Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Welcome to Meteorological Winter! It Will Feel Like Winter Next Week

40 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities Wednesday.
33 F. average high on November 30.
35 F. high on November 30, 2015.

.04" rain fell at MSP International yesterday.

December 1, 1998: The warmest December day ever in the Twin Cities is recorded, with a high of 68 degrees. St. Cloud rose to 61.
December 1, 1985: Parts of central Minnesota receive up to a foot of snow. Snowfall totals include 12 inches at Waseca and Milaca, 11.3 at Alexandria, and 11 inches at Fairmont and Long Prairie.

Welcome to Day 1 of "Meteorological Winter"

According to the Michigan Science Center at least one septillion (that’s 1 followed by 24 zeros) snow crystals fall from the sky every winter. And an average of 105 snow-producing storms strike the U.S. in a typical winter.

Yeah, I'm great fun at parties.

Let me welcome you to the start of "Meteorological Winter". December 1 marks the beginning of what is, historically, the coldest 90 days of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. An average of 11.9 inches of snow falls in December at KMSP, second only to January.

A little snow might brighten things up, now that the sun seems to set just after lunchtime.
I don't see any big weather controversies into early next week. Flurries taper today; if you're lucky you may spy fleeting peeks of sun Saturday.

40s Monday give way to teens and 20s late next week; the coldest airmass since February. Models are still hinting a major snow event 1 week from today, but it's way too early for specifics. Prediction: by the second weekend of December it will look like winter out there.

But lake ice is thin to nonexistent. Unless you want to get nearer-my-God-to-thee stay off the ice!

Surface Map Through Sunday Morning. Lake effect snow and rain showers gradually taper off across the Great Lakes and New England, while a surge of rain, ice and snow forms over the southern Plains Friday,  spreading into the Mid South and Midwest over the weekend. Source:

Probability of 4"+ Snowfall by Saturday Evening. The best chance of a plowable pile of white? Northern Maine, Boise, Spokane and Bozeman. Otherwise things look fairly quiet into the weekend. Next week will be a different story. Map credit: NOAA WPC.

GFS 10-Day Snowfall Potential. The GFS isn't as impressive as the ECMWF is for snow potential across the Midwest late next week, printing out a plowable stripe of snow from near Des Moines to La Crosse and Rhinelander by midweek. Skiers will be happy in northern Maine and the Rockies - the pattern looks cold, wet and stormy into next week, especially for the western third of the USA. Loop:

Above Average Into Monday, Then Winter Arrives. I'm not convinced that 20s qualifies as a headline-worthy cold front, but it probably will be the coldest shot since mid-February. Until then temperatures trend above average. ECMWF data for the Twin Cities: WeatherBell.

2-Week Jet Stream Preview: Drought-Busting Rains for California. NOAA's GFS model carves out a deep trough of low pressure for the western USA by mid-December, a perpetual storm incubator capable of flooding rains and extreme mountain snows for much of the west coast. I could even see significant snows for Seattle and Portland if this forecast verifies.

Alabama Tornado Slams Church and Daycare Center; Weather Kills 5. NBC News has an update: "Severe storms killed five people in Alabama and Tennessee overnight, and big parts of the Southeast were set to stay under a tornado watch until noon Wednesday. In northeastern Alabama, a tornado killed at least three people early Wednesday, authorities said. Two people were later confirmed dead in Tennessee. Three others were also critically injured in Alabama after a day-care center was "completely destroyed" in Ider in DeKalb County, according to the National Weather Service and local sheriff's office..."

Photo credit: "Damage at Ider Daycare in Flatrock, Alabama." Jake Berent / WAFF.

43 Preliminary Tornadoes Since Tuesday Morning. The top map shows 32 tornadoes Tuesday, the bottom map from SPC indicates 11 additional tornadoes Wednesday. Unusual for late November but hardly unprecedented.

Gatlinburg Fires Blaze Into Third Day. reports: "Three people died in raging wildfires that scorched roughly 15,000 acres in a resort-heavy area of eastern Tennessee, showered residents with embers and forced tourists to evacuate from their accommodations. The wildfires spread with little warning Monday from the Great Smoky Mountains into inhabited areas of Sevier County, including the town of Gatlinburg and an area around Pigeon Forge. While some major tourist attractions were spared, more than 250 buildings in the county were damaged or destroyed in a dizzying 24-hour period, officials said. Some fires continued to burn Wednesday morning, and authorities continued to block off Gatlinburg, from which about 14,000 residents and tourists had been evacuated Monday..."

Busiest Atlantic Hurricane Season Since 2012. Details via NOAA: "As the Atlantic, eastern Pacific and central Pacific 2016 hurricane seasons end today, NOAA scientists said that all three regions saw above-normal seasons. For the Atlantic, this was the first above-normal season since 2012. The Atlantic saw 15 named storms during 2016, including 7 hurricanes (Alex, Earl, Gaston, Hermine, Matthew, Nicole, and Otto), 3 of which were major hurricanes (Gaston, Matthew and Nicole). NOAA’s updated hurricane season outlook in August called for 12 to 17 named storms, including 5 to 8 hurricanes, with 2 to 4 of those predicted to become major hurricanes. Five named storms made landfall in the United States during 2016, the most since 2008 when six storms struck. Tropical Storm Bonnie and Hurricane Matthew struck South Carolina. Tropical Storms Colin and Julia, as well as Hurricane Hermine, made landfall in Florida. Hermine was the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in 2005..."

Saudi Arabia Deserts Covered in Snow, Followed by Deadly Floods. More details on freakish weather from The Watchers: "The deserts of Saudi Arabia were covered in snow at the end of November 2016, bringing joy to surprised Saudis who marked the occasion building snowmen. However, the weather soon turned very serious, and deadly. The first snowfall in northern parts of the country was reported on November 23. The snowfall came after temperatures dropped below 0 °C (32 °F) in central and northwestern regions of the country, which tend to see daily high temperatures of around 20 °C (68 °F), even in November..."

GOES-R Is Now GOES-16! Good news from NOAA NESDIS: "November 29, 2016, NOAA's GOES-R satellite executed its final liquid apogee engine burn without anomaly. This has placed the satellite approximately 22,000 miles away with an inclination of 0.0 degrees, meaning it has reached geostationary orbit. GOES-R is now GOES-16! Later today, GOES-16 will perform its second stage solar array deployment, releasing the solar array yoke and solar pointing platform. In the days that follow, the software will be transitioned from the 'orbit raising' mission phase to 'operational,' several maneuvers will be conducted to adjust the satellites precise orbit, and the magnetometer boom will be deployed. Testing and calibration of GOES-16 will then begin."

Who Gets The Most Blizzards in the USA? Western Minnesota and the Dakotas: take a bow. Here are a couple of excerpts from an interesting story at The Buffalo News: "...This maximum distribution is approximately the same now, except the number of verified blizzards has increased in the United States. Some of that may be due to climate factors or improved reporting or, in my opinion, the removal of the temperature requirement; we just don’t know...The high frequency over the northern and high plains is more closely tied to the average path taken by deep winter cyclones/low-pressure systems, placing that swath of the country most often in the colder quadrant of those storms, with howling winds and heaviest snow..."
Map credit: "Climatology of Blizzards in the Conterminous United States, 1959–2000."

Forget Inches, There Are 3 Categories of Snowstorms. My favorite college professor told us to "forget about inches", since we can't predict snow down to the inch, and instead classify storms into 3 categories: nuisance (enough to coat roads and sidewalks but travel isn't impacted too badly), "plowable" (just as the and word implies, enough snow to shovel, scrape and plow) and crippling (where everything stops - traffic is paralyzed and business pretty much shuts down). I've been borrowing the scale since 1983 at KARE-11. It has stood the test of time. Thank you Dr. Cahir at Penn State.

The Raging Wildfires In The Southeast Could Be a Glimpse Into the Future. Here's an excerpt from a Washington Post story: "...In the areas experiencing the drought, the temperatures have been well above normal,” he said, adding that high temperatures can also lead to more water evaporation from plants and soil, making conditions even drier.  That said, Prestemon cautioned, it’s difficult to attribute any isolated event — like a single drought or wildfire — solely to climate change. Weather events and natural disasters are generally the combination of a complex set of factors, which may include long-term patterns of climate change, but also chance and natural variability in climate and weather systems. Even so, the ongoing events in the Southeast may provide some insight into the region’s future..."

Photo credit: "Fire erupts on the side of The Spur on Highway 441 between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Monday, Nov. 28 In Gatlinburg." (Jessica Tezak/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

"Thunderstorm Asthma" Kills 8 in Australia. The death toll is up to 8 from the freakish combination of pollen and thunderstorm moisture and wind; here's an excerpt of an update at The New York Times: "...Mr. McGann was one of thousands of people in Melbourne having an attack of thunderstorm asthma. They flooded the city’s emergency rooms, swamped ambulance call lines and joined lines around pharmacies during six hours on Nov. 21. All were struggling for breath. About 8,500 people went to hospitals. Eight have died, and one remains in intensive care more than a week after a thunderstorm surged across Melbourne, carrying pollen that strong winds and rain broke into tiny fragments. Perennial ryegrass seeds were swept up in whorls of wind and carried from four million hectares of pasturelands (about 9.9 million acres) that lie to Melbourne’s north and west. If broken into fragments, they are so fine that they can be inhaled..." (Image credit: UK Daily Record).

11 Ways The Atmosphere Went Bonkers This October That You Probably Didn't Notice. Here's an excerpt and a partial list from a story at Yahoo! Finance: "...Each month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) releases a list of some of the most significant trends in the climate from the past month. Here are some of the most drastic things that took place this October:
  • The global average temperature was 1.31 degrees Farenheit above the 20th-Century average of 57.1 — tied with 2003 for the third hottest October ever recorded.
  • In the Arctic, 980,000 square miles of sea ice (an area larger than Texas and Alaska combined) went missing. That left Earth with a whopping 28.5% less Arctic ice than the 1981-2010 average, or the lowest levels ever recorded.
  • The Antarctic saw sea ice levels that were 290,000 square miles below average — 4% below the 1981-2010 average, or the second-lowest October ever.
  • The continental US experienced its third-warmest October in the 122-year record.
  • Alaska experienced its driest October since records began in 1925.
  • Finland experienced its driest October since national records began in 1961 and Norway experienced its fourth-driest since records began in 1900..."

How A Father and Son Helped Create Weather Forecasting As We Know It. Atlas Obscura has a terrific article; here's an excerpt that explains why we refer to weather zones as "fronts": "...The plethora of weather data the Bjerknes were receiving also allowed Jack to continue monitoring convergence lines and refining his theory. By the fall of 1918, he had made a discovery: these lines of weather were connected with cyclones—large air masses that rotate around low atmospheric pressure. He published his observations in 1919. Though he didn’t yet know it, Jack had identified one of the most characteristic features of weather maps and weather forecasting. These features, too, would be linked with war, named for their resemblance to the lines of advancing armies. Jack Bjerknes had discovered the “front...”

Map credit: "An image from the 1951 Compendium of Meteorology showing front activity, based on Bjerknes’ model." Internet Archive/Public Domain

U.S. Military Prepares For The Next Frontier: Space War. CNN reports : "Since man first explored space, it has been a largely peaceful environment. But now US adversaries are deploying weapons beyond Earth's atmosphere, leading the US military to prepare for the frightening prospect of war in space. "As humans go out there, there has always been conflict. Conflict in the Wild West as we move in the West ... conflict twice in Europe for its horrible world wars," Gen. John Hyten, head of US Strategic Command, told CNN. "So, every time humans actually physically move into that, there's conflict, and in that case, we'll have to be prepared for that." Today, the US depends on space more than any other nation..."

Zika Surfaces in Texas, Likely To Be First Local Transmission. The Washington Post has more details: "Texas health authorities said Monday that a Brownsville woman is infected with Zika, a case that could make the south Texas city the second place in the continental United States where the mosquito-borne virus is spreading locally. Laboratory testing confirmed that the 43-year-old patient, who is not pregnant, had been infected. State and local health authorities said she reported no recent travel to any location with ongoing Zika transmission and no other risk factors..."

Photo credit: "A female Aedes aegypti mosquito feeds from a researcher at Rockefeller University." (Alex Wild).

Oil and Water: 11,700 Gulf Oil Spills Since BP Raise New Fears. WWL-TV in New Orleans is running the series; here's an excerpt of what they found: "...Recent discoveries of illegal, unreported oil discharges and systematic dumping of chemicals from rigs and platforms have raised new fears about environmental damage in the Gulf of Mexico, more than six years after the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Tracking of federal data by the environmental watchdog group SkyTruth shows more than 11,700 oil spills have been reported in the Gulf of Mexico since the BP oil spill ended in July 2010. But the rate of spills also has slowed significantly, from 245 a month in 2012 to 80 in October 2016..."

Clean Energy Gains Ground - But Old Dirty Habits Die Hard. Here's the intro from Reuters: "Solar power is becoming so cheap so fast that in Abu Dhabi it's now less costly to produce a unit of energy from the sun than from oil, leading energy experts said this week. But that doesn’t mean a global switch to renewable energy will be inevitable or speedy, they told a London conference. Difficult and sometimes unexpected problems still stand in the way, including pension funds heavily invested in fossil fuels, upfront costs for clean power, political flip-flops in key nations, and the lobbying prowess of old energy companies..."

Wind Surges To Nearly 15 Percent of Texas Power Supply. Greentech Media has the story: "Texas grid operator ERCOT announced a new record for wind on Monday. For the first time, wind provided more than 15,000 megawatts of electricity to the state on a single day. The record wind on Sunday supplied an average of 41 percent of electricity throughout the day. But it was not an all-time record for wind in Texas. On one day in March, wind supplied more than 48 percent of load during one hour. It is not the hour-by-hour records that are impressive, however. Texas is already the clear leader in wind power in the U.S., and that lead is widening..."

See What People of 1967 Imagined The World Would Be Like in 1999. Is this a young Bill Gates pondering Windows back in the 60s? Wait, my PC still looks like this, come to think of it. The video from Atlas Obscura is worth checking out. As Yogi Berra said: forecasts are hard, especially about the future: "...This short film, produced in 1967 by the Philco-Ford Corporation, a maker of battery-powered tech, imagines the distant future of the year 1999. Amid all the mid-century-modern set dressing, they actually got a lot of things right. In this “society of tomorrow,” we can see precursors to personal computers, email, FaceTime, podcasts (complete with the 2x speed feature), online shopping, 3D imaging and more..."

TODAY: Clouds, few flakes. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 38

THURSDAY NIGHT: Mostly cloudy. Low: 29

FRIDAY: More clouds than sun, a dry sky. Winds: NW 7-12. High: 37

SATURDAY: Peeks of sun, better travel day of the weekend. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 24. High: 38

SUNDAY: Icy mix possible AM hours. Gray sky. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 30. High: 38

MONDAY: Cloudy, breezy and milder. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 29. High: 44

TUESDAY: Cold rain or mix, mainly wet roads.  Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 33. High: near 40

WEDNESDAY: Cloudy, colder. Snow arrives late PM. Wake-up: 28. High: 32

Climate Stories...

The Crops of the Future. Climate change, population growth - how will macro trends impact the crops we need to sustain the world and avoid widespread famine and dislocation? Here's an excerpt of an article at TakePart: "...But before doomsday, there’s just today—and plant breeders have plenty of work to do. Across the globe, scientists and breeders working at the seed banks that have been duplicated at Svalbard have a laborious job: making sure the world can continue to grow enough food no matter what curve balls climate change throws our way. Agriculture faces a tall order: Maintain food security as the population rises by an additional 3 billion people by 2050, requiring an estimated 60 percent increase in global food production. Farmers are already grappling with increased instances of drought, floods, and record heat waves, not to mention degraded soil. “We seem to be entering a period of relatively unstable climate, and that’s the hardest thing to breed for," said Matthew Reynolds of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. “It’s exciting [work], but a lot of people’s food security depends on it, which makes it urgent...” (Photo credit: Rob Koch).

What Happens When The Ice Disappears? Pacific Standard reports: "...In the age of global warming, one thing is certain: There will be less ice and snow. Glaciers, ice shelves, and sea ice are melting away, and there has been a dramatic drop-off in the number of snow-covered days around the world, as documented by the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab. Since 1967, spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has dwindled by about three million square kilometers.The loss of Earth’s reflective white surfaces will intensify the spiral of global warming. Darker surfaces absorb more incoming solar radiation. That warmth delays the onset of winter and hastens the arrival of spring..."

Photo credit: "Quark Expedition guides stand on the shore of Paulet Island, near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, as a pair of inflatable dinghies maneuver through icebergs. Climate scientists are keeping a close eye on Antarctica’s coastal ice masses, as a warming ocean threatens to destabilize huge sections of the cryosphere in this region. According to some recent studies, the warming could reach a tipping point that would result in several feet of global sea level rise by the end of the century." (Photo: Bob Berwyn)

Northern Hemisphere Snow Trends. Data courtesy of Rutgers Global Snow Lab.

Google Earth's Timelapse Update Illustrates 30 Years of Climate Change. The Verge has the story: "The team behind Google Earth released an update today to the timelapse feature of its satellite imagery app, and it’s a great way to see the rapid pace of urban development and public infrastructure projects like the San Francisco Bay Bridge. It’s a cool feature, letting anyone jump into any location and watch as is morphs over the years. But there’s another, more sobering and necessary function of Google Earth: seeing how human-driven climate change has transformed the planet in just 32 years time..."

The Areas America Could Abandon First. Don't smirk; American citizens have already relocated away from coastal sections of Louisiana and Alaska. Here's an excerpt from Bloomberg View: "...But as extreme weather gets worse, those federal subsidies will only become more expensive -- increasing the need to rethink government support for those who choose to live in harm's way. "Climate change is real and will lead to even more frequent and costly disasters," Rafael Lemaitre, FEMA's director of public affairs, told me. "We must continue to work with states to implement longer-term projects and strategies that mitigate against climate change." That means it's time to consider an impolitic question: If federal support gets rolled back, which areas will people have the greatest incentive to leave?..." (Photo: EPA)

A Wrenching Choice For Alaskan Towns In The Path of Climate Change. America has already seen its first climate refugees, in Louisiana and Alaska. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "...With its proximity to the Arctic, Alaska is warming about twice as fast as the rest of the United States and the state is heading for the warmest year on record. The government has identified at least 31 Alaskan towns and cities at imminent risk of destruction, with Shaktoolik ranking among the top four. Some villages, climate change experts predict, will be uninhabitable by 2050, their residents joining a flow of climate refugees around the globe, in Bolivia, China, Niger and other countries. These endangered Alaskan communities face a choice. They could move to higher ground, a wrenching prospect that for a small village could cost as much as $200 million. Or they could stand their ground and hope to find money to fortify their buildings and shore up their coastline..."

Photo credit:

Why Extreme Weather Is The New Normal. Here's an excerpt from "...Just as we have seen an increase in droughts, we have also seen a rise in floods. Four studies have concluded that water vapor in the atmosphere is increasing globally. This happens because warmer air results in more evaporation, and evaporation leads to more available water vapor to create precipitation. That could be why we are seeing more floods. Flooding in Louisiana in August was the worst disaster to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy. In one week, 6.9 trillion gallons of rain fell, and it wasn't even a named storm or a hurricane. It was simply a slow-moving system that stalled over Louisiana, dumping way more rain than the soil could soak up. Watson, Louisiana, had 31.39 inches of rain during the storm..."

Pope Urges World Leaders Not To Hobble Climate Change Pact. Reuters reports: "Pope Francis urged national leaders on Monday to implement global environmental agreements without delay, a message that looked to be squarely aimed at U.S. President-elect Donald Trump. Addressing a group of scientists that included theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, the pope gave his strongest speech on the environment since the election of Trump, who has threatened to pull out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. "The 'distraction' or delay in implementing global agreements on the environment shows that politics has become submissive to a technology and economy which seek profit above all else," Francis said..."

Photo credit: "Pope Francis greets Stephen Hawking (R), theoretical physicist and cosmologist, during a meeting with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Vatican, November 28, 2016." Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters.

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