Monday, December 19, 2016

Welcome Thaw This Week - Black Swan Events At Both Poles in November?

-20 F. low temperature at MSP International Airport Sunday morning.

-2 F. maximum temperature as of 11 PM last night.

26 F. average high on December 18.

22 F. high on December 18, 2015.
December 19, 1983: Record lows are set across central Minnesota with temperatures ranging from fifty degrees below zero to the upper twenties below zero. Mora set their record with a low of 52 below, with 42 below at Little Falls, 41 below at Jordan, St. Cloud, and Cambridge, and 39 below at Long Prairie, Milaca, and Stillwater.
December 19, 1923: Unseasonably mild temperatures occur in Minnesota. Temperatures climb into the 60s at New Ulm.

Polar Pain Fades - A Welcome Thaw This Week

If you could somehow teleport an 1836 Fort Snelling settler into 2016 I wonder what they would think? Would they be amused by our skyways, heated car seats and remote-control gas fireplaces? Or would they be horrified by our creature comforts?

Friends in other (duller) parts of the USA ask me what -20F feels like. "Imagine being dipped headfirst into battery acid" I explain. "It only hurts when you breathe."

There's a better than even chance that yesterday was the coldest day of the winter. No record lows for MSP, in fact the Twin Cities haven't set a record low in 20 year. After the 3rd wettest, 3rd warmest year on record it was simple atmospheric payback.

The prickly pain is fading, now comes the thaw. Highs flirt with freezing Tuesday into Friday. Avoid the temptation to take off your shirt.

ECMWF guidance hints at an inch of slush Friday. No travel problems Christmas Eve but Christmas Day may bring another major storm with snow, ice, even rain mixing in. It's too early for details, but I'm confident this will be the snowiest winter since 2013-14, when 70" fell at MSP.

Wake-Up Weather Sunday - Coldest of the Winter? Historically the coldest air of the year arrives in mid-January, coming about 3-4 weeks after the Winter Solstice. But I'm not so sure of that this year. Yesterday's blast had been building over Siberia and Alaska for the better part of 6-8 weeks. We'll see more arctic fronts this winter (no kidding) but I believe there's a slightly better than even shot that Sunday's temperatures may have been the coldest of the winter from the Rockies to the Midwest. Map: Oklahoma Mesonet.

Sunday Morning Lows. The graphic above, courtesy of the Twin Cities National Weather Service office, shows wake-up temperatures yesterday. Air temperatures, not wind chills. Wow.

"Warming Up To Freezing". Few other spots on the planet can experience a sense of profound relief when the mercury rises to freezing or above. But after -20F and a subzero "high" on Sunday? 30s should feel amazing. Trust me. ECMWF guidance for the Twin Cities: WeatherBell.

Christmas Day Snowstorm? It's way too early for specifics, but the ECMWF model spins up an impressive storm across the Midwest and Plains by Sunday, possibly mixing with ice and rain south and east of the Twin Cities. The final track will determine who gets heavy snow vs. a mixed bag of weather. We need to see 3-4 days of additional model runs to see if there is any consistent solution, but if you're driving or flying home Christmas Day or December 26 you'll want to stay up on the latest forecast. Sunday evening, December 25 map: WSI.

10-Day Snowfall Potential. The GFS is also hinting at significant snows for the northern tier of the USA over the next 10 days; the heaviest projected amounts across Minnesota and Wisconsin next Sunday and Monday.  Stay tuned. Map:

First Winter of "Average Snowfall" in 3 Years? We'll see, but at the rate we're going I wouldn't be at all surprised to see us pick up 55-65" or more of snow by April. This year there seems to be more than enough cold air in place to make snow lovers happy.

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..."

4 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues. nextavenue has some very good advice; here's an excerpt: "...When Carol complained of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — also known as the winter blues — her doctor gave her a brochure about a company that makes several varieties of high-powered therapy lights and lamps. “A light box mimics outdoor light. Researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD,” says the Mayo Clinic. A light box may be an effective treatment on its own or, the Mayo Clinic adds, “in combination with an antidepressant medication or psychotherapy.”

Think you may suffer from SAD? The Mayo Clinic lists these symptoms:

• Irritability
• Tiredness or low energy
• Problems getting along with other people
• Hypersensitivity to rejection.

5 Ways To Make Sure Your Parents Are Safe in Bad Weather. It pays to be paranoid, especially with older parents; here's a clip from PBS nextavenue: "...Power outages can easily occur in winter and summer weather so it’s important that older adults know what to do and not do when the power is out. For example, I make sure that my dad has a good number of non-perishable food items and bottled water on hand so he’ll have plenty to eat if we can’t get to the store. But my husband and I have stressed that he should never try to heat up those non-perishables using his camping stove. As this piece from explains, because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, no one should ever “burn charcoal or use gasoline- or propane-powered equipment inside [the] home...”

3rd Warmest - 3rd Wettest Year on Record for MSP. 3.4F warmer than the 30 year average and nearly 9" wetter than average, 2016 was a warm and soggy year. Payback was inevitable.

Something Americans Can Agree On. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed from Robert Redford at TIME: "...There are not many things the vast majority of Americans agree on. The election certainly reminded us of this fact. In an increasingly divided country, it is becoming harder and harder to find common ground, particularly surrounding the issues of energy development and climate change. One of the few issues with strong bipartisan support is, surprisingly, solar power. A recent poll found nearly nine in 10 Americans support the expansion of solar power. Among all the energy sources, it has the highest favorability rating. That’s for good reason..." (Photo credit: Solar City).

Cost Of Clean, Renewable Energy Dropping Rapidly. Check out Lazard's Levelized Cost of Energy document (PDF).

Old Jobs That No Longer Exist. Some professions get disrupted faster than others. Check this out from Holy Kaw! "Chances are, if you’re in the town crier or resurrectionist business, opportunities have been few and far between in the last century or two. As we look to the future to predict what jobs the robot armies will overtake, it’s refreshing to glance back the other direction in time to see where we’ve been..."

TODAY: Partly sunny, better. Winds: SW 10-15. High: 25

MONDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy, not as cold. Low: 24

TUESDAY: Thawing out. Patchy clouds, windy. Winds: W 15-25. High: 36

WEDNESDAY: More clouds, few flurries. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 23. High: 33

THURSDAY: Intervals of sun, almost pleasant. Winds: SW 5-10.  Wake-up: 24. High: 32

FRIDAY: A little slushy snow possible. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 21. High: 34

SATURDAY: More clouds than sun, good travel conditions. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 19. High: 26

SUNDAY: Potential for heavy snow, ice and rain. Winds: NE 10-20+ Wake-up: 18. High: near 30

Climate Stories...

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."

Every State Had a Top 10 Warmest Year in 2016. WXshift has the story; here's an excerpt: "Like the previous two years, 2016 is on pace to be the hottest year on record globally. In the U.S., the average temperature for the year is on track to be the second hottest in 122 years of records. In this analysis, we drilled down to the local level and examined how hot each of these cities has been in 2016 through the end of November...."

Map credit: "Each of the lower 48 states is having one of its 10 hottest years on record." Credit:

Conservatives Can Be Convinced to Fight Climate Change With a Specific Kind of Language. Quartz has the story: "...Progressive politicians often campaign with the promise of a better future. But conservatives recognize that pledging to restore a golden past resonates with their electorate. Environmentalists may want to consider using that to their advantage: a new study shows that focusing on the past is effective in getting conservatives (who are much more likely than liberals to deny climate change) to act to protect the planet. Specifically, the key is using pro-environment messaging that focuses on preserving a greener past, rather than averting future climate disasters, according to the study, published Dec. 12 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences..."

Scientists Are Tying More Extreme Events to a Changing Climate. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "A new report, published Thursday as a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, provides some of the best evidence yet that climate change already has a hand in our worst weather. It points to a variety of extreme weather events in 2015 that were likely influenced by global warming, from heat waves in Australia to heavy rain in China to raging wildfires in Alaska. The report, examining research on two dozen weather events, was compiled and edited by scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research..."

Photo credit: "The setting sun is partially obscured by smoke from an out of control 2015 wildfire on the Parks Highway near Willow, Alaska." (Reuters/Mat-Su Borough/Stefan Hinman).

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