Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Coldest Air of the Winter Arrives Sunday - Subzero Stretch Next Week

32 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.
24 F. average high on January 5.
1 F. high on January 5, 2015, after waking up to -11 F.

4" of snow on the ground at KMSP.

January 6, 1942: The temperature rises from 32 below zero to 41 above in 24 hours in Pipestone.

Ice Bowl 2016? Subzero Sunday - Windchill: -30F

We had just gotten a new color (!) TV and I vaguely remember watching the Packers battle the Cowboys on December 31, 1967, in what came to be known as the "Ice Bowl". It was -15F at Lambeau Field, with a wind chill of -44F.

Whistles froze onto the lips of referees. Members of the band were hospitalized for hypothermia. Cars wouldn't start; one Green Bay player had to hitchhike to the stadium.

It won't be quite that cold on Sunday at TCF Stadium as the Vikes take on the Seahawks, but the risk of frostbite & hypothermia will be high. I expect game time temperatures of -5F, a wind chill of -30 to -35F. The "no exposed skin" rule will definitely apply Sunday, again Tuesday as a second spoke of subzero fun rotates across Minnesota.

It's rare to get this cold without some snow. I see two chances to freshen up our snow cover: an inch of slush later today, maybe a couple inches Friday into early Saturday as a weak storm spins up along the leading edge of truly polar air.

Next week should be the coldest of the winter. I predict Sunday's game may rival the legendary 1967 Ice Bowl.

Map credit: ECMWF-predicted wind chills at 18z (1 PM) Sunday, in the -30 to -35F range in the Twin Cities. Source: WeatherBell.

Remembering the Ice Bowl. Did bitter cold give an edge to the Packers back in 1967? You could make a case that the Cowboys just weren't prepared for the intensity of the chill. Here's an excerpt of a fascinating account from Wikipedia: "...Prior to the game, many of the Green Bay players were unable to start their cars in the freezing weather, forcing them to make alternate travel arrangements to make it to the stadium on time. Linebacker Dave Robinson had to flag down a random passing motorist for a ride. The referees for the game found they did not have sufficient clothing for the cold, and had to make an early trip to a sporting goods store for earmuffs, heavy gloves, and thermal underwear.[34] Packers quarterback Bart Starr attended an early church service with his father, who had visited for the game, and as Starr later said, "It was so cold that neither of us talked about it. Nobody wanted to bring it up." The officials were unable to use their whistles after the opening kick-off. As referee Norm Schachter blew his metal whistle to signal the start of play, it froze to his lips. As he attempted to free the whistle from his lips, the skin ripped off and his lips began to bleed. The conditions were so hostile that instead of forming a scab, the blood simply froze to his lip. For the rest of the game, the officials used voice commands and calls to end plays and officiate the game. At one point during the game, CBS announcer Frank Gifford said on air, "I'm going to take a bite of my coffee..." (Image credit above: Wisconsin Public Radio).

Bit of a Chill. GFS ensemble guidance shows a wind chill of -20F at noon on Sunday, the ECMWF hints at readings closer to -30F. Which begs the question: can you feel any colder than "numb"? In reality a lower wind chill obviously increases danger by decreasing the amount of time it takes for frostbite or hypothermia to set in. If you are heading to the Vikes game Sunday (or planning any outdoor activity) dress in multiple layers and make sure there's no exposed skin showing. We've been spoiled by unusual warmth in recent months; Sunday will probably come as a shock to many. Source: NOAA and Aeris Enterprise.

Couple Inches of Snow by Saturday Morning? Models hint at an inch of slush later today and tonight, maybe a couple inches Friday as a weak storm pushes across the Midwest. NAM guidance suggests the heaviest (3-4") amounts will set up just east of the metro area. This seems like a reasonably solution; I would be very surprised to see an onslaught of subzero air without a fresh coating of white in advance.

Slow Moderation. Don't look for any miraculous thaws during the third week of January, but there are signs of a more zonal, west-to-east flow returning as we head into late January, as the core of the coldest air lifts northward. I still suspect next week will be the coldest of the winter for Minnesota.

Sharply Negative AO - Some Recovery After January 20? After being positive most of autumn the Arctic Oscillation, a measure of the "compactness" of the polar vortex, has gone sharply negative, meaning a more meandering, southward flowing surge of polar air which will finally catch up with us over the weekend. It's early, but models suggest a positive turn within 2 weeks, which should mean some moderation by the last week of January. By then we'll all be ready for a not-as-arctic front. Source: NOAA CPC.

There's a Fascinating Reason Why You're More Likely To Get Sick in the Winter. MSN.com takes a look at new research; here's an excerpt: "...Some research suggests that both the cold air from outdoors as well as the dry air from indoors may play a role in protecting the aerosol droplets we sneeze and cough into the air, allowing them to more easily spread from one sick person to another. Plus, stuffy, unventilated indoor air could make it easier for colds to spread; a 2011 study of crowded college dorms in China found that in rooms with poorer ventilation, colds were more likely to thrive. Some research from the National Institutes of Health suggests that in cold temperatures, the outer shell of flu virus particles get tougher and more hardy so that it survives longer and could be easier to spread..."

Keeping Warm in Winter is For The Birds. Smithsonian Science News takes a look at how birds make it through the frigid winter months; here's an excerpt: "...And just like the coats people wear, birds tend to get puffier in winter. “A bird’s body heat warms the air between its feathers,” Marra explains. “So birds fluff up in the cold to trap as much air in their feathers as possible. The more trapped air, the warmer the bird.” So feathers are great for the parts of a bird that have feathers, but what about a bird’s legs and feet? It’s not like birds have pockets they can stick them into…or do they? One way birds keep their legs and feet warm is to stand on one leg, while the other is tucked up warmly in its feathers. And then they switch to give the other leg a turn..."

Photo credit above: "Small birds like this European robin puff up their feathers in order to trap more air in them, which is then warmed by their body heat and keeps the bird toasty on a cold winter morning." (Flickr photo by Theirry Marysael).

The Most Polluted States in America. Minnesota ranks 20th worst in the nation? I was surprised to see the results - here's an excerpt at AOL.com: "Breathing is as automatic as your heartbeat, but if you live in a polluted area, each breath could be detrimental to your health. PM2.5 particles, classified as a fine air pollutant with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, have the ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream. A study published in The Lancet found that for every 10 ug/m3 increase of PM2.5 particles, lung cancer incidences increased by 36 percent. Potential sources of PM2.5 include motor vehicles, power plants, wood burning and other industrial processes..."

Graphic Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Fine particulate matter data are geographically aggregated daily measures of fine particulate matter in the outdoor air per cubic meter, spanning the years 2003-2011. PM2.5 particles are air pollutants with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 micrometers."

The Historic Mississippi River Flood, Before and After, From Space. The Capital Weather Gang takes a closer look at the extent of flooding; here's the intro: "The torrential rains that drenched Illinois and Missouri in late December raised the Mississippi River to its highest crest on record south of St. Louis this week. The before and after imagery of the river from this region, obtained by NASA’s Terra satellite, is stunning. Here’s a wide view of the region, comparing the river in January 2015, when water levels were normal, to the historically high levels of January 2016..." (Image: NASA, Capital Weather Gang).

Bizarro Floods on Mississippi River. 1 in 500 year floods happening every 25 years? Here's an excerpt of a post at NRDC.com: "...Flooding is the costliest natural disaster we experience in this country. Between 1980 and 2013, flooding cost the US economy $260 billion with more than 20 individual flood events exceeding $1billion in damage. My team at NRDC recently looked at how much federal assistance goes to rebuild public infrastructure in the wake of floods. From 1998 to 2014 $48.6 billion in FEMA Public Assistance Grants were spent in the wake of floods each year from 1998 to 2014. That bill has only increased with major floods hitting parts of Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and, now, Illinois, Missouri and many other parts of the Midwest and Southeast..."

Map credit above: "The high cost of flooding. NRDC found that FEMA spent $48.6 billion 1998 to 2014, predominantly to repair or replace public buildings ($12.6 billion), public utilities ($7.4 billion), roads and bridges ($5.5 billion), and water-control facilities like levees, dams, and pumps ($1 billion)."

This Year's El Nino Is On Track to Rival the Worst on Record. Here's the intro to a story at Huffington Post: "The El Niño of 1997-98 was the worst on record. It caused an estimated 23,000 deaths worldwide as widespread drought, flooding and other natural disasters rocked the globe. The catastrophic weather system also caused the most devastating coral bleaching in recorded history, killing off about 16 percent of the world’s reef systems. In the U.S., the total economic impact of that year’s El Niño was between $10 billion and $25 billion. Sounds bad? Well, according to NASA, we may now be facing an equally-destructive El Niño; one that's poised to only worsen in the first few months of 2016..."

Record El Nino, Climate Change Drive Extreme Weather. Are consistenty warmer Pacific Ocean temperatures helping to drive a record El Nino and many of the weather symptoms popping up across the planet? Here's an excerpt from BDLive: "Deadly extreme weather on at least five continents is driven in large part by a record-breaking El Niño, but climate change is a likely booster too, experts said on Monday. The 2015-16 El Niño, they added, is the strongest ever measured. "It is probably the most powerful in the last 100 years," said Jerome Lecou, a climate expert at the French weather service Meteo France, noting that accurate measurements have only existed since the mid-20th century. Flooding and mudslides unleashed by torrential rains have killed at least 10 people and driven more than 150,000 from their homes in Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay in recent days. ..." (Graphic credit: NOAA CPC).

What North America Can Expect From El Nino. Every El Nino has a different "flavor" and slightly different symptoms, no two events are identical, according to a good overview at The Conversation; here's an excerpt: "...During the coming months, climate scientists expect that El Niño will pull the east Pacific Northern Hemisphere jet stream and its associated storm track southward. Normally these storms veer to the north toward the Gulf of Alaska or enter North America near British Columbia and Washington, where they often link up with cold Arctic and Canadian air masses and bring them down into the United States. Instead, with the jet stream following an altered path, the northern states are likely to experience relatively mild and drier-than-normal weather. Storms tracking across the continent further to the south will likely create wet conditions in California and across the South as far east as Florida..."

Photo credit above: "Flooding in Clear Lake, California, March 1 1998, during the 1997-1998 ‘super’ El Niño event." Dave Gatley/FEMA.

Wettest and Warmest December "Won't Become Norm for Decades". The BBC recaps a springlike December across the United Kingdom, complete with record warmth and record rains; a preview of winters to come? "...Storms propelled by the jet stream were mainly to blame, it says, with contributions from the El Nino weather phenomenon and man-made climate change. December was something of a freak month, it acknowledges. It says climate change has raised UK temperatures by around 1C (1.8F) so far, so it will be many decades before this level of extreme weather becomes the new winter norm. Other scientists say that with climate change, there will be no "normal" weather..."

Photo credit above: "An abandoned car is submerged near the River Isla near Meikleour, Scotland Monday Jan, 4, 2016. Many parts of Britain are still suffering from the recent floods that have struck the country in the last 2 weeks." (Hilary Leverton Duncanson /PA via AP.

Weirdest Weather of 2015. Here's an excerpt of some of the more noteworthy weather and climate stories of 2015, courtesy of Discovery News: "...In late August, for the first time in recorded history, Weber says, three super-strong hurricanes formed in the eastern Pacific -- all at the same. Named Kilo, Ignacio and Jimena, all three storms reached Category 4 status, with winds exceeding 130 miles per hour. Hurricanes feed off warm surface waters in the ocean, which explains why the hurricane season normally peaks in late summer. But, when one strong hurricane sweeps through, it usually churns up the ocean so much that cold waters rise from below, squelching the potential for more storms to form right away. This year’s hurricane trifecta, Weber says, “signals to us not only that the surface waters are warm, but that the warm temperatures go to great depths...”

Image credit above: "Typhoon Kilo, Tropical Storm Ignacio, and Hurricane Jimena in the Pacific Ocean are captured by Japan's Himawari satellite on Sept. 2." JMA/NOAA.

Weather Dominates Insurance Claims in 2015. Here's the intro to a story from Thomson Reuters Foundation: "Insurers paid out around $27 billion for natural disaster claims last year with weather causing 94 percent of incidents, underscoring the challenge posed by climate change, data from reinsurer Munich Re showed on Monday. While the climate phenomenon known as 'El Niño' reduced the development of hurricanes in the North Atlantic, storms and floods still inflicted billions of dollars of damage in Europe and North America, the world's largest reinsurer said in an annual review..."

Weather Stories That Will Endure Throughout 2016 And Beyond. Living On The Real World and the AMS (American Meteorological Society) has a post that helps to put weather, climate, risk and uncertainty into perspective; here's an excerpt: "...Here’s a 21st-century irony. We’re increasingly vulnerable to weather even as our personal exposure to heat and cold, sun and rain is in decline. Most of us are in the virtual workplace of information technology which itself is embedded in the virtual climate of the heated/air-conditioned office. Even so, we’ve been forced to acknowledge our increasing sensitivity and changing vulnerability to weather, and especially extremes and even lesser departures from so-called “normals.” The big challenge here is the emerging mismatch between (1) the time-horizon of our strategies and investments for producing food, maintaining water and energy supplies, transporting people and goods, and a weather-sensitive economy; and (2) the time-horizon on which we can anticipate the threats weather and climate, and their associated effects on water, pose to those plans and ventures. We’re in essence flying blind. We’re placing bets at the poker table without looking at our own hand or those of the other players..."

Alpine Ski Resorts Hope Petting Zoos Will Make Up for Lack of Snow. Call me crazy but I don't see the connection. Let's see, downhill skiing or petting zoo? Hmm. The worst start to winter for New England ski resorts in 50 years? Here's an excerpt from Bloomberg Business: "The town of Chamonix, France, opened a petting zoo to entertain children deprived of skiing. In Laax, Switzerland, operators raised lift prices, to keep out skiers from lower altitudes. Helicopters are carrying snow to Meribel, and in Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, the mayor asked locals to eschew the slopes. It’s all a response to what’s shaping up to be the worst December in memory for snowless European ski resorts, the vacation destinations for movie stars and schoolchildren alike..."

What To Do When Weather Upends Your Vacation. Always have a Plan B. Maybe C and D, too. Here's an excerpt from a New York Times article with some helpful advice: "...Severe weather events such as floods, storms and heat waves appear to be happening with greater frequency. There have been an average of 335 weather-related disasters each year between 2005 and 2014, up 14 percent from the previous decade, and nearly double the level of the decade before that, according to a November report issued by the United Nations. Travel in an age of uncertain climate means that at some point, your plans are likely to be upended by weather. Still, with a bit of preparation and the right attitude, it doesn’t have to proverbially rain on your vacation. Below are some tips on how to be ready for whatever comes your way..."

We Need a New Green Revolution. Managing increasingly fickle water supplies, intense rainfalls, new invasive pests, higher dew points will require new techniques and technologies. Here's a clip of an Op-Ed at The New York Times: "...History has shown that science can solve the nation’s agriculture and food production problems, but to do so, the American system of food and agricultural research must be substantially reinvigorated. Research can tackle how to grow more food with fewer resources under increasingly difficult growing conditions. But this can be accomplished only if more of the brightest minds are engaged with enough funding to pursue transformative ideas. While private sector research and development in agriculture have grown over the past decade and now exceed what is federally funded, this financing is focused on shorter term benefits..." (File credit: Tim McCabe, USDA).

The Conservative Case for Solar Subsidies. An Op-Ed at The New York Times makes the case; here's a snippet: "... Solar energy prices have continued to fall rapidly, twice as many Americans work in the solar industry as in coal mining, and last year one-third of new electricity generation came from solar power. Solar, long viewed through the lens of crony capitalism, has shown the ability to inject real market competition in energy distribution, one of the last monopolies in the energy sector, while improving the efficiency of the grid and putting more dollars in the pockets of middle-class Americans. Conservatives, in other words, need to take another look at solar. The case for solar isn’t limited to prices and jobs. Consumers want choice...." (File image: Fresh Energy).

Wind, Solar Power Soaring In Spite of Bargain Prices for Fossil Fuels. Here's a snippet from The Washington Post: "Wind and solar power appear set for a record-breaking year in 2016 as a clean-energy construction boom gains momentum in spite of a global glut of cheap fossil fuels. Installations of wind turbines and solar panels soared in 2015 as utility companies went on a worldwide building binge, taking advantage of falling prices for clean technology as well as an improving regulatory and investment climate. Both industries have seen stock prices jump since Congress approved an extension of tax credits for renewables as part of last month’s $1.14 trillion budget deal..." (Image: Earthtimes.org).

Need a Chill Pill? Here's a Recipe From the 19th Century. Atlas Obscura delves into the history behind the proverbial chill pill: "...In fact, chill pills used to be something you could make at home. In Housekeeping in Old Virginia, an 1879 book of recipes and housekeeping tips compiled by “two hundred and fifty of Virginia’s noted housewives," there is a section on home medicines and remedies, for when doctors were inaccessible but things like laudanum were easy enough to find. In this context, “chill pills” were a remedy for the chills associated with high fevers..."

Photo credit above: "A literal interpretation of "Chill Pill". (Photo: Mega Pixel/shutterstock.com)

TODAY: Overcast. wet snow arrives PM hours, maybe an inch late. Winds: S 8-13. High: 33

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Wet snow tapers to flurries, slushy roads. Low: 30

THURSDAY: Flurries taper, mainly wet roads. High: 34

FRIDAY: Couple inches of slushy snow? Winds: N 10-15. Wake-up: 30. High: 33

SATURDAY: Flurries taper, colder wind kicks in. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 17. High: 19 (falling)

SUNDAY: Frostbite risk, feels like -30F. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: -8. High: -3

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, still frozen. Wake-up: -10. High: 5

TUESDAY: Touch of the polar vortex. Ouch. Wake-up: -4. High: 1

Climate Stories...

Power Plants Threatened as Global Warming Affects Water Supplies. Too much - or too little water may trigger increasing challenges and potential disruptions at the nation's power plants that rely on a steady supply of fresh water; here's an excerpt from Bloomberg Business: "More than two-thirds of the world’s power plants may have trouble running at full capacity as the warming climate affects water supplies, according to a new study. Reduced streamflows and rising water temperatures may reduce monthly generating capacity at nuclear, fossil-fuel and biofuel-powered plants by as much as 30 percent by the 2050s, according to research published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. Global hydropower capacity is expected to drop by as much as 3.6 percent in the 2050s and almost double that amount by the 2080s..." (An abstract of the paper in question is here).

An Investment Strategy to Save the Planet. The New York Times reports on new investment vehicles that chase solid returns, with a real ROI for the environment as well; here's an excerpt: "If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to do your part against climate change, keep reading. Now you can — with your investments. You’d be following New York State’s example. At the Paris climate change talks last month, the state’s comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, announced that the state’s Common Retirement Fund, for public employee pensions, will put $2 billion into a new investment fund created by Goldman Sachs that prioritizes companies with smaller carbon footprints. If that goes well, the retirement fund will put in more..."

Photo credit: J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times.

2 Questions Every Investor Should Ask About Climate Risk. Forbes reports; here's a clip: "It’s not just fossil fuel companies that will find themselves with stranded assets in a low-carbon economy, but any company that depends on carbon-intensive products or processes that are about to get more expensive. Investors can ask companies two simple questions to assess how ready they are to transition to the low-carbon economy...."

Manufactured Misinformation. Here's a portion of an abstract focused on new research on the organized movement to muddy the waters on climate science: "Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that the Earth is getting warmer and that the rise in average global temperature is predominantly due to human activity. Yet a significant proportion of the American public, as well as a considerable number of legislators in the U.S. Congress, continue to reject the “consensus view.” While the source of the disagreement is varied, one prominent explanation centres on the activities of a coordinated and well-funded countermovement of climate sceptics. This study contributes to the literature on organized climate scepticism by providing the first systematic overview of conservative think tank sceptical discourse in nearly 15 years..."

Here's How Scientific Misinformation, Such as Climate Doubt, Spreads Through Social Media. The Washington Post takes a look at the pervasive nature of echo chambers that amplifying and reinforce user's belief systems: "...A study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sheds new light on the factors that influence the spread of misinformation online. The researchers conclude that the diffusion of content generally takes place within clusters of users known as “echo chambers” — polarized communities that tend to consume the same types of information. For instance, a person who shares a conspiracy theory online is typically connected to a network of other users who also tend to consume and share the same types of conspiracy theories. This structure tends to keep the same ideas circulating within communities of people who already subscribe to them, a phenomenon that both reinforces the worldview within the community and makes members more resistant to information that doesn’t fit with their beliefs..."

Why the NHL Is Getting Involved in Climate Change Efforts. Yes, that NHL. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "I was reading a random article last month about the goings-ons at the historic climate change conference in Paris when my eyes stumbled across what appeared to be a fish-out-of-water participant – the National Hockey League. The piece mentioned that an NHL vice president for corporate social responsibility, Omar Mitchell, presented on sports and sustainability. The NHL. Climate change. I had to call the league. I found Mitchell. He explained from Foxborough, Mass., the site of the league’s New Year’s Day Winter Classic, after giving U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy a tour of the league’s game-day set up..."

How Tackling Climate Change Will Pay Off. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from Tina Smith, Minnesota’s Lieutenant Governor, at The Star Tribune: "...What many people don’t realize is that tackling climate change will help Minnesota’s economy grow and contribute to our global competitiveness. Minnesota has already seen the economic benefits of taking action, after setting aggressive renewable-energy and energy-efficiency standards and bold goals to reduce greenhouse gases. Today, Minnesota is a clean-energy leader, with more than 15,000 clean-energy jobs, which contribute more than $1 billion in wages to our economy. Our coal use has dropped 33 percent since 2005 — something that seemed impossible a decade ago. Renewable-energy sources now account for 20 percent of the state’s annual electricity generation, up from 5.8 percent in 2000. Minnesota wind energy is reducing carbon emissions by more than 5.4 million metric tons each year, the equivalent of taking 1 million cars off the road. Today, wind energy is providing over 16 percent of our state’s electricity — that’s the equivalent of 1 in 6 Minnesota homes, businesses and community institutions..."

95% Consensus of Expert Economists: Cut Carbon Pollution. The Guardian has news of the study and implications; here's an excerpt: "The Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University (NYU) School of Law recently published a report summarizing a survey of economists with climate expertise. The report was a follow-up and expansion of a similar survey conducted in 2009 by the same institute. The key finding: there’s a strong consensus among climate economics experts that we should put a price on carbon pollution to curb the expensive costs of climate change..."

Climate Change and Consensus. Following up on the growing consensus among the world's leading economists to address carbon pollution here's a clip from a story at TheHill: "..These economists believe that bolder action on climate will be economically beneficial for Americans. When asked which sectors of the U.S. economy will be harmed by climate change, a large majority predicted negative impacts on agriculture, fishing, utilities, forestry, tourism, insurance, and health services. Perhaps due to these risks, more than three-quarters of respondents believe the United States shoudl commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions regardless of the actions taken by other countries..."

Climate Change is Taking a Toll on Farmers' Mental Health. I've met many farmer across the state, and they are almost to a person increasingly concerned about the erratic weather patterns they're witnessing. Minnesota's climate has always been extreme and unpredictable, but between heavier summer rains and more weather-whiplash (back and forth between flood and drought in relatively short periods of time) there's a feeling of perpetual unease. Here's an excerpt from ThinkProgress: "...Uncertainty, Ellis said, seemed to be at the heart of the farmers’ concerns. According to his interviews, some farmers would check weather forecasts on their phones “up to 30 times a day” across numerous websites. Ellis also said that he talked to farmers that would track distant weather events, like storms in Africa, in the hope that those rains could potentially make their way to Australia. According to Ellis, one subject referred to the state of farmers’ mental health as akin to seasonal affective disorder — except that instead of suffering from lack of sunlight, farmers are suffering from a lack of rain..."

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