Saturday, November 26, 2016

Cold Rain Tonight - Link Between Siberian Snow in Autumn and Severity of U.S. Winters?

40 F. maximum temperature yesterday at KSTC.
33 F. average high on November 26.
35 F. high on November 26, 2015.

November 27, 2005: In the early morning a home in Mower County is hit by lightning and burned to the ground, but no one is injured.
November 27, 1994: A low pressure system produces the first winter storm of the season for Minnesota. By the early morning hours of the 28th, a swath of snow in excess of 6 inches had blanketed much of southwest through central into northeast Minnesota. Snowfall of 6 inches or more occurred south of a line from Gunflint Lake in Cook County to near Ortonville in Big Stone County, and along and north of a line from near Blue Earth in Faribault County to Red Wing in Goodhue County. The snow closed the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for a short time on the 27th, and contributed to hundreds of accidents and at least three fatalities. In addition, the build-up of ice and snow in combination with strong winds resulted in numerous downed power lines in southeast Minnesota.
November 27, 1985: Extreme cold hits northern Minnesota. A low of 30 below zero is reported at Crookston.
November 27, 1971: Heavy snow falls in southwest Minnesota, with Redwood Falls receiving a foot.



Exclusive Winter Outlook: "Colder With Some Snow"

My 11th grade advanced placement English teacher had good advice. "Use action words. And when in doubt, mumble. Better yet, obfuscate."

I've been doing a lot of mumbling and random hand-waving in recent weeks when asked about the winter to come.

Weather researcher Judah Cohen tracks Siberian snowcover in October to gauge how tough winters will be in the U.S. Based on the rate of Russian snow he predicts a weakened polar vortex capable of lobbing arctic air southward; coldest conditions east of the Rockies. Not as cold as 3 winters ago - but close. NOAA is studying Cohen's research but it doesn't factor Siberian snowcover into its winter outlook.
I suspect it will be colder and snowier than last winter as freakish warming of the arctic throws the jet stream off the rails, again.

Rain arrives tonight with puddles lingering into Monday as showers taper. A coating of light snow is possible the latter half of the week, but no headline-grabbing storms are brewing into next week.

Enjoy 40s, because the first half of December will be a poignant reminder that we live (way) 'up north.


Map credit above: "Predicted winter surface temperature anomalies for the United States Dec-Jan-Feb 2016/17 in degrees Fahrenheit. The model is forecasting colder than normal temperatures for much of the Eastern United States with warmer than normal temperatures for the Western United States. The model uses October Siberian snow cover, sea level pressure anomalies, predicted El Niño/Southern Oscillation anomalies, observed September Arctic sea ice anomalies, and the predicted winter value of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. October Siberian snow cover advanced at an above normal rate during the entire month. This is an indication of an increased probability of a weakened polar vortex or a sudden stratospheric warming and a predominantly negative Arctic Oscillation during the winter, and cold temperatures, especially east of the Mississippi. This is the most recent forecast using the full monthly values for snow cover and sea level pressure anomalies." Forecast date: November 14, 2016.

Credit: Judah Cohen. More information at The National Science Foundation.

From Russia, With Snow. How Siberian Weather Predicts U.S. Winter. USA TODAY has an article with more detail on how Judah Cohen uses Russian snowcover to predict the winter to come: "...Here's how: Snow reflects about 70% to 80% of the sun's warmth back into space, while a bare ground reflects only 20%. October is when Siberia and the entire Eurasian region sees its greatest expansion of snow cover, sometimes increasing as much as six million square miles, larger than the total land area of the U.S., including Alaska. Just how snow-covered Siberia gets in fall helps Cohen formulate his forecast because that icy cold air over the region will slowly slosh into Europe and eventually into North America by mid-winter. Essentially, more snow in Siberia equates to colder air and the potential for more snow than normal in the U.S..." (Map credit: Rutgers Global Snow Lab).

On-Again, Off-Again (Frigid) December? NOAA's CFSv2 climate model keeps flip-flopping between mild and cold solutions for December; the latest outlook calls for 8-12F colder than average for much of the USA. Map: WeatherBell.

10-Day Snowfall. Plowable (3"+) snowfalls are likely across northern New England, North Dakota, the Panhandle of Texas and much of New Mexico, as well as over western mountains, where the maps are definitely looking like winter. 240-hour GFS snowfall product: TropicalTidbits.com

Warm Enough For Rain. The vast majority of the next storm tonight and Monday falls in liquid form across Minnesota; an inch or two of slushy accumulation for the western third of Minnesota by midweek. More significant 5-9" amounts are predicted across the Dakotas.

Still Above Average. The crazy-warmth of early November is history, but temperatures run above average the next 10 days; peaking Monday as a strong storm pulls mild air into Minnesota. We cool back down to average the latter half of next week. MSP predicted highs/lows from ECMWF courtesy of WeatherBell.

Soaking Rain Overnight. NOAA models print out anywhere from .32" to .68" for the Twin Cities tonight into Monday morning. Had the mercury been 10-15F colder that would have translated into 4-8" snow.

First Subzero for MSP? Confidence levels are low, but GFS ensembles predict the first subzero low Friday morning, December 9. Something to look forward to. Source: Aeris Enterprise.

Mid-December: Cold, Not Frigid. By the second week of December GFS guidance is hinting at more of a "modified-zonal" west-to-east wind patttern for the USA; the coldest air bottled up over Canada. It will be interesting to see if polar vortex winds really do relax (consistently), allowing a flow of bitter air into January and early February. The jury is still out.


Winter Weather Accident Statistics. For me the most important lesson in all of this is to force myself to slow down. Many of us still drive way too fast for conditions. Here's an excerpt from thezebra.com: "According to the Federal Highway Administration, 70 percent of the nation’s roads are located in snowy regions—in other words, anywhere that receives more than five inches of snowfall each year, on average. In addition, nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population lives in these snowy regions. In other words? A lot of us have to deal with winter storms. And about 70 percent of the accidental deaths that occur in the wintertime happen in automobiles.
Other Sobering Stats (from the folks at SafeWinterRoads.org:
  • Over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually.
  • Every year, nearly 900 people are killed and nearly 76,000 people are injured in vehicle crashes during snowfall or sleet..."


November Nuggets. Here are a few factoids regarding the abnormally mild start to November across the  USA, courtesy of Planalytics: "Nationally, it was the warmest 3rd week of November in 55+ years. Cooler temperatures were focused in the South Atlantic region. Despite the late week snowstorm, the third week of November recorded the least snow and rain since 2012..."


Australia's Bizarre Outbreak: "What Is Thunderstorm Asthma?" This is the first I heard of this phenomenona, explained at Live Science: "...It's thought that these outbreaks occur because, during thunderstorms, pollen grains rapidly absorb water and rupture, leading to the release of hundreds of small particles into the air, ASCIA says. These particles can penetrate deep into people's lungs and trigger asthma attacks, ASCIA says. Some outbreaks of thunderstorm asthma have also been linked with increased levels of fungal spores in the air. It's also thought that gusty winds in thunderstorms help to spread pollen particles and other allergy-inducing substances. A 2008 study that looked at emergency room visits in Atlanta over a 10-year period found that there were 3 percent more visits for asthma on days following thunderstorms. The link between asthma visits and thunderstorms was strongest when the wind gusts during the storm were intermediate to high, the study found..."


Enlightening. Thanks to Vasin Lee and Shutterstock.com for passing this one along.

Improving Hurricane Intensity Forecasts. Launch is set for December 12. Here's more detail and clarity on what the mission entails from NASA: "Hurricane track forecast accuracy has improved since 1990, but there has been little improvement in intensity forecast accuracy. A new NASA mission using eight micro-satellites will make accurate measurements of ocean surface winds in and near the eye of the storm throughout the lifecycle of tropical cyclones, typhoons & hurricanes. The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) will probe the inner core of hurricanes to learn about their rapid intensification. The mission will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on a Pegasus XL rocket. The University of Michigan is developing CYGNSS..."

Russian Scientists May Have Found Geological Evidence of "Noah's Flood". I'm skeptical, but who knows - maybe it's real? Here's an excerpt from Nature World News: "New scientific evidence may disprove all that we know about the earth and its layers. We have been taught since childhood that the earth becomes denser as a measuring point comes nearer the core. However, what Russian scientists have discovered may prove this otherwise. The Kola Borehole is a very lengthy drill hole, where samples of soil as deep as 12 kilometers into the earth's crust have been collected. According to experts, the soil will become denser as the drill goes deeper into the earth; however, they found interesting evidence that may change what we all have believed in..."

The Future of Oil. The Economist takes a look at a possible inflection point for fossil fuels; here's a clip: "...Yet the transition from horse power to horsepower, a term coined by Eric Morris of Clemson University, South Carolina, is a useful parable for our time. A hundred years ago oil was seen as an environmental saviour. Now its products are increasingly cast in the same light as horse manure was then: a menace to public health and the environment. For all its staying power, oil may be facing its Model T moment. The danger is not an imminent collapse in demand but the start of a shift in investment strategies away from finding new sources of oil to finding alternatives to it. The immediate catalyst is the global response to climate change. An agreement in Paris last year that offers a 50/50 chance of keeping global warming to less than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels, and perhaps limiting it to 1.5ºC, was seen by some as a declaration of war against fossil fuels..."

Pressure Mounts to Reform Our Throwaway Clothing Culture. What does sustainable capitalism look like? How can we have everything we want, but put exponentially less strain on Earth's operating system? Here's an excerpt from Yale Environment 360: "...Eileen Fisher, the founder of the apparel company that bears her name, has called the clothing industry “the second largest polluter in the world, second only to oil,” a claim that can’t be verified because reliable data on fashion’s global footprint is scarce. But there’s no doubt that vast amounts of water, energy, and chemicals are required to manufacture clothes — up to 200 tons of water, for example, to make a ton of fabric, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. In places where environmental regulation is lax, chemicals are routinely discharged into rivers and streams without treatment. The textile industry has long been one of China’s biggest polluters, and it has fouled rivers and ruined farmland in India, Cambodia, and Bangladesh, as well..."

Illustration credit: Luisa Rivera for Yale E360.

Hot Tech Gifts. The New York Times highlights a few gift ideas for the techno-geek in your life: "It is often daunting to sort through the newest technology products to find something fitting for your gadget-savvy family and friends. Fret not: Here are some of the most useful and entertaining tech gifts of the year..."



SUNDAY: Mild with increasing clouds. Showers by late afternoon or evening. Winds: SE 8-13.
High: 47

SUNDAY NIGHT: Rain, heavy at times. Low: 45

MONDAY: Showers linger, wet roads. Winds: S 10-20. High: 50 (early, then falling)

TUESDAY: Light rain/snow mix. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 36. High: near 40

WEDNESDAY: Coating of light snow possible. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 33. High: 38

THURSDAY: Clouds linger, more flurries - slick spots. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 30. High: 37

FRIDAY: Chilly holding pattern, more flakes. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 30. High: 38

SATURDAY: Peeks of sun, flurries hang on - seasonably chilly. Winds: W 8-13. Wake-up: 29. High: 37


Climate Stories...

Arctic Ice Melt Could Trigger Uncontrollable Climate Change at Global Level. Are we close to a tipping point in the Arctic? Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "Arctic scientists have warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap risks triggering 19 “tipping points” in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe. The Arctic Resilience Report found that the effects of Arctic warming could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean, in a stark warning that changes in the region could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level. Temperatures in the Arctic are currently about 20C above what would be expected for the time of year, which scientists describe as “off the charts”. Sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year..."

5-Day Predicted Temperature Anomalies: Climate Reanalyzer.



Full Speed Ahead: Shipping Plans Grow As Arctic Ice Fades. Here's an excerpt of a head-shaking article at Yale Environment 360: "...Russia is farther ahead than any other country in exploiting Arctic shipping opportunities. It has more icebreakers by far than any other nation — 40 — and more Arctic ports. (Canada and the United States have no significant ports on the Arctic Ocean.) To further boost the development of new shipping routes, Russia’s State Commission on Development of the Arctic Regions convened in Moscow last April to establish a single company that will oversee all logistical operations in the Arctic region and coordinate the activities of various levels of government..."

Map credit: "Past and projected summer sea ice decline in the Arctic" The Arctic Institute.


West Antarctic Is In Huge Trouble. But Now Scientists Say The Problem May Date Back to 1945.  Chris Mooney has the story at The Washington Post: "Science likes to surprise us. That’s the extraordinary, mind-opening thing about it. It’s possible that is now happening with one of the most stunning stories yet in the climate change saga — the finding that the enormous glaciers of West Antarctica appear to be retreating in an “unstoppable” way. It’s a process which, if it continues, could ultimately turn the West Antarctic ice sheet into an area of wide open ocean and raise global sea levels by 10 feet. It has long been assumed that this destabilization of West Antarctica was caused by human-induced climate change. However, a new study published in the journal Nature Wednesday may have just made that story considerably more complicated..."

Photo credit: "Crevasses on Pine Island Glacier." (J Smith.)

Perils of Climate Change Could Swamp Coastal Real Estate. Here's a link and excerpt from The New York Times: "Real estate agents looking to sell coastal properties usually focus on one thing: how close the home is to the water’s edge. But buyers are increasingly asking instead how far back it is from the waterline. How many feet above sea level? Is it fortified against storm surges? Does it have emergency power and sump pumps? Rising sea levels are changing the way people think about waterfront real estate. Though demand remains strong and developers continue to build near the water in many coastal cities, homeowners across the nation are slowly growing wary of buying property in areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change..."
Photo credit: "Waves crashing over an experimental sea wall built to protect homes during high tide in Isle of Palms, S.C., last year." Credit Mic Smith/Associated Press.

2016 Breaking Records In All The Wrong Places. CleanEnergy Footprints has a rundown on some of the most jaw-dropping weather of 2016; events that may have been amplified and magnified by a warmer,  wetter climate, according to WMO (World Meteorological Organization): "...Numerous extreme weather events caused catastrophic impacts to people around the world, including Hurricane Matthew and Typhoon Lionrock; major floods in the Yangtze basin, Sri Lanka, and the Niger River basin; extreme heat waves in Southern and Northern Africa and the Middle East; the Alberta wildfire; and Southern African drought. Together these extreme weather events killed at least 1,000 people, destroyed or severely crippled thousands of people’s homes and livelihoods, caused tens of billions of dollars worth of damage, and are expected to contribute to millions of people’s famine and displacement. A separate WMO report released last week showed that of 79 studies about extreme weather events published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society between 2011 and 2014, more than half found that human-induced climate change contributed to the extreme event in question..."

Meteorologist Tells Christians: Climate Change Is Real. More on our outreach to conservatives and evangelicals at Opposing Views: "...David Konisky of Georgetown University and Matthew Arbuckle of the University of Cincinnati studied the "religiosity" of Catholics, Protestants and Jews, and how their faith affected their environmental views. Konisky and Arbuckle wrote in their study, "Individuals that affiliate with an Evangelical Protestant church, all else equal, are less likely than both Mainline and Protestant churches to be worried about climate change." The study also found that Christians who believe the Bible is the literal word of God "are less likely to express high degrees of concern about the environment..."


Meteorologist Paul Douglas Hopes To Bridge Christian Climate Change Debate. My thanks to Jean Hopfensperger at The Star Tribune for the review: "The book, entitled “Caring for Creation: An Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment,” hit the bookstores this month. It is co-authored by the Rev. Mitch Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network. “I figured if people didn’t want to hear from scientists, maybe they’d listen to a minister and a meteorologist,” said Douglas. The book constructs the debate around evangelical values: It is the “personal responsibility” of Christians to protect God’s creation. It is “pro-life” because it is protecting children from illnesses from autism to asthma, as well as protecting all life on Earth..."

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