Conservation Minnesota

2 Plowable Snows Within 3 Days (why pending budget cuts may impact U.S. weather forecasts)

10 F. high temperature in the Twin Cities Tuesday.
30 F. average high on February 19.
44 F. high on February 19, 2012 – the big warming trend was already beginning (thanks to a mild Pacific flow and very little snow on the ground).

Trace of snow fell yesterday.

Plowable snowfall likely Thursday night into Friday.

Wet, slushy snow, probably plowable, expected next Monday and Tuesday.

55.4″ average winter snowfall in the Twin Cities. We’ll come very close at the rate we’re going.

Snowy Rumors
You have your pet peeves? So do meteorologists. Predict 4 to 8 inches and people remember 8. “Where’s that 8 inches you promised me, Paul?” We give a range of amounts because, as good as the models are, they’re not that good. “Why can’t you find an identical storm in the past to find out what we’ll get?” Every storm is different; every scenario is unique. There has never been a day identical to today. Humbling, and perpetually challenging.
Some perspective: we’re waking up to the second subzero morning of February; this makes 8 nights of negative bliss for MSP. The latest 30 year climate data shows an average of 22.5 nights below zero every winter. How do you get half a night below zero? Fun with statistics.
A deep layer of arctic air will insure all snow; fairly light and powdery Thursday night into Friday. I’m thinking something in the 4-7 inch range; 8-9″ for southern MN. You’ll want to play in all that fresh (perfect) snow Saturday.
Another southern storm pushes wet, slushy snow into town Monday night and Tuesday; maybe a few more sloppy inches. We’ll hit freezing next week (woo hoo!) but no springy warm fronts are in sight.
Old Man Winter isn’t nearly done with us yet.
 

Snowfall: Heaviest South/West of MSP. I still think we’ll see enough snow to shovel/plow Thursday night into Friday. For parts of Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas this could border on a crippling snowfall – light, powdery, prone to blowing and drifting. NAM guidance above shows predicted snowfall by midnight Friday, when snow should be tapering to flurries.

Looks Like Snow. We’re tracking two separate storms; one light and powdery snowfall Thursday night into Friday (3-7″), a second slushier, wetter snowfall early next week capable of a few more inches. Giddy times for snow lovers. Commuters? Not so much. Graphic: Iowa State.

 

ECMWF Guidance. The reason I’m including this is because (frequently) the European model does a slightly better job than the U.S. models, including NAM and GFS. Sometimes, but not always. The latest run is printing out less (liquid) precipitation for Friday’s storm. .31″ liquid would translate into 4-5″ of powdery snow. As temperatures approach freezing Monday and Tuesday snowfall will be wetter and slushier, .51″ could equate into another 3-5″ of wet snow. All told we’ll probably pick up another 10″ of snow between now and next Tuesday in the metro. Uh oh. Breaking news.

More Blizzards, Yet Less Snow Overall? I know it sounds like a disconnect, but it’s the same trend we’re seeing during the summer month: storms spaced farther apart, more time in-between rain events, but when it does decide to rain it comes down in buckets, torrents – tropical deluges. According to the Minnesota Climate Office southern Minnesota has experienced 3 separate 1-in-1,000 flash floods just since 2004. I could see one, but three? These trends are now spilling over into winter months, the result of a warmer atmosphere above to hold more water vapor. Basic physics. Here are more climate science details in today’s 2.30 WeatherNation Update.

“Hurricane Hunter” Planes Out Of Alaska, Hawaii Help Predict Winter Weather. Weather satellites only go so far – having Hurricane Hunter aircraft probe major winter storms can help initialize NOAA’s weather models with more accurate weather data – leading to consistently better forecasts. OregonLive.com has the story; here’s an excerpt: “JUNEAU, Alaska — What’s the trick to helping figure out winter weather on the U.S. mainland? One way, according to meteorologists, is sending a hurricane hunter aircraft from Alaska or Hawaii to fly reconnaissance over the Pacific Ocean. For about 15 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has conducted such flights with the goal of improving weather forecasts for the United States — an idea born after winter flights over the North Atlantic improved storm forecasting in Europe…”

Photo credit above: “Lead electronics technician Gabriel Defeo works at a console on NOAA’s Gulfstream IV aircraft during a Honolulu-based winter storms reconnaissance mission in January. The console controls the plane’s tail Doppler radar.” Associated Press.

Bitter Alaska – Possible Cue Of Warmer Air For Minnesota Withing 2 Weeks? When Alaska is unusually mild, Minnesota tends to be frigid, and vice versa. The fact that Alaska is turning bitter may be a cue that milder air will push into the Upper Midwest by early March. We’ll see. More details via NOAA and Facebook: “The combination of clear skies and a cold airmass has resulted in a chilly morning across northern Alaska. Temperatures of -40° F or colder were reported at many locations from the Interior to the North Slope. Although these readings are below normal for mid-February…no records were tied or broken. For the latest interior and northern Alaska weather information visit: www.weather.gov/fairbanks via Facebook.”

$188 Billion Price Tag From U.S. Severe Weather From 2011 To 2012. Climate Progress and beforeitsnews.com have the story; here’s an excerpt: “The United States was subjected to many severe climate-related extreme weather over the past two years. In 2011 there were 14 extreme weather events — floods, drought, storms, and wildfires — that each caused at least $1 billion in damage. There were another 11 such disasters in 2012. Most of these extreme weather events reflect part of the unpaid bill from climate change — a tab that will only grow over time….”

  • 67 percent of U.S. counties and 43 states were affected by “billion-dollar damage” extreme weather events in 2011 and 2012.
  • 1,107 fatalities resulted from these 25 extreme weather events in 2011 and 2012.
  • Up to $188 billion in damage was caused by these severe weather events in 2011 and 2012.
  • $50,346.58 was the average household income in counties declared a disaster due to these weather events—3 percent below the U.S. median household income of $51,914. [2]
  • 356 all-time high temperature records were broken in 2012.
  • 34,008 daily high temperature records were set or tied throughout 2012, compared to just 6,664 daily record lows—a ratio of 5-to-1.
  • 19 states had their warmest year ever in 2012.

Budget Cuts Threaten Weather Forecasts, NOAA Warns. Here’s a clip of a story from Climate Central and Huffington Post that made me do a double-take: “Automatic budget cuts set to take effect March 1 could add to the woes of the federal government’s troubled weather satellite programs, jeopardizing future forecasts, a top official said Friday. “It’s not going to be pretty,” outgoing National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco said of the package of across-the-board spending cuts known as “sequestration.” “The sequester has the potential to wreak havoc with so many different things, and satellites loom large within that,” she told reporters at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “There’s just so much uncertainty. Nobody knows how long it might last, and it’s very difficult to plan for that…”

Photo credit above: “The VIIRS sensor on the NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP satellite passed over the central eye of Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 25, 2012. Without the satellite data, NOAA’s weather forecasts would become less reliable.” Credit: JPSS/NOAA/NASA


Weather Satellites Could Miss The Next Hurricane Sandy. There may be a serious gap in coverage with the POES (polar orbiting) weather satellites; data which is fed into computer models, data which made a tangible difference forecasting major winter storms (and Sandy) during recent years. Here’s a portion of a Yahoo Finance article that caught my eye: “…Since the 1970′s, America had two sets of polar-orbiting weather satellites, one operated by the government’s weather researchers, and the other by military. In 1994, it was decided that combining them into one operation would save a lot of money. After 16 years of unsuccessful attempts to do that, the government threw up its hands and decided to split the task, giving the weather agency the late afternoon orbit and the military the early morning, with the mid-day orbit shared with the European space agency. But even these separate plans have been plagued by delays, and the GAO warns that the gap in afternoon coverage by the weather researchers could last from 17 to 53 months. The defense department, meanwhile has decided to launch previously mothballed satellites. which may not have the technology to perform the kinds of observation needed for weather forecasting…”

More Images From The New England Storm. Here’s an excerpt of a fascinating story at NASA’s Earth Observatory: “Marshall Shepherd, current president of the American Meteorological Society and director of the atmospheric science program at the University of Georgia, tweeted out this annotated version of a Terra MODIS satellite image of the storm aftermath. It seems that the monumental snowfall highlighted some land features of New England, including its longest river, one of the largest manmade reservoirs in the United States (Quabbin), and the scar of a vicious tornado…”

Impact-Based Severe Storm Warnings. NOAA is testing new wording (to get consumers to take action, to actually get up off their couches) in Kansas and Missouri. Here’s an excerpt of a story (and video) from WICS-TV: “From now on, severe weather events will include “impact-based” warnings. The idea has been tested in Missouri and Kansas already. The focus is to include statements that indicate how much damage will come with a storm, to give the public a better idea of a storm’s severity. The NWS works with local television and radio stations, as well as emergency management agencies, to disseminate storm information to the public through broadcasts and sirens. Generally, the Logan County Emergency Management Agency uses three factors to determine when they activate their outdoor sirens…”

In America Weather Forecasters Get A Yugo While Climate Modelers Gets A Ferrari. Here’s a portion of a post from Eric Berger at The San Francisco Chronicle: “Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, recently posted some eye-opening graphics about computers used by national forecasters. The post came after a forecast model run by the European forecast center (ECMWF) kicked the tail of the U.S. model (Global Forecast System) in regard to both Hurricane Sandy and the recent blizzard that struck the northeastern United States. In both cases the European model showed a clear severe storm threat to the northeastern United States five days out where the American model did not. “Disappointing,” Mass concludes. If you’re interested, I also recently interviewed one of the top European modelers about some of reasons why they’ve become so successful…”

Researchers Prove Air Pollution Causes Heart Attacks. Forbes has the eye-opening article; here’s the intro: “Air pollution causes heart attacks and death. Especially when the pollutants include ozone and particulate matter. And more often in the summer time, when ozone levels are higher. These are the conclusions of researchers at Rice University who studied the 11,677 cases of cardiac arrest logged by emergency services personnel in Houston, Tx. between 2004 and 2011. They found that during periods of peak pollution, the heart attack risk to Houston residents increases as much as 4.6%…” (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan).

* America’s 20 Dirtiest Cities? 7 of them are in California. Forbes has the details here.

Normally Typhoon-Free Mindanao (Philippines) Suffers 3rd Cyclone In 2013. Weather patterns are shifting, and there are few climate change skeptics in the Philippines after a series of devasting cyclones (same thing as hurricanes, only even more intense over the western Pacific). GMA News has the story; here’s an excerpt: “Weather disturbances are usually unheard of in Mindanao, especially at this time of year. But these are no longer ordinary times. Three storms have already hit the country’s south in 2013, including Tropical Depression Crising which made landfall over Davao del Sur at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Two of the deadliest storms to strike the Philippines in the last two years,  “Sendong” and “Pablo,” barreled through Mindanao and away from the usual typhoon belt of Samar heading north to Luzon. Auring and Bising were the first cyclones to hammer Mindanao this year…”

Inquirer Editorial: Must Storms Have Their Own Names? I’m going to start naming sunny days, just for something to do. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed from Philly.com: “The creeping acceptance of a mercenary scheme to name winter storms is not among the most important things in the news, or even the weather. But like an ill wind, it carries an unmistakable whiff of chaos and dissipation. The system for naming hurricanes and tropical storms was developed over decades to facilitate communications about weather patterns that can endanger large swaths of the planet. Storms must reach sustained winds of at least 40 m.p.h. before they earn a name from one of several rotating lists established by an international committee of the U.N. World Meteorological Organization in Geneva. Officials even have a deliberate procedure to retire the names of the most damaging storms once a year...”

Welcome To My World. Wally, I feel your pain. I like the snow, but I could live without the subzero stuff. But it lowers the crime rate (allegedly) and my garbage doesn’t stink, so there are benefits. Next week will be milder. Freezing will feel disturbingly good.

Last Frigid Day This Winter? That’s more of a hope than a forecast, but I don’t see any more bitter, subzero air looking out 2 weeks. Tuesday highs never rose above zero at Alexandria and Redwood Falls.

Paul’s Conservation Minnesota Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:



TODAY. Numbing start. Bright sun. Winds: NE 3-8. High: 14
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Clear, not quite as col. Low: 3

THURSDAY: Winter Storm Watch. Clouds increase. Snow at night. High: 22

FRIDAY: Snow tapers. 3-7″ expected. Slow, icy travel. Wake-up: 19. high: 27

SATURDAY: Peeks of sun. Go play in the snow. Wake-up: 16. High: 26

SUNDAY: Intervals of sun, still quiet. Wake-up: 14. High: near 30

MONDAY: Gray. Wet snow Monday night. Wake-up: 25. High: 31

TUESDAY: Snow tapers. Few more sloppy inches of snow? Wake-up: 26. High: 33
* photo above courtesy of Bryan Hansel Photography.

Climate Stories…

Forecasting Climate With A Chance Of Backlash. My friend, Jim Gandy, is a seasoned TV meteorologist in Columbia, South Carolina, a (very) red state. He’s been including regular segments on climate change in his television weathercasts, tying it into the changes South Carolinians are already witnessing all around them. Jim’s efforts are featured in this NPR story, where I’m briefly quoted. Here’s an excerpt: “When it comes to climate change, Americans place great trust in their local TV weathercaster, which has led climate experts to see huge potential for public education. The only problem? Polls show most weather presenters don’t know much about climate science, and many who do are fearful of talking about something so polarizing. In fact, if you have heard a weathercaster speak on climate change, it’s likely been to deny it. John Coleman in San Diego and Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That? are among a group of vocal die-hards, cranking out blog posts and videos countering climate science. But even many meteorologists who don’t think it’s all a hoax still profoundly distrust climate models. “They get reminded each and every day anytime their models don’t prove to be correct,” says Ed Maibach, who directs the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, and has carried out several surveys of TV weathercasters. “For them, the whole notion of projecting what the climate will be 30, 50, a hundred years from now, they’ve got a fairly high degree of skepticism“….

Is It Time For A National Climate Summit? The short answer is yes. Here’s an excerpt of a story at The Summit County Citizens Voice: “Citing damage from intense storms like Sandy, more intense and frequent wildfires and prolonged droughts, a coalition of national groups, including the American Meteorological Society and the American Fisheries Society, are calling for a national, science-based climate summit. In a Feb. 8 letter to President Bararck Obama, the groups said the summit “would be designed to identify policies and actions that can be taken by each Federal agency and by state and local governments to address the causes and effects of climate change.” Other groups signing on to the letter include: Society for Conservation Biology, Society for Ecological Restoration, The Wildlife Society and the Ecological Society of America...”

China To Introduce Carbon Tax: Official. Now I’ve seen everything. Here’s a clip from the China’s official news agency, Xinhua: “BEIJING, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) — China will proactively introduce a set of new taxation policies designed to preserve the environment, including a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, according to a senior official with the Ministry of Finance (MOF). The government will collect the environmental protection tax instead of pollutant discharge fees, as well as levy a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, Jia Chen, head of the ministry’s tax policy division, wrote in an article published on the MOF’s website. It will be the local taxation authority, rather than the environmental protection department, that will collect the taxes…”

Volcanic CO2 Caused Ancient Episodes Of Global Warming. Keep in mind that (today), volcanoes spew greenhouse about the same amount of greenhouse gases, including CO2, as the state of Florida. It wasn’t always this way – tens and hundreds of millions of years ago volcanoes were erupting (simultaneously) around the world, pumping enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, leading to dramatic warming. Climate Central has the details; here’s a clip: “The main effect of volcanoes in the modern world is to cool the planet by throwing particles of sulfur dioxide high into the stratosphere, where they temporarily block the Sun. In the distant past, however, paleo-climatologists have long believed that volcanic activity was a major cause of global warming. Massive eruptions – far more powerful than anything going on today – can pump large amoounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the air. The problem with that theory is that those events don’t last long enough to explain periods of warmer climate that have lasted tens of millions of years…”

Photo credit above: “The new idea is that it’s a more sustainted series of eruptions from volcanoes in strategic locations along the edge of continents that cause  these long periods of warmth.” Credit: flickr/NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Study Links Tobacco, Tea Party, Climate Denial…And Climate Change. Climate Denial Crock of the Week has the story (and video clio). Here’s an excerpt: “The anti-science movement is rooted in decades old realization among conservative corporate and political entities, that the findings of science were not always compatible with the economic interests of the wealthy and powerful. (read this post first for background. If you still have 17 minutes, the video above is worth your time) The publication of an exhaustive investigation into the origins of a tobacco funded anti-science movement got headlines last week, as clear lines can now be drawn between corporate pirates like David Koch, the Tobacco barons, and “grassroots” movements like the Tea Party, all of which are prominent in the climate denial movement...”

The Case For Civil Disobedience on Climate Change. Bill McKibben’s efforts are highlighted in this Treehugger story; here’s a clip: “To better understand why it is so important to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and why tens of thousands rallied in DC on Sunday and why activists participated in acts of civil disobedience, you must understand the math of global warming. Unfortunately, the media has often framed the fight over the tar sands pipeline as a matter of regional concern over risks to the water supply. And while those concerns are valid, Keystone is dangerous to the entire world and a threat to regional water supply. Bill McKibben did a superb job explaining the basics of the climate crisis with three key numbers in his must-read post for Rolling Stone last summer…”

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About Paul Douglas

Paul Douglas
Paul Douglas is a meteorologist, author, entrepreneur, and software expert in Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota. He is a nationally recognized meteorologist with over 30 years of broadcast television and radio experience.
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