Friday, February 17, 2012

February 18: Heavy Snow Kentucky to Virginia (maps look like March)


10 hours, 30 minutes of daylight today.

104 minutes of additional daylight since December 21 in the Twin Cities.


.23" liquid predicted for the Twin Cities next Monday (NAM model). With temperature close to freezing I could see a mix of rain and snow ending as snow, a coating to an inch of slush possible Monday night on lawns and fields, while most main roads stay wet.

4X. According to Dr. Mark Seeley, midwinter rain and ice events have increased four-fold in the Twin Cities since 2000.

77 days of above average temperatures in the MSP metro area since November 1. Source: Dr. Mark Seeley. Details in his WeatherTalk blog below.


"Viewers tracking storms on television will perhaps most embrace the intelligence from the dual polarity that indicates whether or not a tornado has actually touched down. The key, Baron said, is that the dual polarity can identify the size of objects in the air - from large raindrops to small ones to even snow. And a common trait of a tornado on the ground is the debris it picks up. If there is a cluster of debris, that's a strong indicator of a touchdown." - from an article on dual polarization Doppler radar and Baron Services, a pioneer in radar technology, in a blog post at al.com below.



171 "Nexrad" (next-generation) National Weather Service Doppler radar systems across the USA, providing nearly continuous radar coverage from coast to coast. Map source: NOAA.


"Three states (Louisiana, Texas and South Dakota) have passed so-called Environmental Literacy Improvement Act bills — written by energy industry shills — that require schools to teach climate change “denial” along with conventional climate science. Other states are considering such measures." - from an article at salon.com below. Photo credit here.


"Research has shown that people are motivated to find information that supports their beliefs. "Encountering counterarguments causes us to marshal forces like an army of white blood cells to defend against them."

"Gallup and Pew polls show that the percentage of Americans that believe in climate change now hovers around 50 percent, but Krosnick's latest poll -- which asked the question in a more detailed way -- suggests the figure is 83 percent -- up from 79 percent in 1997. Of the global warming believers, the majority also reported thinking that the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities play a role. The trend held after the researchers broke the data down by political party: 66 percent of Republicans said climate change is happening." - from a Huffington Post article below.

20 cents/mile. Average cost of driving in a traditional, combustion-engine vehicle.
2 cents/mile. Average cost of driving an EV, or electric vehicle. Source: Dept. of Energy, Tesla Corporation. Photo of Tesla Model S above courtesy of Wikipedia.

1.6 million elevators and escalators maintained by Otis Elevator Corporation, worldwide. A new generation of Otis elevators actually generates electricity, power that can go back into the building to keep the lights on. Source: Bloomberg Radio.

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." - Eleanor Roosevelt


Dry Ponds And Green Grass In Eden Prairie. Thanks to WeatherNation meteorologist Susie Martin for sharing these photos of dry ponds and wetlands (and a lawn that's trying to green up - about 40 days ahead of schedule). I worry what will happen if we do see a spell of teens and 20s the end of February.


Above Average Temperatures Through Most Of Next Week. A cool Saturday (close to average for mid February) gives way to upper 30s Sunday and Monday, followed by a slow cooling trend the latter half of next week. Nothing arctic - but by the end of next week it may actually start to feel like February again.



Inside A Nearly Impossible Winter Weather Forecast. It's been an on-again/off-again storm for the Washington D.C. area. I can sympathize. The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang describes the difficulty with Sunday's phantom snowstorm: "Last night (Thursday night), the models seemed to converging towards a snowy solution. It looked like there was a decent chance of meeting winter storm watch criteria. However, today’s runs paint a different picture as there continues to be model chaos. Even the question of precipitation type has not been completely resolved. Why is this forecast so hard? It turns out, there are many layers of complexities involved. The overriding unresolved question is how much snow will the storm produce and, if it does, how much will stick. Both these questions are very much up in the air as very small changes in the storm track can make huge differences in the amount of precipitation it produces."


* storm tracks and timing above courtesy of NOAA NCEP.



Latest Snowfall Prediction. The NAM is still printing out some 8-16" snowfall amounts for southeastern Kentucky and West Virginia, a plowable accumulation into central Virginia, with 1-3" possible for Washington D.C., a coating to 1" for Philly and south Jersey. Monday's (weak) storm over the Upper Midwest may drop a couple inches of slush on the Red River Valley, little snow expected in the Twin Cities metro area.


As Good As It Gets. A (warm), slow-moving and weakening area of low pressure may squeeze out a quick inch of slush Monday night, a better chance of a couple inches of snow over far western Minnesota. Models are hinting at another inch or so of snow next Thursday as temperatures begin to fall. Nothing but (meager) clippers. Yes, we are most definitely in a snow recession.


Monday Mix? The Bufkit plot from last night's 00z NAM run shows a little wet snow Monday afternoon changing over to a cold rain Monday evening as temperatures aloft rise above 32 F. That leads me to believe that we won't see 2" of snow, maybe a sloppy coating to an inch of slush - before the changeover to rain. With surface temperatues just above freezing I suspect most roads will stay wet. A late February snow is different than a (cold) early January snow. Considering the maps look more like mid March I guess we shouldn't be too surprised that we'll see a mix of rain/snow.


Saturday Severe Threat. SPC shows a slight risk of severe storms, including a potential for isolated tornadoes, from southern Louisiana to Montgomery, Birmingham and the Atlanta area, as well as parts of the Florida panhandle.

0-Line Creeping Closer. The map above, courtesy of policlimate.com, shows the coldest nighttime lows expected over the next 8 days, a chance of subzero lows over the northern third of Minnesota (especially the end of next week).


Arctic Oscillation: Still Mostly-Positive. After dipping into negative numbers since late January, implying weaker westerly winds and a better chance of bitter air pushing into the lower 48 states, the AO is forecast to become strongly positive again in late February and early March, meaning stronger west winds across North America, a somewhat diminished risk of bitter, subzero air reaching the USA. There's little doubt we'll cool down in late February, but the odds of more subzero weather for the northern tier states has dropped in recent days. Source: policlimate.com.


One More (Real) Cold Front? The GFS is fairly consistent bringing one more surge of numbing air south of the border during the last few days of February. It won't stay cold for long - a few days in the teens and 20s; not even sure we'll dip below zero in the metro area. But keep the heavy jackets handy. Winter isn't quite done with us just yet. GFS 500mb forecast above valid February 29.


Shiver-Potential. Although no big storms are in sight (where have you heard THAT before?) the GFS and other models are fairly consistent pulling nippy air south of the border between February 26 - February 29; maybe 2 or 3 days of minor pain and scattered goosebumps. The GFS drops metro lows into single digits, but a lack of significant snowcover may keep the mercury above zero at KMSP.

Warm Winter = Less Static Electricity? Dr. Mark Seeley answers a good question about how our unusually mild winter has impacted static electricity; a lack of bitter (dry) Canadian air has had some positive effects. More in his weekly WeatherTalk blog: "Since November 1, 2011, 77 percent of all days have brought above normal temperatures to the Twin Cities. But in addition dewpoints (atmospheric water vapor) has been very high this winter. The presence of more moisture in the atmosphere makes it more conductive preventing the build-up of charged particles. In the indoor environment humidifiers help keep static electricity potential down, but Mother Nature does it best if the atmosphere outside is moist to begin with. During this winter we have had many dewpoints in the 20s and 30s F, about 25-30 degrees F higher than normal. These have produced days with relative humidity of 65-80 percent, conditions that are not conducive to the formation of static electricity."

Good News Continues In Latest Flood Outlook. The Crookston Times has the encouraging news: "Fargo, N.D. — The latest flood outlook for the Red River in eastern North Dakota features a little-uttered word: minor. Figures released by the National Weather Service on Thursday show the chances for minor flooding are less than 33 percent in most areas. And between the South Dakota and Canadian borders, the possibility of major flooding on the Red River is between just 1 percent and 6 percent. Greg Gust, a meteorologist with the weather service, joked that river forecasting has been less than exciting this year." Map above courtesy of NOAA.

Spring Flood Outlook Shows Average To Below Average Risk. The very latest from Radio Iowa: "The National Weather Service has released its spring flood outlook, and senior hydrologist Jeff Zogg says it’s something everyone should like. “The risk of flooding statewide across Iowa this spring, looking at the current conditions we have right now, indicates an average or below average risk of flooding. So definitely in better shape this year than we have been in the past couple of years,” Zogg says. The last couple of winters we have seen lots of snow and records for the amount of time that snow stayed on the ground. That’s not the case this winter.”Snowpack across Iowa, and the Mississippi and Missouri basins above Iowa, so far this winter have been below average, so that tends to lesson the flood risk,” according to Zogg." Photo above courtesy of the USGS.



Former TV Meteorologist Bob Baron Making World Safer From Tornadoes. I'm proud to say I know Bob Baron; he's a true entreprenuer and pioneer - he built Baron Services from scratch down in Huntsville, and he's been on the cutting edge of radar technology for the better part of 25 years. In fact we use Baron technology on the air - their Vipir Doppler system, which can tap into NWS Nexrad radars and live, local TV radars as well - there's no better tool to analyze severe thunderstorms. KARE-11 also has Vipir, which does a remarkable job isolating the rotating T-storms that often go on to spawn large hail and tornadoes. The Birmingham News has the story at al.com: "HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Bob Baron is sitting in his sprawling office on the second floor of his tornado business and seems almost amused at the repeated questions about April 27. For some, April 27, 2011, was the day that tornadoes became TORNADOES. For some, every dark cloud off to the west now gets an extra glance or two. For Baron, he's more than 20 years ahead of you. "It really hasn't changed what we've done," he said. Baron, a former television meteorologist in Huntsville, founded Baron Services in the aftermath of the deadly Airport Road tornado in 1989. Ever since, he's been trying to demystify tornadoes."

Photo credit above: "Baron Services was founded in 1990. They worked in the development of Doppler weather radar including dual-polarization radar technology. Their equipment and software is in a number of broadcast TV station. They are working with L-3 STRATIS to upgrade 171 NEXRAD installations with dual-polarization capability for the U.S. National Weather Service, Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Defense. Bob Baron talks about the tornado outbreak on April 27, 2011. Screen on right is tornado track of one of the F5 tornadoes which hit Ala. (The Huntsville Times/Dave Dieter)."

Report: Severe Weather On The Rise. An update from delmarvanow.com: "SALISBURY -- Natural disasters have become big business in Maryland. Within the past year, a string of damaging and expensive natural disasters, including tornadoes, a hurricane, a tropical storm and earthquake tremors have all caused damage to the region and businesses throughout the Lower Shore. According to a report released by Environment Maryland, weather-related disasters affected 18 counties throughout the state including Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, which dumped 23.7 inches of rain on Maryland."

Photo credit above: "Within the past year, a string of damaging and expensive natural disasters, including tornadoes, a hurricane, a tropical storm and earthquake tremors have all caused damage in the region. The Daily Times/file photo."


Start-Up Sends Live Local TV To iPhones and iPads. This is bound to trigger a fight with local broadcasters, who are paid by cable systems to retransmit their signals. Aero gets around this by selling a small antenna, which then makes it legal, or so they hope. Plenty of additional billable hours for lawyers involved with this one, but once the genie is out of the Internet-bottle, it's going to be tough to put it back in. More from AP and MSNBC.com: "A startup backed by media billionaire Barry Diller has launched a service that sends live local TV feeds to iPhones and iPads. But the service may be short-lived, since TV stations are likely to challenge its right to use their broadcasts. The service, Aereo, launched in New York this week, but it is available only by invitation. It hopes to broaden access to more people next month, and then launch in other cities. Subscribers pay $12 per month and use their web browsers to access streams from 27 local channels, including the major broadcast networks ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. For now, the service works only on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches, but Aereo is planning to make it accessible to PC browsers and Android-powered phones as well."

Ask Paul Weather Q&A.

"There is talk of an early spring. Do your records remember when farmers were doing field work around Northfield on March 4, 1981? That may be a year or so off. I remember that clearly, because it was my birthday. I had never before seen such early field work, and I have not seen it since. I am almost 79 years old.

Gloria Kiester

Dear Gloria- I didn't get to the Twin Cities until March of 1983, but I teed up your question with Pete Boulay over at the MN State Climate Office. It turns out there was a spell of remarkable warmth in mid February, 1981. Here is what Pete said:


"I remember it well. Back in 1981 the Twin Cities was in the middle of a 5-day streak in the 50s, and one 60. It was great to walk outside and watch the snow melt away." - Pete Boulay, MN State Climate Office.

http://climate.umn.edu/doc/twin_cities/msp1980's.htm


One Amazing Warm Front. Check out the numbers from mid February, 1981. After waking up to -20 F. the morning of February 11, the high in the Twin Cities reached 60 just 5 days later! Data courtesy of the MN State Climate Office.
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Dear Paul,

I was a pilot in WWII and every morning a weather balloon was released to gather the current conditions. Now you have the jet stream. My question is how is the jet stream located? It must be invisible. Is it by radar or computer? I'll be watching the daily paper for an answer.
Yours truly,

Walter Miller
Plato, Minnesota

Dear Walter- thank you for your note (and your service in World War II). I have a son about to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy - who will be training to fly jets or helicopters for the Navy, so I  do not take what you did for granted. Thank you. Ironically, the same technology used in WWII is still in use today. Twice a day weather balloons are launched from hundreds of weather service sites (worldwide). Meteorologists use sophisticated devices to track these rapidly rising balloons, and they're able to calculate wind speeds at various altitudes of the atmosphere. It's a global effort, but it's an imperfect system. There are big holes/gaps in the data, especially over the oceans, where we rely on satellites. A new generation of NOAA weather satellites can estimate wind speeds, filling in some of these gaps in the data. BTW, the "jet stream" was discovered in WWII, when high-altitude bombers over Japan discovered that they were almost stationary over one spot - the winds aloft were that strong! The advent of jet aircraft (flying higher in the atmosphere) enabled pilots to literally stumble on this snake-like ribbons of rapidly-moving air; wind speeds can often exceed 100 mph some 4-7 miles above the ground. Wikipedia has a good explanation on the jet stream here. Thanks for a great question!
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Paul, I am a recently retired investment banker who wants to learn more about weather -  understanding weather terms, patterns, influences on local weather, tools for forecasting near term weather. Are there any  college/university weather courses  that  you could steer me towards here in the  Minneapolis - St.Paul metropolitan area.

Thanks
Steve Yanisch

Steve- Although the U. of Minnesota doesn't offer a meteorology degree (not quite sure why they don't) you might be able to audit an introductory meteorology course there - worth a shot. The only school in Minnesota where you can get a 4-year meteorology degree is St. Cloud State University. Again, they may have some options to sample classes that I'm not aware of. There is so much (good) information on the web now - a simple Google search will keep you busy for months to come. UCAR at Boulder offers a "Comet Virtual Classroom", which delve into incredible detail on every kind of meteorological phenomenon. The National Weather Service offers up "Jet Stream: Online School For Weather", which has some great information. Another good option: attend the 2012 Skywarn Conference at the University of St. Thomas on April 14. The emphasis is severe weather, but you'll make some contacts and connections which may lead to more opportunities. Good luck!

2012 Skywarn Workshop. If you're a weather enthusiast (geek), and you have a special interest in severe weather - this is a conference you probably don't want to miss - scheduled for April 14 at the University of St. Thomas. For more information click here. If you're interested in becoming a Skywarn spotter classes are available across the state. Click here to see when and where.


"Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush."  - Doug Larson





National Highs And Lows For The Lower 48 States, courtesy of NOAA.







Winter On Hold

"Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush," said Doug Larson. No slush in sight, but I'm whistling. Some part of me misses the snow, but - like many - I feel like I won the Winter Lotto this year. Like I went in for a root canal, only to discover my (sadistic) dentist mixed up the X-rays. Relieved.

We're not quite out of the woods - but I can see the edge of the forest coming into view. Dr. Mark Seeley reports 77 days above average since November 1 in the metro.

At the rate we're going (with a chilly end to February) this may wind up being the 3rd or 4th warmest meteorological winter since 1872. 3 subzero nights so far? If word gets out there'll be a line of minivans and SUV's rolling up I-35 any day now. You mean Minnesota doesn't get dreadfully cold anymore? It's cold enough, but the worst of the arctic fronts have been neutered since 1998.

Sunday's storm misses D.C, a few inches of snow for Tennessee and Virginia. A weakening storm may squeeze out 1-2" of slush Monday night, but the biggest storms track south of Minnesota through late February.

I've used my heavy coat only TWICE all winter. Keep a heavy jacket handy for late February.

* photo credit above here.

Climate Stories....


"Don't blow it - good planets are hard to find." - quoted in Time Magazine.

Dear Mr. Douglas,

Been meaning to drop you a quick note just saying thank you thank you thank you for your incredibly clear and courageous [sad that it is that] statement about climate change on Kerri's show, January 13. Bravo, I stopped what I was doing, clapped at the radio and wished more scientists were so articulate and pointed.

All the best,
Karin Preus
St. Paul, MN

Karin - I appreciate your note. I usually only hear from a very vocal minority, the skeptics, doubters and deniers on the subject of climate change. I don't pretend to be a climate scientist, but weather and climate are flip-sides of the same coin. Unlike some of the other TV meteorologists in town I do feel a professional obligation to report on climate science; what I genuinely believe will be one of the biggest, ongoing stories of the 21st century. I hope the scientists are wrong - but the body of data and evidence is pretty overwhelming, and getting bigger every year. I'll keep reporting on stories that catch my eye and share them with you - thanks for checking out the blog.
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Climate Warming Denial: Big Business. Discovery News has the article; here's an excerpt: "What to do when adults persist in believing that the burning of fossil fuels is causing climate change? You know, on account of that pesky overwhelming scientific evidence and stuff? Simple. Target kids instead, and try to convince them, as early as possible, that it's all a crock - or at least that it's highly controversial. That apparently is the plan of the Heartland Institute, which dubs itself a "free-market think tank" and which has long sought to cast doubt on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Earlier this week, an unknown source forwarded to DeSmogBlog a series of what appeared to be internal documents from Heartland, including information on funders (including an anonymous donor who funded much of the organization's climate change denying efforts, and up to 20 percent of its overall budget), a packet prepared for a board meeting, IRS documents, and a 2012 fundraising plan and budget. Heartland has denounced one of the documents, a so-called "climate strategy", as a fake, and indeed it does appear to stand out from the others; but that brief summary seems to draw mostly from the rest of the documents in the release, which the organization acknowledges "appear to have been written by Heartland’s president for a board meeting that took place on January 17."
Photo credit above: "IMAGE: The sun sets over the city of Chicago, where Heartland Institute is having an open house at One South Wacker #2740 Drive on March 1. (Photo by Brooks Kraft/Corbis)."



Why Global Warming Still Considered Target Of Skepticism For Americans. Huffington Post has the story; here's an excerpt: "If you follow the popular polls, you might think that Americans are growing ever more skeptical about man-made climate change -- despite the consensus among published climate scientists. That's simply not true, Jon Krosnick of Stanford University told an audience of social scientists and cognitive researchers Wednesday, in Garrison, N.Y. He maintained that most Americans do, in fact, believe. The problem, Krosnick said during his talk at the Garrison Institute's annual Climate, Mind and Behavior symposium, is that we haven't been asking the public the right questions. The other problem: Legislators are reading their misleading answers and hearing from a vocal minority of constituents."


Secret Papers Turn Up Heat On Global Warming Deniers. Salon.com has more: "With Al Gore way down in Antarctica inspecting melting glaciers, and America’s unusually mild winter providing a respite from seasons of freakish droughts, floods, Nome-style whiteouts and the hurricane that ravaged Vermont, the issue of man-caused global warming has been out of sight and mind. But virtually all scientists continue to believe that most indicators suggest the world as we know it is slowly ending, and that humans are to blame.  Nature – oceans, deserts, crops, animals and insects – is in the process of being transformed by rising temperatures due to the fuel we burn to stay warm or cool, and to power factories, cars and jets. In the academies, the argument now is only between experts who predict “bad” and those who predict “catastrophe.” Some people don’t want to hear it. Supporters of industries that profit from the fossil-fuel status quo routinely challenge those facts, and treat them as political talking points." Photo above: Reuters.

Climate Change Naysayers Drowning Out Science: Expert. The story from The Edmonton Journal: "The president of one of the world's biggest scientific organizations says the research community is being outgunned by naysayers. She said she is "scared to death" by trends that show declining public acceptance of global warming and the growing influence of science skeptics, who have plenty of resources to spread their misinformation. "They are actually being effective," Nina Federoff, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said Thursday when asked about reports of a new push to undermine the teaching of global warming in U.S. schools. Documents leaked by a Canadian group this week, said to be from the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, outline plans to discredit climate change in public schools and cast doubt on the scientific findings that emissions from burning fossil fuels threaten the planet.



Global Warming Could Fuel More Frequent Storm Surges. USA Today has more details: "Last year's most devastating tropical system -- Hurricane Irene -- was considered by some experts to be a "100-year-event," a storm that comes around only once a century. Irene lashed the East Coast in August, killing at least 45 people and leading to $7.6 billion in damages. But a study out this week in Nature Climate Change says that due to global warming, these monster storms could make landfall more frequently, causing destructive storm surges every 3 to 20 years instead of once a century." Photo: AP


Climate Change Skeptic Heartland Institute: Who Are They? The Alaska Dispatch has more details: "The climate change debate just got noisier. Leaked internal documents from the Heartland Institute have revealed the Chicago-based think tank's strategies for promulgating skepticism of the belief that humans are warming the planet. The documents were acquired through email by an outside source pretending to be a part of the Institute. They were then posted on the DeSmogBlog, a blog that seeks to discredit industry-funded climate skepticism, and their contents have been widely dissected in news reports. But few media outlets go into detail about exactly what the Heartland Institute is. Founded in 1984 by Chicago investor David H. Padden, the Heartland Institute initially focused on government policies that affected the American Midwest. Now it seeks to influence policies that have an impact on the entire planet."

Web Leak Shows Trail Of Climate Skeptic Funding. The story from the Sydney Morning Herald: "THE paper trail connecting the climate change sceptic movement in Australia and the conservative US expert panel the Heartland Institute goes back at least to 2009, documents released on the internet this week show. The Heartland Institute, a leading group that funds activities designed to sow doubt about climate change science, was embarrassed this week when its strategy and budget documents found their way to a US blog. The institute described the leak as a theft and said a police investigation was under way, while apologising to the 1800 companies and individuals whose identities were revealed as donors."

Climate Change Doubter Heartland Institute Documents Leaked. The L.A. Times has the latest: "Once in a while, there comes along a reason to believe in karma. Earlier this week, the Heartland Institute, a self-described “free-market think tank” that pilloried climate scientists whose stolen emails were released in 2009 as part of the so-called Climategate flap, found itself duped out of several confidential fundraising documents that were then distributed widely over the Internet, offering a glimpse of its priorities. On its website, the Chicago-based Heartland asserts that at least one document is forged. The group has yet to determine if the the other documents, including its tax returns and fundraising targets, were altered. It says it has notified the police and FBI of the unauthorized release of the documents, which occurred “when an unknown person who fraudulently assumed the identity of a Heartland board member … persuaded a staff member here to “re-send” board materials to a new email address.”


Heartland Institute Faces Fresh Scrutiny Over Tax Status. The Guardian has the story: "The Heartland Institute, the libertarian thinktank whose project to undermine science lessons for schoolchildren was exposed this week, faces new scrutiny of its finances – including its donors and tax status. The Guardian has learned of a whistleblower complaint to the Internal Revenue Service about Heartland's 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. There was also a call from a group of climate scientists who have personally been on the receiving end of attacks from Heartland and bloggers funded by the thinktank, and whose email was posted online after a notorious 2009 hack, for Heartland to "recognise how its attacks on science and scientists have poisoned the debate about climate change policy," in a letter made available exclusively to the Guardian."

Photo credit above: "The Heartland Institute, whose strategy to undermine climate change was exposed this week, has non-profit status. Photograph: John Mcconnico/AP."

* An Open Letter To The Heartland Institute, courtesy of The Guardian.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February 17: "Plowable" Snow From Kentucky to Virginia (Saturday severe storm outbreak southeast USA?)

Will Budget Cuts Impact The National Weather Service? "In addition to $40 million in cuts, the President's 2013 budget proposal also cuts the computer specialist job (ITO) at every forecast office.  ITOs use their technology skills to forecast and issue warnings. Some say this could lead to a lessening of lead time of tornado warnings, and it will put people's lives at risk." - from a story from wsav.com below.

60. Average number of tornadoes every year in Alabama.

177. In 2011 Alabama experienced more tornadoes than any other state in the USA. Source: SPC.

Doubt, Skepticism And Denial. "Climate change is associated with Al Gore, the liberal agenda, the UN, tree-huggers. Essentially, people who don't seem to share [Christians'] values," she said. Meanwhile, sources that many conservatives trust -- in the media, among political leaders or religious organizations -- present another image, one that says climate change and global warming are theories supported by skewed research funded by liberal benefactors". - from an ibtimes.com story below on the reluctance of some Christians to accept climate science.

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Trending Milder. Temperatures cool off a bit on Saturday (back down to average for mid February) before rebounding into the 30s, even a few low 40s possible Monday, again Wednesday. I would be extra-careful on the ice until further notice. Yes, vehicles are banned - but I would be thinking twice about taking a sled onto the ice by the middle of next week.

Record Early Ice-Out This Year? The average ice-out on Lake Minnetonka is April 13. Why do I think it's going to be a lot earlier than that this year, at the rate we're going. Second warmest meteorological winter (to date), highs reaching the 40s in late February, maybe a 50 the first weekend of March? The record for earliest ice-out on 'Tonka is March 11, 1878, the mythic "Year Without A Winter" in Minnesota. My hunch: ice-out on metro lakes between March 13-20, almost a month ahead of schedule. Stay tuned. Check on average/record ice-outs for your favorite lake here, courtesy of the MN DNR.

Big Silver Lining: Minimal Potential For Major Spring Flooding. According to the North Central River Forecast Center (division of NOAA) there is a less than 20% risk of (major) flooding on rivers across most of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa - a 40-60% risk for the Fargo area. Why? No significant snow on the ground, very little soil moisture and above-average temperatures.

* A detailed text forecast from the Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service is here.

An Odd Snowcover Map. Check this out - precious little snow across the Dakotas, central Minnesota, southern Wisconsin and a big swath of Illinois, while parts of Nebraska and southwestern Iowa still have 4-8" snow on the ground. Data is available for the entire USA, including SWE, snow water equivalent (how much liquid water is thought to be trapped in that snowcover). Click here to see the latest, courtesy of NOAA's NOHRSC, the National Operational Hydrological Remote Sensing Center. Come to think of it "NOHRSC" works.

Two Early-Week Snow Events. Computer models whisk a fast-moving storm across the south on Saturday (possible severe storm outbreak along the Gulf coast), before turning east-northeast, pushing a shield across parts of Kentucky and the Virginias. Washington D.C. may be on the edge of any significant snow - the latest models hinting at only an inch or two. A second storm approaches Minnesota Monday, a period of rain possibly changing to snow, with a few inches possible north/west of the Twin Cities.

Slushy Mess Next Monday Night? This system is still more than 3 days away - much can go wrong between now and then. The GFS prints out a slushy inch for the metro, as much as 2-5" from Windom and Marshall to Alexandria, Fergus Falls and Detroit Lakes. It may be warm enough aloft for a mix of rain/sleet/snow in the metro before a change to mostly (wet) snow Monday night. With temperatures near 32 F. most major roads will probably stay wet; more like a March snow.

As Good As It Gets (For Snow Lovers). I'm skeptical - the drought signal is overwhelming everything; it's a little like trying to play soccer with one leg in a brace. That said, the models are predicting 1-2" slushy snow for Monday night.

Late February Temperature Roller-Coaster. The GFS shows 30s and 40s into early March, even a shot at low 50s the first weekend of March. Models still bring a brief cold snap into Minnesota around February 27; this run brings nighttime lows below zero for one night. If it does cool down any arctic air will be very brief.


Just when you thought you'd seen everything.....
Photo Of The Day. I can't remember the last time I saw THIS much snow. Good grief. Neatorama.com has the details: "This blogger is trying to find the town of Tecuci, Romania, under the snow! For some reason, the Google translation renders the town’s name as Tecumseh. There are more pictures of the huge snowfall at the site Criserb. Link -via Buzzfeed."


Europe Hammered By Winter, Is North America Next? An update from NASA's Science News: "For the first half of this year's winter, the big news was warm temperatures and lack of snow. Ski resorts were covered in bare dirt, while January temperatures in southern California topped July highs. Then, out of the blue, Europe got clobbered: Over the past two weeks, temperatures in Eastern Europe have nose-dived to -30 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees Fahrenheit). Blizzards and the bone-chilling cold have resulted in the deaths of over 550 people so far, with rooftop-high snow drifts trapping tens of thousands of villagers in their homes and cutting off access to entire towns. It has even snowed as far south as North Africa. "

Photo credit above: "This map shows temperature anomalies for Europe and western Russia from January 25 to February 1, 2012, compared to temperatures for the same dates from 2001 to 2011. The anomalies are based on land surface temperatures observed by the MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite."

Weather Pattern Could Fuel More Alabama Tornadoes. La Nina is weakening, but a cool phase of the Pacific correlates with a more active tornado season, especially over the Mid South. As I've mentioned several times before, jet stream wind speeds are consistently running 10-20% higher than average for February. The stronger the winds aloft, the greater the potential for wind shear, changing wind direction/speed with altitude that can focus spin on a tightly rotating mesocyclone within a severe thunderstorm updraft. Here's more from USA Today: "HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) – This isn't a tornado warning, nor is the siren about to go screaming across the Tennessee Valley. But the potential and the indicators are in place to make the upcoming spring tornado season a rocky one to ride out. This follows a storm season in 2011 that saw several killer tornadoes lash Alabama. John Christy, the state climatologist and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, cited the presence of the La NiƱa weather pattern as a cause for tornado apprehension this spring."

Alabama: Still Traumatized By 2011. During an average year 60 (small/moderate) tornadoes skip across Alabama. Last year 177 tornadoes touched down, an unusual number of large, deadly, EF-4 and EF-5 tornadoes, some 1-2 miles in diameter. Data from NOAA's SPC, the Storm Prediction Center.


Why Are So Many Dolphins Beaching Themselves On Cape Cod? An odd story from the Christian Science Monitor: "There's no good spot on Cape Cod for dolphins to continue this winter's massive and unexplained beachings, but a group of 11 has chosen one of the worst. The remote inlet is a place where the tides recede fast and far, and that's left the animals mired in a grayish-brown mud. Walking is the only way to reach the animals, but it's not easy. The muck that releases a footstep only after a sucking pop. One rescue volunteer hits a thigh-deep "hole" and tumbles. One dolphin is dead, but the other 10 appear healthy, and some thump their tails in the shallows, struggling to move. Rescuers decide the best course is to wait for the incoming tide to free the dolphins, then boats can try to herd them out of trouble."

L.A. Air Pollution May Increase The Risk Of Strokes. Here's an article that caught my eye in the L.A. Times: "L.A.’s smog problem might not be as visible as it was in the bad old days of the 1970s and '80s, but city residents might be at an increased risk of stroke even at levels of pollution that meet EPA standards. Oh yeah, and memory loss. A new study published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that Boston residents experienced more strokes when exposed to “moderate” amounts of particulate air pollution, as opposed to “good” amounts of pollution, according to EPA standards. The types of pollution monitored included those specifically linked with car traffic. Reviewing the medical records of about 1,700 stroke victims at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the study’s authors found that the risk of stroke was 34% higher on days of “moderate” exposure than it was on “good” days. The effects were most acute in the first 12 to 14 hours after exposure."

Photo credit above: "A stretch of the California State Route 99 corridor in the San Joaquin Valley is shown busy with traffic in Fresno in August 2011. A new study released Monday finds that those exposed to particulate pollution associated with auto traffic may be at greater risk of stroke even on days called "moderate" by EPA standards. (Gary Kazanjian / Associated Press)."


National Weather Service Fears Budget Cuts. The story from wsav.com:

"Hurricanes...tornadoes...thunderstorms...flash floods...these are all dangerous and sometimes deadly severe weather conditions. But there are ways to stay safe.  You have Storm Team 3, and you have the National Weather Service to keep you informed and ready. But budget cuts could be coming to the government agency. In addition to $40 million in cuts, the President's 2013 budget proposal also cuts the computer specialist job (ITO) at every forecast office.  ITOs use their technology skills to forecast and issue warnings. Some say this could lead to a lessening of lead time of tornado warnings, and it will put people's lives at risk. "

Student Scheme To Protect Future-Manhattan From Rising Sea Levels. Here's a creative idea from gizmag.com: "A pair of students at the University of Pennsylvania have an audacious suggestion should rising sea levels make their presence felt in Manhattan, New York. Their scheme would see the installation of waterproof canopies to the lower stories of skyscrapers. Tingwei Xu and Xie Zhang say their idea has an "irreducible integrity," thanks to the canopies' various functions which, the students say, are each of equal importance. So in addition to keeping water out, these canopies provide additional structural support against lateral forces, provide green or agricultural space, and, judging by the visualizations, provide living and working areas in their own right."

Swiss Satellite Being Sent To Clean Up The Mess In Outer Space. A satellite vacuum-cleaner? It's the next best thing for all the space-junk in low-orbit around the Earth, as reported at gizmag.com: "NASA currently monitors approximately 17,000 pieces of space junk that are orbiting the earth at extremely high speeds. These odds and ends consist of things like dead satellites, spent rocket stages and parts that have broken off of spacecraft. As the amount of junk increases, it becomes increasingly difficult for functioning satellites to avoid colliding with it. When collisions do occur, the satellite is often destroyed, with the resulting debris further adding to the problem. Scientists from Swiss research institute EPFL, however, have decided that enough is enough - they're currently developing a small satellite known as CleanSpace One, which will be tasked with grappling expired satellites and pulling them back to Earth."

Mobile Apps Take Data Without Permission. All those "free" services aren't quite so free after all. It turns out WE are the product, harvested eyeballs for targeted ads. The New York Times reports: "The address book in smartphones — where some of the user’s most personal data is carried — is free for app developers to take at will, often without the phone owner’s knowledge. Companies that make many of the most popular smartphone apps for Apple and Android devices — Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram among them — routinely gather the information in personal address books on the phone and in some cases store it on their own computers. The practice came under scrutiny Wednesday by members of Congress who saw news reports that taking such data was an “industry best practice.” Image above courtesy of techcrunch.com.

Apple iPad 3 Mini? A 7-Inch iPad Is Coming, Analyst Says. The story (and photo above) from the L.A. Times: "It's a rumor that won't die: Apple and a 7-inch iPad. On Thursday, Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, told Computerworld that he expects Apple to release an iPad in a 7-inch screen size later this year, after a speculated March introduction of an iPad 3 with a 9.7-inch touchscreen. The first generation iPad and the iPad 2 have both had 9.7-inch displays, with a 1024 x 768 pixel resolution, and while the rumor of a 7-inch iPad has been persistent, it's also one that many analysts and tech pundits have shot down in the past."


"Many people pray as if God were a big aspirin pill; they come only when they hurt." - B. Graham Dienert






A Mixed Blessing

"Hi, my name is Paul. Would you like fries with that?" My career has included washing dishes at a Sheraton, making subs and pizzas, and engineering burgers at McDonalds, where I was told, in no uncertain terms, that "You are not management material." Amen to that. If this eerily quiet pattern keeps up I may be looking for a few more part time gigs.

Yes, there are big silver linings to our bizarre Year Without A (real) Winter: far fewer fender benders, not as many injuries from falls on ice, and only a 0-20% risk of severe spring river flooding, according to NOAA.

Of course a lack of snow means potential problems for spring planting, low lake water levels, and a heightened risk of brushfires.

96% of Minnesota is in a moderate drought; a quarter of the Gopher State is in a severe drought. Will we be saved by a few well-timed Tournament Storms in March? Possible, but meteorologists talk about "persistence", which is techno-babble for "go with the flow"; don't buck the trends.

While Washington D.C. braces for a few inches of snow we enjoy a sunny, quiet weekend. An inch of slush is possible Monday night; a cooler end to February. "How 'bout a hot apple pie for dessert?"

* photo credit above here.

Climate Stories....

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." - Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher, 1788-1860



What Do Christians Have Against Climate Science? I'm a Christian - in the spirit of full disclosure I've also voted Republican for most of my life. Which puts me in a very small minority of scientists: Christian, Republican, and concerned about the implications of climate science. If sharing these findings makes me a "warmist" or an "alarmist" than so be it - frankly, the data is rather alarming. I'm not Chicken Little; the sky isn't falling, but it is warming, and that has implications for all of us. In this post a Christian climate scientist explains her take, and why it's been so difficult for some Christians to step up and acknowledge a large (and growing) body of scientific evidence. Here's an excerpt of the story at The International Business Times: "Climate change is associated with Al Gore, the liberal agenda, the UN, tree-huggers. Essentially, people who don't seem to share [Christians'] values," she said. Meanwhile, sources that many conservatives trust -- in the media, among political leaders or religious organizations -- present another image, one that says climate change and global warming are theories supported by skewed research funded by liberal benefactors. Hayhoe confronts this dilemma most days. Her husband, Andrew Farley, is an evangelical pastor who she says was extremely skeptical of climate change science until she clearly outlined the facts in a way that someone without a scientific background could easily digest. In an effort to reach out to the Christian community, the couple wrote "A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions," which untangles the science behind global warming and explores the role Christianity has in guiding opinions and actions on the matter. "Climate change is about facts, and we have to use our values to determine what we are going to do about it. The debate needs to be shifted to what is an appropriate response to the issue," Hayhoe said."

Climate Matrix. Thanks to Roger Pielke Jr's blog for passing this one along....

Study: Sierra Snowfall Consistent Over 130 Years. Here's a rather controversial study highlighted in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Snowfall in the Sierra Nevada has remained consistent for 130 years, with no evidence that anything has changed as a result of climate change, according to a study released Tuesday. The analysis of snowfall data in the Sierra going back to 1878 found no more or less snow overall - a result that, on the surface, appears to contradict aspects of recent climate change models. John Christy, the Alabama state climatologist who authored the study, said the amount of snow in the mountains has not decreased in the past 50 years, a period when greenhouse gases were supposed to have increased the effects of global warming." Image courtesy of John R. Christy, University of Alabama and the San Francisco Chronicle.


Climate Change Effects On Water Could Cost 2 Per Cent Of GDP. Ippmedia.com has more details: "Despite increased infrastructure investment in the water industry, the sector is still facing a big risk attributed to climate change posing threats to investors, populations and the environment. A research carried out by Moshi Urban Water supply and Sanitation Authority (Muwsa) commercial manager Joseph Swai, indicates that so far one of the outcomes of climate change in the water industry is floods. He says the impacts of floods in the industry in Tanzania are associated with disruption of safe water supplies through damage of the infrastructure. Others include overburdening waste water system leading to contamination of water supplies and health risks such as increased incidence of diseases, he says. According to him, if the government and other stakeholders will not take serious measures on the matter, water flow is projected to become more seasonal and scarcer throughout the country."

Surviving The Slings And Arrows Of Climate Change. Here's an excerpt of a timely story from Huffington Post: "Historical perspective: climate change can be life-changing. Societies come and go. Jared Diamond's 2005 bestseller Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed provides a fascinating set of historical case studies of how seemingly highly successful social orders fell as a result of poor choices and bad planning. External factors also played a role, one being climate change. For example, pivotal to the demise of the Anasazi in the U.S. Southwest was the onset of a drought. (In one of TheGreenGrok's travelogue posts, I discussed a similar event leading to the disappearance of the Sinagua.) A paper in last week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences strikes a similar theme. In his inaugural article, which marks his election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, author Tony McMichael of the Australian National University, Canberra, writes about "insights from past millennia into climatic impacts on human health and survival." He provides a broad, sobering account of how major human and social disruptions over the past 10,000 years correlate with, and thus may very likely have been caused at least in part by, climatic shifts."

The Sobering Facts Of Climate Change And Sea Level Rise. WGBH-TV in Boston has the link to a video here.

Energy Independence Is Golden Chance To Develop Renewables: View. Here's an Op-Ed from Bloomberg: "Ever since the 1973 Arab oil embargo prompted long lines at gas stations and helped tip the U.S. into recession, energy independence has been an elusive national goal. So it might surprise you to learn that the U.S. is now closer to achieving energy independence than at any time since the 1950s. As Bloomberg News reports, the U.S. met about 81 percent of demand through domestic sources for the first 10 months of 2011. Oil production is at its highest level in eight years, and natural gas is so plentiful the price has plunged more than 80 percent since 2008."


Renewable Energy Battle: Wind vs. Solar. DailyFinance.com has an interesting story: "The wind and solar industries are often lumped into the same category when discussing renewable energy. They're two of the most natural energy sources we have on Earth and are two of only a few truly renewable sources of energy we have. There are big differences between wind and solar, though. Differences that investors should consider when looking at renewable energy stocks. Let the battle begin. The sheer area it takes to generate renewable energy is one of the drawbacks compared to traditional fossil fuel sources. Anyone who's driven past wind farms in Iowa, Texas, or California has seen just how expansive they can be."


Low-Carbon Technology Can't Fix Global Warming. Zeenews.com has more details: "Washington: Switching over to low carbon-emitting technologies, which includes wind, solar and hydroelectric power, may not cut global warming until the latter part of this century. Technologies that offer only modest reductions in greenhouse gases, such as the use of natural gas and perhaps carbon capture and storage, cannot substantially reduce climate risk in the next 100 years, says a new research. The study claims that the rapid deployment of low-greenhouse-gas-emitting technologies (LGEs) will initially increase emissions as they will require a large amount of energy to construct and install, the journal Environmental Research Letters reports." Photo courtesy of Carbon Decisions.


Farmers Are Ready To Do Their Part On Climate Change. The article from Huffington Post: "The half billion smallholder farms spread across the world's developing countries are at the intersection of humanity's two greatest challenges: reversing climate change and feeding a rapidly growing global population. Most of the people who operate these farms are desperately poor. But it would be foolish to contemplate environmental and food security solutions without them. Together, smallholder farmers manage vast areas of our planet, including 80 percent of the farmland in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The task before them is immense."

Heartland Institute: Hey Kids, Have A Smoke And Denial. Here's a post from Global Warming, Man Or Myth? "As has been widely reported in mainstream media and the blogosphere, a person calling himself “Heartland Insider” leaked internal documents that apparently show that Heartland Institute, a libertarian DC think tank, has engaged in an anti-climate science campaign targeted at the adult general public but also toward undermining the science education being provided to our K-12 school children.  Although many of us have known for a long time what Heartland has been up to, these documents are still quite a smoking gun.  This blog post will present you with a way to voice your concern about Denialgate. First and foremost, please read super-sleuth John Mashey’s expose on Heartland Institute that was posted at DeSmog Blog yesterday. In this document John Mashey shows how Heartland Institute’s Joseph Bast staunchly defended “Joe Camel,” the infamous campaign to addict younger children.  Heartland got tobacco funding for many years, along with a Philip Morris Board member."

Climate Science Attack Machine Took Donations From Major Corporations. The Guardian has more: "A libertarian thinktank devoted to discrediting climate change received funds and other support from major corporations including some publicly committed to social responsibility, leaked documents reveal. The inner workings of the Heartland Institute were laid bare on Tuesday night after an "insider" emailed confidential documents detailing its strategy and fundraising network to DeSmogBlog, which monitors industry efforts to discredit climate science. Much of Heartland's work to discredit climate change is funded by a single anonymous donor, the papers reveal. However, a 2012 fundraising plan also indicated that Heartland has in the past received funds from a host of major corporations for other projects – including companies that publicly support action on climate change."

Photo credit above: "Microsoft, which says it is committed to acting on climate change, said the $59,908 donation was to provide free software licences to non-profits. Photograph: Michael Yang/Rex Features."

Anti-Climate Science Group Threatens Mass Lawsuits. TGdaily.com has the story on fallout from the Heritage Foundation having internal memos and donors exposed in recent days: "A libertarian thinktank devoted to rubbishing climate change is threatening to sue anybody commenting on certain leaked documents - even where the papers are genuine, it says. Internal documents belonging to the Heartland Institute were leaked to the DeSmogBlog website, and appear to show the extent to which the Insitute's activities are funded by major corporations, some of which publicly support action on climate change. In other material, a $100,000 program to try and stop teachers teaching science is supposedly revealed. The documents say the program's designed to "show that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science."