Thursday, January 31, 2013

February 1: Nanook Northern USA (drought outlook: some improvement Upper Midwest by April?)


Fun nuggets from my first book, "Prairie Skies" At -20 F motor oil becomes a thick gel. At -40 F exposed flesh freezes within 1 minute. At -60 F your breath turns to ice crystals, which fall to the ground. Trivia the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is loathe to share.

But wait, there's more. Leading automotive experts claim that, on a bitter morning, moving your vehicle along slowly, after 10 seconds, results in less stress on engine components than gunning your engine for several minutes. And the only Minnesota city to make the coveted "Top 100 Coldest Cities of the World" list?


Why? Lake Superior offers free air conditioning much of the year. 36 of the 40 coldest cities are in Russia. I feel warmer already.

We awake to some of the coldest readings of winter but it won't be as bitter - as long - as last week. Alberta Clippers drop a couple inches of snow next week; any thaw delayed until late week. Most models shows a break from subzero the first half of February. We'll see.

A rising sun angle usually doesn't compensate for deep snow cover and long nights until late January or early February, when temperatures finally start to budge.

An early spring? I doubt it.

Stumbling Out Of The Deep Freeze. After a (very) subzero start today, highs peak (wrong word) around 7 F. today, near 20 tomorrow, a good chance of low 30s by Thursday of next week. Slow, steady progress. Graphic: Iowa State.

Snowfall By Late Sunday Night. Saturday's clipper may drop an inch on the metro, a better chance of 1-2" from Grand Forks to Crosslake to Taylors Falls. As much as 3-4" may fall near the Quad Cities; the heaviest amounts downwind of the Great Lakes, based on NAM guidance above.

A Few (Clipper) Inches Next Week. Saturday's clipper may amount to little more than a coating, but ECMWF guidance shows a few inches by the middle of next week from two more Alberta Clippers. Not exactly The Big One, but snow lovers can't be too choosy right about now. We may finally see freezing by next Thursday, low to mid 30s a week from tomorrow. Won't that be nice.

February? Better. The GFS is hinting at one night near or below zero around Feb. 11, otherwise highs mostly in the 20s and 30s. A few more inches of snow next weekend (Feb. 9-10)?? I'll believe it when I see it. Until winds aloft howl from Texas or New Mexico, we'll have to depend on a series of Alberta Clippers for dribs and drabs of snow.

A Very Stubborn Drought. Here's the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, showing "exceptional drought" conditions from South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska southward to Oklahoma and parts of Texas, another pocket of very dry conditions over Georgia and South Carolina. Here's an overview for the Midwest: "There was some late period precipitation across northeastern Iowa, northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin this past week, but given the deficits, lack of impacts and frozen top soils, it isn’t enough to move the drought off its mark, so status quo is the word this week."

Drought Outlook Through Late April. NOAA CPC is still indicating "some improvement" for the drought gripping Minnesota, western Wisconsin and the northeastern half of Iowa, but "persistence" for much of the Plains and Southwest, meaning no change. In fact the drought is forecast to get worse from California and the Las Vegas area into Texas and the Gulf Coast.

Tracking An Extra-Extreme January. Nearly 800 separate severe weather reports Tuesday and Wednesday, nationwide? That's the most since late July, 2012, and it's odd seeing this kind of a spike in extreme straight-line winds and late January. Check out the 2:30 YouTube clip: "There are hundreds of storm reports from the January 29th and 30th severe outbreak. And those reports span across several states from the Southeast to the Lower Ohio Valley and the Northeast. Meteorologist Paul Douglas looks at how rare this January outbreak is and discusses what could be in store during the months ahead."

GOES-5 Tracks Major Sudden Stratospheric Warming Event Of January. The polar vortex suddenly split up into 3 smaller vortices in January, preceded by a sudden upward spike in stratospheric temperatures in the upper atmosphere. Details via NASA: "Stratospheric sudden warmings (SSWs) are a ubiquitous feature of the wintertime flow in the northern hemisphere. Discovered more than sixty years ago (Sherhag, 1952) when radiosonde observations began to provide routine observations at altitudes higher than 20km above the surface of the earth, these events take their name from a rapid temperature increase of several tens of Kelvin over a few days in the high northern latitudes. Since the initial discovery of this warming, routine radiosonde observations and satellite datasets have been used to construct a fairly complete picture of the dynamical nature of these events, which are caused by the propagation and evolution of planetary scale wave motions in the troposphere and stratosphere. A major midwinter SSW event occurs when polar stratospheric temperatures increase by at least 25 K in one week, and the zonal-mean zonal wind at or near 10 hPa (at about 30km altitude) reverses direction and becomes easterly north of 60° N. Research has led to a good documentation of the frequency and seasonality of sudden warmings: just over half of the winters since 1960 have experienced a major warming event in January or February (e.g., Charlton and Polvani, 2007). The event in early January 2013 is thus not atypical, but, like all of these events, has unique dynamical characteristics in terms of its development and interactions with the tropospheric flow..."
Image credit above: "January 7, 2013, showing the breakdown of the polar vortex into three smaller vortices." NASA.

2011: North/East Shift Of Severe Watches Issued. 2011 may have been the most extreme year, weatherwise, in U.S. history. One interesting nugget from NOAA shows the departure from the 20-year normal in Tornado Watches (upper left) and Severe Storm Watches (upper right). Tornado Alley shifted toward "Dixie Alley", over the Ohio Valley and Mid South, while far more (than average) Severe Storm Watches were issued for northern states, from the Dakotas to New England. Source: NOAA.

2012: What A Difference A Drought Makes. With last year's record heat, and the worst drought for the Plains since the 1950s, there was no upward spike in Tornado Watch Issuance from SPC (upper left), in fact it was one of the quietest years on record for traditional Tornado Alley. More Severe Storm Watches than average were observed over the Minnesota Arrowhead and parts of the Ohio Valley.

Tornado Forms In Front Of WSB's Ross Cavitt. The tornado that hit Adairsville (northwest Georgia) Wednesday morning was a strong EF-3; winds over 110 mph. TVSpy has more details on how this (remarkable) footage was captured - right place - right time: "At least one person is dead after a tornado touched down in Adairsville, Ga., Wednesday afternoon. Footage of the tornado was captured by WSB reporter Ross Cavitt, who had just arrived on the scene and was reporting from about a quarter mile away (video above). All four Atlanta stations — ABC affiliate WSB, CBS affiliate WGCL, NBC affiliate WXIA and Fox O&O WAGA — have been in continuing coverage of the severe weather for several hours. The area remains under a severe thunderstorm warning. [via CNN]"

Cyclone's "Overshooting Tops" Seen From Above. Here's a snippet of an interesting Yahoo News story focused on Cyclone Felling - off the coast of Madagascar: "Tropical Cyclone Felleng, currently spiraling off the east coast of the island of Madagascar, was caught in a NASA satellite image exhibiting "overshooting cloud tops," a clear sign that it is packing powerful storms. A NASA statement describes an overshooting cloud top as a domelike protrusion that balloons out from the anvil head of thunderstorm cloud and shoots up into the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere above the troposphere. The troposphere is where most weather on Earth occurs. The overshooting top is indicative of powerful storms because it takes a lot of energy to push through the tropopause, the boundary between the troposphere and stratosphere and where the temperature of the atmosphere goes from decreasing with height to increasing with height..." (Satellite photo: NASA Goddard MODIS).

A Wintry Sky. Thanks to Mike Hall Photography for a glimpse of what the sky over Lewisport, Kentucky looked like after Wednesday's squall line swept thru.

"Call Down The Sky". I have no information about who snapped this (perilously close) photo of C to G lightning. The original is at

Blackberry Z10 vs. Apple iPhone 5. I like my "5", but I'm trying to keep an open mind. How does the new smartphone from Blackberry (you remember them, right?) stack up? Here's an excerpt of a review from "Pre-2007, “BlackBerry” was practically synonymous with “smartphone.” Then the iPhone came along ... then Android came along ... and eventually “Blackberry” became synonymous with an inability to adapt. Now, in 2013, the company is finally doing something new. Does its first serious multitouch handset, the BlackBerry Z10, have what it takes to take on the iPhone 5? Let’s see how their specs – and harder-to-define intangibles – compare...."

* has more information on a new 128 GB iPad, set to be released next Tuesday, February 5. Ah yes, as I gaze out over all my (suddenly obsolete) gadgets and productivity devices.

"Letterman's Top 10 Changes Coming To CNN". TVNewser has the very funny video clip. Here are Dave's suggestions (some of these could work):

10. The Situation Room now hosted by The Situation
9. Sanjay Gupta’s hilarious new sitcom: “Two Broke Guptas”
8. Changing pronunciation from C-N-N to “CNNNN”
7. Switching the part in David Gergen’s combover
6. Wolf Blitzer – shirtless
5. No longer fact-checking stories
4. New president, Jeff Zucker – Zucking everything up
3. Lifting ban on anchors using steroids
2. Piers Morgan: deported
1. More coverage of goats (video of goat attacking reporter)

Note To Self: Remember To Close Windows And Sunroof. Thanks to for passing this one along. Priceless.

Climate Stories...

Global Warming Linked To Worse Flu Seasons. Here's an excerpt of a story at UPI: "Climate change will add earlier and more severe flu seasons, U.S. researchers say. Study leader Sherry Towers, a research professor at Arizona State University, studied waves of influenza and climate patterns in the United States from the 1997-98 season to the present. The research team said data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate a pattern for both A and B strains: Warm winters were usually followed by heavy flu seasons. "It appears that fewer people contract influenza during warm winters, and this causes a major portion of the population to remain vulnerable into the next season, causing an early and strong emergence," Towers said in a statement..."

Yale Report Shows Nation Favors Action On Climate Change. Here's the intro to a story at The Yale Daily News: "Americans are paying more attention to climate change, according to a Yale report released earlier this month. The majority of Americans want the United States government to take action against climate change and will consider candidates’ stances on the issue when casting their vote, according to a Jan. 15 report by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. This YPCCC report, called “The Political Benefits to Taking a Pro-Climate Stance in 2013,” shows that 88 percent of Americans overall — including 72 percent of Republicans — believe that the United States should make at least a small-scale effort to reduce global warming. Reflecting a September 2012 survey, these record-breaking numbers are part of a steady upward trend in public support for action on climate change. But perhaps more importantly, this study shows that the stance of independent voters toward global warming is changing, said YPCCC Director Anthony Leiserowitz..."

Humans Have Already Set In Motion 69 Feet Of Sea Level Rise. Hype? Alarmism? I sure hope so. But it might be short-sighted to totally discount one the glaciologists focused on tracking ice loss in Greenland and Antarctica, featured in this Mother Jones article; here's an excerpt: "Last week, a much discussed new paper in the journal Nature seemed to suggest to some that we needn't worry too much about the melting of Greenland, the mile-thick mass of ice at the top of the globe. The research found that the Greenland ice sheet seems to have survived a previous warm period in Earth's history—the Eemian period, some 126,000 years ago—without vanishing (although it did melt considerably). But Ohio State glaciologist Jason Box isn't buying it. At Monday's Climate Desk Live briefing in Washington, D.C., Box, who has visited Greenland 23 times to track its changing climate, explained that we've already pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide 40 percent beyond Eemian levels. What's more, levels of atmospheric methane are a dramatic 240 percent higher—both with no signs of stopping. "There is no analogue for that in the ice record," said Box..."

Kerry Could Spearhead Bilateral Climate Change Agreements. Here's a snippet from an article at MIT Technology Review: "...The nomination of John Kerry, who was confirmed as secretary of state this week, is certainly in line with a push for climate change action. Kerry has long spoken out about climate change, and he led the failed effort to pass climate legislation in the Senate in 2010, after the House had passed its own version.  As secretary of state, it’s possible that Kerry will spearhead international climate change agreements. Efforts at worldwide agreements have failed, but some proponents of climate change treaties are making the case that limited agreements, such as one between the U.S. and China, two of the world’s largest emitters of carbon dioxide, could have a big impact on emissions. Speaking at an energy innovation conference in Washington DC this week, Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp said, “I’m not optimistic that we’re going to have some Copenhagen-like multilateral agreement. But I do think there’s a chance of some bilateral agreements with John Kerry as secretary of state...”