Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February 2: Happy Groundhog Day! (6 more weeks of winter?)

3rd least January snowfall on record across the Lower 48 States of the USA (source: NOAA).

70 F. high in Washington D.C. Wednesday.
67 F. high in Philadelphia.
62 F. high reported at Hartford, Connecticut yesterday.

* reports of 5" daffodils in full bloom in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Photo credit above: "Melanie Trost, a physician at the Duke University Student Health Center, enjoys the sunshine at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012 in Durham, N.C. (AP Photo/The Herald-Sun, Christine T. Nguyen)."

6 More Weeks Of Winter? Any other year I'd look at a map, find Minnesota, calculate the distance to the Canadian border, and mumble yes, of course! But this year? Unusually mild weather is forecast to linger into (at least) mid February. That's about as far out as we can look with any accuracy at all. La Nina and a persistent blocking pattern aloft will keep our winds blowing from the Pacific vs. the Yukon for the next few weeks. More cold fronts are unavoidable, but I still believe the worst of winter, a wimpy winter at that, is in our rear view mirror. My prediction: Punxatawney Phil will not see his shadow, meaning an early spring. No kidding. Here's more from  "Groundhog Day 2012 will be here soon! Phil will leave his burrow at 7:20 February 2nd at Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania he will observe the weather conditions and look for his shadow he will then make his prediction for the remainder of winter."

* why isn't Groundhog Day a national holiday? Just saying...

"Hog-Cam". If you're bored beyond recognition, check out the WeatherBug webcam transmitting time lapse photos from lovely Punxatawney, Pennsylvania. Who knows - maybe you'll get a peek at Bill Murray?

History Of Groundhog Day. I know (deep down) you're curious about the origination of Groundhog Day, right? Right?? If you're trying to look busy for the boss just keep your buried in your computer screen and read on, courtesy of the Pittsburgh office of the National Weather Service and the Punxetawney Groundhog Club: "Groundhog Day has its origins in an ancient celebration of a point mid-way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Superstition has it that fair weather was seen as forbearance of a stormy and cold second half to winter. The early Christians in Europe established the custom of Candlemas Day, when the clergy would bless candles and people would light them in each window of their homes to ward off the darkness of mid-winter But the legend of the February 2nd forecast also persisted, as captured in this old English saying:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again

The trail of groundhog history actually leads back to Clymer H. Freas, city editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper. In 1887, he was inspired by a group of local hunters and gourmets who held a groundhog hunt followed by a picnic barbecue of, well, you know. Anyway, Freas thought it so much fun that he wrote up the group as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club and went on to promote the Punxsutawney Groundhog as the official weather forecaster. As he embellished the story year after year, other newspapers picked it up and soon everyone looked to Punxsutawney Phil for the critical prediction of when spring would return to the nation."

Thin Ice Cancels Maple Lake Ice Fishing Tournament. AP and KARE-11 have the story: "MAPLE LAKE, Minn. - Thin ice has forced the cancellation of a popular Minnesota ice-fishing contest. The Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby was supposed to be held this weekend. But organizers canceled this year's event due to unsafe ice conditions. Spokesman Nick Olson says the annual event normally draws about 10,000 people."
January 31 tweet from Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle: "All three City of Omaha 18 hole golf courses are open today due to unseasonably warm weather–Benson, Elmwood and Johnny Goodman! Fore!"

Madison: Too Warm For Winter Activities At City Parks. January 31, 2012 - Due to unusually warm temperatures, all of the Madison Parks outdoor ice rinks, ski trails, snowshoe trails and sledding hills are closed. Staff will attempt to re-open these facilities later this winter if/when conditions allow. When the weather turns more winter-like, be sure to check the status of the winter activities on the web - Parks Winter Activities:

Winter The Way It Was Meant To Be. Check out a great photo from Sugarloaf, Maine. Nice.

Meanwhile, Back In (Nearly Snow-less) Minnesota. Here's the latest snowcover map from the Minnesota DNR. A new map comes out tomorrow, which should show even less snow, the result of recent melting and daytime temperatures consistently above freezing.

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

Photo Of The Day. No caption necessary. Is Minnesota losing it's Winter Mojo? Alaska is getting a real question about that. Remember when you were 20? I don't either...

A Foot Of Snow For Iowa? The latest NAM model is very impressive (for snow) just to our south, printing out anywhere from 10-18" of snow for northwestern and north central Iowa , 4-8" for the Omaha area, closer to 3-6" for Des Moines. We'll see, but if your travel plans take you into Iowa or Nebraska tonight into Saturday you'll want to prepare for heavy, wet, slushy snow.

Friday Evening Weather Map. The WRF model forecast valid at 7 pm Friday evening shows heavy wet snow from Denver into the Nebraska panhandle, the atmosphere warm enough for rain east of Omaha into southern Iowa and Missouri. So close, and yet so far.

Where's The Cold Air? The extended GFS numbers look like a continuation of more of the same: dry and milder than average, with highs mostly in the 30s through February 17. Still no significant snow in sight for most of Minnesota.

Mid February Outlook: Seasonably Cool, But Not "Arctic". The GFS predicted 500 mb (18,000 foot) winds for February 17 suggest the brunt of any bitter air later this month will be directed at New England, with just a glancing blow of cold for Minnesota - our pattern dominated by (what else): a family of meager clippers, too weak, moving too fast to tap any significant moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

Stuck In A Mild, Dry Rut. Here is an excerpt of some climate headlines from climatologist Greg Spoden at Minnesota's State Climate Office:

- January 2012 was yet another dry month across much of Minnesota. In many counties, it was the sixth consecutive month of precipitation shortfalls. January precipitation totals generally ranged from one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch, roughly one-third to one-half inch below the historical average.

- The U. S. Drought Monitor depicts nearly every Minnesota county as experiencing some level of drought. A large portion of northeast Minnesota, where river and lake levels are very low, is placed in the Severe Drought category. The Drought Monitor also rates much of southern Minnesota in the Severe Drought category. Nearly all other Minnesota locales are determined to be in Moderate Drought. As a state, the autumn of 2011 was the driest in Minnesota's modern climate record. That precipitation deficit has been followed thus far this winter by below-average snowfall totals.

- The present snow depth is well below the historical median in most Minnesota counties.

- Monthly mean temperatures for January 2012 were very warm, topping the historical average by 9 to 11 degrees across Minnesota. It was the fourth consecutive month of abnormally warm temperatures.

- Without ample, widespread precipitation in the late winter and early spring, Minnesota will face a number of drought-related issues entering the 2012 growing season. Minnesota's drought presently exhibits relatively few observable negative impacts. However, the drought situation will become rapidly apparent in the spring in the form of deficient soil moisture supplies and low water levels in wetlands, lakes, and rivers.

Japan Snowstorm Kills 52, Crushes Steel Bridge. ABC News has more details: "Heavy snowfall has crippled much of Japan’s western coast, killing more than 50 people and injuring nearly 600. The worst snowstorm in six years has dumped more than 10 feet of snow in the hardest-hit regions, causing at least one bridge to collapse and forcing school closures across the region. An avalanche today buried three people for more than an hour near a hot springs in Akita Prefecture in northwest Japan. The women were later found unconscious but survived."

Temperatures Drop To Dangerous Lows In Russia. The story from The Weather Network and Reuters: "Severe frost hit many regions in Russia, from Siberia to the central part of the country, including the Yakutia, Altai, Khakassia, Irkutsk, Chelyabinsk, Tyva, Rostov and Belgorod regions, as well as the North Caucasus. Strong frost and temperatures as low as minus 45 degrees Celsius are forecast to last until the end of the weekend in the south Siberian Khakassia region, local authorities said. Bus companies cancelled several routes, causing pedestrians on the street to endure the harsh conditions on their way to work, school or back home. "I dress as (best) I can. Well, it's true that I'm not wearing a hat like most students, but the cold is horrible," a pedestrian told Russian television, which reported severe frost in many Russian regions."

Big Freeze Grips Europe. The BBC's Peter Gibbs explains why Europe and much of Asia is unusually cold.

Europe Freeze Kills 89, Fears Rise Over Russian Gas. Reuters has an update: "Record-low temperatures in parts of Eastern Europe pushed the death toll from Arctic conditions to at least 89 people on Wednesday, and have forced Russian gas provider Gazprom to warn over supplies to Europe. Europe had enjoyed a relatively mild winter up until last weekend, but a Siberian system swinging in from the east brought that to an abrupt halt. A source at Russian gas export monopoly, which supplies a quarter of Europe's gas imports, said it was getting more requests from export markets than it could physically accommodate as demand from Russia spikes."

Helicopters Used To Evacuate, Send Food In Europe Freeze. reports: "Rescue helicopters evacuated dozens of people from snow-blocked villages in Serbia and Bosnia and airlifted in emergency food and medicine as a severe cold spell kept Eastern Europe in its icy grip. The death toll from the cold rose to 79 on Wednesday and emergency crews worked overtime as temperatures sank to minus 26.5 F in some areas. Europe had enjoyed a relatively mild winter up until last weekend, but an Arctic system swinging in from the east brought that to an abrupt halt." Photo courtesy of Radul Radovanovic  /  AP.

Enormous Antarctic Crack Is A Real Ice-Breaker. Discovery News and NASA have the story: "Feb. 1, 2012 -- NASA's Terra Earth-observing satellite captured this image of Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica on Nov. 13, 2011, after a research team discovered a huge 19-mile (30-km) -long crack running across it. Members of the Operation IceBridge mission spotted the crack during a DC-8 flight over Pine Island Glacier (PIG) on Oct. 14, 2011. It's estimated to be up to 260 feet (80 meters) wide and 195 feet (60 meters) deep. Eventually the crack will shear the glacier off completely, creating an ice island spanning 350 square miles (900 sq. km). The Pine Island Glacier is a major ice stream that drains 10 percent of the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Although a warming climate and warmer seas have affected glaciers elsewhere in Antarctica, calving events like this have been happening steadily on PIG over the past few decades, at least. "

Talk of "Tornado Tourism" Stirs Up Anger In Joplin. The Missouri town is still trying to recover from last year's massive, mile-wide EF-5 tornado that levelled much of the city. The Tennessean has the story: "JOPLIN, Mo. — Eight months after a tornado laid waste to much of this city, Joplin is wrestling with an emotional question: Should the community market its devastated neighborhoods to tourists? When the convention and visitors bureau recently discussed offering guided bus tours and even a smartphone app, storm victims bristled, imagining that their shattered homes could be put on display for legions of curious sightseers. But the bureau director says he wants to promote Joplin’s recovery to outsiders, insisting that the effort is “not about busted-up homes or destroyed cars or body parts.”

Hurricanes: The Times-Picayune Covers 175 Years Of New Orleans History. Here's a remarkable story from a newspaper that has covered more than its fair share of devastating hurricanes, The New Orleans Times Picayune: "The New Orleans area has been ravaged repeatedly by hurricanes during its 200-year history, with the first major hurricane in 1722 destroying nearly every structure in the four-year-old village, including its only church, parsonage and hospital. While Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused the most financial damage and killed 1,465 in Louisiana, the October 1893 hurricane that hammered Grand Isle and the fishing village of Cheniere Caminada killed as many as 2,000. Other notable hurricanes were: Hurricanes Gustav and Ike | September 2008: The storms came ashore only 10 days apart. Surge sloshed over Industrial Canal floodwalls during Gustav, and significant damage occurred in West Bank communities during Ike, which made landfall in Galveston, Texas."

P&G To Lay Off 1,600 After Discovering Its Free To Advertise On Facebook. Yes, the ad model is changing, and that is going to bring some wrenching transitions for many in the traditional media world, including advertising and marketing. That's hardly a bulletin. Business Insider has the story: "Reality appears to have finally arrived at Procter & Gamble, the world's largest marketer, whose $10 billion annual ad budget has hurt the company's margins. P&G said it would lay off 1,600 staffers, including marketers, as part of a cost-cutting exercise. More interestingly, CEO Robert McDonald finally seems to have woken up to the fact that he cannot keep increasing P&G's ad budget forever, regardless of what happens to its sales. He told Wall Street analysts that he would have to "moderate" his ad budget because Facebook and Google can be "more efficient" than the traditional media that usually eats the lion's share of P&G's ad budget."

Only About A Third Of Tweets Are Worth Reading (Study). No kidding. But I really do want to know what you had for breakfast. That said, I can no longer imagine life without Twitter - a compelling (and superior) way to get breaking news, if you choose who you follow very, very carefully. has more details: "Do you ever wonder how people react when they see your Twitter updates? Odds are, most would fall under the category of “meh,” according to a new study. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Georgia Tech joined forces to get a sense of how most tweets go over. They created a website called Who Gives a Tweet? that was sort of like a Hot or Not for tweets: Users were promised feedback on their tweets if they agreed to anonymously rate tweets for people they already follow. Over 19 days in December and January, 1,443 visitors to the site rated 43,738 tweets from 2,014 accounts. The verdict? Respondents liked 36% of the tweets, disliked 25% and ranked their reaction to the remaining 39% as neutral."

iPad 3 Specs: Quad-Core, WIFI and Global LTE Options. BGR Media has more details on what may be coming from Apple. Fan-boys discuss. "A source claiming to be in possession of an iPad 3 prototype provided BGR with images containing details about Apple’s highly anticipated third-generation tablet. From the data in the photos, which contain the output from an iPad 3 using a development and debug tool called iBoot, we can infer plenty of information about the upcoming iPad 3. For starters, the model numbers are J1 and J2 (iPad3,1 and iPad3,2), and while DigiTimes reported this a few weeks ago, these two models are not different devices, just a single iPad available in two versions — one with Wi-Fi only and one with Wi-Fi and embedded GSM/CDMA/LTE for all carriers."

New "Everpix" App Automatically Uploads iPhone Photos To The Cloud. Here's a good way to back up your iPhone pics. has more details: "Photo organization service (and TechCrunch Disrupt finalistEverpix just launched its first iPhone application. The app does two key things: it offers you a way to access your entire photo collection from your phone, plus it automatically uploads all your iPhone photos to the Everpix cloud. The app is a crucial part of the overall Everpix experience, which, for those of you unfamiliar, works primarily as a Mac application at present (Windows coming) to automatically organize and combine all your photos, whether they’re stored on your computer or in the cloud. The service supports photo uploads from iPhoto, Aperture and Lightroom, plus photos from your online collections on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and Picasa."

30 Years Of David Letterman. The video compilation courtesy of "(Last night) David Letterman celebrated 30 years on the air. It's been quite a ride for old Dave, through different timeslots and networks, from the peak of zeitgeist to something else entirely. He's hosted starlets and politicians, often treating them with a dash of anger and more than a bit of sarcasm. Here are some of the most memorable moments from his time on television."

Photo courtesy of yfrog and

Courtesy of

"A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble." - Charles H. Spurgeon

Groundhog Day!

The anticipation is killing me. Will the groundhog see his shadow, ensuring 6 more weeks of winter? Then again, Punxatawney Phil's long-term accuracy is 39% (something I aspire to), so take his ruminations with a grain of salt. Any other winter I'd shrug, find my home on a map, calculate the distance to the Arctic Circle and mumble "OF COURSE we'll see 6 more weeks of winter."
This winter is an entirely different proposition, though. The drought that started in autumn is strengthening, spreading north from Texas. La Nina has hijacked the jet stream, complex blocking patterns sweeping mild air inland from the Pacific with a predictability and persistence that's nothing short of astonishing. So all bets are off.

I still don't see any arctic flings looking out through mid February. Our remarkable thaw lingers into at least Monday. A brief midweek chill gives way to more 30s (and 40s) the second week of February.
Snow? Are you kidding me? It doesn't snow (hard) here anymore. Not this winter. A big sloppy southern storm brushes Iowa with a few inches of slush Saturday; detouring south of Minnesota. Again.

Snow lovers with an itch that a scratch won't reach ask me "when will it snow?" Think April.

"Be loyal to what you love, be true to the earth, fight your enemies with passion and laughter." - Edward Abbey

Climate Stories....

What’s it going to take to spur this nation to act on the opportunities that a green economy presents? "First, I think it’s important to note that we already have a thriving green economy. More people actually work in the green economy than the fossil fuel sector. The question, though, is, how do you scale it enough that people go back to work? The first step is green incentives. We have to stop providing incentives to fuels that pollute and provide incentives to the industries we want to grow. The United States has to pick winners and losers, and we want to pick winners that put people back to work and sustain the planet."  - Green For All's CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins. read the full story at The University of Minnesota's Momentum Magazine.

Does Warmer Weather Mean A New Plant Zone For You? Meteorologist David Epstein at poses the question - little question there's been a northward shift of flora and fauna in the last 30 years. I tell people the truth: don't look at your thermometer for evidence of climate change (that's "weather", not climate). Look at what new flowers, trees, plants, birds and other animals show up in your yard that weren't there in the 60s and 70s. "Last week the USDA put out a new plant zone map for the country. They divide the contiguous United States into 11 zones that help gardeners choose what to grow in their area. The map is now more precise and reflects microclimates, heat islands, prevailing wind, elevation and generally better data. According to the USDA the map should not be used to make conclusions about climate change. The new zones are based on temperatures for the period 1976-2005, updating the 1990 version of the map, which used temperatures from 1974-1986. So what does this mean to you? Can you plant orange and palm trees in your yard? The answer is of course no, but, based on the new map you can probably try some new varieties of plants that you might have been reluctant to try in the past."

Climate Change In 26 Seconds. In a hurry? Witness the worldwide warming trend since 1880 in a mere 26 seconds. Video clip courtesy of and those left-wing, tree-hugging, Al-Gore-loving scientists over at NASA. Right.

Texas Drought: Landscaping Reconsidered Among Homeowners. Huffington Post has the story: "LUBBOCK, Texas -- Texans watched disaster unfold slowly last year as a historic drought took a withering toll across the region. Trees died by the millions, lawns and landscaping wilted, lakes shrank and wildlife struggled. Water bills shot up. All of this, experts say, could be just the nudge homeowners across the Southwest need to do things differently in their yards. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is featuring a "Drought Survival Kit" on its website that offers residents, who are facing a forecast of more dry weather, tips on how to landscape while reining in water consumption."

Cartoon courtesy of New Jersey's Star Ledger.

Texas Tech Scientist Sees Intimidation Effort Behind Barrage Of Hate Mail. Texas Climate News has the story: "Hate mail in the inbox has been an occupational hazard for climate scientists in the public eye for some time now. Something about their endorsement and explanation of the mainstream scientific view that humans are heating up the earth’s atmosphere elicits that sort of response from certain people who disagree very strongly. Lately, it has been Texas Tech University professor Katharine Hayhoe’s turn to be on the receiving end of an avalanche of venomous emails. It happened after conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh ridiculed her as a “climate babe” and Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich, apparently reacting to Limbaugh’s attack, revealed that he was dropping a chapter written by Hayhoe from his forthcoming book on environmental issues."

Climate Scientists Not Cowed By Relentless Climate Change Deniers. Physics Today has the story: "Receiving an email with a statement like “You should resign, and if you don’t, I’ll work to see that you are fired” or “I know where your kids go to school” would be unsettling enough. But they “pale compared to what other climate scientists are getting,” says Raymond Orbach, director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, at whom the first threat above was aimed. Now climate scientists—in atmospheric physics and chemistry, geophysics, meteorology, hydrology, and oceanography, among other disciplines—have begun to fight back. “I think the community is finding a voice,” says Ben Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, whose work has largely focused on identifying the human influence on global climate, and who once answered a late-night knock to find a dead rat on his doorstep. Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that climate change is happening, although details of how it will play out are uncertain. Every few years, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues a report prepared by hundreds of scientists and government officials from around the world; the next is due out in 2014."

Climate Change Drying Out Forests In Western Canada. CTV News has the story: "Research shows northern forests in the three prairie provinces are drying up and shrinking from drought caused by climate change, while the eastern boreal forest is holding its own. A paper published Monday suggests the forests of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are already emitting more greenhouse gases than they absorb. The finding could overturn assumptions that global warming would improve growing conditions for trees in the North. "We found the boreal east and the boreal west is a totally different story," said University of Montreal biologist Changhui Peng, lead author of the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science."

Photo credit above: "Research shows northern forests in the three prairie provinces are drying up and shrinking from drought caused by climate change, while the eastern boreal forest is holding its own. (File, THE CANADIAN PRESS)"