Wednesday, January 11, 2012

January 12: Windy City Mess (4-8") Bitter Winds Return

Today is the coldest day of the year for many northern cities, based on the latest 30 year weather averages.

"I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood." - Bill Watterson

7 states set all-time precipitation records in 2011.

20 cities across the USA experienced the wettest year on record, a new national record for America. Details below.

23 days/row of measurable snow at Fairbanks, Alaska, a new record.

Minnesota Ice Deaths:

2011-2012: 0
2010-2011: 4
2009-2010: 1

Record Ice Deaths:
1982-1983: 22

Welcome To The Coldest Day Of The Year (On Average). Weather data from 1981-2010 shows that high temperatures bottom out at 23 F (for maximum temperatures) between January 6 and January 18. The midpoint is January 12/13. I was a bit surprised too, assuming that the coldest weather of the year is late January. Average highs rise from 23 (now) to a whopping 25 by the end of January. Check out the MSP January averages for yourself, courtesy of the Minnesota State Climate Office.

Tuesday Records. Scores of record highs (and record warm minimum temperatures ) were set on Tuesday. Click here for an interactive map, courtesy of Ham Weather.

"Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled."   - from an Inc. article highlighted below.

"But weather accounted for about 90% of (2011's) 820 recorded natural disasters, which caused at least 27,000 deaths."

"Since 1980, the report notes, the number of severe floods has almost tripled, and storms have nearly doubled, which insurance experts link, in part, to the impact of climate change. “It would not seem plausible that climate change doesn’t play a role in the substantial rise in weather-related disasters,” says Ernst Rauch, head of Munich Re’s Corporate Climate Centre."   - from a story in Nature, details below.
"Electronics are our talismans that ward off the spiritual vacuum of modernity; gilt in Gorilla Glass and cadmium. An in them we find entertainment in lieu of happiness, and exchanges in lieu of actual connections." - from a funny, well-written look at our enfatuation with gadgets and technology from Gizmodo below.
Too Early For Spring Fever? Short Answer: Yes. Unseasonably mild weather was the rule the first 10 days of January from the Upper Midwest into much of the northeastern USA: "In a Monday, Jan. 9, 2012 photo, Jordan Crandall plays a game of disc golf at a popular sledding hill during the mild winter weather in Orchard Park, N.Y. The warm, brown winter that has disappointed snow lovers in much of the U.S. has put more green in the pockets of governments and homeowners whose budgets were busted last year by the high cost of plowing and running roaring furnaces. (AP Photo/David Duprey)."
Waiting For Winter. Not good times for snow-related businesses across the USA: "In a Monday, Jan. 9, 2012 photo, trucks with snowplows are for sale at a business, during the mild winter weather in Newstead, N.Y. The warm, brown winter that has disappointed snow lovers in much of the U.S. has put more green in the pockets of governments and homeowners whose budgets were busted last year by the high cost of plowing and running roaring furnaces. (AP Photo/David Duprey)."
Breaking News: A Real Snow Storm? The models are consistent: printing out very significant snow from Wisconsin into the Great Lakes states, as much as 6-10" for Wisconsin, 4-8" for the Chicago area and South Bend, a few inches for Detroit. Lake effect will compound the snowfall amounts from the snow belts of Cleveland and Buffalo into upstate New York.
Looking For Snow? It's a bit pathetic, but you may have to drive a few hours to see significant (6-12"+) snows. The Duluth National Weather Service WRF run shows some .8 to .9" precipitation predictions, a foot or more of (lake effect) snow seems likely east of Superior, on up to Ironwood, Michigan, on the Upper Peninsula.
No Significant Snow Looking Out 1 Week. None of the models are hinting at significant snow, a parade of feeble clippers (moving quickly and starved for moisture) may drop a half inch of snow Saturday, maybe another coating Monday night as a reinforcing shot of Canadian air arrives. Pretty exciting stuff, huh? My boredom spells good news for commuters, I guess.

Tuesday Weather Records:

Houston- Hobby airport  4.06 inches
Lufkin – 2.75 inches
San Angelo SNOW – 2.6 inches/1.38 inches liquid (rain changed to snow)
Dallas-Fort Worth 1.31 inches
Midland SNOW – 10.6 inches/ 0.70 inches liquid water equivalent (mostly snow, some rain very early in event).

Lake Charles 6.26 inches
Lafayette 3.25 inches
New Iberia 2.72 inches

Long Range Forecast? Good Luck: the faster the jet stream winds blow, the more unstable the pattern is, and the tougher it is to make a forecast beyond a few days. Case in point: below was the 12z Wednesday morning run of the GFS model, valid January 27:

500 mb Winds, January 27 (Wednesday morning run of GFS)

500 mb Winds, January 27 (Wednesday afternoon run of the GFS). Dramatic differences from one run to the next. It doesn't fill me with confidence, but both solutions suggest a relatively mild, "zonal" flow, originating from the Pacific, not the Yukon.

An Abbreviated January?  Yes, it's colder, and seasonably cold weather will hang on into much of next week. But check out the latest 500mb (18,000 foot) winds predicted for January 27 (GFS) above. I'm no rocket scientist (my wife reminds me of that daily), but that sure looks like a resumption of a zonal, west-to-east flow, a modified-Pacific pattern with winds aloft blowing from Portland and Seattle, not the Yukon. That should mean a return to 20s and 30s by the last week of January - possibly a better chance of significant snow. A series of troughs, cold wrinkles in the upper level flow, will sweep eastward - it's just a matter of time before one of these is slow and deep enough to tap moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. Then again, we're in a drought - maybe that's just wishful thinking.
Arctic Oscillation Going Negative? After being (strongly) positive since autumn, the AO is forecast to drop below zero after January 19 or so - which would insinuate a turn to much colder weather. This is still possible as westerly winds ease somewhat, allowing fresh bursts of Canadian air to charge south of the border. The next 2 weeks will trend a few degrees below average, but I still don't see any stretches of prolonged, subzero weather. In fact we may not approach zero in the metro until late next week, coming close to breaking the record for latest (first) subzero low, set on January 18, 2002. More than you ever wanted to know about the AO (Arctic Oscillation) and NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) from CPC, the Climate Prediction Center.

Negative AO - Yet No Prolonged, Bitter Air. Based on the AO and NAO trending negative, and westerly winds forecast to ease (allowing bitter air to plunge south) we should be looking at a turn to much colder weather the latter half of January. It'll be seasonably cold the next week to 10 days, but I don't see the other shoe (boot?) dropping anytime soon. It sounds ridiculous to some degree, but I'm starting to wonder if the next 8 days may be some of the coldest of a not-so-cold winter? The extended GFS model output shows mostly 20s and 30s the last week of January, even a shot at 40s around Sunday, January 22. We'll see a few hiccups of Canadian air, but I just don't see any sustained, subzero air right now.

Mighty Winds Force Trans-Atlantic Fuel Stops. CNN Money has a story about the implications of exceptionally strong jet stream winds: "NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Unusually high winds are forcing airlines flying west across the Atlantic to make extra stops to take on more fuel. The conditions are causing inconveniences to fliers who are often missing connections once they land, costing the airlines money to rebook or otherwise compensate their customers. Company spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said the winds were typically 30 knots in December the previous decade, but they averaged 47 knots last month, with half the month averaging 60 knots. The unusually high winds and the flight diversions have continued in the first 11 days of January, she said, although she did not have any statistics." Photo courtesy of United Continental.

U.S. Weather In 2011: Unprecedented Rains And Wet/Dry Extremes. Dr. Jeff Masters has a good review of a crazy year, meteorologically-speaking. It was a year of the precipitation haves and have-nots, as explained in his excellent WunderBlog: "Rains unprecedented in 117 years of record keeping set new yearly precipitation totals in seven states during 2011, NOAA's National Climatic Data Center revealed in its preliminary year-end report for 2011. An extraordinary twenty major U.S. cities had their wettest year on record during 2011. This smashes the previous record of ten cities with a wettest year, set in 1996, according to a comprehensive data base of 303 U.S. cities that have 90% of the U.S. population, maintained by Wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt. Despite the remarkable number of new wettest year records set, precipitation averaged across the contiguous U.S. during 2011 was near-average, ranking as the 45th driest year in the 117-year record. This occurred because of unprecedented dry conditions across much of the South, where Texas had its driest year on record." Map above courtesy of NOAA's NCDC.

Catastrophe Count. From a recent Nature article:"An increase in severe storms is helping to drive up the number of recorded disasters, but this cannot be conclusively attributed to climate change." Really? Climate change is certainly loading the dice, as scientists have explained (ad nauseum). Other factors are in play: more people living and building in vulnerable regions, next to rivers and coastlines, etc, but there's little doubt that the chart above correlates with a spike in greenhouse gases and a global uptick in temperature, especially northern latitudes.

Allstate Among Insurers Lifting Rates As Storms Defy Models. Although severe local storms, floods and other extremes are on the increase, it was another relatively quiet year for hurricanes - this crazy pattern is wreaking havoc with the models insurers use to calculate risk and premiums, as reported by BusinessWeek: "Allstate Corp., Travelers Cos. and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. are among insurers raising homeowners’ rates after damage from natural disasters defied industry projections. Allstate, the No. 2 U.S. home insurer, boosted prices for its namesake brand of home policies by 5.6 percent in the nine months through Sept. 30 and has said more increases are coming. Travelers is raising rates after re-evaluating U.S. storm risk. State Farm, the largest U.S. home insurer, has charged homeowners more nationwide for three straight years. Near-record-low interest rates cut insurers’ investment income, and tornadoes, wildfires and Hurricane Irene increased claims costs in the U.S. last year. The industry averaged annual underwriting losses on homeowners’ policies in the decade ended in 2010, according to data compiled by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners."

Scientists Discover Galaxies Far, Far Away - The Farthest Ever Seen. has the details: "Astronomers have discovered the far, far away galaxies. The farthest galaxy cluster ever seen, in fact, a whooping 13.1 billion light-years away. According to the researchers, "these galaxies formed during the earliest stages of galaxy assembly, when galaxies had just started to cluster together." They have called them the Protocluster of Galaxies BoRG 58—obviously trying to rip the fundamental fabric of the sci-fi space-time nerd continuum. The galaxies are about one-half to one-tenth the size of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, but their brightness is similar because they are being fed large amounts of gas from the merging of galaxies. The simulations show that BoRG 58 will finally collapse in a massive elliptical galaxy like M87, in the Virgo Cluster."

What's An Entrepreneur? The Best Answer Ever. This article from LinkedIn and Inc. caught my eye: "As an entrepreneur, you surely have an elevator pitch, the pithy 15-second synopsis of what your company does and why, and you can all but repeat it in your sleep. But until recently, I’d never seen a good elevator pitch for entrepreneurship itself—that is, what you do that all entrepreneurs do? Now I've seen it, and it comes from Harvard Business School, of all places. It was conceived 37 years ago by HBS professor Howard Stevenson. I came across it in the book Breakthrough Entrepreneurship (which I highly recommend) by entrepreneur and teacher Jon Burgstone and writer Bill Murphy, Jr. Of Stevenson’s definition, Burgstone says, “people often need to say it out loud 50 or 100 times before they really understand what it means.”

"If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree." - Jim Rohn

Mark Cuban's 12 Rules For Start-Ups. Some helpful advice from Entrepreneur Magazine:. Item #1 kind of sums it up for me. What would you be doing (for free?) That's what you should be focusing on: "Anyone who has started a business has his or her own rules and guidelines, so I thought I would add to the memo with my own. My "rules" below aren't just for those founding the companies, but for those who are considering going to work for them, as well.

1. Don't start a company unless it's an obsession and something you love.
2. If you have an exit strategy, it's not an obsession.
3. Hire people who you think will love working there."

* Photo above courtesy of

Fever Dream Of A Guilt-Ridden Gadget Reporter. I thought this was a particularly well-written (and poignant) story, about how we often use technology as a magical talisman. If we can't be happy at least we can be distracted/entertained. Mat Honan at has the story, direct from CES in Las Vegas: "There is a hole in my heart dug deep by advertising and envy and a desire to see a thing that is new and different and beautiful. A place within me that is empty, and that I want to fill it up. The hole makes me think electronics can help. And of course, they can. They make the world easier and more enjoyable. They boost productivity and provide entertainment and information and sometimes even status. At least for a while. At least until they are obsolete. At least until they are garbage. Electronics are our talismans that ward off the spiritual vacuum of modernity; gilt in Gorilla Glass and cadmium. An in them we find entertainment in lieu of happiness, and exchanges in lieu of actual connections. And, oh, I am guilty. I am guilty. I am guilty."

"See everything; overlook a great deal; correct a little." - Pope John XXIII

No Kidding. Photo courtesy of David Duprey, Associated Press.

A "Winter" To Remember

Can you recall a winter this...odd? I can't. This is my 27th winter. We've had warm spells before, but I can't remember anything this off-the-scale. Dan Luna, Chief Meteorologist at the local National Weather Service agrees. "What I am most surprised about is the length of this warm spell. It is very unusual to see a cold spell or warm spell of this significance last a month" he said in a recent e-mail. January is running 15 degrees above average. Implications for the rest of the winter? "It will be hard to have a below normal winter in terms of temperatures. We would have to see a second half of January and all of February well below normal, and we see no indication of that" Luna added.

Is this evidence of climate change? Possibly. A  2-3 F. temperature rise over northern latitudes has loaded the dice in favor of milder, drier winters.

Since 1980 the number of severe storms has doubled, floods have tripled, according to a recent Nature paper. But proving cause/effect with the atmosphere is tricky.

Chicago sees 3-6 inches snow, some 8" amounts over central Wisconsin, while we see a Saturday coating. Another thaw is likely here early next week - I wouldn't be shocked to see freezing Sunday and 40 on Monday, followed by a reinforcing surge of Canadian air next week. No big storms; no prolonged arctic suffering either. 

What a strange winter.


EPA: Power Plants Main Global Warming Culprits. The story from ABC News: "The most detailed data yet on emissions of heat-trapping gases show that U.S. power plants are responsible for the bulk of the pollution blamed for global warming. Power plants released 72 percent of the greenhouse gases reported to the Environmental Protection Agency for 2010, according to information released Wednesday that was the first catalog of global warming pollution by facility. The data include more than 6,700 of the largest industrial sources of greenhouse gases, or about 80 percent of total U.S. emissions. According to an Associated Press analysis of the data, 20 mostly coal-fired power plants in 15 states account for the top-releasing facilities." Photo above courtesy of Bloomberg.

In Big Environmental Speech Obama Thanks EPA, Mentions Climate Change In Passing. An excerpt from a post at Climate Progress: "Because of you, across the board, we’re cutting down on acid rain and air pollution.  We’re making our drinking water cleaner and safer.  We’re creating healthier communities.  But that’s not all.  Safeguarding our environment is also about strengthening our economy.  I do not buy the notion that we have to make a choice between having clean air and clean water and growing this economy in a robust way.  I think that is a false debate.  (Applause.) Think about it:  We established new fuel economy standards, a historic accomplishment that is going to slash oil consumption by about 12 billion barrels, dramatically reduces pollution that contributes to climate change, and saves consumers thousands of dollars at the pump, which they can then go spend on something else."
Investors Begin To Factor Climate Change Into Investment Decisions. has the story: "Institutional investors worth trillions of pounds are factoring climate change into their investment decisions, a Mercer survey has revealed. The consultant surveyed 12 investors who participated in a previous report on climate change and represent almost $2 trn (£1.3trn) in assets under management. It found that more than half had decided to consider climate change in risk management and asset allocation processes. As the political solution to climate change falters following the Durban negotiations, Mercer global head of responsible investment Jane Ambachtsheer said climate change remained "a significant investment risk for the foreseeable future".
Climate Change Causes Dramatic Ecological Changes. From "A new multi-year study has determined that reduced winter snowfall in mountainous regions as a result of climate change is causing cascading shifts in plant life and animal communities by allowing elk to stay though the winter and consume the plants that would normally be home to a variety of bird life." Photo courtesy of USGS.