Monday, January 23, 2017

Brushed by a Plowable Snowfall - Ancient Warming Hints at Future Sea Level Rise

35 F. maximum temperature yesterday in the Twin Cities.
24 F. average high on January 23.
23 F. high on January 23, 2016.

January 24, 1968: A rare severe thunderstorm hits the Twin Cities and leaves a coating of ice an inch thick. 10 thousand homes were without power.
January 24, 1950: An ice storm develops over southwest Minnesota. Ice on telephone wires from 1/3 to 1.5 inches. Bismarck, North Dakota had 17 inches of snow. A Northern Pacific passenger train derailed at Detroit Lakes with no injuries.
January 24, 1925: A solar eclipse is seen across northern Minnesota during the morning. The Duluth Herald reported that chickens were 'puzzled by the dark morning' and didn't leave their roosts.

Sloppy, Plowable Snowfall for MSP Metro and Southern Minnesota

I have been roused from my midwinter coma, thrilled to have something to track on Doppler radar. A fresh shellacking of wet, sloppy, March-like snow is likely tonight, and it may be 3-5 inches for the south metro - enough to plow and shovel. Temperatures stay above 32F, meaning some freeways will stay wet and slushy.

The worst travel conditions come tonight, south of the metro area. Considering we're running a 7 inch snowfall deficit so far this winter I'm not about to whine.

Temperatures cool off slightly for the start of the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships on Thursday. Long-range GFS data hints at a cold start to February; ECMWF (European) model data keeps the coldest air north of Minnesota. It would be fair to assume more cold fronts are imminent.

But let's keep some perspective. Alaska climate guru Brian Brettschneider has compiled a "Dreariness Index", based on total rainfall, wet days and cloud cover. Minnesota enjoys far more sunshine than New England, the Great Lakes or Pacific Northwest. In fact we rank right up there with Florida! It's on the Internet - must be true!

60-hour 4 KM NAM Snowfall Guidance through 12z Thursday courtesy of NOAA and

The Dreariness Index. My thanks to climate guru Brian Brettschneider (based in Alaska) for whipping together a useful index that combines total precipitation, wet days and average cloud cover to create one index that summarizes how gray/damp a specific part of the USA is. Here's an excerpt from Brian's post: "In previous posts, I have looked at total rainfall, number of wet days, and cloud cover independently of one another. Now seems like a good time to combine these variables to come up with a single composite value. Three different variables are used in this analysis to come up with Dreary Index – total annual precipitation, number of days per year with measurable precipitation, and average annual cloud coverage. An inverses distance weighted surfacing technique was used to generate a gridded data set for the entire U.S. for each of the three variables..."

84-Hour Forecast. Here is 12 KM NAM guidance, showing today's Nor'easter pushing 50-60 mph wind gusts across coastal Massachusetts and New Hampshire into Maine. Meanwhile the storm that whacked southern California Sunday spreads a band of accumulating snow across the northern Plains and Upper Midwest today and Wednesday, followed by a northwesterly flow of moderately colder air the latter half of the week.

A Rare and Wondrous Snow Event. Ah, so this is what they mean by "snow". I get it now - water actually freezes into fancy little ice crystals that stick together, gravity pulls them to the ground at an average speed of 3 mph. And traffic grinds to a halt on I-35. It's just snow folks, not billowing clouds of radioactivity. Couple inches of slush for most of us - but enough to lead the news and spark waves of indignant muttering about the weather and traffic getting worse. Southern Minnesota will see the heaviest snows, enough to shovel and plow - and remind the locals they live in a far southern suburb of Winnipeg.

Snowfall Potential Into Friday Morning. The best chance of significant snows over the next few days: interior New England, northern Nebraska and northwest Iowa (Omaha and Sioux City should see plowable amounts) and portions of the Rockies. The west coast gets a badly needed break from the heaviest rains and snows.

Cooling Down - Nothing Too Harsh Brewing (Yet). Here is the 15-day forecast from ECMWF, showing a cool-down later this week, back down to average for late January. Temperatures trend above average next week into the first few days of February, but I still suspect colder air arrives within 10 days to 2 weeks. Graphic: WeatherBell.

U.S. Pond Hockey Championships. The festivities start up this Thursday and run through Sunday. Details here.

Super-Sized January Thaw. Here's more perspective on this current of temperatures above 32F, courtesy of Dr. Mark Seeley and Minnesota WeatherTalk: "...The proverbial "January Thaw" (two or more consecutive days with daily high temperatures greater than freezing) for the Twin Cities has historically about an 80 percent probability of occurrence (about a 91 percent probability since 1980 with a pronounced urban heat island effect). This January it is happening to us with an exclamation mark! We may have up to 10 consecutive days with daily high temperatures above freezing if the forecast through January 26th verifies. In this context it would be the 5th longest such streak in the Twin Cities climate records surpassed only by 18 days in January 1944, 15 days in January 1942, 13 days in January 1919, and 11 days in January 1880 and 1909. (thanks to NOAA's Michelle Margraf and DNR-SCO's Pete Boulay for pointing this out). Over 50 Minnesota climate stations have already reported daytime highs in the 40s F this week, including 48°F at both Grand Rapids and Forest Lake on the 18th..."

Outrageous Amounts of Snow Out West. Monday I saw a report of 240" of snow at Mammoth Mountain. And it was still snowing (hard). Amazing.

NOAA's GOES-16 Satellite Sends First Images of Earth. The full disk above was taken on January 15. Meteorologists (myself included) are very excited about the enhanced imagery and lightning data about to become available via GOES-16. Here's an excerpt from NOAA: "...The pictures from its Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument, built by Harris Corporation, show a full-disc view of the Western Hemisphere in high detail — at four times the image resolution of existing GOES spacecraft. The higher resolution will allow forecasters to pinpoint the location of severe weather with greater accuracy. GOES-16 can provide a full image of Earth every 15 minutes and one of the continental U.S. every five minutes, and scans the Earth at five times the speed of NOAA’s current GOES imagers. NOAA’s GOES-16, situated in geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above Earth, will boost the nation’s weather observation network and NOAA’s prediction capabilities, leading to more accurate and timely forecasts, watches and warnings..."

GOES-16 Image Gallery. Test imagery for CONUS and the full disk is available here.

The First From the New Weather Satellite Just Arrived, and They're Absolutely Incredible. Angela Fritz reports for Capital Weather Gang: "The satellite formerly known as GOES-R (so Prince, right?) has transmitted its first images back to Earth, and they are flooring. From the details on the face of the moon to the incredible resolution of cumulus over the Caribbean, these first pixels portend a sunny future for NOAA’s new GOES-16 satellite. Meteorologists are drooling. This release coincides with the first day of the American Meteorological Society’s annual meeting. There are thousands of weather geeks in Seattle this week, and — at least on Monday — they’re all looking at this next-gen satellite imagery. As we’ve written before, GOES-R satellite has six instruments, two of which are weather-related. The Advanced Baseline Imager, developed by Harris Corp., is the “camera” that looks down on Earth. The pictures it sends back will be clearer and more detailed than what’s created by the current satellites..."

Image credit: "GOES-16 captured this view of the moon, as it looks across the Pacific Northwest on Jan. 15. As with earlier GOES spacecraft, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration." (NOAA/NASA).

At Least 29 Tornadoes Confirmed in January 21-23, 2017 Outbreak. Here's a snippet from WunderBlog: "An outbreak of tornadoes tore through parts of the Deep South from January 21-23, 2017. At least 20 deaths are being blamed on severe weather across the Deep South and Gulf Coast. From the morning of January 21 through January 23, at least 29 tornadoes have been confirmed either by National Weather Service damage surveys, dual-polarization radar, or reports from spotters in six southern states from Louisiana to Florida to South Carolina..."

"Not something you are unfamiliar with at this point, but just wanted to say that 12 of the 16 deaths in GA this past weekend occurred in tornadoes that took place in the middle of the night (2-4am local time). Quite a rare time for tornado activity. It certainly creates a unique "Dixie Alley" tornado danger that is almost unheard of the in the Central Plains (i.e., their tornadoes are mostly afternoon/evening occurrences)..."

- meteorologist Dan Lilledahl, Atlanta

Weekend Tornado Death Toll Exceeds All of 2016. There is disagreement about the total number of tornadoes from the most recent outbreak. CNN and say 41; here are the grim details: "The Southeast picked up the pieces on Monday after deadly tornadoes tore through the region, killing more people in one weekend than in all of last year, and officials called out for the federal government to urgently help their devastated communities. At least 41 reported twisters ravaged the southern states over the weekend, killing 19 people and destroying homes, CNN meteorologists reported. Tornadoes were reported in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. In 2016, tornadoes left 17 people dead across the country..."

At Least 18 Killed in Midwinter Tornado Outbreak. Category 6 at WunderBlog has more perspective on last weekend's jaw-dropping tornado outbreak: "After the least-deadly year for U.S. tornadoes in three decades, 2017 is off to a troublesome start. At least 18 people died over the weekend in two consecutive nights of tornadoes across the Deep South, compared to the total of 17 fatalities recorded for the entire year of 2016. Although midwinter outbreaks don’t happen every year in the United States, they’re most likely to be across the South when they do occur. Many of the deadliest tornadoes in these outbreaks happen overnight, when residents may be caught asleep or otherwise unaware and when getting to shelter can be difficult. The high proportion of manufactured/mobile homes across the South adds to the vulnerability of residents..."

Photo credit: "Among the structures damaged by a tornado that moved through Albany, GA, on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, was this gas station." Image credit: AP Photo/Branden Camp.

Putting High Risk Severe Outbreaks Into Perspective. An average of 51 to 62 tornadoes? I learned something at; Ian Livingston takes a look at the average number of tornadoes during high-risk severe days since 2000, as defined by NOAA SPC: "Looking at the averages from these events, the numbers are fairly stark. Since any small sample that includes April 27, 2011 is going to be skewed more than normal, I’ll share the figures with and without it included (these are 15 and 14 event averages respectively):
  • With 4/27/2011: Average high risk has 62 tornadoes, 16 of which are strong (EF2+), and two are violent (EF4-5). Four killer tornadoes occur on average, causing 31 deaths. The deadliest averages 10 killed. The longest track tornado averages 58.0 miles.
  • Without 4/27/2011: Average high risk has 51 tornadoes, 13 of which are strong, and one is violent. Two killer tornadoes occur on average, causing 11 deaths. The deadliest averages six killed. The longest track tornado averages 52.7 miles..."

Oymyakon: Coldest Inhabited Town On Earth? I think Oymyakdon is Russian for "Oh my God..." Atlas Obscura has a post that will make you feel a little better about the winter you're experiencing; here's an excerpt: "...With a day that varies from 3 hours in the winter to 21 hours in the summer and permanently frozen ground due to the extreme subarctic climate, the roughly 500 residents of Oymyakon are mostly unable to grow crops, therefore their diet basically consists of reindeer and horse meat. While spoiled kids to the south get out of school for snow days, the children of Oymyakon are stuck in class unless the temperature falls below –52C. If you were to go outside naked on an average day, it would take approximately one minute for you to freeze to death. Besides the obvious issues of remoteness, the cold itself forces this village to be a simple place with few conveniences. Cars are hard to start with frozen axle grease and fuel tanks, unused pipes can freeze within 5 hours, batteries lose life at an alarming speed. Pen ink freezes, anything less than fur fails at keeping the chill off, and electronics are all but useless..."

The First Observations of Sea Ice Came From 8th Century Irish Monks in Iceland. Who knew? Atlas Obscura has more detail: "...Iceland was settled more permanently in the 900s, and the people living there started keeping records of sea ice and icebergs that an Icelandic geographer later used to reconstruct sea ice records in the area going back to 1,000 A.D. More systematic records of Arctic sea ice weren’t collected until about a millennium after Iceland was first settled. In the 1880s, the Danish Meteorological Institute started drawing up sea ice charts using reports from the shore and sea, from ships and scientific expeditions, as the National Snow & Ice Data Center explains, and by the turn of the century, the institute was regularly publishing a report on “The State of the Ice in the Arctic Seas” that covered the whole Arctic..."

Photo credit: "The frozen sea goes north." Pink floyd88 a/CC BY-SA 3.0

GOES 16: True Color Makes a Comeback. Seeing Earth as it really appears? Sounds like a good idea to me - very much looking forward to the new data coming from GOES-R, now known as GOES 16. Here's an excerpt from SSEC at the University of Wisconsin-Madison: "...A familiar yet often overlooked channel, visible light, has made its comeback as part of GOES-16’s Earth-focused instrument, the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). Visible light comprises the range of wavelengths that can be seen with the naked eye. A true color image of Earth, which uses that visible light, depicts features like blue oceans, white clouds, and green vegetation, similar to a film camera. “It’s great to see true color come back into the mix,” says Tim Schmit, NOAA satellite research scientist working with researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS). “Not only does it help round out the toolkit available on the ABI, but the true color images have long had an impact on how we see our Earth and its weather,” adds Schmit..."

Image credit: "A true color image of 2016 Hurricane Matthew making landfall over the U.S. eastern coast. True color imagers have historically been a part of many polar-orbiting satellites, unlike their geostationary cousins." Image credit: SSEC.

Best Practices for Publicly Sharing Weather Information Via Social Media. Fake news - fake weather; a lot of armchair meteorologists are posting information that is misleading and potentially harmful. The AMS (American Meteorological Society) has a post addressing this issue. Remember to follow trusted sources of weather information, preferably meteorologists vs. some guy living in his mother's basement with a hyperactive Twitter account: "...The American Meteorological Society (AMS) has a long history of encouraging the effective and appropriate dissemination of weather information while serving as a beacon of responsible forecasting practices.  Today there are more sources of weather information than ever before.  The development of social media has made it possible for false or misleading weather information to drown out messages from government agencies, traditional media outlets, and commercial and academic-based providers.  The Society recognizes the need to maintain the quality of weather information on all platforms available to the public while encouraging new services to meet the needs of the public..."

Image credit:

Researchers Calculate Economic Cost of Major Solar Storm, And It's Big. One more reason to have solar power, to not be completely dependent on a creaky grid that's vulnerable to malware and X-class solar flares. The Christian Science Monitor reports: "Electricity blackouts caused by solar storms could cost the United States tens of billions of dollars per day, according to a new study published in the journal Space Weather. These researchers were not the first to calculate the price of solar storms. But scientists in the past have focused only on the economic costs within the blackout zone – which amounts to just 49 percent of the total potential cost when indirect domestic and international supply chain losses are factored in. Under the most extreme blackout scenario calculated, which would affect 66 percent of the US population, the daily domestic economic loss could total $41.5 billion, plus an additional $7 billion loss through the international supply chain..."

Xcel Commissions 62.25 MW Minnesota Solar Farm. Here's a clip from pv magazine: "Since a 2009 installation on St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota has often been home to the Midwest’s largest solar farms. In 2016, it is now home to the two largest solar projects in the region. Xcel Energy, one of the Midwest’s biggest utilities, announced last week that the Marshall Solar Energy Project, a 62.25 MW facility near Marshall, Minn., began operations and will provide enough electricity to power approximately 15,000 Upper Midwest homes. The utility is purchasing the produced power under a 25-year power-purchase agreement (PPA)..."

Solar Employs More Workers Than Coal, Natural Gas and Oil Combined. Here's a clip from EcoWatch: "U.S. solar employs more workers than any other energy industry, including coal, oil and natural gas combined, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's second annual U.S. Energy and Employment Report. 6.4 million Americans now work in the traditional energy and the energy efficiency sector, which added more than 300,000 net new jobs in 2016, or 14 percent of the nation's job growth..."

Photo credit: Walmart, Flickr.

Airbus CEO Sees "Flying Car" Prototype By The End of Year. Reuters has the story: "Airbus Group plans to test a prototype for a self-piloted flying car as a way of avoiding gridlock on city roads by the end of the year, the aerospace group's chief executive said on Monday. Airbus last year formed a division called Urban Air Mobility that is exploring concepts such as a vehicle to transport individuals or a helicopter-style vehicle that can carry multiple riders. The aim would be for people to book the vehicle using an app, similar to car-sharing schemes.  "One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground," Airbus CEO Tom Enders told the DLD digital tech conference in Munich, adding he hoped the Airbus could fly a demonstration vehicle for single-person transport by the end of the year..."

Photo credit: Slate, which is skeptical about the whole flying car thing.

Predicting the Weather with Shark Oil. Hey, I'll give it a try. Atlas Obscura reports: "Hanging outside the homes across Bermuda are little vials of fluid that are the locals’ secret to predicting the island weather. Or so they say. Bermuda has a long tradition of using shark oil as a meteorological tool, but the true efficacy and mechanics of the predator’s oil is a matter of debate. According to the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), the local tradition of using a vial of shark oil to predict the weather has been in place for up to 300 years. “Now where they developed, I don’t know,” says Captain Alan Card, a lifelong Bermuda fisherman, now 69. “I can remember 65 years ago seeing a bottle of shark oil hanging down at the marina...”

TODAY: Winter Storm Watch/Warning southern Minnesota. Snow arrives, getting slushy by afternoon. Winds: E 8-13. High: 36

TUESDAY NIGHT: Heavier wet snow - slow, sloppy, slippery travel, especially south of MSP. Low: 30

WEDNESDAY: Snow slowly tapers. 1-3" north metro, 3-6"+ possible south metro. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 33

THURSDAY: Mostly cloudy, colder breeze. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 24. High: 29

FRIDAY: More clouds than sun, "average" temperatures. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 18. High: 26

SATURDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, still dry. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 17. High: 27

SUNDAY: More sun, less wind. Not bad for late January. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 13. High: 26

MONDAY: More clouds, breezy and milder. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 20. High: 37

Climate Stories...

Think Global Warming's a Fraud? These Scientists Want to Change Your Mind. Here's an excerpt from The Columbus Dispatch: "...In my opinion, the most convincing piece of evidence for a "discernible human influence" on global climate is the very distinctive pattern of warming of the lower atmosphere (the troposphere) and cooling of the upper atmosphere (the stratosphere). We know of no natural causes that can produce such changes. This pattern of tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling is a clear 'fingerprint' of human-caused changes in greenhouse gases … and it was predicted 50 years ago by Suki Manabe and his colleagues at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab in Princeton using only very sparse temperature measurements from weather balloons. Subsequent satellite observations confirmed professor Manabe's prediction..."

Ancient Warm Period Hints at Future Sea Level Rise. Here's an excerpt from Reuters and Scientific American: "Sea levels could rise by a greater-than-expected six metres (20 ft) over many centuries even if governments cap global warming around current levels, scientists said on Thursday, based on clues from an ancient warm period. Sea levels have risen by about 20 cms (8 inches) in the past 100 years, with a thaw of ice from Greenland to Antarctica spilling water into the oceans. Many studies have assumed that rising temperatures are a condition for a much faster melt. A study in the journal Science, however, said sea temperatures in a natural warm period about 125,000 years ago were "indistinguishable" from today, rather than up to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) hotter as previously thought. "The trend is worrisome as sea levels during the last interglacial period were between six and nine meters (20-30 ft) above their present height," Science said of the findings led by Jeremy Hoffman at Oregon State University..."

Wisconsin Disaster Agency Plans for Climate Change. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports: "In a shift from the practice of two other state agencies, Wisconsin emergency management officials have released new information on climate change and its implications for the state. In a report that it posted online last week, the state Division of Emergency Management devoted extensive attention to climate change and how a warming planet could spur natural disasters such as floods, drought and forest fires. The report contrasts with the Department of Natural Resources and the state Public Service Commission, which scrubbed mentions of climate change and human-generated greenhouse gases from their websites. As recently as December, DNR officials removed language from a web page devoted to the Great Lakes that had earlier acknowledged the role humans play in global warming. Officials inserted new wording saying climate change is a matter of scientific debate..."

Photo credit: "Highway 63 is washed out in the Town of Grand View in Bayfield County in July 2016 due to heavy rains. More flooding is predicited with climate change. State emergency planners posted information online last week on climate change planning." (Photo: Photo courtesy of Ready Wisconsin, Photo courtesy of Ready Wisconsin).

Alternate Facts. Thanks to Tim O'Brien for the illustration above. It gave me a lot to think about.

The Scramble to Protect Climate Data Under Trump. Here's an excerpt from InsideClimate News: "More than 250 people gathered at the University of Pennsylvania last week for Data Rescue Philly, one of the latest examples of a grassroots effort to save environmental and climate  change data that scientists fear could vanish under the Trump administration's many climate deniers. Over two days, volunteers from academia, nonprofits and the tech industry were trained and then preserved data from more than 3,000 websites hosted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Bethany Wiggin, director of the Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities (PPEH), said the idea emerged from conversations recalling how government data became less accessible during the George W. Bush administration. Wiggin said a scan of agency websites showed that some data sets were archived in multiple locations, while others were more vulnerable..."

Photo credit: "Volunteers gathered at an event at the University of Pennsylvania to archive climate data that could be vulnerable under the Trump administration." Photo courtesy of DataRefuge.

Earth Sets a Temperature Record for the Third Straight Year. Just in case you missed Justin Gillis's report at the New York Times: "...In 2015 and 2016, the planetary warming was intensified by the weather pattern known as El Niño, in which the Pacific Ocean released a huge burst of energy and water vapor into the atmosphere. But the bigger factor in setting the records was the long-term trend of rising temperatures, which scientists say is being driven by increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. “A single warm year is something of a curiosity,” said Deke Arndt, chief of global climate monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s really the trend, and the fact that we’re punching at the ceiling every year now, that is the real indicator that we’re undergoing big changes...”

Photo credit: "Ice in the Arctic Ocean’s Chukchi Sea region. “What’s going on in the Arctic is really very impressive; this year was ridiculously off the chart,” said Gavin A. Schmidt, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies." Credit: Esther Horvath.

Fearing White House Purse of Climate Science, Scientists Frantically Copying Data. Here's an excerpt from a story at Forbes: "...After the election in November, a bipartisan group of defense experts and former military leaders urged the President-Elect, through the Trump Transition Team, to consider climate change as a grave threat to our national security. In 2014, the Military Advisory Board came out with a report, called National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change, that discusses what the military sees as the threats of climate change and the actions to be taken to mitigate them: “The potential security ramifications of global climate change should be serving as catalysts for cooperation and change. Instead, climate change impacts are already accelerating instability in vulnerable areas of the world and are serving as catalysts for conflict...”

Photo credit: "A U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group in the South China Sea. The U.S. military is worried that climate change is a significant threat multiplier for future conflicts. And the Navy may bear the brunt of these effects. Unfortunately, the new Administration is purging this type of thinking from all branches of government, including our military." Source: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David Mercil/Released.

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