2011: driest year on record for the state of Texas. Details below.
"Flowers are sprouting in January in New Hampshire, the Sierra Mountains in California are nearly snow-free, and lakes in much of Michigan still have not frozen. It’s 2012, and the new year is ringing in another ridiculously wacky winter for the U.S." - Dr. Jeff Masters, from his latest Weather Underground blog. Details below.
Subzero Nights In The Twin Cities. Based on data from NOAA and the Minnesota State Climatology Office, MSP sees an average of roughly 30 nights/winter with temperatures at, or below zero. The average number of subzero nights for the last 10 winters is 16.8. Number of subzero nights:
2001-2002: 2* (fewest ever recorded in modern-day records).
A Year Without A January. O.K. Yes, it's January, but the maps don't look anything like any January I can ever remember. The 500mb (18,000 foot) GFS forecast valid midday January 23 looks more like early April,the pattern over North America overwhelmed by unsually strong "zonal" winds from the Pacific; bitter air remaining bottled up over far northern Canada. Yes, it's going to cool off later this week, but another warming trend is likely by the 4th week of January. I've run out of superlatives. I'm simply dazed and amazed.
Brown January. It's still January, right? There for a moment I thought I might have overslept, and woke up in late March. I can usually gauge the severity of a winter by a). how much sand has accumulated in my garage (answer: none), b). the condition of my shoes (not streaked with salt and gunk), and c). the color of my vehicle (it's still silver, not buried under layers of crud). This must be what it's like to go through winter in Arkansas, or maybe Oklahoma City. At the rate we're going this may wind up being the most remarkable winter since 2001-2002, when only 2 subzero nights were reported in the metro area.
Temperature Departure From Normal In The Twin Cities (NWS data):
January 2012: +11.9 F.
December 2011: +8.1 F.
November 2011: +5.5 F.
October 2011: +6.4 F.
An Early Case Of Spring Fever? Tuesday forecast highs above courtesy of Ham Weather. Temperatures Monday and Tuesday should climb into the 40s, more 50s possible south/west of the Minnesota River Valley - typical for late March or early April. It just keeps getting stranger and stranger...
Remarkably Dry And Warm Winter Due To Record Extreme Jet Stream Configuration. Something is up with the jet stream - changes that have meteorologists scratching their heads in wonder. 4 of the last 6 winters have seen record AO and NAO indices. Weather Underground's Jeff Masters has a fascinating post explaining what's going on, but the whys are still very much up in the air: "The cause of this warm first half of winter is the most extreme configuration of the jet stream ever recorded, as measured by the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The Arctic Oscillation (AO), and its close cousin, the North Atlantic Oscillation (which can be thought of as the North Atlantic's portion of the larger-scale AO), are climate patterns in the Northern Hemisphere defined by fluctuations in the difference of sea-level pressure in the North Atlantic between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High. The AO and NAO have significant impacts on winter weather in North America and Europe--the AO and NAO affect the path, intensity, and shape of the jet stream, influencing where storms track and how strong these storms become. During December 2011, the NAO index was +2.52, which was the most extreme difference in pressure between Iceland and the Azores ever observed in December (records of the NAO go back to 1865.)"
Graphic above: "The December Arctic Oscillation (AO) index has fluctuated wildly over the past six years, with the two most extreme positive and two most extreme negative values on record. Image credit: NOAA/Climate Prediction Center." Courtesy of Weather Underground.
Arctic Oscillation: Hints Of Colder Air. The "AO" has been strongly positive for much of the last 3 months, but is predicted to drop off to, or even below, zero after January 16 or so. Positive AO's correlate with strong westerly winds and bitter air remaining dammed over northern Canada, a negative AO corresponds with bitter cold (and frequent snows). Until and unless the AO and NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) drop well below zero, and stay there, it may be tough to get sustained cold and snowy weather into the Lower 48 States. Graph courtesy of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, where (if you're really bored beyond recognition you can read more about the AO and NAO).
2011: Minnesota Weather In Review. After a wet, stormy start precipitation went off a cliff in August, the start of the drought we're still experiencing, statewide. For more details click here; graphic courtesy of the Star Tribune.
Tough Times For Ski Resorts. "Man-made snow coats a ski run but barren ground remains under a chairlift at Shawnee Peak ski area, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, in Bridgton, Maine. Across much of the Northeast most natural snow has either melted or been washed away by rain. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)."
Bleak Outlook For Snowmobilers. Hey, I sympathize. I have 2 Polaris sleds in my garage, collecting dust and cobwebs. Misery loves company; it turns out there's precious little snow anywhere over the Lower 48 right now. "A snowmobile trail sign marks a trail, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, in Bridgton, Maine. Snow lovers are still waiting for the white stuff throughout much of the Northeast. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)."
"Pro football is like nuclear warfare. There are no winners, only survivors." - Frank Gifford
"Baseball players are smarter than football players. How often do you see a baseball team penalized for too many men on the field?" - Jim Bouton
* photo above courtesy of TWHS, thewifehatessports.com.
WeatherNation (our new 24/7 national weather channel) is coming to Minnesota, free over the air, and on cable systems statewide. Stay tuned for details.
Warmest Meteorological Winter Open In 46 Years For Chicago. More from WGN and chicagoweathercenter.com: "Chicago's official high temperature at O'Hare International Airport hit 55 degrees Friday - just 5 degrees shy of the 142-year all-time high of 60 degrees for January 6. It marked the 31sth day out of 37 thus far this meteorological winter (December 1-Jan. 6) Chicago has recorded above normal temperatures--compared with just 12 days above normal to this point (January 6) last year. You have got to go all the way back to the winter of 1965-66 to find a warmer Dec.1-Jan.6 period, and this season is so far the 8th warmest on record."
Record Warmth For New York City Area.
61 F. Kennedy, New York (old record was 56 in 2007).
62 F. LaGuardia, New York (old record was 62 set in 1946).
61 F. Islip, New York (old record was 55, in 2007).
64 F. Newark, New Jersey (breaks old record of 63 set in 2008).
55 F. Bridgeport, CT (tying record set in 2007).
A Deal On Snow Shovels? "A man walks by a line of snow shovels for sale at a Reny's store, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012, in Bridgton, Maine. Across much of the Northeast most natural snow has either melted or been washed away by rain. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)."
Old Man Winter: Pulling His Punch? Or "The Incredible Shrinking Cold Front." Every computer run looks less and less impressive in terms of cold air. The latest long-range (GFS) model guidance doesn't look nearly as forbidding as earlier runs, hinting at highs rebounding into the 30s, possibly even some 40s returning by January 20-21. Incredible for late January, a reflection of an amazingly stubborn wind flow from the Pacific.
Record Snow And Cold In Alaska. It's a long way to go to find snow, but at least one of the 50 states is seeing a real winter. More from the NWS Alaska Facebook page: “Residents of towns around Prince William Sound are digging out of snowfall that drifted more than 8 feet in places and shut down the only highway in or out of Valdez, a community of about 4,000 that is not infrequently the snowiest city in the U.S. The National Weather Service said Valdez received a record 19.2 inches of snow on Thursday, which leaves the coastal town with 252 inches (about 21 feet) so far this winter. Forecasters said Valdez residents should expect a total of some 3 feet by the time the current snowstorm ends, with limited visibility hampering drivers and pedestrians.” Rochelle Van Den Broek from Cordova, AK posted these pics on the NWS Alaska facebook page."
Top 15 Snowiest Cities In The USA. O.K. My timing is off - this may not be the best winter to review snowiest cities, but a friend asked if MInnesota has any towns in the Top 15 list, and I found this great resource from USA Today. The answer is no. Michigan has the most towns - largely the result of lake effect snow.
Weather 2011: Going To Extremes. Bill McAuliffe at the Star Tribune has a good overview of the wild weather Minnesota endured last year: record dew point (82), an urban tornado, and going from the 4th greatest winter snowfall (86.6") to a drought in the span of about 5 months. Atmospheric insanity. "Weather memories tend to fade quickly. But two events make 2011 stand out: the May tornado that sliced through the heart of the metro area, becoming the first killer tornado to hit Minneapolis in nearly 30 years, and the lightning-sparked, drought-driven September Pagami Creek forest fire, the state's largest fire in 93 years. Both left scars that will mark two very different landscapes for a generation. Beyond that, the year brought a seesaw of extremes -- record snow last winter, record rains in June and record drought to close the year. The first half of the year, with below-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation, was followed by six months of the opposite. Somewhere in there is a joke about what to do if you don't like Minnesota's weather."
Agency Ranks 2011 As Driest Year Ever For Texas. Details from the AP: "HOUSTON (AP) -- The National Weather Service says 2011 was Texas' driest year on record as well as its second hottest. The agency said Friday the average rainfall for the drought-stricken state last year was 14.88 inches. The previous driest average total was in 1917 with 14.99 inches. The weather service says 2011's average temperature was 67.2 degrees. Texas' warmest year on record was in 1921 with an average temperature of 67.5 degrees."
Photo credit: "In this Aug. 3, 3011 file photo, the remains of a carp is seen on the dried out lake bed of O.C. Fisher Lake in San Angelo, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)"
Photo Of The Day: Ice Cave. From Yahoo News: "Melting water creates these marble-like ice caves in the Vatnajokull ice flow in Iceland. A photographer braved freezing conditions to capture the caverns, which can be deadly because of the shifting ice. “The glaciers are constantly moving and changing their formation,” said the photographer. (Photo: Skarphedinn Thrainsson / Caters News)"
"I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol." - author unknown
Cincinnati skyline courtesy of Wikipedia.
An Historic January
"We're having a Cincinnati winter" Stacy Hyre shouted, clapping her hands in glee during a recent dinner. The Hyres just moved here from Ohio, where friends had warned them to expect a cruel winter. Not this year. According to the Minnesota State Climate Office there has never been a report of 60s during the first week of January, until 2012. Historic. Unprecedented. 19% of America is now snow-covered, compared to 48% last year at this time.
For the first time in 30 years the Back Bowls of Vail can't open - there's no snow. Yesterday brought mid 60s to New York City. It would be unwise to write off winter entirely, but the longer I stare at the March-like maps, the more it looks like an abbreviated winter this time around.
In spite of a colder front later this week (closer to average) I still don't see any subzero temperatures for MSP. A typical winter brings about 30 nights below zero. Looking at the last 10 winters the average has been 16.8. Call me crazy, but I detect a trend.
Highs approach 40 today, mid 40s by Monday and Tuesday. It'll feel like January on Thursday; a thaw next Saturday, 30s and 40s return the last week of January. No big storms in sight.
Norwegian Official: "Absolutely No Doubt" Climate Change Is Real. Here's story in the Houston Chronicle: "Norway's minister of foreign affairs stood at a Petroleum Club lectern on Friday and delivered a few blunt words on climate change, about which, he said, "there can be absolutely no doubt." "If you want to see evidence, go to the Arctic," Jonas Gahr Støre said. His resource-rich country borders the polar region, where melting ice has expanded shipping lanes and cut sailing time on certain routes from Asia to Europe by 40 percent during parts of the year. Last year, Støre said, 34 ships used this "northeast passage," up from six in 2010."
Photo credit above: "Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr St re Photo: Handout / HC."
Santorum: "Climate Change Is A Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy". The story from motherjones.com: "A voter in Belmont, New Hampshire asked Rick Santorum about how his climate change policies. This is, of course, an interesting question since Santorum has made it quite clear he thinks global warming is "junk science" and a " a beautifully concocted scheme" created by the left. The Republican presidential contender had a long, rambling answer to the question: "The question is on how do I get my policies with climate change science. I get asked this question a lot, and you look at the data and you can see some change in the climate. But then again, pick a point in history where you haven’t seen a change in the climate. The climate does change. The question is, what is causing the climate to change."
As Wild Weather Hits Latin America Experts Look To La Nina and Climate Change. The Washington Post reports: "CHIA, Colombia — From Chile to Colombia to Mexico, Latin America has been battered recently by wildfires, floods and droughts. For many witnessing the extreme weather in the region and around the world, the question that comes up again and again is whether climate change is playing a role. The response from experts: Probably.
While leading climate scientists are unable to pin any single flood or heat wave solely on climate change, experts say the number of extreme weather events is increasing worldwide and the evidence suggests global warming is having an impact. Wildfires are raging in Chile during an atypical heat wave, and northern Mexico is suffering from its worst drought in 70 years of record-keeping. A second straight season of heavy rains in Colombia killed at least 182 people, destroyed more than 1,200 homes and caused an estimated $2 billion in damage in the past four months."
Climate Change And Bark Beetles Equals Billions Of Dead Trees. The story from mercurynews.com: "Recently, one of my colleagues sent me a story that sums up the media's apathetic appetite for covering the environment. It is perplexing and disturbing. The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, despite the rhetoric from every GOP candidate. Climate change dropped further from the world headlines in 2011 compared to the previous year, even though a vicious one-in-100-year drought in Texas has entered its second year; 70 percent of Mexico is enveloped by its worst drought in 70 years; Australia faced epic flooding costing taxpayers in excess of $5 billion in infrastructure costs; and plants are so confused in their biorhythmic cycles that the white petals of snow drops, normally a spring flower, are now unfurling in the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C." Image above courtesy of Landsat.
China To Release More Data On Air Pollution In Beijing. From The New York Times: "SHANGHAI — China said on Friday that it would begin to publish more detailed air quality data on Beijing later this month, following a public outcry over official government readings that critics said underestimated the severity of the air pollution problem in the smog-filled capital. Beijing plans to publish hourly air quality reports based on an international standard known as PM 2.5, which measures tiny particles that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter, according to an announcement on the Web site of the Beijing municipal government. Those are the particles that are considered the most serious health hazard." Photo above courtesy of china.org.cn.