Conservation Minnesota

Fun With Negative Numbers – Coldest Week of Winter Coming

34 F. high at KMSP Friday.
23 F. average high on January 8.
16 F. high on January 8, 2015.

1.2″ snow fell at Twin Cities International Airport yesterday.

January 9, 1982: Both January 9th and 10th would have some of the coldest windchills ever seen in Minnesota. Temperatures of -30 and winds of 40 mph were reported in Northern Minnesota. This would translate to windchills of -71 with the new windchill formula, and -100 with the old formula.
January 9, 1934: A sleet and ice storm hits southwest Minnesota. Hardest hit locations were Slayton, Tracy and Pipestone. The thickest ice was just east of Pipestone with ice measuring 6 to 8 inches in diameter. At Holland in Pipestone County three strands of #6 wire measured 4.5 inches in diameter and weighed 33 ounces per foot. The ice was described as: ‘Very peculiar information being practically round on three sides, the lower side being ragged projectiles like icicles: in other words pointed. The frost and ice were wet, not flaky like frost usually is. In handling this, it could be squeezed into a ball and did not crumble.’

Beast Mode? You Must Be Talking About the Weather

Seattle Seahawk Marshawn Lynch should be back for Sunday’s wild-card playoff game with the Vikings. He may wish he was still back in Seattle, where 30 (above zero) is considered a “cold front”.

Will a kickoff temperature of -2F with a pregame wind chill dipping to -20F provide a home field advantage? We’ll see, but Sunday’s frozen festivities should make the coveted Top 10 Coldest NFL Game list.

You may even have a flashback of the old Met Stadium. The coldest Vikings home game? -2F, as the Vikes battled the Bears on December 3, 1972. Be careful out there.

Temperatures tumble into single digits today on harsh, northwest winds, staying below 0F much of the day Sunday. A second reinforcing jab of numbing air arrives (via air mail!) on Tuesday, but ECMWF guidance suggests the coldest shot may come late in the week.

This will probably be the coldest week of winter with a chill factor dipping to -20F (-35F up north). Even so, it may not be cold enough for record lows.

Dress in layers, check toes for frostbite, make sure older friends & neighbors are keeping warm. Oh, and call your mother.

A welcome thaw arrives the last week of January!



Sunday’s Vikes-Seahawks Game: One of the 10 Coldest NFL Games on Record? It’ll be close, but if the air temperature stays below zero at kick-off around noon it would probably qualify. More details from the NFL: “The forecast calls for frigid temperatures for the Minnesota Vikings’ home wild-card playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Only time will tell if Sunday’s game joins this illustrious list of icy showdowns.” From another NFL article: “…Minnesota’s three coldest home games in franchise history were: Dec. 3, 1972 versus Chicago at minus-2 degrees; Dec. 10, 1972 versus Green Bay at 0 degrees; Nov. 29, 1964 versus Los Angles at 5 degrees. The Vikings ‘last home outdoor playoff game in Minnesota was Dec. 26, 1976 in the NFC Championship. Fran Tarkenton led the Vikes to a 24-13 victory over Pat Haden and the Los Angeles Rams. The temperature was 12 degrees that day…” (File photo: AP).

A Severe Cold Home Field Advantage? Not so much, if you drill down into the data, but west coast teams seem to fare worse. In bitter cold conditions the home team won about 50% of the time, flip of a coin. Here’s a clip from Mark Seeley at this week’s Minnesota WeatherTalk: “…In many cases the temperatures during the game did not indicate how severe the wind chill conditions were, ranging from the -20°F to -50s°F.  In these 10 cold games the home team managed to win only 5 times (50%), but the west coast teams (Raiders and Chargers) managed only 1 win in 4 tries. We’ll see what happens…” (Image: NPR).


Incentive to Keep Moving. The football players and refs will be just fine – they’ll be moving around, burning calories, trying to ignore the chill. But everyone else in the stands, nearly stationary, will feel the full effect of the chill. It’s been a Kansas City winter, to date – we’re not really acclimated to the cold stuff, not yet. We will be by the end of the week. NOAA numbers shows temperatures right around 0F during Sunday’s game; winds ease to under 10-15 mph with a wind chill in the -15 to -20F range much of the time. Cold enough to get your full attention.


A Big Heaping Serving of Polar Fun! That solid tan line is the 0F isotherm, which pushes rapidly south today and tonight; temperatures holding at or just below 0F most of the day tomorrow. This should be the 8th latest (first subzero) in the Twin Cities, data going back to 1872. 2-meter temperature prediction: NOAA’s NAM model and AerisWeather.


Coldest Week of Winter. I may regret going out on a limb – again, but I still suspect we will scrape bottom this week with 3 separate waves of polar air pushing south; one tonight into Sunday, a reinforcing shot Tuesday with another lobe of subzero brushing the state Friday and early Saturday. There may be a coating of fluff, especially midweek as temperatures blip into the 20s, but there’s some truth to that old adage: “too cold to snow”.


Another Mixed-Up Weather Map. Check out the temperature anomalies across the Northern Hemisphere valid Wednesday morning, as much as 25-35F warmer than average from Alaska across northern Canada into western coastal Greenland, amazingly persistent warmth depressing polar air southward into the USA. Source: Climate Reanalyzer.


Late Month Thaw. The GFS has been fairly consistent peering out 2 weeks, showing the flow becoming more zonal again by the end of January. I’m 75% confident we’ll see a thaw by the last week of the month with the Arctic Oscillation trending positive again.


Right On Schedule. Data from the Iowa Environmental Mesonet shows that, historically, the coldest weather comes in two waves, the first week of January, followed by a fairly consistent thaw the second week of this month, but temperatures don’t routinely bototm out until the 3rd or 4th week of January. Now would be the time to cash in those frequent flier miles.


All The Winter’s a Weird Weather Stage; Here Are The Players. The Associated Press reports on the myriad factors in play. El Nino gets most of the press, but there’s more going on: “…We have all of these large and unusual events happening all at the same time and I don’t think it has ever happened before,” said Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis. For a winter this dramatic, it may help to consult the program: The star is El Nino, a veteran of this stage for a few decades now. This natural warming of the central tropical Pacific occurs every two to seven years or so, and changes weather worldwide, especially in the Americas and Asia. It is closely associated with heavy rain in California, and general warming. It has less effect in Europe because that’s further away. With its flipside, La Nina, it is known as the El Nino Southern Oscillation, and it lasts about a year...”
(Animation: earth.nullschool.net).


Winter’s Slow Start Has Climate Scientists Guessing. Here’s a clip from an MPR story that got my full attention: “…That’s been the story this season for Minnesota’s winter sports enthusiasts. In December, it rained in Duluth, and much of the state had little to no snow cover. On average, Lake Minnetonka freezes over by Dec. 7; this year, it didn’t happen until New Year’s weekend. Pete Boulay at the State Climatology Office has been keeping track of ice-in and ice-out dates. It’s an inexact science, but he said at least a few lakes appear to have either broken or come close to breaking records for their latest ice-in this winter, including Green Lake northeast of Willmar…”



Rare Tropical System Being Monitored in Atlantic by National Hurricane Center. WDSU in New Orleans has more details: “An extratropical low pressure system is being monitored for tropical development. The last time developments occurred outside of the normal hurricane season was in 2005. While the occurrence is rare, it’s not unheard of. WDSU Chief Meteorologist Margaret Orr said that tropical systems can form at any time during the year. The system being monitored is centered about 425 miles west-southwest of Bermuda and is producing a large area of gale force winds and winds of 60 to 65 mph...”

Satellite image: WeatherTap.


ENSO Temperature Trends. Nature (nor science) ever moves in a perfectly straight line, but the stair-step warming is evident on multiple data sets, minor warming/cooling wobbles the result of El Nino and La Nina. Here’s an excerpt of a good explanation at Skeptical Science: “NOAA estimates of the change in average annual global surface air temperature (1966–2015) show that much of the short-term variability in the upward temperature trend is produced by the El Niño/La Niña Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a 2–7 year climate pattern in the tropical Pacific.  Average air temperature is affected by many different factors, including: anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming (AGW) that is mainly caused by CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels; the 11-year solar sunspot cycle; sulfate aerosols from volcanic eruptions; and the periodic ENSO...”


Central USA’s Wintertime Floods Among Costliest in U.S. History. Widespread flooding in late December and early January? The atmosphere is confused, and so are meteorologists. Just now are the maps starting to look like January again. Here’s the intro to a USA TODAY story: “As floodwaters continue to rise along the lower Mississippi River, it’s clear the slow-motion disaster will be among the costliest wintertime flood events in U.S. history. Officials are simply trying to tally the price tag. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Thursday that damage from the floods will top $1 billion. That number is likely to climb as the unpredictable and overflowing Mississippi continues its march south…”

Photo credit above: “Floodwater surrounds homes and businesses in Pacific, Mo. A rare winter flood threatened nearly two dozen federal levees in Missouri and Illinois as rivers rose, prompting many evacuations.” (Photo: Jeff Roberson, AP)


Midwest States Tally Damage From Last Week’s Flooding. Here’s an excerpt of a summary at The Wall Street Journal: “…Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon estimated 7,100 structures in the state were affected by the flooding and that there could be as much as 500,000 tons of debris in the St. Louis area. That preliminary assessment was based on satellite and aerial imagery, said Mike O’Connell, a spokesman for the state Emergency Management Agency. The flooding caused 25 deaths in Missouri and Illinois, spurred hundreds of people to evacuate their homes and snarled traffic for days when sections of major highways were submerged…” (Purple dots denote major flooding expected; map courtesy of NOAA).


Oklahoma Hit With 70 Quakes in a Week. This would be along the obscure and often-denied San Inhofe fault, if my memory serves me right. USA Today has details: “…Oklahoma in 2014 had at least 5,415 earthquakes; 585 of them were magnitude-3 or greater. In comparison, the state had just 109 magnitude-3 quakes in 2013, according to the Oklahoma Geologic Survey. Statistics for 2015 are still being compiled. A state report last year noted a connection between hydraulic fracturing and some earthquake “swarms,” and state officials say there’s a potential risk to the public due to the increase in quakes. Experts say the quakes are likely being caused by injection wells, which are particularly deep wells into which drilling byproducts and wastewater are injected, rather than wells drilled to extract oil or gas…”

Map credit showing Oklahoma earthquake cluster courtesy of Aeris Weather Interactive.


December Heat Boosts 2015 to Second Warmest Year for U.S. Climate Central has the details and some additional perspective: “…That second-place finish comes as both NOAA and NASA are expected to announce that the year was the hottest on record globally. While that record heat was helped in part by one of the strongest El Ninos on record, it was mainly due to the contributions of manmade global warming, scientists have said. The U.S. temperature ranking “is emblematic of what will ultimately be the warmest year for the globe,” Deke Arndt, chief of NOAA Climate Monitoring Branch, said during a press conference…”


2015: Second Warmest Year for USA on Record. According to NOAA NCDC there were 10 weather and climate-related disasters. Here’s an excerpt: “The 2015 annual average U.S. temperature was 54.4°F, 2.4°F above the 20th century average, the second warmest year on record. Only 2012 was warmer for the U.S. with an average temperature of 55.3°F. This is the 19th consecutive year the annual average temperature exceeded the 20th century average. The first part of the year was marked by extreme warmth in the West and cold in the East, but by the end of 2015, record warmth spanned the East with near-average temperatures across the West. This temperature pattern resulted in every state having an above-average annual temperature...”



2015: 5th Warmest Year for Twin Cities. According to data from NOAA NCDC it was the 5th warmest year for Duluth, the 3rd warmest for Fargo; the 8th warmest on record for Rochester. 180 long-term climate stations around the USA are highlighted, for many cities it was the warmest year in the historical record.


The Importance of Being Prepared for a Natural Disaster. Some of this makes sense, without even looking at the data. None of us want to evacuate our homes (for any reason) and for older people the challenge is even greater. There’s very helpful information in this article; here’s a clip from The New York Times: “…Natural disasters, which appear to be on the rise in part because of climate change, are especially hard for older adults. They are particularly vulnerable because many have chronic illnesses that are exacerbated during the heat of a fire or high water of a flood. And many, of course, are understandably reluctant to leave their homes, which hold so much history. Studies show that over half the people who died in Katrina, the hurricane that hit New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast 10 years ago, were 65 or older. Many were trapped in their homes; some died of health complications caused by flooding...”

File photo credit: David Fine, FEMA.


Welcome to the Anthropocene! We may be entering a new epoch, based on the visible impact we’re having on the planet, according to a story at The Guardian: “There is now compelling evidence to show that humanity’s impact on the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and wildlife has pushed the world into a new geological epoch, according to a group of scientists. The question of whether humans’ combined environmental impact has tipped the planet into an “Anthropocene” – ending the current Holocene which began around 12,000 years ago – will be put to the geological body that formally approves such time divisions later this year. The new study provides one of the strongest cases yet that from the amount of concrete mankind uses in building to the amount of plastic rubbish dumped in the oceans, Earth has entered a new geological epoch…”

Photo credit above: “Fishermen float onboard a boat amid mostly plastic rubbish in Manila Bay, the Philippines. Humans have introduced 300m metric tonnes of plastic to the environment every year.” Photograph: Erik de Castro/Reuters.


Humans Leave a Telltale Residue on Earth. Scientific American has more detail on what, exactly, makes for a new epoch; here’s an excerpt: “…The present geologic epoch is known as the Holocene, or “entirely recent,” stretching back 11,700 years before 1950 to when the last ice age began to melt and raised sea levels by roughly 120 meters over a few millennia. During that transition, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increased by roughly one part per million per century. More recently, however, CO2 levels have been increasing by two ppm per year, and rather than slowly returning to an ice age the world has become ever warmer, melting more ice. The rapid increase in excess CO2 comes from the fossil fuel burning and land use of one species that first appeared approximately 200,000 years ago: Homo sapiens…”

2012 File imagery: NASA and Gizmodo.


These NASA Innovations Could Cut Carbon Emissions and Save Airlines Billions. Our race to the moon did have a positive effect on innovation and technological reinvention; the same thing happening with renewable energy; new ways to power the economy that require less (or no) fossil fuels. Here’s a snippet from The Washington Post: “NASA research aimed at cutting fuel consumption, pollution and noise from airplanes could pay off for the nation’s airlines to the tune of more than $250 billion dollars, the agency said this week. Green technologies developed by the research project are expected to save billions of gallons of fuel if implemented, cutting carbon emissions and reducing air pollution in the process...”

Photo credit above: “Researchers with NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation project coordinated wind-tunnel tests of an Active Flow Control system — tiny jets installed on a full-size aircraft vertical tail that blow air — to prove they would provide enough side force and stability that it might someday be possible to design smaller vertical tails that would reduce drag and save fuel.” (Courtesy of NASA/Dominic Hart)


In 21 States Local Newspapers Lack a Dedicated Reporter Keeping Tabs on Congress. The ongoing disruption of professional journalism has consequences, as reported by Pew Research Center: “…Papers that do employ these reporters – who are tasked in part with interpreting the decisions and policies of Washington for readers back home – are not clustered in any one part of the country, but rather are spread out around the United States. But 21 of 50 states do not have a single local daily newspaper with its own dedicated D.C. correspondent accredited to cover Congress. While these 21 states tend to have smaller populations and thus small congressional delegations, there are notable exceptions. Arizona and Indiana (both with a nine-member delegation) have no local paper with its own dedicated D.C. correspondent…”

Saving Suburbia. How do we make the ‘burbs more diverse, interesting and sustainable, relying less on fossil fuels? A significant challenge, but not impossible, according to an article at Nautilus: “…The monotony does more than crush souls. It takes a lot of energy to maintain a stubborn uniformity amid a range of natural environments. Green lawns in Arizona’s Sonoran desert sap limited reservoirs, and heat runs full-blast for most of the year in Wisconsin’s old wooden houses. Sam Rashkin, author of the 2010 book Retooling the U.S. Housing Industry and a chief architect at the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C., says things need to change. “The thing we can’t keep doing is building suburban developments that don’t work,” Rashkin says. Today’s suburbs waste too much energy, pollute the environment and their inhabitants, and are strikingly dull…”

You Can Get Carried Away With a Ehang 184 Drone – Literally. Oh boy, here it comes – a drone ride to work every morning? Don’t laugh. That day may be coming sooner than you think. Here’s an excerpt from Gizmag: “As might be expected, there are a lot of drones on display this week at CES. Almost all of them have one thing in common, however: people can’t ride in them. We say “almost all,” as there is one exception. Ehang’s 184 AAV (Autonomous Aerial Vehicle) is designed to carry a single human passenger, autonomously flying them from one location to another. Ehang CEO Huazhi Hu began designing the one-seater electric drone a couple of years ago, after two of his pilot friends were killed in plane crashes. He decided that people needed a form of short-to-medium-distance personal air transport that didn’t require them to have a pilot’s license, and that took much of the danger out of low-altitude flight…”


TODAY: Gusty with more clouds than sun, feels like -10F. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 11

SATURDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy, coldest night of winter, to date. Low: -8

SUNDAY: Sunny & numb, AM feels like -20F. Winds: W 10-15. High: 2

MONDAY: Light snow or flurries. Winds: SW 5-10. Wake-up: -6. High: 12

TUESDAY: Another shot, feels like -20F. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: -4. High: 1

WEDNESDAY: More flurries, not quite as harsh. Winds: S 8-13. Wake-up: -5. High: 20

THURSDAY: Heaviest snow chance up north. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 17. High: 27

FRIDAY: Arctic wind returns. Winds: NW 15-25. Feels like -25F. Wake-up: 2. High: 4


Climate Stories…

The Farce Awakens: Deniers Dispute 2015’s Record Heat. Don’t like the implications of minor details such as data, facts and evidence? Question the scientists, the instruments, even the scientific method. Cherry-pick the data that fits your ideological narrative, throw everything else out, and when you get boxed into a corner start shouting conspiracy theories. That sounds about right. Here’s an excerpt from ClimateDenierRoundup: “…As legitimate media sources start reporting on the reliable thermometer record showing 2015 as a record-hot year, we can expect deniers to push back with the satellite data. But that puts them in the uncomfortable position of admitting that, even according to this problematic data, the three hottest years have occurred since 1998, which doesn’t exactly support the position that there’s been no warming. Denier’s nonsensical reliance on the satellite record (which only goes back to 1979) ignores the history of errors with this data and the fact that satellites infer, based on complex measurements, temperatures up in the atmosphere and don’t calculate those on the ground or in the ocean. So deniers are ignoring the historical record that dates back to the 1800s, as well as the ocean – which absorbs 93% of the heat added due to global warming – and actual physical temperature measurements, in favor of repeatedly-corrected air temperature measurements….”

January – November, 2015 global temperature anomalies (land and ocean) courtesy of NOAA NCDC.



Pope Francis Was Right on Climate Change. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed at The Washington Post: “…That’s why many environmental activists are now being drawn to an evolving philosophical stance on the topic, shifting away from an approach that is simply political, scientific or economic. “There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology,” Pope Francis said in Laudato Si, the papal encyclical released last summer. Francis rejected both an anthropocentric view that accepts all human desires and a misanthropic view that wishes people would disappear. To find solutions for climate change and other environmental challenges, we need to focus on the morality of our actions, including questions of fairness and obligation…”

This Settles It: Cold Days Are Superior to Hot Days. We tend to feel better, overall, on chillier days than on (stinking) hot days, according to some new research highlighted at The Washington Post: “…Baylis ran some back-of-the-envelope calculations and found that a one-degree increase in temperature has an effect on your happiness that’s similar to living in an area with a median income that is $500 lower. This starts to have implications for what we know about the effects of global warming. Economists have done a pretty good job of calculating the costs of higher temperatures when it comes to things such as crop yields and economic productivity. But, Baylis says, “we are underestimating the social costs of carbon...”


AGU’s “Sharing Science” is Helping Scientists Talk To The Rest of Us. Accurately communicating climate science in a way that hits them in their heads and their hearts is challenging, a work in progress. But there are tools and resources to help. Here’s an excerpt from my friend and St. Thomas climate scientist John Abraham at The Guardian: “…Perhaps the most prestigious communication honor is the annual Climate Communication Prize. The past five winners are really the who’s-who among our community. I asked the most recent winner, Dr. Richard Somerville, about the importance of communication, particularly for young scientists. He told me,  ‘I encourage all scientists, including young scientists, to explore the opportunities for communicating their science and to seek help from professionals. Nobody is born a great communicator, but it involves skills that can be learned. Many universities and research institutions have helpful experts on staff whose job is to translate the science into everyday English for the media and other outlets. I have benefited by working for more than 20 years with a superb communications professional, Susan Joy Hassol. On the website climatecommunication.org, she and I and our colleagues have assembled many valuable resources for communicating climate science’...


Editorial: The Real Emergency at Porter Ranch? California’s Dangerous Dependence on Fossil Fuels. The methane leak that has forced thousands from their homes is the rough equivalent of 333,000 vehicle’s worth of emissions every year. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed from The Los Angeles Times: “…Brown also directed state energy and environmental agencies to study the long-term viability of natural gas storage facilities in the state, both from a safety and climate change perspective. That’s essential. The Porter Ranch leak makes clear the hidden costs of our dependence on fossil fuels. As long as California needs natural gas, the state has an obligation to strictly regulate operations to protect residents. But the ultimate goal should be cleaner, safer energy sources.”



Amplification of El Nino by Cloud Longwave Coupling to Atmospheric Circulation. Which is an impressive way of saying global warming seems to make El Nino worse. Here’s an excerpt of the paper’s abstract at Nature Publishing Group: “…Here we present numerical experiments with an Earth system model, with and without coupling of cloud radiative effects to the circulation, suggesting that clouds enhance ENSO variability by a factor of two or more. Clouds induce heating in the mid and upper troposphere associated with enhanced high-level cloudiness12 over the El Niño region, and low-level clouds cool the lower troposphere in the surrounding regions13. Together, these effects enhance the coupling of the atmospheric circulation to El Niño surface temperature anomalies, and thus strengthen the positive Bjerknes feedback mechanism14 between west Pacific zonal wind stress and sea surface temperature gradients…”

Arctic Methane Emissions “Greater” Than Previous Estimates. Climate Home has the update; here’s the intro: “The quantity of methane leaking from the frozen soil during the long Arctic winters is probably much greater than climate models estimate, scientists have found. They say at least half of annual methane emissions occur in the cold months from September to May, and that drier, upland tundra can emit more methane than wetlands. The multinational team, led by San Diego State University (SDSU) in the US and including colleagues from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the University of Sheffield and the Open University in the UK, have published their conclusion, which challenges critical assumptions in current global climate models, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences...”

Oil Lobby Prepares to Sway U.S. Presidential Race. Here’s the intro to a story at Climate Home: “The US trade association, which represents 400 companies including Shell, BP, Chevron and ExxonMobil, also steered clear of December’s UN pact agreed by 195 countries to tackle global warming. But it did indicate the body – which scored a recent win with Congress voting to lift a 40-year old ban on the US exporting oil and gas – wants to influence the 2016 US presidential race. Launching the report, API chief Jack Gerard said the group’s “election advocacy arm”, known as Vote4Energy, would lobby hard for candidates keen to retrench green laws and expand offshore drilling…” (File image: BP).


Despite Protests, Oil Industry Thrives Under Obama Agenda. Here’s an excerpt from Bloomberg Business: “…U.S. oil production has surged 82 percent to near-record levels in the past seven years and natural gas is up by nearly one-quarter. Instead of shutting down the hydraulic fracturing process that has unlocked natural gas from dense rock formations, Obama has promoted the fuel as a stepping stone to a greener, renewable future. The administration has also permitted drilling in the Arctic Ocean over the objections of environmentalists and opened the door to a new generation of oil and gas drilling in Atlantic waters hugging the East Coast. He also signed, with reservations, a measure to lift a 40-year-old ban on the export of most U.S. crude…” (Graphic: Department of Energy).

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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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