Sunday, February 21, 2016

El Nino + Global Warming = Early Spring This Year?

43 F. high temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.
31 F. average high on February 20.
25 F. high on February 25, 2015.

Trace of snow on the ground at KMSP.

February 21, 1965: Strong winds occur, reaching speeds of up to 45 mph in the Twin Cities.

Winter on Training Wheels - Mild Bias Continues

On Friday snow cover at MSP International Airport shrank to a trace. 45 degrees and a third of an inch of rain had something to do with that. According to the National Weather Service that was the end of 56 straight days with at least an inch of snow on the ground. During an average winter an inch or more of snow is on the ground for 90.3 days, based on NOAA data from 1981-2010.

No, it wasn't a "tough winter".

30 inches so far this winter at MSP - we'll see more snow in March, but a higher sun angle and thawing temperatures mean a wetter, sloppier snow with rapid melting.

Wave at the big, moisture-laden storms passing well south of Minnesota this week; more echoes of El Nino. Daytime highs climb to near freezing all week; 40F next Saturday before a Sunday clipper drops an inch or two of slush. We could see 1-2 days in the teens early next week before another rapid thaw. The model solutions for early March look like something I'd expect to see in mid-April. Expect a mild bias to continue.

Meanwhile the strongest cyclone on record in the southern hemisphere just hit Fiji.

Average Snow Cover in the Twin Cities. 90 days a year with at least 1" or more on the ground? Here's an excerpt from Current Results: "For nearly all of winter along with some of early spring and late fall, Minneapolis has at least an inch of snow on the ground. A snowpack that gets to ten or more inches deep can cover the city anytime from November to April. The snow accumulates most during December, January and February. Typically, on six or seven days in January and in February plus another five days in December, the snow depth in Minneapolis tops ten inches..."

Tuesday Slush? Flurries are possible today; maybe an inch or two of flurries Tuesday as an upper air disturbance passes overhead. It may be just mild enough for a rain-snow mix; with temperatures in the 30s roads should be mainly wet. 84-hour snowfall forecast from NOAA's NAM model: AerisWeather.

Trending Above Average. I'm starting to sound like a broken record (skipping CD?) Grandpa, what's a CD? OK, my streaming audio is wonky. Temperatures run well above average this week, European guidance hinting at mid-40s one week from today. Any blows of arctic air will be of the glancing variety.

More Early April than Early March. If the 2-week 500 mb wind forecast (GFS) comes close to verifying spring may come extra-early; long range models hinting at 40s, even a shot at 50F the first week of March. Now that we've lost most of our snow cover more of the sun's energy can go into heating up the air. More spasms of winter are likely, but at the rate we're going Minnesotans may be feverish sooner than they thought possible.

Every State's Temperature Trend for Every Season. Yes, Minnesota is warming, especially during the winter months, in fact no other state is warming faster. Here's an excerpt from Climate Central: "...If you look at all four seasons across all of the Lower 48 states — for a grand total of 192 state-season combinations — there are only three instances of cooling. The Dakotas and Iowa are cooling ever so slightly in summer. Otherwise, there’s only one direction temperatures have gone: up. Snow cover in particular plays a role in why winters are heating up so fast from Montana to North Carolina. Or more specifically, it’s a lack thereof. As temperatures rise, snow is decreasing — and in many cases being replaced by rain. Replacing light snow with dark ground means more of the sun’s energy is absorbed leading to a faster increase in warming..."

Decadal Warming Rate. Map above courtesy of WXshift.

Warmer Than Normal Spring Shaping Up for Minnesota? So says NOAA CPC; Dr. Mark Seeley has more perspective in this week's installment of Minnesota WeatherTalk: "The NOAA Climate Prediction Center released new seasonal outlooks on Thursday of this week (Feb 18). The ensemble forecast of monthly anomalies favors a warmer than normal spring for Minnesota, March through May. The confidence or probability for this forecast is close to 70 percent. An early spring seems relatively assured. The outlook for precipitation anomalies over March through May is less certain for Minnesota with equal chances of above or below normal values for much of the state, and slightly favoring drier than normal conditions this spring in northern counties..."

March temperature anomaly credit: NOAA CFSv2 and WeatherBell.

Will the Minnesota River Flood This Spring? Less snow cover, less frost in the ground - the potential for (river) flooding now hinges on the risk of heavy rain and snow in March and April. Here's an excerpt from The Chaska Herald: "...The NWS report notes that the area had a wet November and December followed by a drier January and February, with a below-normal snow pack and frost depth. With spring flooding, the "main driver" will be heavy rain fall in areas with high soil moisture. In the Minnesota River valley, that means a "slightly above normal" chance for spring flooding. "Especially from the Redwood River downstream," notes the NWS report..."

Cyclone Winston, Strongest Southern Hemisphere Storm in History, Hits Fiji. Eric Holthaus at Slate has perspective; here's an excerpt: "One of the strongest storms ever measured on Earth just made a direct landfall in the South Pacific. Cyclone Winston made landfall on Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu, late Saturday local time. The Fiji Meteorological Service estimated wind gusts near Winston’s center at around 200 mph—strong enough for Winston to be considered the strongest tropical cyclone ever measured in the Southern Hemisphere. Just prior to landfall, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii estimated Winston’s sustained winds at around 185 mph, based on satellite..."

Image credit above: "Cyclone Winston, near peak strength, as it made landfall in Fiji on Saturday." NOAA.

Tale of Two Wind Stories: 148 MPH Colorado Wind Gust and the Venturi Effect. Here's an excerpt of an interesting weather phenomenon at Forbes, courtesy of Dr. Marshall Shepherd: "Did you hear about the 148 mph record wind gust at Monarch Pass in Colorado this week?  The Monarch Pass wind record is likely associated with a combination of strong winds, convective activity and the unique aerodynamics of the mountainside. At this link NOAA discusses the background on this event and the validity of the measurement. While this wind extreme somewhat associated with convection. Another interesting wind event was playing out in Chicago, and it is an opportunity to discuss the really fascinating Venturi Effect..."

El Nino Weakening, Stage Set for La Nina and Possible Dry Winter Next Year. The pendulum may be about to swing in the opposite direction. Here's an excerpt from KQED Science: "Federal climate scientists say the near-record El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean have peaked and are slowly waning. Forecasters now say conditions are likely to flip to their opposite phase, known as La Niña by late summer or early fall, which could set the stage for another drier-than-normal winter and prolonged drought in California. “We are reasonably confident that there will be a La Niña,” says Huug van den Dool, seasonal forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, “but we plead ignorance as to whether this is going to be a small, moderate, or strong La Niña...” (Image above: NOAA NCEP).

El Nino is Causing Global Food Crisis, UN Warns. Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "...Severe droughts and floods triggered by one of the strongest El Niño weather events ever recorded have left nearly 100 million people in southern Africa, Asia and Latin America facing food and water shortages and vulnerable to diseases including Zika, UN bodies, international aid agencies and governments have said. New figures from the UN’s World Food Programme say 40 million people in rural areas and 9 million in urban centres who live in the drought-affected parts of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Swaziland will need food assistance in the next year..."

Photo credit above: "A farmer surveys her maize fields in Dowa, near the Malawi capital of Lilongwe, earlier this month. The country is experiencing its first maize shortage in a decade, causing prices to soar." Photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters.

How Much Warmer Was Your City in 2015? The New York Times has a terrific interactive page that allows you to find out; here's an excerpt: "Scientists declared that 2015 was Earth’s hottest year on record. In a database of 3,116 cities provided by AccuWeather, about 90 percent of them were warmer than normal. Enter your city in the field below to see how much warmer it was last year..."

January 2016: "Remarkably Warm Month for the Arctic". As much as 10-13F warmer than average. Probably just another cosmic coincidence. Here's an excerpt from Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis: "...January 2016 was a remarkably warm month. Air temperatures at the 925 hPa level were more than 6 degrees Celsius (13 degrees Fahrenheit) above average across most of the Arctic Ocean. These unusually high air temperatures are likely related to the behavior of the AO. While the AO was in a positive phase for most of the autumn and early winter, it turned strongly negative beginning in January. By mid-January, the index reached nearly -5 sigma or five standard deviations below average. The AO then shifted back to positive during the last week of January. (See the graph at the NOAA Climate Prediction Web site.)..."

Graphic credit: "The graph above shows Arctic sea ice extent as of February 3, 2016, along with daily ice extent data for four previous years. 2015 to 2016 is shown in blue, 2014 to 2015 in green, 2013 to 2014 in orange, 2012 to 2011 in brown, and 2011 to 2012 in purple. The 1981 to 2010 average is in dark gray. The gray area around the average line shows the two standard deviation range of the data. Sea Ice Index data." Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

More Than 5 Million People Will Die From a Frightening Cause: Breathing. Some staggering statistics from The Washington Post; we've gone from second-hand smoke to second-hand CO2; here's an excerpt: "About 5.5 million people around the world die prematurely every year from breathing polluted air, and the majority of those deaths are occurring in China and India, where factories and coal-fired power plants are fueling economic growth, according to a report released Friday. The authors said the findings show that disease from air and household pollution ranks as the number two cause of death worldwide. It comes in right behind smoking, which the World Health Organization says kills 6 million people annually..."

4 Billion People Face Severe Water Scarcity, New Research Finds. Water, not oil or natural gas, will be the most precious natural resource of the 21st century. Here's an excerpt at The Guardian: "At least two-thirds of the global population, over 4 billion people, live with severe water scarcity for at least one month every year, according to a major new analysis. The revelation shows water shortages, one of the most dangerous challenges the world faces, is far worse previously than thought. The new research also reveals that 500m people live in places where water consumption is double the amount replenished by rain for the entire year, leaving them extremely vulnerable as underground aquifers run down..."

7 Floating Homes Capture the Luxury and Squalor of Water Life. Rising sea level? No problem - if your home floats. Here's an excerpt from a story at Business Insider: "Dry land might be the go-to spot to build a home, but that doesn't mean it's the only option. From the stilt-supported shacks in Lagos, Nigeria, to the luxurious underwater palaces bobbing in Dubai, floating homes are the answer when solid ground is out of the question. Many use a combination of concrete and styrofoam to prevent sinking but also to stay safely in place when water levels rise. Here are some of the most mind-blowing..."

Photo credit above: Giancarlo Zema Design Group.

Fusion: "We're So Close We Can Taste It." Yes, it would solve a global energy challenge and help us decarbonize much faster. Is it close, a panacea or technological inevitability? Here's an excerpf from How We Get To Next at Medium: "...I think there are three options. One is solar — they’ve made marvelous progress with solar, and solar would work if it comes down in cost and we solve the energy storage problem. The second technology that could do it would be advanced forms of fission, fast breeder reactors, etc., but those come with a new set of risks and concerns that at the moment we don’t want to address. And the third technology that can do it and provide millions of years of sustainable, carbon-free, safe energy is fusion. Of the three, fusion is probably the most attractive, in that fusion doesn’t take up much space, it’s safe, it doesn’t produce any waste that is significant, and we’ve got tens of millions of years of the simplest of fusion reactions..."

Photo credit: "Interior of the nuclear fusion reactor JET." Photo: EFDA.

Americans May Think They'll Never, Ever Buy Electric SUVs or Pickups - But They Will. It's coming, and sooner than you might think. Here's an excerpt from Quartz: "...Such motorists may be surprised to hear that, when they go to replace their current vehicles in a few years, they’ll probably drive away in electrified SUVs and trucks. It’s not because they necessarily want them, nor even that automakers want to make them—after all, major car companies earned more than $50 billion in collective profit last year, a significant share of it from gas guzzlers. Perversely, the reason is the opposite—Americans love their big cars so much, they’ll have no choice but to go electric, experts say..."

Photo credit above: "Texas in the 2020s." (Mitsubishi).

Electric Vehicles Will Triumph Because They're Better, GM Veteran Says. Here's an excerpt from Forbes: "...Set aside all the motivations with climate change, oil dependence—it’s just a better way to do a car. It’s simple.” Electric vehicle sales have been tepid and may remain tepid in the short term. Internal combustion engines will continue to dominate until 2025, Burns predicted, as the nation’s automotive fleet slowly turns over. “It’s just arithmetic.” But as automakers strive to meet the 2025 fuel economy standard—54.5 miles per gallon—they will come to realize that reengineering traditional vehicles is more expensive and difficult than adopting an electric drive train that emits no carbon..."

Only Thing Worse Than Oil? Oil Funds. The Wall Street Journal reports; here's the intro: "One of the few assets performing worse than oil is a set of products used to bet on it. The $3.86 billion United States Oil Fund LP, an exchange-traded fund that goes by the ticker USO, is down 22% so far this year, while the $575 million iPath S&P GSCI Crude Oil Total Return Index exchange-traded note, known as OIL, is down 26% in that period. In comparison, U.S. crude-oil futures for March delivery settled at $29.64 a barrel on Friday, down 20% this year..."

Postcards From The Astronaut's Lounge. Why are Bezos, Musk and Branson so obsessed with The Great Beyond? WIRED has a revealing story; here's the intro: "Space. It’s a funny thing. Kubrick knew that. Because if you start a story with apes, how can it not be funny? Then again, doesn’t everything that’s about humans start with apes? Here’s the funny thing about space: Ask people what they think about it and you’ll get every kind of answer. We should colonize Mars! We should stay home! We should look for life! Space, really, is a giant Rorschach. Into it we send rockets and satellites and space stations. But more than that, we send beliefs. About what is meaningful. About what is possible. About what is inescapable..."

Newsonomics: The Financialization of News is Dimming The Lights of The Local Press. Ken Doctor has a long and intriguing essay at NiemanLab about the struggle to develop new platforms and business models to support a digital-first strategy; here's an excerpt: "...There’s no easily assembled formula yet, but the parts of it have become clearer over the past several years. It is those national/global players that have begun to master new disciplines in this new age of AMP, Arc and analytics. Why? Certainly, it’s easier for them to take advantage of digital’s natural opportunities for scale. They also increasingly put data science (which leads to audience knowledge and development) at or near the centers of their business. That leads them to intelligent experimentation with the platforms of the moment (Facebook, Apple, Google, Snapchat) while local media hardly play (“As giant platforms rise, local news is getting crushed”)..."

Wireless: The Next Generation. 5G is coming. Can you hear me now? Here's an excerpt of what we might expect from The Economist: "...The advent of 5G is likely to bring another splurge of investment, just as orders for 4G equipment are peaking. The goal is to be able to offer users no less than the “perception of infinite capacity”, says Rahim Tafazolli, director of the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey. Rare will be the device that is not wirelessly connected, from self-driving cars and drones to the sensors, industrial machines and household appliances that together constitute the “internet of things” (IoT)..."

Scientists' New Depressing Discovery About the Brain. Ideology trumps cognition, reasoning and basic math? I have to admit I'm shocked. Here's an excert from Salon: "...Kahan conducted some ingenious experiments about the impact of political passion on people’s ability to think clearly.  His conclusion, in Mooney’s words: partisanship “can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills…. [People] who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs.” In other words, say goodnight to the dream that education, journalism, scientific evidence, media literacy or reason can provide the tools and information that people need in order to make good decisions..."

From Georgia to Maine: What I Learned on a 6-Month Hike Along the Appalachian Trail. Here's an excerpt of an interesting and vaguely terrifying tale at The Washington Post: "...The scariest moment on the trail was not, as many people often guess, bear-related. Rather, it was the weather. Team Pie, with the temporary addition of a real-life friend named Gary, was headed over Kinsman Mountain in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The August weather was stunning — just a bit chilly, bright with sunshine. The weather report had said that there was a chance of rain later..."

Photo credit above: "Knock in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after a snowstorm." (Clif Reeder for The Washington Post)

Coming To a Restaurant Near You? A restaurant in France is taking the art of fine dining to the next level. Not with fine food but with a projection system that keeps you entertained and enthused while you're waiting for the food to arrive. Click on the YouTube link for one of the more amazing videos you'll ever see.

TODAY: Cooler, few flurries. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 36

SUNDAY NIGHT: Patchy clouds. Low: 24

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, above average temperatures. Winds: S 8-13. High: 35

TUESDAY: Overcast, light mix possible. Wake-up: 27. High: 37

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, seasonably cool. Wake-up: 24. High: 34

THURSDAY: Colder wind, few flakes in the air. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 27. High: 31

FRIDAY: More clouds than sun, brisk. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 19. High: near 30

SATURDAY: Some sun, another taste of March. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 28. High: 41

Climate Stories....

January 2016 Shattered the Global Warming Monthly Record. Symptoms of El Nino, and background warming which continues to accelerate. Here's an excerpt from Newsweek: "The global temperature anomaly for January 2016 was 1.13° Celsius. That makes it the hottest January on record (the previous record was 0.95° C in 2007). But there’s more: 1.13° is the largest anomaly for any month since records began in 1880. There have only been monthly anomalies greater than 1°C three times before in recorded history, and those three were all from last year. The farther back in the past you go, the lower the anomalies are on average. Yes, the world is getting hotter..."

Earth Kicks Off 2016 With the Most Abnormally Warm Month Ever Measured. This is more than El Nino. El Nino is standing on your tip-toes at the top of a flight of steps. Many are forgetting about the flight of stairs we're going up. Here's an excerpt at Slate: "It would be hard to top 2015—a year unlike any other in human history—but 2016 seems to be giving it a shot. According to the latest data from NASA, issued over the weekend, January was the planet's most unusually warm month since we started measuring temperature in 1880. No other month in the preceding 1,633 months has deviated this far from what was once considered “normal.” Data independently produced by Japan’s Meteorological Agency confirmed that last month was the hottest January on record globally. Last month broke the all-time January record by the widest margin of any month on record, a full one-third of a degree ahead of last year’s record pace. That means the planet is already on track for an unprecedented third straight year of record-setting temperatures..."

Image credit above: "January 2016 was Earth's hottest month yet, with the most unusually warm temperatures concentrated in the Arctic." NASA.

Global Warming Crushes Records. Again.  January warmth was extraordinary, as documented at Bloomberg Business: "...Results from the world’s top monitoring agencies vary slightly, but NASANOAA, and the Japan Meteorological Agency all agree that January was unprecedented. The El Niño weather pattern that started last year produced some of the hottest temperatures ever witnessed across great swaths of the equatorial Pacific. By some measures, this may now be considered the most extreme El Niño on record. It has triggered powerful typhoons, spoiled harvests in Africa, and contributed to vast fires in Indonesia..."

Catholic "Climate Cardinal" Says Florida Politicians Have Duty to Act. Here's the intro to a story at The Miami Herald: "Florida politicians have a duty to address the perils of climate change even if they don’t believe humans are hastening its grave consequences, Pope Francis’ chief advisor on climate change said Friday. In an interview with the Herald before addressing a conference on climate, nature and society at St. Thomas University law school, Cardinal Peter Turkson said, “Anybody running for public office who sees the life of the people affected by climate-related disasters” needs to act. That, he said, includes the state’s two Republican presidential contenders who remain skeptical of the science tying climate change to increased carbon emissions..." (File photo of Miami: Wikipedia).

Read more here:

Zika Outbreak Could Be an Omen of the Global Warming Threat. Another coincidence? Is there a possible link? Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "The global public health emergency involving deformed babies emerged in 2015, the hottest year in the historical record, with an outbreak in Brazil of a disease transmitted by heat-loving mosquitoes. Can that be a coincidence? Scientists say it will take them years to figure that out, and pointed to other factors that may have played a larger role in starting the crisis. But these same experts added that the Zika epidemic, as well as the related spread of a disease called dengue that is sickening as many as 100 million people a year and killing thousands, should be interpreted as warnings..."

Meet the Continental U.S.'s First Official Climate Refugees. People have already been dislocated from coastal sections of Alaska, now it's showing up in Louisiana. Next up, Florida? Here's an excerpt from Atlas Obscura: "A slow-motion disaster is unfolding on the Isle de Jean Charles, deep in the Louisiana bayou, where a group of residents just received $48 million in federal funding to relocate. These are the first official climate refugees in the lower 48 states. The Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians have lived in southern Louisiana for centuries, and, since 1880, a band of them inhabited the Isle. But several factors, including climate change, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and a series of destructive hurricanes have meant that the Isle de Jean Charles has lost 98 percent of its land since 1955..."

Photo credit above: "The Isle de Jean Charles after Hurricane Gustav in 2008." (Photo: Flickr/Karen Apricot).

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