Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Don't Write Winter Off Just Yet - Chance of Snow Increases Next Week - Cold Weather and the Flu

37 F. maximum temperature in St. Cloud yesterday.
23 F. average high on January 31.
40 F. high on January 31, 2016.

February 1, 1931: A 'heat wave' develops across southern Minnesota. St. Peter hits 60.

Winter Pulls Its Punch Into Much of February

"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness" argued American author John Steinbeck. He had a point - but I'm too cold to care much.

Looking at NOAA heating degree day data we've spent 17 percent less than normal heating our homes and businesses so far this winter. January was the warmest since 2012; yesterday the 17th day in a row warmer than average.

Long-range models hint at a mild bias into February but it would be premature to daydream about spring. Both ECMWF and GFS models spin up a sloppy storm next Tuesday, followed by a subzero slap the end of next week; just a couple days of mildly acidic Yukon Air Freshener. 30s (above!) return by mid-February. No panic necessary.

In the short term we cool off into Thursday; a coating of slush on Saturday - but dry for Super Bowl Sunday parties.

Today's blog includes research suggesting you're more likely to catch the flu after a cold snap, a spike in hospital admissions for heart problems a couple days after heavy snowfalls, and a link between smog and dementia in older women. Who knew? Details below.

Tuesday Graupel. It sounds like a General Mills cereal experiment that never saw the light of day. In reality grapel, sometimes called "soft hail" or snow pellets, is precipitation that forms when supercooled droplets of water are collected and freeze on falling snowflakes, forming 2–5 mm (0.08–0.20 in) balls of rime. The term graupel comes from the German language. Maybe so, but I'm still hungry for a bowl of cereal.

Shocker: Yet Another Storm for West Coast. Today looks fairly quiet, but NOAA's 12 KM NAM shows the next tentacle of Pacific moisture slithering ashore Thursday with locally heavy rainfall amounts - maybe another foot or two of snow? Some ski resorts have picked up 10-15 FEET of snow; what's another foot or two? Animation: Tropicaltidbits.com.

Brief Arctic Slap Late Next Week. Both GFS and ECMWF models (above) pull a noticeable shot of Canadian air into town behind a potential snow event the middle of next week; maybe a couple nights below zero before quickly recovering above freezing by mid-February. MSP numbers: WeatherBell.

Significant Snow Next Week? I know - I'll believe it when I see it. With the exception of the Rockies and west coast mountain ranges most of America is in a perpetual snow drought. But the leading edge of arctic air may spin up a more formidable storm capable of tapping moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA's GFS brings (very) plowable amounts of snow across the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes by the middle of next week. Too early to get excited - we'll have to watch and see how this unfolds.

Mid-February: Cold and Stormy East; Mild West. Looking out 2 weeks the chance of an east coast storm (mix of rain, ice and snow?) seems to be increasing again as a slow-moving trough of low pressure sets up, a potential storm incubator for the eastern third of the USA. Meanwhile temperatures trend milder than average west of the Mississippi with a badly-needed break from the storm parade from LA to Seattle.

25 Snowiest U.S. Cities So Far This Winter. Goldensnowglobe.com has a running tally of snowiest cities (with populations over 100,000). Rochester, New York and Rochester, Minnesota both made the cut so far: "...The first number is the current spot the city is on the snow mountain. The second number is where the city was at the end of the last update. We will be switching it to how the city started this season and then the current updated place as the cities receive snowfall totals. This is where the Top Twenty Five Snowiest US Cities leading so far in the new Golden Snow Globe Contest will be updated..."

Snow Totals Setting Records at Resorts. The snowfall amounts out west are pretty staggering; here's an excerpt from The Orange County Register: "...Mammoth Mountain, Lake Tahoe resorts and Big Bear Mountain Resort are reporting a record-setting month of snowfall after consecutive storms dumped enough snow to cover cars and shut down operations while leaving skiers and snowboarders salivating at the sight of new snow. Mammoth Mountain reports “the snowiest month ever on record,” with a week still left in January. The latest storm brought 58 inches of snow, sending the month's total to 241 inches, shattering the previous mark – 209 inches in December 2010. “We're already 3 feet over that,” said Mammoth Mountain spokesman Tim LeRoy. “It's a record breaker by a pretty wide margin.” Mammoth also is boasting the deepest snowpack of any resort in North America, with 345 inches for the season. Records at the resort date to 1969..."

Next Storm Winding Up in the Pacific. Visible satellite imagery from GOES showed the impressive storm off the west coast - more heavy rain and mountain snow pushes into California, Oregon and Washington  by Thursday.

Spring in January. Atlanta has experienced a record 11 days at or above 70 F in January. Unreal.

Flowers Already In Bloom. Plants, flowers and trees are in bloom close to the Gulf Coast,  a good 15-20 days ahead of schedule.

You're More Likely To Catch Flu After a Cold Snap, Study Says. Because we're indoors around other (sick) people - or bitter air is a shock to our immune systems? CNN.com has the story: "Cases of flu are on the rise, according to a recent statement from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and experts are warning that this year's flu season will be worse than last. Now, a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Virology is shedding some light on exactly how cold weather and the spread of viruses are linked. It turns out, seasonal flu outbreaks first appear each year about a week after the winter's first cold spell -- or at least that's what happened in Sweden, over the course of three years when researchers tracked weather patterns and the prevalence of the virus..."

Snowstorms May Bring Blizzard of Heart Troubles. Who knew? The result of stress from shoveling? Rougher commutes? Cold air behind the storm triggering asthmatic events? Drug.com's MedNews has the story: "Snowstorms may leave more than a big mess in their wake: New research shows a sharp spike in hospital admissions for heart trouble two days after these weather events. Hospital admissions for heart attacks, chest pain and stroke actually fell on the day of the storm, the study found, possibly because people can't get out for care. But they rebounded again within the next 48 hours. The reasons for the trends aren't clear, the researchers said..."

Air Pollution Increases Risk of Dementia Among Older Women, New Study Finds. Yale E360 has the story: "Older women who live in places with high air pollution levels are 92 percent more likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s, according to a new study by scientists at the University of Southern California. The risk is heightened even more in women with the APOE4 gene, a genetic variation associated with an increased chance of developing Alzheimer’s. It is the latest in a growing number of studies linking air pollution with dementia..."

Photo credit: "Smog over downtown Los Angeles, which is among the top five worst U.S. cities for air pollution." Steven Buss/Flickr.

How To Stop The U.S. Flood Insurance Program From Drowning in Debt. Expect this problem to worsen over time, as the frequency and magnitude of flooding events continues to increase. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at TheHill: "This month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) had to borrow another $1.6 billion from the Treasury to break even on its 2016 losses. Add that to the existing debt, largely due to hurricanes Katrina and Rita and Superstorm Sandy, and the NFIP currently is almost $25 billion in debt. The NFIP is up for reauthorization later this year, and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, has already said that reforming the program will be a “major focus” for his committee this year..."

File photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard Aircrews.

New Weather Satellites Can Spot Floods Before They Happen. WIRED has the story; here's an excerpt: "...And because GOES-16 can scan the entire globe in 15 minutes, the US in five, and a major weather event (like a tornado or hurricane system) in 30 seconds, you’d better believe that weather prediction, turbulence forecasts, and storm warnings will improve too. “If you have five more minutes of warning, that’s the difference between your kid playing down the street and being in your basement,” Webster says. “In the end it’s about saving lives and property...”

Storms Preview Sea-Rise Damage to California Roads, Cities. The Washington Post reports: " Ocean rise already is worsening the floods and high tides sweeping California this stormy winter, climate experts say, and this month’s damage and deaths highlight that even a state known as a global leader in fighting climate change has yet to tackle some of the hardest work of dealing with it. The critical steps yet to come include starting to decide which low-lying cities, airports and highways, along with threatened landmarks like San Francisco’s Embarcadero, to hoist above the rising water and which to abandon — and where to start getting the many billions of dollars for those climate rescues. “People always tell us we’re ahead of the curve” on climate change, said Larry Goldzband, head of a regional San Francisco Bay commission that late last year stepped up regional efforts to identify and prioritize communities and infrastructure at risk from rising sea level. As proud as Californians are of their climate-change efforts, “I always think, ‘Man, if we are ahead of the curve, I feel sorry for the rest of the country,’” Goldzband said..."

Photo credit: "This Jan. 14, 2017 photo provided by Fraser Shilling shows flooding along Highway 37 near Vallejo, Calif. Ocean rise already is worsening the floods and high tides sweeping California this stormy winter, climate experts say, and this month’s damage and deaths highlight that even a state known as a global leader in fighting climate change has yet to tackle some of the hardest work of dealing with it." (Fraser Shilling via AP) (Associated Press)

Extreme Weather is Becoming More Frequent - and Expensive - in Europe. Here's an excerpt from Pacific Standard: " ...This week, the European Environment Agency released its latest report, which clearly spells out the threat of rising sea levels and more extreme weather, such as more frequent and more intense heatwaves, flooding, droughts, and storms due to climate change. The report — updated every four years — says more flexible adaptation strategies are crucial to mitigating these effects. Climate-related extreme events in EEA member countries have accounted for more than 400 billion euros in economic losses since 1980, according to the report. One of the important new findings in the report is that there was no global warming pause between 1998 and 2012, as had been suggested by some temperature record evaluations later shown to be flawed...."

Flooding More Than Doubled Across Europe in 35 Years. Climate Central has more details: "The number of devastating floods that trigger insurance payouts has more than doubled in Europe since 1980, according to new research by Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company. The firm’s latest data shows there were 30 flood events requiring insurance payouts in Europe last year – up from just 12 in 1980 – and the trend is set to accelerate as warming temperatures drive up atmospheric moisture levels. Globally, 2016 saw 384 flood disasters, compared with 58 in 1980, although the greater proportional increase probably reflects poorer flood protections and lower building standards in the developing world. Ernst Rauch, the head of Munich Re’s corporate climate centre, said: “Flood events together with wind storm events are the two perils where we have the biggest increase in frequency worldwide..."

Photo credit: "A high tide combined with a storm surge floods the Menai Straits." Credit: Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/flickr

A Look at the Northwest Earthquake That Shook the World. The Pacific Northwest is just as vulnerable to earthquakes as California. Here's an excerpt from Seattlepi.com: "...An earthquake that shocked the whole coastline would’ve been massive, somewhere around 9.2 magnitude, and would’ve had to rupture the entire length of the 600 mile-long fault on the Cascadia subduction zone. But for years, scientists couldn’t narrow down exactly when it happened. By comparing historical records in Japan, oral histories of Native Americans and a complex computer simulation, researchers confidently pinpointed the earthquake to around 9 p.m. on Jan. 26, 1700. A quake of this magnitude could have gone on for five minutes or longer and would’ve generated a wave that would have resulted in a tsunami reaching Japan in about nine hours..." (Image credit above: EARTH Magazine).

Congress Claims Public Lands Are Worthless; We Disagree. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed that resonated from Reverend Mitch Hescox at Christian Post: "...In practice, what this means is public lands – the birthright of every American – become less accessible, or even off limits as states sell them to private interests. Most states simply do not have the financial resources to care for them properly, and it becomes easier for special interests to get their hands on them. As the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership puts it: "The national public lands transfer to the states would result in one likely outcome: the fire sale of these lands to the highest bidder – billionaires and foreign corporations who may neither understand nor value America's outdoor heritage. Once privatized, these lands will become off limits to most sportsmen in perpetuity." And not just off limits to sportsmen and the rest of us, but exploited for private gain as they go after what is below the ground with oil wells and pipelines and mining operations..."

Photo credit: " REUTERS/National Park Service. "A general view of the Yosemite Falls flowing in Yosemite National Park in this December 3, 2014 picture provided by the National Park Service."

Auto Dealers Want Trump To Weaken Car Emissions Rules. TheHill has the story: "Auto dealers are joining the call from carmakers for President Trump to roll back his predecessor’s aggressive vehicle emissions rules. At the group’s annual meeting in New Orleans, leaders and members of the National Automobile Dealers Association argued that the greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation make cars too expensive, Reuters reported. “You inflate the price of the vehicle, and a car that was maybe within reach of being affordable now may not be,” said Mark Scarpelli, the group’s new chairman, according to Reuters..."

Tesla Gives the California Power Grid a Battery Boost. Here's a clip from The New York Times: "Just off a freeway in Southern California, 396 refrigerator-size stacks of Tesla batteries, encased in white metal, have been hastily erected with a new mission: to suck up electricity from the grid during the day and feed it back into the system as needed, especially in the evening. The installation, capable of powering roughly 15,000 homes over four hours, is part of an emergency response to projected energy shortages stemming from a huge leak at a natural gas storage facility. The project, which officially comes online on Monday, is an important and surprising demonstration of how utilities can use enormous collections of batteries in place of conventional power plants..."

Photo credit: "Tesla battery packs at Southern California Edison’s Mira Loma substation." Credit Tesla.

Why Artificial Intelligence Could Be Key to Future-Proofing the Grid. Here's a clip from The Conversation: "...Emerging artificial intelligence technologies look like providing answers to these challenges. To select the best participants, for example, grid operators will be able to use sophisticated machine-learning techniques to model the behaviour of individual devices and battery storage units by reviewing data from smart meters and sensors. Once signed up for grid storage, it should be possible to estimate the useful lifetime of a battery pack or unit by applying prognostic algorithms to its charging/discharging data. Owners will then receive appropriate compensation, plus the added incentive of knowing how long their battery will last..."

Image credit: "Watt a good idea." Laurent T

Gates and Buffet Still "Hopeful". Here's an excerpt from a story at Reuters: "...Both told students it is important to invest and focus on doing good works over the long term, despite the impulse or perceived need for shorter-term thinking. Gates said this was particularly true in areas such as climate change and vaccinations, calling it just as important to be sure people can get vaccines as it is to develop them. Buffett said: "It's very hard to have politicians think of something that's wonderful for the country 20 years from now" if the short-term impact might cost them reelection, with their decisions often tainted by too much money, which he called "bad news..."

Photo credit: "Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, speaks while Bill Gates looks on at Columbia University in New York, U.S., January 27, 2017." REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton.

Tech That Will Change Your Life in 2017. The Wall Street Journal has an impressive list: "...The list below has become an annual tradition, where we talk to industry insiders, track the trends and otherwise gaze into our crystal ball to identify the tech that’s going to make an impact in the near term—for better and worse. One thing that struck us this year is the growing importance of software. You won’t necessarily need to buy a new phone, TV, watch or speaker to bring the advances of AI into your home. They’ll come in updates and apps, as well as in shiny new gadgets. This also has its downside: If you haven’t been hacked yet, the chances are even greater in 2017. And a handful of big companies will continue to consolidate their power over what you read and watch..."

Illustration credit: "We talked to industry insiders and tracked the trends to identify the tech that will make the biggest impact in 2017." Illustration: Jason Schneider.

History of the Super Bowl Gatorade Shower. Here's a shower you can predict with rare 100% accuracy. RollingStone has the story: "...But the Gatorade shower was not always a ubiquitous symbol of sports success. In fact, it was over three decades ago that the New York Giants originated the prank at the expense of then-coach Bill Parcells. And it was 30 years ago this year that Parcells received the most memorable Gatorade shower of his incredibly noteworthy career at Super Bowl XXI in Pasadena, California. It was the very first time the biggest football game of the season had seen a Gatorade dump. Someone else received their first Super Bowl Gatorade shower that day, too: Bill Belichick, who was then the defensive coordinator of the Giants, and is now head coach of the New England Patriots. If the Pats overtake the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI on Sunday, he'll likely receive another cooler bath, exactly 30 years from his first..."

Photo credit: "Bill Parcells gets a Gatorade shower after a victory." AP.

The Mystery and Occasional Poetry of...Um...Filled Pauses. Here's the intro to an illuminating explainer at Atlas Obscura: "Nearly every language and every culture has what are called “filled pauses,” a notoriously difficult-to-define concept that generally refers to sounds or words that a speaker uses when, well, not exactly speaking. In American English, the most common are “uh” and “um.” Until about 20 years ago, few linguists paid filled pauses much attention. They were seen as not very interesting, a mere expulsion of sound to take up space while the speaker figures out what to say next. (In Russian, filled pauses are called “parasite sounds,” which is kind of rude.) But since then, interest in filled pauses has exploded. There are conferences about them. Researchers around the globe, in dozens of different languages, dedicate themselves to studying them. And yet they still remain poorly understood, especially as new forms of discourse begin popping up..."
Photo credit: "Tokyo at night." Zengame/CC BY 2.0

Huh? Sorry - not feeling this one...

TODAY: Partly sunny, brisk. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 21

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy and chilly. Low: 9

THURSDAY: Blue sky, still cooler than average. Winds: NW 10-15. High: near 20

FRIDAY: Partly sunny, less wind. Winds: W 7-12. Wake-up: 7. High: 23

SATURDAY: Coating of wet snow possible. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 15. High: 29

SUNDAY: Drying out, better travel day. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 24. High: 35

MONDAY: Hints of March, still mild. Winds: E 5-10. Wake-up: 27. High: near 40

TUESDAY: Mix changes over to snow, heavy late? Falling temperatures. Winds: NE 15-25. Wake-up: 33. High: 36

Climate Stories...

U.S. Will Change Course on Climate Policy, Says Former EPA Transition Head. Here's an excerpt from Reuters and Yahoo News: "The United States will switch course on climate change and pull out of a global pact to cut emissions, said Myron Ebell, who headed U.S. President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team until his inauguration. Ebell is the director of global warming and international environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a U.S. conservative think tank, and helped to guide the EPA's transition after Trump was elected in November until he was sworn in on Jan. 20. Trump, a climate skeptic, campaigned on a pledge to boost the U.S. oil and gas drilling and coal mining industries by reducing regulation. He alarmed nations that backed the 2015 Paris agreement to cut greenhouse gases by pledging to pull the United States out of the global deal agreed by nearly 200 countries. However, Trump told the New York Times in November that he had an "open mind" on the agreement..."

Images of Change. NASA has an interactive web site that shows the dramatic decrease in ice coverage from September 1984 to September 2016. It turns out it's not only aerial coverage of ice, but ice thickness as well. In the 1950s submarines in the U.S. Navy reported ice 6-10 feet thick; now it's only a couple feet thick in many locations.

A Climate Change Economist Sounds the Alarm. Which strengthens my conviction that decarbonization will come about through economics (lower costs for clean renewables) and energy security, not politics. Here's an excerpt from Bloomberg View: "...In his latest analysis, though, Nordhaus comes to a very different conclusion. Using a more accurate treatment of how carbon dioxide may affect temperatures, and how remaining uncertainties affect the likely economic outcomes, he finds that our current response to global warming is probably inadequate to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above their pre-industrial levels, a stated goal of the Paris accords. Worse, the analysis suggests that the required carbon-dioxide reductions are beyond what's politically possible. For all the talk of curbing climate change, most nations remain on a business-as-usual trajectory. Meanwhile, further economic growth will drive even greater carbon emissions over coming decades, particularly in developing nations..."

A Volcanic Eruption in 1815 Proved Even Small Changes in Climate Have Disastrous Global Results. A couple of degrees can make a huge difference, as a story at Quartz confirms: "...A difference of just a few degrees in average global temperatures is associated with a number of far-reaching effects, such as food shortages, political unrest, mass migration, and a more rapid spread of diseases. How do we know? Well, that’s what happened last time. In 1815, an Indonesian volcano called Tambora erupted, sending an astronomically sized ash cloud into the air. What followed was a dizzying series of catastrophes—from worldwide famine to the spread of cholera, the world’s first pandemic—that paint an all-too-graphic picture of what we can expect in future if we don’t slow the progress of climate change today. When Tambora erupted in April of 1815, the blast was so loud it could be heard 1,200 miles away..."

Photo credit: "The 7-mile-wide crater left on top of Mount Tambora in Indonesia after its volcanic eruption in 1815." (Iwan Setiyawan/AP Photo/KOMPAS)

Bill Gates Warns Against Denying Climate Change. Here's an excerpt from USA TODAY: "Bill Gates warned against denying climate change and pushed for more innovation in clean energy, during an event Friday at Columbia University in New York. The billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder joined friend and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett for a question-and-answer session with students. “Certain topics are so complicated like climate change that to really get a broad understanding is a bit difficult and particularly when  people take that complexity and create uncertainty about it,” Gates said. The planet needs to find reliable, cheap and clean energy, "the innovations there will be profound," Gates said..."

Wisconsin Leads on Climate Research, Even As Agencies Cut Science from Websites. Here's an excerpt from Midwest Energy News: "...With an economy heavily dependent on agriculture, outdoors tourism and forestry, climate change could have a range of severe impacts, as WICCI has documented.  The trout fisheries that bring anglers from around the country could be seriously affected by warming waters and changing stream flows. Increased heavy rains could cause soil erosion devastating to farms and dairies. Warmer weather could affect wildlife and the spread of tick-born Lyme disease, a serious problem in a state famed for hunting and camping.  Groundwater crucial for agriculture and streams in the Central Sands area could be reduced, and political tension between different groundwater-using interests could grow. Increasing heavy storms could wreak havoc on towns and fishing operators on the coast of Lake Michigan..."

Wisconsin DNR Blatantly Ignores Climate Change Science. Here's an excerpt of an Op-Ed at USA TODAY: "...Currently, a few federal, and more state and municipal governments, as well as a great many businesses in the private sector are planning strategies for dealing with the impacts of climate change. Those impacts — which include rising sea levels, increased prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more wildfires, more severe droughts, more severe storms, permafrost thawing, and ocean acidification — are already significantly affecting our communities, ecosystems, economies and public health in negative ways. We should be outraged when an agency that works for and is paid for by the people of Wisconsin blatantly chooses to ignore information that clearly establishes human activity as the primary cause of climate change, a fact that must be addressed if our children and grandchildren are to have an environment that is even close to that which we have enjoyed. We expect our doctors to use the very best in scientific knowledge to help us when we get sick — not just in treating our symptoms, but in addressing the underlying causes..."

No comments:

Post a Comment