Monday, December 26, 2016

Icy Domino Effect: Record Warmth in Arctic Could Mean Coldest January in 3 Years for Minnesota

- .9 F. December temperatures are running nearly 1F colder than average in the metro area.

1" snow on the ground at MSP International Airport.

43 F. high yesterday in the cities (2:44 AM).

25 F. average high on December 26.

32 F. high in the Twin Cities on December 26, 2015.

December 27, 1982: A snowstorm starts across the state, and ultimately dumps 16 inches in the Twin Cities by the time it ends on the 28th.

Paul's Prediction: Coldest January In 3 Years

We don't know what we don't know. Science is never "settled" - it's a process. Connect the dots. What does it mean and why should we care?

Last week temperatures rose to 32F at the North Pole; nearly 50F warmer than average. It's still emerging science but some researchers speculate that rapid warming of the Arctic is displacing the coldest air southward - and impacting jet stream steering winds, increasing the potential for bitter outbreaks at lower latitudes.

Wait, arctic warming may increase the risk of Siberian air here at home? Go figure. But big swings in weather are increasing.

With that rambling preamble in mind I'm predicting the coldest January in 3 years. Subzero weather is likely the middle of next week; again mid-January. Each outbreak may bring 2-4 days below 0F. More character-building cold.

A quiet week is shaping up - probably dry for New Year's weekend plans. Models spin up a snowstorm next Monday, followed by more fun with negative numbers.

2016 was the wettest year since 1871 in the Twin Cities with 40.32 inches of water. A warm and soggy year.

2016: Wettest Year On Record for the Twin Cities. 40.32" of precipitation as of December 25, according to the local office of the National Weather Service. For perspective, 1981-2010 average (mean) precipitation for the Twin Cities is 30.61", according to NOAA.

10-Day Snowfall Potential. A couple inches predicted for Denver and major east coast cities (no big coastal  storms brewing yet - give it a couple weeks). Over a foot is predicted for the Twin Cities roughly 1 week from today; with heavy snows from Boise to the Cascade Range. GFS guidance: NOAA and

Numbing Start to January. You know the score: January is the coldest, snowiest month of the year for Minnesota, historically. It's the very definition of winter. Although not as brutal as January 2014 I have a hunch the Upper Midwest will endure a tough January, maybe 5-10F colder than average statewide based on the guidance I'm seeing. After peaking above freezing Wednesday temperatures trend close to average into Monday of next week, tumbling below zero by the middle of next week. ECMWF guidance: WeatherBell.

NOAA GFS: Just As Cold Next Week. Meteorologists are quietly relieved when weather models agree, and there's little doubt temperatures will drop off a cliff by the middle of next week. I don't think we'll see -20F next week, but -10F seems likely. Source: NOAA and Aeris Enterprise.

Bitter Second Week of January. Next week looks cold, the second week of January looks even colder as polar air is displaced over Hudson Bay, bringing back fond memories of the "Polar Vortex" winter 3 years ago. Will the cold air persist as long as it did 3 years ago? I doubt it, but it's too early for specifics on duration of the cold.

This Looks About Right. Recent runs of NOAA's CFSv2 (Climate Forecast System) model looked warm for much of the USA, but last night's run prints out a bitter bulls-eye from western Canada into the Plains and  Upper Midwest, which seems realistic. Meanwhile unusually warm weather may be the rule from Texas and the Gulf Coast into much of New England.

The Arctic is Showing Stunning Winter Warmth, and These Scientists Think They Know Why. Rapid warming of the arctic may be throwing a monkey-wrench into the polar jet, the "polar vortex" that traditional media loves to hype (and has been around since the dawn of time). Are steering winds aloft really becoming wavier, more elongated? Chris Mooney has a timely article at The Washington Post: "...Judah Cohen, the head of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, said that this year in particular, low sea ice in the Arctic has led to a situation in which more snow falls over Siberia in the late fall, as Arctic moisture unlocked from the uncovered ocean gets pulled south over land and falls as snow. This doesn’t just make Siberia cold. Cohen believes it creates atmospheric reverberating effects that upset the polar vortex (the cold lower pressure region that normally hovers over the Arctic in winter), causing it to become elongated, migrate southward, and allowing for the swapping of Arctic cold and mid-latitude warmth..." (Map credit: Climate Reanalyzer).

Xcel Energy Flips Switch on New Plant, More Than Doubling Minnesota Solar Energy Generation. Here's  an excerpt from Star Tribune: "After years of talking and planning, solar energy in Minnesota is finally starting to shine. Xcel Energy last week flipped the switch on the North Star project in Chisago County, one of the largest solar plants in the Midwest. It by itself more than doubles the state’s total solar energy generation. Also this month, Xcel’s promising but much-delayed Community Solar Garden program is rolling out in a significant way. Around 20 megawatts of solar garden power are online, and up to 35 more megawatts are expected to be running by Jan. 1. Another large project that will feed power to Xcel — called Aurora — has been largely energized since mid-November..."

Photo credit: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune.

Your Future Commute: Flying Through Tubes at 760 mph. Not quite flying cars, but we're getting closer, according to The Washington Post: "Picture the commute of the future: You live in Palo Alto, Calif., but work 350 miles away in Los Angeles. After your morning latte, you click on a smartphone app to summon your digital chauffeur. An autonomous car shows up at your front door three minutes later to drive you to a Hyperloop station in downtown Mountain View, where a pod then transports you through a vacuum tube at 760 mph. When you reach the Pasadena station, another self-driving car awaits to take you to your office. You reach your destination in less than an hour. That is the type of scenario that Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) chief executive Dirk Ahlborn laid out for me as we were preparing to speak together on a panel at the Knowledge Summit in Dubai on Dec. 5..."

Worst Evening Rush Hour Traffic In The World? At the top of the list no city wants to be on: Bangkok. reports: "Bangkok has a sparkling metro system, river ferries and even a network of canals. But it still has the worst evening rush hour traffic in the world. Journey times more than double in Thailand's capital city during the evening commute, according to GPS manufacturer TomTom. "It's pretty extreme," Nick Cohn, senior traffic expert at TomTom, said of the city's road delays. It might get even worse, especially as the country's middle class continues to grow..."

The Game of a Lifetime. Check out a story at Wall Street Journal that will restore your faith in humanity; here's the intro: "Like almost anybody who has picked up a golf club, my stepfather has always had a fantasy: To play at the Augusta National Golf Club. The legendary Georgia course is home to the Masters Tournament, and admission is strictly limited to its closely guarded roster of members and their invited guests. Neither I nor my stepfather knew a soul there. So when I said I wanted to surprise him with a round of golf there, everyone I talked to said it would be impossible. Why would an absolute stranger invite a 70-year-old suburban Detroit real-estate developer to Georgia to tee off at one of the world's most secretive and exclusive clubs? In a season of giving, this is a story of acts of generosity, each one a little more surprising and heartfelt than the one before..." (Photo credit:

20 of the Prettiest Holiday Light Displays In The World. The Washington Post has the photo essay. Credit: "People are silhouetted as they walk through a light installation titled "Universal Journey" composed of 824,961 light bulbs at the Universal Studios in Singapore." Wong Maye-E/AP.

TODAY: Partly sunny, "average" temperatures. Winds: W 7-12. High: 24

TUESDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 20

WEDNESDAY: Mostly cloudy, a little milder. Winds: SW 8-13. High: 34

THURSDAY: Lot's of clouds, few flurries. Wake-up: 24. High: near 30

FRIDAY: Overcast, relatively mild for late December. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 20. High: 31

NEW YEAR'S EVE: Slow clearing, colder wind kicks in. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 21. High: 29

NEW YEAR'S DAY: Patchy clouds, quiet start to 2017. Winds: SE 10-15. Wake-up: 16. High: 31

MONDAY: Snow develops during the day. Winds: E 15-25. Wake-up: 20. High: 26

Climate Stories...

States Will Lead on Climate Change in t he Trump Era. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from the Editorial Board at The New York Times: "State governments will serve as an important bulwark against any attempt by President-elect Donald Trump to roll back the progress the United States has made in addressing climate change. And that’s good news for the planet. Over the last decade or so, most states have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by promoting energy efficiency and renewable fuels. These trends should continue as clean energy costs continue to decline and, in some parts of the country, fall below the cost of dirtier fuels like coal. The Brookings Institution reported this month that between 2000 and 2014, 33 states and the District of Columbia cut carbon emissions while expanding their economies. That list includes red states run by Republican legislatures, like Alaska, Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia..."

'Orwellian': Scott Walker Administration Quietly Scrubs "Climate" from Climate Change Website. Maybe if we ignore it it'll go away? That sounds like a good strategy. More on what's happening in Wisconsin from Raw Story: "...Political writer James Rowen reported on Monday that the Walker administration had advanced their war on science by scrubbing information about climate change from a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website that was dedicated to explaining how the agency would deal with a warming planet. The DNR page titled “climatechange.html” originally acknowledged that “[h]uman activities that increase heat–trapping (‘green house’) gases are the main cause [of global warming.] Earth´s average temperature has increased 1.4 °F since 1850 and the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 1998.” In all, 13 mentions of “climate” where stripped from the page along with all references to global warming. The word “climate” now appears only in the title of a footnote link at the bottom of the page..."

Katharine Hayhoe: Why Climate Change Should Matter To You. Here's an excerpt from Dr. Hayhoe at EcoWatch: "...This hard truth has always stuck with me and it's one of the main reasons I'm motivated to study climate science: because it affects all of us, but most of all the poor the world over—those who already lack sufficient food, who are already at risk for diseases that no one should be dying from in the twenty first century, and who—when disaster strikes—have no choice other than to leave behind their homes and flee. Climate change isn't a niche issue that only matters to people who think or act or vote a certain way. Each of us, exactly who we are, with exactly the values we already have, already have every reason we need to care. So what's our job, as people who care about climate? Our job is this: connect the dots between what some have called the longest distance in the world, from our heads to our hearts..."

Still So Much Confusion About Weather vs. Climate. Weather is an argument, climate is an entire marriage. Here's an excerpt from Summit County Citizens Voice: "...The study found that Americans who experience more record highs than lows in temperature are more likely to believe the earth is warming. Conversely, Americans who live in areas that have experienced record low temperatures, such as southern portions of Ohio and the Mississippi River basins, are more skeptical that the earth is warming. According to the study, the language of climate communications may be key, with the phrase ‘global warming’ resulting in a cognitive disconnect. That term might have led residents living in areas that experienced an unusually cold winter to doubt that climate change is occurring. “Who do Americans trust about climate change; scientists or themselves?” said Robert Kaufmann, professor in the department of geography and the Center for Energy & Environmental Studies at Boston University and lead author of the paper. “For many Americans, the answer seems to be themselves.” The researchers also found that a recent period of lower-than-average temperatures offset the effect of a long warming period, further supporting their findings that people’s belief in climate change is local and experiential..."

Photo credit: "If it’s hot, it’s global warming, but if not …" @bberwyn photo.

Guest Opinion: Meteorologists Caught Up in Climate Debate. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed that resonated from a meteorologist at Mail Tribune in Medford, Oregon: "...There is no massive conspiracy to create and maintain a global warming scare. Hundreds of mature, dedicated, sincere meteorological scientists have worked hard during their entire careers to advance climate science and develop the best predictions. Their work has been critically reviewed for decades by hundreds of their peers - independent scientists - in the domain of open scientific literature. Best available data and computer predictions now indicate that the human race has become capable of inadvertently affecting the global climate. That effect is already apparent, and is now superimposed on natural climate changes that continue to occur. The new global climate will have some destructive characteristics for humans. Our problem now is that human society was constructed to be consistent with the climate of the last few thousand years. The new climate will be different..."

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