Friday, January 4, 2013

January 5: Much-Needed January Thaw Brewing for Next Week

Midwinter Pause

"I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood" mused author Bill Watterson. Amen. And here in the Land of Low Weather Expectations 32 degrees (in January) is cause for noisy celebration. "Slush!" "Dripping icicles!" "I can feel my extremities!" We cool off into the low 20s today and Sunday - the real thaw kicks in starting Monday of next week.

The January Thaw is still something of a meteorological mystery. For some reason temperatures often spike 2-3 weeks after the Winter Solstice, especially east of the Mississippi. Temperatures thaw for a few days, before the coldest air of winter rushes south a week or two later. According to Dr. Mark Seeley these wondrous, if fleeting, thaws are more likely over southern Minnesota than up north.

Expect low 20s at game time in Green Bay - risk of a Purple Upset. We cool off this weekend before a 3-5 day spell at or above freezing next week. A southern storm pushes a cold rain into town next Thursday; a second disturbance may squeeze out some light snow on Friday.

I still expect 2-3 nights below zero from January 15-18. Nothing we can't handle.

Check out the blog for more on the January Thaw, Minnesota's deepening drought & a 2012 weather recap.

Looking forward to tracking Adrian Peterson on Doppler.

* photo above courtesy of Tim Wright, who snapped this photo near Sauk Rapids.
Green Bay Weather. Perfect weather for a Vikings victory. Will lightning strike twice, within the same week? The spread is 8 points, but I'm thinking....upset. Stranger things have happened - think positive. Weather should be a non-issue, a gametime temperature around 20-22 F. with a wind chill in the mid teens. Balmy for GRB. A few flurries are possible later tonight, maybe a dusting in Green Bay. More details from NOAA.

Predicted Highs Next Thursday. NOAA data shows highs in the low to mid 30s across most of central and southern Minnesota by next Thursday - fleeting hints of early March in the air.

Warming Trend. After a seasonably cool weekend (low 20s today and Sunday) the mercury rebounds next week, 4 days at or above 30 F. Right now Wednesday and Thursday look like the 2 mildest days; low to mid 30s possible.

European Guidance. ECMWF data suggests mid-30s next Wednesday, with a rain-snow mix possible next Thursday and Friday. Some (slushy) accumulation can't be ruled out late next week; it's much too early to even speculate about amounts.

More Data On The January Thaw. Dr. Mark Seeley has some insight into the (almost) annual upward blip in temperatures in his weekly WeatherTalk Newsletter: "...Most residents of the Twin Cities area consider the January thaw to be a given each year. They know it will come, just not precisely when. This time around it looks like next Monday through Thursday (Jan 7-10) may bring a thaw period. Indeed for many central and southern Minnesota locations a January thaw is quite common. The definition of a January thaw is variable. Some consider it to be any single day with a temperature above 32 degrees F. But consequences associated with a January thaw, like loss of snow cover, melting and drying of street surfaces and sidewalks, softening of lake ice, etc are generally not realized unless temperatures rise above the freezing mark for two or more days. Using this as a sorting criteria we can look at the historical frequency of such temperatures for various locations in Minnesota. These frequencies of January thaws (listed below) indeed show great reliability in most of southern Minnesota, and even parts of central Minnesota, but more like a 50/50 probability in the northern sections of the state..."

Weather Story. The local, Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service provided the graphic above, showing Minnesota in-between branches of the jet stream, a moist southerly river of high-speed air guiding storms well south of Minnesota, the northern branch blowing to our north, something of a quiet (Pacific) no-man's land over the Upper Midwest.

Thursday Slop-Storm? It's still too early to get specific, but the ECMWF model shows a moisture-laden southern storm tracking just south/east of Minnesota toward the end of next week. A rain-snow mix is possible over Minnesota, probably enough warm air aloft to prevent widespread heavy snowfall over the Twin Cities. It's too early to say with any confidence - parts of central and western Minnesota may see accumulating snow on Thursday. Map above valid Thursday evening courtesy of WSI.

Extended Outlook. I'm not buying the accumulating snow next weekend, at least not yet. But the models have been fairly consistent bringing another (brief) cold shot into Minnesota the third week of January; maybe 2-3 nights below zero between January 15-18. GFS guidance above.

An Icy Landscape. NASA's 250 meter resolution MODIS imagery shows the dark gray smudge of the Twin Cities metro. Flat, undeveloped farmland shows up as bright white, as does Lake Minnetonka and the Inner Lakes south of Minneapolis.

"Surreal Warmth" in 2012. Here's another 2:30 minute video recap on YouTube, looking back at the extraordinary warmth of 2012, courtesy of WeatherNation TV.

Warm Year: 2012. Here's an excerpt of a great overview of record warmth across the great state of Minnesota last year - courtesy of the Minnesota Climatology Working Group: "2012 will finish in a tie with 1931 as the warmest year on record in the Twin Cities and will range from the warmest to third warmest on record depending on the location around the region. For so long, it appeared like 2012 would be the warmest year on record for the Twin Cities, but then winter decided to arrive as if on cue on December 21 and since then temperatures have been mostly below normal. As a result, the average temperature for the Twin Cities for 2012 will wind up to be 50.8 degrees, the same as the 50.8 degrees recorded in 1931. The 1981-2010 average temperature for the year is 46.3 degrees so 2012 will finish 4.5 degrees above normal. Every month of 2012 was above normal except October which finished 1.4 degrees below normal. March 2012 was 15.5 degrees above normal and greatly assisted in lifting the average temperature for 2012. The hottest day of 2012 in the Twin Cities was 102 degrees on July 6 and the coldest temperature of the year was -11 on January 19."

Twin Cities (1873-2012)

Rank Year Average
1.   1931   50.8
     2012   50.8
3.   1987   49.7
4.   2006   49.3
5.   1998   48.8

How Long Will Minnesota's Drought Linger? State Climatologist Greg Spoden adds some personal thoughts to his monthly HydroClim summary: "It is reasonable to assume that the present drought status will remain relatively unchanged for the remainder of the winter. The historical average precipitation over the next two months is less than two inches and the topsoil is sealed by frost. Therefore, Minnesota will be highly dependent on spring rains to ease the situation. Without abundant spring rains, a number of critical drought issues involving public water supply, agriculture, horticulture, tourism, and others will rapidly surface early in the growing season." (the latest Minnesota Drought Monitor information is here).

Preliminary Data. NOAA NCDC data shows that January - November was the warmest on record for a big chunk of the USA. Every region in bright red experienced the warmest year in 118 years of record-keeping.

Region Chops Sandy Debris Down To Size. Here's an eye-opening clip from an article at The Wall Street Journal: "The immense task of leveling the mountains of debris left behind by Sandy is coming into focus two months after the historic superstorm ravaged the East Coast. In the end, the federal government estimates that 16 million cubic yards of debris piled up around New York and New Jersey—enough to fill the Empire State Building 16 times over—though more than half has yet to arrive at landfills..."

Photo credit above: "A aerial view of the damage in Mantoloking, N.J., caused by Hurricane Sandy, Oct. 31, 2012. President Barack Obama toured New Jersey's ravaged coastline with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in a display of big-government muscle and bipartisan harmony." (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Climate Stories...

Facebook And The Rest Of Silicon Valley Could Be Wiped Out In 40 Years. Hype, or a real concern with rising sea levels? Here's an excerpt from a story at Business Insider: "While much of California's coastline is at risk of rising sea levels, things look particularly bad for the Bay Area. Silicon Valley is already 3-10 feet below sea level, and scientists say that seawater will rise 16 inches by 2050. By 2100, that number is supposed to jump to 65 inches, and the entire area will experience more frequent, hard-hitting storms. If the levees in place are destroyed or overwhelmed by a storm surge, one hard blow could put the 3 million people who live in Silicon Valley in a grisly Waterworld. "It's imminent," Mruz says. "There's no question in my mind; we're going to have to do something, at every spot around the Bay." Also at risk: Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Intel, Cisco, and Oracle. "Silicon Valley basically backs right up to the bay," Mruz told CW. "You have all of them, Yahoo, Google, all right there. Without some type of flood protection potentially in front of that, you could flood that whole area. You're talking billions of dollars..."
Scientists Link Global Warming To England's Rainiest Year On Record. This article at caught my eye; here's an excerpt: "Senior climate scientists are linking global warming to the UK Met Office's announcement yesterday (3 January) that 2012 was England’s rainiest year since records began. The weather service's numbers showed that due to slightly more seasonal figures in Wales and Scotland, the UK as a whole experienced its second wettest summer recorded. But four of the UK’s Top Five wettest years have now occurred since 2000, a statistic in line with the expectations of climatologists who model the effects of a warming world. “It is not just Britain but many other parts of northern Europe and north America that are getting wetter and there is a climate change component to it,” Kevin Trenberth told EurActiv over a phone line from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado..."

Climate Change: What's Faith Got To Do With It? Here is an excerpt of an article that resonated with me, from California's Whittier Daily News: "Throughout all of California and the rest of the country, the faith community has been working for many years to preach the gospel of good stewardship of our shared environment. Amid theological differences, we have fostered a shared sense of purpose and urgency that unites us in solidarity with our local and global communities, especially those most vulnerable to climate change. The action that results from this shared sense of purpose goes far beyond a congregation's four walls. People of faith bring shared principles - such as working for the common good, caring for our neighbors, and working for economic justice - into the public policy arena..."

Global Warming And Drought In The Midwest: Expect More Of The Same? Here's a snippet of a story at "The Midwest drought of 2012 has been one of the most expensive natural disasters of recent decades, with Mississippi River barge traffic on the verge of shutting down, and the Army Corps of Engineers blowing up underwater limestone to keep traffic moving:

‘If we were in the same conditions now, 30 years ago, we`d be running into problems much, much, sooner,’ Col. Hall said. The rock removal does stop traffic for 16 hours every day.  But the Coast Guard, the river`s `traffic cop`, unclogs the jam overnight. ‘During the time that the Army Corps contractors are removing rock, which is roughly 6:00am – 10:00pm at night, we gather up all the vessels that are waiting north and south,’ Capt. Teschenford said. ‘They actually do a quick survey of the area where rocks were removed and we open it up. ‘