Conservation Minnesota

Half a Winter – Get Ready for Spring Fever in Late February – 50s Saturday

38 F. high temperature at KMSP yesterday.
32 F. average high on February 24.
32 F. high on February 24, 2015.

February 25, 1934: A late season cold snap produces a bitterly cold low of -46 at Big Falls.

Spring Fever in February? 50s Possible Saturday

“Now is the winter of our discontent…” mused Bill Shakespeare back in 1594. Some things never change.

If you play pond hockey – strap on cross country skis – hide out in your ice house with a fishing rod and cold six-pack – wincing every time you hobble past the cobweb-covered snowmobile in the garage – you might agree it’s been a lousy winter.

A few people questioned my “half a winter” description yesterday. 30 inches of snow so far; average for an MSP winter is about 54 inches. 10 subzero nights, to date. Average is 23.

And the mercury may hit 50F Saturday; again Thursday of next week? That’s average for early April.
We’ll see more fleeting spasms of cold and snow, at least in theory. But the maps look more like late March than late February. A light mix Sunday precedes a puff of cooler air early next week; highs may hold in the 20s Tuesday before the next surge of milder air sweeps north. A tournament storm in March? Perhaps, but at the rate we’re going it may wind up as rain.

So far February has brought 1 subzero night in the Twin Cities. Last year February saw 12 nights below zero.


We Seem To Have Skipped a Month or Two. True, this is only a forecast, so keep your expectations low, but European model guidance hints at 40s by Friday with a shot at 50+ Saturday; again Thursday of next week, as much as 20F warmer than average. You remember average, right? Keep in mind low 50s are average for the first week of April. No significant snow, but it could rain a little on Monday.



Noon Saturday. Here is NOAA’s forecast 2-meter temperature for noon Saturday, showing the 50-degree isotherm closing in on the Twin Cities; 60s possible across the Dakotas. Looks like rough sledding this weekend. Map: AerisWeather.

10-Day Snowfall Potential. Yes, plowable snows are possible to our north, east and south into the end of next week; the best chance of a few more inches across the Great Lakes – but a few inches may delight residents of Iowa by the middle of next week. GFS guidance: NOAA and AerisWeather.


Follow The Trends. Meteorologists call this “continuity”, which is slang for “go with the flow” as your best, first guiess moving forward in time. A turbocharged El Nino signal continues to overwhelm other factors. Arctic temperatures are running 7-15F warmer than average, and NOAA’s CFSv2 (Climate Forecast System) model predicts temperature anomalies of +8F across Minnesota, even warmer over central and western Canada. Feeling a little better about my guess-cast of an early spring. Map: WeatherBell.


As The Arctic Roads, Alaska Bakes In One of Its Warmest Winters Ever. The warming up north is nothing short of extraordinary; here’s an excerpt from Jason Samenow at Capital Weather Gang: “This winter’s shocking warmth in the Arctic, some seven degrees above average, has oozed into the Alaska which is experiencing one of its mildest recorded winters. So far this winter, Alaska’s temperature has averaged about 10 degrees above normal, ranking third warmest in records that date back to 1925. Unusually warm temperatures and a profound lack of snow are affecting areas all over the state. The index which ranks the severity of winter shows Anchorage is having one of its gentlest winters on record…”

* 2-meter temperature anomaly (F) courtesy of WeatherBell.


North American Snow Cover Trending Lower Than Average. The chart above shows satellite-derived snow cover, compared to a plot of all winters since 2005, courtesy of NOAA NESDIS.



Not Just a Western Problem, Drought Threatens Forests Across U.S. Here’s an excerpt from a story at CSMonitor.com: “…While eastern forests have not experienced the types of changes seen in western forests in recent decades, they too are vulnerable to drought and could experience significant changes with increased severity, frequency, or duration in drought,” scientists from 14 institutions, including Duke University, US Department of Agriculture and US Geological Survey, wrote in a paper published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Global Change Biology. The climate is changing too quickly for trees to adapt to the dry conditions, scientists say…”

Photo credit above: “Many tree species may not be able to expand into more favorable habitats fast enough.” Courtesy of USGS



Increasing Drought Threatens Almost All U.S. Forests. Phys.org has a summary of new research findings; here’s an excerpt: “Forests nationwide are feeling the heat from increasing drought and climate change, according to a new study by scientists from 14 research institutions. “Over the last two decades, warming temperatures and variable precipitation have increased the severity  of forest droughts across much of the continental United States,” said James Clark, lead author of the study and an environmental scientist at Duke University...”

Photo credit above: “Drought has left little but skeleton trees in a forest of pinons in the U.S. Southwest.” Credit: USGS.


How The World’s Forests are Changing (Interactive). Popular Science has an effective infographic that shows how forests are being impacted by climate volatility, deforestation and other factors: “The area of each country represents the total forest cover, in acres. (Countries with less than 1 million acres of forest area are omitted.) Each country is colored by the amount of change its forests have undergone since 1990. Hover over names of the labeled countries to learn more.”



To Prevent Another Dust Bowl, The U.S. Must Sow The Right Seeds. LiveScience and Yahoo Finance have an interesting story – here’s a link and excerpt: “…Climate is more important than geography when predicting how well seeds will grow and establish themselves. Seeds don’t care where their parents lived if the temperature suits them and if they get the right amount of sunshine and precipitation. 
  • Timing of seed planting makes a big difference. Year to year, even week to week, variation in weather patterns can affect the restoration success of a burned site.
  • The method of planting matters. Blowing seeds from a plane may be a fast way to cover a lot of territory, but it’s not that effective. The seeds, dropped from large drums attached to the planes, scatter in the wind, sparsely covering the ground below. Their contact with the earth is also less secure than for seeds planted in furrows by a tractor. As a result, many of the seeds fail to establish themselves, and those few individuals that do will not compete as well in nature as will the densely planted seeds...”

Photo credit: PBS.



National Geographic ScienceBlogs: Water, Security and Conflict. Violence Over Water in 2015. Is there a connection to what’s happening in Syria and Libya? Here’s an excerpt from Pacific Institute that raised a few eyebrows: “…Over the past century there has been an increase in the number of reported conflicts over water resources. Part of this increase is certainly due to better reporting in recent years, but growing populations, rising demands for water in water-scarce regions, and weak governance structures and institutions for reducing conflicts at the local and regional level may also be contributing to an increase. In the coming years, far more effort is need to both understand the nature of these risks and to develop diplomatic, economic, and institutional tools for reducing conflicts over water resources. The Pacific Institute will continue to be the leading source for collecting and analyzing information on these challenges...”

Chart credit: “Water conflict chronology events per year, 1930 to 2015.” From the Pacific Institute.



Supercomputer Quietly Puts U.S. Weather Resources Back on Top. My oldest son works at Cray, but I would have published this link to a USA TODAY story anyway; here’s an excerpt that increases my confidence in NOAA’s ability to compete (with ECMWF): “…The brand-new Cray supercomputer — designed, owned and operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — processes 3 quadrillion calculations per second. If that sounds like a lot, it is — you’d need about 12,500 high-end laptops to get close to that kind of power. Still, the supercomputer is merely the 18th fastest in the U.S. and 42nd fastest in the world, Michaud said. NOAA’s purchase of the school-bus size device stemmed partly from competition from the top European weather model — better known in some circles by its acronym ECMWF (European Center for Medium-range Weather Forecasting). It predicted Sandy’s now infamous and unusual left hook in 2012 days before the top American model — the GFS (Global Forecast System)...”

Photo credit above: “The room where the supercomputer sits must be kept at a temperature of between 69 and 72 degrees.” (Photo: Jasper Colt, USAT).


Report Suggests Minnesota Aim Beyond Clean Power Plan Target. Here’s an excerpt at Midwest Energy News: “Minnesota is well positioned to meet the requirements the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and could go much further with higher renewable energy and energy efficiency goals. That’s according to a new report on Minnesota released today from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which has begun publishing analyses of the plan’s impact on each state. “The model shows us Minnesota is a leader on clean energy and efficiency and that puts it in a great spot for meeting Clean Power Plan requirements – and potentially go further than what the plan requires in terms of carbon initiatives,” said Sam Gomberg, lead Midwest analyst for the UCS’s Climate and Energy Program…”


U.S. Solar Surged 17% in 2015 Led By Demand for Rooftop Power. Here’s an excerpt from Bloomberg Business: “Solar power developers added a record 7.3 gigawatts of capacity in the U.S. last year, up 17 percent from 2014 and surpassing natural gas installations for the first time. Residential installations climbed 66 percent, the fastest-growing segment, and accounted for 29 percent of all photovoltaic systems, according to a report Monday from GTM Research and the Washington-based Solar Energy Industries Association. California, North Carolina and Nevada were again the top three solar states. Utah jumped from 23rd to 7th, while New Jersey slipped to 10th from sixth...” (File image: Solar City).


I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and cause me to tremble for safety of my country; corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in High Places will follow, and the Money Power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the People, until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic destroyed.” – Abraham Lincoln


TODAY: Cool and breezy. Winds: NW 10-20. High: 34

THURSDAY NIGHT: Patchy clouds. Low: 20

FRIDAY: Partly sunny and milder. Winds: SW 8-13. High: near 40

SATURDAY: Mild sun, typical for April 1. Winds: SW 10-15. Wake-up: 30. High: 52

SUNDAY: Mild start, then turning cooler, light mix PM hours. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 35. High: 43

MONDAY: Overcast, mix of light rain/snow. Wake-up: 33. High: 40

TUESDAY: Sunny, cooler than average. Wake-up: 18. High: 28

WEDNESDAY: Dim sun, warming up again. Wake-up: 20. High: 43


Climate Stories….


Earth’s Warming is 50x Faster Than When It Comes Out Of An Ice Age. We’ve already committed to a sea level rise of 5.5 feet, based on the (additional) greenhouse gases we’ve already pumped into the atmosphere? The rate of warming is one (of many) factors that concern scientists; here’s an excerpt from The Guardian: “Recently, The Guardian reported on a significant new study published in Nature Climate Change, finding that even if we meet our carbon reduction targets and stay below the 2°C global warming threshold, sea level rise will eventually inundate many major coastal cities around the world.

20% of the world’s population will eventually have to migrate away from coasts swamped by rising oceans. Cities including New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Calcutta, Jakarta and Shanghai would all be submerged.

The authors looked at past climate change events and model simulations of the future…”

Photo credit above: “A parking lot full of yellow cabs is flooded as a result of Superstorm Sandy in Hoboken, NJ. So far we’re already committed to about 1.7 meters (5.5 feet) of eventual sea level rise.” Photograph: Charles Sykes/AP.


This Louisiana Tribe is Now America’s First Climate Refugees. Andrew Freedman has  a post at Mashable; here’s his intro: “The first climate refugees in America speak French, and live on a dwindling sliver of land that is rapidly disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico. Residing on the Louisiana Bayou about 50 miles south of New Orleans, the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians have seen 98% of their traditional lands disappear since 1955 due to the combination of sea level rise, land sinking, oil and gas development, and the related decline in sediment deposition from the Mississippi River...”

Photo credit above: “Edison Dardar, an American Indian, tosses a cast net for shrimp in Isle de Jean Charles, La., Friday, Sept. 23, 2011.” Image: Gerald Herbert/AP.

* More perspective and analysis on the forced migration due to rising seas and submerged wetlands along Louisiana’s coastline from WDSU.


The Link Between Zika and Climate Change. Analysis and perspective via The Atlantic; here’s a clip: “…And like other viruses spread by mosquitos and ticks, Zika could soon enjoy a greater reach, thanks to climate change. Last year, a team of researchers mapped the global distribution of Aedes mosquitos to better understand the global human-health risk, noting that the mosquitos are more widely distributed than ever before. In 2005, Paul Epstein of Harvard Medical School published an influential paper on climate change and human health, outlining mosquitoes’ sensitivity to temperature changes…”

Photo credit above: “Miriam Araujo holds her son Lucas, who was born with microcephaly, in Sao Jose dos Cordeiros, Brazil.” Ricardo Moraes / Reuters.


Fiji’s Climate Story is Bigger Than Winston. The recent Category 5 cyclone (same as a hurricane) is one of many symptoms of a rapidly changing climate; here’s an excerpt from Pacific Standard: “…Winston’s trail of destruction is another painful reminder that many of the world’s smallest countries are among those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Rising sea levels caused by global warming have already begun displacing coastal villagers in Fiji, and scientists predict that low-lying island nations like Kiribati could be entirely underwater by century’s end. Meanwhile, the oft-repeated prediction that climate change will lead to increasingly severe tropical storms appears to be coming true. With sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, and gusts surpassing 200 miles per hour, Cyclone Winston became the strongest storm ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere…”


What Is The “Pause” in Global Warming? Greg Laden takes a look at scienceblogs.com: “…When climate science contrarians refer to a “pause” or “hiatus” in global warming, they usually mean that the process of warming of the Earth’s surface caused by the human release of greenhouse gas is not a thing. They are usually implying, or overtly claiming, that the link between CO2 and other greenhouse gas pollutants and surface warming was never there to begin with, and previous warming, warming before “the pause,” was natural variation. Many even go so far as to claim that the Earth’s surface temperature will go down to levels seen decades ago. “The Pause” is not, in their minds, a slowdown in the rate of warming. It is a disconnect, either there all along or produced somehow recently, between the physics of the greenhouse effect and reality…”



Science Will Help Push Companies Towards a Low-Carbon Future. The smart companies, big and small, are already going on the offensive. Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian: “…But most businesses set targets by looking at what could be done through available low-cost energy efficiency opportunities and other reduction activities with a quick payback, such as swapping long-lasting LED lighting for electricity-gulping incandescent bulbs. So while companies may creep away from carbon, they still depend on it. And although most companies are genuinely committed to cutting emissions – not least because their stakeholders hold them accountable for it – they are wary of failing to meet their targets if they aim too high. The good news is greater ambition can lead to innovation…”


Congress Actually Did Something Pretty Great on Climate Change. Some uplifting, encouraging perspective from Mother Jones; here’s an excerpt: “In December, Republicans in Congress struck a deal with Democrats to extend a package of tax breaks for wind and solar energy projects. Prior to the deal, things looked bleak. The tax credit for wind had already expired the year before, and the one for solar was set to expire by 2016. So the extension, which came after Democrats agreed to support lifting the long-standing ban on US oil exports, was a big and unexpected win for clean energy—one that will help buoy the industry for the next six years. It could also prove to be one of the most significant actions taken by this Congress to reduce America’s carbon footprint, according to a new analysis from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory…” (File image: Wikipedia).

Searing Heatwaves Could Become Annual Threat. Climate Central has a summary of new research into the frequency and intensity of extreme heat; here’s an excerpt: “…Tebaldi and her co-author Michael Wehner of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory wanted to see how curtailing the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases might affect the severity of future heat waves. They used an NCAR climate model to look at how the odds of today’s 20-year events — or those that have about a 5 percent chance of occurring in any given year — would shift in the future under scenarios where emissions were and were not curbed. They found that for more than half of the world’s land area, such heat waves would become an annual event by 2075 (possibly even occurring more than once a year). Some of the worst affected areas were the northern tiers of North America, Europe and Asia, as well as the central part of South America...”

Graphic credit above: “Climate change has helped shift the odds of extreme heat.” Credit: WXshift


A Climate Scientist Who Decided Not to Fly. Grist has the story; here’s a clip: “…Hour for hour, there’s no better way to warm the planet than to fly in a plane. If you fly coach from Los Angeles to Paris and back, you’ve just emitted three tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, 10 times what an average Kenyan emits in an entire year. Flying first class doubles these numbers. However, the total climate impact of planes is likely two to three times greater than the impact from the CO2 emissions alone. This is because planes emit mono-nitrogen oxides into the upper troposphere, form contrails, and seed cirrus clouds with aerosols from fuel combustion. These three effects enhance warming in the short term…” (Image: YES! Infographic).

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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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