Conservation Minnesota

3+ Days of Polar Pain – Dangerous Wind Chills by Sunday

26 F. high in the Twin Cities Thursday.
23 F. average high on January 14.
24 F. high on January 14, 2015.
5″ snow on the ground at KMSP as of Thursday evening.
January 15, 1972: Cold air invades the region with a minimum temperature of -33 degrees F at Alexandria, -32 at Eau Claire, and -29 at the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport.

Weekend Temperature Depression: -35F Wind Chills?

Much will be made of our upcoming subzero weekend. It will lead local TV news – show up on the front page of the newspaper. Neighbors will gasp in feigned astonishment. But it’s a pale imitation of the cold waves that routinely gripped Minnesota as recently as the 70s and early 80s. A generation ago the mercury would stay below zero for extended periods of time; even a week or two. The trend is for shorter winters, with fewer subzero flings and record lows.

That won’t matter much as aerobic shivering overtakes Minnesota this weekend; air temperatures may stay below 0F the better part of 3 to 4 days. Sunday looks like the coldest day with the greatest risk of frostbite & hypothermia. Morning wind chills may dip into the -35 to -45F range. Seriously cold.

At least the sun will be out. Our coldest days pull clear, dry Canadian air southward, which helps to remove SOME of the sting. Cold comfort.

Temperatures moderate next week. A thaw is 8 days away; a mild bias into February. But for the better part of 4 days Minnesota’s weather lives up to it’s cruel, jaw-dropping reputation.


* 12z Sunday predicted ECMWF (European) wind chill values courtesy of WeatherBell.

A Flush of Subzero Air. Canada is about to unleash its biggest export, a fresh surge of numbing air, a taste of the polar vortex as temperatures dip below zero late tonight and stay below 0F for the better part of 3 days. 2-meter NAM temperature forecast: NOAA annd AerisWeather.


Coldest of Winter. A winter that I still suspect will be shorter and less cold (overall) than average, certainly milder than recent winters, thanks to a mild signal from an El Nino warm phase in the Pacific that may be even bigger than 1998. Sunday should be the coldest day (factoring temperature and wind chill) but temperatures may not rise above 0F from 2 AM Saturday through late morning Tuesday. European data suggests a thaw one week from Saturday. Source: WeatherSpark.

Sleeping In Until February. Temperatures in the metro may dip as low as -15 to -17F Sunday morning, with only slow recovery next week. The models are in good agreement that Sunday will take your breath away. Source: Aeris Enterprise.


Heavy-Duty Wind Chills. Once again models are in fairly tight alignment showing a minimum wind chill factor around 6 AM Sunday morning, as low as -35F in the Twin Cities.


Minnesota Snow Cover. There’s still less snow on the ground than typical for mid-January, and whatever snow is in your yard won’t be melting anytime soon. Map courtesy of the Minnesota DNR.


10-Day Snowfall Potential. Subzero air sliding over the Great Lakes (where lakes are no ice-covered, not yet) will create several feet of snow in the snow belts downwind. NOAA’s GFS model prints out a possible snow event from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia and New York City by the end of next week. Animation: AerisWeather.


Late Month Moderation. Winds aloft are forecast to become more zonal by late month, meaning a return to “average” weather (highs in the low to mid 20s). I envision a few days near freezing the last 4-5 days of January. Grilling weather. 500 mb GFS forecast valid Thursday evening, January 28.



Alex, First January Hurricane Since 1938, Forms in Atlantic. Let me check my calendar. No, it’s still not summer yet. Then why are hurricanes forming in the Atlantic. Could it be (insert dramatic pause here) supernaturally mild ocean water? Here’s an excerpt from USA TODAY: “…Alex is only the third hurricane ever recorded in January in the Atlantic Ocean, according to Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach. It is the first hurricane to form in January since an unnamed storm in 1938. The last storm to occur in January was Alice in 1955. That storm formed in December 1954. Hurricane records began in 1851. Typically, the season’s first hurricane occurs in early August...” (Image: NASA MODIS).

Unprecedented: Simultaneous January Named Storms in the Atlantic and Central Pacific. This should give you an idea of how freakishly warm the oceans are – tropical storms and hurricanes in January? Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Jeff Master’s WunderBlog: “As we ring in the New Year with record to near-record warm temperatures over much of Earth’s oceans, we are confronted with something that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago: simultaneous January named storms in both the Atlantic and Central Pacific. The earliest named storm on record in the Central Pacific, Hurricane Pali, formed on January 7, and now the Atlantic has joined the early-season hurricane party, with Subtropical Storm Alex spinning up into history with 50 mph winds in the waters about 785 miles south-southwest of the Azores Islands. The average date of the first named storm in the Atlantic is July 9; the Central Pacific also typically sees its first named storm in July…


Rare January Hurricane Forms in the Atlantic, Headed for the Azore Islands. The New York Times provides more perspective; here’s a clip: “…Hurricanes in the Atlantic are rare this time of year, with the season normally spanning June through November. The last time meteorologists saw a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean in January was in 1955, when one named “Alice” carried over from the previous month. But the emergence of Hurricane Alex is the first time since 1938 that a hurricane has formed in January in the Atlantic, according to the hurricane center, which has records going back to 1851…” (earth.nullschool.net)

Projected Track. I still can’t quite believe I’m tracking hurricanes in mid-January. Up is down and down is up. No threat to the USA or Europe, but Greenland may see tropical storm-force winds. Greenland? Map courtesy of the University of Wisconsin.

Lingering El Nino Could Mean Fewer Tornadoes This Year. 2015 was supernaturally quiet (until December). La Nina (cool phase) springs tend to be more active, but there is no room for complacency. Here’s a snippet from a Climate Central article: “…Specifically, the forecast is calling for a 54 percent chance of a below-normal number of tornadoes and 71 percent chance of fewer-than-normal hailstorms in the south central U.S. this spring, thanks largely to the continuing influence of El Niño. In an average year, the odds are normally split 33/33/33 between above-, below- and near-normal chances. Though the warm waters in the tropical Pacific associated with El Niño have likely passed their peak heat, their influence on the atmosphere and weather around the world will continue into the spring…”

Graphic credit above: “Spring tornado and hail forecasts for the south-central U.S. Credit: John Allen.



Clean Energy Investment By The Numbers. Here’s an excerpt of an encouraging report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance: “

  1. Wind and solar’s capacity share rises. The 122GW of wind and solar installed in 2015 made up about 50% of the net capacity added in all generation technologies (fossil fuel, nuclear and renewable) globally.
  2. No impact from low fossil fuel prices. Neither the 67% plunge in the oil price in the 18 months, nor continuing low prices for coal globally and natural gas in the US restrained the boom in clean energy investment.


Lowering the Risk of Slips and Falls. Although none of us can lower the risk to zero, there are some things you can do to manage the risk and lower the potential for a painful and dangerous fall on ice. Check your medications, consider exercises to help you with strength and balance (yoga?) and check with your doctor on preventative steps you can take. Here’s an excerpt from The National Safety Council with some good advice: “…Falls are preventable and aging, itself, does not cause falls. Some of the underlying causes of older-adult falls, such as muscle weakness, medications that cause dizziness, improper footwear, impaired vision, slick floors, poor lighting, loose rugs, clutter and uneven surfaces, can be improved. While falls can happen anywhere, they most often occur at home. What can you do to make your home or the home of someone you love safer?

  • Remove clutter, small furniture, pet gear, electrical cords, throw rugs and anything else that might cause someone to trip
  • Arrange or remove furniture so there is plenty of room for walking
  • Secure carpets to the floor
  • Wipe up spills immediately
  • Make sure outdoor areas are well lit and walkways are smooth and free from ice...”


What’s So Significant About Oil Prices at $30 per Barrel? The Washington Post provides analysis; here’s a clip: “…“The starting point is the oversupply in the world market and the battle for market share among the exporters,” says Daniel Yergin, a longtime energy expert and the vice chairman of IHS. “But the oil price is also being pounded down by the geopolitical rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Middle East, and the imminent return of Iranian oil under the nuclear agreement, and at the same time, by the increasingly big worries about the Chinese economy...”

Photo credit above: “A picture dated 27 April 2004 shows a BP plant in Cologne-Worringen, Germany. British energy giant BP on 12 January 2016 said it would cut a total of 4,000 jobs globally.” EPA/ACHIM SCHEIDEMANN.


Gasoline Cheaper Than Bottled Water? The Telegraph reports.

Mideast Desert Sands Could Store Solar Energy. The Middle East is rich in dirty oil and clean solar energy. Here’s an excerpt from Discovery News: “We’re used to thinking of the Middle East as an oil-rich region. But it’s quietly becoming a center for solar power as well, thanks in large part to the United Arab Emirates, which has invested billions of dollars in developing renewable energy technologies. Already that investment is bearing fruit. Researchers at the UAE’s Masdar Institute have demonstrated that desert sand from that country could be used to store energy at temperatures of more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius) in concentrated solar power facilities, or CSP…”

Photo credit above: “Researchers in the United Arab Emirates have found that local sand could be a useful medium for storing solar energy.” Masdar Institute.

U.S. Solar Jobs Swell 20% as Credits and Prices Spur Demand. Bloomberg Business has the story – here’s a link and excerpt: “The U.S. solar industry’s workforce grew by 20 percent last year as a federal tax credit and falling panel prices prompted more people to power homes and businesses with the sun. Roughly 209,000 people were working for solar companies in the U.S. last year, compared with 174,000 a year earlier and 143,000 in 2013, according to a report released Tuesday by The Solar Foundation. The study, based on data from 19,000 businesses, comes days after two of the largest U.S. solar installers announced plans to cut hundreds of jobs in Nevada...” (File image credit: U.S.  Marine Corp).


Hong Kong Scientists Engineer Plants for a Warmer Planet. Smart move. Here’s a clip from a story at Nikkei Asian Review: “Two researchers at the University of Hong Kong have separately developed ways to genetically engineer plants that grow faster and are more resistant to drought. The modifications could significantly increase the yields of various crops and allow them to be grown on lAgragen, an agribusiness based in Cincinnati in the U.S, is the first company to license the technology, which it plans to apply to an oilseed crop called camelina. and with dry, poor-quality soil, helping farmers to adapt to global warming and strengthening food security...”

Photo credit above: “Camelina seeds.” (Courtesy of Agragen)


“Giant Chasm Under Antarctic Ice.” Bigger and deeper than The Grand Canyon? Here’s an excerpt from The BBC: “A vast, previously unrecognised canyon system could be hidden under the Antarctic ice sheet. Hints of its presence are seen in the shape of the white continent’s surface, in a largely unexplored region called Princess Elizabeth Land. If confirmed by a proper geophysical survey – now under way – the winding canyon network would be over 1,000km long and in places as much as 1km deep. These dimensions would make it bigger than the famous Grand Canyon in the US…”

Image credit above: “Faint lineations in the ice surface have been traced by satellites (For comparison, the Grand Canyon is about 450km long).”


Why Almost Everything You Know About Food is Wrong. I watched an amazing doc on PBS, “In Defense of Food”, which details the way “nutritionism” can lead us astray. What’s good, what’s bad, what’s in or out this week? We still consume too much sugar, and going “low-fat” has had some very unpleasant side effects. Eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, going a little easy on meat, and looking for variety in your diet seems like good advice to me. Here’s an excerpt from a story at Vox:

“…A healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meats; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.
Additional strong evidence shows that it is not necessary to eliminate food groups or conform to a single dietary pattern to achieve healthy dietary patterns. Rather, individuals can combine foods in a variety of flexible ways to achieve healthy dietary patterns, and these strategies should be tailored to meet the individual’s health needs, dietary preferences and cultural traditions...”

Image credit above: Healthy Food Team.


In Defense of Food. Here’s a link to a recent doc at TPT2 and PBS that got my attention. It’s back to basics: if it’s a plant, eat it, if it was made in a plant, take a more cautious approach. Here’s a description of the full episode, which is available here: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” With that seven-word maxim, US-based journalist Michael Pollan distills a career’s worth of reporting into a prescription for reversing the damage being done to people’s health by today’s industrially driven Western diet. In Defense of Food debunks the daily media barrage of conflicting claims about nutrition. Traveling the globe and the supermarket aisles to illustrate the principles of his bestselling “eater’s manifesto,” Pollan offers a clear answer to one of the most confounding and urgent questions of our time: What should I eat to be healthy?

Cars and the Future. Talk about an underutilized and expensive resource. 90-95% of the time our vehicles are in the garage, on the street or in a parking lot – not being used. Is there a smarter, cheaper, more efficient way forward? Check out this story excerpt from Stratechery:  “…What is interesting, though, is that while change is certainly coming, it is coming on multiple axes: The Lyft news is about the secular shift from individually owned-and-operated automobiles to transportation-as-a-service, while the Chevrolet Bolt is about how the cars themselves are made. Meanwhile, Google, Uber, Tesla, and others are working on obviating the need for a driver at all. To put it another way, when it comes to questioning the future of transportation, the “What?”, “How?”, and “Where?” are all in play. It’s easy to predict a future where all of these trends coalesce: electrically-powered self-driving cars, summoned from our smartphones, take us where we need to go with plenty of time to finally beat Candy Crush...”


Can Chocolate Milk Lower the Risk of Concussion? I know it sounds ridiculous, but is there really a link? Here’s a clip from Quartz: “Chocolate milk is delicious, refreshing, and a great way to get calcium and sugar in one big gulp. But can it protect from concussions? Some US schools are spending tens of thousands of dollars on a Maryland-based company’s chocolate milk that it suggests can do just that. In December, the University of Maryland put out a press release announcing, “Concussion-Related Measures Improved in High School Football Players Who Drank New Chocolate Milk, UMD Study Shows...”
Photo credit above: “Nothing a little chocolate milk can’t fix.” (AP Photo/Matt Strasen).

You May Be Powerless to Stop a Drone Hovering Over Your Own Yard. Who has “air rights” above your house, above your yard? Great question – and more billable hours for hard-working lawyers. Here’s an excerpt from The Washington Post: “…For decades, the issue of who controls the nation’s air didn’t matter much to everyday Americans. Planes, after all, typically must stay hundreds of feet above ground while in the air. But drones that can take off or land almost anywhere — and the tech companies who dream of using them to deliver goods to your front porch — are igniting a debate over who exactly owns the air just above ordinary homes and lawns. “There is gray area in terms of how far your property rights extend,” said Jeramie Scott, national security counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center...”
Image credit: Pando.com.

Why Media Titans Would Be Wise Not To Overlook Netflix. Data analytics. That’s all I’m going to say about the potential long-term edge Netflix has that legacy media does not, at least not today in any meaningful way. Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times: “…Yet Netflix is still a tiny frigate in the global sea of the content business, and surely it’s no threat to the mightiest fleets in the industry. Your castles are safe, right? Well, here’s a scarier proposition for you and your fellow media executives to ponder while roasting marshmallows by the fire at Davos next week. What if Netflix is the Amazon of the entertainment industry — the embodiment of a slow, expensive, high-risk effort to consume the entirety of your business?
Photo credit above: “Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix, earlier this month at the International CES trade show in Las Vegas. The service is now accessible to more than 540 million households worldwide with broadband Internet access. Credit Steve Marcus/Reuters.

From Tesla, A New Car Smell That Vegans Can Get Behind. The New York Times has the story; here’s the intro: “For the eco-conscious car buyer, Tesla’s luxury electric vehicles, with their neck-snapping acceleration, are proof that performance doesn’t have to be sacrificed at the altar of saving the environment. But for some discerning consumers, there is a nagging problem. The leather in the seats and steering wheel requires slaughtering animals, and the cloth substitute doesn’t quite measure up for a vehicle that can cost more than $100,000. Now, in response, comes the Tesla that even a luxury-minded vegan could love. Synthetic leather, in a shade Tesla calls Ultra White, is available as an option for the new Model X sport utility vehicle…”
Photo credit above: “Leilani Münter, a professional racecar driver, environmental advocate and vegan, with her vegan Tesla in Huntersville, N.C.Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times.

TODAY: Coating of flurries – winds increase . Winds: NW 10-20. High: 19
FRIDAY NIGHT: Patchy clouds,  dipping below zero. Low: -6

SATURDAY: Sunny peeks, feels like -25F Winds: NW 10-20. High: -1

SUNDAY: Windchill Alert. Sunny,  dangerously cold. Feels like -35F. Wake-up: 16. High: -8

MONDAY: Arctic sunlight. Less wind. Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: -17. High: -1

TUESDAY: Clouds increase, few flurries. Wake-up: -9. High: 9

WEDNESDAY: Mostly cloudy, not as harsh. Wake-up: 3.  High: 19

THURSDAY: Partly sunny, more seasonable. Wake-up: 11. High: 23


Climate Stories…


Migration and Climate Change Top Risks Facing Global Economy. Here’s the intro to a story at Financial Times: “Forced migration and climate change are the biggest risks facing the global economy this decade, according to 750 experts surveyed by the World Economic Forum. The warning was published in the 11th edition of WEF’s Global Risks Report and in advance of the annual gathering of global leaders at Davos next week. More than 60m people are displaced worldwide, compared with 40m at the end of the second world war. Last year 1m migrated to Europe. The majority of the world’s forced migrants are internally displaced within Africa and the Middle East...” (Photo credit: AFP).

* The report from WEP, The World Economic Forum, is here.


Where Presidential Candidates Stand on Energy, Climate. Check out a good summary at The Des Moines Register; here’s an excerpt: “…Trump has called climate change a hoax and said he thinks “the scientists are having a lot of fun.” He said climate change fears have made it more difficult for U.S. manufacturers to compete with nations such as India. Trump has said he supports domestic energy production to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Trump has not said whether he supports a wind energy production tax credit, but has expressed support for the Renewable Fuel Standard…”


From Climate Change to “Technofossils” We’re Revising Earth’s Geological History. Here’s a snippet of an interesting story at MinnPost: “…For a generation or so, scientists in certain circles have bandied about the notion of “the Anthropocene” – a new division in Earth’s geologic time scale to reflect humankind’s pervasive influence on planetary systems, especially by driving climate change and species extinction. Now a  cross-disciplinary team of 22 researchers argues that human-caused change in virtually all the planet’s systems – including its very geology, through the introduction of  “technofossils” and other forms of “new rock” – is so pronounced that future scientists will see our influence as an unmistakable boundary marker in the ice cores, lake sediments and other samplings long used to chart the planet’s 4.5 billion-year-old record…”

Photo credit above: “An ice core from west Greenland shows a line marking what scientists call a shift from the Holocene epoch to the Anthropocene with glacial sediments giving way to nonglacial organic matter.”


ClimateVisuals. Telling the climate story effectively is non-trivial. Here’s an effective site that helps to provide the resources to communicate the changes and implications of what we are now measuring around the world: “While research on the verbal and written communication of climate change has proliferated, our understanding of how people interpret visual images of climate change is limited to a much smaller number of academic studies, which do not provide much in the way of practical guidance for communicators. As a result, the iconography of climate change has remained relatively static The report Climate Visuals: Seven principles for visual climate change communication (based on international social research) summarises the research underpinning climatevisuals.org and presents the key findings (see above) so that practitioners can take an evidence-based approach to visual communication. The imagery used to communicate climate change can and should be more diverse than polar bears and melting ice. Climate Visuals takes the first steps towards helping communicators tell a better visual story about climate change…”


How Sensitive is Global Warming to Carbon Dioxide? Another climate denial talking point bites the dust, as explained at Slate: “Another global warming denial talking point has—as so many have before it—apparently bit the aerosol. This time it has to do with climate sensitivity and a concept called “forcing.” These factors are critical to taking action about climate change, but also somewhat subtle, which means that it’s easy to obfuscate about them … as we’ll see in a moment. The basic idea is that the temperature of the planet responds differently to different things in the atmosphere...”


Kids Ask U.S. Presidential Candidates to Debate Science. Here’s a link to video and story excerpt via The Guardian: “… The Republican and Democratic candidates for president both held debates just days after the Paris climate summit, yet the debate moderators didn’t ask a single question about climate science—remarkable considering that climate change has emerged as a major global science, economic, environmental, tech, civil infrastructure, and foreign policy challenge. US journalists have similarly avoided asking the candidates about other major science, health, tech, and environmental issues. So Susan, who wants to be a scientist, decided to volunteer with other kids to create what may be the most memorable political ad you’ll see all year...”


Still Time to Register for The Third Annual Minnesota Climate Adaptation Conference. A reminder that the Third Annual Statewide Climate Adaptation Conference will be held on January 28, 2016 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in north Minneapolis. This year’s conference is designed for local officials, planners, engineers, natural resource practitioners and others who want to learn more about adaptation strategies that have worked or are being tested in various sectors of our community infrastructure including tribal communities, energy industry, local foods, emergency management, communication (media) and water resources. We will learn from several major corporations how they are addressing climate adaptation at the morning plenary session and will have a mayor’s panel at lunch to hear from several community decision makers. New this year is a tools cafe, where you can learn about various tools that are available to communities, as well as a poster session in the afternoon.

I’m looking forward to facilitating a discussion with Minnesota business leaders on how resilience, sustainability and innovation can turn a potential negative into a positive, for shareholders, investors and all Minnesotans as we transition to a clean-energy economy while preserving the Minnesota we’ve come to know and love for our kids and future generations.

From protecting precious water resources to the growing impact on Minnesota’s agricultural economy to tribal preparation to communication challenges and emergency management, there’s something at this conference for everyone. Attached you’ll find the draft agenda, which hopefully will assist you in making your decision to attend. Please follow this link to register for the conference!

https://www.wrc.umn.edu/news-events-0


As Exxon Faces Investigation, Investors Renew Pressure for Stronger Climate Stance. Here’s the latest installment from InsideClimate News: “Against the backdrop of the historic Paris climate treaty last month and in the face of mounting calls for sweeping investigations of the company, ExxonMobil investors have filed a series of shareholder resolutions seeking to reform the company’s climate change policy. Stockholders are demanding more transparency this year from the global oil giant over how much it spends on lobbyists and organizations dedicated to obfuscating climate science and opposing emission regulations designed to slow climate change. They want Exxon to pledge to comply with measures to hold global warming under the 2-degree Celsius limit set by the Paris accord, and they want the company to add climate-conscious board members...”


Liberals: Stop Your Climate-Change Hectoring. Because nobody wants to be accused of hectoring. Make it more about saving money/creating jobs than preserving the Earth? Here’s a snippet of an Op-Ed at Bloomberg View: “…In one paper, researchers at the University of Tennessee and Florida State University examined the best way to encourage people to use less energy at home. They found that trumpeting the environmental benefits of energy efficiency can change people’s behavior — but only for liberals. For everyone else, stressing economic benefits produced better results. Saving the planet may not be as persuasive as climate advocates hoped...”



Scientists Say Greenhouse Gas Emissions Have Canceled the Next Ice Age. Well here’s some truly good news, courtesy of The Washington Post: “…Moreover, the study says, massive human greenhouse gas emissions since that time have likely “postponed” what might otherwise be another ice age “by at least 100,000 years.” The new research is based on the idea that there are two key factors that shape whether the Earth goes into an ice age (or glacial period) or not.  There’s one that humans can influence, as well as one they really can’t. The factor out of our control is the Earth’s Milankovitch cycles, which describe the erratic way in which the planet orbits the sun and spins on its axis over vast time periods…”

Image credit: Williams College.


Millennial Voters Want a President Who Supports Energy, Climate Goals. Climate Nexus reports: “Millennials, ages 18-34, make up the biggest demographic group in the US and rank climate change and renewable energy among their top priorities for the next president, according to a new poll.  By an overwhelming majority of 80 percent, versus just 10 percent, those surveyed say the US should transition to mostly renewable energy by 2030. They also support government investment in public transportation and other climate change measures…”

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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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