Saturday, December 12, 2015

Another Symptom of a Warming Planet: Heavy Rain in Minnesota in mid-December. Details on Historic COP21 Climate Agreement

41 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities Saturday.
28 F. average high on December 12.
37 F. high on December 12, 2014.

December 13, 1995: A low pressure system moved across northern Minnesota, depositing a band of five to seven inch snowfall along a line from around Wheaton to north of St. Cloud and around Rush City. Alexandria received seven inches of snow. Meanwhile, in southern Minnesota, one to four inches of snow fell, along with one-quarter to one-half inch of freezing rain, which forced some school closures.
December 13, 1821: An extended cold snap begins at Ft. Snelling. Highs were below zero for all but one day of a 19-day stretch.

Freakish December: 1 in 30 Year Heavy Rain Event?

Take a good, long look at your supernaturally-green lawn, because I suspect we'll have a couple inches of slush on the ground by midweek. We may still salvage a white Christmas, by the skin of our teeth.

Any other December the upcoming storm might drop 1 to 2 FEET of snow. Not this year. There's simply too much warm air around.

One symptom of a warming atmosphere: more water vapor floating overhead, capable of fueling (spiking) rain storms. One such heavy rain event is brewing tonight and Monday as a jolt of southern moisture combines with historic levels of water vapor. The local NWS (graphic above) estimates this may be a 1 in 30 year December rain event. Some 1-2 inch rainfall amounts give way to a burst of slush at the tail-end of the storm Monday, but this will be mainly rain.

A second, colder storm Wednesday could drop a couple inches of snow, followed by a few days in the 20s by late week. But NOAA's GFS guidance hints at 40F early next week and 30s on Christmas Day.

At the rate we're going this winter heavy snow and bitter cold may be the exception, not the rule.

Just saying.

Poor Ice Fishing on Pelican Lake. I snapped this up at our cabin on Pelican Lake (not far from Breezy Point) yesterday, a few ice cubs along the lakeshore, but open water as far as the eye can see. It looked more like mid-October than mid-December.

December Soaker. Models may be overestimating rainfall amounts for the metro area, but at least 1" of rain is likely, maybe some 2"+ amounts south and east of MSP by midday Monday. Yes, this is highly unusual for mid-December. NAM guidance above: NOAA and AerisWeather.

Twin Cities: Now Firmly in USDA Zone 5? My friend (and prize-winning rose gardener) Jack Falker takes a look at the trends and implications in his blog, The Minnesota Rose Gardener. In an e-mail he said: "We've been running 20 degrees above average but you also have to remember how much that average has been pulled warmer over the last 50-plus years, right along the trend line in my charts.  So there is a compounding effect, with above average temps pulling the average ever higher..."

Here's an excerpt of Jack's blog post that caught my eye: "...For several years now I have been doing 50-plus year statistical analysis on Minneapolis-St. Paul winters and comparing them with winters in other upper-Midwest cities. The results are pretty amazing in that we can see very distinct warming trends developing. And it has become much easier to predict that these trends will continue and that we will see warmer winters going forward. The meteorological winter of 2015-16 began on December 1st and what we are now seeing is exactly what the trend line shows we should expect: temperatures are much warmer than average, an average which itself has been pulled significantly upward over the last 55 years. (Above) is my chart for the 55 winters beginning in 1961, through 2015, in the Twin Cities. What it shows is that since year 2000, all but three of our winters have been in USDA Zone 5 or higher, even though the USDA continues to rate MSP as Zone 4 (based on data that is now 10 years old). What's most important here is the upward slope of the trend-line, which, as mentioned above, is predictive. What the trend-line shows, if you extend it, is that MSP will be firmly in Zone 6 within the next three or four years. Right now, based on what we are seeing, I believe we will see a Zone 6 winter in 2016, for the second time in history, and there is a distinct possibility that it could be Zone 7, i.e. not below zero at all, which would be a first...."

* The graphic above shows the coldest nighttime low temperatures at Twin Cities International Airport since 1961.

Spring in December. Check out these 1 PM Saturday temperatures over the southern and eastern USA; near 70F as far north as Philadelphia. Impressive, considering the winter solstice is a little more than 1 week away. Source: Oklahoma Mesonet.

Warm Streak Continues. How much of this is El Nino vs. symptoms of the warming underway, worldwide (an estimated 93% of emissions-related warming is going into the world's oceans) remains to be seen, but there's little doubt that a warm signal is overwhelming other signals. Will it continue the rest of the winter? Place your bets (my guess is yes, although we will see cold fronts and snow).

December Returns by Late Week. Models show a wind chill close to 0F by 6 AM Friday. With a couple inches of snow on the ground (from a stormy near-miss on Wednesday) it may actually look like winter out there. Source: Aeris Enterprise.

Christmas Morning, 2015. Here is NOAA's GFS solution, valid 12z December 25, showing relatively quiet weather across most of America with temperatures above average; much warmer than average across the southern USA. A little wet snow may spread into the Red River Valley by afternoon; temperatures forecast to be in the 30s to near 40F in the Twin Cities. We'll see. Map: WSI.

Mild Signal To Spill into January. At least if you believe NOAA CPC's CFS (Climate Forecast System) V2 model, which shows January temperatures as much as 3-4K, or 5-7F warmer than average from Minnesota into the Great Lakes, as a mild Pacific flow continues to dominate North America. Source: NOAA.

Persistence of Abnormally Warm Temperatures. Dr. Mark Seeley puts the recent warmth into perspective in this week's edition of Minnesota WeatherTalk; here's an excerpt: "... For the first 8 months of the year (January-August) Minnesota was mostly recording a relatively even mixture of warmer and colder than normal daily temperatures.  However starting in September and continuing into the first 10 days of December over 80 percent of all days have produced warmer than normal temperatures.  The 3-month period of September through November was the 2nd warmest in Minnesota history on a statewide basis, trailing only 1963 by 0.2°F.  Further if you add in the first 10 days of December, the stretch of days from September 1, 2015 to December 10th is the warmest in state history, a remarkable run  of warmth..."

Photo credit: Brian Gustafson.

This is the Globe's Hottest Five-Year Period on Record. WXshift has a few eye-opening statistics, although they have not been fact-checked by Donald Trump, so proceed with caution. Here's an excerpt: "...The finding that it’s been the hottest five-year period on record on land and at sea underscores the need to reduce carbon emissions in an effort to avoid further dramatic changes. The WMO warned that continuing on a business as usual path of rising emissions could put the world on track for 10.8°F (6°C) increase in the global average temperature. There are also concerns that oceans, which currently absorb more than 90 percent of the extra heat being trapped by human greenhouse gas emissions, could eventually release some of that back to the surface, speeding up the surface temperature rise..."

Historical Odds of a White Christmas. In the Twin Cities it's about 72% (a little higher north metro, lower southern suburbs). But on average roughly 3 out of 4 December 25ths have at least 1" or more of snow on the ground at MSP. Source:

Northwest Storms Ease Drought Worries; Mudslide Risks Remain. The San Francisco Chronicle has an update on the firehose of (El Nino-enhanced) moisture trained on the Pacific Northwest; here's an excerpt: "...The moisture is helping to fill reservoirs earlier and recharging the groundwater, said Scott Pattee, water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service based in Mount Vernon. But "a lot of this rain is going down hard so it's flowing straight through the snowpack, and it's not adding to it," he added. Much of Washington's water supply depends on mountain snowpack that builds over winter, and melts in spring and summer. The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday showed the area west of the Cascade Mountains in Washington is no longer in drought..."

30-Day Doppler Radar Precipitation Amounts: NOAA.

Coast Guard Closes all Maritime Entrances to Washington and Oregon. The concern? Flood-related debris and very high seas. has the details.

This Year's Ozone Hole is the 4th Largest on Record. Fewer manmade chemicals (CFCs) are drifting into the stratosphere, but natural variability may be playing a role in ozone depletion. Here's an excerpt at WXshift: "The ozone hole, an environmental problem often associated with the 1980s, is still a clear and present issue more than 30 years later. Despite efforts to clean up the stratosphere of ozone-depleting chemicals, this year’s ozone hole minimum bottomed out at the fourth lowest on record. The ozone hole this year grew to a size of 10.9 million square miles, which is larger than the continent of North America. It’s a 1.3 million square miles bigger than last year’s size, and is the fourth largest on record since 1991. This year the hole formed later and lasted two weeks longer than usual, leading to almost 100 percent ozone depletion..."

A New Way to Predict Nationally Started in central Texas "Flash Flood Alley". in Austin documents on pulling in additional resources, data (and supercomputer crunching) is helping the process of predicting record rainfall and flooding events; here's an excerpt: "...The system works as a tool that predicts weather and flooding, but, unlike current systems, it relies on a lot of different disciplines. Hydrology, which he says connects “rain in the sky with water on the ground,” and geography, which connects “water on the ground with flow in the streams.” Supercomputing crunches the datasets and runs the models. “We haven’t used supercomputing for hydrologic forecasting before,” he says. “This is the first time that’s been done...”

Western Cold Spell Resulting in Vegetable Shortage? AerisWeather meteorologist D.J. Kayser takes a look at how (persistent) chill in the west, including California's Central Valley, is making it more expensive getting veggies on the dinner table, if you can even find them. Here's an excerpt from a recent post: "There is currently a shortage going on with a number of vegetables, including some lettuce. According to the most recent report (December 10th) from Produce Alliance, a produce management, procurement and consulting company, there are 14 crops that they have a “produce alert” on. Right now, the say that “demand exceeds supply” on broccoli, with this situation expected to continue for at least another week due to a “slower growth rate.” Produce Alliance also says that cauliflower is in “Act of God” state, mentioning that there is “nonexistant supply” and that “growth rate is slow” with this crop as well..."

Searching for Eureka: IBM's Path Back to Greatness, and How It Could Change the World. Quartz has a fascinating story on Big Blue; here's the intro: "Things IBM invented or that wouldn’t exist without it:

Punch cards
The US Social Security System
The hard drive
SABRE global travel reservation system
The Apollo Program’s computers to land the first humans on the moon
The mainframe computer
The magnetic strip on credit cards
The personal computer
LASIK laser eye surgical tool
The floppy disk

IBM has shed its skin so many times it’s hard to believe that this 104-year-old company started life making meat grinders and cheese slicers. Since then, its core business has at different times been punch card machines, clocks, mainframes, and personal computers, and it’s now essentially a $93 billion-a-year enterprise software company, helping equally monolithic firms manage their businesses slightly more effectively than before..."

The Long Haul: One Year of Solitude on America's Highways. Esquire takes a look at the benefits and the dark side of long-haul trucking; here's an excerpt: "...There's something metaphysical about driving alone through the night. As the world slips into darkness, you enter a free-form self that is post-sleep and incoherent. After a few hours, the parameters that separate you from the prism of night dissolve, and only an elongated tube of light sucks you along. And you begin to hallucinate. Under prolonged sensory deprivation, your brain invents its own visions. Before we reached Amarillo, I'd spent days on an acrobatic sleep schedule, trying to weather my driving partner's erratic temper and fearing for my own safety..."

Cheap Gas Is a Thrill, But a Costly One. The New York Times explains why; here's a clip: "The price of gasoline just keeps dropping. A gallon of regular costs $2.01, on average, across the United States, and the motor club AAA says it is likely to plunge below $2 imminently. If you drive a car, as I do, gas that cheap is a thrill. It is an inducement to head out on the road. Yet if you worry about fuel emissions and climate change, as I also do, the downward spiral of gas prices is frightening. It is an incitement to burn fossil fuel when a great deal of evidence suggests that we should be taking strenuous measures to burn much less of it, as many nations of the world concluded at the conference on climate change in Paris this month..."

File photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune.

There Once Was a Girl. The author writes an eloquent, heart-breaking plea for understanding and compassion, arguing against the false narratives of anorexia. Slate has the story - here's an excerpt: "...Even now I worry I’m telling the story wrong. Is E unhappy? Did my parents enable us in our sickness, or were they just powerless to reverse the tide? I can hardly conjure those years of my life in memory without thinking I’ve committed some grave narrative sin. I’m not the most reliable narrator. (To be fair, you probably aren’t, either.) I spin stories about people in order to understand them better, or to soothe or entertain myself. I sometimes balance my sanity on unstable materials—love objects that don’t stay put where I’ve left them. It can be hard to accept that your “characters”—Mom, Dad, sister—don’t belong to you, the tale-teller..."

Best News Bloopers of 2015. This was good for a string of laughs - rated PG, but very funny. Thanks to NewsBeFunny at YouTube for passing this along and brightening my day.

It's All About Me - Distracted Walkers Pose Threat to Self and Others. Darwin was right. Here's the intro to a story at The New York Times: "While distracted driving has commanded lots of attention (albeit not a commensurate amount of correction), another digital hazard — distracted walking — is on the rise, with sometimes disastrous consequences. We’ve all seen it, and often felt it, as people looking down to text, tweet, read or play games on their smartphones crash into us, typically as we walk in a straight line and they don’t. A study by Eric M. Lamberg and Lisa M. Muratori at Stony Brook University found that distracted walkers veer off course by as much as 61 percent while texting and walking..."

Image credit above: Paul Rogers.

SUNDAY: Rain and drizzle likely. Winds: NE 10-20. High: 43

SUNDAY NIGHT: Rain, heavy at times. Low: 37

MONDAY: Rain ends as a burst of snow; slush possible by midday. Winds: NW 20-35+ High: 37 (falling)

TUESDAY: Overcast and damp. Wake-up: 31. High: 38

WEDNESDAY: Couple inches of slushy snow possible. Wake-up: 33. High: 36

THURSDAY: Colder wind, few flurries. Wake-up: 25. High: 29

FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy, feels like 5-10F. Wake-up: 16. High: 22

SATURDAY: Sunny, not as harsh. Wake-up: 11. High: 26

Climate Stories...

Decoding the Paris Climate Deal: What Does it Mean? While some question whether the sky is blue (or warming) nations of the world have entered into a legally binding agreement to try and keep global temperatures below, hopefully "well below" 2C of warming. More perspective and analysis on an historic accord at Climate Home: " A two-week climate conference in Paris ended on Saturday with the first universal agreement on climate change. Some 186 countries have made national pledges for climate action, and agreed a global long-term goal to phase out greenhouse gas emissions, marking a turning point in the fossil fuel era.
The Paris outcome has two documents.
  1. The all-important, 12-page document “Paris Agreement”, which sets out new commitments for climate action beyond 2020, and potentially through this century.
  2. An accompanying, 19-page “Decision” which adds the legwork that countries will have to undertake before the Agreement enters into force in 2020.
Following is an analysis of the outcome..."

In Historic Paris Climate Deal, World Agrees to Not Burn Most Fossil Fuels. More context at ThinkProgress; here's an excerpt: "In a literally world-changing deal that was almost unthinkable just a year ago, some two hundred leading nations unanimously embraced a plan that will leave most of the world’s fossil fuels unburned. As part of a concerted effort to avoid catastrophic climate change, the world unanimously committed to an ongoing effort of increasingly deeper emissions reductions aimed at keeping total warming “to well below 2°C [3.6°F] above preindustrial levels.” The full text of this Paris Agreement goes even further, with the parties agreeing “to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change...”

* has an overview of the summit agreement here.

World Climate Accord Hailed as Turning Point from Fossil Fuels. Reuters has the story; here's the introduction: "French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius presented a landmark global climate accord on Saturday, a "historic" measure for transforming the world's fossil fuel-driven economy within decades and turning the tide on global warming. At the tail end of the hottest year on record and after four years of fraught U.N. talks often pitting the interests of rich nations against poor, imperiled island states against rising economic powerhouses, Fabius urged officials from nearly 200 nations to support what he hopes will be a final draft..."

Photo credit above: "French President Francois Hollande (L) takes his seat at a plenary session with Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius (C), President-designate of COP21, and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget" Photo: Reuters/Stephane Mahe.

Paris Accord Considers Climate Change as a Factor in Mass Migration. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "...From 2008 to 2014, an average of 26.4 million people were displaced each year by floods, storms, earthquakes and other natural disasters, according to a report released in July by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, part of the Norwegian Refugee Council. Most moved within their countries. “Climate-related displacement is not a future phenomenon,” said Marine Franck, who works on climate change and migration for the United Nations high commissioner for refugees. “It is a reality; it is already a global concern...”

Photo credit above: "A rough map of Europe on the wall of a sheltered area at the under-construction Moria reception center on Lesbos island in Greece, Nov. 19, 2015. Scientists have said that climate change can indirectly set off migration by triggering violent conflicts, an idea that has been an ominous, politically sensitive undercurrent at the two-week United Nations climate conference outside Paris." (Sergey Ponomarev/The New York Times)

Failure to Address Global Warming Will Cost Many Lives. The Economist has the article; here's a clip: "CLIMATE change kills. In 2005 the World Health Organisation estimated that climate change caused by human activity claims more than 150,000 lives annually. More recently, the Climate Vulnerability Monitor placed the death toll at around 400,000. Using the Value of Statistical Life proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, this represents a cost of more than $3 trillion. Independent of the source, inaction on climate change is expected to increase death and suffering..." (Image: 123RF).

James Hanson, Father of Climate Change Awareness, Calls Paris Talks "A Fraud". The Guardian reports; here's an excerpt: "...Many of the conservatives know climate change is not a hoax. But those running for president are hamstrung by the fact they think they can’t get the nomination if they say this is an issue. They wouldn’t get money from the fossil fuel industry.” There is a positive note to end on, however. Global emissions have somewhat stalled and Hansen believes China, the world’s largest emitter, will now step up to provide the leadership lacking from the US. A submerged Fifth Avenue and deadly heatwaves aren’t an inevitability. “I think we will get there because China is rational,” Hansen says. “Their leaders are mostly trained in engineering and such things, they don’t deny climate change and they have a huge incentive, which is air pollution. It’s so bad in their cities they need to move to clean energies. They realise it’s not a hoax. But they will need co-operation.”

Climate Activists Gather in Paris to Protest Outcome of Conference. The New York Times reports; here's the introduction: "Several thousand climate activists from across Europe and many from farther afield gathered peacefully near the Arc de Triomphe on Saturday to protest the outcome of the COP 21 climate conference about 12 miles away. The demonstration was an official exception to a ban on public gatherings across France after the Paris terrorist attacks in November. Even as the delegates at the official conference center were announcing a final draft of an agreement and applauding their achievement, the crowds on the street made clear their belief that it would take much more than the measures in that draft to halt global climate change..."

Photo credit above: "A demonstration near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Saturday to show support for actions against climate change." Credit Thibault Camus/Associated Press

Extreme UK Rains More Likely With Warming. The Cumbria area of the UK and much of Ireland has seen torrential rains and extensive flooding in recent days; here's an excerpt of an update at Climate Central: "Over this past weekend, a major storm swept across the U.K. and dumped torrential amounts of rain in some spots — the more than 13 inches that fell in one location in northwest England even set a national 24-hour rainfall record. Just days later, a real-time analysis by scientists working with Climate Central’s World Weather Attribution program has found that global warming has boosted the odds of such an extreme rainfall event in the region by about 40 percent — a small, but clear, effect, the scientists say. The finding is particularly noteworthy because the results of studies looking at the potential role of climate change in extreme precipitation have been a mixed bag, especially compared to heat waves, which have a much simpler and clearer connection to warming..."

Photo credit above: "Flooded roads are seen as waters along the river Shannon are expected to exceed severe flood levels, with up to 80mm of rain forecast to hit already devastated counties this weekend, in Banagher Co Offaly, Ireland, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015." (Niall Carson/PA via AP).

What Climate Change Looks Like: Miami's $300 Million Pumps. Here's an excerpt of an excellent summary of New York Times articles focused on why a deal in Paris at COP21 is so critical: "...The impact of climate change is usually gauged by metrics like fractions of degrees of warming or millimeters of sea-level rise. But the effects can also be measured in cash. Miami Beach is a case in point. The city, built on a barrier island, is spending $300 million to hold off the sea. Researchers at the University of Miami have been carefully measuring sea levels at Virginia Key, just south of Miami Beach, for nearly two decades, and say that in that time the sea has risen nearly four inches. For Miami Beach, that has exacerbated an existing problem – flooding of low-lying streets in South Beach and other neighborhoods during extreme high tides..." (File photo: AP/Lynne Sladk).

Climate Negotiators, Listen Up: A Warmer World is a More Violent World. An article at The Washington Post got my attention; here's an excerpt: "...Here’s one more effect to worry about. In a forthcoming article in Climatic Change, we investigate whether rising temperatures are connected to rising rates of violence. In short: yes. Our research found that each degree increase in Celsius (or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) is linked to a nearly six percent average increase in homicide rates around the globe. Those rates vary by region. In Africa, each degree increase in global temperature is associated with an almost 18 percent average increase in homicides. In North America, Australia and New Zealand, by contrast, the increase is approximately 3 percent on average. While our study is not the first to examine this link, it is the most comprehensive –and the first to examine it at a global level..."

Watch Elon Musk and Exxon Finally Agree on Something. Here's a snippet from an article at Bloomberg Business: "...In Paris, U.S. President Barack Obama and Elon Musk both spoke in support of a carbon tax. So did Exxon Mobil, joining a half-dozen other energy giants who came out in favor of one in June. A well-designed carbon tax can cut greenhouse-gas pollution in the most economically efficient way by letting market forces do the work. There are plenty of reasons to enact one. Carbon pricing is spreading. In 2015, some 40 countries and more than 20 subnational governments had a price on emissions, either through a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. They account for almost a quarter of global greenhouse-gas emissions..."

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