Thursday, January 12, 2012

January 13: Chicago Digs Out, Turning Much Colder Northeastern USA

2,834 heating degree days at KMSP.

3,617 heating degrees: average number as of January 12.

22% savings on heating bills since July 1, according to National Weather Service data.

19 minutes of additonal daylight in the Twin Cities since December 21.

First Subzero Low: end of next week. Temperatures map dip below zero next Wednesday or Thursday night. The record for the latest subzero temperature in the MSP metro is January 18, 2002. We'll come close.

January 21-25: couple of inches of snow possible from a series of clippers. I still don't see any significant storms through the last week of January. At some point this pattern has to break, but keep in mind we're in the midst of the worst drought since 2007. The biggest storms will continue to detour south of Minnesota until further notice. Strange, considering January is, historically, the snowiest month of the year in Minnesota.

Average/Actual Snowfall In The Twin Cities

October: .6"/  Trace
November: 10"/  3"

December: 10"/  7.3"

January: 13.5"/  Trace

26: number of lightning-related fatalities in the USA in 2011, fewest on record. Story below.

"We know that when you're exposed to a disaster such as a tornado or a hurricane, the rates of psychological illness and also the rates of physical illness go up." - from an article below on the psychological toll the Joplin, Missouri tornado took on local residents. Photo courtesy of

"I love America more than any other country in this world; and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually." - James Baldwin

The Windy - Snowy City. More on the biggest snowfall of the winter, so far, in the Chicago area...a winter that hasn't been all that bad: "Commuters walk toward a rail station as a snow storm continues Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012, in Chicago. Snow is forecasted to dump up to seven inches in the Chicago area. The Chicago Department of Aviation said Thursday afternoon that more than 400 flights were canceled at O'Hare International Airport (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)."

First (Real) Snowstorm Of Winter For Chicago. WGN-TV has the latest: "Hundreds of flights have been canceled at O'Hare and Midway airports as the Chicago area gets hits with it first major snowstorm. At Midway, Southwest Airlines has canceled all flights in and out of the airport between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. today, according to the Chicago Aviation Department. "This equates to approximately 100 flights, or 25 percent of total flights scheduled at Midway today," it said. "Other airlines at Midway have canceled flights as well." At O'Hare, airlines have canceled more than 325 flights in and out of the airport. As of 11 a.m., airlines were reporting 20-minute delays for flights to and from the East Coast."

January Drifts. Here's a photo from Andrew Hatch, showing serious drifts in the Quad Cities, on the Iowa/Illinois border.

Ice Storm. Here is a great picture taken by John Barrett, one of our weather spotters in Ogdensburg, NY, of the ongoing ice storm in the St. Lawrence Valley.

Precious Little Snow. NOAA's NOHRSC snowcover map shows an inch or two of snow on the ground from the Dakotas into much of Minnesota, 10-20" reported over portions of the Minnesota Arrowhead. This is a tiny fraction of the snow that should be on the ground as of January 13.

Expected Snowfall Through Next Tuesday. Chicagoland should wind up with some 5-10" amounts, Lower Michigan and the Buffalo area picking up significant snow as well. Little additional snow is expected across the Upper Midwest and the major urban centers of the northeast. Map courtesy of NOAA and WeatherCaster.

What Else? A Couple Of Nuisance Snows. Models are still suggesting a light snow event Saturday, as the next Alberta Clipper races across the Upper Midwest, maybe a couple inches over central and northern Minnesota. Another coating to 1/2" is possible next Wednesday, as a reinforcing shot of (arctic) air arrives.

Snow Threat/Opportunity Diminishes. Few Minnesotans are on the fence this winter. Either you love this pattern, or you hate it with a passion. Not much in-between. Earlier in the day Thursday the GFS was hinting at a (very) significant snowfall around January 23. Later runs killed the storm; we may see a series of clippers, brushed by a weak storm on January 25 (above) that may tap southern moisture. I'm still looking for the "Big One". Right now I don't see it, looking out 2 weeks or so. Image above courtesy of IPS MeteoStar.

Next Week: Close Encounter Of The Subzero Kind. Right now it looks like a glancing blow of subzero air across the northern tier states of the USA next week, the best chance of negative numbers from Wednesday into Friday of next week. Subzero nighttime lows are likely over central and northern Minneosta, but it may be a close call for the MSP metro area. 850 mb forecast valid next Wednesday morning, January 18, courtesy of College of Du Page.

Nagging Drought. NOAA's Drought Monitor shows 57.45% of Minnesota in a moderate drought, about a quarter of the Gopher State experiencing a severe drought. The driest counties are found in southern Minnesota and the Arrowhead.

Weathering The Winter Season. NOAA takes a look at winter weather terminology, reviewing the differences between advisories, watches and warnings. "The word winter brings many things to mind. For some, it’s bundling up to brave the cold temperatures, school snow closings, and fun-filled days of sledding. For others, it invokes treacherous commutes punctuated by blizzard conditions, slippery roads, and fender benders.  This winter, understanding the differences behind National Weather Service’s advisories, watches and warnings could save your life or someone you love by knowing the appropriate action to take."
  • Winter Weather Advisory – Any combination of snow, blowing snow, freezing rain and sleet that meets or exceeds a locally defined 12 and/or 24 hour advisory criteria, but remaining below warning  criteria.
  • Winter Storm Watch – Conditions are favorable for a winter storm event (any combination of heavy snow, heavy sleet, ice storm, and blowing snow) to meet or exceed local criteria.
  • Winter Storm Warning – Winter weather event that includes: snow, ice, or sleet meeting or exceeding locally defined 12 and/or 24 hour warning criteria; or a combination of snow, ice, or sleet and blowing snow with at least one of the precipitation elements meeting or exceeding locally defined criteria.
  • Blizzard Warning – Sustained wind or frequent gusts greater than or equal to 35 mph accompanied by falling and/or blowing snow, frequently reducing visibility to less than 1/4 mile for three hours or more. 

2011: Fewest Lightning Deaths On Record Across USA. USA Today has the story: "Even in a year marked by severe storm outbreaks, lightning killed fewer Americans in 2011 than any year on record, according to data released by the National Weather Service. Although 2011 was a hellish year for tornado deaths across the country, with more than 500 people killed, only 26 people died as a result of a lightning strike. This is less than half the recent average of 55 deaths per year, and continues a downward trend in lightning deaths over the past few decades, according to weather service meteorologist John Jensenius, the agency's expert on lightning safety."

Drury Study Looks Into The Psychological Impact Of Joplin Tornado. takes a look at the terrible mental toll the Joplin F-5 tornado took on May 22, 2011: "One of the worst natural disasters to ever hit our region is now the subject of a significant study. Researchers at Drury University are looking at the psychological impacts the Joplin tornado had on victims. The professor leading the research hopes the findings will contribute to recovery efforts in future disasters.The Joplin tornado killed 161 people and left hundreds of families without homes. Drury psychology professor Jennifer Silva Brown wants to know how those survivors managed to cope. "We tried to identified those factors that promote resilience so what are those individuals doing in order to successfully adapt to life post disaster."

Apps For Your Vehicle? The recent CES Show in Las Vegas showcased how auto makers are planning for a new generation of services (and potential distractions) on your dashboard. Because none of us want to be away from our Twitter feeds and FB posts, right? The New York Times reports: "LAS VEGAS — If Mercedes, BMW and Ford have their way, the new cars they build will be able to port apps, games, music and movies from a smartphone to a car’s entertainment system.  But for every potential distraction automakers add, they find themselves having to build in ways to prevent drivers from crashing their new smartphone on wheels: automatically applying the brakes at a traffic light; alerting drivers when a car is in the blind spot, or reading traffic signs and slowing a car as speed zones change. As cars become ever more vibrant entertainment centers, automakers find themselves in a kind of arms race with themselves that they are powerless to prevent. “We can’t stop the prolific growth of consumer technology,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer at Ford. “We can’t stop people bringing phones in their cars. We endeavor to make sure people do it in the safest way possible.” Photo courtesy of Ford.

Study: Old-School TV Viewing Is Growing. I don't find this hard to believe at all. What the study doesn't capture is the intense multi-tasking going on in nearly every home: people have the TV on in the background, but they're on their laptops, tablets and smartphones, consuming content from multiple devices (simultaneously). has the story: "A range of on-demand viewing options—and some new platforms to watch that content on—has traditional television watching on the run, right? Well, not quite. The average number of hours Americans spend every week sitting on the couch watching terrestrial, cable and satellite television continues to rise, according to a new year-end report from Turner Networks."

The TV Industry Is Scared Witless Of Apple's iTV. Here's Why. The story from Cult of Mac and "The Consumer Electronics Show has officially kicked off here in Las Vegas, and if there’s one thing every Mac fan should go into CES knowing, it’s that the whole television industry is petrified of Apple entering it. As CEA’s Chief Economist and Director of Research Shaun Dubrovik made clear in his introductory presentation on the trends they expect to see this year at CES 2012, the whole television industry is scrambling. They are all trying to anticipate just what the heck Apple is going to do when they unveil their long rumored television, the iTV. What are TV makers betting that Apple has up its sleeves? A bezel-less, ultra high resolution TV that runs apps and is controlled by a mixture of gestures and voice control and effortlessly interact with tablets and smartphones."

"The family - that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to." - Dodie Smith

"Sun Dog". I snapped this photo back in November, white sunlight being refracted (bent) by billions of tiny, prism-like ice crystals in a deck of cirrus clouds, roughly 25,000 feet above the ground. Sun dogs are only seen close to sunrise or sunset, when the sun is low in the sky, and veil of high thin clouds is moving in. For more than you ever wanted to know about sun dogs and other "parhelia" click here.

Hints Of A Real Winter

“The snow began to fall again, drifting against the windows, politely begging entrance and then falling with disappointment to the ground” wrote Jamie McGuire in "Beautiful Disaster". This winter has been an unmitigated disaster for snow-lovers. Again, I'm just the messenger. We're in a drought; the odds are stacked against us. But there is hope in the long-range outlook.
I can usually gauge the severity of winter by a). undershirt consumption, b). state of my shoes and c). number of e-mails asking me for warm weather getaway advice.

Yes, this is an utter waste of cold air, but GFS guidance is bringing a chance of (significant) snow into Minnesota by January 23. It's early; I want to see more computer runs before I get too excited. But at least there's a chance (of something to point to on my green screen).

In the meantime a clipper may drop a coating to 1" Saturday. A brief thaw early next week gives way to one of the coldest airmasses of winter the middle of next week; probably our first encounter with subzero weather. We may set an all-time record for the latest zero on record in the cities (Jan. 18, 2002).

Winter is arriving late this year - but don't write it off just yet.

"He who angers you conquers you." - Elizabeth Kenny

Climate Stories....

Global Warming May Trigger Winter Cooling. Counterintuitive? You bet, but climate change is impacting day to day weather in ways we're just now beginning to understand. Science Magazine has the details: "It seems counterintuitive, even ironic, that global warming could cause some regions to experience colder conditions. But a new study explains the Rube Goldberg-machine of climatic processes that can link warmer-than-average summers to harsh winter weather in some parts of the Northern Hemisphere. In general, global average temperatures have been rising since the late 1800s, but the most rapid warming has occurred in the past 40 years. And average temperatures in the Arctic have been rising at nearly twice the global rate, says Judah Cohen, a climate modeler at the consulting firm Atmospheric and Environmental Research in Lexington, Massachusetts. Despite that trend, winters in the Northern Hemisphere have grown colder and more extreme in southern Canada, the eastern United States, and much of northern Eurasia, with England's record-setting cold spell in December 2010 as a case in point."

Global Warming Discrimination? Ben Stein Claims He's A Victim Of Political Discrimination. Reuters has the story: "The conservative pundit and actor -- and former Nixon speechwriter -- alleges that his position on climate change had him kicked off a $300,000 acting gig, only to be replaced by a lookalike. Stein filed a discrimination suit against Japanese company Kyocera Corporation and New York ad agency Seiter & Miller Advertising, in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday."

Study Reveals That Climate Change Is Now A Factor For Investment Bankers. has the story: "All successful venture capitalists know that if you want to make a smart investment, you must take into account all possible factors. With that in mind, it seems that the world of finance is now waking up to the fact that climate change must be considered when it comes to deciding whether investments will have relevance in the future. According to a Mercer survey, 12 institutional investors (who are worth trillions of dollars) now factor climate change into their investment decisions. According to the survey, 50% of the investors decided, in the wake of the Durban Climate Conference, that climate change should be considered in future risk management and asset allocation processes."