Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Delightfully Boring Next 1-2 Weeks: No Big Storms or Arctic Smacks

2.2" snow fell Tuesday at MSP International Airport, 1" on the ground.

32 F. high temperature yesterday in the cities.
24 F. average high on January 25.
30 F. high on January 25, 2016.

-31 F. Record low for the Twin Cities (set on January 25, 1904).

January 26, 1916: A severe ice storm hits Mower County. Hundreds of birds were killed.

Winter Lite - No Heavy Snow or Bitter Air Brewing

Last weekend's tornado swarm was the second deadliest January outbreak on record. 10 of the 20 people killed lived in Georgia mobile home parks, where laws mandating storm shelters are lax or even non-existent. How can that be? It seems like selling a car with no brakes.

The reality is complex; the bottom line is... the bottom line. Underground shelters are expensive and developers can't just pass along those costs to residents. Considering a 90-100 mph wind can cause manufactured homes to become airborne, I'd look for a community that comes with a shelter.

It's challenging calculus: how much would you spend for a (concrete) tornado-proof house, or a vehicle that could survive any accident? There's a practical financial limit most of us can't exceed.

This pattern is remarkably quiet for late January - no big storms or arctic slaps are shaping up into Super Bowl Sunday. Expect a run of 20s and 30s...above zero! The second week of February Minnesota may flirt with arctic air, but a Pacific flow dominates.

January 2017 will be Minnesota's 17th warmer-than-average month in a row.

Photo credit above: CNN, Branden Camp, Associated Press.

Snowfall Totals. So close, and yet so far. As much as 11" of snow fell at Stewartville, in southeastern Minnesota, but the metro area picked up closer to 1-2", with some impressive (whopping?) 3" amounts for the southern suburbs. Impressive.....for Nashville.
Map: Twin Cities National Weather Service.

A Snowy Disappointment. This map doesn't reflect all the new snow over southern Minnesota Tuesday, but it does show a dire lack o f snow across much of central Minnesota, the result of our recent extended thaw and a few freakish rain events. The North Shore and Arrowhead has respectable amounts of snow, but even the Brainerd Lakes are hurting for the white stuff.

Where's the Snow? You may be asking that question if you live in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia or Washington D.C. where there hasn't been much snow so far this winter. They're measuring snow by the foot from the Rockies to the Sierra and Cascade range, but it's a brown winter for much of the USA. According to NOAA 45.8% of America is covered in snow.

Old Man Winter Catches His Breath. After tornadoes battering the south and a series of extreme storms for the west coast, and a Nor'easter that caused coastal flooding as it ground up the east coast, it's nice to see a spell of relatively quiet weather into early next week. The west dries out, no big storms of any flavor for the south - just lake effect snows downwind of the Great Lakes. Enjoy the siesta - odds are it won't last long. 84-hour 12 KM NAM snowfall prediction: NOAA and

Dead of Winter? At the rate we're going January may wind up 4-5F warmer than average for the month in the Twin Cities. I would NOT have predicted that just a couple of short weeks ago, when temperatures were dipping below zero. The persistence of the January Thaw signal is  impressive, although cooler than average weather returns by the second week of February. ECWMF guidance: WeatherBell.

2 Week Preview: Modified Zonal Flow. Very cold air will be pushing east across Canada in multiple waves, some of that arctic air brushing the northern USA within 2 weeks. But for much of America the overwhelming signal is coming from the Pacific, not Canada, meaning milder than normal temperatures for the next couple of weeks.

Despite Tornado Threat Shelters Rare for Mobile Home Parks. I'm amazed there are no laws requiring underground shelters for mobile home parks. Am I missing something here? Mobile home operators don't want to spend the money to protect their residents - but should this be optional?  US News has a timely story: "Ten of at least 20 people killed in a weekend tornado outbreak lived in Georgia mobile home parks, yet laws requiring storm shelters in those vulnerable communities are few and far between. Experts have long warned that mobile home dwellers face a higher risk of death when tornadoes strike but said many trailer park owners don't want to make the costly investment in storm shelters and the sentiment for safety wanes in the weeks after a disaster. According to the National Weather Service, 44 percent of the 1,091 Americans killed by tornadoes from 1985 to 2005 died in mobile homes, compared to 25 percent in stick-built homes. That's especially significant considering how few Americans — 8 percent or fewer — lived in mobile homes during that period..."

File photo: "In an Oct. 22, 2015 photo, David A. Roden, owner of Mountain View Estates, speaks about a tornado shelter that he built for his mobile home park residents in Rossville, Ga. Experts have long warned that people in mobile homes face a greater risk of death from tornadoes, yet laws requiring storm shelters in trailer parks or public spaces such as schools are few and far between. Roden believes he is the first park owner in the southeast to offer residents a storm shelter." (Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP) /Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP) The Associated Press.

Weekend Tornado Swarm: Second Deadliest January Outbreak on Record. So says News4Jax in Jacksonville:
  • 2nd Deadliest January tornado outbreak in U.S. History
  • Deadliest  tornado outbreak in South Georgia
  • Third deadliest tornado outbreak in Georgia history
And these are just preliminary numbers, not known yet is the number of homeless and homes destroyed, total dollar loss and potential economic loss to Adel and Albany, Georgia....

Hail and High Water. Daily Devotional from Peter Kennedy had a recent post that made me do a double-take. Here's an excerpt: "On April 12, 2016, San Antonio, Texas was barraged with a hailstorm. Stones up to 4.5 inches in diameter, or the size of grapefruits rained on the city. More than 110,000 vehicles were damaged, and thousands of homes suffered roof damage. Police said the hailstorm led to windshield damage for several of their cruisers. The loss was projected at $1.4 billion in estimated insured losses, making it the costliest hailstorm in the Texas’ history. Insured losses to automobiles from the April 12 storm reached $560 million, while damage to homes approached $800 million. More than 110,000 vehicles were damaged, and thousands of homes suffered roof damage. If that wasn’t bad enough, San Antonio was struck again with hailstorms on April 17 and 25. Total losses from commercial businesses, including schools, retailers and office buildings from the three storms exceeded $2 billion..."

File Photo credit: Jerry Lara, Staff - San Antonio Express-News. "A car and residence show damage from a severe hailstorm in the Northeast Crossing neighborhood in the city’s northeast side, Wednesday, April 13, 2016. A severe hailstorm affected the area Tuesday night damaging houses throughout the city's northeast and northwest sides. National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Runyen said the largest recorded size of hail came when the storms were near Helotes. The hail measured 3.5 inches in diameter. "That's basically the size of a tea cup and grapefruit just south of Helotes," Runyen said."

California Has The Snow. It Just Needs To Keep It Frozen. Rain is a quick withdrawl, snow is money in the bank, paying long-term dividends for thirsty towns and farms. Here's an excerpt from The Los Angeles Times: "...It’s certainly deeper than anything we’ve seen in the last five years,” said state climatologist Michael Anderson. Experts and officials, however, say that long-term warming trends are likely to complicate how California manages its water supply. Temperatures in the Sierra have been rising in the last few decades, which will pose problems for storing ice in the mountains during the winter and spring. Rain has also become more likely at higher elevations over the years, meaning more precipitation is falling as liquid, not snow. Water is also running off into reservoirs earlier, a reflection of more rain falling in the mountains or snow melting closer to wintertime instead of the spring..."

What Experts Think of Speculation That El Nino Will Return in 2017. Good question, considering the current pattern looks more like the symptoms of El Nino vs. La Nina. Dr. Marshall Shepherd sorts out the signal from the noise at Forbes: "...He also pointed out that the likelihood of La Niña following a strong El Niño (like this year) is much higher than El Niño following La Niña. Dr. Klotzbach is well-known for his seasonal hurricane forecasts but is also an expert on many aspects of tropical meteorology and climatology. He points out,
While it would certainly be unusual to have another El Niño so quickly on the backs of a previous one, the last El Niño didn't dissipate as much heat from the equatorial Pacific as the past two major ones (e.g., 1982 and 1997)...I would be pretty surprised if we got a full blown East Pacific El Niño event again in 2017, but I think that another Central Pacific (aka Modoki) event is possible..."
Graphic credit: "Oceanic Nino Index. Courtesy of Jan Null's website with data from NOAA."

The Power of Water. NOAA explains how major winter storms can create winds and battering waves resulting in damaging storm surge conditions for coastal communities: "Longtime residents who live in US coastal communities know the danger of storm surge damage all too well. Sure, it’s the tropical storms and hurricanes that get named and categorized. However, if you ask those same coastal residents, ones who’ve experienced dozens of ocean storms, what their memories are of the most destructive storm surge events, you likely won’t hear them rattle off any hurricane names. It’s the large winter ocean storms that send a flood of bad memories. Take January 2016 as an example. As a large and powerful blizzard blanketed much of the east coast with several feet of snow, the storm was churning up the ocean waters with tremendous ferocity, pushing massive amounts of water and waves toward the coast of New Jersey. At Cape May, NJ, it wasn’t the snowfall amounts that worried them. Water levels swelled to 6.61 feet, setting an all-time record for water level height and resulting in major coastal flooding. More record flood levels fell farther down the east coast as residents were left in awe at the amount of flooding that a winter storm caused..."

Study Focuses on Contaminants Lurking in Urban Tidal Flooding. With rising sea level inland tidal flooding is becoming more common and severe. No storm necessary, a full moon will do the trick now in places like south Florida. Here's an excerpt from NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory: "Tidal flooding from events such as the so-called “King Tides” and “Super Tides” are flooding urban coastal communities with increasing frequency as sea levels rise. These tidal flood waters can acquire a wide range of contaminants and toxins as a result of soaking in the built environment of urbanized coastlines. A multi- institutional, interdisciplinary research team, including scientists from AOML, is examining the types of contamination picked up from the urbanized coastal landscape and transported into coastal waters through tidal flooding. For the past 3 years, a team of microbiologists at AOML has been investigating the types of bacterial contaminants, including fecal-indicating bacteria and disease-causing pathogens, carried back to the marine environment from tidal flood waters, causing potential exposure to both human populations and marine habitats such as coral reefs, beaches, and estuaries..."

Photo credit: "Saltwater tidal flooding along Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale at Las Olas Isles durinng the King Tides of October 17-18, 2016." Image credit: NOAA.

To Fight Coastal Damage, Louisiana Parishes Pushed to Sue Energy Industry. NPR has the story: "...An oil and gas state, Louisiana has long relied on money from offshore sales to fund part of its budget. But the $90 billion price tag will require support from Congress. That's why the state's new Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, is urging officials like McInnis to sue oil and gas companies for that damage. "Before we can ever have any hope of asking taxpayers around the country to come to Louisiana and help us restore our coast, we have to be able to show them that we did everything that we could, reasonably, that is within our power," Edwards says. "And certainly, you can't do that if you don't hold those people accountable who damaged the coast to begin with." Edwards has said all the coastal parishes should file suits, or he'll do it for them..." (Image credit: YouTube).

Americans Overwhelmingly Support Clean Energy. Quartz reports: "...Just 27% of Americans surveyed this month by the Pew Research Center, a think tank, said they thought the US should prioritize expanding the coal, oil, and gas industries, while 65% thought alternatives like wind and solar should be the priority. (The remainder of the 1,502 US adults Pew surveyed didn’t express an opinion.) Those under 50, in particular, leaned toward cleaner forms of energy, with 73% favoring renewables. In the over-50 age group the majority was still in favor of expanding renewables, though by a smaller margin..."

Photo credit: "Which do you back?" (Reuters/Brian Snyder)

Power Grid Taking On More Renewables Amid Policy, Technical Challenges. Midwest Energy News has the story: "Renewable energy accounted for nearly two-thirds of new power sources on the U.S. electric grid in 2016, according to data released this month by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). It marks the third consecutive year that wind, solar and other renewables made up more than half of new generating capacity on the shifting U.S. power system. Energy companies added 24 gigawatts of capacity — roughly the equivalent of a dozen new Hoover Dams — to the power grid last year, according to EIA’s preliminary data. Sixty-three percent of the new capacity was based on renewable technologies. Western U.S. states continue to dominate in hydroelectric and solar power, while the Midwest leads the nation in wind production, according to EIA..."

Republican Political Donors Install Nearly as Much Solar as Democratic Donors. When it comes to solar power, political affiliation just doesn't matter, according to a story at Greentech Media: "...But there is growing evidence that -- at least when it comes to clean energy -- there is a wide chasm between the policy positions the president supports and what many of his Republican supporters actually believe. Throughout the campaign, Trump ignored clean energy and focused mostly on promoting coal, oil and gas. But as reputable political surveys have shown, Republican voters actually want more support of renewable energy over fossil fuels. And they are proving that with their wallets, too. That is one of the most intriguing findings in a new study by PowerScout, an Oakland-based company that uses data to assist consumers who are considering going solar..."

The 100 Worst Traffic Bottlenecks on U.S. Highways. Did your city make the cut? Here's are a couple of excerpts from The Washington Post: "...Yes, there are some of the expected heavy-hitters on the list of the top bottlenecks: Houston (five times), Atlanta (three times), Chicago (three times), and Los Angeles (twice)....The worst bottleneck in the country is in Atlanta, where northbound Interstate 85 conspires with Interstate 285 to snarl traffic in what’s known as “spaghetti junction.” Fort Lee, Chicago (I-290 and I-90), Louisville (I-65 and I-64), Cincinnati (I-71 and I-75), Los Angeles (State 60 and State 57), Auburn, Wash. (State 18 and State 167), Houston (I-45 and U.S. 59), Atlanta (I-75 and I-285) and Seattle (I-5 and I-90) round out the top..."

What Do You Want To Watch Now? TheTV [R]evolution Continues. Here's an excerpt of an interesting post from Alan Wolk at LinkedIn: "...The bundle as we know it is about to change rather dramatically because TV is about to change rather dramatically. Over the next 18 to 36 months, it will go from a primarily linear medium to a primarily library-based one, a change that’s both inevitable and beneficial for everyone involved. This is not to say that linear TV will disappear entirely. There will still be news and sports and event shows (e.g. Oscars) that happen in real time. Networks will be able to premiere new episodes of series at specific days and times every week. What will change however, is that all that filler, all those shows that have already run, either an hour earlier or a decade earlier, will now be available on an On Demand basis..."

The True Story of the Umbrella Gun, A Surprisingly Serious Weapon. Atlas Obscura has the curious details: "...Umbrella guns are by no means the only type of disguised weapon. “Man has attempted to disguise firearms into just about everything you can possibly imagine,” says David H. Fink, a collector in Georgia who has written about disguised guns for the American Society of Arms Collectors. Guns have been hidden in pillboxes, a scribe’s casing, a flute, a pencil, a Pepsi can. There have been pocket-watch guns, ring guns, bike-pump guns, and lipstick guns. But perhaps no other type of disguised gun has caught the imagination of spies, writers, and conspiracy theorists as the umbrella gun. As a weapon, it is both a little bit ridiculous and deviously clever, and since its use in Markov’s assassination, it had taken its place in the villainous weapon hall of fame..."

Photo credit: "A replica of the “Bulgarian umbrella” used to kill Markov." The International Spy Museum

TODAY: Mostly cloudy, few flurries. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 29

THURSDAY NIGHT: Patchy clouds. Low: 18

FRIDAY: More clouds than sun, dry. Winds: W 10-15. High: near 30

SATURDAY: Peeks of sun, milder than average. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 19. High: 29

SUNDAY: More sun, less wind. Not bad at all. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 18. High: 31

MONDAY: Clouds increase, PM sprinkle/flurry. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 25. High: near 40

TUESDAY: Mostly cloudy and cooler. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 28. High: 33

WEDNESDAY: Getting sunnier, closer to "average". Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 16. High: 27

First sign of spring? I got a few dirty looks at Costco yesterday (nothing new) while snapping a photo of swim suits on sale, proof positive that summer is coming.

Climate Stories...

The Great Northern Celebrates Minnesota Winters. Winters that are changing faster than ever. Will Steger's Climate Generation reports on the upcoming celebration of authentic Minnesota snow and cold: "...We’re excited about the Great Northern, taking place January 27-February 5 around Minneapolis and St. Paul because it provides us with an opportunity to both celebrate and reflect on Minnesota winters. At a time when our state’s winters are warming faster than anywhere else in the country, this season is no longer something we can take for granted – at least, not in the ways that we used to know it. Anyone who’s lived in Minnesota for a while will tell stories of epic winters past, and most folks have already intuited that a change is happening before their eyes: a rainy Christmas, freeze-thaw cycles that disrupt outdoor recreation, later ice-in and earlier ice-out dates. These stories are common..."

Even 3 Scorching Years Don't Make a Trend. Here's an excerpt from Faye Flam at Bloomberg View: "...Still, an impressive number of record years have been piling up in the 21st century, with 16 of the 17 hottest years on record having occurred since 2000. What, if anything, does this mean? Two years ago, the Associated Press generated some controversy by quoting a statistician who claimed that the odds were only one in 650 million that without man-made global warming we’d have observed what was then nine of the 10 hottest years on record having occurred since 2000. Climatologists say the odds such a streak are not quite that low, because yearly variations in global temperature aren’t independent, like coin tosses, but tend to cluster. A hot year is more likely to be followed by another hot year than a cool one..."

Graph credit: NOAA.

The New Battle Plan for the Planet's Climate Crisis. What worked in the 19th century may not work as well in the 21st, argues Bill McKibbon in a post at RollingStone: "...The moral case for fossil fuels has its roots in the idea that coal, and then oil and gas, transformed civilization. Which is true: When we learned, early in the 18th century, to burn coal, it gave each of us in the Western world the equivalent of an entourage of slaves. A barrel of oil, by some calculations, is equal to 23,000 hours of muscle-powered work. Suddenly we could move ourselves great distances, and most of us could abandon the farm. One could argue whether these were changes for the better; some of our sense of rootlessness and disconnection comes with this freedom. But it was transformational – that part of the argument is undeniable. For Trump's crew, however, the past is forever prologue. If fossil fuel was good in the 18th century, it must be good in the 21st. They can't imagine, for example, that the rest of the world might develop without coal and gas and oil..." (File photo: Skip Brown, National Geographic).

South, Southeastern Europe Face Greatest Climate Change Disruptions. Here's an excerpt of a recent report from the European Environmental Agency (EEA), summarized by Reuters: "Southern and southeastern regions of Europe will face the continent's most adverse effects from climate change as heatwaves and droughts become more intense and frequent, the European Environment Agency (EEA) said on Wednesday. Climate change is causing more frequent and severe flooding, droughts, storms and heatwaves throughout Europe as global temperature rise hits new records, sea levels rise and sea ice melts in the Arctic. World temperatures hit a record high for a third year in a row in 2016, scientists said last week, with extremes including unprecedented heat in India and ice melt in the Arctic. Climate-related extreme events accounted for nearly 400 billion euros ($430 billion) of economic losses in EEA member countries from 1980 to 2013, and were responsible for 85,000 deaths in the same period, the EEA said in a report..." (File image credit: NASA).

Heat Record: How NASA Knows 2016 Was The Hottest Year. Here's an excerpt from Live Science: "...NASA and NOAA both found a high likelihood that 2016 was the hottest year: a 96 percent chance according to NASA and a 62 percent chance according to NOAA. The only other contender — with a much lower probability — was 2015. The differing estimates come from different extrapolations of data about the warming Arctic. The region has warmed significantly, the panelists said, and how that's quantified can have a big effect on the average. But overall, the estimates are very similar, they said..."

Graph credit: "A chart released by NASA and NOAA shows global temperature analyses from several different data sets. They are clearly all "singing the same song," researchers said." Credit: NASA/NOAA.

A Climate Paradox: Rising Temperatures To Bring More Droughts and Floods. More climate volatility and weather disruption, according to a story at Nexus Media: "...In isolation, of course not — to date, any modern extreme weather event would have been possible in pre-industrial times. That said, the likelihood of a big storm — or a severe heat wave — has changed a lot. It’s clear that since the 1950s, over much of the United States, extreme storms are becoming wetter. We’ve only had one degree centigrade of global warming. That’s a lot, but it’s nothing compared to what is coming down the line if we stay on the same greenhouse-gas emissions scenario that we’re on. By the end of this century, you’re looking at 3 or 4 degrees of warming, which is a planet that no human has ever lived on. We have no experience with such a planet, and it’s entirely possible that in such a warmer world, storms that were previously impossible — and certainly heat waves — will occur..."

Image credit: "The Pineapple Express brought rain to California this month." Source: NASA

Toxic Algae May Thrive as Climate and Oceans Warm, Study Says. Here's a snippet from InsideClimate News: "A newly established link between warmer ocean temperatures and toxin-spawning algae provides the latest sign that climate change is causing biological disturbances in the oceans. Scientists tracked West Coast outbreaks of the planktonic algae back to 1991, finding them strongly correlated with warm phases of Pacific Ocean cycles. The new research, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on a single-cell species of phytoplankton called Pseudo-nitzschia. It produces domoic acid, which can be fatal to humans if consumed at high levels by eating shellfish. Domoic acid has also been implicated in mass die-offs of marine mammals, including sea lions, sea otters, dolphins and whales..." (File photo credit:

More Than 100 Illinois Architects Publish Open Letter to Trump on Climate Change. Here's an excerpt from The Chicago Tribune: "...The letter advocates that the Trump administration create an even playing field among all energy sources by providing subsidies for renewable energy technologies, instead of just for the fossil fuel and nuclear energy industries. It also asks that the U.S. continue its participation in the Paris Climate Agreement, from which President Trump has indicated he may want to retreat. The Trump administration's plan on energy, called An America First Energy Plan, has so far focused on the rejection of "burdensome regulations," as well as tapping domestic energy reserves to lessen the dependence on foreign oil..." (Image credit:

Read the letter here.

Is The Weather Great Today? Enjoy It While You Can. Ongoing warming will almost certainly impact the distribution of what most people would call "good weather days". Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "...For the past three decades, the world has averaged 74 mild days a year. But by 2035 that will shrink to 70 and then 64 by the last two decades of the century, according to the study, published in the journal Climatic Change. Mild weather was defined as a high temperature of 68 to 86 degrees with low humidity and no more than a trace of rain. On average, the United States will lose nine mild summer days by the end of the century, although most of that loss is gained back with more mild days in the winter, spring and fall. The biggest losers will be the tropics and nearly all of Africa, eastern South America, South Asia and northern Australia. Rio de Janeiro, on average, will see 40 mild days disappear. Miami will lose its only mild summer day and nearly a month of spring and fall mild days by 2100..."

Study: Real Facts Can Beat "Alternative Facts" If Boosted by Inoculation. Here's a clip from The Guardian: "...According to inoculation theory, facts are important but by themselves aren’t sufficient to convince people as long as misinformation is also present. People also have to be inoculated against the misinformation, for example through an explanation of the logical fallacy underpinning the myth. To test the theory, the study authors ran an experiment using a fact that’s been subjected to a tremendous misinformation campaign: the 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming. There’s been some debate among social scientists about consensus messaging, with most research suggesting it’s effective and important at convincing people about the importance of climate change..."

Image credit: Tim O'Reilly.

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