Sunday, December 25, 2016

Winds Gust to 40 MPH Today - First Christmas Day Thunder Since 1982 - Subzero Smack Next Week?

.62" rain fell at MSP International Airport as of 7 PM Sunday.

37 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities yesterday (yes, the ECMWF model was out to lunch).
25 F. average high on December 25.
30 F. high on December 25, 2015.

December 26, 1990: Much of central Minnesota sets record low temperatures near 30 degrees below zero, while others had lows in the teens below zero. Cambridge had the coldest temperature with 31 below. Mora was close behind, with a low of 30 below. Other notably cold lows were at St. Cloud, with 29 below, and Melrose and Menomonie, WI with 27 below.

Words To Live By: "Don't Push The Weather"

It's halftime at the Oreo Classic Tooth Decay Bowl, so let me tell you a quick story.

My youngest son is a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. He's a HAC, a Helicopter Aircraft Commander in the Pacific. He calls me up every now and then for a quick forecast. For years I've been telling him not to push the weather. Want to live long enough to see grandkids? Be perpetually paranoid about the weather.

On Christmas Eve we all drove up to our cabin near Nisswa. I dialed up the computer models and decided to turn around and return to the Twin Cities 10 hours later; not risk driving into an ice storm Christmas Day.

Yesterday was an icy mess across central Minnesota; front-wheel or all-wheel drive no help on glaze ice.

Expect colder winds today (gusting to 40) with falling temperatures; no more than a candy-coating of flurries. I don't see any big storms this week but a weak clipper may brush us with a coating of snow New Year's Eve. Expect 20s and a few 30s this week - models hinting at a subzero swipe by the middle of next week.

Remember, the next 3 weeks are, on average, the coldest of the winter.

Real-time travel conditions for the Upper Midwest courtesy of the University of Wisconsin.

Glaze Ice. There is nothing more insidious than freezing rain, rain freezing on contact with cold surfaces. All wheel drive helps on snow, but nothing helps on shear ice. A friend, Pete Schenck, forwarded this photo of the icy concoction outside his door on Lake Ossy, east of Pequot Lakes on Christmas Day. Ho ho no!

First Christmas Day Lightning in the Twin Cities Metro Since 1982. Check out the strikes at

10-Day Snowfall Potential. Blizzard conditions ease over the Dakotas and the Red River Valley of Minnesota later today, GFS guidance shows snow pushing into the Mid South and Mid Atlantic region by next weekend with a fresh shot of arctic air; some 12"+ snowfall amounts predicted for central and northern New England between now and early next week. Source:

Another Subzero Swipe Next Week? The same GFS model shows a clipper-like system spreading light snow across the northern tier of the USA next weekend, sparking icy roads from the Twin Cities to Milwaukee, Detroit and Syracuse. A shot of subzero air may push across the Plains into the Midwest by the middle of next week.

Above Average Into New Year's Weekend. The average high now is in the mid-20s; ECMWF-predicted high temperatures climb into the 20s and 30s through New Year's Day in the Twin Cities, followed by a sharp drop  in temperature next week.

Numbing Second Week of January Midwest into New England and Mid Atlantic. Relatively mild weather is predicted for much of the western and southern USA (consistent with a La Nina pattern) but a few days and nights of subzero weather are likely from the Twin Cities and Chicago to Pittsburgh, Albany and Boston.

Typhoon Nock-Ten Causes Big Evacuations as Storm Roars Across the Philippines. The worst of the storm is expected to track just south of Manila. Here's an excerpt from The Sydney Morning Herald and "...NASA, the US space agency, said the storm had been at "super typhoon" strength, implying a category 4 or higher. After moving over southern Luzon, the storm's eye became cloud-filled as it weakened. Meteorologists, such as Philip Klotzbach at Colorado State University, estimated the typhoon was the strongest to slam into the Philippines this late in the year since reliable records began..."

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).

Arctic Temperatures Soar to 30C Above Normal. That's close to 50F warmer than average. No, this isn't normal or "average". And what happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic. Here's an excerpt from Canada's CBC: "...In fact, models — which Scambos says are "fairly generous" — anticipate an ice-free Arctic by the 2050s or 2060s, though it could happen sooner. "There's an inertia to the climate system," Scambos said. "We still are not seeing the world we're in for." David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada , said that instead of the air flow moving west to east, as it typically does, patterns are changing. Now there is more of a north-south interaction where warm air moves up from the south. However, the northern air can also dip further down, as we saw the past two weeks with unusually cold temperatures across the country. The change in air flow can cause the wild swings we are seeing more often. In this case, warm air over Greenland and Norway is being pulled up to the Arctic, causing the unusual weather..."

Photo credit: "The Arctic climate is changing, alarming climatologists." (CBC)

Weather Buoy Near North Pole Hits Melting Point. Jason Samenow reports from Capital Weather Gang: "Santa may need water skis instead of a sleigh this year. A weather buoy about 90 miles south of the North Pole registered a temperature at the melting point of 32 degrees (0 Celsius) early Thursday, as a giant storm east of Greenland drew abnormally warm air northward. Weather models had predicted temperatures could get this warm and this buoy, part of the North Pole Environmental Observatory, provides validation. “It seems likely areas very close to or at the North Pole were at the freezing point” Thursday, said Zachary Labe, a doctoral student researching Arctic climate and weather at the University of California at Irvine..."

Image credit: "Temperature near 89N latitude Dec. 20-22. (Data from North Pole Environmental Observatory buoy 300234064010010"

Astronomical Confirmation of the Star of Bethlehem? The following entry at Peter Kennedy's caught my eye: "...In August 2016, astronomer Joe Rao wrote for a possible explanation for the Star of Bethlehem. His theory is that Venus and Jupiter were the two planets spotted by the Magi as they approached their closest viewing to within 4 arc minutes (0.06 degrees) of each other. He wrote: “Two planets coming this close together makes for a very striking sight, if they do not differ too much in brightness. Interestingly, in August of 3 B.C., Venus and Jupiter were prominent in the predawn eastern sky, and on Aug. 12 they came within just 9 arc minutes (0.15 degrees) of each other as seen from the Middle East. Incidentally, this sign would have been seen by men "in the east," explaining the phrase in the Book of Matthew. Ten months later, Venus and Jupiter got together again for an even more spectacular encore on June 17, 2 B.C., when at sundown from Babylonia they were separated by just 4 arc minutes of each other, about 35 degrees above the western horizon. As the sky grew dark, the two brightest planets drew closer to each other until finally at 9:15 p.m. local time they drew to within 36 arc seconds (0.01 degree) equal to the mean apparent width of Jupiter as seen through a telescope, at an altitude of 15 degrees above the horizon. To most people, the two planets must have appeared to coalesce into a single "star" somewhat brighter than Venus alone.”

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.

2 Remarkable Facts That Illustrate Solar Power's Declining Cost. Dave Roberts has an eye-opening post at Vox: "...Our second remarkable fact is tucked away there on row five: Cutting edge solar has nosed ahead of natural gas. Specifically, utility-scale, thin-film solar PV plants produce cheaper power, on average, than new natural gas plants. (“Thin-film” solar involves advanced materials other than crystalline silicon, which has been the standard material for solar panels for most of the history of solar.) Both onshore wind and solar PV have seen insane drops in cost over the past eight years — 66 and 85 percent, respectively..."

File photo: Solar City.

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..."

7 of the 10 Drunkest Cities in America Are All In a Single State. Oh really? has the story: "Around here we like good beer, we like good wine, we like good cocktails, and we certainly have had occasion to drink a few too many of those things. But imbibing to excess is a serious matter and the list released over the weekend from 24/7 Wall Street and compiled using data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute isn’t a top 10 anyone necessarily wants to be a part of. What that data showed was that 7 of the top 10 and 12 of the top 20 cities most inclined to binge are in the state of Wisconsin..."

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: Gusty, dusting of flakes. Winds: W 20-40+ High: 33

MONDAY NIGHT: Flurries taper, still windy.  Low: 17

TUESDAY: Some sun, seasonably cool. Winds: W 8-13. High: 28

WEDNESDAY: Mostly cloudy, temporary thaw. Winds: W 10-20. Wake-up: 16. High: 34

THURSDAY: Cold and gray, flurries likely. Wake-up: 25. High: near 30 (falling)

FRIDAY: Rare sunshine sighting, a bit milder. Winds: SE 5-10. Wake-up: 21. High: 33

NEW YEAR'S EVE: Next clipper: coating of snow? Winds: E 8-13. Wake-up: 26. High: 31

NEW YEAR'S DAY: Mostly cloudy, quiet start to 2017. Winds: SW 8-13. Wake-up: 22. High: 32

* My thanks to KSTP and Channel 45 for the Yule Log stream. Can you keep it up year-round?

Climate Stories...

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..."

Despite Fact-Checking, Zombie Myths About Climate Change Persist. Here's a clip from Poynter: "...Indeed, only 27 percent of Americans understand how widespread agreement is among scientists that burning fossil fuels and destroying tropical forests is causing climate change. Compared to their peers in other countries, Americans dramatically underestimate climate risks. For Ben Santer, a climate researcher who has done pioneering work detecting the human fingerprint on modern warming, the stubborn persistence of climate misinformation in U.S. civic life is troubling. He and other scientists refer to these bad claims as “zombie arguments” since they seem to keep coming back to life even after repeated debunking..."

Photo credit: "Scientists hold signs during a rally in conjunction with the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in San Francisco." (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez).

Science Proves the Obvious: The Arctic Heat Wave is Because of Climate Change. The arctic has been warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet (because of positive feedbacks) and without a rapidly warming arctic the odds of the kinds of extreme temperature anomalies (close to 50F above average near the North Pole) are slim to nil. Here's an excerpt at "...A new analysis from researchers working with World Weather Attribution used a combination of computer modeling and observational data to see if the Arctic heat wave over the last two months is connected with climate change and not solely an extreme, but natural, temperature increase brought on by El NiƱo or some other phenomenon. Their unsurprising conclusion: Definitely climate change. "What I found was that without climate change this event would be extremely unlikely to occur, and climate change has made it a lot more likely," says Andrew King, a researcher from the University of Melbourne who led one part of the analysis. A century ago, the probability of a heat wave of this size happening would have been so low that the researchers couldn't precisely estimate it, saying only that the chances would have been less than 0.1% a year..."

Photo credit: Bethany Legg via Unsplash.

Will We Miss Our Last Chance to Save the World From Climate Change? Some will dismiss this as alarmist hype. But Hansen's predictions have had a funny way of coming true over the years. Here's an excerpt of a recent interview at RollingStone: "...Right now, the Earth's temperature is already well into the range that existed during the Eemian period, 120,000 years ago, which was the last time the Earth was warmer than it is now. And that was a time when sea level was 20 to 30 feet higher than it is now. So that's what we could expect if we just leave things the way they are. And we've got more warming in the pipeline, so we're going to the top of and even outside of the Eemian range if we don't do something. And that something is that we have to move to clean energy as quickly as possible. If we burn all the fossil fuels, then we will melt all the ice on the planet eventually, and that would raise the seas by about 250 feet. So we can't do that. But if we just stay on this path, then it's the CO2 that we're putting up there that is a burden for young people because they're going to have to figure out how to get it out of the atmosphere. Or figure out how to live on a radically different planet..."

Photo credit: "The energy system and the tax system have got to be simplified in a way that everybody understands and doesn’t allow the wealthy few to completely rig the system," says Hansen." Benedict Evans/Redux.

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