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 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 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, 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:

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 "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 "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 "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.'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.
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!
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.

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.

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. 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.