Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Back to Average - Major Northeast Snowstorm Brewing - Warming of Oceans Accelerates

-7 F. low yesterday morning.
6 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.
24 F. average high on January 19 (up 1 degree from yesterday, the first rise in average temperatures since late July)
37 F. high on January 19, 2015.

January 20, 1982: Just over 17 inches of snow falls in the Twin Cities. Amazingly, it was to be outdone two days later.
January 20, 1917: 16 inches of snow falls in the Twin Cities. Source: MPX National Weather Service.

Cold Perspective: No Volcanic Ash in 7-Day Outlook

Perspective is elusive, especially when you're in a tight spot. Our weekend cold wave was noteworthy, coming after a balmy autumn and start to winter. Tuesday was our 9th subzero morning. During an average winter we enjoy 22.5 nights below 0F. So far 126 hours below zero this winter at MSP.

At least there are no active volcanoes upwind. Susie Martin is a meteorologist at Aeris Weather. Her mom.

lives in San Jose, Costa Rica, one of the greenest, lushest, most desirable spots on Earth. But the Poas Volcano keeps sputtering nearby, raining down a continuous drizzle of ash that gets everywhere.
"You have no idea how bad the air is today. The volcano erupted again and there is ash everywhere.

The airport is closed again!" Elisa Martin e-mailed.

So we have that going for us.

While the east coast freaks out over Snowmageddon, The Sequel (some 1-2 foot snow amounts possible this weekend) Minnesota's weather remains relatively tranquil. An inch of snow is possible late Thursday; highs hit 30F from Saturday into most of next week.

A modest warming trend - and no volcanic ash in sight.

* Photo credit of Poas Volcano in Costa Rica courtesy of AerisWeather meteorologist Susie Martin.

Above Average. A few weeks ago we predicted a warming trend for the last week of January, and it's still on-track. European guidance shows 20s the next few days, with a shot at 30F over the weekend, again the middle of next week. A weak, clipper-like disturbance may squeeze out a coating Thursday, again Monday of next week, but no big storms are on the horizon. Source: WeatherSpark.

Potential Grows For Big East Coast Snowstorm. Mixing with ice east of I-95, mostly snow west of D.C, Baltimore and Philadelphia, the storm pushing in late Friday into Sunday morning may disrupt travel plans over the weekend, even knock out power (to some) as winds gust over 45 mph at the height of the storm Saturday. It's a class Nor'easter, payback for flowers blooming in Washington D.C. in December. GFS snowfall potential: NOAA and AerisWeather.

GFS Solution. Here is the snowfall total field from the 00z Wednesday run of NOAA's GFS model, which continues to print out excessive snowfall amounts, with the heaviest tallies north and west of Washington D.C. and Baltimore, where some 2 foot amounts are possible Friday PM into Saturday evening. New York could pick up 6-12" with lesser amounts anticipated in Boston. Ice will mix in east of I-95, keeping amounts down somewhat, but there's little doubt the Mid Atlantic and Northeast will see significant travel disruptions and possible power outages this weekend. Map: WeatherBell.

2 Week Preview: Split Flow. GFS guidance (500 mb) shows a split flow in the jet stream, moderate westerly winds keeping MInnesota and the northern tier of the USA relativly dry and seasonably chilly, while an active southern branch pulls moisture from the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico into the southern USA.
February: Mild Signal Returns? NOAA's CFSv2 (Climate Forecast System) model continues to show a mild bias stretching across most of Canada into the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and New England; temperature anomalies as much as 5-8F warmer  than average. Stay tuned. Map: WeatherBell.

El Nino to Peak Within Next Month. USA TODAY reports; here's the intro: "Climate troublemaker El Niño's strength — already tied for the most powerful on record — will peak within the next month before weakening in the spring, according to a forecast issued Thursday. That means the USA is set to receive even more desperately needed rain and snow in the drought-plagued West and feel generally milder-than-average temperatures across its northern tier..." (SST animation: NOAA Climate Prediction Center).

El Nino: How Long Will It Last? Probably into late spring, according to latest NOAA predictions. Here's an excerpt of a good summary at al.com: "El Nino will have a say in the nation's weather through the spring. That's according to this month's El Nino Diagnostic Discussion from researchers, who believe it will transition to what's called ENSO-neutral (or, back to average conditions) during the late spring or early summer. El Nino was still going strong in December, according to this week's report from the Climate Prediction Center, the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, National Weather Service and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society..."

Image credit above: "Every El Nino is different, but they tend to produce above-average precipitation during the winter months across parts of the United States as well as Alabama." (Climate.gov).

Unusual El Nino Weather May Increase Risk of Water Damage to Homes This Winter. A different angle in this story at Yahoo News; here's a clip: "...Winter is already a challenging season for many homeowners, but the moisture from El Niño will likely create additional headaches this year," said Paul Quinn, head of claims customer experience at Farmers Insurance. "This year's unique weather conditions mean we may see hazards like flooding and power outages combine with more traditional winter hazards, like ice dams and frozen pipes, as major concerns for homeowners." El Niño, which is characterized by unusually warm temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, is expected to create wetter-than-average conditions in the South, the Mid-Atlantic and southern portions of New England, as well as in California, Texas and Florida. Homeowners in these areas will likely have to contend with an increased risk of flooding, water damage and power outages..." (File photo: Dave Gatley, FEMA).

10 Billion Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters in 2015. Here's an excerpt from NOAA: "...The U.S. has sustained 188 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2015). The total cost of these 188 events exceeds $1 trillion. In 2015, there were 10 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. These events included a drought event, 2 flooding events, 5 severe storm events, a wildfire event, and a winter storm event. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 155 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted. The 1980–2015 annual average is 5.2 events (CPI-adjusted); the annual average for the most recent 5 years (2011–2015) is 10.8 events (CPI-adjusted). Further cost figures on individual events in 2015 will be updated when data are finalized..."

59 Cold Facts About Winter. Here is a link to the site referenced in the column, Random History.com,  with a few factoids that made me do a triple-take:
  1. The Southern Hemisphere typically has milder winters than the Northern Hemisphere. This is because the Southern Hemisphere has less land and a more maritime climate.
  2. While it seems counterintuitive, Earth is actually closest to the sun in December, even though winter solstice is the shortest day of the year.
  3. According to the Guinness World Records, on January 28, 1887, a snowflake 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick fell in Fort Keogh, Montana, making it the largest snowflake ever observed. (Image credit: NOAA).

The North Dakota Crude Oil That's Worth Almost Nothing. Here's an excerpt from Bloomberg Business: "Oil is so plentiful and cheap in the U.S. that at least one buyer says it would pay almost nothing to take a certain type of low-quality crude. Flint Hills Resources LLC, the refining arm of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch’s industrial empire, said it offered to pay $1.50 a barrel Friday for North Dakota Sour, a high-sulfur grade of crude, according to a corrected list of prices posted on its website Monday. It had previously posted a price of -$0.50. The crude is down from $13.50 a barrel a year ago and $47.60 in January 2014..."

Oil Goes Nonlinear. Here's a clip from a Paul Krugman Op-Ed at The New York Times: "...Or to put it differently: small oil price declines may be expansionary through usual channels, but really big declines set in motion a process of forced deleveraging among producers that can be a significant drag on the world economy, especially with the whole advanced world still in or near a liquidity trap..."

This Technology May Be The Future of Solar Energy. Here's a clip from The Washington Post: "...But some researchers are focused on developing other up-and-coming types of solar cells using different materials and production techniques. One of these emerging products is the perovskite solar cell, a cheaper product with the potential to be just as efficient — if not more-so — than traditional silicon cells, according to recent research.  The word “perovskite” refers to the type of material the cell is made out of. A perovskite material has a special type of crystal structure — calcium titanium oxide is one example, but other materials can have similar structures and be referred to as perovskites..."

Photo credit above: "Solar panels sit in an array at the Southwick Estate Solar Farm, operated by Primrose Solar Ltd., near Fareham, U.K., on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. The plant, situated in 200 acres (81 hectares) of farmland, consists of 175,000 monocrystalline PV modules and has a capacity of 48 megawatts." Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg.

10 Clean Energy Predictions for 2016. Here's an excerpt of a post from Michael Liebreich at Bloomberg New Energy Finance: "...Meanwhile, since the start of 2013, the NEX index of clean energy stocks has risen by 28 percent, compared with a fall of 24 percent for the NYSE Arca Exchange Oil Index and a plunge of 83 percent for the Stowe Global Coal Index. While total global investment in clean energy dropped over the two years to 2013, it increased in the two years since then, in 2015 surpassing its previous record, set in 2011, with a total of $329 billion ($372 billion if you include large hydro). At the beginning of 2014 I wrote of a “year of cracking ice”, when it would become clear to even the most hardened of skeptics that the world’s energy system has begun a period of irreversible transition..."

New Study Finds Recycled Phosphorus Could Fertilize 100% of U.S. Corn. Here's an excerpt from ensia.com: "...At the same time, excess phosphorus, including that running off feedlots and released from wastewater treatment plants, threatens water quality and ecosystem health as it fertilizes lakes, rivers and ocean waters around the globe. A recent study in Science of the Total Environment examined one solution to these twin problems: recycling. Looking at what recycled phosphorus could do for corn in the United States, the country’s number one crop, the study’s authors found that we’d need just 37 percent of available recyclable domestic phosphorus to fertilize all of the corn in the country..."

New York City To Get $176 Milllion from U.S. for Storm Protection. Details via The New York Times: "New York City may soon be one step closer to building a new flood protection system around Lower Manhattan to guard against another storm like Hurricane Sandy. Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said on Monday that the city would be awarded $176 million in federal funding for the proposed project, through a national contest created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help communities recover from disasters and better prepare for them..."

Image credit above: "A rendering of a city proposal to protect against flooding in Lower Manhattan from another storm like Hurricane Sandy."

These Airlines Have the Lowest Safety Ratings. Buyer beware; here's a clip from TIME: "...Unfortunately, some airlines—as per the ratings listed on AirlineRatings.com—have some work to do. The aviation safety–focused website performs a comprehensive analysis of data from several international aviation and government sources and gives every airline they monitor a numerical rating from 1 to 7. (Airlines that receive a 7 are considered the safest; those that receive a 1 are the least safe.)..."

Mapping Places in America Where Prohibition Never Ended. I had no idea, but a story at Atlas Obscura set me straight; here's the intro: "If you think that Prohibition is a thing of the past, think again. There are a surprising number of places in the U.S. where the sale and consumption of alcohol is still illegal. The above map illustrates the places in the United States where alcohol is banned: red indicates that alcohol is forbidden from being sold, blue indicates it is allowed, and yellow indicates that the county is "partially dry;" either wet communities exist within dry counties or vice versa..."

Map credit above: "Blue: Alcohol is not prohibited. Red: Alcohol is prohibited. Yellow: Some alcohol controls/alcohol prohibited in some municipalities." Data from March 2012. (Photo: Public Domain/Wikipedia Commons).

TODAY: Mostly cloudy, "milder". Winds: S 5-10. High: 23

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Patchy clouds. Low: 23

THURSDAY: Coating to 1" of snow possible. Winds: N 5-10. high: 25

FRIDAY: Better chance of seeing the sun. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 14. High: 22

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, trending milder. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 15. High: 29

SUNDAY: Dripping icicles, thawing out. Winds: SE 3-8. Wake-up: 21. High: 32

MONDAY: Cooler, dusting of flurries? Wake-up: 26. High: 29

TUESDAY: Some sun, above "average". Wake-up: 18. High: near 30

Climate Stories...

3rd Annual Minnesota Climate Adaptation Conference on January 28. If your state agency or business  is already seeing impacts from a more volatile climate you should consider attending - a few spots are still available. Here's more information on who, what, where and why from Dr. Mark Seeley:

"We are trying to nurture an educated community of practitioners when it comes to climate adaptation and sustainability, and we are slowly succeeding. In past statewide conferences we have heard from a number of academic researchers and government practitioners concerning sustainability strategies and procedures that give consideration to climate change, but this year we will hear more from the business and corporate community (morning plenary session on climate adaptation and sustainability), as well as a panel of city mayors in the afternoon plenary session.

The CAP Conference will take place on January 28, 2016 at the Doubletree Hotel in Brooklyn Center, MN.   Many of the presentations and discussions will center on the need for sustainability as an underlying principle when it comes to considerations of climate change and how it will affect management of our natural resources, our societal infrastructure, and the future of products and services from the highly competitive corporate world  This would be a valuable discussion for our wider community to hear, and perhaps even foster some closer working relationships among the partnerships of practitioners we are trying to build."

More information and a link to online registration is here.

Church of England and New York State Fund to Press Exxon on Climate Change.  Here's the intro to a Wall Street Journal story: "New York’s state pension fund and the Church of England, both investors in Exxon Mobil Corp. , plan to file a shareholder resolution demanding the largest U.S. oil company assess the impact on its business of climate change policy. The shareholder resolution would require Exxon to conduct an assessment of how its business would fare in the event governments take various actions to limit global warming. Government attempts to tax or put a price on carbon, for example, could affect the viability of some of Exxon’s long-term investment plans, said Edward Mason, head of responsible investing for the Church of England, which has a portfolio of about £10 billion ($14.44 billion)..."

Photo credit above: "A view of the Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown, Texas." Photo: Reuters.

Today's Oceans are Different Than They Were Twenty Years Ago. Here's an excerpt of a story at Forbes: "While we can’t say that climate change causes El Nino, the evidence is mounting that the warming of our planet could be intensifying the natural phenomenon, which in turn can lead to some extreme weather events. New research published today in the journal Nature Climate Change found that half of the warming of our oceans seen since 1865 has happened in the past twenty years. “Since the 1990s, the total amount of heat content change in the oceans is twice that of what we’d seen up until that point in the past 150 years,” said Chris Forest, a Penn State meteorology professor and coauthor of the paper. While El Nino and La Nina are cyclical phenomena, they are powered by warm water in the Pacific and this current El Nino is accompanied by record-setting ocean temperatures..."

Illustration credit above: "Pacific and Atlantic meridional sections showing upper-ocean warming for the most recent complete decade. Red colors indicate a warming (positive) anomaly and blue colors indicate a cooling (negative) anomaly." (Source: Timo Bremer/LLNL)

* More perspective on the massive amounts of heat going into the world's oceans at Discovery News.

NPS Drone Checks Arctic Ice Loss. The Monterey Herald has an interesting story about new technologies being deployed to monitor ice loss; here's the intro: "When you are flying a drone over the Arctic ice cap you need warm clothing and armed sentries to ward off prowling polar bears. Naval Postgraduate School polar meteorologist and professor Peter Guest spent more than 40 days late last year as the only scientist from NPS in a group from the U.S. and other countries researching the region’s receding ice cover. It’s a part of the world the United States and other nations are showing great interest in. Russia renewed its claim to a United Nations committee on the Arctic, a region potentially rich in mineral resources, which the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway are also laying claim to..."

Photo credit above: "Naval Postgraduate School polar meteorologist and professor Peter Guest works with a drone in the arctic." Photo by Byron Blomquist.

What's Melting Greenland's Ice Sheet? Night Clouds, say Scientists. Clouds keep daytime temperatures cooler, but result in warmer nights, trapping additional radiation near the ground. Here's an excerpt from Christian Science Monitor: "Clouds play an important role in melting Greenland’s ice sheet, say scientists. A team of scientists from the University of Leuven in Belgium have found that clouds are raising the temperature of the Greenland Ice Sheet by up to 3 degrees, contributing to almost 30 percent of the sheet’s melting, according a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications..."

Photo credit above: "Heimdal Glacier in southern Greenland is seen in a NASA image captured by Langley Research Center's Falcon 20 aircraft October 13 and released November 24. NASA's Operation IceBridge North is an airborne survey of polar ice aimed at learning how much snow and ice disappeared over the summer, according to a NASA news release." John Sonntag/NASA/Reuters.

What History Gives, the Sea Steals. Stronger storms and higher sea levels are eroding the coastline of Scotland, creating a new set of challenges for archeologists. Here's an excerpt from Hakai Magazine: "...Natural coastal erosion is a long-standing problem in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, especially on sandy shorelines. But climate change is generally expected to bring more of the severe storms that can tear off whole chunks of the coast at once. Rising sea levels, too, mean the waves during those storms can reach farther inland, eating the shore away faster. “Climate change has the potential to make an existing problem worse,” Dawson says. When intense storms pummel the coasts, they often lay bare structures—like those at Meur—that were previously hidden..."
Photo credit above: "The Meur burnt mound in situ on the shore of Sanday." Photo courtesy of SCAPE/University of St Andrews

Martin Luther King and The Call to Direct Action on Climate Change. Joe Romm connects the dots at ThinkProgress; here's an excerpt: "...If we don’t act now, then, within decades, a large fraction of the world’s 9 billion people will find themselves living in places whose once stable climate simply now can’t sustain them — either because it is too hot or arid, the land is no longer arable, their glacially fed rivers are drying up, or the seas are rising too fast. The overwhelming majority of those suffering the most — in this country and especially abroad — will be people who contributed little or nothing whatsoever to the problem. This would be the greatest injustice in human history, “irreversible” on a time scale of centuries..."

Image credit above: Shutterstock.

Here's Why Satellites Aren't The Best Way to Measure Global Temperature Trends. Here's the intro to a Guardian article at Raw Story: "Satellites don’t measure the Earth’s temperature. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his fellow climate contrarians love the satellite data, but as Carl Mears of the Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) satellite dataset and Ben Santer recently wrote ,
they are not thermometers in space. The satellite [temperature] data … were obtained from so-called Microwave Sounding Units ( MSUs ), which measure the microwave emissions of oxygen molecules from broad atmospheric layers. Converting this information to estimates of temperature trends has substantial uncertainties.
Scientists process the raw microwave data, applying a model to make numerous adjustments in order to come up with a synthetic estimate of the atmospheric temperature..." (Image above: NOAA).

How Reliable are Satellite Temperatures? Here's a link to a YouTube video from Yale Climate Connections: "We often hear from climate deniers that satellite measurements of global temperature are "the best data we have"? But is that true? Here, interviews with leading climate scientists, including Carl Mears, who keeps the dataset that he says Senator Ted Cruz, and others, are misusing."
Ted Cruz Fact Check: Which Temperature Data Are The Best? There are no direct measurements of temperatures from satellite sounders; temperatures are inferred. Here's an excerpt of a good explainer at The Guardian: "Satellites don’t measure the Earth’s temperature. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his fellow climate contrarians love the satellite data, but as Carl Mears of the Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) satellite dataset and Ben Santer recently wrote,
they are not thermometers in space. The satellite [temperature] data ... were obtained from so-called Microwave Sounding Units (MSUs), which measure the microwave emissions of oxygen molecules from broad atmospheric layers. Converting this information to estimates of temperature trends has substantial uncertainties.
Scientists process the raw microwave data, applying a model to make numerous adjustments in order to come up with a synthetic estimate of the atmospheric temperature..."

Graph credit above: "Estimates of the temperature of the lower troposphere from satellites by RSS vs. weather balloons by NOAA (RATPAC)." Created by Tamino at the Open Mind blog.

Study: Deep Ocean Waters Trapping Vast Store of Heat. We are conducting an experiment on the atmosphere and the oceans; we still don't know what we don't know. How will all that extra heat in the oceans, especially the Pacific Ocean, manifest itself and flavor the weather? Stay tuned. Here's a clip from Climate Central: "...More than 90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gas pollution since the 1970s has wound up in the oceans, and research published Monday revealed that a little more than a third of that seafaring heat has worked its way down to depths greater than 2,300 feet (700 meters). Plunged to ocean depths by winds and currents, that trapped heat has eluded surface temperature measurements, fueling claims of a “hiatus” or “pause” in global warming from 1998 to 2013. But by expanding cool water, the deep-sea heat’s impacts have been indirectly visible in coastal regions by pushing up sea levels, contributing to worsening high-tide flooding..."

Graphic credit: Lawrence Livermore/Nature Climate Change.

This Is Where 90% of Global Warming is Going.  Here's an excerpt of a Chris Mooney story at The Washington Post: "...Gleckler is the lead author of a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change finding that, in the past two decades, ocean heat content has been rising rapidly and that, much more than before, heat is also mixing into the deeper layers of the ocean, rather than remaining near the surface. “As the upper oceans have been warming over time, more and more of this heat is finding its way down into the deeper ocean, and our results indicate that the fractional amount of heat that is trapped in the deeper ocean is increasing as well,” Gleckler said..."

Photo credit above: "Rolling waves driven by cyclone Christian appear in the Elbe estuary near the North Sea close to Brunsbuettel, northern Germany, in 2013." (European Pressphoto Agency/Christian Charisius).

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