Saturday, February 4, 2017

Spotty Spasms of Winter - Typical Weather for March Brewing

35 F. maximum temperature on Saturday at MSP International Airport.
26 F. average high on February 4.
27 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities on February 4, 2016.

February 5, 1834: Unseasonably mild temperatures are felt at Ft. Snelling with a high of 51.

Flashes of Winter - Then An Early March

Handicapping snowstorms now is like predicting how the Vikings will do next season. "Well, on paper they have a good team, but with injuries and unknown draft picks....who really knows?" So it goes with mythic snowstorms. "Well, on paper it's February in Minnesota. It SHOULD snow. But arctic air has retreated north, we're starting from a warmer baseline, a mild Pacific flow dominates..."

I feel like a weatherman in Louisville.

Warmer winters mean more rain and ice than we had in the 1970s and 80s. A generation ago it was consistently cold enough for mostly-snow, at least from December thru February. Until March, when we would star to see a sloppy mix.

March comes early now. ECMWF guidance predicts highs near 50 F. within 12 days. With bare ground more of the sun's energy can go into heating up the air, not melting snow. We're a lock for 40s and I wouldn't be surprised to see 50 degrees. By the way, 50 F. is the average high on April 1.
Expect cool sun today; 40 degrees Monday, then a mix changing to snow Tuesday PM with a few inches Tuesday night.

A bad impersonation of a snowstorm? Just enough to remind you it's still winter.

Parhelia file photo: AerisWeather meteorologist Todd Nelson.

More Active Pattern Brewing. After a relatively quiet couple of days brewing storms look a little more impressive, especially on the west coast of the USA; more heavy rain for northern California with slushy snow accumulation as far north as Seattle. Super Bowl snow showers are likely across New England; a Tuesday storm for the Upper Midwest may start as ice but a changeover to snow is likely with potentially plowable amounts. 84-hour 12 KM NAM solution: NOAA and

This Is Still Early February, Right? I got confused gazing at this (ECMWF) 15-day temperature outlook, which looks like something out of late March. Despite a few cold days the middle of next week (following Tuesday's alleged storm) temperatures trend 10-20F. above average for much of the next 2 weeks. 50 degrees on the 17th? A stretch but I certainly wouldn't rule it out. Graphic: WeatherBell.

Plowable Snow Event Tuesday Minnesota to Michigan? I wouldn't get too excited yet. Precipitation may start as a mix of ice before changing over to all-snow Tuesday PM. Even so I could still see enough slushy snow to shovel and plow from the Twin Cities and Duluth to Green Bay and Marquette.

Wildly Divergent Snow Forecasts. Earlier runs were only predicting a couple inches of slush on Tuesday but 18z and 00z forecasts printed out closer to 4 or 5" in the Twin Cities. Since Old Man Winter often finds a new and creative way to cheat us out of snow I'm forcing myself to be skeptical this time around. Confidence levels are low, but yes, there should be a few inches of (rare) snow Tuesday - and it may be enough to shovel and plow, and temporarily appease snow-lovers. Graphic: Iowa State.

We Seem To Have Skipped a Month. If this 500 mb (18,000 feet) forecast verifies from NOAA's GFS model unseasonable warmth will stretch from the central Plains into interior Canada. Once the snow melts temperatures may rise into the 50s, even 60s as far north as Omaha and Sioux City by mid-month. Freakish for mid-February? You 'betcha! The forecast looks cold for New England with more storms for California and the Pacific Northwest. There will be cold relapses, but it's looking more and more like an early spring for much of the USA.

River Forecasters Keeping Watch Over the Red River. The Star Tribune reports on the potential for river flooding from Fargo and Moorhead to Grand Rapids this spring: "...With spring’s thaw only weeks away, communities along the Red River are keeping a wary eye on the flood forecast. After a long dry stretch, the region has been soaked with double the usual amount of winter rain, sleet and snow, prompting the National Weather Service to recently issue an early warning about potential spring floods. The Red has flooded in 50 of the past 111 years, although in recent springs, it has stayed largely within its banks, keeping flood-prone communities from breaking out the sandbags. If that changes this spring, Minnesota officials say they’re ready, after years spent shoring up their flood defenses..."

File photo from Fargo in 2009. Image courtesy of Brian Petersen, Star Tribune.

"A Warm Streak Without Precedent". Dr. Mark Seeley explains in this week's edition of Minnesota WeatherTalk: "...According to Kenny Blumenfeld of the DNR-State Climatology Office and Michelle Margraf of the NOAA-National Weather Service in Chanhassen the warm temperature anomaly in the Twin Cities from September of 2015 through January of 2017 is without precedent......17 consecutive months of above normal temperature surpasses the streaks of 16 months during 2011-2012, and 15 months during 2005-2006 and 1920-1921...." (Graphic credit: Minnesota DNR).

The Amazing Improvements in Winter Weather Forecasting Since the 1970s. It's not perfect, it never will be, but the forecast is considerably (measurably) better than it was a generation ago. Here's an excerpt from Capital Weather Gang: "Winter storm forecasting has changed significantly since the 1970s, for the better. Technology and a better fundamental understanding of the atmosphere have been the main drivers behind the improvement, but there’s another reason your favorite meteorologist — on TV or on the web — can nail a winter storm forecast five days out: the Internet. With the click of a mouse, anyone can access the same weather models that in the past were only available to government forecasters. With all of these advances, a winter storm forecast three days out in 2017 is arguably as accurate as one that was around one day away in the 1980s. Meteorologists anywhere can now access weather models that in the past were only available to government employees and TV stations that had special weather data fax machines. Everyone can look at the models, which have come light years in the past two decades..."

Photo credit: "The Presidents’ Day Snowstorm of February 18-19, 1979." (Washington Weather).

Worst NFL Championship Weather Ever? AerisWeather meteorologist Joe Hansel has a terrific post about weather as a factor in big NFL games; here's an excerpt: "...To find the chilliest-most-‘freezingy’ NFL Championship… we have to go back to December 31st, 1967. If you call yourself a BIG football fan… you already know I’m talking about the Ice Bowl. It so happens to be the 50th anniversary of this game. That’s kinda cool… or in this case, extremely cold. Broadcaster Jack Buck when asked, said “it was very cold, Ray.” Beautifully put in its sarcastic simplicity. Commentator Frank Gifford didn’t need to wear a hat though: video HERE. It was the frostiest game in history… but fans still cheered in this video HERE. At historic Lambeau Field. We got 2 historic franchises playing for the NFL Championship prize. Packers vs. Cowboys. Vince Lombardi vs. Tom Landry. This is about as epic as a game gets for back in the day (Also, I don’t think I’m personally old enough to say ‘back in the day’ yet)..."

Photo credit: "They’re having fun!" Source:

Football Goes Green. A few interesting nuggets at Huffington Post: "...The trend towards sustainability isn’t just a postseason phenomenon. In recent years, the NFL has become an unlikely champion of renewable energy, teaming up with the Environmental Protection Agency, Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental organizations to monitor its clean energy initiatives. In 2015, nearly one-third of NFL teams played or trained at solar-equipped facilities, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. That figure includes a couple ofstandouts, like Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachucets. The complex boasts some 3,000 solar panels — enough to power office buildings and stadium lights on days without a game. Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field features 11,000 solar panels and 14 wind turbines, the most of any stadium..." (Photo credit: Lincoln Financial Field, DLR Group).

Subscale Glider Could Assist in Weather Studies, Predictions. NASA has an interesting post; here's the intro: "More accurate, immediate and economical information on severe weather phenomenon like hurricanes could one day be available thanks to the Weather Hazard Alert and Awareness Technology Radiation Radiosonde (WHAATRR) Glider. Students and Armstrong staff have been developing the glider based on the Prandtl-M aircraft to fly in the atmosphere of Mars. The vehicle could potentially save the National Weather Service up to $15 million a year compared to current methods and with faster and more reliable data, said project manager Scott Wiley. Employees across the centers agree the idea could take off and voted for it during the NASA Agency Innovation Mission (AIM) Day Nov. 1 for a NASA Innovation Kick Start (NIKS) grant. Also winning a NIKS grant with Armstrong participation was the Agency Legal Enterprise Capability for Knowledge Sharing (ALECKS), the idea of a common NASA legal database including discussions, forums, news and updates..."

Photo credit: "The Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars, or Prandtl-M, flies during a test flight. A new proposal based on the aircraft recently won an agencywide technology grant." Credits: NASA Photo / Lauren Hughes.

The Surprising Link Between Air Pollution and Alzheimer's Disease. The Los Angeles Times reports: "With environmental regulations expected to come under heavy fire from the Trump administration, new research offers powerful evidence of a link between air pollution and dementia risk. For older women, breathing air that is heavily polluted by vehicle exhaust and other sources of fine particulates nearly doubles the likelihood of developing dementia, finds a study published Tuesday. And the cognitive effects of air pollution are dramatically more pronounced in women who carry a genetic variant, known as APOE-e4, which puts them at higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. In a nationwide study that tracked the cognitive health of women between the ages of 65 and 79 for 10 years, those who had the APOE-e4 variant were nearly three times more likely to develop dementia if they were exposed to high levels of air pollution than APOE-e4 carriers who were not..."

A Modern Black Death in Kentucky's Mountains. Black lung disease is getting worse, reports OZY: "...That’s about twice as many as the total reported nationally during the 1990s. The rise is unprecedented in modern history, with one in 20 Appalachian workers now likely to get pneumoconiosis after a career in the mines, according to data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and compiled by a Kentucky-based radiologist. “This data shows that the scope of the disease is unprecedented and horrendous,” says Wes Addington, deputy director at the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center in Whitesburg, Kentucky. He has seen an increase of five to six times the number of black lung complications from 2011 to 2016..."

Profits? Nice, But For These Investors Conscience Matters More. The New York Times reports: "...Passion investors spurn such accommodations. They are driven by a belief in the primacy of a cause — animal rights, climate change, reducing waste — and try to apply that desire to all investment types. It’s not easy. “I have a conversation about this quite often,” said Mark Doman, chief executive of the Doman Group, an investment adviser. “Clients talk about how their ethics and morality guide their portfolio. I tell them it’s a very slippery slope to find companies that meet their ethical bar while keeping in mind their goal is to grow their assets.” Mr. Doman added, “If you can find me a morally and ethically pure blue-chip company, that’s more the exception than the rule...”

Working on a Cruise Ship is a Good Job - Until It Isn't. Here's an excerpt of a sobering, harrowing story at The California Sunday Magazine: "...Since Regie started his job, the number of cruise employees has more than doubled to nearly a quarter million. Amid the boom, many describe systemic wage theft and 80-hour workweeks with no days off for eight to ten months at a time. Many also say they are pressured to keep working when injured. Dozens of interviews, hundreds of pages of legal documents, and photographic evidence corroborate these claims. Although crew members have lodged complaints against all three of the major cruise companies, employees of Carnival Cruise Line speak of some of the harshest conditions. Most of these allegations, though, are sent to foreign arbitration and hidden from public view..."

Photo credit: Kevin Kunishi.

How to Reset Your Body Clock - And Get Better Sleep - With Hiking Boots and a Tent. Getting outside can help in so many ways, including helping your sleep habits, according to a story at The Los Angeles Times: "...Wright thinks there are two reasons a sojourn in nature can reset our biological clocks, and both have to do with light. His group found that on the winter camping trip participants were exposed to 13 times more light than they usually are when they go about their normal lives. In addition, the winter campers were not allowed to use flashlights or electronic devices during the weeklong camping trip. That meant that when darkness fell, the only light they saw was from their campfires. He said that both the increased light during the day and lack of light during the night played a role in realigning the circadian clocks. “A lot of people think about light at night and recognize it is not the best thing, but our research has shown that the reduction in light we get during the day is equally important,” he said..."

TODAY: Cool sunshine, dry. Risk of football. Winds: NW 5-10. High: 26

SUNDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy. Low: 18

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy and milder. Good travel weather. Winds: SE 5-10. High: near 40

TUESDAY: Icy mix changes to snow. Few inches - possibly plowable? Winds: N 10-15. Wake-up: 29. High: 32

WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny, feels like -10F. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 5. High: 12

THURSDAY: Plenty of sunshine, still brisk. Winds: SW 7-12. Wake-up: -2. High: near 20

FRIDAY: Some sun, windy, milder. Rain shower late. Winds: SW 10-20. Wake-up: 15. High: 43

SATURDAY: Cloudy, turning a little cooler. Winds: N 7-12. Wake-up: 29. High: 38

Climate Stories...

An Independent Study Confirms NOAA's Conclusion that the Earth is Getting Warmer. Here's an excerpt from PRI, Public Radio International: "A new analysis of sea surface temperatures from an independent source corroborates updated global warming data released in 2015 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The results contradict allegations from some Republicans on Capitol Hill that NOAA manipulated its 2015 data to show continuous global warming, since earlier NOAA research had suggested the Earth was experiencing a warming "pause" or hiatus. Between 1998 and 2012, NOAA research based on sea surface temperatures seemed to suggest that average global temperatures were not rising. This data did not support the theory of climate change, and skeptics were quick to use these figures as proof that global warming was a "hoax"...

Photo credit: "An Argo float being raised out of the Bellingshausen Sea is shown here. Argo floats are robotic instruments that measure ocean data and transmit it to satellites." Credit: fruchtzwerg's world/Flickr

Spotted in Washington: Conservatives Supporting Climate Action. Christian Science Monitor has details: "...Even as climate change is essentially absent from the priority list of President Trump and the Republican-led Congress, a meaningful number of conservatives in America support the idea of reducing heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere. “You’re not going to convince 100 percent of the world,” Aparna Mathur, an American Enterprise Institute economist who was part of the panel, said after the event. But she sees a shrinking number of conservatives who oppose a carbon policy. By some measures, she may be right. In March 2016, a Gallup survey found 40 percent of Republicans saying they worry a “great deal” or “fair amount” about the issue. That was up from 31 percent in a poll the previous year. Even so, of course, support for climate action is hardly an influential viewpoint in GOP politics..."

Photo credit: "Not that long ago, the Republican Party had a presidential nominee who supported action to combat global warming. Above, candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona talks about the issue in 2008 in North Bend, Wash., (flanked by former Washington Gov. Dan Evans). Polls show that many Republicans support climate action." Elaine Thompson/AP/File.

Fewer Days Below 32 F. Here's an excerpt from Climate Central: "Warmer winters may sound great at first — fewer icy roads, less scraping your car — but milder weather has some major downsides. Everything from agriculture to wildlife to human health can be seriously impacted. Warmer winters also pose serious economic consequences in many states reliant on revenue from winter sports and recreation. The number of days below 32°F in the U.S. has been declining. As the map above — adapted from a 2016 Journal of Climate paper — demonstrates, this trend is projected to continue, threatening many of the winter activities that rely on cold conditions, including skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and outdoor ice hockey..."

Bob Inglis: Unmasking the Deceit Over Climate Change. Former U.S. Congressman Bob Inglis from South Carolina is a friend and a fellow conservationist and Republican who acknowledges that climate change is real - and we have a moral obligation to act, empowering markets - trying to reach bipartisan consensus on economy-empowering solutions that generate jobs and growth, while turning down the dial on carbon pollution. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed he wrote for The Greenville Journal: "...We believe in the power of markets. We believe in accountable free enterprise. We believe that firms should compete in transparent marketplaces where all costs (including external, “social” costs) are attached to all products and all subsidies are removed. We believe that the government should function as the honest cop-on-the beat who makes domestic and foreign firms alike bear all of the costs created by the sale of their products in the American market. We believe in the power of price signals like the ones Milton Friedman taught. We believe in the liberty of enlightened self-interest and in the innovation that can come from a world of consumers seeking clean energy. We don’t believe in the growth of government..."

Photo credit:

Climate and Security: Steering the Ship of State Through Uncertain Waters. Here's an excerpt from the Center for Climate & Security: "...These are trends that will likely continue, regardless of shifting political dynamics. These are issues that political leaders will seek to shape and manage, but will not be able to eliminate. Indeed, climate change is happening without concern for who is in power. Just as it’s impossible to dispute the existence of nuclear weapons, and the threat nuclear proliferation poses to all nations, the reality of a rapidly-changing climate is here to stay. The Arctic is melting, the seas are rising, and wildfires and droughts are becoming more severe. This is the existing global reality. If tomorrow’s leaders don’t recognize and deal with this underlying trend– distracted as they are by the turbulence of daily events – we are likely to miss critical threats to national, regional and international security..."

Cold Getting Less Cold. Climate Central takes a look at the larger trends: "For many locations in the U.S., middle-to-late January is climatologically the coldest time of the year. But extreme cold is on the decline as the world warms from increasing greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels. This week’s analysis examines the coldest night each year in these cities. Even though we will continue to see cold outbreaks in a warming world, the trend in the vast majority of the cities analyzed shows that these extreme cold nights are happening less often. Conversely, as cold extremes continue to become fewer and less intense, hot extremes become stronger and more frequent..."

Pentagon: Arctic Melt Requires Updated U.S. Strategy. Climate Home reports on the jaw-dropping changes in the arctic, and how the military is trying to respond: "...An updated US military strategy for the Arctic says “diminishing ice levels” due to warming temperatures pose a series of security risks to the country. Released this week at the request of Alaska senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican, the 16-page document says the US must boost investment in its military assets around the North Pole. “Diminishing sea ice will give rise to new economic opportunities in the region while simultaneously increasing concerns about human safety and protection of a unique ecosystem that many indigenous communities rely on for subsistence,” reads the Arctic Strategy. “The breaking up of sea ice also threatens existing detection and warning infrastructure by increasing the rate of coastal erosion...”

Photo credit: "US National Guard troops in Utiqiagvik, Alaska." (Pic: Staff Sgt. Balinda O’Neal Dresel/US Army National Guard).

"Watching With Bated Breath": Massive Iceberg Set To Break Off Antarctic Ice Sheet. USA TODAY has the story: "It's the crack that's captivating the world. A 110-mile-long rift in an Antarctic ice shelf promises to eventually shear off and create a massive iceberg larger than Rhode Island. For now, it's fascinating scientists, gamblers and the public worldwide. Everyone wants to know when part of the Larsen C ice shelf will finally break off, fundamentally changing the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula. The short answer: It could take days to years. But the iceberg is most likely to break free within the next few months because of the overwhelming weight the 110 miles of already separated ice is placing on the 12 miles that remains connected to the shelf, said Adrian Luckman of Project MIDAS, a British Antarctic research project that's keeping watch on the ever-growing crack..."

Photo credit: "This Nov. 10, 2016, aerial photo released by NASA, shows a rift in the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen C ice shelf." (Photo: John Sonntag, AP)

The Lasting Effects of Pope Francis' Climate Change Edict. Here's a clip from Pacific Standard: "...But newly published research suggests the pontiff’s call for taking care of the Earth has had a more subtle impact on American public opinion. It finds brief exposure to a photograph of the pope “increased perceptions of climate change as a moral issue.” What’s more, this shift in how the issue is perceived was particularly strong among Republicans — a group that has traditionally been resistant to acknowledging the fact that humans are affecting the Earth’s climate in dangerous ways..." (File photo: AP).

The EPA Has Started to Remove Obama-Era Information. Climate Central reports: "The Environmental Protection Agency’s website has begun to transform under the Trump administration.  A group of researchers have found what are likely the first steps in a major overhaul of a site that’s been closely watched since President Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20. Federal climate plans created under former President Obama, tribal assistance programs, and references to international cooperation have been stricken from the site. A mention of carbon pollution as a cause of climate change has also been removed and adaptation has been emphasized, indicating an attempt to separate the cause of climate change from the response. Some of the changes — like removing mentions to programs and task forces that have run their course as well as broken links — are housekeeping, according to an agency statement..."

Image credit: "There have been extensive revisions made to the EPA's climate collaboration page, including removing language about carbon pollution." Credit: EDGI.

The March For Science Isn't Partisan or Anti-Trump - It's Pro-Facts. Quartz reports: "...First came the Women’s March. Now comes the March for Science. Given the ongoing protests sweeping the US, one might assume that scientists are organizing to voice their general disagreement with Donald Trump’s policies—or perhaps that they simply want to protect their grants and jobs from federal funding cuts. But what’s at stake is much bigger than funding. It’s true that the US spends more on science than any other country. This long-term commitment has led to the US being awarded more Nobel Prizes than any other nation, with the majority of the 365 prizes being awarded for physics. The US also publishes more scientific papers than any other nation—twice as many as China, which ranks second. But scientists in the US and around the world are not mobilizing to defend themselves. Rather, they are fighting to protect the fundamental role that science plays in society and government..."

Image credit: "When the government starts trying to stifle science, you know the stakes are high."(NASA/Public Domain).

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