Saturday, February 4, 2012

February 5: More March (colder, stormier, snowier by 3rd week of February?)

2,890 daily high temperature records were broken or tied in January across the USA. That's 4 times the number of record highs reached or surpassed last year. Source: NOAA.

Happy National Weatherperson's Day! didn't know? Neither did I. Tantalizing details below.

A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.”   -  John James Audubon, Wildlife Artist/Author

"Hoar Frost" and "Advection Frost" reported across much of Minnesota. Details below.

Superbowl Forecast for Indianapolis: mostly sunny, high of 45 F.

Andy Gabrielson: 1987-2012. I'm so sorry to have to pass along news of the death of Andy Gabrielson, one of America's most prolific and passionate storm chasers. He was involved in a fatal traffic accident (drunk driver traveling the wrong way on I-44 in Oklahoma), resulting in this tragedy. Andy had a knack for being in the right place at the right time - during a typical severe season he would capture scores of tornadoes. He even won a Regional Emmy in 2011. But Andy did more than just capture amazing videos - he tended to tornado survivors; often he was the first person on the scene. He cared about weather, but more important, Andy cared about people.  He had a huge heart, he was a terrific human being, and he will be missed by everyone that knew him and appreciated his many talents. More from Kory Hartman from Severe Studios: "Some very sad news to report tonight: my good friend and storm chaser Andy Gabrielson was killed on I-44 in Oklahoma (Saturday) afternoon....My thoughts and prayers are with the Gabrielson family and our extended storm chaser family as well. God bless and Godspeed Andy."

An Unusual (but fitting) Tribute. Late Saturday a group of Kansas storm chasers positioned themselves to spell out Andy Gabrrielson's initials on a state map; a fitting tribute to a man who spent much of his life on the road, in search of nature's most violent wind.

Hints of a Real Storm? It's early, and the long-range models have been especially erratic and unreliable in recent weeks, especially the GFS model. The 500mb map above is valid February 20. If this verifies (a huge if) it could translate into the first plowable snowfall for Minnesota and Wisconsin since early December. My confidence level is low; I want to see a few more runs before I get too excited. The last thing I want to do is get (tormented) snow lover's hopes up - but at least there's a shot in about 2 weeks. We'll see. More details below.

15.9" snow at Denver over 3 days, a new record. Photo courtesy of Laura Walter in Hampden Heights, Colorado.
50.5" snow reported at Pinecliffe, Colorado. That's without the drifts.
22.7" fell at Boulder, Colorado.

16% savings in heating bills, nationwide, so far this winter. Source: Weather Derivatives, WSJ.

.5" snow has fallen at Kansas City so far this winter. Last winter Kansas City had already picked up 30" snow.

Record Snows Hit Denver. Officially it was 15.9" over 3 days, a new 3-day record for the Mile High City. Thanks to Daisy Bailey, who lives in Lakewood, Colorado.

Minnesota Snow Lovers Are In Mourning. Yes, I have my black armband on too. I can rationalize the lack of subzero weather - I don't miss that one bit. But no snow, on the 5th day of February? That's just...unnatural. It's starting to look like Tulsa (with lakes) out there. Not good. Details on the photo above: "A man digs his car out of the snow on Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, after a snow storm hit Denver with 10 inches of snow overnight.  A powerful winter storm swept across Colorado on Friday as it headed east, bringing blizzard warnings to eastern Colorado and western Kansas, and winter storm warnings for southeast Wyoming and western Nebraska.(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)."

Denver Records: more details on what will undoubtedly be the biggest snowstorm of the winter for the Denver area, courtesy of the Denver office of the National Weather Service: "12.5 inches of snow fell at Denver International Airport on February 3rd. This snowfall established a daily snowfall record for the date. The old record was 7.5 inches set back in 1932. The 12.5 inches that fell also established a daily snowfall record for the month of February. The previous daily snowfall record was 9.5 inches on February 22nd 1909 and February 19th 1953. In addition, from the evening of the 2nd through the morning of the 4th, 15.9 inches of snow fell at Denver International Airport. This establishes a new three day snowfall total for the month of February. The old record of 14.2 inches occurred back in 1912 from February 23rd through the 25th." Experimental graphic above courtesy of NOAA.

Des Moines Snow. Yes, it was that close. Anywhere from 4-6" snow accumulated in Des Moines, Iowa, enough to shovel, plow and generally gum up area highways. Photo courtesy of Heather Burnside.

1,522 Records In The Past Week. All those red dots are record highs, yellow dots are record warm nighttime lows, green dots record 24 hour rainfall amounts. Click here to see an interactive map, courtesy of Ham Weather and NOAA. Check out the new Aeris platform from Ham Weather - nothing like it out there. Then again I'm a little biased.

February 4 or April 4? The latest high-res snowcover map for Minnesota (courtesy of NOAA) shows a total lack of snow south/west of the Minnesota River, a trace to 1/2" snow on the ground around the metro area, about 2-3" for Brainerd and Duluth, with a whopping 12-24" from the Boundary Waters to Grand Marais. I can't remember the last time there was so little snow on the ground in early February. 2006 was bleak for snow lovers, so was 2000, but this winter is breaking new ground...brown ground at that.

Latest USA Snowcover. According to NOAA, 25.5% of the USA (lower 48 states) was covered by snow, as of Saturday. That's up 4% since January 4.

One Year Ago. According to NOAA's NOHRSC (National Operational Hydrological Remote Sensing Center) 56.9% of the USA was snowcovered on February 4, 2011.

The Joys of "Hoar Frost". Yesterday was a ghostly, beautiful sight to behold. Thick fog coating every surface with a thin coating of frost, what meteorologists (tentatively) refer to as "hoar frost". Here's the definition from Wikipedia: "white frost or rime is the tiny solid deposition of water vapor from saturated air which occurs when the temperature of the surfaces is below freezing point. It occurs generally with clear skies." The name hoar comes from Old English and can be used as an adjective for showing signs of old age in reference to the frost which makes trees and bushes look like elderly white hair. It may also have association with hawthorn when covered in its characteristic white spring blossom."

* Note the spindly build-up of ice crystals on my mailbox - an odd sight, but beautiful nonetheless. I think this was an example of "advection frost, which "refers to tiny ice spikes forming when there is a very cold wind blowing over branches of trees, poles and other surfaces. It looks like rimming the edge of flowers and leaves and usually it forms against the direction of the wind. It can occur at any hour of day and night."

Prime Time For Tornadoes. Tornadoes are quite common along the Gulf Coast during February. This small EF-1 tornado touched down 3 miles south of DeRidder, Louisiana on Saturday. More details from the Lake Charles, Louisiana NWS office.

Houston Flooding. The epic Texas drought is finally showing signs of easing. Dallas is no longer in drought, and heavy rain triggered significant flash flooding in the Houston area in recent days.

Superbowl Weather Since 1967. What, you can't read this? Neither can I. Click here to see a pdf of Superbowl weather through the ages, courtesy of NOAA's Southeast Regional Climate Center.

Shift In The Pattern? We've been down this road before. A strongly positive AO (Arctic Oscillation) for much of the winter (correlating with incredibly strong and persistent westerly wind pumping Pacific air across North America), but all the models show a possible negative swing, bottoming out around Feb. 21 (when a full-latitude trough may spin up the first real storm in well over 2 months). It all adds up; we're long overdue for the jet to buckle, pulling Gulf moisture northward into Minnesota - but we've had a few false alarms in recent weeks. I need to see a few more computer runs to see if there's any continuity to this solution, or if it's another bogus computer glitch. Graphic courtesy of

Maps Look Like Mid March. Check out this map from, showing the coolest temperatures expected over the next 8 days. I do expect a change the latter half of next week, but the next few days will feel more like early March than early February.

Rare Snows In North Africa. reports on the first significant snowfall for Algeria (Africa!) in 7 years: "A rare accumulating snowfall is in progress in Algiers, the capital city of Algeria. Cold air associated with a storm system currently moving into the region from the north is providing for some decent accumulations of snow in the north African country. According to Accuweather Meteorologist Eric Wanenchak, most reports say the last time Algiers saw this kind of accumulation was at least seven years ago in 2005. He said Algiers must fight a combination of limiting factors in order to see snowfall. First, the city is near the Mediterranean Sea, which is still quite warm, currently in the low 50s."

The Facts Behind The National Flood Insurance Program. Here's an excerpt of FEMA's recent press release: "Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are clearing up some misconceptions about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which offers federally-backed flood insurance to property owners and renters in communities that participate in the program. “The NFIP is a critical component to help homeowners and businesses recover from flood damage,” said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Stephen M. De Blasio, Sr. “The more that people know about it and utilize it, the easier it will be for them to rebuild their homes and communities.” More than 20,000 communities participate in the NFIP nationwide, which is administered by FEMA but whose policies are sold through private insurance agents and companies throughout the country. More than 25 percent of claims paid are from areas at medium or low risk of flooding. In these areas, NFIP flood insurance can be purchased for as little as $129 a year to insure a building and its contents, or $49 for contents only. Homes can be insured against flood damage for up to $250,000 and commercial buildings insured for up to $500,000."

Today Is National Weatherperson's Day. Proving everyone and everything has at least one day dedicated to making them feel special. Right. Details from the central Illinois office of the National Weather Service: "Today, Feb. 5, is National Weatherperson's Day, commemorating the birth of John Jeffries in 1774. Jeffries, one of America's first weather observers, began taking daily weather observations in Boston in 1774 and he took the first balloon observations in 1784. This is a day to recognize the men and women who collectively provide Americans with the best weather, water and climate forecasts and warning services of any nation. Weather observations in central Illinois date back to the early 1800s. Visit our weather history page for more details."

Why Viewers Could Soon Control Superbowl Ads. MIT's Technology Review has the story: "During this Sunday's Super Bowl, a record five million viewers are expected to tweet or make other social media comments—not just about the game, but also about the many beer, snack, and car ads that are integral to the annual sports and entertainment ritual. This activity—up from 900,000 people making Super Bowl posts during last year's game—is now happening at such a vast scale that executives in television, broadcast news, and advertising expect analytics of the comments to start shaping advertising choices—and even the direction of news coverage—in near real-time."

"Ice Bowl" Memories

I'm old enough to remember the infamous "Ice Bowl", the first Superbowl played in 1967. The Packers narrowly defeated the Cowboys, in weather conditions that defy description. The temperature was -15 F at gametime, with a wind chill of -50. Players complained of frostbitten fingers and toes. A metal whistle froze onto the lips of the referee. It was the coldest NFL game on record; probably the worst Superbowl weather ever.

Now we have climate-controlled, hermetically-sealed stadiums where players can focus on the game, not surviving the elements.

The last few days have been a bust with thick fog and stratus; highly unusual for February, when windblown cold fronts should be scrubbing our skies with arctic sunlight.

We see an average of 1.4 foggy days/month in February. So yes, this is a bit odd. Jet stream winds are blowing in from the Pacific. It's been mild enough for significant snowmelt, moistening the lowest layers of the atmosphere. Light winds and a low sun angle made it hard to burn away lazy clouds (fog).

With reluctant sun we should hit 40 today, mid 40s Monday, colder next week, then a shot at 50 the 3rd week of February. No snow - maybe rain by Feb. 14? Really. And in spite of a chance of a (real) snowstorm around February 20 I'm not getting too excited just yet. The long-range models have been especially erratic and untrustworthy as of late...I want to see a few more computer runs before I brush the cobwebs off my snow shovel. That said...we're due.

* Ice Bowl photo above courtesy of

Climate Stories....

Superbowl Tackles Climate Change. Discovery News reports: "The field won't be the only thing green about Super Bowl XLVI. The NFL has a plan in their playbook to tackle the carbon dioxide emissions caused by energy use at the six major Super Bowl facilities. Renewable energy certificates will pass 15,000 megawatt hours of clean energy to the NFL's environmental receivers. At the slick new Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis even the lights shining on the New York Giants and New England Patriots will be accounted for by renewable energy certificates provided by Green Mountain Energy Company."

Climate Change Predicted To Escalate Tropical Cyclone Damage Costs For U.S. And China. has the details: "A new study looking at the economic costs of tropical cyclone damage taking into account climate change, forecasts that tropical cyclones will cause $109 billion in damages by 2100. Increased vulnerability of populations and growing economic wealth is expected to double the costs from $26 billion per year to $56 billion by 2100. Climate change is predicted to add some $53 Billion in damages. Two countries are responsible for incurring 75% of the extra damage from climate change associated with tropical cyclones: the United States and China. But tropical island nations will incur the highest damage per GDP - up to 37%."

Extreme Rainfall In Central India In Past 50 Years. has the story: "Meteorologists have observed a very high rise in the "extreme events of rainfall" in the country in the last 50 years, particularly in Central India region in a climate change that can be attributed to global warming.  The finding is noted by the scientists at the city-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) which is engaged in various research projects relating to the monsoon behaviour in the country.  "We feel that the rise in extreme events of rainfall which has almost doubled in the past 50 years in Central India (excluding mountainous region) has a relation with global warming," B N Goswami, Director, IITM said in a talk with PTI."