Friday, November 30, 2012

December 1: El Nino a Factor In Extreme Flooding Out West? (second surge of rain Sunday)

Sensible Seasons

"The world of sensible seasons had come undone" wrote Barbara Kingsolver in "Flight Behavior", a fictional account of climate change's impact on one family in Tennessee. It's an excellent read, by the way.

No, not every weather quirk is a symptom of warming, but if you listen carefully Minnesota's weather tune is playing vaguely off-key.

Near 60F on Monday with a thundershower - on December 3? 83 percent of Minnesota is in severe drought, up from 43 percent a week ago.

Not a farmer? If you like water in your lakes and affordable food on your table you'll want to stay up on the drought.

Meanwhile northern California may pick up 15 inch rains, with 100 inch snows in the mountains. 

While we see just enough rain to settle the dust on Monday. 40s feel like a relief this weekend; hints of April Monday before cooling off by midweek. Jackets and coats return next weekend, but another thaw may be brewing for mid-December. I fear we'll go right down to the wire with a white Christmas again this year.

Dry bias and El Nino?

El Schmeeno!

At some point the law of averages will catch up with us and it will "snow". Minnesotans will slip and slide to work. Snowmobiles will roar to life. Skiers will smile, kids will celebrate.

Any day now.

* image above from

Preliminary November Climate Summary. Here's a snippet from Dr. Mark Seeley's always-informative WeatherTalk Newsletter: "Most observers reported average monthly temperatures for November that ranged from 2 to 4 degrees F warmer than normal, with the larger positive departures in temperatures coming in southern counties. Extremes for the month ranged from -11 degrees F at Fosston (Polk County) on the 26th to 75 degrees F on the 10th at Rochester, Amboy, and Winnebago. The warm day on the 10th also brought extremely rare November tornadoes to the state. These storms were reported from Burnsville, Eagan, Mendota Heights and Mahtomedi, and were the 2nd latest autumn tornadoes in Minnesota history (there was a tornado near Maple Plain back on November 16, 1931)."

Severe Drought Expands. I can't remember the last time I saw this: the aerial extent of severe drought jumping from 43% to 83% of Minnesota in one week. The worst conditions: St. Cloud and Willmar to Mankato and all of southwest Minnesota, more pockets of extreme drought near Bemidji. The entire metro area is now in severe drought. Map courtesy of the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Temperature Roller Coaster. I expect 40s today and Sunday; a slight chance of a shower (or drizzle) today, a better chance of a few light showers Monday. If the cold front holds off until after 2 pm Monday a high of 60 F. isn't out of the question Monday, but mid to upper 50s are likely, about 20 degrees above average. We cool off by Wednesday - temperatures blip upward again Thursday before chilling back down to near average next Saturday.
Negative Trend For NAO? The NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) Index is a tip-off of weather to come, 1-2 weeks out. Strongly positive NAO's often correlate with quiet weather, strongly negative phases of NAO correspond to more dips and bulges in the jet stream, a greater potential for storms. We're in a drought, but maybe we'll be brushed by a few storms come mid-December. We're due. Graph above: NOAA.

2 Week Extended Outlook. The GFS forecast map above is valid December 16, showing the "540 line", the approximate location of the rain-snow line, pushing into southern Minnesota, another major storm thrashing the west coast. Highs reach the 20s and 30s from December 9 into December 16, fairly close to average for December. No frigid air is in sight - no major storms are brewing either, looking out 2 weeks or so. I keep waiting for a break in the pattern - don't see it yet.

Friday Night Satellite. The first frontal boundary is clearly visible from Las Vegas to Boise, with partial clearing over the west coast. Mainly dry conditions should hold much of the day Saturday, but already the next (severe) frontal boundary is showing up in the Pacific, scheduled to arrive on Sunday. Meteorologists call this “The Pineapple Express”, a treadmill of unusually wet systems lined up all the way from Hawaii to the West Coast of the USA. Satellite: Naval Research Lab.

1-2 Months’ Worth of Rain Has Already Fallen. The map above shows Doppler-estimated rainfall amounts from Thursday and Friday; a huge area has already picked up more than 2” of rain, with pockets of 6-10” of rain from Mendocino north to Medford, Oregon. Widespread flooding and mudslides have been reported over northern California. The ground is saturated – Sunday’s rain will trigger more extreme flooding and additional road closures and overflowing rivers. El Nino may be priming the pump, increasing the potential for excessive rainfall and snowfall amounts.

Additional Predicted Rain. The high-resolution model above shows additional rain expected by Monday evening – most of it falling Sunday and Sunday night as the next front sweeps from northwest to southeast across the region. Another 6-8” of rain (and heavy mountain snow) is likely over higher terrain east of Redding and Chico, with some 2-4” rainfall amounts for the coastal range near San Francisco and Oakland. Los Angeles will see minimal amounts, under .5” of rain expected. Then again, it doesn’t take much rain to turn L.A. freeways into one vast parking lot. Map: WSI.

Alerts Broadcaster Models. Our weather simulations show a broad area receiving at least 3” of additional rain Sunday, with upwards of 10” amounts for the Coastal Range and as much as 10-15” for the northern Sierra Nevada range of northern California. This may translate into an additional 50-100” of snow with a significant avalanche risk north of Lake Tahoe.

Megastorms Could Drown Massive Portions Of California. "Atmospheric Rivers"? We're seeing new phenomena on our weather maps, things that can't be explained away as "normal weather". Here's an excerpt of a timely article at Scientific American: "Geologic evidence shows that truly massive floods, caused by rainfall alone, have occurred in California about every 200 years. The most recent was in 1861, and it bankrupted the state. Such floods were most likely caused by atmospheric rivers: narrow bands of water vapor about a mile above the ocean that extend for thousands of miles. Much smaller forms of these rivers regularly hit California, as well as the western coasts of other countries. Scientists who created a simulated megastorm, called ARkStorm, that was patterned after the 1861 flood but was less severe, found that such a torrent could force more than a million people to evacuate and cause $400 billion in losses if it happened in California today...."

Graphic credit above: "A 43-day atmospheric-river storm in 1861 turned California’s Central Valley region into an inland sea, simulated here on a current-day map." Image: Don Foley

19 named tropical storms and hurricanes in 2012 in the Atlantic basin, 3rd most since 1851. Details from AP and The Washington Post.

Rebuilding Cities After Sandy: Three Keys To Climate Resilience. Here's an excerpt of a story from Huffington Post:

1) Build Green as Well as Gray
"As we saw from Hurricane Sandy and other destructive, recent storms, cities from New York to Miami to Houston need to develop infrastructure that reduces the vulnerability of homes, commerce, and services.

This does not mean walling-in every coastal community with huge barriers or dikes. Where cities meet shorelines, "green infrastructure" can often meet the same need. For example, Maryland's state government is buying up wetlands and marshes to provide buffers against future storm surge. And in New Jersey, the restoration of South Cape May Meadows provided a natural seafront barrier that helped the area fare much better than others when Sandy hit..."

Photo credit: "Parts of the brick walkway of Liberty Island that were damaged in Superstorm Sandy were shown during a tour, in New York, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. Tourists in New York will miss out for a while on one of the hallmarks of a visit to New York, seeing the Statue of Liberty up close. Though the statue itself survived Superstorm Sandy intact, damage to buildings and Liberty Island's power and heating systems means the island will remain closed for now, and authorities don't have an estimate on when it will reopen." (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  Minnesota Weather History for November 30. Information courtesy of the Twin Cities NWS:

1998: The warmest December day ever in the Twin Cities with 68 degrees. St. Cloud rose to 61.
1985: Parts of central Minnesota received up to a foot of snow. Snowfall totals included 12 inches at Waseca and Milaca, 11.3 at Alexandria, and 11 inches at Fairmont and Long Prairie. Photo above: NOAA.

Climate Stories...

2012: 9th Warmest Year On Record, Worldwide. Here in the USA this year will probably wind up being the warmest year ever recorded. Details from The New York Times.

16 Irrefutable Signs That Climate Change Is Real. Here's an excerpt from Business Insider: "A new study published Thursday in the journal Science provides the most definitive — and accurate — evidence yet that polar ice caps on Greenland and Antarctica are melting. Shrinking ice is not the only telltale sign that climate change is real. From rising air and ocean temperatures to stronger storms to record droughts, evidence of a changing global climate is all around us..."

Graphic credit above: NOAA (2009). "Since 1901, global average surface temperatures have risen at an average rate of .13 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. The United States has warmed at nearly twice the global rate since the 1970s."

Climate Change Science Gets More Compelling As Politicians Fiddle. What's happening in the Arctic and Greenland is truly alarming. Here's a clip from a must-read Op-Ed at The Washington Post: "...In the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Thursday, scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and elsewhere further solidified the link between human activity and rising global temperatures. The researchers compared the findings of complex climate models against three decades of direct satellite observations. In response to human-related emissions, the models show a particular pattern of temperature change — cooling in the upper atmosphere, warming in the lower atmosphere. That pattern, the scientists found, is also present in the satellite record. Using similar methods, they also found that natural climate variability is extremely unlikely to explain the modeled and observed results. What about the effects of this warming? In the journal Science on Thursday, an international group of 47 glaciologists concluded that the world's massive ice sheets are currently losing 344 billion tons of ice a year, three times the rate of two decades ago. Greenland's ice sheet is worst off — shrinking at five times the 1990s rate, it accounts for most of the ice loss. Together, melting ice sheets account for about 20 percent of current sea-level rise, the glaciologists found. "Some ice sheets," a summary of the study warns, "are disconcertingly sensitive to warming."...

Graphic credit above: "These undated handout images provided by NASA shows the extent of surface melt over Greenland's ice sheet on July 8, left, and July 12, right. Measurements from three satellites showed that on July 8, about 40 percent of the ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. In just a few days, the melting had dramatically accelerated and an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12." (AP Photo/Nicolo E. DiGirolamo, SSAI/NASA GSFC, and Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory).

Faith In Values: Are We Finally Nearing The Tipping Point On Climate Change? Here's an excerpt of a thought-provoking article at The Center for American Progress: "...In terms of moral leadership, faith communities have long seen global warming as one of the most urgent spiritual issues of our time. From Catholics and Jews to Muslims, evangelicals, and others, faith communities have been working to change individual behavior and to advocate for sensible policies to address climate change. The Evangelical Environmental Network, for instance, ran television ads in swing states during the election campaign defending the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce carbon pollution. Interfaith Moral Action on Climate graded elected officials on their stewardship record and is urging responsible climate leadership. And the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action worked to make the environment a key voting issue among its followers through social media and direct organizing...."

Photo credit above: AP/James Balog. "A hiker surveys the damage from climate change atop an iceberg in Alaska. Correcting climate change used to be a bipartisan effort, but recently has become more partisan, causing faith groups to get involved."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Meteorological Fall Ends; 3rd Most Active Atlantic Hurricane Season on Record

Where's the snow?
Some folks may be asking that question after a fairly dismal start (for most) to the 2012-2013 winter season. Other than a few heavy pockets of snow across parts of the nation so far, the rest of the nation has been lulled to sleep by a rather quiet weather pattern as of late. Here are a couple of 'snowy' webcams that I could find from Thursday.

Duluth, MN

BWCA - Northeastern MN

Snowless in St. Paul
If folks in Seattle are sleepless, then folks in St. Paul are snowless. This was the webcam from St. Paul, MN earlier Thursday, which showed a pretty barren looking landscape.

Twin Cities November Numbers
November 2012 will go in the books as a fairly dry and snowless month. In fact, the Twin Cities will end up nearly an inch below normal November precipitation. That along with temperatures running nearly 3.5F above average allowed for WELL below normal snowfall. November snowfall is at a whopping 0.8" (nearly 8.0" below normal for the month and almost 8.5" below normal for the season. The numbers listed below are climate numbers as of Wednesday, November 28th.

2012-2012 Winter Season So Far...
Even though meteorological winter doesn't start until Saturday, the official seasonal snow totals are based from July 1st. So far this winter, things have been pretty pittful. With only 0.8" of snow, we are nearly 8.5" below normal snow for the season. An average Twin Cities winter sees nearly 52" of snow.

10th Least Snow November?

According to, November 2012 could be tied for the 10th least snowy November in modern day history! Take a look at the numbers below.

Even Worse Than Last Winter?

I didn't think it could be possible, but we're even doing worse than last year! Take a look. Last winter's 9th least snowy season on record (22.3" for the season) had 3.0" of snow in November of 2011.

From Feast to Famine
I still can't believe that from the 2010-2011 winter to the 2011-2012 winter we had such a flip-flop. 88.6" of snow fell in the Twin Cities two winters ago (good enough for the 4th snowiest winter on record) and a year later we had the 9th least snowy winter on record.

2010 US Snow Cover
The winter of 2010 was a big one for quite a few folks across the nation AND it started early. By this time two years ago, nearly one-third of the nation was covered in snow.

2012 US Snow Cover
So far this year, we're down about 10%-15% snow cover from this time 2 years ago. As of late November, 20% of the nation was covered in snow.

National Snow Deficit
There are a number of reporting stations that are noting deficits so far this season. Take a look at the numbers below.
National Precipitation Deficit
This also coincides with the national precipitation deficit, which is much more staggering than the snow deficit. Unbelievably, every reporting station on the map below (other than Seattle and Miami) are reporting below average precipitation for the year.
Closer Look at the Deficit
As we delve into the map here, it reveals an even more grim scenario. Some spots in the middle part of the country are a foot or more below normal precipitation for the year.
US Drought Update
The extensive drought of 2012 continues with nearly 63% of the nation under a moderate drought or worse. The worst and most extensive part of the drought appears to be in the Central Plains.
MN Drought

The drought across Minnesota isn't as bad as that in Nebraska, but we still have our fair share of problems. 100% of the state is considered to be in a moderate drought or worse with 25% of the state in an extreme drought.

Winter Wheat Crop Whithers
According to Businessweek, the winter wheat crop isn't doing so hot. In fact these are the worst crop conditions since 1985.
2012 Drought vs. the 1930s Drought
I thought this was interesting... Comparing this year's drought to that of the 1930s, it almost looks the same. Some of the same areas that were hit then are being hit now.
"If the United States were to experience a 1930s-style drought today, could it give us a second Dust Bowl? Some of the driest and hottest conditions on record have plagued parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Georgia, and other states over the last two years. A number of factors—both meteorological and societal—would need to conspire for the current event to resemble the all-out disaster of the Dust Bowl. Yet a devastating outcome could emerge with a flavor all its own."
How They Compare
Back in the 1930s we didn't have the US Drought Monitor, so the next comparible thing is the Palmer Drought Severity Index
This index had 1934 as the most extreme with the US at 80%... Not even close, but still relavant is the 2nd place 60% of the nation in 2012 and  1954.
"Since the Drought Monitor didn’t exist in the 1930s, we need to use the venerable Palmer Drought Severity Index to make an apples-to-apples comparison. (The PDSI is among several factors that go into the Drought Monitor.) The highest PDSI-based extent on record occurred in 1934, when 80% of the contiguous United States was in some form of drought. Well back in second place—with PDSI-based drought coverage peaking at roughly 60%—are 1954 and 2012."
Contributing Factors to the 2012 Drought
HEAT: "The Great Warm Wave of March 2012, which brought many states their toastiest early-spring weather ever observed, provided an unusually early kickoff to seasonal demand for water by fast-growing plants. Blazing temperatures across the Midwest in early summer only made things worse, pushing water stress to extreme levels as far northeast as Indiana. According to Svoboda, “The heat in June and July really exacerbated and accelerated the impacts this summer.”"
"DURATION. The current drought doesn’t yet hold a candle to the Dust Bowl in terms of longevity. After the 1920s, a decade of ample moisture and bountiful wheat crops, the Great Plains fell into drought in 1931 and didn’t see a major recovery until 1939. The 1950s brought another intense multiyear drought that touched much of the nation."
West Coast Storm
Look at this monster storm out west! This behemoth will be responsible for flooding rains, damaging wind gusts and heavy mountain snow through the weekend/early next week for folks across the west. A piece of this storm looks to break off and head inland over the weekend/early next week with rain, thunderstorms and some snow by the first week of December for residence of the middle part of the country.
 Next Monday
Here's what the weather map looks like next Monday. Note the mild yellows and oranges sneaking up ahead of the cold front. Temperatures on Monday look to be very unseasonable mild. Widespread 50s, 60s and 70s will be likely in the middle part of the country from late weekend into early next week head of this front. The front will quickly drop temperatures back down to more seasonalbe levels as it passes with a little light snow across the far north.

Snow in the Forecast?
Take a look ECMWF (European model) over the next week. I've plotted accumulated snowfall through next Friday and note the lack of colors in the middle part of the country. According to this particular model, we stay mostly snow free through the first part of December.
2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season Ends Friday

"In an average season (using 1981-2010 as a baseline), there are 12.1 named storms, 6.4 hurricanes, and 2.7 major hurricanes. This season ended up with 19 named storms, 10 of which became hurricanes, but just 1 of those became a major hurricane (defined as category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale). The 19 named storms ties for the third greatest number of such storms in a season on record. Historically, only about 3 percent of seasons experience 19 or more named storms. As rare as this feat is, it was amazingly the third consecutive season to have 19 named storms!"

Read more from HERE:

Thanks for checking in, don't forget to follow me on Twitter @TNelsonWNTV


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November 29: Historic Flooding Possible Northern California & Oregon

Amazing Grace

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

The measure of a person isn't what they have, but what they give, right?

My mom passed away yesterday. I wish you could have known her. Grace was a force of nature. She grew up dirt-poor, in a tent, during The Depression. She raised 3 kids, went on to become a prolific antiques dealer. She taught us the most important lesson: family comes first. "Do the right thing ... never give up" she'd say with a stern smile. I was in awe of her. I still am. Todd Nelson will be filling in while I'm with family.

The weather map is mercifully quiet. Roughly 3 weeks from the Winter Solstice it seems odd to be tracking rain; drizzle Saturday, a few heavier showers and T-showers Monday.

Expect highs from 45-50 F. over the weekend, then well into the 50s on Monday, before cooling down by midweek.

We thaw out late next week, but colder air building over Canada arrives by the second week of December. Any snow by mid-month will come in dribs & drabs; still no sign of The Big One. I'll keep searching.

My loss hasn't hit me yet. A word to the wise: take no one for granted. Do the right thing. Never give up. And give mom extra hugs.

Do it today.

Staggering Precipitation Amounts. WSI's high-resolution (12 kilometer) RPM model prints out about 4-5" for San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, but as much as 16-20" of precipitation for northern California. That's 1-2 hurricane's worth of moisture, which may translate into some 150-200" snowfall amounts for the Cascade and Sierra Range. If this forecast verifies some areas of the west will experience historic river flooding and an extreme avalanche risk.

December On Hold. The 6-10 day temperature trends show temperatures well above average across most of the USA, thanks to a persistent wind flow from the Pacific - Canadian air temporarily bottled up in Canada. Map above: NOAA CPC and Ham Weather.

Zonal Flow. Typical for late September or mid-October, a (persistent - vigorous) west to east wind flow from the Pacific is a bit more unusual heading into the first week of December. The NOAA animation above shows 500 mb winds (18,000 feet) thru Saturday.

Above Average. The first full week of December may bring highs consistently above freezing, in fact most of the days will probably feature highs in the 40s. 50+ F. highs are possible Monday, again late next week, based on latest ECMWF guidance.

NAEFS Guidance. Experimental long-range guidance for December 5 - 11 shows a continuing block, keeping Alaska bitter, with mild Pacific winds pumping 40s, 50s and 60s into the Lower 48 states.

Monday: Hints of Early April? A strong warm front may spark showers, even a stray T-shower Monday. South of the warm frontal boundary highs may reach the 60s in Iowa and Nebraska, 50s into southern Minnesota. Slightly cooler weather returns Tuesday, but temperatures recover into the 40s and 50s again by late next week as Pacific air continues to overwhelm the Lower 48. Map above: WSI.

Temperature Readjustment? The long-range 16-day GFS shows significantly colder air returning by December 12-13, a storm tracking just south and east of Minnesota capable of triggering some accumulating snow. My confidence level is still low, but it sounds right - with a sun angle as low as it is in mid-January it can't stay in the 40s and 50s much for an extended period, at least not in December.

Flu Outbreaks Predicted With Weather Forecasting Techniques. Outbreaks of flu tend to follow specific weather patterns - which is interesting. Predict the weather (accurately) and maybe you can predict when you'll come down with the crud? Lovely. Details from UCAR: "...In previous work, Shaman and colleagues had found that wintertime U.S. flu epidemics tended to occur following very dry weather. Using a prediction model that incorporates this finding, Shaman and co-author Alicia Karspeck, an NCAR scientist, used Web-based estimates of flu-related sickness from the winters of 2003–04 to 2008–09 in New York City to retrospectively generate weekly flu forecasts. They found that the technique could predict the peak timing of the outbreak more than seven weeks in advance of the actual peak. “Analogous to weather prediction, this system can potentially be used to estimate the probability of regional outbreaks of the flu several weeks in advance,” Karspeck says. “One exciting element of this work is that we've applied quantitative forecasting techniques developed within the geosciences community to the challenge of real-time infectious disease prediction. This has been a tremendously fruitful cross-disciplinary collaboration.”

Photo credit above: "Pedestrians contend with wintry weather in Boulder, Colorado. As flu outbreaks peak during the colder months, researchers are employing techniques from weather prediction to forecast outbreak timing and severity." UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin.

Trees Are Shedding Leaves Later Than Usual. Here's a clip from "Scientists examined changes in the growing season over the Northern Hemisphere during 1982 to 2008 and found that end of the growing season has shifted to later in the year. Scientists regard changes in the growing season as an important indicator of the response of terrestrial ecosystems to climate change. The results of the research were published in the July 2011 issue of the journal Global Change Biology and were further reviewed by Climate Central on October 17, 2012. To measure the length of the growing season, scientists used NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) data collected by satellites to estimate the “greenness” of vegetation growing across the Northern Hemisphere during 1982 to 2008. The NDVI calculates how much visible light is absorbed by vegetation. Healthy vegetation absorbs most visible light..."

Sandy Damage Rivals Katrina. Sandy wasn't as intense as Katrina, but it was 3 times larger, impacting an area 900 miles wide with tropical storm force winds or stronger. And it came ashore over a very heavily populated part of the USA. My hunch: Sandy will wind up costing over $100 billion. NBC News has more details: "Although Hurricane Katrina took more lives when it hit the Gulf Coast, the economic and housing damage brought by Hurricane Sandy was much larger with losses already topping $71 billion. NBC's Katy Tur reports."

Seas Rising Faster Than Projected, Low Areas Threatened. What, scientists were actually conservative with their estimates? But let's keep ignoring the elephant in the dining room (or in this case, on the coast). Reuters has the story; here's an excerpt: "Sea levels are rising 60 percent faster than U.N. projections, threatening low-lying areas from Miami to the Maldives, a study said on Wednesday. The report, issued during U.N. talks in Qatar on combating climate change, also said temperatures were creeping higher in line with U.N. scenarios, rejecting hopes the rate had been exaggerated. "Global warming has not slowed down, (nor is it) lagging behind the projections," said Stefan Rahmstorf, lead author at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research that compared U.N. projections to what has actually happened from the early 1990s to 2011..."

Photo credit : "Erosion caused by high water is seen along the beach on Sullivans Island, S.C., in this photograph made on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Scientists at Clemson University and Georgia Tech have proposed it could be possible to raise the coastline during an era of sea level rise by injecting sediment-laden slurry into fractures beneath the earth's surface." (AP Photo/Bruce Smith).

In Sandy's Wake, Lessons About Fire Safety More Relevant Than Ever. I know it's counterintuitive (during a flooding storm surge), but fire was a huge hazard with Sandy. More details from Benzinga: "...Many people still keep traditional candles as part of their hurricane or disaster preparedness kit. But these candles can create extra hazards if left unattended, even for a short time. In some cases, homeowners fall asleep with a candle burning and wake up to find the house burning around them. Battery operated candles are a much safer alternative and can also last much longer than regular candles..."

Photo credit above: "The ruins of burned out homes are framed by surviving buildings in the Breezy Point section of the Queens borough of New York, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012. A fire destroyed more than 100 homes in the oceanfront community during the storm." (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Turning To The Cloud In A Disaster. With Sandy I saw a number of people fleeing with photo albums and thumbdrives, even some lugging home computers filled with family memories. It was a reminder (to me) to back stuff up, the things that can't be replaced (like family photos and videos). The cloud is one good option, as Cisco explains: "Two weeks after Hurricane Sandy barreled up the East Coast, devastating parts of densely populated New York and New Jersey, the full costs of the megastorm are still being assessed. The "once-a-century" storm left more than 8 million homes and businesses without power, shutting down everything from oil refineries to transportation to the stock market. The disruption could shave a half percentage point off of GDP. Behind those statistics are millions of businesses, big and small, grappling with new questions disaster preparedness in an age of extreme weather. And, increasingly, they are concluding that the answers may lie in the cloud..."

"Ask Paul". Weather-related Q&A:

Last year it was a brown Christmas and that happens from time to time. When was the last time we had 2 brown Christmas in a row?

Chanhassen, MN

Mike - I asked my friend and contact at the Minnesota Climatology Working Group, Pete Boulay, about your question and here is his response: "The last time there was an inch of snow or less on the ground for two years in a row was Christmas 1976 and 1977. It also happened in 1957 and 1958 and 43-44, 30-31, 22-23,  and there was a three years in a row from 1904-06."

California City Building "Tsunami-Resistant" Port. has the story; here's an excerpt: "...Port officials are hoping that tsunami is among the last of many that have forced major repairs in Crescent City, a tiny commercial fishing village on California’s rugged northern coast. Officials are spending $54 million to build the West Coast’s first harbor able to withstand the kind of tsunami expected to hit once every 50 years – the  same kind that hit in 2011, when the highest surge in the boat basin measured 8.1 feet (2.5 meters) and currents were estimated at 22 feet (6.7 meters) per second. Officials are building 244 new steel pilings that will be 30 inches (76 centimeters) in diameter and 70 feet (21 meters) long. Thirty feet (9 meters) or more will be sunk into bedrock. The dock nearest the entrance will be 16 feet (5 meters) long and 8 feet (2.4 meters) deep to dampen incoming waves. The pilings will extend 18 feet (5.5 meters) above the water so that surges 7 1/2 feet (2.3 meters) up and 7 1/2 feet down will not rip docks loose..."
Image above: NOAA.

California Confronts A Sea Change. The story from The Los Angeles Times; here's the introduction: "Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey don't need to wait on gridlocked Washington to confront future risks from climate-change intensified storms. They can instead look at how California is already moving forward on common-sense adaptations, and do it themselves. With 3.5 million Californians living within three feet of sea level, and the best available science projecting a 3- to 5-foot rise in sea level for the state by 2100, doing nothing would be irresponsible. In Northern California, rising sea levels are projected to affect more than a quarter of a million people and threaten more than $60 billion in infrastructure in the San Francisco Bay/Delta region, putting power stations, water-treatment plants, roads, buildings and the San Francisco and Oakland airports (both built on filled wetlands) at risk. In Southern California, scientists point to the loss of 3,000 beachfront homes to major El NiƱo winter storms in the 1980s as suggestive of what climate change has in store..."

Photo credit above: "In Newport Beach in Southern California, city planners are looking into raising sea walls in waterfront neighborhoods like Balboa Island that are prone to flooding." (Los Angeles Times)

SGI Twitter Heat Map: Supercomputer Show Where The Angriest Tweeters Live. This is pretty cool, in a depressing sort of way. Silicon Graphics supercomputers can map, in real-time, where happy vs. angry tweets are sent from, worldwide. Here is a Huffington Post story showing how SGI leveraged this new technology tracking tweets during Superstorm Sandy: "...The Global Twitter Heartbeat tracks about 10 percent of the 500 million tweets posted daily -- that's approximately 50 million posts analyzed each day. Thus far, SGI has created heat maps illustrating people's feelings on Twitter about Hurricane Sandy and the 2012 election night. To see the project in action, watch the clip below, showing how U.S. tweets were affected as the so-called "Frankenstorm" barreled up the East Coast in late October. (Red patches represent negative sentiments. Blue patches are positive.)"

Ocearch Global Shark Tracker. No weather to track? No worries! Now you can track sharks, in near-real-time. Crazy, but check out this link. Happy to see Lake Mille Lacs and Superior are (still!) shark-free. Yep, you can find just about anything online.

Rolling Blue Waves Hit The Antarctic Coastline. What created this amazing photo? Details via Yahoo: "These brilliant blue beauties, which look like tidal waves frozen at their highest point, were captured by French astrophysicist (and part-time photographer) Tony Travouillon as he travelled across Antarctica."

Photo credit: "Don't expect to see surfboards - or snowboards - on these majestic frozen outcroppings near the Dumont D'Urville research station in Antarctica." Photo by Tony Travouillon.

Ring Around The Moon. Here's a great example of the 22 degree halo, white moonlight being refracted (bent) by ice crystals in cirrus clouds 25,000 feet above the ground. Details via Aaron Rigsby and WeatherNation TV.

Cat Interrupts Univision Weather Report. This is pretty funny - the forecast calls for...cats? Note how cool the weatherguy is - I'm amazed he didn't crack up? Must be a dog-lover. Details via YouTube: "There are several cats that have turned the Univision parking lot into their home and sometimes they make it into the studio. This cat just walked right through the weatherman's report. Follow us @UnivisionNews."

Climate Stories...

What Role Did Climate Change Play In Superstorm Sandy? attempts to connect the weather and climate dots; here's an excerpt: "Superstorm Sandy, a “perfect storm” that was caused by an unusual combination of seasonal weather phenomena converging above the Northeast, has stirred some conversation in the media about whether the storm was caused, or made worse, by climate change. Scientists have long warned about the risk of a deadly hurricane over the Tri-State area, which would suggest Sandy could be an expected weather event. But recent studies, including a report co-authored by MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel in February 2012, note that climate change could combine with the  effects of storm surge to cause 100-year-flooding to occur every two decades in New York, suggesting that an event like Sandy may be more than just a long-expected storm..."

Photo credit above: (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Climate Change Threat Looms Over Ski Industry. This may be relevant to Minnesota and Wisconsin resorts as well, as snowfall has become spotty and irregular in recent years - not the predictable snow we saw in the 60s, 70s and early 80s. The Boston Globe reports: "...Snow making will become even more important in the coming decades as New England’s natural snowfalls diminish, according to Scott’s study. Resorts are already spending millions of dollars to increase their capacity — Stowe Mountain Resort in northern Vermont spent $4.7 million this year alone — and by the 2020s, Vermont and New Hampshire resorts may have to increase their snow making output by as much as 50 percent. “Man-made snow is such an integral part of skiing on the East Coast,” said Greg Kwasnik, spokesman for Loon Mountain Resort in Lincoln, N.H. “People may not realize it, but man-made snow is what makes it all possible.” But snow making also depends on the weather cooperating — the temperature has to be in the low 20s or colder..."

Photo credit above: "Jake Bartlett stepped into his snowboard at Sugarbush Mountain. Ski area operators have high hopes for the season." By Katie Johnston. Globe Staff /  November 26, 2012

Melting Permafrost A New Peril In Global Warming: U.N. The concern is methane - as permafrost melts methane is released, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. This causes warming, which melts more permafrost, releasing more methane (etc etc). This is one of several "positive feedbacks" climate scientists are concerned about, as reported by Reuters: "Permafrost lands across Siberia and Alaska that contain vast stores of carbon are beginning to thaw, bringing with it the threat of a big increase in global warming by 2100, a U.N. report said on Tuesday. A thaw of the vast areas of permanently frozen ground in Russia, Canada, China and the United States also threatens local homes, roads, railways and oil pipelines, the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) said in the report which was released at the U.N. climate talks being held this week and next in Qatar. "Permafrost has begun to thaw," Kevin Schaefer, lead author at the University of Colorado told a news conference in Doha..." Photo: NASA.

Researchers Head To Coldest Place On Earth For Global Warming Insight. The Olympian has the story - here's a clip: "...For almost a month, the group will sleep in tents and toil for up to 15 hours a day in converted shipping containers. Temperatures hover around 5 degrees Fahrenheit and 90 mph winds create massive snowdrifts and whiteouts. The reason for enduring that misery would seem to be a contradiction. Their work will provide crucial insight into global warming. The NIU professors are researchers in a key part of a $10 million National Science Foundation project known as WISSARD, for Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling. It's a long-winded phrase for an effort aimed at studying ice sheet stability and subglacial life in West Antarctica. That's an important region for climate change. Scientific evidence indicates that relatively recent instability in the Antarctic ice sheet, which covers the land, is raising sea levels..."

Read more here:
U.N. Report Warns Of Widening Climate Gap. The Daily Herald has the story - here's the introduction: "A U.N. report on rising greenhouse gas emissions reminded world governments Wednesday that their efforts to fight climate change are far from enough to meet their stated goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). The report by the U.N. Environment Program, released just days ahead of a major climate conference, said the concentration of heat-trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is up about 20 percent since 2000. Scientists say those emissions are contributing to climate change and that failure to contain them could have dangerous consequences, including rising sea levels inundating coastal cities, dramatic shifts in rainfall disrupting agriculture and drinking water, the spread of diseases and the extinction of species..."
Photo credit: "In this Dec. 16, 2009 file photo, steam and smoke rise from a coal burning power plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. A United Nations report on rising greenhouse gas emissions reminded world governments Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 that their efforts to fight climate change are far from enough to meet their stated goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 F)." (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

Climate Change: Natural Disasters Made History In 2011. The story from; here's a clip: "Many of the worst natural disasters of 2011 were also the most severe the affected countries had ever experienced, revealed the Global Climate Risk Index (CRI) 2013, which was released in Doha on 27 November. Brazil, Cambodia, El Salvador,Laos and Thailand appear in the CRI’s 10 most-affected countries; all recorded their severest natural hazards-related catastrophes in 2011. Floods and landslides claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people and caused almost US$5 billion in direct losses in Brazil, said the index, which is produced by the NGO Germanwatch. Thailand is listed as 2011’s most natural disaster-affected country. The country experienced its worst flooding ever that year, triggered by the landfall of Tropical Storm Nock-ten. The flooding led to losses worth $43 billion, making it one of the most costly natural disasters of the world..."

Photo credit above: "Thailand experienced its worst flooding in 2011." Photo: Shermaine Ho/IRIN.