11″ snow on the ground at KMSP.
31 F. high in the Twin Cities Thursday.
37 F. average high on March 7.
54 F. high on March 7, 2012.
73 F. record high for March 7 (1987 and 2000).
Nothing Better Than A Fine March Smog. From the MPCA (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency): “The MPCA has issued an air pollution health advisory for the southern two-thirds of Minnesota, including the Twin Cities metropolitan area and Rochester, effective Friday, March 8th through midday Saturday, March 9th. Air quality monitors indicate that fine particle pollution is increasing across the southern two-thirds of the state. On Friday, early morning fog, high pressure, and light southerly winds are expected to cause fine particle pollution to be near a level considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. These conditions are expected to persist until midday Saturday, when increased wind speeds are expected to improve air quality conditions.
Climatology Update. Here’s a highlight of the latest update from Minnesota State Climatologist Greg Spoden:
– February average monthly temperatures in Minnesota were 2-4 F below the historical average. For a number of communities it was only the second time in 21 months that the mean monthly temperature was below average.
– February precipitation totals were above historical averages statewide. Monthly precipitation totals topped the historical average by approximately one-half inch in many locations, and by over 1″ in west central and north central Minnesota counties.
– For most of the state, the water content of the snow pack is estimated to be 2-4 inches. Some west central , north central, and northeast Minnesota counties report snow water equivalence values in excess of 4″.
– Because of solidly frozen topsoils and high snow water content in west central Minnesota, the National Weather Service warns of a high risk of moderate to major spring flooding along the Red River. This could lead to an ironic paradox where most of the soil profile will remain dry after floodwaters recede.
– The U.S. Drought Monitor continues to place large portions of Minnesota in the Extreme Drought category. In total, 70% of Minnesota’s landscape is considered to be in Extreme Drought or Severe Drought. This is down from 84% in late January. A one-category improvement was assigned to some west central and north central Minnesota counties due to heavy February snowfall.
– Despite the amount of water on the landscape, the drought situation will likely remain unchanged until spring. The deeply and solidly frozen soil assures that very little winter precipitation will make it into the ground. As of late autumn, the soil moisture content in the plant rooting zone was near an all-time low evel at many locations. Without abundant spring rains, a number of critical drought issues involving agriculture, forestry, horticulture, tourism and public water supply will begin to emerge.
More Hints of Spring? I’m not doing cartwheels just yet, but the GFS brings 50s into the Twin Cities between March 17-20. Snow on the ground will limit how mild it can get, but we may lose half our snow cover if it rains as hard as I suspect it will on Saturday.
Flood Risk Increases With March Snowfall. Fargo’s INFORUM has more details on the snow pack over the Red River Valley impacting the (growing) risk of spring river flooding: “Early March snowfall has raised the risk of major flooding on the Red River, the National Weather Service said today in its latest flood outlook. In Fargo, the chances of the Red River topping major flood stage of 30 feet jumped from 79 percent to 88 percent since the last flood outlook on Feb. 21. There’s a 50 percent chance the river will rise above 33.8 feet, up from a 50 percent chance at 33.2 feet in the Feb. 21 outlook. The Red has a 5 percent chance of surpassing 38.2 feet, up from 37.8 feet in the last outlook. City officials say Fargo is well-protected to 38 feet without the need for sandbagging…”
Alerts Broadcaster Update on New England Storm:
* Snow wrapping around a Nor’easter, capable of 2-5″ New York City, as much as 6-8″ eastern Long Island. It will be a rough Friday morning commute, but roads should be mainly wet/slushy for drive home Friday PM.
* Boston will see considerably more snow; plowable amounts likely with as much as 5-10″ (more western suburbs).
* Significant coastal flooding Friday for Massachusetts as sustained winds reach 35-50 mph: beach erosion and inundation of highways within 7 feet of sea level. Elevated risk of power outages over interior MA and Cape Cod, due to high winds coupled with high water content of snow.
Winter’s Last Gasp? Maybe, but I’m not sure I’d take that bet. Spring will come reluctantly this year over northern states and New England, but the odds of major snowstorms will drop off rapidly in the next 2 weeks. A white-knuckle commute is likely in New York City Friday morning with some 2-5″ amounts of slush, over 6-7″ farther east on the LIE over eastern Long Island. The heaviest snowfall amounts will pile up over central and eastern Massachusetts; as much as 5-10″ in Boston (heaviest amounts western suburbs) – closer to 16-18″ near Worcester. Model: WSI RPM.
New York City Slop-Storm. A period of light to moderate wet snow lingers into the morning hours Friday, mixing with a little rain at times. But 2-5″ amounts of slush are possible before precipitation tapers and mixes with rain. As much as 6-7″ may fall from coastal Connecticut to eastern Long Island. With a high sun angle most roads will be wet for the PM commute Friday – getting home should be easier. Graph: Iowa State.
Boston: More Snow, More Impacts. We still expect a big east-west gradient in snowfall amounts in metro Boston; 4-5″ at Logan International to as much as 10″ Newton and Waltham. Very plowable. High water content in the snow combined with 30-45 mph winds will increase the potential for power outages, especially 15-50 miles inland. Although not as severe as the February 9 blizzard, this storm will impact travel into midday Saturday in the Boston area, with some 1-2 foot snowfall amounts possible south of Boston, closer to the Cape.
Tropical Storm Force Winds. The Nor’easter wrapping up offshore is creating a sharp pressure gradient; winds accelerating into this partial vacuum reaching 40-50 mph from Boston Harbor to Cape Cod, sparking moderate to severe coastal flooding, beach erosion and lowland inundation. Map: WSI RPM model.
Latest Warnings. A Winter Weather Advisory is posted for metro New York, which sounds fairly trivial, but the Friday AM commute will still be very slow in the 5 boroughs. Winter Storm Warnings are in effect from Providence into much of Massachusetts for heavier snowfall amounts. Coastal Flood Warnings are in effect Friday, with the greatest impact on coastal Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Details from NOAA:
...COASTAL FLOOD WARNING NOW IN EFFECT UNTIL 9 PM EST FRIDAY...
* LOCATION...MASSACHUSETTS EAST AND NORTHEAST FACING SHORELINES.
* COASTAL FLOODING...MINOR TO MODERATE FRIDAY EVENING... MORE
SERIOUS COASTAL FLOODING IS EXPECTED FOR FRIDAY MORNING/S HIGH
TIDE WITH MODERATE TO MAJOR IMPACTS LIKELY. MORE SPECIFICALLY
...MODERATE WITH POTENTIALLY AREAS OF MAJOR COASTAL FLOODING
IS EXPECTED FOR SALISBURY TO NEWBURY INCLUDING PLUM ISLAND...
AND HULL THROUGH SCITUATE AND PLYMOUTH TO SANDWICH. MODERATE
IMPACTS ARE EXPECTED ALONG THE NORTH SHORE...BOSTON HARBOR
AREA...AND NANTUCKET HARBOR. MINOR TO MODERATE COASTAL FLOODING
MAY OCCUR IN SPOTS ON MARTHA/S VINEYARD DURING FRIDAY MORNING.
* TIMING....730 AM TO 9 AM FRIDAY...AND 8 TO 9 PM FRIDAY EVENING.
THE GREATEST IMPACTS ARE EXPECTED DURING THE FRIDAY MORNING HIGH
TIDE...WHICH IS HIGHER ASTRONOMICALLY THAN THE EVENING HIGH
TIDES. FLOODING MAY PERSIST FOR MANY HOURS AFTER THE FRIDAY
MORNING HIGH TIDE IN LOW LYING AREAS DUE TO THE INABILITY TO
DRAIN BACK TO THE OCEAN.
* IMPACTS...THE FRIDAY MORNING HIGH TIDE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO
BE QUITE DANGEROUS AND COULD BE SIMILAR TO OR IN A FEW SPOTS
EVEN WORSE THAN THE FEBRUARY 9 STORM TIDE. SOME AREAS MAY BE
INUNDATED WITH 2 TO 4 FEET OF WATER...ESPECIALLY THOSE VULNERABLE
TO WAVE OVERWASH. LARGE WAVES MAY CAUSE SCATTERED DAMAGE TO
VULNERABLE STRUCTURES...AND SOME EVACUATIONS AS A PRECAUTION
MAY BE NECESSARY. SEVERE BEACH EROSION WILL CONTINUE THROUGH
FRIDAY MORNING. THE BEACH EROSION MAY BE ESPECIALLY SEVERE ALONG
THE OUTER CAPE...INCLUDING CHATHAM...AND ALONG THE EAST SIDE OF
NANTUCKET. SOME BEACH EROSION WILL LINGER INTO SATURDAY MORNING.
IF ASKED TO EVACUATE...PLEASE FOLLOW THE ADVICE OF LOCAL OFFICIALS
FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY AND THE SAFETY OF ANY WOULD BE RESCUERS.
Summary: The storm we’ve been tracking for 5 days will drop a few inches of slush on metro New York, just enough to make Friday travel interesting with double/triple normal commute times. Some 2-5″ amounts are possible, with over 6″ east of Plainview and Levittown on Long Island. Some 5-10″ amounts are likely in Boston, with 1 foot plus amounts over the far western/southern suburbs. Power outages are likely Friday from Rhode Island into Massachusetts and coastal New Hampshire. Beach erosion and coastal flooding will be most severe over coastal Massachusetts. Winds ease Saturday as conditions rapidly improve.
In A Warming World Storms May Be Fewer, But Stronger. Here’s a clip of a story at NASA’s Earth Observatory: “…Given all the change that has already take place, it’s reasonable to wonder if climate change has affected storms as well. “After the tornadoes in 2011, I was flooded with calls from reporters,” says Anthony Del Genio, a climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). “People wanted quick, definitive answers. The trouble is that’s not where the science is.” Historically, research on tornadoes, hurricanes, and other types of storms has focused on short-term forecasting, not on understanding how storms are changing over time. Reliable, long-term records of storms are scarce, and the different reporting and observing methods have left many scientists and meteorologists feeling skeptical. But the study of storminess and climate has begun to mature, says Del Genio, and a consensus is emerging: for several types of storms, global warming may prime the atmosphere to produce fewer but stronger storms…”
Photo credit above: “Hackleburg High School in Alabama was destroyed by a tornado in April 2011.” (Photograph courtesy Federal Emergency Management Agency.)
Storm Aftermath Photos That Will Leave You Looking For Higher Ground. Suddenly Minnesota’s lakes look even more inviting. They freeze up in winter, you can drive on them, but at least we don’t have to worry about towering storm surges. Here’s an excerpt from Wired: “Mario Tama spent more than his fair share of 2012 in a helicopter, surveying and photographing the destruction of some of that year’s many powerful storms. But it was on the ground where he felt the real impact, as he photographed the people affected by these extreme meteorological events. Like Melanie Martinez, a resident of Braithwaite, Louisiana, as she looked through her flooded house after Hurricane Isaac. “There was no specific plan to focus on climate change in 2012, as much of what we do as photojournalists is reactive,” says Tama, a photojournalist for Getty Images. “But I suppose the evolution of the project was a natural progression given the multitude of weather-related events of 2012 in this country.” His edit of these photos, titled 2012 Climate Change: A New Normal in America?, just won a Judge’s Special Recognition award in the Environmental Awareness Award category at Picture of the Year International contest. Climate change is a broad, diffuse subject, and it’s hard to illustrate it with photographs, but Tama’s photos capture the sheer size of the destruction while also humanizing the impacts…”
Photo credit above: “A living room filled with sand washed in by Superstorm Sandy on Nov. 14, 2012 in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey.“
Arctic Ice Loss Amplifed Superstorm Sandy Violence. Details in this post from Cornell University: “…The researchers assert that the record-breaking sea ice loss from summer 2012, combined with the unusual atmospheric phenomena observed in late October, appear to be linked to global warming. A strong atmospheric, high-pressure blocking pattern over Greenland and the northwest Atlantic prevented Hurricane Sandy from steering northeast and out to sea like most October hurricanes and tropical storms from the Caribbean. In fact, Sandy traveled up the Atlantic coast and turned left “toward the most populated area along the eastern seaboard” and converged with an extratropical cyclone; this, in turn, fed the weakening Hurricane Sandy and transformed it into a monster tempest. Superstorm Sandy’s extremely low atmospheric pressure and the strong high-pressure block to the north created violent east winds that pushed storm surge against the eastern seaboard. “To literally top it off, the storm surge combined with full-moon high tides and huge ocean waves to produce record high water levels that exceeded the worst-case predictions for parts of New York City,” write the researchers.” (Image above: NASA Earth Observatory).
Shrinking Ice Worries Great Lakes Scientists. Here’s an excerpt of an article at The News-Messenger: “...Ice cover has decreased nearly 70 percent on the five Great Lakes since the early 1970s, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The five Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh water and have more than 11,000 miles of shoreline.
Every one of the lakes has endured the winter meltdown:
• Lake Ontario saw the most dramatic decrease with an 88 percent drop in ice coverage.
• Lake Superior lost 76 percent of its ice.
• Lake Michigan saw a decrease of 77 percent…”
Changes In Heart Attack Timing Continue Years After Hurricane. Major storms can influence the frequency and timing of heart attacks? Here’s a segment of a story from EurekAlert that made me do a double-take: …”The stress and devastation brought on by Katrina doesn’t just make a heart attack more likely, but it also can alter when they occur,” said Matthew Peters, MD, a second year internal medicine resident at Tulane University School of Medicine and the study’s lead investigator. “It may even outweigh or augment some of the physiological mechanisms [behind heart attacks].” Heart attacks tend to be more common in the morning and on weekdays, especially Mondays, because of surges in the body’s stress (cortisol) and “fight-or-flight” (catecholamines) hormones, higher than normal blood pressure and heart rate, and a dip in the body’s ability to break up blood clots. But the shifts in behaviors and routines seen after the storm may have trumped some of these factors, Dr. Peters said…”
Paul’s Conservation Minnesota Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:
Study: In Just A Century, Globe Shifted From One Of The Coldest Decades In 11,000 Years To Warmest. The Star Tribune has the story; here’s an excerpt: “…Research released Thursday in the journal Science uses fossils of tiny marine organisms to reconstruct global temperatures back to the end of the last ice age. It shows how the globe for several thousands of years was cooling until an unprecedented reversal in the 20th century. Scientists say it is further evidence that modern-day global warming isn’t natural, but the result of rising carbon dioxide emissions that have rapidly grown since the Industrial Revolution began roughly 250 years ago. The decade of 1900 to 1910 was one of the coolest in the past 11,300 years — cooler than 95 percent of the other years, the marine fossil data suggest. Yet 100 years later, the decade of 2000 to 2010 was one of the warmest, said study lead author Shaun Marcott of Oregon State University. Global thermometer records only go back to 1880, and those show the last decade was the hottest for this more recent time period. In 100 years, we’ve gone from the cold end of the spectrum to the warm end of the spectrum,” Marcott said. “We’ve never seen something this rapid. Even in the ice age the global temperature never changed this quickly….” (graphic credit here).
* Andrew Revkin has more on this story at The New York Times.
Ships To Sail Directly Over The North Pole By 2050, Scientists Say. Well this is certainly great news! Who needs that polar ice anyway? It’s probably just there for show – it can’t possibly serve a purpose in nature, right? Here’s an excerpt from The Guardian: “Ships should be able to sail directly over the north pole by the middle of this century, considerably reducing the costs of trade between Europe and China but posing new economic, strategic and environmental challenges for governments, according to scientists. The dramatic reduction in the thickness and extent of late summer sea ice that has taken place in each of the last seven years has already made it possible for some ice-strengthened ships to travel across the north of Russia via the “northern sea route”. Last year a total of 46 ships made the trans-Arctic passage, mostly escorted at considerable cost by Russian icebreakers. But by 2050, say Laurence C. Smith and Scott R. Stephenson at the University of California in the journal PNAS on Monday, ordinary vessels should be able to travel easily along the northern sea route, and moderately ice-strengthened ships should be able to take the shortest possible route between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, passing over the pole itself. The easiest time would be in September, when annual sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean is at its lowest extent…”
Graphic credit above: “Projected Arctic shipping routes.” Photograph: guardian.co.uk
Climate Change Might Open Up Northwest Passage To Shipping By The Middle Of The Century. Here’s an excerpt from Scientific American: “Investigating what is sometimes seen as one of the more favorable effects of climate change, a pair of scientists from UCLA has done a careful analysis of the melting of Arctic sea ice and concluded that it could lead to ships traversing the ice-free Northwest Passage (NWP) by 2050. It would also lead to much shorter transit times through the existing North Sea Passage (NSR). These developments may greatly reduce the time and cost of shipping but would also lead to unforeseen economic and geopolitical complications…”
Graphic credit above: “Differences in transit routes for two kinds of vessels (red and blue) enabled by shrinking Arctic ice levels and opening of the Northwest Passage by 2050.” (Image: Smith and Stephenson, PNAS, Early Edition)
Climate Change Will Open Up Surprising New Arctic Shipping Routes. The Washington Post has the story – here’s an excerpt: “Right now, the Arctic Ocean is still too icy and treacherous for open-water ships to traverse with any regularity. The Northwest Passage is only navigable during the summer months once every seven years or so. Too unreliable for commercial shipping. But that will soon change. As the planet keeps warming, the Arctic’s summer sea ice is vanishing at a stunning pace. That rapid melt is expected to have all sorts of sweeping impacts, from speeding up climate change to wreaking havoc on weather patterns. On the flip side, the loss of sea ice could also open up some potentially lucrative new trade routes between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.”
An Inevitable Headline in 2014? CO2 Levels Pass 400 PPM For First Time In Human Existance. Here’s the intro to a story at scienceblogs.com: “Sometime, about one year from now, the front pages of whatever decent newspapers are left will carry a headline like the one above, announcing that for the first time in human existance (or in nearly a million years, or 3 million years, or 15 million years), the global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide – the principal gas causing climate change – will have passed 400 parts per million. That’s a significant and shocking figure. Unfortunately, it is only a temporary marker on the way to even higher and higher levels. Here (Figure 1 below) are the most recent (March 2013) data from the Mauna Loa observatory showing the inexorable increase in atmospheric CO2 and the rapid approach to 400 ppm…”
Graphic credit above: “The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere measured by Scripps/NOAA at Mauna Loa. We’re rapidly approaching 400 parts per million.”
Most Insurers Lack A Plan To Address Climate Change, CERES Says. Bloomberg has the story – here’s a clip: “Almost 90 percent of insurance companies lack a comprehensive plan to address climate change and fewer than half of them view it as a likely source of financial losses, according to a report released today. Only 23 of 184 insurers surveyed demonstrated a “comprehensive climate change strategy” and 88 said they consider climate change a future loss driver, Boston-based Ceres said today in a report. “Climate change exists, it’s happening, it’s going to have an impact,” Mike Kreidler, Washington State insurance commissioner, said in a phone interview. “It has the potential of being a real game changer” for investments and underwriting…”
Climate Change And The U.S. Strategy. AOL Energy has an interesting story about the viability of a tax on carbon – here’s a clip: “At a federal level, major regulation is not foreseeable in the near future because it will not receive bipartisan support. However, according to Dr. Joseph Aldy (Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School), a carbon tax policy project is more possible now than ever before. Dr. Gilbert Metcalf (MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change) supported this view noting that fiscal problems faced by the US are driving government to seriously consider a carbon tax that will generate around $100 billion in revenue. Most of the regulation within the next few years will probably be generated at a state level, where the new EPA director, Gina McCarthy, will closely work with states to create new approaches to tackle the climate change problem…”
Critical Part Of Keystone XL Report Done By Firms With Deep Oil Industry Tries. Inside Climate News has the story; here’s a clip: “The State Department’s recent conclusion that the Keystone XL pipeline “is unlikely to have a substantial impact” on the rate of Canada’s oil sands development was based on analysis provided by two consulting firms with ties to oil and pipeline companies that could benefit from the proposed project. EnSys Energy has worked with ExxonMobil, BP and Koch Industries, which own oil sands production facilities and refineries in the Midwest that process heavy Canadian crude oil. Imperial Oil, one of Canada’s largest oil sands producers, is a subsidiary of Exxon…”
Kevin Trenberth: So What Should Be Done About Climate Change And The Vested Interests? Who are the real radicals? Is it the people protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline? Or is it the fossil fuel CEO’s who are selling a product that is altering the chemical composition of our atmosphere? Kevin Trenberth is one of America’s leading climate scientists; here’s a portion of his commentary related to a new documentary about climate denial (“Greedy Lying Bastards”) which is being released this month: “…This is a global problem. It is an international problem. It involves not just the environment, but also the economy, trade, foreign policy, security, sustainability, and the human condition. It involves not just the current peoples of the Earth but future generations. And many small countries are powerless to influence their own fate. The huge denial machine exposed by the documentary “Greedy Lying Bastards” is very well funded by vested interests. Too many politicians in the United States are bought and sold, and owned by their supporters for their own selfish interests, and with nary a care about the well being of the planet. This necessarily is a problem of the “tragedy of the commons”. In this case the commons is the global atmosphere, shared by all. The air over China one day resides over the United States five days later, and then Europe five days after that. But the atmosphere is a dumping ground for all sorts of pollution…”
Cherrypicking To Deny Continued Ocean and Global Warming. As much as 90-93% of all the additional heat from greenhouse warming is going into the oceans, specifically deep-ocean waters. Here’s an excerpt of an interesting post at Skeptical Science: “…Despite showing a larger ocean warming trend than Levitus, climate contrarians likely prefer the Lyman data because it does not include the ocean layers below 700 meters. However, even if we cherrypick this shallow ocean data and cherrypick 2003 as the starting point, the 0–700 meter ocean heat accumulation for 2003–2012 in the Lyman PMEL data is equivalent to 1.2 Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations per second over the past decade. For 1993–2012, this rate increases to the equivalent of 3.7 detonations per second, and when including global heat accumulation in Nuccitelli et al. (2012) including the 0–2,000 meter oceans, the Earth has accumulated the equivalent of 4 Hiroshima atomic bomb detonations per second over the past decade. When we consider all the available data, it becomes quite clear that ocean and global warming continue unabated at a rapid rate. Cherrypicking cannot change that reality…””
Graphic credit above: “0–700 meter ocean heat content data from NOAA NODC (Levitus) and NOAA PMEL (Lyman) using the same baseline. The yellow arbitrary denialist line is shown, followed by the linear trends for 2003–2012 and 1993–2012 in red. Standard error bars are also shown.“
Preaching On Climate Change. Huffington Post has the story (and video clip); here’s a segment: “…I truly do believe that we baby boomers are in grave danger. No longer do we have any chance of just passing out of existence in a mediocre way. Rather, there is no escaping this fact: As a generation, we will leave behind a legacy that will be talked about for centuries. That legacy will irrevocably brand us as either the worst generation of all time or one of the greatest. It all depends on how we relate to our mortality (the younger generations cannot afford to keep us alive as long as technologically possible) and how we respond to the climate chaos we are causing — and that we can no longer deny or ignore. We boomers are not only the generation in power now; we are also the generation whose numbers (and previous decades of lavish consumption) make us pointedly responsible for rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. “Richer than kings!” my wife and I regularly remind ourselves whenever we enjoy a fresh avocado in Colorado in winter, when we take a hot shower at the mere turn of a tap, when we receive quality dental care, when we listen to music or audiobooks on our iPods, when we never go hungry. But what kind of a world and life prospects will we bequeath to our grandchildren?“