30 F. high in the Twin Cities Tuesday.
25 F. average high on February 2.
16 F. high on February 2, 2015.
February 3, 1989: Bitterly cold temperatures occur across Minnesota with lows in the 40-below-zero range in the north.
February 3, 1947: A strong dust storm hits Crookston with winds near 50 mph. Visibility was reduced down to 300 feet.
Anatomy of a White-Out: Are We Getting Soft?
There’s no denying Tuesday afternoon was a weather-mess, one notch below a blizzard in the metro. Snow was falling so hard plows couldn’t keep up; a treadmill of creeping traffic steamrolling snow into glaze ice.
Some questioned the wisdom of closing schools in advance and sending workers home early. No matter what you do you’re going to hear criticism, but putting student and employee safety first makes sense to me. Half a foot of snow was considered “flurries” in the 1970s. Since then traffic volume has nearly tripled.
Research highlighted in today’s weather blog shows a 19 percent spike in traffic accidents during wintry weather, especially the PM commute.
And up until yesterday our biggest one-day snow was 3.8 inches. We can be excused for being a little paranoid.
Expect to see the sun later today as Minnesota digs out; highs in the 20s until we top freezing this weekend. A snowy coating is possible for Super Bowl Sunday, followed by a couple of cold smacks the second week of February. An extended Pacific thaw may be 2 weeks away.
Get out and play in that powder now!
* Google Traffic at 2:14 PM Tuesday.
Preliminary Snow Totals. We predicted 4-8″ and final amounts were definitely at the upper end of that range, even exceeding 8″ in Minneapolis and multiple suburbs, with 10″ at the airport in St. Paul. The axis of heaviest snow setting up along the storm’s (northwestern) deformation zone shifted about 75 miles farther north and west as the storm lifted northeast, lingering right over the metro. The (tentative) Golden Snow Shovel Award goes to Oakdale wiith a cool foot of snow reported. Nice to know it can still snow in the Twin Cities. Updated amounts are here.
Nothing Numbing Until Next Week. Today will be a few degrees below average, but the sun should come out as we dig out. Temperatures thaw to or above freezing this weekend before a much bigger dip next week; not as cold as a couple weeks ago, but cold enough to get your attention. The arrival of this next cold front may whip up strong winds Sunday night into Monday capable of significant blowing and drifting, especially outside the metro area. Keep that in mind for the drive home from your Super Bowl party Sunday night. Source: WeatherSpark.
Canada Is Still Open for Business. GFS guidance brings a few waves of numbing air south of the border next week; my (strong) hunch is that the second week of February will run 10-15F colder than average. Animation: AerisWeather.
Warming Trend Latter Half of February. Long-range models continue to hint at a Pacific flow returning by the third week of February, a correction with readings well above average. It’s early for specifics, but if this forecast verifies (and the last few runs have been consistent) we could see 30s, even a few 40s.
This Map of 30 Years of Car Crashes Should Pursuade You Not To Drive In Snow. As if we have a choice in the matter. Stay home 6 months out of the year? I’m sure the boss would have NO problem with that. Here’s an excerpt from Vox: “…In a separate study of 13 major cities, Black and Mote found a 19 percent increase in traffic crashes and a 13 percent increase in injuries during wintry conditions. The type of winter precipitation (snowfall versus freezing rain, ice pellets, or sleet) had no bearing on the increased likelihood of an accident, but evening hours experienced a greater rate of accidents than other times of day. Winter precipitation did not increase the odds of being in a fatal crash, however. Black said this was “presumably because people slow down,” and at reduced travel speeds the risk of being in a fatal car crash does not increase…”
Map credit above: “Winter-Precipitation-Related Transportation Fatalities in the US, Alan W. Black and Thomas L. Mote.” Credit: Sarah Frostenson.
Groundhog Predicts An Early Spring! (?) Put down the cheap champagne; Punxetawney’s track record is less than ideal (but he sure is cute). This is only the 18th time since the late 1800s that Phil didn’t see his shadow, in case anyone asks. Here’s an excerpt from Weather Underground: “…Phil saw his shadow in 2015, predicting six more weeks of winter. While February ended up colder than average over the contiguous U.S. in 2015, March was much warmer than average (the 12th warmest March since 1895), making it difficult to grade Phil’s forecast as being successful or a flop. NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) analyzed Punxsutawney Phil’s forecasts between 1988 – 2015 (thanks to Doyle Rice of USA Today for pointing this out.) If we evaluate just the twelve years when the departure of February and March temperatures from average over the contiguous U.S. were both of the same sign, Phil had five correct forecasts and seven blown forecasts. NOAA concluded in last year’s version of this analysis that “It really isn’t a ‘bright’ idea to take a measure such as a groundhog’s shadow and use it as a predictive meteorological tool for the entire United States…”
How Accurate are Groundhogs and 8 Other Animals at Predicting Weather? Inquiring minds want to know, and Marshall Shepherd has a good summary at Forbes; here’s an excerpt: “…Groundhogs. A 2011 analysis by Weather Underground meteorologist Tim Roche showed that Phil’s accuracy is about 36% when compared to meteorological data back to 1969. This is consistent with a 39% accuracy rate as calculated by Stormfax and NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (now the National Center for Environmental Information). The article in question cites ~50% accuracy rate but that was for a very short window of data and different groundhogs. Bottom line: It is less accurate than a coin flip. But did you really need me to tell you that?…”
Photo credit above: “Groundhog Club handler Ron Ploucha, center, holds Punxsutawney Phil.” (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar).
Four Faunal Forecasters. The National Environmental Education Foundation has a story that addresses much-maligned groundhogs, wooly bear caterpillars, cows, crickets and others critters and their valiant attempt to predict the weather; here’s an excerpt: “…Move over, Punxsutawney Phil. Groundhogs aren’t the only animals known to “predict” the weather. Phil may be the most famous, but he’s certainly not the most accurate. Here are four animals that are known for their weather wisdom. Some of these proverbs are true, while others are not. Can you guess which ones are real?
Fact or Fiction? The width of a Woolly Bear Caterpillar’s orange stripe can predict how mild the winter will be. Fiction! According to an old proverb, if the width of a Woolly Bear Caterpillar’s reddish-brown stripe is wider than usual, the coming winter will be mild. Conversely, a narrower stripe means the coming winter will be harsh. While some scientific evidence suggests that this may be related to the previous winter’s severity, there’s no correlation between the stripe’s width and the following winter’s severity…”
To Name or Not Name Winter Storms. Are you a fan of names for big winter storms? Should NOAA step up and take this over, like they do for hurricanes? Here’s an excerpt from a story at JConline: “…Some social scientists have recently questioned the effectiveness of naming winter storms to raise public awareness if multiple or humorous names are going to be used. Despite the initial push back, winter storm naming appears to be accepted by the public and is becoming more popular. This winter, the UK Met Office and its Irish counterpart began to name winter storms. Norcross says that he would like to see the National Weather Service take over naming winter storms in the near future. That idea has an uncertain outcome, but the discussion will continue among all entities in the weather community…”
Weather Facts Throughout Super Bowl History. A soggy Sunday in the Bay Area for Super Bowl 50? El Nino winters tend to be wetter than average for California so the odds of puddles are higher. Here’s an excerpt from an interesting post at Forbes: “…A recent article at Weather.com caught my eye because it asked the question, “Will El Niño Help Soak the Super Bowl? It is not an unreasonable question given the history of El Nino and wet conditions in California. According to Weather Channel meteorologist Jon Erdman,
Four out of five strong El Niño Februaries were wetter than average in the Bay Area….Taking an average of all five Februaries above, you’d expect measurable rain 16 days of the month. In other words, you’re more likely to see a wet February day during a strong El Niño in the Bay Area than a dry day…”
* More Super Bowl weather trivia can be found here, courtesy of Southeast Regional Climate Center.
El Nino-Fueled Rain, Snow Pump Up California’s Water Supply, Ease Drought. Here’s an excerpt from a story at USA TODAY: “El Niño-fueled rain and snowstorms, including yet another one forecast for this weekend, may mean a let up in the multi-year California drought. Some of the best news comes from the Sierra Nevada, where the snowpack, the mass of snow on the ground, is 15% more than normal – more than the drought-stricken state has seen in five years, the California Department of Water Resources said. The Sierra snowpack contributes nearly a third of California’s water when it melts in the spring, the Associated Press said...” (Image: KQED and NOAA Regional Climate Centers).
1 Minute Updates. Check out the visible loop from yesterday’s squall line that sparked a few confirmed tornado touchdowns across Mississippi. This is experimental imagery from the new GOES-R (GOES-14) sounder, a taste of what’s to come. Pretty amazing. Source: University of Wisconsin SSEC.
glittering.blue and scrolling around. Glittering Blue was created this weekend by Charlie Loyd. During the day, Loyd is a satellite-imagery analyst for Mapbox, though Glittering Blue is a side project. Himawari-8 captures a full-disk image of Earth every 10 minutes, and an image of Japan of similar quality every 150 seconds. It sits in high geosynchronous orbit over Japan, which means it orbits the planet exactly as quickly as the Earth rotates. It is always “synced” to Japan. That’s why it shows so much more of the Earth than other satellites and also why it shows this part of the Earth...”It’s satellite imagery as you’ve never seen it before. It simply looks like the Earth. I can only recommend going to
Image credit: JMA / Charlie Loyd.
Watch All of 2015’s Weather in Super High-Def. Just how bored are you right now. This is better than wading through another Powerpoint deck or listening to the boss ramble; an excerpt from Climate Central: “Another year of wild weather is behind us. But thanks to EUMETSAT, you can now relive it in amazing high-definition video from space. The new visualization uses geostationary satellite data from EUMETSAT, the Japan Meteorological Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to stitch together 365 days of data into one stunning highlight reel of 2015’s weather...”
Animation credit above: “The transition of Hurricane Joaquin near the Bahamas to an extratropical storm that hit the U.K.”
The Moon’s Tidal Forces May Affect How Much It Rains. I didn’t see this coming; an excerpt from an eyebrow-raising story at Smithsonian.com: “The moon has long been linked to the ebb and flow of ocean waters—as the gravity of the moon pulls on Earth, the oceans bulge toward it ever so slightly and water levels fluctuate. Now, scientists have discovered another way that silvery body in the sky affects its closest neighbor’s water. A new study suggests that the phase of the moon changes how much it rains on Earth. Scientists spent two years tracking and verifying the phenomenon, they write in a release. It all started when a doctoral student at the University of Washington spotted a very slight oscillation Earth’s air pressure that corresponded with different moon phases. His research team then used 15 years of weather data to tie that oscillation to rainfall back on Earth…” (22 degree halo file photo: Steve Burns).
Bank of America: The Oil Crash is Kicking Off One of the Biggest Wealth Transfers in Human History. A story at Bloomberg Business got my full attention; here’s an excerpt: “…A new note from Francisco Blanch at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, however, puts the oil move into a much bigger perspective, arguing that a sustained price plunge “will push back $3 trillion a year from oil producers to global consumers, setting the stage for one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history.” Blanch and his team already see evidence that the fall in the price of crude is having a positive impact on demand, and say that it could accelerate even further if prices don’t pick up…”
Image Source: BofA.
Will Alaska Become the Next Detroit? Here’s an excerpt from CNBC: “As the price of oil continues to plummet, the ripple effect — on jobs, energy companies, the stock market — is painfully felt. The impact has even reached America’s “Last Frontier.” Earlier this month, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Alaska‘s AAA general obligation bond rating, officially making the state the most recent victim of the oil decline…”
Sooner or Later, A New Economy. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at Times-Argus that resonated: “…Someone, somewhere, is going to reinvent how we move around — how we transport ourselves and the material we use — in revolutionary ways that save energy, space and time. Someone, somewhere, is going to reach and uncover disruptive new technologies that change the way we build, rebuild, heat, cool and live in our homes and businesses while consuming as little of the earth’s resources as possible. Someone, somewhere, is going to reimagine what — or if — we throw away, and what we renew or recycle…”
How To Finance a Trillion Dollar Climate Change Opportunity. Greentech Media has the article; here’s a link and excerpt: “…Part of the reason oil, coal and gas have been so successful is that governments supported their build-out and expansion with incentives including direct investment, favorable tax treatment, and subsidies. G20 countries still subsidize fossil fuels far more than they support clean energy — to the tune of $450 billion annually. These subsidies are perverse; they are using public funds to create a problem the world has agreed to fix in Paris. And they leave us all to pay the societal costs that fossil-fuel pollution causes. The opportunity is enormous. According to a report released last week by IRENA in Abu Dhabi, merely doubling the amount of clean energy by 2030 from 2010 levels — an increase well short of the increase modeled by BNEF for 2040 — lifts global GDP by $1.3 trillion…”
Why Zika Is This Year’s Scary Virus. Here’s an excerpt from a good background piece at National Geographic: “…Zika infections carried by travelers have been brought back to Minnesota, New York, Hawaii (where a microcephalic baby was born), and other states in the U.S. The question about such cases, in the U.S. or elsewhere, is: Will infected people infect Aedes mosquitoes, who will infect other people? It’s big question, given that the Asian tiger mosquito is now also present across southern Europe, including much of Italy, and both the tiger mosquito and the yellow fever mosquito inhabit most Asian cities. By one account, more than half the humans on Earth live within areas infested by Aedes mosquitoes...”
Sky Walk. This is pretty amazing, the world’s greatest slide descending 18 stories from a mountaintop viewing platform. Wouldn’t this make a nice addition to the St. Paul Winter Carnival? Here’s a clip from Atlas Obscura: “Scenic walkways have leveled-up as of December 2015, when Czech architecture firm Fránek Architects debuted their extreme Sky Walk on a peak in the Krkonoše Mountains. High atop one of Dolní Morava’s famed peaks sits a looping strutcture that looks more like a space-age roller coaster than scenic walkway. Offering panoramic views of the Morava river valley and the rest of the surrounding mountain range, the year-round adventure resort set out to add a little something extra to the experience of sticking one’s head in the clouds…” Photo credit: 07fredy on Instagram.
TODAY: Risk of shoveling. AM flurries, PM sun. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 21
WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Patchy clouds. Low: 8
THURSDAY: Weak clipper, few flurries. Winds: SW 7-12. High: 23
FRIDAY: Coating – 1″ of light, PM snow possible. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 9. High: 25
SATURDAY: Partly sunny, chance of a thaw. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: 19. High: 32
SUNDAY: What football game? Snowy coating. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 28. High: 33
MONDAY: More flurries, cold wind. Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 18. High: 21 (falling)
TUESDAY: Leftover clouds, feels like February. Subzero wind chill. Wake-up: 5. High: 13
Groundhog Decade: In This Movie, It’s Always The Hottest Decade on Record. Here’s the intro at ThinkProgress: “Somewhere on a Hollywood movie set for Groundhog Day, Part Two: Bill Murray wakes up to find he’s just lived through the hottest decade on record, just as he did in the 2000s, just as he did in the 1990s, just as he did in the 1980s. And he keeps waking up in the hottest decade on record, until he gains the kind of maturity and wisdom that can only come from doing the same thing over and over and over again with no change in the result. Ah, if only life were like a movie. Here is global mean surface temperature — by decade…”
Climate Change in Charts: From Record Global Temperatures to Science Denial. The Guardian lays out the evidence (in chart-form); here’s the intro: “Much has been written about climate change in recent months, what with that record-breaking hot year we just had and the qualified success of the Paris climate talks. But if there’s one criticism I’d have of the media coverage, it’s this. Not enough graphs. So here are six that you might have missed, but that tell us a few things about the state of the climate and the state of the public’s thinking on global warming…”
Graphic credit: “Chart showing average global temperatures from 1850 to 2015 according to three major datasets.” Photograph: Met Office, UK.
Five Facts That Reveal a Warming Planet. Here’s a snippet of an Op-Ed at livescience.com: “…Here, in an effort to set the record straight, are five facts about climate change everyone needs to know.
1) Climate change never took a break.
You may have heard that, according to satellite data, there has been no significant warming for the last 18 years. This is grossly misleading. Eighteen years ago, El Niño drove up global temperatures , making 1998 an exceptionally hot year. Contrarians use 1998 as a baseline because subsequent warming appears modest by comparison. However, the mercury has continued its inexorable rise. Since the 1880s, average temperatures have risen 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, on average. 2015 was the hottest year on record, according to NOAA, and 2016 will likely be even hotter...” (Image credit: NASA).
Long Term Global Warming Requires External Drivers. Here’s a summary of new research at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke: “By examining how Earth cools itself back down after a period of natural warming, a study by scientists at Duke University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirms that global temperature does not rise or fall chaotically in the long run. Unless pushed by outside forces, temperature should remain stable. The new evidence may finally help put the chill on skeptics’ belief that long-term global warming occurs in an unpredictable manner, independently of external drivers such as human impacts...”
This Chart Shows Why Your Conspiracy Theory Is Really Dumb. Mother Jones takes a look at a new study that attempts to quantify conspiracy theory ideation; here’s a clip: “…In a new peer-reviewed paper in the journal PLOS ONE, an Oxford physicist devised a mathematical formula for the lifespan of conspiracy theories—that is, how long it would likely take for them to be publicly unveiled if they were in fact true. It’s not long: In the case of climate change, it’s about 27 years if you assume the cover-up is perpetrated by only published climate scientists—and just four years if you assume it includes the broader scientific community. The author, David Robert Grimes, found similar maximum life spans for a few other prominent conspiracy theories…”
Graphic credit above: Grimes, PLOS 2016.
New Department of Defense Directive on Climate and Security. Admiral David Titley (retired) has a summary of a new DoD directive at The Center for Climate and Security; here’s an excerpt of his post: “…However, late last week Robert Work, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, signed out a DODD that may just be the most meaningful climate-related document the DoD has released. The document is mercifully short, at just seven pages of substance. The directive immediately states, in plain English, the impact of climate change on the Department:
“The DoD must be able to adapt current and future operations to address the impacts of climate change in order to maintain an effective and efficient U.S. military” to include:
- Identification and assessment of the effects of climate change on the DoD mission.
- Taking those effects into consideration when developing plans and implementing procedures.
- Anticipating and managing risks that develop as a result of climate change to build resilience.
Pretty simple: Adapt to the climate impacts seen today and projected tomorrow; anticipate and manage climate-related risks to ensure the DoD can continue to successfully carry out its missions…”
Record Snowfall, Changing Climate Raise Questions About Preparedness for Storm Cleanup. Are we now seeing super-sized snowstorms and blizzards, the result of a warmer, wetter atmosphere with more water vapor available to fuel developing systems? Here’s an excerpt from The Baltimore Sun: “…Meteorologists say it may be prudent to expect more snow. Paul Kocin, a NOAA meteorologist, said it may not be time for the Baltimore area to invest in the kind of snow removal equipment used in Buffalo or Boston. But he has noticed a pattern of megastorms hitting in recent years. While a link hasn’t been proven, he said one cause could be global warming, and that could make big snowstorms more likely in the future. Antonio Busalacchi Jr., a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science at the University of Maryland, College Park, said: “As climate warms, there is an increase in water vapor that has to come down somewhere.”
South England’s 2014 Floods Made More Likely by Climate Change. Speaking of more fuel available to “juice” storms; here’s an excerpt from New Scientist: “…Immediately after the January 2014 storms, Nathalie Schaller of the University of Oxford and her colleagues wanted to run simulations of the weather across the whole of Europe and asses its impact. To do so they utilised the spare capacity of people’s home computers through a citizen science project called weather@home. In their 134,354 simulations, they varied sea surface temperature and sea ice to compare the actual climate with a hypothetical world in which there was no human influence on the atmosphere. “Being able to run this many simulations means we can have high statistical confidence in the results,” says Neil Massey, also from the University of Oxford. Schaller and her colleagues showed that global warming made it 43 per cent more likely to happen…” (File photo: UK Met Office).
Climate Change and Vector-Borne Diseases. Will warming air and oceans accelerate the spread of Zika Virus? Here’s an excerpt from Climate Nexus: “…By altering conditions–local temperatures, rainfall and population movements–that determine the spread of the pathogens, global warming makes the transmission of vector-borne diseases (VBDs) unpredictable and difficult to control. When it comes to VBDs like Zika, climate change is a threat multiplier.
Rising global temperatures can lengthen the season and increase the geographic range of disease-carrying insects. As temperatures warm, mosquitoes and other warm-weather vectors can move into higher altitudes and new regions farther from the equator.
Increased rainfall, flooding and humidity creates more viable areas for vector breeding and allows breeding to occur more quickly, as eggs hatch faster in hotter climates...”