Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Coldest 4 Days of Winter? Atmospheric River Event Threatens California With Major Flooding

18.1" snow so far this winter in the Twin Cities.
14.6" snowfall last winter as of January 3, 2016.

32 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities (4:42 AM)
24 F. average high on January 3.
29 F. maximum temperature on January 3, 2016.

January 4, 1981: Air cold enough to freeze a mercury thermometer pours into Minnesota. Tower hits 45 below zero.
January 4, 1971: A snowstorm moves through the Upper Midwest. Winona gets over 14 inches.

Cold Weather Survival Tips - Big Thaw Brewing Latter Half of January

This morning, with a wind chill of -20F, I really don't want to bury the lead. Or is it "lede"? 20s return next week. Long range models bring milder, Pacific air back into Minnesota the latter half of January, with highs in the 30s. This too shall pass, after only 5 days of minor pain. No overwhelming record chill, more of an annoying arctic sting.

If we lived in Atlanta or Dallas this would be a big deal, but Minnesota?

If you're dressed properly and physically active it's not that bad. Slap on a few extra layers, keep your feet dry. If your feet (and ears) are warm & dry you'll be happier. Caulking and weatherstripping your windows, opening blinds on the sunny side of the house, drinking more tea and exercise can make the numbing days of January easier to tolerate. More details below.

Expect single-digit highs and lows from -5 to -10F into Saturday; probably the longest, coldest stretch of the winter with a wind chill of -20F at the bus stop. No exposed skin; inspect your kids (and spouse) before sending them out the door.

Snow? A few inches may fall next Tuesday. It's too cold to snow (much) in the very near future.

11 Frugal Ways to Deal With Frigid Winter Temperatures. You can do more than dress in layers. Lifehacker has a few very good tips; things I hadn't thought of in the past. Here's an excerpt: "...Direct sunlight tends to warm up a room, so we open the curtains on windows with direct sunlight shining upon them to let warmth into those rooms and leave the curtains and blinds closed on other windows. In the northern hemisphere in the winter, where we live, that means opening the curtains on the east and south side of the house in the morning, and on the west and south side of the house in the afternoon and evening, with all curtains drawn in the middle of the day (as the sun is close enough to overhead to provide no major benefits)..."

Photo credit: Paul Itkin via Unsplash.

Nanook, Not Epic. By Miami, New Orleans or Los Angeles standards what we're about to endure in the Upper Midwest would be nothing less than The End Of The World. The National Guard would be called out - large scale evacuations put into place. Curfews, maybe even martial law. But from the Dakotas to Minnesota and Wisconsin this is just another week in midwinter; the price of doing business. Hour-by-hour 2-meter temperature forecasts show the progression of the numbing air as it pushes south and east. I'll be happy to see the purples go away and the blues come back! Source: Tropicaltidbits.com.

Coldest Wind Chills Come Today. Models show bus stop wind chills this morning in the -20s. No exposed skin and everyone is happy! Seriously, the risk of frostbite on unprotected areas is high after 10-15 minutes. Source: Aeris Enterprise.

Warming Trend Early Next Week. A few days of minor pain, a long, slow burn, and then things improve next week (20s - hooray!). Thursday morning may bring air temperatures as cold as cold as -8F in the suburbs. Not even close to being a record, just annoyingly cold.

Snow Event for Southeast? It's still not a done deal, far from a slam-dunk, but NOAA's GFS model has been fairly consistent, showing a sharp cold frontal passage, followed by a streak of accumulating, possibly plowable snow this upcoming weekend. Enough snow to gum things up in Birmingham, Atlanta, Columbia and the eastern Carolinas? It doesn't take much.

Atmospheric River = Extreme Precipitation for California. We could be looking at a major flood for much of central and northern California, as a conga-line of Pacific storms push inland between today and late next week, each one dumping an inch or so of liquid, and a few feet over the mountains. By late next week some 5-10" rainfall amounts are possible over central and northern California, especially the coastal range. 10-20" liquid for the Sierra Nevada translates into over 10 FEET of snow over the next 9 days, with avalanches widespread. California goes from epic drought to biblical floods and snows, in a meteorological blink of an eye. Total precipitation: NOAA GFS and Tropicaltidbits.com.

What Are "Atmospheric Rivers"? Glad you asked - you'll be hearing a lot more about them in the media in coming days. Here's an excerpt of a good explanation from NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory: "Atmospheric Rivers (ARs) are relatively narrow regions in the atmosphere that are responsible for most of the horizontal transport of water vapor outside of the tropics. While ARs come in many shapes and sizes, those that contain the largest amounts of water vapor, the strongest winds, and stall over watersheds vulnerable to flooding, can create extreme rainfall and floods. These events can disrupt travel, induce mud slides, and cause catastrophic damage to life and property. However, not all ARs cause damage – most are weak, and simply provide beneficial rain or snow that is crucial to water supply..."

Loop credit: an atmospheric river event in February, 2015.

January Thaw. By the third week of this month the coldest air finally retreats north, a mild ridge of relatively warm high pressure building across southern Canada and much of the USA. The upper level storm responsible for potentially severe flooding across California will push into Arizona, giving the west coast a little time to dry out.

Why Do People Get Colds in Cold Weather? Here's an excerpt of a good explanation at Forbes: "...You’re outside on an unexpectedly chilly day. You forgot to wear your hat and gloves and now you’re shivering. Is it a given that you’re going to catch a cold or come down with the flu? Maybe. Cold weather doesn’t make you sick, germs do, but research suggests that cold weather can create conditions that help those germs survive and thrive.

Here, we investigate 5 reasons why you’re more likely to get sick in the colder winter months:

1. You’re indoors more. Being stuck indoors increases your risk of getting sick in a few different ways. Researchers in China and at Virginia Tech have found students may get sick more frequently when their dorms are poorly ventilated and lacking humidity. Why? Researchers suspect that the germs in the droplets from a sneeze are able to survive better in dry air. It follows that this logic could apply to your cramped office cubicle, too..."

Once-In-A-Century Sea Levels Could Flood Coastal Areas in Eastern Denmark. The Post has details on what could be catastrophic flooding along the Baltic Sea: "The Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) has warned those living on low-lying areas along the Baltic Sea coastline to beware of flooding as sea levels are expected to be much higher than usual tomorrow – so high in fact, it is predicting levels only seen once every century. The areas most at risk (marked in red on the map) over the course of Wednesday night are the eastern, western and southern coastlines of every Danish island situated in the south, along with Funen and Zealand – not so much its northwestern and northern coastlines, but certainly its eastern one as far north as Copenhagen..."

Map credit: "So the purple presumably denotes a once in a millennium event?" (photo: DMI.dk)

4 Dead as Tornado Hits Alabama Community. Here's an excerpt from CNN.com: "Four people were killed when a tree fell on a home as a tornado swept through a rural Alabama community on Monday evening, authorities said. The four were in a residence in the unincorporated community of Rehobeth when the storm struck. Crews were still working late Monday to remove the bodies from the structure, said Kris Ware, spokesman for the Houston County Emergency Management Agency. The National Weather Service reported that a tornado was in the area at the time of the incident. Its size and strength will be determined when survey crews have examined the extent of the damage..."

Ford Says Electric Vehicles Will Overtake Gas in 15 Years; Announces 6 New Hybrids, Electric Plug-Ins. Including a hybrid F-150? Wow. Here's an excerpt from Electrek: "Ford is making a big announcement in electrification today. CEO Mark Field confirmed several new models will receive electric drivetrain options, including its flagship F-150 pickup truck that will double as an on-site generator. In 2015, Ford announced a $4.5 billion investment in electric vehicles in order to introduce 13 new models. Today, it confirmed 7 of those 13 new models and the list will surprise a few: a new all-electric SUV with “at least” 300 miles of range, a hybrid F-150 and a hybrid Mustang, a Transit Custom plug-in hybrid and 2 new electric police vehicles. If you were counting, that’s 6 vehicles. The 7th vehicle will be the “high volume” autonomous car that Ford plans to produce by 2021. Ford confirmed today the vehicle will be equipped with a hybrid drivetrain..."

2016 Was The year Solar Panels Finally Became Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels. Just Wait for 2017. Quartz takes a look at the trends: "The renewable energy future will arrive when installing new solar panels is cheaper than a comparable investment in coal, natural gas or other options. If you ask the World Economic Forum (WEF), the day has arrived. Solar and wind is now the same price or cheaper than new fossil fuel capacity in more than 30 countries, the WEF reported in December (pdf). As prices for solar and wind power continue their precipitous fall, two-thirds of all nations will reach the point known as “grid parity” within a few years, even without subsidies. “Renewable energy has reached a tipping point,” Michael Drexler, who leads infrastructure and development investing at the WEF, said in a statement. “It is not only a commercially viable option, but an outright compelling investment opportunity with long-term, stable, inflation-protected returns...”

Photo credit: "Flying high into 2017." (Solar Impulse)

No Matter the President, Solar Outlook Increasingly Bright. Here's a clip from TheHill: "...In fact, very little additional federal support is absolutely needed to keep solar growing in 2017 and beyond. The driving force behind solar’s ability to stand on its own is innovation — both on cost and business models. Solar costs have fallen more than 80 percent since 2009, placing its levelized cost of electricity below coal, nuclear, and most natural gas technologies. This trend is accelerating — solar costs have decreased up to 17 percent in 2016 compared to 2015. Falling costs make solar an economic choice, not an environmental one. The U.S. solar market just experienced its largest quarter ever, adding nearly two megawatts (MW) of new capacity per hour, and U.S. Energy Information Administration data predicts solar will make up 37 percent of new large-scale generation nationwide in 2016..." (File photo: Bloomberg).

World's First Solar Road Opens in France. EcoWatch has details: "...According to the Guardian, about 2,000 motorists will drive on the roadway during a test period of two years to see if the project can generate enough energy to power street lights for the 3,400-resident village. The panels consists of extremely thin yet durable panels of polycrystalline silicon that can transform solar energy into electricity. The panels are designed to withstand all types of traffic, including heavy-duty vehicles and in terms of efficiency, Wattway claims its panels have a 15 percent yield, compared to 18-19 percent for conventional photovoltaic panels. The French government plans to eventually pave 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of its roads with solar panels. "The maximum effect of the program, if successful, could be to furnish 5 million people with electricity, or about 8 percent of the French population," Royal said earlier this year about the iniative..."

Electric Car Sales Pass Half a Million in U.S. Newsweek has the details: "More than 500,000 electric cars have been sold in the United States, according to a report from an electric vehicle charger operator. The sale of more than 130,000 plug-in hybrid or battery-powered electric vehicles between November 2015 and November 2016 pushed the total number of electric cars sold in the U.S. to 542,000. The milestone was highlighted in a report by Chargepoint, first seen by the technology news website Recode, which also ranked the U.S. with the highest electric vehicle adoption. California, home of Silicon Valley and Tesla, has the highest number of electric vehicles in operation, ahead of Georgia, Washington, Florida and Texas..."

File photo: Shutterstock.

French Employees Can Legally Ignore Work E-Mails Outside of Office Hours. Somehow I doubt this is coming to the USA anytime soon. The Washington Post reports: "That 10 p.m. email from your boss? It's your right to ignore it. That Saturday ping from a colleague with “just one quick question?” A response on Monday should suffice. If you're in France, that is. French workers rang in a new year at midnight — as well as a “right to disconnect” law that grants employees in the country the legal right to ignore work emails outside of typical working hours, according to the Guardian..."

Visiting Disney World is the Modern Version of Making a Medieval Pilgrimage. Yep, I did a double-take too, but check out the post at Atlas Obscura: "At Walt Disney World, the weeks around Christmas are one of the most crowded times of the year: from all over the country and all over the world, families flock to Orlando to be in this special space for just a few days. Most Disney patrons would probably call their trip a vacation, but to anthropologists, religious studies experts, and art historians, a visit to Disney World looks a lot like another, older form of travel—a pilgrimage.Appetites for direct contact with Disney’s creations have transformed the trek to Disney World into a genuine form of pilgrimage,” writes historian Cheryl Krause Knight, author of Power and Paradise in Walt Disney’s World..."

Photo credit: "The Magic Kingdom." Anthony Quintano/CC BY 2.0

The 10 Healthiest Places to Live. I always get a little nervous with these Top 10 lists; so much of this is subjective, but I was curious to see if my hometown made the cut. Here's an excerpt from TIME: "Honolulu, Hawaii Best Place for Lifelong Health The heavenly climate helps, but the key to well-being here also includes enviable health care and a rich cultural tradition of looking out for one another."

Photo credit: Hawaii Chamber of Commerce.

TODAY: Chilly with intervals of ineffective sunshine. Feels like -20F. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 3

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear and cold. Low: -7

THURSDAY: Some sun. Subzero "highs" for most of Minnesota. Winds: NW 8-13. High: 2

FRIDAY: Clouds increase, still nippy. Winds: W 7-12. Wake-up: -9. High: 7

SATURDAY: Reinforcing shot. Still feels like -20F. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: -7. High: 4

SUNDAY: Numbing start, then winds increase. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: -10. High: 17

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, not as harsh. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 11. High: 26

TUESDAY: Chance of wet snow or a mix. Winds: SE 10-20. Wake-up: 21. High: 33

Climate Stories...

"I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time - when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other counties; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness...

The dumbing down of America is most evidence in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance..."

Carl Sagan, "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle In The Dark"

The Biggest Clean Energy Advances in 2016. MIT Technology Review has the story; here's an excerpt: "Clean energy made critical strides in 2016. The Paris Climate accords went into effect, the price of solar installations continued to drop, investments in renewable energy soared, offshore wind finally got under way in the United States, and scientists made a series of technical advances that promise to make sustainable energy increasingly efficient and affordable. That last one is key, since invention is still the surest way to avoid the greatest impacts of climate change.  Today's commercially available renewable technologies can't meet all of the world's energy demands, even if they're scaled up aggressively. The United States comes up about 20 percent short by 2050, according to a thorough analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Meanwhile, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded the world must cut greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 70 percent by midcentury, and to nearly zero by 2100, to have any chance of avoiding warming levels that could ensure sinking cities, mass extinctions, and widespread droughts..."

The Free-Market Case for Climate Science. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Bloomberg: "...There’s reason to think the evidence for human-caused climate change is prevailing in the economic marketplace, as well: Property insurers and other profit-maximizing businesses with a substantial financial stake in the concept are taking actions that demonstrate they believe the evidence. They are working to create more accurate models of climate change and to price climate risk into insurance programs, even threatening lawsuits against actors who do not try to limit ongoing climate change. As we say in economics, revealed preferences are more convincing than stated ones. Fundamentally, the concept of human-caused climate change has won out because alternative views -- including arguments that the theory is a hoax spread by anti-growth and anti-technology Jeremiahs -- contradict what competitive markets are demonstrating. In the end, then, it is inconsistent to simultaneously accept that markets are powerful ways to allocate goods and services in the economy and also deny that human activity is causing substantial climate change..."

File image: NASA Earth Observatory.

The Station Scientist's Responsibility to Report on Climate Change. Because climate volatility is already showing up in weather disruption around the world; it's turning up the dial, especially on heat, intense rainfall events and Pacific cyclones. Here's an excerpt from Miami TV meteorologist (and friend) John Morales at WXshift: "...In certain cities and states, the percentage of the audience that may be “offended” by climate change information is significant. Broadcast meteorologists know that their bosses experience varying degrees of nervousness – fear – about the potential impact to viewer ratings from an “unpopular” climate change presentation. But as we have advanced further into the 21st century, the effects of climate change have become undeniable. Weather presenters – even in America – are seeing many more opportunities to discuss climate on the air. When done right, there is little chance that anyone will be “offended.” I have found that the best way to do it is to always tie-in climate change to an ongoing event. So, for example, if there’s excessive rainfall in Florida, I will discuss the details of the event and always remind the audience that the propensity for heavier rainfall is increasing as the world warms..."

Best Environmental Stories from 2016. Here's an excerpt from Pacific Standard: "I think we can all agree, things really went off the rails in 2016. Environmentally, it was a year of extremes. It is more likely than not to be the hottest year on record, and yet, global fossil fuel emissions flattened. Wildfires torched tens of thousands of acres across the United States in one of the longest and largest fire seasons on record, and the Paris Agreement entered into force. Storms that should only happen every 500 years became increasingly common, and the Army Corps of Engineers denied permits for the Dakota Access pipeline pending a thorough environmental impact study. A noxious bacterium re-emerged from thawing permafrost, and, oh yeah, Americans elected a climate denier into their country’s highest office. It is becoming increasingly clear that this planet is rapidly approaching a tipping point. “If we lose this moment for action, there’s no speech decades from now that will put these massive ice sheets back together,” Secretary of State John Kerry said at COP22 this year in Marrakech. “There’s no magic wand in any capital in the world that you can wave to refill all of the lakes and rivers that will dry up, or make farm — arid farm land fertile again. And we certainly won’t have the power to hold back rising tides as they encroach on our shores. So we have to get this right, and we have to get it right now...”

Photo credit: "A chinstrap penguin surveys his domain near the shore of the Antarctic Peninsula. Some penguin species have already been displaced by the decline of ice in the region, and many populations will lose habitat in the decades ahead." (Photo: Bob Berwyn).

18 Signs That Show We've Reached a Tipping Point. Here's an excerpt from EcoWatch: "...It's also a very common misconception that some of the warming is natural. However, until about 100 years ago, our climate was cooling. The planet cooled about 5 degrees F in polar regions near Greenland (half or less globally) over the last 6,000 years. This research comes from mini-icecaps on Baffin Island where easily dateable rooted plants were revealed from melt. In the last 100 years, the temperature on Baffin has warmed about 7 degrees Fahrenheit; 2 degrees warmer than at any time in the last 120,000 years. Most of this warming has occurred since the 1950s. The extremes we are experiencing now (temperature, rainfall, drought, etc.) will not increase at the same rate as the average temperature. The physics of thermodynamics say extremes will increase nonlinearly. Earth has lost its ability to buffer the warming. As we replace coal with non-fossil fuel alternatives, masking of warming by global cooling pollutants will also disappear, compounding the nonlinear rate of increasing extremes..."

A Witness to Iran's Intensifying Struggle with Climate Change. Here's a clip from a story at The New Yorker: "...But efforts to build a clean-energe infrastructure are not yet widespread. Last October, researchers at M.I.T. published a study titled "Future Temperature in Southwest Asia Projected to Exceed a Threshold for Human Adaptability." They found that, by 2070, if worldwide emissions aren't sufficiently reduced, the Persian Gulf would experience heat waves impossible for many humans to survive. The oil-producing city of Bandar-e Mahshahr, on Iran's southwest coast, got a preview of that boiling future two summers ago. One day in July, temperature and humidity conspired to make the air feel like a hundred an sixty three degrees Fahrenheit."

Top 10 Tropical Cyclone Events of 2016 Potentially Influenced by Climate Change. Jeff Masters reports for "Category 6" at WunderBlog: "Tropical cyclones—which include all hurricanes, typhoons, tropical storms and tropical depressions—are expected to change in intensity, frequency, location, and seasonality as a result of climate change. Many of the tropical cyclones of 2016 exhibited the type of behavior we expect to see more of due to global warming. Here, then, is a “top ten” list of 2016 tropical cyclone events of the type we should expect to see more of due to global warming. Tropical cyclones are heat engines which extract heat energy from the oceans and convert it to the kinetic energy of the storms' winds. Thus, the strongest tropical cyclones are expected to get stronger in a world with warmer oceans. It was not a surprise that in 2016—a year with the warmest ocean temperatures on record, globally—we saw the strongest storms ever observed in the two of the six ocean basins that tropical cyclones commonly occur in. If we include the Northern Hemisphere’s strongest tropical cyclone on record—Hurricane Patrica of October 2015—records have been set in three of the six ocean basins over the past two years..."

Image credit: "A visible image of Tropical Cyclone Fantala collected at 1025Z (6:25 am EDT) on April 18, 2016, by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on board the Aqua satellite. The north tip of Madagascar can be seen at bottom. At the time, Fantala was the strongest tropical cyclone ever observed in the Indian Ocean, with winds estimated at 175 mph." Image credit: NASA.

Yes, Some Extreme Weather Can Be Blamed on Climate Change. The attribution signal is strongest with heat waves and extreme rainfall events, reports Scientific American: "Droughts, wildfires, heat waves, intense rainstorms—these are all extreme weather phenomena that occur naturally. But climate change is now increasing the frequency and magnitude of many of these events. Flooding in Paris and the Arctic heat wave are just two instances where climate change contributed to extreme weather in 2016—and there are many more examples. Yet how do scientists know that global warming influenced a specific event? Until recently, they couldn’t answer this question, but the field of “attribution science” has made immense progress in the last five years. Researchers can now tell people how climate change impacts them, and not 50 or 100 years from now—today. Scientific American spoke with Friederike Otto, deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, about how attribution science works and why it’s a critical part of helping communities prepare for and adapt to climate change..."

Climate Change in 2016: The Good, The Bad, an the Ugly. University of St. Thomas climate scientist John Abraham reports for The Guardian: "...The best news of all, in my opinion, is the continued cost reductions and huge installations of clean energy both in the US and around the word. Wind, solar, and other renewables have been on an incredible run of decreasing costs and creative financing, which has made them economically competitive with dirty fossil fuels. Improvements and expansion of grid-based power storage has also advanced. These storage abilities are needed to allow intermittent power sources (like wind and solar) to play an even larger role in delivering power to the grid. In the end, clean power will win out based on simple dollars and cents – regardless of the fact they will also help save the world..."

Photo credit: "A firefighter watches as smoke from a wildfire swirls around a stand of trees near Morgan Hill, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. A heat wave stifling drought-stricken California worsened the state’s wildfires in 2016." Photograph: Noah Berger/AP.

No comments:

Post a Comment