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 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 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. 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

"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 "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 "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

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. 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. 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. 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. 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."