26 F. average high on February 3.
16 F. high on February 3, 2015.
7" snow on the ground at KMSP.
February 4, 1984: The event termed the 'Surprise Blizzard' moves across Minnesota and parts of the Dakotas. Meteorologists were caught off guard with its rapid movement. People described it as a 'wall of white.' Thousands of motorists were stranded in subzero weather. Only a few inches of snow fell, but was whipped by winds up to 80 mph. 16 people died in stranded cars and outside.
Heavy Snowfalls at MSP: Perception versus Reality
It's nice to know it can still snow in the Twin Cities. I was beginning to wonder.
3 observations from Tuesday's snowy dumping: if it's snowing hard enough and traffic is heavy enough the plows just can't keep up, in spite of best intentions. Lower your expectations. If a meteorologist predicts 4-8 inches (most) people hear 8 INCHES! And if that much falls in a band 20 miles away from your house, but you see less, the forecast is wrong. Predicting down to the inch is about as challenging as handicapping the U.S. presidential race right now. Good luck.
Bob Seward sent me an e-mail, wondering why one-foot snows in the metro are so rare? According to climate guru Pete Boulay MSP has picked up 10 separate 8" snows since 2000. That compares with 12 snows over 8" from 1983-1999 and only 7 between 1966 and 1982. Details below.
No more monster-storms are brewing, just a coating to 1 inch today, maybe an inch or two Sunday PM. The approach of a numbing shot may whip up strong winds late Sunday. Getting home from that Super Bowl party may be slow and tricky.
Next week looks cold. Not brutal, just mildly "character-building".
"Where can I find current snow depth data for Minnesota? By current, I mean within 24 hours of a snow storm. I was looking this morning for snow depth at my cabin which is between Hackensack and Longville. I normally use the MN DNR snow depth site but it is updated only weekly after 2:00 PM on Thursdays. I’ve been waiting for there to be enough snow for snowshoeing this winter. Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated."
- Doug Stark
"Why have a majority of snowstorms tracked south into Iowa the past few years? It seems likes snowfall of 12" is a rare event in the Twin Cities..."
- Bob Seward
Bob - El Nino winters tend to energize the southern branch of the jet stream, the prevailing winds aloft, whisking many (but not all) big storms south of Minnesota. There are exceptions to every rule, as was demonstrated on Tuesday. I turned to Pete Boulay for an answer. He sifted through Twin Cities weather records and this was his response:
"It's hard to parse out individual snowstorms (when does one end and another begin?) but I did look at the largest snowstorm for each year for the past 10 years in the Twin Cities for the 'CCO Good Question:
2006-07 February 28 to March 2, 2007 12.3 inches
2007-08 March 31 to April 1, 2008 5.9 inches
2008-09 January 12-13, 2009 6.0 inches
2009-10 December 23-26, 2009 9.4 inches
2010-11 17.1 inches December 10-11, 2010 (Note there was also a 13.8 inch event Feb 20-21 2011)
2011-12 4.4 inches December 3-4, 2011
2012-13 10.6 inches December 8-9, 2012
2013-14 9.9 inches February 20-21, 2014
2014-15 4.2 inches December 26-27, 2014
2015-16 9.2 inches February 2-3, 20156 (so far.. could still be a little more added)
So that is 4 events over the past 10 years...
It might be easier to look at eight inch snows in a calendar day. I took a look at the last 17 years and looking back in 17 year chunks...
8 inch snows:
10 times from 2000 to 2016
12 times from 1983 to 1999
7 times from 1966 to 1982
6 times from 1949 to 1965
"It is hard to beat the snowy 80's but there have been more 8 inch events in recent years compared to the 50's to the 70's."
- Pete Boulay, State Climatology Office. DNR - Division of Ecological and Water Resources.
The Mathematical Challenge of Answering a Simple Question. Minnesota State Climatologist Greg Spoden adds additional insight and perspective. Distinguishing "noise" from "trends" is easier said than done. Here is an excerpt of an e-mail I received from Greg on Wednesday:
"As Pete's review shows, double-digit snowfall totals in the Twin Cities are uncommon. By definition extreme events are rare. Trend detection in extreme events is a statistical challenge that goes beyond my simple-minded use of least squares regression. The author of (this post) touches on the problem. I note that Harold Brooks chimes in with a comment about this post. If anyone knows a thing or two about detecting trends in rare events, it's Harold.
If you want to dive into the deep end of the statistical pool, the Journal of Climate paper describes a methadology for detecting trends in rare events. The author's cautionary talke, found in the abstract, is worth noting:
"The results demonstrate the difficulty in determining trends of very rare events, underpinning the need for long-period data for trend analysis, and point toward a careful interpretation of statistically nonsignificant trend results"
- Greg Spoden, State Climatologist, Minnesota DNR - State Climatology Office, Division of Ecological and Water Resources
Super Bowl Blowing & Drifting. I'm not so concerned in the immediate Twin Cities metro, but open areas outside MSP may see extensive drifting Sunday PM hours. GFS guidance shows sustained winds of 25 mph with gusts to 35, capable of whipping up all that new snow on the ground. Source: Aeris Enterprise.
Four out of five strong El Niño Februaries were wetter than average in the Bay Area….Taking an average of all five Februaries above, you’d expect measurable rain 16 days of the month. In other words, you’re more likely to see a wet February day during a strong El Niño in the Bay Area than a dry day..."* More Super Bowl weather trivia can be found here, courtesy of Southeast Regional Climate Center.
Four Faunal Forecasters. The National Environmental Education Foundation has a story that addresses much-maligned groundhogs, wooly bear caterpillars, cows, crickets and others critters and their valiant attempt to predict the weather; here's an excerpt: "...Move over, Punxsutawney Phil. Groundhogs aren’t the only animals known to “predict” the weather. Phil may be the most famous, but he’s certainly not the most accurate. Here are four animals that are known for their weather wisdom. Some of these proverbs are true, while others are not. Can you guess which ones are real?
Fact or Fiction? The width of a Woolly Bear Caterpillar’s orange stripe can predict how mild the winter will be. Fiction! According to an old proverb, if the width of a Woolly Bear Caterpillar’s reddish-brown stripe is wider than usual, the coming winter will be mild. Conversely, a narrower stripe means the coming winter will be harsh. While some scientific evidence suggests that this may be related to the previous winter’s severity, there’s no correlation between the stripe’s width and the following winter’s severity..."
Severe Storm Reports since January 27 courtesy of NOAA and AerisWeather.
Higher Temperatures Make Zika Mosquito Spread Disease More. Another compelling reason why warming matters; here's an excerpt from The Associated Press: "The mosquito behind the Zika virus seems to operate like a heat-driven missile of disease. The hotter it gets, the better the mosquito that carries Zika virus is at transmitting its buffet of dangerous illnesses, scientists say. Although it is too early to say for this outbreak, past outbreaks of similar diseases involved more than just biology. In the past, weather has played a key role, as have economics, human travel, air conditioning and mosquito control. Even El Nino sneaks into the game. Scientists say you can't just blame one thing for an outbreak and caution it is too early to link this one to climate change or any single weather event. As the temperature rises, nearly everything about the biology of the Aedes aegypti mosquito — the one that carries Zika, dengue fever and other diseases — speeds up when it comes to spreading disease, said entomologist Bill Reisen of the University of California Davis..."
Map credit: Vox, and Elife Sciences.org. "Global map of the predicted distribution of Aedes aegypti, one of the types of mosquitoes that spread Zika."
Ample Grain Stocks Could Dampen Impact of El Nino/La Nina Shift. Will we head into La Nina, a cooling phase of the Pacific, which correlates with a higher risk of late summer drought? Too early to tell. Here's an excerpt from Reuters: "When El Nino gives way to its little sister, La Nina, this year, as meteorologists are forecasting, the disruptive weather patterns may still be unable to disperse the bearish clouds that have hung over U.S. grains markets for years. Corn and soybean futures have gone haywire in past transition years, with prices soaring as yields withered. But plentiful supplies, both overseas and domestically, should provide a buffer against any disruptions this year and dampen any market rallies..."
Photo credit above: "A truck is loaded with corn next to a pile of soybeans at Matawan Grain & Feed elevator near New Richland, Minnesota October 14, 2015." Reuters/Karl Plume
Image credit: JMA / Charlie Loyd.
Photo credit above: "The nuclear fusion research centre at the Max Planck Institute in Greifswald." Photograph: Stefan Sauer/AP.
Photo credit above: " Photograph by Marc Piscotty — Reuters.
For The First Time More Than Half of Americans Will Watch Streaming TV. eMarketer has the story.
FRIDAY: Dusting or coating of flurries possible. Winds: S 7-12. High: 26
SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, thaw feels good. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 19. High: 32
SUNDAY: 1-2" snow late. Blowing/drifting? Winds: NW 15-30. Wake-up: 24. High: 31 (falling by afternoon).
MONDAY: Gusty and cold with flurries. Winds: NW 15-30. Wake-up: 16. High: 19
TUESDAY: Peeks of sun, feels like 0F. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 4. High: 10
WEDNESDAY: Spurts of sun, feels like February. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: -2. High: 9
Groundhog Decade: In This Movie, It's Always The Hottest Decade on Record. Here's the intro at ThinkProgress: "Somewhere on a Hollywood movie set for Groundhog Day, Part Two: Bill Murray wakes up to find he’s just lived through the hottest decade on record, just as he did in the 2000s, just as he did in the 1990s, just as he did in the 1980s. And he keeps waking up in the hottest decade on record, until he gains the kind of maturity and wisdom that can only come from doing the same thing over and over and over again with no change in the result. Ah, if only life were like a movie. Here is global mean surface temperature — by decade..."
Graphic credit: "Chart showing average global temperatures from 1850 to 2015 according to three major datasets." Photograph: Met Office, UK.
1) Climate change never took a break.
You may have heard that, according to satellite data, there has been no significant warming for the last 18 years. This is grossly misleading. Eighteen years ago, El Niño drove up global temperatures , making 1998 an exceptionally hot year. Contrarians use 1998 as a baseline because subsequent warming appears modest by comparison. However, the mercury has continued its inexorable rise. Since the 1880s, average temperatures have risen 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, on average. 2015 was the hottest year on record, according to NOAA, and 2016 will likely be even hotter..." (Image credit: NASA).
Long Term Global Warming Requires External Drivers. Here's a summary of new research at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke: "By examining how Earth cools itself back down after a period of natural warming, a study by scientists at Duke University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirms that global temperature does not rise or fall chaotically in the long run. Unless pushed by outside forces, temperature should remain stable. The new evidence may finally help put the chill on skeptics’ belief that long-term global warming occurs in an unpredictable manner, independently of external drivers such as human impacts..."