Monday, December 19, 2016

Welcome Thaw - From 20 Below To Soaking Rain One Week Later - The Arctic is "Unraveling"

7" snow on the ground in the Twin Cities.
21 F. high Monday at MSP International Airport.
26 F. average high on December 19.
28 F. high on December 19, 2015.

December 20, 1989: Minnesotans are hard pressed to find snow cover across most of the state. Only good places to cross country ski are at Grand Marais and along the Gunflint Trail.

Wild Weather Swings: Rainy Mix Christmas Day?

I'm having a rare "where am I living?" moment. It'll pass. -20F Sunday. One week later the atmosphere could be warm enough for heavy rain. Bizarre weather swings.

In spite of a string of 30s this week Minnesota will experience the first white Christmas in 3 years. Odds favor the snowiest winter in 3 years as arctic air seeps south with greater regularity. No El Nino to save us this year.

The "Polar Vortex" is a counterclockwise-spinning gyre of high=altitude winds howling around a mass of cold, low pressure over the arctic. Think of it as a balloon: expanding and contracting. A stronger vortex means high winds are bottling the coldest air to our north. A weaker vortex? More frequent intrusions of subzero air.

We enjoy a 2-3 week break from face-peeling cold; into at least the first week of January or so. I see flurries Wednesday; models hinting at a real storm Christmas Day. But enough warm air may wrap into the circulation for snow, ice, even an extended period of heavy rain. ECMWF guidance predicts 51F and heavy rain on Christmas Day!

That's OK. I hear Santa has rain-deer.

10-Day Snowfall Potential. GFS guidance (above) shows 1-2 feet of snow across the Red River Valley Christmas Day, where temperatures should remain cold enough for all snow. Meanwhile a cold rain falls from Des Moines and the Twin Cities to Madison, Chicago and Detroit. A second system one week from Thursday may drop a few inches of slushy snow on the Upper Midwest. A few feet of snow is forecast to pile up on the highest elevations of the western USA over the next 10 days. But city centers from Atlanta to Washington D.C., New York and Boston may experience a brown Christmas this year. Source:

Thaws and Assorted Temperature Spikes. We should see temperatures above freezing today and Wednesday (it will feel AMAZING out there!) with relative warmth into Christmas Day, when ECMWF guidance hints at 50 degrees. With snow on the ground I find that unlikely, but 40s arent' out of the question Sunday afternoon and night as a strong storm pulls warmer air into much of Minnesota. Source: WeatherBell.

Early January: Still Zonal. GFS guidance shows a relatively moderate, west-to-east zonal wind flow aloft in early January, with temperatures at or above average for much of the USA. Cold swipes are likely over the northern tier of the USA, but not as Arctic as a couple days ago.

5th Warmest November on Record, Worldwide. We're also on track for 2016 to be the warmest year on record, warmer than 2015 and 2014. Here's an excerpt from NOAA NCDC:
  • The November temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.31°F above the 20th century average of 55.2°F. This was the fifth highest for November in the 1880–2016 record, 0.41°F cooler than the record warmth of November 2015 when El Niño conditions were strong.
  • The November globally averaged land surface temperature was 1.71°F above the 20th century average of 42.6°F. This value was the 12th highest November land global temperature in the 1880–2016 record....

Top U.S. Tornado Videos of 2016. Here's a good overview with some amazing videos, courtesy of U.S. Tornadoes: "While 2016 was another in a string of quiet tornado years, it might be the best of the past few when it comes to tornado videos. Interestingly enough, the two biggest tornado days of the year both fail to show up in the videos below. Both of those days came outside peak season, during times where tornadoes like to hang out in the trees of the Southeast, often at night and sometimes without even being noticed. As tornado watchers, we are constantly reminded that even in a tame year there are days that will be thought of for decades. This year, we saw one of those on May 24. In many ways we can be thankful — 2016 brought plenty of the best mother nature has to offer, and with minimal consequences..."

Where Are Forecasts Most Accurate in the USA? Perception becomes reality. I found this to an interesting nugget, courtesy of Peter Kennedy's Daily Devotional: "CNBC looked at how eight meteorological services predicted temperatures and rain across the United States. They found the top two overall were Weather Underground and the Weather Channel with almost an 84% chance of accuracy. Places like Florida, California and Alaska are easier to forecast with high accuracy. In California, apps predicted rain (or more likely, no rain) in some areas with more than 97 percent accuracy in 2015. Likewise, temperature forecasts are strongest in Florida. Overall, the hardest states to predict the weather in are North Dakota and Montana, where apps are only right about 64 percent of the time. Additionally, what is perceived as accurate can change depending on how you use a service. That's why some weather services have been known to adjust their predictions to better serve their customers. One famous example is the "wet bias" — when a forecaster reports a higher probability of rain than his or her models suggest to help keep people from getting wet if it does rain. The logic is that if consumers see that rain is unlikely and get wet, they'll be a lot angrier than if they see that rain is more likely and it doesn't rain. "Sometimes a less accurate forecast is perceived as being a better forecast," said Eric Floehr, the founder of ForecastAdvisor...."

Cold Temperatures Kill More Americans Than Hot Ones, CDC Data Shows. Some interesting statistics, courtesy of The Washington Post's Wonkblog: "...With heat, there may be a “threshold” temperature beyond which the body's temperature regulating system essentially breaks down. If the temperature is below that threshold (which likely varies between individuals), your body is essentially good to go. It's only when ambient temperatures surpass that point that mortality risks come into play. With cold temperatures, on the other hand, the authors of the Lancet study posit that it seems to produce negative health effects in a fairly linear fashion. There's no threshold; rather, the colder it gets, the more trouble your body has adapting..."

Video: Time-Lapse Google Maps Show How The World is Changing. Here's a snippet from a story at NPR: "Google Earth's time lapse videos of earth's landscape could make you think about the great baseball player Yogi Berra. "I thought about one of the quotes attributed to Yogi Berra," says Marc Levy, a political scientist at Columbia University's Earth Institute who specializes in issues of global health and development. "He said, 'You can observe a lot just by watching.'" To show just how much the Earth's landscape has changed over the past three decades, Google sifted through 5 million satellite images containing three quadrillion pixels. The result is a series of high-resolution, zoomable time-lapse videos that capture, in unprecedented detail, the human impact on this planet..."

Image credit: "Google Earth's time-lapse videos show see how the planet's surface has changed over time — like the evaporation of the Aral Sea (above)." YouTube/Screenshot by NPR

It's Energy Storage's Time to Shine. Here's an excerpt from a story at Fox Business: "...The inconvenient truth is that until recently, energy storage didn't have any financial justification. The idea of value was there, but there was no actual value to create. Rooftop solar power systems create energy and can offset demand from other sources. The best energy storage systems can do is move demand from one hour of the day to another, but doing that was so expensive, it didn't make financial sense. What's changed recently is that utilities are starting to put rate structures in place that will make energy storage more economically viable. Ironically, their moves -- designed to reduce the appeal of solar -- are providing the impetus for innovation in theenergy storage industry..."

Clean Power Plan B: Why Minnesota Will Be a Climate Leader in Trump's America. Minnpost has the story; here's an excerpt: "...If the CPP’s future is uncertain, both in the courts and in a Trump administration, it might not matter in Minnesota, where its climate and energy goals are popular — and have been for some time. Those involved in energy policy in the state say that Minnesota is on track to make meaningful strides in clean energy and carbon reduction, regardless of the fate of the CPP. Much of that is due to the development of solar, wind, and natural gas resources. They have become viable and affordable power production options to replace coal or other dirtier fuels. (Though renewables have grown cheaper, coal remains the cheapest fuel option for power plants.) The cost of wind power in Minnesota, for example, is down 60 percent since 2009, according to J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director at Fresh Energy, a Minnesota climate and energy nonprofit..."

Photo credit: CC/Flickr/Minnesota Solar Challenge. "The solar installation in Slayton, Minnesota — the state’s largest, with a capacity of 2 megawatts — was brought online in 2013."

Madison To Vote on Proposal for 100 Percent Renewable Energy Use. Here's the intro to a story at "The Sustainable Madison Committee will vote Monday on proposals to adopt renewable energy goals for the city. Two proposals created by the committee call on the city to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions by investing in and utilizing renewable energy. The end goal of both proposals is 100 percent renewable energy use among city agencies..." (Image:

A $2,000 Pizza? Of course it's near the Financial District in New York City. I smell a bubble. Here's an excerpt from Esquire: "...Now, Industry Kitchen, in New York's South Street Seaport, has a new offering suitable for the deluxe edition of Eat the Rich. For $2,000, the wood-fired pie is sprinkled luxurously with 24-karat gold leaves. Do the math: cut this into eight pieces, and thats $250 a slice - or around $50 per bite...."

TODAY: Partly sunny and milder. Winds: W 10-20. High: 35

TUESDAY NIGHT: Clouds increase. Low: 23

WEDNESDAY: More clouds, flurries possible. Winds: W 8-13. High: 35

THURSDAY: Intervals of sun, still above average. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 21. High: 34

FRIDAY: More clouds than sun, balmy. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 23. High: 38

CHRISTMAS EVE: Dry sky, first white Christmas in 3 years. Winds: E 5-10. Wake-up: 22. High: 32

CHRISTMAS DAY: Sloppy mix changes to heavy rain. Winds: SE 15-25. Wake-up: 28. High: 45

MONDAY: High winds, lingering flurries. Winds: NW 20-35+ Wake-up: 22. High: 25 (falling rapidly)

Climate Stories...

U.K. Met Office Predicts Another Very Warm Year in 2017. Here's the intro to a press release from the Met Office: "The Met Office global temperature forecast suggests that 2017 will be another very warm year globally but is unlikely to be a new record due to the absence of additional warming from El Niño. The global average temperature for 2017 is expected to be between 0.63 °C and 0.87 °C above the long-term (1961-1990) average of 14.0 °C, with a central estimate of 0.75 °C. Using the 1981-2010 long-term average of 14.3 °C, the forecast range is between 0.32 °C and 0.56 °C, with a central estimate of 0.44 °C. Professor Adam Scaife, head of long-range prediction at the Met Office, said: “This forecast, which uses the new Met Office supercomputer, adds weight to our earlier prediction that 2017 will be very warm globally but is unlikely to exceed 2015 and 2016: the two warmest years on record since 1850...”

"The Arctic is Unraveling", Scientists Conclude After Latest Sobering Climate Report. Here's an excerpt from InsideClimate News: "...If the extreme warmth recorded in the Arctic this fall persists for the next few years, it may signal a completely new climate in the region, scientists said. Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA's Arctic Research Program, said the report highlights the clear and pronounced global warming signal in the Arctic and its effects cascading throughout the environment, like the spread of parasitic diseases in Arctic animals. "We've seen a year in 2016 like we've never seen before ... with clear acceleration of many global warming signals. The Arctic was whispering change. Now it's not whispering. It's speaking, it's shouting change, and the changes are large," said co-author Donald Perovich, who studies Arctic climate at Dartmouth College..."

The Hardest Part of Dealing with Sea-Level Rise Will Be The Uncertainty. Vox explains: "By far one of the most important impacts of global warming in the decades ahead will be sea-level rise. As the Earth heats up and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica melt, ocean levels will creep upward, flooding coastal cities and forcing large-scale relocations around the world. But there’s a troubling asterisk here: We still don’t know exactly how high oceans are likely to rise this century. Studies have suggested it could be anywhere from 2 to 6 feet, on average — with newer evidence leaning toward the higher end, depending on emissions and how quickly parts of West Antarctica’s massive ice sheet disintegrate. Worse, climate scientists probably won’t be able to pin down an exact number anytime soon, because getting a handle on ice-sheet dynamics is inherently tricky..." (Photo credit: EPA).

Miami Faces $3.5 Trillion Loss: Highest Risk of Sea Level Rise Among All Coastal Cities. The Real Deal reports: "Miami stands to lose up to $3.5 trillion in assets by 2070 due to sea level rise, according to a new National Wildlife Federation report. Miami has the largest amount of exposed assets, beaches included, of any coastal city, the report shows. Guangzhou, China ranked second; and New York ranked third, according to the “Changing Tides: How Sea-Level Rise Harms Wildlife and Recreation Economies Along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard” report. In Florida, $69 billion worth of property is at risk of flooding in less than 15 years, and beachfront property in Miami-Dade alone is valued at more than $14.7 billion..."

Map credit: The Real Deal has a high-resolution version of the map showing condominiums at greatest risk in the Miami area.

Ready for Flooding: Boston Analyzes How to Tackle Climate Change. It will become increasingly impossible for skeptics and deniers to ignore rising seas. Boston is one of many coastal cities on the front line; here's an excerpt from Ars Technica: "The more you follow government down to the local level, the harder it is for decision-makers to pretend climate change isn’t real. Coastal cities in particular can see what’s coming, and their officials understand that people can’t just sit on their hands. When you’ve cleaned up after storm surge flooding before, the risk of more severe flooding feeds a concrete urgency. One of the first cities to get the ball rolling was Boston, which recently released a new report laying out a roadmap for a “Climate Ready Boston.” The report was prepared by a team of city officials, planning consultants, non-profits, utilities, and climate scientists. The scientists provided climate projections for the Boston area, and the others analyzed the city for vulnerabilities to those expected changes..." (Photo: Tim Sackton).

Freezing in Record Lows? You May Doubt Global Warming, Says Scientist. Because many people still confuse weather and climate. A few cold days don't negate the fact that the planet is slowly warming, according to "...The local weather conditions people experience likely play a role in what they think about the broader climate," says Utah State University researcher Peter Howe. "Climate change is causing record-breaking heat around the world, but the variability of the climate means that some places are still reaching record-breaking cold. If you're living in a place where there's been more record cold weather than record heat lately, you may doubt reports of climate change." Howe says people's beliefs about climate change are driven by many factors,  but a new study in which he participated suggests weather events in your own backyard may be an important influence..."
"The local weather conditions people experience likely play a role in what they think about the broader climate," says Utah State University researcher Peter Howe. "Climate change is causing record-breaking heat around the world, but the variability of the climate means that some places are still reaching record-breaking cold. If you're living in a place where there's been more record cold weather than record heat lately, you may doubt reports of ."
Howe says people's beliefs about climate change are driven by many factors, but a new study in which he participated suggests weather events in your own backyard may be an important influence.

Read more at:

Alaska Wildfires Linked to Climate Change. Here's the intro to a story at Alaska Public Media: "2015 was a headline grabbing year for extreme weather events. Massive floods, extreme drought and low snowpack were seen around the globe. In Alaska, wildfires scorched over 5 million acres of land. Now the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is taking a closer look and trying to figure out what caused them. James Partain, a NOAA climatologist, said he can’t go anywhere without someone asking about climate change. His dentist, passengers on airline flights — he says they all want to know what’s triggering these unusual weather events around the state?..."

Photo credit: "Flames from the Funny River Wildfire flare up on May 24, 2016 in Soldotna, Alaska. The wildfire started unusually early in the season and burned nearly 200,000 acres on the Kenai Peninsula."(Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion).

Can You Dig It? A Gardener Talks Climate Change. Who Better? Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Star Tribune: "...Unfortunately, though, the best way to fix our polluted planet isn’t to monetize the effort. Just as we need to take the money out of politics, so it is with climate. Instead of inventing a product to solve a problem, it’s time we focus on the problem first and how to prevent it. Gardeners can lead the way. They already do, by choosing to spend their free time creating backyard versions of balanced ecosystems that will become more than pretty places to escape to. Home gardeners have long since given up on chemical pesticides and fertilizers. They are way ahead of commercial farmers. Their tiny plots serve as experiment stations and demonstration sites. They answer questions for those curious enough to ask, such as: Why is your backyard teeming with wildlife when all you did was plant some flowers?..."

Illustration credit: Star Tribune.

Scott Pruitt Is Not a "Climate Change Denier" But Just Wants Ongoing Debate, Say Christian Evangelical Backers. How long do we "debate the science" before taking meaningful action? Here's a clip from a story at Christian Today: "...The evangelicals reject "any ideology that sees human beings as a blight upon the planet" and that would "harm human flourishing" by restricting or preventing rightful use and enjoyment of creation. "We do not deny the existence of climate change nor the urgency of this concern," the evangelicals say. "We affirm an ongoing debate on the proper balance between the unleashing of human enterprise and the protection of creation. We call for justice, righteousness, and compassion in every dimension of our national life, including our government. "We believe that Attorney General Pruitt has been misrepresented as denying 'settled science', when he has actually called for a continuing debate. This is in the very best tradition of science..."

How To Talk To Conservatives About Climate Change. has the results of some interesting new research: "...Researchers at Germany's University of Cologne ran a series of online surveys with a range of 200 to 300 American participants from across the political spectrum. They worked on the assumption that conservatism has historically been about preserving the traditional status quo in the face of change, whereas liberals tend to see such change as necessary to building a better tomorrow. In other words, conservatives look fondly on the past and are wary of the future, with the situation reversed for liberals. Calls for dealing with climate change that are rooted in protecting the planet for future generations might then not be persuasive to conservatives, particularly when they associate such environmental messages with liberal efforts to change society for the worse..."

Global Sea Ice in November: Black Swans Flock To Both Poles. Yes, last month was off-the-scale unusual,  especially in the Arctic, as reported by NOAA's "If every swan you ever saw was white, you might think a black swan is impossible. That idea is the basis for what people in the world of commerce call a black swan event: a situation—such as the 2008 financial crisis—so rare that few people saw it coming. In the world of sea ice, November 2016 brought the kind of surprise that few sea ice scientists anticipated. Ice conditions were so unusual that Ted Scambos, the lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, described them as a black swan event. In early December, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) reported that both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extents had dropped to record lows in November 2016. The surprise was more than just both hemispheres experiencing record-low extents. The extents were far outside the range of variability that we'd expect based on historical observations..."

Ski Resort  Execs Look For Climate Change-Proof Properties. Here's an excerpt from "Ski-resort executives tend to hate climate change, for obvious reasons. Then there’s Les Otten. It’s not that he’s a fan, just that he’s looking to turn the global-warming equation on its head. How so? By carving out slopes in a remote spot in northern New Hampshire that’s frigid enough to out-snowpack rivals. While lower-elevation areas wilt, the lifts on higher ground will keep on humming. “You wouldn’t wish your fellow man ill,” said Otten, a winter-sports industry veteran who has teamed up with a pair of local businessmen, “but their seasons will be shortened. It would be dishonest to say that to a degree that’s not in our thinking...’’

Photo credit: "Gunstock ski area in Gilford, New Hampshire. Some ski resort execs in New England are seeking more reliable snowfall further north." Jim Cole / AP.

Factcheck: Newspaper Claim About Global Temperature is "Deeply Misleading". Carbon Brief has the story; here's a clip: "In reality, 2014, 2015 and 2016 have been the three warmest years on record not because of a large El Niño, but because of a long-term warming trend driven by human emissions of greenhouse gases. The modest decline in temperatures in recent months from the peak of the El Niño event is completely in line with what has happened during past large El Niño events and was expected by scientists. To better understand what’s going on with the Earth’s temperature, lets take a look at the various temperature records and what they tell us..."
Graphic credit: "Global average surface temperature, 1979-2016."

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