, Roland really had one job in the court: Every Christmas, during the court’s riotous pageant, he performed a dance that ended with “one jump, one whistle, and one fart”, executed simultaneously. For this, Roland was gifted a manor house in Hemingstone, Suffolk, and more than 100 acres of land. For farting on cue..."

Image credit above: "A plate originally from The Image of Irelande, by John Derrick, published in 1581. Note the flatulentists on the right side (h/t the Lavatory Reader)." (Photo: Public domain)

TODAY: Chilly, few flakes but little or no accumulation. Winds: NW 5-10. high: 25

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Mostly cloudy. Low: 14

NEW YEAR'S EVE: Mostly cloudy, feels like 5-10F. Winds: W 10-15. Wake-up: 14. High: 20

NEW YEAR'S DAY: Cold start, few hours of sun. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 8. High: 26

SATURDAY: Intervals of sun, a bit milder. Winds: W 10-15. Wake-up: 14. High: 32

SUNDAY: Blue sky, light winds, above average. No problem getting home. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: 16. High: near 30

MONDAY: Intervals of sun, still quiet. Wake-up: 18. High: 33

TUESDAY: Passing rain shower, fleeting thaw. Wake-up: 28. High: 37

Climate Stories...

"...I think if we were truly confronted with the humanitarian consequences of climate change, only a tiny proportion of individual humans would accept the risk and suffering entailed by inaction. Yet, despite acknowledging the data on this, nations continue to squabble over negligible reductions in carbon emissions. Individual humans have the foresight and global perspective to appreciate that this is a disaster, but our organizations are structured to deny that perspective precisely because it undermines their success in short-term competition..."

- from a Quartz essay on the perils and promise of AI, available here.

Highlights of Climate Change Research in 2015. Greg Laden takes a look at some of the biggest headlines of the year related to climate science; here's the intro: "The following is a list of posts on this blog that report new climate change research, usually but not always from the peer reviewed literature, or posts that are longer essays intended to give context to ongoing climate change research. The first few posts are from December 2014, which addresses the fact that “year end summaries” tend to be written during December, or even before, so December of any given year gets the shaft.

2015 Review: Richard Muller "I Was Wrong on Climate Change". Here's an excerpt of a post and video from Peter Sinclair: "For those that don’t remember, Richard Muller is the UC Berkeley physicist, who became, briefly, a darling of climate denialdom, after saying a bunch of nasty things about climate scientists and their research. With money from the Koch Brothers, Muller formed a new research team, determined, he said, to get to the truth of the temp record. Funny thing, he confirmed what all those crazy climate scientists had been saying all along..."

2015 in Review: The Year Environmental and Climate Issues Left Their Silos. Here's a clip from Environmental Health News: "...Scientists, too, are connecting more dots among different environmental topics. In July and November, Stanford University professor Paul Ehrlich and University of California, Berkeley, Professor John Harte published two pieces on food security and the intertwined nature of ecological and social systems. "An enormous number of conditions have to be met if humankind is to thrive sustainably," Ehrlich and Harte wrote in the International Journal of Environmental Studies this summer. They added: "The basic dilemma facing humanity is how to solve enough of these problems, many if not most acting synergistically, to avoid a disastrous decline in general health, cognitive ability, and social order..."  (File photo credit: Brian Weed, Shutterstock).

This is Why Scientists Have Hope For The Climate. Here's an excerpt of an interview at Climate Central. David Titley, director of Penn State's Center for Solutoins to Weather and Climate Risk says: "...Paris, of course, but more substantively for the U.S. domestic movement is the sense more and more different groups are seeing climate change as an issue within their domain: big business, insurance and finance, multiple major religions, the divestment movement, health, national security, movies, and the media, as well as the traditional science and environmental communities. Ultimately, we have to have enough people care enough to get Congress to engage constructively and move both policies and money to transition our energy systems to non-carbon based forms as quickly as possible. Huge task, but if we’re focused we can do this..." (File photo: NASA).

Man-Made Warming Blamed for Exceptional Weather Conditions. Is the ongoing warming, especially of the world's oceans, a significant contributing factor? How much can be attributed to this vs. El Nino? Here's an excerpt from Financial Times: "Record December warmth is affecting large areas of the northern hemisphere, including most of Europe and the eastern US, while severe flooding hits places from Paraguay to the north of England. Climate scientists pin responsibility for the exceptional weather on man-made warming, combined with random variability and El Niño, the natural heating of the tropical Pacific Ocean that occurs every few years. David Rooke, an expert on flooding and deputy chief executive of the UK Environment Agency, said on Monday that flood preparations required a “complete rethink” as a result of climate change. “We are in a period of known extremes and we are moving into a period of unknown extremes,” he told BBC Radio..."

Photo credit above: "Damage left after Saturday's tornado in Garland, Texas." Associated Press.

The 8 Biggest Climate Storylines of the Year. Climate Central takes a shot at the biggest climate headlines of 2015; here's the intro: "We’re coming to the end of arguably the most influential year ever when it comes to climate change. The agreements struck at the Paris climate talks gave the world hope that nations could finally get their acts together to cut carbon emissions and with them, the risks climate change poses. And talk about a good timing. On top of being the hottest year on record, 2015 also saw a significant carbon dioxide milestone passed, sea level rise projections raised and one of the strongest El Niño’s on record. Next year will be a new chapter in the evolving story of our relationship with climate change. But here are the main storylines that developed in 2015..."

Weather, Climate Change and Related Matters in 2015. Greg Laden takes a look at some of the big themes and memes of 2015, with extreme flooding topping his list. How much of this is "natural" vs. enhanced by rising temperatures and water vapor levels? Here's an excerpt of his post: "...There are probably two or three reasons for increased flooding, which of course is caused by increased and concentrated rainfall along with other factors such as land use changes that cause rainfall to result in more flooding. One is the simple fact that a warmer atmosphere, due to global warming, contains more water, and thus, we get more rain. How much more? Not a lot, but enough to make a difference. If you put together a bunch of weather data and plot the annual precipitation rate over the last century or so, and fit a line to the data, the line will look flat. It isn’t really flat, and in fact, a properly fitted line on good data will show a statistically significant upslope. But still, the total amount of extra precipitation is a small percentage of the usual amount of precipitation, so the slope is not impressive unless you draw it out using heavy-handed graphing methods..." (File photo: EPA).

1 comment:

  1. So tell me about the Global Temperature Chart. For a little over 100 years we were below the arbitrarily selected 1981-2010 average? But a relative few years above average and everyone is freaking out? Why does this mean anything? Why in 1950 were we not saying we need more carbon release to bring temperatures up? Yeah I get the trend is up about linear but so what? Why isn't average something 50 years from now? I keep seeing this and all I can think of it's someone playing with numbers to show a chart without meaning.